The potential and promise commonly found in the arrival of a new decade can be difficult to see in 2020, what with the world being plagued by pandemic mere months in, plunging the globe into a state of fear and panic not felt for generations. However, history has shown that in times of hardship humanity often prevails, that we are at our most gladiatorial with our backs pressed against the wall.Creativity blossoms in the face of adversity.
I imagine there are many instances of this to be found worldwide, though I can speak directly from one experience that I have been privileged to be a part of, which began with an open call for those aged 16-25 and located in the West Yorkshire city of Wakefield and its surrounding area, with the desire to contribute to a council funded project, tentatively titled Our Diary.
Envisioned as a time capsule for the lockdown era, the aim was to compile photographs to feature in a photography zine, capturing “the new normal” from the perspective of young Wakefield creatives, through a celebration free print through DIY self-publishing. Spearheaded by Wakefield born photographer Emily Ryalls and curated with nine other contributors, This Too Shall Pass (the revised zine title) was produced through four months of weekly Zoom meet-ups, with the process of taking pictures during a pandemic allowing for a refreshing amount of creative expression and experimentation in a period of otherwise global aimlessness.
With contributors hailing from a range of creative backgrounds from photography graduates to freelance writers, graphic designers to fabric embroiderers, our documentation of “the new normal” was enjoyably personal, with humour found in makeshift graduation caps and dinner table date-nights, to austere reminders of the lives we’ve put on hold in nightclub mirror balls dumped in skips, and grandparents waving from the distance of the doorstep.
The project proved not only fruitful for the photographs, but for the relationships formed between the collective contributors. Having found Wakefield not to be the easiest location to find other like-minded creatives at the best of times, the decision was made to work together onwards under the title of The Merrie Collective; with an aim to inject soulful art back into our local spaces, with the name deriving from the medieval moniker for Wakefield – The Merrie City.
With immeasurable support from The Art House (a lifeline for local artists and creative businesses) The Merrie Collective has been fortunate enough to have acquired a studio and gallery space inside The Ridings Shopping Centre. Like many of its kind, The Ridings has seen ups and downs since its opening thirty-seven years ago, with economic recessions and the demand for online retail making it not quite the draw it once was. However, the utilisation of one of its empty units as a studio/gallery, alongside another as a separate exhibition (excellently curated and produced by Niamh Donnelly) has been universally well received. With walls proudly plastered in black and white snaps of local life, the installations feel emblematic of the city and of the project, creativity and community in times of adversity.
The Merrie Collective has no plans of slowing down anytime soon despite COVID-19’s best efforts (us Northerners can be quite stubborn that way) and through a shared belief that most storms can be weathered, that “this too shall pass”, the group has big plans for the future such as print production, further exhibitions and workshops as well as ambitions for an independent newsprint.
On behalf of The Merrie Collective, the writer would like to thank Wakefield Council for funding this invaluable opportunity to create This Too Shall Pass, and The Art House for their continued support throughout and onwards. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual and not necessarily representative of Wakefield Council or The Art House.
This Too Shall Pass is a self-published zine by The Merrie Collective, printed at Merrie Studios, Wakefield and can be ordered here
More information on The Merrie Collective can be found on their website and you can follow their progress on Instagram
Creation Day, West Park, Wolverhampton, 29-30 May 2021
If you had to choose someone to curate a new music festival, it’s unlikely anyone would argue that Alan McGee would be a good call. Founder of the legendary Creation Records and a great supporter of new music, his long-standing involvement with and insight into the industry is something to behold. And with an impressive roll call of artists already announced, the inaugural Creation Day is booked for the last weekend in May 2021, headlined by Happy Mondays and Editors.
On the Saturday, Ian McCulloch will be dusting off his shades to bring Echo and the Bunnymen to the stage amidst their recently announced tour, while Shaun Ryder will be making his first appearance of the day with the illustrious Black Grape. Sunday sees long time McGee mentees Glasvegas making what will surely be one of the highlights of the weekend with an always powerful performance and presumably more shades.
Still a huge champion of rising talent, McGee also includes a swathe of newer acts on the bill, the likes of CAT SFX, The Clockworks and Heavy Lungs all set to showcase their music.
Limited first release tickets go on presale tomorrow, 21st October at 10am, followed by general sale on 23rd October at 10am.
Weekend tickets are priced at £110, day tickets at £55, booking fees apply. Factoring in current Covid-19 restrictions, limited numbers of tickets will be on sale at a time and this will be reviewed in adherence with national guidelines.
