A Conversation with Hue & Cry

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Scottish pop duo Hue & Cry breezed into wide acclaim in 1987 with their single, ‘Labour of Love’ – an idiosyncratic song that at first listen lyrically sounds like a tale of love gone wrong – beneath the surface however, lays political undertones. Since then, they have been creating and innovating within the pop genre for over 30 years, but their ethos stands firm.

“There’s a song we did tonight called ‘Little Man’, we did an album called ‘Hot Wire’ which was kind of an investigation, New Orleans funk. And a lot of people who are New Orleans experts say that this song is very authentically New Orleans. It’s based on New Orleans but it’s actually about Brexit voters.

That’s Hue and Cry, where we make something sound as if it’s from a completely different culture but actually it’s talking about what’s happening here”. I got a chance to enjoy a quick catch up with them after their set at Rewind.

Lounging on the sofa, Greg and Pat have a relaxed demeanour with a wry charm. “Someone had to go on first to give people a reason to turn up, really”. A pause for reflection. “And they were very receptive, and they clapped…”. A somewhat modest statement!

Indeed, the relationship between Hue & Cry and their audience is one of mutual respect. “We have a song called ‘Ordinary Angel’ which we usually introduce by saying, ‘This is for fans that stay with bands, and bands that stay with fans’.

And it’s true – it’s slightly surreal to be doing something for thirty years, people don’t often do things these days for thirty years. The enthusiasm is very tangible”.

Although they’ve been in the industry for three decades now, they have a wide eyed passion and infectious enthusiasm that comes from doing what you love.

"It’s kind of weird but it’s true, we could probably just keep writing forever and ever, you know? Until we fall over."

“I like these gigs cause I’m such a serious person most of my life, and I get a chance to jump about like an eejit for 20 to 45 minutes with my favourite band and my brother playing songs - so nothing about it is anything other than joyful”.

As for what has kept them motivated throughout the years? “It’s fun to write songs. There’s no better vehicle if you want to say something or if you want to express a certain musical style or a musical theme…there’s nothing better than a theme in a pop song.

We’ve always been big fans of pop music but we’ve always tried to inject something a wee bit different, be it Latin or funk or trying to make grown men cry or….There’s a great phrase that Maya Angelou said: ‘No-one remembers what you say, but everybody remembers how you make them feel.’ And that’s what pop songs are. It makes people feel things intensely”.

But a balance is maintained between passion and practicality, too: “The thing about it is that you want to wait until inspiration genuinely strikes these days and then all that muscle memory is there. And all the kind of things that you’ve done in the past inform your excitement when you’re sitting down to write.

We’re just very lucky that we can sit in a room and recently we’ve used the discipline of not leaving the room until we can play verse, chorus, verse, chorus. Sometimes they come easy, sometimes they come in half an hour sometimes they come in four hours, and it’s quite tempting to leave the room…but we don’t and we just stick it out and the body language and the tunes roll between him and I as brothers, as well as creators.

We don’t really leave the room until there’s something there that wasn’t when we got in. And we’re very lucky that usually those things happen when you’re on your own, but when there’s a collaboration there’s an added element of not difficulty, but difference”. Indeed, it’s clear to see the natural flow and connection between the two brothers.

“When you’re collaborating in that situation, it’s very powerful. Pat and I have got our own mechanisms for dealing with each other emotionally and personally”. Although they still continue to grow and innovate with each new release, their bond as brothers and co-creators seems a grounding constant. This is true of other elements, too: “The creative environment…it’s never been as good actually. Never changed in thirty years.

It’s kind of weird but it’s true, we could probably just keep writing forever and ever, you know? Until we fall over.” 

Throughout our conversation, a throng of fans have been slowly gathering by the gate: eager to catch a glimpse or the attention of their idols. After we finish chatting, Greg and Pat stop to chat and take pictures with every one of them.

[Interview edited and condensed for clarity]

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