Interview – Tom John Hall

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!

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You can catch up with Tom here; My Big Album is available to purchase now

Interview by Siobhan
Photo via One Beat PR

12th April 2021

 

New Music – Playlist

New releases – The Early Mornings, Tokky Horror, Amongst The Pigeons, Ostrich, Talk Show, Red Ribbon

With so much great new music coming through, it’s been tough to pick out just a few for review. So this week we’ve done a bumper playlist update and recommend that you give all these fine artists a listen…

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The Early Mornings

Maintaining the tradition of keeping Manchester on the music map, The Early Mornings share new single Blank Sky ahead of their debut EP Unnecessary Creation, due for self-release on 18th June.

Deadpan vocals, dead good song, high hopes for what may come next.

The Early Mornings

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Tokky Horror

Latest single Godliness is out now from from Liverpool’s electro-punk 3 piece Tokky Horror. The band release their debut EP I Found the Answers and Now I Want More on 21st May via Alcopop! Records. UK festival and tour dates are planned for later this year.

An intoxicating track filled with trance and dance, take some time out for the Tokky Horror show.

Tokky Horror

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Amongst The Pigeons

Perhaps better known for its seagulls, coastal Sussex is also home to electronica artist Amongst The Pigeons (aka producer Daniel Parsons). Available to pre-order now, his fourth album Silence Will Be Assumed As Acceptance is set for release on 7th May. New single Colour Blind is out today.

Electro-psych with a sprinkling of Giorgio Moroder meets Mike Skinner, all in under 2 minutes.

Amongst The Pigeons

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Ostrich

Our second pick this week from Liverpool’s burgeoning scene, alt popsters Ostrich released their third single 48 Hours last week.

Multi layered, multi talented, crossing genres and eras, get your head out of the sand and get onto this.

Ostrich

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Talk Show

The second half of a collaborative project with producer Eli Brown and Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, Talk Show carry the post-punk torch for London with recent track Trouble. (Part 1 saw vocalist Harrison Swann add to Brown’s version of the song). The collision of musical styles takes Talk Show in a new direction, adding to their already impressive catalogue.

Abrasive and affirming, if there’s ever a Trainspotting 3 this would sit snugly on the soundtrack.

Talk Show

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Red Ribbon

Way is the new single from LA based Emma Danner, aka Red Ribbon. Her pending album Planet X is out on 11th June via Danger Collective Records.

Cinematic and gushing with dark riffs, this will sit well with fans of PJ Harvey and Angel Olson. Take a listen.

Red Ribbon

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via Prescription PR, Wall of Sound PR, Amongst The Pigeons, Ostrich, Prescription PR, One Beat PR

9th April 2021

Album Review – For Those I Love

For Those I Love

For Those I Love, at its core, is testament to the power of friendship. Platonic love between friends, and more specifically men, is not often discussed in depth by popular music, despite the somewhat surface level shout outs. Dublin’s David Balfe, however, has crafted a tremendous record on the subject, drenched in the grief at the loss of his close friend Paul Curran.

The opening track, I Have A Love, generated widespread interest as a single last year for its spacious electronica against Balfe’s proclamation that “I have a love, and it never fades”. This phrase re-appears throughout the album, like a calming mantra used to pull Balfe back to the centre of his emotions when things get too dark. Which they do. Moments such as The Myth/I DO, where Balfe admits to not checking his phone any longer due to the anxiety of receiving a similar phone call to the one that brought him the news of the tragedy, are emotionally striking, and the album is bursting with vulnerable admissions like it. Top Scheme and Birthday/The Pain are some of the few moments where Balfe allows the listener a wider glimpse into his experiences, tackling class inequality in post-recession Ireland and the desire to break free from an oppressive environment – the latter opening with the chilling childhood flashback, “body dumped on me road when I was 6 – stabbed to death and left on bricks”.

It’s an emotional listen, like peeking at the pages of someone’s diary, though thankfully musically For Those I Love compliments the lyrics, which on their own would potentially be far too difficult a listen.

Elements of trance, UK garage and early dubstep amalgamate to invoke a sound post-warehouse rave, the feeling of being at a rave rather than the music necessarily played at one. Glitchy synths, pitched up vocals and intermittent pianos along with a range of samples from Smokey Robinson to WhatsApp voice memos all come together to complete a beautifully nocturnal and mournful sonic texture.

If the album sees Balfe tussle through the stages of grief, closer Leave Me Not Love offers the clearest moments of acceptance and hope. The opening track’s hypnotic melody returns and though he admits that still “There’s rain that will never go away, there’s days and days of every kind of pain”, it’s on a positive note that the same love is the one that is going to provide the deepest catharsis, “But those I love brought me back to health, and I ain’t never need nothing else”, it’s one of the few moments on the album which seems to look forward rather than backwards.

With this in mind, and with For Those I Love being bookended so beautifully, what musical endeavour Balfe will move onto next remains somewhat unclear. However, if it touches on the quality shown here, it will no doubt be worth listening to.

For Those I Love is out now – you can purchase the album here and listen to David Balfe speaking about the album on the podcast below.

Review by Ryan Bell

5th April 2021

New Music – Holiday Ghosts | Paul Jacobs | Barnaby Keen | Hooveriii

New releases – Holiday Ghosts, Paul Jacobs, Barnaby Keen, Hooveriii

Holiday Ghosts – Off Grid (single)

Time to head off grid and have some fun with this track from Holiday Ghosts, a fine advert for upcoming album North Street Air. Quirky and full of escapism, the riffs and dual vocals are a refreshing take on ‘hard-won alone time in an always connected world’. With hints of Menace Beach and a nostalgia for simpler times, Off Grid offers up a few minutes reprieve from the mundane; great video too.

North Street Air will be released via FatCat Records on 21st May and is available for pre-order here.

Holiday Ghosts

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Paul Jacobs – Day to Day (single)

Perhaps best known as drummer with Pottery, Paul Jacobs is showcasing his pending solo album Pink Dogs on the Green Grass with a self-animated video for Day to Day. The track sees him reflecting on happy memories in suitably slacker-psych, laid back fashion.

Paul explains, “This song was inspired by a trip with friends during which we played at a festival near a river out in the woods. The experience stuck with us as one of the greatest times in our lives. The song is a reminder to live for today and shoot for your dreams”.

Pink Dogs on the Green Grass will be released in the UK on 11th June via Blow The Fuse Records; pre-order here.

Paul Jacobs

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Barnaby Keen – Lay Our Cards (single)

Lay Our Cards, the debut single from multi-instrumentalist Barnaby Keen certainly bodes well for the future. Crossing genres to produce a hazy track fusing fuzzy dream-pop and melodies ‘inspired by Latin American music and Dub’, Barnaby draws on his experience of working with other artists and forges it into his own combination of immersive sound.

Released on South London label Plum Cuts, Lay Our Cards is out now, you can purchase the single here.

Barnaby Keen

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Hooveriii – Erasure (single)

Ahead of excellently named album Water for the Frogs, Hooveriii have shared their latest track Erasure. While the title may call to mind Vince Clarke’s synth-pop of the 80s, this is more synth with attitude and a dose of garage-psych. Talking about the track, Hooveriii say, “Maybe the most sonically aggressive jam on the LP, Erasure is also the only love song. Originally demoed in a more straightforward fashion, but when Shaughnessy added the rhythmic toms it became more of a war chant. Big primitive energy, much like the destructive nature of love. The song also features wicked dueling sax and war cries from Gabe Flores & Gabe Salomón”. If someone’s offering to play you a love song, accept nothing less than this.

Water for the Frogs is due to be released on 9th April for The Reverberation Appreciation Society and can be pre-ordered here.

Hooveriii

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via Prescription PR, Silver PR, Chalk Press Agency, Cabin Fever Collective

26th March 2021

Interview – The Underground Youth

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.

The Falling is out now on Fuzz Club Records – you can purchase the album here or from your local independent.

Interview by Siobhan
Photos by Miriam Marlene Waldner (header) and Laura Cherry Grove

16th March 2021

IWD 2021 – Ali Comerford

Continuing our series for International Women’s Day, we’re pleased to introduce singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ali Comerford. Having studied in London and New York then played in orchestras around the world, Ali is now back in her native Ireland and has released her debut solo single He Knows this week, with an album to follow later in the year. Join our conversation here to find out more…

How are you doing, what’s kept you going through lockdown?

Honestly as with most people, there are good days and bad days. I think it’s hard to remain positive 100% of the time but what I will say is that with a little bit of grace (for myself and the people around me) and a whole lot of music, this has turned into a very transformative time. The lockdown forced me to stop moving and to come home and really it’s been a blessing to spend more time with my family even if it’s through social distanced walks or chats through a window. Also it gave me the agency to actually release my music for the first time which is really exciting.

You’ve been playing music since you were really young, who or what got you started?

My Mam was adamant that all of her children would play music and thank God for that! I was in a primary school that promoted music, everyone played something. Regina O’Leary was the driving force and champion of music lessons for all. I’m extremely grateful to her for her patience and persistence. Imagine running an orchestra of 50 6 year olds?!

What are your early memories of listening to music with family or on the radio and TV?

Earliest memories are probably dancing with my sister Lori to whatever was playing and feeling completely exhilarated, like you are in the exact right place at the exact right time. The idea that music could not just enhance but effect or change your mood was clear to me from a very young age. As the youngest child of 4, I was a giant people pleaser so I think as soon as I found out I could make people happy through music, I was hooked.

Your debut album is set to be released later this year – what can we expect?

Lots of strings, lots of emotion. I think this album is just my heart wrapped up in sound waves, that’s why it’s been so scary putting it out into the world. I played everything myself so its all acoustic.

Has it felt strange moving away from making purely classical music?

Not really actually! I’ve always played many different types of music. When I was a kid me and my brother and cousin used to sit outside a local bookshop every week and busk playing and singing Beatles songs and anything that was within the 4-6 chords we knew. We were occasionally paid to stop but I can’t blame them. When you’re on to the third hour of hearing “It’s been a hard days night” from a group of 10 year olds, I think it’s the right decision to pay them off. But even while in college, I took a pop song writing course at the Royal College of Music as an elective while I was doing my masters in violin performance and I loved it so much. Every Friday morning we would gather in one of the towers and listen to pop very loud while analysing lyrics. It felt so liberating to enjoy that music in such an intense classical environment, it was the best part of my week. In New York I played violin in a few bands on the side for fun. I have never subscribed to the idea that music has bounds and that includes boxing yourself in to one genre. The beauty of music is that it transcends any barriers that we as humans usually like to enforce so it is possible to have Debussy and D’Angelo on the same playlist.

Your single He Knows showcases your vocals beautifully – how does it feel taking centre stage when you’ve been surrounded by people in an orchestra previously?

It’s a little nerve wrecking I’m not going to lie but it’s also extremely exciting. I want to be the most authentic performer that I can be and I think for me right now that means I have to showcase this other side of my musicianship that till now I kept for myself.

Are there any female artists who you’d cite as influences?

There are so many female artist that I massively look up to: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Tabea Zimmermann and Martha Argerich are absolute giants in their fields and I have been greatly influenced in different ways by all of them. Be it their stage presence or musicality or lyrics, each of them has moulded me as a musician and I am truly grateful for that. There’s also artists like Yebba, Lizzy McAlpine, H.E.R and Celeste that are doing really beautiful and exciting things right now and they definitely inspire me to create every day.

You’ve spent time in London and New York, will Kilkenny always feel like home?

Definitely, my family is mostly here and I think in that way even when I leave I know I will always have a place here. It offers that sense of comfort that only home can bring.

What’s your favourite venue that you’ve played?

