Stinging Songs: Armellodie Records at Unbound

Scottish record label Armellodie presents three bands and three authors inspired by the Irish Literary Magazine The Stinging Fly

Feature by Heather McDaid | 01 Jul 2019
  • Dan Lyth

Sometimes the best things in life are simple. For one night only, three bands and three authors will come together in the corner of the Book Festival for a night of classic Unbound revelry. This year sees Glasgow-based label Armellodie bringing three of their finest to perform alongside authors all published by Irish wonders The Stinging Fly. What's not to love? 

Ahead of the Unbound event, we get to know the Scottish side a little better. “Armellodie Records started in earnest in 2007 to try to give a launching pad to bands we were fans of and who (we felt) deserved the opportunity to be heard,” explains co-founder Scott Maple.  “Whatever was required (e.g. production, post production, artwork, and/or manufacture, along with PR and distribution) – we wanted to fill the gaps.  We started in earnest and, unhindered by any measurable success, we continue in earnest!”

Both Scott and Al Nero were playing gigs and had put their own music out on independent labels; like all good partnerships, they thought their combined skills could allow them to forge their own path. They secured distribution, worked with Cuddly Shark on their debut album, working on a press pack and settling on a release date. When they tried to make some noise around the upcoming release, they were pleasantly surprised to find people listening. And so they continued, with a core ethos in mind: “Work hard to try and achieve reward for the talented people who work hard with no expectation of reward.”

A decade on, that hard work continues. The evening will provide a place to celebrate some of the fantastic music coming through Scottish labels, including Thirty Pounds of Bone. Dr. Johny Lamb has made five albums and two EPs under the moniker. He’s a songwriter, composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, to name but a few, and has worked on some more unusual projects including The Ships Log as part of Lone Twin’s Boat Project for the Cultural Olympiad. He’s also worked on Still Every Year They Went, a collection of maritime songs recorded at sea on a commercial fishing boat with composer/phonographer Philip Reeder. He’s undertaken doctoral research into songwriting’s relationship to place and the making of alt-folksong, and will be making the trip up from Cornwall especially for Unbound, bringing his interest in fidelity, drones, timbre and more to revel in.

Then comes Dan Lyth and the Euphrates. His album Benthic Lines was recorded across four continents and entirely outdoors, presented as a 60-page book packed with photos from the various locations around the world so listeners could get a real sense of the journey undertaken. His goal was to re-explore the relationship between music and the environment in which it is created, when the surroundings can’t be controlled – will there be anomalies? Can the unpredictable sounds of nature blend with music to create something newly exciting and innovative? The consensus seems to be yes. It was a journey of wonder and one of battle – as lugging instruments around new environments would tend to be; it's also a journey ready to entertain you on the Spiegeltent stage.

Closing the Armellodie trio, The Scottish Enlightenment's debut St. Thomas documented the crumbling of faith through a loss of belief. Shifting from the huge ideas, their recent follow-up Potato Flower moves to the microscopic, oft-missed moments of everyday life.

With the Scottish label being well represented on this evening, Glasgow coming up time and time again in global artists’ top gig cities lists, an abundance of quality coming through across the board, what exactly is it that makes Scotland’s music scene so thriving? “That’s a difficult one to answer,” begins Scott. “We’re a nation of individuals, all ploughing our own furrow – heid doon.  So you would think that means self-centred, but there’s a dichotomy in that – at the same time everyone’s supportive of each other and enjoys seeing other’s successes. I suppose what I’m saying is that there’s freedom to express without fear of being metaphorically ‘shot-down’.”

This Armellodie and Stinging Fly crossover proves an ample opportunity to celebrate the successes of excellent companies and creatives across music and literature. Books are the most obvious storytellers that take readers on a journey across worlds both real and imagined; here, all the bands bring their own stories to transport listeners into new climes from their seat. So who will be completing this stellar line-up? 

Kevin Barry is a highly acclaimed author, with his debut story collection There Are Little Kingdoms winning the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and his novel City of Bohane being awarded the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, with his work branded vibrant, intelligent and original, to pluck just a few of the compliments levied at him.

Wendy Erskine’s debut collection Sweet Home is set in contemporary East Belfast, showcasing the struggle of her characters trying to maintain control in a world that often seems beyond it. From a reclusive cult-rock icon ending his days in the street where he was born, to a couple intrigued by the pair they pay to do their cleaning and gardening, it’s a startlingly brilliant collection, and a reading to anticipate.

Completing the bill, Nicole Flattery is recipient of a Next Generation Artists' Award and The White Review Short Story Prize, whose debut Show Them A Good Time has been dubbed 'a masterclass in the short story' by Sally Rooney, and explores types – men and women, their assigned roles – in modern society. She is an exciting new voice in Irish literature, and one to watch. 

With Armellodie presenting three great bands, and Irish literature here to showcase the wonders that lie just across the sea, what exactly is it about music and literature that, while different, work so well together? “Both literature and music tell stories without pictures,” notes Scott, “but the art and mechanics of pure literature vs. pure songwriting are very different.  The result though – I believe that the result of either endeavour fires the same part of the brain of the reader or listener.”

That’s what can be expected from Armellodie and The Stinging Fly’s fine exports – a transformative firing of the brain, but what do they hope people take from the event? “Product, hopefully! … and inner peace … which can be found again and again by returning to said product.”

On a slightly more serious note, Scott simply promises “great, personal songs from talented people with beautiful hearts and minds” and “no fronts”. No frills, no fuss, just good music and good stories coming together for one night only.

A Sting in the Armellodie Tale, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Spiegeltent, Charlotte Square Gardens, Mon 12 Aug, 9pm, free and unticketed