Going Underground @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, Wednesday 11th February 2015

Feldspar have announced their next London show at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen on Wednesday 11th February. The show is part of MAMA Presents Going Underground and tickets are available here.

In case you missed it here’s a video of Feldspar last time they headlined Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen…

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Feldspar Christmas Facts

Will

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Whilst for most countries and cultures, Christmas is a time of over-eating and over-indulgence, in Iceland they have a very different tradition. To mark Christmas Eve each year, Icelandic families gather together and eat a meal of rotten skate and potatoes to remind them of their shared culture of frosty hardship and belt-tightening buffeted by the Arctic winds. Unfortunately, the practice is dying out: apartment buildings ban the practice and restaurants won’t serve it because the skate is properly putrid and leaves a lingering stench that is almost impossible to budge. Said one Icelander, “If you cook it in a house, then you will have to paint the house afterwards. Or move to another house.”

Ben

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‘Five Gold Rings’ Are Birds, Not Rings

In perennial seasonal favourite “The 12 Days of Christmas”, wedged between 4 Colly Birds and 6 Geese a-laying you get ‘Five Gold Rings’. Apparently ‘Gold Rings’ most likely refers to ‘Ring Necked Pheasants’ which would mean that the first 7 days brought nothing but bird gifts and the total number of birds acquired over the first 7 days is 84 (as the true love continues to bring duplicate birds on each subsequent day) – by the twelfth day, the true love will have brought 504 birds to thee AND THAT’S MY FACT.

Woody

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While most Christmas celebrations around the world involve gifts brought by a (supernatural) third party, and often a chastisement for naughty children, the details vary considerably between traditions…

We’re all familiar with the Father Christmas/Santa coming from the North Poole (or occasionally Lapland) in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, bringing gifts for good children and coal for naughty children on Christmas Eve.

In Spain, gifts are delivered by Los Reyes Magos (the three kings) on the eve of twelfth night (Epiphany Eve), January 5th. Coming from all corners of the earth, Caspar (Europe), Melchior (Asia) and Balthazar (Africa) arrive on camels, having received letters from children asking for presents.

In Holland, SinterKlaas comes from Spain on a steamship crewed by ZwartPieten (Black Peters – slightly questionable servants in blackface, representing, perhaps, Moorish Spain) to put sweets in the shoes of good children on December 6th. Zwartpiet brings a swatch of birch twigs to beat the bad children, and those who are really naughty get bundled into ZwartPiet’s sack and taken back to Spain.

In German traditions Sanky Nikolaus brings gifts and sweets on Saint Nichlas Day – 6th December. He is usually accompanied by his servant, Rupert, who asks children to say their prayers and beats them with a bag of ashes if they can’t, but in Austro-Bavarian regions he is accompanied the Krampus – a terrifying devil-figure  who will beat naughty children with twigs, or kidnap them and drag them off into the forest. The night of the fifth of December is known as Krampusnacht, and locals dress up as the Krampus, drink too much schnapps, and parade through the town frightening children.

In Sweden, an important part of the Christmas season is St Lucy’s Day, December 13th, when a child dons a crown of candles and leads a procession of carolling. On Christmas Eve, herring and gravlax are eaten, presents are exchanged, and then nearly everyone in the nation sits down to watch a Donald Duck film from 1959: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtdxcJzXfKE

James

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It’s widely believed that today’s Santa wears a red suit because that’s the colour associated with Coca Cola, but this isn’t the case. Before the Coca Cola Santa was even created, St Nick had appeared in numerous illustrations and written descriptions wearing a scarlet coat.

 

 

 

Jonny

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Most of Santa’s reindeer have male-sounding names, such as Blitzen, Comet, and Cupid. However, male reindeers shed their antlers around Christmas, so the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are likely not male, but female or castrati.

Merry Christmas!

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Feldspar’s Favourite Christmas Films

Will – Home Alone

On paper, it’s got all the makings of a movie you should hate. A mawkish slice of Christmas Americana where we’re expected to root for a bratty kid abandoned by his repellently wealthy and oafish family. But there’s so much to love – Carol of the Bells, the fag-smoking Jewish Santa, John Candy and his polka band. Not to mention the famous home-invasion scene that must have led literally millions of children to booby-trap their homes in the 90s. My heart is genuinely warmed by watching it, despite all of my cynicism. And I never, ever fail to laugh at Joe Pesci slap-sticking his way up and now the frozen steps. Christmas gold.

Ben – Life Of Brian

There are far too many hilarious moments to pick from. But I just remembered the brilliant scene with the Roman graffiti and it’s moments like these that I think sum up Monty Python and British flippant humour in general. And also because Jonny drums has a Roman nose.

