Thursday, 29 November 2012

Battle Of The Bands: Round 10

Welcome to the blow-by-blow summary of last night's tenth round of Battle Of The Bands, the Scottish music contest with more staying power than Ricky Hatton.  Going into this latest duel, Neil from Scottish Fiction and I were once again neck and neck.  You can see the full, tweet-by-tweet slogging that went on using #battleofthebandsround10 on twitter.  

With Neil's victory in the last round courtesy of the lovely TeenCanteen the series was once again level at four wins apiece.  My lone wolf Arran Arctic can hold his head high though.  He fought hard... and has a superb new album called Like Lovers out now... here!    This time around, I went for strength in numbers and roped in The Winter Tradition.  I later found out that Neil had gone down the lone wolf route with his choice Shambles Miller.  Could the shambolic duo's alliance conjure up the first away win of the series? 

You'll find out soon enough, but first, here's a quick recap of the rules.  You can of course read them in full over here.  This round, I had home advantage and picked the three attributes we'd be using.  For each of the three, the person with the highest value gets one point.  Both get a half-point in the event of a draw and losers get a big, fat zero!   I chose SoundCloud Tracks, Twitter Follow Ratio and Band Name Scrabble Score.  As ever, all stats were correct at the commencement of battle.

Right, here's the all-important stats.  Seconds out, Round 10...

Home turf proves crucial again!  Despite the early slip-up with the SoundCloud Tracks, Team Kowalskiy ran out 2-1 victors thanks to The Winter Tradition's impressive Twitter Follow Ratio, and the fact that, much to Neil's disgust, an 'L' is only worth 1 point in Scrabble.  With that, the series I've opened up a one-point lead in the series once again.  And that was without me using the contentious fact that my guys have technically been together for 10 years albeit in their previous incarnation The Void. 

But, by now you know it's not about who wins... it's all about the two artists taking part and the lovely music that they make!  So let's kick off the gratuitous plugging with my boys, The Winter Tradition. Earlier this year they released their debut album Gradients (which you can buy here!), and they've just released the video for one of the album standouts Tides and Telegrams.

There's two more chances to catch them live this year.  On the 29th and 30th of December they'll be playing with Flood of Red at The Third Door, Edinburgh and Broadcast, Glasgow respectively.  Tickets for both can be bought here.

Shambles Miller-time now!  He's long been a friend of the blog, and will continue to do so (even though he's in league with the enemy) if he keeps producing songs like his new topical gem, entitled Chris Brown is a **** (and Mike has some issues).  Which you can of course download for free.  As well as that, you should all go and buy his most recent single Confessions.  It's well good!

In two weeks time, prepare yourselves to witness the first away win. That includes you Neil!!

Friday, 16 November 2012

K&A with The Colourful Band

Now that's some stellar artwork there!  This is of course the debut album from Edinburgh's The Colourful Band.  It's been just over two years since the release of The Colourful EP with only (I say "only", it was a belter though) a solitary new song on one of my free monthly EPs in the meantime.  But, for the last month or so, the man behind the band, Ian McKelvie has been sowing the seeds of anticipation ahead of this album's launch with regular, teasing updates by email or Twitter regarding it's release.  So when it did finally appear in my Inbox, I was itching to hear it.

The album is a sheer delight from start to finish, and given the cold, grey days we're experiencing at the moment, the songs on it give that little, welcome blast of warmth and colour.  The album title (and I guess the band name too) couldn't be more apt.  Always The Summer and personal favourites Into the Bright Sun from Shadow and New Town Girls should all serve to prove my point.  The latter track also appears on their previous EP, as do just under half of the songs on offer here.  But whether you already have that or not, you're in for a treat.  In both the old and the new, it's apparent to all that Ian himself is a master storyteller.  Throughout the album you get a strong sense that in each and every song, he's reflecting on past experiences, such are the little intricate details.  Some of those, and the odd little 'pop culture reference' can't help but put a smile on your face.  

Anyhoo, it's about time we heard from him, so here's what Mr. McKelvie had to say when I asked him a few questions.

