Interview: The Proclaimers

Craig, left, and Charlie
Craig, left, and Charlie
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‘YOU’RE going to be talking to The Proclaimers?” asks a Hibs-daft pal. “Ask them if they think we’ll lift the Scottish Cup?”

Such is the Edinburgh public’s perception of the Reid twins – one of this country’s most recognisable and successful musical exports thanks to anthemic hits like Letter From America and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), yet just as synonymous for their love of the old “Cabbage’N’Ribs”.

It’s hard to know whether to fire the million-dollar question right off the bat, or wait until nearer the end of the interview. After all, despite them arguably being Hibernian’s most famous fans, Charlie and Craig are gathered today, primarily, to discuss their just-released new album.

Right off the bat it is.

“No. Yeah. Maybe. I bloody hope so, though,” says Craig. “I just couldn’t stand losing, like any Hibby. Can you imagine the stick we’d all get from the Jambos? It would be unbearable. I’d have to stay indoors for weeks if we don’t win it.”

Big bro agrees. “It’s one of those things, isn’t it?” says Charlie, the elder twin by 30 minutes, who has now abandoned the trademark heavy-framed specs that helped make the Proclaimers famous in the late 80s in favour of contact lenses.

“If Hibs win it will be the best day ever, but if we lose it will be the worst,” he goes on. “Anything can happen on the day, but the Hearts have to be favourites, don’t they?”

So just how confident are they? After all, better Hibs sides than this have made it to Scottish Cup finals in the past and gone away empty handed.

“I’ve always said it might not be a great Hibs team that wins it,” says Charlie. “Some great Hibs sides from the past have been expected to win, and failed. But I reckon the law of averages suggest that a mediocre Hibs could win it. Hopefully this will be the one.”

Craig already has his tickets for the big match. Charlie is still swithering between going to Hampden and watching it on the telly. Craig reckons his sibling won’t be able to stay away. “Aye, he says that, but he’ll be there.”

Born in Leith in 1962, Craig and Charlie grew up in Edinburgh, Cornwall and Auchtermuchty in Fife. At home, they listened to early rock ‘n’ roll and country greats such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. That, and the stories their old man would tell them about the Famous Five side of the post-war decade.

“Our dad used to tell us all the time how great the Famous Five side were,” says Craig. “It’s amazing to think that they won three league titles, played in Europe, but never won the Scottish Cup.”

The brothers have been to their fair share of Hampden finals over the years. They were just teenagers when Hibs lost the 1979 Scottish Cup final to Rangers, but they still feel the pain.

“The ‘79 final was the first we went to, and we lost 3-2,” recalls Charlie. “I thought we should have won it, but it wasn’t a great game, really.

“We were 17 at the time and I remember us jumping on the train down to Glasgow from Auchtermuchty. When the train pulled up at Mount Florida it was full of Rangers fans – thousands of them. There were bottles flying about everywhere, it was pretty manic.”

That was their first dose of Hampden heartbreak, but the brothers Reid have since seen their team win the League Cup on two occasions – in 1991 and 2007.

The last time, when Hibs routed Jim Jefferies’ Kilmarnock 5-1 to lift the CIS Cup, was one of the twins’ proudest moments. Not only because John Collins’ men had won with such style and panache, but also because of the pride they felt that afternoon in the national stadium listening to 30,000 Hibs fans belting out their song Sunshine On Leith as the team did a lap of honour.

“That was something else,” says Craig. “It’s a day I’ll never forget,” Charlie adds.

Staunch supporters that they are, the twins would swap anything to see the team end its 110-year Scottish Cup hoodoo – even their continued success.

“Any true Hibs fan would say the same,” reckons Charlie. “If it was a toss up between personal gain or the cup, we’d take the cup any day.

“We’ve had plenty hits, but we’ve never seen the Hibs win the Scottish Cup.”

