Categories
Great music from the forth valley

Constant Follower release debut LP

One of the best bands to emerge from the Forth Valley release their stunning debut LP.

Artwork for Constant Follower LP Neither Is, Nor Ever Was

Constant Follower. Neither Is, Nor Ever Was

Vinyl, DL, Stream Bandcamp

At time of writing available at:

Avalanche Edinburgh

Low Port Music Linlithgow to name just two.

Over the last five years or so, Constant Follower have carefully navigated their way to this moment, the release of their debut album.

I caught them a few years back at the Mediterranea in Stirling. My phoned pinged with a message from Kenny Bates, an ever present force within the Stirling scene and a prominent member of the excellent Death Collective. He believed he was breaking an (self-inflicted) oath never to be a ‘spam guy’ by sending messages advertising the fund raiser gig.

I am glad he did. 

Several brilliant acts played that night; it was then I first heard Constant Follower. It was a stunning set, I wandered over to the merch stall and purchased the ‘Gentle Teachings EP’, packaged in a neat little envelope with a download code inside it. I couldn’t stop listening to the ‘Gentle Teachings’ EP (When Weird Decibels were in the borders recording ‘February’ I took a wee walk out into the starry sky listening to Gentle Teachings, it’s a moment I won’t forget.)

It feels like every note on ‘Neither is Nor Ever Was’ is carefully considered, the tones swathe into a canvas of warm autumnal colours. Serval spins of the vinyl unravel subtle notes, neatly panned left and right. The keys and backing vocals provide a light, ethereal air to McAll’s gentle vocals. Indeed, there are many musicians on this record that add depth to the album.

There are few bands that can master subtle long held notes (Low spring to mind), few bands are comfortable giving their songs space and time. It’s incredibly tempting to fill the gaps. Constant Follower leave the notes ringing, and as one sound fades, another tone gently enters the field, Kurds playing throughout is precise but natural, his guitar adding brightness to the record.

The album starts with a sway, ‘I Can’t Wake You’ starts gently before the emotive weight builds from the second verse. Synths and keys fly upon the mix. It’s so well structured.

‘Merry Dancers on Tv’ is uplifting, the guitars and keys waltz as McAll observes “this thing is real, its blackened broke and dying”, the best artists always find a balance between dark and light.

Then there is ‘Altona’ a track that cleverly signals the end of the first act. One Word Away is beautiful, it’s impossible not to be lifted by the swelling chorus. WEICHA closes, offering new textures and perhaps a hint to where the band will go from here. I always love tracks that are off centre, landscapes of audio that transport you from the space in which you are listening. As an album it feels complete; it needs to be heard in its entirety.

‘Neither Is, Nor Ever Was.’ is a record of incredible warmth and balance. It helps close the door on the white noise that surrounds modern life. The band have (rightly) had plaudits from a wide range of critics from the national press, I hope they stay with the band in this industry of short attention.

My words may not have the weight of the press, but as a listener, I urge you to buy this record. It will spin on my turntable every time I wish to find a wee bit peace or perhaps, during the longer nights, a bit of solace. 

Pabs

Categories
Live radio sessions music

Weird Decibels in session at Stirling City Radio (the story)

Huge thanks to Stirling City Radio, Stephen Franklyn and Jim Kettles

words Pabs

Social media can be great at times and in terms of raising awareness of the local scene it can work (although I find it increasingly frustrating and the ‘boost’ button is always just a click away asking you for money). So when Stirling City Radio appeared on my news feed I was interested to see what this new internet radio station had to offer. Intrigued, I had a look at the schedule and I was delighted to see that the station, that has been broadcasting on the internet since August 2016, had various shows to cater for all genres. This included rock and live performances from local acts so I sent them a message.

A nice guy called James returned my inquisitive email, he was more than happy to organise a slot on a Monday evening with Stephen Franklyn, a presenter who has an easy approach to playing rock and pop, in addition he hosts live local acts.

Once I got the guys to commit to a night James sent back some instructions, basically head to Stirling arcade and record some acoustic songs and talk about our musical journey so far.

Greg opted to sit this one out, his new house needed a bit of work and this included fitting shelves. More on that later…Derek, Stu and Myself rehearsed a couple of the quieter songs from Weird Decibels 2, we arranged a time to meet and the plan was set.

