Live + Interview – Olympia at Patterns

Olympia, Patterns Brighton, 11th September 2019

Fast making a name for herself as a respected songwriter and performer, Olympia – aka Olivia Bartley – is back on the road touring worldwide with her new album Flamingo. I caught up with her before her show at Patterns in Brighton and, as well as chatting about the London congestion charge and the lure of the fairground rides on the pier, we talked about her love of music, playing live and creating something new…

How did it all start for you and what keeps you going in the music business?

I loved playing music, I used to download Joni Mitchell tabs off the internet and I would just play. I didn’t know guitar, I’m self-taught and I would just experiment. It was like an itch trying to play what I thought I could hear and that led me here. Now I know a little bit more and it’s like the more you know the less discovery there is so I think what drives me is I’m curious about everything, I still have that sense of discovery, like what if I try this and this and this…

So what happened was I was playing in Melbourne and a musician found one of my songs, she was quite popular and she just went on social media and said ‘what do you all think?’ and it sort of started an avalanche and here I am. What keeps me going is that I can only do it when I’m excited. I’m not in it for the money or the women!

Is social media generally a good or bad thing for you, it sounds like it helped you get started?

I do have periods when I’ll just turn all the apps off my phone. It can be great or a necessary evil but I think that you’ve got to look after your mental health so if you’re not feeling great you shouldn’t feel you have to look at it.

You’ve been out a lot already on tour this year and you’ve got more dates coming up. How do you deal with that, what are the highs and lows?

The good thing is you work so hard every day towards making it happen and those hours on stage are the most important and the most joyful, you do all of it just for that – to be playing every day, because in Australia the population’s smaller so you don’t get to play every night like you would here. It’s so great to be playing every day and I feel my fingers getting harder and my skills getting better. I do feel tired but I feel that it’s a privilege.

When you toured with Julia Jacklin you definitely picked up lots of new fans in the UK. How did that come about, did you know each other already?

I hadn’t met her before, we have mutual friends and they kept saying ‘you’ll love each other’ and she’s great. It felt like Julia was really generous in spirit and it was so wonderful of her to take me on tour with her.

You’ve been to Brighton before – do you get to see much of the places you play while you’re there?

I’m lucky because I’ve been to Brighton a few times, it started with The Great Escape. Brighton’s very like Melbourne and I always feel instantly at ease here. Tomorrow we head to Paris then Amsterdam, Berlin, then Reeperbahn Festival before we do an Australian tour.

How different are the crowds at festivals from gigs?

It’s so different. It’s great to have an audience who probably would never have heard you before, it’s so varied, what I love about festivals is summer and the openness, especially where there’s one stage where people come and sit and they’re often just music lovers open to new things.

When you’re writing is it always from experience or drawn from things you see?

There’s a great quote ‘Writing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the only reason I do it is because I’ve done it before and I know that I’ve done it’. My writing is things I’ve collected from the world, usually a metaphor or visual metaphor… I saw this picture of red honey from Utah, so what had happened was this beekeeper thought ‘I’ll just save money and feed my bees sugar’ and he got candy canes because bees love sugar and it ruined the honey and every bee in Utah. We have such an effect on each other as people that you sort of shape each other, if you’re with someone long enough you can become a bit of each other and I thought about that and it became the song Honey but it’s more about humans than bees.

Lastly, you recently did an industry workshop giving advice to new and emerging artists – is there a definitive piece of advice?

I loved doing it, I have a lot of young artists contact me and my main thing is ‘Get ready to work’. We’re all different but I can just say for me I need to write 9-5, don’t wait for inspiration, it’s not a burden, if you feel good or feel bad just write through it because it’s not just your craft, it’s also getting better at the skills of writing… read books that no-one’s reading, listen to bands no-one’s talking about…

Great advice and if you haven’t heard Olympia yet, definitely take on board the bit about listening to new things. The gig later that night was one of the most enjoyable I’ve been to in a while…

Opening up the evening, newly local Ciaran Lavery proved that one man and his guitar is all that’s needed to hold the attention of the crowd. With a cluster of beautifully written songs and chats about his childhood, the set felt like an intimate gathering of friends, and kudos must go to the listeners for just listening and not providing the usual humdrum of background conversation that infects so many gigs, particularly support slots. With a feel of Leonard Cohen in a seaside town, Ciaran will be one to look out for on the Brighton circuit.

