"The pop market's really tired now," laments singer/writer/guitarist James Grant, who leads rising Scottish pop combo Love and Money. "People have gotten used to hearing pappy, crappy pop ditties that are written by producers just to make money. It just seems that all aspects of music are mass-produced, and people buy them anyway. I'm not trying to say that what we're doing is anything new--it isn't--it's just good songwriting and good playing."
The Glasgow trio's current sophomore LP, Strange Kind of Love, is a modest triumph of smooth, modern pop-soul-rock. Mixing equal parts craft, emotion and wit on pop-soul gems like the current single, "Hallelujah Man," "Axis of Love" and "Joycelyn Square," Strange Kind of Love is considerably more dynamic and consistent than the band's 1986 debut, All You Need Is..., which was partially produced by veteran American producer Tom Dowd. "He had one eye on the clock the whole time, and that was not beneficial," says Grant. "It just seemed to me that he was in it for the bucks--and he got plenty of them. We were very young and we needed more guidance than he gave us.
"The first record had a lot of good ideas, but it was a bit of a dichotomy, because we worked with two different producers and because there were a lot of ideas conflicting with each other," Grant continues. "Whereas on the new album, we took it from the song upwards, and let the son dictate how it would be recorded. Music's important, but the main thing for me is the lyrics. On this album, we tried to make everything grow outward from the lyrics, and consequently there's a lot more atmosphere."
Grant and bandmates Paul McGeechan and Bobby Paterson recorded Strange Kind of Love with another American producer, Gary Katz (best known for his work with Steely Dan) in midtown Manhattan during an eight-month stay in the Big Apple.
"It was not my ideal environment," Grant admits. "It was a nightmare at some points, and after six months, it really began to eat you up--if a vocal wasn't happening, you immediately started thinking, 'Shit, I'm going home.' It was strange walking past the porn emporiums in Times Square every day. Sometimes it was fun, and sometimes it was really terrible, just being away from home for so long, missing families and girlfriends. It was quite a struggle at points, and it took a lot out of me. But some magic moments made it worthwhile."
Grant gives high marks to producer Katz for helping to focus the band's arrangements. "In the past, we tended to put too many musical ideas on a track, rather than just using the ideas that worked. On this record, we decided that some of those parts would have to go, and Gary helped us with that. Another good thing about Gary is that he's such a nice guy, and he's got such a great manner with people. He also invited us to meet his kids and stuff like that. Things like that may seem relatively unimportant, but believe me when you're away from home for such a long time, they become very important."
And did the unfamiliar surroundings affect the finished product? "A lot of people say I sound like a miserable bastard on this record, so maybe it did," Grant answers, adding, "I decided I wanted to write one song about New York while I was there, just to get it out of my system. It's called "Blue Eyed World" and it may be on the next album"
On record, Love and Money is Grant on vocals and guitars, keyboardist McGeechan (also a member of Grant's folk-inspired former combo, Friends Again), and bassist Paterson. The band performs live as a six-piece, with the addition of drummer Davey Watson, guitarist Douglas McIntyre and percussionist Ronnie Goodman.
"I write the songs and I'm the leader of the band," explains Grant, "but in the studio, it's as much of a democracy as can be. But having said that, if someone does something that I don't like on one of my songs, then I can't have it. It's not a democracy as such, but I find that to be the approach that works best."
According to Grant, the prospect of stateside success "is not at the top of my list of priorities, to be honest. I think we could be very successful in America, but that's something that we have very little control of, so there's no point in worrying about it. I just want to keep writing songs."
As for his future work, Grant says, "Strange Kind of Love is a good record, but it's not the pinnacle of our career. I'm feeling a bit more acoustic lately. I think I'm coming back to some of the things that I did in Friends Again. I quite like the idea of taking the acoustic stuff and tagging it on to more soulful music."
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