zero core music, design, photography________________________________________spring 2014 __ free
Hello Welcome to Issue Eight of Zero Core. You might Bright be picking Light usBright up because Lightyou *ahem* 06 saw us in Kraffhics The Observer. We are very highbrow. 10 Or you might Article be one of our old friends from back XX in the day, before Article we got famous. Well, don’t worry, XX we haven’t changed; Articleour inside pages you’ll still findXX the same nattering about Articlewe bands love, photographers we XX love who take photos Article of bands we love, and artists we XXlove who illustrate the bands we love, and now and again play in the bands we love too. Phew.
Made by Jen Long, Adam Chard, Marc Thomas, Chris Chadwick and George O'Brien.
We’re really happy to have Woman’s Hour on our cover, a band we’ve been in love with from the very start and can’t wait to see succeed in 2014.
Thank you Tom Hannan, Rich Thane, Jon Lawrence, Ellie Giles, James Smyllie, Adrian Reid, Matt Brown, Hannah Gould, Luke Jarvis, Nathan Warran, the crew at Transgressive and Rockfeedback, Michael and Rachel Moshi, Lisa Ward, Jon Lawrence, Steph Seager, Chris Cuff, David Emery, Jon Dunn, and the lovely folk at EYOE.
You might also notice our extended new bands section with eight acts that we’re really looking forward to hearing more from this year. I guess there’s a little theme of anticipation in this issue. And with that in mind, SHOUT OUT to one of our writers Dan Tyte, whose debut novel Half Plus Seven is out in April.
Contributors in order of appearance Cat Stevens, James Williams, Howard Melnyczuk, Sam Briggs, Ruth Kilpatrick, Babak Ganjei, Nicole Miles, Polly Reichelt, Matthew Ayres, Paul Bridgewater, Adam Burbidge, Hannah J Davies, Danny Wright, John Bell, Valerio Berdini, Anika Mottershaw
This issue of Zero Core was created in Cardiff and London in the face of extreme weather conditions.
Go buy it and we’ll see you in June.
All rights reserved and stuff like that. Don’t rip us off. Enjoy.
Hugs and hi-fives, The Editors x
Printed by MWL Print. Issue nine due June 2014 Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org Advertise with us: email@example.com zerocore.co.uk
1. Vaults Mysteriousness is a potent and increasingly ultilised trait in the world of new music. It goes without saying that the quality must be there, but nothing appears to stoke interest more than shrouding your band in mystery and carefully dripfeeding material to the world. Back in September a track emerged that whipped the so-called blogosphere into a bit of a frenzy and with little more than a name and a neatly designed logo, Vaults had made their mark.
2. Rosie Lowe ‘Cry No More’ showcased what the London outfit were capable of: the intricate bells that mesmerizingly dance their way throughout, the passionate, Kate Bush-esque vocal imploring “I don’t wanna cry no more,” and the thunderous synthesized bass combine to bring them neatly into the zeitgeist.
It is fair to say that there has been something of an influx in seductive new music over the past year. The likes of Laura Welsh and BBC Sound Of success Banks set the bar with their infectious brand of R&B-tinged pop; somewhere between these two brilliant sirens sits Rosie Lowe.
Three other tracks accompany this lead single, with ‘10k Balloons’ showcasing simple and infectious choruses, ‘Games’ hinting at the Sade-esque inspiration that served Jessie Ware so well, before ‘Me & Your Ghost’ returns to the haunting and passionate unease that pulls so effortlessly at the outset.
The similarly moreish ‘Vultures’ appeared around Christmas, proving the debut was no fluke – safe to say we’re waiting somewhat impatiently for more to appear from Vaults.
From the eerie discordant opening of her EP's title track ‘Right Thing’, Lowe’s allure is instant: a sultry vocal oozes character and stark honesty as she broods, “Thought I made the right choice, then you came,” while dark late-night production brings an intense level of desperation.
Throw in an assured early live performance in the Capital and everything is in order for Lowe to join the established peers in her wonderful genre.
3. Lauren Aquilina If I was Lauren Aquilina I’d be feeling pretty happy right now. Having just announced her third EP to rapturous response, almost sold out an entire UK tour (at the time of printing), and with the ink fresh on a record deal there’s a lot to celebrate. Yet her songs remain somewhat gutting. What I call Aquil-emo, others might call sincere pop at its most heartfelt and affecting. Having built herself a ravenous fan-base online, the eighteen year old musician and chocolate bourbon enthusiast has spent the last year playing shows including a headline slot on the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds.
4. Prides Not a stage you might expect for a piano led, tear inducing sing-along, but lest we forget Daughter’s hushing performance in a similar spot several years back. In fact, the two acts are not a million miles apart, with Aquilina’s lyrics cutting the same arteries as Tonra’s and suggesting a permanently melancholic pulse. Still, there’s light in Lauren, with songs such as fan favourite ‘Sinners’ offering a glimmer of hope. Selfishly though, we quite hope her wave of success doesn’t lead to too many smiles, miserablist pop needs a new ambassador and this young lady is taking the torch.
Whenever I think of Scottish bands I can’t help but think of beards. Even though acts like Chvrches aren’t necessarily purveyors of fine facial hair, it’s still an image engrained on my brain. But it’s tricky to think of the boys in Prides proudly wearing a lump of fuzz on face as their joyous electro-pop explodes through my speakers. It all just sounds so polished, so triumphantly glossy and smooth*. The Glaswegian trio script the kind of euphoric choruses that make us wonder whether Chvrches’ record label have been slipping something cheeky in the water up there.
