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Fission for big success

Rock legend deems the second album the "difficult" one, but a debut disc can also be a tricky beast.

Fatherson are set to emerge from the shadows of fellow Kilmarnock band Biffy Clyro as they prepare for the release for their first long player    Photograph: Emily Wilde
Fatherson are set to emerge from the shadows of fellow Kilmarnock band Biffy Clyro as they prepare for the release for their first long player Photograph: Emily Wilde

If it's been a long time coming - and for Fatherson, who formed a good few years ago during a physics lesson at Kilmarnock Academy, it certainly has - then key questions must be addressed up front.

Should this record capture the band as you are, right here, right now? Or should it reflect everything you've done up to this point, and include all the fan favourites, singles and EP tracks that got your foot in the studio door? If you've only got 18 days in Gorbals Sound to record it, you'd better make your mind up quickly.

"That was my decision," admits singer, guitarist and songwriter Ross Leighton of Fatherson's first long-player, I Am An Island. "Instead of spending a year editing it and going over and over it, I wanted it to be a snapshot of us at the point that we did it. It put a bit of pressure on, but it also brought out the best in everyone. There was no messing around. Get in, get out, do it."

In terms of the track listing, as long-term fans will note immediately, live set highlights such as First Born and Gone Fission have had to make way for new material.

"It's a risk because we've managed to ride on those songs for so long that there must be an audience for them," Leighton agrees. "But the people who have been waiting for this album for as long as we have deserve to not buy the same songs or hear the same music again.

"When you release an album and play it live, you don't want people to be coming to the same show they've been coming to for years because those songs are now on the new album."

The final result finds the band readdressing some oldies (notably early single Hometown, released three years ago on King Tut's own indie label) and showcasing a lot of newbies. Their big, anthemic sound - much strengthened since guitarist Chris Beltran joined the trio that consisted of Leighton, drummer Greg Walkinshaw and bass player Marc Strain - is very much intact, while more introspective but no less dramatic songs such as Dust make bigger demands on Leighton's voice.

Bit by bit, Fatherson are emerging out of the Kilmarnock shadow cast by Biffy Clyro, mapping out their own distinctive indie rock domain (perhaps next door to Bombay Bicycle Club) that's strong on melody but even stronger on dense harmonies, instrumental textures and dynamic leaps. It's thrilling stuff from a band so young (by the time I Am An Island hits the shelves tomorrow, the four band members will still only be 21 or 22).

There's no question they have ambition: past gigs at The Arches and King Tut's have seen them joined on stage by a horn section and a string quartet. Although they're releasing the album by themselves and so are not at an Elbow level of budget, they've still managed to bring touches of orchestration into the studio.

"There's a cello and there are strings and brass on a couple of choruses," Leighton notes. "I went to university to study double bass but changed it to voice about three years ago, so through the courses, and knowing people at the Conservatoire, I was able to find people and say, 'Look, we can't pay you, but if you like the stuff and you want to do it, then we'd love you to get involved.'"

Leighton graduates from his Strathclyde University course in a couple of months' time. Beltran is also due to get his degree in Commercial Music this year; Walkinshaw is doing a Masters in Mechanical Engineering while Strain took two years out when halfway through his Masters in Accountancy. The singer recognises that, as students, they've had it lucky so far, playing the T Break stage at T in the Park in 2011 and not yet needing to balance a full-time job with the demands of being in a hotly tipped band.

"If anything took off, regardless, everything would get shelved for the band," he insists, however. "You can't spend all this time on something you love doing and then let something else come in the way - not at this stage. Obviously I'll need to worry about it at some point… I don't expect to make a lot of money, but if I could make enough to live in a pokey wee flat, I'd be ok with that as long as we could tour a lot. Everyone dreams the same thing."

When we talk about the bands he currently admires, the names he drops at first aren't what I'm expecting.

"Did you hear the Daughter album?" he asks. "I fell in love with it immediately. It's quite reassuring that an album like that can do well commercially because it's quite soft and it's not pop music. And that Lorde album that came out the end of last year; like Daughter, it's reflective and quite sombre, but it's awesome."

His focus returns to home ground.

"I've heard that the new We Were Promised Jetpacks album that's coming out is really good. The new Twin Atlantic album too." He pauses, weighs up his career options. "I'd just like to be in the same sentence as someone like that after our new album. 'Oh, have you heard about Twin Atlantic, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Fatherson?' If we could be on that playing field, I'd be chuffed."

I Am An Island is released tomorrow, www.musicglue.com/fatherson. Fatherson play The Arches, Glasgow on April 26

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