Archive for February, 2011
Saturday, February 26th, 2011
Watching KID CANAVERAL, masters of the forgotten art of pop-song writing, you can’t help but feel it’s a matter of when, not if, they get the break that will turn them into a mainstream force for good.
Having this week signed to Fence Records in their native Fife, they have any number of tracks that could feasibly be this summer’s festival anthem – the wonderfully frantic Good Morning, or perhaps Couldn’t Dance given the way explodes into its chorus, or You Only Went Out To Get Drunk Last Night and its juggernaut of synths, female vocal harmonies and guitar solo with wah-wah effect pedal (I think) no less.
Before all the exuberance, however, this SXSW-fundraising gig starts with the dreamy, reverb-rich Her Hair Hangs Down, which makes way for the retro indie-pop of Smash Hits, with singer David MacGregor apologising for “going a bit Beady Eye” in his pronunciation of “change”.
MacGregor is everything you’d want in a frontman – completely without ego, full of daft banter and possessing likability in spades. He’s also unintentionally comical – on several occasions he ruffles his bushy hair and leaves it looking like Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary.
If I’m being picky, Cursing Your Apples and Left And Right, sung by guitarist Kate Lazda, are a bit rough around the edges, but the importance of Lazda to the overall sound can’t be stressed highly enough when you see her picking out every memorable guitar riff on And Another Thing!! and On Occasion as well as adding a Kenickie-esque string to Kid Canaveral’s bow with her lead vocals on Talk And Talk.
The undoubted highlight, though, was their terrific cover of King Creosote’s Missionary, in which they turn a folky lament into an emotive driving rock song. It really was something else.
Kid Canaveral – Stretching The Line
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
I have this theory that when you read an interview which is boring, it’s usually because the interviewer has asked boring questions. Actually, perhaps ‘boring’ is not quite the right word – more like clichéd, or obvious, or tame, or the kind of questions the subject would have been asked so many times before that their answers are as good as scripted. When that happens everyone is a loser – speaker, writer, reader.
So knowing that I had a pre-arranged interview scheduled at T in the Park’s media launch with Geoff Ellis, the man responsible for running the festival, I came to the conclusion that the whole process would be far more interesting for all concerned if I opened up the questioning process to The Pop Cop’s Facebook friends, an opinionated bunch at the best of times.
I brought a list of all the suggestions into the interview and tried to get through as many as I could, so a huge thanks to everyone who contributed.
Murray Easton For the last few years the number of tickets available for T in the Park seems to have increased, yet the actual space for the site has stayed the same. Is there any scope to increase it to prevent crushes, particularly when people are moving from the Main Stage to the NME Stage?
Geoff: “In reality, the opposite has happened. The number of tickets hasn’t increased from 85,000 for three years and we’ve taken on a bit more space, particularly in the campsite. But it’s something we’re always looking at. Perception is very important and if people feel there’s not enough space then there might as well not be. We like to get that kind of feedback. If a lot of people are saying they feel it’s getting too busy or uncomfortable then we need to do something about it. Each year the site plan changes shape and evolves. This year we’re looking at having two entrances to the arena from the campsite.”
Tommy Hamilton Will a better system be put in place so that people who lose their ticket but still have a wristband get in?
Geoff: “We’ll be redoubling our efforts to make sure that if you’re a genuine person and your [lost] ticket has been invalidated then you’ll get in. Ideally, we wouldn’t have a ticket at all. It would just be a wristband with a little chip, but you’ve got to make sure you stay one step ahead of the forgers. China can turn around things really quickly, even with wristbands and chips. It’s a constant battle to look after the people who are genuine against the people who are trying to pull a flanker.”
Jonny Logue How much money do you make, and who gets what?
Geoff: “Tennent’s get it all! No, we’re not going to divulge things like that and no private business would, really. Think of a figure, half it and divide it by 100 and it’s probably nearer to the truth. It costs millions to put on an event like T in the Park. Yes, it’s profitable, but is it a way of anybody getting rich quick? No. Could it be? Yes, because we could spend half the money we do on bands and it would still sell out. But we’d rather spend the money and have people thinking T in the Park’s great value and keep coming back year on year. I want to be doing this for the rest of my life. As long as I can make a living out of it, that’s enough for me.”