Their first offering ‘Out Of The Blue’ has a synth line so bold it’ll blow everything else out of your mind for a good hour after pressing play, while follow up ‘The Seeds You Sow’ makes you feel like you’re lost somewhere in your mum’s record collection and only Duran Duran can save you. By the way guys, the 80s called and they want their swagger back. With shows booked for all around the UK and USA, get yourself to a gig and check out their trim beards with your own eyes. *I’ve googled them and they do have an air of kempt facial hair. pridesband.com
6. Coasts Who said guitar music is dead? If, in your local record store, you encounter an old fart in an anorak insisting indie’s kicked the bucket – grab a record player, whack on Circa Waves, Only Real and Coasts, and watch their epiphany from how spectacularly wrong they were. Take Coasts’ ‘Come a Little Closer’, the B-side to their new Stay EP, as case-in-point. It gives you a shot of that adrenaline buzz you only get at a gig, when you’re dancing around like a complete goon. If you listen to this (oh, and consider this song is only a B-side), you’ll understand why Coasts are at the top of our Most Wanted list for the summer festivals.
6. Bat and Ball They say music is subject to taste, but that seems ridiculous when you hear ‘Oceans’. You’ll have heard it by now, and have no doubt formed your opinion. Either, like us, you embraced Coasts into your heart, or shrugged them off as the latest indie fad. If it’s the second one, that’s fine. You don’t have to like Coasts – and everyone’s entitled to their opinion – but if that is your opinion, your opinion is wrong. Go back and check out ‘Oceans’ again, and if that doesn’t work, check your pulse. Coasts are already one of the best new guitar bands in Britain – they’re just waiting for you to catch up. facebook.com/coastsband
Remember the days when MySpace was king? Bands would list their influences on a neatly listed menu for us lazy journalists to pigeonhole them into (bar us at Zero Core, of course). But like the blurb of a book, it was a good indicator of what to expect from the music. Say, were a band to casually namedrop influences from baroque to Roald Dahl, 16th century choral choir to peanut butter – sure, it might be obscure, tongue-in-cheek, far-reachingly pretentious, or just plain fibbing – but your expectations are high, and it’s better than the alternative. Who wants a band that cites the classic works of Two Door Cinema Club; chances are they won’t live up to the original.
But then Bat and Ball aren’t easy to pigeonhole. See the We Prefer It in the Dark EP’s title track for a flash of this brother and sister duo’s brilliance. Others might taste Chlöe Howl, Wild Beasts and Chvrches in their rapturously refreshing, heady pop concoction – and as Abi Sinclair howls, “don't tell me you got no heroes.” Were MySpace still the musical encyclopaedia it thinks it is, maybe such artists would be name-checked in Bat and Ball’s influences. But set your expectations as low or high as you like: on your first play of ‘We Prefer It in the Dark,’ expect the duo to pole-vault over them. That’s why they prefer it in the dark – that way, nobody will see them coming. batandballband.tumblr.com
7. Spring King From his bedroom in Manchester, producer Tarek Musa has been turning other people's music into radio-ready pop for the last few years. But, with his ear for melody and distinct production style, it was inevitable that he would eventually and effortlessly make the transition from selfstyled producer to artist in his own right. Thus, Spring King, a project for which Musa single handedly writes, produces and indeed performs every note. His debut EP, In All This Murk & Dirt, was a rough and ready sketch of a musical idea. With relentless drums and ear-splitting, fuzzed-up guitars played with a desperate intensity, it was deeply ordered chaos.
8. Etches The raucous vocals rising to glorious crescendo on stand-out tracks 'Let's Ride' and 'V-V-VVampire!' were more than enough to pique our interest. But it's his first single proper, 'Mumma', out on March 24th through paradYse/Transgressive, that's really got us excited. Delicately treading the line between soaring anthem and the fuzzy garage punk of Musa's preceding EP, pummelled piano keys and rotary organ counteract the thrashed guitar chords. The AA side version, a more downbeat and eery reinvention of the same track, is just as alluring. springking.bandcamp.com
Liverpool seems to be experiencing somewhat of a zeitgeist at the moment, with an impressive list of emerging artists making their home on Merseyside. Etches are the latest of these exports to count Dan Croll, All We Are and Circa Waves amongst their contemporaries. The five piece put their first demo "Let's Move In" online in September, a dizzy piece of guitar pop underpinned by subtle electronics that had us hypnotised on first listen. Live the band are just as hypnotic, intertwining guitar melodies and thumping bass lines building into impressive soundscapes.
A cover of Marvin Gaye's classic 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine', highlights Etches more psychedelic tendencies. As ethereal guitar drones build over a slow stomping beat, it's proof of the band's depth of ability, covering a mo-town classic can go one of two ways after all... First single proper, 'The Charm Offensive', is another downbeat piece of perfectly crafted pop, complete with cyclical synth drones and soaring guitar riffs. It's a signal of intent, big pop hooks offhandedly thrown down without a second glance. Keep it up and Etches will be turning heads in 2014. facebook.com/etchesmusic 9
Words: James Williams Photo: Howard Melnyczuk melnyczuk.tumblr.com online-presence.info
Upon first encountering Arthur Beatrice’s beguiling mix of jangly indie and accomplished pop, a whole heap of questions may form in your mind. Questions like: is this really a debut album? Have I not heard of this band before? But, first and foremost: who the hell is this Arthur Beatrice fella? This is because, when listening to their first fulllength, Working Out, it becomes quickly apparent Arthur Beatrice is definitely not a one-man show, but a fully-formed, fully together collective of assured musicians.
