Sonny Marvello celebrate their 10th anniversary as a band with a show at Stereo on Thursday 26th May.
Here are 10 amazing memories I have of the band as a fan, manager and friend;
1. Seeing them for the first time
Back in November 2008 I went to the aftershow party of Glasgow versus Cancer at Sloans in Glasgow City Centre. I was rather drunk and stumbled into one of the upstairs rooms where a number of bands were scheduled to play. Kassidy (who went on to be signed) were on and I was reminded of Mr Big!
I stumbled into another room where Will Sergeant from Echo and the Bunnymen was playing some cool sounds and then back to the live room to see who was on next.
The performance I witnessed may well be my favourite ever from an unsigned act in Glasgow. The five piece smashed it out the park. They had a gaggle of loyal friends and fans down the front but more importantly they got others who had never heard of them, never mind hearing their music, dancing.
They had a song that sounded a little like Girls and Boys by Blur, echoes of The Beatles and Bowie, they were sensational. They looked the part, dressed in vintage blazers and the singer had a red top hat on.
I asked the bassist between songs who the band were called but I couldn’t make it out. I think I asked him at least 3 more times including once on the stairs afterwards.
The next day I woke with a stinking hangover (although not as bad as the one my friend Wigs had when he woke up on my sofa) and I couldn’t remember the bands name, or find any trace of them in the listings for the aftershow online.
Finally I tracked them down...the band were called Sonny Marvello. And I wanted to manage them. I sent them a message on MySpace to talk about how I was blown away.
2. Meeting Stephen Farrell for the first time.....and then the rest of the band
In April 2009 I met with singer and songwriter Stephen Farrell in the 13th Note and we shared several pints of Stella to discuss music and the bands history. The band were prolific, they’d self funded a trip to New York City for a week and had an incredible time, winning best unsigned act at a prestigious festival. They’d played the popular Burlesque night Club Noir and smashed it out the park, they’d set up their own Sssshhhh club night - kidnapping people and taking them to secret locations in a bus, they’d gone close to being signed but like so many had been f**ked over by people promising them the earth and failing to deliver.
They wanted to release music. (check their BANDCAMP page as they have put up loads of old demos)
Within a couple of hours I had scribbled together a plan and we were a team.
After winning Stephen over we then arranged further beers with Mick Caldwell (guitar), Craig Douglas (bass), Mike Walker (keys and synths) and Michael Bryans (drums). We met at Bar Soba in Mitchell Lane and got quite pissed (again) before heading back to Sloans where i had invites to a showcase by a band called Sugar Crisis that producer John McLaughlin had somehow got signed!
They were terrible but I was keen to network. When I told the band where I was off to it was like a red flag to a bull. I found out that John had messed them around a little.
The band came along and waltzed into the venue. Stephen found John and called him something unprintable in this blog. As much as I respect what John has achieved in the music industry, I thought this was great - PUNK ROCK!
3. The Oxfam Basement photo shoot
First things first, I wanted to get some band promo shots done that highlighted their style and image. I knew Andrew who managed (and still does) Oxfam Music and Byres Road and I had been down into their basement and being the geeky kind of music guy I am, I thought ‘this would be great for a photo shoot’.
My friend Dave took some great shots of the band checking records and goofing around. It was my first experience of the Sonny Marvello gang mentality. They were in a different zone, bouncing off each other, ripping the piss, generally just being sound guys.
I love the photo’s. The band just looked and sounded great, I had really fallen for them.
4. The Stereo shows
The band wanted to get some money together to record with Brian O’Neill at Cava Studios in Glasgow - not cheap! I asked them how many people they could realistically get to a Glasgow show. They said 200 no bother so I went out and booked Stereo for a show in early July.
They packed the place out and we easily cleared £500 after rewarding the support acts with some good money.
We rebooked Stereo for September and all of a sudden the band had more than £1,000 in their account to head into Cava. I think it was at the second show that a fellow Castlemilk band called The Cinnamons (led by Gerry Cinnamon) supported. The atmosphere was incredible, everyone was totally up for it, it was a celebration of music and art from Castlemilk.
The area of the city has a rough reputation. Through Sonny Marvello I have met some amazing people, all based around Castlemilk Youth Complex - an amazing facility that offers kids in the area an opportunity into the arts.
Sonny Marvello were super tight; Stephen patrolled the stage, hit all the notes and gave it 100%, Mick Caldwell was the best guitarist I had (and have) ever seen on the unsigned band circuit, Craig Douglas held it all together with funky bass and amazing harmonies, Michael Bryans created beautiful beats and Mike Walker played keys and synths to lift things even higher,
5. Easy Boys/We’re All Cruel 7-inch single
A fan of the band ran a blog called Bluesbunny and wanted to start a label. He liked the recordings from Cava and so pressed up some delicious 7-inch singles on gatefold vinyl.
The feeling I had of getting the test pressing and then the final copies was incredible. Easy Boys was the song I thought sounded like Blur. It was total euphoric pop.
