Regulars at the Ship Inn in Anstruther, on a rugged stretch of the east Scottish coast, will soon see an extraordinary crush at the bar. The crew of revellers – comprising loyal locals as well as urbanites breezing in from Edinburgh, Glasgow and further afield – will be music fans, gathering for the sixth annual Homegame festival.
In an area best known for golf and the university at nearby St Andrews, Homegame has made its prime mover, Kenny Anderson, a reluctant hero in these parts. This month’s event is the largest yet – if still tiny next to Glastonbury or even the Green Man festival. Recording as King Creosote, the vessel for his journey from accordion-led folk to wistful, Rumours-ish rock and most ports in between, Anderson has done more than anyone to put the East Neuk of Fife on the musical map.
“We can go to an absolute max of 700 sold tickets,” says the 42-year-old, on a recent sortie to London. As he chucks his battered Barbour jacket on to a table in the offices of Domino, the label behind Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and now King Creosote too, his bonhomie is instant and genuine. Anderson may be “dry” this year but he gases as if we were in a favourite corner of that harbourside pub.
“With all the bands, entourages and press,” he explains, “it’s going to be nearly 1,000 folk at Homegame. There was an argument for a marquee but I put the kibosh on that. Kooky little halls – that’s what folk think of as Homegame.”
The numbers attending the festival have increased tenfold since it began, in 2004, as an extension of the informal “Sunday Socials” that Anderson ran with his loose network of acts, the Fence Collective, which includes Fife’s bone fide pop star, KT Tunstall (as plain Kate Tunstall, she was once Anderson’s backing vocalist). While it sounds strange to describe him as an entrepreneur – he’s happy just to cover his costs – Homegame does benefit the local economy, especially the tourist trade.
“We’ve got some kudos among other businessmen,” he continues. “They might not like the music or be completely clear what the hell we do, but they know we keep on doing it and are getting known for doing it, so there’s a certain amount of ‘Good on yer’.”
Fence Collective stalwarts such as James Yorkston, the nu-folk singer, and Johnny Lynch, who records fragile, fuzzy pop as Pictish Trail, appear at this year’s festival along with fellow travellers on the Scottish indie scene, including Malcolm Middleton and Emma Pollock. For Anderson, it is something of a homecoming – after King Creosote’s disappointing brush with Warner in 2007. The title of his latest LP, Flick the Vs, is an “up-yours” to the major label, which dropped him after his previous album, Bombshell, failed to detonate commercially in spite of fine reviews.
“After King Creosote had been through the wash [at Warner], it took on attributes that weren’t really mine,” he says. “It was like it had gone from being a Fence thing, and my thing, to this other thing that others had a say over.”
Anderson loathed “the spin” put on Bombshell – which decreed it was his “one shot for the mainstream” – but what upset him more was the grief he got from those on the “Beefboard”, the online community of Fence enthusiasts, who said he’d sold out and that his “indie sensibility” had suffered.
The opening song on Flick the Vs reflects Anderson’s exasperation at such comments. “‘No One Had It Better’ is just how it appears from the outside,” he says. “You know, ‘Oh, he’s alright now, he’s coasting, look at him, what’s he got to gripe about?’” Other tracks address the flipside of village life, too – the prejudice and the pettiness, the fact that everyone knows your business.
King Creosote’s indie credibility, meanwhile, was never seriously in doubt. Flick the Vs – gleefully busking through skiffle, funk and techno – was recorded “between labels”. Anderson is delighted that Domino signed him on the strength of the finished product. Moreover, this is a man who, for years, treated music as an “expensive hobby” after his first band, the bluegrass-influenced Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra (pronounced “Scooby Doo”), had made little or no career headway. Growing his own label, Fence, via a strategy of make-do-and-befriend, he has since released more than 30 King Creosote albums on home-recorded CDRs.
Anderson’s plans tend to pay off in their own terms. After the photoshoot (always an awkward experience for him), he’s extra keen to scurry back to Fife: there’s a batch of Homegame tickets he must finish making.
Homegame runs April 17-19 in venues in Anstruther, Fife; see www.fencerecords.com. ‘Flick the Vs’ is out on Domino in the UK on April 20
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