Woody – Dinner For One

I don’t really watch films, but I’ll go for Dinner For One. This short film from 1963 is virtually unknown in the UK, but is a festive classic in Germany, where it is watched as part of New Year’s Eve celebrations. It is, however old-school, a masterpiece of physical comedy tinged with tragedy, both very funny and very poignant, and rather festive.

 

James – Trading Places

Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy are the perfect pairing in this memorable comedy, I haven’t seen it in ages but writing this has made me want to see it again asap!

Jonny – Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

Wore the VHS out as a kid. Great cast with an evil John Lithgow, and Dudley Moore’s finest performance.

 

Five Weird Christmas Traditions

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Celebrating Christmas is one of the oldest traditions we have. To be sure, the notion that we are celebrating the birth of sweet baby Jesu is a relatively new addition to the party, but we’ve been having a big midwinter piss-up for thousands of years.

The tacking on of a Christian meaning to a pagan holiday has both preserved it – which is a good thing as we all need cheering up around this time of year – and has also given the whole thing an air of flexibility. 25th December, after all, wasn’t the birthday of Christ, so once you’re off to such a shaky start, pretty much any thing goes.

Unsurprisingly then, around the world a lot of cultures go very much their own way when it comes to Christmas traditions. Here are five of my favourites.

5) Finland – Christmas Eve Sauna Party

Midwinter in Finland must be particularly bleak. With almost no daylight and bitterly cold temperatures, it’s no surprise that most Finnish families have their own sauna as a place to thaw out. What’s perhaps more surprising is that Finns believe each sauna is inhabited by a sauna elf who guards the house and ensures good behaviour. It’s a tradition on Christmas Eve for the whole family to have a sauna, then vacate it at sunset to allow the spirits of dead relatives to come in and have a steam. Which I would find unsettling on Boxing Day.

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4) Japan – Kentucky Fried Christmas

Whilst there are a lot of odd national seasonal quirks, most have their roots in themes of love, family, and togetherness. In Japan though, it’s all about fried chicken. Christmas isn’t an official holiday in Japan, but 40 or so years ago some genius at KFC decided to make the Christian tradition synonymous with Colonel Sanders and his family buckets of filth. The ‘traditional Christmas party barrels’ cost around £25 for a family pack and include fried chicken, a salad, and chocolate cake. Customers are advised to book as much as two months in advance to avoid disappointment. Delicious. 

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3) Wales – Mari Lwyd

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What says ‘Merry Christmas, and good luck for the coming year!’ more than turning up at someone’s house with a skull on a stick and pretending you’re a horse? Nothing at all. At least not if you’re from Glamorgan. The wassail tradition  – going house to house, singing carols, spreading good cheer, and being rewarded with food and booze – is a fine one and versions of it exist in many cultures. Quite why the Welsh have decided that the whole performance would be improved by the addition of this ghoulish vision of a dead Morris-dancing mare is, sadly, lost in the mists of time. Perhaps it should have stayed there.

2) Sweden – Goat Burning

I love this story so much. So there’s this town in Sweden called Gavle and way back in 1966 they built a massive goat out of hay to celebrate Christmas. It’s a traditional Yule Goat. Don’t even ask. That’s not the good bit. The goat was supposed to stay up throughout the Christmas period, but on New Year’s Eve the goat was burned down. Ever since then, the town has been building a Yule Goat out of hay every year and dedicated vandals have been burning it down. To be clear, the town doesn’t want to burn down the goat. It just happens every time. In 1996, the town introduced CCTV to monitor the goat – the cameras got covered in snow and someone burnt the goat. In 2004, the Gavle Goat’s official website (just let that roll around your head for a couple of minutes) was hacked and the words ‘Brinn Bockjävel’ were added to the live stream of the goat. ‘Brinn Bockjävel’ means ‘Burn, fucking goat’. The mind boggles.

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1) Catalonia – O Holy Shite

Forget the holly and the ivy. Forget choirs of angels singing. Forget the tinsel and forget the crackers. We’re going to Catalonia for Christmas, and that means one thing only – a man having an al fresco dump. The caganer (literally, ‘the shitter’) is a traditional part of every Catalonian nativity scene. As essential as three wise men, some lowing cattle, and an infant wrapped in swaddling cloth is this peasant having a poo. The best bit is, no one has any clear idea of where this tradition originated or what it was supposed to convey. For all the explanations that it expresses ‘the equality of all people before God’ or that it stands for ‘fertilising the earth’, we are basically left with the conclusion that Catalonians put a bloke having a crap in the nativity because they think it’s really, really funny. And who is to say they’re wrong? Certainly not I.images

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There’s another scatalogical Christmas tradition in the same region involving an intriguing character called Tió de Nadal, or ‘The Shitting Log’. Basically, they take a log, give it legs and a big smiling face, then put it in the fire and attempt, literally, to beat the shit out of it with sticks. They sing songs whilst they do this ordering the log to shit but ‘don’t shit herrings, they are too salty; shit nougat – that’s much better’. Food for thought.

