independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Twin peaks: The Proclaimers wig out...

If you've ever lain awake at night wondering what The Proclaimers looked like in drag, your dreams have come true. The video for the single 'Spinning Around In The Air' from their current album Like Comedy sees Scotland's most famous singing twins Craig and Charlie Reid – who play Dublin's Olympia Theatre tomorrow night – dolled up as two tipsy oul' biddies unrecognisable in blue-rinse barnets and old-school dresses.

It's the brothers Reid as you've never seen them before and is sure to put a smile on your face (you can check it out on YouTube). The video was directed by Little Britain star Matt Lucas, who himself has a cameo as the party-pooping cop who breaks up the (grand)mother of all 70th birthday parties.

"Matt did a great job," says Charlie, sitting beside Craig on a shiveringly cold morning in Dublin. "Somebody said I look like my mum a little . . . a much taller version! Matt has made his living dressing up – so when a guy who has made his living doing it suggests you do likewise, you gotta take it seriously."

Craig laughs at the memory of being (cross)dressed to kill.

"Clothes – couple of minutes; make-up – didn't take that long; but the wigs took forever! Putting stuff on over your head, then you pin your hair down, then getting the wig to stay on properly . . . I'll tell you something, my respect for pantomime dames has increased."

The new album sees Craig and Charlie in contemplative mood, older and wiser – but their blue-eyed soul still shines bright, especially on the tender ballads.

Twenty-five years after they released their unforgettable debut album This Is The Story, the brothers have plenty to celebrate. Recently, it was confirmed that the hit UK stage musical, Sunshine On Leith, centred around their blue-chip back catalogue, is set to get the big-screen treatment, with Billy Connolly and Annie Lennox mooted for leading roles.

Only hours after the interview ends, I check my Twitter feed to find Edinburgh novelist Irvine Welsh emotionally recounting the title track's lyrics line by line, declaring its genius. (The song also features in one of the most memorable scenes in his novel Trainspotting.)

Also, a double-album compilation culled from all nine of the Proclaimers' studio albums is being readied for release next year. Of course, their biggest hit by far is '500 Miles (I'm Gonna Be)', which has taken on a life of its own since it appeared on the seminal 1988 album Sunsine On Leith. The brothers say it opened a lot of doors.

"'500 Miles' is bigger than the band will ever be," says Craig. "We played at the Singapore Grand Prix back in September. We'd never be offered things like that if we'd not had a big hit record. The album went platinum because of it. Then the song went to No 1 in New Zealand, then Australia, then Canada. It didn't become a big hit in America for another three or four years. Then it took on a new lease of life. It grew into this unbelievable hit around 1999/2000. I wish we could write another one!"

The song is so famous it even saw the siblings being invited on to the hit US TV comedy Family Guy, where they appeared as themselves alongside a caterwauling Peter Griffin.

"We were going to be in the States doing a tour," explains Charlie, "then we got three or four weeks' notice to come to the studio in LA and do the voiceover. We went in and saw how they made the animation and then they put us on."

On a more sombre note, another song by The Proclaimers which has profound resonances here is their classic tale detailing the pain of emigration, 'Letter From America'. Alas, it's become all too relevant again on this island.

"That song probably has a bigger connection in Ireland than anywhere outside Scotland – probably even bigger than Scotland," acknowledges Charlie. "It was always the most successful song we'd had until '500 Miles'. I thought the song had dated a lot – but you're right: it's come back, and it's come back for the same reasons it was written in the first place – mass emigration not out of choice to go and live in New Zealand for a few years, but out of necessity."

Another issue close to The Proclaimers' hearts is the future referendum in 2014 on whether Scotland should break away from the UK. The pair have always been unambiguous in their stance on the issue.

"Our politics haven't changed: we're left of centre, we are socialists, we believe that Scotland should be an independent nation," says Craig. "I feel the SNP (Scottish National Party) have done a remarkable job at holding on to social democratic principles at a time of great austerity: there is still free education for kids at school, there's still free personal care for the elderly. But these are interesting times."

The Proclaimers play Dublin's Olympia tomorrow night. Like Comedy is out now on Cooking Vinyl.

nkelly@independent.ie

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