Traditional pop writing was a big thing for us; we’re definitely perfectionists I had to clear-up this most important mystery first; why Arthur Beatrice? “Well, when we started out we had a couple of songs, one called Arthur, one called Beatrice,” Elliott, drummer and lyricist, says, “They were about these two people who were opposites but worked together well, and that philosophy has carried on.” From these basic beginnings the band, who formed at school and were “friends from the start,” have come to embody this philosophy completely when creating Working Out, and the album’s diverse range of styles bears testament to this. Listening to them speak, it’s clear each of the four bring a little something different to the table: “Since the beginning it’s definitely become more collaborative,” says Elliott, “We’re all into dance music and that influences the rhythmical aspect. Orlando’s interested in classical music, so some of the piano work will have that in it.”
“No matter with all the different influences, at some point we all managed to decide collectively on what Arthur Beatrice sounded like”, Ella says, “If something's a bit more R&B or if something's a bit more classical or poppy, we could still tell what our sound was without having to describe it to each other.” The cohesive feel is helped partly by their love of strong, captivating choruses – “traditional pop writing was a big thing for us” – but also in the patience they have shown to develop their sound and not rush into releases. “We’re definitely perfectionists,” says Orlando. “You take a song to one level, then you look at all the other songs and update them, looking at the album as a whole rather than individually.” Variety is maintained throughout Working Out by the contrasting deliveries of their lead vocalists, Ella and Orlando, who take turns in bringing these songs to life. They rarely sing together, which makes the culminating track, ‘Ornament And Safeguard’, where they sing in unison, all the more potent and provides the album with a real rousing climax. “It felt right to place it at the end,” Orlando explains. “We had a few songs with just Ella, a few songs with just me, and a few songs with all of us, and it summed it up quite nicely.” “It’s a 'we’re all in it together' kind of song!” Elliott chimes in. And when listening to Arthur Beatrice, you’ll feel right in it with them.
Words: George O'Brien Photos: Cat Stevens catstevensphotography.com womanshour.co.uk
Poise is the word that appears, like a gentle kneejerk, when Woman’s Hour come to mind. Graceful balance, elegance and attention to detail are central to everything the Radio 4-inspired outfit do: from a whispered, characteristic vocal that possesses that uncanny north-western charm, to the gymnasts who, in stunning slow-motion, tumble their way through one of the band’s immaculate videos. Speaking to three of the London via Kendal fourpiece – siblings Fiona Jane (voice) and William Burgess (guitar), Nicolas Graves (bass) and Josh Hunnisett (keyboards) – at 4AD’s studios in south west of the Capital, it is immediately apparent that these connotations are far from accidental, as this is really the band’s second-coming. “It's so funny re-telling this story,” William says with a smile, having appeared from the middle of vocal takes, “We were going for about a year, fully-formed as the four-piece. We did some demos and a few gigs, which was terrifying for me because I was the only one who'd never been in a band before. We were approached to put out a 7”; it was completely surreal but amazing, so we kind of did it quickly and without much thought.” “Quite quickly afterwards we realised we hadn't put any real thought into it and I think we made a lot of mistakes; good mistakes to make so early on,” he considers. “We learnt a lot but we suddenly felt quite vulnerable, like maybe we're not quite ready for this kind of exposure yet.” “So we decided to fine tune, take a big chunk of time out and it was round that time we started working with Tom [Morris] here and saying no to gigs. Before that we actually hadn't known how to say no to anything.”
“We found it quite empowering, in the long term it was really nice to develop ourselves,” Josh adds. “We do it for fun, for love and passion, of course we do, otherwise we wouldn't be doing it, but we put that single out and then thought, actually we need to be a bit more serious and ‘on it’ about this.” Taking this time was clearly pivotal in their development. Everything they have created since re-emerging has been delivered with such an obvious level of eloquence and perfectionism: everything works in unison in the direction they carefully decided to take as a band; everything adds character and depth to the project as William explains. “We don't want people to hear or see one thing, then something else we do and not see a correlation between the two. We want people to see connections sonically and visually.”
I think we made a lot of mistakes; good mistakes to make so early on “It creates an identity to latch onto the music and ties it in really nicely,” concludes Nicolas. It’s about a complete package then, a finished article and the visual element is undoubtedly paramount. The brave monochrome video that accompanies ‘Our Love Has No Rhythm’ is as simplistically poignant as the track itself, while ‘Darkest Place’ – again featuring William – shines a genuinely unsettling new light on the subtext to their latest single through intrusive close-ups.
Similarly, catch a Woman’s Hour live show and you will immediately understand their penchant for detail: all still and tidy darkness and smoky light, providing very little to distract from the stark emotion of the music. Opening for Volcano Choir at London's Barbican in November was a “dream” and proved a real "transition" from their early gigging days. “We had a turning-point when we played Dusk Till Dawn. It used to have flames on the outside; looked like it belonged in Camden but it’s in Archway in the middle of a fucking roundabout! It was us, the other band and about four friends?” recalls Fiona. “I think it was more like one friend…” Nicolas recounts. “Some people might say we're too clinical now but we just want to present ourselves in a composed and finished way.”
