Song, by Toad

Posts tagged zed penguin


Now THAT Was a Christmas Party

Photo by Michael Kim

Photo by Michael Kim

Happy Christmas Toadlings, I hope the year has been good to you. For once I am honestly being sincere, too, although you could be forgiven for hearing sarcasm in pretty much everything when reading this blog.

Mrs. Toad and I have slept in spectacularly and are wandering off to visit my folks in an hour or two, so we’re pretty relaxed at the moment, with Bette having beaten the UK transport chaos yesterday and got us down from Edinburgh to Brighton a full two or three hours faster than our scheduled flight would have done.  Good old Bette.

Anyhow, the pictures at the top and bottom of this post were taken by the splendid Michael Kim at our Christmas Party on Saturday night, so I thought I should share them, given he was a/ kind enough to donate his time and b/ took two such excellent pictures.

No-one ever, ever buys tickets to our shit in advance so inevitably I was a bit worried about attendance again on Saturday, although it turned out to be totally needless. It was busy, sweaty, raucous and brilliant fun, and it was finally what I would want from a label Christmas party.

You’d be forgiven for wondering what the fuck I am on about with that statement, given some of the awesome nights we’ve had in the past, but two in quick succession taught me what I didn’t want the Christmas party to be: namely The Queen Charlotte Rooms three years ago and the St. Stephen’s Centre the year after.

Don’t get me wrong, the venues were great, and the people running them were a genuine pleasure to deal with. Also, the shows themselves were absolutely fantastic too. The only problem was that those of us who are actually part of Song, by Toad Records ended up basically just working all night.

Because we tried to put the gigs on in somewhere a bit special, the venues in question weren’t real music venues, both myself and the bands spent hours cleaning up after the show, moving drum kits and amps, and often helping to load out the PA, either on the night or with horrendous hangovers the night after. Believe me, as fun as the show itself is, this kind of stuff takes the shine off it pretty fast.

I tried to change this last year at Summerhall by introducing the short sets at the beginning of the night, where all sorts of bands on the label and assorted pals came up and played really short, minimal, informal sets of about three songs or so, before the main gig kicked off.

The idea was to give the night something of a more informal feel, and allow bands on the label to turn up and play, without having to take it too seriously. Sort of a cross between a gig (for the punters) and an office party (for us). It still didn’t really work however, once loading out that damn PA and getting all the kit and the amps back was done and dusted. Carrying heavy things with a massive hangover and a thin film of sweat forming on your back ain’t fun, as you can imagine.

So this year I thought, fuck it, Edinburgh has Christmas Songwriters and Christmas Baubles if it wants a big show, let’s do something scruffy and messy this year, and do it mostly for the benefit of the folk on the label and the people who come to tons of our gigs and buy loads of releases and basically know our stuff inside out and who, rather than a showcase, would probably appreciate something a bit different from the usual Song, by Toad fare.

Doing it at Henry’s made perfect sense as well, because we’ve worked with them such a lot this year, and had some truly brilliant shows there – it kind of feels like the blog’s spiritual home in Edinburgh at this point.

And that was about it, I think I can safely say. Reuben Taylor’s piano set was amazing, Dan Mutch sang about screaming like an ocelot (Baboo!), and Yusuf Azak did a fucking great version of Gin & Juice, which was just about the most unexpected thing I could have, er, not expected.

As for my own set, Christ knows. I can tell you that it happened, that it sort of went according to whatever thin veil of a plan there was, and that Sam and Pete were fucking awesome, but apart from that I have no idea what on Earth it will have looked like to people in the venue. Baffling nonsense, probably, but it was awesome fun.

Zed Penguin, for possibly the first time, were probably the most sensible band in the whole lineup. Their new stuff is sounding pretty great too, I have to say, and I am really looking forward to hearing some new recordings.

And then, finally, PAWsault. For a band which hadn’t rehearsed together at all, not even during soundcheck, this was absolutely brilliant. The band itself was Ryan and Phil from PAWS with Neil and Sam from Meursault, because neither band could turn up in full, so they just decided to smoosh together what was left and hope for the best.

They tore through Flittin’ and William Henry Miller by Meursault, as well as Bloodline and Winners Don’t Bleed by PAWS, which even Ryan had never played before, and despite the lack of practise, the versions they produced were honestly fantastic.

Things got a bit messy during Fairytale of New York when two stage invaders none of us had ever seen before commandeered both the lyrics sheets and the microphones, but they were retrieved just as everything threatened to go to shit and the stumbling throng onstage managed to limp through to the end of the song with some vague semblance of giddy completion. At this point Pete and Reuben were literally playing the piano with their arses mind you, so just getting through to the last verse at all felt like a bit of an achievement.

The final squall of Jingle Bells ended up pretty much like a homoerotic punk rock equivalent of the That’s All Folks at the end of a Warner Brothers cartoon.

And that was it. Perfect.

It fell apart, gloriously, by the end, but only at the very end. I think we managed the right balance of everyone on the label getting shit-faced and celebrating, with some properly good tunes and a great gig. Alright, Gin and Juice, me doing ridiculous spoken word version of songs on the label, and PAWS and Meursault massacring one another’s tunes might only appeal to the more hardcore fans of the label, but that’s what a Christmas party is supposed to be!

And it was amazing. So a massive thank you to everyone who played and who came along, I had an absolute whale of a time, as you can probably tell. And also, seeing as we’ve just turned five, an extra thank you to anyone who has bought a record, come to a gig, mentioned us to a friend or, incredibly, agreed to release a record with us over the last five years. It’s been a fucking blast.

And wait until you see what we do in 2014. It’s already shaping up to be properly fucking awesome.

Photo by Michael Kim

Photo by Michael Kim


It’s Birthday Time! And Christmas! And Birthdays!

5th Birthday Digiflyer

Yes folks, as we come crashing headlong into Christmas Song, by Toad has decided to confuse things by muddling it up with a birthday as well. Well honestly, fuck off, it’s not just old hippies in sandals with legions of deranged followers who get to celebrate birthdays at this time of year, sweary, deluded amphibians can do so as well if they so choose.

Because it just so happens, as you probably know by now, that our first ever release was in December five years ago, when we celebrated Meursault’s Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues with a Christmas party at the Bowery, may Tom Waits rest its soul.

So, in the next few days we’ll be having a couple of shows to celebrate our birthday, and we may as well celebrate Christmas at the same time. Or Hanukkah, if you fancy, it really doesn’t bother me either way, it’s all just gin and swearing as far as I’m concerned. They shows themselves are as follows, and it would be ace to see you there, if you thought you could make it.

London, The Sebright Arms, Thursday 19th December – tickets here.
This lineup will feature a solo set by Meursault, mostly on the piano I think, so depressing lyrics aside it should hopefully be most Christmassy! As well as Neil there will be a probably not-very-Christmassy-at-all set from The Leg, who are celebrating the recent release of their new album Oozing a Crepuscular Light (get one here), and the splendid Animal Magic Tricks.

Edinburgh, Henry’s Cellar Bar, Saturday 21st December – tickets here.
On Saturday we’ll be at Henry’s with an awesome lineup of bands, including Zed Penguin, PAWsault (yes, that’s exactly what you think it will be), and a sort of cabaret of brief informal sets by a selection of different people on the label. There will also be a one-off exclusive appearance by the world-famous William Henry Shatner, performing the hits of Song, by Toad Records for us in his own inimitable style. A rare treat for you then, and something no-other Christmas party would dare offer!

So there you go, there’s these, and then I intend to descend into the territory of Christmas lists for the rest of the year, and embarrass my parents by how much gin I can shift over Christmas. Poor fuckers.


Live in Edinburgh This Week – 18th November 2013

ToadGig2013 11 digiflyer

Well once again, as you can see, the emphasis this week is going to be on shilling my own events at the expense of most other things. Don’t worry though, I’ll be giving it a bit of a rest with the gigs in the new year, so this kind of relentless harassment should subside a little bit.

