Here at Say It With Garage Flowers we’re massive power pop fans and we always get excited when we get to hear new releases by UK-based label Sugarbush Records, which specialises in rare and limited edition vinyl, including power pop, psych and cool ‘60s stuff.
Over the last few weeks, Sugarbush has really been spoiling us, so we thought we’d do a quick roundup of some of its latest records.
Detroit singer-songwriter Nick Piunti’s superb 2015 album, Beyond The Static, has been issued on vinyl for the first time – it’s limited to only 250 copies on blue vinyl.
We interviewed Nick when the record was first released last year and you can read all about the making of it here.
Beyond The Static was the follow-up to Nick’s critically acclaimed album 13 In My Head, which we described as ‘an instant power pop classic’.
Fans of 13 In My Head will definitely love Beyond The Static. As we said when it first came out, it’s more of the same – infectious power pop songs with big guitars, harmonies and strong melodies.
There’s also a country influence on the song Six Bands and some vintage New Wave synth on Heart Stops Beating. Nick’s been compared to singer-songwriters such as Matthew Sweet, Tom Petty and Paul Westerberg.
Don’t forget to check out Nick’s latest album, Trust Your Instincts, which is currently available on CD. We’re hoping for a vinyl release of it on Sugarbush sometime soon…
If you like Nick Piunti, you’ll also dig Dom Mariani’s Homespun Blues & Greens. Out on Sugarbush, this ‘lost’ album by the former frontman of Australian garage rock band The Stems is released on vinyl for the first time.
Limited to 300 ‘deep blue’ copies worldwide, it was recorded over a two-year period in the early noughties, but slipped under the radar when it came out in 2004.
Mixed by Mitch Easter (R.E.M and Velvet Crush) it’s top-notch power pop, with fuzzy riffs, crunching chords and some great hooks.
The title track has a brilliant soulful brass arrangement, gorgeous ballad Prove has cool ’60s-style backing vocals and tinges of country rock, thanks to its Faces-style guitar licks, while space-themed Yuri is, er, out of this world, and Bus Ride is power pop perfection.
Finally this month, Sugarbush has another vinyl first – Irish band Pugwash’s second album, Almanac. Originally released in 2002, it’s now available on orange or white vinyl – there are 250 copies of each.
Pugwash’s main man, Thomas Walsh, is clearly a man who’s in love with vintage pop music – even Almanac’s title is a nod to The Kinks.
For the most part, Walsh channels mid-to late ’60s Beatles and ELO – Everything We Need sounds like George Harrison meets Jeff Lynne, while the lovely acoustic ballad Sunrise Sunset could’ve come off The White Album.
Keep Movin’ On reminds us of The Hollies and Apples sounds like English eccentrics XTC – it’s no surprise that, in 2002, XTC’s Andy Partridge said it was the most exciting track he’d heard all year.
Almanac is a Fab album and Pugwash are plundering pop pirates. Ahoy there, me hearties…
London’s The Hanging Stars have made one of the best albums of this year.
Recorded in LA, Nashville and, er, Walthamstow, Over The Silvery Lake – their debut record – is a gorgeous psych-folk-pop-country-rock masterpiece that owes a debt to The Byrds and the Cosmic American Music of Gram Parsons, but also Fairport Convention’s pastoral ’60s English tune-smithery.
Willows weep, ships set sail on the sea and songs are laced with pedal steel guitar and shot through with blissed-out harmonies. There are hazy, lazy, shimmering summer sounds (I’m No Good Without You and Crippled Shining Blues), as well as brooding desert-rock (The House On The Hill], trippy mystical adventures (Golden Vanity) and, on the closing track, the beautiful Running Waters Wide, rippling piano is accompanied by bursts of groovy flute.
In an exclusive interview, I spoke to singer, guitarist and songwriter Richard Olson (The See See, Eighteenth Day of May) and bassist Sam Ferman (The See See and The Lightshines) about the making of Over The Silvery Lake and found out that its follow-up – due out next year – is almost done and dusted. Cosmic, eh?
Your debut album, Over The Silvery Lake, was released in March 2016. It’s one of my favourite records of the last 12 months. This year has been a bad one for the wider world, but how’s it been for The Hanging Stars?
