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The Gods Might Really Be Shining: Interview with the Wild Strawberry

by anna battista

“The performances on the album are fantastic: when I heard Gordon in the studio I realised he had put a lot of emotions in the songs and I thought ‘This is great, this is going to work’,” Wild Strawberry’s Ross Cockburn states while we sit outside the Beanscene café in Glasgow’s West End. “Actually that’s not true, you told me after you heard my vocals that I had to redo them all again,” Gordon Macdonald, the voice of the band, retorts. “I didn’t, that’s a lie! I’m proud of being in a band with you,” Ross reassures, “I’m totally honest when I say that when I started the band I wasn’t a fan, but as Wild Strawberry progresses, I have become a huge Gordon Macdonald fan.”

Wild Strawberry’s Ross and Gordon have just mentioned the fact that at times the members of the band quarrel like the Gallagher brothers, when they launch into a brief argument that is soon resolved by a joke and a laugh. Just a few minutes ago a reduced line-up of the band, featuring Gordon on vocals and guitar and Ross on guitar, was delighting a small but attentive audience at the Beanscene in Glasgow’s Cresswell Lane. The gig went well and people seemed to be listening and enjoying the music.

Formed in 2002, the Wild Strawberry is Ross Cockburn (guitar), Gordon Macdonald (vocals), Mike McCann (bass) and Stuart Mclean (drums). The band recorded two albums - The Crush Of Summer (2003) and The Gods Are Shining, the latter just recently released by Luna Records, a record label connected with the Beanscene cafes.

“Things are definitely a lot better with this new album,“ Ross claims. “We made a real mistake with The Crush of Summer because we decided to produce it ourselves and, since in the band there are at least two or three really strong personalities, we basically cancelled each other out and you can sort of hear that on the record, even though it’s probably more obvious to us.”

The new album was produced by Boo Hewerdine, a name often heard in connection with Eddie Reader and KD Lang. Ross met him during a songwriting workshop: at the time the band didn’t even know if there would have been a second album, since the experience of doing the first one had been good, but also bad. Soon after that first meeting, Hewerdine spent a weekend in the studio with the band. “After he spent some time with us, we realised we could hear a completely different band coming out of the speakers,” Ross remembers, “we know we can write good songs, we know that we can play well enough, but making it sound good on the record is a trick that many bands never manage quite right. I can now say that Boo has become a fan of the band and he has been working as hard in the background to try and get us out there as anybody in the band.”

Though the Wild Strawberry’s production has changed (for the better), there is one thing Gordon underlines hasn’t changed, and that’s the quality of the songs: both the band’s albums contain quite good tracks, and The Gods Are Shining has won the band comparisons with The Doors, Echo & The Bunnymen and Johnny Cash, among others. The band claims their influences are rather different and varied: Ross likes early Postcard Records Edinburgh bands such as Josef K (both he and Mike actually played with Paul Haig in the past) and the Fire Engines, while Gordon loves Aztec Camera and Scott Walker. This is why, according to Ross, the ideal Wild Strawberry fan likes rock‘n’roll, but also melodies, even though his predictions of who their fans are have been thwarted. “I’ve been totally amazed at hearing that eight-year-olds love our song ‘Boolean Boy’: I’ve been told some parents can’t get out in their car without playing it to their children, it must be because it’s a really simple poppy song,” Ross says. “We also seem to have picked up a sort of 18-20-year-old female following: maybe they are looking for father figures…”

The Wild Strawberry is at present touring the Beanscene cafes circuit, and concentrating on the next album, which will be hopefully out at the end of next year. The band is also planning to do more gigs, possibly with Boo Hewerdine, and play at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange, Glasgow’s ABC and Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree. So, in a year’s time when will they be? “My own ambition is at some point to be seen on Jools Holland: that to me would prove that we’ve got everything right,” Ross states, “but for the time being, I’d like us to be a Scottish act that people rate alongside…” “…Aztec Camera, Orange Juice and The Smiths,” Gordon interrupts, him concluding his sentence.

Fear not, though, this band doesn’t have grandiose plans to be the next Franz Ferdinand, like many other bands around just now; nor do they aspire to become part of the Glasgow music scene, “We like Scotland and we like Edinburgh,“ Gordon says, “we think it is important to be in a good country and in a good place and we do live in a good place. We are essentially an Edinburgh band and Edinburgh hasn’t got a music scene, music is not high on the agenda there, yet I think we should revel in our small city.” “We are good at writing songs and hopefully at making folks sit up, listen and enjoy,” Ross continues, “I would just like to hope that five or ten thousand people one day will have one of our albums.” If the Gods keep on shining upon the Wild Strawberry, hopefully all the band’s plans will become true.

“The Gods Are Shining” is available at any Beanscene throughout Scotland or from


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