Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Indietracks interview #10: The Beautiful Word

By Stuart Huggett

Brighton’s The Beautiful Word are a sunny bunch who have described themselves as ‘Mystery Pop’ (the title of a previous EP) and ‘Casio folk’. Their most recent single ‘May Not be Love’ came out in April, with a new single and second album, both called ‘Particles’, due soon.

The Anglo-Scots five-piece are Emily Bryant (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Megan Clifton (vocals, keyboard, glockenspiel, guitar), Tom Newman (guitar, keyboard), Scott Jones (bass) and Jamie ‘Gruff’ Keogh (drums). We went down the pub to meet the band, where they explained how Take That paid for their new album, how they’re influenced by The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and why they’re the new ABBA.

Have you been to Indietracks before?

Emily: No, but one of my friends went a few years ago and rang me about it and said it was amazing. That was back when I used to really be into Aberfeldy.

Megan: People kept saying to us, “Yeah, you should play there!” And we’d be, “OK, we’ll try!” We just emailed them ourselves and asked. We didn’t get a weird ‘in’ or anything.

Emily: It’s good that they genuinely do listen to everything.

Have you played many other festivals?

Megan: Shall I tell the whole story of T In The Park? Ooh, I’m gonna say it. It was literally ‘cos of Take That’s manager. He said we were really good, and then gave us a gig at T In The Park, and then we never heard from him again. We were like, that’s amazing! You’re amazing! We love you! Where have you gone?

How on earth did you get involved with Take That’s manager?

Megan: We emailed him! As a joke! And he replied!

Emily: He got back to us, saying, “As manager of Take That and the individual members...” We were reading it and laughing and then thought, shit, OK. We kept emailing him and I just thought it was a joke, and then eventually he invited us up to meet him and he did exist.

Megan: He was really sweet, a really nice man

Emily: He smelt really good.

Megan: He smelt amazing, He smelt of Hawaiian Tropic.

Emily: And rum, and money, and Barbados. Really expensive sun-cream and rum.

Tom: But not like alcoholic?

Megan: No, not alcoholic! But he’s disappeared and that’s fine. We’re not exactly gonna be signed to a major label like Universal anyway, ‘cos we’re too indie. It’d be weird. But he was a nice man. Anyway, so we played on the T Break stage at T In The Park, which is great, but it’s slightly frightening because it’s for Scottish bands. Emily’s Scottish. I’m not Scottish. So I was like, “Please can we survive this?” But, oh, it was great, a massive stage, and it did go really well. We held our own, it was wicked. I was really happy.

Emily: It was really muddy though.

Scott: We lost our shoes.

Megan: So we all had to buy wellies, we just left our shoes there. That was lovely, that was Tom’s second ever gig with us.

Tom: I joined the band just last July. I’d got a text from Megan, but at that point I didn’t know her number, so it was an unknown text asking if I’d like to play T In The Park. So I ignored it, thinking that it was a wind up or that I’d received the wrong message. Then I got a follow-up phone call.

Megan: I’d met Tom ‘cos we were helping out doing music in a youth club. We didn’t know each other that well but I knew that he was nice.

Emily: We did (Brighton community festival) Paddle Round The Pier the day before. That was Tom’s first gig and it was awful, really rainy, and then we drove up to Scotland that day, stayed at my mum’s house, and the next day we played T In The Park. And then the next day we played in London at the Half Moon, so it was like a really, really short – but really long – tour.

Megan: Yeah, you had to stay with us for three whole days.

Scott: Obviously Tom being the new guy, he got a separate bed.

Tom: It was a new experience.

Emily: And you got to meet my mum.

Megan: Oddly, because of Take That’s manager and the money we got for that gig, we recorded our entire new album. If that hadn’t have happened we wouldn’t have been able to go into the studio.

Is it ready to come out soon?

Gruff: Yeah, we’ve already released ‘May Not be Love’ which is on the album. We’ve got another one coming out called ‘Particles’ and that might be in June.

Megan: Yeah, the first of June and then the album after. I’m really excited. We just thought: two singles, album. Boom! We’re really happy with it.

It’s been five years since your first one (‘Curvature of Words’). It was a very long album, wasn’t it?

Megan: Yeah, 17 tracks!

