Category Archives: interview

INTERVIEW: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Leah Shapiro on getting healthy and keeping the beat going.

This year represents 15 years since San Francisco’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their debut B.R.M.C album. A true milestone for a band in constant pursuit of producing pure, unadulterated rock and roll, they have, in recent years, literally went through hell and back. Firstly, with the death of Robert Levon Been’s father – and BRMC sound engineer – Michael Been, in 2010, followed by the more recent news in 2014 that drummer Leah Shapiro required treatment for Chiari malformations found in her brain.

For Denmark born Leah – former drummer with Dead Combo and The Ravonettes – the thought of not being able to pick up her sticks in the face of her surgery and subsequent recovery was as dark a road to go down as there is for any musician.

“That was a pretty fucking scary thought. The whole year and a half of touring Spectre i had so many problems. I was losing my mind or seriously losing my ability to play the way that I was used to which was pretty scary. I guess there was a sense of relief in finding out why that was happening cause I was kinda going crazy over it . Like every night I would feel like it was flying around in a roller coaster while trying to play drums at the same time. The recovery process was pretty brutal and there was also the fear of how everything was going to feel after it.”


As luck would have it, the surgeon tasked with drilling into her brain happened to be a BRMC fan himself, and he was able to fine tune a ‘drum recovery’ process that enabled Leah to come back to almost full health.

“Yeh he was a fan of the band, it was fucking awesome. He was really incredibly helpful and he wrote out about a whole new programme which I started about three months after the surgery to get back on the drums. Had I not had that I’d have been completely fucking lost. I mean I would have no way of knowing what my limits where or how to pace myself or a what a responsible way to getting back to here was at all so it was really helpful.”

Serendipity or not, her long road from sleepy Aarhus in her native Denmark to life in LA via New York as one third of one of the best rock and roll bands of the last two decades is one that had a little to do with a certain incident with a bird in New York’s Times Square.

“I was working this shitty fucking office job in Times Square and I’d just gotten out of the Subway and like this bird just fell out of the sky dead in front of me. That was kind of a moment when i was like ‘Ok I’ve gotta not be doing this any more, anything else is better than this shit,’ and that kind of led to me joining Dead Combo which was really what opened the door for both BRMC and The Ravonettes – I think the first show I did with Dead Combo was opening with The Ravonettes and then we got to do some BRMC shows during their Baby 81 tour and i stayed in touch with Rob and here we are.”

It’s not often musicians get to support a band on tour before making the transition to become part of that band and its something that’s not lost on Leah, one that gives her a heightened sense of just what makes BRMC who they are and what they represent.

“It was kind of interesting to get to tour with them with an opening band before I joined them. I remember being in the crowd watching and there was this really special energy and, like, some sort of vibe that I’d never really seen before live with other bands. I watched the shows every night and I couldn’t get tired of it. It was always really exciting that you didn’t hear the songs as it is on the records, the set changed from night to night and always had a different element to it depending on what the room was like any given night. Now, every night we play I hope that even though I’m behind the drums I hope that energy is still the same one that I could feel.”

leah

Having just completed a 16 date autumn US co-headlining tour with Death From Above 1979 – alongside Deap Vally, Shapiro is finding it great being back in the saddle with the band after such a long period of recovery from her brain surgery.

“Yeh I mean this is probably my first proper tour where I’ve been fully healed up from my injuries and shit so it’s is a nice feeling just to play without all of those issues. We’ve toured with Deap Vally before so we know them and the Death From Above guys really well, so its probably been one of my favourite tours as far as the lineup and people.”

And although the present musical landscape seems bereft of bands that share a similar approach to pure, no holds barred rock and roll like BRMC do, Leah isn’t one to start complaining, especially given her love of both of their current touring partners, Deap Vally and Death From Above.

“I’m not that frustrated, I think just being on tour with the awesome bands and watching them kick ass every night kind of takes away some of the frustration away – you get a little jaded but there’s plenty of cool stuff going on just maybe not in the mainstream. Its hard enough at the best of times for bands.”

With a new album most likely in the early part of 2017, the tour has given the band the chance to come up with and road test some new material.

“We’ve always used soundchecks to kind of at least get the process of new ideas started and we have like a million little shitty iPhones; recording our new ideas. It’s a cool setting to start the writing process when your on a big stage with a big sound. Everything sounds better than being in the little confined tiny rehearsal space so its a little bit more fun.”

And with the signs all pointing in the right direction, Leah is quietly confident of a return to a full touring schedule next year in support of what will be the band’s eighth record.

“We’ve been testing out two of the new songs which we’ve done in the studio prior to starting this tour and when we finish up next week it’ll be back in the rehearsal studio writing again and hopefully recording and then we will be back out on the road before we know it.”

brrr

The last few years haven’t been easy on the band, with, alongside Leah’s diagnosis, surgery and subsequent recovery, the death of bandmate Robert Levon Been’s father Michael in 2010 – after he suffered a heart attack backstage at a festival in Belgium.

The loss was hard to take for Leah, who credits Been’s father with her progression as a drummer, thanks to his own unique training regime he placed on her when she joined BRMC following Nick Jago’s departure back in 2008.

“A big part of me getting to where I am now as a drummer was Michael putting me through an epic boot camp when i first started with the band. i wasn’t super happy at the time. It was pretty intense but it definitely helped shape my playing and my approach to music in general. He sort of got me to be a little bit more free and I kind of learned to be OK with the mistakes that were going to happen inevitably both in recording and live onstage and learned just kind of go with it and make the fucked up parts work to your advantage, if that makes sense.”

dddd

For Leah, what has happened is that the band have pulled together more than ever in the face of such tragedy.

“I mean we’ve gone through some pretty insane shit before. We spend a lot of time together so we are all very close and i feel like there’s more of a family vibe than other bands I’ve played with in the past and I like that. A lot of the guys that are on the road with us have been with the band for as long as I have or even longer so there’s that whole element to it as well. I suppose we are our own kind of weird little dysfunctional family (laughing).”

The story goes that Leah learned around 40 songs in two weeks when she first joined the band midway through their tour off the back of the Baby 81 album, and ever since then, Leah has taken more and more of a creative role alongside bandmates Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been with regards to new material.

“In the beginning i was playing all the material that already existed and when I first started I just tried to mimic the drumming as much as i possibly could to make the transition not like too awkward for Rob and Pete and I guess for the audience as well. I think that when we first started writing Beat The Devil’s Tattoo I started to kind of observe what the process was and figure out my place in it. So its now its been like 8 and a half years or something like that so I’m a little bit more comfortable than I was!”

Her footprint on the band’s material is more than present, not just through her military like – pounding drums – which formed the creative starting point to the development of lead single ‘Let The Day Begin’ from Spectre – a cover of Robert’s dad’s band The Call’s original 1989 release. Her interest in literature and poetry has borne fruit lyrically, her input stamped all over the band’s last two album releases.

“Well at the time when I first got to LA, Rob and I were living in this like, sort of one of those furnished short term apartments and I happened to have some of my books my dad had given to me and some that I’d bought myself. So they were around and I remember showing him things. “Annabel Lee” (from 2011’s ‘Live in London’ release) came out of that. It’s not like an intentional thing but when its around I guess it hopefully influences us but it’s not something I try to force on anybody.”

Interestingly given the high intensity required to provide the engine for BRMC’s motoring sound, Leah feels that playing live she often finds herself in a trance-like, meditative state, as the dreamy ‘Alive’, from BRMC’s debut release – and Leah’s favourite song to play – illustrates.

“Well I mean there’s a lot of repetition and a lot of focus on the flow and feel of it so when I really focus in on it and I’m having a good day when I’m playing well It gets really transitory really quickly and a lot of the music – the more psychedelic stuff – it really lends itself to that. Like you kind of float into some other place which is nice. It’s nice to stop worrying about how your are supposed to be feeling, it just kind of happens.”

