The Xcerts first appeared in the Music Alliance Pact in September 2009 with Crisis In The Slow Lane from their debut album. I rarely pick the same Scottish act twice but when you hear this joyous three-minute comeback single you’ll realise why The Xcerts are worth making an exception for.
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 21-track compilation through Dropbox here.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
The Xcerts – Pop Song
The Xcerts have been my favourite Scottish rock band since their debut album In The Cold Wind We Smile was released in 2009, with its impassioned choruses and gripping moments of melancholy. It wasn’t difficult to fall under its spell. While the follow-up record was deliberately rougher around the edges, their imminent third album, There Is Only You, out on November 3, is an exhibition of The Xcerts’ songwriting strength. The melodic explosion of the aptly-named Pop Song, a MAP exclusive download, is a case in point. Check out the video for it here.
November 7, Oran Mor, Glasgow
November 8, Beat Generator Live!, Dundee
It’s a year to the day since Chvrches singer Lauren Mayberry stood up to internet misogynists in a remarkable essay published by the Guardian. Men were confronted with evidence of the destructive effects of their sexist, abusive comments. Women found themselves a new role model.
Swathes of musicians joined a chorus of admiration for Lauren’s courage in refusing to accept a type of behaviour regularly consigned to a box marked ‘too onerous/common to deal with’. Music executives must also be regarded as complicit given the institutional exploitation of female artists.
It’s difficult to say with any conviction that the situation has improved. Seedy, depraved attitudes towards women persist in mainstream forums. But, certainly, more men are being publicly called out on their harmful prejudices and victims are increasingly finding the strength to speak out.
If the purpose of Lauren’s piece was to increase awareness and widen debate on misogyny then it succeeded emphatically. Twelve months on, The Pop Cop asked four more Scottish musicians to share their own experiences.
STINA TWEEDDALE, HONEYBLOOD
Glasgow duo Honeyblood released their self-titled debut album on revered independent label FatCat Records in July 2014 and have toured the UK, Europe and North America extensively. Singer-guitarist Stina Tweeddale, 25, announced in September 2014 that drummer Shona McVicar had been replaced by Cat Myers.
Have you ever been subjected to online misogyny?
“We’ve had comments on our social networks and videos. There have been messages including a picture of a guy holding a banana and two oranges in the shape of… well, whatever shape he was going for.”
How about in person?
“There’s been a load of things over the years. I’ve had people grabbing me after I’ve come off stage while walking about the venue. I had my dress pinned to a seat by a couple of men after a show at Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh. We’ve had people shouting comments while we are on stage… ‘You’re hot’, ‘Nice ass’, ‘Get your tits out’. The sad thing is it happened at really important shows for us including T in the Park and Webster Hall in New York.”
How did you react to those remarks at the time?
“At these specific shows I tried to ignore them. But I lost confidence in myself. I became wary and it put a dampener on the experience, which I should have been enjoying to its fullest and giving my best performance. When things have been shouted at other shows I might address whoever said it with something non-offensive but joking. That usually diffuses the situation and puts me back in control of the stage. But speaking out can be very difficult. These people have the aid of hiding in a crowd, whereas I’m on stage with people watching.”
Being in a band made up of two female members, have you ever noticed guys in your profession behave or act differently towards you?
“We have had men in the music business such as sound technicians at venues snub us for being women. They treat us differently by assuming we can’t or don’t play our instruments.”
Where do you draw the line in terms of the type of comments you are prepared to brush off as so-called lads’ banter?
“None, really. The thing is, it happens to men also. I know guys in bands who get a lot of unwanted attention from women. They’ve been grabbed or shouted at on stage and off. They have had their groin groped or a hand shoved wherever, and then made to feel less ‘manly’ if they don’t enjoy it.”
If internet stats were an accurate measure of popularity then Rebecca Shearing would be one of the biggest stars in the country. The 22-year-old films herself reworking the latest pop songs in her own style, typically stripping them back to keyboard and vocals. She has 142,000 subscribers and almost 30 million hits on YouTube, while her artist profile has 445,000 Facebook likes. The majority of her followers are from outside the UK. Originally from Ayr, Rebecca now lives in Edinburgh. She was a temporary member of alternative hip-hop group Stanley Odd from January to August 2014 and is currently putting together a band of her own.
How much can you relate to Lauren Mayberry’s article?
“Quite a bit. I would say at least half of the messages I receive are very sexist or something sexual, like ‘I want your number’ or ‘I want to sleep with you’. People send me dick pictures too. I don’t know what’s in their head that makes them think I want to see that. It’s really gross.”
You’re only 22, how long have you had to deal with this sort of thing?
