DIY, May 2024

Page 1

+ A.G. Cook Yannis Philippakis Wasia Project

The Mysterines and more

the limit



is reaching for the stratosphere



Emma Swann


Sarah Jamieson


Lisa Wright


Daisy Carter


Corinne Cumming


Emma Swann, except p. 46-49 by Cere Ebanks.


Alex Rigotti, Ben Tipple, Brad Sked, Chris Taylor, Cordelia Lam, Corinne Cumming, Ed Miles, Emily Savage, Eva Pentel, Jack Butler-Terry, James Hickey, Joe Goggins, Kate Brayden, Kyle Roczniak, Louis Griffin, Marianne Eloise, Max Pilley, Otis Robinson, Sarah Taylor, Sophie Flint Vásquez, Tom Damsell, Tom Morgan.

now. 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. 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 DIY 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. DIY

It may only be six years since Rachel Chinouriri first emerged with her debut single ‘So My Darling’, but the singer has already proven herself to be a true creative force within the UK music scene. Now, as she releases her hugely-anticipated debut ‘What A Devastating Turn Of Events’ - an intensely personal examination of her upbringing, family, and current place in the world - we’re thrilled to join the singer on a tour of her hometown haunts and signposts of her youth, as we welcome her to the cover for the first time.

Elsewhere, we’re ushered into A. G. Cook’s bonkers reimagining of ‘Britpop’, we delve into the darkness of The Mysterines’ forthcoming new album, and talk the personal and political with BIG SPECIAL. Plus, we get the deets on the new project from Foals’ Yannis Philippakis, and try to wrangle Fat Dog into telling us how their debut album might actually sound - a task that’s easier said than done. For all that (and even more!), just flick the page and dive in…

Sarah Jamieson, Managing Editor

LISTEN ALONG! Scan the code to listen to our May playlist
FOR DIY EDITORIAL FOR DIY SALES NEU 20 Kenya Grace 22 Cardinals 23 Recommended 24 Sans Soucis 27 NEU Live REVIEWS 50 Albums 60 EPs, etc 62 Live CONTENTS FEATURES 28 Rachel Chinouriri 36 The Mysterines 44 BIG SPECIAL 46 A. G. Cook 40 Wasia Project NEWS 4 Yannis & The Yaw 8 SOFT PLAY 10 Fat Dog 12 Conan Gray 16 Festivals EDITOR’S LETTER MAY 2024


“The EP was inspired by Paris and the idea of peril and discontent; that society is fractured and how you see that more and more everyday.”



or the best part of a decade, Yannis Philippakis has been quietly nurturing what he describes as “a secret harbour to put your ship in when it’s stormy outside”. A collaborative project that began back in 2016 when a mutual friend introduced the Foals frontman to legendary drummer and Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen, the fruits of their mutual labours had been occasionally hinted at during interviews since, but never made manifest. Then, Allen passed away in 2020 at the age of 79. It seemed, to the curious outsider, as though that particular ship may have departed the harbour for good. However, for Yannis, the opposite reaction occurred.

“[Tony and I] had conversations in the past about how exciting it would feel when we released it, and now sadly he’s not here for that, but that’s also one of the things that pushed me to get it out,” he begins. “Covid had frustrated us, and other projects had slowed it down. But there was a feeling that –even though Tony was 77 by that point – he was so youthful that he was gonna be around forever; that we could finish that track later. After he passed away I was talking to [other collaborators] the Vincents, who were my window to him, and we felt compelled to complete it.”

When Yannis sits down with DIY about the project, he’s still days away from its launch. Soon, the propulsive groove and intricate, Afrobeat-indebted interplay of debut track ‘Walk Through Fire’ will announce Yannis & The Yaw to the world, but for now he’s enjoying having the information still tucked up his sleeves. A world away from nearly 20 years of being “at the coalface” with Foals, the whole ethos of The Yaw – named after a spinning, shifting axis that reflects the malleable nature of the project – is of liberated creativity, without the need to think about, as he puts it, “shifting units”. This first EP is centred around his partnership with Allen, and as such is titled ‘Lagos, Paris, London’. Future releases, he anticipates, could have a trio of other coordinates, dependent on who was involved. “It might be like, ‘Berlin, Athens, Brisbane’. Hopefully not Brisbane…”

Finally completing his longin-the-making project with the late, great Tony Allen, ‘Lagos, Paris, London’ marks the first chapter for Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis’ new collaborative vehicle, Yannis & The Yaw.

Words: Lisa Wright. Photos: Ed Miles.

Initially, Yannis was meant to be one of a number of contemporary musicians including Kevin Parker and Christine and the Queens who’d been singled out to work with Allen for a floated album. But when he turned up at the studio, knackered from a long Foals tour but pushing through for the sake of working with a long-term musical hero, the chemistry began to click before they’d even finished setting up the room. “It transpired quite quickly that Tony didn’t know who I was at all, which was funny,” Yannis chuckles. “He was sat there, quite meditative, with a cloud of smoke around him. Then I started playing that first riff from ‘Walk Through Fire’ as a way of soundchecking and, before I knew it, he was in. For me, it was such an electric feeling, having always heard him through a speaker where he felt remote and out of reach, for him to then be within a riff that I was playing. We bonded very quickly after that.”

From there came the EP’s second track ‘Rain Can’t Reach Us’ – a string-bolstered, slow-building epic –that pushed the pair into more unchartered waters.


“‘Walk Through Fire’ is nearer to some of the things he’d done before, whereas ‘Rain Can’t Reach Us’ is quite different and he was excited by that – that it was more intense and had a harder energy to it,” Yannis explains. Laying down three songs in two days, the session began to take on a life of its own outside of its original intentions, and over snatches of time throughout months and years it became their own body of work.

Since 2008 debut ‘Antidotes’, Yannis and Foals have long stated the influence of Allen, Fela Kuti (who he drummed for), and Afrobeat as a whole. Allen himself, meanwhile, was a keen collaborator later in life – playing drums for The Good, The Bad and the Queen alongside stints with other Damon Albarn projects, and working variously with everyone from Danny Brown to Charlotte Gainsbourg to Jarvis Cocker. “He had this wisdom to him but also he was super fun and quite naughty; he had a wicked sense of humour and he’d drink quite a bit and smoke a lot of weed,” recalls Yannis. “I felt like I could take a few leaves out of his book in terms of being able to make music for that long whilst still retaining a sense of lightness.”

As well as providing a studio buddy with an appetite for fun to rival his own (EP track ‘Under The Strikes’, Yannis notes, was recorded “after a fair amount of whiskey, which you can probably tell by the playing as well because it was very free indeed…”), Allen also pushed the frontman to tap into the new surroundings he found himself in, and write lyrically about the city itself. “He has a history of political songwriting and he encouraged me to write more about what was going on in the streets, and for it not to be an introverted process. It was inspired by Paris and the idea of peril and discontent; that society is fractured and how you see that more and more everyday.

“We talked about Brexit and the feeling that there’s a general lack of optimism within the West. He’d lived in Paris for a long time and he was speaking about how it used to be this free place, [whereas now] there’s a general sense of society fraying,” he continues. “I was reading a book recently called End Times that says that every society has a peak, and when you pass the peak, instability increases, general optimism reduces, it even manifests physically in that people’s biology slightly changes. Those things feel quite pertinent at the moment. It feels darker, like there’s this wall of unsolvable issues. Things used to work; there was an expected efficiency that things should work and those things don’t seem to work anymore. The energy crisis, getting whacked for enormous bills seems, on a basic level, very unfair and incomprehensible. It’s like a Tetris to the bottom.”

It may be a world-weary eye that casts its gaze out from the lyrical world of the EP, with the aforementioned ‘Under The Strikes’ directly referencing the “mounds of trash” that piled up in the Parisian streets as workers downed tools. But the

very essence of ‘Lagos, Paris, London’ is one fuelled by unity, kinship and all the good stuff: a project that spans countries and generations, finding magic in the things that bind rather than divide.

Though The Yaw has Yannis’ name at the start of it, it is most distinctly not his break away as a solo artist. “I would like to do a solo record at some point, but I imagine it would probably be more insular and melancholic,” he suggests. “I want to write quite a crushing record where the lyrics come first and foremost, and it’s poetic and bleak. That’s what I see the solo record looking like.” When he brings the EP to the stage for a trio of dates in Amsterdam, Paris and London this September, he’ll be joined by EP collaborator Vincent Taegar taking Allen’s place on drums, alongside a collection of as-yetunannounced others. The sets, he says, “will be jammed out, with some unreleased material and maybe a cover.”

That same month, meanwhile, The Other Place (an alternative retelling of Antigone, set in the

“Tony [Allen] had this wisdom to him, but also he was super fun and quite naughty.”

housing crisis) will open at the National Theatre, featuring music composed by Yannis – his second collaboration with director Alexander Zeldin. At some point during the year, he suspects Foals will probably get back in the writing room too. “We’re definitely going to do another record but we just don’t want to hurry,” he notes. “We need to find out what the spark is gonna be because we want to make a great record and you do that by being hungry for it instead of feeling like it’s your duty.”

Though it’s taken years for ‘Lagos, Paris, London’ to pull up its anchor and set sail into public waters, it arrives as a fittingly unified send off to an artist who changed the face of music globally, and prime ground for what’s to follow for Yannis and his new Yaw. “It being culturally diverse is exciting, and it being with Tony Allen sets the tone for that,” he concludes.

‘Lagos, Paris, London’ is out 30th August via Transgressive. DIY


A pair of tattooed, moshpit-starting punks with hearts of gold, Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent have always been about the duality. Back under fitting new moniker SOFT PLAY, with a new album that embraces both sides more than ever, ‘HEAVY JELLY’ might be 2024’s sweetest comeback. Words: Marianne Eloise. Photos: Ed Miles.

It took Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent a lot more than a name change to get the band back together, but it was an important piece of the puzzle. Formerly known as Slaves, the duo went on hiatus in 2019; having formed as a two-piece in Kent back in 2012, they’d made three studio albums together by the time they accepted that the name didn’t have the connotations they wanted associated with their band. And so, returning in December 2022, they announced their comeback as SOFT PLAY.

“We’re two quite soft people trying to make a heavy band, so [in the beginning] we felt like we needed that aggression and that cutting edge, and Slaves felt really in your face and harsh,” says guitarist Laurie today. “But as you mature, you realise you don’t need to prove anything. It was always gonna be hard to change our name, but I feel more like SOFT PLAY. I don’t associate with Slaves anymore.”

SOFT PLAY spoke to who they feel they are at their core, encapsulating the juxtaposition between the pair’s heavy sound and appearance, and their soft, gooey nature. That, and both of them are parents – they spend an awful lot of time in soft play areas. They call the decision the best thing they’ve ever done, but some fans were up in arms. When they posted on Instagram about the decision, explaining that they’d only ever intended Slaves to be a reference to the day-to-day grind of life, they expected people to be angry that it was too late. Instead, they got the opposite: “The other side came in and said we were woke babies,” laughs Laurie.

In response, the pair crafted last year’s single ‘Punk’s Dead’ – a tongue-in-cheek comeback featuring none other than Robbie Williams. “Soft Play, more like soft cunts,” sings Isaac, quoting their Instagram comments verbatim and poking fun at both themselves and the fans. “It’s like the Eight Mile final battle. Go in on yourself and say everything that needs to be said,” notes the vocalist and drummer of the decision to come out of the gate with the track. “What more can you say? Let’s clear the slate before we start again.” “The song is just bemusement,” Laurie adds, “and I think the way Isaac and I deal with stuff as a friendship is with humour when we’re in really hard situations.”

SOFT PLAY’s just-announced fourth album ‘HEAVY JELLY’ – due for release on 19th July – marks both their first album in six years and a wholehearted return to that trademark humour. There’s a track from the perspective of John Wick; one about Isaac’s compulsion to pick worms up off the floor and save them, and another about feeling insecure in the gym (recent single ‘Mirror Muscles’). “We’re

just having so much fun together that what other people think and how they react starts to feel less significant,” says Laurie. “That puts you in a really powerful position. If we’re making music that we think is funny and is striking a chord with us, then all of the interactions we’re getting outside of it are just a bonus.”

‘HEAVY JELLY’ is out 19th July via BMG. DIY

Read the full cover feature as part of DIY’s Festival Guide 2024 at softplay.

We’re just having so much fun together that what other people think and how they react starts to feel less significant.
– Laurie Vincent


“‘Why not?’ That’s probably the motto.” - Joe Love

Fat Dog

Ahead of September’s fittingly-titled debut album ‘WOOF.’, Fat Dog’s Joe Love and Chris Hughes give us a chaotic peek into their musical pound. Words: Lisa Wright.

Fat Dog’s frontman and core songwriter Joe Love has figured out the key to writing a hit. “It’s like problem-solving,” he muses, sitting in a Brixton pub garden on the first truly spring-like day of the year. “You’ve got something that’s shit and you’ve got to make it not shit.”

Deeply unflowery comments such as these are typical of both Love and keyboardist Chris Hughes – last seen on these pages with his face painted entirely gold for our Class of 2024 issue, and then sporting a monk’s cloak and conducting the crowd in a sideways crab dance during the subsequent issue launch show (“I wore the cloak in the studio when we were recording,” he notes. “It’s still in there actually, unless Wet Leg’s taken it, those mischievous imps!”). Where many hyped bands in their position are keen to capitalise on the momentum, Fat Dog are the opposite – so much so, in fact, that Hughes is convinced their label Domino are about to fit him with “a little electricity buzzer in his neck” to stop him saying stupid shit in interviews. “If I say the wrong thing it’ll go off. ‘He died of a stroke’,” he narrates by way of their future cover-up line. “I’m

telling you now: IT WAS NOT A STROKE. I’m the Julian Assange of trash music…”

South London’s most unlikely whistleblowers they may turn out to be, but Fat Dog have also been knuckling down – in their own, unique way – to the task in hand. Forthcoming debut album ‘WOOF.’, set for release on 6th September, was co-produced by James Ford, with the band sandwiched between Blur and Pet Shop Boys amidst his storied recent roster. For his part, Love describes going so deep into the recording process that he made himself ill. “At the end, I actually started getting heart tremors. Something went a bit funny,” he shudders. “That’s when I gave up.”

Though the band aren’t ones to toot their own horns (“You don’t wanna make a great album on your first one,” shrugs the frontman), Love’s almost ruinous dedication to the cause shows they really do care – not about the traditional industry markers of success per se, but about making the best version they can of their particular strand of musical fever dream. Hughes jokes that his bandmate used to be a relentless taskmaster in the vein of “that fucking bald guy from Whiplash”, while the making of ‘WOOF.’ was only completed because, after months of

“If we win the Mercury Prize, we’re breaking up.” - Chris Hughes

endless fiddling, the powers that be forced Love to call it and hand something in.

Much like the giant hound towering over the dystopian city on its album sleeve, ‘WOOF.’ is set to sound both massive and unsurprisingly odd. The two band members describe it as a loose concept album of “like, end times, maaaan. Fucking heart of darkness, maaan”. Nestled within its electronicpunk-kletzmer-rave-whatever, meanwhile, are characters including David Feta-man: a late night talk show host with a head made out of feta cheese. “He’s an important character within the lore of the album,” Hughes nods sagely, bringing up the band’s new merch designs, featuring Love shaking hands with their dairy-based creation.

Elsewhere, they enlisted Dead Man’s Shoes actor Neil Bell to provide an ominous, spoken word introduction to the album on ‘Vigilante’, while new track ‘Wither’ features the line “Like a phoenix from the flame / Don’t hang your bald head in shame” – a moment that Love has taken to eulogising on stage by accosting unsuspecting hairless members of the crowd. “When you see someone with a hat it’s like, ‘Am I gonna risk it…?’” he chuckles. “I did it once at SXSW and he was bald underneath. I was so gassed. That was a gamble!”

There’s the deceptively euphoric ‘I am the King’, whose rallying sonics hide their “most grim” message of bleak self-deception so far, while, according to Hughes, ‘Clowns’ sounds like Kanye West. “The newest era – post anti-semitism,” he jokes. They might have gained a reputation as one of the most chaotic and wild live bands in recent memory, but both members are adamant that

Fat Dog aren’t actually as intense as they may seem. “People think it’s anger and I think it’s just confusion,” shrugs Love. “It’s like when you hit your head on a pole because you’re looking at your phone,” nods Hughes. “You can’t be angry at a lamppost.”

Yet though the band themselves might be happy cracking jokes and sending up the pseudoprofessional situation they’ve found themselves in, from last year’s sprawling, sensory overload of a debut ‘King of the Slugs’ onwards, Fat Dog have proven themselves truly unique sonic adventurers among the modern musical landscape. The polar opposite of following the algorithm, their ethos on ‘WOOF.’ was to sniff the trail down whatever wild avenues it led them. “‘Why not?’ That’s probably the motto,” nods Love.

Now, all that’s left is for the band to dream of what might follow… “The Mercury [Prize] always goes to the shittest thing. If we win the Mercury, we’re breaking up ‘cos the public has decided that we’re crap,” resolves Hughes. “Until we win it, and then we can say we’re the best band of all time,” Love caveats. Whichever way the dice rolls, when ‘WOOF.’ finally leaves Fat Dog’s kennel to bound out on its own, the musical world won’t know what’s hit it. ‘WOOF.’ is out 6th September via Domino. DIY

Pirate Studios is a community of 24hour spaces that spans over 700 studios worldwide – so whether you’re a producer, vocalist, DJ, band member, dancer or podcaster – they’ve got you covered.

What’s more, every month, we at DIY will be shining a light on just a few of the ace artists who grace their studios as Pirate Ambassadors. Check them out below.


Having frequented Pirate for a number of years now, Italian-born, London-based Sans Soucis has had a busy month: not only have they just announced details of their debut album ‘Circumnavigating Georgia’ – which is due out on Decca later this year – but they’ve also shared their newest single ‘Sexed & Sexual’, and announced a handful of UK and European headline shows too. Want to know more? Head to p24 to read our very own interview with the star!


Having been introduced to Pirate Studios while at a writing camp called She Runs The Boards last month, Ruti is one of the newer members of their community. Most recently, she shared her single ‘Don’t Make A Sound’, an ethereal yet purposeful and punchy number which acts as the perfect preview for her forthcoming EP ‘Lungs’, which is due out later this month.


Formed after an unlikely meeting in Wetherspoons almost a decade ago, East London’s genre-hopping duo Good Health Good Wealth released their most recent EP, ‘Everyone Feels Like This’ a little over a year ago now, and recently wrapped up a tour alongside Lock-In. What’s more, we have it on good authority that new music is on its way soon, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for more funky offerings.

Like the sound of what Pirate Studios do? Head over to now to book a studio and discover more.


DIY In Deep is our monthly, online-centric chance to dig into a longer profile on some of the most exciting artists in the world right now.

Throwing it back to the sounds of the ‘80s, Conan Gray’s third album is a musically exuberant curveball for the Gen Z icon.

Emotive yet excitable, it’s a huge stride into a new lane all of his own.

Words: Cordelia Lam.

Photos: Eva Pentel.


For Conan Gray, there’s nowhere better to be heartbroken than London. “The city is spread out, people don’t talk to you, it’s pretty lonely,” he shares. “You can just walk around, drink coffee and be miserable.” It’s this melancholy that makes the capital one of Gray’s favourite cities. For the Japanese-American singer-songwriter, known for brutally honest hits such as ‘Heather’ and ‘Maniac’, being able to luxuriate in the moodiness of a place is something he craves. “Oh, I love it,” he smiles. “I’m a sulker. I sulk.”

Feeling deeply and specifically has always been Gray’s starting point, with his emotionally resonant, heart-onsleeve songwriting cementing his place as one of his generation’s most beloved voices. From his first EP ‘Sunset Season’ in 2018, Gray introduced himself to the world as a precocious, observational songwriter, capturing adolescent anxiety and suburban isolation within the moody haze of bedroom pop. His sophomore album, 2022’s ‘Superache’, was a powerful monument to yearning; a project steeped in a great, beautiful sense of longing. On ‘People Watching’, he sang of wanting love from afar, of romance as an experience he desperately coveted but still hadn’t attained for himself:

“I wanna feel all that love and emotion / Be that attached to the person I’m holding / Someday I’ll be falling without caution / But for now I’m only people watching.”

Today, he’s preparing for the release of his third album, ‘Found Heaven’.

