Written by Liam Dickson @ FEAST
I’ve never reviewed a release, never mind one that isn’t even out yet; but why the hell not if this is the starting point. Return to the Sun caught my eye at a gig at Electric Circus in Edinburgh, myself and front man Stephen McAfferty getting talking online; a few emails later, here we are! The ‘ElevenFiftySeven’ EP, due for release in December, was recorded at The Depot studios tucked away in the deepest reaches of unchartered Granton with the go-to-guy for production in the capital Mark Morrow, five tracks in total. The cover art, designed by bassist Sean Ford, appears to depict some kind of off-kilter granite vortex sucking you into the underworld – the calming blue backdrop and rounded edges offer a levity making it not too jarring an image and suits the music it graphically represents; heavy but alluring. The circular design also no doubt alludes to what is implied in the title… ElevenFiftySeven. Just numbers, right? Wrong! We’ve all seen it on the news before, some crackpot claiming ‘the end of days is nigh’, but when scientists concoct a ‘doomsday clock’ to represent how close we are to, well, doomsday; that’s a pretty frightening thought! If midnight is curtain call, we’re just three minutes away within the timescale of humanity, hence ‘ElevenFiftySeven’… Weren’t expecting that from an EP were you?! The fictional female subject offers us insight into the drug-induced haze the people have adopted to blot out the inevitable in their version of reality (sounds an awful lot like ours too). However, this isn’t a macabre affair, more an inspirational call to arms – shake off your demons, live the life you dreamt of, proclaim your love from the mountaintops! We’ve a limited time in this world so don’t go wasting it – I’d say that is about as damn uplifting a subject matter you could possibly choose.
Right, here we go; no long drawn out introductions here, RTTS are off like a shot with this two minute exercise in no-nonsense riffage, ‘Static’. All instruments are played to full capacity for no longer than ten seconds before giving way to a bassline crawling through the sludge and some seriously cool lyrics, each line broke up with a harsh DA-DA-DA-DA rip on the guitar. “My head is full of static, like a broken TV” goes the chorus; and the verses tell of spiders in his bed, his “anxiety keeps them well fed”; this is the first of many examples throughout the EP where the lyrics written don’t seem to fit squarely into the rhythm of the vocal melody line, but somehow vocalist Stephen finds a way, displaying an aptitude for making the words just flow with unconventional emphasis that makes for a far more interesting listen than if he wrote some boring old nice-and-neat rhyming couplets. He knows what he wants to say, and he knows how he’s going to say it.
Riff verse chorus, riff verse chorus – that’s all there is to this song and that’s all we need; the second chorus really ramps it up with some ‘woo woos’ as catchy as a fish hook. It sounds like a whole room full of people are singing along but I’ll bet it’s down to the production wizardry of Morrow, a near perfect pair-up. A signal of intent this song is, as by the end you already know RTTS have stepped up their game for this EP, both in theme, lyrical content and instrumentation.
Caught your breath? Good, we’ll move on. ‘Waiting to Arrive’ is track number two, opening with delicate piano twinkle mirrored by simple guitar picking, both backed by a rather quick snapping snare click (do I hear the ticking of that doomsday clock?) A bit like Depeche Mode with an undeniable Scots-rock bent in the verse, the chorus comes in kicking like a mule with soaring vocals; ‘Waiting to arrive, but we’re already… heeeere!’ A strong track, though my favourite part has to be the very end; as distorted guitar slowly but surely decays with atmospheric (to put it mildly) broken piano chords played as slow and soft as a funeral march, then before you realize it’s happening that decaying guitar bubbles back up, more and more until it shakes you retinas then – nothing, excluding a mild reverb as the track really does fade out this time. Haunting. Brilliant!
Now we come to, in my opinion, the centerpiece of the record; ‘Electrical Bugs’ is another straight-to-business number, a millisecond of whoosh before the band are in full mid-tempo swing. Now, you might find this a rather odd comparison, but the lead guitar line and various solos throughout this tune reminded me somewhat of the Sonic Adventure soundtrack – you know, that old video game? Not just in guitar tone but in the epic, unpretentious, tears-of-happiness mood it instils in me; maybe an unconventional statement but saying your music reminds me of some of the most care-free moments of my childhood is about the highest accolade I can attribute. The chorus chops and changes between an indie shuffle and onslaught of overdrive, the vocals distorted just a little for that walkie-talkie voice in your head quality.
