Song, by Toad


Le Thug Scottish Dates Coming Up


It’s probably not on the list of characteristics bands tend to aspire to, but Le Thug might be hands down the very nicest people I’ve ever dealt with when working with Song, by Toad. It doesn’t get you on the cover of the NME perhaps, but fuck me they’re lovely people.

They’re also an absolutely fantastic band, which helps. They may not be the most animated of live acts, but they are pretty bloody hypnotic, and Clio’s voice is a thing to behold in real life.

Also they’ve not played for ages so get yourselves out and see them if you can.

20th Nov. Strange Behaviours Festival, Stirling
24th Nov. Detour Sixfest with BDY_PRTS, Bloc, Glasgow
28th Nov. with Trembling Bells, The Tunnels, Aberdeen
5th Dec. with C. Duncan, Glasgow School of Art


I Stand With Sandi Thom (Sort Of)!


Is there anything which holds a mirror to modern society more than the gleeful cackling which accompanies any sort of public meltdown from any sort of celebrity, however minor?

Sandi Thom just posted a tearful, angry rant about Radio 2 not playlisting her new song, and the internet is having a bit of a field day. And for the first time in my life I find myself rather siding with Sandi Thom, actually – words I never thought I would utter.

Now, a bit like bands who post embarrassingly ranty ripostes to bad reviews and then are widely derided for their deluded sense of entitlement, I am not entirely sure I have all that much sympathy with people who put this sort of thing in the public realm. And of course the hundreds and thousands of bands who have only achieved half of what Sandi Thom has will be singularly unimpressed – you put something out there for the public to approve of or otherwise, and you have to face their verdict, that’s just the bargain you make.

But actually, as mockable as it was, what you saw from Sandi in her much-derided ‘Radio 2 didn’t playlist my brilliant song, the bastards’ meltdown is happening inside the little black, bitter, battered souls of every single one of your favourite musicians pretty much all the time.

A friend of mine called Euan Davidson wrote an excellent piece in the Guardian recently about mental illness and how much it impedes creative work, contrary to the popular stereotype of the tortured genius. Alanna McArdle, formerly of Joanna Gruesome, who Euan interviewed extensively for that article, was the subject of another article in the Guardian about the ruinous impact of touring on the wellbeing of people suffering from mental illness.

But one of the things that hasn’t come up too much is the absolute fucking emotional onslaught of actually releasing music at all – of just making any kind of music for public consumption – which must be one of the absolute hardest possible positions for a person with existing difficulties to be in.

I say this as someone lucky enough to have no such problems. In fact, I think I have a stronger sense of emotional equilibrium than almost anyone I have ever met, to the point that I worry from time to time that I might be a bit of a sociopath.

And I tell you what, even for someone like me, with a great upbringing, a happy family, a strong sense of myself, a loving wife and plenty of emotional reserves, this industry is fucking tough.

I am going to repeat that: seriously, it is really, really fucking tough.

And Sandi’s post shows pretty much why: death by the endless cuts of widespread public indifference.

She’s had a few slaggings in the past, based around allegations that her organic, internet-fuelled rise was not in fact innocent, but a well-executed campaign orchestrated by her management or label.

A public slagging, for whatever reason, is pretty tough to take, but much more common and still horrendously hurtful is the fact that most people just don’t give a fuck about something you’ve put your heart and soul into.

We aren’t famous enough to get a slagging from anyone, really, but we still have to face the indifference. Every time you excitedly put a song on the internet and pretty much no-one seems to notice, every time you book a gig you’re thrilled about and hardly anyone comes, every time you send out PR emails and wait forever for responses which aren’t coming, every time you scan the BBC playlists only to realise that basically no-one has played your latest release.

I get so wound up about this that whenever I sit down at my desk to do PR I am pre-emptively angry about the responses I already reckon aren’t coming. I get pissed off about people who listen to broadly the same music as we release basically just ignoring my emails or throwing the CD onto some infinite pile they are never going to actually dig through. It drives me insane, and I get intensely, spitefully angry before it’s even happened.