Emily: I don’t know what the idea was with that. I think maybe it was ‘cos me and Megan and (former guitarist) Nelson were all writers ourselves and just started to record everything because we thought it was all amazing. Maybe we were just over-excited.

Megan: I wanted to cut it down to the best ten tracks, but then we spent like a year and a half going, no, we’re not doing that. There’s so much weird stuff on it, it’s got like jazz tracks on it and a blues jam...

Emily: We’re a lot more streamlined now than back in 2008.

Megan: We try and make new music now, something that’s not too much like anything else. It’s obviously still pop but we want it to have a sound that’s definitely ours. I think we’ve finally nailed it.

There’s elements of The Beautiful Word that are really distinctive, like your toy piano.

Megan: That’s Joyce.

Scott: All our instruments have interesting names.

Megan: She’s been around for years, but after T In The Park we were basically a soundman’s joke. Like, “Why are we miking this toy piano?” So now I’ve put her soul into a sampler. It’s like a MicroKorg and I just sampled every key in. I’ve just started putting my own voice into it now so you can make up harmonies. It’s sick. But it’s sad actually, ‘cos I really love Joyce but we can’t take her out any more. Maybe I’ll take her to Indietracks.

Why do you use a six-string bass?

Scott: It’s good for pop. I did play a standard four-string, but then I thought I’d go for a five-string and be a bit of a metaller. Then I thought, ah, if you’re gonna get that then may as well go the whole hog and get the other one. It took a bit of getting used to but I’d never go back.

Gruff: At T In The Park, weren’t people like, “Why is there two guitarists?”

Megan: “And why has he got such tiny hands?” And it’s called Uncle Phil.

Scott: After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And I’ve got two other basses, one called Jazzy Jeff and one called Carlton Banks.

Megan: They don’t get a look in these days though ‘cos they can’t do the low B.

Why else should people come and see you?

Megan: We’re the new ABBA. You’ve got to catch the new ABBA.

Who called you that?

Megan: I think I did. There’s a ginger one and a blonde one, and that’s it basically.

Emily: And he (Scott) looks like Benny. Even if you’re not into music but you’re fans of the beard, we’ve got that.

Megan: That’s literally all it is.

Emily: And the harmonies obviously.

Anything else?

Megan: Well I like us best live. It’s jokes, it’s fun. We’re probably the happiest band I know and it’s nice to be happy. If there’s more people there we’ll be even happier, so then it will just be like an infinite circle of happiness. And then we’ll all blow up.

If you can't wait until Indietracks to see The Beautiful Word, they're playing in London on Saturday 1 June. And if you can't wait until then, here's their new video for 'Particles':  

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Indietracks interview #9: Seabirds

Seabirds are a brand new five piece guitar pop band from Nottingham, and their music is a charming combination of harmonious pop songs with thoughtful lyrics. They’ve have kindly taken the time to chat to today’s guest interviewer, Claire Walker.

Could you please tell us about Seabirds? Is it a continuum in any way from Red Shoes Diaries?

Although we are very much a new band, there are some subtle similarities I guess. I'd like to think the song writing has matured a little, now that I've turned 21. But we still write melodic pop songs with thoughtful lyrics, but with a bit more loud guitar and stuff, courtesy of Ian Evans and Dan 'Dangerland' England. Dan is in a bike-gang, and 47 other bands. Ian is from Stoke.

You currently have no music online, when is this likely to change? Are you recording anything in the near future?

We have just finished recording our debut single, which we hope will be released in time for Indietracks. It was produced by the consistently awesome biscuit-fiend, Andy (We Show Up On Radar) Wright.

How do you feel about playing Indietracks Festival?

Excited. Not to sound sycophantic, but it really is the best festival in the world. When I played with my previous band in 2010, we had the best time, even though I had a bottle of bourbon and a bladder of cider confiscated. I have been back every year since, met lots of great people and put others in the recovery position after them passing out in a tin church. I'm sure we've all been there.

Other than Indietracks Festival do you have any gigs or festivals lined up for 2013?

We're playing Nottingham's Dot to Dot festival with Teleman who I really like, and a load of other hip bands that I've not heard of.

