by Margaret Chrystall
MARYBURGH band The Ragazzi pushed their boundaries in the run-up to the release of their first EP, recuiting their new guitarist – all the way from Dingwall.
But even before he joined, James was already a friend of the band’s founding trio – singer and guitarist Dean Morrison, bassist Greg Miller and drummer Euan McHardy.
Getting the newly-graduated product designer up to speed with the band’s songs was well under way by the time the band went into the University of West Scotland’s studio in Ayr to record their EP.
Friend of the band John Urquhart – who is studying music business – helped organise their recording, a mutually-beneficial module on his course!
Dean said: "He also helped us get our Glasgow 13th Note gig - James's first with us - sorted too. He's half-managing us and he had to get an EP done from scratch, so that is how Conversation Killer got recorded.
"We didn’t have anything planned like that, so it was down to him, really. He put some pressure on us with deadlines to get things done. It had gone extremely quiet before that, but the effort was well worth it."
Conversation Killer features four tracks – including I’m Not Your Man, The Game and Whatever I Want – which will feature in The Ragazzi’s set at The Eagle in Inverness next Friday (July 18).
Dean said: "For that one, we'll be playing all songs from the EP, some old ones and two or three new songs. We have been practising the structure of them, they just need finishing off, but we feel really good about those songs. One’s a bit like doo wop. It’s interesting..."
One thing they never want to be with their music is boring.
James said: "I wouldn’t like to be just 'acceptable'."
Other bands The Ragazzi rate include Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes and Euan brings up afavourite, a take-no-prisoners skate punk/garage punk band from Los Angeles.
Euan laughed: "Fidlar from New York, their songs are so blunt. They don’t sugarcoat anything, they just say it."
Dean said: "The song Cheap Beer, the chorus is ‘I drink cheap beer, so what, f*** you’.
"Stuff you wouldn't want your mum to hear!"
But maybe we should all be listening more closely to the Ragazzi lyrics ...
Euan said: "There are a couple of songs that we have..."
Dean said: "Some of them are, but we're all young lads!"
Good point. So maybe they should be...
James was also impressed by another rising name on the new music scene."Royal Blood we went to see them at the Big Weekend, they are unbelievable and incredible musicians."
Dean jumped in: "They’ll definitely break through. If you are that good, you will get places."
Euan said: "Their drummer is unbelievable he hits the drums so hard."
So who are his heroes?
"There are two. Nathan Fallowell in Kings of Leon - he calls himself a pocket drummer. He does what's required and that's it.
"All these drummers that have 100 cymbals! He makes it sound better by taking stuff out.
"I could do hundreds of drum rolls ... but it's about making space.
"And George Daniel from The 1975. He does pretty simple stuff, but it adds to the feel to the music. He's just perfect and the band just click together."
By the time the Eagle date comes round this week in front of a Highland crowd, James' live debut is already long behind him – that fairly high-profile initiation in front of Glasgow’s 13th Note crowd.
Yes, he was nervous, James admits.
“Half an hour before the gig I just wanted to cry because I felt so scared,” he laughed. “But once we were up there, two songs in and I just forgot everyone was there, really.
“I just couldn’t have asked for a better debut, it was awesome.”
But James was virtually created to be the perfect Ragazzi guitarist.
Dean explained: “We almost groomed him! We always knew we needed another guitarist and we always knew he would be right. Now he’s also great at creating stuff now for new songs.”
James added: “I got an acoustic guitar when I went to uni and started learning, but I’d be home in the summer and Dean would be playing guitar and I’d feel that I was missing out. So I got the finger out and learned what I needed to learn!”
His explanation of where product design begins – “with your imagination” also seems to have been true when the band was trying to find the perfect image for the cover of the EP – currently just available online but with a physical CD to follow soon.
James said: “Euan, John and me were trying to batter out some ideas – by the end of the hour we had what we wanted!
“Euan saw an image online of a man with tape over his mouth and we took it from there.”
Euan laughed: “We took a lot of pictures of each of us. It was just meant to be a rough idea, but we liked the picture of James and went with that!”
The band is hoping to pack a few more gigs in this summer with Euan, James and Dean all in the same place, just bassist Greg having to travel through from Aberdeen.
James said: “We’ve been trying to find somewhere up here where we could put on our own gig, set up a stage and go wild!”
They’ve got a few places in mind, but James laughs: “I’d play in someone’s back garden!”
The Ragazzi play the Eagle Bar, Inverness on Friday (July 18). Their EP Conversation Killer is available for download from iTunes. For more on the band: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Ragazzi/196868540415827 and Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/the-ragazzi