Declan Welsh and the Decadent West prepare to play TRNSMT’s main stage

“I think what people want is a spectacle. At the start of the day, people want something interesting to look at, interesting sounds and something that means it.”
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It was two o’clock on a Tuesday, the peak of an afternoon heatwave and I was standing across from Central Station, outside the revolving doors at Yotel waiting for Declan Welsh, frontman of Declan Welsh and the Decadent West, a local band currently undergoing the rare and arduous transition beyond the realms of Glasgow’s grassroots music scene and into territory of wider mainstream recognition. The seven piece - which up until recently operated as a quartet - is currently in the midst of TRNSMT preparations, as they are scheduled to play the main stage at 12:30pm on Friday 7 July: the festival’s opening slot. And while this band has obtained a healthy following, selling out shows across the UK including one at the city’s own Barrowland Ballroom, the situational formula of the early set time indicates the demographic of people most likely to attend may perhaps be less familiar with their work, providing an opportunity to reign in newcomers and broaden their fanbase.

Declan Welsh and the Decadent West is a band with something interesting to say. They understand the value in showcasing a spectacle and perform with conviction. The cynical undertones innate to their songs are coherent with the mood of the moment. Their earliest catalogue available on Spotify dates back to 2017, and while the general thematics and textures of their music have since evolved, they’ve consistently struck with this regenerated indie sound that draws their audience and keeps them listening.

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Declan appeared out of a crowd of pedestrians waving in my direction, dressed in a black polo shirt and black cap. We took the lift to the top floor of the hotel, Vega, where we had arranged to conduct the interview. He ordered haggis bonbons and tempura vegetables from the bar, met me at the table and then we commenced.

“We got an offer in through our booking agent because two years ago we played the King Tut’s stage and it went pretty well. It was the first gig we did out of Covid. Being kind of locked in doors for two years and then the first gig that we had to play was a set at 8 o’clock on the King Tut’s stage at TRNSMT, which was arguably the biggest gig we’d played up until that point, we handled it well and it reaffirmed our faith that this is the thing we want to do with our lives. There’s nothing like seeing that amount of people react so intensely to songs that we’d written, especially some of the songs that we’d written during Covid, about kind of being isolated, people singing those words back was a very cathartic moment.

Declan Welsh and The Decadent West.Declan Welsh and The Decadent West.
Declan Welsh and The Decadent West.

“We’ve seen other bands that we admire and kind of want to emulate in the Scottish scene do a similar progression to what we’re doing now: sell out King Tut’s once, sell out a bigger venue, sell out a bigger venue, do King Tut’s three times, and then do the TRNSMT King Tut’s stage, then sell out the Barrowlands and then do the main stage, and we’ve kind of ticked all those ones off. It’s a nice thing to see other bands that have done that that have went on to properly do this for a living.

“If you don’t believe in the new stuff that you’re doing, you obviously want to play things that the crowd likes and if this set was at 10 o’clock at night on the main stage and we were headlining it you know it’s a different performance you give, it’s going to be more about what the crowd want because they’re going to be more in the place to jump around and go nuts. The 12:30pm slot, they’ll be a lot of new people for us, the main stage is quite varied and I think that will help us be put in front of people who haven’t seen us before. And our opinion is that the best stuff we’ve ever written is on this new album so we’re going to feature that heavily.

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“We’re going to play our biggest tune and our biggest couple of tunes right now, we’re not going to deprive people of the stuff that they like us for, but we still see ourselves as establishing who we are and we want to put our best foot forward. We have an emphasis on coming up with moments in the set where we can do something that people might be surprised of, and the places we see that are in the new songs.

“I think what people want is a spectacle. At the start of the day, people want something interesting to look at, interesting sounds and something that means it.

“We’re going to be tight because we’ve played the majority of these songs about a thousand times before. The nerves I have about the music industry are never about the recording and never about performing because I know we’re good at that. As soon as we’re on that stage, it’ll be feeling like exactly where we belong. That’s how it’s been before, you walk on stage and all the nerves go.

“The preparation is just getting tight and thinking about how we can make the songs better live, not change them in a way people don’t recognise them, but add wee parts, stick around in parts for longer, because live you’re more willing to let build with an audience and that release feels better than you are with a record. I’ve been watching tonnes of people that I think are super inspirational live performers and a lot of the time it is giving yourselves that opportunity to build tension, to perform, to use the size of the stage, to interact.

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“Obviously live there has to be some element of consistency. You can’t stop and go again. You have to get tighter to play it live than you do to record it. It’s about that physical interaction with the audience. Watching people like Prince live and Dolly Parton live, Beyoncé, people that I have loads of respect for and admire, people that are performers that want to give you a show. I often think that part of it is where you can stand out and people can really sort of notice that you’ve made an attempt to do something interesting.

“The band that’s on last are the reason I’m so happy we’re on on the Friday, Pulp. They do that, Jarvis Coker deliberately tries to give you a theatrical performative show and the songs have moments that you can tell have been written to be played live, they have this kind of interaction. You kind of record for you and then you listen to it as if you were an audience. When you’re playing for an audience you have to only think about the audience , think about what you would like to present to them. It’s obviously about you too, but much more about that exchange of ideas. What you’re looking for from a gig is different from what you look for in a record. It’s a lot more about the I and you, whereas a gig is more about the we.”

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