I am awaiting a call from Grant Irvine, guitarist of up-and-coming four piece Model Aeroplanes, when I receive a most thoughtful text apologizing for his being slightly late. From the intermittent sounds of a car reversing in the background throughout my conversation with him and lead singer Rory Fleming-Stewart, I presume that they are near a car park. This is the reality of the rock and roll high life.
A stone’s throw across the border, the indie-pop foursome hailing from Dundee have made an amiable arrival onto the indie fringe with a handful of singles drenched in Afro-beat tinged guitars combined with youthful backing vocals and disco production to create potential summer belters. From the ambiance of ‘Club Low’ with its seamless guitar riffs and Rory’s fervent voice to the bold sparkle of ‘Electricity’, Model Aeroplanes prove to be one of the most promising new bands around by teeming sun-drenched Scottish merriment, as much of a contradiction as that may seem.
“It’s been a massive benefit how close we are because it doesn’t feel like working with colleagues,” explains Rory on making music with his high school friends. “It feels like you’re all on the same page; you don’t have to spell out how you’re going to do something, it just sort of happens naturally and organically.” It’s clear from the onset of our conversation that the fact that the band members have grown up together, at first making music and recording covers from their school’s music department, is a testament to their steadfast working dynamics.
“What I think would be a hindrance,” continues Rory, “is if you were in a band with people you didn’t know too well and just formed it for the sake of making music. I think there would be a lot more fall-outs and a lot more clashes because of possible differences in personality.”
The guys appear genuinely humbled by the recent surge in their popularity on both sides of the border. “Looking back on [our success] so far I would say it’s kind of skyrocketed to an extent. We have released a couple of tracks and have quite a good Scottish fan base in places like Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, but in Dundee, where we’re from, it’s really started to pick up. Getting good vibes constantly and new people hearing our music is all we really ask for.” Rory chips in, adding that he finds it somewhat extraordinary how “every few weeks there’s a buzz of energy in a different country or a different venue and though it feels a bit random we do have this steadily increasing fan base.”
Model Aeroplanes’ music is barely reminiscent of their native Scotland, something which Grant identifies. “A lot of people are quite surprised when they find out where we’re from, and I think that because our music tastes are quite varied and we all contribute fairly equally in the writing process, we do all bring different things to the table. We find it important to keep an open mind to what music we listen to.” Conversation moves onto the artists who have shaped the bands’ own music, with Rory identifying Paul Simon as “a massive influence with the way he puts melodies together” before acknowledging that “Prince is where we get a slight disco vibe. Our guitar sound is really influenced by him.”
“Then again,” he says, “there are so many modern acts that we’re finding every week and we’ll love them and they’ll keep influencing us too. We’ve had the opportunity to tour with some really established bands that we look up to as well – it’s been kind of strange to get to tour with Little Comets because we really look up to them musically, and obviously it’s nice to get down to England and visit all these different cities that we’ve never played before, especially since we’ve spent so much time in Scotland.”
We don’t know what’s coming up in the near future, but we’re going to pretend like we totally do
As the conversation progresses, I notice that Rory and Grant come out of their shell, humorously noting that “maybe we don’t know what’s coming up in the near future, but we’re going to pretend like we totally do”. They are caught up in their moment in an increasingly focused spotlight, but also seem to know how to laugh at themselves and keep their success in perspective. “We need to take a step back and try new things, like kissing each other,” they joke. Grant goes on to describe how the bands’ writing process is far from a technical pursuit, perhaps serving as a reflection of how Model Aeroplanes are still finding their feet. “There’s nothing really technical in the way we do things. You’ve definitely got to just keep listening to new stuff, refresh your tastes, and never settle on certain music. But apart from that we are still are quite experimental with our sounds and production methods.”
Rory adds that “in the last few of months, we’ve been writing songs that haven’t been added to the set or recorded yet. It feels like there’s a new kind of element that’s being added to the process, and we’ve started thinking completely outside the box when it comes to writing melodies which wouldn’t typically sound good on their own. We’ve been focused on creating songs as a whole piece, rather than as separate parts.”
As well as supporting Prides, Saint Raymond and Dog is Dead over the last couple of months, Rory, Grant, Ben and Kieran played a series of chock-a-block sets in their own right at both The Great Escape and Dot To Dot over the spring season. With a Club NME headline slot at Koko London on June 19th, as well as a scattering of festival dates fast approaching, Model Aeroplanes are sure to be an enduring summer hit. “Hopefully we’ll achieve as much as we possibly can, but still have plenty to do, as long as we’re still enjoying it.”