We emerged from the primordial sludge of the mid-1990s Glaswegian indie underground, a period when it seemed everyone in the city was in a band, but no-one was signed, and it didn't matter, cos all the bands came to each others gigs, so it all felt kind of worthwhile anyway.
Unlike the majority of our peers, however, we took the unusual and deeply unfashionable decision to pursue a punk-ska-pop sound, in the mould of the Specials and Madness, though not in their actual clothes — no covers !
The plan was that we'd write our own songs, perform them with suitably bug-eyed energy, and MAKE PEOPLE DANCE, whilst doing our best not to fall into the well-established cliches of two-tone nostalgia, eg carboard pork pie hats and songs about fat people.
At the start, there were 11 members in the band: Singers, then as now, were hyperactive punkette, Jane Chalmers and her polar opposite, slothful skinhead, Stan Millar. Hardcore ska rhythmists, Joel Gray and Gordy Davidson played drums and bass, respectively, while guitar duties were split between Andrew 'Rat' Sinclair, playing the twiddly bits, and Stevie Jones, getting RSI from doing the upstrokes. Over in the melody department, we had Alex Huntley and Helen Lloyd fighting over who got to play with the Hammond organ, Mick Cooke playing trumpet, Lindsey Watson playing trombone and Jenny Diverse on sax, when she wasn't off wandering round Europe.
In that shape, we played our first gigs, and were astonished by the punters' appetite for enthusiastically sloppy jumpy-about music. Within a year, we went from being a pub-table project expected, at very best, to last for a week or two, to being the headline attraction at sold-out gigs, in venues that should have known better.
Looking at the fistfuls of money we'd made, it seemed a pity to drink it all, so we recorded a single, 'Around the World in 5 and a half minutes', released on vinyl by local bedroom label, F&J Records. The first 500 sold out, so we made another 500.
At this point Stevie departed to concentrate on his main band, El Hombre Trajeado, who hadn't really expected him to suddenly be quite so busy playing ska. Though we were sad to see Stevie go, it allowed Alex to move onto rhythm guitar, leaving Helen to learn the rest of the keyboard parts, and thus we had a slightly less chaotic, more stable line-up, which went on to play hundreds of gigs, both at home and abroad.
There was another single came out of this period, 'Last Night', which, though still pretty much self-released, actually got played on the radio, and then licensed to a European label, and subsequently repressed and reproduced on dozens of euro-ska compilations.
In 1999, things really got interesting. An unexpected invite to open the main stage at the 'T in the Park' festival (on before Joe Strummer. the Beautiful South and Blur, for God's sake) boosted our 'profile' to frightening new levels, and we responded to the challenge by recording an album — 'Right Line in Nylons'.
Naturally, still unsigned and pretty much unorganised, it was 2000 before we actually got the album out, but it still got great reviews, from music types like Kerrang and Q, to the local papers and Scootering magazine. The NME was having none of it, however, and studiously ignored us. Nonetheless, we sold as many copies as we could afford to press up, then blew the profits doing a whole bunch of expensive, but fun, gigs in faraway places.
There followed what is now known as the 'Nylons hangover' phase, where we rested on our laurels and took it easy for a bit, with the result that we ended up too bored to play the old stuff, and too lazy to write new stuff. yaaaaawwwwn.
This ended in 2002, with a wee shake-up. Rat left to concentrate on growing his hair, leaving Alex newly invigorated with the possibilities of being in charge of both the available tone-settings on the guitar. Around the same time, Jenny excused herself to go travel the world, and sax duty passed into the youthful hands of James Swinburne (although Jenny has since regularly reappeared to play with the 'meanies at anything international that looks like having free beer).
Down to a trim nine-piece, we took a deep breath and set about concocting material for a new album, and started 2003 full of beans, with another European tour and a handful of storming songs earmarked for release as a new EP.
However, there was one more wee setback to weather as, in the middle of 2003, Alex Huntley became Alex Kapranos, via his 'side-project' Franz Ferdinand. On signing to Domino records, he was obliged to resign his ska duties to concentrate on taking over the world, but kindly left us some songs to remember him by.
For a week or two, this seemed to put a bit of a halt to our plans. We had, after all, entirely exhausted our original pool of three guitarists... then, hallelujah, long-time two-tone fan and 'meanies associate, John Disco, of Teen-C warriors, Bis, stepped up to fill the guitar vacancy.
John's arrival signalled the start of a burst of fresh activity that has, to date, included the release of two further singles( the 'Say Something Special' ep and 'Hand of God'), a string of big gigs, supports with Rancid and The Skatalites (two ends of the ska spectrum there), several festivals, a BBC Radio session, loads of airplay from enthusiastic DJs like Mark Lamarr and Phill Jupitus, and even a wee three-day tour of London that DIDN'T leave us broke.
Right now, we're baw-deep in recording the long-awaited (by us at least) new album, and rather looking forward to playing the new stuff at some hometown shows over the winter. maybe we'll see you there.......