We play our first London show on 8th June at Power Lunches, and we're playing Rob's Dad's 65th birthday party. You can't come to that, but I'm going to sing some Smokey Robinson and eat my weight in vol au vents.

What is your favourite seabird and why?

The Blue-footed Booby, of course. Another good one is the Inca Tern; it looks like it has a moustache. Google it, it's cool. British Seabirds have had a rough year, in all seriousness, with two large oil spills off the south coast killing thousands of birds. So spare a thought for the real thing when you're watching Seabirds at Indietracks this year!

Many thanks Seabirds, I’m looking forward to watching you at the festival!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Indietracks interview #8: Bis

By Stuart Huggett

Indietracks’ Friday night headliners Bis - John Disco, Manda Rin and Sci-fi Steven - need little introduction, thanks to their 90s smash ‘Kandy Pop’. They appeared on Top Of The Pops, released three studio albums and won the approval of The Delgados and The Beastie Boys, who signed them to the Chemikal Underground and Grand Royal labels respectively.

Following the dense electronics of third album ‘Return to Central’, the Glasgow trio formed short-lived group Data Panik before splitting. John Disco joined ska band The Amphetameanies and recorded with brother Sci-Fi Steve as Dirty Hospital, while Manda Rin released one album with The Kitchen and the solo set ‘My DNA’.

The three remain friends and have reformed for very occasional gigs in recent years, including the Primavera festival in 2010. Manda tells us more.

Bis were only just out of school when you played ‘Kandy Pop’ on Top of the Pops. How did it feel to become successful so young?

We’re so, so lucky, not many people get that opportunity. It might have seemed very sudden but John and Steven had been making music since they were 14, they’d been in recording studios stunning everyone with their talent. People would say, “You should see these little guys!” Their mum’s a piano teacher so music’s in their blood. When I came along I think I’m the one who made things happen because, although I may not be as musically talented as them, I’ve got the get up and go and that’s the thing that helps. We didn’t expect it though. We’d been doing gigs since we were 16 and we put out quite a lot of 7”s before the one that got on Top of the Pops. We can’t regret the timing or anything.

There’s a lot of things we look back on now and think we should have done perhaps differently, like giving the Top of the Pops single an EP name (‘The Secret Vampire Soundtrack’). People maybe went to buy it, saying “You know the Bis single ‘Kandy Pop’?” “No, never heard of it.” That was just our thing, we hadn’t really thought about it and we didn’t have any pressure to do any different. Also it was on the verge of ‘Secret Vampires’ being the single, so it could’ve gone either way. It may not have happened at all, so we were really lucky that we took that last minute decision to make it ‘Kandy Pop’. The follow-up single was probably a bad idea as well.

Was ‘This is Fake D.I.Y.’ (a critique of multi-formatting and fake indie labels, from the ‘Bis vs. The D.I.Y Corps’ EP) a case of biting the hand that feeds?

Yeah, at least it still got to number 45, which isn’t exactly bad. It probably sold more than most singles that get into the charts these days. Then for ‘Eurodisco’ getting to 37, that was probably the song I was most proud of, the video and things like that. The way it all worked out was so lucky, with Grand Royal, Wiiija’s connections in Japan, Wiiija’s connections in Australia. We can’t complain about stuff like that. If we hadn’t done it then, would it have happened at all? Possibly not because things like that just don’t exist anymore. The music industry’s changed beyond belief. I don’t feel I even know it anymore. It’s been, what, 17 years since Top of the Pops. That’s a long time ago, and to still get recognised and people remember what we’ve done, that’s stunning.

Why did Bis change into Data Panik?

We just felt we wanted to do something very different. It felt like the natural thing to do was to put an end to Bis and start Data Panik, and in retrospect it was probably not the best decision. Most bands keep going and keep going and they end up doing really well out of that. We should have just kept going, but if we hadn’t have tried it we maybe wouldn’t have been the same thing. Your original fans have always got this hold over you, trying to keep some of what you had before, when you want to move on to something different. We were thinking, we’ll wipe the slate clean and do this new band. We did these songs that we’re pretty proud of but in the end it was pretty pointless in a way.

Are you playing any Data Panik songs at Indietracks?

I think maybe we’re going to play one of those songs. It seems a waste because Data Panik had so many good songs and we never recorded anything proper.