I think that anywhere that someone asks you to come and play, it’s a privilege. It’s more about the vibe of the audience and the energy you can create together. There have been a few special stages though that I can’t deny were highlights, the Royal Albert Hall and the National Concert Hall in Dublin were really great but the big one was in Carnegie Hall, it was one of those moments where I thought ok this is why this is hyped so much!! I felt the amazing energy there and it made me want to give my all.

And what are your hopes for the coming year?

This year I want to release my music, create as much new music as possible and commit to being a good human. If I can manage those things in this crazy time I will feel like I have accomplished a lot.

Ali Comerford: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter 

Photos © Shane Hatton

The rest of our IWD 2021 series can be viewed here

11th March 2021

IWD 2021 – Slyboots

Continuing our series for International Women’s Day, we took a virtual trip across the water to have a chat with Tiffany Lyons, vocalist with melodic rock band Slyboots. Join us below to find out about how Slyboots came to be, life in New York and their love of literature… 

Introduce us to Slyboots, who’s involved and how would you describe your music?

Slyboots is a melodic dream. Our band family is made up of our lyricist and guitarist, KG Noble; bass player, Margaret LaBombard; keyboardist and harmony wizard, JayJay Lozano; drummer, Ted Marcus (of Meat Puppets fame, and also Margaret’s husband); and me, Tiffany Lyons, on vocals. Our music speaks through nostalgia, an unapologetic gaze into current events and a hopeful voice for the future.

So how did you all meet?

We met through a bit of kismet. I was invited to perform in Joe Hurley’s All-Star Irish Rock Revue in Rockaway Beach, NY at an annual Irish Festival in 2019. Through that opportunity, I was fortunate to meet so many talented artists, one of them being Sal Maida (who was the bass player for Roxy Music, Sparks, and Cracker among others). After the festival, Sal reached out and asked if I wanted to be introduced to a band that was looking for a new lead singer. After meeting with KG and Margaret, I felt the universe opening and I jumped right in. We hit it off and we began our journey finding our footing as a reimagined band called Slyboots. We started rehearsing intensely for our first round of gigs which began about 3 months later. The rest is ‘Bootie history.

The New York scene has spawned so many important artists, any favourites for you?

New York, it has been an honor to grow up here after moving up from South Carolina when I was 12 when my mom retired from the military. I can say with complete confidence that my view of music expanded from my first day in Brooklyn. There are so many genres that exist in this city. Before we even get to artists, I have to say I heard music that I never even knew existed. As a teenager, I started singing in school and at the local church. My mornings before school were scored by the likes of Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, and the incomparable… my personal idol… Barbra Streisand. In my heart I am a bit of a crooner, and in my everyday existence I am a ‘Funny Girl’. Barbra Streisand has been a constant throughout my teens, college and beyond. There hasn’t been a period of my life for which she hasn’t had some advice.

How have things been affected there by quarantine, can you see light at the end of the tunnel?

New York City in particular, the city of opportunity for so many musicians, has taken a huge hit from the COVID-19 crisis. Historic venues have shuttered their doors and we worry about whether they will ever open again. As a band, we have not been able to rehearse in person since March of 2020. All of us have had some traumatic experiences in the past year that we never thought we would ever have to encounter. But, in true New Yorker fashion, we are persevering as best we can. We are looking towards the future, taking individual responsibility to rehearse and practice independently in the interim. We are hopeful that by the end of this year we will be back on the stages we long for so much.

Who or what influenced you to become a musician?

I don’t know if anyone ever influenced me to be a musician. I have always loved musicals ever since I was a child. One day I just started singing along and I never stopped. There is music in my heart. Have there been people in my life who have given me opportunities to sing? Absolutely, too many to name. Growing up in Rockaway Beach, NY, music is Queen. I was fortunate to have met musicians who had been playing for decades who were willing to take a chance on someone who had never been on a stage other than in choirs and high school musicals. It’s about how open you are to being a novice, an amateur, being the least knowledgeable person in the room and becoming a sponge for all you can take in.

There are more and more women in the music industry now but it’s by no means a level playing field – how hard is it to get the same opportunities as men in bands?

Within all industries there is engrained sexism. I have played shows with other bands that wanted to see my outfits before the performance to make sure I was “attractive enough for the passers-by”. At the end of the day it’s about knowing your worth. Through their years of insight from being in the industry Margaret and KG have emboldened me as a female musician to leave the table when it’s not for me. Will there always be inequality? Absolutely. Will it stop us from world domination? Never.

Who’s on your list of great female musicians?

Barbra Streisand
Nancy Wilson
Florence Welch
Patsy Cline
Erykah Badu
Joni Mitchell

What else do you get up to outside of making music?

SLYBOOKS! This band is full of book babes! We love a good book – any genre. We started #slybooks to share our passion for reading and connect with our community. Our goal is to build it further by feeding the need for creativity and art through literature. Plus, we’ve had some pretty stellar authors join us for the discussions! When not creating music, I work as a consultant for Lord Cultural Resources, a woman-owned consulting firm that works exclusively with arts and cultural assets. And I am the proud dog mom of an adorable Yorkie named Louis.

Any words of advice for girls whose dream is to get into the music business?

First, a piece of advice given to me when I was just starting out: “Find your band.” To add a caveat to that, do not be surprised if your band finds you. Be open to the universe and be honest with yourself about how much you want it and how much you are willing to work for it. Second: Love yourself. You cannot create authentically if you don’t take time to listen and hold space for yourself. Authenticity is what draws all of us to what we love.

And lastly, what’s on the horizon for Slyboots?

Slyboots is recording music in May and we are hopeful and waiting with baited breath for the world to open up again. We can’t wait to get back out there with our community and to share in making and performing some beautiful music again.

You can catch up with Slyboots via the links below and drop into a live performance with them here.

Slyboots: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

The rest of our IWD 2021 series can be viewed here

10th March 2021

IWD 2021 – Sunflower Thieves

Building a reputation for tranquil tunes with haunting harmonies, Sunflower Thieves are without doubt on our wish list to see live when it’s safe to do so. A duo made up of Amy and Lily, the band have just released new single Don’t Mind the Weather, another accomplished feather in their musical cap. Its message is about finding the place you feel safe with the person who will keep you safe, something we can all relate to right now.

The track is available to stream now and will also be released on ​7” vinyl on ​19th March via Come Play With Me, pre-order here and listen/watch below.

As if this wasn’t keeping them busy enough, as part of our of International Women’s Day features, Amy and Lily have put together their top 10 tracks by female artists for us – check them out below; its a great selection and there might just be a new favourite in there for you too. As they say in time honoured tradition, here’s the list in no particular order…

I Know The End – Phoebe Bridgers
The lyrics just make us feel so many things, especially the second half, it’s hard to choose just one song by Phoebe but this is definitely up there.

More Like You – Orla Gartland
A new favourite of ours, we’ve been grooving to this one since it was released, and the video is boss.

Me & My Dog – Boygenius
Another one for the lyrics, we relate to this song so strongly we almost feel like we should have written it (we wish!)

Seventeen – Sharon Van Etten
Sharon is one of my favourite artists I’ve had the pleasure of working a gig for (Lily) and this song is just magic – we listen to this in the car a lot.

Number One Fan – MUNA
This song just makes us want to MOVE and it’s a great reminder to love yourself.

Heroes/Dying – Charli Adams
A song I wish I’d written (Amy) – this song carried me through a really difficult time and also really helped me fall in love with songwriting again after struggling to know what I wanted/needed to say for a while.

Shiver – Lucy Rose
One of the songs that has had the most impact on our songwriting – everything about it is just right and we’ve loved Lucy for a long time since.

Alaska – Maggie Rogers
A song that showed us how beautifully folk and pop could be blended, by a powerhouse gal who gives THE biggest live performance.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow? Carole King
Queen Carole – this will always always be a favourite and the most beautiful love song.

Everything I Wanted – Billie Eilish
We’re huge Billie fans, and her vocal is just so beautifully showcased in this song, without losing the hard edge her songs deliver so well.

What’s that – you’d love to listen to these songs all in one handy playlist? Well, happily the helpful elves have put this together just for you and they’ve added Don’t Mind the Weather for good measure… enjoy!

Sunflower Thieves: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Header shot © Alice Ashley

The rest of our IWD 2021 series can be viewed here

9th March 2021

Label Launch – No Such Thing Records

Logo for No Such Thing Records - a dark pink bird’s webbed foot on a pale pink background

When a new record label launches into what is an already busy market, it’s sometimes difficult to pick out the USP. However, No Such Thing is very clear about its mission from the outset, setting itself the target of releasing 70% of its music from LGBTQ+ and Black and minority ethnic artists. The wealth of talent already involved in setting up and signing to the label is a reminder that this really doesn’t need to be the exception to the rule of many other independent labels, not to mention promoters, bookers, et al.

The brainchild of electronic musician and producer Dirty Freud and musician and visual artist Ruby Tingle, the label is taking a positive twist on the gender imbalance in music and the arts by proactively championing diversity amongst its acts.

Explaining the ethos behind the label, Dirty Freud says, “What sets No Such Thing apart is our commitment to giving a voice to artists from under-represented groups – whether that’s ethnicity, sexuality or disability… As a Black artist myself, I know that doors don’t always open that easily if you don’t fit the mould. Or if they do, you’re expected to fit into a stereotyped box. We’re here to challenge that, to empower our artists and give them back creative control.”

Ruby Tingle adds, “There’s so much creativity in the north, which we’re here to harness. This is a really exciting time to be doing something different in the music industry.”

Already signed to No Such Thing are six artists all based across the north of England, each one offering something new and innovative – Szou, Leftwinter, Iora, Kaspa, Off Noise and Jaayns.

The label will make its debut release on 12th March with Rose-Tinted by Manchester based electro-pop artist Szou, who says, “I wrote Rose-Tinted in the summer of 2020 when it became apparent that the pandemic was here to stay. Being away from my friends made me appreciate them even more and long for the days when life was normal. It’s a love letter to them really. It’s about looking through old photos and the intense nostalgia feeling you get from that. It’s about wanting to relive those memories, the good and even the bad because it was such a different time to the present day. That sounds bleak but I’m hopeful we’ll be able to make even better memories when all of this shit is over.”

It certainly looks as though No Such Thing will be making memories for the future; we wish them the absolute best of luck with the label and are very much looking forward to watching it develop and grow.

Rose-Tinted is available to pre-save here.

You can find out more about No Such Thing Records here, including more details about their initial roster of artists and links to their socials.

Words by Siobhan

1st March 2021

Interview – Sydney Sprague

Sydney Sprague

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Sprague album cover

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

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

Does the album have an overall theme to it?

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

Is there someone or a style that influenced your album?

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

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

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

Sydney Sprague

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

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

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

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

Do you have a pandemic playlist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Jennifer Mullins
Photos by Natasha Wilson

24th February 2021

Album Review – Maxïmo Park: Nature Always Wins

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

Maxïmo Park – Nature Always Wins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words by Siobhan
Photo via Prescription PR

23rd February 2021

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

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

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

Madu – Necromancer (single)

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

Listen to Necromancer here.

Madu

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

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

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

Rosie Alena & Morgan Simpson

Rosie Alena

Black Midi

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Bernice – We Choose You (single)

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

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

Bernice

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

19th February 2021

 

Album Review – The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy

The Hold Steady – Open Door Policy

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

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

Head shots of the 6 band members from The Hold Steady

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

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

Words by Siobhan
Photos via Prescription PR

17th February 2021

Interview – Danielle Durack

Danielle Durack wearing a red dress sitting in a field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you tell me about the recording process?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you feel about doing your release show virtually?

