Friday, August 31, 2007

On a Pavement Rudely Carved

On a pavement outside King's Cross: "are you feeling sinister?" written for anyone with eyes in their heads. Now long since faded away, probably unceremoniously, mundanely scrubbed away by an indifferent municipal worker. Someone yet to be comforted by the sweet voice carried by the wind from the top of a nearby hill, the depths of a not-so-distant tube stop, or any of these places that have deservingly had a song written about them. I managed to find my way to the hilltop anyway, and the welcome shade of the trees on that Sunniest Day In History. And I found the people I had known for so long, through the simultaneous clatter of keys, separated in space but united in intent. The solace of so many sharp minds reverberating in consensus – a quiet revolution. People that perhaps once were hopeless unbelievers but listened to Stuart’s Baby Songs and now have enough faith in the world to have babies and sing songs that aren’t even remotely feeble. Too many people to talk to in a week, much less the scant hours of daylight. People that previously felt unreal but only turned out to be too good to be true. Idols that are now proudly counted as friends. Renowned pop stars, perhaps known only to those who appreciate the sky, but stars all the same. I see stars, as Pam sang. And Joe didn’t say “you don’t say”. Instead he lectured us on that slow afternoon on The Cat’s Miaow, Lloyd Cole, the best parts of Tigermilk. But by the time he said “baby, you’ll do” the babies had already been carted away. The fabled tales of jenny suddenly materialised after having only been a figment of my imagination. A barely present voice whispered Trotsky of Our Time, Eye For Ivy and Tuesday Girl. The ghosts of York seemed to surround me. Tim recollected the bliss of long-gone visits. We’ll Never Be Cool is as much a soundtrack to that evening as to my life, as to their lives, our lives. Sometimes differences are smaller that distances. People drifted off to play football in old band t-shirts, 'old' both in respect to the garment and the band - the same in all cases of course. Parents drifted off to put babies to bed. The Pocketbook angels headed all down the hill, after having been awarded the same attention as an old discarded demo tape. Thirst beckoned people down to Harrison St and a pub wittily named Harrison. I stayed until sunset, because if you are on a hill the sunset lasts longer. I attended a late evening meal for talented writers. Noodles for Pinefox and friends of the heroes, though it is still unclear to me who these were in that situation. Walking into the pub, the already sweaty dancers explained that their noodling days were over. My doodling days have just begun, I replied. And my bip-bopping days certainly aren’t over, although my boots are making my feet ache. I had brought my camera with the intent of taking pictures of pavements. But as the writing was gone I aimed it at people instead. In hope of capturing their true colours. Sometimes it succeeded. Don’t you think there should be a museum somewhere? For all the little things we do:

The hill was claimed, today, by so many.

Listening to Visitors #1 singing behind a branch.

Listening to the Yorkians,the Yorkies, the Jorviks, making their own acoustic soundtrack.

Staying out alive till the last of the sun.

Pinefox scratched his head and wrote the captions.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Kids Are Solid Gold

The Nottingham night definitely belonged to The Deirdres! I didn't see our gig of course, and they sure outnumbered and out-popped The Besties. There were so many of them I forgot to count, and they had a load of cute little instruments and toys lying around on the minimal stage. They had a wee picture of the whole band on the pick-guard of the guitar that I spent most of their gig trying to get a photo of but it wasn't going to happen. They'd already done twice as many gigs as A Smile and a Ribbon and that without leaving the Derby/Nottingham area. Derby seems be a New Pop Town with Mascot Fight (whose lovely demo I got from Ian Watson) also coming from there. As The Besties pleaded for people to buy their records, The Deirdres demos were already sold out - as you can see. They only had ten anyway, and I got one of them! It was definitely an important gig for them, and despite some trouble with broken strings they managed to put on a fun-packed show. Stuart Indietracks was obviously impressed as they are now the first band on the bill for the Christmas Twee event. And they've got several more gigs, including one in London for How Does It Feel to Be Loved?. You could see the satisfaction shining in Sam's eyes. Sam, who also does the Tasty fanzine, had arranged these gigs that took place in the smaller Red Room at The Rescue Rooms. We were happy to discover the smell was not as bad as Pocketbooks had reported, it was mostly the stairway that smelled! Thanks so much to Sam and Lisa who put us up and were just plain lovely, and to Andy for being such a sweetheart. And Woody of course - our new favourite cat. It was quite the post-Indietracks crowd at The Rescue Rooms, which wasn't all that strange now that I think about it, as the festival was quite close to Nottingham. Pete and Ian from Horowitz were there, Mark from The Parallelograms, Stuart himself and Janynie - whose Don't Start Feeling All 'Romantic' were actually co-arrangers of the night I should say. The Besties set was good as well, even though you might have gotten the opposite impression this far. It's was the first time I'd seen them, as I wasn't around that long at the Emmaboda festival. They had even bigger problems than The Deirdres though, and I think it was a good ten minutes in the middle there where they had to make smalltalk. But all the people who were there had come to see the bands so we bore with them. They might have played a BIT too long though, as they insisted on playing all the songs anyway. It was Long, but Good. But they were so much better in London actually.

