Tuesday, 18 October 2011

K&A with Josef Llama

Everyone loves a grafter, don't they?  Well, how 'bout a mysterious, gravel-voiced grafter with a deep, dark, almost-menacing sound?   Well, it's my great pleasure to introduce you to someone who fits that bill perfectly.  The 'dark troubadour of the West End', Glasgow's very own, Josef Llama.  If you're a fan of a certain series of free monthly 5-track Scottish EPs, then Josef's name, and indeed, his music, may already be familiar to you.  Back in February, he contributed Loser On The Run to KEP#8.  Now, Josef is gearing up for his debut EP release (featuring said track), and if I'm being completely honest, it's an absolute gem!

Granted, it's not your your bread-and-butter indie-folk that I'm usually banging on about.  Like all good troubadours, it's got bourbon-soaked bitterness and despair running right through it.  It's got the dark, Scottish humour of Jacob Yates and along with the likes of Jacob and Adopted As Holograph too, it has a long-forgotten, dare-I-say timeless quality to the sound.  At least in the sense that if you were none-the-wiser, you'd have no idea if it was recorded last week, last decade, or some time long ago.  That's until he goes all Damon Albarn on us...

I spoke to the man himself last week.  Over to you Josef...

Kowalskiy:  Who is Josef Llama?
Josef:  Josef Llama is a singer/songwriter, I spend most of my spare time, holed up in my attic, writing and recording in my abode in Glasgow's west end [albeit in the seedier side] my only companion being a bottle Jack Daniels.  I sometimes venture out at nights to the local bars, to check out the local bands, to find out what's going down.  I've recently released a 4 track ep now available at http://josefllama.bandcamp.com.

Kowalskiy:  How would 'the dark troubadour of the West End' describe 'his sound'?
Josef:  I like to show attitude in my songs, obviously there's a fair bit of darkness, combining with anger and bitterness, but I like to think the black humour shines through also.

Kowalskiy:  Who/what/where influences your music?
Josef:  Tom Waits is a big influence, I love his diversity, and his willingless to push the boat out, I grew up listening to the Beatles, and I'm a great admirer of John Lennon, pre '71. I love John Lee Hooker stuff, an amazing voice, there's so many artists I admire, Dylan, Tom York, Ray Davies... the list is endless.

Kowalskiy: You've just released your debut e.p.  What can we expect from it?
Josef:  I like to think the 4 songs are all different, in style and sound, and even the vocals seem to differ from track to track. I think a song should grab you, and hold your attention, from the first second to the last, hopefully I've achieved that.

Kowalskiy:  Are there any plans afoot to play a live gig or two?
Josef:   I would love to gig, if I could get like minded musicians, so if there's anybody out there, who feels they could fit in with my music, get in touch. I saw Bob Dylan last week, an amazing gig...that's the sound I'm looking for.

Kowalskiy:  What would be your ideal gig?
Josef:  .John Lennon live at the Barrowlands, backed up with the finest musicians, playing his best songs from the Beatles backlog and from his first 2 solo albums....support act?  How about the Stones from Beggars Banquet era, complete with Brian Jones....that would be my idea of heaven.

Kowalskiy:  What's on your stereo at the moment?
Josef:  Well I've just checked my car.... I'm playing the new Tom Waits c.d. ' Bad As You' which I've still to decipher, and in my c.d. compartment I have Massive Attack, Portishead, Eno, and of course Josef Llama.
Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from Josef Llama in the future?
Josef:  More songs... I have a backlog of songs, just waiting to be released. I also enjoy experimenting with more ambient pieces, so I wouldn't mind getting into writing soundtrack music.  And of course, as previously mentioned, showcasing my songs live.

Kowalskiy:  Last one, if you had to pick one song that best soundtracks your life, what would it be, and why?
Josef:  There's so many songs that made a massive impact in my life.  'Good Vibrations' by the Beach Boys springs to mind, I would have loved to have written that, Carl Wilson sang like an angel.
But really, the song that blew me away when I first heard it, and to this day, still does, is 'Strawberry Fields'.....for  me, it's never been surpassed, for originality. from the mellotron/flute intro, to the freaky ending. Lennon's haunting slowed down voice, and those cellos, just make it the greatest song for me, even when you hear the original stripped down version, you realise how beautiful a song it is.

