This Silent Forest: Indivision (review)

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I’ve been aware of ‘This Silent Forest’ for longer than I can remember. With each new release of their contemporaries’ albums I recall wondering if they will ever release theirs. Unlike almost every band I’ve been keeping tracking of, I’ve only heard snippets: an acoustic song here or there, a clip at the side of the road and one song (Milk) I do have in the music folder. From the first exposure I was expecting something special, something akin to the beauty of The State Broadcasters or pace of The French Wives. 

To say I was caught by surprise as to what the debut ‘Indivision’ finally delivered would be an understatement. I’m listening now for the second time with my preconceptions put aside. The title track ‘We Are We Were’ uses the first 2 minutes of an 8 minute song to good effect setting the tone of what promises to be a serious and heartfelt offering. Quickbeam without strings comes to mind just as the last 2 minutes switch to a, by now very familiar, post rock squall.

The aptly named next track ‘Give me answer’ makes it readily apparent that this is shaping up to be  a guitar driven album with just enough restraint and an acute awareness of space to make an unique imprint.

I find it amusing that as much as I’m enjoying the third track ‘Drowning Man’ (and for all the right reasons) I winced with the lyric of a “Blackened Sky”. Isn’t that sacrosanct Clyro territory now? The actual point being that the band seems to have purposefully ventured straight into an area already claimed by countless other bands. What I’m most impressed with is how effortless and unself-conscious it seems. There is no contrivance or gimmick to set themselves apart; just satisfying layered hook laden melodic rock.

I’ve been reading Galloway’s story of Fife and I was intrigued how the ‘Scottish voice’ was very much not in vogue until recently.  Hopefully this isn’t something that will revert back.  It is especially prominent with the track ‘Get in Line’ where the vocals are bumped in the mix and buoyed with a bit of chanting and strings. Again, I’m struck by how internally varied each song is and how cohesive the resulting mix is. The lengthy songs are interesting and engaging with just enough rousing bits thrown in to make even an old codger smile.

The 7th song ‘Root to Seed’, not unexpectedly, slows things down (for most of the song at least). I do have to confess for the first time that this is where my mind began to drift and the quiet to loud – which I increasingly and less affectionately call the Sigur Ros ending – reinforces my feeling that this is one that could have benefited from something a little more skewed or unexpected.

Those churlish thoughts are quickly dispelled with the next song where the acoustic guitar that I was expecting all along starts off ‘Model Couple’ very quickly reverting to the, by now, signature fullness of sound.

I have to admit that I didn’t listen to the closing track ‘Winter’ on the first listen. I’ve developed these ridiculously high expectations of what the song in that position should do. So far so good  – it is not a mirror of anything that had come before. I was just about to type ‘plodding’ but the last two minutes have turned things around and my faith is restored. What I wouldn’t give to have been able to have helmed the recording (in an advisory capacity mind you) of that one.

 All in all – I’m unexpectedly surprised how good it was despite not at all being what I was expecting. It impressed me for what it was; winning me over as it were. And when I think about it – that really is the sign, for the overwhelming majority of it, of an exceptionally well crafted and executed album.

More Birthday Suit than Idlewild, but still uniquely its own, This Silent Forest has delivered a very noteworthy debut album.

This Silent Forest (bandcamp)

This Silent Forest (physical CD)

A Band Called Quinn: Biding Time (remix)

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My first introduction to ABCQ was streaming the Glimmer Song’ on the Scotsman’s ‘Under the Radar’. Watching the video now, even though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, it is clear that the central themes of ‘Biding Time’ appear to take centre stage here as well. Could you elaborate and has this ‘theme’ permeated your music to a significant degree?

“I think when you’re making music, film or performing, your experience inevitably influences whatever you make. A lot of my experiences have involved performance & what goes on behind the curtain as it were!”

Your currently gearing up for another set of performances for ‘Biding Time – remix’. The ‘trailer’ for the first performance has been a favourite of mine for quite some time with its song snippet firmly stuck in my head. I’m very pleased to finally get the soundtrack and hear “You Know the Right People” in full. Who are the ‘right’ people in your life right now?

“Well the people that really matter are family & friends who are close & have supported me throughout the years.

In terms of what I do creatively; the right people are the people who appreciate it & who get something out of it.”

Prior to my ‘discovery’, I had been a big fan of Catatonia and Melys. With a little geographical bump there was a transference of musical affection for ABCQ. In trying to uncover early Quinn performances and discover what you were really like, I happened to watched a lot of the videos of those other bands and was struck by how the lead singers seemed apart, even  aloof, from the rest of the band. I now see your more central role akin to that of Carol Van Djik of Bettie Serveert who fronted an exceptional band in the 90’s that had to deal with big label expectations that ran counter to the band’s actual desires. As exceptions tend to prove the rule, what do you attribute to the general lack of strong female band members or leaders?

“I’m not sure what’s going on. I was judging a Battle Of The Bands the other week & there were no female band members in any of the bands – not one single female on stage. I do a lot of songwriting in schools & in the community & a lot of the young girls want to be like Adele. Some of the really young ones however want to be like Kiss & The Rolling Stones! Maybe this is before gender stereotyping kicks in. The charts are full of female solo artists but not female fronted or female bands. It might just be unfashionable right now & maybe there will be a raft of female fronted bands in the future. I hope so.”

 Soundtracks penned by single artists tend to be more compelling than a compilation of songs as they invariably sound more cohesive and resemble a concept album. Was there a process for matching the music to the dramatic needs of the production?

“The show is a response to Pippa Bailey’s play Biding Time which is about her experience of being an aspiring actress. Pippa wrote the original 25 years ago but I had a lot of similar experiences in the music industry so I had a lot of songs which fitted the themes. The remix is based on my experience of being a women in the music industry so with director Ben Harrison’s help we developed the show around the songs I had. It seemed pretty natural at the time!”

Is there a conventional ‘studio’ album on the horizon or has that become something that interests you less and less these days?

“I would like to record an album of acoustic songs at some point but I’m just going where the flow takes me at the moment…”

‘Tell Me’ was the second song taken to heart instantly. Although I’m sure the truncated Yazoo like keyboard swells had something to do with it, primarily it was the seemingly simple yet emotionally powerful ‘Tell Me’ lyrical construction ending in “never tell me to”. What were some of the strangest things people in the industry have told you that you needed to do? 

“The words for that song were taken from a couple of poems by poet Vic Keegan. We struck up a Facebook friendship when it first started out & I ended up using his poetry for some songs. The strangest things I was asked to do by industry folk included making myself look less pretty, get drunk & insult more people & shave my eyebrows off!”

Having seen a snippet of the ‘The World Belongs to You’ from the production, I’m instantly brought back to the realization that I’m listening to a soundtrack not a regular record. Some of the song’s musical underpinnings seem to be chosen for their dramatic impact. This would  seem to be one of the quiet reflective moments in the play. Could you relate the significance of this song?

“This song is at the start of the show is when the character is awakening to the gift of music & the possibilities it opens up. She literally feels like the world is her oyster but is half aware of the pitfalls. This is when the character is still in the ingénue phase!”

Speaking of people you know, I had the opportunity to get Ian Rankin to sign a Beggar’s Opera CD sleeve. Oddly, he reflexively opened up the insert and began reading it as if for the first time commenting that he was there and how good it was. As gratifying as his praise might be, I still get the sense (from way over here that is) that ABCQ are still not as prominent in Scotland as they should be. Do you have the feeling that you are fighting against the grain somewhat in the Scottish music scene? 

“Sometimes I think if I grew a beard & wore a woolly hat I might do better! The lack of female presence amongst the SAY Award finalists is a bit worrying… We do have a lot of supporters in the Scottish press & we’re really grateful for that.”

I’d love to see ‘Fast Romance’ or a taping of a theater production. Inevitably, it often comes down to money, but are there any other hurdles that make it particularly difficult for Scottish efforts to be shared internationally? 

 “I think Scottish theatre is exporting well with the likes of Black Watch & Prudentia Hart. They are talking about building film studios which would help…”

What exactly are ‘Silent Disco headphones’ and what do they add to the theater goer’s experience?

“Silent Disco headphones are wireless so you can walk about. It gives the audience a really immersive experience of the show so they really go on the journey with the characters. It’s not totally necessary – we worked out a budget version which would just involve a rabbit, a uke & myself!”

It took awhile but I eventually found a Hardbody clip from King Tuts in 1997 and there you are with guitar in hand. When did you start playing? What is your favourite guitar at the moment? Is there one you still covet?

“I started playing guitar when I was nine. My elder brother was into The Clash & The Stranglers & taught me their songs on guitar. Diametrically opposed to that my Mum was a born again Christian & encouraged me to play hymns at folk masses. My favourite guitar at the moment is the Freshman Apollo 2DC electro acoustic (Freshman are sponsoring the show!). I’m pretty happy with all the Freshmans I got now!”

Have you heard the new Adam Stafford record? Is there anything new you have picked up that you’d recommend? What’s the last Scottish record that you have listened to? 

‘I must confess I haven’t : / Although I do like his stuff. I really like the new Matthew Dear record. Last Scottish record I listened to was Boards Of Canada’s latest.”

I woke up with ‘Snowing in Paris’ in my head. This was a little strange because I hadn’t actually listened to the record the day before. I think it speaks to the overall quality of the songs.  The lyrics in the verses are self-explanatory – but what is and where did the snowing in Paris metaphor originate? What does Kansas have to do with it?

“It’s influenced by a trip to Paris I made whilst recording vocals for a Kid Loco record. It’s just my way of saying it’s a big world out there & sometimes you need to get a bit of perspective when you feel that circumstances are overwhelming. Someone in Kansas probably isn’t aware of or bothered about what’s going on in your world. And Kansas rhymes with Paris!”

I noticed that Richey James was a backer. Could it be? How helpful have the sponsors been in getting this round of performances to the stage? What would it take to get the production to Lafayette Square? 

“Wouldn’t like to say but yes – it definitely is! The Sponsume backers have helped more than they can imagine. Not just financially but spiritually – it’s been a real lift to have their support & appreciation. It’s great to know that people are into what you’re doing & give you more of a reason to do it!

It would take a bit of financial backing & some folk to make it happen but you never know – it’s not out with the realms of possibility that we take the production to the US…”

You’ve been to America before. Is it something you’d like to do again in the future as a band?

“Yes!!!”

 After Biding Time, what can we look forward to in the future?

“We have had interest from film producers to make a feature film based on Biding Time (remix)… We also have ideas for other theatre productions & some promos for songs from the album…”

Finally, what is the significance of the rabbit?

“The rabbit signifies different things at different points in the show but ultimately it reflects a side of the character I play.”  

Colin’s Godson

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Holding Colin’s Godson Comic #2 in my hands I see that you went back in time to the London of 1996. In a fabulous coincidence, I myself spent 10 days in that fair city in May of that year where I met the brother of a secret vampire. It can’t be coincidence that I am now holding your greatest hits collection, conveniently and thoughtfully tacked to the outside cover. The comic art seems to be an integral component of the CG experience, what was the inspiration for it and is it done in house?

“We put a lot of effort into the packaging and artwork. We try and deliver something that’s worth more than the sum of its parts. When we make an album we try and fit a theme and a story and this is generally illustrated in the art. I usually come up with the concepts and story for the art and explain them to our artist Adam and he amazingly fills in the gaps, we have pretty much the same sense of humour so every time he delivers a new CG instalment he has me laughing out loud. There are quite a few in jokes in there too, but hopefully other people can find it interesting and/or amusing. Adam is definitely the 6th Member of the band he doesn’t actually play in CG but he is a talented musician in his own right too, having fronted the Plimptons and the Hector Collectors who were quite big cult bands in Glasgow.”

How did you end up deciding which 12 songs would end up on the greatest hits collection?

“The “Greatest Hits” was just intended to be a bit of a stopgap for us but it’s a good intro to the band and as I write you can still download it for free, although we’d prefer you bought the full package. I chose the tracklisting mainly by picking my personal favourite songs but I wanted it to be career spanning too so there’s an element of trying to give a good balance of stuff from all 4 of our albums aswell as EPs  and Singles.”

‘Stadium Rock’ leads things off. One advantage of living on this side of the Atlantic Ocean musical popularity inversion prism is that we occasionally get to see the likes of Biffy Clyro or the Manic Street Preachers in rather small venues. What is CG’s take on the power of music and the dangers of the excessively popular?

“Good question, well at the moment CG are the antithesis of anything that could be described as popular, and not out of choice either. I wrote the song Stadium Rock after seeing a certain Stadium Band who were the complete personification of the cliché. However we love stadium rock, bands like Queen and Wings are actually big influences on us. I suppose what does annoy me are those huge bands who seem to be really bland, pompous and boring yet will fill out arenas. There’s maybe an element of sour grapes as when I go to a massive gig like that I always think that we struggle to get 100 people to go to our shows at £3/4 entry yet they can get 10,000 people paying £80 a time. I sort of wish that these “music fans” would come out a bit more for the underground/grass roots stuff. For the price of a Rolling Stones ticket you could see over 30 CG gigs.”

“Colin’s Godson in Space” was your choice for the second song. Other than this one, of course, what is your favorite song about space?

“There are lots of good songs about space but off the top of my head Frank Sidebottom’s “Space is Ace” is probably my favourite, or indeed anything off his seminal Sci-Fi EP. In the early days we used to frequent a lot of Frank Sidebottom gigs and I was lucky enough to meet the man a couple of times. He’s a major influence on CG, musically and creatively and he’s sorely missed!”

It should be apparent by now that I’m following the track sequence so I’ll stop mentioning each song title, but why exactly did Blackadder let you down so much and apparently so often? 

“Blackadder Back and Forth was a one off special of the classic sitcom filmed by Sky TV to be shown in the Millennium Dome throughout the year 2000. It’s a below par effort and a lot of people were bitterly disappointed, including myself. That song is a true story about the painful experience of going all the way to London as a teenager just to see it.”

It was only after the second listen and an internet check that I realized that a missing tuner pedal is the center of the song ‘Nothing Compares’; although it could still be considered a boy loses girl love song. You seem to go out of your way to concoct clever and different lyrics. Is there any method to your madness? As a songwriter how in the world do you avoid tripping over the same old cliché?

“I make a bit of an effort to find interesting angles for songs as it’s easy to spout platitudes and fall into the same old clichés of subject matter. I’d like to think though that even although the songs are written to be amusing that they can actually make interesting observations on life in general. I think one of the major themes we explore is the sort of profound banal existentialist crisis of self-awareness or doubt that we all experience on a daily basis. There are some songs we’ve done that are just plain daft though.”

“Theres no moon, it’s the Death star” is a perfect illustration of the previous point. In the face of the music industry evil empire, do you think independent labels have a better chance these days of eking out their own existence and are indie bands better able to take complete control themselves to try and make a go of it given the modern tools at their disposal?

“We’re a DIY band which is a very liberating experience from the point of view that we can record and release stuff when we want and how we want without having to pander to anyone or please a record label. These days technology is such that bands can get decent sounding recordings without spending that much money. The downside of the DIY thing is we don’t get any financial support, and we can’t really afford to market ourselves which I think is a key component to getting success on a wider scale. Still, our record label “Puzzled Aardvark” only has UK distribution rights to our material so if anyone in Japan or the USA or somewhere wants to licence out our records for their label, we can talk.”

Top three bands assaulting the world with their “pretentious kack”? 

“I dislike a lot of bands but I think it’s a bit unprofessional to name them specifically. One of the biggest things I dislike is bands that somehow get away with playing 2 chords for 6 minutes but they are seen as being arty so get lots of critical acclaim. It’s a lot harder to write good pop music an actual song that’s over in 2 minutes but that isn’t afforded the same credibility, which I find a bit frustrating.”

Most of your songs are quite short. Other than the benefits of fitting things on mini CD, is there a design principle behind this choice? 

“Our songs are short because we purposefully trim all the fat. There are rarely more than 2 verses and no long instrumental sections. I think it’s important that people are left wanting more. One of the best compliments (I hope) I get is that people don’t actually notice they are short songs because they are still well structured.”

“Gary Bushell” is the third name, in as many songs, that I’ve had to look up to help get the references. Clearly, you are not exactly aiming for a global audience. What is the guiding principle behind the band? Should global success suddenly overtake you would you be able to handle the new demands?

“Our material doesn’t exist in a vacuum away from pop culture so like people do in real life we refer to the world outside our own bubble. It just so happens that we’re Scottish so we’re more influenced by UK popular culture. I’m sure if we ever had global success our horizons would broaden and we’d be writing songs about Mountain Dew and Regis Philbin or anything else that happens to be kicking about the USA.”

Paul McCartney was visited in comic #1. Who would you consider spending ‘time’ with for comic #3?

“In the comic world and real life the person I’d most like to meet would be Graham Fellows. He’s made 2 of my favourite albums of all time yet only found moderate success later in life as John Shuttleworth. The album he did as Jilted John is what made me realise you can make an unpretentious concept album. I’d urge anyone to buy that record, it’s a perfect record about being a teenager.”

I did not know that Brian May was an astrophysicist. Perhaps more directly relevant to the musician than tax dodging, what are your thoughts on such ‘services’ as Spotify?

“Well that song was influenced by the fact that Queen were famous for being tax exiles in the 80’s, recording music in France so they didn’t have to pay UK Income Tax. I just liked the scenario of going one step further and moving off the planet altogether. Brian May is a hero of mine though and I’m sure in real life he’s completely above board with his tax affairs. He’s also a 3D nut and has one of the world’s largest collections of 19th Century stereoscopic photographs. With regards to the Spotify thing, we don’t put any of our music on it or any of the other download sites, we only sell direct to our fans. It works for some people but I don’t see why the people that don’t like it moan so much, no one’s forcing anyone to put their music on the services if they don’t want to.”

“How Cheap is your love” might have been inspired by a time trip to 2000 where you heard Frigid Vinegar’s take. I’ve always had the notion that if I could travel in time that I’d take a song catalogue and go way forward when back catalogues where effectively forgotten and become an international superstar. ABBA in 2267! Whose songs would you pilfer?

“That’s a really old song, I only put it on the compilation to cover the base of having a song from our very first album on. Never heard Frigid Vinegar but it’s not a tremendously original concept so I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been done before. There was an odd sitcom on UK TV in the 90’s called “Goodnight Sweetheart” where a guy finds a worm hole which takes him back in time to the 1940’s and he has a dual life living in both time periods. The oddest thing about it was that he had a wife in the 1990’s and also a love interest in the 1940’s but the moral ambiguity of him cheating on his wife was never really brought into question, he occasionally justified it by mentioning that she hadn’t been born when he was in the 1940’s. Anyway to get to the point in that show he was always claiming to have written popular songs from the 60s and 70’s, I guess if I could do a similar thing it would be with Queen or the Sultans of Ping f.c.”

“Back to Earth” closes off with another, by now signature, CG ballad.  It effectively demonstrates that despite the tendency to novelty you are adept at creating wonderful pop gems. Has there been any pressure to venture down more conventional roads?

“I’ve just actually written a boring serious conventional album. I originally demoed it as the Next CG album but was listening back to it and it really wasn’t CG fare so I’m going to record it as a solo album entitled “Inevitable Solo Effort” and then CG can come back with another album about daleks and pickled onion Monster Munch.”

I’m drinking my morning coffee from my Dr. Who vanishing Tardis mug and potential Colin’s Godson song suggestions are virtually inevitable: “Where and when did I park the Tardis and why can’t it make a decent cup of tea?” Potential? 

“I like songs where the everyday and banal meets the completely absurd so that has potential. I’ll give you a call if I get stuck writing the lyrics for the next album.”

I want to reference your ‘Never Mind Sigur Ros’ CD since I just finished listening to their album stream. I’ll inevitably buy it, but if I was stuck in a detention oubliette, I’d much rather listen to CG than more of this, by now, predictable bleating.  For yourselves, is there a change in musical direction in your future? Will you crack the 3 minute song barrier?

“Our sound has progressed over the years from 3 chord punk to a slightly more polished pop sound. If anything the next album will be a  proper well produced powerpop album along the lines of the Shazam or Jellyfish or Wings. A lot of it’s written and it’s sort of sounding a bit Pixies meets early Blur meets Jellyfish so hopefully we can make it sound expensive! Can’t see us ever breaking the 3 min barrier though.”

Whatever did happen to Northern Uproar?

“They actually reformed a couple of years back and released another couple of albums, they do OK on the UK nostalgia circuit but I haven’t seen them since they got back together. I think they play the hits though so should really catch them next time they’re in Glasgow.”

I heartily recommend checking out CG. Here’s the link for the songs mentioned above. Should you have been induced to read it makes for excellent, if not essential, musical accompaniment. 

Colin Godson’s Greatest Hits

Needless to say, check out all the rejected songs as well.

Garth Richardson, Eh.

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You have a reputation for only working with artists that you admire and are known to join the crowd at a live show before doing so. Do you still recall your visceral reaction the first time you saw Biffy live?

“I never saw them live (Laugh). Actually Simon and his A&R guy showed up to my Farm in Gibsons and we sat and talked for the whole day and I asked them exactly what they wanted to do and I got the demos and then we did the record and then I saw them after the record and I was completely floored by the show.”

Apparently, this was also the first double record you’ve produced. Now that you’ve been through the experience, would you willingly get involved with another?

“That’s a good one, we did a double record in under 5 months. We basically recorded 23 songs and reliving Groundhog Day waking up everyday and coming into the studio for 5 months was a little daunting. We did take a 2 week break so that Ben Kaplan could go get married but you know it was a lot of work with not a lot of time. I think we really should have had 6 months on that record because I felt that the last part of it was rushed.

Would I do it again? Yeah. Hell Yeah. We were really able to take every song and make it its own and try and make each one an individual story and not have the same crushed velvet Elvis Presley painting in every room. We shaped every song and tried to make sound different. Accomplishing this was the biggest challenge but also the most fun. We had a complete open canvas and Simon wrote 50 songs for this double record that we eventually cut down to 20.”

Do you have any insights behind the decision to release the 14 song version? The documentary that came with the special edition repeatedly stresses that a 20 song double album was envisioned from the beginning.  Necessary compromise?

“Actually what’s happened was in typical record label fashion was they don’t really have any balls. Alex Gilbert the A&R guy came up to the band on the first day of mixing and told them that they can’t do the double record and the band -which I am completely on their side with – were extremely upset about the fact that the record label had no balls. It was a risk with the band doing a double record with this new music era and in the current music business.  You know what?  This whole record was geared towards a double record, they had the sides for each part of the record already picked out and named.

I understand why the record label did not want to put it out but I think they should have known this as apposed to leading on the band. I thought it was a great double record. I still think it’s a double record, but I understand the politics of dancing. As sad as it may be, the record label paid for it so they have the final say and in reality the band loses any kind of artistic control in that respect.”

The trilogy of the last three Biffy Clyro records, which you produced, went to #2 then #3 and finally to #1 on the UK album charts. Looking at your production credits, they seem to be the only band you have worked with three times. Clearly something is working in the relationship. What has made it work so well?

“I did do two Melvins records, two Autumn to Ashes record and two Spineshank records but this really was my first three-peat. Knowing that the band does things in threes, I think this may be my last record with them. It’ll be sad if that’s the case. If I could do a fourth I’d be honoured and thrilled. In that three record span I was able to see the band go from boys to men. Simon has become a right a wonderful visionary, in his own right, and he knows exactly what he wants. I found that with this record he was more involved coming in because he knew exactly what he wanted it to be. When you tend to work with a band frequently you start to take a little bit more of a back seat role guiding the ship or the bus in a little bit of a less hands on way, simply nudging it to the left or to the right a little.

The thing that worked so well with Biffy was that the band knew that I had their back . I got into a lot of fights with the label because they wanted it a certain way and I would always tell them “This will be happening shortly”. Not believing me they would respond ”Yeah right, right , sure.” When I told them what would happen actually happened they’d look at me saying “How the fuck do you know these things?” I have been around the business for 40 years and  I have literally seen it all. I really think the biggest thing is trust and the fact that I had their back.”

If you ‘had’ to pick one song from each of the past 3 albums that you are most pleased with, in terms of how they ultimately turned out, which ones would they be?

“Oh dear dear dear, well I’d have to say from Only Revolutions would have to be Many of Horror; I think that was just a beautiful song. I would have to say the one that brings a tear to my eye every time is ‘Folding Stars’. That song is about Simon’s mother going to heaven. It was a hard record for Simon to make because that was right after his mother had passed and that song really hit a nerve with me. Choosing one from the new record ‘Opposites’ is a really tough one because there are  so many amazing tracks, but I would say for sheer power it would have to be the Thaw; but then again I love Opposites and Stinging Belle. I’m gonna go out on a limb and actually say The Thaw because of how it builds from nothing and it ends in this gigantic amazing sound.”

The band’s satisfaction in recording a record and the fan’s excitement in finally being able to bring it home is, to a certain degree, self-explanatory. As a producer where do you derive the most satisfaction?

“I would say that it happens on the day after I actually wake up and I don’t have to go into the studio.(Laughs) What you guys have to realize is that we did 23 songs in 5 months and we did 7 days of Pre-pro for 23 songs which was Incredibly fast. The fact that the record finally went to number 1 was one of the most satisfying things because whenever you make someone’s record you always always hope that the fans like it and that they take it into their hearts. I think that with this one, we finally got it right. Not that their first two records were wrong in any way, its just that the band is just gonna get better because they are like a great bottle of wine.”

Do you ever pull one of the albums that you’ve worked on from the shelf and just listen to it? Are you able to lose yourself in it or does it put you right back in the studio?

“Ha, You mean that nervous twitch that I get every time I play my records. Haha. But no, It took me a few weeks before I could listen to it because we were working on it for 5 months straight, the fact is that when you make a record you usually don’t know what it is. You know every single note, every single beat, every single sound and every single nuance; So its harder to appreciate it as a whole. When I went back and listened to Puzzle and Only Revolutions for the first time in a long time, it actually put a smile on my face.  The fact that Biffy is so different and unique and unlike any other band on this fucking planet makes me feel proud and lucky to have been a part of this. I think it has been just phenomenal.”

Do you have an anecdote from the Opposites recording session ?

“We kind of have a code of what happens in the studio stays in the studio. I think if you watch the making of DVD you could see some because we had cameras on us at all times. Everything you saw was what we did. There aren’t really any other anecdotes I can think of because everything was video taped so fans should check the DVD as there were some funny moments on there.

Although having said that, every time the band would do their parts they would take off their shirts. So Ben Kaplan, Ryan Williams – The two engineers who did excellent work on this record- and I. We almost began taking off our shirts in solidarity but we decided we may actually scare the fans.”

Has the time you’ve spent with Biffy over the years led to your discovery of any other Scottish music?

“The thing I do have to say about Scottish music is that it is real and they always go outside of the curve. There is also just a lot of passion coming out of that country all the time. Probably because it is so cold and rainy. (Laughs)”

The band has indicated the next step may require a thorough reassessment of their songwriting approach and that someone else at the helm may very well be what is needed to help facilitate a creative push in a new direction. From your own perspective as a producer, is three times a charm? If they did ask again, would you do it?

“(See 4) I think they need someone to come in with a completely different direction. I think the problem will be that whoever does take over the helm will have a difficult time because Simon knows exactly what he wants to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if Simon ended up being the producer himself and ended up hiring a different engineer to help him capture what he’s doing.  I think they are ready like with Muse who produced their own last record. I think Simon is ready.”

I’m from London Ontario myself. Had I known how innovative the Fanshawe music industry arts program was I might just have reconsidered my academic pursuits at Western in 1983. Until recently, even though I had the debut Kim Mitchell record, I had not heard of your father, his achievements or of his recent passing. I came across this interview which struck me as a fascinating insight into the kind of producer he had been and what a beloved educator he must have become. I was at the local record shop and I had an original copy of Bob Seger’s Night Moves in my hand while I was trying to imagine what it must have been like to ‘grow up’ in the studio. Do you still remember some of the early lessons you were taught?

“Yes. I was always taught to show up on time and that I actually have three ears. I have two on the sides of my head and I my eyes act as the third. I was also taught dedication to excellence. Everything we did had to be done at our best. The fact that my dad touched so many peoples hearts and souls I would say was because he was a true teacher. A few of his students were Shelly Yakus and Jimmy Iovine. My father also trained Jack Douglas, Bob Ezrin, Me, Micheal McCarty(President of EMI publishing Canada), Gary Furniss (President of Sony publishing Canada).

One key thing he taught me and I’m sure people are getting sick and tired of hearing me say this one phrase – The way to make it in the music business is, good songs sell, bad songs don’t. If you don’t have a good song you’re wasting your time.”

Pedro had a chance to visit Vancouver, your new home base, last December. It was his new daughter’s first plane ride and visit to Canada. It is also the home of the Nimbus School of Recording Arts, which you co-founded. What would you say is its guiding principle and mission?

“The reason we opened up Nimbus was because of a conversation Bob Ezrin and I had about 8 years ago. We agreed that there’s all these people being trained, but not the way that we were trained. We were trained that if you couldn’t deliver a sandwich into the session properly they were not going to let you into the room to make a patch or to set up a microphone. Everything to do with Nimbus is about being excellent and being accountable. We teach you the reality of music production. I find that the other schools don’t have people that have the same experience and as I have always had a saying that If I was actually to go into battle I would shoot my teacher first because they have never really worked and done the job. The main thing about Nimbus is that you have to have made records and you have to still be making records if you want to teach there and if you’re not then we will find someone who does. It’s the same way my father taught me, Shelly Yakus and Bob.”

I noticed on twitter that you’ve almost finished installing a SSL 4072 G console. What did it replace? Where did it come from? 

“The SSL came from Danny Elfman in California. It just had so many amazing things being played through it. I still believe that  analogue is the way to go. Maybe it is because I am old – even though today everyone is listening to everything through a shitty MP3 player coming through a 5 cent chip, I still believe that moving air through gear like an old SSL or an old NEVE or an old API console still sounds better than everything that is mixed in the box. I just felt that in order for me to continue to make records I still need to have the proper tools.”

Pedro also saw ‘Sound City’ and realized you worked on the legendary Neve console. Will recording to tape eventually win over the casual music listener’s ears in the long run? What kind of console did you cut your teeth on?

“I cut my teeth on an Auditronix, It was a console that my father had at his studio Nimbus 9 Productions in Toronto at Sound Stage. Now the fact is that his techs were completely insane and they completely rebuilt the console. That’s what the first Peter Gabriel was made on, Bob Seger Night Moves, Alice Cooper, The Guess Who, Mark Foreigner, and Tim Curry. Part of The Wall was made on it as well. It was a pretty amazing and special console.

I still go to tape because it sounds better. It’s the best sounding compressor that was ever made. It gives you depth, it gives you height and it gives you width. The problem is that nobody knows what music sounds like any more and it sounds like shit now. The MP3 has destroyed the sonics of what we do. Mastering has destroyed the sonics of what we do. Everything has to be the loudest. I think, as they keep telling me, the genie is out of the bottle. There are still purists that feel that an analog console sounds better and it makes it rich and it makes it thick and it makes it powerful. The problem is today that Youtube is the new music business and its more visual than it is audible  So I would just say that analogue will be around for a long time but no one will be able to tell the difference. The fact that vinyl is now coming back but still digitally cut means older analogue vinyl sounds better.”

Pedro also wanted me to ask about Garnet amplifiers and I noticed a recent twitter pic of James with a Garnet head. It is a fascinating story. Sonically, what are the advantages of this vintage Canadian gear?

“Well, they are just a great sounding head. if you listen to American Woman that whole guitar sound is garnet heads. We just happened to find them, nobody knew what they were and my father said, your going to buy those. We were buying them for $300 bucks. To be able to buy a tube guitar head for $300 is a steal. The other head that James used was a Traynor bassman head, and it’s a complete replica of an early 60 Fender Bassman. Traynor went down in the 60’s and bought a fender bassman head and copied them exactly. The guy who builds the Garnet heads is based out of Winnepeg and was a complete nut but these heads can explode, drive, be punchy, be powerful. They are just a versitile head. James has kept the Commonwealth together with the vibe of Scotland and Canada. Scotland compared to Britain is like Canada compared to the States; we are actually better!”

Who are you working with now?

