Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Samantha Crain (via the Toad Sessions)

Samantha Crain - 2012

My first exposure to you came from listening to the song ‘Churchill’ from a recently posted Toadcast. Not recognizing the name, I was fairly certain you were not Scottish. This doesn’t automatically preclude me from paying attention but as this is a Scottish music blog it was something I intended to put off until later. That evening, I kept repeatedly going back to the sessions to listen to the songs. I can’t remember the last time I’ve found someone’s singing so compelling. I had to work you into our blog somehow. Beyond what can be seen in the clip, what can you tell us about that experience in the Toad’s living room?

“Well, seeing as how this was a year and half ago, I can’t remember too much about it in terms of specifics. I remember Matthew making me a nice whiskey and then we did the songs and then an interview. Then we all went to the pub afterwards. This was the night after I had played a packed out little show at Henry’s Cellar Bar with Withered Hand which was very special to me. I am such a fan of Dan’s music and getting to sing “For the Maudlin” with him at the show and hear him live was really a great experience.”

 One of the things I first read when I did do a little investigation was your explanation of how your own surroundings influenced your music. It has become pretty clear just how much of Scotland finds its way into the music that we champion. Each time I do discover an artist from Oklahoma, I have a feeling that something similar is happening there. Did you sense an affinity or similarity between the Scottish environment’s musical impact and that of your own experiences back home? (as much as that is possible to gauge from a tour and visit)

 “I don’t know if I can actually say much to this. I think it would be unfair of me, as an outsider, to say, in response to my short time in Scotland, “Well Scotland is overcast so all the music sounds this way…” or some weird, overarching conclusion like that. I’m sure if I spent any amount of time there talking to musicians, I would find the same similarity between environment and creativity. I think it is like that everywhere. Unless you are locked up in a room all day, the city, the town, the place you are in is going to affect what pours out of you…and even in the room, the room will affect you. We are sensory based beings and artists are purposely even more in touch with what they are sensing.”

Your session was recorded by Neil Pennycook. Did you happen to bring back any ‘Meursault’ records or ‘discover’ any other artists while there?

“I don’t think I knew Neil was in a band called Meursault until you just asked me this question. I will have to listen to their music! I did, however, start listening to King Creosote after my trip there because Mike MacFarlane, who opened the show we did at Henry’s, played a King Creosote tune and I liked it and so I’ve dived into that a bit and have really enjoyed those songs.”

 I found this clip from King Tut’s. I have read that a Glasgow crowd can, on occasion, be ‘tough’. You certainly have their rapt attention here. What was the reception like overall? I’m curious if you found any perceptible differences between a Scottish crowd versus one from Manitoba?

“That Glasgow show was really fun! I didn’t get the feeling that the crowd was humming about or getting too drunk at all. It might have also helped that I was on tour with First Aid Kit (friends of mine, a folk duo of sisters from Sweden) and they always have a polite audience. All my shows in Europe, including England, Scotland, and Ireland, and Canada, have been really positive. I feel like people  go to certain places to listen to music and then when they want to get rowdy they go to another place. Actually the toughest shows to play are in the USA. And I can’t tell if people just don’t care as much, or if its because the venues that have live music are also known places to just hang out. So end up having this real mix of people, some who are there to hear the band, and some who are there to socialize. Also, I didn’t notice TVs in very many music venue/bars in Europe, UK or Canada….there are TVs in so many bars and venues over here in the US, and that is my main enemy in keeping a crowds attention.”

I found this nice review of your 2011 opening for Withered Hand in Edinburgh. How did that show actually come about?

“I played at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh with Withered Hand. Matthew, from Song by Toad, had been writing blogs every once in a while about my albums since my very first EP, so when I was on tour in the UK, I contacted him to see if he could put together a show in Edinburgh for me and I really wanted to see if Dan could play because I’m such a fan of his. So that show  was really great for me. It is always nice to be able to play with bands and songwriters you look up to and that is what that show was for me.”

 In a bit of further geographic irony, (as if having to go to Edinburgh to discover an artist from Oklahoma wasn’t enough) when the LP arrived I learned that it was recorded, practically down the street, in San Francisco. How fully formed were the songs before the recording commenced? Were there any changes that came about during the recording process?

“I came into the studio with the songs all written and ideas for them, but the fun and magic of this record came with the fact that all the musicians (all friends of mine from Oklahoma or present band members) and John Vanderslice, hadn’t really heard them. So the parts that were written and the production ideas really were the first gut instinct. And I like gut instincts. Especially when it comes to recording. Laboring over a song and its production and arrangement just isn’t my style. Vanderslice made sure I kept the basic simple integrity of the “singer-songwriterness” of the songs but made good and intelligent tweeks to song endings or repetitions or instrument addition and subtraction to, ultimately, make it sonically interesting for the listener.”

‘Churchill’ leads off side B. I’m turning over the record now and after another listen I’m struck how appropriate and subtle the music is. It is an observation that applies to record as a whole. Is the song title a specific reference?

“I wrote “Churchill” sitting in this room in my house that had piles and piles of books. There were these two big books standing side by side that kept staring me down. It was two volumes out of the Second World War histories by Winston Churchill, “Their Finest Hour” and “The Grand Alliance”. I had hit a long period of writer’s block and felt very out of character with the self-seeking opportunist that I had thought myself to be all my life. This change in demeanor and personality felt much like a war inside my brain and heart and so these book titles seemed worthy of being worked into the lyrics of the song I was writing and then I slapped “Churchill” on as the title to pay homage to those volumes wedging me out of the writer’s block.”

After the first listen it was fairly apparent what a nearly flawlessly perfect record ‘Kid Face’ is. The intimacy of a living room session is conveyed throughout. I still have not listened to it enough times to keep from marveling just how incredible it is. As much as I love the vocals, the music is equally evocative and compelling. Your guitar playing and the embellishments that spring from that are equally noteworthy. Did this all just come about naturally? What do you think has helped set up this deeply expressive balance?

“It did come about naturally. For me, the record I make is a very intimately direct picture of the state of my mind and life. The Confiscation EP, that I wrote when I was 19, was raw and full of imitation. Songs In the Night was written when I was 21 and when I had a steady band and we all lived and played and worked together. It was cohesive and polished. You (Understood), I wrote when I was 23. I was emotional, unpredictable, confused and the record is the same. And then we come to Kid Face. I wrote it when I was 25. I’m in a good quiet spot in my head. I can think clearly and have control. This record is restrained in the same way. It is a picture of the quietness, clarity, restraint, and control that I feel in my life right now.”

Despite its brevity, the recent Rolling Stone ‘review’ contains this sterling insight – “The emotion in her tone is a dissertation”. When did you first start singing? Was there a guitar in your hand from the beginning?

 “I will say “yes” because the first time I started being aware of my singing or singing as an expression was when I started playing guitar. Something about having an instrument with me allows me to sing with impulse and freedom. Without an instrument, I am much more cautious in singing.”

I’ve enjoyed listening to the digital press album quite a bit these past few weeks, but was  still caught by surprise just how much better it sounds on vinyl. Given the record’s dynamics that stands to reason. Are you a vinyl aficionado?

