21st December – Red Shoe Diaries and We Show Up On Radar

Red Shoe Diaries are five friends from Nottingham who write pop songs for messed-up grown ups. I first met their bass player Rob while he was DJing at the bar I worked at, probably some 7 or 8 years ago. It was like most bar work – fun with the right people, intolerable with the wrong. Those nights Rob turned up with the Don’t Start Feeling All Romantic DJ crew were always the best.
When Fika Recordings kind of got going, Red Shoe Diaries were one of the bands I wanted to get involved. They’re a bunch of lovely people and have recorded some absolutely beautiful songs, so it was always going to be easy. It was their determination for vinyl that got me out of my cassette comfort zone, for which I’m grateful now (though in the midst of the stress and chaos of getting it all together, there was probably a time where I’d have put that 10″ where the sun don’t shine…!)
So if you’ve not picked up a copy of their 10″ EP, When I Find My Heart…, head here to buy a copy. There’ll be more from Red Shoe Diaries in 2012 – expect a download only single and video for Ice & Snow, along with a couple of brand new b-sides… In the mean time, enjoy their download and the video!

Red Shoe Diaries – San Francisco Snowglobe

Here’s what Tom (Red Shoe Diaries) has to say:
San Francisco Snowglobe , the working title of which was Don’t Stop Believing (in Father Christmas), is the first bit of home-recording that we have released. Fittingly fuelled by mince pies and mulled wine, and recorded this Sunday before watching Gremlins, it is several stories woven into one song about friends in far flung places, whom we miss at this time of year.
It’s a song of little snapshots of christmastime in different places. We like the thought of sunnier climes dressed up in faux snow and Christmas trees at this time of year, and snow-globes from places where it doesn’t really snow. We hope you enjoy the song.
Happy Holidays!

On to more Nottingham based Christmas fun from We Show Up On Radar.

WSUOR is Andy Wright. He’s a good chap, a funny one too. He writes somewhat surreal nursery rhymes; a balance of the dark and the twee. He’s got an album coming out in the new year. And he’s got a few shows with Anxieteam in London and Nottingham in January. He’s ace.

We Show Up On Radar – We’re Working Too Hard

We Show Up On Radar
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17th December – Bill Botting and Tigercats

Another debut from one of my Secondary Modernists. Bill Botting steps aside from his day jobs in Moustache of Insanity, The Secondary Modern AND Allo Darlin to give us not one but two slices of Australian Christmas cake.

Bill has been in my band the Secondary Modern for a few years now. It must be frustrating because Bill just wants to play bass like McCartney and I keep saying, don’t play bass like McCartney. However I play bass in Rotifer and Robert keep saying to me, Play it more like McCartney. Here’s Bill’s first song.

Bill Botting – Mulled Wine

Bill has this to say…
“I haven’t written anything absolutely on my own for a few years. I think because I’m lucky enough to play with some of the best songwriters around I excuse a lack of confidence by telling myself I just don’t have enough time. But, if you make the effort the time is there. So I made time to write two Christmas songs. I really hope they stand up (or at least sit up straight) next to the frankly astounding Tigercats. I’m letting Darren decide if you get both or just one.

I love Christmas. Always have. I really do start listening to carols about August (only in secret though – I don’t play them out loud till November. I do tend to make things difficult for the people closest to me though, and I worry that at some point I’m going to fuck up Christmas and we won’t get it back. I think that’s the feeling I’ve had while writing. Trying not to ruin something you love, or hurt your loved ones.

Okay, thanks for indulging me – Merry Christmas!” – Bill Botting

Here’s Bill’s second Christmas Song

Bill Botting – Acting Without Acting

Bill Botting appears to be in a race to see who can be involved with the most Christmas Advent tracks but Ian Button has pipped him by recording his fourth (?) track by producing Tigercats.

