Sunday, 26 October 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: Air France - No Way Down

For a country that’s five times smaller than Blighty, Sweden’s recent output of pretty-pink pop pickers is remarkable. Escaping the mainstream banality of - the hyperbolically bloated - ABBA, gorgeous tunesmiths like Jens Lekman, The Concretes and Peter, Bjorn & John have filtered into the hearts of both snot-nosed musos and tune-hugging mainstreamites with their clutterless, pursed lip melodics.

It’s hardly surprising,then, to find that sky-soaring duo Air France [one part Joel, one part Henrik] are yet another product of this brilliant Scandinavian conveyor belt. Their debut EP - 2006’s On Trade Winds- was a cacophonous masterpiece brushed by Tropicalia and flighty, cloud-bursting grooves. Follow-up EP No Way Down was equally lush; flooded in Casiotoned symphonies and cut-paste-splatter samples that left the palate whetting, desperate for more.

So here it is…Only it isn’t.

What’s served up on No Way Down (LP? Compilation? Whatever…) is an intermittent aperitif intended to capture that attention of the Johnny-come-not-so-latelys. By amalgamating both EPs as one rotating plastic disc Air France are offering a lifeline to those not yet on-board their voyage to widespread populism and if you’ve any sort of inclination for music acumen then clutch it while you can.

Put simply, if No Way Down was an original release it would be record of the year. Soaked in synth-heavy retrospect and enchanting rhythms, each sumptuous cut is a joy to consume. The chasmal bliss of introductory number ‘Maundy Thursday’ initially massages the lugs with a stoic 80s regalia that would have M83 blushing. However, it’s the Balearic quip of follow up ‘June Evenings’ that truly sets the standards for what’s to come.

Plastered with enchanting vocal dalliances and a pushy fanfare of brass, the track’s choleric beats infect the sombrero wearing ‘No Excuses’ and calypso infused ‘Beach Party’ (which brilliantly indulges a sample of Lisa Stanfield’s ‘All Around The World’) like an antidote-less virus. Yet, despite such chill-out protestations it’s The Avalanches that bear most influence; the crimson floating of ‘Windmill Wedding’ and ‘Collapsing At Your Doortstep’’s brick-a-brack samples both aligning with the Australian ensemble’s glue-sticking mission statement.

If one criticism is to be thrown this record’s way it’s that there’s no clear distinction between the two years that separated the release of each EP, with sheenfully produced numbers like ‘No Excuses’ and ‘Never Content’ similarly cloaked in green pasture melody. But when songs are as contagious and uplifting as the - Happy Monday’s lyric lifting (!) - title track, frankly, who gives a damn.

To surmise these 36 minutes of wonderful sonic mastery it’s perhaps best to let the child’s voice on the glorious ‘Collapsing At your Doorstep’ do the talking:

“Sorta like a dream? No, better.”
89%

Originally published here and here's a video of the luscious Never Content




Thursday, 23 October 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: Catfish Haven - Devastator

Ambivalence - it‘s what every musician dreads. There’s surely no more spirit-sapping feeling than having done absolutely nowt to invoke even a modicum of emotion in the perked-up ear sockets of the listening hoards. For sure The Kooks, The Enemy, Pigeon Detectives et al may knee-jerk bowels into the dispatch position but, Christ, at least they’re stirring something deep within; reaffirming music’s ability to unite and segment, engage and enrage, love and detest. To merely stick public opinion in neutral is, quite frankly, unforgivable and instantly forgettable.

Fast forward to the point…

As all budding, ethic-abiding journalists will testify, if you don’t know your subject you’d better swot-up. So, once Secretly Canadian-signed Catfish Haven’s second long-player Devastator plumped it’s spherically shaped self into my stereo I thought it pertinent to crack off a web-based search on this seemingly unknown Chicago trio. But after traipsing through a number of brief round-ups I touched upon something bafflingly familiar: a short critique of the band’s debut record Tell Me typed out by these very fingers.

