On June 3, Glasgow-based MAKE MODEL announced that Lewis Gale – the band’s founder, co-singer, principal songwriter and guitarist – had quit with immediate effect.
No explanation was given but signs that all was not well in the Make Model camp were apparent in May following a slew of cancelled gigs including support slots with The Fratellis, We Are Scientists and The Futureheads.
Gale’s decision to leave was disastrous for Make Model. It cost the band their deal with EMI, who dropped them and ditched all plans to release Products Of Kin, the debut album they had already recorded.
Scheduled festival appearances at the likes of T in the Park and Glastonbury were immediately shelved but the rest of the band vowed to carry on, although as yet there have been no tangible indications of activity.
Now, Gale has spoken to The Pop Cop to reveal for the first time where it all went wrong…
How hard was it to tell the rest of the band you were quitting?
It felt like I was breaking up with five girls one after the other. It was the longest and most painful day I’ve had in a long time. There were tears. I kept mine to when I was driving from destination to destination [to tell the band]. I was pretty low. You don’t start a band expecting it not to get to the point where you get your first record out.
Why did you leave?
The whole experience was stealing my love of music which is something I’ve had since I was five years old. I just trusted my instincts and got out earlier rather than later. Make Model was originally a part of my dealing with a lot of bad things in my life. But it started to be a source of bad things as opposed to a place to escape it. You shouldn’t do something if you’re not happy doing it. There’s no reason to compromise yourself for the sake of others.
Were you made to feel guilty about quitting?
I’ve probably done that more to myself than anybody else could. At the end of the day it was a band that I started. I don’t regret the decision I made but I regret how it might have made other people feel around me. I never intended to hurt the people that I did but part of life is accepting that that’s what happens.
Was there any fallout from the band having to cancel their support tour dates?
I don’t think anyone would have minded a great deal. It’s not like people were buying tickets to see Make Model support The Fratellis. We were there to try to pick up a new audience. To be honest, I’d happily say that four local bands in each town probably got a chance to play to 2,000 people. It may appear ungrateful that I chose not to do those things but at the end of the day they’re just part of the job. If you have a good live agent you’ll get shows. The novelty of that wears off quite quickly.
How did you find life on a major label?
It was very difficult. Make Model got such a high-profile deal within the industry that it always felt like EMI were freaked out and didn’t really know what to do with the record once they had it. They couldn’t decide on what singles to put out and it was a really laborious process working with them. To be honest, it was a very small part of my reasoning for leaving the band.
What will become of the album Make Model recorded?
It’s probably not going to see the light of day. That makes me sad as it was the first time I had ever written songs and I’m really proud of them. I’ve heard of a few people getting hold of copies. I’d love for people to be able to share it and hear it. A lot of genuine joy went into writing the songs and I think people found it quite refreshing. I may even make the endeavour myself to make it available. I’m still in the middle of legal stuff so I have to be careful. EMI spent a lot of money making it and despite the fact they don’t want to put it out they will be guarded over it being distributed freely.
Have you been in touch with any of your former bandmates since you left?
I’ve been for coffee with a couple of them and they’re going strong, I think. From what I can gather they’ve been writing, regrouping and I respect the decision they made to take some time out and carry on as Make Model. I sincerely wish them all the best. I have no animosity towards them for who they are outside of Make Model, none at all.
What have you been up to since leaving the band?
I went back up to the Highlands for two or three months. I became really keen to reconnect with my family, especially my grandparents, who are a huge influence. Around that time my granny was ill and I hadn’t seen my mum and dad that much. I then went to Toronto for five weeks. I hung out with a lot of the guys in the hip-hop scene there. I also got to meet all the Arts & Crafts guys and Justin Peroff and Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene. It was good to talk to people you regard as heroes.
I’m currently living in Brighton – it’s wicked. I’m working with a Birmingham-based band called Calories and they’ve just made an album which I’m doing some mixing on. I’m trying to push myself in different areas. I’m thinking about moving into songwriting, producing and getting more into the business side of things.