Interview – Better Person

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 as Better 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

Interview by Siobhan
Photos: header image © Geoff Meugens, image on steps © Tess Roby

Date 19th October 2020

New Music – Badgers | Tugboat Captain | Deep Sea Diver | Pet Grotesque

New releases – Badgers, Tugboat Captain, Deep Sea Diver, Pet Grotesque 

Badgers – Why Am I Your Only Friend? (single)

It’s so hard when tracks that were made to be played live can’t be played live but everything suggests that, if anyone from Australia ever wants to come to UK again one day, Badgers will be a very welcome addition to the live circuit. The Melbourne quartet are producing scuzzy psych rock to the max and this new single is a kaleidoscope of riffs, sweet melodies and escalating chord structures.

Why Am I Your Only Friend? was released via Strong Island Recordings yesterday, blow the lockdown cobwebs away for a few minutes and listen here.

Badgers

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Tugboat Captain – Rut (album)

Following the release of a cluster of singles, Tugboat Captain’s album Rut comes charging into the world today. Opening track Check Ur Health sets the tone for their very own mini rock and pop opera. Think XTC meet Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on a trip down Penny Lane with twists and turns throughout. There’s a lot going on here and it all slots together beautifully. Set some time aside, listen and enjoy.

Rut is available now on Double A-Side Records, watch the video for Everything About You below.

Tugboat Captain

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Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (album)

Also out today, the latest album from Deep Sea Diver brings velvety vocals with tracks from Shattering the Hourglass to Switchblade full of emotion and personal sentiment. Jessica Dobson explains, “Especially right now when the world is in disarray and there’s so much fear, I want this record to give people room to feel whatever they need to feel, I hope it helps them recognize that it’s okay to fall apart, and that they’re meant to let others in instead of trying to work through everything on their own.” If music is the healer, this album is certainly part of the medicine cabinet.

Impossible Weight is out today via High Beam Records, watch the video for the title track featuring Sharon Van Etten here.

Deep Sea Diver

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Pet Grotesque – Pingin’ Alone (single)

Another fine track from Pet Grotesque, a further dimension added with backing vocals from Vanity Fairy and Tiña’s Adam Cartwright. There’s something very understated but nonetheless powerful about the music coming from the Pet Grotesque camp and this track has a feel of Europop mixed with something a little harder hitting. Cleverly mixed by PVA’s Josh Baxter, there are multiple layers to peel away , each of which is a pleasant surprise.

Look out for sophomore album Female Synth Player, due for release in November.

Pingin’ Alone is out now, listen below

Pet Grotesque

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via Strong Island Recordings, Tugboat Captain, Chalk Press Agency, Majesty PR – Pet Grotesque © Ella Harris

16th October 2020

Interview – Funeral Lakes

With climate change at critical levels and a lack of action by world leaders, you might ask yourself how best to get the message heard. Amidst the cacophony of protesters waving banners on the streets, Funeral Lakes approach the subject through the wonder of music, their songs an ambient journey through hypnotic folk rock. Showing that a protest song doesn’t need to be shouted from the rooftops, the Canadian duo have plenty to say and make it a pleasure to listen. We chatted to them about their latest EP, Golden Season, and what’s happening in the world right now, for them musically, and for all of us on a wider scale…

Introduce us to Funeral Lakes, who’s involved and how did it all begin?

Funeral Lakes is Chris Hemer (he/him) and Sam Mishos (she/her). We started the project in the spring of 2018, self-producing music in our apartment in Vancouver, B.C., and then in Toronto, Ontario. The project started as a creative medium to express our fears and frustrations about the world we’re living in.

The world is in a bit of a mess right now, how are you both and how are things in Toronto?

Thank you for asking! We are both doing as well as can be right now. We’ve been reflecting a lot on the collective traumas we are all experiencing, oscillating between feelings of hope and hopelessness. We have just recently relocated from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario to start graduate school, which has made our personal lives pretty busy. It’s a much smaller city compared to Toronto, and we’ve come to appreciate the change of pace. It’s a real privilege to be able to get outside every day and access green spaces around where we live.

Your songs seem very much to be reflections of what’s happening around you, is it hard to stay creative at the moment?

Music has always been a way for both of us to cope and process the experiences in our lives. Our creativity is often tied to the realities happening around us, so our creative output hasn’t changed all that much. That being said, there are days where we don’t feel like singing about much at all. Ultimately, we try to relay whatever emotions we’re feeling – whether it be anxiety, sadness, frustration, hope – through our music.

Tell us about your new EP Golden Season, what was your inspiration for this record and who’s helped you bring it to completion?

Following our first album, which was a pretty somber collection of songs, we wanted to make something much more energetic and charged this time around. These tracks represent where we’re at, and right now it’s a place of transition, of restlessness and urgency, as well as a time of reflection. Many of the themes we address aren’t exactly new (i.e. environmental destruction, heteropatriarchy, petro-nationalism), but these things have presented themselves over the past year in extremely loud ways that have been impossible to ignore. We put some other material on hold as we had the opportunity to realize these tracks in the studio with our friends – Charlie Van on drums and Colin Spratt who engineered, mixed, and mastered the songs.

Do you have a favourite track that you could tell us the story behind?

