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19 November 2014

Life Is Like A Box Of Records: Wesley Shearer

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I first met Wesley Shearer a good few years ago at Glasgow Met where he was studying and Podcart visited. I have seen him become an integral part of the Glasgow music community.

Often fiercely opinionated and very much a champion of new music, Wesley now manages band Campfires in Winter. I am also still staggered by the amount of live shows he attends, he puts me to shame.

Nirvana – In Bloom 

Despite preferring In Utero, Nevermind was the album that made me pick up a pair of drumsticks. It also made me fail higher music. Instead of attending classes and working on the required listening exercises, I’d sit in the practice rooms and play along to Nirvana and Foo Fighters. It also led to the formation of the first and only band I was in. We were called ‘Anderson Council’ because the three of us were huge Pink Floyd fans and we played 12 minute long instrumental jams. We were fucking terrible. I’m pretty sure we had a singer at one point but that was even worse so we ditched him and went back to the original line-up. At least we had a modicum of self-respect.

Brand New – Seventy Times 7

I could have picked a number of songs by a number of bands here to sum up this moment in my life including Alkaline Trio, Taking Back Sunday, RX Bandits, NOFX, A Wilhelm Scream or a whole heap of others but none would be able to capture that particular time better than this song. This isn’t by any stretch of the imagination the best song on the album let alone Brand New’s best album, but it’s a song which means so much to me. It’s the perfect high school album. For the first time in my life I had a really close group of friends in which I felt comfortable. We’d spend every weekend hanging out around the Mausoleum in Hamilton, playing songs such as this one from our phones, and generally just being a nuisance to everyone around us. There was an abandoned building in the woods behind which we used to sneak in to and mess around in. This one particular day, we climbed through the entrance of the window and the girl I was seeing at the time lost the grip of my hand and dropped about 12ft in to the rubble below. We were all in a complete state of shock but pulled together to help as best we could. The fire brigade and ambulance arrived and managed to gently hoist her up on a stretcher and take her to hospital. They gave us a stern warning and boarded the building up. She was incredibly lucky not to have been seriously injured. This song always reminds me of the bond between our group of friends at that time, a bond which was harshly tested on that particular day.

The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work

Even though I was a dirty wee mosher and looked like I’d been dragged through FLIP backwards for the most part of the early noughties, I was also listening to a lot of Britpop. Oasis, Blur, Pulp – the usual. Urban Hymns alternated regularly with All Killer No Filler in my Sony Walkman portable CD player. Surprisingly, I haven’t included any Sum 41 on this list but I have included this song by The Verve for reasons which are, still to this day, painful to write about. My gran died on Easter Sunday, 2004. I had lost grandparents before this but I never quite had that connection with them. Until then, I had never truly experienced what it was like to lose such an important figure in your life. I grew up spending nearly every weekend with my gran at her house on Tollcross Road, watching Blind Date and eating my weight in 10p mix-ups. So much so I feel more of a connection with the East End of Glasgow (where all of my family are from) than I ever will with South Lanarkshire (where I grew up). I will never forget the moment I found out. I was the drummer in the band at my local parish, back when I used to pretend to be a practicing Catholic just for the excuse to batter some drums along with some other musicians in front of an audience. I was anxiously watching the entrance to the chapel, waiting on my parents and my sister arriving at mass, but even before I left the house I felt like something wasn’t quite right. I looked out over my kit and watched as my dad and sister arrived, without my mum. I knew there and then that my mum’s absence meant my gran had passed away. There are various interpretations of this song but I remember reading somewhere that Richard Ashcroft wrote the song about the death of his dad. That particular interpretation always stuck with me and the lyrics struck a chord with me at the time. I would shut myself in my room and listen to it over and over again until I physically couldn’t cry anymore. I saw The Verve at T in the Park in 2008 and cried the whole way through this song. That was a pretty intense moment. The last time I listened to this song was at a friend’s Halloween party in a flat on Great Western Road that same year. It was about 5am, everyone else was sleeping except me and my then girlfriend. I had drank my way through a bottle of Jack Daniels and had work in a few hours. I started to get emotional about my gran, played this song through the iPod speakers and cried and cried and cried. I never listened to it again.

Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World 

To put it simply, I’ve chosen this because it’s my mum’s favourite song. My mum and I have an extremely close relationship which I’ll forever be grateful for. She’s been a huge influence on my life in many ways, not least on my music taste. Being exposed to artists such as Louis Armstrong and Glenn Miller at such a young age turned me on to many other classic artists, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, as well as classic films such as High Society and On the Town – all of which sit pretty high up on my all-time favourite lists – and in turn made me more open minded. When I was younger I suffered from terrible OCD, severe anxiety and panic attacks; most of which were related to the fear of losing my family. This song always provided me with comfort and, to this day, never fails to make me stop and consider how lucky I am to have such a loving and supporting family.

X-Press 2 feat. David Byrne – Lazy

Someone who had a particularly strong influence on my music taste was the son of a couple who are close family friends. Martin was a few years older than me and tried to wean me off punk by introducing me to dance music. He’d tell me all about the different genres while teaching me how to mix on his Argos CD decks. I could easily have chosen a track by Scot Project, Mauro Picotto, Public Domain, or any number of tracks from the countless Bonkers albums I used to listen to but this particular song nestles nicely in the middle of it all and attaches itself to one of my most vivid memories. I first heard this song while Martin and I sat in his mum and dad’s car late at night listening to Beat 106 on the radio on one of the countless caravan holidays we spent together. I went to Woolworths in North Berwick and bought it on single the next morning. I learned to not be ashamed by what I liked and just to like what I like regardless of genre. That’s probably what helped nurture my love for pop music. Although I’m pretty sure that love was always there. My first ever live “concert” was Steps at SECC and it’s pretty much came full circle since then.