“My mum used to read through messages sent to me when I was 16 or 17 and she would delete ones that were horrible. She would scan the public comments on YouTube to see if there was anything horrendous. Now she leaves me to it. I know I’m going to get them, I’ve always had them. I’m used to it, which is really sad.”
Is it just messages?
“There are quite a few fake profiles of me on Facebook. They used pictures from my graduation, it was really creepy. People can be creepy.”
Do you think guys need to be better educated?
“Most of my messages aren’t from this country, so I don’t really know how people are taught about all this elsewhere. I’m not sure if they think that’s what girls like, or if they’re just being extremely forward, or if they’re doing it for a laugh. I can’t tell. It’s not very pleasant.”
Does the amount of misogyny you encounter online make you wary of playing live?
“I’m used to it through a text sense. If anyone was like that to my face I’d be a lot more shocked. I haven’t come across that at gigs. I’m hoping not to, but we’ll see. You learn how to deal with it because it’s always going to be like that, which is really sad.”
Katie Sutherland is a singer-songwriter from Kirkintilloch. Between 2008 and 2011 she was signed to Universal Republic/Island Records under her former stage name Pearl & The Puppets. The 27-year-old has since reverted back to her given name and released her debut album Canvas on Christmas Eve 2012 through PledgeMusic. Her Meddle With Hearts EP came out in August 2014.
Do you receive many misogynistic messages?
“I got a lot of when I was on Universal. MySpace back in the day was awful, that was when it was at its worst. I still get some but I just block them. When I was starting out I didn’t know what was normal and what wasn’t.”
What did you do about the comments?
“The label and I used to delete them. YouTube was really bad. I used to get messages from people saying they wanted to do stuff to me. I remember showing my mum my new music video and being horrified to see inappropriate comments within hours of it being launched. Guys saying, ‘Go to this point in the video, just had a wank’. It’s horrible.”
Do you believe these people understand the effects of what they’re writing?
“I think some people don’t see it as an individual – it’s as if they don’t think that message is going to get to the person. For example, if they send a message, a lot of them will put your name in the third person rather than direct it to you. They don’t realise that you own the account.”
What sort of people do you think make these comments?
“There are some who take it too far but there are also people who write inappropriate things that have nothing to do with the music – they’re not being horrible or vulgar, just complimenting you too much. I sometimes meet these people at gigs and they’re not how you perceive. They tend to be older men and they’re lonely. What I’m trying to say is that you don’t know who these people are. They can act a lot younger. People think it’s OK to cross the line when they’re online and anonymous.”
Singer-songwriter Isobel Campbell was Belle & Sebastian’s cellist/vocalist until 2002, and released two solo albums during that time as The Gentle Waves. Since leaving B&S she has brought out two records under her own name and is working on a third. Isobel, 38, has also made three collaborative albums with former Queens of the Stone Age member Mark Lanegan, earning a 2006 Mercury Prize nomination for their first, Ballad Of The Broken Seas. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
Is the online abuse suffered by Lauren Mayberry something you can identify with?
“I run my social media pages so I really understand how intrusive the bad messages can be. I’m lucky not to have had many but a weird Facebook message first thing in the morning or before playing a show can throw me for six. I read one derogatory message like that before a gig in Norwich once and I didn’t want to go on stage. Eugene Kelly had to talk me round.”
Are there any examples of sexism or misogyny you’ve faced in the music industry that you’d be willing to share?
“One manager and record label head talked about my physical appearance as if I was not there. The manager told me he did not like my press photograph because I looked like a lesbian. I’d never told him my sexual orientation, so what if I was gay? And what would be wrong with looking like a lesbian in any case? Then the label head told me he could understand me looking the way I did if I made music that sounded like Sheryl Crow. That’s how a lot of these people in the industry talk about our appearance, that whole ‘sex sells’ mentality. I felt like a piece of meat. I was due on a 9pm flight to Glasgow. I took a cab to Heathrow, paid extra to get on the 6pm flight, got home and burst into tears.
“In 2010, a female MD of a well-known publishing company told me, ‘You’ve got four more years, love’. Sexist and ageist. Nice. She’d never have said that to a male singer-songwriter-producer. If I’m using my brain, creating music and writing these songs, why should it matter how I look or what age I am? My songs are not of the teenybopper production line variety. I always think I’ll be playing and making music till the day I drop. The old guys keep going, why shouldn’t I?”
When you were working/touring with Mark Lanegan, were there instances when people acted differently towards you than they did with him?
