What exactly makes Scotland's only music business convention so pioneering and vital to our music scene? We take a closer look at the showcase line-up and talk record shopping ahead of Record Store Day
"It's a music industry event with a difference," enthuses festival director Olaf Furniss. "I've worked for a lot of different music conferences and showcase events, and what I did was take a bit from all of those events and create a fantasy league music convention out of it." Wide Days certainly delivers on this promise, optimised for all attending: free gigs for music fans, diverse expert speakers to inform delegates wanting to break into music, and a handpicked showcase of exciting, local talent.
"We sourced speakers and emphasised getting the right kind of people to talk at the event," Furniss continues. "Quite a lot of the time with other conferences it tends to be the usual suspects; we wanted to make sure we had different types of viewpoints. With showcases we've also been very different too – rather than have 60 bands and no-one knowing where to go and most of the gigs being empty, we decided from the outset that we wanted to give the artists the best conditions to be showcasing... and really an opportunity to shine.
"It's also a great opportunity for music lovers to get a taste of what's out there, of some of the most exciting, emerging talent in Scotland. And if you don't like a band, they only play for 20 minutes so you can just nip out for a cigarette or stay in the toilets! The flipside of that is if you do like an act, it will leave you wanting more."
As this year’s convention is on the same weekend as Record Store Day, we’ve profiled each of the acts showcasing at this year’s Wide Days convention, as well as speaking to each of them about their favourite record shops. Synergy.
The Vegan Leather
The Vegan Leather are an electro-art-pop quartet from Paisley but as they've played sold-out shows at King Tut’s and supported the likes of Paolo Nutini, The View and Teleman, you probably already knew that! Hailing from the west coast, the band's indietronica soundscapes evoke the best electro from the Glasgow scene, somewhere between CHVRCHES, Happy Meals and Franz Ferdinand remixed by Optimo.
What are you most looking forward to about playing Wide Days? "I'm excited to spend some time in Edinburgh, I love the city but I never get to go very often. I'm looking forward to all the amazing talent playing this year too, especially The Ninth Wave, and Declan Welsh and The Decadent West."
Favourite record shop: “I've always had a soft spot for Monorail (Glasgow); I spent my first Record Store Day there. One thing I love about it is the extensive collection of Franz Ferdinand singles.”
Best buy: “I spent years and years putting off buying In Rainbows by Radiohead on record – every time I saw it I always thought, 'Ooft, I'll get it later.' I already loved the album but getting a physical copy brought things full circle.” [Gianluca Bernacchi]
The Ninth Wave
Recently signed to Distiller Records, Glasgow's The Ninth Wave are a four-piece ambient noise band who make sonically sweet, danceable pop music. Having recently featured on such Glaswegian institutions as Tenement TV and T in the Park, it's no wonder The Ninth Wave already have a cult following.
What are you most looking forward to about Wide Days? "We played Edinburgh back in February and it was packed, so it's gonna be good to get back and get sweaty again."
Favourite record shop: “Mixed Up, down Otago Lane (Glasgow) – they always have interesting records in.”
Best buy: “I was flicking through the ‘new in’ section and came across a record with these four freaky looking people on the front of the sleeve. I'd never heard of them before but it was four quid so I decided to buy it. It was a band called Alien Sex Fiend and I'm really into them now. I'd recommend a listen!” [Haydn Park]
JR Green are brothers Jacob and Rory Green from Strontian, who play Scottish folk-infused pop, self-described as virile, lo-fi traditional skronk. Their first EP Bring the Witch Doctor featured the single Nigerian Princess, which made Song of the Week on both Huw Stephen's BBC Radio 1 show and Radio Scotland, as well as receiving serious radio play on 6 Music.
What are you most looking forward to about Wide Days? "I think we are most looking forward to playing to people who are involved in the music industry, and who are interested in hearing new music. It is a very good opportunity for us and the other acts involved."
Favourite record shop: “I think the best record store we have been to is probably Amoeba Music in LA. We could have easily spent all our time and money in there. There is also a shop in Glasgow called Play it Again Records. The two shops probably couldn't be more different but are both worth a visit.”
Best buy: “From Amoeba I bought my girlfriend Pure Bathing Culture's second album, Pray For Rain, which is a total cracker and certainly beats any tacky souvenirs I could have brought back. From Play It Again I once found Kate and Anna McGarrigle's Dancer With Bruised Knees. It is one of the albums we were brought up on so it was nice to own it on vinyl.” [Rory Green]
Emme Woods is a singer-songwriter from Stirling whose alt-rock blues and soulful voice belie her tender years. Having previously performed fiddle-based folk as Something Someone, Woods has gone on to release the darker single I Don't Drink to Forget as a 7" on the Last Night From Glasgow label.