And I’m not even in a fucking band.

Imagine what it’s like standing up there on stage playing to hardly anyone, particularly in a venue you might have filled in the past. Imagine releasing your new creation, one you’ve slaved away on for months, maybe even years, and the world just collectively shrugs. And if you can’t imagine that, then imagine if you told your friends about it excitedly and they just went ‘oh right, sure’ and carried on with whatever they were doing as if you hadn’t said a word.

They can’t even be bothered insulting you, that’s how fucking worthless all that effort is.

And it’s constant, too. Bandmates not bothering to turn up for practice, labels not answering your emails promptly (one of which I am guilty), promoters not getting back to you, people not coming to the few gigs you do manage to book, no-one liking or sharing your song on social media, gazing forlornly at a dismally low play count on Soundcloud or YouTube… being a musician is just a constant, bruising assault on your sense of self-worth and I am fucking amazed anyone has the courage to stick to it.

Some people are hobbyists, I suppose, and don’t invest as much in it emotionally, and I suppose that might insulate them quite a bit. Maybe.

And some people just can’t really do anything else. A lot of artists are compelled to create. The myth of the tortured artist comes not, I think, from the fact that mental illness or emotional turmoil makes art better, but from the fact that a lot of people struggle to express complex emotions and are often driven to art as their best hope of getting something across about how they are feeling. And sometimes just the simple act of creation itself is enough.

So imagine being in that open or vulnerable state and finally putting something out and then no-one fucking cares. I am honestly amazed there aren’t more breakdowns. Or maybe we just don’t see them.

Now this sounds bleak as fuck doesn’t it, and there are a million tiny triumphs involved in this business too, and that’s what makes it worth doing. Every last bit of praise, exceptional mention on the radio from a presenter you respect, every busy gig surrounded by people who love the music, even just the strength of the friendships you forge from facing this together with your allies – loads of things make it not just worth it, but euphorically, joyously brilliant.

But that dark side is always there. The grim spectre of indifference, that little voice that stands on a musician’s shoulder nagging them that they might be fucking shit after all and should just give this all up and get a job in Asda.

I am one step removed from all this of course, as it’s not actually my own music the press and general public consistently show what I feel to be too little interest in, but all the tiny instances of disinterest still cut.

And when I see somebody, even somebody like Sandi Thom with whom I really have very little in common, crack like she did I have to confess my first thought is just ‘christ, love, I’m really fucking sorry and I think I kinda know how you feel’.

Despite the fact that I would kill for Radio 2 playlisting to be amongst the problems I have to tackle on a daily basis.


Toad Flake Paint Records Split 12″


As you may know, Song by Toad Records is a super-cool Brooklyn record label these days – well, for the next month or two anyway. We’ll be back to rather-less-cool Edinburgh in the new year. But anyway, for now: HIPSTERS!

Anyhow, I reckoned that one of the best possible ways to commemorate our trip was to record a Split 12″ with local bands while we were out here. My brother works in a recording studio and it seemed like a really good way to get involved with local music.

I have a couple of friends who are really into a lot of bands from around this part of the world. James from Passion Pusher and Tom from Gold Flake Paint have pointed me in the direction of a lot of great bands so I nudged them for a couple of recommendations and we soon came up with far too many bands to fit on one record because, well, whatever anyone tells you, there really is an awful lot of very good music out there.

Tom has his own label called Gold Flake Tapes actually, and we’ve talked in the past of doing jointly-promoted shows under an amalgamated Toad Flake Paint banner so… well, you can see where I’m going with this can’t you. This Split 12″ will be a one-off release on the newly minted Toad Flake Paint Records imprint, one sure to take the world by storm and become the great kingmaker label the world has been waiting for for so long.

Or maybe we’ll just make a record we both really, really like. Maybe just that, actually.

