Interview – Sydney Sprague

Sydney Sprague

Sydney Sprague’s first full length album ‘maybe i will see you at the end of the world’ will be released on February 26th. At 29, Sydney brings maturity and vision to her music that showcases her strong vocals, songwriting and confidence, as she creates her unique brand of indie music…

Although 2020 was a tough year, you’ve had many good things happen. Rude Records signed you to their label. How did that come about?

It happened through Mike Pepe, who mixed my record. He’s out in LA. He’s good friends with one of the A&R guys at Rude, and he sent the company the finished product. Rude Records had just signed Sundressed (a Phoenix band), and I sang on one of their songs. I had already released the first song, i refuse to die, so they had to get on board pretty quickly to get the record out.

How is it working with a label as opposed to working independently in the past?

They paid for the album I had already recorded. I was able to use that money to create videos and content. They also hooked me up with PR companies worldwide, a Facebook and Instagram marketing company, and branding marketing. My video, object permanence, is playing at Hot Topic.

This is your first full-length album.  When did you record it?

I did it in January 2020. We booked Hall of Justice studio in Seattle for the month. Nirvana and some of the older bands from Seattle recorded at the studio, and then it was bought by Death Cab for Cutie, where they recorded their albums.

Sydney Sprague album cover

The music on this album is a departure from your past music.  Tell me about the writing and recording process that went into the album.

This was the first time I went into the studio with all the songs acoustically demoed and the producer, Sam Rosson, came up with all the parts. I had more confidence coming into the studio with how I wanted the songs to sound. I did some rudimentary recording at home of the basic parts that I heard in my head and what I wanted it to sound like, then took that into the studio. Sam and I met in the middle to create the final recordings. The first week of recording was getting the basic tracks down of guitar and scratch vocals. After that, we spent two to three days on each song but not in any particular order. We tried a lot of the different pedals and instruments that were at the studio then scaled back a lot.

Does the album have an overall theme to it?

I think it’s love in the time of the apocalypse. It’s trying to be hopeful and having all these feelings, but knowing that you are running out of time.

Is there someone or a style that influenced your album?

It’s a combination of everything that I love. There’s some emo pop-punk influences but primarily indie bands. I would say Death Cab for Cutie because their albums were influential to me, and I loved all the weird ear candy sounds you heard in their music. That’s why I wanted to record at that studio. I got to learn how to make those sounds on my music.

I’ve seen you perform object permanence often on stage, but the album’s version is so different, more upbeat.  Was that change planned ahead of time, or was that something that happened in the studio?

Honestly, that song was the biggest struggle in the studio.  We recorded it a couple of ways. I had two demos, one the way that I had played it on stage with acoustic and some other parts added, but stripped back and simple. The other version was with the Mill boys (Jared and The Mill’s Chuck Morris III, Larry Gast III, and Josh Morin). Larry had a cool guitar part that we messed around with in the other version, but it was too grungy. It sounded like a 90’s rock song. The final recording is a middle version of the two ideas.

Sydney Sprague

You have four official videos released, with one more on the way.  Did you go to  Michael Carter and Dick Dorado of Rhodes Creative LLC with a vision of what the videos would be?

It’s been an interesting process of coming up with the videos. Going into it, I had many ideas but Michael was the real driver of that. I’m not a visual person for translating the words for my songs, but Michael and Dick came up with the majority of concepts and ideas we could incorporate into the videos. They understand my personality and sense of humor then translated it into the video. The steve, staircase failure and quitter videos were all pretty much Dick’s ideas. The guys built the videos from the ground up – steve, which was the first video Rhodes Creative made, was nominated for best music video at the Indie Film Fest in Phoenix.

Does doing A Case of Mondays on Twitch help keep your music fresh and give you a sense of connection?

At the beginning of the quarantine, I was writing and recording music at home, but with the album release and making videos, it’s been harder to make time to play. Before the pandemic, I played cover gigs at least five nights a week, giving me the time to practice. Twitch gives me a chance to play and connect with my friends, even if it’s not in person.

Do you have a pandemic playlist?

I tend to go to nostalgic music, the 90s and early 2000s, that I used to listen to a lot.

What do you think playing is going to look like when you can play live again?

I think there’s going to be a lot more competition because so many bands have been off the road for so long, and there are fewer venues to go back to. I think that living room/backyard shows may be more popular for artists of my size.

If you could play anywhere safely right now, where would you like to play?