Completely unlike any of his past projects, it’s an immersive ode to ‘80s synth pop and new wave; a bombastic and neondrenched glam fest that sees Gray push himself sonically, vocally and artistically to unprecedented new heights. Songs like ‘Eye of the Night’ and ‘Fainted Love’ call to mind the rolling riffs and arena rock grandeur of Bon Jovi, whilst ‘Bourgeoisieses’ and ‘Boys & Girls’ play in the quirky robotisms of Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’. There’s a genuine depth to Gray’s embodiment of the ‘80s on this project, which pulsates with metallic vibrancy and technicolour maximalism.

“We have to find our own personal idea of heaven, rather than spend our lives trying to figure out how to get to someone else’s.

“It’s also kind of about religion, in an allegorical sense,” he continues. “It’s the realisation that you have to live by your own rules rather than someone else’s, otherwise you’ll waste your whole life. To me, that’s much scarier than dying.”

‘Found Heaven’ is therefore “a culmination of me discovering all of the best music ever made, [all] within the last few years,” Gray says. “It’s been so cool getting to discover all this cream-of-the-crop music in my adulthood, when I can really appreciate it. I get to approach these legendary artists almost like they’re new to me.” The heartache-fuelled ‘Alley Rose’, for example, was written whilst “thinking about Elton [John]”. A track penned as Gray forlornly wandered the streets of London, it finds him pouring that pain into careening, wailing vocals and melodies pounded into the piano, evoking the weighty catharsis of Elton’s most powerful ballads.

Gray fell in love for the first time last year, going from singing about love as an artistic subject from the outside looking in to finally owning that experience for himself.

“I’m super developed in certain ways, but also deeply underdeveloped in others,” he shares candidly. “Like, the fact that I’d never dated anyone until last year made me feel very different to

“ You have to follow the things in life that are going to make you the happiest, rather than what will avoid letting people down.”

apart.” That formative heartbreak became, partly, the driver behind his full-bodied indulgence in the music of a bygone era. “I felt so scared to exist in reality while I was going through all that,” he reflects. “I became obsessed with listening to old music. I don’t think I listened to anything that was made in 2023.

It’s a huge departure from his confessional indie pop origins. “To me, there were two ways to go about this third album,” he explains. “I could do exactly what’s expected of me. I’m not dumb – I know people want me to write sad little guitar songs. And I love those! Making that kind of music is so natural to me. But I knew I had to try something different that challenged me to be brave, and that’s why this album sounds so different. I do want people to know that this shift is an intentional one.”

Being brave became a call to action to Gray, who began wearing a signature star necklace every day that he worked on the album as a reminder of that mission. It became the attitude – a philosophy of sorts – behind the idea of ‘Found Heaven’. “You have to follow the things in life that are going to make you the happiest, rather than what will avoid letting people down,” Gray says.

“I kind of took that principle of being brave and ‘finding heaven’ and carried it on in my own life,” Gray adds.

“Falling in love is a very scary thing. I’m someone who will very much cut off all emotions for the sake of selfprotection. But in my more recent years, I’ve learned that that’s just such a fucking waste of life. You’ve got to let your heart get broken; you’ve got to be vulnerable. It’s the only way you can grow as a person. And so I definitely spent a good amount of last year in London, walking through the fog, headphones on, listening to Wolf Alice ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’,” he indulges, gamely. “Just walking around, drinking my coffee, being so sad. It was perfect.”

Read the full interview at

‘Found Heaven’ is out now via Island.

12 DIY
in deep
“I became obsessed with listening to old music. I don’t think I listened to anything that was made in 2023.”


Some of the biggest and best tracks from the last month.

MABEL Vitamins

Mabel’s signature strong vocals combine with a groovy bassline to drive this track - her first release in two years. Here, she uses the extended metaphor of health and wellness, likening herself to ‘Vitamins’ that enhance her partner’s life, particularly with its main hook - “Ginger and cinnamon, I’ll be good for you”. Its instrumental comes infused with vintage R&B tones and funk elements straight from Thundercat’s playbook, and underscored by some gorgeous backing vocals and a hint of sax. Sure to be a staple of any summer playlist with its easy-going melody and soothing harmonies, ‘Vitamins’ marks a bold return to the airwaves for Mabel. Sarah Taylor

Act Violently


Good Luck, Babe!

When SOFT PLAY crashed back onto the scene last summer, they promised to juxtapose their new moniker and produce their heaviest music yet (turn back to p8 to read more on that! - Ed). With ‘Act Violently’, the punk duo stay true to their word. It’s primal and urgent - each lyric spouted with the utmost venom, and each guitar line taut and scathing. And yet, it still manages to incorporate the band’s knack for a bit of tongue-in-cheek lyricism (“Isaac, mate do you want a cup of tea?”), and a Britpop-ish backing refrain. Sarah Taylor

FONTAINES DC Starburster

There are few bands from whom the promise of new music is met with such feverish anticipation as Grian et al, but even Fontaines’ self-imposed sky-high bar hadn’t prepared us for this. The first taste of their upcoming fourth album ‘ROMANCE’ (and their debut release on new label home, XL), ‘Starburster’ may as well be the 2024 dictionary definition of ‘earworm’. Preceded by a Shining-meets-Nickeloden teaser video (trust us, the channel is the spiritual home of green slime), the track arrives complete with hugely effective dynamic shifts, goosebump-inducing basslines, and inhalations so gloriously visceral that they’re tricky to translate into words. Already a cracking contender for the end-of-year-list podium. Daisy Carter

Having spent the past few months converting even more followers to her flamboyant cause - via her iconic turn on NPR’s Tiny Desk, a run of US dates opening for Olivia Rodrigo, and a lecture at Harvard University, obv - you’d be forgiven for thinking that Chappell Roan might be due a well-earned rest right about now. But to the contrary, the Midwest Princess is determined to carry on the party with her dreamy new release. Doused in ‘80s synths and Kate Bush-like harmonies - with a few spine-tingly high notes for good measure - ‘Good Luck, Babe!’, and its take on queer situationships, is another sparkling chef’s kiss offering from the pop connoisseur. Sarah Jamieson

ORLANDO WEEKS Dig ft. Rhian Teasdale

A surprising yet ultimately perfect collaboration with Wet Leg’s Rhian Teasdale, ‘Dig’ - the first track from Orlando’s forthcoming album ‘LOJA’ - feels lilting and atmospheric but with a noticeable punk-influenced bassline and backbeat. Finding a balance between emotional outpouring and delicate internal thoughts - while drawing influence from Weeks’ personal life, and a recent move to Lisbon, which the former Maccabees frontman says “provided a stirring of the waters” - Weeks and Teasdale trade witty, sprechgesang style half-spoke, half-sung lines across this delight of an offering.

Kyle Roczniak




Bands, bevs and brilliant times are ahead: festival season is officially upon us! Now, with the first dreary months of the year firmly in the past, we’re looking forward to a jam-packed summer of live music; after all, what better way is there to spend it?! This month, just to get ourselves warmed up, we’re sticking a little closer to home by heading to venues and parks across the UK…


15th – 18th May, Various venues, Brighton

The South Coast’s biggest new music festival, The Great Escape will once again be taking over the venues of Brighton this month, playing host to over 500 ace acts in the process. From old faves (in slightly new guises) like SOFT PLAY and Lauren Mayberry, through to buzzy new artists such as Picture Parlour, mary in the junkyard, Home Counties, Been Stellar, Human Interest and more, there’ll be loads of opportunities to discover your new favourite band.

Set to make her first visit to the festival is London songwriter gglum – aka Ella Smoker – who’ll be appearing on our stage on Friday 17th May. Ahead of her set, we caught up with Ella to get a little better acquainted, and hear more about her recentlyreleased debut ‘The Garden Dream’.



Hello Ella! You’ve just released your debut album ‘The Garden Dream’ – how does it feel to have it out in the world?

It’s such a relief to have it out. I’ve been holding on to it for ages so it feels like I can finally move forward onto what comes next. The response has been great too – I mean, I haven’t heard anyone say anything bad about it yet which must be a good sign?

Did you have a set idea of what you wanted to explore with the full-length, or a particular aim that you wanted to achieve?

The main thing I wanted was to create a project I’m proud of which I think I achieved. Sonically, I definitely wanted it to sit in its own magical little dream world because world-building in music is incredibly interesting and important to me. Lyrically, I just write whatever comes out of my head at that point. It’s more instinctive than purposeful.

You’ve described the album as “a kind of fever dream”; how were you initially drawn to this subject, and what was it like to try and tap into something that can feel so visceral but also so abstract?


25th May, Temple Newsam, Leeds

Is there anything better than a Bank Holiday boozeup down your local park? The only thing we reckon is if you bring a host of indie’s elite along for the fun too, which is exactly what Live at Leeds In The Park are doing at this year’s edition of the festival. Offering up a taste of nostalgia via headliners The Kooks, big-hitters like The Cribs, Future Islands and Declan McKenna will be taking to the stage alongside zingy new stars Caity Baser and Baby Queen. Plus, Corinne Bailey Rae will be airing her recent ‘Black Rainbows’ release in full, and Actual Spice Girl Melanie C is joining in the fun, too. What’s not to love?!

Having had a frankly bonkers 2023 inhabiting the fantastical world of FIZZ – the passion projectslash-supergroup of dodie, Greta Isaac, Martin Luke Brown, and herself – Orla Gartland is now throwing herself back into the world of the OG solo project. Ahead of her turn playing DIY’s very own stage at Live At Leeds: In The Park, we catch up with Orla about FIZZ, festie season, and what comes next.


Caity Baser

Orla Gartland

Somebody’s Child Matilda Mann Nieve Ella flowerovlove

Michael Aldag Cosmo Pyke


Friday 17th May

When I first started writing it, I didn’t have any big ideas about topics I wanted to discuss in the album. When I write it tends to be like a diary, I just talk about whatever I’m thinking about at the time. After we’d been writing for a few weeks [producer] Karma Kid said it seemed like I kept on writing and talking about the dreams I’d been having. I sort of accidentally started it without even realising so all I had to do was consciously tie it all together.

You’ve got a handful of shows and festivals coming up over the next few weeks including The Great Escape; how’re you feeling ahead of those?

I’m super looking forward to it!! I’ve been getting loads of fun new gear to use to transform the set a little. I’ve been waiting ages to be able to play these live so it’ll be great to let them see some sun.

16 DIY
Antony Szmierek gglum BIG SPECIAL Kaeto Mellt


Orla Gartland

It looks like it’s been a very busy twelve months for you – not least because you introduced the world to FIZZ. What was it like to work on a project with three of your best friends?

Learning to be in a band was a totally different experience for me! I feel like the whole thing was an absolute masterclass in communication. Coming out the other side of that campaign, my communication style in all areas of my life has been completely refined. Basically, I’m more blunt now. I think I have a tendency to be a little bit of a ‘no worries if not’ girly, which started to work against me as we navigated the band workload – I was padding everything with all this extra fluff. Whereas now, I’m really noticing that I’m just more explicit and to the point, which I’m really grateful for.

And props to the others – it’s amazing to me that we’ve come out the other side of it closer than ever. I’m so grateful for the experience; it was very wholesome.

Tell us about your year so far – have you been shifting out of FIZZ mode, and into OG Album Two mode?

Exactly! We did the FIZZ tour in February and March, then I jumped straight back into getting my album finished and mastered. I’ve just been learning to make my own decisions again; I’m so used to everything going to a vote or a discussion, there were a few times when I was signing off the new mixes where I’d go, ‘OK, this is good’ and look around to be like, ‘What do you guys think?’. Then I’d realise, ‘Oookay, it’s just me! Let’s do it!’ So it’s just been a case of getting out of the habit of that constant dialogue, but I’ve also really enjoyed the control – that’s something I probably took for granted before FIZZ.

You’re playing a handful of more intimate gigs in May before hitting a few festivals – including DIY’s own stage at Live at Leeds In The Park – this summer. How are you prepping for the return of the OG live show?

I did a huge rehearsal block a few days ago and I’ve got a new band member, which is very exciting! I’ve already rehearsed the second album, so I’ll probably play about five new songs at those underplay shows, as well as lots that people already know. I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years doing my solo shows, doing the FIZZ shows, and playing guitar for dodie, so I think all these experiences on stage have helped inform what I want my live show to be.

I just want to wear, like, a fucking cape while there’s a massive industrial fan in front of me – it’s going to be so indulgent. If not on stage, then when? You can lean into the character of yourself so much more on stage to just be, like, 30% funnier and louder and more refined. I love that in other people – I’m obsessed with Chappell Roan, like everyone else is at the moment – and she’s such a great example of someone who takes a character and amps it up to become almost like a caricature. So I’m hoping to do that in my own context – to just make the show the biggest, boldest version that it can be.

And that’s one of the best things about festivals – when you’re in the fields, anything goes!

100% – that idea of being the boldest version of yourself applies even more at festivals. We’ll be doing three headline shows that week, then Live At Leeds: In The Park, so the challenge of that definitely excites me. And I love a festival lineup that makes sense! I’m a huge Declan McKenna fan, for example, and I’ve always thought our music lives in adjacent worlds. So I can imagine if a Declan fan came to my set at Live At Leeds: In The Park and they didn’t know me, they’d still probably click with it.


25th May, Brockwell Park, London

Once again returning to the lush greenery of South London – just a stone’s throw from Brixton Windmill, ofc – this year’s celebration of alternative music is set to be another doozy, not least because of prolific psych titans King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard topping the bill. Elsewhere on the line-up are a slew of pioneering names like Young Fathers, Alice Glass and Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul, as well as a few DIY faves for good measure: Dry Cleaning, Fat Dog, BODEGA and Lynks will all be helping to get things a little bit lairy on the day.

Making a trip across the Atlantic with a brand new album in tow, NY band Crumb will also be joining in the fun. Ahead of their set, we caught up with the band’s singer Lila Ramani to chat about their soon-to-be-released third album ‘AMAMA’.



You’re getting ready to release your new album shortly; how’re you feeling ahead of its release? Are you excited to get it out into the world?

It feels really good to get it all out there – these are some of my favourite songs we’ve made.

The record’s being called your most carefree and openhearted to date. How did that come to happen? Was it a conscious decision going into making the record, or did it happen quite naturally?

Not a conscious decision, and maybe it’s harder to perceive from the outside, but I do feel like on the songwriting side, I poured a lot of my identity into this album – romantic love, family, and other stories from my world. The song ‘AMAMA’ maybe feels the most like this; it tells the story of me and my partner growing up in parallel a mile from each other and is threaded together by a sample of my grandmother singing.

Did you want to push yourself in any particular direction, sonically and lyrically, here?

Sonically, the album feels a bit less manicured and timid – it’s not afraid to lean into the weirder sides of our sound. It has a lot of moments of pause and quiet too which is refreshing, alongside the more explosive moments.

You’re returning to the UK for a couple of festivals in the next few weeks; how are you feeling ahead of those?

It’ll be sweet to play the album live for the first time in Europe, just days after we release the album – I don’t think we’ve ever toured immediately after a release like that.

You’re currently set to play at Wide Awake in South London; what can people expect from your set, and is there anyone else on the bill across the weekend you’ll be hoping to see?

We’ll be playing a lot of the new songs and also stuff from our whole catalogue. I don’t know a lot of the artists on the line-up so I’m excited to see some artists I know nothing about!


Ashnikko is set to play Lisbon’s NOS Alive (11th – 13th July) this summer. Other acts set to appear at the Portuguese weekender include Dua Lipa, Jessie Ware, Pearl Jam and Floating Points

Tom Morello and Altin Gün have been added to the lineup of this year’s EXIT (10th – 14th July). The Serbian event will once again take over the Petrovaradin Fortress, in Novi Sad, while its 2024 headliners include Black Eyed Peas and Gucci Mane

The 2024 programme has been announced for Montreux Jazz Festival (5th – 20th July), with the likes of RAYE , Massive Attack, The National, Kraftwerk, Smashing Pumpkins, Michael Kiwanuka and many more all set to perform during the Lake Geneva residency.

Janelle Monáe and AURORA are two of the latest acts to be added to the line-up of this year’s Flow (9th – 11th August). Other acts joining the bill at the Finnish event include Yves Tumor, Barry Can’t Swim and Vince Staples

From the Norwich-based multi-venue fest Wild Paths has sprung Wild Fields (16th –17th August); taking place this summer in Earlham Park, it’ll play host to the likes of Ezra Collective, Kae Tempest, Squid and more.

East London’s All Points East (17th August) has unveiled a whole host of support acts Loyle Carner’s headline day, including none other than OutKast legend André 3000, Lianne La Havas, and Lola Young

Live At Leeds In The (16th November) has announced the first wave of artists for its 2024 festival, English Teacher, Everything Everything, Lime Garden, Master Peace and Alfie


Every year, The Great Escape shines a spotlight on a different international country in order to celebrate its local artists, industry and musical landscapes, and at this month’s festival that focus will be on the exceptional talents of Spain. Led by emerging talent supporters The Spanish Wave, this year’s activities will include two showcases and panels, featuring eight artists from different corners of the rich country’s scene, including slick electronic singer Sila Lua, melodic pop star Depresión Sonora, former Anteros frontwoman Lala Hayden and more.

Here, we take a closer look at exactly what’s happening across the festival…


Born and raised on the Canary Island of Lanzarote, Eva Ruiz is a young singer with big ambitions.

Melding together her powerful vocals with R&B and soul sensibilities, she’s already been turning heads in her native country thanks to both her musical and acting skills (she stars in Amazon Prime’s Culpa Mia); with her first visit to The Great Escape this month, she hopes to connect with an even wider audience. Get to know her a little better now…

What’s your earliest musical memory?

I remember being in the living room very young with my diapers on and my grandma clapping me and singing flamenco. Music has always been very present in my life and in my family.

You grew up in Lanzarote; how do you think that’s shaped your musical upbringing? What is the musical scene like there?

I think that being from Lanzarote really defines who I am as an artist and as a person. I’ve always been in the middle of a lot of cultures and the simplicity of growing up here makes me see music with so many different colours and sounds. The Canary Islands has a huge music scene now and I believe it is because of this.

Which of your songs do you think you’re most proud of? Can you tell us a little about the song?

Every song is like a baby to me, even though I think that ‘Ahora Que Puedo’ might be one of the special ones, just because I waited almost ten years to put it out, waiting for the moment that felt right. I’ve always thought that song was so special and personal that it had to be that way. I wrote it in my room when I was 16, I had just moved to Madrid after my first heartbreak.

Not only do you make music, but you’re also an actress: what’s it like to juggle both careers and do you find that elements of your acting career help to inspire your music?

It’s really a blessing to be able to share my creativity in so many different things. For too long I’ve been focusing on one or two things and right now I’m enjoying the beautiful process of letting myself fly and discover new artistic things that I love. It’s very revealing to see all this happening around me but can be exhausting sometimes. All these artistic things are definitely connected and inspire me with all of it.

You’re currently working on your debut record. What’re you exploring within it? What have you been inspired by?

It’s been a beautiful process, I’m still finishing some of the songs and enjoying the process very much. My home, love, travelling and all the crazy experiences that I’ve gone through this past year are the core of the album. It’s gonna be very personal and connected to my roots, with sounds and visuals.

What should we expect from your appearance at The Great Escape?

What I love the most about performing is when I’m feeling that even if it’s a lot of people and an open space, it still feels personal, like I’m by myself with every single person, having that personal experience with everyone. It’s also my first time singing in the UK, so I’m very excited. I want people to have fun, I’m going there to open my heart and enjoy it the most. We all go there to forget about our problems together and have a beautiful time.

Eva Ruiz plays DUST on Thursday 16th May at 7.30pm.


Having first formed after meeting at London’s Institute of Contemporary Music and Performance back in 2019, raucous rock and roll outfit The Gulps have already ticked lots off their bucket list. Not only have they supported the likes of The Libertines, Suede and more, the legendary Alan McGee also manages the band, and they’re now gearing up to record their debut album. The band’s frontman Javier Sola tells us a little more about their career so far…

Who were some of the artists that inspired you when you were starting to make music and why?

UK artists were my inspiration. So many amazing artists came into my life, especially artists from the ‘60s like The Kinks, The Animals, and The Beatles, and punk bands from the ‘70s like Sex Pistols and The Clash. I grabbed a guitar, learned some of the songs from these bands, and when I felt confident I started to compose my own melodies and riffs. I thought: ‘one day, I wanna be playing in big stadiums like them’.

The band met at London’s Institute of Contemporary Music and Performance; what first drew you together as a group?

