bum is bursting with songs about knife attacks, muggings, race hate crimes, and abandoned families. “People say that a lot of the songs have themes,” says Allan. “But to me, they’re not themes, they’re just ideas sincerely expressed. I wasn’t even thinking about ‘themes’ when I wrote the songs. I never even knew that these songs would end up getting released”.
Allen says his songs are rooted in the real world because that’s where he gets his inspiration. “You find that a lot of new, young bands have traditionally written ‘escapist’ songs; they sing about trying to get out of a place or escaping in some way,” he says. “But I’m the opposite, and I find that I can be at my best and my most honest when talking about real events. For example, the first song on the album is called Flowers And Football Tops and that was directly inspired by a teenager who was stabbed to death, then drenched in petrol and set alight nearby.
“Heartbreaking stories like that stay with you and I can’t shake that feeling off and it makes its way into a song.”
After school, Allen was briefly a professional footballer (playing for Falkirk and Queen’s Park) before a number of the years on the dole. “I spent a lot of time listening to music on the radio, and what really stopped me from writing songs was the feeling that no one would get what I was doing,” he says. “I wanted to write about what was happening around me in Dalmarnock, but all I was hearing on the radio was songs about limousines. I think, though, the moment that really inspired me was when I got a Hank Williams compilation album and I realised that great music could be about the simplest things.”
Hank Williams aside, there is one towering musical influence on Allen. Someone who he listened to again and again and again in his bedroom and someone whose fingerprints are all over his band’s album. “Phil Spector!” he exclaims. “Really, it’s no exaggeration to say that watching art films and listening to Phil Spector records made me who I am today. I particularly fell in love with Spector’s Christmas album and I used to play it really loud – even during the height of summer. I’m probably still known by some people as ‘that weirdo who plays Christmas records during the summer’.”
Not a band to play the traditional touring circuit, last year Glasvegas embarked on a tour of Scottish prisons. “It was something that was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time,” he says. “Sometimes, there was perhaps a bit too much reality, but there were some really great moments. It’s definitely something we’d do again.”
The huge levels of attention now beginning to swirl around the band mean nothing to Allen. “It’s great when you see yourself on the front cover of a music magazine and you have people like Morrissey saying nice things about you. But you can’t let it distract you.”
As their own tribute to the Phil Spector Christmas album, Glasvegas will head for Transylvania to record their own Christmas album later in the year. “This is a really big thing for us and really vital to who we are as a band,” Allen says. “People think we’re mad. I remember sitting down with all these labels who were trying to sign us and we told them that we had to do a Christmas album, that had to be part of the deal. And they were saying ‘yes, a few albums in’ and we were saying ‘no– immediately’.
“It’s confusing for people to understand, but I grew up with that album and I want to record an album that’s not so much about Christmas per se, but that time of year. There won’t be any covers. It’s all originals.
“People think it’s all a big joke, but we’ve already written the songs for it. And the first thing I’ll do when it’s finished is send a copy
to Phil Spector.” The album is released on Friday
Glasvegas, from left, James Allan, Paul Donoghue, Caroline McKay and Rab Allan