Song, by Toad

Archive for the Song by Toad Records category

avatar

Waiters – What For Art Thou

waiters Ahh, Waiters. I was writing about Sex Hands earlier today, and that put me in mind of our first Split 12″, recorded back in the Winter of 2011 I think, and if I recall Waiters were the first band we actually recorded.

I’d had plenty of good results with the Toad Sessions by then of course, but I was still nervous, and the Waiters songs are the first and (and to date still the only) songs where I personally have made technical mistakes which threatened our ability to use the actual recordings themselves.

It turns out that by sheer good fortune we were able to work around my errors and for all they were one of the most low-profile bands on that Split 12″ (except maybe Dolfinz who seem to have quietly drifted off into non-existence) I am still so proud of the songs they did with us – that sense of sad, lazy melancholy still feels to me like some of the best stuff I’ve ever recorded.

I offered to help them record an album in the same way afterwards, but for apparently they wanted to work at a slightly slower and more deliberate pace. It’s a shame, but that kind of thing happens with bands, and you can’t push anyone into something they aren’t entirely comfortable with, particularly not at this level where none of us are getting rich out of any of this.

Anyhow, Jon moving to the States seemed to put the brakes on a Waiters album permanently, but I forgot that a while back they asked me about this recording. I loved the songs, but at the time I said that I thought it would be financially a bit crazy, because 12″s are expensive to press, and you can only really sell a four-song EP for so much.

CF Records in Belfast, however, seem to have disagreed, which is excellent news. They specialise in short-run and limited edition releases, and clearly have a lot more experience in this area than I do, and I am delighted this release has found a way in the end because the songs are fucking ace. If you look at the rest of their releases you’ll see what I mean – so much good stuff.

This stuff embodies so much of the stuff I love about Waiters. I love Joe’s voice – just a little bit flat, in a way, but with such a warmth to it. When he sings sad songs you really do believe him, and for someone who likes sad music as much as I do that’s quite a big deal. The rhythm section chugs along mechanically but a little uncertainly, almost as if it is struggling to hold the whole song together. I don’t think these lads rehearse all that much, so that ‘about to stumble to a standstill’ feel may be simply an aesthetic choice or it might simply be what was actually happening in the room when they recorded.

Grey Matters and Mirror Threat are just gorgeous songs, and classic examples of that thrumming rhythm, slightly plaintive vocal delivery and unobtrusively downbeat atmosphere which make Waiters songs so compelling, and which made me so excited about the first Split 12″ when I pulled them off the desk and started the mixing process. I sincerely hope that between Joe’s stuff with Water World and Sex Hands, Perry’s fantastic Comfortable on a Tightrope stuff and umm… well I’m actually not all that sure where Jon is living now, that they still find the time to keep this band going, because they are bloody ace.

Waiters – Vacillate Wildly from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

Tags:
avatar

Sex Hands – Pleh

sexhands Listening to this has been a surprisingly nostalgic experience for me. The reason for this is that Gay Marriage, Chandler in a Box and The One Where the Stripper Cries were all recorded and mixed by myself for our first ever Song, by Toad Split 12″ some three years ago, and hearing their proper versions on a full album is rather an emotional experience, albeit in a quiet little way.

Invariably I find myself listening to the album versions of those songs and wondering if they are somehow closer to what the band wanted than what they got from us, or whether they preferred the performances or whether they simply rattled all the songs together in one session and these are just the current versions, rather than any kind of improvement. This is sort of creepy ex-boyfriend behaviour, I acknowledge that, but it’s almost impossible not to fall into the trap.

Without wishing to insult the band, it’s something of a weird thing to find what is basically a smart-arsed concept band by its very definition (all the songs are about episodes of Friends, in case the song titles above didn’t give it away) progressing from a few catchy singles into the relatively legitimate territory of releasing a debut album.

In a way, once you get the joke, you could argue that the band itself doesn’t need to exist much beyond that. ‘Friends? Yeah, right. Oh wait! Holy shit, they were fucking serious!’ and that’s about as far as you have to go.