“I just finished a record with a band out of Dublin called The Minutes. Amazing band, you guys have to check them out. Another band I am working with from Austin Texas are called Not in The Face. Then there’s a band up here in Canada called Head of The Heard. We have a Number 4 single in the rock charts right now and they don’t have a record deal yet. It just shows the changing of the guard. Record labels are actually no longer explicitly needed.”

You’ve recently come back from Canadian Music Week in Toronto. Did you have the opportunity to see any shows? Has it become as commercial as SXSW appears to have?

“The problem with all of these music conferences is that it’s so hard to see all the bands because it is all spaced out. So many bands in so many clubs that it’s difficult to see them all. Was there anything that blew my mind? There was a band that I met that are from Nova Scotia called Glory Hound, they were the ones that were really cool and they were true rock and roll. There was also another band from England who were singed to Redbull Records and they were like a Guns’N’ Roses type band. But it’s hard to actually see the artists because there are  just too many bands in too many clubs spread over to few nights.”

We were lucky enough to catch Biffy 3 times during the touring for Only Revolutions, but 2 of those shows were in a tiny venue that didn’t sell out. Their talent and hard work is not in question. Do you think the momentum gained from the recent Muse support slot might finally be enough to ‘crack’ the North American market?

“We can only hope. Its kinda like, Warner is going to be pushing everything they can into it to make it break over in NA, the problem is it is up to the fans, If they like it and they buy it then they can make it. It is a little bit sad that they can sell out the O2 in London and then play to 500 people here because they are actually the best live band. I would put them up there with Rage Against The Machine when it comes to putting on a live show. They are that powerful.”

Finally a hockey question – Is there still hope for any Canadian team for that matter?

“I think having hockey in the south is a Garry Betman Joke. He thinks people in the south want to watch hockey. He’s a fool.  He is probably the worst Commissioner in all of sport and will go down as the most hated commissioner ever. I think hockey needs to be in the areas where there is winter. I was happy to see the Kings win the Cup because I lived in LA for many years and used to go to games. Hockey should belongs where it is cold; if the kids can’t play it outside they shouldn’t bother.”

Pedro and Thor

Book Group: Homeward Sound

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‘Bad Books’ was actually a band recommendation from our inaugural post back in September of 2011. Described as the “Strokes crossed with the Lightning Seeds”, we’ve been on the lookout ever since in what is probably the longest case of ‘following’ a band without having ever heard a song. Presumably the name change was ‘Manchester Orchestrated’. Why ‘Book Group’?

Michael: September 2011? No, there’s no way we’ve been around that long! I refuse to believe it. Like all 30-something Hollywood starlets, I’m putting my foot down on this and insisting we’re only 7 months old as a band. However, unlike all 30-something Hollywood starlets, I won’t insist I was a ‘regular tomboy’ growing up. In short though, yes. We called ourselves The Bad Books for a gig, then decided to play more. I knew the other (fantastic) band existed but didn’t feel the need to change the name until we were actually doing something.  Then I went to America and got lots of funny looks when I said I played in the Bad Books.  Thanks for hanging around, you’re certainly one of our oldest fans. However, I will fight you if you ever mention The Lightening Seeds again.

Graeme – I quite liked the Lightening Seeds! Catchy tunes and sunglasses that would’ve made John Lennon proud. Not so sure John would’ve liked the tunes though. Book Group sums us up I think – four guys that have a love of music. We get together talk about it, play it and normally have a beer or two to wash it down.

Are you familiar with the 2002-2003 (set in Glasgow) television show entitled ‘Book Group’? If you were to host next month’s book group what would we be asked to read?

Michael: VERY familiar with it, in fact I probably watched both seasons about four times each. Wee Rab was my favourite. I just finished reading Ablutions by Patrick DeWitt – it’s a filthy, drunken mess of a book, with a fuck up of a lead character who doesn’t even try to be a decent protagonist. It’s funny though, and short, so most likely ideal for a book group. Unless that book group was in Morningside.

Graeme – I’ve never heard of it but will check it out. Is it any good?

We’ve been very quiet the past 2 months – instead of trying (and failing) to be a music blog reaching out to a wider audience, I’ve decided to go back to the original vision of a blog about the Scottish music that I specifically champion. ‘Book Group’ is a perfect place to start.  The band is composed of 4 members from 4 different former projects. I’m frequently amazed and heartened by the fluidity of the Scottish indie music scene. As troubling as a band’s demise is there is always the hope of something even better emerging from the ashes. Is this the magical combination where everyone is in sync?

Michael: Very glad you have kept the blog going and, from a Scottish musician’s point of view, it’s heart-warming to see someone enjoy and spread forth the efforts of Scotland’s indie scene.  You’re right about good things generally coming from bad too; as so much Scottish guitar music in particular will happily (and/or glumly) attest to. We are lucky at how quickly we clicked as a band, and I think that comes from having been there before: you learn the language, know what not to do, appreciate from experience that having fun is far more important that aiming for perfection etc. Plus the other three are stellar musicians!

Graeme – You’re not so bad yourself axeman Morrison! I agree with Michael on this one – as a band we clicked and I think that was down to wanting to get back into music and enjoy it. All of us have had different experiences with our previous bands and when we started Book Group it was with the prime goal to have a hoot. I think that comes across in our live shows, we love playing and would genuinely play for hours if we could. I like the thought of something positive always prevailing with the demise of something else. Sadly in music, I’m not sure that is always the case but maybe we could break that trend.

You’ve finally released four songs on the debut EP ‘Homeward Sound’. Is there a deeper significance to the title other than the clever, and rather satisfying, word play?

Michael: Yes. Graeme?

Graeme – The concept for the EP is a love/hate relationship with home. The idea of missing a place and loved ones but when you get there you kinda want to get away. I’ve lived in several places around Scotland in my life and it’s crazy how you yearn to be in a different places at times. I guess the grass is always greener! All four of the songs are intertwined with this theme.

The first song, ‘The Year of the Cat’, perhaps wisely not an Al Stewart remake, has an opening lyric riff that could easily be mistaken for the Brakes. It quickly veers into something fuller and more satisfying. Part of the song reminds me of why I loved AC Acoustics so much and the other parts are a glossy summary of off kilter indie squall. There is an awful lot going on in a mere 3:17. What is your musical manifesto? If you had to write a ‘book jacket’ encapsulation of the band’s sound what would it be?

Michael: It’s my favourite on the record. A musical manifesto? Ooh, hard one. I’d be lying if I said anything other than ‘Four guys’ record collections violently colliding in a small, loud space’.

Graeme – People seem to like this one and I think the energy again sums us up. Liking the Brakes comparison – anyone that can have 10 second songs that sound fab are cool in my book. Did AC Acoustics do Stunt Girl?

The second song ‘Bop’ comes across rather differently –  in a ‘Replacements’ meets ‘I Like Trains’ sort of way. In this one, the vocals are elevated to share the stage and I’m surprised how comfortably familiar they feel. Overall, there is a noticeable depth to the material not often delivered so forthrightly on the first EP.  I can’t wait until the first full length. Any plans in place yet to bring that about?

Michael: Yeah I like that you noticed that his vocals were lifted, gives the delivery a far more intimate feel I reckon. There’s no doubt that we would LOVE to go and record an album; like we’d start it tomorrow if we could. But we’re writing tunes thick and fast right now, so it feels right to probably do another small release or two first. Also, I love that there is almost no reason for a band to release an album these days except for the love of doing so, so when we do record one it will be a very indulgent affair I’m sure.

Graeme – Hell yeah, we’re sitting on a couple of new tunes and already got the bare of bones of several others. Like the idea of doing another release first but would love to do an album soon.

I’ll allow that the third song ‘Seedlings’ contains some evidence of the Teenage Fanclub references and comparisons I’ve been reading, but only because they too use guitars and like a good riff. Happiness might only be a stone’s throw away could be the lyrical summary of the song. How important are the song lyrics to the band? Who gets to pen them?

Michael: Yeah it’s dark verse with a big chorus: a tried and tested formula but one that I think we probably only use on this song? The lyrics are very, very important. As a listener they’re definitely what gives me a bit of depth when it comes to appreciating a band’s music, whereas the musical hook will initial get my attention. Like the brains/body psychology in spotting a mate, I presume. Graeme writes the lyrics and they’re great,  very story driven and often a lot darker than his cheeky wee face would have you believe!

