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Popular Music From Scotland
Find out what the Scots were bringing to the world of pop music in the early 21st century. You may already know about some of these bands, but others may be new to you. All of them are part of a strong tradition of popular music in modern Scotland.
Here are 20 of the top indie-pop bands who have burst through from Caledonia to rouse the natives. Some even departed from these shores and achieved international acclaim.
Top 20 Scottish Indie Pop Bands of the 2000s
- A New International
- Admiral Fallow
- Bossy Love
- Free Love
- Futuristic Retro Champions
- Hector Bizerk
- Indigo Velvet
- Little Eye
- Lush Purr
- Model Aeroplanes
- Olympic Swimmers
- Randolph's Leap
- Strike the Colours
- Tango in the Attic
- Teen Canteen
- Young Fathers
- Zoey Van Goey
1. A New International
Year Formed: 2013
A New International is a band formed in Glasgow in 2013 (they were previously known as 'The Starlets'). Under their old name, they enjoyed a successful career abroad, selling out shows in Japan and touring Europe. So, perhaps appropriately, they decided to become A New International, and set about conquering their native Scotland.
Their debut album, 'Come to the Fabulon', appeared in 2015 and received glowing reviews from the press. Then, in 2016, they began working with the Vanishing Point Theatre Company in a joint musical and theatrical project called 'The Dark Carnival', with an album to accompany the show eventually being released in 2019.
Their music has been described as 'Sumptuous European balladeering translated into an urban Scottish setting', by The List magazine. To find out if this is indeed true, check out the tracks 'The Life And Times', ‘Valentino', 'Tenterhooks' and 'Necropolitan'.
2. Admiral Fallow
Year Formed: 2007
Admiral Fallow is a Glasgow band formed in 2007 by singer-songwriter Louis Abbott, they have described themselves as 'an indie band with orchestral leanings'. The rest of a talented lineup are Sarah Hayes, Kevin Brolly, Philip Hague, Joseph Rattray and Tom Stearn.
With four singers, a clarinet, double-bass flute and violins, they have a classical style overlaid with vocal harmonies influenced by the likes of Midlake, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. They appeared at the T in the Park festival in 2009. Their first album, 'Boots Met My Face', was released in 2010 and was an autobiographical collection of songs about Abbott's early life.
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During a busy summer in 2011, they played many festivals including SXSW (in the USA) and Glastonbury (in England). The second album, 'Tree Bursts in Snow', came out in 2012. Their third album, 'Tiny Rewards', was released in 2015 and marked a change in style as the band experimented with new sounds in a bid to freshen things up. The top songs on this album are 'Squealing Pigs', 'Guest of the Government' and 'The Paper Trench'.
Year Formed: 1997
Formed in Glasgow in 1997, but with origins from the Isle of Lewis, band members Willie Campbell, Charles Clark and Gareth Russell were childhood friends on the Hebridean island. They moved to Glasgow and were joined by drummer Gareth Thom. After that, a UK tour supporting the celebrated Belle & Sebastian quickly followed.
They released three albums over several years, beginning with 'Strange Weather Lately' (in 1999, which was produced by Edwyn Collins), 'Play Dead' (in 2001 with new drummer Neil Payne), and 'One in Four' (in 2004).
But, a few months after the release of their third album, they broke up and went their separate ways by joining notable bands. Gareth became the bassist for Idlewild, Charles joined The Zephyrs and Neil drummed for Texas.
However, Astrid reformed in the summer of 2016 and organised a tour of Scotland with an eventual album, 'Fall, Stand, Dance', appearing in 2019. The best songs on this album are 'Bottle', 'Modes of Transport' and 'Boat Song'.
4. Bossy Love
Year Formed: 2014
Bossy Love is a Glasgow duo consisting of singer Amandah Wilkinson and drummer John Baillie Jr, later joined by Ollie Cox on keyboards for live gigs. Amandah previously sang for Australian band Operator Please and John was with Dananananaykroyd.
Initially, when they got together, she was living in London and he in Glasgow before Amandah made the move north. Inspired by artists like Prince, they play an outlandish style of pop music described as 'Tropical R&B meets hard hip-hop beats'.
