Song, by Toad

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The Making of Kitchen Sync – Nearly Sold Out

The launch nights for Kitchen Sync, Jonnie Common’s new instrumental album of found sounds from his kitchen released on a set of fridge magnets – no seriously, have a look here, they’re nearly sold out! – were bafflingly fantastic.

I say bafflingly because they were primarily composed of Jonnie giving what was essentially a Powerpoint presentation about how he actually made the album, complete with basic explanations of things like side-chain compression and the pitch-shifting of sampled wave forms. Having explained the process and source of the sounds for each song, he then played along with it, although inevitably a lot had to be pre-recorded samples.

And somehow, it was absolutely fascinating. I salute you, Mr. Common, I have no idea how you pulled this whole ridiculous idea off, but it’s absolutely bloody brilliant.

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Song, by Toad at the Restless Natives Festival

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The Restless Natives Festival is happening in Glasgow in the first week or so of May, and there is an absolute shitload of excellent Toad stuff happening. About which I have no doubt you are thrilled. Just thrilled.

We have a showcase, the David Thomas Broughton documentary is playing, and Adam Stafford is doing a live movie soundtrack. Awesome, no?

The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton is a documentary about the man himself, and made by Oh Kestrel film. I’ll be conducting a live Skype Q&A with David on the night, as he’s based in South Korea these days and that’s as close as we could get him.

The Ambiguity of David Thomas Broughton (trailer 1) from Oh Kestrel Film on Vimeo.

Adam Stafford on the other hand will be performing a live soundtrack to A Page of Madness, which is not something I can say I know much about, but sounds weird and interesting. He’s a film-maker himself of course, so I guess this kind of thing should suit him.

And finally, we have a three-band Song, by Toad bill of Le Thug, Numbers Are Futile and DTHPDL at Collective Studios on 10th May (details and tickets here).

The festival is a celebration of all things DIY in the arts, from visual art and film, to music, comedy and debate. It sounds ambitious as fuck to me, and I’m really pleased they’ve seen fit to invite us to participate. Hopefully see you there, Glasgow!

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

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DTHPDL – The Future

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

Because we don’t have enough new releases bubbling away at the moment I thought it might be time to introduce you to our next awesomest thing!

You may have seen this skittering about the internet yesterday, but given the reckless pace of the average Twitter feed and Facebook’s steadfast refusal to allow people who explicitly sign up for news about your thing to actually receive news about your thing,  I figured I should actually post a formal announcement on the blog. Just, y’know, to be safe.

DTHPDL (Deathpodal, if that helps with pronunciation) are a new-not-new Edinburgh band, who released an EP back in about 2009 or something like that, and then promptly vanished until early last year, at which point they reappeared sounding entirely different. So not technically brand new, but effectively they might as well be.

Their new EP The Future is out on Song, by Toad Records in a couple of weeks, and the launch night will be at the Leith Depot on Saturday 22nd April, supported by the excellent Lush Purr and Miracle Strip, and with Jesus H. Foxx (fuck me – remember them!) DJs.

Tickets can be bought here, and the EP bought here – do it, you know it makes sense!

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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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