Monday, 22 March 2010

Newsbits: Last Battle sign deal, Wickerman acts revealed, NAO album released

The Last Battle

The Last Battle sign to 17 Seconds
It's happened again: not long after we interview a band for UtR, they bag themselves a record deal. We're not suggesting that we influence these things of course... Anyway, this time the band in question is The Last Battle (pictured above, UtR profile here), who have penned a contract with the Edinburgh label 17 Seconds. It's fast progress for the Leith six-piece, who only formed last year and started gigging around six months ago. Read more from label boss Ed Jupp on his blog of the same name.

Wickerman bands revealed
Hardly a week goes by at this time of year without a festival announcement of some description. Now it's the turn of Wickerman, the Dumfriesshire weekender that boasts some pretend Paganism alongside the usual mix of lager and music. Names out of the hat so far include Ocean Colour Scene, The Saw Doctors, The Futureheads, Sons & Daughters and Codeine Velvet Club, although there will be a fair smattering of up and coming bands appearing too. Wickerman takes place on 23 and 24 July - more info here.

Get your Hooks on NAO
It's a big day for another fine band to have graced this blog, North Atlantic Oscillation. That's because today's the day the Edinburgh/Glasgow outfit release their debut album Grappling Hooks, which has already generated glowing reviews from near and far. They've come a long way from the slightly awkward performance we once witnessed in the tiny Henry's Cellar Bar a few years ago, and it's great to see them fulfilling their potential.



And finally...
We have some news of our own this week, but we can't really say anything just yet. Keep checking back though and all will be revealed in days to come.

Got news for us? Let us know at utr.scotsman@gmail.com or tweet us @under_the_radar

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

On the radar: The Last Battle

The Last Battle

The Last Battle - Oh Best Beloved


Despite being best described as low key nu-folk loveliness, in terms of band inter-relationships The Last Battle are more akin to Swedish megastars ABBA.

The multi-instrumental Edinburgh six-piece (or septet, as they sometimes are live) only played their first gig in October, but have already earned gushing praise from several corners, including UtR regular Bart Owl.

“We started with the idea that if we could get a thumbs up from the bands we respected and admired, then we’d be doing something right,” says frontman Scott Longmuir. “So when Bart from eagleowl approached us and said he loved what we were doing that was a wee goal scored! We’ve now got him playing on one of our album tracks, which we’re pretty chuffed about.”

Longmuir, along with bassist Paul Barrett, had been part of an art-rock band which they were becoming “increasingly frustrated and bored with” until the middle of last year, and it was from the ashes of that partnership that the genesis of The Last Battle emerged.

“The songs I’d been writing of late were a bit folky and seemed to have a lot of scope for adding more instruments to them,” Longmuir explains. “So I started going round to Paul’s with the new songs and we’d demo them in his front room using an old drum machine and a 12-track, purely to see if we could enjoy making music again.”

And the ABBA connection? “We decided if we were going to do the band thing again, we’d include the people closest to us – take them along with us,” says Longmuir. The rest of the band consists of Barrett’s other half (Flora McKay) on cello, Longmuir’s (Ella Duncan) on glockenspiel and melodica, her sister Arwen on joint vocals and “an old school friend [Liam O’Hare] gently stroking a snare drum”. Live, the band are often joined by Barrett’s flatmate Stephen Kerr on electric guitar.

Despite the name’s military connotations, the band are named after one of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. “I was getting sick of trying to come up with a band name as all mine were crap, so I left it to someone else,” says Longmuir. “One day Paul sent me a text simply saying ‘The Last Battle’ – taken from the book he was reading – so we just went with that.

“We hear a lot of amusing stories that some people expect us to be some sort of up-for-it punk band. We’re about as up for it as a packet of digestive biscuits.”

The Last Battle - Any Ocean


Musically, the band’s influences avoid up-for-it punk in favour of more melodic acts like Malcolm Middleton, Arcade Fire, Emmylou Harris, Sufjan Stevens and Bright Eyes, with a dash of traditional folk. “Non-musical influences would have to be Leith itself,” Longmuir adds. “There’s something very inspiring about the place, especially down by the shore.

“There’s a lot of very talented musicians down here too, like Hailey Beavis, some of Meursault, Kays Lavelle, eagleowl, Alan Oates and Unicorn Kid – who’s just signed to Ministry of Sound. There’s definitely something in the water… of Leith.”

But it’s not just the locals who impress Longmuir. “The Scottish scene is really strong right now – I’m really into Remember Remember and French Wives... Of the newer bands we’ve played with from Edinburgh, for me, Conquering Animal Sound, are the ones who’ve impressed me the most.