Sam Ferman: We’re going to be a footnote to Trump…. It feels like 2016’s been a bit of a whirlwind. It doesn’t feel that long ago that Rich had an idea about taking the music that we were doing at the time somewhere different and creating a new band. From recording the album in LA, finishing it off, having it released and going round France and Spain and heading to Germany… We’ve packed a lot in.
Richard Olson: To be honest, I didn’t expect for us to get the kind of reception that we’ve been getting. There were so many bits that fell into place with the album. I’ve been in quite a few bands and projects and the best ones haven’t been too try-hard. Don’t get me wrong, we work very hard, but it’s a natural harmony.
Can you tell me about the songwriting process behind the album? Do you all write songs?
Sam: Most of the record was ideas that Rich brought to us. We had the benefit of spending quite a lot of time working out what we wanted to do with them. Rich was quite keen on taking it somewhere different, which is where the pedal steel, violin and flute got involved. We broadened our horizons and didn’t restrict it to just a three person, guitar pop band. We made it more pastoral, folky and country-infused, which was really exciting.
Are you guys into the classic country-rock bands?
Richard: Of course – I’ve always been obsessed with The Byrds and Gram Parsons. Our guitar player, Patrick [Ralla – banjo, guitar and assorted instruments] is a real country connoisseur – he really knows his shit.
Sam: It’s been exciting for me. As a kid, I was never that into country stuff – Rich got me into it. Me and Rich and Paulie [Cobra – drummer] – and, maybe to a lesser extent, Patrick and Joe [Harvey White – pedal steel] are interested in psychedelic music. It’s been really interesting trying to see what you can do with a psychedelic twist on the country thing. When I was playing music seven or eight years ago, there were no psych bands around, apart from my one and Rich’s one – now there are dozens. It’s interesting to see how far you can push it and mix it with prog-folk and the Fairport Convention thing.
Richard: As much as we like the Flying Burrito Brothers and Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the English folk revival of the late ‘60s is just as important for us – Fairport Convention, Pentangle and John Renbourn.
Your album was made in LA, Nashville and Walthamstow. Did you have a definite idea of what you wanted it to sound like?
Richard: We went to LA and said, ‘let’s do some recording’.
Sam: A lot of it crystallised there. There was a lot of talking about what we wanted it to sound like – quite often, it’s very easy to stumble into recording a lot of stuff and then it comes together in a patchwork at the end. We had a coherent vision for the album right from the outset.
‘As much as we like the Flying Burrito Brothers and Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the English folk revival of the late ‘60s is just as important for us – Fairport Convention, Pentangle and John Renbourn’
Did you write any of the album in LA?
Sam: We wrote a lot of the parts there. One of the songs – Ruby Red – is based on me and Rich having a jam on a porch in Hollywood. I came up with a riff – we thought it was going to be an acoustic instrumental, but we started messing around with it in rehearsals and it sounded good when it was heavy and electric. Rich went away and wrote the melody and the words.
The House On The Hill is one of my favourite songs on the album. What can you tell me about that track? I love the twangy guitar riff and the Spaghetti Western vibe…
Richard: Our friend Christof [Certik], who is a bit of a LA/San Francisco legend, wrote that riff. The guys went out on the porch and drank beer and smoked weed, while I had to coach him for four hours. It was hard to get it out of him, but once he did it, it was incredible.
Sam: Like every brilliant guitarist, he’s a perfectionist, but we got there in the end.
Crippled Shining Blues is another highlight of the album. It was also featured on an EP with Oxford band The Dreaming Spires earlier this year…
Richard: I’m really pleased with the way that song came out – it was all done in Walthamstow.
Sam: Rich had the two-chord riff at the start and we just jammed over it and he came up with the guitar riff. There’s a lovely complementary pedal steel riff, too.
You’ve been recording your new album? How’s it going?
Richard: We’re almost done – we’re putting the finishing touches to it. We’ve got about 20 songs, we’ll whittle that down to about 11 and then we’ll see if it’s any good…
When do you hope to release it?