This is where our heads have been for the last two or three years. Sort of like our birth. And it was this “composed and finished” quality that clearly caught the attention of Secretly Canadian – a label that can boast the likes of The War On Drugs, Jens Lekman and Antony and the Johnsons as members of its prestigious family – at the back end of 2013. Bringing their songwriting together to create what they see as a “body of work” has clearly been a labour of love, and the respected indie feels like the ideal home for a band unconcerned by the notion of singles; “There are songs we wrote when we first came back and songs we wrote two or three months ago,” Josh explains.
“It’s a nice mix and we hope people will feel that dynamic. Hopefully you’ll be able to hear that progression because like any art we're always progressing; you’re never ultimately satisfied but hopefully it will sort of say, ‘This is what we've been doing; this is where our heads have been for the last two or three years.’ Sort of like our birth.” Getting an insight into their recording process brings about enthusiastic anecdotes from the three bandmates; Fiona describes it as, “a love-hate relationship. You have these relationships with each song which is up and down – a fucking roller-coaster! Some days you can be banging your head on the wall and by end of the day be totally in love with it; it’s bittersweet. Especially in this last bit of the process, we’re looking at the songs and saying, ‘Remember when that was our favourite? Remember when that one was?’ You can spend a whole day on one song and by the end of the day you’re like buzzing on this high and then come in the next morning and it’s like, ‘What the fuck were we doing!’” Diminutio of course. The handful of tracks we have heard all point in the direction of a stunning debut due this summer, but what is the next single I ask? “We don't know,” replies Fiona, “You know what, we're happy with everything on this record, let someone else make that decision!” Nicolas assures me “the next single is a ten minute wig-out.” Now that we’d like to hear.
Words: Sam Briggs catstevensphotography.com
There is an implicit pressure when approaching a subject in an artistic context. As an interviewer, conveying the weight of both your personal passion and your victim’s lifetime investment through a brief window (complete with a couple of naff jokes, obviously) can be no mean feat. Not when you’re as talented as photographer Cat Stevens (no, not that one), however. It might seem like the bigger the subject, the tougher the task, but for Stevens, characters ranging from cultural icons of the highest echelon to once-in-a-decade geographical phenomena are portrayed with incredible naturalism, sincerity and beauty. Be it the macabre of Nick Cave, the mysterious allure of PJ Harvey, or the majesty of the Transit of Venus – her delicate portraits speak the metaphorical thousand words of wherever her lens falls.
I’m interested in the meaning that people bring to the natural world (Main image) Roses (Opposite) 1. Nick and Warren 2. Sleeping Girl 3. Starlings 4. Neneh Cherry
“Everyone has a spirit,” she tells me, “and I’m interested in capturing that spirit as best I can. I hope to give people the space they need to be themselves, whatever their mood”. The honesty of her portrait photography might come from her willingness to go with the moment on a shoot, and embrace the natural narratives of a situation. She refers to the influence of the writings of Robert Mapplethorpe, and “the magic moments” of a shoot that can be lost by being too forceful or sensitive, describing her favourite way to work as “to not plan too much and just to show up and see what happens.” Having dreamt of being a writer as a child, she “later discovered I could tell stories with my camera, so took that route to storytelling instead.”
Stevens was caught by the photography bug from a young age, and describes discovering her uncle’s Polaroid as “pure magic”. Camping out in the Occult section of the local library, she developed a fascination for “big hardback books about haunted places”, and “the idea of history and other realities being captured on film”. She picks out one in particular, talking vividly about “one photo of a ghost gliding down the stairs of Buckingham Palace that was really blurred, with just the skeletal hand in focus. I loved the photo itself,” she continues, “but it fascinated me that there was another reality within the Queen’s house that we never get to see or hear about”. However, the darkroom is no restraint for her oneiric eye, as Stevens seeks to bring this impact of the otherworld to her mystic, fluid view of this world. “I’m interested in exploring the meaning that people bring to the surroundings and the natural world,” she explains – and be it expansive landscape shots, or projects exploring London’s ley lines with Nissa Nishikawa, her view of human experience is unrestricted by the everyday, as she explores the “deeply personal and poetic” journeys that shape the inward-perspective and self-discovery of human experience. For now, though, she’s happy “to keep manifesting my dreams – and to dream big” and to have “worked with some wonderful people in some wonderful places”. One thing’s for sure – her magic touch is sure to have made them that little bit more wonderful.
Words: Ruth Kilpatrick hilarious-consequences. blogspot.co.uk
(Main image) Roadhouse 18, 30, 38, 58 (Opposite) Zero Core
After years spent in Memphis Industries-signed Absentee, then Wet Paint, Babak Ganjei is a man who has made avoidance his life work. That’s without any negative intent; it is in fact an enviable skill, resulting in Hilarious Consequences, his first published book, his blog and follow up Twit Comic too. Be it bands, his record label, or more recently the Hot Mess radio show on NTS – Babak needs distraction.
Illustrating every minute of the 1989 Patrick Swayze movie, he’s determined to get past the 45-minute stage he’s currently at. It’s genius.
“I had lots of jobs,” explains Babak over the phone. “In November I lost all of them at once and thought, well here’s a chance to make a go of it, because I finally had to.” When chatting about becoming a comic artist, it would appear to be a natural, albeit unplanned progression. “I did the artwork for Absentee as a sideline really,” he explains.
Luckily for us it’s a skill he’s mastered – resulting in not only a new Steak Night (an anthology he produces) but also plans for a Roadhouse book and Hilarious Consequences #2.