However, before then, we still have two Song, by Toad Records Christmas Parties – one in London and one in Edinburgh – two house gigs and of course this week’s shows with Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside (listen to her latest album here). We’re at the Glad Café in Glasgow on Tuesday 19th, which just happens to be my birthday, and then in Edinburgh at the Wee Red Bar on Wednesday night. Both nights will feature support from Zed Penguin, and the Glasgow show will also include Royal Edinburgh Music.

So other than Toad stuff what else do we have for the avid music fan knocking around Edinburgh this week? Well the Electric Circus are hosting the NME Radar Tour on Tuesday night, and although I would normally snort contemptuously at pretty much anything on the NME’s comically mis-calibrated radar, it just so happens that the tunes I’ve heard (admittedly quite a while ago) from Cerebral Ballzy were actually pretty good, so that might well be worth investigating.

Also on Tuesday (well it is my birthday after all – even though I’ll be in Glasgow) we have the awesome Low at the Queen’s Hall, which is amazing news. For those of you not in Glasgow. Like me. Huzzah.

Later in the week, Shellac are at the Liquid Room on Friday 22nd and the Electric Circus also have Bell X1 on Sunday night, who I have to confess I haven’t thought twice about since buying one of their albums back in about 2004. It was a pretty good album though, if I remember correctly, so if you’re at a loose end on Sunday it might well be worth a bash.

And that, I think, seems to be about it. Except it never is, because I always manage to miss something, but for now it looks like that’s it . Promise.



Pleasance Sessions Lineup Tweak for Tomorrow

Pleasance Sessions Digiflyer

Hello folks, one last post about this show tomorrow, and then as I said, I promise to leave off the gig pestering for a while. Due to practical reasons we’ve had to change the running order around a little for the evening, mostly due to certain bands having far too many members to fit on the stage to which I had originally allocated them.

Anyhow, the new lineup is below, and please note how early we’re starting: 7pm.  There will be a lot of stampeding up and down stairs of course, but then that should help you burn off some of the beer you’ll be drinking, for which you can thank me later. See you there!

.                                     Theatre:                      Cab Bar:
19:05 – 19:35                                                    Zed Penguin
19:45 – 20:15              NAKED
20:20 – 20:50                                                  Le Thug
21:00 – 21:30             Plastic Animals
21:35 – 22:05                                                    The Leg
22:15 – 23:00             Meursault


Live in Edinburgh This Week – 21st October 2013

Pleasance Sessions Digiflyer

You know, I just ordered a Chinese takeout and got a free poke of chips with it. Weird. I’ve had free spring rolls and free prawn crackers, both of which make sense, but chips? Who has chips with Chinese?

Anyhow, back to my weekly ‘come to my fucking gigs or I will secretly resent you forever’ post. Or at least, that seems to be what these are turning into. Don’t worry, I’ll be giving it a rest for the next couple of weeks as after Saturday our next gig isn’t until the 16th November.

Before that, of course, we have this Saturday’s Song, by Toad Records extravaganza at the Pleasance Courtyard – three bands upstairs in the theatre and three downstairs in the Cabaret Bar, all for a fabulously low price of £12 (£10 for students). You’ll see Meursault, Plastic Animals, The Leg, Naked, Zed Penguin and Le Thug, and it will be fucking brilliant. There you go. And there will be DJing and funtimes at the White Horse afterwards where Vic Galloway is playing records at Intensively Reared.

Other than that, we have a couple of fine nights at the Electric Circus with Mike Heron and the Trembling Bells on Tuesday, and then the rather more visceral and raucous Growlers on Wednesday. Other than that I ain’t seen much knocking around, but then I am just a blogger, and we do all talk mostly shit you know.


Song, by Toad Records at the Pleasance Sessions

Pleasance Sessions Digiflyer

The University buildings in Edinburgh (of which there are many) used to fall under that umbrella of spaces which were completely inaccessible to the city’s arts community during the year, yet which miraculously and highly irritatingly became available during the Edinburgh Festival.

