Anyone who follows this nonsense may have noticed that I took in a show in Cupar a few weeks back. Whilst I enjoyed all the acts that I saw at Autumn Harvest that night, for my money, the best of the lot were Burn The Maps. I was delighted therefore when they agreed to do an interview the week after the show.
So grab yourself a beer and settle down. This may take some time …
MPT – Who are Burn the Maps? What do you all do outside music?
BTM: Nothing at all, we just lay around all day in a darkened room thinking up lyrics and riffs… haha!
Nah, Dave’s a Graphic Designer for a company in Edinburgh, Mark works for a college creating learning materials using video and audio, Keir is a materials planner for Diageo but he’s really only in it for the drinks discount we reckon. And we believe Mike’s a nurse…? Not sure what kind but when we picture it we kinda just envisage him dressed up like The Joker in the Dark Night Rising, kicking about a hospital somewhere being all mental.
MPT – Why the name? Aren’t maps useful things?
BTM (Mark): Haha yeah I guess they are when you know where you are and roughly where you’re going.
But for us, when we started, the problem was actually that we wanted to get away from running over the same old ground. Basically we’d all been gigging around separately with projects overlapping from time to time over the last 10 years without any of them ever really getting up any head of steam.
Our last two projects involved Dave, myself and Bez our original drummer in a kinda folk rock band and before that Keir invited Dave and I into another band with him that had previously featured Bez on drums. Neither really got off the ground and both times the songs had drawn from material written for what were actually previous attempts at bands. So when this band started the idea was to throw out all the songs, riffs, notes etc and not really set any kind of direction or style, to Burn The Maps so to speak.
MPT – How long has the band been going and what have you done in that time?
Mark: Really from January 2011, but we kind of restarted in early 2012 when Mike joined and that’s when we really started making progress.
Mike: I arrived after the band had been going a bit and done some gigs. After an audition I got the drummer’s job, so on hearing this, like anyone would have done, I set off on a 7 hour 400 mile round trip to pick up a new kit. A couple of practices and we were gigging. There’s a constant supply of new material from Dave and Keir and Mark are throwing new songs into the mix as well which means we can rotate material at the gigs, and the gigs keep coming getting bigger and better each time, which is great.
Dave: Since then we haven’t looked back, the gigs have been coming in every month and seem to be getting bigger all the time. We’re seem to be kind of gradually working our way up the bills on the nights we are playing which is great.
Keir: This summer we recorded our first EP at Adam Smith College Recording Studios and are waiting to hear the first mixes. We’re hoping to launch it early next year. Dave’s been keeping up the flow of new material up so we have lots more material for recording in the future.
MPT – For those who haven’t heard you, what do Burn The Maps sound like?
Mark: I can actually see this answer being different from every member. I like to think that we’re boiling down towards how you described us in your recent review. In essence I think we’re an alternative rock band with both Celtic and Indie sounds in there. I think Dave takes huge influence from the likes of Idlewild and from both folky and rocky stuff, I’m trying to draw from Biffy Clyro and Foo Fighters in what I do and Keir comes from a more Indie and classic rock place in his style. I reckon also Mike has a similar two-sided influence from much heavier rock stuff and on the flip side he’s a folky so he just seems to tap into whatever Dave’s written and nails it. Hopefully it’s all starting to tie together now. What you guys think? Who’n what do we sound like?
Mike: That would depend where in the venue you are stood, the guys say all they can hear is me demolishing the drum kit, so for some it may sound like a drum solo! Haha! I would like to think we don’t sound like anyone else, I think that’s always a tricky question to answer as what we hear in our music and what the audience hears might be different, but I would say our music is predominantly rock but tinged with punk, indie and folk.????
Keir: This is the hardest question in the book! Nobody wants to sound like another band, but it’s always going to be hard for the audience NOT to tell you that you sound like this band or that band. We’ve been compared sound-wise to a few great bands, but I think this is more to do with a particular cover that we’ve thrown into the set – it’s usually the easiest song for people to pick out or relate to. With all of our different musical backgrounds and influences, I’d say we were rock/punk/indie/alternative.
