Penguins Kill Polar Bears -‘Vessels and Veins’ (Mountain Halo Records)
This is the follow-up to last year’s rather fine debut, the Dawn EP. Vessels and Veins is a four track release which continues to build upon that release. It demonstrates that theycan do both intensity – opening track ‘lungs’ and subtlety ‘Wish With Worry.’ The closing track on this EP, ‘Something Old,’ suggests that they are aiming for the skies and may just be the best thing they have recorded so far.
It is very frustrating for bands in their early careers to be compared to a whole stream of other acts, so I won’t. I do, however, reckon that on the strength of this release that they will be competing with far bigger, higher profile acts before very long, and their debut album, due later this year, will be one to watch out for.
Vessels and Veins will be released on Mountain Halo Records on February 21.
Penguins Kill Polar Bears are out on tour this month and next:
Feb 24th – Madhatters – Inverness
Feb 25th – Tunnels – Aberdeen
Feb 26th – Sneaky Pete’s – Edinburgh
Mar 3rd – The Green Room – Brighton
Mar 4th – The Chichester Inn – Chichester
Mar 5th – The Blueroom – Blackpool
Mar 7th – Tommy’s Bar – Cardiff
Mar 8th – The Boogie Lounge – Cheltenham
Mar 10th – The Bull and Gate – London
Mar 11th – Milo – Leeds
Mar 12th – The Captain’s Rest – Glasgow
My interview with Penguins Kill Polar Bears can be found here
Well, the good news is that the word is spreading. The Scotsman reckons that they ‘ deservedly follow in the footsteps of groups like Aereogramme, Biffy Clyro and newer friends and contemporaries like the Xcerts.’ Praise indeed.
The band are just about to release their second EP, entitled Vessels & Veins, which will be released on February 21. And doing the rounds now as a free download from the forthcoming four track EP is the song ‘Lungs.’
Not only that, but they are heading out on tour again as well:
February 24th: Mad Hatters ,Inverness
February 25th: Tunnels, Aberdeen
February 26th: Vessels & Veins EP Launch, Sneaky Pete’s – Edinburgh
March 3rd: The Green Door,Brighton
March 4th: Chichester Inn, Chichester
March 5th: Blueroom, Blackpool
March 7th: Tommy’s Bar, Cardiff
March 8th: Boogie Lounge, Cheltenham
March10th: Bull & Gate, London
March 11th: Milo, Leeds
March 12th: The Captain’s Rest,Glasgow
Penguins Kill Polar Bears: (L-R) Fraser Sanaghan, Gavin Cormack, Ben Proudlock and Kieran McGuckian
It’s a lovely Saturday afternoon in September when I meet Penguins Kill Polar Bears at Edinburgh’s Southern Cross cafe. Although drummer Kieran McGuckian is missing, the rest of the band – bassist Gavin Cormack, singer Ben Proudlock and new guitarist Fraser Sanaghan, and manager Murray Reid (AKA Manky Bastard) join me for a coffee fulled hour or so at the back of the cafe.
There’s much chuckling about the poor gag that I once started one early feature on them (a bad joke involving polar bears and penguins -if you haven’t heard it, it’s really not that funny). However, it transpires that this isn’t the first time that they’ve been in a band named after an animal. Ben admits that the band PKPB emerged out of were called the Peacocks. Who did they sound like? ‘Um, Kings Of Leon and the Red Hot Chili Peppers!’ However, when their bassist left, Gavin joined and they became Penguins Kill Polar Bears. At the time they were all still at school at Linlithgow Academy (apart from Fraser – the most recent member to join and previously a member of Lions. Chase. Tigers). Though the recent, excellent Dawn EP is their first release proper, an early release called ‘We All Got Saved’ was sold at school gigs.
And if you’ve heard said EP, then you’ll know it’s not the likes of Kings Of Leon and the Red Hot Chili Peppers that PKPB evoke now, but rather the sound of a scottish band mining their own wonderful post-rock sound. They’re quite proud of the fact that the only notable alumnus of Linlithgow Academy is Iain Cooke from Aereogramme, who they definitely cite as an influence. They’re now based in Edinburgh, but feel that there’s a cliqueness in the music scene here, with a bias towards folk music. They are, however, too polite to name names! Ben particularly states that he would rather see a band ‘outside a scene.’
There are of course those acts that it’s fair to say are fellow travellers. They’ve mainly had coverage from blogs rather than the radio but there’s also been bands tipping each other off about them. Frightened Rabbit for example tipped off There Will be fireworks about them They will be recording their debut album at The Mill theatre in Strathaven, which is where Fireworks recorded their debut album. Other bands that they’ve shared stages with include the likes of the Twilight Sad, the Gothenburg Address and Pensioner. However, they are trying to break out of the same circle -‘there’s a risk of playing the same gigs with same people everytime,’ they note, sagely.
Their gigs both north and south of the border have elicited praise but also some weird behaviour. In Dundee one local nutter turned up and started to attack the merchandise stand whilst the band were playing. And then there was the guy who turned up with the Tazer in Stirling…Still, I have to laugh with them at their description of Edinburgh’s Electric Circus venue as being ‘like a strip-club out of Bladerunner.’
Having played south of the border as well, I ask how they feel they go down there. Discussing the notion of scottish bands and how they’re portrayed down south, Gavin is quite philosophical on this issue. ‘ There is a hype about the scottish accent, maybe in England it doesn’t go down so well,’ he says, thoughtfully. ‘I’ve gone off bands that sing with an American accent. Sing with your own accent!’ he adds, forcefully.
Although they describe themselves as being ‘9-5 slaves to the wage’ they have been writing and touring throughout the course of the year. There’s no fixed plans for an album as yet, though there is some talk about writing 15 songs and selecting 10. There’s another ten gigs scheduled between now and the end of November, but the plan is that come December and January they’d like to focus on studio work.
