It’s Like The Cavalry Arriving – Withered Hand live

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WITHERED HAND / JO FOSTER / DAN MUTCH – The Liquid Room, Edinburgh – Thursday 17th April 2014

Thursday’s Withered Hand show at the Liquid Room was the big homecoming to mark the release of the excellent second LP ‘New Gods’. And Edinburgh turned out in force to mark the return of Dan Willson.

Given that the Liquid Room has an over 14 licence, it also offered another opportunity for the entire MPT family to see the full band Hand and for the MPKs to make their Liquid Room debuts.

When I say “full band” I mean “full band” as the performers numbered as many as 9 at some points during the set, including brass on some songs.

The main set consisted largely of the new LP but it was only afterwards that I realised just how few oldies had been included. That may have been a surprise but it emphasised just how many great tunes there are on the new record.

The big pop tunes from ‘New Gods’, such as ‘Horseshoe’ and ‘King of Hollywood’, were played early, which left me wondering, just as at the Mirror Trap show last weekend, just what was still to come. In the end a couple of unlikely candidates were called upon to bring the main set to an end.

‘Fall Apart’ is obviously a tune that I’ve underrated so far but, in this setting,  it felt a natural fit late on. Perhaps surprisingly it was ‘Not Alone’ that finished things off (for the first time) but its dignified coda was a fitting climax.

For the first encore Dan re-appeared without band for a solo version of ‘Cornflake’ – if you don’t count the audience participation.  The hordes then reassembled for the highlight of the evening, a stunning ‘Religious Songs’ before the evening was concluded with ‘Heart Heart’ albeit with a slightly less raucous take than has been the norm recently .

Overall, there was a slightly different feel to this show. Every time I’ve seen Withered Hand in Edinburgh there’s been a great atmosphere but this one really felt like a celebration from the off. And am I wrong in thinking that Dan’s on stage demeanour   just seemed a little more confident than in the past?

In terms of the supports, a hectic day meant that we had arrived just before the end of Dan Mutch’s opening set but it was interesting to hear his abrasive pop in an acoustic setting.

He was followed by a relatively short set from Jo Foster and band. Fortunately she was a lot healthier than when supporting Dan in Cupar even if the set followed a similar format. Jo started her set on her acoustic acoustic but it really took off when she got behind the piano.

Once again I enjoyed the piano songs the most and she earned a terrific ovation at the end of her set – not least from both MPKs!

Withered Hand played:

1. Horseshoe  2. Black Tambourine  3. New Dawn  4. Providence  5. King of Hollywood  6. Love Over Desire  7. California  8. Between True Love and Ruin  9. New Gods  10. Fall Apart  11. Not Alone

Encore
12. Cornflake  13. Religious Songs  14. Heart, Heart

Videos to Buffer – Throwing Muses

Here’s some videos to tide us over until a live Withered Hand review at the weekend. Above is the latest tune from “Purgatory/Paradise” an animation for ‘Clark’s Nutcracker’.

And below is the band’s complete performance from KEXP featuring 4 live versions of tunes from the album:

1. Sunray Venus 2. Freesia 3. Milan 4. Static

Even better news is Kristin’s hint last week on Twitter that the Muses will be touring in … the autumn (not the Fall).

The River Tay Can Be A Cruel Mistress – The Mirror Trap live

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The Mirror Trap

The Mirror Trap/Cherri Fosphate/Union Chapel – Duke’s Corner, Dundee and STOOR/Bobby Stickah – The Cool Cat Club, Beat Generator Live, Dundee – 11th April 2014

Friday provided something of a bad clash with the Mirror Trap’s eagerly awaited launch night for ‘Stay Young’ up against an intriguing five band Cool Cat Club bill. In the end, as I’ve been wanting to catch the Mirror Trap again for nearly a year after a brilliant Beat Generator Live performance last year, I settled on finishing the night at Duke’s with the transition to be worked out as the evening progressed.

So let’s take things in chronological order and the evening started with Bobby Stickah at the Cool Cat Club. I missed the start of his performance but, as with the last time I saw him, he was wildly entertaining even before he was joined by a bass playing cohort in a knitted Ood mask. The perfect way to start any evening of rock’n’roll.

Next up were STOOR and they were brilliant. A fair chunk of their set was instrumental but at various times they reminded me of the Clean and Wire in amongst a host of other less tangible names.

But no two songs were alike – the opening instrumental had a timeless simplicity that the Clean managed to pull off on a regular basis but things got more complicated thereafter particularly when the vocals came into play. I did think from the interview that Andy did with them that I was going to enjoy them but didn’t anticipate that it would be one of those eureka moments. Can’t wait to see them again.