What else is there to say about Nottingham? Because somehow we managed to waste away our day off there. We got there in the afternoon with the coach and the first thing we had to do was walk through the whole of the city centre to find some lockers to leave our bags in. We could have just gotten of the coach at a another stop, but we didn't know that. After that we went looking for somewhere to eat, and accidentally bumped into Jaynie. Then the rest of the evening was spent at The Orange Tree. Where we also met Richard and Leigh, and eventually Sam and Andy. So, we didn't really do anything except for eating. We did get a shown around town the next day by Leigh though, whom I should also thank. We didn't get up until twelve anyway, so we didn't have time for anything much. And it was blazing hot, for the first time during this English summer. Och well, at least we saw more of Nottingham than Cardiff...

You can listen to all of The Deirdres demos on MySpace. But you can't download this song:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

From This Day

From now on this blog will also be the home of new indiepop club Don't Die On My Doorstep in Malmö, Sweden. I (plus some as of yet unknowing friends) will start doing the club at Inkonst in October, if everything goes according to plan. And it will be at least once a month with two bands playing each time. I made a MySpace profile for it here and you can listen to Remember Fun, The School, The Parallelograms and The Hardy Boys so you know you want to have a look. This is what's said about the club there, and what will also be on soon:

Don’t Die On My Doorstep is about filling gaps. For a few years now there has been a gaping hole in Malmö’s POP scene. All these great bands have turned up, like Butcher Boy and Horowitz across the North Sea and Days and Liechtenstein right here at home. Bands that we can’t live without. But they’ve got nowhere to play! This is where we come in. Don’t Die On My Doorstep is an indiepop club with live bands. Thus, it is modelled on National Pop League in Glasgow and Spiral Scratch in London. Bringing the best of these together you get a weekday club roughly once a month, playing the best records and booking the bands you thought would never come to Sweden. We can’t get all of them, but we promise to try. We don’t like booking agencies and tickets will be as cheap as we can make them. We are fed up with clubs that start late just to prove something, so we’ll have you back home before your bedtime. And we're fed up with venues that won't let you in, so no age limits around here! Yes, ruffle that bowl cut, put on your anorak, grab your silk stockings and your dance invitation! We know there’s a gap in your heart.

Aye, and check back here now and again for updates. And if you're interested in playing, you can write to the address in the 'about' section to your right. Some of the bands I would love to have are: BMX Bandits, The Hardy Boys, Would-Be-Goods, Butcher Boy, Pants Yell!, Scarlet's Well, Helen McCookerybook, The Garlands, Wake the President, Love Dance, The Dreamers, The Bridal Shop, The Electric Pop Group, The Hermit Crabs, Horowitz, The Shining Hour, Twig, The Sunny Street, Sportique, Slipslide, Tibi Lubin, Days, The Pines, The First Division, The Parallelograms, The Cut-Outs, Arthur & Martha and Pocketbooks. Hopefully some of these can make it...

