With your headphones on

It’s all too easy to sit and moan. Don’t I know it! Those quiet moments, the lulls in conversion, I can feel my brain racing around to try and find something to fill that gap, and more often than not its a complaint, an annoyance, a gripe.

I try to tell myself that moaning comes from caring – that caring about something naturally means that anything that is in any way in opposition to that naturally becomes your enemy. The moans are borne of love, I argue, borne of frustration that that thing I care for is being starved of attention, that other things are getting between it and me (whatever that “it” is at that particular moment).

Total bollocks.

I moan because some things annoy me. I moan because I annoy me and so I look to fault in others to make myself feel better. I moan because detachment is cool. I moan because everyone does and it would be weird not to.

Negativity is here to stay. You cannot be in any way an active participant in any society or culture and not find something to moan about. Have you ever watched the news or read a newspaper? Its horrible out there!

Phil Ochs, who might be my favourite singer, wrote a beautiful song called Flower Lady, about how we all get distracted from the beauty in the world and allow all the petty crap, and unpetty crap, get in the way of what really matters.

Its all too easy. I tell myself that there are lovely things, things that seem so silly when you write them down, but they are as much a part of life as anything else and they matter – songs, stories, cuddles, handclaps, babies sleeping, kittens mewing, birds swooping, flowers growing – its all real, its all lovely.

Does that loveliness really redress the balance of the horrors of Isis? Or does it just distract us from it? “Dull the pain of living” as Phil put it.

I dunno. I really don’t. I am gonna moan about it, no point pretending otherwise. I’m gonna moan about all sorts of stuff. But I’m not just gonna moan. I’m gonna try and enjoy some stuff too.

The first time I felt like my life was falling apart Belle and Sebastian saved me. Really now. Dramatic though that sounds, its more or less true.

This last time they didn’t save me. But they helped me save myself.

This song doesn’t make up for all the utter rubbishness of the world. But it is absolutely lovely all the same. Sometimes that is all we can ask for.

 

 

Huw x

It’s been a long time (baby)

150720141148Blimey! Ok, so it has been a while since writing anything here.

Hang while I think of a suitable excuse…erm…err…Nah. I’m just lazy I guess.

Which isn’t to say there hasn’t been anything worth writing about!

There was the World Cup for a start! Well done Germany. Totally deserved. England were pretty damn rubbish though. Boo to them. We didn’t complete the sticker book either. Boo to us.

We did another Lovelypool! Yes we did. It was The Swapsies first gig with Matt on bass. It could hardly have gone any better.

The Wednesday after I went to Glasgow to see my favourite band in the whole history of the wide world. Glasgow was all geared up for the Commonwealth Games and in the midst of all that Belle and Sebastian created a little oasis of Loveliness, right in the midst of Kelvingrove Park. I got there proper early and listened out for the soundcheck wafting across the park looking out for others doing the same whilst pretending to read my book. I got chatting to a kid from Edinburgh for whom this would be his first Bellies gig. He was suitably excited. He was really nice. Less nice was seeing an ex-girlfriend in the crowd. I was wondering whether I should say hello or pretend I hadn’t seen her when she walked past and totally ignored me! How dare she ignore me before I got the chance to ignore her first!

230720141210Needless to say the gig was incredible. The next day I wandered the West End of Glasgow, keeping in mind that the next time I visit it may be a city in an independent Scotland (fat chance). Feeling not so old and feeling quite free and cheeky, for a few moments I stood and watched the Barbadian lawn bowls team and wondered if it was going to rain before realising that I didn’t care if it did. “Let it come down” as Banquo’s murderer said. Though I doubt he was watching Lawn Bowls at the time.

And to bookend a fab week we played Indietracks. Yes. We did. Elaine, Andy and Sean had been there since Friday but on the Sunday morning my mum and dad picked up me and Matt from my flat and off we went. Matt had worked late the night before and tried to get some sleep until we got suitably lost and he had to come to our rescue.

It was a bit daft that we were only there for a day. It was such a lovely day. I’d never been to a music festival before and while Indietracks may be a somewhat atypical one, I still feel silly. We sang our songs then basked in the loveliness. The high point was The Wendy Darlings. Absolutely wonderful. That the day ended with the Hidden Cameras and its wasn’t the high point perhaps tells its own story. It was lovely to be there, but to feel a part of it…well, that’s something else. We really should write about it properly sometime.

Indietracks FLICKR

I found this photo on the internet. I don’t know who took it. That’s me and Andy there. It’s very nice I think.

