Trashcan Sinatras Talk About Their New Acoustic Tour, Band Names & Give Advice to Bands For Staying Together

A conversation with Paul Livingston.

Photo: Courtesy of Grandstand Media

Formed back in Irvine, Scotland in 1987, Trashcan Sinatras have been a band for 30 years and have a cult-like following. Comprised of Frank Reader, Paul Livingston, and John Douglas, they started as a cover band before scoring their first record deal and becoming a worldwide sensation with their debut 1990 album, Cake. Since then, the band has landed Billboard charts and toured internationally including North America and Japan. Over the years, the band has also experienced the lows of the industry including bad record deals and bankruptcy. But despite everything, Trashcan Sinatras have still remained together and released their sixth album, Wild Pendelum, in 2016. You can check it out on Spotify:

The trio has recently announced an All Night Acoustic Tour across the US (dates at the bottom). We had the chance to talk with Paul Livingston (lead guitar) who gave us insight into their acoustic tour, music career, and advice for bands to stay together:

Why did you guys choose an acoustic tour instead of a normal one?

We’re at a bit of a crossroads in the band. And picking out the whole extra members, and doing the whole big band tour…we did a few last year and this time we just wanted it to be as stress-free as possible. After we made three albums and we had to think [about the future of the band]. That’s what happened before. And so now that we’ve made six albums, we needed to think about things again. And so this seemed like a good way to round things off nicely. It’s also been 30 years since we’ve been a band. Wait, yes, 30 years.

30 years?

Yeah, 30 years. And we just thought we’d go out and have a nice relaxing tour. No big long soundchecks, no stress. We just show up, play our guitars. And that was the plan but then of course we decided without really thinking it through, that we would play every one of our songs that was ever recorded. And so we got rid of the stress in one area and added it in another way.

Now we’re all frantically trying to relearn these B-sides and stuff and extra tracks that we never, ever played. Some of them we’ve never played live. Some we’ve only played once when we recorded it.

So we’re learning these songs, it’s about 105 or something like that.

Oh wow! That’s incredible…

So we’re gonna play every song on this tour.

Speaking of that, we heard you’ve been doing some covers as well. What song are you mostly looking forward to cover?

We recorded some covers in our past so they’re included in every song we’ve recorded. We’ve done “To Sir With Love” by Lulu. “White Horses” by…I don’t know who did that. We are thinking of learning some new covers. Frank suggested “The Day Before You Came” by ABBA.

That’s a good one. And apparently, I think that was ABBA’s last single and it wasn’t a huge hit. So Benny said in an interview that they loved that song and they felt that’s the way ABBA should be going. And when it wasn’t a huge hit, they were like, “Okay, let’s just wrap this up.” So if it had been a hit, they would have stayed together.

Speaking of tours, I know you guys toured Japan before. Do you have any upcoming Japan tours?

No, not yet, unless we take this acoustic thing to Japan. We’ve done that before where we went with a full band and then we went back and played acoustically. So we might to that, because Japan is great to play. It’s a great place.

What is your favorite place in Japan?

Well we always play the same gigs, it’s always at Club Quattro pretty much, it’s always them. And I mean Tokyo is just a trip. We’ve been there a lot and every time we go there, we get treated really well and have such fun there. Everything’s taken care of, nothing is broken, you know…it’s very professional.

Are there any particular restaurants that you look particularly forward to when you go there?

No, I don’t think so. We just sort of make it up. Sometimes we try and get to the Cavern Club, there’s a place called the Cavern Club and they have non-stop Beatles bands playing. And so that’s always good fun to see.

Let’s talk about your last album. So you guys pre-sold your last album through PledgeMusic. Do you plan on releasing your future albums and EPs through Pledge as well?

Maybe. I mean, we released it through a record company, but we sort of pre-sold it on Pledge, and we’ve done a couple albums like that now where we basically pre-sold it and then used the money to make it. And that seems to be the norm these days. It’s sort of growing that side of things.

When we first did it, it wasn’t such a huge thing, and now it’s a good way of doing it but there’s a little bit of pressure where when we were on a record company and they were paying for things, if we recorded and we didn’t like it we could do it again.

And with Pledge and pre-selling things, basically, whatever you record is getting released. So there’s a little bit of pressure that way but we’ve been lucky where we haven’t had to record an album and realize that we’re not liking it very much. So it’s good so far, and I’m sure we’ll do that again in the future.

