July 1 2012: IT’S T DAY

The Sunday Herald, July 1 2012

Rachel Loxton, Catriona Stewart, Ken McNab, Stewart Paterson and Stewart Atwood

In just six days, the sundayheraldband will make its public debut on the T Break stage at T in the Park.

screenshot-t-dayFive months ago our band members had never played their instruments, yet they’re about to face the crowd at Scotland’s largest music event.

It’s not been an easy ride. They’ve had to balance work commitments and different shift patterns to learn their individual instruments and attend band rehearsals.

Sometimes it looked as if the idea was as crazy as it appeared to be when we first launched the project. They’re still not perfect … but there are still six days to whip the three-song set into shape. There is light at the end of a very, very dark tunnel.

The fact that our band is able to perform the songs at all is not just down to the commitment of the five members … each one of them has had a lot of help.

We’ve had advice and encouragement from mentors Clare Grogan, former Delgados guitarist Emma Pollock, Teenage Fanclub bassist Gerard Love, former Blue Nile keyboard player PJ Moore and Sons And Daughters drummer David Gow.

We’ve been able to use space at the Glasgow Music Studios in Osborne Street and call on the services of the Wellhouse Community Trust in Easterhouse, which is backed by Unesco City of Music. And major thanks are due to the band mentor, Andrew Panton, artistic director of musical theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.

The results of all their hard work are about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Here we catch up on the progress to date and look in more detail at some of those who have helped us get where we are today. Ready to rock.

RACHEL LOXTON BASS GUITAR ALL my memories of T in the Park (all nine of them) seem to have merged into one big amazing mess.

During the first visit I got separated from my friends and missed everything except Oasis. And it would be hard to top seeing Brian Wilson sing Beach Boys classics in a tent in 2007. I’m not trying to put the sundayheraldband into the same category as those geniuses, but it’s nothing short of a miracle that we will all be playing musical instruments – ones that we could not play at all just six months ago – on a stage at this year’s festival.

This past week has definitely been the hardest for me. It’s not the rehearsing that’s been the struggle … it’s got to the point where I want to be playing bass all the time and things like, you know, socialising or cleaning have become sidelined.

Months ago I was rubbish. And it’s now addictive being able to produce a fairly decent sound with four other people. We can all play through three full songs.

Granted, that’s where it ends. If you asked me to perform a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I’d not have a clue where to start. Still, we’ve got a lot of tweaking to do.

Andrew Panton is definitely keeping us on our toes. He keeps telling us to be positive, which we’re trying to translate to our tunes. But we’ve found our own word to get us through the performance: attitude. It works for our (tiny) set list, especially Seven Nation Army, which, by the way, is sounding immense with the addition of an electric guitar and some well placed reverb.

I did not have the correct attitude earlier this week during our photo shoot when my first diva strop took place. I’m not proud. But I do have newfound respect for real stars who lose the plot. Sometimes things get on top of you and if you’re a perfectionist it’s hard to make everything perfect. Of course, it’s not possible to make everything perfect. But my mentor, Teenage Fanclub bassist Gerry Love, and Ruairidh MacDougall from

Easterhouse organisation the Wellhouse Community Trust have been helping to whip me into shape.

Ruairidh, a bass tutor there for the past five years, has been kindly pointing out the bad habits I’ve already picked up in my short time playing.

Apparently I’ve been holding the thing all wrong. But we’re almost there and we’ve just a week to go. The chance to take part in the band project couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I needed a focus and a challenge and there’s no doubt I got that. The best thing has been spending time with the other members, bonding over mistakes, triumphs and guitar tabs. With the amount of effort we’re putting in I won’t know what to do when this finishes … shall we keep the band going and try learn a fourth song, guys?

STEWART ATTWOOD DRUMS INTO the final straight, with only six days to go until we appear on the T-Break stage at T in the Park. Am I nervous … actually, not yet.

Looking back on the past 16 weeks, there have been ups and downs (more ups!) and if I think about my first drum lesson I would never have believed I would get to this stage.

My first outing started at a rehearsal studio with my mate Chris, drummer in a band called The Rock Gods, where I overcame an initial fear of sitting behind a drum kit. Within two hours I was playing the drums and keeping a basic rhythm.

Rhythm Base of Glasgow kindly provided me with an electronic kit which has allowed me to practise at home and Dave Gow (Sons And Daughters) has given me some sound advice. All this has been invaluable. At our first band meeting we made little progress.

By the second session, we managed to play one of our chosen songs. As time went on, we could hear the improvement. Andrew Panton, our performance tutor, has given us belief in ourselves. I’m looking forward to T in the Park without the usual work tools – the cameras – but with a set of well-used drum sticks.

