Shetland Life meets a young band with island roots, currently making musical waves in Glasgow and beyond.
The Shetland music scene could be said to extend far beyond the shores of these islands, and some of the most interesting local music is currently being created by Shetland musicians living elsewhere. This is certainly true in the alternative and other contemporary genres, with student bands and young ex-pats regularly recording, gigging and generally making a name for themselves. Some of these acts are well worth a listen, and one such band is The Red Show.
Based in Glasgow, The Red Show consists of Shetlanders Gareth Goodlad, on guitar and vocals, and Chris Cope, on bass, along with Mike Jackson, a drummer from the north of Scotland.
The band began as a solo project for Goodlad, with Jackson joining initially on a temporary basis, for a “battle of the bands” contest. But after the pair won the competition they realised they could be on to a good thing. Their sound at the time was “bare, raw and most of the time riddled with mistakes” said Mike. “We started taking it a little more seriously though after a few rather successful and prolific practice sessions, which produced some great songs. Our bassist Chris asked to join after he heard some of the fruits of that jam and we took him on greedily. The sound filled out almost immediately”
When asked what new listeners could expect from the group, Mike struggled to pin their style down. “We sound like everything and anything you could imagine” he said. “I’m constantly redefining how I see the band, which sometimes makes it quite tough to write songs. But generally we have been compared to Offspring, Pixies and Rage against the Machine, although we tend to swing towards alternative and post/punk.”
Bassist Chris agreed, adding that he also found it hard to identify specific influences on the band. “I always find it a bit a difficult thinking about our influences. There aren’t many musicians that we can say actively influence how we play and how we write, but there are certainly a number of bands that we enjoy listening to, and there’s a good chance something of those bands might find its way into our music.
“Each member of the band brings their own influences to the table I’m sure” he went on. “However, bands like Tegan and Sara, Queens of The Stone Age and The White Stripes are common between all of us. Mike and I have come from a metal background too, so there’s a whole melting pot of music that we listen to. Essentially I’d like to think that our sound is pretty unique, but you’re always going to get compared to this, that and everything else. It’s just natural.”
The band are enjoying a productive time at the moment. Their first EP was released late last year, and their live performances have become increasingly polished. “We try to play live as much we can,” explained Gareth, “and our shows have come on a lot in the last few months. We have really begun to put on an actual show instead of it just being three guys standing still and playing some songs. We tell jokes and stupid stories, and interact with the crowd quite a bit. We are pretty confident on stage now.”
In terms of their live material, Gareth said the focus for now was entirely on their own songs. “At the moment we don’t play any covers, which is kind of a hang up from the days when I played in a Shetland based punk-pop band called Diminor. You would play gigs and would really want to play your own tunes to everyone, but all they would want to hear was “Whisky in the Jar”, “Hitchin a Ride”, or some Blink 182 song. We still need to learn how to play our own songs properly before we think about adding the odd cover or two. It would be fun though. Although Mike wants to do a funky cover of a Justin Timberlake song . . . so maybe we shouldn’t do covers after all.”
With huge competition among bands for attention, gigs and possible record contracts, Chris was philosophical about The Red Show’s hopes for the future. “I think you’ve always got to have some sort of ambition in a band. If you don’t, you’re just going through the motions. That’s fine for many people, but for us we’d like make more of an impact.
However, we’re all down-to-earth people and we realise that very few bands actually make it to a certain level of success. We just take it as it comes and hope people like the music. There’s always been some interest in the band, be it from punters, gig promoters or the media. We’ve been played on Radio 1, as well as SIBC – a dream come true – so hopefully we’re doing something right.”
Gareth agreed that big commercial success was not a high priority. “I really want this band to grow at a sensible rate. While the idea of exploding and getting on to a big label sounds cool, it’s not what I want or what I think we as a band want.
“I want to create a body of work that we can be proud of. I want to look back in 10 years and have six or seven albums under our belts, and with each album I want to be able to hear a marked growth in terms of musicianship and what we have been able to accomplish as whole. At the moment we are really just looking for a small label to take us on. We have had talks with a couple but it’s about finding the right label, the one who gets what we are about and what we want to do, but at the same time can give us sound advice.”
For those eager to hear the band in action, their EP, Little Miss Lynch Mob is available from Clive’s Record Shop in Lerwick, and you can listen to more of their songs online at www.myspace.com/theredshowuk. There are also two homemade videos available on YouTube. One of which apparently sees the band “in cat and bumblebee costumes fighting with each other in the middle of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens on a sunny Sunday morning”, while the other “takes you through the apocalypse and back. It involves running about muddy fields in proper used army gear in the rain.”
For the real live experience though, Shetlanders might have to wait just a little bit longer. “I’d absolutely love to play in Shetland again” said Chris. “I used to play in a couple of bands up there, including Cyanide, who played dodgy heavy metal covers. Unfortunately it seems like the music scene in Shetland is struggling slightly right now. Back when I was a teenager there would be events in local halls on every second weekend, which gave bands a chance to hone their act and play to decent crowds. Inevitably, as many of the attendees of these gigs were young people, you got the drinking, which naturally leads to over-eager youngsters. But most people understood moderation and enjoyed the gigs.
“It is often up to individuals now to put on decent shows in Shetland, but there will always be music enthusiasts willing to go the extra mile to bring up bands from the mainland. Perhaps with the opening of Mareel next year there will be more opportunity for bands like us to visit – and revisit – the isles.”