Brought up listening to her American father’s record collection, she wasn’t the typical wannabe drummer who, from an early age, was banging tabletops and boxes with anything they could find their hands on.

“I started I guess a little bit later than most people would have, but I just kinda immediately got obsessive about it. I tried to learn other instruments and I completely fucking sucked at it and it didn’t feel natural to me at all and I remember the first day playing the drums it just felt natural to me.”

And with no doubt a few UK dates to pencil in for next year with the release of their new album, Leah is keen to get back out in front of British audiences – even if that means dodging the odd flying pint.

“Oh yeh it’s just so rowdy and fun I love that. I like a good drunk crowd throwing beers at us (laughs) although usually they don’t hit me so that’s why i don’t mind it! I remember Rob getting hit with a beer right in the face in Glasgow at the Barrowlands, I think on the 2010 tour. Maybe next time it’ll be me although it’s a little harder to hit me. I guess that will be the challenge for next year at our shows.”

Interview with Graeme Park, Hacienda.

The very mention of the word ‘Hacienda’ conjures up images of maverick, heady, acid house and rave anthems and sweaty, drug-fuelled hedonism, the likes of which spawned a seismic musical and cultural shift in the UK, backed by the likes of New Order and Factory Records. 

 For those who weren’t lucky enough to ever find ourselves in the Manchester club, which endured for a fifteen year period from 1982-1997, what we are left with is the music; music that to this day endures.

 In a welcome celebration of the legendary club’s impact on the British cultural and musical landscape, veteran house DJ’s and regular visitors to the former venue, Graeme Park and Mike Pickering (also of M People fame), spoke to us about their new venture, ‘Hacienda Classical’.

 In conjunction with the Manchester Camerata experimental orchestra, and made possible by famed composer/arranger Tim Cooks, ‘Hacienda Classical’ offers a unique take on the ‘Madchester’ spirit and vibe, bringing together two polar opposite worlds in classical music and acid house in a joyous celebration that represents more than a thoroughly fitting homage to the venue.

 After the curtain came down on two opening nights in Manchester, alongside a celebrated night at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall, the 22nd of April will see Glasgow graced with the presence of Park and Pickering, both living legends of the ‘Madchester’ scene; a date that they cannot wait to appear on their horizon.

 “I feel quite good about it as the first two were very nerve racking. With Manchester being haciendas home we were very very nervous about it. The Royal Albert Hall. That was just the most amazing thing I’ve ever done in my life. It exceeded our expectations immensely,” says Graeme.

Before Mike adds, “The response has been pretty incredible. The first show took us by surprise a bit. It was very raucous, like a celebration really. We are on a role now. “

 Musically the event is an extremely audacious one; one which combines not only two totally different styles of music, but also two different concepts and methodologies as to preparing and performing. 

That said, both Graeme and Mike were in no doubt as to the project’s success, especially considering the enthusiasm that the orchestra have shown in working with them.

The orchestra just get on with it and everyone else, me, Mike, Peter Hook and Rowetta (Satchell) very so relaxed. We knew it was going to work and we knew what worked and what didn’t work,” says Graeme.

 “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We first of all had to choose the songs then make a score out the DJ mix then we had to produce a lot of the electronic elements, the stuff the orchestra can’t do, then of course we had to work out how you get the orchestra to play along to an electronic backing track, and how of course you do ‘Blue Monday’ with an orchestra.”

 “I can’t praise the Manchester Camerata enough, at no point has anyone said this is bollocks. You’ve got young women playing violins right through to older men playing bassoons and older than me and they are all loving it, they’ve all got massive smiles on their faces.”

 And, according to both Graeme and Mike, the decision to create the event was born out of the strength of the Hacienda brand, and the continued symbolism and iconic status afforded to a movement that has survived the closure of the venue itself nearly 20 years ago.

 “Its just a nice idea, people who went to the Hacienda are now in their 40s, so this is a cool kind of way to celebrate that. There’s only so many times you can do a pill and stand in a sweatbox, you know, people move on, so this just seems a very nice thing to do,” confirms Mike.

 “We still do club nights and one thing we have noticed in the past three years, the crowds re getting younger. It has such a heritage and history. That a lot of people who are too young to have gone to the Hacienda they want to experience it for themselves,” says Graeme.

“Someone said to me and said, ‘What about doing a classical concert?’ and everyone said ‘What a fucking great idea’.  One of the reasons that we came up with the idea is that Hacienda has always been at the front of club culture. It was the first club to play acid house and it was kind of the roots of the British dance explosion.”

Asked what the people of Glasgow, and Scotland, can expect from the event, both are certainly hopeful that it will be an event that will live long in the memory, especially from Aberdeen native Graeme.

 As someone who is from Scotland I am particularly excited about playing at the Hydro. You always get a good response from Scottish crowds and particularly Glasgow crowds. A Scottish crowd is hard to beat on an enthusiastic front. And I have my mum and dad coming to it.

 “They can expect an amazing atmosphere and expect to be surrounded by people with massive grins on their faces and you can expect to be taken on a journey through house that is like no journey you have ever taken before. When u hear a massive string section playing the bass bottom end of Robert Owen’s “I’ll Be Your Friendit’s just hairs on the back of your neck stuff.”

 Before Mike concludes, “It’s a euphoric celebration. That’s the best way to put it. From the first notes people are up and just loving it.  I’d be surprised knowing Glasgow and knowing Scotland if there’s many people sat down from beginning to end. I’d be very disappointed if they are.”

 

Kula Shaker talk K.20

Twenty years ago, Kula Shaker were one of the biggest bands in Britain, fresh after the success of debut album ‘K’, a heady brew of Indian mysticism, Brit-pop and 60’s sounds; one which spawned classic songs such as ‘Hey Dude’, ‘Govinda’ and ‘Tattva’.

Fast forward two decades and the band are currently four dates into an extensive worldwide tour in support of their fifth studio album, K.20. And after the band arrived in Scotland for a date at Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms, charismatic frontman Crispian Mills spoke to me about longevity, Neil Young, eastern influences and Glasgow ballroom floors.

“The whole thing is a strange sort of whirlwind of nostalgia and also with playing new songs as well it’s been quite an interesting mix,” says Crispian.

“The thing about the band is that we were never like a sort of U2 size band we were not just a little pop band either, we are sort of in a strange Kula Shaker with its own strange sort of beast and its very familiar. It’s always surprising to us you go round the world people have heard of us and come to our gigs”, he adds.

Crispian admits that the band had been caught unawares with the attention received since K.20’s release, with the band’s live dates more than anything else a chance for them to get out and just do what they love most – playing concerts.

Well you know you when you get into the pop business you can get very precious about your career and that’s completely understandable but there’s some fun in just playing for shits and giggles. It’s nice to be spontaneous about where you play and how you make records and I think that the crowds have responded to that.”

He also considers that, further to this,  it’s both the bands wide arrange of influences musically and focus on honing a sound geared towards the live setting has contributed towards their longevity and resonated most with their loyal fan base.

“By some kind of miracle blessing or some kind of higher force we’ve never lost our ‘mojo’. We were always a live band and that’s how we built our reputation and that’s how we won fans. Our songs have always been a mixture of sort of classic old school song writing with choruses and romance like the Beatles and folks songs you know, and this kind of love of Prog and psychedelic bands.”

“I don’t think you really get the whole picture till you see it live and we don’t either. We don’t understand the songs properly until we’ve played them through and then they take on a whole other life of their own.”

With regards to influences, Neil Young’s name pops into the conversation in reference to the song ‘High Noon’ off the new album, one that could have easily come from the icon’s own repertoire.

