After being impressed by their self-titled debut album and looking forward to them finally returning to Aberdeen this weekend, Still Burning had a chat with Nicky McManus (vocals, guitar) of There Will Be Fireworks.
You’ll be hoping you make it to Aberdeen this time … what exactly happened last time you were due to play here?
Indeed, we are hoping to make it! We were snowed in, unfortunately. I couldn’t move my car for about a week because of the mental snowfall. And a removal lorry got stuck at the end of my street, so no cars could get in or out at all. It is actually snowing pretty heavily here just now as well. I’m beginning to think someone has put a jinx on us playing Aberdeen. It’s nearly May! Hopefully, it’ll clear.
I’ve heard a story about yourselves in the past that could be titled the `roof incident`, can you tell us what happened there?
The last time we were playing in Aberdeen, we had a gig in Edinburgh the night before. Madden, our bassist, was taking his turn behind the wheel of the van. We were all craving McDonalds so stopped in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Madden didn’t see one of those steel height restriction things and proceeded to drive through (into) it. The van, predictably, was too tall. We ripped the roof right off it. The noise was pretty terrifying, to be honest. I thought we were goners. I didn’t really. We made do, went to Homebase, bought some tarpaulin and lots of masking tape. Hey, presto – new roof. We then drove to Aberdeen in a proper storm. No rain got in. We were very proud of our roof.
For a band thats only been together a couple of years you seem to have achieved a fair bit?
I’m not really sure. The only thing we really want to achieve is to make albums we like, so recording and releasing the first one all on our own was a big thing for us. To me, that is the be all and end all of what we have done so far. We’ve recorded other stuff and played a fair few gigs and got some decent reviews and things like that, but writing and recording music is the whole point as far as I see it and we haven’t done as much of that as I’d have liked. We all have other interests and commitments, so our time for the band is quite restricted. Lately – now that we’re busy working on a new album – we’ve been a bit more disciplined about getting together to write and arrange stuff, spending a lot of time in the studio (comparatively, for us). That’s been really good and we’re all properly excited to really get into recording again.
Your self titled, self funded album took almost a year to create? Is that one advantage of `doing it yourselves`, you get the time to do it until your pleased with it?
Yeah, definitely. It was good that we had that amount of time because the album never really assumed its finished form until the last few months. We were a totally different band at the start of the process to the one that finished the album. And we were learning a lot along the way as well – in terms of acquainting oursevles with the studio and leanring about production – so having the luxury of doing all that at a leisurely pace was invaluable, not only for the album, but for any future ones as well.
We did end up obssessing over minor details to an extent though. We could probably have released it a few months sooner without too much of a noticeable difference. So, it got a bit unhealthy in that respect. The devil’s in the detail.
Although is that not a disadvantage when it comes to distributing it and suchlike?
Digital distribution, no. It’s easy to get stuff on iTunes and eMusic and the like. The difference is that we can’t negotiate with digital distribution providers in the way that established labels can.
Physical distribution, yes. You can’t get our cd in Virgin or HMV or anything like that. For the most part, we distribute it ourselves via Paypal. You can get it here. It’s a bit laborious sending out CDs all the time, but we’re not complaining if people buy them! You can get our CDs in a few independent record stores as well. Apparently it was the second highest selling album in Edinburgh’s Avalanche last year, after Animal Collective or something. So that’s well cool.
The main thing is that we don’t have the money to employ PR people or pluggers or anything of that ilk. That puts you at a disadvatage with regard to media coverage. In that way, we rely on word-of-mouth. It is possible to get a mention here and there though – we’ve had stuff written about us in Pitchfork, The Line of Best Fit and DrownedinSound. It’s bloggers like yourselves that really give bands like us a leg up though. Cheers!
How do cd sales compare to downloaded mp3 sales anyway? Can you see it going more towards downloads in the future?
Yeah, definitely. I think we’ve probably sold about an equal amount of each but I reckon it will be different for more mainstream bands. CDs are almost becoming a bit niche I think. Most people simply can’t be bothered going to buy a CD or waiting for it to be delivered, so they’ll get it on iTunes. Or on a torrent site. Obviously, there will always be a hardcore record-buying type who will want the CD for the inlay and fetishise vinyl and all the rest. Those people have it right. I don’t like mp3s. But they’re just so bloody easy that I find it hard to deny them.
Kevin MacNeil opens the said album with a spoken intro, setting the stall out for much uniqueness to come. What do I file it under then?