Stephen has great singing range! He never overstretches his vocal cords or simply start to shout when going up the scale nor does he feel the need to warble like Elvis when bringing it back down again, both high and low-pitched deliveries cutting through and over the other instrument tracks juuust the right amount – it would be a real shame if his lyrical flair was washed away in the ocean of fuzz underpinning the EP’s most intense points.
‘Velvet Sky’ wins the award for best chorus, it’s so familiar but you know it’s doesn’t rip anything off, that feeling of familiarity just indicative of strong songwriting – the best songs make you feel as if they’ve been with you all along. Opening with a steady four-to-the-floor thumping bass drum (that ticking clock again?) and palm-muted lead guitar delayed to the point where you can’t really tell what the root note even was, almost indie-serenity, it truds along all funky, Stephen singing ‘You know that I’d rather be hated, by you than ignored’, once more for good luck, ‘BY YOU THAN IGNOOOORED’ before that previously cited awesome chorus kicks in. I’d love to have been in that studio hearing the playback for this one, getting slapped round the side of the head by those monitors. The lead guitar part around the three minute mark could give the one from Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream’ a kick up the backside in a square-go of the solos. Stephen is an absolute dynamite lyricist in terms of imagery; either heart-breaking or life-affirming, I can’t decide. Both, probably.
While we talk of imagery, the closing track fits firmly into the former tag; ‘Until I Fall Asleep’ brings the energy down for a more acoustic-driven track sounding not unlike a somber ceilidh waltz (though not in 3/4, just that you could definitely have a slow dance to this). Soft, simple guitar chords backed by warm strings but just a smidgen, more chamber group than full blown bombastic orchestra. I’m picturing a music video set around the ruined kirk halfway up Arthur’s Seat, fireflies floating about the dusk. This song is stripped of the creeping psychedelia of previous tracks as our narrator/character/subject (whatever term best describes the fictional source of all these thoughts and feelings) loses the ignorant bliss which shielded her from reality and starkly comes face-to-face with what she, and let’s face it, all of us are trying desperately to block out – the big bad world, the collapse of society, the end of days or anything as equally humbling, I’m sure every individual will interpret this differently. If all this philosophical undertone is getting you down in the dumps, go back, listen to ‘Static’ and start dancing round your bedroom all over again!
From start to finish we hear bright vocal delivery with strong lyrics and compelling imagery, varied uplifting melodies, a solid skeletal backbone in drummer Jason Rees, mental guitar work, scuzzy distortion, heartfelt piano lines, I could go on and on… You just know this EP will translate fluently into a live setting (a test run of ‘Electrical Bugs’ at the gig mentioned in my introduction can attest to that), but that’s not to diminish ElevenFiftySeven as a standalone piece of work, more than a mere audio snapshot of ‘where we are as a band’. The release date isn’t for a while yet, so don’t be surprised if you see me pushing this article more than a few times in the lead up to it – like a nagging parent who knows best, you’ll thank me in the long run!
Here are all the links you could need:
Official site: http://www.returntothesun.co.uk/
Written by Liam Dickson @ FEAST
Written by Liam Dickson @ FEAST
There was a positive atmosphere the moment I walked into Electric Circus tonight, you feel it on occasion – some kind of general amicability throughout the venue, everyone here for a good time and aware of it in those around them, no deadpan posers leaning against the back wall judging the dancing free spirits down the front and nobody vying for more attention than the bands on the bill. Spector have come straight up the A1 (presumably) from London to Edinburgh for only the second time in support of their new album ‘Moth Boys’ and beat my expectations, performing for a teaming Electric Circus.
3-piece Golden Arm are first on the bill tonight, sounding to some degree like Franz Ferdinand but far more like the old-skool Scottish post-punk scene they were influenced by – Josef K, Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, that lot – and the singer sounds the absolute spit of Edwyn Collins! Up-beat, quick-paced and non-pretentious, their obvious light-heartedness comes through in the music they play and their stage presence. “You’re here to see Spector, I presume?” says the singer; “Well, if they’re here to see the Kooks they’re f*cked!” the drummer chimes in, a solid backbone to the band. The solos sound almost Dire Straits-y and bass and guitar chords move together in big chunky blocks spanning all frequencies. The guitar could have done with a tad more treble to help it cut through the mix just a little bit, but that’s about the only hole I could pick in the set. They have an EP coming out on the 31st October, be sure to check it out!