The low point was not being able to see The Thyme Machine. Like a twonk I’d dismissed them as a novelty band when I first heard about them. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong! I went to buy some of their CDs in the merch tent but they were sold out! (Prior to this I overheard Kriss telling a potential customer “If you like music I wouldn’t buy this one…”) Kriss (lovely Kriss) said he’d send me some in the post. What he did was sent me ALL of their CDs in the post. And some football figures. Man.

I went to see them in Lancaster a couple of weeks ago. They were fab, swoonsome and lovely. I plan to write a proper thing about them soon. I’m so glad I found them.

Another thing I found this summer was Mitch Hedberg. He is a man not a thing though. And was a man too, cos he died. The point is that he made some of the loveliest, funniest, most gently silly comedy I have ever heard. I have something of a phobia of standup comedy – too much swearing and banality. Ok I guess Mitch swears too much and some of it might be considered banal, but under all that is total, unashamed cuteness.

BIGHEADSWe’ve played another gig since then too!

We supported Silent Sleep at Leaf on Bold Street in Liverpool. The last time we played Leaf it was real turning point. It was that gig that made us realise we needed a Matt. So we went out and found one. He has made us better for sure and more fun.

I nearly managed to mess us up by feeling not very well. Which was my own fault cos I dealt with the usual pre-gig nerves by not eating. Feeling woozy I went at it, singing and strumming and wondering why everything looked a bit lopsided. It was nice anyway.

Also on the bill were a surfey duo called Beach Skulls. We tried to figure out the singers accent. It sounded oddly North American. “Swedish!?” was my guess. Turns out he puts on a funny accent for stage talk and is actually from Widnes! (or maybe St Helens. One of those Rugby League towns anyway). Ha!

I can’t think of anything I’m less suited to than standing up in front of a crowd of people and trying to “entertain” them, but somehow I do it. And that “somehow” is Andy, Matt, Elaine and Sean. I’m terribly lucky.

I think that’s everything.

It’s Halloween today. Any excuse for a bit of Zombina.

Huw x

Stickerbook Angel

We are a couple of months away from the football World Cup and therefore we are deep into sticker book territory. Sticker books are a bit like normal books except that you buy all the pictures sperately and stick them in yourself. They are a big fat waste of money and I love them. I wrote a thing about them a couple of years ago that I never used. It’s never been more true. Huw x

Stick

A bus to take me home

A Bus To Take Me Home

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Patrik Fitzgerald could have been Billy Bragg. He said it himself. Instead he isn’t.  He’s someone else entirely. He did though write a song that may or may not contain the line “all I want from life is a bus to take me home”. I’m forever mishearing lyrics so it might be something quite else. All the same it’s a line that has stuck with me ever since I’ve heard it. Listen for yourself – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzbXmzgw3cQ

I was reminded of this when I was in a party. “All I want from life is a bus to take me home”. Need I add that I don’t like parties?

What I do like however is home. Specifically my own home. Having a home is probably my favourite thing. Actually cheese on toast is my favourite thing and my grill is broken, but after cheese on toast my home is my favourite thing.

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The bus that takes me home is the 82. It was the same bus that took Paul McCartney home when he was in school. I take no little enjoyment from that fact. There’s an unbelievably amazing song by Jam on Bread called ‘It’s Always Sunny Inside’ about how staying in is ace cos (unless you live is a terrible dump) inside your home should have everything you need. Mine does! It has my records and books and bath and food and, when I’m lucky and she’s in, my lovely girl.

But home isn’t just a collection of things in a place; it’s a feeling that you can find anywhere you feel love, kindness and welcome. It’s in the smile of a stranger on the bus.  It’s in the cup of tea placed gently in front of you. It’s in the look your mate gives me when Wales have conceded another try.  It’s in the purr of a happy cat, the smile of a contented baby and the cuddle of an unwelcome goodbye.

You know where else it is? It’s in the songs that you love. Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel lasts the walk from Birkenhead Central to Prenton Park almost exactly. And when that walk is dark and cold and lonely it’s the best friend you’ve ever had. When my life was falling apart and I didn’t have a home to go home to anymore Belle and Sebastian released The Life Pursuit and it kept me company and kept me going. And though I’m in a nice place now it still gives me that feeling. It’s the same feeling as getting into a bath that’s just the right temperature.

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The word I’m groping towards here is probably cosy. Katie uses it a lot. “Are you ok?” I ask her. “Yeah, I’m cosy” she says and I know that she is ok. I have lost excitement somewhere along the line. I don’t know what it is nor why I should want it. But cosy! Cosy I know and understand and yearn for. I don’t know if that’s an uncool thing to bang on about. I don’t care quite frankly.

Sometimes I leave my home. Usually because I have to. Sometimes because I want to. And all I ever look for is the very thing that I’ve left behind. But if I’m lucky I see little reminders everywhere. Reminders that everything is going to be alright. Look carefully and you might see them too.

