Gig Review: Echo Valley @ King Tuts ~8/01/2016

Gigs: I love gigs, you love gigs, we all love gigs (unless you’re the type to complain about people bumping into you when you’re in Standing). To me, they’re undoubtedly the best thing about music where a band’s discography takes a whole new form, where they can interact and be intimate with their fans, whether or not you agree is up to you.

This is an opinion shared by many though and one that can inspire many musicians to get involved themselves as nothing seems to make a person feel more alive or happy than performing on stage. King Tuts, recently nominated for the Best Small Venue of 2015 by NME, clearly is one that has the same thinking as they’ve got a whole host of new acts to come along, show what they’ve got and experience what it’s really like in one of the best places you could hope to perform in Scotland.

They’re not all newcomers per say however as shown by Ayrshire-based act Echo Valley, a band who in the past year alone have supported indie juggernauts Peace in this very venue and have travelled to France to perform live. In addition to that, brothers Liam and Shaun McCluskey from the act have organised their very own monthly gigs back down in Ayr to promote new music with various acts coming along to perform. In a way, King Tuts are doing what they have on a grander scale but I’ll take a moment now to stop sounding like a hipster wank.

While the band have accomplished a lot though, do they deserve to be headlining here tonight? Hell fucking yes. As soon as Little Sister opened the set it was impossible to see one person in the room not at least nodding their head in acknowledgement of the track’s alluring sound, others jumping about and singling along to what is undoubtedly a belter of a chorus. What I found strangely amazing about the song though was the reaction it got for a track that starts with the lyrics “drink your virgin’s blood” but go hard or go home I suppose (that’s what all the cool youth are saying anyway).

I was lucky enough to interview Liam and Shaun from the band a few months back and one quote that stuck with me was the band’s integrity, worded perfectly by Shaun himself: “Be yourself unless you’re a dick”. Echo Valley’s performance didn’t come across as non-genuine or artificial in the slightest, a habit that so many bands tend to fall into in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience. Instead there was interlude chats about getting drunk and enjoying both the music and the moment, as down to earth as you could get.

One thing that seemed to annoy the band was the constant comparisons to other indie acts with comments like “they sound just like the Arctic Monkeys” being a backhanded compliment. It’s the easiest job in the world to say that this is no longer the case as each song manages to help create this image of a band providing twisted and personal lyrics over an engaging punk rock sound. Echo Valley are a delight on stage and with us only being 10 days into the new year, 2016 is certain to be eventful. With a new drummer expected as well as a new single, now is a better time than any to keep your eyes on these lads from Ayrshire.

You can find the link to Echo Valley’s Facebook here as well as their twitter.

 

Streaming Music: The Toxic Revolution

Doing anything in the early hours of the morning is difficult; let alone being interviewed after extensive touring of the U.S, battling off the overwhelming exhaustion. This is exactly the challenge facing Eliot Sumner, daughter of the iconic Sting, as she goes through the motions of being interviewed before a question is asked that leaves a few seconds of silence, being the calm before the storm as she goes into a 3 minute rant about a topic that has both hindered and benefited her greatly. Afterwards she breathes a sigh of relief as she ends the call.

 46qwP9AXIt’s not unusual for the mention of music streaming to bring this out of someone, especially by someone who makes their living making the content that appears on these services like Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play. The subject is the definition of polarizing, splitting music fans right down the middle. If the idea of being able to play any track or album from a “cloud” in a matter of seconds were brought up even a decade ago, it would be laughed off without hesitation. Nowadays, it’s mind blowing to think that we carry about mobile phones that possess more power than the computers that helped America land on the moon back in 1969. If that alone didn’t take you by surprise, the fact there’s 6.8 billion mobiles in use right now (that’s almost more mobile phones than there is people on Earth) should be enough to make you realize how far technology has came in this century alone. Not only that but we’re more connected than ever, not being able to walk down a single street in Glasgow without finding a hotspot is testament to that. While this connectivity is an issue within itself, the dangers of social media being a topic that never fades away, it’s become a part of our everyday lives and regardless of your stance, it’s benefitted us greatly.

