December 16, 2011   4 notes

VIDEO: Tashi Lhunpo - The Power of Compassion

Last month, eigth monks from the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Tibet visited the Tolbooth to showcase their unique and endangered culture through a dramatic presentation of dance, chanted prayers and music, with traditional costumes and ceremonial masks. Their mesmerising performance was quite a spectacle, and fortunately Stirling University television society AirTV were there to capture all the action on camera. Watch their colourful production here.

December 5, 2011   5 notes
INTERVIEW: RODDY WOOMBLE
Roddy Woomble has got it right. He’s fulfilled the rock star dream fronting Idlewild; scratched the writing itch with several contributions to newspapers and magazines; achieved critical kudos with his captivating solo folk music; and dabbled in radio presenting, painting and (once upon a time) photography. Now nestled away in the western isles with his family (chickens and all), Roddy’s appearances on the music scene are rare compared to his Idlewild days, but when he ventures out you can count on a special show. This winter, the Tolbooth will play host to Roddy’s Christmas Hootenanny – an evening of high-spirited festive entertainment from Roddy, his band, and hand-picked supports. 
You are curating a special Christmas evening at the Tolbooth on 16th December – what do you have in store for guests?We’ll be doing a full band set and a few Christmas songs. Seonaid Aitken is opening up with her band which will be great, and also Foxface, so it’s a good bill for sure. There’ll be a session going on in the bar too (musical rather than drinking – perhaps both).
For those who haven’t heard of your support acts, what can they expect?Seonaid’s band are along the trad folk route and Foxface are a bit more left-field, country-ish. Both are well worth listening to. 
Are you a fan of Christmas time? How will you be celebrating this year?I love Christmas and will celebrate it as I do every year, with my family, a large meal and a decorated tree. 
You live in the western isles and own chickens, which reminds me of Alex James from Blur retiring for a quiet life. Has it been a dream to settle down after years of mad touring? I’m not a rich man like Alex James so can’t retire, but I’m happy living where I do and I prefer the space and quiet and trying to rely less on shops and suppliers. But I also like visiting cities, eating in restaurants and playing gigs, so I’m not a hermit. Not yet, anyway.
You have ventured into journalism – any plans to write something more substantial, like a novel or autobiography?I’d like to write more, maybe a book, non-fiction. Who knows when.
Having experience of both a very successful band and a well-respected solo career, where do you sit on the commercial success Vs artist respectability line?Who wouldn’t want to be popular critically and commercially? Unfortunately that happens to very few people. It’s either one or the other. The general public don’t really care what critics say – they care about what they hear on the radio and TV. It’s the music fans who read the critics, and they’re a picky and fickle bunch! I’ve come off lightly thankfully, but a few more nice reviews and record sales wouldn’t hurt. 
We interviewed Rod Jones recently, whose new band The Birthday Suit goes down the rock route and has been hailed by some critics as similar to early Idlewild material. He said he is still influenced by you. Have you listened to his new record, and what do you think?I have and I like it. Rod’s a fantastic guitar player and melodist and really pays attention to detail. I’m a lot more ramshackle in my approach. I suppose that’s why we worked well together.
What do you think of Stirling? Any favourite haunts?I like it, although I haven’t spent much time there. I like the Tolbooth the best of course.
Roddy Woomble’s Christmas Hootenanny takes place on Friday 16th December at 8pm. Call 01786 27 4000 for more information.
Interview by Hannah Currie

INTERVIEW: RODDY WOOMBLE

Roddy Woomble has got it right. He’s fulfilled the rock star dream fronting Idlewild; scratched the writing itch with several contributions to newspapers and magazines; achieved critical kudos with his captivating solo folk music; and dabbled in radio presenting, painting and (once upon a time) photography. Now nestled away in the western isles with his family (chickens and all), Roddy’s appearances on the music scene are rare compared to his Idlewild days, but when he ventures out you can count on a special show. This winter, the Tolbooth will play host to Roddy’s Christmas Hootenanny – an evening of high-spirited festive entertainment from Roddy, his band, and hand-picked supports. 

You are curating a special Christmas evening at the Tolbooth on 16th December – what do you have in store for guests?
We’ll be doing a full band set and a few Christmas songs. Seonaid Aitken is opening up with her band which will be great, and also Foxface, so it’s a good bill for sure. There’ll be a session going on in the bar too (musical rather than drinking – perhaps both).

For those who haven’t heard of your support acts, what can they expect?
Seonaid’s band are along the trad folk route and Foxface are a bit more left-field, country-ish. Both are well worth listening to. 

Are you a fan of Christmas time? How will you be celebrating this year?
I love Christmas and will celebrate it as I do every year, with my family, a large meal and a decorated tree. 

You live in the western isles and own chickens, which reminds me of Alex James from Blur retiring for a quiet life. Has it been a dream to settle down after years of mad touring? 
I’m not a rich man like Alex James so can’t retire, but I’m happy living where I do and I prefer the space and quiet and trying to rely less on shops and suppliers. But I also like visiting cities, eating in restaurants and playing gigs, so I’m not a hermit. Not yet, anyway.