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STOOR

At this point, with the CCC having slipped behind schedule, it seemed time to move to Duke’s Corner. Unfortunately my transition from one show to the other turned out to be poorly timed. Instead of an introduction to the Bucky Rage at BGL I caught Union Chapel’s set at Duke’s. Suffice to say their polished harmonies were not my thing.

Fortunately the main support for the Mirror Trap were Glasgow’s Cherri Fosphate and they were MUCH to my liking. The influence that stood out for me in a set of hard edged rock was We Were Promised Jetpacks . I wouldn’t have said that there was an obvious stand-out tune for me (which might actually be a good thing) but they were a really good live act and I enjoyed them a lot.

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Cherri Fosphate

Which set the scene perfectly for headliners the Mirror Trap. After all the anticipation there was a risk that the show might have come up short against my expectations but that emphatically wasn’t the case.

The epitome of the modern rock band they’re versatile enough to move from heavy rock (the awesome ‘American Dreams’) through the sort of anthems that bigger bands would kill for (‘Killing Time’) to epic ballads such as ‘Waves’. There are numerous diversions in between, and they even managed to include a funked up number (maybe ‘Statues’ from the first album?).

I did worry (briefly) that they might have peaked too early after playing arguably my favourite three songs from the record in the opening four tunes. But the fact that things never dipped once thereafter indicates just how good the album is. I do have to give a special mention though to ‘Bell Street’, a tune I have to confess I wasn’t overly enamoured with as a B-side. I’ve no idea why that was the case because, if it works brilliantly on the album, then it was even better played towards the back end of the set.

As well playing almost all of the excellent ‘Stay Young’ they even managed to throw in a couple of new tunes. In fact they broke the cardinal rule of never finishing with a new tune by doing precisely that. But, on first listen, it sounded like the song belonged nowhere else in the set.

In short, the Mirror Trap are nothing less than a great live band and this show demonstrated ample reasons exactly why that is the case.

Here’s a live video from Friday courtesy of Daisy Dundee:

The Mirror Trap support Ezra Furman at Buskers in Dundee on Monday 28th April and play the Big Beach Ball in Aberdeen on Saturday 4th May.

Totally Against The Ropes – Vladimir interview (part 2)

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In the second part of his epic interview Andy Wood discusses the ups and downs of being a young band in Scotland with Ross and Sam from Vladimir.

You’ve both mentioned becoming ‘a proper band’ a few times now during this conversation. What do you mean by that and when do you feel that happened?

Sam: Leading up to ‘Come Over’.
Ross: I would say at Tramlines [Festival] in Sheffield last year. Before that it was totally, we felt totally against the ropes and discussed splitting up. If things didn’t start to change by September it’s not going to happen for us. We didn’t ever want to be one of those bands that are struggling to try and make it and put on a show like ‘ Oh we are trying to do this so hard’. I mean if you are not enjoying it any more you should stop. We all said, well if September comes and things aren’t any better we’ll stop. We got asked to play Tramlines , went there, just totally smashed it and played ‘Come Over’ for the first time and everything seemed to go our way. Then after that, it’s just got better and better.
Sam: This is crazy that we were going to… when you think about it. Five, six months ago we were talking about packing it in and now we’ve had a new single premiered on Radio One and stuff. I can’t get my head around it. It’s the most humbling feeling that people actually enjoy the music I’m making and stuff. It’s a complete honour really.

It all seems quite surreal now. There you were last summer contemplating packing it in, now you’ve a new single out, a lot of gigs coming out and the small matter of an English tour with The Twilight Sad.

Both: Yeah, totally.
Sam: That’s not hit us yet.
Ross: I don’t think we’ll understand it until we are actually there.
Sam: See, by the time we get into the middle of May that’s when we’ll look back and be just like, wow, that’s a complete step-up.
Ross: One of the gigs in London has completely sold out. Any gigs we’ve played in London before, it’s been to about fifteen people. Then we’re away to play in a venue that holds 800-900 people and it’s sold out already.
Sam: It’s a big venue. A lot of good bands have been there.
Ross: Two nights in London. Before we couldn’t even have paid to get a gig in London if we’d wanted to so it’s totally mental.

Is the thought of doing these dates pretty nerve-wracking?

