The Spiels
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The Spiels


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"Listen Up! Music Interview: The Spiels"

You may remember our interview with Autoheart earlier this year prior to their Barfly gig. Now the London five-piece is curating a monthly residency at The Lexington – Autoheart’s Punch – where its own live sets are complemented by performances from other up-and-coming new acts. One such act to be showcased at this month’s Punch night is The Spiels, a Mancunian (via Canada) quintet sporting not one but two(!) lead singers.

Two skippers for one boat may seem excessive in these times of economic lacklusterness, but each of Ryan Lamey (the Canadian one) and Ben McGarvey – for it is they! – is already an established singer-songwriter in his own right and together they draw on their individual musical backgrounds to create harmonious and highly pleasing-to-the-ear results.

Having just scored a support slot on American duo, Uh Huh Her‘s recent tour, The Spiels are currently working on their debut album, a track from which, “Under Doctor’s Orders” they’re giving as a free download to Londonist readers. Here, Ben McGarvey spiels the beans (sorry, that really was a cheap gag) on where the band’s name comes from and what their musical influences are. He also forewarns the TFL cleaning unit of potential work this weekend.

Oh, hi, Ben. Tell us, how did The Spiels start out?

I had originally put an ad out on Gumtree looking to collaborate with people and Ryan replied. We already actually knew of each other as we both had (and still do) solo projects as well and had performed at the same gig in the past, although we’d never actually spoken. So we began to write songs together and it all went from there. We originally called ourselves Minute Orchestra but later changed our minds about it and relaunched ourselves as The Spiels with Jo (violin), Gemma (bass) and Andy (drums), who all replied to similar adverts, a bit later on.

Where does the name The Spiels come from?

From the end of the word glockenspiels. You can say Speel or Schpeel depending on your personal preference.

You’ve covered Kate Bush’s “December Will Be Magic Again”. How did that come about?

A French record label called Ocean Music approached us to cover a Christmas song. We had a few days to get a song together. With me and Ryan both being huge Kate Bush fans, we decided to have a crack at that song. We are really pleased with the way it turned out, actually. It’s very different to the original which I think is the only way to go when covering songs.

Who are your other musical influences?

Mainly quite dark, melodic, moody stuff such as Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The Smiths, Bat For Lashes, Sufjan Stevens, Mogwai, Low, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Wild Beasts and PJ Harvey.

Being based in Manchester, does that prejudice you in favour of Coronation Street over Eastenders?

Yes. Corrie is way better than Eastenders!

Are you nervous about doing your first live show in London this Friday?

No, we are excited! The nerves come later [laughs].

Do you envisage having to move to London for the band’s career or is it easy enough operating from Manchester?

We’ve not really talked about it. I think Manchester has a lot to offer but you never know!

What is the song ‘Under Doctors Orders’ about?

A lot of songs are from the perspective of fictional characters and I think parts of ourselves creep in there but are perhaps exaggerated a little! This song is from the point of view of someone in a mental institution who is only left with a faint memory of the outside world.

You’ve already released music as a solo artist and you’re currently working on your next project, Minute Taker. Does that material influence The Spiels’ material and vice versa?

Hmm, I guess they must influence each other to an extent. When I have a new idea for a song it’s somehow always clear if it’s going to be a Spiels song, though.

When are we going to be able to buy The Spiels’ music for ready money?

Well, actually we are planning on putting out a 5 track EP very shortly.

During your stay in London for your gig, which of these are you most likely to do: (a) enjoy a leisurely half-hour on the London Eye; (b) go out in Soho; (c) be sick on the Tube?

I think options (b) and (c) are both quite possible. - Londonist

"Tomorrow’s Music Tonight: VIVA meets The Spiels"

As much as we love discovering new music ourselves, here at Team VIVA we equally love to share musical gems amongst the masses (i.e. our readers, friends, family, and sometimes even the pets), and this week is no different.