Sometimes I have to get some kind of recognition that somebody understands As a strategy it’s paid off, and is a philosophy that has added order to a difficult few years. “Those early comics are effectively my diary, with most of it being 90% true and the other 10% made up to make it funny – otherwise it’s too depressing!” One inspiration for Babak is Arthur Woodstock, his (adorable) 6-year-old son. “What’s handy when you’ve got young kids is that you have pockets of time, whereas now he’s at school there’s lots of faffing about.” For Babak these pockets of time were a necessary pressure, something he’s now recreated via the Roadhouse tumblr.
“Procrastination is a skill,” he states. “I relate a lot of what I do to films. For the first book I arrogantly decided to pretend it was a movie, so did a soundtrack with songs from my band, Big Deal and a few others.”
Babak is open about missing the distinct fuzz of his guitar, but settled in the knowledge that these things come full circle. “The last band was Old Men and Bloc Party asked us to support. From the Victoria in Dalston on a Tuesday to Earls Court on Wednesday and then it was done!” The musical projects are on hold, but as with his writing there’s still a deep-seated need to connect. “Serious stuff happened, I needed to survive,” he explains, quieter now. “Sometimes I feel like something’s missing, it sounds pretentious but I have to get it out, be that person who has to communicate and get some kind of recognition that somebody, anybody, understands.” Babak has his capable hands full, with numerous projects for 2014. This should be the year that everything falls into place, and his instinctively human work reaches the wider audience it deserves.
Words: Jen Long Illustration: Nicole Miles nicolemillo.com ilovestvincent.com
To begin at the beginning: “I was the kid at the sleepovers who would put on Jethro Tull and people would be like, ‘This sucks, and I hate it, and we’re not inviting you back.’” Annie Clark laughs as she recounts tales of her ten-year-old self. Starting out in The Polyphonic Spree, Clark released her solo debut Marry Me in 2007 under the name St Vincent, an apparent nod to Dylan Thomas’ place of passing. In 2011 she released accomplished third record Strange Mercy, taking another Welsh treasure on tour with her, the wonderful Cate Le Bon. “Oh my God, I don’t even know how we drank as much as we drank on that tour,” she smiles, rolling her eyes. “We were going for it. I just ended up roping her in to singing on the show, as those things do...”
I was the kid at the sleepovers who would put on Jethro Tull As those things do, and always seem to in the world of St Vincent. Her last record, Love This Giant, was a collaboration with David Byrne, and Clark can often be seen taking to the stage with anyone from Eddie Vedder to The National, playing Brooklyn’s 18,000 capacity Barclays Center at the last minute. “I practised all the way to Barclays Center with headphones, like…” She adopts a faux singing voice, ‘This is the last time!’” Was that not terrifying? “I actually find with really, really massive crowds, it’s less scary than playing for four people in a living room,” she says with consideration.
So who is the scariest person to play for? She pauses, lost. I suggest, your mum? “My mum always gets a copy of the record before anyone else, because… just because. And she’s so sweet and I love her so dearly, but after a couple of songs she’ll kind of go, ‘Are you OK? You’re OK, right?’” “Yeah mum, I’m OK. Don’t worry.” But hang on, isn’t there a line about masturbating on the new record? Wasn’t it embarrassing playing that to your mum? “Right, well, yeah, ummm,” she searches. “Yeah, the line I think is, ‘Oh what an ordinary day, take out the garbage, masturbate.’ And I played that for my best friend and he just laughed at me, and he was like, ‘I know you wouldn’t take out the garbage.’ While Strange Mercy was a melancholic ride, new album St Vincent is a lighter affair. It still has her trademark dark undertones, but the sounds and structures within the songs have a playful exuberance and a brash energy. It’s still utterly graceful, but with an audacious character. Clark began writing the new record just thirty-six hours after completing the Love This Giant tour. “I just had a year and a half’s worth of things to say. And it was a nice little way to get out ahead of it and not feel the pressure because there’s no time constraint.” Like writing your debut? “Right, I mean, nobody’s eagerly expecting your first record,” she agrees, before deadpanning, “Well, nobody was eagerly expecting my first record.” Everyone’s got to start somewhere.
Words: Chris Chadwick Illustration: Polly Reichelt pollyreichelt.co.uk drownersband.com
It's a cold morning in January when I find myself chatting to Drowners frontman Matthew Hitt over the phone. He's wandering around Brixton as we chat, a short stop-over en route back to New York, the city he's made his home since 2011. “I had visited a few years before I moved there... at the time I was trying to play around London. I felt kind of stagnant here whereas in New York it seemed a lot easier to be in a band.” That thought was enough for Matthew to pack his bags and move with no plan other than to start a band. He's not the first person to move to the city with such aspirations.
People sit around and talk about starting bands but very few of them actually do it “I think a lot of creatively inclined people move to New York, almost everyone I know is a musician or a photographer. New York has this way of forcing creative people close together.” It didn't take long for Hitt to acclimatise to the energy that radiates from New York's sidewalks and soon the first demos of a new project began to emerge. Joined by Jack Ridley III, Erik Lee Snyder and Lakis E. Pavlou, Drowners' first demos were a wall of thrashed guitars, guttural vocals and smashed cymbals, an aesthetic Matthew admits was pre-meditated. “That directness was a conscious decision in terms of arrangement and instrumentation. A lot of bands in New York had been playing this washed out, reverb-laden music but I didn't want to hide the song behind effects pedals”.