Have you been writing new Bis songs too?

Yeah, the last gigs we did we had two new songs and they were really well received. I was quite nervous doing something completely brand new, and I’m terrible at learning things quickly, but I managed it and it was really good.

Are there any plans to record them?

Probably not. The main thing is we can’t really afford it to go into a proper studio. We know we need to, to make it of the quality that John and Steven are very fussy for, especially for a drum kit. I’m quite happy to do a recording at home on the computer because I think the quality of that is still fantastic but I know it wouldn’t be good enough for them. We’ve talked about maybe doing a kind of Kickstarter type thing, so we’ll see. It seems a waste those Data Panik songs never got used, and then we had the two new Bis ones that never got recorded, and for this festival we’re aiming to do another two brand new ones. We need to get a plan because it’s so embarrassing when fans say, “Love the new songs! What’s happening?” and we’re like, “I don’t know!”

Does the music Bis recorded for The Powerpuff Girls and BB3B cartoons keep a trickle of money coming in still?

I think trickle’s the right word. I don’t rely on it one bit, but if it wasn’t for The Powerpuff Girls I’d probably get bugger all! Even if you’re getting like a penny here and there, which it shows up as in some places, then I’m happy. To get songs still played in films they were used in years ago, it’s brilliant. I just wish there was more. Now that we don’t have an active person looking to get our songs into stuff we might not ever get that opportunity. We just need to wait and see, but I certainly miss the days when our songs were getting played on the record stall on EastEnders ‘cos that was amazing.

How’s your artwork doing?

I’ve had a couple of exhibitions now. I did the ‘Cover Versions and Other Hits’ one and that was really well received, I’m so glad that I got to do that. There was quite a lot of designs. I’ve still got some left and I sell them on my website (www.planetmanda.com). After that I decided I wanted to do a proper art one with a few canvases and they all sold. They took over a month to do each one and that was something I’d never done, just acrylic on canvas. Ah, I loved it, it’s the only thing that makes me zone out and not think about any other stress in the world. And I did the drawing for an iPad game and an iPhone one called ‘All Fridges Are Psychotic’ and that went really well. If anyone came to me asking, I’m always up for trying things out. I do just love getting these odd requests here and there.

I see that you’ll be seven months pregnant when Bis play.

Yeah, it’s been interesting ‘cos John and Steven have two kids each and I’ve not got any yet. I’m so excited though. John and Steven have been fantastic for advice and things like that. When their wives have been expecting it doesn’t affect the band, but this is the first time there’s actually someone in the band that it does affect. I’ve had to think about everything, like I’ll need a proper seatbelt for travelling, not a wee lap belt thing. And I can’t jump up and down on stage, which’ll be weird. I can’t drink, which, again, weird. But I’m excited about the challenge of it. You know those Baby On Board signs that you get on the back of cars? I was gonna put one on my keyboard in case some people just go, “She’s looking a bit heavy...”

Is this your first visit to Indietracks?

Yeah, I’ve never been. I don’t know what to expect one bit, which is really strange because I’ve always had a rough idea of what something’s like. I don’t know the stage, I don’t the location, I don’t know anything. I’m just quite proud of myself that I managed to get a £27 Travelodge in, whoo!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Indietracks interview #7: Jupiter in Jars

Jupiter in Jars are a multi-instrumental melodic folk pop trio from Sheffield, formerly known as Bethan y Rachel before they found their latest member, Camilla. You may have spotted them playing recently with Haiku Salut, The Just Joans, Pete Green and others, and we can't wait to see them playing on a steam train at this year's Indietracks!

Hi, how do you all know each other?
We all met at Sheffield uni where we were all magically placed together in halls and have been stuck with each other ever since!

Whereabouts do you fall on the spectrum between folk and pop? Are you a folky pop band or a poppy folk band?
However you want to hear it! We'd say we're more of a poppy-folk band, our main influences are Laura Marling, Nick Drake, James Taylor, Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes and bits and bobs of other genres that we see and hear around.