Huw x

Sparrows and Swapsies

I wouldn’t say I’m much of a bird watcher but I do like to think I know a sparrow when I see one. After all I wouldn’t want to think that my membership to the Young Ornithologist Club – or YOC to those in the know – when I was 9 years old was for nought. And so, on my first ever holiday in New York the Spring before last, I recognised dozens of these familiar feathered fellas among the bright scarlet cardinals and oversized American robins in Central Park. I wondered if they were the same bird as the ones that would nest in the garden of the house I grew up in?

I had one of these amazing badges

I had one of these amazing badges

When I got back to the UK I did what all the cool kids would do and searched ‘New York Sparrows’ on the Internet. It brought up a page from the New York Parks and Recreation Department website which told me that, not only were New York’s house sparrows introduced from England; they’d come on a ship from Liverpool! All of the millions of sparrows in America  descend from these original migrants.

That gave me enough of an incentive to write a song  which we played at a show in the Scandinavian Church just over 12 months ago. I tried to introduce it by telling the story behind the song but made a right mess of it (I hate to break any illusion you might have if you’ve never seen us live, our on stage ‘banter’ is limited at best!) We put the song to bed for a little while…

In June, we played a gig where Stef Bradley had her Best Pressed zine distro stall. Me and Huw both bought a few zines including some Young Explorer ones. I got a mini-zine about owls called ‘What a Hoot!’ which is pretty amazing. I think Stef told Liz and Steve that we’d bought some of their stuff and they started following us on Twitter (thanks Stef!). We followed them back and exchanged tweets of mutual admiration (hurrah!) and I offered to send them a zine we’d made a few years ago (its at the bottom of the page if you click this link). I said in passing to Huw, wouldn’t it be lovely if there was a zine that told the sparrows story in our song (so I didn’t have to try to do it onstage) that was as ace as Young Explorer’s owl one? He reckoned there was no harm in asking (he was right of course) so I posted off a copy of that Autumn EP zine and a good old-fashioned letter pitching the idea to find out whether they were interested. When their letter of reply came with a copy of their new zine with different types of cheese on the cover I knew we’d get along well! They were up for the collaboration, we met a few times over tea and cake, and here we are a few months later with the Feathered Migrants zine and a 4 track EP to go with it!

We went from making plans like this...

We went from making plans like this…

Sparrows 2

… to having finished things like this!

We had a couple of songs for the EP already which we had recorded as part of Mello Mello’s fundraising drive (Mello Mello was the first place we ever booked a rehearsal room to practice with amps and microphones!) and Elaine recorded a couple more for us including our song about those New York sparrows. My friend Sara even contributed some Central Park sound effects while she was on the other side of the Atlantic. We pinched Liz’s beautiful illustration for our cover and got 100 CDs made. We’re really pleased with how it’s turned out and we were blown away by how great the zine is too! We reckon it makes for a pretty little package whether you’re ornithologically-minded or not!

Sparrows BundleYou can have a listen to the EP on our bandcamp page here – http://theswapsies.bandcamp.com/album/sparrows-ep – and buy the CD and zine bundle here: http://theswapsies.bandcamp.com/merch

Or you can come to our launch event at 81 Renshaw Street on Thursday 12th December and get your CD and zine there! We’ll have some to sell at our gig in Sheffield too.

Sparrows Launch Poster

We hope you like them!

Andy

x

P.S. Young Explorer have a stall at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall Winter Arts Market on Saturday 7th December so if you’re around, go and say hello and get some Christmas shopping done!

A Sunday Wasting

031It’s November, the sun is shining. I have a cold that can’t make up it’s mind. I make up mine. I’m going to make a cup of tea and play some records.

I feel something of an emotional wreck after a Saturday spent watching from my sofa as first Tranmere scored a last minute winner at Accrington only for Wales to do their losing to South Africa thing. I sit by my records looking for something to soothe, cajole, sympathise, whatever, anything, anything, anything…

I find songs I can’t ignore, songs I do ignore and songs I had quite forgotten – Who on earth is Mark Wynter? And what does he sound like? ‘It’s Almost Tomorrow’ is all musty wide-eyed naivety, the kind of purchase that can only come from a dull afternoon in Oxfam. It’s fine by me. Hits half-nine on a Sunday morning right on the head. Oh man! ‘The Promise’! When In Rome! It’s the song that plays over the credits of Napoleon Dymamite. Are they German? (No. Turn out they are from Manchester. I always assumed they were German…) It’s definitely POP – capital P capital O capital P. World of Pooh, on K Records (I guess that’s why I bought it), don’t sound as if they are trying very hard. Andy Williams sings ‘On The Street Where You Live’ and I’m suddenly a bit giddy. He sings it impossibly slowly – “There is nowhere else on earth where I would rather be” – as Katie feeds the washing machine and I finish my tea, too lulled for a refill and I’m only at the W’s. I’m in no mood for Veronica Falls (it’s Sunday morning after all) but Sarah Vaughan singing ‘Misty’ is just right – that kind of a mood – “I get misty the moment you’re near”.

