Gazing into the fresh glow of The Cathode Ray with Jeremy Thoms

The Cathode Ray_RingMaster Review

Photo and copyright Peter Tainsh

2015 has provided many treats this year and definitely amongst them was the latest and second album Infinite Variety from Scottish indie band The Cathode Ray. It was an encounter embracing the nostalgia of the eighties through fresh and inventive escapades bred of the now. One of the band’s founders is Jeremy Thoms, he also the man behind the great indie label Stereogram Recordings, and someone who to describe as busy is a big understatement. Nevertheless, Jeremy kindly gave us a chunk of his time to talk about the album, The Cathode Ray itself from top to bottom and more, including an insight to his own musical loves…

Hi Jeremy and many thanks for giving us your time to talk with us.

Ever late to the party, we discovered The Cathode Ray through your new album Infinite Variety which came out a couple of months or so ago to, it is fair to say, swift acclaim. In a music world where it seems increasingly harder to actually get people to part with money or indeed offer full attention to things, did you have any particular expectations or hopes for its unveiling or is it more anything is a bonus for bands right now?

We didn’t have any expectations other than hoping that those who had liked the first album would stay with us for the second. We knew we’d made a good follow up album but, as you say, in an environment when it’s very hard to engage with people, nothing is guaranteed.

Photo by Hugh Womersley

Photo by Hugh Womersley

Originally the band was just you and Paul Haig, famed for Josef-K and his own solo career. The press release for the album suggests this was not originally intended to be a serious band project but a writing collaboration. Was that the case and what brought Paul’s involvement to an end?

Paul definitely just saw it as a writing collaboration – “a bit of fun” was one his quotes – with group recordings just being made to illustrate them. However, the reaction to them was so positive, one thing lead to another and I pushed for it to become a band and take it more seriously, which Paul wasn’t happy with so eventually he left. What confused matters in the press and public eye was that Neil, David and I were his backing band when he did a solo tour in 2008. However the emphasis then was completely on his solo work, and he had no intention of being a member of a band again after Josef K, which in the end we had to respect.

The double ‘A’ sided single What’s It All About? /Mind was released in 2006; I believe this was meant as a one off release?

Not initially but it ended up like that. Certainly with Paul participating. When we made the agreement with Pronoia Records in 2006, the album had been recorded with Paul’s full participation, but by the time we got around to discussing getting it released he had changed his mind. So he asked us to remove his lead vocals, which we did, although some of his guitar and backing vocals do remain on the first album.

At what point did that spark the appetite to push things further; as a full band and with more releases?

The point that changed everything was bumping into Steve Fraser at a TV21 album launch in 2009. I told him what had happened and he was keen to get involved. The minute we started talking music I knew he was the man. We didn’t even bother with an audition. I knew the songs were strong enough to survive without Paul’s involvement. That opened so many doors, being able to play live (which Paul would never have done as The Cathode Ray) and generally move things on after quite a difficult start.

Were some of you all already old friends and maybe previously worked together before uniting for The Cathode Ray we know today?

Neil Baldwin and I have known each other for 34 years (!) and have played in bands together intermittently since 1986. David Mack and I had been working together since 2000 so, yes, there was a certain chemistry. Steve was the “new boy” although we’d all known him on the Edinburgh scene previously.

I have to admit for once, and not intentionally, I read about the band and its background before hearing a note for a review, and to be honest once seeing a list of previous projects for members of The Cathode Ray2_RingMaster Reviewthe band which had been indelible pleasures in my personal soundtrack, subsequently luring a revisit to old favourites records after finishing the review too, there was an increased anticipation and eagerness to explore the band and album. Do you think having your musical histories has helped draw awareness to the band or not?

Well obviously there’s going to be a certain amount of that, but I do believe, hopefully without sounding conceited, that The Cathode Ray is more than the sum of its parts. But initially I guess it did help getting people interested through our various previous involvements.

There were whiffs of all some of your previous bands at times across the songs and often nostalgia blessed air of Infinite Variety, The Bluebells and Scars maybe most notably in our ears. You are a band unafraid to draw on previous adventures and spices to hone new and fresh exploits, as potently shown on the album?

The songs that I write aren’t consciously drawing on any of our past exploits, but I guess where you’ve come from does influence where you’re going. In any case, it’s probably coincidental, as Steve only toured with The Scars as a depping bassist so wasn’t involved in their creative process, while Neil only contributed to arrangements with The Bluebells. But inevitably, as we all come from that post-punk background, some of the sounds and styles of these bands are going to rub off.

