Show dates

Starring as…

Never one to follow blog promotion guidelines, I’ve let almost a year slip by since my last post, so it’s definitely time for a quick update.  First and foremost, we DO have a couple of full-band gigs coming up, so please pack your saddlebags and join us in Leicester at The Donkey on Saturday, April 29th (youngster Ro Jordan will be on first, after catching Thure’s support radar at Sumo earlier in the year); and again in Leicester at the celebrated Simon Says Festival on Sunday, July 30th, where we have a lovely, don’t-pack-your-tents-yet slot on the outdoor stage at 2:45 p.m.. 

But you would be forgiven for pointing out that things have gone a little quiet for the band since we released Songs from the Headland at the end of 2015.  In February 2016 The Beat’s Dean Jackson called “Crossing the Border” “gorgeous” three times in a row on BBC Introducing, but our last performance as a seven-piece was in May of the same year.  Such is the way for a collective whose member numbers, musical influences, and respective responsibilities exceed the constraints of our diaries and pocketbooks*.  In the absence of a recording contract or any ambiguously triumphant “one-hit-wonder” status, we have, as a septet at least, gone into semi-permanent hibernation, a state of affairs which makes the periodic unfolding of wings all the more special for us.

It isn’t all eating and sleeping however; we’ve also taken on an alter-ego of sorts, so keep on the lookout for Bluebird Parade starring as Project Blackbird, a flexibly-populated, electronically-tinged, darker sibling within the “Corvids” family (yes, in-joke).  A few of us are working on songs for eventual recording and, since the format is more portable, very gently hitting the road.  We are thrilled to announce that one of our first Project Blackbird outings, this time with Thure, Jon, and me, is in support of Little Hurricane at The Borderline in London on May 2nd (part of their UK tour promoting new album Same Sun Same Moon).  If you aren’t already familiar with Little Hurricane, this promo photo tells you just about everything you need to know: 

Project Blackbird may also return to Denmark later this year as a follow-up to our sets in Skive and Selde last October.  And Jon is starting work, as I type, on our sixth contribution to the Specialized charity project: Specialized 6, a.k.a. Gifted, is a tribute to The Jam in aid of The Teenage Cancer Trust, National Foundation for Youth Music, and Tonic Music for Mental Health.  So – Bluebird Parade in 2017: older and wiser, occasionally fewer but never less; not shouting to be heard, but still always worthy of your listening ears.  

*I heard a police sergeant consistently and without irony refer to his officers’ pocketbooks during a train-the-trainers session on the Mental Capacity Act.  Another, utterly charming, example of the transatlantic disconnect, like “Trump” and “fart”.

For the Birds

Since the whole world, and the UK in particular as of June 24th, is giving off a vaguely apocalyptic vibe, it seems like a good time to post our video for Corvids, which was filmed and edited earlier this year by talented Leicester-based photographer and videographer Scott Chouciño.

Track 12 on Songs from the Headland, Corvids is an anthem sprung from the battered Anglesey coastline.  Jon’s repetitive, gathering storm of a rough track was the perfect fit for a title I had been harbouring since we started working on the album, bringing to mind as it did a murder of birds, or at the very least the inevitability of war-tide horror and its scavenging aftermath.

Birth Announcement

Bluebird Parade - Songs from the Headland album cover

20 months in the making – not the world’s quickest gestation period – and here at last.  We’re very proud to announce the arrival of Songs from the Headland and can’t wait to share our love, energy, and hard work with you.  So let’s get busy promoting:

  • Please join us for the album launch gig on Saturday, October 17th at James’ Café Bistro in Leicester, when we will perform the album live and in its entirety. “Doors” for the gig are at approximately 7:30 p.m., and we’ll start the music around 9:00 p.m.  There are no tickets to this event; it is free and open admission, but the venue isn’t huge so we suggest you arrive early if you want to be guaranteed a place. The café will be serving a select menu of food to purchase throughout the afternoon and evening (we have sampled and can highly recommend it) and also has a stocked bar.  The CDs will be available – of course – at a special reduced price.
  • If you can’t make the gig and/or would like to order copies directly from us, then please get in touch with one of us in person, send us a message via the Contact page, Facebook, or Twitter; or simply send us £10 per CD via Paypal to the username mingyuinjon@btopenworld.com .  Include your address on the Paypal message and we’ll send the CD/s to you, absorbing the postage cost as long as we’re shipping within the UK.  If you’re overseas, please contact us regarding postage and handling before you place the order.
  • You’ll also be able to order hard copies through Amazon in the very near future.
  • Downloads will be available from iTunes within the next few weeks (we hope).  Please note that the eighth song on the album, our cover version of Rock the Casbah, is already available to download from Amazon and iTunes in aid of the Specialized charity project (Teenage Cancer Trust and Youth Music UK) so will not be listed along with the other 13 Songs from the Headland downloads.

And while I’m listing, let’s get these credits out there:

  • If you’re wondering where the striking artwork comes from, it’s a photograph by Michael Vincent Manalo called “The Case of Eternal Conflict” that was supplied to us for the album cover courtesy of Saatchi Art.
  • Songs from the Headland would be a much lesser work had it not been recorded at Deadline Studios in Leicester by Adam Ellis, who unfurled his bat ears and sprinkled digital pixie-dust on every track.
  • John Harris of multishake.com was the technical know-how behind the cover design and layout, and the good folk at Media Duplication Ltd did a stellar job on the digipak production.
  • We’ve thanked Haluk Gurer already on these posts, but it’s worth doing it again for his excellent band photos.
  • Likewise with Sasha Silberman-Hanks, whose logo for us just had to make the album somewhere (though I shamefully forgot to credit her on the CD booklet itself – sorry, Sasha.  I’ll edit the next run).
  • Very special thanks to our guest musicians – Q String players Eleanor Stanford and Laura Stanford-Mebarki, who played on Tracks 2, 10, 11, 12, and 13; and Nikolaj Torp-Larsen, who recorded the piano for Track 13 at Squat Sound Studios in London with engineer Dyre Gormsen.  Adam Ellis also contributed to the crowd vocals on Track 1 🙂

And finally, thank you – our readers, our listeners, our family and friends.  Peace and good music to you all.

Teshekkür ederim

ThIMG_5382is will be a short, but heart-felt post in between sleep and waking and work and music.  If you are a regular visitor to this website or our Facebook page, you may have noticed some new and rather good band publicity photos making an appearance – Clash-y ones for our Specialized charity single, outdoor vignettes atop and inside our friend Andy’s vintage Land Rover, and most of all interior shots taken in – well, I won’t reveal the venue or the original backdrop, because that might spoil the mystique.

These photos were taken by a man named Haluk Gurer, whom we met through a mutual love of music  at the Flowerpot in Derby, where he is the resident band photographer.  Haluk has expressed support and interest in Bluebird Parade ever since, and the admiration and warmth are mutual.  When the time came, it seemed natural to ask him to take our publicity photos.  Luckily for us he agreed.  With a quiet air of diligence and calm he gave up a Sunday afternoon to trek over to rural Leicestershire, set up his equipment, oversee our placement of a stuffed crow, misplace his glasses, tolerate a drummer’s bare knees, ignore fart jokes, monitor seven different facial expressions at once, adjust lighting, wait through the punk-era costume change, and encourage us to pick up our instruments and play.  (He also very wonderfully called one of us, “Stick”.)

Following that, Haluk liaised tirelessly with me via e-mail to formulate a shortlist of the hundreds of shots and accommodate my changing whims and feedback.  He has spent countless hours constructing backgrounds, cutting digital hair – really – , experimenting with effects, and processing the results.  He has been a consummate professional and a gentle, enigmatic presence throughout, so on behalf of Bluebird Parade I would like to take advantage of the world-wide web and acknowledge this publically.  Thank you, Haluk.  It has been a joy to work with you, and we hope to have the privilege of doing so again in the future.  Long live independent music – and photography!

Download Festival?