“I think so, yes. They were always a little scared of Mark. A lot of people never believed I wrote the songs for us to sing. There was a lawyer at Beggars Banquet who specifically went out of his way to state to my lawyer that Mark must have written them. That hurt. These songs were my labours of love. Part of the reason I hired him to sing my songs was because I was so tired of how cruel people and journalists could be. They attack mean. Really personal, nasty and judgemental. I gave myself a rest and consciously hid behind a big gnarly bloke. Now I realise that wasn’t really a solution for me for the long term. I got respite, yes, made some good work that I’m proud of, but I also missed out on some other good stuff.”
Have you ever suffered inappropriate behaviour while on stage?
“When I toured Ballad Of The Broken Seas in 2006, we’d been driving in a van for 10 hours to get to a gig in Cologne. I felt like Quasimodo, my body was sore and twisted and run down after the long drive. I said something to the crowd about being tired and some guy shouted, ‘Shut up and play some sexy music’. I don’t think anyone would shout that to a guy.
“One time, when we were playing a show in Italy, a band member alerted me to the fact that a couple of guys were trying to take pictures up my skirt. That was really upsetting. I’d never thought anyone would be so disrespectful.”
What positive steps can be taken to change attitudes?
“Gender issues are a very sensitive subject but dialogue, debate and discussion can only be a good thing. We are constantly sent complex mixed messages and I admit at times I’ve been a bit confused about my role as a woman. It’s easy to sit in the shadows and criticise – much braver, bolder to put yourself out there with your head on the block and actually take a risk and do something.
“I’m grateful for brave, strong women who are prepared to speak up. As women we all discover our own personal coping mechanisms, or things we tell ourselves to feel better. Men and women are both conditioned from such an early age. Some people are not even aware that it’s happening or of what they’re implying, saying or doing. Society is steeped in it. It doesn’t have to reach the crazy repulsive heights of the vile internet misogynists. It can be subtler than that. In everyday life. Sometimes even appearing from informed, cultured, educated folk one may expect to know better. And sometimes, dare I say it, that person can be a woman. Or perhaps an ignorant work colleague or family member. It takes many shapes and forms.
“The next time I hear a tasteless sexist comment, if I feel safe enough, I’ve promised myself to speak up and tell them, ‘I can’t accept what you say’. We need to keep this conversation going.”
I’ve never met anyone who loved living with their parents as much as I did. Obviously there’s little choice in the matter when you’re of school age, but when most of my peers began renting flats or staying at halls of residences, I wasn’t even remotely tempted to leave the family home.
I couldn’t complain about a thing. I paid digs out of my two part-time wages and in return I enjoyed perks aplenty: my mum’s heavenly cooking; my dad’s wisdom and ability to repair anything; keys for the family car; my clothes hand-delivered with the scent of lemon Persil. It was a cushy deal.
I was 22 when I eventually plucked up the courage to leave home. Without meaning to sound unduly harsh to the people who brought me into the world and doted on me, the question of whether we were better together was irrelevant.
There comes a time when you have to take responsibility for your own actions, to make mistakes and learn from their consequences. I detached myself from the financial security of living under my parents’ roof and my disposable income took a hit, but I was in control of all the major decisions which affected my day-to-day existence. That feeling of empowerment and self-determination is exhilarating.
This was my first experience of true independence. If it was yours too, then you’ll know that choosing to follow your own path is not about who or what you’ve left behind. It’s about believing your future should be in your own hands, for better or worse.
A few months ago, The Pop Cop published a ‘day in the life’ feature on Bronagh Monahan which touched on the frustrating scenarios that unsigned musicians commonly encounter when striving for recognition. With Bronagh and her career about to experience a change of scenery, now seems like a good time to introduce her to new fans through the Music Alliance Pact network of blogs and their readers. Help yourself to the exclusive free download of Wait, taken from the Flicker EP released earlier this summer under her Bronagh & The Boys guise.
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 21-track compilation through Dropbox here.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Bronagh Monahan – Wait
Scotland has long been an embracive, inclusive place to live. When looked at in the context of the music sector, both performer and population reap the benefits. Bronagh Monahan is a wonderful example of this. Since moving from Belfast to Glasgow in 2008 she has given so much to her adopted home, immersing herself in the local music scene, hosting live nights for fellow songwriters and showcasing her sultry piano-pop and striking vocals in weekly residencies. Such drive and enthusiasm can’t be contained, though, and the next stop in Bronagh’s search for stardom is London, where she’ll no doubt dazzle another city.
Putting on a music festival in Scotland just two days before the calendar flips to September takes some courage. Had the clouds emptied on the inaugural Electric Fields, its al fresco main stages would have offered zero protection for sodden punters.
