ALSO First Aid Kit, Courtney Barnett, Thumpers, & more...
VOLUM E 4 / ISSUE 2 / 2014 / F REE
THE TEAM EDITOR
CONTENTS LIVE Jonwayne Live at Leeds 3
L il y Gra n t
e ver y on e’s ton g ue at th e momen t . W h o’s goi n g
S E CR E TA RY
wh ere, wh o’s pl ay i n g
N a t B a r ke r
EV E NTS M AN AG E RS M a is ie K e l l y
wh ere, do we h ave to h ave
M I X TA P E / FESTIVALS
M etal l i ca th ere? So man y curren t rel eases are cr y i n g
Eliza b eth Villa n ue va
out to be h eard l i ve, an d so
Ig le s i a s RADIO C H I E F
man y of th i s i ssue’s arti sts
RECENT RELEASES Pixies The Horrors copeland Django Django Lily Allen Ly k k e L I Pa r q u e t C o u r t s tUnE yArDs 6
J o n i Ro om e F EATURE S E D I TOR So p h ie B rea r RE V IE WS E D I TOR H a rr y Ro s e h i l l CO M M E N T E D I TOR Holly Hunt L IV E E DITO R Kyl e P ic k n e l l P RE SS + PR N a n c y S a ul
h ave been reel i n g of f th ei r l on g sch edul es an d speci al pl an s for th e summer’s l i ve musi c - i t’s di f f i cul t n ot to get a l i ttl e exci ted. W e started of f th e season wi th L i ve at Leeds, an d n ow we’re l ook i n g ah ead to th e rest of th e summer. In th e spi n -of f secti on ,
ARTS E DITO R Geo rg ia M a rs h a l l D E SIGN Alice L a w re nce
WI T H T H AN KS TO Os ca r B u rton X i K a s imiira K on t i o Th o ma s Ro s s e r Lu c y Wege r i f Sa m B o o ke r
we’ve been l ook i n g at th e
INTERVIEWS C h e t Fa k e r First Aid Kit Thumpers Courtney Barnett Martyn By The Rivers Glass Animals Anonymous Records Arthur Beatrice 9
al l -embraci n g aspect of musi c: embraci n g gen res (e ven th ose on ce sh un n ed), an d embraci n g oth er forms of art an d expressi on . It’s wh at we h ope e ver y on e wi l l be doi n g at festi val s i n a fe w week s ti me - embraci n g al l k i n ds of musi c an d art an d expressi on , because th ere’s a bombardmen t of
Alice M i l l e r E l l io t B a l l K a rl B os Za yn Qu re s h i A lex M o rd en - Os b or ne M a d d y Cra mm ond Ab iga il Le w i s Ro s a H a n s e l l K it Lo c ke y
i t out th ere.
SPIN-OFF Mix & Match: The End of Genre? Sunshine & Soul: A Disco Revival Staving off the Critics 19
MA NAGIN G D I RE CTOR
Festi val i s th e word on
VOLUME 4 / ISSUE 2 / 2014 / FREE
Alice L a w re nce
Here’s our own l i ttl e bombardmen t of musi c before we can run to th e f i el ds an d th e woods an d th e beach es for th e real th i n g .
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“I’d rather have ten fans and know where the fuck I’m at than a million who split when the trend falls flat.” JONWAYNE - ‘IN SPITE’, FT KURT KOBAIN
J O N WAY N E + KUTMAH + BAMBOOMAN B E AT B A R , L E E D S , 26/04/14
Jonwayne is an interesting guy. He moved from some rough but seriously impressive beat tapes into a full blown contract with Stones Throw for three rap albums. Eschewing what seems to be the current path to rap stardom of releasing a hosted mixtape displaying the rapper’s variety of flows and styles over familiar beats (see Kendrick Lamarr, Bishop Nehru), Jonwayne began his career in an informal way. Album artwork made on Paint, childlike stop motion music videos and a tongue in cheek attitude toward... well... pretty much everything apart from his lyrics. His first three rap releases were sold exclusively on cassette tape, with the third getting him into trouble with Phillip Morris Cigarette Company for copyright infringement. Musically his style is often referred to as ‘left field’, ‘art-rap’ and ‘avantgarde’ but these hollow words seem more to do with the fact that people don’t really know what to say about him other than that. Put it this way, he’s unusual, but he’s pretty bloody good. Giles Peterson thinks so, awarding the accolade of ‘Album of the Year 2014’ for Rap Album One. But has all this low key uniqueness and praise from those whose praise is deemed important gone to his head?
He arrives on stage after a fantastic set from Bambooman, a Leeds based DJ & Producer who is definitely one to watch (we hear tell that he’s playing a York Herbal Mafia night in late May...), barely registering the audience and retiring behind a mass of machinery to play an unjustifiably selfindulgent beat set. When he finally left the desk and grasped the mic he reeled off track after track with practiced perfection, maintaining a disdain for the crowd that seemed to speak louder than his words. After spending some time moaning about people filming on their phones rather than enjoying themselves, he went into his last song. After several unsuccessful attempts to hush the crowd for an acapella, he left halfway through the verse in a manner somewhere between a huff and a storm off. You got the feeling that he would have preferred the crowd to sit down and appreciate his presence and music in silence. I personally wouldn’t have minded this, but it’s no way to build a wider fanbase, a good reputation and a fruitful career. As mentioned, he’s pretty bloody good, but not quite good enough yet to get away with being a diva. “It ain’t the crown that makes the royalty/ it’s the crowd and the loyalty.” JONWAYNE - ‘ROYALTY’ OSCAR BURTON XI
ambient beats, gradually building up to his electric remix of ‘Lies’ by CHVRCHES, the venue was held still, captivated by his simple yet empowering presence.
Since 2007, Live at Leeds has served as a meeting place for music lovers across the nation, gathering the likes of Alt-J, Mumford and Sons, James Blake, Lucy Rose and Marina and the Diamonds to perform in multiple venues spread around the city. This year’s LAL was no exception and it managed to bring together quality acts such as Hudson Taylor, Tourist, Johnny Flynn and Say Lou Lou just to name a few.
The evening was brought to a fine close with an enchanting solo performance in Leeds Holy Trinity Church by Johnny Flynn. Performing alone, lacking the backing of a band, with just a single resonator guitar and amplifier, his meek and humble voice echoed from the stone walls of this 18th century landmark. His presence brought sanctity within the audience who were later invited to a duet of ‘The Water’, before joining Flynn at the altar for a rendition of ‘Tickle Me Pink’ to draw the evening to an end in serene manner.
If LAL was to be described with only one word, it would be exploration. Yet with over 200 bands playing across 20 stages, selectivity is key. Rushing from one stage to another would be stressful and diminish the enjoyment of the day. Instead, picking a handful of artists to see results in genuine pleasure, as you fully take in what each artist and venue has to offer. Limited venue capacities meant intimate atmospheres so getting to gigs early was crucial. Luckily, LAL provided a booklet with a few salient facts to help in making your festival decisions.
Live at Leeds was a festival of exploration, both musically and culturally, offering a chance to discover more venues and musical gems. From folk to the most ambient electronic music, the festival provided nourishment even for the pickiest of music fans; the urban atmosphere of Live at Leeds is refreshing amongst other large UK festivals such as Latitude, Reading and Glastonbury. The city itself comes alive to play a part in the revelry of live performance, offering up venues for unsuspecting adventurers and gig-veterans alike to soak up and savour. From the intimate to the astonishing, Leeds opened treasured venues for all to enjoy, most notably the underground HiFi club and beautifully cosy Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen. Live at Leeds was a weekend that dropped complexities and branding, and instead brought back to heart the simplistic and abundant joys of live music: discovery.
Hudson Taylor, Dublin’s reaction to the explosive pop-folk scene, offered a lively and interactive show at the O2 Academy thanks to a well structured set list and their on-stage charisma. Venturing to HiFi club after experiencing Hudson Taylor once again highlighted the variety of venues throughout the city and the plethora of experiences available to enjoy. Once in, you were there for good. HiFi club was packed with people waiting to see Tourist, who intoxicated the audience with his layered remixes and his own experimental material. Beginning his set with progressive
KASIMIIRA KONTIO & THOMAS ROSSER
LIVE AT LEEDS 03/05/14
IMAGE: KASIMIIRA KONTIO & THOMAS ROSSER
MIXTAPE / FESTIVALS
GREEN MAN 14-17 AUGUST GLANUSK, WALES Escape to enchanting new beginnings at the feet of the Black Mountains.
BESTIVAL 4-7 SEPTEMBER ISLE OF WIGHT
Dig out your flares and get on that ferry - it’s disco time.
BEACONS 7-10 AUGUST YORKSHIRE
Your local Dales play host to an impeccable line-up, and a veritable feast of art and food.
R OU OF T BES 14 20
OUTLOOK 4-7 SEPTEMBER PULA, CROATIA
The pioneering Croatian beach festival returns for its seventh year in the sun.
JABBERWOCKY 15-16 AUGUST LONDON
Ditch the tent and head to the big smoke for a capital line-up.
FESTIVAL NO.6 5-7 SEPTEMBER PORTMERION, WALES
FARR FESTIVAL 18-20 JULY HERTFORDSHIRE
Probably the most beautiful and the most surreal place you could find yourself this summer.
Just 2000 guests, and some of the best electronic artists you’ll find anywhere.
