1Melodic Records is a British independent record label founded by David Cooper in 1999. Based in Manchester, England, the label has recently released their 100th release as of January 2015.
Current Melodic recording artists include Cool Ghouls, Man Of Moon, The Drink, Febueder, Dark Dark Dark, Stephen Steinbrink, K-X-P, Malcolm Middleton and David Shrigley, Paume, Archie Pelago & Grenier, Patterns, Howes, L. Pierre, Working for a Nuclear Free City, The Soundcarriers, Windmill, Michael A Grammar, The Longcut and Eddy Current Suppression Ring.
Melodic’s first release was the debut EP from Pedro (aka James Rutledge) in 1999. Over the years the label has been active they have released records for the likes of Baikonour, Topo Gigio, Department of Eagles, The Isles, Outputmessage, Harrisons, ARMS, The Earlies, Micah P Hinson, the Nine Black Alps, Dungen, Minotaur Shock and Psapp.’
THE ARTISTS / RECORDS
As West-Coast gentrification washes a wave of loud and gritty garage bands away from San Francisco, Cool Ghouls stand strong. Just like the most revered, political records of the 60s and 70s, the third album Animal Races channels the past, the present and the future with an authentically fresh psych-rock take on American society through its own neo-cosmic language.
“San Francisco has always been great and hopefully always will be but these days there are things we despise,” tells Ghoul guitarist and vocalist Pat McDonald, “the lifestyle The Bay once afforded artists has been decimated. This gold-rush of the tech industry is forcing prices up and it’s been a flood of bullshit. Some people are being forcibly displaced, others are disheartened and leave by choice. Our song ‘Never You Mind’ is a reminder to the creative community not to roll over. San Francisco isn’t dead until you let it die in your heart.”
It’s impossible to separate Cool Ghouls from their adopted hometown. Whether playing dollar dice games and shooting pool or stepping out for a walk through the Californian hills, this is a band who swapped their young lives in stripmall suburbia to settle in the Shaky City of their electric heroes. The place where Gram Parsons’ Flying Burrito Brothers unwittingly inspired lesser-known followers of the Cosmic American gospel to commit readings to tape, Cool Ghouls slot right in the city’s rich musical lineage. Pat M, with Pat Thomas (bass/vocals), Ryan Wong (guitar/vocals), and Alex Fleshman (drums), made their own celestial pilgrimage to their place of worship and have established themselves as one of the city’s brightest young bands playing, against the backdrop of a chaotic big city, a laid-back psych-rock sound for the here and now.
Those who fell for the raw, primitive sound of the band’s 2014 album A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye (Empty Cellar Records / Burger Records) recorded with local hero Sonny Smith of Sonny And The Sunsets, will be pleasantly surprised by the Ghouls’ latest evolution in sound. This time recorded with melodic maestro Kelley Stoltz in his backyard Electric Duck studio, the album was mixed and mastered by Mikey Young (Total Control / Eddy Current Suppression Ring), and features full-colour artwork by Shannon Shaw of Shannon and The Clams.
“Animal Races is the harvest of work we created between last year’s tours, working in bars, record stores and coffee shops,” says Pat M. “We chose the title because the song’s lyrics are a broad characterization of society. So any track on the album, whether it be about love, personal growth, death or whatever, takes place in the setting of the ‘animal races’ “.
Commenting just as much on the individual’s place in society as the San Francisco community itself, the theories of ‘self-actualization’ and ‘anima’ by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung about achieving individual potential pervade ‘If I Can’t Be The Man’ and ‘Material Love’. Whether time-hopping from the summer of love on ‘Sundial’ or channelling the freewheeling feeling of The Grateful Dead and Canned Heat through loud guitars, acid riffs, party screams, and stacked-as-f*ck three-part vocal harmonies, each of Animal Races’ 11 tracks bring the four-piece’s electrifying live performances to life.
‘Time Capsule’ is about exactly this, explains Pat T; “when you replay a recorded track, that little chunk of time is brought into the current moment. This is especially true of a recording of a live performance. ‘Time Capsule’ was designed to open the door for improvisation and is the encapsulation of just one version of this song, each version specific to the one time we play it. It’s going to change a lot as we play it over the years.”
