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Sounds Like Home

Mon, 9th November 2020

Words: Kenza Marland

Photos: Amadeus Brzezinski

Sounds Like Home.

 

Kenza Marland reflects on the music that makes Scotland feel like home, through stand out albums, gigs and nights in loud spaces. 

Two years ago, Scott Hutchinson was found in the Firth of Forth. Scotland mourned. A few months later, a copy of Gold Flake Paint, a music journal made in Glasgow, dropped through my letterbox. They’d just bravely moved from digital to print, and I’d keenly ordered a copy as soon as I could. This first issue opened with a letter from the founder, Tom Johnson. I read the letter three times in a row. Tom had written about the pain of Scott’s death, and his importance here. His writing was beautiful. It moved me, and I’ve thought about it often over the last two years.

 

Growing up in London, I’d missed Frightened Rabbit entirely. But, after a bunch of years living in Edinburgh, their name had become familiar. After Scott died, and I’d read Tom’s piece, I decided to give them a shot. The outpouring of sadness from those I respected in the music community was reason enough. Pals told me The Midnight Organ Fight was the album to go for, but were pretty sceptical about whether I’d take to it. ‘It’s very indie, very adolescent.’; ‘It defined my teenage years, but I don’t know if you can join in this late’; ‘It is very Scottish…’.

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Turns out, you can join it late. Something about The Midnight Organ Fight grabbed me. Perhaps it was the simple song writing, or the honesty of Scott’s lyrics. There was something very raw about it. London exists in a thousand records, books and films. The city has been represented, and explored, by countless artists. This fact is a privilege I’d taken for granted growing up, as for many other parts of the country, this isn’t the case. The Midnight Organ 

Fight felt like the expression of a Scottish experience, and after nearly nine years in Edinburgh, that experience was becoming my own. The penultimate track is ‘Floating in the Forth’. Tragedy seeps through the song and the preemptive lyrics are painful listening, considering how things ended for Scott.

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“Is there peace beneath 

The roar of the Forth Road Bridge? 

On the northern side 

There's a Fife of mine 

And a boat in the port for me... 

And fully clothed, I float away 

Down the Forth, into the sea 

I think I'll save suicide for another day”

I listened to the record on repeat for weeks – sitting in my bedroom on Leith Walk, or staring out the window of the Number 16 bus, or running over the crags, looking out to the Firth itself. Because of this, The Midnight Organ Fight will always sound like my Edinburgh. 

When I first rocked up, at eighteen years old, without a single friend in the city, Edinburgh sounded horrible. I nearly turned right around and went back to Hackney. Freshers and first year were a blur of sticky clubs, screaming girls and number ones. It was Potterow’s Big Cheese, Why Not, and the Picturehouse on a Friday. I was miserable. 

Thankfully, I found the Bongo Club, back when it used to live on Holyrood Road. And from there, Sneaky Pete’s, and Studio 24. Things changed drastically. As a student, Edinburgh now sounded like Soul Jam, Rhythm Machine, Wasabi Disco, Lionoil, and Soulsville. People danced to music I loved. DJs opened up my tastes, pushing me to expand musically. And crucially, everything was so easy, intimate, and hassle free. Unlike London, the clubs were a five or ten minute walk from my front door. There was never a queue longer than about thirty seconds.

 

During the week, tickets to most things were about two quid, and never more than a tenner at the weekend – if that. Coats were chucked all together in the corner, and everyone seemed to know everyone else. We felt safe – and therefore, free. At night, the Cowgate became our playground. Edinburgh sounded like going clubbing, and I’m convinced I’d never have spent so many nights sweaty and dancing till 3am if I’d stayed in London. 

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During my second year, I got a job on the bar at Sneaky Pete’s. This will always be a huge turning point in my life. Now, I was pals with the very people who I knew shared my love of music. Sneaks was hot, intense, and often, stupidly fun. Each night sounded different: Nu Fire’s hip hop on a Monday, Soul Jam on Tuesday, Witness on a Wednesday, Juice on a Thursday, and maybe Definition on the weekend. There are two tracks that take me right back to that time. Thundercat’s ‘Oh Sheit It’s X’, and Hackney Parrot’ - Tessela'. Both were played constantly, and both made the club explode. 

At the start of one shift, Nick Stewart came bounding in, with his excited face on. The Young Fathers had released Tape Two, and he was keen to play it while we were setting up. I’d never heard of the Young Fathers, except for being vaguely aware of Ally, who’d often come to the club. He always wore a floor length fur coat, and drank bottles of Evian. Nick’s enthusiasm has always been contagious, so I went home and lost myself in both the EP’s. At first, I couldn’t get my head around their sound. Nick and Ryan got tickets to see the band play a gig at the Central Hall in Tollcross. I went along with them, and from that night onwards I was obsessed. The performance was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I didn’t know something like that could happen in Edinburgh. 

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The group won the Mercury Prize in 2014, and two years ago released their latest album, Cocoa Sugar. During a particularly rubbish time in my life, I got the 8am train from Waverley to Kings Cross. I was running away from the city for a couple of weeks – trying to sort my head out and stop feeling sad. On the train, I sat with a notebook and my headphones on, and listened to Cocoa Sugar twice through. I really listened. Looking back, I think I needed to reconnect with the Young Fathers. They, and the album, reminded me of how Edinburgh sounded. I had a relationship with the city that went beyond a stupid breakup and difficult time. 

One summer not so long ago, I went to SWG3 with some friends to see LCD Soundsystem. The Young Fathers were the support. We’d left rainy Edinburgh and arrived in Glasgow to 25 degrees, blue skies and blazing sunshine; surprising I know. The gig was outside, in Galvanisers Yard, and started just as the sun began to set. The band’s performance was hypnotising, earthy, physical...almost spiritual. They blew me away, again.

Glasgow is gig land for me. At the start of this year I was going through at least once a fortnight. I saw Kendrick Lamar in Bellahouston Park, Moses Boyd in Sleazys, The Streets at the Academy, The Internet, Loyle Carner, Noname, Anderson Paak, Wild Beasts – endless artists and bands, who’s shows made life colourful. Sometimes, I’d go alone, sometimes as a music journalist, and sometimes with friends. Never have I regretted spending money on a gig ticket. These artists toured the country, and more often than not, pals back home would catch their London shows, after I’d seen them in Glasgow. We could share the experience, despite being apart. 

To say the Young Fathers and Frightened Rabbit are different would be something of an understatement. And yet, both bands make up significant parts of the jigsaw puzzle that connects me with Edinburgh. When I first arrived, I wanted to go back to London, back to Grime, Bashment, and chanting Arsenal fans. 

But nowadays, Scotland sounds like home.

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