Friday, 28 January 2011

K&A with Letters

Around this time last year, I was sent two cracking demos by Curators, at that point, an unknown-to-me Edinburgh band, who went on to be one of, if not thee band of 2010 in my eyes.  So, it's a good omen that Letters, another band from our fair capital, sent me out their upcoming double A-side single to have a listen to a fortnight-or-so ago.  The fact that you're now about to read their K&A session, the first of 2011, should give you some indication of how excited I am about this "dark cello pop" 5-piece.   

They're set to release their debut double A-side single The Grand National / Pipe Dreams on 16th February for free!  Both are really rather good but Pipe Dreams is the track that's been on repeat for a while now.  As it starts, it reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy, with the gorgeous strings and the similar vocal style, before shifting up a few gears and taking a darker, rockier turn round about where my SoundCloud comment pops up!  There's a sneak preview of both tracks below, but before that, let's find out a but more about them...

Kowalskiy:  Who are Letters?
Mikey:  The best thing to come out of Scotland since David Hume.

Kerr Donaldson – Drums
Dougie Fuller – Bass
Georgie Williamson – Cello/Vocals
Ed Ellis – Guitar/Vocals
Mikey Ferguson – Guitar/Lead Vocals

Kowalskiy:  How did the band get together?
Mikey:  I should draw a flow chart for this! Erm...I advertised for a drummer and Kerr responded and not only turned out be quite good but also not a cunt. Georgie was playing in other bands in Edinburgh so we stole her. Me and Dougie were school mates and have been in and out of bands for years. Me and Ed are also both actors so we became mates through a theatre group. Add some baking soda, turn the oven up to 200 degrees and let the flan rise.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe 'your sound'?
Mikey:  Dark cello pop noiseniks.

Kowalskiy:  Who/what/where etc are your main influences?
Mikey:  Literary giants, European cinema, jingle jangle bingo bango.

Kowalskiy:  On Feb 16th, you're releasing your debut single, the double A-side The Grand National / Pipe Dreams.  What can you tell us about these two tracks?
Mikey:  Pipe Dreams is pretty much does what it says on the tin. The idea that your unrealistic and unattainable dreams, in the end, will fucking kill you.

   Pipe Dreams by Letters (uploaded by Sound and Vision PR)

The Grand National is just a nice piece of nostalgia. Split into three acts - It's starts out with my childhood spent growing up with my brother in a dead end council estate and how you end up pining after a simple more 'innocent' time. Skip through a few years to overspent time reading in cold rooms, devoid of any lyrical inspiration, spending too much time with my (old) band mates in cars having meaningless conversations (which was brilliant), to being part of the real world and feel like you're going nowhere...oops, same as Pipe Dreams I suppose... dreams man... they'll fucking kill you!  It's about feeling old before your time. There. Done.


Kowalskiy:  On the same night, you'll be launching the single at Henry's Cellar Bar - your first gig! Nervous yet?  Any idea yet what folk can expect from it?
Mikey:  Not really nervous, just desperate to play. We've tried to time all this to perfection which means it's been really frustrating being confined to living rooms and practice studios. Every band says this (nearly all of them are rubbish anyway) but people can really expect a live show from us. For not being all that heavy we're mental. No band I've seen that comes from our part of the world is better than us live. And that's only going by how good we are in practice.  Oh and we'll also be giving away free limited edition CD's of the single.  Soon we're going to start using visuals in our shows, it's just taking a while to prepare

Kowalskiy:  What would be your ideal gig anyway?
Mikey:  Don't know about the rest of the guys but I always dreamed of headlining the Barrowlands in Glasgow or one of the stages at T in the Park where everyone sings your song back to you. That would be my dream. The ultimate gig I suppose is the one that people will travel a long way to see you. A gig full of hardcore fans, that's what I'm trying to say.

Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from Letters in 2011?
Mikey:  We're obviously doing the single launch on the 16th February at Henry's Cellar Bar in Edinburgh. We'll be playing a few gigs around Scotland for the rest of March and April (go to www.wewriteletters.co.uk/live to keep up to date) which are being confirmed as we speak and at the same time we'll be recording an EP which we hope to release in May.  Thereafter, expect to see posters of Kerr's ravaged torso splattered across university breezeblock walls fro June onwards.