Sardine-tinned with vertebrate metaphors and overly verbose linguistics, it reads every inch a tooth-cutting whipper-snapper’s puff piece that says little and means even less. But in those few words I can gauge at least one thing: Man, was I bored. Really fucking bored. And sadly, Catfish Haven’s latest venture into fully-fledged album churning is just as stagnant as its predecessor - if not more so.

Bland, sterile, airwave-filling, humdrum, tedious: each one a clinical adjective to be attributed to the dreary cuts caught skulking here. If you’re sceptical of such knife-sharpened evaluations, I implore you to wrap your lugholes around the album’s opening number ‘Are You Ready’ without clutching fruitlessly for the nearest wrap of Kenco-laced amphetamine. Laden with dispassionate pseudo-soul stumblings and Ribena weak lyrics, it sets an un-arousing precedent for the 40 minutes of half-baked Commitments-aping to come.

Thing is, hating this record on face value is nigh-on impossible. Tracks like the all-jangling ‘Set In Stone’ or the romper-rhythmic ‘Full Speed’ breeze through the airwaves, jovially reaching the inner confines of the cranium before skating off as quickly as they fluttered in. Such cushion puffed numbers may appear harmless (shit, some lost souls may even purr warmly during the heart-struck musings of dishwater ballad ‘Invitation To Love’) but to the well-honed senses of discerning musos they’re as meaningful as Madonna’s wedding vows.

This aural ambivalence percolates through every pore - from ‘Valerie’’s lame, key-strewn lament to the irksome baritone during closer ‘Every Day’ - and with each slow-trotting moment Devastator seems further content to linger in the chasm of insipid, chart-hankering Blues-fodder. There’s no doubting Catfish Haven have now rendered themselves a Counting Crows for the Tesco-trotting generation. Mercifully, very few will care.
35%

First published here and here's a video of said 'meh' band. Tell me I'm wrong. Go on, I dare you.




Wednesday, 22 October 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: Peter Broderick - Home

Imagine the scene: By the bar, half-full glasses of cloudy, imported beer clink buoyantly while a rabble of private-school tailored voices pay no heed to the sweet rhythmic simplicity that flickers on stage. From the crowd, an angrily bellowed “shush” forces its way back but so immersed in idle-chatter are the antagonists that these protestations are barely acknowledged. And there he is - a stool sitting Peter Broderick - with only a few fey melodies and a set of hopeful vignettes to conquer those there not only to be seen but also to be heard.

A hypothetical setting this may be but it’s a scenario Broderick’s no doubt faced on numerous occasions. See, the Portland born - now Copenhagen-dwelling - troubadour doesn’t exactly demand attention. In fact so reticent is the sound of new record Home you’re left with the impression a one-punter gig would have this shy-away mewer shaking like a frost-bitten rattlesnake. But what the multi-instrumental 21 year old lacks in fortitude he more than makes up for in charm.

Rather than forcing its way into the conscience, Home slowly glides through the eardrums; fluttering heart strings and quivering neck-hairs on its way to the stomach’s pit where it radiates a warm, omnipresent glow. It’s a record of deep-seated imagination and spark, where bubbling emotions rise to the fore and entangle amidst a ream of melancholic piano chimes and withering string plucks.

Opening gambit ‘Games’ is a perfect introduction to this aural resplendence, resonating like a sweetly intended Chinese whisper imbued with snail-paced folk strums and an incoherent, soothing hymnal chant. Follow-up ‘And It’s Alright’ is equally hypnotic; a trinket of understated delight crafted by cloth-eared percussion and hand-picked guitar that creates a blushing mattress upon which Broderick’s spectral vocal bleeds reassurance.

By now images of the dreary Jose Gonzalez are likely skimming through your grey matter like a dull, leaden rock and, for sure, elements of such picture perfect song-writing lie in the lethargic ‘With Notes In My Ear’. But Broderik’s scope of song and depth of musicianship transcends such limited confines; flourishing in a world where sublime, evocative paean’s like ‘Not At Home’ and - the spellbinding - ‘Maps’ can spiral from brittle folk tip-toeing to texturised thunderstorms of strum and symbol in the blink of a peeper.