“We once played Glastonbury twice in one year and we headlined on the Saturday night and it was like the apex of our pop career and then Neil Young cut his finger making a ham sandwich the next day. There was no one else to come on and we went on in his place on the Sunday afternoon after Michael Eavis asked us to play,” he reveals.

“At first there was a bit of resentment from the crowd at first and we slaughtered one of his songs, ‘Out On The Weekend’ (from the album Harvest). It was a gallant attempt and I think the audience warmed to us after that. It was a great gig the Sunday afternoon was even better than the Saturday night.”

The band are no doubt best known for  their interest in traditional Indian music, culture and traditions, alongside their use of instruments such as the sitar to give their music a sound that sets them far apart from other bands that became popular during the Britpop era.

“I don’t think people think of us as a British band in that typical kind of way, I think Kula Shaker is a kind of a bit of a pop anomaly and we are very proud of that, we are the misfits. And the whole spiritual, psychedelic, Krishna thing has always been the defining element,” says Crispian.

Before he adds, “It’s a universal spiritual identity and that is always going to be something that’s fun to express sin music and in arts and in cooking and I think everybody gets it.  There’s a saying that ‘The sun rises in the East, does that make it an Eastern sun? When you get into the essence of any old culture you realize we all come from the same place and we all have the same ancestors.”

And, spiritual beliefs aside, while the band got ready to play in front of their Scottish fans in the capital; Crispian admitted that it was Glasgow that holds a special place in the band’s heart – for a number of reasons.

“Glasgow was always a very key date for us and one of the tipping points in our careers was selling out the Barrowlands. One of the most memorable gigs in Glasgow was in some ballroom I don’t know if it’s still going, they had a bouncy floor and it was packed and the whole crowd was jumping up and down and the crew were trying to trying to hold the whole of the sound rig up because they thought it was going to collapse and we all thought we were going to die. And, eh, that’s just a normal night in Glasgow.”

Frightened Rabbit talk new album ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack’

Scotland’s finest exporters of woolly jumper wearing indie rock, Frightened Rabbit, are back after a two year hiatus to clothe us with their signature brand of charming, heart-warming and spirited anthems that keep us the right mixture of warm and emotionally delicate.

With April’s release of their fifth studio album ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’ fast approaching, the band are currently knuckled down in a Glasgow studio in rehearsals ahead of a short three date UK tour and subsequent mammoth 29 date North American jaunt.

Band members Andy Monaghan (guitars/keyboards) and Simon Liddell (guitars) took a bit of time out of their schedule to talk about the new album and their readiness to return to the live scene, alongside how Simon’s addition to the band – graduating from guitar tech and live musician to replace Gordon Skeene – has changed their dynamic.

“I guess it’s a combination of looking forward to playing some shows and anxious to play some shows. I mean the set-up has changed, it’s a bit of a new set up, new sounds, new songs, you never know how its gonna go down, as Andy begins.

While Simon adds, “That’s especially true of playing the new songs as well, for me, cause they are the first ones I’ve had involvement in part of the recording of those ones, as much as its fun playing the other ones.”

With the response so far to the release of new singles ‘Death Dream’ and ‘Get Out’ reaching fever pitch, both Andy and Simon seem in high spirits, as Andy mentions:

“We have put out two very different tracks out so far, so people have been reassured hopefully by the first one (Death Dream) and then saw that things are a bit different with the second one (Get Out).

Whereas Simon, in respect to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Death Dream’, says: It was not meant to be like a proper full on single but more like a ‘can u remember us’ thing. I’m sure some people think it’s a pile of shite but if they hate it they are keeping quiet about it.”

Talk then turns to the new record, produced in both Brooklyn and Upper State New York last year during a swelteringly hot heat wave last summer, that saw the band, in between lying down on floors to escape the heat, remove themselves fully from their distinctly Scottish-tinged overcast, drizzle inspired sound and embrace the flips flops, shorts, and bucket loads of ice-cream.

“The record is the same in that (lead singer) Scott’s narrative shines through but it’s a different band. The creation of the record was very different to any of the other records we’ve made and we were trying a few new things as well. So it sounds a bit different but at the same time it is rooted in Scott’s songs. Without that we wouldn’t be Frightened Rabbit,” says Andy.

As to the new things mentioned, Simon offers more: “There is probably a bit of a dip in the tone, a more electronic approach.  I mean it’s not by any means a dance record, there’s just a few more textures in there that would take it a wee bit further away from the normal.”

The addition of a certain ‘electro’ vibe is partly down to Andy, who lists Glasgow’s very own Optimo as one of his favourite musical influences.

“It’s my scene, I’m all about that. Owl John (Scott’s solo album released in August 2014) brought Scott more in line with that sort of approach. I think he felt a bit more comfortable using some synths on some of the demos he was sending over.  I was like, this sounds mental! This is great! This sounds nothing like the old Frightened Rabbit, but it still is to an extent.”

With Scott moving over to Los Angeles in the aftermath of touring Pedestrian Verse, both the distance from the rest of the band – who remained in Glasgow – and the arrival of Simon, brought with it new obstacles and different challenges to face up with. But both Andy and Simon see that as having an ultimately positive effect on the current (new) direction of the band.

It’s totally a 5 way street now,” says Andy.

“There’s like different approaches to different songs. Cause Scott was over living in the States with some songs he would come up with the main body of it himself, while there was others that me and Andy and Billy and Grant would have worked on in Glasgow and sent to him, and then he would kind of add to it. And then there was stuff we had from the writing sessions in a couple of studios in Wales and a bunch of songs came out of that, when we were all kind of the same room, so it was kinda different approaches that all yielded diferent results,” continues Simon.

And with all members of the band keen to step outside of their comfort zones and change things around a bit instrumentally, it made for a rewarding experience, as Andy details.

“There were points like when we were getting to rehearsals and we were like ‘who is playing what here’, maybe Billy wasn’t playing bass he was playing guitar or Simon was on keys, I was on keys, Scott played all the guitars but then It’s like Scott plays the keys and I’m playing the guitars…and it’s like nobody is playing what they wrote in the studio or like live on stage and it was all just like people throwing in ideas and seeing what worked.”

Simon agrees. “Everyone felt comfortable enough when we were writing the album to say they had an idea and put it down, and not be like “you’re not the bassist so don’t touch my bass”.

With that, Simon refers back to the importance Scott’s solo record had on the new Frightened Rabbit material.

“I guess it was like, I mean it was my first time in the studio with the full band but when we did Owl John that was the approach to that was so relaxed, we’d (himself, Andy and Scott) gone into that with nothing so it was a case of having to go into the room and record something, try something.  There were no nerves, so that sort of carried through onto this record.”

He continues, “I think the touring schedule (for Pedestrian Verse) had hit everyone pretty hard so for Scott it was like, I think it was a really positive thing for him u know.  He took all the pressure out of the creative process and it was brilliant.”

Interesting to note is that although ‘Paintings of a Panic Attack’ took the best part of a year and a half to write and record, with the band writing and recording in excess of 30 demos before whittling it down to the 12 that made it on the album, they started thinking about it as soon as they played what was their last show, at Laneways Festival in Australia on the 8th February 2014.

 “The first writing session happened straight away after a festival we played in 2014. We got in a van after the festival and went straight there – to the studio and got started. At that point event Scott didn’t have anything – ‘Lump St’ came from that, ‘I Wish I Was Sober’ was born there and ‘400 Bones’ also, Simon reveals.

Having formed a close bond with The National after touring with them throughout America, it seemed a natural fit that Aaron Dessner would take up production duties, although his methods took some getting used to by the band, as Andy explains.

“He (Aaron) is a very talented guy. It was good. I guess when u put so much energy into something and someone else does the same there is going to be a little bit of friction. We wouldn’t know where he was going with something and he would never reveal his cards and then we would be like ahhh we see, we can see where it’s going. There were moments when we were like hallway through the sessions and we were questioning things, what was going on. But I think it worked out in a positive way.”