Here they come those fearless and ferociously funky Tigercats. Here’s Giles Tigercat to explain…

“This is a song by the Sonics, which some Sonics fans don’t seem to like but I can’t understand why. We covered it quite faithfully last year in a suitably ragged style, but Duncan doesn’t let us get away with that kind of shit any more, so we mixed it up a bit an now it’s kind of like a Tigercats song. Laura played one of Darren’s synths on it once he’d told us how to take the lock off. Ian Button recorded it in his magic mobile studio and it was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had recording anything.” – Giles Barrett

Tigercats – Santa Claus

Tom Fika Recordings here.
I think I’m allowed to briefly jump into Darren’s post, mention my love for both Bill and Tigercats, and make a bit of an annoucement…
***drum roll please****
Tigercats have an album coming out! And the vinyl will be on Fika Recordings!
Isle Of Dogs should be out on March 26th 2012. We’ll be doing the LP, while Acuarela Discos handle the CD version. There’ll be new versions of tracks from their first couple of EPs and a handful of new songs too.
If you’ve not seen Tigercats live, please do, they’ve become one of my favourite live bands this year. They’ve got some shows coming up, so no excuses:
Jan 13 – George Tavern, Stepney
Jan 19 – MAP at the Silver Bullet, Finsbury Park
Jan 20 – Portland Arms (with Standard Fare)
Then they’ll be playing London Popfest on the 25th of February with Allo Darlin’, before doing a few dates with them on tour (Feb 26 Leeds Brudenell Social Club / Feb 27 Leicester The Musician / Mar 2 Norwich Arts Centre). Phew!

16th December – The Near Jazz Experience and The Understudies

I like jazz. I don’t care who knows it. I don’t mean, smooth, easy vocal jazz. I don’t mean Ella Fitzgerald. I mean wild, untamed, cacophonous, expressive jazz. Coltrane, Coleman, Davis etc. But it goes further than that. My interest in Free Jazz has taken me out towards free improvised music by Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and others. I was playing a cd the other day and my Wife came in the front room because she thought I was breaking something.

I didn’t think this would happen. Like most punks and indie kids I associate Jazz with indulgence and ego. Once you’re inside this wonderful rewarding music it seems the opposite, it’s generous, intellectual, melodic and to me almost ego-less. Rock starts to like it’s the one wearing the slippers.

I don’t expect you to come with me, but trust me there comes a time when Jazz comes to all of us.

A perfect stepping stone might be Terry Edwards and his Near Jazz Experience. It’s not jazz, it’s ‘near’ jazz. – Darren

Here’s Terry with more words on his song.

“We Freak Kings” – a version of We Three Kings inspired by Roland Kirk’s “We Free Kings”, played by The Near Jazz Experience.

This is the first studio recording to be released by The Near Jazz Experience, an improvisational trio featuring multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards, erstwhile Madness bassist Mark Bedford & drummer Simon Charterton (of Zook, Nitwood & The Higsons). Be of good cheer – there’ll be an album in the New Year.

Recorded by Kevin Feazey at Livingston Studios, Dec 2011. Courtesy of Sartorial Records. – Terry Edwards

The Near Jazz Experience – We Freak Kings

Attempting a link between today’s two artists, The Understudies are no sartorial slouches either. The Understudies wear quiffs and shoes and are probably at least halfway through their jazz conversion. They are sepia toned, classic, precise and thoughtful.

The Understudies [Facebook]

The Understudies [Myspace]

The Understudies – Midnight Mass

15th December – The Hardy Tree and Dave Watkins

One of the highlights of my year has been discovering Frances Castle, aka The Hardy Tree and Claypipe Music. Not only because she’s great company and fast becoming a new friend but also because she made my personal favourite album of the year.

A lot of my favourite music at the moment seems, to me, to deal with memory. The Hardy Tree sound instantly familiar but also strangely remote and exotic. Also in a world of dwindling record sales and bespoke, boutique releases, Frances really does the most beautiful limited, handprinted record sleeves.

Me and Frances will be releasing a record together with WIAIWYA records next year.

Go and buy something now and support one of the good guys. – Darren

www.thehardytree.co.uk

www.claypipemusic.co.uk

The Hardy Tree – The Fields Lie Sleeping Underneath

Dave Watkins has played with me for years in both the Secondary Modern and Hayman, Watkins, Trout and Lee and I was delighted that he has decided to make his songwriting debut on the Christmas advent. I was shocked that it was a six minute prog opus. Here Dave explains.