Kowalskiy:  Since its that time of year, which band would you recommend we all look out for this year?
Mikey:  Band I'm absolutely loving at the moment are Ideals from London. They've got a handle of that age old relic called song writing which is absolutely devoid in most of the vaccuous shite around at the moment. The Last Battle are also another band to watch out for this year, they hail from the same place as us.

Kowalskiy:  Is there something else you'd like to share? Any interesting facts about the band or a bandmember?
Mikey:  If you put in a request on our website (www.wewriteletters.co.uk/contact), we will actually write you a letter. The title of our website doesn't lie.  Dougie looks like a Duracell bunny when he plays the bass.  Kerr has webbed feet.

For me, Pipe Dreams is the best song I've heard so far this year.  If you like it too and fancy hearing some more, get a free copy of the great single, and see Dougie's best Duracell bunny impression, then you can do all three next month...

Upcoming Gigs
16th Feb - Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh (with OSO and The Last Battle)

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Exception To The Rule #4 - Wheels On Fire

Time to get cracking with the first Exceptions of 2011.  So far in this series of posts, I've extended my search for the best up-and-coming bands to Israel, Sweden, and even as far as London to tell you all about a certain Italian guy.  The fourth in this series of posts is gonna bring you not one, but two, that's right, two acts from our friends across the pond (Actually, I took so long with the second post, that you will in fact only have one!).  The reason being, the good ol' U.S. of A is a pretty hefty size.  That and, I really couldn't decide between the two bands.  First up is a few words about Athens, Ohio's garage-rockers Wheels On Fire and last years mighty-fine Cherry Bomb EP

As is most often the case, it's taken me a while to sit down and listen to the EP.  Whereas some EPs and albums need played over and over again to appreciate, the Cherry Bomb EP sucks you in right from the off.  Opening track Black Wave is a punchy, garage-pop gem with more hooks than a disabled pirates convention, and a subtle, but very effective synth backing.  Next up is the brilliant Beach Boys-esque Broken Up with its contrasting, deep, strained vocals and a guitar solo that Chuck Berry would be proud of.  Cherry Bomb itself has a wee bit of T-Rex's glam in there while still staying true to their garage billing.  Last up, Go Give Yer Love Away, the 'stripped-back' one on the EP with jangling guitars, tambourines and handclaps, highlights the real sense of enjoyment and fun which shines through from the start to the end of this cracking wee EP!

Black Wave

You can get your hands on it from Amazon MP3, iTunes and over at Kind Turkey Records.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Lonely Tourist - Sir, I Am A Good Man

If you ask pretty much anyone out there with an interest in Scottish music, they'll tell you that 2010 was an amazingly good year for it.  In terms of the quality of albums released and the new bands that emerged, it's certainly gonna take a lot of beating!  Well, so far the early signs are very promising for 2011.  One of the reasons for my optimism, is the album which popped through my letterbox before January was even a week old.  Bristol-based Lonely Tourist may not be familiar to you (unless you downloaded the latest free Kowalskiy EP), but for fans of Odeon Beatclub, Glasgow's now-disbanded troop of cult indie-pop merchants, the dulcet tones of a certain Mr. Paul Tierney might just be!

The debut album Sir, I Am A Good Man is released today over here, and a wee belter it is too!  If you were lucky enough to get a hold of the three cracking demo tracks (the title track, Trojan Box Calypso and Watch For The Sharks) on offer last year, then like me, you'll no doubt have been eagerly awaiting the album for a while.  It opens up with the brilliant lead-single Patron Saint Procrastinate, an upbeat number with a staggered layering of guitars, drums and piano which build up to one of the most memorable choruses of last year.  Some way to kick things off!  It's only when you listen closer to the lyrics though, that you realise this upbeatness is masking what seems to be a feeling of frustration and self-deprecation towards his songwriting, summed up by the morbid lines "I could write my own headstone or obituary.  Well here lies Paul, he wrote some pretty bad poetry".  Whether this is merely an innocent subject for a song or a genuine concern of his, I'm not entirely sure.  Although, if it is the latter, then this song alone proves he has absolutely nothing to worry about!


And that pretty much goes for the rest of the album too.  Watch For The Sharks, perhaps my favourite track, is an ode to the ups-and downs of gigging, chock-full of tambourines, handclaps and a singalong refrain, all accompanied by Paul's superb acoustic guitar which is the staple throughout this quality album.  


