Teenage Fanclub back in Belfast with new line-up, new material and old favourites

Indie favourites Teenage Fanclub are back in Belfast tonight as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. David Roy spoke to guitarist Raymond McGinley about embarking on a brand new chapter for the Glasgow band following a significant line-up reshuffle

Teenage Fanclub 2019 (l-r): Raymond McGinley, Norman Blake, Dave McGowan, Euros Childs, Francis McDonald
Teenage Fanclub 2019 (l-r): Raymond McGinley, Norman Blake, Dave McGowan, Euros Childs, Francis McDonald

TONIGHT marks the Belfast debut of the new-look Teenage Fanclub, reconfigured in the wake of the recent departure of bassist and songwriter Gerry Love and already forging ahead with the next stage of a career that stretches right back to 1989.

With longtime Fanny Dave McGowan having switched from guitar/keys to bass, new recruit Euros Childs (of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci fame) has taken over on ivory/plastic tinkling duties for the veteran Glasgow-bred indie rockers, who play the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Marquee this evening.

And, despite the negative vibe given off by the title of their current single Everything Is Falling Apart – the first new Teenage Fanclub music since Love's amicable exit in November last year – it seems that the new song is very much a statement of intent, as the man who wrote it explains.

"Before we started touring this year, we wanted to go into the studio and do some new stuff with Euros and Dave," says guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Raymond McGinley, a founding member of the band who's been working with fellow Fannies Norman Blake (guitar/vocals/songs) and Francis McDonald (drums) since the days of their pre-Fanclub group The Boy Hairdressers.

"We decided, let's just put something out without thinking about it too much. We'd spent so long focusing on our past that it seemed important for us to be creative in the present."

Indeed, to coincide with the deluxe reissues of their Creation Records-birthed albums – 1991's Bandwagonesque through to 2000's Howdy! – last year saw Teenage Fanclub playing a series of shows featuring live renditions of each LP in full plus a selection of b-sides and rarities.

Prior to these dates, it was announced that Gerry Love would be "separating from the band" after these dates due to a "continuing and sadly unresolvable difference of opinion" over future international touring plans.

After 29 years with the band and having penned some of their best loved songs, including set-list staples Sparky's Dream and Ain't That Enough, Love's departure definitely marked the end of an era.

Happily, this run of classic back catalogue based shows proved a suitably celebratory send-off for the bassist. The tour also involved Teenage Fanclub's extended family in the form of appearances by former drummer Paul Quinn and ex-drummer/entertainer Brendan O'Hare, with the final London date culminating in an amusingly chaotic instrument-swapping thrash through debut single Everything Flows.

"It was a fairly profound thing for us in the band," explains the guitarist of Gerry's final dates.

"It was good playing those shows. It was also good that when the whole decision thing about Gerry became known that we were still able to do a load of stuff afterwards and everything [within the band] was fine.

"Also, it was good just for the fact that I never thought there would come a time when Paul and Brendan and Francis would all be with us – and all playing at the same time!"

McGinley also reveals that the resulting line-up change has been far from seismic and has in fact helped reinvigorate the band.

"We weren't going to try and make it as if nothing had changed in the band – we weren't going to get a 'Gerry-alike' in or anything like that, we were never gonna go there," he tells me.

"Once it became clear that [Gerry leaving] was the situation, we were trying to think positively. Sometimes, the good thing about any kind of change is that it forces you to look at everything afresh.

"We'd had our 'new guy' Dave McGowan [also of Belle & Sebastian] playing in the band for 15 years and he is fundamentally a bass player. It's not like we've got some faceless 'ringer' in.

"And Euros seemed like the obvious choice [to take over keys]. We'd toured with Gorky's before and him and Norman had done their Jonny record together. Each of us independently thought he was right and actually some other people we spoke to about it suggested him too without knowing we'd already decided, which is interesting.

"He brings his own unique energy to the thing and he's a great singer in terms of harmonies and stuff as well. He's just a good guy to have around. So it all feels natural, like a natural continuation."

Love's departure has definitely impacted on the current Teenage Fanclub setlist: the band are currently resting the bassist's contributions, making room for some lesser-spotted moments such as the rocking 'title' track from 1990's debut LP A Catholic Education and superlative standalone single God Knows It's True to re-enter the live realm.

"When we all sat down to decide what songs to do, we thought maybe it doesn't feel right to be doing Gerry's songs – maybe we can just leave them out," McGinley explains.

"Also, and I think this would be the same if Gerry was still with us, we thought that we needed to dig into the back catalogue a little bit more.

"Like, we realised that we'd kind of dropped out of the habit of playing Alcoholiday off of Bandwagonesque, and we were like 'we should be playing that regularly, because people love it'.

"It's easy to fall into the routine of doing the things that you know work well, so it's kind of forced us to do a bit more homework as well. So we've a big list of songs that we want to try to do and there's still plenty we need to tackle and bring into the set."

Local fans will find out exactly which oldies but goodies have made it out of the rehearsal room tonight at what expert Teenage Fanclub historians are currently referring to as 'their first Belfast show for a good few years'.

"The only time we've been in Belfast recently was literally a flying visit to the US Consulate to get US Visas," notes McGinley.

"It's been a while since we actually played there, so we're definitely looking forward to coming back."

:: Teenage Fanclub, with support from Malojian, tonight, CQAF Marquee, Belfast. Tickets £20 via CQAF.com