I think it would be Rebel Lounge (Phoenix, AZ). It’s my second home. I feel like I was there once a week for a year.

maybe i will see you at the end of the world is released this Friday 26th February, pre-order here.

Interview by Jennifer Mullins
Photos by Natasha Wilson

24th February 2021

Album Review – Maxïmo Park: Nature Always Wins

Cover sleeve for Maxïmo Park’s album ‘Nature Always Wins’

Maxïmo Park – Nature Always Wins

Ever since Paul Smith promised to do graffiti if we sung to him in French, Maxïmo Park have secured a place in our hearts. And having seen them perform at different points across their illustrious career, it’s fair to say they’re as much a force majeur playing live now as they were back in the early days.

The release of their seventh album Nature Always Wins promises contemplation, reflection and confrontation, all in Smith’s instantly recognisable vocal. After the slower start of lead track Partly of my Making, the pace quickens with Versions of You and Baby Sleep, the latter one of a number of nods to the life affirming and altering stages of parenthood.

A couple of stand out tracks, All of Me is set to be a live favourite when the time comes while Ardour, true to its name, encompasses all the enthusiasm and energy we might expect from a classic Maxïmo track, whilst retaining the associated lyrical wit as it ponders the question, ‘If I become the joke can I still deliver the punchline?’

There’s much here to enjoy, the band have adapted to Lukas Wooller’s departure by taking different approaches to song structure and instrumentation and the synchronicity of the three remaining members pulls it all together nicely.

Closing track Child of the Flatlands explores the changing face of the world we live in and the impact of our actions. It’s an epic close to the album, filled with melancholy and hope at the same time, and showcases the best of Newcastle’s finest.

Maxïmo Park standing at the top of a hill all dressed in different colour blocks of red, black and blue

Smith explains the message behind Nature Always Wins thus, “It’s the reality of our situation on earth! You can’t fight against nature, whether it’s human nature or the environment. And to call back to the domestic situation: whatever happens is down to the nature of who we are. When you give birth to anything, whether it’s a child or an album, you betray who you are in that process. Even just making this record the way we have and the way it sounds now – that’s the nature of the band. It wins out. We’re a pop band. They’re songs you can understand, yes, influenced by lots of different genres. But what it comes down to is: we still want every song to be hooky, melodic, memorable – to be loved. It’s not a vanity project – we want people to get into it. That is the nature of Maxïmo Park”.

And there we are, Maxïmo Park are back and, frankly, it feels like catching up with an old friend you haven’t seen since before lockdown; you may notice a few changes but the essence and familiarity of why you were first drawn to them is impossible to miss and the accompanying virtual hug is very welcome.

Nature Always Wins is released this Friday 26th February. As planned tour dates have inevitably had to be postponed, the band have announced a livestream performance on 6th March. You can pre-order the album and purchase tickets for the show here.

Words by Siobhan
Photo via Prescription PR

23rd February 2021

New Music – Madu | Rosie Alena & Morgan Simpson | Bernice

Madu, Rosie Alena & Morgan Simpson, Bernice plus ‘new music’ logo

New releases – Madu, Rosie Alena & Morgan Simpson, Bernice

Madu – Necromancer (single)

Released this week, Madu introduces us to their world of electro gothic dance tunes with new single Necromancer, which doubtless takes inspiration from 80s’ past masters but most definitely stacks up as an exemplar of fine-honed contemporary synth-pop in its own right. Its dark, sardonic undertone is matched with glimpses of humour, ‘The mall’s holding a séance, The consumer graveyard, They got souls on clearance, Black Friday…’ If this is indicative of the current scene in Helsinki, then maybe we should be checking out more from the Finnish capital. Looking forward to hearing more from Madu with an EP planned for spring 2021.

Listen to Necromancer here.

Madu

************************************************************

Rosie Alena & Morgan Simpson – We’ve Only Just Begun (single)

Who doesn’t love a good singalong to The Carpenters? It’s fair to say that most of us probably don’t sound quite this good though as sultry chanteuse Rosie Alena does the vocal proud, backed by drumming maestro Morgan Simpson, best known as part of the enigmatic Black Midi. Helping out on guitar, lap steel and accordion is Morgan’s bandmate Geordie Greep. It’s a classic track that’s been given an update without losing the purity of the original. And even better, all proceeds go to The Music Venue Trust who are doing a fine job supporting grassroots music venues through lockdown.

You can listen to and purchase We’ve Only Just Begun here.