The main support tonight is from Manchester outfit Spring King who were so much fun! Coming on stage looking like a right motley crew of trucker caps, beanie hats and brandless baseball tops, their high-energy set never relented (apart from one slow one near the end), breakneck indie beats and brash guitars awash with fragmented sharp snippets of reverb and layers of Lennon-esque vocal delay, as in lots of it but not for very long. ‘Can’ sounds like a sweetened Ramones spliced with a slightly less deranged Dead Kennedys – “If I’m not dead, If I’m not dead I’m going home!”, sings the drummer stroke singer stroke front man (quite a mouthful) – and ‘Batman’ was the best of bunch in my opinion, the best example of pace and playing style converging into what is essentially surf-punk without the ‘surf’ clichés, if that’s make any sense at all. “Tonight, I just wanna be somebody else, somebody new” – innocent, youthful lyrics derived from a world of comic book kitsch. ‘My Sleeves’ is that afore mentioned slower one, it’s chilled Motown-like beat playing backing to lyrics both sweet as sugar and weirdly abstract – “Take my hand, take my hand with you”, an odd image if you think about it for too long – the song being filled out with a solo like a more abrasive Mac DeMarco. The band looked like they were having the time of their life pogoing away, except the drummer/singer who was too in the zone and, well, too seated to do the same but his ability to thump away on the kit and still turn in a flawless and composed vocal performance was impressive to say the least.
Headliner time: front man Fred McPherson comes bounding onstage looking, erm, different to how I’d imagined he would; publicity shoots from the first album era look like rejected applications for Made In Chelsea, suits as sharp as a button, the kind of neurotic quiff fixing that Alex Turner is getting a bashing for (not too much of a shock to see some of their past gigs have been sponsored by Topman), and I’ve not exactly been keeping up to date with the band. So I wasn’t expecting a not-so-fresh plain white t-shirt and unkempt ponytails! But if that’s what he’s comfortable wearing, then go for it; stages aren’t catwalks after all, and this more ‘unrefined’ attitude permeated into the performance. The place was packed, and I mean PACKED, the cheers and post-song applauds bigger than you’d think possible in a venue of this size. Spector serve as an almost pop and rock melting pot, the most popular comparison being The Killers, which I find reductive; yeah, big choruses, guitar, 80’s synths, fair enough, but it’s far too easy a comparison. I hear indie rock, new wave, new romantic, synth pop, some straight-up balladry and the tongue is undeniably pressed firmly against the cheek despite the honesty and veiled pain hidden between the lines creeping through. McPherson is a born front man, his over the top mic-stand maneuvers and dynamic use of the limited space on stage would be hackneyed if deployed by anybody else – with McPherson it seems more than natural. He downright refuses to shy away from the audience, maintaining eye contact that makes you feel like he’s peering into your soul (I got it a couple of times, he locks your gaze!) and leaning about as far into the audience over the edge of the stage as gravity would allow – the people down the front must have been able to smell his scent and a lucky few got to hold his hand whilst he crooned directly for them all Romeo and Juliet. New cuts ‘Decade of Decay’ and ‘Cocktail Party’ went down a storm, and these fresh songs were equaled out with picks from the debut so as not to lean to heavily either way. I was never that sure of Spector before tonight but they’ve definitely converted me now. Top set!
Some useful links:
Written by Chloe Mcintyre @ FEAST
When previously asked what the audience should expect when at a live set of Indigo Velvet their exact words were “Sweat, Hip Wriggling..and a party” and they couldn’t be more right! In fact there’s not many bands I know whose music gives the audience just a feel good, let your hair down vibe, but I have to say, Indigo Velvet is definitely one of them.
For their first headliner show in Edinburgh, the turnout was absolutely phenomenal, giving you barely any space to actually move around the Electric Circus, but that’s the sign of a good gig to come, am I right?
But before talking about the headliner, I need to highlight the talented support acts because they obviously built up the energetic atmosphere.