Kowalskiy:  Who are The Colourful Band?
Ian:  The Colourful Band is the name of the music project I started about 4 years ago.  I tend to write, record and then play either solo or with a band.  For the full band set-up its me on acoustic guitar and vocals, Steve Tonge (K: he of Supermarionation fame) on bass, Jon Tyler on electric guitar, and Fraser Stewart on drums.  We spent most of last year playing as a band, but with Dave Curry or Dave Steele sitting in on drums. Steve and I are going up to Aberdeen on Saturday to play Cellar 35, just as a two piece as that's who is available, but that's how we do things in TCB.  The next thing we have to do is play in Edinburgh again, as its been two years since the last time, then it would be nice to go play Newcastle again or somewhere new.  We played The 13th Note in Glasgow on Sunday as a four piece and it was our best performance so far.

Kowalskiy: You've about to release your self-titled debut album.  How would you describe it?
Ian: The new album has been a long time coming. I picked my strongest material from the last few years and decided to put out an album.  I would describe it as indie pop singer-songwriter for the most part, there are some folk songs as well. 

Kowalskiy:  It features tracks from your EP which came out in late-2010, along with a fair few new ones.  So how do the new tracks compare with those from the EP?
Ian:   The new songs were written either in a flat in Glasgow or a little cottage outside Edinburgh where I was living last winter.  I think some of them are very like the earlier tracks, but according to some the lyrics are post-modern. Which I had to look up.  What did you think?

Kowalskiy:  Would that make them futuristic??  OK, I have no idea what that means.  Anyway, some of the songs and stories on the album take you on a wee tour through Scotland, from Glasgow to Edinburgh and up the East Coast.  How influential are your surroundings when it comes to writing your songs?
Ian:  The songs are shaped by whatever I'm doing in real life at the time of writing. When I'm pissed off I usually write on the electric guitar and the song comes out as indie or even late 70s PUNK.  If I'm blue I will usually end up writing a folk song on the acoustic. So its hard to write the same kind of song every time, its more about externalising and therefore dealing with whatever is going on. In many instances it has been work and the hours, driving about, and general shit that life throws at you. For example, I was driving home from Manchester with a song in my head one night, and wrote the lyrics down on my mileage form when I got back to Glasgow. Then when I was doing my tax return I found the lyrics, and just wrote the music when I was taking a break.  That's the second song on the album. It was originally called "Are You Waiting For Someone To Take You Home?" but I thought it sounded a bit like The Buzzcocks, so I shortened it to "Are You Waiting?"

Another song I wrote when I was freezing in my flat in winter was going to be called "Because The Heating Does Not Work In This Flat", but I settled on "I Want To Go Home" because that's the chorus and it sounds a bit pretentious the other way, and less like a title.  There's another song called "Getting Famous Is Easy" which basically is my take on being a grassroots singer songwriter, and the lifestyle that goes with it.  I guess this is sounding fairly self-referential. But its basically a case of write about what you know. And I just went for it.  My mate Andy says I sound like a spokesman for how disaffected your average early thirties male is with modern Britain.  You do the exams, get the degree, get the job, and then life is just boring. Or maybe I'm just in the wrong job. That's why I write music.  In a nutshell, if you feel like this, you're not alone. That's where most of it comes from.  That, and the fact I travel around the UK a fair bit with my job.

Kowalskiy:  What would be your ideal gig? 
Ian:  Ideal gig, I would have to say with the band, CBGB, Ian Dury opening, then Neil Young, The Sex Pistols, then us, ha ha!
Kowalskiy:  What can we expect from The Colourful Band in the future?
Ian:  The future? Next album will be classic country rock I promise. Can't tell you more than that.

Kowalskiy:  Last one so it's a wee bit topical... and I'm taking a bit of a punt given one of your tracks is called Easter Road, but you're a Hibs fan yeah?  If so, can the Hibees win the SPL this year?
Ian:  I'm not a Hibs fan, but there is every chance they could.
Kowalskiy:  Nae chance mate! 

So, the album is out this Monday, the 19th of November.  You can get your copy in Avalanche if you're in Edinburgh.  If not, then it'll be on all major download sites soon after.  Also, as Ian said above, on Saturday (i.e. tomorrow) him and Steve will be playing Cellar 35 in Aberdeen.  So if you're at a loose end tomorrow night...

Kowalskiy's Free Monthly 5-track Scottish EP #29

Time now for the 29th of these free monthly EPs.  I hadn't noticed, but there's been a few wee themes developing recently... my artwork is making less and less sense, there's been a few more cover versions than usual, and I've been including a fair amount of previously-released singles to give them a well-deserved extra plug.  So, I hope you've been enjoying that wee mix of tracks, because this EP is no different.   We even have a repeat offender who you may remember from last month...

1.  Saint Death - El Metro (Hot off the press!!  This beauty was recorded last week and mixed last night.  Hope you all appreciate the lengths these guys went to for you!)

"El Metro by Saint Death. a post-rock instrumental roar from the grimy suburbs of Glasgow. This track was created for this months Kowalskiy release; for even more melodic whitenoise like this, go to Saint Death or  Thanks for listening." - Ivan (Saint Death)

2.  Plum - Smile (Early Version) (This is an early version of the lovely Plum's new single which is out on the 19th of November.  Hopefully this will keep you entertained until that's out, along with it's Teklo collaboration B-side.)

"Smile was an important track from the start. The subject matter of the track is really dark, so I needed the production to match that. The earlier version was sadder than the final, but I really wanted it to have a lot of aggression. At the same time, I wanted the vocals to remain fairly passive. I sampled a music box to capture the childlike nostalgia to give it a creepier edge, and the early version used strings and samples from a crowd at a comedy gig. I worked with Ben Phaze ( on drum production for the earlier version, using some of his field recordings from the London Underground. We used to work together quite a lot when I lived in London, and used to play together under the band Plaze (Plum & Phaze). He's not only a great producer, but an accomplished DJ too, having masterminded the Beat Feast Collective. I like the clumsy chopped vocals being very static, but when I got the chance to work with Kyle MacKenzie (Dirty Disco/El Hatred) I grabbed it with both hands. Kyle is an incredible producer, and we chatted through a few ideas, and he had some fantastic ideas for co-production, so I'm really really pleased with the final result. This is the heaviest track on the album, but it suits the track perfectly." - Shona Maguire a.k.a. Plum

3.  Thank You So Nice - Hurry Home Tonight (A cracking non-album track from their recent debut album sessions... that make sense?!)

"This was one of the first songs we recorded during the sessions for our album Make Friends Not Money and I guess you could call it a rarity as it didn't make the cd and we've only played it live once, I think. We tend to refer to it as 'the 50s song' even though it's probably nothing like a 50s song. I've been listening to the 50s doo wop band the Flamingos lately and they have a song called 'Hurry Home Baby', so from now on I can pretend the track's real title is a reference to that." - Alex Hendrikson (Thank You So Nice)

4.  yaya club - House Of The Rising Sun (Touch of deja vu here... yes, he's back for a second month in a row with another sublime cover... this time, Darren takes on The Animals' classic.)

"Recently I conducted an experiment to see what happens when you don't drink or smoke for a whole month. On the seventh day, I found out that you get bored so I decided to record some acoustic tunes. This one here is an Animals cover, after which I went out for white russians." - Darren Vincent a.k.a. yaya club

5.  White Heath - In A Glasshouse (This BEHEMOTH of a track was released by the wonderful White Heath earlier this year.  It's well overdue a extra plug!)

"You can explore the world of the song further at and see White Heath live on the 16th November at Broadcast, Glasgow in support of Bwani Junction; the 30th November at Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh; the 21st December at King Tut's Wah Wah Tent, Glasgow." - White Heath

How's about that!?  Hope you all enjoy it.  A huge thanks to each of the artists involved in this month's EP.  All you have to do to get your FREE copy is to click the artwork above, or here if you can't be arsed scrolling back up.  While you're there, there's another 28 there crying out to be downloaded for FREE.

