Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Nicky McManus from ‘There Will Be Fireworks’

glasGOwest’s first full month

Firstly, an inspired name. Consciously crafted? External inspiration? Or just a happy accident?

“Thank you, I’m not sure if I even like it! It is what it is. I suppose it was consciously crafted whilst externally inspired by alcohol. No one quite remembers who came up with it or why but we all woke up with it saved in our phones so there may have been a reason. But since we can’t remember, it may have been a happy accident.”

Any thoughts on a ‘proper’ opening track for a record? As clichéd as it probably is, I’m partial to the short instrumental track. In the case of your debut, I got stuck on Columbian Fireworks.  I’ve listened to it at least ten times as much any other song on the record. For me, that might have been too good a choice.

“Hmmm… I think it depends on the album. Some that instantly spring to mind are the opener to The Twilight Sad’s first album (sets the tone brilliantly), Thunder Road on Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run (because it’s a tune), The Vowel’s, Pt. 2 on Why’s Alopecia and I really like the opening track on Iron & Wine’s last album but can’t remember what it’s called. And the first track on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.”

” For our first album, Colombian Fireworks felt right for some reason. It has the monologue by Kevin MacNeil and I think that would have interrupted the flow if it had been elsewhere on the album. I think it sets the scene quite nicely in terms of the guitar sound and the whole quiet/loud thing.”

How’s the recording going? It was nice of you share some of that with us. Is the process any different for you this time round?

“It’s going really well. We’ll hopefully get some more videos up over the next few weeks. We’re getting there with the album but plan on releasing an EP first so we are re spinning a few plates at the moment! The process has been almost completely different. We’ve been writing differently – much more in the studio with all of that freedom and flexibility (in terms of recording whilst we write, having lots of instruments to hand); whereas we used to write almost exclusively in a practice room. We’re still writing a lot of stuff whilst all playing in the room together live, but I think we’ve taken a more measured approach this time. We’ve also been recording differenly and that’s been the biggest change. The first album was recorded almost completely live (with overdubs for vocals and other bits and bobs). For the new stuff, we’ve taken the time to track everything properly and experiment with sounds a bit more rather than just going in and bashing out a few tunes. So totally different, but that’s why it’s so fun!”

Do you plan to release the new record on vinyl? Are there any other details you could let slip? Our readership is such that it wouldn’t really qualify as an announcement, more of a nod and a wink.

“We do actually have a tentative plan/opportunity to release the new record on vinyl. Nothing concrete yet, but hopefully. Other details I suppose would be that we are planning an EP for before the album and that once that’s released we will lock ourselves in a mixing room fiddling with knobs (…ahem…) until the album sounds good!”

We are always interested in any Scottish bands you either admire or consider to be influences.  We’d be especially grateful for a hat tip toward something we may well not have heard of.

“We are good friends with LightGuides, who have just released a brilliant album, and Endor, who released a brilliant album last year. I think all of us have been influenced to varying degrees by Mogwai. Not a band, but I love John Martyn. Used to listen to a lot of Biffy and Idlewild when I was a young’un. I also listen to Frightened Rabbit, The Twillight Sad, Belle and Sebastian, Meursault and Withered Hand, but you will have heard of all of them.”

“In terms of tips, you should check out Friends in America and People, Places, Maps. We’ve announced a show with them in Glasgow in December and they’re both awesome. Check out Over the Wall too.”

Although it is hard to tell from afar, it seems the current musical landscape in Scotland is richer than it has ever been.  Do you think that is an accurate observation or is it just this generation’s version of what has always been?

“Not sure how accurate this is. Growing up in Glasgow, it has always had a vibrant music scene. I think the internet has probably made it more visible and the success (especially Stateside) of the three Scottish bands on Fat Cat has probably created a lot more outside interest.”

We’d like it if you asked glasGOwest a question:

“What’s your favourite crisps?”

Apparently, only available in Canada: Dill Pickle.

We’ve had our first full month. All in all, it has gotten off to a much better start than we could have possibly imagined. The bands we’ve contacted have shown their  generous spirits in replying to these odd requests to send questions from afar. Although I had a hunch that this would be the case, the depth and quality of the responses went beyond expectations. I’d like to thank Matt Riley, yet again, I think he set a pretty high bar and established the tone we hoped to get right on the groundfloor. Knowing what is on hold already and the answers yet to come, next month should be as good, if not better. The first Monday of the month is blog meeting night at the Edinburgh Castle here in San Francisco. We will heartily raise our glasses to all.