Heading straight into a set filled with hypnotic psych pop tunes, Olympia drew the audience deeper into an already happy and relaxed atmosphere. Mixing tracks old and new, her hints to the nostalgia of music past are clear to hear but take on a new twist that brings things bang up to date. With inter-song tales of sharks in the bath and intriguing all hours visits received by a neighbour, the ambient mood continued as the band worked their way between two different setlists for added surprise (to them as much as us), an end of set cover of Rock n Roll Suicide an added bonus.

The songs on Flamingo get better with each listen. From the New York new wave feel of Star City to the quieter tones of Nervous Riders and a personal favourite in Shoot to Forget (think Yeah Yeah Yeahs fused with Alvvays), the album is a grower and a welcome addition to any record collection. The Australian scene has thrown out some really cool and competent musicians over the past few years with the aforementioned Julia Jacklin, Nice Biscuit and King Gizzard (not forgetting their Lizard Wizard) to name but a few – undoubtedly Olympia has joined the list of artists ensuring that it remains very firmly highlighted on the map of new music you should ignore at your peril.  

For more from Olympia and Ciaran Lavery just follow the links here

Words and photos by Siobhan

13th September 2019

 

Live – Lucia at Bridge of Allan Library

Lucia, Bridge Of Allan Library Stirling, 8th September 2019

Far from the days of being hushed by the librarian, the brilliant Get it Loud in Libraries project brings live music to regional libraries, particularly in areas away from the usual big venues, allowing people of all ages to access some great music in a very different environment to the norm. The scheme also provides opportunities for young people to gain practical experience in the music sector by getting involved with the event management and marketing of the gigs.

With a keen eye for new talent, the project has put on an impressive roster of artists including BC Camplight, Fontaines DC and The Orielles. Yesterday the fabulous Lucia paid a visit to Bridge of Allan Library in Stirling. Alan Campbell was there to capture their performance amongst the paperbacks for us; gallery below.

You can find out more about Get it Loud in Libraries here

Connect with Lucia and watch their recent performance of Flames at Kendal Calling below

Photos by Alan Campbell

9th September 2019

Live – Bodega at Concorde 2

Bodega / Working Men’s Club, Concorde 2 Brighton, 27th August 2019

Tuesday night saw a much anticipated line up arrive at Brighton’s Concorde 2 in the sweltering heat. The support slot was filled by Working Men’s Club, fast gaining a following and live reputation of their own. With a short but sweet set, they brought bags of energy and pulled in a good crowd. Pending headline dates of their own will paint a fuller picture of their potential.

Playing to a now packed room, headliners Bodega’s performance was in no way hampered by the temperature as they leapt around the stage and beyond. Their sound is quintessentially New York art pop and that’s meant in a very complimentary way. Double drums are always welcome, more so when you have two drummers channelling the spirits of Moe Tucker and Animal combined. Bodega’s sound overall is like the lovechild of Talking Heads and Devo attending a frenzied dance party with a welcoming electronic host.

Incorporating favourites Shiny New Model and Jack in Titanic, the music was visually enhanced by the stage show and their hour long set (excluding encore) was warmly received – in more ways than one. Some bands just don’t look like they’re having fun. Bodega look like they’re living their best lives and it’s impossible not to join in; catch them live if you can.

Bodega are playing at Esquires in Bedford tonight (29th August) then head to End of the Road Festival tomorrow (30th August) before commencing their US tour dates – check out all things Bodega here and catch up with Working Men’s Club here.

Words and photos by Siobhan

29th August 2019

Festival – Victorious 2019

Victorious Festival, Southsea Common, 23rd – 25th August 2019

Once again, Victorious Festival managed to entice a huge range of artists to play by the seaside at its late summer bank holiday weekend gathering. The line up is so varied that there really is something for everyone and it manages the family friendly tag with ease. As well as offering showcase spots to local emerging artists, Victorious pulls in some big players, both current and long established acts. Seemingly growing every year and now running across three days, this year’s headliners encompassed the eclectic bunch of Two Door Cinema Club, Rudimental and New Order. Across the myriad of stages and activities, no genre was left unturned and with a weekend filled with blazing sunshine, this looks to have been one of the busiest years ever. Here are our highlights from Saturday.