Eternal Return is a track that is really meaningful for us. It has existed in various iterations for some years now, but took a long time to feel complete. It’s a song about boom-and-bust cycles, false promises, and rampant toxic masculinity – all those factors culminate into what some call petro-nationalism. We tried to paint a picture of this reality playing out here in Canada, but also around the world. The bulk of the lyrics aim to take the listener through a rationale, so that they are feeling the same anger as us when the song takes off at the end. It was exciting to realize this in the studio where we could make it sound as big as we had envisioned. Some of the vocals are done through an actual megaphone, and we had our friends join in with us to achieve a sort of rallying cry with the group vocals.

Who else have you been listening to lately?

There is so much incredible and inspiring talent at the more local level. We’ve definitely been enjoying the works of Zoon, Sunnsetter, Eve Parker Finley, and Tyler Jafelice, to name a few.

Favourite 3 albums ever?

It’s always hard to answer this sort of question, but 3 albums that we always come back to are The Velvet Underground – Self-titled, Typhoon – White Lighter and The Clash – London Calling.

If your music was going to be used for a remake of any film, which one would you choose?

There’s this really hilarious late-90s post-apocalyptic movie called The Postman with Kevin Costner. Tom Petty has a pretty bizarre cameo in it too. Not sure if you could quite call it a cult classic, but it’s become strangely relevant this year… If anyone’s planning to remake this movie, please give us a call!

If you had the power to change anything, what would you love to see happen to make the world a better place?

It would be great for our so-called leaders to stop politicking and address the climate crisis in a meaningful way. There is a terrifying lack of leadership on the issue. Canada has been a resource-based economy and an oil-rich country for a long time. Now that the world is changing in the face of a climate emergency, we’re having an identity crisis. Politicians are abusing this moment we are in for personal/political gains on both sides. On one hand, there is a promise of a clean/green future that never comes to fruition, as we’ve seen with Trudeau federally, or with Horgan in B.C. On the other hand, there is a promise of a future that no longer exists, as we’re currently seeing with Kenney in Alberta. There are too many promises and not enough action, and that needs to change.

And what are your plans and hopes for Funeral Lakes, what happens next?

This project has always been about voicing our thoughts and feelings, so that’s not going to change, but the realities of how we can share our music and play live shows has been put on hold for the time being. We’re always writing and recording in our home space, so you can probably expect another EP from us in the spring. We have another big project in the works that’s a way’s off, but we’re really excited about. Ultimately, making connections and feeling less alone in all this is our hope with this music – that’s why we started this project.

You can catch up with Funeral Lakes here and listen to Eternal Return below. Golden Season is available now on Bandcamp.

 

Interview by Siobhan

5th October 2020

New Music – Teenanger | in earnest | Plants and Animals | The Strifes

New releases – Teenanger, in earnest, Plants and Animals, The Strifes

Teenanger – Good Times (album)

A new album out today from Toronto post-punks Teenanger showcases their development as a band along with an eclectic bunch of very accessible songs. Opening track Beige has hints of Joy Division until the dual vocals take things in a different direction, while recent single Touching Glass plays more to the alt pop audience. As well as making music, Teenanger are keeping the DIY ethos alive, running their label Telephone Explosion and operating a pay-what-you-can studio. The album has been a long time in the making yet retains a sense of urgency, warning of environmental damage and the reliance on technology while giving us some energy filled tunes to ease the pain.

Good Times is available now on Telephone Explosion, watch the video for Touching Glass below.

Teenanger

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in earnest – in earnest (EP)

We’ve previously featured the gorgeous tracks that Southend trio in earnest have released during the year and it’s a pleasure to see their debut EP coming to fruition next week. Fans of the band will already be familiar with the three singles and can look forward to another three equally compelling songs. Whilst the subject of mental health is far from being as taboo as it once was, it’s encouraging to find artists who are comfortable in being open about the difficulties around the struggles involved. Closing track The House encompasses all that in earnest are about, Sarah’s vocal sitting perfectly with from the heart lyrics, ‘These walls remember all that’s said and done, and my heart has chambers where the sadness runs’.

in earnest release their self-titled EP on 7th October, listen to 29 here.

in earnest

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Plants & Animals – Love that Boy (single) 

Ahead of the release of their latest album The Jungle later this month, Montreal’s Plants and Animals have shared new track Love that Boy this week. From the outset, it creates a dreamlike atmosphere with hazy layers of guitar and a soft drumbeat. The song contemplates growing from childhood to becoming part of a different family unit, Warren explains, It’s a song about my family, present and past, but it feels more like a meditation. I was upset, frustrated and feeling like no one knew me – the kid me, the me I still feel I am. And then writing the song chilled me out and put me right. It was a way to connect with my dead parents and with my new life as a dad, and to give everyone a proper hug.” The musical hug it provides offers a good indication that the album will be a welcome addition to the chaos of 2020.

Plants and Animals have live dates planned for February 2021. The Jungle is out on 23rd October on Secret City Records, watch the video for Love that Boy below.

Plants and Animals

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The Strifes – All Day and Night (single)

Hailing from the Southampton scene, The Strifes release debut single All Day and Night today. Pitching classic indie with a hint of Dandy Warhols-esque nostalgia, the three piece have captured a fresh energy filled sound that suggests there are festival anthems to come when that’s a possibility once again. A strong shot from the starting blocks for a band that only formed in May – keep an eye out to see what comes next.

Listen to All Day and Night here.