Merry Christmas!

x

Hang Your Head

Hello and Happy December!

We have SO MUCH NEWS.

First, massive thanks to everyone who bought, listened to, and shared Beautiful People, and to everyone who came to see us on the South Tour. We had an unbelievable time and, to be honest, can’t believe we’re onto the next one so soon.

But onto the next one we are! The final single in the set of four is out now: Hang Your Head was premièred by Clash Music on Friday and they called it “complex and engrossing”, though they may also have been talking about Woody’s beard. After heartache, lust, and existential angst, we’ve gone a bit political with this song, and we talk about more about the politics of protest songs in an article Will wrote for Female First. Give it a read!

We launched the single at the marvellous KPH in Ladbroke Grove, at a Christmas Party which along with general good cheer, also boasting the utterly brilliant El Born, who some of you will have seen us play with before, and Nathan Ball, an ace singer-songwriter from Cornwall.

And after that, it was off on tour for the last time this year! We really saved the most driving for the last trip heading to South Devon Arts Centre in Totnes, then coming back up to Stroud on Saturday, before wending our weary but elated way back to Exeter for the final date in the Compass Tour.

It was a sad show in many ways – this Autumn has been incredible for so many reasons! But there’s lots and lots to look forward to in the new year that we can’t wait to share with you.

Feldspar
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Will’s Worst 5 Christmas songs

5) Band Aid 30 – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Yes, I know the most recent (and, surely last?) outing of the Band Aid franchise has already had a kicking. But it’s Christmas, and there’s always more to go around!

It’s proper bad, isn’t it? I mean, leaving aside the argument that it’s patronising, hackneyed, and actually does more harm than good, the biggest problem for me is it’s so fucking dreary. For its myriad faults, at least the original had some enthusiasm, some gusto, the sense that this raggle-taggle band of 80s popsters could actually do some good in the world. And to give Band Aid 20 a modicum of credit, it did try and update the format a little with some new-fangled ‘rapping’ from Dizzee Rascal.

But this version is so drab and depressing, a smug marketing exercise for artists that think it will help their career in some intangible way. Well, it won’t. Just look at the sadness in Bono’s eyes. His famous line used to be a high point of the song: provocative and heartfelt, it was the closest the song ever got to humility. But its replacement – “Tonight we’re reaching out and touching you” – is awful, betraying the embarrassing, creepy paternalism that is the real heart of the song.

Go and donate money to the Ebola Crisis Fund. Don’t listen to the track.

   

4) Carol of the Bells – Mykola Leontovych

To be clear, I’ve got absolutely nothing against this wonderful piece of music in general. But as a Christmas song? To my mind, it fails to meet the ‘festive spirit’ part of the brief, instead going a slightly different direction towards ‘absolutely horrifying’.

I like to imagine it came about when a lyricist got a commission to write a lovely Christmas carol – “Hark! How the bells all seem to say, ‘Throw cares away’!” – but the composer was accidentally tasked with scoring the bloody chase scene for a horror movie. “Minor key, creepy Ukranian folk tune, piercing treble melody, stabbing counter-harmony! I’m onto a winner here! Wait… what?”

For people of a certain age, the song also inspires the residual feeling that you should be running back to your abandoned home to set up traps in order to ward off Joe Pesci and the other one whilst your Mom drives home with Uncle Buck and his polka band (I didn’t pay much attention to movies as a child). But I think the song is scary however you hear it. I can’t listen without ending up singing, “Christmas is here, bringing good cheer, run for your life, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!!!”

   

3) Paul McCartney –Wonderful Christmas Time

This is the song that typifies everything that was mediocre, wet, and grasping about post-Beatles McCartney. Whilst Lennon sang ‘War is Over’ and played with the juxtaposition between festive goodwill and the fact that for the rest of the year we bomb the shit out of each other, Paul took the slightly less challenging route of bibbling cliché after God-awful cliché  over a horrible synth organ.

