Friday, 29 October 2010

Shambles Miller - Shambles Sails The Clockwork Sea

Last Friday saw the release of Shambles Sails The Clockwork Sea, the second EP from the unmistakable Shambles Miller!  Like his debut, Shambles Vs. The Dragonwizard, this release is another folky gem.

At times on the EP, he's joined by a smattering of his closest friends who provide the double bass, some flute and the odd backing vocal or two, but for the most part, it's just Campbell on his lonesome with his trusty guitar.  Either way, despite being what can only be described as "stripped back", Shambles' music has an incredible power to it which is in no small part down to his lyrical genius.    His ability to chronicle aspects of everyday life he's passionate about is second to none.  A Billy Bragg for the blogging generation if you will, and certainly one of my favourite songwriters around at the moment.

So, to the songs themselves.  The opening track Strike!, believe it or not, is a protest song of sorts.  One which wouldn't sound out of place were it played amidst a sea of placards waved by a disgruntled mob.   Back in April, I interviewed Campbell and he told me "I'm influenced by everything around me, but things which make me passionate or angry tend to get my creative juices flowing".  This confession is backed up by song number two on the EP, Things That Make Me Angry.   It too, is a cracking piece of songwriting, and a damn fine tune to boot.    If you ask me what my favourite track is though, then I absolutely love his brutally honest ode to drinking, the aptly named Beer Song.   Have a listen for yourself!

The EP is available now from Campbell's bandcamp page.   If you fancy seeing him live, there's one date on the horizon...

Upcoming Gigs
3rd Nov - Frankenstein, Glasgow

...and if you fancy a wee taster of what he's like live, there's a few free tracks for you to download on his page, and a wee interview and session for Define Pop to be heard here.  

Monday, 25 October 2010

The Exception To The Rule #2... and K&A with Kate & After

No sooner do I relax my self-imposed rule on featuring non-Scottish bands than I receive an email from Sweden's Kate & After. Aside from having a great debut EP to plug, what they proposed was something I simply couldn't refuse... a K&A with K&A!

A quick word about their brilliant Things To Do EP first though. The opening track, and lead-single Me, Myself and I, is a great pop romp, sounding like Come On Gang! fronted by Marc Bolan. Then comes the Franz-esque The Pretender with its edgy riffs and cracking singalong chorus. The best is saved for last though, with my personal favourite, Lost and Found. It's a perfect pop song, but what else would you expect from a bunch of Swedes?!

Here's what the band had to say when the historic 'double K&A' got underway....

Kowalskiy: Who are Kate & After?
Kate & After: Kate & After is a five man indiepop/rock band from Gothenburg, the cradle of popular music in Sweden. Based on consciousness, passion and love to the music and life we aim to create a unique experience for all involved. Kate & After is a band looking to the horizon with their hearts on their sleeves and with visions beyond beliefs.

Kowalskiy: How did the band get together?
Kate & After: Carl and Jonas started the band in 2008. After founding the band they brought in the drummer, Jocke, who they played with in their previous band The Milestone Corporation. In the fall of the same year, Magnus and Kristoffer joined the band. All of the guys knew each other in one way or another from University.

Kowalskiy: How would you describe your music?
Kate & After: The Kate & After sound is vigorous, dynamic and filled with twists and turns; the diversity of Hammond B3 riffs and catchy guitar tunes complement each other into passionate indie pop. When live, as an audience, you will experience something extraordinary. The aim is to get the crowd to go home with a smile on their faces and hope in their hearts not knowing what just struck them.

Kowalskiy: Your debut EP Things To Do is out now on your website for FREE! What's the story behind the EP?
Kate & After: The EP is a step on the way to bigger and better things for Kate & After. We felt it was time to take the next step and went into one of the best studios in Sweden, Music-a-Matic, and worked with an experienced producer, Henryk Lipp who has produced bands such as Millencolin, Håkan Hellström and Thåström. The songs are together homogenous, yet reaches over several genres of music. Indie, Pop, Rock and Disco for example.

Kowalskiy: What's been the reaction to it over in Sweden?
Kate & After: The EP has been well received, even though the format of an EP might not be the best way to reach out. Several radio stations have started to play the EP and a few of them has put us up on the daily rotation list. Furthermore the music blogosphere has picked it up resulting in encouraging reviews, giving the band some extra attention and support.

Kowalskiy: Are there plans afoot to visit and gig in Scotland?
Kate & After: Not in the near future, however, we are discussing a European mini tour. How and where that tour will be carried out is not decided yet though. What we can assure you is that once we get to Scotland, we will give you an experience to remember. We promise to keep you informed. We have gotten a few nice reviews from Scotland and if we keep on getting that kind of feedback, there won’t be anything keeping us away.