Rosie Alena & Morgan Simpson

Rosie Alena

Black Midi

************************************************************

Bernice – We Choose You (single)

Fresh from Toronto’s Bernice, latest track We Choose You gives an insight into the offbeat whimsy that can be expected from forthcoming album Eau de Bonjourno. Hard to tie down to any one genre, Bernice bring bouncy electronics mixed with laid back R&B, pure pop and a playful vocal. There’s a lot going on and it’s worth taking the time to unfold the layers and pick out the intricacies that piece it all together. Individually, We Choose You and previous single It’s Me, Robin form one-off experimental curios; as a whole the album promises a beguiling collection of interlinked pieces that question the norm and showcase the various skills of its makers.

Listen to We Choose You below. Eau de Bonjourno is released on 5th March via Telephone Explosion and figureeight records; pre-order here.

Bernice

************************************************************

Words by Siobhan
Photos: Madu © Kristian Tilander, Rosie Alena & Morgan Simpson © Edith Amelie, Bernice © Colin Medley

19th February 2021

 

Album Review – The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy

The Hold Steady – Open Door Policy

A constant on the Brooklyn music scene since forming in 2003, The Hold Steady are back with a bang on their latest album Open Door Policy, or perhaps that should be back with a horn section and a swathe of their trademark punk-poetry lyrics set to a brooding rock undercurrent.

There is much to discover in this album and opening track The Feelers  wastes no time in making this apparent. Over simple keys, Craig Finn’s wistful narration begins, ‘It was an early morning meet-up at the mansion on the mountain, the master still had glitter on his face…’ The song continues through copious changes of pace and classic guitar breaks, almost veering into the realms of a country and western saloon bar tale, while the vocal remains firmly entrenched in the tradition of their New York predecessors, The Velvet Underground. It’s like a mini concept piece all in under 4 minutes and, if this is just track 1, you know you can prepare for a treat across the next 10 titles.

Head shots of the 6 band members from The Hold Steady

The addition of horns is most prevalent on recent single Family Farm, whilst the other album sampler Heavy Covenant boasts a toned down synth intro that takes things in a whole different direction. The entire collection brings a warm element of storytelling into play and highlights the diversity of the band’s abilities. Fans of Warmduscher with a side penchant for Lou Reed may well find that this is just what they’ve been looking out for (and if you’re not a fan of Warmduscher with an LR penchant then go ahead and make it happen).

Open Door Policy, produced by Josh Kaufman, is released this Friday 19th February 2021 on the band’s own Positive Jams label via Thirty Tigers, and is available to pre-order here.

Words by Siobhan
Photos via Prescription PR

17th February 2021

Gallery – All Creatures Great & Small

Fox with mouth stretched open

‘Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms’ – George Eliot

From rescue pets to wildlife reclaiming its natural environment, there’s no doubting that creatures of all shapes and sizes have made lockdown a lot more bearable for many of us. Take a look through our gallery and smiles are guaranteed. Images are in no particular order other than to separate the squirrels from the squawkers!

Header photo by Lou Smith, details in article

************************************************************

Chicken, You Say?

Large dog looking into camera

White-Tailed Eagle Feeding

Large bird flying across water

By Alan Cruickshank Photographic – Instagram

************************************************************

Paradise Lost

Green parrot in tree

My Nuts are Frozen!

Squirrel in snow

By Clare Ratcliffe – Instagram | Facebook

************************************************************

Fudge

Three legged dog wearing lilac dog jumper

By Tina Sherwood – Instagram

************************************************************

Punk Cat Diggle

Cat laying on wooden table

Punk Cat Shelley

Cat looking into camera

By garymhoughphotography – Website | Music Photography Website | Instagram | Twitter

************************************************************

Through Red Vine

Small bird perched in branches

Squirrel Impossible

Squirrel hanging upside down from a branch

By Seb K Akehurst – Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

************************************************************

Paddy

Dog running through the waves at the beach

Farne

Farne (bird) perched on wooden fence

By Mark Cartwright – Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

************************************************************

Bella at Rest

Curled up cat

Sonoran Prairie Dog

Prairie dog by cacti

By Jennifer Mullins – Website | Instagram

************************************************************

Spiggy

White long haired dog

By Becky Jones – Twitter

************************************************************

Foxy and Mum

2 foxes standing on hind legs facing each other

Fox licking its lips

By Lou Smith – Website | Instagram

************************************************************

Hanging Out with the Gulls

Seagulls on railings

Watching You Watching Me

Squirrel looking out from a tree

By Petra Eujane Photography – Website | Instagram

************************************************************

Ladybird Tryst

2 ladybirds on a rusty pipe

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

Donkey poking head through a gate

By Siobhan at 16 Beasley St Photography – Website | Instagram | Twitter

************************************************************

Thank you so much to all the photographers who have introduced us to their friends and familiars; this one has been an absolute pleasure to compile. All images are copyright of the named photographer – do check out more of their work on the links shown.