Even in his more languid moments, Broderick illicits a dreamy navigation - impaling weeping keys on choral harmonies to startling effect during closing number ‘Games Again’ - and it’s here where parallels between Home and the output of Sufjan Stevens are concreted. For this is a record that proves mere song-penning is not enough for Peter Broderick. Instead, every element, every creaking sonic must lay the foundation for the intricate construction of one glorious, tantalising soundscape. And for that reason, we should all stand up and pay attention.
79%

Originally published here at my new home. Oh and here's a video....




Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Record Round-Up: October

During the wondrous Maple Leaves, jaunty twee-jangler Jens Lekman once mistook a conversation about autumn for Mark E Smith and - overlooking the obvious ‘Fall’ confusion – it’s easy to see why. Both exude bitter Northern blows that send neck quivering chills down the spine whilst drenching you in a storm of aqueous spittle. In fact, perhaps the only difference is that whereas one sheds leaves, the other sheds band members.

It’s fair to say, then, that autumn ain’t The Round Up’s favourite season and it’s even fairer to say The Fall ain’t red-top fawning hipsters The Metros’ favourite band. Not that Smith will be disappointed; the London-spawned quintet’s debut long-player More Money Less Grief [*] is the kind of grubby–pawed "indie" jizz-spurting sure to burst the colons of Pigeon Detective followers everywhere. For the rest of us: it’s a shameful abomination of target-market driven filth.

Fortunately, Woodpigeon’s Songbook [****] is next to enter the Round-up’s battle-hardy airspace and what a delight it is to hear the brittle whisper and fragile strum of one time Edinburgh resident Mark Hamilton. Bulging with Origami-folded laments clustered amidst twinkling, heart-melting harmonies, this is a record imbued with unpolished craft and ethereal dreaminess that recalls the early stool-bound shuffling of Belle & Sebastian and Sufjan Stevens.

Mancunian collective The Travelling Band’s Under The Pavement [***] doesn’t quite hit Woodpigeon’s giddy heights but it’s a cosy, embracive soiree of tenderised simplicity that ranges from country spangled strolling (i.M.E.A.T) to James Yorkston-like understatement (Fragments of Green). Fuller of sound but lesser of interest, French pop-rockers Arther [**] serve up a middling plateful of banal riffage and disinterested rhythms with their eponymously titled debut. Vocalist Juliette’s lingering mew is akin to Beth Gibbons in tone but the lack of imagination in the accompanying strums and strings conjures up a record that fails to break outwith the realms of monotony.

Twinkling all-girl quintet Those Dancing Days have no such issue escaping the mundane. The Swedish ensemble’s inaugural long-player In Our Space Hero Suits [***] is a dashing charge of chest-pounding brass and northern-soul swinging basslines that has The Round Up’s knees-a-knocking to the sound of full-blooded, all-action grrrrll-pop. Aye, it resembles the Pipettes-gone-Blondie but, hey, in these long dark nights everyone needs a little bit of sunshine to warm their cockles, right?

Alas, upon opening the sleeve of Emily Barker’s Despite The Snow [**] The Round Up feels all such thoughts of sunshine slip from mind. A tragic swell of organic folk, the Australian singer-songwriter’s second full-length shares roots with the plaintive storytelling of King Creosote without having the necessary charm to captivate over a stock collection of bleak and often tiresome woodland hymns.

Okay, so are all Emilys handed an acoustic guitar and drip-fed folk music at birth? Perhaps not, but having endured Emily Jane White’s Dark Undercoat [**] the Round Up’s beginning to think so. If you replace ‘King Creosote’ with ‘Beth Orton’ these next few lines of critique would be an almost exact reproduction of the verbiage spouted out about Emily Barker’s record above. So to save you the time, here it is compressed into ten words: organic folk, singer-songwriter, plaintive storytelling, without charm, tiresome woodland hymns.

Feeling like an article reborn, the Round Up decides to have a ‘compressed’ go at reviewing the new Oasis album: Banal Pub Rock Shite. Unfortunately, the ‘pioneering’ Mancs’ new record is yet to land in these grubby paws, so we must make do with the chamber-pop swirling of Ra-Ra-Riot’s The Rhumb Line [****]. Hyped to the hilt they may be but the Syracuse quintet has created a sublime long-player that apes the grandiose melodics of Arcade Fire’s Funeral. Standout number is the frothing Winter ‘05 - a track embedded with wailing viola and a harrowing, soul-plucked vocal - but so full of splendour are each of these 37 minutes it’s almost impossible to dismiss any of the blossoming cuts found spinning here. A contender for album of the year? Most certainly.

