Friday, 27 February 2009

INTERVIEW: ROSS CLARK AND THE SCARFS GO MISSING


Glasgow native Ross Clark has been a familiar name on the Scottish music scene for a couple of years, bringing to it a nice Tennessee whiskey-barreled and brewed twang laced with his own top shelf spirits. Now with a conglomeration of talented folksters at his side ('The Scarfs...'), a tour extending south of the border and a tasty new album to boot, 2009 is looking sweet for the bespectacled country soul.


So what do you like to do when you're not busy being Ross Clark?


When I'm not being Ross Clark I'm not really sure. I cover some shifts for Kane, the wrestler (WWF), I act as his body double when the big fights go down. All I do is play music with my friends, I think that any time that I have should be spent jamming, although I am partial to some coffee/cigarette outings and getting a bit drunk with my friends. I like to watch films too.


Why The Scarfs and how did you round up these guys?


I got the band in order to translate better what goes on in my head when I write songs. I met the band through playing shows, they are my best friends and I love them. I couldn't think about playing music with anyone else. 'The Scarfs' comes from a dream. I dream a lot.


How did a boy from over here get a hankerin' for Americana?


I suppose I have always loved blues and some country. My dad got me into Neil Young. I think he is the greatest songwriter ever! I connect with country music in a big way. The sound of banjos, mandolins guitars, drums and bass run like a river that flows between my ears. I think the Neil Young lyric 'banjos playing through the broken glass' sums up my sound I think, idealistically anyway.


What would you say about the brand spanking new Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down for those who haven't heard yet?


I love that album, it's a fresh-sounding outlook on a sometimes doomed generation. Doom gets me excited though, it's like just before you kiss someone you really like.


Frightened Rabbit have made it to Pitchfork and you're about to tour with them. You must be a little thrilled.


I'm really excited about touring with Frightened Rabbit, I've known those guys longer than I've really known my band; They were the first band in Glasgow to believe in me. So, to go on tour with them presents me with an opportunity to step up to the plate and hopefully make everyone smile. I'm ready to do this tour and the band are too. It's going to be amazing. I'm looking forward to playing in England, I've never done that before. It's time I think for me and the boys to make some fucking racket down south.


And I've gotta know, what's your favourite Hank Williams song?


My favourite Hank Williams song is ... Cold Cold Heart.


Ross Clark and The Scarfs Go Missing play Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh 1 Mar (sold out); Limbo, The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Mar 5 (along with Randan Discotheque and Snide Rhythms); Oran Mor, Glasgow, Mar 8 (with We Were Promised Jetpacks and Over The Wall).



Also published in The List, here.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

RESTAURANT REVIEW: CHOP CHOP


Something to believe in

CHINESE FOOD HAS NOT REALLY EXCITED ME SINCE I WAS EIGHT, WHEN SKEWERS OF BEEF WERE BROUGHT TO ME WITH A LITTLE POT OF FIRE AND FORTUNE COOKIES HELD INEXPLICABLE PROMISES. BUT SINCE I'VE GROWN UP, I'VE GOTTEN BORED WITH IT ALL AND USUALLY CANNOT FEIGN ENTHUSIASM AT THE PROSPECT OF ORDERING CHINESE. HOWEVER, I AM VERY PROUD THAT MY SENSES HAVE BEEN SWAYED AND AM DUTIFULLY REPORTING THAT ALL MUST MOZY ON OVER TO MORRISON STREET FOR A CHINESE FEAST THAT IS SURELY THE VERY BEST IN THE WEST.

The restaurant is bright and friendly, clean and trendy. On arrival, we are not the only table but because of the highly-audible birthday celebration in progress, the room is cleared as bottles of Chinese beers go down a treat. The patient and kind gentlemen that greets us explains that the food is Northeastern style and is meant to be ordered collectively, served randomly and shared by all. Their specialty is dumplings, all of which are homemade with the freshest ingredients.