Indoorsy Skeleton Boy Sugar Crush Cooking Up Something Good Perfect Gentleman Soul Satisfaction Astral Weeks Leisure Suit Preben Skirts (Kidnap Kid Remix) Everyday Robots Leaving on a jet plane BOOM
BATHS FRIENDLY FIRES JOANNA GRUESOME MAC DE MARCO WYCLEF JEAN BIT FUNK VAN MORRISON TODD TERJE THE OTHER TRIBE DAMON ALBARN MOS DEF LE1F
HEAD TO OUR SPOTIFY FOR AN EXTENDED MIXTAPE
IMAGES: GEORGIA MARSHALL / LUCY WEGERIF
Luminous: bright, shining, radiating light… The Horrors’ music is indeed luminous-sounding; previous effort Skying in particular was radiant from start to finish, a honing of the dream-pop stylings of its predecessor Primary Colours. But is Luminous a shining beacon in The Horrors’ discography? Will it eclipse their previous efforts?
The answer? Not completely. The Horrors have brought much more depth to their sound, with a complex layering of guitars hooks and intricate, evocative synths- that there becomes something new to appreciate with each listen. At first I was unsure as to how far the band had progressed from Skying. The choruses aren’t as immediately ear-catching, but instead they are slow, but sure, growers. The album begins with a low key, pulsating mix of rhythm and synths, which builds slowly. It’s not the most attention grabbing start, but suddenly, the there is an explosion into a heavy riff. The band want us to take full note of their return. On Skying, lead-singer Faris Badwan’s vocals soar above the mix with superhuman power, whereas here I feel they are embedded and often a little lost in the mix. However, the band have brought some heavily psychedelic influences into Luminous and so the more hazy, obscure vocals are part of the sonic progression on this album. ‘In and Out of Sight’ is a well balanced mix of electronica and psychedelia - dreamy vocals layered with reverb are contrasted with fast, shimmering synths and a driving, funky bassline. The mixing of musical influences and use of contrast is apparent. On ‘Falling Star’ striking, piercing guitars, reminiscent of the caricatured goth-punk of The Horrors’ debut ‘Strange House’ are contrasted with light, sparkly synths.
What unites Blur, David Bowie, Nirvana and PJ Harvey? The answer is a passionate love for one late-80s band of misfits: Pixies. The fact that these artists themselves are all well-established and highly influential just goes to show that Pixies’ brand of distinctive and disturbing guitar pop has cemented them as the Beatles of alternative rock. After perm-cool indie queen and sometime Breeders frontwoman Kim Deal left the band last year, many thought the band’s first album since 1991, Indie Cindy, would never quite be the same again. This album does, sadly, confirm some of those suspicions.
Lead single ‘So Now You Know’ is definitely a big, hooky hit for the summer, and the catchiest track on the record. Still, the most mesmerising aspect of The Horrors’ sound is Badwan’s majestic vocals. Their beauty is given reign in more stripped-back fashion during ‘Change Your Mind’, whose slow, melancholic silkiness is reminiscent of The Smiths. It is a welcome interlude, offering a little variation in an album full of heavily textured, intense songs.
Album opener and key track ‘What Goes Boom’ comes crashing into view with a cacophony of swirling guitars. This gives way to a verse with an irresistible verse that has the nearest thing to a groove that you’ll ever get with the Pixies, before hitting you head on with a gargantuan chorus as forceful and reckless as a repeated hammer to the face. The trademark surreal/disturbing lyrics are at their most noticeable here, frontman Black Francis referencing everything from playing “ping pong bingo” to arguing with a “whipped cream hippy”, in a bizarre tale of unhinged lust.
There is definitely more than one occasion where an attempt to recreate the success of Skying classic ‘Moving Further Away’ is evoked. The technique of taking a simple lyric and transforming it into an epic chorus is used most notably on second single ‘I See You’. This track’s culmination is nothing short of explosive - with its soaring, theatrical string accompaniment like the climax of an epic love story.
Title track ‘Indie Cindy’, largely keeping up the album’s early momentum, punctuated by an unusually emotive and mournful plea to “be in love with me”. Next, however, comes the album’s highlight. ‘Bag Boy’, one of the earliest tracks to be released by the reformed Pixies is a blindingly good return to form, and hints that although much of the album is lacking the signature Pixies ‘bite’ (ungodly screeching lead lines, nonsensical backing vocals), this is at least a fantastic and interesting push in the right direction.
So, though I am still partial to the relative simplicity of Skying, Luminous is an album of contrasts, of new musical directions, but which still retains The Horrors’ magical essence. Though really, it is the sense of yearning for something cosmic and greater that manifests itself in their music which then makes a deep, emotional but inarticulate connection with something within the spirit of their listeners. This, I feel, is what gives Luminous its true shine.
It is a shame, then, that the album’s second half then takes a decided turn for the average. Many tracks start out promisingly (‘Blue Eyed Hexxe’, ‘Snakes’), with characteristically odd and unsettling guitar patterns, before seemingly to fall flat, as the each song edges dangerously close to deserving the dreaded label of ‘filler’. Later ‘Andro Queen’ is by far the most radical departure from the traditional Pixies sound yet. Featuring vast spacey swathes of synth and none of that expected overdriven lead guitar, it is interesting enough to catch your attention, but Black Francis’ uninterested vocal work lets it down slightly, and suggests that further work is needed if they’re intent on going down this route.
This is therefore an album that will give just enough for Pixies fans to be satisfied, but whether it will excite others is doubtful. The disturbed angst that was such a core part of their previous albums is at best highly diluted, and at worst replaced by a tired imitation of its former self. This is not to say that the album should be summarised as a disappointment, as certain tracks – ‘Bagboy’ and the title track in particular – strongly hint at a compelling progression in sound. Sadly though, this is the exception, not the rule, and though this is an album that still bears the unmistakable hallmarks of the Pixies sound, it struggles to deliver or stand out.
Sometimes artists are in a bit of a “damned if you do damned if you don’t” situation with their audiences. Artists who are creatively stagnant and release carbon copies of the same thing repeatedly will rightfully be heavily criticised. Inga Copeland (now going by the moniker copeland) hasn’t done this at all, although with such a consistently creative musician I doubt many were in fear of copeland running out of ideas. Instead she brings some very fresh ideas to the table on her debut solo album BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT, yet I find myself yearning for something more at home with her back catalogue. BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT finds copeland taking a leaf out of Ninja Tune label-mate Actress’ “difficult”-music-making book. The opening track ‘Faith OG X’ ends in a defiant ringing noise that evokes tinnitus more than any enjoyable music and sets the attention-seeking tone for the rest of the album. Actress himself then appears on the second track ‘advice to young girls’ on which we hear either a vocal sample or an incredibly dry Copeland herself, tell what starts as a meandering and somewhat depressing tale of escapism. The music however sounds as rigid as the person whose voice tells us the tale even if it is a fascinating one lyrically. One must question what role humour plays in the album, although that has always been true of Copeland back to her days in the duo Hype Williams (with Dean Blunt). For starters the album is named BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT and the last track is called ‘l’oreal’. I think there might also be a reference to Wu Tang Clan in the form of “cash rules everything around me” on here, which I think might be meant to be a joke. In a “haha Inga Copeland referenced Wu Tang, those artists are so different kind of way”. I don’t know, I didn’t really laugh, but if this album’s aim was to confuse, it has certainly succeeded with me. The album does improve significantly in its second half however, making music that whilst not a replica of Copeland’s early work doesn’t feel the need to be so difficult. ‘Fit 1’ that starts the second half of the album is the best showing of Copeland’s considerable talent as a vocalist, which she seems to be hiding from on far too many of the tracks here. In the end, Inga Copeland has to be admired for her fearlessness to chart new territory that will definitely alienate some fans, but whether she had to do it in such a musically attention-seeking way is questionable.
Django Django have achieved what seems to be the impossible – telling you exactly what it was that you wanted to listen to without you really knowing what it is that’s being played to you. Their Late Night Tales mix is an extraordinary combination of the nostalgic and the new. Although some tracks, like TNGHT’s ‘Bugg’n’, don’t fit so comfortably amongst the nineties nostalgia, these are only momentary lapses from the rest, which seem at the same time both revolutionary and yet obvious choices. The mix fits, like so many other Late Night Tales releases, perfectly into that particular mood slot which is the last drink before bed, the resistance of sleep and sitting up for one last album. The sound of 3am when the clock has been forgotten is inevitably of nostalgia and the comfort of the vaguely familiar. The presence of the curator is strong here, with the second track coming from their tour support, Gulp and with most tracks resonating with the familiar electronic sounds of Django Django. The penultimate track is the pinnacle of the neonostalgia feel that is reached for (and achieved) through the whole album with a refreshing yet faithful cover of The Monkee’s ‘Porpoise Song’ with vocalist Vincent Neff crooning “goodbye, goodbye”. Django Django perfectly capture that small hours sound with their plaintive and unlikely combination of songs, rounded off with the Late Night Tales signature spoken word track. Benedict Cumberbatch’s fourth installation of the poem ‘Flat of Angels’ is an appropriately calming end to an album which carries you along in what seems like the most natural progression of tracks possible. ALICE MILLER
I feel as though compilation albums, on the whole, receive more criticism than they necessarily deserve. When artists continually release mixes on platforms like SoundCloud, is there any point in spending money on what is essentially a glorified playlist? There is an artistry to the mix tape that we miss now that playlists are so easy to compile ourselves. But there is a difference between a quickly pushed together playlist and a curated mix album. It is this difference that the Late Night Tales series champions. It is through the intimate choices of Django Django, that we become privy to the nuance that wedges a Primal Scream song between The Beach Boys and Massive Attack.
