Interview: Aidan Moffat and Paul Fegan

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(Photograph by Neale Smith)


This interview originally appeared in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland) on April 10, 2014.

Lately, Aidan Moffat has remodelled himself as Tom Weir. The Scottish cult-pop makar has swapped indie garb for fair-isle threads as part of Where You’re Meant To Be – a road trip, tour and ensuing film, conceived in cahoots with film-maker Paul Fegan, which kicks off with a series of ceilidh-style gigs round the country later this month.

Moffat will debut a new body of work inspired by our oral tradition, backed by James Graham (The Twilight Sad), Jenny Reeve (Bdy_Prts) and Stevie Jones (Alasdair Roberts). The gatherings span Port Ness Social Club, Faslane Peace Camp, Glasgow Barrowland and beyond, and will welcome local folk-singers and storytellers – plus unplugged-punk poet Wounded Knee, championship bothy balladeers Geordie Murison and Joe Aitken, and travelling folk torch-bearer Sheila Stewart.

Footage from the shows, the trips, and the characters they meet en route will provide the groundwork for a feature-length film, directed by Fegan (ere of Triptych festival), to be premiered after the close of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games in late August.

Where You’re Meant To Be is part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, and its exploration of Scottish folklore and identity resonates as the independence referendum approaches – but the project’s roots go deeper than that. “I had the idea to do a ceilidh-style gig with spoken word stuff years ago, and I asked Paul to promote it,” Moffat recalls. “Then we forgot all about it for ages – I did the album with Bill [Wells, which bagged 2012's Scottish Album of the Year Award] and there just wasn’t the time.

“When I had some free time, and started thinking about it again, we were in the pub with Stewart Henderson [of Moffat's label, Chemikal Underground] and he came up with the idea of trying to get funding. So it went from talk of doing a few gigs, to re-writing an album’s worth of songs, making a film and touring all over the shop. It’s become this massive cultural event,” Moffat says with a laugh. It’s popular too: free tickets for the eight-date tour were snapped up in a couple of hours.

Where You’re Meant To Be transcends time, and current events, in many ways – it excavates and updates forgotten songs, celebrates traditions before they are lost (Sheila Stewart is the sole surviving speaker of local travellers’ language, Perthshire Cant), and looks set to uncover many a yarn on its 21st century journey. “There’s lots of stories too,” says Fegan, who received numerous awards for his 2012 short documentary, Pouters. “Whether they’re about Faslane protesters, or a crofter in Skye swimming his cattle, or the Loch Ness monster, we want to display these stories, and characters, and characteristics … of contemporary Scotland.”

Moffat’s trad-folk reworkings are similarly forward-looking. “There’s a song I do called The City Tonight, which takes its melody from Bonnie Glenshee, but I didn’t like the words,” he says. “In Bonnie Glenshee, there’s a man and a woman breaking up underneath the beautiful scenery of the hills, and I just thought, ‘I feel the same way about the city’ – the Kingston Bridge at half five in the morning is as exciting to me as any hill. So I transposed the action to the city.”

The project’s title track, Where You’re Meant To Be, locates its protagonist in Moffat’s beloved Glasgow local, Nice N Sleazy. The narrative also features WYMTB player James Graham (“he’s the Jim in the song,” says Moffat), but the synchronicity doesn’t end there: its melody was inspired by a ballad sung by Sheila Stewart’s mother, Belle (of Blairgowrie’s “Travelling Stewarts”).

“It was actually Belle Stewart who sparked this whole idea,” says Moffat. “I was listening to an album of her [unaccompanied] stuff, and that’s when I started to think more about the storytelling thing, because that’s what her songs do. You have to concentrate. And I like the challenge of it – trying to hold people’s attention when there’s nothing else is quite difficult,” he says. “It’s like stand-up comedy in a way, which is kind of what the live set’s turned out like. Most of these old traditional songs are hilarious.”

Despite the (erroneous) “miserabilist” tag that dogged his former band Arab Strap, Moffat’s approach to Where You’re Meant To Be has been anything but. “I knew there was going to be a film of this, a portrayal of Scotland, before I wrote a lot of the songs, and I thought, ‘I don’t want Scotland to be seen as this miserable place’,” he offers. “I’m sick of Scotland being portrayed as a cesspit of violence and bigotry – especially now, in this year, when we’re supposed to be discussing its future. I want to be seen having a laugh. I mean, it can be a dark, miserable place – look at those clouds today – but it’s a beautiful country. And it’s a hilarious country.”

Fegan shares Moffat’s outlook and aesthetic, and hopes the film will find its own path around the tour; that the tales will tell themselves. “Because we’re not coming from a conventional film background in terms of approach, any aesthetic element has to work around a set schedule,” he offers. “We’re not only going to shoot on sunny days, or wet days – we need to shoot with what we get. It’s possible that all we’ll get is rain shots, but that can be quite beautiful too.

“For me, the focus is on getting as much material out of the tour as possible,” continues Fegan. “We’re trying to avoid making a fly-on-the-wall rock-doc, so it’s finding a balance between Aidan, and his process, and the picture of Scotland he’s taken and reinterpreted. A lot of the characters in the film will reflect an older part of Scotland and those traditions. It’s not going to be a wild road movie.”

So there won’t be any filmic shots of Aidan flashing his bum out the car window? “Oh, that might happen,” deadpans Moffat. “In fact, I’d say that’s quite likely.”

Where You’re Meant To Be starts in Port of Ness Social Club, Lewis, on April 19, then tours.

Related articles: UFO spotting with Aidan Moffat, The Quietus.

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Go East! Introducing the East End Social.

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This article originally appeared in The Herald newspaper on January 30, 2014. The listings have been updated to reflect names such as Hudson Mohawke, Todd Terje and Norman Blake having just been added to the ever-growing programme.

*

Back in 2000, Glasgow’s Delgados released a great album called The Great Eastern. Issued on the much-missed alt-rock charmers’ own Chemikal Underground imprint, it was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, but its significance extends far beyond that. The LP was named after a former mill and homeless hostel near Chemikal Underground’s Bridgeton home, and it resonates with the label’s ambitious new venture, The East End Social. It’s a globally-influenced, community-focused music programme for the East End of Glasgow, and an official Culture 2014 event that will initially run from April to August.

From large-scale gigs in East End parks to samba workshops in primary schools, The East End Social looks set to culturally remap the city during the Commonwealth Games and beyond, as evinced by its emergent music programme (which will unroll much more fully across a range of genres in the coming months). So far, it includes Glasgow post-rock deities Mogwai (who’ll play as part of a major live music event at Richmond Park over the last weekend in August) and Ghanaian pop trailblazer King Ayisoba (who’ll perform at Easterhouse arts venue Platform on April 10), plus local old-time dance band That Swing Sensation, reggae champions Mungo’s Hi-Fi, beat-boxer Bigg Tajj, Dutch avant-jazz miscreant Zea (The Ex), school choirs and community workshops – not to mention a programme of upcoming Scottish bands, co-curated by BBC Scotland’s Vic Galloway.

The bill looks set to be as inclusive as it is varied. “One of the key elements of The East End Social is that it’s not specifically an alternative or indie music programme,” says Stewart Henderson, who co-founded Chemikal Underground with fellow ex-Delgados Alun Woodward, Emma Pollock and Paul Savage in 1995. “We see The East End Social as being a celebration of Glasgow, a celebration of the East End, and a celebration of the music that binds us all together,” he says. “There’s absolutely nothing elitist about what we’re trying to do - it’s about trying to connect, and reconnect, communities in the East End through music, and to try and energise this side of the city with events that haven’t been happening regularly, or haven’t been happening at all.”

Among The East End Social’s flagship events is a reggae sound-system at Alexandra Park Gala Day (June 21), courtesy of home-grown sound-system Mungo’s Hi-Fi, who’ll be joined on the mics by UK dancehall legends YT and Tippa Irie (with more acts TBC). It marks
their first-ever large-scale party in the East End, according to James Whelan of Mungo’s Hi-Fi. “The chance to share what we love to do with East End folk in a large public space has never come around before, and it’s something we’ve always wanted to do, ” he says. “From our perspective, there are no venues at all in the East End where we could run a sound-system session, and late-night life is next-to non existent – the area is sorely under-represented in this respect.”