Making music that transports you to the afterglow of nights out in the city, Adam Byczkowski, aka Better Person, has produced a sultry album full of hypnotic tracks in Something To Lose, quite the antidote to everything happening around us right now. New single Dotknij Mnie (translating into English as Touch Me) adds a cathartic wave to the lighter feel of some of the other songs, showing his ability to deftly capture different moods and styles. We wanted to find out more about the influences of other music, people and places and how deeply a brush with Covid is still having an impact…
Hello, can you give us a quick intro to you and your music?
Yes of course, good morning. My name is Adam, also known to some people asBetter Person.I write music, record it, release it and then travel to perform it live whenever possible. The music I make sounds like pop ballads and most of the time it talks about my personal feelings and experiences.
What can you see from wherever you are right now?
I’m laying in bed in my apartment in Berlin. I can see a white wall and an open window. There are buildings and trees outside, the sky is blue. There’s this crispy early fall smell in the air that makes me think of too many things all at once.
AND hello again, I came back to this interview to edit it a bit and now it’s night time already. I’m also in bed again but now it’s dark and my girlfriend is next to me, sleeping. It’s quiet.
Your last single Close to You reminds me of UK 80s’ artists like Talk Talk and The Blue Nile, who or what’s influencing the music you’ve been making recently?
Thank you, I like Talk Talk and The Blue Nile!
Artists from that era and genre were a huge inspiration for me, especially when I started this project, as Better Person. For this record I was actually inspired by a whole range of different music, from old French and Italian movie soundtracks through Euro-pop hits and 70’s soft rock all the way to old school balladeers like Julio Iglesias. I think that because I use synthesisers and drum machines to make my music it often ends up being heard through the narrow lens of the 1980s. Ultimately though, I hope that my music sounds like it’s made in 2020 more than any other time.
Tell us about your upcoming album Something to Lose, what can everyone expect?
It’s nine songs, exactly thirty minutes of music. It comes out on October 23rd 2020. The whole album is a bit lighter in mood than my last EP and maybe it’s also my best work yet? I hope that it is! And that people can feel moved by it and use it for having a nice time in this shitty time that we all live in. Heartfelt ballads sung by a Polish man who fell deeply in love. I worked hard on this album and I think that I’ve managed to make something real.
If you could put the album in any one person’s hands to listen to, who would you choose and why?
When I write music I keep my friends and people close to me in my mind. This time I wrote an album specifically for my partner, Jane. She’s the person I made it for so it’s in her hands that the album belongs. She already was forced to listen to it about seven thousand times at different stages and claims to love it every time. So, mission complete!
What was the last book you read?
I re-read some of Raymond Carver short stories the other day, always a pleasure.
You contracted Covid back in March, that must have been pretty scary – how was it then and how are you now?
Yes that is true. Back in March both my partner and I got the virus. It has been a real ride, we ended up having to go to hospitals frequently and we haven’t managed to recover to this day. It’s been six months since I got infected and I still spend most of my days stuck in bed, crippled by extreme fatigue, heart problems and difficulty breathing. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with and it’s extremely punishing both physically and mentally.
How has the experience changed your outlook? It’s made me really appreciate what a gift it is to feel healthy and be able to function normally. People that don’t believe in the virus or won’t wear their masks on (nose out = no mask) truly are idiots. There are online group forums for people who are still recovering and they have been the only valuable source of information and reassurance. I expect this to be a huge thing in the next couple months, more and more people simply not recovering from the sickness. I have no idea what the future holds and I can only hope that I get better in the next couple of months.
You’ve spent time in both Berlin and LA – those two cities seem so contrasting, what are the best things about each one for you?
Berlin is a place where I really came into my own, Better Person wouldn’t exist without it and I love the city for that. Los Angeles provides all the things that Berlin is lacking: great weather, amazing food, breathtaking views and a seemingly endless amount of inspiration and new connections to be made. It makes me devastated knowing that it will be a long time before I’m back again.
Looking forward, what are you hoping for over the next year?
I’m really only hoping to get better and be able to live normally again. After that I’d love to play lots of shows and make new music.
Something To Lose is released on Friday 23rd October via Arbutus Records –pre-order here
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.
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.
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.
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.