“Yeah! I’ve been listening to vinyl since I was a kid. We’ve always had a record player in the house. And given that the recordings on Kid Face never went through a computer in the studio, I can see how vinyl would be its natural environment. The subtleties of the manipulations and frequencies that Vanderslice was conjuring in the studio are best displayed on vinyl. I feel like you hear the whole picture.”

I recently ‘discovered’ another Oklahoma band via the enthusiastic praise of ‘The Seventeenth Century’ who played with ‘Other Lives’ in Scotland. I did manage to uncover ‘Colourmusic’ on my own. Is there anyone else we should investigate?

“Other Lives. Amazing. Colourmusic. Amazing. Keep your ears open for Parker Millsap, he’s a 20 year old wiz at folky blues and sounds like Robert Johnson and Tom Waits and William Elliott Whitmore all rolled into one. I have high hopes for him. Also, Penny Hill, who sometimes plays bass for me, she is an amazing guitar player, songwriter, and singer.”

You will be heading into SXSW soon. Keep your eyes open for Washington Irving. Is there anyone there you are hoping to see play? In fact, I’d love to hear your reaction to this song ? (note: sadly Washington Irving had to cancel after sending these questions but Mr. and Mrs. Toad are there right now, presumably causing mayhem)

 “Oh what a rad band! I will try to see them. But SXSW is a mess for me and I’m usually very overwhelmed and don’t know what to do and don’t know how to have fun there. So I’ll probably just end up hiding out towards Dripping Springs, coming in when I have to play, then retreating again. My friends, Frontier Ruckus, have an amazing saw player in their band so I always have a soft spot for that.”

I keep trying to come up with a Scottish artist I might find comparable. This is more of an emotional connection, but I keep coming back to Panda Su. I would certainly say that you are both singer song writers with an engaging vocal style that resonates on an emotional level slightly more deeply than most. What’s your take on this song?

You really have to stop showing me videos of bands or I am just going to stop playing music! She’s good!” 

I’m most likely projecting here but a situation that I imagine has occurred frequently on tour is someone coming up after a show and telling you how moved they were. Have you gotten used to that yet?

“Yeah sure I’ve gotten used to it, but I still haven’t figured out the perfect gracious response. I mean I hope people are moved, I don’t do this all for myself. But I’m still trying to understand what it is that people want to hear back. And maybe that is just “thank you”.”

 Now that the record is out and the tour seems to be winding down: what’s next? Of course, what I’m really asking is how long before we can reasonably start looking forward to your next SF show?

 ” TOUR WINDING DOWN!? what are you talking about? The record is out which means touring BEGINS! Just because there aren’t a lot of dates posted doesn’t mean we aren’t planning things. Its hard to get venues to let you play these days unless you have costumes and a few synths and a review in Pitchfork so we’re trying to book shows, really we are…SF will be happening soon I hope.”
I saw this interview with American Songwriter the other day and feel compelled to link it as well.  This record is  a must on vinyl if that is still possible. And in case you still aren’t convinced here is the title track  ‘Kid Face‘ captured live a few weeks ago. 
(Samantha Crain) is technically not ‘Scottish’, but in this case I think it is safeto loosen that restriction a little. Creating a magnificent Toad Session is sometimes grounds enough. 
Thor 
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Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Fake Major

Fake Major Web-20

Our email tagline is ‘while Scotland sleeps we listen’ which means that when we do wake up, there is frequently a facebook-twitter deluge to wade through. The reaction summary the other day went a bit like this:

  (Sadness) -“Endor broke up!”

   (Relief) – “Endor is now just not Endor”

   (Joy) – “there’s a new song and video!”

   (Hell yes!) – a message from Comets and Cartwheels asking if we’d have any interest in doing a feature.

From over here it seems that it was all a  closely guarded secret. How well coordinated was the roll out? Is there a story to the new name?

“Surprisingly not as well coordinated as you might imagine. We have been working on our new project “Fake Major” for the last 6 months, and when we finally got our first track completely finished (and we were both happy with it!), we put it online two days later. It wasn’t so much a closely guarded secret, as much as we didn’t just want to tell everyone who had helped support Endor that it was over and nothing else. We wanted to show those people that we were still writing and recording, and had something new to offer them. The name comes from a feline friend that lives on my street. We thought it sounded good and stuck with it!”

With this duo you’ve gamely entered ‘Over The Wall’ and ‘TMTATC’ territory. I’m guessing this change has been a creative boon and way to move forward musically. Would you characterize that as being the case?

“I think when you start anything new, there is always an excitement at the beginning, and this has helped us be more creative in everything we have been doing recently – writing, recording, and making videos.

We have definitely changed the way we write and record music. In the past we limited ourselves to what we could reproduce at a live show, but now there is a real difference between our recordings, and how we reinterpret the songs when performing.”

Releasing the video on the same day was well played.  If I had heard the song ‘Little Researcher’ the first time without knowing the source, I can’t honestly say I would have instantly recognized it as being Endor. Listening to it a few times, I’m struck by how ‘well considered’ it all is.  Other than just extorting the questioner to listen, how would you say your song craft has developed?

“Little researcher was originally written as our previous band was falling apart, so for Jarv and I it was even more important that we scrutinized every single line. We continually revised the song until we were both happy, and I think we have delved a bit deeper with all the songs on our upcoming EP. Each individual part  – whether a guitar line or vocal harmony – has been more considered than before, make sure every part has its purpose and hopefully adds something interesting.”

The video is undoubtedly one of the finer debuts I’ve seen in a while. It probably seems impossible now, but did you ever consider any other narratives to present the song?  My favourite part was when the stethoscope is placed to the glass and the music itself slows down a beat shortly after.  Who came up with idea for the final notebook entry?

“We are extremely proud of the video, and it was a great creative experience to work with Jolene and Richard (of Precious Productions). I don’t think we did consider other narratives. Jarv had the idea of a child trying to make sense of the world around them, and together we all developed the different scenarios. Richard (of Precious Productions – we call him “Richard 1”) did an incredible job editing it all together, as you have picked up on it the stethoscope! We were lucky enough to have a star in the making play the heroine. Lots of the video was made up of things she already owns, and I think the final notebook entry was her doing. A future star in the making for sure.”

Since we last chatted, people have started sending us ‘press kits’ and I’m still fascinated by the nearly contradictory usefulness and meaninglessness of them.  Which four songs on that Snow Patrol album do I need to listen to again more carefully?

“Ha! Yeah press releases are a strange thing. Jarv sang on Open Your Eyes, Shut Your Eyes, Make This Go on Forever and Hands Open on their Eyes Open album.”

 The snippet from the press blurb that did make me take note was “The truest version of Fake Major exists somewhere between the record and the venue” This strikes me as a much deeper observation.  Could you describe that place yourselves? 

“The original idea we had for this band was to write songs that would sound great with only two people performing them, and equally as good with a full compliment of musicians. We hope that when people come to see us perform live, they can appreciate the different interpretations of the songs, while being able to relate to them from the recordings they have heard. As a bonus, it’s a lot easier to tour with two people rather than seven!”

The first EP is “to follow”. Any sense of the timeline? How many tracks? … Any information you could share would be most welcome.

“The final tracklisting is still to be decided, but the EP should be out in April 2013. We plan to release material as we have it, so expect more to follow.”

It seems that your first ‘official’ show was a few weeks ago in Dundee. We’d very much like to hear how it went. 