Dave: I think the songs we have right now are pretty eclectic and that probably comes from the fact that I listen to lot of different types of music that then comes out in my writing. I think that goes for the other guys too. We didn’t set out to sound like anybody else but people will always make comparisons. There’s a kind of split-personality in this band that I really like. There are songs that are less heavy with catchy riffs and melodies, and others with a heavier grunge rock sound. If I had to compare us to other bands I’d say if you mixed Idlewild, Biffy and Foo’s into one you would be getting close!
MPT – If there’s one BTM song that sums up the band, what is it and why?
Dave: For me I think ‘Restart’ kind of represents the start of a new batch of songs for the band that are an evolution from the first few we started out with. This one for me has all the instruments/vocals working together to create something that I think is really different from other stuff that’s around at the moment. It’s also great to play live.
Mark: For me though it’s probably ‘Lose Myself’ It’s had input from all the members including all the drummers and it just has cool parts all round, good lyrics and I like the small stops and breakdown, it has a bit of everything.
Mike: For me I would have to say ‘Restart’, this is the first song that was written after I’d joined the band so in that respect it represents a physical and musical change. It’s the first song I had direct input into, whereas the older stuff I’ve put my stamp on them.
Keir: I would agree with Mark on ‘Lose Myself’ for the reasons he’s given. It’s been with us since the start, and is ALWAYS on our set list, but I also love ‘Standing Stones’. The lyrics make me think about how long we’ve all been in bands and how all the other parts of our lives seem to have evolved, university, kids, jobs, – but still we’re all standing on stage doing what we love to do!
MPT – What influences the songs – both musical and non-musical?
Dave: Musically there’s a lot of influences in there. Non-musically I think the songs generally are about some of my experience of life so far. I don’t spend hours pouring over lyrics and usually write them very quickly as soon as I have a riff, melody or set of chords that are working for me. Writing this way means the lyrics can be quite fragmented and sometimes conflicted… but thoughts and people are like that sometimes! There’s no stories here, most of the lines have their own meaning but fit into the song around a loose theme.
MPT – Have you got any recordings and are your plans for recording in the future?
BTM: We’ve finished recording our EP there in Adam Smith College’s awesome recording studios, our mate Kinnell Anderson is an awesome sound tech and along with one of the students at the college Mark Small we’ve produced the thing. We’re at the stage now where we’re mixing it when we can and are hoping for a January release. We also have songs now set aside for an acoustic EP and the next one after that, although if Dave keeps writing at the speed he is now we’ll need to get some funds together and maybe make that an album!
MPT – What’s been your best and worst gigs so far?
Mark: Best- We played a gig this year in a really tiny pub in Cupar called The Station Bar, we were invited along by Mark Small who we barely knew and when we got there thought 1. There was no way we’d fit all the kit in. 2. If we did we might deafen everyone. And 3. This crowd look like they may string us up for disturbing their peace!
However the place filled up before we started as the headlining band are a good local up and coming band and soon we were playing to a jam-packed crowd and the place was amazing! Everyone seemed to love the set, so probably the smallest gig but easily the best for me.
Worst- There were none that were bad really, some where we maybe sucked a bit, haha! There was one at The JamJar in Dunfermline where we were basically old enough to be some of the band’s dads, that was a bit embarrassing but still a good laugh!
Keir: Best – This is a tough one! If I can just pick my top 3 gigs…. 1. The Cupar gig @ The Station Bar, 2. Our set at Agenda Rocks 2012 and 3. Our gig at Maggie May’s in Glasgow, Sept 2012.
The Cupar gig was just so small and packed with a crowd who I don’t think expected what we actually hit them with! Agenda Rocks is an annual gig that is organised by myself and Mark, and this year we pulled a great crowd, and it’s definitely the best crowd response we’ve had so far! Lastly, our gig at Maggie May’s was great for a number of reasons – our “biggest” gig to date, the crowd were ace again, but mostly due to the fact that we managed to pull together a bunch of fans from Fife to join us for the night. It felt great to have that kind of dedicated support. We partied A LOT after that one too!
