A Family Affair: The Gayfield Enterprise Demos
A hidden gem from the post-punk era, The Gayfield Enterprise Demos sees Kevin Low and Fiona Carlin’s stunning bedroom pop jams receive a long overdue first release
One of the city’s foremost crate diggers, Glasgow DJ, producer and radio host Adam Low is used to unearthing overlooked oddities in secondhand record stores across the country. His latest sonic discovery – a collection of around 80 battered cassette tapes dug out from his parents’ loft – is far closer to home. “There were mountains and mountains of them to go through but I thought I’d give it a go during the first lockdown,” he recalls. “Initially I was looking for the stems with the view of potentially doing some remixes. Then I discovered that a lot of it was exactly the kind of music that I’m into – which was a bit of a shock.”
The recordings on the tapes are the work of Adam's dad Kevin and his friend Fiona Carlin: a stunning assortment of synthesiser-led bedroom pop explorations laid down in Kevin’s Edinburgh flat back in 1986. It became immediately apparent to Adam that these uncut gems had to be rescued from obscurity. Kevin, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as enthusiastic.
“We were listening to all these cassettes that Adam found and he was really liking them while I was there going ‘really?!’” Kevin jokes. “It’s fair to say that I was extremely sceptical.” Ignoring these paternal doubts, Adam plodded on, digitising the tapes at the National Library of Scotland’s Sound and Moving Image Archive and restoring and remastering them with the help of Jonas Gustafsson and Wheelman respectively. He then whittled down eight tracks that would make up the release before deciding on The Gayfield Enterprise Demos – alluding to the fact that the music was made in a flat on Gayfield Square, and was the fruit of the Thatcher government’s New Enterprise Allowance scheme – as its title.
Planning a limited edition tape release and locking in 5 March as a launch date, Adam decided to upload one of the tracks, Nothing Else Will Ever Be the Same, to YouTube as a teaser. The reception it received – from excited comments on music forums to direct messages from record stores keen to stock the tapes – provided instant confirmation of the quality of the music. “I didn’t think there was gonna be much interest at all,” Adam admits. “I just thought it’d be a nice thing to get out there. But I’ve already had people reach out from Canada, France and across the UK asking to stock them.”
It’s easy to see where this excitement stems from. A synthesiser jam tinged with emotion and punctuated by Fiona’s hauntingly beautiful vocals, there’s a wonderfully simplistic, proudly DIY energy that emanates from the track, not dissimilar to that of Flaming Tunes, Gareth Williams & Mary Currie’s home-recording cult classic. The rest of the release – ranging from hushed love songs to Chicago house-inspired instrumentals – is no less impressive.
The pair originally met on a photography course at what was then Napier Technical College, dating for a while and staying friends even after the romance fizzled out. “Frankly I always felt Nothing Else Will Ever Be the Same was about us,” Kevin admits. “Love stuttering into friendship. Although I spoke to Fiona about the lyrics recently and she said it was more a compilation of failed love stories.”
Inspired by the sounds of Fast Product and Postcard Records, they also formed a band, The Wild Indians, with other students on the course. While enjoying limited success, Kevin recalls a time that he took the night bus down to London to accost John Peel outside the BBC in an attempt to have him air their music.
“I vividly remember his hands were covered in oil as the chain had fallen off his bike,” he enthuses. “So he carefully held the record I’d given him by the edges before going upstairs and playing it!” When the group disbanded in 1986 (“we worked really hard, rehearsed really hard, but it had run its course”), Kevin and Fiona decided to trade in their instruments for synthesisers and continued to make music together. “It felt like quite a bold idea at the time,” says Kevin. “But the nice thing was if you came up with ideas electronically they were there the next day.”
“The decision to go with more of a synth vibe was a good one,” Fiona agrees. “If I had an idea for a bassline or a melody I could work away with the technology and sequence it myself. Working and writing the music in the bedroom was also more collaborative compared to the rehearsal room.”
Like The Wild Indians, the breakaway project soon came to an end as the pair moved into the next chapter of their lives. Fiona would go on to work in TV and film; Kevin became a photographer and then an artist – his latest piece being the artwork for the release. It begs the question as to why this beguiling relic from the golden era of DIY music was never released the first time around. “It honestly never occurred to us, which probably sounds ridiculous,” Kevin admits. “We were working away in this tiny bedroom and really enjoying it but it was a very different time – a much simpler, more primitive time.”
He nevertheless dismisses any suggestions of regret at not doing so, insisting that working alongside his son to release it all these years later has been just as rewarding. “It’s been an amazing thing to do,” he gleams. “Some dads referee their son’s football matches or stuff like that – which the thought of always terrified me to be honest. Having Adam release my old music seems like a much better idea. That’ll dae nicely thank you!”
The Gayfield Enterprise Demos is released on 5 Mar via Seated Records