Music Alliance Pact – June 2014

I don’t think Nieves have even played their first gig yet, but the duo comprising of the exotic-sounding Herre de Leur (piano, percussion) and Brendan Dafters (vocals, guitar) clearly have a gift for writing introspective alternative folk. The title of this month’s Music Alliance Pact song might be unseasonal, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the loveliest things you’re likely to hear all year.


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 27-track compilation through Dropbox here.

Glasgow duo Nieves sure know how to make a stunning first impression. With a simple acoustic guitar/piano set-up they deliver debut song Winter with immaculate poise, an elegant sadness pervading as singer Brendan Dafters uses the changing of the seasons to tell the story of a relationship’s end. MAP exclusive download Winter and new single Symmetry (check it out on SoundCloud) are taken from Nieves’ debut EP, due out later this summer.

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Everything you wanted to know about Primavera but were afraid to ask

Primavera Sound

John D. McGonagle and James Cassidy (of Glasgow’s Pin Up Nights) have racked up a magnificent seven trips to Primavera Sound between them. Here they share their secrets of the esteemed Barcelona festival and gain some insight from Scots bands Chvrches and The Twilight Sad.

Compared to most UK festival bills, the sheer amount of tasteful things on offer at Primavera Sound can seem like a cruel hoax. This is a festival with its finger seriously on the pulse.

There’s unlikely to be anything you’ll recognise from your local gym, or anything that will satisfy your Auntie Jean’s craving for Cold Patrol – just a selection of the best current bands on the planet, some classic acts and some fantastic dance music around dawn. Yes, we said dawn. A slight catch with Primavera is that the biggest bands’ sets start around 1am and the party pushes on until around 6am. By the time it’s over you’ll have developed what we call Satan’s Sleeping Pattern.

Primavera Sound 2014 at the end of May saw fantastic performances from Scotland’s own Mogwai, Chvrches and The Twilight Sad, and our personal highlights included Metronomy on the Thursday, Darkside and Jagwar Ma on the Friday, and Television (performing Marquee Moon) on the Saturday.

The terrifying urban architecture of El Parc del Fòrum is definitely an acquired taste. There’s a load of concrete and the closest you’ll get to a clump of grass is if you buy it from a wee guy called Frankie.

However, the site faces onto the Balearic Sea and offers stunning sunsets when it’s sunny (although the last couple of years have been touch and go, including a Bastard Balearic Breeze around 3am that feels like you’re being repeatedly stabbed by an icy lance). Nevertheless, the weather can often be super and watching all the buildings in Barcelona twinkling in the twilight is something very special indeed.

Balearic Sea

Food and drink inside the venue is expensive and mediocre. We won’t go all Masterchef, but the pizza was like slices of cardboard sprinkled with yellow Play-Doh, while the pasta was so chewy it looked as if half the food court was rushing on Class A drugs. Of course we wouldn’t advocate smuggling booze into any festival, but if the security chap tries to nab your Volvic bottle of rum, just tell him it’s for medicinal purposes (protecting you from that 3am Bastard Balearic Breeze).

But remember, you’re so close to town that you can venture outside the festival and go for a lovely meal or get €3 claras at the nearby bars. What are claras? Trust us, very cool Spanish drinks. Definitely not shandies. Oh no.

Tune into the audience at any given time and you’ll hear an impressive array of accents, including lots from the British Isles. In fact we would estimate that up to a quarter of the 70,000 attendees are from the UK. As such, the atmosphere can be boisterous (it’s not all just composed Spaniards) but still very friendly, and the specialist line-up means that the crowd is aged approximately 21-40, so no wee guys looking for The 1975 and no bangers looking for Calvin Harris either.

We have often theorised that most UK festivals could do with a referee dishing out yellow and red cards, or at least some sort of sin bin, but Primavera Sound is pretty chilled out and safe.

James Cassidy, John D. McGonagle

A few years ago the cheapest way to make the trip was to split the journey by flying true Pikey Half-Fare from Glasgow (Prestwick) to Paris (Beauvais), then from Paris (Beauvais) to Barcelona (Girona). We’re not sure if this Ryanair Desolate Shed Tour option still exists, but in truth it was just too horrific to contemplate ever repeating. However, if you are on a severe budget then it’s worth considering.

More generally, you should probably reject a flight to Girona Airport unless it’s working out substantially cheaper than flying direct to Barcelona Airport. The transfers to and from Girona will cost about €15 more and take about 90 minutes longer.