Dave: I think the Station Bar Cupar was the best gig as well. It was the first time I felt totally comfortable in front of an audience, and really let go. It was a great night and the crowd really got into it apart from one woman walking around holding her ears. The more she heckled us the louder I sang though… I think I was kind of insulted! Haha!
I can’t think of a worst gig. From a singing point of view there have been a couple where I haven’t been able to hear all that well on stage and that meant I didn’t sound as sharp as normal. It’s been a bit of a learning curve for me getting used to how the band sounds on stage and the volume that you are hit with. I’ve got it sorted now though… one ear plug in and one out seems to do the trick.
MPT – What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to the band since you started?
Dave: We did a cover of Arlandria by the Foo Fighters and at one gig I sang the first line ‘ain’t that the way it always starts’ and then strummed my guitar only to find that I’d left my tuner pedal on which mutes my guitar so there was just this awkward silence. It wasn’t fun at the time but I’ve laughed about it since.
Either that or being hit in the legs by a cymbal that came flying off Mike’s kit in Glasgow. I’ve got a video of the moment it hits me and my head whipping round mid lyric to find out what the f**k it was.
Mark: We were harassed a fair bit by one woman at that gig at The Station Bar, she kept coming up to us between songs and demanding we turn it down, luckily the rest of the crowd seemed to think she was a loon! There were a lot of “Don’t you know who I am” and such like. Just before the last song she was pretty much face to face with Keir making more demands for us to be quiet, Keir was right at the mic and just shouted “If it’s too loud, pi** off” or something to that effect and started strumming the opening of Foo Fighters “All My Life”
Between folks cheering, the look on her face and the recognition of an awesome tune to end the set on the crowd went ballistic and the set finished with a bang! The headliners actually bailed that night before even playing so we spent the rest of the night playing covers and jamming with the other muso’s and punters, it was a really funny night.
Mike: Drum kit explosion, I need say no more! Haha
Keir: Gotta agree with Mark about the Cupar gig here, that moment of kicking into the Foo Fighters riff was priceless!
Our gig at Maggie Mays was also pretty funny! Mike is well known for destroying the drum kit – I even had to sit on the bass drum at one gig just to stop it from sliding across the stage – but at Maggie Mays Mike was having a lot of problems with the whole kit. I turned round at one point, to see him with a stick in his mouth, one hand under the snare trying to fix the stand, and the other hand still playing the beat that he’d normally be playing with two hands!
I gave him a wee nod to ask if he was cool, and he looked at me as if I had two heads, like “of course I’m ok, why you asking?” A few songs later, there’s drum sticks flying everywhere, so I knew he was back on track – then out of the corner of my eye, I seen this flashing light – turned round to see that he’d hit the cymbal so hard that it had come flying off the stand, right into the back of Dave! Brilliant!
MPT – What are your plans for the next 6 months? And what are your long term ambitions for the band?
BTM: Over Nov/Dec we’ll be mixing and mastering the EP, working on artwork and printing etc. We’ll also be hopefully doing a few acoustic gigs, the next on is Saturday 10th of November at The Railway in Buckhaven. The reason we’re going acoustic is that Mike’s partner Lorna is due with their 2nd kid in November so we’re looking to lighten his load a little, we’re not paying him paternity leave though! =p Our last full band gig of the year was at The Venue in Methil playing a “Monsters Ball Halloween Gig It was great way to wrap up our full live sets for the year.
After that we really hope to get the EP out there in January, we’ll try for a big launch somewhere along side some of our favourite acts we’ve gigged with then we’ll set about playing venues further and further afield, we’d really like to hit Glasgow again, along with Dundee, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and maybe get down to England too. We’ll also be trying like bears to get on the T-Break stage at T in the park next year too!
MPT – What’s the one question that I’ve not asked that you’d like to have been asked? And what’s the answer!
Keir: Would you like a cup of tea? Answer, always!
Mike: would we like a large sum of money to record our album and tour it? Answer: Yes please.
Mark: Yeah, what he said, the money thing! =]
Dave: I’d go with that.
Thanks to the guys for their time for the interview and I’m really looking forward to hearing the E.P. in the New Year.