(Is The) Haunted Mirror
German Shepherd Records
11th March 2016
The Scissors (UK), so as to distinguish them from other bands with the same name, are based in Cambridge (UK), again so as to distinguish said place from other towns of the same name, release their second full length studio album, on March 11th, via German Shepherd Records, in digital and limited edition CD formats.
Describing themselves as “Swirling keyboard-fuelled psych-pop with horror-show freak-beat guitars and new wave post-punk bass-lines” the band previously caught my attention with their début release “Daylight Cinema” first released in 2010. Since then they have also released the “Afternoons” EP in 2011, a live album “Be Seeing You” in 2012, and a remastered version of the first album in 2013. All of those releases are available via their website.
Stewart Harris plays bass and sings; Toby Lefever plays guitar; Simon Powell plays keyboards, theremin, and other home-made electronica; and Huw Wallace plays drums.
The band was formed when Toby and Stewart met at art school (Anglia Ruskin) way back, and put the band together in 2006, initially as a three piece. Simon joined on keys in 2007, and Huw is the newbie on drums, having only been with the band six years. Stewart writes the lyrics, bringing some songs fully formed for the band to arrange; other songs emerge from band jams.
The eleven track set grabs the attention from the get go with a thumping bass and drum combination, surging Hammond and searing guitars and excellent call and response vocals. “Come With Me” is a great opener, followed by the exceedingly catchy “No go the lowdown” which echoes classic british pop-rock with a tinge of urban blues and a smattering of soul in the vocals, and a killer hook. This band is all about textures and layers and the visceral guitar tones of “Don’t Hate Just Because I’m Yours” introduce another memorable melody, which promises to be a real crowd pleaser with it’s more-ish chorus. The band keep the songs short and to the point, perfect little nuggets of modern music. After the up tempo start matters slow down for the more restrained “All The Things” which is notable for Simon Powell’s sonic explorations and busy drums from Wallace. The punky motorik “I’m Not The Real Me” perhaps sums up the unique qualities of the band, conjuring a maelstrom of different sounds into a melange of psychedelic pop. The album title track is a tight little tune with a ska feel, great organ sounds, and tasty pop elements and a tidy guitar solo. “Phones Calls from the Dead” has another killer guitar hook, pumping bass and great changes echoing Zappa at his most playful. Gritty picked guitar opens the blues drenched “Why Don’t You Cry” which comes across like the mutant offspring of “House of the Rising Sun”, nice soloing from Lefever, combined with some great feedback control make this the stand out track for the guitarist. “Sjhake” – I should have asked them what the added “J” was for, but I forgot, is a tasty portion of blue-eyed soul-rock.”Come With Me” reprises in a jam-like free improv way before morphing back into the main song. The album closes with ambient sounds and the measured “Attack Of The Phantom Teardrops” which takes a deep emotional breath after a such a busy and impressive selection.
A highly recommended second album release from a great band.
I took the opportunity to do one of my virtual interviews and asked the band my usual set of questions…..
Are any members of the band in other current bands, or have played in other
Toby and Stewart were in short-lived Cambridge ‘classic rock’ style group The Knights of Spring; Simon is a veteran of the Cambridge scene having been in Slinky, Blind Velma and Darts Club, mainly playing organ. Huw has played with Pretentious, Moi? and Introspectators. Stewart currently also plays with indie-rockers The Seven Twenty, and with folk-popsters Jacqui and Geoff.
A six year gap between “Daylight Cinema” and this new one – why so long?
In the gap between the full-length albums we made an EP/mini album (‘Afternoons’, still available via Bandcamp), a live album recorded during a mini-tour of Eastern England, and some compilation-only tracks; but we were also busy doing lots of gigs and small festival dates. We love playing live!
Main musical influences for each of the band members, and the band
Toby’s influences are mainly pop/rock music circa 1966/1967, everything from sunshine pop through to obscure garage-psych gems; and the psychier end of British mod and R’n’B groups from that period.
Simon says of his influences, ‘Clint Boon first got me into the organ, bands like Broadcast got me into messing about with electronic noises, and Roger Ruskin Spear got me into using unconventional homemade instruments on stage.’
Huw’s influences are ‘Everything!’
Stewart also loves mid to late 60s garage punk, and everything that links that to early 80s new-wave/post punk. Also anything with a sense of the theatrical.
Collectively, there’s probably an absurdist sense of humour that helps connect all those influences together. And the ‘outsider’ ethic of heroes like Joe Meek and Jesse Hector, that’s part of our collective mentality too.
The Hammond organ is a key part of the band’s sound – an instrument not current perhaps – and it certainly adds both a familiar and at the same time “new” sound to the overall mix. Is there a particular reason for using that specific instrument?
Simon says, ‘The Hammond organ is so expressive – you can do anything from choppy ska rhythms (which we have in some of our earlier songs), right up to massive walls of swirly growly noise. I’m not a purist – I like to put it through flangers and filters any other effects I can get my hands on, so it doesn’t always end up sounding like an organ. I control the Hammond and the other synth noises with my feet, and a lot of the electronic noises are played by waving my hands around a homemade theremin.’
As a follow up to the above – the overt use of electronica on “All These Things” for example is interesting? Have you a view on melding varying genres together like that?
We love melding and welding wherever possible. Coming at something from the wrong angle or a different viewpoint often gets you more interesting results. Like Toby’s talent for finding exactly the right ‘wrong’ note to play.
You are able to merge contemporary rock sounds with a punk edge….?
Hopefully, yes. Old or new, but played with exuberance. We put all sorts through the mangler.
What are “horror show freak beat” guitars?
Toby says ‘I want to sound like Mark Loomis from the Chocolate Watch Band or Jeff Beck when he was in the Yardbirds. So “horror show freak beat guitars” is me trying to sound like those two.’
Where was the album recorded and by who?
It was recorded at The Scissors’ secret Batcave, all by ourselves. It’s the Joe Meek influence at work again!
Current listening for each band member?
Toby: The World of Twist
Huw: Van der Graaf Generator, P-Funk All Stars, The Verve and Fleetwood Mac
Simon: Zydeco music (which is even more fun to dance to than The Scissors!), The
Trembling Blue Stars, The Organ, The Demon Barbers
Stewart: 70s Italian horror movie soundtracks, Slaves, Deerhunter, Roots Manuva,
The band launch the album at the Boathouse in Cambridge on 12th March.