South Of Salem. Mean anything? Not a direction to an American town, but an incredible new band from beside the English seaside!
Hailing from Bournemouth, South of Salem have made it up to the Lincolnshire Showground for Call Of The Wild Festival, 2022 and last night produced what frontman, Joey Draper, called ‘one of the best gigs (he’s) ever played.’ Anyone in the audience would find it hard not to agree that their set was a ‘standout’ memory of the festival’s first day.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Joey and his wife, Lolly, the morning after the night before, to find out a little more about the SOS ‘phenomenon.’
Conceived just a month before Lockdown 1, it’s astonishing to realise that this band is holding its own alongside bands of much greater experience within the New Wave Of Classic Rock genre.
Belying everything his stage persona would lead you to believe, Joey Draper is shy, unassuming and well spoken. When he talks, his whole being is embroiled with the passion he feels for what he and his band of amazing creatives are doing.
He has a vision, clear and entirely realistic in terms of the speed with which South Of Salem have rocketed onto the scene during unprecedented times. The Voice of Conscience rings loud and clear through the lyrics, addressing contemporary issues such as male suicide, sadly something which has impacted on the band with their friends over the last year and a half.
With Gothic-style dolly dancers, (one of whom is Joey’s wife, Lolly), pyrotechnics, creative lighting and boundless energy, the front row members continuously leap atop strategically placed risers, allowing everyone to enjoy the limelight.
I’m not a betting person, but I’m prepared to lay long odds that the Big NameRock Festivals will be after these guys for their shows next year.
Get ahead of the crowd and discover them for yourselves now.
When offered the chance to chat to the fellas from MW, it was an opportunity not to be missed.
So when my turn came to meet with frontman, Barry ‘Baz’ Mills & Adam (one of the two Thislethwaite brothers in the band), I wanted to open with something a little different:
‘In the band, who has the most massive wagons?’ leaving it intentionally ambiguous to allow the conversation to take its natural course.
Needless to say, it did set the tone for the remainder of the interview… and I never really did discover the answer; amusingly, I was rather wary of where to point the camera during their live headline performance in the evening though!
Amenable to the last, the guys chatted about the UK and European dates coming up this year. Travelling through Germany, Finland, Switzerland, the Massive Wagons experience will be rollingacross Europe bringing the band’s particular brand of showmanship and sound to new and established audiences alike.
For the Wagons themselves, they see GrasPop Metal Meeting 2022 in Belgium as a particular milestone on their extraordinary journey, taking the stage alongside some of the greatest bands of our time, this year including Iron Maiden, Volbeat, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper … and Massive Wagons. A dream line-up.
Massive Wagons are well and truly on a roll. I wish them all the luck in the world.
Jack Howard at WaterBear Venue, Brighton, 5th April 2022
A night of Brighton debuts for me as it was the first time experiencing the intimacy of the WaterBear Venue, as well as London jazz artist and long time friend, Jack Howard, who returns to Brighton after a 4 year hiatus from the city.
The place was brimming with Brightonian student life. Friends and fans of both headliner Jack Howard and support, Amber Burgoyne, hustled around the bar to grab their (modestly priced) £4 beer – perks of a university run venue, ey?
Prior to his set I managed to nab Howard for a quick 10 minute chat where he opened up about past releases, musician FOMO, and some poignant decisions that he has chosen to take to benefit him with his songwriting and his authenticity as a musician. With seven releases to date we began by chatting about Howard’s debut Yesterday.“I was as green as they come when I wrote Yesterday” explains Howard earnestly.
Honourably, Howard has made a conscious decision to take more time in his artistry and worry less about being a big name in lights at this point in his career. “Before I just thought I’d write all these pop songs and become famous but the more I ended up writing, the more the idea of being famous wore off and the better my writing became”.
He mentions that just before lockdown he sold out Colours, a 300 cap venue in London and was taken aback on how he’d managed to sell out a venue without any management or industry backing. However, Howard picks up that he wasn’t entirely happy with the music he was making and his own development. He describes what I like to call ‘musician FOMO’.
Around me I kept seeing other [artists] doing something…”. Ambiguous as it sounds, I believe that that something is Howard observing other musicians being proactive with their career. “I felt like ‘fuck, I need to do something’, when that should never be the motivation behind true creation”. In Howard’s words, he is the self proclaimed “laziest person he knows in terms of creation” but, I have to disagree with my friend Jack here and give him some credit. An artist cannot move themselves to London, grow a social media following on Instagram and TikTok, be an unsigned and unmanaged solo artist that can sell out venues and call themselves lazy – not to mention the gig I was about to witness which was self-promoted.
As we ended the interview the support, Amber Burgoyne, played her final song, a well rehearsed and tight band backing Burgoyne’s strong stage presence. The room was now prepped and ready for the headliner to play his first show back in Brighton after 4 years, as the underground venue was packed out.
The set kicked off with a funky instrumental that really set the tone. From the word go it was clear the headliner was much more in his own using jazz and funk melodies with a pop tinge and raspy vocals – thoughts of Paulo Nutini spring to mind, a self-confessed inspiration of Howard’s.
Highlights from the set included when Howard cheekily dismissed the band and performed a spine tingling stripped back version of his latest release How to be a Man.As the crowd hushed any mutters from potential hecklers, the room fell silent… Here I see how Jack’s vocals can’t be faulted, despite some minor technical errors which are brushed off with a harmless smile and giggle from both musicians and the crowd, altogether it made for a terrific performance from the whole band. Further moments on was the fan favourite Sublimeand unrelated tune Meteor, a song said to be about a man rating his car, from the perspective of Howard – a non-driver. Special mention to the saxophone/backing vocalist Molly, whose shy character juxtaposed her every time she jumped from sax to microphone, really adding some additional authenticity to the live performance.
It continues to be a refreshing thing to hear yet another artist using the pandemic as a time of reflection and integral pondering, signalling that many artists actually used the halt on humanities day-to-day life to study themselves rather than be bitter about it. Jack Howard’s return to Brighton did truly feel like a homecoming. A homecoming filled with appreciation, care and authenticity. I walked out onto the very breezy Brighton seafront having discovered a new venue and what felt like a new artist certain on his path and ready to write that song that gives him the recognition as an artist that he deserves.
Jack Howard – FFO: Tom Misch, Paolo Nutini, Isaac Waddington
After the release of their latest single ‘Flatfoot’, a blend of the melancholy and freedom originating from 2020’s lockdown, I had the delightful opportunity to speak to Pizza Crunch about their past with the single’s evolution, as well as the future of their sound…
JR: So first, I’ve got to say that I’ve really enjoyed the new single Flatfoot. Loved the Smithsy vibes from the track, which hopefully isn’t a comment that’s been haunting you since. I’ve heard that there were some changes to the song since its creation in the first lockdown – how much would you say it’s changed since its original creation and were there any key moments that determined that change?
Ewan (vocals): So Nathan (lead guitarist) and I do the bulk of the writing. And I think in the early days of the band we often got lost in our own parts. For example, I’d write the lyrics and I’d want them to be squeezed into the song without putting much care into other sections. Flatfoot was originally quite focused on the vocal and lead. Since we first wrote the song we have reworked the chorus so it packs more punch and is more easy listening. We went into the studio with Johnny Madden of Baby Strange a year or so ago and the emphasis he puts on chorus melodies probably influenced us with this new tune.
You mentioned how the jovial tone of Flatfoot stemmed from the freedom you felt from that first lockdown – did the band share that feeling in their respective situations? Or were there any conflicts between what you guys wanted to produce from the feeling of that lockdown?