Lewis Capaldi is the young talent who started up the party with an acoustic set of his own songs and even a brilliant mash up cover of well known tunes that the crowd could sing along too. All that and his brilliant interaction with everyone in between songs made his set an extremely good one, I definitely have to say that if you’ve not already heard of him, go and listen to him.
Next up were the band Lisbon, showcasing a vibe that reminded me of Indigo Velvet, a lot of dancy, sing a long, feel good sounds. The floor was filled with budding ears ready to hear some new music . I have to mention that the song “Rio” got everyone to their feet, kudos to that. This band deserve a listen.
Indigo Velvet’s set was full of surprises, from fun things like Jason’s see drumming solos throughout songs, talented local performer Chris Greig being invited on stage to perform his cover of ‘Wooden Pavements’ (which I must add was truly phenomenal), even to a member of the crowd taking the microphone and owning the stage at the last song. All in all it was hard to believe that this was the first time the boys headlined a gig in Edinburgh, everything from stage presence, song choice and crowd reactions is definitely one to remember. My only wish was that I was tall enough to catch it all on video! This gig followed the release of the bands new song ‘Blue’ which I will link below, I challenge you to listen to that while trying to sit still, it’s damn near impossible. Anyhow, well done guys, yet again I think everyone’s expectations were filled, heres to next time eh?
http://open.spotify.com/track/2uKBbnsxVkXX4Wdt38QyTI (link to single)
Written by Ross Grant @ FEAST
The 5 piece powerpop outfit Be Like Pablo headline The Electric Circus tonight. Hailing from the idiosyncratic town of Forres up north, they have gained steady traction since formation. Notable past gigs include Belladrum, Rockness and the Ironworks respectively. Together they take elements from keyboard pop and surf music to create a rather individual style, and I was looking forward to experiencing it first hand.
They’re a colourful bunch, each sporting an impressive piece of gear. I found myself curiously glancing at the Moog Sub Phatty during the set up, which turns out to be the main character in their signature sound. Be Like Pablo waltz on stage very animated and excited to play. While the venue wasn’t packed, a little encouragement from Ewen the lead vocalist had the crowd ease up to front and centre, creating a cosy atmosphere.
Being familiar with only their 2013 LP ‘The New Adventures’, I was pleasantly surprised to see them open with two brand new songs. Both were well received but it was the following song that loosened everyone up. ‘The Post-It Song’ immediately puts a smile on your face thanks to it’s straight to the point opening, and what can only be described as ‘happy’ sounding synths. It all gives off a very Japanese vibe, in the sense that they would probably go mad for this music over there.
The set flowed on effortlessly with the gem that is ‘Julianne’, easily one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard. Folk who didn’t know the lyrics were singing along by the time the second chorus rolled around. The highlight for me was a new song they dropped towards the end innocently titled ‘Do You Wanna Go Surfing?’. Judging by how the band members were bouncing about the stage, It seemed they had the most fun with that song too.
To close the 45 minute set they went with the very Weezer-esque ‘Without the Pain’. Take away the guest vocals on this track and it would probably sound a lot different. That’s why I was genuinely excited when Kuda himself mysteriously appeared from behind the crowd to perform. Although Kuda’s vocals did get lost slightly behind the ringing guitar, it was a great touch to conclude the show.
On a dour evening in Edinburgh I was in need of warming up. Be Like Pablo cooked us up a treat mixing rock, pop and cheese all in the same pan. Very tasty.
Written by Liam Dickson @ FEAST
I wish more bands would take themselves as not-so-seriously as The Bohicas – the passion for performing within a genre you love conveys far more to the listener than squeezing yourself into the earnest-shaped hole you think the public expect. Their second gig in Edinburgh (and coincidentally their second at Electric Circus) was a boisterous let-your-hair-down cure for the midweek blues!