Jocasta Sleeps – Baggy Needles

Jocasta Sleeps are, hands down, my favourite band ever to have come out of Scotland. A friend of mine, Paul Rolwich, turned me on to them around late 2007 I think. I was already familiar with prominent bands in the Glasgow music “scene” through Paul’s previous band Goodbye:Suspect (featuring a young Darren McCaughey of The LaFontaines) but discovering Jocasta turned me on to a whole heap of other bands around early 2008 including Twin Atlantic and The Xcerts. I spent most of those early years going to see at least one of those three at a gig in Glasgow what felt like every other week or so. Through that I started to meet other people who were as passionate about new Scottish music as I was and I went on to form a whole new circle of friends, a lot of whom are amongst some of my closest friends today. Plus, this song always reminds me of huddling together in the bus stop outside McDonalds on Jamaica Street at 5.30am on the morning of Christmas Eve in absolutely freezing conditions, waiting an hour and a half for a taxi which didn’t show, after drinking far too much at the Lofi Christmas Party where Jocasta Sleeps played their “last ever” gig. Every time Niall and I are out drinking together I always get utterly steamin’ and tell him how much I loved Jocasta Sleeps and how I upset I am that they split up. He must be sick of it by now.

Frightened Rabbit – Head Rolls Off

I still stand by my statement that The Midnight Organ Fight is one of the greatest albums of the previous decade. I could prove it in a court of law. This particular track however reminds me of winter. It reminds me of walking through the snow with a huge smile on my face because everything at that time in my life seemed pretty much perfect. I was in love, I had little worries, I had a full-time job and had plenty of disposable income, I had yet to properly ruin my adult life as I had my teenage one with tempting substances and I had huge plans for the future. Evidently that all went tits up as I spent the next few years making a colossal arse of myself but it’s nice looking back at my once blissful ignorance.

Bright Eyes – Lua

Bright Eyes’ music has been there to soundtrack every pivotal moment of my teenage years because apparently I was a massive cliché. I went through a break up a number of years ago leading to an extremely difficult period of prolonged misery which I struggled to cope with. I was not a nice person to be around during this time and I’m ashamed of how I treated a lot of people back then, particularly girls. I didn’t even want to be around myself at that time. I would pretend to everyone that everything was fine, that I was coping, and I was pretty damn good at it but then I’d come home most nights and cry myself to sleep while listening to I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning – an album which had a lot of specific memories attached to it. This song was particularly upsetting at the time but, eventually, I moved on having learned a lot about myself and how to control my feelings and emotions. Its importance to me is no longer because of the memories that were once attached to it, but because when I listen to it now I no longer get upset. Instead, I look back on how I managed to get through that particularly dark time of my life and it serves as a reminder that no matter how much shit is thrown at me, I can wipe it off and power on. It makes me feel fucking invincible.

Biffy Clyro – There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake

I remember picking up a second-hand copy of Infinity Land around 2006 or so and having to turn it off after the opening track, Glitter and Trauma, to process what I’d just listened to. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I listened to that track over and over again before listening to the rest of the album. The one song I always remember standing out on first listen was There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake. It scared me shitless – and I liked it. And so was born my love for shouty, angular music with weird time signatures that make me comfortably uncomfortable. Without Biffy, I probably would never have been able to appreciate some of the absolutely batshit mental stuff I enjoy listening to today, namely Dillinger Escape Plan, or local bands I ended up adoring such as Arca Felix and No Kilter.

Beerjacket – House Of Toys

Where do I start with this man? Beerjacket, AKA Peter Kelly, used to be my English teacher at high school. I was a dreadful student with appalling behaviour, attendance and attitude but I always had massive respect for Peter. He turned me on to many authors and books, including Haruki Murakami, and gave me more focus and drive to succeed in whatever I wanted to do. I always remember attending my first Beerjacket gig, a year or so after finding out that Mr. Kelly the English teacher and Beerjacket were one and the same. It was at Oran Mor in February 2009. I was underage but a combination of the dark lighting and my well above average height resulted in me being served bottles of Peroni all night and being suitably steaming by the end of the gig. The show was outstanding and I wanted to speak to him afterwards but I didn’t know whether I should call him Mr. Kelly or not. I hesitantly shouted, “Peter!” and he seemed a little surprised and taken aback by one of his ex-students being there – I imagine it was something he wasn’t used to at that time. In my drunken state I gushed about how much I enjoyed the gig and how influential he was on my life and how grateful I was and other equally embarrassing shit. I might even have hugged him. It was all a bit weird on my part. Since then however, I’ve been to countless shows, booked him for gigs and watched him improve as a performer and as a songwriter and develop in to one of the finest singer/songwriters Scotland has ever seen. I could easily write thousands upon thousands of words about how much his music means to me but instead I’ll encourage you to listen to his music, if you haven’t already, and judge for yourself. It as an absolute pleasure to consider this man a friend and I’m truly honoured to know him.

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