Monday, August 13, 2007

They Call Us Winsome, But We're Just Hopeless

So apparently I'm supposed to write Eight Things People Didn't Know About Me. That'd be simple, as no one really knows anything about me! Instead, it's turned more into something like Eight Things People Didn't Know About Me & Belle & Sebastian. With the Sinister picnic coming up and everything. The title of the post is something Stuart says in the version of "I Could Be Dreaming" from their first Radcliffe session. It's very different from the Tigermilk version, you know. I'm listening to that session now, and the funniest thing I've heard for ages is when Stuart in "Just a Modern Rock Song", instead of singing "it's beyond me what a girl can see - I'm only lucid when I'm writing songs" (which used to be something of a mantra for me), sings "it's beyond me what a girl can see - I'm only lucid when I'm riding horses"!

1. The first time I heard Belle & Sebastian must have been in 2002. It's quite late, I know, but no one in my class had even heard of them so I can't complain. I remember it was a live recording from Stockholm broadcast on the radio. Introducing it, the presenter said something like "B&S love their fans and their fans love them", as if it was some sort of cult. I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to be part of and soon as "Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie" started and the audience screamed with joy I knew this was the music I'd been searching for all those years. I'd heard of indiepop of course, but hadn't really got it until then. I loved how the audience talked to them - in-between two songs someone says "don't forget your letter" to Stuart and I thought she sounded like a really beautiful girl (how could one hear something like that?). I didn't know who were in the band, so of course I pictured the singer as 'Sebastian' - a humble poet in short dark hair - and Isobel as 'Belle' - a shy librarian with long black hair. Sitting (that was important) at the front of the stage, playing guitar and piano.

2. That summer I worked at the library in Limhamn and for many years after that listening to Belle & Sebastian would put me in a very specific mood - no that's not sufficient - a completely different world. That world revolved around summer breezes, libraries, the other girl who worked there for the summer, the semi-suburban areas I cycled through on my way to work each morning and afternoon. All the time listening to that live recording on my minidisc player, singing along in a hushed voice. I can still feel that sometimes when I listen to them, or when I cycle through those streets again (even though they never lead to anywhere I'm going), or when I hear Stevie's guitar on "My Wandering Days Are Over". Sometimes it makes me cry.

3. Next summer I bought my first guitar and the first song I learned to play was "Judy and the Dream of Horses" - pretty simple, just A, D and E. The 'sheet music' section of Sinister is still one of the most useful resources on the internet. The first I did was to re-write "I Fought In a War". From the start I tried to sing like Stuart, but for some reason it didn't work. It was strange because I could sing "We Rule the School" and "Fox In the Snow" exactly like him. There was a girl I used to be obsessed with and of course never dared to speak to. So I just called her Belle. She ended up in most of the songs. I really did have a Sebastian complex, didn't I? My Bowlie name is Sebastian even. A few years later we met. And after that we became friends.

4. I've been on the Sinister mailing list for as long - five years is it now? I used to post quite a lot the first years - I was the Swedish Chris. There weren't any other Sinistereens in my city, unless they were lurkers. There was Astrid in Stockholm of course, who was my biggest list crush. But I'm sure it would've been Jenowl if I'd been around that early. I wonder if she got her dentist degree? It was me who wrote that Sebastian story that someone actually thought was written by Stuart, which so incredibly flattering. That story on the back of Tigermilk is still my favourite piece of writing. Mine's probably still out there somewhere, in the archives. The first Sinistereen I met was Nico when I went to Scotland with my family two years ago. He was very nice to me and showed me around Edinburgh. My parents were very suspicious of the whole thing though! Lawrence is coming to Malmö in October so I can return the favour then.

5. Belle & Sebastian was one of the big reasons I moved to Glasgow, although I usually don't admit it. And Sinister of course. Though everyone is on Bowlie these days. Most of the Glasgow listees still live there. It was thanks to Sinister I met Stacey, Sarah and Tara. I'd met Stuart for the first time the year before, on my family holiday. Stuart is probably the only male person I can see myself kissing. I've only hugged him so far, mind you. I was going to see them at The Arches, so I sneaked in during soundcheck. Stuart came out afterwards to get something from his bag. I stood there for minutes that seemed like hours before I went up to him. It was one of the hardest things I've done! He's such a lovely person. These days he'd recognise me, but I don't know if that's cool or just plain embarrasing. I never understood why they called him Struan on Sinister, so I just joined in. I practised my Scottish dialect in secret, listening to "A Space Boy Dream". It just felt awkward, but once I got there I picked it up quite fast.