A long road trip from home, West Lothian indie four piece The Snuts have been much lauded as ones to watch and had some early singalongs going on, clearly a widespread fan base on their hands already. South coast blues pop trio Hooli graced the Seaside stage with a chilled set and plenty of local support; probably the only UK festival stage with passenger ferries running along the river on the other side of the wall.

Another rising young artist, Casey Lowry, brought his own brand of catchy trop pop tracks to the table. A suitably sunshine feel to the songs as he and his band breezed through their set, his initial suspicions that everyone would leave after ten minutes to see All Saints were soon allayed.

And so to a long established festival favourite and Victorious returner, the infectiously happy Tim Burgess. Having played here with The Charlatans two years ago, Tim returned for a solo set backed by his other bandmates The Anytime Minutes (also making waves in their own right as Average Sex). A mix of songs old and new put a smile on everybody’s face, I’ve never seen this man do a set that isn’t feel-good and full of energy – a sound booking for a show of any size.

Arriving onto the Common stage, Damon Gough aka Badly Drawn Boy looked slight bemused by the size of the crowd, asking if he was at the right festival. His performance is always understated but doesn’t take long to remind you exactly why he should be here. Over the years he’s written some beautiful songs and it was great to hear tracks from one of my favourite films and soundtracks About a Boy in amongst the set.

Considering the numbers there and the fairly intense heat, the atmosphere across the site was a happy one with areas for comedy and kids’ activities, a village sized merch and shopping square and a wide choice of reasonably priced food vendors. There was even space to dance by the castle in your wedding dress if you felt the urge…

Drawing one of the biggest crowds I have ever seen at any stage at Victorious (Castle stage is the second largest but must have outnumbered the main stage here), man of the moment Lewis Capaldi received a rapturous welcome from an all ages audience. His 7pm slot must surely have been booked some time ago; there’s no doubt he could have headlined and still had people watching him from as far as the eye could see. Capaldi’s self-disparaging songs of love and heartbreak combined with his imperturbable sense of humour look set to see him continue his rise to the top.

Difficult to follow… until you realise that next up is The Hives, Sweden’s incorrigibly wonderful rock ‘n’ rollers who hit the stage with such force that you knew the party had just moved to a different level. From Come On and Walk Idiot Walk to the inevitable closer Tick Tick Boom, it wasn’t hard at all to see why The Hives are still so popular, 20 years of mayhem and still going strong.

Headlining the Castle stage, Bloc Party provided the perfect way to end the evening, playing their landmark debut album Silent Alarm in full and no doubt creating waves of nostalgia for many of those present in the process. The tracks more than hold up over time, Bloc Party were never your bog standard indie band and the intricacy of the songs is clear to see, She’s Hearing Voices and Banquet personal favourites that it was an absolute pleasure to hear live again. Stunning.

The end of a long day but still these guys on security were having the best night, checking that everyone was ok while throwing synchronised dance moves to the sounds of Rudimental closing up the Common stage in the background – thanks to all involved for another memorable festival, see you next year.

No doubt Victorious 2020 will be even bigger and better – early bird tickets are already available here.

Words and photos by Siobhan

26th August 2019

 

Instore – The Murder Capital at Resident

The Murder Capital, Resident Brighton, 22nd August 2019

Promoting their debut album When I Have Fears, The Murder Capital are playing a run of record shop instores, last night visiting Brighton’s Resident. There has been much talk of their part in the new Dublin punk scene and comparisons therein but it’s wrong to lump them into a category; this record is a stand-alone piece of work and brings the rawest of tunes to the table. The album title is taken from a Keats’ poem that begins ‘When I have fears that I may cease to be before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain’ – the fears and vulnerability we all have of not achieving what might have been. The tracks are dark and compelling, the drumming phenomenal. A modernised hybrid of Joy Division, Killing Joke and a smattering of Theatre of Hate, this is not by any means background music.

The band’s performance is similarly intense, from the turbulent Green and Blue to the pin-drop poignancy of the beautiful On Twisted Ground, they protract a reaction that I’ve seldom seen at this kind of event. The great thing about instores is that you get to see a band up close in a small, intimate setting; they can feel very personal but it’s not like being at a gig. Usually. This time though it is, and being able to create that kind of emotion-filled atmosphere in a shop on a sunny Thursday evening is really something quite special.