Now to get cracking on December's EP.   If you fancy making my life that wee bit easier, and contributing a track to one of these, then send me a wee email ( and we'll see what we can do!  

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Battle Of The Bands: Round 9

Yesterday, on our new fortnightly Wednesday slot, my blogging, musical Moriarty (a.k.a. Neil from Scottish Fiction) and I slogged it out in the ninth round of Battle Of The Bands.  You can read the entire blow-by-blow if you look at #battleofthebandsround9 on twitter.   Or just read this summary... you're here now.

Having won the last round, rather convincingly, with the help of the mighty IndianRedLopez, I knew Neil would be out to avenge his artist's (Lovers Turn To Monsters) defeat.  This time, he'd have the pick of the three attributes, which has proved successful in 7 out of the opening 8 bouts.  So he went into Round 9 as the favourite... but that's why I rolled out my secret weapon... Arran Arctic.  Sure, he may be one man, but he's been around for the best part of a decade, has an impressive SoundCloud presence, and those two Cs make for a very decent Scrabble score.  I went into this round confident of an upset.

Unbeknownst to me, Neil had plumped for a quartet of lovely ladies to fight his battle for him.  Hear that people... he let four girls do his dirty work for him.   Shame on you!  I must say though, it was four very talented girls... TeenCanteen.

Here's a quick recap of the rules for those who, after 8 rounds, still don't have a clue what's going on.  You can read them in full over here.  This round, Neil picked the three attributes.  For each of the three, the person with the highest value gets one point... apart from the TOTAL attribute where the lowest score wins... just to mix things up.  Both get a half-point in the event of a draw and losers... get sod all!   Neil went for Average Age, Twitter Follow Ratio and there was a welcome return for this rule-bending TOTAL attribute not seen since the first round.  Disclaimer time... all stats were correct at the time of battle.

Right, here's the all-important stats.  Ding ding, Round 9...

Things were looking promising when Arran pipped the girls' in the Average Age department by a slim, one year margin.  First blood to Team Kowalskiy... but then it all went downhill from there.  After scores were levelled thanks to the Twitter Follow Ratios, Neil's TOTAL masterstroke paid off in style and he won the round by 2 points to 1.  In the end it was my high-scoring secret weapons, Arran's SoundCloud presence, 8 years of Arcticness and his two Cs, that proved to be my downfall.  Crafty Neil!

And with that, the series is once again tied. 

I say this every time, but it's not about who wins... it's all about the music!  Unless I win of course, then it's a wee bit about who wins.  Anyhoo, I'll start off the latest bout of plugging with one of my favourite artists I've had the privilege of covering on Kowalskiy... the wonderful Arran Arctic.  His brand new album Like Lovers is out on the 18th November.  It's by far his best release to date, with Covers, Armies, and some of the gorgeous instrumentals up there as his finest moments.  Now, let me qualify that by saying I'm a huge fan of his previous five albums (all repackaged and for sale over here).  They're all good, but this one is just brilliant.  Throughout, he's made a lot of use out of his clarsach (a small harp apparently) and that sound is as refreshing as the ice-cold Arctic itself.  The biggest compliment I can pay the album though, and Arran himself, is that at times I could swear I was listening to the musical maestro Get Well Soon.  On the 18th, you'd best look yonder!

And now, onto this round's winners.  If you cast your minds back to the early days of Kowalskiy, you might recall I featured a band called Futuristic Retro Champions a fair number of times.  Well, out of their ashes, TeenCanteen sprung earlier this year.  And from what I've heard so far, which is pretty much just How We Met (Cherry Pie), they sound like they'll be every bit as good as those retro champs.   

If my snooping serves me right, they'll be at The Glad Cafe in Shawlands ('tis a lovely wee venue) this Friday (i.e. TOMORROW) supporting Duglas T. Stewart of BMX Bandits fame.  And that's about it until Round 10 in a fortnight's time!  I'm off to sign up my next member of Team Kowalskiy before Neil gets his grubby hands on him/her/them. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

K&A with We Are The Physics

Five years ago, it was impossible to be a physics student in the West End of Glasgow and not be intrigued by the strange We Are The Physics posters popping up here and there.  I did anyway.  Shortly after hearing, literally, Less Than Three of their tracks, I quickly developed an unhealthy obsession with them.  Then the years pass by, they slip off the radar and my musical taste takes a distinctly folky turn... until one day... I find Goran Ivanisevic in my inbox...

