Song, by Toad

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Eilidh McMillan: Being a Woman in the Music Industry

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[Eilidh McMillan, photo by Andy Catlin from this excellent set – thanks Andy!]

I have avoided writing about International Women’s Day, partly because I write enough ill-informed socio-political pish as it is, but mostly because yet another middle-class, middle-aged white male weighing in on the subject seemed to be very much not the point, so I kept quiet.

It’s a fact I readily acknowledge and am genuinely trying to address that our label doesn’t represent women anything like enough. Just one statistic would be that the ratio of bands without to those with a significant female presence on the Toad Sessions is something like 26:8 in favour of men. And that’s before you look at the bands we actually release, where I think it might be even worse. I can’t sign new people at the moment, but I can put on gigs and record sessions and so the best place to address our gender imbalance is there. 

Eilidh McMillan is someone who I’ve worked with a lot over the last year or so, sometimes by writing about stuff like Jealous Girlfriend, but mostly by putting her various bands on at gigs in Edinburgh, be it the now-defunct Froth, or the awesome Breakfast Muff.

She’s someone I really like, and have a great deal of professional respect for, and today Eilidh wrote this on Facebook about being a woman in the music industry. It’s off-the-cuff and not supposed to be academic or exhaustive, but I really liked it, and so with her permission I am reproducing it here, so people know.

As it’s International Women’s Day I would like to share some thoughts on being a woman in the music industry and what I have learned over the past couple of years. (Just to say before I start have mostly had a wonderful time and met the most wonderful people.)

1. Probably the most pressing issue is harassment, sexual assault and abuse that I have heard of happening to friends as well as anecdotally or online. The reason that women often do not speak out about it is because they fear of their storied not being taken seriously and being pushed out or alienated from their “scene” or group of friends, or because it will stunt their ability to progress as a musician. This is a problem that pervades at the very top of the industry, DIY scenes and everything inbetween. This is also a problem for female fans who face sexual harassment and assault at gigs.

Touring DIY means relying on the kindness of others letting you sleep at their house, which is great because it allows people to tour without losing much money, but also creates a potentially dangerous situation putting trust in people you don’t know.

2. Women playing music is often treated as a genre in itself. This means often female musicians are only put on line-ups supporting other female musicians and left out of bills supporting touring male musicians. This is not to say that I don’t want to support other women musicians, we have supported loads of awesome girls and I hope to keep doing so! Another issue associated with this is reviewers (as well as the public and other musicians) mostly compare the work of women musicians to other music made by women. This is totally lazy and can also feel pretty demoralising (and if i hear someone say “that’s so riot grrl” one more time…).

3. Women in music not being taken seriously or being seen as a “novelty”. This can take the form of patronising sound engineers and promoters at best, and at worst being completely ignored because people presume you are not performing or because a dude in your band must be the only one who knows what’s happening. I have also heard stories from women running labels who feel the need to “act like a guy” to survive and get taken seriously. Also women who like to dress “feminine” who worry that because they are not wearing a cool band t-shirt and jeans they will be looked down on.

4. Women are often judged more harshly and also pitted against eachother. I’ve had people say things like “Ooh X band got picked to play that gig instead of you, are you pissed off?”. Why would I be? My band and other bands with women in are not in direct competition with each other, you would never hear someone say that about all guy bands. If anything, other women playing high profile gigs is awesome and is good for all female musicians and diversity in the scene in general. This also relates to reviewers talking about women’s appearance, or in interviews asking questions they would never ask guys.

5. Women are generally very unrepresented on bills, most recently someone brought up that on the T in the Park line up this year so far there are something like 4 women performing. Aside from being completely unrepresentative and insane this creates a Catch 22 of women not seeing themselves represented, which makes them less likely to start playing music. A lot of people say when I bring this up “but there are just way less female musicians”, and although there maybe is a gap in numbers, women are still chronically unrepresented.

Okay, i think that’s it for now, sorry it’s so long but as I was writing I kept thinking of more and more things. I also know it’s not amazingly written but whatever, I’m not an academic writer (also I wrote this on my phone).  I would also like to mention that I know that people who are LGBTQA+, not white or differently abled, means being treated differently in music and probably worse than what I’ve mentioned here and even more underrepresented. This status was just written from my perspective. I would like to hear other folks stories and opinons, not necessarily right now but when I see yall out and about, I wanna start talking about this stuff!

Also it’s International Women’s day! Have solidarity for women all over the world who face subjugation, abuse and discrimination every day because of their gender.

Eilidh out

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Coming Up On Song, by Toad Records in 2016

What do we have going on at Song, by Toad Records in 2016? The short answer is lots. Lots and lots. Seriously. Fucking lots.