A recent change to copyright law made ripping CDs to a personal computer legal (I know, I wasn’t aware this was illegal either). In addition to this new legislation was a further amendment, which allowed “use of other people’s copyright for caricature, parody or pastiche”. As Sheezus has almost no originality in its genesis, it therefore falls under the category of parody or pastiche and as such should be judged as a joke. Opening track ‘Sheezus’ has none of the innovative techniques employed in Kanye West’s album Yeezus. Lily does use the words “bitch”, “fuck” and “period” which makes her edgy because no one has ever used cuss words in a song before. Kids! Mum and Dad will not approve of these explicit lyrics! Rebellion! Lily uses fashionable text speak in the title ‘L8 CMMR’. She also rhymes the phrases “see his face” with “win the race” – Lily the lyrical genius is truly at work. The middle of the album is forgettable until ‘As Long As I Got You’ which led me to believe this album is one big exercise in trolling. It’s a country ballad (given up on the whole Yeezus/Sheezus thing) with the line “You saved me from myself/ As long as I’ve got you and we can be together and forever just you and me that’s swell”. That “strong independent woman” theme lasted all of 10 minutes. A record executive one day heard that Lorde was doing well with a song about slagging off rappers and saw dollar signs so decided to do the same thing with Lily Allen. Enough has been said about the racist implications of the video for ‘Hard Out Here’ without actually saying much about the track which is pretty much just the word ‘bitch’ and some lines about women in the music industry (which Nicki Minaj contradicts in almost every one of her verses ever). ‘URL Badman’ is a song about trolls which in the context of this album is meta as fuck. The track has a dubstep breakdown, which proves either that the producers are committed to making a joke album or they genuinely think that dubstep is still relevant. The album mercifully ends on her awful bonus track cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ in the same way Yeezus finished with Kanye covering ‘Everybody’s Changing’.
LATE NIGHT TALES
BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT
It’s a shame that the change in law means Lily will be able to make money from this abomination as it isn’t a funny joke and can’t be classified as music. JONI ROOME
It doesn’t take a genius to realise the tone of this album. It is poetic in its melancholic simplicity and it succeeds in making the listener feel uncomfortable and nostalgic about the long lost loves. ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ feels like a flashback to Li’s past with its echoey vocals and powerful drums accompanied with soft piano. The whole album is beautiful in its effortlessness. It is an ode to the harsh reality behind every break up. Li mixes her old poppish self with grunge-esque, acoustic melodies that brings new depth to her as a songwriter. ‘Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone’ is a song that stands out in its vulnerable honesty. Li wallows in her sorrow, making the listener feel the pain hiding behind this emotional intensity. This album isn’t here to make you feel good. It isn’t even here to make you feel sad. It is something that will shake you up, stab you with its honesty and leave you feeling numb after being dragged along on this emotional rollercoaster. Li is reminding us about what music is about at its most emotionally poignant. She appears to understand the rawness of heartbreak at a far deeper level, and this album is here to remind us about those first loves and first break ups, because don’t we all want to be loved like we’re not made of stone?
I NEVER LEARN
Hailing from New York, and attracting a lot of attention since their debut Light Up Gold, Parquet Courts’ sophomore effort compiles a mixture of catchy riffs, decent lyricism and solid drum beats to create an overall enjoyable album. Opening with ‘Bodies Made Of’, Parquet Courts make a good first impression, quickly making you bop your head to and fro. Things quickly slow down as lead singer Andrew Savage’s vocals are like a fusion between that of Rivers Cuomos and Jonathan Richman, whilst he drawls through the verses of ‘Dear Ramona’, describing an ethereal character, “an heiress of delusion”. With the softer, slow drumming and simple verse riff, this track brings the album to an early slow point, and is worth highlighting as one of the standout tracks. The clichéd “change in lifestyle since success” trope features heavily on the album, with ‘Always Back in Town’ emphasising the feeling of displacement created in relationships due to touring. Despite the lack of originality with the theme it is still handled well, with Savage’s voice almost providing a feeling of hopelessness as the band continue to grow. The title track arrives boldly, packing more of a punch than the rest of the record. The fast drums and simple, quick chords create a strong sound and it’s easy to imagine the great reaction it will get live. Whilst they are very much dissimilar albums, walking through campus on a sunny May day listening to ‘Sunbathing Animal’ and ‘Instant Disassembly’, I was filled with a feeling close to that which is provided by The Strokes’ Is This It on a Summer’s day, which can only be a good thing for the Brooklyn quartet. Closing on ‘Raw Milk’ and ‘Into The Garden’, the album mellows out again, with a perfect ending, as Andrew slips into his “insomniac shoes”. Whilst his vocals fit in perfectly on select songs such as the aforementioned ‘Dear Ramona’, ‘She’s Rolling’ and title track ‘Sunbathing Animal’, occasionally Savage just comes across as sounding too moany. Couple this with the sometimes too “samey” sounds throughout the album, and it is quick to see that Parquet Courts come with some recognisable faults. However, don’t be mistaken; Sunbathing Animal is still a very good album, and the sound created by the band is most certainly a great one. Sunbathing Animal keeps up the considerable momentum the band have accrued from Light Up Gold, and is sure to be dazzling many festival crowds over the summer months. ELLIOT BALL
Until now, tUnE-yArDs’ sound has been created without external influence, largely based on layers of loops expertly crafted by Garbus. On Nikki Nack however, the decision was made to bring in producers for the first time, in the shape of Malay and John Hill, whose credits include Frank Ocean, Rihanna and M.I.A. Relinquishing control of such a unique sound to pop experts could worry some but rest assured, this is a tUnE-yArDs record to the bone. Lead single ‘Water Fountain’ has a rich texture of polyrhythmic handclaps, percussion, struck glass bottles, a cacophony of synths and multiple harmonies. Far from a hectic mess, every element weaves together perfectly. The chorus is reminiscent of a playground chant, but as the song progresses the delivery becomes more intense and the lyrics darker until Garbus’ shouting is overtaken by industrial synths and static. This is characteristic of tUnE-yArDs, their music often overpowers you with irresistible hooks and lively instrumentation; it isn’t until you listen closer that some of the twisted eccentricities emerge. This subtlety evades the brilliant ‘Why Do We Dine on the Tots?’ - a blatantly macabre Dr. Seuss-esque interlude. Chugging, synth-driven ‘Left Behind’ broadens the list of themes with nostalgia-fuelled lyrics about cigarettes and McDonalds trips mixed with anxiety over change. Elsewhere, opener ‘Find A New Way’ bubbles across vast musical ground littered with African-inspired vocal harmonies and digital harpsichords. The tUnE-yArDs sound isn’t diluted by enlisting producers, instead refined and, for the most part, bettered. Nikki Nack is a triumph. It’s dark, it’s fun and it’s incredibly catchy. With the new material garnering a lot of attention and a string of festival appearances on their tour schedule, tUnE-yArDs are on the verge of leaping from critical darlings to widespread acclaim. KARL BOS
The album kicks off with the title track ‘I Never Learn’ which introduces us to the concept of the album: it is all about the reality hiding behind the heart-shaped glasses we always put on when diving in to a new relationship. ‘I Never Learn’ is a combination of acoustic guitar and Li’s heartbreaking vocals. Although brief, they are unforgettable and powerful: “I’m right here, I’m your starcrossed lover/I lie here like a starless lover/I’ll die here as your phantom lover/I never learn”.
Five years on from acclaimed debut BiRd-BrAiNs, Merill Garbus’ tUnE-yArDs have grown from a solo project of eccentric sonic collages built in GarageBand to a duo with bassist Nate Brenner, fleshed out live with a pair of saxophonists, which has toured the world and collaborated with artists as diverse as Yoko Ono and ?uestlove. The intense level of energy which pervades their live shows has always shone through on record and Nikki Nack, their third LP, makes no exception.
Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li is back after a three year break with an album more excruciatingly emotional than ever before. I Never Learn, an album inspired by the toughest break up of her life, is Li’s thirty-two minute long anthem to the relationship that didn’t last. There is subtlety in this album and this is what makes it so relatable. It is about a relationship being brought into the daylight and the harsh realisation that there won’t be a fairy-tale ending to this story.
CHET What I find nowadays is that a lot of musicians’ genuine talent is diluted by their backstory, their fashion style, other people they’ve been hooking up with, and their general image rather than their music. So when Chet Faker comes along, it’s a breath of fresh air from the image-based industry one has become accustomed to. The Australian electronic artist real name Nick Murphy - first rose to prominence after his cover of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ went viral back in 2011. Since then, he has released his 2012 Thinking In Textures EP, followed by a debut album, Built On Glass, earlier this year. Long before the mention of an LP, Murphy had already bagged the Breakthrough Artist of the Year award at the 2012 Australian Independent Record Awards. This probably has something to do with his infusion of his love of soul and R&B with electronica, in such a way that makes the listener bop their head back and forth, feeling that much cooler for hearing something so smooth. One might feel that with a sound so unique, Murphy had always had plans to go into the music industry, however his push into the limelight came all of a sudden. ‘IT WAS WEIRD, AT FIRST I FELT KIND OF ANXIOUS CAUSE I DIDN’T WANT TO MESS ANYTHING UP’, he told me, reminiscing about when his ‘No Diggity’ diffused through almost the entire internet. He had started off by playing odd bits here and there in his hometown of Melbourne, but after learning about his philosophy on music, it becomes evident that Murphy is not a career musician at all.