The aptly-titled Beatclub Chancer, though not about his old band, serves as a wee reminder of what we've been missing since their demise.  To be honest though, on the strength of this album, it's clear there's a lot more to look forward to in the future.  Now, all they've got to do is come back up here and gig.  Sir, this is a very good album indeed!

Monday, 17 January 2011

...Morstorphine!

Doing this blogging lark, you come to realise who's musical tastes match your own.  One person who falls into this category is Derek Bates, he of Evil Hand and Bottle of Evil infamy.  So, when Derek recommended Morstorphine, a new instrumental project he'd recently been mixing, it was no surprise I snatched the tracks off him to have a wee listen.  Here's one below for your aural pleasure...

Standing On Shadows

From what I'm told, this is pretty much the first mention of Morstorphine anywhere online.  If the atmospheric Standing On Shadows is anything to go by, hopefully it'll be the first of many.  So, until a website materialises, I asked one of the men behind the Skye-based project a few not-so-probing questions to try and shed some light on them.  Here's what he had to say...

Kowalskiy:  Who is Morstorphine?
Stephen:  Morstorphine is myself and Dougie Frew. We're pretty open about who plays with us, so whenever we need extra playing hands we ask friends or anyone who happens to be around to join us.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe your sound?
Stephen:  We prefer the kind of music that makes us lose our way for a while. Whether we get lost in the light or dark doesn't really matter, so long as we get lost. The sound we have helps to get us into that state.

Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from you in 2011?
Stephen:  There's going to be two E.P's released late summer. One will be recorded by the courteous Evil Hand, while the other we'll be doing ourselves.

Kowalskiy:  Last one... who would you tip to do well this year?
Stephen:  Ursula Minor. They've been around for a bit, but they've got some nice new sounds. Besides, I knew the lead guitarist a few years back and it would be good to see him and the band raised above some others this year.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #7

 
When I sent 5 emails out back in July to bands pitching this EP lark, I didn't imagine for one second that it'd take off, let alone that that first EP would be out less than a week later!  The fact that it's still going strong into 2011 is in no small part down to everyone out there who has downloaded one, or in some cases, all, of them, everyone who has helped spread the word, and of course, all the bands who have been kind enough to contribute.  Thanks to everyone!  

Anyway, without much ado, it's time for Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #7.  Here's the five acts that have each contributed a song.  Cheers folks!

1. Amy Duncan - Always A Way (from her beautiful, recent album!)

"Always A Way is from Amy's 3rd album, (a collaboration with Scottish poet David Paton) Potential-Space ~ "a hypnotic fusion of city and country and indeed of the past and the present. Never raucous or forced, this is the ideal album to chill out with of an evening" according to Bluesbunny" - Amy Duncan

2. eagleowl - Laughter (live) (live version of their B-side to Sleep The Winter, recorded at Homegame 2009)

"This is a track that was recorded by Radio Magnetic at Homegame 2009. I remember we were on quite early on the Saturday afternoon , so it's probably the most hungover I've ever been when playing a show. Thankfully, Clarissa has lead vocals on this track." - Bart Owl (eagleowl)

3. The Colourful Band - Poetry And Cigarettes (a sneaky peek of their new material)

"The Colourful Band has been the name that I've written and performed under (both solo and plus friends) for the past 3 years, so this song is me basically describing the onset of an Edinburgh winter as someone who is slowly getting used to being on their own again. It is the single from, and first song on "Postcards from Paris", the recordings from 2010.

I like to think it as being straight and direct, has 3 chords in an open tuning which allows me to play the riff and strum. I rehearsed it last week with Jon, Steve and Dave as a 4 piece, and it really builds when there are drums and a full band. But for now this recording is just me on guitar and vocal, and Gav on bass. I hope you enjoy this one.
" - Ian McKelvie (The Colourful Band)

4. Lonely Tourist  - Too Old For Clubbing (a track from the former Beatclubber's new Bristol-based project's debut album!)