“Frustratingly, outside Scotland all of this seems to fall on deaf ears which really riles me,” he adds. “It got to the point that I actually wrote a couple of silly letters to the NME about the lack of Scottish bands they featured, and to my surprise they printed them. Now, if only they’d actually write something about the bands other than patronizingly print my futile letters…”

The Last Battle are currently putting the finishing touches to their first album, Heart of the Land, Soul of the Sea. “It’s a loosely themed concept album about two entirely different people that fall in love knowing it’s doomed from the start,” says Longmuir. “We’re chatting with a few labels just now about putting it out at some point this year too, which should be around June.

“Some of our newer songs are veering away from the more traditional songwriting style,” he adds. “We’ve been messing around with the old drum machine again that started this all off, putting it through guitar pedals and generally upsetting the girls, which is not recommended.”

Words: Lisa-Marie Ferla

Catch The Last Battle live at the following dates, and check their MySpace for more shows:

12 Mar: This is Music @ Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh
27 Mar: Trampoline 3rd Birthday @ Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh
31 Mar: Maggie's Chamber (top of 3 Sisters, Edinburgh)
18 Apr: Carter's Bar, Morrison St, Edinburgh

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Friday, 5 February 2010

Radar recommends: 6 - 12 Feb

The Low Miffs
[The Low Miffs: appearing in Stereo-sound on Thursday]

Plan your gig-going with our pick of the week's finest live music nights...

The best...

Live at the Beach
Saturday @ The Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen / 7.30pm / £7.50
Some of Aberdeen's brightest bands play a rare live music night at the famous Beach Ballroom: The Little Kicks, Indian Red Lopez, Cast of the Capital and The Underkills.

Louise McVey and Cracks in the Concrete, Hitlist Youth, Skinny Villains
Saturday @ 13th Note / 9pm / £tbc
The gorgeous, gothic voice of Louise McVey has already turned our heads here at UtR, and Saturday night at the Note is definitely one to watch.

Sisqo
Tuesday @ Fat Sam's, Dundee / 10.30pm / £7-£10
Sorry, but the prospect of the man behind 'The Thong Song' coming to play Dundee just seemed too good to pass over.

Beach House, Lawrence Arabia, Washington Irving
Wednesday @ King Tut’s / £9 / 8.30pm
Baltimore duo Beach House are the new indie darlings, although their watercolour dream pop stylings won't appeal to everyone. Get there early for Washington Irving too.

The Low Miffs, Hidden Masters, Foxgang
Thursday @ Stereo / 7pm / £1
In troubled economic times, you’ll struggle to find a better-value line-up than Ten Tracks’ monthly night at Stereo. Three top-notch bands plus a ten-track download compilation (this month from Hijack), for the princely sum of £1 – bargain!

The Leith Tape Club
Thursday @ The ISO Lounge, Leith / 8.15pm / £tbc
Space is always limited at this low-key monthly night, but this instalment - with eagleowl, Hailey Beavis and The Stormy Seas - is the last until May, so it could well be packed to the rafters.

Limbo: Found, Three Blind Wolves, Over The Wall
Friday @ Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh / 8.30pm - 1.30am / £tbc
A three-pronged prognosis of the state of new music in Scotland, with local favourites Found and the Glasgow pairing of Three Blind Wolves and the infectious Over the Wall.

The Late Call, The Last Battle, Emily Scott
Friday @ Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh / 7pm / £5
The Late Call is Stockholm troubador Johannes Mayer, supported on this date by Edinburgh regulars The Last Battle and Emily Scott, who we profiled last year.


The rest...



Words: Lisa-Marie Ferla, Nick Mitchell

What have we missed? Tell us below, or add it to the calendar by emailing utr.scotsman@gmail.com

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Friday, 8 January 2010

Editorial: The tipping point

John McCririckIf you're an avid consumer of music journalism you could be forgiven at this time of year for picturing every blogger and critic to look like John McCririck.

OK, maybe they don't look like the Ascot-frequenting eccentric, but they're all having a go at being excitable tipsters.

Perhaps the most high profile formcard for the year ahead is the BBC's Sound of 2010, which today crowned Ellie Goulding as the artist primed for stardom. Having already vented about the selection process behind their shortlist, I'll refrain from any more cynicism now, but the comment from Drunk Country on our original editorial is worth a read.

Over the festive period a few of our writers offered their own Scottish tips for 2010, but we have refrained from compiling a thorough run-down or poll of the most exciting acts of the moment.

