We Show Up On Radar
In a field, not too far away, I find the spot that has been whispered about. The rippling, green blanket at my feet is alive with the sounds of scurrying activity. Multi-limbed magicians leap barely to lace-height, whilst blurs of fur dart in the periphery. Catching the stern eye of a squirrel, I retreat to a safe distance and gently ease my face down, to ground level. It is the third week in August. And according to the words I heard a few months previously, this is the fifth animal sports day. Peering between the arched blades of grass, I witness the woodland creatures take on dwarf zookeepers. Surrounded by beavers as cheerleaders and chattering harvest mice, I tentatively mutter, “Where am I?” The chorus replies in high-pitched harmony: “Welcome to the world that shows up on radar!” I carefully scratch my head. Whose radar?
On stage, We Show Up On Radar comprises Andy Wright – plucker of vocal chords and guitar strings – and Pete Sampson, who triggers samples and presses on black and white keys. Pete won the UK National Beatbox Championships in 2004, as The Petebox. But playing under the moniker, We Show Up On Radar, Pete is a silent partner. “I do all the song-writing…and everything really!” explains Andy. “I guess I’m a real control freak. I started writing songs about two or three years ago. Pete helps out with the live things. I call him my multi-butler. He takes all the abuse on stage but he doesn’t take offence. I see how far I can push him.” I point out that Pete is a bigger man. Andy replies with a twinkle, “Yeah, but I’m fast and wiry.” He continues: “Pete talks with a broad Nottingham accent on stage. But when he gets off, he’s very polite. Perhaps I should adopt a broader accent to attract the Nottingham hip-hop community.”
Looking at Radar’s page on myspace.com, it’s apparent that Andy’s songs already appeal to a friendly and growing community. “My Space is really good,” comments Andy. “Everyone’s equal, it’s like a communist regime or something! I asked Bjork to be my friend and she responded immediately.” What is it she sees on the radar? The myspace.com page lists Sparklehorse and Joanna Newsom as influences. And past reviews have mentioned Syd Barrett-esque lyrics, lo-fi, electronic beeps and bleeps and indie-stoner, acoustic guitar. Andy has described his songs as nursery rhymes for adults. Many of these words hint at something familiar. But there’s no neat category to file Andy’s music under. He points out that: “myspace.com really helps people to find the music they like, rather than being force-fed by record companies.” To find out if you like what We Show Up On Radar are producing, it’s probably best that you take a digital trip to myspace.com/wsuor. I’m in danger of spewing adjectives.
Andy continues: “I suppose a lot of the music on myspace.com is quite niche, so it’ll probably never get released.” A view that doesn’t hold when it comes to We Show Up On Radar. Andy has just signed a deal with Proud and Lonesome. Because of this, he and Pete currently find themselves on tour with label-mate, Kid Carpet. “It’s going really well, everyone is really nice,” says Andy. “Kid Carpet is on the same label as us. The label made the magic happen, so he’s stuck with us now! And I think we’ll be on tour in February with The Boy Least Likely To.” Andy laughs: “They’ve just lost in the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party.”
Gigs with the runners-up at a national, entertainment-award ceremony. Being played on Radio One. And a record deal. It’s been an eventful year for We Show Up On Radar. I ask Andy what effect it’s had on him. “We did our first headline gig the other night,” he replies. “But to be honest, I haven’t really noticed a great deal of anything. It’s kind of cool being on Radio One. I think we’ve been played by Zane Lowe and Rob Da Bank. It’s nice but when we heard it we were sandwiched between the Super Furry Animals and..it’s a bit odd I guess. The current tour is nice. But there’s no time to write any music, which is the fun bit for me.”
At We Show Up On Radar gigs, sound waves often play in the lengthening shadows of green and star-dashed pastures; lyrics fall through Saturn’s rings as plants root for freedom and creatures compete. I suspect that the natural world is close to Andy’s heart. “No, not really,” he says. “I don’t write about being happy or being sad, politics or depression. There’s only really animals left. But I’ve covered just about all the animals in the kingdom, well the animals that are worth writing about.”
As we chat, it becomes clear that Andy is not comfortable making crisp, book-marked statements. And whilst the protagonists in his songs often inhabit litho-cut worlds, Andy’s storytelling skills can open the mind to a spherical array of emotional possibilities. Not a perspective that everyone sees. “Sandman magazine was really digging in about the music being saccharine and twee. It can be. But it’s intentional. I guess I make stuff that isn’t self-obsessed or pretentious and annoying, like the Kaiser Chiefs or The Bravery where it can be about the music scene and not the music. It pisses me off a little bit. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the style but it’s about fun isn’t it?
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- May 6, 2006 / 5:51 pm