I’ve been reading (and really, really enjoying) Morrissey’s autobiography. He never mentions moments like this – where the sun shines and Sarah Vaughan is singing for you. His young life is slate grey Manchester, where I’m lolling happily in blue-skied Liverpool. It’s gonna be alright. Frankie Vaughan vamps the heck out of ‘You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You’ (I doubt Morrissey would concur) – but seems perfect as Katie checks in on me before going back to her book while the tumble drier tumbles and The Velvettes sing out for maudlin Stephen – “finding a good man, girl/ Is like finding a needle in a haystack” – and I thank god for Katie, thank god or someone like it. The Velvettes “natural facts” give way to The Vaselines’ joyously grinningly grim ‘Sex With An X’ as Sunday morning turns into Sunday afternoon and Katie tells me that Newcastle have scored at Tottenham – “it feels so good it must be bad for me”, defo, indeed, yes, yes, yes. I don’t know why I bought something by Vivian Girls and it doesn’t help as the sun hides behind a cloud, but only for a while – ‘Do You Want A Boyfriend” sing Tender Trap and while I don’t thank you very much, I’m almost tempted when you put it like that – “heaven/ perfect heaven”.

I’m on roll, so have the audacity to skip passed Tiger and Teenage Fanclub but stop and fumble excitedly as Conway Twitty’s version of ‘Mona Lisa’, introduced to me by Phil Ochs – “is your smile to tempt a lover Mona Lisa/ Or is this your way to hide a broken heart”. Who knows? Sister Vanilla’s ‘Can’t Stop The Rock’ sounds very much like a lady singing a Jesus and Mary Chain song because that’s pretty much what it is, which is fine by me. But I’m ready for a song to break my heart and Slow Down Tallahasie just about do it, slightly creepy and very poppy, alright! ‘All I Wanna Do’ by The School is the song I wish I’d written, it’s sentiment (“let’s go home”) is just perfect, perfect, perfect. Unlike ‘Do Nothing’, andother slice of grim-ska by The Specials, taking me right back to Morrissey’s book, albeit with a trombone solo. A sudden reminder that ‘Everyday People’ by Sly and The Family Stone is just wonderful and the perfect change of pace that set’s me rushing passed Springsteen (so dull since Daf gave me the Warren Zevon CD), Regina Spektor and even Sultans of Ping FC and smack headlong into the mean-pop of Del Shannon’s ‘Hats Off To Larry’, his sudden falsetto adding a whiff of the bonkers to a mightilly sarky song. Nancy and Lee do their usual while ‘Important In Your Life’ (a b-side!) is EVERYTHING ONE COULD EVER WISH FOR IN A JONATHAN RICHMAN SONG! Yeah! “Guitar, ready, set, go!” ‘Don’t Come Close’ is far from your typical Ramones song (save for Joey sounding as ever, like Joey) but is as pop as pop gets and I love it like I wonder how I coped for so long without it – “kisses out of desperation” and all that. The Royal We ‘All The Rage’ Elvis Presley’s ‘Marie’s The Name’ The Pitkins ‘Go Away’ The Research’s ‘Lonely Hearts Still Beat The Same’ all great lumps of dearly departed wonderful. What did happen to The Pitkins? ‘Go Away’ is sweary but ace all the same.

One last song. I don’t know quite how The Proclaimers have neded up becoming seen as a bit cheesy and silly when they are anything but. The gall to sing in their own accent! I ask you! ‘Letter From America’ is proper heartbreaking – “We should have held you/ We should have told you”. And it’s time for lunch, cup of tea and whatever the rest of Sunday throws at me.

Huw x

Times are hard when you’re a dreamer – an interview with Banana and Louie!

bananapicWe really like Banana and Louie (http://bananaandlouie.wordpress.com/). We really do.
So much so that we decided to interview Matthew, Banana and Louie’s head honcho (it’s Brian Wilson if you will) and ask him a bunch of stuff that we thought of while listening to his wonderful record!

