Scotland Week: Bis

"I may be one of the few people you'll hear of in a band saying this, but I'll be voting no [on Scottish Independence]." - Manda Rin

Sep 04, 2014 Web Exclusive
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We have a special theme on Under the Radar's website this week which we're simply calling Scotland Week. All throughout the week we will be posting interviews, reviews, lists, and blog posts relating to Scotland and in particular Scottish music. For some of the Scotland Week Q&As we emailed out the same set of Scottish related questions to various different musicians from the country.

For this interview we talk to Bis. The Glasgow-based band formed in 1994 when members Amanda MacKinnon (aka Manda Rin) and John Clark (aka John Disco) were still in secondary school (aka high school) and bandmate Steven Clark (aka Sci-fi Steven) had just graduated. Their songs and videos made fun of the music industry and John Hughes movies, among other things. They shot to relative fame in the U.K. after being one of the few unsigned bands to perform on the venerable and long running music TV program Top of the Pops, performing "Kandy Pop" from their Secret Vampire Soundtrack EP. The trio initially released music via Glasgow's Chemikal Underground Records. The label cites the band's early success as helping put them on the map and grow (at the time Chemikal Underground were based out of a kitchen). Bis then went on to release music via Wiija, K Records, and Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label, among others. They also did end credits theme to the beloved '90s animated show The Powerpuff Girls.

Bis' sound evolved from the charmingly ramshackle and punky D.I.Y. aesthetics of their early singles to the more ambitious electro-pop of their 2001-released third album, Return to Central (for which they were interviewed way back in Under the Radar's second issue). The band split up not long after, in 2003, but recently reformed and in May released their fourth album, data Panik etcetera. 

Read on as Manda Rin and Sci-fi Steven discuss, in two separate interviews, their favorite Scottish albums and bands. They also get into their stances on the Scottish Independence Referendum, in which in a few weeks the people of Scotland get to vote on whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom and have Scotland become its own country, which is a subject they disagree on.

Manda Rin:

What are your thoughts on the Scottish Independence referendum? Are you for or against independence? Could you explain why?

Manda Rin: I may be one of the few people you'll hear of in a band saying this, but I'll be voting no. There are many things at Westminster I'm unhappy with and many changes that need to be made, but I very much like being part of the United Kingdom and am proud to be Scottish at the same time. I don't believe going independent will change all the problems and it could create more. We get free universities, free prescriptions, and with the mass of people on benefits in Scotland I'm not sure how much longer that could continue. I don't believe our oil could sustain our income long after my son is 40. There's far too many unanswered and important questions for going independent and I'm not prepared to risk our home and my son's future, but also lose living in the U.K. that I enjoy being part of. I've always been the most hated and uncool member of my band, so I suppose I shouldn't be afraid to air my opinions. Everyone has different reasons for their vote and mine reflects how it would affect my family's life. I have to be fair and stress that Steven and possibly John think differently though. I want to bring my son up in the United Kingdom.

How do you think Scottish Independence might affect the arts and the Scottish music scene?

Scotland has always been a very patriotic nation.  I'm hoping that whatever the vote is it shouldn't affect the arts and music scene. Like our football rivalry, the only issue may be the divide between people it creates. If my band can work together when we have different political beliefs I hope others can too.

What is your favorite album by another Scottish artist and why

Currently I'd say CHVRCHES' The Bones of what you Believe.  Not typically the kind of music I'd listen to all the time but maybe I'm getting older as I listen to this frequently.

Which Scottish musician/band most inspired you to start playing music?

Inspiration wise, it was the small punky type bands like Lungleg, Pink Kross, and Lugworm that inspired me but also The Rezillos.

Who is the most underrated or underappreciated Scottish musician or band?

We Are the Physics and Bis!

Sci-fi Steven:

What are your thoughts on the Scottish Independence referendum? Are you for or against independence? Could you explain why?

Sci-fi Steven: I think it's positive that such a debate can be held peacefully, there's no militant uprising or warring factions that have brought this referendum about, it's a civilized dialogue between peaceful nations. I am entirely for independence, having lived through enough time unable to have a real say in controlling our country's political landscape. The history of Scotland's political leanings strongly suggest an independent Scotland would be more socialist minded and by default a fairer nation for those who live in it. If Scotland was to gain independence, I have no illusions that there may be tough times ahead and I may not live to see the full benefits, but I am trying to give my children the chances I never had to help shape their own nation.

How do you think Scottish Independence might affect the arts and the Scottish music scene?

I'd like to think a Scottish government untainted by Westminster involvement might see the export benefit of a stronger Scottish art scene. I think we're already recognized worldwide as an artistic force beyond our small population's means, but under current Westminster rule there are few opportunities for musicians and artists to be given the funding to fulfill their creative potential. I'm not saying throw free money at everyone with a guitar, but the current proliferation of public school educated new "bands" certainly implies that the Scottish music "under-class," if you like, is being strangled at birth through lack of opportunity. At least in a free Scotland a discussion about how we treat young artists could be had independent of Westminster interference.

What is your favorite album by another Scottish artist and why?

This answer probably changes on a day-to-day basis, but the Scottish album I always come back to is Sulk by The Associates. Musically, I prefer a few of their earlier songs but there's a subterranean otherworldliness about the production, dense yet ethereal and with God's own singing voice on top. It's violently schizophrenic but with the absolute clarity of "Party Fears Two" as its center-point. We write punk/disco songs that have none of the grace and cinematic appeal, but our third album Return to Central was heavily inspired by the after-dark feel of Sulk.

Which Scottish musician/band most inspired you to start playing music?

Seeing The Rezillos doing "Top of the Pops" on Sounds of the '70s was a real inspiration. The sound of a Scottish accent was still brave in the early '90s when we started, so seeing Fay Fife unashamed was great. Credit also to The Shamen, whose En-Tact was more influential on me and my brother than any Bis fan may imagine!

Who is the most underrated or underappreciated Scottish musician or band?

So, so many. From our early days, The Yummy Fur and Lung Leg wrote the best pop songs. It didn't matter to us that they sounded like they were recorded on a broken ghetto-blasterit was our pop music. Gilded Lil, featuring a pre-Franz Ferdinand Paul Thomson, were phenomenalthe girl had a ridiculously good voice, and they felt a bit mental and threatening. Thankfully, Country Teasers seem to be getting a bit of appreciation now but not so yet for Multiplies or We Are the Physics, the two Glasgow bands of the last 10 years that really got me excited.

www.bisnation.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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