T&P

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Craig B from The Unwinding Hours

I’ve always been pleased that I saw you open for Ballboy, as part of Ganger, at the Great American Music Hall. While checking to see that my memory coincided with reality, I discovered you were actually in Ganger 2.0. As it turns out I may have only thought I saw you. Nevertheless it did lead me directly to your next project. My first Aereogramme show was at Bimbo’s 365, opening for the Delgados. It truly was a special night. Stewart Henderson (there he is again, fresh from Ganger 1.0) was beyond jubilant.  I don’t suppose you could shed any light on his continual pronouncements about that being the best night of his life?

“Ganger 2.0. I like that. Yes, I had left Ganger just before that American tour, but Aereogramme toured the U.S. and parts of Canada four times over the years and I have fond memories of San Francisco. My memory is pretty hazy of that night at Bimbo’s though, although I do remember walking around the market just down the road from the venue as the sun went down. I have spoken about that tour with Stewart quite a bit and I must admit I have no idea why he was in such a jubilant mood that night. It might have had something to do with the vast amount of alcohol that was being consumed most nights, but it also could have been a busy gig which would have made them happy and eager to play. It was a real pleasure being able to tour with the Delgados then. They were a fantastic live band and Stewart’s patter was usually just as entertaining.”

The second time I saw you play was at the Independent with about 12 other people (one of whom is my wife).  Your stoicism in playing full out will always be spoken of with admiration. It wasn’t until I got the Chemikal Underground vinyl box set that I fully appreciated the tribulations of that tour. There are no questions to be asked there, but could you sum up what it was like touring and working with the C.U. folks during what had to be a more optimistic time?

“We have stayed with Chemikal Underground this long because they are honest and very likable people to work with. I have a lot of respect for the hard work they do in keeping Chemikal Underground going. Aereogramme were never really an optimistic band though, we were realists to a fault so when things didn’t start working out for us, we continued playing and recording but we just got angrier and angrier and more pissed off. Chemikal Underground are the type of label that let you do exactly what you want, so they never once stepped in and asked us to do anything we were uncomfortable with doing and never tried to steer us in any direction. It’s that hands off approach that was very appealing to us especially at the start when we were very head strong.”

The Unwinding Hours, understandably, was met with great anticipation. Knut is such a great opener – for a few minutes you could close your eyes and wish things were still the way you wanted them to be. While I assume that the sparse repeated lyrics “We can, we will, we must get up” mean exactly what they say, the rest of the album takes a quieter more introspective tone. In what direction will the new record take us? Is ‘Dogs’ representative of the new musical direction?

“I won’t correct you on the lyrics because I always find it interesting when people hear something other than what I am singing. I think it’s great when someone interprets the words in their own way. “The Dogs” is not what the new album will sound like at all. It’s just a wee experiment we tried out with Brendan Smith who filmed the video. We have another video to upload and it is acoustic but that will be the last acoustic song to release because I don’t want people to think that is what the next album will be like. It’s just easier to film acoustic songs. Like you say, the first album is very quiet and introspective and when we came to play it live, we felt it was very difficult to play shows other than our own because it was only at our own shows that people were interested enough to remain quiet and attentive and even then it was pretty obvious that the set leaned more on the quiet side. The new album will readdress the balance and I’m very happy with how it’s sounding and can’t wait to play the songs live.”

I almost hate to ask, would you even consider coming to the States again? We promise that we’ll make it over there, eventually, so no pressure.

“I would love to play the States again. I have had some incredible experiences playing there and would love to make the journey again. Unfortunately, there just isn’t the demand and so there is no budget to get us there. Some people will surely wonder that if we don’t play, how will people know about us? Unfortunately, we tried it that way in Aereogramme for eight years and it didn’t work. I started to hate what I was doing and it started to affect my life in negative ways. Now, with the Unwinding Hours, we have to be a bit smarter when and where we play because sleeping on a bass drum in the back of the van in the middle of France when you are touring on a tiny budget just isn’t an option anymore. Thankfully.”

Can you provide any additional details about the next record? Will you put this one out on vinyl as well?

“It will be out late 2012. I’m studying at the moment, so we need to record it and release when I’m not at uni. Chemikal are very much into the idea of vinyl, so I can’t think of any reason why it won’t come out on that format.”

Pedro and I attended a Biffy half hour set at a local festival last summer. We gravitated to the one fellow wearing the Biffy tee. Thinking he had to be a fan of you as well, we were astounded by his blank look. How is it possible that someone that flew in from Scotland specifically to see Biffy did not know who Aereogramme was?  Is Martin still running things for them? We would love to hear your take on Biffy.