Why? Because that's essentially what we've been doing for the past year anyway. The bands and artists we have profiled have been emergent by definition, the vast majority of them unsigned. If 2009 was the year of their formation, or the year they started gigging or self-released an EP, perhaps 2010 is the year they'll 'make it' - and I'll let you be the judge of what 'making it' entails.

Some of our choices from the class of 2009 - Withered Hand, North Atlantic Oscillation, There Will Be Fireworks, Copy Haho, Panda Su, to name a select few - are already growing their audience beyond the cosy confines of the Scottish scene. Others will undoubtedly come to nothing and fade back into obscurity. As any pundit will tell you though, that's the risk you take in this game.

But like everyone else, we can't resist the appeal of the crystal ball, so I'll add a few more new names that have recently appeared as blips on our collective radar:

Django Django
Nomogram
The Last Battle
Midnight Lion
miaoux miaoux
Three Blind Wolves (Ross Clark's renamed band)

Who are you tipping for 2010? Do you actually look like John McCririck? Let us know...

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Under the Radar podcast #6

Podcast #6Christmas. It might be chilly outside but it's hardly the coolest time of the year is it? We over-indulge in party snacks, strange, once-yearly liqueurs (eggnog?!) and belt-busting meals, before battening down the hatches on our little cocoons of reliable family customs, TV drowse-athons and enough lighting effects to melt Greenland. In short, the carving knife is all that's cutting edge about Yule-tide.

So it pleases us at UtR to know that the young hipsters and hipstresses of the Scottish music scene are equally predictable at this time of the year. Don't believe us?

Well, Billy caught up with a quintet of his favourite music makers for some festive banter, and was treated along the way to a poorly executed version of The Waitresses' Christmas Wrapping, a shameless plug for Terry's Chocolate Orange and the earth-shatteringly weird coincidence that two separate musos both long for one of those tiny screwdriver sets in their Christmas cracker.

Panda Su, French Wives, Conquering Animal Sound, Dead Boy Robotics and Cancel the Astronauts... we're looking at you.

We also asked a few more of our favourite acts of 2009 to contribute either Christmas-themed - or just plain new - songs, and eagleowl, The Last Battle, There Will Be Fireworks and Tokyo Knife Attack duly obliged.

Again, the sound quality isn't perfect, but rest assured that top of our list for Santa this year is some professional recording gear. Hope you enjoy it anyway...

Play: Podcast #6


Running order:
00:54: There Will Be Fireworks: In Excelius Deo
07:10: Interview: Panda Su
10:32: Panda Su - Eric Is Dead
15:44: Tokyo Knife Attack - Invisible Sister
20:15: Interview: French Wives
23:30: French Wives - Me vs Me
28:04: eagleowl - Sleep the Winter
34:09: Interview: Conquering Animal Sound
37:48: Conquering Animal Sound - Where The Wild Things Are
42:22: Interview: Dead Boy Robotics
44:31: Death Ohh Eff - Me and Fift (Dead Boy Robotics remix)
48:22: The Last Battle - Once Upon A Boxing Day
54:14: Interview: Cancel The Astronauts
57:27: Cancel the Astronauts - Funny For A Girl


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Podcast: Billy Hamilton, Nick Mitchell

Previous UtR podcasts

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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Feeling festive yet?

Under the Radar ChristmasIs the first day of December a legitimate point to start looking forward to Christmas? Not that we have much choice in the matter, thanks to the incessant carol-soundtracked adverts that elbow in between TV shows from mid-October and the twinkly displays that festoon every shop window.

But we're no Ebenezer Scrooges here at UtR, and, despite the widely bemoaned stranglehold that The X Factor currently has over the once competitive Christmas chart battle (or perhaps because of it), it seems that independent bands and artists are also getting into the spirit of the season.

Already, we know of two up and coming Scottish bands with their own Christmas songs freshly pressed: There Will Be Fireworks (see Radar Recommends below for gig info) have just this week recorded a typically uplifting, Latin-titled effort called In Excelis Deo, while relatively new Edinburgh band The Last Battle are set to release their own more reflective lament, Once Upon A Boxing Day, next Monday.

Expect to hear both on our Christmas podcast coming soon, as well as a host of other select tuneage.

Have you heard of any other alternative Scottish Christmas songs? Leave your suggestions below.

From next week we'll be looking back on the year that was 2009 with our writers' choices of the best bands and gigs, some guest bloggers and plenty more besides. But before that, we'd like to know how the year was for you...

What was your favourite gig?
Which UtR-featured act did you enjoy most? (hint: see the full list on the right)

P.S. Tickets for the ever popular Fence Homegame went on sale today. It's not until March but it always sells out fast. More info here.

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