Tommy McAteer // Interview

Tommy McAteer is a Glaswegian singer-songwriter whose recent singles Pygmalion and Black Eyed Dog signal the start of a promotional push for his debut album, entitled ‘Down Goes the Sun’. The album is conceptual and told from the viewpoints of several characters in a narrative thread which is linked to the central concept of the changes night-time brings. I asked him more about ‘Down Goes the Sun’, his life as both a musician and actor and his character-based songwriting.

SP – You have a strong focus on characters and storytelling in your music. What stories in songs have inspired you over the years?

TM – There are so many different stories that have grabbed and inspired me over the years, but someone who especially influenced me was Andy Shauf. His albums either have one singular concept that ties all the tracks together, or he’ll spread stories over a few songs, something I’ve attempted to emulate a bit for the album, creating an arc for little characters.

Tommy McAteer live.

SP – You’re an actor as well as a musician. How do you find balancing the two?

TM – For me, they’re inseparable! The majority of my songs, especially ones on this album, are very character-based so my acting background informs it, turning some of the songs into monologues set to music, in a way.

SP – How does your upcoming album compare with your previous work? Are there thematic or musical similarities?

TM – I’ve definitely noticed a few similarities! ‘Down Goes The Sun’ feels like the next step after ‘Easier With Time’, with things feeling a bit more developed as I’m starting to find my “sound” and push my own boundaries a bit. ‘EWT’ was done in a studio with a great engineer and funding from YoungScot, whereas ‘DGTS’ is just me in my bedroom doing everything on the album on my own time with my own money, so everything you hear in the album’s come straight from me! It’s been nice to produce something that’s 100% me, though I have been difficult to work with at times!

SP – Your album, ‘Down Goes the Sun’ is a concept album. Can you describe the idea behind the concept and what led you to write about this?

TM – All the tracks are linked by mentions of sunsets and night-time, and how feelings and your mental health can almost change at night. Some of the tracks mention it superficially, whereas some are more tied to the feeling of locking yourself away at night, being in your own wee world for a while.

SP – You have released a double A-side single from the album already. Did the choice of single(s) come naturally or was there a lot of deliberation?

TM – I wish it was a more romantic answer, but they were just the first two I had done! I did them on my phone in my flat in Bristol. I hadn’t released anything in almost two years after ‘EWT’, so I wanted to put them out to show I was still going and that there would be more to come soon after.

Tommy McAteer – ‘Down Goes the Sun’ album artwork by Heather Fletcher.

SP – You have cited Nick Drake, Andy Shauf, José González and Laura Marling as influences on your music. How have these artists made an impression on you and affected your music?

TM – They’ve all influenced me in separate ways, but I’d have to say Nick Drake and Andy Shauf made the biggest impact on me. ‘Black Eyed Dog’ is named after the Nick Drake song, and is my own little tribute to him, as ‘Pink Moon’ was the biggest influence on the album in its earliest stages. The evolution that Laura Marling’s music has gone through too was quite inspiring, and helped me to try and not limit myself, to keep pushing forward looking for new sounds and stories.

SP – Are there any other contemporary artists who have been on your heavy rotation recently?

TM – I’m a huge Ben Howard fan, so I’ve been listening to him loads! There’s also been a lot of Rejjie Snow, Parcels, The Staves, Raleigh Ritchie, SZA, and Caroline Polachek to name a few. There’s just something about all of their music that just has me crawling back time and time again to listen!

SP – You are currently working with Heather Fletcher for your release artwork. How has the experience of working with her been?

TM – It’s been great! Heather’s a fantastic graphic designer, and as soon as I first saw some of her work that she’d shown me months ago, I knew that I’d want her to do the art even before I’d had the album properly created! I explained the concept to her and showed her some mood boards, and she came back with that stunning cover, it felt like she’d read my mind! Having the cover done meant I was able to visualise it when making the album which was a huge help, as it gave me something to use to glue the tracks together in a way.

SP – How is life after lockdown looking for you? Do you have many live performances planned?

TM – Once the album’s out I’m back to Bristol for the rest of this year’s training for my course, so I might take a little break from the music for a month or two, but I’ve got a feeling I’ll keep writing during that time. My favourite guitar’s still in my flat so I’ve not seen it for 5 months, so it’ll be getting played plenty once I’m back!

SP – Where would you like to see your music career take you in the future?

TM – I would love to get to a point where I have enough financial stability, etc. that I’d be able to take risks with my music and be more experimental and see where that takes me. Overall, I’d just love to keep sharing my songs with people and knowing that the songs have made a connection with people. That’s what it’s all about really.

Pygmalian/Black Eyed Dog is available to download and stream now, with the debut album ‘Down Goes the Sun’ to follow.

Tommy McAteer online:

Spotify

Apple Music

Instagram

-Sandy Power

Felix and the Sunsets // Interview

Felix and the Sunsets are a Leith based alternative garage rock band with hints of psychedelia. Fronted by Felix Christie, the band now comprise of Christie, Sean Logan and Mix Wilson. Their latest EP, ‘This Will Change’ was successfully funded by Creative Scotland and its title track is accompanied by a music video using photographs of the Glagsow Black Lives Matter protests, taken by Sinead Ferguson. I caught up with Christie to discuss the new EP, the evolution of the band and how they have remained productive over such a difficult year for many.

SP – The band has a much more diverse sound on the ‘This Will Change’ EP. Was there much of an intentional thought process behind this or did it come naturally with the addition to the band of Max and Sean and what they have brought to the table?

FC – It was definitely our intention to have a range of sounds over the four tracks. The music that inspires us covers such a range so we wanted to echo that. Although Sean is a pianist, he usually plays a Mod X which can model an immense range of sounds. He definitely brings a huge number of new colours for our palette. 

Felix and the Sunsets. Photo by Angus Bradley,
2020 .
L to R: Max Wilson, Sean Logan, Felix Christie

SP – The single ‘This Will Change’ was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd. Why is it important for artists such as yourselves to highlight these issues in your art and can you see a positive change since these events?

FC – It’s through culture that ideological myths are propagated, so we want to balance that by using our voice to challenge injustice. I think that the current system is really good at absorbing dissent and then carrying on business as usual. Although the public attention on Black Lives Matter was brilliant last year, its already being brushed back under the rug with the report that’s just been published denying that institutional racism exists. So, it’s going to be a big issue for years to come.

SP – Song-writing inspirations for you include Frank Zappa, Santana, The Velvet Underground and David Bowie. What is it about these artists which draws you to this era of music? 

FC – They all made hugely original art and moved things forward by being uncompromising. I think I’m just drawn to the 60’s and 70’s as at that time music had a more counter-cultural status. We want to take everything that we can learn from those artists and apply it to a modern sound and approach. But we listen to everything.

Felix and the Sunsets – ‘This Will Change’ single artwork. Photo by Sinead Ferguson.

SP – Your new EP ‘This Will Change’ is Creative Scotland funded. How has the experience been, both applying for funding and then executing the project with the funds?

It’s been quite a blessing to get the support. I think this was the third or fourth application I have done, but the first one approved. The process of applying is quite a lot of hours, to get the application and budget and everything as good as it can be, but it paid off. It’s just great to get an endorsement of what we do like that. 

SP – As a band, you’ve consistently released singles before offering a larger release. How has that benefitted you in terms of momentum and your promotional campaigns?

FC – Our thinking has been that each single is an opportunity to make noise and raise awareness of who we are, so better to release the EP as 4 singles and have 4 shots at getting the lucky playlist position or radio play or whatever. We’ve been really lucky with that; this EP has gained us a lot of great coverage and new appreciators. And we’ve had the EP released on Bandcamp since the 26th of Feb too, for those who prefer to download rather than stream. 

SP – You have used Bandcamp for all your previous releases. Why is this service a go-to for you?

FC – They are definitely leading the way in fair payment for artists, who basically need every help they can get right now. If you’re going to buy an artist’s work Bandcamp is the best place to do it.

Felix and the Sunsets – ‘This Will Change’ EP artwork by Lukas Christie.

SP – The current line-up has studied music at Edinburgh College. How has this experience helped you as a band?

FC – Max and I both did the same degree there and that’s how we joined forces, so we definitely wouldn’t be here if not for that! The opportunities there to level up your music making are pretty brilliant. I think studying music is a great move for anyone serious about doing it as a lifelong thing. I studied modules on jazz and musical theory for example, and although there’s so much great info online about those things, you miss out on getting feedback from people who are way more experienced.

SP – The band finished 2019 with a November headline of Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s. How much has the band missed live performances and do you have plans for when we are able to get out to gigs again?

FC – We actually haven’t gigged yet with Sean on keys, he joined just after the first lockdown, so we are buzzing to become a live outfit for the first time. We have a big gig we are looking forward to but can’t announce yet, and we also have a plan in the works to have a residency at a new venue in Leith. Our goal is to try and play live a ridiculous amount and master the stage side of music making. We want to be a live force and tour heavily in the next couple of years.

Recent single – ‘Leaving on the Next Train’ artwork by Angus Bradley.

SP – How have you found promoting your music to be during this spell of no live “in-person” performances?

FC – To be honest we learnt a lot about the digital game, we’ve used social media adverts targeting rock fans to good effect. There’s always more to learn, but I’m definitely looking forward to meeting people and audiences face to face again. 

SP – What are the next steps for you as a band?

FC – Creatively we are writing better and better stuff all the time, so we feel we have hit on a winning formula that we just need to convey to the music appreciating public. That’ll definitely mean a lot of live gigs and we will be releasing a new single every 3 months or so… 

The ‘This Will Change’ EP is available to download from Bandcamp now.

Felix and the sunsets online:

Bandcamp

Spotify

Apple Music

YouTube

Felix and the Sunsets – ‘This Will Change’ music video.

SoundCloud

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

-Sandy Power

Audiokicks – Grow // Single Review

Audiokicks released their latest single ‘Grow’ on March 6th. The song is an anthemic indie pop number with layered guitars and vocals and a strong pulse from the rhythm section. It also features an impassioned lead vocal performance from Iain Jamieson. Originally written for Jamieson’s two children, the song navigates personal growth in the face of an, at times, uncertain world.

