The Refugee

So this is it, our last ever U2 cover is out tomorrow. It’ll appear in all digital stores and our video will follow soon. It’s the end of a journey that started 4 years ago when we released Alison Stewart. We were trying to think what to say – here’s a blog post we put out on the one year anniversary. Since then we’ve been a few other places thanks to the kindness of people we hardly knew then but now count as friends. But the post still holds good. Thanks folks.

From October 2015:

(So last year we started a crazy but totally life affirming journey in which we set out to say a few words of thanks. What do you give the band who have everything? We offered a song, a video and a few covers. It might not seem much but it was our very best.

The ensuing journey took us to the Clarence and Claridges (did the concierge ever pass that DVD on Bono?), to No 10 Cedarwood Road, Rosemount Avenue, Ard na Mara and St Margaret’s Park, Slane Castle, Grogans Castle Lounge, the Hydro in Glasgow, London’s O2 and the 3 Arena in Dublin (always the Point depot to you we suspect). Dublin became a bit of a second home.

We met your people along the way. And you know what? Turns out they are pretty much like how we imagine you to be: gracious and passionate, truth tellers and kind, open-hearted and generous.

We even got to look into the eyes of your front row. They helped us look up. Never tried to take the feet from under us. They encouraged us and helped us in the task we gave ourselves: to spread the word that you have made our lives better and we are grateful. It’s important to say these things while you can.

Admittedly we went a bit mad on twitter as you hit Glasgow last year. On the second night we all stood with tears in our eyes as the spirit came with you into the house. ‘Barrowlands, shadowlands.’

We played a celebration event for your 40th anniversary in Dublin and got to hear A Sort Of Homecoming being sung back at us.

So it started as a charity tribute single and ended up being a kind of thank you year where we tried to express love and appreciation through some songs and videos.

Today, Monday 24th October is the one year anniversary of the day we filmed the video for Alison Stewart in Dublin. We will mark it this evening with a version of a beautiful song of yours called I fall down from an album of spiritual pilgrimage called October. Part of your story of course is that you wouldn’t let each other fall.

The song we wrote about you led to an album. To us renewing our own bonds of friendship with each other.

It was important to us to say the things we needed to say.

Some final thank yous:

Bono, thank you for not kicking our arses for writing a song named after Ali.

Ali, ditto. It’s really you we are fans of by the way.

Larry, Edge, Adam, Bono – thanks for a lifetime of inspiration and example.

You’ve left a few legacies along the way guys but we have seen your people up close and they are full of grace and truth. We feel sure you’re as proud of them as they are of you. Thank you for the way you make us feel.

Can’t wait for what you’ll do next. You’ve a few fights left in you yet.

With love and appreciation always.

Thank you.

December)

In memory of John A Dunn – I was the lion

John was a dear friend of Scott’s. He died on 18 September and will not be forgotten.

His obituary was published today.

https://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/17990082.obituary-john-dunn-senior-prosecutor-played-key-role-lockerbie-case/

Rest in peace brother. We love you.

The last chorus of I was the lion is about John and our dear friend Paula who also passed away too soon this year.

‘I can see you in the distance standing with my friend. Running down the mountains, at the world’s end. You’ll make your way to April, knowing what is true. This time of the morning I still believe in you.’ x

December

Ok Dublin, what’s next?

Heading to Dublin always finds us in reflective mode. We’ve been back and forth to this great city all our lives. I think always in search of something that we first of all found in the music of U2. Since 2016 it ramped up a bit and our visits have usually been to play music on invitation from the U2 fan community and the good folks at Andersons on the northside in Glasnevin.

Much has changed since we first came. We know people here now for one thing and have made actual new friends which is unusual at this stage in life. Playing live in Ireland is now something we do routinely when it used to be a dream. We came chasing U2 and we found their community and friends and found something real, honest and caring there. We experienced kindness from strangers who now feel like family.

As I write this in Glasgow airport before the flight I’m wondering what this trip will bring. Going away always brings something, sometimes inspiration – sometimes just precious time to breathe and think about who we are and who we want to be. There’s a lot of uncertainty around our little band at the moment and life has been closing in on us a bit this year to be honest. We want that to come through in the music and there’s a real chance that some of the songs which will end up on next year’s album might be a bit too honest if you know what I mean ….hopefully you’re up for something pretty raw…

We will have some good and not so good things to share over the next few months. That’s life isn’t it? Full of ups and downs. Sometimes I think bands only share the ups in the hope of impressing that they are doing well – that the trajectory is always upwards. It’s not of course and especially not in the music business where the sharks still circle. We will always try and be honest. And right now some of us are struggling and all of us need your prayers.