‘THE MAIN THING IS TO MAKE IT AVAILABLE. MUSIC IS TOO SACRED TO ENFORCE IT AS A CAREER.’ At first, it may seem hypocritical of someone who has just released his album and is touring the world gaining more fame with every show, but Murphy explains further. ‘I ALWAYS THINK THAT PEOPLE SPENDING TIME TRYING TO MAKE IT BIG OR “BREAK IT” ARE WASTING TIME THAT THEY COULD BE SPENDING ON MAKING BETTER MUSIC’. ‘That’s just from my experience’. The most important thing is your passion for it - ‘to make sure your music is the best’ - rather than any one of the by products that might result from a devotion to music. Fame appears to be just one of the consequences of such devotion, and as Murphy puts it, ‘if it happens it happens’. I guess with such a positive, refreshing outlook, added to genuine talent, it is one of the things that has happened to him. This duty to his own music resonates in the way he approaches the topic of those who inspire him musically. He mentions Chet Baker: ‘he was an extremely flawed individual both personally and musically, and the thing I admire most about him is that because of this, he bared his soul into his music. That’s something I always wanted to do with my music, especially when I first started out’. The intricate detail put into the Thinking In Textures EP, and one listen to the track ‘Cigarettes & Chocolate’,
shows how Murphy emulates this sincerity and puts his all into it. Watching him play live, you can see how much of himself he puts in, to make the audience’s experience of his creation as enjoyable as possible. ‘Every show has its own special thing about it. I played this festival called The Falls in Lorne back in Australia just last year and that was the biggest show that I have ever played. But then you know I’ve played some really cool smaller gigs in smaller venues, I played one recently in Miami that was just really sweaty, and it had a good vibe.’ While touring around the globe does have its perks, as an independent musician, Murphy doesn’t have it as easy as others might. ‘I enjoy the travelling and touring, I mean, I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t, but I am an independent artist so I’m not travelling around on a milliondollar tour bus or anything. It is extremely taxing after a while, especially at the stage I’m at, having just put out the new album’. Still, I can’t help remind him that ‘waking up in one country and going to bed in another on a weekly basis’ does sound pretty enviable, even after he tells me that ‘you can’t eat crap food, otherwise you’ll burn out… I was tempted by a chicken burger at the truck stop right now, but I had to settle for a tuna sandwich’. Life gives us all hard choices sometimes. Even though Murphy has just released Built On Glass, in his live performances he still has time to play a couple of tracks from his earlier EP, and of course ‘No Diggity’. After his show at Brudenell Social Club last month, I had a chance to say hello while he was just standing there chewing on a piece of celery, chilling with the fans. He had a really chilled out, welcoming vibe about him, and I could tell that what he told me about his perception of the fame element of his career was true.
‘I NEVER READ REVIEWS ABOUT ME, OR INTERVIEWS THAT I HAVE DONE, AND I’M NEVER ONLINE LOOKING STUFF UP ABOUT MYSELF. SO THE ONLY TIME I HEAR ABOUT MYSELF IS WHEN I’M TALKING TO OTHER PEOPLE, WHICH WOULD BE THE SAME FOR A REGULAR LIFE, YOU KNOW?’ Though comfortable taking photos with people and signing tickets, he was more interested in talking about music, and that wasn’t only restricted to his own. When a friend asked about the best technique to produce her music, his advice was to simply do it, in fact: ‘you know, like the Nike tick, you just got to do it!’.
‘1998’, there’s a heavier emphasis on electronic influences emerging, likely gained after his Lock Jaw EP with Flume. It’s interesting to see how although he has only been around for the past three years, his musical style seems to have had such an impact on Australia’s music scene, and now Europe’s and America’s too. If his previous work has already established him as the Breakthrough Artist of the Year, then God only knows what he will go on doing as a result of his album. Discussing his future plans after this tour ends, he said he’d like to do more collaborations, as the last thing he wants to do after Built On Glass is ‘to get bogged down in a studio and work on my own stuff anytime too soon’.
On the LP, one can really hear the different influences he has adapted into his own music. Whereas the first half stays true to his Thinking In Textures style, on tracks such as
This all sounds very promising, but when asked who he would
like to collaborate with he was cautious to give me any names as they might read this article and ‘it might make it weird’. All I can say to that is that weird doesn’t necessarily have to be bad, Chet; good things happen to weird people! Anyway, if my article does get read by any of his potential collaborators, then I have definitely found my new career as a music journalist. Perhaps if that does become the case I will compose myself the next time I meet one of the musicians I interviewed and act cool, instead of just screaming “I interviewed you man!” in their face while they try to enjoy their celery stick and relax after a pretty hectic set. ZAYN QURESHI
IMAGES: LISA FRIELING
FIRST AID KIT In the summer of 2008, Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg went into the woods with a guitar and recorded a cover of Fleet Foxes’ ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’. Having been signed by Rabid Records (co-owned by The Knife) in the previous year, their cover went viral, drawing critical attention to their 2008 debut EP release, Drunken Trees. From the day their video was uploaded, a spotlight was shined on the duo, and with that came gigs, and the opportunity to work on their first full-length album. Today their cover has over 3.85 million views. 2010 saw the release of The Big Black and the Blue, the duo’s debut album, followed by the critically acclaimed The Lion’s Roar in 2012. Both of these albums document beautifully and expansively the sister’s masterful approach
to vocal harmony and acoustic clarity, with melancholically tinted lyrics invoking the musical spirits of Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash in the latter album’s strongest track, ‘Emmylou’. There’s something about the harmonies that Johanna and Klara achieve when they sing that’s difficult to describe; they’re almost too perfect, rich and sonorous to the ear.
‘We tried to work more on the arrangements this time. THE SONGS WE WROTE CALLED FOR MORE STRINGS AND MORE EPIC SOUNDS. THE LYRICS ALSO SEEM A LITTLE BIT MORE PERSONAL, AND ARE LESS ABOUT TELLING STORIES OF OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES - ALL THE SONGS COULD BE ABOUT US! This wasn’t intentional, we just happened to write songs like this. Perhaps because we’ve been through so much the past years when touring, it felt necessary to write about our experiences and emotions’.
Describing their music as ‘folk, country and Americana-inspired pop’, the duo strive for an ‘atmospheric, moving and timeless sound’ as their ultimate goal. When I ask about their influences, they list the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen as well as Laura Marling, Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes. For the new album, Stay Gold, due for release in June 2014, the duo sought to add depth and breadth to their music.
This more epic, more developed sound comes through as strongly on the new record as lyrical honesty does. ‘Shattered and Hollow’ begins “I am in love, and I am lost / But I’d rather be broken than empty / I’d rather be shattered than hollow”. It’s a striking frankness
and sincerity that moves away from the more metaphorical writings of the duo’s previous albums. Stay Gold delivers the same beautiful vocals as before, but with a more rich, layered production: ‘Stay Gold,’ ‘The Bell,’ ‘Waitress Song,’ and ‘Master Pretender,’ are all charged with a newfound energy, optimism and sense of perseverance that adds a great deal of interest to the album as a whole. The sisters’ deeper investment in both lyrics and overall sound comes from a desire to ensure that each of their tracks has a sense of narrative drive and purpose. ‘IT’S IMPORTANT THAT THERE IS A STORY OR A MESSAGE, SOMETHING THAT MAKES AN IMPRESSION. LYRICS SHOULD NEVER JUST BE WORDS TO FILL IN AN EMPTY SPACE.
WHEN WE WRITE WE ALWAYS START WITH THE LYRICS AND WE LET THEM SHAPE THE MELODIES AND THE ARRANGEMENTS. GREAT VOCALS ARE OF COURSE A KEY INGREDIENT TOO. A GREAT VOCALIST IS SOMEONE WHO SINGS FROM THE HEART.’ The Söderbergs still feature plenty of nods to their back catalogue, too. ‘Fleeting One’ harks back to the sound of previous albums, with a single opening riff complimenting a haunting, lingering vocal. Despite their hope to write words ripe with meaning and emotion, the sisters say that it’s important to let their music flow freely, and not to try to come across as ‘too intellectual’ in their writing. Rather, ‘it all has to come from intuition. When we try to analyse our writing or think too much about it we sometimes loose our creative
spark. Most of our songs are written in the spur of the moment, when we feel inspired. Inspiration can strike anywhere, at any time’.
We truly have the same taste in music and art. It’s usually small things like what to wear on stage that gets us angry, because we share a wardrobe on tour. Still, we know each other so well and our fights are quickly forgotten. We have a really strong and special bond’.
What’s striking about Stay Gold is not just its new sense of energy, but also its confidence and defiance. ‘Heaven Knows,’ a strong, lively track shows a new bravery and pride in First Aid Kit’s work, and that’s no bad thing. There’s a passion in the shouted vocals of the chorus that’s testament to something that’s always been present in their work, but has now come to the foreground. This passion spills over in to the sisters’ relationship with each other, too. ‘OF COURSE WE FIGHT EVERY DAY! IT’S JUST THE WAY IT’S GOING TO BE IF YOU’RE AROUND ANYONE ALL THE TIME. WE RARELY FIGHT ABOUT OUR MUSIC OR THE SONGS THOUGH.
The new album also showcases a greater diversity than previous work. While both their previous albums are beautiful, at times, there was a tendency for tracks to sound too similar, but Stay Gold offers pretty much the full spectrum, ranging from the slow, pondering sadness of ‘Cedar Lane’ and ‘A Long Time Ago’ to the catchy, joyous vibe of the title track. There’s something for every mood here, in the best possible sense. With their fusion of traditional folk and modern, arty pop, First Aid Kit have really succeeded in carving
out a niche with Stay Gold – a big challenge in the heavily saturated acoustic market of our time. On the topic of starting a career in the acoustic genre, the duo offer this advice: ‘make music because you love it and because it’s fun, not because you want to make money. If you try to make music to be popular or to please everyone else, it’s going to shine through and probably not be as good or as interesting. MOST OF ALL, MAKE MUSIC THAT YOU ENJOY YOURSELF, FOR YOURSELF. THEN GET READY TO WORK HARD HARD HARD!’ In many ways, these words sum up why Stay Gold is such an excellent record: there’s no pretention, no sense of trying to tick boxes – just two sisters having a great time with their music. And you can’t really say fairer than that. ALEX MORDEN-OSBORNE
Alt-pop duo Thumpers, aka Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr, have ‘summer festival sing-along’ stamped all over them. They make catchy, all-embracing songs with larger-than-life choruses, which are surrounded by a haze of gauzy memories, like a humid, lazy summer’s day. ‘Immersive’, replies Marcus when I ask him to sum up their recently released debut album Galore, in one word. ‘A lot of what we’re writing about on this album is inspired by being back in our home town to record it. Experiences of firsts, of growing up, of love and all these things you do when you are younger. (Our teenage years are) filtered back through our memories. So it’s all exaggerated, and stretched this way and another. But there’s supposed to be an inbuilt kind of failure. You can never actually go back to that time, so it is supposed to have this sheen of unreality, a sort of magical realism’. Marcus tells me how the rose-tinted past ‘all expands in your memory. Looking back you really get a sense of how tiny you were, but how big you felt’. My own word to encapsulate Galore would definitely be ‘nostalgic’. It’s not about a strong desire to go back to the past, however, but about looking back over your shoulder at the view, on a pretty day. ‘You want to go back and be a teenager again until you remember what being a teenager was actually like’, he laughs. I comment on the joyous, summery sounding nature of their record. ‘When we were writing it we were reaching for the cinematic side of things. That atmosphere has lead to the summer vibe, hopefully. We played loads of festivals last year and the music just seemed to fit that kind of environment really well. We try to make our music quite vocal-lead, with a lot of drum rhythms. It’s generous, inclusive music, and if you come see us live, hopefully you leave with a feeling of being involved in it. Festivals are a perfect environment for that’.
I ask if their desire to make their music a collective experience is what inspired the album title Galore. ‘The idea was to make it a lush and embracing album’, replies Marcus. The pair used every sound they could find in their house, back in Warwickshire where they both grew up. They both now live in London, but returned to use the space, and experiment with everything in it. ‘A lot of the percussion is not necessarily drums. There’s a lot of drum sticks hitting walls and radiators. At one point we had a dog barking but that’s not made it on the record now’ (DisappointinglyI’m intrigued as to how they would have worked that into their sound). ‘We’re very spontaneous in our recording. It was about making the most of our environment and recording quickly, because we had to. It is quite a good record of where we were, just by using all these different things in the house’. Due to them both having full-time jobs, the recording had to be packed into a few days where they would ‘stay up until silly, silly hours’. ‘It was definitely an experience. A lot of caffeine was consumed. And alcohol’. Marcus laughs.
It’s not the first time the pair has been making music together. Previously they were in the indierock band Pull Tiger Tail. John has also drummed for Noah and the Whale and played percussion and bass with Friendly Fires on their Pala world tour. I ask whether Thumpers draws any influence from the PTT sound, and how the duo went about creating Thumpers’ sound. ‘Going through the experiences of being on a major label can erode your natural joy in making music. So we set out to find this other area of music that we really wanted to explore and found naturally fun’. They wanted Thumpers to be a totally new project, ‘not just a reactionary kneejerk against Pull Tiger Tail’. So what is inspiring their current writing? Is it still this sense of teenage nostalgia? ‘We wanted Galore to be its own hermetically sealed project’. Now he wants to explore ‘the experience of travelling on our music, and the effect of travelling to do music on ourselves as well. There’s a lot going on in the world politically and socially that I want to talk to as well; while that wasn’t relevant
on our last album, it’s now really impossible to ignore. There’s a lot of inspiration flying around. We’re always experimenting until we’ve found something that we feel is a big enough seed to grow an album from’. Surprisingly, summer isn’t their favourite season. Of course, all seasons hold their own sentimentalism. ‘John and I both agree that we really like autumn. There’s something about knowing it’s the end of summer and you can feel that things are changing. Autumn is such an emotionally powerful time’. What does the rest of 2014 have in store, then? Alongside their writing, Thumpers are working on some collaborations and remixes: ‘keeping ourselves as musically busy as possible in between festivals’. After their May tour of the UK, they are throwing themselves into the festival circuit. You can exalt in their summery nostalgia at Secret Garden Party, Camden Crawl, Best Kept Secret and lots more. SOPHIE BREAR
COURTNEY if her opinion on those sorts of connections has changed. ‘Obviously it’s amazing touring and travelling but I keep finding myself saying I wish I was there, or I wish you were here.’ She laughs. ‘It’s the exact opposite of what I just said’.
BARNETT Quite how Courtney Barnett has acquired her ‘slacker’ label is beyond me. Her vocal delivery, yes, is quite indolent, but it seems to have been overlooked that in order to deliver her lackadaisical lines, she has written the songs, started her own record label to distribute them, created her own sleeve artwork, worked in a pub, toured the songs around Australia, the US, and the UK, and also found time to talk to every journalist along the way about how she’s Australia’s number one slacker. Far less has been done by many more. Barnett has been swept up swiftly by the US and UK music scenes, and it seems her music is now reaching a much wider audience, beyond Melbourne’s local community. The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas includes songs made back in 2012, songs full of candour and smoking bong, songs that open with “I masturbated to the songs you wrote/…/It just helps me get to sleep/And it’s cheaper than Temazepam”. I wonder if Barnett would have always been so ingenuous if she’d known the
alot of my time down on myself thinking that I’m boring, or that life is boring, and when other people talk about themselves like that, it upsets me because I think people undervalue themselves…There’s always all these amazing little things going on around us that we kind of overlook while looking for something else. We’re always told to look at TV, magazine type things that aren’t really real things’.
volume of listeners that awaited abroad. ‘I would never change it. Obviously I never thought that anyone would hear it, but it’s not about that for me, it’s about writing the songs… You can’t dwell on what-ifs though, cause it’s like what if I wrote different songs, thinking people would like them, and no one liked them, you know?’ As it happens, Barnett’s songs are extremely likeable, in part because they are about the ordinary and the everyday. As she says in ‘Avant Gardener’, “It’s a Monday/It’s so mundane”. Between Barnett’s droll drawl and wry wordplay, it’s hard to tell whether there is a glorification or a dissatisfaction with the prosaic. ‘I’m still trying to figure it out. I like writing about those things – it feels boring but then I step back and consider that maybe my life is not that boring and I’ve got some sort of story to tell. I think everyone has an equal amount of interesting stories to tell, in whatever way they can. I just happen to be a songwriter so I do it in that way’.
It’s a statement that reminds me of her song ‘Anonymous Club’, with the appeal “Turn your phone off friend, you’re amongst friends and we don’t need no interruptions. / Leave your shoes at the door, along with your troubles”. Barnett expands on the idea: ‘That comfortableness, not always looking for something else. You know when you’re hanging out with friends and people are looking at their phone to see where we can go and who we can see and who we can catch up with, instead of just going, hey, I’m here right now and there’s no need to do that. It’s that simple.’ Since spending so much time in America and the UK, I wonder
As honest as her songs would suggest, she continues: ‘I spend
Part of her tour closer to home in Australia was supporting Billy Bragg. I admit I think it’s a strange pairing – her docile, undemanding songs preceding a man known for his protestation, activism and rallying cries. ‘His audience are so supportive. My style of writing – it sounds passive and it sounds laid back but I think that the ideas that are in there are similar (to Bragg’s), if that makes sense. He’s very kind of straightahead-political and opinionated about certain topics. I think I am as well, but I do it in a much more subtle, softer way...It’s different styles. We’re both just getting ideas across through songs’. In doing so, Barnett finds herself grouped with all other singer-songwriters, and it seems persistent, often superfluous comparisons are made between them. Does she mind? ‘It does frustrate me a little bit sometimes. It’s just human nature to compare ourselves to other things. It’s how we familiarise ourselves with things. People want an explanation of something before they bother checking it out. Not just in music, but in a lot of things.’ Since it feels like I’ve mostly asked Barnett about the mundane, the frustrating and the objectionable, I finish by asking what she’s been enjoying about being an international artist. ‘The people watching in different places. There’s weird people and there’s normal people and there’s strange people and they’re everywhere and it’s great’. Sounds a lot like slacking to me. ALICE LAWRENCE
MARTYN Dutch-born electronic dance music producer Martyn, lives in America, as I embarrassingly found out by possibly getting him up early (forgetting about the time difference) for our interview to talk about his new album The Air Between Words. He seemed grateful however, saying, ‘It’s actually just better to get your day started’. He also luckily seemed keen to start talking about the album. The Air Between Words marks a change for Martyn, most of his prior work to this album had been created digitally, whereas this album was ‘born out of more analogue experimenting’. He’s changed his studio to help record this album ‘amassing more and more analogue equipment,’ and this has led to much more ‘jamming’ from Martyn in the creative process of this album. When talking about how this change has actually affected the sound, he said: ‘the new record has a more simple approach in some elements of the tracks, but they just sound a lot better and a lot more
IMAGE: MEL D. COLE
thought out than my earlier work’. Despite going through a big change in his style of creating music, Martyn seemed to find it all quite easy, pointing out this was somewhat of a return to analogue for him. ‘When I started making music, way back in the day, there was really nothing digital. My earliest studio was basically fully analogue with just a computer to sequence notes and that was it really’. He says he turned to digital over time because he ‘moved around a lot more and started to do more work on a laptop’. He doesn’t claim to be ‘super knowledgeable about analogue synthesisers’ but rather using analogue instruments makes the whole process more ‘physical’.
