Behind the Music: Interview with The Micro Band

‘When we recorded our first album, none of the band had played together before – now most of us live with each other!’

Ahead of their first release via newly launch Edinburgh record label ‘New Teeth’, we spoke with The Micro Band to discuss the importance of owning music, what inspired their track ‘Bridge of Eden’ (out 12th Feb), and what they think the future of live music looks like.

Describe the sound of ‘The Micro Band’ in no more than 5 words:
Honest, rhythmic, homegrown, outsider pop 

Who is involved in ‘The Micro Band’ and what does each person contribute?
Alexander Auld Smith – Songwriting, Lead vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Recording, Music Videos + bits of Production and Percussion and other odd jobs. 
Lucie Yavruturk – Backing vocals, Artwork, Vocal FX, Emotional Support Commander and Energy Wrangler extraordinaire. 
Daniel Crichton – Lead Guitar, Artwork, Backing Vocals, Chill 
Sam Dick – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals, Arse Kicker + Productivity Guru Ruairidh Morrison – Bass, Soundscapist, Stuff Hauler. 
Michael Davidson – Keys and Additional Production (percussion, samples etc)
Euan Macpherson – Percussion, Wholesomeness, Scots Poems Flinger and Bonny Bairn Raiser.

What are your biggest musical/non-musical influences?
In no particular order, our musical influences include: Talking Heads, Tuneyards, Dirty Projectors, Paul Simon, James Blake, Aurelio, Lounge Lizards, Etta James, Destiny’s Child, Anderson Paak, and Nick Drake. When it comes to non musical influences, it’s more complicated as I would say the main influence lyrically and emotionally is the bond between the band members and our time together, growing older, and living in our odd little alternative family unit.

Additionally, I (Alex) would say John Steinbeck has massively influenced my songwriting with a focus on the human experience and our relationship with nature. A lot of my lyrical influence comes from literature, so James Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut, Hemingway etc. Strangely our last release Pneuma Soma Sarx was inspired by an especially violent and grim Stephen King novel about the sheriff of a wee town, who was possessed by an ancient demon, and kills a bunch of people while slowly disintegrating. Safe to say I adapted the source material a bit!

Turning to your new release ‘Bridge of Eden’, what’s the story behind the title and how did the inspiration for the track come about?
The song came about after I (Alex) collapsed in a supermarket frozen food aisle having experienced some sort of brain seizure. The song title ‘Bridge of Eden’ is the idea of leaving the immortality of youth behind and becoming aware of our bodies ability to betray us like a sneaky wee snake. On a more of a stream of consciousness level, I had been to Eden Festival not long beforehand and saw a band absolutely rocking out on stage. I can’t remember their name, but it made me think ‘I want to write a swaggering, filthy rock song’ and so it goes.

‘Community is at the core of the New Teeth philosophy – rather than specific genres, we want to help represent the variety of art that surrounds us.’

There’s a tremendous sense of energy within the new release, what was the process behind creating such a strong sense of groove?
First of all thanks! We actually came to a point where we thought we had finished the track, so sent it to our awesome mixing/ mastering friend Liam Narrie to put the final touches on. When we got it back, we realised after a while it was lacking something in the energy and groove department, so I took the session round to Mike (keys player). He is an excellent producer and song maker in his own right who goes by the moniker EARfATHER. We set about adding didgeridoo, barrel hits, shakers, supermarket checkout noise and all sorts of shenanigans. It was only after this that the song came to life and gained its hip-shaking, swagger inducing vibe.

Likewise, how did you ensure that these elements and the lyricism enhanced the story you wanted to tell?
As is the case with most of my lyrics, they can be read in lots of different ways. It is rarely a straightforward narrative and so speaks in images, themes and ideas. We wanted this song to almost be a sonic onomatopoeia of the subject matter – basically, we tried to portray the feeling of my brain going haywire through sound and energy!