This was particularly frustrating because it’s pretty clear Edinburgh Uni have access to some pretty incredible spaces, which makes it absolutely splendid news that there is a new team in place at the University charged specifically with making sure their venues and assorted other spaces are used as much as possible. And after a few bits and pieces here and there they are announcing their existence with the rather awesome Pleasance Sessions, which is a three-week festival of music, spoken word and comedy in late October, and in which they have invited us to play a rather scarily significant part.

We are putting on no less than three label showcases (or, well, two, depending on how you count the 29th). The first being in the gorgeous Pleasance Theatre on Saturday the 19th of October and will include three of our most distinctive solo performers: Ian Humberstone, Adam Stafford and Rob St. John. Alright, they aren’t exactly solo performers, strictly, and two of them will be playing band sets at the event. And Ian isn’t even strictly on the label (not for a want of far-from-subtle hinting on my behalf) but, well, it’s a fucking great lineup however you pitch it. So you should come – tickets here.

Then on the following Saturday, the 26th October, we will have a double-bill of label shows, one upstairs in the Theatre and one downstairs in the Cabaret Bar. You can buy tickets to either show individually, but I reckon the joint one is better. It’s cheap (£10 for students, £12 for non-students if purchased in advance) and the acts will be staggered so that a/ we have no sound bleed between the stages and b/ people can get up and down to see all six bands easily enough – buy tickets here.

The lineups will be as follows: upstairs will be William Henry Miller (who may or may not just be Meursault by another name), NAKED and Le Thug, whilst downstairs we’ll have Plastic Animals, The Leg and Zed Penguin.

Tickets for all Pleasance Sessions events can be found on Skiddle here, and there are loads of other great lineups beyond our own. Gerry Loves Records are hosting a single launch, Lost Map Records are doing a showcase, and The Skinny are promoting a night which may as well have been plucked from the pages of Song, by Toad, so have a look around at all the other awesome stuff too. And I hope to see you there.


The Pale Imitation Festival – Half-time Report

Pale Imitation Digiflyer

Soooo… we’re half way through the bill of the Pale Imitation Festival by now, with five gigs down and four gigs to go. So has it been the glorious dreamland of commercial abundance that you were all sure it would be, or the black hole of financial disaster I feared it might?

Well, sadly, the numbers for small capacity DIY gigs like this mean that for all this has been about as successful as I dared imagine in terms of attendance and sheer fun, the financial side of it has hardly been overflowing with bounty for us. The bands have all been paid, some above their actual guarantees, and we’re probably a whisker ahead in cash terms, which is a huge relief. I don’t mean to burden you with the kind of behind-the-scenes details which you would probably all prefer remained just that, but umm… well, I guess a lot of you come here to see the music industry curtain twitched aside from time to time. Seventy people is what we need to break even on each gig, and while a couple have been a little under that, two have been at capacity and another well above that magic number so the figures are pretty healthy, if not exactly lucrative.

I’ve been really pleased with a couple of things about these shows too: the support of the local gig-going community, which has been ace, as well as the number of people I really don’t recognise at all, which at least seems to imply that was well as having the support of our existing audience we are at least slightly helping the bands to reach a new one.

There wasn’t really anything I wanted to achieve with these gigs, I have to confess, apart from wanting to see the shows myself and simply not wanting to fail. I’ve struggled with the Festival in the past, and with trying to promote gigs in the face of its tornado of shit, and it always rankled me that I felt unable to go about my work in my own city because lots of tourists wanted to come here and get shitfaced for a month. So in a way I suppose I wanted the Pale Imitation Festival to be my own little act of defiance – for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s – as a statement that we didn’t have to just be chased out of town for the entirety of the month of August. And it seems we don’t.

When we finalised all these lineups Rob, Neil, Bart and I did tell ourselves that there was probably going to be at least one catastrophe amongst the shows. It’s not so much about the lineups as it is about the fact that at some point we were probably bound to get a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, and one of them would go badly. It’s not happened yet of course, although it still could, but in general I’m really happy with how this has gone so far – sufficiently so that I have purchased and reckon we might as well have another go next year. Why the fuck not, after all.

And while we’re at it, here are this week’s gigs, with the full lineup available here.


