The past weekend at the Cake Shop I was running around, getting an Airiel CD signed by the whole band for my girl. Normally I do these things for myself. Usually I ask C86 legends, or indiepop friends. Probably they’ve heard about Cloudberry, have seen my silly profile picture on facebook, or have maybe read one of my many clumsy interviews. Then it’s much easier, it is more natural and even sometimes I end up taking a picture with the band. Fantastic.

But a shoegaze band, four young Americans from Chicago, that seem very friendly but not very used to such requests, well, it took a bit more than courage this time. There were three bands opening Airiel that Saturday night. The Cake Shop was mostly full for the first few bands and oddly enough by the time Airiel played it was halfway empty, maybe more. I remember a guy wearing a Secret Shine gig. An older guy. It made me smile. Should have told him something, celebrated his good taste. The rest of the crowd was just regular common people.

There was this English guy I met outside of the venue while I was having a break. Leather jacket, smokes. He was from Cambridge. “Best gigs happen in Cambridge” he said, “better than in London”. Of course that is total nonsense. He had a band. Psych-Rock he said. I can’t remember the name, could it be “Crash”? It was a one-word band name. That I do remember. He was amazed by the Cake Shop. Amazed by New York. He had been walking all day and actually this happened to be his first day in the city. He was taking a break from the band he said. They weren’t getting too well together.

By then Mark had already joined J and me. While J got a nutritious and greasy poutine, Mark kept having crepes, plain with sugar, lots of sugar. I wasn’t hungry. I had some thai food a bit earlier, just before the show, at a restaurant down the street where 6 beers were 15 bucks. Deal. Unbeatable in Manhattan.

J was friend with the DJ at the gig. He told me he DJs at the Weird nights. I think, I believe, this is a label that puts some cold-wave or/and minimal synth. Not really my cup of tea, but seems to be a popular name in NYC. J attends to them often. The surprising thing, for the second time in NYC I hear someone DJ “Picture Frame” by This Scarlet Train. First time was at NYC Popfest last year. That time it was my friend Brian who records music under Earth First (whose 7″ is out now in Cloudberry). I was amazed. A precious song. My heart skipped a bit, and for a moment the anxiety I had of knowing who the Airiel members were among the crowd disappeared. I headed to the decks and congratulated the DJ who looked a bit like John Cusack. He was nice and humble, he pointed at his friend that was sitting next to him and told me that it was him who introduced him this song. I asked if he had the song on vinyl because I’ve been looking for it for ages! And he said yes. That he is the only one he knows in NYC that has it. Lucky. What a find. I headed towards the stage and then they played The Popguns. I wanted to go and celebrate their taste with them again, but I desisted. The night  was starting to get better.

Alex doesn’t like many bands I like. Today I learned she doesn’t like The Would-Be-Goods. It’s quite amazing to me. We used to email so much back in the day and she never mentioned it. Mind you, my personal email is a very clear nod to one of their songs. I guess we are even, I never liked The Lucksmiths, perhaps her favourite band. But on that middle ground, those gray layers of indiepop, we agree on many bands, Airiel being one of them. Though I do suspected she is a bigger fan than me. She likes the dreamy stuff much more whereas, you know, I like a lot of the shambolic ramshackle crashing pop.

On my iPhone I googled for photos of Airiel. The ones I find don’t help at all. They look like emos. Perhaps there is another Airiel band I realize. I’ll have to wait and deal with my anxiety. I’m terrible at waiting, patience is not something I have. And of course, during the years, during this thing called growing up, it had gave me more than a headache. I’ve ended up looking as a demanding person sometimes. I’ve pressured people without meaning it too. I like taking action right away, taking decisions, planning. It’s much easier like that I feel, that way you are in control, don’t get surprises later. But of course, not everyone thinks the same way, and sometimes it ends up in a mess. So, I’m working on that. And here I was going to be patient. I was going to see three terrible bands until I get to see Airiel. And after that, I was going to the merch table and get Alex a CD.