For a band who, just like society and the world itself, is constantly evolving, Cool Ghouls are the perfect antidote for San Francisco’s current state of mind, providing the real-life soundtrack whilst not letting the city’s culture be burned to the ground.
After more than ten years of touring and secluded home recording, Stephen Steinbrink has cataloged several albums worth of gorgeous melody, quotidian dread and desert blight in his stark, minimal pop. Yet the songs on his latest record Anagrams, beautiful yet unflinching portraits of addiction and mental illness are captured in his most meticulous and high-fidelity production to date. While one might expect the record to be a final destination, a tidy hi-res culmination of all this journeying, the album’s particularly varied styles and sincere lyrical uncertainty portray a search that still continues.
“While making Anagrams I felt like I was losing it,” Stephen says. “Lately writing songs almost makes the world seem more chaotic, like I keep digging up re-burying the same old bone. For this album I tried to continue unpacking these forgotten images and memories, except this time without placing any subjective meaning on them, or any expectation of personal growth to occur after. Maybe it’s silly to expect the process of making art to be a clarifying act.”
Stephen’s artistic trajectory can be considered nomadic in the obvious sense: when not incessantly touring Europe and the U.S. in the last two years, he spent his stationary moments on his beloved, spaced-out west coast, writing in Olympia, Washington; Oakland, California and Phoenix, Arizona. But as a self-taught producer, audio fidelity itself proves to be an equally accurate gauge of his craft. Like many songwriters, he cut his teeth in the tape hiss and bedroom hum of lo-fi 4-track endeavors. Then in 2014, he released an unabashedly digital tableaux of subdued, heartbreaking pop, aptly titled Arranged Waves. Now, Anagrams finds him chasing melodies in the polished largesse of a proper studio.
Stephen spent numerous scattered sessions over 18 months at UNKNOWN, a retrofitted studio in a lofty de-sanctified catholic church in Anacortes, Washington, intensely tracking and arranging on a wealth of analogue gear. “The reverb in there is huge, inescapable,” Stephen says. “Having this expansive palette to work with was so thrilling, especially after working in my home studio for so many years, with its ‘charmingly’ dysfunctional gear and rats living in the walls.”
The result plays at times with the reverberating joy of The Sundays (like the elliptical psych-pop of “Building Machines”) and the jangly, sonorous warmth of ‘80s REM found on the album’s title track. With the help of engineer Nicholas Wilbur (Mount Eerie, Hungry Cloud Darkening) and a backing band featuring members of Mt. Eerie, LAKE, Hungry Cloud Darkening and Avi Buffalo, Anagrams’ breadth contains Pacific Northwest grunge lurches (“Canopy”) and a lush country meandering dissecting chaotic personality disorders (“Dissociative Blues”). A post-psychedelic nightmare slithers through the heart of this record, haunting the spaces between songs. “I can see the blood behind your eyes a million times / like the finger is tracing the crown / I’m turning inside out” he sings on “I’m Turning Inside Out” while Allyson Foster and Paul Benson whisper-chant the outro in unison, “Am I lost between here or there?”.
Outside the studio, Stephen often reached for writers like Lorrie Moore (whose story collection Anagrams is a partial inspiration) who usher readers into the minds of fragmented characters with unseemly but ultimately endearing shortcomings. This is best seen on the steadfast block-rock of “Psychic Daydream”, where the narrator, only after many years, can gain perspective and console a splintered self. Stephen sings: “You left reality, 2002 / thought that everyone was hating you / it’s only now that you see it clear / you had a lot to fear.”
The most ambitious of Stephen’s pop songcraft, Anagrams is ultimately an unpacking of identity. “I don’t care about continuing in a tradition of songwriters, and I rarely intentionally self-identify as one. I always wonder if my most recent song is the last one I’ll ever write. I try to be more concerned with being open, to imagine myself as a rock or a wrapper or nothing at all. Whenever I can get close to that state of mind the songs come easy, but it seems arbitrary, almost like they would’ve existed with or without me. I think it’s a noble pursuit, to try to be nothing.”
An effort, ongoing.
Playing things safe has never been The Drink’s philosophy. Throughout the trio’s evolution, their gloriously off-kilter guitar pop melodies and lyrical curiosities have commanded attention – and on brand new album Capital, they’re pushing the boundaries even further, eschewing meticulous planning in favour of instinct across even more wondrously intriguing tracks. “Capital can mean a lot of things” explains Galway born singer Dearbhla Minogue. “But it always has a gravity wherever it crops up. It brings to mind subtle or intangible force.”
