Cancel the Astronauts are Edinburgh-based indie poppers who admittedly owe a lot to the surge of all the great things happening in Scotland with like-minded bands, club nights and local fans who love a good tune. Members Matt and Kiernan spoke with The List about how all of these things have helped them evolve into musicians who are graciously getting ahead of the game.
You're based in Edinburgh, yes?
Matt: Yes, although three of us are from Kilmarnock, one of us is from Nottingham and another is from Fife.
So how did CTA come to be?
Matt: Me and Kieran have been in 'bands' for years. I say 'bands' because we never actually had a drummer and never did any gigs. We only ever wrote songs, played Oasis b-sides and drank lots of beer. When we eventually did get a drummer, about five years ago, he stole our drums and stopped answering his phone. Then, about two years ago, we got a drummer who wasn't a thief, and, as such, we were able to do actual gigs. That's not the drummer we've got now mind you. Now we have Chris, who may or may not turn out to be a thief. We met Neil through a friend, and Michael went to school with me and Kieran. He was also our flatmate and had a synth, so he became our synthist. Can you pass the water?
Kieran: Other embarrassing-in-retrospect Britpop bands are available.
And the name?
Matt: We had lots of rubbish names, and Cancel the Astronauts seemed to be the least rubbish. We intended to change it when we thought of something better, but by then we had written it down on MySpace and it was too late. Kieran keeps saying that he will write a blog post about all our rejected names which he should do. Will someone please pass the water?
Kieran: Oh yeah. I had a wee list of the rejects. Tits McGhee and The Phenomenal Bastards! They seemed funny at the time. I think we’ve forgotten most of them, thankfully, but I do remember we only settled on the name at the very last minute, after many months of everyone appending their sentences with ‘now that’s a good band name’. It’s from precisely that sort of tedium and desperation that a name as preposterous as Cancel The Astronauts is borne. I’d like to publicly state that I’ve got nothing against astronauts.
Caught you at the Limbo Live album launch. How has efforts like this in the thriving Edinburgh music scene helped your reception?
Matt: The scene in Edinburgh is indeed thriving, and Limbo is a particularly good example of that. Dave and Andy do a great job booking quality acts (such as Cancel the Astronauts) every week. Top marks to them. We have been quite lucky in that we get to play a lot of respected nights like Limbo, Trampoline at the Wee Red bar (run by the wonderful Euan from the Kays Lavelle) and Gentle Invasion (which the magnificent Bart Owl is kindly letting us play later in the month). It's great that Edinburgh isn't seen as just a city full of (very good) folk or anti-folk acts. Bands like us (I mean indie-pop stuff), such as Come On Gang!, Kid Kanaveral and The Curators to name just a few, are well supported by the Edinburgh scene. Nights like Limbo, Trampoline and Gentle Invasion are also well respected outside of Edinburgh which is great for the bands that get to play them. At the same time bloggers like Song By Toad and Seventeen Seconds (who are labels now too) are doing a wonderful job of promoting music in and from Edinburgh. So well done Edinburgh. Keep giving us gigs. Why is no one passing me the water?
Kieran: Because it’s the internet?
What kind of songs by other artists makes you want to run to each other and make music?
Matt: Frightened Rabbit and Meursault are doing that for me at the moment. They are both so good though, that rather than making me want to make music, they sort of make me want to never write another song again, because what's the point when other people do it so much better!?! Ahh, the sexy angst of the tortured, yet handsome, under-appreciated artist. I am a massive Pulp and Smiths fan too. Different Class and Strangeways Here We Come make me want to write better songs, which we all agree I probably need to.
Kieran: The best thing in the world right now is the Sky Larkin album. It is properly ace. Other best things in the world include De Rosa, Sholi and the Errors album, which came out ages ago, but still.
What has been your most endearing musical comparison?
Matt: People have said we sound like a cross between The Hoosiers and Scouting For Girls, while others have said we are more like a mix of Pulp and The Cure. I think I prefer the last comparison.
Kieran: We got compared to Keane the other week. Sob. Someone once said we were pop, but kind of creepy. Creepy pop, then. I’m all for it.
What can we expect to see from you in 2009/what upcoming events are you excited about?
Matt: We have just released our debut EP 'I Am The President of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home)' which you can buy on cd from us at gigs and hopefully on PayPal or as download on iTunes etc. So far, it has been widely ignored! We have plans to release another badly received EP in October time. We are at least thinking about an album. In the meantime we are trying to balance gigging, song-writing and indulgent blogging, all of which you can find out about at www.canceltheastronauts.co.uk, readers!
Kieran: And we’re playing Sick Kids Sunday on Sunday with a whole raft of brilliant bands, so that should be good. Assuming my work have remembered to give me the day off, otherwise I could end up playing a gig on my lunch hour. Rock. And. Roll.
Cancel the Astronauts play with Come on Gang!, Kid Canaveral and Jesus H Foxx in Edinburgh at GRV on May 10; and with The Gentle Invasion with Moustache of Insanity and Conquering Animal Sound in Edinburgh at Henry's Cellar Bar on May 30.
Also published here in The List