Halina Rifai Will T in the Park be following RockNess and banning ned attire from being worn at the festival. And I quote: ‘DRESS CODE Strictly No Tracksuits or Ned attire.’
Geoff: “I think it’s probably tongue-in-cheek. What is ned attire? Do you say to Jay-Z he’s a ned because he wears sportswear? It’s not about what you wear, it’s about who you are. Listen, you can be a ned in a suit. If you take a ned to mean somebody who is out to cause trouble, those are people we don’t want to come to T in the Park anyway. We’ve no plans to put a dress code into T in the Park, that would be quite draconian. But neds are not welcome, just to clarify that.”
Michael Ferguson Will my band Letters be headlining any of the stages?
Geoff: “There’s the T Break Stage, there’s BBC Introducing, so I’d say make sure they apply, those are great platforms to be at. I do know the band. Are they going to be headlining the King Tut’s Tent or NME/Radio1 Stage or Main Stage? Well, no. But could they be headlining in future? Yeah. If they keep working at it then they could be.”
James Cranwell Will you be following Glastonbury’s lead [i.e. putting photographic ID on the ticket] to stop ticket touting?
Geoff: “It doesn’t work. I was sticking up for Glastonbury when they were doing it but, in practice, when stewards are doing searches and looking at people coming in, to then have to look at photos… in reality, people just go in [without being checked]. It was a bold attempt but all it did was make a lot of people think it’s going to be really hard getting a ticket so they didn’t bother. The year Glastonbury didn’t sell out [in advance] was when they introduced the photo ID. And then people blamed it on Jay-Z – it was nothing to do with Jay-Z. We try to do what we can. We put barcodes on tickets, but I feel we’re rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic in some respects. You can do things to try to stop ticket touting but the best thing, which is what we focused our efforts on, was to get the previous government in Westminster to change the law and make it illegal. But the government didn’t do it and they basically gave a green light to ticket touting.”
Robert Stitson Whatever happened to the Pet Sounds Arena? One year it was there, the next it wasn’t and there was nothing to replace it and no explanation for its disappearance.
Geoff: “Good question. We were spreading bands too thinly between the stages. There were acts who played to 200 people in the King Tut’s Tent, which holds 12,000. It’s not a good atmosphere to have small bands on at 4pm and not have an audience. So we’ve put the bigger bands who would have been in Pet Sounds into the other stages and the addition of the BBC Introducing Stage took care of the smaller bands who were displaced.”
Tommy Hamilton Will you be keeping the T Break Stage for just Scottish acts as a few English played it last year?
Geoff: “We got comments from some Scottish bands saying they didn’t just want to be on a Scottish-only stage, so recently we’ve put in a couple of international performers, partly to raise the profile of it and also so that bands felt it was cool to be in there, in that company.”
Dave Hunter Will there ever be another Connect Festival or is that one put to bed?
Geoff: “Yeah, there will be. As for when and where, I’m not sure yet. It will be a different format, potentially different time of year, different location. Next year will probably be too early, although I don’t want to say ‘no’ because if we can do it on a smaller scale we would do that and build it up.”
At this point, I’m politely told it’s time to wrap up the interview. George Kyle, head of sponsorship from Tennent’s Lager, has been sitting silently next to Geoff throughout, so I decide to direct my own, final question to him.
Pop Cop Is there any chance of having some better beers on sale this year? I’m quite a big fan of Kronenbourg, Grolsch, even Becks.
George: “Anyone can bring any product into the campsite.”
Pop Cop I never camp at T in the Park.
George: “70,000 people do.”
Pop Cop I’m not interested in them – this one’s my question!
George: “The thing for Tennent’s is the association. With that opportunity comes some protections.”
