BRANDON FLOWERS ALABAMA SHAKES DJANGO DJANGO BLUR SHAMIR PA L M A V I O L E T S
set music free free / issue 40 / may 2015 diymag.com
& LOADS MORE
NO BANJO REQUIRED m u m f o r d AS
s o n s THEM
GOOD VS EVIL WHAT’S ON THE DIY TEAM’S R ADAR?
Victoria Sinden Deputy Editor GOOD ¯\_( ‘‘ )_/¯ EVIL Failed spectacularly at getting McBusted tickets over Easter. .............................. Emma Swann Associate Editor GOOD Wolf Alice’s triumphant Shepherd’s Bush gig was a joy to see. EVIL Accidentally washing my beautiful Sleater-Kinney sticky pass. It’s all crumpled and faded now! .............................. Jamie Milton Online Editor GOOD We have an official Spector calendar in the office, and it gets dreamier every month. EVIL Getting severely sunburnt on a foggy (!) Brighton beach in the first week of April. .............................. Sarah Jamieson News Editor
GOOD There is new music from Brand New in the world and all faith and order has been restored! EVIL Having to text a famous pop star before an interview and not getting a reply :’( Denied! .............................. Louise Mason Art Director GOOD Asking a band for their own cover shoot ideas. Top shelf here we come. EVIL Accidentally saying hi to an indie dreamboat in the street because I’d seen his face so many times I thought he was my friend. .............................. El hunt Assistant Online Editor GOOD Festival season is fast approaching. Bring on the mojitos, game-changing sets and badly drawn henna tattoos. EVIL Zayn Malik, how could you? My One Direction lunchbox is out of date because of you.
E D I TO R ’ S L E T T E R Sure, the big story this month should be our Mumford & Sons cover. One of the biggest bands in the world, who threw away the banjos and reinvented themselves. And it is. But this is my Ed’s letter, and Blur are back. So, before doing anything else, go read the four page review that starts on page 64, while I cry happy tears that my favourite band in the world have returned. Thanks. Stephen Ackroyd GOOD Pssst. There are TWO magazines out this month. Keep an eye open for our massive 2015 festival guide. It’s ace. EVIL Trying to make two mags in one month isn’t easy.
WHO SAID LISTENING POST
What’s on the DIY stereo this month? WOLF ALICE My Love Is Cool
We’ll save the Official Verdict for next issue. Let’s just say - yes, it is what you hoped, and so much more.
They do their own tai chi classes, naked.
Find out on p58
Jamie XX in Colour
Yes. It really is Jamie xx’s debut solo album, but it’s definitely been worth the wait. 3
C O N T E N T S
NEWS 6 BRANDON FLOWERS Editor Stephen Ackroyd Deputy Editor Victoria Sinden Associate Editor Emma Swann News Editor Sarah Jamieson
10 DIIV 12 BEST COAST 14 METZ 16 TWIN SHADOW
Art Direction & Design Louise Mason Head Of Marketing & Events Jack Clothier
1 7 D I Y H A L L O F FA M E 18 HOT CHIP 2 2 P O P S TAR P O S T BAG 2 6 F E S T I VA L S
NEU 32 DEMOB
HAPPY 34 BEST FRIENDS 3 7 R AT B OY
46 ALABAMA SHAKES 50 DJANGO DJANGO
5 6 PA L M A V I O L E T S 60 SHAMIR
Contributors: Ali Shutler, Andrew Backhouse, Chris Bunt, Coral Williamson, Danny Wright, David Zammitt, George Boorman, Huw Baines, Jack Pudwell, Kate Lismore, Kyle Forward, Kris Lavin, Liam McNeilly, Matthew Davies, Nina Glencross, Ross Jones, Sean Stanley, Tom Connick, Tom Walters, Will Richards Photographers Abi Dainton, Carolina Faruolo, Mike Massaro, Phil Sharp, Phil Smithies For DIY editorial firstname.lastname@example.org For DIY sales email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com tel: +44 (0)20 3632 3456 DIY is published by Sonic Media Group. All material copyright (c). All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form, in whole or in part, without the express written permission of DIY. 25p where sold.
3 8 MUMFORD & SONS
54 HOP ALONG
Online Editor Jamie Milton Assistant Online Editor El Hunt
REVIEWS 64 ALBUMS 78 LIVE
Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the information in this magazine is correct, changes can occur which affect the accuracy of copy, for which Sonic Media Group holds no responsibility. The opinions of the contributors do not necessarily bear a relation to those of DIY or its staff and we disclaim liability for those impressions. Distributed nationally. Cover photo: Phil Sharp
SET IN HENHAM PARK SUFFOLK
16TH - 19TH JULY 2015
CARIBOU WILD BEASTS FEMI KUTI & THE POSITIVE FORCE
LAURA MARLING LIANNE LA HAVAS JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ BENJAMIN BOOKER JP COOPER
MANIC STREET PREACHERS SEASICK STEVE NAOMI SHELTON & THE GOSPEL QUEENS
BBC RADIO 6 MUSIC STAGE
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING TORO Y MOI KING CREOSOTE UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA THE DISTRICTS SOAK
CATFISH AND THE BOTTLEMEN SAVAGES WOLF ALICE SUN KIL MOON THE THURSTON MOORE BAND DRENGE
LA ROUX YEARS & YEARS YOUNG FATHERS KWABS
ARENA THE 2 BEARS / CLARK / ADULT JAZZ / KIASMOS / JACK GARRATT / SHURA / GENGAHR / IBEYI SUSANNE SUNDFØR / DM STITH / LEON BRIDGES / KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD THE TWILIGHT SAD / CURTIS HARDING / MARIKA HACKMAN / NADINE SHAH / DOLORES HAZE / DUKE GARWOOD LATE NIGHT: BEN UFO / DJ EZ / MONKI / ALEXANDER NUT / THE FOUR OWLS / THE BUSY TWIST / WERKHA (LIVE)
THE LAKE STAGE AQUILO / BOXED IN / CHARLIE CUNNINGHAM / CLARE MAGUIRE / CLARENCE CLARITY / DENAI MOORE / EAVES / FORMATION GULF / HONNE / MAN MADE / NEON WALTZ / PETITE MELLER / PRETTY VICIOUS / PRIDES / SUNDARA KARMA / TO KILL A KING VERY SPECIAL PERFORMANCE: GARETH
MALONE PRESENTS: VOICES AND THE LATITUDE CHOIR COMEDY
JASON MANFORD / ALAN DAVIES / JON RICHARDSON THE LAST LEG LIVE WITH ADAM HILLS, JOSH WIDDICOMBE & ALEX BROOKER JACK DEE’S HELPDESK / ROB DELANEY / DAVID O’DOHERTY / KATHERINE RYAN / NINA CONTI ROBIN INCE AND JOSIE LONG’S FESTIVAL SHAMBLES / NICK HELM / SARA PASCOE / TIM KEY SPECIAL GUESTS
CHILLY GONZALES & KAISER QUARTETT / SADLER’S WELLS SIMON ARMITAGE / DOCTOR JOHN COOPER CLARKE / MICHAEL ROSEN / GEORGE THE POET MUSIC / COMEDY / THEATRE / DANCE ON THE WATERFRONT / FILM / POETRY / LITERATURE / CABARET / SCIENCE / ART / LAKE SWIMMING / SOLAS
FOR THE LINE-UP SO FAR GO TO THE WEBSITE WWW.LATITUDEFESTIVAL.CO.UK TICKETS FROM SEETICKETS.COM / 0871 231 0846 CALLS COST 10P PLUS NETWORK CHARGES. BILL SUBJECT TO CHANGE
New Desires A S
B R A N D O N
F L O W E R S U P
F O R
H I S
R E T U R N , C L E A R
G E A R S S O L O
I T ’ S
T H AT
C O N F I D E N C E G R O W I N G . S A R A H
H I S I S
W O R D S :
JA M I E S O N .
hat happens when you pair up the flamboyant frontman of one of the world’s biggest bands with the pop producer du jour? When Brandon Flowers tracked down Ariel Rechtshaid to help him create his latest solo pop masterpiece, that was exactly what he was wondering himself. “It was personal and it was intense,” Brandon offers over the phone, as he takes a short break from rehearsals in his home city of Las Vegas. After hearing Rechtshaid’s work on Vampire Weekend’s latest album ‘Modern Vampires of the City’, the deal felt sealed for Flowers. “We butted heads a lot but we also bonded a lot. We went through all kinds of things that relationships can go through,” he laughs, “but it was good.” If ‘The Desired Effect’ stands as anything, it’s a true collaboration. While Flowers has never been afraid to work with outside influences – on The Killers’ latest record ‘Battle Born’, for example, they worked with five different producers - he’s the first to admit that it’s now that he’s really getting used to the idea of embracing them. “I love the idea of a team and collaborating and working with people,” he explains, “letting their talents come through.” With this record, it was Rechtshaid’s talents that allowed his own to blossom further. “As I’ve gotten older that’s something that I’ve been a lot more willing to embrace and accept that I can’t just do it by myself. I really appreciate other people and their ideas and that was a really important growth for me.” Recorded in “increments” in both his own Battle Born Studios and in Los Angeles, the follow-up to 2010 solo debut, ‘Flamingo’, was pieced together over the past year, whenever he could make his way into the producer’s diary. “He’s sort of an in-demand guy right now,” he chuckles, “so it was all about when I could get Ariel to Las Vegas, or when I could get to LA.” His second effort has a fair bit riding on it. At the time of press, Flowers has already sold out six sizeable UK shows after debuting just one track. Now, with a further song out in the open, fans are beginning to get a feel for the album’s flair, and it’s fair to say that it’s treading entirely different ground. “I definitely wanted to do something different,” he says with certainty. “When I sought out Ariel as a producer, I knew that I was going into unchartered territory for me. What you wanna do with any album is stay true to yourself and that was really the goal, but you’re putting it through a different person’s perspective any time you let anyone else work with you, or collaborate with you, so it’s going to go through different shapes and sizes.” The record still, however, possesses his stamp of grandiose. Whether in the Springsteen-inspired twang of ‘Lonely Town’ or the foot-stomping 80s beat of ‘I Can Change’, ‘The Desired Effect’ sees Flowers turn just about everything up to eleven. “Because he’s such a capable producer, that gave me a lot of freedom,” he reflects, again referencing his partner-in-crime. “I was able to do whatever I could dream of; it seemed like it was possible with him.”
It wasn’t just Rechtshaid that Brandon decided to draft in; he also set about drawing up a dream cast of supporting musicians. In among the bombast, there’s contributions from the likes of Bruce Hornsby, Ethan Farmer and Tony Levin, alongside his own peers Angel Deradoorian (of Dirty Projectors), Danielle Haim and Killers bandmate Ronnie Vannucci Jr. “It was fun to have people who have their own little corners of expertise and letting them get back into that, letting them do their thing. I’ve never worked like that and it was really fun.” “I’m feeling more…” he continues, touching upon his growing confidence as a solo artist. “It’s a big pair of shoes that you have to step into when this is your job, I guess. There have been so many great people who have gone before me, and I’m finally starting to feel like I belong. That it’s okay for me to go for it and really let loose a little
bit more.” The result is infectious; ‘The Desired Effect’ sees Flowers really coming into his own as a solo star; he manages to do it all with an insatiable wink. “I mean, I want people to take away from it just what I take away from music,” he offers up on how he hopes listeners will react, “I don’t know that it’s a specific thing but it made my life better. It genuinely made my life better and it still does. I mean, if you’re in the car and ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ comes on by The Pretenders, how do you not feel good?!” he laughs again. “It’s a powerful thing, music. I’m so grateful for all it’s done for me and I just wanna repay the favour.” Brandon Flowers’ new album ‘The Desired Effect’ will be released on 18th May via Virgin / EMI. DIY
“I was able to do whatever I could dream of.” Brandon Flowers
NEWS IN BRIEF
NINE DISCS OF SORROW The National have announced the release of their “durational performance” with Ragnar Kjartansson as a vinyl box set. Titled ‘A Lot of Sorrow’, the limited edition 9xLP boxer captures the band’s six-hour performance of ‘High Violet’ track ‘Sorrow’ at New York’s MoMA session in 2013.
DON’T LET US DOWN Sharon Van Etten has announced a new EP, ‘I Don’t Want To Let You Down’. The five-track EP is pencilled in for a release on 8th June via Jagjaguwar. Van Etten previously gave the title track its first airing on Ellen back in January.
BRAND NEW BRAND NEW Brand New have released their first new material in over six years. The mysterious four-piece recently performed a new cut titled ‘Don’t Feel Anything’ during their tour, which was then revealed as a single under the new guise of ‘Mene’ back on 13th April. Listen over on diymag.com.
SHIPWRECKED Florence + The Machine has unveiled the video for ‘Ship to Wreck’. Ryan Heffington directs the new clip, which begins in a dark, empty street, Florence takes to a scene of distress, from crying in bathtubs, to violent altercations fighting on the stairs: that ship has truly been wrecked. 8 diymag.com
THEKLA BRISTOL FRI 01 MAY WATERFRONT STUDIO NORWICH THU 05 MAY O 2 ACADEMY 2 OXFORD WED 06 MAY SCALA LONDON TUE 12 MAY
SO LD O UT
SHACKLEWELL ARMS LONDON WED 06 MAY
TWENTY ONE PILOTS
DEAF INSTITUTE MANCHESTER TUE 12 MAY HARE AND HOUNDS BIRMINGHAM WED 13 MAY ELECTROWERKZ LONDON THU 14 MAY
OSLO LONDON TUE 12 MAY
MANCHESTER ARENA THU 14 MAY BARCLAYCARD ARENA BIRMINGHAM FRI 15 MAY MOTORPOINT ARENA CARDIFF SAT 16 MAY THE O2 LONDON MON 18 MAY
O2 ACADEMY2 OXFORD SAT 16 MAY HARE AND HOUNDS BIRMINGHAM MON 18 MAY ACADEMY 3 MANCHESTER TUE 19 MAY RESCUE ROOMS NOTTINGHAM WED 20 MAY THEKLA BRISTOL THU 21 MAY
LA DISPUTE/ FUCKED UP
NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS
MARBLE FACTORY BRISTOL MON 26 OCT BIRMINGHAM LIBRARY FRI 30 OCT
THE 02 LONDON WED 04 / THU 05 NOV CAPITAL FM ARENA NOTTINGHAM FRI 06 NOV MOTORPOINT ARENA CARDIFF WED 11 NOV BARCLAYCARD ARENA BIRMINGHAM FRI 20 NOV
@ LNS ou rce
SEBRIGHT ARMS LONDON WED 20 MAY
VILLAGE UNDERGROUND LONDON TUE 23 JUN
THE WAITING ROOM LONDON WED 08 JUL
AT CALLING FESTIVAL CLAPHAM COMMON LONDON SAT 04 JUL
DINGWALLS LONDON TUE 12 MAY THE GARAGE GLASGOW SUN 05 JUL ACADEMY 3 MANCHESTER MON 09 JUL
OVAL SPACE LONDON WED 27 MAY
KOKO LONDON TUE 26 MAY
OSLO LONDON TUE 05 MAY
LIFE IN FILM
HARE AND HOUNDS BIRMINGHAM WED 09 SEP DINGWALLS LONDON THU 10 SEP CASTLE HOTEL MANCHESTER FRI 11 SEP
EVENTIM APOLLO HAMMERSMITH LONDON THU 12 NOV
Ti cke t s | E xc lu s ive s | Win | live n at io n .co. u k 9
DIIV’s new record reflects on a turbulent few years. “It has its darker moments,” Zachary Cole Smith explains. Words: Liam McNeilly.
feel like I’m a completely different person to what I was three years ago; I’m coming from a different point of view,” says DIIV’s Zachary Cole Smith. With arrests, rehabilitation and his relationship with Sky Ferreira coming under greater media scrutiny, not to mention a foul-mouthed web outburst by one band member, as DIIV’s second album comes round it’s a chance for Smith to make one hell of a statement. “It’s about the stuff I’ve experienced in the last three years; big stuff, stuff that a lot of people go through in their lives, existential stuff,” he explains, mapping out the process of what promises to be another singleminded representation of his own consciousness. “It’s still all me, I’m still writing all of the songs and I’m playing almost everything, but I’m definitely writing more for the whole band,” he continues. “When it comes down to it we are a live band and ultimately it’s not fair to have something on record that doesn’t translate live.”
shadowed by a response that has the potential to reach beyond. Legally, he’s had his hands tied for parts of that period, forbidden from speaking on the case following his arrest for drug possession and driving a stolen vehicle. Left to look on, Cole has no hesitation in admitting it was a situation that became painfully distressing.
“I spent three years having tape over my mouth. Even after Sky’s charges were dropped it didn’t matter because nobody was able to say anything. Sky turned into this punching bag for chauvinistic, male-dominated music media and it was so upsetting but we didn’t have a voice. Finally she put her record out and got to say all this stuff she’d been wanting to say. Now I have a chance to talk about everything that I’ve wanted to say and I get to make a statement musically about what I think the world “Now I have a chance needs.”
to talk about
Combine these experiences and new musical perspectives, and you can see wanted to say.” the space emerging for DIIV Zachary Cole Smith to work in a way that moves beyond the gliding, melodic and immediate nature of their debut. “It has its darker moments,” says Cole, alluding it seems to both the concepts and sonic make up, “but I think While the added live dynamic has allowed new possibilities it’s a much more diverse record. We’re just free to do so much to be realised, it remains the compiling of this into a more: people are more willing to listen to what you have to representative record that Cole sees as the true mark of DIIV. say [on a second record]... I want DIIV to be a rock band that “You can be the greatest band in history, but when it doesn’t continually evolves. A lot of these songs are more accessible get put down on to a record that represents what you do, time and poppier, whilst some are way darker and weirder than forgets you. A record is like your claim to immortality: That’s anything we’ve done before.” your impact, everything else is just fleeting and temporal.”
everything that I’ve
It wouldn’t be fair to describe Smith’s personal experiences of the last three years as fleeting or temporal, but there’s the opportunity for them to fade in significance and become
In The Studio:
.DIIV DIIV aren’t taking the Mickey with their new album. 10 diymag.com
DIIV’s new album will be released later this year. DIY DIIV will play Field Day. See diymag.com for details.
Back On The Road Babes In Toyland have returned to play their first live shows in 18 years next stop, the UK. Words: El Hunt.
ewly reunited and playing together again for the first time in 18 years, American punk band Babes In Toyland are amping up for a short string of UK dates at the end of May. Cult figures on the underground music scene, the band arrived in 1987 alongside a wave of other pioneers; Jack Off Jill, 7 Year Bitch, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and L7 - who also reformed recently. “We wanted to play again,” laughs frontwoman Kat Bjelland, speaking on the phone in between band rehearsals. “and I can’t really explain why. I missed the other girls, Maureen [Herman] and Lori [Barbero].” The band barely spoke to each other after breaking up, amid fall-outs over Kat Bjelland continuing to use the name. After Herman quit playing bass for Babes in ’96, she had little to do with them, and a reunion seemed throughly unlikely. In the summer of 2013 however, she impulsively invited
ON TOUR MAY 24 Trinity Centre, Bristol 25 Engine Rooms, Southampton 26 O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 27 Gorilla, Manchester 28 Oran Mor, Glasgow Bjelland out to her family’s lake house in Wisconsin, and within minutes a reunion was fully on the cards. “One of the reasons that I wanted to do it was somebody showed me on the internet - and I don’t go on it very often - and I guess we had a whole new generation of fans,” explains Bjelland. “I felt obligated to, so that they could see us live.” As for the lightning rate at which Babes’ previous shows in the US sold out at, she’s humbled. “I didn’t know what to expect, and it blew my mind,” she says. “It was really emotional.” Huge Babes in Toyland songs like ‘He’s My Thing‘ and ‘Sweet ’69,’ seemed to return in a click. “It was muscle memory, that’s exactly what it was,” Bjelland
agrees. “We were laughing afterwards because we didn’t even think about it, we just did it. I feel like we’re better than we were before, for some reason, we’re a little bit more solid.” Looking beyond their run of UK reunion dates, Babes in Toyland also have plans to release brand new material, and the wheels are already in motion. “Me and Maureen have a practice space here in Minneapolis,” hints Bjelland, “and we’ve always written stuff together like that. We might do something after we tour,” she adds, more clearly. “We’ve written a few things. Maureen has a few ideas, and I have some.” Babes In Toyland tour the UK later this month. DIY
he phrase ‘California Nights’ conjures up all sorts of images. As baking hot days and sun-drenched beaches melt away into Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, all lit up against the darkness, even if you’ve never walked the streets of Los Angeles, there’s something familiar about it all. That’s why it makes the perfect title for the newest effort from Best Coast: it’s familiar, and possesses its own unmistakable identity, but it’s not necessarily quite what you might’ve come to expect. This time, for their third album, Best Coast are doing things a little bit differently. “I feel like by the time we went in to start recording ‘California Nights’, everything had changed.” Bethany Cosentino is on the end of a slightly crackly phone line from the States. “We had taken a lot of time off and when we went in, we didn’t really have any preconceived sort of idea of what the record was gonna be like.” Having last released their mini-album ‘Fade Away’ (“I was trying to use it as a bit of an experiment”) back in 2013, the
pair - completed by multiinstrumentalist Bobb Bruno decided to try some new things when it came to their third full-length. First things first, they gave pre-production a go.
