The Primitives, The Pooh Sticks, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Love Is All, Be Like Pablo - Indietracks 2010 Ain’t Noise Pollution

Dan Round 02/06/2010

'Indietracks 2010 Ain't Noise Pollution': festival preview and exclusive interview with curator Stuart Mackay -

“I'm delighted, not just by the audience numbers but by the reputation it seems to have.” Stuart Mackay is a content man. The creator, main organiser and general lynchpin of Indietracks festival has seen his baby grow from a twee experiment in a railway to become one of the most highly respected, unique festivals on the British music calendar in just three years. The first mini-festival in April 2007, with the brilliant Pocketbooks and Slow Down Tallahassee, was just a single day affair at the Midland Railway in rural Butterley, but with tickets all sold out 3 months prior to the all-dayer, the demand for a good festival specialising in proper 'indiepop' was clearly huge. Since the first Indietracks summer festival in 2007 (just 12 weeks on from its springtime conception), the festival has gone on to attract big hitters such as The Wedding Present, Camera Obscura and Teenage Fanclub, as well as playing a vital part in introducing the likes of The Voluntary Butler Scheme, The Lodger and Emmy The Great to wider audiences.

The relentless assault of renewed indiepop shows no sign of waning. Now across three days instead of two for the first time, the festival boasts a diverse set of headliners, differing in age and in style. This year, two recently reformed 80s UK indie pioneers The Primitives and The Pooh Sticks compete at the top of the bill alongside New York newbies The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and experimental Scandinavian troupe Love Is All, making the festival both more wide-ranging and relevant than ever before. Mackay insists however that the generational mix is not an intentional ploy. He told me that “people have picked up that we have old and new bands headlining but it's not planned that way, it just seems to happen. I suppose it reaches out to different generations who no longer keep up to date with the current scene but have a soft spot for the bands from their youth.” With Indietracks pulling in bands old and new, and thus festival-goers of 'experience' as well as youth, the genuinely varied crowd and the very different atmosphere it achieves (both at the festival site and the nearby camping and caravan park) is one of the many reasons Indietracks stands out on its own from other festivals on the circuit. Through attracting established bands old and new as well as promoting unsigned acts, Indietracks is a cohesive festival with a great balance of bands. Of the new bands Indietracks prides itself on giving plenty of stage time to, Mackay tips God Is In The TV readers to “pay close attention to Be Like Pablo”, but he revealed that he too is anticipating some great new surprises this year as he hasn't been as involved with the selection of new and unsigned bands as in previous years.

^ L: The Indietracks train a-chuggin'; R: revellers enjoying themselves in the sun at the 2009 festival.

The odd combination of rock music and heritage trains is another factor that sets Indietracks apart from the other more conventional festivals. With the festival based in a 1950s Midland Railway station, I wanted to quiz Mackay about the unique surroundings Indietracks has been born into. Mackay told me that the Midland Railway in Butterley, Derbyshire was “the easiest place to do it as I was working there at the time of the first event so I knew the site and management well enough to attempt it. There's many, many other heritage railways about the UK, but few have the space to set up something like this.” He also revealed how he had “done a little show one night on the station platform at Butterley which was hugely successful, and wanted to try something bigger.” Mackay does have a slight vested interest in railways, though, admitting to me he was a bit of a trainspotter “many years ago”, and with a full-time job restoring trains he even has a train book published! Not a novice, then. Though the wonderful site is a massive contributor towards Indietracks' distinctive identity and its success, it does have its drawbacks, with Mackay claiming the festival is “restricted by the site size, so it certainly won't grow much more.” That hasn't stopped the festival bolster itself in the past though, with the addition of a proper, large outside stage adding to the popular railway venues, the restored church, and the trains and tents that so many bands have played in. For weary festival-goers' hungry bellies, extra catering has also been added over the past three festivals. However, there is one possible future (re)addition, never to be ruled out by Mackay - “we never repeated the bouncy castle we had in 2007... maybe someday!” The festival's initiative of raising money for the Midland Railway Trust, which funds the railway site, has been highly successful since 2007 and Mackay remains upbeat despite the recession - “with ticket sales we're doing well so far, but we've a few weeks to go. In general though, most heritage railways in the UK have been doing better with visitor numbers, as people seem to be staying in the UK rather than going abroad.” So, fortunately, the economic doom and gloom of recent times isn't quite as sorely felt by the Indietracks team and the Trust. Indiepop and old steam trains are just too much fun for all those woes, I guess.

