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

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