In fact, pretty much the only reason I am writing this down is so that I at least have the whole damn thing in one place. And you know what, as I write this Le Thug have just sent me some really, really good new songs too.

FEB: Plastic AnimalsPictures From the Blackout Shoegazey, krauty indie rock, out on vinyl a few weeks ago.

MAR: Adam StaffordTaser Revelations Intense, electrified alt-pop is what Adam calls it. It’s his third album, his second with us, and is out in a couple of weeks on CD or white vinyl. We also have an awesome video for Phantom Billions in the works too, which we should hopefully be coughing up to the world in about two or three weeks.

APR: David Thomas Broughton – Crippling Lack A triple-vinyl record, with each volume released on a different label around the world, each one month apart. This is a sprawling experimental folk epic featuring collaborations with Beth Orton, Aidan Moffat, Sam Amidon and Luke Drozd, all recorded whilst David was living out in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Seriously, everything I have said there is true. Promise.) We’ll have the first song to share with you very soon.

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APR: DTHPL – The Future Indie rock with a bit of synth and a nice, nasty undercurrent to it, out on tape in late April.

MAY: Jonnie Common – Kitchen Sync An instrumental, experimental album composed entirely of found sounds from Jonnie’s kitchen. Released on a set of fridge magnets. Yup, seriously.

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JUNE: Split 12″ Vol.4, featuring Supermoon, Viking Moses, Virgin of the Birds and digitalanalogue We’ll be having a launch night in May with three of the four bands, and if you want to hear one of the Supermoon songs from the record then look no further than the Independent Music Podcast from a few weeks back.

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SEP: Modern Studies – Swell to Great Something of a supergroup, made up of Emily Scott, Rob St. John, Pete Harvey and Joe Smillie, and what a fucking gorgeous album they have made. This’ll be on CD and vinyl.

OCT: Lush Purr We’re collaborating with Electropapknit Records in Glasgow to put out a cassette of awesome new stuff by Lush Purr: nice, gravelly, laid-back, lo-fi guitar tunes. We’re still talking about this one so it’s not 100% confirmed yet, but I really like the music and would love to be able to work with Gav.

OCT: Virgin of the Birds – Secret Kids A new album by our suave, sophisticated poet laureate of the Pacific Northwest.

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NOV: Split 12″ Vol.5, featuring Eskimeaux, Furnsss, Beach Moon/Peach Moon and Small Wonder This is the Split 12″ I recorded with my brother and in collaboration with Gold Flake Paint while Mrs. Toad and I were out in New York at the tail end of 2015. It’s fucking amazing.

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DEC: REST, dammit, I will be having a fucking rest!

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Old Earth – Lay For June

oldearth Old Earth is someone I first came across a good few years ago now. Todd has released with fellow Edinburgh independent label Mini50 Records, recorded a Toad Session in our old house, and generally become integrated with the Edinburgh music community in that really nice way that sometimes happens in a day and age where staying in decent contact with people a long way away has never been easier.

Old Earth is a pretty prolific project, as you can tell from the Bandcamp page, and evolves fairly slowly. Micah P. Hinson does something similar: he doesn’t seem to change all that much, but I never get tired of hearing the new material.

There is a gradual evolution, though. Early Old Earth stuff was more droney and atmospheric, and whilst this new album is full of atmosphere and character, it’s less dense and slow-paced, veering more towards a constant rhythm of guitar which links every song together into one single half-hour track. The way Todd assembles everything together into one single piece of music like this some of the similarities between songs, particularly in the texture of them, start to really work for the record.

Almost exactly halfway through this all builds to a really nice big thrummy crescendo, before coming right down and settling into some of the quieter, plainer and more lovely music Old Earth have done. There are variations in pace and arrangement which we’ve not heard from Todd before, and although the changes aren’t massive, it just gives this the sense of an album which is gradually pushing the band in a different direction.

In some ways Old Earth feels like a twin spirit to our own Adam Stafford –  a messianic preacher with a guitar transforming himself into a howling banshee of pop.

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DTHPDL – The Future

DTHPDL – THE FUTURE – TEASER from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

I am not going to write too much about this, but we will be releasing the new DTHPDL EP The Future in April on Song, by Toad Records. It will be good, here is a teaser, and if you want to have a listen to some DTHPDL demos and bits and bobs their Soundcloud page is here.

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Seabuckthorn – They Haunted Most Thickly

seabuckthorn Instrumental music is a tricky one for me.  I am very much not an intellectual when it comes to listening to music, and you’ll never rarely hear me overanalysing something because in general I don’t have the tools to do it – I certainly don’t have the vocabulary of serious musical analysis, that’s for sure.