The Leg: screaming mentalists, with equal parts deranged lunacy and pop inspiration. Zed Penguin: swaggering, lo-fi indie-rock.  Numbers Are Futile: thrummy electronic soundscapes, with hidden pop gems.


Malcolm Middleton: a solo set from the patron saint of depressive introspection.  Ian Humberstone: lush, gentle folk-pop.  Now Wakes the Sea: glorious, halting miserablism.

This one is a smidge more expensive than the other shows, but it is still covered by the season tickets. Also, we have a reciprocal deal with the awesome Papi Falso, whose eclectic nightclub spectacular directly follows this gig: if you go to both, then you will get a pound off each show.


The Pale Imitation Festival

Pale Imitation Digiflyer

So, we can finally announce the full lineup for the inaugural Pale Imitation Festival.

A run of gigs taking place at Henry’s Cellar bar over the course of August 2013, Pale Imitation is intended to focus almost entirely on local bands, from the high profile to the brand new. Furthermore, we selected nine headliners and then asked them to suggest the rest of the lineup and to provide the music for the night, to give a much stronger sense of the personality of the bands involved – it seemed to fit with the idea of putting the shows on in a small venue with no real backstage area.

As well as trying to keep ticket prices for all the shows down to a fiver (with one exception), we’re also going to be selling season tickets, where £25 gets you into absolutely everything. You’ll have to get there for half eight to be guaranteed entry of course, so we can let the rest of the punters in, but it seemed like a nice thing to do.

And finally, in addition to all the awesome gigs, we’ve got an opening party on the first night with Pale Imitation DJs until 1am, which is free, and then on the 24th August we are partnering with Papi Falso to give a pound off their night and a pound off ours to anyone who attends both. So don’t say we aren’t good to you.

All advance tickets, including the season ticket, can be found here, and the Facebook event pages are here.

And of course, we’re committing to paying an awful lot in terms of fees for bands and so on so, erm, any sharing and general encouragement you might wish to offer on the old social networks would of course be greatly appreciated. Back Garden Promotions came from a beery chat in our back garden between myself, Bart from eagleowl, Neil from Meursault and Rob St. John.

Thursday 1st August: William Henry Miller, Jonnie Common & The Bad Books (plus opening party until 1am) (tickets)

William Henry Miller: hermaphrodite politician from the Nineteenth Century, who also does a fine line in alt-rock pop tunes. Jonnie Common: quirky pop maestro.  The Bad Books: they sound a lot like college rockers The Book Group from Edinburgh. An awful lot like them.

Tonight will also include the opening party for the Pale Imitation Festival, with DJs until 1am.

Saturday 3rd: FOUND, Adam Stafford & Mike MacFarlane (tickets)

FOUND: bouncy electronic pop weirdos. Adam Stafford: the slow-motion preacher. Mike MacFarlane: bitter, moaning singer-songwriter.

Thursday 8th: Plastic Animals, Deathcats & Mad Nurse (tickets)

Plastic Animals: sludgey, grungey shoegaze.  Deathcats: devilishly handsome, radgey Glasgow surf.  Mad Nurse: growly shoegaze from Edinburgh.

Saturday 10th: Sparrow and the Workshop, The Rosy Crucifixion & Siobhan Wilson (tickets)

Sparrow and the Workshop: is snarling country-tinged punk a genre? It is now. The Rosy Crucifixion: a bit of garage, a bit of psyche, and a bit of awesome. Siobhan Wilson: honey-voiced singer-songwriter.

Saturday 17th: RM Hubbert, Wounded Knee & Lidh (tickets)

RM Hubbert: twinkle-fingered Flamenco heartbreaker who has recently achieved global superstar status after winning the 2013 SAY Award.  Wounded Knee: have a rummage in his bawbag. Lidh: Fife lass with an acoustic guitar and a fine voice.

Thursday 22nd: The Leg, Zed Penguin & Numbers are Futile (tickets)

The Leg: screaming mentalists, with equal parts deranged lunacy and pop inspiration. Zed Penguin: swaggering, lo-fi indie-rock.  Numbers Are Futile: thrummy electronic soundscapes, with hidden pop gems.

