Song, by Toad

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Split 12″ Vol.4 Album Launch

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Our Split 12″ series is, erm, sporadic, to say the very least. It’s been a couple of years since the last one, but there will be three released within the next twelve months, to take the tally up to six by early 2017.

This one is, a little like the Insider one we did last, going to be unique in the sense that it was actually recorded in the living room of our new house in Leith where, Mrs. Toad has decreed, no recording shall ever take place ever again. That’s what The Happiness Hotel is for.

And speaking of The Happiness Hotel (it’s our warehouse, and if you don’t get the reference you are dead to me), that is where we shall be holding the launch night for Song, by Toad Split 12″ Vol.4, on Thursday 5th May. The record features Viking Moses, Supermoon, digitalanalogue and Virgin of the Birds, but seeing as two of those bands are based in the States and hoping for them to be in Scotland at the same time seemed a little optimistic, we thought we would have to make do with three bands from the Split, get each of them to learn a song by the regrettably absent Virgin of the Birds, and include Viking Moses’ tour pal Sam Goodwill just for shits and giggles and because he’s good.

It’s BYOB, and you can get your tickets below:





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Micah P. Hinson vs. Phil Ochs

One of the absolute greatest things about being as close to the actual making of music as I now am is being able to actually witness new and awesome things as they come into existence, and to savour that ‘holy fucking shit, what is this, it’s awesome‘ moment when you realise that it is going to be excellent.

I am still amazed by what a mess music can actually sound like when you are in the room, listening to the actual act of recording. I remember some of the flat-out rock bands we recorded in our old living room, and it just sounded like someone throwing a load of old pots and pans down the stairs with some poor fucker trying desperately to scream over the top of the resulting cacophony. It sounded awful. And it turned out fantastically.

As you know I am currently in the middle of recording Song, by Toad Split 12″ Vol.6 (Vol.4 is out in July and Vol.5 in November) and we have three bands’ songs more or less down now. This project has embodied both ends of the ‘what the fuck is going on’ spectrum, from the Willard Grant Conspiracy, whose performance in the room itself was so obviously beautifully that my sole responsibility as a mixing engineer is not to fuck it up, through to the Tissø Lake songs, which were mostly individually tracked, so I didn’t really have much idea what I was hearing until we started to assemble everything together. It still surprises me when proper, grown-up music emerges from all those scraps, but it shouldn’t anymore.

Micah P. Hinson, on the other hand, has been a slightly different case. I am not sure he really enjoyed the recording process himself, primarily because he is from Texas and was playing in an unheated warehouse in Edinburgh in November, so he was absolutely fucking freezing. I am genuinely sorry for this – I blame the perennial postponement of our stove installation – but you honestly wouldn’t know it from the recordings. The sound as Micah generally does: unhurried, rich and sincere.

One of the nicest bits though, and the bit which prompted the opening sentence to this post, is a cover that Micah played. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it’s a Phil Ochs song and listening to it the other day as I tweaked the initial mixes, it struck me, hearing Ochs’ lyrics sung by Micah, how much lyrical common ground there is between the two. Phil Ochs is obviously more overtly political of course, but in other senses they have such a similar feel – the burst of humour (bitterly acerbic or otherwise), the flair for lighthearted musical styles to back poignant lyrics, that constant sense of self-doubt and nagging fear of futility, and of course the ability to write absolutely crushingly sad, beautiful songs as well as almost anyone I’ve heard.

There’s an intensity to the two of them too, sitting there beneath the surface of the music, and you never quite know what to do with it, which I think it probably what makes it brilliant.

Micah is fond of a cover, of course, and recorded a whole double album of them a few years ago, but this was just one of those moments where I thought ‘oh yeah, that’s perfect, and I never realised at all’.

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Song, by Toad Records at Easter Indie Label Market, London

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Hello folks, we are coming back down to London once more, to peddle our wares at the Independent Label Market which is taking place on Saturday 2nd April at Old Spitalfields Market.

We’ve some awesome new stuff for you as well. Apart from the somewhat sullying sight of me getting steadily drunker over the course of the day, and access to our entire back catalogue from almost eight years of releases, you will also have your first chance to pick up the new Adam Stafford album Taser Revelations (“a tour de force brimming with confidence and invention from an artist at the top of his game” – Is This Music?) as well as the new David Thomas Broughton triple vinyl Crippling Lack (“The fact this album exists at all is testament to the inherent brilliance at the heart of humankind.” – Collective Zine) and Jonnie Common’s new experimental instrumental album Kitchen Sync, which is released on a set of four unique fridge magnets*.

Adam Stafford – Phantom Billions from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

*’Unique’ is quite literal in this case – he hand made them all and no two are the same.

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Jonnie Common – Kitchen Sync

Kitchen Sync by Jonnie Common is a brand new instrumental album composed entirely of the sounds of Jonnie ‘playing his kitchen’. And of course it’s released on a set of four hand-pressed, hand-packed kitchen magnets. Artisanal, organic, locally sourced kitchen magnets I assume. Jonnie made them all himself from the pages of an old cookbook and they are all unique, each one using the accompanying image to a different recipe.

The official release date is the 9th May, but you can pre-order one here for now, or pick one up from our stall at the Independent Label Market in London next weekend, from either of the two launch shows which are coming up in early April, or from LoveMusic in Glasgow or VoxBox in Edinburgh on Record Store Day if you prefer.

Kitchen Sync launch shows:
Saturday 2nd April – Glasgow, The Glad Café with BEAM and GB Thomson – tickets
Saturday 9th April – Edinburgh, The Happiness Hotel – tickets using the awkwardly-pasted PayPal button below. The venue is our warehouse down in Leith, and it’s BYOB, but I’ll email you the exact address closer to the time.

Sold out now, sorry.

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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: