Taking the Bis
Scotland has again made it onto the map touted by the London—based music press. with bands like Bis and The Gyres hogging the headlines.
Damien Love asks why.
trange things are happening. Rumours abound of London accents and expense accounts in the shadows of recent shows by Glasgow band Toaster. The Supernaturals and Octopus — located ‘somewherc between Glasgow and Edinburgh by Radio 1‘s The Evening Session and II) magazine -— are snapped up by Food records. House of Blur. Teenage sensations l.)ragdoll sign a development deal with Creation. the people who bring you Oasis. The Telstar Ponies’ debut album makes respectable showings in the end- of—year polls published by Melody Illa/(er and avant-garde music magazine The ll'i'ri'. Glasgow-based label Creeping Bent notch up a coveted ‘Single Of The Week‘ in the .Vitllf. with the debut release from the Revolutionary (‘orps Of Teenage Jesus. Handsome Blantyre boys The
Gyres are the subject of a Sheena-style BB(‘
And then there‘s Bis. Tipped by everyone.
22 The List 23 Feb-7 Mar I996
winetl and dined by labels left. right and centre. signing ‘a record-breaking publishing deal‘ with Polygram. and peering in trucolor out from the pages of publications ranging from The Face to the Daily Record. So hot. in fact. that. as Steven from the band puts it: ‘We'll get our backlash soon. probably.‘
The time is right. We’ve got all the ingredients to tie everything tip in a tartan ribbon. label the package. and vibe up a nice little scene. It‘s the Glasgow Renaissance! Not since the halycon days of Postcard! litc. etc.
‘I was never aware of any falling off of a Glasgow Scene.’ says Radio One DJ John Peel. patron of Sound ('ity and the Ten Day Weekend. Tor there to have been a “resurgence”. that would obviously indicate that. at some stage. there‘d been nothing going on.’
Which is exactly the point. There's been no magical musical boom in the city. The sad fact is that Glasgow -— the lfK‘s second city. after all — has had in the past. and wil‘. continue to have a
particularly thriving musical community. What a bummer.
'Everyone‘s quite keen that this isn't passed off as a "scene"; ultimately. that wouldn’t benefit anyone.’ says Steven Bis. ‘lt’s just a bunch of bands who happen to come from the same area. There‘re no links soundwise. or only very tenuous ones. at best. I always consider a scene to be not just a regional thing. but a sound thing.‘
The impression that these are somehow healthier than normal times for Glasgow‘s musical fraternity stems from the amount of attention being showered on the city from outside (read London). As Peel points out. this outside interest can be a mixed blessing. ‘Y‘know. things are ticking away nicely. and then it all gets terribly bitchy. and people who
‘We’re not naive. We don’t think that labels want us just because they really, really like our music.’
have got on and co-operated with each other in the past suddenly find it’s in their best interests not to lend their equipment. or something like that. because the record company people coming up from London may prefer the other band. and it all gets a bit complicated like that . . .'
There are a number of possible explanations as to why this intense interest in Scottish bands is happening. One is very definitely the Bis factor. They sound good. they have attitude and — bingo! — they're young and they look it. A marketing dream. ‘We‘re not naive.‘ says Steven. ‘We don‘t think that labels want us just because they really. really like our music.‘
It‘s the ‘are there any more at home like you‘ syndrome — a situation especially apparent in the ease of Ganger. A marvellous. ﬂoating. almost experimental pop collective. Ganger sound nothing like Bis. however. Steven occasionally joins in as a second drummer. and. he says: ‘(ianger are getting a lot of attention just now because in London some labels think that it's a Bis side—project. and labels that can't get us are trying to get them.‘
Another contributing factor could be the fact that we‘re entering into the death-throes of Britpop. That there is a crisis going on among the editorial staff of King's Reach Tower is evident in the curious spectacle of the NME naming the (albeit blistering) American combo Rocket From The (‘rypt as this year's best new band. when Rocket already have three albums and 21 singles compilation under their collective leathers. If Britpop is to endure with any sort of credibility. the parameters. both musically and geographically. are going to have to expand.
So yes. these are good times for Glasgow. but not particularly any better than this time last year. or six years ago. Hopefully. the bands subjected to scrutiny frotn down south will exploit the interest for all it‘s worth — that’s part of the game. But before anyone starts bandying terms like SCOTPOP about in earnest. it’s worth paying heed to John Peel:
‘Whenever somebody does one of these Glasgow Scene. Norwich Scene. ShCiTlCld
Scene — things. it's much the same as with things like Riot Grrrl. It’s like. suddenly. Riot Grrrl is everything and. of course. some of it’s good and some of it’s crap. And then. when people get tired of it. the whole lot goes. Taking the good with the bad.‘ -
Bis are a! Rico's in Greenm‘k on Thursday 7 riddle/I.