Our next gallery is planned for April and will look at the changing face of the high street. Submissions open at the end of March – if you have a favourite independent shop, photos from lockdown and busier days in town, or street photography that you’d like us to feature, look out for more details nearer the time. 

10th February 2021

Interview – Danielle Durack

Danielle Durack wearing a red dress sitting in a field

Danielle Durack’s new album release, No Place, reflects the ups and downs of a relationship and the grief when it’s over. Danielle is a Phoenix, Arizona singer-songwriter who has a wonderful gift for pairing lyrics with beautiful melodies and harmonies. She does an outstanding job of combining a full band sound complimented with synths that add a haunting quality to the songs. Danielle has created an album with both uptempo songs and ballads. Fans of Sara Bareilles will enjoy Danielle’s music.

It’s been a busy time since the release of No Place. How are you doing?

I’m still working, taking care of the album release, and trying to take care of myself. It’s been busy, but I’m doing good.

You’re getting excellent press response to No Place. How are you feeling after all the work that you put into the album?

It feels good! I always go into the release assuming that nothing will happen. I put everything into it, but I don’t expect anything. With all the good music out there, the fact that it’s reaching a bigger audience is a dream come true.

Were you able to play any of the new songs before the lockdown, and did that influence the recording?

I played some of the songs in my solo shows for the year before lockdown, but I only was able to play the songs with a full band once last February. The songs were basically what they were going to be in December 2019. It just needed to be mixed.

What was the difference between doing an EP and a full album?

It was a lot more work and time, though still as much fun. Each song equates to one more day in the studio.

Can you tell me about the recording process?

I did the album in chunks. I demoed some songs with Sam Rosen, the audio engineer who did my EP Bashful, in Seattle in October and laid out what songs would be on the album. Then, I did the instrumental recording with scratch vocals in December 2019 in Seattle with Sam. I hired musicians who Sam knew, including a bassist and drummer. The drummer had various synth instruments that added to the spooky feeling you hear on some of the songs. My brother Matt did guitar on a couple of tracks, and Sydney Sprague also played on a couple of tracks and sang harmonies. Sam came down to Phoenix to record the vocals.

Cover for No Place, Danielle Durack wearing a red dress standing in a field

You’ve made three videos for the singles that you released before the album release. Can you tell me a bit about the process of making them?

The inspiration for the Broken Wings video came about when a friend posted that a wedding shop was going out of business, and I thought, ‘How could I use a wedding dress in a video’. Then I thought of the meme – what’s your type: a red flag with blue eyes, and it made me laugh. It fit the song. Eggshells is about walking away from a relationship then running with certainty, which inspired the video.

The third video, There Goes My Heart, is very cinematic.

I made that with a friend from college who is a filmmaker. We made it in Indianapolis and took all the Covid precautions so that we could make it safely. The video idea was initially for Some Day, but the PR firm I was working with thought this was a better single. My idea was to take a depression mood board with a release at the end. I liked the idea of dancing in the rain at the end, and we were lucky to have a rainy day.

The first track on the album, Mistakes, sets the tone for the album. Was it harder to write a short song?

No. I tried to write a second verse, but I didn’t want to screw it up. I realized that I said everything that I wanted to say. We finished it when I was demoing the song. It’s a nice little interlude.

What is the theme of the album? I always find that your music strikes a chord with how heartache feels.

I wrote this album to process my feelings. I think I got what I needed out of it, and it’s really beautiful for me to know that it is just yours now! Hopefully, it helps others. I write albums to supplement therapy.

How did you feel about doing your release show virtually?

It was okay. I’m grateful that it was even possible. I would have preferred to do it live. Maybe, when the quarantine is over, I’ll do a release show for the vinyl.

Do you have a pandemic playlist?

No, it’s five playlists for my breakup to match the five stages of grief. I usually create new playlists every month as a way to archive memories.

How do you keep your music fresh?

I haven’t practiced as much because I’ve been so busy. One way is changing up the way I play my songs, speeding them up or slowing them down. It’s almost like playing a cover of my own songs.

How do you see playing live in the future? What do you think it is going to look like?

