Off The Record Edinburgh is a networking event for 16-25 year olds looking to get a leg up in the music industry. Their post-event showcase showed why these young artists NEED to be seen.
Off The Record is organised by Born To Be Wide, a Scottish company who frequently put on larger-scale networking events, usually of a more professional nature. While at the showcase, OTR was described to me as the “diet” version of those events – smaller, younger and with less of a budget. However the acts that performed were definitely the real deal – which is why events like this are so important. The talented young people of Scotland need somewhere to share their music, and it’s in everyone’s interest to make that process as easy as possible.
Following a day of workshops and advice sessions with industry professionals there was some pretty great music on display:
Act One: Zoe Graham
Zoe Graham encapsulates all the reasons that make events like Off The Record important. Her whole set left you drowning in her personality, each song personal and emotional and heartfelt. The focus was very much on the individual’s talent and art, as it should be – OTR wants you to see and enjoy small-scale artists, not massive record companies.
Zoe’s genre is hard to describe without using semi-meaningless words like “indie”. She performed a few ballads, but also included a lot of loops and SFX and synth-y stuff. She kept the tempo slow and soft, but that didn’t blunt the feelings that she packed into her tunes. Moody is probably the best word. The pace was a lot slower than you can hear on her singles (available on Spotify), but it didn’t take away from them one bit. Industrial Strength touched me the most, and is a good starting point when delving into Zoe’s repertoire. Anniesland Lights is also good. So is Hacket and Knackered, the title track of her EP. Actually, they’re all good. My point is, go listen to Zoe Graham and then go see her live. Many thumbs up for this gal.
Act Two: The Motion Poets
If I was to be bold and make one criticism of Zoe’s set, it would be that it lacked a certain energy that should be present in every passionate, young music act. The Motion Poets obviously sensed this somehow, and burst onto the stage with more energy than… a big bucket of energetic things. These four boys had that rough-and-ready feeling that bands they aspire to be like have have obviously sold in exchange for large amounts of money and a record deal. OTR has given them a platform to share this sound, yet another reason to love any event that supports these little local acts.
If I was to guess who their inspirations are, I’d probably start with Arctic Monkeys and Biffy Clyro. But there’s a bit of something heavier in there, Royal Blood maybe? And the boys have definitely listened to a Queens of the Stone Age album. Despite a lot of different influences, they manage not to sound derivative. Plus, there’s a lot of great chemistry on stage. You can tell these guys all love the band, and love playing live. I’m reminded of the start of Back To The Future, where Marty McFly rocks out on stage and he’s told that he’s “just too darn loud”. The Motion Poets are too darn loud, and I hope they never change.
Act Three: Glassmasterer
I’m not a big fan of techno/dance/electronic music and I don’t usually see DJs. Glassmasterer’s set at OTR was a good example why. Now that sounds harsh, but it’s more of a context thing. Glassmasterer has a bunch of music on Spotify. BBC Radio Scotland named his newest single “Be Here Tonight” as their single of the week. They were right to do that, because it is very good and if you do check out his Spotify, you’ll find a lot of good tunes.
OTR was just a slightly weird gig for Glassmasterer. The set took a while to build up to a point where folk were having a dance and really getting into it – coincidentally it was when he mixed in sections of “Be Here Tonight”, which as I said before is an absolute banger. When he took the time to rub some funk on his tunes it was very good indeed, a real classic Daft Punk sort of sound with strong base and catchy choruses. The set overall didn’t set the world on fire, but I don’t think it was really his sort of audience, and the success of a DJ is always very atmosphere dependent.
Act Four: LaKyoto
They felt like a headline act which, in a gig focused on presenting unknown bands, felt a little jarring but the attention was not undeserved. The sounds were so clean and so well-produced you could feel the effort that went in. The singer’s voice had been cut from glass, so well defined were the edges. Everything sounded exactly as it was supposed to, and the hyper-catchy pop sound (think The 1975, a slightly cheerier Foals, maybe Years & Years and Lorde as well) really reinforced the vibe that LaKyoto were putting out.
Because of the clean sound and the very produced finish on the songs, it did seem as though the band lacked a little bit of the personality that the first two acts had. Even when the lead singer tried his hand at a little mid-set banter, it didn’t come off as human and organic as some of the chat the other acts had. Even the voice sounded a little impersonal, a little derivative of bigger acts – I looked away for the first few songs and wondered when Matt Healy had taken the stage. Still, this isn’t hugely a criticism. If you sound like a bigger act, it means you sound like you know what you’re doing. This really comes through on the singles they have on Spotify: Runaway, Something About You and Heart Beats Loud are all fantastic.
In conclusion, OTR was great. If it’s on next year: you should go. If it’s on the year after that: go again. And if it’s not, have a listen to all the bands we’ve talked about here, and remember that sometimes it just takes you listening to make a small band into the next big thing.
By Bryce Arthur