“The show in Dundee was great thanks. It felt good to be back on stage performing after hiding away for what seemed an eternity. It is always interesting to take the songs out from the practice space, and get an idea of what parts work better in larger rooms (and which definitely don’t). It’s especially satisfying when certain areas of a song unexpectedly sound great, it’s a real ear treat!”

Thanks for introducing us to Michael Cassidy. Can you tell us anything about him from previous experience? (or from what you learnt from the support slot)

“Michael is a lovely guy, and a great singer songwriter. This is the first time we saw him play with a band, and there is a real country influence that is probably less evident when it’s just him and his guitar, which I really liked. Special mention needs to go to his guitar player who was quite spectacular.”

Have you secured Ms. Crawford for the next video? 

“We are currently having heated discussions with Ms Crawford’s agents (/parents)! Child stars are extremely unpredictable.

Picture 5fakemajor

I like how Fake Major end up right under Endor on our band list. Here is another video release for the song ‘Camera

Thor

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Brave Young Red

byr13thnote2

I’m so tired of knowing about EP launches and the pigeon roosting patterns of Glasgow side streets that I bought a ticket for the launch on the 28th at the 13th Note so I could be there in spirit. How did it go?

(James) “I think I can speak for everyone in the band when I say it was a fantastic night. We managed to lose track of the number of people coming through the doors but from counting ticket sales at the end of the night we realised we had sold the venue out. It was a tight squeeze, but I think that adds to the charm of the 13th Note. A bigger venue wouldn’t have had the same intimacy between ourselves and the audience. This catered for both our upbeat, electric songs and the quieter acoustic pieces.”

The first time I heard the EP and then listened to it repeatedly was in the few hours before going to see Midge Ure back in mid-January. I bring this up one last time (promise) because I was struck by several things that night – how good this young band I had just discovered was and how set in musical amber my generation tends to be. Why do you think so many people tend to stop looking for new music not that long into adulthood?

(Angus) “Having worked in an “old man pub” that had covers bands playing the same pub band songs from their generations I’ve seen a lot of this. I think in a lot of cases life gets in the way, in that they don’t have the same spare cash to buy music or access to the knowledge/technology to find new music. I mean I know a number of exceptions to this but that seems to be the case with the majority. However, I have found that if you take time to show people something they will often like something new. I think if someone is a true music fan they will always be a music fan.”

A few weeks ago while doing some research I stumbled across Angus’ blog The Practice Room. I found it fascinating in that it mirrored, live and on the ground, the search for new music that I have to conduct from afar. The blog is something I’d like to revisit later, but I am curious as to the motivation for doing it?

(Angus) “I originally started that blog as a university project last year in which the original plan was to do a blog centering around sessions with bands and ask them about their writing process and influences etc. However time and money constrains stopped this so it morphed into a more conventional music blog. I always seemed to be telling people to listen to a band or recommending music to people so this seemed a good medium  to do so. Since I go to a lot of gigs, live reviews seemed to be a good way to get this point across to encourage people to go see bands. Being based in the industry too, I wanted to have somewhere other than facebook or twitter to voice my opinions and try and put my point across about certain matters. The only reason I’ve taken a bit of a break from it just now is because of commitments to uni and the band but I do have plans to start it up again, the sessions too hopefully!”

I assume you’ll take a few copies of the EP over to Avalanche later in March when you play Edinburgh? Have you played there before? 

(James) “We definitely will try and get some copies into Avalanche in March, Angus is already in contact with Kevin about it! Previous to the launch, we got some copies into Love Music and Monorail in Glasgow.  As a band I think we all agree that one should support their local record shop. Brave Young Red have never played in Edinburgh before, I have in a previous band during the Fringe Festival period which was great fun so I’m looking forward to getting back with the Brave Young Red crew.”

You’ve literally just added the Roots EP to bandcamp now.  So instead of asking when you are going to do that, I’ll ask what you think of the new Kid Canaveral record? 

(Angus) “I’ve not actually heard it yet but you’ve reminded me that I really liked the first one and saw the band at a few festivals in 2011, but never ended up buying the album. So I’ll probably end up getting both when my next student loan payment comes in (along with the endless list of other albums I’m looking to get)!”

I was listening to the ‘Youth and the Young’ EP as I finished these questions. From my perspective, it seems young Scottish musicians and bands are slightly more inclined to incorporate some of the cultural musical traditions of their surroundings. Do you think this is a fair assessment? Have Scottish traditions had an impact on your own music? 

(James) “I think that’s a very appropriate comment. Something I’ve been listening to on loop recently, which I think is a great example, is Rick Redbeard of the Phantom Band’s debut solo album No Selfish Heart. The melodies and warm acoustics with the odd violin and subtle harmony thrown in, really evokes a strong sense of Scottishness. My favourite track on the album is actually a cover of a traditional piece, called Kelvin Grove, about a park in the West End of Glasgow. I believe it was written by the poet Lyle. The slow pace and descending chord sequence is beautiful along with the vocal melody. It’s a timeless piece that sits comfortably in the album, so you can understand how Scottish folk tradition directly affects a lot of the contemporary music we hear coming from Scotland today. Larger Scottish bands such as Frightened Rabbit and Admiral Fallow have clearly drawn influence from this culture and of course, we listen to these bands. One band at the minute who I think are fantastic are Flutes, who we are supporting in April at their single launch in Glasgow. They have a darkness in their music, the spacey, obscure, picked chord progressions and the imagery that their lyrics project possesses that defined Scottish sound. As the main songwriter in the band I think I generally draw my inspiration from all of these bands around me, big and small.”

Who would you cite as direct musical influences?

(Angus) “We all come from rather different musical backgrounds but there are certain bands that when we were starting out we decided we really like and would like to make music that was akin to that. Whether what we came out with sounded like these artists or not is irrelevant now I’d say but there definitely was an idea of what we liked and would like to sound like. Normally when asked we say Frightened Rabbit, Admiral Fallow, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Bombay Bicycle Club.”

(James) “I think we all grew up listening to the legends – Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, the list is endless. But I think listening to our music it would be hard to draw comparisons. We may share common tastes with the main Scottish acts of course being Frightened Rabbit, Admiral Fallow, WWPJ etc. but do we really sound like these acts? I think it’s important to have influences, but we’re independent thinkers as well. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I don’t think we really sound like anybody. An influence in terms of band development I suppose would be Bombay Bicycle Club. They have so many complex sounds, intertwining genres and that’s something as a songwriter I can relate to. They have an entirely stripped-back acoustic album, Flaws, but on the other hand the rest of the music they play is powerful, alternate indie rock or whatever you’d like to call it. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t think we have a limited sound and I never would want to limit.”

Sometimes I’m pretty slow but I could swear you started off as a three piece. I just now realized that Erin not only provides additional vocals but is also a regular member of the band. I was not aware of James’ earlier solo efforts. What has the transition from solo artist to a five member band been like?

