Monday, 29 August 2011

K&A with The Last September

I'm normally never one to pass up a gimmick, so as much as it pains me that I'm posting this before Thursday, I've sat on it long enough, plus I'm gonna try and squeeze in another interview this week  Anyway, after a 5 year hiatus, Edinburgh's The Last September are back with their second album As The Crow Flies.  I was only introduced to the band with their gorgeous recent single Precious Time and its the perfect taster for what is not only a very impressive comeback, but a downright, lovely album too.


With the launch gig preparations taking shape (10th September at the Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh since you ask), I asked that man above, Pete Deane, a few questions...

Kowalskiy:  Who are The Last September?
Pete:  We're a bunch of pals who have been in a few different bands over the years.  We're sort of half way between a singer-songwriter situation and a conventional band.  I tend to write all the material, but the songs take on their own life once the rest of the guys add their parts.  Which I think is more interesting than simply a band hired to back a singer.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe 'your sound' to all the good folk out there?
Pete:  I think when we started out years ago there was a slight Americana feel to the band, which was nice at the time, but now we just want to sound like us I think.  We're essentially an Indie band I suppose, but some of those other influences creep in from Americana or folk stuff.  I think a slow drip of influences is much better than all members liking exactly the same stuff and ending up like a pastiche of one or two bands.

Kowalskiy:  After a five year sabbatical, you're back with your second album in a few weeks. So er... why the wait? What have you been up to in the meantime?
Pete:  We split up a few years ago because we simply got a bit fed up with it at the time.  I had personally lost faith in my songwriting and felt like I was simply writing the same songs over and over.  I want to be in a band which always excites me and where I feel like we're genuinely progressing musically or stylistically.  That's why I took the time out and went to study music, which in turn has given me a new thirst and loads of new ideas about the creation of music and the inception of ideas, which in turn made me want to get back in a band again!  We're the band that I wanted us to be six years ago but didn't know how.

Kowalskiy:  So what can you tell us about As The Crow Flies? Is there a story behind it?
Pete:  It may sound an unusual starting point for a record but it began with me having to write music as part of my degree.  That was a weird situation to be judged all along the way, but I think made me explore different styles of writing and different techniques.  I think a lot of the writing process was a real cathartic outlet of frustrations and darker thoughts which hadn't been let out for a while.  It sounds very cliched, but As The Crow Flies represents a journey to me hence the title.  That and the fact that I bloody love birds!  It's another of my themes.

Kowalskiy:  It's only a few weeks 'til the release gig in Edinburgh. Was it a conscious decision to release the album in 'September'?
Pete:  Not at all.  It's purely the way it had worked out.  I'm quite chuffed with that however.  I'm not superstitious but it feels nice.  We've had the album ready to go for a wee while now, but would have been daft I think to do it during the festival.  September just seemed like the next opportunity to do it.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe a typical Last September live show?
Pete:  I hope we're a band who don't simply make a racket.  There are powerful moments to the sets, but we're not believers in "louder, harder and faster is better" kind of thing.  We use a bit of a mixture of sounds like acoustic guitars and piano and then some noisier stuff when needed.  Jos has built a little activity centre for himself which he beavers away at during the gig, sometimes on his ebow and sometimes tapping on his glockenspiel!  Other than that, we just play pretty songs without too much fanfare or banter.  I'm not Freddie Mercury, so I don't try to be!

Kowalskiy:  What would be your ideal gig?
Pete:  Since I was a nipper I've always loved the Queens Hall in Edinburgh.  It's such a great venue and holds a lot of memories of bands I've seen there.  To fill that place would be incredible.  As long as the gig went well I wouldn't be bothered about any other details!

Kowalskiy:  What other Scottish bands are you listening to at the moment?
Pete:  Hidden Orchestra's debut album Night Walks is fantastic and has been great seeing them have a successful year.  Poppy from the band played some string parts on As The Crow Flies and they're a lovely talented bunch.  Other than that, I still listen a lot to Hobotalk, who haven't released anything for a wee while.  Their keys player Ali Petrie co-produced our album with me and played some keys on the record.  Jeez, sounds like I'm one big name-dropper!