Whelan continues: “As well as sharing our music with local people, and giving the East End its first taste of real community sound system dance, we’re hoping that plenty of Commonwealth visitors will make the trip to Alexandra park, to create a multi-cultural and positive atmosphere.”

The Gala is an annual fixture in the East End calendar, and Henderson suggests that bringing something new to existing events is key to the ethos of The East End Social “This isn’t just a programme exclusively curated by us, or something that we’ve chosen to deliver to the East End,” he says. “We’re looking to work alongside people who’re already doing stuff, and maybe improving or extending the existing provision. It’s about trying to weave this project into the fabric of the East End community. It’s about what’s already happening here; it’s about trying to draw these disparate threads together.”

Henderson and Woodward have been liaising with East End organisations and communities since last summer, which has led to East End Social ventures like bringing a Dixieland jazz band to a pensioners’ party (as they did at Christmas for Bridgeton Community and Learning Centre), putting samba percussionists into Dalmarnock Primary (planned for later this year), and equipping another local primary school, St Anne’s, with instruments, and recording facilities, via their lauded Chem19 studios, with a view to them recording a Commonwealth song. (Members of The Vaccines and Frightened Rabbit are rumoured to be lending a hand). They’re also developing a music project for a local care home with DIY heroes Howie Reeve and Rory Haye, and will be promoting the Playlist For Life charity – an initiative which acknowledges the importance of personalised music playlists for those people suffering from dementia.

True to its warm, evocative name (and nature), The East End Social will explore and celebrate the area’s rich heritage and social history. This, of course, includes its iconic neighbourhood venue, the Glasgow Barrowland, which is set to host traditional Tea Dances, replete with a local Big Band, on May 3 and 4. “We want to try and hark back to the halcyon days of the Barrowland Ballroom,” Henderson offers. “We’ve got this 18-piece jazz band, That Swing Sensation, and we’ll have tea, cakes, drinks, and there might be vintage buses running to the venue, or people in doing hair and make-up,” he says. “We want to cater for some of the older East End communities – Easterhouse, Bridgeton, Rutherglen – but also to welcome people from all over Glasgow, and we’d be looking to try and attract younger people who’re into the vintage side of things as well.”

This sense of inclusion, and accessibility, is a critical touchstone of The East End Social. “This is a co-operative project that we think can only continue to grow and gain momentum long after the Commonwealth Games have gone,” says Henderson.”Lots of different people, venues, organisations and businesses can legitimately consider themselves to be part of The East End Social – it’s Bridgeton Community Centre, it’s the Gala Day at Alexandra Park, it’s Dennistoun Barbecue and it’s St Mary’s Church in Calton. All of these things have the ability and capacity to inform what this project is about – which is trying to invigorate the area that we’ve called home since 1997, and trying to instil as many small and large and indoor and outdoor music events as we possibly can.”

He also identifies The East End Social as being a critical venture for Chemikal Underground, whose current artists include Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert. “This is not a stand-alone project for us,” Henderson says. “I see this as being a significant part of where we want to go, moving forward. Not that we’d ever look to turn our backs on the release of records, which will always be a part of what we do, but if we’re able to pull this off, I see Chemikal Underground as having a key role to play in becoming an arts organisation within the East End of Glasgow,” he offers. “Now is our opportunity to see if we can help to enliven areas of the East End; to see if we can shine a light on a very under-appreciated side of the city.” You cannot fault their bright ideas; their great (Eastern) expectations.

The East End Social is supported by Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme’s Open Fund and urban regeneration company Clyde Gateway. The Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme is a partnership between the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee, Glasgow Life and Creative Scotland. www.eastendsocial.com

THE EAST END SOCIAL: HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR

April 10: Easterhouse arts venue platform (whose music programmer is Chemikal Underground’s Alun Woodward) welcomes Ghana pop visionary King Ayisoba, as part of a kaleidoscopic bill with the Dutch freak-jazz of Zea, and Glasgow tropical-noiseniks Sacred Paws, on April 10.

