Downstairs at Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazy, a group of young men stand slightly awkwardly as a photographer moves them about and snaps away.
They are Neon Waltz and if music tastemakers like Vic Galloway, NME and Jim Gellatly are to be believed they’re going to have to get used to this kind of attention. “We are getting a bit more used to it now.” insists guitarists Kevin Swanson, or Swanny as he introduces himself, before explaining how it can be off-putting to have a camera thrust in your face.
Tonight they will be playing here and the band promise us “loud music and good songs,” then laugh saying they have a lot to live up to now. The gig is part of a short six-date tour, “We hadn’t played since before the turn of the year” says Kevin.
“We needed to get out and play some gigs” adds singer Jordan Shearer.
Aside from this, there’s another short tour scheduled for April and festivals lined up for the summer. The band have plans to keep writing and recording too. “We are going to be recording a couple of tunes but it’s just going to be a few songs.” says Jordan.
“We’re mainly concentrating on writing.” explains Kevin.
When talk turns to a potential album they are evasive. The reason for this becomes clear a few days later when it’s announced they have been signed by Atlantic Records and will be releasing First Light, a 12″ of demos and live recordings, in April.
Recently they have been playing in London and illustrated their distance from it by posting a screenshot of the route back to their home in Caithness at the northern tip of Scotland. According to Google maps, it would be an 11-hour drive.
This distance has necessitated them being more creative and they have a unique sound that manages to be psychedelic and otherworldly without losing focus or edge. There is no music scene to speak of in Caithness and nothing much else to do but write and play music. This is no bad thing. “There’s no music scene at all there’s two other bands that do their own music and they’re both really good but they play totally different music to what we play
“I think it’s been good for us because we haven’t tried to sound like anyone else. Most cities have some kind of music scene and I think quite often you get bands who fit in nicely together and sound quite similar but we’ve never felt pressure to do that so we’ve just done our own thing,” explains Jordan.
Despite this, the locals have been supportive. Most notably the play write owner of the nearby Freswick Castle who has allowed the band to rehearse, record and generally make a racket there.
Draped across the keyboard is an eye-catching red and yellow flag which reads XV Brigada Internacional: No Pasaran and commemorates the international brigade who served in the Spanish Civil War. The band talk excitedly about it. Kevin says: “There is (significance) now we didn’t realise at the start but it’s from the Spanish Civil War, it’s basically anti-fascist. The organ player’s grandfather actually served in the conflict so now we’ve got another reason to fly it.”
“We only found that out about a month or so ago.” explains Jordan. In among the usual sea of national flags you often see it certainly stands out and will grab people’s attention.
Every member of the band, Jordan, Kevin, his brother guitarist Jamie Swanson, drummer Darren Coghill, bassist Calvin Wilson and organist Liam Whittle write songs and play an equal part in the band. It’s this kind of democracy that leads to bands lasting long term. This cooperation is also evident in their influences: “There are loads. There’s hundreds really but there’s a certain amount of bands that we all agree on like The Walkmen, The National, The Band and The Coral and stuff like that as well. There’s lots more but they’re the ones that first come into your head.” states Jordan. Some of these, like The Coral, are noticeable in their music. Others are more surprising.
Since forming about two years ago they’ve gradually attracted an ever-growing fan base. The notoriously hard to please Noel Gallagher, last seen slagging off everyone and their granny in the press, has taken a liking to the lads of Neon Waltz saying their video for Perfect Frame is: “The best I’ve seen all year,”.
Despite this, the band are taking the growing interest in them in their stride. “We’ll just keep doing what we do and that should take care of its self, ” says Jordan.
Later, Nice N Sleazy is slowly filling up. Support band the Tripps are entertaining the crowd like a band of Beatles and mod throwbacks which reaches a peak with a cover of Yer Blues.
Then the audience is left for a not inconsiderable time with anticipation then some impatience creeping in. When they do take the stage Neon Waltz are well worth waiting for.
On stage the band let the music speak for its self. There is very little flashy showmanship or dancing and this definitely seems to suit their particular brand of psychedelic indie rock. It rarely goes beyond Jordan attacking his microphone stand and tossing the best fringe Scotland’s seen since Kyle Falconer from The View.
Many in the crowd seem very familiar with the songs considering Neon Waltz have to date only released one single, Bare Wood Aisle. Multi-talented Jordan has a film degree and has used this to produce videos for songs like Sundial and Perfect Frame which means the crowd are familiar with them.
Taking their cue from the band there is little movement from the crowd who prefer to concentrate on the music.
Leaving the venue a particularly enthusiastic fan declares the gig to be “The best I’ve seen all year.” It may only be the beginning of March but you can see them holding on to the top spot. Given their live shows are improving all the time they could well steal it from themselves.
Just a little up the road at the ABC a massive tour bus with blacked out windows, which later gets a parking ticket, announces that Hawkwind are playing. The fans at the ABC may have seen the past but those at Nice N Sleazy have seen the future. It’s Neon.