Bouyed by the almighty brilliance of Ra Ra Riot The Round Up pitches up at its final record of the month: Uzi & Ari’s Headworms’[****]. A twisting, skewering blend of percussive aplomb, Ben Shepard’s (for it is he who creates all sounds found here) third long-player is blushed with subtle nuances and inventive effect board tweaks that escalate the record from dreary lo-fi limping to elasticised ethereal sprinting. Vocally, Shepard bears an unnerving resemblance to a certain Radiohead luminary, yet so spellbinding are tracks like Patron Saints and the dazed Magpie’s Monologue that listening ears quickly find themselves lost in his hand-stitched patchwork of voluptuous rhythms.

And with that the Round-up ruffles it’s locks, double knots its scarf and braves the cold, cold breeze of Fall. See you next month!

Originally published here

Interview: Frightened Rabbit & The Twilight Sad [pt 2]


In this, the second part of our Twilight Sad/Frightened Rabbit feature, TLOBF moves on from the ‘C’ word filled spewings of Part 1 to chew the fat with Scott Hutchison and James Graham on why both bands were overlooked at T In the Park, where they think their standing is in the current Scottish Music scene and what the pair have planned for the future.

I noticed that at T In The Park you were both in small tents. What did you make of that?
James Graham:
Yip, we were in the Unsigned Bands tent. I was quite happy to play it but I saw it as a kick in the nuts because we’re not unsigned and there were bands on that bill who weren’t where we are and hadn’t put in as much work as we have.
Scott Hutchison:
You feel like you’ve produced good enough music that you could be treated as a real band and not be lumbered into one of those tents. There’s a lot of promoter politics to get a good slot at T In The Park.
JG:
It worked out well but at the time it felt like ‘for fucks sake’.

So will you be looking for a bigger stage next year?
JG:
I’d be happy never to play it again.
SH:
I preferred Belladrum, it had a much more hospitable atmosphere.
JG:
I don’t like T In The Park at all – it’s pish. Connect was good but the line-up’s shite this year as well. It’s really disappointing that it’s gone down that road.
SH:
It’s not really healthy to see your career in terms of the size of the tent, what’s important is who was there and who has enjoyed themselves.
JG:
After we’d done an interview at T in the Park I saw some band on the NME stage and I said to the guy ‘I never want to be like that’. I’d be quite happy to stay on a smaller stage for the rest of my career.
SH:
It’s quite rare for a band that explodes to ever make a long term success out of their career. I’d rather see it as a job. It’s a particularly fun one but it should be work at the same time and I wouldn’t want to have anything that I hadn’t earned. So although I thought we’d earned a stage bigger than what we got at T In The Park, we actually earned an audience there.

It’s rare to see a critical word said against you and you’re pretty well renowned on both sides of the Atlantic. Did you ever envisage this is where you would be when you started out?
JG:
I think there’s an element of luck, hard work and timing.
SH:
I don’t know how this will read when you print it but I knew when we’d made our second album [The Midnight Organ Fight] that it was really good and I expected it to make us more popular. I think you visualise where you would like to be and I’m happy where we are currently.
JG:
I wanted to be doing this and I wanted people to like the band but I just didn’t know whether the songs were good enough. The fact that people are enjoying what we’re doing is amazing. Some more money would be nice. In fact, any money would be good.

Surely you guys aren’t doing too badly cash-wise?
JG:
I’ve been on and off the dole for the past two year – mostly because I haven’t signed up for the PRS or anything like that.
SH:
Well, that’s your own fault isn’t it?!