We actually flew to Girona this year and endured farcical scenes when the driver of the official transfer bus – recommended by Ryanair – couldn’t find the keys to the under-bus stowage. (Perhaps Ryanair were just expecting folk to pay a supplement to get their bags back.) Jet2.com now also flies from Glasgow Airport to Barcelona Airport, so keep an eye out for deals.

For anybody who has trudged around a muddy festival site (that the NME will feebly compare to the Somme) and crashed out in a tent, it’s a real morale boost to get home to an apartment and a bed, and this is where Primavera Sound really comes into its own.

Come 6am at the business end of a Primavera adventure you will really appreciate not having too difficult a trip home, which means staying on the L4 metro line near the Jaume I or Barceloneta stops. Close enough to the city centre, but also just five or six stops along the metro to the venue. Slight warning: if you choose to stay in the Raval, or too close to the Ramblas, then something sketchy will happen to at least one of your party, so beware!

A final tip: if there’s a big queue to get on to the metro at the end of the night, use the “secret” entrance along the road which few folk know about.

We spent some time with Chvrches and The Twilight Sad at Primavera – here’s what they had to say.

“You’d be hard-pushed to find a festival in the UK with this kind of bill,” admits Chvrches singer Lauren Mayberry. “I’ve been here a couple of times and in one day I saw Shellac, Low, PJ Harvey and Caribou.”

“The diversity can satisfy interests more,” adds bandmate Martin Doherty. “It’s not expensive to go to Barcelona these days if you fly from Prestwick. It costs a lot of money to go to a festival in the UK and you’re not guaranteed the weather. People plan their year around T in the Park but if your music taste is more left of centre it’s difficult to see a bill like this.”

James Cassidy, James Graham, John D. McGonagle

The Twilight Sad’s James Graham sandwiched by James and John

The Twilight Sad frontman James Graham shares those sentiments.

“It’s one the most prestigious festivals you can play, one of the best in the world,” he says. “I genuinely think our music can translate pretty well on a festival stage. We’ve been told in the past that we weren’t a festival band – even by the person who was meant to be booking us festivals – but things are starting to a turn for us.

“Roskilde in Denmark was amazing. And at OFF Festival in Poland we played a 3,000-capacity tent which was packed. They weren’t just there because a band was playing, they were singing along. It was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had. There’s maybe a misconception about us that we’re weirdos or depressives, and maybe we are, but we’re quite an approachable band.”

The Twilight Sad’s fourth album is due out in October 2014. “It feels like we’ve come full circle because Peter Katis, who did the first album, has mixed it,” explains Graham. “It feels like a collection of what we learned from the first three albums. We’re telling a story within a song. This new record could be our last. I never expected to get four albums in. Bands these days don’t get four albums.”

Chvrches are also making progress on writing new material.

“We’re trying to sketch [ideas] on laptops and use those as jumping off points that we’ll visit together once the summer rolls over into autumn,” says Dohery. “We do 99% of everything when we’re all together in a room, so that can be tough when you’re on the road as much as we are. You get the odd studio session but your head’s somewhere different.”

“No matter what sounds are being used, or what sub-genre, melody and quality songwriting will always be at the forefront,” adds bandmate Iain Cook. “That is everything for us.”

Tickets for next year’s Primavera Sound on May 28-30, 2015 are available to buy from June 10, 2014 – with the first 1,000 on sale at a reduced rate of €99 – full information here.

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Music Alliance Pact – May 2014

This month’s Music Alliance Pact picks are Model Aeroplanes, whose youthful zest and effervescent approach to music creation have put them very much at the head of Dundee’s ‘next big thing’ list.

The city is enjoying a cultural renaissance, something discussed in a recent Sunday Herald column by Vic Galloway, who invited Model Aeroplanes to play on his Radio Scotland show – check out the live session videos for Innocent Love and Crazy, the studio version of which you can now download exclusively for free below.

Model Aeroplanes

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 27-track compilation through Ge.tt here.

Model AeroplanesCrazy
Idols-in-waiting Model Aeroplanes recorded their rollicking debut single Crazy while they were finishing their high school exams, but a career as musicians certainly doesn’t look beyond the teenagers, whose enthusiastic post-punk sound might remind you of Two Door Cinema Club or the first Arctic Monkeys album. Their new single Electricity is released on May 24.
May 24: Radio 1′s Big Weekend, Glasgow Green (sold out)
June 5: goNORTH, The Room, Inverness (free)
June 12, Electric Circus, Edinburgh
June 14, The Garage, Glasgow
July 25-26, The Wickerman Festival, Dundrennan, Dumfries and Galloway

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