But for every shark you meet there are many more friends who have lifted us up when we couldn’t lift ourselves. I actually started to list some of them here and had to stop for fear of leaving someone out. But just know that if you’ve ever reached out to encourage or help us, picked us up at an airport, put on a gig for us, said a kind word, let us support your band or helped spread the word that you have our love and grateful thanks.

May blessings be yours always.

Ok Dublin, what’s next?

December

Where were you hiding when the storm broke?

So this is a blog about and inspired by The Alarm song ‘Where were you hiding when the storm broke’ which we are in the process of covering.

We’ve been in our band pursuing all of this independently for at least 25 years and we had never covered anyone until a couple of years ago when we tried a U2 song. Since then we’ve also covered In a big country by Big Country and we are now turning to The Alarm. Let’s get something clear though – our criteria for choosing covers are simple; they must mean the world to us and be by one of the great bands we are heartfelt followers of and they must have already been in our live set, that is we must have tried them out live and felt the spirit in the room when we did. That’s been happening for us every time we’ve played a snippet of Where were you hiding in the breakdown section of Elijah on a hill. Some songs are truly special, they come from somewhere else – that’s why they stand the test of time.

We were at the band’s annual Gathering event in Llandudno in North Wales at the weekend and memories came flooding back of their impact on our music and lives. It was the 27th Gathering we think but our first and hopefully not our last. We saw The Alarm’s most dedicated fans up close and it was an inspiring weekend. We also saw Mike Peters and the band play old and new songs with passion and intensity. Mike is the real deal. He writes and performs with all his heart and brings everyone along with him.

We were just a little too young to see The Alarm support U2 but that they did, a lot, and both bands came from a similar place. Both celtic punks coming out of North Wales and North Dublin with their hearts on their sleeves and saying what they felt; unafraid to reveal themselves and to speak to the issues of their day. They inspired so many of us along the way to take a similar approach to music and life. We caught The Alarm for the first time in the second half of the 80s in Glasgow at the Barrowlands and the SECC. Still remember Mike coming into the crowd during Rescue me. Ails remembers Mike having a glow about him, a genuine aura. He and the band were fierce and tough but in an inclusive way that brought you into the gang, the family. Anger and compassion stood side by side in their music.

The band split in the early 90s after a successful 10 years and Mike pursued a successful solo career. Since the early 2000s he’s been releasing and touring again as The Alarm and the story is continuing apace. He is a prolific writer and producer and is touring at a rate that would stun younger bands into submission. He has also battled cancer repeatedly and won as has his wife Jules. Here’s the thing; while living with a life threatening diagnosis and bringing up a young family not only did he keep writing and performing but he and Jules threw themselves into serving others with the disease and established the Love, Hope, Strength foundation which has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for those affected by blood cancer. When most would have struggled to stay standing up they turned their eyes to others. Mike Peters is a true hero. He never hid when the storm broke. That’s why so many follow him.

So to the song….where were you hiding when the storm broke…

We’ve known this song for 30 years but our [admittedly limited] experience of doing covers is that it leads to you appreciating the song in a new way – really getting it for the first time usually. You can’t beat the original of this one so the only thing to do is to try to do it a wee bit differently which is what we’ve tried to do. The Alarm song comes out of the gate and takes no prisoners with a fury and passion to which few others could aspire. Dr King said that it’s not when things are going great that you see a person’s true nature but in moments of crisis and controversy. Sometimes in life if you find yourself in a minority either because of something you’ve done or someone you’ve stood by – in those moments you can usually count your real friends on the fingers of one hand. That’s what this song is asking us. Where are you, what will you do when the storm comes? If a storm comes in someone else’s life will you stand by them or will you take to your heels? What about when it comes in your own, will you stand up and face it down? What about a storm in your nation state or politics. Because evil still wins when good men and women do nothing. Where were you hiding. When all seemed lost what did you do? This song still challenges us to our core being. It’s a lot of weight for a song to carry to but this one does it effortlessly and with a purity that you rarely find in music. This song asks the question with anger and sadness and calls us out and up to do the right thing.

We hope that our version will be of some use and will certainly try to use it to encourage donations to Mike and Jules’ foundation. We’ll also donate all proceeds to the foundation too but truth is most folk don’t buy music these days – they stream it for little or free – but we will donate whatever this one makes and hopefully it will prove the exception to the rule and folks will step up and buy it.

It’ll hopefully be out in March. An honour to cover this track. Thank you to The Alarm and Mike Peters MBE for music and inspiration. Love. December.

PS

For those of you who would like to know more here are some links:

http://thealarm.com

http://www.lovehopestrength.co.uk

Brazil to Belfast to Berlin

Haven’t blogged in ages (as usual!) but I [scott] should really try to keep a record of the last few months’ madness.

It really started in Montreal in early June when we were guests of the band Acrobat at a downtown music venue. U2 were playing the following night and their community came out in force to see both bands in an atmosphere that was full of love and friendship. We will never forget that night and are continually grateful to Gabe and the Acrobat team for having us. We are actively trying to get the guys over here in 2019. Watch this space.

Belfast was our next stop for the U2 conference at a gig at the John Hewitt bar. It was our first time at the conference and in Belfast. Too many highlights to mention them all but seeing Tim Neufeld and his wife Tracey again, meeting conference director Scott Calhoun for the first time after many emails prepping for our visit and making the friendship of Mr Andy Rowen and his daughter Ciara rank right up there. Add to that Big Wave [John Noble], Beth Nabi of the U2 tattoo project, Steve Stockman [still need to get that book signed] and a visit to CS Lewis Square and it all added up to what was for us a magical visit. We are always humbled and moved by the breadth of experience and relationships that our life of music opens up to us. At this stage we had no idea that a return visit to Belfast was imminent. We love the ferry ride by the way – if we could travel everywhere by boat we absolutely would.

A short break followed in which we recorded a version of a Big Country song which led to some major radio play and the support of Scotland’s Billy Sloan.

Just after this we headed to Copenhagen and Amsterdam in late September/early October as guests of some remarkable people, the band Mount Temple, Connie Maria Westergaard and Inger Jensen. In both cities there were some unexpected setbacks but we all rallied, regrouped and the shows went on as scheduled and were successful. We were all struck by the professionalism and organisational response of our hosts and were completely grateful. Connie in particular is worthy of a mention. We had a venue issue after the Friday nightshow and within minutes of hearing about it on the Saturday morning she had a solution. She is a fixer and that is what you need around you in the indie music world. We hope our path takes us once again to Copenahgen.

Sooo…..in both Amsterdam and Copenhagen we were asked if we could put on a U2 aftershow in Belfast. The truth was we could only commit if we could sell enough tickets to cover costs. And we did – we played McHugh’s bar [the oldest bar in Belfast by the way] at a sold-out gig on Saturday 27 October. We were blessed to have Joby Fox of the Belfast band Energy Orchard as our guest on his own song ‘Belfast’ and Mark Baker of Acrobat guesting on bass for U2’s ‘Who’s gonna ride your wild horses.’ An awesome night again made possible by everyone who came along to support. Thanks to Andrea Lawton for the push to book a venue and take the leap of faith.

Sold out gigs at The Button Factory and Andersons in Dublin followed on 8 and 9 November almost 3 years to the day after we released Alison Stewart in 2015 an event which kickstarted this whole journey. Thanks to Remy and the team at U2start for their help in promoting the Button Factory show – we hope we can work with them again down the line. Special mention must be made of Ken and Marcia Wong and Kevin and Stefanie who changed their whole travel plans to be with us. Thanks also to Mick and The Joshua Tree and to Noel and Trish at Andersons. Love you and are grateful for you.

And then Berlin….wow. It all happened in a flurry. 2 weeks before our gig it was only a dream but with the help of U2tour.de and the Big Wave and a whole lot of people who bought tickets in advance we were able to play a sold-out show in a city central to the U2 story and in front of a diehard U2 audience who have been so kind to us. We will never forget. We also met a really special man called Pip Wilson that night. He is beautiful. We feel as if we’ve known him forever.

So as I close out this entry we have a song to record this week called ‘If I were Tom Hanks’ – a song about love being rare and having to grab it when it appears – we then have a show at Glasgow’s King Tuts and then who knows? The only definite plan is that we will not be playing live for a while. There’s a level of tiredness that touring brings and we also need to give our families a break. We are totally grateful to Jill, Tod, Toby and Rachel for their patience and support over these past few months. Life goes on when we are away and we appreciate that and all they’ve done to make it possible for us to have these experiences. Finally we are indebted to our December family member Andy Wright for his friendship and support. Never asking for anything he has been there for us throughout all of this for whatever we needed. Thanks also to Mariana or all she has done behind the scenes to make our journey possible – much love.

We feel grateful and hopeful and a bit mixed up too to be honest. It’s a funny thing being in a band. I always say it takes a lot to get a band onstage. You make yourself really vulnerable when you write songs and go onstage to sing them and we are really appreciative of the fact we have an audience. These last few years led to an incursion into the music of U2 which has been the bedrock of our lives since we were 15. It suddenly felt ok to cover them and to say thanks to them for what they’ve given. The experience led to us making a lot of new friends and travelling all over the world due to the kindness of U2 fans from Brazil to Belfast to Berlin. If I’m honest I think we are all a bit dazed by it and need some time to reflect before we can properly talk about what it has all meant. Or maybe we just breathe and say thanks and avoid being too over analytical about it.

We are still dreaming out loud but for now we are coming home for awhile. There’s work to be done and songs to be written and people to be loved.

We wish you grace and peace for you and yours and pray that our paths cross again.

Lastly as we write this we are acutely aware that one of our friends and a mainstay of the worldwide U2 community is in trouble having had bad news from his doctor. This person has been a major player in the December story too. No details are appropriate here but we send this out with all the love we can muster praying and hoping for some kind of intervention. 

Love from us.

December

The night before the song goes out

Some quick thoughts from the night before.

It’s always a mixture of feelings so here they are.

The anxious thoughts:

Is it any good?

Will anyone like or support it?

Could this be our breakthrough moment?!

Did we actually do a good version of it?

Should we just throw in the towel at this music game? It’s too late isn’t it?

For crying out loud could we get some blooming radio play? What do you need to do? 🙂

Why do some folk just ignore us – we’re trying our best over here?

Things you say to yourself:

It’s not the amount of likes or views that matter – it’s the quality you know.

It’s just the way the music industry is these days – no one sells anything anymore.

Things you know deep down:

No one has a right to anything – that includes us you know.

We love this music game.

We’ve been doing this all our lives and we’re not going anywhere. We can’t. Where would we go anyway?

These songs speak to our souls and calm our hearts and remind us that there are ancient paths that are below and above and will outlast us all. So don’t take it all so seriously. And by the way folk have been really good to us. Remember that when you feel a bit lost.

And last but not least and as a wise Scotsman and an Irish man once said.

Dreams stay with you.

Dream out loud.

Much love.

December

The battle for your sacred heart

So, you know the December set up is a bit odd, right? I’m currently visiting our drummer Graeme in Singapore where he stays with his beautiful family. We are catching up as we try to do each year and trying to catch inspiration for, in the words of President Josiah Bartlet, ‘what’s next.’ And also to record some drums for me to take home. Because for us an album with Graeme at this stage simply won’t do.

Truth is we’ve been spoiled in the past because Graeme’s schedule allowed him to come to us…a lot….. for shows and recording and other sessions where we’d try and dream up the future for our band. In the last 18 months that’s not been so possible and we had to regroup for live shows in particular with the remarkable Ails managing to take on some of the drumming duties. Truth is if we couldn’t have Graeme full-time we didn’t want another drummer so we adjusted the live sound of the band and lost the bass player too!

Graeme is a visionary though and always helps with giving voice to the dreams we concoct together. By way of example we sat round our kitchen table in early 2015 thinking about an album where we’d chart our own story through the folk who’d inspired us. In that moment I Will Let You Have Your Say was named by Graeme and the project had a purer focus. A similar thing happened on my visit here last year. We were chatting after lunch about an album – which we were already in the middle of – which had as its focus an overwhelming need we felt at the time to say thanks to a certain group from Dublin City, Ireland. Thoughts turned as they almost always do with us to The Unforgettable Fire and the opening bars of A sort of homecoming and the fact that rarely has a band made a statement of direction or planted a flag in such a way before or since. Quickly we realised it was 33 years since it was released and we had our album title. I’m always grateful to him for his friendship. Lifelong friends are few and he is mine, ours in a way that is like the sound of grace. And we’re not finished yet.

I’ve just turned on A sort of homecoming. ‘Tonight at last I’m coming home.’ I guess that’s what we’re all striving for. I’ve also been reviewing mixes of two of our album tracks because, for the first time ever, Ails and Paul were in the studio in Scotland without me last night. We’re at the final stages really, of vocals and additional bits and pieces. Most songs come together pretty easily for us. If we’re honest we know who we are and what our style is and what we are aiming for. The two songs they worked on last night, the last three in fact if I include another called 31 haven’t been so easy mainly because they were written late in the process as this project achieved its own sharper focus.

Stations is a song about letting yourself down badly and failed repentance through the metaphor of the stations of the cross (yes, I know, more cheery stuff from the house of December). The battle for your sacred heart is primarily Paul’s story but Ails’ too. They’ve known each other since childhood long before I came on the scene. They had a similar upbringing in the council schemes, schools and evangelicalism, fundamentalism even of Christianity in Lanarkshire, Scotland. As we’ve grown we’ve all become a bit less certain and more attuned to the rhythms of grace. But we still carry those formative years with us. And if I may say their lives are truly triumphs really in terms of what they have overcome to stand where they stand today. Anyway I digress – they did great work without me (!) and I was moved to tears as I walked in the city this morning listening to it. Some songs are worth fighting for. All I want to say right now is that I love my band mates beyond words. One of the joys of being in this band at the moment is how many great people we get to meet and lives we get to touch. But people also come and go and at the end of the day it’s just us writing and playing songs trying to tell our story and hoping that someone is listening. I’m grateful to all of you who do.

I hope you win the battle for your sacred heart.

Scott