They began with 'Holidates Mixtapes' in 2014 and caught the attention of the BBC. Their songs have appeared on Radio 1, Radio Scotland and Radio 6. This airtime led them to receive invitations to Glastonbury and The Great Escape Festival. To hear their music, check out songs like 'Whiplash', 'Want Some' and 'No Control'.
Year Formed: 2011
Formed in 2011, by versatile artists Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, Chvrches is a synth trio from Glasgow. Compared with Depeche Mode and New Order, their electro-pop style was once described as 'a godless hurricane of kinetic pop energy'.
Their back catalogue of chart singles suggests a more modest record, but there is no doubting the quality of their accessible brand of music. Their first album 'The Bones of What You Believe' came out in 2013 to satisfying reviews. Their second album 'Every Open Eye' was released in 2015 and a third album 'Love is Dead' in 2017.
They have played live on TV in the UK on 'Later...with Jools Holland' and in the USA on 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon'. They have also appeared on numerous festival stages throughout the world, including Reading and Leeds in England, SXSW in America and Sziget in Hungary—among many others. Among their more popular songs are 'Lies', 'Gun', 'The Mother We Share' and 'Leave a Trace'
Year Formed: 2004
Founded in 2004 by Simon Ward, Greg Paterson and Stephen Livingstone, Errors is a post-electro band from Glasgow. They impressed their fellow Scots musicians in Mogwai so much that the latter signed them up to their Rock Action Records label.
This produced the single 'Hans Herman' followed by the E.P. 'How Clean Is Your Acid House?' in 2006. Their debut album, 'It’s Not Something but It Is Like Whatever', arrived in 2008. They spent that year, and the next, touring extensively.
In 2010, their second album, 'Come Down With Me', was released. Again, their hard work ethic continued as they went on the road across the UK and Europe, including a co-headline tour with another renowned Scots band, The Twilight Sad.
They were also busy in the studio, writing two more albums, 'Have Some Faith in Magic' (in 2012) and 'Lease of Life' (in 2015) with an eight-track mini-album 'New Relics' sandwiched in between them. From their repertoire, the tracks ''A Rumour in Africa', 'Pleasure Palaces' and 'Dance Music' are worth a spin.
7. Free Love
Year Formed: 2014
Free Lovw is a Glasgow duo that was formed in 2014 when Suzi Rodden and Lewis Cook, her boyfriend since high school, started a band called Happy Meals. However, a similarly named English band, plus legal rumblings of discontent from a certain fast-food chain, led them to changed it to Free Love in 2018
Their debut album as Happy Meals, called 'Apéro', came out in 2015 and was nominated in the Scottish Album of the Year awards. They followed up with an EP entitled 'Fruit Juice' then their second album 'Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony' in 2017.
Playing electronic music with a psychedelic influence, their lyrics are imbued with eastern spiritualism they have established a cult following in Scotland. Top tunes include 'Playing as Punks', 'Et Avant', 'Pushing Too Hard' and 'Synchronicity'.
8. Futuristic Retro Champions
Year Formed: 2006
Futuristic Retro Champions are a grandly titled band that started out in 2006. They came from Edinburgh, although some members were Glaswegian. The band met up as students at the Edinburgh College of Art.
They were Sita Pieraccini and Carla Easton on vocals and saxophone, Harry Weeks on guitar, Luke Fletcher on bass, Dan O'Neill on trumpet and Adam Scott on synthesiser. Luke was later replaced on bass by Cecilia Stamp in 2008.
They played their official debut gig in Edinburgh in 2006 and proved a popular, refreshing and fun band live. However, despite their popularity, they didn't release any recordings until they were breaking up.
The result was a 26-track, double-CD which served both as a debut album and at the same time a retrospective collection of their songs. The album, called 'Love And Lemonade' was released in April 2011 and included memorable track such as 'Jenna', 'Speak to Me' and 'Let's Make Out'.
9. Hector Bizerk
Year Formed: 2011
Hector Bizerk is an experimental hip-hop group with a distinctively Scottish twang that formed in Glasgow in 2011. They initially featured Rap-artist Louie with Audrey Tait on drums, but were later joined by bassist Fraser Sneddon and Jennifer Muir on keyboards.