(James) “I’ve been playing solo acoustic gigs since the age of 15. Since beginning University and discovering an entirely new music culture in the South of Scotland, I found my music taking a turn and becoming more dynamic and in some cases adopting obscure rhythms, chords, and melodies. I began to find it difficult to really communicate the songs across to listeners in the context that I wanted to, I felt the songs were limited with just the acoustic guitar and alone vocal. It was then that I asked Angus and Michael (Stewart) to step in. Angus of course played bass and Michael played cajon drum at this point. This helped the dynamics and confidence grew in the newly formed group. We began to gig more and more regularly, but we were still only playing acoustic nights and we wanted to do more. There was talk of introducing a violin player, flute player, but in the end we decided we just wanted a female vocalist. We had played a couple of gigs with Erin before and then asked her if she wanted to join us alongside her own solo career. From there piano was introduced and Michael moved to drums. However, at Christmas time he couldn’t make a gig and we asked Mikey (Hepburn) if he would fill in. It went well, and we wanted him to stay on drums as Michael (Stewart) was never that comfortable as he’s always been more of a guitarist. So that kind of happened by accident. So it’s been a journey, but we’ve done a few gigs as a full band and have had a great response, so the only way from here is up!”

How do you tell the two Michaels apart?

(Angus) “We tend to refer to one as Michael (Stewart – guitar) and one as Mickey (Hepburn – drums)…them looking different helps too however it does confuse matters when one of our friends uses Mickey as a general nickname for either one.”

(James) “One is good at drums, the other, not so good. *winks”

The EP cover art, especially the compass, is arresting. What’s the story behind it?

compassbyr

(James) “I bought the compass when I was in holiday in Corfu last year. It was in a shop that sold hand made wooden items and I found it in a box. I simply thought it looked pretty cool. I had not long finished the song “Footprints” which is the second track on the EP and it mentions the line “My compass starting pointing South as I began to fill with doubt”. Perhaps I subconsciously thought that I had to have it! Footprints in particular is about me leaving my hometown in the North of Scotland and moving to the South. Essentially it’s about the struggle of finding where ones true home is where they feel most comfortable, amongst themes of entering manhood, growing, and leaving. That’s where the line in the chorus “These roots have a hold on me” comes from as well, giving us the EP title. We wanted to evoke a strong sense of something organic hence the trees, leaves, etc.”

Listening to the EP yet again, I’m struck by how accomplished it is.  ‘Silk and Satin’ could have been the result of putting Kid Canaveral and the State Broadcasters together in a room and not letting them out until they distilled and blended their sound. It is such a lovely song. Being in the lead position on the EP, is it what you would consider the first single? What does the title ‘Roots’ signify?

(Angus) “Thank you very much! I remember when we first started playing the song it reminded me of Kid Canaveral now that you mention it. It’s arguably one of the more upbeat songs from the EP but I always find it hard to define what is a lead single from a limited choice. For arguments sake just now I’ll say it is though. I think James is better explaining  the EP name…”

(James) “As discussed earlier, Roots, comes from the second track, Footprints and the internal struggle of finding ones true home. Again, the EP has recurring themes of growing and leaving, as represented by the female character. I guess it made me think back to basics, where someone is stripped down to having nothing except themselves. Stripped down to their roots.”

The last song ‘Little Dove’ sounds like it might have come from the solo period. Have you already begun writing new songs? What is next after this EP?

(James) “Surprisingly, Little Dove was written after the rest of the band had been recruited. Michael (guitarist) was playing about with the waltzing chord progression one afternoon and I asked him what it was, to which he answered he was only mucking about. I instantly had a melody forming in my head and began writing the song in the next room. When it comes to lyrics I like to challenge myself using different stimulus and it was the cover of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, that had caught my eye. I found the image of the woman very powerful and starting writing about the character, tying it in with the same female character illustrated in Silk & Satin. Little Dove resembles an acceptance in her life where she realises leaving is the best option. I think for just now we’re going to continue to promote our EP over the next few gigs as it’s something we’re very proud of. There’s talk of releasing a single in the summer, but we also have some exciting opportunities such as playing at Liverpool Sound City in May.”

It will be like being in Glasgow with sunshine around here in a week. Chvrches, Frightened Rabbit and the Twilight Sad twice in a six day period. Now that Washington Irving is no longer headed to SXSW, I don’t even regret not being able to head down there. I’ve often thought that if I was in Scotland that I would not be able to properly function with all the shows I’d want to attend. How do you juggle so much live music?

(Angus) “With great difficulty…I think the only thing that is stopping me going mad with choices of gigs to go to all the time is the band itself and being a student based in Ayr which means I’m limited by train times and money. Often what I’ve found does dictate what gig I go to is which  ticket is available first and if I have the money to get a ticket at the time. If it’s a friend who’s playing/promoting the show that can often dictate it too.”

Any other Scottish artists we might not yet know about?

(Angus) “Running a blog means as well means I can talk at length about this so I’ll try and be brief. Despite being in the band I’m in I often end up listening to a lot of loud, riff orientated bands like Carnivores and The Darien Venture (whom I love). If instrumental music is your thing, then our good pals Vasa are definitely worth listening to. Campfires In Winter who you’ve already featured, blew me away the first time I saw them last year and I can’t wait for their single launch next week as well. Inuit who I did a blog post a wee while ago seemed to be very interesting. I absolutely loved PAWS’ debut, and look forward to seeing what Honeyblood have to offer as well.  On the quieter side of things a singer originally from Edinburgh but based in London who goes under the name Blue Rose Code has just put out an excellent debut album called North Ten which I highly recommend. Jamie Flett & Matt Scott both played amazing sets at our EP launch, and finally Anna Sweeney, Hannah Jackson  and our own Erin Todd are excellent female solo performers. I think that’s enough for now…”

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Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Campfires in Winter: White Lights

CIW-WHITE-LIGHTS-ARTWORK

I quite like the single art work. Who designed it? Simplicity itself compared to a Biffy cover, but it is just as effective. Will the little campfire carry forward as a bit of branding?

“The artwork was designed by a friend of ours called Geo Chierchia (Eleven Eighty Seven). We had originally planned to do the artwork ourselves but asked Geo to design a poster for the gig. The idea he came back with was fantastic and we took the decision then to ask him to design the CD artwork too. I think we probably will continue to use the wee campfire, aye. It’s weird because one of the first things we decided when we chose our band name was that we could never use fire, campfires or winter on any artwork. And then when we saw Geo’s design we just thought fuck it, that looks really good.”

Not being a stranger to the band, I took a great interest in listening to ‘Cardboard Ships’. I was quite surprised by how much more I liked it than I remembered. I didn’t recall it being one of my favourites from the early recordings. I’d certainly think of it as one now. It is remarkable how nicely you’ve polished it up and given it a deeply moving new musical underpinning. Are there any other older songs that have been reworked?

Our songs are always developing really. We’re always looking for ways to make them better. Cardboard Ships was one of those ones that, when we listened back to it, we felt could be better. In fact, there was an acoustic version we recorded for a radio session once that this new version is actually based on. We just wanted to make something epic and beautiful (despite the dark subject matter) because we felt it was a good enough song. We are taking the same approach to a few older songs too, one of which is ‘They Looked Just Like Fallen Leaves‘. We’ll see how it all goes.”

The new single ‘White Lights’ seems to be richer and a little more musically diverse. Is it a good indicator of where your song writing is taking you?

“Lyrically, it’s a little more personal than much of our previous material. I feel that I’ve shied away from writing about personal stuff in the past and that, while I like writing about imaginary situations happening to imaginary characters and having those same characters appear over different songs, I should open up a little more. I think that’s something I’d like to carry on. Musically, it’s maybe a bit more poppy than we normally are – a bit ‘straighter’”

Is the single a solid step toward an upcoming full length? (please assure us that an updated version of ‘Before The Owl Will Fly’ will be there as well)

“Yep. The next step after this will be an EP in the autumn, then a full length album sometime next year. As for ‘Before The Owl Will Fly’, I certainly hope so”

What do you think of the new Fake Major single?

