Watchfires Interview

Finally, on the eve of Episode #4 (so soon!), we introduce local band, Watchfires.

All proceeds from the release of this single will go to the Scottish Flood Forum.

So, tell us a bit about yourselves… who you are, where you come from and how did you get your band name?
We’re a rag-tag selection of miscreants variously named Ewan, Mitch, Alex, Mark and Gregor. We’re from across Scotland, mainly the North-East, and now based in Aberdeen. We self-released our debut album ‘Ribbons & Shards’ last year and are currently trying to shove it in to as many sweaty palms as we can find. As for the name, it comes from the Byron poem ‘Darkness’, which we’re aware makes us sound either fairly educated when we in fact are idiots, or like arseholes when we are in fact quite pleasant.

How long have you been playing together?
We’ve been a band since 2013, although Gregor has only just joined after our previous drummer ‘Handsome’ Dave McKay, nobly stepped down to do serious things like be a dad. Nobody panic, it was a one-off, Alex isn’t about to reproduce.

Who are your main influences, obvious or otherwise?
We’ve got a broad mix of tastes, which is I think fairly evident on a listen to our stuff. Mitch on the rhythm guitar is influenced by stuff like Funeral For A Friend, Finch and Billy Talent, whilst Alex on lead guitar writes these fairly jab but melodic lead parts that take nods from the likes of Idlewild. The vocal melodies are much more influenced by indie and folk, which is what Ewan is intae. The result either sounds like a genre-busting masterclass, or like the wrong singer wandered in to someone else’s band practice. We’ll let you decide.

What do you find the biggest challenge of being in a band? Or, what pisses you off the most?
There are loads, but you do it because you love it. From a practical perspective, getting five young men in one room at one time (oo-er) can be surprisingly difficult. It’s like herding claustrophobic cats at times.

It’s definitely more hilarious than annoying, but we’ve genuinely been asked a few times if this is our actual job. Sadly the Watchfires gravy train doesn’t stretch to feeding, clothing and housing five human beings quite yet.

If you could make one thing easier for relatively small, yet progressive bands, what would it be?
If it was easier, it wouldn’t be as fun!

Can you put into words just how damn happy you are to be playing Episode #4 on Saturday?
We’re well up for it. It’s our first gig in a few months because we’ve spent the last wee while getting Gregor trained up with the album tunes, which he’s absolutely knocked out of the park. Fat Goth and Bloodlines are great too, so we’re looking forward to checking out their sets.

And for the rest of 2016, are there albums, EPs, festival appearances, world tours etc on the horizon?
Hopefully Ribbons & Shards will belatedly go triple-platinum and we’ll feature heavily on the next Taylor Swift album before retiring to set up a winery in Tuscany. Sadly the reality will inevitably be less sun-soaked, although we have a couple of gigs lined up with Struck Dum Records that’ll involve Supermoon (formerly Meursault) in Aberdeen and Glasgow next month, which we’re really excited about. We’re also hoping to get a few festival appearances under our belts in the summer and generally play more often. We’ve got some new material we’re keen to really get cracking on as well, with an eye on a release of some description this year.

Any ambitions as a band, sensible or otherwise?
I think we’d all love to write and record a second album. We’ve got plenty left in the tank and have definitely got the bug now. Playing some shows abroad would be immense as well. There’s no reason why those can’t be achieved.

Your favourite music festivals, to play or attend?
Now that New Deer’s Wizard Festival looks to have died a death, what is there left?! Safe to say that for us the likes of Wickerman and Belladrum would be the kinds of things we’re most into. Ewan is off to NOS Alive in Lisbon this year, which is a delicious feast of a line-up.

We’ve yet to play any festivals at all as a band, which we’re hoping to amend this year.

If each band member was a film or tv show character who would they be?
Ewan – One of the dancing brooms that carries buckets of water in Disney’s Fantasia.
Mitch – Mr Bean meets Rambo.
Alex – A cross between Gollum and Keyser Soze. The man’s a creature wrapped in an enigma.
Mark – A handsome James McPake from Sportscene.
Gregor – A young Luke Skywalker. He can’t even begin to imagine what he’s got himself in to…

Three bands you’d love to share a stage with?

We’ve all got pretty divergent tastes, but Idlewild would be one common to us all. Mark just loves Haim. For the rest of us, we saw The National in Edinburgh during the album recording sessions last year and playing with them is one of our especially implausible dreams. Frightened Rabbit would be one that would be a big hitter for all of us too, but there’s really too many to list.

Vinyl, cd or download?
Call us old-fashioned, but we’d always rather have a physical object. It’s obviously great that music is so much more accessible with the arrival streaming and downloads, to the extent that you can listen to an unsigned Venezuelan band from your living room in Aberdeen. It’s also mind-blowing that you can essentially walk about with every song ever written in your pocket. There is a negative side to that though, which is that music is now also a lot more disposable. We’re just used to having a soundtrack for everything we do, to the extent it can just become background noise. Vinyl or CD encourages you to sit down and just listen to a record as a pastime in itself, which you’re probably less inclined to do with download or streaming.

I think the current Scottish music scene is as strong as it has been for a few years, your thoughts on that?
That’s fair. There’s definitely a new-found self-confidence I think, with bands like Frightened Rabbit, Twilight Sad and Chvrches joining the relative ‘mainstream’ and being appreciated to an extent because of their inherent Scottishness. The quality we see in going to and playing gigs around Scotland is insane.

Which bands from your manor should we keeping an eye out for? And acts from outwith your region?
Kathryn Joseph was previously our go-to answer for this, but I don’t think she counts as an under-the-radar tip-off anymore! In Aberdeen there’s plenty going on. Forest Fires’ new EP is going to be a treat, and there’s some really exciting good-ol’-fashioned noise just now with the likes Lenin Death Mask and Wendell Borton. Also, Best Girl Athlete’s record last year was a treat.

Further afield, I know he’s about as close to Scottish indie royalty as you can get, but Craig B’s new project A Mote Of Dust is well worth a look. A few of us caught him at the Advocate’s Library last month, which was pretty magical stuff. Reckon it could be a big year for Pinact and Honeyblood as well. Also, Paper Rifles from Edinburgh, who are on Struck Dum Records along with ourselves, looks to have a very bright future indeed!

Your five (or one from each band member maybe?) desert island tracks?
The National – Think You Can Wait
Idlewild – Little Discourage
There Will Be Fireworks – River
Queen – You’re My Best Friend
Radiohead – Paranoid Android

And finally, your favourite flavour of crisps?
Crisps have lost the plot in recent years. It’s all fillet steak with port and rosemary. Aw naw. It’s got to be a solid working man’s Salt and Vinegar. Nothing wrong with Space Raiders either.

Thanks for your time guys, and we look forward to seeing you all tomorrow. You can find Watchfires on Facebook and hear them on Bandcamp.

Episode #4 - Downstairs, Aberdeen