11270100_10152886034331497_1537193094_nThis post started back in May with the working title, “Post-Election Blues”, but I never got around to finishing it, and thankfully things have moved on since then.  The new title refers not to this weekend’s Download Festival – we aren’t that genre-busting -, but to a veritable day of celebration next weekend.   On Saturday June 20th, our version of the Clash’s Rock the Casbah will be available for download as an exclusive charity pre-release from the Specialized 4 Combat Cancer album.  Please visit the Specialized website for more details and for a self-penned article in the “Featured Artists” section, and please spread the word – the more downloads there are, the greater the profile of the project and the more funding Teenage Cancer Trust can put towards their specialist wards and services.

We are grateful for this opportunity to provide further support to TCT, and for the faith that the Specialized team continue to show in us.  Extra thanks this time go to Paul Ayriss, who has worked tirelessly on compiling the album, helping us with publicity, and expanding the Specialized spirit; and to Haluk Gurer, who braved the April chill and seven unruly musicians to take the Clash-tastic photo that you see before you.

Song Bio #3: Brother and Sister

If Brother and Sister sounds familiar, that is because it is the only song on the new album that we’ve recorded before.  Since The Wednesday Night Island, however, it has fittingly metamorphosed into a gig-closing rapture of flugel and darkness, so we have decided to give it another outing.  IMG_0863The rough idea for the track, first written about five years ago, was winding and feral, with a snake-charming riff that was played on saxophone (by none other than Su Robinson – and so the circle continues).  The vocal melody, too, was as long and twisted as Rapunzel’s hair, which may be why in the end I simplified it into a fairy tale: there is no point languishing in a cursèd tower waiting for lyrical inspiration.

When looking to fairy tales for a muse, what better source than the Brothers Grimm?  The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm, translated by Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell and illustrated with unsettling beauty by Maurice Sendak, was published in 1973, the year after I was born.  The 27 tales embrace birth, sex, Death, cannabalism, talking hedgehogs, reincarnation, and infanticide.  They fascinated and disturbed me in equal measure when I was a child.  As an adult, reading the title story still raises the hairs on the back of my neck: “‘My mother she butchered me,/My father he ate me,/My sister, little Ann Marie,/She gathered up the bones of me/And tied them in a silken cloth/To lay under the juniper…‘”.

No matter which story you whisper, the imagery and rhythm of the translation lend themselves perfectly to being stolen for a song.  Brother and Sister is the tale of a wicked stepmother (natch) whose tyrannical ways drive her stepchildren into the woods.  She “sneaked after them, secretly, the way witches sneak“, and puts a spell on the forest springs so that anyone who drinks from them will turn into a wild beast.  Though his sister begs him to resist, the thirsty brother can’t stop himself from kneeling at the water, and is transformed into a fawn who is chased by the king and his huntsmen.  Eventually his faithful sister becomes queen, but is then killed by her stepmother and stepsister, who stifle her to death in a burning bathhouse.  Unfazed, she returns to tend to her cervine sibling and her newborn son as a ghost.  “How is my child?” she asks.  “How is my fawn?  Now I am here and never again.”  And then the flugel soars, and the bass, drums, and beasts cease their relentless pursuit and tear the murderers to pieces.

Jon’s musical highlight: “The contrast between the space in the verses and the big choruses.”

My lyrical highlight:God and our hearts are weeping together“.  Pure poetry – why didn’t I think of it?

Song Bio #2: From the Headland

IMG_0760Ironically, unlike half a dozen of the other tracks on this album, the music for this wasn’t conceived at the Anglesey retreat for which it is named.  It was the last song that Jon wrote before we started recording, an afterthought in 12/8 inspired by a late-night session listening to Ron Sexsmith.  I find the time signature irresistible, and I do think Jon has captured some of Sexsmith’s musical honesty.  It’s a gentle, effortless rhythm with a melancholic backbone of piano that recalled to me, when I first heard it, the coastline of Trearddur Bay, the way words get caught in the wind and on bright days you have to shield your eyes from the sun.  Listening, I was thrilled.  My head was full of idyllic images from last February.  I scribbled musings over the past few months, equally tender and kind.  They didn’t quite fit, but I told myself I would have plenty of time to complete the lyrics upon our return to the Headland this year, and that this would be apt.  I waited patiently.

