Auld Spells blends psychotropic sounds with dreampop undertones. The Edinburgh-based five piece is made up of lead singer and guitarist Thomas Danbury, keyboardist Rob Spellsman, Jamie Hunter guitar, Peter Wilson Drums and Nicoletta Louca on bass. The band’s reverb-drenched melodies recall Beach House, Neil Young, Nick Cave, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive.
During lockdown, the band were busy in the studio, waiting for venues to reopen, and consistently recording and releasing new music. Their first released track Something Something Somewhere, about shedding false nostalgia, merges 60s jangle pop and ragged Neil Young guitars with early 90s shoegaze. Their second release, Julie, explores compassion for a loved one on the verge of breakdown, with its psychedelic guitar riffs and driving percussion delivering the final, cathartic notes. Their third single, The Moon, is a mellowed out dream pop tune made for a lounge act in space, mixing guitar reverb with the rhythm section’s tight bass melody and laid back beat (by guest drummer Dan Allaire of Brian Jonestown Massacre, Darker My Love). Their fourth single, Dead Gurl, drifts through a rock n roll dreamscape of guitar reverb and hammond organ, inspired equally by The Bad Seeds and Angelo Badalamenti. The baritone vocals of singer-songwriter Tommy Danbury evokes the of heartbreak of Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen, while the female lead brings the song together in the middle 8, reminiscent of Mark Lanegan paired with Isobel Campell.
The band’s fifth single, called 14th Floor, arrived on November 27th 2020. ’14th Floor’ journeys through hazy dreams and broken memories of a relationship clouded by addiction and mental illness. It follows on the heels of their well-received singles Dead Gurl and The Moon, which BBC Scotland DJ Vic Galloway called “an excellent tune…feels like it could be in a David Lynch film…my kind of soundtrack.” Melody Owen, Portland, OR, multidisciplinary artist, directed its music video of Alice in Wonderland collage imagery.
Auld Spells released their sixth single, I Hope, just before the turn of the new year. It’s a stripped back folk tale of redemption and forgiveness ending with a twist of the knife, fitting for the end of 2020.
Their eighth release was a double single, I Want You Back and Another Way, that came out end of April 2021. I Want You Back’is a Motown and Wall of Sound-inspired tale of a guy caught trying to cheat but gets cheated. The song delves into many of our broad influences – 60s girl groups, early Stones and the dreamy harmonies reminiscent of Beach House, Slowdive and Julie Cruise. ‘I Want You Back’ is an international effort, with lead vocal duties shared between lead signer Tommy Danbury recorded in Edinburgh and our good friend Michelle Vidal (Spindrift, Linda Perhacs, Fur Traders) who recorded her parts in Paris. Another Way is a 60’s British R&B-influenced story about the end of a relationship that on hindsight was never good in the first place, told over a Northern Soul waltz beat.
Auld Spells’ tenth song released in the past year “Sweet Disease” is their most honest and open song to date. It’s a song about an agonised lover who can’t escape love, even one that’s poisonous, dangerous and addictive. Swelling synthesisers open the song, leading into a soft piano-driven tune inspired by “Ghosteen” and “Carnage”-era Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. In Ian Corbridge’s review of the tune in Louder Than War “Tommy Danbury’s deep vocal tones ooze desperation set against an obsessive sensual desire. And as the song leads through into its climactic ending, rounded off by a stark piano refrain, there is certainly a hint of Bowie’s Heroes as a musical reference point.” Los Angeles-based artist Sydney Mills directed the video, filled with gothic imagery and plenty of witchcraft.
October 2022 saw the release of the Byrds influenced eco-protest tune “Bought and Sold” now a standard at live shows with Jamie’s blisteringly beautiful slide part at the end of the song. May 2023 saw the release of their straight ahead rock out single “Suffer On TV” that Louder Than War described as “a hard-hitting and rampaging commentary on the state of the current news media and how world events are portrayed, all wrapped up in the reverb-drenched melodies which have become a core element of Auld Spells’ sound.”
You can listen to all our tracks on the Soundcloud playlists below.
“The Moon, it’s just an excellent tune…feels like it could be in a David Lynch film…that’s my kind of soundtrack.” – Vic Galloway, BBC Radio Scotland
“The Moon… conjures a menacing setting, one that uses woozy lead guitars and intoxicatingly hazy lead vocals to bring its auditory wasteland to life. The fog never seems to subside from this perilous environment, yet the track’s sheer sexiness never feels lost – its danger only serves to invite the listener closer into its tantalising grasp.” – Robert Mitchell, Loaf Magazine
“Dead Gurl, the 4th single from Edinburgh’s Auld Spells contrasts pleasant dream pop sounds with dark and poetic lyricism. The track twists classic pop with hazy shoegaze to create a brooding yet hopeful mood. Twin Peaks comes to mind with the strangely brewed atmosphere of death and mystery paired with Julee Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti’s surreal compositions. The track’s video by Sydney Mills encapsulates that style, meshing pastel tones and colored light with cloudy water and gooey blood. The band has been together for only a year and we look forward to what comes next. Listen to “Dead Gurl” and let the video put you in a dream state trance. – Alyssa Holland, American Pancake