So it was only a matter of time until the music industry wanted to capitalize on this technophile market. With album sales and downloads dwindling in recent years, 9% and 12% respectively, something had to be done to deal with not only the apathy felt by music listeners but pirating as well. Managing director of Spotify Ken Parks puts down his company’s success to meeting the needs of those who have gave up with CDS and sites like iTunes. “They [music industry] no longer engage with this new generation of listeners who have grown up with this evolved technology which has become second nature to them. Our 60+ million subscribers is testament to that.” However these services are nothing without the music and it’s the reach that Spotify and others have that attracts artists to share their content. Take for instance, the duo Nico and Vinz whose song Am I Wrong gathered 200 million streams which the act say would never happen without music streaming being a possibility. “The song just flew by itself, there wasn’t any need to promote it as listeners were just able to share the song in just a flew clicks. We could have never predicted how popular it would be and it’s all down to how easy it is nowadays to get your music out there.” However, despite these services giving musicians the tools to get their music out to a wider audience, there’s the small matter of are the artists getting the money that they deserve.3035552-poster-p-1-the-real-magic-of-streaming-music-is-the-data-it-generates

Short answer? No. To highlight how little these artists are making, it’s important to take into consideration how companies like Apple Music value their users. Speaking to PBS, Alias Ronza, the co founder of Songza that was bought over by Google Play, said “Those who use streaming services are a higher value customer as they will spend £120 a year whilst those who buy music digitally will spend £55 on average”. Say for instance you’re an avid fan of Led Zeppelin and you’ve decided to pay an annual subscription fee to Apple Music. That money is now divided between the streaming service, which in this case is Apple, and the record label which a NDP study shows is a 30:70 split. Once Apple hands that money over to the label, Atlantic Records, it is no longer their concern which, for a service that claims to love music, is awful as it’s been claimed by Techdirt that as little as 11% of the money streaming services makes in revenue ends up in artist’s pockets. When companies like Apple Music and Google Play are part of a digital industry worth $6.8 billion yet Spotify can only pay a musician $0.007 every time their song is played, it’s indisputable that there’s a problem that needs dealt with.

Surely it’s not that bad though? Daniel Glass, founder of glass note records who deliver Mumford and Sons records, say streaming is crucial for listeners to find his act’s new music. “A new song by Robert Delonge went up 214% after Spotify promoted it on their service. It helped us greatly and the more streams we get, the more people who buy tickets to see the acts live.” It’s not only fresh, modern bands that benefit from the platform as Ken Parks also said that services like Google Play and Spotify can help old artists too. “Artists like Pink Floyd benefit greatly from our service as they get to reconnect with generations of listeners who have never heard their music being able to discover their catalogue of content.” This connection is not only true on a large scale as it’s just prevalent at a local level.. Shaun McCluskey discussed the issue when his band Echo Valley was interviewed. “It has definitely made it a lot easier since I can just say, “this band is playing here, check their music video out on YouTube” or “Here is their latest song on Spotify.”

5bdde97b13b29579608bbee609f16efcUnfortunately though this hasn’t stopped Spotify coming under fire repeatedly during its 7 year existence for its heavily criticized way of paying artists, the most notable incident being last year’s feud with Taylor Swift. Despite being one of Spotify’s most played artists, with over 25% of users listening to at least one of her songs, Swift removed her entire back catalogue upon the release of her latest album 1989. Speaking out soon after word got out about her decision, Swift emphasized that  “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” This was arguably the moment that made people think about the impact streaming music was having, splitting the public down the middle: half saying that Swift was right for using her position as the most popular artist in the world to benefit other musicians, the rest saying she was just as greedy as those at the top of Spotify hierarchy.

It doesn’t stop with Taylor Swift though. Many more musicians have attacked music streaming services with Spotify continuously getting the worst of their bite. Take for instance Johnny Cash’s daughter Roseanne who said “It’s changed how artists like myself make a living. In 1999 Music was a £14 billion industry and today it’s half that. There’s a way of thinking that Music should be as free as the air we breathe. Yes, everyone should have access to it but should it be free?”. On top of that, Aloe Blacc’s collaboration with David Guetta “Wake Me Up” was played over 40 million times on online service Pandora yet earned the artist very little. “It takes roughly one million spins on Pandora for a songwriter to earn just $90″, highlighting the fact that streaming services need to pay songwriters fairly. In return for co-writing a major hit song, I’ve earned less than $4,000 domestically from the largest digital music service.” Unsurprisingly it’s lead to Black 47’s Larry Kirwan questioning these service’s morals, stating that “these people don’t care about your IP, they just want to give it away. They want to make money and the regular musician doesn’t get a second thought.”

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English novelist Guy Walters caused controversy when he said that “if you value culture, you must pay artists. It’s a complete con and an absolute racket. There’s a word for working for free: it’s slavery.” American streamed 164 million songs in 2014 alone so Spotify and the likes aren’t going to disappear, not anytime soon. In an industry that just experience the revival of a format that they once thought was dead, here’s hoping that these companies worth billions stop capitalising on the blood, sweat and tears that these acts put into their music.