it’s actually a lot of fun jamming away with someone else, and it feels more like a band’. He also told me a nice tale of how collaborating with Four Tet on the track ‘Glassbeadgames’ for the latest album worked: ‘sending stuff back and forth’ after running into each other a few times at festivals. ‘It’s really nice to have someone else’s input, people who look at music in a different way than you do. It’s something you can learn from a lot as well’. Martyn is known for being somewhat of a chameleon amongst specific dance genres. Starting out in drum‘n’bass he slowly shifted towards dubstep near the height of its popularity and has now arrived at something closer to techno. He told me, however, after his shift away from drum’n’bass, he’s never attempted to make music that can be pigeon-holed into a specific genre. ‘I just freed up a little bit, and I’m just trying to stay open to what’s going on in music and stuff that I’m inspired by, and I try to have my own ideas about where I want to go. I just make music for music’s sake really’. He points out that it’s people like me who write
We moved onto talking about performing the new music live, and he got me very excited by talking about the possibility of future live sets with Ninja Tune label-mate copeland (who appears on one of the album’s standouts ‘Love of Pleasure’). He spoke of her very highly and seemed to enjoy the ‘collaborative effort’, which was new for him in a live environment. ‘I had always played live on my own, and
and talk about music who feel the need to categorise it, and if the artist does that in their creative process ‘you just limit yourself’. Martyn has not only been working on music for this new album though, he recently followed in the footsteps of Thom Yorke by soundtracking a fashion show for Rag & Bone. It sounds like a really new experience for him, but an enjoyable one. He explained to me the differences between making this and a more usual dancefloor orientated track. ‘If you do a dancefloor thing, you usually have an intro and an outro and all the action happens in the middle. If you do a fashion show it actually needs to be climatic, so it’s all about building it up’. Like all his work, Martyn seemed very proud of how it turned out, and I got the definite sense that this is an artist who takes a lot of care over his music. It’s something that is also easy to discern from the finished project. The excellent The Air Between Words will be out on the 16th June. HARRY ROSEHILL
BY THE RIVERS Emerging from 2013 with an eponymous debut album, a string of festival appearances and numerous gigs around the world under their belts, By The Rivers have a lot to be excited about.
on the small Leicester music scene back in 2010. Since then they have cultivated a lively outfit, their music distinguishing itself as an unusual juxtaposition of dark, political lyrics with jazzy, upbeat reggae rhythms.
The six-piece British reggae band, formed four years ago, are hard to define: part reggae, part soul, part ska pop. Their kooky, fun sound has gained them increasing interest in recent months, and things have been pretty non-stop for the band. Bassist Matt Willars sounds exhausted as we chat during a brief respite from their hectic 2014 spring tour. The band have just got back from Holland, where they played three shows across the country, an experience Willars describes as ‘amazing, incredible… really tiring, but worth it, definitely’. The thrill of touring and playing gigs is clearly still fresh for the band, who seem humbled by the support of their fans. ‘We always get a really warm response in the Netherlands’.
‘By The Rivers has always been a British reggae band’, Willars tells me. I find it intriguing that a group of young men are so taken by the reggae genre; it’s unusual to hear such influence in young bands, I suggest to him. ‘Yeah, that’s generally the response we get’, he tells me. ‘But I personally grew up with reggae, and it’s always been my favourite genre, really’. Matt cites Bob Marley as a key influence, but is adamant that By The Rivers are not to be pigeonholed in any way: ‘Obviously we get a lot of different genres of music living in this country so we’re influenced by everything. There’s a lot of jazz influences… we’ve all gone through the “rocker” phase when we were younger as well’.
So who are By The Rivers? The band is made up of guitarist and vocalist Nile Barrow, drummer and vocalist Jordan Birtles, keyboardist, drummer and vocalist Sam Read alongside bassist Matt Willars, saxophonist Will Todd and trumpet player Rob Spalton. The six of them collided
between them. The harmony between By The Rivers harks back to the familial origins of the band: Niall and Jordan’s dads were in The Swinging Laurels together, and the six members of By The Rivers all met in Leicester. ‘We were all in different bands previously, and I went to the same music college as Niall, so I knew him through that. I live locally to a few of them as well so we kind of knew each other growing up. We just get along… We’re all in it for fun.” This philosophy lies behind the band’s endearingly uncommercial outlook on music, too. Their lyrics often focus on political and social issues. in ‘Rise Up’, the chorus runs, “rise up, rise up/and know yourself”. A cry to the disparate youth of the twentyfirst century, perhaps? In ‘Vulture’, the lyrics “hear the police they say/get out, get out/ you’re under arrest son/get out, get out” evoke the traditional reggae theme of clashes between civilians and police - Junior Murvin’s 1977 ‘Police and Thieves’ or John Holt’s 1983 single ‘Police in Helicopter’. ‘At the time that ‘Vulture’ and ‘Take Control’ were written, there was a lot of unsettling in government and parliament, and it was the elections coming up and stuff like that’, says Willars. ‘So it’s all relevant to us and our upbringing, who we are and what we see’.
For By The Rivers, vibrant live shows are what they do best. ‘I think our live performances are the strongest aspect of the band’ says Willars. ‘We don’t ever plan anything that we do onstage, whatever we do just happens’. Coordinating all six of the band members onstage doesn’t seem to be a challenge; a testament to the good relationship
Indeed, the official music video for ‘Vulture’, which was released in late April, seems loaded with meaning. The video presents the band in shadowy black rooms with a range of masks and live birds, a surprisingly sinister light considering their upbeat sound. ‘Tom Swinburne who produced it, it was mainly his ideas’, Willars tells me. ‘But I guess it’s quite a dark song really’. The political focus of the lyrics, though, comes purely from Niall and Jordan, the lyricists of the band. It’s refreshing to see a young group have such strong, dynamic ideas about society, expressed with clear authenticity. ‘We write about what’s relevant to us. We don’t ever want to pretend we’re something we’re not’. So what’s next for By The Rivers? ‘We’re just starting to actually get into the studio now and get some bits down… hopefully by next year we’ll have a new album out... Something new will be out soon anyway’, Willars promises. He then mysteriously adds: ‘There are a lot of things we’re getting excited about, but we don’t want to get too happy until it’s confirmed’. Whatever comes next, the future looks bright for the band. MADDY CRAMMOND
linger. ‘I don’t read as much medical stuff as I should these days, but I still read a fair amount of weird psychiatric books’.
GLASS ANIMALS I first tracked down Glass Animals in a simple desire to clarify some of their lyrics. After hearing ‘I just wanna feel those peanut butter vibes’ in their latest single ‘Gooey’, I needed to know what the real words were, beneath frontman Dave Bayley’s distorted delivery, and the distracting bubbles and squeaks that emerge from the music. It transpires that those are indeed the correct lyrics, but Bayley won’t elucidate their meaning. ‘I think it’s really interesting that people have their own interpretation… We’ve been doing some shows in Europe so there’s a bit of a language barrier and people are
just singing back the most random words, which I find hilarious. Some of our lyrics are pretty weird and pretty out there…If people can come up with a weird meaning then they absolutely should. We did finally decide that for this record we’ll put the lyrics in the sleeve though’.