Yeah, because I write the lyrics my feelings kind of take precedence haha. But often, Nathan will write a jovial guitar part and I’ll write some misery filled lyrics and we’ll kind of have this contrast between the music and the lyrics. I’m sure the other members of the band did go through tough spells during the lockdown as we all did, I think I was in the minority in seeing the initial part of it as a bit of a holiday.
I feel obliged to ask at least one a bit off kilter question – if you could choose any new instrument to take with you to the recording booth for your next tunes, what would you like to bring in?
Haha great question. For the new stuff we have been working on we’ve actually brought up in some new instruments. We’ve got all sorts going on, trombones, gloks, cellos, etc. I’d love to bring in a sax at some point. I’d also love to get a choir involved.
In respect of keeping the new project in any and all secrecy you like, I just wanted to ask if there were any musicians or albums that have inspired where you’ll be taking your music. Obviously, if the honest answer is Pizza Crunch and Pizza Crunch only, that’s just as good an answer.
Nah mate don’t worry, we steal from anyone and everyone. I’ve been listening to a lot of soundtracks recently, so I’m keen to use some atmospheric soundscapes etc., rather than bread and butter guitars, bass and drums. We’re big fans of The Ninth Wave, the new Wolf Alice record has impacted us a lot. We also like the Parliamo EP. We’re just looking forward to releasing some songs that are different from the standard indie release.
Just as a follow up to that last question, I was wondering what soundtracks you’ve been listening to recently?
A lot of Cliff Martinez, like the Drive soundtrack. My favourite one at the minute though is the Lost River soundtrack, I think Johnny Jewel did that one. Only God Forgives too, there is a cool Thai song at the end of it called You Are My Dream.
To focus more on the lyrics too, a question I forgot to ask before was if you had any non-musical influences that have really affected how you approach your writing or even an influence on how you guys as a band approach music.
I think non-musical influences help shape the lyrics a lot, I’d say it is mostly musical things that influence the sound though. I’ve been reading a lot of Bukowski recently for example and that has probably made my writing a little more cynical. I think maybe non-musical things can indirectly impact the sound and music itself. I feel that if I’m reading something sentimental maybe that is more likely to come across in the mood of the song. Those artists/albums I talked about in the last email are the main factors in this slight changer in direction though. I think what they all have in common is that they are bodies of work made up of songs that all belong next to each other. Being able to do this is impressive on its own so I really want us to do that next, hence the EP…
Listen to Flatfoot here and check out more from Pizza Crunch onBandcampand via theirFacebookpage
Interview byJacob Rose– many thanks to Pizza Crunch
With some exciting collaborative projects already under their wing and a new single out today, we caught up with Su, I Think to find out how their art and music comes together…
Hey, how are you and what can you see from where you are right now?
Hi, how are you? I can currently see my bedroom at 6am, as I got such an early night last night haha. Feel very girl boss right now.
Introduce us to Su, I Think and your music
I’m a musician and artist based in London, I try and make work that blends dark electronica with experimental pop. When people listen to my stuff I want them to be able to relate to my music and visuals; whichever way they can. I just hope people like it – that’s that really. Also I’m just trying to pay my rent I think haha.
Your vocal has the ability to make us stop what we’re doing and really listen, are their singers that have had that effect on you over the years?
Ah that is so so nice of you to say, thank you so much – oh my days!!! So many singers make me stop in my tracks for different reasons vocally. Right now I’m obsessed with Charlotte Day Wilson, Clairo, SerpentWithFeet, Joy Crookes, Perfume Genius, Seinabo Sey, Robyn – just so many!! People who can hold their own and have their own style about them are artists I usually am attracted to!!
Tell us about your new single Pipe Dream
I wrote Pipe Dream this spring when I looked around at my life and was unhappy with how I was treating myself. Going to work and coming home and repeating this for weeks on end is not good for anybody’s mental health. I was angry with myself and thus Pipe Dream came out. I don’t think I realised how internally angry I was until I went into the studio with James Casper and we recorded it. I then brought the video concept over to Italia Minchella to just try and show how distorted I felt visually and she was able to convey how we both felt about the track. It’s such a blessing to work with people who understand and respect what you have to say and do. I’m super blessed.
It feels like the visual representation of your music is really important to you, how do you approach the process of adding videos to your songs?
Visuals are just as important to me as music is. I remember sitting in front of the TV with my siblings when we were younger and just studying old school music videos. I think to be able to push your narrative with music is amazing but to reinforce it with a visual is so much more necessary. Also I love creating visuals as you can be as abstract as you wish and people still understand? If that makes any sense. I don’t want to release a song without a visualiser at least!!
So who else has been involved in the making of PipeDream and its accompanying video?
It’s been a pretty intimate team working on Pipe Dream and for that I am so grateful for the product that has been created. I worked on the song with long time collaborator James Casper, who is just a complete genius. Then I worked with Italia Minchella on the video and she is the most stylish person I think I have ever met. They are both so on the ball and to be able to get my vision across whilst combining with their vision is so lovely.
If you could play at any venue where would you choose and who else would be on the line up?
God, this is a tough one. I would love to play Glastonbury – maybe me and Robyn, Lorde and Charli XCX headlining? Could that happen? I don’t know?
First and last gig you went to?
My first ever gig was Paramore with support by Charli XCX and to tell you it was unreal would be an understatement. Best night ever!
My most recent gig was my friend Sfven and he has the most unreal voice, it was so lovely to be able to be in a room filled with people just enjoying music.
If you were asked to take the role of any artist or historical figure in a biopic of their life, whose character would you love to play?
I don’t know, can I say Jennifer Coolidge?
And what’s on the horizon for you, what are your hopes for 2022?
More music, I’m just gonna release until I am exhausted. I hope to play more shows and I just hope people enjoy my work and stay listening. Just hoping for the best haha.
Slide onto the dancefloor with Good Health Good Wealth as they mix slick tunes with wry lyrical observations on life. We chatted to vocalist Bruce Breakey about music, memories and Mutant Ninja Turtles of the Teenage variety…
Hey, how are you and where are you right now?
Great cheers, currently in sunny North London, Holloway.
Who’s involved in Good Health Good Wealth and who else around you deserves a shout out?
Myself, Bruce Breakey on the vocals and Simon Kuzmickas on the guitar. Shout out to George Apsion who helped us with the production on this one.
Tell us about your latest single Hong Kong Head
It’s all a bit of a blur but basically it came out of a bad trip to Hong Kong a few years ago. I wrote it as catharsis when I got home feeling sorry for myself.
Your videos are sharp – who puts them together?
We’ve worked with a few different directors now but this one was directed by the boys at G22 Studios, Sulymaan Hameed, Stephen Noorshagh and Jack Ruthenberg.
What are some of your earliest music related memories, where did you start listening to stuff that got into your head?
Jingles for adverts always really stuck in my head as a young kid, or theme tunes for TV shows. The old cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hong Kong Phooey, those were genius because they made you a fan of the show before you even got to see it!
What’s that one song that totally takes you back to a different time and place?
Jamiroquai Deeper Underground takes me back to being a kid watching that first Hollywood Godzilla movie, the one with Matthew Broderick in it. I remember in the music videos he’s jumping on the tops of cars or something and I would pretend to do it in my front room on top of the sofa
One film and one book – what do you choose?
The Departed & The Choirboys, anything with gangsters or crooked cops and I’m in.
Who’s on your playlist at the moment that we should be listening to?