Ross: No. We’re so happy to do it. It’s exciting.
Sam: I wouldn’t say nerve-wracking. I’d say we’re raring to go. By the time we’re in London and we’ve done our soundcheck and we’re away to go on we’ll be – assuming there’s a good crowd – we’ll be, not scared but excited and nervous about it. Not so much in a bad way really, we just want to get on and do it because it’s… I’ve said so many times before, it’s such a step up from what we’ve done before. We’re going to play London to a sold out crowd. It’s ridiculous.
Ross: I think after that it’ll probably make us be like… either it’ll be ‘that was a total nightmare’ or it’ll be ‘this is what we want to do for the rest of our lives’.
Sam: Even then I think most of us have already made up our minds about that…
Ross: But I think this will really sink it in. It’s mental. It’s still not sunk in yet, I don’t feel it’s happening yet.
Sam: I think it’s good that we’re at a stage where I think any of us would do anything for the band.
Ross: We’re all in that mindset.
Sam: With some bands it would be ‘I can’t practice, I’m going away out to see my pals’ or ‘I can’t play this gig as I can’t be bothered’. We would do anything for this band, we’ve all totally clicked.
Ross: You see a lot of bands around and I don’t think everyone is on the same sort of wavelength.
Sam: It’s like they are just a ‘band’ but I like how we’re a band and we’re also best mates as well. I couldn’t think of any people I’m tighter with, it’s more like a family thing, friends as well. It’s a total cliché but it’s true. You couldn’t think of anyone else you could go on stage with and play a set as well as you can and get on with them so well. We’re away to drive from Dundee to Bristol and stuff, I mean there’s not many people in the world in everyone’s lives that you would be doing that with. That’s a lot of hours in a van.
Ross: I couldn’t do that with my family.
Sam: No, I couldn’t either.
Ross: We owe a lot to Twilight Sad as well. We couldn’t imagine any band asking us to do that.

Yes, how did it all come about?

Sam: Just totally out of nowhere.
Ross: Totally out of nowhere. Bands play on things like that: ‘Oh we didn’t know it was going to happen’ but actually, the week before they’ve been told and they’ve been begging and begging. We never even asked. We knew they were going on tour soon but we didn’t even know which dates they were playing. I was at work one day and I got an email saying ‘The Twilight Sad have asked for you to come on tour’ from a booking agent. I thought it was just to ask us to play a Dundee date and thought, ah cool, I’d love to play with them again. Then I looked at the dates and thought, Jesus, that’s the whole English tour. That’s mad. It took a few minutes to sink in.

It was funny how I was told about it. Peter told me then said not to tell anyone he’d told me, then Ross did the same. It didn’t seem to have sunk in on the day as everyone got ready to head through to Glasgow for the Radkey support at King Tuts.

Sam: That was a really good day, as a day on its own, that was a brilliant day. I got woken up by Ross phoning me and saying, ‘You’ll never guess what’s happened’. I mean, none of us knew it was happening. A couple of hours later I got on a bus to go down to the studio and hop in a van and we were playing King Tuts and that was a brilliant gig. That was really busy. A fantastic show. And that was a really good day for us as well.
Ross: Things seem to just be getting better and better but we’re always waiting for it to fall apart. That’s the type of people we are.
Sam: We’re not getting ahead of ourselves.
Ross: Someone said to us last week, you’ve got so much ahead of you but we’ve seen so many bands that got everything they want, took their foot off the gas and it just fell apart. It’s over before it started. I mean, obviously we’re like, yeah, we’ve got the Twilight Sad tour but we still keep on doing what we were doing before. If we hadn’t got that we’d have had the end of April, start of May with nothing on and would have played our own gigs. We’ve just got to keep focussed on doing our own thing. That’s just an extra bonus.
Sam: The way I see it is when we wake up to a wee email saying, for example, the Twilight Sad tour, there’s more to live up to. It’s just taking care of itself, everything else will fall into place. I like how we think awww, this is another thing, we’re going to have to step up again. We have to be better than we are for this. Even in practice we were saying we have to be better than we are now, even a month down the line. We’ve got to be so much better than we are just now because we want to be. We don’t just want ot go down there and be as we are now, we want to get better every single gig and we think we are. We’re getting tighter, playing the songs better, we’re writing better songs.
Ross: We’ve got five nights playing places we probably wouldn’t get to play if it was just our own gig, to bigger audiences so we’ve just got to go out there every night and totally smash it and play the best set we could. We’ve got to go down and play our hearts out.
Sam: There’s nothing more I like than playing gigs. If you ask any one of us what would you rather do – go away on holiday to America for a month or would you rather play five nights in England with one of your favourite bands – and everyone of us would say we’d rather do that every time.
Ross: it’s the first time we’ll have played that many shows in a row.
Sam: It will be a test for us as well, going away for five days, it’s a first for us.

