Homework

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I am really looking forward to getting the physical CD. I love the geometric cover and I am almost ashamed to admit that I didn’t see the ‘bigger picture’ of the CD design until I saw it unraveled on the t-shirt. Who designed it?

 The artist is Craig Macfadyen, a good friend of the band and an excellent musician to boot (he plays bass with our drummer Richard in another band called The Discordian Trio). Craig also did the video for It’s All Over, some of our press shots, and will be doing live visuals for us at the Inspace show. He’s a very talented man and I hope this throws some more work his way.

 By the way you aren’t the only one who missed the ‘bigger picture’. I only noticed a few hours after signing off the design.

 Sometimes the difficulty of being an ‘old’ fan is accepting new material. On the first pass through the new full length ’13 Towers’ the initial reaction was a bit of a double take. Listening at the computer through the monitors it seemed like a big departure. I’m doing it again right now and it sounds fantastic. Was there a conscious decision to tighten things up musically or is it really just a natural progression of your song writing? 

 To be honest it was more about taking a fresh approach in the studio. We knew the live show was becoming one of our strongest points so it felt right to try and replicate that in the recording. The mantra was very much that “if we couldn’t do it live then it shouldn’t make it onto the record”.

 The next step was to take it into the living room with a 4 speaker sound field centered about the couch. Here is where it really began to make sense with the second listen. There is a coiled vibrancy and visceral feel to the songs that despite my professed, at the time, preference for ‘Glitter’ couldn’t mask. It also suggested that these songs would really come to life when played live. How do the live versions differ than the studio ones, especially in terms of execution?

 As I say what you are hearing is really pretty close to the live show. Things are naturally slightly more restrained on the recording but we went out of our way to try and capture the energy of the four of us playing together in the same room. Yes, it could maybe sound more polished at times but we sacrificed a bit of that in exchange for the energy.

 I’m struggling to keep up with all the incredible music coming out of a relatively tiny geographic area. I’ve had to accept that I’m reaching my own limits in terms of what I can buy and even find the time to listen to. Further compounded by the fact that most people don’t actually spend 70% of their free time looking for new music, how does a band get noticed, draw enough of a sustaining audience to be able to continue amidst what seems an increasingly shrinking pie?

 Make no mistake it’s tough. If the pie was the be-all-and-end-all we’d have given up a couple of years ago. It’s taken us four years and a lot of time and effort to get this record out there but the warmth with which it’s been received makes it all worthwhile. It pays to take your time.

 I don’t think there is any secret to getting noticed, you’ve just got to make what you want to make and hope that people like it enough to part with their hard earned cash.

 We’ve set the bar high for the next album but that’s the most exciting part for me. Hopefully one day it will end up paying the bills. We’ll certainly continue to make records regardless.

The album launch party is on May 9th in Edinburgh. Is Edinburgh the ‘hometown’? Because it strikes me as a bit late compared to the actual release date, it makes me wonder how hard it is to secure a venue there? Beyond the well-deserved celebration is there any deeper significance to a band’s album release show?

 It’s our hometown in the sense that it’s where we are based. None of us are actually from here though. The reason we chose May was to give the album a bit of time to breath and for plenty of people to hear it. It’s also a pretty ambitious show we are attempting so the extra few weeks are a godsend to get it all in place.

 Inspace is part of the informatics lab at Edinburgh Uni and isn’t normally a gig venue so pretty much everything has to be hired in. We aren’t making life easy for ourselves…but then we rarely do.

 Have you carefully scheduled your Inverness shows so that Houdi will be able to attend?

 Absolutely. 

 I’ve been listening to the album so much, I’ve completely missed the video for ‘It’s All Over’. More geometrical design play; where was it filmed and is there a story behind it?

It’s all images of Edinburgh, painstakingly pieced together by Craig. It’s literally thousands of photos of the Capital put through an Adobe blender.

 You’re working with Badge of Friendship. They’ve been pretty good to us and really seem to have music at the heart of what they try to do for their clients. Assuming that you chose to work with them, what prompted that decision? 

 We’ve never used PR before but felt like this time round we needed the extra support. They are based in London, work with a lot of Scottish bands and we’d only heard good things about them so it was a pretty straight-forward decision.

 They’ve most certainly helped to get the word out and are always willing to pick up the phone. Journalists get bombarded with so much stuff these days you need someone fighting your corner.

 I just read that the album was recorded in a ‘former lighthouse’. Is it a converted studio? What was the recording experience like there?

 The Depot is part of a former lighthouse depot in the Granton area of Edinburgh. At the far end of the complex it’s got a proper glass lighthouse that looks out to sea. I think they used it to test parts for the real ones. Could be wrong though.

 Our rehearsal room is based above the studio so it’s pretty much a home from home. Craig and Garry that run the place are good friends of the band and both of them were heavily involved in recording / mixing the album.

 The favourite song (at the moment) is 6s and 7s. Could you tell us background story to it?

 I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was all about. I remember being fascinated with the idea of a “Berlin heart” though and the lyrics sort of spiraled out from that. Google it. It’s damn cool.

Thor

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One last song from the new CD – ‘TalkDown‘ played live at Go North a few years ago.