Audiokicks – ‘Grow’ single artwork.

The song opens with a building polyphony of guitar and bass, backed up by a simple ride cymbal rhythm. The vocal responds with dynamic opening lines, which are treated by a heavy delay, filling out the remaining space of the track.

As we move into the chorus, the drums fully kick in, creating a powerful foundation for the band to extend their dynamics upward, with more rhythmic playing and added backing vocal performances.

Audiokicks L to R: Iain Jamieson, Mathilde Fongen, Gavin J Baxter and Jamie Reid.

In the second verse, the kit playing of Jamie Reid provides a stronger beat for the band, driving the song forward to an even greater dynamic shift in the second chorus, which erupts into a full-on musical explosion at the signal of the vocal push on the line “you will grow!” Jamieson’s vocal has a little grit and a lot of emotion, and it plays out perfectly in this song. The song peels back a little before a final crescendo, laden with waterfall like lead guitar sequences, echoing the stadium filling cacophony of U2 or Coldplay.

The song has an effective gradual build, bringing in additional elements as it progresses, such as the layering of backing vocals and more dynamic rhythms that move towards the big double climax at its end. It’s a short and sweet roller coaster of emotion and passion, and it’s perfect single material, ideal even for use in film or TV.

Audiokicks live.

The band itself is the lifelong project of lead vocalist and guitarist Jamieson, which has survived through various forms. The current four-piece line-up adds Gavin J Baxter on lead guitar, synth and vocals, Mathilde Fongen on bass and vocals and Jamie Reid on drums and vocals. The band has become a stalwart of the Aberdeen music scene and has used every opportunity available during the odd year of 2020 to get working on their recordings with highly regarded producer Mark Morrow. The result is a larger than life, dramatic and anthemic sound, which will provide all the sing-a-long opportunities required once feasible again.

‘Grow’ is available to download and stream now.

Audiokicks online:

Bandcamp

Spotify

Apple Music

YouTube

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

-Sandy Power

Fiona Liddell (Cover to Cover) // Interview

Fiona Liddell is a musician and podcaster who is behind the fundraising covers album ‘Cover to Cover’, a compilation featuring a number of fantastic female / non-binary artists covering each others work. The album has raised around £450 at the time of writing for Scottish Women Inventing in Music, which describes itself as “a collection of music creators and industry professionals who identify as female … working in all areas and genres of music, [and] are committed to achieving a level playing field.” I was keen to find out a bit more about the project and what can be done to help women and non-binary performers and other workers in the music industry achieve this goal.

SP – What do you think are the main obstacles facing female and non-binary artists from achieving their goals in music today?

FL – We’re working in an industry that for decades has prioritised men in all aspects. Not just male musicians but producers, promoters, and sound engineers are by and large predominantly men.

Gigs, festivals, journalists and radio stations on a whole habitually give more promotion and time to male artists than female artists. This has in turn created an industry where women are starved for opportunities and lack creative spaces in which they can flourish.

It’s also important to note that there aren’t “less women in music.” That hasn’t been true for a while now. We’re out there and we’re being denied the same spaces and opportunities as our male counterparts.

Fiona Liddell – Cover to Cover album art by Nic Gannucci of Gannucci Art.

SP – How can the music industry and wider society combat these obstacles from holding women and non-binary professionals back?

FL – If you’re working in the industry and want to help increase representation for women, seek out ways to do so in your field. I’d love to see local DJs dedicating more slots to releases from female artists or booking more interviews with them. I want to see gig promoters putting on gigs for female acts and creating safe spaces for female and non-binary performers. And I’d really like to see journalists seeking out more female artists to interview or feature.

There are a lot of organisations, such as Keychange, advocating for those in the music industry to shift the balance of gender representation, so you can check out their advice as well. These are small changes, but if we can change the mindset at a grassroots level, it could spark real change in the upper levels of the music industry as well.

SP – Cover to Cover is raising vital funds for Scottish Women Inventing in Music (SWIM), why is this charity such an important one to support?

FL – SWIM has a clear mission to create safe online and offline spaces for women in music and aim to provide opportunities for them to network.

They deliver workshops and specialised events to encourage young women to learn and get involved with music and provide real role models to inspire and educate them. SWIM are also dedicated to working with organisations or industry professionals with a poor record of equal representation and advising them on how to improve.

They’re speaking up for women and non-binary artists who can’t get into the rooms where bigger conversations are happening.

SP – What are the best ways to support female and non-binary grassroots artists currently?

FL – I can think of about a hundred answers to that!

For individual fans who want to help support women in music, the easiest way is to share female artists’ music that you like. Contact them with supportive messages and showcase their work on your platform.

I encourage people to create their own playlists. Choose your favourite female artists and share them with your friends!

For female musicians, the key is getting rid of the mindset that your fellow women are only your competition. If we spend all of our time giving into this envious and poisonous way of thinking the industry has pushed us towards, we miss out on so many opportunities to collaborate with each other.

