A couple of us at Musicscramble were lucky enough to make it along to the Scottish Album of the Year Awards (SAY) at the Barrowland Ballroom on a hot, slightly sweaty, whisky-cocktail-and-beer-fueled night at the end of June.
Before the alcohol and incoherency kicked in we were treated to a bit of a neck-turning performance from Alarm Bells. Here was a band I’d never heard of before playing up on the famous Barras stage on one of the biggest nights of the year for emerging Scottish talent, giving it laldy.
I found myself caught up in the moment and was bopping along like a kid who’d just eaten sweets for the first time, but in my case I was hopped up on the sound being produced by the cocky, young quintuple.
We got in touch with Alarm Bells recently to find out a little bit more and see what they plans are for the future..
Who are Alarm Bells and where do you all come from?
Ryan: We’re a group of 5 Scottish dudes from Glasgow – John on Vocals, David on Guitar, Ryan on Bass, Ollie on Synths – except our drummer Paul who is from Edinburgh… like.
How and when did you all meet?
Ryan: Four of us (John, David, Ryan & Paul) were in another Scottish band called Dananananaykroyd. John and I met Ollie at university.
Who/what are the inspirations and influences behind your music?
Ryan: Yes/Pink Floyd/ATDI/The Mars Volta/Led Zeppelin/Fugazi/King Crimson/Boredoms/Blood Brothers
I personally hear a bit of At The Drive-In and, weirdly, Arctic Monkeys in your music. How would you describe your sound?
Ryan: I’ve never heard The Arctic Monkeys comparison before. Thanks! Hopefully it’s a mixture of prog/punk/hardcore/funk/post rock.
John: There’s a lot of crossovers in terms of influence among our members and there’s a lot going on so people tend to draw their own conclusions. We’ve been told we’re everything from ’noise’ to ‘emo’ – I found both surprising. What people think we sound like quite clearly has nothing to do with what we do. I find it a bit of a trip when people say we sound like other bands. It’s nice though.
How do you harness that sound? What equipment are you guys playing on/through?
Ryan: I play a Fender Jazz bass with a Big Muff Pi distortion, Boss DD3 delay, Dunlop wah and a twin filter pedal called Bass Balls. I play with my fingers and dig as deep as I can.
David: I have an Orange Rockerverb and a Fender Strat, as well as a large pedal board of mostly delay pedals, a wah and a couple of secret weapons – mostly messed up noise stuff.
Ollie: I use a Roland Jupiter 4, bought new by my ol’ Gramps in 1978. Add this to a couple of Korg synths, analog delay, rotary speaker sim and an old spring reverb box and you’ve got a spaceship.
How do you decide on the subject matter for song lyrics?
John: Most of them are about sex, food and the dysfunctional mind.
You have a couple of EPs available at the moment, do you have any plans to release new material? If so, when and how can our readers get hold of it?
Ryan: We’re working on a new EP right now – Part 3.
David: It will be out before the end of the year and you’ll be able to get it on 12″, just like the others, from our new label Battle Worldwide.
Which song(s) do you most enjoy playing to a live audience?
Ryan: Cocoons. There’s a lot of space and dynamic variety in it. It’s big but easily digested.
David: Whitemare is my favourite. Tons of fun to play. It’s thick and long and thoroughly absorbent.
Where has been your favourite venue so far?
Do you plan to take to the road any time soon? If so, where do you have in mind?
John: Our personal lives don’t allow a lot of touring at the moment, but that may well change in the future. We try to get out when our schedules will allow to wherever we are invited – we’ll play anywhere.
Who would you love to support on the road given the opportunity and why?
David: When the Blood Brothers tour again, we should be all over that because it would just be a stinkingly excellent time for everyone.
You’ve recently performed at the SAY Awards, how did that come about for you and how has it been received?
John: Stewart from the SAY Award heard us and very kindly asked if we’d play. I think every year they try to put on a band to shake up the event and maybe annoy a few stale bloggers in attendance, so we were only too happy to oblige.
How do you feel about social media and the role it has to play in getting your band recognition from new listeners?
John: We try not to annoy anyone on social media, we blitz it when we are all together or when we have something to say. We aren’t ones for constantly trying to engage with people for no reason. We also don’t do ‘mutual-follow-back-slapping’. We do all have personal accounts where we all talk shite constantly if you’d rather that – so our band accounts don’t follow anyone – who cares, right? So there’s what we DON’T do ha-ha.