May 25: The East End Social and Optimo will transform the Barrowland Ballroom into a club bacchanal featuring some of our most thrilling global and local electronic acts, including unmissable live performances from Nordic electro seducer Todd Terje and throbbing hypno-groove pedagogues Golden Teacher, plus DJ sets from Glasgow’s inestimable Optimo (JD Twitch and JG Wilkes), Hessle Audio’s Ben UFO and Tim Sweeney (Beats in Space / DFA).

June 7: Davey Henderson’s art-pop iconoclasts Nectarine No.9 will reconvene at Rutherglen Town Hall to perform ‘Saint Jack’ – one of the truly great Scottish albums – with support from ace latter-day post-punk reprobates Casual Sex.

June 21: Scottish Album of the Year Award nominees and reggae sound-system Mungo’s Hi-Fi will make their East End debut at Alexandra Park Gala Day on June 21. They’ll be joined by dancehall renegade Tippa Irie (who’s been sampled by the Black Eyed Peas and collaborated with Alexander O’Neal) and YT (plus more TBA) – sure to attract nearby music lovers and roots voyagers from further afield.

August 5 / 6: Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and Joe Pernice’s glorious New Mendicants bring the summer harmonies to Bridgeton’s excellent (and intimate) Bowler’s Bar.

August 8: Scottish Album of the Year Award winner RM Hubbert brings his beautiful, heartbreaking Ampersand Trilogy (and his deadpan anecdotes) to Rutherglen Town Hall. The flamenco-punk heartbreaker will be supported by brilliant primal-folk sage Richard Dawson.

August 30 / 31: Post-rock overlords Mogwai, who scored their first-ever Top 10 album this year with Rave Tapes, are a flagship act for The East End Social. The long-time Chemikal Underground affiliates will perform at a major live event in Richmond Park on August 30, while August 31 sees an all-day party curated by Numbers and Optimo, headlined by electronic superstar Hudson Mohawke. It looks set to be the last big weekend of the summer.

www.eastendsocial.com

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Interview: Ela Orleans

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This feature originally ran in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland) on March 26, 2014.

Pop-noir collagist Ela Orleans’ LP Tumult In Clouds is aptly named. “I look for tumult in everything,” says the Glasgow-based artist, who was born and raised in Poland. “I have a lot of conflict in myself, and I’m always questioning things. I like to find that conflict in music too.”

Orleans’ mesmeric aesthetic is equal parts melodic and dissonant. It variously blurs and conjures minimalist electro, vintage film-pop and distorted psych-rock, the latter of which recalls her tenure in New York’s sonic underground. A multi-instrumentalist and former member of Glasgow troupe Hassle Hound, Orleans’ dramatic solo voyages have won her admirers in The Pastels, Thurston Moore and David Lynch, not to mention a remix commission from electronic powerhouse Warp. She’s set to collaborate with film-maker Maja Borg at this year’s Counterflows festival, on a bill that also stars casio-busking enigma The Space Lady, with whom Orleans has been aligned. Certainly, both acts are out of this world.

Tumult in Clouds scooped last year’s Mercury alternative, the Dead Albatross Prize (beating My Bloody Valentine, Broadcast and Factory Floor). It was recently reissued on CD and double-vinyl via Orleans’ Parental Guidance imprint, after its initial 2012 pressing sold out. As with its stellar, Ray Bradbury referencing predecessor Mars is Heaven, Tumult in Clouds takes myriad cues from literature. It variously cites Emily Dickinson, Arthur Rimbaud, Aleister Crowley and WB Yeats, whose poem, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, affords the LP its title. (“A lonely impulse of delight / Drove to this tumult in the clouds.”)