Hector Bizerk were regular performers at major festivals, such as T In The Park and Wickerman (plus at a number of local Scottish festivals around the country). Then, in 2015, they went on a tour of the USA, which included SXSW in Austin, Texas. They also played support to some famous international hip-hop artists including Wu Tang Clan, Grandmaster Flash, Jurassic 5, Alt-J, EPMD and Immortal Technique.
In the studio, from 2011 to 2016, they produced four E.P's and three full albums, 'Drums. Rap. Yes.' (2012), 'Nobody Seen Nothing' (2014) and 'The Waltz of Modern Psychiatry' (2015). Their top tracks include 'Burst Love', 'Columbus', 'Empty Jackets' and 'Orchestrate'.
10. Indigo Velvet
Year Formed: 2014
Indigo Velvet are a band from Edinburgh formed in 2014. The band is comprised of Darren Barclay on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Jason Tucker on lead guitar, Laurie Adam on bass and Billy McMahon on drums.
Their sound is a form of upbeat and catchy Indie Rock that has also been described as 'tropical pop' in some quarters due to their colourful clothes and African rhythms in their music. Indigo Velvet have had strong support from the musical press, including BBC Radio Scotland and have built up a solid fan following
They played T in the Park in 2016 and, that same year, they also toured to sell-out crowds across the UK while releasing their first single called 'Sunrise'. Then, a 5-track E.P. entitled 'Vol.1' arrived in late 2017. Other highlights of their repertoire include 'Indigo Skies', City Boys', 'Wooden Pavements' and 'Mona'.
11. Little Eye
Year Formed: 2008
Little eye is a Glasgow band formed in 2008 by front man Allan Sieczkowski and joined by Euan Malloch on guitar, Marcus Cordock on bass and Jay Hepburn on drums.
In 2009, they won the 'In Demand Band of the Year Award' from local radio station Clyde 1 and the Young Scot organisation's 'Best Unsigned Band' of 2011. That said, their product took some time to reach the ears of the public. Their first single 'Choked Up' didn't appear until 2013, but there were further releases entitled 'Fighting the Future' and 'End Game' in 2014, then 'Contagious' in 2016.
Their first album, also called 'Fighting the Future' came out in the summer of 2014 to good reviews. Highlights of their live career include supporting Blondie in Glasgow, opening the main stage at the Isle Of Wight Festival in 2014 and two short but successful tours of Western Europe between 2015 and 2017.
However, despite plans for a second album in 2017, they split up later that year 'due to creative differences', although Allan Sieczkowski would carry on performing as a solo artist using the 'Little Eye' moniker.
12. Lush Purr
Year Formed: 2015
Formed in 2015, Lush Purr is a Glasgow-based band who gathered from the village of Catterline in Aberdeenshire (brothers Gavin and Ricky Will), from Doune (Emma Smith), and, of all places, Santiago, Chile (Andres Fazio).
Their debut album 'Cuckoo Waltz was released in 2017 with 13 tracks of 'dreamy pop wonders', according to one review and comparisons made with the likes of My Bloody Valentine.
Their Lo-Fi sound is enlivened by jangly guitars, atmospheric keyboards and enigmatic lyrics laced with humour. The immediate reward for their efforts was a 'Best Newcomer' nomination at the Scottish Alternative Music Music Awards and a successful UK tour.
Their top tracks include 'Bananadine', 'Mr Maybe' and 'I', Bore'.
13. Model Aeroplanes
Year Formed: 2013
Model Aeroplanes are a Dundee four-piece who hit the scene in 2013. The band is comprised of Rory Fleming-Stuart (vocals and guitar), Grant Irvine (lead guitar), Ben Buist (bass) and Kieran Smith (drums).
They were all childhood friends, having known each other since they were 13 years old. Their first single, 'Crazy', appeared in 2013 and in the following year they were voted 'Best Newcomer' at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards.