Taking their celebration of controlled chaos out of the city (the trio all now reside in London), and into the Yorkshire countryside, Capital was recorded in a converted pig farm just outside Sheffield and is the next intrepid step in The Drink’s defiant rolling trajectory. The band’s ‘debut’ album Company was compiled from their first three EPs, received praise across the music press and set off twelve months of touring that culminated in a BBC 6music session for Marc Riley, support slots with Toro Y Moi and invites to the Green Man and End Of The Road festivals this summer. Whilst most would put writing a follow-up on hold to fulfil their live duties, that simply wasn’t an option: “We wanted to move on fast after Company, without that momentum-sapping two-year gap between albums,” explains bassist David Stewart.
With drummer Daniel Fordham completing the line-up, if there’s one thing Capital has, it’s momentum. Through skewed time signatures and rapid key changes, whether drawing influences from krautrock (see the hypnotic ‘Like A River’ and ‘No Memory’s motorik drones) to girl group harmonics (Dearbhla’s cherubic falsetto on ‘Roller’ and ‘I’ll Never Make You Cry’), time on tour has given the trio the chance to develop their impressive sound, giving way to a natural confidence and chemistry that has found its way into Capital’s song-writing. ‘Potter’s Grave’, in particular, highlights the album’s wonderfully strange collision between beautiful fragments of melody and lyrical imagery.
With a style that deftly evokes feeling over understanding, Dearbhla’s lyrics provide emotion to an uninhibited stream of unconsciousness, whether conjuring up references to dreams and sleep, or to nature, inspired by the folk songs she used to listen to and the poetry of Ted Hughes, Dylan Thomas, and her great uncle Frank Thompson. “I wrote ‘No Memory’s’ phrase ‘dreaming of a green field’ after a flashbulb dream about the green fields back home… but I think a lot of my lyrical references to nature are allegorical to how far away from their own nature people have to behave now, in order to survive.”
Mixed and mastered by Tobias Warwick Jones, Capital exhibits the band’s appreciation of artists from The Modern Lovers to Rory Gallagher. The result is a record that transcends its predecessor, bolstered by playful danceability. Take the disco-infused ‘You Won’t Come Back At All’, born from a night out dancing in Whitechapel, whilst lead track ‘The Coming Rain’ is the result of years spent listening to Kenyan Ayub Ogada. Elsewhere the nervy blues guitar sound of ‘Hair Trigger’ and ‘Like A River’ are driven by what Dearbhla calls a ‘got-to-catch-my-train feel’. “We only found the right guitar sound about an hour before I had to leave for my train and I wanted to record as many tracks as possible with that sound. It was a bit down to the wire but it’s given the record an energy we wouldn’t have otherwise had” she says.
Between them, the band members have other projects; Dearbhla continues to play in The Wharves and Shield Your Eyes, whose guitarist Stef Ketteringham has hugely influenced Dearbhla’s playing. Daniel has recently collaborated with award-winning short-story writer Stuart Evers, creating soundscapes inspired by the writer’s latest collection, Your Father Sends His Love.
“The band has shape-shifted as a sort of evolving unit into something which is now a bit less cerebral and more instinctive. We always knew it was more than the sum of its parts from the beginning, but I don’t think any of us expected to be improvising takes in the studio.” Showcasing Dearbhla’s beguiling lyrics, Capital is the sound of The Drink harnessing their groove and moving their sound to new, unexplored places.
Working for a Nuclear Free City have never been too concerned with genre. Since their debut release almost a decade ago they have danced around the constraints of genre, eschewing predictability and expectation in the process by creating a body of work dictated by invention and momentum. Their latest release is no exception although, like much of their previous work, whilst it is difficult to pinpoint it is not lacking in stylistic coherence, “When putting the record together I was trying make something cohesive in some way.” Says one of the group’s founding members, Phil Kay. The end result is an expansive, pop-tinged, experimental album that can be as propulsive as it can be restrained, bringing to mind artists as diverse and brilliant as Brian Eno to the Super Furry Animals.