After an intense period spent honing their live sound in New York's bars and clubs – “you can play every night if you want” states Hitt, clearly speaking from experience – Drowners began to garner well-earned recognition. Support slots with The Vaccines, Foals and Arctic Monkeys and a deal with Frenchkiss Records, provided validation for Drowners' nononsense approach and relentless work ethic. “When we started the band, we wanted to be really productive with it in terms of our output, not only with the music. Our friend shot our album cover, it's one of our friends on the cover and we've made all the videos ourselves”. On first listen the debut album is as direct as anything the band have produced previously, clattering drums and stabbed guitar chords backing Hitt's lilting vocal delivery. But there's more depth here, a maturity happily absent from earlier recordings. “Musically it's driving and jovial but lyrically it's darker” says Matthew when I put this to him. There's a sense of pride at their accomplishment in Matthew's voice which reminds me that not everyone is determined enough to take the opportunities that present themselves in 'the land of opportunity'. “In New York there's loads of people that sit around and talk about starting bands but very few of them actually do it. We didn't want to do that”. For us, it's a blessing that Drowners had the drive and motivation to elevate them above the coffee shops conversations and late night hyperbole. 25
LABEL PROFILE: 3.
Words: Matthew Ayres moshimoshimusic.com
Moshi Moshi emerged as a labour of love between friends in 1998. Six years spent releasing 7” singles from underground artists followed, but in 2004 the wider public became acquainted with the brand’s impeccable taste via Bloc Party and Hot Chip, chased by the likes of Slow Club and Summer Camp. At 15 years old, Moshi Moshi is considered an inspiration for UK record labels who seek both independence and success. Co-founder Michael McClatchey now runs the label full time, and gave us his verdict on what it means to be an indie label in 2014. You started Moshi Moshi while working at a major record company. What are the differences between your label and your previous employer? People like to dress up major labels as evil empires and indie labels as downtrodden, heroic freedom fighters. In truth there's not so much difference. The people on the ground [at major labels] are equally passionate. The main difference for me is now I work for myself, which is a lovely place to be. Being able to choose who you work with makes the whole process more fun. What are the most significant challenges facing indie labels at the moment? The challenges facing indie labels are the same as the challenges facing all labels these days: surviving and dealing with constantly shifting technological landscape.
Having said that, new technology has leveled the playing field and given us new opportunities. We can now release a record simultaneously all around the world, and our music can reach people everywhere. It still seems incredible that a company our size can be an international brand. I love that. Why is it important to preserve physical formats like vinyl? Pressing records makes me feel like we're a proper record label, producing something tangible that will continue to exist after we're gone. Beyond that, I don't know that physical products are that important. Once upon a time I thought people would always want to have record or CD collections. Now I realise that as technology changes, people do too. How the music is stored isn't the important thing. It’s what it means to you that matters. What exciting stuff can we expect from Moshi Moshi in 2014? 2014 promises to be a very good year for Moshi Moshi. Maybe one of our best. We have debut albums from Teleman, Anna Meredith, Babe and Totem, more music from Sweet Baboo, The Wave Pictures, Hercules And Love Affair and Summer Camp. Artists we manage such as Metronomy, Slow Club and Tom Vek are also releasing albums on other great labels.
The Things We Feel And Do Not Write: Thoughts On An Approach To Words About Music Paul Bridgewater — Editor, The Line Of Best Fit thelineofbestfit.com
One thing has always endured in the history of music: people make songs and people want to listen to them. It’s a dynamic forged well before commerce took hold and made it a product and it will remain beyond the spine of the industry crumbling away entirely. I say this not as some grandiose preface to another ‘is music dead/has the internet killed the music industry’ diatribe but because it’s the one constant that gives me hope. It’s a guiding truth that I always reference – or cling on to – as I make my own chaotic way through this strange, wonderful and sometimes terrible industry. At the heart of the equation is the personal experience. We listen to music because it makes us feel something; usually something good and sometimes not so much. It’s the context of that feeling – the exact impetus for our individual responses that remains the most fascinating element of this. We connect with a certain record or song because we got high to it, fell in love to it, fucked to it, fell apart to it. That relationship trumps the concept of quality and it’s something that’s often missing from the way we tend to talk about music and the way we write about it.
Dyed in the wool critics will often approach the execution of a song or album as a test, applying a well studied mix of benchmarks that swing closer to a more rigid academic judgement rather than the universal experience. I’ve always had a problem with that. The more I become entrenched in writing about music, the further I’ve swung across to idea that there should be more evidence of musical empathy.
2. M Ch Hy 28
I spend as much time at a live show watching the audience as much as I’m watching the band. When I’m unable to find something that gets me off, I try and catch that spark that ties a particular person or crowd to the people on stage or the sounds they make. It’s the Rosetta Stone of comprehension, unlocking the reason why some bands that lie out my personal scope of enjoyment have an audience. But bringing this element into writing about music needs balance. Personal reactions can easily swing over into narcissistic prose that alienates rather than confides and – at the other end of the spectrum – representing only what others find appealing tends to remove some personality from writing. It’s that magical space somewhere between the two that I’m forever trying to capture. 27 27
Reviews 1. Bombay Bicycle Club So Long, See You Tomorrow Island 3 February 1.
