You gotta love the Scottish indie scene these days.
Not so much a band as a Scottish indie music workers collective, The Reindeer Section is the brainchild and pet side project of Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody.
It's no more than that, though; work gets in the way, you see. As Lightbody explains: "Everybody's first band has to come before The Reindeer Section so it is a side project, but that's the beauty. There's no pressure on anyone. It's not our drive for world domination."1 And like most things when the pressure's off, The Reindeer Section has a certain joy about it.
Knocking the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young into a cocked hat, the original Section line-up comprised 15 members plucked from the great and good of Scottish Fey Music Making, since when the total number of active members has swelled a further 12, making the section the equivalent of two Lambchops (laughably understaffed, at 13-strong) and a Ryan Adams, numerically speaking, although you're more likely to encounter comparisons with Nick Drake than the former Whiskeytown frontman. That is, unless you're talking productivity, where Lightbody and Adams are kindred spirits.
Debut album Y'All Get Scared Now Ya Hear! was penned entirely by Lightbody, and although some of the songs were entirely unknown to some of the players, the studio recording was polished off in a mere ten days.
2002's follow-up, Son of Evil Reindeer was written in a creative spurt almost immediately after, but things slowed a touch with the recording, which took a more leisurely 14 days. Lightbody again took care of the song writing duties, with the exception of closing track whodunnit?, which was written and sung by Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat. And by jingo if it isn't one of the finest songs on the album, one of the finest songs Moffat has ever written, and an actual piece of singing from Moffat, rather than his more familiar drunkard's slur.
If I didn't prefer my friends to be IRL, this album would be my best friend. Inevitably, it sounds more than a little bit like Snow Patrol (which is a good thing), with Lightbody writing and singing, but the songs that make their way into the Section's play list are altogether more mellow than Lightbody's day job output. Most of the album slip-slides around you in a waltz, a mellow here-and-there drift of acoustic guitars, Lightbody's soft vocals, and haunted harmonies. It's the sound of the feeling of turning over in the night and finding someone you really, really like there.
I can't help falling in love with The Reindeer Section. How could you resist a name like that? And I defy you to not admire and cherish a band that only exists in the same way an E2 Noder Gathering does, but manages to make such sweet, sweet music.
The web site is surprisingly good, too, and must have taken a good deal longer to make than the albums, with links to interviews, reviews, some lyrics, some guitar tabs, and a shop that sells Reindeer Section badges like the last 20 years didn't happen2.
The good, good people of The Reindeer Section are:
- Iain Archer, (Cadet)
- Norman Blake, (Teenage Fanclub)
- Willy Campbell, (Astrid)
- Charlie Clarke, (Astrid)
- Richard Colburn, (Belle & Sebastian)
- Mick Cooke, (Belle & Sebastian)
- John Cummings, (Mogwai)
- Ben Dumville, (Alfie)
- Paul Fox
- Lee Gorton, (Alfie)
- Eugene Kelly, (The Vaselines)
- Bob Kildea, (Belle & Sebastian)
- Gary Lightbody, (Snow Patrol)
- Marcus Mackay
- Colin MacPherson, (Arab Strap)
- Mark McClelland, (Snow Patrol)
- Malcolm Middleton, (Arab Strap)
- Gill Mills
- Aidan Moffat, (Arab Strap)
- Sam Morris, (Alfie)
- Neil Payne, (Astrid)
- Jonny Quinn, (Snow Patrol)
- Jenny Reeve, (eva)
- Sarah Robertson, (eva)
- Gareth Russell, (Astrid)
- Stacy Sievwright
- Roddy Woomble, (Idlewild)
The above all play on Son of Evil Reindeer.
The below don't, but have been in the section at some point:
The Reindeer Section currently weighs 297 stone, and is 162 feet tall.
1. Uncut, June 2002
2. You could argue that those gathered at an E2 noder gathering have also produced a web site; one more useful and infofilled than http://www.reindeersection.com, and you'd be right. You'd be missing the point, though.