Big love, Liam x

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Sources: Can The Music Industry Survive The Streaming Revolution? by PBS Spotify Worth More Than Entire US Music Industry

How Much Artists Earn From Spotify

The More Money Spotify Makes, The Less Artists Get

Guy Walters Slavery Comment

Taylor Swift Spotify Feud

Straight Outta Drongan: An Echo Valley Interview

Ayrshire band Echo Valley tell all from Limmy jokes to the challenges of musical image

It’s a Thursday night and as most people are heading home from uni and college to get ready for student nights out, I’m sitting at a bar table with Liam and Shaun McCluskey. The bar, to be specific, is none other than Glasgow’s very own Firewater which couldn’t be more fitting seeing as the brothers are two thirds of Echo Valley, a punk rock band from Ayrshire that have went through a bit of a hectic year. Not only did they play in France and go one member down after they parted ways with their drummer but 2015 saw the band get rid of their old sound after years of touring and EPs. Liam got his point across simply, saying “people would always go aw they are like Arctic Monkeys and even though it is a nice comparison, we don’t want to fucking sound like Arctic Monkeys”.

The Echo Valley boys can also add a career changing gig to their list of 2015 accomplishments when they supported Peace at King Tuts earlier this year. Both Liam and Shaun couldn’t have been more happy with how the gig went and when we discuss dream acts they’d want to discuss, the name Peace pops it head amongst Pixies and FIDLAR. “With a band like them, they’re fresh and current and most importantly a great bunch of guys”.

“Too many bands that try and follow a check-list like aw let’s go get photos taken in a field with grass up to our baws and we’ll look dead deep and cool.”

It became more and more clear to me as we talked about the band’s career that they don’t just stand out on sound alone. “We are just boys from Drongan who managed to get lucky, we just take things as they come” Shaun said before pausing as the Stone Roses came on and immediately singing along which brought to mind something he said earlier about how to stand out in an over saturated genre: just be yourself. Whether him and Liam were referring to Limmy sketches, swearing about Radio 2 (“We don’t give a fuck about them, BBC are Tories anyway”) or fanboying about Foo Fighters, it was clear that they weren’t censoring themselves to be more appealing, something that isn’t often seen nowadays as Liam points out. “There are too many bands that try and follow a check-list like aw let’s go get photos taken in a field with grass up to our baws and we’ll look dead deep and cool”, something that’s even more hilarious when you realise Echo Valley’s first photo-shoot as a 3-piece band was in a passport booth in Sainsbury’s.

Not only do they know their music, they’re even more opinionated on how it’s distributed. “Once the new EP comes out (TBA) we are going to put it on Spotify but the statistics are everywhere showing how little money artists generate from being played. Soundcloud is the only one we use and we do not receive any payment from that.” I’m also told that there’s currently a case going through the courts just now addressing how Soundcloud makes money through advertisements and gives none to their artists, adding fire to the polarising topic of music streaming.

“Fuck the BBC, they’re Tories anyway.”

While Liam and Shaun both remain relatively positive when discussing this, mentioning how as promoters it makes it even more easy to share music, as soon as the topic of touting comes along the two can’t wait to get their say about it. Their three minute, non stop ramble about it addresses the rarely mentioned fact that most second hand ticket sites are owned by companies like Ticketmaster who save tickets for themselves to sell them on for a profit as well as highlighting the way U2 manage to tackle this issue. In a room full of intoxicated folk downing 89p vodkas, the band’s in-depth knowledge and awareness of how the industry works in regards to touting, contracts and streaming creates the perfect contrast.

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It can be difficult to tell when an artist is in it for the money or the art. At the end of this 40 minute talk with the Echo Valley boys, it’s as clear as day that music is more important to them than anything.”I don’t do what I do to get airplay for a few minutes and cry about it when I don’t” Liam says, unsubtly digging into Sandi Thom. “I do it cause I love making and playing music.” We all yapped away for ages about our favourite albums of 2015 (Fatherson and Kendrick getting a shout out), listing off countless names as if it was a dissertation.

As I head off, I remember what Shaun mentioned: Be yourself unless you’re a dick. Whilst it’s hard for me to put down into words what Echo Valley are, they’re them. And come the 8th of January at King Tuts, they’ll be unstoppable.

Cheers to Shaun and Liam for letting me interview them and thanks to you for reading all the way to the end. You can find the link to Echo Valley’s Facebook here.