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It’s probably a good thing that you’ve got a run of gigs before the tour?

Sam: Yeah, we’ve got a lot.
Ross: I can’t wait for them. It’s weird how it’s worked out. Playing a festival in Sheffield the week before then we’re back down in Leeds. It’s weird as the venue in Sheffield will be the biggest venue that we’ve ever played. For the last few months we’ve built it up like ‘Yes, that’s going to be the biggest venue we’ve ever played’ then we’ve just got all these gigs after it and it’s like woah! We’ve went from never playing a venue that size to playing like five or six in the space of a month.
Sam: It’s a weird feeling. My birthday is in April and the gigs have totally overshadowed my birthday. I don’t even care about my birthday any more I’m so excited.
Ross: I can’t wait for the headline shows as well. We’ve not played a lot of headline shows I think. The last one must have been the Dundee one we played last September.

The Dundee show will be your first since then as well.

Sam: It’s not that we don’t like doing it, it’s more we like making it a rarity because we like changing it so much. I mean, if you went to see us at our last headline show in Dundee, the one we’re away to do will be completely different. Similar vibe obviously but there won’t be much going on that’s the same. Everything will be different. And better. Hopefully.

How important is it at this stage to do the headline shows?

Sam: You’ve got to test yourself.
Ross: You can keep doing support slots playing 25 to 30 minutes but it’s a step-up to go out and play 45 to 50 minutes, playing just to your own crowd, the whole crowd is there for you.
Sam: It’s a weird feeling for the headlines shows. It’s a weird feeling that people are spending their money to come and see you. They’ll get some great bands as well as us but they’re coming to see us and that’s literally, there’s nothing more… I wouldn’t welcome anything else. Actually, it’s the most humbling, amazing feeling that people are actually giving up their Saturday night to come and watch you play your music and hopefully enjoy it. It’s really the best thing ever.

Things seem to be going really well for Vladimir at the moment. Has their been any backlash from people in bands you know or have people generally been pretty pleased for you and supportive?

Sam: I don’t know, everyone seems to be really nice about it.
Ross: I think we’ve always done our own thing, we’ve never been in any cliques ever and I think people realise we’ve pretty much came from nothing and built the band up to where it is so I think everyone is like, on you go, and pretty happy for us.
Sam: Even if we go out on a Friday night in Dundee and we bump into people in bands they’ll stand and chat away to you and it’s amazing. Some of these people are a lot older than me and they’ll ask me for advice and that’s scary.
Ross: We’re not one of those bands who have just came along over night and got this.
Sam: It takes a lot of effort.
Ross: Everyone has been really sound about it. I guess if things keep carrying on some people will be negative but we’re not the type of people who give a fuck. They can say what they want.
Sam: That’s what happens. As soon as you do well there’s always people in the world who want to shout you down, call you crap and that. Not everyone’s going to like you.
Ross: We’re kind of used to that. When we were at school we were totally brought up with that so it doesn’t affect us now.
Sam: It’s like still being at school [Laughs]. Being in a band is like being at school.

We talked earlier about things being a struggle but at this stage with all the gigs coming up doesn’t that make it even more of a struggle financially.

Ross: Totally. A nightmare.
Sam: Don’t get us wrong. I don’t have a problem with it. It’s like paying for a holiday.
Ross: But more expensive and a lot harder.
Sam: People go off to Magaluf for two weeks and it costs them £600 or whatever. If we do that, we’re more than happy to do that and we do it as much as we can. It costs a bit but…
Ross: Costs a bit? It’s cost everything we’ve got. I work about forty hours a week and every single penny goes into the band. So you’re working a full-time job to pay for the band. It’s like how I imagine owning a football club is, just putting your money into it and it goes to someone else and you never see the money again. I don’t think people see that. I think people think you’re going to play these gigs and you’re going to make an absolute fortune and you’ll come back so well off. It is a total struggle. I know how many bands split up for that reason but you’ve just go to bite the bullet.
Sam: I think a lot of people in a lot of bands think they can do amazing things without putting anything in. They think everything will come to them, they won’t leave their own city, they won’t have to pay to take their gear on a Megabus to London and stuff. We’ve been there and done that.
The band is like a job but it’s not a job at all. It’s like having a hobby that you really love more than anything else, that requires a bit of money. By no step of the imagination is it a job. There’s no way we wake up in the morning and go ‘Oh no, we’ve got to go to Glasgow’. We all wake up and we’re totally buzzing or we can’t sleep, go out the night before and we’re all totally excited and it’s all we talk about.
Ross: You wouldn’t do a job if you were paying to do it.
Sam: Yeah, exactly. At the end of the day a bit of money helps. You feel bad needing it but you do need it. It’s a touchy subject.

