Meet: Legendary BMX Bandit Duglas T Stewart talks new album, the secret behind their longevity and looking to the future

As longtime admirers of BMX Bandits – stretching back to the bands earliest releases right up to seeing them at the end of last year with The Soup Dragons, we (well, I) recently had the opportunity to catch up with Duglas T. Stewart, the driving force behind this legendary Scottish indie pop band. With their latest album, “Dreamers On The Run,” recently released, we delve into the band’s musical journey, exploring the inspiration behind their new work and the ongoing evolution of their unique sound.

BM: Congratulations on the release of “Dreamers On The Run”! Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the album and how it feels to finally share this musical journey with your fans?

Duglas: I wanted to write about a duality in my life that I believe many other people also experience, struggling to navigate real life and escaping to a world of dreams and possibly music. I think now after Brexit, lockdown, Trump and Johnson that more people are feeling like outsiders or feel like they are struggling to navigate the real world. So maybe this album is more timely than it would have been than if I had completed it and released it when originally planned, almost ten years ago. I have been singing some of these songs to myself for a long time and it feels good that I can share them at last, along with new material written for the album.

BM: The BMX Bandits have been creating music for decades. How has the band evolved over the years, and what elements do you think have contributed to its enduring appeal? 

Duglas: One of the most important things regarding how BMX Bandits have evolved is the ever changing line up through the years. When we started everyone except me was in their teens.So there was a certain amount of natural naivety and arrogance of youth that resulted in a fearlessness. From early on we have had regular line up changes. Sean and Jim both left in 1986 to concentrate on The Soup Dragons, then around 1990 Norman left to concentrate on Teenage Fanclub and so on. These are the sort of thing that could destroy Ja group but we have turned it into a strength. Changes in the line up keep things fresh and in particular the changes in main collaborators has brought new colours to what we do.

BM: “Dreamers On The Run” has been described as your most ambitious album yet. What were some of the challenges and highlights of bringing this project to life?

One of the big challenges was the ambitious arrangements. I knew had to have the right lead collaborator for the album. Andrew Pattie, BMX Bandits multi instrumentalist Andrew Pattie became the other main writer on the album and he is able to score arrangements for strings and other instruments. On my song The Things We Threw Away I worked with New York based musician Jay Jay Lozano. He has a great knowledge and passion of popular music of the 1930s and 40s. Jay Jay worked closely with me to arrange the woodwind on that track.

The other challenge was initially when I first conceived the project my mental health became so poor I knew that I couldn’t do the material justice at that time.

BM: Can you share a favourite moment or memory from the recording process of the album? Any funny anecdotes or behind-the-scenes stories you’d like to share with us?

Duglas: So many magical memories but they tend to be us sharing excitement at how something sounds. When we got back the recordings of the string parts and listened to them in the tracks that was aa wonderful moment. Another favourite moment was hearing the woodwind arrangement for The Things We Threw Away for the first time.

I’m not sure about funny memories, funny things happen but they tend to be transient. At the time we laugh at something funny one of us says or does but the things we remember after a day spent recording is about how something sounded.

BM: The album explores themes of dreams, survival, and the journey through different landscapes. How did these themes influence the songwriting and musical direction of “Dreamers On The Run”?

At the start I explained to Andrew the idea that I had for the album and how certain tracks would fit into that. For the title track I sang Andrew the beginning of the song and then said there should be a chase sequence here. Andrew had let me hear a song idea he had and I suggested that we kept it instrumental and use it as the basis for the chase sequence.

We tried to keep the spirit of the outsiders and dreamers in our hearts during the full process. At the end of side one we have a track called Cockerel’s Waiting that expands on some of the stuff from the opening track. We establish this Western landscape and at certain point have the protagonists of the song suddenly uprooted again and going back in the run. It’s a bit like in the TV show of the Incredible Hulk or The Fugitive where the person hunting our hero down arrives where they are and they need to get out of there quickly. On side two after quite lavish arrangements we go into a darker ex industrial zone for a while. We wanted an album where the tracks work individually but also wanted it to be a satisfying experience as an album.

BM: You’ve collaborated with various musicians and artists over the years – can you tell us about that in relation to the new album, and it’s writing . Is there a dream collaboration you’d love to explore in the future?

Duglas: The main collaborator on this album for me was Andrew but on The Thing You Threw Away the main collaborator was Jay Jay. We have had some great guest collaborations in the past, from Dan Penn, who wrote for Aretha Franklin, to Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and when you work with these type of people you always learn something that you can bring to future recordings.

There’s a lot of people I would be happy to collaborate with in the future but right now I am most excited about working with the people that are currently in the band.

BM: Looking back on your career with BMX Bandits, what advice would you give to aspiring musicians starting out in the industry?

Duglas: Keep your ego in check, don’t let it get out of control. Be considerate and kind to other people whether they are fans, superstars or the cleaner in a venue.

BM: What’s next for BMX Bandits? Any upcoming projects or exciting plans on the horizon that fans can look forward to?

Duglas: Next year is our 40th anniversary and we have some plans that we hope we can make happen to celebrate. I don’t want to give anything too much away but it will hopefully involve releasing some music and some live shows.

BM: I saw you recently and the show was genuinely one of my favourite live sets of the year. Do you enjoy touring and playing live? I notice you have a few live shows coming up if you’d like to plug them!

Once I have sung the first line of a live show I usually enjoy it. Before that I get too nervous to enjoy myself. I have been like that from the beginning but now I get even more nervous before shows. I enjoy meeting people after shows.

BM: Lastly, what message or feeling do you hope listeners take away from this album?

It’s alright to be different 

The world needs lots of Duglas T. Stewart’s to be a better place, and it’s a beautiful thing for us at Backseat Mafia to share insights into BMX Bandits’ latest album and their enduring journey in the music industry. “Dreamers On The Run” encapsulates a blend of introspective themes and uplifting melodies, offering listeners a musical escape into the world of dreamers and outsiders. As BMX Bandits continue to evolve and inspire, we can’t wait to find out what their 40th anniversary brings.

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