Me and Juan (guitar) knew each other from music school in Spain. Juan used to play French horn and I played piano but our real passion was rock music. From the first rehearsal we knew the connections were more than just a band, we were a fucking spaceship coming through London. Then at the same school we met Simon and Raoul but they don’t play with us anymore. There are so many memories and adventures at the


beginning of The Gulps but we would need to write you a book to tell you all these crazy moments!

You’ve recently recorded over in LA with Black Grape’s Danny Saber; how was that experience?

Danny Saber is a great producer and being in a gorgeous city like Los Angeles makes the experience even better. Danny has a particular way to produce from his garage, so we have quite a lot of free time to smoke some weed and get lost at the pubs on Sunset Boulevard. The songs have this LA touch, with some electronics involved. Musically or otherwise, what are you most looking forward to this year?

The Great Escape, of course; it’s the first time we are playing and we have been waiting so long for this opportunity. Our master plan is to go record our debut album later this year; the idea is to go to Youth Martin’s (Killing Joke, The Verve) studio in Spain. Also, we’ve got the legendary Mike Chapman (Blondie, Tina Turner) involved in the record, another top class producer. So let’s say 2024 is a year of reflection for the band: we are recharging our minds and souls and getting back our strength for an explosive 2025.

The Gulps play Horatio’s on Friday 17th May at 2.30pm.

The Spanish Wave would like to extend a big, warm thank you to the partners from the Spanish industry in the Spain Lead Country project in The Great Escape. These partners represent big part of the local industry, including: AIE, the artists and performers association; Fundación SGAE, the authors right foundation; Instituto Cervantes, the Spanish language institute who promote Spanish culture worldwide; British Council, for doing the same for British culture; promoters such as Mercury Wheels, Planet Events, Live Nation España, Houston Party, and Producciones Baltimore; the great people of Ticketmaster España; festivals including Madrid’s Mad Cool, Lanzarote’s Sonidos Líquidos, Tenerife’s Phe Festival, and Mallorca Live; media such as Radio 3 and Mondo Sonoro; and great record labels like Sonido Muchacho and Altafonte.


Having spent the better part of 35 years in the music industry in various different roles, César Andión is currently the head of emerging talent supporters The Spanish Wave, as well as the coordinator for this year’s initiative at The Great Escape. Here, he sheds a little light on exactly what has gone into Spain becoming the festival’s 2024 focus country, and offers advice to any artists out there hoping to get involved in the future…

What goes into preparing for a country to be a focus country at The Great Escape? We were supposed to be the lead country back in 2021 but we know what happened those years. After organising and coordinating Spain as focus country for ESNS in 2023 (which also got postponed from 2022) we have the expertise and knowhow after four attempts! Even with Spain being a big and varied country, the industry is solid and exciting which makes the project an exciting challenge, so we always had the goal of showcasing as much as possible; the freshest, newest and most exciting talent. It’s a big effort but very fulfilling as we know that it’s the time for us.

As a country, Spain has so many independent geographies and cultures; what’s it like to plan for them to be represented under one banner?

We are 17 autonomous communities or regions, and obviously we cannot have acts from all of them but it’s always our goal to show as many as possible, especially from the lesser known areas: everyone knows Barcelona. Madrid, Andalucia or the Basque Country, so it’s of great importance for us to also show other great talent and industry professionals from lesser known areas. I’m super happy to have Eva Ruiz from the beautiful island of Lanzarote and also Sonidos Liquidos Festival – also from Lanzarote, one of the coolest boutique festivals in Spain, happening literally in front of volcanoes on a malvasia wine vineyard. Our banner is just the good and exciting music that is being created here

– not passports. There is a great international community of artists living and creating here in Spain that will be surfing the Spanish Wave from now on.

How important is it for Spanish music to be celebrated on stages like those at The Great Escape?

It’s a big deal since TGE is one of the most important showcase festivals and conferences in the world and in the UK, because of the great curation of music being showcased and also because of the importance of the professional delegates that attend; agents, festival, bookers, labels, media and great fans. Being lead country is of major importance as it’s not every year that we have the focus of media and industry on us. We really hope that our acts succeed as we believe they will and that our industry partners get to experience Brighton and make incredible international connections.

How do artists get selected to be involved?

It’s a really easy task with the TGE artist team. We have been bringing The Spanish Wave to Brighton for the last three years so it’s all very smooth; we connect and we both know what’s best for The Great Escape and for the showcases. There was a massive number of applicants and not only do we listen to everyone but our aim is always to choose quality new music. We cover a variety of styles made by young people in Spain, from different regions and in different languages, and also consider gender parity. Out of eight acts, five are female and one showcase is fully female, and that happens in a very organic way as I think in Spain (and the world) women are making the most exciting, innovative and international music at the moment.

Do you have any advice for young, up and coming acts who would hope to get involved in showcases abroad in the future? Be ready before you try to go overseas: you need to do lots in your own city and country. Being export ready means [having] great songs, great artistry on and off stage, goals overseas, work hard if selected and have a good team behind you. Playing while not on home turf is not easy for many reasons – you don’t have your audience, audiences can be very selective, normally there are no soundchecks, etc – but my main advice is patience and hard work.



Thursday 16th May @ DUST

9.30pm Mavica

8.30pm Sila Lua

7.30pm Eva Ruiz

6.30pm Ona Mafalda

Friday 17th May @ Horatio’s

3.30pm Lala Hayden

2.30pm The Gulps

1.30pm Depresión Sonora

12.30pm Mujeres


Altafonte presents: Spain, Europe, Latam… Joining the dots

Date: Thursday 16th May

Time: 10am

Location: Hotel Leonardo, Brighton

What’s going on? Moderated by Tomas Crespo from Altafonte, this panel will cement Spain’s place as a musical hotbed, and discuss its relationship with both Europe and Latin American.

Who? Speakers include Chiara Hellquist Martínez (VEVO Spain), Maxime Dodinet (Sony Music), Beatriz de la Guardia (Planet Events at Live Nation Spain), Jose Luis Seijas (Candela Records / Latino Life UK), Mar Rojo (Sonido Muchacho), Fernando Montes (William Morris Endeavour UK) and Carlos Abreu (United Talent Agency).

DIY Presents: Spain Land of Festivals

Date: Friday 17th May

Time: 10am

Location: Hotel Leonardo, Brighton

What’s going on? Moderated by our publisher Rupert Vereker, this panel will dig into the vibrant festival scene that Spain currently boasts; from huge events such as Mad Cool Festival, through to more boutique offerings like Lanzarote’s Sonidos Liquidos.

Who? Speakers include Cindy Castillo (Mad Cool Festival), Sebastian Vera (Mallorca Live Festival), Maria Arias (Ticketmaster Spain and Artist and Promoter Relations Lead at Ticketmaster Music), Israel Perez (Productions Baltimore: Warm Up Festival, Murcia; Low Festival, Benidorm), Ruben Gutierrez del Castillo (Function SGAE VP) and Tali Acosta (Sonidos Liquidos, Lanzarote).



New bands, new music.

“I’ve tried to not look at numbers anymore and get caught up in that world. I feel like it’s a killer of joy.”

Kenya Grace

With a Number One single and an Ivor Novello nomination already under her belt, Kenya Grace is making history with her delicate drum’n’bass. Words: Alex Rigotti.

When Kenya Grace calls, she’s fresh off a plane back to the UK from America. Though most rising musicians might make their festival debut among the lower rungs of a home country weekender, the South Africa-born singer-producer was in the States making hers at Coachella. It’s a fast-track move that fits with Kenya’s trajectory as a whole; since the release of major label debut single ‘Strangers’ in September of last year, the liquid drum’n’bass smash hit has amassed nearly 700 million streams to date. “I was really shocked,” she smiles of the shows. “I was on at 3pm, which is pretty early, and at the end it was really busy for both weekends. I’ve never seen a crowd that big before.”

It’s been a monumental year for the musician, who grew up in a “very quiet and chill” town near Southampton. Born to a South African mum and a British dad, she started writing songs as a child, though it was perhaps a more concerning exercise than it was expressive. “I remember my mum found some lyrics I’d written when I was really young and they were so dark!” she laughs. “I was a gothic queen since very young.”

Though her first love was musical theatre, Kenya began to stumble upon drum’n’bass culture by visiting nearby cities. House parties would evolve into makeshift raves, where she started going to live shows and gigs “too young”. “Southampton is quite vibey, to be honest,” she enthuses. “I really love dance music. I love the feeling of a drop in a song, it’s so exciting. Also, the community – especially in drum’n’bass – everyone is so nice and so accepting. Every single time I go to a rave or party, there’s such a difference [than with] other genres of music.”

As with many crossover mega hits, ‘Strangers’ initially went viral on TikTok. Bemoaning the pitiful state of modern dating (“And then one random night when everything changes / You won’t reply and we’ll go back to strangers”), it proved so relatable that it catapulted Kenya to the UK Number One spot – the first debut single by a British female artist to top the charts since X Factor star Ella Henderson’s ‘Ghost’ in 2014.

Recently, the track has also garnered her an Ivor Novello nomination for Most Performed Work and an even rarer achievement: Kenya now stands as one of only two artists to have landed the top spot with a song entirely written, performed and produced by a woman. The other artist? None other than Kate Bush. “It feels like a dream to hear it now – like, surely not!” she gushes. “But I really hope it inspires

more people to join that credit. It’s amazing to be next to Kate Bush’s name in a sentence.”

For Kenya, that achievement is even more important in the male-dominated arena of dance music. Though she acknowledges that there are a lot more female DJs visible in dance music nowadays, she only knew of two when she first started out, and recalls often receiving condescending, misogynistic comments when working with men. “It definitely was extremely common when I was doing sessions with guys,” she says. “So many times, they would say little comments: ‘Oh you don’t need to know what this is, you won’t get it,’ assuming I wouldn’t be able to understand how to produce. It was very frustrating.” Learning how to produce and write her own songs was therefore a form of expression and power for the musician. “I wanted to never have to rely on someone who would treat you like that,” she affirms.

Doubling down on that ambition, Kenya’s debut EP ‘The After Taste’ arrived in March as a showcase of the atmospheric, ethereal drum’n’bass that’s taking the world by storm thanks to fellow relative newcomers such as PinkPantheress and Piri. She counts Flume, Banks and Disclosure as key influences, but she teases that her newer stuff will be a sonic pivot from ‘Strangers’. “I envision [‘The After Taste’] in cars and headphones. With this new stuff, I envision it in clubs,” she nods.

Rather than getting bogged down by the monumental pressure of following a viral smash, Kenya is consciously trying to put those thoughts to one side. “I’ve tried to not look at numbers anymore and get caught up in that world,” she says. “I feel like that’s a killer of joy, in a way. It’s actually really toxic. You constantly see a numerical value judging your art, which is just not good. I try to preserve my creativity.”

Instead, her new “rowdy” and “fun” material will be an ode to her frequent attendance at Boomtown festival and many raves since her teenage years, much to the chagrin of her parents’ party soundtracks. “Me and my brother would put drum’n’bass on, like really heavy jump-up. And then my mum and my dad would try and put Fleetwood Mac on,” she laughs.

Ultimately, Kenya places good storytelling at the heart of all her music, inspired by classic British lyricists like Amy Winehouse and Adele. “I always want people to really feel the lyrics and understand the story that I’m trying to tell,” she nods, “and then I also just want them to vibe and dance!” DIY

DIY 21
Photo: Michelle Helena Janssen


Ireland’s next great guitar hopes – this time, with added accordion. Words: Max Pilley.

Cardinals’ arrival comes during a great boom period for Irish guitar music, but the Cork six-piece’s self-titled debut EP reveals a band with a sense of mystique and musical curiosity that easily sets them apart. The raw scuzz of Kieran Hurley and Oskar Gudinovic’s guitars on singles like ‘Unreal’ and ‘Roseland’ may cast them broadly in the indie-slash-post-punk mould of many of their contemporaries, but listen more carefully and you’ll hear that Cardinals are hiding extra tricks under their bonnet.

Frontman Euan Manning’s pop-centric vocal melodies are often disarmingly gentle and sweet, while the addition of his brother Finn’s accordion adds an air of offbeat unpredictability. “Nothing against any other bands,” says Euan, “but I guess there’s a feeling that we’re doing our own thing. We

try to realise the importance of being subversive, thematically and sonically.”

Beyond the typical punk and garage rock touchstones, Cardinals are in thrall to The Beach Boys (Euan describes Carl Wilson as having a voice that is “like gold and butter and barley and everything nice”), while Finn calls on his first love of traditional Irish music when piecing songs together. Add in Oskar’s classical training and the “aficionado” drumming of Darragh Manning, and you realise how it is that Cardinals have come to stand out as they do.

They could easily have lapsed into more predictable fare; indeed, Euan recalls that in early incarnations of the band, he “tried the punk thing, the monotone thing and the shouty thing, because I thought that’s what people did. But it wasn’t me, it didn’t work.” Instead, we have the majesty of the EP’s closing track ‘If I Could Make You Care’ – a slow-motion

ballistic missile of a song, where Euan’s plaintive vocals are matched by gradual, creeping guitar refrains and, crucially, the menacing strains of that accordion.

Finn took up the instrument as a child after being inspired by his grandfather and great uncle’s “box playing”, with Euan now describing the interplay between accordion and traditional rock instruments as evoking something “otherworldly”. “It’s something that sits underneath, it’s its own layer, and sometimes you have to put your ear down to really find it, but when you do, it can be quite pleasing,” adds Finn with a hint of understatement.

The element of intrigue that sits at the heart of Cardinals may come from their conscious effort to derive inspiration from film, literature and visual art – in particular the work of Harry Clarke, one of the early 20th century leaders of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement. “I think if you only use music to influence your music, your music is only ever going to sound like music,” Euan says.

Cardinals’ songs are not overtly political, but in March, the band’s social conscience was revealed when, alongside all ten fellow Irish acts on the bill, they pulled out of SXSW in protest against their sponsorship from the US Army and the defence contractor RTX Corporation. “It was like being plunged in cold water and not really knowing what to do,” says Euan. “But it’s a very Irish thing, the solidarity with Palestine and Gaza.

“It’s not too long ago that the same thing was happening in Belfast and Derry,” adds Finn, “so for a lot of Irish people, there is a serious connection to that. If you’re not exposed to that, it’s easier to disconnect, maybe.”

The band liken the collective boycott of SXSW to previous Irish movements, including the Dunnes Stores strikes in the 1980s against South African apartheid. “The power of music is to help you empathise with different situations that are going on internationally,” says Finn. “Music keeps these stories alive, but it is a shame that it has to come down to the artists to have that responsibility.”

If Cardinals represent the coming era of guitar music in Ireland and beyond, then not only are we in ethically safe hands, but musical adventurous ones, too. Bring it on. DIY

“Nothing against any other bands, but I guess there’s a feeling that we’re doing our own thing.” –Euan Manning
Photo: @alisfavouritefilms


Contemporary yet classic, and full of soul.

A pair who between them have already worked with Obonjayar, Olivia Dean, Joy Crookes and Little Simz (as a producer and vocalist respectively), it’s hardly surprising that Barney Lister and Kojo Degraft-Johnson’s new shared endeavour, MRCY, is this striking. Debut single ‘Lorelei’ is a potent slice of soulful psychedelia, while second effort ‘Flowers In Mourning’ spotlights driving Afrobeats rhythms. And with flavours of dub and Northern soul in there too, theirs is a heady amalgamation of genres that are ripe for rejuvenation.

LISTEN: They’ve just dropped an eight-track project, aptly entitled ‘VOLUME ONE’.

SIMILAR TO: Black Pumas had them supporting their Spring tour, which very much tracks.

The New Eves

Mesmerising folk soundscapes casting a spell from England’s South coast.

The recent cohort of emerging artists reimagining British folk has been a joy to behold (see Bishopskin, Oscar Browne, and Tapir!, to name a few), and The New Eves are among the best of them. Drawing inspiration from pastoral landscapes, Biblical motifs and pagan mythology, the Brighton quartet have, in only three released tracks, showcased both the scope of their sound (which adds cello, violin, and flute to your more standard indie band fare), and the scale of their ambition. Some of the current moment’s most evocative storytellers.

LISTEN: ‘Original Sin’ is just as loftily statement-making as its title suggests.

SIMILAR TO: Honestly, not much else.


A ferocious reminder that Dublin’s thriving punk scene isn’t slowing down.

While you can easily join the dots between Gurriers and their Dublin peers and forebears – the spitting frustration of early Fontaines DC; the brittle discomfiture of Gilla Band; the aggressive onslaught of fellow newcomers CHALK – there’s so much to love about the city’s current punk purple patch, it feels like Gurriers’ entrance into the throng can only bolster the wave. They’ve got a just-announced debut, ‘Come And See’, on the cards, with a whole clutch of summer festivals lined up. Make like their album title and justify the hype for yourselves

LISTEN: ‘Come And See’ arrives 13th September.

SIMILAR TO: A brilliantly unhinged blast of Irish noise.

Crystal Murray

French alt-pop, putting boundaryless attitude to the fore.

Whilst a genre-fluid approach to music-making is almost taken as read these days, Paris-born, London-based Crystal Murray is dipping her fashion-conscious fingers into a particularly delectable array of pies. On this month’s full-length debut ‘Sad Lovers and Giants’, she touches on surprisingly deft drum’n’bass (‘Magik’), harp-laden synth-pop (‘Air’), Santigold-like edgy bangers (highlight ‘STARMANIAK’) and more. Uniting it all sense of self and confidence that belies her 22 years.

LISTEN: ’Sad Lovers and Giants’ is out 31th May via Because Music.

SIMILAR TO: Santigold’s little sister if she also liked a bit of UKG.


The London electronic trio that are finally stepping out of the shadows.

Back in January when London trio Ebbb played our Hello 2024 series, they were a mysterious prospect; having built a formidable reputation for their live shows without releasing a note of music, they arrived in a dimly-lit, heady haze, their offerings wrapped in swerving electronic production. Now, newly-signed to Ninja Tune, they’re giving us a real glimpse into their world, and – thanks to the release of double single ‘Himmel’ / ‘Swarm’ – it’s proving just as evocative and intriguing as first hinted.

LISTEN: The first tastes of their forthcoming ‘All At Once’ EP – due for release on 14th June – show off the trio’s more hypnotic, melodic side.

SIMILAR TO: The kind of woozy electronica that could soundtrack fever dreams.

DIY 23 NEU Recommended
Photos: Ben Quinton, The New Eves, Vasilisa Skasca, Joshua Mulholland

Sans Soucis

Born in Italy and based in London, Giulia Grispino is fusing languages and genres for a debut album that’s as political as it is party-ready. Interview: Kate Brayden.

Italian-born Giulia Grispino’s initial foray into music was through the classical world, before the likes of Solange, Rihanna and Little Dragon opened up their horizons and the project Sans Soucis was born. Named after a childhood nickname meaning “without worries”, gifted by a grandparent on account of Giulia’s carefree nature, since then the moniker has become something of a north star for the musician.

“I do feel very aligned to Sans Soucis as a person right now; [it’s somewhere] where I can be my adult self but still retain that joy I had back then,” they say. “My grandparents moved from the south of Italy to the north in the ‘50s, and were the epitome of integration and kindness despite facing racism. They taught me everything I know about adapting.”

Having moved to London at the age of 19 to study, music soon became another tool that Giulia used to make sense of and acclimatise to their new environment. Their music is bilingual, singing in both English and Italian, and from the beginnings of the project there was a sense of fusing cultures and finding common ground. “I didn’t think London would be my city. At the beginning, I felt quite depressed because of the culture shock,” they say. “That was when I bought a guitar and spent six months studying diligently; writing songs out of one string. It was the only way I could express myself that wasn’t lost in translation.” Language runs deeper for Sans Soucis than merely a connection to place. “When I make music, I just want to be loyal to my thoughts and feelings,” they acknowledge. “There are certain things that I cannot express in English and other things I can’t express in Italian. It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, language is without borders. If a word makes sense to you because it’s attached

“It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, language is without borders.”

to a memory, why not use it instead of trying to translate all the time? I don’t sing in English just to reach as many people as I can. It’s also about freedom.”

Debut album ‘Circumnavigating Georgia’ is set to arrive later this year, and sees Giulia pushing their otherworldly brand of soulful electronic earworms into new directions that touch on everything from R&B bops, to reggae-adjacent rhythms to breezy, blissed-out pop. Throughout, it’s a record designed for dancing. “My biggest joy is for people to move however they want at my shows,” they say. But there’s also a political message ingrained in Sans Soucis, bolstered by their own experience as a Black non-binary musician growing up in Italy.

