GIG – Frightened Rabbit at The Wedgewood Rooms – Tuesday 6th December 2016

frightened_rabbitFor Scott Hutchison, the songwriting inspiration can come from anywhere.

From a Scottish sitcom about a larky soldier who’s served in Iraq. A break-up, his own usually – a recurring theme, it seems, judging by the incisive, compelling accounts of heartache sprinkled through Frightened Rabbit’s three previous albums, Sing The Greys (2006), The Midnight Organ Fight (2008) and The Winter Of Mixed Drinks (2010). A shit family Christmas that only got worse come Boxing Day. Or from a room-full of American fans mainlining a long-lost Celtic connection while also hoovering up a powerful British indie-rock band with a folk heart and a soulful love of their heritage. Frightened Rabbit are proudly Scottish, and adored on native soil, but their songs also seem to take on greater resonance and power the further from home they travel.

Ideas might have come on any one of the ten or so US tours undertaken by the band, each bigger, noisier, rowdier, more special than the last – there aren’t many British bands who can match Frightened Rabbit, formed by this thoughtful former art student nine years ago, for the level and intensity of their American success. Or they can come via a hero peer on the Scottish music scene, in this case onetime Arab Strap dipso-poet Aidan Moffat.

Or Hutchison will take inspiration from the shortcomings he himself sees in the songs he wrote for his band’s last album.

“With The Winter Of Mixed Drinks and what I tried to do there…” begins Frightened Rabbit’s founding member and singer, “…and the things about that I didn’t like that I wanted to make better this time… The last record was purposefully open and vague in its imagery. But I wanted to write dense poetic songs again. And that was a kick off into State Hospital.”

Welcome, then, to State Hospital, a rousing, narrative tune, full of intertwining, racing guitar lines, and pulsing round a central image – “her heart beats like a breeze-block, thrown down the stairs” – written by Hutchison from a female perspective.

It serves as the curtain-raiser to a few things. A five-track EP of the same name. Frightened Rabbit’s upcoming fourth album, Pedestrian Verse, due out next year. And to the band’s new relationship with Atlantic, a deal forged eight years after Selkirk native Hutchison started the band with his drummer brother, and after three albums made with respected indie Fat Cat.

“I feel very creatively liberated on Atlantic,” says Hutchison, a man who – with bandmates Grant Hutchison, Billy Kennedy (guitar, bass), Andy Monaghan (guitar) and Gordon Skene (guitar, keyboards) – has almost a decade’s experience building his band, cultivating a fan-base, improving their chops, and doing these the old-fashioned way: touring.

Earlier this year, the five-piece were ready to make their fourth album. But their producer of choice wasn’t available, and Hutchison was kicking his heels. And that, too, fed into a song. Home From War was partly catalysed by the original pilot for Gary Tank Commander, a Scottish comedy that has gone on to become a cult show north of the border.

“He’s a guy back from Iraq and he’s just bouncing about, he’s got nothing to do, doesn’t know what to do with his life any more. ’Cause he’s been structured and regimented for that amount of time. It’s really funny but I found it quite interesting and sad.”

Suitably inspired, and rather than sit on their hands, in February the band hired a house in Kingussie in the Scottish Highlands, trucking a load of instruments and studio gear up from Glasgow. The then spent three weeks writing and playing and recording and writing and playing some more.

Three songs were immediate keepers: Home From War, inspired by that aimless squaddie, a Pixies-meets-Coldplay giant that’s sure to become a live favourite; Off, an intimate, chorally atmospheric tune written in one quick afternoon; and Wedding Gloves, a yarn about a couple who try to rekindle love by putting digging out and putting on their matrimonial garb. It’s narrated by Moffat, to whom Hutchison entrusted the writing of the verses.

“He totally got what I wanted,” beams Hutchison, who finagled the ex-Arab Strap man’s involvement via drunken, late-night email. “He said to me, ‘right, you want me to be a sexual Yoda?’ I was like, ‘aye, if you like!’”

Come the month of May, and Frightened Rabbit’s producer was finally available. Leo Abrahams was Brian Eno’s assistant for 11 years. So on top of being a great guitar player, he’s a man well-versed in free-thinking. “He was definitely up for shaking things up, and he has plenty of soul and understanding” – all perfect qualities for the band’s new songs and fresh perspective.

A month in Monnow Valley studio in Wales did the job. The EP’s opening two songs, State Hospital and Boxing Day – the latter a mordant yet defiant account of that Yule hell – have been pulled from those sessions.

Only State Hospital will appear on Pedestrian Verse. Hutchison is understandably keeping the just-completed album under wraps for now. But he will say that State Hospital “informed the rest of the album”, and that the bulk of the other songs “have a different atmosphere” from the remaining new songs on the EP. “I don’t know how to describe it… I mean, we did consider them all for the album, but they just didn’t work. But I was really fond of what we got out of those three weeks of creative freedom.”

