Monday, 28 July 2008

Dananananaykroyd: Eurovision Contenders?

It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for lug-puncturing melody merchants Dananananaykroyd. Over the last 24 months, the Glaswegian sextet have been advocated by the slaver-strewn quills of the UK music press, undergone a string of momentum halting line-up changes, found the time to tour – and, in the case of bassist Laura Donaghey, even proposed nuptials with Sunderland’s indie kings The Futureheads - only to see their record label go bust on the eve of their debut EP’s release.

Having faced such turbulent vicissitudes in a thus far brief career, it would be entirely understandable to find the group looking no further than the proverbial next meal. Yet when I get chatting with 22 year old frontman Calum Gunn, it seems the band has its eyes on a belly-bulging banquet. Or to be more precise, the Eurovision Song Contest.

“Oh, I would definitely play Eurovision,” says Calum. “Someone needs to do something different. What was it last year with those folk who dressed up as flight attendants?” I shamelessly display my knowledge of all things Eurovision by revealing it was stomach churning pop-suckers Scooch. “Aye, that’s them – they were absolute idiots… I think I’d definitely have to wear a monocle though - we would need to be in full British costume to get the point across.”

Such bold – and somewhat tongue-in-cheek - declarations are, of course, the token sound-biting responses of today’s modern young gun-slingers, yet Dananananaykroyd are different; somehow you find yourself believing their every word. Perhaps it’s down to the band’s unhinged live performances where chaos brews menacingly like a bubbling vat of acid, or maybe it stems from the yelping, chugging triumph of inaugural EP Sissy Hits. Whatever; there’s certainly no denying this mob of rock-glazed chancers have both the audacity and ability to surpass even their own expectations.

Yet it’s been far from an easy ride. After garnering critical acclaim for advance copies of Sissy Hits back in January, the band’s label Jealous Records suddenly collapsed prior to the record’s nationwide release. “It was quite worrying when it happened – we had a wee bit of a crisis where everyone was phoning each other and screaming ‘what’s going on?!’” explains Calum. “Luckily [London-based record label] Holy Roar came to the rescue, but then the pressing plant went into liquidation and we ended up thinking it was never going to happen. In the end it turned out okay.”

Some would say it’s turned out more than just okay. Religiously followed by an ever-growing gaggle of adrenaline-hankering teens, Dananananaykroyd seem to have been on the cusp of success for as long as they’ve been around. Despite such adulation, Calum insists the band feels under no pressure to pander to the mainstream: “We’ve not bowed to any requests to be softer and we’ve got to this nice happy level where we’re just doing what we’re doing. We’ll just see where it takes us on our nice long tour of, um, everywhere!”

So where does Calum envisage Dananananaykroyd’s so-called “moronic” brand of “idiot rock music” will carry them to in the next 12 months? “It would be great to play Japan and places like that, but we would really just like to play to more people and be doing the same thing without having to have a job,” he declares before quipping: “And, of course, we want to be selling tickets for £36 and programs for £15. We wanna keep on rocking in the free world, yeah!”

First published here

El Padre: That's Not My Name....

Despite a loving embrace from globe-conquering hip-hoppers, the pseudonym is much derided in today’s bourgeois indie circles. Keeping it real’s all part of the deal and, unless you’re after a one-way ticket to attention-starved oblivion, that tight little package your band earnestly plugs had better not include any weed-induced appellations. So when I chew the fat with El Padre’s entitled guitarist/vocalist Bobby Steve Jacksonson it’s a shock to discover his mammy didn’t christen him so.

“One day, a long, long time ago when the old version of El Padre was falling apart, I renamed everyone and came up with [Bobby Steve Jacksonson] and when the day came to stop using it I thought: ‘na, na I’m keeping that’,” Jacksonson explains. “Now I kind of like the anonymity of it all.”

Completed by the equally well-monikered Beat-á-Maxx [Beats/Vocals] and Papa Flash [Guitar/Vocals], El Padre’s synth-centric furore of jay-walking lyrics and rumbling melodics has been striking a dagger deep in the heart of po-faced fashionistas since the current line-up coagulated just over a year ago. A spate of doom-saying tracks like electro-ballad Monsters In The Blue certainly bely the trio’s playful disposition but Jacksonson is eager to stress that any perceived dolorous moping is unavoidable.