“The topics I sing about can spark conversations. In this moment in history, we need to build community,” they say. “I hope my supporters see my willingness to develop a language that is personal, patriarchal and against white supremacy. I read a lot of texts by Stuart Hall and bell hooks about the need to create a counter-imagery that doesn’t necessarily belong to the world of words and systems. It comes from art, which is crucial.”

Texan writer, poet and activist Alok Vaid-Menon also features on ‘Circumnavigating Georgia’, and even the record’s name is a nod to the exploratory and questioning nature of the ideas within it. “The word ‘circumnavigating’ is a colonial term,” they explain. “I like the idea of travelling to a place but also the sexual nature or connotation of exploring someone’s waters. I was inspired by Audre Lorde’s writing on eroticism, and how it teaches you to be passionate about life. It’s a metaphysical journey that feels ephemeral. My music is melodic and fluid, but I want the voice and message to be heard.”

Bringing together languages, cultures and genres in a way that feels both deliberate and effortless, Sans Soucis’ voice deserves all the ears it can get. DIY

Photo: Mahaneela Choudhury-Reid

The Buzz Feed

How Do You Do?

London trio Alien Chicks have announced details of their debut EP, ‘Indulging The Mob’, and have shared a preview in the form of lead single ‘Steve Buscemi’.

The band, who supported English Teacher on their UK tour last year, have confirmed plans to release their six-track EP on 18th July via Hideous Mink and SO Recordings; they’ll also be playing a special headline show at London’s MOTH Club on 5th July to mark the occasion.

“‘Steve Buscemi’ is a tongue-in-cheek satire of Joe’s everyday frustrations that lyrically was written as a joke (“you’ll get flamed like bread in a toaster”) and musically was written to explore rap in our sound,” the band have said of their new track, which has been named after the iconic actor. “It quickly became a crowd favourite and we love how it’s been shaped by the crowd’s live response. We hope that our whole EP shows how much we value our live gigs and the people who make them so energetic. The EP title ‘Indulging The Mobs’ is a nod to that and so is the EP artwork. We want people to feel involved in what we’re doing and care about it as much as we do.” Head to now to hear the track.

Worth A Million Bucks

Following the release of appetite-whetting single ‘The Thrill Of It’ earlier this year, Liverpool’s Pixey has confirmed that her debut album ‘Million Dollar Baby’ will arrive on 2nd August via Chess Club.

It comes after a quartet of smaller projects – ‘Colours’ (2019), ‘Free To Live In Colour’ and ‘Sunshine State’ (both 2021), and ‘Dreams, Pains & Paper Planes’ (2022) – and was written between her native Liverpool and London. Produced by Pixey herself alongside Tom McFarland and Rich Turvey, ‘Million Dollar Baby’ is set to unite her love for nostalgic ‘90s breakbeats with her flair for modern alt-pop earworms.

Speaking about the album, Pixey has shared: “It’s the final form of years of trying to prove myself. I’ve always felt as if I’m so close to something but never quite there. This is the story the album tells; navigating the perception of myself through the male gaze, while also trying to take some power back and form my truest identity. The sentiment of the album is this: the path to fulfilment isn’t a performance for others but instead, is a journey of becoming your authentic self.”

She’s also shared the record’s title track – check it out over on now.

In Hysterics

Having quickly established themselves as a staple of the UK live circuit and following the release of their 2022 EP ‘Heat!’, DEADLETTER have now offered up details of their debut album ‘Hysterical Strength’, which will be released on 13th September via SO Recordings.

By way of introduction to the LP, the band have shared a new track – and lead single – entitled ‘Mere Mortal’, which was written after a friend took their own life. Speaking about the song, lead vocalist Zac Lawrence has said that “its intention is not to convey the sentiment of subjective grief, but to act as an undoubtedly relatable tale of loss and longing for all those who themselves have been faced with and have had to navigate the confusing, painful landscape that bereavement leaves one confronted by.”

To mark their album announcement, DEADLETTER have also shared a slew of new live dates set to take them around the UK and Europe this Autumn, concluding in a turn at London’s Electric Brixton on 16th November. Check out the epic list of tour dates over on now.


Fancy discovering your new favourite artist? Dive into the cream of the new music crop below.

Human Interest –Shapeshifting

It’s only been five months since East Londoners Human Interest released their last project ‘Empathy Lives In Outer Space’, but there’s no rest for the wicked; their latest cut ‘Shapeshifting’ is the first single to be lifted from Autumn’s excellentlytitled forthcoming EP ‘Smile While You’re Losing (An Audio Guide To Wellness)’. Effortlessly bridging the gap between hauntingly beautiful harmonic verses and a nostalgia-laden, big-hitting chorus, ‘Shapeshifting’ is an evocative and empathetic look at the many and varied selves we present to the world.

Vanity Fairy – Love Me Right

Once again lighting the fuse on unabashed disco bangerdom, Vanity Fairy’s latest – and final track from EP ‘Top Of The Pops’ – ‘Love Me Right’, struts forth onto the dancefloor and warmly invites you into the folds of its gold, sequin-adorned cape. On this infectious disco-pop cut, the London grassroots cult favourite – whose gigging schedule is as densely packed as the wardrobe housing her kaftan collection – blazons kitschy glitterball gaiety onto squelchy synths and pulsing percussive grooves.

Night Tapes –projections

Appearing on Night Tapes’ ‘assisted memories’ EP (out on 7th June), and following on from previous single ‘every day is a game’, this upbeat, dance-infused track is a sunny and uplifting listen, with dreamy, futuristic vocals and a steady drumbeat that provides scaffolding for the bouncing, poppy synths. It sounds like it was created beyond the realms of planet Earth (but will also make you want to dance around your kitchen).

Spielmann – Just Like Everybody Else

On ‘Just Like Everybody Else’, Spielmann lays the frustrations of everyday life entirely bare. Another slice of debut EP ‘Fifteen Minutes With Spielmann’ – set to land late next month – it’s an anthemic indie-pop number that boasts wide appeal. “Been writing letters to my local MP / I know him but he doesn’t know me”, the Leeds-based artist voices before the vibrant synth landscape of the chorus kicks in. Honing his craft for no-façade, universally relatable songwriting, Spielmann continues to build anticipation for the forthcoming project.

26 DIY UPDATE YOUR EARS! Find the Neu Playlist on Spotify:
All the buzziest new music happenings in one place.
Photos: Anya Rose, Marieke Macklon

NEU Live

Last month, the DIY Now & Next Tour – an annual spotlight on some of the best artists of right now and the not-so-distant future – hit the road for ten blistering shows across the UK. Here’s what went down…

BIG SPECIAL, Grandmas House, Slate - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Photo: Tom Damsell.

While thunderous Black Country duo BIG SPECIAL headline the tour’s first five shows, with Grandmas House in tow, each night is also being opened by a different buzzy local support band. This evening – at Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach – that slot is occupied by Slate, a four-piece who play a brand of retro post-punk as crisp and moody as the slate-filled North Walian hills. On the strength of their effortless stage presence tonight, you get the sense that once the young band step out of their influence’s shadows, they’ll become a force to be reckoned with.

“This is the sweatiest gig ever,” proclaims Grandmas House frontwoman Yasmin Berndt, as the Bristol trio rip through an energetic set, packed with short, charismatic and pit-starting riot grrrl/ queercore bops. While each of the band’s three members contributes vocals to tonight’s set, lead duties are undertaken by Berndt, whose fabulous snarl recalls a young Courtney Love. There’s even time for plenty of between–song banter, with the trio swapping funny stories about on-stage dental damage.

Tonight’s supports set the stage in perfect raucous fashion for the opposing faces of BIG SPECIAL; the rising Midlands two-piece who’ve just returned from a stint in South America supporting Placebo. Across exhilarating runouts of fan favourites such as ‘THIS HERE AIN’T WATER’ and ‘DUST OFF’, their playful, fun-loving side is on full display. Both members even enter the crowd for a joyous rendition of ‘Trees’. Their more serious side also emerges, too, in the shape of poignant poetry readings and the set’s crescendo; a life-affirming outing of new track ‘FOR THE BIRDS’. On the strength of tonight’s performance, the chatty pair fully justify their hype, slotting into the grand lineage of pared-down, honest and whollyoriginal working class British music. Tom Morgan

First up this evening, Mancunian five-piece Duvet are on hand to kick off the evening. Unlike the initial impression that their name may give, the band’s visceral, fervid delivery arrives at full throttle. Having initially dabbled in hazy dream-pop, their shift towards a boisterous, hard-edged post-punk sound is quickly established, and makes for a vehement introduction to the local noisemakers.

Cued by a pre-emptive blast from the smoke machine, Aziya is next to take to the stage. Blending twanging electric guitar lines, intermittent drum-pad beats, and powerhouse vocals, the Hackney-born artist affirms her status as a polymath. In between entrancing the crowd with offerings ranging from the angsty psych-rock of ‘chain’ to the ambient lo-fi of ‘girl meets world’, she fills her set with moments of light-hearted commentary. “We had a conversation about how small the toilets are... but I like it here!” she laughs, before finishing her set with 2021 debut ‘Slip!’.

With the rambunctious atmosphere growing, the time has come for tonight’s headliners to make an appearance. Arriving just ahead of a jam-packed festival season, Hastings’ HotWax cause an immediate stir. Led by Tallulah Sim-Savage’s shoutsing vocals, the set brims with frenetic energy. A whirlwind journey through their emphatic discography so far, it places fan favourites ‘Phone Machine’ and ‘Treasure’ alongside unreleased cuts. Among the seething basslines, crashing percussion, and cutting riffs (the latter of which is the result of countless guitar changes), softer moments are weaved in too. “I recognise a lot of you from the last time we were in Manchester, so it’s nice to see you again!” bassist Lola Sam exclaims, while addressing the frenzied crowd. Closing with latest single ‘Rip It Out’, the trio bring their set to a climactic finale – one that elicits a buzz that remains even after they step off stage. Emily Savage

Panic Shack and plantoid christen SON Estrella Galicia’s inaugural Brighton night in suitably lively style

Gigs in the Big Smoke are all well and good, but who doesn’t love a trip to the seaside? After a series of sell-out shows around London, SON Estrella Galicia have ventured down to the musical hotbed of Brighton for their latest beer-soaked outing.

SON Estrella Galicia have a habit of approaching these micro-festivals in a markedly holistic way, and today is no exception; having organised a bout of beach cleaning in collaboration with activist organisations and the Brighton community, next up is an interactive beer-tasting workshop, during which we’re encouraged to consider the parallels between the ingredients in a pint, and the instruments in a song. The result? The beginnings of a build-yourown track which really doesn’t sound half bad (if we do say so ourselves), and a renewed appreciation for the intrinsic role that individual components play in the finished product – whether in terms of a beverage, or a band.

Main support comes courtesy of plantoid, a local outfit who, though ostensibly a quartet, take to The Albert’s upstairs stage with five members in tow –the additional one apparently being their hands-on producer Nathan Ridley, who throws himself into a range of percussion-based duties and backing vocals with gusto. Spearheaded by lead vocalist and guitarist Chloe Spence, (whose killer range spans soaring toplines, uncanny wails, and even the odd yowl), the band take us on a sonic trip of ‘70s-coloured, psych-influenced prog rock, clearly enjoying the opportunity to give cuts from their recently-released debut LP ‘Terrapath’ a proper airing.

“Hola Brighton,” grin tonight’s headliners Panic Shack as they saunter on stage, “how do you say tits in Spanish?” It’s the sort of brash, tongue-incheek attitude we’ve come to expect from the Cardiff five-piece, and it’s reassuring to know that none of the punk spirit of their unapologetic 2022 EP ‘Baby Shack’ has dissipated in the time they’ve been away writing. What follows is a set that’s equal parts fiery (“I didn’t go to Bedales / I didn’t go to BRIT School,” quips vocalist Sarah Harvey on earworm opener ‘Tit School’); fun (they down shots of Tuaca – a Prince Albert staple – onstage, and have their ‘Jiu Jits You’ synchronised dance routine on lock); and frankly irresistible (more than one mosh pit is started by the band themselves, who then orchestrate a crowd singalong of ‘Killing In The Name’ in the middle of their biting unreleased cut ‘Cash Piggy’). It’s a raucous run-through of both their cult hits and incendiary new material, and one which leaves the packed crowd safe in the knowledge that Panic Shack won’t be playing rooms this intimate for much longer. Daisy Carter

DIY 27
HotWax, Aziya, Duvet - The Deaf Institute, Manchester Photo: Kyle Roczniak. Photo: Alex Amorós

From singles destined to become radio staples, to deep explorations of subject matter

unmined by any of her indie-pop contemporaries, ‘What A Devastating

Turn Of Events’ sees RACHEL CHINOURIRI

step into her potential, and step up

to music’s big leagues.

that she’s


Words: Daisy Carter. Photos: Corinne Cumming.

enerally speaking, the St. George’s flag doesn’t have hugely positive connotations these days. Save for its pub garden resurrection around international football tournaments, the English standard has been largely tarnished by associations with far right groups and vitriolic ‘Brexit means Brexit’ gammons.

Rachel Chinouriri is out to change this. A young Black woman, born in Britain to Zimbabwean immigrant parents, she’s almost the polar opposite of what the flag has come to represent in the public consciousness – which, she tells DIY over a bacon sarnie, is precisely why it’s a key motif throughout the visuals for her debut album, ‘What A Devastating Turn Of Events’.

“I know when people see a Black girl with an England flag it will instantly spark something,” she nods with a wry smile. “And that’s a conversation that needs to be had – why do they have that reaction?” Having abandoned our plans to meet in Rachel’s much-hyped favourite chippy (it was closed – a travesty), we’re instead chatting across the road in Fat Boyz Cafe: a warm and unpretentious local in the heart of her childhood neighbourhood of Forestdale, Croydon.

“When I was younger, I’d see [St. George’s flags] in the windows of houses all the time and it did not faze me,” she shrugs later, taking us on a guided tour past her primary school, paper round route, and family home.

“I felt super English growing up; I think Forestdale was such a bubble that I just didn’t think anything of [the flags]. I’m sure there have been incidents, but I never experienced outward racism here. I was

always around white people, and it was always very wholesome. I’d go and knock on people’s doors to ask, ‘Do you have any kids I can hang out with?’, and the dads would come out and ride bikes with us.”

Her ‘00s-coded album cover and recent press shots (many of which were taken in the pub a stone’s throw from where we sit today) are therefore a kind of homage to these memories – a testament to the affection she still holds for “a place where [she] felt happy and safe”, largely unaware of the wider world’s enduring prejudices. “I need to remember that [period of time] and those kinds of English people as my core,” Rachel affirms. “Because I’m English as fuck as well as Zimbabwean, and I’m gonna be proud and take on the positives [of that identity] as well as bringing to light the negative things that impacted me simply because I’m Black.”

And – spoiler alert – that list of negative experiences isn’t exactly a short one. “I grew up on a street where no one ever made me feel different. Then on the first day of secondary school I got called the ‘n’ word,” says Rachel. Similar such instances came thick and fast: her white peers would nick things from the corner shop, yet it was Rachel and her two Black friends who were accused of stealing. Her sister got excluded for choosing not to wear a certain school skirt, but nothing happened when a Black pupil was spat on. Rachel posted screenshots of racist messages she’d received to Facebook, then went to school the next day to find the police waiting – for her.

“After that, I applied to move school,” she states simply. “My skirt was down to my fucking ankles and I was SUCH a nerd, but I realised: ‘No matter how well behaved I am, I will be perceived as some thug here’.”

I’m English as fuck as well as Zimbabwean, and I’m gonna take on the positives as well as bringing to light the negatives.”
30 DIY

iven the racism she was subject to, there’s a certain satisfying irony to the fact that it was at Croydon’s renowned BRIT School where Rachel eventually flourished, later transferring there to study musical theatre – despite never having actually watched a musical. She laughs: “I think my attitude towards it was really calm. I just thought, ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m trying to improve, which is the whole point’. For me, what I saw with BRIT was a community of people pushing each other to do really well, which I really loved.”

These days, her relationship to national identity is, unsurprisingly, characterised by considered nuance. “I think every Black person in the UK goes through a point of being super pro-Black,” says Rachel. “My mother took me to Zimbabwe when I was 13, around when I was getting bullied. That was the first time I thought: ‘This is what it feels like to be a chameleon’. In the UK, Black people are so used to getting glances everywhere – even for a split second. There, I feel not seen, which is great. And so I kind of went through this phase of thinking: ‘I’m Zimbabwean and Black, and these guys are English’,” she gestures, drawing an imaginary line down the table to delineate the groups’ separation.

“But when I got older and started travelling more into London and meeting different communities – experiencing different cultures, different foods, different ideas – I thought, ‘Actually, this IS England’. That’s when my ideas of what makes a country or what makes someone’s identity really changed; as much as my childhood was quite culturally rich in the sense of my Zimbabwean upbringing in the house, there’s also so much English culture I ended up loving.” She smiles, reeling off all the key touchstones of a late ‘90s baby: “The girl bands, Kate Nash and Lily Allen, the nature of going to the pub…”

And it’s this slightly nostalgic, rose-tinted version of this country which imbues ‘What A Devastating Turn Of Events’, in sound as well as in look. From the group chat-style voice notes and the conversational, Allen-esque vocal delivery of ‘It Is What It Is’, to the faux radio link that closes ‘Dumb Bitch Juice’ (courtesy of the mighty Clara Amfo, whose visibility as “a Black woman with an English accent on the radio” was “such a big thing” for Rachel growing up), the album acts as a microcosm of the past two decades’ pop culture; a soundscape of Rachel’s personal England.

The record’s anthemic lead single ‘The Hills’ arrives as a prime example, itself the product of a largely fruitless writing trip to LA. In a perhaps unlikely case of absence making the heart grow fonder, Rachel was working in the Hollywood Hills at the home of producer Aaron Shadrow, and yet found herself yearning for London. “I remember him saying, ‘I grew up here, I’m so lucky to live here’,” she recalls. “And all I could think was, ‘I’m so glad I’m flying home tomorrow.’”

“Everybody’s been there / So you try your best to leave / I was told the grass is greener / But it’s just a fantasy it seems,” she sings on the track, musing on belonging (or the lack of it), the concept of home, and the strange, deep-rooted pull we feel back to the places that shaped us. Bolstered by its accompanying video, which depicts a series of vignettes conceptualising what it means to be English, ‘The Hills’ is Rachel’s claim-staking love letter to a city that, though undeniably flawed, is irrefutably hers.

Musically, too, it’s something of a flag planted in the ground, with grungy guitars and crashing drums united in an assured sonic rebuttal against the racial profiling her music faced at the start of her career.

Sometimes it’s really fucking hard to write very simple lyrics which sound impactful, not boring, but it can be really important.”

“My music is not R&B. My music is not Soul. My music is not alternative R&B. My music is not Neo Soul. My music is not Jazz. Black artists doing indie is not confusing. You see my colour before you hear my music,” Rachel stated on Instagram in 2022.

“I never thought it would be a thing,” she says now, “but I remember speaking to Shingai [Shoniwa] from Noisettes and I know that she went through the same battles as well, even though she was in a massive indie group. [Back then] they didn’t have social media to speak up about it; they’d just have to hope that the press would give them grace. So when I realised I could use my own platform to get over it, it helped quite a lot.”

Using her exponentially-growing platform (she can count the likes of Adele and Florence Pugh as fans) to raise subjects that aren’t normally discussed in radio-friendly indie-pop is something that Rachel does remarkably well. Split into two distinct halves with the eponymous track as its lynchpin, ‘What A Devastating Turn Of Events’ progresses from “the singles” – the peppy, poppy earworm cuts (‘The Hills’; ‘Never Need Me’) – to a run of tracks that variously explore suicide, grief, and disordered eating. She explains that this emotional juxtaposition was entirely intentional, the tracklist arranged so as to emulate how life-changing events can come from seemingly nowhere to floor you, flipping your whole world as easily as flipping over a record.

Nowhere is this concept better captured than the title number, in which Rachel narrates the story of a Zimbabwean relative who took her own life after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Though they didn’t have the chance to meet, Rachel nevertheless feels a certain affinity with what her cousin went through. “I remember I wrote a suicide note once, when I was with my ex,” she shares. “I left it on the doorstep and I was convinced I was going to try and kill myself in the local park. I was outrageously in love with him, but everything felt like it was going to shit.”

