Wednesday 20 October 2010

Glasgow music scene, October 2010

The excellent website Drowned in Sound recently carried a blog/article listing their (or at least the journalists) top 10 acts to look out for in Glasgow.

I always like lists; creating them, reading them, debating them. Unsigned music champion Jim Gellatly always provides his ‘ones too look our for’ for the forthcoming year with a list of ten, while Radio 1/Scotland DJ Vic Galloway provided a list of 50 for 2010! And if you think that is going overboard there are acts that he didn’t include that should have been on it.

The DiS list includes Miaoux Miaoux and Mitchell Museum who are two acts that I particularly like, some that don’t really do it for me and a couple I need to check out on Myspace and live around Glasgow. It is hard to keep up with everything!
(Miaoux Miaoux) 
(Mitchell Museum)

The Glasgow (and indeed Scotland) independent music scene is exceptionally strong just now. I imagine that if it was the mid 90’s to early 00’s then a lot of the bands kicking around the scene would have record contracts. As it is, with a distinct lack of money in the record industry, bands are releasing their own music online;  free or otherwise and through limited edition cd’s or vinyl with increasing levels of creativity. Some, the aforementioned Mitchell Museum included, have even released singles/EP’s on old school cassette!

Alongside an ever increasing number of bands or electronic artists, is a creative element that are doing their best to champion the music to a wider audience. Small labels, bloggers, podcasts and then multi-media extravaganza that is Detour. There seems to be a growing movement  that I think could explode into something quite huge by the summer of 2011.

With the level of passion and energy surrounding the independent scene at this moment in time, you get the feeling that something big is going to happen. That could be an event, a happening, recognition on a national scale (Manchester seems to be the city receiving that recognition just now) or (and this is something I would love to work on) a festival for unsigned acts.

I thought I’d come up with my own list, not including the bands that I work with – the previously mentioned Miaoux Miaoux, Futuristic Retro Champions and Sonny Marvello, who are all excellent in their own unique ways. You can read all about them in some of my other blog entries.
(Futuristic Retro Champions)
(Sonny Marvello) 

So here is a list of just 4 bands I think you should check out, along with a list of some ‘movers and shakers’ in the Glasgow independent music scene. I may well write another blog with another 4 bands if time allows.

Admiral Fallow (previously known as Brother Louis Collective) released their debut album ‘Boots Meet My Face’ earlier on in 2010. The album received extremely positive reviews, sold out of its initial pressing and led to lots of festival appearances and gigs here, there and everywhere. The band will play their biggest gigs to date this December when they support Frightened Rabbit at the famous Glasgow Barrowlands.

Their singer, Louis, isn’t just content with fronting his own band, he also plays in the Moth and the Mirror and Song of Return. Quite where he gets the time to do all this is anyone’s guess!

My first glimpse of Admiral Fallow was under their previous guise, supporting Pearl and the Puppets at King Tuts. I wasn’t overly impressed, although the sound wasn’t very good that night and lots of people were talking - a pet hate of mine. My second glimpse totally changed my opinion. They seemed more confident and at ease, perhaps they had grown into the songs, all of which are very personal. Flute, Clarinet, Double bass, guitar and drums all combine (sometimes with added piano and other assorted instruments) to create a cavalcade of melodies that seem to flow with ease.

Louis Abbott looks deceptively older than he is (mid-20’s I believe) and it is astonishing to hear such an accomplished and mature album from someone of his age. The album isn’t one you would just put on for the hell of it, you need to be in the right mood. For example, playing the Strongbow Tent at Rock Ness wasn’t really the right setting for these songs. I think that is a strength of the album though, the songs have a depth, they have genuine passion and even from first listen it is clear that a lot of time, effort and care has gone into the writing, crafting, recording and production. You need time and the right environment to enjoy them.

‘Subbuteo’ is a song of Admiral Fallow’s that immediately caught my attention due to the title. In it Louis talks of revisiting his home town where he got a ‘kicking’ (hence the album title) and the lyrics are particularly poignant.

‘oh it might sound dull, but dull’s sometimes all we have’ and the rather beautiful ‘we’re all just trying to float, while everything seems set to fall.’