Except this is a really, really good album. I am not allowed to use the word ‘garage’ to describe them, because apparently they have never been anywhere near a garage, but you know what that means as a sort of stylistic shorthand of course: rough-and-ready guitar pop songs, with plenty of growl, a bit of thrash from time to time and muffled vocals.

And, basically, the tunes are fucking great. From the instrumental guitar intro of Space Song, to the faintly surreal experience of listening to hugely hummable songs like On A Break whilst knowing exactly which intensely tedious dead horse the Friends writers were flogging at the time they wrote all the source material. Christ, that fucking thread just refused to fucking die. But it’s a cracking song.

And this brings me to something which might sound like over-rationalisation: the number of times people go into intense critiques of what depth and what subtlety they find in pop music, when this is almost by its very definition anti-intellectual. It’s shallow and basically frivolous, and let’s see what the writers at places like The Quietus or Pitchfork, where the serious music writing is done, actually make of this. I mean, it’s about Friends, for fuck’s sake, meaning that as soon as you have anything serious to say you are already being mocked by the nature of the record itself. It’s like music writing has been pre-satirised.

So really there’s nothing to be said about this. It’s a weird, silly record with awesome tunes and you should buy a copy because it is hugely enjoyable to listen to. It’s just pop music, I suppose.

Sex Hands – Chandler in a Box from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

Tags:
avatar

Jonnie Common – Trapped in Amber Album Launch Shows

Jonnie Common‘s glorious new album – yes, seriously, glorious – is being released into the world on Halloween of this year (pre-order your copy here) and to celebrate, we are arranging some launch shows. And they will be fantastic. Therefore you should come.

Aberdeen is (tragically) going to be the last Citizen Mule gig, so please give the silly oaf (Stevie, not Jonnie) a good send-off. The Edinburgh show is in the rather gorgeous Pilrig St. Paul’s, halfway down Leith Walk, and on the Saturday night in Glasgow the Save-As Collective have a special night planned, with a Miaoux Miaoux DJ set and everything.

The album is great, the shows are going to be great, I am just chuffed to bits all round with this whole business. And not a cynical comment in sight. What’s happened to me? It’s like I don’t even know myself anymore.

Thursday 13th November – Aberdeen
At Downstairs, with Christ and Colin Austin – tickets £5 on the door

Friday 14th November – Edinburgh
At Pilrig St. Paul’s with Wolf – tickets here.

Saturday 15th November – Glasgow
At the Glad Cafe with Wolf & Ross Sutherland – tickets here.

And just for fun, here is Jonnie’s new single.

avatar

Looking Forward to 2015

future What, seriously, already? Actually, as much as Christmas being in the shops already annoys me, and as much as online List Season starting in November also annoys me, at a record label where manufacturing lead times are now measured in months rather than weeks, and where a PR campaign takes four months to execute, 2015 has actually been on my radar for some time.

The thing is, we’re going to be sort of different next year, I think. Our two biggest-selling bands aren’t going to be releasing anything for a while, if at all.  Sparrow and the Workshop are in double-baby meltdown/heaven (delete as appropriate) and Meursault are officially no more.

In terms of our more established bands, Adam Stafford is working on a new album, which should be reaching completion near the end of the year, David Thomas Broughton has a mental but brilliant transcontinental project planned, Meursault has become Neil Pennycook who has become Supermoon, and Rob St. John is also working on new recordings. And I haven’t heard much from The Leg recently either, which tends to mean a new album is somewhere in the future.

Before all of this, however, we’re likely to be releasing something like four debut albums, and these can be weird, mostly because they are so unpredictable. The Plastic Animals one is being mixed as we speak, Numbers Are Futile have finished theirs, Ian Turnbull from Broken Records has made a beautiful instrumental album which has just gone for mastering and there is something very rocky and boisterous which we are likely to be releasing but I can’t really announce just yet as I haven’t actually heard the record – tonight, apparently!

The upshot of all this is twofold. Firstly, we could look like a very different label by the middle of next year. All the new bands will give it a very different flavour, I think, and the music is a wee bit different from what we normally release, which is rather nice.

