PAT Kane of the Scottish pop duo tells EDWIN GILSON about singing with his daughter and why he’s tackling political affairs with his music.

WHAT is it to enjoy life?” asks Pat Kane. “I can understand hedonism and escapism with the level of global threat we face today.” Needless to say, the Scottish songwriter has been mulling over some pretty heavy themes recently. Hue and Cry’s new album Pocketful of Stones, the Kane brothers’ first original effort since 2012’s Hot Wire, is saturated with direct and ambiguous references to very modern issues.

The title track alone encompasses the economic market, technology, war and terrorism. Nobody Died, meanwhile is about “coming together to after great divides in a peaceful and respectful way”. Pat adds: “Of course there’s a poignancy to that because of Jo Cox. One can’t literally say nobody died as a consequence to Brexit.”

Over the course of a more than 30 year career, Hue and Cry have dabbled in politics as well as personal themes like relationships and growing older. But Pocketful of Stones does seem to be one of the more socially-conscious records in Hue and Cry’s considerable back catalogue, and this new progression seems linked to the lifespan of the band and its members.

“When you’re 53 years old and you’ve written thousands of songs, that’s [politics] the kind of territory you want to explore,” says Pat. “To respond to the times with a piece of art is one of the great joys in life and I’m not going to stop doing that.” Pocketful of Stones partly derived from Pat and Greg wondering what it would be like to place Frank Sinatra in the modern age. Pat had noticed a fair few male balladeers hitting the mainstream of late – Hozier, Sam Smith to name two – and took encouragement from them. It was already his plan to write a ballad-based pop record, and, channelling the spirit of Sinatra, he and Greg went about their business.

“You’ve got to remember Sinatra was heavily involved with technology,” says Pat. “He used the microphone to generate intimacy with his recording. What we tried to do was mix together technology with all these contemporary topics.” A particularly poignant moment on the record is Let Her Go, a track Pat recorded with vocal support from his youngest daughter Eleanor. He wrote the track about her going off to start an independent new life in London, at stage school.

“It was so lovely,” says Pat of the experience. “When we played the song live together for the first time, we had to give ourselves a stern talking to, to ensure the tears didn’t start to roll on stage. We were very professional.” The proud father adds that Eleanor is an “astounding young singer and will go incredible far”.

It seems that family relations are harmonious in general at the moment. Pat and Greg have been known to fall out badly when writing and recording – once even splitting up in front of a BBC interviewer – but Pat says the dynamic between the two during Pocketful of Stones was “beautiful”.

“Do you have brothers?” he asks. “Well, you’ll know that brothers have to define themselves against each other. Tension is inevitable. But in our case the deaths of parents and births of children knocked some sense into us. We’re two elders of the tribe at the moment and we’re as apt to dispense wisdom as we are to shout and bawl at each other. Things are good.”

In an interview two years ago, Pat said that he didn’t understood those who mocked the 80s nostalgia circuit. But does Pat think of Hue and Cry as a nostalgia act, even though they’ve continued to release music? The answer is no, although he admits there is a certain “deal” that takes place between band and audience.

“The band say ‘we’re still here’, the crowd say ‘we’re still here’, and both sides say ‘let’s keep going why not’? You’re playing songs in front of 25,000 people – what’s there to complain about?”

Hue and Cry
Rye International Jazz and Blues Festival, 
St Mary’s Church, Friday, August 25, 8pm