Despite some parallels between the experiences, she goes on to point out that in Britain, sex and relationships – two themes she focuses on in the album’s first half – are (relatively speaking) pretty innocuous, lower-stakes topics. “I think it’s a privilege that we can find these things lighthearted; your friends can help you through it, or you can go to therapy. Because for some people – especially if there’s a stigma [around sex] in their country or community – it’s life and death. [‘What A Devastating Turn Of Events’] is highlighting the privilege that we have in the UK. I’ve never had an abortion, but I’ve never had a pregnancy scare simply because I can get birth control for free. That’s something which most countries don’t have.” Ultimately, she muses, her cousin’s tragic story could have easily been hers. “Considering she’s in my family, the only difference between us is that her dad didn’t choose to come to this country, and my mum did.”

DIY 33
In the UK, Black people are so used to getting glances everywhere – even for a split second”

singing her praises

Don’t just take our word for it…

Florence Pugh

“I’m so in awe of that lady and so in awe of what her and her music means to so many people and I feel very very proud of her and this moment.” (Instagram)


“There’s a new artist, she’s British, her name is Rachel and she does like indie music. She’s absolutely amazing, she has a show in LA in March and I’m going to go on my own. That’s what I’m gonna do.” (On stage in Las Vegas)

Mae Muller

“you deserve every bit of this i love u so much” (Instagram) / “ADELE JUST SHOUTED OUT RACHEL IF I FUCKING SCREAAAAMMMMM SLKSKSKSKDJHDJZMAK” (Twitter)

Skin (Skunk Anansie)

“So good!” (Instagram)

34 DIY

aving these direct points of comparison – cultural, circumstantial, and generational – has given Rachel a humblingly comprehensive sense of perspective when it comes to her own life. “My parents were child soldiers, and saw so much death before they were even 18,” she explains. “Now that I’m older, I understand that they’ve dealt with sad things almost as a norm; to them, it almost feels lucky when people are able to live long, or pursue their dreams.”

It’s hardly surprising, then, that this ‘nothing is guaranteed’ philosophy imbues much of Rachel’s work, and the haunting album highlight ‘Robbed’ renders it with particular aching beauty. “Blank silhouettes of you / In memories that don’t exist / Words of a story shouldn’t hurt like this,” she sings, attempting to navigate the agonising injustice of losing a young family member at only six days old. “That was incredibly tough,” she says quietly. “Obviously no one wants to die, but [before] I was just kind of going through life – I just expected to grow old. Now I’m like, ‘Half of us might not be here by 50’.”

In the wake of these family members’ passings, Rachel found herself writing in her bedroom, aiming to convey these very specific emotions and experiences as unambiguously as possible. “When something tragic like that happens, I want to be able to listen to something that really GETS it,” she explains. “And I want to have those songs for different subjects.” As such, she’s always strived to be lyrically direct. “That’s why I loved Coldplay growing up – the lyrics were so simple. I remember being bullied and hearing ‘Fix You’ for the first time…” she pauses before gently singing the track’s opening couplet. “Just those lines alone – I’m in tears. Sometimes it’s really fucking hard to write very simple lyrics which sound impactful, not boring, but it can be really important. In ‘I Hate Myself’, for example, I wanted to put it in a way which was digestible for teenage girls.”

A movingly candid track detailing Rachel’s experiences of disordered eating and body dysmorphia, ‘I Hate Myself’ was born of the damaging diet culture of the ‘00s – a time when society’s heralding of Kate Moss-type skinniness (and, by proxy, whiteness) as the pinnacle of beauty and desirability was arguably at its peak. “The

way it was back then… it’s only in retrospect that I realise how toxic it was,” says Rachel, recalling her formative tween and teen years. “In my school, everyone was super skinny and petite. This was Tumblr time – eating disorder central. But especially as a Black person, you tend to sometimes be more curvy; I had really big lips, I had a big arse, bigger thighs. And the news would be like ‘Pippa Middleton has the best arse ever’.” She rolls her eyes. “Pippa Middelton has a great fucking body by the way,” she qualifies after a second, “but when you don’t look like that, it is fucking difficult. It made me feel horrible. And then I got a boyfriend who once saw me take off my top and said, ‘When was the last time you went to the gym?’ I was a size eight at the time.”

She ponders the whiplash-inducing 180° that beauty standards have undergone since then – from the era of the hideously-coined ‘heroic chic’ to equally unattainable Kardashian curves. “In the next ten years it could all flip again, and that’s terrifying,” she muses. “I don’t think [people] realise how much impact that sort of subliminal messaging has.” How, then, was she able to cut through the bullshit and embrace her natural body shape? (“Too big, too small, I’ll never win / I love myself and I love my skin,” concludes ‘I Hate Myself’).

The key, Rachel reckons, is all about perspective; about recognising that the ‘aspirational’ bodies peddled by both social and external media are actually nothing more than Oz-like illusions. Pull back the curtain, and you’ll find that it’s the patriarchy pulling the strings. “I think the awareness definitely helped. Things come in and out of trend, so being able to see that has helped me understand it better,” she smiles. “When I went to Zimbabwe, everyone had bigger arses and bigger legs! So I kind of learned to love myself in that way.”

Fuelled by hard-won self-belief, backed by the fervent support of her fans (nicknamed the ‘Darlings’), and armed with a record that’s accessible yet insightful, authentic and important, Rachel Chinouriri is on the precipice of becoming our next mainstream crossover star. What’s more, she’s enacting something of a cultural reclamation in the process. For anyone who was ever in any doubt: THIS is what British indie looks like.

‘What A Devastating Turn of Events’ is out now via Parlophone. DIY

DIY 35
“The whole record has got really severe themes of extreme paranoia and fear throughout.”
– Lia Metcalfe
36 DIY
While The Mysterines’ debut saw the Liverpool quartet stand out as one of guitar music’s brightest new stars, on follow-up ‘Afraid Of Tomorrows’ they’re embarking on a foreboding but startling new chapter.

Words: Sarah Jamieson. Photos: Emma Swann

It may be just a little over two years since The Mysterines released their debut album ‘Reeling’, but already, they’re primed for new beginnings. It’s a sentiment that, from the outside, might seem a little unexpected given their gathering momentum and support so far. But look hard enough, and the writing’s been on the wall for a while.

“[Working on the new record] felt like a fresh start in a way,” nods drummer Paul Crilly as the quartet gather around a table in a Camden pub after our photoshoot over on nearby Primrose Hill. “I think after the first record, we just wanted to work the mechanics of the band better,” chips in frontwoman Lia Metcalfe. “I feel like, when we did that [album], we all didn’t know each other as well as we do now. It was kind of naive – not just in a musical way but in a lot of senses, personally. It was really early days and we were super young.”

It’s no secret that the making of ‘Reeling’ wasn’t the smoothest of processes for the Liverpudlian band, completed by guitarist Callum Thompson and bassist George Favager. Split into a series of fragmented recording sessions due to Covid restrictions, Lia has been open about her personal frustrations with how it came together, admitting to DIY at the time that “I had some resentment towards the album at times that made me not enjoy it”.

And while the resulting release would go on to solidify the group as one of guitar music’s most impressive new outfits, earning them a Top 10 spot in the UK Charts, and a slot opening up on Arctic Monkeys’ huge stadium tour last summer, the contrasting experiences that the band have had so far – going from being cooped up during lockdowns

to thrust into relentless bouts of touring – would soon take their toll.

“We came out of lockdown and just toured for eighteen months flat out,” Callum explains. “It was a crazy amount of shows. The thing we learned with that first record was, in touring it that much and playing those songs that many times, you just end up hating what you did and losing track of where you were. Sometimes it’s quite hard to listen to [the debut] because we played it that many times.”

And so, The Mysterines set about embarking upon their next chapter. Returning with their first new release since their debut – the aptly-titled ‘Begin Again’ – last summer, the band sounded both more confident and perhaps surprisingly restrained, offering a big hint of what would come next.

Soon, the wheels began to turn: after initially penning a few tracks, it was during a session before they hit the road with Alex Turner and co that they struck gold, writing pivotal album tracks ‘The Last Dance’, ‘Stray’, and ‘Goodbye Sunshine’ in quick succession. “They just made everything else that we’d done before that make so much more sense,” Paul confirms. “I think when we wrote ‘The Last Dance’, that glued everything together.”

Moving away from the more frenzied delivery of their debut, the opening track lays a foreboding foundation for their second record to unfurl upon; its intensity amped up even further by Lia’s chillingly whispered outro, which would feel more at home in a horror movie than a chart-bothering album (“Unholy kind of accidents / Happen when / The puppet cuts the string”). An altogether darker, grittier affair, ‘Afraid of Tomorrows’ is not just the band at their most menacing, but their most creative. “It was fun unravelling

DIY 37

the album,” Lia notes, “adding things to the jigsaw, and realising what complements it.”

Decamping to Los Angeles to record with John Congleton – who’s worked with everyone from St Vincent to The Killers, Clairo to The Murder Capital – was another key piece of the puzzle, with the producer assuring them that he was the man for the job. “He was amazing. I remember him saying that if we wanted to make anything like the first record, then he wasn’t our guy, which was a big thing for us,” Callum explains. “That was exactly what we wanted. We wanted to completely rip it all up, and the fact he said that [proved] he was seeing the same sky.”

While LA might currently conjure up images of Selling Sunset and wellness trends, the city’s seedier underbelly offered the perfect backdrop for their month-long recording stint at the producer’s newlybuilt studio. “I think I’ve always felt quite at home in a weird way in LA,” Lia nods, in spite of its sometimes glitzy reputation. “We didn’t want to, and I think we were in denial for a long time, but every time we go there we do really love it a lot. A lot of our favourite musicians have been based there at a certain point in time – or still are. We were staying in Echo Park, and Tom Waits and Elliott Smith are both from there, in that arena, and both of those people are huge influences on us.” “It’s a crazy place,” Callum adds. “You can feel the weirdness and the history in there.”

Much like the work of those aforementioned Echo Park residents, ‘Afraid Of Tomorrows’ is evocative to the last drop; a record that truly wears its heart on its sleeve. Named after the album’s closing track – an admittedly more spritely, folk-indebted finale that comes juxtaposed by its dark-hued lyrics, it’s an album that traverses

the depths of fear, addiction and self-doubt, while boasting some of Lia’s most personal lyrics so far. “I’m talking about substance abuse quite a lot and what it’s made me become, and I’m scared of tomorrow now because it’s going to run into my life, and I don’t want to keep doing that,” she notes. “I think the title just summarises the record up lyrically, and where it’s coming from emotionally for me. The whole record has got really severe themes of extreme paranoia and fear throughout; not really knowing what’s going to happen, and being afraid of it, I suppose. That’s how I felt.”

Whether in the intensely personal or the wider political sense, it feels like, right now, few lives are untouched by a similar kind of dread. “There is a lot of fear, now more than ever, instilled in the world,” Lia nods. “Maybe that did seep in, in a lot of ways. There’s a huge theme of loss throughout the record, and not a lot of gain. I think emotions just are more intense nowadays. We talk about it more, it’s more open, but even though we converse about it more, there still isn’t enough education around how to handle it.”

On an album that so often lurks in the shadows –whether in the gnarled howl of ‘Stray’, or the sinister imagery of ‘Junkyard Angel’ – it’s easy to wonder if there’s any light to be found here. Lia ponders. “I’d say there’s a lot of admission,” she settles on in answer. “I suppose there’s power in admission and I guess that, in a sense, became a resolution to things.” A powerful first step on a wholly new journey for the quartet, one thing’s for sure: this one’s not for the faint-hearted.

‘Afraid Of Tomorrows’ is out 7th June via Fiction. DIY

Opening up for arguably the most beloved British band of the century is no small feat. So how was it joining the Arctics on the big stages?

Lia: I’d say you probably enjoy it more. You’re not really thinking about the crowd, I was just thinking about having fun, and – not in a way to sound rude – but everyone was waiting for Arctic Monkeys. The Hives and the Arctics are such consolidated artists and I can remember when it was announced [we were playing], people were like, ‘Who the fuck is this band?’ In a way, that worked in our favour because we could just play how we want to play. It’s not like we change how we play because we’re in front of that many people.

Callum: It was quite inspiring seeing them; even though they are playing stadiums, they still just do what they want. They’re still the same band, they don’t try to change themselves. There was no confetti or fire or anything like that, it was just them, which I thought was really cool.

“In touring [the first record] that much, you just end up hating what you did.”
– Callum Thompson

Hurray For The Riff Raff



Douglas Dare Clarissa Connelly Malice K

Erlend Øye & La Comitiva


Muireann Bradley Cola




Jessica Pratt Amanda Bergman Sam Akpro Jessica Pratt + Joanna Sternberg

Bikini Kill Bikini Kill

Keeley Forsyth Mannequin Pussy Mannequin Pussy



The War On Drugs


Nils Frahm






Sheer Mag



Bikini Kill Bikini Kill







Wednesday Lola Kirke
RALLY Festival MSPAINT The Magnetic Fields
Roar SUUNS Kiasmos + Rival Consoles IAMDDB Zola Jesus Wu-Lu King Hannah Porches mui zyu WED 15TH MAY CORSICA STUDIOS FRI 7TH JUN EARTH THEATRE TUE 11TH

Y e arning

40 DIY

Heartstopper’s Will Gao and his sister Olivia Hardy are tackling growing pains with Wasia Project, an altpop musical project that’s wise beyond its years.

Words: Alex Rigotti. Photos: Eva Pentel

“There’s always a bittersweet tinge of sadness and nostalgia with change and growing,” begins Olivia Hardy. “That’s just what we’re experiencing right now.” “I completely agree with Olivia, it’s where we are in our lives,” her older brother Will Gao chimes in. “Our generation in particular, with social media and news, there’s a lot of weight going on that perhaps generations before were not exposed to as much. The rate of change for young people today is much more intense than it was. Everything’s moving a lot quicker.”

As Wasia Project, 19-year-old Hardy and 21-year-old Gao write jazz-inflected alt pop filled with unfulfilled desires and yearnings – but for what? The siblings have already had their first brush with fame; Gao portrays Heartstopper’s Tao Xu, and Wasia Project have since soundtracked the show’s key cliffhanger with their song ‘ur so pretty’. They’re certainly not lacking in style, either, as they file into the AWAL offices to speak with DIY: Olivia dons effortlessly trendy flares, while Will lounges in a chair wearing a smart suit.

But the siblings are just leaving their teens, and they’re undeniably going through growing pains. Wasia Project is their way of dealing with those knotty feelings. “It’s always a way of getting that out and putting it into sound,” says Olivia. “Expressing something that you can’t have, but want.”

Yearning began early for the pair, who grew up in Croydon with “chill” but “chaotic” parents who encouraged their children to travel and explore. “There’s a chaos to Mum and Dad,” Will admits, as his sister laughs: “She was a party animal!”. Their mum, he explains, grew up in post-Cultural Revolution Beijing during the ‘80s, when China was “just beginning to open up”. Wham! became the first Western pop act to visit the country, and disco infiltrated the culture, turning their mum into “a complete rebel”.

“She left for the UK when she was 23,” he continues. “I’m 21 now and I can’t begin to imagine packing my bags and saying, ‘I’m going on my own halfway across the world to start something new’. I found that energy so inspiring in Mum – adventurous, rebellious, and full of energy.”

The siblings inherited that lust for life, and grew up around plenty of dancing and “a lot of high-energy play”. Their childhood also foreshadowed their eventual creative ambitions. “Back when we were really young, there was this coffee table – it was like a stage to us,” Olivia reminisces. “We’d always put on silly outfits and random clothes, and we’d get up on the stage and do our own little performance.”


genuinely think when we’re on tour, there’s some kind of inner energy that we try to source from those days,” adds Will. “There’s such a connectedness between us two as siblings and as fellow artists.”

That connection reverberates in the music of Wasia Project, which blends Olivia’s rich, earthy vocals with Will’s sophisticated arrangements. Olivia, a “super fan” of Billie Eilish, evokes her delicate, swooning phrasing as she croons: “I’m falling under your love / Can’t forget the way that it was” on last year’s ‘My Lover Is Sleeping’. Will’s love for classic jazz, meanwhile, amplifies the nostalgic qualities of their music, inspired partially by their father’s own sonic tastes.

“Our dad’s [from the] late ‘60s, so there’s that classic-ness to his tastes from when he was in his twenties, plus his love of jazz and Frank Sinatra,” he explains. “You know the era of the ‘70s when it was a really interesting place for songwriting? I’ve gone back on Spotify to ‘70s playlists and wow – it’s just so different now.”

Meanwhile, Olivia infuses Will’s retro aesthetics with her own observations of entering into her next decade, professing her desire to hold onto her memories while she can. “I’m very wary of staying present and grateful because otherwise it just goes by so fast,” she notes. “Even just coming home yesterday, it’s crazy how the memories from right now feel nostalgic. Why does taking my dog for a walk feel nostalgic? It’s so strange.”

“There’s such a connectedness between us two as siblings and as fellow artists.” ~ Will Gao

There’s another element of longing that can be found within their name, too: the desire to be seen and represented. Wasia Project are part of an generation of Asians becoming increasingly visible in alternative music – a fact made especially clear when looking at the line-up for this year’s All Points East. On the day that Japanese-American legend Mitski will headline, Wasia Project will join Beabadoobee, Towa Bird and shoegaze newcomer Wisp on the bill. “I didn’t see the lineup until everyone else did, and I was like, ‘No way!’” grins Olivia.

Notably, Will adds: “It doesn’t feel like diversity checking. At the end of the day, the music will prevail and lead the way. It’s so wonderful to see such a beautiful array of

DIY 41
“Representation [in TV and film] is really not great, so I feel some kind of solace in how healthy it is in the music space.”
~ Will Gao

music and artists in one day. I just hope I’m going to get to see everyone…”

Festivals can curate a lineup genuinely representative of indie kids’ tastes, but TV and film still struggle to represent modern British society. Will agrees that in music, representation is “more open, more forward-thinking and less tied up in the past” compared to TV and film. “Especially in the UK,” he notes. “Representation is really not great, to be honest. I’ve been very lucky to have played the roles I have done. At the same time, I’ve really observed the difficulties and the challenges and the behindness of it all. So I definitely feel some kind of solace in how healthy and refreshing representation in the music space is.”

The duo have just written their new concept EP, of which recent song ‘Is This What Love Is?’ acts as its first single. They’re justifiably excited about the release, which they explain revolves around a character, formed in part by the siblings’ desire for privacy. “Olivia sometimes says, ‘I wish we didn’t have to be seen. I wish it was just the music’,” says Will.

Is it possible this character is a creative protection against the intense attention brought by Heartstopper fans? Will says carefully: “I think it can be seen as that. I definitely think our fans are very understanding of what we’re trying to do – this is the

music, not what I had for breakfast this morning or what Olivia is gonna have for dinner. It’s about art.”

Next, the pair will embark on a tour supporting fellow jazz-pop star Laufey throughout America, which they call a “privilege”. Will recently starred in her music video for ‘Goddess’, directed by Past Lives’ Celine Song: “I flew out to New York and it was great to work with her in a different lens,” he smiles. “Working with [Laufey] as an actor was really cool – just really honoured.”

But nestled within their memories of a recent European tour, you can see the moments where all of Wasia Project’s yearnings are starting to become their realities. It was Olivia’s first time exploring the continent, and she recalls a memory of playing at The Hall in Zürich. It was a tough gig; an unexpected heat wave, where three of their fans fainted during the show. Olivia, stepping outside the venue to catch some fresh air from the chaos, came upon what she calls “paradise”.

“It was this field with long grass and buttercups. You look, and it’s the Alps and mountains. I was like, ‘This is mental’,” she smiles. “There was this beautiful little house right next door. After the gig, I saw them getting logs and making a fire. It was just so peaceful.”

‘Is This What Love Is?’ is out now via AWAL. DIY

42 DIY


With debut ‘POSTINDUSTRIAL HOMETOWN BLUES’, Midlands duo BIG SPECIAL are tackling everyday politics with bare bones grit and twinkling wit.

Words: Louis Griffin. Photos: Emma Swann.

“ There’s a huge art scene that’s thriving, but Midlanders are always walking uphill.”
– Callum Moloney

“BIG SPECIAL, putting the punk in punctual!”