With you having your own studio, how did recording there impact the creative development of ‘Bridge of Eden’?
The atmosphere we have created in our space is really important. We are all sensitive to that sort of thing, and it helps to have our own secret haven that we not only practice and record in, but enjoy hanging out in. It affords us time to think and rethink ideas, experiment with recording techniques, and relax knowing we aren’t on somebody else’s time. There is something almost illicit about the space being quite unconventional and hidden beneath The Old Town of Edinburgh  – it all adds to the sense of excitement whenever we are there.

Reflecting on your previous releases, what has led to the change in sound between this new release and your 2020 EP ‘Pneuma Soma Sarx’?
To quote Hot Chip ‘Laid back? Laid Back? We’ll give you laid back!’. In Pneuma Soma Sarx we fully embraced our spaced out, hippy inclinations. This resulted in a slow burn track the equivalent of slowing trying to get up out of a bean bag. We wanted to respond to this energy by dousing the bean bag in Jack Daniels and setting it on fire!

What is the most random fact about ‘The Micro Band’?
When we recorded our first album ‘People People’ none of the band had played together before. I had written the songs and taught them to each member in turn. I then went into the studio with each person, one by one, and we recorded the parts individually. That’s quite fun I think. On a more schmaltzy note, I reckon it’s worth saying I recruited each person in the band based on how sound they were as people and how the dynamics would work. Most had not met each other before, and in the end it resulted in the band essentially becoming best friends and most of us live together now. They also just happen to be super talented musicians. 

Turning to wider aspects of the music industry, how do you think independent labels such as ‘New Teeth’ can have the biggest impact?
I would say that community is at the core of the New Teeth philosophy. We’ve been doing this long enough now to know that the traditional avenues of navigating the industry work for very few artists and often sap up a lot of creative energy. We are not a genre specific label and want to help represent the variety of art that surrounds us, while lifting up artists through collaborative projects. I think this is where the indie label can really excel in the modern climate – supporting local venues and businesses while nurturing a scene that people can easily access. 

There are huge discussions going on about artist payback from streaming at the moment. How important is it for everyone to balance the ways they listen to music/support new artists?
While an incredible platform, Spotify’s financial distribution is bullsh*t for musicians at our level and we’ve made a conscious decision to move forward with distributing on other platforms for the foreseeable future. Without live shows it’s been difficult for us to finance what we do, but we had a successful year selling artwork from our bandcamp page, especially on the days they waived their fees. Legends! I think it’s also important that fans see their money as an investment in the process, and that the artists aren’t just spending the money on beer. 

Having been on the Scottish festival circuit, how much do you think those performances impacted the success of previous releases?
People seem to love us for our energy and our ability to interact with the crowd. Our name spread very quickly from our buzz etc at festivals which helped us develop our energetic stage show. Festivals, and our own inclinations, have given us the chance to perform in loads of odd places. Whether it be a paddle boat, the back of a military truck, in a bathroom, on a mountain top, or in a puppet theatre, we always adapt to our environment. Our live performances vary so much depending on the setting and the energy of the people there that Pneuma Soma Sarx was just another variant of The Micro Band wheelhouse. 

With live music continuing to be absent, what do you see as the best routes for bringing it back?
Underground, DIY stuff, which has always been our thing. We love Leith in particular as it’s so full of creative people and energy. We have spent the 7 or so years that we have been a band putting on charity events, hosting weird gigs in weirder venues, and trying to do things a bit differently. We intend to continue doing exactly this. Community and togetherness, and supporting other creatives rather than competing with them. In fact, we’ve been asked to curate a stage at the next Kelburn Garden Party.

And finally, what are you most looking forward to musically in 2021?
Getting back on stage!?! I’m intrigued to see how people rethink and reshape the music scene. We obviously haven’t been able to travel so would be really keen to do some more touring if it becomes possible. Otherwise, we have about 3-4 songs in the bag that we will be releasing throughout the year, with our next release being a pop belter with hints of Brazilian carnival, disco, and our usual messy energy.

Thanks The Micro Band for chatting with Listen to Discover

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