...and my geeky love affair begins again!  Since then, they've released another two cracking "mutant punk" singles in Applied Robotics and Napoleon Loves Josephine, and one of the albums of the year to boot.  Certainly one of mine anyway!  Your Friend, The Atom was released at the end of October so I caught up with the band via the very scientific medium of The Internet and asked them some questions about it.  To be honest, I'm not actually sure who answered my questions, but given I have 75% chance of being correct, I'll give Michael the credit.  Take it away Michael...

Kowalskiy: At the risk of asking something you've answered hundreds of times already... are any of you actually physicists?
Michael: No, none of us are actual physicists, but we are all genuine physics. Michaeldrum is a pilot.

Kowalskiy: It's been a few years since your debut ...Are OK at Music. Do you think you've gotten better at it, or is OK still a fair assessment?
Michael: I think we're still okay. People always want to hear of some journey when it comes to a second album, a maturing or an evolution, so I'm going to say we're exactly the same. Might even be a bit worse. No bands want to say the truth which is that they're probably still shite.

Kowalskiy: How do you think Your Friend, The Atom compares to it?
Michael: I think as much as it's still us, it's a lot more thoughtful than OK At Music was. We spent less time just hammering at our instruments and more time hammering at other people's instruments. OK At Music consisted of the first songs we wrote, and it was a case of throwing everything we had on one record, whereas we could pick and choose more carefully this time.

Kowalskiy: Are you going to make us wait four-and-a-half years for the follow up again?!
Michael: We didn't make you wait, you're perfectly capable of inventing a time machine and skipping ahead to hear the next one. Actually, if we'd had our way, this one would've been out in 2010. Unfortunately, banks don't respond well to us running in and asking for money. By asking I mean demanding. And by running I mean driving through the window with a van. Actually, none of that happened, we're law-abiding citizens.

Kowalskiy: My interview standard... what would be your ideal gig?
Michael: This is going to sound really unambitious, but I think we play ideal gigs a lot. When we first imagined doing gigs and what they'd be like, they were the ones we loved growing up - small, intimate and rowdy. A bit like Dudley Moore. So, we get to live out our ideal gig fantasy every time we play. We've done bigger gigs and they're always just a bit dull.

Kowalskiy: How geeky are you... give us your best physics joke.
Michael: A particle walks into a bar and the bar man says nothing of interest because, ultimately, everything we do is completely futile.

And on that positive note, I also asked them a few song-specific ones.  In actual fact, they have very little relevance... but here's what they had to say anyway.

Kowalskiy: Your opening track Go Go Nucleo -> For Science and the album title itself, both seem to suggest that Nuclear and Particle are your preferred physics fields... but which is better... and why?
Michael: It's not a competition - only the foolish reduce brilliance to lists. (That's how we get out of not answering that questions due to lack of knowledge)

Kowalskiy: The correct answer was of course, nuclear.  Tut tut!  On the subject of physics fields, I've been in and around physics for 11 years now and I've never come across Applied Robotics. Explain!
Michael: That's not a question, we refuse to answer.

Kowalskiy: Other than not being a Kevin Bacon film, what else is Apollo 11 an example of?  This is of course referring to your non-HTML-friendly track entitled  (e.g. Apollo 11).
Michael: Apollo 11, as you well know, sir, took Stretch Armstrong and Buzz Lightyear to the moon. Apollo 11 was an example of how, suddenly, the human race took a massive artificial evolutionary step in removing themselves from the planet and landing on the moon. The song's about how fusing technology and humanity can lead to the singularity and the ultimate technological evolution of the human body into a machine or, at least, a posthuman entity that requires technology to function. NBSP with its semi-colon and ampersand is HTML and causes a non-breaking space, a wee bit of blankness in between two pieces of text. So, Apollo 11's successful mission is an example of a non-breaking space between the old world of natural humanity, and the possibility of the reality of a new world where technology allows humanity to exist outside the natural limitations of the body and the planet. We were going to call it HTML On Earth though, which is dead dead funny and wouldn't have required me to drone on and on here. TL;DR - doesn't really matter.

