This resolute and sombre Glasgow University, Scotland-formed indie rock quintet caused a minor ripple in 2006 when a reissue of bittersweet single ‘The Hit Parade’ received modest airplay on national radio stations throughout Europe. Comprising Rick Webster (b. 1 December 1979, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; guitar/vocals), Stuart Cartwright (b. 14 March 1980, Stirling, Scotland; guitar, banjo, mandolin), Geoff Widdowson (b. 15 October 1979, Margate, Kent, England; piano/organ/synthesiser), Ron Yeadon (b. Robert Yeadon, 23 April 1981, Darlington, County Durham, England; drums/percussion), and Tad MacDonald (b. 19 March 1986, London, England; bass), the band was taken under the wing of ex-James violinist Saul Davies who co-produced much of the material on their 2006 debut Sugar & Spite.
Webster and Widdowson met in Tchai Ovna, a student-frequented Glasgow tearoom that also played a part in the formative years of Belle And Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand. Whereas their early collaborative efforts at songwriting were largely folk orientated, it was Davies’ feedback that inspired Unkle Bob to aim for a radio-friendly full band sound. The fledgling Friendly Sounds label that the album appeared on was set up by Davies in conjunction with Pinnacle Distribution. Recalling a less sophisticated take on the modern chamber-pop of the Pernice Brothers, Sugar & Spite also nodded towards The Bends -era Radiohead on ‘Better Off’ and folk-influenced Irish singer-songwriter David Kitt on ‘This Way’ and ‘Too Many People’. Cartwright’s tasteful use of the banjo brought to life the opening track ‘Birds And The Bees’, while Webster displayed his occasionally astute lyrical talent on ‘Too Many People’ with the line ‘I’ve got a working broken heart’. A headline spot at London, England’s Tate Modern art gallery as part of a Liveartspace day was a promotional boon in the run up to the album release, and the subsequent tour with Cosmic Rough Riders won the band many more fans.