The Strifes

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via Hive Mind PR, in earnest, Sonic PR, Fitz Promotions
(Plants and Animals © Caroline Désilets)

2nd October 2020

 

New Music – Premium Leisure | Better Person

New releases – Premium Leisure, Better Person

Premium Leisure – Remedies

Sounding a little as though someone decided that they would indeed ride that white swan all the way to 2020, new release from Premium Leisure, Remedies, is a psych infused indie-pop tune that momentarily takes away the troubles of the world. Its feelgood factor is high and the recurring mantra of ‘Do whatever makes you feel good’ is infectious (chocolate for breakfast is fine, you heard it here first).

Premium Leisure is the solo project of songwriter and producer Chris Barker, who will already be known to many of you as guitarist for Willie J Healey. An EP is planned for early 2021 and with a supporting cast of fellow Oxford musicians including Ash Cooke of Be Good, Casper Miles & Jack Kendrew of PETSEMATARY, Bassist Harry Deacon and Willie J Healey working with Chris on the project, it looks to be a promising prospect.

Remedies considers a more laid back and outward looking mindset,” Chris explains, ‘to do what makes you, and people around you, feel good.’ And that seems like a pretty fair idea.

The track is the first release on new label, Plum Cuts; watch the video below and look out for more from Premium Leisure and Plum Cuts soon…

Premium Leisure

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Better Person – Close To You

Drawing inspiration from a different era, Better Person, aka Adam Byczkowski, has released new track Close to You, a soulful single with wafts of 80s’ decadence and Europop. The vocal adds a hypnotic layer to the equable backing music, the result is easy listening with an edge, something to close your eyes and relax to with a strong feeling of nostalgia in the making.

Adam says of the track “While I was writing this song in Berlin, I started feeling tormented by never ending obligations to go out and socialize every night. I would force myself out, get way too drunk and waste a lot of time talking to random people. What I was really longing for was a quieter night with someone I truly care about.”

Close To You is taken from Better Person’s upcoming debut album Something To Lose, due for release on 23rd October via Arbutus Records, listen below.

Better Person

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Words by Siobhan
Photos – Premium Leisure © Ash Cooke | Better Person © Tess Roby

25th September 2020 

Album Review: IDLES – Ultra Mono

The peaks and troughs of appreciation for IDLES have been especially prevalent in the news (or at least the slightly more spurious headlines) lately. It’s been interesting to see how a mass of readers generally happy to slate the NME for its progression into clickbait journalism can be equally swift to transfer that judgement onto its subjects based purely on the fragments of conversation it chooses to print. Following last week’s piece, social media focus was very much centred on IDLES’ lack of female support on their previous tour. No more than a few days later, the band announced an impressive string of female acts to support at next year’s shows and those same detractors seem to have been deafening in their silence in voicing this as a positive move. Mixed reviews of their new album have at times lauded their genius and alternately called out the simplicity of the often shouted lyrics, so what do people want from IDLES on third album Ultra Mono?

As a unit, they’ve never tried to present their music in any way other than raw and rough around the edges other than on the occasional more poignant track. And these guys have been around a long time, years longer than they’ve been in the public eye, and their sound has never been anything but unapologetically confrontational. It’s never going to be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey but IDLES have amassed a huge collective of supporters for whom their music has been a comfort and an opportunity to be part of the ever expanding community that surrounds them. At times, this can play to their detriment as there is an element of their following that has a bit of a pile-on approach if anyone criticises something they do but this is possibly true of any band – no artist can control how their fanbase grows; all they can do is keep making the music they love and hope that it speaks to people (or shouts at them sometimes, why not). Ultimately, whatever your views on the music, IDLES have responded to the criticism and invited some absolutely class acts on tour with them including Big Joanie, Cate Le Bon and Sinead O’Brien, Ultra Mono has some solid tracks on it that beg for the return of live music and their songs will continue to be an escape for many who are struggling with social restrictions, and that’s really no bad thing.

Produced by  Nick Launay (Nick Cave, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire) and Adam Adam Greenspan (Anna Calvi, Cut Copy) and featuring guest vocals from an unexpected collection of artists (Jehnny Beth, Warren Ellis, David Yow and Jamie Cullum) Ultra Mono brings IDLES’ third album release in only slightly more than as many years. Additional programming by American rap producer Kenny Beats takes the mood to a harder place, less singalong, more single minded. ‘How’d you like them clichés? Let’s seize the day, all hold hands, chase the pricks away’ snarls Joe Talbot on what is maybe the most transferable track from earlier days, Mr Motivator.

Throughout the album there are pace changes aplenty. Kill Them with Kindness jumps out with a thumping drumbeat and pure punk riffs and collab with Savages’ Jehnny Beth Ne Touche Pas Moi will doubtless be a live favourite, particularly if social distancing continues, as the references to everyone having their own dance space will be ironically appropriate. Carconogenic showcases IDLES doing what they do best, addressing social issues against adrenalin filled guitar bursts, berating the minimum wage and overworked nurses while providing an apocalyptically fine tune all in less than four minutes. A Hymn carries the role of quieter, reflective track, ‘I want to be loved, everybody does’ showing the universal underlying vulnerability that is often masked with bravado. The accompanying video documents a trip to the supermarket and if anything sums up this year it’s that.