I’ve been listening to a lot of other duos recently like Majid Jordan, Paris Texas and Emotional Oranges, call it research. I’ve been going back in time a bit with The Style Council and The Blow Monkeys.
The last 18 months have been harsh in many ways, what’s been good for you despite or because of the pandemic?
We’ve written so much new music because there was nothing else we could do! We’re happy to be getting out into the real world now though.
You’re playing at the Sebright Arms in November, any likelihood of you gigging further afield in the coming months?
We’ll be playing a few dates with The Twang on their tour over December which is gonna be quality! Stoke, Derby, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Cardiff, Newcastle and Birmingham, proper road trip.
What’s next for Good Health Good Wealth, what are your plans for the rest of the year and 2022?
To cement ourselves as London’s premiere funky disco boys.
Good Health Good Wealth release two new tracks Buy Me and Love Ya this Friday 5th November – guaranteed to bring a spark to your bonfire, keep tabs on their bid for elite funky disco status here.
Exhibition, Museum of the Home, 12th June – 29th August 2021
Holding the Baby
Header shot: Barbeline and Elijah, Holding the Baby, 2021, courtesy of Polly Braden
A striking new exhibition of work by photographer Polly Braden opened at the weekend at Museum of the Home. Holding the Baby takes an immersive look at the lived experience, challenges and strength of single parents facing austerity.
We spoke to Polly about her interest in not only capturing the image, but capturing something of the person in the picture too…
Your style of photography gives a real insight into its subjects – what drew you to documentary work rather than any other genre?
I’ve always been interested in people. When I worked at the Guardian, the picture editor would tell me off for taking too long, I’d want to find out all about a person before taking their picture.
Gemma with Freya, Jack & Elsie Holding the Baby, 2021, courtesy of Polly Braden
What was your first camera, how old were you?
My first camera was a Canon. I took a small darkroom kit with me to China when I taught at a University in Yangzhou in my early twenties.
And are there any other photographers whose work inspired you?
I love Susan Meiselas amongst others.
Your latest project Holding the Baby highlights the lived experience of being a single parent – can you tell us how you came to be involved?
Three years ago I became a single parent. At the same time I saw a report by the UN expert on poverty, Philip Alston, who came to the UK to look at the effects of austerity. He concluded that single parents had been hardest hit by changes to tax and benefits since 2010.
The overall impact of policy decisions taken between 2010 and 2017 has meant lone parents lose around 15% of their net income on average – almost £1 in every £6. By contrast, the losses for all other family groups is much smaller, from nothing to 8%.
Equality and Human Rights Commission research report: ‘Tax, welfare, social security and public spending: a cumulative impact assessment’, November 2017.
I started to look at some of the prejudices leading to policies that scrutinise and punish the parent who has stayed and decided to make a new body of work highlighting the strength and resilience of being a lone parent, in order to change the dialogue. One in four children in the UK live with a lone parent and over 90% of them are single mothers.
Holding the Baby, 2021, courtesy of Polly Braden
Aaron with his children Esme and Kai and partner Chloe Holding the Baby, 2021, courtesy of Polly Braden
How do you build the trust you obviously have with people that allows you to capture quite personal aspects of their lives?
The first time I meet someone I very seldom take their photo. First we speak about the project, see what they think about it. Talk about how it might work, where the photos will be shown, look examples of other similar projects and previous work. Then they need some time to think it through. From then on, as with all relationships, they grow, slowly sometimes, more with some people than others, openly and through dialogue.
For this project in particular, what were the things that stood out to you as being most important to the people who took part?
Having a sense of control and understanding about how much they wanted to be involved, what the point of view was, how they would be seen, looking at the pictures and letting me know if something wasn’t right. For example, with Jana, for the first few months she didn’t want to be identified, so I shot all the photos with her facing away from the camera. Then she decided she wanted to show her face. One of the photos in the first edit was really strong but Jana spotted her bra strap showing. We reshot the image in a different outfit. The new image is one of the main images in the exhibition. She’s become really involved in the project, helping with research and we’ve spent a lot of time together.
Jana with Yaana Holding the Baby 2021, courtesy of Polly Braden
How do you select and prepare your images for exhibition?
I make a first edit, then print lots out. I have a magnetic wall in my studio, so I put them up and live with them for a bit. Some keep resonating, others less so. Then it’s great to see other peoples reaction to the photos and it tends to be quite a quick process of pulling the best ones out. Sometimes you go back to files years later and realise you missed good ones but generally the ones you pick start to have a life of their own, if they have that magic, their power grows.
And how does it feel to be able to have your work seen again in person with lockdown restrictions starting to lift?
It’s really exciting to be working towards showing this work at the museum. I can hardly even let myself imagine a lively opening with people in the gallery, it feels a world ago that we gathered in for exhibitions.
A series of portraits and interviews conducted over a year long participatory project, Polly’s images are accompanied by text from Claire-Louise Bennett and Sally Williams.
The exhibition will tour to Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool and Arnolfini, Bristol, as part of the Museum of the Home’s new dynamic contemporary programme and mission to reveal and rethink the way we live in order to live better together.
Holding the Baby runs from 12th June – 29th August 2021
Museum of the Home – 136 Kingsland Road, London E2 8EA (the museum entrance is opposite Hoxton Station, on Geffrye Street) Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Entry is free but, for now, all visitors, including babies, children, Friends and Patrons, need to book a timed ticket in advance. Please check the website for any updates before visiting.
All images and exhibition details are reproduced with permission from Flint Culture and are under the copyright of Polly Braden.
Proving that lockdown hasn’t killed creativity, Maya Lakhani has grabbed the opportunity to launch her solo career and is emerging as one of the most impressive breakthrough artists of the last year. Catching the eye of BBC Introducing and new music champion John Kennedy, Maya’s musical journey looks set to go from strength to strength. We chatted about production, protests and plans for the future…
Hey, how are you and where are you right now?
Hello! I am doing well thanks. I am currently listening to some music with a cuppa in hand.
Despite lockdown, you’ve managed to launch your solo career and be involved in pretty much every aspect, writing, recording and producing yourself – where do you start?
When we first went into lockdown last year, I was very aware that I would never get that much spare time in my life again. I had always wanted to launch myself as a solo artist, so I decided to use the extra time to figure out how to do that!
I have definitely done a lot of learning in lockdown. Before working on my debut, I spent a lot of time doing online courses to get all my recording and production skills up to scratch. There is so much resource online, I truly believe if you want to learn how to do anything, you can! I am super proud to have made my songs entirely from my bedroom, but I work hard for that not to be audibly obvious.
I have been writing more than ever this year. Once I have a rough idea of song structure, I record a demo into my laptop. I begin layering different vocal, guitar, bass & drums sections until the song is fully recorded and produced. I love having complete control over my music and am super excited to be on this journey!
Tell us about your latest single Walk Alone…
I wrote Walk Alone in March, when much of the media conversation was centred around women’s safety. I was angry, sad and frustrated that still in 2021, women can’t walk alone without fear. I was furious at the victim blaming that I saw. I just felt really compelled to put these thoughts & emotions into a song, as songwriting is a key form of self expression for me.
The chorus is very simple, it just features the lyric “All I want to do is walk alone”. I wanted to make the point that still in this day and age, women feel fear over such a basic human right.
The last year seems to have heightened protests about a variety of issues, do you think people are listening and things are changing?
I am hopeful that media coverage pushes people to have much needed uncomfortable conversations around these important topics. I hope that parents are speaking to their children about it. However, it does sometimes feel like it’s ‘trendy’ for the media to cover a particular topic, and then it gets forgotten about. But with the rise of social media, I think that important issues are kept in people’s consciousness more, which will hopefully lead to change.