Earlier that day we talked on the phone. She had recommended me using earplugs for the show. After so many years of attending gigs this was going to be the first time I would use earplugs. I know, everyone uses them and it’s supposed to be better for you. But I never went out of my way to purchase them, or actually care. I guess, now that I’m getting older and after getting ill I start thinking of these things twice. It’s better to take care of things before they go bad. So sure, I stopped in the morning by the pharmacy and bought a 3 dollar pack of earplugs. 30 count and all green. Also I bought a pair of sharpies.

With my earplugs on, almost at the front, I saw Airiel play a precious set. They even played my favourite song, “In Your Room”. It was a magical moment that I’m glad that I recorded on video. They sounded splendid throughout the whole show and sadly it went so fast, encore included.

I ran to the merch table and bought from the DJ a CD-EP they were selling. The cover wasn’t too intricate, a solid color, a turquoise splash with the words Airiel in Bauhaus font. Perfect. Tons of space to sign it. I spotted the drummer first, he was having a beer with two tall girls. One with glasses, and one without. I asked him to sign it. They all seemed very surprised. Actually every member of the band was surprised. Seems they don’t get to sign stuff too often. The next was the vocalist and I asked him to please dedicate it to Alex. Then the bassist and last but not least the guitar player who I told to come to NYC more often.

Anxiety gone. On Monday I posted it during my lunch hour. All the way to Sweden. Now just the normal worries that the package might get lost. Because it has happened a lot. Especially with my postcards. Postcards that used to decorate her fridge. But again, patience. That’s what I need. I asked her today if anything had shown up, but her answer was no. Give it another week Mr. Cloudberry! What’s the rush?

I remember the times when she cheekily asked me to blog about her. She was one of the few that I knew read my blog religiously. Many times I wrote posts while talking to her. She used to surprise herself that I could multi-task like that. I would tell her that if she wanted, she could blog here too. To this she’d reply, “but I will just post pictures of horses, and my drawings, what will the Cloudberry fans say?” Adorable.

I miss her.


“I’ve seen you in the rain”

Falkirk. Scotland. That’s where This Scarlet Train, our heroes, hail from. Signed to Nightshift Records, Brian Guthrie’s label (brother of Cocteau Twins’ Robin), they only released one record. A monumental record that has being impossible for me to get my hands on. This 12″ mini-LP is one of my holy grails. But until now, luck hasn’t been on my side.

Some years ago they had a Myspace. I wrote to them, but never heard back. I think there were some extra songs, demos, but I can’t recall clearly. As far as I know then, the only songs released by the band are the ones that appeared on this record aptly titled “Fimbria”.

A fimbria (plural fimbriae) is a Latin word that literally means “fringe.” It is commonly used in science and medicine, with its meaning depending on the field of study or the context.

The band was formed by Stuart Nelson on bass and vocals, Steven Cocherty on drums, and Robert Polson on guitars and keyboards. The story tells that the band split when Docherty left the band in 1988. Nelson and Polsen carried on with the band for a bit but in October of that same year they called it a day. Nelson went to form Captain Trips and Polson would start Water Magnesium. Never heard of these bands myself! After Captain Trips Nelson joined Uncle Jack and continued to play with them until 1997. Then Nelson joined Little Green Apples as a second guitarist. None of these bands seem to have left any records. At least, I couldn’t find any more info about them. Anyhow, back to the lovely “Fimbria”, the producer for this record released in 1987 was Keith Mitchell. The sleeve was done by Steven Swinney.

The record is catalog number NISHI-202 in this nice label that put out the likes of Lowlife, and the songs were recorded at Planet Studios in Edinburgh in July 1987. The songs included were:

A1         Picture Frame
A2         Autumnhood
A3         Candice
B1         Kistvaen
B2         Still Rain
B3         Lilyhaze

All songs have that dream pop feel that makes me swoon. Wonder if Airiel knows them. If Alex would like them. I could see some similarities between them and the Chicago band. It’s perfect pop, blissful, rapturous. Of course “Picture Frame” is the song that hooks you up immediately, but the rest are really strong too. I can only wonder why they didn’t get to release more stuff, these songs tell me of a band that were way above the average, a band that perhaps were a bit ahead of their time too. But where are they now?

