Gary Lightbody and the Reindeer Section
Snow Patrol star's side project
While music collective Reindeer Section are often hailed as a ‘Scottish indie supergroup’, it can also be described as Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody’s dream team side-project.
‘It is a side-project in that everybody's first band has to come before the Reindeer Section’, Lightbody says. ‘And that’s including me and Snow Patrol. But that's the beauty of it. There's no pressure on anyone. Everybody can bring to the table whatever they want. It's fun and there's no driving force for world domination’.
Born in Bangor and raised in Belfast, Lightbody moved to Scotland at 18, where he attended Dundee University and formed Snow Patrol.
After university, Lightbody gravitated to Glasgow, stating, ‘There is an amazing scene here. Quite unlike London or even Manchester. It's not like a hippie commune. But there's definitely a sense of community. When one Glasgow band does well, everybody celebrates their success. We went to see Alfie last night and 26 of the 27 people in the Reindeer Section were there to cheer them on. It's a nice place to make music. I don't think you could make a record like this in London or anywhere else.’
The idea for the Reindeer Section was born in one of those glorious drunken moments when anything seems possible. ‘I was very, very drunk’, Lightbody admits. ‘You know when you've had so much you feel invincible? I suppose it was naiveté rather than bravado. But I'd always loved these other bands and I wanted to make a record with my mates’.
Lightbody rounded up members of Mogwai, Arab Strap, Belle and Sebastian, Mull Historical Society and Astrid, among others, for the debut album. In the course of just ten days they recorded Y'All Get Scared Now Ya Hear! , a spontaneous outpouring of songs both quiet and loud that was one of the unexpected delights of 2001. In fact, the album worked so well that barely six months later Lightbody was on the phone again, corralling his conscript army back into the studio
to record another batch of songs.
The ranks of Reindeer Section have now swollen from the original platoon of 15 to a near battalion of 27. At the core are Lightbody and Snow Patrol associate Jonny Quinn, Neil Payne, Charlie Clarke, Willy Campbell, Gareth Russell and Eva's Jenny Reeve. But others who were happy to be sectioned include Mark McLelland (Snow Patrol), John Cummings (Mogwai), Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines), Lee Gorton, Sam Morris and Ben Dumville (Alfie), Aidan Moffat, Malcolm Middleton and Colin MacPherson (Arab Strap), Sarah Roberts (Eva), Roddy Woomble (Idlewild), Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Richard Colburn, Mick Cooke and Bob Kildea (Belle and Sebastian), Iain Archer, Stacey Sievewright, Paul Fox and Marcus Mackay.
‘After the first album was finished, I started writing more and more songs’, Lightbody explains. ‘They weren't Snow Patrol songs, although I've got an album's worth of those, too. I can't quite explain the difference. You just know. And these songs cried out for the Section treatment. As soon as the first album was released, I wanted to record the second one.’
Lightbody admits that he finds it ‘laughable’ when he hears other artists suggesting they've been working 'really hard' to get together a dozen songs for an album every two or three years. He doesn't regard his own prolific songwriting as anything unusual, citing such musical heroes as Ryan Adams, Kurt Wagner and Lou Barlow as equally industrious. ‘And I like first or second takes,’ he adds. ‘That's the song in its purest form.’
Released in 2002, Son Of Evil Reindeer is a stunning second album from the Reindeer Section, combining the vivid spontaneity and freshness of its predecessor with a more carefully crafted and cohesive vision. It includes 11 new compositions by Lightbody, and the recording restores the old fashioned values of songwriting and music making to centre stage:
’So much music isn't music any more. It's about whose got the best stylist. Everybody in the Reindeer Section is the exact opposite of that. It's the one condition of membership’.
No egos. No bullshit. Only the music and the songs. You've just been Sectioned. Welcome to the club.