“Martin still does the odd show for them but has another full time job at the moment. How is it possible that guy hadn’t heard of Aereogramme? Can’t answer that I’m afraid! The last album came out four years ago though so the only mentions we get these days are from people recommending us to their friends, which is always lovely to hear about. What’s my take on Biffy? I think they are excellent and deserve all the success they have. You would struggle to find a harder working band, and they have achieved a huge amount of success completely on their own terms. Whats not to like about that? Lovely guys as well.”

Lastly, we’d be honoured if you asked glasGOwest a question.

“What’s your favourite malt whisky?”

I once asked the owner of the lovely ‘Scot’s Corner’ in London, Ontario what his favourite scotch was, and have been fond of Oban ever since.

*****

After listening to Knut again, I can now report that I think Craig is singing…the same thing. According to someone else, it really is “If we can, we will / We must get out”. Honestly, I prefer and will stick with my own interpretation. Afterall, the Unwinding Hours appear to still be well in it.

T & P

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Joe Black from Washington Irving

I’m in love with the song SiSi. The reference wasn’t there for me directly, but I recognized it as a nickname for a famous personage. How did the 19th century Elizabeth of Austria become the inspiration for a song?

” I went to a museum in Austria when I was a youngster and remember seeing a quote from a worried courtier who asked her one day “Why does your majesty always look so hunted?” and I thought it was a good question. She’s a really interesting person and I thought her story deserved an airing again. I like singing about dead people’s troubles.”

Could you explain (I’m sure for the umpteenth time) the band name origin; otherwise I’ll keep imagining that it is a statement of literary intent. Toying with band name ideas ourselves– I once thought William Ashbless would be clever.

“William Ashbless is a keeper. Chris and I decided on the name and we didn’t really know anything about him. I thought it was a made up name at first. A character in Catch 22 signs his name that name, we were both reading the book at the same time and we wanted a name and it seemed to fit. I had no idea what a great guy the real WI seems to have been! We’ve almost overtaken him on google listings mind so soon WE will be the real WI! And I wonder what he’d make of that if we could go back in time and explain the internet and rock music to him.”

What was the last show you’ve been to as a fan? Could you give us a mini review? Given the distance, we have to live voyeuristically.

“The distance between us all as people or between me and you? I’m not sure where you are and I don’t
think you know where I am but who can measure really. I went to the National the other day and I enjoyed it but I was quite drunk and got in a bit of a fight.”

Could you cite some past Scottish bands you still hold close to your heart and share a few current ones that have captured your imagination?

“We all like Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai, The Phantom Band and lots of others. The current ones we love are John Knox Sex Club (I know we’re biased), Withered Hand (if you can claim him for Scotland),Over the Wall and Three Blind Wolves plus lots more.”

We’ve had a nice little interview arc. French Wives, The Seventeenth Century and now you. If I were to categorize the bands we like, you’d all likely fall into the same folder. What would you label that folder?

“French Wives and Seventeenth Century are both good bands and I think a lot of people have put us in the same pile. I don’t think it’s our job to describe our music though let alone other people’s music. It’s bad enough making it! That’s your job I think and we’d all be pleased if you came up with a genre like post-dub-step-monotonous-wandering blues or some such tiddle taddle because that’d make good reading and we can worry about the listening another time.”

Having listened to ‘Abbey Gallop’, ‘Little Wanderer, Head Thee Home’, the ‘let’s give it to Kowalskiy’ demo, and the Land of the Rising Sun contribution, I’m left wanting more. When can we expect the first full length? Can you reveal any little secrets about it?

“Glad you liked them! We’re going in to do our first full length album before the end of the year, then releasing it in  the spring. We actually can’t wait. I think it’s going to be very different from our previous releases. We rented a studio recently out in the highlands for a few days and worked on a lot of the new songs and I think from then on the idea of the album and what we’re trying to do with it have been really solid in our heads. We’re going out on tour with an amazing band called Other Lives at the end of October as a warm up for going in to the studio. So if anyone wants a sneak preview of the songs, head down to a show!

25th Captain’s Rest, Glasgow

26th Westgarth Social Club, Middlesburgh

27th Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds

28th Puzzle Inn, Sowerby Bridge    (Headline Show)”

Any thoughts as to the next historical figure you’d like to write a song about?

“Chap named Tom who had various and amusing adventures at sea.”

 

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Andy Truscott from The Seventeenth Century

I finally got around to ordering your 2nd ep. I now own the entire Electra French catalogue! What was behind the decision to release them on vinyl only?

“We wanted the first two releases to be something a bit different and we normally buy vinyl over cd so it seemed like a good idea. We think a vinyl release just looks and sounds the best.”

