It’s no great secret that Scotland’s music scene is a thing to be proud of. So we here at TSA have teamed up with Glasgow’s very own New Hellfire Club to bring you a monthly pick of who we think are doing epically well right now. Keep your eyes out for these up and coming bands. This is TSA and New Hellfire Club’s ‘Pick of the Month’.
Black and White Boy started out back in 2010. At first a moniker donned by Andrew Nicol as a solo performer, the line-up has grown to include a full band sound. As well as Andrew on vocals and harmonica, there’s Andy Lucas on piano, Euan Taylor on bass, Stephen Henderson on drums, Rachel Elliott on violin, Jake Tucker on cello, Chris Cruickshank on saxophone and flute, and finally Tom Clay-Harris on trumpet.
The expansive sound and recent additions have meant the band are slowly building their live repertoire up. Andrew, the singer and mainstay of the band described the changes organically, he said. “We’re all mates or friends of friends. Our guitarist, Luther, approached me after seeing me support Anna Sweeney back in 2012 and on Anna’s recommendation we met up and started jamming.
“Stuart recorded our first EP back in 2012 and got involved with the band on bass the following year. I wanted keys in the band and knew Graeme as a fellow singer, songwriter and friend in the Southside of Glasgow. I asked if he’d be interested which he gave a little thought to and then got on board back in January. Cameron on drums came in pretty recently on recommendation from Luther.”
A new album, bearing the new line-up and entitled The Avenue, was released in May this year and has gained airplay on K107fm, Mesi Radio, Irvine Beat and more. But Black and White Boy has previous, with another full-length album entitled Fragile and a self-titled EP already under his belt. Albeit, featuring the many guises the band has come under in its time.
What’s always remained is that the music is heartfelt and the releases are laden with songs worthy of featuring on any ‘song-writing 101’ style playlist. But as a band they are still learning, Andrew said. “There are a couple of songs that I tend to play solo that we don’t tend to do full band, “Fifteen” and “If You Leave” in particular.
“The other songs I’ll tend to slow down slightly or just change the interpretation a little. It’s good fun being able to play most of the songs in either context but with two albums, a bunch of new songs and a recent line-up change, it’s a lot to practice so we’re slowly building up to having all the songs down.”
To date, all of Black and White Boy’s albums have been self-released, as has the bands most recent single “A Beautiful Revolution.” The story behind it is that age-old tale of crush at first sight. “Every songwriter has at least one song they’ve written to impress a girl or boy. This is mine. She loved this blog of the same name which has loads of little cartoons and captions and a section called, ‘The girl I love with all my heart’ so I took some of the ideas from that, as well as some personal experiences she and I shared.”
The single, and the album it’s taken from, bear Andrew’s influences in all their glory. Of the nine songs on the record you’re likely to hear nods to a few very important musical figures in his life, but as the band has expanded so too has the inspiration. “There’s no doubt I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to influences and Ryan Adams is definitely a massive one.
“If you’re going to write songs why not be influenced by one of the best songwriters of the last 15 years? Neil Finn will always be a huge influence for me personally along with likes of Elliott Smith, Tom McRae and Noel Gallagher. We’ve recently started writing more as a band so the influences the others bring to the table will start to shine through which is something I’m excited about. Ryan Adams seems to be the common link between most of us though.”
The recording process has also been something Andrew has taken insight from, with The Avenue having been recorded at 45-A Side Recordings in Glasgow. Of the process, Andrew said. “[It was] tough at times and a massive challenge for me to step up. But I got to work with some incredible musicians, which was an education to say the least, but also a pleasure.
“Paul McInally produced the album and it’s really down to him that it sounds as good as it does. I’m proud of the songs for standing up to the test but I’m also very grateful to Paul for how he interpreted them and produced them from there.”
Working with a full band in the studio for the first time might have been a daunting thing, but it seems that even harder is the writing process itself. “If I ever find a song writing process, I’ll let you know. Most of it seems accidental to me. That or I have no ability to self-edit. It’s still something I don’t quite understand. As for recording, it pays to have someone in the studio who knows exactly what they’re doing and has the confidence to tell you that something will work and to trust them.”
For the moment, Andrew and the band are adjusting to being a band and bringing that live sound together as cohesively as it fits on the new record. With no major plans to gig in the coming months, there’s only one opportunity to catch them live in the near future and it’s an event which will come as no surprise to those who know the band.
“We won’t be playing in Glasgow until November when we’ll be playing a, you’ve guessed it, Ryan Adams night at The Glad Cafe on November 6th.” The night will also be significant, as the five year anniversary of Black and White Boy, a marker that Andrew admits will be toasted by, “having a few beers to celebrate.”
But before the revelry there are single releases to plan and a live sound to tighten up. “We’ve got another couple of singles we’d like to put out. We don’t have exact dates for them yet but we’re aiming to release one in early autumn and another in the winter – just in time for Christmas!”
The Avenue by Black and White Boy is available to purchase now from BandCamp. The band will be playing at The Glad Café on November 6th. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/ blackandwhiteboymusic
Essential listening: Captivated, A Beautiful Revolution, All The Same.
Photo Credit: (c) Euan Robertson 2015