“I felt that line represented the time when I was writing the album,” Orleans offers, stirring coffee in a Glasgow bookshop basement. “I thought that the poem was not necessarily only about war – it was about agreeing to die; to diminish. Or, you know: screw the world, I don’t care, I will do whatever. Of course, that’s simplifying the poetry, which I’m very good at,” she says with a laugh. “But the poets I like are really good about describing feelings while hiding behind something – the weather, or natural causes, or war, which blows like a wind through history. Poems give me a rhythm which fits with the ostinati character of music. It’s like building on circles; on the routines of life.”

There are intricate shapes and structures throughout Orlean’s work. “Yeah, I get almost obsessive about details,” she nods. “It started with a record being stuck, actually. I remember when I was a kid, I had a copy of Janis Joplin’s Cry Baby, and it jumped, so it was like – ‘cry, cry, cry, cry’ – and I started singing along to that. I always liked that pattern, I remember it vividly. And I always like to repeat a word – for example, ‘chair, chair, chair, chair’ – until it completely loses its meaning, and it becomes something else.”

Orleans sings the praises of exploring others people’s words. “I have a hard time writing poetry myself – I’m afraid it won’t be universal,” she says. “I don’t want to patronise anybody with my thoughts. I don’t want to express my hate for my past loves, or not-loves. I don’t have that need. Plus, English is not my first language. But WB Yeats - well, nobody’s going to question that. I do, however, like to cut and add things.” Tumult in Clouds’ aural and lyrical cut-ups are abstract yet cohesive and vivid, thanks to a series of possible narratives, which are signposted by recurring motifs and evocative, if murky, titles (Diving Into The Wreck; Rolling Waters). Just don’t call it a concept.

“I don’t really have the capacity to make a concept – it disagrees with me,” she smiles. “If I was going to create a great concept, I’d like to be a scientist, and have a concept that would be useful for humans. But I like art to cover life, and I think that concept in life is really boring.” Orleans, rather, thrives on the beauty and designs of chaos, and on experimentation, such as her Counterflows collaboration with Borg.

“Maja is very sensitive to music,” she says. “She’s very connected to it, she has a great ear for sound and she won’t let any false note come in.” (The same could be said for Orleans.) “Our show is going to be a bit of an experiment,” she continues. “It’ll be partially live, and we’re designing a screen installation with different visuals. Maja’s going to do some reading and I’ll do some songs.” Their artistic partnership is ongoing. “Yeah, she’s doing something for my new record too,” says Orleans. “I’m working on a new LP and a new 12 inch. The 12 inch will be dance music; the new LP will be my regular, irregular collage.” Orleans’ forthcoming album is set to feature long-term champions Stephen and Katrina Pastel. “I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me,” she states.

Whether creating uncanny, monochrome pop or composing glimmering techno, Orleans has a knack for art that is challenging yet welcoming; keen-eyed (and eared), yet open-armed. “I like to find melody in everything,” she muses. “Even my noise attempts are melodic.” And despite their thrilling sonic divergence, Orleans’ songs have common origins. “I think they all start out from the same point,” she offers. “It’s just they all have different impulses. They’re on different frequencies.” Thank heavens for these impulses of delight.

(Photo of Ela Orleans by Natalie McGowan)

Related articles:
Tumult in Clouds, Album Review, The List, March 2014
Music Language Interview (feat Ela Orleans), The Herald, September 2013

 

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Album review: Two Wings, A Wake

two wings a wake

I reviewed Two Wings’ lovely new folk-rock opus, A Wake, over at The List magazine.

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Album review: Withered Hand, New Gods

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I reviewed Withered Hand’s marvellous new album, New Gods, over at The Quietus.

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Interview: Steve Mason and OnTheFly

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This article originally appeared in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland)

The North Star in Falkirk is perhaps an unlikely locale for a grassroots pop uprising. But the pizza joint and cafe-bar is set to host an anti-fracking fund-raiser whose political, geographic and environmental implications resonate through the UK and beyond.

Entitled Gastonbury, and starring Steve Mason (The Beta Band), King Creosote, James Yorkston and Dave Maclean (Django Django) among others, Thursday’s intimate gig is in support of Concerned Communities of Falkirk (CCoF) – a group of local residents, farmers, councillors and community councillors, who have united over environmental and health concerns about Dart Energy’s planning application to extract coal bed methane on nearby farmland and under homes. In order to pay for legal representation at a Public Inquiry into these controversial plans, CCoF have to raise 50 thousand pounds.

