Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Culann - Live Review

Continuing on from Ralph's blog on Scottish Alternative Music Award, Best Rock category winners Culann, his man in Scotland Malcolm Parry headed to their East Coast gig in Edinburgh on their recent tour.....

Culann- Electric Circus 19/04/13

I managed to catch up with the double header rock tour circus of SAMA Best Rock winners Culann & Mechanical Smile when they pitched up at Electric Circus in Edinburgh.  I'd arranged an interview with the Irvine lads before they took to the stage and met up with them in their tour bus.  Whilst we all head to the bus lead man PJ Kelly gets a text from a girl wanting to book the lads to play her wedding, being a fan of their music and not wanting a traditional wedding covers band but more an alternative feel.  Now that's a wedding I'd like to go to!

Sitting down with PJ and Guitarist Greg Irish I begin by asking - 

Malc: Since winning the SAMA's what doors have been opened for you? 

PJ: “In 6 months we have gained a bigger buzz around us, with the help from people and bloggers like Ralph @fruitbatwalton and with more traffic coming through Face-book and Twitter, building up a strong fan-base to the SAMA award win.  We started the year with just under 250 followers now reaching the 1000 mark.” 

Malc: How's the album sales going?

PJ: “Really well, we won't get the figures from i-tunes until next month as it's done quarterly but we have been shifting quite a few copies at the gig's.”  

We go on to talk about having a physical copy to hold and enjoying album artwork, which the lads took a lot of thought and time getting it together.  We discuss the emptiness of downloads but also the positive side of instant access to their music.  They've given away music and provided a pay what you think on their band-camp site like Radiohead did before them.

Malc: Back to winning the SAMA?

PJ: “More managers and promoters have come forward wanting to get on the bandwagon.  We started with a headline show at King Tuts for the album launch.  Since then it has snowballed for us and I speak for all the band that we were all genuinely surprised with the award.” 

The van door opens and we are joined by Drummer and brother of PJ, Sean Kelly. 

PJ: “We concentrated and worked hard on putting together an album which we believed should be heard in it's entirety, no fillers!“ Seanadds “Aye, every song was slaved over.” 

PJ: “ After the win, we have been confirmed to play Tiree Music Festival which is on an island and was voted Scotland's best small festival”

Greg “I think now having an album we are being taken more serious since getting together nearly 6 years ago” 

PJ: “We decided to do the album ourselves with John Astley from Close to the Edge in London who's previous work included Abba and Led Zeppelin.”  

PJ: “I approached Dawn from Mechanical Smile with the idea which we believed would be a bigger draw for promoters and us living in a similar area it made sense”

Malc: Plans for the year?

Greg: “My idea was to do a single between albums like Biffy Clyro, keeping things fresh and exciting for the fans” Sean adds enthusiastically - “KEEPING THE FLAME BURNING!” 

I asked if they had any support slots for bigger headline bands, and they say they have a few in the pipeline but can't confirm just now.  They have already bagged slots in previous years with The Datsuns and Band of Skulls and their also waiting on confirmation on a T-Break stage slot at T in The Park.

Next I opt for a Quick fire Q&A

Q: What music has been on in the tour bus? A: Limp Biscuit, Simon & Garfunkel, High on Fire, Primus.

Q: Best gig on this tour so far? A: Glasgow bar bloc, though the Inverness one was good fun

Q:What bands inspired your sound? A: Punk and Folk bands like The Offspring, Pennywise, Bad Religion, bob Dylan.

Q: Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins singing with Genesis ? A: Commenting the cool answer would be Gabriel but all vote Collins.

Q:Yes or Pink Floyd? A: Yes

Q:Other bands I should check out from Irvine? A: Fellow SAMA nominated 'What the blood revealed'

Q:Which countries would you like to play? A: Belgium, Greece , Germany & Scandinavia

Q: Finally as It's Record store day, First and latest C.D's/vinyl purchased? A: Offspring- Americana (Bands and Scene- London ) Vinyl: Yes- Close to the edge, Bruce Springsteen- Born to Run . Greg Confesses “I bought The Darkness Xmas single “ We end the interview on that high note.

Culann Live!

The SAMA Best Rock winners take the stage to a very poor turn out (must be due to bad promotion) though the band seem undeterred as they storm into Opening track 'Jerusalem' from their self titled d├ębut album.  Singer PJ Kelly taking a stance like James Hetfield from Metallica, legs apart and head nodding franticly.  I witness a huge urgency and power coming from the stage, stripping the venue's paintwork dry.  

Keyboard player Ross McCluskie flying across the keys like the ghost of Jon Lord.  Lead guitarist Greg Irish in beanie hat churning out riffs, reminding me of Focus.  It's Prog Jim, but not as we know it!  Bassist Callum Davis and Sean Kelly driving the rhythm section.  We get stop start chorus, time signature changes and high vocals.  Next we go all chunky riff-age intro into uplifting key melodies on 'Beat My Chest'.  The verse is all 'shouted from the rooftops' and anthem like.  Imagine Big Country jamming with Thin Lizzy and Yes.

In to track three and PJ Mumbles “Where's all the people gone?” and urges the remaining punters to the front. 'The Lowlands Great Hatred' follows with it's more folk feel and shouty chorus and I can see why they won the Best Rock accolade with PJ screaming into the mic like Dave Grohl's younger brother.  A bit of early Brian May-esque Queen guitar fret work.  The solo is all in your face, the band playing hard like it's their last gig on earth.

We move into Deep Purple territory with 'I Am The Red' and a touch of The Darkness in the high falsetto vocal style and verse melodies.  Just as you feel you know where the songs going the audience are thrown into the eye of the storm, twisting us around in a different direction, total early Prog keyboards work like Rick Wakeman on Monster energy, progressing forward into a frantic finish. Next up the epic 'Brain Canyon' weighing in at just under 9 minutes.  We get a slow start, a classical keyboard piece like Muse before it's all in for another shouted chorus like an army on a hill rushing into battle.  Operatic vocals, pulsating and hypnotic guitar picking, a bit Fish period Marillion overture finish.  A true Celtic epic in the highest order.

They finish with 'Salvation' - a false start, then getting it right for a touch of country folk feel, reminding me of early Springsteen/E-Street band, moving along into full falsetto chorus.  'What a voice this young man has', a comment a lady behind me makes afterwards.  More time signatures and changes take us to a big rock finish bringing it down singing the line - 'My new found world never forgets me' - well your right, we won't!   You just try and stop this reviewer going over to see them again headlining in Glasgow!

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