What are you most looking forward to about playing Wide Days? "I know from previous line ups, the quality of acts are insane so I'm so chuffed we're on the bill this year. The line up this year is so good, it's going to be some party. A few of our pals are on the bill and the rest of the acts are a lovely bunch too. Super excited! The Wide Days team have been amazing and so helpful so far so I think the whole event is set to be pretty fab."
Favourite record shop: “Oh, I'm not sure actually, I don't know if I have a favourite. I mainly buy my records from gigs or sometimes you can find some little gems in charity shops.”
Best buy: “I don’t buy as much vinyl as I would like to because I'm a poor as fuck musician, but I remember finding an Elvis 'greatest hits' record. I used to love Elvis when I was younger, I still do. At one point, Elvis was the only record I'd listen to. My sisters were so into the charts but I had Elvis on repeat.” [Emme Woods]
The Spook School
Queer punk indie rockers The Spook School hail from Edinburgh, though their band name refers to Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow-based art collective. Forming through their unversity comedy society, the four-piece bring a fresh sense of humour to queer concerns, writing their highly enjoyable pop-punk-indie-disco around the fluidity of gender and happy dissent from rigid heteronormativity.
What are you most looking forward to about Wide Days? "Easy to find parking near the venue. America is hard to park in."
Favourite record shop: “Classified Records in Dundalk, Ireland. I grew up in Dundalk and it felt very quiet sometimes so having a new independent shop open up just made it feel more connected the rest of the world. Viva Dundalk.”
Best buy: “T.P.M. – All the Boys on the Dole. It’s a very glamorous depiction of beautiful Dundalk, makes me homesick.” [Niall McCamley]
Declan Welsh and the Decadent West
At the age of 24, East Kilbride's Declan Welsh has already supported The Proclaimers, Ocean Colour Scene, Eddi Reader and Glasvegas. His music is an angry tirade against our bleak times, a 21st century Billy Bragg singing in Scots about May instead of Thatcher, with a touch of Mike Skinner. His band the Decadent West add a bluesy alt-rock musicality to Welsh's spoken word and beautifully simple punk sensibility.
What are you most looking forward to about Wide Days? "Being part of such a great line up, with so many artists we respect and hang about with, that's really nice. It's an industry event –obviously I would quite enjoy the opportunity to make music the primary way in which I sell my labour to eat food and pay rent and that, so there might be someone there who can make that happen. That would be some buzz. And I've been promised a high standard of refreshments, so mainly that. A decent coffee and a silly record deal, so I can go full Liam Gallagher or something."
Favourite record shop: “The ones I go to most are second-hand and charity shops to be honest. Love Music and LP Records (both in Glasgow) are cool, but I think I buy most of mine from Oxfam or Mixed Up Records.”
Best buy: “I got Billy Bragg's album Workers Playtime at Mixed Up for seven quid. I was really pleased with that. It's probably my joint favourite album. It's just beautiful, so many amazing love songs, so much great social commentary. The lyrics are some of the best I've ever heard.” [Declan Welsh]
Relative new-comers having only just formed in Jan '16, Vistas play melodic indie rock that has no right to be as catchy and as beautifully polished as it sounds, and their debut song Sign Language has been featured on Spotify's Hot New Bands playlist. Best keep your eyes peeled for this Edinburgh four-piece.
What are you most looking forward to about playing the Wide Days Showcase? "It's hard to narrow that down to one thing! It's a hometown show for us so its always exciting to have your home fanbase there, but it's even more exciting to play to loads of new people who haven't seen us live before. Hopefully they'll join us for the ride and come to more Vistas shows.
"Playing at Liquid Rooms too; it's such a big thing for a lot of Edinburgh bands and we feel incredibly lucky to get to a play a show on that stage. We're also really looking forward to meeting and seeing all of the other fantastic acts on the bill. There are lots of bands playing that we've been fans of for a while so it's going to be great to not only see them but also get chance to talk to them about their music."
Favourite record shop: “The Cavern in Aberdeen where I study. It's everything a record shop should be; it's down in a basement, dimly lit and there are just piles and piles of records everywhere. It's impossible to not find something special in there.”
Best buy: “The most special record I got in there was Morrison Hotel by The Doors. I got it for my Dad for Father's Day. It's a really special album for me and my Dad, so that one will always hold a place in my heart.” [Prentice Robertson]
Wide Days takes place at Teviot Row House, 21-22 Apr; win a pair of passes in our competition – details here.
This year's Wide Days showcases take place on 21 Apr at Teviot Row House, The Liquid Room and La Belle Angèle. Tickets are free (registration required).