Scottish Music In 2014 (Part 1)


Scotland is set for a big year. In more ways than one. While this year holds the potential for a dramatic political shift, 2014 will also see the Commonwealth Games, the MTV Europe Music Awards and the Ryder Cup grace our shores, not to mention the annual supersize open-soiree that is the Edinburgh Festival.

Geographically, the nation may be insignificant but Scotland has an extremely impressive cultural imprint. Its film and book festivals are swelling, VisitScotland have just announced a muscular Homecoming Campaign to augment tourism and festivals and events are popping up across our shores like fondly-watered flowers.

Musically, it has never been healthier. Last year, goNORTH boasted an array of illustrious industry figures, surprising given its relatively small size. Seminar-cum-talent-showcase Wide Days continues to swell, and a teeming Celtic Connections is currently overflowing the city of Glasgow with an eclectic range of musicians both from native soil and lands beyond.

Not forgetting the implementation of the world class SSE Hydro and T in the Park gaining a late 1am license, which opens the doors for future headliners of the highest possible calibre (irrespective of whether you love them or loathe them)

In the first of two articles – and with the enlisted help of a few figures from within the Scottish music industry – Harris Brine takes a look at what’s in store in the next twelve months…

January – The groves of Academe at Celtic Connections…

Glasgow may be a city long renowned for its academic strength and accomplished creative output, but at the front door of each year, in January, the city becomes an even larger soup of creativity, thanks to Celtic Connections.

The festival brings in an incredible 2000 artists from all across the world. From the Calcutta slums to the nearly inaccessible deserts of Mali, artists converge Clyde-side to showcase their ability.

Yet Scotland’s aural lineage is still vastly represented, and on Sun 26 Jan, Olive Grove Records will share their full roster of musical alumni to an audience at the Oran Mor.

Chaired by two music devotees – Halina Rifai (Glasgow PodcART) and Lloyd Meredith (Peenko) – Olive Grove is an independent DIY label which promises to give all profits to their artists, which includes Jo Mango, The State Broadcasters, Woodenbox, The Moth & The Mirror and more recently, Inverness’ Call To Mind.

“It’s the first time we’ve done something of this size,” says Rifai. “Lloyd pitched and landed this. He’s worked very hard with the whole event.

Though currently their roster is small, Rifai sees the show as the perfect opportunity to help Olive Grove gain new admirers:

“I think it is significant for us this year, as it really does feel like we are showing Scotland and a wider audience what an incredible and diverse roster we have. Celtic Connections is the perfect event for us to show we have a collective worthy of matching the big guns.”

Halina Rifai, Olive Grove Records

The Olive Grove Records showcase takes place at the Oran Mor on Sun 26 January. Line up and tickets here.

February  Sit on the Fence as Fence Records turns 20…

For all the dispute and differences of the split between King Creosote and The Pictish Trail, it seems the decision to dissolve Fence Records will benefit both individuals. As Pictish Trail, named by his mother Johnny Lynch, careers ahead on a fruitful path with Lost Map, King Creosote look set on continuing his startlingly prolific musical output (a half-century of albums is testament to that).

Recently insisting to The Scotsman that Fence will live on, new projects for the label are abound in 2014, the year of the label’s 20th anniversary. The previous twelve months had Creosote unfurl That Might Be It, Darling through Domino Records, Sure and Steadfast through his Alter Ego Trading Company, and the collaborative release of Experimental Batch #26 through Chemikal Underground, which was underwhelming only in its public reception. He even turned up on one of 2013’s best albums, Jon Hopkin’s Immunity, amongst several other creative bursts.

February is sandwiched in between January’s Anstruther Improvements Association and Easter’s Yellae Deuks, both performance events Creosote will be involved in (on Fence’ website the rubber ducky-emblemed latter is ambiguous as they come).

While it’s unsure exactly how Creosote will pursue Fence’s future (with regards to other artists), we can bet this year will be decorated with exciting material from the man himself. He confirmed to The Herald that he’s already got “three albums ready to go, as well as pebbles of events and collaborations. Oh, and there’s the little matter of a follow-up LP to  Diamond Mine, 2011’s Mercury Prize-nominated triumphant venture with Jon Hopkins.

Fence Records updates can be found here.

March  The Scottish Alternative Music Awards. Place your bets now…

Five years ago, in the innocent times before Twerkgate, a budding entrepreneur watched on at the MTV European Music Awards in Berlin, as plaudits flew around for the late Michael Jackson. Immersed in the glitz, glamour and gongs, an idea suddenly popped into his head.

Only twelve months later, Richy Muirhead was in Glasgow’s Classic Grand, handing over awards to Trapped in Kansas and The LaFontaines for Best Rock and Best Live Act respectively, having initiated his very own Scottish Alternative Music Awards.

The Awards ceremony has since went to become immensely successful, with last year’s event reigning in over 25,000 public votes, as well as luring well-known music industry figures to help hand over to bands their new temporary titles.

In the same year that Glasgow hosts the MTV European Music Awards, the fifth SAMAs will take place in the city on 7 March at the Garage, and will again be compered by comedian Billy Kirkwood.

“The SAMAs have provided a platform for Scottish acts to progress and gain recognition from industry figures, and develop new audience and fan bases, Muirhead notes. “Some previous winners include the likes of The Lafontaines, Fatherson and We Were Promised Jetpacks.

Muirhead may still be tight-lipped to what groups are set to be in contention, but he’s adamant his idea can only keep on growing in size:

“2014 is set to be a huge year for Glasgow with the Commonwealth Games and MTV EMAs being hosted… March 7th will be no different.

The SAMAs takes place on Thursday 7 March. Tickets can be bought here.