Big love, Liam x

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Echo Valley, Codist, Enemies Of The State & Brothers @ West Of The Moon – 23/09/2015

Ayr isn’t short of talent. The wee town in South Ayrshire has its history pretty much built on it, whether it be the amazing buildings scattered around the town, being home to the Gaiety Theatre where many young ones and old ones have a great time at the pantomime or being the place where Robert Burns spent most of his time writing.

Music is the main thing that comes to mind whenever I think of Ayr. Whether it be the puntastic Ayr Guitar that’s been the starting block for many musicians or the multiple cafes that encourage said musicians to perform, Ayr consistently churns out some amazing bands and musicians.

Echo Valley tearing shit up

All this prologue leads me to Echo Valley, a trio of boys from the town that managed to arrange a night full of not only local talent but acts from all over Scotland. The band were originally meant to headline but their drummer, replacing David who left the band earlier this month, fell ill and so they were on second. They didn’t let this shortcoming set them back though as they gave those who attended the West Of The Moon that night their money’s worth and then some.

Brothers Liam and Shaun, with guitar in hand, marched around the stage like EV was spray-painted all over it, working up a sweat while Daniel kept calm and collected on vocals. Not to say that he was at a stand still during the entire gig, frantically playing bass while still managing to deliver laid back vocals which give the band some of their charm. However the highlight of any Echo Valley gig is when everything perfectly intertwines like during Twisted In A Spell which is reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys before they donned the quiffs and leather jackets. Whether it be the dynamic sound like this that the boys do so well or the more composed, psychedelic tracks like Forgotten Son, it’s no surprise why the band have managed to support the likes of Peace and they made it crystal clear on Wednesday that they’re an act to be remembered.

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Codist (My awful photography resulted in Tom disappearing) 

Echo Valley weren’t the only ones to put on a great performance that night. Codist started the night off and, if I’m being honest, I had never heard of them before but thanks to word of mouth, I was very hyped to see what they were like. What I experienced was one of the best performances I’ve seen from any act in my 3 years of attending gigs. With their guitarist Sam parting ways with the band back in August (departures seems to be a running thing in this post), the Glasgow act are now a trio but they still pack just as much of a punch as any other band.

The only way I could put their sound into words is if you put Biffy Clyro’s gritty, stripped back tone from Blackened Sky in a blender with Weezer during their blue album era, something that, in my opinion, is one of the greatest compliments any rock act could receive. Although they had travelled and waited a fair wee bit, the pure passion and effort Phil, Michael and Tom put into their performance is astounding. With a debut album currently in the works, Codist have went from being an unknown act in my eyes to one that deserve all of your attention.

Enemies of the State loosening up before taking on the WOTM

It would be a sin to not mention the other acts who helped the night to be as amazing as it was. Enemies Of The State splice the sound made famous by Twin Atlantic on Vivarium with lyrics that the band say focus on the current political and social climate, revolution, science and love. The first thing everyone at the West Of The Moon noticed that night was the way frontman Kris Tennant projected his voice, filling the entire bar full of quips about Caesar as the band showed signs of an act capable of arena sized anthems. The Glasgow band have previously headlined King Tuts as well as played the main stage at the O2 Academy so they’re without a doubt worthy of keeping your eye and ear on.

Brothers closing the show

Finally, Brothers were originally going to be the penultimate act but found themselves headlining the night, something that’s bound to put a little bit of pressure on any act, big or small. Fraser, Cairns and Curtis didn’t let it get to them though and showed that they’re capable of filling in the shoes of fellow big local acts. Evaporate sounds like a long lost Twin Atlantic single sprinkled with ambient sounds and The World Is Flat, clocking in at 7 minutes, never dies down, keeping fresh and energetic throughout its run time. Both tracks perfectly make the transition from listening on your phone to witnessing it on a stage and the rest of the band’s performance meant that the night ended with just as much of a bang as it started off with.

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Hope you enjoyed this slightly long post on the great acts I managed to see last week. Cheers to Shaun and Liam McCluskey who organised the night and made sure that those who were there didn’t leave disappointed. Links to the band’s social media will be down below so that you can keep up to date on what they’re up to as well as mine so you can witness any more ramblings of mine.

In addition to this, I recently passed 4000+ views on my blog this week, a feat that may seem small but honestly meant the world to me. It’s motivated me to provide even more content and has made all the days I’ve spent drinking countless energy drinks to stay up and write all worth it. Here’s hoping we can make it into a 5 figure number before the year is over.

Big love, Liam x
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Echo Valley: Facebook | Twitter
Codist: Facebook | Twitter
Enemies Of The State: Facebook | Twitter
Brothers: Facebook |Twitter