Reviews, Music

22nd May 2024

James’ ‘Is This Love’ Single & Interview with Saul Davies | Review

With their recent single ‘Is This Love’ taking the airwaves by storm, legendary British band James is back and brimming with creativity. I had the chance to chat with Saul Davies, the band’s multi-instrumentalist, to delve into the inspiration behind ‘Is This Love’, the creative process for their upcoming album ‘Yummy’, and what it’s like for James to keep things fresh after four decades in the music industry.

Image Credit: Paul Dixon


James, the ever-present force in British Indie music, returns with a powerful new single, “Is This Love.” The track serves as the opening salvo for their 18th studio album, ‘Yummy,’ and finds the band firing on all cylinders.

‘Is This Love’ is a quintessential James anthem. Tim Booth’s vocals soar over a lush soundscape that blends classic James elements with modern flourishes. Pulsing synths and bubbling beats provide a foundation, while layers of guitars and euphoric brass create a sense of grandeur.

Booth effortlessly navigates the song’s dynamic shifts and his characteristic baritone is tender and powerful. The lyrics delve into the complexities of love, a theme James has consistently explored throughout their career. The title question, “Is This Love,” serves as a potent refrain, echoing the uncertainty and intensity that often define romantic relationships. Booth doesn’t shy away from the raw emotions involved. Lines like “Love is a bomb, a tsunami that rolls over our life as we cling to the wreckage of our peace of mind” paint a vivid picture of love’s intoxicating power and potential devastation. He further questions societal influences on love with lines like “Is this love shaped by a screen / Films that you’ve seen…” hinting at the pressure of unrealistic portrayals.

Lyrically, Booth doesn’t shy away from the complexities of love. The title question becomes a potent refrain, echoing the uncertainty and intensity that often define romantic relationships. Lines like “Love is a bomb, a tsunami that rolls over our life” capture the exhilarating rush and potential devastation of falling headfirst. This introspective approach is a hallmark of James’ songwriting, and ‘Is This Love’ continues their tradition of exploring love’s beauty and darkness with equal weight.


If you could, talk me through the band’s ideas behind the ‘Yummy’ album.

This is our eighteenth album, which is a bit mad and I can’t quite believe it. Whenever we make a record we try to make it a little bit different. There are always twists and new sounds that we try to use. We don’t ever try to make a record that might sound like the last one or conform to what we have done before which is more easily said than done. The four of us get into a room and jam around and chop those bits up and make demos which is our process.

How would you describe the Yummy album and the song content?

This record is uplifting and joyous. There is a great track on there called ‘Life’s a F*cking Miracle’ which I like very much. One of the things that is the most difficult for a band who have been going for around 40 years is to make new music that your fans will appreciate. I think that this is one of the things that sets us apart from other bands, it is very easy to fall into the trap of playing our twenty massive songs that a lot of the world knows. I think it is tempting for a lot of bands to play one of the bigger as it is like eating sugar and makes you feel great momentarily. For us, it’s more about creating new music.

Where did you, as a band, draw inspiration for ‘Is This Love’ from?

Well, you can read it as a relationship between two lovers perhaps, and I think it’s about a breakdown in communication between people. I think we can read into that with all sorts of cultural things, which I think is a message that the band would put out there – that we’re in a bit of trouble. Our lyric “Is this love that you weaponise?” – we seem pretty good at weaponising everything at our disposal one way or another. I think that there is a deeper message to it. I don’t think that you can get to the kind of age that we are and think about the world without having some of these thoughts come through. What looks like a simple love song, isn’t in that sense. I think it’s important for musicians, where we sit culturally, to use our voices to spread awareness. I think you open yourself to getting shut down, ‘Our World’ deals with some issues around sustainability and the system in place and that’s not very sexy but actually, the world is a bit f*cked isn’t it so here’s our take on it. I admit, it doesn’t offer any solutions but who has the solutions, realistically? I don’t think anybody does. So, it’s deeply political in a way and deeply personal.

With over 34 thousand views in two weeks on YouTube, what message do you and the band want your fans to take away from ‘Our World’?

In that song, it’s quite obvious. There isn’t anything particularly hidden about it. The song’s been picked up by Radio 2 and people will hear it on their way home from work. It has the potential to reach a reasonably wide audience and I think some people will hate the obviousness of it but some will appreciate that somebody has a take on it. Everybody can decide where they sit within that. As musicians, you need to be very careful but saying stuff is better than not saying stuff.

Music can be a powerful tool for social change. Does James see themselves as having a role to play in activism or social commentary? If so, how?

I’m not sure that we do collectively, but I do. I did an event last month raising awareness for the Trussell Trust who organise the food banks. We did that show with bands like The Farm. During COVID, we raised a million pounds for food banks with an online event. Anybody who is compelled to do it should do it. Within our creative community, anyone who wants to support people absolutely should. It’s about showing solidarity to people. We have some deep-rooted problems and anyone who wants to speak out should.