Kowalskiy: What would be your ideal gig?
Kate & After: It would be nice to go to Glastonbury to play. Great crowd, great band and a great party. I’m pretty sure that we would bring our tents and stay among the crowd, partying throughout the entire festival. Otherwise we do really enjoy the intimacy of a club gig, so honestly we really enjoy our gigs at the time.

Kowalskiy: Are there any up-and-coming Swedish bands we should look out for?
Kate & After: There are a few that immediately pops up. Johnossi, Carl Norén and Royal Republic are all being played frequently on Swedish radio now. On a personal note I would like to mention Kid Galahad, Swedish for Beginners and The Breachers which are all smaller bands but with great songs and lots of talent and potential.

Kowalskiy: Over here, if someone was to say Swedish music, we'd immediately think pop music or death metal (maybe that's Finland though). What's the music scene really like in Sweden, and how do Swedes perceive Scottish music?
Kate & After: I think you are correct when mentioning pop and death metal, cause they are the two main exports from Sweden. However, Sweden is a versatile music country. For all of you who long for something else out of Sweden I would like you to listen to Hoffmaestro & Chraa or Sounds of Violence. Two brilliant examples of that Swedish music have much more to it. I do believe that when mentioning Scottish music people in Sweden (at least the ones into popular culture) will think of aware and honest pop. There is often a truthfulness to the Scottish pop scene, that’s at least how I percept it.

Kowalskiy: What Scottish bands are you listening to just now?
Kate & After: Glasvegas and Franz Ferdinand might be the most listened to at the time but there are a few other Scottish favorites amongst us as well. Teenage Fanclub, Travis, Primal Scream, Belle & Sebastian to mention a few.

Kowalskiy: Lastly, what can we expect from Kate & After in the future?
Kate & After: At the moment we are in an intense song writing phase, and we will record our first album next year. We will continue to develop the unique Kate & After-sound and do our outmost to spread it around the world. That’s the most imminent plans, in a further perspective we hope to be around for long to bring people energy, happiness, laughter, tears and most of all….brilliant music.

Their debut Things To Do EP is out now as a free download from their website, along with their debut single Snow Angel. Just click the cover art above! With no UK dates announced yet, I'll not bother with the usual 'Upcoming Gigs' spiel. However, Swedish readers (if any?? Come say hi!) can see them this Wednesday at Sticky Fingers in their hometown Göteborg.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Trapped Mice's Trapped Mice EP Kommentary!

It might be a boringly predictable choice, but I'd have Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea as one of my all-time favourite albums. Edinburgh's fledgling lo-fi folkists Trapped Mice remind me a bit of Jeff Mangum's cult mob. Earlier this year they brought out their self-titled Trapped Mice EP for free on bandcamp. If you ask me, this collection of songs is very exciting indeed! Let's hear what the EP is all about, straight from the horses mouth, or Ian as he likes to be called...

<a href="">Secret Letters by Trapped Mice</a>
"This is a song about being bored. Not the most original story ever I'm sure - country boy in the city, feels like breaking out of the urban trudge, doesn't bother in the end but commits vague aspirational sentiments to song... But that's our first track pretty much nailed. A middle-class cigarettes and alcohol cynically repackaged for the Mumford and Sons generation, if you will. It's worth sticking with because it goes a bit louder at the end - that's another trick we borrowed from other bands! I think it's quite a good introduction to our music and that's why we've opened with it at all four of our gigs so far."

<a href="">The Priest and the Boy by Trapped Mice</a>
"This is a love song. If it was a Hollywood B-movie it would probably have the tagline: “Mormon Paedo Attack!!” or maybe "The Bloodening" because that always sounds cool. I wrote this shortly before the latest Catholic abuse scandal, which I guess makes it kind of prophetic. But don't tell anyone!"

"This one is about an ex-circus performer who's down on his luck and decides to come back for one last stunt, in the manner of Houdini/Evel Knievel/the French guy from that film (on their hands a dead star). It's a glorious triumph and a happy ending for all concerned. There was some other stuff as well I think but I don't want to bore people. This one features Brian playing ukulele, a band first!"

"This one's the oldest song we play - I think I wrote it sometime in the spring last year. It's a song about long-distance relationships and how it's probably best not to get too disheartened about the whole thing. It's a song about a love that spans two coastlines, and a song about the M8. I hope that one day they'll use it in the Visit Scotland ads, but that might be wishful thinking (me and my true love will never meet again). I recorded this version before we started playing together and I think it sounds a lot better now - hopefully we'll have a chance to record it properly soon!"