On a personal note, the move from guitar tech to fully fledged Frabbit was one Simon speaks volumes about, with a real sense of appreciation as to how things came to be.

“It’s amazing. I mean it was obvious for me as a member as I already playing as a live musician for a few years, the first show being us  playing woodpile on BBC Hogmanay a few years ago with Jackie Bird.  I always felt like part of the group on a personal level. It was always an inclusive thing and it has always been that way so that made it creatively so easy to slot in.”

To which Andy adds, “The internal vibe is different I guess with Simon being around. He is so enthusiastic and on it. It was an easy transition as no one was like ‘who is this guy’. With all the directions the others pull in, Simon pulls us in a different direction.”

With Simon finishing, “I love my reverb”.

And with a hard day’s work in the studio beginning to take its effect on their ability to keep awake, Simon and Andy ended by advising me not to make plans for Tuesday of next week, and to keep my eyes peeled for a show being staged by a band using a name of one of the songs off ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’.

I wonder how long the secret remains a secret.

Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite talks ‘Atomic’

There’s a rumour that Kurt Cobain’s footprint is locked in a safe at the QMU music venue at Glasgow University, a venue which saw Nirvana play a near mythical gig there 25 years ago in 1991.

In attendance that night was a 15 year old Stuart Braithwaite, guitarist with Scottish post-rock aficionados Mogwai. After being grounded for returning home late the previous night, he managed to somehow sweet-talk his parents into allowing him to delay the punishment so he could go see Nirvana play, a memory he recalls freshly as we meet a stone’s throw away from the venue in Glasgow’s West End, 20 years and 9 months to the day since his band, Mogwai, met for their first rehearsal as a band.

Stuart sat down with us to speak about upcoming new release ‘Atomic’, the band’s ninth album of tracks, reconfigured and reworked from the score they crafted for nuclear age documentary ‘Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise’ by Marc Cousins.

In between having to deal with the racket of what looked like the world’s biggest hen party and the close proximity of an amorous elderly couple showing us that romance isn’t dead, Stuart spoke with delight about how the album – the band’s third soundtrack – turned out, before he embarks on a hectic schedule as he prepares to mix Mogwai duties and shows and a debut album release for his new band, Minor Victories.

“I’m gonna have to get some Valium,” his response to his upcoming heavy workload calendar.

“The first Mogwai Atomic gig is two days before the first Minor Victories gig but to be honest it’s pretty good because we (himself and drummer Martin Bulloch) are gonna rehearse with Minor Victories then rehearse with Mogwai, and then I’m doing Mogwai gig in Austria and then Minor Victories is gonna rehearse the night before our London gig.”

With regards to ‘Atomic’, Stuart feels that the work put in – adding muscle and scope to the original film score – has paid off.

“I’m really happy with it, I think it worked out well. The film itself has very separate themes in it. The start of the film is really optimistic and hopeful and inspiring then with certain bits, obviously with the nuclear war stuff is just…,” he says

“We just tried to mirror the mood of the images with the music. I think that maybe helps it work more a bit more like a record”.

He is also positive with initial response tracks like ‘U-235’, ‘Biterness Centrifuge’ and ‘Ether’ have received.

“I think people will like it. I mean I guess the way records come out now I’m sure people can probably hear it before it comes out and see if it’s their cup of tea. I notice its looking like, a lot of people are saying it’s gonna be seen just as another ‘record’. In a weird way maybe like when we’ve put records out that have changed things up a bit and that probably bothers people more you know than straight instrumental music.”

This record is unique in that it was the first not to involve guitarist John Cummings, who left in November last year to pursue other interests. Although he played on the original score, he had no involvement with the record. But according to Stuart, the 4 piece continued as normal.

“We just get on with it,” says Stuart. “Alex [Mackay] who plays with Zyna Hel (the musical moniker of Stuart’s partner Elizabeth Oswell) is playing with us.”

The albums strong subject matter made the recording process a thoroughly emotive one, one that Stuart agrees fed into the record, especially with the band having visited Hiroshima on a previous visit to Japan.

“Yeh defintely that experience plus proximity to the nuclear weapons here,” he says, referring to both the band’s visit to Japan alongside the Faslane Submarine base approximately 30 miles away to the west of Glasgow.

“When we were recording for the film the scene of the bombings in japan was brutal, I mean we were just sitting watching it and it was really emotional. And one of the reasons we did it was because we’d been to Hiroshima and we’d seen like the peace park and all the letters that the mayors written to different countries begging them not to have nuclear weapons. So yeh there’s a lot of real intensity there.”

Fittingly, the band will return to Hiroshima as one of the nine dates so far scheduled for the band to play, one that Stuart feels will take on extra resonance for the band even if he doesn’t expect it to be greeted with a lot of attention by the Japanese public.

“It actually won’t be a big deal we’ll probably play to the least amount of people we’ve played to in japan ever. I think only the real obsessive Mogwai fans will be there. It’s not like the whole town of Hiroshima will come out, but that’s fine. For us I think it’s an important thing to do. It will be really emotional.”

After previously recording the soundtracks to French zombie noir TV show Les Revenants and football biopic Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, the band are well schooled in the differences involved in writing and recording to accompany a visual spectacle.

“I think getting into the studio it’s the same. It’s just to try and make it sound as good as we can. But I think when you are writing the songs it’s different. When you are writing the songs for your own album it’s just a blank canvas, you just do whatever you want. You can be as daft or serious as you want. If it’s to go with someone else’s vision then you’ve got to keep that in mind.”

“I’d say generally the film soundtrack is generally more sparse. We did a lot more for the album. I think it’s also a bit different from our records too. It’s heavy.”

The band have announced nine ‘Atomic’ dates at the moment with more no doubt to come in the following months, but Stuart doesn’t see the band touring relentlessly due to the nature of the album, with the shows ones that he says will not see them dip into any material from their extensive catalogue.

“It’s a weird thing doing a gig that’s along to a film because it’s not quite a film showing and not quite a gig. I think doing other songs would seem a bit out of place. When we did Zidane we did it I think then we were unsure if the whole thing was gonna work so it was almost a safety net. To be totally honest it’s such a specialised thing there’s only so much you can do. I’ve also got Minor Victories is taking up quite a lot of my time. I think that’s gonna be like quite a lot.”

With that our attention turned to Stuart’s new ‘supergroup’ Minor Victories, in conjunction with Slowdive vocalist Rachel Goswell and brothers Justin (Editors) and James Lockey, one which allows him to focus purely on the music and avoid some of the behind the scenes work involved in being part of Mogwai.

“I am excited aye it’s gonna be fun everyone’s been really nice and it’s gonna be a bit different. I’m kinda used to being the guy that I kind of sort a lot of the things out for Mogwai. We don’t have a manager so we all chip in but I do a lot. So it’s quite good to like ‘uh what’s happening’ and turn up and play.”

Interesting to note was that of his three fellow band members, he’d only met one, something that for him was both new and unusual.

“I knew Rachel a little bit and it was Rachel that asked me but I’d never met James or Justin.”

And, even though the four piece only actually met together in March this year, there’s talk of a second album in the pipeline ahead of the release of the debut record on the 3rd June.

“We’ve talked about another record so it’s in the lap of the gods how it goes. I’d think we’d do another one even if it died on its arse to be totally honest but I think whether it grows arms and legs isn’t really up to us. It’s up to folk if they like it. But so far people are into it,” says Stuart.

As for Mogwai, fans will be more than pleased to hear that the band are already working on new material ahead of the release and subsequent tour of Atomic.

“We are getting the studio dates to do the new record just now. It’s think it’s gonna be the end of the year, maybe into next year. And we are starting to get tunes together. Me and Barry and Dominic have been sending each other tunes. We are getting into it.”