So did you guys know each other before ‘the fame’?
SH:
I definitely knew who they were when they were at demo stage because I was playing them to everyone.
JG:
Aye, I would go round to his house and play him our demos and he’d play me his – [laughing] it was quite gay actually.
SH:
Ahh…memories. But – and this is going to sound really bummy - I actually don’t think there’s a band I enjoy listening to and enjoy spending time with as much as them. I don’t know if it’s because it started happening at the same time for us both. I remember when Alex from Fat Cat told them that Frightened Rabbit were playing at the old Stereo [Glasgow venue] and they came down to see us. Afterwards there was this group of drunken lads talking to my girlfriend and I was saying ‘what the fuck are you doing? Who are you?’
JG:
We were like [Swings arms in air and puts on a particularly impressive drunken slur] ‘Alex fae Fat Cat said we’ve got the same spirit’.
SH:
Aye, from then on we just went to each other’s gigs and I don’t think I missed a show until they fucked off to America. I don’t think I’ve heard a Scottish record I’ve liked as much since they released [Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters].
JG:
Cheers. It’s the same for us. This is a bumfest isn’t it? You do know we’re going home together after this gig?
SH:
We’ve already spooned.
JG:
[Cracks up] Aye watching The Bodyguard drinking mouth wash.
SH:
[Almost choking with laughter] Can I get a gammy?

Erm..moving on then. Do you think the spotlight is too heavily focused on the Glasgow scene, almost to the detriment of other areas in Scotland?
SH:
No, I think it’s a good thing. It’s the one place that’s constantly maintained a presence with its music scene. Y’know Dundee came and went with The View and Aberdeen never really happened either. Not too slag Aberdeen off, it’s a nice city and all that.
JG:
I’m a shareholder at Aberdeen football club.
SH:
[Shocked] Are you? Really? And you’re complaining about being poor?
JG:
Oh aye, the champagne’s on me. I’ve also got shares in Euro Disney as well.
SH:
What the fuck? Check out stock market boy. [Mimics James’ accent] ‘Oh I’ve got nae money but I’ve got shares in Aberdeen Football Club and Euro Disney’. You’ve probably got some sitting in Microsoft too.
JG:
[Laughs] I wish!

I’ve interviewed a number of new Scottish bands recently and they’ve cited you guys as the main influences in their sound. It must be quite flattering to have taken the reigns from Franz Ferdinand and stopped the glutton of slanty-fringed guitar bands we had a few years back?
JG:
I really don’t think anyone should look up to us at all. We’ve only released one record and that’s nothing really.
SH:
I mean it’s very flattering and I think it’s a more substantial well to drink from than Franz Ferdinand. I don’t really hear the influence in these newer bands - it must be very subtle - but it’s a nice shift in the way things sound and bands like El Padre and We Were Promised Jetpacks are pushing that forward. I feel like Glasgow has a bit more romance now and [looks lovingly at James] we’re part of that.
JG:
Well there’s a lot more spooning going on. Go to [Nice ‘n’] Sleazy’s one night and you’ll end up going home with someone and spooning.
SH:
[Despairingly] This is going nowhere… move on please. Please.

Have either of you noticed a change in the grassroots of Scottish Music since you set out?
JG:
We didn’t really gig about a lot so I couldn’t tell you. I’m not really sure what it was like to begin with.
SH:
I think it sounds a bit different. There was a lot of electro and twee going on and I think that….[tails off]. Actually I don’t really know what’s going on in Glasgow these days, I’m rarely out.
JG:
I couldn’t tell you what Glasgow was like but I could tell you what the scene is like in Banton [small town outside Glasgow].
SH:
So what’s going on in Banton then?
JG:
Well we’ve got a jukebox in the Swan and our drummer used to be in a band called Stone Whisper. They were amazing.

There was a lot of pressure on Scottish bands to move to London a few years back…
JG:
S-H-I-T-H-O-L-E: Shithole.

