Loopallu, the world-famous boutique festival that happens every summer in the northern outpost of Ullapool has always been something of an oddity. Unlike Wickerman and relative new kid on the block, Doune the Rabbit Hole, fostering new Scottish talent has been low on the agenda with greater emphasis on somewhat iffy, fading near-heritage acts. Case in point: this year’s headliners the Fratellis and Scouting for Girls.
And for everyone talented starlet like Rachel Sermanni or indie superstar in waiting, Jake Bugg, there’s a Kassidy on the bill. But hey, it sells out every year, so who are we to argue? One name really caught our eye this year though and that was London’s Public Service Broadcasting.
An oddity whatever festival they play, the band consists of two splendid chaps calling themselves J. Willgoose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth who between them create neat little soundscapes using the sound of the banjo, piano, and waves and waves of samples, specificially those that sound like they’re lifted from WWII public information films. Hence the name Public Service Broadcasting.
An curious mash-up of alt.folk and Boards of Canada their gigs are loaded with appropriate visuals turning the whole thing into a huge slice of performance art. And for those not heading to Loopallu, the good news is that Scottish headline dates follow next month.
We spoke to J. Willgoose, Esq. about what makes the band tick.
So who the hell are you?
We are Public Service Broadcasting. We like elbow patches.
Describe your sound in ten words or less!
Guitar-twanging, electronic-bashing, banjo-plucking oddness. Plus corduroy.
How did you guys start making music together?
We met on the Berlin scene back in ’82 – Wrigglesworth was still very much a leather man back then, but I talked him round to the joys of parallel woven fibres and the rest, as they say, is history. Or was history.
What influenced the latest EP?
I wanted to write something that hung together as one, cohesive set of songs, and WWII offered a meaty enough subject matter to carry that off (hopefully). In terms of more specific influences, Leslie Howard and David Niven, the Imperial War Museum and the good folk at the BFI were the cornerstones of the EP (it only has three corners). I also listened to a bit of dancehall.
Where did you unearth those splendid samples?
Those good folks at the BFI have an enormous archive filled to the brim with suitable (and unsuitable) oddities. I went along and watched several films, did a bit of research, worked out a deal with them and the rest was, er, history (have I used this line already?).
Tell us about the songwriting process.
Generally, I’ll have one, or possibly two ideas (definitely no more than two), record them, put them on an endless, irritating loop and attempt to develop them into something less endless and also less irritating.
Normally I know the subject matter when I start them and have a film in mind, but I don’t write to picture. Then when the songs are in a finished enough state, I call up my good friend Wrigglesworth, who bashes along to them on his drum set, and then I edit them all together. Seamless (unlike corduroy).
Do you know much about Loopallu?
I know it’s Ullapool backwards – I’m observant like that. Other than that I hadn’t heard of the festival but everything I’ve read and heard since discovering it has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m really looking forward to it.
What’s lined up for the tour in October?
Guitars, banjos, projectors, old TV sets, bow ties – the works, basically. Come and see for yourself!
We will! The dates are October 23 (Glasgow Nice ‘n Sleazy), October 24 (Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms) and Ocbober 25 (Aberdeen Lemon Tree) with a wider set of dates on their website