Our joint favourite Glaswegian experimentalists are back
Back with an album which defies genre categorisation, Errors have once again impressed critics and charmed fans of both electronic experimentation and those whose musical preference leans towards more organically composed sounds. With tunes ranging from the New Order influenced, dance-floor friendly single Pleasure Palaces, to darker tracks like Earthscore that could soundtrack a dystopian sci- fi movie, on Have Some Faith In Magic the Glaswegian band’s unhinged musical instinct is more far-reaching than it’s ever been.
Since releasing 2010’s Come Down With Me (alongside the guest starring remixed version entitled – of course – Celebrity Come Down With Me), Errors have made some major alterations. Have Some Faith In Magic is the only Errors album so far which includes vocals, and the first in which founding member Greg Patterson is absent.
When Crack catches up with multi-instrumentalist Steev Livingstone on the phone, he tells us how the band dynamic has been affected to these recent developments. “We’re a man down now, so the ‘lads’ quota has gone down a bit. I guess we should really be a little bit more mature, maybe there won’t be as much drinking now but I don’t know. I think I’m going to have to watch it with the boozing because I’m singing every night for the first time. I’m going to have to figure out what my limit is and stick to it, otherwise it could all be pretty disastrous.”
So what about the technical side of things? Considering Errors’ intricate arrangements and use of both digital and live instruments, hasn’t figuring out how to play the songs as a three-piece been a bit of a ball ache? “We’ve changed things a bit”, Steev explains. “We’ve worked on this edit of Mr Milk because we’d been playing the same version for years. Everything else has been fine, we’ve worked out ways of Simon (Ward, fellow multi-instrumentalist) or myself playing Greg’s parts. We’re not gonna have Greg’s guitar parts playing off the laptop though, that’d sound weird.”
In the past, Errors would always insist that they’d stick to making instrumental music, so it was a little surprising to hear Steev singing for the first time. Steev, however, is emphatic that he’s not trying to convey any messages with his words: “There are lyrics, but they were written on the spot and as far as I’m concerned they’re not important and no one really needs to know what they are.”
The vocal tracks on the new album are saturated in reverb, giving them a ghostly shoe-gaze feel and leaving the lyrics obscured, but after multiple plays the listener can begin to decipher some word fragments, reflecting something about the band’s approach and influences. “With a band like the Cocteau Twins the lyrics were sometimes made up from things they’d found in the pages of foreign dictionaries. I think that it’s our natural response to form things out of something like that, to recognise something in there. I like the idea that people are going to be interpreting the voices in different ways from each other.”
Errors occupy a space somewhere between a laptop-based bedroom project and a functioning live group. Steev is aware of the band’s obligation to deliver a dynamic performance, a reassuring attitude considering the increasingly common tendency of even the most forward thinking electronic artists to remain sheepishly inert behind their laptops during ‘live’ shows.
“At a lot of our earlier shows people just stood still, and that’s because we were being still on stage. As soon as we start moving about, it gives people the licence to do it themselves, so I do have that responsibility as a … well I don’t like to call myself a ‘frontman’ and I never have done, but I know it’s going to come out a lot more now because I’m singing.”
During the recording process of Have Some Faith In Magic, Steev took on some extra work as a caller for traditional Scottish Ceilidh dances. This gave him plenty of practice at rousing up a crowd in preparation for Errors’ recent UK tour. “The thing is, I’ve got to talk a lot of shite when I’m being the Ceilidh caller, there’s a lot of crap patter and I’ve got to try and be funny.” Crack suggests a parallel between his role in Errors and with the Ceilidh band; that in both circumstances he’s required to help people lose their inhibitions. “Yeah, I think that’s a good point because I have to do a little bit of that when I’m with Errors when we play live. Particularly when things go wrong, I’ve got to talk a lot. I think at shows for the ‘frontman’ or whatever, it’s kind of their job to make people feel comfortable because sometimes crowds can feel just as self-conscious as the band do.”
Despite consistently positive reviews, Steev confesses that he still gets anxious just before the band drop an album. “It’d be foolish to say I’m not bothered. I definitely get a bit wound up when I read negative reviews. It’s quite a nerve-wracking time, hopefully I won’t lose too much sleep this time round.”
Have Some Faith In Magic is the third Errors full-length to be released on post-rock legends Mogwai’s imprint Rock Action Records, an alliance which has continued since the band’s formative days. When Crack questions Steev about what it’s like having Mogwai as their label bosses, he’s charmingly gracious. “There’s no pressure on us whatsoever. The only point we ever let them hear something is once it’s finished and they’ve never said ‘that’s not good enough’. They’ve also been very good to us when it comes to touring. Mogwai have taken us on tour several times now. They took us all over the US last year. There are perks to being on the label because Mogwai kind of look after you, as well as the label.”
He continues onto the subject of their hometown, something understandably close to his heart. “I think there’s always been that kind of network in Glasgow. There’s a nice Facebook group we’ve got running in Glasgow where if you need a piece of equipment there’ll be someone on there you can borrow it off. Or if you need advice, like if you need to know how to set up some kind of midi thing, there’ll be someone there to help you. So people are really supportive regardless of what kind of music you make and regardless of what point you’re at as well. There’s a lot of sincere people here, so if you do act like an arsehole you’re not going to find yourself with many friends!”
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Have Some Faith In Magic is available now on Rock Action
Words: David Reed
Photo: Michael Kent