Over twenty years since a certain Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, then booker for Glasgow’s renowned 13 Note Café, put on Mogwai’s first show, Stuart is approaching another date on his calendar in the form of the big 4-0, one he mentions in retort to questions concerning his decision to tone down the band baiting.

“I’m getting old I’m 40 in 2 months so it [baiting other bands] doesn’t really look good. I’d rather talk about stuff I liked than what I don’t like.”

But any suggestions of a big party or a one off gig to celebrate it are quickly played down by Stuart.

“I don’t know, I don’t really like a fuss.”

As for bands he likes, Stuart was especially excited about tomorrow’s upcoming gig of fellow Glaswegian’s Primal Scream, in between mentioning what other stuff is on his musical radar.

“I’m into this piano player Lubomyr Melnyk and his Erased Tapes stuff, I’ve been listening to that a lot. I really like a lot of church recordings like gospel music and like the Gaelic psalms from the Hebrides and even like – I’m totally atheist as well which is actually hilarious – but I really love sacred music,” he admits.

“Oh and that guy Mdou Moctar – that’s probably the best gig I’ve seen in a while –at the Art school. The Glasgow gig was nuts, it was sold out and like he’s probably one of these guys that feeds off the crowd.”

Since the last time we met last year, out with spending time in the studio recording ‘Atomic’, Mogwai made their first visit to India, an experience that Stuart was keen to share, alongside a chance meeting with a certain spiritual leader.

“It was a brilliant experience. It was quite humbling to see how some people live but the people were into music and everyone was so nice I met the Dalai Lama. I just said ‘It’s nice to meet you’ and shook his hand. He was like that ‘Your Stuart from Mogwai’,” he says, laughing.

“He was in town speaking at a big event. It was like The Beatles were there, there was like 1000 people outside our hotel holding cameras. I went to the lift and he was just there with two guys. He was doing stuff but I didn’t want to not say hello to someone like that. There was no big chat.”

There was no ‘Your the Pope’ statement, mirroring his infamous ‘You’re Lionel Ritchie’ comment on meeting the artist in an airport a few years back, one which provided the inspiration for the name for the track on 2011’s ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.’ And on the subject of song titles, Stuart finished up our chat with reference to the nuclear -themed song titles that populate ‘Atomic’ and how, unlike on previous albums, the band have stayed clear of their usual wit and frivolity in naming their tracks.

“We certainly didn’t want to do anything flippant when we were dealing with such a theme.”

Ulrika Spacek – your new favourite band

It’s a bit early in the year to be in full list-compiling mode but, after one listen of Ulrika Spacek’s debut release, ‘The Album Paranoid’, a landing point quickly opens up for the album to parachute into the list making up the top 5 best albums of 2016.

Featuring swirling, repetitive loops of Krautrock-esque distorted, fuzzy guitar and dreamy melodic harmonies, the London-based, Berlin-born five-piece have forged a sound reminiscent of the likes of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and even Radiohead, engineering in the process what is undoubtedly one of the surprise packages of the year.

Speaking to Tenement TV, singer/guitarist Rhys Williams describes the signature sound that is evident on their wonderfully diverse debut.

“In some ways you’d call it experimental rock music and I like that because I like the ‘gnarliness’ of like rock and roll, whatever you want to call that but just to do things in a clever way, with production and arrangements. Something that you can’t put your finger on, something you almost can’t keep up with and not know where it’s going. I like the idea of hiding a pop song within loops and stuff like that rather than a pop song up front.”

It’s an album full of different textures and concepts, ranging from heavy, alt-pysch grunge to subdued soundscapes. For Rhys, it’s a combination that reflects fully their intentions as a band.

“Yeh it kind of changes, I mean what we wanted with the first album was it to really sound like a schizophrenic record that the moment that u think as a listener you’ve worked it out it goes somewhere you never expected it go. So that’s always been, that’s always the type of music we want to make.”

After causing a stir in the capital with their own ‘Oysterland’  curated concert/exhibitions, a European tour at the start of the year saw them find themselves among the music list billings on the continent, something Rhys found pleasantly surprising.

“When we did our first European tour in February we really enjoyed playing in Europe. People seem to get it so we can’t argue with that. France has actually been the place where we done the best. We did a few features/interviews there and it seems to have struck a chord with people. We did quite well in the indie charts there.”

However, the recent cancellation of their 21-date UK and European support slot with DIIV seven dates in, due to health issues on the part of the Brooklyn-based band  is something that, although totally out of their hands, represents a frustration for Rhys and the band.

“The tour was all over the night after the Glasgow show although we didn’t know it at the time. We had done about seven dates so there was about two weeks to go and we were definitely looking forward to going over to Europe. It was a bit of a gutter. We really felt that we were hitting our stride to be honest. But DIIV weren’t having a good tour from the off.”

As for how Ulrika Spacek came about, Rhys fills us in on how he and guitarist Rhys Edwards formed the band one night in Berlin.

“I was living there, we were old school friends and he came over to visit me. And even though we never talked about it before we just humanly broke that barrier of asking each other whether we should make some music and I moved back to London quite soon after. In fact Rhys had sub-let my room and took my job when I moved to Berlin so it seemed like it was destined to happen in some weird way. And then once we started everything kind of fell into place. We fleshed out the rest of the band with people we know and finished the record.”

The organic, natural quality suggested in the band’s formation was also present in the making of their music, another element that Rhys finds rewarding.

“It’s been very nice, especially in the sense that when me and Rhys started recording we didn’t necessarily think we were making an album we were just recording for the sake of making music together and when we knew things were starting to go well we still had this notion that we were going to form a band and re-record the whole thing. Then it just came to a point when we were just like ‘no, this is the record,” he says.

The press, especially based in France, have championed the band as a mix between Tame Impala and Radiohead, something Rhys isn’t quite sure is an honest representation of their sound.

“I wouldn’t say Tame Impala are a band that we would reference to be honest. I have listened to their first two albums. I was surprised by that. But they seem to be the band that people see that open the door with regards to psychedelic music.  I mean with Radiohead we will always get that. They are a very important band for us and have been since each member of the band was like 13 or 14.They were really the band that opened  the door to listening to other music you know.so I’m sure they are in our sound. Something very deep rooted.”

And as far as influences are concerned, a wide array of artists have inspired the band and their sound.

“I think Television are a big one and just the type of guitar playing they have. I think Rhys has quite an interesting guitar style, it’s quite similar to like Graham Coxon in places so Television yeh, and I’d say Neil Young with his peculiar song writing. We’ve all been listening to him for years. Yo La Tengo are also a massive influence. We’ve always really loved how heavy they get in certain bits then also how delicate and subtle they can be so even through hi wouldn’t necessarily say that if u listened to our record it sounds like them, but they were certainly the blueprint for how we wanted our record to be.”

He then delves deeper into his lyricism to be found on the songs that make up ‘Album Paranoia’.

“This record has been very much a stream of consciousness. The way we record it was very much a case of pressing record as we were writing the songs and the lyrics were also like that. It was certainly not something that I had waited 6 months with my notepad.  Often singing gibberish and then the one line that I find out of it and then keeping that one line and then developing the rest of it over it. It’s all very much the intrusive thoughts I have in my head, the insecurities you know. And I think to be honest that’s not necessarily just going to be the first album I think I will always write like that.”

Setting up a home based studio –  a former art gallery which they call ‘Ken ‘ – instead of going down a normal, studio based recording route has had a big influence on shaping their sound, one which saw them play “for hours and hours while we lost our minds” while recording the record, to the detriment of their housemates.

“It’s something that for the second album we are going to keep in many ways. We’ve just got better equipment now, we’ve just invested in some nice microphones and hopefully there will be a development in terms of production in that way but not necessarily the way we write the record,” Rhys says.