"Too Old For Clubbing from Lonely Tourist's first album Sir I Am A Good Man out 24th Jan 2011...on Tourist Info Records.   On iTunes etc. CDs from http://lonelytourist.bandcamp.com/." - Paul Tierney (Lonely Tourist)

5. Lovers Turn To Monsters - I Don't Love You (an amazing cover of My Chemical Romance!)

"I do a lot of covers, usually to please myself. But a lot of the time I do it with the hope to open people's eyes to other song writers, who's skills they may have over looked. Usually by having a go at re-invention. So the song comes across in a different manner, aimed at a different audience. So with that in mind here's me trying my hardest to make emo heroes My Chemical Romance sound like a lo-fi indie folk band." - Kyle Wood (Lovers Turn To Monsters)

The EP is now up for free download over on my bandcamp page, along with those that have gone before it.  Enjoy!

Time to get cracking on EP #8 which will be out on 16th February.   If there's any bands out there who fancy making my life that wee bit easier and want to volunteer a track for one of these EPs, then send me a wee email.

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Seventeenth Century - (Part I) EP

Typical!  The Seventeenth Century were one of the ten bands I tipped last year, and here we are, 10 days into 2011 and they finally go and release their debut, the aptly named (Part I) EP.  Not that I'm bothered in the slightest.  It's well worth the wait, and more than lives up to all the hype they've built up over the last twelve months.  It's a debut full of contrast - powerful in places, yet beautifully delicate in others, with a vocal style that simply shouldn't, but somehow does, compliment the majestic orchestral arrangements on offer - no more so than on the outstanding opening track Young Francis.

Two of the four songs on this mini masterpiece, namely Roses In The Park and of course Young Francis, slipped the clutches of the EP last year and found their way onto several blogs.  Because of that, and thanks to their stunning live show, (Part I) didn't really come as much of a surprise to me, with the exception being the exquisite 90-second-long instrumental cacophony of Amongst Other Things.  The fact that I was expecting it to be this good doesn't detract at all from this being an absolute belter of an EP.

The Seventeenth Century have gotten 2011 off to the best possible start.  Not only with (Part I), but with their great session on Ally McCrae's first BBC Introducing show in the early hours of this morning too.  Apparently we don't have long to wait for (Part II).   Which is just as well really, after hearing some of the tracks this morning, I for one can't wait!

The EP is now available over at the Electra French Records' shop on 10" vinyl with free download code, and if you're in Glasgow, you can no doubt pick one up tomorrow night too... 

Upcoming Gigs
11th Jan - Captain's Rest, Glasgow (EP launch with Martin John Henry)

Friday, 7 January 2011

Kowalskiy (Belated) Belated Review #5

Verse Metrics - VM1
With all the recent festivities and my album of 2010 countdown, this Belated Review is pretty late even by my standards.  Originally released back in November, VM1 is the first release from Glasgow's post-rockers Verse Metrics.  One of the few bands the Scottish blogging community went weak at the knees for at the tail-end of 2010.  And quite rightly so, VM1 is an assured, impressive debut from a band who only started gigging 6 months ago.  Over the festive period, opening track Tired Lights has been the one song that's been stuck in my head, thanks to its dark, brooding chorus and repeated refrain.  Both beg to be sung back by scores of sweaty fans... something I think the band might just have to get used to in the future!  Each of the 5 songs on their debut mark Verse Metrics out as a band to keep an eye on this year, but it's closing track Sad Bones (live under beautiful bridges) which steals the show for me.  Sure, it might not be its chorus etched into my brain, but with its majestic opening alone, is it any wonder it stands out!   Mark my words... expect to hear a whole lot more from these guys!

Supermarionation - On The Fly EP
Was I the only one who heard the name Supermarionation and expected some geeky kid who'd locked himself in his bedroom, hooked his old SNES up to his laptop and set about recreating the Super Mario World soundtrack?  No, just me?  Well anyway, that couldn't be further from the truth here.  They're a 3-piece from Edinburgh who tow the fine line between pop-punk and hard-hitting, ballsy rock.  Their debut On The Fly EP is most certainly a grower.  At first, maybe because of my wrong preconception or my general indifference to the rock genre, I was a bit underwhelmed.  Now I've had a month or so to digest it, and taking 'belated' to new extremes in the process, I'm glad to say I appreciate it for what it is... a damn fine debut and I'd even go as far as to say, in places, its ter-riff-ic!  Those places are, more often than not, heard on the opening two tracks - the standout, rollicking opener Those Home Girls which (sticking with the computer game theme) could easily be a bonus stage on that heroic guitar-based game, and The Rising Tide.  With a combination of the great intro, pounding bassline, and the contrasting Nick Cave-esque vocals, the latter works a treat.  The punky The Ashes Of Love has its moments too and shows this trio have a few more strings to their bow.  A promising start from "Scotland's hottest up-and-coming new band" (The Metro).