Full disclosure, I actually wrote the first paragraph without even listening to the song. Imagine my horror when I clicked the YouTube link to find it’s almost four minutes long. FOUR MINUTES! Oh, it’s so shit. “The word is out / About the town / To lift a glass / And don’t look down.” Meaningless drivel. And the ‘Ding Dong Ding Dong Ding Dong’ bit –  it’s so lazy and trite and forced-smile desperate.

If you were actually having such a wonderful Christmas time, Paul, you wouldn’t need to tell us so Goddam much. Turn off the synth and go back to your Nut Roast.

2) All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey & Justin Bieber

Where to begin? There’s so much about this song to make the skin crawl that it’s almost impossible to watch the video without averting or in some way covering your eyes. It doesn’t just demonstrate everything that’s wrong with the commercialisation of Christmas and the shallow nature of pop music; I think in a way this song represents everything wrong with Western society and spells our inevitable doom.

Okay, first things first. It’s unbelievably crass that some record exec should have decided to re-record what was already a relatively iffy song in order to milk the pocket money of Tweenies who don’t know any better. Crass, but unsurprising. Not content with that, some bright spark also realised they could use the entire music video as an embedded advertisement for a range of products designed to milk the hard-earned money from the Tweenies’ parents. Again, sad, but sadly not shocking.

What really gets me though is poor Mariah. She’s not someone I often feel sympathy for, but just look into her eyes when she’s doing the sexy-Santa-outfit take-me-up-against-the-wall pout. It’s true despair. She was 41 when this video was made and she’s singing ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ to an 18-year old bellend for whom every fucking day is Christmas and who wasn’t even born when her career was at its peak.

I don’t actually blame Bieber for being such an objectionable shit – how could he be otherwise? But Mariah – she knows she’s at the end of the giddy popstar rollercoaster, and she’s feeling queezy. The industry has chewed her up and spat her out into a ghastly plastic sleigh whilst all about her pre-pubescent Beliebers prance in a frenzied capitalist dreamscape. I imagine ‘Carol of the Bells’ was playing in her head throughout the entire filming process. Sheer horror. 

 

1) Fairytale of New York – Ronan Keating & Moya Brennan

Controversially, the same song tops both of my lists, the greatness of the former version making this piece-of-shit, sterile, soft-focus, lump-of-coal-in-your-stocking all the more contemptible by comparison.

Oh, it makes me angry.

The sheer temerity (I’m typing in falsetto, if you’re wondering), the breathtaking arrogance of attempting to cover this song makes my brain just give up and start eating itself.

“Hi, Mona? This is Ronan. Yeah, listen, you know that song ‘Fairytale of New York’? I don’t think that anyone out there has ever really nailed it. I think the iconic version is still to be recorded – and I think we should be the ones to do it!”

So, what did they do? Well, they polished it up, bathed it in reverb, took out the lilting rhythms of some of the best Irish musicians in the world, and made it a pop song. Keating sings the intro pitch-perfectly, rather than singing it how it should be sung (i.e. pissed out of your mind, swaying wildly with a bottle of whisky in hand). Brennan worsens things by singing the verses in a twee, bouncy pixie-warble, thus dissipating any sense of urgency, danger, or anger from the song. And then, horror upon horror upon stomach-turning horror, Ronan re-enters doing an impression (falsetto again) of Shane McGowan. 

The bastards. The utter bastards. And the thing is, they knew what they were doing. They thought the world needed a sanitised version of the song: they thought Christmas would be better served if they changed the line “you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap, lousy faggot” to “you’re cheap and you’re haggard.”

It’s an unforgivable crime against music and pisses on the grave a music legend. Everyone involved in the making of this abomination should be ashamed to call themselves a musician.

Merry Christmas!

Will x

Will’s Top 5 Christmas songs

5) Must Be Santa – Bob Dylan

For the most part, Dylan’s 2009 album ‘Christmas in the Heart’ was pretty ill-conceived. No one has ever really listened to Bob for his singing voice, and hearing him grumble and splutter through this collection of MOR arrangements of Christmas classics was more than even the most ardent Dylanophile could manage.

The one redeeming feature though is the absolute gem, Must Be Santa which sees Bob in cheekily playful mood anticipating the oncoming festivities with a drunken party in a mansion that ends in a brawl. The rousing call-and-response and the up-tempo polka arrangement make it a fun festive treat from one of the more unexpected artists. And bonus points for adding a non-specific political element to the list of reindeer names: “Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon.” God knows what point he was trying to make, but I’m so glad this Christmas song exists that I’ll let it slide.

4) The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth – Bing Crosby & David Bowie

Somehow this performance completely passed me by until very recently. It’s just such an utterly remarkable pop artefact that it has to make any list of great Christmas songs. Leave aside the wooden acting, and just marvel at the collision of musical worlds. It’s David Bowie… okay, cool. And Bing Crosby? Singing a Christmas song? What?!