Graeme – Not sure why they always turn out so dark but lyrically I ‘m glad that they have been well received so far. I like keeping it simple and telling it how it is. Most of my lyrics come from personal experiences and observations, I’ve already mentioned about the theme for ‘Homeward Sound’ and seem to have a few more cropping up just now that are taking a bit more of a society twist. I’m never going to be a political writer but one thing I can promise is that I’ll spit them out like Nick Cave with a Mike Patton smile

The fourth song ‘Summer of Lunches’ containing quirky lyrics and angular guitars is a joy to listen to.  It reminds me of Sportsguitar. All the previous mentioned band references are not necessarily accurate but reflect my almost immediate emotional connection to the music in the same way the bands that you remind me of occupy a favoured spot in the record collection. I can easily see ‘Book Group’ becoming a cited influence for future bands. What were your musical passions and influences? How have you managed to meld them together?

Michael: Never heard of Sportsguitar, will check them out on my lunch break! I think all bands say that they’re happy when people enjoy their music and come to their shows, but really what makes them happiest is influencing more music. I could be wrong, but I suspect it’s something most musicians would love. We certainly would. Our influences are all different, but fall within the ‘guitar band’ category – so not hugely vast or anything. The stuff I bring to the table isn’t necessarily my favourite music, more just the music that I fancy playing in this band – the likes of Dinosaur Jnr, Grandaddy, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Graeme – Find naming direct influences hard. Love the like of Grant Lee Buffalo, granddaddy, Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev and believe that my inspiration comes from bands like that but as for how we sound I’m not sure! Think that’s what I like about the song creating approach we have. I bring the bare bones and the others layer it with hard rock (Andrew), art school rock / sleazy guitars (Michael) and pop (Scott). it seems to come out OK!

The Tidal Wave of Indifference Sessions acoustic versions of ‘Bop’ and ‘Seedlings’ underline the importance of the songs themselves. Seedlings is especially beautiful stripped to its core.  I’m a big fan of Stu Lewis’s work and Freshair is my default net radio station. Are there any other radio stations that also highlight Scottish Indie?

Michael: We’re fans of Stu Lewis too! Those sessions were great actually; we sat out on the grass opposite the station for ten minutes beforehand, trying to figure out each song on acoustic guitars! Luckily it was during August, so Edinburgh’s full of people sitting around with instruments. Definitely check out the Edinburgh Man podcasts (not specifically Scottish indie, but always a healthy dose), and Vic Galloway’s show on BBC Radio Scotland – he’s like the punk uncle of Scottish music. The bad sort, who buy you cigarettes and sneak you in to bars.

Graeme – Agreed Stu and Vic are both top lads.

I’m always pleased when a release is available on vinyl. What prompted the decision to put it out as a 10 inch as well? 

Michael: It’s what I listen to the most and invest the most in as a fan, so it was the only consideration. I love that vinyl forces you to listen, as it naturally breaks halfway through and you have to turn it over. As a fan, vinyl is also a bit of a leveller;  I love that music taste and technology changes but when I listen to a record I do it in exactly the same way I did 20 years ago, and that in itself adds the experience. There’s no right or wrong way to release music, which is fantastic – this is just us enjoying being able to do whatever we want.

Graeme – Absolutely love vinyl and so pleased that we did it this way. Michael and I were dead keen to release it this way and as a punter I love buying vinyl at gigs. Just something about the rawness vinyl has.

I’m Listening to the Sparrow and the Workshop’s new “Murderopolis” while polishing these questions. What have you picked up lately?

Michael: Bloody love that album, they’re just so good. The same week Eagleowl released their debut album too; which we’ve been waiting years on. Buy it. Don’t listen to it when you’re hungover though, or you might cry.

Graeme – Phoenix, Foals, Eagleowl and Kid Canaveral.

The EP launch with Campfires in Winters (a band we’ve long championed as well) was the other night. How was the show?

Michael: Our favourite show to date I’m sure, so much fun! The Campfires guys were braw, as were the rest of the guests too. A brilliant night and a suitably messy launch to the record!

Graeme – It was ace and the bill was tops. Campfires were really good but we also had Plastic Animals and Rory (from Broken records) + Martin (from Saving and loan) doing a stripped down set. it worked out really well and the crowd seemed to love it. Wish I could have drunk more though.

Once the EP is out and promoted what can we look forward to in the future?

Michael: We’re trying our best to get the next thing started…plans are afoot. Until then got a couple of Scottish festivals and a few more gigs in the diary.

Graeme – I quite like it when we are not allowed to talk about stuff. Gigs are a definite and recording something new is in the pipeline too.

Did you cast a vote for this year’s SAY award? Compared to last year, it was frightfully difficult. I actually have 10 of the 20 listings but in the end decided to tip my hat to the Twilight Sad.

Michael: Indeed! It would be sacrilege to not vote in something as good as SAY. It already demands huge respect, which is encouraging to say the least. The Twilight Sad was my 2nd favourite record on the list.

Graeme – Twilight Sad didn’t make my top 3 but I do like it. My 2nd favourite album was PAWS!

We’d like it if you asked us a question.

Michael: What one thing could you happily do every day for the rest of your life? Mine would be eat peanut butter on toast.

Graeme – Marmite on toast for me please. You’re obviously a massive music fan so I would go for some kind of dream festival bill one so who would you have on the main stage at your own festival (they’ve got to be alive – none of this dead nonsense!)

Find a new Scottish recording and listen to it. Given how prodigious the output is at the moment it could be done. I’ll draw the line at the 80’s, but just think how good this ‘reunion’ festival would be.

Delgados, Aereogramme, Idlewild, AC Acoustics, Telstar Ponies, Arab Strap, Astrid, and DeRosa

Kid Canaveral: Now That You Are A Dancer

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While there are a least a 1000 words in this picture, I’m going to simply leave it as the decision to continue with the blog has been made -scaled back, more personal, and without the illusions of reaching a wider audience. The last 2 months have been spent listening to music, often with guitar in hand, instead of worrying about what the next post will be. These answers, temporarily lost in the send folder, arrived the other day and cemented the tentative decision to continue. The hulking shadow of the first record probably accounts for the 9/10, perhaps it lost a point because there is no wildlife on the cover this time. It is an impressive second record and I can’t wait to hold the 3rd LP in my hands.

Watching the recently released video for lead track ‘The Wrench’ had me thinking about cover art, the creative process and whether the video in any way mirrored the song writing process in Kid Canaveral. Was there any difference in the song writing process this time around? 

David: The song writing was done over a much shorter period of time. All of the ideas were put together within about four or five months from notes and short recordings made during the promotion of our first record. I think it was easier for me, this time because I approached it with more (or any) confidence. It didn’t feel as uncomfortable to allow myself the notion that I might be a songwriter.

 Kate: I’m still not sure I feel like a proper songwriter to be honest but I think there was definitely a bit more confidence there to try things out and maybe not be quite as quick to dismiss something that maybe just needed more work and more developing.

Your album cover is quite interesting. While watching the video, I couldn’t help thinking that it was an album cover being painted. Who did this cover? Could you explain the idea or concept behind it? How does it encapsulate the record as a whole?

David : The very talented artist Eve McConnachie does our artwork. Rose actually painted the mural in the video. The arms are embraced in a dance. There’s a lot of references to dancing, literal and otherwise, on the record.

What are some of your favourite albums covers?

Kate: I guess it’s a bit predictable but I think Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures is amazing. I like covers that stand up in their own right as a piece of artwork. It’s definitely something your album can get judged on so getting the artwork right was a really important part of the process for us.

The album’s vinyl version had a slight delay. I take this as a hopeful sign that the demand for vinyl is actually increasing thereby taxing the existing manufacturers’ capacities. Wishful thinking?

David : We got caught up in record store day delays.

Kate: I don’t think it’s wishful thinking. There’s no doubt that more and more people are getting back into vinyl, or even getting into vinyl for the first time. I work in a second hand record shop and have done on and off for a few years. It’s definitely been noticeable how many more young people are interested compared to even 3 or 4 years ago. Shame the majority just seem to want Dark Side of the Moon, Sgt Pepper and Rumours though…

This live version of the new song ‘Who Would Want to Be Loved’ addresses the age old problem of whether or not to apply stickers to one’s guitar. Guitar strap badges are such an obvious solution! I can’t make them out though, what were some of them?