Keats’ sonnet ends with the lines ‘Then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone and think till love and fame to nothingness do sink’. Far from sinking from fame, The Murder Capital are stepping ever closer towards its epicentre; it will be interesting to see what comes next, that’s for sure.

You can buy When I Have Fears and check out more from The Murder Capital here and find all the wonders that Resident has to offer here.

Words and photos by Siobhan

23rd August 2019

Live – Dry Cleaning at The Prince Albert

Dry Cleaning / Social Haul, The Prince Albert Brighton, 8th August 2019

Having heard little of their music but many recommendations I finally had the opportunity to see Dry Cleaning on the Brighton leg of their tour. With so much hype surrounding a band it’s easy for expectations to fall short – that certainly wasn’t the case here.

I also have to confess to having been fairly ignorant about the support band, Social Haul. So as they took to the stage it was a welcome surprise to see that one third of the band was Leigh Padley,  also one third of the mighty Traams, whose Wikipedia entry ‘a British indie rock band which formed in Chichester’ I’ve always considered to be a line unlikely to be repeated. Social Haul’s 11 song set was packed with energy and short, piercing segments of post punk. The Albert was deservedly already busy and it was more than worth getting there early. I hope to see more of Social Haul and redress my ignorance.

And so to Dry Cleaning and a collection of articulate spoken word tracks with occasional inflections of caustic sarcasm, this is absorbing storytelling rather than pithy poetry. The juxtaposition of the softly spoken lyrics against a background of bouncy riffs is close to hypnotic and the by now packed crowd were suitably impressed. The band seemed genuinely surprised by the scale of the positive reaction but it really was more than warranted; they’ve managed to achieve something that stands out and it’s hard to think that they’ll be playing venues of this size for much longer. Look out for their new EP Sweet Princess due for release next week; currently available to pre-order on limited edition cassette on Bandcamp.

Dry Cleaning are touring across the UK throughout August, be kind to yourself and go along to see them.

For live dates and more information you can find Dry Cleaning here and the elusive Social Haul here

Words and photos by Siobhan

9th August 2019

 

Instore – Heavy Rapids at Assai Records

Heavy Rapids, Assai Records Edinburgh, 20th July 2019

2019 has seen Heavy Rapids crowned as the winners of the Record Store Day unsigned competition, receive plaudits from a vast array of people and airplay from several radio stations. Winning this competition means their debut EP Cash in Hand has been created on 500 violet coloured vinyl records and distributed across the UK via Record Store Day / Sound Performance / Proper Music Group.

The EP includes four fast-paced and energetic songs – Going Down, Infected Nightmares – Frankenstein, Hurricane E and Paisley Pattern. To enjoy best, play at a suitably high volume, on repeat!

Saturday saw Heavy Rapids launch the EP at Assai Records in Edinburgh, a record store which is located in the heart of Edinburgh and in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. The store has some very friendly staff and a brilliant selection of all kinds of vinyl, books and T-shirts. This was my first time visiting the store and I’ll definitely be visiting again in the future to pick up some more records.

The band played through the entire EP, and a few extra songs, to a crowded store that enjoyed the performance and who were then quick to snap up copies of the limited edition EP.  A collector’s item it would seem, as the band appear to be gaining more and more popularity and have several gigs planned for the rest of the year.

To purchase a copy of the EP and to find out more about Heavy Rapids, please visit their website

You can find details for Assai Records and browse their online store here 

Words and photos by Alan Campbell

22nd July 2019

Festival – 2000 Trees 2019

2000 Trees Festival, Upcote Farm Cheltenham, 11th – 13th July 2019

Picture if you will a farm in rural countryside, transformed into an award winning festival location where you can walk the length of the site in 10 minutes, catching big names and new music, choosing from the best selection of festival food around and taking in the friendliest atmosphere you’re likely to encounter. No need to worry about carrying or losing money as the cashless system works a treat, just have your wristband scanned to pay. Families, fancy dress, diehard punks and metal-heads, they’re all here and they’re all having a brilliant time. You can only imagine the amount of work and preparation that goes on behind the scenes because the team and volunteers at 2000 Trees have thought of everything and everyone – artists, crowd, vendors, security – the whole crew seem to love being here. It’s a beautiful setting and there’s more diversity in the types of music on offer than many people realise.