Dave Watkins: vocal, ukulele, banjo, electric guitar, children’s shakes
Dave Sheppard: parlour guitar, drums, children’s glockenspiel
Steve King: electric guitar
Ruth Atkins: electric bass

Recorded by Jon Clayton at www.onecatstudio.co.uk

When Darren suggested contributing to a musical advent calendar, I immediately thought of Dave Sheppard. I haven’t recorded that much stuff on my own, and I wanted to partner with someone I like and could trust to help. With us were Ruth and Steve, who both work with me. (Ruth also plays bass in Crumbling Ghost, one of Stewart Lee’s album choices for the year.) We had a really fun Friday afternoon with Jon Clayton making this.

For my two daughters, snowmen, Christmas and winter are synonymous. My daughters are three and a half years old, and for weeks they have been asking me when The Snowman is coming to visit. They want him to live in the sitting room. Raymond Briggs is responsible.

Being a father has given me licence to love Christmas again. I once felt an obligation to be dismissive of its tinselly rituals. But now I believe they are magical – truly. And, because my own childhood was spent in the West Midlands during the 1970s, that sense of magic has found its expression in prog-inflected hard rock. – Dave Watkins

(and remember it’s 6 minutes. It’s not over until you’ve heard the Glockenspiel – Darren)

Dave Watkins – Snowman Parts One and Two

12th December – Rotifer and Yucca

I play bass with Rotifer, but not on this. Rotifer have a new album out on Edwyn Collin’s AED records and produced by Wreckless Eric. Let’s let Robert explain his song. – Darren

Robert Rotifer: Guitar, bass, keyboard, percussion, Elgam Carousel
Written by Robert Rotifer
Mixed and recorded by Ian Button

http://www.robertrotifer.co.uk

Rotifer – December 12 2021

I’ve got a morbid fascination with Bluewater Shopping Centre, I love the way it’s such a blown-up Potemkin village, and it’s got the closest John Lewis to where I live. I was there shopping for a clothes rail recently. The whole place now feels like a desperate attempt to reenact the bygone boom times, and it made me wonder what it will all look like when the pretence collapses. Bluewater was only opened in 1999 and will make an interesting ruin. I decided to write my song about two young lovers in the shopping mall ten years from now when the decline of Western capitalism will have run its course. – Robert Rotifer

Yucca is Jacob Mayfield, brother of Dan from Enderby’s Room and the Secondary Modern. Jacob is also half of Victoria and Jacob. – Darren

Following on from Enderby’s Room’s ‘At Christmas Part One’, ‘At Christmas Part Two’ is an instrumental piece built around synthesiser and field recordings which attempts to recall vague memories of past family Christmas’s.
The recordings were taken in Christmas 2010 and include sounds of the indoor table game Bagatelle (Mayfield family tradition), a crackling log fire, Christmas dinner and the local pub. – Jacob

Yucca – At Christmas Part Two

9th December – Enderby’s Room and 30 Pounds of Bone

Dan Mayfield, who is Enderby’s Room, is one of my best friends. He takes care of my dog sometimes.

We found Dan when a whole gang of us played in a big line up of Ellis Island Sound. He was a music student and we were supposed to be teaching him, he taught us. He has since become the longest standing member of my band, The Secondary Modern. Playing music with him is easy, natural and uncomplicated.

The thing about Dan is, that in a world of fake folkies and impostor accents, he is the real thing. He learned the violin playing with his parents in Morris bands. He knows folks standards by heart. I can’t think of anyone else that melody comes so easy to, he always underplays, he is always generous in a group setting. He sometimes pretends to be unfazed by music and that he prefers football. Nobody believes him.

I believe this song is about a Mayfield Christmas and is called ‘At Christmas Part One’. Dan’s brother Jacob will provide ‘At Christmas Part Two’ on Monday.

Enderby’s Room – At Christmas Part One

These are the credits:
Music and words by Dan Mayfield
Beat by Jacob Mayfield
Photograph by Mayfield Parents.

http://www.enderbysroom.co.uk/

Johnny Lamb is 30 Pounds of Bone. There is something linking Johnny Lamb and Dan though I only just realised it. Like Dan, Johnny is steeped in folk, though justly wary of the word.