As Best Coast approach album number three, Bethany Cosentino is learning that it’s okay to feel okay.
“That’s the first time that I’ve ever done that,” explains Bethany, “and gone through each of the songs to see how we could change them. We sat with our producer Wally [Gagel], and Wally would say, ‘This song is great but i think it could use a little bit of a change up here’ and then we’d all sit together and work something out. I would say that that really helped us because it gave us a chance to listen to the songs and figure out what about them could be enhanced. At the same time, we just made whatever kind of song we wanted to make, inspired by whatever we wanted it to be inspired by and we didn’t even think twice about it. We were just gonna make the record that we wanted to make and would make us happy, and that’s what we did.” Pre-production wasn’t the only new avenue they explored.
While Best Coast’s music has always seen Bethany approach songwriting with a certain degree of honesty, it was during the making of this record that she began to have a realisation which saw her open up even more than previously. “You’ve just got to go with the flow,” she says simply enough, “and that’s the way that I’ve adapted to life now; still managing to be a very neurotic person, however, trying to go with the flow as best as I can.
“ W h e n yo u ’ r e m a k i n g m i s ta k e s i t r e a l ly m e a n s t h at yo u ’ r e t ry i n g .” Bethany Cosentino
“On this record there’s a bit of self-acceptance,” she continues, “and accepting the fact that nothing is perfect, no one is perfect, I will never be perfect, I will continue to make mistakes but you know, when you’re making mistakes it really means that you’re trying. You’re trying to change or reevaluate certain situations or emotions and not react in the way that you would have in the past. That’s the way I was writing on this record. Like, ‘Okay, here’s the negativity, now what’re you gonna do with it?’
What’s going on with…
Drummer Julie Edwards offers up an update on life in the Californian duo. Hello Julie! How’re you doing? Pretty good. We’re currently in Vancouver where some lovely people gave us a place to crash for the night. We hear you’ve been working on your second album - what do you explore on the new record? Hugeness, epicness, darkness.
What was the studio experience like? We started recording this album with Nick at Sonic Ranch in El Paso, Texas back in January 2013, so it’s been a long time coming. We would fit studio time in between tours and planning Desert Daze and Moon Block Party out in Southern California, which is another thing we do in our ‘free’ time...
How did you build upon or move away from your debut? We just continued our journey of jamming and finding moments that felt cathartic, and building them into songs. The result is sometimes a real departure from the ‘Sistrionix’ zone. We are really excited. This record has ended up being both darker and lighter than our debut.
You’re now playing some shows with Marilyn Manson. How are they? They’re great! His fans have been really receptive to us. They love the heavy dark shit just like we do, so it’s a great match. Plus, watching Manson every night is inspiring - he is truly a master at communicating with thousands of people all at once.
You’ve also been working with Nick Zinner. How was he to have involved? He has great taste, great ideas, and he’s a guitar tone genius, so that helps! He would sit in on free jams (he is brave...) and then if he had some favourites, he would let us know, and sometimes those would be developed into complete songs, or else he would oversee the recording of songs that were already completed. The process was very democratic and organic.
What’ve you got coming up after this tour? First we’ve got our fourth annual Desert Daze Festival happening on 2nd May at Sunset Ranch Oasis in Mecca, CA. Then Lindsey and I will be doing short stints as bass players in White Lung and JJUUJJUU, respectively. Then it’s back on tour as Deap Vally as the record comes out in the fall… Deap Vally’s second album will be released later this year. DIY
“I think that making this record was very cathartic for me because, at the end of it all, when I listened back to the mastered sequence, I was like, ‘Damn, this record is really the most real Best Coast record’ and lyrically, it’s the realest I’ve ever been. I just didn’t hold back and talked about a lot of different things that I’ve never talked about before. I don’t know if it was just because I was feeling more confident at the time, or I was just ready to explore other things. I think the biggest thing on this record is that I didn’t over think anything. I was just doing what was coming out and feeling natural and organic.” Best Coast’s new album ‘California Nights’ will be released on 4th May via Virgin EMI. DIY
Second “Making something really punch you, it doesn’t just mean cranking up your amp.” - Chris Slorach
M e t z ‘ I I ’ . n e x t
r e t u r n “ I t
f e e l s
s t e p , ”
S w a n n .
w i t h
l i k e
t h e y
P h o t o :
t h e i r w e
M i k e
a l b u m ,
a c c o m p l i s h e d
e x p l a i n .
W o r d s :
t h e
E m m a
M a s s a r o .
ou know what it is about him,” ponders Metz bassist Chris Slorach, about engineer Graham Walsh, “he’s just vibes. Anyone can really do what he does,” he continues, laughing, “but his vibes are so good, he’s just happy and chill and he never gets flustered, we just get flustered. That’s what we love about him the most.” The Toronto trio return this month with ‘II’, a record that, although more expansive and accomplished in sound than that blistering 2012 self-titled debut, is largely – in the best way possible – ‘much of the same’. And that’s OK by them. “You’ll always know what we sound like,” says vocalist Alex Edkins, “this is our natural sound, it’s just who we are.” “Closing a certain chapter” is how Chris puts it, pairing their debut and ‘II’ as bookends, or parts of a friendship necklace. “These two albums are definitely half of each other. They’re a similar thing.”
s e c o n d
‘II’ was recorded throughout the final months of 2014 in Toronto, working with the same people, in the same way as first time around. “It was something that worked for us,” explains Alex. “Mentally, where we were at with this record, to work with all the same people just made sense. We could bang our heads together, and argue among ourselves to make sure the songs were in a place we wanted them, and we knew these people would step aside and let us do our thing until we were ready. I can say this about the process of self-producing, Graham is someone that I trust, and we all do trust implicitly.” “They know our language,” agrees Chris. “They know how we approach the band, what we value, what we maybe don’t value, and how to translate some of the things in our heads on to tape.” “I really think it’s an evolution and a progression,” he continues. “After the first record, we’d been around the world several times, and it was a totally brand new and exciting experience. Luckily, we didn’t burn ourselves out completely, we were back and excited to get back in to the studio and
None write and see where we could take it from that point.” “It’s nothing drastic,” he adds, of the sonic development on ‘II’, “but there are a lot of important things, you know, melody being some of it, production being some of it, songwriting, where we felt we were really able to progress, and we’re really happy how that came out. It feels nice, it feels like we accomplished the next step in our band. “It takes us a while to make an album, even though it’s not a long player, there are a lot of intricacies that we liked to be very specific about, and hopefully get across to some listeners. I know it probably sounds very brash, and off-thecuff to a lot of people, but we’re very meticulous. “As a live entity there’s only so much you can do as three people. Making something really punch you, or hit you is a totally different process on record, it doesn’t just mean cranking up your amp.” It was also important to spend time away from the road, as Chris is quick to point out, they like gigging. “We had to block out our calendar! We find it really difficult to say no to tours,
people are like ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’, ‘Woah, that sounds really good’. But we just have to make time. “It was really nice to get home and have a ‘normal’ life. To spend your time writing music is a real luxury, we felt lucky to be able to do that and have fun with it as best we could.” Ironically, of course, they’re taking ‘II’ out on tour almost immediately; a couple of Toronto release shows aside, their North American dates – including a mega-tour with FIDLAR begin just days after release. “The world has four days to get ready before we start infiltrating their areas,” laughs Chris. “It’s gonna be nice to get out on the road again,” agrees Alex. “It’s nice to play all these shows, get a chance to really flesh the songs out and get comfortable. Not just festival shows, our own shows!” Metz’ new album ‘II’ will be released on 4th May via Sub Pop Records. DIY Metz will play Best Kept Secret. See diymag.com for details.
For his new album, Twin Shadow has moved from a popular independent record label to a shiny major, but he’s not changed that much. “I’ve been pop since day one,” he explains. Words: David Zammitt.
“I’ve always wanted the majority of people to like my music”
eorge Lewis Jr. is sipping on an Old Fashioned in the bar of the Hoxton Hotel. True to form, he comes clad in his signature leather jacket and his motorcycle helmet sits staring back at him from the opposite chair, but over the course of the next hour he reveals that there is an awful lot more to the Dominican-born songwriter than initially meets the eye. Though he’s conscious of his own role in the construction of Twin Shadow’s brooding throwback image, he’s also keen to move the narrative beyond the merely superficial and as he prepares to release his third LP and major label debut, ‘Eclipse’, he meditates on the depression he suffered around the release of previous album, ‘Confess’, and talks openly about flying the 4AD coop for the more affluent climes of Warner Brothers. “Believe me, I understand there are tragedies in the world greater than people misunderstanding an artist. There’s people’s families being torn apart as we speak,” he says firmly, annunciating every syllable. “I understand the great weight of the world but I’m also an artist and I also take what I do incredibly seriously.”
And why shouldn’t he? Back in August of last year, Lewis postponed the bulk of his Eclipse tour indefinitely. “There have been several moving parts,” read an eyebrow-raising press release, “that have lead us to re-evaluate the time that we have to launch [the tour].” A couple of months later it was announced that ‘Eclipse’ would be the first Twin Shadow work to be released “ I ta k e d o i n c r s e r i o u s G e o r g e
w h at I e d i b ly ly.” L e w i s J r .
anywhere other than 4AD. When asked about making the move to a major label, Lewis chooses his words extra carefully. “I really want to explain to people so that they understand; I made this record on 4AD. And once it was finished I really, really wanted to switch homes for it. Not that I think 4AD has a sound, but I felt like it needed a home where people knew what to do with it.” The graft that he puts into his work and the desire to have it heard by as many people as possible, he says, were the primary motivators in the move. “A lot
of musicians are lazy, but I know a lot who work their fucking asses off and ruin their lives, basically, to make music. You have to work out a way to sell your music and, more importantly, to get your music into people’s ears. That is the most important thing.” The move ties in to a burning desire to infiltrate the mainstream, a space he sees as restrictive and overly curated but also, ultimately, his aim as an artist. “I’ve been pop since day one. I’ve always wanted the majority of people to like my music. I was naïve enough on my first record to actually think it was the same exact thing as Beyoncé. I really believed that!” He laughs but the glint in his eye and his disdain at the mention of the word ‘indie’ suggests that he remains undeterred in his pursuit of stage centre. “I wish we lived in a world where you could hear Burial, Taylor Swift, James Blake, Twigs, Twin Shadow on same the radio station and that drives me crazy – young people are still being taught that they need to be into one thing.” Twin Shadow new album ‘Eclipse’ will be released on 18th May via Warner Bros. Records. DIY
DIY HALL OF FAME Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
A monthly place to celebrate the very best albums released during DIY’s lifetime; the third inductee into our Hall of Fame is Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Fever To Tell’.
ack in the early 00s, New York City was the coolest place on the planet. Sure, there are probably few years where it hasn’t been – the CBGB punk and post-punk scene; the birth of hip-hop; there are very few musical movements that haven’t at least taken a trip on the city’s sprawling subway network. But for those few years, at least to our rose-tinted British specs, it really really was. 2000 saw the release of the much-feted ‘Yes New York’ compilation; ostensibly a collection of artists with the same zip code, with a track listing featuring The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, The Rapture, and The Walkmen, fifteen years later it reads more like a who’s who. Nestled alongside the heavyweights were Unitard, with their ‘Year To Be Hated’. Sound familiar? It should – Unitard were Karen O and Nick Zinner; the track soon became ‘Our Time’. Add drummer Brian Chase and a heavy dose of garage-rock, art-punk, hardcore and everything else New York City’s grimy streets could throw at the trio, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were born.
So what exactly is it about the band’s debut full-length that made it become one of the best-loved rock albums of the noughties? Lead single ‘Date With The Night’ was – and
Yeah Yeah Yeahs in their brilliant pomp, back in 2003.
still is – a blisteringly brilliant number, all punk ferocity and dancefloor-filling ambition. Take a look at the video, live footage of an early UK tour – is there a better frontperson for any band, ever, than Karen O? Spitting water, swallowing mics and throwing oneself around the stage wasn’t particularly new – but doing it while single-handedly reinventing fashion, and swapping between guttural screams and quiet whispers? She’s not been rivalled since. From The Ramones to The Strokes via Talking Heads and Blondie, the trio’s adopted home has a long-standing reputation for the avant-garde; here were three scrappy punks taking on all that – and running with it. Then there’s the emotional roller coaster that is ‘MAPS’. Still as potent today as on first listen, its delicate, intimate vulnerability would be a masterpiece for anyone – when contrasted with the brute force of much of the rest of ‘Fever To Tell’, it’s even more remarkable – not just one of the greatest songs of the 00s, but of all time. Elsewhere there’s ‘Pin’, ‘Y Control’, the venomous ‘Black Tongue’ – any track here could’ve been a single. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a band still constantly reinventing themselves – from subsequent albums playing with synths, O’s ‘Crush Songs’ and Zinner’s involvement in Africa Express just some cases in point, but to hungry British ears in the early 00s, ‘Fever To Tell’ was New York City, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs will always be ‘Fever To Tell’. DIY
Read more on diymag.com 17
As Hot Chip gear up to release their sixth album, the band’s Al Doyle explains how a slew of temptations inspired them to create a more stripped-back effort. Words: Sarah Jamieson.
tempting. .the senses.
s a band that likes to play keyboards,” admits Hot Chip’s Al Doyle, “Angelic Studios was kinda the perfect place for us.” Feeling like kids let loose in a sweet shop is probably the best way to describe Hot Chip as they embarked upon the recording process of their new album, ‘Why Make Sense?’ “The engineers said that a lot of people never use that stuff, but we got it out and it was really incredible. There was some really interesting, fun stuff to play with. That was inspiring.”
After completing work on their fifth full-length ‘In Our Heads’ back in 2012, the band had already begun to start thinking about new material. “It did take three years but I don’t know if that’s long or short really,” Al admits, thinking back to the birth of their new record. “It seems longer for us because, when it started, it wasn’t that long after we finished the last record. It’s always a continuous process for us anyhow; there’s always writing going on. Then, there were three extra albums that we put out. It’s not bad going really!”
Since their last effort as Hot Chip, individual members have also released The 2 Bears’ ‘The Night Is Young’, New Build’s ‘Pour It On’, and Alexis Taylor’s latest solo effort, ‘Await Barbarians’. Not bad going at all. However, the band once again joined forces and this time, it was about exploring some different avenues. “I think it is a bit more stripped down in some ways,” he muses. Of all their records, it feels that much closer to the live representation of themselves. “A lot of the songs were very multi-layered and there were definitely lots of options
in terms of different parts that we were coming up with, but then during the process, we tried to decide what were the key parts and what got you to the heart of the song and were just being quite disciplined with ourselves to not make the textures feel too thick.” There are always exceptions to the rule... “Yeah, apart from when we wanted them to feel like that: the final song on the record gives the album its title. It’s called ‘Why Make Sense?’ and it’s very over-the-top and bombastic. It almost sounds a bit like Rick Rubin produced it and there’s a bit where we’re all playing - the seven of us - synched-up synthesisers. It’s all the same thing but it’s split between different keyboards so it’s a very thick and exciting sound, hopefully, but that’s a very deliberate choice.”
“We were able to go in a n d p l ay around i n a v e ry free and n at u r a l w ay. ” - A l
D oy l e
If anything, ‘Why Makes Sense?’ sees Hot Chip in the midst of a precarious balancing act: during the recording process, they were offered up all sorts of keyboard-shaped temptations, but in amongst the indulgent synth sounds, there’s a certain restraint to their newest effort that allows for the tracks to breathe and shimmer. “Some songs are trying to be a little bit more like American R&B music. In that case, there’ll be a lot of thought about the drums, one carefully-controlled bassline and a few hooks, and then you can just concentrate on Alexis’ vocal. I think his vocals are sounding particularly good on this record. “We were lucky enough to go to this really amazing studio just outside of Oxford,” he explains, referencing Angelic, where they holed up to make the record, “which belongs to the keyboard player from Jamiroquai [Toby Smith], who must’ve made quite a lot of money in the 90s!” He laughs, “it’s this huge farmyard complex with a career’s collection of amazing keyboards to play on. It’s all natural light and you stay there, and that was really amazing to go there. We could really set up the way we wanted to set up, and we went in there without too much material written so it was very exploratory and we were able to go in and play around in a very free and natural way. I think that affected how the record sounded and it was just a really nice experience. For us, it was quite an indulgent thing to do but it was fun.” Hot Chip’s new album ‘Why Make Sense?’ will be released on 18th May via Domino Records. DIY
NEWS IN BRIEF
CHARLI X-PC-X Recently, Charli XCX has been teasing collaborations with the PC Music gang for some time, but now she’s stoked the fire a little more: she’s shared a short video clip featuring a live DJ set from SOPHIE, where you can definitely hear her vocals. Check out the clip on diymag.com
ALVVAYS ON TOUR Alvvays have announced details of some new UK live dates. They fill in the gap between the band’s scheduled appearances at Reading & Leeds in August, and their already-announced headline date at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 11th September. Check the dates on diymag.com
DOWN AT ABBEY ROAD Future Islands have been recording new music at London’s Abbey Road, their label 4AD has confirmed. During a UK pit-stop, Samuel T. Herring and co. visited the prestigious studios to record their first new material since 2014 album ‘Singles’.
ON THE ROAD The Maccabees have announced plans for four UK headline shows this May. The band will be making stops at Birmingham’s Institute (11th May), Glasgow’s ABC (12th), Manchester’s Ritz (13th) and London’s Coronet (14th).
As PVRIS make their debut voyage to the UK, Ali Shutler learns that this trio are anything but faint of heart when it comes to their
“We want to be one of the biggest bands ever”
ust envisage it, believe in yourself and never stop hustling,” is the advice that falls so readily from the mouth of Lynn Gunn. “Never stop working towards it and one day, you’ll magically find yourself there.” The PVRIS vocalist knows a thing or two about magic. Formed in 2012 from the ruins of other musical projects, Gunn, Alex Babinski and Brian Macdonald have settled into a rhythm that’s seen them sign to Rise Records, stave off legal disputes and release their superb debut album last November. ‘White Noise’ is a dark fairytale, heavy in smouldering synths and narrated by devastatingly powerful honesty. “We didn’t think it would happen this
quickly,” admits Lynn of her band’s upwards trajectory. ‘St Patrick’, the lead single from that debut and the first real glimpse at the band PVRIS had become is still less than a year old. “We’re super proud of the songs we made but we weren’t sure how other people would take to it,” she recalls - a slither of time already laying those concerns to rest. The electronic infused rock that sits at the heart of ‘White Noise’ only came to the forefront after the band teamed up with Versa’s Blake Harnage in the studio. “I don’t think we found ourselves,” starts Lynn. “Because we always knew we wanted this style and this direction but we never really had the confidence to do that. With this record though, we finally have the assurance to know that
we can make it work.” It’s a record that’s caused waves and drawn attention but the three-piece are just getting started in the spotlight. “We’re inspired by so many different genres and styles I think it just came together naturally without thinking too much about it. I think the record has done a good job at leaving it open ended for whatever possible direction we go in next, because it’s very dynamic and it touches on a lot of different spectrums and styles that we could go in,” Lynn ventures. “I’m always really inspired by dark things and the supernatural for some reason,” explains Lynn. “Ghosts, paranormal stuff, death, anger, sadness,” she lists before taking a brief pause as a realisation dawns. “Well, anything that’s not happy basically
“ N O
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inspires me, which sounds kinda messed up,” she admits with a small laugh. “A lot of that record, I wrote when I was having a really bad time mentally. I don’t like calling it depression but it seemed like that and I couldn’t pinpoint what my issues were, or what was wrong with me but I knew there was something wrong. My problems weren’t tangible things, they weren’t things I could see or explain to people so in a way it was like they were ghosts or spirits that were haunting me.” “I think a lot of people are afraid to put it out there and talk about it but we
L I V E
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weren’t. I think that might be a big reason people have connected to it and got behind it. I feel like for anyone who’s sharing feelings of topics like that, it’s a little bit scary but I feel it’s more therapeutic and cathartic to write about that stuff, to talk about that stuff and put it out there. You feel better about it. To know that other people can connect to that makes you feel even better. As scary as it is at first, it eventually just pays off and turns out to be good in the end,” she describes, that optimism rearing its head once more.
now,” and they’re already plotting their next return to Europe and beyond. “Not to get ahead of ourselves, but we want to be one of the biggest bands ever. We’re not going to stop working until we achieve that. It seems like a crazy thing but if you’re doing this, if you’re making music, why not?” she questions, a mix of youthful hope and powerful determination. “That’s what I think our main goal is, just to ride this out for as long as possible and keep enjoying what we’re doing forever. To touch as many lives as possible and get into as many ears as possible. Why not, you only get one life,” she reasons with faultless logic. “No one wants to live small.” PVRIS’ debut album ‘White Noise’ is out now via Rise Records. DIY
The band are “booked until 2016 right
THIS MONTH ON ‘THE INTERNET’ Dan Bastille wasn’t best pleased with the new haircut that the internet gave him.