The train rolled through Polmont and I hopped on, Stu joined me later in Camelon with Derek running a half hour behind us. Stu and I walked onto the Stirling Platform and headed up to the arcade just up the hill from the station. As we approached we could hear tunes drifting out from the main entrance. We walked into the empty corridor of the arcade and headed to the centre where there is a cafe and the radio station itself. There, in the studio booth for all to see, was Stephen Franklyn broadcasting live. Our time to play was 7pm so we had 25 minutes to set up.

After a warm handshake Stephen explained what we needed to set up. It didn’t take us long, as Stu picked up his guitar to soundcheck Derek walked through the door with his beat box that was borrowed from our friend Kevin Byrne.

After some Aretha Franklin we were ready to go live on air, the clock hit 7 Stephen welcomed us to the airwaves. My 5 year old son Lewis was listening and I was told he went crazy at this point! We had a brief welcome and chat with Stephen about the band before we launched into Curtain Hits The Cast.

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Lewis listens to Daddy on the radio.

Thankfully it’s a fairly easy song to play as, surprisingly, the nerves had kicked in. I’m not sure how many people were listening but Stu, Derek and I wanted to get this right. It went well and Stephen asked us more questions about the band. We discussed how we write songs and Derek stated that I have an idea which is developed by the band, I said it was  more a collaborative approach whereas Stu, bold as brass asserted, Pabs comes out with a riff and I make it better! It was a great moment.

After Stephen played It’s Who You Know from the album we moved onto Almost Beautiful. We explained that Greg couldn’t attend the show as he was hanging shelves so we dedicated the song to him and renamed it ‘Almost Level’. It was a stuttery start from me, it’s a tricky wee riff when the nerves kick in but I recovered and it seemed to go down well. Cue another brief chat with Stephen before he closed with a play of Medicine, again from the album.

We had a chat with Jim Kettles who broadcasts on the station, he does rock show just after Stephen and he played It’s Who You Know later in the night which was a nice touch. Then we signed the pillar which was adorned with names of local acts who have played previously. We stood on a table to reach the top of the pillar; all was going well until Stu stood upon the frame, it slid from under him but luckily his reflexes are still razor sharp and he landed like Batman, on his feet.

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This is the view as Stu fell back to earth but like a pro he landed on his feet

We said our goodbyes and headed out of the door back into the arcade as the radios tunes floated across the empty concourse. I was tempted to have a pint but Derek sensibly said he needed to get back for the kids.

Stirling City Radio is a wonderful station set up to serve the local community, it is a fair distance away from the bland automated ‘local’ stations we have on traditional frequency. The station gives local artists the chance to play to a broader audience, the music it plays is varied to try and  capture the ears of the Forth valley. Central FM used to do this before it was turned onto a bland franchise. Now motivated people like Stephen and Jim are staring up their own platforms (Tommy Clark’s Third Class Ticket is also a prime example) and the local music scene can only benefit. Tune in here and find out for yourself.

Pabs

 

Categories
Gigs

Gig Diary. Oxjam takeover Stirling, Kilted Kangaroo, 17/10/2015

Oxjam setlist 17/10/2015

Categories
Gigs solo

Pablo played the Tolbooth Stirling 3rd October 2015

The Tolbooth Stirling supporting JJ Gilmour Saturday 3rd October

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Oh the lights are Blue! (picture by Greg)

The nerves kicked in about lunch time as I walked along Blackness shore with Kirsty and my boy Lewis. What if I broke a strings? What if forgot the words or the chords. I looked over the river Forth; surrounded by the landscape that have provided much of the canvas for my music. I’m starting to hope that tonight will open new doors.

I kiss Kirsty goodbye, Lewis dropped off at his Grandmas (thanks!) and I walk to the train, guitar case in hand ready to catch the 5 past 5 to Stirling.

I crash down with all my gear onto a seat opposite a strange guy who looks half paranoid and half irritated. Eventually he relocates to a more comfortable seat. I turn to look out the window as the landscape rushes past. Alone with my thoughts its usually here I think of Weird Decibels. Before a gig the four of us are involved in some sort of banter; I haven’t played a lot of solo shows but this seems to be recurring thought.

The train wheels into Stirling; the city is bustling with people. I dodge through them and make the journey up the hill towards the Tolbooth. Eventually I reach the venue and I am greeted by Katie and her friendly colleague whose name has escaped me.