One of the things that hurts us the most, being some 5,000 miles away, is the shows with 2 or more bands we’d kill to see on their own playing together. How was the recent Martin John Henry album release show? Please don’t rub it in and mention how good Adam Stafford was as well.

“Yeah, it was an excellent evening. Great turn out as well. Martin John Henry’s set was fantastic. The songs off his album sounded amazing live.”

Are you excited that There Will Be Fireworks are recording their 2nd album now?  What other current Scottish bands would you recommend?

“Yeah, they’re a good bunch of guys so it will be good to hear their new record.

The Starlets are a superb Scottish band. Moon Unit, United Fruit, The Scottish Enlightenment, Alasdair Roberts, and Richard Youngs.”

What Scot bands would you cite as personal favourites or band influences?

“Incredible String Band, Dick Gaughan, Jesus and Mary Chain, Orange Juice, The Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, Mogwai.”

Can you give us some debut album details? Naturally, you’ll release it as a CD. Will there also be a vinyl version? Do you intend you create something special for it?

“It’s all new songs. Nothing off the first two EPs. Well, Banks of Home may creep onto the record. Yes, the album with be released on all formats. We’ll be recording it someplace very special, but we can’t say just yet I’m afraid.”

My reaction to the news of Mitchell Museum calling it quits was to order the record again on vinyl that very day. What was yours?

“Hopefully it’s more of a break than a permanent split.  I’m sure we’ll hear more from them in some shape or form in the future…”

To be honest, we’ve been unsuccessful in getting MJH’s attention. Do you think you could put in a good word for us?

“We’ll have our people contact his people!  He’s a good lad, so sure it’s just an oversight! Cheers!  Andy”

T&P

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Stuart Dougan from the French Wives

I’ve been following you for quite awhile.  I’m very excited to hear the news that the first full length is imminent. Do you have any details you’d like to share? You’ve been rather generous in releasing free songs, is the album primarily newer material? I trust Me vs Me will find its way on to it?

“Well, we’re finishing recording the album next month and it should hopefully be available in February 2012 through Electric Honey Records.  Quite excited about getting it finished and letting people hear it as it’s mostly new stuff and, to our ears, is much better than what we’ve done.  Me vs Me and Halloween both feature on the album but will be fairly different arrangements.  Hopefully people will still like them.”

 I’m listening to your music now and the 2 band comparison game yields ‘ The Seventeenth Century’ crossed with ‘Cancel the Astronauts’. Are there other Scottish bands or a ‘genre’ that you identify with?

“Certainly not intentionally, no.  There are bands that we like that happen to live or play in Glasgow but we don’t actively try and be a part of any kind of a scene or movement.  You just get to see these bands a lot as you play in the same places and get to make friends.  Cancel the Astronauts are great, we’ve played with them many times.”

We are all about past Scottish influences. What are yours?

” There’s lots of great Scottish bands we are influenced by like Orange Juice, The Bluebells and Belle and Sebastian. Tony Doogan made his name working with Belle and Sebastian so it’s amazing that we’ve got him producing our record.”

Are there any current Scottish bands you follow, admire or envy? I noticed Endor is opening on the new single launch. Say ‘Hi’ for us.

“Yeah, as I said there are Scottish bands we like or get on with, Endor would certainly be one of them. Our friends Admiral Fallow are doing really well for themselves just now which is great to see. I’ll be sure to say ‘hi’.”

What are your thoughts on the current local Scottish music scene? Internationally, can it export more than Frightened Rabbit?

“I don’t really think about it too much to be honest. There are certainly good bands and if you want to export yourself then with enough time and effort it can be done. Frightened Rabbit aren’t the only one’s who’ve done it recently. If you look at how well The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks have done internationally it’s not a completely unattainable thing to do.”

Do you have any plans to conquer America? Have you ever played here – a hop to New York perhaps?

“We do have tentative plans to come to America next year and that would include a trip to New York. If so, can we stay with you and will you bring people to our gig because otherwise we’ll be homeless with no-one to play to. It’s not neccesarily just going to be east coast only.  All depends on whether we get to SXSW or not and then what kind of dates we can put together off the back of that.”

What is your favourite venue and festival over there?

“I like watching gigs at King Tut’s and Sleazy’s. As for playing gigs, I don’t really have a favourite to be honest. The best festival we’ve done is called ‘Insider’ in Aviemore. It’s still only in it’s 3rd year I think but it’s great. Set out in a forest with lots of great bands and interesting things to do. Totally independently ran too which is nice.”

Posted in glasGOwest

Aurelio Valle (Calla)

We’ve decided to occasionally include non-Scottish bands in this blog. The bar for this is pretty high, and we promise to work in a Scottish angle wherever we can.

