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.