Meet John McKeown, in the summer of 2005, frankly tired of the whole Glasgow rock scene. After 7 years of trawling the indie toilet circuit with The Yummy Fur that made him sick of the sound of guitars and then another three years failing to make a dent with his subsequent electronic projects The Girls and The Mars Hotel, he'd had it with band life. His ex-Yummy Fur muckers Alex Kopranos and Paul Thompson had struggled on to find huge success with Franz Ferdinand but, fair play to them and all that, that wasn't for John anymore. All he wanted to do was hang out with his drug buddy Michael McGaughrin, ex-drummer for V Twin, whom he'd met some time ago in a tree.
"It was in Glasgow," John recalls, "in Kelvin Grove Park, I met him, staggering about in the middle of the night after a club. I walked past this tree and there were a couple of people milling about and there was all this blue tape on the higher branches. I went to Michael, 'are you a Celtic fan?' and I went 'I am a fuckin' Celtic fan' and he went 'me too, let's get that fuckin' blue shit from the tree'. So we climbed up the tree and took all the blue tape off it and Michael had a can of lager and we sat and chatted about what we were into, up a tree."
The pair became firm branch-mates and hit the Glasgow house party scene "take a lot of drugs and get really really really drunk and party all night long". As they caroused and careered through the city's whirl, however, they sang songs to each other, "these mad little 70s New York rock songs with really ridiculous lyrics that we found really funny. We'd always wish there were songs called these things, so we'd run around the party going "I'm just enjoying myself/Maybe you can enjoy me too!". They were just a laugh though, these songs, the last thing they wanted was to ever record them.
Then one night they got so drunk they left the party and went back to Michael's flat and recorded "Enjoy Myself", for a laugh - the last thing they wanted was for anyone to hear it, let alone record any more.
Then, through one of John's ex-girlfriends, the pair found themselves part of legendary Can impressario Damo Suzuki's backing band for a series of improvised gigs in early 2005 alongside bassist Jamie McMorrow, and dammit if they didn't come up with a couple more tunes out of the improvised soup.
"We got really heartily sick of playing with Damo," John explains. "He's a lovely lovely guy and I really love Can but it got a bit repetitious, he'd sing the same melodies every time. I was more interested in the music we were making. We finished the last Damo show with the riff that turned into 'You Made Me Like It'. We did it for twenty minutes with Damo, this big giant rocking jam thing. I really liked the music but sans Damo. We all got together after that."
Suddenly, the trio found themselves with about five or six songs - a couple of the Damo improvised pieces, a few of the semi-CBGBs numbers and the wiry, fiery, Violent Femme-y pop brilliance of "You Made Me Like It". The last thing they wanted was to play them to anyone of course, but since the three of them lived in the same street it seemed a laugh for John to pop round Michael's flat every day, set up the drums and amps and bash them down onto four-track.
"They sounded good instantly," John says. "It's a fantasy band. It's not a parody, it's not the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band or anything like that, it's not an homage, it's not a tribute, it was done in the spirit of those things. Y'know 'Flies On Sherbert' by Alex Chilton, it's very influenced by that. We'd imagine what it'd be like if it was one of those cool bands that'd written these songs and we was one of those bands. It's in our blood to write and play songs like that but it wasn't really meant for anybody to hear. I didn't want to do any more bands."
Then the worst thing imaginable happened.
"Someone talked us into doing a gig," John says, sternly. "I was dead against it."
Worse still, at Glasgow's now defunct Stereo venue last August, they went down like the proverbial tongue restraints at An Audience With Nikki From Big Brother. "People really liked it, simple as that," John shrugs. "I didn't want to sing it. When we got asked to do the gig I went 'but I don't want to be the singer in a band, I like playing guitar'. But then I said I'd do it as long as Michael does it as well, and equally. And we played and it was packed full, we had a huge reaction. It was one of those nights where someone goes 'hey, do you wanna play this gig as well?' and you're in such a good mood you agree to it. Then I thought 'oh shit, hang on, now we're on gig two!'.
But that one was even better n it was sold out, people couldn't get in and it was kicking off inside. But it was still definitely for entertainment, not to get signed or anything. I was forced at gunpoint to do another four or five gigs."
Before John could say "will everyone PLEASE stop making me a pop star against my will', the 1990s were a proper band with a proper manager supporting their old mates Franz Ferdinand around Scotland's enormodromes on only their seventh gig. Then, come December last year, things got even worse n Geoff Travis of Rough Trade records had gotten hold of a demo and came to see them play a Franz aftershow at London's Canvas threatening to sign them if they made him dance. Word has it he spent the gig looking as though he was auditioning for Fame: The Musical.
At which point, now signed to the coolest label on Earth, John simply had to give in to fate. He was going to be a humungous international rock god and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Still, he remains philosophical about his troubles. "I have to get up and play music in the morning and I have to get drunk while doing it," he smirks. "Terrible, isn't it?"
Now resigned to rock success, John and 1990s spent 2006 touring with a host of indie luminaries (The Strokes, Babyshambles, Belle & Sebastian) and breaking acts (The Pipettes, Long Blondes, CSS, Klaxons) and recording, first with Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake (first single "You Made Me Like It", in March) and then Bernard Butler, with whom they concocted a "fucking rocking sound" and emerged with an album of timely and timeless razor-edged pop-rock with a Stooges swagger in its hips and a Stones party grin all over its chops.
"That's what it's about," says John. "We've got absolutely zero interest in writing Complaint Rock. We enjoy each other's company and when we make music it makes us really happy. All the songs are sung from the perspective of the band itself, so there's not too much of 'my girlfriend did this last night'."
So between the odd observational urban country sloper (noteably 'Arcade Precinct', about "teenage types in shopping centres going shoplifting and having a laugh. It's very frivolous. It makes them sound like Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid") the 1990s album staggers drunk around NYC's East Village or London's East-End in its coolest leather jacket with its arms around its mates, howling at the moon on tracks like "You're Supposed To Be My Friend" (about being let down by your mates), "You Made Me Like It" (about being turned on to records by your mates) and "Jingle Bells" (about, um, not being told you're going out with a witch by your mates). In the meantime, the band spent a week in Sao Paulo in Brazil in July as part of a beer company's promotion, recording with 62-year-old genius percussionist Nereu (or Mr Wonderful as he prefers to call himself) and Lovefoxxx from CSS. So life isn't too awful being in this year's most talked-about indie supergroup after all then?
"I dunno," says John, "V Twin and The Yummy Fur, it's not exactly Cream, is it? If anybody's heard of those two bands then, sure, indie supergroup. But I love it, it's great fun. I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to the band or for it to fail, but we succeeded from the start. We've been allowed to make a record and it sounds exactly like the record we wanted to make. I'd love to go off and sun myself by the pool in Malibu but I'd be quite happy making a really good 1990s LP. We're not all mad careerists or anything. We're not jumping through hoops of fire to get famous."
If anything, the hoops of fire are throwing themselves over him. This way to the Big Time then, 1990s. Fate apologizes for the inconvenience.