And with regards to the band’s self-curated Oysterland nights, it represented a conscious decision by the band to avoid the usual support slot circuit.

“When we started playing lives shows we just wanted to do it on our terms, we didn’t want to come out and play on other peoples bills. We certainly wanted to come out all guns blazing in that sense. By curating the nights ourselves and having different things we just made a night that I would want to go to. Sometimes unless you do something yourself there’s never going to be something out there that’s perfect for you.

And their success has meant Rhys is looking to roll them out across the country.

 “We are going to carry on doing that. The aim is eventually to put on our own Oysterland shows in different cities where we have more control. That’s another thing Yo La Tengo do, they’ve always curated their own Hannukah bill which we always though was cool.”

Meanwhile, Rhys and the band are keen to get back over to the continent to play shows, in between being knuckled down in their home studio working on album number 2.

“We are preparing to record the second album. We’ve got demos for it, just about 10 tracks and then we have a few festival appearances coming up. Doing that allows us to record the album during the week and on the weekend go and play different festivals.”

Man of Moon reach for the sky.

Man of Moon haven’t quite got the hang of using chopsticks, as the fresh-faced two piece from Edinburgh, looking decidedly jaded after an early morning return home from opening last night for The Twilight Sad in Manchester, tuck into some Asian inspired vegan food in Glasgow’s Hug and Pint, scene of tonight’s headline show and precursor to tomorrow night’s supporting slot for the Sad at a sold out Barrowlands.

Their mannerisms tell me they are not too sure about they are eating, but it tastes bloody good. Belly’s full and a pint down Chris and Mikey, who formed the band after being paired together during their sound engineering course, are ready to take a breather and look back on quite an eventful 2015, a year that saw both of them blow out just the 20 candles on their birthday cakes.

man+of+moon+bg

So how does it feel being back on the road with the Sad again? “It’s been really good, they are such sound guys. It’s the same kind of crowd we get so people that go to see them dig us I think as well”, said Chris.

“It’s good for them to have us as well because it’s small, us being only a two-piece it’s really easy for them. Its good fun and not a lot of hassle, chips in Mikey.

Has there been anything learned from The Sad that they will bring to their own shows? The answer was a resounding “Oh aye, definitely” from both.

“I guess watching their live show and just seeing the stage presence they’ve got and watching them sound check and stuff. They are such pros. Learning that kind of stuff is so useful,” says Chris, with an air of gratitude for the Sad that speaks volumes.

The band were more than buzzing about tonight’s show, as they cast their minds back to the last time they played the Hug and Pint in April earlier this year, a gig that for them ranks as their highlight for 2015.

“That was an amazing gig. One of my favourites we have played, really really proud of it. The fact that we do so many support gigs, to play a sold out show in Glasgow is such a good feeling,” said Mikey.

Chris followed that by declaring his love of the city. “The crowd was so good. We are quite used to playing loads of shows in Edinburgh and seeing so many familiar faces, but to walk out into a sold out crowd and not knowing any people that were there…that’s when we knew we were doing something right.”

“Glasgow crowds are always the best crowds, it beats Edinburgh.”

Controversial, coming from a band that hail from the capital? Not to Mikey…

“I think just overall it’s a better scene and people are more into and from that we get a better response”.

Not taking anything away from tonight’s headline slot, it was obvious the bright neon lights of the Barras were more than visible on their respective horizons.

“Tonight’s a warm up for tomorrow. That’s the reason we booked tonight in the first place”, said Mikey.

Although I’m trying not to think about it until we walk out”. I think if it was further down South somewhere not so familiar  it wouldn’t be as nerve-racking, but Glasgow, it really is one the best places around”, thought Chris.

With Mikey adding, “The Barrowlands. The biggest gig of our career. Our families and friends are all going to be there as well. It’s such a good opportunity, with the amount of people that are going to be there who haven’t seen us before”.

Are The Sad in the same boat?  Not according to Mikey. “They are playing it cool I think”.

For The Moon, having their sound play out beneath the famous blue and white tiled ceiling is as big a deal as any band could ask for. “If you look at just a list of everybody who has played there. Playing on the same stage as all these legends. It’s just crazy, it’s cool.”

Perhaps the only down point for the band was not picking up the Best newcomer Act earlier this year at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, although they felt Bella and the Bear were more than worthy winners. How they found out was a story in itself, as Chris shared.

“It would have been nice to get it. It was great to be voted though. I remember bus’ing it through from Edinburgh and the traffic was murder and I got into Glasgow late, so I had to sprint up Sauchiehall Street to try and make it to The Garage in time. When I got to the door someone just told me, ‘Aye you’ve no won’. And true enough, we went in and it turned out it had already been announced.”

What about their debut single, The Road, being heralded by one member of the music press as the best British debut since New Order released ‘Ceremony’ way back in 1981, many moons before Man of Moon came into the world.

“It was great. It’s mental. It was quite a statement. I genuinely don’t know what to take from that but it’s cool to see that someone likes it, said Chris. ”

And how did the song come about? Surprisingly easily.

“The Road was written really quickly. The basis of it anyway. We got it down in about 2 minutes. I mind doing it in Chris’s attic,” said Mikey.

With Chris adding, “I had just started using a Wah pedal that Mikey let me borrow and just switched that on and Mikey started playing along. It’s just mental the response we have had from it.”

As for 2016, the band see themselves doing at least a few festivals as they take their sound out to fans across the country.

“Really keen to do Green Man next year. It’s such a good festival and I think it would really suit us”, said Chris, with Mike adding, “I’d love to play Secret Garden Party again but like a different slot. We opened up for the festival pretty much last time and pretty much nobody was there.”

p02wx67g

Fans will be happy to note that the band expect to release a four track EP early next year, which they will be touring at a later date, with Mikey confirming it, “It’s completely recorded, it’s just getting mixed and mastered. I don’t think there’s a real rush to get it out but when it does I think that will give people something to listen to”.

With Andy Monaghan from Frightened Rabbit on production duties, the band felt that he got the best out of them. It was amazing, he would fire ideas at us and we would be like ‘We didn’t think of that’.  He was just really encouraging. That’s what you need,” said Chris.

And even though they have been playing together for the past three years, the band still don’t see themselves as the finished article quite yet.

“I think we are still essentially finding what we are sounding like. We still buying more pedals and expanding our sound. Even now, some of our tracks sound really different from each other, they could almost be put into two different sets,” answers Chris.

As for influences from fellow Scottish acts out with the likes of The Sad and Frightened Rabbit, the band were keen to add The Phantom Band, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Errors and Kathryn Joseph to that list, with Mikey keen to thank them for their support.

“Playing with these bands makes us feel so lucky. Its crazy as well cause a lot of these bands have been playing for years and we are just really starting. For that we are pretty grateful”.

As the band put in their pretty low key rider request with a joint “Tennents” shout, their final assertion, in response to a heady future on making more waves in the music world, was a firm “We are ready to go”.

With some bands making relatively small steps up the music ladder, Man of Moon have been leaving footprints the likes of which others could only wish for. One giant step after another it seems indeed, for a band that, with a night at the Barras soon to be under their belt, have the sky as their limit.

The Franz get nostalgic.

Off the back of the positive critical and commercial success of their FFS collaboration with Sparks, Franz Ferdinand’s drumming machine Paul Thomson is enjoying the home comforts again after an extensive UK, European and North American tour, speaking over coffee about first gigs, swinging with (or without) Sparks and what it is to be an ‘unsigned’ band.

With those in music circles comparing Glasgow newbies White’s Future Pleasures as the best debut single since Franz’s own Take me Out, this gave room for Paul to cast his mind back to a small bedroom in the city’s Sauchiehall St, the scene of the band’s first gig.