Capturing the city in his own innovative style, photographer Hugh Frizell’s images present a mesmeric view of Glasgow in all its urban beauty. Hugh is also a guitarist playing as part of Hippy, whose album was released on Friday. Here, he takes time out to share and talk us through some of his favourite shots…
I was born in Greenock but have worked all over the world, lived in various places in the UK but now find myself in Glasgow. For the last 8 years or so I have been fortunate enough to be based close to the West End of the city. I’m an engineer by trade but always interested in the creative arts so I’ve played guitar since I was a young boy and am pretty obsessed by music. Whilst never hitting the big time, I’ve managed to play over the years with some great bands and musicians and have played all over the UK. I also enjoy running, painting, drawing and obviously photography.
In terms of photography, I’ve probably always been around a camera of sorts. My late father, William, was a keen photographer and there’s literally boxes and boxes of old family photos and slides still at my Mum’s somewhere. The actual profile pic I use on Instagram for Shugzfilterz is his old Leica which I now own and it is a prized possession to be honest. Even if not worth much, it’s worth millions to me. It was something he always had with him really.
I got into photography a bit more seriously within the last 4 or 5 years – maybe even the age of the cameraphone was the catalyst. Not having to carry a larger camera around and wait for the processing I’ll admit is a bonus, I think. That said, I firmly believe analogue/ non-digital photography is an art and what I do is not really along those lines nor would I compare or put myself into that category or have those skills. I am (for the Shugzfilterz Instagram page and the images you see here at least) totally digital. I wanted to be totally digital and use the camera/ smartphone/ social media angle almost on purpose. That was really the idea – even the Shugzfilterz name is kinda a play on that.
Basically, the aim of any of the pictures I take is to take a good image first and foremost and secondly, if the digital image processing option or even social media ‘filters’ we use now enhance or take them in another direction or style, then so be it. Nothing more or less really. A good meal doesn’t always have to be from a 3-star Michelin restaurant. The photos you see here are a mixture of the street photography I enjoy plus a couple of studio/ band shots I’ve taken this year.
I am currently guitarist for Paul ‘Hippy’ Hipson who is a Glasgow based singer/ songwriter. Paul has been writing and recording an album Behind Every Song Is a Story since late last year and it came out last week (Oct 9th 2020) on all digital platforms.The singles, music and album info are all on his Instagram– we hope people enjoy the music when they hear it.
I play on 11 of the 12 tracks and it was a great experience to be a part of. Working in the studio with Paul meant I could try some of my own Shugzfilterz styled shots and I’ve included a few here. I enjoy mostly shooting in B&W and I think it lends itself to indoor studio/ musician shots well. The pictures here were taken over many studio sessions out at the HQ Recording Studios, Glasgow between November 2019 and September 2020. I really wanted candid and non-contrived shots. I have a thing, as I’ve been in a few of these type of shots myself, that the typical ‘4 or 5 people standing at a wall trying to look cool’ is a bit long in the tooth now. I only tried to get shots of Paul crafting the songs or working on a take and tried to get them as ‘real’ as I could. A lot of the music photographers I enjoy took a similar approach over the more ‘official band pose’ ones usually featured by many.
In terms of the other shots you see here, those mostly combine a couple things I really enjoy to varying degrees of success. Running and Street Photography. I regularly run, albeit I am no Mo Farah whatsoever, still pretty slow even after being at it years! That said, it’s good for health all round so I occasionally combine running with my photographs. I’ll get up early in the morning and go out into Glasgow and try to capture some shots of this magnificent city. I also occasionally run when I visit back home at Greenock and Gourock so sometimes take photos of there too. This year has thrown up some strange and interesting times for many, photography included.
When I go out for a ‘picturehaulin’ run (as I call it) then I’ll not have any pre-conceived ideas about what to shoot – it’s simply a case of running into the city or an area of the city and constantly looking around. I usually shoot in B&W, I feel those also work great in a city or street environment, but I am happy to use colour too. I think if I’m honest, I have a better flair for B&W than colour but everyone sees things differently. The images here are all taken either this year or last year – a lot of the emptiness in many of them can be put down to the early morning nature of when the images were taken – most are from 2020 but the Instagram page has a good few from the last few years. I enjoy taking images that might be classed as odd or obscure but my reasoning is there are many images from the city available already. I like anything interesting, possibly vintage or old and maybe things you’d not see in the official tour guide book.
Simply taking the same type of shots or subjects we’ve seen would be a bit boring, I think. Again – it’s up to others to judge I suppose. Being from Greenock, there was a celebrated set of photographs taken by Eguene Mehat; these were taken all over the town in the late 60s and capture a huge amount of detail and change in the town I grew up in. Whilst I’m not necessarily doing that with my pictures, I have to say I was inspired by his work and rate them highly and as a huge influence on me.