For Stuart Mackay, the madness of running and organising a festival means that it isn't until all is packed away and the roadies have said 'bye' that he finally gets a slice of fun - a heap of reviews to read! “The weekend itself is just hectic, unwinding afterwards and finding what people really thought makes it all worthwhile.” He even confessed: “I've given up on expecting to watch any bands. I'd be grateful for a glimpse at anyone.” Surprises are, however, something even the organisers can enjoy, like the acoustic quasi-reformation of seminal twee pop band Talulah Gosh in a small tent last year. “Planned surprises aren't our thing” Mackay divulged, “although hopefully there'll still be nice ones that just happen, like Talulah Gosh last year.” So, even the organiser doesn't quite know what surprises will be masterminded at Indietracks this year - making it all the more exciting. As well as hoping for a 'Talulah Gosh moment' for 2010, Mackay will also be hoping for another 'La Caza Azul moment'. When I asked him who his favourite headliner was from past Indietracks, he replied: “Although officially Camera Obscura were our Saturday headliner last year they took an earlier slot to allow La Caza Azul to close so the effects would show up better in the dark, and that was probably the performance that most people will talk about the most in years to come.” Mackay was clearly thrilled by the rapturous reception the eccentric Spanish retro-pop band had, revealing “people that weren't expecting much were kinda blown away by it, and in the festival awards it won the critics' choice award, beating much more established acts such as Pet Shop Boys, The Prodigy and ZZ Top!”.

Another very special aspect of Indietracks is the complete adoration of the bands towards the festival itself. Though there are no 'house bands' as such, many acts just keep on returning to the heart of the idyllic Derbyshire countryside to play at the UK's top indie music event. Several acts on the lineup this year - namely Ballboy and Allo' Darlin' - have played at the festival before, with Mackay jesting that “bands certainly do seem to love playing, but it's hard trying to fight them off when they all want to come back and play again!” On potential future headliners, firmly stamped on his festival's very secret wish list, Mackay hinted there are plenty of legendary 80s/90s indie bands he would love to see play at the festival at some point in the future - but he remained tight-lipped on who he so desperately wants to perform. Indicating that Indietracks may choose to drop the bigger names or take a well-deserved year off in 2011 (“we keep talking about sticking with smaller bands which would make it much easier to organise, or we may even have a year off next year”), Mackay also insisted the festival will rise to the challenge of revamping the event in the future, and speculated about what the coming years hold for Indietracks: “I would like do something different and more challenging. So who knows?”

This year's predicted Indian summer bodes well for the festival, which in 2009 had the first splash of rain since its inception (Mackay: “lucky really, just one day of rain in three years”). Though Indietacks is a summer festival that seems especially harmonious in the sun, what with its joyous twee music and quaint surroundings, whatever the weather it is set to be bigger than ever in 2010 across three days and with its largest lineup yet (around 50 bands plus several DJs). Once again, Indietracks is the dark horse of this year's festivals. It is the most colourful, individualistic new music event we have to offer.

^ Au Revoir Simone, outside at Indietracks 2009.

Key Bands:

The Primitives - Originally formed in 1985, the halcyon days of The Primitives' 7 year tenure as a genuinely chart-bothering indie band - “Crash” made the UK top 5 in 1988 - were relived last October when they reformed to play shows in London and their hometown of Coventry. This year they're back again, not only for Indietracks but also for other shows in the UK and the US as well. Expect a 'best of' or hits set at the festival, and the usual dynamism that hasn't eased an inch since they first split in 1992.

- Listen to - “Crash”, “Secrets”, “Summer Rain”.