They gained national exposure from the BBC with Annie Mac spinning their discs on Radio 1 and Tom Robinson playing their music on Radio 6. Recently, they were invited to play at big festivals, such as The Great Escape, Live at Leeds and T In The Park
In 2015, they eventually signed a deal with a major label when Island Records snapped them up. Look up 'Something Like Heaven', 'Club Low' and 'Electricity' to hear some more of their great songs.
14. Olympic Swimmers
Year Formed: 2009
Olympic Swimmers are a Glasgow band who hit the waves in 2009 and are often described as an Indie Folk band. Musical siblings Simon and Susie Liddell hooked up with bassist Graeme Smillie and drummer Jonny Scott with Jamie Savage on second guitar.
With heady, wandering guitar and ethereal vocals from Susie, their music is atmospheric with a 'dreamy' rock and pop mode. Therefore, It's no surprise that chief among their influences are fellow Scots The Cocteau Twins and Aerogramme, plus the Canadian band The Besnard Lakes.
Their first album, ‘No Flags Will Fly’, was released in 2012 on the band's own 'Green, White, Violet' label and the Olympic Swimmers have performed at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, as well as other events, such as the Hebridean Celtic Festival.
They are not averse to involvement in many other projects and feel no pressure to tour intensively or release material frequently. Their top songs include 'Apples and Pears', 'Father Said' and 'Lyra.'
15. Randolph's Leap
Year Formed: 2006
Randolph Leap is a band formed in Glasgow by singer/guitarist Adam Ross in 2006. Also on the roster were Gareth Perrie on keyboards, Vicki Cole on bass, Andrew MacLellan on guitar, Heather Thikey on violin and Iain Taylor on drums and guitar.
Their first EP, entitled 'Battleships and Kettle Chips', came out in 2010 and in 2011 they added some brass to their sound with the addition of Ali Hendry on trumpet and Fraser Gibson on trombone. They were busy in the following year with two album releases. 'The Curse of the Haunted Headphones' came out in February 2012 and 'Introducing Randolph's Leap' in July of the same year.
In 2013, Gareth Perrie left the group and was replaced on keyboards by Pete MacDonald, and he played on their third album 'Clumsy Knot', which was released in 2014 on Lost Map Records. It is regarded as their first official album, as it included re-workings of previous tunes with a production makeover.
More personnel change was to come in 2016 with Adam Florence replacing Iain Taylor on drums. Among the band's best tunes are 'Hermit', 'I Can't Dance to this Music Anymore' and 'Going Home'.
16. Strike the Colours
Year Formed: 2006
Strike the Colours is a band created in 2006 as a collaboration between Jenny Reeve and David McAuley, who were joined by Gareth Russell on bass and Denis Sheridan on drums.
The band was born of frustration. Jenny was in the group Eva and found her songwriting offerings weren't taken up by them, so she left to form Strike the Colours. David added the instrumentation to her voice on the demos before they became a fully-fledged acoustic pop band with strong shades of folk. A mini-album, 'The Face That Sunk A Thousand Ships', quickly followed.
Their first full album with new drummer Jonny Scott, 'Seven Roads', was released in 2009, after they had made a name for themselves with singles, E.Ps and live shows. The following year, Gareth left to be replaced on bass by Graeme Smillie.
It took another 9 years for their follow-up album to appear when 'Flock' came onto the shelves in 2018. In the interim period, the band members had been involved in other projects but came back together to produce a slightly heavier sound with darker lyrics. Have a listen to some of their best tracks, such as 'Breathing Exercise', 'Cold Hands' and 'Branches'.
17. Tango in the Attic
Year Formed: 2008
Tango in the Attic is a band from Glenrothes in the Kingdom of Fife (as they like to call their region) and who were formed in 2008. The band originally consisted of brothers Daniel Craig on vocals and Jordan Craig on guitar with the rest of the group being James Crook on bass, Jonathan MacFarlane on keyboards and Paul Johnson on drums.
The band played T In The Park in 2009 and their performance was described by 'The Herald' newspaper as 'laden with afrobeat rhythms and angular New York guitar shapes'. This appearance was followed by an invitation to play a live session on BBC Radio Scotland.