The EP is available for free download over on the band's bandcamp. Just click the cover art above! If you fancy catching them live, then they'll be playing gig numbers 5, 6 and 7 in Edinburgh over the next month or so.

Upcoming Gigs
26th Oct - Southern Bar, Edinburgh
12th Nov - The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh (The Scottish Enlightenment album launch)
26th Nov - Roxy Art House, Edinburgh (Steve Heron's album launch)

Monday, 18 October 2010

K&A with Red Hot Chilli Pipers

Somehow, the Kowalskiy Scottish Music Blog has made it into its second year without any mention whatsoever of 'traditional' Scottish music. Well here's a band that fully merit a long-overdue mention... bagrock pioneers Red Hot Chilli Pipers. With their third album Music For The Kilted Generation just released, the band kick off their Scottish tour TODAY in Glasgow. I had a chance to ask them a few questions. Here's what twice world champion snare drummer Steven Graham had to say. Drum-roll please....

Kowalskiy: Who are the Red Hot Chilli Pipers?
Steven: The Red Hot Chilli Pipers are a bagpipe playing rock group who cleverly fuse rock music with traditional calling it 'Bagrock'. Their main aim is to encourage as many people as possible to be proud of Scottish Music.

Kowalskiy: What's the story behind how the band got together and what's the idea behind the name?
Steven: The band was formed in 2002 by Stuart Cassells, Willie Armstrong and Steven Graham. It was initially intended as an alternative to a full pipe band at corporate functions. We decided that after a while a lot of the tunes on the bagpipes would sound the same to the untrained ear so we would play tunes that people recognised. We played a cover of 'We Will Rock You' by Queen and the reaction we got from the audience was fantastic. Bagrock was born! We got our name by a mistake. One of the boys' girlfriend at the time was tidying his flat and sorting his cd collection into different genres. He went to get a piping cd the next day and was bemused to find a Red Hot Chili Peppers cd amongst them. He turned round and asked her "why is that amongst the piping cd's?". Her response "oh, I thought it said Red Hot Chilli Pipers".

Kowalskiy: For anyone out there not familiar with the band, how would you describe your music?
Steven: Energetic, entertaining and most of all fun.

Kowalskiy: Who/what/where are your main influences?
Steven: All live bands that can go on and give their all in order to entertain an audience. We all like different kinds of music but enjoy listening to as much as possible.

Kowalskiy: Your third album Music For The Kilted Generation is out now. What can we expect from it?
Steven: A higher level of Bagrock than what's ever been produced before!

Kowalskiy: On the album are songs originally by the likes of Snow Patrol, Robbie Williams, Queen and The Who. Have you had any feedback from bands whose songs you've chillified?
Steven: Never had any feedback from the bands but we'd hope they like what we do and get the fun element! They must not find it too offensive or else I'm sure they would have sued us by now!

Kowalskiy: With the album out at the weekend, what's the plan to promote it?
Steven: We've got an instore at HMV Buchanan Street in Glasgow at 4pm on 18th Oct as well as a gig that night at Oran Mor. The Scottish Tour will then kick off with gigs at Stirling and Aberdeen. All info at and tickets from

Kowalskiy: What's a typical Red Hot Chilli Pipers gig like?
Steven: Entertaining and memorable.

Kowalskiy: What would be your ideal gig?
Steven: An ideal gig for the band would be Madison Square Gardens, New York with an up-and-coming traditional band as support! We wouldn't have any roadies/entourage as I think it's a good way of keeping your feet firmly on the floor!

Kowalskiy: Lastly, what's been the highlight of being in the band so far, and what does the future hold?
Steven: There has been so many highlights but one that sticks in my mind is winning 'When Will I Be Famous' hosted by Graham Norton. That really launched the band and I feel gave everyone the belief that people enjoy our music.

There ya go. The first, and possibly last, time that Graham Norton will be name-checked on Kowalskiy! Music For The Kilted Generation can be bought here on iTunes or here on Amazon MP3. Well worth it, especially for a cover of Chasing Cars you can actually enjoy! If you fancy seeing the guys, then here's all you need to know...

