The Proclaimers Are On Their Way To WOMAD

With a new studio album and world tour just under their belts, twins Craig and Charlie Reid come to WOMADelaide 2023 in their fortieth year as rock duo The Proclaimers. Their timeless songs, written with poignancy, emotional honesty, political fire and wit, capture and convey the gamut of human emotions. The Proclaimers have carved out a niche for themselves in a world where pop, folk, new wave and punk collide, with their hit song I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) an anthem for celebrations worldwide. Today, they are as innovative as ever and with every album and show played, they continue to garner new fans. It was a real privilege chatting to Charlie Reid about playing WOMAD.

Finishing off your Australian tour in Adelaide is all the more special playing WOMAD. Is it a buzz playing a festival of this calibre?
We’ve never played a world music festival thing, we’ve played many in Britain in Europe over the years and we’ve done even a couple in Canada, but it’s the first in Australia and the closest we ever got was playing the Port Fairy Folk festival and that had a slight vibe of that, but I think this will be kind of a different level again. We played WOMAD in England a couple times early on in our career, we’re really looking forward to it. I can’t wait actually, this is the gig I’m most looking forward to in Australia this time.

Do you approach a festival like WOMAD any differently or is it just going to be one hundred percent authentic The Proclaimers all the way?
I think the great thing about festivals, wherever you play them is you, you’re not really playing to your own crowd. You’re playing to whoever’s there, right? You have an opportunity to win people over, when you play your own gigs, you assume that most of the people there have at least a reasonably positive view of what you do because they’ve come along and bought a ticket. When you do a festival, I always think it’s more of a challenge because the people are not primarily there to see you. They’re just there for the event. I think sometimes bands make the mistake of not singing out at festival. I think you’ve really got to sing out to get people on your side. That’s a challenge in itself, but it’s one that we always look forward to wherever we play a festival.

Do you get much of a chance to see some of the bands of the playing at all?
I would say that the chances for us would be mostly the couple of bands before and whoever is on later on and that’s it. We’re not there the whole day, but we always see a few things no matter where we go. Whoever is on a couple of bands before, maybe a couple of bands later, depending on what time, I’m not sure where we are in the billing. It’s nice to meet people, we did at four or five festivals in England last year and just getting out again because of Covid. I think a lot of people felt the sense of release, but to meet other musicians some of you had met before over the years and chat away and see what their experiences have been over the previous couple of years. It’s a really liberating thing and the amount of things that you have in common with other musicians, the music might be very different, but the tour process or the promotion process or if you’ve been around a long time like us, how things have changed over the years. You have a lot to talk about, I think, with other Musicians.

Congratulations on Dentures Out. Did, did you intend on that album being as political as what you thought?
Always with us, we don’t plan the records out. We just let songs come and then as this is the first album that almost feels like a concept thing. It’s about the past, the way people view the past all it really and it reflects on Britain at the present. It came out as there was all the political turmoil in England and then with the death at Queen Elizabeth the week that it came out saying we were going to do a lot of promotion, which all got cancelled because there was a period of the mourning in this country. It reflected the times and when it came out the monarchy had the last laugh because we never got to do any of the TV shows because everything got cancelled, so you have to laugh.

Do you think this carries over from Angry Cyclist where the scene was set with this frustration?
You know what? I think it’s always been there. It’s always been there in what we did from the start, from Letter from America. There was a social commentary or historical or political commentary running through what we did, but it wasn’t the major part. It’s never been the major part, but I think the last two albums I felt probably angrier, if you’re pardon the pun. Certainly the world situation, I think it’s very hard to ignore what’s going on and it’s not getting any better, putting it mildly. I think that’s come out in what we’ve done. I’m sure it’s come out in other people’s albums as well.

The song The World That Was, seems to almost sums things up perfectly?
Yeah, I think so. When we made the record, we knew it would have that contemporary feel of the time, but particularly with those massive events with the fall of one government and England then the death of the monarch seems to reflect the time.

Was it challenging making the record during lock down?
Yeah, it was. There were two long periods of lock down here where we didn’t rehearse at all. For us, it’s certainly our age and we turned sixty last year, we’ll be 61 when we’re in Australia. Time is of the essence, you didn’t want to lose momentum and you didn’t want to lose rehearsal time. It just had to be like it was for everybody else. That was frustrating, at times it was worrying, I’m sure it was for everybody and the concern that maybe you wouldn’t get to play again abroad, you wouldn’t get to play again at all for many years. I’m just glad that we’ve got back to some semblance of normality. Although you do think there’s probably another couple of things waiting for us coming down the line over the years, but we just take it as it is at the time. The album feels very much over time, and the lock down process was difficult for us in that we couldn’t see each other and that was frustrating. If you were running any kind of business, you felt whether you would be able to do your work again. Like for everybody else that was worrying.

Was difficult being creative and writing songs about this time?
It felt like you were going over a couple of rough bumps in the road. Definitely. It was distracting and of course it was a little depressing and you don’t really want to write about lockdown. There’s a couple of songs on the album that are reflective of it, but they don’t mention it as such, I feel the last thing that anybody wants to hear over the next couple of years is album material about lock down. I mean, everybody’s trying to get away from the bloody thing, not remember it, no one wants to remember it in ten or twenty years’ time.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch The Proclaimers at WOMAD on Saturday 11 March, on Stage 2 at 5.30pm…

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