Richard: Only the gods know that. Everything is a bit up in the air regarding when the album’s coming out. It’s a weird time – everything takes absolutely ages, because of bloody Record Store Day. We need to have our stuff out on vinyl. The people who buy our records like vinyl and it’s how we survive on the road – not by eating vinyl, but by selling it.
Your next record will be quite a quick follow-up to your first one…
Sam: I think we started recording the new one before the last one was even out – we like to keep things ticking over. We’ve been busy this year.
What can we expect the new record to sound like?
Richard: I think we’ve found our feet to be honest. The first album was a bit of a stab in the dark and it was very much me, Paulie and Sam…
Sam: We were the genesis of it.
Not the Genesis?
Sam: There’s no Phil Collins…
Richard: Even though I do like Genesis… We’ve taken shape as a live band, with Patrick and Joe on pedal steel. They’ve been very involved with the new album – Patrick’s been co-writing. It’s been much more of a collaborative effort. I do think that the new album is very different, but it’s very much in the same vein musically, I suppose.
Sam: We’ve done all of it at Bark Studio in Walthamstow, which is where we did about a third of the first album. We’re working with Brian O’Shaughnessy – he’s fantastic. Me, Paulie and Rich live in Walthamstow.
It’s sounding really nice. We had the majority of the album – the core bits – done about nine months ago. We’ve spent the last few months sprinkling the fairy dust on it. It’s been really nice to see how it’s come together.
Richard: A lot of the recording for the first album was done in LA and we did some overdubs in Nashville. This album has been purely E17, which has been great. Due to the way of the world, it’s so hard to get a two-week chunk of time for recording, so we do a weekend of basics and then we drop in with some other ideas. I’m so chuffed with some of the stuff that we’ve done for the new record. I think it’s bloody good and I really hope that people will be blown away by it.
If you’ll pardon the pun, Christmas is a good time for hanging stars… What are your plans for the festive season?
Sam: Our drummer will be on the other side of the world, but for New Year’s Eve we’ll probably be at the What’s Cookin’ night in Leytonstone, sinking in a Yuletide country vibe.
Richard: We’ll probably be getting slightly off our nuts in some way or another – we don’t mind that at all.
Over The Silvery Lake by The Hanging Stars is out now on The Great Pop Supplement/Crimson Crow.
The sound of the 12-string guitar is celebrated on a great new compilation album – Twelve String High – which includes 23 jangle pop acts from all over the world, who share a love of Rickenbacker riffs and heavenly harmonies…
From The Byrds to Big Star and The Raspberries to REM, the 12-string guitar has always played an important part in rock and roll history.
The distinctive Rickenbacker jingle-jangle can be heard in folk rock, ‘60s beat, garage, power pop, the psychedelic Paisley Underground scene in ‘80s L.A and the British indie tunes of The Smiths.
There are also a huge number of current bands that owe a large debt to that classic 12-string guitar sound and the best of them are gathered together on an excellent new compilation album, Twelve String High, from Spanish label You Are The Cosmos.
Available on double vinyl, single CD and download, it rounds up 23 acts from all over the world that are known for their love of 12-string guitars and heavenly harmonies.
Things get off to a great start with the brilliant opening track by US singer-songwriter Erik Voeks – the entirely apt and wonderfully euphoric She Loved Her Jangle Pop.
And, if, like the female protagonist in Erik’s song, you love your jangle pop, then Twelve String High is an essential collection. In fact, we’d go as far to say that it’s one of the best compilation albums we’ve ever heard.
The UK is represented by Say It With Garage Flowers favourites The Dreaming Spires (If I Didn’t Know You), as well as Kontiki Suite, Dropkick, The Carousels, The Junipers, The Higher State and The Hanging Stars – whose debut album Over The Silvery Lake is one of the finest records of 2016.
Some of these bands were already on the Say It With Garage Flowers radar, but listening to Twelve String High has opened our ears to a whole lot more acts that we’d love to find out more about.
Who are US band The Parson Red Heads, whose gorgeous ballad It’s Hard For Me To Say is included on the album? And what about Australia’s Wade Jackson, who pitches in with Coming Back, Elvyn from Canada, whose Lotta Lies is one of the highlights, or Sweden’s Arvidson & Butterflies, with their marvellous, organ-heavy Tired of Running?