“I want [El Padre] to be fun but it’s very hard to write a happy song with synths,” he says. “When you introduce synths you’re treading into weird territory - you’ve got to do it really well. I guess some of the lyrics are very, very sad but it’s just a bleak way of saying something nice. It really annoys me when you hear that band who wrote that song about dancing to Joy Division (that'll be the Wombats - Ed). I mean, who actually has the audacity to write a song like that. They’re just a terrible, terrible band.”

Having fervently established those not on the group’s hitlist, Jacksonson unveils who tickle their electro-shock fancy: “There’s a huge influence coming from Scotland. The three bands who quite accurately form our sound are Errors, Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad. El Padre’s really a combination of different styles: Beat-á-Maxx has a lyricless, electro project whereas Pappa Flash is in many, many strange and wonderful bands. Hopefully, he’ll get a wedding gig soon – that’s where the money is and we could do with some new gear.”

Jacksonson’s own solo work is a skewer of introspection that flickers to the tune of dreamy acoustica, far removed from El Padre’s oceanic depths. So how does his work compare to El Padre’s motorway-rolling sonics? “It’s the kind of thing I do for myself, the things I relate to,” explains Jacksonson. “In [El Padre], Beat-á-Maxx is the one who does the sounds and I’m just an instrument for that. I really like that, I like being able to write lyrics for chords I normally wouldn’t produce myself.”

With fingers buried deep in a multitude of pies, surely it’s time for the trio to refocus as one singular unit? Unsurprisingly, Jacksonson disagrees: “Well, right now, we’re working on one of Beat-á-Maxx’s projects which has something to do with twin peaks – it’s a Dr Dre influenced electro song called ‘The Owls Are Not What They Seem’. As for me, I’ve done a poem called a Πem, where the first word of each line is three letters long, the second one letter long and the third is four letters long – you know, 3.14? It could go on forever.”

Much like that age-old mathematical constant, you get the impression El Padre’s possibilities are endless.

The published version of this feature can be found here

T In The Park Diary - Part 2

News of Saturday night's stabbing at T In the Park (TITP) won’t surprise those who've denounced the 15-year-old festival as an uncultured Ned extravaganza. But, as anyone who spent more than a minute in the presence of 80,000 revellers yesterday will testify, this is a tragic one off. Aye, a gaggle of Scots after an ale or twelve can be an intimidating proposition but the vast majority are here to get off their tits amidst a backdrop of sweet (although sometimes very sour – step forth Mr Will Young) music. And the few who're not? Well, they're the sort of cunts you get everywhere, be it Balado, Glasto or outside your local off-license.

Now, I'm not here to stick up for Geoff Ellis, DF or the Scottish booze behemoth that is Tennent's - all three are more than capable of doing so themselves with much more professionalism than I ever could - but TITP, despite its many detractors, is a welcoming, all-embracing festival devoid of snobbery and fizzing with bubbles of lager-induced character. For one appalling incident to overshadow the entire event would be a sorry and entirely unworthy way to remember what's shaping up to be another cracking weekend and, perhaps sensing the story may no longer be how many litres of alcohol they've consumed in 72 hours, today's frolickers have begun the Sabbath exactly as they finished last night: Pished.

For some reason, I'm a little more delicate; yesterday's booze-drenched hilarity is wreaking havoc on my puny excuse of a nervous system, leaving me frustratingly dehydrated in the heat of a sweat-invoking afternoon sun. So, it's with not much more than a shuffling of foot that I enter The Pet Sounds Arena to find local jingle-spurters 1990s kicking off today’s proceedings. The trio's hi-NRG power-pop appears to be flavour of the month with a soiree of checked-shirt fashionistas whose achingly nimble limbs combust to the sound of clunking guitars chopping over a rash of pitifully composed couplets (seriously, you should hear the kindergarten mutterings of ‘The Box’). Sensing this is not exactly the tantalising Sunday brunch I’d envisaged, I make a speedy retreat to Camp Media for a hangover-quelling feast of sausages, wine gums and olives.