First up tonight, Return To The Sun deliver a top notch set, their more Scots-rock oriented sound standing not in opposition to the bluesy-indie rock of The Bohicas but rather in complementary contrast, a display of the energy of both the north and the south under one roof. The Edinburgh group are doing the rounds in support of their upcoming EP ‘ElevenFiftySeven’ (cool title!) due for release in December; quite a while away but better to have the punters over-hyped and foaming at the mouth rather than under-hyped and indifferent. Turning on a distortion pedal seems like the easiest task in the world but very few really get it right – these guys did, and their heavier sections are glorious! More epic than Rome and tighter than the Tory party budget, they turned in a performance to be proud of. You could listen to the shrrredding lead guitar until your ears bled and the drummer thumped a mean tub with some flourishes and fills that make you say “woa-hoah, where did that come from?!”. There wasn’t much variety in style/sound between songs but that is a moot point; whilst some bands try to adopt a different façade for each of their tunes, others explore all the possibilities within one style that works for them and Return To The Sun have a hell of a lot more room to move within their groove before we get even remotely fed up of it.
Whilst reeeally not wanting to be unduly harsh towards the next band, you can’t help but wonder how Whitehill Grove blagged the main support slot tonight. The pop-punkish three piece turned in a set that, whilst undoubtedly under-rehearsed, still appeared to convey the joy and energy of three lads imitating their idols. Nothing wrong with the performance per se, it just felt like they needed a few extra months of honing their song writing craft and getting it ‘there’ in terms of tightness as a band before they start making some waves. Well, I did think that – right up until they started taking the mick a bit too much. The bassist would sarcastically clap his hands or give an annoyingly arrogant thumbs-up towards the singer anytime a bum note was played; the singer would cast unmissable daggers towards the bassist in response to every piece of improvised banter with the crowd; and the drummer kept looking towards the other two for his queue despite, you know, being the timekeeper. Unless you’re the Gallagher’s this level of obvious tension on stage is just not fun to watch; a bad case of ‘well I didn’t mess up’ syndrome. The thing is though, the singer/guitarist had a good sense of melody and he could really sing – at points his voice had a fantastic raspy quality to it! He’ll do well for himself if he keeps at it and if the band as a whole stops mucking around – there was a fair crowd in Electric Circus tonight and they fluffed up a good opportunity to blag their selves some new fanboys and girls. Sorry guys, I can’t lie!
But enough of that, on to the main attraction – The Bohicas! Essex lads only in birth right, they saunter on stage to some choice soul funk and hit the ground running with ‘Upside Down’, guitarist Dom John with his leather vest and wide-brimmed hat making him look the lovechild of Pete Doherty and Jimi Hendrix and lead singer/guitarist Dominic justifiably confident in himself but not arrogantly so; you see the inherent gratitude when he makes not-uncomfortable eye contact with most in the crowd. The mammoth 12-song set (mammoth for this scale of gig anyway) is unrelenting; even the ‘slower’ ones aren’t even that slow, only describable as such in comparison to the rabid indie energy of tracks such as ‘XXX’ and ‘Crush Me’. A wise decision to never let the pace drop – the crowd just keep getting more and more and more into it as we witness the evolution from head-nodding to body-swaying until every punter on the floor is dancing, and I mean REALLY dancing, excluding those who deem themselves ‘too cool to dance’ who act like I can’t see their feet tapping along in spite of their composed face. The guitar tone is brilliant, both guitarists taking equal prominence in terms of alternating rhythm/lead duties with some mad, mad solos – it’s not ground breaking but they never claimed to be! “We’ve got one more song to play for you” they say… “SWARM! SWAAARM!” the audience scream! They save the best for last, the anticipation within the crowd finally released in a manic performance featuring a riff that seems so simple on paper but is without a doubt their most effective by far. Even after 12 songs the crowd could easily have lapped up more and the faithful quite-a-few scrabble for a copy of the set list (sorry guys, I got there first!). I leave to catch my bus as soon as the performance finishes, and within the two minutes it took me to grab my coat and leave the venue I get outside and see lead singer Dominic ‘swarmed’ by a big handful of fans, pestering for a selfie and singing his praises. I shout over, “You guys were awesome!”, but he’s too preoccupied to notice – fair play to him, that performance warranted some adoration!
Check out Return To The Sun on Facebook for updates on their upcoming ‘ElevenFiftySeven’ EP:
Check out Whitehill Grove on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whitehillgrove?fref=ts
Head over to The Bohicas website for tour dates, tunes and more:
Written by Liam Dickson @ FEAST
Walking into Electric Circus the first thing I am struck by is the stage; a bank of various floodlights and strobes that look fit for an Academy sized venue swallow up half the stage and suggest a band with a musical ambition that massively outweighs the venue they feature in. Rightly enough, The Winter Tradition have been playing some notable larger scale gigs in support of their new album ‘Lumi’ (such as the Belladrum Festival in August) and this is not a case of a band with heads bigger than their fan base, but rather a band outgrowing their old haunts who couldn’t resist playing an intimate hometown show.