Letters – Pipe Dreams
Sunday, February 20th, 2011
At the end of my first year at uni, I applied for the position of music editor of my student newspaper, the Glasgow University Guardian, but didn’t get it. Undeterred, I tried again the following year, this time striding into the interview with a jotter full of ambitious ideas that I vowed to turn into reality if they offered me the job. It did the trick.
One of my proposals was to persuade a band to write a fortnightly diary for every edition of the coming year’s newspaper, so I invited Belle & Sebastian to take on the responsibility and they agreed to do it (and so began my adherence to the “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” maxim).
The various members of the group took it in turns, submitting their eloquent wordsmithery by email, fax or handwritten letter, with NME even deeming some of the musings newsworthy.
Despite the year-long undertaking coming to an end, frontman Stuart Murdoch has continued to publish his diaries on the Belle & Sebastian website to this day, with his entries from 2002-2006 being collated into his recently-released book, The Celestial Café.
Since I’m hardly in a position to discuss the merits of purchasing it with any impartiality, I’m instead going to offer my thoughts on It’s Lovely to Be Here by James Yorkston, a book by another Scottish musician. Honestly, they’re like buses.
There’s no chance of this being adapted into a Hollywood road movie, revelling as it does in the mundane minutiae of life as a touring solo musician. “The most memorable thing I do all day… is go to the hotel shop and buy some deodorant. This is the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, being lived to the full.”
Immodesty is a trait that doesn’t sit easily with Scottish people. As a race, we are far more likely to relate to people who are self-deprecating rather than those who’ve not only got it, but dare flaunt it. In that respect, Yorkston is your stereotypical Scot, while also being fond of the whisky and curt with strangers who ask too many questions.
One young American lad who spots Yorkston holding his guitar and asks if he’s in a band is dismissed with a churlish, “Are you on a train?”, while his chat-stopping stock reply to inquisitive taxi drivers is, “I play slow music to a select audience. You’ll not have heard of me.”
It’s Lovely to Be Here is the first ever book from The Domino Press, the new publishing imprint from Domino Records, who have been releasing Yorkston’s music since 2002. The diaries take in his jaunts around the UK, Ireland, Europe and North America, and offers unfeasibly detailed descriptions of awkward conversations and vegan sandwich fillings.
In truth, nothing much out of the ordinary occurs. On the rare occasion something does, for instance when Yorkston spots a guy spying on him showering in a Vermont motel room, he describes the incident and reflects upon it in just a single paragraph. He also resists opportunities to namedrop, instead teasing the reader when regaling encounters with the “worldwide hit guy” or “the visitor is a remixer of some renown”.
Yorkston is in much more comfortable ground eking humour out of his own misfortune: “I had told a table of folk who were sitting right by the stage and who had chatted all the way through the first song to ‘Fuck off to McDonalds’ if they weren’t going to listen. They duly departed. Later that night, my cousin Sean said the classic good news/bad news couplet to me – the good news, apparently, was there was a table of A&R folk down to see me play. The bad news? You guessed it.”
At one gig, he ends up having a barney with a journalist over labelmates Franz Ferdinand, while his appearance on a Swiss radio session is summed up thus: “He [the DJ] plays a couple of tracks from When The Haar Rolls In which I guess I’m here to promote. ‘Ah yes, it’s a great album and I love Switzerland.’ There. Consider it promoted.”
Indie snobbery towards popular culture is reliably all present and correct:
“Maid In Manhattan turns out to be a beautiful film… my heart is warmed.”
“I read a bit of Rolling Stone. This is pretty good. There’s an article with Elton John interviewing Bono – two of my favourite people, talking to each other – wow!”
While there’s no denying the book is dripping with Scottish sarcasm at times, Yorkston saves the best till last, with the epilogue finding our troubadour finally back home in Cellardyke, pushing his baby girl along the sea-front. It’s unexpectedly and genuinely moving.
It’s Lovely to Be Here – The Touring Diaries Of A Scottish Gent is available to buy on Amazon. Right-click here to download an excerpt of Yorkston reading from the book.
James Yorkston and The Athletes – Surf Song