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These charming men

It's good to get a bit of press back home when you're miles away on the road in America.

However, Scottish three-piece PAWS didn't quite expect the controversy that blew up when their tour, as support band for We Are Scientists, crossed paths with that of Morrissey earlier this month.

The story goes something like this. They were all booked to play The Observatory in Santa Ana, California on May 8. The former Smiths man was due in the main room, while PAWS and We Are Scientists were in the smaller Constellation Room, tucked away inside the same venue. Simultaneous gigs go on there all the time; it's a professionally soundproofed building.

A storm brew up over claim and counter-claim that Morrissey had demanded no-one else could play in the vicinity while he was on stage. In the end, the smaller gig went ahead, albeit much later in the evening than intended, to the undoubted inconvenience of fans.

The music press, ever eager for a Morrissey scoop when a new single is on the horizon, leapt on allegations of bullying and social media warfare. PAWS, to their eternal credit, simply outlined the facts of what they'd experienced in a well-worded Facebook entry; We Are Scientists, on the other hand, went on the Twitter offensive ("Turns out the reason @itsmorrissey doesn't want competing noise is it might clue people into what singing in tune sounds like" was one of the more printable quotes).

Morrissey's people have stated: "Morrissey had nothing to do with this. As long as there was no sound bleed, Morrissey was completely fine with another show going on inside the same complex." Hmm. Perhaps he could have made this clear earlier in the debacle.

"We weren't paying much attention to it, to be honest," says Phillip Taylor, PAWS guitarist and singer, when I catch up with him later in the tour. "There were a lot of people trying to turn it into a bit of a hoo-hah, but we posted the complete truth of what actually happened on the day, and from the moment we posted that, we washed our hands of it."

It is, in any case, a mere footnote to a tour that has marked another remarkable chapter in the story of this rising band. PAWS have played in the US before - their label, Brighton-based FatCat Records, has always been good at providing a live Stateside platform for a Scottish roster that has included We Were Promised Jetpacks and The Twilight Sad. But this particular tour - which began mid-April in Philadelphia and ended at last night's album launch in Brooklyn's Shea Stadium - has stopped off at some iconic sites.

"I remember on previous tours walking by certain venues and thinking, 'How cool would it be to play there one day?'" Taylor admits. "So to actually play places like the Bowery Ballroom in New York, the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the Black Cat in Washington DC and the Crocodile Café in Seattle, that was a big deal for me. Every night has been fantastic, but there have been pinnacle moments when we've looked at each other and known it's quite special to be doing what we're doing, and been thankful for it."

When I talk to Taylor he's in downtown Austin, driving with his bandmates - drummer Josh Swinney and bass player (and occasional Herald music writer) Ryan Drever - to a mini-golf showdown with We Are Scientists. Yesterday was Dallas, tomorrow is Houston. And so the tour playlist is set to Texas.

"We try our best every day to listen specifically to music and bands from the city we're playing to get us in the mood," Taylor explains, "so we absorb as much musical history from the streets as we can."

So what's been on the speakers recently?

"Well, we listened to a bit of Pantera. What else? St Vincent, she's from Texas [born in Tulsa, Oklahoma but grew up in Dallas]. Explosions In The Sky, they're from here in Austin. That's three I can think of off the top of my head."

The current tour - which has also included dates in Boston, Minneapolis and Portland - is almost like a join-the-dots of musical influences for a band who, unlike most of their Scottish contemporaries, have soaked up the grunge, punk and power-pop sounds of America. Taylor both agrees and disagrees.

"A lot of people have tagged us with the G-word over the past couple of years," he says. "I think our influences as a band are drawn from such a vast palette that it's a strange one when we just get tied to the word 'grunge'. Because I see grunge as not necessarily a genre, more a movement; a time and a place thing more than a sound.

"I can see it's easy to see us as a grunge band because we're a three-piece, and most bands back then in Seattle were using distortion pedals and writing short blasts of songs. But our influences come from a lot more British music than people let on. We're all huge fans of the Buzzcocks, and I think our musical influences come from the British side of punk rock just as much as American stuff."

Some people might point out that the venues they're coming home to - including the Glasgow School of Art on June 6 and Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh on June 7 - might feel like a bit of an anticlimax after the size and stature of those US dates. But Taylor isn't having any of that either. He recognises that PAWS have been playing bigger venues because of their support-act status, and that applies to the UK too, when they've been out on the road with likes of Japandroids and The Cribs.

"We enjoy playing absolutely everywhere and anywhere," he insists. "The size and location of a venue has never been an issue to us. It's going to be really special to come back to the UK because we've been out here for so long. It'll be lovely to play to people from where we're from and reconnect to our home town."

In that case, let's consider the US tour as an extended warm-up for the UK dates. When they play home ground this time around, they'll have tightened up the new material that's on second album Youth Culture Forever, due for release on June 2. The follow-up to 2012's Cokefloat!, which was nominated for a Scottish Album of the Year Award, it's the first release to feature Drever on bass, after he replaced original member Matthew Scott early in 2013.

The new album, recorded in Upstate New York last November with Mice Parade's Adam Pierce at the controls, marks an impressive move forward for the band. The riffs and hooks are bigger and more tuneful, and the sound itself more expansive. Taylor is clearly pushing himself as a writer: the use of a cello gives one song, Alone, a melancholy grandeur not heard on anything by the band to date.

"When we were recording the first album, we were younger and, I suppose, just caught up in playing gigs every other week in Glasgow and London - learning, I guess, how to be in the band and how to write. In the wake of having a debut album out, there was a lot more conscious thought about how we wanted to record this one and what kind of context we wanted the songs to sit in."

Taylor admits that around half of the songs on Cokefloat! were written in the month leading up to the recording of the album, but many of them - Catherine 1956, Bloodline, Poor Old Christopher Robin, Sore Tummy - are, I reckon, the best on the album. Under pressure, Taylor found himself writing more confidently and coherently, especially when the song carried an emotional message (Catherine 1956 is a beautifully honest tribute to the mother he lost to cancer).

"Having learned that, this new record made for a better experience of being able to really sink my claws into it, to develop the songs to the best I could," says Taylor. "When we went in to do the first one, we didn't want to overdo things, we just wanted to go in and blast it all out. And it worked. But we didn't want to do the same thing twice. We always want to progress as musicians and writers."

Drever has fitted perfectly into the framework, his bass lines a hefty foundation stone for the others to build on. I wonder aloud if he had reviewed PAWS before he became a member.

"Yeah, I think he gave us our first ever write up," Taylor says. "And he gave us a couple of live reviews along the way too. I've known Ryan for years. We were both in bands that hail from Inverness. He's always been around the PAWS world, here and there. When we had to find someone new, it was a no-brainer."

So, praising a band in print was kind of an audition? No, not really. But maybe there's hope for the likes of me yet.

Youth Culture Forever is released on FatCat Records on June 2. PAWS play the Art School, Glasgow on June 6 and the Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh on June 7, www.wehavepaws.com

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