On the radar: Big Wave

Haddington based four-piece Big Wave have been together, on and off, for five years and are something a bit different from our regular content here on Under the Radar.

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Big Wave are, shall we say, a bit older than most of the bands currently gigging their way around Edinburgh. Lead singer Mike Cullen even jokes that guitar and mandolin player Wesley Bradd was only recruited as, "a statistical need to bring down the average age".

Wisecracks aside, frontman Cullen has a very interesting background. Having left school at 16 to work as an electrician in a coal mine, he later returned to education to gain a degree in linguistics from Edinburgh University. Writing plays was the next calling, winning a Fringe First award in 1997 and also becoming writer in residence at the capital's Traverse Theatre. In addition, Cullen has written for television, creating the series Donovan and writing eight episodes of Scottish favourite Taggart.

So, how does this literary background affect his work? "Perhaps our songs achieve a literal edge that sets them apart from others," says Cullen. "I'm generally driven in all of my writing by a desire to comment on major moral or political issues in the modern world, particularly concerning those aspects of the human race I find disturbing or wrong."

And with age comes wisdom; Big Wave are not afraid to tackle big issues in their songs. At the recent Meadows Festival, their announcement that the next track would be a protest song was greeted with jubilation by one inebriated section of the crowd, despite not knowing what the band were protesting about. It seems there is an appetite for protest, in any form.

Citing influences such as Roxy Music, The Jam, Thin Lizzy and Morrisey, some of Big Wave's work has the classic rock 'n' roll feel of the Rolling Stones, with Bradd's mandolin work adding a bit of an REM feel to proceedings. It is a genre which is largely ignored by the music press these days, but there is nothing like feel good rock'n'roll to bring a smile to your face.

As an experienced figure on the local music scene, Cullen is critical of the 'pay to play' culture which he sees emerging, where "bands are being exploited, in that nobody has to pay for a band, because they all want to play, and they'll do it for free, as we do, because we all love it".

Cullen has seen first hand, through theatre and television, how funding can help the arts: "It would be good to see some arts council funding for venues that are dedicated to putting on music for music's sake."

Until then, Big Wave will continue doing what they love. In their own words: "We honestly do it for the sake of making music; we're not driven by the usual ambitions of fame, or wealth, or even politics, despite some of our material being quite political. We want to be a good band, and probably have enough experience now to be able to judge what that is".

Big Wave are due to release their debut album later this year.

Intrigued? Watch Big Wave live at The Ark, Edinburgh on 17 July.

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