04 June 2012

Olympic Swimmers - No Flags Will Fly: Track By Track

For those of you who frequent these parts on a regular basis, you may recall that I tipped Olympic Swimmers as being one of my Ones To Watch for 2012. Generally when folk start banging on about how they tipped such and such a band before they were big, it really does piss me off. The reason I mention that I tipped Olympic Swimmers as being a band to look out for this year, was purely because I had been so looking forward to hearing their debut album. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed, as it's a cracking wee record that was well worth the wait. As you I am sure you already know, I try to avoid writing reviews as I don't think I am all that great at them. So what do you do if you think an albums great, but you don't write reviews? Well if you're me, then you just get the band to do all of the hard work for you. Clever eh! In this instance I asked Susie from Olympic Swimmers to talk us through their cracking debut album, No Flags Will Fly, and here's what she had to say...

Father Said  

We quite often finish live sets with it, but on the album it's the opener. This is the oldest song on the album and was on our first single/ep.  My mum has said to me before that she thinks it's odd that there's no word in English for grown-up offspring, they still get called 'my children' regardless of age. I've wondered if that's a reflection of the fact that no matter how a relationship with your child might change over time as they age, a huge part of how a parent sees their child will always remain fundamentally the same. I figure that, that's not an easy process, and that's what this song is about.


I like a lot of Iain Crichton Smith and in particular I love his poetry about aging and the passage of time. This is influenced by those and more specifically I was thinking about the importance of memories as we age. We've actually just made a video for this so it should appear sometime soon after the album's out.


It Snows  Simon put together a video for this in December last year (just as we were finishing mixing the album) using archive footage that he and Graeme chose from the Scottish Screen Archive. Oddly enough out of all the footage they looked at they chose some that had been filmed, in part, in the town that Simon and I grew up in by the grandfather of the person who taught us both piano.

Apples and Pears     
This is the only other previously released song on the album and was on our second single/ep. I've heard this shouted at us during gigs on more than one occasion so either folk like it or it's the only name anyone knows. The words are based on someone I met a few years ago and their experiences. I try to think of the song as having two voices - one in the verse and one in the chorus representing two people - one is the person I met and the other is the person who supported them without the usual judgements they received from other people. It's as close to a pop song as we could manage.

Bricks of our Building     

It's based on an account I read of a soldier returning to his home in Clydebank the day after the Clyde blitz in WW2, oblivious of the fact that his home was gone and the majority of his family were dead. The street that Graeme and I live on was hit by some of the bombs that were dropped that night and it's something that we've both read a lot about over the time we've lived there. The story of the soldier really hit a nerve with me and it's probably the most story-telling lyrics I've written. It's the only obvious use of acoustic guitar on the album, although it does creep in subtly in a few other places as well.

Game of the Century     

The lyrics in this are generally about people living on, in a way, within the events they played a part in and personally I thought about my grandfather having been at Dunkirk. Jamie played dulcimer on this and I think it gives it a good level of 'ancient' to accompany a song about history.

In This House     

I wrote the words to this sort of as a sequel in a way to a song we had on our first ep called 'I Won't Sleep', which is about the loss of a child and this is too. At the time when I wrote the words for 'I Won't Sleep' the body of Vicky Hamilton had been found 16 years after she disappeared. I remember really clearly her going missing when I was wee so I followed it really closely when she was found and it was on my mind a lot then so I suppose that's what led to 'I Won't Sleep' and in turn to 'In This House'.

Fallen Trees     

This song is about shunning the help of people who care about you. There's a lot of backing oo-ing in this thanks to Jonny, Graeme, Iain (Cook) and our friend Claire Quimby.

Rung Down The Curtain  

Unlike anything else on the album the words and melody for this were written after the majority of the album was already recorded. I only came up with something a few days before I started recording vocals at Iain's studio which meant neither he nor anyone in the band had heard the melody before I recorded it. I'm glad it got salvaged from the scrap pile because it's become my favourite song on the album. About a week before I wrote the words I heard some news about someone I used to know that made me think of them very differently. I suppose this song is a bit of an apology for never seeing what was really going on with them.

Mt Noah  

Lyrically this is about friendship. We tend to always write songs by someone bringing an idea or two to practice and working on it together but unusually for us this was pretty much finished by the time it even made it to a rehearsal. Jenny Reeve, Ruth Campbell and Kev Brolly kindly added strings and woodwind to this track.

No Flags Will Fly is available now from One Up Records in Aberdeen, Avalanche Records in Edinburgh, HMV in Stirling and in Glasgow, you can pick up copies from Monorail and Love Music. The album is also available to buy from Bandcamp, iTunes and a whole host of other download stores.

You can catch Olympic Swimmers playing live this coming Thursday in Inverness at DETOUR's goNorth showcase gig alongside Cleavers, Lady North and DARC. Then on the 24th of June they will be appearing alongside the likes of We Were Promised Jetpacks Aidan Moffat, RM Hubbert and loads more, at this awesome looking gig.

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