Is there still a place for IDLES? Of course. Will everyone like this? Shouldn’t think so, but for many it will be the horse to their carriage. Does it matter? Not really, just enjoy it if you want to, let it make you happy if it does and don’t believe everything you read in the papers.

Ultra Mono is released tomorrow, 25th September 2020 via Partisan Records, album purchase and tour details here; watch the video for A Hymn below

Review by Siobhan
Photo © Tom Ham

24th September 2020 

Interview – The Clockworks

Drawn in by The Clockworks’ balance of angst, humour and spiky tunes, we asked vocalist James McGregor about their music, influences and what’s going on in their world right now…

How are things with The Clockworks, where and how have you been spending lockdown?

We’re all well, thankfully. Three of us went back to Ireland for a bit to spend some time with our families over lockdown, but all four of us are back living together in London again now and working as much as possible on music.

Your Galway roots are often mentioned alongside the flux of new bands coming out of Ireland – what do you think’s driving the Irish music scene at the moment?

I’m not sure to be honest. There just seems to be lots of great bands from Ireland at the moment. It’s funny because we were writing and playing for years in old sheds in the West of Ireland, oblivious to the world and planning how we’re going to someday ‘make it’. Now years later you realise there were loads of other bands in Ireland doing the same thing at the same time and not only that, but they’re starting to make it actually happen too.

You’ve been signed to Creation 23 by Alan McGee, how did that come about and how much were you aware of his previous work and reputation when he made contact?

Sean sent McGee an Instagram message the week we arrived in London. He was really enthusiastic and a couple of weeks later he was at a rehearsal, and that was it.

We were completely aware of his work and reputation. Sean and I had both read his book Creation Stories and were massive fans of his work. I think it was a complete shot in the dark to message him, but that’s the whole game isn’t it?

Tell us about your latest single Can I Speak To A Manager – what’s the story behind it?

The story is basically about being delivered a faulty laptop, and the existential crisis that follows. Lyrically it started off with “My God what a palaver, I swear you could not write it”. I just liked the irony and how dramatic it was and I knew the story that followed it had to be really prosaic.

You’ve been championed by the likes of Steve Lamacq and Annie Mac, how does it feel to hear yourselves on the radio and get that kind of support?

Yeah it’s great. We really appreciate the support from BBC, they’re playing us quite a bit now and radio still seems to have so much pull even in this modern, streaming world.

It’s nice to see John Cooper Clarke regularly noted as one of your influences – do you have a favourite poem or line of his?

Yeah, to be honest he was the first poet that bridged the gap between my love of words and my intimidation in the face of poetry. One line I always wish I’d had is from I Don’t Want To Be Nice:
‘What you see is what you get
You only live twice
A friend in need is a friend in debt
I don’t want to be nice’

What are some of your earliest music related memories and which artists have stood the test of time for you?

One of my earliest memories is from listening to David Bowie – Starman with my family and being swept away by it. I always loved it. I think his music has stood the test of time. My parents used to play a lot of funk, and I think Nile Rogers seems to be as popular as ever which says a lot. The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, Gil-Scott Heron…

First and last gigs you went to?

The first gig I can remember was a Pride Festival “Big Gay Out” in Finsbury Park in 2004. My whole family went and Fun Lovin’ Criminals were playing. It was either that or Busted in Wembley. I think the last gig I went to was The Libertines in Brixton Academy with my girlfriend. It was mental.

2020’s been a harsh year in many ways, what’s been good for you despite everything?

To be honest, despite the tumult, we’ve had a lot of good moments and we’ve been lucky so far this year. We’ve had the opportunity to write loads which is great, and we’ve released two songs over lockdown which have both been received well. Our first Radio 1 play earlier in the Summer felt great. And it’s just been amazing to see our music connecting to people more and more.

And lastly, assuming restrictions continue to lift, what are your hopes and plans for The Clockworks in the coming year?

Keep writing and releasing, and hopefully get back on tour for some gigs. It’s impossible to plan too much at the moment. We’re just looking forward to gigging as much as we can.

Catch up with The Clockworks here and watch the video for Can I Speak to a Manager? below

Interview by Siobhan
Band photo © Oscar Ryan

21st September 2020

New Music – Pet Shimmers | Pillow Queens | World News | Marika Hackman

New releases – Pet Shimmers, Pillow Queens, World News, Marika Hackman

Pet Shimmers – Live-In Atrocity / Snake Eats a Lady

This week brings two new tracks from Bristol collective Pet Shimmers, offering an insight into what to expect from their forthcoming album Trash Earthers. If this is anything to go by, the album will be elegantly eclectic and well worth a listen. Live-In Atrocity, the smoother of the two, mixes hazy synths and harmonies to create a Diamond Dogs-esque foreboding backdrop to reality. The pace changes significantly on Snake Eats a Lady with punchier guitars and a more frenzied delivery. Prepare to take a journey with unexpected twists and turns at every junction.

Pet Shimmers have live dates planned across the UK in March/April 2021. Trash Earthers is due for release on 2nd October via the band’s own label, PS Records – pre-order here; you can watch the video for Live-In Atrocity below.

Pet Shimmers

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Pillow Queens – In Waiting (album release date 25th September)

Following significant success in Ireland, having played shows with both Pussy Riot and IDLES and caught the ear of the 6 Music playlist, Pillow Queens look set to attract a much wider audience with their pending album release, In Waiting. Their style is hard to define, flitting smoothly from indie rock to an almost country-tipped twang, popping by to nod towards Cerys Matthews and Imelda May along the way. It makes for a very accomplished and cohesive overall feel.