Josef Llama's debut e.p. is out now over on his bandcamp site.  Hopefully we'll be hearing a lot more from him!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #16

'Tis that time of the month again!  Time to share another five great tracks from five of Scotland's finest up-and-coming bands.  Like the last time, there's a wee mix of styles and sounds on this months effort, from haunting Kate Bush-inspired pop, to something that wee bit darker and louder!   Something for everyone, or if you're like me, you'll lap it all up!  Click on the artwork above to get downloading.  Before you do though, here's a bit about each track from the five cracking bands on KEP#16... 

1.  If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home By Now - Sleeping Beauty (...the Haunting Kate Bushy one!  A brilliant track from their upcoming debut album.)

"Sleeping Beauty is a track from our forthcoming album 'a room dim at noon'. The song is inspired by autumn, old black and white films and a general feeling of unrest. ' If you lived here, you'd be home by now' like to experiment during live performances leading to a more theatrical feel. The album was recorded at the analogue Green Door Studio, Glasgow. Catch us at Nice n' Sleazys on the 29th October for our halloween album launch where we'll all be acting like the earl of hell......." - Clare Simpson (IYLHYBHBN)

2.  The Stormy Seas - Morbid Desires (If this is anything to go by, The Stormy Seas' debut album will be a belter!)

"Morbid Desires is one of the more upbeat numbers from our forthcoming album, Of Rust and Loss. It's upbeat and jaunty but don't let that fool you. A discerning ear will no doubt pick up on Michael's morally ambiguous lyrics cutting across the pop of cowbell and twang of banjo. Of Rust and Loss will be out on our own wee imprint; The Shipping Forecast on the 14th of November, with a launch party in the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh ahead of that on the 12th. We'd love it if you could come along." - Graeme (The Stormy Seas)

3.  Supermarionation - The Ballad Of Little Beef Cramps (Be sure to check out Supermarionation's new FREE acoustic EP.  I love their new stripped back sound!)

"The Ballad of Little Beef Cramps is a cautionary tale of immortal cows from Supermarionation's recently released acoustic EP, Amongst the Northern Lochs. Based on an old Highland legend, it tells the story of a herd corrupted by their unending life and their spurned chance of redemption through the tiny calf Little Beef Cramps who then goes on to found a new undying herd of his own. The whole EP is available as a free download (much like this one) from Six Take No Records." - Steven Tonge (Supermarionation)

4.  Three Blind Wolves - In Here Somewhere (Demo) (an amazing demo from TBW, what else would you expect from them though!?!  Be sure to support their US tour fundraising!)

"This is a track taken from an early demoing sessions for the new album 'Sing Hallejulah for the Old Machine' set for release next year" - Jamie Webster (Instinctive Racoon)

An exclusive teaser from the new album.  You can hear the guys preview more tracks at their gigs in Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh on the 22nd and 23rd of October, and at Brel, Glasgow on the 25th.  Pop along and help them raise funds for their upcoming US tour.

5.  Vladimir - Mellow (As Vladimir tracks go, this is mellow.  Still packs quite a punch though!  It's my favourite from their recent EP.)

"Mellow - We don't really like taking about our songs to be honest. We just like to let the listener decide what its all about but in this instance the lyrics are pretty explicit. This particular song is about unrequainted love and the fall out that this creates... feelings of uselessness, rage, apathy and ultimately, revenge.... its all there.  We'll be landing in Glasgow on Saturday 29th Oct to play a Halloween show for our pals at the BAAD. Man, its a huge space but we're pretty confident that we'll that we'll smash it, just like we do every other gig we play. And it's bring your own bottle so it should be pretty messy, especially as Glaswegians like a bevvy and a tear up. You should try and get along..... should be fun..." - Vladimir x

And that's it for another month!  Hope you enjoy October's EP.  As always, it's FREE, so head on over to my bandcamp page now to get your download.  Have a wee look and listen to the other 15 while you're at it!