If anyone knows anything about them, or has an extra copy of the record. Please get in touch! I would really love to know more about this band that keeps appearing in my life. And if it’s signed by the whole band, even better.



This Scarlet Train – Picture Frame


There was a time when we traveled night and day. We stayed at hotels and had breakfasts a la carte. Life felt glamorous. It wasn’t five star hotels or first class. A Travelodge could do; the economic seating on a train, facing an old couple, could do too. And it was perfect. For a week we criss-crossed the close-by towns, like a zig-zag, like a connect-the-dots game.

Like two dots, we got separated again by the ocean. A mass of water, a mass of nothingness. Pure and pristine nothingness.

We had arrived in Wales after Indietracks. On the train, which stopped at Chesterfield and Bristol, we held hands and joked. She taught me the basics of knitting, but of course I wasn’t skilled enough to coordinate my fingers and make tiny knots to eventually build something worthy with the yarn. She leaned on my shoulder. The green scenery flashed through the window. We were supposed to see sheep in Wales we were told. We didn’t see any. We did keep our eyes wide-open.

Upon arriving to Cardiff, Wales capital, we were greeted in English and Welsh by the train announcers at the station. We giggled at the sound of Welsh. We walked two mere blocks to find our hotel. The front desk guy seemed to be new and took forever to register us and get us a keycard for our room. A room on the third floor of a building in one of the main streets of the town. You know, very close to Sainsburys, Weatherspoons, and the like.

We left our things and went for a stroll, on the hunt for a nice place to eat lunch. We ended up in the old library which is now a restaurant. Fish and chips, salad and Brains beer. We sat by the window on a chilly summer afternoon. We ate slowly. I emptied a handful of tartar sauce packets, and she helped me with some of my fries.

Down the main road we ended up by the castle walls. The majestic Cardiff castle. We would visit it a couple of days after. But today the plans were different. We were going to explore the huge Bute Park. Without a map we circled the castle first, and then headed to a stone circle which wasn’t ancient at all, maybe just a century old, a commemorative thing. Some tree trunks carved with celtic motifs, and another tree trunk carved with animals caught our sights. We walked on the grass, fresh and humid. The park, full of open spaces, and greenness, felt endless. I wanted to hold her all the time.  We walked and walked until we decided to return. And through small paths, of muddy ground, we found our way to a cafe in the middle of the park. In the meantime, I had already burned my hand with some plant who I must have touched by mistake. Of course she knew what plants were good or bad, which to touch, which to smell. A native of the forest. A fairy. Me, always a big city guy, never close to nature. So much to learn.

Coffee with soy milk. Five o’clock in the heart of Cardiff. I watched her drink with a grin on her face. I stared at her. Trying to sketch her on my mind for the many months I won’t see her. Making a personal photograph, her with the clouds behind. Then it was time for more walking, more exploring. Next stop, Cardiff Bay.

Our Lonely Planet guide, which we both have brought our own copy, recommended us visiting it. And of course we thought it was very close to the city center. Turns out they are two different towns that today are connected by roads and urban sprawl. So it was quite a walk. We could have easily taken the train, but we didn’t know. At our arrival a common sight for us by now, Japanese tourists. We felt at home. She asked me if I would like to live there. I said, why not. She said she would. She’d like it very much.

She especially loved the Cardiff Library which we visited in our way to Cardiff Bay. A huge modern building. 5-stories if I remember correctly. Books in English and in Welsh. All signage also in both languages. She explored the Welsh books with such interest. The orange signs at the library and the blue carpet made it very cozy to me. Something about those colors appeal me. She looked beautiful there, the librarian in the library. A foreign library but her home still. Like a fish in the water, she swam across every aisle, explained me about microfilm, showed me some books that are among the most read in Stockholm, and told me it wasn’t a good idea to make out in the library. Of course, what I was thinking, it is a sacred place for a librarian.