We know you like to play as many instruments as possible! What can we expect from you at Indietracks? Are you going to complete with Haiku Salut for the multi-instrumentalist crown at Indietracks 2013?
Between the 3 of us we have 2 vocals, 1 guitar, 1 guitalele, 1 mandolin, 1 violin, 1 flute, harmonica and the occasional bit of glockenspeil (and always wanting more)! We only have 6 hands though so playing these all at the same time could prove to be a challenge...

Playing at a steam railway is hopefully pretty unique. Have you played anywhere particularly interesting before? What makes an ideal gig for you?
We've never played anywhere that out of the ordinary before, however we have found ourselves on the bill with some math-rock/post-rock/hardcore bands that we really enjoyed, but we weren't quite what the crowd was expecting. We're really excited to play on the steam train and, being from Sheffield and having gone on the infamous monthly 'folk train', we've always had our sights on something similar! As for an ideal gig, we love playing intimate, laid back places with friendly crowds (who clap and cheer).

Do you have any other exciting plans or releases in the near future?
We're hoping to record an EP in the very near future but have yet to find anywhere to do this! As for exciting things this summer...Indietracks! As well as more gigs in Sheffield including the brilliant Peace in the Park in June and hopefully Tramlines festival in July.

What are you most looking forward to at Indietracks this year?
Having heard of Indietracks before, we're really looking forward to seeing how music and railway can collide (not in a disastrous way), and of course checking out the rest of the bands. See you in July!

Great, looking forward to seeing you on the steam train!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Indietracks interview #6: Big Wave

We're very pleased to introduce Niall from fantastic Edingurgh indiepop rock'n'rollers The Spook School as our latest guest interviewer for the Indietracks blog. And for his first assignment, Niall's been chatting to Big Wave!

Big Wave are a five-piece guitar pop band from the sunny South West, who bonded in the local haunts of Torquay over a shared interest in pop music, alcohol and terrible dancing. During a busy 2012, the group released EP ‘The Roots of Love Come Tumbling Down’ on Soft Power Records and two singles: ‘Dying on the Vine’ on Art is Hard Records and ‘Only You’ on Beautiful Strange Records.

As a result Big Wave have garnered lots of positive reaction, including being named by Fake DIY as ‘one of the country's most underrated new bands’. Keep your eyes peeled for ‘Goldmine’ which is set for a limited edition cassette release on Art Is Hard Records in May. Over to you Niall...

Hello Team Big Wave, who are the persons that make us this wall of water?
Hello to you Niall, team Big Wave are… Ella (vox and geetar), Rik (geetar), Pete (Bass), Matt (drums/ 3rd best tambourine player in the world), Mel (keys).

Why Big Wave? Is it surfing? Is Torquay surf-central? (I surfed once...I fell off a lot...and hard)
Initially the name came from the Jenny and Johnny song ‘Big Wave’ but you’re right the name does have a connection to where we live. Unfortunately, Torquay only plays host to little waves and retirement villages, not quite as ‘radical’ as you, perhaps, believed. Though we have been known to wear our baseball caps backwards and we refer to most other humans as ‘dude’, sometimes dogs as well. I can quite safely add that none of us can surf.

You have had releases with labels like Soft Power (they are so cool!) and Beautiful Strange but you have also done a limited edition pizza box release of "Dying on the Vine" with Art is Hard, what did that entail?
We had to dream up a new pizza flavour which for us was an ice-cream sundae short crust pastry affair labelled Neopolitan Sundaze. AIH released the single as a limited edition (of one) single in a pizza box and we gave the track away for free – which you can still download from our Bandcamp. It was a really neat idea on behalf AIH and we often wonder who owns the only physical copy of ‘Dying on the Vine’ and whether at any point they tried to eat it.

Your videos all look amazing and I am especially addicted to 'Only You'. Has anyone in the band ever gone speed-dating? What would your tactics be if you did? (I would give a different name to each person for when they complain at the bar, "Have you been with Graham yet? He's so boring!" "No, but he can't be worse than Steve, YAWN!")
Sadly none of us have been speed dating for real because in our locality, you are more likely to get fixed up with a Doris or Clive, born before WW2 with a gold Rover parked outside than you are a Brangelina type. Hmm tactics? A pocket watch and a copy of Hypnotism for Dummies maybe?