The situations and inspiration around the record have been rather hodgepodge, “I listen to the radio most of the time, stations that play pretty diverse things, or I put things on shuffle a lot – mainly just trying to take the decision making process out of what I choose to listen too” Kay says, whilst also stating that the environments in which the record were created were just as all over the place, “I move around a lot so all the tracks are from different areas. Some from back in Manchester, a few from here in London, a couple I recorded in LA up in the Hollywood hills in Jennifer Anniston’s old apartment.” This geographically vast record was also done over a period of time too, making it a continent-spanning record that has had years’ worth of thoughts and ideas funnelled into it, “It was recorded over such a long period of time that each track has its own distinct memories for me.” Kay says of the process.
The title of the album What Do People Do All Day? Has a dual meaning, as Kay points out, “I was writing a kids book at the time so had loads of Richard Scarry books lying around. I think we hit on the title as it of course reminds you of Scarry and puts you in that playful territory but the second meaning of it is about the mundanity and futility of life, so there’s that juxtaposition. It was supposed to be this loose concept album about peoples lives or various snapshots of people lives. The songs also all seem to relate to these imagined characters and their lives – perhaps a days in their lives”
As a result the songs vary enormously and when discussing what some of the individual tracks are about, Kay paints a picture of a little universe of strange tales and stories, one song is about “Media and politics and bullshit and living in a city and everyone wired up and concrete and adverts and too much noise” whilst others are about: “A girl who dreams of killing her boss, quitting her mundane job and living in a magazine”; “The heir to Blackpool Pleasure Beach who turns it into a Vegas-style resort, makes millions, moves to Venice beach and turns it into Blackpool” and “Teenagers getting stoned in a park in suburbia and discovering a secret portal”. As illustrated by these unique and vast narrative situations, it’s an album with huge scope and one that has set out to be as lyrically ambitious as it is sonically.
“Medicine can be different things to different people; it can be good, bad, drugs, a cure, the answer or the problem.” Says Chris Bainbridge, one half of Edinburgh-based Mon of Moon when discussing the title of the band’s debut EP. Mikey Reid makes up the other half of the group who, at 19 years old, decided to quit college and pursue music, such was the deep-set sonic bond the two had made when fusing their ideas and talents.
In 2015 they released their debut single, led by the A-side of ‘The Road’, it was a gliding, motortik-driven piece of neo pop psychedlia, produced by Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan. Picking up a healthy dose of critical and fan acclaim along the way, the band had also pricked ears of other fellow Scottish groups, such as The Phantom Band and the Twighlight Sad, the latter of whom invited the duo on tour, twice. On this EP they return to working with Monaghan, “It was a lot easier getting takes down on this EP, we went into the studio more confident and ready to record again. After having worked with Andy before, it was easier to work with him for a second time.’ Says Bainbridge
It’s a confidence that shines throughout the EP’s four tracks. The shimmering psych glow of their previous material being developed into more structured, multifaceted, textured and slightly more aggressive songs, “We had been listening to a lot more heavier stuff before we went into the studio. It wasn’t intentional to make it heavier, we are still writing songs with atmospheric elements. This EP just represents the louder side of our music.” Whilst there are unquestionably louder moments there too are more sombre, quieter moments too, songs that reside in states of tranquillity and reflection, allowing gentle guitar lines to linger amongst the thick ambience of the production. Given some of the themes of the EP, such pace, space and occasional pathos is understandable, “The EP is about my family, my pals and loss. The sea is a running theme throughout music.” Says Bainbridge who grew up in a small coastal dwelling on Scotland’s East Coast. In the same way the moon influences our tides, the ebb and flow of the North Sea is a constant inspiration for the group.
Man of Moon are still in a formative state as a band but they already feel like they have slipped seamlessly into the rich lineage of British guitar music that precedes them, Medicine feels like the next step up the mountain, which only adds to the brimming sense of excitement and anticipation as to where this band will go next.
If Michael A Grammar’s previous two Eps (Random Vision and Vitamin Easy) cemented how devastatingly accomplished this young band has become in the last 18 months, then their debut album ‘Michael A Grammar’ (made up of those first two EPs and 4 brand new tracks) is set to confirm that good things come in threes. It’s the Brighton four-piece’s triumphant debut album and it brilliantly captures their sonic evolution and live prowess from conception through to the present day, and gives us a heady insight into their future.