I can’t stress the importance of supporting each other enough. It means so much when someone reaches out to say they admire your work or asks to collaborate on a project or song. Sharing or buying each other’s upcoming releases or gig tickets seems like such a simple action but it makes a big difference. We have to look at what we admire about each other and consider how we can apply their ideas to our own craft while making sure we speak openly about our inspiration and credit each other.

For male artists looking to help, calling out misrepresentation in creative spaces e.g. festival line ups, radio shows, local gigs, playlists, is so important. It’s only through working together and speaking up for each other that we’ll succeed. If we’re divided and focused on ‘beating each other’, the obstacles we’re facing now will continue to hold female musicians back.

Fiona Liddell.

SP – What are the best educational resources for learning about the challenges facing women and those who identify as non-binary in music and how to eliminate these?

FL – In line with the era of social media, there’s a plethora of amazing accounts dedicated to sharing research, news and advice for women in music as well as showcasing female artists. Some that spring to mind are @brawgalsinmusic, @popgirlzscotland, @femalemusicfocus, @musicgalspodcast and @wherearethegirlbands.

There are also a number of organisations that advocate for women in music in all fields, such as The F List, Hen Hoose and POWA Scotland. For funding, Help Musicians UK has a fund specifically for women and non-binary artists called Women Make Music.

SP – Do you think that the effects of coronavirus and the national lockdown has laid bare some of the inequalities already apparent in the music industry?

FL – Absolutely. Women have spent too long in the dark not speaking out about misrepresentation and a lock of creative spaces for women.

During lockdown, I’ve met and collaborated with way more women in music than I would have done in a year of local gigs. ‘Cover to Cover’ is a prime example of female musicians coming together to create their own safe creative space and to support and collaborate with each other.

SP – How have your own personal experiences been as a woman in music?

FL – While I have a lot of happy memories from my music career and moments I’m really proud of, it has been marred by incidents of sexual harassment, sexism and misrepresentation.

I’ve been in countless bands over the last ten years and only two featured another woman. I can count the amount of times I’ve played onstage with other female musicians on one hand. That realisation was one of the reasons I started ‘Cover to Cover’. I wanted to bring together musicians who wouldn’t get the chance to work together otherwise and show everyone there is space for all of us.

The artists involved in Cover to Cover.

SP – Do you feel that the compilation has had the desired effect of highlighting underrepresentation of female/non-binary artists in Scottish music?

FL – There is undeniably an appetite for more women to be represented in the Scottish music industry. Our mission statement has resonated with a lot of people and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Most of the press contacts I’ve spoken to agree this is an issue that needs to be brought into the spotlight. The Scotsman in particular have done incredible work promoting the album! I was also interviewed on BBC Scotland by Anna Welander.

The fact that journalists and DJs have shown nothing but enthusiasm for the album is a very positive sign. We just need to make sure this enthusiasm continues and industry professionals remain focused on equal representation for female and non-binary artists.

SP – What message would you give to an aspiring female/non-binary artists or those thinking of getting involved in music?

FL – Check out the organisations I highlighted above for a number of great resources on how to get started in the music industry. Join any online workshops for women you can find! Seek out other like-minded women in music and work with them or support their career.

Always conduct yourself in a professional manner and make space for yourself. Your music deserves the spotlight just as much as anyone else’s – male or female. Don’t compare yourself to other people too much or get envious of another woman’s success. Throw your support behind them instead and think about how what they’re doing you can inspire or inform your own work.

SP – What would you like the musical landscape to look like for women and non-binary professionals in Scotland in the next 5-10 years?

FL – My hope is that if we continue to draw attention to the problems facing women in the music industry and call out organisations who aren’t using their power to tackle inequality, over the next few years we could see more and more creative spaces with equal representation.

I’d love to go to a festival in ten years’ time and see it showcasing female and non-binary acts. I want to hear more women on the radio, see more women performing at big gigs and being given the same press as male artists.

Once again, it isn’t that there are significantly fewer female musicians, we’re already here – invite us in!

Cover to Cover is available to download from Bandcamp now.

Fiona Liddell Cover to Cover Bandcamp

Fiona Liddell online:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube

SoundCloud

Spotify

Apple Music

-Sandy Power

Jeshua – IDK // Single Review

Dundee born Jeshua (Joshua Gray) debuted with ‘Feel-So-Alive’ last year, following this up with another single ‘Waste Away’ later in the year. Latest single ‘IDK’ was released at the end of February and offers the same dreamy mixture of guitar and electronic backing as its predecessors, albeit occupying a slightly darker space. The song is a cynical observation on adulthood and careerism, identifying the disillusionment that comes with “growing up”, through the eyes of a fly-on-the-wall shop assistant. In the song, Jeshua seeks distraction from a programmed way of life.

Jeshua – ‘IDK’ cover art.

The track begins with faint atmospheric synthesisers, gradually growing in volume before the beat kicks in, paired with arpeggios in the guitar and bass. The beat is steady and insistent throughout, joined by the lead vocal as the high guitar part is left out in the verse. This sparse mix is added to as the verse progresses, layers of guitar appearing to broaden the mix alongside further synthesised elements.

