Tuesday, 28 July 2009

INTERVIEW: Les Bof!


Les Bof! formed just three years ago as Edinburgh-based French sixties garage rockers composed of Marseilles-born Laurent Mombel as frontman backed by a team of Scottish musicians. Not one English word is to be sung or spoken when they're onstage as they recreate an atmosphere authentic to the days of Jacques Dutronc, a niche era so sought after that retro festivals have had them globetrotting every year since their debut. With a festival performance around the corner at The GO-GO inside the Gilded Balloon, The List caught up with Laurent between gigs to discuss their unique approach to rock 'n' roll.

It's quite a niche you have there. How did the idea of a French sixties pop band transpire?
First of all, pop is too much of a general term. I like to call our music sixties French garage or sixties French garage rock since what we play is less mainstream than the classic sixties French pop or yé-yé, like it was known in France. Well, to answer your question the great honour of starting Les BOF! goes to our guitar player Angus McPake. As a big fan of sixties French music and talented musicians, he told me one day that he had this project of a French sixties band and got me enrolled with two other guys in this great adventure. This opened me to a great new world since I had never been a singer nor a musician before. The fact to keep our shows all in French is also one of his great ideas and probably the reason that the band is so special in the UK and other countries.

How far do your retro gig travels take you?
Aaah this is perfect transition! We have been lucky enough to be noticed by a German label CopaseDisques who realised our first EP and will also issue our first album soon. Alex, the man behind this label, got us some gigs in Germany over the last two years - in Berlin mainly, but also in Dresden - but the real European launch happened following a gig in April 2008 in London where a few international promoters offered us gigs for their sixties and garage rock festivals. We played in Italy for the famous Festival Beat (Parma) in July 2008 then Paris and Le Havre in October. This year we played in Helsingør and Copenhagen (Denmark) then we were on stage in Rotterdam (Holland) for the great Primitve Festival Vol. 6 last month and we are expected in Oslo for the Guterball weekender at the end of September. And this is just to name a few. There is more to come next year. In fact, Les BOF! international recognition in this specific musical style has been exponential: everywhere we play we get offered more and more gigs thanks to the web, promoters and the word of mouth.

What does Les Bof! mean?
Bof! is a French expression that literally means 'don't care'. For example, if you play some music to a French person and ask: 'What do you think of it?' He/she may shrug his/her shoulders (in a way that only French people know how to do it) and say 'Bof!'. This means the music isn't that great or not very interesting. 'Les' (pronounce 'lay') is the article 'The', if you can remember your school French lessons. So the closest translation for the band's name could be something like the 'the who don't care'. This is the first French word that came to the mind of our guitar player which is great because we didn't have to spend hours thinking about a name for the band. The simplest stuff are very often the best and it worked for us. It is easy to remember, and funny in French to turn an expression into a noun, and on top of this we don't take ourselves too seriously so that's perfect.

What other like-minded bands do you recommend?
Interestingly enough there are other bands like us abroad with a French singer and local musicians. A good one to catch is Les Responsables. They are from Porto Alegre, Brazil. The singer, Erwan, is from French Brittany and the musicians are all Brazilian. They play the same kind of music with a lot of covers from the great Jacques Dutronc (they got their name from one of his songs). There is also Les Tragiques from Mexico. The girl who sings, Eloise, is from Paris I think and the rest of the musicians seem to be all Mexican. But the band you guys should try is Les Terribles from Paris. They have a great sixties sound and cover a lot classic French sixties garage and yé-yé tracks. Rudi, the female singer, has a good presence onstage. We had the pleasure to meet them in June in Rotterdam at the Primitive festival. That was really good fun. So basically we are not unique on the international sixties scene but definitely unique in UK.

Favourite song that you cover?
As far as I am concerned my favourite cover is 'Chante' from Ronnie Bird, a French garage/yé-yé singer from the sixties whose real name is Ronald Méhu. This song is a cover from the famous 'I Can Only Give You Everything' from Them that has been covered by so many artists, especially a lot of garage bands from the US. This is basically the first track we ever covered and I just love the way we modified it with a longer intro with me playing harmonica, some interesting breaks to make the song even more powerful than the original one, and a use of great fuzz guitar and tambourine. This track really demonstrates all the power of Les BOF! Almost everything we can do on stage is in this song. We used it for a while as an intro to our show because after playing it, it keeps people wanting more and more.

What is in store this festival season?
As far as August is concerned, we will be playing at the Henry's Cellar Bar on the 8th, a common place for Les BOF! since the Suite 69 club took off there. We will be playing with The Brutes, a raw garage rock band from Glasgow and El Toro from Liverpool . In case you don't know, The GO-GO club will move to the Gilded Balloon during Edinburgh Festival, Teviot Student Union, Teviot Place, and we will by playing there for Tall Paul in the basement club. That's all for the gigs next month, and we need to finish recording our first album.

www.myspace.com/lesbof

Les Bof! will play August 8 at Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh and August 13 at The GO-GO inside The Guilded Balloon, Edinburgh

Also published here in The List

INTERVIEW: Woodpigeon


Canadian troupe Woodpigeon have made a name for themselves abroad but it all started right here in Scotland. The band's founder, who elaborately calls himself Mark Andrew of the Hamiltons, resided in Edinburgh years ago and experienced things so memorable and profound that they had to be expressed lyrically. It is very fitting then that, as Woodpigeon becomes more globally adored, they should return to their muse as one of the highlights of T on the Fringe. Mark spoke to The List this week before jetting off to London for a UK tour to talk about their music and its Scottish sentimentalities.

Tell us about how Woodpigeon came together?
Woodpigeon started as Woodpigeon/Antelope=Squirrel in Edinburgh about five years ago. I played with a member of the Edinburgh band Eagleowl, and we made some silly instrumentals with a bass player from Australia. Nothing ever came of it in that capacity, but since returning to Canada, things have taken on a somewhat more serious nature. I just wanted to tell some stories, and doing so via music and lyric is what seems to work best for me.

Meaning behind the band name?
I’ve always thought that Woodpigeon looked like a rollercoaster when written in cursive. It’s the most beautiful word in the English language, if you ask me. A woodpigeon’s also a flying rat, which is another good name for a rock band.

Tell us about your last album.
Treasury Library Canada is a collection of songs written after my return to Canada, that mostly came about while we were recording our first record Songbook, which itself is more of a diary of my experiences of living in Edinburgh and Brighton. For a while I didn’t think it would ever actually come out, but the more that people heard it, the more that people wanted it. When we did up a self-pressed run of 1,000 (with handmade covers that took ages to put together), they sold out within the month. I took that as good enough sign that it should probably come out properly.

What are you most excited about this summer?
I’m particularly excited to return to Edinburgh as I’ll have a few days off to visit with old friends, and in particular to meet the new baby of two of my closest Scottish pals. We’re going to take a day up to Anstruther together, a personal favourite locale of mine.

Am I right in seeing that one of your songs was the backdrop to a fashion show in Paris?
Olivier Theyskiens, the designer for the Nina Ricci label in Paris, used one of our songs to soundtrack the label’s spring/summer fashion show in Paris last year. When we played in Paris this past February, we were given a tour of the haute couture house and met Olivier while he was doing a dress fitting on a model in his studio. Olivier’s since left Nina Ricci, but I hope we get to work together again. I’ve developed quite a lovely friendship with his lovely assistant Agnes, so we do hear regularly as to what they’re up to (and the same is true of Olivier hearing about us!).

What else does 2009 hold for Woodpigeon?
Once this summer tour is over, I’m actually heading back to school to work on a film studies degree. Our next album is called Die Stadt Muzikanten, and it’s coming out in January 2010. I think that all that we’ll really have going on Woodpigeon-wise this fall is our first show in New York City at CMJ, and then maybe something in Montreal as well.

What kind of artists do you like to listen to together?
There’s actually few artists that we all agree on together, but we’ve managed to find common ground with Calexico, The Velvet Underground, and just about anything classic Motown. I remember one particularly heated argument when I put on a live recording by The Fiery Furnaces. That didn’t go over well at all.

http://www.myspace.com/woodpigeon

Woodpigeon play August 7 with Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers plus Rags and Feathers at Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh.

Also published here in The List

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Britannia Spice


ALL ABOARD!

WALKING INTO BRITTANIA SPICE IS LIKE ENTERING THE DINING ROOM OF A FANCY SHIP, A GREAT ATMOSPHERE TO OFFER AS IT'S SECONDS FROM THE SEA. AFTER MY FRIEND AND I ARE KINDLY GREETED AT THE DOOR, WE ARE SHOWN TO OUR TABLE AS WE SOAK IN THE NICE, NAUTICAL FEEL TO THE RESTAURANT.