Their debut album, 'Bank Place Locomotive Society', was released in 2010 with the follow-up disc called 'Sellotape' in 2012. Daniel Craig had by then decided to leave the band in 2011 due to the pressures of combining touring with other pursuits. His brother Jordan took over as front-man.
Ironically, the actual song 'Sellotape' is not on the second album, but appeared the following year on their 'Crushed Up' E.P. One of their songs, 'Jackanory', was also used on a Schuh TV commercial in the UK. Among other top tunes are 'Mona Lisa Overdrive', 'Seven Second Stare', 'Swimming Pool' and 'Blunderground'.
18. Teen Canteen
Year Formed: 2012
Teen Canteen are an all-female group from Glasgow led by singer and keyboard player Carla Easton and formed in 2012 from the remnants of her previous band Futuristic Retro Champions. She enlisted Emma Kullander on guitar, bassist Sita Pieraccini and drummer Deborah Smith. However, in 2015, guitarist Emma Kullander was replaced by Chloe Philip (of the BMX Bandits).
They play bright and breezy Indie with multiple melodies and vocal harmonies reminiscent of the optimistic 1960s music of West Coast America. Their first single, 'Honey' appeared in 2013, followed by the double-A side 'You're Still Mine/ Vagabond', then their debut album 'Say It All With A Kiss' came out in 2016. Then they released the 'Sirens' E.P. in 2017.
Influential fans include BBC Radio 6 DJ Marc Riley, Eugene Kelly from The Vaselines and Stevie Jackson of Belle and Sebastien. Plus, Duglas T. Stewart of BMX Bandits has played guitar on many of their tracks. Find out more about their sound by listening to the songs 'Honey', 'Millions' , 'How We Met(Cherry Pie)' and 'You're Still Mine'.
19. Young Fathers
Year Formed: 2008
Young Fathers is a hip-hop trio formed in Edinburgh in 2008 by Alloysious Massaquoi, who was born in Liberia with local lads from 'Auld Reekie' itself, namely Kayus Bankole and Graham 'G' Hastings. Before ascending to greater heights, they cut their teeth by performing in nightclubs when they were teenagers.
They released their debut album 'Dead' in 2014 to critical acclaim and won the prestigious Mercury Prize. This was followed by their second album, 'White Men Are Black Men Too' in 2015, and their third, 'Cocoa Sugar', in 2018.
In 2016, the band were invited to support Massive Attack on their UK and European tour and collaborated on their song 'Voodoo in my Blood'. In the following year, several of their songs were included on the 'T2 Trainspotting' soundtrack.
Young Fathers are a political group too. In particular, their support of the pro-Palestinian BDS movement has gained media attention. But, to hear their best songs, listen to 'Get Up', 'Rain or Shine', 'Shame' and 'Border Girl.
20. Zoey Van Goey
Year Formed: 2006
Formed in 2006, Zoey Van Goey is a musical trio that includes Matt Brennan, Michael John McCarthy and Kim Moore (later adding Adam Scott in 2010).
The band's debut single, 'Foxtrot Vandals', was released in 2007 and the next year they released another single, "Sweethearts in Disguise". 2008 proved to be busy for them as they played major Scottish festivals, such as T in the Park, Connect, Wickerman, Live at Loch Lomond and Rock Ness.
Their debut album, 'The Cage Was Unlocked All Along', produced by Paul Savage of The Delgados, was self-released in 2009 before being re-released under the Chemikal Underground Records label. Their second album, 'Propeller Versus Wings', came out in 2011 and led to a support slot on the European tour of fellow Scots band Belle and Sebastian.
The band broke up in 2012, but they left behind great songs with wonderful titles, such as 'You Told the Drunks I Knew Karate', 'We Don't Have That Kind of Bread', 'Foxtrot Vandals' and 'We All Hid in Basements'.
A Solid List of Bands
I hope you agree that this list is a fine selection of Scottish bands. This list represents a delicious mixture of creativity, imagination, intelligence and that self-effacing quirkiness that has often been the hallmark of Scottish pop music. Scottish music from the early 2000s offers diversity and idiosyncrasy, offering a genuine variety of styles and sounds to cater to the sonic gourmet. Keep watching the northern skies for more.