Belly filled and sweats adequately contained, Southampton quartet The Delays are next on my agenda. Not being so clued-up on the group's forceful symphonic pleadings, I toddle along with a fellow scribe who irritably informs me their set is top-loaded with cuts from new long-player Everything’s The Rush. In all honesty it makes no odds to me, every track sounds exactly as follows: pristinely polished indie-fizz accompanied by a terse falsetto that never quite manages to touch base. All in all, it's a bit meh yet bizarrely a vast crowd of scenesters buzz about the tent like bluebottles would a freshly laid jobby. It's a curious sight indeed, but once some oh-so-cunny funt blurts out ”That's not my name” every time a pal hollers - what I presume is - his birth-name, it doesn’t take long to establish the excrement they're awaiting is head-fucking chart reprobates The Ting Tings.

Quickly deciding this basal-needs pandering scuzz-pop definitely ain’t for me, I head back to the media bubble to find a group of hacks deliberating over whether some lusciously-locked fella chatting up TV presenters is a celebrity or not. This riveting conversation concludes with one journo shamelessly showing off an uncanny knowledge of all things Friends before we form a huddle and brave the scorching (well, warm) Scottish sunshine to catch Battles at the Pet Sounds Arena. An incessant wrath of disorientating chaos, the New Yorkers’ performance perfectly encapsulates the essence of the TITP audience: utterly fucked but somehow pulling it off with guile and panache. The jitterbug machine-gunnery of ‘Atlas’ is, of course, an enraptured crowd favourite but ‘Tonto’ and ‘Tij’ feel better suited to today’s surroundings, so blistered and fragmented are their prog-styled leanings.

Glands now completely free of yesterday’s boozing, I grab my first pint before failing to impinge upon a rammed King Tut’s Stage for Vampire Weekend. Slightly disheartened, I stop kicking my heals and scoot along to The Futures Stage where New York combo Yeasayer are setting up their effervescent shop filled with tribal rhythmic treats. Having fingered my way through a distinctly mixed bag of recent live reviews I’m not expecting much but, frankly, their set is a revelation. Speckled with glorious rays of sun-soaked melodies, tracks like the dewy saunter of ‘Wait For The Summer’ and ‘2080’’s evocative séance are heart-moistening blushes of cascading drums and slinking effects that elate the spirits of the few who’ve come to greet the band’s harmonious endeavours. It’s a joyous, transcendental affair and it’s with a new found skip and a hop that I make a dash for The Relentless Tent with high hopes for DiS faves Johnny Foreigner.

After hearing the Brum-based trio before even reaching said tent, my lugholes are quickly bludgeoned by a swathe of zealous guitar and furious percussion once inside. The levels are far, far too loud and although I’m sure “JoFo blew the roof of that Mofo” (or however you kids say 'were good' these days) I pick up my pipe, slippers and Wine Gums and swiftly depart to the Pet Sounds Arena, eagerly anticipating The National’s (pictured) imminent arrival. Admittedly torn between this and Frightened Rabbit’s ill-timed set at the T-Break Stage, the second Matt Berninger’s baritonal crow flickers out over the opening notes of ‘Start A War’ all inner turmoil is appeased. A staggering showing lit up by the group’s air-tight instrumentation, these Brooklyn-born miserablists flutter heart-strings with a gorgeous ‘Baby, We’ll Be Fine’ before enveloping listening ears in the thick, macabre mist of the cacophonous ‘Fake Empire’.

As the sun plunges below the horizon after triumphant closer ‘Mr November’, the only sensible way to shake off this deep-seated sensitivity is to find Holy Fuck at the Relentless Stage and let loose (although some seem to prefer cutting loose) on the dancefloor. The quartet’s filthy-funk grooves whirr from stage while incessant, scattershot effects hop-scotch their way into the burning rubber of fleet-footed soles, demanding all bow down to the quartet’s artillery of blitzkrieg beats. It’s a hyperactive ransack of a show that cuts rug quicker than Speedy Gonzales on a carpentry course and, at just thirty minutes, sadly lasts just as long. So, with TITP’s final curtain soon set to draw, it’s decision time. Who’s it going be? Primal Scream? R.E.M.? The Prodigy? Nah, somewhat foolishly I put my money on Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM) at the Pet Sounds Arena.

