AHEAD of the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, Holly Lennon gets to know some of the nominees likely to be the future stars of Scotland’s music scene
Neon Waltz are a six-piece psychedelic indie band hailing from John o’ Groats, the most northerly point of Britain. They have already attracted the attention of Q and NME, who labelled them as one of their artists to watch for 2015.
“We all went to school together and we’ve known each other for years”, says lead singer Jordan. “We played in various bands as teenagers then together about two years ago and decided to go for it, instead of just jamming.”
Turns out just going for it worked well for the band - as well as being noticed by some of the country’s biggest music magazines, they have accumulated nearly 3,000 Twitter followers.
Despite coming from such an isolated part of Scotland, Jordan believes this has helped rather than hindered them, he explains:“It’s like a different world from Glasgow or Edinburgh or even Inverness, there’s not many other bands from up here. We’ve never been part of a scene or anything which I think has kind of helped us because it’s meant we can just go our own way and not feel pressure to try and sound like anything else.”
Jordan thanks the Scottish ‘edge’ for the success of the bands the country produces: “I think it’s maybe something to do with the fact that in London, there’s so many bands in the one area and everybody just ends up sounding like each other. But with Scottish bands, because there isn’t that many, they’re not trying to sound like anyone else.”
As well as attending the SAMA’s as a best live act nominee, the band will be finishing off demos for their album in the coming months.
Twenty-one-year-old Stella Reilly got into performing at a young age and has experience well beyond her years. Before becoming a singer-songwriter, Stella was part of school choirs and played the flute and piano before teaching herself how to play guitar. She is nominated for best acoustic at this year’s Scottish Alternative Music Awards.
“I’m self-managed which is a lot to balance at the same time as finishing my uni degree,” she says when asked about her plans for the next few months. “So maybe getting a manager on board is on the cards!” Despite juggling university, organising a folk night in Dundee and songwriting, Stella has managed to squeeze in enough live performances to get herself noticed by the SAMAs judges. “We have such brilliant talent in this country and where others may see it as competition, I look at myself as being lucky to be counted among other great bands” she gushes.
Like a large proportion of the rest of country, Stella is a fan of Scottish music. “People, on the whole, will appreciate at least one genre of music and in Scotland, we’ve always been good at supporting our own in the arts world so I guess that enthusiasm and love has filtered out to others.
“London is always thought of as the place to be for music but Scotland is becoming a thriving hub of upcoming artists and in every city or town you go to, guaranteed there is an open mic night or live music down at the local pub.”
Having just finished recording with some “great producers and musicians” Stella will now be sitting down to add some finishing touches before organising a release over the next few months.
Our Future Glory
Our Future Glory may be nominated for best electronic act at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards but their sound is eclectic, as they admit. “We wanted to write music that captured the style of the melodies and the catchiness of the lyrics, while still drawing influence from all the African, R&B, and hip-hop music we listened to growing up,” band member Sam Wolfe says.
The three-piece have been together since 2005, getting together and jamming along to bands they loved “back in the golden era of bands like Bloc Party, The Killers, Editors and so on.”
Ten years later, the band believe their sound has progressed to the stage where they are committed to making a career out of it. Sam says: “Writing music was a natural progression for us since we’ve been surrounded by it all our lives.”
It wasn’t until they touched down in Scotland that their music taste really started to evolve. “We all originally come from Kenya and Zambia, grew up in London, then moved up to Scotland before high school. It’s only when we were here that we started to listen to rock and indie music,” Sam explains.
Playing alongside other Scottish acts challenged the band to keep producing better music and making every show better than the last to catch the attention of music lovers around the country. “Scottish music fans are the wildest and most loving audience. If they enjoy your music, they will become die-hards for you and make so much noise that the music industry cannot ignore it - we’ve seen it happen so many times”.
As well as battling it out for the best alternative act award, Our Future Glory will be touring around the country, writing new music while working towards putting together their debut album. Their debut single will be released through Wall of Sound records, the people behind the likes of Basement Jaxx, Royksopp and Rev & the Makers.
They may have only formed in early 2014, but Kilmarnock two-piece Huxtable have already made a name for themselves. From supporting Biffy Clyro at a sold-out show in London to getting the thumbs-up from music mogul Zane Lowe, the band are gearing up to follow in Royal Blood’s footsteps as the hottest riff rock duo around.
Best friends Jordan Yates and Marc Williams-Brown created the band after “mucking around with some riffs” at an unsuccessful band practice.
“Being from Kilmarnock and watching Biffy Clyro progress from the tiny pub shows to the international arena behemoth they are today really gave us confidence that being in a professional rock band is something that can be achieved,” Jordan says.
“There is a lot of competition, you’ll see a band absolutely killing it and think to yourself “we need to be that good or better”. It makes for some amazing acts.”
It’s not only the music scene that inspired the band, Marc believes education can be the best place to build the foundation for an aspiring musician. “I think we have the education systems to thank, especially in Ayrshire, the music education in place is incredible,” he says.
“There are also so many promoters in Scotland who help unsigned bands gain recognition all over the country which helps raise the profile of Scottish music as a whole.”
Regardless of whether they beat the other acts to win their first-ever SAMA, Huxtable’s success is likely to continue towards to end of the year where the band will be playing a number of shows around Scotland.
“On October 4th we play King Tuts with the mighty God Damn who recently supported Foo Fighters. I managed to catch them at Leeds festival” Marc says. “We have challenged them to a riff-off so it should be a very beefy evening.”
The band will be heading out on a Scottish winter tour performing in Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee, Dunfermline, Paisley, Glasgow and their hometown of Kilmarnock. Before then they will be travelling to London to record some demos on the famous Denmark Street courtesy of Relentless.
Bella and the Bear
Bella and the Bear are an acoustic duo who combine their traditional sound with rhythmic and percussive guitar. Stuart Ramage and Lauren Gilmour have been performing and writing music together since meeting at university.
“Performing live is definitely the best part for us,” Lauren says. Having just been nominated for best newcomer at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards it’s likely there will be a lot more performances to come.
“Coming from Scotland is incredibly important. For any writer or musician, I think your surroundings and upbringing have a definite impact on your work. I think there’s a little nod to being Scottish in terms of the delivery of our vocals and spoken word”.
Despite there being such a large number of artists producing high quality music, Lauren uses this as inspiration. She gives a nod to other homegrown talents Hector Bizerk, Man of Moon, Be Charlotte and Kathryn Joseph.
“There is a real appreciation of the music that is created here. There are a whole host of Scottish acts making music that’s truly innovative. It’s new and exciting and that’s what keeps an industry like this so alive,” Lauren explains.
Bella and the Bear are not only looking to be the future of Scotland’s music scene but are also releasing a short film they have made with BAFTA award-winning director Ian Henderson. Aimed at embodying the band themselves, the film will be a sixteen minute fairytale which they hope will “light up audience imaginations”
Bella and the Bear’s EP ‘A Girl Called Bella’ will be released on October 2nd at the CCA Glasgow.