Teenage Fanclub man Raymond McGinley on why their future has endless possibilities
David Roy chats to Teenage Fanclub guitarist Raymond McGinley about the success of the Glasgow band's latest album Endless Arcade, their first since the departure of founding member Gerry Love, and why they can't wait to hit the road again...
"I DON'T know – it just kinda came out of my head," explains guitar man Raymond McGinley of how he came up with Endless Arcade as the title for the latest Teenage Fanclub album.
Released last year, the Fannies' current LP is something of a collector's item for the veteran Glaswegian indie rockers, whose line-up also includes singer/guitarist and songwriter Norman Blake, Francis Macdonald (drums/vocals), Dave McGowan (bass/vocals) and Euros Childs (keys/vocals).
For once, this has nothing to do with limited edition pressings: not only is Endless Arcade the first Teenage Fanclub album to appear in the wake of original bassist and songwriter Gerry Love's retirement (from Fanclub duties anyway – he's still making music as Lightships) in 2018, it's also the first to actually have any kind of 'title track' since their 1990 debut A Catholic Education – and in this case, it's one of Raymond's own fine contributions to the band's well-received 11th LP.
"I think I was talking to Norman about [the song] and he said, 'You know what, that would be a good title for the album'," continues McGinley, who splits songwriting duties with his fellow founding Fanclub member.
"It must have made some sort of sense to him. But as for where 'endless arcade' actually comes from or what it means, I really don't know – I think I was probably just trying to think of things that rhymed with 'afraid'.
"I'd never thought about those two words together before or come across it anywhere, I was just kinda singing and writing things down and 'endless arcade' came out.
"Even then I was thinking, 'Is that alright?'. You always have that thing when you're working on lyrics where you come up with something and then immediately go, 'Oh, I dunno about that'."
Such moments of self-doubt in the band's creative process chime well with the end product: Teenage Fanclub's melodic, harmony-rich, bittersweet indie rock is based around songwriting infused with an appealing and immensely comforting vibe of 'bruised optimism' – as a listener, you always feel like these guys have faith that things will work out in the end, despite whatever trials and tribulations they're writing about in a particular tune.
Not that they always know exactly what they're singing about, as McGinley reveals.
"As a band, I think we're very self-critical about everything we do and sometimes it can take you a while just to allow yourself to go with what you have," comments the guitarist.
"You have to kind of tell yourself, 'You know what, that's OK, you arrived at that instinctively'. You learn to edit yourself, but you also don't want to edit out the essence of who you are or your personality.
"For me, some things just kind of come out. I kind of 'puke' words and I start singing something in my head and try to make sense about it afterwards. I think 'well, I'll replace that with something else' and usually I don't.
"You don't want to start getting too clever – sometimes things kind of come out of you for whatever reason, and that's what it is, y' know?"
When we spoke a couple of weeks ago, McGinley and co were looking forward to finally getting to tour their latest record after Covid put paid to their usual post-release routine.
"It's great to be finally getting back out," he tells me.
"Endless Arcade came out in April last year and it felt really weird for us to not be able to go out and tour it, because we've been doing that for most of our adult lives.
"It feels like only now that we're finishing the cycle of all that, where we actually get to go and play it to people. We managed to squeeze a few shows in last year, but not very many, so it's good to be going on a proper tour again."
Such delayed gratification was doubly hard for the band given how well Endless Arcade was received by fans and critics alike, earning another load of good reviews and only narrowly missing out on a Top 10 chart placing – confirmation, if it were needed, that Teenage Fanclub haven't 'lost it' in the wake of co-founder Gerry Love's departure, a fairly seismic line-up shift even for a band now on its third drummer (though Macdonald joined in 2000, he was in fact an original member, having played in the Fanclub's very earliest incarnation in 1989).
"It's great that it's been well received and all that," says McGinley, "but rather than us just sitting kinda narcissistically thinking about what people's reaction to the record's been in a kinda press/reviews sort of way – which has been brilliant – your life seems simpler when you just go on tour and play stuff in front of people.
"It's great when you meet people you don't know who are like, 'I got your new album and I really like that song'. You get a naturalistic reaction to what you've done and that always feels really good to us. We've missed that."
On the subject of Love's departure from the band in 2018 – a hugely amicable 'split' as these things go, with the band announcing their bassist's imminent exit (due to his reluctance to commit to touring abroad) along with a series of 'farewell' shows performing every Teenage Fanclub album in full – it seems that McGinley and co dealt with it by pushing onwards.
"Everyone knew what was happening and we did all that in 'public' as it were," he says of those final shows with Love, which also marked the retirement of all Love-penned material from their set including classics like Ain't That Enough, Star Sign, Sparky's Dream and Don't Look Back.
"I dunno how many bands have ever done that, where someone leaving the band is still in the band. I suppose our reaction to it was that the first thing we wanted to do was to get into the studio and just start doing new stuff.
"Our answer to all problems is being like, 'Well, let's go and make a new record'. By the process of working on stuff that's in front of you in the here and now, you keep moving forward.
"It also forces us to delve into the back catalogue more and pull things out that we maybe haven't played for years, so you get 'new old' songs coming into the set along with brand new songs as well."
He adds: "People who know the band are astute enough to understand the reality of the situation, so it's all been fine."
Indeed, with some semblance of normality now returning to the music scene in the wake of the Covid lockdowns, Teenage Fanclub are clearly keen to get on with things: last week they released a new single I Left A Light On, a great Norman Blake ballad that somehow didn't make the cut for Endless Arcade.
McGinley sounds enthusiastic about what might come next for the current Fanclub line-up, including the tantalising possibility that keys man Euros Childs, the former Gorky's Zygotic Mynci leader and acclaimed solo artist, might start contributing songs to the band – although apparently they haven't really asked him about it. Yet.
"That could definitely happen," says McGinley, "but in a way we haven't wanted to put that pressure on Euros, and we haven't wanted to patronise him to assume he might contribute, because he has his own things going on as well.
"Also, maybe he's just enjoying his role in things as it is. But I always like to think we can go anywhere we want with this band – anything is possible."