Although perhaps new to many of you, The Spiels are one of our favourite local bands and have been for a while now. The group, who have had some high profile support slots and headlined plenty of their own gigs, have a real depth to their sound. They have a unique sound – not merely because between the five of them are drums, a violin, bass, a glockenspiel and guitars – and a real honesty to their material.

We managed to catch up with vocalist and guitar player Ryan Lamey ahead of their NightVision EP launch this weekend at Soup Kitchen, and talk inspiration, the beautiful city we call Manchester and find out more about the meaning to the name – ‘The Spiels’…

VIVA: So, Ryan, for those not familiar with The Spiels, could you introduce the members and tell us a little about you all individually?

RL: I’m Ryan [Lamey]: vocalist, guitar strummer, foreigner and baker; we also have Ben McGarvy on vocals, keys and glockenspiel, who is a part-time 80s sitcom addict, fell runner, drummer and percussionist Andy Ford, and the gorgeous Spiel ladies – violin and Irish party machine Jo Reid and one-time jam maker and bass player Gemma. We are The Spiels.

VIVA: Where did the name ‘The Spiels’ come from?

RL: Like so many bands, we went through that phase of trying to find an original name that could come to be defined by our music without it sounding too cute, too ‘try-hard’ or too death-metal. We’d originally settled on another name that just didn’t feel right – so we basically spent weeks going back and forth with any ideas that popped into our heads. Ultimately Ben came up with the name The Spiels (which, apart from the obvious, is an abbreviation of ‘glockenspiel’) – and we quite liked it. Not a very glamorous answer, I know.

VIVA: You have been achieving acclaim on the music scene for a while now, having played some great support slots and solo gigs. Tell us a little more about that…

RL: We love playing live and I think it’s where we really come into our own as a band. Early on we decided that we would seek out and only play gigs that actually meant something to us as a band rather than pick up any old gig for the sake of ‘exposure’. And we’ve been really lucky to play alongside some of our favourite bands. Most notably, we supported Uh Huh Her for their sold-out Manchester gig at Soundcontrol last year – which was a great gig for us. We’ve also performed with the brilliant Autoheart, who invited us to go down to London last summer to support them. They are a fantastic bunch of guys and a truly great band. We in turn invited them to come to Manchester to record a song with us – which yielded our cover version of Tori Amos’ ‘Northern Lad’.

VIVA: Where do you get your inspiration from?

RL: I’d say we get most of our lyrical inspiration from day-to-day life experiences really, though we tend to funnel these into stories about fictional and exaggerated circumstances. Inspiration comes from everywhere though – from our day jobs as civil servants, to the music we’re currently listening to.

VIVA: How would you describe your sound to someone that has never heard your music?

RL: Melodic and lyrical; at times epic, melancholic and dark… with a pulse.

VIVA: You have previously been involved with Pride events. Tell us a little more about that and why it’s important to you

RL: First and foremost, we just want to be a part of the party!! Apart from that, we’ve all attended and supported Pride and Pride-related events over the years – recognising that at the heart of it, Manchester Pride is a charity and fundraiser for LGBT and HIV communities. So any time we’re asked to get involved, it’s a no-brainer.

VIVA: Does sexuality define a group musically?

RL: I think it can if a band chooses to have it define them, but I don’t think it does in our case. Some bands work their sexuality and gender politics into their music and over all “band persona”, but we don’t. It’s not really at the forefront of who we are as individuals. I mean, people tend to know that we’re a predominantly queer band without us having to paint pink triangles on our faces or sing songs about it. Anyway, the subject matter of our songs tends to be more about wider human dysfunction… sex and sexuality is really only a small part of that.

VIVA: What kind of artists are you listening to at the moment?

RL: We’ll spare you the long list of artists we’re each currently listening to and suffice it to say as a group, our musical tastes are pretty diverse. Collectively though, our tastes tend to converge in the realm of artists making similar music as us (or music we aspire to make). We’re always introducing each other to new music. The beginning of many rehearsals consists of someone putting something on the stereo saying “hey – have you guys heard this song/artist/band?” and we all give it a good listen… and sometimes have a bit of a group boogie. (It’s cheesy, but it’s true.)