How would you say The Cathode Ray has evolved over time and specifically between Infinite Variety and its predecessor, your self-titled debut album?

I would say the vague initial brief of merging post-punk Manchester with New York has simply broadened to the point where I regard ourselves now as a band that isn’t easy to pin down musically. Our original press release mentioned 60’s Garage, Soundtracks and Northern soul, to which one critic added Psychedelia, Glam-Rock, Euro-Disco, Krautrock and 90’s Alternative Pop when reviewing Infinite Variety. So it is definitely evolving. I’m currently demoing material for the next album and there’s even more interesting musical areas I’d like to explore. It’s good to surprise people.

TCR cover_RingMaster ReviewGive us some insight into the thoughts and intentions going into the writing and recording of Infinite Variety? Do you build a release on particular aims or ideas or predominantly let things organically evolve?

Things do tend to evolve organically. If you put too much pre-conceived thought into it, the music loses its spontaneity. Although I suppose one particular aim is not to repeat ourselves. Each album needs to be a significant progression from the previous one, so a certain degree of thought does go into that. Also, apart from melodies and lyrics, I’m always interested in rhythms and try to be as adventurous and varied as possible in that area too.

We described the album as a “kaleidoscope of fun, sound, and adventure”, a fair hint we think at the array of flavours and inventive spices fuelling and shaping the songs within Infinite Variety. In the hands of many bands it might be an incoherent mix, but you manage to seamlessly blend all spices and individual characters of songs perfectly. Where do you and the band start when composing songs?

Well I compose the songs and demo them first with the key riffs, chord progressions, lyrics etc. all in place. At that stage they often do sound fairly disparate. I then present them to the band in the rehearsal room and that’s when it starts to sound like The Cathode Ray. Steve, Neil and Dave all contribute parts and arrangements until we arrive at the finished article. Some songs like The Eyes Are The Window took a long time to come together and changed quite considerably from my original demo. Others end up fairly similar to the original template, but all manage to sound cohesive owing to the fact it’s the four of us playing them, I guess.

The album’s tracks manage to be rich and at times expansive in texture and flavour yet also ‘slim’, i.e. no excess baggage or indulgence. They manage to be an open evolution from your first album but also reveal a bolder leap in aural colour and character; how do you hear their relevance to older propositions as one of their creators?

Well obviously it’s difficult to be completely objective about something you’ve created yourself, but I see their place in relation to the first album as a natural progression. The leap in colour and texture which you describe is simply a way of moving the band forward, without cluttering things up unnecessarily. You use the word ‘slim’ and I suppose that comes in at the production stage – cutting off any excess fat!

How long in the making from first note to paper or thought through to last note laid down was the album?

The boundaries are always blurred as we always tend to have songs left over which were either written too late to make the cut or simply didn’t fit at the time. For example, This Force Of Nature had its origins as a completely different song dating way back to 2006. It had never sounded right so was left on the shelf. I went back to it in 2014 writing new lyrics and melodies and it quickly came together then. Eureka Moment and Buck the Trend were written in 2009 when Steve first joined. But the bulk of I.V. was written and recorded between 2012 and 2014 – around two and half years.

Our review stated spices of bands from around the eighties as rewarding aspects but over time sixties/seventies tones have emerged. I sense your own inspirations and musical loves go far back?

Oh yes – my musical tastes stretch way back! How long have you got? Songwriters have always been key to me. From Lennon & McCartney, Brian Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Jimmy Webb and Bacharach & David, through Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Scott Walker, Al Green, Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Robert Wyatt and Neil Young to Costello, Paddy MacAloon and Rufus Wainwright, the song is always key. Then there’s the bands I love – The Stones, The Velvets, The Doors, Faces, Roxy, Yes, Kraftwerk, Television, Talking Heads, Buzzcocks, Chic, Wire, Magazine, Pretenders, Joy Division, Dexys, Scritti Politti; Cocteaus, Talk Talk, Teenage Fanclub, High Llamas, Flaming Lips… the list goes on.

There is no mistaking that Scottish bands and rock ‘n’ roll of all styles and design bred there, has something unique to it, and we could go on a long list of examples. Can you define what it is in ‘the

Photo by Jez Curnow

Photo by Jez Curnow

water’ which helps breed such distinctive and so often inspirational bands from that part of the UK, as ones yourselves?