“I really like it. I was sorry to hear Endor had finished because I thought they released a really fantastic album and didn’t really get all the recognition they deserved for it. But aye, it’s great. It’s a bit more atmospheric than Endor, and kind of feels like how they might have progressed had the stayed together.”

Ever since starting up the vinyl collection again, quite a few 7” singles have travelled across the Atlantic. I was just looking at the stack of them and marveled how much more substantial (and artistic ) they were compared to CDs. Do you still buy them? If so, what were the last 2 or 3 you’ve picked up?

“I do indeed. In fact when it comes to new releases I try and go for vinyl over CD if the option is there. My last vinyl purchase was Frightened Rabbit’s Pedestrian Verse with the Dead Now 7”. Over the next few months I’m planning to look back at my CD collection and get some of my favourites on vinyl too.”

Right now advance copies of the single seem to be attached to the launch gig. What forms will it be available in after that?

“It’ll be available as a digital download and a limited run of CDs. No vinyl this time I’m afraid but hopefully we’ll get some of those done for a future release.”

 

 

The Campfires are pretty clear in stating who their influences are. Take a bit of Frightened Rabbit, a little Twilight Sad, and some of the more raucous potential of their own early demos and you’ll just begin to describe their sonic potential. Perhaps oddly, I’ve always been a little bit afraid that Campfires in Winter would be dismissively compared to them by ‘critics’ who then commit the additional sin of failing to appreciate the  warmth, depth and range to be found in their music. Obviously, the musical terrain they tread on is similar – To American ears it is almost stereotypically Scottish. But that’s the thing about stereotypes – they are exactly that for a reason.

It is almost impossible to grasp that the band is just releasing their debut single considering how good their demo catalogue is. A revamped version of ‘Cardboard Ships’ included on the single highlights the strength of their musical development. Editing this section queues the song in my mind and now I’m compelled to listen to it yet again.

 “We’ll get as far as we would in the sea on a cardboard ship as we would in the air on a paper plane trip”.  Soaring poignant vocals flowing on a low sonic wave that opens up to a beautiful mid song instrumental melody that ushers in the next vocal round before ending in a slow washed out organ (or whatever sound it is) fade. When done – it begs to be played again from the beginning. This is no B-side.

The actual single comes in two lengths – a full 6.04 and a 4:32 radio edit.

With the introductory musical paragraph of the longer version neatly truncated, the shorter version lunges into the vocals almost immediately. “It will take 3 parts liquid and 2 parts luck”. Radio friendly and possibly more engaging; I rather like having both included even though there is not much difference after that. Interestingly, the vocals have been confined to the first part of the song allowing the music and guitars to have more expression than ever before. Describing it won’t do it justice (at least by me) and to be honest it isn’t something you’ve not ‘heard’ before. It is, however, a song that is better than the sum of its parts.

My reaction to this single oddly mirrors my reaction to the new Frightened Rabbit record. For them it is a very positive course correction and for the Campfires it is the herald of a potentially incredible debut album to come. Hopefully they’ll go as far.

For a little extra treat, I came across this clip of this acapel-a-coustic version of ‘See Us There, Both.’and don’t forget to get the actual demo here.

(update) The video for ‘White Lights was released on March 4th, 2013.

(update) I’ll let you work out what a fish in a sub is — White Lights Acoustic

Thor

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Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Iain Morrison

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My LP just arrived, completing an almost 3 week journey. I purposefully didn’t listen to the downloaded files as I wanted to hear it on the turntable first. Is it fair to assume that artists who release on vinyl tend to have an affinity for it as well?

“I guess so, we’ve been on the journey of seeing and hearing vinyl in the house when you were a kid and then to see it being replaced by minidisc/cd’s/downloads. It’s really nice to see it still surviving in some way through the years. It’s only recently that I’ve started buying more vinyl than cd’s but I’m enjoying music even more now and I’m looking for all the subtleties a bit more, maybe they call that getting old, not sure!!!:) My manager Rose, she owns a record store in Edinburgh  and they have just renovated the shop to have a vinyl only room, which is fantastic!” 

I do have 2 Crash My Model Car records, downloaded from emusic, but I didn’t initially delve deep enough to know who the band members were. It wasn’t until looking at your bandcamp page a few years ago that I put 2 and 2 together: or rather, as I said – “There’s Taketori!”   I was about to ask about its origin, but a quick internet search led to bamboo seeds and an author’s first name. Do you often derive inspiration for a song from literature?

“It was my good friend Daibhidh Martin who dreamed up the Taketori story. Daibhidh is a poet/storyteller from the Isle of Lewis and we have worked together for years culminating in the release of our album a couple of years ago, Haunted Bird! Books, folklore and stories are a big influence on my own writing though, the cycle of artists inspiring each other I guess.” 

I’m listening to Omu Prin’s Lament right now because I’ve become somewhat obsessed with trying to unravel this mysterious character. The video for ‘Homeward’ is tagged as being based on the Omu Prin story. A bit of research led me to getting the kindle version of ‘In the Year of Opened Doors’. I was hoping that it would reveal all, but I’m still left wondering. At this point, I’m inclined to conclude that the gentleman in the video is protraying Omu Prin himself. Am I wildly off the mark? 

“The gentleman in the video is the character of Omu and he’s played by one of my old teachers, Ken Inglis. It was Daibhidh who directed that video too. I’ve written about Omu Prin for years now, he’s travelled with me from the Crash days up until now which has been nice!”

Looking at the album credits, I see that Pete Harvey played cello. I’ll have to pull out “An Eagle to Saturn” afterwards. Are Leg working on or close to releasing a second record already? 

“Pete is the other person who has travelled with me from the Crash days and actually even before that. He is an amazing musician and seems to approach things with a blank page, which is always refreshing. The Leg have just finished a new record and I have heard bits of it, it sounds chaotically beautiful.” 

The new record does a have a slightly different tone than the last efforts. How much of that is attributable to the trip to Vermont?

“I suppose that is down to constantly growing and trying to get better at what you do. We’re always learning and I find that one of the exciting things about creating and recording music. If you have your eyes and ears open you will be taking things onboard as you go and I guess you get the focus a bit better each time you have a stab at it. Working with Michael, Rob and Geza in Vermont was amazing. It was such a beautiful space and they are people of depth and kindness so it was always going to be a positive experience. Michael has a very simple approach to recording, place the mics and then just play! We recorded it in Michael’s wooden house so there will definitely be a resonant tone from there.”

 How did growing up in the Isles shape your own musical sensibilities?

“Growing up on Island cut off from the rest of the world is a good start for sparking off the imagination so it has been a huge influence. The traditions & history, good & bad, have informed a lot of how and what I write. And wherever I end up staying I think it will always travel with me. Musically my father was a big influence as he taught me the pipes at a very early age, I was taught using a technique called ‘canntaireachd’ and I think this has influenced in some part the way I approach melody etc.” 

I see you that are playing in Aviemore this month. Having just completed the journey from Edinburgh to Inverness, in spirit at least, with Rebus, the name stands out. What towns and venues have you found the most interesting to play in?