the band. ‘He was quite hands off, he just left us to his studio and once in a while would pop his head in and say, “have you thought about trying this?”, and then throw a weird instrument on the floor and we’d fiddle around with that for a while’. The surrealism of Glass Animals’ work means they touch on quite grotesque ideas, without ever seeming repellent. There are the bodily wounds in the video for ‘Psylla’, the worms and slugs that curl around people’s eyes in ‘Black Mambo’, and the drop of saliva that’s passed between various characters in ‘Gooey’. It’s clear that Bayley’s three years studying medicine and neuroscience
This record, their debut album Zaba, comes out in June, and has been overseen by Paul Epworth, who is also responsible for producing Bloc Party, Florence and the Machine and Maxïmo Park – ‘a lot of the records I grew up with’, Bayley notes. The album is soft, surreal and dream-like in comparison to these artists, and I wonder how much influence Epworth had over
Zaba does evoke strange mental states: Bayley’s vocals snake in and out of being comprehendible, and animated synths scurry along behind him like the rats of the Pied Piper. ‘It’s not even close to being dark, though’, he says. ‘I just find those stories really interesting, maybe I see a different side to them because I’ve met lots of weird people in the hospital… To me, those people are really nice people, they just think a bit differently to most’. In a live show, Zaba can evoke strange mental states too. ‘If it’s quite a mellow crowd we can play something a little slinky and down-tempo, and if it’s a 1am slot…we can beat everything up a bit and dance around’. With festival shows and two UK tours this summer, it’s well worth catching Glass Animals and letting them ooze into your brain for a while. Perhaps you’ll even feel those peanut butter vibes. ALICE LAWRENCE
IN CONVERSATION WITH Far from being anonymous, Stewart and Owen, the pair behind the York label, and their several artists at the front of it, are making sure they are seen and heard around York and far beyond. As a relatively new record label, we caught up with Stewart to find out where Anonymous came from, and where it’s going next. As he tells me, Anonymous came from ‘being able to take a fair amount of time off from the “daily grind” and ending up with the luxury of being able to spend most lunchtimes with my mate… After a few “hypothetical chats” and plenty of lager fuelled pontificating...the ball just started to roll really. I guess with me having a commercial background and with Owen just happening to have an amazing graphic design studio, we could see it working and
we got pretty excited, pretty quickly, about what could be done with the “space” that maybe Anonymous is starting to fill’. Stewart admits that’s the long version; ‘the short version of it is: DFA Records!’
together…it will eventually fly’. The acts they are currently ‘breaking’ include GirlsOnDrugs, and Got Jump – ‘very different but both utterly brilliant’. The former apparently accuse Stewart of pestering them in to signing when they were live on the radio. He fakes indignation, but judging from his enthusiasm for their projects, it’s really quite believable. It’s clear the music they’re creating is worth getting excited about. ‘We released ‘Party Talk’ from GirlsOnDrugs this May; I have heard that tune go from being a rough cut, to a slightly cleaner tune, to a tune with a stunning vocal, to being completely mastered. Putting music out that you love is an absolute privilege’. He adds, ‘Also, when your acts finish their set and are beaming… You realise that’s what it’s all about’.
Still, it’s a big decision, especially when a record label is responsible for the nurturing of other people’s talents, not just those who first created it. I wonder what kind of experience he had that made him up to the task? ‘I headed up the sales and marketing side of one of the big club brands across Europe , so I would be the one controlling the campaigns behind the big names acts and through that involvement, I got to see first hand a lot of the mechanics behind “breaking an act”. The ‘realistic strategy’ that emerges from this process is delightful: ‘If you believe in something, and get enough like-minded people
With such a clear passion for music, I ask why they haven’t migrated to somewhere with a stronger, more defined scene to embed Anonymous in. ‘We love our city and are vehemently proud of the fact that we are able to make a noise from it and contribute to its culture!’, is the reply. So, if not geography, then what is the more challenging aspect of running a label? ‘Getting in front of the right people is tough, really tough and very time consuming’. The time seems to be paying off though. Stewart talks about more singles in the near future, accompanying videos, touring ‘further afield’, an album, merchandise, ‘some really exciting gigs coming… It’s all moving!’. Flying, you could even say. ALICE LAWRENCE
Arthur Beatrice weave a finespun web of contrasts in to everything they do. Their debut album, Working Out, is a smouldering, slow-burning web of meditations on first forays in to adulthood, as much melancholic as it is excited. There’s the obvious contrast in their name – Arthur Beatrice is not a male solo artist, but a quartet comprised of brothers Elliott and Hamish Barnes, with Orlando Leopard and Ella Giradot on vocals. As the former brother explained, ‘When we were a lot younger, we had these two songs, one called Arthur and one called Beatrice, and they were named after characters that we talked about. The idea was that they were in a relationship and one was really creative and the other was quite pragmatic, but they worked together really well. One was female, one male, one was A, the other B. It’s the idea of these two characters, in our minds, that exemplify the two different types of being. It’s the premise of making work, having a relationship, growing up and all these sorts of things’.
have to keep pushing against what you think is becoming old hat. You don’t want to change your tools as it were, but you want to keep investing yourself in thinking hard about what you’re doing, otherwise you get to a standstill and stop making anything interesting.’
There’s the contrast between what the name Arthur Beatrice conjures and the sound that the band themselves conjure. There’s not much from a time before, no one quaint, nostalgic, no relic of an age we can’t quite grasp, but rather a band ebbing at the boundaries of today’s pop music, aware of the tidal waves of relevancy that can carry artists. ‘In our day and age, things become less relevant so quickly. I already feel like our listening sound has been quite avidly… not commercialised but… It already seems to be fairly well done’. Barnes hesitates - it does seem irreverent, maybe even cruel to dismiss innovation so quickly.
It’s the shrewd contrasts in their music that make it interesting. ‘When you have quite a delicate piano part, and a soulful vocal, and a weirdly jarring lyric, it’s meant to make you think about why those parts are doing what they do, and hopefully mean that you invest a little more thought in the track rather than just liking the chorus. It’s more, why is that chorus like that? Why do I feel strangely about it?’ He nods to the atmosphere in nineties house music, ‘where things feel big and cheesy but also kind of tragic in a way. If you listen to (Black Box’s) ‘Ride On Time’, the hook in it is crazy, but weirdly melancholic. We really like that strange twist on things.’
Admittedly, there’s been a wait of over a year between the album’s completion and its release (‘when you first sign there’s a lot of stuff to get sorted’), and that can be a gulf if you want to swim with the current. I asked Barnes to define the relevancy that the band pursues. ‘Relevance for me is when you push yourself and you’re making stuff that’s interesting, but at the same time you’re not making something that’s completely unlistenable… I suppose to stay relevant you just
The strange twists entwine themselves in to a lot that Arthur Beatrice do. The video for ‘Late’, released a couple of months ago, depicts a couple’s simple life on the
Isle of Sheppey. The man goes to work in a workshop, the woman in a drycleaners, they come home and chat on the sofa. One expects an argument, a revelation, a Blue Valentine-esque culmination, but nothing really happens. With the shores of the Isle of Sheppey forming a backdrop, I’m reminded of Clean Bandit’s ‘Dust Clears’ video from a few months ago, in which a male labourer leaves the workshop to skate in costume on an expanse of ice. It seems the theatrical antithesis to Arthur Beatrice’s, as though the two were created to entwine a contrast between themselves. Barnes hasn’t actually seen the video, but he leaves me with a similar thought : ‘Modern youth culture is very obsessed with the dramatic and the over the top… It was this idea of having…two characters just do something very normal, just be in love, and that felt more anti-establishment than if there had been a big chaotic break up or something like that. I just feel like people don’t really give a huge amount of time to things that are just wonderful’. ALICE LAWRENCE
ARTHUR BEATRICE 18
In the last few years an emergence of genre-fused music has infiltrated the music industry, sparking somewhat of a change in classifying various musical genres. Genre classification has slowly started to fade away, thanks to artists such as DARKSIDE, Olafur Arnalds and MØ who’ve fearlessly embraced the artist within them and created pieces with surprising elements and an increasingly abstract nature. There is a form of equality that is being pursued by mixing “high brow” elements of music such as classical or opera with electronic tunes or hip hop. Long gone are the days when Freddie Mercury was considered a pariah of some sort in music industry for mixing rock music with opera for a piece as outstanding as ‘Barcelona’ back in 1987.
music. Combining Jaar’s airy electronica with Harrington’s blues background, DARKSIDE manages to create an illusion of space within music. It’s like you are floating in an alternative, imaginary universe of melodies.
occurring. One artist that has been previously persecuted for a seeming lack of originality, or appearing to be a contrived product of the industry is Lana Del Rey. However, her voice is a musical embodiment of a Lolitaesque presence with an ability to transcend from smoky, sexually liberated low notes to high girlish sound. Despite the queries about her origins Del Rey has managed to lead the way for liberating the female vocalists in music to
Whilst the majority of musicians and artists in the pop music industry have retrospectively tried to repeat successful formulas, it could be said that very little originality is
embrace alternative depictions of their artistry, by fusing old Hollywood influence with new culture and musical styles, such as her past collaboration with A$AP Rocky. She has proven that despite initial criticism, once becoming a pioneer of your own niche style that does not pertain to any specific genre formula, you can achieve great success. Thus, opening the gates to young, fresh newcomers such as Danish singer-songwriter MØ. It is okay to be young and beautiful and be a vessel of attitude at the same time and it is perfectly fine to pour your heart into heartbreaking ballads and have a pseudo hip hop persona happening at the same time. In conclusion: the music industry is beginning to embrace all aspects of all its styles. The days of genre classification are seemingly over and it is now about amalgamating a variety in order to create something musically innovative. It would appear that twentyfirst century producers are transcending genre restrictions previously imposed upon artists, leading to collaborations such as Outkast & Modest Mouse and Lana Del Rey & Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys). The music industry has woken up from the dream of mind numbing pop beats that resemble each other and started embracing the progressive nature of music. We are no longer looking to the past, but the future.