Social media plays a huge part in creating awareness of everything from music promotion to worldwide news now – which platforms do you use and do you feel it’s generally a positive or negative experience?
Social media is definitely a big part of getting your music out there. I’m on all the platforms, because as an artist, you just have to be to get yourself heard. I do find that Twitter has been an amazing place for discovery. So far, I have found my social media experience to be positive. Being active on those platforms has helped me to connect with listeners and other artists too.
Who’s inspired you to do what you do?
So many different artists throughout my life! Going all the way back to the Spice Girls, who were my first inspiration as a small child, instilling that girl power message! I really got into songwriting and rock music when I started listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers when I was around 10 years old. Not long after, I started my first band, which helped lay the foundations of my music experience. I saw a live performance of PJ Harvey on YouTube when I was a teenager, I remember being so inspired to see a powerful woman on stage wielding a guitar and having the crowd in the palm of her hand.
What were the first and last records you bought?
I remember buying Stan by Eminem when I was young. I think I was a little shocked by all the swearing in it, as I had only heard it on TV or radio prior! The last record I bought was Chemtrails over the Country Club by Lana Del Rey. She’s one of my favourite artists, and it’s a really interesting and brilliant record.
You received lots of airplay for your debut single The Line – how does it feel to hear yourself on the radio?
It’s an incredible feeling! The first radio play I received for The Line was on BBC Introducing. It was such a special and surreal moment, I actually cried tears of joy! I have been involved in many musical projects in my life, and none of them have led to serious and consistent airplay. So for my debut solo single to receive lots of airplay was such a special and affirming feeling. Hearing it on national stations like Planet Rock & Radio X was just amazing. Still pinching myself over that! Walk Alone was recently picked by John Kennedy as one of his ‘X-Posure Hot Ones’ on Radio X too, beyond my wildest dreams!
Have you got plans to gig when things open up?
Yes! I cannot wait to gig. As I have produced these tracks in isolation, I haven’t had the chance to hear them live! Getting the opportunity to play my songs with other musicians and to hear it in that way will be very special!
And assuming restrictions keep lifting, what does the coming year hold for you?
I can’t wait to keep releasing more music! I have lots of songs that I’m currently working on, so I’m really looking forward to sharing those soon. I cannot wait to start planning live shows too, fingers crossed that can happen before the end of the year!
Self-described ‘pop musician, producer, web developer and synthesizer nerd’ Tom John Hall clearly hasn’t let lockdown curb his creativity. On top of making and releasing his unique brand of infectious electro-pop, he’s been busy fundraising for projects in Derby with independent arts collective Year of Glad. It seemed only right to find out more, join us for a chat here…
Hey, how are you doing and what can you see from wherever you are right now?
Hiya! Very well thank you. I can currently see mostly synthesizers, guitar pedals and wires. My home office transforms into a home studio at the weekends. It’s a beautiful day so I have the balcony doors open too – not much of a view but it’s nice to see some sun!
It’s been the oddest year, aside from music what’s kept you going?
Animal Crossing, running and food. But mostly I have my partner, Edie, to thank for making this past year actually pretty okay all things considered. I don’t think I could have made it on my own, that’s for sure!
You released My Big Album last year (and 20 tracks truly do make a big album), tell us a bit about how that came together.
It was a relief to finally release it! I started working on it years ago, I’ve always been putting out music in various forms but never felt like I’d made a proper album. From early on I got attached to the idea of committing to this huge project, to capture every aspect of my perspective on the world and life at the time, and just working at it until it was perfect. It was a gigantic learning curve to try and produce what I had in mind with the limited means available to me, and I’m extremely proud of it – but I think the next one will be a slightly smaller album.
Your latest single 8mb has just come out – how have you adapted to releasing music in lockdown?
While it’s a shame not to be able to do one of our Year Of Glad release shows and get everyone together to celebrate, I am lucky in that I can go on producing and releasing everything from home without too much disruption. You definitely feel a bit more disconnected from the people who care about what you’ve put out, and it does feel more cynical relying on things like social media to be your main avenue for presenting your music to the world. The occasional live stream on Twitch has helped, and otherwise it’s just a case of trying to stay active and in touch with the people in our local scene to collaborate and listen to what one another are working on. I have friends in bands who thrive on getting together and performing live, they’ve been waiting for so long to go back to doing what they love so I count myself lucky.
The proceeds from the single are going to Derby and Burton Hospitals Charity, a cause close to your heart?
Yeah, absolutely – I’m sure most of us have people in our lives who’ve needed care from local hospitals this year under uniquely challenging circumstances, and sadly a lot of frontline staff are facing financial uncertainty, so I wanted to be able to donate a little bit to the Hospitals Charity for my (Derby) and my grandma’s (Burton) hometowns. Over lockdown all of Year Of Glad’s releases have been fundraising for causes, and it’s a really nice way to release music and bring people together.
Can we shout out the other stuff you’ve been raising money for in the community too – how did you get involved and how can other people lend their support if they’re interested?
Absolutely! Our YOG20 compilation over the festive season was in support of the Padley Group, a homeless shelter and kitchen in the city, and Doorways Derby, who run food banks and a soup kitchen. We put on a raffle and art stall and put out a compilation and the support was amazing, we managed to raise over £1200 and loads of amazing local creatives, small businesses and musicians chipped in to offer prizes and help out – there’s still a few things left on the art stall at Year of Glad. MARIA-M (now YAY MARIA) also released a single in support of Derbyshire LGBT+, and we put out a Papayér single (the band I play guitar in) for Derbyshire Coronavirus Relief Fund.
Take us for a wander round Derby – which 3 places are not to be missed?
The first has to be Dubrek, a studio, rehearsal rooms and venue in town which is now the home of alternative live music for many in the city and is also where I spent a huge amount of my time growing up, in lengthy ‘band practices’ (just sitting around) with my best mates in Papayér. It’s flourished into far more than just a place for bands to make noise, it’s now more like a hub for an entire creative community.
Second is just over the road, Bar One – a great independent pub where I’ve also spent a disproportionate amount of time. It’s run by a lovely bunch of people and is just a really excellent pub, basically.
Third is Bustler – it appeared a few years ago, occupying disused space and filling it with an eclectic mix of independent street food vendors, and has gone from strength to strength since. A few of my nearest and dearest are involved and I’ve had a sneak peek of the new permanent space they’ve been kitting out, it’s looking amazing!
As things open up again, if you could play any venue with any other artists, what would you go for?
I’ve just rebooked my tickets for Randy Newman in 2022 – it was cancelled this year. A part of me wants to say joining Randy at the London Palladium but deep down I know that isn’t true, I think I’m much happier in the audience for something like that. To be totally honest I’d go for another night at Dubrek with YAY MARIA, which happens to be the last show I played before lockdown, and will most likely be the first thing we put on post lockdown, so just picking up where we left off basically.
What’s next for you – does it feel like you can start to make plans for the rest of 2021 now?
With my own music I’m moving slowly with working on my next record, THUNDERCHILD, which is a sci-fi concept album. I’ll be putting out a few more singles and booking shows where I can, but I’m also putting a lot of my energy into collaborations with other Year Of Glad artists and working on other people’s music for a little while, which is exciting. But my main focus is being able to be with friends and family again, and anything else is a bonus!
And last up, have you changed the clock on your cooker or are you waiting till October to see it tell the right time again?
The clock on my cooker does not, and quite possibly never will, display the correct time – BST or otherwise.
But thanks for the reminder. And thanks for the chat!
In their latest album ‘The Falling’ released last week, The Underground Youth have produced a collection of songs filled with depth and emotion. We caught up with Craig Dyer to ask what keeps the band moving in new directions musically, their ongoing partnership with Fuzz Club Records and life in Berlin…
Hello, how are you all keeping – have you been able to see each other during the various stages of lockdown?
Yes, we’re well thank you. Keeping productive and staying positive etc. And yes we all keep in contact, we remain in each other’s ‘COVID bubble’, as they say.
Take us back to the early days, what was the catalyst that kick started The Underground Youth?
2008, I was writing some basic and fairly derivative poetry and trying to work the poems into songs using the few guitar chords I knew and the modest skills I’d taught myself in recording. It all developed from there, slowly and steadily, until we reached where we’re at today.
And how do you sustain that feeling that keeps you together and wanting to make new music?
I think that feeling has to come pretty naturally, you couldn’t force it, you know? But for me personally and for us as a band, we’ve never been happier than doing what we do, well, when we can eventually tour and actually do what we do again!
The songs on your new album The Falling manage to sound both dark and soft at the same time – what’s been the driving factor behind the record?
Lyrically, it’s an introspective record, from a personal place, I think there’s a darkness and a softness to writing in such a way. I think the driving factor was to explore this slightly different sound we’ve adopted on this record, string arrangements, more acoustic instrumentation. It’s fulfilling to work on a record in a different way.
Tell us the story behind one of the tracks.
Ok, Letter From A Young Lover is the final track on the album. Now it’s rare I sit at a piano to write a song but this one came out in that way. Lyrically the idea is quite light, the idea of having a written correspondence with a young version of myself, naive and yet to understand or appreciate love, it’s not so serious. The music is the complete opposite however, dark and dramatic, the clash of mood and context seems to make the song even more powerful.
You’re based in Berlin now, the instigator of much influential music over the years – does the environment or the music scene there impact on your writing?
I do find myself answering this question a lot and whilst of course the surroundings of where an artist lives do influence and inspire the art, that is true of anywhere you would decide to live and work. It seems more relevant to people when the city has a history or has been deemed influential on music in the past, we were always asked the same question about Manchester when we lived there. But the truth is I’d be just as inspired living in any other city and I can’t say in what way that would differ.
I loved Berlin when I was there but haven’t had a chance to go back in years, where would you recommend when things open up again – where are your favourite places to be?
Well the main hope is that everywhere can reopen once this is over, there’s a huge concern in the case of many bars and venues that the financial strain may prove too much for them to survive. But to be optimistic and put that thought aside, we’ll be looking forward to once again frequent our local bars, 8MM, Tomsky, I really miss being able to get a pint of Guinness. Museums, galleries, seeing small shows in cafes. There’s too many venues to mention, I think once live shows become a reality again there will be a huge surge in attendances, it’s going to be an interesting time.
What have you been listening to and watching through quarantine?
I guess I’ve been through different periods since the beginning, listening to a lot of old music, getting very nostalgic, music from my youth, a lot of hip hop, early punk, I also went through a period of buying a lot of jazz records. Watching a lot of movies, I don’t tend to indulge in many TV series but when I do I get really sucked in. I recently watched Adam Curtis’ new series. I’m a huge fan of his work.
The album is out on Fuzz Club Records – they’ve been putting out a great mix of artists, how did you get involved with them?
It was back in 2011, Casper (Fuzz Club) got in touch with me to ask if we had any of our albums available on vinyl. Now at the time I was just releasing the music for free online, so I told him no. He said he was thinking about starting up a record label and would love for our album Delirium to be the first record they put out. So we did it, he flew over to Manchester from Norway and we signed a contract and we’ve been releasing music and have been great friends ever since.
And where do we go from here – do you have hopes and plans for the coming year?
I think our biggest hope at this point is for live music to return. We have a European tour booked for later in the year and with any hope we’ll actually be able to do it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Bringing a Lynchian twist to their darkened dream pop, Robbie & Mona release their debut album into the world this month and propel themselves straight onto the ones to watch in 2021 list. The couple behind the band are Ellie Gray and Will Carkeet, both also members of consummate Bristol collective Pet Shimmers. We asked them about their music, what they’ve been listening to through lockdown and the cinematic value of trampolines…
How are you both doing, where are you right now?
Ellie: We are in Bristol, in Easton, in our bedroom. We’re both enjoying the Saturday sun, listening to / watching a funny old performance by a band called Butch Willis and the Rocks.
Your debut album EW comes out at the end of the month, how has it been recording and promoting it during lockdown?
Will: We finished recording EW back in March in the first lockdown, but its been a bit of a rollercoaster, waves of frustration in terms of not being able to gig and properly show it to the world. But Spinny Nights have been very great at promoting it for us and being so supportive.
Tell us about the songs, is there a running story throughout the record?
Ellie: The songs have been opportunities for us to have fun going into a world of automatism and surrealism. Will makes his production potions that always get me going and are perfect foundations for me to freely dance with my thoughts and voice across it.
Will: The majority of these songs were written and recorded as we began seeing each other, we look back and kind of realise they were our attempts at impressing each other!
EW album artwork
Your latest track Queen Celine packs a lot into a minute and a half, was there any temptation to make it longer or was it always meant to be a short, sharp hit to the senses?
Will: You find the track always tells you how long it wants to be and this one stopped very abruptly and it felt right being as short as it was, any more and we would have upset the song.
The video is like a little burst of film noir with added trampolining – it’s beautifully shot, what was the thinking behind it and who was involved?
Ellie: We saw some work by Max McLachlan and thought he had the perfect twist of humour and doom. He had this idea of trampolines, which felt great, then Arthur from Spinny Nights’ mum and dad ended up being star bouncers in the video. It felt like a really seamless collaboration where everything fell into place, all the right personalities came together. It’s a really satisfying feeling when two different artists get together and their mediums really expose and compliment each other.
You recorded a set for Rotterdam’s Left of the Dial Festival a while back, it looked like they were due to have a great line up – how did you get involved in that?
Will: We played with them in October 2019 with our other project Pet Shimmers, and then when we were on tour they kindly put us up in Rotterdam and invited us to a little gig on a boat. They are so hospitable and giving, since then we stayed in touch and when they heard mine and Ellie’s new stuff they were keen to get us involved. They are great human beings.
Realistically, live music isn’t getting back to how it was pre-Covid any time soon, how do you see it looking moving forward?
Will: From this pandemic I would hope that when things return to ‘normal’, that people approach it more ambitiously in the sense of not just playing a standard venue and standard support act, questioning the traditional way of how a show is constructed.
Who’s been on your lockdown playlist and what have you been watching to while away the hours?
Will: Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes, Butch Willis and the Rocks – The TV’s from Outer Space, the Notting Hill soundtrack, Jessica Pratt, Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby album, Yellow Man – Lost Mi Love…
Ellie: Leonard Cohen Various Positions album, Connie Converse, Brian Eno & John Cale, Cindy Lee, Sean Nicholas Savage, Playboi Carti – @ MEH, Le Tigre, Beverly Glenn-Copeland , Peggy Lee…
Been watching Surviving Death on Netflix, a slightly cheesy but addictive series about near death experiences and life after the physical body, Unexplained series presented by the wonderful Tony Robinson talking about the Cathars and some spooky premonition stuff with amazing early noughties style dramatisations, Jan Švankmajer animator film-maker DVD set, John Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et La Bête, and Breaking Bad, to which I was a virgin pre-lockdown.