Also – and this is the part which gives me the most thought – a lot of the stuff we’ll be doing will be short-run, either because that’s the safest way to deal with debut albums or just because it is the nature of the project itself. We’re also going to start releasing some stuff on tape too, and these are short run pretty much by definition and should allow us to do a lot more spontaneous, informal recording in our new warehouse space.

Consequently, instead of not having anything by our two biggest-selling artists being a drawback, I actually think it could be turned into a real advantage in a way. I won’t be worrying as much about managing big PR and distribution campaigns, and I think by far the best way to make a virtue out of a necessarily short run is to make each one really quite different. Not that we didn’t put a lot of thought into our releases before, but it simply isn’t practical to give each artefact individual care and attention when you are making thousands of them, whereas with hundreds you can do something a bit more special.

I would like to work a lot closer with local artists and illustrators too, and maybe get them and the bands into the warehouse together and make the release more of a collaboration, get a printing station set up and do our own screen-printing, try and find really nice things to add to our releases beyond just giving people a record, be it art, photography, writing… anything which makes sense with the band and the music and which just makes each release that little bit more personal and that little bit more of a treat.

I don’t know quite how these changes will affect our reputation or the image this label has in the public eye, but it does go back to what we intended to do when we started out, which is to make short, DIY runs of interesting music that might not be obviously commercial, and not worry too much about being a junior version of a traditional record label, which frankly the world has more than enough of already.

So it’ll be different. But I think it’ll be ace – I’m really looking forward to it.

avatar

Crumbs: New Jonnie Common Single

Crumbs - RGB 2000px

It is indeed New Jonnie Common Single Day here at Song, by Toad Records, with the second song from his belting new album Trapped in Amber now being officially set loose upon the internet. The album is being released on Halloween this year, and we’ll be doing a small run of launch shows in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow on the 13th-15th November and are looking at a label Christmas Party down in London in early December as well.

You can pre-order the album on vinyl or CD here. The CD version comes with an entire alternate version of the album, and if you pre-order the vinyl you’ll get a download card for this version as well.

This tune is a classic example of Jonnie’s way with a lyric: even though not all of it makes immediate sense, there’s a sort of playful warmth there. The Books were actually cited as a possible comparison on CMU the other day, and I have to confess that although I had never really thought of it, the similarity is definitely there. Which is ace, because I fucking love The Books.

Anyhow, I think think we’ve now served up the most obviously cheerful pop moments on the album, so be aware that the rest of it is both melancholy and downright weird at times, but if this and Shark can’t tempt you to buy this record, frankly nothing will. Great songs, the pair of ‘em.

avatar

11th October: Independent Label Market Edinburgh

ilm_edi

The Indepdendent Label Market comes to Edinburgh next week as part of the Pleasance Sessions, a week long celebration of music and fine beer and various other good things (are there any other good things, beyond those two?) which takes place at the Pleasance.

The Label Market will be taking place in the Cabaret Bar, the Och!toberfest in the Courtyard and the music upstairs in the Pleasance Theatre.

I love the Pleasance Sessions, actually, because one of my biggest grouses about music in Edinburgh is how easy it is to find all these amazing venues in August for the fucking Festival, but somehow when the actual living Edinburgh arts community need them during the rest of the year, that goodwill vanishes into thin air and we’re left relying on one or two stalwart heroes to give us a place to play.

Well Rae and her team have done a great job of opening up the various Edinburgh University spaces for use as venues for the rest of the population to enjoy, and I think that’s an absolutely fantastic thing. So come along to the Pleasance Sessions and the label market and encourage this sort of thing to continue to happen.

Because you know what Edinburgh’s like: we complain, someone tries something, we only half-heartedly pay attention, and then we lose it. So we complain. And thus the cycle continues.

Tags:
avatar

Apologies For the David Thomas Broughton Delay

spiral-clock This week was technically the release for Sliding the Same Way, the awesome new album by David Thomas Broughton and the Juice Vocal Ensemble, but unfortunately the manufacturing has seen a bit of a delay, so we’re actually a wee while away from getting the physical products in our pudgy little hands I’m afraid.

Basically, this is because of me trying to do something a bit special and clever, and I completely underestimated how long it would take to iron out the wrinkles with the manufacturer unfortunately, so everything has taken forever to get finalised in a way they were happy they could actually print properly.

On the plus side, the reason it took so long is because they’re pretty picky about things and the quality is always top notch, so I would rather we were a bit late and the quality stayed high, than that they cowboyed something through because I was pushing them with deadlines and the end result ended up being a bit shit.

They have a few remaining tour dates, so you should go and see them if you can. They’re all listed here, if you’re interested.

So apologies to yourselves, and most of all to David and Juice of course, but we are on it and it will be here soon.  In the meantime, here’s Yorkshire Fog, which is bloody ace.

avatar

Jonnie Common – Shark

This is the first single from the new Jonnie Common album, and it’s fucking ace. The album, Trapped in Amber, is out on Halloween of this year, on vinyl or CD, and you can pre-order a copy here.

Shark is a tune which also appears on our last Split 12″, but this version is a totally different beast. It’s been described as chilled-out Kraftwerk or Glasgae Beck, and erm, well I am not going to critique those two descriptions, but they did make me laugh.

avatar

“Lifers” – Mini Documentary

This is a really nice wee documentary about professionalism within the music industry which I was interviewed for a while back. There’s lots of good stuff in there, and it’s pretty brief too, so you’ve no excuse not to watch the whole lot. Made by the excellent Alex Watson – thanks Alex!

I’ve not really expressed this thought before, but one of the points I make in the video doesn’t get discussed that often.  I was asked about the continuing importance of labels and I had this to say, more or less:

Labels are still hugely important. They have experience releasing records, an audience of their own, and they have contacts and a reputation within the industry which is crucial. Where labels’ role is changing is that they no longer control the relationships and processes which make the most money.

As labels have less cash, bands are increasingly recording their own albums or funding the recording themselves and that means they control all their own copyrights. As publishing becomes an increasingly important revenue stream, that means that the money flows between the band and their publisher and the label often has little to do with it. Most labels have no way of involving themselves in live revenues either, and if a band can afford to do it, they generally (and should) control their own merch too, and the profit margins there can be decent as well. 

Consequently if you’re just licensing someone else’s intellectual property, manufacturing it and announcing its release, it’s actually a relatively limited financial model you have to operate within as a modern independent label.

And there you go, that’s today’s wee thought to chew on, if you’re of a mind to ponder the inner rumblings of the music industry in the 21st Century.

Tags:
avatar

Song, by Toad Says YES!

[Advance warning: this is too long, and if you can't be fucked, don't read it. I am not adding anything new to the debate, I'm just another idiot parping out their own opinion for no better reason than, I suppose, a bit of vanity. Don't feel compelled to indulge me.]

I know no-one really cares what I think, but fuck it, I think is how democracy is supposed to work these days. People voice their opinions on the internet, read what a wide variety of people have to say and then decide which bits they do and do not agree with. Besides, I quite like the idea of nailing one’s colours to the mast when it comes to this kind of thing. It’s a pretty important question, after all, given that between the record label and Mrs. Toad’s job, we are probably now committed to spending the rest of our lives in Scotland.

Of course, I am not talking about the views of anyone on the label, which are fairly mixed I think, if perhaps vaguely Yes-leaning, but they are the business of the artists themselves and if you’re interested then you’ll have to ask them. I speak just for myself.

This could get long, like all the articles on this subject, but I’ll try and break it down into chunks so you can skim or skip entirely, depending on which arguments you can and cannot be bothered seeing re-hashed on the internet for the millionth fucking time. I think one of the reasons I am writing this is that I see it as a genuinely difficult decision and, for all once you’ve decided, you really have decided and there’s no going back, anyone who thinks it’s really simple one way or the other is just not thinking straight, whether because of ideology or simple rose-tinted excitement.

But it’s not simple. I don’t think any of the Yes arguments are as straight-forwardly compelling as a lot of the people making them seem to think they are, and I certainly don’t think any of the dire No warnings are all that realistic either. It’s muddy. It’s politics, and it’s people, and people are weird, unpredictable, vain, selfish and stupid as much as we can be generous, noble or compassionate. All of us are, in one sense or another, and that’s the country we will inevitably get. Read the rest of this entry »