Hopefully, I would love to continue to play with my brother and Sydney. I want to play with a full band, play the acoustic guitar and piano. If I got to a place in my career, I would love to tour with a full piano if I’m lucky to make something happen.

If you could play anywhere safely, where would it be?

Anywhere! I would kill to play a Rebel Lounge (Phoenix) show now or Madison Square Garden. Whatever!

No Place is available now digitally; vinyl copies can also be pre-ordered via Danielle’s website.

Interview by Jennifer Mullins
Photos by Eunice Beck

8th February 2021

New Music – Hallan | Fast Trains | Jim McHugh | Gender Roles

Cover sleeves for Hallan, Fast Trains, Jim McHugh and Gender Roles

New releases – Hallan, Fast Trains, Jim McHugh, Gender Roles 

Hallan – Hands Up (single)

First of two in this week’s pick from the burgeoning Portsmouth music scene, Hallan release new single Hands Up today. A celebration of the best bits of post-punk pushing through swinging cowboy saloon doors, the track manages to capture the essence of the current spoken word vocal and mix it with swaggering riffs and eminently accessible beats for the alternative dancefloor. The influence of a certain Mr Mark E Smith is undeniable and it’s good to see this head more towards an Eat Y’self Fitter feel than the more often emulated darker side of The Fall. Give this one a spin to liven up your day. 

Hands Up is available now on Nice Swan Records; forthcoming EP Reporting from the Living Room Floor can be pre-ordered here.

Hallan

************************************************************

Fast Trains – I Work in Lies (single)

Continuing the coastal takeover, the latest single from Fast Trains is also released today. I Work in Lies is another link in the Fast Trains’ chain of melodies with a message. Each song brings something new to the table, this time the 80s’ feel is definitely there with a leaning towards the sense of foreboding that comes with the less commercial tunes of OMD and XTC (possibly other 3 letter bands as well but none spring to mind). Having tackled the subject of men’s mental health in previous single The English Way, the focus here is on the British tabloids and their propensity for shock headlines at any cost. Forthcoming EP ourWorld Volume 1 is shaping up to be a beautifully constructed piece of work that takes on the real world on its own terms; very much worth your listening time.

I Work in Lies is available now on Bandcamp and the Fast Trains website.

Fast Trains

************************************************************

Jim McHugh – Dave (single)

Ahead of his third album Pretending to Wake Up due for release in May, Monaghan singer-songwriter Jim McHugh drops lead single Dave today. Belying the quiet intro, Dave soon breaks into full rock mode, though the subtleties of Jim’s folk nuances are perhaps still simmering in the background. Despite having talents playing multiple instruments himself, the album brings a full band project for added impact. Dave is the story of a misspent youth and, as such, a welcome reminder of life outside lockdown, something we could all use right now. Dust off your air guitar and play along below.

Pretending to Wake Up is available for pre-order now.

Jim McHugh

************************************************************

Gender Roles – Dead or Alive / So Useless (single)

Good to see Brighton’s Gender Roles continuing to make new music; a band best savoured live but all in good time. Latest release out digitally this week is double A side Dead or Alive / So Useless. Embracing the punchier side of grunge, the band have polished their sound to proffer ridiculously catchy tunes full of huge riffs and frenetic drumming. This release will make you want to run down the beach crying out for a socially distanced mosh pit. The weekend starts here… enjoy. 

Dead or Alive / So Useless is available to download now; a vinyl release is set for 26th March.

Gender Roles

************************************************************

Words by Siobhan

5th February 2021

Breaking Glass Magazine – February 2021

Black and white shot of people taking a socially distanced walk along Worthing Pier, the closed amusement arcade is straight ahead

Breaking Glass Magazine – February 2021

Cover image Worthing Pier © 16 Beasley St Photography 

How’s everyone doing? I’ve been rediscovering my love of black and white photography, something I used a lot with gig shots but haven’t dipped into for a while. I like the sense of timelessness and that it’s harder to date a colour-free image when you look back. My walks on the beach look different in mono and things just feel a little bit calmer.

The image here was taken on Worthing Pier, a hybrid of art deco architecture, a retro style amusement arcade and an outdoor gallery of local artists’ pictures displayed in the central glass partition. It’s a major feat for me to walk the length of the pier due to a combined fear of heights and vast expanses of water, but a great place for photos and to escape the busy promenade.

Till next time – stay safe, look after yourselves and don’t go too close to the edge.

Words and photo © Siobhan

1st February 2021