If there were no restrictions and you could take us on a tour of your favourite places around Bristol, where would we go?
Ellie: We would take you to Greenbank Cemetery and give you the task of finding the most elaborate headstone and reward you with a hot flask of mulled wine.
Like a magpie collects shiny gems, Sen Morimoto has dipped into a treasure trove of genres and influences, fusing together jazz, hip-hop and soulful undertones on his new self-titled album. We asked him about his early experiences with music and how the record came together…
How are you doing, what’s life like in Chicago right now?
All in all I’m feeling grateful. Or at least always trying to feel grateful. Chicago’s Covid cases are spiking again, so we’re preparing for another lockdown. Today I’ll stock up on groceries and try not to leave home for a while. While as a country there’s been a brief sigh of relief after the election, Chicagoans are still protesting. The city government has made it clear that its loyalty lies with the police, and not the hundreds of thousands of protesters asking to defund the police and remove them from schools. It’s a big hill to look up at because these pleas are really only the bare minimum but the City hasn’t budged, and has instead consistently responded with violence. All that being said, everything is so uncertain these days that I remain grateful for what I have and the safety and wellbeing of my friends and family.
You’ve been playing music since you were a child, what are your early memories of hearing music at home or with family and friends?
I’ve always loved to sing, although for most of my adolescence I was too shy to try it in front of anyone so I used the saxophone. I remember singing Jackson 5 CDs straight through in the car at the top my lungs when I was really little. My siblings hated it. I did the same with the theme from That Thing You Do!. As I got older my dad’s CD collection became a treasure map of interests for me, and a kind of bible of music to study. I had obsessive phases with a lot of records, mostly stuff from the 60s and 70s. Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Neil Young, Carpenters, Kate Bush, and on and on. I taught myself piano and bass learning as many Stevie Wonder songs as I could. Super grateful for those CDs, they definitely shaped not only what I play but what I enjoy hearing in new music too.
Your latest album was released at the end of October, how long has it been in the making and how does it feel now it’s finished?
After my last record touring, my own music and others’ projects kept me pretty busy for a couple years. I would write lyrics or record voice memo ideas on the road and glue everything together whenever I was home. A lot of times when I sit down to record I’m just exploring sounds to come back to and use for a song I write separately, so it ends up feeling like I’ve been working on each record for years but it doesn’t usually start really coming together until a bit before it comes out. Some of the tracks have elements that I’ve been tweaking for years before I released the previous record even. It feels amazing to finally have it out in the world. My favorite part about releasing a body of work is how free I feel to make something completely different right after.
It’s hard to categorise your music but it feels like the soul/ jazz/ rap fusion holds lots of crossover appeal for listeners who might be less attracted to one of those elements on its own – do you get good reactions from a wide audience?
I think because the music I’m inspired by is so varied there’s something for everyone in some of my songs. But I also feel like that’s becoming more and more common in new music. We have access to so much music and art to draw inspiration from, and are exposed to so much of the same stuff online that it feels more and more like all new music is a combination of a few different genres. It’s something that I am actually pretty excited about. It’s like if all the genres that exist now are elements that have been discovered, then the only way to create new elements is to combine the ones we have. The tricky part is doing it gracefully so your music chemistry set doesn’t explode in your face.
What’s the best or worst review you’ve ever had?
The other day I was with some friends and someone put on Man Of The Woods by Justin Timberlake and said, “You ever notice you kinda sound like him”. Don’t get me wrong I love so much of his music and he’s obviously a legend but to say it while that song is playing and not like… idk Cry Me a River or ‘Pushaaaaa looooovee I’m just a Juj-juh-juh-juh-Junkie for your love…’ I was still flattered though, I’d say that was the best and the worst in one.
Tell us about the collaborations on the album, do you start these with a clear idea of the outcome or just see which direction things take?
I definitely let the song lead the way. I leave a lot of room for error and experimentation because some of the best ideas come from mistakes. With collaboration I like to maintain a similar looseness. I never ask collaborators to use their voice or instrument in a certain way, I just ask them to listen to the song a few times and try something that feels natural to them. We go back and tweak things afterwards that we mutually agree on but I try not to let myself get in the way of their expression. I think the other way of doing it where musicians become kind of instruments of your own expression can make for great art too but for me it’s about our minds kind of turning the Rubik’s cube around together.
You’ve mentioned that you had vivid dreams whilst writing the album – did these make their way into the songs?
Definitely, there’s a lot of reference to my dreams in the lyrics. Some are descriptive of the things I’ve dreamt of, like in The Things I Thought About You Started To Rhyme where the lyrics are almost all supposed to feel like a dream, or You Come Around and Nothing Isn’t Very Cool where I talk a little bit about how these dreams affect my waking experience.
Take us on a tour of your neighbourhood, what should we know about that’s not in the guide books?
There’s a Puerto Rican sandwich joint around the corner called Cafe Colao that I’m at more mornings than not. Their café con leche motivates me to rise in the morning.
You’re receiving an award for the album, who gets a mention in your acceptance speech?
I’m definitely hitting the Cuba Gooding Jr. Jerry McGuire Oscar win speech “EVERYONE INVOLVED I LOVE YOU”.
And what’s next, what does 2021 hold for you?
Honestly I have no idea. I’m excited for a couple projects I’m helping put together on the production end and with my label Sooper Records here in Chicago. I want to make as much music as I can and use this time off touring to think about how I can help people more and continue learning.
You can keep up with the latest news from Sen here. The album is available to buy digitally and in physical format on vinyl, CD and cassette on Bandcamp, through Sen’s own label Sooper Records. Watch the video for Woof below.
Having recently discovered the sultry sounds of Ostrich with the two sharp singles they’ve already released, we’re very much looking forward to hearing what comes next. In the interim, we spoke to the band about their music, living through lockdown and their local haunts in Liverpool. There may also have been mention of brandy and ostrich racing…
Hello, introduce us to Ostrich – who’s involved and what’s the story behind your name?
Will McTaggart: Hello Breaking Glass! So we’re Ostrich, a five piece from Liverpool. We have Stuart Wilson on drums, Lydia Thomas on sax and keys, Will Bowman on bass, Leo Watkins on guitar and myself doing the crooning. Sadly, there’s not really an interesting story in regards to the name ‘Ostrich’, apart from that I look like one with my long legs.
You started performing together last year, how did it feel when things came to an abrupt halt in 2020?
Will McT: It was a real shame to be honest. We played our last show in March and I’m sure it was our best to date. We were getting really tight as a band and had quite a few dates in the pipeline. Not to worry though! We’ll keep ourselves fresh, ready to go again!
Lydia: It feels like we jinxed it with that gig! I really miss rehearsing as a band. Luckily, Will McT’s been churning out tunes and sending us demos. I can’t wait to work on them and add some saxy bits.
You’ve taken the opportunity to release two singles this year, that can’t be so easy in current conditions, how did you make that happen?
Will B: Way back in the distant past – 2019 I think it was – we flew to Prague and recorded 4 tracks in 4 days. It was wild. We drank more Old Fashions than any humans should, became regulars at the local jazz club, and razzed around on scooters ‘til our hearts were content. Those were the days, and listening to these tracks really brings it back. We really want to go back to record some more, but given that we’ve not been able to do that, we decided to release some of them instead. Releasing was a lot less fun than recording, but hey ho, it kept us occupied through lockdown!
The tracks both have quite a different feel, I love the 80s electro leaning on Inside Out (Got No Doubt) and the change up to One Man Band – do you set out to make a particular sound on a song or just see where it takes you?