Around the time of ‘Come Over’ you seemed to do quite a lot of interviews. Do you ever get bored of them?

Ross: No. I could talk for days.
Sam: It depends on the questions. I mean, sometimes you notice the same questions. It’s good to talk to someone whose interested it in rather than someone who is faking it or being very insincere about it?

Kind of ‘Hey, is it true you guys are all pals with The View’?

Both: Yeah, totally, we’ve had that quite a few times.
Ross: Non-stop. We’ve been asked that probably more times than any other question.
Sam: It’s quite ironic as we know a couple of them.
Ross: We tell them a different answer every time.
Sam: It’s funny. You can play on it and totally take the piss and some people will just believe you the whole way. It’s fun just to see how far you can push it. It’s quite a strange one.

Sam, this is officially the most I’ve ever heard you speak.

Sam: It’s a good effort isn’t it.
Ross: Once he starts he doesn’t shut up.
Sam: I’m just trying my best for you.

It’s most appreciated, thanks.

Part 1 of this interview

Here’s the A-side of the new single:

Vladimir launch ‘Smoke Eyes’ with a show at the Cool Cat Club on Saturday (12th) at Beat Generator Live in  Dundee with support from Naked and Waiting for Jack. You can purchase copies of the limited edition two song CD with a postcard and badge at the forthcoming shows or from various online sources. Check the band’s Facebook page for details.

Single and Gigs

 

Capture The Moment – Vladimir interview (part 1)

Vladimir 2014 Photo by

For the record I am probably neither a partial or disinterested observer (writes Andy Wood) having been involved with Vladimir in a very minor way helping with gigs occasionally over the last couple of years and having put out the physical release of the new single ‘Smoke Eyes’. That aside, if I didn’t love the band and their music passionately and believe in the band wholeheartedly I wouldn’t bother my backside. The band and the songs are the important thing for me in all cases.

When I first saw Vladimir they seemed to me very raw, playing short sets of around fifteen to twenty minutes but even in that embryonic stage they were pretty exciting and full of promise. The early shows provided a sense of tension and possibility. Occasionally they might overreach themselves but even then I, and a number of other people as well, felt that excitement and potential.

In recent months that potential seems to be coming to fruition. Last Autumn’s release ‘Come Over’ was a real burst of energy and tunefulness, taut and tense but full of twists and turns. Prior to that the shows had been getting better and better and each gig seemed to herald fantastic new songs.

I’d disagree with the band’s suggestion that they are a only now ‘a proper band’ as suggested below, they have always been a proper band it’s just they are now a much better band. For me there were several key points in this evolution in the last year. They played two headline shows in Dundee which saw them stretching their sound and set, introducing new songs and, latterly an epic take on Underworld’s classic ‘Born Slippy’ which they totally made their own. Also, an early slot at Doune the Rabbit Hole in the summer was amazing. Despite the wan daylight, warm drizzle and early start they pulled in a good number of people to see them fire through a short but utterly beguiling set. We’d just arrived at the site and were a little discombobulated, wondering which direction we should head in when we heard the opening notes of their set, loud and clearly across the rural setting. Like manic Pied-Pipers they reeled us in and pulled us towards the stage. After they played the sun came out and that seemed perfect a perfect metaphor for Vladimir.

The music has often been described as ‘gloomy’ but I’d suggest that’s incorrect. There is a darkness, musically and lyrically to Vladimir but it’s more uplifting and energizing than depressing. Defiance, rather than melancholy is the main feeling. It’s also very beautiful. Far from the fifty shades of black some reviews may suggest, Vladimir are light and darkness, discordant but utterly melodic.

At recent gigs I’ve still felt that spine-tingling thrill throughout songs, not just familiar ones such as the brilliant ‘Cold Winter’s Grasp’ but the newer songs which have become integral to the set. At the Glasgow launch show for ‘Smoke Eyes’ they played with a tightness yet still retained all the tension and unpredictability of earlier shows. Opening a set with your last single followed by your new single might appear madness in some people’s eyes but there is such a confidence in the songs that Vladimir don’t have set filler any more. I have little flickers of nostalgia for the days of covers of The Cramps and Nancy and Lee but only brief ones as I spend the set wishing I was still an unselfconscious gig goer who was happy to jump around at the front and settle for grinning like an idiot and resisting the temptation to punch the air with sheer joy.

