Music ROCK & ROLL THE VACCINES NME Awards Tour with Crystal Castles, Magnetic Man and Everything Everything, O2 Academy, Glasgow, Thu 3 Feb
Rock music, say recent reports, is dead and buried, with only three of the top 100 UK singles of 2010 falling into the category. Pummelled by pop and humbled by hip hop, that’s the once all-conquering sound’s lowest return in 50 years. The Vaccines, this year’s saviours of guitar music, have an uphill struggle ahead of them. ‘It’s all been exciting so far,’ says the band’s wild-haired guitarist Freddie Cowan, just out of bed and eating breakfast at midday. ‘When you start a band, you want to keep busy, you want to play lots of gigs. It’s been happening for us.’
While not quite overnight, their rise
has been meteoric. Cowan (brother of Horrors synth player Tom) and singer Justin Young (formerly known as Mumford-friendly nu-folk artist Jay Jay Pistolet) started working on songs in a friend’s Ladbroke Grove studio in late 2009. They completed the four-piece live line-up only in June of last year.
The buzz earned them a place in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 list, upcoming tours of Europe and America, and this slot on the NME Awards Tour. The debut single ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ drew comparisons to The Ramones, while March’s debut LP What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? boldly promises a trawl through six decades of rock history. ‘We took time writing it,’ says Cowan, ‘but it was recorded really quickly over a fortnight in November, when we’d come back from gigs exhausted. It was all about capturing a moment, because we felt really good about where we were at the time.’ (David Pollock)
SYNTH-POP TWIN SHADOW Captain’s Rest, Glasgow, Thu 27 Jan
SONGWRITER TURNED AUTHOR JAMES YORKSTON Royal Concert Halls, Glasgow (Ian Anderson will interview Yorkston), noon, Wed 26 Jan; Glasgow City Halls, Recital Room, 8pm, Wed 26 Jan (both part of Celtic Connections ); with Marry Waterson & Oliver Knight, Old St Paul’s Church Hall, Edinburgh, Fri 11 Feb
Not content with forging a career as one of Scotland’s best loved singer-songwriters, James Yorkston has just foisted himself upon literature in a most alluring fashion.
As befits a troubadour whose talent is rivalled only by his modesty, Yorkston’s publishing debut materialised by accident. He was asked to write an article for cult- pop journal Loops and his ensuing on-tour chronicle prompted Domino Records (in tandem with Faber) to request a full book of such charming, deadpan recollections. Hence It’s Lovely to Be Here: The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent.
more, and for some reason I found writing the book would come easy on days when songwriting just wasn’t budging, which surprised me a little.
‘Beforehand I’d have guessed that the two tasks come from the same part of the brain,’ he says, ‘but now I suspect that the book was a little more subconscious.’
Ever a ruthless seeker of pop truths, The List smiles politely and cuts to the chase: what sick rock filth was censored from his final edit? ‘The one story I do regret not including involved a band member in Europe,’ Yorkston says. ‘It involved alcohol, Scrabble, a third-floor dressing room and a tiny bathroom window.
‘But no one wants to be known as the guy who had to be rescued by the Belgian fire service after attempting to climb out of their dressing room lavatory because he was losing a Scrabble game, do they? It may affect his reputation as an accordion player, after all.’
Does Yorkston discern much difference between The List would like to clarify that it did not just say
storytelling through his songs and storytelling on the page? ‘Yes – the songwriting has to be more efficient,’ he nods. ‘With the book I allowed myself to ramble a bit ‘King Creosote’ when it coughed. (Nicola Meighan) ■ It’s Lovely to be Here – The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent, published by The Domino Press on Thu 3 Feb.
The past few months haven’t been too terrible for George Lewis Jr, who makes unsmiling, magnificent synth-pop gems under the alias, Twin Shadow. November: release debut album Forget to rapturous reviews. December: hire little place in snowy upstate New York to make music with Chris Taylor, the Grizzly Bear bassist who ‘discovered’ unknown Lewis Jr’s work and released Forget on his own Terrible Records. Spend Christmas jetskiing and drinking Presidente beers on beach in Dominican Republic, where parents live. January: begin US and UK tour.
‘I’m not tooting my own horn,’ says Lewis Jr, through an embarrassed sounding laugh,
‘but people have been getting quite excited about my music. In fact what really sold me on working with Chris Taylor was the enthusiasm he had for my stuff.’ Twin Shadow’s ‘stuff’ is a slick, icy blast of danceable melodies and moody pop, bringing
to mind the Duran Duran/Depeche Mode/OMD combo of killer beats and gently tortured lyrics. But despite his unmistakeably 80s soundscapes, plus his love of 80s motorbikes, sportscars and gold chains, Brooklyn boy Lewis Jr insists he’s not a nostalgist.
‘Sure, my music is influenced by the past – I grew up with sisters who listened to Wham! and Sade on heavy rotation,’ says a man normally found in acid-washed denims, hair coiffed into a New Romantic do (bouffant, Mohawk quiff, ponytail or, er . . . corn rows). ‘My mum loved Hall & Oates and my dad loved Peter Gabriel, so I picked up on all that. But I want to lean towards the future; the present isn’t always a very satisfying place. I describe my music as “a future lived in past tense”.’ (Claire Sawers)
58 THE LIST 20 Jan–3 Feb 2011