Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Brothers busy reclaiming the road

Proclaimers haven't stopped working since '80s breakout and head to NZ with 10th album under their belts.
Craig and Charlie Reid say they were stunned by the success of Sunshine on Leith and, with other distractions, took a while to come back to writing. Photo / Supplied
Craig and Charlie Reid say they were stunned by the success of Sunshine on Leith and, with other distractions, took a while to come back to writing. Photo / Supplied

They might be viewed as one-hit wonders - a band of bespectacled Scottish twin brothers who gate-crashed the late '80s with their I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) and then faded from view.

Except The Proclaimers kept on proclaiming. These days Craig and Charlie Reid are 54 and last year released their 10th studio album, the rockin' and rousin' Let's Hear it for the Dogs.

At home, they're a much-loved Scottish music institution.

A musical based on their songs and named for their breakthrough second album from 1988, Sunshine on Leith, first took to the stage in 2007 and an acclaimed film of the same became a box office hit in 2013.

When it's pointed out not many bands outlive the stage musicals based on their music, Craig Reid takes it as a compliment as his thick accent comes down the phone from Perth while on an Australasian tour which brings them to New Zealand this weekend.

The film, he says, has helped give the Proclaimers' music a new following in the UK.

"I think the film has brought us to a much wider audience - families. We saw it when we toured Britain - last year families who would maybe never go along to a live show but they will go to the cinema or they will buy a DVD. I think that definitely helps."

Reid says The Proclaimers have sustained not just because of the fraternal bond but because they still have the same urge they had as twentysomethings, trying to make music to call their own and to deliver it in their rugged harmonies.

"The reason we still write songs and make records is because we want to do it," says Craig. "Writing songs and playing live have always been the top two things for us. Recording has been third. I think the desire to do it is still the single greatest thing. We still fully want to get up on stage and play."

Over the years, the Proclaimers have evolved from acoustic duo to a fully-fledged electric band and they'll be bringing the full backing outfit here. Though the raw material remains the same.

"The songs are still written the same way. The songs are still written by me or Charlie and then we come together and we sing them and we play them over and over again and make sure they are the right key and get the right balance to it."

If anything, The Proclaimers have sped up over the years. After just one album during the '90s to follow the '80s beginnings of This Is the Story and Sunshine on Leith, the pair have churned out seven albums since 2001.

"We didn't have a difficult second album - Sunshine on Leith wrote itself quite quickly. It was a long period after Sunshine on Leith and we were reacting to the shock of having a hit record all over the world.

"And then there were other things like wives, having children. Stuff like that.

"We had a couple of periods in the early '90s and the late '90s where we didn't write enough songs that we were happy with. I don't think it was complete writer's block but if you get into a rut and you think songwriting is difficult, it becomes really difficult.

"We've disciplined ourselves to write every day. It still takes a long while. It's not easy but if you try and write every day, even if it's just a couple of hours, you'll get something you can use."

And in the case of the Reids, you'll probably get songs that may not always reach the feelgood heights of 500 Miles.

Though the heartfelt You Built Me Up, Forever Young or The Other Side from the latest album all crackle with the same sort of high spirits.

Yes, they have sad songs too. But you can hardly call the Reids dour Scots.

"I don't think all the stuff is feelgood. Some of it is. It's exuberant. You just try and express yourself as directly as you can really. You just express what you feel.

"I think that Scots can be dour. But we can also be exuberant."

Who: The Proclaimers

Where and when: St James Theatre, Wellington, Friday April 22; Horncastle Arena, Christchurch, Saturday April 23; Claudelands Arena, Hamilton, Sunday April 24; ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland Monday April 25.

- NZ Herald

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