So, until next month then.  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.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

...Atom Falling!

I'd always considered myself a bit of a geek to be honest.  I think you've got to be to even consider making a blog, let alone do physics for a living.  There are some people though, that take geekiness to a whole new level.  Meet Ross Pollok and Chris Mitchell, collectively known as Atom Falling...

Kowalskiy:  Who are Atom Falling?
Atom Falling:  We are an electro pop duo from Glasgow. We pride ourselves on being massive geeks and it shows in our look and sound. We kind of stick out like a sore thumb compared to all the rock /indie bands you usually find in Glasgow's music scene. Unlike a lot of other bands, we don't take ourselves too seriously and try to offer something different to what people are used to seeing in the live sector.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe 'your sound'?
AF:  Energetic pop that will get you up dancing and having fun. We've got elements of pop, dance, electro and rock all rolled into one. It's about having a good time and not being afraid to look like a tit. Our subject matters within our songs can also be rather random with stalkers, detectives and Pokemon all being topics we've touched upon (don't ask). Our live shows consists of us playing guitar, synth and using backing track made by us on Garageband, it looks amazing obviously...

Kowalskiy:  Plug away!
AF:  Our next gig in Glasgow will be at the Classic Grand on the 5th of November. Nothing else has been confirmed yet about the gig but you can find out more about it (and other news) by liking us on Facebook and new info should be coming soon. Also we have a twitter account if any of you use it.

Kowalskiy:  Don't forget the SoundCloud!  So, what does the future hold for Atom Falling?
AF:  We've been discussing the idea of an EP which hopefully should be happening quite soon. Apart from that we'll just be performing in as many places as possible and trying to get the name out there. Possibly a song about Digimon as well...

What, no Battlestar?  Disappointing!  Anyway, get listening, liking, following etc, and if they float your boat, remember they'll be at the Classic Grand on Bonfire Night.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Little Kicks - The Little Kicks Kommentary

I've not really been the sort to do the whole 'track-by-track' thing other than my brief soiree into it with Trapped Mice a year ago.  It may have something to do with the fact that it involves the post going up before the release - something almost unheard of around these parts.  That being said, when Steven Milne from Aberdeen's The Little Kicks sent me their fantastic second album and asked if I was up for it, one listen was enough for me to give him a resounding YES!

The eponymous second album is out on the 26th of November but you can pre-order the album (for a limited time only) here.  Here's Steven to tell you all about the tracks, and you can have an exclusive wee listen to each below.  I'll pipe in with my two cents too...

"Our new album is our second album release –debut album (“Boxing Clever” was released in 2009). We recorded the album over the summer in Edinburgh at the Depot Studios which is a great studio space by the Shore in Edinburgh ran by Craig Ross (Broken Records/ Easy Tigers).

We’re all really excited about being at the point now where we get to let people hear the songs so it’s nice to be able to fill in a bit of background on what shaped the finished product." - Steven Milne

Intro/Anti-Work Song
Anti Work Song was probably the hardest song to get down. I remember we were going to give up on the Intro idea until it was saved by adding some weirdness by playing an electric guitar against a table through a Space Echo unit. The main song itself came from listening to old disco music that usually bases itself around one key/chord/note but has a lot of intricate parts which add up to an overall groove. Talking Heads and APB do this really well as do a lot of other more modern bands (Hot Chip etc). Lyrically its pretty self explanatory- it’s about hating your job and not wanting to be a slave to it. We’ve been starting with this live and it seems to be a good party starter.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  This funky little number shows a slightly different side to The Little Kicks than what we're used to.  Still, that's a very good thing indeed.  By the time it hits the refrain at the end, the party will well-and-truly have been started!