“One that springs to mind was a show in Mary Kings Close which was a room in the hidden streets of Edinburgh, buried beneath the Royal Mile. They had never held a gig there before but myself and Daibhidh were asked to play for an Oxfam charity show. It was an amazing experience because of the atmosphere of the space and all the history that went with it.  Going home to Lewis to play is always nice, your home gig will always carry a lot of different vibes so I always look forward to that. I was on tour at the end of last year and the 2 gigs that come to mind are the Union Chapel in London and the The Lowry in Salford, both really beautiful spaces that carry a lot of energy, always great walking onto a stage when there is a natural vibe already happening.”

The art on your LP is rather nice. When I was young records were just taken for granted and now that I’ve started ‘collecting’ them again they have become truly special. Holding a CD cover is just not the same as grasping the more tactile LP jacket. Could you elaborate on the cover art’s origin and significance to the record?

“Cover art is important as it in some ways sums up a bit of the focus you are trying to get at, if that makes sense? I was introduced to Natalie Jones through a friend and I just really loved her vibe. What I did was just send Natalie a brief description of where my head was at and then let her just do her thing, which she did. It feels nice doing it this way as there is a collaborative thing that happens between the music and the art which takes on a new life.”

I have discovered literature through music before. It doesn’t happen often enough. A long time ago, listening to Johnny Clegg’s ‘Warsaw 1943’ led from sleeve notes to Czelaw Milosz’s ‘The Captive Mind’? Have you ever experienced such a journey?

“I was asking Michael one day in Vermont about his own songwriting, influences  and he got onto the subject of Paul Bowles and his books and I’m actually just reading The Sheltering Sky at the moment”

The album comes across as being particularly well suited to listening to on vinyl. I’m pleased with just how much warmer it sounds. The music seems even more focused and intimate than previous releases. Is there an overarching guiding principle behind it? To state it slightly differently, which side of the horizon does it focus on?

“I was keen to create a space in my head for this record and stick there, I guess being confident on one of the things that you do rather than throwing it all on the plate, if that makes sense?”

You’ve just recently released a new EP. Is a new full length something you are already considering? It would seem plausible that musically it might go in a slightly different direction. Any thoughts yet on what you’d like to do next?

“Yeh, not sure where it will all go from here. It’s the first time in a long time that I really feel there is a blank page. I have a few things ticking over in my head but I’m just going to take some time to see where things will go. Could be a while before I release anything else or who knows could be this year. We’ll see.”

Could you point us toward three essential Scottish artists anyone would be remiss to overlook?

Calamateur (aka Andrew Howie) , Lee Patterson and, although not Scottish, one artist who has influenced me from your side of the Atlantic is Matthew Ryan. His album ‘Concussion’ is my all time top 5! I worked for a very short spell in a venue in Glasgow where Matthew was playing, I was asked to do the merch stall and had the pleasure of hearing Matthew for the first time. There were about 15 people in the audience but it was something that still sticks with me.” 

Does this now mean that the Omu Prin story is complete?

“I think the Omu story will be ongoing”

Thor

Here is another excerpt from Daibhidh Martin’s short story Omu Prin and Me. If you feel the need (and you should) to watch Homeward again the following quote should set the table nicely:

He stopped walking and turned to face me. The way he looked at me as he began to speak was otherworldly. “It was the same year my wife and I were married, we had just built the house and we were looking forward. We were twenty three. She was swimming in the sea and was pulled out by a rip tide. For years, I wouldn’t set foot on the beach and then I remembered the sand castles. Every night since then I have come down to this beach and collected whatever washes ashore and used it to build my gates”

Homeward

 

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Rose Parade

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The CD arrived today, and to demonstrate my gratitude I’ll hold off listening to the second Biffy LP to give it a proper listen or two. After all, it isn’t that long a drive back down the A77 from Kilmarnock down to Ayr. How far did you typically travel to play shows? Have any good stories? 

“That’s brilliant that you held of listening to the new Biffy record for ours! We are actually still based in Ayr but we play most gigs in Glasgow and other places usually an hour or a couple of hours away. Before Stuart joined the band we had to use public transport to travel to places and I remember once a couple of years ago we had a showcase sort of gig and all ticket sales went to a charity for kids, also Jim Gellatly was hosting it so it was quite an important gig for us. We had to get the train but we got stuck for about 2 hours because somebody committed suicide on the rail tracks. I remember that everyone on the train was moaning about being late & the amount of suicides that happen on the rail tracks between Irvine and Kilwinning, nobody seemed to care about the poor guy that just died.”

I had noticed Rose Parade previously and, intrigued, made a mental note to explore further. While I was deciding on whether to include you on our ‘roster’ you ended up contacting me first. By this point, the video for Grace had come out and any reluctance I might have had evaporated rather quickly. Where was the video filmed? Have you decided which song to use for the next one? 

“The Grace video was filmed down a dirty old basement in a clothes shop in Glasgow by Bella Rebel Media. They asked us what kind of video we wanted and I told them to make it look distressed. They were really good and found two locations to film in, so we chose one, went to it, rearranged some stuff and put up some lights. The basement was cold and massive. We kept investigating it and it just went on and on, which made for lots of different shots. It was a lot of fun filming as the team was made up of guys around our age. At one point they asked us to lie on a bunch of bin bags, which we thought was a bit weird but went along with it. However, it turned out great, the guys work ethic were superb and the video surpassed our high expectations. The next video will be for Sea Of Lights by our friend Martin Graham. We have other video plans too but we’ve got to keep people in suspense.”

I was just playing around with Google maps. Touring around Scotland, virtually, it is pretty evident how west coast bands would gravitate toward Glasgow and east coast bands to Edinburgh at the beginning of their careers. Does this account for any pronounced musical differences or is it purely a matter of distance? 

“I don’t think it’s to do with musical tastes rather than the musicians looking for opportunities. We love Ayr but you can’t keep asking the same people to go to the same venues all the time. So we’ve moved to playing different parts of Ayrshire and Glasgow just because it’s close and that’s where the majority of our fans are. Now the album is out, it’s time to spread further out, get heard in places we haven’t touched.”

Relatively speaking, the 13th Note is not too far away then. It is one of the first venues romanticized in song for me. Ever since I heard Kid Canaveral’s ‘Smash Hits’ I feel like I need to go there. For now, I’ll just have to imagine I’m at the launch. Since you’ll get these questions after the show, please let us know how it went. We want details. 

“The album launch was absolutely immense, the whole thing seems like a dream now. The 13th Note came about as a friend of ours wanted to start gigs there so we were the first of many hopefully. It was very intimate and kind of looked like the Grace video. It sold out 3 weeks prior to the gig, before some of our close friends had even got a ticket. There were people travelling from Liverpool, London and Greece who came to see us. The support acts were fantastic and the crowd were absolutely buzzing and full of energy all night. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Still a bit lost for words to give you finer details right now, sorry.”

If someone had not heard your music how would you describe it? 