April  Music Journalism: Don’t Forget To Write…

If anyone can conjure up a witty pun for the name of their event, it must surely be writers. Fortunately, they have, and the AyeWrite! book festival takes place in April in Glasgow.

The event’s new programmer, Stuart Kelly, is a writer, critic, and journalist and one of the Booker Prize judges, so the festival’s in competent hands indeed.

Renowned Scottish novelists Louise Welsh, Alasdair Gray, A.L Kennedy and Christopher Brookmyre made an appearance at last year’s event, and double TS Eliot Prize-winning poet Don Paterson was also lured. You can expect next year’s AyeWrite! to feature some very talented artists, both Scottish and not.

However, its purpose is to get people reading and writing as much as possible, and with music journalism in mind, we’ve asked one of the country’s leading music journalists, Nick Mitchell, for his advice and pointers.

With the aim of increasing more coverage of new music in Scotland, Mitchell set up the Radar music blog in 2009 while working on the digital desk of The Scotsman. He is now Content Manager at the new listings website and continues to edit Radar.

Here Mitchell provides his five top tips for budding music scribes, ones to help get those skills and pencils sharpened and those imaginations ignited…

  1. Don’t use a word just to show off. If there’s a simpler word with the same sense, use it. Make sure your writing is accessible. If in doubt, read it back to yourself aloud.
  2. Avoid cliché. It’s not always easy – in fact it’s usually bloody difficult – to describe music in words. But don’t be tempted to fall back on a cliché, just because the right phrase eludes you. Go off, make a coffee, and come back to it for a fresh attack.
  3. Have the courage of your conviction. Don’t be afraid of your own opinions. Don’t hedge your bets and use words like ‘somewhat’, ‘rather’ or ‘quite’. As long as you back up your views with evidence, no one can claim that they’re invalid or misguided. Critically, resist the temptation to go with the crowd, or heap praise on the new buzz band just because they’re the new buzz band.
  4. Read the best music writers. Discover writers you respect and take note of the craft, technique and tone of their writing. What makes them so convincing, enlightening or just enjoyable to read?
  5. Surround yourself with music. Go to gigs regularly, listen to albums repeatedly, and read music books, magazines and blogs.

AyeWrite! Glasgow Book Festival takes place in the city’s Mitchell Library from 4 – 12 April. Details and tickets here.


May – The Art of the Craft: Brew at the Bog…

Aberdeen. Edinburgh. Glasgow. London. There’s even an unofficial one in China. If you’re wondering what we’re on earth we’re yabbering on about, these destinations are where maverick purveyors of beer Brewdog have set up camp.

When they’re not stirring the pot with Tennents or making the world’s strongest (and most bizarre/dizzying) beers, Brewdog like to contribute to Scottish music. They’ve opted to put their name to Northern Roots Events’ festival Brew at the Bog, a bash homed on Roots’ 19th century venue, the pastoral Bogbain Farm. Though all financial risk lies with them, Northern Roots say they are absolutely delighted with having Brewdog on board.

If you’re thirsty for the well known headliners, then you’ve got King Creosote, The Pictish Trail, Roddy Woomble, Kid Canaveral, Stanley Odd and Miaoux Miaoux to whet your tastebuds. If you’re more inclined to catch acts well before they start demanding riders the size of Bredog’s savings account, then there’s a whole gantry of them too, including Casual Sex, Atom Tree, Roman Nose and Machines in Heaven. All for less than a night out at, erm, Brewdog. Tickets only £35.

It’s incredible to think that, given its impressive line up, the festival didn’t even exist two years ago. Saying that, Brewdog didn’t even exist seven years ago (The Sunday Times recently named them the fastest growing food and drink company in the UK ). God knows what this’ll be like in five years time.

Details and tickets for Brew at the Bog can be found here.

June  Having their SAY… Embracing the soothsayers and naysayers…

The coming year will surely see many excellent Scottish albums delivered through our letterboxes/downloaded onto our hard drives. Patience will be needed, but reassuringly among the throng are PAWS’ sophomore Youth Culture Forever (May), Young Father’s debut Dead (February), Gods from Withered Hand (March) and Honeyblood, Rustie, Casual Sex and The Twilight Sad confirming studio time but no specific release dates as of yet.

However, in July we will cast our eyes back at the previous year, as the judges and public will vote to decide who’ll be enthroned as creators of the Scottish Album of the Year.

2013 was decorated with delightful albums, including Quickbeam, Adam Stafford, The Pictish Trail and There Will Be Fireworks, not forgetting the surprise of Boards of Canada’s Tomorrow Harvest. Chemikal Underground have represented the last two year’s winners, and could well see another after 2013 welcomed strong material from the label’s trio of RM Hubbert, Conquering Animal Sound and Rick Redbeard, the latter most likely being amongst the frontrunners, given the intense admiration it’s received.

Lest not we forget Hirta Songs, an exemplary meshing of poetry and song from Alasdair Roberts and the astoundingly talented Scottish poet Robin Robertson.

With the rewards now flying in for Biffy and Frightened Rabbit’s decade of blood, sweat and tears pitted against the CHVRCHES’ rags-to-riches 2013 tale, that all three released commercially successful albums well worthy of contention might mean an elimination of the naysayers’ argument against Calvin Harris and Emeli Sande’s inclusion for last year’s merits. Then again… It probably won’t.

The SAY Award takes place at the Barrowland Ballroom on Thursday 19 June. You can submit an album here. Photos of 2013 SAY Award winner RM Hubbert in session with National Collective can be seen here.

Harris Brine
National Collective

Photograph by davidjlee.


About Harris Brine

Harris is a Glasgow-based freelance writer who's had articles published in major media publications, although he's yet not sure how or why. He's also terrified of losing his British passport, having done so twice before in taxis, but hopes next year will welcome the old idiom of 'third time lucky'.