St. Christopher Medal Press

Hoof! album front cover

“A big, warm rootsy sound” – **** The Scotsman

“One of the finest country rock and Americana albums we have heard in a very long time” – When You Motor Away

“Wayne Moon Pilot is sheer class from start to finish” – Scots Whay Hae!

“A cosmic trippy flight to the heart” – Daily Record

“A highly melodic and subtly barbed addition to Edinburgh-based label Stereogram’s burgeoning roster of literate pop artists” – **** Is This Music?

“Combining the melodic strengths of Teenage Fanclub with Bruce Springsteens’s heart-on-the-sleeve directness” – Sogo Magazine

“The time flies by due to the amazing amount of life and vitality prevalent throughout…wonderfully rousing.” – Pure M Magazine

“This is a very fine record by a very fine band.” – Penny Black Music

“A subtle and compelling joy that rewards repeated listening.” – 8/10 Louder Than War

“Yet another gem in the increasingly impressive Stereogram catalogue” – Manic Pop Thrills

“One fascinating and enjoyable proposition” – The Ringmaster Review

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Saturday, July 6th 2019

Manic Pop Thrills

Country Music Makes Me Sad – St Christopher Medal album review

Country Music Makes Me Sad – St Christopher Medal album review

St Christopher Medal – Hoof! (Stereogram Recordings)

My Stereogram journey has now reached the point that I can no longer expect to be surprised by a new release – certainly not when it comes to a second release.

And as ‘Hoof!’ is the second full length from St Christopher Medal, then there’s something directly to compare it with. So fewer surprises perhaps and equally plenty to live up to.

As on ‘Sunny Day Machine’, 2015’s debut, melody infuses every song as the band build on the strengths of the debut . The album was trailed a couple of years back by single ‘Wayne Moon Pilot’ and in a lot of ways that unhurried epic is as good as an exemplar for the album as anything else, particularly the thrilling extended guitar coda.

The focus however has slightly shifted as ‘Hoof!’ demonstrates a more relaxed vibe than the debut as only a handful of the songs have any real urgency. Single and opening track ‘Fallen Angel’ is Exhibit A in this regard underpinned as it is by Kenny Mathieson’s insistent guitar but really only ‘Family Tent’ (with its melodic call back to ‘Satchel Bag’ from the debut) and the pedal steel driven ‘Ties That Bind’ fit that description.

Otherwise ‘Hoof!’ aims for sweeping organic instrumentation rather than rock momentum so there’s an elegant grandeur on songs like ‘The Desert Wind and the Jazz Wolf’ and ‘Baseball Jacket’. Yet, it never feels overdone and there are more intimate moments such as ‘Diablo’ with its evocative plaintive picked guitar and understated backing.

Lyrically principal songwriter Ali Mathieson strives to find poetic moments within the everyday activities – the gentle ‘Country Music’ eulogises ‘In the city/cool rain is pouring down’’ whilst waiting at traffic lights en route to pick up his eldest from Cubs.

It’s a lovely, mature record which is every bit as richly melodic as its predecessor.

And, sandwiched in between STOOR’s abrasive second LP ‘Fleam’ and the Cathode Ray’s upcoming excellent  ‘Heightened Senses’ (due next month), ‘Hoof!’ sounds like neither yet confirms that the label remains on a hot streak in 2019.

Although the record has been available for a few weeks now, the album launch only takes place this Saturday (12 October) at 7pm in the Birnam Arts Centre in Dunkeld. Tickets will be available on the door. Support comes from Good Guy, Good Guy, hank. See you there! 

Birnam Institute 12 oct A3 763 x 1080


Band:St Christopher Medal
Reviewed By:John Clarkson
Date Published:27/08/2019

St. Christopher Medal is a band of epic panoramas.

While it is nominally Scottish, its frontman and songwriter Ali Mathieson being based in rural Perthshire, other members reside in Dorset and Teeside, and its main focus is on America, where Mathieson’s brother, the band’s guitarist Kenny lives in New York. Although elements of Teenage Fanclub and the Trashcan Sinatras can he heard in St Christopher’s Medal, the Eagles, the Hold Steady, Jackson Browne, Gram Parsons, and – that other band of between two worlds – Crosby Stills and Nash are also clear equal influences.

Ali Mathieson has the ability in his songwriting to make the mundane extraordinary. The aching, melancholic ‘Country Music’ finds his memories of a long ago, failed love affair re-sparked after he hears for the first time in three decades an ancient country record on the radio while driving home to take his son to cubs. The more upbeat ‘Family Tent’ in contrast tells of a slightly chaotic family camping trip to the Belladrum Festival in Invernesshire.

Equally impressive, however, is the six minutes ‘Wayne, Moon Pilot’, which opens with a brief reading of Hugh Macdiarmid’s ‘Bonnie Brockit Bairn’ by Mathieson’s fourteen year old daughter Elsie against a distorted backdrop, before opening out into a beautiful piece of cinematic rock, which imagines the plight of a solitary astronaut who has spent too long on his own in outer space (“Message for anyone/This is Wayne, Moon pilot/Ready to come back down”).

Similarly evocative, but again in complete contrast, is the sparse, acoustic ‘Those Nights…’ which muses over some of the world’s best known gigs from the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club to Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hall to more tragically the Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan (“No one ever forgets those nights…”).

Mathieson has a strong band in his brother, drummer David Mack, bassist Billy Nisbet and pianist Andy Jefferies, who swing effortlessly from downbeat Americana to rollicking country rock to scorched epicness to bare-as-bones acoustica.

Gigs because of the geographical distance involved are inevitably a rarity, but one hopes that word-of-mouth will pay off for St. Christopher Medal and ‘Hoof!’ It is an album that very much deserves to be heard.