Thanks for taking the time to view these pictures and I hope you enjoy them Hugh Frizell
The tale of a young lad from Salford whose colourful life took some dark turns, where diction beats addiction and the hero battles with the heroin… I Wanna Be Yours is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a compelling read with highs and lows aplenty, in every sense of the phrase.
From the outset, Clarke gifts us with indicators of where he learned and developed the dry satire with which he made his name. Advice from his dad (‘Never leave a bookie’s with a smile on your face’), the family dentist whose name was Frankenstein, and his leap from Rupert the Bear annuals to waxing lyrical about Dostoevsky all sound like they could slot straight into his repertoire.
His descriptions of his surroundings conjure up the mysticism of the world seen through a child’s eyes; the Italianante building that housed their apartment with the West Side Story style fire escape, the chemist on the ground floor (‘a wearer of cravats, a drencher of colognes’), being traumatised by Vivien Leigh on a trip to the cinema with his mum, all culminating in his contracting TB aged 8 and a resultant recuperation period in Rhyl. Allowed to wander free until it fell dark, he was drawn to the fairground, ‘It was a zone of full-on sensory overload: the food had too much flavour, the light was too bright, the music too loud, the smell of onions all-pervading; everything was drenched in sugar and colour’. Music became as important as books and a happy combination of the two would eventually catapult him into his always intended career of professional poet.
Taking his punk-poetry to the stage, Clarke’s initial break famously came from the unlikely corner of Bernard Manning and moved on to him playing gigs with The Pistols and The Fall amongst many others. He also name-checks lesser remembered bands with exemplary monikers like Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds, and his mention of Johnny Rotten having ‘the complexion of a compulsive blood donor’ is typically sharp. It’s easy to see how some of the larger than life characters he encountered along the way might later have morphed into Vince the ageing savage, Salome Maloney and Gaberdine Angus in verse.
But if anyone thought he would skip over the extraordinary range of narcotics that interloped his rise to fame, they would be sorely mistaken. There are no holds barred as he unfolds his progression through every kind of fix imaginable, gun-toting deals, failed attempts at rehab and several short-lived dalliances with death. It’s always honest, never glorified and frankly a wonder that he’s still with us.
Thankfully, his ongoing survival has allowed poetry to crossover to many who would otherwise have rejected its once exclusive status. He references the importance of his English teacher, Mr Malone, making the class read poems aloud and how it taught him that, ‘The main consideration is what a poem sounds like. If it doesn’t sound any good, it’s because it isn’t any good’, a premise that went on to create the most notable bard of our time.
They say that every picture tells a story. Clarke takes that concept and turns it on its head as, from start to finish throughout the book, the words paint pictures so vivid you can see the Salford streets and smell the hair pomade. Take a dip into the weird and wonderful world of Dr John Cooper Clarke, he’ll be there if you want him, ninety degrees in his shades.
I Wanna Be Yours is published by Picador on 15th October 2020 and a UK tour is planned for next year –details for both here
With the global pandemic robbing us of gigs, festivals and so much more, the music industry has had little to celebrate in 2020, which makes stories such as indie label Clue Records celebrating its eighth year of productivity and a successful merging with fellow Leeds label Hatch Records all thesweeter.
With new signings on the horizon and the boat party to end all boat parties envisioned for their decade celebrations, I spoke to Clue boss Scott Lewis over Zoom to discuss all things Clue,beginning with a brief back and forth bonding over a local record shop which led us to consider the sustainability of the independent music business in 2020…
RB: So, speaking of longevity in the music business, was that something you had in mind when starting Clue? Were you thinking in long term ideals, plans…?
SL: I don’t know really. It’s funny, I’ve just started lecturing about business enterprise at Leeds College of Music, and it’s got me thinking back – I didn’t set up a business plan for Clue, no five-year plan, etc. We started with little bits, like if we could release a record, a vinyl record, then that would be mint, but it was more – let’s do it and see where it goes from there really.
RB: I suppose that’s why Clue has been successful, because as corny as it sounds, you don’t necessarily get into these things for the money, or ‘success’ in business terms.
SL: No, that’s bang on. It gets a little more difficult down the line – there’s a mid-point as somewhere it goes from being purely a passion project to a feasible, financially viable thing. But I mean I’ve always been doing it ‘cos I wanna do it, ‘cos I love the bands.
RB: With that in mind, is there or was there a criteria for artists to be on Clue, other than first and foremost you being excited about them?
SL: Yeah, I’ve got to be a fanboy, the buzz you get when you find something new and amazing… it’s hard to capture really and actually if I find artists who I love, and I find out that they are working with someone else I won’t mind, I’ll still follow them ‘cos I’m a fan anyway! Perhaps in recent years I’ve become more knowledgeable and I want bands to work alongside us for the best results, bands that graft and work hard – I can put energy into bands like that.
The origins of Clue come from Scott and fellow boss Ste Langton, school friends from Stockton who bonded over a love of music and, afterbeing in and out of bands anda brief stint in basic music marketing (Scott acted as marketing director for the Oxfammusic festival ‘Oxjam’), felt as though they had something to offer some of the exciting acts they were following.
SL: I came across these bands who were great and, for whatever reason, struggling and I felt that I wanted to help, maybe some admin or boring backroom stuff. So that was it, backroom of the pub, back of a beer mat – let’s do it. That was in 2012 and Narcs was our first band.
RB: Both being from Stockton, how did you end up in Leeds and how much of that locality was a driving force behind Clue?
SL: Well I had been wanting to move out of Stockton for a while, and Ste had just got a job in Leeds and had a spare room and there was just a great scene at the time going on; NME termed it “The New Yorkshire” – bands like Kaiser Chiefs, !Forward, Russia! and The Cribs were all a big part of it and it just seemed like a cool place to go. It wasn’t too far from Stockton, and whilst Leeds isn’t a small city, it wasn’t London – so it felt tangible that we could do something.
Hatch Records was founded a year after Clue in 2013 by Tony Ereira, (whose surname I embarrassingly require Scott to help me pronounce – which he does, with a chuckle) and the relationship between the two began through the Leeds based independent music publication ‘Come Play With Me’… (Header photo – left: Tony Ereira, right: Scott Lewis)
RB: So, talk us through the merging of Clue with Hatch, which is run by Tony Ereira – where did you first meet Tony? He’s involved in Come Play With Me, as are you I believe?
SL: I am! I’ve fingers in all the pies (laughs). I remember I went to the launch of Come Play With Me and so I met Tony then, and just kept bumping into him at events, gigs etc. in Leeds. We were planning to do a local profile on all Yorkshire indie labels, so Hatch, ourselves at Clue, (Wakefield based label) Philophobia, etc.
I had a job offer last year for another label, but it would have had to mean I would leave everything else I’d worked on; Clue, Come Play With Me and so on. And at that time Tony broached the idea of merging the two labels, and being in similar places it just felt like a natural thing to do and so we all sat down towards the end of last year, crossed the Ts and dotted the Is and it’s worked out brilliant.
RB: How does it work with the artists who were attached to Clue and the ones who were on Hatch, are they now all under Clue now?
SL: All previous Hatch releases are now under a Clue/Hatch heritage; we don’t ever want to pretend that Hatch never existed, they were two different things. I’m not sure what some of the artists are doing at the minute, but if the opportunities are there and it works out right for us to release with them then we’ll look at it when it comes round.
RB: Was there ever an arm wrestle between you and Tony on which label would retain the name?
SL: No (chuckles) we never had to battle, it was very civil, I think Clue had more on at the time and it felt natural to move into that direction.
RB: I suppose if you’re all under the same umbrella and working as a unit the name is just for ego’s sake at the end of the day…
SL: Exactly and considering it’s Clue which has kept the name that must mean I’ve the biggest ego out of everyone!
RB: All of these new exciting opportunities and of course releasing Team Picture’s debut album The Menace of Mechanical Music, it must have been disappointing to have been restricted due to the pandemic; how have you found it, what are some of the difficulties Clue has faced?
SL: Its hard, cos we are trying to get something across which is essentially entertainment when there is a lot of serious, heavy shit going on in the world and we’ve got to be considerate of that. In terms of Clue we’ve had a relatively quiet year, ‘cos a lot of the artists would have either been touring or recording and that just can’t happen. We’ve released Team Picture’s album this year and we’ve booked a tour for next year but with the way things are going, you’ve just gotta deal with it in the safest way. Some of our bands have been offered shows and come to me and the first thing I ask them is, “Do you feel comfortable with it? Do you feel safe? Don’t worry about the money or the need to perform, if you don’t feel comfortable don’t do it”. It’s more important for us to look after each other and focus on other things; write, record etc. Team Picture did something really amazing with their video for Handsome Machine, a 3D interactive space where if you watch it on your phone, you can walk around your room but you’re walking around in the video – which to me was brilliant innovation ‘cos everyone was obviously staying in their homes and it brought an experience to them.
