(Make Me a) TRISTE© Mixtape Episode 82: The Orchids

The Orchids

Acclaimed Glasgow band The Orchids made sophisticated pop music right back in the early 1990s for cult independent label Sarah Records. Formed in 1987, the five-piece recorded a string of singles as well as three excellent albums, Lyceum (1989),  Unholy Soul (1991) and Striving For the Lazy Perfection (1994). Their songs were as emotionally pure as anything else on that label, but they were always a step ahead of their peers in terms of song arrangements and musical ambition. With a casual, unpretentious air they made writing perfect pop songs seem easy, almost accidental, and several great releases followed. The Orchids gained a passionate following.
From Glasgow, and proudly Scottish, the band shares a musical lineage with other great groups from that city, from Aztec Camera to Orange Juice, Lloyd Cole to Teenage Fanclub. All bands that specialize in song-writing that can tell big stories through small fragments, that can make the ordinary extraordinary. The band split in 1995 at the height of their powers. Most of their records were produced by Ian Carmichael of One Dove. They reformed in 2004, and have since released three more albums: Good to be a Stranger (2007), The Lost Star (2010), Beatitude#9 (2014).
Produced once again by Ian Carmichael, who has helped the band create a perfectly-crafted masterpiece, Dreaming Kind is their new album, eight years after their previous one, and it’s out now on Skep Wax Records, the label run by Rob Pursey and Amelia Fletcher.

“In This Boy Is A Mess, the lyric confesses frailty while the music gets stronger and stronger. It is bittersweet and exhilarating at the same time.”

Didn’t We Love You daringly opens up empty spaces where the reverb of the drums is the only thing you can hear… and then floods your ears with a harmonised chorus, sweet guitar melodies and sweeping effects. Even then, the lyrical lament, expressing the desire to live in a better place -a place unspoilt by the greedy phonies who’ve taken over– comes across as clearly as if Hackett were leaning over for a friendly chat in the snug bar of The Orchids’ favourite Glasgow pub.”

What They Say: “Our new album, Dreaming Kind, is out now on the Skep Wax label and our last album was late 2014 so almost 8 years have passed! There are a few reasons for the long gap. Firstly our guitarist John became quite ill with a heart condition which caused the band to be put on hold for a while. Then in 2017 we put out a double retrospective CD called Who Needs Tomorrow on Cherry Red Records which entailed a lot of work, including tidying up some unreleased tracks and re-recording one of our early singles especially for the compilation. 
We started on the new album in 2018 but obviously Covid delayed things for a year or two so here we are now with the finished release. We had done the basic tracks before Covid and then when lockdown happened, we had to discuss ideas by group text and Zoom calls. Finally, when restrictions were lifted last summer, we were all able to spend a week together in a fantastic residential studio called Watercolour in the Scottish Highlands to finish the record and we’re delighted with the results. The studio is part owned by Mary Ann Kennedy who is a big name in the world of traditional Scottish music and she very kindly played harp on one of the tracks which was a great honour. 
When it came to finding a new label, we have known Rob Pursey & Amelia Fletcher for many years, dating back to the Sarah Records days, and we have bumped into them every so often when we do gigs on the same bill. During lockdown, they started their own label called Skep Wax to put their own music out and they had the genius idea of putting out a compilation album to showcase what various Sarah Records acts are up to now. We were happy to take part in that, the album is called Under The Bridge and it’s a great listen. Then when we told them we were finishing off our new album they listened to it and said they wanted to put it out, so it has been great working with them and we’re really excited about the new album.”

Their Mixtape:  

ScrabbelThe Mischievous Dokkaebi  

Scrabbel is the alias of a guy called Dan Lee who is based in San Francisco. This was brought to our attention when it was released on our friend John Jervis’s Wiaiwya label. A groovy number with amazing percussion inspired by a character from Korean mythology.

  

The Jam – Absolute Beginners

This takes us back to our school days when every new release by the Jam was eagerly awaited. The later Jam stuff like this tune was very soul influenced which led us to discover some amazing music from the past. Paul Weller still has his finger on the pulse, which leads us to…

 

The Stroppies – Smilers Strange Politely 

Mr Weller took this young Australian band on tour as his support act recently, and they are a great band in the tradition of Antipodean jangly pop like the Go-Betweens and the Chills – their album “Whoosh” is well worth a listen. We had the pleasure of meeting them when they played the Hug & Pint in Glasgow a few months ago and they are lovely folk too. 

Freda Payne – Band of Gold

By way of a tip of the hat to Lamont Dozier who passed away recently. The Holland-Dozier-Holland writing team were responsible for many unforgettable Motown tunes in the 60s, especially for the Supremes and the Four Tops, but when they broke away and started their own Invictus label, they had to write under a pseudonym, including this stone cold classic. It is a perfect example of an uplifting tune mixed with some pretty sad lyrics. 

Jetstream Pony – Courses for Obstacles

The Orchids haven’t managed to play many gigs over the last 2 or 3 years due to Covid restrictions but it seems like almost every time we do play, we are on the same bill as Jetstream Pony! Most recently, they travelled to our home town to perform at the Glas-Goes Pop festival where they were brilliant. They were formed by Shaun Charman (ex Wedding Present & Popguns) and are fronted by our friend Beth Arzy, who we know well from way back playing in bands including Aberdeen and Trembling Blue Stars. This is a killer pop song.  

Astrud Gilberto & Stan GetzThe Girl from Ipanema

Another classic which never fails to raise a smile and still sounds fresh today. We would have first heard this in the early to mid 1980s when it was a big influence on groups like the Style Council and Everything But The Girl who were using a lot of jazzy chords so it probably ended up being an influence on us too.

  

Warmduscher – Fatso

This summer, we travelled the short distance from Glasgow to attend the Doune The Rabbit Hole festival which was a fantastic weekend, featuring everyone from Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura, to Patti Smith and 10cc, via Peaness and Sacred Paws. The festival was very family friendly and it was fun to see so many youngsters on their parents’ shoulders enjoying Warmduscher’s expletive-laden sleazy punk-funk set…

 

Orange Juice – Simply Thrilled Honey 

We were indeed Simply Thrilled to see Edwyn Collins supported by Altered Images at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow recently. Edwyn is an absolute legend and it is truly inspirational to see how he has overcome serious illness and is still performing at the top of his game. The set list was stuffed with early Orange Juice favourites and this one was particularly sweet.

Dreaming Kind is out now via Skep Wax Records. Look HERE for more information on The Orchids.

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