Feb 172015

Altered Sky invited Aberdeen Voice to their show at the Tunnels on 4 February. Suzanne Kelly has had her eye and ear on this act, and was happy to go. Photographs by George Mackie.

altered sky by George Mackie 4

Altered Sky. Credit: George Mackie.

It would not be hard for a band like this to sign a deal that would make them lots of money:  just do what a label tells them to do, wear far less clothes, concentrate on dance routines and let someone else write the music.

The 15+ minutes of fame seems to be what so many hopefuls want these days at any cost.

When you meet a group of people who prefer making music to making money /making headlines, it restores your faith.

Altered Sky is still in some ways a fledgling outfit, but they did go some way to restore my faith in music’s future.

I could have said pop’s future, thrashy pop’s future, pop/rock/indie/alt’s future – but it’s not that easy to put a label on their output, which is another reason to pay attention to Altered Sky.

The Glasgow-based band are Ana Nowosielska (Vocals, lyrics); Amy Blair (Drums/Vocals);  Richard Passe (Guitars); and Ross Archibald (Bass); and for the purposes of the tour they are also joined by guitarist Ryan Zdrojewski.

It was about -4 degrees the night they were taking a late slot at The Tunnels.  I wish I could tell you about the rest of the line-up, but I was only able to make it to the Altered Sky’s set.  From accounts though, support acts TRAVIS OAKS + THE LIVER CONDITIONS + BEC SANDRIDGE impressed.

altered sky by George Mackie 1It was a Wednesday. It was freezing – anyone who hadn’t wound up in casualty from falling over on our icy pavements (note to city council – can’t you do something about this?) were staying in and staying warm.

The band was freezing as well.

Furthermore, with a young demographic, perhaps midweek late wasn’t the best time to get a large audience.

But audience size never should impact performance, and even if the crowd was smaller than I’d expected, we had a good set from the band.

The energy never fell from the moment Ana ran up onto the stage from the back of the venue.   ‘Live in the World’ was, if  I’m not wrong, performed for the first time live and went over wonderfully.  Another new number (I believe) is ‘Song Bird’; it has a hypnotic, melodic opening.

‘Where I belong’ is performed with great energy and accuracy.  The vocals, time signature changes, guitar work are highly polished yet fresh.  ‘Apple Tree’ is for me another highlight.

This is still a very young band; they’re guiding their own course and making their own decisions, and singing about subjects and emotions they understand.  It’s not about being wrecking balls.  But it is ballsy.  If their trajectory is any indication, and if they keep doing what they’re doing, the sky, altered or not, is where they are heading.  I really wish them well.

After the show I spoke to Mel and Dwayne.  Mel said:-

“I enjoyed seeing Altered Sky; they have so much energy; they’re so much fun to watch”

Dwayne had a similar verdict:

“Loved seeing Altered Sky; they are little firecrackers on stage and great to hear.”

In Conversation With Altered Sky

Earlier in the evening I get a few minutes to talk to the band before they go on; the dressing room’s table is crammed with soft drinks, crisp packets and junk food of every kind – no alcohol.  Amy, Ana,  Richard, Ross and Ryan all participate (you can listen to the interview here)

I tell them how refreshing it is to see a band that is fronted by a woman that doesn’t resort to selling sex to sell its music.  And how good it is to see non-exploitative videos.  We discuss a certain person who used teddy bears in their show, and that I consider Altered Sky the diametric opposite.

I ask about the lyrics which I find honest, interesting, and  Ana says:

altered sky by George Mackie 3“Funnily enough it’s the music comes first, and by the time we hit the studio it’s ‘well we need some lyrics’. ‘Where I Belong’ was inspired by the story of The Wizard of Oz. One of the lyrics is ‘Wind up somehow this tin pumps blood.’ It’s keeping that fantasy feel alive.

“The rest of the song goes on to say you’ve got dreams; follow those dreams and if you got a place where you need to go and find them and be yourself, that’s your escape and that’s where you need to be.” 

“Follow your dreams and don’t let anyone say otherwise.”

“Is that somewhere in your head or a physical place?” one of the band asks

“That’s probably something for the listener to find out for themselves.” Ana explains.

They met in Glasgow; many started music early ( was in school musicals).  I suggest that music education has been severely cut – in Aberdeen anyway.  Ana comments

“Amy and I went to school outside of Glasgow; I was in Edinburgh.  There was a very strong connection with the music department.  But to be honest you would be getting vouchers for computers first.  I think it’s all about computers… it was 2007 when I left school – the internet café in school was new.”

It occurs to me that in the Aberdeen area you’d likely be discouraged from being a female drummer (sometimes I find Aberdeen a touch on the safe, conventional side – but this may be changing).

Amy says:-

“When I was at school I got approached by a teacher, and I was the one who they asked ‘do you want lessons?’  It was something I picked up kind of quick.”

They’re in their 20;s they’ve been playing since they were in their teens, and all seem to have gravitated to music and performing from an early age.

Richard didn’t start playing until he was 17:

“I had some lessons; the whole class got some acoustic guitars.”

I blurt out ‘oh no!’ – before I could explain that being ambidextrous myself, I know that people get steered to be right-handed very often in school.

“Thanks for your pity”

Richard jokes; I explain what I’d meant; we laugh.  He continues:

“There was one left-handed guitar; it was a horrible thing to play; it left your fingers bleeding.  I  hated it; I really despised it.  It was in my 6th year when I was  that I picked up my dad’s guitar; I thought ‘this is fun’ and away I went.  It wasn’t so much me learning in school as picking it up myself.  In school everyone has piano or violin lessons; if you don’t like it, then it’s hell.”

I suggest that having a crap school instrument can turn people off from music; no one argues with that.

I ask Ross how he got into bass.

altered sky by George Mackie 2“I never got into it in school.  Everyone gets their two years’ compulsory music at school; but I wasn’t interest in it at school from an educational point of view. 

“I got into the electric guitar from my stepdad who’s a fantastic rock guitarist; he taught me my first 3 chords (I think that’s as many chords as some outfits I can think of know full stop). 

“I spent six months to a year playing to myself.  Some of my mates started a school band and needed a bass player because there aren’t any (we all laugh); there was no point having 3 guitarists so I tried the bass.  Since then I’m self-taught.”

As a last question I ask them who they’re listening to and what influences they have.

Ana says:

“Influences for me start from video games; which is really really strange because I’m the predominant songwriter; I’ll write the song, write the music part of it, bring it to the table and everyone will have their input and we’ll have the finished produce.  I’m interested by video music because it’s very layered; bass lines, synth lines then a guitar then this… piano. 

“I like bands like Escape the Fate; I’m influenced by their music a lot.  Amy and I have this thing about Escape the Fate – melody through guitar through drums through bass through vocals that you don’t forget; everything’s got something memorable about it.  And what I’m listening to right now?  Slipknot.”

It’s Richard’s turn to answer the question:

“I’ve like quite a range of music; when I started I was very into my heavy metal; that’s what encouraged me to play guitar.  Since then horizons opened to see all kinds of other music; anything.  I like some virtuoso acoustic musicians; people like Beck playing just now; amazing.  A whole range of stuff; rock bands.”

Ryan says:

“I was a strange kid; I was into techno.  Nirvana was the first band I got really into.  Then I got into heavier and heavier music; My Bloody Valentine.  I listen to a lot of Blink 182… Paramore was an influence.”

Ross adds:

“To begin with when I started bass I was listening to Dream Theatre, Rush and a lot of Prog Rock stuff.  But at the moment I’m listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac and a lot of Biffy Clyro.”

Amy is last:

“When I first started I was into a lot of Indy stuff; that’s all I was exposed to really, pretty much Chili Peppers. Then I went through my angsty teenage phase as you do .. I like Blink 182; a lot of pop punk.”

I thank them for their time; and look forward to their set, nearly as much as they seem to be looking forward to demolishing the food and drink that’s left.