Interview: Jim Glennie from James
All The Colours Of You, the sweet sixteenth studio album from Manchester Legends James is out on June 4th with the award-winning Jacknife Lee on production duties. The Mic’s Alex Melnikov met with Jim Glennie, the band’s bassist and eponym, to discuss the records’ themes, writing process, and hopes for getting back on the road.
Unlike many of their Madchester contemporaries from the nineties, James are still going and producing joyous, uplifting records. Their sweet sixteen album, All the Colours of You is no exception. Despite touching upon topics such as Trump, Covid-19 and forest fires, their joyous sound results in another uplifting album as fresh as ever, still as relevant as the fifteen albums preceding it.
The band’s longest-serving member and bassist, Jim Glennie, describes the themes that the album focuses on as both a natural and obvious choice. “We knew the album was going to reflect the circumstances we were in, Tim [singer] always writes his lyrics about what he’s going through. Living in America, that was his house threatened by forest fires, the Trump nonsense and Covid. Those were going to be on the lyrics, we knew that before they were written.”
“We wanted the album to be groovy and fun and have a vibrancy and an energy to it.”
Dealing with dark themes, the band were careful to make sure the album still gave hope and positivity. They “wanted an album that was very positive regardless of some of the lyrics being abrasive or sad, like Recover is sad. His father in law died in difficult, but not unique circumstances. He died in a hospital stuck on his own, but we wanted the music to be very uplifting. Jacknife [Lee, producer] called Recover a song to cry and dance to which I thought was lovely and kind of what we were looking for.”
“We wanted the album to be groovy and fun and have a vibrancy and energy to it, the last thing anyone needs right now is a depressing record,” he chuckles. “We’re also aware that we have to play it live, so we want to be part of people’s joyous experience despite this rather than wallowing in it, it's something we do a lot, juxtaposing dark lyric content with positive music.”
After sixteen albums, James could be forgiven if their latest one felt similar in sound to the others. However, All the Colours of You is an album as unique as any in their catalogue. “We always look to bounce off the last record, we don’t consciously think we need to do this, we just look to move away in a direction, it's the beauty of this band. The parameters of what the band can be are very broad, even the types of songs we write, we can do everything. We can do pop songs, big anthems, songs that go on mad journeys, we’ve set the parameters purposefully to what we can get away with and I think that’s why we’re still here. If we’d have been just an indie guitar band I don't think we’d be here after sixteen records able to keep it going. I’ve been in a band since I was fifteen, it would be soul-destroying boring if we weren’t constantly evolving and pushing ourselves.”
Recording an album can be a difficult task alone, without taking into consideration all the band members being isolated from each other, meaning album sixteen was recorded like no other. “Fortunately [for the album] we’d done all the writing before lockdown, that's the bit we couldn’t have done remotely because of the way we write songs. There’s four of us that do the writing, we get together in a room and put the drum machine on and just start playing and we record everything, so everyone’s listening and playing along, we couldn't do that remotely. We don’t just send someone a bunch of chords, whack some piano over it, we don't write like that, never have done.”
‘All the Colours of You showcases a band still at their creative best after sixteen albums.’
A coincidence in location made the next stage of the album process possible, with producer Jacknife Lee living just down the road from Tim in California. “Tim could actually go and be in the room with him, then we could discuss how things were going and Tim could relay it to him, and it worked! It's a minor miracle that it worked, it helped that we liked what Jacknife was doing. If we had issues it would be a very difficult process. We dealt with any small issues between the four songwriters, we don't dig in pointlessly for no reason now.”
In hindsight, it seems as if James’ previous album title, Living in Extraordinary Times, was used a couple of years too early. “When we wrote the title ‘Living in Extraordinary Times’, it felt extraordinary. At the time we said we bet everyone thinks the period they are living through is extraordinary, then it just got crazier from extraordinary to bizarre. Is this a weird one-off that we’ll tell our grandkids, ‘back in the day I’d be walking around in Tesco with my mask’ and they’ll look at you like you're mad, or is this something that we’ll go through again?”
Having not been together as a band since September 2019, the band are finally back and rehearsing in preparation for a tour later this year. However, after the year they’ve had, Jim isn’t taking that for granted. “It’s hard to believe it’s going to happen, it still feels like it might be taken away from you, it's hard to commit emotionally because we’ve had so many near misses with things we thought we were going to do that have been cancelled or moved to next year. “We need to go and support our record, we want to play shows and festivals and play new songs, but the fact that it may or may not happen is difficult. Fortunately, the life of the album will spill into next year and God willing by November it’ll be okay and there won’t be any restrictions.”
All the Colours of You showcases a band still at their creative best after sixteen albums. For anyone looking to find some positivity in these times, they couldn’t go far wrong with this album. Beautifully contrasting dark and light, lyrically and musically, it’s hard to leave this album without feeling slightly more upbeat and optimistic about our world.
Written by: Alex Melnikov
Edited by: Alex Duke