I went to see most of the bands in question during CMJ, which by sheer coincidence happened to take place the very week Mrs. Toad and I first moved over here, and it was a bit nerve-wracking to actually meet them in person.

I have a missing incisor at the moment, and a semi-inebriated, toothless Englishman lumbering up to a band after a show saying ‘hey, that was great, remember we talked about being on a record, well erm, want to be on this record we’re making?’ didn’t strike me as a great strategy for approaching people.

I never really make a good first impression on folk anyway though, and I have learned over the years that just not worrying about that and blundering on anyway in the hopes they’ll realise I’m sincere at some point tends to be the best approach. I’ve tried actually modifying my behaviour and trying to be a bit more subtle, but it tends to just come across as condescending and insincere, so I basically just went for it and hoped for the best.

It seemed to more or less work this time, I think. At least, everyone was really nice, if a bit baffled-looking at first, and a few members of the various bands had time for a bit of a chat and some basic planning.

One of the odder aspects of the process this time around is where it is actually going to be recorded.

See, the place my brother works over here is actually the National Opera Centre in Manhattan. It’s all entirely above board, but basically we are going to be faced with the somewhat bizarre scenario of waiting for all the nice grown up opera people to go home and then sneaking a bunch of pop bands in the back door to use the nice facilities after hours. It really is going to be an odd experience, but a fun one I think.

Because we are cheap bastards and refused to fly our normal photographer Nic Rue out for this one, my brother will do all the recording, I’ll do the photos and the video and then presumably we’ll mix the results between us.

Even though he’s a sound engineer who talked me through all my tentative early attempts at recording, my brother and I have never really worked together apart from an Inspector Tapehead Toad Session many years ago, so that too will be really nice.

Furnsss and Eskimeaux are on board already, and we’re just finalising the last couple of bands, but we’re nearly there and have recording dates down for late November and early December so far, so it’ll be a couple of months before it finally all comes together, but all being well we should leave New York at the end of the year with an amazing new record almost ready to go. Woo hoo!


Taman Shud, Filth Spector and Jungfrau – Henry’s, 23rd October

A good friend of mine once got into the habit of describing music as ‘dead dense, dead droney, a bit psychey’ so often that every time he recommended a band we would instinctively ask him ‘What’s it like then? Dead dense? Dead droney? A bit psychey?’

He’d be sniggering at me more than a little when I introduce Taman Shud for what is I think their first Edinburgh show on Friday at Henry’s as ‘a sort of heavy, droney, dense psyche rock’. It is, though.

It may even have a bit of metal in there too, but I am not really enough of a metal listener to know if that’s quite right. It is intense though. And heavy. And fucking brilliant.

It’s a bit of trivia but Taman Shud played on that first EP that catapulted the Fat White Family into the public consciousness last year, but I personally knew the name from my friend Anthony who books for Corsica and Baba Yaga’s Hut down in London.  For whatever reason, however, I only decided to seek it out and have a listen when Tash from the band showed up in our house tour managing another band earlier in the year.

This stuff is generally too screamy for me, but for whatever reason I absolutely loved this on the very first listen, and I’ve not changed my mind since. It’s just massive, euphoric and raging. The album Viper Smoke is ace, and I strongly urge you to buy one – you will not regret it.

Anyhow, as I said, they are playing Henry’s Cellar Bar on Friday 23rd October for our next BAD FUN night, and will be joined by local lot Filth Spector who are perhaps slightly bluesier and a bit less doomy, but still hatched from a rather similar heavy psyche egg, as well as touring pals Jungfrau from Brighton.

It’s going to be loud and intense, but fuck me I am looking forward to this one.


Aberdeen Is Not As Shit As It Seems To Think It Is

union street from other end

I remember the first time I moved to Scotland and realising just how strong a taboo it was to actually say you were good at anything. That’s not something the English are especially comfortable with either of course, but it does seem that the further North you go the more likely some earth-shattering achievement is to be greeted with a noncommittal shrug and an inquiry as to whether or not you’d like another pint.

