Offbeat Featured Client- The Abbeystills…

I used to sing in a few different bands…yeah I know, hard to believe right? Ok, maybe caterwauled is a better description…let me tell you there are certain elements to being in a band that are pretty normal across the board, here are Jen’s rules for maintaining band sanity;

someone is always late for practise- it’s cool, there’s always one and yes it will always feel like herding cats for the organised ones…I once stood with the legendary Whizz Jones while we were collecting a group of guitar students together- man that was a beautiful thing to watch- Whizz is hilarious and he collects people up through the sheer magnitude of his gift for telling a good story and being so laidback he sets up a chill zone in the room that everyone gravitates to…

get good at dealing with creative tensions- when I was in a band, we resolved arguments by breaking out the dark chocolate and vanilla lattes (I’m a kitchen gadget freak ok?) for happy mood enhancement- differences of opinion melted away when faced with chocolate, coffee and sugar…I told you I’m a girl of simple pleasures 😉

have your charm offensive off pat- being squeezed into tight spaces together over a period of time (backstage areas/in the studio/all night practise sessions in the garage/ traveling in dodgy vans sitting on each other’s laps, cables snaking around your neck with the guitar case clonking you on the head…) is the life of being a band member- get used to it as the novelty soon wears off and start taking your medication regularly…

…well, now I know where I went wrong…

That said, the Abbeystills seem to have it sorted, I interviewed Graham Hannah recently, so relax and listen to this beautiful track “Blue Summer” enter the chill zone and read about the Abbeystills…

Buy Blue Summer or indeed any track off the Square Circles Album on iTunes

What’s the story behind your band’s name The Abbeystills?

I like the band Portishead and was interested to find out that their name comes from the town where they live. Some of us live in the Abbeyhill area of Edinburgh and thought well why not use our location as a name, calling ourselves the Abbeyhills though was going too far so we adapted it slightly.

How do you all know each other?

I met Valentina (the vocalist) while she was studying for her PhD in Edinburgh (she is Italian, and comes from a little town not far from Verona) She did not take to the vocal chores immediately but after some gentle persuasion she succumbed to the Scottish way of thinking. Gordon, the keyboard player/programmer/technical wizard answered an advert we had in a music shop during a different band lifetime and we have collaborated intermittently ever since.

Is there one member of the band who’s “the daddy” or “the mummy”?!

Being Italian and a good cook Valentina is only too happy to provide cuisine before rehearsals and usually manages to boss someone into doing the dishes afterwards! As it should be…

Who in the band is most likely to get the venue of the gig wrong/ lose the directions/ turn up for a band practice session on the wrong day? This is your chance for a slagging!

I have very bad directional skills and often get lost returning to bed after a late night toilet break !

Tell me about the process you go through with Iain McKinna in the Offbeat Studio to create and mix your tracks? How do you find working with Iain?

I have recorded an album’s worth of songs with Iain and plan to record more. I start by sending him an MP3 of the song to give him an idea of what it sounds like. During my first trip to the studio I take along the Midi information and the guitar wav parts, we import them into the Logic software and then select the suitable sounds for the guitar and keyboard parts. Iain then records acoustic drum and bass parts and we create a basic mix with what we have.

The second studio visit is when Valentina (the vocalist) records the vocal parts, we then produce a further mix which we take home and listen to before returning a third time for a final mix and mastering.

Iain is always encouraging and allows for a very laid back environment, his ability to play and record acoustic drums and bass parts is a service few studios provide. I think he is especially good at putting vocalists at ease and getting a good recording from them.

Do you have musicians who you especially admire? What’s on your playlist at the mo?

I admire songwriters like Elvis Costello, Valentina likes bands such as Pink Floyd and Gordon likes electronic artists like Gary Numan. We all like bands like Air and The Blue Nile. At the moment I am quite taken by Elbow

Most hated household chores

Getting out of bed in the morning (or indeed the afternoon) God I sound lazy…

If you could only have one picture on the wall where you live, what would it be if it couldn’t be a picture of your family?

Rather than on the wall I would like a reproduction on the ceiling the same as in the Sistine Chapel in Rome by Michelangelo, I am not particularly religious but it would be a good selling point

What’s the most impressive thing you’ve seen with your own eyes?

Valentina says that the “Le tre cime di Lavaredo” (the three peaks of Lavaredo in the northern Italian Alps) are particularly impressive, especially at sunset when they become bright red…

If you were in a seance, which musician who’s passed over would you most want to talk to and what would you ask them?

I suppose it would be John Martyn and I would ask him how he created such a unique guitar style and combined it with his particular vocal style to provide such compassion in his work.

(set against the present era of such bland music dominated by TV shows like the X Factor! )

Give us 2 special songs from down your memory lane and tell us what made them special to you at the time?

For me “Saturday Night” by The Blue Nile always reminds me of being in Scotland, especially when I was living in Italy. They are not flashy musicians but they are great at creating a mood.

“Shipbuilding” by Elvis Costello is another of my favourites, great lyrics and a much underrated anti war song.

Who would you most want to be for a day if you could be anybody in history and why?

I think I would like to be Neil Armstrong for the one particular day he became the first man on the moon (if indeed he did?) and see what the earth looks like from so far away

If you had a time machine, where and when would you go for a vacation?

I think I would like to have been in Paris in 1789, during the French Revolution, difficult to get holiday insurance but quite exciting

If you could play a gig with any musician throughout history who would it be and why?

I think I would like to have played in the group “Japan” they could play pop, rock or funk. They had elements of Bowie and Roxy Music but they were one of the first bands to combine electronic sounds with pop with rock successfully. Unfortunately my chance will never come as bass player Mick Karn died earlier this year

 Have you got any crazy gig stories to share with us?

It was more embarrassing than crazy, I was playing in a band that were doing a benefit gig, we were just getting ready to play our last and best song and before we could start the DJ started the disco (disco! That sounds ancient)

Oh Graham, the disco is a classic! Read more about The Abbeystills and connect on twitter;

Read the Bossman’s Blog about The Abbeystills

The Abbeystills on Offbeat Records

Graham Hannah on Facebook

The Abbeystills Facebook Fanpage

On Myspace


About jen offbeat

well hey, what to say about me... I'm young enough to believe in wishing on birthday cake candles but old enough to know better... ...remember the song "Hey Mickey"? (f you don't, look it up, it's hilarious, Toni Basil sang it and did a music vid in her cheerleading gear for it) Well when it came out (back in the bad old '80s) I used to dress up in my pink tutu and do the little dance to anybody at home...and no, I don't do that anymore...well ok, only if I've had a few happy drinks and you ask very nicely... Everytime anyone asks me if I've been somewhere before I always say "yeah, when I was about 7" so in my head I did a grand tour of everywhere in that one glorious year and then did absolutely nothing until yesterday... Ok, the embarrassing fact is I get tearful around Santa Claus, I haven't admitted that to anyone before, but I drag my daughter to see Santa in his grotto at Christmas and then I have to pretend I have an allergy to fake snow...

Posted on August 2, 2011, in music production company gossip, offbeat records, singer songwriters and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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