GREAT news for fans of The Bluebells, the magnificent 80s indie-pop outfit famed for hits such as Young at Heart, Cath and I’m Falling – a new album is on the way.

“We’re working on it at the moment, and it’s great to be writing and recording again,” explains Ken McCluskey.

“We – me, my brother David and Robert [Hodgens] – are writing four songs each. It should be out early next year.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

"It would not have been possible, says Ken, had it not been for patron-funded, not-for-profit record label Last Night from Glasgow.

“They re-released our album Sisters, and that has allowed us to make the new record,” he adds. “We just wouldn’t have been able to afford to do it otherwise.”

Ken is also working on a debut album for Docken Leaf, the music project he formed with old friend Brian Docherty (Scientific Support Dept, The Wayne Devro Set), and which has its first ‘official’ gig this week.

“We have played some small gigs, at garden fetes and whatnot, but this is the first ‘proper’ gig, I suppose you could say,” he says.

“Brian and I were flatmates for about 10 years - he had a wee studio and we did bits and pieces together every now and then.

READ MORE: From Altered Images to Lloyd Cole - the unlikely venue showcasing Scotland's best bands from the 80s and 90s

“During lockdown, we started working on some ideas – it was a bit of an experiment. We were talking about young people and how they are often shoved from pillar to post, doubting themselves and looking for direction, and how the music industry was changing.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

Out of that came Orienteering, a beautiful song – with additional musical contributions from friends John McCusker, Lavinia Blackwall and Marco Rea – accompanied by an intriguing video, which tackles themes of  frustration and loneliness, and the need for more empathy for others less fortunate in times of strife.

The video, shot and directed by photographer Brian Sweeney and Fabio Rebelo Paiva, helped support Tiny Changes, the charity set up by the family of the late Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit.

“We recorded Orienteering remotely, which was a different experience – we’d send MP3s to each other,” smiles Ken. “I think that’s one good thing that came out of lockdown – there was a lot of creativity, people had more time to reflect and record music – and there was much more collaboration between musicians too.”

He adds: “Sales of vinyl went through the roof  – because we had more time to listen to music, to enjoy the experience. Taking a record out of the packaging, placing it on the turntable, reading the sleeve notes – that’s a lovely process, so much better than just pressing a button and putting on Spotify.”

Docken Leaf are supporting Roddy Woomble and Lavinia Blackwall at Frets at the Strathaven Hotel on May 13, part of the venue’s ‘stripped-back’ acoustic series of concerts which has played host to Lloyd Cole, Tim Burgess, Altered Images, James Grant and The Bluebells.

“Frets is a great place to play, it’s been fantastic for us,” says Ken.

“We don’t do acoustic gigs, so it’s nice to get the chance to do something more stripped-back. You can hear the lyrics more, there’s more interaction with the audience – it’s really good. We love a chat.”

The Bluebells have more gigs coming up over the summer months, including Doune the Rabbit Hole in July and the Bothwell Scarecrow Festival in September.

When he is not ‘being a Bluebell’ or working with Docken Leaf, Ken is a lecturer at Glasgow Kelvin College (formerly Stow College), where he teaches students on the HND in Music Business and helps to run the student-led record label Electric Honey, which has worked with a number of famous acts,  including Belle & Sebastian, Snow Patrol and Biffy Clyro.

“Being able to keep putting out records during the last two years has held us together,” says Ken. “It’s a tough time to be a student. Now we’re getting back into the classrooms, it’s much better.

“There’s a real passion for music, amongst those students who are music fans. Once they realise a music career isn’t the X Factor, and we get it out of their heads that reality TV is not real, it’s fine.”

The industry has “changed enormously” since The Bluebells first started out.

“It’s much more competitive now,” says Ken. “Back then, 100 bands sold a million records. Now, a million bands sell 100 records.

“When we were younger, just starting out, we were given time to develop and get experience and make mistakes – now, record companies seem to want the fully developed thing right away. There’s a lot of pressure to get it right.”

He adds: “Technology, and the democracy of it, are good – everyone SHOULD be able to make music, and draw and paint, to be creative - but not everybody is going to make a living out of it. For me, now, music is a hobby. I love it. There’s no pressure.”

Docken Leaf and Lavinia Blackwall are supporting Roddy Woomble at Frets in the Strathaven Hotel on May 13. Visit for details.