It was a bit off-putting at the start, learning to translate the full knowledge that, say, my German language skills were near fluent (which they were at the time) into ‘oh yes, I can speak a wee bit of German but it’s been a while’.

Once you get used to it, though, it’s really quite nice. And occasionally quite funny. If DaVinci were Aberdonian I am pretty sure the most you’d hear of it would be ‘yeh, ah fuck aboot wi paints sometimes when I can be ersed. Pint?’

Aberdeen is known as a bit of a shit-hole actually, but I am pretty sure that the main reason for that is not the town itself, but the fact that every time I go there all my friends apologise quite profusely for the fact that I felt the need to come up to Aberdeen at all.

It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s grey, because of the oil industry there is some of the greatest wealth inequality in the UK, the music scene is shit because no-one fucking bothers… you could paint it in a pretty crappy light I suppose.

The thing is, I first visited the place back in 1996 or so (I drove a friend up to start their new job and more or less the first thing we saw as we drove out to the complex was a field of sheep – hooray clichés!) Not all that frequently but nevertheless regularly I’ve been going up there for years now and on my latest trip, when once again my pals were apologising for me even having to be there at all, I had to stop them because it occurred to me that actually, I have never had a bad night in Aberdeen.

I mean, I keep going back, don’t I.

Contrary to that other great entirely bullshit Scottish cliché, they are some of the most generous people I know. Alright, there’s dicks everywhere, but Scottish people are generous as fuck and the further away you get from the fucking sphincter-clenchingly prissy middle classes of the Edinburgh New Town, the more people will go miles out of their way to help you out.

And this may seem like a bit of a tangent, but in fact, Rust2Rome has also been, erm, ‘enlightening’ when it comes to this particular part of the world. There are heroic exceptions of course, but the most legendary Rust2Romers seem to almost always be bloody Fifers or people from the North East of Scotland.

I suppose it makes sense. If you’re going to embark on a massive fuckwit escapade through Europe in a shitey car which may or may not start any given time you turn the key you are going to need a certain amount of stoic unflappability, and if that was an Olympic sport, every gold medal winner in history would come from the towns in and around Aberdeen.

They’re fucking mental of course. Just absolute blazing nut-jobs, the lot of them, but in the absolute best possible way. On the latest Rust2Rome one of the cars went on fire twice, and another didn’t start under its own steam for the entire trip and burned fifteen litres of oil. The drivers: Aberdonian (give or take a few miles). The response, a laugh, a shrug, a quick cigarette and get the fuck on with it.

This is a music blog of course, so I suppose I get to something like the point, inasmuch as I have one: what is the problem with the music scene up there? Well actually not all that much at the moment, which is sort of the point of this incredibly long and largely off-topic ramble. The classic criticism of the Aberdeen music scene was described thusly by a friend of mine a few years ago and I’ve run it past a few Aberdonians since, and they seem to generally agree.

Aberdeen is a very long way away from the rest of the country, especially the UK, but even most of the population of Scotland, so consequently no-one tours there. It’s expensive to get to and audiences are small. Because touring bands don’t really come through all that much, the local music audience tend to support their own, and look locally for the best music. The net result of this, however, is that the whole scene becomes very inward-facing so when touring bands do actually bother to visit Aberdeen, no-one goes, and of course that just makes them less likely to return, and the whole cycle become self-reinforcing.

But actually, if you look at what’s coming out of Aberdeen at the moment there is a really good collection of bands, so no matter how shit they keep telling you the place is, something is going very much right up there.