The Ringmaster Review

St. Christopher Medal – Hoof!

St. Christopher Medal – Hoof!

July 2nd 2019. Review by Pete Ring

Hoof! sees the return of a particularly firm captivation going by the name of St. Christopher Medal. It was four years back that the Scotland hailing outfit bewitched attention and praise with debut album Sunny Day Machine and can look forward to much more of the same with its successor.

In many ways simply taking up the persuasive enterprise their first album left us with, Hoof! takes the listener deeper into the imagination and evocative fusion of country rock and Perthshire bred Americana which marked its predecessor. It brings a realm of melancholic poetry and melodic intimacy to the bracing remote isolation of the highlands but hope embracing songs which for the main effortlessly nestled under the skin as they ignited the imagination amidst personal associations.

Hoof! opens up with its first single, Fallen Angel rising up from a stark breeze to magnetically head through ears. In moments the spirited sounds of the track embraced ears, the earnest tones and words of Alistair Mathieson riding the bold stroll of rhythms as the evocative tapestry of Andrew Jeffries’ keys and the piano of Liam Cassidy weaved its suggestion. It is an immediately infectious affair with a tenacious rock heart aflame with the almost searing enterprise of guitarist Kenny Mathieson and a great start to a quickly compelling release.

The sensitive hug of Country Music follows, the song wrapping its melancholic reflection with the familiar essences of the wrapping its title suggests. It is a flavouring which does not generally spark our fires here yet in the craft of St. Christopher Medal only enticed as its in-depth experiences echoed before Wayne, Moon Pilot emerged from its spatial poetry aligned flight with its own expressive saunter, melodies and heart sharing voice again simply relaxing into one magnetic union with just a tinge of Bowie to its cosmic glide. Once more the band equip beauty and elegance with a sturdy rock ‘n’ roll spine, the rhythms of drummer David Mack and bassist Billy Nisbet almost imposing as they fire up the heat of the spiral of melodic fire escaping guitars.

From the dark shadows and sorrow of Baseball Jacket with the vocals of Steph Fraser a radiant companion to the more homely tones of Mathieson, and across the expansive landscape of the ultimately insular exploration of The Desert Wind & The Jazz Wolf, band and album only continued to seize attention and appetite with the latter especially commanding though soon outshone a touch by the Americana poppiness of Family Tent with its thick swing and contagious energy.

There is no lessening of temptation as Silver Lake and The Ties That Bind share their individual consternations, the first sharing a downcast examination before the second reflects on life within a bolder country rock canter with a certain wild west romancing to it, the easily enticing pair though eclipsed by the simply bewitching Diablo, a song which just kissed personal likes with its smiling melodies and virulent hook.

The album closes out upon the ripe sunset of Those Nights and its title track, each easy but inescapable temptation which sparked thoughts as firmly as attention, the last especially irresistible whilst epitomising the craft, imagination, and soul-stirring heart-rending prowess of St. Christopher Medal.

Whether Hoof! will cheer you up when truly down is debateable but it makes for an understanding companion whilst providing music which just captures the imagination; what better reason to immerse in the melancholia rich world of St. Christopher Medal.

 When You Motor Away Logo

This is not music criticism. On this blog, you will only read about music we like.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019. St. Christopher Medal – Hoof! reviewed by Scott Galloway

St. Christopher Medal is a new old band.  Under that name, they began recording quite recently.  However, four of the five members comprised Life With Nixon, a Scottish band that ended its run in the ’90s.  It seems that friendship and a love of music have a glue-like property, so the world of music now has St. Christopher Medal and St. Christopher Medal have a new album titled Hoof!  Perhaps surprisingly given the scattered UK location of most of the band (one of the members now resides in the US), the dominant flavors here are country rock and Americana.  But Hoof! also happens to be one of the finest country rock and Americana albums we have heard in a very long time.  The songwriting reflects experience, perspective and a keen observational eye.  Similarly, the performances are of the sort one can only expect of performers with years of experience and familiarity with each other.  The songs are warm, reflective, melodic, and richly detailed.  For those of us no longer in our 20s or 30s, this album is life set to music, and it makes a strong case for a place on our essential playlist.

We embedded a few of our favorites below, but it hurt to not include more, including the lovely “Diablo”, “Baseball Jacket” and “The Desert Wind And The Jazz Wolf”.  Suffice it to say that if you don’t choose to listen to the entire album, you are cheating yourself.  Visit the Bandcamp link below; you can thank us later.

St. Christopher Medal are Ali Mathieson, Kenny Mathieson, Billy Nisbet, David Mack, and Andy Jeffries, with additional contributions by Liam Cassidy and Steph Fraser. 

Manic Pop Thrills

Song of the Week #15 – St. Christopher Medal

This is good news. Not only is there an excellent new single due from St. Christopher Medal at the end of the month, but a new album, ‘Hoof’ is being quoted by label Stereogram Recordings.

‘Fallen Angel’ is described as: “Classic Scottish songwriting (TFC, Lloyd Cole, Trashcan Sinatras) and sweeping alt-Americana (GP, Wilco, Okkervil River) filtered through thrilling, melodic guitar and piano – deserts, highways, half-dreamed visions of rock’n’roll heartlands…”

Their last single ‘Wayne Moon Pilot’ was a bit of a classic which really took off with the guitar soloing at the back end of the song. In contrast ‘Fallen Angel’ is a more raucous effort, yet every bit as enjoyable.

As far as I know isn’t related in anyway to the new Chris Brookmyre page-turner of the same title…

Fallen Angel single artwork
The Ringmaster Review
RingMasterReview Nibbles
The RingMaster Review takes a swifter glance at other striking encounters…
February 8th 2017. Single Review by Pete Ring

Released in 2015, Sunny Day Machine, the debut album from Scottish outfit ST. CHRISTOPHER MEDAL still and unsurprisingly seems to be drawing new ears and appetites the way of the band’s unique indie Scotpop sound. It was an attention grabbing proposal swiftly intriguing ears and sparking the imagination, much like the band’s new single WAYNE MOON PILOT.

The Perthshire six-piece of brothers Ali (vocals, guitar and songs) and Kenny Mathieson (lead guitar), David Mack (drums & percussion), Andy Jeffries (keys), and Billy Nisbet (bass) explore a new aspect of their imagination with their latest track. Its body is as striking and unexpected as fans of their album will assume; gently strolling Americana spiced indie pop as nostalgic in its air as it is fresh in its character tempting within a celestial atmosphere reminding, if not in sound, of Bowie’s Space Oddity. Its touch has an intimacy as potent as the spatial landscape reflecting the song’s protagonist calling out across the stars.

It is a song which grows by the minute and seduces more and more with every listen while suggesting that St. Christopher Medal itself is moving into another new and individual sphere of creative adventure.
Scots Whay Hae! Logo
New Musical Success: A Review Of The Best In New Music…

Here’s a tip for you. If you start your song with a reading of Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘The Bonnie Broukit Bairn’, one of the great poems from one of our greatest poets, you are always going to find favour here. But St Christopher Medal‘s song ‘Wayne Moon Pilot‘ stands on its own and is sheer class from start to finish. It’s easily as good as the best alt-country records you know and love, such as those made by the likes of Giant Sand, Uncle Tupelo and Jay Farrar. In fact, imagine Peter Capaldi fronting Lambchop and you have a fair idea of what you are about to hear. Understated yet epic, it promises even greater things to come. Watch this space:
Manic Pop Thrills
Alternative (sic) music of the last 30 years
Stereogram Showcase – Live review

STOOR /The Eastern Swell / St Christopher Medal – The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh – Friday 3rd March 2017

Following the Blue Aeroplanes is a tough gig but I was always confident that this triple Stereogram bill would rise to the occasion.

Like the trip to see Kristin Hersh it was another uncomfortable journey through to Edinburgh. This time I managed to stay ahead of the psycho Stagecoach driver but still got stuck in traffic on Palmerston Place. I did think that my luck had turned when I got a parking space right next to the traffic lights but the implications of that would be revealed later.

More seriously after the hold-up I still arrived expecting St Christopher Medal to be in full swing. Fortunately they weren’t and in fact it was a wee while before they actually took to the stage.

Apparently only their second ever gig, the band really had assembled from all points of the compass with band members arriving from Dorset and New York due to the opportunity to play a show being combined with recording for a second Medal LP.

We’ll have to wait for months I guess to hear the album but in terms of the show, the set mixed new songs with highlights from the superb debut ‘Sunny Day Machine’ (point off though for omitting ‘Satchel Bag’!). But I’ll give them it back for the quite wonderful rendition of new single ‘Wayne Moon Pilot’ which closed.

All in all it was a relaxed and quality start to the evening’s proceedings.
Daily Record & Sunday Mail logo
Daily Record Single Review by Rick Fulton. 3rd February 2017
WMP Daily record 03.02.17
Artist: St. Christopher Medal @ The Stereogram Revue
Title: Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 2/12.2015
Category: Live Reviews
Author: John Clarkson
Date Published: 05/02/2016
John Clarkson at the Voodoo Rooms is impressed by the Stereogram Revue, a showcase gig for several of the acts on rising local label Stereogram Recordings.
The Stereogram Revue final gig poster 680 x 980
With members in Perthshire, Teeside, Dorset and New York, St Christopher Medal’s situation is even more complicated still than the Fabulous Artisans. Despite being together almost a decade, this is only their second gig, and vocalist and songwriter Ali Mathieson is understandably nervous, taking a last gap of an e-cigarette as his band tunes up and slopping beer over the acoustic guitar that he has borrowed from David Paul.

Playing in a makeshift-line up also consisting of bassist Billy Nisbet, drummer David Mack and a young keyboardist from Dunkeld, they, however, quickly warm up. A throwaway opening number about the band’s hopes for the show tonight and tomorrow at the CCA in Glasgow is very funny. Songs from the group’s years-in-the-making just-released debut album, ‘Sunny Day Machine’, such as the elegiac ‘Glori’ (inspired by Canadian writer Don Hannah’s out-of-print novel ‘The Wise and Foolish Virgins’), the soaring ‘Vatersay Love Song’ (about how Mathieson met his wife while teaching on the Isle of Barra) and the epic ‘West’, combine Americana with the pop melodies of Teenage Fanclub and have a lingering quality.
Manic Pop Thrills
DECEMBER 18, 2015
If There Was A Hole In Time – St Christopher Medal LP review by Mike Melville.
Sunny Day & Sound Of

I’ve been meaning to write about the St Christopher Medal album for weeks now (it’s been out since the end of October) but for one reason and another I’ve never managed. Til now. Normally I’d probably have just dropped it in favour of something more current but, really, it’s just too good to ignore.

I confess that, up front, I knew nothing about St Christopher Medal other than that they were on Stereogram. Despite that ignorance ‘Sunny Day Machine’ has turned out to be one of the year’s nicest surprises which frankly shouldn’t be that much of a shocker since, in this household at least, Stereogram is quickly becoming a by-word for quality.

The record is a mixture of up tempo pop songs in the vein, perhaps of Teenage Fanclub, as demonstrated by the singles ‘Vatrersay Love Song’ and ‘From A Zafira Comfort’. Yet there’s a quirkiness to the likes of ‘Satchel Bag’ (perhaps the record’s stand-out) which elevates these tunes to something special.

Then there’s the noisiest track on the record ‘Days Like These’ the guitars on which reminds me a little of New Adventures era R.E.M. Which is all good.

But a fair chunk of the record is far more introspective and these songs are just as strong as the pop tunes. Later period R.E.M. are also a reference point for some of this material on the record yet the likes of ‘Great Lakes Morning’ (which also boats a magnificent guitar coda) and ‘What She Said on the Street’ offer a depth that Georgia’s finest sometimes lacked at that stage in their career.

Other highlights include the band’s theme tune, ‘We Are The Medal’, which is a wonderful ode to the joys of making music for the sake of it but which also includes the slightly baffling claims that ‘We are Coldplay/We Are The Three Degrees’!

‘Sunny Day Machine’ is in a lot of ways the opposite of Manic Pop Thrills. Instead it’s a wonderful, layered, mature record that bears repeated listening and is yet another gem in the increasingly impressive Stereogram catalogue. You won’t hear much about it but you definitely should make sure that you hear it.

Artist: St Christopher Medal
Title: Interview
Category: Interviews
Author: John Clarkson
Date Published: 25/11/2015

John Clarkson speaks to Ali Mathieson, the front man with Scottish-formed Americana/pop act St Christopher Medal, about their debut album ‘Sunny Day Machine’ and why it has taken almost a decade to release and record.

‘Sunny Day Machine’, St Christopher Medal’s debut album, should by the laws of musical nature never have been made.

Four out of five of its members had been in Life With Nixon, a Scottish indie pop band of the 90s who had recorded two EPs and played a “million shows” before breaking up after playing a final show in Glasgow in 1996 and five years together.

In the intervening years since Life With Nixon dissolved, its members have all relocated from Edinburgh and Glasgow where they were originally based.
Vocalist and songwriter Ali Mathieson spent some time in the Hebrides, but now lives in rural Perthshire where he teaches in a local secondary school. Bassist Billy Nisbet is also in Perthshire. Drummer David Mack relocated to Teeside from Edinburgh a few years ago, and guitarist Kenny Mathieson, Ali’s brother, is now based in Manhattan. New recruit and pianist Andy Jefferies, Ali Mathieson’s flatmate from university in the late 1980s, meanwhile resides in Dorset.

Allured into working with each other again by the power of friendship and the strength of Ali Mathieson’s song writing, they formed St Christopher Medal almost a decade ago. While ‘Sunny Day Machine’ was recorded in just six days of studio time, hampered by the geographical location of its members, it took years to finish and release. It has just come out on the Edinburgh-based label Stereogram Recordings, which is owned by Cathode Ray front man Jeremy Thoms, and, as well as the Cathode Ray in which David Mack also plays drums, also includes on its roster other equally “lyrical acts” such as the Band of Holy Joy, James King and the Lone Wolves and Roy Moller.

‘Sunny Day Machine’ is a sublime Americana/pop record in the great tradition of Leonard Cohen, the Byrds, Teenage Fanclub and the country rock of the Rolling Stones, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, and which takes its lyrical inspiration from cult literature, the Hebrides, fatherhood and the ghosts of the past.

St Christopher Medal will be playing two rare gigs in Edinburgh and Glasgow on the 2nd and 3rd December as part of the Stereogram Revue in which most of its acts will be undertaking short sets.
St Christopher Medal
Pennyblackmusic spoke to Ali Mathieson about St Christopher Medal and ‘Sunny Day Machine’.

PB: Four out of five of you were in Life With Nixon, who folded in 1998 after five years together. ‘Sunny Day Machine’ has apparently had a gestation period of many years. How quickly after Life With Nixon broke up did you form St Christopher Medal and start working on this album?

AM: When Life With Nixon finished all the way back in 1996 I was really quite mixed up. It’s more of a ‘life’ type thing than a band one – I felt I’d invested quite a lot and it just wasn’t going to work. We had been a really good and hard-working band I thought, paid our dues, but it was obvious that we didn’t really fit in, and that was going to be a problem. It didn’t help that none of us really understood the music business at all.

I got a job – quite unexpectedly – on the Isle of Barra in the Western Isles and that was it really. We talked about keeping things going, but the reality of living in the Outer Hebrides means that that wasn’t going to happen. I kept writing songs and sent them to friends under the name Hot Shirt, but it was the kind of lo-fi that even Lou Barlow would have laughed at and none of those songs still survive as far as I am aware.

It wasn’t until I got married and moved back to the mainland that it even occurred to me that being in an actual band might all be possible again. Children came along and having something of my own, something completely separate, seemed to be more and more important. I think I wrote some songs and then made some phone-calls around about 2007. That was the start of St Christopher Medal. Most of ‘Sunny Day Machine’ was written between then and 2009 when we did most of the recording.

PB: Life With Nixon were quite a well-established name. When you decided to get back together why did you decide to reform under the new name of St Christopher Medal rather than continuing under the Life With Nixon moniker? Was it just because St Christopher Medal’s sound was so different?

AM: More than that, it seemed to me that the songs came from a completely different place. I still love the sound of some of the Life With Nixon songs we made. They’re lively, fun and sound like what they were – the product of a band that was really tight and practiced a lot and loved playing. Kenny and I were largely hammered and Billy and Dave largely weren’t, which was a discussion point at the time. Regardless, we’ve got a great bunch of pop songs in the vaults still that nobody’s heard and are great and that I’d love to release some day. I’d love to walk into a venue tomorrow and see a band as much fun and as musically strong as Life With Nixon were.
Ali Mathieson 3
What the songs weren’t, though, is even remotely ‘about’ anything. The best ones are the ones that were funny and light – good, smart riffs and singalong choruses. Tight. The songs I wrote later were trying to do something much different. Later it occurred to me that writing a song is much more about straightening out some of the tangles that life leaves us with. “Yeah, I did do and say that, but look… I also think this…!” It made sense to have a new thing, and that was St Christopher Medal – the saint of travellers, saviour of lost little children. Crosser of rivers.

PB: You have had major geographical problems to deal with in that four of your members are spread across Britain and your guitarist Kenny Mathieson lives in Manhattan. Your songs are also musically complex and none of them finish in the same place as in which they started. How as a result does the songwriting in the band work? Does you come up with the basic idea and then it involves a lot of file sharing or emails or does it work in a different way?

AM: I write the songs until they’re finished before I bring them to the band. The songs are done, but how they might end up sounding is completely up in the air. That’s not up to me. It’s up to the five of us and I’ve got enough faith and trust in the others to let that go completely. That’s the magic of playing with people you like and know very well. Kenny is by far the most opinionated and so he often has quite a big part to play when we’re putting things together. Typical lead guitarist really. Amp turned up far too loud and secret Angus Young fantasies. He needs watching, of course, and that’s the job of all of us, but it helps that he’s a bit of a genius. If life has taught Kenny anything at all it’s how to apologise for going over the top, and it’s something he’s become very good at.

PB: Why do you think that with such major obstacles against you that you have stuck together against the odds? Is it just out of loyalty to each other and friendship or are there also other factors?

AM: As I’ve got older I think I’ve become much more serious about music. Once, music was about making a big loud noise and having people look at you all lit up. It was also about the things you shared with your friends – the things that made you the same as one another. Billy and I used to bunk off school and spend a whole day listening to the new Smiths album. Andy and I, roommates at University, fell asleep to ‘In My Tribe’ by 10,000 Maniacs every night for two consecutive terms.

After I had kids of my own I realised that as much as I loved my family and, to an extent, my job – if I was ever going to say anything that wasn’t about them or about the obligations I already had, then I was going to have to make up stuff of my own. Music is actually about making something that you’re happy to have stand for you when you’re not there yourself. It’s about mapping an alternative present. Seeing your own self in a new way.

It made sense to want to do these things with people who knew me well. The fact that I like the way everyone plays helps a lot too. Over the years I’ve played with a lot of people and outside of St Christopher Medal very few have given me the shivers! St Christopher Medal are only just getting started.

PB: Your press release says that ‘Sunny Day Machine’ was recorded during six days of being together. Was that across several years?

AM: The recording of the record happened in two, three-day sessions. The first was a practice at Dave’s on Teeside. The second was a recording session at my mum’s in Argyll (the ‘Appin’ of ‘Appin Indians’). These two were a couple of months apart. The engineer in Appin was Kenny’s mate Jonathon Wallace (ex of Olympic Lifts) who, I think, did a really stunning job. I think that was in 2009, but it might have been earlier. Kenny and I mixed the record in 2011 – the weekend of the massacre at Utoya. In between there was a good number of grumpy phone-calls between me and Kenny, with me wondering what the fuck was taking so long putting guitar lines on the songs! Angus Young does it in three takes. THREE TAKES!

PB: It was followed by two more years of “head scratching”. What did you mean by that? Was that sitting on it and wondering what to do with it until Stereogram offered to release it or did you mean something else?
Ali Mathieson 2
AM: Absolutely. My objective was always to make a good record – a record that did justice to the songs and which sounded as beautiful on the turntable as it sounded in my head.

I hadn’t given even a moment’s thought to what we would do after we had done this! There really was no agenda, no method, no real plan at all of what to do. The record was the plan. Jeremy from Stereogram offered to release it and that just seemed like something falling out of the sky, which is what I had always thought would happen. No planning at all. But in the end, I think that the reason the record sounds like it does is because we didn’t have any sort of notion of what it was supposed to be. It’s just something we wanted to make.

PB: Lyrically the album is really intriguing. The opening track ‘Glori’ takes its inspiration from Canadian writer Don Hannah’s out-of-print and little known novel ‘The Wise and Foolish Virgins’. What is that novel about and what was the appeal of it?

AM: That song has actually had quite a big legacy. The novel is about families – how they grow up and change and become something you never could have guessed from the early years, when the kids are young. When you have kids of your own you become two totally different and opposite things simultaneously. You become a dad (or a mum) which is new and crazy. You also become a child again – a member of a family which you had almost entirely forgotten. It all comes back.

The novel seemed to be about that and so in my head it became a song. It’s a great novel actually, but pretty hard to get a hold of, as I’m finding out now. It has a fairly mad lead story about a man abducting a child, but that wasn’t really what interested me. It was sad and beautiful and hopeful.

After writing ‘Glori’ I started writing more songs about stories – specifically classic short stories. These songs I have funnelled into a new band called The Gutenbergs and that’s all we do – songs based on great short stories. It’s an outlet for my writing and playing when St Christopher Medal isn’t happening. I’m lucky.

PB: ‘Satchel Bag’ is about the new owner of a house discovering a set of photos of one of the previous owners of the house from fifteen years ago. What inspired that one? It it based on a true story or incident.

AM: It’s a true story, written shortly after moving into the house we live in now in Amulree in Perthshire. Again, the time of having young children in a family is a fairly intense one, and the house you choose to live in fixes so much forever in the lives of your children – for maybe good and maybe for bad. Our house is a particularly shitty example of how not to turn a stock byre into a house. It was converted into a house for very little actual money and with the same kind of attention to detail that the Germans used when converting Clydebank into a pile of rubble. Real lazy stuff. Not without its own charm though, and there was a load of stuff in the attic when we moved in – personal stuff. Letters, photos, that sort of thing. The thumbprints in the window-putty, initials on the bin. Nothing really spooky though – I made that stuff up!

PB: ‘West’, the final listed track on the album, is followed after a short break by two unlisted hidden tracks. Why did you decide not to make them a part of the official album? What are they called?

AM: ‘Secret Hand’ and ‘Snow Day’. The first of these is actually St Christopher Meda and we made it on a kind of social weekend at my Mum’s before we had a real sense of making an album. It’s about living on Barra and meeting my wife Magaidh for the first time.

‘Snow Day’ is something I did on my own. I’m trying to teach myself how to play the piano. There is another version of this song covered over with vocoder and korg-mini arpegginations to the point of madness. I thought that was the one we were going to use and I’m slightly disappointed it isn’t. Amulree is right up in the hills and when it snows we can be blocked up for days.

The reason they’re secret tracks is that they don’t really form part of the arc of the record. However, I think that an awful lot of what we do is good and if I didn’t put it on our record then literally nobody was ever going to hear it, and I think that would be a shame. I’m tired of making things that no one at all ever hears!
Billy Nisbet 2
PB: The videos for two of your singles. ‘Vatersay Love Song’ and ‘From a Zafira Comfort’, were shot in what looks like the Hebrides and have the quality of 60’s and 70’s home movies. When were they actually shot?

AM: Both videos were filmed by my son Roddy who is in Second Year at school. ‘Vatersay Love Song’ is filmed, unsurprisingly, on Vatersay. The long shot on the left is the road to Vatersay from Barra, filmed in the beautiful sunshine of January this year. The second one, ‘From a Zafira Comfort’ features my other son Hector and two of his buddies from Amulree. The landscape is Amulree in Spring.

PB: You are going to be the opening band at the Stereogram Revue shows in Edinburgh and Glasgow in December. Will these be St Christopher Medal’s first ever gigs? How much of a chance will you have for rehearsal beforehand? What can we expect from you at those shows?

AM: Actually we played last year in Dunkeld, at the British Legion. It was lots of fun, but a bit of a disaster at the same time. Our only rehearsal was going to be in the venue before the show, but Kenny missed his flight from Belfast and I ended up having to traipse down to Stranraer to pick him up off the ferry hours and hours later. By the time we got back to Dunkeld it was nearly showtime and our ambitious plans were in ruins. Dave was particularly cross if I remember correctly. We had managed to get the New Madrids to support us and they sort of rule, so I felt a bit uncomfortable.

Anyway, it was a very, very odd night, and I remember thinking that St Christopher Medal seemed to be on a very odd journey indeed. This time we know that Kenny and Andy won’t be with us so we’re not too worried about not sounding like the record. Hopefully we’ll sound good and we’ll do right by the songs, but it’s unlikely to sound much like the record. I grew up listening to Dylan and pretty much in love with the whole Dylan idea, so I’m comfortable with the idea that things keep changing. Changing is good.

PB: Now that the album is finally out do you have any other plans for the future?

AM: I have the next St Christopher Medal record all written. They’re St Christopher Medal songs for sure, not Gutenbergs songs. Totally different. The next record is a stunning thing – really properly good, but we need to do it right. We need to do it in less time than ‘Sunny Day Machine’ took, but we need to get it sounding the way I want it to. If we manage to do that right then I know we’ll really have something to turn people’s heads. We’re never going to play too much with Kenny in the States, but we’ll make music together and the music will be surprising and good. That’s enough, I think. Surprising and good!

PB: Thank you.
The Ringmaster Review
The RingMaster at Zykotika. Exploring the independent with The RingMaster Review & Zykotika.

St. Christopher Medal – “Sunny Day Machine” album review by RingMaster. Published November 6th, 2015.

It is hard to say the prime lure of Sunny Day Machine and indeed the sound of Scottish quartet St. Christopher Medal; whether it is the melancholic beauty, the expansive yet intimate landscapes of soulful sounds cast, or simply the emotive prowess of word and tone. Whatever the core potency, a mix of all most likely, the result is a captivating exploration which might not have you singing from the rooftops but will encourage a healthy word of mouth recommendation.

The August of 1998 saw Scotpop band Life With Nixon call it a day at Sleazy’s in Glasgow, a memorable show to round of successful adventure as a band. It has taken a fair while, but that foursome of Billy Nisbet (drums), David Mack (bass), and Ali (vocals) and Kenny Mathieson (guitar), have linked up with Andy Jeffries (piano) and returned as St. Christopher Medal. Drawing on loves and inspirations, the band has bred a sound fusing the rich essences of country rock, Americana, folk, and more, all woven into songs bred on reflection and observation, and a fair dose of personal experiences it is easy to suspect. With the first single, Vatersay Love Song, having whetted appetites the band’s debut album, Sunny Day Machine reveals more of the understated but potent depth to the band’s songwriting and sound. At times the release is a glorious arousal of the senses and imaginations, and in other times, a gentle coaxing but from its first breath to last, Sunny Day Machine just enthrals.

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It opens up with the quickly beguiling Glori, its warm embrace and melodic caresses as inviting as the vocal and lyrical painting cast by the dry tones of Ali. Immersive and engaging, the song is a lively simmering graced by dazzling shades of keys and the magnetic enterprise of guitar, all merging in a sultry wash of country lined folk rock. It makes for a fascinating start to the album which continues with the tangy harmonic stroll of Vatersay Love Song and the slow dance of Leave The Boy Upstairs. Both songs take attention by the firm hand, the first with its Band of Holy Joy meets Flying Burrito Brothers croon and the second through a smoulder of keys and melodic expression cradling the increasingly potent gait of Ali’s voice. Fair to say though, they get quickly outshine by the album’s best track, Satchel Bag. The song is exceptional, an entwining of urban folk and sixties rock ’n’ roll; like Lennon and McCartney does Bob Dylan with a creative paint box provided by The Sums. More addictive with every listen, next single written all over the song, it offers yet another vibrant colour to the seriously appealing tapestry of the album.

The pair of Great Lakes Morning and The Appin Indians takes the listener into the remote charms of inspiring landscapes and emotional reflections, each venturing through their own melody thick scenery of southern twang and personal exploration. Unlike their predecessor which leapt from the speakers, the tracks spread like mist, enveloping ears and consciousness to similarly strong success before From A Zafira Comfort raises the tempo again with its keen energy and bluesy rock ‘n’ roll. Though not necessarily in recognised sound, Sunny Day Machine is a blues album of sorts but bred from an ever evolving bloom of flavouring from across the past handful of decades.

Through the crystalline charm and fuzz toned temptation of Ernestine and the excellent electric shimmering of Days Like These, band and album continue to spark the imagination with new shades of adventure spawned in that core country/Americana breeding, whilst What She Said On The Street casts a pulsating serenade of emotion and sound. All three, and especially the second of the trio, make a compelling persuasion with We Are The Medal backing them up through a summery glide across a sultry terrain of resourceful musical and lyrical incitement.

Final track West is just one more slice of melodic charm and lyrical prowess confirming Sunny Day Machine as one fascinating and enjoyable proposition. For some it will light a major fire, with others offer something highly satisfying to occasionally embrace, but for all, St. Christopher Medal have created a release to warm the heart and spark the imagination; thus providing something easy to recommend.
Band:St Christopher Medal
Title:Sunny Day Machine
Reviewed By:John Clarkson
Date Published:23/12/2015

Fabulous debut album from reflective Scottish-formed band St Christopher Medal, whose members are spread across four different parts of both Britain and America.

There are unusually long gaps – up to fifteen or twenty seconds sometimes – between the songs on St Christopher Medal’s debut album. That is though as it should be. These are unusual songs, and ones to savour at the time and then to relish in their afterglow.

It is a miracle really that ‘Sunny Day Machine’ has finally seen a release at all. St Christopher Medal was formed almost a decade ago out of the ashes of Life With Nixon, a mid-90’s Scottish indie pop band, in which four out of five of its members had played. With those members – vocalist Ali Mathieson, guitarist Kenny Mathieson, bassist Billy Nisbet, drummer David Mack and pianist Andy Jefferies – now scattered over two continents and four wide locations – Perthshire, Dorset, Teeside and New York – progress has been painfully slow. While ‘Sunny Day Machine’ was finally recorded in six days, it took several years to get to that stage. It was then another two years before it was mixed and mastered, and finally it sat on the shelf for a further two years before being picked up for release by the thriving Edinburgh-based label Stereogram Recordings.

In their songwriter Ali Mathieson, St Christopher Medal has an outstanding if unconventional lyricist. There is a love song in the soaring Caledonian pop of recent digital single ‘Vatersay Love Song’. Telling with some humour of the slow-burning love affair that evolved between Mathieson and his Hebridean wife whom he met when he spent some years living and working on the Isle of Barra, it is hardly, however, the stuff of orthodox pop fare (“We are the same kind/We are the same age/It took us two years to work up the courage”). Other songs are even more angular lyrically still. Elegiac opening track is told from the perspective of the self-exiled gay main character in Canadian writer Don Hannah’s now out-of-print 1998 novel ‘The Wise and Foolish Virgins’ (“Mama cried when I left home/It must be ten years now/Daddy still thinks I might come back with a girlfriend/But you can’t come home/You can’t come home”). The ghosts of the past haunt the present in ‘Satchel Bag’ when Mathieson finds in his new house a bag of family photos and documents that belonged to one of its previous owners. ‘Ernestine’ is meanwhile a tribute to an imaginary 99 year old (“It’s your birthday/You’ve seen it all/You’ve been blind since birth”).

Musically it runs a gauntlet of styles and influences from jangling C-86 to harmonic pop to Stones-style 70’s country rock. Generally though it is hazy-toned and reflective and, with songs tending to start and finish in very different places, it most of all comes across as like a mix of the ever thoughtful Leonard Cohen combined with Teenage Fanclub or the Trash Can Sinatras at their most balladic. “We are Coldplay/We are the Three Degrees/We are The Fall/Know it all/We are the Medal,” sings Ali Mathieson towards the end on the penultimate track, self-mocking cod anthem, ‘We Are the Medal’, but even here, as there is throughout, there is a majesty and a sense of stateliness.

While they are hampered by geographical location and only as a result able to play shows very rarely, one can only hope that St Christopher Medal will nevertheless attract some kind of attention for ‘Sunny Day Machine’. This is a very fine record by a very fine band.
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Released October 30th 2015. 8/10. Album review written by GUS IRONSIDE. 2 November, 2015

An agreeably idiosyncratic album that combines Caledonian Americana with the maverick spirit of Charisma Records in the 70s, St. Christopher Medal’s debut album has been a long time coming, but ‘Sunny Day Machine’ is a warm-hearted, melodic delight, says Louder Than War’s Gus Ironside.

The irresistible, Dylanesque lead single, ‘Vatersay Love Song’, welds Ali Mathieson’s distinctive songwriting to a Teenage Fanclub chassis, to good effect. Another early standout is ‘Great Lakes Morning’, perhaps the track that most perfectly encapsulates the group’s nature, a Scottish band purveying a take on Americana that also evokes 70s British individualists such as Peter Hammill, Kevin Ayers or even Bill Fay. An essential component of the group’s sound, Kenny Mathieson’s lead guitar is a particular joy, as the song builds towards a transcendent crescendo.

Elsewhere, ‘Satchel Song’ displays a charming wit and poignancy, while ‘The Appin Indians’ brings to mind the sharp intelligence and folk roots of the late, lamented Kirkcaldy songwriter, Jackie Leven. ‘Days Like These’ and ‘What She Said On The Street’ maintain the high quality of songwriting, contemplative songs to sink into at the end of a long, hard day.

The songs are fleshed out by astutely-judged performances from pianist Andy Jeffries, Billy Nisbet on bass and David Mack on drums, their playing replete with tasteful subtleties. Maeve Henry adds well-judged guest vocals on two tracks.

Stereogram Recordings have somewhat cornered the market in maverick artists, from Band of Holy Joy to Roy Moller. St Christopher Medal are a rare find, and another reason to celebrate this adventurous label. For those who value intelligent songcraft, ‘Sunny Day Machine’ is a subtle and compelling joy that rewards repeated listening.
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ST CHRISTOPHER MEDAL. SUNNY DAY MACHINE(STEREOGRAM) **** Album review by Roy Moller • Oct 23rd, 2015 • Category: long players

On the form demonstrated by this debut album, St Christopher Medal are a highly melodic and subtly barbed addition to Edinburgh-based label Stereogram’s burgeoning roster of literate pop artists , Opener ‘Glori’ demonstrates immediately that the five piece have a facility for panoramic Americana and throughout the album there is a burnished maturity to the lyrics which sweep from Canada to the wilds of Scotland and benefit from the engaging clarity of Perthshire school teacher Ali Mathieson’s enunciation. His quietly commanding, approachable voice reaches its zenith on vivid lament ‘The Appin Indians’ and 99th birthday tribute ‘Ernestine’.
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‘Vatersay Love Song’ sounds like a barroom encounter between Teenage Fanclub and The Thrills. Although musically less ambitious than other offerings here, a striking lyrical maturity permeates the track: “We’re the same kind / We’re the same age / It took us two years to work up the courage.” ‘Leave The Boy Upstairs’ meshes reflection with a seductive tenderness. Smatterings of harmonica and understated keyboard herald an impressively raw-toned guitar coda by Ali’s New York-resident brother Kenny. The witty and catchy Satchel Bag brings to mind Graham Nash’s ‘Song for Beginners’, churning North-meets-West pop full of keen observations. The charming ‘From A Zafira Comfort’, complete with oscillating Moog sounds and refrain “And the kids are in the back fast asleep like they so rarely are” displays a gentle, warm humour while ‘We Are The Medal’s mellotron-enriched statement of intent rivals anything Ian Hunter wrote about being in Mott The Hoople, especially if he’d roped in Leonard Cohen and Jarvis Cocker along the way. It’s mischievous in the extreme: “We are the sun / We are the breeze / We are Coldplay / We are The Three Degrees / We are The Fall / We know it all / We are the Medal.”
St. Christopher Medal
The closer, slow-burning road song ‘West’, brings us back to that barroom which the Fanclub have vacated but The Thrills continue to prop up. After the bell for last orders we’re treated to two untitled bonus tracks which impress with acoustic guitar subtlety, hymnal piano and the ultimate description of a “nowhere day” Sunday. Formed from the ashes of 90s pop purveyors Life With Nixon, St Christopher Medal may have a few years on some of the more callow pop pretenders out there but boy do they wear it well

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“From A Zafira Comfort” – Single review by Dave Simpson. June 22nd 2015.

Once upon a time there was a band named Life With Nixon. Its members, Ali and Kenny Mathieson, David Mack and Billy Nisbet, enjoyed a good half decade of playing together. During that time, they managed to create two EPs and put on more shows than even they can probably remember. However, as is the case in life, all good things must come to an end and for this quartet that time came in August of 1998. After one final set at Sleazy’s of Glasgow, Life With Nixon were no more.

Sometimes though, endings can just mean new beginnings and rebirth and as fate would have it, this turned out to be the conclusion of but a single chapter in the saga of these four friends from Scotland. Despite scattering around the world and pursuing various career paths, seventeen years later, with Ali’s former college roommate Andy Jeffries joining them, they have returned as alt-country/Americana ensemble St. Christopher Medal.
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Being spread between their homeland, England, New York and Perth for jobs in teaching, DJ-ing and music doesn’t make collaboration and gigging easy, but these old comrades are a determined bunch. Managing to record an album in just six days, they’ve been doing plenty to promote its upcoming release, with one single already under their belts. Next on the agenda is its follow-up, “From a Zafira Comfort”, which is due to drop on June 29th.

The track pounds into a vigorous verse loaded with upbeat vocals and enthusiastic instrumentation. Moving at a very fast pace from the get-go, no time is wasted in building up the momentum to race furiously forward. It rests easy on the ears as it does so, despite its busy and bustling nature.

A minor reprieve is reached in the middle, where the melody takes a moment to increase the emotion and expression while the music becomes more affecting. It’s not long though before things burst back to loud levels, putting a vigorous cap on the proceedings. The short but sweet two minute run time flies by due to the amazing amount of life and vitality prevalent throughout. It’s a wonderfully rousing piece whose sunny disposition makes for a lively listen.

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