“It was the Champions League final and people showed up late. Some friends of ours had organized an art showing in a flat, with the art in one bedroom and we played in the next. We only did 4 songs but because folk turned up late we played the same set twice. They all ended up on the first record. Michael, Auf Asche, Jacqueline and Tell Her Tonight. I was working in Directory Enquiries at the time so I came straight from work.”

As a then seasoned member of the Glasgow music scene, it wasn’t as if the forming of Franz felt like it was instantly going to reach the heights they eventually have.

a4668b8a-f6b6-4bec-931d-1ccea4487af9

“We just new it was a good band. I’d been doing it for years in bands like Pro Forma and The Yummy Fur. Usually what happens is you get someone to put your record out and go and tour for a week to promote it and try and get out of signing on (the dole) for that week. Go on tour and kip on floors and get drunk, and that’s your holiday basically.”

Although it wasn’t long after the bedroom gig that things seemed to step up a gear from just playing gigs to the Art school community that they hung around with.

“I guess when people outside our social circle started coming to gigs then you’re sort of thinking that we might be onto something. With people who we don’t know hearing about us through not much effort on our part. We were just kinda doing it for our social group really because it’s what you do in Glasgow. Play shows and your friends come down.”

Paul credits Alex (Kapranos) with being the one who really motivated him and the rest of the band with the belief that something could happen.

“Alex taught IT to refugees and elderly people – teaching them how to work a computer. When we started out he had a proper job and a flat and a mortgage and all that. He had kind of given up on music because he didn’t think it was ever going to happen and then he really sort of pushed us when this came together. Whereas my life was, I was kind of living one day to the next, I was homeless and sleeping on Alex’s floor in the hall.”

“He was like, this was my last chance at this. Whereas I was so caught up in the now I didn’t have a long term plan. It wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for his determination and drive.”

The very fact as well that they were playing together and “being kind of fairly honest about it all”, rather than actively pursue a record deal, also seemed not to hinder the band in ways it might have others, hell bent on success.

“We never saw ourselves as an ‘unsigned’ band, because of the bands we had been in previously we did it all ourselves. I thought that’s what it was going to be like for us. We would pull all the money from gigs and pay for recording our single and put it out ourselves, like 500 7 inches. That was the plan anyway. I guess because of that background that’s why we went with Domino, because it was an indie label.”

Paul recalls how, with the band generating the attention of the major labels, Domino Records came in to snap them up, although not without the odd hiccup on their part.

Paul-Thomson-Franz-Ferdinand

“Serge their manager met up with me and said that we were on the same level as Pulp and The Stone Roses and I was like ‘Fuck off, London wanker’. He came up and saw us rehearse and it was quite nerve racking, just playing all the songs you’ve got to one person who has travelled all the way from London.

I remember he said, ‘Yeh we will go out for a drink afterwards, Alan Mcgee is DJing at a club night in The 13th Note and I’ve got us in.’

At this point we were like, me and Alex have worked there for like six years.”

And even with the deal in place, it still took a while it to sink it that they could be on the cusp of something big.

23732674.jpg-pwrt3

“I remember us taking pictures of ourselves holding our guitars on our way to practice, standing next to the posters Domino carpet bombed Glasgow with.”

As for other (Glasgow) bands who are following in their footsteps, Paul had some choice words to say how he feels the music scene has changed since Franz started to make their mark.

“No bands are getting signed now. There’s nothing worse than seeing ‘THE BEST UNSIGNED BAND IN BRITAIN’ labelled on a band. I mean, if they are that good why are they still unsigned?”

“They are as well doing their own thing, you don’t have to get signed anymore, there’s nothing in it for the artist, your better just doing it your way. In Glasgow people can get by, working part time and then spending the rest of it making music or art. The weather kind of helps as well, there’s no point in being outside. It’s always been like that.”

With the band now having played just about every venue in Glasgow, from abandoned jails and warehouse spaces to the SECC, there’s one venue not on the list that may surprise a few people, in the form of a certain King Tuts Wah Wah Hut.

“We were a total reaction against King Tuts from the start. Because they had a sort of pay to play policy it was all geared towards unsigned talent. We weren’t trying to get signed, we were just doing our own thing. We just did it ourselves cause it was more fun that way. Tuts to us was the establishment.”

It sums them up that they asked our management about doing a show for their 20th anniversary recently, when they started asking all the bands that ever played Tuts and we thought, wait a minute, we never even played there. To me that sort of highlights the entitled arrogance of the place.”

That aside, Paul turned his attention back to the here and now, and the band’s recent partnership with Sparks. Probing him on a previous assertion that Franz were like an “open, modern marriage”, I wondered if the move from a 4-some to a 6-some reflected a desire to spice up proceedings, with a casual reference to bit of marital swinging.

“No offence to Sparks, but if I was going to swing it wouldn’t be with two elderly gentlemen from Los Angeles.”

He went on to suggest that their work together has come to an end, even he regards the album as an accomplishment for the band.

ffs-2-240815

“It was just different having to accommodate two totally different people from different backgrounds. So for us it was time to draw a line in the sand after the last tour date. Have you heard our Christmas single? I don’t think anyone has.”

So what’s next for Franz Ferdinand then?

Again, off the back of a remarkably successful 2015, and with 4 studio albums and over 3 million albums sold to date, the band aren’t for calling it a day anytime soon.

“I guess we are just going to write and demo as much as we can. We still think of ourselves as contemporary even if no one else does.”

White, your new favourite colour.

2015 has been some year for White. Big ups from Elton John, headline sets at Tenement Trail, and making the floor bounce at Amsterdam’s legendary Paradiso venue spring to mind for the band seen as the best export Glasgow has had to offer the music world since a certain Franz Ferdinand.

To put the cherry on top their proverbial pie, the group walked away with ‘Best Breakthrough Act’ at the recent Tartan Clef Scottish Music Awards in Glasgow. Not bad for a band that have only been on our radar for the best part of a year.

As the band swanned up the attention on the red carpet, frontman Leo Condie admitted that the award represented a nice milestone for the band.

“We are all really excited that we are winning something that makes us feel that we are getting somewhere. It’s always hard to tell because we have our heads down immersed in the music, so it’s really nice that people have taken notice of us.”

kkkkk

“We’ve always kind of written songs that we want to be immediate, songs were you are able to get them without having heard them and listened to them over and over again.  We want them just to hit you straight in the chest. When you go out and play and you get the right response from that it’s fucking great.”

As for highlights so far, the band were hard pushed to see beyond the Amsterdam gig, as guitarist Hamish indicated.

“The Amsterdam gig was fucking amazing, it was like a rave. It’s probably one of my favourite gigs we have done. We were the last act on at 2am and the room was stoud out and everyone was jumping around. Our friend was in the audience and said the floor was moving when we were playing.”

Although closer to home, headlining Tenement Trail still lingers fresh in the memory.

“That was amazing, we owe Tenement TV a lot. We are a totally new band and there were a lot of bands that have been going for a long time on the bill so for us to be given the chance to headline a Glasgow festival like that was awesome. It put us right in people’s faces. The festival will just get bigger and bigger.”

Hailing from previous groups such as the Low Miffs, Kassidy and Garden of Elks, bass player Lewis is quick to extol the connection between the five-piece.

“The reason why we have all came together in the band is that we all love music, we all love playing together and we are all friends. Me, Hamish and Chris have been writing together for ages so it was great when Leo and Kristin came in and added this other dimension to the band.”

Whereas guitarist Chris was keen to tip his hat off to Glasgow.

“It’s cool to have an eclectic mix like we do in the band. It totally resembles what the Glasgow scene is like just now. There’s a lot of people making music because they want to without holding any unnecessary grudges against other bands.