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Homework

I’ve had the EP ‘All That Glitters’ for a little bit now. Having to type in the song titles for iTunes illustrates the DIY nature of the release. Oddly, iTunes has added the following information to the lead off song ‘Surfacing’ –Album artist: Brian Eno with Jon Hopkins & Leo Abrahams. Album -Small Craft on a Milk Sea Disc 2.  I’m sure you’ve had worse comparisons made by people who’ve actually listened to the music. Care to share any?

“In no particular order: Aerogramme, Flaming Lips, Teenage Fanclub, Elbow, The Blue Nile, Mogwai, Kraftwerk, Jane’s Addiction, NIN, Holy Fuck, Errors, LCD Soundsystem, Placebo, Santana. There are clearly some differences of opinion…”

Was the self-release born of conviction or necessity?

“We almost didn’t release All That Glitters. It was originally a full-length album but 6 of the tracks were binned and won’t see the light of day. By the time the record was finished (early in 2011) we had already written and were performing a good chunk of what will be the next release.

The encouraging thing was that folk seemed to like the singles from All That Glitters so we thought we would release something to tide people over until we got our album together. Self-releasing was a quick and simple way to get the tracks out there.”

As someone who has to deal with ‘Homework’ a good deal of the time – I have to ask why?

“My favourite dance record of all time and the only name that all four of us didn’t Danny Devito. It still sounds bigger and better than a lot of the stuff coming out now. It’s a unique sounding pop record.”

If I were to sort all the Scottish acts I like, I’d probably throw you in to the Song of Return, Indian Red Lopez, and North Atlantic Oscillation pile. Do you see yourselves as fitting into any genre?  How would you say you ended up approaching things musically the way you do?

“Journalists & bloggers seem to enjoy creating new genres these days. Examples we’ve had so far include Witch House and ADD Art Rock. I’m not even sure what either of them mean but they seem to describe certain tracks of ours quite well. It’s more fun trying to exist in a few different genres.

I think when we first started out we were kind of stumbling around in the dark about with the electronica side of things. These days we seem to be hitting our stride a bit better and are definitely finding a way of working that suits us. The next record is already sounding more focused. Less is more.”

I imagine the previous sorting has something to do with the instrumentation. Do you have any specific approach of how you wield your electronic arsenal? I personally like how the synths seem to form the foundation for the music.

“The best thing about synths and effects etc is that new ideas can spring purely from a certain sounds or noises rather than just a set of chords. You can quite easily approach things from a different angle every time. The bass line in Why Oh Why was made by running a Moog Rogue that was kicking about the studio through a couple of delays and ring modulator. One of those happy accidents. Rich likes to mess about with acoustic drums trying to get electronic sounds. For example the snare sound on Talk Down is a splash cymbal on top of the snare. It quite common these days for a new finished track to sound completely different to the original idea. The important thing is that no matter how mental you go with sounds etc there is always a hook.”

I love the closer ‘Foil’. To these old ears – the background thumping is something from ‘Dazzleships’. At least until the soaring vocals kick in. Then again, earlier on, there was a brief moment in ‘Why Oh Why’ when I thought I might be hearing traces of Images in Vogue. Having dutifully sought out the comparisons, I’m happy to report that sound is sufficiently modern and your own. What vintage synths do you own or want to get your mitts on?

“We are starting to get into geek territory here. Luckily we as a band tend to have a lot of these conversations… Ross has got a Moog Little Phatty, Korg Electribe and some sort of Boss Sampler. I’ve got a Prophet 08, Juno 6, Mopho, Korg Microsampler, MC303. Ally has a fair amount of bass pedals including a Moog Freq Box. Which is pretty much a synth. I did have an SH101 but I swapped it with the synth player from Remember Remember for my Juno. Some of the sounds in the mini-album are from Reason.

I’d like a micromoog.?

I’ve watched ‘All I See’.  Based on the single song and the fact that it is a live performance, it is a little difficult to gather the direction your new material is heading. Could you share your musical vision for the future?

“Hopefully the new stuff will jump out of the speakers a bit more. Some of it is also a fair bit darker. There are more grooves and less chords.”

Noticing you are playing (or rather played) with Dead Boy Robotics tonight. I’ve been meaning to check them out. How was it?

“Limbo was a great show. It’s always good to work with promoters who actually like the music and go out of their way to look after the bands and the audience. DBR have been on the go for about the same time as us and it’s good to see them doing well for themselves.”

Are there any other bands you have come across that have impressed you enough that you feel compelled to mention them?

We supported a Canadian band called Suuns last year. I thought they were excellent. Definitely trying to do something different and their album is great. Good banter as well. You mentioned NAO earlier they are a brilliant band. As were Mitchell Museum, Action Group and RBRBR – three bands who should have got more recognition. It’s good to hear that Call To Mind are rumoured to be working on new stuff and also that Bronto Skylift have some new material out this year.

I saw Remember Remember at Vic Galloway’s night in November and they were stunning live. Haven’t got round to listening to the new Errors album yet but looking forward to checking it out.”

In a way, we are trying to paint a picture of the Scottish music scene – or rather those parts that are most compelling – from some 5,000 miles away. What is your take on its vibrancy?

” I honestly can’t remember the scene being so diverse. It’s almost laughable how many good bands there are kicking about here at the moment. It’s also a crime that so many of these bands will end up splitting up without breaking out of Scotland.”

T&P