Southern Exposure: Pictish Trail chats to Bossy Love

Ahead of this year's Southern Exposure festival at Summerhall, Lost Map Records label boss Johnny Lynch (aka Pictish Trail) sits down for a chat with Bossy Love

Feature by Johnny Lynch | 15 May 2019
  • Pictish Trail

IT IS NOW OFFICIALLY THE SUMMER, and so it only makes sense to sing the songs of Donna Summer and Jimmy Summerville (sic) in the summeriest, most summerful spot in Edinburgh – SUMMERHALL. Over the course of two days (21 & 22 Jun), the renowned multi-arts venue will be hosting Southern Exposure, a showcase of indie bands and pop music from across Scotland.

I’m gonna be paddling over from my home on the Isle of Eigg and performing a full-band Pictish Trail set, which I’m excited about. I’ve spent the past year writing and recording a new album, and not only will this show be one of the first times performing the songs, it’s also one of the first times I’ll have left the house. Have I gone in a nu-metal direction? Have I grown out my hair? Do I still look like one of your Dad’s tragic friends? You’ll just have to come along to the show and see.

There’s plenty of other great music, of course. Perthshire’s slack-rock stallions Savage Mansion; Dunbar’s drone-hop maestro Callum Easter; Dundee’s ethereal sonic dolphin, SHHE; Glasgow’s friendliest shoegaze clergymen, Rev Magnetic; Penicuik’s lo-fi rock sausage, Meursault. Oh, and Piroshka (who, incidentally, are not Scottish... but their band name does sound like the sort of thing an inebriated Scot might slur when ordering a ‘pair of vodkas’ at last orders).

Summerhall's Dissection Room will also be graced by the veritable Donna and Jimmy of the current Scotch-pop scene, Amandah Wilkinson and John Baillie Jnr, aka Bossy Love. Over the last five years, the duo have gloriously fused flamboyant electro-synth thrills with razor sharp R’n’B hooks, whilst managing to maintain a pristine air of effortless cool. The talented swines that they are. On stage, they expand to a three-piece, where live drums, keys and harmonies give added punch to their muscular, heart-pumping songs. They are truly one of the best live acts in the country right now. I had the pleasure of asking them some questions ahead of the festival.

Johnny Lynch: Hello, you two. I love the blouses you’re both wearing. Very summery. Which is appropriate for Summerhall. You must have played some packed, sweaty rooms over the years. What’s the hotttttest gig you’ve ever done?

Amandah Wilkinson: "I feel like I'm a sweaty mess during/after every show, BUT I think the hottest show I've played with Bossy Love was our show at The Poetry Club. I felt like a prune by the end of it ‘cause I had sweated out all existence of water, and Ollie [Cox, who plays keys in the band] and I threw bottles of water over ourselves to cool down. Also, I grew up in Australia and playing shows there feels like you're melting away and you constantly have a heat headache."

John Baillie Jnr: "Last year’s club show at The Great Escape was particularly roasting, which kinda forces people to drop their inhibitions and get down. There’s definitely a point where it becomes gruelling though – more of a throwback but I remember playing the main stage of a festival in Poland in direct sunlight where it was 35 degrees; like a relentless open-air sauna."

JL: I’ve been lucky to see you a handful of times now, and it’s always an astonishing show. The energy you all have on stage is so impressive. Quite often you share the bill with acts from completely different genres, which I feel is a real strength, particularly as you always get the crowd on your side from the get-go. Have you ever encountered a difficult audience, though? And how have you handled that?

JBJ: "Thanks for the very kind words! Especially if we’re the support band, we’ll sometimes come across people who want to quietly check us out and don’t give us much real-time energy back – but I don’t view that as ‘difficult’, it doesn’t change how we perform. I see our job as summoning energy into the room regardless. Plus, a more polite, quiet crowd is when I can get a weird kick out of the ample opportunity to ramp up the awkwardness in between songs."

AW: "I feel like if I thought too much about the show, I'd find ways to psych myself out! I try to go on stage open-minded about everything. My one goal is to connect with my bandmates and project that out to the room. I think a lot of the time you mirror what you feel from the crowd, so if you go into it positively you'll always bring that out of the room. There's definitely times where I've felt I'm not getting energy back and those are the times when you gotta go extra with each other!"

[Image: Bossy Love by Beth Chalmers]

JL: So far there’s been a scattering of singles and EPs, and your most recent material has all been self-released, and self-produced. For a group that has such an accessible, danceable sound, you seem set on retaining complete control on your music – drip-feeding singles to your audience, leaving us wanting more! You filthy teases! Where the shitting fuck is the album?

JBJ: "We enjoy collaborating, but I don’t think there’s much point in outsourcing when you don’t have to, especially in this day and age. We’re lucky enough to be able to be self-sufficient in recording and have the luxury of doing what we want whenever we feel like it. And we feel like releasing an album this year…"

JL: Sorry for swearing in that last question. Although it did make me realise that for a band who are inspired by "horny Prince B-sides", and have track titles such as Up All Over Me, Want Some and Body, there’s not a lot of swearing in your songs – in fact, I’m not sure there’s any? A lot of contemporary pop acts incorporate cussin' to give their music a bit of edge, or shock value. Has it been a conscious decision not to do that with Bossy Love?

AW: "Haha, I guess I've never felt the need? I feel like the only time I'd be forcefully cussin' is when I'm angry, but when I'm angry I'm usually just sad. So I think I'm channelling that into the songs lyrically and any of the instant feelings come out in the production or the rhythm of the melodies/how I'm delivering it. I know it sounds mega cheese, but I think that's what I do, it isn't a conscious thing!"

JL: Back to Summerhall, have you played here before? What are you looking forward to catching on the Southern Exposure bill?

AW: "Stoked to be back playing Summerhall again and I'm excited to see YOU (Pictish Trail) play; I've been rinsing Future Echoes! Particularly Dead Connection on my LP Radio show."

JBJ: "We’ve been lucky enough to play Summerhall before, it’s such a great complex – so flexible and always putting on interesting events. Southern Exposure has such a varied line-up and seems carefully curated. Looking forward to seeing Be Charlotte again (who is our G31 neighbour – Dennistoun in the hooouse!) and Callum Easter, who we saw supporting our pal Rozi Plain recently, among loads of others."

Southern Exposure takes place at Summerhall, Edinburgh, 21-22 Jun

Pictish Trail and Bossy Love both play on 21 Jun alongside Piroshka, Carla J. Easton and Harry Harris; Meursault, Be Charlotte, Rev Magnetic, SHHE, Savage Mansion, Callum Easter and Little King all play on 22 Jun

See event updates and buy tickets here