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The Xcerts discuss ‘Hold On To Your Heart’ ahead of Cambridge gig

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Scotland’s knack for producing incredible power trios continues with The Xcerts. Two Scots and one Brightonian have taken the emo pop template and run with it. ‘Hold On To Your Heart’, the band’s fourth album and follow-up to 2014’s ‘There Is Only You’, is out today, 19th January. The trio will be in Cambridge next month when they play The Portland on February 28th, tickets are on sale here. In anticipation of the album’s release and the band’s return to Cambridge, we spoke with front man Murray Macleod…

How is 2018 shaping up for you?
2018 is shaping up to be a great year. We’ve got our new record coming out on the 19th of this month and then we head out to Europe with Nothing But Thieves and then on to our UK / Ireland headline tour.

At the time of writing these questions the new album is finished but won’t be released for another couple of weeks, what is this period of time like for a band, waiting for people to hear the record, reviews etc to start?
It can be a little frustrating due to eagerness in wanting people to hear the record as soon as it’s done, but the past few months have felt really exciting as we’ve released 3 singles and been on tour pretty much non stop. Like you said, we’re now a couple of weeks out and everyday feels like Christmas Eve. We are incredibly proud of this record and i’m glad we took our time with the build up, pre release.

How much of an indicator to the new album is the last track we heard, title track ‘‘Hold On To Your Heart’
Although the record definitely has a particular sound and aesthetic, i feel like each song has it’s own thing going on. We use the same mannequin but different wigs.

The first track from the record we heard was ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’ back in July. The track is more slick and euphoric than perhaps your older material, what inspired this change? Again, is this an indicator of the rest of the record?
In terms of what was influencing us whilst writing, we were really digging big 80’s records. We wanted to make a pretty bombastic record that could still tug at the heartstrings. I had immersed myself in negativity after we made ‘There Is Only You’ but the dark basically fuelled a fire to write a record that would invigorate myself and others. I really needed the songs to feel euphoric because i wanted to feel euphoric. In terms of feeling, i’d say it’s a good indicator in how the listener may feel after hearing the record. Lyrically i wanted the album to be very raw and honest and in doing so, i had to strike a balance between the light and the dark because that’s a true reflection of life. Every song has light at the end of the tunnel but there is some pretty heartbreaking stuff on there also.

The last album came out over three years ago, did you plan to wait this long for the next release?
If we had our own way, we would release a record a year! Unfortunately the business side of things took a while to clear and we ended up going on tour for much longer than anticipated.

How was the process of making the new album?
It was a different process for us as we recorded the band at Rockfield Studios with Dave Eringa and then travelled up to Dundee to work on vocals and additional production with Gary Clark at his place and then did some more work at Electric Studios in Brighton with our bud Mike Lord. It was a risk but what’s the point in being in a rock and roll band if you’re not going to take risks? The whole thing ended up being so much fun and incredibly easy.

What comes first for the band, the lyrics or the music?
Usually the music comes first. I like to have the canvas so to speak before I start writing words and melodies.

What was the hardest track to finish on the album?
Ironically, the song ‘Crazy’ because I legitimately thought I was losing it. The recording process was super easy but the mix of this song was incredibly arduous. To this day i still apologise to Chris Sheldon who mixed the record. Basically the snare drum sound wasn’t right and then I’d think it was nailed, sign off on the track, sit on it for a couple of days and then email Chris saying it still wasn’t where i wanted it to be. He was a true professional and handled the situation incredibly well. Sorry Chris!!

Which song from the new record are you most looking forward to playing live?
All of them! We’ve already played 5 songs from the record live and they are wildly fun to play so i can’t wait to introduce the others to the set.

How much, if at all, is your music formed by Aberdeen?
I feel like Aberdeen is in all of our records somewhat, particularly our debut In The Cold Wind We Smile. It’s strange, Aberdeen is a pretty grey place and it can look pretty bleak at times. Growing up there i feel like you can immerse yourself in the grey and end up shrouded in negativity, or, you can end up being a dreamer, striving for more which in turn can lead you to romanticise pretty much everything about the city. I chose the latter which i feel like you can hear on at least 3/4 of our records. If it wasn’t for the city i wouldn’t have that hunger and drive for more which is absolutely engrained in my being.

Hypothetically you’re going to DJ a disco for us, what is your go-to dance floor filler?
Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance With Somebody……and I’m out.

‘Hold On To Your Heart’ is out Jan 19th
The Xcerts play The Portland on Feb 28th