Saturday 24th: Malcolm Middleton, Ian Humberstone & Now Wakes the Sea (plus Papi Falso until late) (tickets)

Malcolm Middleton: a solo set from the patron saint of depressive introspection.  Ian Humberstone: lush, gentle folk-pop.  Now Wakes the Sea: glorious, halting miserablism.

This one is a smidge more expensive than the other shows, but it is still covered by the season tickets. Also, we have a reciprocal deal with the awesome Papi Falso, whose eclectic nightclub spectacular directly follows this gig: if you go to both, then you will get a pound off each show.

Thursday 29th: Rob St. John, Hanna Tuulikki & David Orphan DJ set (tickets)

Rob St. John: gloomy purveyor of dark geographical folk. Hanna Tuulikki: wild-voiced siren of the Glasgow experimental folk scene. David Orphan: inspired architect of Finders Keepers Records.

Saturday 31st: eagleowl, Rachel Lancaster & Nap Sholty (tickets)

eagleowl: post-slo-fi, post-anti-drumcore, and a bit krauty. Rachel Lancaster: fine, shoegazey guitar work. Nap Sholty: helmed by the artist formerly known as Tom Western, this could be just about anything.


Beer vs. Records – The Results are (sort of) In!

BeervsRecords IPA

Records win the battle (YAY!) but Beer might end up winning the war (BOO)!

I have to confess, I thought beer would walk this one. Alright, you, me and our friends are mostly vinyl-fiends dedicated to new music, but it’s easy to forget that most normal people really aren’t and I thought it would be a humiliating defeat for vinyl.

The fact that it wasn’t feels like something of a triumph. After the dust settled from Record Store Day 2013 I only had about twenty odd copies of the album left. Barney had at least thirty or forty of the four packs, and people had apparently been constantly asking to buy the vinyl when they went into off licenses to buy the beer – VICTORY FOR RECORDS!

BUT WAIT! Bollocks! In the months since Record Store Day it’s become everso slowly apparent that sales of the vinyl slowed down quicker than the beer. Once out of the press, people seemed more likely to just take a chance on the beer, leaving me looking nervously at my 12 remaining records worrying if I might be pipped at the post.

So yes, on Record Store Day we narrowly managed to avoid ignominious defeat by our hoppy usurper, but it was a very, very close run thing. You can still get the few remaining 4-packs in Rough Trade East, Monorail music in Glasgow, The Good Spirit Company in Glasgow, and a few branches of Vino in Edinburgh, but that’s about it. And as for the record, order from your local record shop – that was kinda the point of the whole thing in the first place!

So yes, a huge thanks to Barney’s Beer for being such a good laugh to work with, and a big thank you to the bands too, for being good sports and letting us do something silly with their music. I have to confess, the whole project has gone far, far better than I anticipated. The record sold much faster than the last Split 12″, although we’re down to our last few copies of that as well, and just off to Aviemore tomorrow to record our next one with David Thomas Broughton, Sparrow and the Workshop, Jonnie Common and Siobhan Wilson.  It’s going to be awesome!

And here are some songs from the release, just for fun:


Zed Penguin – This Town

This is the last single from what I have to describe as the awesomely successful Beer vs. Records project. We haven’t sold out yet, but I have to confess, I never anticipated being this close to doing so. We can’t usually sell 250 of anything this fast, with the exception of a couple of the bands we work with, and given this was hardly a high-profile release I have to confess I wasn’t all that sure how it would go.

Anyhow, I’ll officially announce the winner next week, but for now, this is the last of the live videos we made during recording, and it’s a truly awesome pop song by Zed Penguin. We ended up including the live guide vocal in this mix, and loading it with distortion, just to give the chorus that extra bit of snarl. I think it works really well – I love this song, and I’m really glad I had the chance to record it.

We still have a few copies of the Split 12″ available too, and you can get the beer in Vino in Edinburgh, The God Spirit Company in Glasgow and Rough Trade East in London, I think, assuming they have any left.