Interview before Wickerman Festival
added: 11 Jul 2012
interviewed by: Alasdair Byers
Stirling based group Miniature Dinosaurs caught the attention of the industry in 2009 by having single ‘(I Wanna Watch) Top Gear’ played live on Radio 1 three months before they’d ever played out as a group. Since then the band, likened to Pulp and The Killers, has continued to rise, with releases on Electric Honey - the label that took Belle & Sebastian to fame, and this year upcoming appearances at EHOne and Wickerman festivals. Consisting of Barry Maclean (Vocals/Guitar), Alban Dickson (Bass Guitar), Craig Ferrie (Guitar/Keys) and Sam Waller (Drums), Music-News caught up with the group to talk about their continued rise.
> How did you guys form?
Variety of different things - Barry and I knew each other from the local scene, we both worked as bit-parts in bands on the local Stirling circuit so gradually over time we began working together. Sam came up to Stirling for university and was looking to get into the music scene so he got on board and we found Craig at one of the venues - like Barry and I he worked the toll booth sometimes, knew the clubs. Craig, Barry and I really got to know each other further through our workshops too - a few Stirling venues run music workshops for kids, aspiring musicians, all sorts. We teach instruments, brainstorm songwriting ideas and so on. I guess we were all part of the scene, and we’d all been involved in little bands - Sam had played Huddersfield, Barry and I had done a few gigs in Glasgow, but none of us had had the chance to write our own stuff, to perform and be in charge of our own direction, so the ‘Dinosaurs were born.
> You've been compared to the likes of the Killers, to Pulp- How would you define yourselves sound-wise to a new audience?
I guess our aim is ‘quirky pop’ s - instrumentally we’re quite commercial and there’s a strong pop music nod in our general vocals, though some lyrics add more of a different edge to it, hence i guess the comparisons to slightly different sounds championed by Pulp, David Bowie, and the Killers. There’s been reference to some Scottish bands too - particularly Orange Juice. Its nice to kind of build on that, its kind of reassuring to be told we sound like different bands to different people - if every single fan we met told us we were the Oasis, I’d be a bit worried! Its funny - it feeds back into our music too - there’s often times we've discovered artists unknown to us by being told we sound like them - its how Barry got into Jacques Brel, the Belgian singer, whose now an influence.
> Do you feel that location affects the band process? - is your sound ‘Scottish’?
Ah, I could talk for an hour about this one! I think Scotland is blessed by music, you get some quite tenuous links, Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, Then you get really full on: Biffy Clyro, etc. Stirling is an interesting one, apart from Bay City Rollers’ Les McKeown who now lives here, there’s no obvious big act thats emerged from here. But it is kind in the centre of it - you've got Arab Strap from Falkirk, you’ve got some real talent coming out of Dundee. Stirling is undeniably beginning to get a name though - despite a breakout act yet to put it on the map. When I was a teenager growing up, it was the same old bands in a few venues. but now across towns there’s a good few venues, and people are getting more into it. So yeah, I guess we’re the ‘Stirling sound’.
> You had Radio 1 support before you actually played your first gig - how did that come about?
Haha looking back it was a bit cringe really - Barry and I began writing songs, just 2 of us, friends doing drums, and Barry doing the backing vocals, and we applied to Scottish unsigned band competition Tennents T-Break. We had a real laugh, we knew a few people on the scene so we were writing in names of already established drummers, guitarists and entering in stuff under several different names. Eventually some of it got presented up and they seemed happy to play it on air. It gave us a pretty awesome boost and it was neat feeling, being an unknown an suddenly on national radio!
> How does the songwriting process work with you guys?
Its totally different for every song. Sometimes it just happens - generally Barry and myself kick off with a simple lead melody, then thats how everyone gets their own take, builds in their own score. With the song writing - we've tried lots of different things, and there's no set process - sometimes you get a great song in a jam - or you can get a completely scored out, pre-planned song after long sessions. If you play something three times over and its still running well then you know you’re onto something. We’re pretty hypocritical actually - we teach songwriting in our workshops and its very regimented - whiteboards, mind maps, maybe we should take our own advice on board!
> Working with groups as diverse as Snow Patrol and Belle & Sebastian, how do you feel that's affected your music?
We're always set on doing what we're doing, we keep focused in that respect. But, the connection to label Electric Honey was absolutely awesome. Its funny, we started out as students, playing music, and now we’re a bit older and yet a lot of the labels we release off are small, student run outfits - its quite cool to put your trust back into that system. The Sarasetu guys behind the Alligator tour were great as well, they sorted out TeKlo’s remix of Alligator which was really interesting.
> You've had some good commercial exposure -with the Police 883 fashion label and work with MTV's Being Victor- do you feel its a challenge getting exposure through commercial work yet still maintaining that ‘underground’ feel?
There is definitely a happy medium you can meet - A few years ago you had some commercial work with The Dandy Warhols, that track Bohemian Like You absolutely blew them up into fame. There were a few equivalent bands with exactly the same sound who just didnt go for that. They stayed very cool and underground, but in the end, its about the music - and to that end, advertising, TV soundtrack offers, will get you the money you need to keep pushing out your music, so its always worth pursuing. If we got offered that kind of exposure, we’d definitely take it for the boost.
> You've played cities across the UK - do the atmosphere's vary?
With regards to touring, there's always something different going on - It’s great meeting different bands and getting a taste of the local scenes and stuff, especially as a band coming from a less well known place - Touring is a great way of building connections and getting yourself inspired - some of the best guys I’ve met are from small, unsigned bands doing the same thing, there’s interesting lessons to be learned.
> You're playing Wickerman festival, you’re playing EHone - what else does the future hold appearances wise, albums wise?
We’re gigging up until October - We're really working on writing a lot of music, so in October we'll be looking to have played it all out and got ourselves out there and then in winter go back to the studio. It’s a funny one with writing and performing. Sometimes you sort of run before you can walk - You can write a load of material, all done and dusted, unreleased, and sit on it for months before a gig. When you get to a gig, you think its old stuff but you have to remember its new and inject that energy into the crowd.
> What's been your career high as a group so far?
Hard to say - just playing in lots of new places - meeting new peoples, adventures in other cities where I’m playing my Apprentice look and trying to secure accomadation for the night, running for hotel to hostel and negotiating prices! All the kind of spontaneous circumstances you find yourself in. Musically - Wickerman will be great - some big other bands. So far - we did a gig in the Fruit Market earlier this year - I remember going there when I was little as my dad wanted to inspire me. Well, I ended up falling asleep BUT it was good to be back there to perform! A kind of full-circle feeling.
> What artists do you yourselves rate at the moment?
Bwani Junction, their gig playing on top of the Forth Road Bridge was awesome, TeKlo who did our remix, there’s a couple of Norwegian punk bands I like for the otherness of it.
> What advice would therefore give to aspiring artists?
Work hard, keep a smile on your face. We’ve progressed by being versatile with our music. Also - make sure you bond as a team - we try to meet up regularly in non-studio situations - playing football etc, it keeps it vibrant.
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