Randolph's Leap - Battleships & Kettle Chips EP
Last but not least, quite the opposite in fact, it's the the mighty folk-pop ensemble Randolph's Leap with what is officially their debut EP.  Not just any ol' EP mind you... arguably the best EP of 2010.  I've been a fan of the band, led by unassuming frontman Adam Ross, for a while now thanks to his intelligent, quirky songwriting and their never-ending string of faultless, pop melodies.  There's 5 perfect examples on this EP.  From the slow-burning, shuffling folk epic Going Home, through the smart, verseless break-up tale Back To Square One, to the stupid-smile-inducing la-la-la's of Undergod, a what-if glimpse into Adam's self-deprecation and general (but accepted) weirdness.  The EP is the first release by Olive Grove Records.  You've sadly missed out on the Sooper Dooper CD Package, complete with hand-knitted sleeve and frisbee, but the EP can be downloaded over here.  Sticking my neck out now (not much though), but you will not be disappointed!

Monday, 3 January 2011

...The Lost Gecko!

The first Introducing... post of 2011 and it's the turn of The Lost Gecko.  One half of this duo is an Aberdonian living in Ireland.  The other, a Dutchman living in Aberdeen.  Not quite sure how they go about making their music, but one thing is for sure, the end product is at times beautiful.  With a new EP due for release, and recent airplay courtesy of a certain Mr. Gellatly, this could well be a great year for The Lost Gecko.  Here's Malcolm to give us a bit more info on what we can expect...

Kowalskiy:  Who are The Lost Gecko?
Malcolm: The Lost Gecko is myself (Malcolm Sean) and Nils Elders. I'm from Aberdeen and he is Dutch living in Aberdeen. We met around 5 years ago and have been making sounds since.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe 'your sound'?
Malcolm:  I really don't know, and that's not coz i think we don't sound like anyone. I think a bit of Pearl Jam... someone mentioned Arab Strap similarities and Alice In Chains (Jar Of Flies). My main influence would be the '90s Seattle scene. Nils, he's a big Jason Mraz, Motown fan and more musically minded than myself.  So, with those influences, I hope we create something special.


Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from you in 2011?
Malcolm:  Our new EP is out very shortly called 33 Earthquakes.  We are making a video at the moment and Holly Wade from Art College in Idaho, USA is animating a video for our song Gods Waiting Room which is from our 3rd EP Clocks, Ghosts and Heartbeats. We have just started working with digital marketing agency Limebase.  We will see what 2011 brings. It's gonna be good though!

Kowalskiy:  Here's a wee extra one since it's that time of year... Other than yourselves, what bands would you recommend looking out for in 2011?
Malcolm:  Stanley Odd fae Edinburgh. Cracking hip hop outfit...

...with a free song out no less!   So there you go, that was The Lost Gecko.  Keep your eyes peeled for 33 Earthquakes, and in the meantime, head over to their Soundcloud to hear some tracks from their previous EPs, then if you like what you hear, why not pop over here!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Kowalskiy's Eleven for 2011

Happy New Year folks!  I said I wouldn't do this after my half-arsed attempt last year, but I suppose there's no harm in sharing my eleven tips for the year with you.  Besides, it gives me a chance to try out the playlist widget below!  There's a few familiar names in there that are no strangers to the Kowalskiy blog, and a few getting their first mention.  Either way, keep a look out for them in the year ahead.  In no particular order, they are...

Rachel Sermanni [MySpace][Twitter]
Indian Red Lopez [MySpace][Twitter]
Dear Mountaineer [MySpace][Twitter]
Trapped Mice [MySpace][Twitter]
Johnny Reb [MySpace][Soundcloud]
Rose Parade [MySpace][Twitter]
Weather Barn [MySpace][Twitter]
The Son(s) [Soundcloud][Twitter]
White Heath [MySpace][Twitter]
The Ramisco Maki Maki Rocking Horse [Website][Twitter]
King Post Kitsch [Website][Twitter]