With the headliner only this morning announced, a substantial congregation arrives somehow under the impression The View are to be appearing. Thankfully they’re not, but needless to say the baying masses are nae too impressed when BJM take to the stage and a blanket strike of plastic cups once again fizzles through the air, rattling the noggin of tambourine tapper Joel Gion. Never one to swallow his words, frontman Anton Newcombe turns nasty - lambasting us as “pussies” and “cunts” – and all of a sudden things seem like they're gonna get interesting. Only they don’t. Four-thousand attendees rapidly diminish into 500 and BJM produce one of the dullest end-of-festival finales TITP has ever seen. As one disheartened punter perfectly surmises, BJM are “as bland as Salt ‘n’ Shake - sans salt” and I, like many others here, make my way home from Balado for the final time.

And that’s it: the end. It’s been a rough and often frantic weekend but I’ve survived intact and somehow rejuvenated my faith in the great British music festival, no matter the inhumane actions of a small few. So, farewell T In The Park 2008, it’s been one hell of a blast.

T In The Park Diary - Part 1

Surviving the weekend at T In The Park requires a strong heart and a sturdy liver but, judging by the multitude of urine waggling wangs that welcomes belated festival goers into Balado, such resolute functionality doesn’t extend to matters of the bladder. Quickly bypassing this full-mooned greeting of 100 shit-faced Scotsmen, I (hello!) venture forth into the Media Centre to devise some sort of structure to the next two days of ensuing chaos. Having already missed Friday's “amazing” line-up containing The Verve, The Wombats and KT Tunstall I’ve been praying Saturday's running order can muster up some sort of musical treat upon which my lugholes can feast.

Alas, the initial outlook is bleaker than the overbearing skyline. The mid-afternoon triumvirate of Kate Nash, Will Young and Sharleen Spiteri (lovingly dubbed the 'Holy Trinity o’ Shite' by certain cynics) ain't exactly tickling this rather parched scribe's fancy and a late night finale of Rage Against The Machine smacks of nowt but cash-hungry retrospection. So, what to do, what to do? Well, after a swift half at the bar and a couple of pig-wrapped sausages (seriously, it's like Christmas come early) I scarper over to The Main Stage to find Eddy Grant kicking off proceedings with a summertime splurge of dancehall friendly reggae. It's a solid opening set - consumed by ‘Electric Avenue’’s synth-bulging gusto - but after witnessing Eddy's all-too literal take on knob-twiddling musicianship I decide to refuel with some fellow-minded hacks (i.e. alcohol ravaged ex-university chums) and head across to catch Haight-Ashbury manning an almost empty T-Break Tent.

The local trio's courteous strums and beatific harmonies are pretty enough if Sunday-morning Belle & Sebasitanism's your thing but with Mr Sun nudging his sweaty coupon through the clouds it’s painfully clear the 20 or so folk nodding appreciatively in this dank cavern are obligated only through bloodline and friendship. So, with a spring in my sneakers, I mosey the fuck on out to find myself confronted by Kate Nash whining nasally from the Main Stage to anyone who'll listen (somehow that's A LOT of folk). Two songs down, and with roughly the same number of fingers plugging the sockets that allow her screeching yelps to penetrate my brain-box, I’ve had my fill and brave the trek beyond the Bacardi Tent’s pill-head mafia in the hope that Will Young can stop the rot in the Pet Sounds Arena.

Yeah I know, what the fuck was I thinking?

Whoever believed showcasing an ex-Pop Idol winner was a good idea should be forced to write a letter of resignation in the blood of their pencil-sharpened genitals. Young is no doubt a fine vocalist in the right setting (where? Answers on a postcard please) but here he’s a novelty act; an irksome, curiosity-feeding, barrel-scraping clown. And as he patronises the crowd with token Proclaimers ditties and feeble attempts at replicating traditional Scottish dance, it’s of no surprise when a flurry of piss-filled pints begin to fly stagewards. I’m sure there’re those who’ll have enjoyed his emotion-bereft nu-soul mewing but there’s absolutely nae chance his performance could be considered a triumph, begging the question: what was the point?

