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The Winter of 88 – a very limited edition album from Seafieldroad


Seafieldroad news. The Winter of 88, the third ‘solo’ album by Andrew from Swimmer One, will be something a little different – a limited edition of 88 physical copies, each with handmade packaging, each named after the person who bought it, and each featuring the names of those 88 people in the album’s title track.

Andrew plans to start recording The Winter of 88 in early 2013 – it will be partly financed by pre-orders from the 88 people who will get to own it. At time of writing there are still some albums available to preorder. If you’re interested you can get yours.

You can listen to the first two Seafieldroad albums in Bandcamp or Spotify.

Whatever Gets You Through The Night – The theatre show

Whatever Gets You Through The Night. June 2012. The Arches, Glasgow

Whatever Gets You Through The Night. June 2012. The Arches, Glasgow

A huge thank you to everyone who came to see Whatever Gets You Through The Night, the big, sprawling live show we made last month with Cora Bissett, playwright David Greig, The Arches in Glasgow, and lots of talented people. We had a lot of fun doing it, got to work with some of our favourite musicians.

The show was very well received. It sold out completely before its opening night, and got four star reviews in The Guardian, The List, The Scotsman and The Herald, as well as widespread media coverage, including a cover feature in the Skinny.

If you missed the live show, you can still experience Whatever Gets You Through The Night in other forms. Our long-term collaborator Daniel Warren has made a film which will be premiered at Summerhall in Edinburgh on 23 August, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. You can buy tickets for the screening. There will be some live music on the night too. After that we plan to take the film on tour – watch this space for updates.

Whatever Gets You Through The Night also exists as an album, which you can stream or download here. There are brand new songs by Withered Hand, Ricky Ross, Emma Pollock, Eugene Kelly, Rachel Sermanni and numerous others, as well as ourselves. The album is accompanied by a beautiful book featuring all the lyrics from the songs in the show, new writing by David Greig, Kieran Hurley, Alan Bissett, Kirstin Innes and Stef Smith among others, and photos from rehearsals and Daniel’s film.

Thanks to Creative Scotland for making all this possible. Cora is currently in talks with various people in the hope that we can put the live show on again, in the UK or elsewhere.

Seafieldroad 2 – track by track


Here, belatedly, is a track by track guide to the second Seafieldroad album – this first appeared on Lloyd Meredith’s Peenko blog in November 2011 but I’m reposting it for those who didn’t see it.

Cramond Island Causeway
For those who don’t know Edinburgh, just off the village of Cramond, on the outskirts of the city, there’s an island that you can walk to at low tide, along a causeway of jagged triangular structures that look like the spine of an ancient sea creature. At high tide, though, the island is cut off from the mainland. People who don’t know this sometimes get stranded there – like the teenagers who had a massive party and ended up with their faces all over page three of the Scotsman after getting hypothermia and having to call the coastguard. Oops. I live in Leith and sometimes cycle to Cramond. Not for teenage parties though, I’m too old for that. This song was inspired by one particular cycle ride there, on my wife Laura’s 31st birthday. Quintana Films, who are based in Edinburgh, have made a very beautiful video for this song, in which Laura and I are played by two very young and pretty people, and the beach is in Orkney instead of near Leith. It’s like a Hollywood version of us (or maybe a French arthouse version of us, since it’s in black and white). By sheer chance, though, Laura owns a summer dress exactly like the one the girl is wearing in the video, which freaked us out a bit.

What Became Of Pinky And Honker
A deliberately very simple love song. The title comes from Laura calling me Honker. Not because I smell, but because when I have a cold I make a slight honking sound with my nose. I wanted to give her an equally stupid nickname as revenge, but the only thing I could think of was that she was wearing a pink beret at the time. None of which has anything to do with the song, I just liked the image of two characters called Pinky and Honker going off on some adventure and leaving their old working lives behind. The title has a double meaning – Honker is imagining the people left behind wondering what became of Pinky and Honker, but he’s also feeling vulnerable and wondering whether Pinky is going to stay with him. Hence the final line: ‘Don’t leave me in the dust, floundering and wondering what became of Pinky and Honker.’

I Just Want To Sledge With My Baby
Another slightly silly title for a quite sad, serious song about the cruelty of love. It was written during last year’s incredibly cold, bleak winter, when the snow drove Scotland to a standstill – hence the line ‘the radio is saying make no journey you don’t need’. Musically this is probably my favourite song on the album – there are obvious shades of Steve Reich and Michael Nyman in the arrangement. I’m childishly proud of the second section, where the line ‘we’re climbing up the hill’ is accompanied by an ascending chord sequence.

The War Planes Are Blitzing The Town
This song was originally called Cramond Island Causeway 2. I changed the title to avoid confusing people, but the new title will probably end up confusing people anyway, since the song is actually much more about Cramond Island than Cramond Island Causeway is. The lyrics refer to the war fortifications on the island, a series of concrete bunkers which had anti-aircraft guns on them during World War Two. It’s a song about emotional battles – the war planes are, obviously enough, not actual war planes, they’re all the things in life that make you feel under attack, or oppressed, or isolated. I liked the image of someone lonely and lost, fighting off their own personal war planes from a metaphorical island, and someone who loves them swimming out to the island to be with them, shooting anti aircraft guns by their side.