…I take it that’s not something you’re going to consider in the future?
JG:
Nah, I’d rather be miserable up here than down there.
SH:
I don’t think it’s the centre of the universe and there’s a lot of…
JG:
Arseholes?
SH:
Aye, but there’s a lot of arseholes everywhere. The difference between the arseholes up here and those down there is that they don’t see anything outside of their big, huge playground. You do put a lot of pressure on yourself when you first play down there but I would urge new bands not to consider London as the end of the yellow brick road.
JG:
I just get really stressed there.
SH:
We were playing that White Heat and I never knew the audience but the moment they walked in they oozed were proper hipness.
JG:
Like Nathan Barley?
SH:
Aye, exactly like that.
JG:
I just end up sitting in the corner trying to avoid eye contact with people when that happens.
SH:
Places like Leeds – that’s my favourite city to play in the world I’d say – have much more atmosphere and the crowd are with you constantly.
JG:
Aye, the first two rows in London are like that [wildly waves arms in air] while the back rows are just looking at you like [sits perfectly still]. Christ, I don’t know how you’re going to write that up.

Aye, I’m starting to wonder. Now you’ve grown in stature, what’s the craziest commercial offer you guys have had.
JG:
Naebody’s really offered us anything yet.
SH:
Well we had Hollyoaks and the one that’s coming up that’s really fucking big [TLOBF has been sworn to secrecy].
JG:
Nobody likes us; they’ve nae offered us anything. Nae tampon adverts or sexual favours. Although our bass player does offer them out.
SH:
All we do is sit about and say ‘Ah my life’s shite, naebody comes on to me. May as well go and write another album’. So going back to the start, that’s where the misery comes from.

What would it take the for you guys to produce a chirpy, up tempo pop song?
SH:
I would say that ours are poppier than theirs. I wouldn’t class them as pop but if you take the words away they’re definitely a bit poppier.
JG:
We definitely won’t be writing one.
SH:
He and I are going to do something together when we get a bit of time. We’ll try and take each other out of what we’ve been doing; removing me from lyric writing process to concentrate on the music, whereas he can concentrate on writing music that’s a bit quieter and a different background for his voice. That could be a pop sensation.

Is this definitely going to take place?
SH:
I’d like it to happen. My mate has a place up in Fife which is always empty so hopefully we can sort something out.
JG:
I’m up for that.
SH:
I’m up for it as well. It’s just a nice holiday for us.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Interview: Frightened Rabbit & The Twilight Sad

If you haven’t noticed, the Scottish music scene’s thriving. There’s a new sense of worth emanating from the nation’s sweat soaked venues and acts like We Were Promised Jetpacks, Broken Records and El Padre are creating sounds with the potential to shoot beyond the country’s towering trajectory and out over the Atlantic. And the reason for this tartan-clad revival? Well, there’re two: Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad.

Over the past twelve months the uniquely home-grown sonics of the ‘Twilight’s magnificent Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters and Frightened Rabbit’s equally elegiac The Midnight Organ Fight have pulled relentlessly on the UK public’s heartstrings. Forget the grating art school chic of Franz Ferdinand, these acts truly encapsulate the sound of modern Scotland: vehemently sarcastic, bitterly morose and absolutely, unflappably honest.

So in the first of a two part interview, The Line of Best Fit caught up with Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison and The Twilight Sad’s James Graham before a gig in Edinburgh during the Fringe to discuss their morbid disposition, the increased popularity of the Scottish brogue and, of course, Gwen Stefani…

Well, we’re in Edinburgh and it’s the Fringe Festival. Have you had any chance to see shows?
James Graham:
Nah, I’ve no money at all.
Scott Hutchison:
I went to see Limmy last week.

Who?
SH:
You don’t know Limmy?? Aw man, where’ve you been? If we’re talking about Scottish stuff he’s the funniest guy about at the moment. He’s got a website and he does all these podcasts and videos. It’s just wee characters that you’d definitely know if you lived in Glasgow or anywhere in Scotland really. He’s got this one character whose an ex-junkie called Jacqueline McCafferty.
JG:
[shouting in coarse Glaswegian accent] Jacqueline, Jacqueline McCafferty.
SH:
And he’s got another character called John Paul the Ned who’s brilliant. You should definitely go check him out.
JG:
I can’t afford to.
SH:
I’ll take you as a wee treat then.
JG:
Aww… thanks.