“You often hear artists saying they hate to be labelled and categorized. It’s not that we do –  but even we struggle to pinpoint it ourselves. Someone said we were like Mumford and Sons on Prozac. Other descriptions have been country-tinged indie. I think the best way to describe it would be to take it apart. Pop vocals and glockenspiel, maybe dance bass and kick drum, folk acoustic instruments, rock-blues electric guitar. We all have different influences ranging from the Pixies, Fugazi, Slint to Bright eyes, Yo La Tengo, My Bloody Valentine, the Sound, Jawbreaker, Afghan Whigs , the Brian Jonestown Massacre etc etc. I could go on for ages listing all our influences, but I guess the important thing for us was to create something new and not pinpoint ourselves to a certain genre.”

I did come across a description of “whimsical pop”. I wouldn’t describe the album as pop and the whimsy seems almost entirely due to the unique, and rather inspired, pairing of the glockenspiel and banjo. How did that come about? Were there any less successful experiments? 

“Haha, not really any other experiments to be honest. The banjo came about because I like the sound so I bought a cheap one. Ed and I lived in a five-bedroom bedsit where people moved in and out of constantly, one of them left their glockenspiel. We also bought a cheap drumkit which turned out to be useless except the kick drum. The sound came from drunken jams of these instruments really. We had experimented in recording studios before we did many gigs adding things like full drumkits, cellos and pianos as you can hear from our first EP, but the more we gigged, the more we knew our sound and wanted to capture that live sound as close as we could in the album. By the way, we have upgraded all of our instruments.”

I’m going to list three songs. Could you try to describe and capture the heart of each one in exactly 3 words.

The Sea of Lights: summer, drifting, overcome

Closer: envy, tension, intoxication

Slide: despair, rebound, freedom

The thing I liked the most and didn’t expect was how much the banjo was used throughout the album.  This was satisfyingly effective. While it does not  dominate the record, the abundant banjo gave it a cohesion and a freshness that might not have been there otherwise if it was used more sparingly. Was that something conscious? 

“It came from the practices.  Ed had the banjo around his neck and a glockenspiel stick in his hand, if that’s what they’re called, to play the first few songs I had written. So when he was shown the new songs, he just stuck to playing those two instruments. We do like folk music so it’s important that the folk influence is still there in every song, without the banjo we would sound more like a straight up pop rock band without a drumkit.”

I just read about the Kitchen Sessions. Is that something you will continue? Any thoughts on who you would like to have come over in the future? 

“The kitchen sessions was a lot of fun and we do want to do it again. Our main focus for the last while was to get the album right. Schedules between artists, the director and ourselves often clashed so it became very difficult to organize routinely. We had a great time doing it. My girlfriend would make lovely spreads of food depending on the artist or the date and we got free entertainment in our very own kitchen. When we start it up again, we might rebrand it as a new thing as it will be a new kitchen and take it more seriously and professional. This time we plan on getting different genres other than acoustic acts like dance or rap. Some of the people that have shown an interest in playing in a new Kitchen Sessions are Trusty and the Foe and Anna Sweeney but there’s nothing confirmed or being done about this just yet.”

I’m intrigued by Ari’s coming to Scotland from abroad. Did that bring anything different or unique to musical table? What sorts of music did you listen to growing up back in Greece? 

“Yeah there’s not many Greek people about in Ayr – loads of them in Glasgow though –  students.. They all seem to come here and study and the fuck off back to the sun, as they can’t stand the freezing cold and rain. I love it though! I always used to come to Scotland on holiday. My mother is Irish and I’ve got a lot of family here. In my case, I came over to study for a couple of years but ended up staying for good! Athens was great for music actually and still is..I grew up listening to Brit pop and then punk and then indie & alternative. My friends use to run an indie record store in Athens so they introduced me to loads of music that I fell in love with  including: Jawbreaker, Slint, Afghan Whigs, Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr, Madrugada, My Bloody Valentine, and Bjm. I was also listening to loads of Swedish underground indie bands like Last Days of April.”

Are there any local bands you’d like to champion?

‘Little Fire, Trusty and the Foe, Anna Sweeney, Brave Young Red, The Imagineers, Matt Scott, Julia and the Doogans, Brown Bear & The Bandits & the one and only Paul McGranaghan.”

I noticed that one of your face book pictures had an envelope with Vic Galloway’s address on it. I like to think that our address was about to be penned next. How many did you actually send out? Who would you say a new band might covet a positive reception from the most? 

“We made 100 promos and sent them to magazines, papers, blogs, radio stations… We’re just improvising on how to do this, they were unsolicited so I couldn’t tell bands if it’s a good idea or not. However, we did get through to you. We like online blogs like yours –  so thank you very much for having us. We made this album on our own time and finances, no label behind us, no big approval from a man with an non-musical degree in a suit, just like you do your blog yourself, we did it with love and passion and not because we’re paid to do it. Obviously though, we were over-joyed to be played on BBC Radio 1 a year ago. We would love to get a feature in NME or Rolling Stone but those are very difficult to do without a man in a suit to solicit it.” 

I happen to have a woefully underused banjo sitting in the corner. Would you care to share the banjo chords for Grace? 

Tune it like the last four strings on a guitar and play the high open chord F, Am, G, F with a few twiddly bits. Is that helpful? 

Do think you could come up with something dark and melancholic using the banjo and glockenspiel? I’d actually like to hear that. 

“We do like darkness. It sounds like a plan. Our last track which is quite different to the rest of the album is quite dark and playing it live we use the glockenspiel. We’ve also started writing a new one with a slightly sinister banjo riff. It’s not that difficult to make something sweet become something sinister, how many horror movies have a child as a demon or a ghost?”

The second Biffy record is just going to have to wait until tomorrow and if there is any banjo on it, I will laugh at how ‘derivative’ of Rose Parade that is. When will the record be released? Where can people pick up a copy? 

That would be quite funny actually. I’m pretty sure Simon Neil lives very locally to us, seen him plenty of times, who knows he might have heard us jamming late one night and decided to stick some banjo in the new record. I doubt it though. The record will be officially available on the 18th of February 2013.  Hard copies will be available via our site and digital files via itunes, play, amazon and it will be up on Spotify as well. 

Thor

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Milwalkie

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Having to repeatedly force the search engine to accept Milwalkie as opposed to Milwaukie is enough to make me ask about the origin of the band name. Is it a good story?

“It’s kind of a funny one to me. When thinking about some names to put to all the songs we were recording, my brother and bassist Steve suggested that he liked the sound of the word Milwaukee. I said “yeah, that’s a cool sounding word”, but immediately in my head all I pictured was taking my dog (Millie/Mildog) for a walk – let’s take her for a Mil-walkie. I liked the idea of paying homage to my first and oldest dog, so that’s what we called ourselves.”

I confess that I was rather intrigued by the notion of a Scot-German band based in Berlin. How did you end up there? Are there any other musical expatriates we should be looking out for?

“Steve and I played in different bands for a few years and having sort of dropped the last one we were in, after just losing interest in the songs we were writing, we wanted a change of scenery and wanted to move  somewhere else. We actually almost moved to Leeds ( I know, why?), but then I took a short trip there, and although it’s a nice place I guess, I suddenly felt like the UK wasn’t the place for me any more. I said Steve, fuck it, let’s go somewhere cool. He said he’d been to Berlin in a trip and it was awesome; I had never been, but I said yeah – it does sound cool, let’s go!”

As for expats, actually there’s another guy from Aberdeen there, Chris Glen, who I was passed on to from a friend (admittedly never got round to meeting him), but he seems to be doing cool stuff – nice voice too.”

