Wednesday, 4 February 2009

A Brief Introduction to Le Reno Amps

As they prepare to strut their stuff at February's Mill, Finbarr Bermingham caught up with Le Reno Amps henchmen Maple and Nero to discover that, sometimes, the simpler things in life are better

"They used to say 'learn three chords and form a band'. We thought, why bother learning any chords at all?"

Now, we’re by no means comparing Aberdeen indie-pop outfit Le Reno Amps to industrial noiseniks Throbbing Gristle (for a start, they all seem to have figured out a guitar’s arse from its elbow pretty adeptly), but there’s a refreshing simplicity to their music, and their attitudes towards it, that proves Genesis P-Orridge’s famous adage still rings true in the 21st Century. Why overcomplicate things when you have the talent to make fine, melodic music at your disposal?

So who are Le Reno Amps?

Hey you, put that French dictionary down! An anagram of ‘Maple’ and ‘Nero’ (told you it was simple), Le Reno Amps are an Aberdonian quartet, comprised of the aforementioned and marvellously monikered Maple and Nero (joint lead vocalists and guitarists), joined by drummer Jason Sinclair, with Lindsey Scott on bass and backing vocals.

The band’s official biog is laced with satire and lampoon, so being the highbrow rag that we are, The Skinny asked Maple and Nero to wise up slightly, and give us a brief and utterly serious rundown of how they got to where they are now. Take it from the top, fellas:

Point 1 – Gifted Songwriter meets Gifted Songwriter, they form a duo for one-off performance at ‘Industry’ showcase.

Point 2 – Gifted Songwriters record the songs what they wrote, put knapsacks on their backs and head off to the bright lights of Glasgow

Point 3– Gifted Songwriter #1 in catastrophic event at – you guessed it, an industry showcase, and is out of the game for a few months. Gifted Songwriter #2 uses free time to finish writing songs for album.

Point 4 – Gifted Songwriters have a crazy left-field idea of adding bass and drums to their live performance.

Point 5 – Le Reno Amps write and record Tear it Open. Available March 23rd on Drift records!
Okay, so perhaps that didn’t go wholly to plan, but you get the gist. Once a duo, now a blossoming four-piece, united by a love of… well, what exactly?

Who do they sound like and where do they fit in?

As already discussed, the band’s penchant for a spot of avant-garde noodling is nonexistent. Some people confuse songwriting with jamming, others seem to think odd timing or song structures = ‘clever’ or ‘interesting’.

"There’s an ethos we have – whatever we write should be a robust song. And it shouldn’t outstay its welcome,” explains Mr Maple. So are we looking at the latest in a long line of FM-friendly Scottish indie pop acts? Perhaps; and when quizzed on that particular subject, Maple devises a theory of his own:

“A lot of Scotland is made up of small, insular places. In our formative years our exposure to music is primarily radio and TV, so we grow up listening to pop music, which is all about melody. When we get a bit older we venture out into the world of ‘alternative’ music but we already have our solid grounding”.

There’s a lot of love for their peers and countrymen amongst their ranks, with polite nods going in the direction of the likes of Jesus H. Foxx, The Elvis Suicide, The Hazey Janes, De Rosa, Sparrow In The Workshop and Foxface.

But what of the band themselves?

Alt-folk, power-pop: they’ve been squished into all those boxes. “Deliberately tumbledown,” was how their second LP was described between these very sheets back in ’07, and it sounds about as good a description as any.

When questioned about influences, the simplicity slightly dissolves, replaced instead by a multitude of bands and musicians that have combined to infuse the rather exciting sonic cocktail that is Le Reno Amps. We have Nero’s love of Prince, Randy Newman and Elvis Costello (he confesses to devouring whole back catalogues), drummer Jason’s unexplainable love for all things big and, er, drummy, bassist Lindsey’s affinity for anything ‘Nu’ (it’s unclear whether this stems to the Anglicization of the Yiddish term for ‘so’, but given what’s gone before, we severely doubt it) and Maple’s partiality to the Gordon Lightfoots and Cat Stevenses of this world.

Where can we hear Le Reno Amps?

The aforementioned Tear It Open is released in March, timed to nicely usher in the springtime sunshine (perhaps wishful thinking) and soothe the lumbersome April showers. But this shall be album number three (not to mention a number of lauded single and EP releases). With Vanity Project Scotland, they put out the LRA LP in 2004, and So For Your Thrills hit the shelves via Pet Piranha in 2007. Le Reno Amps will, of course, be playing The Mill this month; a fact that, when combined with their admirable back catalogue, leaves you scarce on excuses not to have bent your lugs around the dulcet tones of this lot at least once.

So, what does the future hold for a band with the anagrammed name?

This is not, of course, a reference to axe-man extraordinaire Death Cube K (answers on a postcard, lexicon lovers); but with the release of their third LP imminent, what does 2009 hold for Le Reno Amps?

Maple, the band’s delegated realist, is touting for a gradual ascendancy. “We hope to achieve global domination in 2009 by selling 40 million records/downloads. Failing that, we hope to finish album 4.” But should the former come true… envisage, if you will, a quartet of Aberdonians not only on the cusp of, but embracing, superstardom. Hollywood, logically, beckons. And there’s really only one question worth posing.

Who would star in Le Reno Amps: The Movie?

After much deliberation, Maple and Nero turn film caster and graciously nominate Al Murray to portray Sinclair, “for selfish reasons, that girl from Transformers (Megan Fox)” is cast as Ms Scott, and as for our two protagonists? “I seem to have the same traits as Larry David,” 'fesses Maple, while Nero, not so modestly, fancies himself as a bit of McNulty off The Wire.

You never know, stranger things have happened…
Check out Le Reno Amps on

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