The new single is absolutely brilliant, three minutes of pop-noise adrenaline. Following on from ‘Come Over’ which was a brilliant, song, building into moments of claustrophobic noise interspersed with a lighter, airier feeling that is a highlight of the newer songs, the way in which they are more nuanced, subtle even. ‘Smoke Eyes’ takes that up a notch with a sense pummelling introduction and probably the catchiest chorus that Vladimir have recorded to date. Earlier songs were an exercise in beating the audience into submission, the newer songs are no less powerful but caress and tease as well as pack a punch.

This month saw the start of an incredibly busy period for Vladimir with single launches in Glasgow and Perth before they hit Aberdeen and their hometown Dundee. Following that they play a festival in Sheffield then head out on tour with band favourites The Twilight Sad on their first big tour. The gigs then stretch into May with a headline show at Sneaky Pete’s in May, a return trip to London and on into June.

As the band geared up for this busy period I caught up with Ross Murray (Vocals/Guitar) and Sam Taylor (Drums) in the Campbeltown Bar to ask them a few questions. The conversation ranged over many topics, from being asked to endorse fun string to the difficulties of touring on a shoestring. Over the years I’ve known Vladimir I’d have said Sam was the quietest member of of the band (when not beating seven shades out of a drum kit) but put him in front of a recording device, ask him about the band and he is as passionate and talkative as any of his colleagues. And they are incredibly passionate about their music and music in general.

You have a new single ‘Smoke Eyes’ due out. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Ross: We wrote it at the same time as ‘Come Over’ and it’s carrying on the same vibe but maybe a little more listener friendly. A bit more catchy.
Sam: It’s a bit brighter.
Ross: Maybe a wee bit brighter but it’s still the same vibe.
Sam: The same intensity to it.

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Was that a deliberate thing to try and make it a bit more intense but also catchy?

Sam: No, it just happens. All the intensity just happens.
Ross: It’s just the way it goes.

Where was it recorded this time around? I believe you did some recording in Sheffield?

Ross: We went down to Sheffield to do some recording. We recorded some songs there and then went up and did some more in Dixon Street in Glasgow. That’s kind of worked out best. So went there (Dixon Street) and recorded ‘Smoke Eyes’ and ‘Born Slippy’. It sounded good.
Sam: I’m happy with it.

Have you got many unreleased songs recorded now?

Sam: Just the one.
Ross: We’ve got another tune that we’ve recorded but that will never get released, it’s just there.
Sam: It was like a trial and error thing to see what panned out and if it worked then we’d use it but that’ll not be happening. It’s just kind of there. It’s not even there, it’s just gone.
Ross: It might come out one day.

What circumstances led you to cover ‘Born Slippy’?

Sam: I dunno,,,
Ross: We just stumbled upon it….
Sam: It was about three years ago, way before we were even a serious band and I think it started off as a joke. We were in the studio doing something and Peter was like, ‘We should totally do something, some weird 90s dance tune or something like that’. We went through a few songs and there there it was.
Ross: Josh came up with it.
Sam: And the next thing, we had iTunes on shuffle, one of the guys in the studios and the next thing that came on was ‘Born Slippy’ and it was like, that could work. It started off as a joke.
Ross: It took ages to get it right.
Sam: The way we played it, it was nothing like it is now. It’s more refined. It’s taken a lot of time to get it the way we wanted it.

 

The first time you played it live it took a while to really grasp what it was that you were playing. People were looking a bit confused as though they were thinking ‘is that what I think it is’? It seemed quite brave and quite cheeky.

Ross: Totally.
Sam: It is a bit of a surprise, but in a good way. I quite like it. It’s something different as well.
Ross: I like the way it just creeps up on you. It does sound like one of our songs but when you finally work out what it is you get into it.

The artwork for ‘Come Over’ and ‘Smoke Eyes’ is very distinctive. Where did the images originate from?

Ross: The first one came from a girl called Cairney Tait. It’s weird because both images look very similar, it’s like they are meant to be a pair but they are taken by two totally separate photographers who don’t know each other.
Sam: The second one is by one of my friends. I came across that and thought it was cool.
Ross: We were struggling for an image and found the first image and thought it was pretty cool. It was originally in colour and we made it black and white. Then we were thinking, what are we going to do for the next one and Sam found it. It was a total fluke.
Sam: My friend said, just have it. There’s a continuity to them instead of both being totally separate things. There is a theme. We didn’t deliberately say we’re going to look for another one, I was just looking through one of my pal’s photographs and saw that and thought, that could actually work. So I asked and they said, ‘It’s all yours, have it’. I just thought it would be cool to have the same vibe but totally different.