There Is A Train That Goes Thousands Of Miles Away
This used to be called Trans Siberian Express, until I remembered that Momus had already written a song called that. It’s about wanting to take a trip on the Trans Siberian Express, either literally or metaphorically. And that’s about all I can think of to say about it. I’d really like someone to do a remix of it in the style of Trans Europe Express by Kraftwerk. Hamish (from my band Swimmer One) offered to do it but hasn’t got round to it yet, so if anyone else feels like having a go in the meantime…

You Are The Only Place On The Map
A companion piece to There Are No Maps For This Part Of The City, from the first Seafieldroad album. It’s quite epic, given that there’s nothing on it apart from a voice and a piano – a song in three parts, with a big singalong bit at the end. If There Are No Maps was about the beginnings of a relationship, this rejoins the same couple further down the line, having to work hard to keep things together in difficult circumstances. I really like maps as a metaphor – finding routes through life, drawing your own emotional maps, that sort of thing.

The Coastal Path
This song was originally called Seafield Road, until it dawned on me that a song called Seafield Road, by Seafieldroad, would result in even more confusion than two songs called Cramond Island Causeway. It is, however, about the journey along Seafield Road in Edinburgh, from Leith to Portobello. Seafield Road is not a very pretty road. It smells a bit from the nearby sewage works, and mostly consists of warehouses. It is, however, the quickest way to get from Leith, where I live, to one of my favourite places, Portobello Beach. I thought it was a nice metaphor for the fact that the road to happiness isn’t always pretty, that there is always some difficulty along the way, even if it’s just coping with the smell of sewage. This song is very much about that (the difficulty, not the sewage).

Walking On A Dream
A cover of the song by Empire of the Sun, which I really like (so much so that it was the first dance at my wedding this year). The original is very upbeat and camp. This version isn’t. But it’s a nice happy note to end the album on.


Seafieldroad: There Are No Maps For This Part of the City – track by track

Seafieldroad: There Are No Maps For This Part Of The City

Seafieldroad: There Are No Maps For This Part Of The City

So, the Seafieldroad album is out now – I hope you like it. Here’s a track by track guide. Stream the whole thing below if you want to listen to it while reading.

Brian Wilson karaoke
There isn’t exactly a shortage of songs inspired by Brian Wilson, or songs about Brian Wilson. If I live the rest of my life without hearing another Beach Boys pastiche that’s fine with me. So I procrastinated over recording this song for quite a while. It is, in my defence, not about Brian Wilson but about someone who thinks they are Brian Wilson – hence the line ‘Everyone says they’re me but I know how it felt to write Sloop John B’ (a song from Pet Sounds which, of course, Wilson didn’t write). There are, I admit, some ‘ba ba ba’ harmonies at the end by me and Laura, although they’re not really Beach Boys style ba ba bas (it’s a subtle distinction, but they’re rhythmically different). They’re intended to sound like ghosts – Beach Boys-like, slightly malevolent spirits haunting the character singing the song.

The use of the word ‘karaoke’ in the song’s title has multiple meanings. It is, partly, a joke at my own expense for writing something that has elements of Beach Boys pastiche. But I’m also using the word in the same sense that Dennis Potter used it in his TV drama of the same name – to describe a character whose life is not his own but feels like a karaoke performance of someone else’s. Anyway, Brian Wilson Karaoke is a sad song about the unreliability of memory, inspired by 1. the old joke ‘if you remember the 1960s you probably weren’t there’ and 2. an interview I read with Brian Wilson, from the early 1990s when he was still more than a little flaky and 3. a play by John Mighton called Half-Life, about two elderly people in a retirement home who are convinced they were lovers in their youth and have been happily reunited. Their children are equally convinced that the couple have never met before entering the home, but wouldn’t it be a terrible act of cruelty to destroy this illusion when it is making them happy?

There are no maps for this part of the city
One of the first people I played this to said it made her cry. That’s a good result, I reckon, and all the more satisfying since it’s a song that took years to finish. Long ago it consisted of just the first section and a half-finished, not very good lyric called This Case Is Empty, in which I tried and failed to make an interesting metaphor out of the fact that CD cases in shops don’t have CDs in them. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I then started writing a lyric called There Are No Maps For This Part Of The City (I almost always start with a title) and returned to this piece of music. Lyrically, it’s about transgression – choosing a route through life that doesn’t follow the usual maps. I liked that as a metaphor, which is why it ended up as the title of the album. Musically, this took a fair bit of arranging to get right, given that the later part of the song is more or less the same sequence of chords played again and again (eight times in all) in slightly different ways. The solution was a combination of harmonies and a string arrangement – a very basic one by me that was then fleshed out beautifully, with lots of added flourishes, by Pete Harvey.

The Truth
Laura wrote the lyric for this one, and very lovely it is too, a deceptively simple lyric about a complicated subject, the subjectivity of truth, especially when it comes to the truth of what you feel about somebody. A different version of this tune appears in a theatre installation that Laura and I made, which has now been built in various places – the Arches in Glasgow, a theatre in Turin and, last month, our living room.