Nevada Base have been a favourite Glasgow band of mine for a while. They are laid back to the extent they are practically horizontal. Singer Albert has a kinky afro, they are all very tight on and off stage and they have songs to die for. I was blown away the first time I saw them, the energy they created transferred naturally to the audience and got people dancing – something that doesn’t happen too often in Glasgow with new bands when people tend to hand around drinking, taking in the vibe and not wanting to let themselves go until they see what the ‘cool kids’ think.

Their taste and style is different too. For example when I caught them supporting Memory Tapes earlier this year they announced they were going to play an Abba cover. Rather than launching into something predictable off ‘Gold’ (as cool as that would have been), they played a song called ‘The Visitors’ off Abba’s last album (of the same title). It was a synth masterpiece and I immediately downloaded the album the next day – highly recommended by the way.

But it is their own songs that caused my ears to prick up. ‘If I’m Late’ perhaps hints at how laid back the band are; ‘if I’m late, then I’m late, then don’t wait.......’

‘Electric Touch’ has a great synth looped around beats and bass and builds to a crescendo with Albert yelping ‘believe me, you’ve never seen such an electric touch, an electric touch’ while ‘Love In My Mind’ seems so simple, yet it is really clever. With the backing of small local label Flowers in the Dustbin and their own studio, I look forward to hearing more songs from the band.

I was walking down Sauchiehall Street in June 2008 having just returned form a year travelling when I caught sight of a band busking outside Marks and Spencers. They played a cover of Beruit’s ‘Postcards From Italy’ and when my girlfriend (wife) returned to meet me from the shop and said she had to go to Boots I remained in the street watching the band. They played an early song of theirs, the absolutely beautiful ‘Traffic’ (still my favourite song) and I immediately fell in love with them. With a trumpet player and with their singer playing violin they immediately seemed different while at the same time they looked like a real band. Stopping to talk to the band they informed me they were playing Bar Brel that night and I went along. On a beautiful sunny summer evening in the West End of Glasgow I feel even deeper.

Mark Farmer has a voice that soars and a presence that demands your attention. The band can lock into grooves and the trumpet and violin can take them off into places that others can’t reach. With plans in place to release a record through Electra French (who released the Mitchell Museum album this year) 2011 could be a very exciting year for the Seventeenth Century.

Seventeenth Century play the Classic Grand on bonfire night as part of Scottish bloggers Aye Tunes and Peenko’s joint night. Well worth a note in your diary.

I heard about Barn Owl through my friend Sam who is aware of my love for Teenage Fanclub. Sam has been recording and producing Barn Owl and he suggested that I check them out. As someone who is pretty creative himself, not only as a producer, Sam has his own small label; the brilliantly titled ’45-a-side Records’ and he recently brought out a compilation album featuring a Barn Owl track and they were playing at the launch night.

Prior to the launch night I’d been playing them quite a bit on Myspace. Their laid back style and the effortless way that the two guitars combine got me quite excited about seeing them live.

They didn’t disappoint. Following a frantic game of five-a-sides I dashed across town to the 45-a-side night to meet my wife just as Barn Owl took to the stage. They are a young band and they seemed really relaxed on stage with just the right amount of nervous excitement, yet quite humble in a kind of ‘you’re here to see us?’ type way. A nice way.

They didn’t disappoint, combining elements of early Fanclub with later day Fanclub, with a dash of Pavement thrown in for good measure. James Scott on bass looked lost in his groove, bouncing around like a young Dougie Payne from Travis (although thankfully with the bass strapped a lot lower). The singer looked like he was either in his teens or just out of them and his guitar melted into the lead guitarists, complimenting each other perfectly.

I look forward to seeing them again. They are far from the finished article but if you take the time to listen to their songs online or go and see them live, then I hope that you will agree that they have immense potential.

Movers and shakers (sounds cheesey, I know)

It is quite hard to keep up to date with all that is going on in the Glasgow/Scottish music scene. Thankfully there are a number of people that are working hard to promote the scene, introduce music fans to new bands and artists that are developing independently at their own speed with no financial backing.

I’ll start with Glasgow Podcart. I have been fortunate to meet Halina who runs Podcart on a few occasions and whenever I do I compliment her on her energy, enthusiasm and passion. Anyone who visits their website, listens to a podcast or attends one of their events (not just limited to music) will understand why. It is infectious!

