Butcher Boy has existed in its current form since early 2005, but lead
singer John Blain Hunt has played in various incarnations of the band
since the late 1990s.
Initially, Butcher Boy didn’t have any songs; John was a resolute
left-hander and could barely play guitar. But he enjoyed sending anonymous
poetry to local papers under the guise of Butcher Boy in the hope of
engaging the writers through their columns.
Butcher Boy was about books by George Orwell and Charles Schulz…
it was about films by Bill Douglas and Robert Bresson… it was
about records by Vince Guaraldi and The Smiths. Butcher Boy was about
an imaginary world of woods and darkness and absolute, precise beauty.
About power-cuts and candles. But Butcher Boy wasn’t really about
songs. It was a little bit of sparkle between sickness and the dole.
John wrote his first proper song, called ‘Trouble And Desire’,
in 1998. With John singing and playing guitar, and with Susan Vennard
on piano and Andy Forrester on bass, Butcher Boy played their first
show in Kilmarnock, Scotland, in December of that year. Between 1998
and 2001, John wrote over a hundred songs and played a handful of shows
around Irvine in Scotland.
Towards the end of 2001, it began to feel as if Butcher Boy had served
its purpose. This wasn’t through lack of ambition; there simply
was never any need for ambition. Susan and Andy had moved away, and
John always knew that the band had come about, and the songs had been
written, out of genuine necessity. The songs had made sense of a lot
of slow sadness - it was never careerism. For a while, it felt like
Butcher Boy wasn’t needed any more. But with time, John realised
that the songs had become friends… and it hurt to leave them.
With time, it became absolutely heartbreaking to leave them.
So slowly, John put together a band to pick the songs up, and to play
them as carefully and as fully and as passionately as he had always
imagined them. An advert in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and
Drama attracted Jacqui Grant and Aoife Magee. Garry Hoggan and Alison
Eales came, fortuitously, through Glasgow’s National Pop League.
And Basil Pieroni and Findlay Mackinnon were friends from Ayrshire days.
Butcher Boy, as it is now, rehearsed for the first time in January 2005
and played their first show together at Glasgow’s peerless Royal
Air Forces Association Club on 18 February 2005. There wasn’t
an immediate desire to put together a record - the main impetus was
to play together, to rehearse, to create something that was worthwhile.
The band played further Glasgow shows at the Ramshorn Theatre in July
2005 where they were supported by improvisational storyteller Mike Stork,
and in Glasgow’s legendary Britannia Panopticon Music Hall in
September 2005, where they were supported by a magician and a Punch
and Judy act.
2006, the band recorded their debut album at CaVa Sound in Glasgow with
Geoff Allan, and the band were signed to London label How Does It Feel
To Be Loved? in the same year. They appeared on the 2006 HDIF compliation,
“The Kids At The Club”, and were picked up on immediately
by The Guardian, who said “This is their first release, but it's
wonderful: if they've got other songs like this, more than compilation
appearances await them”, and Pitchfork who praised their “Elegant
string arrangements” and “a bath-draining guitar outro straight
from Blur's Modern Life is Rubbish moper ‘Resigned’.”
2007 was a busy year for Butcher Boy. Their debut single, “Girls
Make Me Sick” came out in February, and they played sold out London
shows at the Windmill, Notting Hill Arts Club, and The Luminaire.
Their debut album, “Profit In Your Poetry”, followed in
March, to a slew of positive reviews. “Inspired by monochrome
movies and bleak winters, these cello-and-viola-flecked songs transcend
their Smiths, Tindersticks and Felt influences. Regret, giro-funded
couplets, sensual ambiguity – it’s all here, resurrecting
a great British genre,” declared Uncut. “It's an album of
immense subtlety and depth, the kind of record you can listen to fifty
times and still discover hidden treasures on that fifty first spin,”
said Drowned In Sound. “Butcher Boy operate not so much, as has
been widely suggested, in the shadow of The Smiths as in the company
of Tindersticks, Pulp and Lloyd Cole And The Commotions. Theirs is a
literate, bohemian music nourished by the darker strains of Sixties
chart pop,” added Mail On Sunday.
In September, the band announced a tour of cafés in Glasgow,
to tie in with a new EP, “The Eighteenth Emergency”. The
EP was available during September only, and deleted at the end of the
month. Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch attended the Offshore
café show on September 12th, and later wrote in his diary: “Butcher
Boy are playing in Offshore Café. I feel a little bit emotional
tonight, so I go for the racing certainty that is soft chords, poetry
and gentle souls. The ambience in the café is literarily unmatched
by anything I’ve experienced all summer: the transformation of
the café into a listening place, the man behind the counter tiptoeing
with our refreshments, the music and the 44 bus illuminating the ceiling
every time it passes. It is darker inside than out. Time has slowed.
Because our hearts have slowed. Because we are listening." A UK
tour followed in October, culminating in another sold out London show,
this time at Metro.
In February 2008, Butcher Boy started work on their second album, “React
Or Die”, recording once again at CaVa Sound in Glasgow. In March,
the band were approached by Warner Brothers, who wanted to use the song
“I Know Who You Could Be” (from Butcher Boy’s debut
album), on the CBS sci-fi show “Moonlight”. The show originally
asked to use a minute of “I Know Who You Could Be”, but
in the end the entire song was played over the closing scene of episode
14, “Click”. In fact, CBS cut the scene to fit the song,
as it starts and ends with Butcher Boy's music. After the “Moonlight”
episode aired in the US on May 2nd, interest in the band skyrocketed,
with thousands of people visiting Butcher Boy’s My Space, where
“I Know Who You Could Be” was made available as a free download.
On the strength of this interest, Red Eye distribution then approached
the group about an American release. The album came out on in the US
on October 7th.
2009 sees the release of “React Or Die” in April, preceded
by a single, “A Better Ghost” in March, and a tour of bowling
clubs in Glasgow in February.
Butcher Boy can only write from the heart. Butcher Boy has resolute
faith in pop music and pop records. And Butcher Boy finds solace knowing
that cynicism and irony have no part in what they try to do.
buy the albums 'Profit In Your Poetry" or "React Or Die",
To read kind words of praise from people who've bought "Profit
In Your Poetry", go here
There's a free download of Butcher Boy's new single,
"Carve A Pattern", here