Blue Sky Archives
Mike Hughes 19/07/2010
Blue Sky Archives are a new Scottish band occupying a nice bit of emotional space somewhere between the Phantom Band and Beach Club, with a strange soupcon of vintage Tom Petty in the phrasing of their track 'The Highest Of Fives'. These are all big recommendations in my book, and no bad place to be when you got vocals as beguiling as these guys, and such a wonderful leap of heart in your sound. So far they've only got a three track EP, but one which has some great lyricism. The voice lead is swapped around, Lauren on one, Paul on another, three voices on the third. That works really well. They're just getting starting recording the next EP, and I'm pretty much looking forward to that. Personally I've really only just started scratch the surface of new Scottish music and if this is any indication I'll keep mining the seam. I fully realise that in making that statement I'm pretty guilty of the sort of lazy generalisation that pees me off being from Wales and seeing the sort of lumping together that goes on there. But musical communities do rub off on each other, whether it's as literally as playing in the same clubs or something more subliminal.
Hey Blue Sky Archives, how are you guys doing?
Pete: Very well, thank you for asking, And you?
How new are you? There are clues, such as your myspace has been there for Mere months; has there been a longer gestation period or is it really all that recent?
Pete: Is this a philosophical question? Lauren and Paul were creating words and sounds before I joined, which was before Matt joined, which was before Ross joined. Let's just say we've been playing long enough to have a good idea of where we are going.
Lauren: We've only been going in this form since before Christmas, but managed to hit the ground running a bit. The fact that we'd prepped a bit and were able to start gigging with an EP to back it has been helpful. Got to have your guns blazing and all that...
I can see you've all got a bit of a history - a musical one I should say. Were you all on a break between bands, or were some of you lured away from other things to do this?
Pete: Some of us were on musical hiatae (the plural of 'hiatus'), some of us are still active. Ross and myself are still moonlighting under different guises.
Lauren: Paul, Matt and myself had all been out of our previous bands for a while, whereas Ross and Pete were keen to get involved in something different from their other bands. I think the fact that we've all come from quite diverse musical backgrounds has had an important impact on our 'sound', because there are so many different opinions and elements being thrown in. Plus, when people see the names Dead or American / Titus Gein / Holy Mountain in the blurb, they expect this band to be pretty hardcore and I enjoy that element of surprise...
How did it come about? Was there one person with a driving vision, then adverts in the window of Avalanche Records and auditions? Or something more organic than that?
Pete: I can't really speak with great authority on this, but I remember drunkenly talking to Paul about him jamming some songs he had with Lauren on drums, and in a moment of epiphany, threw my bass-playing hat into the ring.
After I had snuck into the organisation, it was a question of 'what do we need and who do we know?'.
Lauren: It was quite a piece-meal process. Both Paul and I were looking for new musicians to play with and we had a few rehearsal sessions with different people, seeing who fit and who didn't. When Ross joined to play 'percussion', it became clear that he was a far, far better drummer than I will ever be, and that my time would probably be better spent making up melodies and playing synth/additional percussion. At first I wasn't too sure but it seems to be working out alright!
What are you trying to do then, what's the purpose of Blue Sky Archives, what's it for?
Pete: Personally, it's a chance to play something with a bit more melody and thought, rather than letting loose with my top off. I think it would be fair to say that we all have the goal of making good, honest music that is hopefully as fun to listen to as it is to play.
Lauren: Although I've had fun playing more angular or obtuse music, I think there is always something to be said for a killer melody or some undeniable hooks. Most of the records I can listen to again and again and still keep going back to have those elements in them, so in this band, I was hoping to make something pure that has a lot of heart put into it. The day I found out that Paul and I both own Spend An Evening With Saddle Creek on DVD was the day I figured that it might be possible to make that sort of music in this band...
Do you think you've found your voice yet as a band?
Pete: I'd say we're 85.6% of the way there.
Lauren: It's still quite early days but hopefully we're getting there. The newer songs definitely have a more confident sound but we're still learning how to write together and how everybody else works best. We only started gigging properly in May, so we'll likely find our feet as we tour and play more shows.
So far I've heard one male vocal lead, one female and two shared (I think). I'm a total sucker for duets and shared vocals. Is that the way it's going to stay?
Pete: I hope so.
