In 2007, a group of young Scottish musicians called The View became one of the key bands in the mid-‘00s British indie music scene with the release of their platinum-selling debut album Hats Off to the Buskers, which spawned the hit single "Same Jeans". The band went from playing pubs in their hometown of Dundee, a city on the eastern coast of Scotland, to playing on stage at the NME Awards and securing a nomination for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
The heavily accented singing voice of frontman Kyle Falconer offered a less polished and more rough-and-tumble sound compared to a lot of the primarily English bands who proliferated the scene. The View's music during the Hats Off to the Buskers era spoke of seeing their friends getting jobs as tradesmen in exchange for dropping their dreams of pursuing music, or watching someone fall to the ravages of heroin. Their music had a visceral realism that spoke about social issues without pontificating, and they combined this with frazzled guitar playing that conveyed an aggressive urgency, with the distorted guitar strains sounding like manic punctuation littered around their lyrics.
Since then, the band has released four albums and Kyle has battled with alcoholism and drugs and the issues this created, issues which for several years stymied the band's hopes of touring North America. In 2017, Kyle was fined after he had a drunken air rage incident which caused the plane he was on to be diverted, and following that incident he went to rehab in Thailand to confront his addiction issues.
Kyle's debut solo album No Thank You deals with these difficulties, plus his joy in recently becoming a father, and offers a smorgasbord of songs that have a variety of influences from Crowded House to The Eagles. The album was recorded in Paul Weller's Black Barn Studios in Surrey, England, and saw Kyle assume full creative control over the production of the album.
"I absolutely love The Jam and I love Paul Weller," says Kyle. "I think that anyone that's ever discovered music loves Paul Weller. I think it was just the whole process of [recording] there, with my missus and my bairn [baby], it was a really good time. With The View, it's more like seeing who could stay up the longest, so we'd stay up for weeks on end."
Explaining what it was like to take on the role of producer, the 31-year-old says, "It was cool. I’ve co-produced a couple of things, but with this record I just done it on my own. You don’t need fuckin’ trickery. I just use my own techniques, it’s pretty easy. Even when I play with The View, I never have a guitar pedal or any of that shite, I never really use anything like that. It was good to record everything and get back to basics."
"I never have a guitar pedal or any of that shite, I never really use anything like that."
While inevitable comparisons will be made between Kyle's solo sojourn and his work with The View, the album is very much Kyle's own. No Thank You manages to funnel dream-like soundscapes into his songs, which would be lost in the frantic pace of The View's sound. But despite the weighty topics about leaving booze behind and focusing on fatherhood, there is a breeziness that carries the listener through the album.
"I think if you listen to a lot of The View's songs, the stuff I've written, the lyrics are quite mundane," says Kyle, "but that's kind of what I aim for. I'm still happy with my life, but there's some stuff that comes out that's just inevitable, morbid shit, but if you can write that in a beautiful way there’s no point in being poetic."
The album contains what Kyle describes as a "sob story" in the form of "Japanese Girl", in which the musician plaintively sings, "And when it all falls apart/I'm going to find a Japanese girl", conjuring up his frustrations at being banned from Japan because of a 2007 conviction for possession of cocaine, but also bleeding into a larger feeling of hopelessness. "Family Tree" is a buoyant track, which opens with his young daughter's first laugh, and leads to the new father proclaiming: "I'm putting bottles of whisky and vodka behind me/ I'm working on the family tree". The singer remembers the exact point when the song came to him.
"I was running back from my house and it just came into my head. That’s what I do, I write songs when I go running or jogging. I was so quick to get back, and I was like, [singing] 'Me and the family', and I thought, ‘This is going to be great’. I had the harmonies in my head. And then that moment in time where I was like, 'I’m giving up liquor and booze'...it was a moment in time for me."
While his issues with drugs and alcohol form a loose thread throughout No Thank You, it wasn't Kyle's intention to write a recovery album. Instead, he explains to Scene Point Blank that "it’s annoying because it’s being made into this thing, but these are songs that I wrote at a moment in time...I just happened to be off the bevvy [alcohol]. It just kind of happened, it’s one of those things. After the record was done I went, ‘Oh my god, every song is pretty much a recovery song’."
Two years ago, after several years in London, Kyle moved back to Dundee. During the Hats Off to the Buskers era of The View, Dundee was an ever-present element of the band's existence, not only through the group’s distinctive accents but also through their collection of Dryburgh Soul t-shirts, in reference to the district of Dundee they're from, but it appears that one of the city's most famous sons had a strained relationship with his hometown in the past.
"I lived in London for eight years, and then I met my lass in a gay bar and we fell in love. She’s obviously not gay, because I’m a guy," Kyle laughs, "but even then I didn’t really like Dundee. I kind of fell out of love with it. People from Dundee, like Danny Wilson or The Associates, these massive bands that I was obsessed with and, for a period, I loved them. They were kind of driven out.
"William MacKenzie, he never had a good time in Dundee. People wanted to harass him and that kind of happened to me when I was younger. I went back, and now I love the place, it’s so pretty. You’ve got the River Tay, which is really stunning, and people aren’t as nasty as they used to be. Even before I was in the band, and not just in Dundee, I always felt like everyone was picking on us, but I learned to love Dundee. I really love Dundee."
And now embracing his sobriety, SPB was curious to know if Kyle thought The View's hedonistic recording processes would be different when the band record any future albums, but he says there will be "no difference whatsoever, it will be even more mental!"