The music thins out again for another verse, sticking to the descending harmonic sequence and using the same technique of layering piece by piece until we reach a climax, helped on with an insistent, repeated pedal note. The song retains its staccato pulse to the end, the tension eventually resolved by a final humble, sweet and soft-sounding guitar chord.

Jeshua (Joshua Gray).

The song has a driving tempo with a dark edge and a clean sounding production, in spite of its use of effects and synthesised elements. It is a concise burst of energy with two distinct halves, each building in a similar fashion. The quality of this track and his previous output has led to inclusion on editorial playlists on Spotify as well as garnering airplay and praise from Shell Zenner (BBC Introducing/Amazing Radio), who has commented on Jeshua’s music as being “so dreamy, it just completely took my breath away”. The rhythmic potency of Jeshua’s music is likely to cause such an effect, and this latest effort shows him further refining his style from his dream-pop origins.

‘IDK’ is available to download and stream now.

Jeshua online:

Website

Spotify

Apple Music

YouTube

SoundCloud

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

-Sandy Power

The Deep Shining Sea – Listen Up (You Talk Too Much) // Single Review

Formed in Paisley in 2018, the Deep Shining Sea are an indie-rock/pop trio who have followed up debut single ‘Girl There’s Something You Should Know’ with the uplifting and anthemic sophomore effort ‘Listen Up (You Talk Too Much)’.

The Deep Shining Sea – ‘Listen Up (You Talk Too Much)’ single artwork.

The music kicks off with John Squire style chorus lead guitar riff, which is soon superseded by the Kyle Falconer-esque lead vocal and a slinky bassline from Gareth Fairley. As the drum beat kicks in, the bass part drops in pitch and an acoustic guitar adds further rhythm. The drums provide a steady but relaxed support to the vocal, with snare rolls punctuating the end of each measure.

As the vocal croons “We can work this out together if you like” the melody elevates into the chorus, vocalist Steven Hillcoat commanding “Listen up, you talk to much, it’s you and me only facing them all”. Hillcoat explains the lyrical themes, “It is a song about two people, it could be friends, partners in crime, lovers – anyone who can relates. One person is feeling the pressure of life pushing down on them. The hate and hurt is trying to penetrate their bubble. The other is trying their best to tell them everything is going to be alright.” He goes on to confirm, “And that’s what it’s really about; that’s the message: If we stick together, no one can topple us. It’s a feeling I think we have all experienced. And now, especially now with everything going on, relying on our personal connections spans the distance between comfort and misery.”

The Deep Shining Sea.

The second verse comes in with the added flavour of a drum fill, shortly leading into a second chorus, augmented once again by tambourine and the catchy melismatic vocal melody. Following the second iteration of the chorus, the arrangement thins to just vocal, bass and sparser guitar. The introduction of a new minor chord on the end of the sequence allows for a Suede-like melancholy mood shift, which continues through a middle section highlighted by a powerful lead guitar line, segueing into the final chorus.

The final chorus plays out with a lift in energy, with a spike in reverb as Hillcoat demands, “Listen up!”. A final emphatic chord is accompanied by the guitar figure which introduced us to the song.

The Deep Shining Sea.

This is a song with a real emotional richness and a high degree of relatability for any best mates or partners who may be listening. The music is filled with lovely textured guitar, sweet harmonies and a solid and powerful rhythm section. Recorded in a day in drummer Jamie McLahchlan’s flat the day prior to moving out, the song doesn’t sound rushed at all, owing to road-testing the track in their live appearances pre-lockdown.

‘Listen Up (You Talk Too Much)’ is available to download and stream now.

The Deep Shining Sea online:

Bandcamp

Spotify

Apple Music

YouTube

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

-Sandy Power

EARfATHER / Alex Auldsmith – Be Gone With You // Single Review

Edinburgh based EARfATHER, A.K.A musician and producer Michael Davidson, has teamed up with Micro Band frontman and songwriter Alex Auldsmith for a slice of Middle Eastern inflected electronica/hip-hop. The music marries EARfATHER’s intricate, textured electronic sound world with layered percussion and Auldsmith’s staccato rap/spoken word vocals.

EARfATHER / Alex Auldsmith – ‘Be Gone With You’ artwork by Alex Auldsmith.

The groove starts with syncopated bongo/conga drums and a synth pulse with added vocal samples, processed almost beyond recognition. Shortly after, Auldsmith’s vocals attack with purpose, adding further rhythmic dynamism to the track. The beat subsides and is replaced with a foreboding bass synth, Auldsmith taking on a more didactic tone. The music builds further before letting way for the main groove introduced previously.

The music is underpinned by a 808 style bassline, working in tandem with the percussion to get our metaphorical toes tapping. The music is tightly knit, each element working as part of a whole to create an engaging, stimulating experience, as the music evolves gradually in an almost minimalist fashion.

EARfATHER promotional artwork.

This gradual evolution is particularly noticeable in the final bridge section, which sees Auldsmith’s more subdued vocal bolstered by various electronic sounds and atmospheric elements, eventually weaving into the groove of the outro, which eventually dies away, with only the electric keyboard surviving.