Before Today
I bought a Korg MS10 synth off EBay last year – I had wanted one for years. I was very lucky in that they rarely come up there and also never go cheaply but luckily for me I got a bargain (relatively). One of the first things I wrote on it was this songs main riff but the song and lyrics didn’t come till much later. It started as a really soft acoustic song almost like The National with a low vocal. I took it to the band and switched back to the MS10 as opposed to guitar and the song completely changed. It was a great example of us writing collaboratively and for the better. The acoustic version goes down well too though so were going to do a recorded version of it in the near future for a B-Side.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  Now that's more like The Little Kicks I've grown to love!  Upbeat indie-pop, insanely-catchy ooh-la-la-la's, and a huge singalong ending.  Two songs in, and already it all seems much more polished and tighter compared to their brilliant debut.  Loving the Korg too!

Making Big Decisions
Lyrically this song is about writers block as I had a long time when I couldn’t write anything and felt pretty unsettled by it. Then this song came out of nowhere one night and the words just fell into place over it. Of the new tracks it’s probably the closest of the tracks (along with “Call Of Youth”) to the perceived sound of The Little Kicks of old. We did try and subvert it and play around with it but in essence that beat and feel it has are pretty popular in modern songs for a reason. We felt it served the song better to play it as it was written – as a jangly indie pop song. I’ve been told it’s probably the one you’d most likely hear on a radio -here’s hoping that’s true.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  Steven's right, this is the Don't Give Up So Easily of the album, the track which, were there any justice in the music world, would see The Little Kicks get the widespread acclaim this album, and indeed they themselves, rightly deserve.

Loosen Up
This song took a long time to write but it is my favourite song on the album. It initially had no middle eight and was more along the lines of an 8 minute electronic jam. We abandoned that and honed, trimmed and tightened it. We went to town on the synths as every new layer we added seemed to take it somewhere else so we just kept going. We have played this song out and it seems to be the song that most people ask about to make sure it’s on the album. We managed to mix of a heap of influences together on this one including everything from Fela Kuti style drums to Blondie guitar to DFA style synths and claps. The title is the name of a club night we run in our home-town.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  This song had me nervous listening to it first time 'round.  Good nervous mind you.  It slowly builds up, layer upon layer, and you just know it's gonna eventually kick off!  When it does (and even beforehand) it's brilliant.  Another funky masterpiece!  It's easy to see why it's Steven's favourite.

The First Place
When I first demo-ed this song I never thought it would ever be playable live. In my head I could hear so much going on (brass parts alongside harmonies and percussion etc) and we are a 4 piece. This song wouldn’t work without the extras so it made our decision for us that on this record that we not be shy to add things that couldn’t be played live. Lyrically I wrote it when I was in a pretty frustrating situation and the band was always coming second for me which was getting me down. I worked in a music venue 24/7 but had no time for my own music so I was pretty downbeat at the time. We have played it live with guest brass players and it goes down really well- girls particularly seem to really like it.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  I go back to what I've said in many a post on Kowalskiy.  Steven Milne is one of, and in fact, at this moment in time, I'd probably go as far as to say, thee best songwriter around these parts.  This gorgeous , brassy, slow-burner could have been lifted straight from his outstanding solo debut last year, but instead it takes pride of place here slap-bang in the middle of the album.  Out of all of Steven's frustration has come pure songwriting perfection! 

Call Of Youth
This was the first song we recorded. We made it a single in the summer as a teaser for the new album. I guess it’s too long really to be a “single” but it was going down well live and it’s very upbeat so we wanted to share it. It has an influence from old Motown and older pop which has those kinds of clean jaunty guitars and rolling bass. Lyrically it was a bit of a dig at someone who shapes their tastes and opinions on what they think they should like instead of what they actually like. Hipsters essentially -for lack of a better word – really annoy me. It’s fairly close to the LKs “sound” of old but I think its way beefier and rockier than anything we’ve done before and a good stepping stone song for linking the two albums.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  The first single, and the only track I'd heard before I was sent the album.  'Twas a great choice to build up some hype.  From the pulsating drum beat, jangly guitars, through the singalong chorus, all the way to the haunting outro, the track perfectly sums up the album. 