Is there a particular lyric from a song that speaks to you the most?

There’s a line that Tim wrote on the song called Five-O, which is on an album from 1983 called Laid. I love that album and so do many James fans. There’s a line on there that says ‘I can be the man I see in your eyes’ and that’s just one of the most beautiful lines I have ever heard. The idea is that you see your reflection in somebody else’s eyes and think if you can be that person. That always struck me. I’ve taken that line throughout my life.

You’re known for your skills on the violin, guitar and percussion. How did you develop such a well-rounded musical ability?

Who said I was able! No, I started playing the violin when I was about eight years old and that was a time where instruments were given free to kids. My whole year, at school, was offered the opportunity to play. This was on the premise of doing one hour less a week of maths, which I hated. I started getting into that and then moved to Hull at sixteen and joined the youth orchestra.

How do you decide which instrument best suits a song when you’re creating or performing with James?

A lot of the writing we do together, I use the guitar as the tool to produce cords. The guitar is a very sophisticated instrument, there is a huge amount of sound that can be created out of the guitar. It’s more difficult with a violin. There is a song on this album called ‘Shadow of a Giant’ where I decided to play something very lyrical and poetic on the violin which I haven’t done in many years. There is also something about hitting drums, I love percussion instruments as it makes you move. I encourage anyone with the opportunity to learn an instrument to do so, it’s a remarkable thing to do.

Does your approach to songwriting differ depending on the instrument that you have in mind?

Yes, I think it does. Often, when we jam together, we’re there for around 40 minutes to an hour. Sometimes, I’ll swap instruments through the session and there might be certain lines that I’d like to try on another instrument. Out of all the mayhem and noise, we create something quite coherent and then the words come in.

‘Sit Down’ remains one of James’ most iconic songs. Can you share the story behind its creation and how it’s impacted the band’s legacy?

The creation, I missed by two weeks, as I joined the band later. We recognise that it’s done so much for us and in my opinion, it’s one of the greatest songs ever written about mental health. When you look at the lyrics written down, it is an amazing song that resonates with many people. During the pandemic and after, people appreciated the song even more. It is a huge song of togetherness. After the pandemic, we tend to play it more because we feel like we need to give that to people.

The band has had periods of hiatus and reunions. What keeps James coming back together to create music?

Just that! We want to keep making music. It is a need that we have within us to want to do it. Footballers want to be footballers – they don’t want to be stuck on the bench, they want to play and it’s just the same with us – we want to play! It’s all about the fans, it’s not cheap to go to a gig anymore. We will play for longer to make the show value for money.

Looking back at the band’s extensive discography, is there a particular album and/or song that you’re most proud of and why?

There’s a song called ‘All Good Boys’ that’s a really special tune. It is about how we pass things on to generations and it’s an anti-war song. It has an amazing rhythm track, very simple and just grooves along. It seems about fathers passing things onto sons but that’s the message.

What is your favourite song to perform on tour and why?

I think we often play ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ and we usually play it towards the end. The lid just comes off of the place! It is a very high-voltage moment and it has a huge communal vibe to it because everybody messes up so why not celebrate it. It is a huge shared moment.

Could you name your favourite live performance from over the years?

We did a show in Greece with our orchestra and that was really something, just to play in such a place was iconic. We have done some very special shows. We did one in Guadalaraja, last week, with 3,000 people as a warm-up show to a festival and we were testing out some of our newer songs. It was amazing, it will go down in history as one of our best. It was very unexpected, a little shed on a quiet night.

James has toured all over but is there a dream location you haven’t played yet that you would love to bring the band to?

A lot of the places I would love to play at, you can’t touch. I’d love to play at Stonehenge but you can’t touch it so that’s not going to happen. I have a friend who puts on gigs at the Egyptian Pyramids, I’d love to do that but it’s probably not going to happen. Our country is full of beautiful places to play at, though. There are lots more for us to do! We’d love to do another 42 years but we’ll probably get another 10.

With such a long career, there must be some excellent stories from touring. Can you share a funny story or unexpected anecdote from your time on the road with James?

There was a time when Michael Stipe, the singer from R.E.M, used to follow us around a little bit across America in the early nineties on tour. This was before they were one of the biggest bands in the world. There was a knock at my hotel door and he thought it was Tim’s room. He said that Tim was going to give him a massage and I said, ‘F*ck Tim, I tell you what, I’ll give you a massage’ and I did. That was insane.

Tour Dates 2024


Mon 03 ABERDEEN P&J Live

Wed 05 NEWCASTLE Utilita Arena

Fri 07 GLASGOW OVO Hydro

Sat 08 LEEDS First Direct Arena

Tue 11 CARDIFF Utilita Arena

Wed 12 BIRMINGHAM Utilita Arena

Fri 14 MANCHESTER Co-op Live

Sat 15 LONDON O2 Arena

To hear the full ‘Yummy’ album, click here.

Featured Image Credit: James