‘Dawn’s a collection of songs that we’d written over two years,’ explains Gavin. ‘We’ve always tried to do something a bit different from other bands. We wrote ‘Sandcastles’ two guitarists ago!’
The aim is for the album to be a complete piece from start to finish, and it’s going to be the next chapter in the band’s history. However -perhaps indicative of the age we are in both financially and independently – they are not looking for a record deal to put their album out. ‘We can make enough press for ourselves,’ they reason. ‘The major benefit of a label is them putting the money in -but you then have to pay them back.’ Murray: money’s not the most important thing. As long as we get petrol.’
Progressing like they are, I’m sure they’ll more than get their travel costs paid!
I’ve been an admirer of Penguins Kill Polar Bears for a while now, and gave them a spin on my radio show last month. Let’s meet ’em…
Introduce yourselves…who’s who in Penguins Kill Polar Bears?
We have Ben Proudlock on vocal and guitar duties, Fraser Sanaghan on lead guitar, Kieran McGuckian on drums and Gavin Cormack on Bass. Collectively we make up Penguins Kill Polar Bears.
How have things changed in the last three months for you?
We’ve been on the road a lot more playing shows all over the country. We released our debut EP in June and spent a lot of time afterwards playing shows to promote the EP. Our manager has been awesome and helped us out by booking some sweet shows in London and all over Scotland. We’re now in a place where we’re trying to refine our sound and work on some new material.
Who do you consider the most important people in having got you this far?
We’d be pretty lost without Murray [Reid, manager], he’s helped us raise our game to a new level and been a great friend and manager to us all. The boys from Light Guides have been awesome as well and helped us out where ever possible, they’re a great a band and everyone should give them a listen.
What’s been the best experience of performing live?
We always try and have the best experience when playing live. I think the best show to date that we’ve played would be our recent gig at King Tuts with Light Guides and Make Sparks. The place was packed with lots of new faces and old friends. We were definitely on a high when we got off the stage after that show.
…and the worst?
We had a pretty funny experience in Dundee on our headline tour. One of the local crazies managed to dart into the venue mid set and went leaping towards our merch. I saw the whole thing unfold in front and trying to hold in the laughter was a pretty hard experience. Luckily the promoter managed to grab the dude and eject him from the venue before he managed to cause any chaos.
Do you think the word ‘indie’ still means something in 2010 or is it just a description of a particular sound?
I think that the word indie has evolved to encompass all bands who go for the jingly guitar sound and live for being on the cover of NME. I always feel slightly weird when I try to describe the bands sound to someone. We’ve got a bit of an indie sound about us but the second you tell someone you’re in an indie band they seem to think you’re going to automatically sound like Oasis.
Which bands/artists have been the biggest influences for you as a band?
We’ve taken influences from bands such as The Appleseed Cast, Aereogramme, The Smashing Pumpkins and Manchester Orchestra. Our music tastes are all slightly varied so we all tend to bring different things to the table when we’re writing. We’re always trying to keep our sound fresh and interesting.
Which bands/artists would you most like to work with?
We’d love to play with The Unwinding Hours, The Appleseed Cast or Brand New i think. They’ve all provided much needed moments of inspiration for us and they’ve been helped influence the sound of the band in different ways.
What are your plans for the next six months? Will we get an album?
We’ll be playing shows up until mid December then taking a break until after January. We have some exciting things happening before 2011 though, such as a UK mini tour, support for The Twilight Sad and Errors, and there are a few other surprise supports on the way. Not to forget our next Edinburgh gig at The Wee Red Bar with Trapped in Kansas, then Roktoberfest for Oxjam in Glasgow on 31st October!
We’ve already started writing for the debut album due for release in June 2011 and have some interesting ideas.
Will you be playing outside of Scotland?
We’ll be hitting up London, Manchester, and Leeds in early November. England watch out!
Bizarre fact: There is enough Iron in a Polar Bear’s liver to kill a human.
Crap joke: Why don’t Polar Bears eat penguins?
…Cos they can’t get the wrappers off!
…look, it’s early Saturday morning, and I’m still waiting for the caffeine to hit my bloodtsream and make me resemble some sorta human. But I have dragged myself outta bed, because I want to tell you about an excellent new Scottish band, by the name of Penguins Kill Polar Bears. Hailing from Linlithgow (just west of Edinburgh, and not far from grangemouth which is where the Cocteau twins were originally from), Penguins Kill Polar Bears are four lads by the names of Benjamin Proudlock, Gavin Cormack, Kieran McGuckian and John Irvine. They specialise in an excellent sort of glacial rock and they deserve to go far.
They have just released their debut EP, entitled Dawn. This five track EP kicks off their career in style and I believe is step one to what should be an impressive career. I met them and their manager briefly last night at Avalanche Records in Edinburgh (the only thing more important to me than seeing them was picking Mrs. 17 Seconds up from work on time) and they seem like lovely folks in addition to being a great band.
They are touring Scotland to promote the EP: They play Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh tonight; followed by Westport Bar, Dundee, June 23; Cafe Drummonds, Aberdeen, June 24; Cape, Stirling, June 25; King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow, June 26; and Harley’s, Bathgate, June 27. They then head to London for three dates: The Watershed w/ The Bookhouse Boys, July 16;
Nice Haircut! @ The Enterprise, July 17; Wimbledon Calling w/ The Xcerts, July 18 before heading back to God’s own country for a Glasgow date at King Tut’s again on July 23, w/Lightguides & Make Sparks Single launch.
Check this out from the EP. Go and buy it, preferably from Avalanche Records, if you live in Edinburgh…