Hanson look well.
Mr McCarthy could be giving ol’ Kev a run for his money come the next season of House of Cards.
Hang on a second... George has been at it too!
Bono’s got competition now that Robbie’s a Slaves fan.
WHICH half of a popular indie pop duo was spotted with a guitar strapped to his back at the local bus stop? We can only presume he was one his way to serenade a summer camp... WHAT frontman did DIY lay eyes upon not once but twice this month, while he was partying as though it was 1975? Ish. Sort of. WHICH famed British Bake Off contestant showed off her grungy side, rocking out at the recent SleaterKinney show in London? WHO sent DIY’s very own Online Editor some rather incriminating photos over Whatsapp this month... 21
P o p s ta r P o s tbag S a m M c T r u s t y, T w i n A t l a n t i c We know what you’re like, dear readers. We know you’re just as nosy as we are when it comes to our favourite pop stars: that’s why we’re putting the power back into your hands. Every month, we’re going to ask you to pull out your best questions and aim them at those unsuspecting artists. You don’t even need to pay for postage! This month, Twin Atlantic’s Sam McTrusty is taking on the challenge.
Sam, what is the secret behind your powerful eyebrows? @trippygum Genetics. I woke up like this. What is your next dream goal? @MareikeRz Overhead kick in the World Cup final against England. Sam, what was it like recording the video for ‘Make A Beast Of Myself’ and trying to keep a straight face? @Falloutatsixx Haha! This question even made me smile! It was a struggle at first but then I just pretended or “acted”, if you were, that I was Edward Norton and that I had to be a top drawer professional. Are you a bit scared of playing somewhere as massive as The Hydro? Sean, via email I’m not sure if it’s fear that I feel... More the weight of the accomplishment. It’s been 8 years of playing every venue in Glasgow... from 5 of our friends to 10,000 people. It’s an excitement. Nerves for sure but not fear. I WAS BORN TO ROCK!!!!! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why? Matthew, via email A bird. So I could fly. If you were not in a band, what would you do? @Paraguguns91 I’d be selling art to people with too much money. What’s been your favourite memory from being on the road over the past few years? - Anna, via email Seeing other people happy. The
other guys in the band or our team of people behind the scenes having a ‘moment’ of appreciation. Hearing an audience sing words that I’ve written back at me with more passion than I can. What is your favourite festival to play? @Paraguns91 Glastonbury last year was pretty special but as I am Scottish the obvious answer is T in the Park. To be Scottish and get to scream the festival name through a main stage festival PA to a field full of my fellow country men and women feels spectacularly brilliant. Have you started to think about your next album yet? Janine, via email I started to think about it the day we finished ‘Great Divide’. It’s the way it works. The cogs have been turning for a while now. I do this thing where I try to distill the whole next vision into one word. I have the word... But it’s a secret. What’s been your favourite album of the year so far? James, via email There hasn’t been an album this year yet that I think I love. I do love some new music coming out and I’ve got a lot of new bands and tracks that I’m digging but no album has done that thing to me so far this year.
NEXT MONTH: marmozets Want to send a question to DIY’s Popstar Postbag? Tweet us at @diymagazine with the hashtag #postbag, or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Easy! 22
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W W W . T W I T T E R . C O M / W A Y L A Y E R S23
The best new tracks from the last month.
have you heard
Tame Impala - ‘Cause I’m A Man
A lot happens over the course of a month in the mad world of ace music. You’re busy people, we get that, so we’re here to help. Catch up with the most amazing, exciting or generally ‘WTF m9’ new songs that have surfaced in the last few weeks. No need to thank us. No, really, it’s fine.
Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala have never shied away from the direct route. Behind each outlandish, psych-leaning attempt is a simple message, often one coated in sadness. But in ‘’Cause I’m A Man’, Parker’s discovered an extra gear, an ability to express with zero distractions. And for one of the first times, the frontman is embracing his inner complications. “My weakness is the source of all my pride,” he sings, above slick clicks and a steamed up, Michael Jackson-nodding R&B groove. If Tame Impala were already champions of direct, unorthodox pop, they’ve just established a new elite league. Florence + The Machine - Ship To Wreck When Florence Welch announced her ‘How Big How Blue How Beautiful’ album, she told Zane Lowe that she had something of a “nervous breakdown”, without going into too many details. Constant touring and a one-albumafter-the-next cycle had clearly taken effect, but ‘Ship to Wreck’ is the first of her new songs to directly address the in-limbo stage that struck LP3. “Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch?” she sings, before - as is custom with anything Welch does - bursting into a gigantic chorus. Whatever happened in between records, whichever creative blocks she ran into headfirst - they’re gone now.
The Maccabees Marks To Prove It There’s a steady pulse behind The Maccabees’ returning single of choice, a thudding bassline which drags ‘Marks To Prove It’ kicking and screaming through the haze of their contemporaries. Time away has granted them ample space to beef up their act – this is no wistful ‘sound of the summer’ indie record; it’s a hundred-mile-an-hour road trip through punishing desert. Even when they tone it down, dipping into echoey, eerie synth-lines as the track enters its final third, the tightrope is quick to snap. It’s the playful waltz with which ‘Marks To Prove It’ reaches its end, though, that leaves the most lasting impression.
Bully - Trying If the world’s crying out for one more no-bullshit punk band, Bully are the answer. Alicia Bognanno isn’t just an archetype honestyfirst songwriter. On ‘Trying’, she captures anxiety like the @ sosadtoday Twitter account self-combusting. She sings about “praying for my period all week” and how she questions her “focus, figure and sexuality” like she’s penning a diary entry that’s nobody else’s business. But with Bully, she’s fronting 2015’s most upfront new band, a group with every intention of getting their message across to the biggest audience possible. ‘Trying’ is a lesson in actually giving a shit, realising that seemingly tiny fears genuinely matter. As she screams the chorus one final time, Bognanno proves that ultimate effort tends to pay dividends. Muse - Dead Inside After the “ass”-munching threats of lead track ‘Psycho’, it’s (sort of) back to normal with Muse’s big new single. Conspiracy theories set the agenda - Matt Bellamy’s history textbook has more scribbled notes than ever - but at heart, ‘Dead Inside’ is a simple, straight up blast from the trio. Partballistic glam, part-minimal rock, it’s a sign that Muse still know how to re-invent their trusty formula without sounding stale. Brand New - Mene When Brand New released their first new material in six years, it was like throwing a lit match into a petrol-drenched pyre. The reaction was immediate and, despite its slight premature appearance online, there was no taking ‘Mene’ back once it had seen the light of day. First debuted live as ‘Don’t Feel Anything’, the Long Island band’s first material since 2009’s ‘Daisy’ is a shot of adrenaline, opening with thundering drums and moving seamlessly into Jesse Lacey’s taunting layered vocals. Standalone or the first taste of a record, no one’s quite sure, but this should keep us content for at least a while longer.
Gengahr - Heroine Gengahr like to hang their music on a knife edge - their songs go from soft-centred honeys to murderous beasts in brilliant flashes. ‘Heroine’ is a gutsy example of the band’s split personality. “I’ve changed for better now there’s metal in my head,” sings Felix Bushe, like a loved up robot seeking solace. He runs into trouble. What follows is a ramping up of ferocity, culminating in John Victor’s most ‘The Bends’-channelling solo yet. Few bands pull off this kind of Jekyll & Hyde routine with such success. The National - Sunshine On My Back The National probably wouldn’t have stirred in a previous decade, and it’s no coincidence that their almighty rise has coincided with a post-millennial strife. Few groups capture the strange melancholy of being comfortable but unhappy like Matt Berninger and co., and ‘Sunshine On My Back’ is another example of their strange balancing act. “Sunshine in my brain is the lonely kind of pain,” sings the frontman, fending off his bandmates’ metallic guitar work and sullen strings. Melancholy is defined in three and a half neat minutes - it sounds easy, but like everything The National pull off, it’s a big achievement. Desaparecidos - City On The Hill It may have been over a decade since Desaparecidos released their debut album, but if the first track to be taken from their long-awaited second effort is anything to go by, they’ve lost none of their potency. ‘City On The Hill’ follows in a similar thrashing vein to its predecessor singles, which announced the Conor Oberst-led outfit’s return in 2012. It’s a wonderfully jarring, satisfyingly gritty example of Oberst’s more frenetic talents which boasts a dose of Tim Kasher for good measure. Slaves – Cheer Up London Beginning with an ever-so-dramatic evil laugh, the scene for Slaves’ latest ditty is instantly set. While previous cuts ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Feed The Mantaray’ have seen the duo charged with immediacy, their newest track comes teeming with dark creeping guitars and mocking sarcasm, the self-aware punch landing hard with lyrics like, “Cheer up London, it’s not that bad.” It’s the taunting chants of the chorus, though, that are enough to have any unsuspecting commuters glancing over their shoulder once every so often.
Jamie xx - Loud Places The wait for a Jamie xx fulllength has been excruciating. Thankfully, as ‘In Colour’ creeps ever closer, it looks set to quench every dry lip in the house; ‘Loud Places’ is a nourishing example of Jamie xx’s finesse. Deconstructed and reconstructed around a gospel choir sample, it’s that sense of collective elation that threads throughout. His xx bandmate Romy may provide the tender vocal at the track’s beginning, but Jamie soon shifts things upwards, handclap snares and skipping basslines dragging ‘Loud Places’ towards the dancefloor.
“Look, that cloud’s shaped like a T-rex.”
F E S T I VA L S 2015 “ F E S T I VA L S A R E T H E G LORY RUN ” One of the UK’s hardest working festival bands, Slaves are looking forward to a packed summer. Words: Sarah Jamieson. Photo: Mike Massaro
magine the scene: crowds are waltzing past stages, warm pints are being waved in the air, and music is pouring from tents here, there and everywhere. In the middle of a festival, there are so many options when it comes down to who to see but sometimes, it’s all down to who happens to catch your attention just at the right moment. Last year, one band in particular managed to draw in the crowds by, quite simply, being
utterly mental. “I guess if you just walk past the stage and see two people doing something a bit different, they’re drawn in,” says Isaac Holman, one half of blistering duo Slaves. ‘Doing something different’ is somewhat of an understatement when it comes to this Kent-based two-piece. Over the last three years, they’ve been doing the rounds: their sets are a chaotic mix of screamed vocals, thundering riffs and a drummer marching on the spot, bellowing statements at the in-awe audience. Never short on the theatrics, they’re a duo who know the appeal of the unknown and thrived on the challenge of catching punters unaware. “I think even before we had any real fans, we would still get quite a good crowd at
the festivals who were just drawn in out of just wondering what it was.” It may have been during last year’s festival season that the two-piece really made a lasting impression, but no one could say it wasn’t well-earned. Having taken their time on the touring circuit during their years prior, the band have proven that they’re not ones to rest on their laurels: the lead-up to last year’s summer was about working hard. It was a phrase that guitarist Laurie Vincent heard once in a documentary about The Cribs that stuck with him most. “I finally met The Cribs last week,” he offers up, “and I told them about that. I think I was a bit drunk and probably annoyed them, but I told them how much that bit meant to me - ‘Do your two years’ - and we’re so happy that we did. No one can
say that we blew up overnight. If they did, they’d be missing the background.” Now, things are looking a little different. With support coming in from all corners, the band are now focusing on their next step. There’s their first official headline tour, five dates of which are already sold out (“Maybe the ticket link was broken…”) ahead of the release of their snarling new record ‘Are You Satisfied?’ “Definitely a roller coaster,” replies Vincent, when asked how it feels to be in Slaves right now. “It feels as close to what I thought it’d feel like to be successful in a band, that you expect when you’re growing up. A dream come true is probably the best way to put it.” “It is completely crazy,” adds Holman. “It’s very surreal.” Even with so many things to look forward to – with another round of festivals to boot - there’s no fooling this pair: they know the pressure’s still on, but they’re not going to let that get in the way of anything. “Now, there’s more pressure than ever because we’re not just the underdogs anymore.” says Vincent. “We can’t really hold on to that title anymore because we’re playing the bigger stages this year, and our album will be out. People will be there to see what we’re made of. I think we always relish the challenge of stealing a show that we weren’t meant to be on but, this year we’re earned our place and it’s time to prove what we’re made of. “I always feel like festivals are the glory run though,” he concludes. “You slog it over winter, freezing, playing in venues and trying to get out of there, then at festivals, you get to hang out with all your mates, get drunk, play good shows, watch all of the bands that you wanna see. It’s a real glory run. We’ve slogged it up until this point but this year, we’re just gonna enjoy the slots.”
LIVE AT LEEDS (1st - 4th MAY)
estival season is upon us and kicking things off with an almighty bang, Live At Leeds will set the pace when it takes place over the first weekend of May. Spread out across the Yorkshire city, the likes of Palma Violets, Dutch Uncles and Swim Deep will all be cosying up with local favourites The Cribs, Eagulls and Hookworms. That’s not all: the Brudenell Social Club is being taken over by DIY on Saturday 2nd May, with thrashing duo Slaves topping an all-day bill at the beloved venue. Fresh from touring the country with Wolf Alice, Brighton bunch The Magic Gang are down to play a set at the Brudenell - they’ll be joined by some of their best mates, so consider this a more ‘official’ version of the band’s now-famed house parties. “I really like Slaves,” says guitarist / vocalist Kristian Smith. “I met one of the guys the other night and he was really, really lovely. Sweetheart.” In fact, The Magic Gang don’t really have a bad word to say about any of the acts on DIY’s Live at Leeds stage. Spring King? They’re “lovely guys,” says Kristian. Bassist Gus Taylor is in agreement. “Their latest song is so good, and they’re so nice.” Both bands last played together at London Electrowerkz, but their first meeting goes all the way back to Leeds. “We’ll be reuniting,” says Kristian. As for Bloody Knees - famed hell-raisers and the other support act on Wolf Alice’s recent UK tour - The Magic Gang are less familiar with those guys. “I heard they do loads of funny stuff. I don’t actually know them, though,” jokes Gus. Slaves We Were Promised Jetpacks Brudenell Social Club, Saturday 2nd May Spring King The Magic Gang Bloody Knees Black Honey Broncho Pinkshinyultrablast Rakketkanon Ohboy! Actor Colour of Spring
Read the full interview in DIY’s Festival Guide, available now from all our usual stockists. DIY
Slaves will play Live at Leeds, The Great Escape and Sound City.
WIN T IN THE PARK TICKETS
his summer, T in the Park takes residency in the beautiful grounds of Strathallan Castle, the festival’s new home, from 10th – 12th July, and the stellar line-up features some of the world’s biggest artists and breakthrough talent. Headliners Kasabian, Avicii, The Libertines and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds plus David Guetta, The Prodigy and Stereophonics will be joined by Alabama Shakes, The War on Drugs, The Vaccines, Hot Chip, Marina & the Diamonds, Wolf Alice and more. Be part of T in the Park history - don’t miss out, get tickets now from tinthepark.com. Thanks to festival organisers DF Concerts and founding partner Tennent’s Lager we have a pair of weekend camping tickets to give away! To win, just tell us which night Kasabian will headline: a. Friday b. Saturday c. Sunday Enter now at diymag.com/tinthepark2015. DIY
SOUND CITY (22nd - 24th MAY)
ometimes it’s good to have a bit of change. That’s a motto that Sound City are living by when it comes to this year’s event: not only has the Liverpudlian weekender had a slight name change, but it’s moved to the other end of town and is now taking place over the late May Bank Holiday Weekend. This year’s event, located at the Docklands, has invited some rather big players to be its 2015 headliners: The Vaccines, The Flaming Lips and Belle & Sebastian. Elsewhere on the Main Stage, The Cribs and Gaz Coombes will be offering up live renditions of their recently-released full-lengths, before Everything Everything and Spector give fans a preview of their forthcoming albums too. They’re not the only ones showcasing new material: on DIY’s Baltic Stage, the likes of Fucked Up, Slaves and Unknown Mortal Orchestra are all set to debut their latest musical offerings. “We’re definitely bringing some really exciting new tunes to the table for the upcoming shows,” reveals Palace frontman Leo Wyndham, ahead of the band’s appearance at the festival on Sunday 24th May. “There’s some real nice upbeat tunes that we’re very proud of. It’s an exciting thought to play new songs to our audiences.” Elsewhere on the DIY Baltic Stage, Honeyblood’s Stina Marie Claire Tweeddale reckons she’s already got the duo’s setlist figured out. “I guess it’s always best to play the faster songs rather than slow jams,” she tells us. “People wanna jump up and down at festivals.” The Scottish two-piece are also joined by Peace, Swans, Clarence Clarity, Iceage and many more.
DIY stage. Baltic stage Friday 24th May
Swans Okkyung Lee Iceage Slaves Yak Bad Meds Barberos Saturday 25th May
Fucked Up Unknown Mortal Orchestra The Membranes The Bohicas Bad Breeding God Damn Hooton Tennis Club R. Seiliog Moats Strange Collective Lives Sunday 26th May
Peace Dave McCabe & The Ramifications Gengahr Sundara Karma Single Mothers Clarence Clarity Moon King The Mispers Palace Honeyblood Pixel Fix
F E S T I VA L NEWS
IN BRIEF OPEN’ER
1st – 4th July
DIY stage. The Coliseum, Saturday 16th May
Spector Zun Zun Egui Menace Beach Oscar Ekkah
THE GREAT ESCAPE (14th - 16th MAY)
very May, the music industry packs up its bags, fills up local trains and makes its way to the seaside. It’s not just to catch a glimpse of sunshine or grab some fish and chips either; this weekend is all about the new music. This year, The Great Escape will celebrate its tenth birthday that’s ten whole years of bringing fans the best of the new band crop. For 2015, not only will Alabama Shakes be taking on Brighton Dome, but they’ll be joined by both Kate Tempest and Skepta & JME, while the likes of Django Django, The Cribs, Gengahr, The Thurston Moore Band and LA Priest will all be descending upon Brighton to help soundtrack the seaside weekender’s biggest birthday yet. As ever, DIY will be joining in the fun and this time, we’ll be packing out The Coliseum (formerly Digital) down on the beachfront with brilliant new talents Oscar, Ekkah and Menace Beach. We’ve invited some old favourites down for good measure too: Zun Zun Egui and Spector. “It’s so good to be back and playing again,” offers the latter band’s frontman Fred MacPherson, who will be headlining the DIY Stage on Saturday 16th May. “It feels natural road testing new material in the venues we started out at.” Fresh from a handful of shows in London and Manchester, the band are already eager to get out onto the festival circuit and throw themselves into the madness. “There’s something about the way British people act at festivals… Minds just get lost. The Great Escape’s a little different as all the venues are inside but it doesn’t seem to stop people acting like they’re in a field in the middle of nowhere. “A lot of my memories of Brighton just trail off into question marks which is worrying,” he laughs.
THAT’S NOT ALL
DIY’s also once again partnering with Dutch Impact for a showcase of talent featuring last year’s favourites, KiT, alongside My Baby and Birth Of Joy. “We are really looking forward to rocking Brighton into the sea,” says the latter band’s vocalist and guitarist Kevin Stunnenberg. “Get ready!” Come join us on Friday 15th May at the Komedia Bar.
Drake is the latest addition to the line-up of this year’s Open’er Festival. He joins the bill which boasts Disclosure, The Vaccines, Mumford & Sons and Kasabian, alongside St. Vincent, Django Django and Modest Mouse. The fest takes place at Gdynia’s Babie Doly Military Airport.
FORGOTTEN FIELDS 7th - 9th August
Razorlight, Johnny Borrell & Zazou, Common Tongues, Eden Circle, Joey Fat and Raygun have all been added to this year’s inaugural line-up. They join Super Furry Animals, Basement Jaxx, Levellers, The Horrors, De La Soul, Public Service Broadcasting and British Sea Power
2000TREES 19th - 11th July
Alkaline Trio have been confirmed to headline this year’s 2000trees festival. Further additions to the line-up also include Mclusky*, Future of the Left and Benjamin Booker, which takes place near Cheltenham this year. They join the likes of Young Guns, Idlewild and Pulled Apart By Horses.
