Modern Studies are a chamber pop band from Glasgow (via Yorkshire), featuring Emily Scott, Pete Harvey (King Creosote, The Leg), Joe Smillie (boss of Glasgow’s The Glad Cafe) and Rob St. John (who we’ve featured previously here at WTD).
Describing their sound as landscape pop, Modern Studies utilise “analogue synths, cello, double bass, drums, guitars, a wine-glass orchestra and, at the creaking centre of things, a Victorian pedal harmonium.” This harmonium proves to be paramount for the band, a source of influence not just musically but also aesthetically, the instrument’s storied history and mysterious air diffusing into the songs at a subconscious level. And its not hard to see why. Take, for example, the bands description of this antique:
“Slowly but surely the harmonium gives up its provenance. Cigarette cards of moustachioed soldiers tucked between the keys, a Miss Havisham drape of cobwebs, a selection of foxed and edgeworn song-sheets, and a short hand-written history of a short life.”
Working at Pumpkinfield (Harvey’s studio in rural Perthshire) and developing songs from Scott inspired “largely from the salt and spray of the sea”, the band produced a debut album, Swell to Great, which is being released on Song, by Toad Records.
While we have to wait until September for the full record, the band have unveiled the first single, ‘Father is a Craftsman’. The song fuses the nostalgia of classic folk with sweet and sunny pop melodies all imbued with a sense of narrative and history. I like to think this is a subconscious result of the harmonium, it’s past haunting the songs by it mere presence.
“Father is a craftsman from a long long line
mother swims in the winter time
brother oh my brother is faraway”
Swell to Great is due on the 12th of September and you can pre-order it now via Song, By Toad Records. You can also check out two other tracks from the album there too.
Photo credit: Jannica Honey