Lauren: I think we're all a sucker for a good bit of gang vocals but who isn't. In a live show especially, there's nothing better than tonnes of rhythms and massive harmonies. We have double drums live and three vocals, which makes it a bit more raucous than on recording. Pop music that's strapped on a pair... Having the different vocal options gives us a bit more scope so we'll hold on to that, but hopefully it won't end up like a Boyzone album or something, where the crappest singer gets one token track on the album to call his own, just for pity's sake.
Have you got more songs ready to go along with the four I've heard so far?
Pete: We're currently mixing another 3 songs we just finished recording for a second EP and have a fourth song in the bag for later release too.
I notice you call yourselves 'post-rock pop'. I also saw you caused some debate about whether or not you were 'folk' - actually your in good company with that one. Can the same music be trad folk or shoegaze simply by what instruments it's played on? Are you as confused as me as to what all these genre labels actually mean?
Lauren: I think genre is pretty subjective. It's helpful to categorise yourself so people know what other bands you would fit with on a bill or so an editor knows which reviewer to send your record to, but it can be quite limiting as well. 'Pop' especially can be sneered at, but I don't really see why it has to be a dirty word. We didn't really set out to play one thing or another. We're just kind of seeing how it develops as time goes on.
You guys are from Glasgow and Edinburgh is that right? Does location affect sound?
Pete: We all reside in Glasgow, but are all immigrants. Lauren and myself are from the Stirling area, Matt is a dirty Aberdonian, Paul fell to Earthin the dead of night and Ross was born across a great body of water.
Lauren: I don't really think that the specific city we live in has affected our sound in any particular way, especially since it's only our adopted home. Lyrically, I don't tend to write about my 'homeland' but our accents do naturally make it obvious where we come from. It's awful when bands ham up their accent and slather it all over the track, so I try not to do that, but still, better that having than a faux Tom Delong twang. Shudder.
I'm only just discovering more Scottish music. In my naive sort of way, I've got visions of one pub back room overseen by Gordon McIntyre and another one up the road in Fife where the Fence Collective hang out. Is there something you would recognise as a Scottish music scene? Put me out of my misery!
Pete: I point you in the direction of a recent Scotsman Radar piece about 'scenes'.
Lauren: I think there is a 'scene' is so far as there are certain promoters and collectives that have been involved with a number bands that have gone far in recent years but there is a lot ot be said for DIY as well. People like This Is Our Battlefield, Predestination Records and Song By Toad put on more off-kilter bands that might not get shows with the 'who you know' contingent, and it's pretty vital to have both sides.
What's next? Any plans to tour further or is the effort going into writing and recording at the moment?
Lauren: As Pete said, we're finishing up the next EP just now and will put that out later in the year. We'd like to come down to your neck of the woods this year too, if you know anyone that might be interested... (Wink wink, nudge nudge). I'm looking forward to writing more now that's we've found our groove a little, seeing how it's going to pan out from here.
In three months time when it's all going great guns, who would you like to be opening for? And in three years time when it's all been fabulous beyond your wildest dreams, who would you have opening for you? David Gray maybe?
Lauren: I would've loved to open for Quasi when they played in Glasgow... Something like that would be very cool, or Broken Social Scene (if they ever tour here...), Dirty Projectors, Cat Power, Jenny Lewis, Frightened Rabbit, My Morning Jacket, Yo La Tengo... I don't ask for much, as you can see...!
As for the hypothetical in three years time, it would be nice to give a small band like us a chance to play to a new crowd. Or an older artist who needed a second crack of the whip. I would say Whitney Houston, but I don't think that would fit, musically speaking. And it seems inappropriate, given my use of the word 'crack'. Oh, dear.
What's with the "Dear middle-aged ponytail..." reference on your myspace? Thinking of someone in particular?
Lauren: It's the name of a track which will be on the next EP. The song names never really seem to relate to the actual lyrics/content of the song itself, but this one is the beginning of a hypothetical letter to a record label exec. No one in particular, of course! If we ever do get signed, I pray the person that does it has a sweet Sergio Romero-style ponytail, for irony's sake. We wouldn't be so glib then, I'm sure.
What were you hoping I'd ask but didn't? So tell me....
This resulted in some musings about the state of (un)dress of certain male members of the band so we'll leave it there I guess. Personally I'm looking forward to seeing where they move to on their next EP, and the chance to catch them live looks like it would be well worth the effort