Hobotalk are a four-piece band from Scotland, playing the words and music of charismatic singer/songwriter Marc Pilley. Marc combines thought provoking, sensitive lyrics with atmospheric melodies. Marc’s writing is complemented by a powerful vocal performance delivered with a sweet and haunting warmth. The Hobotalk style and sound is folk based, the songs are layered with rich vocal harmonies and supported by an uncluttered accompaniment. Comparisons to Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, The Band and Joni Mitchell have been drawn.
Hobotalk’s second album, Notes on Sunset is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Beauty in Madness album (Virgin/Hut) and will be released in late March in the UK on Circular Records (www.circular-records.com).
Notes on Sunset is an album of eleven carefully crafted songs performed in Hobotalk’s inimitable style and each song captures a moment or experience from the life of Marc Pilley.
Marc Pilley - singer, songwriter, acoustic guitar
Ali Petrie - piano, rhodes, wurlitzer, organ and bass.
Nick Houldsworth - electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica
Alan Cranston - drums and percussion
In the winter of 1999, Hobotalk signed to Virgin/Hut Records UK. On this label they recorded and released an E.P. (Pictures of Romance), and a full-length album (Beauty in Madness) which were both widely received with much critical acclaim.
Both of these releases were extensively toured throughout the UK and Europe. Including a nationwide tour of France, TV appearances in Ireland and the UK, a UK tour supporting labelmates Gomez, and dates in the summer festival series.
Notes on Sunset, the new CD album is released in the UK on the 31st of March 2005 on Circular Records.
Pictures of Romance EP 1999
1. Pictures of romance
2. Everything I was and I ain't now
3. Lately more than ever
4. In Mac's ford
5. Love you 'til tomorrow
Beauty in Madness LP 2000
1. Walks with me
2. I've seen some things
3. I Wait For You
6. Motion picture scarecrow
8. Never said when
9. Beauty in madness
10. When they call us in
I've Seen Some Things (single) 2000
1. I've seen some things
2. Hymn to the boards
3. Kelley's heels
Walks With Me (single) 2000
Notes on Sunset (CD album) 2005
1. Little Light
2. Half your Life Away
3. Letter from a friend
4. In the arms of love
5. Book of life
6. Give your heart
8. Me and my mountain
9. Life amongst these graves
10. Who are you now
11. On the edge of nowhere
Notes on Sunset review
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Colin Sommerville For a man who sounds like he belongs on the American West Coast in the early Se...Colin Sommerville
For a man who sounds like he belongs on the American West Coast in the early Seventies, Marc Pilley’s experience of the music business is horribly like many a Scottish act of the late Eighties.
After being signed to a six-album deal by Virgin Records five years ago, he was dropped after a slight but glorious debut.
Notes On Sunset is warmer, although these strong, simple songs have obviously been fortified by bitter experience.
The understated quality of his voice is all the more effective, shaking off the normal restraint on the charming ‘Me & My Mountain’.
Deceptively quiet and unassuming, this record will be a good friend for years.
Folk's Hobo goes home
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Doug Johnstone THE music business is full to overflowing with tales of artists who have had thei...Doug Johnstone
THE music business is full to overflowing with tales of artists who have had their fingers burned by the big industry players. For every major label success story there are a hundred other tales of musicians who have fallen by the wayside. For some such artists the disillusionment can be too much and they simply give up. But for others, the experience steels them, gives them a new-found focus and perspective, makes them realise what's important.
Marc Pilley has seen it all and has come out the other side with, if not quite a smile on his face, at least a wiser head on his shoulders. Raised in Dunbar and now based in Edinburgh, Pilley is the creative force behind Hobotalk, a band who have produced some of the most sublime country and folk-inflected music to come out of Scotland in years.
At the tail end of the 1990s Pilley signed a lucrative six-album deal with Virgin offshoot Hut and in 2000 Hobotalk released their melancholic and plaintive debut, Beauty in Madness. It met critical acclaim and decent sales, and seemed the perfect stepping stone for a long and fruitful partnership with the label. But Virgin didn't want decent sales, they wanted exceptional sales, and in an effort to get them they tried turning Pilley into the next David Gray.