As we ponder over the menu, we realise that they offer a wide range of Asian dishes from Bangladesh, Northern India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Nepal. It's not easy to narrow down here so it's handy that there's the mango chutney, mint onions and curry pickles to snack on, all delicious and freshly prepared.

I decide to go to Thailand for a starter with the Tom Yum soup (£5.75). It's on fire with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, imported herbs and red chillies for the brave. My friend has the king prawn butterfly (£5.75) - a rather large prawn deep fried with herbs and spices until crispy. Its accompanying sauce is a testament to what real sweet chilli sauce should taste like!

For a main course, I go for a Britannia Spice selected dish: shahi chicken (£10.95). It comes through on its promise to be mild as I needed a breather after the fabulous but fiery soup! The chicken has been cooked with cashew nuts, rose water and cream, the rose water adding a beautiful flavour while the cream aids the smooth texture. My friend is the one travelling to Thailand this time with her main of Thai sesame chicken (10.95), cooked in spices, capsicums, carrots, sesame oil and soy sauce, garnished with sesame seeds and coriander leaves. She, who has lived in Thailand, raves of its authentic flavour. The garlic naan bread is top notch, and our sweet server, Shamim, tells us the dish actually originates from Pakistan, a little known fact!

For dessert, the kulfi (£3.25) seems the most tempting as that texture and taste is always so bewildering so we share a mango and pistachio, and they're a satisfying finish to an impressive night. The server to customer ratio is very high here so everyone gets ample attention.

I will be back, perhaps travelling to Sri Lanka next time I board the ship of Britannia Spice.

Britannia Spice
150 Commercial Street
Ocean Drive
Edinburgh EH6 6LB
Tel: 0131 555 2255
Fax: 0131 555 0800
info@britanniaspice.co.uk

OPENING HOURS
Mon-Sat: 12-2pm; 5-11.45pm
Sun: 5-11.45pm

Also published in Bite Magazine, August 2009

FASHION PROFILE: Chic and Unique, Stockbridge


ANYTHING THAT'S PRETTY

Vintage costume jewellery and beaded bags hang against pretty pink walls while breezy 1940s tunes play overhead. One swift look around can feel like a journey back to glamour eras gone by with statement pieces aplenty that would look fitting adorning the necks of the likes of Audrey Hepburn. Antique beauties by Haskell, Robert, Cartier, Chanel, Christian Dior light up the room. Handmade Venetian carnival masks beg for a ball. Rentable classic 1950s tiaras sparkle. Among the many hidden gems in Edinburgh, there is Chic and Unique.

Moira Teale began the vintage costume jewellery boutique after being made redundant from a massive insurance company. Tired of being head of the complaints department for 16 years anyway (shocking!), Moira decided to ditch the office life for good and find solace in a business in which she could happily devote her heart and soul. She developed a passion for collectible vintage jewellery after growing up with a father who showered her mother with secondhand art deco pieces that Moira never forgot. Her love for such pieces progressively grew and she began her shop using her own personal collection. Five years later, the shop is fully stocked with pieces sourced worldwide and she admits that some are still hard to let go.

It's easy to understand why one would get so invested in a work of art that has survived for so many decades. As Moira explained to me, each piece has a history and is a testament to the lives of their creators as well as the previous owners. Every item has a story. A gorgeous beaded canary yellow handbag catches my eye and she tells me she bought it because it reminded her of an almost identical white one her sister carried long ago. A girl brought in a silver cuff that originally belonged to her aunt who was popular with the boys in the 1920s and this cuff was a gift from one of her lovers. A stunning necklace studded with green jewels is believed to have once belonged to iconic American actress Ann Miller, who passed just five years ago.

With her dream space full of so much richness and character, Moira's endeavour to offer the "best of the best" and "something different than what you get in town" is remarkable.

Chic and Unique also houses extraordinary accessories like brooches, clips, hair accessories, clutches, perfume bottles, bijoux items, hat pins, cufflinks, compacts and bracelets. "Anything that's pretty," she says.