Do you need to pay? Can’t you guys play the ‘don’t you know who I am’ card and stroll in to anything you want these days?
JG:
They’d probably just laugh us away.
SH:
Have you ever tried that? I mean, it’s easy to get on guestlists but have you ever actually rocked up to somewhere and tried it?
JG:
Nah, I’d be too embarrassed – it would be awful. There was a guy going about in Glasgow saying he was our manager at one point and getting into places. Why would you even say that? You wouldn’t get in anywhere. I think the doormen just laughed at him.

Talking of japes, why do so many Scottish bands – and I count both your groups in this - have such a morbid sense of humour when it comes to lyrics?
SH:
I think Scottish life can be a bit dark and miserable. I mean it’s not California here and I think it’s been bred into us. I’m always asked if I listen to Arab Strap records in my room all my time but I’ve never listened to an Arab Strap Record all the way through.
JG:
[genuinely stunned] Honestly?
SH:
I’m not kidding, I’ve listened to about three songs.
JG:
Christ, I listened to one the other day.
SH:
Aye, it’s not that I’m not interested in them but I think it confirms that it’s an innate Scottish quality to look on the bright side of darkness. [Looks at James] But you’re not very funny.
JG:
I’m not funny – there’s nae uplifting parts to me at all.
SH:
I went round to his house the other day and it was a beautiful summer day - one of the hottest of the year - and James was sitting by his laptop in his bedroom with the blinds down and one wee lamp on. I think he’d just closed a very rude window as I walked in.
JG:
Aye so it was: YouPorn.com, I think. But I don’t really like hot weather so that was why I was sitting in my room in the dark. I just fucking hate the summer.

I hear you, especially in Scotland: a combination of pissing rain and sweaty buses equates to an omnipresent stench of wet dog.
SH:
I know what you mean. You know those t-shirts you forget to wash after a particularly stinking day and then when it rains a few weeks later the dog smell comes back?
JG:
I’ve nae idea what you’re talking about.
SH:
You’ve never had that? I guess that’s because your mother does your washing for you.
JG:
[Sarcastically] She does, aye.

Right, back to the topic fellas. Why do we Scots write such morose songs?
JG:
I dunno, I just don’t like happy songs so I wouldnae write any. I hate happy people who go about smiling all the time, pretending that life’s great. That’s just not me and I don’t think many people are like that either – the Scots are just as miserable as fuck.
SH:
I think the dark side is more interesting; no-one likes people who think everything is great.
JG:
Like that woman from the T In The Park coverage, the one who used to be in El Presidente. She spent the whole festival saying: “amazing, amazing, amazing”. Fuck Off.
SH:
Aye, amazing as a word should be used considerably less than it is at the moment. Not everything can be amazing.

There’s a fair amount of brutal colloquialism in your lyrics – I’ll use ‘puttin’ the boot in’ and ‘kicking your cunt in’ as prime examples. How does that go down outside of Scotland?
JG:
In America it worked just as well.
SH:
Yeah but your ‘cunt’ [in That Summer At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy] is quite a subtle one.
JG:
We also got away with it on the Gideon Coe session during the day. Nobody noticed at all.
SH:
We’ve got one of our songs coming up in a mainstream American TV show that has a cunt and a shit in it and they’re playing it whole. I don’t know how it’s going to work, I don’t know if they’ll voiceover it with ‘jobby’. They really hate ‘cunt’ over there and when I use it they think I mean kicking a woman in a vagina or something equally as horrid; yet over here it’s acceptable.
JG:
My mum and dad asked me about the lyrics but we’ve just never, ever spoken about ‘that’ lyric.
SH:
So, is that ‘cunt’ someone I know?
JG:
[Laughs] No, it’s a generalisation that signifies a whole lot of people.
SH:
You mean it’s an umbrella over one person so they can’t be identified?
JG:
Aye, a cunt-brella.

Have you ever seen the American website that tries to decipher your lyrics James?
JG:
Oh aye, it’s amazing. It’s a shitty website that someone’s made up and it’s got stars and shit all over it.
SH:
Is it that one that looks like a My Little Pony website or something. As if they needed to say ‘Unofficial Twilight Sad website’ when it’s covered in stars and glitter. Although, it might have been Andy’s doing.