"We did the second album and sure enough a big producer was brought in who stuck loads of commercial beats all over it, all that stuff, and in fact it just sounded horrible," Pilley says. "I suppose I walked down that path myself, so I'm partly to blame. The record company looked at the amount of money that had been spent on the second record, and thought, 'Well you know, this guy has only sold 40,000 of the first album, why have we spent 150 grand on this new record?' "It was also the time when people like Embrace were losing their contracts; a lot of people were getting ditched in a big EMI takeover. It all just came to a head."
The end result was that the album was binned and the band unceremoniously dropped. It has taken Pilley a while to decompress from the whole experience, and start to get his perspective back.
"I travelled a lot with my girlfriend, she's Canadian so I spent a lot of time over in Canada," he says. "I love it over there, there's just something that happens as soon as your feet touch the ground. I love the people, just the whole vibe of it, and of course a lot of my favourite artists are Canadian - Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Band, all those guys. Every second bar that I went into was just filled with these wonderful singer songwriters, so I spent a lot of time over there rubbing shoulders with those guys, and remembering what it was I got into the whole business for in the first place."
Pilley is an extraordinary songwriter and a charismatic performer, the kind of musician who only comes along once in a blue moon. "I was never going to be a pop star, that was quite obviously the case, to me anyway," he says of the Virgin experience. "All I'm interested in is writing good music and going out and playing now and again. If I can stand in front of 200 people who really appreciate good music, then I can make a living out of that."
And so 2005 finds Hobotalk releasing their second album, Notes on Sunset, this time on Scottish indie label Circular Records. With his big label experience behind him, Pilley has learned the hard way that the most important thing in any musical project is creative control, something he now has firmly back in his grasp.
"I've got a hold of the reins a lot more now than I had with a biggie," he says. "The thing that I was always quite nervous about with Virgin was, when I walked through their door I was already 30, so I told them, 'You can't be pushing me about too much, cos I've been about a bit, you can't try and fashion me too much'. But I always knew that with monsters like them that they'd want to do a certain amount of that, and unfortunately they did exactly that."
Pilley has enough distance that he can laugh as he makes this last comment, although the experience has clearly scarred him to some extent. "You know what, I love music, I just love music, and nobody can put you off that," he says. "I'm still in music venues all the time, if someone tells me to go and see a band, that they're worth checking out, I'll be there. If I was to tell you what records I'm listening to at the moment, you wouldn't believe me - Taku Sugimoto, this Japanese experimentalist, and loads of guys like him, fantastic minimal acoustic guitar, and all sorts of other stuff."
And so to the subject of Hobotalk's new music. Notes on Sunset is a gorgeous, intimate collection of heartfelt tunes, the songwriting having noticeably moved on to new levels from the band's debut. "It's another confessional record because I think that's the only kind of record I can make," says Pilley. "The songs are kind of diary entries, I take notes, that's what I do. Whatever happens I take notes, and my only way of expressing myself fully and wholeheartedly is in the arms of a song; is to sing it in a song."
While Beauty in Madness was almost relentlessly downbeat in mood, there is a more dynamic range of tunes on Notes on Sunset, something which reflects Pilley's current state of mind.
"I think it's the answer to Beauty in Madness," he says. "When I listen to that first record I think, 'oh you poor bugger'. I know everyone wants their artists to be downtrodden - you've split up with your girlfriend, get on with making your record, and all that.
"But to me Notes on Sunset leans more towards being optimistic. The pain is still there, cos you know once you get hurt, we're men, it takes us ages and ages to get over it. But I think Notes on Sunset is a good answer to Beauty in Madness."
In terms of production the new record is an understated affair compared to the sumptuous gloss of their major label material, and it's all the better for that, the songs being imbued with a touching directness. Recorded on next to no budget in various locations around Edinburgh and East Lothian, it is a triumph of human feeling over superficial sheen.
"A lot of it was done on cassette," says Pilley. "I wanted to be able to just get out of bed with the idea, the initial idea, and then just bang it down, leaving that moment captured rather than going away and try to learn how to sing it. There are a couple of tracks on there where I can still hear a fire crackling in the background."
Indeed, so happy with the results is he that, even if Hobotalk had money to throw around again sometime in the future, Pilley would not be inclined to head for an expensive studio.
"I'm actually beginning to believe that studios are not really the place to record music, because the best takes are always in the corner of your room," he says. "As soon as you put huge big mics in front of musicians in a £200,000 studio, something goes missing, something definitely gets lost."