Kowalskiy:  What else can we expect from The Last September in the future?
Pete:  I think we'll release another single sometime in the autumn or winter.  That and just lots more gigs really.  We're really enjoying playing live right now.  Hopefully we can put together a Scottish tour soon.

Kowalskiy:  Anything else you fancy adding??
Pete:  I think I've rambled on enough!

So that's that then.  The Last September release As The Crow Flies on the 12th September, with the launch gig two days before that in the Wee Red Bar at Edinburgh's College of Art.  Until then, I'll leave you with Ventolin, my favourite track from the album.  Enjoy!


Friday, 26 August 2011

...Ross Crawford!

I've been receiving a lot of emails recently, and as per usual, I've only gotten around to reading and replying to a few of them so far.   Someone whose email I read straight away was Ross Crawford.  This may have had something to do with the wee snippet of text that appeared in the email preview:

"Hi there Kowalskiy, I love your blog and I thought I'd try my luck and drop y..."

Mr. Crawford clearly knows my weak spot.  Blatant flattery!  Still, it took me a while to have a listen to his EPs, despite Ross describing his latest offering, Majorie and Isabella, as a "loose concept EP on Robert the Bruce".  What about that intriguing statement does not make you want to go and have a listen!?!  It helps that once you do, his lo-fi, ambient music is pretty damn good.  Anyway, you can start seeing why he's wormed his way onto the blog.

Time now to hear a bit more from the man himself...

Kowalskiy:  Who is Ross Crawford?
Ross:  I'm a 22 year old History student from the sleepy village of Dunlop in Ayrshire. I've been gigging in Glasgow and recording at home for the last few years. I like cups of tea, jumpers and 8-tracks.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe 'your sound'?
Ross:  I record my music in my bedroom (or kitchen) on a wee 8-track so I have quite a lo-fi sound, especially on my earlier recordings. If I was forced to categorise my music I'd probably go for 'Lo-fi Folk' but I'm very willing to experiment. I'm heavily influenced by my love for Scottish history and my songs often reflect that, especially on my new EP.

Kowalskiy:  Plug Away!
Ross:  My latest EP, 'Marjorie and Isabella' is available for free on Bandcamp.  And I have two earlier EPs on the same site which are also available for no exchange of currency.   I also have a Facebook page which will keep you updated on my various goings-on.

Kowalskiy:  What else can we expect from you in the future?
Ross:  I will be gigging in Glasgow very soon and I'm looking to release a new single within the next month, so keep your eyes peeled!


Marjorie and Isabella is out on Ross' Bandcamp now along with his other two EPs, all on a name-your-price download.  Get to it!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #14

How 'bling' does that look?!!  Very 'Beyonce' if you ask me, which is strange given my complete indifference to R 'n' B, and lack of it on the EP, or any of my EPs for that matter.  So the cover art may not match the great mix of tracks on the EP but I'm sure you'll enjoy it nevertheless as once again five of the country's best up-and-coming bands have been kind enough to contribute a track.  You know the drill by now, but if not, click the cover art to get your free download.  Here's the five cracking bands on KEP#14... 

1.  Black International - Dead Languages (An exclusive unreleased track from the brilliant Edinburgh three-piece.)

"This is one of the first songs Black International ever rehearsed. The lyrics had popped into my head fully formed one night when I was in that weird dream zone between being awake and asleep, and luckily I kept a notepad beside my bed in case of any nocturnal revelations. It's intentionally 'dumb' musically, and the words are a tongue in cheek vignette about a couple forging a relationship in the midst of cultural decline, or something like that. We recorded this demo in 2008, and it was dropped from the set not long after, never to return. I still quite like the economy of it, the whole thing's done and dusted in under 2 minutes, almost child-like in its simplicity. A little piece of bubblegum pop." - Stewart Allan (Black International)

2.  Negotiations. - Tiger Heartbeat (Third time Mr. Healy has contributed, and it's another belter.  This time with a cracking cover of mitchell museum.)

"I normally play in Loch Awe, but here's something completely different. I played everything on this. Thanks to Mitchell Museum for letting me cover their incredible song, and to Oliver Roditi for his invaluable help with mixing." - Matthew Healy (Negotiations.)

3.  Aerials Up - I Am ('Tis my great pleasure to bring you this amazing live version of this unreleased track.)

"We didn't have a demo version of 'I Am' so we decided to get a live recording, pretty soon after it was written a few months ago.  It was our first proper attempt at writing a love song. We'd tried before, but it always came across as a bit cheesy or cliched. But this time we got started with a few good lyrics, a couple of nice riffs and it all came together from there." - Aerials Up

4.  Edinburgh School For The Deaf - Mantra (Yet another unreleased gem - a fragile demo from Edinburgh's finest noisters.)

"This was one of three we recorded off the cuff. We usually get a rough idea of a song then go about destroying it until we're happy. This one seemed a little too sentimental and fragile to put it to the guillotine as it may have killed it stone dead, so we left it as it is.   And as it is it didn't seem to fit anywhere on the album.   So there you have it." - Jamie (Edinburgh School For The Deaf)

5.  The Ramisco Maki Maki Rocking Horse - Or My Bones (My love and admiration for this strange, strange man have no bounds!  Another 90-seconds of perfect, acoustoblasting pop joy.)

"As a man of the hoof, I believe we all have cracks in our universes, some too small to see with the naked eye, some so big we can fit someone else's universe in it tenfold. A universe can present you with opportunity and cover you in awesome sauce or it can swallow you whole and leave you to clean up your own dribble while the shithawks peck at your eyes. This track is leaning towards the pecking of my eyes and that's why you may find me, or my bones, in the sea." - Ray (The Ramisco Maki Maki Rocking Horse)

Not too shabby if I don't say so myself!   As always, it's FREE, so head on over to my bandcamp page now to get your download.  Have a wee look at the other 13 while you're at it!

Next month there'll be more of the same, five great free tracks from Scotland's finest!  If any bands out there fancy making my life that wee bit easier by volunteering a track for one of these EPs, then send me a wee email too and see if it tickles my fancy.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Best of Radio Magnetic's T Break in the Park

With the last of the mud being chipped off wellies up and down the country, 'Festival Season' is just about over for another year.  So it's time to take a wee trip back and relive some of the Scottish highlights from the daddy of them all courtesy of the good folk over at Radio Magnetic.   They had an access-all-areas pass at this years T Break stage at T in the Park and have an impressive collection of free tracks, playlists and videos to show for it.

The 16 bands chosen to play the T Break stage this year were...

Aerials Up, Boycotts, Cancel The Astronauts, Carnivores, Church of When The Shit Hits The Fan, Conquering Animal Sound, Crayons, Discopolis, Fatherson, Lady North, Marrik Layden Deft and Scattabrainz, Otherpeople, PAWS, Reverieme, The LaFontaines and United Fruit.

It's perhaps no surprise, but here are my favourites.  You can have a wee listen and if they take your fancy, you can download then for free.  The other 13 bands' tracks can be downloaded over here.

   Aerials Up - So Far Away (Live at the T Break Stage, T in the park 2011) by RadioMagnetic

Fatherson - Hometown (Live at the T Break Stage, T in the park 2011) by RadioMagnetic

Cancel The Astronauts - Making Dynamite (Live at the T Break Stage, T in the park 2011) by RadioMagnetic

The full playlists for each band are also up on the Radio Magnetic Mixcloud page, with acoustic sessions on their YouTube site featuring PAWS, Reverieme and Boycotts.  Consider yourself spoiled rotten!


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Kowalskiy Singles Club #6

You know the score by now, it's time for me to play matchmaker once again with all the 'singles' out there.  Before we see how our singles got on last time round, lets have a look at the new batch of hopefuls.  If any of them 'hit the right notes with you', then click on the cover art and get better acquainted.  Happy downloading...

The Ramisco Maki Maki Rocking Horse - Moon Yodel
"Half-eaten, star-gazing horse seeks enlightened wonder for nocturnal tea parties. Must be fluent in hieroglyphics and paper mache with a keen interest in space travel. Access to a coin operated helicopter would be considered an asset." - RAMisco
Ladies... and gentlemen, if strange, eagle-headed men do it for you, then look no further than The Horse.  He's back with two FREE tracks for you to wrap your lugs around.  They're a bit more 'spacey' than his previous material, but mini belters nevertheless.  Just click on the wee upside-down green man to the left! 

