November 19, 2008 / 4:56 PM / 10 years ago

Scots band The Aliens aims for stars with "Luna"

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - For a band whose members already have two Hollywood soundtracks and a tour with Radiohead under their belts, The Aliens have pretty modest ambitions.

The Scottish psychedelic funk rock group hope that their recently released “Luna” album is just popular enough to allow them to keep making their own kind of music.

“The dream is for enough people to actually buy the album so we can afford to make another one,” keyboardist John Maclean told Reuters.

Formed in 2005 by former members of cult group the Beta Band, they include singer and guitarist Gordon Anderson, Robin Jones on drums and Maclean on keyboards and backing vocals.

The experimental and critically acclaimed Beta Band released three studio albums from 1999 to their eventual break-up in 2004 - all of which entered Britain’s top 20.

In addition to supporting Radiohead on tour in the United States, Beta Band’s music also featured in the John Cusack movie High Fidelity.

The Aliens have had an often difficult existence to date.

While promoting their critically acclaimed debut album “Astronomy for Dogs,” the band had to scrap a promotional tour so Anderson could seek medical treatment for acute psychosis - a condition which has troubled the lead singer for years.

“I’ve known Gordon since we were kids so nothing has changed. He has always had an active imagination and that has its ups and downs,” Maclean told Reuters.

Asked whether the band almost broke up under the strain of Anderson’s illness, Maclean simply said: “You can’t really split up from your friends, and the band is based on our friendship, so unfortunately or not we are stuck with each other.”

Anderson is now out of hospital, off medication and “Luna” has hit the shops.

The band, whose sound is funk, psychedelic and rock rolled into one, like to experiment and push boundaries.

They cite Woody Allen, Larry David, RZA, Alfred Hitchcock, The Neptunes, The Beach Boys, Brian Eno and David Brent (from The Office television series) as influences.

“Anyone doing anything interesting and uncompromising — I’ll leave it to others to describe our sound,” said Maclean.

And despite their debut album being recorded in a London studio in one session, Luna was recorded in a cottage in Scotland over a longer period of time.

“I think the way we recorded Luna suits us more and it comes across in the production,” said Maclean. “We have no problem finding inspiration to make music.”

“Bands are a sociable thing — a dynamic — so you take inspiration and ideas from each other. The sound comes from this dynamic.”

On giving advise to aspiring musicians, Maclean added: “It can be less about how well you can play an instrument, and more about the strength of song writing and the ideas.”

The Aliens have had a constant space theme. Names and song titles are tinged with cosmic overtones.

Maclean is quick to lay the blame for this solely at the lead singer’s door. “Gordon comes up with most of the alien and space themed titles...he’s a believer.”

All the band members come from Scotland and while proud of this background, are also critical when needed.

“I feel worldly and despise small-mindedness, which in Scotland can sometimes border on racism,” said Maclean. “I love Scotland and am proud to be Scottish but I don’t have a chip on my shoulder about the English.”

This universal appeal saw movie 21, starring Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth, use The Aliens’ song “I am the Unknown” on its soundtrack.

“I think our music lends itself well to soundtracks and we are up for using it this way — people just need to ask us,” Maclean said.

He added that the band would like to try writing the music for a movie score one day.

Movies using their songs is not the highlight of his time in the band to date however.

“The Aliens highlight was walking around London Fields (Hackney) the other day with the new album in my headphones and realizing how great it sounds.”

For more information on The Aliens, visit

Reporting by Michael Taylor, editing by Paul Casciato

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