Davidson has been releasing music as EARfATHER since 2016, with his remix of Cape Cub’s ‘Closer’ achieving over 400k views on YouTube. This release sees him stray a little from his more dance floor oriented music in favour of a more Middle Eastern inspired electronic sound. Collaborating with Auldsmith, he has found an adept voice at getting a message across in his music. We feel like progress is being made and demons are banished as the artists move on spiritually through the music they make.

Cape Cub – Closer (EARfATHER Remix) audio.

‘Be Gone With You’ is the third single release from new Leith based label ‘New Teeth’, following on from The Micro Band’s ‘Bridge of Eden’ and Astroturf Inspector’s ‘User Error’.

‘Be Gone With You’ is available via New Teeth Records to download and stream.

EARfATHER online:

New Teeth Bandcamp

New Teeth YouTube

EARfATHER // Alex Auldsmith – ‘Be Gone With You’ music video.

SoundCloud

New Teeth SoundCloud

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

-Sandy Power

in earnest – your dog / good boy // Single Review

‘your dog / good boy’ is the latest double A side single from Southend-on-Sea trio in earnest. Recorded, produced and released by the band themselves, the songs are centred around front-couple Tom and Sarah’s relationship with their dogs Murph and Doug, and on ‘good boy’, how they are dealing with the death of Doug.

Opener ‘your dog’ begins with some lovely deep acoustic finger-picked guitar, before the dual vocals of Tom and Sarah are layered on top. The arrangement remains sparse as the duo put themselves in the mind of their dog Murph, asking, “Do you think about your parents, or the Ireland where you were born? Whatever happened to your brother? Dog-bless wherever he roams” which leads nicely into a second verse complemented by the harmonium playing of multi-instrumentalist Toby.

The front couple continue to ask Murph questions, “What’s it like to be a warrior, so afraid of the sea? What do you dream when you close your eyes? Wet harness and muddy feet?” The imagery of Murph being such a brave dog, yet being afraid of the sea is a fantastic observation. The guess as to what Murph dreams of is also brilliant at giving a snapshot into what life is like with Murph.

Portaits of Murph and Doug by Chris Asher. Single artwork for ‘your dog / good boy’.

Following straight on from this second verse is the chorus, which has a beautiful simplicity and is incredibly catchy, both singing “I just wanna be your dog, living in the moment” a number of times before moving swiftly into a bridge section, “If you find your freedom, tell me where you’d run to, would you just follow the sun? When you find your freedom, tell me where you’d run to, would you take the memory of all that we have done?” asking deeper questions of Murph and how she feels about her life with them.

The song ends with another, more subdued chorus and as the music comes to a close, Sarah calls Murph as the tape is still running. It’s a lovely inclusion and highlights the close relationship they have.

in earnest l to r: Sarah, Tom and Toby.

Second track ‘good boy’ is ushered in by a whispered count in from Sarah. The music begins on a descending chord sequence on keys. The lyrics describe the loss felt by Sarah and Tom since the death of their dog Doug, “There’s a bark at the door when no one’s there, jumping down the stairs and our carpet’s full of hair”, the presence of Doug is still keenly felt, even after his passing.

As the verse progresses, we hear a faint inverted pedal on Toby’s harmonium. As the melody changes, becoming more dynamic, the two are placed back into their life with Doug, “And suddenly we are running, feeling something, late summer sun and crunching all the stones beneath our feet, suddenly this bow tie master’s swimming faster, racing past us, until I realise he’s swimming out to sea”, the last line perhaps a metaphor for Doug’s release into the afterlife.

in earnest l to r: Toby, Sarah and Tom.

Their pain is exemplified by the repeated metaphor “I’m a ball inside a box, doesn’t hurt any less”, showing how restricted they feel in his absence. It is here that Toby’s violin begins to shine. Starting off playing long notes an octave apart, before the change of melody and rhythm, where his part becomes busier, occupied by hammer ons/pull offs. Tom and Sarah begin to start their healing process as they say goodbye to Doug, “It’s not been long but what a good heart, don’t be scared now, it’s time to depart, flew back to will you to lay down your head, November the 6th brought you to rest in your bed”, before leaving a final message with Doug in their reassuring repetition of “Good boy”.

These songs are emotional, possess a great deal of beauty and character and in ‘good boy’ they handle loss sensitively, seeing an insight into the both life with Doug and how they are processing his passing. The arrangements are characteristically beautiful, having the right balance between simplicity and depth. Toby’s harmonium and violin are used at times sparingly but add so much to the songs, giving them added texture and energy. This is another strong release from the Essex trio.

‘your dog / good boy’ is available to download and stream now.

in earnest online:

Bandcamp

Spotify

Apple Music

YouTube

in earnest – ‘your dog’ music video.

SoundCloud

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

-Sandy Power

Calum Baird // Interview

Calum Baird is a Falkirk based singer-songwriter of thematically romantic and progressive folk music. He released his latest single ‘Stranger Things Have Come and Gone’ on February 5th, the release subsequently being played regularly on radio and being added to a wealth of playlists online. I caught up with him to discuss his songwriting, the new single and his experiences as a musician.

SP – What is the biggest inspiration for you to pursue song-writing?