Take angry guitar music, for example. It won’t fill Wembley Stadium, but if you put Depeche Choad, Wendell Borton and Min Diesel together, that would be an excellent bill. Or alternatively, on the slightly more acoustic side, maybe Kitchen Cynics and Best Girl Athlete. Or the woozy electronic dreamscapes of Tryptamines. And that’s before you get into the ‘Aberdonian diaspora’ of the likes of Gerry Loves Records in Edinburgh, and bands like Lush Purr, The Yawns, DTHPDL and presumably countless more.

And to put the weirdness in perspective, Alan from the Kitchen Cynics just disappeared from our house when he came to play down here, wandered off into the haar over Leith Links, walked the town overnight and apparently got the first train back home.

Chemical Callum from Tryptamines is a concert pianist with an arm held together by half a dozen metal plates, who turned up in Edinburgh looking like the Levellers had turned to heroin, and then sat down and played the most beautiful piano to ever come from someone wearing a combat jacket.

Best Girl Athlete is a dad touring the world with his sixteen-year-old daughter during the school holidays.

I think Depeche Choad introduced themselves to me by telling me to fuck off, actually, although it’s all a little hazy. They really are all crazy, but somehow absolutely brilliant at the same time.

Glasgow is a magnet and tends to draw all the bands in Scotland into itself, but if you look at who is actually making the music, music in Scotland is not really all that dominated by the Central Belt at all.

I’d put on an all-dayer of this stuff of course, but the expense of driving six bands on a six-hour round trip would basically kill all hopes of not losing money, and therein lies the other problem: that distance makes it a serious challenge for bands in Aberdeen to get out and about and tour as much as they need to in order to get ‘out there’ to a wider audience.

There’s great stuff happening up there at the moment though, and I fucking love the place and the people. It’s a bit like London in the sense that you just have to develop a total blind-spot for the wankers, but if you do, then you too can develop that perfect tone of voice that lets you say ‘nah, it’s shite’, but secretly mean that a weird part of you loves the place for reasons that you can’t really be bothered to explain.


Oloff – Buddy

buddy It’s a slightly odd concept this, but it works pretty flawlessly if you like wonky, eccentric stuff with peculiar charm. And who doesn’t.

This is a mumbled album of self… well, err, self-loathing isn’t quite right but it’s relatively self-critical at the very least.

The music, on the other hand, is composed entirely of chopped up Buddy Holly samples, giving this whole business a weird sort of ‘Buddy Holly in Dystopia’ feel. It’s alienating and odd, but still the cheerful chimes of the Buddy Holly stuff and the half-hearted self-evisceration of the lyrics ends up producing a weirdly agreeable combination.

You look at a description like this and it could as easily be utterly brilliant as it could be completely awful. Fortunately, this is fucking ace. Fuck knows why it even exists, but I am glad it does.


Garden of Elks at CMJ


By sheer good fortune, on the exact same day we (temporarily) became a Brooklyn Record label, one of our Song, by Toad Records bands turned up in New York to play some shows at CMJ.

Garden of Elks’ fantastic album of thrash pop A Distorted Sigh came out on vinyl and tape in April, and they’ve got five shows over here this week, as well as a few other bits and pieces, so having moved over here yesterday knowing pretty much no-one it seems I am now going to spend much of my time dotting around Brooklyn with Niall going to see bands. Not exactly a radical change of lifestyle, I have to confess.

And we’re in Red Hook too, which is surprisingly similar to Leith in many ways. I like it here.

Garden of Elks CMJ 2015 shows:
October 13th//The Living Room//British Consulate ‘Music Is Great’ showcase
October 16th//Fat Baby//11.45pm
October 17th//CakeShop//CakeShop Presents//1.30pm
October 17th//The Shop//8pm
October 18th//Fulton Stall Market//Paper Garden & Little Water CMJ Brunch//3pm


Two New Releases Available at the Pleasance Sessions Tomorrow


We don’t usually bother with exclusives or limited this, that or the other, primarily because we sell sufficiently few of more or less everything that it is all pretty much an exclusive limited edition by definition.

