Rev Magnetic - taking on the world, with Luke Sutherland
A gig in Glasgow is a homecoming of sorts for Luke Sutherland - well, close to his Perthshire home, and offering the chance to meet friends, old and new.
Supporting shoegaze legends Swervedriver on a UK tour, it’s a good match, though Rev Magnetic’s sound is rather more ethereal and dreamy than the at-times full-on noise of the recently-reformed 1990s Oxford veterans.
“It’s a good audience to play to,” Sutherland agrees, “we’ve had good responses from people who have never heard of us before.”
“There was a kind of slight element of homecoming in Glasgow,” he continues, “we’ve always had a quite a lot of support, but there was but something very familiar and familial about last night.”
It should be no surprise that his band should have support in Scotland - formerly of acclaimed trio Long Fin Killie, then solo vehicle BOWS, Sutherland will also be familiar to many thanks to his regular work with Mogwai.
And it’s perhaps no surprise that his band have released their debut album ‘Versus Universe’ on the Glasgow post-rock band’s own label.
“Rock Action have been great,” recounts the singer. “We recorded it off our own bat and Stuart from Mogwai and Rock Action was sent a copy - they made us an offer, we had a long conversation about how things might go, and I trust the guy, simple as that.”
That trust is inspired by the fact that their record label bosses are musicians themselves. “They understand things that as a musician you can come up against and they seem prepared for those kinds of eventualities.”
And of course, he’s always available to lend vocals or violin to any future Mogwai recordings. “If they feel I can help out with something and if I’m around, it’s a yes.”
Although ostensibly a quartet, it transpires that Sutherland modestly plays down the fact that is the main driver of the band. “Gregor (Emond) and Sam (Leighton) didn’t play on the record,” he admits, “though (vocalist) Audrey Bizouerne did. But we had a host of contributors, and when it came to doing it live I couldn’t ask 16 people so I scouted around people I’d played with before and got some recommendations.”
The result is a multi-layered collection of 11 tunes, atmospheric yet informed by Sutherland’s ear for a melody. And his absorbing lyrics - unsurprising given that he is also an acclaimed author.
His 1998 debut novel won the Whitbread prize - ‘Jelly Roll’ a “vaguely autobiographical” tale that covers the racism a musician encounters on a tour of Scotland. What has that changed in 20 years?
“Ha! That’s an enormous question!” he exclaims.
“20 years ago, nine times out of 10 if I walked past, say, a building site, someone would shout. Now it doesn’t happen.
“I was so conditioned, now when I expect a remark or look or comment and it never comes. A little bit of me doesn’t quite believe it as it happened so many times in the past.
“Whether the insult and the mentality behind it are gone, or if these animosities are expressed in a different way. I’m not sure. There’s an anger around just now that I wasn’t aware of 20 years ago, a general anger... I’m not sure where it comes from."
Little has been heard from Sutherland on the literary side since 2004’s Venus as a Boy. Is he working on more books?
“The long answer is ‘always’, the short answer is ‘not right now!’” he laughs. It transpires that he is a victim of the curse of many an author.
“I used to laugh about the idea of writer’s block as a young man, then it happened.
"I’d picture a writer sitting staring at a blank page, but you can write thousands of words that just don’t hang together - they’re stillborn, for want of a less brutal metaphor.”
It seems that fans of his work may be even more disappointed than they imagined.
“I wrote two books,” he reveals, “but they just didn’t work so I thought ‘I’m not going to push this any more, I’m going to wait for... whatever it is, inspiration to come to me and when it does come I’ll write it down.
"for now I’ll concentrate on music.”
‘Versus Universe’ is out now. More at www.revmagnetic.com.