Some siblings really know how to sing. The Everly Brothers had that magic, and so did the Carpenters.
More recently, it’s the Proclaimers, brothers Craig and Charlie Reid – Scotland’s greatest musical ambassadors.
Craig Reid says he and his identical twin knew early on that they had what many others don’t.
“I think we have that thing that siblings have when they sing together,” he said recently. “We’ve been playing in bands since we were 14 years of age. We split up with the last band we were in, around 1981 or ’82, and we started the Proclaimers, just the two of us. Before, when we were in other bands, I was playing drums and (Charlie) was doing the electric guitar; we would do backup vocals, but we knew the first two or three times we played, the reaction that we got was much, much stronger than anyone else in the band. We knew there was something there.”
It’s still there in 2005, long after they first made their international splash in 1988 with “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” With their sixth studio album, “Restless Soul” (released on Sept. 6 on their own Redeye-distributed Persevere Records), the brothers Reid continue to harmonize like few artists can.
Produced by Mark Wallis (The Smiths, U2, Talking Heads) and David Ruffy, the album covers familiar territory, lyrically and musically. The Reids maintain their knack for catchy and clever songs, touching on such subjects as cheating, relationships, alcoholism and domestic violence. They are at their most poignant on “Now and Then,” an ode to their father, who died a few years ago after a long illness.
“It’s kind of like getting to the stage where you’re well past grieving,” Reid said. “Some memories happen subconsciously, but you’re not thinking about them every day. You have to get on with your life; you might feel guilty about it for a little bit, but time does heal your pain.”
Sonically, the Proclaimers expand on their folk roots, embracing a slicker production that gives their hook-laden songs a full-bodied sound. For instance, since the Everlys never worked with Phil Spector, the Reids’ “When Love Struck You Down” is the next best thing.
“I don’t think we’re all that much like the Everly Brothers,” Reid said, “but it’s a great compliment. When you’re brothers and you harmonize, you’re going to get those kinds of comparisons. But the Everly Brothers are great.
“When we were growing up, we were listening to the Rolling Stones, the Kinks. Then when punk came along, that was a huge thing for us – especially The Clash.
“We had been playing for a year or so before punk really happened, but the kind of stuff we were playing was rhythm & blues, pretty fast stuff. When punk happened, it was like a godsend for us. It was like three chords; you didn’t have to really play that well.”
For “Restless Soul,” Reid says they followed the same pattern they used for 2003’s “Born Innocent.”
“These two albums are the first two where we’ve actually written to a time schedule,” he said. “We got back from North America in mid-April of last year; we took two, three weeks off and then we started writing. We wanted to pretty much have the whole album done by Christmas.
“We got three of them done fairly quickly, and from there, the others kind of flow fairly easily after that.”
Though the Proclaimers have churned out three albums in the past four years, they’re generally considered a one-hit wonder in the United States. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” taken from their 1988 smash album, “Sunshine on Leith” (Chrysalis), was a worldwide hit – everywhere but in America. Not until the song appeared in the 1993 movie “Benny & Joon,” did it get proper mainstream airplay.
“We just got lucky,” Reid said. “If it wasn’t for (actress) Mary Stuart Masterson, it wouldn’t have happened. She had the album, and of course, she starred in it with Johnny Depp. There was a scene where she was sculpting and they asked her to bring in some music that she would be listening to if she were doing something like that.”
The rollicking “I’m Gonna Be,” produced by Pete Wingfield, barreled up the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 3 and earning the Reids a gold-selling record. One more album followed, “Hit the Highway,” in 1994, but then things turned quiet for the pop-rock duo.
“There was seven years there, from 1994 to 2001, we didn’t have an album and we didn’t do a show,” Reid said. “That was a case of where we were writing stuff, but it wasn’t anything we were happy with. And both our wives were having children, and there were various business things, and then Dad got really ill. He was ill for about a year before he died. So writing and doing shows took second place back then.”
Having a huge hit afforded them the luxury to sit back and relax for a while.
“It’s kept us going, definitely,” he said. “I still think we’d be making music if we hadn’t had that hit, but we wouldn’t be able to do it in the way we’re doing it right now.