First up tonight are Inverness alt rock 4-piece Silver Coast performing their first gig in the capital – nobody would blame them for thinking perhaps this was an ill-fated venture as they walk on stage to a dishearteningly empty room though you’d think they hadn’t noticed. Opening with a sparse sound heavy with reverb and confident vocal delivery before hitting us with a glorious wall of sound, all distorted guitars and crashing drums, you feel they deserve a far better crowd than this. But patience is a virtue, and as the Edinburgh gig-goers finally make their way towards Market Street the venue is packed by the time their set draws to an end. “Come forward, come forward, we don’t bite… much!” jokes frontman Aaron Murray – you get the sense they are a down to earth bunch of lads with a good sense of humour. Current single ‘Wake Up’ from their new EP produced by no other than The Winter Tradition’s guitarist Mark Morrow (who has seemingly produced for every band in the Edinburgh independent scene worth their salt) is performed perfectly, the jangly lead guitar filling our ears with echo and bends that tug at your heartstrings – the vocals are consistently on point even when venturing into falsetto and offering some truly impressive screams. They pull off the loud/quiet dynamics to wonderful effect proving they know when to give it their all and, more importantly, when to hold back.
Up next is 21 year old Leo Bargery – better known as Mt. Doubt – delivering a set of folky ambience infused with a punkish edge. Gruff vocals and unconventional synths pull the band back from the brink of generic folksiness and with a variety in structure keep each song in the set sonically diverse with no musical ideas getting recycled. A couple of songs into the set Mt. Doubt having properly greased up their musical hinges start getting right into it; singer Bargery jitters and jerks at his most impassioned moments seemingly just within the boundaries of self-control. At their best points the band build and build into a cascade of noise briefly toying with chaos before snapping back into seriously delicate bridges topped with vocals more fragile than you could expect given the sheer energy you just witnessed. A female backing vocalist joins the band for the latter half of the set though could hardly be considered ‘backing’ as she mimics the lead vocal line with just as much prominence creating a more complete and well-rounded sound. The heaviness of Mt. Doubt lies in the energy of delivery rather than reliance on pedals and overdrive, the drums being the rawest sounding of all the components. The keyboard player is the unsung hero in this ensemble offering a brevity and diversity that keeps the set really interesting – each song is unique!
The crowd are well and truly pumped for headliners The Winter Tradition, the venue now packed to the brim. The crowd are anticipating a truly special performance from the established Edinburgh group; nobody brings a stage set up like this unless they intend to bring out the big guns. The house lights fade, the band emerge from the darkness to swelling metallic ambience and without any warning or audible count-in launch straight into their set – more than a few distracted punters jump out their skin! Straight to business, The Winter Tradition are note perfect being more than experienced in performing to such crowds; this band have fully realized their sound and are well and truly running away with it. Second song of the set ‘Call’ provides the best example of a selective and seamless use of backing tracks to fill in the gaps when a group of guys with only two arms apiece can’t replicate the grand musical landscape concocted in their rather smart heads. The distorted vocals of singer-come-bassist Ewan Simpson combined with the statuesque silhouette he casts is enough to give you goose bumps and guitarist Mark Morrow knows exactly what he’s aiming for and hits the target. The levels throughout the set are really well balanced and fill your ears, every bit of screeching feedback only enhancing the electric atmosphere in the room. Each song segues smoothly into the next indicating a curated and properly rehearsed set, and the last song of the night is met by massive applause and one particularly ecstatic fan holding his Winter Tradition t-shirt high in the air with pride. The music really connotes wide open spaces as large and epic as their sound, like Ben Nevis in a thunderstorm condensed into a sonic punch in the face. Massive respect for the Winter Tradition for turning in an epic hometown show before heading into pastures greener and far, far bigger!
— The Winter Tradition (@thewintertrad) October 4, 2015
Check out Silver Coast on Facebook:
Check out Mt. Doubt on Facebook:
Order the new album ‘Lumi’ on The Winter Tradition website: