The Vintage Calvinos Press

THE VINTAGE CALVINOS – PRESS

“There’s no fillers on this album, certainly in my Top 5 albums of 2017 thus far” – Stevo Music Man

“One of the unexpected delights of the last 12 months” – Mike Melville, Manic Pop Thrills

“One of the most ambitious records of the year” – John Clarkson, Penny Black Music

“A delightfully deranged tour of a marginal demi-monde located some way North-East of the well-trodden path.” – Gus Ironside, Is This Music?

“If you have the ears to appreciate rambling magnificence then The Vintage Calvinos are the band for you.” – Blues Bunny

“The first listen is gold but only an appetizer to the delights and unbridled pleasures which follow” – The Ringmaster Review.

No.1 album of 2017 – John Clarkson, Penny Black Music Editor

No 6 album of 2017 – Is This Music? End of year poll.

No. 6 album of 2017 – Manic Pop Thrills
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THE VINTAGE CALVINOS
AN INVITATION TO INFAMY (STEREOGRAM) **** By Gus Ironside • Dec 29th, 2017

Aberdeen is rarely thought of as a hotbed of musical innovation, yet Stereogram Recordings’ boss Jeremy Thoms has long championed the city’s radical credentials.

When Thoms heard that his old friend David Baird was planning an ambitious new project, he was quick to offer support, not only producing, mixing and mastering the album, but also releasing it on his record label.

Thoms and Stereogram co-founder Innes Reekie were blown away by Baird’s facility with a catchy melody and the breadth of his artistic vision, both defining characteristics of The Vintage Calvinos’ striking debut album, ‘An Invitation to Infamy’.

The album’s restless eclecticism makes it hard to classify, but the overall feel is somewhat akin to a louche, darker Belle & Sebastian. Vocally, Baird deploys an arresting croon not dissimilar to that of The Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler, the perfect vehicle for the Aberdonian’s rum, literate tales.

The songs range in tone from the unsettling, baroque acid-folk of ‘Alice’ to the smash-and-grab directness of ‘Teardrops In Your Eyes’, a track that could easily have graced one of Julian Cope’s early solo albums. Elsewhere, ‘This Handsome Boy’ evokes Prefab Sprout’s sophisto-pop, while ‘Rock Dreams Part 2’ is playful, joyous and knowingly daft, in equal measure.

With a truly diverse range of musicians involved, ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ successfully avoids the generic traps of most rock albums, while retaining a compelling edginess that invites repeated listening. Baird and his highly-talented barmy army are not playing it safe here, but by following his own wilful muse, the songwriter has created something rather special indeed, a delightfully deranged tour of a marginal demi-monde located some way North-East of the well-trodden path.
PennyBlackLOGO
John Clarkson speaks to Aberdeen-based based bass player and vocalist David Baird about his orchestral pop project the Vintage Calvinos whose just released debut album ‘An Invitation to Infamy’involves over twenty other musicians.

The Vintage Calvinos have released one of the most ambitious records of the year with their debut album, ‘An Invitation to Infamy’.

A symphonic and sweeping pop record, it is the project of Aberdeen-based bassist and vocalist David Baird, who was previously the bassist and main songwriter in a short-lived late 70’s/early 80’s local band the Squibs that released two singles and won the patronage of John Peel. Baird also played for a while in Vibrators’ frontman Knox’s band in London before returning to Scotland.

‘An Invitation to Infamy’ is a prime example of what can be achieved on a tiny budget, and with resourcefulness, creativity and enthusiasm. It involves, as well as Baird, a rotating cast of twenty other musicians including guitarists, keyboardists, strings players, percussionists, trumpet, trombone, tuba and sax players, backing singers and on one song ‘So Many People’ also a brass band. From the strings-drenched ‘Eleanor Rigby’-style ‘Prelude’ and its first full song, the stomping orchestral glam rock ‘Last Tango’ (about a brief but passionately played-out romance) onwards, its scope is simply astonishing.

The musicians on ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ include Iona Macdonald, the singer with acclaimed folk duo Doghouse Roses; Jeremy Thoms, the front man and guitarist with Edinburgh-based alternative rock outfit the Cathode Ray who also produced the album, and jazz session player Fraser Peterkin.

“It is essentially a pop album, “David Baird says to Pennyblackmusic in an interview about ‘An Invitation to Infamy’. “But I wanted a diversity of musicians with different backgrounds in order to give each of the songs a different flavour. If I had simply used a four piece made up of rock musicians, it would have ended up sounding pretty samey.”

“All those involved in the making of ‘Infamy’ are involved with their own bands. Some of the musicians I already knew. Others I approached specifically as I liked their playing, such, as, for example, Fraser Peterkin, who is a much in-demand musician in jazz circles. I wanted musicians with disparate backgrounds and approaches. Iona has a folk background. Others had a classical background.”

“The album was all planned out in advance,” he adds. “There wasn’t any improvisation. I wrote the songs, then went into the studio with Paul Davidson who plays guitar and keyboards on ‘Infamy’ and was the album’s engineer and we recorded a guide track for each of them. I knew how the songs had to be arranged, and we would then get the musicians in and give them their parts to play. It took around two years to make as there were studio problems and arranging sessions was sometimes problematic. None of the musicians involved, however, would accept payment. A couple of drinks and that was it. The expense was studio time which did add up.”

‘An Invitation to Infamy’ was released on Jeremy Thoms’ label Stereogram Recordings (The Cathode Ray, the Band of Holy Joy, Roy Moller. James King & The Lonewolves, the Eastern Swell). Thoms, like Baird, is originally from Aberdeen, but moved South to Edinburgh over thirty years ago.

“I’ve known Jeremy a long time,” says David Baird about Thoms, who as well as producing ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ also mixed and mastered it. “And when I told him what I was up to, he immediately suggested I come on board with Stereogram. My God, you should hear the discussions we have had about music over the years. We are both devoted to it. I’ve always thought he has a pretty good ear, so when it came to who was going to produce ‘Infamy’ I thought he was the obvious choice. It was a fairly elongated process and he would send me a mix, and then there would be numerous texts back and forth, and then he would send me another mix. Then he got down to producing it and the same process continued. We were at no point in the same room together but I saw that as an advantage.”
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One of the central tracks on ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ is ‘This Handsome Boy’, a sweltering nearly six -minute soul anthem that throws together sharp peals of brass with swirling strings. It tells of its title character who becomes involved with a girl, a boy and “a very pretty saint” who each introduce him to and show him their “room of a thousand dreams”, but he decides instead that he needs to be “free” of all of them. The chorus line as the instruments surge to a high is “lightning only strikes twice when there is thunder in the air.”

“It’s about a boy who has these individuals who are obsessed with him,” explains Baird. “But he has no need for them although he likes them. They would stifle him. The thunder and lightning chorus symbolises that things build up over a period and then explode. They become very demanding and that is when the lightning strikes, but the thunder has been there from the moment they show him their rooms.”

‘Alice’ in contrast is a hazy, softly psychedelic number which tells of a young boy’s loss of virginity to a more experienced older girl, who in the song’s final verse turns out to be his sister. Surprisingly it takes its inspiration from Luchino Visconti’s 1971 art house film ‘Death in Venice’, which adapted from German writer Thomas Mann’s 1912 novel, tells of an aging homosexual composer played by Dirk Bogarde who becomes fixated with a teenage boy who walks with his family each day on the same beach that he does.

“With ‘Alice’, I wanted to write about first love or sexual awakening, but there are so many songs which cover that so it needed a twist,” Baird says. “There is, of course, no incest in ‘Death in Venice’, simply an old man’s obsession with a young boy. The boy and his family, however, daily parade on the beach just outside Venice, and I thought what if the boy and his older sister had this thing going on, and then I imagined an entirely different set up whereby the beach was deserted and they were on their own.”

Near the end of ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ is ‘Rock Dreams Part 2’. It is a breezy and brassy rock and roll number about a music-obsessed young man who dreams up a series of encounters hanging out with Elvis, 60’s era the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed and Andy Warhol during their Factory years, and who at the end of the song abandons his dull home town looking for something better and more exciting. Despite his years spent in London, Baird denies the song is about himself.

“It isn’t autobiographical,” he says simply. “I wrote the last verse about the guy leaving town to contrast it with the previous verses and to allow Elvis, Mick and Andy to become his old friends.”

David Baird’s problem is now that ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ is out working out ways of promoting it.

“There are no immediate plans to play live,” he reflects. “But it’s a vague possibility and would doubtless involve quite a different line-up from those who participated in the making of ‘Infamy’”.

“In terms of getting the album promoted, it requires radio play, coverage in the press, internet and word of mouth,” he says in conclusion. “It is notoriously difficult these days anyway for an independent record to get access to radio and media.”

Hopefully‘An Invitation to Infamy’ will win itself an audience. It is an album that deserves to be heard.

Manic Pop Thrills
2017 ACCORDING TO… THE VINTAGE CALVINOS

‘An Invitation to Infamy’ by the Vintage Calvinos was one of the unexpected delights of the last 12 months. It’s an album that covers a dizzying range of styles with ambitious instrumentation yet at its heart it’s a record that depends fundamentally on melody.

The Vintage Calvinos is a front for Aberdeen based songwriter and musician David Baird and the group of musicians he calls on to realise his musical visions and I’m delighted that David kicks off MPT’s traditional end of year review today.

Your Own Music

Your own musical highlight of the year?

Finishing ‘Infamy’.

Favourite performance of the year?

There were none.

What’s the best thing that you did musically this year?

Recording ‘Infamy’.

What’s the one thing that went wrong in 2017 you’d like to fix?

Nothing.

What you gonna be doing next year?

Record another album.

Others’ Music

Album of the year?

‘These People’ by Richard Ashcroft. I think it came out in 2016 but I only came across it this year.

Song of the year?

‘Songs of Experience’ by the above.

Best gig attended?

The Icicle Works.

Best discovery in 2017?

None.

Who should we be looking out for in 2018?

The next VC album.

Anything and Everything

Hero of 2017 (M and F)

None.

Villain of 2017 (M and F)

Too many.

High point of 2017

None stand out.

Lowpoint of 2017

Hearing Elbow massacre ‘Golden Slumbers’.

Favourite book of 2017

Re-reading Nick Kent’s ‘Apathy for the Devil’.

Favourite film of 2017

None.

Most missed?

Leonard Cohen.

Worst piece of advice you gave and/or were given in 2017?

I never give advice or listen to any.

What place will you most associate with 2017?

A certain pub in Aberdeen.

Something to look forward to in 2018?

The next VC album.
The Ringmaster Review
The Vintage Calvinos – “An Invitation To Infamy” Published October 18th by RingMaster
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Being engulfed in fascination for something is one of life’s pleasures and stepping into the kaleidoscopic world of An Invitation To Infamy is certainly both. The debut album from The Vintage Calvinos is an absorbing tapestry of sound and suggestion loaded with observation, insight, and a creative devilment which just gets right under the skin.

The band is the creation of song writer/bassist/vocalist David Baird who lured in some of the finest Scottish musicians to the Aberdeen based project and indeed, in the case of backing singer Xavia, literally just passing by talent of drawn to the pied piper-esque sounds coming through the windows of The Anatomy Rooms where the band was rehearsing. Together they have created a web of temptation in skilfully conjured word and multi-flavoured music which has the body swaying and imagination swinging in joyful enterprise and contemplation. From pop to indie, rock to folk and a host of numerous other spices, An Invitation To Infamy is a beautiful collusion drawn from the hearts of a collective of musical adventurers.

The instantly compelling rub of drama soaked strings as Prelude leaps upon ears and imagination sets the scene and tone of things to come, its vocal compulsion subsequently slipping into a warm slow waltz with a flowing energy which soon has hips leaning to and fro as guitars and strings engage with the romancing keys in entwining dulled yet potent percussive beats. The forcibly engaging piece leads into the waiting arms of Last Tango which opens with melodic drama somewhat akin to War of The Worlds. Its rich strains soon twist into a rolling stroll with more infectiousness than a viral cold and a net of creative intrigue which has ears and thoughts enslaved. Baird’s great vocals are more than matched by the backing of Xavia, both wrapped in the melodic dexterity of Paul Davidson’s guitar. With a second never wasted on predictability, the track is superb, almost reason enough alone to accept An Invitation To Infamy.

So Many People follows, the buzz of life breeding a slow carnival march, one seemingly infusing the tiredness of perpetually imposing life with the joy of being. Brass blows with an enticing clamour as rhythms throb, a welcoming cacophony parting for the melancholic spicing of Baird’s vocals and the stirring scythes of strings and in turn uniting for a creative throng which just magnetises the senses. Like a sonic pagan scented Lowry composition with a broader outlook, the track utterly seduces before new single You Are Always on My Mind infests the psyche. The striking coaxing of Mitsuki Takayama’s violin instantly grips, a hold tightening as the song evolves into a sixties pop scented canter. There is no resistance to its teasing temptations and lively catchiness, the quickly involved antics of body and vocal chords swift evidence. Davidson’s wall of keys is just as irresistible along with the theatre of strings and the rhythmic saunter of Baird’s bass and Fraser Peterkin’s drum beats.

The indie seduction of This Handsome Boy absorbs attention next. It is a track with a touch of Lightning Seeds to it at certain moments and pure pop contagion throughout led by the golden tones of Iona Macdonald and warm surges of brass expelled by trumpeter Bill Thompson, trombonist Denis Webb, and saxophonist Dave Carter. Sometimes there is something about it which feels quite familiar yet for no obvious reason as it floods ears with instinctive pleasure.
No Room At The Inn 940 x 940
The album’s first single, No Room at The Inn released a couple of weeks ago, steps in to captivate straight after with its gentle stroll. Its proposal is low key, compared to other songs, but rich invitation into the album’s broadening musical and lyrical craft while Clouds smoulders with elegance and undiluted captivation. At times it sounds like a blend of Steely Dan and Weekend, a wistful seduction with intensity in its heart and an energetic adventure in its nature.

Through the haunting entrance and golden incestuous intimacy of Alice and the minimalistic but rich stirring of Lost, band and album continue to bewitch with adventurous diversity and creative revelry. Both tracks simply enthral whilst manipulating the body before Teardrops in My Eyes swaggers in with sorrowful melodies and sinful energy to reinforce the submission of ears and appetite before The Vintage Calvinos.

The dusky rock ‘n’ roll of Rock Dreams Part 2 is like a soundtrack to many of our musical upbringings and warm homage to its kings and quite irresistible as too after a magnetic instrumental reprise of No Room at The Inn, is closing track The Beautiful and the Damned. A shadow draped ballad to the lost and the lonely with the darkest outcome, the song is simply sultry aural beauty epitomising the craft and debut of The Vintage Calvinos.

With a host of other striking individual contributions involved in the collective creation of An Invitation To Infamy, all deserving recognition, the album is one of the year’s most essential encounters. The first listen is gold but only an appetizer to the delights and unbridled pleasures which follow with every subsequent union between ear and sound.
Blues Bunny
Album, Single and EP Reviews
Artist: The Vintage Calvinos
Title: An Invitation to Infamy
Catalogue Number: Stereogram Recordings STECD 010
Review Format: CD/DL
Release Year: 2017

It’s not often that you get an album with a prelude these days but that is exactly what The Vintage Calvinos – Aberdeen’s David Baird and associates – give us to kick off “An Invitation to Infamy”. Being a full time cynic, I immediately suspected an attack of artistic pretension was on the cards but what I experienced instead was a selection of songs that, while not quite emulating the style of Tom Waits, demonstrate effectively that there is a new storyteller amongst us.

In consequence, that makes “An Invitation to Infamy” an album to absorb in a single sitting with ambient sound effects, oblique samples and curious interludes being used to join everything into one cohesive yet still thematically diverse musical entity that engages both heart and ears. Add in a curious tendency to use a knowing quirkiness with abandon and you end up with a selection of songs that are most certainly not standard even if the ever sociable ghost of Britpop drops by to haunt both “You Are Always on My Mind” and “This Handsome Boy”. No exorcism is required though as those songs are just about perfect.
An Invitation To Infamy 940 x 940
The most interesting thing about this album though is its very complexity. Albums these days tend to rely on the computer to make it perfect yet “An Invitation to Infamy” instead verges on the untidy with individuality much to the fore and everything but the kitchen sink thrown in to provide ballast for a ship that simply refuses to be sunk.

One for mature tastes perhaps but if you have the ears to appreciate rambling magnificence then The Vintage Calvinos are the band for you.

Manic Pop Thrills
View online here: https://manicpopthrills.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/diversity-of-experience-the-vintage-calvinos-feature/
INTERVIEWS, RECORDS

DIVERSITY OF EXPERIENCE – The Vintage Calvinos feature
Date: October 27, 2017, Author: manicpopthrills

Whilst it’s nice to receive free music through the post there’s a certain degree of trepidation attached with receiving a physical artefact as opposed to, say a bundle of MP3s. When it’s cost someone money to send you something, what if I don’t like it?

Consequently, the more I receive from Stereogram, the more I’m convinced that the next one will be the one I don’t like. They’ve had a good run so far, but how long can it last?

Since I knew nothing about the Vintage Calvinos before opening a package the other week I was concerned that ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ might be the album to end that run.

Except it was clear from one play that, resoundingly, emphatically, it was not. Yet again I’ve won in the Stereogram lottery.

As is par for the course the Calvinos don’t sound quite like any other act on the label. Instead they sound like they complete another essential part of the wider jigsaw puzzle that is Stereogram – I’ve a suspicion that if the Vintage Calvinos didn’t exist then Jeremy Thoms would have to invent something very like them.

What is it that makes ‘Invitation’ stand apart from the rest of the catalogue? Stereogram records rarely lack in ambition but ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ dials that up several notches with a dizzying array of instrumentation applied to the 13 songs.

Strings feature throughout such as on driving opening instrumental ‘Prelude’ and the quieter ‘Alice’ and the former in particular remind me of Lomond Campbell’s ‘Black River Promise’. Yet a couple of songs into the record ‘So Many People’ features what sounds like a brass band imparting joie de vivre to the song’s choruses as a contrast to the otherwise mournful verses.

This is typical of the record – the arrangements vary from one song to the next never allowing a particular sound to emerge. Yet there’s undeniably a sense of cohesion to the set and the overarching impressions I get from the record are those of joyful energy and melody.

Both ‘You Are Always on My Mind’ (no, not that one) and ‘No Room at The Inn’ (which sounds a bit like poppy, early Triffids) have already been put out as singles. Yet ‘Invitation’ seems to have an endless supply of similarly catchy material which could act as attention grabbers.
You Are Always On My Mind 940 x 940
One of these is ‘Handsome Boy’, which manages to sound reminiscent of both label-mates St Christopher Medal and Glasgow’s Randolph’s Leap, whilst the rockier ‘Last Tango’ is another. ‘Rock Dreams Part 2’ draws on similar influences to another Stereogram label-mate, Roy Moeller, albeit with far more opulent instrumentation.

Ahead of today’s release I managed a quick chat with Vintage Calvinos mastermind David Baird to find out a little more about the record.

First up, David explained that the Vintage Calvinos are a disparate group of musicians brought together specifically to realise his ambitions for the record.

“The Vintage Calvinos aren’t an entity as such. All of those who played on the album are involved with other groups which cover a wide range of styles as I wanted a diversity of experience and approach to playing.

“The drummer is a jazzer who has done numerous sessions, Iona MacDonald has her own folk band Doghouse Roses, Jeremy has his Cathode Ray, I’ve done work with Knox and the Vibrators and so on.”

Applying that diversity to the individual tracks followed on naturally from David’s original songwriting.

“Firstly, I wrote the songs, worked out how I wanted to arrange them, went into the studio with Paul Davidson who plays on the album and he recorded guide tracks. I then approached the musicians whom I wanted and we set up sessions.”

To an outsider it seemed like the process of realising such an ambitious vision for the record would be fraught with difficulty, but David reckons it all went smoothly.

“There weren’t any major challenges with the ensemble other than arranging times when we could all get together. The vision I had for the album is pretty much how it has turned out. I wanted each song to be different, an eclectic mix you might say.”

David is quite clear about what’s most important to any Vintage Calvinos tune.

“My main priority with a song is the melody. The arrangement can be smart, the playing exceptional, the production just right but, for myself at any rate, if the melody is weak, you’ve wasted your time.”

As is often the case with Stereogram acts, an album appearing on the label is often the culmination of many years history.

“I’ve known Jeremy a long time and when I told him what I was working on, he immediately suggested I come on board with Stereogram. As it turned out, he played and sang on a few songs and then went on to mix and master the album as well.”

I honestly can’t recommend ‘An Invitation to Infamy’ enough and it’s available on Stereogram from today.