Photo: Dom Meason
Scottish rockers The XCERTS released their fourth studio album, Hold On To Your Heart in January. We caught up with Tom Heron (drums) between the band’s sets at 2000 Trees festival to talk about touring, recording, and their plans for the rest of 2018!
Hi Tom! Murray and Jordan just played their Forest Session. How was that?
Tom: They did, yes! I had the pleasure of watching my own band play a few songs. They did well!
What was the preparation like for that different to preparing for full band sets?
Tom: Yeah. We’ve done a few acoustic sets as a full band, but the Forest stage was a bit small for a drum kit. When the album came out, we did a little run of in-store shows and we used brushes with the kit, and a shaker. It was quite nice because it means I don’t sweat a bead! In terms of preparation, you have to take the songs down to their bare bones. Some songs don’t necessarily take to the acoustic treatment as well as others, so when we’re structuring a set, it will usually be quite different from the songs we would play at a regular show.
How are you preparing for your set on the main stage?
Tom: I’m really looking forward to it! This will be our third time on the main stage here, and it’s amazing. I’m quite nervous, but it’s a good, excited nervous! We have a tried-and-tested festival set that we’re quite happy with, it’s all the bangers! We have a few little rituals before we all go on; Murray and Jordan do a vocal warm up to get the pipes working, I’ll do a bit of warming up of the wrists. Then we all have a whiskey and ginger and we all bump fists before we go on stage. Without fail, every show.
What has it been like playing Trees over the years, has anything changed?
Tom: It’s gotten a little bigger, but it hasn’t gotten too much bigger. I really like the size, it’s one of our favourite festivals to play. We want to continue playing here, it’s got such a good atmosphere, they always pick great bands and it’s just a nice place to be! You can bring families here, and still listen to really hard rock music. There’s not a culture of over-drinking and there’s no violence here. We’ve never had a bad experience here, never a bad year and we hope it continues that way, it’s a great festival.
It really is! Now you guys put your album out earlier this year. Did the release of that feel different to the release of other albums?
Tom: It did feel different this time! Our campaign started here last year. We released our first single from the record last summer, and we played it for the first time ever on The Cave stage, where people sang along! We released the album in January and it’s been better than we expected, people seem to be really digging the new music, as much as we are! I feel like we’re seeing the results of a long time of touring, writing music, and putting out records. We’re seeing that in the audiences, more and more people come to shows, more from this record than any others previously. It feels like so far it’s going great!
That’s great to hear! And what about the writing process for the album, was that any different to usual?
Tom: We’ve never really had a formula to write, a lot of the time Murray will come up with a riff or some lyrics and take it to us in the rehearsal room and we’ll jam something out, or he’ll come with a fully formed song and we’ll put the song together. And sometimes we’ll just jam it straight from nothing. On this record we did a bit of that, but also we collaborated with a guy called Gary Clark who was the producer on this record. He’s a famous 80s musician and pop star and a very accomplished songwriter. We worked with him on these new songs, where he gave his expert opinion and advice.
All of the vocals were recorded with him in Dundee. We recorded the bare bones of it (the album) with a guy called Dave Eringa, who did our first and third records in Rockfield in Wales, a very famous studio. That was amazing. Then the vocals and other little bits, synths and that kind of thing were done with Gary. Yeah, it was a different way of working, and we didn’t know it was going to work, but luckily it has! It means we can press on with the next record knowing that that works and we can build on it.
Sounds good! What’s next after 2000 Trees for you guys?
Tom: We’ve got quite a few things, we’ve got a few more festivals this summer, we’re doing Reading and Leeds. We are also going out on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls at the end of this month, and doing a few shows with them which will be great! We’ve also got two or three more releases coming soon! Songs that haven’t been heard from Hold On To Your Heart, as well as some acoustic versions.
Will that be released as an EP then, or singles?
Tom: An EP, but you’ll hear some of them as singles on Spotify and things like that! But we will release an actual physical.
How are you feeling about the tour with You Me At Six at the end of the year?
Tom: It will be really nice to be reunited with those boys, we love those guys and we toured with them last year in Europe. It’ll be nice to end the year with some good friends.
Do you have anything special planned for that tour?
Tom: We’re just happy to be able to share with them on their album release. We’ll just do our thing and enjoy their new album and maybe take some of their fans... Not take them away, just bring everybody together. We’re looking forward to playing to some nice big crowds in some really great venues, with some really good guys.
Are you playing any different venues, ones that you’ve not played yet?
Tom: No, I think we’ve played quite a few of the venues, but we’ve only ever played Brixton Academy once before, and it's an amazing venue. We get to do it twice this year, with Goo Goo Dolls and You Me At Six. Every time we get to play there, it feels like a real special moment. That will be a really excellent way to end the year!
Sweet! Well that’s all we've got time for, thanks for your time!
Whilst the Goo Goo Dolls tour has recently wrapped up, The XCERTS will be touring later this year with You Me At Six and Marmozets. As you can see from the dates below, tickets are selling like hot cakes, with more dates recently announced. Best not to sleep on this!