Welcome to a festive Scotland Uncovered. It’s been a truly horrible year, hasn’t it? Yet, putting together this column every week has been an utter joy.
Artists working in Scotland continue to put out amazing music at an incredible rate, despite all the limitations of an extremely disease-y 2020.
Even with those limitations in mind, few bands form and release things in quite the way Friends of the Guinness did. Writing and recording over a whirlwind weekend, the Lost Map super-band put have featured on the label’s Christmas Card Compilation, and their sentimental, wholesome songs are just the tonic to see out the year.
Comprised of members of Savage Mansion, Martha Ffion, Happy Spendy, Romeo Taylor and Catholic Action, their festive treat ‘Town For Tomorrow’ features lovely staccato keys, sweeping harmonies and Divine Comedy baritone guitars. It’s an uplifting antidote to the Covid Blues, that perfectly encapsulates the loveliness of all involved. Truly, a friendlier group you could not meet.
I spoke to Claire McKay, Taylor Stewart and Beth Chalmers of the band. Full disclosure: I wanted this to be a video, but my internet disagreed. Instead, I’ve highlighted the best bits from our quick chat. Enjoy!
Claire: We’d been talking about doing it for ages; a wee band that is just wholesome, harmony-laden and that’s just fun. So, we got our shit together when there were less restrictions and did a few songs.
Beth: In one day!
Taylor: In one day! Fuckin’ pros.
Claire: We went in on a Saturday and learned the songs and on the Sunday went and recorded them.
Was Johnny Lynch (Lost Map founder) scared of the combination of powers you guys bring to the fore?
Beth: He’s definitely intimidated.
Claire: There’s a reason he hasn’t left Eigg this year. There’s a powerful energy, and when we’ve drank some Guinness, we’re an unstoppable force.
Taylor: I don’t know what Johnny thinks about it… I’m assuming he’s into it.
Taylor: It was really last minute like “Youse want to do this…?”, then the next week, we done it.
Beth: I didn’t have enough time to buy snacks.
Claire: It wasn’t a planned-out, manufactured, Girls Aloud-esque marketing plan.
Taylor: I’d be up for that.
Claire: If anyone has a ton of money to help us…
Let’s say I’m new in town, and I’ve been directed to the Friends of the Guinness anarcho-socialist compound for Christmas Day. What’s that day like?
Claire: We’d start off with Chicken Run and Guinness. We all wake up in the same bed like the Bucket family, with nightcaps on, open the Guinness, and then watch.
Taylor: After the film it’d need to be a big breakfast.
Beth: Morrisons’ veggie breakfast pack for me.
[AN ARGUMENT ENSUES OVER TATTIE SCONES AND HASH BROWNS]
What’s the second film of the day to bring everyone together? Because I feel like the emotional heft of Chicken Run… that’s quite heavy-duty for the first one.
Taylor: Last Christmas I tried to watch the ‘Paedogeddon’ Brass Eye special with my Dad, but turned it off after 5 minutes. I’d just get the tunes on.
Beth: Songs of Praise, during Breakfast.
Claire: The Wolfetones’ ‘Grace’
Taylor: That has to be played at the turn of the hour.
Do you think there’s a secret Wolfe Tones Christmas album? Where it’s just “the rebs” with sleigh bells?
Claire: That’s what Friends of the Guinness is! Sleigh bells!
Beth: Everyone in the band has a sleigh bell attached to their feet.
What would you say to Santa if you encountered him?
Beth: I would definitely thank him for his service. I’d stand outside and clap for Santa most weeks. A big ‘thank you’ from me.
Claire: I’d ask him to provide us with Greenock Monopoly. We know he has the power to make it.
He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He’s jolly, he travels around the world every year, delighting families. Should we fear the power of Michael Bublé?
Taylor: I like Michael Bublé, he gets a bad rap.
Beth: I don’t know a single thing about him. There’s the fear of the unknown.
Claire: I don’t have any beef with Bublé.
Taylor: I don’t know why people get angry about Bublé. I think he’s fine. There’s a lot worse out there.
Beth: I think you just need to not listen to Smooth Radio.
What would you say if you met him?
Taylor: I’d ask to tour with him. For us to tour with him.
Beth: I’d thank him for his service and clap every week on a Thursday. I’m making a joke; I love the NHS.
Taylor: I work for the NHS, so thank you, and please clap for me.
What was a thing from 2020 that made you go “Wow! Ok!”?
Claire: My new paper shredder.
Taylor: I love paper shredders, man.
Claire: Taylor loves laminating.
Taylor: I used to draw people and kill them in the paper shredder. My mum used to work in a care home, and sometimes during the summer she would take us to work. We would sit in Jessie the warden’s wee house. We would watch Will and Grace and play with her shredder. I laminated a fly as well. I was young. I got a laminator and one thing led to the other. I laminated a bit of square sausage and a bit of ham. The fly… I wouldn’t do that now, I was very young at the time.
Claire: Beth, have you ever harmed an animal?
Taylor: A fly is not an animal!
Beth: …it’s been quite an underwhelming year. But we did get a Soda Stream, which was very cool. We put wine in it, and it just kinda ruined the wine.
Taylor: Tonic wine and lemonade would make a lovely wee thing.
Beth: I got a wee cat. Having Gwen in my life, I have never known love like it.
Beyond telling people to find you guys on Bandcamp, what’s one thing you’d like to share with the Podcart audience?
Claire: Well done everyone on surviving 2020, thanks for listening to Friends of the Guinness and have a lovely Christmas however you get to spend it. Peace!
Taylor: I want to talk shit about people I don’t like.
Claire: Let Beth say something nice first.
Beth: Erm… be kind? That’s something people tweet a lot, it’s good advice. That’s my Christmas message.
Taylor: I want to contradict Beth’s message, [Much we can’t repeat here].