Roddy Woomble has had a topsy-turvy 12-year career fronting Edinburgh pop-punk iconoclasts Idlewild. The scrappy singer rarely sits still: After recording the bare-knuckled new Idlewild album Make Another World (Sanctuary), Woomble oversaw Ballads Of The Book (a Chemikal Underground Records compendium pairing acclaimed Scottish authors with their peers from the country’s indie-music scene), then threw in a solo set on the side (the upcoming My Secret Is My Silence).
Idlewild’s moniker was in place before its members even had their first rehearsal in 1995.
“It comes from Anne Of Green Gables. The more I talk about it, the more romantic and pathetic it sounds: ‘We’re all lost orphans’ or whatever. But there is a part of me that’s very twee, and I can’t deny that. I do like tweed jackets, cups of tea.”
Woomble’s childhood was made difficult by a kids’ TV show called The Wombles, which featured a family of giant animated rats.
“In the late ’70s and early ’80s, The Wombles were big news; unfortunately, I had only one extra vowel. But I don’t feel humiliated now. I feel comfortable enough with myself that no television character is gonna bother me.”
Woomble has an enduring fascination with Dylan and the ’60s, so he moved to New York city’s East Village for most of 2004.
“But I was not at that impressionable age. I wasn’t 21, moving to New York to make it. I was going to venues, bars, coffeehouses and galleries.”
Last year, Woomble recorded the acoustic My Secret Is My Silence with folk legends John McCusker and Karine Polwart.
“We’re of a generation now where we’re not defined by our musical tastes. You can listen to Funkadelic, Black Flag or some traditional folk fiddler. I think most folk musicians are very similar.”
Woomble never writes alone.
“I don’t play any instruments, so I can’t write songs unless I’m writing with someone. Generally, I write with somebody who plays guitar; they come up with the chords, and I sing the melodies and come up with the words.”
Idlewild doesn’t print its lyrics on its album sleeves.
“What I write down and sing makes sense to me, but the interpretation is purely open to the individual. The lyrics shouldn’t be read; they should be heard within the context of a song.”
All of Idlewild’s material is decidedly date-stamped.
“The year it comes out is really important to what our record sounds like. If Make Another World has a general theme, it’s about modern life and modern language, and living in a city: being surrounded by hundreds of other people and making your own world amongst that.”
There were rumors of an Idlewild break-up in 2005 after the band’s contract with Parlophone expired.
“We didn’t really sit around the table and talk about it, but we’d left our record label and felt a sentiment of freedom. We could do what we wanted. The band belonged to us again.”
Make Another World revisits Idlewild’s punk roots.
“If something felt good, we kept it and moved on. That’s why these songs have an immediacy that maybe our last couple of records didn’t.”
Idlewild’s philosophy: Don’t over-think anything.
“Being in a band is an amalgamation of so many different forms of art: the covers and the videos, the way you present yourself, the things you talk about in your lyrics, the way things sound, the way they’re produced. It’s as complicated as you want it or as simple as you want it. It really depends on your approach.”