- For further info. - www.crashsite.org

The Pooh Sticks - Reforming exclusively to play at Indietracks after a 15 year absence, The Pooh Sticks will bring their brand of fiery, tongue-in-cheek indie pollution to Butterley and a new, highly expectant crowd. Fitting in with the theme of the festival, the Sticks will more than likely focus on their early material of short, sharp indiepop songs as opposed to the US rock influenced sound of their later period. Their set should prove to be momentous.

- Listen to - “Indiepop Ain't Noise Pollution”, “I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well”, “Teenage High”.

- For further info. - http://thepoohsticks.tripod.com

Love Is All - A persistent bunch, Love Is All have spent the past half-decade succeeding in overcoming the shadow of Girlfrendo, the critically acclaimed former band of 3-out-of-5 members of Love Is All. Over the course of 3 albums (the latest of which was described by Drowned In Sound as a “master class in yearning”), Love Is All have pushed indiepop to brave new worlds by embracing schizophrenic punk guitars, rampant saxophones and syncopated dance rhythms. Their set at Indietracks will undoubtedly be one of the loudest of the weekend.

- Listen to - “Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up”, “Wishing Well”, “Felt Tip”.

- For further info. - www.love-is-all.com

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Anglophiles and worshippers of My Bloody Valentine, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have simply exploded in the UK over the past 18 months, with their eponymous debut album being lauded to no end in the British music press. Though they should find comfort in the twee surroundings Indietracks will provide, a headline slot at a music festival will nevertheless be a big deal for a band that is only three years old (the same age as Indietracks, incidentally).

- Listen to - “Young Adult Friction”, “This Love Is Fucking Right”, “Come Saturday”.

- For further info. - http://www.thepainsofbeingpureatheart.com

Ballboy - With four albums under their belt, Indietracks alumni Ballboy are back once more with their abrasive and fervent style of indie rock. The Scottish group's knack for melody coupled with the luxury of being able to dig into a deep back catalogue of songs will put them in good stead for the 2010 festival, as they aim to top their acclaimed appearance at Indietracks in 2008.

- Listen to - “Avant Garde Music”, “I Lost You But I Found Country Music”, “The Art Of Kissing”.

- For further info. - www.ballboymusic.com

Be Like Pablo - The main man's main tip are a vibrant bunch. Another Scottish ensemble, Be Like Pablo mix pretty boy/girl harmonies with accents, gritty guitars and retro synths. The band pack their live sets full of sweet but sharp power-pop, and will definitely be ripe for the Indietracks crowd as Stuart Mackay recommends.

- Listen to - “Julianne”, “The Post-It Song”, “Oh, Emily!”

- For further info. - www.myspace.com/belikepablo

Some more must sees - Allo' Darlin', The Blanche Hudson Weekend (with 2 former members of The Manhattan Love Suicides), Cineplexx, MJ Hibbett & the Validators (“Remember the lesson of The Smiths / Just because a bunch of wankers like it doesn't mean that it's shit”), The Orchids, Slow Club, David Tattersall (frontman of The Wave Pictures, acoustic), Veronica Falls.

^ 'Rookies and old-timers of Indie' - L: Hotly tipped new band Be Like Pablo; R: The newly reformed Pooh Sticks.

- Indietracks festival takes place from Friday 23rd July to Sunday 25th July at the Midland Railway Centre, Butterley (near Ripley), Derbyshire.

- Tickets are available at 60 for the whole weekend or 32.50 for a day (Sat/Sun only) from http://www.indietracks.co.uk/tickets.html

- Accommodation is available at the nearby Golden Valley Camping and Caravan Park and various local B&Bs (see http://www.indietracks.co.uk/accommodation.html)

- For info. about the Midland Railway go to http://www.midlandrailwaycentre.co.uk

- For news about the festival and exclusive interviews with the bands, follow the wonderful Indietracks blog at http://indietracksblog.blogspot.com

…and remember the wise words of The Pooh Sticks, circa 1988: Indiepop Ain't Noise Pollution.