Here it is –

Andy – I discovered Banana and Louie when I found the first album in Vinyl Exchange in Manchester. Does it make you happy to think of someone stumbling upon your record in a second hand record shop or is it depressing to think that someone can pay bugger all for something that was such a labour of love?
Ha! I’m quite happy for people to stumble upon my music any which way they can, even if it’s file sharing with friends. I’ve got to the age now (both in terms of real life age and music making age) that I just want people to enjoy what I’ve made. If I totalled up all the money I’ve spent making records and travelling with my bands I’m probably down by quite a few thousand pounds at least. That’s a deposit on a house! I don’t regret it though. When I die I’d rather leave behind a load of art than a pile of bricks and mortar. Having said all that, it would be nice if I could sell few more physical records. I need the space under our bed back.
banana-and-louie

Andy – I’m mostly rubbish at record shopping but coming across your record counts as one of my all time triumphs! Do you have any stories of amazing record shop finds or any particular howlers?
Thanks. That really does mean a lot. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? You spend all that time putting all your efforts and love into something and to be honest you just want someone to say ‘hey, I like that.’ For me I just really miss the day when we had indie record stores in every high street. As a student in Bristol we had heaps of them. I’d go down to Replay with my mate Rob and come back with armfuls. It was a really social thing – mates sharing ideas. You’d hang out in those shops for hours at a time. The resurgence of vinyl is bringing some of that back but I do feel we’ve gone past the point of no return to an extent. I remember when you found a record you’d been after for years, like the first Felt record and you’d never listened to any of the songs before. It was amazing. It’s all too easy now. There’s no anticipation buying something on itunes. I can’t remember any particular howlers, but you could always just convince your mate something was the next big thing and swap it for something else!

Andy – We’re thinking of trying our hands at collaborating with someone for the next Eardrums Pop Between Two Waves compilation. Did you enjoy the collaboration process on Alphabet Soup? What problems or benefits did it present?
You should definitely do it. I’m thinking of trying it too. Alphabet Soup was a real labour of love. It was fantastic getting A Little Orchestra into the studio. Having all those parts you’ve dreamed up in your head come out sounding better than you imagined was a truly magical experience. I worked a lot with Ken from ALO who really is a genius. He helped with lots of the scoring and did many of the piano parts. It was hard work though and there is always that element of stress where you realise that every hour doing something is costing money. It took nearly a year to finish that record, but I’m really proud of it.

Huw – ‘Caroline’ really is one of the loveliest songs that I’ve heard in the last year or so. What is story behind it? A Caroline get’s a thank you on the LP sleeve, is this the same Caroline?
Thanks, that really does mean a lot. It’s partly based in truth and partly expanded upon. The song means a lot to me, because it’s loosely based on my first year in London and was written at a time when the London version of A Fine Day For Sailing was just getting into its stride. I think it’s probably my best song and I always got tingles when singing it. It’s definitely not about Caroline though! The name just fit – three syllables. It’s a bit of a mean song really, all about getting over somebody.

Huw – Your songs seem poetic, but also personal and heartfelt. Do you ever worry about being too personal and revealing in your songs?
Yes, definitely! It’s always coming back to bite me on the arse. I can’t write any other way though. Normally something in my life inspires me and it all comes from there. I’ve never really been able to do it any other way. It does get me into trouble, but at the same time I’m proud of it, because it means all the songs really do mean something. It gives them a charge. It does make it hard to meet up with ex-partners though – they never fare well in my songs.

Huw – Yours and Sharon’s voices sound really lovely together! Did you practise a lot on the harmonies? Who is Sharon? Is she on the new album?
She’s my wife! In fact, we’re newlyweds and married in August. We met when she joined A Fine Day For Sailing as the keyboardist. I won’t go into detail, it was all a bit Fleetwood Mac. We just seemed to fit together musically and otherwise. I’ve always loved the way her voice sounded with mine. I used to obsess over the harmonies and give everyone a specific part in a three, four or five part harmony, but Sharon is so good at it now that she works her parts out herself. She’s on the new album as the other voice and keyboards. There are only three people on this album; me, Sharon and Andy Fonda who drummed for us, from deepest darkest Devon.

Huw – There seem to be a lot more sad love songs in the world than happy ones. Has your song writing changed since settling down/having a kid/all of that?
Yes and no. The last album was mostly about falling in love and mostly very positive. This album is a lot more reflective. This isn’t because I’m unhappy. I’m incredibly happy. But I’ve now had time to reflect on some very tough parts in my life and it was quite therapeutic writing about them. It felt like closing the door on some bad times.

Huw – Are The Little Orchestra going to be on the new album?
No ALO. This album is very different to the last one. I simply can’t afford studio time so this one is mostly recorded at home. Rather than try to replicate what I did on the last album I purposefully set out to record a ten song pop album, with shorter punchy songs and lots of melodies. I think I’ve managed it. I have to be honest though and say that had I had the money and the time I would have liked to create something more grandiose. But people have always liked my more lo-fi songs, so hopefully they’ll like this. It’s gone from less baroque influences to more early Creation and Sarah records.