Upcoming Gigs
18th Oct - HMV Buchanan Street, Glasgow (4pm)
18th Oct - Intimate Album Launch Party @ Oran Mor, Glasgow (7pm)
22nd Oct - Music Hall, Aberdeen
28th Oct - Albert Halls, Stirling

The Exception To The Rule #1 - Goodtimes Goodtimes

As a rule, I've tried to stick to Scottish bands on this blog, with one or two exceptions. It's about time I slacken the blinkers a bit and add a few more names to that short list. The first, and the main reason behind this series(?) of posts, is London-based Roma-bred, Franc Cinelli a.k.a. Goodtimes Goodtimes... that guy above with the guitar! Having been sent his cracking, debut eponymous album, I felt the need to say a few words about it, albeit some very belated words.

First of all, the album took me completely by surprise, which is part of the reason why I've found it incredibly difficult to write about. I don't know why, but I wasn't expecting anything this good! The album kicks off, unsurprisingly, with Point One - a song that begins as a sombre, americana affair which only just sparks into life as it ends. Song two, the more aptly named Let It Begin, sees the album start proper as Franc seemingly admits with the singalong chorus of "It all will begin again". It's a cracking up-tempto, track which shows off Franc's stunning Dylanesque vocals and will have everyone tapping their feet along to it. The rest of the album is a lovely mix of brooding folk (Magic Hour) and a fair few rockier moments (Diamonds In The Sky) that The Boss himself would be proud of. It's the 2-song backbone of the album though, which combine both, where the real magic lies. Fortune Teller Song and Burn are quite simply put, two amazing songs which more than justify the name choice. Goodtimes indeed!

The debut album is officially released on 1st November through Definition Arts. For a wee taster from it, head over to the Goodtimes Goodtimes website, sign up to the mailing list, and get your free download of the outstanding Fortune Teller Song. Then you can download the album over on iTunes now, with the CD also available from Franc himself here ....or here if you want a t-shirt with that!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #4

It's the 16th once again. How time flies! Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #4 is out now, so without much further ado, its over to the beautiful people who were kind enough to contribute one of their cracking tracks....

1. The Seventeenth Century - Mid October (demo) (given when this EP is being released, it really couldn't have been any other track!)

"Mid October was one of the first songs we wrote together as The Seventeenth Century. It is about dreams of love, and love itself, set in a decaying autumn scene. Mid October will appear on the band`s second EP, released March 2011. The debut EP, `The Seventeenth Century (Part I)` will be released December 2010 on Electra French Records." - Ryan Joseph Burns (The Seventeenth Century)

2. RM Hubbert - Go Slowly (demo) (demo track from his upcoming album)

"The piece forms the basis of a planned collaboration with Jenny Reeve and Kimberley Moore for my next record and as such doesn't really have much meaning to it yet. The title refers to a great wee cafe in Glasgow called Go Slow Cafe where I did a really memorable, intimate show with Alasdair Roberts and Howie Reeve a while back. It doesn't get much better than playing music for and with your friends in lovely surroundings." - RM 'Hubby' Hubbert

3. Randolph's Leap - Crisps (also available on with a selection of other goodies)

"Crisps has a video: It's the number 2 result if you search Youtube for Randolph's Leap. (Dispicably, the number 1 is a clip of some nobhead jumping off a cliff AND it's only had about half the number of views. Bloody outrage.) The song is about crisps. And love. And lovely crisps. But never crispy love. We're releasing our first proper EP 'Battleships & Kettle Chips' on November 15th via Olive Grove Records and we're having a free launch gig on Nov 18th to celebrate" - Adam Ross (Randolph's Leap)

4. The Ray Summers - Heshka Rashka (their cracking, recent single)

"'Heshka Rashka' was digitally released in August 2010. This is the single version and is very different from the one that appears on the album. It's our effort to write a pure pop track. Nothing more, nothing less! it's probably the last time we'll write something so poppy. It's a track that always pops up in our live set and it's a great one to mess about on. It's never the same twice!" Andrew 'Dougie' Douglas (The Ray Summers)

5. Zoobizaretta - Ridiculous (pre-album mix. The final version appears on their debut Foam & Leachate)

"Ridiculous is a song about atheism. It's not about a dislike for religious types, merely an inability to understand the concept of faith. that God, eh? What a c**t." - Matt Clark (Zoobizaretta)

Thanks a lot to everyone who contributed. If you like the sound of it, the EP is now up for free download over on my bandcamp page along with the first 3 EP's and the special Foxgang Festival EP. Enjoy!