The content of the album is said to address issues including ‘job insecurity, housing crises, income equality, social inequity and strength in unity, self-love, queer love, love for your city and the belief in the power of art’. That’s quite the narrative, achieved whilst maintaining positive, quirky tunes that will engage you from the start. Look out for In Waiting next week, pre-order link here, release date is 25th September. In the meantime, watch the video for latest single Holy Show below.

Pillow Queens

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World News – Job and Money (EP)

Released today, some World News that we can actually enjoy against the perplexity of the actual world news. This 5 track EP, Job and Money, charts the realities of the self-doubt and anxiety that kick in amidst a relationship breakdown, the songs vocalising conflicting emotions and the often obstructed walk back to a better place. Recent single Lend Me Your Brain is rooted in the intricacies of art-pop guitar, the whole EP having a lightly blown 80s’ feel about it. A personal favourite is opening track Give it Time, distinctly reminiscent of The Cars’ Best Friend’s Girl with its choppy riffs and vocals, a song that sticks in your head for all the right reasons.

Mixed by Speedboat, another band on the ones to watch list, Job and Money is available now, listen here.

World News

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Marika Hackman – Realiti

Ahead of her self-produced album Covers, Marika Hackman has released her scaled back version of Grimes’ Realiti. With more emphasis on the vocal than the pulsating beats of the original, it’s a respectful tribute whilst showcasing the subtlety of Marika’s tone.  Speaking of her choices for the album, she says “When it comes to covers, I like to pick songs which I have been listening to obsessively for a while. It gives me a natural understanding of the music, and lets me be more innovative with how I transform it”. With her take on artists as diverse as Alvvays, Beyonce and Radiohead, this looks to be an interesting collection of songs as you’ve never heard or anticipated them before.

Covers is set for release on 13th November via Transgressive / Sub Pop Records, pre-order here and watch the video for Realiti below.

Marika Hackman

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via One Beat PR, Practise Music, Quick Swimmers and Prescription PR
(Pet Shimmers © Gravy Manuellé, Marika Hackman © Luke Booth)

18th September 2020

Interview – The Roly Mo

The wealth of talent surging out of Glasgow continues as four-piece The Roly Mo release their debut EP, full of self-assured sashays through the Reptilia style post-punk riffs of Control Yourself to the glam kickback of Diamond Doll. We caught up with Joe and Lewis from the band to find out more…

How are you all, how’s lockdown been treating you?

We are better than ever… thriving in this environment and currently writing our best music to date.

The scene in and around Glasgow right now is producing some real quality acts, what makes it such a good base for creating music?

Glasgow’s natural chaotic vibe seems to be perfect for any upcoming bands to start themselves off… a lot of people love live music in this city.

Your recent single Control Yourself has been getting some great reviews, what’s the story behind it?

I’d like to think of it as a song that plays in your head when you have a hangover and you did something the night before that you regret more than ever! It’s just a song about people with any kind of addiction.

Tell us about your new EP TRM

It’s a 6 track record which will take you on a roller coaster of energy and emotions. We wanted it to be that way, for people to have something to really sink their teeth into and ultimately we’re all very proud of this to be our first major release.

Looking back to your earlier days, what was the first gig you played together and how did it go?

The first gig we played was at a pub in Cumbernauld and was actually for a relative’s birthday party so it wasn’t even a proper gig. We played a mix of some early tunes we wrote and a few covers.

A lot of bands don’t last longer than a year, what were the key things that happened along the way that made you think you could make it work?

This is the first band we’d all joined, so there’s something cool about that I suppose. We also have really good chemistry when playing, sometimes that’s hard to find and I think we understood that early on.

If you could pick any two other artists to play on the same bill as now, who would you choose?

Probably The Strokes & Kanye West.

Apart from The Roly Mo, who else should we be adding to our new music playlist?

Right now it would have to be Rascalton, Spyres and Pleasure Heads.

And what are your plans for the rest of the year?

Just write as much new material as possible and practice in the studio once a week so that when we go back to playing gigs normally we’ll be potent.

TRM was released on Friday via independent label 7 West Music, produced by the esteemed local pairing of Johnny Madden (Baby Strange) and Chris Marshall (Gerry Cinnamon) – listen here and watch the lyric video for Diamond Doll below

Interview by Siobhan

16th September 2020

Album Review – Hannah Georgas: All That Emotion

Hannah Georgas – All That Emotion

The euphonious tones of Hannah Georgas are back on her new album, All That Emotion, released today. For fans of The Beths and Say Sue Me, the Toronto singer-songwriter brings her own take on dreamy, refreshing tunes that, whilst easy on the ear, tackle tales of heartbreak and acceptance.

Track titles including Someone I Don’t Know, Same Mistakes and Cruel give you an indication of the soul searching that has gone into making this record, Pray It Away telling the story of a difficult conversation with her family about same-sex marriage, opening with the line, ‘I’ve been afraid to tell you everything going on in my head’, a feeling that will surely resonate, whatever subject matter the listener has had to navigate.

The album has been beautifully produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, very much in the spotlight for his recent work with Taylor Swift but making it clear here that he is not restricted by genre. The combination of Georgas and Dessner results in a purity of sound that is both poignant and optimistic. All in all, this is an accomplished collection of songs that hold up individually yet flow seamlessly together.