I’m lead to the dressing room; backstage there is a fridge with beer. Filtered coffee sits on a percolator and there is a box of curry. I head through to the stage.

I find JJ Gilmour on stage doing his sound check and Phil, his pianist, is in the seats listening to the performance. I’m delighted that the seats are out; it was the same set up used when I came here to see RM Hubbert.

JJ Patiently battles with a poor monitor sound that is eventually fixed by the sound engineers (who did a fantastic job for me). JJ is a perfectionist, he is clearly concerned about the on stage sound and you could tell he was thinking of the audience that would arrive later having paid money to see him.

Eventually the sound is settled; I sit back and listened to JJ and Phil play a few tunes which I really enjoyed. Its my turn to go up and sound check. Those nerves? Yeah they come storming back.

My sound check was terrible, I was all over the place. Usually with the band we settle our sound quickly and confidently hammer through our song. Solo? Much different. The silence of the room, every single string and every word sung is heard. It is a pressure I’m still getting used to. I regained my composure and for the first time I nervously asked the engineers to adjust my monitor sound. Suddenly I realised how important it is to nail your on stage sound. The guys could not have been more helpful; the sound was balanced and now the echo (or latency) from the back of the room was no longer putting me off. I strummed through a number of songs and my confidence grew.

Sound check concluded I stood with JJ and Phil; two cracking blokes who were happy to share stories to a guy who is interested to hear about their successful musical careers. Clearly they have had some amazing times with the Silencers and the many artists they have met along the way. The conversation turns to the present music industry. JJ is visibly frustrated at how musicians are treated these days, he explained that he had went to a TV station where musicians were playing.

(Not his exact words)The receptionist, paid, the guy who escorted me up to the studio, paid, the presenters, the sound engineers, the camera operators, paid. I look at the artists and they are the only people in the room who weren’t paid.

This struck a chord with me.

We all went back stage and had a blether about all things music; I found both JJ and Phil to be great company.

Time was flying and my stage time was approaching. I was escorted by a young stage hand awaiting instruction from the sound engineer; all very professional and certainly not what I’m used to!!

Set list

  1. I Had To Turn It Around

  2. What Are You Running From

  3. Looking From The Outside

  4. Awkward

  5. The Boxer

  6. Let Autumn and Winter Pass

  7. Hard Working Man

  8. Blue lights

The lights went out and I made my way towards the stage. I could feel the presence of the audience and I can’t remember if there was applause or silence. My nerves had really kicked in; I took a moment and lifted my father’s Takamine over my shoulder and stepped towards the mic.

I Had to Turn It Around is fairly easy to play and it went well. The applause was brilliant; I smiled, through the first song unscathed! I slowed things down with What are you Running From, my composure was now on and my confidence starting to rise. Looking from the Outside was fine, I think I hit a wrong note here but I carried on. I loved playing Awkward to an audience that listened to everything I played. Boxer went down well and I dedicated Autumn to Kirsty who had been joined by Lisa and Greg (thanks guys!).

Hard Working Man went the way I wanted; I slowed it right down at the end. The audience were very enthusiastic. I wasn’t used to this and I loved the experience. I went into Bluelights, the lights went blue (like that last time) a nice touch. This is a moment that will not leave me. Then there was the applause at the end, as a grass roots musician you wait for moments like this. I looked up to the lights, bowed, and left the stage.

Backstage JJ and Phil were sipping from what I was assured a nice red, a far cry from Buckfast! I cracked open one of our complementary Becks and took my place in the audience.

I liked their show, a really entertaining mixture of songs from the past and present. Halfway through the set JJ took the time to ask the audience to give me a round of applause; it was a nice touch, its been a while since I’ve been called ‘young Paul’! The stories were brilliant, then the sing along from JJ’s fans at the end was fantastic. I really enjoyable performance from them.

Afterwards, we stood at the merch stand. To top off a fantastic night I sold out my CD’s albeit with a little gentle recommendation from JJ. I signed some of the copies and spoke to some lovely people.

A once in a lifetime experience for me? I hope not!!

Thanks to

Kirsty, Greg, Lisa, Kenny, Katie, the sound team, the staff at Tolbooth and of course JJ and Phil.