Interview: Old Barber

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This piece was originally published on the 16th of July 2015 by The 405. It was the third and final piece I wrote for ‘Glasweek‘.

Pop duo Old Barber are fascinating within the context of Glasgow’s underground music scene for that exact reason: they’re a pop duo. They make accessible, dreamy pop music that is wonderfully unabashed, with nary a guitar to be found amid a mix of synthesisers and drum machines from prolific Glasgow musician Taylor Stewart and vocals from Luna Webster (who also releases music as a solo artist).

Like many Glasgow based artists, Old Barber have a lot going on – Stewart juggles many different musical projects such as Rapid Tan, Bin Men and Jinzo, and Webster runs the youth politics site Have I Got News for Youth – meaning they’ve only released one EP thus far, 2014’s UFO Phil. Despite their lack of material, however, we were compelled to talk to both Webster and Stewart because of their unique position within the scene. That and the fact that our love of their first single ‘Liquor and Lipstick’ (a remix of a song that Webster recorded in 2013) instigated the process of organising Glasweek (because, honestly, it should be huge). And anyway, there’s always the tantalising of more Old Barber yet to come.

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Interview: Antique Pony

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This piece was originally published on the 15th of July 2015 by The 405. It was the second piece I wrote for ‘Glasweek‘. All I’ll add here is that Antique Pony are fucking amazing, you should listen to them some time.

Captain Beefheart once said that “Rock and roll is a fixation on that bom-bom-bom mother heartbeat. I don’t want to hypnotise, I’m doing a non-hypnotic music to break up the catatonic state.” Taking Beefheart as a key influence, Antique Pony have unequivocally carried on this radical spirit over their three albums (Museum of Blood, Gay Ghosts, and Pony).

Their music refuses to conform to expectations forged by bourgeois aesthetics and society, is replete with irregular, staccato rhythms, incongruent sonic tangents, and diverse instrumentation. It’s music to invigorate, to challenge, to wake you the fuck up – the utopian ideal of rock music, I suppose. Because rock music isn’t dead, it just doesn’t sound like you want it to sound and is made by people you don’t want to acknowledge. It exists in the margins, in a DIY sphere that is far removed from the labels and the PR tendrils that gift-wrap music for so many. Catatonia wasn’t unique to Beefheart’s time, it’s pervasive in seemingly all spheres today – from something as vital as politics to something as comparatively trivial as music consumption and criticism – but what makes Antique Pony such a special band is that they defy this ubiquitous mediocrity, even if most people remain unaware that they’re even doing it. Although, after reading this conversation with Derek and Steven from the band (which also includes a Graham and a Daniel), perhaps more people will be.

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Interview: Winning Sperm Party

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This piece was originally published on the 14th of July 2015 by The 405. So, this was part of a series of features about Glasgow’s independent music scene that was organised and written by me and my ride-or-die, Rob Wilson.  (This series was called ‘Glasweek‘ because that’s how we referred to it in casual conversation and we couldn’t think of a better name). Neither Rob or I are from Glasgow (and at this point I’d never actually visited the city), but we’re friends with people familiar with the scene, so we had a good idea of what was going on there. Enthralled by what we were hearing from the likes of Antique Pony and Herbert Powell, we were curious as to why this music wasn’t getting the attention we believed it deserved. So, we decided to use our platform to give it the attention ourselves. Our friends hooked us up with a number of people within the scene and the series grew from there, really. We soon had enough articles to take up a week of feature space on The 405, including six interviews with artists, two with record labels, an introductory piece about why the scene deserved attention, and a playlist comprising of songs by artists within the scene (many of which were recommended by other artists). And yeah, I’m proud of what we accomplished here. Organising a series like this from the ground floor was a great experience (even though it wasn’t always smooth, we had to delay the series a few times after a couple of the bands we interviewed split up), and we got to shine a light on some incredibly talented people that had been universally overlooked. Goes to show that great music is always out there, you just have to find it yourself.

Winning Sperm Party are, in the broadest of terms, a Glasgow based music collective. They began as an online zine and record label dedicated to underground and overlooked musicians from Scotland, and soon moved onto ventures such as radio shows and gig promotion. But that’s the boring stuff. See, the ’80s hardcore band Minutemen had a name for what WSP do: they jam econo. That is to say, they eschew excess and live modestly. They’re realistic about what they have, but refuse to see that as a limitation. They do all the work themselves, but don’t take a wage for it. They’ve uncovered a wealth of talented artists, but have released digital copies for their music online for free rather than capitalise on it.

This is a label emboldened by an infectiously optimistic DIY ethos that says, well, if nobody else is releasing the music we want to hear or putting on the shows we want to see, then fuck it, we can do it ourselves. In the best tradition of punk, Winning Sperm Party is about stripping away the manifold edifices of capitalist bullshit that exist within contemporary music and proving that you don’t need any of it to connect with people. Consciously bereft of any finery, they directly challenge us to do more and to be more with less. Other labels would do well to follow this righteous crusade.

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