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

Do you have a pandemic playlist?

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

How do you keep your music fresh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Jennifer Mullins
Photos by Eunice Beck

8th February 2021

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

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

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

Hallan – Hands Up (single)

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

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

Hallan

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Fast Trains – I Work in Lies (single)

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

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

Fast Trains

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Jim McHugh – Dave (single)

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

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

Jim McHugh

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

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

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

Gender Roles

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Words by Siobhan

5th February 2021

New Music – Palberta | Kiwi Jr | Cowgirl | Tarah Who?

Montage of 4 pictures - band shot of Palberta sitting on the floor, album cover for Kiwi Jr (band name in black and white lettering), cassette version of Cowgirl single and band shot of Tarah Who leaning on railings

New releases – Palberta, Kiwi Jr, Cowgirl, Tarah Who?

Palberta – Palberta5000 (album)

New York three-piece Palberta still have a foot firmly in their post-punk roots, but their latest offering is laced with added pop harmonies and feel-good riffs. The longest track comes in at close to 5 minutes, the shortest squeezed into just 18 seconds, and each song flips into new territory seamlessly. There’s a very raw quality to the sound that can only be made by a band who are anything but raw in their talent. Comparisons with 70s’ underground heroes The Raincoats are not unjustified and fans of Menace Beach may just find the intricate layers of sound right up their slightly surreal street. Go on, have a listen, you deserve a little fun right now.

Palberta5000 is out today on Wharf Cat Records

Palberta

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Kiwi Jr – Cooler Returns (album)

Canada’s Kiwi Jr are back with more charming lo-if indie tales on their new album Cooler Returns. Laid back and with an undercurrent of dry humour, the band saunter through the perils of Undecided Voters and being Only Here For a Haircut. If a young Michael Stipe were to tone down the anger of The Pixies, it might well sound a little like this. The record is a pleasing listen from start to finish and generates involuntary smiles with its askance look at the world. A dash of panache amid the weariness of the pandemic could be just what the doctor ordered.

Cooler Returns is released today on Sub Pop

Kiwi Jr

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Cowgirl – (single)

Independent York label Safe Suburban Home Records have spent a chunk of lockdown helping artists to keep putting out music while sharing their love of physical releases. Their latest output comes from local fuzz rock ‘n’ rollers Cowgirl, with a cassette release of loud and proud single Caroline. Slamming straight into a wall of guitars, Cowgirl could be the sons of Dinosaur Junior (Dinosaur Junior Junior?) on a day trip out with the Mary Chain’s Reid brothers. Seemingly they have a treasure trove of unheard tracks stashed away just waiting for future release; nice to have something to look forward to, and the other acts featured on the label are worth a listen too.

Caroline is out today on Safe Suburban Home Records

Cowgirl

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Tarah Who – Swallow that Pill (single)

Hailing from LA, Tarah Who? form a power duo ready to take on the world with their unapologetically frenetic tunes turned up to the max. New single Swallow that Pill takes no prisoners and comes complete with a demolition-happy video. The track reminds me a tad of Department S’s defining piece Is Vic There?, but perhaps if it had been wrung through a grunge-tipped mangle first. One to sit up and pay attention to.

Swallow that Pill is released today

Tarah Who?

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Words by Siobhan
Photos via Hive Mind PR, Prescription PR, Safe Suburban Home Records, Under the Moon PR

22nd January 2021

 

Interview – Robbie & Mona

Will and Ellie who make up the band Robbie and Mona, sitting on a red armchair in front of a large window with heavy curtains

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!

Album artwork for E.W. By Robbie and Mona shows the back of a person wearing a black leather bodysuit and head covering, kneeling on some grass

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.

And what’s next for Robbie & Mona?

Will: Kick ass second album on its way.

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EW is released on 29th January via Spinny Nights and is available to pre-order now – catch up with Robbie & Mona here.

Interview by Siobhan
Header photo © Ellie Gray

19th January 2021