We’re All Cruel was epic (and the band went on to make it even better) later in life for their Sparks to Fire album.
6. The Pull Me Up EP
The next release was the Pull Me Up EP. The review above captures it pretty perfectly. Then there was time for another photo shoot with Dave, this time in a field on the outskirts of my hometown of Carluke. It was another great day with the band....being a band and we had a great time.
7. Charlie Sheen
Stephen is writing songs and coming up with ideas all the time. In an ideal world he would be a songwriter based in New York or London.
Around the time of Charlie Sheen’s meltdown with drugs and orgies I sent Stephen a text and set him the challenge of writing a song called Charlie Sheen - You’re Living My Dream
Stephen responded the next day and published a film of him, Craig and Mick singing it acoustically into an inflatable crayon!
The lyrics were clever and playful, I particularly like;
I saw you once in my hometown, scoring some Charlie
8. The 100 club - Fire Went Out and the Ruby Tuesday’s Vintage Store secret show
I was keen to keep momentum going and came up with the idea of a fanclub to raise funds. For £10, people would get a mini acoustic album (on a CD that looked like vinyl), a badge and access to a secret gig. Early crowdfunding!
So another £1,000 was raised.
The mini-acoustic album was recorded in just one day and features my favourite Sonny Marvello song, the absolutely stunning Fire Went Out. The closing section still sends shivers down my spine. I think it shows just how close they are as a band and friends and how supremely talented they are.
The secret show mentioned as part of the 100 club was to be held at a vintage clothes store above a tea room in Bath Street following a talk and performance at the Apple Store surrounding the use of Apple products at Rocket Science studios and for filming the above Fire Went Out video.
Everyone invited followed me up Buchanan Street and along Bath Street to the ‘secret’ location. It was hilarious. Federico (who owned the now closed store) was the perfect host. We got in loads of booze and the band played an acoustic set. Kevin Harper, friend and fan of the band, also ended up playing an impromptu set from the roof outside the shop!
Good, good times with good, good people.
9. The Loch Lomond Festival
The band were keen to keep things going and I was also keen to make sure the band were a little different. Rather incredibly (considering their songs and ability) they were overlooked for festivals in favour of bands deemed a little cooler.
Being the creative and determined guy that I am, I thought ‘I’ll organise our own festival’, so I did!
My original idea of booking a campsite was cancelled as I worried about the weather and the logistics involved. Instead Craig and I drove up to a youth hostel on the banks of Loch Lomond to meet the manager and agreed to book out the whole hostel for a Saturday night in October for a festival.
Tickets were £40. For that you got a roof over your head, Sonny Marvello, Model Jet Pilot, Kevin Harper and entertainment by rising magician Ryan Davidson. Oh and i DJ’d long into the night.
What a day and night it was! Check in was at 2pm and drinks were flowing shortly after. Someone took a dip in the loch at midnight, there was the mystery of the dump in the sink (don’t ask!), Sonny Marvello somehow blagged a laser light show and smoke machine, Kevin Harper was sensational and we had a great laugh talking music and film, Model Jet Pilot rocked and everyone had an amazing time.
10. Rocket Science and the Sparks To Fire album
All the momentum and all the fun we had was incredible. It really was a great time. After all the fun there was a different kind of momentum as the band got down to the serious business of recording an album at Rocket Science studios with Ross Hamilton and Michael Bannister.
It took a while! But the results were incredible.
Time moved on and I suggested (foolishly looking back) that perhaps a change in band name would be good for the band. So the band name changed to Flash Talk for the Sparks to Fire album.
The album is incredible! It really is; check it here - now newly (and rightly) available as Sonny Marvello.
Going into Rocket Science Studios to hear the songs being played back was a different kind of excitement and fun. They were f**king good. Tiny Little Sparks was played on Radio 1 only days after being completed.
Check the videos for Miracle and Run to the Horizon below. I/We should have done more with them.
Life kind of caught up with the dream of being a band - quite a lot of crazy stuff happened around that time. I still hope that this album will be picked up in some shape or form one day. Ripe for TV, film and advertising.
My best memory though is of making friends. I had some great nights out; Stephen and Hayley’s wedding, Beatles guitar band, the Buff Club, various bars and venues, the Complex for Craig’s 30th and I still play 7-a-sides most weeks with Craig and Walker. All of the band (and I) have experienced and shared highs and devastating lows in our time as friends. That’s life I guess...and it is a little easier to get by with a little help from your friends.
Sonny Marvello may have a new album out next year. Stephen has also recorded some solo stuff under the guise of...Stephen Solo and I’ll be blogging about that in the very near future.
It’s been great looking back at some of the achievements, the music and thinking about what could have been, what should have been.
The band play Stereo on Thursday 26th May.
Be great to see you there.
The band are also looking to the future and should have a new album out next year. The first side was recorded over 3-days at a rented house in the countryside, the second side is being recorded at present.
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