Now to get cracking on EP #5. Once again, any bands out there with a mouthwatering exclusive or rarity and fancy appearing on one of these EPs, then feel free to send me a wee email.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Kowalskiy Belated Review #3

Skibunny - Hugs
I'll be honest. Whenever I get an album from "promoters, remixers, DJs", it doesn't bode well for a review on Kowalskiy. That kinda music is just not usually my thing. Every-so-often though, the odd one comes along that does strike a chord with me. Hugs, the debut from Edinburgh/Belfast's Skibunny, is an album packed full of them. Kicking things off is the chilled-out electropop of recent single Aah Ooh which draws comparisons with The Postal Service, while edgier disco anthems Up Down, Walk Don't Walk and Stand Up are reminiscent of Sweden's finest, The Sounds. There's half a dozen or so choruses on this album that'll haunt your every, waking hour! Guest appearances from The Go! Team and Maps cap off a great album and show Skibunny have already made friends in high places. I'm sure they'll be making a few new friends off the back of this album too.

The Scottish Enlightenment - Little Sleep EP
I had every intention of featuring this on time, I really did! Sorry guys! Anyhoo, The Scottish Enlightenment's follow-up to their acclaimed Pascal EP is now out, and like its predecessor, it's turning quite a few heads. The opening, title track grabs your attention straight away from its anthemic White Lies-esque intro to its brooding, endless post-rock guitar close. Things are relaxed a notch or two with the cracking Get My Limousine, a sly dig at the seeming ease of fame these days which takes time to name-check two judges from a certain Saturday night talent show! It's the 7-minute atmospheric epic When You Hate Me though which stands out for me. All-in-all, this is how an EP should be. Each track contributes something a little bit different and all add up to create a cracking, understated post-rock EP! Plus, at 5-tracks it's the ideal size.... in my completely unbiased opinion!

The Last Battle - Heart Of The Land, Soul Of The Sea
Last, but by no means least, is something a wee bit special from Edinburgh's The Last Battle. Recently, just about every Scottish music blog and more than a few other sites have been heaping praise on the sextet's debut album Heart Of The Land, Soul Of The Sea. I'll be no different! The latest band to emerge from Scottish's incredible alt-folk 'scene' well-and-truly stand out from the pack. Tracks like Ruins and personal favourite Nature's Glorious Rage are up there with the best examples of what this all-encompassing genre has produced lately. The opening and closing title tracks paint the picture of two star-crossed lovers, a theme which is present throughout this stunning album. The heartbreaking Soul Of The Sea has to be the most perfect ending to any album this year. A gorgeous, gentle build up into dreamlike harmonies capped off by the unmistakable vocals of the wonderful Neil 'Meursault' Pennycook. Just stunning! With any luck, 2011, if not 2010, will be the year of The Last Battle.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

K&A with I Build Collapsible Mountains

Until recently, as the promo photo attests to, the identity of I Build Collapsible Mountains was a thing of great mystery. Not any more! IBCM is none other than former guitarist with The Gothenburg Address, Luke Joyce. His debut album A Month Of Lost Memories is out today on a brand-new, though somewhat-familiar-sounding record label. The press release describes it as "a thing of restrained beauty". If anything, that's underselling it! It's outstanding.

Here's Luke to tell us some more...

Kowalskiy: Who is I Build Collapsible Mountains?
Luke: IBCM is me. I am Luke. I am a singer songwriter from Edinburgh.

Kowalskiy: How did the project come about, and maybe the most obvious question.... why the name?
Luke: IBCM is something that I think has been on my mind for a while. Taking music back to its most raw, one man and his guitar, is some what of a musical detox I think. Its been refreshing to have no distractions, and to be able to concentrate on getting across my thoughts and varied wonderings via my lovely wooden geetar. The name comes from a superpower that I once claimed would be my ideal. No x-ray vision here, its all about the landscaping. Oh yeaaaaa!

Kowalskiy: For anyone that's not heard your music, how would you describe it?
Luke: Well for anyone who has heard my previous outings, its probably a bit of a shock, but a good shock I hope. There's no bells or whistles here. Its a very minimalist acoustic sound. The songs were recorded by myself in my boxroom, so they're pretty lo-fi, but I think this has maybe been part of the appeal. I think maybe it feels a little like you there towards the end of the writing process - you're in the room, at those ridiculous hours as it finally takes shape.

Kowalskiy: Who/what/where influences your music?
Luke: Its maybe a bit of a cliche, but the coast has been a big influence on these songs. I spend a lot of time there, at this untouched beach I know, just with my guitar, sitting in the reeds watching the weather turn. I suffer from high anxiety so I find it incredibly relaxing there, and I don't feel under any pressure to write the music, so I take my time and just see how I feel. I have a little tape recorder to jot down ideas. Artist wise there have been a few people who have influenced me. I listen to a lot of Tiny Vipers and other more underground American artists, and also the more recently discovered The Tallest Man On Earth. My favorite record of the past year is the Admiral Fallow album. I'm not sure its a direct influence, but its something I recommend everyone should listen to as soon as possible.

