The Zutons get set for Glastonbury

Will the Zutons send the Glastonbury crowd crazy with their zombie soul? Sylvia Patterson meets a young band dead set on raising the temperature

Noel Gallagher, Albert from the Strokes, Harry Potter... just three, so far, of the Zutons' famous fans. "That Daniel Radcliffe," blinks frontman Dave McCabe, 23, all enormous pale-blue eyes and dirty, shaggy-blonde hair, "says he wants me to play a wizard in the next Harry Potter. Cos he thinks I'd make a good wizard. Apparently!" You must . If it's good enough for Ian Brown... "Nah," decides Dave, unimpressed, "I'm not doing that. Cos then you just become this 'wizard band', don't you?"

The Zutons are a wizard band already, sonic magicians of bendy-brained possibility. Noel Gallagher, ever the keen-eyed scout, has studied the technical form. They met at a Zutons show. "Noel said," chortles Dave, "'I'm jealous, cos I can't play guitar like that.' A dead nice fella. I think he's always wanted to be scouse, deep down. He just loves music from Liverpool." With a persistent, public leg-up from Noel, the Zutons no longer live in the bong-shaped shadow of their Deltasonic label-mates, the Coral. "The cosmic-scouse thing," notes Dave, "definitely made people overlook us. But they're coming back. Cos we finally wrote some proper songs!"

Debut LP Who Killed The Zutons? (released in April, produced by melody-whizz Ian Broudie) is the rarest sonic brute: a rock'n'roll record which makes you smile, through blistering blues-rock, avant-garde indie and jingle-tune, countrified merseybeat. Dave's voice is astounding, from yowling, Jack White-electric to balmiest country-seductive. Someone, somewhere, plays a tooth-twangin' jew's-harp.

Sitting round a red leather booth in a Liverpool beanerie called Magnet, Dave, drummer Sean Payne and new-recruit saxophonist Abi Harding (Sean's "bird", both 22), talk like an episode of Brookside, in the 1980s, when Barry Grant was king. They're not particularly cosmic. More kitchen-sink Jarvis Cocker. The all-new Zutons have a signature sound, Abi's demented sax-parp, the result, perhaps, of teen-hood through the 1990s. Less Captain Beefheart, more... Lisa Simpson? "I always thought she was boss," laughs Abi, "so maybe subconsciously it went in. I was gonna get a Lisa Simpson zig-zag dress made at one point, with little blue shoes..."

Other than the Simpsons (and Nirvana) the Zutons were 1990s kids obsessed with anything but the 1990s. Dave was a Kraftwerk and Talking Heads obsessive. Today, he's besotted with Neil Young. Musicians through dole life, college and crap-job hell, they formed in 2002 from various local bands "to do stupid jams". Sean and bassist Russ Pritchard once appeared, in a fictional band, on Hollyoaks: "Boss! Cos we got paid." Dave's a "country cousin", from the outlying Knowsley Village, who had "a job putting fish in tins". Like all the best bands, they partly run on vengeance, a two-fingered salute to the local "twats with short back and sides". Sean, with his Billy Crystal curls, was known as "Meatball Head".

"In Knowsley Village," muses Dave, "I'm the lad with the long hair who's a bit of a fruitcake. I've got this big coat, double-breasted, big massive checks, dead Withnail And I, like. The birds all love it and the lads are all, "Ey, Jonathan Ross!'"

The Zutons are pretty people. Boyan Chowdhury, guitar, is an indie-hunk of Fab-from-the-Strokes dimension. Nonetheless, in photos, sleeves and videos, they're in vaudevillian disguise. Visually, they believe in "making the effort, like the Beastie Boys, or Beck, otherwise you're just standing there in shirts like Coldplay".

Inspired by Hitchcock and the Coen brothers, their surrealist capers include enormous moustaches, yellow and green face-paint and B-movie, zombie theatrics, much like winkle-pickin' pompadours the Cramps. "I don't know the Cramps' music," confesses young Dave, "but I like the record covers." Moustaches he loves "cos they make you look sinister, in a dead stupid way".