All That Emotion is released today through Brassland Records / Arts & Crafts and is available to purchase here. Watch the lyric video for latest single Easy below.

Review by Siobhan

4th September 2020

Album Review – Young Knives: Barbarians

Young Knives – Barbarians

After a seven year absence, Young Knives return with a new album that feels dark, confrontational and a world away from their early troubled meeting with the parents in She’s Attracted To, although the simplistic but heartfelt opening line on Weekends and Bleak Days of ‘Hot Summer, what a bummer’ remains a valid statement of fact in my eyes.

Back in the present day, Barbarians takes much of its inspiration from John Gray’s provocatively nihilistic Straw Dogs, a book that effectively questions the human role in humanity. Taking this standpoint with all that is happening in the world right now, it becomes easier to understand the amplified vigour and aggression of Young Knives’ new sound.

Kicking off with the appropriately named Swarm, things surge straight into a wall of electronic noise and robotic oration. Follow up track Society for Cutting up Men (SCUM) implores, ‘Explain yourself to a live studio audience’, reflecting the need for people to feel seen, heard and validated in today’s society rather than to just do what’s best. Throughout the album, the inflections of psych synths and pounding drum machines ensure that this is a piece of work you need to sit up and pay attention to. There are moments of undeniably PIL-esque rage, in fact ‘Anger is an energy’ might just be the perfect way to describe Barbarians. I get the sense though that this will not end in a butter advert.

Both the title track and recent single Sheep Tick are stand outs, unsettling but arresting in their contention. The album finishes with What I Saw, a fitting close to what, after repeated listens, sounds increasingly like a concept album for the forgotten, dystopian dance-beats for the dissidents. Take a listen and be prepared to hear Young Knives like you never heard them before. 

Barbarians is released on 4th September via Gadzook, you can pre-order the album in various formats with some limited edition options here. Watch the video for Sheep Tick below.

Review by Siobhan 

28th August 2020

 

New Music – Bandante | Baby Vanga

New releases – Bandante, Baby Vanga

Bandante – So This is Now (music/video)

When he’s not playing guitar with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, George Vjestica fires some of the many strings from his bow into his always organic project Bandante, in which he records and collaborates with other musicians, artists and film-makers. The latest offering from Bandante is So This is Now, featuring visuals from Timothy Shepard, a contemporary artist who works with film, music, paper and photo montage.

The track is a multi-layered pool of crescendo and decline, a backdrop to modern day living that could conjure up powerful imagery on its own. However, the addition of Shepard’s cut up representation of dystopian protest is equally as compelling. There is talk of further collaboration between the two in the form of a sound and vision installation; based on this piece, it feels like that would be an experience to relish.

Watch the video for So This is Now below.

Bandante

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Baby Vanga – Electric Air (single)

If your genre pick is a fusion of psychedelic jazz and Latin funk, then Baby Vanga should be right up your street. If you just want to watch a video featuring safari suits, 60’s roll-necks and flying cars, you’re also in luck. With their latest single Electric Air, the band bring you kaleidoscopic nods to 5th Dimension’s Age of Aquarius updated with subtle jazz infusions and flute runs to hypnotise your mind into forgetting your troubles. The easy flow of the track belies the combination of instruments and flawless mixing and, as they’ve done all the hard work, you can dust off your flares, sit back and relax to the Baby Vanga soundtrack. The band say, “Electric Air is a brief exploration into the endless journey of finding purpose within actions, yet being aware of the beauty in the actions themselves. Reflecting this is the insecure effect of the odd time enclosed by entwining genres, that’s contrasted by lighthearted melodies and the overall optimism the song tries to illustrate.”

Strap yourselves in and watch the video for Electric Air below.

Baby Vanga

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Both tracks have been added to our Now Listening playlist

Words by Siobhan
Bandante photo © Michael Dent

19th August 2020

Interview – Annie Taylor

Ahead of the release of their debut album Sweet Mortality next month, we had a chat with grunge-psych-pop quartet Annie Taylor. Named after the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, the band are fast making a name of their own with their energy filled tunes and performances; get to know them better here…

Introduce us to Annie Taylor, who’s involved in the band?

We are a four-piece band from Zurich, Switzerland. There is Tobi on the guitar, Michael on the bass, Jan on the drums and I (Gini) am singing and playing guitar.

How are things with you, is lockdown still easing in Zurich?

Currently, it seems like people are getting aware again, that we are still in the middle of an ongoing pandemic. I guess everyone is longing to get back to their usual nightlife habits, but at the moment it looks like there will be no big events taking place anytime soon. But who knows? Could all be different by tomorrow…

And musically how have you managed to keep things going this year?

It was like being on a rollercoaster! We had so many plans in the beginning of 2020 that we were looking forward to: US tour, shows in the UK and festivals in Switzerland. Having the whole US tour and basically all festivals cancelled was a real bummer. And on top of that we also had to reschedule the release of our first album, which was not an easy decision… But on the other hand we suddenly had so much time again to spend with loved ones, writing music or just hanging around. It was a pretty busy time for us in the past year, so this ‘just hanging around’ phase was actually also pretty cool.

Your album Sweet Mortality is due for release in September – tell us about it, what have been the highlights of making the LP?