The last I heard, the weekly podcast was receiving over 1,000 downloads an episode. It may well be closer to double that now as in true entrepreneurial fashion Halina is setting up partnerships with people in other countries and Glasgow Podcart also now have a tie in with the excellent Wickerman Festival. Podcart is by no means a one woman band. Halina has an excellent group of creative and artistic people supporting Podcart as they raise awareness about the arts scene in Glasgow.

If you want to keep up to date with independent music in Scotland (and beyond) this is a great place to start.

Jim Gellatly has been a champion of Scottish independent music for a number of years now, yet his enthusiasm for discovering new talent and helping to break it shows no signs of diminishing. His weekly podcast may feature more ‘established’ acts than the likes of Glasgow Podcart, but he is still not afraid to stick his neck out and say he likes/loves something if it takes his fancy.
 (Jim Gellatly)
Jim also has a show on Amazing Radio and has recently helped out by hosting charity events organised by the lovely girls from Pooch and Together Beat Cancer. All in all, a lovely guy with a huge wealth of musical knowledge.

I’ve only been to a couple of Detour events as they take place on monthly on a Wednesday when I either tend to be playing a late night game of 7-a-sides or watching the Champions League. I really should sacrifice a game to go more often. Set up by Ally and Weaver, Detour is a bit of a multi-media extravaganza, a cauldron of ideas, bubbling over with enthusiasm that is captivating the independent music scene. They quickly outgrew their initial monthly nights at Bloc in Glasgow to go on tour (taking in Inverness and Edinburgh), have a special event on an island in the middle of Inverness at Rock Ness, have a couple of secret events in Glasgow that included acts playing in the toilets of Mono and various other locations around the city, and held larger events at the Buff Club.
 (Weaver and Ally)
On top of that they kidnap bands and take them to secret locations to film them and have a podcast. Ally from Detour has already stood in for Vic Galloway on Radio 1, all this and Detour is only just approaching its 1st birthday!

Now back at their spiritual home of Bloc, you never know what Detour are going to get up to next. Their monthly line-ups and secret gigs stay under close wraps which is just one of the ingredients that makes this particular cake a pretty special one, especially in today’s day and age when news is online in seconds and everyone seems to know what is about to happen.

The Popcop seems to be growing in stature, possibly helped in that sense by the dilemma the blog faced earlier in the year when due to giving away free music the blog was taken off the internet and the owner immediately lost access to years of work! It didn’t seem to matter to the powers that be that the artists involved has consented to giving away their music for free.

Thankfully thanks to a campaign to save the Popcop – complete with t-shirts and promo video, Popcop is back, better than ever. It’s a site I visit most days as the news service is top class and often delivered with a great deal of humour. Popcop is also a member of the Music Alliance Pact – highlighting top up and coming artists from around the world and giving away free music, The Guardian has recently joined this pact.

For up to date music news, views and interviews then this a great place to start.

Three blogs that have their own individual styles. Peenko highlights new bands on a Monday, has great features and interviews on labels, releases and bands, puts on his own nights (with Aye Tunes) and also very kindly highlights free downloads on a Friday for the weekend.

Aye Tunes gives you a one stop shop for gigs from the week ahead and is more flexible with his approach than Peenko, if he wants to write a preview or review he will, if he wants to offerhis opinion on something he will.

Kowalskiy strikes me as being the young kid on the bloc and has interviews with bands and the odd review. His enthusiasm, like everyone in this article, is clearly apparent.

There are many, many more bands/artists and movers than shakers than this blog or the DiS blog can possibly feature that are worth checking out. Little Eskimos, Ray Summers, Vigo Thieves, Adam Stafford, Roddy Hart and MOPP are just a few (not all technically from Glasgow but definitely part of 'the scene').
(Ray Summers)
However I hope that anyone reading this blog takes some time to visit a Myspace site, checks out a gig, reads a blog or downloads a podcast. One thing might lead to another. You could visit Nevada Base’s Myspace and then discover Pooch or Any Colour Black; a night at Detour might encourage you to put on your own night and realise that if you have an idea then with a little bit of work it can develop into something special; by downloading a FREE podcast you might discover your new favourite band; or you might just bump into the boy or girl of your dreams at a gig in the Captain’s Rest.
 (Laura Boyd form Pooch)
It’s worth noting as I end this piece that the vast majority of this movement are doing it because they love music and the arts, not for any financial incentive, although with a rich vein of talent and so many entrepreneurial minds out there I certainly won’t be surprised if some mentioned go on to make money in the arts and entertainment industry.

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