Kowalskiy: You're releasing your debut album album A Month Of Lost Memories this month on Peenko Records. What is the story behind the album, and how does it feel to be the first release on the label?
Luke: Lloyd Peenko was one of the first people to pick up on my music, before I had really started pushing it. After I started putting a number of tracks up on Bandcamp Lloyd said he would really like to put a CD out. The CD is really special. Its handmade and limited to 50, so its something for people to treasure. It also comes with awesome Peenko and IBCM badges. The Peenko label is being launched on the same day as the IBCM CD, so October 13 is going to be a landmark. The album itself is a collection of songs that are about situations and circumstances that breezed in and out of my life over the coarse of a few weeks.

Kowalskiy: As well as that, you'll be involved in Peenko vs. AyeTunes 3. What can fans expect from an IBCM live show?
Luke: Yes I'm really looking forward to this. I admire both Lloyd and Jim for their efforts in supporting local unsigned music, so its a great pleasure to be part of one of their awesome AVP nights. Although there are a few accompaniments on the record, the live shows are stripped back to the bare minimum, just me and my guitar. I hope people enjoy hearing the songs in this way as much as I enjoy playing them.

Kowalskiy: What would be your ideal gig?
Luke: Ooft. Erm. Well, the 90's were pretty good. Everything was so exciting musically back then. That bit after grunge, but before emo? That was pretty good. I would like to play at the Metro in Chicago. All the bands who I used to idolise have played their. And I love Chicago. Its a great city to visit, and the music scene is amazing. I don't think I'd want roadies. To be honest, there's nothing for them to do. I'd like to take my close circle of friends on the road though. There's no point living the experience if there's no one to share it with.

Kowalskiy: What can we expect from you in the future?
Luke: Well the CD is out on October 13th. I am playing a few shows in Edinburgh and Glasgow and then I hope to travel a bit further afield. Then I'm putting out a Flexi single in the U.S. Hopefully in time for Xmas.

You can get your hands on one of the 50 CDs here, though if you need convinced, you can get a free download of opening track Rails here! And if you wanna catch Luke live...

Upcoming Gigs
30th Oct - Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh
4th Nov - The Liquid Ship, Glasgow
5th Nov - AvP3 @ Classic Grand, Glasgow

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Be A Familiar - To The Lighthouse

I first came across Glasgow 7-piece Be A Familiar a few years ago on a T Break sampler CD along with Kowalskiy favourites Broken Records and The Little Kicks. While those two bands have since released amazing debut albums, Be A Familiar have been busy working on theirs. On Monday, the fruits of their labour, To The Lighthouse, finally hit the shelves.

First thing's first, with only 7 tracks and coming in at just under 28 minutes long, To The Lighthouse is up there with the shortest albums of the year. That's no bad thing mind you. From the first listen, it's clear there's not a single minute of filler on it.

It all kicks off with Had Your Fill, with its power-pop guitars, twinkling piano and boy-girl vocals. Throw in the those trumpets and what you have is a beautifully crafted pop song, and the perfect start to a brilliant album! What follows is pretty relentless - potential hit after potential hit. Personally though, you'd find it hard to top All Kinds Of Nervous and previous single You'd Make A Great Ghost. Go listen!

Be A Familiar have delivered a great debut which goes to show that good things must come in 7s these days.

K&A with The Little Kicks

Having contributed a track to Kowalskiy EP #2 and being the L in my Scottish A-Z, Aberdeen's The Little Kicks are no strangers to this blog. That being said, how much do we really know about them??

With that in mind, I posed them a few questions. Here's what frontman Steven Milne had to say...

Kowalskiy: Who are The Little Kicks?
Steven: The Little Kicks are a four piece band from Scotland who are based in Aberdeen. We are four individuals who very much enjoy playing together despite somehow all liking different bands - maybe it helps to keep it interesting as somehow it comes together really well. We are Toby (lead guitar), Lewis (bass), Scott (drums) and myself Steven (vocals, guitar, keys). We may be adding people to that list very shortly but for now there's four of us.

