When a band splits up, their reasons for doing so can vary wildly. Sometimes, however, a band makes no announcement whatsoever, instead choosing to cease all forms of communication and updates, drifting further and further out of public consciousness.
To those fans who had invested time, money and emotional attachment in something that came to an end at an undetermined juncture, such a stance can prove highly frustrating, if not disrespectful.
For most people, The Cinematics are missing rather than presumed dead. The Scottish band’s official homepage optimistically promises “New website coming soon!” and points readers in the direction of a MySpace page which hasn’t been updated since January 2011. At the time of writing, there have been no announcements on The Cinematics’ Twitter or Facebook page to say that they’ve split up, but they did just that several months ago.
When I discovered this by chance during a random conversation at GoNorth, I emailed guitarist and co-songwriter Larry Reid and invited him to meet up for an interview to provide some closure on The Cinematics story – it turned out to be a more intriguing story than I ever imagined.
Larry replaced founder member Ramsay Miller between the release of their debut album A Strange Education (2007) and its follow-up Love And Terror (2009). The rest of the band – Scott Rinning (vocals/guitar), Adam Goemans (bass) and Ross Bonney (drums) – are originally from Dingwall but moved to Glasgow in 2003.
While The Cinematics had a reasonable following in their native Scotland, they enjoyed far greater popularity in the United States and continental Europe which, in turn, was where they decided to do almost all of their touring, prompting the members to relocate to Berlin last year. It was there that the group set about recording the ill-fated third album that eventually killed them. It was to be called Kino, the German word for ‘cinema’, but it remains unreleased and unfinished. What proved to be their last ever gig was at Berlin’s Magnet Club on December 3, 2010.
“We’d been in Berlin for about six months recording our third album and I thought it was going very well,” recalls Larry. “I thought it was sounding like a great piece of art that would have blown people’s heads off when they heard it and they would have had to re-evaluate their perception of the band. Some of the band agreed with me, other members thought it wasn’t really what we were about and wanted to stop recording it. By that, I mean take a break from the band.
“In this day and age, music is so disposable that if you’re not giving your fanbase records or playing shows they’ll move on to someone else. That was my argument – what was the point in taking a break? There would have been no way back.
“We didn’t sit in a room and take a vote on whether we should split the band up – it was more organic than that. I don’t think we’re looking at a ‘Beatles in 1970’ situation. I don’t think there are going to be rooms full of crying girls everywhere.”
Would you say it was more a case of musical differences than personality differences?
“It was,” agrees Larry. “But when musical differences lead to bands splitting up and losing incomes, it becomes personality differences. Being in a band with somebody is very much like being in a relationship. You look back on it with fondness and bitterness in the same way that you look back on an ex-girlfriend.”
The bitterness is understandable. Scott announced that he wanted to scrap the third album on the same day that Larry arrived in Berlin after selling his house in Glasgow and driving his girlfriend and his possessions to the German capital. In that instant, an enviable lifestyle of travelling the world and earning a living from making music was no more.
“We were getting paid a lot of money for going on tour,” says Larry. “The Cinematics had a big fanbase. A small gig for us in Europe or America would have been 300 people. In the big cities like Berlin or Amsterdam we’d play to more than 1,000.
“After we cancelled our recording sessions, Kings Of Leon’s promoter got in contact with us – he wanted us to be the support on their European tour. To walk away from that, or to have to walk away from that… I was raging. A lot of bands get things because record companies pay a lot of money, but that wasn’t the case with this. We’d got that through sheer hard work.”
Larry readily admits he is disillusioned with the music business, with his old band being sued by two different parties for breach of contract.
“You hear stories about how everybody in the music industry is corrupt and how it’s a dirty business, yet when you do get screwed, you’re surprised,” says Larry, shaking his head at his own apparent naivety.
“Since music was made a commodity and people started selling it, artists have been getting ripped off. If we as a band got 10% of every record that we sold, we’d be loaded. But we don’t. iTunes give you pennies. Spotify give you the square root of nothing. People think they’re doing you a favour by legally downloading your music, but the difference between them downloading my music from iTunes and downloading from a torrent is irrelevant to me.”
Quite why The Cinematics’ popularity in Europe and America wasn’t matched in their home country has puzzled many. Larry’s theory is that it has more to do with how the group’s image was originally moulded and their subsequent rapid ascent – a rags to riches tale which he believes doesn’t sit well with the Scottish mindset.
“I can understand it,” says Larry. “The manager found them and told them, ‘The clothes you’re wearing are terrible, get your hair cut and your name’s crap, change that’. He basically created the band, got them endorsement deals with All Saints so they were walking around in trendy clobber, got them accounts at Rainbow Room for trendy haircuts, gave them a stack of records and told them, ‘This is what you’ve got to start listening to’.
“They played a few gigs in Glasgow then went to In The City where TVT Records were desperate to sign a Scottish band in the post-Franz era. They signed them even though they didn’t have a set of their own songs, whisked them off to America and put them in one of the most expensive studios in the world to record an album which cost £100,000. That’s not really the kind of story that Scotland is into.
“I’m making it sound something it’s not. This is not the bitter rant of somebody after a band breaks up. They were a brilliant band. Scott is a better singer than any other Scottish singer I can think of and he’s got a star quality. Ross and Adam, the rhythm section, were phenomenal, which was why we were such a brilliant live band. They got where they got because they were talented, but I sometimes think the Scottish music scene is inversely snobby about natural talent. They like people with beards who don’t know that many guitar chords. I’m a bit like that myself so I understand that.”
Larry has stepped into the role of frontman for his new project, Laurence And The Slab Boys, a more shoegazing proposition than his old band, with dark, restless atmospherics.
“A lot of labels have been in contact and are really interested in it but I don’t anticipate playing to over 1,000 people with Laurence And The Slab Boys any time soon,” he admits. “I wouldn’t call it a vanity project – I’m not really in a position to do that – but it’s closer to the music I like.
“It was strange, there wasn’t a whole lot that united The Cinematics musically. The only band all four of us were into was Radiohead, and even then we were into different periods of Radiohead. When I was writing for The Cinematics, our record company insisted the songs sounded good on the radio, so it was like, ‘I might need to take that line out, I might need to change this, we might need to put a third chorus in’. Basically everything we did had to be acceptable to American girls.”
The Cinematics – Chase
Laurence And The Slab Boys – Space Dream #1