Nothing really takes shape as you imagine it will, though.  Not the return journey, not the memories, not the way the ink flows on paper.  Or doesn’t flow.  Sometimes it just bleeds into your mind and dries there.  Sometimes you have to pick the crusts of ink out with a razor and hope for the best.  It may be that when I listen to From the Headland that tension will always be there: the effort of excavation, the phrases that I abuse and criticise through the subsequent post-natal angst, juxtaposed against the apparent ease of 12/8.   This is the song that has taken up the most pages in my notebook and has the greatest number of scribbles and cross-outs.  It is a storm.  I hope that something gentle and true has emerged from the destruction; I’m still not sure.  In the end, the vocal melody walked off on its own and the tone became darker than I expected, less celebratory.  It emerged not in colour, but in grainy black and white.IMG_0713

Like song lyrics, the stories of the coastline, too, are elusive.  Maybe sometimes the binoculars are best left untouched, and words written with eyes closed….Last week I spent ages staring at the sea, trying to decide if the object that the waves kept covering and uncovering was a piece of granite that had come to life with the tide, or a mythical creature disguising itself as part of the landscape.  Parachutes landed in the water from a circling plane – a clandestine delivery?  Hostage negotiators swarming to the naval ship that sat, stolid and silent, miles from the shore?  Bottled messages that would get dashed against the rocks before they had a chance to be read?  We never found out, and went home imagining.

Jon’s highlight musical moment at the current stage of recording: “Thure’s guitar solo, where the first note comes in, ‘weeeaaaaaaaaa’…it just sits…and then goes…”.

My highlight lyrical moment: “The window panes moan/like a Theremin played in a minor key”.

 

Driving Through Norway

We have now done five and a half days’ worth of recording our 13 tracks for Songs from the Headland with sound engineer Adam Ellis at Deadline Studios in Leicester (www.deadlinestudios.co.uk).  Adam’s studio alchemy and golden ears should have alerted us to paranormal prospects of this venture, or is it just that I am feeling especially spiritual tonight?  If so, I must have been influenced by the guitars: Styx and Will were in first at the start of the month to lay down grooves for the rest of us to follow, Jon has done some keyboards and piano, and this weekend was Thure’s turn in the isolation chamber.  On Saturday he donned a new baseball cap, thick-rimmed glasses, and ear defenders (okay, headphones), and therefore looked alarmingly like a rookie cop ready to play out a grudge at the target range.  But on Sunday he lost the cap and glasses.  He braved sciatica to sit down. He spanked his strings.  And on Driving Through Norway, one of the two tracks we’re doing without drums or bass, he turned from rogue cop to restless spirit – conjuring other-worldly sounds like a medium working a ouija board, fingers and slide levitating over an ancient electric axe festooned with glitter and love-hearts.

10978666_931584916865681_3456421137968013435_nLooking back through this and the other photos on Jon’s iPhone, many of them also taken through the hazy double-glazing of the airlock, it occurred to me that I really should start writing about the recording.  It next occurred to me that the best way of doing this would be to write about some of the songs themselves.  So I’m starting, for no particular reason, with Driving Through Norway.  I say no particular reason, but this one is, for me, a highlight of our new arsenal.  It also has an unexpected trajectory that echoes the seemingly random imagery of its title, and therefore exemplifies the roads that I like to think Bluebird Parade songs often become: those less travelled, those that meander off the folds of the map.

Speaking of roads, at the time that Jon started on this tune, he was freshly re-infatuated with all things Triumph.  When he inserted a scratch chorus of “Going our own way” across a driving rock beat, I knew it was no coincidence.  I’m not saying I’ve never mused over the moral dilemma of where I’d draw the line when it comes to prostituting your songs for advertising (entirely hypothetical – no one has approached us yet, not even Vespa), but the idea of Jon trying to manipulate me into writing my choruses for his Thunderbird made me rather indignant.  Ergo, “Driving through Norway” fit the rhyme and meter, and seemed a suitably nonsensical riposte to use in rehearsals until I came up with something better.  And then, of course, it stuck.  But it took slowing it down to 83 bpm, and some late-night, Twin Peaks-esque experimentation with slide guitar and church organ, to have those words suddenly make sense.