And with respect to their home city, Leo feels more than happy to see the band mentioned in the same breath as Franz Ferdinand, with WHITE’s upcoming headline show at the QMU a personal triumph for him.

“I remember growing up in Glasgow and it was so exciting how well it was going for them and  it made the eyes of the music world turn on Glasgow for a while, although we were all a bit to young to be in bands to profit out of it. I remember standing outside the QMU when I was at uni listening to them sound check and stuff, so for us to be playing there is great.”

A slot on the bill for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party will see them play out the year in some style, as the band look to a 10 date UK tour spread over February and March, with Hamish keen for the band to spread their wings further afield again.

“I’m kind of hoping we become one of these bands that does well in Europe and we can go over and play there all the time.”

To which Leo finished with a smile…

“We will be headlining Hampden next year.”

And, although he was being tongue in cheek, you can’t fault the swagger and confidence the band gives off, as the cry for ‘a new colour in the musical palate becomes as loud as the band’s wardrobe.

WHITE.

https://login.skype.com/login/silent?response_type=postmessage&client_id=580081&redirect_uri=https%3A%2F%2Fdub113.mail.live.com%2Fdefault.aspx&state=silentloginsdk_1449081973379&_accept=1.0&_nc=1449081973379&partner=999

Holyesque get spiritual.

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and it’s bucketing it down. The four local lads who together make up Holyesque shuffle in soaked one after the other, some still sobering up post Finnieston flat-party, to sit down to chat about their upcoming double A side single and  Glasgow headline show at St Lukes and subsequent release of long awaited debut album At Hope’s Ravine in February.

Since the band’s inception in late 2010, a steady flow of single releases, celebrated gigs, European support slots and SXSW jaunts have gradually heightened the buzz around a group whose sound, driven by singer Pat Hynes’s raspy, primal scream and industrial guitar, fails to conform to any comparative music out there, and all the better for it.

Celebrated recent shows at Tenement Trail, the SAMA’s and Camden’s Barfly – with a certain Annie Mac in attendance, alongside multiple Radio 1 plays of upcoming single Silences, seamlessly draws a line towards an arrival at the big time, and the band, whose design background seeps into their image – keyboardist Keir Reid and drummer Ralph McClure both study at Glasgow School of Art while not making music – are keen to take full advantage, as Pat himself intimates.

“We are planning on keeping the momentum going. It’s picking up I feel like we are progressing and we going in the right direction.  We are in the best position we have ever been just now and we hope the anticipation will pay off and people are going to be into the album.”

The chemistry amongst the foursome – Pat, Ralph, Keir and guitarist Shug – is contagious. It’s like old pals that just happened to pick up their instruments and decide to make music, and Keir believes that this sense of camaraderie is what drives the band forward.

“When we started the band there was never any blueprint or any kind of set idea or discussions. Everyone has their own inspirations and influences. We were all from different angles and places.

Pretty much all decisions are made as a group. Anything creatively, whichever direction the band is going in, whatever we are doing, we all decide together.”

Although for many fans, the album seems to have been a long time coming from a band that first got our tongues wagging with 2012’s Rose, Keir mentions that the wait for the album wasn’t as a result of a lack of material, far from it.

“With an album generally it’s not about the amount of songs you have, there are so many other factors to take into account. It needs to be right. It annoys us when people think oh ‘we have finally got an album worth of material’. We held it off because we wanted to make sure it was right and done properly.”

With regards to At Hope’s Ravine, the band removed themselves from the goldfish bowl that is Glasgow, splitting their time between Copenhagen and Brighton, a decision, that Keir thinks, paid off dividends, especially with regards to ramping up the creativeness emanating from the band.

“We spent a week and half in Denmark where we got all the basics down and then went for two weeks to just outside Brighton to experiment and work with the songs more.

It was kind of this great atmosphere and we were like ‘fuck it will we try it’. We ended up singing in stables and using wee kids toy pianos, just anything. It was our first real experience of experimentation in the recording process. Trying to tap into something new.”

 

Keir is also keen to detail working with Grammy award winning producer John Schumann, a bona-fide fan of the band, and how it seemed the perfect fit for where they wanted to go as a group.

“We became quite friendly with him when we did the Ravonettes support slot (in 2012), he was into the band and we knew he was a ‘somebody’. I think we rubbed off on him.

He gets it, he understands what we are doing and he is enthusiastic about it. John brought out the best in us and sent us in the right direction.”

And although a few years have passed since their 18 date jaunt around Europe with the Danish indie-rock duo, Ralph doesn’t discount heading back out to the continent on a support slot ticket; although this time they might treat it a little differently.

“Something like that would be perfect for us. The last time we were on a tour we were young and impressionable but we learned a lot (from the Ravonettes). We were stealing their rider and wanting to go out and party every night while they were real pros. We were arseholes. It was an insight.”

The band also seem to have found themselves a niche market in the form of Austin, Texas, with a visit in 2016 not out of the question, off the back of trips out there the past three years in succession. Something Pat is eager to share.

“We seem to have a yearly residency now out there. We have a lot of friends now and we just have a really good time. It’s been getting better every year for us. Especially since we started playing in dive bars and cupboards. I think a lot of people suffer from that but for us it really did help us and turned out to be quite beneficial.”

Casting nostalgia to one side for a moment, Pat gets back down to speaking about their number one concern, the music, and the connection that exists between the foursome.

“The majority of time the best songs are done on the spot there and then. It’s the best feeling in the world for us when we are all playing things and it just comes together and you know there’s something there. It’s like there’s a silent understanding between us.”

Further to this, however, is the design element, which flirts alongside their music to deliver a whole package, something that the band themselves are keen on expressing, as Pat and Keir indicate.

“You need to offer more than just a song. People need to grab onto something. Whatever we are doing we want to make a visual element that worked with the music. I think it goes hand in hand. You spend so much time writing and recording a song and making it sound good, just to give it to a label to put their own thing behind it. For us it’s part of the process. One benefits the other.

I think music is pretty two dimensional. So for us it’s important to pull in these other aspects to it, to open it up for people to take more from it, not just the music.  It’s just another edge to the sword.”

Doing so, it seems, helps the band really develop their own sense of how they see themselves as a band, helping to avoid what Keir regards as “lazy” comparisons with other bands.

“We don’t like being pigeonholed. We have been against that from the get-go. There comes a time when it can become detrimental to a band.”

While Pat agrees.

“Pidgeon-holing. Fuck that. We’ve always wanted to leave things open to interpretation with regards to our music. We’ve always encouraged people to question what we are doing. Why this lyric is that in the song, why those visuals are in that video, for example.”

Meanwhile, seeing out the year by playing at new Glasgow venue St Lukes ,a venue they themselves chose for the upcoming single launch , will, Keir hopes, give them the kind of blank canvas they are looking for to really cement their ambition, purpose and intention to those in attendance.

“I’m interested in the idea of communities and religions and that place has been used as a kind of gathering place over the years. I quite like the idea of us re-contextualizing it in our own way, with our music and with our own visuals. We really can’t wait for it.”

In between all the preparations for the album, the St Lukes gig and the single launch, Pat points out that they haven’t let that get in the way of already looking towards album number two.

“We are already working on it (Album 2). There’s no breaks for us. What else would we do? We are in the studio writing new songs all the time.”

With a drive and determination that may put other like-minded bands to shame, the group don’t seem like they are the kind who would take stock. Indeed, the band seem pretty humble with respect to how much they feel they need to achieve before they have ‘made it’, judging by Keir’s admission.

“We know we will have made it when we come back in here to the pub with fur coats on with enough money to get a pint.”

Jokes aside, it’s refreshing to hear from a band, who, undoubtedly are one of the best acts to come out of Scotland in the past decade, who have their feet firmly on the ground and are just focusing on doing what they do best, making vibrant, intense and unique music.

Here’s to the Holy.