2019’s event even brought the sun out of hiding, along with an enormous string of new and established artists. Whether it’s to catch a favourite band or discover a new one, 2000 Trees is a massive recommendation. Just be aware that when you’ve been once it’s very hard to not pick it up as a habit that’s hard to kick. Here are some highlights from Friday from a huge selection of what went on this year…

Deux Furieuses getting the day off to a solid start on the Axiom stage – powerful riffs and no holds barred drums belying the fact that they are only two.

Fresh from playing a string of sold out shows together, Gouge Away (The Cave) and Slow Crush (Neu) filled their respective marquees, with both receiving a great crowd reaction.

Lice have gained a well deserved reputation for their live performances and this was no exception – a stand out set of satirical art punk on the Neu stage which saw some excellent bookings this year.

You have to have your photo taken and take some of your friends by the Trees sign – it’s the law.

Carnage in The Cave. Bringing Belgian noise rock and their very own language, Raketkanon are not to be missed live; for fans of vocalists crowd surfing in doughnut inflatables, this is not the time to forget your earplugs.

Time out to recharge the batteries at the beautiful Forest acoustic stage with a chilled set from locals Watercolours and some indie psych back at the Neu stage from Indigo Lo.

2000 Trees crowds are the friendliest crowds – unicorns not compulsory.

A long way from home, Australia’s Hands Like Houses pulled in a big crowd on the main stage who provided an equally big UK welcome.

Still on the main stage, the classic mix of 2000 Trees and Pulled Apart by Horsesalways a pleasure to see them individually; together is hard to beat. Stage jumps, circle pits and a guitar accompanied dive into the crowd are what Trees is all about.

Everyone welcome, dress code whatever you please. (By the way, any discarded rubbish disappears after each set, kudos to the litter picking / recycling team).

Really happy late afternoon vibe for Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly – packed marquee too at the Axiom.

Fast becoming firm favourites on the indie punk scene, Heavy Lungs put on a frenetic show, catch them in a smaller venue while you can, this time the Neu stage grabbing the spotlight again.

So, with this year’s 2000 Trees all packed away, it seems fortuitous to think a long, long way ahead and be aware that next year’s is already in the making. 9th – 11th July 2020 – put it in your diary, you won’t regret it.

Early bird tickets are available now.

Words and photos by Siobhan

15th July 2019

 

 

Live – The Howlers at The Hope & Ruin

The Howlers / Dog of Man / B. Spanks, The Hope and Ruin Brighton, 30th June 2019

Kicking off Sunday night at The Hope and Ruin, B. Spanks put on an impressive one man show, vocally reminiscent of the Pete Shelley school of sardonicism and with a definite nod to the nostalgia of DIY new wave – one to keep an eye out for.

Next on, Brighton locals Dog of Man brought infectious psych punk hooks, much laughter and talk of Stormzy and sweaty men to the table. If Violent Femmes had switched the xylophone on Gone Daddy Gone for an accordion it might have sounded like this. They’ll be back at The Hope and Ruin for their album launch party on 16th August if you want to hear for yourself.

Headliners The Howlers have been making waves on the live circuit with their aggressively energetic shows and have been on my must see list since catching them at Icebreaker and Portsmouth Psych Fest earlier in the year. Recent single La Dolce Vita has helped to cement their reputation as an important part of the new UK underground scene.

Desert rock, garage rock, call it what you will, The Howlers are a force to be reckoned with live, a heady mix of frenetic drums and twanging guitar befitting of a modern day western soundtrack – A Fistful of Reverb in the making perhaps.

There’s still a chance to catch the band on their current run of tour dates throughout July in Nottingham (5th), Manchester (6th), Sheffield (19th), Portsmouth (20th) and Hull (30th). Get along if you can and definitely watch this space – it looks like this is the start of something special.

Further details on live dates and other news from The Howlers here

Words and photos by Siobhan

3rd July 2019

 

Live – Hey Colossus at The Loft

Hey Colossus, The Loft, Southsea, 7th June 2019

Hey Colossus have been melting minds for 16 years now, and I’m led to believe that this is their first time playing in Portsmouth. It’s chucking it down with rain outside, but The Loft is absolutely rammed with eager punters tonight. The temperature is rapidly rising, and by the time the sextet hit the stage, most of us are already drenched in sweat. This is going to be good.

Tonight’s 10 song set draws chiefly from the band’s last four studio albums – Four Bibles (2019), The Guillotine (2017), Radio Static High (2015) and In Black and Gold (2015) – with an unreleased song thrown in for good measure. Sisters and Brothers gets things off to a steady start before the three pronged attack of new tracks, Four Bibles, Palm Hex / Arndale Chins and Memory Gore bring a heaviness and groove that sets the tone for the rest of the evening.

Hop the Railings deviates slightly by adding the motorik pulse of krautrock legends, Can, to proceedings before unreleased track Medal brings the noise once again. After that, it’s just one giant slab of noise rock after another, and the band really start to hit their stride.

Frontman Paul Sykes is clearly enjoying himself as he dances around and uses his microphone stand to engage with audience members filming on their phones. The rhythm section consisting of bass player, Joe Thompson, and drummer, Rhys Llewellyn, are the tight driving force that makes this band one of the best around. The addition of Chris Summerlin (Grey Hairs, Kogumaza, Haress) to the three guitar line-up adds another dimension of well-crafted tone and volume that ensures that last song, Back in the Room, is a bona fide skull crusher to end the night on a high.

Hey Colossus have worked incredibly hard to get where they are today, and they’re on a roll at the moment. Go see them in a small venue like this before they become colossal.

Setlist:

Sisters and Brothers
Four Bibles
Palm Hex / Arndale Chins
Memory Gore
Hop the Railings
Medal
Black and Gold
Experts Toll
Wired Brainless
Back in the Room

You can find more tour dates and the latest news from Hey Colossus here

Words by Ryan Howarth
Photos by Hannah Mesquitta

11th June 2019

Live – Utopia Brighton

Utopia All-Dayer, The Green Door Store, Brighton, 8th June 2019

After a successful first year in 2018, the Utopia all-dayer was back with a vengeance at the weekend. Brighton’s much loved Green Door Store was transformed with psychedelic light projections by Innerstrings and played host to a great selection of live music throughout the day.

Prior commitments meant that I had to skip the opening acts but I’m reliably informed that Buddha Blood and Rainn Byrns got things off to a flying start and, having seen Mystic Peach before, I can vouch for the quality of their live performance. Happily, I arrived in time to catch Public Body – made up of familiar faces from other Brighton bands, their combined forces result in some infectious post punk tunes and drew a good crowd still early in the day.

Next up, John Myrtle proved a popular choice with a definite 60s lilt to his stories within songs. From How Can You Tell If You Love Her to Cyril the Slug, everyone was pretty much captivated from start to finish.

It’s rare to have an event like this without at least one act dropping from the bill and sadly Kagoule were unable to play as planned on the day. Disappointing as they’re always on point live and also, when you only have two females on the line-up, it’s a damn shame to lose one of them.

Nonetheless, no complaints about their replacement as local duo Skinny Milk were drafted in at the eleventh hour and played a blistering set as expected, an excellent substitution.

Beachtape’s fuzzy indie tracks have seen them become an established feature on the Brighton scene and continued support for them is apparent with tracks old and new in Slow and Fix It Up equally well received.

Much anticipation for new project Nancy turned out to be well deserved. Another familiar face on the local circuit was preceeded by the rest of the band set up on stage and a single mic stand placed strategically in the crowd. With live appearances starting to pop up, the mystery frontman has been revealed as Tigercub’s Jamie Hall but, make no mistake, this is a far cry from heavy grunge and ripped jeans territory. More akin to The Cramps mix of raucous punk and laid back lounge swaying, Nancy raised the pace and atmosphere in the venue to a different level; one to watch for sure.

Always compelling live, Hotel Lux bring a turbulent hybrid of post-punk and pub rock, lyrics writhing in humour of the bleakest variety. They were a big favourite on the day and it’s not hard to see why. Dystopian disdain at its best, Hotel Lux never disappoint.

And so to the headliners, Heavy Lungs. The band launched straight into Half Full and Jealous; the crowd launched straight into a mosh pit. Reminiscent of early Killing Joke, the Bristol four piece lived up to their reputation for providing a raw assault to the senses and a certain ordered chaos throughout the room. It’s a positive note to end the day on, the last charge of the party brigade before curfew.