CB – Songwriting, when I started, was always about being able to say what I wanted to say in a space that was mine where I wasn’t graded or corralled into something. 

As I got a little older, it was about using my ability to write songs to communicate ideas I had about society and politics. Things like love and relationships have featured in my songs in the past but I feel that 1) that type of content is really played out and; 2) there’s people out there that are better at articulating this stuff than I am.

As my political and artistic views have developed more as well I have come to the belief that art is always and inescapably political as we live in deeply political societies, even if the artist doesn’t wish to acknowledge that fact.  But art is political in as much as what is said or depicted in the art as much as what is not said or depicted.  This, I would say, is my biggest inspiration and motivation to write music.

Calum Baird. Photo by Tricia Yourkevich/BBC

SP – You’re quoted as citing Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg as influences in your music and you are also involved in social activism. How has listening to these artists’ work shaped the way you think about both music and social issues?

CB – I would say it’s the other way around, really. My social activism led me to go looking for music that reflected the political cultures I was/am involved in. 

I arrived at Dylan’s music when I was quite young but never really thought about it in a political sense.  I enjoyed it like I did Oasis and The Beatles who I was listening to as well growing up.  When I became engaged in politics I began to hear what Dylan was actually saying and it definitely played a role when I started writing political music.  I would say now, though, that Dylan is not all that radical, that he was only willing to go so far and that, for all his succinct criticism, he doesn’t offer a political or artistic alternative in his music.

Billy Bragg was someone I came to a bit later; I was about 19 when I began listening to him and though he is not a like for like influence on my music I certainly think the type of music I am writing – political music and so on – is similar to his. 

I was once derisorily called “Billy McBragg” on Twitter by a well-known political journalist in this country which made me laugh but also told me that people heard my music and placed it alongside Billy Bragg’s, so I took it as a compliment really.

SP – Your recent music has also notably been influenced by contemporary artists Phoebe Bridgers and Sharon Van Etten. What is it about each of these artists that most inspires you?

CB – I like both of these artists’ guitar styles, Phoebe Bridgers especially I really like the way she fills the space in her songs with nice guitar licks which, if they weren’t there, would really alter the experience the song gives you.

Sharon Van Etten’s song “Let go” was in a Storyville documentary I watched about the cartoonist who created Pepe the Frog before it was hi-jacked by the alt-right.  There are so many aspects in that song that I really enjoy, her vocals especially, and I would like to try and work on some similar tones in this song into my own music.

Sarah Klang is another artist whose music I have become aware of very recently after we were both on the same Amazing Radio playlist a couple months back.  She is also very good at filling the space in her songs with nice guitar licks, flicks on the keys and her vocals are superb as well.

Calum Baird – ‘Stranger Things Have Come and Gone’ single artwork.

SP – How have you felt about the reception for your latest single ‘Stranger Things Have Come and Gone’?

CB – The reception for this single has been incredible, really.  It has been played a lot on radio, been added to a host of great playlists which have made me feel really flattered and whenever I have posted about the track on social media, I have always received really lovely and supportive messages from followers and supporters which is always great.

This is a song that came to me lyrically over a couple of days. I was just riffing some absurdist lyrics in my head when suddenly I got a couple of lines (the first two in the song) which rhymed and made sense in an absurdist sort of way, the sort of way that would really only make sense if you had just lived through a global pandemic and the multiple crises that have spun off from it.  I then wrote the whole song, recorded it, mixed it and then produced it myself. 

The production side of things is something I have taken up to cope with the pandemic and, so, to have a song that was really knocked together in a few days in my house get such a warm reception is really quite touching and reveals quite a lot about contemporary music making I think (ie, loads of cash, a label etc are not a must to write and record music).

SP – You’ve appeared on national and international TV and radio. Do you have any stand out moments from these experiences?

CB – Not really, I always just enjoy the opportunity to talk about my music with journalists and radio hosts who love music and want to support independent musicians like myself.

That said, one of my most memorable experiences was doing an interview with the German socialist music and culture magazine, Melodie und Rhythmus in Berlin in 2017.

SP – You’ve played several online gigs through the pandemic. Has this been something which you have adapted to easily?

CB – Yes, I would say so.  The gigs have always been really well supported and received by friends and followers of my music and it has been good to be able to keep going with some sort of live music in a time where the whole sector has come to a stop. 

I’m not sure it can truly replace the feeling of being on stage singing to people, then coming off stage and mixing and socialising with folks over a beer or whatever.  Nonetheless, I am incredibly grateful to everyone that has watched my sets, chucked some money my way and then come back to watch the next gig I do online.

Calum Baird. Photo by Festival Musik und Politik, Berlin, 2018.

SP – How has the pandemic affected the way you work creatively and in terms of recording?

CB – Writing has definitely changed for me.  I have used the analogy before about building a piece of furniture and writing my music.  In the past I have always forced it pushed myself to get a line or verse or chorus but now, during the pandemic, I am trying to hurry myself along in these ways any more, preferring instead to just take my time and see it like a project or building furniture.  Not that I really know what making furniture entails but I guess I just mean that I wouldn’t sit on a chair that I had impatiently hammered together so trying to take a similar approach to song-writing has been a bit of a relief for me.

