If there ever was an ideal band to have sprung on them a relatively last minute bump up from a small tent to a huge one at Scotland’s biggest festival then Tijuana Bibles are it, indeed this Glasgow four-piece seem to thrive off the upgrade that saw them move from their opening slot at T in the Park’s BBC Introducing Stage to fill Odd Future MC prodigy Earl Sweatshirt’s slot in the King Tut’s Tent.
The 12,000 capacity tent may not be anywhere near full and have a few stragglers who have turned out in hope to hear Earl’s rasping witticisms, but admittedly if this had been in the BBC tent it would have been rammed, still the swagger on stage is as confident as you like, indeed after the slot the band are enthusiastic about getting to let their sound loose on such a big stage.
Catching up with the four of them later on that sun soaked afternoon they seem in high spirits and are initially quite blasé when talking about the stage bump, “basically this fella, Earl Sweatshirt, pulled out through ill health, or whatever, bless his cotton socks and it worked in our favour,” throws in vocalist Tony Costello.
Still, the confidence shines through as he continues: “when we were asked to do it we didn’t hesitate, without really thinking about it we were like “that’s a bigger tent, let’s do it!””
Playing a stage of this size is a new experience for the Glasgow boys, whose sound shares more with the swampy blues of Louisiana than it does with anything closer to home, but bassist Behn Cross is quick to point out how at home they feel on the bigger stage: “it was a lot more comfortable, especially for me cos people aren’t blowing amps and stuff – there’s techies all round the world who’ll be like ‘don’t be a fanny, I know what I’m doing’ – but to have our sound on a stage like that is far more comfortable.
“It’s funny though, you’re used to being so close to each other and you’d look up cos I’d usually swing my bass and it’d just miss Tony’s face but all of a sudden there’s no one there, so it’s quite cool playing on a stage that size.”
Drummer Mikey Dornan, whose quirky inputs extenuate much of Costello’s T in the Park past anecdotes, is with Cross on the positive of playing a larger space: “sound wise there’s always the problem, being stuck behind a drum kit in smaller venues, it’s too hard to hear what’s coming out in front of you; today it was great, but obviously this is the first time time we’ve played a tent that size.”
Many bands would have let the huge gulf between the two stages get to them, but not Tijuana Bibles, instead they dwell on the positives of getting to play such a big space rather than ram a smaller one, it demonstrates a refreshing confidence from the band that flows throughout our chat as Costello describes playing a 12,000 capacity venue on a sunny early Sunday afternoon as “quite surreal” and “something unique”.
So, what of the guy whose slot they filled? Personally I was very much looking forward to seeing Earl’s set after he tore apart The Garage earlier in the year, and this makes it two years running he’s pulled out of T, and both his and Chance the Rapper’s pulling out left a big quality hip-hop void at the festival; when Tijuana Bibles wandered on stage they decided to do so with Sweatshirt coming over the sound system, it was intended as a wee nod to the guy they replaced but somehow acts as a swift kick in the balls for the reasonable portion of the crowd still expecting the rapper to make his way onstage, even after a full band back line had been set up.
It’s easy to see the funny side of their scenario, as Costello laughs off the idea of him rapping to give Earl’s fans something to get into before stating: “we thought it (coming out to Earl) was a wee tip of the hat to Mr. Sweatshirt, whenever T in the Park put it (Tijuana Bibles filling the slot) on their social media there was an odd kind of ‘what the fuck? I want a refund’ and the odd ‘who?’, so it was a wee bit tongue in cheek.
“I was speaking to my brother who was saying there was a couple of guys next to him when we came on who were like “that’s no’ Earl Sweatshirt”, but he is really good, we’ve been listening it him most of this week actually.”
Stage upgrade aside this is Tijuana Bibles first taste of T at an artist level and they are clearly revelling in it as Costello throws out a definite “class” in response to how it feels to be playing T before continuing: “it’s almost a cliche to say T in the Park was one of the first festivals I went to, but fact of the matter is for musicians in Scotland T in the Park is the thing that guides a lot of people down that avenue, makes them want to delve more into what kind of music they like.
“You discover things at festivals you might not realise you’re into, especially at an early age – personally I was here when I was 15 and that was the thing that made me be like ‘I could be doing with more of this!’”
You’d imagine that since he was 15 Costello has a number stories about T that he could throw out there, but like everyone each story gets melded into the previous year and it becomes difficult to spring back individual memories, for Costello there is one moment that has stuck with him from two years ago in the muddy, much contrasting from this year, conditions.
“I can’t seem to get over this, I’ve been to countless T in the Park’s but two years ago I picked up this girl, my friend, who was all muddy, and I was like “you’re tiny!”, I was really drunk, “you’re tiny, I could throw you into all this mud and you wouldn’t be able to do anything,” so I went to kid on I was going to do it but my foot slipped and I actually slammed her into all the mud, fell on top of her as well, so that’s kind of wiped every other memory I’ve got of T… It kind of tarnished it.”
As soon as he finishes that story though Dornan is eager to remind him of that time “on the way home on the bus drinking Windowlean”, to which Costello adds “aye, that happened, it was some kind of weird liquid, I thought we were home but we hadn’t got out of the car park, some one said “that’s us, we get off the bus now” and I was the only one who believed it and got apprehended by this massive driver and nearly had to walk home.”
Cross has his own input to on the wonders of T adding: “at the Foo Fighters a couple of years ago I saw a girl in rain crying cos she shat herself, that made me remember how beautiful T is!” It really is a beautiful festival.
However, in terms of moments actually regarding the music for Costello seeing Rage Against the Machine as one that is way up there: “it’s one of those rare things that I’m not going to see again”.
The band, who played today and were on site on Friday and saw the likes of Royal Blood, Pixies and bit of Biffy Clyro are today filling in their media duties but are also pretty excited to see Aussie psych popsters Tame Impala, who they had played football with just an hour before I spoke to them.
“They’re shite” quips Dornan before Costello takes over stating “we won, but Aussie’s are just much more athletic as a nation, we’ve got the passing but a two footed challenge at a festival doesn’t really go down well;” “especially in flip flops” adds Dornan.
Still for a band just off the park they seem pretty laid back about today’s activities clashing with the World Cup final: “I didn’t think they’d show it, but it’s trying not to find out what the score is while you’re here that’s difficult,” adds Costello.
So, what’s next for this four-piece, since doing the interview they’ve already played Wickerman and are due up at Belladrum this weekend, still this surely can’t compare to today’s events, “as far as the stature of this gig goes, getting bumped up from BBC to Tut’s Tent, this is definitely the biggest gig we’ve played there’s no doubt about that,” says Costello.
Still, the band who NME described as having “Black Sabbath and Kyuss style robo riffery”, comparisons the band feel are complimentary but not necessarily accurate, “I mostly listen to funk but I’ve got a distortion pedal, so that moves it away from what I listen to” Cross throws in, are keeping their cards close to their chest as to what’s next, recent grooving rocker single ‘Crucifixion’ has only recently been released on Dead Beat Records, with that to promote and the band playing a healthy run of festivals it’s hard for them to be looking too far into the future, still Dornan does reveal intentions of a British tour later this year and Costello hints at future releases, but before I get a chance to get much more into that they have to head off for a chat with the Record.
Still, for a band playing their first T in the Park and playing one of the biggest stages at the festival they don’t seem to be letting it get to them, in fact it’s the exact opposite, these guys could well be rock stars in the making and it doesn’t seem to phase them in the slightest.
Words: Iain Dawson
Photo: Bill Gray