If planning permission is granted to Dart Energy, it will usher in the UK’s first commercial production of Unconventional Gas – the umbrella term for coal bed methane extraction (as planned for Falkirk), fracking and underground coal gasification – and, as such, March’s Public Inquiry could set a precedent for similar developments throughout Scotland and the UK.

Local musician Gavin Brown (aka King Creosote drummer and electro-alchemist OnTheFly) organised Gastonbury after attending a CCoF meeting. “I went along, and they spoke about the technical aspects, and hey came to the idea of raising funds – that’s where I got into it,” he says. “So I spoke to Steve [Mason], who I knew was also an opponent of fracking, and we just put our heads together, and decided to put a show on, to try and raise some money.” In order to maximise funds raised, tickets for the event were made available via silent auction, and participating artists have waived their fees and provided raffle prizes in support of the cause.

Mason was eager to be involved Gastonbury for its local and global implications. “It’ll essentially become a kind of test case of few things,” he says. “Firstly, whether a community and the people in the area will rally around and help each other, and whether they’ll get together to fight what will essentially be the destruction of their community – and that seems to be happening so far.”

Mason continues: “The other thing is, it’ll be a test case in terms of whether it’s possible to beat these private companies in court, even though they have the government behind them, the police behind them, the full weight of the establishment behind them. We’re just mere human beings,” he says with a quiet laugh. “But we’ve got our livelihoods and our families and our properties and our jobs to protect. It’s a very important thing that’s happening in Falkirk – it shouldn’t be underestimated. All the fracking organisations and the people trying to fight this will be watching Falkirk very closely.”

For Brown, who also runs De-Fence records, the stellar electronic counterpart to King Creosote’s Fence label, Gastonbury marks the first time he has harnessed music as a conduit for protest. “This is new for me – maybe it’s because it’s happening on my doorstep,” he says. “I was thinking about this the other day – you know, why is it that it seems to be artists speak about about these things? And I came to the conclusion that it’s because they don’t have any vested interests in companies or whatever so they’re not afraid to speak out, or upset anybody. So if I can do anything at all to raise awareness, then I’m just as well doing it through music.”

Brown has also released an EP in aid of CCoF, Apathy for Destruction, which includes a gorgeous OnTheFly / Jonnie Common reworking (Lungs) and an intoxicating, anti-fracking electro-monologue, Dart Attack.

Mason has long galvanised his dissident psych-pop with political spirit and punk ideology, and Gastonbury is no exception. “The real rock ‘n’ roll is politics these days,” he says. “I know we’re just talking about a little gig in Falkirk here, but this is something we can do. We can raise money. We can raise awareness. And that is very, very important. And you know, if I’ve learned anything on my 40 years on this planet, it’s that the little things that make a difference.”

Gastonbury, North Star, Falkirk, 27 Feb. Apathy for Destruction is available via defence.bandcamp.com; to donate to CCoF see: www.faug.org.uk/donate

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Interview: Olive Grove Records

jo mango

This article originally ran in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland) on Friday January 24, under the heading RECORD LABEL OLIVE GROVE ENJOYS FRUITS OF LABOUR.

There once grew a tree. Ten flimsy branches on it. So folk ecologist Jo Mango sings on When We Lived in the Crook of a Tree. There’s a burgeoning shrub on the single’s artwork which looks like an olive tree, and this is apt, because Mango is signed to Olive Grove Records – a Glasgow DIY imprint whose rootsy alt-pop kinsfolk include Randolph’s Leap, The Moth and the Mirror, Woodenbox, State Broadcasters and Call To Mind.