In terms of production, I had song out last summer called the Stones of Tomorrow which I recorded at home and then sent to my friend and fellow musician, Jack Hinks, to produce for me.  Jack and I worked on my single prior to that one, Modern Man, so it was nice to continue that relationship together.  However, wish subsequent releases since then, I have felt compelled to work on the production myself to add that to my locker on and adapt to the prolonging of the pandemic which set in in the autumn.

SP – Following on from the release of ‘Stranger Things…’, what are your current focuses with both your music and activism?

CB – I have a couple irons in the fire for my music which I’m really excited about.  I have written the score for a play which will be published online later this year.  This is a first for me but it is something that I have always really wanted to do and so to have the space to do so is really great.

In terms of activism, I am just trying to keep up to date with the news and debates, keep in touch with friends and keep an eye on developments elsewhere in the UK and internationally. 

I think the UK and the US are deep in a series of different political crises, some caused by the pandemic and others exacerbated by it.  The political systems in both countries have been ruthlessly exposed as being not fit for the stated purpose, and I think confidence in the government and the state in both the US and UK has taken yet another hammering on top of the hammering it took and failed to recover from in the 2008 recession, as well as the damage Brexit has done to the reputation politics in this country.

I think politics in the West is really going to have to shift gear to cope with the impending climate crisis but this also raises significant questions for musicians and artists too.  What will our role be in tackling the climate crisis? How can artistic labour be used to support efforts to reverse climate chaos?  The pandemic has been a huge test but there are bigger ones still to come.

SP – Do you have any long-term ambitions with your music?

CB – At present, I am a student in contemporary art theory at Edinburgh Uni so much of this year will be focussed on my coursework.  I have a few songs in the slow cooker but I haven’t really go long term ambitions. The industry has been through such a crisis that plans with any longitude to them seem impossible to really prepare for. 

That said, it would be nice to still be writing, recording and releasing songs in a year’s time!

‘Stranger Things Have Come and Gone’ is available now to download and stream.

Calum Baird online:

Bandcamp

Spotify

Apple Music

SoundCloud

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

-Sandy Power

Katie Mackie – Terricot Town // Single Review

‘Terricot Town’ starts off gently, the subtle rhythms of electric piano, vocal and finger clicks give it a bright, airy vibe. The piano chord voicings are clear and leave lots of space, which is reassuringly pleasant on the ear. Mackie’s wavering lead vocal marries vulnerability with confidence through slight ornamentation and vibrato. The chilled tempo of the opening is sustained through a slightly more direct sounding second iteration of the verse, where a sparse bass line and kick drum bolster the previously introduced elements. Hushed and distant backing vocals shimmer in tandem with Mackie’s lead performance here.

Light electric guitar is used as a segue into the livelier chorus section, which bursts in to blossom with a chirpy synth bass line à la The Flaming Lips. The harmony rises as Mackie sings, “But I’ll love you till the birds lose their feathers, and I’ll love you whatever the weather, and I’ll love you still, forever and ever, I promise I will, I will”, the chorus shifting between minor and major sounds to paint a colour of emotion.

Katie Mackie – ‘Terricot Town’ artwork.

Mackie says of her lyrics, “I’ve recently found most of my writing mixes uplifting melodies with quite emotional and thought-provoking lyricism. This style of writing really fascinates me as I think the meaning of the track could be perceived differently by each listener in a way that’s personal to them; as a love song, a tribute to a lost one, a break up song, or even a song of hope.” The ambiguity of these lyrics certainly allows us to picture something meaningful to ourselves. I commend artists mature enough to allow their audience to decipher their own meaning and unravel their own emotions from the work of their pen.     

After a brief pause, the second verse begins, a little more sparsely again. Following on from the verse, a ghostly pitch shifted vocal or guitar echoes in the distance, leading up in pitch towards the musical destination of the chorus.

After the second chorus, the music breaks down into a choral led bridge, which combines both piano and soulful vocal performances from Mackie. Underneath Mackie’s very clean vocals is a vocoder vocal, giving a little more character to the largely natural sounding bridge. This is followed by a final emotive chorus, with extra vocal improvisation over the lead and backing vocals. The bridge melody is repeated out through the end of the song, finally giving way to a warm organ-like voiced chord on a synthesiser, bringing the song to a rounded close.

Katie Mackie.

‘Terricot Town’ is a nice change of pace from Mackie’s previous effort ‘Glow’, with a brighter, more up-tempo sound. The arrangement is intricate to a degree but leaving enough space for individual elements to shine. The song breathes very well through pauses and the expansion and contraction of ideas. The resulting music is both uplifting and full of beauty. Mackie continues to forge her way in a journey which has seen her featured on BBC Radio Scotland, Amazing Radio USA’s top 40 chart and Spotify’s Scottish curated playlist ‘Scotify’, as well as supporting well kent names, such as Lewis Capaldi, Heather Small (M People) and Mo Kenny.

‘Terricot Town’ is self released and available to download and stream now.

Katie Mackie online:

Spotify

SoundCloud

YouTube

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

-Sandy Power