“Had we set out to record everything straight away, we’d probably have drifted into an infinite tundra of sub-satisfactory jingles and drowned early on,” explains guitarist and singer Frankie Mockett. “This record marks the voyage of change that has been underway since our beginning, documented in the way we know best.”
Whilst most young bands simply start up, make a record, and then tour it out, Michael A Grammar boast a freshness contrary to having already experienced their fair share of ups and downs. Following the release of their first Vitamin Easy EP when just 20 years old (four transcendent, psychedelic tracks of Slowdive-style sparkle that surfaced from sessions in a Victorian coach house whilst attempting to recreate lost songs from a crashed hard drive) the band’s original bassist Daniel Ondieki was facing deportation back to his native Kenya.
“Unfortunately Daniel had to leave due to visa issues with “The Combine”, though it could’ve been worse had Nigel Farage been in the hot-seat with a stick up his arse,” says Frankie. “Thankfully we found Clémentine with her clothes off at a life drawing class and invited her into the family. We’re now waiting on the fifth member…”
Michael A Grammar’s evolving line-up was unveiled on their next installment, the Random Vision EP. Recorded in the basement of their Nottingham student house by Joel and fellow founding member Frankie Mockett (both guitar/vocals). They were joined by John Davies (drums) and French bassist Clémentine Blue taking over from Daniel for the live shows, her driving riffs enhanced the group’s widescreen and stoned out jams towards a more buoyant ‘not give a fuck’ blistering live show. This EP, recalling Boards of Canada’s mind-ensconcing atmospherics, The Beta Band chowing down on ritalin or Broadcast (whose song ‘Michael A Grammar’ lends the band its name) propelled them forwards. A feature on Mary Ann Hobbs’ XFM podcast ensued, as did a session for BBC 6music’s Marc Riley, live appearances at The Great Escape and Camden Crawl followed shortly after an invite by British Sea Power to be main support on their sold out tour, an invite to play Green Man and a European autumn headline tour are next on the horizon.
Marking Michael A Grammar’s biggest progression to date, the album’s anthemic final third (which they’ve named collectively as the suitably intergalactic ‘Lunar Sea’) kicks off with ‘Mondays’ – it skilfully sets the tone with petroleum powered melodies fired from layered Brit Pop guitars, devastating distortion and woozy vocal effects. ‘Nature’s Child’ explodes into a ambush of axe-wielding noise and ‘You Make Me’ is a patchwork quilt of manipulated psychedelic organ textures and varying sources of inspiration;
“The words are a mix of notes I’d scribbled down in various places,” Joel reveals. “Some come from listening to Souls of Mischief; another line comes from a poem in the film Patton.” Shifting from the DIY charm of a friend’s old office in Portslade, Brighton, to a fully-equipped studio for the first time, the tracks were recorded live with external producer, Julian Tardo.
“Each part of the album is an indicator of our present,” they say. “Obviously as things change, so too does the music and the way it’s recorded. As a result we feel more confident within ourselves which has inspired us to bring it back down to earth and record in the manner we did.” All live recordings, single takes and a ferocious energy gives these tracks a contagious energy.
Everything has been leading towards this moment; Michael Grammar is the story of four young friends progression personally and sonically into adulthood through their past, present and soon, their future.
There’s always been a hugely cinematic tone to Dark Dark Dark’s music, be it through the immersive sense of atmosphere much of the instrumentation and vocals instill, or the image-strewn lyrics and sense of place that can transport the listener to another world. So it makes perfect sense that they would end up in the world of cinema. However, this is not simply a film score commission. Here the group’s involvement with Flood Tide runs much, much deeper. Flood Tide is written and directed by former band member Todd Chandler, and features the band both as characters and performers.
Set within artist Swoon’s floating junk sculptures project, ‘Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea’, Flood Tide both documents and reimagines the real-life journey of Swoon and her collaborators as they build boats out of junk and set out on the open water of the Hudson River. All of this is accompanied by an original, nineteen song soundtrack by Dark Dark Dark. The film and soundtrack release comes after a fruitful and productive few years for the group.