Do Something New
I think bands like Orange Juice or Mystery Jets are great. This is an attempt to make one of those kinds of summery pop songs tracks in their vein. I wrote it very quickly but the band version has changed a million times before now since it was first written. It’s become shorter and leaner along the way and poppier too. The Outro has potential sing-along quality to it which is fun and when we recorded it we had fun adding Violin (courtesy of Rory from Broken Records), Moog synths and group vocals. We wanted it to be a really fun track and I think that comes across.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  If I was pushed, I'd say this is my favourite.  Is it the fact that, at many times throughout, it sounds like it's gonna burst into an '80s disco anthem?  Is it the lots of lovely, subtle layers, harmonies and melodies all intertwined?  Is it that Rory from Broken Records is there with his violin?  Or is it the great big smile that forms on your face as it comes to an end?  It is in fact, all those and much, much more!

Far Too Honest
This song comes from the same place as Loosen Up where there is an almost Latin influence to it. It’s another song that we wrote quite early on together but it wasn’t until we got into the studio and heard it back that it really came together. It’s quite moody for us and gets quite heavy but I think it’s a nice way to wrap up the record as a book end with Anti Work Song. This was the first track we wrote with our new drummer and the first example that we could write together. It started as me having a chord progression on a synth and a melody and become the finished product by jamming it out over time as a unit and was that was a big first for us.
Kowalskiy Verdict: Moody and heavy to say the least!  I love the atmospheric synth that permeates the whole track, complimenting the Latin-influenced guitars and drums.  But what I love the most is this heavier side to The Little Kicks, lots of power and passion like all things Latin should be.  Bravo!

So all-in-all, a very, very welcome return from The Little Kicks, and a huge thanks to Steven for his track-by-track walkthrough of the album.  With so much going on, so many little subtleties, a wee tweak of their usual style here and there, throwing in some brass, string and synths, I can imagine it'd be easy for things to become over-complicated and simply not work.   No such problem for The Little Kicks though.  They have absolutely nailed it! 

The Little Kicks' self-titled second album is out on the 26th of November.  If you like the track previews above, then you can pre-order the album here.

K&A with The Hazey Janes

You'd be forgiven for thinking it was 'Dundee Week' on Kowalskiy.  Following on from our introduction to newcomers Vladimir, it's time to hear from some Dundonians who, if their latest album is anything to go by, are very much in their prime... The Hazey Janes.  The Americana-infused indie affair, The Winter That Was, is their third full-length release and it's an absolute joy to listen to.  It's one of their rollicking power-pop moments Carmelite though, which is the first track to be released (for free here).

I spoke to Andrew and Matthew last week, and here's what they had to say for themselves.

Kowalskiy:  Who are The Hazey Janes?
Andrew: Live, The Hazey Janes are:
Andrew Mitchell: Electric guitar and vocals.
Alice Marra: Acoustic/electric guitar, keyboards and vocals.
Matthew Marra: Bass guitar.
Liam Brennan: Drums and vocals.
Matthew: We'll occasionally call in some of our talented friends to perform with us, for the album tour we're going out ourselves.

Kowalskiy:  Who are your main influences, and how would you describe 'your sound'?
Andrew:  There's so many musicians/groups and changes in our lives that have had an impact on us, it's quite difficult to narrow it down to just a handful here. Chords and melody are generally at the forefront though. I've heard 'Indie-rock', 'guitar-pop'... even 'folk-rock'.
Matthew:  I think we've been a band for long enough that we don't really have the same big musical influences that we used to. We're probably more influenced by each other, our friends and our surroundings.

Kowalskiy:  You're back with your new album The Winter That Was next month on Armellodie. What can fans, old and new, expect from it?
Andrew:  Brass, strings, choirs, reverb, melancholy, synthesizers, and, of course, lashings of distorted guitar!
Matthew:  It's not a massive departure from our earlier stuff but I think long-time fans will hear a progression. The songs are a bit more open-ended and open to interpretation. It's slightly darker in places which seems natural as we get older.