Callum Moloney laughs as he joins today’s Zoom. His band may be on the verge of tipping over into the mainstream, with their debut album, ‘POSTINDUSTRIAL HOMETOWN BLUES’, mere days away from release, yet the duo are still aggressively polite and on time. “Fashionably on time,” nods singer Joe Hicklin. “Well, we’ve found that most people in the music industry are always a bit late…”

It’s a surprising introduction to a group that specialise in abrasive, clattering songs with titles like ‘SHITHOUSE’, ‘BUTCHER’S BIN’ and ‘MONGREL’. Across their debut, they draw from a palette of foreboding electronics, distorted vocals, and buzzing, razor-sharp guitar lines, but throughout all 15 tracks, the unifying factor is the vocalist’s lyrics. At turns morose, bracingly honest and thoroughly pissed off, ‘POSTINDUSTRIAL HOMETOWN BLUES’ roughly chronicles the dog days of the Covid lockdowns in which the band started, but also takes in class, mental health, regional identity and friendship along the way – all struck through with a thorough dose of self-deprecation.

“We just wanted it to be an honest album – genuine, of our time, and representative of our life,” says Joe. Both musicians had forays into bands before BIG SPECIAL, but this time around, says the frontman, “I was committed to this stripped-back, bare bones songwriting. I wanted to do something different, and seeing bands like Sleaford Mods – they had a laptop, and it was like that was the new acoustic guitar. You could get some cracked recording software and just mess around; that’s the new working within your means.” Callum cackles: “Joe, you’ve got to stop snitching on yourself that you’ve got a cracked version of Logic!” Joe laughs, shaking his head. “I haven’t now! Once we got a bit of money, I bought it.”

The band are keen to point out that much of the record dates back to their very earliest days. “A lot of stuff that’s on the album was on the demo that Joe sent me four years ago now,” Callum explains, joking: “Why polish a turd?” In serious terms, though, holding fire before recording or releasing anything – or even playing any shows – has allowed BIG SPECIAL to chase a more considered sound.

“Being able to go back and forth; having the time to build our voice and this catalogue of stuff,” Joe nods. “Then we started gigging and what came to life on stage re-informed the recordings.” “That’s my favourite bit,” says Callum, “when I tell people that the album’s basically four years old, but then the very last recording session was what, four months ago? Couple tins of Guinness and Joe pulled out a guitar in the last hour, suddenly the album’s got

“ The point is that politics is personal. Your whole life is political.” – Joe Hicklin

tons more guitar on it; we were sprinkling them seasonings in, all the way up until serving.”

Both Moloney and Hicklin grew up in the Midlands – in Birmingham and the Black Country respectively, as they’re keen to point out – and the region’s post-industrial identity runs through every facet of the album. It’s an area that lacks the cultural framework of somewhere like Manchester or London where bands are given the means to climb the ranks of the music industry without leaving their hometown.

“Making it in art, when you’re from round here, is getting out of here,” says Callum. “It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yeah the infrastructure’s not there, but there’s a generational, bred-in lack of want and urgency for creativity; for non-factory workers basically.” This lack of a path towards art is something that chimes with Joe too, and will resonate across any part of the UK that was once defined by industry. “The history of the area is just hard work,” says the frontman. “It’s labourers and factory workers. Then that industry was taken away, and it was generations of people just trying to find something to do to get by.”

The duo are at pains to stress that they’re not pessimists – they believe in the Midlands, and see positives on the horizon. “I think things are improving,” Callum says. “There’s a huge art scene that’s thriving, but Midlanders are always walking uphill. I think it’s taken a couple of generations to catch up. In the Black Sabbath era, it had its flowers, but recently they’re starting to regrow.”

The album tackles these ideas in ways that should echo far wider than just the Midlands. “It’s obviously about where I’m from,” says Joe, “but that’s a million

different places, just in England.” He stops to think. “It’s that want for us to recognise our similarities through the hardships, rather than all the shit that keeps us butting heads with each other. The big hopeful moment is ‘DiG!’, at the end of the album, which is the big closing curtains, roll-the-credits moment. That’s where I really wanted to emphasise: ‘Just remember there is a thread of hope in all of this shit, of recognising that it is shit, and it’s shit for all of us’. There’s hope in the connection of the struggle.

“The point is that politics is personal,” he continues. “Your whole life is political. We’re not listing atrocities by politicians, but we are talking about life. Everyone had a bad time in lockdown. Me and my missus were living in a converted garage in Birmingham, covered in black mould, with our two dogs; my wife’s a teacher, she was teaching from home – it was a madhouse. Luckily for us, we had this giant silver lining of coming up with BIG SPECIAL. But the class stuff, the mental health stuff, it’s all ongoing, and it’s still informing what we’re making.”

With only two members, it would be easy to imagine BIG SPECIAL putting Joe and Callum under a lot of pressure, but the unity and connection they’re hoping to stoke clearly begins at home. “We rarely disagree,” says Callum. “It’s been a learning curve, touring and doing all this stuff. It’s strange labour, and it’s a lot of work to be done for two lads, but we could run a corner shop with a lot more hard work in it and we wouldn’t fall out there either. I see us as more of a comedy two-piece than a band,” he chuckles. “It’s like the Two Ronnies in the van,” grins Joe. “One-two-three-four!”



(and how BIG SPECIAL got signed thanks to a very helpful bit of serendipity)

Callum: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, innit? Because the only reason you’re talking to us today is because two brothers from Joe’s school moved to London, and one of them was doing our label’s tiling!

Joe: His brother, my old friend from school, was doing some podcast with [our label].

I don’t know if the tiling came through the podcast or the other way round, but the tiler was playing ‘SHITHOUSE’, and then Adam, our A&R guy, asked them about it, and he sent him it over. Adam phoned us, had a chat, phoned our manager, we went for a curry and he signed us. And that was that!

Callum: It was before our fucking tenth gig!

So I’d feel like a liar if we sat here and said that luck didn’t have a gigantic part to play, but in turn it’s because he heard our song – we are very lucky, but we worked fucking hard to get here. You said it yesterday Joe:

‘If we do pull it off, we’ll be happy for every single day of struggle’.


DIY 45


I try to ask, What’s the most interesting thing that can happpeninaworldwhere, actually, a lot of things aren’t that interesting anymore?






“Ithink there’s a funny zeitgeist to Britpop,” says British producer A. G. Cook. The founder of game-changing record label PC Music, and the erudite forefather of modern hyperpop, Cook is dialling in from London to discuss the new project he’s named after the ‘90s’ most swaggering genre. Perhaps unsurprisingly given his past, the record itself, however, is intentionally nothing like its namesake; less informed by guitar anthems than the springy, subversive offshoots of the musical collective he’s spent the last decade interlinked with. It’s a far cry from Oasis and Blur, but one where he dons the genre’s bold imagery to re-conceptualise his own work as just as quintessentially British and deserving of history and weight. The record is not “within the lineage of Britpop,” he explains, “but in a lineage of underground artists playing with universal symbols.”

Cook has the intellectual presence typical of many modern musical vanguards. Earphones plugged in, with his arms wrapped around his knees, behind him flashes a pixelated, fisheye graphic from a virtual DJ set the week prior. He talks eloquently about production, technology and the metaphysics of pop, with an obvious infatuation for both its history and future. This third project is designed to play with both of these timelines, creating an alternate timeline where his futuristic hyperpop reigns.

Over 24 tracks and three discs, on ‘Britpop’ Cook traverses a pseudo-history of his work within PC Music and beyond – each disc a “mini album”, representing its past, present and future. “Disc One is heavily electronic, the present is [about] songwriting, and the future is all over the place,” he says. The origin of ‘Britpop’ in fact predates 2020’s pair of swiftly-dropped albums ‘7G’ and ‘Apple’. Locked down in the US during the pandemic, Cook found himself quarantined in a foreign place that rabidly and unselfconsciously consumed the UK’s historic symbols; an experience that made him start to look at his own idea of Britishness.

“[In the US] you’d see ancient heraldry on top of a ranch,” he recalls. “You’d look at the cowboy aesthetic and [see parallels] to the Knights of the Round Table. You’d see John Steinbeck’s written his own version of King Arthur’s story [The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights], and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I’ve never felt nationalistic, but there’s this historical connection and tension between the US and UK perspectives.”

Meanwhile, Cook and his frequent collaborators – the late Scottish producer SOPHIE and Charli XCX (who features on the record’s title track) chief among them – had already led their own musical charge across the Atlantic. “PC Music does fall loosely into this lineage of the British Invasion,” Cook says, referring to

their popularity in the States. “Charli’s voice is pure Britpop in terms of personality and attitude.”

Equal parts buoyant and saccharine pop, off-piste acoustic medieval tapestry, and experimental electronica, the resulting project never settles in one thing nor the other. It’s esoteric and playful, held together by its author’s view of what British pop at its core could mean. “When I found the ‘Britpop’ title, I was surprised by how much more leverage it gave my ideas,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun to reference something while constantly side-stepping it, and there’s a similar ethos in my work. It uses concepts but not in too heavy handed a way. You’d think after doing a 49-track and a 10-track album [‘7G’ and ‘Apple’, respectively] that I’d be scraping the barrel, but it didn’t feel like that.”

Within ‘Britpop’’s cartoonishly experimental borders lie throwbacks to PC Music’s pioneers and frequent collaborators such as the aforementioned SOPHIE, whose work ushered in a new wave of experimental British underground pop. “Her work defies scale. It’s the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey – a sculptural thing that lands and levels everything around it up,” eulogises Cook. “The wider peer group – let alone with a figure like SOPHIE, who was such a laser beam – has a more complex and interesting legacy than I could have anticipated. I became invested in the historical weight [of PC Music], which is more than I would have assumed it could do in ten years.”

Indeed, the record’s third ‘future’ disc is a testament to the bold decisions made by Cook’s collective. On it, he plays with ambiguity, warping the dimensions of each track, suggesting a version of Britpop that’s more abstract than concrete; more future than nostalgia. “‘Britpop’ claims that the future can be one of many things, or more than one thing, but we don’t really know,” he says. “It’s me looking at the things I enjoy but that could make me uncomfortable, and therefore might be a window [to something else].”

However, behind the scenes, nostalgia and legacy feature heavily in the narrative of the record. In June 2023, following their tenth anniversary, PC Music announced it would cease releasing new music; the Soundcloud-born collective, renowned for its underground resistance to the mainstream, would pivot instead to archival projects. “The internet has just changed so much [over the last ten years]; we all exist in an internet soup,” Cook muses by way of reasoning. “I was


AUG 2013: Cook founds PC Music, with the aim to “record people who don’t normally make music” and “treat them as if they’re a major label artist”.

JAN 2014: Cook releases debut solo single ‘Keri Baby’ with PC Music’s Hannah Diamond.

JAN 2015: Cook and Charli XCX collaborate for the first time on a remix of ‘Doing It (feat. Rita Ora)’.

MAR 2017 – SEPT 2019: Cook executive produces a trio of Charli XCX releases – mixtape ‘Number 1 Angel’, the acclaimed ‘Pop 2’, and her third record, ‘Charli’.

AUG 2020: 49-track debut ‘7G’ is released. A month later, “second debut”, the 10-track ‘Apple’, drops.

SEPT 2021: Cook contributes to Lady Gaga’s ‘Chromatica’ remix album

“PC Music has a more complex and interesting legacy than I could have anticipatedd.“

JUNE 2022: Cook co-writes and coproduces ‘All Up In Your Mind’ from Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’.

JULY 2023: Cook announces PC Music will cease releasing new material past 2023, with third album ‘Britpop’ to be released on new label, New Alias.

sensing that the best thing PC Music could do would be to really consolidate itself, and put a line in the sand.”

“Charli XCX’s voice is pure Britpop in terms of personality and atttitude.“

Disc One of ‘Britpop’ captures this closed chapter with a collection of flamboyant and subversive exaggerations of pop, imbued with a raving spirit, and cementing the validity of PC Music’s legacy as hyperpop pioneers. “I’m having fun with the notion that early PC stuff was called ‘the future of music’,” Cook says. “You can look at early TikTok hits and see a pretty clear DNA: it’s a very surface-level version of it, but you can see a lot of things don’t necessarily share the attitude or thinking of PC Music.” Later, Disc Two is a “smooth transition” into Cook’s interest in acoustics, lore and mythologies, that’s loosely similar sonically to the efforts of Thy Slaughter – his 2023 collaborative outfit with British producer Easyfun. His reason for the record’s structure? “Anyone making stuff now is much more in conversation with time.”

In an era of heavy throwback sampling, awareness of a “flattened sense of pop music decades” only enhanced his attraction to time as a playlisting method. Genreless collections – see British legacy compilation records like ‘Now That’s What I Call Music!’ – appealed to Cook, both as a means of time-stamping an era and opening new, less tribal avenues for music consumption. “There’s tons of new stuff all the time, but in terms of how we talk about [past, present and future music], and wider consciousnesses, we are all made to be time travellers,” he suggests. “I try to take stock of the wider picture and ask, ‘OK, what’s the most interesting thing that can happen now, in a world where, actually, a lot of things aren’t that interesting anymore?’”

’Britpop’ manages this by balancing both a “genuine sincerity and real exploration of sound” with a humorous sense of world-building that never takes itself too seriously. He’s releasing it via his newborn label New Alias (“When it comes to naming things, I enjoy being quite literal…”), which in itself remains shrouded in an expected amount of playful secrecy. “I can’t elaborate on it too much, but the general idea is that it’s about being very aware, conscious and intentional – not just about the music you’re putting out, but also how you’re presenting it. Maybe artists will transcend their names. You know that feeling when you find a new piece of work that may have another alias, and you ask, ‘Is this that other person?’ That kind of mysteriousness and puzzle-solving is going to be a really crucial part of music over the next few years. New Alias is about framing artists in different ways.”

It’s the next stage in a career that’s already established Cook as one of pop’s true innovators – a sentiment Charli evidently shares: she enlisted him to remix recent single ‘von dutch’, the latest in a long line of collaborations. The mutual appreciation is returned tenfold. “Charli is still so ambitious,” he says, musing on her legacy and impact. “She’s so interesting. It’s a testament to being genuinely passionate about the craft – to be genuinely listening, making and performing.”

On ‘Britpop’ cut ‘Lucifer’, a darkly bubblegum entry, Charli and Cook reunite to strike expected alt-pop gold. “It has a clear chorus, but then the verse is a sampled chorus from something [unreleased]. You’re like, ‘Oh, is this a pop song? But what is the outro doing? What are the verses doing?’ It’s made up of stuff that’s ambiguous.”

As for A. G. Cook himself, his record’s extensive, three-part discography marks yet another attempt to reformat how British pop as a whole works. For him, pop music exists as a creative device that transcends its name, with ideas extending far beyond the boundaries of a singular project. Motifs, symbols and “clear DNA” reappear to build worlds that are recogniseable but ever in flux. Cook cites the work of Caroline Polachek as an example. “If someone asked me, do I prefer ‘Pang’ or ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’,” he questions, “I’d say, ‘Well, the real album exists somewhere between those two things’. It’s a combined world. It’s like Twin Peaks, where we all understand the atmosphere and its cultural impact without knowing the full mythos.”

That intriguing sense of never fully revealing it all is clearly something Cook also subscribes to. When asked for his vision of ‘Britpop’, his answer is open and boundless. “[The record] opens people to different extremes, and maybe makes people think a bit differently about things being literal. Things can be slightly mythical,” he says. “Or maybe it’s just music that’s enjoyable, and the enjoyment there [is that it is] slightly difficult to categorise.

“I think this feeling of something being idiosyncratic, or unique and weird and special, is what ‘Britpop’ is trying to explore. It became fun to reference and exploit what Britpop is. And it’s a clearly labelled entrance. Anyone who engages with, like, 100 minutes of it will hopefully find something.”

‘Britpop’ is out 10th May via New Alias. DIY

Photos: Sinna Nasseri


This month: Dua Lipa, St Vincent, A. G. Cook, DIIV and more.



Radical Optimism


When the internet collectively dubbed Dua Lipa their ‘vacanza queen’ after her predilection for a frequent holiday jaunt, what they didn’t realise was that, by soaking up the languorous Ibizan sun and flirty poolside vibes, the pop megastar was actually laying some important groundwork. Where 2020’s global smash ‘Future Nostalgia’ concocted an ‘80s-meets-disco fantasia of giddy pop genius, not so much levelling up the singer from her slightly patchy debut as launching her into a whole different league of top tier excellence, on ‘Radical Optimism’ Dua has plugged in her musical GPS and headed off with the sunscreen in hand. ‘Training Season’ is over, and the OOO reply is set to ‘continental beach break’.

Having assembled a crack team of synth wizards and maestros of balmy euphoria around her, you can see how ‘Radical Optimism’’s musical language has come into being. Credited throughout are Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, sepia-tinged singer turned songwriter to the stars (Adele, Miley and Harry among them) Tobias Jesso Jr, and PC Music graduate Danny L Harle. Packed with light, deft production and the sort of fluttering melodies built for playing out in the heat of the midday sun, you can see the fingerprints of each in the effervescent climax of ‘Houdini’, the breezy soft rock second half of ‘Anything for Love’, or ‘Training Season’’s vibrant dancefloor pulse respectively.

There’s an ease to the whole thing that tallies with teaser photos posted from the writing room that look more like a bunch of mates shooting the shit than a hardcore pop bootcamp. Indeed, from the “One, two, three, wheyyyyy” group cheer of opener ‘End of an Era’, it’s like ‘Radical Optimism’ has thrown open the garden gate into its summer party to let everyone in: a potentially unexpected tone-setter for the record, given the headier throb of the singles released so far.

Contextualised among the lighter moments of sugary pop number ‘These Walls’ or the Spanish guitarcentred ‘French Exit’, those previously-dropped tracks (‘Houdini’, ‘Training Season’ and ‘Illusion’) make sense as the more headstrong, after-hours end of an album wholly centred around tumultuous affairs of the heart. But, whilst bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, there is a lingering sense that Dua’s played her main cards already. Where almost every song from ‘Future Nostalgia’ ended up as a single, you can’t imagine the same happening here. Aside from the aforementioned ‘End of an Era’,

or the slinking bass line of ‘Whatcha Doing’, it’s hard to picture the rest of these songs kicking off atop Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage quite like their predecessors (although props must go to the bonkers ‘Falling Forever’ – a truly extra cut that could find a second home at the Eurovision if Worthy Farm doesn’t work out).

In some ways, ‘Radical Optimism’ is a victim of the astronomically high bar that Dua set for herself on LP2 – an album that reigned supreme both critically and commercially, earning her a GRAMMY win and a Mercury nod as well as sky high streaming numbers across the board. There are tracks here that can compete – ‘Training Season’ in particular – but there are also ideas that feel lacking. ‘Anything for Love’ starts off strong but ends like a half-finished demo, while lyrically every song is about love and lovers; hearts aching and breaking.

Dua Lipa remains one of the UK’s best pop stars; you only need to watch her gravitydefying man tower at this year’s BRITs to see that. But on her hugely-anticipated third, there’s plenty of sundrenched sonic optimism but not so much that’s all that radical. Lisa Wright LISTEN: ‘Training Season’

Plenty of sundrenched sonic optimism but not so much that’s all that radical.


All Born Screaming Virgin Music/Fiction

By the close of previous album ‘Daddy’s Home’, it seemed as if St Vincent had done it all. Early albums showcased Annie Clarke’s arthouse leanings and nimble guitar playing, and steadily her discography moved through to arena-sized pop that seemed to nod just as much to the neon pink of Dua Lipa as it did the acute angles of David Byrne, each one-time co-conspirators. Impressive, certainly, but leaving the impression that perhaps there was little else to cover; that she had rattled through every tool in her arsenal, and that the wry observations of stardom may well cave into emulation rather than satire. At such a crossroads, which many artists have met before, the question stands: where can St Vincent go from here? ‘All Born Screaming’ is the best possible answer: an existential balancing act exploring both the horror and hope of life, served cold over minimalist hits.

