VARS OF LITCHI.
‘There seems to be a great chemistry between the pair, backing each other as they extend the duo sound down different very different paths to most other pairings. It's great to hear a new band that sound able to competently and thoroughly brilliantly tackle diverse material in a live setting. More please’.
-Scott McKeating 2007.
Jack Figgis (drums, blips, bloops & chirps) and Gordon Mcdougal (guitars, thonks & bleatings) met at Duncan of Jordonstone College of Art in Dundee in the late 90’s, the duo have recently been playing to audiences of hundreds in Scotland ( at The New Stereo, Glasgow), performing live on radio (www.subcity.org), prepping their new album for 2008 and generally kicking up a storm. Vars are breaking the mould of classic 4 piece band, the minimalist element of a duo invites more urgency and less room for mistakes. They have to rely on sonic communication of the highest order when performing.
ZOOT: Why Vars of Litchi?
Lychee: Var. of LITCHI
Litchi: n. (Sweetish pulpy shelled fruit of)
tree Litchi chinensis, orig. from China [f. Chin. Li-chi]
‘We made a recording a few years ago to give to friends, we decided
to make an image to go with the cd. We couldn't think of anything that
didn't sound either stupid or pretentious so we opened a dictionary at random, the first thing to catch the eye was .. Var of LITCHI..To which we added an ‘s’, it was more a visual motif than a name. People have trouble catching it when they ask what we're called, and pronouncing it. It changes every time we say it, but you can say it any way, it doesn't matter, you choose. But we like things ambiguous and open to interpretation. The ‘var’ stands for variations after all. So in opening a dictionary at random to prevent ourselves from giving ourselves a pretentious name, we end up with a long ass story about variations and pronunciation but it seems all by chance"
ZOOT: where do VARS OF LITCHI come from?
‘We live in Glasgow; we've been here since 2005.’
ZOOT: What is the Glasgow scene?
‘It seems there's no dominant scene in Glasgow, there are lots of
fragmented scenes that sometimes overlap. Our first shows were alongside mainly electronic musicians, and although we weren't making electronic music, they accepted us and encouraged us.
There's lots of small promoters, some get press and some don't. The
Closest thing to a scene that we've experienced is playing more than once with groups like Special Brew 1.2, Kid Quaalude, The Gummy Stumps, Tiny Little Hearts and Remember Remember. There are also a lot of touring bands that come through Glasgow, and we've been lucky to support more established people like Six Organs of Admittance, Deerhunter, Charalambides and Ghost(of Japan).
ZOOT: Hero's and heroines?
‘So many people and outside influences inform us. Here's some obvious
Edmund Coleman the Dub Chieftain, David Lynch, Charles Darwin, Hunter
Thompson, DNA, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Todd Trainer, DEVO, Dave
King, Ron & Valerie Taylor, Sonic Youth, Miles Davis, Nirvana, Sun Ra,
Captain Beefheart, Fugazi, The '77 Muppet Show Cast Album, Boredoms, Harry Partch,
Bruce Haack, Park Attack, Shellac, Wesley Willis.’
ZOOT: What influences/ blows your mind about Wesley Willis? Is it the mental place he was in that so many performers try to emulate or desperately try to zone into? I believe it’s called the poetic zone, when nothing else matters but what you are doing/performing at that moment in time?
‘Wesley Will was an incredible artist, with an incredible story. It could be easy for people to view his massive output, both visually and musically as purely a product of his illness ...the obsessive need to create those amazing images and repetitive "demo song" recordings, but I do think
creatively inclined people must have a kink in their brain somewhere that makes you "need" to create things, some worse than others. But its proof that people of all backgrounds can contribute to art in a meaningful way...on top of that, he had a great sense of humour and a great way with
words "i told the decon to fuck off, he said I had a nasty filthy mouth"
"kinko's - express yourself"
There's totally a zone you need to get into during live shows, it varies from show to show, depending on your frame of mind at the time .Sometimes you wonder why you’re doing it to yourself, but the buzz is intoxicating. We try to stay straight for shows. We recently had what we
considered our worst show, which was tainted by booze, fatigue and technical problems... not a good mix. We went into total abandon by the end of the set, destruction ensued...my mustangs headstock got split in two, cymbals flew and drum skins were ripped. We still got good feedback from people who were at the show, but on a personal level it was disappointing...Miles Davis said "there are two vibes, the vibe onstage and the vibe out in the crowd" If you can remember that then it can work, playing should be fun and you should be able to hear each other, listening is
so important but we find its harder when your mind is clouded. But if you can get yourself into a flow whilst playing: you enjoy it, and like a domino effect, the crowd will enjoy it.’
ZOOT: how do you regard art and music specifically?
‘We met at art school in Dundee in 1999 and played together occasionally with the idea we'd form a band. We'd record sound experiments and jams with Eddie Coleman and Kevin Calder, swapping music and ideas. A lot of art school students seem to end up in Glasgow, so we're lucky we've got a lot of old friends and new friends around us.’
Jack grew up in Newcastle, Gordon in East Lothian. Families on both sides have artistic temperaments: Carpenters, Stone masons, printmakers, painters, musicians, potters, writers,
Actors and filmmakers.
‘We look at art and music openly and approach it that way too.
The way we work is partly a result of our time at art school. Both of us have virtually no formal musical training but over the years of playing together we've learned how to react to each others playing, our approach to using sounds, when to push and pull, start and stop. Basic dynamics. We catalogue our practice room trips; it's like filling a sketch book. Put a couple of mics in a certain place, press record and play. We improvise with textures and rhythm and play with the dynamics of each others playing. What we end up with varies from 3-6 minute pieces to 10-20min tracks that either stand like that or get reshaped into another form.
When we started playing live we'd have a couple of song forms peppered
In amongst atonal improvised pieces. Then we liked the idea of using those sounds in punctuated structures, and trying to figure out how to play previously improvised tracks. The only thing we really ever know what to do is not to do what we don't want to do.’
ZOOT: "vague" hatreds?
‘There are many things that annoy us. Television, Panic, Terror,
Newspapers, boredom, taxi to a venue, loaded with equipment, listening to talk sports.
Pay to play.’
‘We're looking forward to recording a new album in March 2008.’
www.subcity.org (to listen to live radio session).