I think there’s an open-mindedness up here. Maybe Scottish bands tend to draw from a wider pool of influences than other parts of the UK. Or maybe it’s to do with being distanced from what’s happening down south – even in the age of the internet. It’s certainly true that scenes of their own do seem to crop up here around labels like Postcard, Fast, 53rd & 3rd, Creeping Bent and, possibly, our label Stereogram too, which has attracted similar kindred literate spirits. Either that or we all seem to be obsessed with the Velvet Underground!

What comes next for The Cathode Ray?

Firstly, we’ve got two more live shows coming up this year as part of The Stereogram Revue in Edinburgh and Glasgow, plus a new track called It Takes One To Know One on a compilation album. Then there’s a new video shot earlier this year at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh by Jez Curnow to go with Saving Grace, our other featured track on the comp. After that we’ll be knuckling down to working on the follow up to Infinite Variety. I’ve got five or six new songs written and demoed, plus a couple of leftovers, so we’ll be getting on with them. Expect some new directions.

Your releases come out on Stereogram Recordings, your own label which seems to have out grown and blossomed far more than its original intent I believe. Can you tell us a little about it and what is ahead for the label too?

It has indeed outgrown its original intent which was simply to facilitate a release for the first Cathode Ray album, plus any other projects (The Fabulous Artisans) or archive material I had kicking about. But over the last couple of years it has been growing steadily with first Roy Moller signing up, followed by James King & The Lonewolves, Milton Star, St. Christopher Medal, Lola in Slacks and, Band Of Holy Joy. The critical and public response has been great which is hugely encouraging. As previously mentioned, we’re rounding off the year with two Revue shows which will feature the entire roster in some form or other (minus Milton Star who don’t have a live set up at present). These gigs will be accompanied by The Sound of Stereogram, a budget compilation in the spirit of New Wave in ‘77 or Pillows and Prayers in ’82, featuring both new and old tracks from all eight acts on the label. Next year promises some new signings plus new material from the existing acts.

My big thanks to you again for chatting with us; have you anything you would like to add?

Nothing to add except thanks very much for your support over the last year.

Lastly and looking at band’s influences on your Facebook profile, a list of bands littering my own record collection I have to say, can you indulge me and give us a few of the bands/records which inspired you to get into music and then as a musician push yourself further?

Well I’ve already mentioned a whole bunch of artists who’ve inspired me, so here’s some records that have been key: “With The Beatles”; “Motown Chartbusters Vol.3”; “Pet Sounds”; “Piper at The Gates of Dawn”; “Forever Changes”; “Loaded”; “Scott 4”; “What’s Going On”; “Exile On Main Street”; “Never A Dull Moment”; “Close To The Edge”; “Aladdin Sane”; ”Houses Of The Holy”; “Quadrophenia”; “Rock Bottom”; “Country Life”; “Zuma”; “Songs In The Key Of Life”; “Trans Europe Express”; “Marquee Moon”; “My Aim Is True”; “Never Mind The Bollocks”; “Risque”; “All Mod Cons”; “Love Bites”; “Fear Of Music”; “Closer”; “The Correct Use Of Soap”; “You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever”; “Rattlesnakes”; “Steve McQueen”; “Don’t Stand Me Down”. Again the list goes on…

Read our review of Infinite Variety @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/the-cathode-ray-infinite-variety/

https://www.facebook.com/thecathoderay   http://www.stereogramrecordings.co.uk

Pete Ringmaster

The RingMaster Review 23/11/2015

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Geva Alon: In The Morning Light

Bringing a freshness and passion to the folk rock genre, In The Morning Light from Israeli singer songwriter Geva Alon is a thoroughly engaging and striking album. With a confident and imaginative grip it takes the listener through warm and near sultry climes with songs which inspire and are borne from the heart of the individual and life itself. The album is gentle, a flood of melodic caresses, and most of all a lake of enveloping emotion to comfortably immerse within.

From his days with his indie rock band The Flying Baby and playing with Shay Noblemen, Alon has grown through his solo work into a major presence in the music and ears of his homeland. Through his debut album Days of Hunger of 2006 and subsequent releases The Wall of Sound the following year and Get Closer of 2009, he has garnered a persistently and eager acclaim and following. His shows has found him playing alongside the likes of Paul Weller and Yo La Tango whilst tours has brought him an ever increasing enthused following through Israel, Spain and the UK.

Released through 2B Vibes Music/ADA Global July 16th, In The Morning Light finds Alon unveiling a rich and lush melodic beauty within his songs which simply and easily captivates. Personal preference dictates that some of the songs may not ignite passions as much as others but all deserve and get an embrace of attention and willingness to give their persuasion a chance. Produced by Thom Monahan (The Jayhawks, Silver Jews, Dinosaur Jr.), the album is a vibrant weave of light and at times shadows brought with a perpetual warmth and open heart.