Chic and Unique
8 Deanhaugh Street
Stockbridge
Edinburgh
EH4 1LY
0131 332 9889
www.vintagecostumejewellery.co.uk

Also published in Bite Life Magazine, August 2009

FESTIVAL FIVE: Fashion essentials


IT ONLY COMES AROUND ONCE A YEAR SO ONE MUST BE PREPARED FOR BEING SEEN ON THE FESTIVAL SCENE! HERE'S A FEW ESSENTIAL SUGGESTIONS TO GET YOU GOING.

FESTIVE FROCK: May as well and go all out, ladies. August is our excuse each year to be carefree, and what better way to do that than to wander between old and new town venues adorning something fun, frilly, summery, flowery, lacey, vivacious, vibrant, whatever! Cookie on Cockburn Street has more than a fair share of beauties to help you feel extra fab.

COMFY SHOES: It is highly recommended to be a pedestrian come festival time - it saves you much needed pounds you could use for show tickets, you don't get stuck in a conjestion nightmare the tram works are bound to bring this year, you get to soak in all of the sights, sounds, smells and spirit of the festival and, of course, you burn a few calories. But venue hopping takes its toll on our weary feet after a while so be sure to invest in something supportive yet stylish. Goodstead on Rose Street is just the place for hip urban streetwear, and the likes of Van Morrison have even been rumoured to stop in, so legendary celeb-spotting could be a bonus!

A BROLLY: If we are to learn anything at all from last year's rain-soaked festivities, pack the brolly just in case. It can weigh you down, it can even be easily lost but it can also save you from drenching your pretty festival frock and undoing your fab festival hairdo! Try a cute and compact one. H&M has plenty of polka-dotted designs to keep it fun.

A SENSIBLE BAG: Don't kid yourselves with a chic and petite clutch. Flyers will be thrust upon you, as will show programs, and you will inevitably encounter random stalls selling a lot of what you want. You WILL want to carry this issue of Bite around with you and probably various other guides so best to bag it up in something roomy and really adorable! Do what's ethical and check out the unique bags on offer at the many area charity shops.

A GREAT SCARF: Not only does a scarf really add a lot of class and character to just about any attire, it is also just so practical. With a REALLY great scarf, you can tie it around your hair in a 50s-style do during a drizzle or use it as a picnic blanket in the Meadows during a sunny break between shows. Cheap and sweet ones can always be found at festival-handy spots like the vintage haven Rusty Zip on Teviot Place.

Also published in Bite Life Magazine, August 2009

FESTIVAL PAMPERING: Bite Life recommendations




IF ALL OF THE FESTIVAL FUN LEAVES YOU FEELING DRAINED AND IN NEED OF SOME SERIOUS ATTENTION, INDULGE YOURSELF IN SOME OF THE BEST PAMPERING THE CITY HAS TO OFFER. BITE LIFE HAS HAD THE TOILING TASK OF SAMPLING ALL OF THE FOLLOWING PLACES AND WE ARE HERE TO TELL YOU THAT THEY PUT THE 'TREAT' IN 'TREATMENT'!

FAB BEAUTY: This place does what it says on the tin and that is to make you feel fab. From the miraculous removal of cellulite with jet therapy to make-up (using only MAC) and nail services, Fab Beauty Salon is on a mission to make you even more beautiful than you obviously already are. Ask Siobhan about pampering parties too at 2 Pitt Street, off Newhaven Road. Tel: 0131 538 3070.

SHIVAGO THAI CLINIC: Conveniently located in the heart of the old town, it is all the more tempting to take a load off and let therapist Kei Ngu work some magic on your tired bones. With a passionately knowledgeable staff, Shivago has a series of traditional Thai therapies on-hand including a Thai yoga massage, herbal compress, cupping and, what you really want, a Thai foot massage. You'll be relaxed in no time, especially after a complimentary cup of the bespoke herbal tea. Find them at 25 Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh. Tel: 07878 256 174.

NEVO: This complementary health studio is downstairs from Renroc Cafe and is not only a hot stone massage must but they can also help you get detoxed if you're really overdoing it in the beer gardens this year! Stop in for a manicure or Indian head massage or just hang out with a coffee in Renroc while perusing through the treatment brochures. Both are at 91 Montgomery Street, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 556 0432.

HOT HEAD: Located quite close to the major festival tents, Hot Head offers not only really cool haircuts but treatments downstairs like sports massage, beauty consultancy and acupuncture. You'll feel pampered before you're even treated as everyone is greeted with a nice cup of tea that you're encouraged to enjoy on one of the comfy seats provided in the cozy, friendly space. Great music too! They're at 17 West Nicolson Street. Tel: 0131 662 1009.