Given the geographical nod, it was only fitting to recruit Nikolaj Torp-Larsen, Thure’s fellow Dane, manic piano-man for the Specials, keyboardist on Adele’s Oscar-winning “Skyfall”, farmhand extraordinaire, and all-around damn good egg, to be a guest on the recording.  Nikolaj mused via e-mail that the song reminded him of “Velvet Underground mixed with something more current” before promptly sending us a couple of wav files over from Squat Sound Studios (thesuppliersuk.com).   I’m not exactly sure what a wav file is, only that it is something quite remarkable that allows Nik to more or less play his grand piano in the soundbooth with us, even while he’s out and about touring with Feeder’s Grant Nicholas.  As if that weren’t spoiling us enough, soon to cameo on this and a few other tracks are Laura and Ellie Stanford from the highly accomplished Q Strings – not Danes, no, but cracking musicians and lovely people (www.qstrings.co.uk).

And so to the rest of it: once the song slowed down and darkened, the lyrics wrote themselves.  A terrible cliché, I know, but it must have been that ouija board.  I often imagine being on a radio show (no, not the Melton Eye again, though that would do in a pinch) and being asked by Radcliffe and Maconie, say, or Lauren Laverne, about the meaning of my lyrics.  But in the absence of anyone asking, the properly enigmatic answer for Driving Through Norway is, It’s about taking yourself to a different psychological country.  Taking control where you appear powerless.  It’s about abuse, or being held hostage, or just remaining defiant in the face of forces that want to destroy you.  That kind of thing.  We’ve gone from a Triumph motorcycle commercial to the backdrop of Scandi-noir in a heartbeat: make of that what you will, see what you think when you hear it, and let us know if it stirs your innards.

Jon’s highlight musical moment: “It’s not finished yet.  But I like the vocal harmonies on the choruses.”

My highlight lyrical moment:You’ve had it your own way/But a head is just a landscape/You are not the rightful heir/of the kingdom I’ll become“.

50

Cripes, this is getting post-modern.  I started this blog post back in 2014 and got about half-way through.  Since that time, we’ve had a website facelift (thank you, lovely John at www.multishake.com) and a bespoke, handcrafted logo (thank you, lovely Sasha Silberman-Hanks), and I’ve spent hours fiddling with the photos and trying to get to grips with the new template.  I don’t need to tell you the state of the nation or remind you of the madness of humankind – although I will implore you to raise your voice and vote – but I do need to catch up on our band news.  So please, read on, bearing in mind that after a few paragraphs I will shed my 2014 skin and jump back to the present:

This post title isn’t a reference to a certain someone’s impending half-century, but rather to the fact that this is the 50th Bluebird Parade post I’ve written.  But it may also be the number of weeks since my last post…just about.  It has been a while.  I could blame it on technological misfortune: the internet was out for a week after someone prodded a telephone pole nearby with the front of their car, I’ve been struggling with formatting the new logo and in so doing accidentally removed the old one from our home page and couldn’t figure out how to replace it; the Gig page is still possessed with a maleficent spirit (help, WordPress??!).  However, I won’t, because a more accurate excuse is that deadly combination of busy-ness and inertia that lulls me to sleep each night like a well-shaped pillow.  Tonight sees me throwing that proverbial pillow out the window and into cyberspace, because it feels like a good time to take inventory before the shock of 2015.  Not backwards this time, not forwards, but randomly then:

No, it wasn’t a fever dream; yes, we did support the Dandy Warhols at the O2 Academy in Leicester on July 3rd.  It was great for Jon to see them again, this time on his home turf, and we loved playing at the O2 again.  Russ wasn’t able to make the gig – unbelievably, he had to choose between us and Echo and the Bunnymen in Birmingham – but the singularly stellar Su Sax stepped up instead.  She was great, and so there was much whispering and plotting afterwards, and eventually we asked her if she would join us as a band member, because the stage has always just felt so small with only six of us, you know?  But seriously, a three-piece brass section?  The world is our oyster – “Fuck yeah!”, as the Dandys would say.  (NB from January: Su has started playing with us and will be on the new recording.  We love her, always have.)