Gerry Loves Records - LOVES005 feat. PAWS and Lady North
LOVES005 from Gerry Loves Records
feat. Lady North/PAWS
"Slim, youthful male with split personality seeks nerdy older lady for sweaty dancing and fun. GSOH not required. Must love long walks on the beach and Japanese literature. Weird fetishes a plus." - Andy Lobban (Gerry Loves Records)
The saviours of the 7" are back with another two brilliant bands.  So if you've any weird fetishes, perhaps you're into vinyl in a big way, then Andy's your man.  The bands have done the artwork for the record which has 3 tracks, plus 3 more downloads available with your purchase.  Check out GLR's back catalogue too for more vinyl treats!


The Cat That Walks Alone - Evans Throne/Love Will Always ComeEvans Throne/Love Will Always Come by The Cat That Walks Alone
"Absent minded, successful business man WLTM like minded person for coalition pact and treaties. Must be head of a major nation with good ties to oil. GSOH and conflict a must. Hobbies include travelling, talking and contradiction" - Cameron Laing (The Cat That Walks Alone)
A great couple of tracks here from Cameron Laing a.k.a. The Cat That Walks Alone.  Surprisingly cheery and upbeat for such a tragic sounding name.  Poor loney cat!  Anyway, it's his debut single and it's out at the end of August through Align Romance, but you can pre-order it now on Bandcamp.  Just click the lonely cat to the left and it can be yours! 

Will Hanson - Deathbed Conversion/The View From Ebury Bridge
Deathbed Conversion/The View From Ebury Bridge by Will Hanson
"Heartfelt singer/songwriter, prone to over exaggeration, will take over the world next year." - Will Hanson
In an ideal world that's just what would happen!  Now, why had I not heard of Will Hanson before?!!  Both tracks are stunning, as are all the rest on his Soundcloud.   With an album in the offing, expect to hear a lot more of Will in the future.  Until then, get your hands on this single!

Prince Edward Island - You Look Like I Need A Drink
You Look Like I Need A Drink by Prince Edward Island
"Bitter, unsuccessful aging losers wallowing in a never-ending stream of self-loathing and aching loneliness looking for needy leech-like hangers-on to abuse with dull stories, poor sex and Greatest Hits albums. Must have own van." - Prince Edward Island
Last but not least, it's the wonderful London-based Prince Edward Island.  Imagine a cheery Arab Strap and you're on the right track.  So if you're needy, into poor sex, and have a van, then you're in for an absolute treat!

Monday, 8 August 2011

...CUR$ES!

There are exceptions to everything of course, but in all honesty, electronic music is not usually my thing.  That being said, it's not as bad as hip-hop.  Don't get me started on that!  With this in mind, it's slightly worrying that I find the hip-hop influenced electronic release from CUR$ES right up my street.  Here's a wee taster...


Without much further ado, I asked the man behind the music, and the rather fetching jumper, a few questions...

Kowalskiy:  Who is CUR$ES?
Niall:  My name is Niall Morris and I'm a 19 year old student from Glasgow. CUR$ES is the name I've given to the music I've been producing this year.  Soon, CUR$ES will also be a live band consisting of myself and 3 others performing these songs from a live perspective.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe 'your sound'?
Niall:  "My sound" can probably be categorised as "electronic music", but it's not really dance/club music. I'm a laptop musician with a background in live music. I listen to a lot of hip-hop and I think that has an influence on my productions.

Kowalskiy:  Plug Away!
Niall:  My album "Solar Temple" is out for free just now via Bandcamp, I keep everything updated from Facebook.

Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from you in the future?
Niall:  I'm starting to work on a new EP which I'll again give out for free, but my main focus is on the CUR$ES live band. I'm going to try out playing both club sets and gig slots but I'm not sure which will work out better.  I also have a remix of the new LaFontaines single "Paperchase" coming out next week, they exist online here.

Solar Temple is out now for FREE.   If you like your electronic music with a wee bit of a dark, moody, atmospheric twist, then you'll lap it up.  Go get your copy, and keep your eyes out for gig updates from Niall.