After releasing the much praised debut album on melodic ‘Wild Go’ in 2011, the band followed up with full-length ‘Who Needs Who’ in 2012, and then the ‘What I Needed’ EP in 2013, a year that saw them tour the world, play two ATP’s within 6 months (curated by The National and TV On The Radio), as well as create a score to Jerome Hill’s La Cartomancienne. Flood Tide also premiered in 2013 at the Torino Film Festival, exposing the world to the group’s rich and evocative soundtrack for the very first time.
With much of Dark Dark Dark’s previous material being glued together by the distinctive vocals of Nona Marie Invie, this soundtrack is unique in that it is primarily instrumental, an approach that motivated the group immensely. “We were excited to have an opportunity to make an instrumental record because we’ve always been inspired by bands like Rachel’s and Dirty Three, and soundtracks like those from the movies Waking Life and Dead Man,” say the band. Much like some of the influences and inspirations mentioned here, the soundtrack to Flood Tide succeeds as a stand-alone record, even when free from its contextual home of the film. “This is a really unique record,” the group say of the project, “it’s much more textural and ambient than most Dark Dark Dark material.
The line-up featured on the soundtrack is one that never toured full time, and this record is a beautiful document of the chemistry and sensibilities of that variation of the band. The group have taken the material on the road, playing it in strange, distinctive places that are emblematic of the film’s own unique journey. “We’ve played this material in a hand-built drive-in movie theatre filled with junk cars, on rafts on the Hudson River, in the canals of Venice and in museums across the USA.”
The double gatefold vinyl release wraps up this project for the band perfectly, “We’re excited to have the recordings out in the world. It’s a document of a special time in our lives. Releasing a small run of vinyl with a download of the film seems like the most beautiful and intimate way to share this project.”
The film and soundtrack feature Dark Dark Dark members Nona Marie Invie, Marshall LaCount, Todd Chandler, Jonathan Kaiser, and Mark Trecka.
Boredom is the potent cross pollination and sonic reaction of two particular heady strains of Salford and Amsterdam beats. Taking their name from the book by Alberto Moravia, Boredom are that strange juxtaposition where being surrounded by people can create severe isolation, their mantra “Gotta get up and out and up and out” is a liberating call to arms of defiance to escape all expectations.
Bonding over a shared love of Polish disco, 80s Japanese pop and Paradise Garage mixes, Melodic Records label manager Andy Moss and Delphic’s James Cook unknowingly recorded their debut release over two consecutive weekends, starting in a murky Salford mill basement only surfacing early on the Monday morning to start an eventful roadtrip and ferry ride to Amsterdam, where they finished the recordings on an Overtoom townhouse rooftop.
As the sun came up, Boredom was born.
“We’ve been emailing each other tunes we liked for years,” explains Cook. “The common thread was always real musicianship woven into electronic, danceable tunes… that hint of a human being in there making mistakes that computers don’t.”
Joining the party are German House stalwarts Panthera Krause and Sandrow M who offer remixes on the Melodic 12” house bag which includes the original workings ‘Geometry’ and ‘Turn Your Head’
Blending the words and wisdom of visual artist David Shrigley with the whipsmart musicianship of songwriter and Arab Strap co-founder Malcolm Middleton, the pair’s absurd wit and stark delivery is perfectly captured on ‘Music And Words’ – a special collaboration album that started out wrong but ended up just right.
“I misinterpreted the meaning of David’s words so created a certain style of music to accompany the wrong themes,” admits Middleton of the album’s non-existent narrative. “I took one song ‘Sunday Morning’ to be a scathing attack on the pomp and arrogance of religion, only to be informed that it’s just about willies and was recorded on a Sunday morning. It makes for an interesting record though”.
Featuring the vocals and mimicry talent of comic actor Gavin Mitchell, the transatlantic tones of Californian friend Scott Vermeire, actor Bridget McCann and David Shrigley himself, the album was born in lieu of payment after Shrigley created artwork for Middleton’s ‘A Brighter Beat’ album “I loved all the music Malcolm made,” says Shrigley. “We have similar sensibilities; we’re both into darkness, pathos, despair; existential things. It was just what I wanted, even though I didn’t really know what I wanted.”