One video - You Will, You Won't - features suits and white gloves. "That's not zombie," hoots Dave. "The original idea for that was snooker refs. I just love humour in music. Rather than trying to look cool. I'm not a cool fella. Well, it's all right for the rest of the band, I'll just drag everyone else down with me..."

The Zutons bear no resemblance to their forebears; less Paul McCartney, more Paul O'Grady. Unlike the La's, there are no psychotropic drugs in sight, mere broccoli soup all round. They'll remember the good times instead. This year, they've spanned the globe, at whirling flicker-book speed: Japan, Canada, America, Europe. They played a German festival with Morrissey.

"And nobody turned up," laughs Dave, "about 1,000 people. Dunno if Morrissey was pissed off, he was all chauffeured up..." Mere weeks ago they played New York, in the CBGB's "shithole". Down in the audience, Albert Hammond from the Strokes looked on. Afterwards, in the dressing room, he came to visit and a spectacular, cultural, missing-of-minds ensued.

"Nice fella," chirps Dave, "but I'm always a knob. He said, [laconically] 'You wanna get fucked up tonight?' meaning 'D'you wanna go out and have a drink?' And I was, [voice of absolute goon] 'Yeah, we'll get some slags 'n' that. Hurur.' And he just looked at me. He was, "I really like your song.' I said, "I'm trying to bring fat men back into rock'. [Clutches shirt.] I thought, 'That's just not gonna register.' Then he was gone. I said to the band, 'Sorry, I'm crap in these situations, I'm dead nervous.' This is the lad in the Strokes you're talking to, it's just too soon."

Dave McCabe is the most unassuming rock star possibly of all time, to his own considerable detriment. Abi says he's "sensitive". He wrecks his life through honesty. Forthcoming single, Remember Me is a toe-twirlin' beezer and a jibe to his best mate, Wally.

"It's about him meeting a bird and then you don't get to see him," cringes Dave, "it's so obvious. The B-side's worse. It's about me shagging a bird behind me bird's back and feeling dead guilty. And I played it on Radio Merseyside. So she asked me and I crumbled and told her. And had 18 months of pure nightmare getting back together going, 'It's not working, is it?' I tried blagging it. 'It's about killing people and orgies.' And she said, 'Fuck off, dickhead, gerrout.' Rumbled. Last thing I wanted to happen, I'm only just getting over it. All because I played that song..."

Sean: "On Radio Merseyside."

The Zutons think about what makes Liverpool so Liverpool. The answer may lie in death.

"In Liverpool, when someone dies," ponders Sean, "someone's got to make a joke about it or it's like they haven't died properly. My mate died when I was 17 and you're crying your eyes out and me other mate turns round and goes, 'He was a little twat though, wasn't he?'"

Dave: "At my mate's funeral the priest was like, 'He was a lovely lad - if he'd see an old lady with her shopping bags crossing, he would always help her. Whether she wanted him to or not.'"

Sean: "It was two extreme circumstances. His mate had CJD and my mate got murdered."

Dave: "But we're not playing on it. We're not driving round with guns on crack going, 'Me mate got murdered, we don't give a fuck,' like the New York Dolls."

Sean: "But in those situations you find some humour otherwise you'd go mad. Harsh things happen."

Tomorrow, the Zutons' party-hard live spectacular comes to Glastonbury, at 1pm on Sunday afternoon. Harsh things happen all right. "I think," whispers Sean, "someone fucked up there actually..." It's the first time today the trumpet of self-belief blows, at the volume of a kazoo. "I think it'll be good!" bugles Dave, "cos there'll be no other bands and people will be up all night. Hippies don't go, it's all scallywags on cocaine and ecstasy. And if no one turns up you've got an excuse. It's a no-lose situation."

Last year, their mid-afternoon Sunday slot was "chocker". Dave can't wait. He's already worked out his schedule for Saturday night. "Paul McCartney's playing last. So I'm gonna go an' see the Rutles, last on the acoustic cos the Rutles are a lot funnier. I reckon all the scousers'll watch the Rutles. That's what scousers are like."


Sylvia Patterson

The GuardianTramp

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