What are you especially looking forward to at Indietracks? Is it the choo-choo trains?Yes, definitely the steam trains. We’ve been fans of the festival for yonkers so it’s great to finally be playing it. We’re looking forward to seeing what summer is like really in the ‘North’, coming from the English Riviera we usually expect temperatures exceeding 25C and a couple of palm trees thrown in for good measure.

If you all had to wear a uniform what would it be? (I vote pirates)Ella would love us to dress up as nuns but given that three-fifths of the band have facial hair, it might not be the most convincing attire. Rik on the other hand wants everyone to dress as Abba which we’re not that far off at the moment – gold onesies have been designated as suitable gig-apparel and... the beards would totally work :)

What are the future plans for Big Wave? Any releases planned?
Indeedy! We have a single coming near the end of May which is exciting. The track is called Goldmine and going to be released with B-side GW Bridge on a limited run of tapes through Art is Hard records. Hopefully people like it as we are very happy with the way the tracks have turned out! We also have a video to go with the single which moves away from speed-dating and gets game showy! You can hear the B-side right now...

Thanks guys! Here's the fantastic speed-dating video for 'Only You'...

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Last chance to buy early bird tickets

Just a little reminder that our early bird Indietracks ticket offer expires at 5.00pm this Saturday (11 May). So there's just a few days left to pick up cheaper tickets.

Adult weekend tickets are £7 cheaper if you buy them by Saturday. Adult tickets are currently £65 (weekend) and £35 (Saturday or Sunday only). After 5.00pm on Saturday 11 May they'll increase to £72 (weekend) and £38 (Sat/Sun).

Weekend tickets for children aged 5-15 are £10, or £6 for a day ticket. Children under 5 get in free.

Tickets are available by calling the railway direct on 01773 747 674 or visiting:

We've an amazing line up this year, including Camera Obscura, The Pastels, Helen Love, Still Corners, Bis, The Wave Pictures, The Ballet, Haiku Salut, The Tuts, The Brilliant Corners, The Lovely Eggs, Flowers, Monnone Alone and loads more. There's also steam train rides, discos, craft workshops and real ale.

Hope to see you in July!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Indietracks interview #5: The Magic Theatre

Today we're chatting to Dan Popplewell and Sophia Churney from new Elefant Records signings The Magic Theatre, who will be making their first live appearance at this year's Indietracks!

Their debut album 'London Town' (2010) was a time-travelling love story bursting with melodic sunshine/baroque pop, featuring orchestral recordings with The Slovak Radio Orchestra and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. They've just put the finishing touches on their second album, to be released on Elefant in the autumn and preceeded by a four track single in June/July. As front people in Ooberman, Dan and Sophia released a string of acclaimed and ambitious albums, enjoyed chart hits and and were championed by John Peel, Blur's Graham Coxon and BBC Radio's Mark Radcliffe .

The Magic Theatre has been going for several years, yet this is the first proper show! How are you feeling about playing the songs live at Indietracks?

Sophia: I'm a bit nervous. This is the first show I've done where I'm the main singer. When we were in Ooberman, Dan was the lead singer, so I'm feeling the responsibility weighing on me a bit. I'm excited about it too though. Let's just hope I don't panic and run off stage!

Dan: I was at Indietracks last year and really loved it. I left determined that we had to come back and play this year!

The first album was based around a time-travelling romance story set in 1960s and 1880s London. Will the theme continue on the forthcoming EP and album, or is there a new storyline?

Sophia: No, that story ended in The Old Cottage (the last track on the London Town album). There's no actual storyline for the new album, but I'd say there's a strong theme running through it.

Dan: There's no storyline now, just an overall theme about renewal, remembering and rediscovering your lost confidence. Having a story is great but it forces you to have tracks in the story order instead of what completely works best, so it was nice this time to have the freedom to cherry-pick the best songs and put them in an order that worked well together.

You used full live orchestras from Slovakia and Estonia on the first album. How did that come about, and have you used the same approach for the new songs?

Dan: I was writing instrumental orchestral music for use on TV and movie trailers and decided to write some of them around Magic Theatre songs so that I could use the expensive orchestral recordings on the first album (London Town). I managed to get permission from the publishing paymasters who bankrolled them, but it did tie me up in all manner of legal restrictions meaning the album could never get a full label release. Elefant Records tried to negotiate it, but they would have lost money on every album sold so they couldn't do it. So, never again!