Since the release of their third album A Different Kind of Fix in 2011, musical mega-mind Jack Steadman has done some travelling and brought back all sorts of goodies for the remaining members of the London fourpiece to play with. In a world where talentless autotuners and awkwardly processed vocals remain a constant, you can rely on Bombay Bicycle Club to deliver the goods; the really, really goods. Having somewhat reinvented themselves from record to record thus far, no one could be sure of what their latest offering would yield. As it turns out, it wears the same cologne as the previous cut. The funky electro-indie-rock that got us moving and shaking in 2011 has been on holiday to India and is ready to get you on the dancefloor again.
Of So Long, See You Tomorrow, Steadman, who produced the album in London, remarked, "(we) made a record our audience can finally dance to", which begs the question: what was I doing with my body three years ago? Every track on the album seems to share a component with one of its brothers or sisters, giving the record a cyclical feel, which, combined with its balance, means you can spin it all day. 'Luna,' the second single from the record, and 'It’s Alright Now' are punchy and uplifting stimulants: the driving rhythmic bass paired to maximum effect with the delicate vocals once again borrowed from Lucy Rose, and the atmospheric nature of Rae Morris. 'Feel' is nearby and its Subcontinental influence is easily discernible, sampling the soundtrack of 1953 Bollywood film, Nagin.
'Carry Me' hits a little harder and has a slightly more brusque and disjointed feel to it, but includes a beautiful vocal arrangement between Steadman and Rose. The aforementioned balance lies between these heavyhitters, where you’ll find the subtler 'Home By Now, 'Come To Me' and 'Whenever Wherever,' but even these acquiesce to a full band crescendo before cooling off for the final few bars. To close the record, the seductive title track conveys a satisfying sense of conclusion. Loop after loop of vocals and melodies gather pace until you’re incapable of absorbing anymore; at this point you’re set free, purged, and ready to go round again. Words: Adam Burbidge bombaybicycleclubmusic.com
3. Metronomy Love Letters Because Music 10 March
2. MØ No Mythologies To Follow Chess Club/RCA Victor 10 March Rising Danish starlet Karen Marie Ørsted has been plotting her ascent since the spring of 2012 which saw debut single ‘Maiden’ provoke a tidal wave of praise from the blog mafia; a fine blend of artfully produced alt-pop that showcased Ørsted’s gutsy vocal range to devastating effect.
Rather than being weighted in favour of the singles, the twelve song tracklist is peppered with the familiar fan favourites throughout, whilst equal attention is paid to the startling new songs – defiant opener ‘Fire Rides’ and gorgeous ballad ‘Dust Is Gone’ particular highlights.
Where many a pop proposition would fail to raise the game on such a strong debut, MØ continued to develop and impress with an array of deliciously brilliant singles (‘Pilgrim’, ‘Waste Of Time’, ‘XXX 88’) and indeed a live show that few new acts currently rival.
The constant torrent of Scandinavian newcomers can often baffle and saturate – buzz and aesthetic first, quality control a mere afterthought. MØ is different. A clear vision from the very outset, No Mythologies To Follow is the sound of an artist completely comfortable in her own skin. MØ sounds like no other artist right now because her sound is unquestionably born from the source. A bold, brilliant debut.
Much like her career thus far, No Mythologies To Follow is brilliantly paced and artfully delivered with a bloody minded grace.
Words: Rich Thane momomoyouth.com
Quadraphonic 21st century soul is the order of the day on Love Letters, the fourth full-length from Joe Mount’s divisive Metronomy. Continuing the consistent sonic reinvention that’s been the mark of their output to date, the followup to 2011’s Mercury-nominated The English Riviera sees the quartet raiding their vinyl handme-downs for inspiration. From the glitchy propulsion of ‘I’m Aquarius’ to the all-out soulful thump of ‘Love Letters’, it’s the sort of record you’d imagine XTC’s Andy Partridge would make had he spun Maggot Brain and There’s A Riot Goin’ On while noodling incessantly on a synthesizer.
‘The Upsetter’ is a deeply involving slice of acoustic guitartopped electronica that nods to their love of Hot Chip, while midpoint instrumental ‘Boy Racers’ provides a delightful slice of liquid funk, all synthetic bass lines and compressed guitar licks.
That might be short-changing the four-piece a little, though; the array of moods and styles explored across its ten tracks is, in fact, quite staggering.
Words: Alex Cull metronomy.co.uk
By the time Love Letters’ stargazing finale, ‘Never Wanted’ rolls around, it’s clear that the record isn’t merely the series of odes to romantic longing its title suggests. No, it’s an excitable rummage through Mount and co.’s record collections; a sizeable grin present with every dust-covered gem pulled out to show you.
4. Warpaint Warpaint Rough Trade 20 January Warpaint’s eponymous second album starts with an apology, as opening track ‘Intro’ gently falls apart before instantly starting up again. But that’s the only misstep on an album that’s poised, assured and devastatingly hypnotising. It’s all about atmosphere: this is a spellbinding, mesmerising and, at times, claustrophobic journey. Over 12 songs they create an allpervading mood. The word ‘sexy’ has been used a lot by the band and it’s certainly a sultry affair; all brooding looks, whispered love letters and locking into gripping, woozy grooves.
