REASONS to be cheerful, let’s face it, are difficult to find in 2024. The world’s on fire, Donald Trump is still a thing, and newspapers are attacking the National Trust over a scone recipe. But at least we have a new record from The Zutons.

After a gap of 16 years the Liverpool band have returned with The Big Decider, an album that is all zest, beats and bounce. Prefaced by the crowd-pleasing single Creeping on the Dancefloor, the result is all minty fresh and crisp linen. The mood on the record is defiantly up.

“I think that was the point really,” the band’s front man, singer and songwriter Dave McCabe admits as he sits in his Liverpool home on the other end of a dodgy Zoom link. “I was listening to Earth Wind and Fire at the time. Maybe that had something to do with it. They’re kind of like the Beatles, Earth Wind and Fire. None of the songs are moaning. It’s optimistic.”

The same can be said of The Zutons in 2024, all the more remarkable given that recent years have seen McCabe lose his father and finally confront his issues with drink and drugs. The result is not just the return of the Zutons but something of a reboot.

“It’s like a new band really,” McCabe suggests. That said, while The Zutons membership may have expanded, the core group - McCabe, drummer Sean Payne and saxophonist Abi Harding - is still intact. And on The Big Decider it sounds like they’ve all rediscovered their mojo.

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It’s taken a while, admittedly. After a long hiatus the band toured their debut album back in 2018. “I think that made us realise that we really enjoyed being in this band. It was where we belong,” McCabe suggests. “Or it is for me. It’s a vehicle of enjoyment and expression that was missed in everyone’s lives.”

That was six years ago, however. The story of the journey from then to now is one McCabe tells at length.

You get the feeling he has to.

“We’d done the tour and we bonded,” he begins. “We had grown apart, but it doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. So then we went on holiday to America for 10 days and that was fun. When we got back I realised I had a problem; a drinking, drug problem. It was quite serious. And as much as I enjoyed the holiday, and the last 16 years, it was time to stop. I realised I had to in order to move forward. That had to be sorted.

“So I went to rehab and I came out and we started writing. We wrote a few songs and then the lockdown kicked in the next year and that was hard.”

The band stayed together in their own bubble during Covid.

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“What happened there was we carried on writing, but I had started drinking, taking mushrooms again,” McCabe continues, the words rattling out. “The drinking. That was the final hurdle.

“This is my story,” he points out. “Not everyone went through this, but they went through it watching me. I could see how upset it was making them.

“I started drinking again. I was stuck in the house all day. But what we did do, we had a bit of a golden moment when we wrote Creeping and we wrote a lot of the songs on the album. We had 80 per cent of the record. We didn’t know we had 80 per cent of the record, but we felt we had something really strong.

“It all happened really fast because we were all living together. So it had been this band who had been on tour, went on holiday together, rehab, back drinking again, and all stuck in this house together.”

There was other stuff going on too, he adds. “I met my girl, soon to be my wife and I got her pregnant. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was like, ‘Right, I’ve got to stop now. Otherwise you’re going to be a s*** dad and you’re going to have no band and you’re not going to be in a happy place.’”

Music and parenthood are good reasons to turn your life around. Still, it takes an effort to pull yourself back.

“Yeah it does. And then my dad died in the space of a year. All these things were happening.”

But McCabe has emerged on the other side a partner, a father and back in the band that made his name. And along the way he has rediscovered his passion for being a Zuton again.

“When we’re playing onstage we’re all loving it and it’s better than it was on the last tour because I’m sober and everyone is more present. I can sing all the notes. I’m focused.”

You can hear that clarity on The Big Decider. Perhaps it also helps that along with Ian Broudie, Chic’s Nile Rodgers helped produce the album. In Abbey Road of all places.

Was working with Rodgers ever so slightly intimidating?

“Yeah, it is at first because he’s Mr Showbiz. But within minutes of being around him he talks the nerves out of you. He’s all about communication and I told him within five minutes about what I was going through. My dad was on his last legs and I’ve had problems. He is one of the best people to talk to about it because he’d had all that going on himself … 

“It’s like you’re on this level with him, like you’ve known him for years.

“And he’s a cool guy. I think for the first few days we were talking about Miles Davis and Madonna and Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck. He’s worked with them all. And he just came out with things that made you laugh and kept it ticking over.

“He was like your black uncle from America who’s come over to put his arm around you.”

Working in Abbey Road was maybe less of a thrill.

“It’s good because you get in, do your work and get off,” McCabe says. “But there’s security stood round and it was a bit businesslike, do you know what I mean? It was really officey when you stepped out of the studio. And you looked around and it was cool, but it wasn’t like The Beatles in the sixties. I didn’t feel like John Lennon walking around there, sad to say.”

Before I go, I have to ask him about his best-known song, because everyone does. Valerie was a hit for the band and then an even bigger one for Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson. On YouTube you can find country versions, jazz versions, punk versions and even an Alicia Keys take on the song.

“I feel like that song is its own lifeform really,” McCabe admits, before telling me the story of its creation. It began with the band finding a riff in the rehearsal room which McCabe then turned into a complete song in his head on the taxi ride home to his mum’s.

“Got out of the taxi, paid for it, went in, grabbed the guitar and sat in my little bedroom and I wrote the rest out pretty much within five or 10 minutes.”

At first he thought he must have copied someone else’s song unconsciously. “This has got to be another song. It can’t be that easy. Nothing falls like that.

“But then I took it in the next day and played it to the band and they were like, ‘Oh right, that’s good, isn’t it?’”

He pauses, pulls back. “The thing is we had a massive hit with it. Then Amy covered it. It’s just gone into its own atmosphere. It’s in its own galaxy, that song.

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“It’s a beautiful thing. I remember walking past a pub in London and I could hear women singing it and when you’re into Led Zepp or The Beatles you never think you’re going to write one of those songs that old women get up and sing. But that’s what we wrote.

“I’m alright with it. It’s such a mad thing though. Imagine if you had 20 of them. That’s Vegas.”

McCabe and The Zutons play Glasgow later this month. It will be a chance to see a band that has rediscovered itself. The Zutons are no longer just Dave McCabe’s past. They are also his future.

“I want it to carry on forever. I think there are still really good songs to come from this band.

“There’s a lot of bad news. So we want to bring a lot of positivity. That’s my goal. I’m not saying you should ignore things, but I want to create some optimism. Because as much as everyone wants to hate each other, or everyone is sick of each other, it’s time to be nice to each other, isn’t it?”

He has started by being kind to himself.

The Big Decider comes out on April 26. The Zutons play SWG3, Glasgow on April 18