Another lyric by Laura, which explains the unconventional three part structure of this song. The lyric was a poem, really, and not necessaily intended to be set to music, so didn’t have anything resembling a ‘chorus’. The answer was to divide it into three distinct sections, each with a different atmosphere as the story in the poem moves from a pub to a promenade and then on to the beach – signified by some (hopefully not too intrusive) background ambience added by Hamish. I’m particularly proud of the harmonies in the final section – inspired by 1. Sing Something Simple, a radio show by the Cliff Adams Singers that I used to listen to when I was a child (I even asked Hamish to mix the vocals in a similar way), and 2. 10CC (on the last bit of the song). It’s a love song set in an infinite number of parallel universes, in case you were wondering.

Originally I wasn’t planning to put this on the album. It was written long after the rest of these songs, quite quickly, and recorded in a couple of takes as a bit of an afterthought. But Hamish really liked it so on it went. It’s an odd song – it has a quite conventional verse-chorus-verse structure and is musically quite ‘up’, but has one of the bleakest lyrics I’ve ever written, which suggests that music and musicians will always let you down. I was going through a bit of a crisis of confidence when I wrote it, and am not sure I believe any of it, which is perhaps why I didn’t want to put it on the album. But it’s got a catchy tune, and people seem to like it, so I’m glad we did.

Advocate’s Close
I wrote this short instrumental years and years ago, then never did anything with it apart from occasionally play it to relatives to prove that, yes, I can actually play the piano (which, given that much of the music I’ve put my name to is made using machines, is not always apparent to them. Can you tell that this annoys me?). It never had a title, so I decided to name it Advocate’s Close after the street in Edinburgh where this album was recorded – specifically, in a flat containing a beautiful old grand piano. I remain very grateful to Helen Williams and Jennifer Williams for trusting me with a set of keys and allowing me to practise there more or less whenever I liked. This album probably wouldn’t have been made without them.

Stamped addressed envelope
A love song, of sorts. With a lovely string arrangement by Pete Harvey, expanded from a very simple idea (a series of single ascending notes) by me.

All I wanted was to be a gangster
A throwaway song, written very quickly after I told Laura, as a joke, that I wanted to write a song called All I Wanted Was To Be A Gangster. It wasn’t originally going to go on the album at all – like Hanging, it was recorded as something of an afterthought – but I eventually decided it should go on because a lot of the album is quite serious, and a little levity wouldn’t do it any harm, especially between a song as wrenching as Stamped Addressed Envelope and one as bleak and cruel as Feeble Jesus. Also, it’s a good title and looks good on the tracklist. Fact: the melody began as me trying to work out how to play I Should Be So Lucky by Kylie Minogue on the piano.

Feeble Jesus
Another dark song, about a group of people choosing to follow a religious leader even though they know he’s fake, and inadequate, and not able to do any of the things he claims to be able to do. Why would they do that? Lack of self-respect, maybe. Or because it’s less scary to put someone else in charge, and act as if they have the answers even when you know they don’t, than to take responsibility yourself. A song for the times we live in – what is David Cameron, after all, but a creepier, watered down copy of Tony Blair, with the things we liked about him (charisma, eloquence, handsomeness) but without the baggage of the things we didn’t (being a war criminal)? Does anyone genuinely believe that Cameron (or Nick Clegg, a David Cameron for people who couldn’t stomach voting Tory) can transform Britain for the better? Or did people vote for him because they have resigned themselves to the idea that the most they can ever expect from a politician is a shiny, inoffensive businessman who talks in bland but reassuring platitudes that could mean almost anything? At the end of the song the mob crucify the fake Jesus, simply because they’re curious to know what he’d look like if he acted in a genuine, uncontrived, unscripted way, and they suspect the only way to make that happen is to physically hurt him.

All the ways of this love
A love song about exchanging messages on the internet – something that Laura, in her lyric, manages to make more poetic than I ever could. It felt right, therefore, that she should sing on it. So it became a duet. Musically it’s verging on soppy, but no harm in that, especially after a song like Feeble Jesus.

Fucking Manchester
Pop music is full of songs that skirt around fucking, hinting at it shamelessly without actually admitting that this is what the song is about. I wanted to write a song that is, quite openly, about two lovers going somewhere for a weekend in order to fuck. To walk and talk and explore too, as it says in the song, but also, explicitly, to fuck. It probably won’t get played on the radio any time soon, but I really like it – a song about fucking that is also, I think, genuinely poignant. It’s a very hopeful, romantic song about the beginning of a great adventure, and the excitement of exploring a new city (the words ‘fucking Manchester! are also the sound of two people verbally punching the air, delighted to be where they are). It’s a fitting end to an album called There Are No Maps For This Part Of The City, and a sequel, of sorts, to the title track. If the title track has two people nervously and tentatively exploring an unknown city quarter (both physically and metaphorically), this song sees them striding through the streets, emboldened. One of the reviews of the album describes this song as ‘heartbreaking’. Well, it’s nice to provoke any reaction (and it was a lovely, enthusiastic review) but I don’t see Fucking Manchester that way at all. It’s a happy ending.