I hope that we surprise a few people and if nothing else entertain. It has been a blast. I’ve got new friends and more importantly a great set of bandmates. For those about to rock, we salute you!

CATRIONA STEWART KEYBOARDS AS the other band members become increasingly excited about T in the Park I seem to have slouched into an uncharacteristic bout of negativity. I reckon this is what the final month of pregnancy is like: it’s been interesting but I just want it over and done with.

On Friday morning I had my second keyboard lesson, this time with Michael Bannister, the keyboardist with Texas, at his studio Rocket Science, and it was a revelation. I had worked out the chords and the order of the chords myself in the most basic way possible. I don’t know my way around a keyboard at all.

I can take a vague stab at Middle C and from there I need to run through the alphabet in my head to find the next note.

Everything I’d been doing was, if not wrong, then laborious. He gets me doing some fairly solid work with my right hand before introducing a left hand note and then suggests I use one of the peddles.

It’s a bridge too far – it’s like I’ve only ever gone on a pushbike and he’s offering me a Ferrari to drive. No way. But the rest of the stuff was a magical revelation. Shame it was a revelation exactly one week before I drive to Balado.

Now I have seven days to unlearn all my bad habits, relearn the new finger shapes and the new keys and learn the extra-fancy bits Michael has added into my parts.

I’m trying to think of words suitable for a family newspaper to describe my reaction to that. I can’t. I had faint ideas that during this process I would learn to play the keyboard like a proper keyboard player. I haven’t. I’ve learned how to play the chords to two songs, only those chords and only in one specific order, and to shoogle a tambourine.

So, if this is what the final month of pregnancy is like then the big question remains: what will we spawn?

STEWART PATERSON GUITAR ONLY six more sleeps to go until T in the Park, can you tell I’m excited? I am also nervous and worried we are not ready, but if we are not ready now we will never be.

All sorts of thoughts are going through my head. Will I remember the songs? Do they sound any good? Who knows? But what I do know is not long ago I could not play a single recognisable note on a guitar, or any other instrument for that matter.

In the space of 14 weeks, with the help of several people, I am capable of playing three different songs from start to finish and in time with a band.

In our first session I struggled to hit the same chord four times in a row in a simple strumming pattern, never taking my eyes from the guitar neck for a second. But with practice some things started to come more naturally and while some chords are still tricky, it feels better each time.

I have been lucky enough to have been given insightful advice from mentor Emma Pollock, and Andrew Panton from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Emma told me to keep it simple and achievable and enjoyable, a test I applied to everything, and to learn the chords first and worry about the songs later. It was sound advice for a project that could have been disastrous if allowed to get over complicated.

The most help, however, came from guitar teacher Maria Leahy. On every visit I would go back with a new problem. “My hands hurt”, “I can’t change from C to D”, “My fingers are too short”, “What’s a Barre chord?” were just a small selection of my anxieties and whines.

But after each lesson I left far more optimistic than when I’d arrived and with a sense that I had moved forward.

When Maria said I was about ready to play the songs live, I was sceptical, until she asked me to play at an open mic night last week. Off I went, on my own, to Brechin’s Bar in Govan, and played through our set list with Maria on vocals.

Only a few mistakes, and afterwards my hands were visibly shaking. Goodness knows what it will be like at T in the Park. Are we nearly there yet?

KEN McNAB VOCALS OVER my dead body was my singular response when Sunday Herald editor Richard Walker unleashed his latest cockamamie wheeze.

Laugh out loud, I think, was the appendix to the email, a rare linguistic attempt to get down t t with the kids. Four or five months down the line and here I am just six days away from playing T in the Park. And that’s the real laugh out loud moment.

It’s a time for sweaty palms, broken sleep, nagging doubts and the constant throb of Seven Nation Army pulsing through my waking dreams, a mixture of fear and loathing tinged with arrogant self-belief and chummy bravado.

I could never have predicted, however, just how difficult a journey this would be. The songs all sound perfect in my head. Move like Jagger and sing like Lennon was my outlandish boast. But try doing it properly, with four other guys all striving to reach the same place as you, and you quickly lose all delusions of grandeur.

I quickly discovered how much I hated the sound of my own voice. It sounded as if it had been left soaking all night in a glass of whisky. Every line sounded like a nail being dragged slowly down a blackboard. It truly was that bad. Entering the picture at this point was Andrew Panton of La Conservatoire. At our first rehearsal, Andrew pointedly asked me what Johnny B Good was all about. I groped in the dark for the right words.

And then he said it’s not just a song … you have to deliver a performance. And it isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The enormity of it all is now washing over me. The rest of the guys have been superb and we’ve had fantastic fun. The last thing I want to do is let anyone down. But I’m determined that won’t happen. Over my dead body, you might say.

 

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