Kowalskiy: How did the band get together, and what's the story behind your name?
Steven: I guess quite a while back, I was in bands (mostly awful ones) in my teens from 14 onwards in Aberdeen that basically fell apart despite my best efforts. None of them had ever been my own band as I'd always been a bit part but I had written a lot of songs and had found my confidence growing as a singer. From that I met Toby at a party who was into a lot of the same music and influences and from there we played acoustic for a bit and made an EP as the Little Kicks with a different rhythm section to what we have now. The EP did really well but following that the said rhythm section fell apart and (probably the best thing that happened to us) we recruited new friends (at the time) Lewis and Bobb to play bass and drums respectively. Very quickly we hit it off and collected a good following and found ourselves getting tighter and writing more and more. As a result we were being offered lots of good gigs and even festival slots so we recorded another two EPs along the way before we found ourselves (over the course of a summer) playing with the likes of Editors, The Kooks, Maccabees, Sunshine Underground and T in the Park. Following that summer we decided to take a break to write and disappeared for a while and the decision was we should make an album which we brought out last year in 2009. Shortly after the release of Boxing Clever, which we are all very proud of, our drummer Bobb got an offer to live in Japan and made a move abroad, so we again stopped for a while to re-group but decided to carry on. We are still pals. In November last year we began gigging again and writing with a new drummer (Scott) and also a new sense of purpose (you learn a lot when you put an album out) and that brings us up to date. We're now working on new songs and the plan is to work on a new album for next year. The guts of it is written but I need to show the band the songs and then we need to practice!

Kowalskiy: OK, one sentence. Describe the band's sound.
Steven: Upbeat, melodic, catchy, indie disco pop music.

Kowalskiy: You're about to hit the studio to work on your follow-up album to your cracking debut Boxing Clever. Can we expect something a little bit different? Any hints as to what (and when) we can expect?
Steven: We actually just came back from recording last weekend. So far we have done three tracks and they are coming out really well. I think our second album will surprise a lot of people judging by these early songs we have. We have very different influences compared to before and it's coming across in the music that we're prepared to be a bit more experimental than before. We were always hesitant to not add too much in the studio that can't be played live, but we've realised that is the point of doing an album! So I guess that's different for a start. The three tracks we have recorded are very different to each other but are still hooked by our style to be cohesive. One is called Do Something New and sounds like one of those catchy summer singles that get in your head for days, another is called Call of Youth and it was initially the weakest track in my mind but now it's recorded, it's really come together and is a possible single too so hopefully they all turn out like that! It will likely be aimed for a Spring/Summer release in 2011 - no point in rushing.

Kowalskiy: Will there be a tour to accompany the release?
Steven: There will be eventually but before we get to that point I have a solo album I want to promote for a while and we need to rehearse the new material and write as many songs as possible together so it will be a wee while before we tour fully. We have dates coming up with headline shows in Aberdeen booked to play some new songs and also some offers to do out of town shows so we'll see but from November 1st until likely end of December I'll be gigging the solo albums arse off so it'll be writing time for the LKs!

Kowalskiy: What would be your ideal gig?
Steven: I think we've been quite lucky to play with a lot of bands on their way up so that's a tough one. My favourite band live is LCD Soundsystem closely followed by The National so a triple bill with them would be a dream. Preferably in a tiny sweaty venue like The Lemon Tree or 13th Note if were talking really small. Or a packed tent at T in the Park - that would mean a lot to me and be very special.

Kowalskiy: What's been your highlight of being in the band so far?
Steven: Japan was cool but it nearly killed me! I think we overdid it shall we say at Hogmanay and gave Scotland a bad name! Highlight for me has to be probably either supporting Maximo Park in the Caird Hall to 2000 people - that was mental. OR when we played T in the Park, the T-Break tent was full. We worked so hard all weekend to spread the word and flyer the festival as we were up against Kasabian / Interpol and Kings of Leon! When it came to 8pm on the Sunday I couldn't look in before we went on in case it was dead and when we walked on we just got this massive roar - that is something I'll never forget. Weirdly, I know it isn't the be all and end all of gigging and we don't even play any of the same songs as we did then but we were young and excited and it was a big deal at the time!

Kowalskiy: Glasgow and Edinburgh seem to hog the limelight when it comes to new bands. Are there any local Aberdeen bands you'd recommend we sit up and take notice of?
Steven: We are quite pally with a lot of Aberdeen bands and I think there is a good, if small scene in Aberdeen. I'd recommend Indian Red Lopez, Right Hand Left, Stanley, Joseph Bull, Copy Haho and Debutant as acts that have come from Aberdeen and I think have great music/ songs.

