“I’ve always said that ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’ is like a photo album. The songs are snapshots of different moments in our lives.”
We caught up with The Xcerts’ frontman Murray Macleod ahead of the band’s London show to look back on their journey so far and talk nostalgia, touring and incredible festival food.
Now well over a decade into band life, pop-rockers The Xcerts are a testament to how hard work and determination can amount to great things, especially when paired with infectious pop hooks and a rock ‘n’ roll charm. With their latest album, ‘Hold On To Your Heart’ propelling them to dizzy heights over the last couple of years, the Brighton-based trio have finally begun to see success on a mainstream level, going from strength-to-strength on each new infectious hit they conjure up.
With new fans flocking and a once modest following now blossoming into something much greater, the band have been taking some time to pay tribute to the songs that got them here. Currently touring in celebration of debut album, ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’s ten year anniversary, it’s The Xcerts persistence and passion across the decade that has guided them to the forefront of the DIY rock scene in 2019. With the biggest year of their career so far now drawing to a close, we sat down with frontman Murray Macleod to discuss everything from the band’s youthful beginnings to tour bus tunes and album number five.
The Xcerts were formed just over 15 years ago now, where did you all meet and how did the band come to be formed?
Murray: I met Jordan in school at the headmaster’s office. We got into trouble for something that neither of us can really remember, but it must have been quite significant. At that time, I knew Jordan but we weren’t really friends, so afterwards we were making small talk and he asked me how my band was going.
As my ego was clearly massive, I’d kicked everybody out of said band at the time because I didn’t think they were good enough, so I asked Jordan if he could play bass. He lied to me and said yes, then went home and asked for a bass guitar for Christmas and then we started a band together! Our original drummer went to school with us too, but when we all moved down South he decided to leave and that’s when Tom joined the band. Our story is very much just about kids looking for something to do in a quiet city.
You’re currently on tour to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of your debut album, ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’, what has it been like revisiting these old songs on stage every night?
Murray: Above all it’s very nostalgic, I get a really physical feeling of nostalgia every time we play those songs and it’s bizarre. It’s 20% surreal and 80% pride, because it’s been ten years and people still want to celebrate this record with us. When we released ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’ ten years ago nobody really came to see us play, but it’s an album that we are still immensely proud of. It’s great that our band has become bigger and that the people who are joining the party are going back and listening to our earlier releases. It’s a true testament to how loyal our following is and we love being able to shine a spotlight on this record.
With such a long history as band, what have the audiences been like at these shows, is it mostly those who have been there since the beginning or are you seeing a lot of new faces?
Murray: Even from the first couple of shows it became apparent that there’s a real range. The first night of tour in Bristol was full of people who were there to hear songs from the first album, but then the two nights after that were crowds of people who had just recently got into the band.
We think both types of crowds are super cool, but in Aldershot it was peculiar because nobody knew the first album at all. I actually stopped a song to joke with the crowd about them being too quiet, which is something I’ve never had to do before. It was a Saturday night and I was like, ‘What’s going on here, this isn’t the deal we made?!’. But then we hit them with the encore and realised the poor crowd had just stood through an hour of songs they didn’t know just to hear the final songs. The majority of the tour is sold out now though so I imagine we’ll have a fair amount of fans eager to hear those early songs.
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently on your debut record with all that you know now, or are you still happy with the finished product?
Murray: I’ve thought about this a lot, and I actually re-recorded one of the songs from that record called ‘Aberdeen 1987’ last year. The original recording was done in my friend’s bedroom when I had a horrible cold and you can hear people talking in the background. So I re-recorded it thinking that we could release it as a nicer sounding version of the original, but it just wasn’t right.
I’m sure there are a lot of things that technically speaking I’d love to change about that record, but then it wouldn’t be the same, and it’s a product of its own time. I’ve always said that ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’ is like a photo album. The songs are snapshots of different moments in our lives and every time I hear them it brings me back to that place, just like looking at a photograph.
You’re adding a member into the mix and playing as a four-piece for these anniversary shows. What inspired that decision?
Murray: The album is a very loud and bombastic body of work, and it sounds bigger than a three-piece band. When we used to play it early on in our career I really don’t think we did it justice because we were from a DIY punk background and just wanted to make a racket. We somehow made our way into the world of rock music but we were incredibly naive and not very good musicians. So when we discussed doing this tour, we decided to perform it as a four-piece to do it justice as much as we possibly could, especially for the fans who have been waiting to hear this album who deserve it to be done properly.
You’ve been a touring band for a pretty long time now, what piece of advice would you give to someone who is setting out on their first tour?
Murray: Patience is very important when dealing with other people on the tour. A lot of time is spent travelling so patience is absolutely vital as well as having understanding. Touring can be a really emotional thing, you’re living in a confined space and you’re with other people 24 hours a day so it’s important to be understanding of how other people might be feeling. You need to know when people are happy for you to lean on them and when you need to let them lean on you, so awareness is key for anyone who is on tour.
Your latest album, ‘Hold On To Your Heart’ was released almost two years ago now and was a massive milestone for the band. How would you describe that album for people who haven’t heard it yet?
Murray: When we released that album, we started referring to our band as romantic rock ‘n’ roll, which I guess really just means that we’re emo. The album to me is a life-affirming, 80s inspired pop-rock record, but it’s not quite like Mötley Crüe or anything like that. When we wrote ‘Hold On To Your Heart’, we wanted to write a rock album that could soundtrack The Breakfast Club, so if you want to be inspired to run, you should go and listen to that record.
What’s the best rider you’ve ever received at a show or festival?
Murray: I can’t think of one specific rider, but the best catering we’ve ever had was at Belladrum Festival in Scotland. The food at that festival is absolutely unbelievable. We’re desperate to go back, mainly to play a set there again, but also to eat that incredible food. It was honestly Michelin star level, the best perk of being in a band is that you get really good catering. It’s been a while since we even played there but we still talk about how gorgeous the food was to this day.
Throughout the years you’ve been a part of some pretty incredible tour line ups, supporting everyone from Goo Goo Dolls to You Me At Six to Busted. If you could design your perfect tour line up what would it be?
Murray: Okay, I’m going to go for a tour that makes logistical sense rather than something crazy. We’ll have Bruce Springsteen as the headline act, The Gaslight Anthem as main support, The Xcerts as second support and then our new tour friends Swim School would be the openers. That would be an awesome tour, The Gaslight Anthem have split up but I’m sure I can make it happen.
If you could only have three albums playing on repeat on the tour bus, what would they be?
Murray: It would have to be Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and Either/Or by Elliott Smith.
What’s next for The Xcerts once this tour is wrapped up and we move into 2020?
Murray: We’re heading back into the studio once the tour is done to finish the writing of the new record before Christmas. Then in the new year we’ll be going back in there to record it and we’ll be touring all over again with those new songs. 2020 is looking like it could be a big one for us.
Don’t miss your chance to see The Xcerts playing songs from their debut album,’In The Cold Wind We Smile’, across the UK this December. Get your tickets here, or set up an alert here to be notified about tickets for any sold out dates.