What Mercury started, artists like Olafur Arnalds continued, slightly more slyly and imperceptibly. Arnalds has already managed to create legacy of mixing ambient electro tunes with classical piano, not to mention his Cyril Hahn-inspired experiment with Destiny’s Child’s R&B hit ‘Say My Name’, leading to the successful melding of a repetitive nineties pop song with a string quartet. This kind of playfulness and sampling is refreshing. It is artists like DARKSIDE’s Nicholas Jaar and Dave Harrington who leave us in awe tune after another with originality and creativity that manages to entwine complex worlds of blues and electronic
MIX & MATCH: THE END OF GENRE? IMAGE: ABIGAIL LEWIS
SUNSHINE & SOUL: A DISCO REVIVAL A revival of disco is clearly rife within the music industry and within popular culture this year, with references to the soulinfluenced genre popping up everywhere from a popular supermarket advert’s invitation to ‘Let’s Go Disco’, designers such as Ashish’s disco infused collections, to Bestival’s incredible ‘Desert Island Disco’ theme. This is despite the fact that disco music suffered what could be considered arguably the strongest backlash a musical genre has ever seen with declarations across America that disco was dead, and the infamous 1979 Disco Demolition Night, which saw the genre’s records blown up on a rowdy baseball pitch. By the end of the eighties, disco was thoroughly uncool, and seemingly resigned to a future of cheesy club nights and sarcastic references. However disco music has decisively dusted off its platforms,
and now, with disco nights being a fixed feature across the UK, is definitely seeing a return to popularity within club culture. Disco remixes, such as Bondax’s reedit of Duke Dumont’s latest chart success ‘I Got U’ – only indicates the genres re-acceptance within EDM. This could be because the current generation of disco-lovers weren’t there to witness its epic fall from grace, and so do not bear the scars of a genre being so spectacularly branded uncool and unlistenable.
brought disco-influenced tracks such as the Grammy award winning ‘Get Lucky’ back to the mainstream. This revival reaffirms the powerful influence that this genre has had upon much dance music today as something that should be credited, rather than viewed as a cringe worthy and gaudy prototype for other dances genres. The recently deceased Frankie Knuckles once referred to house music as ‘disco’s revenge’, and never disregarded its power within a club environment, championing it throughout his career and challenging popular culture’s snobbery.
Much like the garage revival of recent years, it seems that disco’s time has come back around, and an influx of Sister Sledge can be unashamedly added to a playlist without the fear that someone may criticise you for tracks that were once seen as cheesier than pop - or gauged a similar reaction to a Craig David request a few too many years before it was deemed acceptable. Some gratitude for this revival can be attributed to Daft Punk, who
Disco music beams positivity and is brazenly happy, often with a strong gospel-esque lyric, such as Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and is, often unlike other alienating dance music, guaranteed to make you grin. This makes it the perfect summer soundtrack, and so it’s easy to see why the ever-popular Bestival have selected Candi Staton
and Chic as headliners, and made disco the focus of their festival. Evidently this summer it is disco, and disco-influenced tracks such as Candi’s ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ that the masses want to revive. When a DJ chooses to select a disco, or disco house track, such as Waze and Odyssey recently did with Stardust’s ‘Music Sounds Better with You’ during a set, the audience response is unparalleled – disco appears to unify and genuinely enthuse a crowd of clubbers more than an obscure techno track could ever do. Yet not all elements of disco may find their way back to popularity. The BeeGee’s discography might not be as well-loved as KC and the Sunshine Band in a twentyfirst century context – but it could well be time to purchase a disco ball, embrace your inner Studio 54, and prepare for a summer of disco renewal. HOLLY HUNT
IMAGE: ROSA HANSELL
Ted Goia caused a flurry a few weeks ago with a piece he wrote for The Daily Beast, in which he decried ‘the Bieberisation of arts journalism’. It amounts to a contestable complaint about pop music culture: ‘technical knowledge of the art form has disappeared from its discourse’. Though his ensuing arguments were rather flimsy, the initial sentiment does ring a little true - how is it that we can wax lyrical about the artwork, stories and lyrics on our wax, but we largely manage to avoid the formal properties of the art? Why did we lose interest? Or have we? Does it even matter? Indeed, to accentuate this, Goia compares discussions about music without its theory to commentary of football that doesn’t acknowledge formations or plays, or a cooking show that never mentions the ingredients. It’s worth noting already that a football commentator, or journalist, or enthusiast, would also be quite likely to mention a player’s hair, or wife, or brand endorsement. It’s also worth noting that cooking shows actually do sell lifestyles
through the medium of food: consider the difference between Michel Roux Jr and Jamie Oliver.
Jennifer Lopez for mentioning a contestant’s use of the pentatonic scale. As embarrassing as it was that Lopez clearly had no idea what he meant, what was actually more important was Connick Jr’s position on the panel which enabled him to enlighten her. A classically trained Beethoven performer, and winner of a Best Male Vocal Grammy, he has been brought in by the show’s new producers to boost ailing figures. These shows are nonetheless about a lot things other than pentatonic scales, a consideration best shown in Alexandra Burke’s winning song for the 2008 X Factor, which was perhaps the first mention of ‘the minor fall, the major lift’ on the show so far.
In response, Owen Pallett (currently involved in various musical projects, including Arcade Fire, and the soundtrack to Her) wrote three essays for Slate dissecting the theory behind some recent popular ditties. He explained how Lady Gaga’s indulgence of base impulses is manifested in her ‘juggernaut eighth-note patterns’, how Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ conveys the exhilaration of young love by negating the I chord throughout, how Daft Punk achieve ‘ecstatic melodic copulation’ between ‘Get Lucky’’s pre-chorus and chorus. Those are perhaps the highlights. The rest is turgid and impervious, which is precisely what he aimed to demonstrate through the exercise. Music theory does not make for captivating reading.
Still, several years later, with such talent shows admittedly losing the cultural relevancy they once had, we find ourselves besotted with a genre commonly defined by its time signature. In referring to the four-four of house, we have at least salvaged one tiny piece of music theory and put it firmly
Still, if we pander to Goia’s tantrum a little, we find there are examples of his complaint. In January, American Idol judge Harry Connick Jr was derided by fellow judge
back in to the vernacular. If only Goia could hear our indepth discussions of bpm. With the cultivation of the bedroom producer that accompanies the genre’s resurgence, there has been a certain democratisation in the creation and proliferation of music. An understanding of music theory is, in our society at least, quite an expensive privilege, mostly endowed as an extra-curricular activity for middle-class children learning the violin. Software programmes and genres of music less concerned with complex formalities have evolved to mean that you simply don’t need a thorough understanding of music theory in order to produce something great. Mirroring this, the copious music blogs and propensity towards viral articles, rather than celebrated individuals, mean that you can talk about music in so many different ways, and still be heard.
STAVING OFF THE CRITICS 21
While budding producers prod the sync button in stuffy bedrooms the world over, there are other songwriters working behind closed doors, creating music to be performed by others and diluting the prevalence of music theory discussion even further. It is the Ryan Tedders, the Benny Blancos, and the Dr. Lukes that know the theory behind the songs, but it seems it is often lost in the pass over to Rihanna, Katy Perry, Adele, and the rest. Though the former lot seem to brush their teeth with number one singles, and are gaining more recognition, it’s hard to talk about the technicalities of their work when it’s mediated and fronted by the performer. Still, it is Tedder’s voice-recording, notetaking phone that self-destructs if you guess the unlock code wrong, not Katy Perry’s, because the song construction is just as important as the scandal and the spectacle. Though it may seem that a pop star’s wealth is disproportionate
to their musical capabilities, it may be reassuring to know that these behind-the-scenes hit makers can take as much as seventy-five per cent of their song’s income. For others, lack of income from their songs is precisely why they sell their lifestyle instead. In a recent interview with Beat magazine, Lily Allen defends ‘that Rita girl’ and her associates flaunting and commodifying their lifestyles (she cites ‘the snobby launches of a new water at Claridges’) because ‘Now that people don’t buy music we have to find other revenues…’
and often traverse all of these things simultaneously. As soon as you put words to any sort of music form, you unavoidably engage in a dialogue with society, and the ideas that can be raised here are often far more accessible, and dare I say, compelling, than which inversion you used. It’s an encompassing outlook reflected in the academic study of music: 9th Wonder’s Hip Hop Institute (enrolling this autumn at North Carolina Central University) addresses the genre from four schools: Mass Communications, Law, History, Music (in that order).
It’s no bad thing, in fact it’s inevitable, since music, recipes and sports don’t exist in a vacuum. These things are created by people who have interests and opinions other than when to modulate a key. As do the consumers. They are all part of a broader landscape of culture – visual, aural, performative, high, low, participatory, consumer,
To focus on the product, rather than the producer, is to ignore so much of interest and importance. Genres such as hip hop and grime allow such a volume of complex ideas to fit in to a song that they can often overshadow other aspects of those
three minutes. When you add to this a music video, sleeve artwork, all the possibilities of a live show, it’s hard to calibrate back to the technicalities. Perhaps when we have programmed our iPods with all the formal rules of music qua music, and we leave the devices to their own devices until they make their own music, then we can better foreground and dissect the theory they’ve used. At the moment though, there’s too much other interesting stuff going on, and it’s all a complex interplay: that drum beat and that falsetto, and that photo of that love interest, and those leather jogging pants. ALICE LAWRENCE
IMAGE: KIT LOCKEY
Volume 12 of Circulation. Released May 2014. Featuring Chet Faker, First Aid Kit, Courtney Barnett, Arthur Beatrice, Martyn, Thumpers, B...