10th - 13th September
Bestival 2015 has announced the details for its The Port line-up. Taking place across the September weekender, a DJ bill includes Mark Ronson, Seth Troxler and Skrillex. They’re joined by the likes of Annie Mac B2B Rob Da Bank, Four Tet, Horsemeat Disco and Jackmaster.
FESTIVAL NO. 6 3rd - 6th September
Portmeirion’s Festival No. 6 has announced a new wave of acts for 2015: Everything Everything top the list of new names - they’ll be joined Catfish & The Bottlemen and recent chart-topper James Bay. There’s also Badly Drawn Boy, Gaz Coombes and Jane Weaver joining proceedings. 29
FESTIVAL NEWS LATITUDE CONFIRM PRIDES, OUTFIT AND MORE (16th - 19th JULY)
Eighteen new acts have been announced for this year’s Latitude Festival, which takes place from 16th to 19th July 2015. Handpicked by Huw Stephens, Prides and Honne have both been confirmed to play this year’s The Lake Stage, Henham Park’s new music-centric location. South London duo Formation and bonkers producer Clarence Clarity are on the bill. There’s also Liverpool bands Gulf and Outfit, plus To Kill A King and Scottish newcomers Neon Waltz. These new names join headliners alt-J, Portishead and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds for 2015, alongside James Blake, Caribou, Jon Hopkins, Wolf Alice, La Roux and many more.
FIELD DAY ANNOUNCE SHACKLEWELL ARMS STAGE IN ASSOCIATION WITH DIY (6th - 7th JUNE)
This year, DIY will be heading over to Victoria Park to get involved with this year’s Field Day, and we’ll be joining forces with The Shacklewell Arms for our very own stage, boasting sets from Rae Morris, LA Priest and Savages. Alongside Rae and the project of Late of the Pier’s Sam Dust, Saturday 6th June will see performances from Fryars, Jack Garratt, Astronomyy, Shura, TALA, Ghost Culture, Jagaara, Sylvan Esso and Tei Shi. The next day, the fearsome Savages will be appearing along with the likes of Ex Hex, Hookworms, Gaz Coombes, AllahLas, Baxter Dury and Viet Cong. This year’s Field Day will also feature appearances from the likes of FKA twigs, Caribou, Django Django and Run the Jewels.
Florence, Alt-J and more revealed for Glastonbury Glastonbury has revealed a huge list of acts for 2015, with Florence + The Machine and Alt-J amongst the big names. Future Islands, Jamie xx, Caribou and Jessie Ware have all confirmed appearances. There’s also Wolf Alice, Young Fathers, Years & Years, Jamie T, Mark Ronson and La Roux.
Previously confirmed to play Worthy Farm this year: Foo Fighters and Kanye West top the Pyramid Stage as headliners. Courtney Barnett, Father John Misty and Lionel Richie, and Emerging Talent Competition winner Declan McKenna are also down to play.
The third and final headliner has yet to be announced, however there’s a big ‘Special Guests’ slot in 2015’s bill.
Tickets for Glastonbury 2015 have sold out, with the festival running from 24th - 28th June. DIY
HOXTON SQUARE BAR AND KITCHEN GIG LISTINGS
MON 11 MAY 8PM 18+ £7.00
FRI 01 MAY 7.30PM 18+ £6.00
PINKSHINYULTRABLAST FLYYING COLOURS
MON 04 MAY 8PM 18+ £7.00
THE JB CONSPIRACY SCHOLARS + NOT ON TOUR
+ FEVER DREAM
WED 13 MAY 8PM 18+ £6.00
WH I S K EY
OKMALUMKOOLKAT PH.FAT + THOR RIXON
+ THE FAIRWEATHER BAND TUE 05 MAY 8PM 18+ £7.00
LONGFELLOW SPECIAL GUESTS
FRI 15 MAY 8PM 18+ £8.00
WED 06 MAY 8PM 18+ £7.00
THE AWAY DAYS SWIM MOUNTAIN + HONEY MOON
KADEBOSTANY SAT 16 MAY 7.30PM 18+ £11.00
THU 07 MAY 8PM 18+ £7.50
CLEAR SOUL FORCES SPECIAL GUESTS
FRI 08 MAY 7.30PM 18+ £8.00
MON 18 MAY 8PM 18+ £8.00
PITY SEX + CREEPOID PUPPY
WAYLAYERS VANBOT + MASSAD
SAT 09 MAY 8PM 18+ £9.00
LONE WOLF SPECIAL GUESTS
TUE 19 MAY 8PM 18+ £8.00
SHAKE SHAKE GO SPECIAL GUESTS
SUN 10 MAY 7.30PM 18+ FREE
FRI 01 MAY
SIREN DIPITY WE ARE EVERGREEN DJ SET SAT 02 MAY
LAURENT SCHARK SELECTION LIVE
SUN 03 MAY
THE VILLAGE FRI 08 MAY
FRAU OLI PATTEN
SAT 09 MAY
DJS EVERY WEDNES DAY – SUNDAY UNTIL LATE Hoxtonsquarebar
2-4 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU Tickets from hoxtonsquarebar.com or 0844 847 2316 (24hr)
C O M I N G U P AT B R O O K LY N B O W L L O N D O N
18/4 AND 8/5
OLD DIRTY BRASSTARDS
T U R N I T L O O S E F E AT U R I N G
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING
CROWD COMPANY / THE SOUL IMMIGRANTS
CHOP & QUENCH: THE FELA! BAND
G Y P S Y H O T E L P R O U D LY P R E S E N T S :
GOLDIE LOOKIN CHAIN
29 | 11 | 15 O2 ACADEMY BRIXTON PUBLICSERVICEBROADCASTING.NET
NEW STREET ADVENTURE F EAT. AMAYO FROM ANTIBALAS
THE URBAN VOODOO MACHINE DINOSAUR PILE-UP
PUNKS N PINS!
LONDON SOUL WEEKENDER PRESENTS:
LESS THAN JAKE + ANTI-FLAG LEMAR SUPPORT FROM CHENAI ZINYUKU
O2ACADEMYBRIXTON.CO.UK | AXS.COM | TICKETWEB.CO.UK AN AEG LIVE PRESENTATION BY ARRANGEMENT WITH THIS IS NOW AGENCY
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“The internet creates a thing where bands look like they come and go way too soon.” - Matthew Marcantonio
“I’ll have four of those live lobsters, please.” 32
W Ta k i n g the long run, this Brighton b u n c h h av e g r a d u a l ly e s ta b l i s h e d t h e m s e lv e s as one of the UK’s bes t new bands. Words: Jamie M i lt o n . Photo: Phil Smithies
hat makes Demob Happy different? Whether it’s up on stage or behind the scenes, there’s something separating this Brighton-based four-piece from the current crop. Matthew Marcantonio - up there with Tobias Jesso Jr. in the tall frontman stakes - has a delivery that doesn’t stir from thin air. And with each of their recent moves, Demob have edged further away from the norm. It’s taken a while to translate, mind you. This is a band with almost a hundred shows under their belt. They’ve been recording music in a coffee shop-turnedrehearsal space by the coast for over two years. Heads have turned from the beginning, but it’s only midway through 2015 that they can even begin contemplating big things. “We don’t need to talk about toppling from perches right now,” admits Marcantonio, whose brother runs the Nowhere Man cafe, a de-facto Demob hub that also happens to be so hip, it makes coffee froth in the shape of Walter White / Heisenberg’s face. “Laying down the groundwork, you’ve got a fanbase who are there to see you progress,” says drummer Thomas Armstrong, who echoes the band’s belief that good things take time. “With the best of luck, you wish you could come out of nowhere and be thrust into the limelight. But it’s easy to disappear just as fast.” It was last year’s ‘Succubus’ that truly put these four on the map. Maybe it was the timing - Brighton was seething with bright new bands, Royal Blood leading the city’s charge without being remotely connected to any one scene. But this was a dastardly statement of intent. Together, with the rest of new EP ‘Young & Numb’, Demob announce themselves a group capable
of giving grubby rock ‘n roll a brave new badge. They’ve achieved it the old fashioned way, mind you. Avoiding social media at almost all costs (“the Twitter thing none of us have ever used it before, and none of us want it to. It’s such a weird language,” says guitarist Adam Godfrey), they ruck up to distant parts of the countryside, go out for the odd walk, and pen the bulk of their songs with Christophe Skirl on production. “The internet creates a thing where bands look like they come and go way too soon,” says Marcantonio. The band have mailing lists and whatnot - they’re not pretending WiFi doesn’t exist. But these four like to maintain at least some air of mystery, like wondering what actually goes down in the Welsh countryside. “We want to drive people towards coming to see us live - that’s where the best stuff happens,” says the frontman. At DIY and Neu’s ‘Hello 2015’ showcases this January, Demob were up there with headliners Girl Band in forging madness out of perfect precision. That takes some doing. Simply by playing so many shows and being self-sufficient for two solid years, they’ve hit a switch. “The problem with a lot of bands nowadays is their route into the industry is a silver spoon,” claims Marcantonio. “They’re born with connections and with ways in. They appear to come out of nowhere, but… It took a long time for us to push the ball and get it rolling, but everyone we’ve brought in to work together - they’re all ready to jump on, to use a snowball analogy.” Just as things look close to stepping up a few gears, there isn’t a band more prepared to take off than Demob Happy. DIY 33
Best Friends were well chuffed with their haul from Toys R’ Us.
Best Friends ‘Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane’ with long-awaited debut LP.
It might read more like a sheepish dating profile, but the title ‘Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane’ means a lot for Sheffield garage neu punks Best Friends. Four years after forming and cementing themselves as staples of the UK DIY scene, this first work is a fuzzembellished mission statement. Penned in Christmas 2013, sessions took place with producer Adam Jeffrey. The band’s Lewis Sharman tells DIY that while they’d intended for this full-length to be a self-release or something low-key, they decided to send to to bigger labels to see who’d bite. Within minutes, FatCat were on board, the Brighton-based label signing up the group for a spring 2015 release.
“We’ve worked hard for it. Not that other bands don’t, but… It’s not been a press hype thing for us,” says Sharman. “We’ve proved that we can write good songs over the course of four years. We’ve proved ourselves. It’s nice to be able to look back and think that. Some people put one song on SoundCloud and it goes massive for them. We have a lot more experience. And we’ve come through a scene. Sometimes a band who blows up quickly, they miss out on so much. They’re straight into a van with a tour manager - which would be nice, sometimes. But they miss out on the stupid situations you get into.” Just about past getting into every stupid situation possible, Best Friends are finally ready for their first big step.
Photo: Abi Dainton
r e p o r t:
F o r m at i o n
A UK debut with cowbell-stuffed, chaotic London shows.
Swiftly moving on from their debut EP ‘Young Ones’, South London duo Formation brought their percussionheavy pop to sparkling debut UK shows. Brothers Matt and Will Ritson expanded to a storming five-piece, first for a head-turning support slot with Shura at London’s Village Underground, then for a headline night at the capital’s Electrowerkz. Every aspect of their LCD-nodding sound on record came off like a beefed up, juggernaut expansion on stage. Whether it was the shuffling ‘Back Then’ or the looser, more expansive new material, Formation expressed everything with smart precision, and enough cowbell to make the otherwise corny instrument a mainstream concern. Formation will play The Great Escape, Sound City and Latitude. See diymag.com for details.
DUTCH IMPACT PARTY @ THE GREAT ESCAPE
Tears & Marble
Birth of Joy
FRIDAY MAY 15TH 2015 KOMEDIA BAR 12:45PM – 5:30PM Live performances by four top acts hailing from the lowlands Free drinks for delegates – look for Ruud Berends at the bar facebook.com/dutch.impact @dutchimpact
BROUGHT TO YOU BY EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG, POWERED BY PERFORMING ARTS FUND.NL AND BUMA CULTUUR. KINDLY SUPPORTED BY THE EMBASSY OF THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
THIS MONTH IN
EPS Before they put themselves to task on a full-length, some of DIY’s favourite new acts are releasing EPs. Here’s a round-up of the finest.
R EC OM MENDED
Buenos Aires-born, Brooklyn-residing artist Tei Shi likes to flip pop on its head. ‘Verde’ - her second EP - is the fullest realisation of these intensions so far. Best of all is ‘Bassically’, a crazed collection of oddball charm. It lands ahead of appearances at Field Day and The Great Escape.
Impossible to discard, this York trio are here to stay. Any band willing to label themselves “scuzzy” or “slacker” won’t be taking things too seriously. Avoiding any holier-than-thou mentality and embracing the tags, York trio JUNK are about as carefree as they come. Led by Estella Adeyeri, they mix spine-clicking guitar parts with “la-la-la” chants and just enough knowhow to stand out in a big crowd. Jangling its way into the spotlight, debut EP ‘Car’ is a bellowed-out, booming blast of fuzz pop excitement. Listen: ‘Car’’s title-track is simple, joyous guitar pop. Similar to: Best Coast without the surfboard. SXSW’s success story of 2015.
Danish punks Communions search for the unknown on their self-titled EP, out 1st June. Daydreaming its way into a sorry state, sadness lines the seams of this work. But it’s not all doom and gloom - this Copenhagen four-piece have emerged out the fog with some huge tracks.
Sh ee r Mag
Unashamedly big intentions can’t cloak this group’s complexities.
19-year-old New Zealander Thomston’s been sipping some of what Lorde’s having. Another talented teen from those shores, his murky pop is subject to chasing emotions, giving alt-pop an earnest edge. ‘Backbone’ is out now.
Nothing - not even Bill Murray celeb spots - out-buzzed the talk around Philadelphia band Sheer Mag at this year’s SXSW. Post-releasing a scuzzy 7” debut in 2014, Christina Halladay and co. mimic early Strokes with their punk-embellished, hook-stuffed rock ’n’roll. We’re a long way from 2001’s headrush, but there’s something special at play in Sheer Mag’s dynamic - it’s well deserving of the South By South Best rep. Listen: Their 7” is up on Bandcamp. Similar to: The Strokes with a death wish.
Newly signed to Chess Club, Beach Baby don’t shy from aiming high. Debut single ‘Ladybird’ has hints of Coldplay and Mumfords - it’s that big. But there’s undoubtedly more to the group than taking notes from stadium stalwarts. B-side ‘Bruise’ seethes with a retro-tinged frustration. They’ve plenty more tricks up their sleeve. Listen: ‘Ladybird’ is out now on Chess Club. Similar to: Chris Martin after a few pints. New London outfit specialising in tightly-packed electronic pop. Captured Tracks have made a couple of curious new signings - one was Ben Stiller’s old punk band from the 80s; second was EZTV, an easeful bunch of New Yorkers whose debut single ‘Dust In The Sky’ recalls simple, road-tripping times. Together, they claim to “make American music”, making US suburbia seem like a source of strange beauty. Listen: ‘Dust In The Sky’ is out 27th April on Captured Tracks. Similar to: The Byrds.
“Spotted: A live Rat Boy! It’s dangerous.”
“I DON’T KNOW W H AT I ’ M DOING.” - JORDAN CA R DY
Rat Boy Watch out, world. Anyone who so much as sneezes near Jordan Cardy might end up on his next mixtape. Words: Jamie Milton. Photo: Phil Smithies
Jordan Cardy has ideas. More ideas than the average Google Results page. At eighteen, this Essex kid will write and record in any circumstance, and there’s a chance everyday strangers could find their chit-chat at the heart of a hit single.
In early 2014, sick of trying to form pop-punk bands because nobody would turn up to practice, Cardy made his first RAT BOY mixtape. A seething mess of ragged guitars, police sirens and dodgy samples, few things arrived more unhinged. That’s not going to change one jot, despite the recent attention. Cardy writes and records everywhere. In a tour van, on the road, in big-wig meetings. “I could be recording this,” he smirks. On his hit list for a second mixtape, he wants to get spoken word samples of “when you get off the tube in Camden and someone offers you drugs”, asking his mum for a tenner (“she’s like ‘I ain’t got no fucking money!’”) and industry bitching sessions (“I was a meeting recently - they were slagging someone off and I just recorded it”). These outlandish aspirations don’t compare to the top of RAT BOY’s bucket list - getting a feat. from Frank Ocean. “He lives around here, right?” asks Jordan. “I wanna try and find him, record a
conversation with him on my phone and then put it on a song.” Fresh out of college - where he got bad marks in art for spending the whole time making music and mixtape cover art - Cardy recently quit a job in Wetherspoons to sign up for this music lark. “I worked in the kitchen. I was too weird to work on the front of the bar…” he remembers. Now the attention’s firmly on taking his bonkers first work to new heights. Inspired by his favourite album, The Streets’ ‘Original Pirate Material’ (his brother played the record daily in his Vauxhall Nova - of course) RAT BOY wants to tell stories in the space
of one release. “I’ve got massive ideas, diagrams on the walls, trying to work it out,” he says. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” he claims. “Just guessing it. It’s all out of time, too. No metronomes and shit.” On paper, RAT BOY is the kind of project that would usually come unstuck, have its wheels fall off before getting into second gear. But there’s a momentum behind this chancer that’s going to take him very far indeed. DIY
RAT BOY will play Live At Leeds and The Great Escape. See diymag.com for details.
Fuck The Banjo After they (kind of) split, Mumford & Sons returned by ditching their trademark. It’s out with the folk instruments, in with the electrified ‘Wilder Mind’. But just how much have they really changed? And what caused it? Turns out, every member of the band sees things differently. Words: Jamie Milton. Photos: Phil Sharp
Mumford & Sons ever wanted to prove a point - that they’re new people, banjo-ditching progressives with a different perspective - this was it: At separate times in the space of an hour, all four turn up to their South London rehearsal space on motorbikes. Revving through an industrial courtyard and parking up, they reminisce about “last night’s ride”, which parts of the capital they explored, and where they’re going next. Is this a multi-million selling folk sensation, or Hells Angels with good connections? A lot’s changed in the group’s last couple of years, but this might be a stretch too far. They’re more rugged than before. Gone are the waistcoats, tucked-in shirts and dubious chinos. But what else is new? Swiftly after breaking through with 2009 debut ‘Sigh No More’, the band became posterboys for vocal hate. Their traditional, sentimental first sound was - and still is - the antithesis of cool. Only this time, with third album ‘Wilder Mind’, they’re putting their staples to one side. The banjo’s been locked away somewhere (perhaps in a safe, sitting somewhere in the bottom of the ocean, never to be recovered). They’ve ditched the double bass, too. This third LP isn’t exactly fuelled by raging guitar solos and bold synth parts, but it’s significantly different. With early sessions taking place at Aaron Dessner’s Brooklyn basement, this is no surprise,
but big chunks of the record sound like The National. The customary Mumford image - one of country barn brodowns, line-dancing and sweet, sweet music - has disappeared altogether. But how much of this is a misconception, and where has everything gone? Judging by the immediate YouTube comments to brooding lead single ‘Believe’, Mumford & Sons’ love / hate split isn’t under any threat. “Where are the deep lyrics?”, asks one commenter. “This song needs more cowbell,” claims another. “What’s Winston supposed to do now?” is probably the best reaction. It’s a good question. Designated banjobearer Winston Marshall is also the most likely out of the four to break cover and say something either tongue-in-cheek or brutally honest. For years, he’s been saying “fuck the banjo” at every opportunity. Whether he was taking the piss or making a point, his wish has come true. He starts justifying the change by saying he “grew up playing in rock bands”, so it’s “kind of back to our roots”. But he’s interrupted by Ted Dwane (former doublebass straddler), who bursts out laughing. Even the band themselves find this transformation at least a little bit funny. “When we started playing folk instruments, we didn’t have a fucking clue what we were doing,” says Marshall, trying to back up his first point. Jerry Douglas (a famous dobro player) once told Winston he was a talent at banjo because “I didn’t have a fucking idea what I was doing.” He was winging it. “It’s harder to blag it in rock, because there’s so many rock bands,” he admits. “I stand by what I said, but it’s tiring slagging something off the whole
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ON THE ROAD AGAIN One thing that’s staying the same with Mumford & Sons is their ‘Gentlemen of the Road’ shows. The Maccabees, Jack Garratt and Honeyblood all feature. There’s also room for a couple of lesser-known names… “Foo Fighters are quite good. They’re really coming along. We’ve supported them from the beginning,” jokes Marcus. “We poured a lot of effort into this. Ben’s amazing at hearing new bands. Ted and Win are pretty good too. I’m rubbish at it. I’ll just pick it up a few years down the line and be like, ‘Ah, have you heard of Beyoncé? She’s brilliant.’ So we had long meetings on the phone - conference calls, spreadsheets with everyone we could ask, everyone we had asked. And I just put the phone on mute for two hours and had a bath. I didn’t really have much to contribute! ‘Oh I’ve heard of Jack White!’”
time,” he says, giving a slight nod to the hordes of Mumford haters, willing this third album to go tits up. “For some reason, I think banjo might win. It’s putting up a fight…” It’s Winston who’s most willing to acknowledge the big shift. This is the first time that any of the group have actually spoken about ‘Wilder Mind’ since finishing it. And in between live rehearsals for a tour that looks likely to last for years, every member has a different perspective. Marcus is the most averse to meeting change head-on. “People who haven’t seen us live or haven’t heard the full albums - which is the majority of people who have a view on Mumford & Sons - will associate the banjo with every song,” he says. “We don’t feel like it’s any kind of betrayal to the acoustic instruments we were playing. It’s more a continuation of the other stuff that we were doing.”
Winston claims the group were “a bit fed up” after touring the first two albums. “Not so much with those instruments, but we toured so hard with a very small repertoire. We’ve been playing for seven years. It was a reaction against that.” Ted backs up the band’s frontman, saying: “There’s no sound on ‘Wilder Mind’ that you wouldn’t have heard somewhere on a Mumford & Sons record before,” and he calls the idea of there being some kind of dramatic transformation “a little exaggerated.” “We wanted to stay unique,” begins Winston. “That uniqueness of being how shit we are! We’re still shit.” But there’s no use in fooling around. ‘Wilder Mind’ is led by electrics. It’s a record that comes to life at night. ‘Tompkins Square Park’ is just as romantic and doe-eyed as previous
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material, but it’s delivered with an amped-up tension. ‘The Wolf’ is most significant, placing this record way outside of where the other albums operate. Technically, the two years separating ‘Babel’’s tour and their new LP count as the first break Mumford & Sons have ever had. It was dubbed an “indefinite hiatus”, which complicates matters, but it was also the first step back from a whirlwind five years that took this hyped-up folk group into the stratosphere. “We could have stuck to what we knew. It was going down well,” claims Ben Lovett, and he’s right - by ticking the same boxes as their first two albums, they could’ve secured another few years in stadiums. Instead, they took the opposite route. “I think we got a little
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Mumford & Sons are going hell for leather with their new album.
addicted to the road,” says Ben. “It got to the point where there was an expectation for a record. To tour more, we had to put another out.” As the demand reached new levels and the tours trundled on, in stepped a sense of burnout. In June 2013, they cancelled a Bonnaroo appearance and nearly did the same for their Glastonbury headline slot, when Ted Dwane underwent emergency surgery for a blood clot. He grew up near Worthy Farm. “Me and my mate used to drink cider under the main stage, when we were like sixteen… Glastonbury was always going to be immensely poignant. By not dying, the poignancy was magnified!” he jokes. Ted is most aware that things came to a head around the end of ‘Babel’’s tour. “You occasionally look down and realise how far you’ve come. The whole scale of the operation has become so big, that you do feel a bit lost in it - carried along with this huge juggernaut,” he pauses. “So yeah, it’s a bit scary sometimes. It’s a general feeling of anxiety…” Winston pipes up. “That’s not a good sign. If you’re feeling anxious, you shouldn’t be doing this.” Mumford & Sons asked that very question, back in 2013. Should they carry on? When announcing their “hiatus”, 90% of music fans with a Twitter account publicly celebrated the news. “I think a lot of people are upset to find out that we’ve not broken up,” jokes Winston. Part of this declaration,
they say, was to give themselves as much space as possible, to get people off their backs. “We never had a time when we didn’t have a gig booked ahead of us,” says Marcus. But the idea that they might actually call it quits this became a part of the conversation. “We were joking with all the crew for months, going ‘Last tour guys!’” remembers the frontman. “And then I guess we hadn’t really realised that this was an option.” Staggering drunk in a New York after-party, shortly after the “hiatus” announcement, Winston Marshall told reporters the band had officially split for good. “It’s over,” were his exact words. “We had a good time though.” Reps for the group quickly cleaned by the mess by countering Winston’s claims. “People were asking fucking stupid questions,” he says, two years on. “I was interviewed at a fucking aftershow. I was wasted. And then someone just got a fucking microphone out and asked about the band.” He then shuffles in his seat, and backtracks a little. “I don’t know. No… I mean yeah, we kind of split up,” he says. “With the intention of probably getting back to record,” says Ted, attempting to clarify. “I mean yeah, but that was your intention!” says Winston, halfjoking. “I don’t think you ever know when you’re in a band. It could be at any moment when someone turns around and says, ‘I’m gonna do something else for a
bit’. Fair enough - you can’t really argue with that.” During the hiatus, each member did their own thing. Winston made the smartest move, travelling to Brazil for the World Cup. Ben put his efforts into running the Communion label, Ted worked on producing other bands in his own East London space, while Marcus maintained the essence of Mumfords’ folk roots with songwriting roles on Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis. He also joined a band with Elvis Costello and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James The New Basement Tapes.
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Eventually, everyone got a non-Mumfords dose out of their system. They reconvened to Ted’s space in February 2014, a few months on from sessions at Aaron Dessner’s New York space. “Just after Ted recovered, Aaron invited us over,” remembers Winston. “We worked there for two days on a tune, and then the last night, we just played songs. And we got really excited about those songs. And then we left it, took our break.” Dessner - ever the trusting type - gave Winston a key, and he’d go back to this space whenever The
National were on tour. “I dug a tunnel underneath,” he jokes. “Aaron’s got an amazing energy about him, and it rubbed off on us. It made us want to get out of bed in the morning,” Ben enthuses, dubbing this converted garage a “really positive place.” Still, the break took place as planned, and by the time studio time came round, ideas were buzzing. They brought in James Ford, presenting twenty songs from a rough batch of forty. “And he whittled it down to a list of… two!” says Marcus. “And then we really started writing the record - we brought all the co-writers in!” Ben jokes. If there’s one running thread between these scattered, sort-of-broken-up two years, it’s that when Mumfords did rack their brains for new ideas, they did so with the help of electrically-minded heavyweights. Ford and Dessner aren’t likely to have begged for banjos to come back. But the band are keen to point out that change arrived from the source. Ted describes early sessions as “just a synth jam, basically… Except for me, with a bass guitar, going, ‘What the fuck
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It’s not just the banjo that Mumfords are being frank about - their early days are also defined by dodgy attire.
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“You’ve got to think about the wardrobes,” says Winston. “I looked back and saw some old photos of myself - I looked stupid. Where was management then?” “We used to walk around in those barber’s outfits. That was weird,” agrees Ted. “We shouldn’t have done that.”
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is going on?!’ It became clear for me from an early stage that this was going to be an experimental record. Not quite Kraftwerk, but it could’ve been…” “We could put banjos on the fourth album, if we want to,” says Ben, like he’s making a threat. Truthfully, whether all four are agreed on the idea, Mumford & Sons are a completely different band with ‘Wilder Mind’. They’ll still be adored and loathed in equal measure, and if those Kraftwerk nods eventually emerge, it’ll take a few records. Same goes for the banjo revival - this LP is too far removed to be ditched altogether next time round. For years, there’s been a very different group waiting to show their true colours. As second album ‘Babel’ gave them a headlining status, the fabric of ‘Wilder Mind’ was coming together. Chances are, what happened next only enhanced the transformation. Near-death experiences don’t exactly lend themselves to the status quo. But as the leather-clad bikers depart, there’s still a sense of continuity. On the other side of the construction site, a builder taps away at his phone, looking intrigued. Eventually he walks over. Sheepishly, he says: “Sorry for being nosey, but I couldn’t help asking - who are those people having their photo taken?” Given the answer, he exclaims: “I thought so! Ah, I love them. Brilliant band. I’ve seen so many of their shows. Are they going on tour? Me and the wife are going to get tickets. I love Mumford & Sons.” Despite the transition behind the scenes something made even more pointed on record - those bikers outfits aren’t fooling anyone. They’re still one of the biggest bands in the world, only this time, they’re making a big leap. Mumford & Sons’ new album ‘Wilder Mind’ will be released on 4th May via Gentlemen of the Road / Island Records. DIY Mumford & Sons will play Open’er and Bibao BBK Live. See diymag.com for details.
hat to expect from ‘Sound & Color’?” says Steve Johnson, rolling the question around his mouth before breaking into a beaming grin that’s half playful, half pride. “A different record.”
Think you know
Words: Ali Shutler.
“Sorry mate, I’m gonna need to see your ID.”
In the backroom of a central London bar, Heath Fogg and Zac Cockerell are sat on a weathered sofa. Flanking them on either side are Steve Johnson and Brittany Howard, both perched on mismatched chairs. They’re the same four people who started Alabama Shakes in 2009 and released their debut, ‘Boys & Girls’, in the spring of 2012. The four-piece have been nominated for a Grammy, had to worry about playing a cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘How Many More Times’ in front of Robert Plant and are currently in London to promote their imminent second album, the glorious ‘Sound & Color’. It’s an album still seeped in their trademark honesty, yet as the band readily admit, it’s a departure. “We didn’t set out to make a diverse record,” admits Heath. “But I do think it ended up that way.” The band describe it as “black” compared to their “white as hell” debut and, written in brief moments of downtime and snatched days at home during the two years the band were touring their debut ‘Sound & Color’ is the product of very different circumstances; change is to be expected. “I’m inspired by the smallest things,” explains Steve. “It could be interacting with somebody new, travelling to new places or seeing a tree that’s about to die.” Prior to the release of ‘Boys & Girls’, Alabama Shakes hadn’t toured outside of their home state.
Now, three years later, they’ve seen the world. “I’m not sure what kinda band we are anymore,” says Brittany. Described as rock and soul when they first emerged, Alabama Shakes were always something more. Grimacing through interviews when the label was raised and never explicitly defining themselves, they’re a band at ease with their sound. That feeling can be felt throughout ‘Sound & Color’, though it isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to any annoyance. “When we started writing this record, we didn’t think about ‘Boys & Girls’ that much because it happened three years ago. It occasionally hit me that ‘this song is not ‘Hold On’’, but that was it,” Brittany clarifies. “That’s the thing, we’re just being natural. The first record was not all 60s R&B, there were some odd quirky songs on there which were always my favourites. It’s just what we get along with, all of us together, because we’re all really diverse people with different tastes and interests. When we get together it’s a melting pot,” she continues. Three years on the boil, Alabama Shakes are closer than ever and that variation has intensified. “I don’t think we push ourselves to the limits,” claims Brittany. “I think we challenged ourselves and within that, is being tasteful. It’s giving it space and letting it breathe so you have time, as a listener, to get in there and think why you’re listening instead of being bombarded with everything at once.” “I’m inspired by someone like Nina Simone,” starts Brittany before quickly adding “not her voice, but her playing. She spent her entire life trying to get better and better at the classical piano. That inspires me because I want to get better, to play better and understand music better,” she explains before moving on to another influence. “I like going to see live shows. We went to see Blake Mills, who co-produced the record with us, it was my first time seeing him and I was really inspired by that. Just where he puts the monitors and things like that inspire me because it’s a different perspective. I think I’ve got it all figured out but then realise there’s another way to do things,” she admits, keen to carry on growing. “I don’t want to just say ‘Yeah I’m good,’ I’m not. I can get better, trust me.” That keen, experimental attitude is mirrored by every member of Alabama Shakes. “The fact we had more time and resources to afford more time in the studio let us explore a lot of different aspects and avenues,” says Heath. “Every time we went in for a session we’d just bring something in that was like ‘what the hell?’” Brittany reflects, “It’s a very different record. I don’t know how people are going to react when it’s released really,” before shaking off that moment of uncertainty. “That doesn’t matter to me hugely because I think the best thing we could have done to respect our fans is to respect our own integrity and do what we like, because that’s what makes us, instead of creating another ‘Boys & Girls’.”
“I didn’t have really have a plan going into ‘Sound & Color’ but if I heard this record when we started, I would be shocked,” adds Heath. “It took a couple of different turns that I really like but wouldn’t have expected us to do,” ahead of Brittany summarising, “I didn’t set out to do anything but make ourselves proud.” It’s a simple yet open-ended wish for a band whose fears still revolve around being under-rehearsed for television appearances and (metaphorically) peeing themselves on stage. They still find their situation crazy but are thankful to be in this position. They venture, tongue firmly in cheek, that the reason people are drawn to their music is the fact they’re “all just real cute,” and the concept behind the band can be succinctly described as “railroad fashion.” Their goals amount to “having good experiences and seeing the world while we’re young people.” With 2015 already looking like a hectic one for Alabama Shakes as they bounce between Europe, America and Australia for headline shows and festival appearances via “lots of planes trains and automobiles,” it’s a goal they’re set to achieve almost daily. The ever-expanding schedule seems daunting but Alabama Shakes are just “really excited for the record to come out and for people to hear it,” and the tour offers the opportunity to put newly acquired knowledge into practice, “I learnt an important lesson recently,” starts Brittany. “Not everything can or should be reproduced like the record and I’ve been thinking about it, this is a performance.” With the twelve tracks of ‘Sound & Color’ whittled down from twenty, and three in particular only just missing the cut, there’s every chance their second record won’t be the only new material on offer from Alabama Shakes this year. “We’re musicians, we’re a band and we like creating things together,” concludes Brittany. “I knew naturally we’d write another record. It’s the same as any craft. You grow, evolve and here we are with this record. We’re really proud of it, it’s my favourite record I’ve ever made.” Beautiful, eclectic yet cohesive, ‘Sound & Color’ is a selfprofessed grab bag of influences and inspiration. Each member of the band has their own personal favourite and as the record flows with considered sequence, taking in a range of direction and lyrical focus, it’s perhaps the only unsurprising thing about it. And what do Alabama Shakes want people to take from ‘Sound & Color’? Zach doesn’t miss a beat and answers with deliberate care: “Great pleasure.” The four members of Alabama Shakes break into knowing smiles as Brittany agrees, “That’s it.” Alabama Shakes’ new album ‘Sound & Color’ is out now via Rough Trade. DIY
Alabama Shakes will play The Great Escape. See diymag.com for details.
Free from the constraints of day jobs and degrees, Django Django are coming into their own - and they’re all the more confident for it. Words: Ali Shutler. Photos: Mike Massaro
omplacency’s known our name forever,” declare Django Django during one of the many twists of comeback single ‘First Light’, “The higher we are the further we will fall,” they continue. It’s a brash turn of phrase that highlights the potential flaws that came with trying to follow up their self-titled debut. Then, across the thirteen tracks that make up ‘Born Under Saturn’, the London-via-Edinburgh four-piece show just how much higher they can go. Sitting in the DIY HQ canteen, all natural light and high ceilings, sits Jim Dixon. Around him lie a couple of national newspapers - interviews with Django Django appear in both - and half a
sausage sandwich. Recovering from a press trip to Paris, he describes how “It feels like we’re building up to something. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” Formed in 2009, Django Django began with Dave Maclean producing Vinnie Neff’s songs. After posting a couple online, offers started coming in from promoters and Django Django needed to change from a bedroom project into a live entity. Tommy Grace and Jim joined their ranks and it became “this organic thing that snowballed.” They released their self-titled debut in 2012 after a stint touring tiny clubs and “learning how to be a band.” Years of touring followed until they concluded with a headline set at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay event at the close of 2013. “When we were first nominated for the Mercury Prize,” starts Jim, with a hint of disbelief still dancing on his tongue, “everyone was getting really excited. But when you’re in a transit van going from Norwich to Nottingham, you just don’t notice any change. It never felt like one morning you woke up and everything had changed,” continues Jim. “It felt like a really natural progression.” Dave was “definitely aware” that things were moving. “We were always quite a few steps behind, we were always running to try and keep up with the record,” he says. Leaving the stage at the close of 2013, the band retreated home for a few weeks before reconvening in London to start work on what would become ‘Born Under Saturn’. “We treat each song like its own little universe,” explains Dave. Like their first record, “it’s more a collection of ideas rather than one concept,” but still, there’s a narrative to ‘Born Under Saturn’ that’s difficult to ignore. “I like to think of it as a mixtape,” Dave continues. “Even though it twists and turns in the way our influences come through, there’s things that hold it together as a Django Django record that we can’t escape from. It’s the follow-up we wanted to make.” “We just wanted this album to be bigger,” says Jim. “We really wanted to push ourselves with our songwriting [this time split four ways] and it feels like we’ve taken a big step forward.” From the playful dance of ‘Giant’, through the stuttering stare of ‘Vibrations’ until the grand swaggering finale of ‘Life We Know’, ‘Born Under Saturn’ is a bounding leap onwards. “There was no shortage of ideas and each song felt strong,” Dave reflects. “We were going to have ten songs but no one could agree on which ones to drop.” “Every time we took a song away, the album didn’t feel as strong. It just seems to work,” adds Jim.
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‘Born Under Saturn’ is “more realised.” The first one was made over a period of time (and recorded on a £50 mic), with bits and bobs of ideas floating around. “I was doing a post grad degree and we all had jobs,” explains Dave. “This time around it was a lot more focused.” “‘First Light’ was one of the first songs we wrote,” Jim continues. “It’s about knowing where you are and where you’re going. I suppose writing lyrics helps you make sense of what did happen in those two years. We weren’t sure about ‘First Light’. It was just a tiny scrap of synth that Tommy had and for a while it sounded really pastiche. Then Dave came in; cut it apart and put things together.” “Getting through that process gave us faith in what we were doing,” shares Jim. “To see the light, you have to get through the dark. We were working on that song for a
month and the lyrics were borne out of being really unsure but then feeling like we could go and tackle the rest of the album. It was a cathartic start to the album, clearing things out and starting again.” That sense of starting afresh is a theme that dances throughout ‘Born Under Saturn’. “After touring for two and a half years, it was like sweeping all that aside and starting again. I think that underpins a lot of the songs,” ventures Jim. “We’re good at hiding behind characters to get things across,” starts Dave. “Little love stories or your own personal feelings. It’s not quite wearing your heart on your sleeve but within each song, a lot of your hopes, fears, and desires come through. Quite often we’ll write a little film in our heads and we’ll all latch on to that, rather than someone coming in saying ‘I’ve been feeling like this, can you help me get my feelings out into the world’.” It makes for wonderful listening; grand ideas wrapped around a real sense of intimacy. “We just run with something until it starts sounding right, until it starts working, then we follow it down that avenue. During the writing process, all sorts was seeping in,” admits Jim. The title is taken from an 18th Century book looking at artistic inspiration as a form of madness that was spotted in a charity shop while Dave and Tommy were working with The Royal Shakespeare Company. “We were locked in this studio for three weeks and you do start to go mad but I think that’s half the process of making art,” explains Jim. “Making music you can get completely lost in. There’s a famous image of Brian Wilson sitting in a sandpit in the studio with a fireman’s helmet, and Dave’s always worried he’s going to end up like that. I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Jim assures before adding, “As long as we’re all there to keep him sane.” “We spend so much time with each other you don’t notice things changing, but Vinny’s just had a baby girl, Tommy’s just had a baby as well. We’re all changing but in terms of the band, we’ve just grown a lot more confident and have much more belief in what we’re doing,” explains Jim. “We didn’t notice it until we’d finished but I think it shows in the album.”
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“We’re not making difficult avant-garde music,” reasons Dave. “It’s accessible. We make this music because we want people to enjoy it.” “Hopefully when people listen, they can get lost in their own little world. I think it’s important to be able to forget what’s going on around them,” says Jim. “We want it to be a joyous thing that lifts people’s moods.” With the rest of 2015 booked up, there’ll be plenty of chances for Django Django to see just how celebratory ‘Born Under Saturn’ is. “In the 80s, the tendency was to write music that was dark but then Manchester’s house scene was built around people saying, ‘Fuck you, we’re going to build our own world,’ and made it into a positive thing. It’s a celebration that came out of a grey northern time at the end of the Conservative government,” concludes Jim. “We just want people to go somewhere else with our music.” Django Django’s new album ‘Born Under Saturn’ will be released on 4th May via Because Music. DIY Django Django will play Field Day, Open’er and Latitude. See diymag.com for details.
Death, mental illness and difficult decisions - Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan isnâ€™t afraid to tackle hard topics head on. Words: Huw Baines.
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rances Quinlan is outside a cabin near Knoxville, Tennessee. The house belongs to a friend’s parents and a hen is pecking at her feet. Later in the day, and a hundred miles or so down the road, her band, Hop Along, will open for The War on Drugs in Chattanooga. For now, though, she’s talking about death.