Basically, as regular readers of the blog will know, I operate on the basis of ‘I like this and this is why I think I do’. Sometimes though, particularly with instrumental stuff, I can find I like something because it has the right sort of sound and I’ve stopped paying attention halfway through and kind of assumed it was good, then I listen back a while later and find it really hasn’t managed to hold my attention in the long run. And that’s why I’ve waited so long to actually write about this album.

In terms of ‘sounds which Toad enjoys’ it’s right there. A lot of plucked acoustic guitars complemented by deep, ominous rumblings of cello and other droney instruments. It’s a bloody great counterpoint, and just as an overall observation, the general sound and tone of the album is absolutely gorgeous. It is the shimmering, beautiful soundtrack to a movie you can only imagine, and actually it does a pretty fine job of making you imagine it. Even the cover itself seems more like a movie still than album artwork.

It reminds me, actually, of the score British Sea Power composed for Man of Aran, not musically, but very much in the sense that this music would fit that film beautifully (preview on YouTubebuy a copy). Although maybe that was rather planted in my mind by the cover photograph. It still works though!

I suppose when there are no lyrics the overall pacing and rise and fall of the mood become ever-more important, and Seabuckthorn (which I think is more or less just the stage name of a guy called Andy Cartwright) manage that really well. This music can be quite ambient and peaceful, but there is a dark sense of brooding throughout which can either recede into mere atmospherics or push its way to the fore, bringing with it a sense of malevolence and tension which is genuinely gripping.

The vinyl has just arrived too, after months of delays, so if you order one now it should turn up fairly promptly. And boy does it look pretty!

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Making a Music Video For Adam Stafford

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(Photo by Rob O’Donnell – more here if you fancy a gander.)

I don’t mean to imply that Song, by Toad Records is in any way a half-arsed, cowboy operation at all. Totally not in any way whatsoever. But, erm. Well.

Well we’ve spent the last couple of days shooting a video in our house for the next Adam Stafford single Phantom Billions (fortunately for me, Mrs. Toad vanished to Berlin within twelve hours of the circus descending) and it’s been, er, instructive. This is a pretty tiny skeleton crew working on a bare-bones budget and by comparison to everything else we do it’s like the fucking CIA swooping in and saying ‘this is above your pay grade sheriff, we’ll take it from here’. Not that they have, they’ve been lovely, but I’ve had an amusing couple of days.

It’s weird, at the moment music and video are as unified as they have ever been, really, even including the MTV era. Trailer clips for albums, embedded Facebook lyric videos which autoplay, people exclusively using YouTube to listen to actual music. It’s funny, the music video almost died out, then came back as digital DIY fever took hold, but in the last year or so it’s exploded as almost all social media feeds have started to fanatically emphasise the visual, presumably as a way of arresting your attention as much as possible.

We have most of the equipment required to make at least a passable DIY video for our releases, but not really the ideas, nor the expertise to execute anything with any real level of ability. It would show, too. I mean, we could make something reasonable enough, and we might get lucky being charming, funny or just weird, but film-making is a serious technical and creative skill and just bodging it will catch up with you in the end.

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The thing is, most of our albums are pretty DIY too, the main difference being that we are actually starting to know what we are doing with the limited tools at our disposal. And we are starting with excellent material too: the ideas and the musicianship are all in place already. Still, most of the albums we’ve ever released on this label were made by a team of, what, maybe half a dozen people at most, including the band themselves.

So it’s a bit odd to be faced with a team of film crew who are all actual, proper professionals, with production meetings, planning, equipment (admittedly mostly borrowed, because SbT is a cheap-as-fuck label) and just generally what appears to be an idea, a team, a plan, and the skills and experience to execute it. When I think of the cack-handed trial-and-error approach with which we started the label, and which still permeates almost everything we do to this day, it’s a bit surreal and kind of funny to think that this one video is being done better and more professionally than pretty much anything we have ever been involved with.

It’s almost shameful really, all these competent people working hard on a shoestring budget in the service of an album made by four people and released on a label run by one. Ah well, if you knock together a good website these days you can fool a lot of people I guess!

I don’t really have much clue what they’ve up to, either. I figured fuck it, they seem to know what they’re doing. And from the still above it looks pretty ace already.

Adam’s new album Taser Revelations is out on the 14th March on vinyl and CD (pre-order here), his album launch show is at Summerhall on the 11th March, and the vinyl looks approximately this pretty. In fact, it looks almost exactly this pretty:

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And here’s the first single, Atheist Money:

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The Grey Estates & Negative Fun Records Present: Sugar Rush

sugarrush After yesterday’s rather joyful album of love song covers on Fuzzkill Records, here’s another covers compilation. It’s not themed or for charity this time, it’s just good. Lo-fi, outsider pop bands covering a spectrum of tunes from pop classics like Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac and Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer to more recent, underground fare like Riot Grrl by Keel Her. There are songs by Violent Femmes, The Cramps and Blink 182 in there too; it’s a really odd mix.

