22 June 2011

Scots Way-Hay #64 - Second Hand Marching Band

"There's…too many of them!!"
―Lieutenant Telsij, Y-wing pilot from Return of the Jedi

I should have featured this lot bloody ages ago, I have mentioned them on here often enough. For those of you who haven't heard of the Second Hand Marching Band they're an unconventional folk band comprising of multiple band members, in the same vein as say bands like the Polyphonic Spree or I'm From Barcelona. They don't necessarily sound like the aforementioned artists, you could say they're more akin Scottish Beirut but with the added warmth of say Sufjan Stevens. Whatever they might sound like isn't really that important, all I know is that live they make me smile like a Cheshire Cat, and no that's not always because of my alcohol in take. Having said that, I was suitably intoxicated when I caught them up in Inverness a few weeks back. It was after that, that I remembered that I had always meant to go back and get them to a Scots Way-Hay post for me. So I guess by now you're getting a bit wearisome of me rambling on about being drunk, so here's Peter from the Second Hand Marching Band for some sensible words...

Oh and before I forget, the Second Hand Marching Band once covered an At The Drive In song for a Radio Scotland session they did. If you haven't heard it, hunt it down it's fucking ace (it's on this site somewhere I think)...

I'll shut up now...

Would you care to introduce yourself?

Peter Liddle of SHMB, playing accordion, tenor horn and singing. Also playing in De Selby, The Belle Hops, the Tannahill Ensemble and Benni Hemm Hemm. I write most of the songs and do all the exciting organisational tasks.

At the last count, how many folk are currently in the Second Hand Marching Band?

I had to check Facebook for the number but it's about sixteen regulars at the moment, and with occasional members we're up to about 22.

Who’s idea was it to form a band with so many folk in it?

It was my idea as I really liked big ensemble sounds like that of Beirut. I also spent my youth in wind bands and school bands and choirs and church groups and I think that has made me want to keep the big band spirit alive a bit. It's definitely better when you have a dozen people singing instead of one.

Is their one songwriter in the band or is everyone allowed to contribute ideas?

It's mainly me but we have some songs that others have written or co-written. I'm a bit selfish about that and never get round to finishing recording other people's before my own, it's a scandal. I only write the basic stuff though and it's fleshed out by the rest of the band. There are amazing musicians and composers in the band and they generally take my pish stuff and make it sound a lot better.

How difficult is it to organize so many people to do anything together?

Very. We just went up to GoNorth the other week and we've got Aberdeen and Dundee on the cards over summer, and a festival. This involves a caravan of cars, a ridiculous amount of money and a lot of phoning late people saying "We're on in ten minutes, Jamie". We use the money from our local gigs to save up to pay for gigs further afield, and CD sales and stuff goes into that too. We've been really lucky that people have bought our stuff and paid us well when we needed it so we have got around the country so far. England is next, somehow.

Is the band a democracy or a dictatorship?

I think it's a benevolent dictatorship but a soft one at that. I'm not bossy and we spend a lot of time dicking about instead of playing songs at our (rare) practices. On the other hand it's usually a lot more fun than other bands where things aren't so relaxed and I think that we've achieved a lot in our time as a band because everyone's up for having a good time and trying stuff out rather than looking for opportunities.

What can people expect to see/hear from your live shows?

Lots of shambolic people playing shambolic tunes but with more gusto than the average band. Lots of great instruments and lots of interesting sounds. Lots of singy songs and lots of dancing.

Has there been a particular gig that has stood out for you so far (good or bad)?

We have had a selection of nuts gigs, including our recent case of mistaken identity as an actual marching band in the Southside Festival and our trip to deepest, darkest Ayrshire where we played to a bunch of people who looked like they were shat out of Middle Earth and were dancing like we were playing madrigals. My favourite gig might be the last time we were in Aberdeen, playing with Benni Hemm Hemm and Eagleowl. It wasn't our most busy or crazy gig but it was really nice. The Big Tent Festival in Falkland was also amazing fun.

Would you ever consider playing your cover of At The Drive In’s ‘One Armed Scissor’ live?

I am not sure we could play it now but we might one day. We played our cover of Atlas by Battles a few times. We do have a lot of songs of our own now that we try to play and lots more on the way so maybe when we exhaust them we will play ATDI.

What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond? Do you have any new releases planned for any time soon?

We've got gigs coming up:
Fri 1st July: Stereo (Ayetunes presents with Last battle and Loch Awe) Sat 2nd July: Aberdeen Cafe Drummonds (IMP presents with RM Hubbert (Chemikal Underground) and Last Battle) Fri 15th July: Dundee Duke's Corner Saturday 16th July: Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh (Song by Toad night with Jesus H Foxx) We will finish off three albums in the summer called the Brightest of Ideas (pop album), A Hurricane, a Thunderstorm (a sad album) and a joint album with Benni Hemm Hemm that has no name yet but is full of weird but great songs. We'll try and do some gigs when we have copies of those and then see what happens!

Second Hand Marching Band - A Dance Half To Death

Normally I would add wee round up piece at this point to let you know all about what gigs the Second Hand Marching Band have lined up, but it looks like Peter already beat me to it. I can however let you know that the band have 2 EPs and a compendium up for download on their Bandcamp page, which should whet your appetite until they release one of their 3 albums (they really don't do things by halves).


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