Next up: an “underplay” tour, in which Frightened Rabbit purposefully slip back down a few rungs on the gig circuit ladder, playing small UK and Irish venues they’ve long since outgrown. For this British band with a huge following across the Atlantic, it’ll be a challenge, but a wholly rewarding one.

It’s just how Hutchison likes to do things – stretching himself, pushing his skills and the band, taking nothing for granted and believing, always, that there’s everything to play for. Why else give an album the title Pedestrian Verse?

“I scribbled that on the front of my notebook on the first day of writing songs for the new album,” he recalls with a smile. “It was like throwing down the gauntlet to myself. Call your album Pedestrian Verse and you just leave yourself open to people going, och, that’s a bit boring… So,” he smiles, “I couldn’t write anything dull.”

With the glorious five-track State Hospital EP, it’s the emphatic start of a job well done.

 

From Band Website

 

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GIG – Raglans at The Joiners – Thursday 26th March 2015

raglansIndomitable Irish indie-folk four-piece Raglans have undergone a meteoric rise in popularity since the release of their debut album ‘RAGLANS’ with sell out shows across the continent and touring as support for Haim, The Strypes, The Fray European Tour and The Libertines reunion at Hyde Park.

Hailing from Dublin, Raglans return to the road with dates just announced at Holland’s prestigious Eurosonic Festival. The band will continue the promotion of their record in Australia at the country’s major Soundwave festivals in February before coming back to the UK for their second headline tour in March 2015. The dates coincide with the UK release off their new single ‘Natives’ taken from ‘Raglans’ and recently heard in the motion picture ‘Gold’ starring Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and James Nesbitt (Bloody Sunday, The Hobbit). Natives was produced by Kirean Lynch (U2) and Rob Kirwin (Hozier)

Multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Stephen Kelly jokes about the band’s conception, pinching Rhos Horan (bass, backing vocals) from his old band at a music festival and setting off to the capital to meet Conn O’Ruanaidh (drums, backing vocals) and most recent addition Dan O’Shaughnessy (lead guitar, backing vocals) to begin rehearsing, touring Ireland and putting the name out there. “We recorded a demo of our first song’Down,’ and that was that, we were Raglans.”

The name? “It came from a famous Patrick Kavanagh poem ‘On Raglan Road’. Any school student from Ireland would be able to tell you about that poem, so I guess it stems from being Irish, remembering our roots and how we started out.

Raglans released their self titled album to critical acclaim and it debuted at no.5 in the Irish Album Charts and as an LP, encompasses the grouped vocals of The Lumineers, the multi-instrumentalist efforts of Of Monsters And Men, whilst highlighting the substantial post-punk camaraderie circa The Libertines.

From The Joiners website

PLAYLIST – England Skies by Shake Shake Go

shake shake goHaving set across the streets of Britain playing their collection of pop folk anthems, Shake Shake Go have won over hearts from all around the country.

After their first year of being together, the London based five-piece originating from Wales and France have come a long way since their busking days of squeezing five people and a load of instruments into one very small car.

Soon enough they found themselves touring across the UK and Europe, sharing stages with some of the most well respected artists, including supporting James Blunt on the UK leg of his 2014 World Tour .

Captivating audiences with their catchy melodies and high energy drum lead performances, Shake Shake Go are definitely ones to watch.

GIG – The Moulettes at The Railway Inn – Friday 28th November 2014

moulettesMoulettes are an English alt-folk or indie folk band. The band was formed in 2002 in Glastonbury by Hannah Miller (Songwriter, Vocals, Cello, Guitar), Ruth Skipper (Vocals, Bassoon, Auto-harp), Robert Skipper (later of The Holloways), Oliver Austin (Drums, Guitar, vocals) and Ted Dwane. Hannah met Georgina Leach during a strings recording session and joined in 2004 after the band moved to Manchester.

Since the bands resettlement South in 2007 the ensemble has seen, at different stages, the addition of percussionist Rob Arcari, multi-instrumentalist Jim Mortimore (Arthur Brown, Chris Jagger) and singers Laura Hockenhull and Faye Houston.

Moulettes often incorporate Orchestral and Progressive elements more than their peers and have often received positive reviews from mainstream press due to their original, dynamic and other-worldly sound. They have been nominated for several Best Of The Year lists and won Fatea roots-music Best band of 2012.

Having toured extensively and played at many festivals since their inception Moulettes have shared the stage and studio with Seasick Steve, John Paul Jones, The Ting Tings, Mumford and Sons, Band of Skulls, Paul Heaton, Bonobo, Liz Green, The Unthanks, Arthur Brown and many more of note.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

GIG – House of Hats at The Cellars at Eastney – Thursday 11th September 2014

house of hatsBrighton’s House Of Hats are Alex Gigante (vocals guitars), Al-Anoud Al-Omran a.k.a ‘Noddy’ (vocals, guitar, piano), James Kuszewski (vocals ukulele,), Rob Gigante (bass, percussion, vocals).