The most beautiful thing is that these two singers from such different genres have such obvious respect and sympathy for each other’s voices. Bowie’s tenor rising above Bing’s oak-smoked bass-baritone is gorgeously tender, and the intertwining of the Peace On Earth melody almost makes a grown man singing “pa rum pum pum pum” not ridiculous. To see just how sweetly and gorgeously Bowie and Crosby tackle the song, contrast their version with this hideous group of posturing, bug-eyed fucktards achieving incredible reverb in what is essentially outside.

3) Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis – Tom Waits

From an artist like Waits, Christmas is never going to be the inspiration for the saccharine or the jolly. Instead, his Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis juxtaposes the jollity of the season with a potent mix of the gallows’ humour and wishful thinking that characterises life down in the gutters of the big cities.

Mistletoe and Santa’s sleigh make way for dope and used-car lots, and though there’s precious little to laugh about, there’s a superbly understated irony underpinning the song, heightening the poignancy of that most Chistmassy sentiment: hope. With Waits, most hope is false or at best folorn, but it’s better than no hope at all: “Charlie, hey, I’ll be eligible for parole come Valentine’s Day…”

2) Stop the Cavalry – Jona Lewie

Long before Sainsbury’s got in on the act, Jona Lewie nailed the pathos of the ‘soldier at Christmas time’ narrative with his absolute stone-cold Christmas classic Stop the Cavalry. And he wasn’t even trying to make you sob your way into buying shit.

The bright, jaunty horn section provides the impetus for the song whilst Lewie’s lyrics paint a brilliantly compressed evocation of the plight of the common soldier: “I have had to fight / Almost every night / Down throughout the centuries”. What’s most remarkable is the way he manages effortlessly to make the message span the years: from the trenches up to the nuclear fallout zone, bombs are still dropping on towns, loved-ones are still waiting at home, and soldiers are out in the cold somewhere wishing they could be home for Christmas.

1) Fairytale of New York – The Pogues & Kirsty McColl

This probably comes as no surprise. But that doesn’t matter. Fairytale of New York is the greatest Christmas song of all time and if you think differently you are empirically wrong. However overplayed, however clichéd, this is the pinnacle of festive songwriting evoking love, loss, hope, joy, and togetherness all in one glorious, timeless anthem. It’s a humanist hymn, an agnostic’s carol to be sung into the dark, cold winter night as an affirmation of all that is complex and beautiful about the human spirit.

“I’ve built my dreams around you.”

Merry Christmas.

Will x

Feldspar single launch & Christmas party @ The KPH – Thurs 4th December

Feldspar will play their final single launch show of the Compass Tour 2014 at The KPH in Ladbroke Grove, West London on Thursday 4th December. They will then head West for the final leg of the tour with shows in Totnes, Stroud and Exeter.

The single launch show and Christmas party at The KPH has limited tickets available for just £5 advance (£7 on the door), available to purchase here. Support comes from the superb El Born and some very special guests yet to be announced.

Click here for tickets!

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Beautiful People

Hello Feldfolk!

We hope you’ve had splendid Octobers with the occasional shot-in-the-arm of Cure for the Night to see you through the steadily darkening days.

We had a terrific time on our trip East visiting Ipswich, Tunbridge Wells, and Colchester all for the first time, before our deliciously smoke filled gig at Hoxton Square finishing off leg 2.

And in no time at all, leg 3 is upon us! The third in our four-part sequence of releases Beautiful People is out now. Please do give it a listen and let us know what you think. It’s a little more melancholy(how very unlike Feldspar), but that’s why we saved a song about mortality and decline for the depths of Autumn which “wins you best by this, its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay”, as someone else once said.

Cure For The Night

CUREFORTHENIGHT

Wotcha Feldspartans!

First of all – massive thanks to everyone who’s been out to support us on the East tour – Ipswich, Tunbridge Wells, Colchester and Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen. We had a brilliant time at all the venues – possibly too brilliant, actually – and were incredibly grateful that so many of you came out to support us.

Last week single #2 came out! The video for ‘Cure for the Night’ is being premiered on Shout4Music right this minute, so go over and have a look. Alternatively, you can go straight to iTunes and buy it OR enter your download code from our super cool postcards to get it emailed straight to you along with last month’s Song Without a Chorus.

Our third release of four will be out in November alongside the South leg of the tour which takes us to Tamesis Dock, Brighton, Guildford and Portsmouth! Can’t wait to see you there – get your tickets here.

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