You have ventured into journalism – any plans to write something more substantial, like a novel or autobiography?
I’d like to write more, maybe a book, non-fiction. Who knows when.

Having experience of both a very successful band and a well-respected solo career, where do you sit on the commercial success Vs artist respectability line?
Who wouldn’t want to be popular critically and commercially? Unfortunately that happens to very few people. It’s either one or the other. The general public don’t really care what critics say – they care about what they hear on the radio and TV. It’s the music fans who read the critics, and they’re a picky and fickle bunch! I’ve come off lightly thankfully, but a few more nice reviews and record sales wouldn’t hurt. 

We interviewed Rod Jones recently, whose new band The Birthday Suit goes down the rock route and has been hailed by some critics as similar to early Idlewild material. He said he is still influenced by you. Have you listened to his new record, and what do you think?
I have and I like it. Rod’s a fantastic guitar player and melodist and really pays attention to detail. I’m a lot more ramshackle in my approach. I suppose that’s why we worked well together.

What do you think of Stirling? Any favourite haunts?
I like it, although I haven’t spent much time there. I like the Tolbooth the best of course.

Roddy Woomble’s Christmas Hootenanny takes place on Friday 16th December at 8pm. Call 01786 27 4000 for more information.

Interview by Hannah Currie

December 5, 2011   2 notes
INTERVIEW: BELLA HARDY
At just 25 years old, traditional singer and fiddle player Bella Hardy is already a firm favourite on the folk circuit, renowned for her rich and true voice. Her latest album Songs Lost & Stolen received a coveted No. 2 spot in MOJO magazine’s Folk Albums of the Year, and her song The Herring Girl has been nominated in the Best Original Song category of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. On Thursday she brings her festive tour, Bright Morning Star, to the Tolbooth. She will be joined by guitarist Anna Massie, who also tours with Blazin’ Fiddles and The Unusual Suspects, and concertina genius Chris Sherburn of Last Night’s Fun.
What can we expect from the Bright Morning Star Tour?Christmas songs, Christmas songs, Christmas songs! A whole gig of them! It’s a mix of traditional songs such as The Coventry Carol, and the oldest tune I know to The Holly & The Ivy, with lots of modern songs that everyone knows, like Rocking Around The Christmas Tree! There’s a fantastic caroling tradition in the North of Derbyshire where I’m from, and I sing a selection of carols from Castleton which is the village next to my Edale home. You can also expect fairy lights, tinsel, baubles, and bad cracker jokes… the full works!
Growing up did you ever feel slightly intimidated being involved in a genre that is dominated by older individuals?I really wasn’t involved in the folk scene growing up, I was only aware of traditional songs, so I was pretty unaware of the folk greats! My family were more about communal music, singing in the church choir and just making music round the house. My dad grew up in Hull and loved the Watersons and a few other folk singers, but it was the songs that he brought home which we all sang, rather than knowledge of the singers. We had a few cassette tapes too - I remember hearing Steeleye Span, but I’d never seen them live so apart from being great sing-along songs, the names didn’t really mean anything to me. It was only when I started attending festivals as a teenager that I became aware of the actual folk scene, rather than just the traditional music. That led to a teenage - and continued - love of the fantastic singers that there are in folk music. I only really knew about the English singers at first, and then I started hearing the great Scottish voices, and went to Cullerlie’s traditional song weekend back in 2007. That was a real education!
Latest album Songs Lost & Stolen is Mojo Magazine’s No. 2 Folk album of the year. How does that feel?Awesome. Completely incredible. You put so much into an album and it’s a fantastic feeling to know people like it.
You have said that your music is fueled by literature and fairytales. Are there any particular stories that have inspired your sound?I love the writing of Angela Carter. Her collection The Bloody Chamber uses fairy stories as a starting point to write new works that are stark and adult and very dark, and I’m always inspired by them. ‘Rosabel’ from Songs Lost & Stolen was written after rereading ‘The Courtship of Mr. Lyon’ from that collection.
You have two degrees in English Lit and Music – does a career in academia beckon or are you fully committed to your music career?I like studying, but only in retrospect. While I’m doing it I’m generally cursing all the essays that need writing! I would gladly study English Literature some more because I’m a happy person when I’m buried in books. But I’m enjoying singing for my supper just now.
Do you have a certain procedure for writing your songs?No, they come to me in all forms, all shapes and sizes. Sometimes I have a tune stuck in my head and it’s the job of finding the story that goes with it. Usually I sit down with my scrapbook of notes (pages torn from years and years worth of notepads) and find links between lines and ideas. And sometimes, though much more rarely, I just sit down and write a song start to finish. But it’s making the time to sit and not have anything else going on, just to focus on writing without distraction, that’s the important bit.
The past few years have been exciting for you. What are your aims for 2012?I’m currently writing a set of songs from my Peak District home. It’s the national park between Sheffield and Manchester. The local traditional songs and stories have almost died out, so I’m writing new tunes to them, and retelling some of the myths that never made it into song. It’s lovely to be doing a project about an area I love and know so well.  And hopefully I’ll be releasing an album next summer. But this month, it’s all about the Christmas songs for me!
Finally, what would be on your perfect playlist?
James Taylor & Carole King - Close your Eyes
Billie Holiday - More Than You Know
Sufjan Stevens - For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless in Ypsilanti
Ella Fitzgerald - Sugar Blues
Joni Mitchell - Blue
Kate Bush - Hello Earth
Mike Waterson - The Ballad of Tam Lyn
Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott - Walk Beside Me
Tom Waits - You Can Never Hold Back Spring
The Cardigans - Live and Learn
Bella Hardy’s Bright Morning Star tour comes to the Tolbooth on Thursday 8th December, 8pm. Tickets (priced £12/£10) available from Box Office on 01786 27 4000, or online here.
Interview by Rachel Cunningham.

INTERVIEW: BELLA HARDY

At just 25 years old, traditional singer and fiddle player Bella Hardy is already a firm favourite on the folk circuit, renowned for her rich and true voice. Her latest album Songs Lost & Stolen received a coveted No. 2 spot in MOJO magazine’s Folk Albums of the Year, and her song The Herring Girl has been nominated in the Best Original Song category of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. On Thursday she brings her festive tour, Bright Morning Star, to the Tolbooth. She will be joined by guitarist Anna Massie, who also tours with Blazin’ Fiddles and The Unusual Suspects, and concertina genius Chris Sherburn of Last Night’s Fun.

What can we expect from the Bright Morning Star Tour?
Christmas songs, Christmas songs, Christmas songs! A whole gig of them! It’s a mix of traditional songs such as The Coventry Carol, and the oldest tune I know to The Holly & The Ivy, with lots of modern songs that everyone knows, like Rocking Around The Christmas Tree! There’s a fantastic caroling tradition in the North of Derbyshire where I’m from, and I sing a selection of carols from Castleton which is the village next to my Edale home. You can also expect fairy lights, tinsel, baubles, and bad cracker jokes… the full works!

Growing up did you ever feel slightly intimidated being involved in a genre that is dominated by older individuals?
I really wasn’t involved in the folk scene growing up, I was only aware of traditional songs, so I was pretty unaware of the folk greats! My family were more about communal music, singing in the church choir and just making music round the house. My dad grew up in Hull and loved the Watersons and a few other folk singers, but it was the songs that he brought home which we all sang, rather than knowledge of the singers. We had a few cassette tapes too - I remember hearing Steeleye Span, but I’d never seen them live so apart from being great sing-along songs, the names didn’t really mean anything to me. It was only when I started attending festivals as a teenager that I became aware of the actual folk scene, rather than just the traditional music. That led to a teenage - and continued - love of the fantastic singers that there are in folk music. I only really knew about the English singers at first, and then I started hearing the great Scottish voices, and went to Cullerlie’s traditional song weekend back in 2007. That was a real education!

Latest album Songs Lost & Stolen is Mojo Magazine’s No. 2 Folk album of the year. How does that feel?
Awesome. Completely incredible. You put so much into an album and it’s a fantastic feeling to know people like it.

You have said that your music is fueled by literature and fairytales. Are there any particular stories that have inspired your sound?
I love the writing of Angela Carter. Her collection The Bloody Chamber uses fairy stories as a starting point to write new works that are stark and adult and very dark, and I’m always inspired by them. ‘Rosabel’ from Songs Lost & Stolen was written after rereading ‘The Courtship of Mr. Lyon’ from that collection.

You have two degrees in English Lit and Music – does a career in academia beckon or are you fully committed to your music career?
I like studying, but only in retrospect. While I’m doing it I’m generally cursing all the essays that need writing! I would gladly study English Literature some more because I’m a happy person when I’m buried in books. But I’m enjoying singing for my supper just now.

Do you have a certain procedure for writing your songs?
No, they come to me in all forms, all shapes and sizes. Sometimes I have a tune stuck in my head and it’s the job of finding the story that goes with it. Usually I sit down with my scrapbook of notes (pages torn from years and years worth of notepads) and find links between lines and ideas. And sometimes, though much more rarely, I just sit down and write a song start to finish. But it’s making the time to sit and not have anything else going on, just to focus on writing without distraction, that’s the important bit.

The past few years have been exciting for you. What are your aims for 2012?
I’m currently writing a set of songs from my Peak District home. It’s the national park between Sheffield and Manchester. The local traditional songs and stories have almost died out, so I’m writing new tunes to them, and retelling some of the myths that never made it into song. It’s lovely to be doing a project about an area I love and know so well.  And hopefully I’ll be releasing an album next summer. But this month, it’s all about the Christmas songs for me!

Finally, what would be on your perfect playlist?

Bella Hardy’s Bright Morning Star tour comes to the Tolbooth on Thursday 8th December, 8pm. Tickets (priced £12/£10) available from Box Office on 01786 27 4000, or online here.

Interview by Rachel Cunningham.

November 29, 2011   6 notes
November 18, 2011   31 notes
IN PICTURES: TASHI LHUNPO MONKS
Recreating the mysteries of the Buddhist Monastery, eight Tibetan monks from Tashi Lhunpo brought a dramatic presentation of a dying art to the Tolbooth on Thursday. ‘The Power of Compassion’ was a fascinating whirl of ceremonial masks and traditional costumes, sacred dance, music and chanted prayer. Quite a spectacle! View the full photo set from the evening here.

IN PICTURES: TASHI LHUNPO MONKS

Recreating the mysteries of the Buddhist Monastery, eight Tibetan monks from Tashi Lhunpo brought a dramatic presentation of a dying art to the Tolbooth on Thursday. ‘The Power of Compassion’ was a fascinating whirl of ceremonial masks and traditional costumes, sacred dance, music and chanted prayer. Quite a spectacle! View the full photo set from the evening here.

November 18, 2011   2 notes
A.J. ROACH AT THE TOLBOOTH
A. J. Roach has just sent us this rather amusing photo of himself at the Tolbooth posting next to… himself! If you missed his fantastic show with Nuala Kennedy last month there are some live photographs here.

A.J. ROACH AT THE TOLBOOTH

A. J. Roach has just sent us this rather amusing photo of himself at the Tolbooth posting next to… himself! If you missed his fantastic show with Nuala Kennedy last month there are some live photographs here.

November 9, 2011   7 notes
INTERVIEW: THE TWILIGHT SAD
Scotland’s loudest live act The Twilight Sad return to Stirling on Friday 25th November to deliver another explosive performance to the Tolbooth. With forthcoming album No One Can Ever Know due for release in February 2012, the band has exciting new material to showcase. Expect their trademark darkness and epic noisy crescendos, fuelled by an exploration into new avenues of sound. We caught up with frontman James Graham to talk about touring, recording the new album and his favourite sweet shop in Stirling…
 
You are quite intense performers on stage and many journalists have portrayed you as ‘morose’ – what are really you like in person? 
I like to think we’re pretty normal people. I like to think that but I’m not sure it’s true – you’d have to ask folk who know us. We like having a laugh but when it comes to being on stage and writing music, we’re pretty serious, because the songs are about very personal things. We’re approachable people and always like to talk and have a drink with those who like our music. Twitter gives me the opportunity to show people that we’re not miserable bastards all the time.
Do you get sick of people trying to describe your ‘sound’?
I think it’s a good thing, the fact that people are talking about us and there are so many different opinions about what we sound like. We wear our influences on our sleeves but at the same time we’re doing this our own way and telling original stories through our music. I think it’s really easy to recognise a Twilight Sad song. Yesterday I heard someone compare us to the Stone Roses, which baffled me. I like the Stone Roses but we sound nothing like them. 
You appear to be quite shy on stage – are you a natural frontman or do you get nervous?
I’m definitely not a natural frontman. I’m getting better at it but I don’t think I’ll ever truly be comfortable with stage banter and crowd interaction as I usually get lost in my own wee world. I hope I don’t come across as rude to our audiences because I’m truly grateful to every person that comes to see us. I do get nervous but having a few drinks beforehand usually does the trick. These days I’m getting more excited than nervous before we go on stage.
You have some super-fans across the world – have you experienced any particularly odd behaviour?
Not really. Our fans (I find it weird using that term ” fans” – I prefer saying people who like our band) are really cool, very respectful and fortunately not maniacs. I was given a tea towel once, which was nice. Someone sent us a picture on Twitter of a tattoo they got of the artwork from the “I became a prostitute” single cover – that was really cool. 
Been to any good gigs recently?
Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat in Paisley, Remember Remember at Stereo in Glasgow, Rihanna at the SECC, Scott from Frightened Rabbit in the Oran Mor Auditorium, and the Electric Frog Festival with Errors, Mogwai and Wild Beasts.
Personally, which has been your best gig to play, and why?
I love hometown gigs in either Glasgow or Stirling; we are based in between them and all of our friends and family are there. I love playing in different countries – meeting new people from different backgrounds who like our music is pretty mind blowing. Playing in America is brilliant too. I wouldn’t like to single any out as I love every gig. I just feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to play in so many great places.
Have you got any favourite haunts in Stirling?
We’ve played Stirling twice before and both times were at the Tolbooth. When I was younger I used to go to the Europa record store, and there’s a cool wee sweet shop where they have Irn Bru rock, every flavour of Millions and my personal favourite, THE WHAM BAR!
Your last album Forget the Night Ahead was a very dark record, which you’ve explained as being the result of losing someone close to you and reacting badly. How does the new record differ, and what influenced the song writing this time around?
This one is just as miserable as the last one, possibly more so. A few friends have said they think it’s darker, which surprised me, but that’s cool - I knew it wasn’t a barrel of laughs. I felt I talked too much about the lyrics on the last record so this time I’m not telling anybody what they are about. I want people to take what they want from the lyrics and interpret them in their own way.
You have a reputation for being a very loud band. Are there any quieter songs on the forthcoming release?
I don’t think we have any quiet songs on the record but it isn’t all ‘in your face’. It’s still very intense but there is more breathing space within some of the songs. Sparse, that’s the word! We’ll still be leaving people’s ears ringing, don’t worry about that. 
Your new single Sick is accompanied by some disturbing artwork, in keeping with previous releases. Why do you always go for such shocking images?
We feel the images represent the music and also get people talking. We want our records to stand out from the crowd in music shops or on the web or on posters in venues. We’re not trying to be controversial but at the same time we never shy away from something that could be deemed controversial. We choose the images that we like. The guy who does our artwork is called Dave Thomas and he’s a bit of a genius in our eyes.
The press release says the new album is driven by “a new keyboard/programming driven approach”. Can you explain further how this record came together?
We have introduced some new elements into the band’s sound but ultimately No One Can Ever Know still sounds like The Twilight Sad. My approach wasn’t any different to the last two records when it came to my melodies and lyrics: I found what I wanted to write about and focused in on that. When it came to the music we wanted a harsher, colder, motorik, and slightly militant feel. We thought it would be best to be spontaneous and get outside of our comfort zone to avoid falling back on repeating what we’ve done previously. That’s why we moved to London for a month. We recorded in a studio called the The Pool and got Andrew Weatherall on board to bounce ideas off of and basically reassure us about the direction we were progressing in. We borrowed vintage analogue synths from both Tape studio in Edinburgh and Ben Hillier, which became the core sounds on the album after endless experimenting. The drums were recorded separately, which allowed us to easily manipulate and sample them. The guitars are much more reminiscent of maybe John McGeoch or Keith Levene, instead of the ‘wall of sound’ noise from the first records
You have supported a lot of major players on the music scene – how has that helped the band? For your own part, do you try to bring in support acts that you believe in and want to help promote?
We’ve been lucky to support some amazing bands. We’ve not had anybody pushing us on these bands – we’ve been asked because they like our music and wanted us on their tour, which is a huge compliment. We try our best to bring bands and acts that we like on tour. We have a guy called Adam Stafford on the Scottish dates of this tour and everybody should come early to check out his music.
If you were making a ‘perfect playlist’ for a friend, what would be on it, and why?
Arab Strap, Mogwai, Frightened Rabbit, Errors, Remember Remember, RM Hubbert, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Adam Stafford, Micah P Hinson, Take A Worm For A Walk Week, The Phantom Band… ‘cause they are either Scottish or because they are my friends. But most of all because they all make great music!
There’s still time to buy tickets to see The Twilight Sad at the Tolbooth and to get a free download of their track ‘Kill It In The Morning’ from forthcoming album No One Can Ever Know.

INTERVIEW: THE TWILIGHT SAD

Scotland’s loudest live act The Twilight Sad return to Stirling on Friday 25th November to deliver another explosive performance to the Tolbooth. With forthcoming album No One Can Ever Know due for release in February 2012, the band has exciting new material to showcase. Expect their trademark darkness and epic noisy crescendos, fuelled by an exploration into new avenues of sound. We caught up with frontman James Graham to talk about touring, recording the new album and his favourite sweet shop in Stirling…

 

You are quite intense performers on stage and many journalists have portrayed you as ‘morose’ – what are really you like in person?

I like to think we’re pretty normal people. I like to think that but I’m not sure it’s true – you’d have to ask folk who know us. We like having a laugh but when it comes to being on stage and writing music, we’re pretty serious, because the songs are about very personal things. We’re approachable people and always like to talk and have a drink with those who like our music. Twitter gives me the opportunity to show people that we’re not miserable bastards all the time.

Do you get sick of people trying to describe your ‘sound’?

I think it’s a good thing, the fact that people are talking about us and there are so many different opinions about what we sound like. We wear our influences on our sleeves but at the same time we’re doing this our own way and telling original stories through our music. I think it’s really easy to recognise a Twilight Sad song. Yesterday I heard someone compare us to the Stone Roses, which baffled me. I like the Stone Roses but we sound nothing like them.

You appear to be quite shy on stage – are you a natural frontman or do you get nervous?

I’m definitely not a natural frontman. I’m getting better at it but I don’t think I’ll ever truly be comfortable with stage banter and crowd interaction as I usually get lost in my own wee world. I hope I don’t come across as rude to our audiences because I’m truly grateful to every person that comes to see us. I do get nervous but having a few drinks beforehand usually does the trick. These days I’m getting more excited than nervous before we go on stage.

You have some super-fans across the world – have you experienced any particularly odd behaviour?

Not really. Our fans (I find it weird using that term ” fans” – I prefer saying people who like our band) are really cool, very respectful and fortunately not maniacs. I was given a tea towel once, which was nice. Someone sent us a picture on Twitter of a tattoo they got of the artwork from the “I became a prostitute” single cover – that was really cool.

Been to any good gigs recently?

Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat in Paisley, Remember Remember at Stereo in Glasgow, Rihanna at the SECC, Scott from Frightened Rabbit in the Oran Mor Auditorium, and the Electric Frog Festival with Errors, Mogwai and Wild Beasts.

Personally, which has been your best gig to play, and why?

I love hometown gigs in either Glasgow or Stirling; we are based in between them and all of our friends and family are there. I love playing in different countries – meeting new people from different backgrounds who like our music is pretty mind blowing. Playing in America is brilliant too. I wouldn’t like to single any out as I love every gig. I just feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to play in so many great places.

Have you got any favourite haunts in Stirling?

We’ve played Stirling twice before and both times were at the Tolbooth. When I was younger I used to go to the Europa record store, and there’s a cool wee sweet shop where they have Irn Bru rock, every flavour of Millions and my personal favourite, THE WHAM BAR!

Your last album Forget the Night Ahead was a very dark record, which you’ve explained as being the result of losing someone close to you and reacting badly. How does the new record differ, and what influenced the song writing this time around?

This one is just as miserable as the last one, possibly more so. A few friends have said they think it’s darker, which surprised me, but that’s cool - I knew it wasn’t a barrel of laughs. I felt I talked too much about the lyrics on the last record so this time I’m not telling anybody what they are about. I want people to take what they want from the lyrics and interpret them in their own way.

You have a reputation for being a very loud band. Are there any quieter songs on the forthcoming release?

I don’t think we have any quiet songs on the record but it isn’t all ‘in your face’. It’s still very intense but there is more breathing space within some of the songs. Sparse, that’s the word! We’ll still be leaving people’s ears ringing, don’t worry about that.

Your new single Sick is accompanied by some disturbing artwork, in keeping with previous releases. Why do you always go for such shocking images?

We feel the images represent the music and also get people talking. We want our records to stand out from the crowd in music shops or on the web or on posters in venues. We’re not trying to be controversial but at the same time we never shy away from something that could be deemed controversial. We choose the images that we like. The guy who does our artwork is called Dave Thomas and he’s a bit of a genius in our eyes.

The press release says the new album is driven by “a new keyboard/programming driven approach”. Can you explain further how this record came together?

We have introduced some new elements into the band’s sound but ultimately No One Can Ever Know still sounds like The Twilight Sad. My approach wasn’t any different to the last two records when it came to my melodies and lyrics: I found what I wanted to write about and focused in on that. When it came to the music we wanted a harsher, colder, motorik, and slightly militant feel. We thought it would be best to be spontaneous and get outside of our comfort zone to avoid falling back on repeating what we’ve done previously. That’s why we moved to London for a month. We recorded in a studio called the The Pool and got Andrew Weatherall on board to bounce ideas off of and basically reassure us about the direction we were progressing in. We borrowed vintage analogue synths from both Tape studio in Edinburgh and Ben Hillier, which became the core sounds on the album after endless experimenting. The drums were recorded separately, which allowed us to easily manipulate and sample them. The guitars are much more reminiscent of maybe John McGeoch or Keith Levene, instead of the ‘wall of sound’ noise from the first records

You have supported a lot of major players on the music scene – how has that helped the band? For your own part, do you try to bring in support acts that you believe in and want to help promote?

We’ve been lucky to support some amazing bands. We’ve not had anybody pushing us on these bands – we’ve been asked because they like our music and wanted us on their tour, which is a huge compliment. We try our best to bring bands and acts that we like on tour. We have a guy called Adam Stafford on the Scottish dates of this tour and everybody should come early to check out his music.

If you were making a ‘perfect playlist’ for a friend, what would be on it, and why?

Arab Strap, Mogwai, Frightened Rabbit, Errors, Remember Remember, RM Hubbert, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Adam Stafford, Micah P Hinson, Take A Worm For A Walk Week, The Phantom Band… ‘cause they are either Scottish or because they are my friends. But most of all because they all make great music!

There’s still time to buy tickets to see The Twilight Sad at the Tolbooth and to get a free download of their track ‘Kill It In The Morning’ from forthcoming album No One Can Ever Know.

November 3, 2011   5 notes

INTERVIEW: ROD JONES

Idlewild guitarist and songwriter Rod Jones is back with an exciting new solo project, The Birthday Suit. New album The Eleventh Hour is released on 11 November and sees Rod return to the noisy pop moments that he first made his name with. Due to a recurring injury, Rod was forced to cancel the first leg of his UK tour, but thankfully he is on the mend and has been given the green light to play at the Tolbooth on Saturday 26th November. We caught up with him for a chat about life outside of Idlewild…

How are you are feeling now?

I’m getting better.It was a difficult decision to cancel dates but I didn’t want our first tour to be not as convincing as it could have been. The doctor told me to give myself four weeks and that should be up just before the night in Stirling, so those shows will definitely go ahead.

What are the perks of playing in an intimate venue like the Tolbooth?

In bigger venues it feels almost like you’re at a rehearsal because people are so far away from you, whereas the smaller venues are generally more exciting and nerve-wracking. For a new band to go on tour and sell 50-100 tickets a night is very good and we’ll be happy if we do that. Some people may think that’s soul destroying after I’ve played for as many people here and there but its not because it’s a new tour and a new band and we’ll play to however many people turn up. Smaller audiences are also a little bit more forgiving when you are starting out and maybe not 100% slick. I think that we’re certainly in a better state than we were when we did the first Idlewild tour, but that was a total mess so that’s not really saying much! I think it’ll be fun.

You’re best known for being in Idlewild. How does life as a solo artist compare?