VIVA: Manchester is a great city for music — brimming with up coming and established talents with some fantastic spaces and watering holes for live music. Where have been your favourite venues in the city to play and which would you love to have the chance to play in the future?

RL: Manchester is definitely a music city – and that’s one of the reasons we call it home. Obviously, we aim to be playing the Apollo or Manchester Arena in the near future… Honestly though, some of the most unassuming spaces can make the best venues. It really only takes the will of the right people to pull it together. We’ve had brilliant gigs in echo-y basement art spaces and cramped little lounges. It’s really down to the people to make it great, and Manchester is definitely full of the right people for the task.

VIVA: Tell us a little more about the Carefully Planned Festival you have just played at.

RL: The Carefully Planned people are renowned for putting on great events – so we jumped at the chance to be involved with their most recent event at the Castle in Manchester. We were a bit of a last-minute addition to the bill, but the crowd was great – really attentive and supportive. There’s something somewhat intoxicating about a sweaty Saturday night gig at the Castle on Oldham Street… It was a lot of fun.

VIVA: We know that now is an extremely busy time for you and you have new music approaching fast. Tell us about that too.

RL: We’ve recently just put the finishing touches on our debut EP ‘Nightvision’ which we are releasing on our own label Octagonal Records in February. We’re throwing a free release party on 19 January at Soup Kitchen in the Northern Quarter at which copies of the EP will be available to buy. We’re looking forward to the party (obviously) but we’re also really excited to get our music out there for people. Our plans are to release another EP in the coming months with an album to follow in the year.

VIVA: What else has the future got planned for The Spiels?

RL: Along with the planned releases, we’re also planning to get out on the road to play more gigs, meet people, and conduct ourselves in such a way that we hope never makes it to facebook, twitter or to our families…

VIVA: Where can those interested learn more about you?

We’re found in all the usual social media spaces – Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and will soon have our own website. We love meeting new people and we sincerely encourage folks to come to our sites and ask us things, tell us things, and/or send us gifts.

You can find out more about The Spiels by visiting them on Facebook, Twitter or SoundCloud.

The Spiels’ ‘Nightvision’ EP launch party takes place at Soup Kitchen this Saturday 19 January in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. - Viva Lifestyle Magazine


NightVision part 1 - 2013



"Hotly-tipped local outfit The Spiels specialise in alternative folk-pop of infinitely dark hue. A heady formula that takes in Arcade Fire, Kate Bush and Anthony and the Johnsons, the Manchester outfit subtly sweep you into their dark melodic undertow".

David Sue- Manchester Evening News.

The Spiels, with their energetic live sets, breathtaking harmonies and rolling rhythms, have earned a reputation as one of Manchester's most intriguing new bands. The story began in 2010 when singer-songwriters Ryan Lamey and Ben McGarvey, once rivals of the Manchester music scene, discovered they had a mutual affinity for all things dark and melodic. The pair were soon joined by Jo Reid on violin, Andy Ford on drums and Gemma Lovegrove on bass and synth. Together, in the midsts of their dynamic soundscapes and haunting melodies, The Spiels seek to capture the brutal, the beautiful, and the strangely comic aspects of the human condition.

After performing all over the UK and supporting various artists (Uh Huh Her, Karima Francis, Autoheart) the band have attracted a firm following of like-minded creatives. In December 2010 their version of Kate Bush's December Will Be Magic Again was released by French independent label Ocean Music as part of their 7 Wishes For Christmas charity compilation and has since become a fan favourite. In February 2011 the band created the soundtrack for In The Red Theatre Company's production of Patrick Marber's Closer.

The Spiels will release their debut 5 track EP 'Nightvision Part 1' on 18th February 2013.