While pondering this conundrum and a passing security guard’s equally relevant poser “What kind of name is the fucking Pigeon Detectives anyway?”, I decide this Holy Trinity lark's definitely not for me and skip the Texas-frontwoman-cum-Tunstall-bandwagon-jumper's set to find an utterly yawnsome Lightspeed Champion going through the motions like he’ll no doubt do at every one of the ten-thousand festivals he’s playing this summer. Trying desperately not to succumb to this water-treading snoozefest, I make my retreat to the Meeja Centre where some genius/fool has left a booze-filled bar unlocked and, more to the point, unmanned. Deciding it would be rude and - at £3.40 an on-site pint - stupid not to, a few five-fingered swallies are downed before jostling through the gates of an absolutely rammed Futures Stage where Glasvegas are about to step up to the fore.

In normal surroundings the Weegie quartet are at best humdrum indie-stargazers, at worst the diabolical cousins of fellow shit-janglers The View, but none of this matters right now because what unfolds in the confines of this bulging, sweat-soaked tent is the accumulation of every arse licking tribute you’ve ever read about a Scottish crowd. The moment the Strummer-like figure of James Allen sets foot on stage this place erupts as pure, unadulterated pandemonium: a storm of plastic glasses besieges the sky, beer-titted chests are thumped with violent pride and every brogue-strained word of ‘Daddy’s Gone’ is recited like the purple tin drinker's national anthem of choice. I have never, ever experienced anything like it and as punters from all sides threaten unequivocal violence upon me for even considering penning something derogatory about their idols, I can confirm this: Glasvegas fans are fucking mental. Shame about the band.

Finally escaping the Future Stage’s baseball capped clutches after a remarkably short set from ‘The Vegas’ I find myself in the cusp of The Twilight Sad’s even brisker showing over at the T-Break Stage. Pleasantly spacious compared to what I’d endured only minutes before, the setting’s not quite tailored to the group’s chiselling sonics and tracks like ‘Cold Days From The Birdhouse’ and ‘That Summer, At Home…’ sound limper and less intense than what’s so often experienced in more intimate climes. But this is The Twilight Sad and the prerequisite of life-affirming lyricism bound by crashing instrumentation still rings true, especially as vocalist James Graham seems intent on adopting a disposition that oozes confrontation; staring rabid-eyed at the crowd while hollering feverously about “putin’ the boot in” to his petrified prey.

With the adrenaline now pumping like a speed-freaking Dwain Chambers eying up a place on the British Olympic team, I shuffle along to the Relentless Tent in the hope that Fucked Up (pictured) are as exhilarating as their expletive-strewn moniker suggests. I’m not disappointed. Led by elasticated podge-meister Damian Abraham, the Toronto-based quintet launch into a head-fucking, sensor-crunching, ear-bleeding brawl of a set that’d be entirely unlistenable on record but is absolutely hypnotic live. Central to this bewildering brilliance is Abraham. Catapulting across stage like an uninhibited flesh-hankering beast, the bearded man-mountain demands attention through sheer girth alone before shooting out onto the 30-odd revellers below, displaying a spectacular array of gravity defying acrobatics. It’s the finest, most choleric 30 minutes of the day and as the sun begins to set on a completely intoxicated Balado my thoughts begin to focus on just who to have my final dance with tonight at T.

Enduring the opening three numbers from Rage Against The Machine’s “incredible” (so say the faction of RATM loving journos who were moshing stageside) set is more than enough for me and I trek back to the Relentless Stage praying that Fucked Up have decided to re-emerge. Unfortunately, all that remains is shrieking Canadian’s Cancer Bats, whose brand of maniacal hardcore is alluring enough to hold the attention but, ultimately, as inspiring as the sound of a leaden pole being battered continuously against the temples. So, guessing it’s time to call it a day, I saunter off through the exit’s ever-expanding sea of piss and clamber on to the relative safety of a bus back to Edinburgh. After a day like this, Christ only knows what Sunday will bring...