David: Let me think… My guitar is in transit to the BBC for a session tonight, so I’ll need to this from memory. There is a Come On Gang! Badge; a Meursault badge; a Withered Hand Badge; a ‘Love Music Hate Racism’ badge; there is a badge that says ‘David’ on it that Kate got me from a charity shop; there is a badge that has a map with my current neighbourhood on it; and an Is This Music? Magazine badge. I couldn’t bring myself to put stickers on my Tele.

Breaking Up is the New Getting Married” seems to have a little bit of an early Wedding Present vibe to it. More specifically, I think it is representative of a slightly more aggressive guitar sound throughout the record. Is this a natural development due to your growing musical finesse or more of a deliberate decision?

David : When we were recording that song Gal, our engineer, asked if we wanted him to make it less abrasive. I think he was pretty happy when we said “No”.

Kate: We’re definitely more adventurous and more adept on this record. It feels like we were still learning to play a bit with Shouting at Wildlife.

The band’s male/female balance, while not unprecedented, is nevertheless fairly unique. Has that had an impact on the song writing? One of my favourite tracks is ‘Skeletons’. It has the faint echoes of a Lush song; something seriously missed these days. Are all the songs sung by Kate written by her separately?

David : On this album, whoever sings the lead vocal has written the song.

Kate: Yep, the songs are written separately and then we come together, as a four piece, to make them into a proper Kid Canaveral tune. Skeletons was a bit different because most of the fleshing out was done in the studio rather than the practice room. I went in with the chords and the vocal melody and we really had no idea where it was going to go or if it was even going to work on the album. Gal really helped shape the direction it went in.

Velocity Girl also comes to mind (and I have just learned that the name was culled from a Primal Scream B-side) It is easy to forget how different they were from most of their 90s American contemporaries. In terms of their brilliantly melodic songs, I can certainly place KC in that tradition. Would you consider writing an alternating female-male voiced song or is that something you’ve purposefully avoided?

David: Do you mean like a duet? That’s not something that I’m sure would suit us. ‘Who’s Looking at You, Anyway?’ has maybe a 70% me/30% Kate and Rose vocal split.

The “Who’s looking at you Anyway” spoken word backing part sounds so familiar but I can’t place it and it is driving me nuts. It sounds oddly Joe Strummer like, but I just can’t figure it out where, or even if, I’ve heard it before. What is the source?

David: It’s not Joe. I’m afraid I can’t reveal the source of the voice to you.

Thank you so much for your part in organizing the photo from the March 16 show in Dundee. The unintentionally washed out piece of paper has provided much post editing amusement for my desktop background. Assuming you read them, are you pleased with the general reception and reviews for the new record? Is there one you think really ‘got it’?

David: You’re very welcome. I know we shouldn’t read reviews, really, but I do. I’ve been very happy with the reviews that we’ve had for the new record but it’s important that we don’t get carried away with all the positive press, because if you attach too much importance to the good reviews then a bad one will floor you. Every good review for us is a real help at the stage our band is at. One very prominent slating could be very damaging, but ultimately if we’re happy with what we’re producing and people still want to see us, that’s what’s important. I think they’ve all ‘got it’ to some extent, yes. We’ve all grown up in each other’s company in this band. I’ve known Scott and Kate for 10 years, now, and Rose since we were at School. A lot of people have noted that it’s an album about progressing through you 20s. About realisations and disappointment; borderline alcoholism and heartbreak.

Many bands would be content to make a song from the secondary guitar bits in ‘Low Winter Sun’ alone. (and they’d have a pretty good song on their hands) The beauty of the new songs seems to be just how much more is brought into the mix and lovingly crafted into something special. Did the recording process differ for the second release from the first?

David: Thank you! That’s very kind. It was recorded over a shorter period of time. Also, I was definitely more adventurous in the studio. We all were. We’re all better musicians and we approached the recording sessions with more confidence and more of a sense of adventure. I didn’t feel as self-conscious about trying things this time. Also, I bought an excellent reverb pedal.

Kate: I think it helped that the four of us had been playing and gigging together for quite a sustained and intense period before we went in to record the album too. It made everything a bit more coherent and free flowing I guess.

I hadn’t realized David was from Glasgow (see press release!) Chemikal Underground to Fence records has partially mirrored my own musical voyage of discovery. I just re-read our last feature on KC and it obviously captured you at a very good and exciting moment in time. This is the first full length released completely underneath the Fence umbrella. Is it all you hoped to be or have you started to notice any leaks? 

David: Rose and me are both from Glasgow, and Scott is from Girvan in Ayrshire, not far south of Glasgow. Kate is from Wokingham, not far south of Scotland, really. When you interviewed us last time, we’d just finished the busiest and best year of our musical lives. It’s been great to have Fence to work with on this one. They’ve helped us at every stage after the songwriting. The good ship Fence has a sound hull.

I was looking at the lineup you were part of at the recent ‘Wales Goes Pop’ event; tucked between the Onions and a Big Wave. Those other bands were all so ‘poppy’. How was the experience? (I honestly don’t think of KC as a ‘pop band’)

David: Wales Goes Pop! Was a great experience. A really fun gig. Why do you not consider us a pop band? I know we’re quite noisy, but we still write pop songs.

Kate: I would definitely consider us a pop band.

David: It’s difficult to label yourself. People are always wanting to have a one or two word genre to describe you. We get sold under the Indiepop banner a lot, but I’m not sure that we properly fit in that genre, really. I used to want to just sound like Mogwai. It’s not really worked out.

You went back to Wales in early May for a comedy festival. Career change? Can you share a few jokes from the routine? There was a rather impressive line-up of free music being offered up by Fence. Is this the first time for this type of cross promotion? 

David: My jokes are all improv. And ill-advised.

Kate: I let David tell all the jokes.

David: This idea came from Johnny (Lynch – the Pictish Trail/Fence Head Honcho) going on tour with the comedian/writer Josie Long a couple of years ago – actually was it 2009? Connections and friendships were made in comedy circles on those 40 or so shows, I suppose. I also supported Josie at a couple of her tour shows last year. Most people don’t find music prior to a comedy show too jarring, in my experience.

The album launch was a few months ago. Like most album launches we wish we could have been a part of, we are resigned to asking how it went?

David : The two nights at The Glad Café in Glasgow were excellent. We wanted to do something intimate and a bit special. The venue attached to The Glad Café only holds 120 folk but it is a really nice space, so that’s why we did two nights there. In hindsight we could probably have done 3, but I think that keeping it to 2 retained some magic? I’m in danger of disappearing up my own arse. We had soundman extraordinaire Tim Matthew looking after us, too, so I think the whole thing went according to plan. I’ll not forget those shows in a hurry. The London album launch was a lot of fun as well.

Kate: It was the first time ever I was able to make a “SOLD OUT EXTRA DATE ADDED” poster and it felt pretty awesome.

Stuttgart Traffic

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I was going to start off by asking about the name, but I see that the German press has beaten me to it. We’ve just decided that our imaginary blog band will be called ‘Unexplained Fires’. Were there any other names considered for your real band? 

Unexplained Fires is such a cool name by the way. Well the name was just kind of there to begin with. We just brainstormed different ideas by throwing any two words at random together and “Stuttgart Traffic” was the one that had a nice sound to it. We’ve never considered changing it and I don’t think there would be any point now as it would cause confusion.”

I was looking up Wee records while doing some research for our recent Charlie Clark post and your name did catch my immediate attention as my mother was born in Stuttgart. Unlike, the German press piece, my attention then shifted to the actual music starting with the video for ‘Table for Two’. When and where was it filmed?

“Table for Two” was filmed earlier this month(March) and it was filmed about 5 minutes away from where Wee Studio is located on the site of a demolished building surrounded by mounds of rubble. It was freezing cold, but extremely fun to film! There’s definitely too much of my(Calum) face in it though!”

It doesn’t really matter how good your name is if the music isn’t there to back it up. I took an instant liking to the song as it pushes all my buttons and hints at a promising future. What was the first song you’ve ever written? 