It is important to care for how a band is portrayed beyond just the music isn’t it?

Sam: I think the visuals are quite an important thing. Even in a live performance it’s quite important as well. Things like artwork and visuals do help. It’s not our main focus but wee bits and pieces do their bit.

How about videos? Do you have any plans to do any more videos?

Ross: We’re planning on doing a video for ‘Smoke Eyes’. Not with us in it. It’s something we are working on just now but we’re struggling with getting it there.

When I spoke to you last year you’d written quite a lot of new songs, a number of which have been played in the live set and recorded. Are you still working on new material constantly?

Ross: We’re still writing them.
Sam: We’re going through a lot of trial and error just now. Trying as many different things as we can.
Ross: We do several practices a week and split them up. Some doing the set and getting it tight and other practices we’re writing. We do that constantly. We don’t just want to write hundreds of songs. We want to wait and pick the right ones. We’ve most passed the point of playing just everything that comes up, like any song we write.
Sam: We’re quite critical of the stuff but in a good way. We’ll get halfway through writing a song and just think, ‘we’re not feeling it’. I think it’s a good thing. We’re not just being arsey, we’re just trying to make sure we’re writing as good as we can.
Ross: We look at it like the last song that we thought was great. We wrote a new song a few weeks ago and thought it was absolutely amazing, probably our best song so we use that as a benchmark. The next song has to be as good or better. Nothing less. I think that’s a good way to treat it.

Does this ever lead to fights? Does anyone ever come along with an idea for a song that they think is good and everybody else says, no way, that’s not happening?

Sam: Oh, all the time.
Ross: Constantly.
Sam: That’s how it works. For every fifty ideas you come up with there will be three of them which two of the band like, one in a hundred, we’ll all click with. ‘Come Over’, for instance, I don’t ever want to think about how many songs we wrote at the time that was started and that was the only one that we all clicked on.
Ross: Four young boys are never always going to agree on something. When you do all agree on something that’s when I think good things come up. You’ve got to all enjoy it on stage or it’s a bit pointless if one person is up there thinking ‘I don’t want to be doing this’.

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You’ve been gigging a hell of a lot recently as well as recording. Which do you prefer now?

Ross: We used to say it’s all about playing live but I think recently we’ve started enjoying recording more. I still love playing live but we do enjoy recording now. I don’t think we used to enjoy recording as much, it was more, we have to do this, now it’s like we can go in the studio and do demos and stuff.
Sam: I think it’s because we are good enough to do it now. In respect of we’re able to go and actually work on something instead of going in and just mucking about.
Ross: We used to struggle to get through a song without mucking it up.
Sam: Now we can just fire through it. When we did ‘Smoke Eyes’ that was done separately, we all did separate takes but I personally only took about three drum takes and the three of them were pretty tight and we just picked the best one.
Ross: Even when we’re recording we’re always thinking about how it is live. It’s not like, ah, I’ll put this mad thing on it that we’ll never be able to do live.
Sam: You have to capture the moment but you can do wee things.
Ross: When we are recording it feels like we are playing live, there’s just not an audience there obviously.
Sam: I mean there’s wee production things you can put in that just make it sound better but the way I see it is, the way we do it is to try and capture the sound we make live. We try to capture the actual sound we’ve got and add a couple of buts and pieces to make it sound bigger and better.
Ross: I do think we still prefer playing live to recording. That’s what everyone is brought up on, playing live.
Sam: By the end of April we’ll have played more gigs in 2014 than we did in the whole of last year and that’s not through ‘Oh, we have to do it’. Every single one of the gigs we’ve got lined up we are so excited about. There’s not one single one of those gigs that I’m not like totally buzzing for.
Ross: We wouldn’t play so many gigs if we didn’t like doing it.
Sam: Yeah we wouldn’t be in a band if we didn’t like doing what we did. You have to enjoy what you are doing.

Does it still feel the same playing live as it did when you started out ot does it change?