6. I've never been to a Sinister picnic, so I might get a shock from all the red pants when I get to Primrose Hill in two weeks. Because I'm definitely going now. I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone. I didn't know Pam Berry was on the list! And I just figured out who Pinefox is. I hope some Glaswegians make the effort too! It's the tenth birthday we're celebrating after all. And hopefully there will be Sinister Babies as well. Just the thought that there are human beings that exist solely as a result of Sinister is nothing short of staggering.

7. The best thing that happened at Indietracks was probably after the disco on the last day, when we were in the train car just outside the main hall. Pocketbooks were there and a spontaneous Belle & Sebastian singalong started. Then an old lady who worked there kindly told us to leave because she couldn't go home until everything was locked up. So out we went, continuing in the dark coolness of the summer night. Ian Watson said "let's do 'Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying' - it would be the perfect end to this". Andy was passed the guitar and suddenly there were about twenty people standing in a circle singing "it may as well be me" etc. It was wonderful to feel such a strong connection to people you've just met, and some people you didn't know at all.

8. My favourite Belle & Sebastian song is still "Beautiful" I think... Every time the Telecaster comes in at the second chorus the world starts spinning around me. I've still not heard it live although I've requested it twice and both times Stuart seemed to think it was a good idea.

I'm not going to tag anyone else to do this, but of course it would be interesting to see what Ally, Nancy, Rebecka and Brogues has to contribute. Not about Belle & Sebastian, but in general. Alistair and Dimitra have done it already.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

We Cajole the School

Cardiff was great. What we saw of it anyway... We saw the castle from outside, the Europa café where we ate, the local Wetherspoon, and the two O'Neill's of course. We went into the wrong one first, because we saw one just as we came out of the bus station. I peeked in through the window and next to 'Thursday' in the schedule it said "live rock bands". Could that be us? So we went in and said we were playing tonight and the bartender said we could leave our stuff upstairs. We dragged all our luggage upstairs and found ourselves in a really big room. Could we really be playing here? Then a grumpy man appeared and asked us what we were doing there. Thus we learned that there were two O'Neills in Cardiff and we were definitely in the wrong one! It served us right for posing as a rock band, I suppose. We finally found the right place and met Neil Pop Miwsig who had arranged the gig and our old friends (by then) The Besties. That's it in the photo above. It wasn't long before Silence At Sea and The School turned up as well. I was very happy to meet Liz and the other schoolboys and -girls as they'd been so lovely at Indietracks. Unfortunately, we wouldn't have time to see any of the other bands because we had to hop on a train back to London to be in time for our morning flight back to Sweden. We were quite stressed and it wasn't our best gig of the tour, but ok I guess. I was really nervous because I'd just lost my lead and spent a lot of time looking for it instead of preparing. Then it was time for some hurried goodbyes, which might have been just as well because that made it more painless. I still miss everyone we met during that week!

I'd like to take this opportunity to post a song by The School, as the first of the mp3s offered on this blog. There really isn't a better band in the world at this very moment in my eyes. I can't wait for that album to come out on Elefant! For those who don't know The School was started by Liz who is also in The Loves, and in fact the two bands share several members. Much as I loved The Loves' set at Indietracks, I have to admit The School was the band that really stole my heart. If The Loves play 'garage pop', The School is definitely more girl-group. After their gig there was a rush to the merchandise stall, as everyone wanted a copy of the four-track CDR. I got my copy, plus the last of the screen-printed bags... and about eight badges! You can have one if you like. The School sound like Camera Obscura at their finest moments, only better. Or closer to what they seem to want to sound like. And Liz has a beautiful voice that, like the songs themselves, will catch you unaware with their simple charm. Songs on this blog will be labelled CLOUD, starting with no. 9 of course. More songs here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hazy Tambourine Days

Let's turn back another page. Someone asked for a playlist from Taramasalata, and considering it was a week ago now I'd better get to it. The day before So Tough So Cute was the last the day of the short tour with A Smile and a Ribbon. We were in Gothenburg to play at my friend's club at Kontiki. We got to borrow lots of stuff from The Faintest Ideas and The Electric Pop Group so cheers to them! But we had to carry most of it ourselves, from the rehearsal space, onto the tram and over to the venue. The place is definitely not made for live music and the stage is the size of your average bathroom. But somehow we managed to squeeze ourselves on stage and Martin from TEPG got the PA working. I was half sitting on the amplifier... but it was cosy and nice to play together with Elin again (who'd missed out on all the UK fun). After the gig I did two sets behind the turntables and this is what I played, in roughly the correct order:

Blueboy – Cosmopolitan
The Hang-Ups – Top of Morning
Tree Fort Angst! – Tilting At Windmills
Simpático – Union Station
Twig – Devil Talking to You
Strawberry Whiplash – Summershine
Ariane – Tu voudrai que j’oublie
Rocketship – Hey, Hey Girl
Brittle Stars – Circus
The Orchids – And When I Wake Up
Fat Tulips – It’s So True
Felt – Vasco da Gama
The School – All I Wanna Do
The Daisies – Cold Wave
The Wolfhounds – Stars In the Tarmac
The Byrds – Lady Friend
Horowitz – Tracyanne
McCarthy – The Way of the World
Happydeadmen – Silent Sigh City
The Rainyard – Hell-Bent Suicidal Over You
The Dovers – Your Love
Tommy Dodson – One Day Love
Maxine Darren – Don’t You Know
The Hit Parade – My Favourite Girl
The Saturday People – Upside-Down Girl
St. Christopher – And I Wonder
The Orange Peels – Everybody’s Gone
Thee Milkshakes – The Best Things In Life
Tuesday Weld – Are You the Boy
The Siddeleys – Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes
The Hardy Boys – Wonderful Lie
The Brilliant Corners – Laugh I Could Have Cried
Strawberry Story – This Time Baby
Mousie & the Traps – How About You
The Liberty Ship – She Don’t Care About Time
James Dean Driving Experience – Drop Dead Darling
The Squires – I Can’t Do It

Not surprisingly, The Hit Parade, Rocketship and St. Christopher were the most popular tunes. They're so predictable, the Gothenburg crowd! But that's why we like them. You can see the usual suspects dancing to "And I Wonder" above. There were some northern soul folks there too and one of them seemed very pleased to get to shuffle his feet to Mousie & the Traps. No one blinked an eye when I played "Drop Dead Darling" though, which was meant to be the icing on the cake.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

How Can I Start?

Turn back the pages when I know the words by heart. Meeting your idols can be a bit awkward and sometimes disappointing. That's what Gregory Webster said when I met him last weekend. But he didn't realise that was the exact situation I was in. Greg and Tim will always be two of my biggest idols. But I've never been disappointed with any of the people I've met from my favourite bands, and Greg is certainly no exception. He was in a great mood and more talkative than I'd expected. I guess it's because none of these people really feel like popstars even they ARE in our eyes. Of course Razorcuts were never 'successful', but they've become indiepop legends over the past twenty years. I shouldn't be the one to talk however. I don't even feel like I'm in a 'proper' band now, and god knows I won't twenty years on! I actually felt more like a friend than a fan, thanks to meeting him before the club - 'in private' as it were, instead of in the public sphere of the dance floor. He did know who I was in fact, as I'd been emailing him a few years ago when I wrote that (in retrospect unaccomplished) paper on c86. I never expected then to meet him in the future of course. He did get his fair share of admirers approaching him for a chat though, it seemed. Graham had brought all his Sportique records for him to sign, and a slightly drunk girl tried to drag him off to KB after Retro closed. "It's a rock club..." I explained to Greg and he wisely refrained. A guy has to stay true to his beliefs, you know. No more rock 'n' roll for you! Gregory did two great sets behind the turntables - one before the first onslaught of drunken dancers had arrived (with stuff that "you couldn't dance to" like Huggy Bear and The Buff Medways) and then an "unplanned" barrage of girl-group hits for a packed dance floor. Everything from 45s of course. I'm already looking forward to next month when Harvey Williams is the guest dj!

Oh, I just noticed that Nancy has posted Razorcuts' Caff 7" on her blog, which you'll find among the links if you're not too stupid.

Daniel alerted me to the fact that I managed to write the whole of this without even mentioning the name of his club! I should be ashamed. It's called So Tough So Cute - so now you'll know where to go next month. It's in Sweden, by the way.