I can’t fail to mention the impeccable timing throughout the day. Despite having 10 bands to accommodate and relatively short gaps between sets, everything ran to schedule, almost to the second (having the set times projected onto the wall between acts is also a stroke of genius). Add to this a nicely assorted mix of artists on the line-up and a really friendly crowd and Utopia can tick off their second successful outing on their way to becoming a regular event on the  Brighton music calendar.

Words and photos by Siobhan

10th June 2019

Book Club – David Byrne: How Music Works

With so many great books about and by musicians on the shelves, it’s difficult to gauge which ones will make the read as compelling as the music. Here, Ryan Bell reviews one of his favourites…

David Byrne: How Music Works

David Byrne’s How Music Works is much like his music. Whether it’s his solo work, his collaborative recordings with Brian Eno or St Vincent, or as the frontman for influential art-rock group Talking Heads, he is a consistent creator of music that is ambitious and intelligent yet enjoyable, and his foray into the world of music literature is no different.

Similar to the genre fusions found in the music of Talking Heads, Byrne chooses not to craft a by the numbers autobiography, instead he flirts between the role of rock raconteur, music history professor and pop culture sociologist, amalgamating observations, anecdotes, ideas and concepts gathered from his thirty plus years in the music business. Whilst this could result in the book becoming arrogant or rambling, his writing style is informative yet conversational, with a great sense of “believe me, I’ve seen it and done it” authenticity and an enthusiasm that can rarely be doubted, leading How Music Works to be a surprising breath of fresh air to read.

This can also be attributed to the nonlinear structure of the book, with each chapter focusing on a different musical talking point such as technology, collaborations, live performances, etc. Byrne states in the preface that he feels there is still a certain rhythm to the book, though acknowledges the merit of allowing for reader permitted chapter hopping, appealing to those readers with a shorter attention span. David Byrne writes attractively throughout, however I am such a reader, and the option to jump to learning about the recording of Remain in Light over Byrne’s thoughts on music industry finances, without the result of a jumbled narrative, was refreshing. 

Naturally, you would pick up the book because of the name attached, Byrne has made a career out of being one of pop music’s most revered auteurs, and some of the most enjoyable parts of How Music Works come from his success in pairing his music history research with his own personal observations. Reading about the televangelists who inspired the Talking Heads hit Once in a Lifetime, or his time spent watching Japanese theatre for the infamous “big suit” from the legendary Stop Making Sense live shows is enthralling, particularly after witnessing his spectacular American Utopia show, which only wet the appetite to learn where he gathers his inspirations from.

As well as these, Byrne is fascinated by the wider context of how shapes sound, how geography and performance and listening spaces can affect and influence the sonic nature. He describes the uneven wall, scattered furniture pieces and low ceiling that gave legendary punk club CBGB a “remarkably good sound” and how the percussive character of African tribe music would have turned to “sonic mush” in the stone walled gothic cathedrals of the west in the middle ages.

The book is typical of Byrne, as whilst other rock/pop musicians might opt for the sexy warts ‘n’ all page turner, his eyes and ears are tuned, almost academically, towards the physics and working parts behind music’s past, present and future. Knowing that some might scoff at the idea that by doing so he is ridding the art of its enjoyment, he insightfully remarks in the preface that “knowing how the body works doesn’t take away from the pleasure of living”.

There is a wide range of ground covered in How Music Works, which at times can leave it feeling a little uneven and scattered, but it’s rarely pretentious, he never gives the impression he is writing about anything for any reason other than it fascinates him. Its structure is particularly suited for travel reads or coffee table pick-me-ups, with his knack for great pop song writing translating into cushioning the trickier moments with anecdotes and titbits, and the musical wanderlust shown throughout his career making his search for the mechanics of sound eclectic and colourful.

Words and photo by Ryan Bell

16th May 2019

Festival – Portsmouth Psych 2019

Portsmouth Psych Fest, The Wedgewood Rooms, 4th May 2019

Making a welcome return this weekend, Portsmouth Psych Fest stormed into its third year with an event packed with another amazing array of artists. Throughout Saturday, eighteen acts played across the main stage in The Wedgewood Rooms and its more compact counterpart in the Edge of the Wedge, hosted by local collective Calamity Cratediggers. Kicking things off at the Edge, Fat Earthers, The Howlers and Number 9 gave us a glimpse into how diverse the day was going to be, from psych-punk to desert rock to 60s’ infused psychedelia all in the first few hours.