Honestly, I know a lot of people find tapes a fucking hassle, and it’s true that it is a pretty contrived format, and one which is genuinely obsolete and being kept alive rather artificially, but I still love them. I like making tapes, I like mixing in the new stuff with all the old tapes I used to make, and I really like the limited, closed off playlist unlike the ones I make on Spotify, YouTube or Soundcloud which can end up being six hours long.

I don’t commute, but I do a lot of relatively long distance driving as you know, and tapes are still by far the best thing for the car, fuck your iPhones. Also, cassette players are cheap as balls on eBay these days, and we now have one permanently installed in the kitchen. This is a bit of personal nostalgia I have to confess, but again, Mrs. Toad and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and I like having that deliberately limited, familiar set of music there to listen to, rather than everything ever recorded in the whole world ever.

And this will soon be added to that collection!

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Fuzzkill Records – Under the Covers Vol.2

fuzzFirst things first, this whole album is utterly ridiculous, and absolute shit-ton of fun, and therefore fucking great. It’s also being released to support Greater Maryhill Foodbank and Refugee Action, so your cash is going to a good place.

The album was released around Valentine’s Day I think, or at least the image seems very much to imply that, what with the roses and the actual contents of the album and all. For this is a massive who’s who of the Glasgow underground music scene taking classic love songs and basically sticking a thumb up their collective arses and cackling at the squawk of distress.

Classics are rendered angry, sloppy, growly and at times you can hear that the band have barely even learned the song. It’s a great big silly mess of a tape, and yet it’s really good. Why? Well I reckon for two reasons. Firstly the songs themselves are classics, and secondly it’s all done in such good humour. Who cares how daft this gets, some of the takes are absolutely excellent, some are just hilarious, and y’know, music should be fun shouldn’t it?

So vote for fun, contribute to a good cause and enjoy some of the most highly improbable cover songs you’re ever likely to hear.

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Warehouse Gig: Tim the Mute, Juffage and Hostel Freaks

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Mrs. Toad and I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks clearing out the warehouse and making it fit for human habitation. We’ve even installed a wood-burning stove and got some lights in there which aren’t the face-melting halogens which were installed when we bought the place.

Anyhow, our pal Tim is visiting from Vancouver, so we thought we’d put on a wee gig in there to celebrate its being pretty much ready and finished… a mere two years after we first moved into the house: Friday 26th February, £5 entry, 7pm start, BYOB. The warehouse is down in Leith, and I’ll email address details once you buy a ticket, rather than sticking up our address on the internet*.





Tim is performing under the banner of Tim the Mute. He runs Kingfisher Bluez Records in Vancouver and released the Adam Stafford record over there last time around, as well as a ton of other really good stuff (top tip, if you listen to nothing else on the label: Allison Crutchfield) including excellent Scottish acts Rick Redbeard and Ballboy. Here’s Tim the Mute’s latest release for those who fancy a bit of a preview.

Joining Tim will be Leeds-based, American-raised Jeff T. Smith, better known as Juffage. He played a show for us last year at Henry’s and it was awesome, as you can be confident this will also be. Also on the bill, a new Edinburgh band – well, solo act really, I think – called Hostel Freaks. It’s sort of depressed electronica washed out with that sort of early-morning jet-lag feeling.

So come along, it will be fun. Just don’t wreck the place, now we’ve finally got it all tidied up!

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Out Now: Plastic Animals – Pictures From the Blackout

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Well as you’ve probably guessed by now, Plastic Animals’ debut album Pictures From the Blackout is being released this week, and you can buy one here. It is a very good album. I like it a lot. I am excited. Not a massive shock there, then, given it’s my record label. The launch night last weekend was awesome, and massive thanks are owed to Frog who also played a blinder.

We’ve had some cracking writeups of the album so far too: “Pictures from the Blackout is certainly a record that will reward the patient listener” from The List, “a blend which proves intoxicating” from The Skinny, “A debut album for the band to be proud of” on 17 Seconds, and a giddily excited “I’ll be very surprised if this debut album from Plastic Animals doesn’t finish up on many an end of year, best of lists. It is simply that immense” on The Sound of Confusion.

So yep, there you go, you’re welcome! Some slow-burning, slightly krauty, psychey, dreamy, shoegazey guitar rock for you. And if that isn’t fucking hipster music description buzzword bingo I don’t know what is.