By Sarah McMullan
Louise Mather has heard all the ‘clean and jerk’ and ‘snatch’ jokes. She is one of four weightlifters selected to represent Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in her Glasgow hometown. She also sings and plays guitar in electro-rock band Any Color Black. You might wonder how the two disciplines could possibly be linked, but for Louise they are. Intrinsically so.
“I get the usual, ‘Why weightlifting? That’s so weird. Don’t get too muscular’, she says. “But it’s not weird to me. I started working out because I was feeling insecure on stage and I thought feeling better about myself would help my stage presence. Well, that and buying some strobe lights for the set. Both seemed to work.
“A certain radio DJ, who shall remain nameless, saw the exact same set twice, the EXACT same, and he commented, ‘Oh my god, what a transformation, the songs have totally taken off’. I think it was because my confidence was a bit better, or maybe it was a case of, ‘You don’t look as shite’.”
The Scottish weightlifting team at Glasgow 2014 is made up of one guy and three women, a reversal of the typical gender split Louise is accustomed to within the local music scene.
“When I first started in the band it was really rare for me to play gigs alongside other females,” says the 30-year-old. “We would deliberately play with other bands who had females in them, even if our music was polar opposite. But now you see a lot more females in music.”
Among Louise’s many goals she wants to be a granny. A weightlifting granny who also plays guitar, makes creative films and photographs people. (“Escalated hobbies” is her phrase). She is an inspired and inspirational woman who feels no obligation to devote her life to a single undertaking at the expense of others.
“Why choose just one?” she asks, not unreasonably. “There is funding available if I wanted to just be a weightlifter but that would be a terrible existence – there are only so many hours you spend in the gym. I need to be able to do other things. Why be just one thing?”
Louise will compete in the 69kg class at the Commonwealth Games, quite a feat considering she only started training in the sport after watching it at the London 2012 Olympics.
“The qualifying totals came out a couple of months after I started training and my coach told me it was totally doable,” she recalls. “From the date of my first competition, the Commonwealth Games were less than a year away. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. I was always called lazy when I was growing up, just a lazy wee pie, so the realisation that I do work hard continually surprises me.
“I’m half excited and half terrified for the Games, I keep swaying between the two. I have a little bit of performance experience and weightlifting itself is a bit of a performance, it’s a show-off sport. Every time I’m at the platform I think, ‘What am I doing? How did I get here?’.
“Today I did the same thing I’ve done every single day for the past two years and then I completely freaked out and had to calm myself down. I’m fine now. It’s just going to be a super-stressful week. But then I think if I’m crapping it this much, how awesome is the reward going to be?”
Louise is an outsider to win a medal at the Clyde Auditorium, where she will compete against a host of world-class lifters with higher personal bests and more experience. But if her Any Color Black exploits have taught her anything, it’s that no city looks out for its own as much as Glasgow does.
“Glasgow cheers on the underdog – whoever finishes last gets the biggest cheer,” she says. “It’s the only place in the world that gets excited just by the idea of you finishing. I love it.
“When we play a gig in front of a home crowd they’re always the most vocal, and I don’t think that will be any different if I’m holding a guitar or wearing spandex.”
By Sarah McMullan
After a run of 18 years, T in the Park has bid farewell to Balado in Kinross-shire and will next year welcome the Perthshire pastures of Strathallan Castle as its new stomping ground.
It’s hard for my nostalgia about Balado to be entirely rose-tinted. I once watched a woman take an outdoor shit then light a cigarette. There can be no sentiment in faeces.
What I can say, however, is that I have never forgotten that moment, nor many others. T in the Park is a maker of memories and tales, a place of character and of extremes. It is where people come together in song and friendship, and over the years this well-trodden-on festival has hosted some of the world’s best musicians, some of the world’s worst haircuts. In its own way it is very special.
I am ages with T in the Park, both in our 21st year, so I have quite literally grown up with it. It has become a milestone in the life of every Scottish teenager to make their first pilgrimage. It would be no more out of the ordinary to be quizzed, “Is that you away tae T in the Park?” as it would for your granny to ask, “Is that you going aff to the big school?”. In saying that, if you were allowed to attend TITP at the age of 13 then your parents are probably a bit mental. They’d definitely know where the Slam Tent is (Limmy joke).
I was not 13 on my first visit to Balado but the tender age of 16. It was 2009 and I remember being total buzzed to see The Killers and falling out with my mum in the Asda booze aisle because she wouldn’t buy me a bottle of Mickey Finn’s. I wore a pair of Scotland pants over my shorts and teamed the ensemble with rainbow knee-high socks. I thought I looked the tits.
As the years have progressed I am now able to buy my own booze, my fashion choices have improved (arguably) and my musical preferences have changed. Last weekend I veered away from the main stages and sought out what else T in the Park has to offer, such as the BBC Introducing Stage and the T Break tent: watching the good guys before they become the big guys and sympathising with the young birds in rainbow socks who truly believe they are the tits.
So, whilst we may change, T in the Park has remained reliably familiar and catered for its audience: the teenage, the twenties, the veterans. Upon us is simply one more change.
When I inevitably find myself drawn to Strathallan in 2015, I’m sure it will soon be forgotten that it’s not Balado. Among the chancers, the campers, the banter and the chanters, it will simply feel like we are at T in the Park. A bacon roll is HOW MUCH?
T in the Park 2015 tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster.
From Dunfermline we present Foreignfox. If they’re new to you, imagine the pop-noir bombast of, say, The Twilight Sad or Glasvegas, doused with some towering choruses and gritty lyrics. Hearts are stirred, chests are beaten. You know how it goes. Discover for yourself with the Music Alliance Pact exclusive download below, along with the rest of the world’s offerings for this month.
Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 24-track compilation through Dropbox here.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Foreignfox – Yoghurt
No matter how much you think you’re ready for it, the song Foreignfox introduced themselves to the world with, Yoghurt, still knocks you sideways. The raw, stomach-knotting emotion of Jonny Watt’s struggle to come to terms with his father’s cancer diagnosis is unravelled in lyrics of rare candour, backed with some sweeping guitar work and a suitably tear-inducing promo video. Foreignfox’s debut EP, We Float Like Sinking Ships, is available on Bandcamp.
July 26, The Wickerman Festival, Dumfries & Galloway
August 8, Belladrum, Inverness
August 15, PJ Molloys, Dunfermline
August 29, King Tut’s, Glasgow