Fans of her early work will be glad to hear Annie making the best use of her guitar prowess since 2014’s self-titled record, whether it’s via the subtle Led Zeppelin arpeggios of opener ‘Hell Is Near’, or the mad scientist solo on the reggae-inspired ‘So Many Planets’. With this rejuvenated playing comes an attitude shift too, with something rawer and nastier repeatedly coming to the forefront. A plethora of world-class drummers have been drafted in for the record, from Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa and previous Bowie collaborator Mark Guiliani, to new Foo Fighters recruit Josh Freese. Perhaps the best example of this is ‘Broken Man’, which sees Dave Grohl driving a Nine Inch Nails-esque masterclass in minimalism. Between lacerating power chords, a PJ Harvey drawl and a new entry into history’s most iconic cowbells, this track fosters an overpowering sexuality that is impossible to resist. St Vincent has never been quite so provocative as her promise to a lover: “I can hold my arms right open / But I need you to drive the nail”.

As with every St Vincent record, ‘All Born Screaming’ is also awash with delicate, bittersweet moments. ‘The Power’s Out’ is a disaster film turned waltz, detailing murders and suicides with a tender lullaby. Meanwhile, ‘Reckless’ echoes the quieter moments of Fiona Apple, pitching double bass against piano and swelling into an eerie soundscape. And through the bleakness grows moments of uplifting joy, equally subtle if less quiet about it. ‘Sweetest Fruit’ initially teases something from the more esoteric end of St Vincent’s range, with what can only be described as a digital marimba fluxing in and out of key. Yet the track grows into a warm and simplistic sense of empathy, which captures the heart of the record.

Beginning with a reference to the tragic death of hyperpop icon SOPHIE, St Vincent keeps coming back to how “the sweetest fruit is on the limb”, a succinct statement on the essential risk and reward of life.

The record closes with the title track, which pairs a jazzy, almost Smiths-like guitar line and off-kilter drums with a bed of moody synths, before collapsing into nothing and rebuilding into an operatic finale. It serves as a perfect end to this album, which is throughout something of a self-contradiction: its examinations of the human condition never break from a tone of suffering, yet always highlights a need to embrace living anyway. By adopting every genre, it is genre-less, and through minimalism serves to showcase a series of musicians at their very best. With such a consistently adept and fresh discography, it’s impossible to call this album St Vincent’s best, yet it’s quite easily her fullest, building on everything she’s already achieved while also treading new ground. If she is to be known by one record, let it be ‘All Born Screaming’. James Hickey

LISTEN: ‘Broken Man’

Quite easily her fullest record, building on everything she’s already achieved while also treading new ground.
Photos: Tyrone Lebon, Alex Da Corte

It’s only been five years since Wallows’ debut album ‘Nothing Happens’ and ironically, quite a lot has in fact happened for the outfit. Already, the LA alt-rock trio are gearing up to play one of London’s largest rooms in Alexandra Palace as part of a global tour that will take them from Washington to Wellington. For album number three though, some of their magic seems to have been lost along the way. ‘Model’ starts brightly enough, the opening measures of lead single ‘Your Apartment’ like the first rays of sunshine that hit upon emerging from a night in a festival tent, before a blaring chorus that feels ready-made for mass live singalongs. Fellow singles ‘Calling After Me’ and ‘Bad Dream’ are similarly strong entries in the 12-song tracklist, but ultimately feel like the record’s most obvious selections, because before long, ‘Model’ begins to feel like a series of safe options. Whereas they’ve previously benefitted from borrowing from the Vampire Weekend book of peculiarities, there’s little here that really steps outside the realm of comfortability and conformity. It’s a challenge to distinguish songs like ‘A Warning’ or ‘Don’t You Think It’s Strange’ as being Wallows, rather than the cavalcade of alt rock bands that rode that latenoughties wave of popularity, and the album’s strong-enough opening does little to distract from the toil of the tail end. The end result is an album that feels far longer than its sub-40 minute runtime, resembling the result of an AI program given a genre tag and band name as its only prompts. For a band that has risen this quickly, a misstep is not entirely surprising, but here’s to hoping it’s a detour rather than a new destination. Jack Butler-Terry LISTEN: ‘Your Apartment’




What A Devastating Turn Of Events

Parlophone / Atlas Artists

Rachel Chinouriri has always been far from a predictable artist (her 2019 EP ‘Mama’s Boy’ offered up a slice of soulful pop, while 2021 project ‘Four° In Winter’ leaned more into electronic influences), but it’s on this, her long-awaited debut full-length, that she fully steps into her considerable potential as one of indie pop’s most interesting, vital voices. Very much an album of two halves, ‘What A Devastating Turn Of Events’ utterly rejects the notion that chart-friendly music need be thematically or emotionally beige. On its A-side, Rachel explores concepts of homesickness and heartsickness with candour, sass, and wry self-awareness; though this first section largely deals in affairs of the heart, she manages to bring new dimension to the well-worn ‘boy mistreats girl’ lyrical trope by swapping between nostalgia-tinged intimacy (‘All I Ever Asked’) and affirming, anthemic choruses (‘Never Need Me’).

As we pass the record’s halfway point, however, there’s a significant tonal shift: gone are the meta, tongue-in-cheek additions of matey voice notes (‘It Is What It Is’) and humorous radio links (‘Dumb Bitch Juice’), and in their place is the title track – an instrumentally understated yet thematically hard-hitting hairpin turn left, detailing the eponymous narrative that led to a relative of Rachel’s taking her own life. It’s a sucker-punch statement that aims to emulate the speed with which circumstances can change, and indeed begins a run of poignantly beautiful tracks that variously touch on disordered eating and body image (‘I Hate Myself’); familial tragedy (‘Robbed’); and generational trauma (‘My Blood’).

One of indie pop’s most interesting, vital voices. 

“It’s not like I want to die / At least not now / I love being alive,” sings girl in red’s Marie Ulven on ‘I’m Back’, the opening track on this second full-length. As expected, there’s plenty of both wide-eyed excitability and depressive realism. Across the record, the Norwegian indie-pop auteur careens between suffocating neuroses and radical self-acceptance, settling mostly in the latter. This LP refines the smorgasbord of ideas present on ‘if i could make it go quiet’, making coherent all its noise while retaining deft Scandipop craftsmanship and wit. Elsewhere, it’s largely a classic continuation of what’s come before: she’s still trying to tame her fidgety mind while cleverly sandwiching oxymoronic sounds. Frenetic indie rollicker ‘DOING IT AGAIN BABY’ devolves into a country throw-down; alternative anthem ‘You Need Me Now?’ brings on board pop singer Sabrina Carpenter; and the soft haze in ‘Phantom Pain’ ends with tearing vocals. The most suggestive of best-yet-to-come, however, is the art-pop closer ‘’, where a brazenly self-aware Marie examines her knack for commodifying strife. “You’ve gotta be delusional to be in the biz […] I do amazingly bad at making magnificent trash,” she decrees over a fizzing, choppy percussive cacophony. In doubling down on her niche – that is, artsy Scandi-indiepop – ’I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!’ is girl in red at her most realised. Otis Robinson LISTEN: ‘Phantom Pain’

What’s remarkable about ‘What A Devastating Turn Of Events’, though, is that the gravitas of this weightier material isn’t cheapened by the sudden contrast, just as the LP’s initial buoyancy somehow doesn’t become retrospectively flippant. Instead, the album honours that life’s lightness isn’t contradicted by the dark moments, but rather co-exists alongside them; a reminder that everything – and everyone – contains multitudes. Daisy Carter LISTEN: ‘Robbed’

Submarine Cat

It’s a bold, but respectable, move for an act to change up their sound and embark on a sonic u-turn. It’s even more bold for an outfit to go out on a limb and switch things up before they’ve even released an album. Former scuzz-merchants Home Counties, however, began this step with a synth-charged post-pandemic 180, and now they’ve admirably followed through on debut LP ‘Exactly As It Seems’. Setting the pace for what’s to come, ’Uptight’ shows off the new(ish) direction of the outfit, as the band swiftly delve into more tech-house territory. A rave-filled, late night groover pitched somewhere between Primal Scream and Confidence Man, it’s the kind of appealing banger that’d be at home in both indie-sleaze club nights and on WKD-drenched dance floors. ‘Bethnal Green’, meanwhile, is gloriously bonkers, and sees the group commentate on the gentrification of its namesake locale via another heady, bass-laden skittish ripper - as if Snapped Ankles were swallowed into a Super Nintendo to start a rave band with Bowser. It’s not all ravey vibes though: Home Counties bring the dynamism too, delving into funky art-pop across both the aptly titled ‘Funk U Up’ and groove-heady ‘Dividing Lines’, while ‘Wild Guess’ crosses the boundaries of dreamy indie and soul, with a touch of bossa nova, before erupting into the realms of drum’n’bass. Looking deeper though, ‘Exactly As It Seems’ isn’t all change for the sextet; Home Counties still explore the myriad of despairs of modern day British living for many, making it much more profound than another synth-heavy late night party album. A strong and audacious debut. Brad Sked

LISTEN: ‘Uptight’

52 DIY ALBUMS 
 HOME
Exactly As It Seems
Photo: Corinne Cumming


8/9/10/11 MAY













LANKUM 18 & 19 MAY








































MOIN 17 & 18 OCT ICA













SO Recordings

Regardless of standing on the political spectrum, there’s no denying that right now the state of Britain is a dire one, and of late there’s been no shortage of bands willing to call it out, from the gritty grime punk poetry of Bob Vylan to the fed-up lamentations of Sleaford Mods. Black Country duo BIG SPECIAL now follow in their footsteps, their lyrics and themes tackling issues from class warfare and mental health to addiction and working jobs you hate. A glance over the tracklist lends an idea as to the content: titles like ‘I MOCK JOGGERS’, ‘SHITHOUSE’ and ‘DESPERATE BREAKFAST’ may paint a dreary, bitter picture, but nothing can compare to the power of the songs themselves. Louder and more volatile than a bomb but furnished with the stark poetry of John Cooper Clarke, it’s a dizzying mix of hard and delicate. Even in its quietest moments – like the a cappella ‘MONGREL’ – Joe Hicklin’s vocal delivery crackles with a furious optimism paradoxically borne of hopelessness: “Yonder I see a hill to die on, or is that just a grass verge where lies the dog turd of life?” ‘THIS HERE AIN’T WATER’ best summarises BIG SPECIAL’s appeal, a contorting and deft number that switches between rugged rants and soulful crooning while Callum Moloney’s drums match him at every turn. This isn’t an album or band that will hit everyone the same right away, but given half a chance, they’ll find a way within these 15 tracks to win over anybody. ‘POSTINDUSTRIAL HOMETOWN BLUES’ is not the soothing salve for a country tearing itself apart. Instead, it is the molotov cocktail and lighter threatening to ignite the people into taking action. Jack Butler-Terry LISTEN: ‘THIS HERE AIN’T WATER’

A dizzying mix of hard and delicate.
A.G. COOK Britpop

On third album ‘Britpop’, A G. Cook – founder of art collective PC Music and arguably the godfather of hyperpop – taps into the nostalgia of British pop culture to mine historic sounds for his audience to find innovative. In his universe, Britpop is less Oasis than springy PC Music, and over a 24-track odyssey split into three discs – past, present and future – Cook surmises a decade of sonic invention. The chipmunk fantasia never dims: Disc 1 – a platform video game rave – is buoyant, cartoonish and queasily saccharine. Disc 2 reiterates the off-piste medieval tapestry of collaborative outfit Thy Slaughter’s ‘Soft Rock’, before Disc 3 is more akin to throwing ice cream on a circuit board, and features no shortage of SOPHIE’s established future soundscape (see ‘Without’, which features a touching tribute to the late Scottish producer, a reminder of her indelible impact on the collective and pop music at large). Later, ‘Lucifer’ boasts long-time collaborator Charli XCX, who also joins for its hyper, bratty title track; ‘Luddite Factory Operator’ makes use of the pop industrialism and metaphysics Cook originally helped to forge, and ‘The Weave’ is an elixir of digital wizardry and retro mythology. On ‘Britpop’, a record that exists at the cusp of a portal between medieval England and a spritely electronic future, Cook’s mastery of the esoteric is singular – and a strong argument for the term to retain this new, additional meaning. Otis Robinson LISTEN: ‘Britpop’


The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology EMI

Taking on Taylor Swift’s eighth record in four years is a mammoth task, running at over two hours in length, but let’s face it, brevity has rarely been the name of the game for one of the biggest artists in the world. Launching into a prolific release schedule kickstarted by 2017’s ‘Reputation’ and only further ramping up over time, it’s largely a miracle that there have been almost no duds in her acclaimed repertoire. The isolation of 2020 arguably produced her highest quality work to date, while re-recordings with equally epic runtimes have unearthed a sea of musical gems. You’d certainly be hard pushed to find another fanbase who can belt out every word to a lyrically dense 10-minute track like the extended ‘All Too Well’ – a song that seemingly lays the foundation for much of ‘The Tortured Poets Department’.

It’s all in the name really; breakups, heartbreak and generalised trauma lead the charge on Taylor’s 11th studio album proper. Each of the record’s 31 tracks unfold as a specific set piece filled with anecdotes, some more cleverly worded than others. But recent challenges to Taylor Swift’s songwriting are perhaps misaligned – her entire catalogue is filled with a balance of candid memories and diary-like musings. Here, she notes shared opinions of the quality of Charlie Puth rather than recalling dropped keys on the floor, but ultimately the winning formula hasn’t changed – it’s a direct line into her life and another showcase of the magic that has secured a die-hard following. In sound, it sits somewhere between the sparse nature of ‘folklore’ and the overt pop of ‘Midnights’, across its two hours settling into a steady pace that forgoes massive fan favourites in favour of a continuous pull on the heartstrings.

The issue with a two-hour album is that you’re not going to hit the mark on every track (no song should have three exclamation marks in the title), and it’s tricky to keep momentum when the name of the game is introspective storytelling. And yes, even the biggest fans will agree that none of ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ will be joining ‘Shake It Off’ or ‘Cruel Summer’ in filling pop dancefloors with their huge singalong choruses anytime soon. But if the last two decades have taught us anything, there are many sides to Taylor Swift and she knows how to play them well. Being tortured is far from new for the global powerhouse, and even if there’s some work to do on editing the poetry, it won’t be long before fans are belting every word across the full two hours – and rightly so. Ben Tipple

LISTEN: ‘So Long, London’

Photos: Emma Swann, Sinna Nasseri




Sept 2 Birmingham O2 Academy3 Sept 6 London O2 Academy Islington An Academy Events & CLUB.THE.MAMMOTH. presentation by arrangement with Spider Touring OXFORD O2 ACADEMY MON 12 AUG 2024 NEWCASTLE O2 CITY HALL TUE 13 AUG 2024 FATFREDDYSDROP.COM

 MUI ZYU

nothing or something to die for Father/Daughter

On this second solo outing, mui zyu – aka Eva Liu – ostensibly sets out to capture the dizzying multiplicity of modern existence. Where her debut, ‘Rotten Bun For An Eggless Century’, delved into the intricacies of her Hong Kong-British identity and cultural heritage, here she turns her gaze outward, considering humans’ heartening but ultimately unending quest for peace and purpose in the face of simultaneous over-stimulation and stifling nihilism. No mean feat, then. In practice, these lofty ambitions translate into an album of contrasts: on the suitably tone-setting opener ‘satan marriage’, the warmth of swelling strings gives way to drum machine beats, pre-empting the sci-fi sonics of follow-up ‘the mould’; with ‘in the dot (feat. Pickle Darling)’, the vocals’ digital manipulation lends a sense of the dystopic, while the mid-record run of ‘speak up, sponge’, ‘what’s the password baby bird’, and ‘hopefulness, hopefulness’ are all imbued with organic orchestral flourishes. It’s a distinctly eclectic affair – the product of a Devonshire writing retreat on which Liu evidently experimented with new equipment and ideas – but there’s nevertheless a cohesion that prevents her often touching lyrical subtlety from becoming overwhelmed by uncanny instrumentation. And it’s the gentle push and pull between these two facets that colour the album as somehow both intimate and personal, yet fundamentally universal. Liu’s vocals are ethereal, but are also employed with considered intention, their sometime absence leaving space for the listener to fill in the gaps with their own subconscious. Like seeing photos of the Earth from space, or reading about fossils from aeons past, ‘nothing or something to die for’ inspires a strange sense of comfort – given the overwhelming expanse of it all, even small moments of human connection are not futile, but remarkable. Daisy Carter LISTEN: ‘the rules of what an earthling can be’



A Dream Is All We Know

Captured Tracks

New York brotherly duo The Lemon Twigs haven’t slowed down since their 2023 LP ‘Everything Harmony’; just a year later, they’ve returned with a delightful feast of retro-pop goodness in latest album ‘A Dream Is All We Know’. Lead single ‘My Golden Years’ begins proceedings, opening the magical portal that is the outfit’s saccharine Willy Wonka-esque wonderland of sun-drenched pop and heavenly harmonies. The Lemon Twigs’ delightful rollicking joy-ride of pop really is an antidote to melancholy here, with ‘Sweet Vibration’ – and its candy-coated loveliness – feeling akin to frolicking through fields of blooming flowers in spring, while the effervescent fun doesn’t let up on ‘They Don’t Know How To Fall in Place’, which boasts merry Beach Boys-like pop for balmy days down the boardwalk. Whether exploring more ‘60s West Coast psychedelic sounds in ‘If You Are Not Wise’, or meandering towards the more mellow with the otherworldly folk fantasy ballad that is ‘Ember Days’ – while album closer ‘Rock On (Over and Over)’ channels their inner T.Rex, with some glorious, glam-tinged rock n roll – ‘A Dream Is All We Know’ is like a love letter to the greats of music past. Overall, it’s a testament to the world-class songwriting of The Lemon Twigs that at no point does the record fall into the realms of ‘too much’. For most, it would be hard to strike that balance, but The Lemon Twigs absolutely master the art of crooning sugary pop-rock in the best of ways. Brad Sked

LISTEN: ‘Sweet Vibration’


Found Heaven Republic

Introduced via eerie, choral harmonies before staccato, Stranger Things-esque synths kick in, the opener and title track of ‘Found Heaven’ makes it clear from the off that this third outing is Conan Gray’s biggest yet. Not necessarily in length (its 13 songs altogether clock in at a swift 36 minutes) but in concept, scope, ambition, and sound, it’s a sledgehammer of an LP that switches things up once again for maximum impact. It almost goes without saying that the decades that taste forgot heavily inform the album, both aesthetically – there’s something of a Bowie air about the cover shot, Conan’s face daubed in primary colours that stand stark against his pale skin and Marc Bolan shag – and sonically, as synths, falsetto delivery, and bombastic choruses reign supreme.

Fans of 2022’s ‘Superache’ will be glad to hear that he hasn’t abandoned his candidly vulnerable lyricism, but, refracted through the prism of all-out synth-pop (‘Killing Me’; ‘Never Ending Song’) or power balladry (‘Forever With Me’; LP highlight ‘Winner’), even Conan’s more heartsore moments pack a different sort of punch; here, his pain is less of an open wound, and more a bruise – shimmeringly iridescent, but nonetheless tender to the touch.

‘Found Heaven’ does, at times, feel a bit like you could play ‘iconic ‘80s songs’ bingo: ‘Lonely Dancers’ is imbued with the essence of Men Without Hats’ ‘The Safety Dance’; ‘Bourgeoisieses’ and Soft Cell’s take on ‘Tainted Love’ could make for a frankly excellent Pitch Perfect medley; and ‘Boys & Girls’ lands like a modern incarnation of Duran Duran’s ‘Girls On Film’. And if you think all this might be coincidence or unconscious inspiration, think again – one track is literally called ‘Fainted Love’. But, when his influences are worn as heart-on-sleeve as they are here – and, crucially, are executed as well – the overall effect is one of knowing homage rather than tribute act. Anyone for a perm? Daisy Carter

LISTEN: ‘Fainted Love’

A sledgehammer of an LP.
56 DIY ALBUMS 
Photo: Eva Pentel


Hex Dealer


It takes a certain level of bombast to make the noise that New York’s Lip Critic make. Fusing hardcore punk and techno makes them a particularly interesting prospect – especially for anyone interested in Death Grips style output, only with the fury dialled down a few notches. Here on debut ‘Hex Dealer’, the quartet largely justify the hype that has built around them. The record starts with its most understated moment, creating a false sense of security through solitary pounding bass and a deftly sung refrain, before it swells and bursts into a flailing mass of tendrils, some organic, some manufactured, like a great gnashing mutant that threatens to tear a city asunder. Bret Kaser’s pitch-shifted barks terrify and incite in equal measure while the dual drumming of Danny Eberle and Ilan Natter provide the bedrock on which these songs fight and flourish. The squelching bass of ‘The Heart’ and chirping breakbeats of ‘Love Will Redeem You’ round out a strong opening trio and despite its discomforting nature, it all breezes by easily, like swallowing a tub of thumbtacks slathered in petroleum jelly. Guest features from GHÖSH and ID.Sus on ‘Bork Pelly’, and Izzy Da Fonseca on ‘Death Lurking’ provide two more highlights, with each artist understanding the assignment and matching Lip Critic’s maniacal energy. While none of the tracks outstay their welcome, there’s a paradoxical problem in that the constant catalogue of textures begins to feel retrodden, like being lost in the woods late at night and realising you’ve been going in circles. There’s very little setting the likes of ‘Toxin Dodger’ and ‘I’m Alive’ apart from one another, however good they may independently be. But ultimately, ‘Hex Dealer’ – as grimy as a New York subway and as dangerous as scaling the Chrysler Building – establishes Lip Critic as ones to watch.