Sam: I think it’s changed a lot.
Ross: For the better.
Sam: Totally for the better. Before that, it seems like we weren’t a real band, we were just mucking about. I mean, if you saw us a couple of years ago it would be use four basically playing to each other, forgetting about how many people were in the crowd and just mucking about on stage. Now we’re all, as well as focussing on each other on stage, we’re all trying to focus on the songs as well as we can and trying to make it as appealing to a crowd, not just as songs but watching us as well.
Ross: I think the songs are a lot better now as well which helps. We’re a lot tighter. A lot more professional which helps.
Sam: We get a lot of help with that which is good. We’re still learning…
Ross: It might all be different in a years time.
Sam: We’re still young. This time next year we might be looking back thinking we were hardly a band then. I like looking back at how much we have improved and thinking about how much we can improve more.

One thing that I personally like is that while you have improved immensely you haven’t lost the things that I liked about Vladimir when I first saw you.

Sam: The way we did it was like, before, the way I put it was were hardly a band, we were testing the water to see what we could do and what we were good at and we found the vibe we’ve got now and focussed on that and kept that vibe. Now we’re just trying to perfect that. There’s no such thing as perfection but we’re trying our best to make it as strong as possible.
Ross: I think when you say kept all the best bits I think that’s what all great bands do. The bands that do keep a following throughout their career and go on to do big things have kept what was good about them and made it better. There are a lot of bands who have good things and just totally lose it because they try to change everything. You’ve got to keep the good things and try to build on it.
Sam: You’ve got to appeal to the fans you’ve got and appeal to new ones as well.
Ross: We’re not going out trying to please people, we’re pleasing ourselves, but that’s the way it seems to go.

Part 2 of Andy’s interview..

Here’s a chance to listen to their cover of ‘Born Slippy’:

Vladimir launch ‘Smoke Eyes’ with a show at the Cool Cat Club on Saturday (12th) at Beat Generator Live in  Dundee with support from Naked and Waiting for Jack.

Single and Gigs

Vladimir portrait by David P. Scott. Live shots by Manic Pop Thrills.

Subway! – Randolph’s Leap LP launch

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Randolph’s Leap / Sweet Baboo / Rachael Dadd – Kinning Park Complex, Glasgow – Saturday 5th April 2014

Strip away Andy’s interviews from the blog in recent months and you might get the impression that MPT is a Randolph’s Leap fansite such has been the weight of reviews, interviews etc. Well, in the interests of variety, I’m going to swear off the Leap for a wee while – at least after I’ve talked a little about Saturday’s exhilarating launch for ‘Clumsy Knot’ in Glasgow.

The Leap’s set was a frantic romp through highlights from the new LP, its sister E.P. ‘Real Anymore’ and some oldies. But it was perhaps ‘Real Anymore’ which best summed up the evening as this version was taken at nothing less than breakneck, almost hardcore, speed.

With the sound very much lending itself to the raucous approach, the pace was perhaps also influenced by the need to allow those to make it to the Underground for the last tube. But then the Leap in this mood are never anything less than great fun and if there’s a live tune at the moment guaranteed to put a smile on my face more than ‘Light of the Moon’, then I’ve no idea what it is.

Which isn’t to say that their quieter side wasn’t on display – it just wasn’t as prominent as it was in Dundee. But we got great, subtle full band versions of ‘Black and Blue’ and ‘Unnatural’ but inevitably the evening’s highlight was ‘Weatherman’ (inexplicably omitted from their Dundee set).

If anyone doubted that Lost Map would continue the Fence traditions then Saturday surely put those to rest. The venue was a community hall reminiscent of some of the halls in the East Neuk albeit on an urban scale.

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And the two supports were exactly the sort of solo artists that you’d expect to come across at a previous Homegame. Rachael Dadd opened the show with a whimsical acoustic set which boasted the unprecedented sight of a singer playing with a baby in a sling on her back! It’s fair to say that Dadd jr wasn’t terribly happy at being removed from the action early on.

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Sweet Baboo turned out to be a droll Welshman from Cardiff, and egged on by Mr Pictish, seemed to play loads and loads of songs. I enjoyed his performance and, again the Fence connection was well in evidence as a fair chunk of the audience seemed to know his recorded material and overall he got a great reception.

But the evening undoubtedly belonged to the Leap and rightly so. I made a promise at the top of this page and I intend to keep it. But probably not for terribly long.

In the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, treat yourself to ‘Clumsy Knot’ – you won’t regret it.

Randolph’s Leap played:

1. Goodbye 2. Nature 3. Foolishness of Youth 4. Black and Blue 5. Real Anymore 6. Weatherman 7. Microcosm 8. Isle of Love 9. News 10. Hermit 11. I Can’t Dance To This Music Any More 12. Light of the Moon 13. Unnatural 14. Crisps