Kowalskiy: For your latest single Napoleon Loves Josephine, you chose to immortalise this love story in musical form.  How comes?
Michael: We always liked how that wasn't actually Josephine's name and how Napoleon just decided to call her that, so it echoes the point of the song which is about mutual manipulation. It's more about how people use each other for their own personal gain, with Napoleon and Josephine as examples of that.

Kowalskiy:  And So Now We're Wrestling With The Body Politic... which politician would make the best wrestler?
Michael:  David "The Rock" Cameron. Can you smell what The Rock is cooking? Possibly the NHS.

Kowalskiy: On to There Is No Cure For The Common Cold So Don't Expect A Cure For Cancer now... I don't mean to contradict you when you're in one of your more deep and philosphical moments, but haven't you heard of the Vicks' Bullring!?
Michael: That's true. And also carefully cutting your own skin off can cure acne.
[Don't try any of these at home kids!]

Kowalskiy: Track 7... this is more of a curious one about the video... what's going on?
Michael: Which video, damn you? Are we talking Goran Ivanisevic here? I just had to check the tracklisting on my own record. I think the whole plot of the video is thH3HCVV-39ERRROR LINE 9122.

Kowalskiy: Yeah, again... never heard of this Dildonics field.
Michael: I've always had a personal hang-up about Teledildonics - I remember reading a chapter about it in a book once on the way to college and this girl I thought was really pretty sat down next to me. We'd never talked because I was me, and she glanced over just as I turned the page to reveal a picture of a massive mechanized penis. Needless to say I had the last laugh. She still never spoke to me.

Kowalskiy: Right... Scottish music Cluedo. Who done 'it', where and with what?  I'll leave the 'it' up open to interpretation.  Don't get me sued!
Michael: Professor Green, in the TITP campsite, with the Benzo Fury.

Kowalskiy: Not really related to your song Eat Something, but what's your opinion on the recent findings that chocolate consumption is directly related to your chances of becoming a Nobel Prize winner? SUBQUESTION... if there were to be a Nobel Prize awarded for music, who'd win this year?
Michael: My opinion is that if it were true, I'd have all the Nobel Prizes. We should win the Nobel Prize for music because we've successfully managed to be awful for many years with only the truly enlightened noticing.

Kowalskiy: All My Friends Are JPEGs seems to be a dig at various aspects of social media. Care to go into more more detail, and also explain why constant Farmville requests from people you never even spoke to at school wasn't mentioned in the song?
Michael: It's not so much a dig, I just don't enjoy going out and having every moment captured on camera. You see groups of people emulating having a good time for the camera rather than actually, you know, having a good time. It's all become a bit like our online personnas are the ones that truly count and it's more important to show that we've had a good time on Facebook than to genuinely have one. It's a worry that eventually these online lives will be the ones that we're working in our real lives to maintain, the digital image of ourselves being more important than the physical. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but we're in a rubbish transition stage where nothing's validated until it's been liked on Facebook.

Kowalskiy: Given the recent Scottish interest in The Great British Bake Off, what's your recipe for the perfect Junkie Bun?

Kowalskiy: Are you planning a John Travoltage counterpart to Olivia Neutron Bomb for the next album?
Michael: You're the one that I watt. You are the one I watt. Ooh ooh ooh frazzle.

Powerful stuff!  So, I hope that gives you a bit more insight, not only into their warped minds, but into the album too.  It's frenetic, fast-paced and offers very little in the way of respite.  And I'm pretty sure a lot of the subject matter violates the laws of physics themselves (should've known they weren't physicists!).  But all that is what makes it such an outstanding album... which you can of course buy here