With the brogue being ‘in vogue’, so to speak, I take it you see it as a good thing that folk here are singing in their own accents rather than using that faux-American drawl bands used to put on?
SH:
I don’t sing in the same strength of accent as [James] does but I find that when I’m singing one of their songs I start [puts on his finest Weegie accent] strengthen’ it up a wee bit, eh. But I think there’s no other way of singing [The Twilight Sad] songs than like that.
JG:
I do roll my r’s a wee bit but I never really think about it.
SH:
You know there’s these American bloggers out there who call him Groundskeeper Willie?
JG:
Aye, Groundskeeper Willie – fucking brilliant eh? But I’ve never really thought about singing in an accent.
SH:
I don’t know why I sing with an accent either - I’d never heard his band before I started Frightened Rabbit and I’d never hear Popup either.
JG:
Nah, I’d never heard Popup either, in fact I don’t think I’ve heard them to this day. Or have I? I think we’ve played with them…[ponders this for a minute].
SH:
Anyway, moving on…If I’m singing about things that are happening in my own life then there’s no way I could be honest about it if I’m singing in another accent. If I put on an American accent then it wouldn’t work at all and people wouldn’t believe it.
JG:
Aye, these songs are about us and there’s nae point in trying to do it any other way.

It’s well known that The ‘Twilights’ rose to prominences in the States before being picked up here, whereas I remember seeing Frightened Rabbit a multitude of times in various venues over the past few years. Considering your pathways, is it strange you’re now both on an equal par now in the States?
JG:
Aye we had an American release out before we’d put anything out and then we toured there for a bit and then we came here. I quite glad we did that in many ways.
SH:
It’s kind of unique to Fat Cat to be honest. So many labels think you have to work on the UK before you have a chance of making it in the States and that’s why you have the stupid pressure of cracking America or whatever. If you just go there and work like you do over here it’s probably going to happen – they fucking love Scottish music, in fact they love Scottish ‘things’. [James laughs] They do man, they love everything about Scotland.
JG:
The thing is; if there’s a buzz about a British band in Britain the American’s don’t really give a fuck. But if there’s a buzz about a British band in America then it all filters back.

You mean like Bush?
JG:
Aye, we’re the new Bush apparently. [Raises fists in celebration]Yes!

Could be worse, I’m pretty sure most folk would be chuffed waking up to Gwen Stefani in the morning.
SH:
[Laughs] I had to do this blog thing on the Guardian and I talked about pumping Gwen Stefani from behind. I’m not sure it will ever be published.
JG:
We had to do a single review column for The Skinny [local culture magazine] and we gave Bush’s new single five stars for boabin’ her and two for the song.

Okay, I’m sure Gwen’s getting the divorce papers sorted as we speak. So, how different are the American crowds to those in the UK. I’m assuming Frightened Rabbit don’t quite have the same scale as the Twilights just yet?
JG:
Nah, they’re much bigger than we are over there.
SH:
We sell shows out in the States all the time but I don’t think we’ve sold one show out over here. So, yeah, we’re doing pretty well over in America.
JG:
We haven’t been out there in a while so I really don’t know. I think the only significant thing for us, was playing the Pitchfork festival. All the other shows were pretty small, at about 200 – 300 people.

That’s still pretty good I’d say, considering I saw The Ruby Suns over there and there must have been about twenty people. It’s odd they don’t seem to support their own, don’t you think?
SH:
Yeah but it can be really random as well. There were some pretty dead shows initially.
JG:
Aye, you have to get through the shit to get to the good.
SH:
People over there find music a lot more independently than they do here - there’s not quite so much external influence. I find the NME governs what people think all too much here and they don’t really have that in the States.
JG:
They’ve got Pitchfork but quite lot of people look down on them for being cuntish to bands. They’ve been really good to us but I think there’s a lot of negativity towards them because of how harsh they can be. If you look at the Black Kids review or even the Jet one where a monkey was drinking its own piss – it’s pretty funny but if it was your band you’d be like [puts on mortified expression].
SH:
Pitchfork are capable of ruining bands careers.
JG:
Aye they are: British Sea Power got U.2 for their new album. I really think that’s worse than a monkey drinking its own piss.

Look out for part two of the interview next week.

First published here at my new home...