The recent excellent single The Great Enlightenment opens up the album and still stands as one of the best songs to wrap itself around the ear this year. From its instantly striking atmosphere woven by stirringly emotive guitars and attentive rhythms, the track spreads its keen arms through the hypnotic vocals of Alon and a delicious melancholic bass moodily permeating the air. The song with their presence finds a dramatic edge to its lively ambience to leave an almost unsettling and quirky yet fully irresistible lingering glamour after its departure.

The album finds alongside Alon the prowess and ability of guitarist Daniel Hyndman from folk band Vetiver, Rufus Wainwright bassist Jeff Hill, and drummer Otto Hauser, and others. From the opener right through to the final song there is a unity which offers the suggestion they have been playing alongside each other for years, which is not the case but does show the strength and ability of the songwriting and all involved to find that consistent and natural understanding.

The variety across In The Morning Light is another pleasing aspect, the release from the indie rock start moving into the Americana tinted I See The Love and its successor the blues veined Carolina. The first song is a rounded earnest piece which with its Southern melodic twinges and dusty heated sun brings a different kind of but equally mesmeric pull for the emotions whilst the second simply induces a compulsion to delve into its walls born from the reflective lyrics and slightly plaintive sounds.

As mentioned consistency of the highest level spines the album but alongside the single the songs of I Wonder If She’s Fine, Come Here Anytime and She Calls My Name, steal the show. The first pair of songs has similarity in sound and essence without actually being alike. The best way to describe them is a sultry mix of The Walker Brothers and The Smiths, both carrying a sixties energy and innocence veined by inspirational barbed melodies and inspirational emotive class. Alongside the voice of Alon the guitars light up the ear in both, their scorched touch and welcome nothing less than infectious.

She Calls My Name is an outstanding disturbed pop song releasing shadows and heartbreak with a persistent hook which makes the term melodic addition feel weak. It reminds of eighties band The Mighty Lemon Drops and leaves one simply grinning with pleasure.

Geva Alon with the single The Great Enlightenment suggested his new album would be something worth investigating, In The Morning Light in fact goes beyond deserving a mere look to emerge as a must for all melodic passionate indie rock fans.

RingMaster 08/07/2012

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Geva Alon : The Great Enlightenment

With his fourth album due for release in July Israeli singer songwriter Geva Alon could not have given a better teaser and enticement to the forthcoming release than with his new single The Great Enlightenment. A senses caressing yet emotionally haunting song it sets up a definite anticipation and enthused interest for new album In The Morning Light due July 16th.

From playing with his indie rock band The Flying Baby for many years and Shay Noblemen, Alon has over the past few years become a major name in his homeland from his solo work and live shows which have seen him play alongside the likes of Paul Weller and Yo La Tengo and more recently wider afield acclaim with a Spanish and Israeli tour alongside Depedro, the new project from Calexico collaborator Jairo Zavala. His debut solo album of 2006 Days of Hunger brought his country-flavoured acoustic guitar inspired sounds to notice, the following releases The Wall of Sound in 2007 and Get Closer of 2009 which was produced by Thom Monahan (The Jayhawks, Silver Jews, Dinosaur Jr.) as are the new single and album, strengthening his ever growing recognition and acclaim. From the evidence of the new single his new album will only accelerate things again in and outside Israel as will a series of live shows in the UK this month.

The Great Enlightenment emerges upon the ear with an instant striking atmosphere brought by the emotive guitars and attentive rhythms. With a lovely melancholic bass moodily permeating the song there is an immediate sense of drama to the dreamy ambience. As the excellent tones of Alon expand the song brings a dawning of realisation within the warm lingering yet slightly unsettled air. The song is outstanding and draws thoughts and feelings which could quite easily have been inspired by a Twin Peaks episode. Alon vocally has been compared to the likes of Neil Young and Nick Drake and it is probably the most accurate description though his voice has a class and uniqueness all of its own which sets him apart.

The guitar prowess of Alon and fellow guitarist Daniel Hindman from folk band Vetiver is ear catching, both aided and complimented by the fine talent of Rufus Wainwright bassist Jeff Hill and drummer Otto Hauser, the quartet coming together to create a mesmeric song which inspires and enchants equally.

If you had any second thoughts or uncertainty about investigating In The Morning Light upon its unveiling just listen to The Great Enlightenment, it has all the reasons and persuasion you need.

Ringmaster 18/06/2012

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