Life Under Lockdown #9 – Dickson Telfer (Vulture Party / Out of the Swim)

Next up in Life Under Lockdown is editor/author/bassist Dickson Telfer.

2020 has been a busy year for him with his musical hat on as Vulture Party have just released their debut self-titled album on Last Night From Glasgow, even if the planned album show has had to be postponed. ‘Vulture Party’ is an excellent record if a little less frantic than the sort of fare you might normally encounter on here.

Dickson’s also a member of Out of the Swim who have just self released a single in collaboration with Annie Booth from an upcoming EP ‘The University of Skinflats’.

First things first, how are you and how are you doing?

I’m doing fine, thanks. I can do my part-time jobs from home, haven’t had the virus or any symptoms, don’t have any kids to homeschool and haven’t been furloughed. So, in contrast to lots of other people, I feel exceptionally lucky.

How has the lockdown affected you personally?

I found it frustrating at first, but I’ve since developed a routine that’s keeping me productive. Sure, it’d be nice to visit my parents or go to a gig but we’re all in the same boat. If anything the lockdown has helped me focus and, although it’s an inconvenience in many ways, I think there’s plenty good that can be taken from what’s happened.

As a musician, has it directly affected you and in what ways?

It has, yeah. With Vulture Party, we were making great progress in the build up to our album release and launch party. We were rehearsing regularly and getting really tight – and then everything was cancelled! It was a blow, but worse things have happened and we’ll pick things up again as soon as we can. As the band is made up of three members who work part-time and one shift worker, we were often able to get together for a jam or to record demos on Mondays. It’s now been seven (I think) weeks without Demo Mondays and we’re all missing them, as well as the usual blethering nonsense and having a carry on; we’re good at making each other laugh, so we’re missing that too.

There have been a lot of artists and performers finding ways to connect with their audience. How have you, if you have, engaged with people and how did you find the experience?

We haven’t really. We individually contributed to one of local magazine Razur Cuts’ online shows – Louise did a piano + vox piece, David did an acoustic number, and I did a bit of spoken word with a little bit of keyboard – but that’s all we’ve done in terms of online performance.

I appreciate and admire artists trying different things, but there’s something about an online show that doesn’t appeal to me. Live music is about feeling the energy coming off the stage, the crack of the snare, the crowd’s reaction etc. A Mogwai gig on YouTube is a good experience, but it’s a world apart from being there.

As far as connecting with our audience in other ways is concerned, we chat to folk using social media and it’s been heartening to learn that our album has been bought down south, in Sweden and in Germany. This kind of stuff helps keep the spirits up.

What tips do you have or what things do you find useful in keeping yourself going during these strange times?

Develop a routine if you can and try to stay creative. At first, I ate too much chocolate and drank too much beer. I’ve sorted that out now and feel much better for it.

Have you taken on any new challenges or routines during lockdown?

A few, yes. Shortly before lockdown, a friend at work lent me a 16-track digital portable recording studio. I’ve learned how to use it and while there have been a few head-scratching moments, it’s been rewarding. It was this piece of kit Vulture Party’s Isolation Sessions track (a cover of ‘Somewhere in the Night’ by Starless) was recorded and produced on.

It was quite a challenge compiling and mixing all the parts my fellow vultures sent me, especially since it was done using faders and pressing buttons rather than using software, a mouse and a screen. It was a refreshing challenge actually, and we’re chuffed the track will appear on the double vinyl Last Night From Glasgow are releasing, with all proceeds going to help music venues and record shops.

What music, books, films, art or television shows have sustained you through lockdown?

I decided to read some classics I’d always meant to get to, namely Dracula, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Greyfriars Bobby. I enjoyed all three and it was interesting seeing words like ‘presently’ appear regularly, which is far less common in contemporary fiction. I also own every episode of Cheers on DVD and have been working my way through them all again. I started watching Cheers when I was just a kid (around season 8 or 9 I think) and loved it. Although some other TV shows have come close, it’s still my favourite – although watching Norm drink beer and have a laugh with his pals really makes me want to go to the pub!

Music wise, the lockdown offers a great opportunity to get absorbed in new sounds. I’ve been really enjoying the latest releases from Metronomy, Broken Chanter, Dextro, Caribou and Cloth. There are also loads of cracking radio shows such as the Rebellious Jukebox and Scots Whay Hae shows on CamGlen, Postcards from the Underground on Cumbernauld FM, the Is This Music? Show on Regal Radio and The Vanishing Point Records show on Radio Free Matlock. That’s just a snapshot of the local and internet radio I’ve been enjoying over and above stuff on 6Music and Radio Scotland. I’ve got into a lot of new bands from twirling the dial and it’ll be great to see some of them live after the last of the coronavirus credits have scrolled off-screen.

What are your hopes for a post-lockdown world?

I hope more people will realise that climate change is a thing. I hope too that there will be less greed, more patience and that rich people will no longer think buying property in Edinburgh to rent out to tourists or artists during the Fringe for a ridiculous rate is like printing money. We take a lot for granted. The virus has taught us not to.

Anything else that you would like to add or say?

I wish there was more consistency. My concern is that without consistency we could end up taking one step forward and two steps back. I mean things like ‘don’t travel to second homes’ (unless you’re Prince Charles or the chief medical officer of Scotland) and ‘stay two metres apart’ (unless you’re on Westminster Bridge applauding the NHS). Another thing that burst my head recently was Oktoberfest cancelling and, shortly after, Wetherspoons announcing they’re hoping to re-open some pubs in June!

All going well though, we’ll be standing in a venue at some point in the near future, a beer in hand, waiting for a brilliant band to come on and blow us away. Cheers!

‘Vulture Pary’ is available on vinyl from LNFG and CD from the band’s own Bandcamp. Here’s the video for ‘Sun Dance’ the second single from ‘Vulture Party’:

Previously on Life Under Lockdown:

#1 – Lonelady
#2 – Jan Burnett (Spare Snare)
#3 – Ghari Mure (Echo Machine)
#4 – Lomond Campbell
#5 – Adam Ross (Randolph’s Leap)
#6 – Jason Brown (Brix and the Extricated/Parent)
#7 – Jeremy Thoms (The Cathode Ray / Stereogram Recordings)
#8 – Cammy McFarlane (Mitchell Museum)