By Charis McGowan (via AreWeEurope)
“It’s quite an unusual event really, isn’t it?” muses Stina Tweeddale during a call, en route to take a flight for her next, rather special, gig. “I can’t really think of anything that is like it. We haven’t even played on a boat before…”
Tweeddale is the founder and sole member of the band Honeyblood; she’s been rapidly rising from the Glasgow underground to now make waves in a more literal sense—playing The Boaty Weekender, a roundtrip cruise festival between Barcelona, Spain, and Sardinia, Italy.
“I am very excited! There are loads of people who we know going,” she says. “It’s gonna be a real fun, strange experience.”
The Boaty Weekender is logistically very different to your average European festival, with each band playing three sets over three days aboard a cruise that crosses borders. But its lineup is also unusual: most acts are Scottish bands. Encapsulating over three decades of alternative and independent music from the northern country, Boaty packs a host of veteran icons Belle & Sebastian (“The Belles”), Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub, and Camera Obscura, to younger bands like Django Django and, of course, Honeyblood.
Save Django, who are from Edinburgh, all the aforementioned bands hail from the Glasgow area.
“There is a great community here (in Glasgow),” reflects Tweeddale. “We come from a place forgotten about a lot of times. So, we just keep making music regardless of what is going on anywhere else, and I think we have always had a vibrant, unique scene.”
Many of the city’s senior bands are credited for pioneered new sounds and movements, carving legacies that have influenced international acts from further afield. The U.S.’s Japanese Breakfast and Canada’s Alvvays, among the few international acts billed on The Boaty Weekender, for example—their bittersweet dream-pop melodies have led to comparisons with The Belles and Camera Obscura.
Considering this sonic similarity between some of the bands on the Boaty lineup, Tweeddale ponders whether there is such a thing as a definite “Glaswegian sound”:
“I am not sure. I think it goes in eras, that the Belles started that sound, and then Camera Obscura—they kind of work off each other. So, you’ve got this scene where people are bouncing off bands they are seeing locally rather than what’s on the radio.”
While Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura and Mogwai all formed in the late-to-mid-90s, and Teenage Fanclub formed in the late 80s, Tweeddale is adamant that the Scottish music scene today is just as vibrant as it ever was, “I think in the last couple years it’s gotten a lot stronger, new bands are coming out and starting their own things.”
“Glasgow is very much a bubble, which is good, because there are all sorts of bands, making completely different music to what Camera Obscura and Belle & Sebastian did.”
Honeyblood is one of those bands carving out a fresh type of sound, Tweeddale’s distorted guitars and charged drum beats setting her band apart from some of her more mellow Boaty compatriots, “When Honeyblood started there was a resurgence of more fuzzy guitar and that’s kind of what we were shaped on…”
“…So, I don’t know if there is an actual ‘Glasgow sound,’ she confirms. “I’d probably say that there is not, I think it comes with different bands and depends on what shows they are watching during their own time.”
Despite the difference in styles and eras, she says all the bands remain close and supportive of one another.
“I think the bands that are more established here don’t shy away from the newbies. It’s nice to be taken under someone’s wing,” she says. “I have appreciated that, and I think it doesn’t happen in other scenes, in other places.”
Belle & Sebastian organized the Boaty Weekender as a one-off to mark the twentieth anniversary of the very first festival they curated, the Bowlie Weekender, in 1999. Tweeddale herself felt a strong sense of mentorship from them, “The Belles have always been there, they’ve taken me on tour a few years ago.”
She’s also been mentored by legendary Garbage singer, Scotswoman Shirley Manson. “I have been very lucky. We went on tour with Shirley and she said ‘anything you need from me, let me know,’ and gave me a lot of invaluable information.”
Despite being settled in Los Angeles for decades now, Manson’s ongoing support of upcoming Scottish acts like Honeyblood reflects the very spirit that the Boaty encapsulates: you can take the music out of Scotland, but Scotland never really leaves the music.
This article is part of the Discover series, a collaboration between the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards and Are We Europe. This project is cofunded by the Creative Europe programme.