Matthew Winter’s Zed Penguin have been quietly knocking about Edinburgh’s music scene for a few years now – a name at the bottom if bills, occasionally muttered about by those in the know, they’ve flown under the radar a little until fairly recently.
But now, and with no little assistance from the capital’s blogging and podcasting network, more people seem to be pricking up their ears in the direction of their tuneful Sonic Youth-esque racket.
They’ve also picked up a few new members, fleshing out Winter’s solo sound into a three-piece, and have also just added... a cellist?
“At the start, it was just me and my wee five watt valve amp my pal made for me out of an old radio and his girlfriend’s jumper,” says the Australian native.
“When I first came to Edinburgh I didn’t know a single soul and ended up getting a job in a psychiatric hospital. I met this punk dude there that asked me to jam with him and I ended up in this outfit playing twice the speed I normally do to songs about social injustice and what not. It wasn’t really my thing but was great fun.”
This “great fun” also included a bizarre incident when after taking some naughty substances, members of this rather ramshackle band lost their instruments and went AWOL, respectively, leaving Winter and his then girlfriend indulging in some improv that would doubtless have met with the approval of those at Jazz Club.
Unsurprisingly the band didn’t last but Winter had a few tricks up his sleeve while playing with PET – his own songs. “I started making four track demos in my room and stuck them on MySpace, back when it was good. Another friend convinced me to play them live, I really never intended to actually.”
And so Zed Penguin was born. Fellow ex-PET member Casey Miller was roped in on drums and Pineapple Chunks’ James Metcalfe picked up the bass. The band took its name from a nickname given to Winter by another group of cohorts who seemed to see some affinity in him with the old Batman villain, later played by Danny DeVito.
Latest EP ‘Red Tulip Yellow Tulip’ came out over the summer and is the long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s ‘Four Track Minds’. All being well, we won’t have to wait half as long to hear a subsequent release, with several projects in the pipeline, including a full length record.
“We recorded the last EP at a studio called The Edinburgh Recording Company – not an ounce of fat on that name!” says Winter. “It’s set up on a mezzanine in an old church and there’s not a computer in sight, just a lovely two inch tape machine and a 24 track analogue desk. The room has a lovely sound and they’re totally on my wavelength so I’d love to record it there.
“I’ve got enough songs and the musicians I’ve got in the line-up now are amazing, so it’s just a funding issue really. We’re also on a split 12” that Song, by Toad Records is putting out in the New Year too, which I’m looking forward to.”
Winter describes their sound as “dark and pretty”. ‘Red Tulip Yellow Tulip’ is awash with melody, but we didn’t toss about that Sonic Youth comparison earlier without good reason. There’s plenty of bite to these songs and the spiralling guitar sound on ‘Who’ll Come Dancing’ in particular could fit snugly on any album from Evol up to The Eternal.
But how does the sound of a cello square with brooding noise and reverb? “I saw Atzi (Muramatsu – well known in classical quarters) play years ago and was quite moved. I asked him to accompany me for a show on a couple of songs and found that cello really suits my songs. It has a lugubrious elegance that I find very comforting. So I asked him to play on all of them.”
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