The dumpling menu is almost infinite and divided into fried or boiled. Our group orders four different bowls of 16 dumplings (bowls of 8 are available too): pork and celery, beef and chili, pork and sauerkraut and finally, lamb and carrot They are all tasty (and slippery, careful with the chopsticks!) but unanimously, the chili and beef ones proved the crowd favourite. And for every pair of us, we got the cool and creative opportunity to concoct our own dipping sauce using fresh minced garlic, vinegar and soy sauce.

A couple of us also decided to share the Northern chicken (£9.25) and fish balls (large £8.25). The latter were just great, however overpowered by the best thing that happened to me last week, that Northern chicken. Cuts of chicken are crispy-fried and bathed in an absolutely unstoppable sauce of soy, vinegar and sugar that although screams of fresh coriander, not a leaf can be found. Tremendous. I scraped my plate clean, and then moved on to someone else's Northern chicken remains.

Chop Chop also do a great looking banquet menu for big parties. Bring all of the expectations you can muster up because this place has made even me a believer.

Chop Chop
248 Morrison Street
Edinburgh
EH3 8DT
0131 221 1155

OPENING HOURS
Tues-Fri 12-2pm and 5.30-10.30pm
Sat and Sun 5-11pm

Also in Bite Magazine

Monday, 23 February 2009

LIVE GIG REVIEW: BROKEN RECORDS @ THE CAVES 12 FEBRUARY 2009


Barely over a year ago, this troupe played in the same venue but back then they were one record deal shy (they joined Camera Obscura on the 4AD label this month), the Broken Records buzz was a murmur, the crowd less sardined - all a stark contrast to the hullabaloo they're clearly causing now. Tonight The Caves is totally encompassed with not only their music but with fans they've collected in their young existence, all of whom devotedly hum along to the compelling sounds coming from the Edinburgh-based ensemble. Their Scottish roots shine through instrumentally and that's what sets Broken Records apart; see the violen-inspired frolics of 'If The News Makes You Sad Don't Watch It' or an accordian-sodden 'If Eilert Lovborg Wrote a Song, It Would Sound Like This.' Layered and lush, perplexing and poignant, the tunes they dish out tonight are proof that this is music to get very excited about. Such an occurance can be seldom so it is advised to get on this bandwagon while one can still get a local glimpse of this thrilling live act while they are swiftly ascending.

Also published on isthismusic.com

Thursday, 12 February 2009

INTERVIEW: OCCASIONAL FLICKERS


Scotland has officially adopted Occasional Flickers, and vice versa. It seems that Giorgos Bouras had quite the love affair from afar when he fell for a slew of Scottish tunes while living in his homeland Greece. Such aural adorations have brought the Flickers to Edinburgh, now transformed from a bedroom-bound one-man outfit into a rallied troupe that's on par with his heroes, making mellifluous indie pop that makes you feel just fine. Giorgos spills it.


Indie pop from Greece to Scotland. What's your story?


The Flickers started as my own project when I was still in Athens, and I recorded most of the first album alone in my bedroom before moving to Scotland. But right now we are a quite multicultural band with members from Scotland, Ireland, Poland, the U.S. and Greece. There are not really Greek elements (apart from my accent...), mostly because in Greece, rock music is mainly following the international trends, as elsewhere I guess.


Tell us more about your ensemble


It took me sometime to decide to start with a new band after moving to Edinburgh, but once we started playing together it felt right. I am very happy to be surrounded by great musicians. Everyone in the band has their own commitments: Jamie Scott performs as The Japanese War Effort, Bart Owl plays with eagleowl and many other bands, Ailig Hunter's main focus is contemporary classical music, Ola Rek has just started her own project Long Long Walk Home and our drummer Ryan Marinello plays guitar and keyboards with My Tiny Robots. The contribution of my friend Sergios Voudris from The Voyage Limpid Sound - a multi-instrumentalist who owns pretty much every vintage instrument that one can imagine! – is really very important in the recordings. Because he lives in Athens, we mostly work via Internet, by exchanging audio files. In the past I would write a song and then I would record most of the instruments myself (including the ones that I can't really play!), which was quite boring and limiting. Now, we are working on the songs altogether: I will just bring a song and the guys will write their own part as we are practicing. It's just so exciting to see how a song comes alive during a practice and to be able to share your enthusiasm with a band.


