Scotsman Radar Prize 2011: And the winner is...
Wednesday, 09 November 2011
Pictures: Euan Robertson
A year after Glasgow band French Wives won the inaugural Scotsman Radar Prize, Radar editor Nick Mitchell explains the purpose of the competition and reveals the winner for 2011...
Rarely does a week pass without the promotional brouhaha around yet another music prize. Never mind the big hitters like the Brits, the Mercury Prize or the Mobos; Scotland alone has the Tartan Clefs, the Scots Trad Awards, the Alternative Music Awards and many more besides.
Among this flood of gong-giving, we like to think that the Scotsman Radar Prize is a bit different. It's not about glitzy ceremonies, public voting or knockout rounds. It is only open to unsigned musicians based in Scotland, and the entry process is free and easy, with artists simply uploading a demo to SoundCloud. These tracks are then scrutinized by the writers who contribute to Radar, as well as The Scotsman's pop critic Fiona Shepherd. Votes are cast, counted, and a winner and two runners-up are confirmed. Quality and originality are the only watchwords.
Last year the outright winner was Glasgow band French Wives, who have gone on to release an EP and single, tour the UK and are currently recording their debut album in Mogwai's studios. They were worthy winners from a strong first year for the prize, and so it was a no-brainer that we would do it all again.
So after listening to demos from 134 eligible entrants, we are delighted to announce that Edinburgh band Sebastian Dangerfield are the winners of the 2011 Scotsman Radar Prize.
Despite having a bandname which sounds like a tweed-suited rapscallion with a waxed moustache (it's actually the name of a character in J.P. Donleavy's cult novel The Ginger Man), the four 20-something members of Sebastian Dangerfield are just normal guys who happen to have a knack for making exceptional indie rock that takes American bluegrass energy and distils it with a heady brew of guitars, drums and banjo.
Like last year's winners, Sebastian Dangerfield have already put several years' graft into their cause. The band are a direct result of frontman Stuart McGachin's fear of playing solo aged 19. He recruited Jason Irvine on drums, Jim Baggs on bass and David Thompson on guitar, and together they phased out his material and developed their own. Four years later they find themselves at the kind of critical juncture faced by so many unsigned artists.
Speaking in an Edinburgh pub the day after we broke the news to him, McGachin admits he's still "processing" it all, but says that winning the Scotsman Radar Prize is "a really nice surprise".
With Thompson having left Scotland for a year in New Zealand, the band had to draft in a replacement in Jamie Nimmo, and Irvine believes this award could be "the kick up the backside to get things going again". He adds: "There are always ups and downs but it's going to push us forward more."
One story McGachan and his cohorts can take heart from is that of their friends (and in Thompson's case, brother) in We Were Promised Jetpacks, another Edinburgh band who have gone on to land a record deal and play to sold-out venues in Europe and America. "We're still a bit away from being as good as them live," says McGachan, who also plays in a collaborative "supergroup" called Hairy Area, with members of the Jetpacks, Endor and Lady North. "But they're really good to us, they asked us to support them. It does give you that fire in the belly to think, well, I'm sure we'd be as good as them if it was a full-time job for us as well. Practicing once a week isn't really enough"
Sebastian Dangerfield will now get their hands on a range of prizes designed to help them make real progress, including a recording session at the famous Chem 19 studios near Glasgow, a video shoot at Swanfield Studios in Leith and various other digital subscriptions and distribution deals.
While they've already enjoyed the "pretty cool" gratification of seeing their EP on sale in the Avalanche record shop in their hometown, Sebastian Dangerfield are now looking towards T in the Park and possibly even South by South West in Texas as realistic targets for next year.
Another essential step for any band is to tour outside their local comfort zone. Time, money and logistics mean this is easier said than done, but again McGachan is taking inspiration from his peers.
"We've seen bands like French Wives and Three Blind Wolves going down south for tours and it must be generating some sort of buzz, which is cool," he says. "I think that comes with promotion as well, there must be links between cities, instead of setting out and thinking that no-one's gonna turn up."
But essentially McGachan admits he is happy as long as people are listening. "I think we just enjoy it too much to not do it," he adds.
Listen to the winning track:
You Played Your Part, Singer! by sdangerfield
Sebastian Dangerfield on: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter
A version of this feature will be in The Scotsman tomorrow
Congratulations to Sebastian Dangerfield, winners of the Scotsman Radar Prize 2011!
• The runners-up and the best of the rest
Connect with Radar:
Posted by Nick Mitchell