I was introduced to Calla by the Cooper Temple Clause. I left that trainwreck 4 songs in, but the (then-unknown to me) opening band, Calla, blew me away.

Pedro managed to secure this interview. I imagine putting on a few art shows with Aurelio helped pave the way.

Since you’ve obviously toured Scotland, we’d be interested in your impressions.

“Our first experience in Glasgow was amazing. Scottish fans we met were very intensely passionate about the music they were into. I got the sense that there is an understanding of what good music is and a sense of pride that Scotland has produced their fair share of legendary bands; all distinctive in their own right.

When I was younger it seemed any band coming out of Scotland had a cool class about them, always coming out of left field doing something you haven’t heard before. I’m sure some of the fans we came across there are in great bands now, and if not then still supporting the music scene like a religion. I hate to say I don’t remember the venues we played there. I do remember the drive there was great, like finally going to a place you only read about, all coming together visually. After the show we went down the street to a pub close by and had drinks with our friend and producer Victor Van Vugt.

We had just worked on Collisions together and he happened to be in Glasgow producing another band there.”

What can you tell us about your new project?

“The project I’m working on came about in the last year or so. I was starting to work more on my music and didn’t feel I wanted to go the traditional route of releasing records. Signing to a label wasn’t necessarily on the top of my list of things to do, there are constraints and headaches that really tend to dilute your passion for the work. Wanting to do another art show, I was trying to think of ways I could combine my music into it. I decided why not just release the work directly to the fans. I could finish the record, start my own label where I could release any and all projects in the future and possibly release other bands. There’s no pressure from the industry, I can work on my art and music on my own terms, directly for the fans.”

http://aureliovalleproject.com/

http://www.facebook.com/AurelioTrinidadValle

 

Can you cite any Scottish bands that you followed or that you found to be influential?

“Bert Jansch, The Waterboys, Aztec Camera, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Simple Minds, Altered Images, Primal Scream, Big Country.  I’m sure that I’m leaving out a lot. I’d also add Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian, but the first few I mentioned were important to me and made a huge impact on me growing up.”

Finally, is Calla merely on a ‘creative hiatus’?

“After playing together for so long you start feeling like your living in a box, completely confined to this world you’ve created around you. We were on the best terms as friends, like family. We found ourselves in a constant struggle with labels and the industry shit show for years.

That wasn’t important anymore. We had so much more we wanted to experience and accomplish. Sometime you have to realise that there are more  dignified ways of being artists and being in control of the way you live your life.  I wouldn’t say we’re done, we still work together on projects and, of course, still remain very close friends. Done with the industry rat race? Yes!  Calla as a creative entity? Definitely not. We are recording some new tracks for this fundraiser. I think if all goes well, I could see us working on more.  We’ve had offers to do shows overseas, I think if the right offer and right shows came along we could possibly play again.”

 

P & T

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Andrew Montgomery (formerly of Geneva)

Two past Scottish acts you admired?

“Billy Mackenzie – a once in a lifetime voice, Cocteau Twins (Liz Frazer – enough said)”

Two current Scottish acts you fancy?

“Um, I’m not up to speed on new Scots bands. (been living away from home too long). There was a Brighton band not so long ago called ‘Gloria Cycles’ and they had an awesome Scots singer called Kenny”.

A hat tip to a new Scottish artist you’d heartily recommend.

“Oh man, I have no idea”

What are your thoughts on the Scottish music scene?

“I always thought that the Glasgow music scene to be incredibly musically fertile, but unfortunately really cliquey and self-righteous at the same time. I never felt part of it. (Don’t think we were cool enough). But Scotland keeps producing questing fiercely beautiful music which goes for your jugular and your heart at the same time”

Do you have any stories or anecdotes about playing in San Francisco?

“In 2003, I played Bimbo’s 365 Club singing for a breakfast dj called  Ben Neill. It was a good gig and SF is beautiful. But I couldn’t get a bead on the city overall and that was my second time there. It seemed to be trading on its past, except for the bit south of Market. We also played a really cool digital radio station.

P.S.- Why the hell did they close the Church of John Coltrane?! When I went to see it in 2000, it was a bloody launderette!”

Tell you what, though, in spite of me being unconvinced, I would totally bite your hand off to go back there  and be proved wrong. One of my pals has the best SF story ever. Her grandfather was the ‘captain’ of the Golden Gate Bridge. When she (his first grand-daughter) was born, he blew the foghorn as she was being driven back across the bridge to Marin even though it was a clear day … sweet!”

Consider this part 1. I have a few more specific questions to ask Andrew about the past and his current projects.

T & P