Kowalskiy: What else can we expect from The Little Kicks in the future?
Steven: Hmm, don't want to guarantee anything but I think our second album will be really strong and I'm looking forward to working on that. I think we have it in us to make some really great music at the moment so that's the plan is to focus on that. Gig wise, we need to tour more and work harder at building a following up again out of Scotland (which we achieved for a while but lost after our writing break) and there is still a lot of life in the debut album to push also - so in short, we have plenty to get on with!

Kowalskiy: Any interesting/unusual/embarrassing facts about the band/bandmember you'd like to share before we go?
Steven: Hmm, I don't think there is anything that can be public - ha! We all have embarrassing traits that we like to mock each other frequently! Thankfully when your quite close you can go quite far without being punched. Scandalous items aside, its pretty boring - normally Lewis get his Warwick bass mocked for being a "Jazz" bass, Scott makes a horrific drum face when playing which we all like to mock, Toby is English so in a band of Scots that can be quite readily mentioned and its well known that among other things my in-between song banter is pretty shit so there's plenty to slag me for! But any real embarrassments I think would be best saved for over a pint as opposed to here.

Upcoming Gigs
23rd Oct - Snafu, Aberdeen
29th Dec - Cafe Drummonds, Aberdeen (DJ set)
27th Jan - Snafu, Aberdeen (supporting We Were Promised Jetpacks)
28th Jan - Hootenanny's, Inverness
29th Jan - Electric Circus, Edinburgh

Monday, 4 October 2010

...Dirty Keys!

With their I Wish My Brother George Was Here EP released on their bandcamp back in April, and a spate of free shows coming up, it's about time we were properly introduced to Glasgow's piano pop-rockers Dirty Keys. Here's vocalist and pianist Dave Gilles to fill us in...

Kowalskiy: Who are Dirty Keys?
Dave: Dirty Keys are a four piece piano pop/rock band from Glasgow, although none of us are from Glasgow. At least that's the starting point. The feature is piano, but we've got fuzzy bass and crunchy guitar, too. I started the band because I got fed up playing for everyone else's band; I was having fun, but my own ideas were going to waste. Specifically, I had all these piano-based bits of music, and a fairly good singing voice that no one was aware of, and felt it was time I took a crack at songwriting. The result is this weird kind of earnest/playful music that appears to be making people happy.

Kowalskiy: How would you describe 'your sound'?
Dave: Although we usually pitch the sound as piano pop/rock, our genre is debatable. I try to keep influences to a minimum (it keeps things fresh) but it's pretty obvious to anyone with ears that I'm a fan of Ben Folds and Randy Newman. There's a hell of a lot of hip-hop and punk rock in there too (though it doesn't really shine through in the few songs we have made publicly-available so far - refer to our live show). Some people hear a bit of Muse in there, but frankly the only Muse song that set my griddle on fire was 'Plug In Baby'. Talking about plugs, you can expect a hell of a lot from us in the future. We've just released this sweet, locally-produced music video:

Kowalskiy: What else can we expect from Dirty Keys in the future?
Dave: We're recording a Xmas 'single' soon, which we hope to have a similarly-quality music video produced for. We're being featured a bit on Subcity (I was on the Couch Club on Saturday morning, and Left of the Dial has been following our progress since we first started gigging). We've been trying to play special gigs up til now, but the plan is to play as many free shows as possible over the next few months, to get a bit of exposure to the random punters.

In their own words, they "need to be heard". They might just be on to something there!

Upcoming Gigs
17th Oct - The Butterfly and the Pig, Glasgow (solo piano set)
28th Oct - The 13th Note, Glasgow
5th Nov - Capitol, Glasgow
20th Nov - Pivo Pivo, Glasgow
17th Dec - The Halt Bar, Glasgow

Neil Milton - elements

In August, I mentioned that Neil Milton was bringing his too many fireworks label out of retirement. Today, with the release of his debut solo EP elements, sees the label relaunched in all its reissued-back-catalogue (Findo Gask, Flying Matchstick Men, Laeto.....) splendour.

The elements EP consists of 5 breathtaking modern classical tracks inspired by each of the 5 medieval elements: air, earth, fire, water and aether (not Milla Jovovich as others would have you believe). Captivating, stunning and majestic don't even begin to describe Neil's music. It's downright ridiculous how talented this man is!

elements can be bought here. If you need tempting, then I'm pretty sure this will do the trick:

Back to the label relaunch... If you fancy a 8-track sampler of what the label had (and now has again) to offer, then go here and sign up to the mailing list. If that's not enough, you can also get your hands on one of Neil's own tracks This Winter, the Summer Sleeps if you sign up here and a free download here of his live performance at The Liquid Ship from April, both under his beneath us, the waves guise.