This was the first time that we actually recorded in a proper studio, where the sole focus was the making of this album. In the beginning of the band it was hard to pay for a studio, so on the previous recordings we got lucky to work with sound-engineering students, that needed some projects to work on in order to improve their skill set. This time, it was completely different. We recorded with engineer and producer David Langhard the first single of the album (17 Days) and it just instantly clicked. Spending time with him and recording at Dala Studios was a blast and I can’t wait to return! The whole production of the album recordings, artwork, music video and so on was really exciting and we also had a lot of support from very talented friends who helped us out wherever they could.

You have a vinyl option for the album, why do you think vinyl’s so popular again?

In our digital world, we are able to listen to whatever we want at any time. But I think it rocks when you go to a concert and buy a vinyl so you can actually hold the music in your hands. I guess it’s also a reminder of the good old times – vinyl forever!

Which other artists have been on your lockdown playlist?

We actually made a lockdown playlist and it turned out as a wild mix of everything! There’s songs of our favourite artists like Wolf Alice, Bleached or Amyl and the Sniffers on it, but also we discovered a lot of unknown artists during the lockdown, which made it on the playlist (I am very happy about getting introduced to Jessica Lea Mayfield!). You can listen to the playlist here:


And what’s your local music scene like, where have you rehearsed and played since the band started and who’s helped you along the way?

There are a lot of really nice venues in Zurich which are hosting a lot of amazing artists. So we are actually very spoiled, when it comes to listening to live music. A lot of touring bands make a quick stop in Zurich, which is awesome! We were lucky to open for bands that we are looking up to, like Sugar Candy Mountain or Sunflower Bean.

Thanks to the lockdown we finally cleaned out our rehearsal space, where we are practicing A LOT. It’s a shelter without windows, in an industrial basement. It’s not the nicest place to hang out, but it’s comfy. Sometimes we also have friends over and every once in a while our label daddy Piet (Taxi Gauche Records) or our booking and MGMT team from Young and Aspiring are popping round with some refreshments, i.e. cold beers.

Any album, any film and any book – what do you choose?

Jan’s pick: The movie Hidden Figures – it’s a very powerful movie about kick ass women and black community power.

Michael’s pick: Motörhead –1916, favorite album ever.

Tobi’s pick: The Ozzy Book. Why? I think this is the only book he ever read, lol.

Gini’s pick: I am hooked on the crime podcasts by GEO Epoche – it’s about historical crimes from the past.

Lastly, what are your hopes and plans for Annie Taylor over the coming year?

Right now, all we are hoping for is that the venues are surviving the pandemic and we can go play shows again.

You can pre-order Sweet Mortality prior to its release on 4th September via Taxi Gauche Records. Catch up with Annie Taylor here and check out latest release Where the Grass is Greener below.

Interview by Siobhan
Band photo © Piet Alder

13th August 2020

A Song for the Times – i refuse to die

Sydney Sprague, a Phoenix, Arizona singer-songwriter, has just released i refuse to die from her upcoming album Maybe I’ll See You at The End of The World. The title is a line from the song End of the World, written two years ago. All this music was written and recorded prior to the pandemic so it seems even more significant for the times we are living in.

Sydney started playing guitar at 11, appearing at coffee shops and malls with the support of her parents. Her dad was often her roadie as well. She moved to Austin, Texas at 18 for a short while before returning to continue writing and performing in Phoenix for the last 10 years. She has released 3 EPs since 2015. I’ve been fortunate to see her many times at Phoenix venues before everything shut down. It’s been fun to watch her grow musically and get to know her.

In January of this year Sydney headed up to Seattle, Washington for a month to work with producer/engineer Sam Rosson to record the album. She was joined by Chuck Morriss III, on bass and synth, and Josh Morin, on drums, both musicians from Jared and The Mill, a band out of Phoenix. Once the project was done, it was mixed by Mike Lepe and now is just waiting for release.

Sydney wrote i refuse to die in December prior to recording, to force herself to remain positive and not wait for the other shoe to drop. The song starts softly, switches to uptempo, then returns to the beginning tempo. She explores what is necessary to keep moving forward.

Because of the limitation placed on being safely in one place, Sydney created a video for the song by using a green screen, using her phone and spending two weeks learning how to use the software to create the video with Rachael (Ray Squared Productions) Smith helping with the news ticker. Set up as a news broadcast, Sydney and Chuck are the newscasters. It is a fun visual interpretation of the song that brings some lightness into these dark times we are living in. The song is on all streaming platforms; you can watch the video below and find more from Sydney Sprague here.

Words and photos (taken prior to lockdown) © Jennifer Mullins

10th August 2020

New Music – Hallan | Medium Love | Susan

New releases – Hallan, Medium Love, Susan

Hallan – Modern England (single)

Released today, Hallan’s latest single Modern England takes an askance look at the paradox of the nation, questioning what’s important as people stumble through life changing events whilst clinging on to social media trends and likes. The band describe the track thus, “With so many strange and vapid trends gripping the nation sometimes you have to take it all in and find some humour beneath the surface. Pugs and face changing apps. What’s that all about? And how could we forget Brexit? It’s a good job we all have our red passports. But then again does anyone in the country have a clue what’s ever going on? Maybe it’ll all blow over if I stick to my microwave dinner and keep my eyes on the screen.” Hallan sit alongside contemporaries like Squid and Shame, both in terms of musical style and observational lyrical content. It’s a real pity that there’s no opportunity to see these new tracks live right now, but don’t let this band pass you by as they seem to be producing consistently quality songs.