Your music. We hear the old (Velvet Underground) and the new (Belle and Sebastian). Agreed?


Actually, most of our influences come from the past. I really love the '60s and bands like Love, The Byrds or The Velvet Underground and singer/songwriters like Fred Neil, Nick Drake, Bob Lind and Donovan. However, I'm not sure how audible these influences are on our songs. On the other hand, my love for Scottish pop bands - such as Camera Obscura, Belle and Sebastian, The Pastels and the Postcards bands – was one of the reasons I came to Scotland. Hmm, as for the songs. I always had this idea about pop songs: euphoric music with bitter lyrics. I avoid writing love songs as much as I can. Our music usually has to do with growing older, not fitting in the society, escaping from the dullness of big cities, etc.


Vinyl pressings of yours are sold in random places worldwide. How did that happen?


I guess that has to do mostly with our label. Plastilina Records is based in Peru, but they are trying to reach an audience in as many countries as they can. They are doing really great work and it's good to see that more and more great bands are signing to the label (Hi-Life Companion, Indurain, Hari and Aino to name a few).


Your album art is pretty. Who does that?


The artwork for the album was made by Ola Rek who plays with the band. She is mainly a sculptor but she also makes illustrations and I'm a big fan of her work. She also made the cover of our latest single as well as the cover of Paul Wirkus's 'Déformation Professionnelle', which is very pretty.


Is there another album in the works?


Yes, we are working on our second album, and the first to record as a band. Hopefully, it will be out later this year and the only thing I know is that it will sound quite different from the first one.Oh, and that it will include two songs from our last year's single 'When the Sky Looks So Gray' on Cloudberry Records. There will also be a reissue of 'Scattered Songs' in the Philippines which sounds quite exciting.


Anything special to look forward to on the 22nd? Will you bring your harmonica (say yes)?


Haha! Yes, we will surely have a harmonica! We are thinking about playing a quite loud set this time, comparing to our last one which was an acoustic set. We will be selling our first album “Scattered Songs” as well as a few copies of our very first 7” single “Rain Until Monday” which was released in 2003...


The Occasional Flickers will perform at Sneaky Pete’s on 22nd of February along with Crystal Stilts, Jesus H Foxx and //FAST// DJs.
Also published here on The List

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

GIG REVIEW: JESUS H FOXX / COME ON GANG!/ CHUTES


Three local bands with a hot buzz, under the same roof, for what, a fiver? Easy answer.


Could've been an uneventful Wednesday eve indeed but alas, twas saved, firstly by none other than...Jesus. Well, Jesus H Foxx. The opening verse of impressive acapella explodes eventually into a tasty show of Pavement meeting the Talking Heads at a party for The Strokes. Their 'thing' would be the two drummers drumming, and though the songs they're serving up are good, all good things must end, less abruptly. A better defined finish here and there seems like a simple enough kink though and a promising sound such as theirs will surely round itself out.


Speaking of novelty drumming, enter Come On Gang!. It's a damn delightful boy-girl-boy trio who deliver playground punk and an altogether different and diggable sound than anything around, and not just because the singer is also the drummer, who also happens to be the one wearing the lipstick. Her (of course it's a her, people) quite canorous voice swims sunnily through well-crafted guitar riffs and her own percussion in a set to regale the crowd. Hipsters beware, these ebullient efforts won't let you stand still.


Chutes finish the gig in polished sub-stadium style, the pacing stageman clinging to himself through enveloping songs of woeful pleading. Though there are some engrossing, good tunes, it's almost too reminiscient of bands who have been there before (think Joy Divison, Elbow). Their sound is big though and that's why they're headling, but maybe a twist on what's familiar will make Chutes their most powerful.


Also published in isthismusic.com

REVIEW: DANIEL'S BISTRO


A friendly French affair


The fun of French food is not only the lovely, fatty juices that duck is cooked in or the pleasant and pungent smell of the cheese but it's also the charisma of the cafes' staff. Quick witted, friendly and passionately knowledgeable are ways in which I would describe people I came across in both my experiences in France and my experience at Daniel's Bistro.