“I like albums that feel real,” she says. “Writing about death I find really difficult. There’s this idea of having respect for the dead. But life is grimy. It gets ugly.” At the heart of ‘Painted Shut’, the Philadelphia band’s intense, beautiful second record, are the stories of Buddy Bolden and Jackson C. Frank, two groundbreaking musicians beset by mental health problems. Their deaths - each of them lonely, destitute ends - were characterised by a broad lack of empathy and understanding. “If you had mental illness in the early 1900s, you were in major trouble,” she reflects. “You still are today. [Bolden] died in an asylum, his sister couldn’t keep up with the payments of the burial so they basically kept digging him up and burying people on top of him, to the point that they don’t know where he’s buried. “I felt so many complicated feelings after writing that. I didn’t want to be disrespectful. He was an immense talent. But when you talk about mental illness, it’s not pretty and there’s no glamour in it. I don’t know that we know quite how to admire without attaching mythology to it. There’s a lot that we don’t like to talk about concerning our heroes.” Frank, a singer-songwriter from Buffalo who made one influential record with Paul Simon in 1965, was regarded as a leading light in a folk scene that resembled a blanket of stars. He learned to play guitar while recuperating in hospital as a child. A fire at his school
had killed a number of his classmates. The tragedy never left him. He died in 1999, having lived with depression for most of his life. He was forgotten by the world at large. “I’m just telling these stories,” Quinlan continues. “I’m not forming any solutions, but there should be a discussion about it. The whole ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ thing just isn’t going to work, you know? People might not agree with what I have to say about these individuals. I didn’t want my opinion to get through as much as an interpretation of what happened. I’m 29 and from the suburbs, what do I know?”
f i n d r e a l ly d i f f i c u lt.” - Frances Quinlan
A bit, actually. Quinlan has a deft hand with artefacts from the lives of others. She writes with grace and sensitivity and is analytical but not judgmental. Her voice, meanwhile, is the sort that reaches into your chest and takes hold. Her gaze has always pointed inward as much as outward, too. As with ‘Get Disowned’, Hop Along’s sprawling, brilliant
debut, ‘Painted Shut’ is a morass of personal writing as much as observational. ‘Powerful Man’, the second song to emerge from it, shone an unflinching light on a moment from Quinlan’s past. Aged 18, she walked away after seeing a father beating his son outside a school. “I witnessed a frightening part of myself that day,” she wrote at the time of its release. “In a time of crisis I was not there for a child, I froze up.” The song, though, is direct and unfailingly melodic. It’s the most straightforward pop tune Hop Along have ever put their name to but, amid the hooks, Quinlan’s words bite down. “It’s troubling that it’s catchy, right? They’re forced to live with it,” she says. “When we started working on that song, I thought of it as being heavy. It was slow and drawn out. Something just wasn’t coming off sincerely with that. Sometimes, if you assume people aren’t going to get something, you ruin it by overstating. I like to write assuming that people will understand.” ‘Powerful Man’’s bare-bones arrangement is emblematic of changes across the board. Album two is a different beast to ‘Get Disowned’. That record could be pulled into a thousand constituent parts, each arranged methodically. Hop Along’s approach was revised to suit a fresh set of obstacles. During the writing process, they were in a position many bands inhabit the second time around: time was finite, expectations were raised and motivation had to come from somewhere new if they were to avoid a retread. “As you get older, sometimes it gets harder,” Quinlan says. “Your challenges get greater because, hopefully, you’re getting better. Complacency shouldn’t be the answer.
We went pretty far from what’s comfortable for us to strip songs to a more straightforward sound.” For Quinlan, everything begins with pen and paper. The words come first. It’s here that the band - her drummer brother, Mark, bassist Tyler Long and guitarist Joe Reinhart enter. If it’s possible to tie yourself in knots with a Hop Along lyric sheet, then it’s just as easy to do it while following their competing guitar lines and idiosyncratic time signatures. Her bandmates find the things that Quinlan misses, with their imaginative writing complementing her narrative drive. Beneath the surface, ‘Horseshoe Crabs’ and ‘The Knock’, the album’s first song, bristle with complex, yet unshowy melodies. “The lyrics are with me from the beginning,” she says. “I’m not really much of a musician. If I’m playing guitar, it’s because I’m writing something. That’s just the way my mind seems to go. The lyrics changed a lot over time. In the past I’ve been very precious with lyrics, but with this record I was more willing to edit and to start over. Sometimes the lyrics are in battle with the music if you’re not putting them totally in service to it. I’m not as interested in serving the melody sometimes as I am in getting a point across.” Certain bands become obsessions. Hop Along have the raw materials to take over a segment of your heart and refuse to let go. Bolden and Frank are the ghosts at the edge of the frame, along with a boy from Quinlan’s youth. ‘Painted Shut’ is visceral, intelligent and, at times, devastating. Hop Along’s new album ‘Painted Shut’ will be released on 4th May via Saddle Creek. DIY
hills Spiritual encounters, murderous dreams - Palma Violets were never going to get an easy ride, but new album â€˜Danger in the Clubâ€™ has taken a strange course. Words: Jamie Milton. Photos: Phil Smithies
icture the scene: In the isolated rural hills of Wales, where no cars go and barely any noise can be heard, a dastardly figure going by the name of Pete Mayhew emerges through the trees wielding an axe (and a couple of guns, for back-up). He then begins the most bloodthirsty rampage known to man, one spanning several continents and taking no prisoners. That’s Pete for you. Or at least, that’s the Pete who defines ‘Peter and the Gun’, a gruesome tale arriving towards the end of Palma Violets’ ‘Danger in the
Club’, which isn’t short on outlandish influence.
The inspiration came from a brutal dream Sam Fryer had of his keyboardist bandmate. A “terrible” experience, he recalls the story of Pete “running round the hills and murdering the local choir boy,” before “escaping to America on a boat, going on a spree and killing loads of people… The chorus of the song is the last scene in the dream,” he continues. “Pete’s wearing rollerblades, and he’s outside the Brooklyn Vegan bar, singing ‘Peter! Peter! Peter And 57
The Gun!’ Pinky and the Brain style. I woke up and then the hit single ‘Peter and the Gun’ came out,” he smirks, behind great big sunglasses. “You’re famous, Pete.” Something had to stir in the Palma Violets camp. By mid-2014, they still didn’t have a bloody clue how to write songs. Any ability had firmly flown the nest. It wasn’t that they didn’t have any fully-fledged ideas - they didn’t have a single half-idea. The way these four recall the tale, it sounds as if the next step involved them being sent to Wales (perhaps against their will) by a tour manager, just after they closed out Reading Festival. Something had to give. So they re-located to the isolated, spiritually-struck Preseli Hills, the original source of Stonehenge’s bluestone. “So if you ask who wrote the songs, it’s none of us,” jokes Sam. “It’s the spirit of Wales. It’s something bigger than we can comprehend.” With only a knackered telephone for outside communication, they began to settle into their new surroundings. A couple of “free folk”, as Pete describes them, owned the area. “They do their own tai chi classes, naked,” claims drummer Will Doyle. The only musical inspiration they had was the couple’s ‘Sounds of the Desert’ cassette, which Sam describes as “really therapeutic… You can hear a parched camel, dying.” In between writing and recording, the band were ordered to sleep facing West, so as not to awaken the spirits. “We all suffered from really intense dreams, didn’t we?” remembers Sam. “And we were told we were going to be suffering. That’s the kind of place it is - a spiritual bluestone.”
again,” remembers Sam. “And it would be extremely embarrassing, but it’d be great inspiration for any upand-coming acts to know that no matter if you’re a professional band, you can still be fucking shit. The early stages of the first album are far better than the early stages of the second album. It’s fucking abysmal.” “To be honest with you, we didn’t write any songs,” chimes in Chilli Jesson. “We didn’t even try. We played the first album to death. Made sure that people had heard it. That everybody had heard it.” Once that process was wrapped up, these initially hyped-tothe-heavens Rough Trade darlings went back to square one. Leckie was the first person to hear the songs in rough form. “He thought we might have something, but we still had to work harder,” says Sam. “It didn’t sound like a record. We were just writing songs, not thinking about how the album was going to be. And that’s the only way you can go, really.”
In an ideal world, the next part of this story would see the group emerging with a miraculously polished, enlightened record. Palma Violets don’t suit that kind of tale. ‘Danger in the Club’ is a shambolic album, its running thread being a sense of perfect chaos. It really does sound like a group of guys losing their minds while racking their brains about how to actually write songs. Sweet gold steps out eventually, but producer John Leckie didn’t have a lot to work with when he first stepped into the Welsh retreat.
All things in place, ‘Danger in the Club’ does somehow arrive with some sense of cohesion. Sam jokes that “there’s no producer in the world who could ever make us sound professional,” but that’s the appeal of this LP. It’s an often bizarre, almost streamof-consciousness blast of punk, informed by beloved bands of the past, all while retaining a sense of youthfulness unhinged. “Literally, that was the only thing that we spoke about before,” beams Chilli. “Wanting to keep it young. When you know all the chords, and you get better at your instruments, it’s easy to write tenminute fucking dark songs. But I think it’s important to be honest.”
“I think I’ve got some of the early recordings of us trying to write songs
“A lot of bands in the past have grown up too quickly,” states Sam. And if
NICE TO MEET HUGH As well as Pete’s evil alter-ego, ‘Danger in the Club’ also sees Palma Violets singing about another fictional character - Hugh Diver, the subject of ‘English Tongue’. “He’s an interesting one,” says Sam. “He’s a man who’s in the middle of a small rural England society. He has fame within the town, but he’s old and bitter. He’s dishevelled. And he just wants out of it. He’s a very paranoid man. It’s very sad. It starts out as something that you just think about in your head, and then it becomes so real. And you actually realise that this person probably existed once, you know?”
“There’s no producer in the world who could ever make us sound professional.” - Sam Fryer Sam Fryer’s sunglasses remain one of the great wonders of the world. there’s anything Palma Violets are actively shunning on this record, it’s a sense of maturity. ‘Hollywood (I Got It)’ is a berserk collision of chants, while opener ‘Sweet Violets’ even gets those aforementioned “free folk” to sing an unnerving chant. Drawing links between the title-track’s pub rock homage and ‘English Tongue’’s triumphant ending point is fairly pointless - this is a scattered-to-the-bone record, albeit one delivered with curious charm. It’s this closing track that brings about the most interest. Palma Violets are already fielding plenty of questions about national identity and patriotism. But they’re not about to get all Nigel Farage in this joint. “It’s damning of [the UK], as opposed to unifying it,” says Chilli, of ‘English Tongue’. “But I guess when we’re away on tour in America, you just need to put on the Kinks albums and then you’re back home. You miss the English countryside. We’re writing the English perception of America,” claims Sam. When Palmas go Stateside, they do so with tongues firmly in cheek. “If you’re in primary school and
you learn about America, you hear about Hollywood, the stuff dreams are made of. And you dig into the secrets of America, conspiracy theories. They’re very basic ideas,” says Sam. “I think it’s more us having a laugh than having an actual dig.” Unbelievably, Palma Violets did actually work out how to have ideas again. Pin it on the unruly spirits, the deathly dreams or the ‘Sounds of the Desert’ tape. The fact is, this is a group sounding more inspired - and more on the brink of mutual self-destruction - than they did on head-turning debut ‘180’. ‘English Tongue’ was the last of the songs to be recorded, and it’s the sound of a group pacing towards the next step. Despite the chaos of these last two years, maybe Palma Violets are closer to their next move than anyone expects. Palma Violets’ new album ‘Danger In The Club’ will be released on 4th May via Rough Trade. DIY
Palma Violets will play Live At Leeds. See diymag.com for details.
Make A Scene 60 diymag.com
Shamir’s ascent has been swift; on the cl i m b h e ’ s fo un d a n e w appr eciat ion for u n l i k e ly g e n r e s . W o r d s : T o m C o n n i c k .
as Vegas is a weird place. As you approach along the razor-straight stretch of road from the city’s airport, stitched together imitations of foreign cultural landmarks jut out of the desert surroundings one-by-one. It’s a place both overtly flamboyant and yet somewhat devoid of its own identity – a mirage of flat-packed culture which can take you from the stoic romanticism of the Eiffel Tower to the grandeur of the Statue of Liberty with a simple left turn of the head. It’s here that a young Shamir Bailey found his niche.
graduate. The ear for a pop melody that threads throughout, however, suggests his radio-centric friends might be tuning in before long.
“There aren’t really musical scenes out here,” he explains from the sofa of his Nevada home. “When I grew up listening to music, and started becoming a music-head, I was just listening to a bunch of music that wouldn’t be around me otherwise, because no one else was really listening to music outside of the radio. Being genreless has always been something that was instilled in me, because scenes pretty much don’t exist where I’m from. I never think about ‘who’ listens to it, I’m just like, ‘oh, I like this song! And I listen to it!’”
That consistency is something he willingly attributes to his manager and co-producer Nick Sylvester of Brooklyn record label GODMODE, and a writing process that was “pretty much 50/50” in the share of duties - the vocals that aren’t in Shamir’s signature, high-pitched countertenor voice? That’s Nick. The little embellishments and flourishes? Nick again.
He laughs at the simplicity of his personal music curation, but being unrestrained by the idea of genres or scenes has granted Shamir’s debut full length ‘Ratchet’ an interesting setting. Sitting somewhere between bubblegum pop and club-ready dance music, and yet skipping through every other genre under the sun along the way, it’s a debut that reads like a personal checklist for the energetic young buzz-blog
“I wanted something different for everyone,” he explains. “I wanted people to leave the album saying ‘I at least liked one song’ and ‘I at least vibed with one song’. I’m very proud of that – I felt that even though the album is very eclectic and has a bunch of different sounds, it still has a very cohesive aesthetic and it’s not too jarring of a sound.”
“Each song starts off different,” says Shamir of the collaborative process. “I might write on guitar and I’d send him a demo and he’d write around that, or a quick little drum machine demo and he’ll work around that. Or he’ll send me demos that he’s done, and I’ll write around that. For the most part, the lyrics are me, and the little ad-libs and low voices and things, those are usually Nick. He usually just adds into his production, which is good, because when I write my lyrics I have to be completely alone. It’s good that he’s fine with the idea of bringing each other stuff – we come together and
build around it, as opposed to building from scratch, because we both work really well in isolation.” They’re a truly inseparable duo, so much so that Nick and his Godmode ties came as “kind of a package deal” once XL came to Shamir with an offer following debut EP ‘Northtown’’s runaway success last summer. “It’s not like it was a switch,” Shamir clarifies of the jump to the indie super-label; “it’s kind of just like adding to the family.” “I always wanted to intern,” he continues; possibly the only time those words have willingly left a young adult’s mouth. But intern he did, mucking in at XL’s New York office between recording sessions – an experience which kept him grounded in the business of things, and with his eyes on the prize after ‘Northtown’ and its mega-hit single ‘On The Regular’ went stratospheric. “It’s crazy to think that I’ve only really made this music for a little over a year, and within that year I’ve had an EP out, I’ve recorded an album, and that album is soon to come out,” he beams. “It seems really fast when I look at it in hindsight, but it felt very gradual in a very good way, for me.” It was a gradual learning experience in more ways than one though, with Shamir and Nick’s twosome provoking some profound musical epiphanies. “I never really listened to electronic music, or disco, or house music,” he confesses. “I used to absolutely be so annoyed by disco music, actually! It wasn’t until I got my drum machine and I started to experiment with it, and then I came to Nick and showed him some demos, and he was like ‘oh, you must listen to a lot of house music’ – at this time I thought I was just doing something that had never been done before, something completely new. And he was like ‘no, this is house music!’ so I was like ‘okay, what is house music?!’” “He kind of schooled me, and put me up on game. And I was like oh wow – I guess I kind of was doing this. ‘Cause coming from Vegas, electronic music to me was EDM music and the stuff they play on the Strip and in the pools – like Diplo and Aviicii, and all that stuff. House music was something new to me. And it was something very old and something Nick really loved, and already had such a huge knack for. So bringing it together was good for him because it was an old love and it was
very nostalgic for him. It was also a challenge for me, because it was almost experimental and something new and a new way to push myself as a musician.”
potential storming of the charts, it’s not where he is now, but where he’s heading, that should really pique Shamir’s imagination.
It’s that idea of constantly pushing both himself and his boundaries that makes Shamir one of pop’s most exciting prospects. ‘Ratchet’’s piecemeal approach to music making may skip from genre-to-genre - cultural reference point to cultural reference point - but with Shamir’s vocal signature tying it all together, it never feels as disjointed as the skyline of his Vegas home.
Shamir’s debut album ‘Ratchet’ will be released on 18th May via XL Recordings. DIY Shamir will play The Great Escape. See diymag.com for details.
“I think that’s kind of where the uniqueness of my music comes from… the fact that with the type of music that I do, I don’t really have too many influences for - because I really don’t listen to that type of music. I think that kind of takes away from sounding like a copycat. It’s completely fresh – at least to me. “I also like to have different mixes of genres in my music as kind of an homage,” he ponders. “You know, showing where I came from and what I listened to – the type of music that got me to the point where I am now.” As he makes his move from Las Vegas to New York and from the blog world to a
“I used to be so annoyed by disco.” - Shamir Bailey
What’s up Shamir’s sleeve? An amazing debut album, that’s what.
A Grave With No Name / And So I Watch You From Afar / Best Coast / Blur / Brandon Flowers / Ceremony / Like Apes / God Damn / Hop Along / Hot Chip / Joanna Gruesome / Metz / Mumford And Sons / My Morning Jacket / Weller / Shura / Sleater-Kinney / Spector / Surfer Blood / Swim Deep / The Tallest Man On Earth / The Vaccines /
Sixteen years from their last album as a four
THE MAGIC WHIP (PARLOPHONE)
e honest, nobody expected there to actually be another Blur album. Sixteen years since their last as a four-piece (1999’s ’13’), twelve since ‘Think Tank’ and its bittersweet closer ‘Battery In Your Leg’ - none of the signs were especially great. There’d been the big comeback, a triumphant jaunt from Colchester Railway Museum
to the Main Stage of Glastonbury celebrating one of Britain’s very best bands. There’d been the second coming, with that last night in Hyde Park in the summer of 2012. There’d even been the odd spark of new music - ‘Fool’s Day’, ‘The Puritan’ and ‘Under The Westway’. But the noises from Damon Albarn weren’t great. Even at his most positive, it never really felt like a
Courtney Barnett / Django Django / Du Blonde / Faith No More / Fight Nai Harvest / Novella / Other Lives / Palma Violets / Patrick Watson / Paul Torres / Total Babes / Twin Shadow / Unknown Mortal Orchestra
1. LONESOME STREET Put bluntly, Blur haven’t sounded this much like themselves in the better part of two decades. ‘Lonesome Street’ quickly finds a familiar rhythm. Audible eyerolls, sparkling disco balls - at no point does it feel to be growing old disgracefully. Yep, Blur are definitely back. 2. NEW WORLD TOWERS Where ‘Lonesome Street’ is familiar, ‘New World Towers’ is something a little different. An almost looping melody, Coxon has described it as his take on ‘Greensleeves’. On paper, it sounds bizarre. In reality, it’s a slow-burning standout. 3. GO OUT The first song to appear from ‘The Magic Whip’, thematically ‘Go Out’ may sit somewhere between ‘Blur’ and ‘13’. Experimental and immediate, direct and obtuse, it’s brilliant and most certainly Blur.
piece, Blur’s big comeback is a week-long-wonder. new Blur album was top of his to-do list. When a week long recording session in a tour break was mentioned, it seemed there may be hope, but before long that faded away too. Chances were, Blur were done. Keeping a surprise in 2015 is hard. Keeping the shock comeback of one of the biggest acts of the last quarter of a century quiet should be near unheard
of. The reclusive David Bowie may have managed similar, but he wasn’t operating in the front line anymore he could scheme well away from the limelight. The members of Blur were hardly playing wallflowers. Albarn spent 2014 promoting a solo album, working on a musical and headlining festivals not the place you’d expect someone to plan the secret return of the year from. But then, Damon wasn’t the one doing
4. ICE CREAM MAN On the surface, ‘Ice Cream Man’ sounds harmless enough bleeping, bubbling electronic sounds underpin stories of vans parked at the end of the road, full of screwballs. Underneath, though, there are even chillier undertones. 5. THOUGHT I WAS A SPACEMAN The longest track on ‘The Magic Whip’, ‘Thought I Was A Spaceman’ comes in at over six minutes. From a midway explosion of dramatic sounding
the plotting. Not really. If anyone brought Blur back, it appears only fair their virtuoso guitarist Graham Coxon should take the plaudits. The same man who found himself out of the band back in 2003 returned to those 2013 session tapes to find gold. “We had some downtime,” Coxon told Zane Lowe at the launch event for ‘The Magic Whip’. “We had a cancellation when we were out in Hong Kong. And so we thought we’d find a few days to relocate into a studio to record our stuff there. We decided to have a play, really.” “We didn’t really have much stuff,” Damon added. “It felt like it was back to the way we recorded when we first started doing stuff together. It wasn’t a flash studio. It was pretty claustrophobic. It was really hot. We didn’t get anything finished. After that we went to Jakarta, we did a gig and we didn’t see each other for months. We did another few gigs in South America but during that time, I think the whole thing had dissipated, hadn’t happened. It was fun, it was a nice few days, but nothing concrete came out.” As with any act who’ve been around for more than a quarter of a decade, Blur are a band with more than one dimension. From the shoegazy jangle of ‘Leisure’ through the Britpop templates of ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ and ‘Parklife’, the Stateside lo-fi fuzz of ‘Blur’ or the more experimental moments of ‘13’ - they’ve long since evolved past the cheeky chappies on old Top of the Pops clips to a genuinely fascinating, musically diverse group. It shouldn’t need saying that ‘The Magic Whip’ is no different. Its main ideas recorded in a week - it’s remarkable that Blur’s eighth album is even remotely coherent. That it manages to duke it out with their very best is something else altogether. A calmer beast than ‘Blur’ or ‘13’, not as concerned with the sugar rush as their mid-90s incarnation, ‘The Magic Whip’ has a groove of its own. In the last decade and a half, Albarn and Coxon have only further developed their own distinct musical identities. Previous full-lengths would pull one way or another, their differences and juxtapositions producing a spark that drove Blur to their highest heights. Here, they find themselves synchronising in near perfect harmony. An echo of Albarn’s ‘Everyday Robots’ here, a wave of Coxon’s ‘A+E’ guitars there - there’s even the occasional hint of ‘The Good, The Bad & The Queen’ - but none of these overpower the fact that - recorded in a few days or not - ‘The Magic Whip’ really is a proper Blur album, and a proper Blur album that still finds itself at the very top of the class. “Graham came to me, said ‘I think we’ve got something here’,” Albarn recounted. “I was like, ‘Brilliant. Go and have a look at it’. I was busy doing what I was doing and I came back, they played me what they’d done and I was like, ‘Oh no, this is really good’. It’s at this moment the penny drops. Whatever anyone involved wanted to do with their next few months, it’s out of their hands. These demos are too good. Whichever way it’s spun, the material demands attention. Blur are back.
“At that p o int, everyone was going, ‘There is a record h e r e’. A n d I knew there was a record here, but I hadn’t found any ly r i c s f o r i t.” Damon Albarn
“It was very mixed emotions for me,” Damon continued. “I really felt at the end of those last gigs that was the end. Not for any sort of heavy reason, it’d run its course. There was no way we could do another gig without another record.” For all the constraints of its conception, the biggest hurdle in ‘The Magic Whip”s path was always going to be time at its other extreme. All those years since the band last stepped into the studio; even longer since those sessions were helmed by their long-term collaborator Stephen Street. There’s no shock that Albarn may have had a few nerves. After all, how many bands make a big comeback and go on to record something really great? Many smarter peers simply decided it wasn’t worth it. This year, SleaterKinney returned with an album that’s out of this world, but they made sure the magic was still there behind the scenes before committing. Blur had already bolted six years previously. As Damon said - without new material, there could be no more gigs. Without more gigs, there’d be no more band. Everything was on the line. But, with time, also comes a chance to clean the palette. Were ‘The Magic Whip’ to have followed straight on from ‘13’, or even ‘Think Tank’, the relative lack of obvious, classic Blur singles would no doubt have been mentioned. No, there’s no ‘Tender’, ‘Coffee and TV’ or even ‘Out of Time’ here, but that doesn’t mean there’s no immediacy. Opener ‘Lonesome Street’ has that typical Blur rhythm - a reassuring echo that couldn’t be further from tired. ‘I Broadcast’, too, knows its roots. The most in your face track on the album, it sits somewhere between ‘Modern Life is Rubbish”s ‘Advert’ and the back half of ‘Parklife’, all punky riffs and acerbic critique. Lead track ‘Go Out’ stalks the gaps between ‘Blur’ and ‘13’, while ‘Ong Ong’ and its simplistic refrain is nothing but liquid sunshine; even the darkest, most cynical souls will struggle to hold back a smile. Elsewhere, it’s closer to new ground. No, Blur aren’t pushing the boundaries of Music with a capital M, but they’re still finding somewhere fresh to inhabit for themselves. While ‘Ice Cream Man’ still manages to trigger the odd memory, its bubbling, beeping, laidback swagger is closer to Gorillaz than Blur. ‘Thought I Was A Spaceman’ moves from oriental undertones to dramatic stabs, while ‘Ghost Ship’ is Blur - but on a Caribbean cruise. And yes, it does still work. From the military march of ‘There Are Too Many Of Us’, with its proclamation of “terror on a loop elsewhere”, to woozy closer ‘Mirrorball’, it’s these tracks that reward the persistent listener. As always, in later day Blur’s deepest cuts come their biggest triumphs. Standout ‘My Terracotta Heart’ shows it best. As Albarn’s vocal hits its lilting sweet spot, Coxon’s guitars work their understated magic. Yes, Blur went away. No, they’ve not come back to rehash the hits. But on that ninth listen, with the lights off, they’re a band still able to find new emotional triggers their contemporaries have yet to discover. Their magic remains as strong as ever. (Stephen Ackroyd) Listen: ‘My Terracotta Heart’, ‘I Broadcast’, ‘Ong Ong’
stabs, Coxon’s guitar takes hold, buzzing under oriental chimes and his own vocal refrain. 6. I BROADCAST ‘I Broadcast’ is, by a country mile, the most aggressive, immediate track on ‘The Magic Whip’. Recalling everything from ‘Advert’ to ‘Jubilee’, lyrically it concerns itself with the connected world where every moment is broadcast for no real reason. Bratty and brilliant in equal measures. 7. MY TERRACOTTA HEART Here’s where things get personal. Coxon has already admitted that, lyrically, ‘My Terracotta Heart’ is about the band’s relationships with each other - especially between Albarn and himself. Close to magical. 8. THERE ARE TOO MANY OF US Over a military beat, the lyrical context of ‘There Are Too Many Of Us’ seems obvious - there literally are too many people. Becoming increasingly intense, with talk of “terror on a loop elsewhere,” this is Blur at their most effective. 9. GHOST SHIP Thankfully, that tension is dialled right down for ‘Ghost Ship’. Laid back, musically it’s a cruise ship holiday on the sun loungers. Closer to what would be expected of Gorillaz, it’s pleasingly different. 10. PYONGYANG Chiming bells, a, foreboding bass line; lyrically concentrating on the place, not the obvious angles others would choose, ‘Pyongyang’ ends up being infinitely more effective. 11. ONG ONG It’s fair to say ‘Ong Ong’ won’t win any awards for complex songwriting, but when it comes to raw, grin-inducing positivity, it’ll be hard to match. It doesn’t even get to the second chorus before the refrain takes hold. 12. MIRRORBALL ‘Mirrorball’ isn’t an epic closer in length, but soaked in reverb, it knows how to do its job. A fitting full stop for ‘The Magic Whip’, but hopefully not the final chapter for Blur.
Q&A Unknown Mortal Orchestra guitarist Ruban Nielson discusses the band’s latest album, ‘MultiLove’. You’ve said this record sounds a little more hi-fi - what prompted the change? A lot of things I suppose. Rather than a change I’d just call it a progression. My method and philosophy was much the same, I just spent more time, money and effort on it. I’d been focussed on various records from the second half of the 70s, Steely Dan’s ‘Aja’, Michael Jackson’s ‘Off the Wall’, Bowie’s ‘Station to Station’. Those records were made during a high point of recording technology. I started getting excited about making a kind of DIY hi-fi record.
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA Multi-Love (Jagjaguwar)
On paper, ‘Multi-Love’ deals with the dramatic highs and lows of a relationship. Everyday emotions rule the roost, but it’s not quite as it seems. The clue’s in the title: this isn’t just one strand of love Ruban Nielson’s dealing with. It’s arriving from all sides, overflowing the conscience and kicking aside sanity. Nothing’s delivered onedimensionally with Unknown Mortal Orchestra. ‘Multi-Love’’s title track is a spiralling R&B ballad, but the vocals sound like they’re being submerged in ether. It’s a disco track, if the disco was attended by zombies. Same goes for ‘Stage or Screen’, a romantic road trip where the wheels are spinning off into the distance. ‘Like Acid Rain’ - a barmy, fleeting two-minute dose of psych shows the studio-head at his best, always on the brink of losing control. He sounds like Prince on a roller-coaster. (Jamie Milton) Listen: ‘Like Acid Rain’
eee TWIN SHADOW
Eclipse (Warner Bros. Records)
Where debut ‘Forget’ was murky and moody, its follow up ‘Confess’ saw George Lewis Jr. gunning for gold, to a lot of success actually. The songs were sharper, louder and more dynamic - he was pushing his formula to the limits. Then came ‘Old Love / New Love’, Lewis Jr.’s crowning moment to date - an unbelievably infectious dance floor belter. It’s a shame then that ‘Old Love...’ is still the centrepiece within a record of brand new material. Considering how much Twin Shadow excels as a project of pristine, highly addictive pop bangers, ‘Eclipse’ falls flat too often - eclipsing, some might say, the stadium-worthy songs we know he can achieve. (Tom Walters) Listen: ‘Old Love / New Love’
What’s the most fun piece of new equipment you introduced? I got this amazing box called a kaimaitron. It was made by this guy in New Zealand who calls himself Ekadek. It’s a four channel recording mixer. It sounds so beautiful and was custom and all hand-built by one guy in his workshop in the Kaimais which is a mountain range in New Zealand. It has two different types of distortion built into it, so it can have this very clean, fat high fidelity sound or it can get crazy and blown up and gnarly. But it always sounds good. I had this idea that I wanted this record to sound more widescreen but I didn’t want it to be clean or sterile. I still wanted it to be dirty and have impact and not soften up too much. This box helped me to start to move in that direction. It sounds beautiful. Which is your favourite track on the record? I’m trying to follow the way other people are enjoying it, so I mostly listen to ‘Multi-Love’ right now. I think when the next single comes out I’ll switch over to that. I want to be in it with everyone else. I want to understand where their mindset is, so I’m not listening to the other songs unless I have to right now. I want to listen to the full album when it comes out.
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“I wanted it to be a bit more grounded” eeee JOANNA GRUESOME Peanut Butter (Fortuna POP!)
‘Peanut Butter’’s ten tracks come and go in an impossibly short 22 minutes; it’s a lesson in including only the necessary and the absolute best you have to offer. Joanna Gruesome’s debut, ‘Weird Sister’ sometimes let its songs drag on into indistinguishable end sections, while here they cut it all out and move briskly along to the next sub-twominute belter. The band’s lyrics are, as ever, elusive, but the lines that do slip through and become legible - “crying in the pizza restaurant” / “crushing your tiny skull” - suggest a continuation of Owen Williams’ violent, abstract storytelling. Album closer ‘Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend’ is the best they have ever done a slowy, and introduces organ parts and a twin guitar solo that could only end an album. Joanna Gruesome have adapted, honed and stretched their sound on ‘Peanut Butter’, and though nothing here sticks in the brain quite like ‘Sugarcrush’ or ‘Secret Surprise’, their tip as one of Britain’s brightest new hopes is more than backed up on this showing. (Will Richards) Listen: ‘Jamie (Luvver)’
Joanna Gruesome are tackling new subjects on new album, ‘Peanut Butter’. Words: Will Richards
t wouldn’t have been difficult if, after beating national treasures Manic Street Preachers and cult hero Cate Le Bon to 2014’s Welsh Music Prize with their debut album ‘Weird Sister’, it went to Joanna Gruesome’s collective head. Instead, they’re using the platform the success of their debut has afforded them to give back to their hometown and the scene that spawned them, as songwriter/guitarist Owen Williams explains. “Max (Warren, bassist) and I are putting a deposit down on a new DIY space in Cardiff next week. Partly because I hate most venues, I do really want to help start an autonomous, radical space that we all enjoy spending time in. After our first album, we donated some money to DIY Space For London, and we’re trying to get the same idea off the ground in Cardiff
and contribute in an active way.” The new space is set to be called Castle Lane, although Gruesome guitarist George Nicholls threw the name The Chuckle Hut into the ring, a suggestion that’s… on the back burner. The band’s second album ‘Peanut Butter’ was already written before their award success, and has since been previewed with a three-night London residency back in January and a set at the BBC 6 Music Festival in Newcastle. “I feel a bit detached from it now, as I wrote the songs about a year ago, but it definitely feels more like a flowing album than ‘Weird Sister’, and is more representative of our tastes and how we operate as a band than the last album”, Williams explains. “We’ve become a bit closer to a hardcore band as we’ve developed, and we definitely emphasise those aspects live. One thing I like to do is re-use melodies and parts from earlier songs, and I find the idea of being self-referential really funny. More in melodies than lyrics, but there’s
eeee PATRICK WATSON
Love Songs for Robots (Domino)
Patrick Watson and co. have been honing their sound since the early 2000s, having already mastered the use of spoons and bicycles, and won Canada’s prestigious Polaris prize in 2007. But where do you go from there? On new full length ‘Love Songs for Robots’, it’s a dash of meticulous refinement and peaceful revolution; a thoroughly accomplished album that oozes musicality. Whether the experimental takes on ‘retro’ techniques, such as ‘Grace’, take your fancy; or the wonderfully tangential ‘Bollywood’ is more your bag – there is pretty much something for everyone here. (George Boorman) Listen: ‘Grace’
eeee MUMFORD AND SONS
Wilder Sounds (Gentlemen of the Road /
definitely nods to some of our old songs on this album.” Williams emphasises the idea of ‘Peanut Butter’ as a complete record, where ‘Weird Sister’ brings together songs written over a number of years, and some from before the band even existed. “The songs ‘Jerome (Liar)’ and ‘Psykick Espionage’ were written for our split releases with Trust Fund and Perfect Pussy respectively, but when we started to think about how the album was going to fit together, there were some gaps and those tracks seemed to slip in perfectly.” The band’s kinship with Bristol-based Trust Fund, led by Ellis Jones, has given Williams the inspiration to write more autobiographically on the new album. “I had very specific ideas about what I wanted our very first songs to be about, with very violent lyrics and lyrics about zombies and vampires and comic books, all very cartoon-ish. This time, I wanted it to be a bit more grounded in my own emotions and everyday stuff that happens, and I think becoming really good friends with Ellis has inspired some of that, as he writes about stuff that is personal and important to him. For the most part though, it’s still just artificial pop lyrics and doesn’t aspire to be anything else. There’s loads of stuff about food on this album, I don’t really know why. There’s also some revenge fantasy stuff,” he laughs, “so the weirdness hasn’t completely gone away!” Read the full interview on diymag.com. DIY
Mumford & Sons aren’t just a walking, talking banjo. There’s more to them than casual barn dancing and plucked-string singsongs - this is a band reinvented. Marcus Mumford couldn’t front a subtle electronic pop song if he tried, so he sticks to what he knows: all-out sincerity. Everything else has changed, but it’s Marcus’ vocal that carries this group’s true signature. Songs like ‘Believe’ and ‘Monster’ would sound like complete strangers in other hands, but the frontman’s in his finest form yet. He’s just as capable holding the keys to blistering, atmospheric rock as he is tear-soaked strummers. It’s fun to poke fun at a band sporting traditionally uncool songs and selling millions in the process. But the truth is, Mumford & Sons are one of the world’s biggest acts for a reason. This is a new blueprint, and they’ve emerged a fuller force. (Jamie Milton) Listen: ‘Monster’
THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH Dark Bird Is Home (Dead Oceans)
Waking from a twelve month hibernation and reassuring us, buried in a short teaser video, that “this is not the end – this is fine,” Kristian Mattson’s fourth album as The Tallest Man on Earth feels worthy of such a frank disclaimer. He’s self-medicated his loneliness through the company of other musicians, and these songs project a new kind of warmth. At its peak, there are moments of clarity that only seem to be achievable to those that share Scandinavian ancestry, shining through like bright sunshine on a bitterly cold morning. (Chris Bunt) Listen: ‘Sagres’
Sprinter (Partisan Records)
The difficult second album: time constraints, extra pressure, greater scrutiny. For Mackenzie Scott, or Torres, read: added focus, powerful execution, sharper writing. ‘Sprinter’ is not one to be filed alongside the missteps. Much like her debut, the shots to the sternum here are emotional, with pointed lyrics emerging from circular guitar passages and squalls of noise. Scott’s poetic phrasing provides a smokescreen for analysis of a conservative, Southern upbringing and some bare bones imagery: drowning children, lost youth, disgraced pastors. ‘Sprinter’ is a bruising, brilliant record from a singular talent. (Huw Baines) Listen: ‘Son, You Are No Island’ 71
God Damn drummer Ash Weaver takes
God Damn jumped the boat when playing hide and seek.
a break from a lengthy drive over to Europe for a few dates with Therapy? to fill us in on the duo’s debut. Was the album a long time in the making? The actual recording process, instrumentally, wasn’t long at all. The only thing that took a while was finding the right person to mix it: it turned out that Xavier Stephenson, the guy who engineered the album, was the man for the job. We recorded the album a year ago now, and we have been itching to release it ever since, so it’s a relief that it’s finally being released and we can get our music in people’s ears. Where did you record? We recorded the album at Metropolis in London. It’s quite strange really as it’s known for pop music, then us two scruffs went and ripped the place up. It’s a great studio though, the whole experience was amazing, definitely something we won’t forget in a hurry. Did ‘Vultures’ end up as you’d envisaged at the start? I would say so, yeah. We had previously recorded a single at Toe Rag, which was equally as cool but totally different, very vintage. We decided from that point that we wanted something a bit more polished as we wanted to use a lot more pedals and effects like we do in a live situation.
Danger in the Club (Rough Trade)
Palma Violets’ debut album ‘180’ was written in a Lambeth haze. Made very much in the heat of the moment, chaos, hedonism and odes to ‘Chicken Dippers’ were the main order. ‘Danger In The Club’, might not have the same immediacy, nor instant hard-hitters, but it does show the band exploring new territories, and bringing flamboyant 70s rock influences to the fore. Well-trodden themes find a new lease of life in their no-frills honesty - “we had a pact, but I was fucked, that’s just how it goes.” When they connect, they sound all the richer for it, and on the whole ‘Danger In The Club’ is a more patient, careful record than its predecessor. Palma Violets’ initial appeal lay in their ramshackle approach. This second album shows that there is more to their schtick than barely tamed chaos. (El Hunt) Listen: ‘Gout! Gang! Go‘ 72 diymag.com
GOD DAMN Vultures (One Little Indian)
From start to finish, ‘Vultures’ is a relentless storm. Lead single ‘Where the Wind Blows’ growls and snarls with enough power to run the national grid. It’s the kind of glass-smashing riot of a gig that should be censored. They might pose as head-thrusting creatures of the stage, but don’t let that fool you. Underneath the muscles, this band are literate and heartfelt poets. Free from the fads and the trends of the moment, God Damn are aiming just to write the songs, without bothering to think what genre it has to be. It might not be leading a rock revolution, but you can bet – when their peers hear this – they won’t be the only ones shouting ‘God Damn!’. (Andrew Backhouse) Listen: ‘Where The Wind Blows’
HOP ALONG Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)
Hop Along’s singer Frances Quinlan just has one of those voices. Burring and catching at the edges like a bit of paper blocking a bass amp, and charged with Philly-flavoured drawl, it’s raw and unmistakable on record. Potent, it has always formed the centre - and at times the main over-ruling draw - of Hop Along. On ‘Painted Shut,’ though, the band seem to truly find the footfalls of their musical stride, too, and they’re armed with a balloon full of effortless aplomb from start to finish. Batshit crazy guitar solos curl outwards at every turn, and the journey that the record takes is wonderfully unpredictable. If this outstanding record doesn’t wake everyone else up, nothing will. (El Hunt) Listen: ‘Waitress’
FIGHT LIKE APES
Fight Like Apes (Alcopop!)