Thank you very much. We really do appreciate anyone taking the time to just listen to our music. The first song we learned together was “Strawberries” which will feature on the forthcoming album. It’s a particularly personal song which is perhaps why we pushed to learn it first, but as well as that we feel it just has good energy and is a fun live song which is all that mattered at the start.”

The next song I heard was German Borders. I’m having a little difficulty making out the lyric that references the title. So far I’ve got “I’m a Scottish girl at the German border” and, on the second pass, “Damn the Scottish girl and her German borders”. Could you help me out please? (although, I rather like the second one) What is the song about?

“Apologies for the lack of clarity. It must be the Hebridean accent. The line is the same both times around and is “Damn that Scottish girl with her German borders”. 

Just as I was about to send these, while double checking links, I found your first EP Seasons. It was quite enjoyable. What was it like travelling to SAE Glasgow to record the Strawberries demo?

“SAE was a great experience. It was the first time we’d used big, expensive recording gear. Because we were only there for two days though we ended up rushing. We actually laid down one other track which we have since re-recorded elsewhere as well as Strwberries(and will also feature on the album). Because we rushed we ended up with two songs that we weren’t particularly happy with so we consider the whole SAE experience a learning curve. Lesson being; “You can’t rush art!” as the guy in Toy Story 2 says.”

You’ve got a digital album entitled Pantagruel coming out soon. When I saw the flyer, I wasn’t sure if that was the title or another band on the bill. Care to share its significance? The album contains the 2 video tracks I’ve already referenced. Can you tell us the rest of the track listing or will we just have to wait until April 5th?

“Pantagruel was initially just thrown out as a joke in another brainstorming session. The name is that of a character in an old story (Pantagruel and Gargantua). He is a foolish prince who treats serious matters with a cynical sense of humour and that’s basically how it linked in. It was a similar outlook and general disposition a lot of these songs were born from. Coincidental! Well, not really. We were petulant youths, so was Pantagruel. The songs that aren’t so pessimistic adopt the total opposite outlook –  so you get both sides.

See You Next Week and Lonely/Happy(from Season EP) are both on the album, as is a new, album version of Strawberries. German Borders and Table for Two of course. The 3 other tracks recorded at the Wee Studio go by the names of “I Like Chocolate”, “I’m so Happy I Could Vomit a Rainbow”, “Surprise” and “Sparks and Spells”(clearly the happy outlook songs). The four remaining tracks (Cannibals, Roll on By, Crab Claws and Lighter) were recorded by a gentleman called Paul Matheson at his home studio”

In checking out one of your recent shows, I took the time to look up ‘Sea Atlas’. I’m just starting to get into more traditional sounding bands and liked what I heard. What can you tell us about them? Are there any other bands on the Island that we should keep a look out for?

“We’re good mates with the Sea Atlas boys. We’re always game for intruding on each other’s performances. A cameo tambourine appearance here and there for live shows and backing vox appearances on albums etc. Obviously we’re big fans of the Sea Atlas. There’s so many other great local bands though. The local music scene has just exploded as of late. Keith(of Wee Studio) has a lot to do with this. Eleanor Nicolson is one to look out for in future. Josie Duncan as well. A Promise To Noone, Pandejo, Face the West, Paramount. There’s also more well established groups. DotJR and The Boy Who Trpped The Sun being two examples (who both got themselves record deals with big labels). Bands in the past as well such as Charlie Clark’s old band Our Lunar Activities who recorded with Mark Hoppus. The list goes on.”

Wee Studios seems like an incredible asset to have on the Island. Could you tell us a little about Keith Morrison and the support he’s given you?

“It can’t be over-stated, how much Keith has done for not just us, but the whole music scene. There’s no way to concisely sum up all that he’s done and still do him justice. That in itself gives you an idea. The studio is amazing too obviously but only cause Keith knows his stuff. Seriously, he’s a wizard. Or at least Iron Man or something.”

It is a relative thing of course, but since I encounter many obscure indie bands on the Scottish mainland, I couldn’t help noticing that, in many cases, you’ve got 2 or 3 times more facebook ‘likes’ than some bands based in Glasgow. I assume this might be, in part, due to a large local support base. How have friends, family and the community itself buoyed your efforts as a fledgling young band?

“I’m actually surprised by that. I guess its maybe because we’re in a small pond. Lewis is small in comparison to Glasgow, therefore people don’t have as many choices of bands to listen to locally so they’re forced to listen to us which benefits us. But as I said, the music scene is taking off now. I think there comes a point though when you need to move on so people don’t get bored of you. Like Table for Two got plenty of ‘dislikes’ on youtube. We genuinely appreciate it when people are honest like that because its constructive and lets us know what to do and what not to do and if the song sounds as good as we think. But in such a small community it’s hard to know when it’s a personal thing or a genuine opinion of the music. But as you say the feedback has been generally very good  and we appreciate the support shown very much because without it what’s the point? Whether positive or negative though all feedback is helpful.”

Did you vote in the recent Samas? If so, who got your vote for best rock alternative?

“I personally didn’t vote. Maybe the other two did, I’m not sure. Don’t know who was nominated but Fatherson have to be up there for me anyway.”

I asked about your ages earlier because as a 17 and 18 year old my ‘playing’ in a band experience was limited to a single weekend when we rented a Juno-60 and the bass player decided he wanted to play it instead and handed me the bass. The first thing we used it for was to add the opening whirly sound and dog barking in ‘Somebody got Murdered’. Either because of the actual cost or my playing, the next week I was back at my regular spot behind the 8-track. It was pretty obvious, back then, to hear a young band’s musical influences. We were primarily a Clash-U2 cover band. Original song writing started shortly before everyone left for University and it doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out what they sounded like. It seems so much more diverse these days. Listening to you one could cite any number of bands and possibly be wrong. What are some of the influences that led to this moment in the band’s sound? 

“This is an easier answer to write because I don’t have to waffle. A lot of Scottish bands for me I guess. Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro, Fatherson, Twin Atlantic. Also less obscure sounding bands like General Fiasco, The Wombats, Two Door Cinema Club, Blink 182, Foo Fighters. Manchester Orchestra- or Andy Hull as a writer in general- is a big one for me personally. Nirvana as well. I’m also a sucker for California sounding rock(if you know what I mean?). Just warm, happy sounding, sunny weather rock. And to be perfectly honest I’ve got a soft spot for Olly Murs’ latest single. And Bruno Mars. But we all have our picadilloes.”

Could you describe the satisfaction you get from playing and writing songs together? 

“For myself playing together and having fun and just letting it all out is the most gratifying. I’m a bit concerned that there is now going to be a permanent record of what we’ve done (the album) available to listen to on demand and analyse and criticize as opposed to just three guys having a laugh and not taking themselves too seriously.”

What’s the best album (Scottish band naturally) that you’ve picked up so far this year?

Second to Pantagruel? Just kidding. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit in my opinion. The Oil Slick is a great song! Also The 1975’s various EPs. I saw them supporting General Fiasco a while ago but they’re starting to make a name for themselves now. They know their way about a catchy song.”

What sorts of bands have people compared you to? If you could snap your fingers and secure a support slot for one band next month who would it be?

“Biffy Clyro initially but we’ve tried to steer away from that and just sound original. As for the support slot I reckon Andrew would probably say Foo Fighters. I’d rather more intimate venues though. Any of the bands I’ve listed in my answers so far would be great. I saw Frightened Rabbit earlier this year in the Barrowlands which was crazy. I also saw Biffy there once too. It is THE best venue in the world.”

I’ve only visited Stuttgart once, by train, primarily staying in the downtown pedestrian areas and parks so I wouldn’t have shared your Grandfather’s experiences. Picturing an elder Scotsman going on about it though, I think it is pretty funny that the name might be more quintessentially Scottish than the ‘Zeitung’ realizes. Musically – these days – it seems the world is wide open. Where do you see yourselves in 5 years time?

“That is a tough shout. I like not knowing what the future has in store so I won’t predict anything too bold. As long as we’re all live beyond then its fine. I’d personally like to visit LA and Stuttgart sometime in my life though so I’ll make playing a gig in each of these cities the 5 year ambition.”

The album launch is on Friday and it should be available on bandcamp on the following Monday. Check the band’s page to find the links.

Thor