Far from being lost, Marc Pilley and his band seem to have at last found their home.
• Hobotalk play The Left Bank, Edinburgh (0131-225 9744) July 2, 10pm. Notes on Sunset is out now on Circular Records.
HOBOTALK - Notes on Sunset (CIRCULAR)
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March 24, 2005 reviewed by Max Malagnino Early bird catches the worm. Or so they say. Indeed,...March 24, 2005
reviewed by Max Malagnino
Early bird catches the worm. Or so they say. Indeed, old proverbs mustn’t really apply to Hobotalk, who apparently give the best of themselves at sunset. Possibly because sunsets too can be… warm. Right, that’s a silly joke, but luckily the same can’t be said of ‘Notes On Sunset’, the sophomore, and, as they say, much anticipated effort by the underselling (for underrated they are not) Scottish outfit fronted and creatively driven by Mark Pilley. Still wrapped around his intimate folksy sound, no longer supported by Virgin, who released the debut album ‘Beauty In Madness’ (but supposedly even more free on Circular), still volcano-y in producing those heart-striking tunes and still owning a soul-melting voice, Mr Pilley has produced one of 2005's most-lovable (and hopefully loved) records.
If you could ever imagine a small secret world where everything is handmade, personal, within reach and just perfect (sounds like a hobbit house, doesn’t it), this is what ‘Notes On Sunset’ is about. Since the opening and tenderly sublime ‘Little Light’, piano, voice and guitar play together chasing each other like old friends who want to share feelings and memories, creating harmonies and tunes to die for, or at least to swoon about. Imagine the Kings Of Convenience going a little country, becoming a little warmer and working a little more on the backing vocals and you'll be likely to get close to Hobotalk. For quite a lot Hobotalk have got to share with the Norwegian duo, especially those apparent naiveté and understatement, and the same first-impact simplicity, which eventually translates into deep musical and emotional richness. (take ‘Letter From A Friend’, or the breathtaking ‘Me & My Mountain’, just to name two) And here there’s really plenty of rich songs: some of them swing, some go jazzy, some are sad, some are playful and some ethereal. But eventually, once again, all of them are, quite simply, beautiful. In madness, of course.
Rating: ***** Rainsound affinity: *****
HOBOTALK – Beauty in Madness
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HOBOTALK’S First album has been eagerly anticipated since Marc Pilley’s towering song-writing talent...HOBOTALK’S First album has been eagerly anticipated since Marc Pilley’s towering song-writing talent was revealed on the Scottish quartet’s Pictures of Romance ep last year. A troubadour of the old school, there’s no one in contemporary music with a voice quite like his. Yet drop Pilley into a Greenwich Village coffee house in the early Sixties and he would have been totally at home with Tim Hardin and John Stewart. His gently crafted melodies, lyrical romanticism and yearning voice are timeless, not retro, and if at his sweetest he veers towards the sentimentality of Neil Diamond, the tendency is entirely forgivable given the beauty of songs such as Walks with Me and Jackdaw. There won’t be a better debut this year.
HOBOTALK – Beauty in Madness
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An enchanting debut from the band whose songs sound as though they were conceived in more wide open ...An enchanting debut from the band whose songs sound as though they were conceived in more wide open spaces than a Dunbar caravan park. It continues to get better with every listen eight months after release, masterful in understatement and all the more devastating when delivering the incisive emotive blow as a result. ‘I Wait For You’ is infused with a yearning few of Marc Pilley’s peers approach, and for the uninitiated who admire the likes of Tim Hardin, this is a minor classic waiting to be discovered.
Sublime, ethereal, beautiful,
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Reviewer: A music fan from London. This record takes you on a wonderful journey through a warm s...Reviewer: A music fan from London.
This record takes you on a wonderful journey through a warm sonic landscape to somewhere, quite, quite beautiful. The voice of Marc Pilley and the music of Hobotalk has echoes of such greats as Nick Drake, Neil Young, Joni Mithchell. Beauty in Madness sits between their records with barely a blush. Refreshing with each listen, this is a truly magical album.
The Hobotalk set is tailored to the requirements of an individual show and draws on the 'Beauty in Madness' album, the 'Pictures of Romance' EP and their soon to be released 'Notes on Sunset' CD album.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.