Will B: I’d definitely agree – Inside Out is all mellow and warm, whereas One Man Band is bitter and angsty. I wouldn’t say that we ever start out with a fixed idea. For us, it’s definitely a case of getting the bare bones of the song, feeling it out a little bit, and then building the sound around that feeling.
Despite restrictions, you’ve picked up a solid amount of interest and airplay – how does it feel hearing your songs on the radio?
Stuart: Hearing Inside Out on 6 Music was a surreal moment for us; we all listen to 6 constantly and weren’t expecting it at all. It’s a shame any interest we have can’t be translated to gigs yet, but we’ll wait as long as it takes…
How are things with you currently, what’s been the reaction to Liverpool being back in local lockdown?
Will B: At the time of writing, fleets of army vehicles are rolling up the M6, coming to swab each and every one of us. A total, mass test of the Merseyside region. A UK first! News outlets herald a new technological breakthrough, but we fear something more sinister this way comes. We’re the last Labour stronghold and BoJo hates us for it. And we can only wonder – why us? What does he want from us? Is it our DNA? And then what next? Will he build huge steel walls around us, cut us off from the mainland, and strip us of our freedoms and our citizenships? We hope so, because quite frankly, this country’s gone to shit anyway.
Lydia: … my Animal Crossing island is thriving.
Tell us about your home city in better times, there always seems to be loads going on creatively, where are your favourite places to go?
Leo: In ‘normal times’ Liverpool is just the best place. It’s small, but there’s a lot happening, so it’s super concentrated. 24 Kitchen Street remains probably the best venue still going in the city, despite becoming surrounded by faceless student accommodation, it champions diversity and supports local causes. The Grapes on Roscoe Street is probably my favourite pub in the world, it has live salsa infused jazz on Sunday nights. Petit Café du Coin is just round the corner if you’re feeling fancy (their boozy Irish coffee is liquid crack). We’re also blessed with some incredible art galleries: The Walker and The Tate to name but two. Other than that, get yourself out of the city centre. Sefton Park is completely unique, and huge, and always inspirational to me.
Whilst none of us are likely to be popping off to a desert island any time soon, what would your picks be to keep you happy if you did – favourite albums or anything else you couldn’t live without?
Will McT: I’m a bit obsessed with Joni Mitchell at the moment, especially her album Hissing of Summer Lawns. I’m just in awe of her songwriting. I’d take a few of her records and a massive bottle of brandy.
Lydia: I feel the same about PJ Harvey’s album, Let England Shake.
Will B: I’ve recently taken to obsessively refreshing the BBC News app, drinking lots of brandy, and crying. It really does get me through the day and is not something I would recommend under any circumstances.
Can you plan ahead right now, have you anything in the pipeline for more new music or playing live again?
Will McT: We’re sitting on a couple of singles that are ready to hatch once the time is right. Just seeing how things go with the Covid situation. We should have a video coming out for One Man Band in the next couple of weeks too. At the time of writing I’ve been filming something that involves an overhead projector, jars of beetroot, and shower gel – so I’ll leave that to your imagination.
And lastly, because it feels important to end with a serious question, in some countries people race each other on the backs of ostriches – if you were the ostriches who would win the race and why?
I think about this all the time. I’d say Will McT, he’s already got the hang of those lanky legs. Then again, Stuart has a real competitive edge… it could get messy.
Making music that transports you to the afterglow of nights out in the city, Adam Byczkowski, aka Better Person, has produced a sultry album full of hypnotic tracks in Something To Lose, quite the antidote to everything happening around us right now. New single Dotknij Mnie (translating into English as Touch Me) adds a cathartic wave to the lighter feel of some of the other songs, showing his ability to deftly capture different moods and styles. We wanted to find out more about the influences of other music, people and places and how deeply a brush with Covid is still having an impact…
Hello, can you give us a quick intro to you and your music?
Yes of course, good morning. My name is Adam, also known to some people asBetter Person.I write music, record it, release it and then travel to perform it live whenever possible. The music I make sounds like pop ballads and most of the time it talks about my personal feelings and experiences.
What can you see from wherever you are right now?
I’m laying in bed in my apartment in Berlin. I can see a white wall and an open window. There are buildings and trees outside, the sky is blue. There’s this crispy early fall smell in the air that makes me think of too many things all at once.
AND hello again, I came back to this interview to edit it a bit and now it’s night time already. I’m also in bed again but now it’s dark and my girlfriend is next to me, sleeping. It’s quiet.
Your last single Close to You reminds me of UK 80s’ artists like Talk Talk and The Blue Nile, who or what’s influencing the music you’ve been making recently?
Thank you, I like Talk Talk and The Blue Nile!
Artists from that era and genre were a huge inspiration for me, especially when I started this project, as Better Person. For this record I was actually inspired by a whole range of different music, from old French and Italian movie soundtracks through Euro-pop hits and 70’s soft rock all the way to old school balladeers like Julio Iglesias. I think that because I use synthesisers and drum machines to make my music it often ends up being heard through the narrow lens of the 1980s. Ultimately though, I hope that my music sounds like it’s made in 2020 more than any other time.
Tell us about your upcoming album Something to Lose, what can everyone expect?
It’s nine songs, exactly thirty minutes of music. It comes out on October 23rd 2020. The whole album is a bit lighter in mood than my last EP and maybe it’s also my best work yet? I hope that it is! And that people can feel moved by it and use it for having a nice time in this shitty time that we all live in. Heartfelt ballads sung by a Polish man who fell deeply in love. I worked hard on this album and I think that I’ve managed to make something real.
If you could put the album in any one person’s hands to listen to, who would you choose and why?
When I write music I keep my friends and people close to me in my mind. This time I wrote an album specifically for my partner, Jane. She’s the person I made it for so it’s in her hands that the album belongs. She already was forced to listen to it about seven thousand times at different stages and claims to love it every time. So, mission complete!
What was the last book you read?
I re-read some of Raymond Carver short stories the other day, always a pleasure.
You contracted Covid back in March, that must have been pretty scary – how was it then and how are you now?
Yes that is true. Back in March both my partner and I got the virus. It has been a real ride, we ended up having to go to hospitals frequently and we haven’t managed to recover to this day. It’s been six months since I got infected and I still spend most of my days stuck in bed, crippled by extreme fatigue, heart problems and difficulty breathing. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with and it’s extremely punishing both physically and mentally.
How has the experience changed your outlook? It’s made me really appreciate what a gift it is to feel healthy and be able to function normally. People that don’t believe in the virus or won’t wear their masks on (nose out = no mask) truly are idiots. There are online group forums for people who are still recovering and they have been the only valuable source of information and reassurance. I expect this to be a huge thing in the next couple months, more and more people simply not recovering from the sickness. I have no idea what the future holds and I can only hope that I get better in the next couple of months.
You’ve spent time in both Berlin and LA – those two cities seem so contrasting, what are the best things about each one for you?
Berlin is a place where I really came into my own, Better Person wouldn’t exist without it and I love the city for that. Los Angeles provides all the things that Berlin is lacking: great weather, amazing food, breathtaking views and a seemingly endless amount of inspiration and new connections to be made. It makes me devastated knowing that it will be a long time before I’m back again.
Looking forward, what are you hoping for over the next year?
I’m really only hoping to get better and be able to live normally again. After that I’d love to play lots of shows and make new music.
Something To Lose is released on Friday 23rd October via Arbutus Records –pre-order here
With the global pandemic robbing us of gigs, festivals and so much more, the music industry has had little to celebrate in 2020, which makes stories such as indie label Clue Records celebrating its eighth year of productivity and a successful merging with fellow Leeds label Hatch Records all thesweeter.
