writer, performer, musician, wine drinker

Monthly Archives: September 2014

Blood Indians: A Review

dark nights, cat fights, love bites…

By far my elder brother in the Muso, (1) manicpopthrills, is in the habit of lobbing me recent indie music to listen to, and/or inveigling me into events he’s organised in darkened rooms with guitar-wielding types making assorted noises.

His latest gig, put on with co-conspirator Andy Wood, is in Dundee on 3rd October. Headliners are the inimitable Randolph’s Leap, a band who have featured heavily in previous reviews on this page (and who MPT interviews on his page currently); also on the bill, though, are a newish band, Blood Indians. I expressed approval of their sound one day in the office, and sure enough, the next morning, my clerkly thoughts of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 were distracted by the appearance of the band’s eponymous EP on my desk.

Here’s the thing about reviews of new bands: they assume a level of knowledge of the last forty years or so of popular music in the reader that sometimes just isn’t there. In my case, it isn’t even there in the reviewer. The most obvious way to describe a new band’s sound is to compare them with another, established one. I imagine this trait began in the Seventies, as so many things did, with lines like: ‘they’re a bit like Led Zep, only heavier, man.’

Nowadays, of course, rock reviews are a bit more nuanced. Descriptions often go along the lines of: ‘they sound like Jesus and Mary Chain bumped into Joni Mitchell at a Velvet Underground concert, drove home listening to James Brown all in the same car, and got married the next day with Kate Bush as the vicar and Marilyn Manson playing at the reception.’ (4)

Another, more shorthand way, is to use labels, often in combinations, to give the confused reader a sense of what influences are most to the fore, even if the labels themselves are opaque in the extreme: see, for example, nu-folk, math rock, drip-hop. Okay, so I made that last one up, just to check you were still awake.

It reminds me of labelling theory, the criminological concept that, if you’re labelled as, for example, a bad-ass no-good son-of-a-gun who’d sell his grandmother, it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you behave in an anti-social, chaotic lifestylee, elderly relative retailing kind of a way.

Except, of course, musicians are tricksy critters, and the minute they get pigeonholed as one type of genre, they set about finding the fire escape out of the pigeonhole.

And so to Blood Indians. Vic Galloway has apparently described their sound as ‘goth surf folk.’ I mean, what does that even mean? Goth – yeah, well, any set of lyrics that feature the line I started with, and ‘You feel, I feel, scars heal, this won’t/hurt me…’ (both from ‘Cold Caller’) isn’t likely to be at the shiny happy poppy end of the spectrum.

Surf, though. Is that like, the Beach Boys? A quick listen to an online surf rock radio station suggests it’s that twangy, reverby, whammy-bar wielding, electric guitar sound that’s being referenced there. And folk – well, you can hear their lyrics, and acoustic guitars are also deployed. No hey nonny nonnys though.

So I guess if you unpack it a bit, that gives you an idea of Blood Indians’ sound, and to be frank, it’s a whole lot better than the namechecking of individual bands you might never have heard of outlined above. Still though, it implies a bit of muso-ish knowledge. So how do we do this? Blood Indians, oh Blood Indians, shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Probably not so much – more like a dark January afternoon, with the daylight leaching out of the sky by about three o’clock, and a cold tempest of brooding guitars brewing at your heels as you head indoors, catchy riffs tugging at your coat tails.

Or perhaps culinary references work better for you – on ‘Cold Caller,’ the wholemeal strumming of acoustic is quickly smothered in the dark bitter chocolate of the electric, with the female, Scots-accented vocals providing the chilli bite, underpinned by a creamy bass.

Not quite working for you? Me neither. My favourite of the three tracks is probably the middle one, ‘I Lie,’ which again builds slowly out of a single guitar and voice, before vocal harmonies and crunching guitars are supplemented by a whumping bass and hard-driven drums.

The last track, ‘Winter Ghosts,’ has indeed a chilly, ethereal quality that the (literally) mordant lyrics come right out of the middle of: dogs bite, nettles sting, empty lungs are caving in. Again, the fact the girls have avoided the decades-old trap of mid-Atlantic singing accents give the vocals extra emotional depth. It kind of sounds like they mean it.

The cardboard cover of the EP is fairly sketchy information-wise. There’s a bozo in a Native American headdress out front, looking  moody, or perhaps broody. However, a paper insert contains a telling detail, with the biggest thanks reserved to the co-writer and producer, ‘who has worked so hard to get this record sounding exactly the way we want it to.’ It’s so easy to throw a few tracks together (well, not that easy, but you know what I mean) and say ‘that’ll do,’ before moving onto the next EP with the vow to do it right this time. This stuff is hard-crafted, and it shows.

