St Andrews is known for many things, but not its music scene. When you look at the town’s history, it’s hard to understand why it is not more widely appreciated.
Few people realise today how many legendary bands made their way up to Fife. In 1969, Pink Floyd took to the stage of Younger Hall. The 80s saw bands such as The Jam and Dexys Midnight Runners rock the Union, and just five years ago, Snow Patrol played before they became the indie-pop sensation we know today. A huge number of native St Andrews artists have gone on to achieve international success, including KT Tunstall, James Yorkston, the DJ Vic Galloway and King Creosote. So why has this legacy been forgotten?
Johnny Lynch, front man of The Pictish Trail and organiser of this year’s Eye O’ The Dug, believes musical talent comes through St Andrews in waves, and this year, we are seeing something of a musical revival.
In the past few months alone, acts such as José Gonzáles, Erol Alkan and Mr Scruff have taken to Venue One, attracting more crowds than ever before. It seems St Andrews students are looking for something more than cheesy tunes at the Friday night bop. To culminate this year’s success, artists are taking Younger Stage once more, to play at the latest festival to hit St Andrews, Eye O’ The Dug.
As a native Scot, Lynch is no stranger to the Fife music scene. After spending his teenage years in America, Lynch came to study English at St Andrews. Why St Andrews, you might ask? This was partly due to his long appreciation of The Beta Band, a 90s ‘folktronica’ group that also formed on these very streets.
The Pictish Trail is an unusual mix of folk and electronic, a combination that on paper sounds like it just wouldn’t work, but in reality, goes together like neeps and tatties. ‘Winter Home Disco’ from his last album, Secret Soundz Vol. 1, demonstrates how synth pop can meld so well with an acoustic backing track and Lynch’s mellow voice. Lynch has just finished recording his latest album, which he jokes is inventively entitled Secret Soundz Vol. 2.
Lynch first became involved with Fence Records when he was a student and handed his demo over to Kenny Anderson, the label’s founder. After he graduated, Kenny offered him a job in Anstruther. “The label wasn’t really a label at this point,” Lynch explained to me. “We used to make all our records on these CDR burning machines and we were hand-stamping each one. We built up a bit of a following and suddenly we were making hundreds and hundreds of these things…” From that point, Fence never looked back. It is now one of the biggest music labels in Scotland and is recognized worldwide.
Lynch is no stranger to organizing live music events. Whilst at St Andrews, he used to organise club nights in the Union with his friend Kate from Kid Canaveral. “Mermaids was huge at the time, but the plays weren’t so much about having amazing actors, but more about creating a good atmosphere.” Plays and gigs were held in all kinds of unusual locations around town – from the church hall opposite the Union to the Scout Hut near Castle Sands, an element which Lynch tried to bring over to Anstruther when he first started organizing Homegame, the annual summer music festival there in 2008.
However, he’s been looking to hold an event in St Andrews for years. When Rollo Strickland, our Union’s Director of Events and Services, approached him with the possibility of using Younger Hall as a venue, Lynch jumped at the opportunity.
Interestingly, singer-songwriter music is not Lynch’s personal musical preference; he prefers dance music, an unusual proclamation from the man who organizes a folk-indie record label. However, this dual appreciation finds itself manifest in Eye O’ The Dug, which will be split into two parts: electronic on the Saturday night, and indie-folk music on Sunday during the day.
Saturday’s full-on electronic beats, with a DJ set from Hot Chip and spaced-out vibe from a great band called Errors, will take place in Venue One. Whilst not the most glamorous of locations, Lynch promises that they will be bringing in a new sound system, lighting, decorations and a special bar inside, “it’s going to be different to what people have been to before… I think they’re going to be surprised.”
Sunday is dedicated to soothing those hungover souls from the night before. Following the steps of Pink Floyd, KT Tunstall and King Creosote will be taking to the Younger Hall stage and playing songs from their latest albums, as well as a few classics. Lynch says he envisages people wandering outside, enjoying the sunshine and insists that there will be “really nice food, not your usual burger van stuff.”
Lynch explains that ticket prices are least £20 or £30 cheaper than you would find in Edinburgh or Glasgow to see the same acts, and is currently attracting a huge audience, “people are coming over from Australia, America and all over Europe!” And are the tickets selling well? “Too well!” laughs Lynch. He believes it’s important to nurture your local music scene, “and if people want to see more bands play St Andrews, they should come support Eye O’ The Dug.” Hopefully it will see a revival that stays with St Andrews for years to come.