Surfing a musical wave out of Brighton are House Of Hats, with their debut album, This Love co-produced by the band and Grammy winning Pete Smith. The most immediately striking thing about This Love is the ensemble singing. With Noddy and Alex alternating in the lead role and James adding a third voice, they create lush and richly layered harmonies.

They are a tight knit bunch and Alex recalls meeting Noddy and James at college, some eight years ago with all of them studying music. They each had their separate musical endeavours going, but became firm friends. Alex then coaxed his brother Rob down to the south coast with the promise of a new bass guitar and a place in his band. Rob duly immersed himself in music making and also the whirlwind social scene centred around a big shared house called The Blatch. James described their lives as like an endless Mad Hatter’s tea party and The Blatch became the House Of Hats.

When the fates conspired in 2012 and all of the various bands they were individually involved with ended, it was actually Rob who joined the dots and realised that rather than all heading off in different solo directions they should work together. They each brought their own songs and ideas to the table as they met up musically for the first time. From that very first encounter the magic flowed and the unexpected harmony of their singing proved the glue. Noddy describes it as an explosion – the big bang that set the House Of Hats in motion.

Armed with nothing more than the inspiration they took from each other The Hats sound started to take its own unique shape. They quickly and collectively realised the merits of putting their sumptuous harmonies to the fore and not burying their gift under layers of music. A shared love of the raw power of acoustic guitar and voice proved the template that had the benefit of unifying their sound, whether recording or playing live.

The reaction to a hastily organised gig confirmed what they were feeling and The Hats turned the creative tap to full juice. A superb set of songs emerged and they busied themselves recording. But when Alex, on his old day job in a mobile phone store, met and befriended Pete Smith, the final jigsaw piece slotted home. By their own admission The Hats benefitted from the combination of experience, passion and energy that Pete Smith introduced in helping them finish what they had started.

They are now at the heart of the buzzing Brighton music scene and The Hats have their own quarterly night called the Harvest Sessions, to showcase local talent, friends and other acts gathered up on the road. They’ve found their place and in doing so found each other, bonding over parties, heart to hearts, highs, lows, food, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan – they are family. Having just returned from touring Europe together with Will And The People and with more gigs scheduled in Holland and America, This Love is already picking up strong reviews and radio support. Q Magazine and Acoustic Magazine have called them the new Crosby, Still and Nash. 2014 could well be the year of the Hats.

From band website

GIG – Rainbow Girls at The Railway Inn – Tuesday 22nd July 2014

rainbow girlsAdding colors to the duo Red & Yellow (Caitlin Gowdey & Erin Chapin), Rainbow Girls loosely formed in 2010 with the addition of Cheyenne Methmann (Green) and Vanessa May (Violet), playing at a weekly underground open-mic in Isla Vista, California, at the unofficial housing coop known as Rainbow House. In December 2010, they set off for a week long self-recording camping trip to Joshua Tree and Big Bear Mountain, where they made their very own 5 song demo.

At the end of January, after only a few shows, Rainbow Girls was put on hold while one of the gals skipped town to study abroad in Rome. Impatient, the three remaining members followed suit in June, and the group of four spent the summer of 2011 busking and couch surfing their way around Europe, playing gigs and spreading music throughout Switzerland, Germany, England, Italy, the Netherlands, and France. Fifteen cities, six countries, four self-recorded audio tapes, two French recording studios, and 1 deportation later, they found themselves back in Santa Barbara with a drummer -Savannah Hughes (Blue)- and the beginnings of a whole new sound.

Since then they have toured the western half of the US extensively, playing festivals and opening for bands like ALO, Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, Brothers Comatose, and the California Honeydrops. In May 2013, they released their first official studio album, “The Sound of Light,” featuring 16 original tracks and funded by almost 200 friends, fans, and family members. That summer the gals returned to Europe and the UK, but this time with a van, a tour manager, an album, and a legitimate list of gigs and festivals lined up.

After returning to the US in September, the girls decided to take the winter to make money, work on new material, and gear up to tour both the US and Europe again in the Spring and Summer of 2014.

From Band website

GIG – Courtney Barnett at The Joiners – Tuesday 20th May

courtney barnett“Barnett is a storytelling twenty-something singer/songwriter from Melbourne who writes matter-of-fact tales that unspool like barstool revelations and sound like some hybrid of Kimya Dawson and Kurt Cobain.” – Rolling Stone.

Welcome to the world of Courtney Barnett, a hot, hazy place where suburban banalities and mindless procrastination have never sounded so compelling.

The 26-year-old Melbourne-based singer has a nurtured a growing legion of devotees through a series of DIY releases that have been re-released worldwide to snowballing acclaim. Single’s “Avant Gardener” and “History Eraser” are vivid displays of her magic. Hook-laden fugs of country roots and discordant psychedelia with dream-like narratives.

Courtney is nominated for NME’s Best New Band at the 2014 NME Awards while and her sprawling, rocking live shows have seen her sell out tours in the UK, USA and back home in Australia

From The Joiners Website