Look at them. Just look at them. That’s Fatherson playing their wee hearts out at The Garage in Glasgow last week during the biggest headlining gig of their relatively brief existence, and I mean that both as a band and as human beings.
An adoring crowd who hung on every lyric weren’t to be disappointed. Certainly not when they’re on the receiving end of an impeccable output of articulate, brooding rock songs. Each and every chorus was inhaled and exclaimed back by a devoted audience who have very good reason to suspect they’ve beaten the rush to find the next Twin Atlantic or Biffy Clyro.
Like the Biffy boys, Fatherson’s roots lie in Kilmarnock. Ross Leighton, Marc Strain and Greg Walkinshaw, all aged 20, were classmates at primary school before going on to Kilmarnock Academy. Chris Beltran, 21, became a permanent member more recently, swelling the trio into a quartet.
Playing to a packed 600-capacity venue at such a fledgling stage of their music careers (they’ve only released a couple of EPs and singles) is a privilege only earned through equal measures of talent, sacrifice and hard graft.
But what must it feel like to be the parent of such promising young musicians? That’s not a rhetorical question, I’d really like to know. So as soon as the Fatherson gig ended, I bodyswerved the sweaty, triumphant band and locked the four sons’ fathers in the dressing-room to hear all about roadieing, swearing in front of grannies and the odd “epic fail”.
THE POP COP: Let’s get this out the way. The name Fatherson – is that anything to do with you guys?
John: “We’ve always wondered as they struggled for a long time to find a name that would suit them. I don’t really know how it came about.”
Grant: “We’re quite happy with it. They like it said together quite quickly.”
John: “It’s not ‘Father Son’, it’s ‘Fatherson’. Annie Mac introduced them on Radio 1 as ‘Father Son’ and I remember thinking, ‘That’s not how it’s supposed to be’.”
THE POP COP: How did it feel watching a gig like that?
Grant: “We’ve seen it develop from the age of 12-13 to where they are now and you think, ‘What a journey’.” My wife turned to me tonight and said, ‘Who are all these people? They’re all here to see my son!’”
Alan: “They’re becoming more experienced, polished and professional. There is more stagecraft going on now as they interact with the audience and get people singing along. You see them getting better all the time.”
John: “I’m always more nervous than they are before a gig with the build up to it. It’s a very proud feeling that young guys can connect with people in that way. They bring lots of people lots of pleasure. Who knows where they’ll be when they’re 25? It’s very unpredictable. They’ve just got to go for it. We’d all have went for it.”
Tony: “All of our families are music fans so as far as we’re concerned it’s a very worthy profession. Lawyers are boring!”
THE POP COP: Have you always been so supportive of them?
Grant: “Yeah, we have been for quite a long time – back to the days of the meetings we used to have.”
Alan: “The first time we saw them play was at the scout hall or the battle of the bands at Kilmarnock Academy, which was about six or seven years ago. We’ve all known each other for a long time too so we’ve always encouraged them. What’s nice is that we don’t have to roadie for them nowadays – no more going up and down stairs with guitars and amps.”
John: “I’ve seen lots of really good young bands struggle because they don’t have that support. The boys have been quite fortunate as they’ve got parents who will run them places or offer bits of finance. We’ve not made the journey for them but we’ve supported them when they’ve needed it. However, in the last year to 18 months we’ve never really had to do that. They’ve picked up their own mantle, they’re their own entity now.”
Grant: “We should really mention the mothers as well!” [All nod in agreement and laugh]
Ross pops his head around the door.
Ross: “It’s like parents’ night in here!”
John: “You don’t qualify yet, son. It’s not a CSA meeting.”
THE POP COP: Do you think the band have been influenced by your individual record collections?
Grant: “I’m more influenced by theirs! I’ve picked up quite a lot from them.”
Tony: “For Chris I’d say totally – he’s had it rammed down his throat from an early age. We’ve always done our music as a family. We took him to T in The Park when he was 12 and we’ve been going ever since.”
John: “Ross particularly warmed to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Dave Matthews – stuff I liked back in the 70s and 80s. I do think it influenced his songwriting in a melodic rock sense which is what you see at gigs. Folk just connect to it, it’s like a singalong.”
THE POP COP: Do you give them into trouble for swearing on stage?
John: “Haha, I don’t think they swear that much. Although, in saying that, Ross does an open mic night in Box and he did this cover of Creep by Radiohead and there’s a bit in it that he swears. We let his grandmother know that the cover was up on the site and the next thing the phone goes and she’s like, “He says ‘fucking’ in it.”
Alan: “The trouble is they’re bigger than us now so we can’t really give them into trouble, there’s not the same authority.”
THE POP COP: Have you ever encouraged them to pursue a more stable occupation?
Tony: “This is a great opportunity. They’re only young guys. They can always do something else later. This might not come along again so they’ve got to go for it.”
Alan: “They are going for it. They’re still only 20-21 and they’re now playing at a good level, but they’ve always played above their age. We’ve watched them play with their peers and they’ve always stood out, they’ve always had something different about them.”
John: “Even going back to their first school gig, Ross had written this song called Deserve and within about three or four months all the kids had it on their mobile phones as their ringtone.”
Grant: “It’s still one of my personal favourites!”
John: “It’s that kind of connection that’s propelled the boys along.”
Grant: “They’re quite anthemic and it really gets people.”
John: “We were really pleased to see them hit 5,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook, which I thought was quite significant. People like them because they want to like them, there’s no jiggery-pokery. It’s another milestone for them. They’ve always attracted a great crowd, a very loyal crowd, and they’ve been supported by a lot of great friends.”
THE POP COP: Do they ever come to you looking for constructive criticism?
Grant: “Every time Mark comes home he’ll be like, ‘Wait till you hear this, Dad!’ And he’ll put it on and ask me what I think. You do give them feedback, good or bad. But more often than not it’s good. What they write and what they do is fantastic. We’re probably some of their biggest fans.”
John: “I must admit, I had en epic fail with their new song Cat Stevens. Ross came home one night and played it on his laptop and I didn’t quite get it. I left it and he sent me a finished copy to play and I still didn’t get it. I just couldn’t connect with it. I was talking to my wife about it and she pointed out that there’s not really a chorus in it, it’s different. I must have played it about five or six times one night and at about 11.45pm I texted Ross, ‘I get it!’ – it just all of a sudden made sense.”
THE POP COP: What advice would you give to other parents of musicians who are trying to make it?
Grant: “Just support them. Encourage them and be there.”
Chris: “Do what you can to help.”
John: “Live the dream. I remember the nights when my wife would turn to me worried that Ross was only 12 or 13 and up at 1am writing songs. She’d say, “He’s got school in the morning”. I used to tell her it doesn’t work like that. If the vibe is on and you’ve got that feeling you have to go for it. We’ve stood many a night at the edge of the stage in tears listening to the stuff he’s written and thought, ‘Where did that come from?’ It’s fabulous.”
Grant: “It’s important to take an interest in it too, not just sit away and let them get on with it.”
Alan: “That’s the nice thing as well, it’s been inclusive. We’re all friends with each other and you get to meet their friends who are all happy for us to come along. We certainly don’t dance while we’re there!”
Tony: “We try!”
Alan: “Look at what’s happened to them this year. We came down from a holiday in Dundee in March and we were listening to the radio and a Fatherson track came on live on BBC Scotland. They’ve been to America, played T in the Park, won a SAMA award [for Best Rock/Alternative act]. They’re on an upward curve and anything is possible, it really is. I feel incredibly proud, they’re just amazing.”
All photos © The Pop Cop. Check out other fantastic shots from their gig at The Garage by Euan Robertson.