THE SHIATSU PLACE: For some holistic therapy that is as good as but not as intrusive as acupuncture, head down Morningside Road to The Shiatsu Place. Under the care of well-trained professionals, a shiatsu massage is sure to sort you out and place you firmly on the road to relaxation. Find them at 40 Comiston Road, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 446 0666.

Also in Bite Life Magazine, August 2009

ALBUM REVIEW: BROKEN RECORDS * * *


Broken Records, the Edinburgh-based ensemble who have been commonly dubbed as the Scottish Arcade Fire, made their followers proud when they signed on to the 4AD label and shortly after released a highly anticipated album full of songs so familiar to the hometown listeners that we (yes, myself included) already knew most word-for-word purely from frequent attendance at BR’s engrossing live gigs.

So it is probably not entirely their fault that on a first listen to the record, a certain level of disappointment is present due mainly to the lack of that all-encompassing connection one gets inside an intimate venue. I would love to be able to review this record as a BR virgin, to discover this band and the chills they induce, for the very first time; but instead I just keep listening for a reconnection and find at least one solution - turn up the volume.

‘A Good Reason’ and ‘Until the Earth Begins to Part’ relievingly recapture the bond, and that colossal sound. ‘A Promise’, a violin and piano-led ballad, grows with urgency halfway through in an eventual explosion until the song leaves you as quickly as it has awoken you. And opening track, ‘Nearly Home’, remains a highlight of the BR repertoire, with Rory’s violin-led harmony and Jamie’s imploring lyrics, the same sort of lyrics that on ‘Thoughts On A Picture (In a Paper, January 2009)’ ask “were your eyes red from your tears shed, now tell me do you feel let down?” Let down? Answer: no, not afterall.

Also published in isthismusic.com

EP REVIEW: Cancel the Astronauts * * * *


The Edinburgh boys of Cancel the Astronauts deliver five pop-perfect tracks in their energetic EP I Am The President of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home). Matthew Riley’s vocals are flirtatious if slightly worrying (see album title) and most often than not, the album conjures up both the The Strokes and Star Wars in fell swoop. ‘Country Song’ will have you twirling and stomping around in your Converse dance shoes and ‘Late in the City’s playful rock ‘n’ roll leaves you wanting to know the end of it lonely love story. Accessible, seriously fun Scottish indie pop that boogies.

Also published in www.isthismusic.com

Monday, 13 July 2009

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Designs by Rowan Joy


ROWAN JOY MCINTOSH CAME TO EDINBURGH OVER TEN YEARS AGO FROM THE SCOTTISH WEST COAST WITH NO KNOWLEDGE AT ALL OF HOW SHE WOULD NOW SO EMINENTLY AFFECT THE AREA'S INDIE DESIGN SCENE. SHE GRADUATED IN FASHION DESIGN FROM THE EDINBURGH ART COLLEGE AND HAS BEEN STITCHING HER SIGNATURE ALL OVER THE CITY EVER SINCE.

Rowan began fashioning her career five years ago at Godiva, a boutique in the Grassmarket that stocks independent designs, reworked and original vintage and unique accessories. Since then, she received the dreamy and rare opportunity to set up a creative space of her own in Godiva's basement where she is readily available to customise anything you fancy from upstairs so that it's made-to-measure. Here, in a haven that anyone in the creative arts would kill for, Rowan is given the "freedom to just play about." Her highly individualised creations are so unpretentiously chic and fabulously bizarre that she has earned herself not only a cozy studio stint but quite the following all over the UK. Rowan Joy can be found in London, Newcastle, North Berwick and Brighton. See the girly glamour for yourself at www.rowanjoy.co.uk.

Also published in the April/May 2008 issue of Bite Life Magazine

Friday, 3 July 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: You've Really Got a Hold on Me by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles



I've heard it covered by the Supremes, She and Him and by a band I saw last night, whose name I cannot remember, but Smokey does it best cuz it's his. Easy to listen to this one on repeat.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You



Gonna tell my mama! Written by Thomas and Howard Biggs, this is such a catchy little critter and it captures that early E charisma that grabbed a hold everybody and has yet to let go. A beauty, believe it!