Okay. Let’s talk about band names for a second. If you can go back in time, would you consider choosing a different name?

I don’t think so. You know, with band names, that name, those words, just come to mean the sound that that band makes and you can’t really make it something else. I don’t know what we would have called ourselves, but no, I like our name. I like it a lot actually.

Have you ever thought of other alternative band names?

Not really. We played a couple of gigs under the name Bin Crosby’s. But that was just sort of out of fun.

If you could go back in time to the 90’s, when you just finished recording Cake, your first album, what advice would you give to your former self?

I would probably say don’t be so precious. Do everything that you’re asked to do.

You know when we first started there was still a thing where you could be accused of selling out, and that was a bad thing in those days. You had to sort of watch what you were doing, you didn’t want to over sell it and be a business and things like that. You know, you’re supposed to be an artist, but something happened, maybe it was rap music or Oasis, but something happened where selling out became just the norm. Everyone does everything, everybody sells out.

It used to not be like that. I think it must have been a hangover from punk. You know, on indie labels where you had to be careful what you expected and what kind of things you did. So I would probably tell myself, “Just ignore all that,” and I’d tell myself to sell out as soon as possible. (laughs)

So, you guys have been a band for three decades. What made you guys stick together all these years? What do you think kept you guys together?

We’re very close friends and we’ve always been in this for the right reasons. We always knew we’d be in this for the long haul. We respect each other and this is our artistic outlet and we respect that. We’ve never been in any rush to make records or do anything quickly. We’ve just always been trying to get it right.

And so, six albums over 30 years is not a lot. Especially when there’s three song writers in the band. So, we just always knew that. I mean, time files. I don’t know where the time goes. It doesn’t really feel like 30 years. It feels more like six albums. It doesn’t seem that long. Time flies.

What kind of advice do you have for bands that are starting out, to stay together?

Oh jeeze, that’s tough. I don’t know what it’s like these days. I think it’s harder these days. There’s a lot more music, a lot more bands. I don’t really know how anyone does it; you just need to be doing it. Don’t do it for the money. You need to be doing it just for the artistic reasons, to make beautiful sounds. That’s pretty much it.

So, this is my final question. What can we expect from the Trashcan Sinatras in 2018?

Possibly another album. I’m just telling everyone that we’re making an album really quickly, because if I’m wrong it doesn’t really matter, does it?

So part of why we’re doing this acoustic tour with just the three of us is, we’re gonna be discussing our future as a band … what that might look like. So we will find out on this tour.

But we have been writing. We’ve been writing lots of songs and we might play some on this tour. So, there’s a fair chance that we’ll make another album next year.

And that was our interview with Paul, who was having coffee at 6pm while answering our questions – caffeine diem.

Tickets for Trashcan Sinatras’ acoustic tour are available here.

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All Night Acoustic Tour dates:

9/27 – Jammin Java (Vienna, VA, USA)

9/28 – The Saint (Asbury Park, NJ, USA)

9/30 – Seckler Stage (Highland Lakes, NJ, USA)

10/1 – Joe’s Pub (New York, NY, USA)

10/3 – Once Ballroom (Somerville, MA, USA)

10/4 – Cafe Nine (New Haven, CT, USA)

10/6 – Winchester Music Tavern (Cleveland, OH, USA)

10/8 – Magic Bag (Ferndale, MI, USA)

10/9 – Lincoln Hall (Chicago, IL, USA)

10/11 – Shank Hall (Milwaukee, WI, USA)

10/12 – Amsterdam Bar & Hall (St Paul, MN, USA)

10/14 – Gospel Lounge (Kansas City, MO, USA)

10/16 – Globe Hall (Denver, CO, USA)

10/17 – Metro (Salt Lake City, UT, USA)

10/19 – Fremont Abbey (Seattle, WA, USA)

10/20 – Dante’s (Portland, OR, USA)

10/23 – The Chapel (San Francisco, CA, USA)

10/24 – Largo (Los Angeles, CA, USA)

10/29 – 3Ten (Austin, TX, USA)

10/31 – Blue Bar (Nashville, TN, USA)

11/1 – Smith’s Olde Bar (Atlanta, GA, USA)

11/2 – Evening Muse (Charlotte, NC, USA)