The quartet trades Glasgow for Santa Monica to work on its sophomore album, ‘Euphoric///Heartbreak\\\,’ and gets a hit of inspiration and excess.
Glasgow’s rainy streets are a far cry from the sunny shores of California, but for Glasvegas, Los Angeles felt like a perfect fit as soon as the Scottish quartet stepped off the tour bus in front of the Troubadour. It was January 2009 and the band had just released its self-titled debut album to much critical acclaim, and was about to play its first L.A. gig at the legendary venue. “I felt like I was home, and I don’t know why that is,” lead singer James Allan says of the first time he set foot in L.A. “Everybody told me I’d hate it.”
Thoughts of living in L.A. lingered as the band toured the globe, opening for U2 and picking up a multitude of awards along the way, as well as a nomination for the prestigious British Mercury Prize, whose judges cited its debut album’s “bittersweet sounds of classic rock ’n’ roll” and “gloriously elegiac anthems of contemporary life.”
When it came time to get serious about writing their sophomore album, James and his band mates — guitarist and cousin Rab Allan, bassist Paul Donoghue and drummer Caroline McKay (who has since left the band and been replaced by Jonna Löfgren) — decided to return to L.A. to set up shop in an idyllic three-story beach house rental next to the Santa Monica Pier. For five months they wrote and recorded tracks for what would become “Euphoric///Heartbreak\\\,” which came out May 17 on Columbia Records.
When asked why they chose the Southland, of all places, James Allan says, “I went to Los Angeles to put myself in an unfamiliar setting and see how that would influence the music. It’s such a fascinating place, Santa Monica. I always think that if ever anybody thinks it’s easy they should go and spend a bit of time in Los Angeles. If you do that and you come back and you’re still inspired, then you can wear the badge that says ‘I survived L.A.’”
The city’s complexity brought challenges for the enigmatic frontman, who was once a professional soccer player in his native Scotland. He found himself indulging in some of the city’s excesses, leading the band to cancel its first coveted Coachella slot due to “exhaustion” — but later acknowledging that drugs had been involved, and participating in five-day party marathons with little or no sleep.
“Like anything that’s that beautiful, if any bad stuff is inside of you, [Los Angeles] will bring that bad stuff to the front of you,” Allan says. “The brighter the sunshine, the blacker the shadow, as well.”
He says dystopian images of Los Angeles from the 1982 sci-fi film “Blade Runner” penetrated his subconscious and informed the sound of the new record. “I used to think of [Los Angeles] in a Ridley Scott, Vangelis, ‘Blade Runner’ way,” he says. “It was always post-apocalyptic noir and it was always on the beach. That’s what I was imagining we could make something sound like.”