 

Hallan

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Medium Love – Overcoming Shyness (EP)

Releasing their debut EP today, Medium Love proffer four tracks filled with sun-kissed guitar riffs and hazy indie-pop that would ironically be perfect for a sunny day at a festival – alas, we can still only dream. Born from the break up of trippy songsters Big Deal, there are unsurprisingly some similarities in the harmonies but the overall sound feels clearer and more absorbent. With a hint of nostalgia and changes in pace between each of the tracks, Overcoming Shyness is a solid introduction to the band, displaying their ability to capture different moods and emotions in the blink of an eye. Vocalist Kacey Underwood says, “Most of my songs come to me in dreams – they are the soundtrack, sometimes I write about what happened in the dream or how it made me feel, I keep a phone by my bed to spit in all out before it evaporates into dream dust”. Take a listen to some captured dream dust here.

 

Medium Love

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Susan – Rose (single)

Hypnotic track Rose is the fourth in a series of monthly releases from Susan, an experimental pop artist who is creating an innovative mix of haunting melodies entangled with an ominous electro/guitar cacophony of sound. That may suggest something a bit disturbing but the result is really quite beautiful. Each monthly release will be backed with a visual created by different artists and videographers; this looks like a project that is definitely worth taking some time out to discover and embrace in all its other-worldly charms. Susan says, Rose is a track written about finding yourself within spaces where self love isn’t acceptable; Eventually pushing you to a place where you experience a higher knowledge of self. It’s about realising your worth through self doubt and depreciation… It needed to invoke the unsettling feeling of not understanding deeply who you are.”

 

Susan

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Words by Siobhan

7th August 2020

 

Album Review – The Psychedelic Furs: Made of Rain

The Psychedelic Furs – Made of Rain

Way back amongst a plethora of snarling punk and poppier new wave outfits, The Psychedelic Furs immediately stood out; so much more than the three chord backdrop of the era and Richard Butler’s gravelly vocal bringing a rich, haunting hook, his brother Tim adding deep bass-tones. The dark undertone of tracks like Sister Europe and President Gas stands up all these years later, the haze of Love My Way embedded as a time stamp of the early 80s.

Several decades later then it seems somehow unlikely that they could be producing an album that can still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but here we are with Made of Rain, a collection of songs that sound every bit as valid against today’s oddly dystopian background.

Opening track The Boy who Invented Rock and Roll is a strong starter awash with jagged synths, fading into the gritty couplets of Don’t Believe, an updated version of a sound that is unmistakably The Psychedelic Furs. There’s a lot to take in as the album progresses and its mood swings from the upbeat Come All Ye Faithful to the more anthemic Turn Your Back on Me, that would surely provoke a lighters in the air moment live if only people didn’t just use the flashlight on their phones these days.

All in all, Made of Rain is a very welcome return from a band that could easily have chosen to eat out on past triumphs but instead have put together a whole new dining experience for fans past and present. In many cases a long absence is best left to continue, but kudos to the Butler brothers and their new ensemble, this is a happy reunion and adds some fresh content to the songbook without taking anything away from its beautiful past.

Made Of Rain is released tomorrow, 31st July, on Cooking Vinyl. The album will be available on gatefold double 12” vinyl, CD, cassette and digital download with exclusive and signed items available from the band’s Official Store. Link to pre-order and pending tour dates here; watch the video for Come All Ye Faithful below.

Review by Siobhan
Photo © Matthew Reeves

30th July 2020

Album Review – Fontaines DC: A Hero’s Death

Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Death

As a debut album Dogrel more than did its job, a loud, unrepentant punch into the world full of bravado and disquiet, plunging Fontaines DC into mass market idolatry with extensive touring and a saturated fanbase. There are still people shouting about the fact that it hasn’t made this year’s Mercury list despite being on last year’s; a fan favourite for sure.

But make no mistake, Fontaines DC are not here to play puppets to anyone’s expectations, it’s surely no coincidence that the lead track on new album A Hero’s Death contains the repeated refrain ‘I don’t belong to anyone’ and it’s clear from the outset that this album has a whole different sound.

Still the familiarity of the Mark E Smith-esque swagger shines through on recent single Televised Mind and Living in America, but delve into the other songs and you’ll find unexpected hints of Wire, Leonard Cohen and Throbbing Gristle. The angst is still there but it manifests itself through controlled balladry and contemplation, notably mid-album on side by side tracks You Said and Oh Such a Spring.

When you’ve found a winning formula, it’s a bold move to leave it to one side, but the world is a very different place to what it was a year ago and A Hero’s Death feels like a much better fit right now. It’s only a tricky second album if you try to replicate the first one and there’s no danger of that here. Throw your presumptions aside and enjoy the new incarnation.

UK tour dates are planned for May 2021 and the band have just announced outstore performances for Resident in Brighton and Banquet Records in Kingston in November, updated regulations allowing.

A Hero’s Death is out via Partisan Records this Friday 31st July – preorder link here. You can watch its first performance streamed in A Night at Montrose, Dublin on Monday 3rd August; all album purchases from the Fontaines DC store by 9pm on 2nd will receive an access code beforehand. Watch the video for Televised Mind below.

Review by Siobhan

28th July 2020