Tomorrow at the Pleasance Sessions Marketplace, however, we have two genuinely exciting first glimpses at new music we are releasing, almost before I’ve even had the chance to announce it on the internet. Yep, tomorrow will be your first chance to lay your sweaty hands on our fantastic compilation of new Scottish guitar bands, called David Cameron’s Eton Mess. Yes, seriously. Have a look at the artwork here. I promise you I had absolutely no idea that things would turn out the way they have – I actually designed it months ago. You can have a listen at the bottom of the page.

And secondly we have that glorious abomination at the top of the page: Grilled Wiig by Youngstrr Joey. Available on limited edition purple cassette, this was recorded under the influence of sleep deprivation, deliberately trying to make the guitar sound as weird as possible. And results are both as wonky and as excellent as that implies. Well, as that implies to me anyway, you might just think I’m nuts.


And finally, here’s a wee look at the artwork, and a preview player thingy for David Cameron’s Eton Mess. Yep, even more awesome and terrible than you were already imagining. And I promise, entirely coincidental.




Song, by Toad Records at the Pleasance Sessions Marketplace on Saturday 10th October


Yep, we shall have a wee stall at the Pleasance Sessions Label Market thingy at the Pleasance Courtyard this Saturday, and there is even more awesome news:

Yes, it looks like we are indeed going to have a small handful of advance copies of our awesome new 12″ vinyl compilation David Cameron’s Eton Mess. Hooray! As well as our new cassette release by Youngstrr Joey, called Grilled Wiig.

Those will actually be our last releases of 2015, so I am delighted that they’ll be ready in time. In fact, we’re only getting about ten copies of Eton Mess, with the rest being delivered next week, but for the keen few (i.e. probably just me) you will have the wonderful excitement of getting your hands on one earlier than everyone else.

And don’t ask me about the Youngstrr Joey tape either, because that’s just weird. Which is exactly why I love it.

You can check out or buy both of these on our Bandcamp page, but it would be much better to just come along on Saturday don’t you think? Then we can get shit-faced together.


Black Polygons – À Travers

atrav Having spent three years in France while she was (kind of) growing up, Mrs. Toad will tell you that French radio can be a little odd. There are laudable rules in place which mandate a significant percentage of the music to be Francophone, as a means to combat the overwhelming plague of English language culture currently smothering the world.

I respect this stance, but it did seem rather oddly to result in a near-monopoly on French radio of Johnny Halliday and the fucking Eagles. I am not sure how the rule led to the result, but for some reason they seem inextricably linked in my mind.

My relationship with French music has also always been somewhat unfairly tainted by the ubiquity of Johnny Halliday on the airwaves, and I never really got into genres that they are really good at like hip hop, although some of their twee pop is pretty awesome.

This is nothing like that stuff, however, but I do like it and it is French and I always appreciate music that pulls me away from lazy habits, even if you don’t take your own lazy thinking that seriously.

Black Polygons’ Bandcamp tags sum the music up pretty neatly, so I suppose there’s no massive need for me to elaborate: ambient, experimental, lo-fi minimalist noise. And that’s pretty much what it is. Some pretty twinkles appear to lighten the mood, but there is really satisfying enjoyment of tone and buzz on this album. A lot of the guitar playing just teases a growl of distortion along for minutes on end, letting it rise and fall in a way which just about lets it meld with the more melodic elements, but in general just enjoying the rumble for its own sake.

There are quite lovely, sweeping cinematic elements here, particularly in some of the keyboard parts, although I’d love to see the movie that dared to use anything as dirty as this stuff for its soundtrack. It would probably be set in the pale winter sunlight in Iceland somewhere, with a handsome bearded man looking moody in a thick knitted jumper.

Anyway, it’s always a shame when albums as enjoyable as this don’t have a physical release anywhere to be found, but you can download this from their Bandcamp for a few bucks and it is more than worth that. The internet free-for-all can mean music like this gets lost a little, I fear, and this really doesn’t deserve it at all.