Scotland spawns something beyond the indie-rock smarm of the now…
A fresh sound, a feature film toting their debut single on its DVD, and gigs into the future. The Stagger Rats just may be rock’s “Next Big Thing.”
The Stagger Rats are atypical. They were waiting for me at Brody House, perfectly on time. They are not rock stars yet, but just over three years after their formation in Edinburgh, Scotland, there are hints of that magic status beginning to waft about.
“We’ve managed to get out and get tight a few times, I’d say,” their bassist, Jack Sandison says through a self-conscious smile.
I figured that, after chatting with a slightly knackered and tipsy Kai Wallace (their drummer) at a party few weeks before. But then, their time in Budapest with WP-Ents has been all about getting tight. Tight music in the studio, tight schedules all day, and then tight at night.
But how have they enjoyed Budapest? They have the night life down pat, on and off the stage, but even with all-day recording sessions guided by veteran producer Owen Morris (who produced for both Oasis and The Verve), there was still some sightseeing.
“The gigs were all good, but we didn’t get to see much,” guitarist Daniel Paylor lamented, easing back into the couch ruefully.
“But we got to go to the baths quite a lot,” interjected Jack, which immediately everyone agreed to with smiles and chuckles. No stories leak out. But there certainly are a few they keep to themselves, despite prodding… tight, indeed.
Morris was apparently all about business during his month producing. “He was either cracking the whip or sleeping on the couch next to it,” Paylor said.
The band formed over the winter in 2008, calling its music “Gypsy Death Funk.”
What the other members all have in common is a school, Dunbar Grammar, a secondary public school in East Lothien, Scotland. That is, except Sandison, a Stagger Rat for two years.
“We found (Jack Sandison) with a singles ad,” quipped Paylor, looking at him wryly. “It said, ‘Four lonely young men looking for an ass to smash,’ didn’t it?”
Everyone laughed until Jack waved my attention over, “It was through acquaintances. And I had met Daniel before in a club once.” And Kai is quick to point out that he did not know Paylor, guitarist Craig McMullen or electric organist Callum Easter in school. “I was four years ahead,” he said.
“I was king of the school,” Easter interjected. I pressed a bit and he rolled his eyes, “I was not king of the school,” he admitted. “But I managed to make it through.”
Before the band and during its startup phase, they all were going about fairly mundane lives on the dank, cold Scottish north coast. Wallace worked with his father, who is helping manage the band a bit, as a plumber.
Asked what his work was, Callum lit up a bit and broke into a barker’s cant, “Young man with a van! Got odd jobs? Call Callum!”
McMullen and Paylor both count as their best jobs work in a chicken hatchery. But they were not tending fluffy baby chicks with tender care. “We killed the defective ones,” Paylor says matter-of-factly, leaning forward a bit.
“It was quite good, actually,” Paylor said, leaning back again, hands behind his head. “It really gave me a buzz to kill an organism smaller than me. It’s how I entertained myself.”
If he is putting me on, he hides it well. His statement, that he is a small person and enjoyed having that power, seems like a practiced, prepared rationale. Tight.
“I have a two-headed chick from there,” McMullen said. Someone groaned. “It’s on my wall in at home.”
To be clear, it is not framed, according to both McMullen and Paylor. It’s nailed “straight in.” It’s macabre, even for chicken eugenicists, so to speak.
None of them ply their trades on the road, save for Jack, who was, when the band started, studying Culinary Arts at Edinburgh. “I am the cook of the group,” he says, murmurs of agreement affirming him. “I make a really good bacon butty.”
Their first gig in Budapest was at the debut of PIMP, a feature film mock-documentary about a SOHO panderer. Their debut single, “See Through Spiders,” features in the film and on the DVD, along with its video. It can also be seen on YouTube (see above).
Their debut album is ready to go and in the final stages of development. As they prepared to return to Scotland and a bevy of new gigs, finishing touches were imminent.
“We’re going over to do some photos for the album tonight,” Easter confided.
“No title, yet, but that will come,” Wallace said. He seemed to be reassuring himself and nodded to the other bandmembers.
“Oh, it will come,” agreed Paylor. But it’s probably going to be shit.”
Naming things is not their strong point. The group itself had no name for months while they tried and rejected everything they heard, wrote or thought of. Finally, they agreed on an approach.
“We took the next thing that someone said and agreed to use that,” McMullen said. “And that was it.”
Well, not quite. They are also not very good with names. So, when people called them the Shatter Bats, The Splatter Hats and the Scatter Cats, they took it in stride. Except Easter, who was not helping much.
“I actually called us the Scatter Cats for about a week,” he said, looking around at the band. “I had everyone thoroughly confused.”
“The worst,” said Paylor, leaning n a bit, “was this woman who asked me if I was with the Scatter Goats. Scatter Goats? Who is that?”
The music itself is driving, energy-laden rock with a strange mix of funk and modern rock. Four band members, Wallace is the exception. in addition to playing an instrument in virtuoso form, do vocals in some manner. Everything is polished and taut.
Their debut single should be enough to keep a rock fan or music aficionado happy. However, a quick search at Gashaus’s video jukebox shows a page full of decent live recordings, official and unofficial, to check out more of their work. Coming up next for the rats are the three singles, “I’m in Love,” “Fuzzy Fuzzy,” and “Sleeping Off Ecstasy.”
We’ll be watching and waiting for the final album release. As for when that may be, WP-Ents says they expect to tour the band a bit to generate interest, then release the album after the summer festival season. I think it may not take that long…