Huw – Might there be gigs? Be amazing if you came up to Liverpool!
I’d really love to. I don’t have a band at the moment though, so it might have to be acoustic shows. I’d do it, if I can get up there though. Banana and Louie is really a solo project after A Fine Day For Sailing split up. Having said that, AFDFS has always been a moniker for my music and has been through many many incarnations so you never know! I haven’t got time to arrange a tour but if any promoters see this, they know where to find me!

Andy – You put on a library fundraising popshow with Jens Lekman. That must’ve been ace! Was it hard work to organise?
It was one of the best experiences of my life. I couldn’t believe it when he said yes. He’s such a nice guy. We went up to Tottenham with him the night before for a little tiny gig in a warehouse. On the way up someone stole his wallet and we spent hours in a police station talking about the Smiths. There’s a bit in the third or fourth song on Alphabet Soup about it. It took a lot of organising, but to be honest I did a lot of it during work time at the library. That was very naughty, but it was all for a good cause.

Andy – Did you get the bug to do more or did you quit promoting on a high?
The chances are we’ll try putting on more Lovelypool nights in the coming year but it’s quite daunting. Do you have any tips?
I think my promoting days are over but you never know. When I started making music in the late 90s me and some mates used to put on gigs in Bristol for 50p. I loved the buzz of it, meeting bands and having a laugh. It was good because you’d get gigs in return too. We got a whole tour of the Netherlands from the result of putting some Dutch garage bands on. You’ve just got to enjoy it and be as fair to the bands as you can. Don’t worry when things go wrong because things ALWAYS go wrong at these nights!

Huw – What can you tell us about Vollwert Records? I hadn’t heard of them before.
Vollwert-Records is an amazing label run by Werner Truckenbrodt in Germany. Werner puts out a mix of some amazing re-releases of Creation stuff such as Biff Bang Pow! (one of my all time favourites) as well as some really good current music. I can’t remember exactly, but I think Werner got in touch through Phil Wilson (June Brides) who I met when I lived in Devon. Werner has always had faith in me and his encouragement kept me going when I felt like giving up. He means a lot to me and came to my wedding this summer.

Andy – There seem to be loads of librarians in pop bands (our Huw for one). Do you have any theories about why this is?
I’ve no idea haha! Maybe it’s the cardigans. I love librarians. Anyone that works for next to nothing in anything to do with books is alright in my book (boom boom.)

Andy – Did you used to collect football stickers as a kid or was there something else in your life that filled that particular void? Any good collecting stories?
Yeah! I had plenty of Match albums in my time. I was a huge Liverpool fan growing up. I used to obsess about completing my collection – especially the Liverpool players. I remember swapping about thirty stickers for Ian Rush. As got older I realised Liverpool weren’t successful enough for me. I now support Swindon Town.

Andy – Finally – Foxes or Squirrels?
Aw that’s a toughy. We had foxes living in our garden in London. I LOVE squirrels though. I once made one salute before I gave it a hazelnut. Nobody believes me to this day, but I saw it with my very eyes.

The second Banana and Louie record is on the way – keep your eyes on their blog for details – http://bananaandlouie.wordpress.com

Live Pool

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Just sometimes I get this overwhelming urge to shout as loud as I can (which admittedly isn’t terribly loud, but still) “OH MY GOODNESS I’M SO GLAD I LIVE IN LIVERPOOL”.

My three favourite gigs this year have been –

Edwyn Collins at the Philharmonic Hall. The support bands were not my cup of tea, but Edwyn was amazing! Funny and friendly and everything a frontman should be. But the music! Oh my goodness gracious me! It was rocking in a really fun way and he played new stuff that sounded amazing, old stuff that sounded amazing and even older stuff which sounded even amazinger! We are lucky that Edwyn can sing at all (lucky is perhaps not an apt word considering how hard him and his family and his doctors have worked) but to see him sing so beautifully…I don’t know man. it’s pretty hard not to gush about it. But gush I have and gush I will. It was amazing.

Mean Jean/ Brilliant Colors/ Veronica Falls and The Kazimier. Three ace bands, an ace venue. Alright, Veronica Falls are a bit too-cool-for-school, but I really like their songs and I’m glad they played Liverpool. I was lucky that I saw Mean Jean’s first ever performance. It was in their practise room and there were about 7 people there. I sat there with my strawberry milkshake feeling a bit awkward, glancing over at Chris from Silent Sleep or Graham from Voo or Tony from DoubleDoublePlusGood, and they were all friendly but still…Mean Jean played and they were great. And they were great at the Kazimier and they will be great for as long as they choose to play. So there.