It’s like starting again. After 15 years of standing on one part of the stage and letting the front man responsibilities go to Roddy, there is a whole different set of nerves about remembering lyrics and songs. With Idlewild I can get on stage and not really be nervous at all; it’s almost like muscle memory and I don’t have to concentrate that much. I’ll freely admit that I thought Roddy had it easy – something that I don’t necessarily think anymore. There’s a whole new sense of pressure that goes with being the front man of a band. At the same time I think it adds that kind of uncertainty and that excitement, which is something that I think people loved so much about Idlewild in the early days; you would come to a show and you really didn’t know what was going to happen. There’s definitely that feeling with The Birthday Suit.

You and Roddy are now doing your own thing musically. Is this the end of Idlewild?

I don’t know. It’s a difficult one to answer because as a group of people now we’re so desperately different in our musical tastes. It has become increasingly difficult for us now to make music together, not because we fall out but because it’s hard to make a record that makes any sense when you’ve got so many different styles. It can end up sounding convoluted and a little bit confused. I really don’t know the answer to that question; it’s something that we’re talking about in terms of what the future holds and whether we’ll make another record, but it’s a difficult decision to make and its not one that we’re rushing into. Alan is really into his hard-edged stuff and the more complicated rock music, which he’s off doing in several bands. Then Roddy is obviously concentrating on his folk music and also some American country and blues stuff in his newer records. You know, as much as I’m into these kinds of things I just felt like I wanted to make another rock record, so I did. We’re all on good terms and we haven’t kind of done the classic “creative differences” or “personal differences” split, it’s basically just that the time isn’t right just now to make another Idlewild record.

Do you think you influence each other’s solo music at all?

We’ve been writing together for so long that we’ve probably rubbed off on each other in some sense. When I was writing this record I certainly employed methods that I’d learnt from Roddy. But I don’t think that we consciously influence each other.

Your single Do You Ever was released as a free download. What made you decide to make it available for free?

I thought it was quite a good way to open the door to the new record. I went from Idlewild, which was ever-changing, to a Laurel Canyon folk record to a rock record, so I wanted people to have an idea of where it was going. That song seemed to be quite a good bridge. I think it was quite a surprise to some people who were expecting another quiet folk song because it’s probably the most extreme track on the record. It seems to have spread some interest in the band, which is the most important thing to do. Hopefully that translates into people coming to shows and listening to the whole album.

Your parents are classical musicians. What made you go down the rock route?

My mum is a soprano and my dad is a conductor so classical music was force fed from a very young age. I learned violin, piano and trombone but that wasn’t really the kind of music for me. I do like some classical music and I listen to it now and again, but I prefer guitars and drums. I was really into heavy metal when I was a teenager, like everybody at that age. Then I discovered Sonic Youth and I think they were the linchpin that got me interested in more melodic music rather than just punching-your-fists-against-a-wall heavy metal. Listening to that and the intricacies that went on, I liked the idea that it wasn’t just how many hours of practice you put in to see how fast you could play on the violin or the trombone, it was more about how you could express yourself in different ways. Maybe it was laziness! I think my parents appreciate what I’m doing and they enjoy the shows, or so they say! They’ve always got my sister to fall back on, who is studying violin at RSAMD.

Can you tell us a bit about your work with the Mental Health Foundation and the Fruit Tree Foundation?

The charity is something that is quite close to my heart through personal experience. The Fruit Tree First Edition EP is probably the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done. Obviously I’m proud of the records I’ve made with Idlewild and on my own but I think there is something special about that project. Emma [Pollock] and I put a wish list together of who we wanted to make the record with and pretty much everybody that we asked said yes. We went into a house for a couple of weeks and wrote and recorded a really strong record. I think we were all surprised by how good it was. Not only does it raise awareness but it is exclusive to Scotland. There is a real collaborative nature to the music scene in Scotland, and I think people work well together and get on with each other. There’s not so much of a competitive nature that you get in a lot of other countries. Having said that, I’d like to get some international artists involved. My plan for Fruit Tree was always first year Scotland, second year national and third year Springsteen.

To buy tickets to see The Birthday Suit on Saturday 26th November, visit

www.stirling.gov.uk/tolbooth
or phone Box Office on 01786 27 4000.
 

INTERVIEW: ROD JONES

Idlewild guitarist and songwriter Rod Jones is back with an exciting new solo project, The Birthday Suit. New album The Eleventh Hour is released on 11 November and sees Rod return to the noisy pop moments that he first made his name with. Due to a recurring injury, Rod was forced to cancel the first leg of his UK tour, but thankfully he is on the mend and has been given the green light to play at the Tolbooth on Saturday 26th November. We caught up with him for a chat about life outside of Idlewild…

How are you are feeling now?

I’m getting better.It was a difficult decision to cancel dates but I didn’t want our first tour to be not as convincing as it could have been. The doctor told me to give myself four weeks and that should be up just before the night in Stirling, so those shows will definitely go ahead.

What are the perks of playing in an intimate venue like the Tolbooth?