I met him when he interviewed me for a thesis on location in song and itinerancy. If you want to interview me, say it’s for academic purposes. It flatters the shit out of me.

Johnny lives down in the south west. He drinks in a pub that gives him a tab and he has his own tankard. He sits by the sea and records trawler ships and records songs in the same key as them.

Johnny says his song is a reaction to East 17s ‘Stay Another Day’.

Thirty Pounds of Bone – You Can’t Break Up At Christmas
http://thirtypoundsofbone.bandcamp.com/

– Darren – 9th Dec 2011

8th December – The Mountain Parade and Two Fingers Of Firewater

After yesterday’s seven song extravaganza, we’re back to normal split single service today, with tracks from The Mountain Parade and Two Fingers Of Firewater.

I always find it hard moving to a new city. I like the adventure of discovering new places but always find it hard to meet the right people at the right shows for a new place to start to feel like home. Even more so when the place you’ve just moved to is Swindon, where you’re lucky to get anything more than the local builder playing Led Zeppelin covers acoustically in the dodgy pub down the road. So it was a relief to be introduced to The Mountain Parade by a mutual friend, Rose, and get to know them and their side projects in both Oxford and Bristol during my time out west. Bands and people like these make these places special.

The Mountain Parade (2008-2010) were a middle-sized band from Oxford. They toured with The Middle Ones, recorded an album and then split up. This is their Christmas song.
Roxy currently plays as herself, Jamie is in The Cooling Pearls, Ric and Mark play with Matt Winkworth and Steve is in Boxcar Aldous Huxley and I Know I Have No Collar.

The Mountain Parade – Salvation Army Band
The Mountain Parade

The other side of today’s split single comes from Two Fingers Of Firewater.

Here’s what they have to say about it:
“Sometimes it feels like Christmas is a tree to hang the months from. The rituals and traditions may remain unchanged from year to year, but the people we celebrate it with are both temporal and fragile. Maybe a sibling will leave their spouse, maybe another will have a baby; one enters as another leaves. But there are changes beyond our mere numbers. As we compare one another to the people we were twelve months previously, we can spot differences that aren’t explainable by circumstance or fortune.”

Two Fingers Of Firewater – Douglas Fir
Recorded and Written by Two Fingers of Firewater on the 19th November 2011 at the Packhouse.
Two Fingers Of Firewater
@tfofmusic

6th December – Slottet and MJ Hibbett & The Validators

When I started Fika Recordings, the goal was really just to get music I enjoyed out there for other people to hopefully enjoy too. I discovered Slottet (based in Sweden) about the same time as the label got going, and having enjoyed a few mp3s they’d sent out to blogs, thought maybe I should take the plunge and help them get something physical out there. It was the first time I’d approached someone out of the blue and was slightly apprehensive – would they shoot me down or laugh at the prospect of putting something out on cassette tape?
I needn’t have worried – Marcus was delighted to have been asked and a pleasure to get to know once we started forming plans for Fika’s 6th cassette release in the spring.
This track brings a welcome dose of warm synths to the advent calendar; if you enjoy it, please do consider buying one of the remaining copies of the Servants cassette, which comes with download, tea and a cake recipe.
Buy the Slottet – Servants cassette on Fika Recordings

Slottet – A Cold Christmas
Written and recorded by Slottet November 2011
Special thank to Per Jonsson for the drums
Slottet / Facebook / Spotify

Today’s second track comes courtesy of MJ Hibbett & The Validators. When Darren and I first started talking about putting together this advent calendar, Hibbert was the first person I thought of asking to get involved. He’s not released anything with us yet, but I can’t fail to love a man who writes songs about science, dinosaurs and indie discos. He’s a bloody treasure that man, which all made me a little bit too excited when he sent over his track – another Christmas corker.
Here’s what the man himself had to say:

Hello, Hibbett here!
The idea for this song came many years ago when I was sharing an office with a South African. She’d never had a Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere before so was initially dismissive of the whole idea. To her it meant grumpy family barbecues and cards of snowy scenes exchanged on a beach, just fake emotion and pointless present exchanges. However, as November got darker and colder she began to see the point of a massive festival of twinkly lights to keep everyone going during months of gloom, and gradually began to appreciate that there might be a point to it all. By the time advent began she had her own calendar and when we broke up for the holidays she was bedecked in tinsel, singing carols, and necking a big old mug of mulled wine. I didn’t necessarily learn the true meaning of Christmas that year, but by golly I realised why we need it!
I had every intention of making a video for this song, but The Validators were all in different parts of the world (everyone recorded their parts at home, so we have piano from Loughborough and backing vocals in Mauritius!) and I was occupied on various attempts to get our new album made properly, so we didn’t quite find the time. To make up for it I present a picture of a happy Leytonstone snow man, taken by The Pastry On My Mince Pie a couple of years ago. Merry Christmas!

MJ Hibbett & The Validators – Thank Goodness For Christmas

M.J. Hibbett & The Validators

3rd December – Lost Summer Kitten / Stars In Coma / Lisa Bouvier

Hi! This is Tom here, I’m the one behind Fika Recordings. I thought this first Fika-centric day of the advent calendar would provide a good opportunity to babble on about how the label started, in particular, how the three Swedish bands featured here were pivotal in getting Fika Recordings off the ground.

Let’s start at the beginning, four or five years ago. I stumbled upon a track from a female Swedish duo on the internets, Lovesong #1 by Lost Summer Kitten, which quickly became a staple of mixtapes I’d make for friends, my radio shows and melancholic Sunday evening DJ sets. It was a heartwrenchingly tender song and impossible to get hold of a physical copy in the UK. One day I thought, I should try and help release songs like this, songs I just want to play to as many people as physically possible.
Fast forward to London Popfest 2010. I got chatting to a couple of Swedes who’d flown over for it in the pub. Talk turned to the mixtapes we’d put together for the swap box… and that song was still being a fairly regular feature of my tapes. Turns out these girls, Amanda and Matilda, were Lost Summer Kitten.
A couple of months before that, I’d come down to London to catch up with some friends and head to the Twee As Fuck night, where Stars In Coma were playing. This was where I met both the band, and Lisa Bouvier, who was playing keyboards and flute with them at the time. We kept in touch and got to hang out at popshows in Sweden, in Berlin and at Indietracks.
But it wasn’t until the summer, sat outside an East London pub in the sunshine with Lisa Bouvier, that the decision was made to start a record label. Beer had been consumed and it all seemed so simple to do… Let’s put out a few cassettes, hand-make them with care and affection, and get some of the bands over to play in London. Plus both she and Lost Summer Kitten had unreleased songs, so why not? Over the next 6 months, Lisa helped shoot down some of my more ridiculous ideas (though tea and cake with every release met with firm approval), I bothered Horowitz and Moustache Of Insanity to release cassettes with us too, and come February 2011, Fika Recordings was go.

From there, it has been consistently busy at Fika Recordings. The first four cassettes have all sold out, another four cassettes came out in late spring (from Amida, Slottet, Ed Greene and Petter Seander) and then the move to do a few vinyl records, with an 10″ EP from Red Shoe Diaries, a 12″ LP from Moustache Of Insanity and onto the Christmas In Haworth 10″ EP with Darren Hayman. There’ll be tracks from many of those artists coming up later in the month, but first, on to today’s free songs from Fika’s Swedish friends…

The first is Jullåten from Lost Summer Kitten.

Lost Summer Kitten – Jullåten

Written by Matilda Hjärtstam
Recorded at Kulturmejeriet, Lund, Winter 2007.
You can also download their sold out cassette on Fika Recordings, Not Another Sad Song. It is available on a pay-what-you-feel-like basis.

 

Stars In Coma – Three Days Off

Written, recorded and produced by André Brorsson in Moonport Studios between October – November 2011
Stars In Coma 

 

Lisa Bouvier – Christmas Rain

Played by Lisa Bouvier
Strings by Henry Western’s Trio
Recorded by The Producer’s Chair at Hendon Cathedral 2011
Lisa Bouvier