Catch Blood Indians on the way up, at Beat Generator Live, Dundee on Friday, 3rd October. They might well be somewhere more expensive next time around.




(1) Extra points if you get the reference without the clue (2)
(2) Clue’s in the name
(3) Oh all right then! Robert Burns referred to Robert Fergusson ‘as my elder brother in misfortune, by far my elder brother in the Muse.’ I thought it was funny, but I wish I hadn’t bothered now…
(4) If you pushed me, I’d say they were a bit like His Latest Flame, only heavier, man. But you probably don’t remember them.















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That Post-Referendum Poetry In Full

I had to be very careful about what I said in public during the Scottish Independence Referendum, given my job (which I rather like and would like to keep!) What I said, or rather shouted at the telly, during the final days of the campaign, in the privacy of my own home, is another matter…

Here’s a poem I wrote several years ago, before the 2011 Scottish Parliament election made the Referendum a reality.  It meant certain things to me then; what it means to you now, after the No result, with our First Minister stepping down and the supposed consensus of the Westminster politicians (it is said) immediately breaking down, might be something else. That’s what poems are meant to be like, isn’t it?

Fellow Scots, whether Yes or No, peace and love. What is the next level for us?

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Back on the Horse

A late-summer wasp, heady with its own venom, banks round for yet another bombing mission on unsuspecting giant bipeds. In external wall crevices, hunter spiders flex their chitinous legs and begin the long autumnal march indoors. The biomass plant facility tolls the knell of parting day, and leaves the world to darkness, and to me. The nights, as they say round these parts, are fair drawing in.

Those of you who know me best know why I’ve been quiet on the performance front this year so far. However, the two Tribute to Venus Carmichael gigs at the Free Fringe have revived my interest in not making a complete fool of myself in public again; and like the buses, I’ve a few things coming up rather than a single one.

The first thing isn’t actually a live performance: it’s a release on Soundcloud which, for reasons which will become obvious, I’m not releasing till 19th September. Watch this space for that one!

Then, on 2nd October, I don my spangly jacket for MC duties at Slam Factor Fife II. A stellar line up of judges – Miko Berry, Kevin Cadwallender and Rachel McCrum – will be performing as well as judging, and I might squeeze a couple of my own in. If you’re in some loose way associated with Fife, and fancy giving it a go, follow the link for an application form.

Then, I have an event to promote my Dad’s last book, A Huntly Loon Goes To War, at the Huntly Book Festival, on Saturday 4th October at 4.This event will be quite special for me, and I hope you can make it if you live locally.

On 3rd October, just before heading up to Huntly, we’re going to see Randolph’s Leap in Dundee, supported by St Kilda Mailboat and Blood Indians (for the syntactically acute, that’s Randolph’s Leap they’re supporting, not us: I don’t think we could squeeze them all in the back of the car). I plan to review Blood Indians’ excellent EP in advance, so keep the dial here for that.

Also in early October, or maybe late September, Kelly and I will be doing a session at Leith FM as Tribute to Venus Carmichael, on Ralph on the Radio. We’re really excited about this – more news soon!

Finally, on 15th November, I’m putting on a show called Stevenson Unbound. More details soon, but in the meantime, this is the spiel:

Spoken word performer Andrew C Ferguson (Writers’ Bloc, Illicit Ink) presents an atmospheric new show in back room of the White Horse, in the Canongate. On a darkening November afternoon, immerse yourself in classic RLS supernatural stories ‘Markheim,’ and ‘Thrawn Janet,’ as sound effects swirl through the half-lit space.
In the final segment, hear Ferguson’s own Stevenson-inspired poetry and prose, including Hyde’s Last Words, where Henry Jekyll’s worse half finally has his say. Do you dare to stay the afternoon?
With special guest. Part of the Edinburgh City of Literature RLS Day programme.
Stevenson Unbound, White Horse, 266 Canongate, 14:00 – 17:00 Saturday 15th November 14+

Things are starting to return, slowly, as autumn advances on us, although it’s still more music-based than fiction. On the Venus Carmichael front, the old girl has been busy writing new songs; I’ve a feeling she might have more to tell us of her life story soon too. I still have high hopes of another musical project I’m collaborating on, although it has a missing component at the moment. I even started a poem the other day. There’s a fair chance I might finish it.

In the meantime, like almost every other Scot, I have strong views on a certain question needing an answer on 18th September. However, the necessities of the day job mean I’m not able to express a view, so unlike almost every other Scot, you won’t be getting the benefit of my opinions.

I’m sure the rest of them will make up for me.