When the crowd-funding campaign for veteran punks Stiff Little Fingers’ first album in more than a decade hit its target in half a day, no-one was more surprised than the band.
The well-received resulting album, No Looking Back, was released in 2014 and has seen them touring the globe ever since.
As long as people want to come see us, and we’re still having fun, I don’t see any reason to stopJake Burns, Stiff Little Fingers frontman
As frontman Jake Burns told WOW247 from his home in Chicago: ‘We’re old lags at this, so our first thought was let’s do what we normally do – we’ve got the material, let’s go back to EMI, cap in hand and say: “Remember us?”
‘They were very nice, but they said: “We could, but what’s the point?” And that threw us back on our heels.
‘The point they were making is the reason everyone wants a record deal is to get in the shops, but there aren’t any any more – they’re few and far between.’
After mulling it over with their management, the band decided to give crowdfunding a shot.
‘They sold us on the idea, but they then said, while you can go from record company to record company, if you go to your audience and they say no, well, you’re kind of screwed because there’s nowhere else to go.
‘We did the Pledgemusic thing, we decided to let it run for three months to give it a good chance, but it reached its target in less than 12 hours which completely astonished us.’
Although Jake says it was ‘hugely flattering’, it also came ‘with a burden of responsibility. Instead of going into the studio and thinking let’s make a record, what are we going to do? You’re thinking, they’ve already bought this – damn, we’d better not screw this up.’
And they enjoyed the connection it gave them to their fans.
‘It felt like, without wanting to be corny and quoting David Cameron for God’s sake, that we’re all in this together. It felt more like the old punk days than anything we’ve felt since.
‘There was a great sense of community, which the band has always strived to have.’
While they may have strayed geographically from their Belfast roots with three of band now living in the US, they haven’t left the passion that fuelled such classics as Suspect Device and Alternative Ulster.
‘Yes, sadly there’s still things to get angry about,’ says Jake. ‘Probably more things. It’s only after having lived here for 11 years that I feel comfortable about commentating on what’s happening here. There’s so much of that basic human injustice.
‘There’s a big homeless problem, and a race problem, and you’ve got a jackass like Donald Trump standing on his hind legs and becoming one of the most popular politicians by spouting xenophobic rubbish.’
And it’s that fire in their bellies that will keep them going for some time yet.
But perversely, it’s the success of No Going Back that has delayed any follow-up.
‘We started touring right after we finished recording the album. We’ve done everywhere you can think of pretty much, and it shows no signs of slowing down, which is why we haven’t started working on the follow-up, which realistically, given how well it’s done, we really should have.
‘I haven’t had the chance to sit down with a guitar and write some more songs – it’s been nonstop packing and laundry,’ he chuckles.
‘It really is one of those things where people say: “Do you think you’ll ever retire?”
‘I don’t think I’ll be able to, and people don’t seem to want us to. At the moment we’re all still having fun, and touch wood, my knees are still holding out.
‘As long as people want to come see us, and we’re still having fun, I don’t see any reason to stop.’
The Pyramids, Southsea
Friday, February 26