On Monday Book Group released their first single – a double A sided 7” from Gerry Loves Records featuring new favourite ‘The Lowdown of a LOUD Sound’ and long established live set high point ‘Victory Lap’.
Let’s start with the newer song first. ‘Lowdown’ was only introduced to the live set earlier this year but has quickly established itself as a favourite. Built around an insanely catchy guitar riff, it’s probably their most accessible tune to date. The recorded version is, well, shinier than the live version but loses none of the live energy. It’s an instant winner.
Which is what I was expecting from ‘Victory Lap’, the one song from the live set that everyone has been aching to hear a studio version of. So I was a little surprised to find that, on the first couple of listens to the recording (via the excellent Scottish Fiction podcast), I was a little bit underwhelmed. Perhaps it was over familiarity with the live version but the single cut seemed to lack a little urgency. (And, of course, short of a 3D holographic Graeme leaping out of your speakers and brandishing a megaphone at you, it’s not going to have the same visual impact.)
Repeated listens, however, have altered that perception. Just like ‘Lowdown’, there’s certainly a pop sheen to ‘Victory Lap’ but the recording adds grandeur and dignity in place of the live energy. It’s taken a wee bit of getting used to but, much more than any of their other recordings so far, ‘Victory Lap’ successfully carves out its own recorded identity.
Ahead of the single release I ill advisedly grabbed an interview with Graeme (Benilyn) and Michael (whisky cocktails) after the band’s set at the recent Aberfeldy Festival. Even allowing for the fact that Scott and Andrew had already driven home, this was no less raucous than previous Book Group chats not least with Peenko temporarily hijacking the interview and Graeme wanting to interview the loitering Gareth from Randolph’s Leap.
First off the guys were full of praise for their new label Gerry Loves Records. Whilst previous releases on GLR have all been split releases, Book Group are the first band to “do their own thing”
M: “They do these lovely wee split singles but we’re doing one by ourselves.”
G: “So does that mean every other band needed support but we’re just happy to whack it out ourselves?”
It definitely seems that the GLR/Book Group, ahem, coupling was inevitable from the start.
G: “I think I stalked them for a while.”
M: “Yeah, Graeme stalked them and I’ve had a thing for Andy for years. Andy and me go way back.”
G: ““Truthfully Paddy was always quite open about the fact that they loved the song ‘Victory Lap’ and hopefully they like other songs too.”
M: “From my perspective, in Edinburgh, they’re such a good label. They’re the best label. The bands they’ve worked with like Conquering Animal Sound, PAWS, Rick Redbeard, Adam Stafford, they’re all so good. For them to ask is good. They don’t mess about. They like vinyl, we like vinyl.”
G: “Paddy’s lucky number is 22 and, at our EP launch, seemingly he bought the ticket for the gig and it was number 22. And then on the night he was late and he basically caught the last bit of our set. And when he went up to buy an EP someone pushed in the way whilst he was queuing and then he bought the E.P. and it was number 22! Two little ducks!
“He told me this emotional story and I was like ‘”Two little ducks”! And he was, ‘That’s not funny’.”
As mentioned above ‘Victory Lap’ is the song that anyone who has seen the band live has been wanting to hear on record. In fact I remember Michael being reluctant to tell me last year what was going to be on the first E.P. because everyone else had been disappointed that ‘Victory Lap’ wasn’t going to be on it. But one of the band members is certain that it can’t be described as their signature tune.
G: “It was our first song. But do you mean is it the song that sums us up?”
M: “Is it our ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’? No!”
G: “No?! (surprised) No! To be honest, it’s probably become a tune that a lot of people link with us but it’s not of our own doing.”
M: “It’s not a deliberate thing. Honestly I love the single and the recorded version, and it’s got that wee message drilled in at the end that I think people like. But we have songs to me, that are more instant, songs that are more loud, that we enjoy playing more.”
What’s interesting about the new single is that, whereas that the songs on the ‘Homeward Sound’ E.P. were fairly straight renditions of the live versions, both ‘Victory Lap’ and ‘Lowdown’, to these ears at least, clearly show the influence of the studio.
M: “I’m glad you think the EP captured the live show – that was fairly intentional in that we recorded the bulk of it live. The songs are written and worked out to play live, with recording them a secondary consideration – so we wouldn’t aim for too much of a departure between the two. In terms of the single though that’s interesting to hear. It was recorded live too (for the most part) and I don’t really hear the difference. Victory Lap is pretty much note-for-note how we play it live, just a bit clearer!”
With the arrival of ‘Victory Lap’, many of the live sets’ longstanding highlights have now been committed to vinyl (‘A Rough Wooing’ is one exception). As far as I’m concerned there’s the makings of a great LP in the two releases to date but neither Graeme nor Michael feel that this is the time to be making a debut LP. However further recordings aren’t too far away.
G: “I think that the songs that you’re talking about have been with us for a while so people are familiar with them. People hear it a few times and catch onto it. But I’ll be honest, and I hope that this doesn’t come over really badly …”
M: “I’m with you on this one.”
G: “ … but we’ve got loads more to come. We’re planning to record in February and we’ve got 5 or 6 new tunes that we want to get out there. It’s hard with live shows when you’re looking to push things like ‘Victory Lap’ and ‘Lowdown’ but the new stuff’s going to come forward.”
M: “Realistically, by the time we get the new E.P. out, that will be three releases in a year. And, to us, you need at least that before you can think of an album. Don’t get me wrong, we love albums, we love the concept of them and the format. That’s why we release on vinyl, because it’s a labour of love.
“But there’s no point in us making an album now because we’ve got a bit more to give. Every gig we play we get one or two new fans and if we can hold off the album for another 6 months or a year, we’d rather do that than release it now. We’d rather have a bigger fanbase.
“We’re always working on new tunes and even with this new E.P. that’s only going to be 10 or 12 songs out there in 2 or 3 years. We can do better.”
One day, I may release the full unexpurgated version of this interview (or even the audio!) but for now that’s as much sense as I’ll get out of it. Buy the single and go to the gigs – you won’t be disappointed.
‘Victory Lap’/’The Lowdown of a LOUD Sound’ is available from Gerry Loves Records now. Buying the vinyl gives you access to two bonus tracks – an acoustic new song ‘Gutter Call’ and a slightly bonkers electro remix of ‘Victory Lap’ by Johnnie Common.
There are 2 single launches this week on Thursday (28th) at the Roxy 171 in Glasgow with support from Poor Things and at Teviot Underground in Edinburgh on Friday (29th) with support from Adam Stafford, Gav Prentice and Carbs.
The Just released today video for ‘Victory Lap’:
and audio for both sides of the single too: