Wet Wet Wet: ‘There’s nothing more exciting than playing new music’

“I think ‘finally in the bag’ is too fine a point,” laughs Graeme Clark at the thought that Wet Wet Wet might have completed work on their first album in almost a decade and a half.

Wet Wet Wet

The Journey, slated for June, will also be the Scottish blue-eyed soul band’s debut release with new singer Kevin Simm, formerly of Liberty X and winner of the 2016 series of The Voice UK, where he was mentored by Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs.

Simm, 40, replaced Wet Wet Wet’s long-time vocalist Marti Pellow in 2018.

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“There are certain things that are in the bag,” says 55-year-old bass player and songwriter Clark. “We’re working our way through it.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love what we’ve been doing over the last 10 to 14 years, we’ve been lucky enough to go out and play the old songs, but there’s nothing more exciting for me than playing new music. It’s the old cliché – it’s the lifeblood of a band – but it is, especially now that we’ve got a lot of things to write about. If we cannae find songs to write about what’s happened to us we should not be songwriting.

“It’s been refreshing, it’s been difficult, all these things that it always was, but there’s something great about finishing a song and knowing you’ve done something good, it brings a meaning to your life. When I say ‘I’m a songwriter’ if you don’t do it for 10 to 14 years, you aren’t a songwriter any more.”

Making a new album was “always the intention” when Simm joined the group, Clark says, adding: “That’s ultimately for me the important part of playing in a band.

“I hear guys from important bands saying making new music brings a certain relevance to the band, and I do agree with them,” he continues. “For me, it’s never been easy writing songs, it’s always quite demanding, it’s always fairly tense, but the feeling that you get when you finish a song for me it’s an achievement, even though I’ve been doing it for such a long time. It’s hard to write a good song that can come into people’s lives and they feel some sort of affinity with it, that they can relate to it. That’s what it comes down to for me.

“If you ask any songwriter they’ve got hard drives full of ideas and probably about 10 finished songs. I’m no different in that respect, there’s a lot of unfinished songs there and you get to that point where you can’t get the perspective, and this is where being in a band is a wee bit different because it can go out there and then somebody else can see something in it that maybe you didn’t. That’s what we’ve been trying to do over the last four or five months.”

The process has been complicated, he admits, by the pandemic, forcing band members to work remotely. “We have to make MP3s (sound files) and send rough ideas to everybody who sits the way I do at a computer screen and listens to it. It goes round the houses and then comes back to you and you think ‘that was never a good idea anyway’, whereas in a studio this would have happened in a matter of minutes. That’s the difficulty and that’s the challenging aspect of writing through a Zoom meeting or sending ideas round, but I think musicians adapt to whatever situations are thrown up to them, and I’m no different.

“When we first started we had no gear, we had one guitar between us and we would make that work, we wrote some fantastic stuff by that. It’s no different now, you just adapt to the situation that you have to live in.”

Clark is diplomatic about Pellow’s departure, saying: “Marti was an amazing, charismatic frontman. When he decided he wanted to move away, we didn’t really know what we were looking for, we didn’t really know if there was someone who could do this job, and there were times when I thought we’re so idiosyncratic to each other and this might never work with anybody else. We were getting the cheeky chappies but Marti’s a unique guy, you can’t try and emulate that, so that told me ‘hang on, we need to look outside the box for someone that is not going to be a direct replacement for Marti’. When Kevin got put on our radar I saw a couple of clips and I thought ‘this guy can sing a bit, but is he going to be able to sing our songs? Is he going to integrate with us in a way that’s going to work?’

“I had him down here (at his home studio) two and a half years ago and we sat and talked for a couple of hours, he was a lovely guy, I knew I could get on with him. What began to become apparent was he’s not Marti, he’s a different, charismatic kind of guy, they’ve not got similar personalities, I thought I kind of like this. I said to him, ‘before you go, let’s sing a song’ so I got the acoustic guitar on and he sang Goodnight Girl and I said to him, ‘if it was up to me you’ve got the gig, but ultimately it’s the democracy of the band’, which is a good thing but sometimes it can be round the houses, that’s just the way it has to be, you can get a barometer of consensus. So we got him up to the rehearsal room and I’m glad the other guys saw what I saw in him. It immediately became apparent that he could do this gig. That’s what led on to getting new music together.”

The new material, Clark says, will be in keeping with band’s legacy. “To me that’s a positive thing,” he says. “If there was no direct correlation to the old Wet Wet Wet that might be difficult for people to understand. I think if there’s a flavour of the music people will be more accepting of it, because there’s something that they’re familiar with. You’ve always got to keep the past in focus somewhere, it’s part of us, it’s part of who were are, and it’s part of who we’re going to be, so we’re taking it forward.

“Me and Marti had a pretty close relationship when we were writing songs as well, so I’m trying to nurture that in Kevin, and he’s finding his feet in how I want him to work.”

The band have announced an autumn tour. Clark says as musicians they are chomping at the bit to get out and perform as soon as it’s safe to do so. “You can’t put a price on that,” he says. “It’s been a total fluke that we announced the tour and there was the great news about the vaccine. Suddenly the sun began to rise inn terms of where we’d been and the darkness we’ve been in. It’s nice to have that hope again that we haven’t had, the uncertainty that we’ve all had to live with. (In December) we did a gig for a charity and that was the first time we had struck a chord in anger since last February. That brought into sharp focus an appreciation of what we do. When it get taken away from you it makes you understand how good we actually had it.”

Wet Wet Wet play at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax on November 2. wetwetwet.co.uk