Contrary to Mango’s sublime woodland hymn, however, Olive Grove’s branches are anything but flimsy. They’re durable, variegated and fruitful, and they’re set to be celebrated at Oran Mor this weekend, as all of the aforesaid acts gather for a Celtic Connections showcase. The line-up celebrates the quality and promise of the label’s roster, from the vivid, whimsical chamber-pop of Randolph’s Leap, to the picturesque indie-folk of The Moth and the Mirror (featuring members of Frightened Rabbit and Admiral Fallow). It’s also a tribute to the ingenuity and hard-graft of grassroots pop activists Halina Rifai (Glasgow PodcART, TYCI) and Lloyd Meredith (Peenko), who co-founded Olive Grove in 2010.

The first group they worked with was Randolph’s Leap (who Meredith now also manages), and both identify the band as being representative of Olive Grove’s touchstones. “They had real potential,” Rifai recalls. “They had this vitality about them, we loved their Scottish indie roots thing, and Adam [Ross] is such a great lyricist.”

Legend has it that the label’s name was inspired by Snow Patrol’s An Olive Grove Facing the Sea – is there any truth in this? “When Halina and I started the label, we agreed that we’d never tell anyone where the name came from,” Meredith offers. “But everybody worked it out in about two minutes. So yes, it is,” he says with a laugh.

Yet the moniker is fitting for more than its connotations of local melodic rock. It reflects the imprint’s organic approach; its fertile musical roots and shoots; and its sense of camaraderie. Both Rifai and Meredith refer to the label as a “family”, and they all operate as such – supporting each other and sharing the workload (Vicki Cole from Randolph’s Leap designed the Olive Grove logo; “Pete from State Broadcasters recorded Randolph’s Leap’s last album,” Meredith recalls).

Their physical artefacts, too, suggest the label is a labour of love, as opposed to being financially driven (or remotely deterred by time constraints): Olive Grove’s stall at the recent Independent Label Market was bedecked with cup-cakes, button-badges, tote-bags, t-shirts, cassettes and, not least, painstakingly hand-made origami birds in cages, whose wings contained a Jo Mango download code.

The birds typified the label’s aesthetic, which is always sympathetic to, and reflective of, the artists’ songs. “Jo’s always had a real sense of nature in her work,” says Rifai. “Birds are often present, especially starlings, so I wanted to do something relevant and original, and the origami bird just seemed to fit. I think it’s as important for the label to be creative as it is the artists.”

Prepare yourself, then, for the Oran Mor showcase to have an intriguing merchandise kiosk, including, perhaps, Randolph’s Leap bobble hats and musical mugs, and the first chance to buy the debut LP from Inverness widescreen-indie troupe Call To Mind. Entitled The Winter is White, and officially due in April, their album is a milestone – it heralds the label’s first-ever vinyl release. “We finally get to put the ‘records’ into Olive Grove Records,” Meredith quips.

“Although, there is one previous Olive Grove release that exists on vinyl,” Meredith continues. “Karl from The Son(s) really wanted his album on vinyl, so he got a copy made up – actually, he got two copies done. I’ve got the other one.” The Son(s) are  famously reclusive when it comes to gigs, but while they’re conspicuous by their absence on Sunday’s bill, there is good news afoot for fans of their dark, skewed-folk genius. “Karl has recorded another album, so he might have something out this year,” Meredith says. “There’s talk of him getting a band together for that.”

Olive Grove’s branches are ever-growing, but given that Rifai and Meredith don’t make any money from their DIY-pop enterprise (any profits go straight to the artists), not to mention the music industry’s general depression, why release records in this climate? “For me it started through blogging,” Rifai offers. “I was heartbroken at seeing some of the artists we were supporting struggling to get heard. So I phoned up Lloyd one Sunday night, and asked if he wanted to start a label. He said yes immediately.

“You do sometimes question why you do it,” Rifai admits. “But then you do an album launch, or hear your artists on the radio, or do something like this Celtic Connections show, and you realise: that’s why. That’s worth absolutely everything.”

Olive Grove Records showcase, Oran Mor, Glasgow, Sunday Jan 26, doors 5pm. http://www.olivegroverecords.com

Related articles:
Jo Mango interview – The Herald, November 2012
Randolph’s Leap interview – The Herald, June 2012
Randolph’s Leap album review – The List, Feb 2012

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