Kowalskiy:  What's the plans to tour the album?
Andrew:  There's still a few dates to be confirmed, but the Scottish leg starts on October 18th in Glasgow at the Captain's Rest, then reconvenes with a second run in late November, promptly followed by English dates after that.
Matthew:  We have a week of shows preceding the release of the record, then we'll head out again once people have had a chance to hear it. It's nice to be visting places all the way from Thurso to Brighton. The full list of dates can be found at our website - www.thehazeyjanes.com

Kowalskiy:  What would be your ideal gig?
Andrew:  Something along the lines of Guided By Voices, Deerhoof, St. Vincent and Philip Glass?
Matthew:  I'd have to go with us, then Julee Cruise and Chris Isaak backed by Sun Kil Moon. At the Roadhouse in Twin Peaks!

Kowalskiy:  What's been The Hazey Janes' highlight so far?
Andrew:  We've been fortunate enough to work with some exceptional producers and engineers in great studios, but one of the main highlights, because of what it represents, would probably have to be the release of this new record, I think.
Matthew:  Playing a sell-out show with Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles and Velvet Crush in Austin, Texas was pretty special. That and visiting New York for the first time. We never thought our music would take us there.

Kowalskiy:  In the press release from Armellodie, you're described as 'Dundee's finest exports'. Are there any other local bands we should be looking out for?
Andrew:  The city's always a reliable source of great musicians, artists and creative people: Avast!, Spyamp, Pensioner, The Stranger's Almanac, Rush Hour Soul, Doomlords... the list goes on.

Kowalskiy:  What else do you have planned for the future?
Andrew:  We've got a few ideas for the next album already, as in where we want to go from The Winter That Was - I think we'll probably start demoing early next year.
Matthew:  Yeah, we want to get on to the next record as soon as possible. We've also got a collaborative recording project in the pipeline which we're looking forward to.

Kowalskiy:  Any words of wisdom you wanna add??
Andrew:  Eh... I was once recommended Berocca and vodka?
Matthew:  Music is joyous and the rubber bit from a Grolsch bottle makes an excellent strap lock for your guitar.

I couldn't agree more. The music part that is, especially this album.  I'll let you be the judge of the other two!  You mix Berocca and vodka at your own risk though.  Sounds lethal!  Here's one of the standout tracks You Only Stand To Lose If I Stay to help you make your own mind up about the album.

The album is out on the 24th of October via Armellodie Records, but you can pre-order it now over here

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Before you say it, I whole-heartedly agree.  These folk who go by an Eastern European alias really ought to get out more...

...and it's just as well that these four guys from Dundee have been doing just that.  Vladimir only formed in April this year, but in the short space of time since, they've been building up a reputation as the 'city's noisiest band' producing 'one of the most violent sounds to come out of Dundee in recent history'.  As someone who's had the privilege of being on a night out in one of the City of Discovery's famed hotspots, believe me, that's saying something!

Their debut EP (available from the band here) hammers home these claims with some gusto.  Throughout, there's a visceral flow between tracks, in what is a restless, menacing, and downright-brilliant EP.   The cover artwork serves as a pre-warning.   These five tracks will grab you by the throat and have you gasping for breath by the end.  And if you don't believe me, take a look at the minimal respite on offer in the Soundcloud bar below for their 'mellow' effort!

   Mellow by Vladimir

Here's the band to tell you a (little) bit more...

Kowalskiy:  Who are Vladimir?
Vladimir:  A chaotic noise ripping through the UK.

Kowalskiy:  How would you describe 'your sound'?
Vladimir:  A number 1 hit getting the shit kicked out of it.

Kowalskiy:  PLUG AWAY!!
Vladimir:  We have an EP out which you can get at the following link and also have a Facebook page.

Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from you in the future?
Vladimir:  Our faces to be everywhere you go.

Short but sweet eh!?  With their debut EP though, Vladimir are very much a band who let their music do the talking, and you'll be hanging on every word!

Upcoming Gigs
8th Oct - The Bay Matinee Show, Glasgow (Facebook)
14th Oct - The Cape, Stirling
27th Oct - Henrys Celler Bar, Edinburgh
29th Oct - B.A.A.D Halloween Extravaganza, Glasgow
4th Nov - The @bar, Montrose