And the third? Well…

It is ludicrous, absurd even that a silly man like me can hop on a bus, walk into a pizza shop and watch Puzzle and Voo and Twin Bee play and not spend a penny. (I don’t mean that I didn’t have a wee [which I didn’t] but that it was free to get in.)
I left work early cos I was ill. I sat on the bus, hoping to god that my bad belly lasts the journey thinking that there is no way that I’d be able to make the gig. It was both Twin Bee’s launch party for their album and their last ever gig. I’d never seen them. Andy Donovan is in them and, not to sound too fawning, everything he touches turns to gold. Anyway, to cut a long story short I made it. I had this feeling that it would be great, a feeling that made me put to on side my usually crippling social awkwardness and just relax and take it in. )Anyone who would see me at gigs would be forgiven for thinking that I look like someone who is having a bad time. I remember Sarah from Town Bike asking me after one of their gigs if I’d liked it. I said yes, to which she replied “Why’d didn’t you tell your face?”)
And it was great. Lucy from Puzzle had a sore throat and had to stop singing Six Years (my favourite) half way through. But that didn’t stop them being ace. The two things can make Puzzle my favourite band in Liverpool are Lucy’s singing and David’s guitar playing, and while Lucy’s singing wasn’t perfect I’m pretty sure that their song’s would be ace even if they were instrumental. The same goes for Voo, who are a bit rockier than Puzzle, but have similarly wonderful guitaring. It’s always ace seeing them live. Graham has a lovely voice, Paul the bassist is really funny (and a really good bassist too I guess, but I’m usually too busy watching Graham playing guitar to notice) and they have Chris from Silent Sleep playing second-guitar, who is a more than a bit of a hunk.

Twin Bee! The happiest, friendliest, most fun, sincere, exhuberant, joyous band I have seen in aaaaaaages. Oh my goodness gracious me. Apparently Meg, the singer, told Graeme, the drummer, that she had never been in a band, so Graeme said “well, we can do something about that”. So they did. And six months later they have an album, they’ve done a few gigs and Meg is going home to Japan.

I left the gig in a wonderfully good mood and met Katie who had been watching rockeoke (like karaoke but with a live band) somewhere and told her all about it while she told me about the amazing food she had eaten.

The next day I was still in good mood and played football and shouted at everyone. I had a wonderful time. Later that day (which was yesterday) Tranmere beat Oldham, at Oldham, thanks to a 94th minute penalty. Me and Katie wandered around West Kirby and smiled at things and each other. And it was all thanks to Puzzle, Voo and Twin Bee.

Huw

Another Game on Saturday

Another Game on Saturday cover

Our single came out a week ago on February Records! Have a listen HERE. It’s available to download for free or however much you fancy paying. It comes with a digital booklet which has our first ever little interview in it.

I reckon one of my answers possibly warrants a longer explanation. The question was: “The band seems to be football fans. What team(s) do you support? Are there rivalries among the band members?”

Let me tell you about the only time that Huw and I have ever almost fallen out. Over the semiotics of football scarf colours.

Earlier this year, you may remember that we’d been asked to release a single on the now defunct Manic Pop! Records. Once we had our songs recorded, we needed some cover art that we’d like to have on the front of a seven inch single. The only requirement in our eyes was that it’d be something that, if we saw it in a record store, we’d pick it up and have a closer look.

I had an idea and put it to the others: a football hat and scarf hanging by the front door. You might pass by them on your way out to work every day but, every Saturday, you might grab them before heading out to watch the football*. Huw liked the idea – it reminded him of an LS Lowry sketch he’d seen although he couldn’t for the life of him remember which one it was and Google wasn’t helping. Still, if it was a good enough subject for Lowry then it’ll do for me; I got my pad of paper out and started sketching.

I had the layout figured out but was stuck on a pretty significant issue: what colour should I make the hat and scarf? In football, there’s pretty much no such thing as neutral colours. Blue and White stripes might be Everton, Chelsea or Huw’s beloved Tranmere Rovers. Red and White can be Liverpool, Arsenal or even Manchester United. Claret and Blue might be Aston Villa, West Ham or, (at a stretch, if you’re squinting) Barcelona. It can be super divisive. Would a Liverpool fan buy a record with a Blue and White scarf on the front? Would an Everton fan buy one with a red and white one? I tried non-football colour combos like yellow, blue and green but they just didn’t look right. I was pretty stuck.

I looked at the scarf hanging from a hook on the wall in front of me: red, white and black. I wrote the song, I thought; why shouldn’t my scarf appear on the front of the record? I got my paints out and got to work. I was really pleased with it – it looked pretty smart. I took a photo on my phone and emailed Huw:
United Scarf

“Is it definitely a Man United scarf?” he emailed back “Not that it matters but I thought I’d check!”