“Having a big hit isn’t a double-edge sword for us. It’s more of a positive thing, than negative. If you had one meager hit that you’re known for, people tend to dismiss you. But you still have that hard-core people who buy the records and come to the shows and know what you’re about. If you have the financial advantage of a big hit, it can open doors for you and people will remember you, even if it’s only for one thing. That’s more of a good thing than a bad thing.”
Do they mind having to play it at every show?
“It’s only three and a half minutes,” Reid said. “No, it’s not a problem. It’s our bread and butter.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I bought a compilation of British session musicians doing covers of rock ‘n’ roll songs, and this was about 1973 when I was about 11 years old. It cost 50 pence, and I got it at a Woolworth’s in Cooper in Scotland. It was really cheap; it was the only one I could afford.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Buzzcocks, supported by Joy Division, in 1979. It was the only time that Joy Division had played Edinburgh. It was fantastic. Joy Division were way better than Buzzcocks.”
THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “It wasn’t really a job, but it was the worst experience. I was unemployed for many years before we had a hit, before we got our record contract. Towards the end of that period, we had been doing odd jobs on the side and not telling the unemployment people about it. They were going to stop my dole money unless I went on this government re-training course. It was basically for assessing what kind of work you’d be suited for. I think they came to the conclusion that I wasn’t suited for anything, except maybe for electronics or metal work. It was grim, the darkest before the dawn. In the end, we got a phone call from the Housemartins offering us a tour, and that’s the first break we got and that led to a recording contract.”
ON THE WEB: proclaimers.co.uk.
BWF (before we forget): The Proclaimers album discography – “This Is the Story”(Chrysalis, 1987); “Sunshine on Leith” (1988); “Hit the Highway” (1994);“Persevere” (Nettwerk, 2001); “The Best of …” (Chrysalis/Capitol, 2002); “Born Innocent” (Persevere, 2003); “Restless Soul” (Persevere/Redeye, 2005).
Upcoming tour dates – Oct. 7, San Francisco, Slims; Oct. 8, Solana Beach, Calif., Belly Up Tavern; Oct. 9, Anaheim, House of Blues; Oct. 11, West Hollywood, House of Blues; Oct. 12, Tempe, The Clubhouse; Oct. 13, Las Vegas, House of Blues; Nov. 1, Douglas, UK, Gaiety Theatre; Nov. 3, Cardiff, UK, Coal Exchange; Nov. 4, Exeter, UK, Lemon Grove; Nov. 5, Northampton, UK, The Deco, Nov. 7, Norwich, UK, University of East Anglia; Nov. 8, Wolverhampton, UK, Wulfrun Hall; Nov. 9, Brighton, UK, The Dome; Nov. 11, Preston, UK, Charter Theatre; Nov. 12, Carlisle, UK, Sands Centre; Nov. 13, Newcastle, UK, Sage Theatre; Nov. 15, York, UK, Grand Opera House; Nov. 16, Manchester, UK, Manchester Academy; Nov. 17, Llandudno, UK, North Wales Theatre & Conference Centre; Nov. 19, High Wycombe, UK, Swan Theatre; Nov. 20, Chesterfield, UK, Winding Wheel Nov. 21, Cambridge, UK, The Junction; Nov. 23, Salisbury, UK, Salisbury City Hall; Nov. 24, Bristol, UK, Trinity Centre; Nov. 25, Coventry, UK, Warwick Arts Centre; Nov. 27, Liverpool, Carling Liverpool Academy; Nov. 28, Derby, UK, Assembly Rooms; Nov. 29, Saint Albans, UK, The Arena; Dec. 1, London, Shepherd’s Bush Empire; Dec. 3, Castlebar, Ireland; Royal Theatre; Dec. 4, Galway, Ireland, Radisson Hotel; Dec. 5, Limerick, Ireland, Dolans Pub, Restaurant & Warehouse; Dec. 7, Carlow, Ireland, Halo @ The Morrison; Dec. 8, Dublin, Olympia Theatre; Dec. 9, Belfast, The Spring & Brake; Dec. 13, Edinburgh, UK, Corn Exchange; Dec. 15, Irvine, UK, Magnum Leisure Centre; Dec. 16, Dundee, UK, Caird Hall; Dec. 18, Stirling, UK, Albert Halls; Dec. 19, Perth, UK, Concert Hall; Dec. 21, Glasgow, Carling Glasgow Academy.