Opening her big brown bag, pulling out a plastic bag, she fed herself candy from time to time. Perhaps that was the secret she had to not get tired. I don’t want to boast, but I do have a lot of energy when it comes to visiting new cities and places. And she kept up to that. Which until now, in my life, I hadn’t found anyone that could do it every day, for a week. And so, we finally made it to Cardiff Bay to notice that the Roald Dahl area was closed. We headed to the Norwegian church instead, a tiny timber structure. We walked towards a lightship and some statues on the way. Ended up in a playground. It was deserted at almost 7pm. We climbed some rope ladders and took pictures of ourselves together. Me serious, she making faces. Then we childishly played on the see-saw. We held hands, we left the playground.

Then we walked on the promenade while she cursed and hated the seagulls. She finds them annoying, nasty birds. She explained them to me, that in Sweden they have two names, that there are actually two varieties. For me, all of them look like seagulls, or chickens. But she knew what she was talking. The sea was a bit murky and the sand very different to the one I was used in Miami. More like dirt brown and with lots of pebbles. On our right side, modern shopping centers rose one on top of each other. Famous American brands and names all over the place. At the end of the promenade a pier with a Turkish restaurant. Our friend Cristóbal had recommended us eating there. But we were too late. They had very affordable prices until 6pm. So we headed back to Cardiff, the real, the main Cardiff. We thought about taking the train, but we couldn’t find a place where to buy the tickets. While we searched up and down the station, the train left. So we walked back.

Monday was almost over. And it started to dawn on me how little time was left on this trip. My heart accelerated. After a quick dinner we went to the hotel and watched some British TV. It was terrible, but having her by my side, doing something as mundane as watching TV, felt terribly good.


I’m not sure if our train passed by Swindon. But this week’s obscure band is The Swindonians.

Swindon is a large town within the Borough of Swindon and ceremonial county of Wiltshire, in South West England. It is midway between Bristol, 40 miles (64 km) west and Reading, 40 miles (64 km) east. London is 81 miles (130 km) to the east. In the 2011 census, the population of Swindon was 209,000 people, including the small towns of Highworth and Wroughton, an increase of 16.2% since 2001.

Perhaps not very original in their band name as they were based in Swindon (no joke!), but their elusive record is a gem, a true indiepop gem. Their songs remind me so much to The Wishing Chair, another obscure band that I reviewed in the blog. Fantastic jangle with a dramatic feeling. How much I wish I could find a copy of this record. I’ve been looking for it for two years now since a friend recommended it to me after he had found seven tracks on Youtube.

The five tracks are:
– A Sense of Home
– Give Me Back My Sanity
– In the Rain
– Ring a Ring of Roses
– Song for the Homeless
– Sun is Burning
– Windowshopping

On Youtube there’s a small legend added by the uploader of these tracks. It mentions that these songs are from the self-titled 7″ EP on Hope Records. I really doubt that 7 songs fit on a 7″, but for sure some of them were included in it. I wonder which. Also, who were these Hope Records? Perhaps it was their own label.

The only other information included is that the band was a duo. Mumfie on vocals and Julian Sanger on vocals as well as guitar, bass and drums.  A true multi-instrumentalist! The 7″ EP was recorded at their home using a Marantz SD-285 tape deck and a Sharp RT-3151 tape processor in the Spring / Summer of 1992. Just at the end of the golden years of indiepop. Perhaps that’s why such a lovely record didn’t catch more attention, everyone had moved on to other sort of music. For me, it’s hard to grasp that. When I listen to the bone-chilling “In the Rain”, I can only think of indiepop greatness. A beautiful, heartfelt song, with beautiful guitar playing. It reminds me of other ‘rain songs’, like those by The June Brides or The Cavalcade. Something about it. Something about that rain, that British rain that never stopped raining while I was there in July.

If anyone knows anything else about The Swindonians or have any extra copies of the record please get in touch! Would really love to know more about them!


Swindonians – In the Rain