By Daisy Dundee
“Being in a band is inherently self-indulgent; every band is Spinal Tap,” says the frontman of the group who split up just two weeks after their debut single launch.
From lo-fi recordings in a pub kitchen, to being named by the NME as ‘ones to look out’ for, The GetDowns were all set to play a gig at the ‘centre of the world for garage rock’ when they parted ways in 2008.
“When Henry Rollins wrote his book Get in the Van,” lead singer Stuart Strachan explains, “it’s that bleak take about being in a band, being cold and in the back of a van with five other guys and you want to tear each other’s heads off for being stuck in that confined space. That’s what being in a band is like, it’s not a pleasant thing.”
Four years on, having been coaxed out of a self-imposed hiatus, garage recording pioneer Liam Watson (who famously produced The White Stripes’ Elephant) says The GetDowns are the best punk band he’s heard in years.
Now fully reformed and working on material for their debut album, the three-piece from the Dundee suburbs are still part of a new wave of bands from the city, igniting a fresh scene from the embers of the glory days.
Stuart commented, “The live music scene in Dundee was really exciting in those times … stuff happened. Now there’s a different kind of scene, with bands like Vladimir, which is cool.”
Initially forming as the band they would want to go and see themselves, The GetDowns (Stuart, vocals and guitar, Ben Doherty, bass, and Gordon McInally, drums) thought they were the best band in Dundee at the time…“until we saw The View,” Stuart notes.
The band were invited to go on tour with their fellow Dundonians prior to the release of The View’s debut album Hats off to the Buskers. It was during those gigs that the band’s infamous cover of Screamin’ and Shoutin’ resulted in “the biggest compliment” The GetDowns have ever had. After he heard the “darker” version – a “gay anthem” based on The Sonics’ Louie Louie and the White Stripes’ version of Jolene – View bassist Kieren Webster said “that was like Iggy Pop singing my song.”
In the end it was former View manager Grant Dickson who spent the best part of two years persuading The GetDowns to make their live return, in support of his band Kates’ reunion gig in Dundee in April.
Grant, who describes the band as “Dundee’s answer to The Troggs,” explained, “The GetDowns capture everything about DIY. They rule NGF, and prove that OMG > OMD. If they all die in a freak accident at their next gig then their legend will remain to inspire talentless generations to come. It is my greatest hope that they will never grow old, fat or bald, or get any better at singing. I truly love them.”
An unashamed garage rock band with staple influences (Stooges, Gories), The GetDowns also take inspiration from the less predictable sounds of Captain Beefheart and ‘authentic’ Scottish folk songs.
Stuart lists Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica as “an example of when being original is a good thing, rather than being original for original’s sake”. Citing acts such as The Kills, The White Stripes, The Strokes and Ty Segall as modern garage success stories, Stuart credits them for being “forward looking with garage rock”.
Taking his guitar influences from Ron Ashton, Billy Childish and Black Flag, Stuart’s distinctive singing voice came about when an early supporter suggested he listen to the late Sky Saxon of The Seeds.
But, as he points out, “I don’t think we sound like any band in particular; I think we sound like The GetDowns. I’m definitely not trying to impersonate anyone, but if you’re into good music then you probably could work out our influences.
“Taste is important, but originality in music is something I give very few fucks about”, he says. “Being original is not important in the sense that you shouldn’t be afraid to play three chord songs or old melodies, as long as you take it somewhere new.
“If you get three idiots in a room that can only do one thing, it makes it much more interesting. The average listener is not a mathematician and you don’t need to be really talented to do garage rock well; you just need to have the right approach and the right attitude.
“Grand schemes are out of fashion andthe idea of the rockstar is dead – and long may he stay dead. If you’re doing something the right way, you should know it and you shouldn’t have to try, but the important thing is that you upstage everyone else on the bill.”
Listen to The GetDowns on Soundcloud at soundcloud.com/the-getdowns.