RB: Aside from your own projects, what are your favourite things going off in Leeds now, what’s exciting you at the minute?
SL: In terms of bands, Yard Act are amazing. Culture wise, The Brudenell Social Club has just gone from strength to strength and what Nathan (Clark, owner) has done there is incredible, the community and culture created at Hyde Park Book Club is amazing and Chunk, who I think are looking at a new location, they had one of the best DIY spaces in Leeds, what they were doing was unreal.
A slight bias, but I’m working with a company called Music: Leeds, what they are trying to do is provide opportunities in Yorkshire for people who want to work in the music industryand I think what they are doing is accessible and vital for working class backgrounds. I’m from a working class background and one of the things that I do worry about in this pandemic is that money will come out of the industry and artists will massively struggle to be able to create, and so I think what Music: Leeds is doing is amazing.
RB: Mentioning money, I’ve just read today that apparently one third of musicians are considering quitting the industry due to Covid…
SL: I saw the post about that statistic, I have no idea if it’s accurate. I don’t think you get into making music or writing music to make money, it’s more because you want to do it, but I can see why it could be accurate in some respects, because it’s gonna be hard.
How do we make bands now? You can’t meet anyone to talk about putting a band together and even if youdid, you can’t get in a room to do anything! The accessibility and the enjoyment found in the community of going to gigs is just not going to be there in the same way it was and it’s worrying.
RB: On a positive note, going forward with Clue, where would you personally like to see the label go? Any concrete plans?
SL: Well we are about to announce a new artist we have been working with which we are reallyexcited about, and what would I like to see in Clue? Well in two years the label will be 10, and I’d like to have a big party on a boat with loads of bands playing! Open top deck boat party! In two years time it might be well needed after all this!
Alice in Wonderland (The Ballet) at Brighton Open Air Theatre, 3rd October 2020
In a year that truly has been ‘curiouser and curiouser’, it seemed fitting to take a step back into the world of live shows by rediscovering my inner child watching a balletic performance of Alice in Wonderland.
Postponed from its usual springtime slot in May, Brighton Fringe is currently putting on a diverse programme of events in socially distanced settings and it’s great to see theatre, dance and comedy on the city’s agenda once again.
At the weekend, London based Let’s All Dance made good on their promise of ’bringing the magic of dance to everyone’ with their trip to Wonderland, telling a familiar tale through a new medium for many and making ballet accessible to all ages with instantly recognisable characters, colourful costumes and a sprinkling of humour. The choreography made the dance look effortless, the children in the audience were mesmerised and the adults no doubt appreciated the addition of a liberal dose of hand sanitiser to the Mad Hatter’s spread of tea and Eat Me cake. It was heart warming to hear small voices around me gasp as Alice appeared twice as tall on hidden stilts and excitedly telling their parents, ‘I saw the white rabbit!’ in what, for some, may have been their first experience of live performance. At 40 minutes long, Let’s All Dance have really considered what works within the attention span of little ones and ensured that the show is entertaining for all ages. Brighton Open Air Theatre provided the perfect backdrop and, in an unexpected twist, the sun shone all afternoon.
2020 is very much the year when, if Alice were to utter, ‘Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’, everyone else would probably agree. Leaving the worries of the world aside for a while, an escape to Wonderland was just what was needed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 2020 sees Breaking Glass hit its second birthday – enormous thanks to everyone who has contributed over the last two years; it’s genuinely been a pleasure and privilege to have all your talent on board. As a new feature, we’re introducing cover images to head up the website for each month; if you’re a photographer and think you have an idea for an image that might work, drop us an email to discuss. As this is web rather than print based, the picture needs to be landscape format, have enough background space for text, as above, and should fit with the month, season or something topical.
This year has been a challenge for sure and I’ve loved all the In Lockdownfeatures that offered a personal insight through photos into the impact on people’s lives. It’s heartening to see exhibitions opening and, after a long absence, it looks as though live music and performance are edging their way back into existence, albeit in a slightly different form. Here’s hoping that the music community will be able to pick up again soon, despite the ongoing and highly short-sighted lack of government backing. Keep supporting artists and venues where you can, stay safe and please wear a mask.