The Proclaimers, you feel, would happily talk Hibs all day. But fun as that would be, there’s a new album to discuss.

Out Monday, Like Comedy showcases what the boys do best. There’s no drastic change of direction, just another collection of uplifting, heartfelt tunes delivered in their own inimitable style.

After ending a 15-month world tour in the summer of 2010 with a triumphant appearance at T in the Park, the boys spent a year writing the album before recording last September at Strangefruit Studios in Bath with respected producer Steve Evans.

“It’s the third one in a row we’ve done with him,” says Charlie. “This one’s been done a bit differently, though, because the last two were recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales.

“We played him the songs and he got an idea what we were doing. Then we did a full demo, just me and Craig on piano and guitar. After that Steve started building arrangements around what we’d done.”

Asked what Evans brings to the table, Charlie says, “To me, he brings something refreshing. Each track we’ve done over the course of those three albums he’s re-jigged a lot. He’ll change arrangements, chords, loads of stuff.

“He’s very much a hands-on producer and really takes time over the vocals. That, to us, is one of the main things because it’s primarily vocal music. I think he has a younger ear than we do, but, then again, who doesn’t nowadays?”

The first single from Like Comedy is Spinning Around In The Air. “We just knew it would be one of the album’s leading songs, even before the demo,” says Charlie. “It’s a song about words and how they can change meaning and how you can exaggerate.

“It’s nonsense lyrics but it is, as they used to say, a catchy song,” he adds.

Looking ahead, The Proclaimers have some huge festivals to play this summer before a six-week tour that includes two nights at the Edinburgh Playhouse in October.

It’s a far cry from their humble beginnings, that’s for sure.

Back in 1987, they said they’d be happy if their music got them off the dole. Half a century later, they’ve sold millions of records, had their songs turned into a hit musical, and played live before a Champions League final. And that’s just the edited highlights.

Impressive as it all sounds, there’s still one ambition they’d like to fulfil: playing at their beloved Easter Road.

“That would be the ultimate,” beams Charlie. “We’d love to do it.”

So why haven’t they? “We’ve never been asked,” says Craig. “If someone made us an offer, we’d probably jump at the chance.”

After a moment’s reflection, he adds, “If you think about it, though, there’s only a couple of months in the year when you can use a football ground. It would have to be after the season ended, because it does affect the park.”

Damaging the hallowed Easter Road turf, you suspect, is something these dyed-in-the-wool Hibbies would never dream of.

The Proclaimers’ new album, Like Comedy, is released on Monday

LIFE’S A DRAG WITH lUCAS AT THE HELM

The Proclaimers teamed up with comedy star Matt Lucas to film the video for new single Spinning Around In The Air, which sees singing twins Charlie and Craig Reid dressed up as old ladies.

The Little Britain actor is known to be a massive fan of the Reid brothers, and as well as writing the script he also pops up in a cameo role as the action unfolds.

The video is a satire on a Golden Wedding party set in a Glaswegian bungalow, and Charlie Reid says fans have been a little surprised by their new look.

“We’ve had a lot of people comment on it,” he says. “We’ve taken a bit of a slagging for dressing up as women, but it was a lot of fun to make.

“Matt told us beforehand that it would be a very liberating experience for us – that’s a massive understatement.”

Craig adds: “It was different to any video we’ve done before, that’s for sure. But Matt is a funny guy, with great ideas. If you’re going to dress up as a woman, who better to help than Matt? He’s got a lot of experience in that department.”

Lucas, meanwhile, has joked that his directorial debut might be his last. “It’s my first, it might be my last as well.

“I had this idea to do this 50th anniversary party and shoot it as though it’s shot on home video; and there’s a punch going around this party that gets all these respectful senior citizens disgracefully drunk and uninhibited.”

Of the brothers’ new effeminate look, he joked, “They could turn a man. They’ve turned me straight.

“I think it’s the start of a new chapter in the lives of one of Britain’s top female duos!”