Where in Scotland did you grow up? What sorts of music would we have found in your collections?

“Steve and I grew up in Aberdeen and lived there until we moved to Germany. I was never actually musical as a kid until I was 15 and my brother went to a Biffy Clyro concert; I heard them and got obsessed instantly, bought my first guitar and started learning tabs to their songs. A couple of years later I was introduced to Death Cab For Cutie who undoubtedly have been and probably will always be my biggest musical influence – that lead into bands like The Shins, Rogue Wave, Nada Surf, Stapleton and lots more.”

I read somewhere that your previous band experiences in Scotland felt somewhat restricted by conventional expectations and labels. Has moving to Berlin helped you break through some of this?

“To be honest I’m not sure if that’s entirely true. A couple of years ago, I found myself in a point where I was so eager to please people and write pop songs that I hoped to be popular, that it became so evident in my songwriting and I think it was really bad for it. I don’t even know where that pressure came from, but it was that moment when I realized – what the fuck am I doing? I’m going to write music that I like, I don’t give a fuck if anyone else likes it – and that’s basically where the first Milwalkie album came from –  a batch of small experiments – probably the most fun that I’ve ever had writing music.

Unfortunately due to the cruelness of life, and the loss of Steve and I’s dad, Berlin hasn’t had a chance to make much of an impact yet because I ended up spending a lot of time between Berlin and back in Scotland visiting my dad when he was ill. That really explains why Milwalkie hasn’t managed to tour yet. There’s been a few unfortunate things happening to me over the past while, and I’ve been living back in Scotland for the past few months, spending more time with family and my girlfriend, but I feel things are getting back on track again, and I’m feeling a lot more positive and focused.”

Have you caught any Scottish acts in Berlin? If so what were the shows like?

I was absolutely gutted to have missed the Xcerts playing with Frank Turner, all great dudes and my bro told me it was a belter! 

What’s the last Scottish album you picked up?

To be honest, I haven’t picked up a Scottish album in ages! The last ones were probably ‘Yearlings’ by Dundee’s Pensioner and ‘Under Sleeping Waves’ by Happy Particles – both absolutely incredible albums from two of my favourite Scottish bands.

Just prior to being made aware of the band, I was reading about ‘Das Gift’, Barry Burn’s bar in Neukoelln. Shortly thereafter, I received January’s Skinny that happened to contain an article entitled “So, You Want to live in Berlin”. Strangely, the guide doesn’t really mention music. The article was even more amusing because I had just finished watching this quasi-parody against the influx of foreign residents to the neighbourhood and, in many respects, the advice given in the article underlined the ultimate intent of the video. As members of the “Kreative Klasse” what is the local music scene actually like there?

“Haha! That video is bizarre – the guys voice get’s pretty unbearable though! Some of the things he says are true though, and you do get those stereotypical types of cheesy expats, doing their best to appear as ‘Berlin’ as possible – but really, they’re not hurting anyone I guess – rather them than NEDs. I’m sure many people might have thought I was one of them.

As for the music scene, there’s a lot of house music and drum & base – and a lot of ‘arty’ music – there’s also a lot of absolute tripe though – stoners in dreadlocks putting their guitars through 40 pedals making a wall of noise which, is maybe fun to create if you’re knocked off your block – but sounds quite shit blasted out of a 20 watt valvestate amp.

Despite that, there are a few places where you can catch generally awesome bands – and it seems audiences are totally open to that, they just don’t seem to get enough of it.”

Outsmarting MBV by waiting a day, you just premiered (online) the video for ‘Back to the Snow’.  A bit softer of course, but in many ways, this song is rather complementary. Did you create the video yourselves or enlist some of your creative colleagues?

“I filmed the video myself with help from a good friend Rob Hill. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, I managed to get it very close to how I imagined it so yeah, ace-ic!”

The next track on the record, ‘Frozen Lake’, would very much appeal to a Happy Particles fan. In fact, I just had to restart it. As much as I like the new single this is the standout song for me. Would you be so kind as to provide a little more background for it?

” I don’t actually remember the recording process of that one as much, it seemed to form from nothing very quickly. The interesting thing about the Happy Particles comparison is that – I’m a huge fan of the Danish band Mew, and I always thought that HP must be influenced by them, so I’m intrigued if the likeness comes from a mutual passion for Mew – that would be cool.”

I do remember, however, one morning leaving my girlfriend and me asking her “what should I write about today, I fancy writing a song” – she said “write a winter song”. I think she was implying something more sweet and Fleet Foxes-esque, but what came out was a harsh story of someone ignoring someones advice, skating on some ice and coming close to death. I was very much in a Mew mood, and thought – I want it to suddenly explode – so that’s where the loud part come from. After that, I felt I didn’t want it to end and I still had more to say, so I made it kind of transform into another section and built it up again from there.”

One of the first songs I listened to, and the one that had me hooked, was ‘The Stamp Collector’ ( a B-side). I’m glad this version found its way on the album. There is such a relaxed beauty to all these songs. What is the typical song writing process like? 

“Actually, The Stamp Collector wasn’t originally on the album, but my bro insisted he loved it and that it had to be on it – at the time I was reluctant but now I can’t imagine it not being there.

My usual song writing process comes from me hammering away tons of shit at my guitar/keyboard/drums  until eventually a tiny sound comes out that I think “that sounds nice”, then usually the rest just comes quite quickly after that. I tend not to think to hard about things when i’m writing and just throw down lots of stuff and clear out any at the end that’s not needed. As for lyrics, much the same, a sentence will pop into my head and I’ll just go with it – it’s weird, sometimes for a good part of the writing I’ve got no idea what I’m actually writing about, but it always becomes clear at the end.”

It has been a pleasure to listen to the album in advance. Do you have a fixed release date yet? In what formats will it be available?

“We’re releasing it ourselves so there’s not really a definite or strict release date – but it’ll be online for people to stream very soon. Hopefully if we can afford it, we’ll buy a wee batch of vinyls – probably for my own enjoyment over anyone else’s – I guess people just listen digitally nowadays anyway.”

Understandably, much of my exposure to the band has come about via online video. I couldn’t let this cover of ‘Vienna’ pass without a mention. I am fascinated with the general love of this song having just recently heard it live for the first time and witnessed the crowd’s reaction to Midge Ure’s version – hands in the air, tears in their eyes, mouthing or singing “Vienna”. Don’t get me wrong – I love it too. It just has always struck me as incongruous that this central European city has such a worldwide resonance. What does Vienna mean to you? How about Bratislava?

“Amazing! I can’t believe you found that! We were wrecked one night at Sam Coleman’s house and thought, we need to do a Vienna cover – so voila! My singing is a little off I would say (I’m in the afro wig) but overall, a bloody good performance!

Vienna doesn’t really mean much at all to me, but Bratislava to me means my brother and I being robbed in our hostel a few years back whilst backpacking. That was scary night – my bro went with a couple of  non uniformed cops (who’s proof of actually being a cop was apparently a torch???). I was waiting for him in the hostel shitting myself, he said it was pretty rough at the station.”

One of the few German bands I like happens to be based in Berlin as well. Could you please find out what’s going on with Wir Sind Helden’ and let us know?

“I’ll get my brother on it!”

People should  judge for themselves, but I rather prefer Milwalkie’s Vienna.

Thor

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