I sheepishly replied “it’s based on my United scarf but it’s open to interpretation” (?) (It really isn’t…)

Later that night I got a message from Huw along the lines that he couldn’t let the United scarf go. He’d kick himself if he didn’t say anything. He’d employed the first ever Swapsies veto.

I didn’t really know what to say. I could’ve been saved a lot of effort if I’d been told that red and white was off the table from the start. I’m not a prolific artist (let’s face it, I’m not much of an artist at all!) and couldn’t really face the prospect of starting all over again. I stewed over it for a while.

In the end, our disagreement led to a much more exciting idea. What if we had 5 different coloured covers to choose from? People could swap if they didn’t get the colour of their team. It couldn’t hurt to ask whether that’d be possible. I emailed Mike at Manic Pop! and he was all in favour of it. In fact, he proposed we choose 5 different colours of vinyl to go with the different covers! That guy was full of good intentions but I guess it’s no wonder he ran out of money.

When the Manic Pop! thing fell through and February Records came to our rescue, we still wanted something physical to show for our release so decided to get some CDs made. Our solution to the scarf colour conundrum? Stickers! The CD comes with a black and white scarf on the cover for Ken Loach’s Bath City – the song title comes from an interview answer he gave – but you can choose red and white (for my team and Sean’s team), blue and white (for Huw’s team) and claret and blue (’cause it looks pretty!)

Swapsies CD for sale!

So you can buy our CD and use the stickers to swap the colours of the hat and scarf on the cover to another team. Ideally we’d be able to offer every conceivable football team’s colours a la Subbuteo but, as it is, we’ve done our best to please as many people as possible. If nothing else, we’ve managed to keep the peace within the band!

Andy
x

Postscript
Huw showed the CD to his mum and said that it reminded him of a Lowry picture but he couldn’t remember which one. She said “The coats behind the door?” Huw sent me a photo:
Lowry Hats behind the door

Oh and we made a video too:

The Swapsies – Another Game On Saturday from The Swapsies on Vimeo.

I think we’ll leave explaining Spoonball in greater detail to another post!

* As an aside, it’s worth pointing out that the song comes as much from my weekly feelings following defeat on the cricket pitch as it does from the point of view of a football fan. Last year we narrowly avoided relegation to the first division. This year relegation looks ever more likely as we prop up the table with 6 games to go…

A Fleeting Summer or how I learnt to stop worrying and love squirrels

043
I spent the afternoon looking for nice writing paper in town and found very little. It seems that nice writing paper is not a big deal in 2013. The sun was out and I had quite a lovely time in my new raincoat munching on Wine Gums looking at pretty things I can’t afford in shops I don’t usually go in.

Elaine, meanwhile, was figuring out Vimeo, or more specifically, how to get our video onto Vimeo.

We had recorded two songs which we liked very much. Elaine suggested we make videos for them “Ok” I said. “Ok” we all said in fact.
I texted Elaine and said “Why don’t we go out and film me trying to make friends with squirrels?”

So that’s what we did. Although I didn’t really befriend any squirrels. They were just after me nuts.

Elaine Ford Coppola, deep in the jungles of Sefton Park

Elaine Ford Coppola, deep in the jungles of Sefton Park

It wasn’t raining so we chucked cups of water over the windows. That was the only bit of special effect/ fakery we had to use. It was spring but for some reason there were piles of brown leaves everywhere. I wandered and Elaine filmed. I kept forgetting I was being filmed and went scurrying after the merest glimpse of animal life.
Elaine had brought her own animal life with her – Charlie and her dog Fruitcake. Charlie distracted Fruitcake so it was only me who scared the squirrels off.

At one point Charlie excitedly announced that he’d found a squirrels den. We went off to find it only to return with pooey shoes – what he led us to wasn’t so much a squirrels den as a tramp’s toilet. Or maybe a jogger’s toilet. “How can you tell it isn’t Squirrel poo?” Charlie asked. I pointed at the toilet roll. “Oh!” he said, a young boy’s dream being crushed by the ugly reality of the situation.

Anyway, even poo shoes didn’t ward off the little squirrels who, initially put off by my hulking presence were soon won over by the nutty goodness that we had on offer.

This is the film that Elaine made. It’s a shame I’m the only Swapsie in it. But it is a film about being shy and sometimes lonely and wasting one’s life away instead of doing productive things. The film more or less captures that. I think so anyway.

If you don’t like the song then at least you can turn the sound off and wait for the squirrels.

Huw x

P.S – I’m sorry that poo features so strongly in this post. However it would be remiss of me to edit it out.

The Swapsies – A Fleeting Summer from The Swapsies on Vimeo.