Sweets and Heavy Bass: The SAY Award 2015

The Skinny spent the evening at the 2015 SAY Awards in Glasgow eating popcorn, admiring quilts and chatting with excited prize winner Kathryn Joseph

Feature by Chris McCall | 18 Jun 2015

When hosts Vic Galloway and Janice Forsyth take to the stage to officially open the fourth Scottish Album of the Year Award ceremony, few in the audience can hear a word they say. Having gorged themselves on free ice-cream and popcorn for the previous half hour, the crowd are buzzing on sugar and excitedly jabbering away to whoever is standing next to them, like pupils on a school outing.

This highly charged atmosphere was further fuelled by a short but incendiary live set from Young Fathers moments earlier. “Awwww FOR FUCK'S SAKE!” hollers G Hastings into his mic, sounding momentarily like a teacher who has finally snapped at his unruly class. In fact, it’s his usual intro to Old Rock n Roll, a song so energetic it should carry a health warning for those of a nervous disposition.

“Let’s hear it for that amazing performance from last year’s SAY Award winners,” says Galloway, ever the consummate pro, as the bass still echoes around the ABC. “Now in its fourth year The SAY Award is one of the UK’s most lucrative music prizes, highlighting the strength and diversity of Scotland’s recording artists and championing titles across a host of genres and styles.”

"I can’t believe out of all these most amazing musicians in the actual fucking world, they have chosen our record!" – Kathryn Joseph

This variety of styles is reflected by the outfits of those in attendance. The official invites had stated the dress code was ‘smart’, a term so vague it could be interpreted however you like. One man opts for a bold combination of faded dark blue sweater and washed out jeans; resembling either a roadie coming straight off tour or a gatecrasher, or quite possibly both.

Dress codes and sweeties aside, the reason several hundred folk have gathered in this former Sauchiehall Street cinema on a Wednesday evening is to celebrate the finest in Scottish music from the previous year. Musicians will earnestly tell you that awards are meaningless to them, but there’s no doubting that this event plays a hugely important role in promoting the industry north of the border and fighting off the ever-present vampire squid that is London.

A total of 246 records were eligible for this year’s prize, with no less than 146 of them picking up at least one vote from the 100 industry insiders chosen as nominators. These were eventually whittled down to a shortlist of 10, ranging from the smart Eurodisco of Happy Meals to acoustic pop superstars like Paolo Nutini. In a delightfully surreal twist to proceedings, each of the 10 nominated acts receives a handmade quilt as a token of their achievement. Created by Glasgow School of Art graduate Vanessa Hindshaw, and apparently reflecting the link between textiles and music, each individual quilt is handed over with respectful seriousness to the lucky artist by the evening’s hosts. This also provides a welcome opportunity for them to say a few words to the assembled masses.

“Fuck knows how you’re going to choose a winner,” states the ever-cheerful Nutini, who despite being easily the most famous person in the room, still seems genuinely thrilled to be nominated. Meanwhile, Glasgow dance legends Slam raise one of the largest cheers of the evening by dedicating their nomination to the closure-threatened Arches, a nightclub and performance space close to the hearts of most of those in attendance.

It takes two attempts to bring Young Fathers to the stage to receive their souvenir quilt. There is a slightly awkward moment first time around when the group fail to appear when their name is read out. They are finally located and arrive 15 minutes later. “They spend their lives embarrassing me, that band,” quips the unflappable Galloway, as a slightly sheepish-looking Hastings raises his quilt in thanks. “Sorry we were late,” he says. “It was a Spinal Tap moment.”

The ceremonial handing-over-of-the-quilts is broken up by three short live performances from bands who, although not shortlisted this year, will almost definitely be stick-ons at future events. Three-piece fuzz-rockers Tuff Love earn the biggest response from the audience. If there was a Scottish EP of the Year prize, Junk would surely be a racing certainty to claim it.

Glasgow’s leading punk-funk-afro-sonic experimentalist party band, Golden Teacher, provide a 10-minute musical kaleidoscope that is respectfully observed in semi-awed silence, the audience’s sugar rush having finally died away. Scottish hip-hop maverick Loki, here tonight with his Kartel backing group, is the last act before the big announcement. “I don’t want to interrupt your prosecco networking,” he sneers in typically provocative form. The tragedy is that the prosecco has long since run out.

It falls to Janice Forsyth to announce that Kathryn Joseph is the 2015 SAY Award winner, for her lyrically compelling Bones You Have Thrown Me And Blood I’ve Spilled. It proves a popular choice in the room, with the whoops of delight lasting a full five minutes.

“I honestly can’t believe it,” the Aberdonian songwriter tells The Skinny moments later, visibly shaking with excitement. “How am I going to spend the money? I don’t know –I’ve never had that amount in my life before! Honestly, never. I can’t believe – out of all these most amazing musicians in the actual fucking world – they have chosen our record! I know it’s because of what Marcus (Mackay, percussionist) has done with it.

“Honestly, beautiful Young Fathers came over to me. It was the first time I had seen them live, and I was just like ‘give it to them again, give it to them again!’ There was no one better than them. They told me they saw me moving when they were singing… So that was the best moment of my night.”

Downstairs in the ABC2 the after party is beginning to kick off. Relaxing against the bar while the unlikely sound of Sean Paul reverberates through the room, G Hastings nods in approval at Joseph’s victory. “It will give her music a massive lift,” he says. It’s a boost that’s likely to last far longer than the sugary high of this evening.