Some snippets of who the Northern Alliance were probably lie in their press releases.
So here they are…
For the Grains of Sand
New album, download single and live dates
Everyone’s favourite slouching Scottish shufflers Northern Alliance release a new album, For the Grains of Sand, on 6th November, 2006. The album is the band’s third release, but their first full-length album, following slow on the heels of mini-albums Hope in Little Things (2003) and Disaster for Scotland (2004), and is a joint 45B/Fence Records release. As a taster, they’re releasing a free download-only single, ‘Line in the Sand’, on the same day, available from their newly relaunched website, www.lowfidelity.com.
Northern Alliance are part the Fence Collective and are based in Edinburgh. It’s been over two years since their last record, and they’ve been busy, just not with band stuff. Two of them have had children (not with each other) and the third one has moved from Italy back to Scotland after some homesick years. One of them has had a novel published, one of them has become a student yet again, and one of them has just jacked his job in for no reason.
For the Grains of Sand finds the band in robust fettle. It’s their attempt at a big hi-fi rock record. If the fi isn’t hi enough for you, that’s a shame, because this is probably as hi as their fi is ever gonna get. If you think the fi here is too hi, don’t worry, they’ve got a much lower-fi fourth record coming out early next year. If you think their fi is just right, that’s fine, cos so do they. The record was created in an East Lothian loft, and this time round the band’s beer intake decreased, their wine intake stayed level, but their whisky intake went through the roof. The album is the band’s most diverse record by far (mind, they’ve been compared to everyone from Low to ELO in the past, so take your pick), with everything from the rough and tumble rock of ‘Shock of the New’ to the epic indie anthem ‘Line in the Sand’, the sinister melancholy of ‘Calgary’ and the sweet girlish lovefoolery of ‘Our Lives are Ruled by Tides’.
The album’s title is a slightly sappy reference to the size of two of the band’s embryonic offspring when the record was started. Sadly, the band have taken so long to make the album that those grains of sand have turned into 25-pound tantruming, toy-grabbing, fighting toddlers. Much of the album is about the wide-eyed terror of parenthood, but there’s also room for cheery little numbers about wasted years, abandoned relationships, obsession with death and suicide. But ultimately For the Grains of Sand, as its title suggests, is a record of hope, a tiny shout out for all life’s overlooked little guys and girls.
Since they formed almost five years ago the band have only ever played four live shows. This isn’t a principle or anything, they’re just very slow, lazy and nervous about playing live. Breaking with tradition, however, the band have strung together a few shows to celebrate their new record.
Northern Alliance are Craig Smith (bass, guitars, keyboards, sampler), Doug Johnstone (drums, drum machine, guitars, keyboards, sampler, vocals), Viv Strachan (vocals)
‘Northern Alliance merge the dissolute melancholy of Arab Strap with the smudged alt folk of Sparklehorse… superb.’ Scotland on Sunday
‘Gloriously ramshackle, heartbroken and drunkenly swaying, but that’s exactly where their charm lies.’ Kerrang
‘This trio are a thing of real texture and beauty’ The List
‘Genuinely affecting with a heart as heavy as the sun.’ Metro
Disaster for Scotland
Northern Alliance release a brand new half-hour mini-album, Disaster For Scotland, on May 17th, 2004 (give or take a week or two) on the inimitable Fence Records. It will be available for £5 from the Fence website (www.fencerecords.com) as part of their Picket Fence series. The record comes slow on the heels of the band’s acclaimed debut mini-album, Hope in Little Things, which was released in September of last year.
The tracklisting for Disaster For Scotland is thus:
1. The Patron Saint of Sore Throats
2. Preston Falls
3. Say Hello to the Dolomite Hills
4. Year of the Underdog
5. Let’s Form a Union
6. The Battle of Portobello
7. Ally’s Tartan Army
If you’re being literal the songs are about ancient bones, claw hammers, mountains, mortuary walls, glaciers, oystercatchers and football misery. But really the songs are about identity, depression, homesickness, love, marriage, the future and football misery. Disaster For Scotland was recorded over two days in the band’s new loft studio, as opposed to their old basement studio. The result is, strangely, a more introspective and melancholic sound, yet with the odd glimmer of hope thrown in to keep us all sane.
Northern Alliance formed at a party two years ago but they have known each other for many more years. They make music very gradually and rest for long periods of time; it’s a slow-cook process, not a flash-fry. You get a better flavour that way. Since the band released their debut album two of them have moved out of the city to the seaside, and one of them has moved out of the country entirely, to Italy. They are smoking less but drinking more, and they’ve bought a telescope.
Hope in Little Things was widely acclaimed on its release on 45B, an imprint of SL Records. It garnered incredibly positive reviews from the likes of Q, Kerrang, Rocksound, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald, Logo, The List, Big Issue, Metro and many more. Tracks from the album also received widespread radio play both across the UK and around Europe. Oh, and they sold quite a few copies too.
The band are currently working on putting some live dates together, maybe in the summer. But they’ve been saying that for over a year now, so don’t hold your breath.
Hope in Little Things
Northern Alliance release their debut mini-album, ‘Hope in Little Things’ on September 1st, 2003 on 45B Records, an imprint of SL Records, distributed through Shellshock. The track listing is:
1. Buildings of the future
2. Earthquake zone
3. Festivity in the arms of the people
4. When the clocks go forward
5. Campaign for dark skies
6. Skin is dust, dust is skin
7. Calibrate your love
Northern Alliance formed, like all bands should, at a party. A late Hogmanay party, in this case, on January 4th, 2002. They make music very slowly and rest for long periods of time. They are over thirty years old.
They would like to perform their songs live but, as yet, they do not have enough limbs to do this adequately. They have plans to perform live in the future, though, when their number of limbs has increased to a sufficient amount.
Their personality traits, quirks and complications were created in East Lothian, West Lothian and Angus, and they now live in Edinburgh and Paris. They have been in many piss awful bands which, nevertheless, have created various levels of interest. They are now delighted to be in a good band.
- Doug once had an emergency operation for an epigastric hernia.
- Craig once had a lung collapse on him.
- Viv is currently in fine health.
- One of them has a pre-molar tooth in a post-molar position.
- One of them has a PhD in nuclear physics.
- One of them has been awarded NME Single of the Week. Twice.
- One of them has been asked by Kurt Cobain if he has ‘any Benylin’.
None of this is relevant to the sound of Northern Alliance. Craig, Doug and Viv don’t know who they sound like. If you could pigeonhole them, that would be a great help in defining them in terms of their peers. Everyone needs to know their place in society.
‘Hope in Little Things’ is their first album. The songs on this CD are about children, natural disasters, marriage, seagulls, love, germs, loneliness, light pollution, alcohol and the ancient dead rising from the grave. The stuff of life, in other words.
Thank you for your time.