Getting Kevin to contribute was amazing for us: his novel, The Stornoway Way, is incredible and everyone should read it. Unless you don’t like swearing or alcohol. Or good books. What should you file the album under? I have no idea. We don’t really think about it and I would hesitate to categorise our sound. Our musical tastes, as a band, have always been pretty random and diverse, and I suppose that comes out in the music. There’s definitely a bit of post-rock in there, although I hate that term for some inexplicable reason and we’re certainly trying to avoid the slavish post-rock song structure. There’s some poppier bits and some folkier bits and some quiet bits and some noisy bits. So I have no idea and everyone can file it under whatever they fancy. I like that you said it was unique though!
What is your favourite track on the album, and your favourite to play live?
Speaking purely for myself, my favourite is either So the Story Goes or Foreign Thoughts. But I have utterly no perspective on the songs so they might seem like weird choices to people.
My favourite to play live is Guising, merging into Off With Their Heads. We usually end with that, so I’ll be a bit tipsy and make some mistakes. But I like to scream my head off a wee bit for the catharsis and it’s fun to play the heavy bit at the end when you’re steaming.
Are any of your influences apparent within the album do you think?
I reckon there is a bit of Explosions in the Sky here and there. We were heavily into them for a while so that was bound to come out on the record. Maybe a bit of Iron & Wine in the quieter bits. But again, I have no perspective so I’m probably not the best person to ask.
Is there anyone you’d say have had a major influence on There Will Be Fireworks either encouraging you to do your own thing or maybe giving you the initial boost to go on stage or record?
Not really. We were in a band, writing songs so we wanted to record the few things we had and playing gigs was a natural step after that. There were a few bands in the years above us at school. Mark and Martin from LightGuides were two years above us and Dave was in our year. And three-quarters of Endor were in the year above. They got started a lot earlier than us and I think going to their gigs made us think we should play some as well.
I’d imagine that `Midfield Maestro` is about Gordon Strachan when he played for The Dons?
Ha! No, it’s actually about cultured Italian hero Massimo Donati (it’s not actually). It’s actually named in homage to a little figurine I had of Diego Maradona in his Napoli days. I had it from when I was a kid. I also had a David Platt figurine for some reason. Anyway, I used to put Diego on top of my amp when we practised and one day I lost him. I was devastated, so the song was named in his honour. The name is utterly unconnected to the subject matter of the song obviously.
The musical style changes a fair bit within the album, its quite hard to do that and retain the attention of the listener (in my humble), yours seems to work though?
Thank you. Yeah, this kind of goes back to the obssessing over minute details thing. We felt it was important that the album be cohesive despite the way it swings from one extreme to another. That’s why a lot of the segues between songs were devised, to aid the flow of the album. The idea was that the album would unfold as a narrative and that, hopefully, that would keep people interested. I think it works for some people and doesn’t for others.
So, your plans for the rest of 2010?
Album Number Two.
Any festival appearances confirmed yet?
Hopefully at least one, depending on what our recording schedule’s like. But nothing we can confirm. Yet.
Whats the most bizarre thing you’ve stolen when `on the road`?
I don’t think we’ve stolen anything bizarre. I haven’t anyway…one of the others might have. Probably booze. That’s not bizarre but it’s all that I can think of at the moment. I don’t condone theft, kids.
Home straight now, anything else you’d like to add to readers of Flares n Seagulls? Apart from the fact that its a brilliant wee ‘site of course
Hmmm… Hello, readers of Flares n Seagulls. It’s a brilliant wee site. You should all immerse yourselves in the Sopranos box sets at least twice in your lives. It’s so much better second time around when you can see how everything fits together and appreciate all the subtle nuance and cinematographic references. Genius.
Your favourite character from The Wire?
Probably Bunk for his ultimate smoothness and the dichotomy of him versus Omar.
Landsman gets on the best one-liner though. To Beadie, he says:
“For you I would suggest some pantsuits, perhaps muted in color, something to offset Detective Moreland’s pinstripe lawyerly affectations and the brash tweedy impertinence of Detective Freamon. Rawls is watching on this one, let’s at least pretend like we got a fucking clue.”
Your five desert island discs?
Impossible question. I’m going to ignore my current fickle listening habits and go with stuff I have listened to over the last few years.
In no order… The National – Boxer; The National – Alligator; Why? – Alopecia; Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
I really want to take LCD Soundsystem as well so I have something to dance to, should the urge overcome me. And I reckon The National’s new album might be a contender once it’s released. The stuff I’ve heard so far is incredible. Can I just take my iPod? (NO! – ed)
And finally, your favourite flavour of crisps?
Currently, either Pickled Onion Monster Munch or Marks and Spencers’ Salt and Vinegar (not the crinkly ones, mind).
Thanks for taking time out to talk to us Nicky and we’ll see you on Saturday. Still Burning
There Will Be Fireworks play The Tunnels on Saturday 3rd of April along with Lions. Chase. Tigers and Farewell Singapore. Admission is £5.
There Will Be Fireworks MySpace.