Introducing Interview: Stephen McLaren

Having already received critical acclaim as part of Edinburgh-based dream pop band Collar Up, musician Stephen McLaren has now gone solo, and is set to release his new album We Used To Go Raving next month.

With his solo work already having caught the attention of Tenement TV, The List and Amazing Radio’s Jim Gellatly, Stephen McLaren now hopes to capture listeners’ attention with the dark, cinematic power of his latest offering.

We caught up with Stephen to find out more…

Hi Stephen! Can you please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi! My name is Stephen McLaren, and I write songs and perform them live, using my voice, my piano, and my laptop. I am also the Best Dancer in Edinburgh, though this is more of a reputation than a title that you might win in a competition.

Your music has been compared to the like of Joy Division and New Order – are you a big new wave fan?
Well, that’s a big compliment. I am a huge fan of both bands, have all their albums on CD, and I’ve seen New Order live, and also Peter Hook And The Light perform Joy Division too. My favourite music to listen to is anything by Cocteau Twins, but especially ‘Head Over Heels’, ‘Treasure’, ‘Garlands’, and ‘Heaven Or Las Vegas’. So, yeah, I suppose I am a big new wave fan!

What’s your latest single ‘I Sing To You’ all about?
It’s a love song. But not in the saccharine sense, or at least I hope it doesn’t come across like that. Being in love brings with it an intensity of feeling, especially when the feeling is mutual, that can be powerfully positive and powerfully negative, but it is certainly a powerful feeling; I hope I’ve given both the positive and negative airspace in the song.

Your new album is called We Used To Go Raving – what was the rave scene like up in Scotland growing up?
I grew up in the west of Scotland, and happy hardcore was huge there certainly, though probably in other parts of Scotland too. Ultrasonic, Rhythmic State, Ultimate Buzz, QFX, and Q-Tex all had hits that were a crossover success in the Scottish charts. At that time, I was around 12, and so too young to go to places like Hangar 13, or the Fubar, or in some of the more underground field or warehouse parties, but I loved the music, and the genre still influences my music today. There were pirate radio stations playing it most nights at the time, and my friends and I all listened each night as we were kicking a ball around or whatever we were up to. So, it was exciting, the music was up-beat and dreamy all at once, and it was, as I say, widely listened to among my friends, and I’m sure lots of people who were in their teenage years in the mid-1990s.

How would you describe your music?
I would describe it as piano-led, electronic dream-pop; with the lyrical subject-matter ranging from the personal to the political.

Have you got any live dates coming up?
Yes! I am playing at SIPS (Cowgate), Sat 26th August, my album launch gig is at Leith Depot (Leith Walk), Sat 23rd September,with an in-store gig following at Elvis Shakespeare Records on Sat 7th October (2.30pm), then I will be supporting Foreignfox at Voodoo Rooms on Wed 22nd November, and playing at The Little Love and the Friendly Vibes Christmas Party, at Leith Depot on Sat 16th December.

And what’s your favourite venue that you’ve ever performed in?
I loved playing at Barfly in Glasgow before it shut down. Now, though, Leith Depot has an intimacy, atmosphere, and acoustic that all really suit me, and I enjoy playing at Henry’s Cellar, The Wee Red Bar at Edinburgh College of Art, and Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s too. For a big night, though, Cabaret Voltaire is hard to beat.

As we’re a new music-focussed site, are there any new Scottish bands you could recommend to us?
Yes. I would recommend my label-mates, Errant Boy; some of the finest song-writing around today is to be found in their last album, A Wayward Mirror. Apart from that, Little Love And The Friendly Vibes are a brilliantly engaging and fun live act, as are Calum Easter, and Mad Gerald, and I really love Young Fathers and the Twighlight Sad, as well as having had a long time admiration for De Rosa and Martin John Henry’s solo stuff. Also, though they’re not a band, I saw Tinderbox Orchestra live recently, and it was an inspirational display of really colourful and exciting music. There are certainly more, but that’s probably enough for now I guess.

What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
I will be releasing my debut solo album on 29th September, with a gig to launch it the previous weekend on the 23rd at Leith Depot. The album is called We Used To Go Raving, and I’ll be hoping to play it live to as many folk as possible, in as many different places as possible over the coming weeks and months.

Huge thanks to Stephen for answering our questions! 

We Used To Go Raving, the upcoming album from Stephen McLaren, is out 29th September via Errant Media. Find out more out Stephen’s Facebook page.

Mari Lane

Mari Lane

Editor, London. Likes: Kathleen Hanna, 6Music, live music in the sunshine. Dislikes: Sexism, pineapples, the misuse of apostrophes.