Jim Glennie (fourth from right) was one of the band's founding members in 1982LEWIS KNAGGS

I’m on a zoom call with Jim Glennie on what is, in Cambridge, a slightly miserable May afternoon. A sharp contrast, apparently, to the weather in North-West Scotland, where the guitarist (and namesake) of the band James has been holed up during lockdown. “It’s absolutely beautiful here!” he tells me as I glance out of my window at the rainclouds. Despite the good weather, Jim tells me the first thing he’ll be doing when restrictions ease further is to get out of there. “I’ve not seen my daughter for a year, and my son, Jake I’ve not seen since Christmas 2019. That’s been the hardest part for me and the wife. So that is going to be the most joyous part of coming out of lockdown, is being able to see family again.”

Jim and the rest of the band have definitely kept busy during these slow months: their sixteenth album, All the Colours of You, is out on the 4th of June. They were lucky, he explains, with the timing of lockdown. “The way we write [the songs], we all get together in a room, and we just kind of jam and improvise and we record everything,” he says. Those sessions gave the band enough material to carve a full album out of. “We couldn’t do that remotely, and fortunately for us, just before lockdown we’d finished it all – we’d got that bit done.”

The band's video for "Recover" features a dedication from lead singer Tim BoothYOUTUBE / WEAREJAMESTV

James have had plenty of time to come out with those sixteen albums. Formed in 1982, they’ve been around almost twice as long as I’ve been alive. Jim says “it took us quite a while to get the success that we got”, as their huge hits like “Sit Down” and “Laid” came almost a decade after their formation. He feels thankful for it in hindsight, though, saying that “success quick, it’s very difficult to deal with, and it’s very easy to make a mess of it.” When asked about how he feels about these hits years on, Jim says he doesn’t feel weighed down by them. He mentions that different songs are popular in different countries, meaning that they can vary their live sets. But ultimately, he says: “the hits… if we don’t want to play them, we don’t play them. If you want that kind of band, we’re not it.” He prefers to focus on what they’ve just produced when performing live. “James is inherently about new music” he says. “It’s fantastic that we’ve written all these great tunes, wonderful, [we’re] very very proud of them, but our attention and focus is here, with what we’re doing now.”

“The first gig was at Red Rocks in Colorado, to 30,000 people – we were terrified!”

On the subject of new music, they’ve already released four singles from their latest album, many of which focus on current events. “Recover” touches heavily on the pandemic – in the music video, lead singer Tim Booth reveals the song is about his father-in-law, who passed from COVID-19 in April 2020 – while “All the Colours of You” discusses racism and the far-right in the United States (Tim lived in California for many years). The tone of these singles, however, is more hopeful. “Musically, the album is very uplifting”, Jim says. “The lyrics are quite dark, in places… there’s songs that are about, well, death, inherently.” Although he stresses the importance of remembering and learning from these events, he says that “when people have been through what they’ve been through for the last fifteen months, the last thing you want is a depressing album. Things seem to be changing positively. You want something that’ll make people dance and have a good time.”

The band have released four singles from their upcoming album, All the Colours Of YouJAMES

Positive change is something very much on the band’s mind; Jim mentioned that he’d spent the day sorting out potential festival dates. Touring has always been a key part of the band’s ethos: he tells me that the Stone Roses, Nirvana, and Coldplay have all opened for them in the past. “We’re renowned for having support bands that then go on to be much bigger than us!” he says. Jim tells me about the unique challenges they faced while on Neil Young’s Harvest Moon tour. “He was playing an acoustic tour”, he says. “So he said, ‘if you can play acoustically, you can come and do this tour.’ So we said, ‘Oh yeah! Great!’ And then of course we didn’t really know how to do it.” The massive crowds didn’t help the band’s nerves. “The first gig was at Red Rocks in Colorado, to 30,000 people – we were terrified! We had no gear! Normally we’ve got these huge, big amps, and you can hide behind the volume.” Despite their struggle with the acoustic setup, he describes the tour as ‘amazing’. “[The crowds] loved us. They absolutely loved us. And he [Young] treated us so well.”


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His advice for up-and-coming artists is simple, although he admits it’s “nicked from Ed Sheeran”: “Be nice to people. It’s easy to be a dick when you’re in a band; it’s easy to be a dick when you’re in the music industry, and you’re kind of allowed to get away with it. It doesn’t do you any favours. And at some point, you need help. You need favours.” With the album out soon and tour dates on the way, though, the band don’t look like they’ll be needing any help for the time being.