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John Peel favourites are reunited for East End Social performance

From the mid-1990s to the early-2000s, indie label Guided Missile launched a series of local DIY pop missives.

BACK: Stevie Jones, Stef Sinclair and Robert Hubbert from the band. Picture: Brian Sweeney
BACK: Stevie Jones, Stef Sinclair and Robert Hubbert from the band. Picture: Brian Sweeney

One of these was the Glasgow EP, a double seven-inch which featured Mogwai, members of Franz Ferdinand (as The Yummy Fur and The Karelia), and a rabble called El Hombre Trajeado, whose number included 2013's Scottish Album of the Year Award winner RM Hubbert.

The Glasgow EP was aptly named. All four acts soundtracked, explored and advanced the city's thriving DIY movement, alongside contemporaries like Bis, the Delgados and Arab Strap, and labels such as Chemikal Underground, Creeping Bent and Rock Action.

However, while Mogwai and Franz Ferdinand would go on to assault the pop charts, John Peel favourites El Hombre Trajeado - Robert Hubbert aka Hubby (guitar, vocals), Stevie Jones (bass), Stef Sinclair (drums) and Ben Jones (synths, turntables) - split in 2006, a decade into their existence.

Its personnel have not been slacking, however: see Hubbert's gilded flamenco-punk solo career, or the ongoing exploits of co-founder Stevie Jones, who has worked with Alasdair Roberts, plays an instrumental role in Aidan Moffat and Paul Fegan's Where You're Meant To Be, and also helms Sound of Yell - an outstanding union in cahoots with members of Belle and Sebastian, Trembling Bells and more.

That Hubbert and Jones have emerged as two of Scotland's most inventive, expressive artists makes their one-off El Hombre Trajeado reunion show this weekend all the more significant and exciting.

The four-piece agreed to reform for Chemikal Underground's East End Social after their original plans to rejoin forces in aid of a local skate park fell through. It's a subject close to their hearts.

"Hubby and I first met and hung out around 1989 at a skate park in a church in Temple called Angel Lights," Stevie Jones recalls. "Hubby had a Black Flag T-shirt and used to slag me for being into Prince. Then we met again playing music - Ben, Hubby and I played with various bands. Hubby and Stef had a group called Glue that disbanded. We picked up from there."

El Hombre's largely instrumental charms spanned post-rock, punk, jazz, electronica and all manner of far-flung cadences: equal parts US underground - Black Flag, Minutemen - and Scottish grassroots pop (2001's sublime post-rock ceilidh, Dig This Big Crux, could be our alternative national anthem). Did they subscribe to any particular sonic or ideological tenets? "I do remember us discussing the idea that the bass guitar and drums should be the focus," offers Hubbert. "We also played about with structure. We liked the idea of taking dance music and applying it to a guitar band."

The group were resolutely democratic. "We always wrote collectively and deliberately," says Jones. "The emphasis was on the group dynamic, detailed structures and arrangements. No lead instruments.

"We began life playing frenetic and pretty dissonant music - a friend said it sounded like we were all playing different songs," he remembers. "By the time we were releasing records we had slowed it all down and were far more melodic and mellifluous, but that angular starting point continued to be a part of our sound."

True to their DIY ethos of sharing, collaborating and creating new works from old, El Hombre Trajeado's excellent back-catalogue (including three albums) is available online through a pay-what-you-will scheme. You can, in effect, acquire it for free.

Are there any particular songs or releases they feel best represent the band? "My favourite is the Shoplift EP," says Hubbert. "I think we managed to get the best balance between the electronic and guitar-based influences on that one."

"I'd say the first Peel Session was a pretty defining set too," adds Jones. "But as we've revisited our old recordings I think most of us identified most with the last album [Shlap, 2004]. It's playful and considered and we're all totally locked in with one another."

The band called it a day in 2006, saying it had become "too predictable; too easy." Is comfort still something they rage against?

"Definitely," nods Hubbert. "I want each project to be a challenge. Ironically, relearning these old El Hombre songs has been one of the most challenging musical things I've done. My hands and head just don't work that way any more."

Now they are celebrated solo artists, using humdrum variants of their own monikers (and expressing more personal viewpoints / aesthetics), their old band name sounds more exotic than ever. Where did El Hombre Trajeado come from? "It means 'the man in the suit' in Spanish," says Jones. It was tongue-in-cheek, toying with punk ideas of corporate and political power. "Also, it appealed to us as it was awkward. Nobody could spell it or pronounce it properly."

Whatever way you put it, El Hombre Trajeado still sound thrilling. The men still suit, and shape(shift), Glasgow's underground.

El Hombre Trajeado, Ela Orleans and Wolf live at Platform, Glasgow, Saturday. www.eastendsocial.com

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