Over on the main stage, Drusila impressed once again with their unapologetically 80s’ tinged electronic dance tracks – big things ahead for this local duo surely.

With the room transformed by vibrant liquid colour projections from visual artist Inner Strings and psych mascots in the form of graffitied mannequins by street artist My Dog Sighs, the scene was set for poetry-fused guitar tunes from Freya Beer, melodic indie-pop from Mystic Peach and the unlikely but irrepressibly fun blend of Cumbian psych provided by Los Bitchos.

Back at the Edge, Japanese Television were a joy to hear and see, the self-proclaimed space surfers proving that lyrics aren’t always a necessity. Sleep Eaters continued the momentum, a great live band bringing Americana flavoured garage to the table, followed by post-punk four piece Egyptian Blue.

Space age psych up next from Brisbane’s Nice Biscuit, just about managing to squeeze everyone onto the stage, easily managing to impress.

Picking up the pace, Brighton’s GURU produced the most animated set of the day with plenty of crowd interaction and discordant tunes galore.

Over on the main stage, Black Country, New Road gave a more sombre performance pulsated by dark set vocals, before the costumed krautrock-influenced beats of Snapped Ankles lightened the mood and continued the mystery behind the woolly headed noise-lords.

Concluding proceedings at the Edge of the Wedge, Scalping provided some heavy techno-punk before handing over to the grittily wonderful world of Glasgow’s Sweaty Palms, an intriguing melee of cowboy hats, garage guitars and saxophone worthy of any stage headliner.

The last two acts on the Wedgewood Rooms stage completed the eclectic mix. Brooding shoegaze over industrialised visuals from The KVB followed by an energy filled set from indie rockers Yak brought the festival to a suitably intense close.

Joining the legion of psych fests up and down the country, Portsmouth has firmly staked its place amongst the more established events. The line ups every year so far have been solid from start to finish. When tickets go on sale for next year there’s really no need to wait for announcements on who’s playing; just buy one and thank yourself later.

Keep up to speed with Portsmouth Psych Fest here

Words and photos by Siobhan 

7th May 2019

Live – Suede at Brighton Dome

Suede / BC Camplight, Brighton Dome, 23rd April 2019

Suede… the story behind the band’s rise, fall and emphatic comeback has been told many times. Still, there’s an intrigue as to what they might do next. With latest album The Blue Hour released last year and a huge tour underway, one thing’s for sure – Suede are far from done yet.

Opening support on this tour has largely come from the much lauded BC Camplight. The man behind the tunes and the piano is US born singer-songwriter Brian Christinzio; his tale of starting a new life in the UK, gaining a record deal then being deported before winning back his right to live here sounds like a fine set of lyrical fantasy but in this case is all true. Having had to pull a couple of dates through illness, it was good to see him back and well, providing an eclectic start to the evening with tracks from his latest album Deportation Blues.

The anticipation for Suede’s arrival on stage is met with a suitably atmospheric outpouring of smoke and dramatic lighting, from which the band emerge to the strains of haunting new track As One. The capacity crowd, many of whom have been there since doors, are rewarded with an ample dosage of songs spanning an incredible 30 years. It’s not long before some older material surfaces in the set – We Are The Pigs and So Young reminders that there is a back catalogue here worthy of its place in the music history books. As a frontman, Brett Anderson appears to have fallen into Neverland as his endless energy and off stage excursions seem no less enthusiastic then they ever were.

Anderson gives a thank you to the crowd, rightly noting that without a great crowd it’s hard to have a great gig. And the respect is clearly mutual; there are moments where he talks to the audience or during stripped back songs (Everything Will Flow / Europe Is Our Playground) that you could hear a pin drop, no background chat, no need, still it’s a welcome change to the annoying conversational hum that often accompanies performers. But then Suede have never been your average band. Oddly labelled with the Britpop tag in the early days, their refusal to conform has seen them become something of an institution on their own terms, an institution that puts on a show to be remembered as it turns out.  After a quick break, the band return to finish the evening with a huge singalong to The Beautiful Ones followed by closing track Life Is Golden, a track that Anderson says he wrote for his son but which it is likely everyone there is happy to take as a message for themselves. From the start, Suede were something a bit different, something a bit special. Turns out they still are.

Click here for remaining tour dates and all things Suede related

More from BC Camplight here

Words and photos by Siobhan

25th April 2019