Jack Butler-Terry

LISTEN: ‘Death Lurking’


Way To Be

Hardly Art

“Knowing when to stop / That must be sweet,” sighs the bittersweet opening gambit of ‘Carsick’ – a lament to the dangerous appeal of living too hard. Yet whilst the second LP from Brooklyn’s Nick Llobet is lyrically rooted in excess, ‘Way To Be’’s emotionally-intelligent indie is a lesson in how to hit the goosebump-inducing sweet spot. Intimate yet rich, ‘Nurture’’s woozy, stripped-back softness nods to Elliott Smith, while ‘Deserve’ fleshes the palette out to a delicate seesaw of haunting keys cut through by buzzing guitar lines. ‘Vacancy then makes for a late-album highlight – its perfectly-deployed harmonies and chord progressions designed to tingle the spine. Throughout, his unusual, fragile vocals lend a charm that can’t be taught; we’d be very happy, however, if they brought out a guide on how to pen tracks whose nuances can hit you in the feels quite this hard. Lisa Wright LISTEN: ‘Nurture’



The opening track on this sixth full-length by Les Savy Fav, ’Guzzle Blood’, plays like a war cry, with a synth line that shrieks like a siren throughout. Quickly, you find yourself wishing it hadn’t taken them over a decade to locate this incendiary sense of urgency; the NYC five-piece are one of the most consistently raucous live propositions in the modern history of indie rock, something that sometimes overshadowed how intricate, melodic and incessantly adventurous their recorded output could be. Their albums always burst at the seams with creative energy, as if they had more ideas than they did places to put them; as the years ticked by, the concern was not just whether they’d return but if such a ferocious spark could ever properly be reignited. The good news is that ‘OUI, LSF’ is the sound of a band fully recharged. It takes the kind of chutzpah we’ve come to expect from Les Savy Fav to return after such a long lay-off with surely their most avowedly experimental album to date, one that finds room for everything from ‘Legendary Tippers’, which imbues their punk blueprint with groove, to woozy, off-kilter wanders down strange new avenues, as on ‘Nihilists’ or instrumental interludes like ‘Dawn Patrol’. Then, there’s the disarming likes of piano ballad ‘Don’t Hide Me’ or the deceptively despondent pop stomper ‘Somebody Needs a Hug’, both of which suggest that frontman Tim Harrington – so often the court jester - has embraced the catharsis that comes with vulnerability. ‘OUI, LSF’ is a storming return that suggests that, far from having run out of steam, the possibilities for Les Savy Fav are again endless. Joe Goggins

LISTEN: ‘Guzzle Blood’



Call a Doctor

Sub Pop

“Our story begins in the East wing of the Wesley hospital / It’s our young hero’s local emergency centre / And it’s here where the boy finds himself / In a coma on the couch of room 6B”. So begins ‘INTRO’, the aptly titled opener of Girl and Girl’s debut full-length. Lyrically, taking the listener so very by the hand is a bold choice for the opening gambit – there’s a strong chance of drifting into am-dram, ‘once upon a time’ territory – but here, Kai James’ overt framing of the album acts as a sort of meta literary device, immediately establishing its character and concept (namely, himself and his own mental ill-health) with the narrative nous of fellow Aussie Courtney Barnett. Indeed, over the course of the next ten tracks, it’s as if you’ve been transposed directly into James’ frontal cortex: on title track ‘Call A Doctor’, the cantering beat-keeping of Aunty Liss (the frontperson’s IRL relation) recalls the palpitations of a racing heart; on the swelling epic ‘Maple Jean and the Anthropocene’, his vibrato vocal conveys a sense of quivering fragility; and on ‘Hello’, the lyrical sampling of The Sound Of Music’s ‘So Long, Farewell’ lands as an almost desperate stab at gallows humour. Instrumentally, Girl and Girl recall the stalwarts of 2010s garage rock (think Parquet Courts, Car Seat Headrest et al.), their affinity with jangly guitars and buoyant rhythms undercut by feverishly intense playing and a cloying sense of claustrophobia within the tracks’ dense arrangements (‘Oh Boy!’; ‘Mother’). This textural closeness does mean that by the time we reach some pace-changing slower cuts (such as the Joanna Sternberg-recalling ‘Comfortable Friends’), you can’t help but feel slightly tight-chested, but then again, ‘Call The Doctor’ is nothing if not immersive; with the cycle-completing conclusion of ‘OUTRO’, it’s ambiguous as to whether we ever left the Wesley hospital’s East wing at all. Daisy Carter LISTEN: ‘Hello’

RECOMMENDED Missed the boat on some of the best albums from the last couple of months? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.


This Could Be Texas

The Leeds-based gang show just why they’re the opposite of a flash-in-the-pan buzz band.


Silence Is Loud

The fast-rising star’s debut is only further assurance of her trailblazer status.

Only God Was Above Us

The New Yorkers’ latest takes the best bits of what’s made them so special thus far, and runs with them.

Humble As The Sun

It’s an album that rings with frustration and vitality from the April cover stars.



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Frog in Boiling Water Fantasy

That this is only DIIV’s fourth record feels like some trick of the imagination. There is an epic feel to the story of the twelve years since they made their name with ‘Oshin’, a glittering exercise in taut, melodic indie rock. They have undergone several metamorphoses, all of them painful; frontman Zachary Cole Smith peered into the abyss on addiction-chronicling second LP ‘Is The Is Are’, only to have the abyss stare back into him in a manner that nearly engulfed him entirely. 2019’s response to that, ‘Deceiver’, was the murky, brooding sound of a band finding themselves again; the electrifying nature of its accompanying live shows suggested they had found a rare sweet spot between mesmeric shoegaze and crackling rock’n’roll. The pandemic nixed plans for a quick-fire follow-up, and instead, it took years of often torturously fruitless writing sessions to arrive at ‘Frog in Boiling Water’. The cliche-averse will be disappointed to hear that once again, in suffering for their art, the Brooklyn four-piece have produced something truly special. This is a real statement of a record, one that sees them forge ever further skyward in their pursuit of monolithic shoegaze (‘Brown Paper Bag’, ‘Somber the Drums’) while also exploring softer territory on tracks so thick with atmosphere that their queasy melodies gnaw at the marrow of your bones. The latter aspect both matches the album’s thematic content and, by centring Cole’s vocals, pushes it to the fore; as their playful rollout has suggested, ‘Frog in Boiling Water’ is a highly conceptual and quietly furious piece that sifts through the wreckage of post-truth politics with disarming incision. The extracurricular controversies that once defined them now firmly in the rear-view mirror, DIIV have entered into a second act both thrilling and thoughtful. Joe Goggins

LISTEN: ‘Brown Paper Bag’

A real statement of a record.



La Fusion

*anything they refuse to call an album.

When Sam Eastgate – aka LA Priest – found himself stranded in Mexico due to travel restrictions, he did what anyone else would do: write a dreamy album about the sea while travelling around Central America, thousands of miles from his shed studio in Wales. And so, the resulting record, last year’s ‘Fase Luna’, still had many LA Priest hallmarks – the blurps and burbles – but felt altogether more meditative. ‘La Fusion’, then, is the ideal companion piece to that record. Written at the tail-end of his Costa Rican experience, these four tracks see Sam wondering whether the life he knew before ‘Fase Luna’ is still accessible to him, the return to society looming. ‘La Fusion’ might have been crafted at the same time as ‘Fase Luna’, but this is the sound of a man reemerging from the wilderness. From the rough and ready funk of ‘Too Cool’ to that signature bubbling synth making a reappearance on opener ‘Apple’, it’s clear he has the vision and skill to shift between the two worlds with ease. “Will I survive?”, he sings towards the end of ‘City Warm Heart’, questioning whether this step back into society will be worth it, but it’s that moment which sees a return to the funky LA Priest of old – still as warm, inviting and intoxicating as ever. Chris Taylor LISTEN: ‘City Warm Heart’


Can I Miss It For A Minute?

LAB Records

There’s a certain type of melancholia that has cut through the heart of the mainstream in recent years, led by a generation’s embrace of vulnerability and an onslaught of social media soundtracks far surpassing the typical teenage girl trope. The range is massive – from the watered down to true substance – with the latter often birthing unassuming upstarts and underdogs. Nell Mescal joins the likes of Lizzy McAlpine and Katie Gregson-MacLeod in pairing that small town tradition with the relatable sadness that has led the viral charge over the last few years – delivering songs that are written simultaneously for country pubs and headline stages. Across five tracks, the Irish singer-songwriter evolves from the gentle to the grand, not least in opener ‘Warm Bodies’’s build from Phoebe Bridgers-esque intro to rousing catharsis. ‘Yellow Dresser’ best captures Nell’s traditionalism yet with a crisp production that brilliantly moves her beyond the classic folk realm – not that this wouldn’t fit in there too. The EP embodies the magic of the social media generation, harnessing authenticity to reach the masses. That ‘Can I Miss It For A Minute?’ wouldn’t sound out of place in pretty much any setting is testament to its impeccable songwriting, and to an artist expertly channelling intimacy and grandeur in equal measure. Ben Tipple LISTEN: ‘Warm Body’


After a prolific year of releasing singles and playing shows, Nell Mescal is finally sharing her first body of work. Here, the Irish singer-songwriter speaks to Sophie Flint Vásquez about the reflection and honesty at the heart of her debut EP.

Since the release of your debut single ‘Graduating’ in 2020, you’ve done a lot: you’ve opened for The Last Dinner Party, Florence + The Machine, and Dermot Kennedy, among others. What’s changed since then?

It’s so crazy to do all those things and start this journey when I’m still changing and growing up.It’s my 21st birthday on Sunday, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god!’. Last year I thought I was so grown up, and then I did so much more growing this year. I think my voice has changed, and how I go about live performances has also really changed, which is strange. I think I’ve gone back to how I was when I was a child: more carefree and sure of myself.

You’ve had the chance to collaborate and share stages with amazing artists, but what’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you?

Be nice to everyone, be open, find good people, and then keep them around you for as long as you can! I wouldn’t be anywhere without the people I get to call my friends now, as well as the people that I get to work with. So just be nice, especially when you’re supporting someone. If they’re being gracious with their time and talking to you, listen to them. Florence [Welch] and Dermot Kennedy, for example, have things to say because they’ve been where you are. Everything is about learning, and there’s so much that I could say, but I think be open and nice are the main things.

‘Can I Miss it for a Minute’ feels brutally honest: was honesty something you were going for?

Yeah, and I think being honest comes naturally to me. Then I have to turn it

back and I then usually end up going back to the first draft because I don’t think my favourite artists are that honest. I think that’s where I want to sit with the songs that I write. Some songs are quite vague, but that’s because I’m not ready to process them the way I want to yet, but that’s the next stage.

From growing up to moving away to friendship breakups, ‘Can I Miss It For A Minute?’ sees you reflecting on your own experiences. Would you say writing songs is something that helps you process things you’ve been through?

Oh 100%, it’s, like, my main thing. I find myself writing songs about things I thought I’d already grieved and processed. It’s so cathartic. When I wrote this EP, I definitely wasn’t ready to finish writing about the situation that I’m specifically singing about. And then, when I finished the recording, I was like ‘I think I can put it to bed now. I’ve said all that I can say and all I need to say right now’.

An artist expertly channelling intimacy and grandeur in equal measure.

A handy lil’ list of albums worth getting excited for.


Heavy Jelly

Get the moshpits ready: the pair’s first record in six years (!) is set to hit shelves on 19th July.


It’s set to be a summer of love for the Irish gang as their debut for new home XL is out on 23rd August.


I Love You So F***ing Much

Love is in the air for these returning transatlantic pop heroes too, as their selfcensored fourth is set for release on 19th July.


I Hear You

Incredibly it’ll be the debut fulllength for the superstar DJ and producer. The ten-track record is due on 7th June. COMING UP!

Photos: Louie Kovatch, David Reiss


NIA ARCHIVES HERE at Outernet, London

Walk through the streets of Soho on any given day, and you’ll find hordes of tourists gathered beneath the mammoth screens of HERE at Outernet, craning their necks to take in whatever mesmerising visuals are on display.

Come evening, though, and the full potential of the blank canvas space is realised: beneath a screen-clad tunnel of kaleidoscopic psychedelia, the cavernous venue is packed with suitably warmed-up ravers waiting shoulder-to-shoulder for Nia Archives – the self-appointed ‘emotional junglist’ – to assume her position behind the decks.

And the reasoning behind that particular nickname is apparent from the off; bouncing onstage with a tooth-gem bearing grin, a Union Jack proudly emblazoned across her chest, Nia radiates the sort of impassioned electricity that only comes from doing something that genuinely makes your heart sing. Turns out, that energy is catching. Backed by choppy visuals that put us in mind of ‘00s music videos – or those iconic silhouetted iTunes adverts – she spends the set’s first third proving just how good a party purveyor she is, collaging together Gwen Stefani (‘Hollaback Girl’), Florence + The Machine (‘You Got The Love’), and Yeah Yeah Yeahs (‘Heads Will Roll’, obvs).

It’s not until nearly 25 minutes in that she actually pivots to playing her own tracks, but such is the build up of anticipation that, when she eventually does drop into cuts from her hot-off-the-press debut LP ‘Silence Is Loud’, the reaction is like releasing the tension in a coiled spring. ‘Cards On The Table’ provides an early highlight, its airy Britpop influence brought to the fore when rendered live, while the soulful vocal bridge of ‘Crowded Roomz’ is met with a particularly heartening crowd sing along (not least because Nia tells us, smiling sheepishly, that her voice is going slightly).

Singing while playing any instrument is no mean feat, let alone doing so whilst mixing layered new-gen jungle and commanding a room entirely solo, but she does it all with such glee – even when she has to jog from front of stage back to the decks to oversee a transition – that you almost forget the sheer scale of that ask. And while select parts of the crowd are, to start with, a tad too keen to view proceedings through the lens of their IPhone 13, by the set’s end we’ve found a back-left pocket of joyous, impromptu dance circles surrendering themselves to the skittering DnB of ‘Forbidden Feelingz’.

Tonight, there’s no pretension from Nia Archives, no pains made to ‘play it cool’ – it’s just one woman revelling in the warmth of what she’s created, and celebrating that she gets to share it with this room. Daisy Carter

A victory lap for an artist whose star is about to go supernova.
62 DIY


Troxy, London

Photos: Emma Swann


ool’ is inherently subjective, but it would be hard to find a person on the planet who would not bestow the adjective upon Alison Mosshart.

In her twenty year tenure as the vocal half of The Kills, she and guitarist Jamie Hince have witnessed the entire music landscape change; where once, their use of a drum machine rather than a live body on stage was a cause for comment, these days it barely raises an eyebrow. Yet throughout, Mosshart has been an emblem of a certain type of arty rock’n’roll – the kind that surrounded Lou Reed, or emanates from Patti Smith; in other words, the best kind.

Kicking off their first full UK tour since before the pandemic at London’s suitably art deco Troxy, in support of recent album ‘God Games’ – itself, their first studio record since 2016’s ‘Ash & Ice’ – it’s this sense of proper, grit’n’guts spirit that feels gloriously tangible from the moment the pair walk out. It’s in the way that Hince manages to wrangle the sort of grizzled slabs of noise from his guitar that hit straight to the guts; how Mosshart stalks the stage, in turns dropping to her knees and bending double as though she’s been punched in the stomach by the song itself. If all this sounds a little theatrical, then it’s because, despite their minimal numbers and obvious lack of artifice, there’s nonetheless an undeniable sense of drama to the way the pair perform; the way they see music as a high stakes, extreme emotional sport.

‘God Games’ takes up the bulk of the setlist, and fits easily into their back catalogue. ‘Love And Tenderness’ is all swagger, while ‘New York’ brings the shadowy night time streets of the city into the belly of London. Nonetheless, the biggest cheers of the night are reserved for cuts from 2008’s ‘Midnight Boom’ (the sordid prowl of ‘U.R.A Fever’; the clipped clap of ‘Black Balloon’), and its 2011 follow-up ‘Blood Pressures’. Ahead of the latter’s ‘Baby Says’, Mosshart takes a moment to stand centre stage and soak up the cheers before beginning the track’s tender missive, while ‘Future Starts Slow’ remains a career highlight that showcases how underrated Hince is as a truly visceral, instinctive guitar player.

Bringing out a pair of backing singers to flesh out recent album cut ‘Kingdom Come’ and oldie ‘DNA’, you can appreciate the attempt to level up their quintessentially skeletal set up. But in some ways, the extra bodies on stage feel almost like an imposition on the longstanding duo; as a band who’ve always made an asset of their limitations, whose one-on-one chemistry is established and palpable, there’s really no need for any additional bells and whistles.

As gnarly latter set highlight ‘Doin’ It To Death’ – a song they’ve previously described as being about “staying hungry for the things you were born to do” –spotlights, Mosshart and Hince have always been musicians clearly in this game for the long haul. Where, in the beginning, they were surrounded by peers, two decades in they embody a primal spirit that feels rare now. It’s all the more reason to hold The Kills close and soak up the magic. Lisa Wright

Their sense of proper, grit’n’guts spirit feels gloriously tangible from the moment they walk out.


Kissy Kissy U.R.A. Fever

Love and Tenderness


Going to Heaven Baby Says New York


Kingdom Come

Hard Habit to Break

God Games

Black Balloon


LA Hex

Doing It to Death

Future Starts Slow


Better Days

My Girls

My Girls

Sour Cherry





















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I was really lucky, I got to see him perform twice in one night – once at Hammersmith Apollo for a big show and then after we went back to the Marquee Club in Islington and watched a more intimate gig. It was insane. That was the best night ever. His musicality is off the scale.


I was too young to see the shows, but I watched the videos and that was my favourite Janet era. I would want to watch her literally from back then, in those outfits. As a teenager, watching The Chart Show and listening to commercial radio, she was a big inspiration of that time in my life.


If it was something more intimate then I’d go KOKO, but I love Brixton Academy. When [All Saints] played Brixton, that was my favourite gig ever – the energy from everyone was amazing. I remember someone sending a video from after the show and all the way out of the venue down the road, people were singing ‘Never Ever’ going down to the tube. I saw Public Enemy and a lot of American hip hop acts when I was younger there, so to play it was a big deal.


Obviously my girls, my friends – not necessarily the band because they’re different crowds, they’re different things. Mel [Blatt] is my girl and I wouldn’t even include Mel because we’re family, so when I’m with my girls it’s a different vibe. Who else would I have? Method Man! Why would I

throw Method Man into the mix with me and my girls, I don’t know? But I think it would be interesting!


Always a Tommy’s margarita – it’s slightly sweeter because there’s agave syrup in it so it’s not as zingy as just a straight margarita. I’ve had my fair share of parties, but I’m not really much of a partier these days. If I go out though, I love a Tommy’s margarita.


If me and my girls could get ready nicely together, that would be fun. With lots of margaritas and champagne. The vibe now is, if I go out, as much as I intend on getting ready nicely it’s always rushed and I only give myself an hour – that’s in between sorting other things before I can even get out the door. So booking a hotel room, getting ready, swanning around in a robe before it’s time to go… I would love that.


Normally the afterparty is me going to bed, but as this is fantasy then yeah! I’m gonna

have an afterparty! I’d like DJ Premier; he DJed at something I went to years ago and I’ve never forgotten his set. It was old school hip hop and R&B – I don’t know if he had particular speakers but everyone was up and the energy was incredible.


The Magic Mike guys! My friend had a birthday party not so long ago and she hired some of the Magic Mike guys to perform. It was amazing. I’ve been to the London show twice.

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