Specialized, The Big One 3, Mad Not Cancer, not sure which order those go in either, but it was last weekend in Dorset (NB: clearly not last weekend anymore), and we’re still basking in the shimmering good-will that this project projects. images Particular highlights were the new (The Talks on Saturday), the old (Legends of Ska, including Dennis Bovell, Susan Cadogan, Carl St Clair, and the Pressure Tenants on Sunday), the blue (us, duh), and, for me, the domestic pleasure of chatting trumpets and horses with the delightful Alice Williams.  Willo, Ruth, Mike, Steve, “the gang” – thank you to all who continue to devote their time, compassion, and energy to this wonderful adventure.  Roll on the Jam? the Clash? Curiosity Killed the Cat? for Specialized 4.

Now, back to the present, and I’m just going to blurt the rest of the news out quickly, because if I don’t, you and I will be trapped here forever in the vortex of www.bluebirdparade.co.uk.  Well, I will be anyway.  It is the Clash, and we’ve scored a coup…but more on that another time.  We re-supported The Men They Couldn’t Hang on October 31st at the wonderful Flowerpot in Derby and got some great photos from https://www.facebook.com/haluk.gurer.  It was a fantastic gig, and moreover it was strangely gratifying that Swill’s joke about Halloween costumes got the same tumbleweed response that mine did.  The music was better-received.  Before that however, we had journeyed to Camden for an afternoon bathed in psychedelic colours at Acklam Village Market, courtesy of Hotvox.  We loved playing there, but the best thing about that day was the most rock ‘n’ roll acquisition you could hope to go all the way to Camden to find:10628591_837437759613731_9091432659262761060_n

I won’t tell you what Will found in the pocket of his other purchase (which was a leather jacket; Styx got one too) and didn’t take in to the police.  For shame.  But he was duly punished by following charismatic teen heavy-metal sensations Parasight at the Waltham Charter Fair, playing to three of our family members seated on kindergarten chairs and straw bales, and being booed off the stage at Oxjam (not really).  We feel fortunate to play in front of any audience, regardless of size or attention span, but more instantly gratifying was our second properly commissioned private gig, a 60th birthday party in Loughborough in October.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, so thank you Paul Goodman for taking a chance on original music, and may your seventh decade be as fulsome and joyous as we hope Jon’s sixth will be.

I guess that’s a decent enough round-up of 2014.  Our first gig of 2015 was last weekend at the Musician Pub in Leicester.  I think I have glowed enough about that venue in previous posts, so I won’t dwell.  The highlight was really the support act: Martha Bean and her string section were absolutely stunning, and we can’t wait for her new album.  Please listen – and buy – at www.marthabean.com.  After their set, we got to roll out a few songs that we’ve never played in front of an audience before, in preparation for next month’s recording of our second Bluebird Parade album.  Working title: Songs from the Headland.  We’ll post some song previews when we can; in the meantime, I’m just happy to be semi-caught-up, and to be creating music with our wonderful Bluebird family.  World peace can wait – we have a birthday to keep celebrating.

Spellcheck

20 May 2014 smallerUm, so…at the Live Acoustic Special in just over a week’s time, we’ll be joining:

(Not too bad there with the monikers, Jon.)

For the Priory, we’ll be going as a four-piece of Styx, Thure, Jon, and me.  We had a brief run-through last night, and the pastry brushes sounded rather brilliant – they don’t call us “tasteful” for nothing.  It will be the first time we’ve gone (semi) acoustic in a long time, so please come down and join us – and don’t forget, the night runs to a tight timetable so make sure you’re early.  The £3 entry fee goes to Oxfam.

But before that, we’ll be making our debut outing as a full band with Thure at the Musician, supporting Jersey Budd et al:

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Speaking of debuts, we’ll be airing a total of three new songs within these two gigs.  In fact, if you decide to come to both shows, your total Bluebird individual song value for money would be something like £1.63.  And if you mention that sum and this blog post to me at one or the other, I’ll happily contribute the same towards the drink of your choice.  Cheers!