With new signings on the horizon and the boat party to end all boat parties envisioned for their decade celebrations, I spoke to Clue boss Scott Lewis over Zoom to discuss all things Clue,beginning with a brief back and forth bonding over a local record shop which led us to consider the sustainability of the independent music business in 2020…
RB: So, speaking of longevity in the music business, was that something you had in mind when starting Clue? Were you thinking in long term ideals, plans…?
SL: I don’t know really. It’s funny, I’ve just started lecturing about business enterprise at Leeds College of Music, and it’s got me thinking back – I didn’t set up a business plan for Clue, no five-year plan, etc. We started with little bits, like if we could release a record, a vinyl record, then that would be mint, but it was more – let’s do it and see where it goes from there really.
RB: I suppose that’s why Clue has been successful, because as corny as it sounds, you don’t necessarily get into these things for the money, or ‘success’ in business terms.
SL: No, that’s bang on. It gets a little more difficult down the line – there’s a mid-point as somewhere it goes from being purely a passion project to a feasible, financially viable thing. But I mean I’ve always been doing it ‘cos I wanna do it, ‘cos I love the bands.
RB: With that in mind, is there or was there a criteria for artists to be on Clue, other than first and foremost you being excited about them?
SL: Yeah, I’ve got to be a fanboy, the buzz you get when you find something new and amazing… it’s hard to capture really and actually if I find artists who I love, and I find out that they are working with someone else I won’t mind, I’ll still follow them ‘cos I’m a fan anyway! Perhaps in recent years I’ve become more knowledgeable and I want bands to work alongside us for the best results, bands that graft and work hard – I can put energy into bands like that.
The origins of Clue come from Scott and fellow boss Ste Langton, school friends from Stockton who bonded over a love of music and, afterbeing in and out of bands anda brief stint in basic music marketing (Scott acted as marketing director for the Oxfammusic festival ‘Oxjam’), felt as though they had something to offer some of the exciting acts they were following.
SL: I came across these bands who were great and, for whatever reason, struggling and I felt that I wanted to help, maybe some admin or boring backroom stuff. So that was it, backroom of the pub, back of a beer mat – let’s do it. That was in 2012 and Narcs was our first band.
RB: Both being from Stockton, how did you end up in Leeds and how much of that locality was a driving force behind Clue?
SL: Well I had been wanting to move out of Stockton for a while, and Ste had just got a job in Leeds and had a spare room and there was just a great scene at the time going on; NME termed it “The New Yorkshire” – bands like Kaiser Chiefs, !Forward, Russia! and The Cribs were all a big part of it and it just seemed like a cool place to go. It wasn’t too far from Stockton, and whilst Leeds isn’t a small city, it wasn’t London – so it felt tangible that we could do something.
Hatch Records was founded a year after Clue in 2013 by Tony Ereira, (whose surname I embarrassingly require Scott to help me pronounce – which he does, with a chuckle) and the relationship between the two began through the Leeds based independent music publication ‘Come Play With Me’… (Header photo – left: Tony Ereira, right: Scott Lewis)
RB: So, talk us through the merging of Clue with Hatch, which is run by Tony Ereira – where did you first meet Tony? He’s involved in Come Play With Me, as are you I believe?
SL: I am! I’ve fingers in all the pies (laughs). I remember I went to the launch of Come Play With Me and so I met Tony then, and just kept bumping into him at events, gigs etc. in Leeds. We were planning to do a local profile on all Yorkshire indie labels, so Hatch, ourselves at Clue, (Wakefield based label) Philophobia, etc.
I had a job offer last year for another label, but it would have had to mean I would leave everything else I’d worked on; Clue, Come Play With Me and so on. And at that time Tony broached the idea of merging the two labels, and being in similar places it just felt like a natural thing to do and so we all sat down towards the end of last year, crossed the Ts and dotted the Is and it’s worked out brilliant.
RB: How does it work with the artists who were attached to Clue and the ones who were on Hatch, are they now all under Clue now?
SL: All previous Hatch releases are now under a Clue/Hatch heritage; we don’t ever want to pretend that Hatch never existed, they were two different things. I’m not sure what some of the artists are doing at the minute, but if the opportunities are there and it works out right for us to release with them then we’ll look at it when it comes round.
RB: Was there ever an arm wrestle between you and Tony on which label would retain the name?
SL: No (chuckles) we never had to battle, it was very civil, I think Clue had more on at the time and it felt natural to move into that direction.
RB: I suppose if you’re all under the same umbrella and working as a unit the name is just for ego’s sake at the end of the day…
SL: Exactly and considering it’s Clue which has kept the name that must mean I’ve the biggest ego out of everyone!
RB: All of these new exciting opportunities and of course releasing Team Picture’s debut album The Menace of Mechanical Music, it must have been disappointing to have been restricted due to the pandemic; how have you found it, what are some of the difficulties Clue has faced?
SL: Its hard, cos we are trying to get something across which is essentially entertainment when there is a lot of serious, heavy shit going on in the world and we’ve got to be considerate of that. In terms of Clue we’ve had a relatively quiet year, ‘cos a lot of the artists would have either been touring or recording and that just can’t happen. We’ve released Team Picture’s album this year and we’ve booked a tour for next year but with the way things are going, you’ve just gotta deal with it in the safest way. Some of our bands have been offered shows and come to me and the first thing I ask them is, “Do you feel comfortable with it? Do you feel safe? Don’t worry about the money or the need to perform, if you don’t feel comfortable don’t do it”. It’s more important for us to look after each other and focus on other things; write, record etc. Team Picture did something really amazing with their video for Handsome Machine, a 3D interactive space where if you watch it on your phone, you can walk around your room but you’re walking around in the video – which to me was brilliant innovation ‘cos everyone was obviously staying in their homes and it brought an experience to them.
RB: Aside from your own projects, what are your favourite things going off in Leeds now, what’s exciting you at the minute?
SL: In terms of bands, Yard Act are amazing. Culture wise, The Brudenell Social Club has just gone from strength to strength and what Nathan (Clark, owner) has done there is incredible, the community and culture created at Hyde Park Book Club is amazing and Chunk, who I think are looking at a new location, they had one of the best DIY spaces in Leeds, what they were doing was unreal.
A slight bias, but I’m working with a company called Music: Leeds, what they are trying to do is provide opportunities in Yorkshire for people who want to work in the music industryand I think what they are doing is accessible and vital for working class backgrounds. I’m from a working class background and one of the things that I do worry about in this pandemic is that money will come out of the industry and artists will massively struggle to be able to create, and so I think what Music: Leeds is doing is amazing.
RB: Mentioning money, I’ve just read today that apparently one third of musicians are considering quitting the industry due to Covid…
SL: I saw the post about that statistic, I have no idea if it’s accurate. I don’t think you get into making music or writing music to make money, it’s more because you want to do it, but I can see why it could be accurate in some respects, because it’s gonna be hard.
How do we make bands now? You can’t meet anyone to talk about putting a band together and even if youdid, you can’t get in a room to do anything! The accessibility and the enjoyment found in the community of going to gigs is just not going to be there in the same way it was and it’s worrying.
RB: On a positive note, going forward with Clue, where would you personally like to see the label go? Any concrete plans?
SL: Well we are about to announce a new artist we have been working with which we are reallyexcited about, and what would I like to see in Clue? Well in two years the label will be 10, and I’d like to have a big party on a boat with loads of bands playing! Open top deck boat party! In two years time it might be well needed after all this!