From the opening bounce of ‘I Am Not A Merryman’, all hopping synths and joyful adventure, Fight Like Apes’ selftitled third album takes you away to a land of multi-coloured glee and decorated discovery. The arcade introduction is a gentle one, rolling backdrops and captivating welcomes holding your hand before the Irish four-piece confidently bound onto the next level. The gunshot drop at the start of ‘Crouching Bees’ starts the band down a path taking in shimmering excess, traversed obstacles and heartfelt narration. It’s an album that can’t help but twinkle. (Ali Shutler) Listen: ‘Pop Itch’
eeee HOT CHIP
Why Make Sense? (Domino)
The most striking thing on the first listen to ‘Why Make Sense?’ is what’s not there. This is not an album overloaded with layers of sound. It’s not an album of dancefloor bangers or songs about monkeys with miniature cymbals. ‘Why Make Sense?’ is a stripped back affair, an album of emotionally intelligent, lithe, pared-back R&B. That means initially it can feel a little flat. But the one thing Hot Chip could never be accused of is not overloading their albums with great ideas - and this is a record chock full of them. So, hey presto, after a few spins it reveals itself to be everything you could want from a grown-up Hot Chip. Joe Goddard has said “This is our take on R&B” and there’s that feeling throughout. At times it feels like a re-imagined version of Scritti Politti – that same funk, that same intelligence and sincerity. It just demonstrates that Hot Chip don’t really fit in anywhere. They’ve created their own universe. There’s a line on ‘Started Right’ where Alexis sings “you make my heart feel like it’s my brain,” which sums up what they do. This is the sound of a band still exploring after 15 years, of working out what they want to sound like, where to go next and, most importantly, having a lot of fun doing it. (Danny Wright) Listen: ‘Started Right’
A record chock full of great ideas.
eee SURFER BLOOD
1000 Palms (Fierce Panda Records)
Having made the switch from major label to indie, Surfer Blood’s chilled-out fuzzy-pop hasn’t really changed that much – but they’re clearly keen for you to think it has. Third album ‘1000 Palms’ isn’t completely cohesive, with the tracklisting seemingly random and changes between songs less than seamless. Second track ‘Island’ would have made a better opener, for instance, than the cliché-ridden ‘Grand Inquisitor’. But each song has its appeal, and the rough and ready layout kind of matches the DIY recording process. A wake-up slap might’ve injected more life, but as it is, it’s another collection of cheerful indie-pop. (Coral Williamson) Listen: ‘Feast/Famine’
eeee TOTAL BABES Heydays (Wichita)
Glistening with barbed hooks hidden under scuzzy exuberance and the occasional saxophone-led breakdown, courtesy of Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi, ‘Heydays’’ eight tracks may toe the line between album and EP but in terms of distance covered, the record is a full-length adventure. ‘Blurred Time’ is the chattering shot that gets things underway but it’s the title track that sets the pace, lashing together vocal cries and heady instrumentals. ‘Heydays’ manages to craft a new path from a well-travelled landscape. (Ali Shutler) Listen: ‘Heydays’
Buying those original Backstreet Boys outfits off eBay had seemed like such a good idea at the time... 73
eeee NAI HARVEST Hairball (Topshelf
Mad Sounds Nai Harvest share their recent listening.
Ty Segall - Horn the Unicorn One of the more underrated but we think best Ty Segall records out there. It sounds so dirty, like it’s been recorded inside a beer can or something, which is very cool! There are some killer guitar parts and weird drum beats too.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Damn the Torpedoes We love dad music, and Tom Petty is great for long drives. It’s so simple and so poppy how can you not love it!
Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over the Sea This album is pretty much perfect in our eyes. The lyrics were a huge inspiration on ‘Hairball’, because of how odd and obscure they are (Jeff Mangum is a genius).
Reinvention is part and parcel of the Nai Harvest ethos, their kaleidoscopic approach to music revealing a new side with each and every release. With second full-length ‘Hairball’, they’ve gone full on bombastic - opener ‘Spin’ is Glastonbury headliner material, barrelling into view with the kind of arms-aloft euphoria lifted straight from a midsummer’s evening. The woozy, lovelorn ballads of the Sheffield duo’s last incarnation have been replaced with a vicious snarl, vocalist Ben Thompson’s vocal chords sounding ripped straight from the throat of Liam Gallagher had he been raised on a diet of Relentless and imported American cereals; it’s a transformation that sees last summer’s ‘Buttercups’ dusted off and sharpened up. ‘Hairball’ succeeds in adding another golden string to Nai Harvest’s ever-expanding bow. They are tighter knit than ever before. (Tom Connick) Listen: ‘Melanie’
eeee DJANGO DJANGO
Born Under Saturn
Since Django Django’s self-titled debut, we’ve had to wait a burning three years for their return. Before their debut emerged, the band never attracted the all-consuming sandstorm of hype their music demands. But if you were worried that Mercury Prize nomination had gone to their heads – that they’d sold out for an easier ride - you couldn’t be more wrong. Django Django aren’t a band to dumb down; we’re still running to keep up. It may have been three years, but there’s no apologetic, mild-mannered interlude to ease you back in - and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Never mind the eclipse – crowds will gaze up in wonder at Django Django. (Andrew Backhouse) Listen: ‘Giant’
Nai Harvest are tighter knit than ever before.
An album that shimmers in the sunshine.
CEREMONY The L-Shaped Man (Matador Records)
Ceremony take their name from the Joy Division song, and ‘The L-Shaped Man’ is the closest the band have come to paying a full-on homage to Ian Curtis’ lot. From moody piano opener ‘Hibernation’ all the way to bleak album closer ‘The Understanding’, Ceremony have rediscovered their melancholy and are channeling it through their heroes. They might not have returned to their hardcore roots, but Ceremony are back on track. (Tom Walters) Listen: ‘Bleeder’
OTHER LIVES Rituals (Play It Again Sam)
There’s no doubt Other Lives are, as they say, ‘musicians of the accomplished kind’; there’s an attention to detail throughout ‘Rituals’ that would put even the most dedicated studioheads to shame. But while it’s easy to get lost in the intricacies of the record, it’s hard to fall for it – bar the folksy ‘English Summer’ and melancholic ‘Easy Way Out’, the songs themselves largely drift by without too much of note. (Emma Swann) Listen: ‘Easy Way Out’
A GRAVE WITH NO NAME
Feathers Wet, Under the Moon
BEST COAST California Nights (Virgin EMI)
Ever since the sun-drenched guitars of debut ‘Crazy For You’, Best Coast have continued to make a name for themselves as the queen and king of lo-fi surf-pop. Their newest record isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but those familiar scuzzy guitars feel just as satisfying as ever. While their previous effort, ‘The Only Place’ saw them veering closer to the more country-tinged aspects of their influences, their third full-length sees the duo make a return to the more driven sound of their debut. There’s something bolder about ‘California Nights’; within the confidence of Bethany Cosentino’s vocals and the brightness of the instrumentation, this is an album that feels to shimmer in the sunshine, and come alive in the darkness. Tracks like ‘Feeling Ok’, ‘Fine Without You’ and ‘So Unaware’ all shine with that quintessential Best Coast sound. Even within her lyrics the vocalist has reached a new high; while her previous tracks would bear much darker undercurrents, this set of songs seems to have a theme of self-acceptance running throughout. Have no fear: there are still some of those lazy, fuzzed up moments – ‘Jealousy’ stands out best – but they come juxtaposed with the heady, psychedelic murmurs A frootiful return: of the album’s title track; showcasing just a taste of the new territory that they have Marina and the the potential to tread. (Sarah Jamieson) Listen: ‘Fine Without You’ Diamonds.
2013’s ‘Whirlpool’ was a step away from Alex Shields’ past home-recordings, but ‘Feathers Wet...’ is literally thousands of miles away. Recorded in Nashville, it marks a new era for A Grave With No Name. The instrumentation really shines: every melody is bursting with character. Every interlude, every flicker of violin and wail of feedback it’s all there for a reason: to tell a story. (Kris Lavin) Listen: ‘Orion’
MY MORNING JACKET The Waterfall (ATO Records)
It’s evident a primary influence of ‘The Waterfall’ is the location in which MMJ recorded. Settling themselves in the idyllic Stinson Beach in California, they retain a calm and unhurried quality throughout, one not unfamiliar within their catalogue. While it perhaps won’t warrant an influx of new listeners, ‘The Waterfall’ is an inviting record that will leave returning fans thankful for them not disappearing. (Ross Jones) Listen: ‘Like A River’
eeee THE VACCINES
English Graffiti (Columbia Records)
from the past few months
While their first two albums saw them embark on a steep upward curve that culminated in a Number One record; with their 2013 ‘Melody Calling’ EP, The Vaccines stepped firmly into critically acclaimed territory. Something changed. ‘English Graffiti’ isn’t ‘Melody Calling’ in album form: it’s far more diverse than that. The Vaccines still know how to write a direct hit - ‘Handsome’, with it’s opening “oh God oh God oh God” panic attack, is still an indie-tastic thrash - but they’ve got other gears too. ‘Gimme A Sign’ is the real revelation. Starting like a triumphant take on Justin Timberlake’s ‘Mirrors’, before dropping down to acoustic heartbreaker, then back up to stadium sized, arms aloft, goose-bump inducing chorus - this is a band able to play pop magpies of the highest grade. From now on, we’ll expect only the best from The Vaccines. (Stephen Ackroyd) Listen: ‘Gimme A Sign’
Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love “‘No Cities To Love’ could be Sleater-Kinney’s finest work to date: there’s not an ounce of flab.” (Stephen Ackroyd)
Laura Marling - Short Movie “Wonderfully unlike anything Marling has attempted before.” (El Hunt)
eeeee METZ II (sub pop)
As Canadian trio Metz return for round 2, the most pressing question for the group might be how can they possibly pack a bigger punch than their furious debut? The answer lies not in their power, but in their control. From the raucous flurry of their self titled debut, ‘II’ differs in being a direct gut-punching affair. It’s immediate, but leaves no doubt that however many times it strikes it’s going to be leaving the same mark. As album introductions go, ‘Acetate’ is terrifyingly effective. It’s immaculate in execution, but the album bursts with unconventional hooks, from the woozy repetition of ‘IOU’ to the manic fury of ‘Nervous System’. ‘II’ is an advert to be a whole new generation’s Sonic Youth or Nirvana. On this performance, you’d be foolish not to buy in. (Matt Davies) Listen: ‘IOU’
Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit “This is a debut like few others: beyond bonzer, mate.” (Jamie Milton)
‘Land’ opens with the gentle eastern melodies of ‘Follow’, launching the template of motorik rhythms, crystallised harmonies, and melodious tanpura that shape the rest of the journey. The album is a convincing introduction to Novella’s practice of bringing together past and otherworldly sounds into the present. It’s kraut-rock for psych lovers, head music that marries an array of cultures and genres to create a colourful web of sound. If Novella’s intentions were to capture a new audience, then ‘Land’ will hopefully result in a wider listenership. No doubt it will prove to be one of the year’s most understated releases. (Sean Stanley) Listen: ‘Something Must Change’
AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR Heirs (Sargent House)
eeee BRANDON FLOWERS
The Desired Effect
After over a decade of releasing music, it’d be easy enough to assume you’ve got Brandon Flowers pegged. Yet, it only takes the first few seconds of his latest album’s opener to unravel any preconceptions. ‘The Desired Effect’ is everything you wouldn’t expect and more. From the opening brass section of ‘Dreams Come True’, it heralds a bombastic return, introducing his latest solo effort with an explosion of ridiculousness. Melodramatic drums reign supreme while 80s synths echo, and backing vocals blend themselves into spine-tingly layered choruses. It’s a little bit Eurythmics, a little bit Footloose and then a bit of everything in between. Here is Brandon Flowers being potent and playful, funky yet flourishing. Granted, his new record comes with quite a supporting cast: pop master supreme Ariel Rechtshaid is at the production helm, and the record features appearances from Danielle Haim, Ronnie Vannucci Jr., Bruce Hornsby and Tony Levin. Yet, one thing remains undisputed: Brandon is still very much the star of this show. (Sarah Jamieson) Listen: ‘Dreams Come True’
ASIWYFA remain an impressive live prospect - truly one of the scene’s finest - but on record they increasingly come across as painfully self-celebratory, relishing solely in their technical prowess and ability to bludgeon, rather than connect. Fretboard noodling far outweighs any emotional or intellectual potency, and ‘Heirs’ continues to leave ASIWYFA stuck between a rock solid live show and a hard-to-place recorded direction. (Tom Connick) Listen: ‘Heirs’
FAITH NO MORE Sol Invictus (Reclamation Recordings / Ipecac Recordings)
Mike Patton and co. seem hellbent on reversing their sidestep into reunion ennui with ‘Sol Invictus’, Faith No More’s first studio album in 18 years. Unfortunately this is a record that sounds less like the work of a band celebrated for its unhinged sardonic wit and more like that of an act desperate to cling on to relevance. It’s incredibly hard to believe that FNM would be anything other than disappointed with an effort so toothless. (Jack Pudwell) Listen: ‘Superhero’
DU BLONDE Welcome Back To Milk (Mute)
Du Blonde is, we’re told, a “new incarnation” for British singersongwriter Beth Jeans Houghton, and while the sounds are a little gnarlier, a tad more beefed-up, her vocals are so distinctive it’s impossible to separate ‘Welcome Back To Milk’ from what came before. Her eccentricity and give-no-fucks attitude is a joy to listen to, and her singular vision so strong that Samuel T. Herring’s guest vocals on ‘Mind Is On My Mind’ jar a little at first. (Emma Swann) Listen: ‘Mr Hyde’
Saturn’s Pattern (Parlophone
Paul Weller’s twelfth studio effort sees the ‘Modfather’ come out fighting with a strong nine track album that dabbles in bluesy guitar and space-age synth. While the celestial effects sometimes make it feel like the soundtrack to Lost In Space, you can clearly hear Weller is writing and creating music confidently once again. (Kate Lismore) Listen: ‘Pick It Up’ 77
live COURTNEY BARNETT Electric Ballroom, london Photo: Emma Swann
ften Courtney Barnett’s presence is described as shy and introverted - bordering on awkward, even. Really, though, she’s the kind of artist who gets totally, completely, lost in her music. She performs as if, by some feat of haphazard teleportation, she’s been whisked away from playing songs in her bedroom and unexpectedly ended up on a stage. Bravado-riddled stage patter isn’t Barnett’s forte, admittedly, but the moment she closes her eyes and lets loose her breathless tirades of colliding syllables - jumping from taxidermy kangaroos to extended studies of off-white wallpaper in pauseless flashes - she’s an unstoppable live force. Varying the pace interchangeably between ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit’ stand-outs and older songs like ‘Canned Tomatoes (Whole)’ and ‘History Eraser,’ Barnett’s forever tinkering with her songs on-stage, to electrifying effect. The riffs of ‘Pedestrian At Best‘ tumble over one another at clattering, rampaging, speed, but Barnett’s meticulously in control of her own runaway train . By the end, the chorus “put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you,” comes out as a series of “bleargh” noises, thrown breathlessly in the vague direction of the microphone. All of Barnett’s wit shines tonight. “This one’s amazing,” she says, on an unburstable high towards the end of her set, “it’s a cover of a band called Courtney Barnett.” Playing about with her vocal delivery, but keeping a keen eye trained on her bandmates, Barnett’s not bothered about record-perfect renditions as much as she is playfulness. Tonight proves that she’s storming in cruise control down the one-way round to all-out success. (El Hunt)
Electrowerkz, London Photo: Emma Swann
t exactly half-past nine, Austin Williams – indie hero, fashion eccentric and frontman of Swim Deep – glides onto the stage, and introduces the opening track with: “This one’s a little bit weird”.
lighting, the otherworldly synths; and the fact that a band who were all about three-chord tunes and not caring about knowing how to play bass are suddenly churning out massive, post-apocalyptic jams.
And bloody weird it is. Out are the sugary hooks and slacker vibes. In? Insanely dense krautrock-inspired instrumentation, a whiff of Berlin at night, a hugely extended running time, darkwave synths and a monomaniacally repeated motif of ‘THE HOUSE OF FUN’.
Yet, as Ridley Scott would appreciate, it may be alien; but that sure don’t stop it from being bloody incredible. Most of the time, everything is expansive and jaw-droppingly rich. Swim Deep have put their bollocks on the line to create a pretty incredible new sound; even if it is just a little bit weird. (Kyle MacNeill)
Almost everything seems alien; the Martian
Village Underground, London Photo: Abi Dainton
eeping her cards close to her chest at first, Shura kicks things off with two brand new songs; ‘Figure Stuff Out’ and ‘Kids n’ Stuff’. They’re far murkier affairs than the sharp climbing synth-lines of ‘Touch’, or the punchy early-Madonna undercurrent of ‘Indecision’. Instead they serve as little experimental previews of which direction Shura could swerve in next, and her set is a playful, relaxed one. Later on there’s even an unexpected, but euphoric re-imagining of ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ by 80s new wavers Fine Young Cannibals. There’s a lot of road-testing going on tonight, and by-and-large Shura finds her feet, with final song ‘White Light’ reaching the spiralling heights of carefully tensioned heartbreak on the dancefloor. Though sluggish sound in the venue slightly hinders ‘Touch’, ‘Indecision’ and ‘Just Once’, they still sound pretty stupendous anyway,
and the whole room bawls itself hoarse in response. Whether her music induces the mass-snogging across the venue tonight, or teary-eyed listening sessions in dark bedrooms, Shura has the most important ingredient of all, and it’s one that you can’t buy in the corner shop. She’s got a knack for connection. When people listen to her music, it hits them right in the emotional schnozzle. It’s easy to forget that, despite the joyful pop immediacy of her massive singles, Shura’s output so far is coloured, lyrically, by sadness, lost love and near-misses, and her honesty does something special. Fast becoming a master of the delicious melancholy, and in the middle of writing her debut album, tonight confirms that whatever Shura does, and wherever her experiments take her next, she’s one of the most exciting new names in pop. (El Hunt) 79
ROUNDHOUSE, London Photo: EMMA SWANN
s returns go, there’s very little on earth that can pack more impact per square metre than Corin Tucker’s unhinged vibrato, Carrie Brownstein’s unparalleled command of the fret-boards, and Janet Weiss’ pounding war drums in potent combination. On record Sleater-Kinney’s musical chemistry is tangible enough, but live it morphs into an altogether different beast. Tonight’s setlist is something of a whistle-stop tour, which only adds to the celebratory atmosphere. Hopping nimbly from the marching pulse of ‘One Beat’ to the sardonic spokenword of ‘Get Up’ from 1999‘s ‘The Hot Rock’, and then right back again to the mischievous descending scales of ‘Fangless’ - from the band’s newest record ‘No Cities To Love’ - SleaterKinney are having a ball, and the room is at fever pitch by the closing song. Stalking towards each other and teasing notes, visibly grinning, Tucker, Brownstein and Weiss finish up with ‘Jumpers’. Soon enough the stamping crowds bring them back out onto the stage.”We know things have changed but things haven’t changed enough,” says Corin Tucker to a hushed room. “So we say: give me respect, give me equality, give me love!” she shouts, with a fist-punch, and it’s time for The Roundhouse to erupt to ‘Gimme Love’. Tucker dramatically crumples to the floor, and Brownstein’s kicks become more frenzied and theatrical; it’s as if Sleater-Kinney live off the energy of their audience. Penultimate song ‘Modern Girl’ enduces a swaying trance, and then just as suddenly ‘Dig Me Out’ breaknecks the night to a triumphant close. Exhume your idols; SleaterKinney are back. (El Hunt) 80 diymag.com
The Lexington, London Photo: Carolina Faruolo
s soon as Fred Macpherson opens with the words “heaven let me down”, it’s clear that like a good wine, Spector’s sound and vaesthetic has deepened and matured since their 2012 debut. This very opener, ‘Lately It’s You (Moth Boys)’ screams change just as loudly as the assembled squabble at The Lexington screams their love. It centres around a weird alien-vocal sound gained from an effects microphone and a load of wave-pads that lasso a couple of eyebrows and raise them right up. The same happens with the funk-spunk of ‘Cocktail Party’, with both the far poppier sound and Macpherson’s request for an E-Cigarette, showing how times have changed for both the band and the world around them. With two keyboards featuring in most of the new songs, their sound is more expansive, 80s-inspired and experimental. Most of the time, however, the biggest reaction is reserved for the older material: none more so than when the frontman breaks into a smile at the line: “there’s still a Chevy in the parking lot outside.” It’s a pretty fitting image; fitted out with some new kit and a fresh tank of gas, it’s full speed ahead with neon-lit roads and New Romantic bangers. (Kyle MacNeill)
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INDIE DREAMBOAT Of the Month
SS, HOOKWORMS Full name: Sam Shjipstone Do you have any nicknames? ‘N’. Anything to be the centre of attention. Star sign: Aries. Do you have any pets? None, but I love to ‘share’ the neighbours’ cats. Favourite film: Paris Is Burning? Tricky. Favourite food: Japanese, Mexican, vegan. Drink of choice: Maximum foliage. I want to invent the ‘peacocktail’. Favourite scent: The herbaceous notes of the basil plant. Favourite hair product: I have about twenty. It’s my hobby to buy a new one and not like it. Song you’d play to woo someone: Sweet Female Attitude - ‘Flowers’. If everything is okay after that, everything’s okay. If you weren’t a pop star, what would you be doing now? Doing some other band, playing for a bag of crisps. Chatup line of choice: Hey, I was Indie Dreamboat of the Month.
DIY 82 diymag.com
Featuring Mumford and Sons, Brandon Flowers, Alabama Shakes, Django Django, Blur, Shamir, Palma Violets and loads more.