This time the live strings were recorded just for this album, performed by players from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. They're world class and better sight readers than the Slovaks so in the end I got better results AND there's no copyright complications preventing a proper release which is nice.

Sophia sings most of the Magic Theatre songs, having stepped forward since the Ooberman days when Dan mostly sang. Was that a natural switch and will it continue on the upcoming album?

Sophia: Yes, I'm singing the main vocal on the new album. Dan is there singing lovely harmonies though. I don't know if it was a natural switch for me to sing the lead really. Maybe I just steamrollered my way in!

Dan: Her voice is much nicer than mine. I was only ever a singer because my voice was the least bad out of the three founder members. When Soph joined it was as a keyboard player with her just doing the odd bit. Like a good scientist, empirical experiments revealed a direct correlation between the amount of her voice on the track and how good it sounded. Once the last strains of my voice were removed they were perfect! :)

How has your experience with Ooberman affected how you approach The Magic Theatre?

Sophia: I approach The Magic Theatre with more enjoyment, more excitement and freedom to be creative. I've learned from the mistakes I made in Ooberman. I used to focus too much on things that didn't matter and I'd get anxious and embroiled in petty problems. TMT has been a happier experience for me because I've been a bigger part of the creative process and by singing the lead vocal I've been able to convey my own emotional interpretations of the songs, I suppose. There are some Ooberman songs I'd really like to re-record because I love them so much, I want to sing the lead so I can put my heart in them. Dodo was Made for Heaven springs to mind, but there're quite a few I'd like to put my tears into!

Dan: I suppose I learned a fair bit about writing, performing and production so that's all carried forward. There were things I didn't like that I didn't want to repeat - it became a very difficult environment in the band as our fortunes declined - differences of opinion amongst the band, with management and the record label. This time it's been all the good stuff - enjoying writing and recording together - without all the stress. So, I prefer this and I think the music sounds more open and uplifting as a result.

Your new album is on Elefant Records (who we love, and collaborated with for our 2009 festival). Is there still an important role for labels now that everything's available digitally?

Sophia: I think they're important, yes. A label like Elefant, run by people who absolutely care about music and artists. Who are genuinely creative music-lovers, with so much talent in having a holistic vision for their bands and the experience to promote them with expertise and enthusiasm. For me, that's tons better than doing it yourself online, or whatever.

Dan: I ran my own label for a while because I had no choice. Possibly I could have put a big effort into trying to find a new small indie label for Ooberman but I felt that I needed to focus on the recording not searching for labels. But then, it was an enormous amount of work organising promotion: tours, merchandise, design, press and radio. And I didn't have the time, knowledge or network of contacts to do it very well.

With a label you have someone whose skills, knowledge, network of fans and chosen life's work is all in this area of promotion, and so if it's a good label (and I can't imagine a better one than Elefant), you then get the job done far better than you can on your own. And not only is it a much better job, but all that hard work being done by someone else frees you to focus on the music. So yes, labels certainly have an important role as far as I'm concerned.

As for whether the market can actually support labels these days - well indie labels will have to find ever more resourceful ways of earning money, including getting tracks in TV shows and so on, because as I understand it, sales are not what they were.

The new album contains a song about memories from the 1996 Phoenix Festival - are you big festival fans? What makes a good festival for you?

Sophia: I love festivals. I've got such happy memories of walking across hot dusty fields in flip flops in the sun with a plastic glass full of beer. I love all the different music coming from various stages, the smell of the food stalls, the sense of freedom, getting into a new band and dancing on my own at the edge of the crowd! I just love it. Not so keen on drinking tons of Red Stripe and then eating veg tempura and being sick in public though. I won't do that again.

Dan: Sunshine helps! Hmm... steam trains, beer, cider, falafels and noodles help too. And I can cope with bands as long as they mostly sing in tune :)

Do you have any plans for future Magic Theatre shows or a tour when the new album comes out?

Sophia: I'd like to do some gigs...I guess we'll see what happens.

Dan: Maybe there'll be a limited set of appearances but nothing's planned yet. The album's out in autumn so let's see.

Thanks guys, look forward to seeing you in July!