Travel writing for Guidebooks

3 Jul

I recently spent several hours sweating over the writing of the biog of new (with some familiar faces!) band Guidebooks, which you can read below while you listen to their intriguing debut EP…

The art of travel writing is not a novel approach for new pan-European project Guidebooks.

It makes perfect sense, of course. When Nottingham/Chicago acoustic duo Rue Royale and Northern Irish/Berlin producer Paul Pilot’s paths first crossed in 2009, their love for transportation-themed names wasn’t the only thing they shared. A combined creative restlessness meant collaboration was inevitable.

Paul prodded husband and wife outfit Ruth and Brookln Dekker into experimental waters during sessions for their second, current, LP ‘Guide To An Escape’ (which he also mixed).

When Paul bumped into Tele and Geschmeido drummer Stefan Wittich in Berlin, they discovered a shared enthusiasm in electronic music and classic song-crafting plus a desire to fuse the two. The lineup was completed and the four began to experiment in earnest.

Between East Midlands-based Rue Royale’s relentless European gigging, Paul’s producer/composer work in the UK and Germany and Stefan´s hectic diary of drumming duties in both Europe and Asia, Guidebooks’ content pages began to fall into place – one word at a time.

The sample-based songwriting involved a painstaking process of collecting sounds – often while on the road. Snippets of snatched sounds, music shop instruments and sub-bass burblings were all stitched into a warm sonic rug, cut with roomy live drums, freefalling Tremolo guitars and bold vocal melodies. Some (unnamed) band members were nearly arrested for loitering with a recording device outside a piano factory, but work continued unhindered.

Paul says: “We had the idea to create music based around tonal samples, with these sounds forming a structure for the band to inhabit. The samples were to carry the atmosphere, but not necessarily the groove, of hip hop and the structure, but not the limitations, of electronic music. We wanted to see how far from home our guys-with-guitars mindsets could travel. We’ve managed to get into an exciting, new place for our music but feel like we’ve only just begun an interesting journey.”

Guidebooks’ debut five-track ‘In The Future’ EP is released in June with plans for a follow-up already in the pipeline and, naturally, a tour scheduled for October.

“We can’t help but be in motion,” sing Ruth and Brookln on “Reach Out”. That’s the flip sides of glimpsing-but-not-quite-grasping balanced with the excitement of adventuring anew with like-minded companions.

You can hear Guidebooks shedding their wing mirrors as they launch into the unknown, heading for home.

Find out more at


Lightships Set Course For The Summer

14 Apr

You may’ve guessed from previous blogs that I’ve always been a big fan of Scottish guitar-janglers Teenage Fanclub.

So when I stumbled across news that TF’s Gerard Love was to release an album of his own, under the name Lightships, I was excited but also a bit nervous. After all, as one of three songwriters, Love usually contributes a few tracks to each TF album, so would the quality control dip now he’s got a entire 41 minutes to fill?

One spin (yes, I got the vinyl version with it’s alluring green artwork…) to Lightships’ Electric Cables banished my fears. It may be pretty slight, but the ten tracks include enough harmonies and gently-tugging hooks to power an whole summer’s feelgood musical whimsy.

Featuring TF collaborators Brendan O’Hare and Dave McGowan, it may already be my favourite ‘Teenage Fanclub’ album since 1997’s Songs From Northern Britain.

Here’s the video of Sweetness In Her Spark…

Low At Easter

6 Apr

Seeing Low in concert for the first time at the Glee Club in Birmingham earlier this week felt a bit like a religious experience. The seated crowd responded to the Minnesota act with a kind of reverent adulation which frontman Alan Sparhawk good-naturedly poked fun at.

Low’s reputation, built over almost 20 years of sticking to their own rules as rock fads ebb and flow, obviously preceded them. Every one of Sparhawk’s expressive guitar shapes and Mimi Parker’s  floor-tom thuds was made to count –  the husband and wife’s harmonies mapping a lifetime of yearning and survival.

They closed their main set with Murderer from 2007 album Drums and Guns. And, with themes of divinity and violence, for me, it’s got that ‘Good’ Friday feel…


Duke Special’s back

5 Apr


Duke Special’s long been a favourite in the Bate household. Check out the preview for his new album above.

Live review: NME Awards Tour – Birmingham Academy

1 Mar

The last (and only other) time I went to an NME Awards tour was way back in 1998 when Stereophonics and Asian Dub Foundation stood atop a sweaty bill.

Opening that night was Theaudience (remember them?) fronted by the stylish Sophie Ellis-Bextor (remember her?). First on this evening is US rapper Azealia Banks. Long pink hair extensions in tow, and potty mouth to boot, she’s no SEB that’s for sure – and a tinny mix means her grating, shouty rhymes rapidly wear thin.

Camden’s Tribes (despite the NME hype) may not be the saviours of the reportedly dying UK guitar music scene. But, live, they’re more than the sum of their four parts. Peddling tracks from their new, first album Baby, Tribes transcend their Bunnymen, Seattle and glam-rock influences, marshalled by frontman Johnny Lloyd’s strong vocals and cheery disposition. The eager, sell-out crowd lap it up.



Riding the wave of the year’s critically cherished LP The English Riviera, Metronomy are second on the bill but given a headliner’s welcome. Large painted portraits of the Devon quartet are draped above their heads, and trademark stick-on ET glo-circles periodically light up their chests in unison, emphasising the group’s musical togetherness. Metronomy are more muscular live – Anna Prior’s thudding drums replace politer patterns in the studio. This greatly benefits tracks like The Look and Corinne which become arms-in-the-air workouts. Older standards such as A Thing For Me and Heartbreaker also feature – the whole set held together by Gbenga Adelekan’s non-stop, funk basslines, which are so intense that his black-rimmed glasses steam up Benny Hill-style for a large part of the generous set. Leader Joseph Mount’s slightly stilted but laid-back banter between songs suggest Metronomy are, above else, enjoying themselves and the limelight. This is a ‘nothing to lose’ tour, a consolidation after a fine year – whetting the appetite for their next move on record.

You feel the pressure rests heavier on Two Door Cinema Club’s shoulders. It’s been two years since the Bangor boys unleashed Tourist History’s half-hour of jerky anthemic indie which forms the bulk of their performance tonight. Welcomed to the stage by teen screams, the group’s demographic is clear from the off. You can imagine shout-along numbers Come Back Home and What You Know being belted from stadium stages. But two new offerings tonight suggest a (slightly) more complex – less immediate – sophomore album could emerge. Either way, as the worked-up crowd go mad for set closer I Can Talk, TDCC have bought themselves a bit more time.

12 Plays of Christmas – Day 12 – Jesus Christ by Teenage Fanclub

25 Dec

You can only really play this song on 25 December ‘cos of the giveaway line “Jesus Christ was born today” (yes, I know the experts reckon Jesus actually arrived  in the summer…).

Anyway, I nearly wet myself with joy when this  Big Star cover appeared on the b-side to Ain’t That Enough in 1997, TFC being one of my fave bands at the time, and still.

Merry Christmas!

12 Plays of Christmas – Day 11 – Gift X-Change by Calexico

24 Dec


This IS my favourie Christmas song of all time, and I’m not quite sure why.  Probably because of the unfolding lyrics which manage to wring out hope in a desparate personal situation (“As your climbing the walls/There’s no answer at all/Except the gift you give yourself”) plus the moving, understated musicianship.

Also, taken from the It’s A Cool Cool Christmas compilation, it’s one of Tucson, Arizona band Calexico’s best ever moments.


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