Daniel is a charmer, he has a lot to smile about though. The food at his cafe is just as innovative as it is reasonably priced, and is a beautiful marriage of Scottish and French characters. The menu is lengthy and hard to put down, the choices difficult to narrow down. The restaurant has a very fresh feel , with one side entirely windowed, allowing us diners to enjoy the scene outside on Commercial Quay.


We start with La Croix Bordeaux and a house specialty which originates from the same region as Daniel, Alsace. The La Tarte Flambee (£7.85) is a crisp, flat milk bread overlaid with crème fraîche and fromage fraîche that is a cool complement to smoky bacon lardons. It all stands up deliciously well to the complexity of the wine, which is decanted and poured for us throughout the meal.


My friend's main is also an Alsacian signature dish: Le Jarret de Porc a l' Ancienne (£14.75). The menu appropriately describes this as 'substantial' as the plate is heaping with helpings of Gruyere cheese-infused risotto, gratin potatoes and ratatouille, the bacon-wrapped, salt-cured pork itself colossal in both size and flavour as it reportedly falls of the bone almost voluntarily. Meanwhile, I am engrossed in the Magret de Canard (£15.45): sautéed Barbary duck breast dressed up with fresh rosemary stems, a fruits of the forest sauce and the same sides as the pork- the Gruyere risotto being the first thing to totally disappear from the plate! The duck is tender and is made for the dark cherry-dominant sauce. Definitely a winner.


Powerless against the desserts we finish with giant shavings of dark chocolate, 70% pure cacao, (Amer Maison - £5.95) with an orange coulis plus a blissful bread and butter pudding with crème anglaise (£4.65). Naughty, but very nice.
Daniel's is open all day, daily, with a Sunday brunch as well as pre-theatre specials.


Daniel's Bistro 88 Commercial Street Edinburgh, EH6 6LX

0131 553 5933

Also in March 2009 issue of Bite Magazine

Thursday, 5 February 2009

PUB REVIEW: EARL OF MARCHMONT

It's a quiet corner on a quiet street in the center of the quiet neighborhood of Marchmont. But inside the Earl of Marchmont, one can find the friendly commotion that's given it such a great rep since opening its doors just last year. Billy, who owns the joint (with his wife) along with Renroc and Cafe Nevo, said that the most drama he has seen on that corner involved his neighbour's window across the street, some naughty school kids, and probably a dozen eggs.

It's a simple enough bar but it has a special cosiness that's hippishly inviting but entirely unpretentious. Eyes are most certainly drawn to the jewelled chandelier that hangs above a den of black leather couches with zebra print-covered cushions. A massive gold-framed mirror hangs next to the bar window where I decide to situate myself and sit a spell. Pairs of good-looking people have already gotten comfortable and on this Monday January eve, there is a definite feeling that several conversations of the night began like this: Let's go have a quiet pint.

I arrived with only a laptop and a bit of work as my date for the evening and this was a great place for this kind of thing too. I settled into my workload with a pint of lager and ordered nachos from the menu, altho the choices were ripe with the likes of beef and veg lasagne (£4.95), lamb hot-pot (£4.95), steak and ale casserole (£4.95) and chicken curry with rice (£4.95). My nachos (£4.95) were a perfect portion of the perfect bar snack: tortillas with melted cheese, cool soured cream, hot salsa and refreshing guacamole.

Desserts that tempted were stick chocolate and pear pudding and stuffed baked apple pudding (desserts from £2.95) but I was able to resist for the sake of not completely blowing all of my New Year's resolutions!

By the time I resolve to go home, I can't. The buzz of the bar (not the beer, mind!) gets me stuck in for another half pint as the locals point out all of the reasons that make this corner of Edinburgh a great one. I'm informed that there's jazz on Sundays so with that in mind, I bid goodbye until a quiet Sunday leads me back for another spell.

Open M-W 1pm-12amThurs-Sat 1pm-1amSun 1pm-11am

22 Marchmont Crescent, Edinburgh, EH9

Also in March 2009 issue of Bite Magazine