Song-writer, poet and staunch activist, Declan Welsh and his band the ‘Decadent West’ are golden children of the Glaswegian music scene. With striking lyrics and wonderfully brash guitar riffs, their notorious indie-punk sound seems to be at the centre of modern political rebellion. They fit perfectly into a shit indie playlist all while taking an unapologetic look on today’s current issues. They’re a band that are not afraid to say what’s needs to be said, and one that should definitely be heard. It’s gearing up to be a busy year for the group, with both a UK tour and the release of their debut album being set for October. In the face of what seems to be the biggest few months for the band yet, I sat down with Welsh to discuss the rise to stardom, the bands political punk-activism, and what we can expect next.
How did you guys start out?
Ben and I have been in bands together since we were about 14, then I did a solo thing for a bit, added a band, Ben was in it, then we changed the line up about till we landed on the dream team of me, Ben, Duncs and Murray. I knew Duncan through uni and Murray through…pals? Being in bands? I dunno, but he’s here now.
You guys are from Glasgow, a city well-known for talented musicians. How do you think being from a place with such a respected music scene has shaped you as a band?
Glasgow is the kinda place that is both really proud of its people and hyper critical of its people. Also, I grew up in East Kilbride, a suburban town just outside of Glasgow. People from Glasgow don’t like people from EK saying they’re from Glasgow haha! Dunno if anywhere near Liverpool is like that, The Wirral maybe? But aye, I went to uni in Glasgow, and have lived in Glasgow since I was like 19. It definitely influences who we are, I mean have you heard my voice? Unashamedly Glaswegian (or fae East Kilbride at least). I think as well, the city is both empathetic and kind on the one hand, and absolutely doesn’t take any shite on the other. So in our album, for example, I think both the song No Fun (which is dead biting) and Times (which is very sweet and celebratory) are both very Glaswegian songs. One is about telling folk that have too big a hit for themselves to go fuck themselves. The other is about loving your friends, and raising a glass to those that can’t be with us anymore. That’s kinda the two sides to Glasgow, as far as I see it. Saccharine and spiky.
Your tour is about to begin, do you have a favourite city to play?
Obviously, Liverpool. You are the only city for me. Really though, I do love it in Liverpool. It’s so like Glasgow. Huge Irish influence, dead musical, two football teams, we hate The Sun, we hate the Queen (well half of us do. Half of us really fucking love the Queen), working class communities built on solidarity and a sense of humour. It’s a cool place. So aye, here’s hoping the gigs boss, la.
You often comment on prevailing social issues in your songs, and your tour is set to begin on the dreaded ‘Brexit Day’. What impact do you think musicians can have by being speaking out about current issues?
Ehhh, I do think that anyone creating art has to be fundamentally driven by empathy. You’ve got to want to tell a story, and be understood. And to be understood you have to want to connect with folk. So art is inherently empathetic. People that watch, listen, read or whatever; they also have to connect. So in a time where we are getting told we aren’t a community, we are individuals, then art has the potential to be revolutionary. It often isn’t, though. And even revolutionary art is commodified. Artists speaking out about things is good, but it can often be clumsy. We aren’t the folk who will change things, you are. We can just help light a fire, or illuminate some things, or make you maybe look at stuff from a different perspective. But it’s the folk who hear the song about fighting fascism that go out and fight fascism. They’re much more important than the guy singing about it.
You recently went over to Palestine; how did that experience impact you?
It had an immense impact. It’s a beautiful place, full of beautiful, inspiring, kind and strong people who are undergoing a day to day existence that is unfathomably hard. But they exist, and so they resist. And fuck me do they exist! They are just amazing folk, doing amazing things. I met friends for life, and I had my life changed fundamentally. I love the Palestinian people so deeply and any time I can talk about it I do. BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement) is important folks, if you care at all about the Palestinians show solidarity and practise BDS. It isn’t a moral decision, it’s not saying we aren’t trading with Israel because they are fundamentally bad. It’s a picket line. Palestinian civil society has asked the world to help them out and do this completely non-violent thing. Moreover, if you give a fuck about Palestine, educate yourself and do not hit out with anti-Semitic bullshit. Stand up for Jewish folk who are oppressed, stand up for Palestinians who are oppressed. It is not difficult to live a life where you do both of those things.
A lot of your gigs begin with poetry readings, how do the audience usually react?
Ehhhh…. positively usually! I’m sort of in a trance when I’m doing them to be honest so I don’t pay attention very much to what people are doing in response. I once had a London industry type tell me I was very “brave” for doing poetry though. That was some laugh.
Is your process for writing music and poetry the same?
Nah not at all. I start with music for music, and words for poetry. Poetry usually comes from a place where I wanna talk about a specific topic. Whereas I will write around a melody, and the theme will come from what the music sounds like.
You’re about to release your new album in October, how do you think the tracks on this album differ from your previous works?
I mean it’s a continuation but it’s definitely more melodic. There are more sombre moments. There’s more of an emphasis on musicality. And there’s, I think, tighter storytelling. The political stuff in this is less direct. Like the song about Palestine, Different Strokes. It’s just a story about what happened. In order to bring you onside, I’m not telling you “think this or that” I’m just explaining a true story about my experience and you can take from that what you will. I think that subtlety is actually more likely to bring more folk on side. And it also is just a nicer way to communicate artistically I think, it flows better.
Who were your biggest influences when creating the album?
Ehh… who was I listening to a lot of? I mean, Pulp and Arctic Monkeys are always gonna influence me somewhat, ditto Billy Bragg. But I was getting right into Kate Tempest, Elvis Costello, Rick James, Gil Scott Heron, LCD Soundsystem, Dusty Springfield and various other when I wrote it. Also, The Beatles’ early really melodic pop stuff. And pixies. God knows if any of that comes across though.
Have you got any favourite tracks?
I love How Does Your Love, it’s our most danceable song. There’s a tune called Be Mine which is a big grand love song. And the album closer Times is probs the best song ever written.
Finally, where can people find you?
I am on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. @declanwelsh for the last two, Declan Welsh & The Decadent West for the first. Also bebo.
You can listen to the band’s recent single ‘How Does Your Love’ here