No such worry. The 1,500 who filled the grounds of Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway were drenched in sunshine, serenaded by an almost exclusively Scottish cast of musical talent, with lush greenery beneath their feet and well-above-average festival grub (German bratwurst with chill ‘n’ cheese? Take my money) in their bellies.
Co-founders Chay Woodman (booker for the Solus Tent at Wickerman) and Alex Roberts (Comlongon Rocks) have been savvy enough to cherrypick some of the more user-friendly practices to be found at festivals.
That manifested itself at Electric Fields in free car parking, an effective token system that virtually eliminated bar queues and, most intriguingly, side-by-side main stages that allowed one band to play while another set up and soundchecked, thus ensuring live music boomed out pretty much continuously for 12 hours.
The problem – if you can call it a ‘problem’ – was that there was next to no time to have a pee/chat/drink before compère Jim Gellatly introduced the next act. Given how insanely strong the evening line-up was, it made for a relentless cavalcade of highlights.
There was Rebecca Shearing’s staggeringly soulful vocals for Stanley Odd in her last performance with the politically charged hip-hop group as maternity cover for Veronika Electronika. The swell of pro-independence feeling was in fact highly visible throughout the day, with flags and Yes badges adorning many fans and musicians such as Honeyblood’s Stina Tweeddale.
Other notable high points included the spectacle of band-of-the-moment Prides pulling the biggest crowd of the day for their celebratory synthpop. There was the welcome reminder that We Were Promised Jetpacks have been responsible for some of the most electrifying indie-rock moments of the past five years. There was the party-starting antics of The LaFontaines as temperatures plunged at nightfall. And there was the instant appeal of the new, untitled song aired by Fatherson, offering a tantalising glimpse of their future.
First impressions do last, and Electric Fields made ones I’m already looking forward to reliving in 2015.
With festival appearances at this year’s Brew at the Bog and Stag & Dagger, Skinny Dipper have already made a splash despite not having any recorded material to show off. That’s about to change, however, as they gear up for the release of their debut EP.
Skinny Dipper are made up of members from an array of Scottish groups including singer Alex Kenzel (Blochestra), bass player Vicki Cole (Randolph’s Leap) violinist Heather Thikey (Randolph’s Leap, Kill The Waves), trumpet player Ali Hendry (Randolph’s Leap), keyboardist and vocalist Gillian Higgins, violinist Cat Calton (Aerials Up), Ruth Campbell (Aerials Up, Quickbeam), Monika Gromek (Quickbeam) and Iain Symes-Marshall (Trapped In Kansas).
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 22-track compilation through Dropbox here.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Skinny Dipper – Hospital Bed
Idyllic pop is the name of the game for Glasgow-based newcomers Skinny Dipper and their medley of members (eight girls and one guy), all of whom have noteworthy pedigrees in other bands in the Scottish music scene. We have the honour of bringing you an exclusive introduction to their first recorded material in the shape of the genteel Hospital Bed, taken from their debut EP Masks, which will be released through Olive Grove Records on September 8. It’s an immersive listen, showcasing Skinny Dipper’s flawless harmonies and soothing string work.
September 12: Stereo, Glasgow (with Call To Mind and Chrissy Barnacle)
October 11: Pleasance, Edinburgh (with Call To Mind, Woodenbox and The Moth & The Mirror)
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
Hello, you beautiful human. Welcome to The Pop Cop’s live blog from this year’s SAY Award ceremony at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow, which celebrates Scottish albums which were released in 2013.
There are 10 contenders in the shortlist, each artist bidding to scoop the first prize of £20,000. Not sure whether you are required to declare those winnings on your self assessment tax return, must ask RM Hubbert about that later…
If the URL at the top of your browser does not read http://thepopcop.co.uk/2014/06/live-blog-say-award-2014/ then you’ll want to click here to take you to our dedicated live blogging page, which will automatically refresh whenever there is a new entry.
First things first, let’s have your thoughts, please:
Which album do you want to win the 2014 SAY Award?
- Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe (31%, 19 Votes)
- Young Fathers - Tape Two (15%, 9 Votes)
- Hector Bizerk - Nobody Seen Nothing (13%, 8 Votes)
- not fussed (11%, 7 Votes)
- The Pastels - Slow Summits (8%, 5 Votes)
- Biffy Clyro - Opposites (5%, 3 Votes)
- Edwyn Collins - Understated (5%, 3 Votes)
- RM Hubbert - Breaks & Bone (3%, 2 Votes)
- Steve Mason - Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time (3%, 2 Votes)
- Mogwai - Les Revenants (3%, 2 Votes)
- Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest (2%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 61
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.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Nieves – Winter
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.
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.
EATING & DRINKING
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.
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.
WHERE TO STAY
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.
“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.”
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.