On this particular Edinburgh night you would be forgiven for thinking the city was full of nothing but drunken rugby fans looking for a fight (Wales have just beaten Scotland in the Six Nations, or some other tournament). However, if you dodge all the paraletic girls and go down into the darkest corner of Old Edinburgh you will find one of the most exciting bands in Scotland, Conquering Animal Sound, at their debut album Kammerspiel launch party. An announcement of “we are about to start now” crackles through James Scott’s mega-phone effected microphone. He patiently waits for the packed Sneaky Pete’s audience to quieten down before he uses a table of instruments to create delicate soundscapes whilst Anneke Kampman’s haunting vocals are looped over and over to lull the audience into a state of total awe. Something so tranquil is being created to counter the boozey chaos outside.
The duo have been plying their craft since 2009 and steadily began gathering a loyal fanbase across Edinburgh and then, aided by tireless touring, the rest of the nation’s appetites were whetted when they released their first single, a Gerry Loves Records 7″ split with Meursault guitarist Debutant, in May of last year. Kammerspiel has elevated the duo to critic’s darlings status with universally positive reviews (not least a coveted TLOBF Recommended stamp of approval). Their unique sound only increases the anticipation and expectations for one of Scotland’s more enthralling bands.
After all the hardwork that’s gone into creating Kammerspiel how does it feel to finally have it out?
Anneke: I really want to say “it’s pure exciting!”
James: No, it feels really good. I mean we spent seven months recording it and then there was another three or four months before it actually came out so it’s great to finally have it out.
You are releasing it with both Gizeh and Mini50 records and you have previously released a single with Gerry Loves Records. Is it quite flattering to have so many people wanting to back you and release your music?
J: Yeah, it is really nice. It was just the case that all three approached us at pretty much the same time. The split with Gerry Loves was really good. Rich who runs Gizeh has put so much work and time into it and he’s done it for years so it was good to have someone with that much experience on board as well.
A: Definitely. I think that all three labels each brought a different thing.
You have moved between Glasgow and Edinburgh, two cities that provoke a lively debate about which is better for music. Have you found much difference between the two?
J: They are very, very different. You will get a different opinion from both of us.
J: You lived in Edinburgh for a long time didn’t you?
A: Yeah. I’ve lived in Glasgow for a short time and I’m still finding my way in there. I think, and I may be called out for this, there is less happening in Edinburgh but there’s also more in terms of DIY.
J: I don’t think I’ve been in Glasgow long enough to evalute how the scene is going but I think living-wise both have great benefits. Glasgow has a lot going, there is a lot happening.
A: I think it takes time to tap into any place, scene…
Would you say there is a scene though? You are an experimental band so it must help having a creative, experimental hub around you?
J: Yeah, totally. When we were living here I don’t think we really felt part of what was going on. I mean when we lived here there was a lot of folky stuff, great bands like Eagleowl, all doing things quite folk based and we are really not drawn from that at all.
A: We were a bit on the peripheral from that.
J: Yeah, we have been on the peripheral from it. I mean a lot of the people who put us on put a lot of other bands on and it kind of translates a little bit but we never really felt part of that. It’s the same in Glasgow, we have never really felt part of anything.
A: I think it is quite tricky because we are semi-electronic so we have never really fitted into a club type setting and we are not really your average gigging band.
You say you are not your average gigging band and that could be true in the fact you fledged the Scottish nest to tour England fairly early on in your formation, have you found that helped as it seems to have raised your profile?
J: Yeah it certainly has. Especially working with someone from a label in Leeds. When you are up in Scotland you know people in Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling but you don’t nessasarily know people from down south so it has been really good for that…
A: I think we have just tried to explore as many new places as possible and not get bogged down with having to try and represent one particular idea or ‘scene’.
J:Not playing too much has benefitted us. We hadn’t played Glasgow in six months and yet we had a really good crowd last night when we played there. I think some bands can be guilty of playing all the time and you can split your audience.
Do you find audience reaction quite respectful on tour as your songs often need quiet to be fully appreciated?
A: I think tonight was a perfect example of an audience who was so respectful. Jamie was doing his click-loop and they just shut the fuck up…
J: We have been really lucky. It’s just about people connecting with that first song and then just letting us do our thing. We played to a lot of people last night in Glasgow, we have played to smaller audiences across Britain and they have all been very respectful and not made too much noise…
A: Except for now…
As a duo, one of the main advantages you have is the chemistry between you and the dynamic you have. Especially when playing live you are both so different but it works so well, when did you discover you had this dynamic?
A: I think we are both really good friends. That sounds really naff but I think that’s kind of part it. We understand how each other feels, I think that kind of happens when we play.
J: When we started we kind of knew we were coming from from similar places in that we were disenchanted by a lot of stuff we were listening to or playing, and we’ve became really good friends and I think that comes through on stage. There is that bond, I think that is important as there’s no point in playing music with people you don’t like as you are always going to lose something.
A: The way we work is sort of fragile. Looping things can be sort of hit or miss…
J: It takes a lot of trust…
A: Exactly, we trust out instruments…
J: And have to trust each other!
With your vocals, Anneke, you get compared to a lot of people like…
A: Don’t say the B-word!
…Bjork? That’s what I was going to ask, does it ever frustrate you getting pigeonholed and compared to other people…
J: This man, he knows!
A: I love you! It does annoy me a little bit. I mean I don’t want to read every review and that is the only person I am getting compared to, I mean, I’m not Icelandic…
You have a Scottish accent.
J: I think what happens is that Bjork has such a unique voice and is such a unique musician and I think Anneke has a very unique voice. I think the extremity that they both have and the the things that they can do, not many singers can do that, not many singers do do it. The fact that both of them do that is what’s drawing people to it, I think there is a very slight similarity in that they are able to express themself at a higher level. That sounds like complete and utter wank…’higher level’..
A: I express myself cognitively
You have toured, you have released the album, so what else does 2011 hold for Conquering Animal Sound?
A: We want to work with some sort of visual ideas so we want to put together a video EP. Some videos made by us but also working with other artists.
So will that transfer to your live performances?
J: It might well.
A: We’ve not really got that far yet.
J: I think that’s the plan. Hopefully that is something which will be ready for late autumn. It’s quite a good way down the line. We’re going to be doing shows in April and May and hopefully festivals in the Summer is people will have us. In between that we will just do as much writing as possible.