In bigger venues it feels almost like you’re at a rehearsal because people are so far away from you, whereas the smaller venues are generally more exciting and nerve-wracking. For a new band to go on tour and sell 50-100 tickets a night is very good and we’ll be happy if we do that. Some people may think that’s soul destroying after I’ve played for as many people here and there but its not because it’s a new tour and a new band and we’ll play to however many people turn up. Smaller audiences are also a little bit more forgiving when you are starting out and maybe not 100% slick. I think that we’re certainly in a better state than we were when we did the first Idlewild tour, but that was a total mess so that’s not really saying much! I think it’ll be fun.

You’re best known for being in Idlewild. How does life as a solo artist compare?

It’s like starting again. After 15 years of standing on one part of the stage and letting the front man responsibilities go to Roddy, there is a whole different set of nerves about remembering lyrics and songs. With Idlewild I can get on stage and not really be nervous at all; it’s almost like muscle memory and I don’t have to concentrate that much. I’ll freely admit that I thought Roddy had it easy – something that I don’t necessarily think anymore. There’s a whole new sense of pressure that goes with being the front man of a band. At the same time I think it adds that kind of uncertainty and that excitement, which is something that I think people loved so much about Idlewild in the early days; you would come to a show and you really didn’t know what was going to happen. There’s definitely that feeling with The Birthday Suit.

You and Roddy are now doing your own thing musically. Is this the end of Idlewild?

I don’t know. It’s a difficult one to answer because as a group of people now we’re so desperately different in our musical tastes. It has become increasingly difficult for us now to make music together, not because we fall out but because it’s hard to make a record that makes any sense when you’ve got so many different styles. It can end up sounding convoluted and a little bit confused. I really don’t know the answer to that question; it’s something that we’re talking about in terms of what the future holds and whether we’ll make another record, but it’s a difficult decision to make and its not one that we’re rushing into. Alan is really into his hard-edged stuff and the more complicated rock music, which he’s off doing in several bands. Then Roddy is obviously concentrating on his folk music and also some American country and blues stuff in his newer records. You know, as much as I’m into these kinds of things I just felt like I wanted to make another rock record, so I did. We’re all on good terms and we haven’t kind of done the classic “creative differences” or “personal differences” split, it’s basically just that the time isn’t right just now to make another Idlewild record.

Do you think you influence each other’s solo music at all?

We’ve been writing together for so long that we’ve probably rubbed off on each other in some sense. When I was writing this record I certainly employed methods that I’d learnt from Roddy. But I don’t think that we consciously influence each other.

Your single Do You Ever was released as a free download. What made you decide to make it available for free?

I thought it was quite a good way to open the door to the new record. I went from Idlewild, which was ever-changing, to a Laurel Canyon folk record to a rock record, so I wanted people to have an idea of where it was going. That song seemed to be quite a good bridge. I think it was quite a surprise to some people who were expecting another quiet folk song because it’s probably the most extreme track on the record. It seems to have spread some interest in the band, which is the most important thing to do. Hopefully that translates into people coming to shows and listening to the whole album.

Your parents are classical musicians. What made you go down the rock route?

My mum is a soprano and my dad is a conductor so classical music was force fed from a very young age. I learned violin, piano and trombone but that wasn’t really the kind of music for me. I do like some classical music and I listen to it now and again, but I prefer guitars and drums. I was really into heavy metal when I was a teenager, like everybody at that age. Then I discovered Sonic Youth and I think they were the linchpin that got me interested in more melodic music rather than just punching-your-fists-against-a-wall heavy metal. Listening to that and the intricacies that went on, I liked the idea that it wasn’t just how many hours of practice you put in to see how fast you could play on the violin or the trombone, it was more about how you could express yourself in different ways. Maybe it was laziness! I think my parents appreciate what I’m doing and they enjoy the shows, or so they say! They’ve always got my sister to fall back on, who is studying violin at RSAMD.

Can you tell us a bit about your work with the Mental Health Foundation and the Fruit Tree Foundation?

The charity is something that is quite close to my heart through personal experience. The Fruit Tree First Edition EP is probably the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done. Obviously I’m proud of the records I’ve made with Idlewild and on my own but I think there is something special about that project. Emma [Pollock] and I put a wish list together of who we wanted to make the record with and pretty much everybody that we asked said yes. We went into a house for a couple of weeks and wrote and recorded a really strong record. I think we were all surprised by how good it was. Not only does it raise awareness but it is exclusive to Scotland. There is a real collaborative nature to the music scene in Scotland, and I think people work well together and get on with each other. There’s not so much of a competitive nature that you get in a lot of other countries. Having said that, I’d like to get some international artists involved. My plan for Fruit Tree was always first year Scotland, second year national and third year Springsteen.

To buy tickets to see The Birthday Suit on Saturday 26th November, visit

www.stirling.gov.uk/tolbooth

or phone Box Office on 01786 27 4000.

 

November 2, 2011   7 notes

PHOTOGRAPHS: A.J. ROACH AND NUALA KENNEDY

A.J. Roach and Nuala Kennedy were at the Tolbooth for a rare performance together on Friday 28th October, and audience member Johan Sandberg McGuinne shared some of his photographs with us.

November 1, 2011   3 notes