5. Spring Offensive Young Animal Hearts Spring Offensive/KARTEL 10 March True, they don’t veer too far from the blueprint of debut The Fool but here it’s in the interaction between the spidery bass lines and dense drum patterns where the sparks fly. ‘Love Is To Die’ is all stifling darkness and a groove heavy chorus with its refrain of “Love is to die / Love is to not die,” highlighting the poetic cul-de-sacs and uncertainties that define the lyrics. This is love, after all. Elsewhere ‘Disco//Very’ sounds like the best of ESG and The Slits, while ghostly closer ‘Son’ could be Cat Power. “There’s a world that I’ve never seen” Emily Kokal sings on the transfixing ‘Biggy’. This album is Warpaint’s world, and it’s one to get lost in. Words: Danny Wright warpaintwarpaint.com
There is something very English about Spring Offensive. From their polite stage-presence to the Received Pronunciation cadence in singer Lucas Whitworth’s vocal style, the band have a charming, gentlemanly quality that for the past few years has made them welcome across venues, homes and churches alike. Young Animal Hearts is, somewhat surprisingly, the band's first album and, as if in tribute to the fans that helped fund it, has an agreeable balance of old songs and new. In characteristic Spring Offensive style, each song's raison d'être is to create a deeply moving release, with an emphasis on anthemic group vocals, presented best perhaps in the new number ‘Cut The Root’.
Despite the very relatable, everyday lyrical content that makes lines like, "If we’re serious then we should start saving" so singable, there is an existentialist undercurrent that comes into focus at some of the album's most touching moments ("I’m a hotblooded animal and my heart is just a muscle"). It is this visceral pumping, accentuated by the tightly-locked rhythm section in tracks such as ‘Bodylifting’ and ‘No Assets’, that breathes life into Young Animal Hearts, and makes it a positively refreshing debut. Words: John Bell springoffensive.co.uk
BAND OF HORSES A C O U S T I C AT T H E R Y M A N - O U T N O W
R E CO R D E D AT RY M A N A U D I T O R I U M , N A S H V I L L E , T N , I N A P R I L 2 0 1 3 F E AT U R I N G ACO U S T I C R E N D I T I O N S O F S O N G S F RO M AC RO S S T H E B A N D O F H O R S E S C ATA L O G U E W W W. B A N D O F H O R S E S . CO M
—RAINER— HOPE / SATIN / GLASS / DREAMS OUT NOW
—CUT RIBBONS— BOUND IN LOVE EP OUT NOW
—SHY NATURE— LIE BACK OUT NOW
Live I Break Horses Village Underground, 23 January It is often written that bands celebrate the release of their new album with a live show at such-and-such a venue; while there is no doubt I Break Horses were very happy to unveil Chiaroscuro to the world at London’s Village Underground in late January, it is safe to say that we, the wall-to-wall fans, were the ones doing the real celebrating. Lead by Maria Lindén, the Stockholm-based project by no means had an easy task on their hands following-up such a wonderful debut as 2011’s Hearts but not only have they managed it, the band have produced a mesmerising ninetrack that sounds equally captivating in the live environment as it does on record. From the outset Lindén, flanked by immaculately focused accompaniment and supporting vocals, is exactly that; captivating. It is hard not to be swallowed-up by the atmosphere, all smoke and white light sweeping across the monotone stage and suddenly the album’s title resonates beautifully. ‘Medicine Brush’, with its epic, industrial clamours contrasting the stark beauty of such a whispered vocal, immediately sets the tone, before ‘Berceuse’ brings further dark and seductive eeriness.
The combination of relentless whirring pedals beneath cracking synthesised drum beats is mildly hypnotic and nowhere is this better highlighted than the euphoric tones of ‘Hearts’; the circling intro whips-up a heightened sense of excitement and leads effortlessly into its second album lead single counterpart ‘Denial’, undoubtedly their most playful offering despite its beautifully bleak lyrical content. Renditions of current single ‘Faith’ – heady and entirely rave-ready – and ‘Winter Beats’, which mutates and explodes into an ear-splitting jam, are the major highlights from a quite brilliant performance. Atmosphere, euphoria and non-stop captivation; we should all celebrate I Break Horses a little bit more often. Words: George O'Brien Photo: Valerio Berdini valerioberdini.com ibreakhorses.se
T EZRA FURMAN OU LD WED SO 19 FEB SEBRIGHT ARMS
HATCHAM SOCIAL TUES 18 FEB THE LEXINGTON
CATE LE BON FRI 7 FEB ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL
MIKHAEL PASKALEV THURS 6 FEB ELECTROWERKZ
CAGED ANIMALS TUES 4 FEB SEBRIGHT ARMS
MENACE BEACH WED 12 MAR OLD BLUE LAST
NAKED (ON DRUGS) MON 3 MAR SEBRIGHT ARMS
HOCKEYSMITH THURS 6 MAR THE WAITING ROOM
MOLLY BEANLAND MON 24 MAR SEBRIGHT ARMS
THIS IS THE KIT FRI 21 MAR THE LEXINGTON
COUSIN MARNIE MON 10 MAR SEBRIGHT ARMS
CASUAL SEX TUES 25 FEB SEBRIGHT ARMS
JUNGLEOUT LD TUES SO 4 MAR VILLAGE UNDERGROUND
RAFFERTIE THURS 6 MAR SERVANT JAZZ QUARTERS
ST VINCENT THURS 20 FEB O2 SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE
ARCADE FIRE FRI 6 & SAT 7 JUNE EARLS COURT
HOSPITALITY MON 26 MAY SEBRIGHT ARMS
LA FEMME WED 21 MAY SCALA
WILD BEASTS TUES 1 APR O2 ACADEMY BRIXTON
THE MEN THURS 27 MAR VILLAGE UNDERGROUND