‘Story Time’ is the first earful from the album and boasts humour as black as the lines of Shrigley’s drawings. “It’s the song that started it all,” Middleton recalls. “Funny, disturbing, and then a bit more disturbing. It’s a beautiful song, not just a cheap shock,” he says, affirming the album’s subjective nature. Or as David puts it “The meaning is negotiable”.But gathering source material for the pair’s mordant style isn’t something to have happened overnight, informs Shrigley; “Malcolm wrote the first pieces of music in 2007 so the album has taken about seven years to make…that means it must be good, right?”
Malcolm Middleton will host ‘Twice! Two Nights At Tuts’ this December, which is pretty self explanatory – two gigs at Kings Tuts in Glasgow with Saturday 13th December a full band show and Sunday 14th an acoustic one.
Also this winter will see the umpteenth book by David Shrigley. ‘Weak Messages Create Bad Situations’ is a sort of manifesto about graphic art amongst other things. It is a big heavy book and can be used to press flowers or kill insects. It is published by Canongate and is the ideal gift for Christmas for an elderly person living alone.
More infos : https://soundcloud.com/melodic-records/08-story-time
As anyone who’s ever stayed in one place far too long will know, sometimes a drastic change is what’s needed. For Holy Family, the duo of non-blood brothers Anton Ekman and Viktor Hansson, a radical relocation from Sweden to Canada has helped shape the sound of their transatlantic debut album Can’t Dance, Wont Steal, Need Some Help.
“The last months before moving to Montreal, living in Gothenburg had become increasingly unbearable,” recalls Ekman. “To us, Gothenburg was the city that we’d initially adopted as our home and it’s accepting us was a big deal. But inevitably we started dragging our feet behind us and needed a change of pace.”
Country kids at heart, Montreal’s lush scenery provided respite from the daily rigmarole of their home city with Canada’s open spaces having a far bigger influence on the pair than they expected. The expedition wasn’t a case of simply ‘finding’ themselves, this was a band who had already met, gotten to know each other, performed at Toronto Film Festival, received an award from the Swedish Association of Composers (STIM), and broken up with themselves; originally a trio until their third member left town, if anyone could be certain of their identity, it’s Holy Family. “As a trio we struggled to make long-distance work but after a while we had to accept that sending files back and forth between each other wasn’t for us,” admits Hansson. “Our sole goal was to make enough tracks to fund inter-rail tickets for an Eastern European tour. Somewhere down the line we stopped dreaming of Eastern Europe but continued making tracks.”
Ironically, going the distance was precisely what the pair needed, and under their new guise as a duo they set course for Montreal having felt a kinship with Canadian exports Wolf Parade and Godspeed You! Black Emperor whilst needing to venture far enough away so that backing out wasn’t an option. Whilst strolling around downtown on one of their first days in the city, the pair passed a homeless man with sign that said “Can’t dance, won’t steal, need some help”. “It stuck with us. Possibly because it did feel like we needed a whole lot of help being in a new town without any real safety nets,” they remember.
Superbly demonstrating Holy Family’s uniquely ambivalent sense of place, five of Can’t Dance’s tracks were completed in Montreal with the other five completed back in Gothenburg. The sound of two worlds colliding, it’s a culmination of where the duo is headed and where they’ve already been. Written whilst sharing the one-bedroom Montreal apartment where the band currently resides, ‘East Coast Nerves’ resurfaces the mechanical rhythms heard by Viktor in a previous life as a Gothenburg dock-worker, whilst home-grown track ‘Youth Cult’s stripped back mood looks towards the pair’s future in their new location. The fuzz ripping through the doom laden garage sound of Gothenburg track ‘Keeping Up’ recalls the city’s unquenchable thirst for romanticising the industrial working class days and it’s brilliantly offset against the uplifting atmospherics of Montreal track ‘Trail Of Songs’.
“To be able to have the perspectives of both being inside looking out and outside looking in was important,” they say. “The first couple of months after moving to Montreal we hadn’t really started working so inevitably a lot of time was spent reflecting on how our lives had been previously and trying to figure out how we wanted them to be.”
Whether finding a way to mix things up a little or simply as a means of escape Can’t Dance is an album fuelled by hope. From questioning the status quo and social roles of a previous life to focusing upon wants and needs mostly born out of personal frustrations for now, Holy Family’s distinct approach comes from appreciation rather than disdain; from hoping that life will prove itself somewhat moldable, wherever they find themselves.