Coming of Age The Rumble Strips TEETH!!! Dirty Projectors
ISSUE 21 St Vincent
Future of the Left Au Revoir Simone
Hot Chip Plugs And Much More... 1
�ontents Coming of Age
Page 5 - Editorial Page 6 - Future of the Left Page 11 - Plugs Page 13 - My Tiger My Timing Page 15 - TEETH!!! Page 16 - The Rumble Strips Page 22 - Phoenix Page 24 - St Vincent Page 27 - Band of Skulls Page 29 - Banjo or Freakout Page 30 - Hot Chip Page 32 - Au Revoir Simone Page 34 - Black Moth Super Rainbow Page 36 - Dirty Projectors
Page 41 - Music Sounds Better With Huw Page 43 - On the Road: Little Boots Page 45 - Read the Label: No Pain in Pop Page 47 - Pop Will Eat Itself: Paul Smith Page 48 - Inside Story: Change the Records Page 54 - News Page 57 - Album Reviews Page 64 - Live Reviews Page 66 - Competitions
DIRTY PROJECTORS Bitte Orca
JON HOPKINS Insides
JOKER’S DAUGHTER The Last Laugh
LP, CD & Digital
LP, CD, Cassette & Digital 8th June 2009
2xLP, CD & Digital 4th May 2009
CD & Digital 15th June 2009
JUNIOR BOYS Begone Dull Care
KING CREOSOTE Flick The Vs
LP, CD & Digital 11th May 2009
YO MAJESTY Futuristically Speaking... Never Be Afraid
LP, CD & Digital
BILL WELLS & MAHER SHALAL HASH BAZ Gok
BONNIE ‘PRINCE’ BILLY Beware
CD & Digital 4th May 2009 <:D<G6E=>8
2xLP, CD & Digital
editorial, concept & design: Mike Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) Michaeljohn Day (email@example.com) Joe Howden (firstname.lastname@example.org) reviews editor: Helia Phoenix (email@example.com) news editor: Susie Wild (firstname.lastname@example.org) staff writers: Jen Long Rhian Daley Ioan Morris research: Helen Weatherhead
“What’s that?” said Cindy, pointing towards the alleyway. “It’s Mary’s time machine / dead body / dad having a nervous breakdown / bedroom window, and she’s getting undressed / new car / Diner, it just opened, let’s go get a shake” said John. “Whoa,” said Cindy. “From now on, our lives will never be the same again.” “You’re right,” said John. “Let’s go home and watch Saturday Kitchen.” “But it’s not Saturday,” said Cindy. “Don’t worry,” said John. “I taped it.” This is issue 21 of Kruger, our Coming of Age special, where we all sit around reliving our Road to Damascus moments, slapping each others’ thighs and weeping. Issue 22 will be out on July 13th. Until then, amuse yourselves at www.krugerlabs.com where you’ll find the Kruger Singles Club, The Ivy League Sessions, downloads, blogs and more. Do it, and your life really will never be the same again. A bit.
advertising: email@example.com contributors: Words: Dan Tyte, Jon Davies, Ioan Morris, Rhian Daley, Alex Bean, Matt Bowring, Neil Condron, Adam Corner, Jen Long, Greg Cochrane, Simon Roberts, Helia Phoenix, Helen Weatherhead, Si Truss, Janne Oinonen, Sophie Lawerence, Barney Sprague, Sophie Jenkinson, Betti Hunter. Images: Mei Lewis, Rick Pushinsky, James Perou, Anja Schaffner, Tim Cochrane, Lucy Johnston, Kamil Janowski, Christopher McLallen, Jack Hudson, Dandem, Matt Hilde & Eleanor Stevenson. thanks to: Feya @ Brick Lane Bikes, Clare Roberts @ Marigold’s Costumes, Candid Studio Buddies, LucyB, Annette, Rich & Hannah @ 4AD / Matador, Briana @ Darling, Laura, Dan @ Aoife at Anorak, Duncan @ Bella Union, Steve @ Big Mouth, Rich & Michael @ XL, James @ Keong @ 9PR, Will & Lisa @ In House, Jodie @ Domino, Gavin Jones, Phil Jagielka, all our contributors and all of our advertisers. Diolch! Published by Kruger Laboratories, Studio 2A, The Hub, 5 Torrens Street, London EC1V 5NQ. Printed by MWL Print Group Ltd, Units 10-13 Pontyfelin Industrial Estate, New Inn, Pontypool NP4 0DG All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without the kind permission of Kruger Laboratories.
�uture of the �eft
Senior prom is supposed to be the best night of your life. A dusk til dawn filled with magical memories. Surrounded by your contemporaries, the curtain closes on youthful naivety and adulthood approaches. But a reflection in the glitterball catches your eye. Three hairy men. In oversized tuxedos. Garish oversized tuxedos. You don’t remember these guys from the Junior United Nations society… “Have we come of age?” asks Future of the Left frontman Andrew Falkous on the eve of the release of the band’s second album, Travels With Myself and Another. “What, like in the American teen movie where every guy learns that it isn’t just attractive women who are worth pursuing, but attractive women who have got their hair tied back and are wearing glasses? Nah.” Amongst the dancefloor of jocks, jerks, nerds, goths, grungers, scenesters, sob stories, bookworms and blowouts, Falco, bassist Kelson Mathias and drummer Jack Egglestone stand out like sore thumbs. But this isn’t the first time they’ve spiked the punch; they’ve been deflowering debutantes for ten years and counting now. You’ll remember their faces from yearbooks past. Falco and Jack (formerly of Mclusky High) being ‘Most likely to noisily naysay’ and Kelson (exJarcrew Comp) ‘Most likely to prog/funk/punk you’. But it’s only the second time they’ve shared a limo to the party together. And this time they’re not just breaking hymens... they're making love. The school playground’s been abuzz about the album ever since Falco scribbled on the toilet wall (okay, his MySpace blog) earlier this year, “It's faster, bigger, grander, three per cent less nasty, 14 per cent more energised, constructed from hard work and the happiest, most inspired band that I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of.” But the rumours on long player deux weren’t always so rosy. In November last year a UK, China and Australia tour was cancelled to concentrate on the new album. Falco fumes: “We worked for months and months and everything sounded shit. Just before the tour was cancelled it was actually starting to work. But the tour wasn’t cancelled by us, it was cancelled by people who work on our behalf because they thought it was a good idea. Certainly I didn’t think it was a good idea, and I was crippled with fucking embarrassment the day we were supposed to be playing [the first date] in Birmingham. I was fucking mortified. “The problem with something like that is say one of us gets ill before our tour in May and we
have to cancel those dates, then you’re that fucking band who cancels dates. And it’s not like for us as a band tour dates are these appointments you’ve got in order to promote your record- they’re the most enjoyable nights of your life. They’re not some tribulation you have to put yourself through; they’re not one of the Greek trials. I did a lot of shouting at people that week. And cursing. I took up voodoo.” But despite the initial anger, the extra time at home to work on the sound of the new album has paid dividends, as Falco explains: “All that hard work kind of paid off in about a two month period. We spend so long in a band trying to pull against the tide of trying to express yourself as individuals, and just occasionally you might hit that little groove of inspiration where everything you seem to write and every rehearsal tends to help the whole sound convalesce into something far greater than you ever dreamed of. With [debut album] Curses, it’s a nasty, quite big-sounding record, and I was concerned on how to improve on it. It turned out the answer was not to think about it and to stand in a rehearsal room armed with instruments and play and play and play and play and play. I just think it sounds bigger.”
“When I was a youngster I was a wee guy and had the piss taken out of me a lot, so finding a colourful way of calling them a cunt was a coming of age. And when they persist, you headbutt them.”
ike any girl who’s had the dilemma of the making themselves look like a prom princess, spending hours choosing between puffball or pointed, strapless or shiny, it’s the unseen hours in front of the mirror that go unnoticed; beauty comes at a cost. “I remember seeing this interview with an ice hockey player, now I have no idea who the fuck he was, I have no interest in ice hockey, but he was retiring and the presenter asked him a question about his career; what was his biggest regret? He said it was that people only ever saw either the spectacular goals and glory or the dramatic failures. They never saw the day-to-day hard work and how much actually goes into being a great. The presenter went ‘Umm…yeah’ and then cut to a montage of his goals. “Sometimes I think, fuck, we worked so hard to get 33 minutes of music. It almost doesn’t seem like a proportional use of time. To write 33 minutes of music we’ll go through 3000 minutes of the fucking stuff. The people I’m in a band with are pretty attuned to my working processes, and we spend a lot of time trimming and making sure that every second of every song is fucking vital to it. I think it’s just a new stride that we perhaps didn’t seeing coming. I think we’ve jumped on another couple of levels.” That much is clear from the opening bars of the album. First track Arming Eritrea lulls the listener into a false sense of security with a calming start before screeching into a gut-kicking rocker, with Falco shouting ‘I’m not a cynic’ and ‘I’m not a child/I’m not special or one of a kind’. Hang on a minute... despite his earlier protestations, is this the sign of one of rock’s most acerbic lyricists admitting he has come of age? “Well it’s a difficult song to talk about because it’s a rather convoluted metaphor. It doesn’t make me blush in the sense that it embarrasses me, but it’s just so convoluted. It requires in part a knowledge of northern African history compared to a sense of personal growth. So it does fit into your fancy theme.” We’ll take that as a victory. But everyone from Huck Finn to Peter Parker knows that with growing up comes great responsibility. So is it Future of the Left’s responsibility to cut through the bullshit of life for the listeners? “It’s to be direct and not to pull any punches. I think the lyrics 7
on this record, even though they’re still clouded by a large degree of bollocks, are a lot more direct and a lot less random than they have been on previous records. [Lead single] The Hope That House Built is quite literal really, and doesn’t really involve itself with metaphor; it’s just a big bombastic call to lost causes, and we are a fucking lost cause my friend. We sell about seven records, but we will go down fighting and will play with any fucking rock band on this earth. We’ll be patronised by fucking nobody.” Good luck to anyone brave enough to try. Sure the anger's still there- Chin Music is "a song about women, generally with great legs, who love violent men despite what they may say" and the wry bizarreness remains- Stand By Your Manatee's chorus ‘Emma's mum and dad use plastic forks' raises smiles as well as hairs, but Travels With Myself and Another is a bigger, bolder blast than has perhaps been achieved by any of the three before, regardless of the name of the band. In a sane world it would see Future of the Left get the commercial success to go with the critical bumlickings Falco, Kelson and Jack
“We spend a lot of time trimming and making sure that every second of every song is fucking vital to it.”
have had since they first started making noise. Something Falco's been doing forever: “When I was a youngster I was a wee guy and had the piss taken out of me a lot, so finding a colourful way of calling them a cunt was a coming of age. And when they persist, you headbutt them. As much as concerned liberal parents might say that’s not the way you resolve conflicts, that’s exactly the way you resolve conflicts. The rule of the schoolyard is if you're not the strongest or the wittiest then you’d better be the quickest. That’s the coming of age moment, when that dawns implicitly to you, and you kick someone in the shins and then everybody laughs. The common denominator in this world is ‘get them down on the ground and everything’s fine’. It’s deeply disturbing but it’s shot through with the arrow of truth.” Just like everything they’ve ever committed to record. Just like the new album. But what did you expect? Words by Dan Tyte Photography by Mei Lewis www.missionphotographic.com Thanks to Clare Roberts at Marigolds Costumes. www.marigoldscostumes.co.uk
THE BRONX THE BRONX CD / DOWNLOAD OUT NOW
SKY LARKIN THE GOLDEN SPIKE LTD CD / LP / DOWNLOAD OUT NOW
FIRST AID KIT DRUNKEN TREES EP ENHANCED CD / DOWNLOAD OUT NOW
PETER BJORN AND JOHN LIVING THING 2CD / CD / LP / DOWNLOAD OUT NOW
Album of the week in Kerrang! and NME, album of the month in Rock Sound and Big Cheese.
NME: “Sweet, subtle and with one hell of a kick - just like a good cocktail”
New single “Knifeman” is released as a limited edition t-shirt and download on 8th June.
ROCK SOUND: “Crammed with indie-rock anthems”
The debut release from this Swedish sister duo now includes their cover of Fleet Foxes “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” and three exclusive live video recordings.
The highly anticipated proper follow-up to the highly acclaimed Writer’s Block. Limited doubledisc edition includes their recent instrumental vinyl-only album, Seaside Rock, on CD for the first time.
The Bronx and Mariachi El Bronx live at London ULU, May 19th.
CONOR OBERST AND THE MYSTIC VALLEY BAND OUTER SOUTH CD / 2LP / DOWNLOAD OUT NOW The second solo album from Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes brings his band mates more to the fore, with a fuller sound that will be familiar to anyone that caught the Mystic Valley Band on tour in Europe last year. Includes “Slowly” and Nikorette”.
New single “Antibodies” out now on cassette and download. All formats feature brand new b-sides and remixes.
PLAN B “Drunken Trees is near perfect, like a new born babe: sweet, lovable and infectious”
BLOC PARTY INTIMACY REMIXED CD / 3LP / DOWNLOAD OUT NOW
LISSY TRULLIE SELF-TAUGHT LEARNER EP CD / 12" / DOWNLOAD OUT NOW
The entire third Bloc Party album remixed by Hervé, Armand Van Helden, Mogwai, Gold Panda, No Age, John B, Phones and others.
Debut release from Wichita’s latest signing, Lissy Trullie from New York City. It’s been said that they sound like Chrissie Hynde fronting Television, and that comparison gets somewhere close. We immediately fell in love with these six hook-laden, sharp-tongued songs. We hope that you feel the same way when you hear them.
Look out for digital exclusive mixes from Fennesz, Foals and Sky Larkin.
Includes the singles “Nothing To Worry About” & “It Don’t Move Me”.
Given the amount of hours of my life that I’ve dedicated to watching films, I naturally assume that everyone else is doing it too. If I clawed back the 90 minutes I spent watching Teen Wolf last week, what I would I do with it? Well, watch Teen Wolf Too, probably. Go figure. So when I arrived at the Kruger photo shoot and saw Plugs eating popcorn surrounded by videos, I felt a pang of excitement. While I didn’t geek out straight away, I was pumped about possibly discussing their favourite character in Dazed & Confused (mine? Slater, obviously) or if they thought Superbad could ever be as revered as The Breakfast Club. Unfortunately the trio of Morgan Quaintance, Boomer and David Chin’s enthusiasm for film doesn’t quite match mine. The youthful exuberance of Yu Tu Mama Tambien? Daniel’s triumph over adversity in The Karate Kid? David Bowie’s strangely hypnotic crotch in Labyrinth?? Nope, not for them. What had they been doing with their time? Something constructive? Bah. Morgan and David formed Plugs after they met studying music at University. After an aborted attempt with a previous drummer they hooked up with Boomer and the self professed “power trio” was born. Ah, so instead of sitting around watching films in Uni you formed a band? That reminds me of a film I once saw… In a story that could come straight from a John Hughes movie, the band performed their first gig on their day of graduation. This early incarnation of Plugs was worlds apart from the DFA- influenced sounds of their debut EP, Imaginary Friend, and the gentle, building harmonics of their first single, That Number, that define their more developed direction. It seems that excessively studying electronic music in Uni made the guys just want to make some noise. David confirms: “That period was just about getting out there. We spent a lot of time in uni doing intricate electronic sound work, and we just needed to get it out, playing Black Flag, Fugazistyle energetic gigs. And they were proper full on gigs, I’ve got a DVD of it somewhere.” Morgan shares a wistful pang of nostalgia: “I used to jump into the drum kit. I timed when I could jump into the drums, come out and have all my gear and be ready to sing. I can’t believe the things I used to do actually!
You wouldn’t catch me doing that now; well you never know….” Given that Plugs as a project existed long before Morgan found brief fame with Does it Offend You, Yeah?, and that he’s been building a big reputation as a remixer of high caliber (most recently for We Have Band), it’s interesting that the project he considers to be his main focus would remain sidelined until recently, with Imaginary Friend only being released via People in the Sky in November 2008. Other than being frustrated with previous recordings, was there any other reason for holding off releasing tracks for so long? Morgan’s reply suggests that maybe the time simply wasn’t right for them: “Music around that time was kind of crap really. I don’t think it was on purpose but it was quite an elitist thing. It was quite mono cultural, it was a really Caucasian movement. You had to be one race and it referenced a part of England that didn’t really exist anymore. Then you got this post-punk thing were there was more women being involved and along with that came more dance music. After the first wave of those Paul Epworth-produced bands it suddenly just blew up. People were being more experimental and I think that was the right climate for us to come along. If we came out doing what we were doing before, it just wouldn’t have worked. It just feels like music is much freer now, you can do so much stuff; people are so unforgiving about normal guitar groups. It’s like, why would you want to do that now? You’re free to do what you want; you don’t have to be Richard Ashcroft.”
lugs have come of age at a strange time in music. Bands are giving away their songs for free via Twitter and the Sunday papers, and so a band such as Plugs who are yet to release an album need to be more creative to get themselves noticed. As Boomer explains: “Morgan came up with the idea of every month giving away a track on MySpace. A lot of it is very experimental.” Anyone who listened to the sound of a balloon deflating which they released in March would agree. Mention of this sends them into hysterics. Morgan enlightens me: “We give it away because people may not buy it! But it’s also like we can do what we want. You don’t have to worry about if people are going to buy it or what the genre is. You can just do it, it’s music for music’s sake, and there’s nothing wrong with that.” David agrees:
"If we came out doing what we were doing before, it just wouldn’t have worked. It just feels like music is much freer now, you can do so much stuff."
“You’ve got to give stuff away for free in this day and age as people will choose to download it for free anyway. It’s really about giving a thank you to your fans, rather than give away the album for free; if you’re established you can do that.” New single All Them Witches blends the experimental and melodic sides of Plugs to perfection, and it’s nothing short of brain invading. Released on May 18th via Filthy Duke’s brand new record label, Kill Em All, is this a good indicator of what we should expect from the forthcoming album? Morgan says: “Well with any tune we always think jump in and have a listen, but you won’t see the complete picture of our band until you come and see us live.” This is a band on the rise, and they’re infectious to be around. They have a limitless energy and desire to make music that translates perfectly into their live shows and recordings. While they’ll freely admit they have work cut out if they’re to be successful, they definitely know where they want to go and how they want to do it. Musically they need no advice on how to develop; but they really should watch Dazed & Confused. Words by Jon Davies Photography by Rick Pushinsky www.pushinsky.com
this ESSER Braveface
Long awaited debut album from bona fide pop genius Esser. Featuring the killer singles ‘I Love You’, ‘Work It Out’, ‘Satisfied’ and the anthem ‘Headlock’.
Out 4th May CD/DL/LTD12" www.myspace.com/esserhq
GRAHAM COXON The Spinning Top Luscious debut for Transgressive Records from this legendary artist. A 70 minute folk-based Odyssey that will delight for years to come. Features ‘In the Morning’, ‘Sorrow's Army’ and ‘Feel Alright’.
Out 11th May CD/DL/LTD 2x12" www.myspace.com/gcoxon
MILES BENJAMIN ANTHONY ROBINSON Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson The phrase “best kept secret” could have been invented for this genius Brooklynite. Featuring members of Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio, this debut album will be the one you recommend to all your friends. Featuring ‘Buriedfed’ and ‘Woodfriend’. Out 18th May CD/CD + bonus EP from Rough Trade shops www.myspace.com/milesbenjaminanthonyrobinson 12
Visit www.transgressiverecords.co.uk for news, offers, gifts and a wealth of audio-visual treats.
�y �iger �y �iming
It’s not a surprise to learn that before gaining some measure of success in their current band, some musicians have been in a few other groups. Sometimes those earlier ensembles are unimportant or perhaps deeply regretful periods spent drumming in a Brand New Heavies cover band. Other times, those past efforts can’t help but inform what comes next.
Speaking to My Tiger My Timing’s lead singer Anna Vinvent, it’s clear that what might previously have been counted as disappointment is now very much utilised as experience. There is a motivation and a belief that, finally, this is the right band. For its members, My Tiger My Timing – the band itself – is the coming-of-age. The dance/pop quintet have just released their debut single, This Is Not The Fire – a damned fine wedge of sing-along synth-pop – and right now things are going swimmingly for a band who, in less than 18 months, have made impressive progress. Late in 2007, the ‘surviving members’ of other New Cross-based bands discussed
the possibility of forming a new, and frankly better, band. They were the aforementioned Anna, her brother James (also Vincent) and long-time friends Gary Drain and Jamie Harrison, while keyboardist Seb Underhill has recently swelled their ranks. Before any music was played, every idea from sound to aesthetic was talked about in detail. “It was something we’d not had with other bands. I’d been in garage rock bands” says Anna, “which means that even now we’re rooted in live performance – the energy and the rawness. But each of us wanted to do something more textured, more rhythmic, with hooks and choruses. I think before we were being wilfully weird, or unlistenable, or trying to challenge people, but we realised you can do that without making a cacophonous noise. I mean we’re not a clean cut pop band, we’re just doing things with a bit more focus.” So taking what you’ve learnt from garage rock and applying it to electro pop? “I think so, I hope so. It’s what we’ve tried to achieve. We’re a pure live band, and although backing track stuff can work really well, you get stuck in that hinterland between ‘is this a band or is it a show?’ By the nature of what we’ve done before, that edge is important to what we do, so we
definitely channel that in.”
espite this, the band wants what you hear onstage and what you hear on record to be two different things entirely. Why go for the woodblock when you can have the bells and whistles, right? They’re keen to experiment, to get out that toy box and play around for a while. And in Joe Goddard (of Hot Chip) and Andy Spence (of New Young Pony Club) they’ve found two producers who are more than willing to let the band unleash their inner aural alchemist. Spence has been involved with the band since attending their first gig last year and Goddard, a more recent acquaintance, was introduced by a mutual friend at a party where a shared love for Arthur Russell was uncovered. Anna seems genuinely thrilled to be working with the pair: “A couple of weeks ago we recorded some songs with Joe, which are just at the mixing stage, and they’re sounding good, we’re excited about them. Obviously Hot Chip are a band we’ve been inspired by – that melancholy but danceable aspect they’ve got. And the same with Andy, who’s between recording what we think will be our second single. They’ve shown us that the studio can be used in such an
exciting way. Between the two of them we’re trying to get the beginnings of an album going. Again, we love singles; we love the idea of catching people’s ear within three minutes, but also writing songs that have a different feel or aren’t so tied to being radio-friendly.” Silver Music Machine – a small online label owned by the band’s management – has put out the first single, bypassing the ever-laborious process of looking for a record deal, and allowing the band greater freedom to get things done for themselves. “Blogs have been supportive and we feel very lucky, but it’s about working really hard. We’re constantly writing, rehearsing or playing, and if we’re not doing that then we’re talking about it! We’ve done a lot of growing up in previous projects – things that have failed. Learning the hard way and putting a lot of time and money into our endeavours. So to see the culmination of that, and maybe having grown as songwriters and as musicians, is amazing.” Words by Ioan Morris Photography by James Perou www.photosimian.co.uk
�EETH!!! In a bus shelter on Delancey Street, two thirds of TEETH!!! take refuge from the feeble Camden rain. Their other member, Simon Leahy (aka Ximon Tayki), is a bit further afield today, celebrating Beltane at a fairy commune in the South of France, and probably enjoying some much nicer weather. Formed after Ximon and Veronica So (who met after Veronica moved from San Francisco to London to study Fashion Journalism at St Martin’s) left their previous band, Little Paper Squares, the trio’s line up was completed after Simon Whybray responded to a MySpace bulletin advertising for a drummer. In essence, TEETH!!! are a vehicle of fuzzy chaos, more at home in the grimy recesses of squat and warehouse parties than on stage in a more traditional space. As Veronica explains: “We really like playing squat style cos the way we are as a band, we don’t like to perform, we like to interact.” By interact, she doesn’t mean
asking the audience to clap along, or the old ‘how are you feeling, London?’ shout out, but getting off the stage and playing from the crowd. “Being on stage is like so pretentious,” she continues. “I’m not that person, I like what I do, but when I’m on stage I’m thinking ‘oh my god, they’re watching everything I’m doing’ but when you’re [in the crowd], people are dancing and you’re watching them. Warehouses are nice cos there’s room to run around and do stuff.” With a handful of forthcoming warehouse dates booked, Simon reckons “people are picking up on it,” reasoning “we keep being asked to do Old Blue Last and other places where we played first, but it’s starting to get where we’re being asked to play afterparties and play with DJs instead of like ‘band’ bands.”
hings are picking up pace, especially as super hip indie label Moshi Moshi want to pay to commit their sound to record. Anything more long-term by wat of contracts is unlikely, as Veronica animatedly denies any ambitions to sign a proper deal: “Being signed to a major record label? We don’t want one of those. Moshi is really interested in putting our
single out, but a record deal? No”… later adding the future of TEETH!!! will include “a lot of independently released EPs with a lot of different independent labels.” There’s just one problem - how to record their stuff in a way that captures the way they sound live. “It’s weird, it’s really hard to balance like the sound of a laptop and drums. It’s not a problem recording, but we’ve yet to find a way of recording that’s kind of right,” Simon clarifies. “What we need is a producer to tell us what we want. Our friend Jacob, we met him and he likes our music style. We’re trying to set up a session with him, just put us in a room together and see what we can make.” That friend in question is Jacob Cooper, of Bark Bark Bark and The Mae Shi, which brings us onto being lumped into scenes TEETH!!! don’t necessarily belong in - Dalston DIY, LDN No-Fi and, a little further from home, the LA Smell scene. It’s not something that bothers them too much though, as Veronica responds: “It’s cute, but we’re being grouped with all these guitar bands and we always feel like ‘why do they like us?’ or ‘why are we playing with them?’ We don’t really have much in common with them...”
It’s not something that’s likely to change soon, although one thing that could be on the mend is London’s almost community-less music scene. “Everyone likes LA and everyone likes the Smell, and we don’t have [a scene],” sighs Veronica before Simon explains things further. “London doesn’t have that kind of community. They all hang out at shows and stuff and we don’t do that. We played Sex is Disgusting in Brighton, and we got there early so we got to hang out with the two other bands all afternoon just talking and drinking. That was the best show we played in so long.” Whether or not London bears the kind of scene that TEETH!!! hopes it will is yet to be seen, but what is certain is that TEETH!!! will continue to make super energetic, high octane noise - for the foreseeable future at least. You could never accuse them of taking themselves too seriously or being slightly professional, but then again where would be the fun in that? Words by Rhian Daley Photography by Anja Schaffner www.reisesack.de
ďż˝ang of ďż˝ive
The Rumble Strips have spent the last three years steadily building their reputation and repertoire, waiting for the break that would catapult them from hard-working underdogs to household names. That break just might have arrived. How will they capitalise, and what will the fans think? Words by Mike Williams Photography by Tim Cochrane www.timothycochrane.com
rowing up on an estate in Wrexham redefined the art of escapism. And I’m talking literally as much as mentally. It’s all very well closing your eyes and dreaming up a fantasy world to swan around in for a few hours at a time, but when your eyelids snap back open, you’re still staring out of your window at the same haunted landscape. If you want to really escape the daily horror of a run-down council estate, you’ve got to get out as often as possible, and that’s where a best mate comes in. And a bike. If it wasn’t for Carl and my Falcon Fat Track, my evenings and school holidays would have been hell. I didn’t go to school on my estate, you see. Instead I attended a Welsh language school, where funding was high, the teachers cared, and choirs of angels sang you to your classroom every morning. Or at least that’s how I remember it. I waltzed in aged four and acted like I’d always belonged amongst my new middle class peers, knowing instinctively to shift the location of my house two miles west of its actual address should anyone ask, inventing higher-paid and more well respected jobs for my parents, and generally showing off for such long periods of the day that no one had the time or energy to question any of the ridiculous things I was saying. It was great. The best 6 hours of my life. Every day. Five days a week. But with that you’ve got a problem, because hanging around on your estate when you don’t go to the school on your estate make you stick out. Luckily, my mum’s real job was as a dinner lady in their school, so instead of punch me, the kids would just shout Wanker and Welshy as I passed. Happily, not all of the kids on the estate belonged to the same pack, and I made two friends, Terry and Carl. Terry wasn’t the brightest of buttons though, and while he was good for a game of volleys and headers, trying to have a conversation about anything – even volleys and headers – caused a hollow duuuuurrrrrrr that sounded like a microwave heating soup. But Carl was cool. If we weren’t in his sister’s room dancing around to Car Wash, we were recording episodes of our home radio show, Pigeon Street News. But that’s when it was raining. When it was sunny, we got on our bikes. This was life, until the time came when Carl, a school year older than me made the step up to a secondary. Yes, we still hung out occasionally, but often with his new pals too. And no matter how much I performed and showed off and cooked up tales of advanced experience that I was sure would win me favour, I was always the little kid from primary school. By the time I was able to stand up on equal terms as a Big School Boy, it would be too late, because Carl’s new friends would be his old friends, and I’d have new ones of my own. When the summer arrived we set out to make it the best holiday it could be, because even though we never spoke of it, we knew it would be the last of that kind for either of us. We’d meet up most days and head out on our bikes, either down to the industrial estate where bins overflowed with rejected Harvest Crunch bars, or to the National Trust park on the other side of the town where you could lie on the grass and watch the water run down the step waterfall. But what does all this have to do with The Rumble Strips? Well, everything, of course. The Rumble Strips are approaching a decisive summer, one which could define the rest of their lives. Their second album, Welcome to the Walk Alone, is released by Island Records in early July, and it’s eagerly anticipated, for more than one reason. Produced by Mark Ronson, and with string arrangements by Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy and Arcade Fire fame, the album marks a significant rise in profile and ambition for the band. That Ronson’s name is linked to the project is sure to irk and irritate many established Rumble Strips fans, while at the same time attracting new ears, unaware of the Rumbles’ work to date. Not that this worries the band too much, as lead singer Charlie Waller explains: “I think people are going to want to find holes in it. There’s going to be an element of people wanting to hear it and find fault with it, but it’s so petty that it doesn’t really bother me. He’s a lot more famous than us, and dresses a bit smarter, but it’s not like he wrote the songs.”
“I think I’ve got some un-tangible thing in my head that I don’t have goals. “I’m sure I do have some goals in the back of my head that drive me...”
he story of The Rumble Strips begins in Tavistock, Devon, where they all grew up. A far cry from the lights of London, the small market town on the banks of the river Tavy is the kind of place that can dull a mind or set it on fire. Charlie found his dreams in a record shop in town that had a 50p section. Because it was so cheap, he bought a record most days and discovered the music that would influence his song writing and his vocal style in years to come, notably Kings of the Wild Frontier, by Adam and the Ants. As he told to me in an interview in 2006: “When I listened to it I thought it was the most incredible thing I ever heard. It was exactly what I wanted to do.” The lives of the five members of the band became entwined as the teenage years kicked in fully, with bands being formed and broken, always featuring a clutch of what would become The Rumble Strips. The sun set on Charlie’s time in Tavistock when he moved to London to attend art collage, where new friends were made whilst all the while trying to stay close to the old ones. The way this manifested for Charlie, of course, was in band form. In London he met a guy called Mark, who he would then share a flat with. At the time he was still playing with his old band, The Action Heroes, featuring Rumble Strip Matt Wheeler on drums and Harry Dwyer, the man behind their iconic early music videos, on keyboards; but they were getting tired of the same routine, and after nine years of part-time meanderings to nowhere, decided to call it a day. Around this time Charlie bumped into an old friend from Tavistock, Tom Gorbutt, and the two started writing together. Tom Brought along longterm cohort Henry Clarke, with whom he’d played brass in various ska bands, and Charlie drafted in Matt on drums. The early Rumble Strips were born; the friends were reunited. Meanwhile, Charlie had started a band with Mark, called Vincent Vincent and the Villains. Blessed with two lead singers with heart-stopping voices, VV&V began building a reputation as a band with huge potential. But for all the opportunities on the horizon, Charlie wasn’t happy. He was playing in two bands, neither of which initially knew about each other, and once things were out in the open, the pressure of trying to please old friends and new, both pulling him a
different directions, got too much for him, and he left both bands and started working with his uncle painting and decorating. This was the end of summer, 2005. Charlie’s bands had come and gone, and his coming of age moment arrived with a brush in his hand and a tin of gloss by his feet. But as I said at the beginning, in order to escape, what you need is a best mate and a bike. Or in Charlie’s case, three best mates and a bike that he wished was a Motorcycle.
uper cool indie label Transgressive were the first to pick up on The Rumble Strips, falling in love with the dreamy escapist rock and roll of Motorcycle. They approached the band about releasing it, but with Charlie not involved, they didn’t really exist. But the idea of being in a band bona-fide enough to release singles appealed to him, and he was persuaded to rejoin The Rumble Strips on a full time basis. The success of the Motorcycle single kicked off a whirlwind 3 years for the band that saw them release another single on Transgressive, Hate Me You Do; sign to Island subsidiary Fallout
Records to release the Cardboard Coloured Dreams EP; morph from a gang of four into a party of five as long time friend Sam Mansbridge joined (initially to beef up the live sound, but later as a paid up member); release their debut album Girls and Weather; feature on the Run Fatboy Run soundtrack with Girls and Boys in Love; headline an NME tour; sign to Allido Records in the states, and gear up for a big summer with the release of their second and most important album, and a string of festival dates. In the middle of all that, at Electric Proms 2007, Charlie sang Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black at Mark Ronson’ showcase event, which kick-started the chain of events which led The Rumble Strips to the point they now stand, with Ronson on production duties and the band on the brink of being big. This is where I caught up with them. The album had been finished three weeks earlier, and they’d just got back from a long stint in the states travelling around in a cramped van surrounded by their equipment, getting to know each other all over again.
“It was really good for us as a band to do that before the album,” says drummer Matt as we sit around on Brick Lane in east London, enjoying the spring sunshine. “Yeah it was, actually,” agrees Charlie. “Like some really shit 80s teen movie.” It was at the end of this tour that they began recording the album with Mark Ronson in his studio in New York. Having spent so long on the road, they were in tip top condition to begin the difficult process. As Charlie details: “It was all right, because we had all the songs written and arranged and everything. On the tour, like every night, we’d do two... obviously we were touring the old album, but every night we’d do two new ones so it meant we got them really road-tested. Playing a song live is so different to actually rehearsing it. “Originally it was going to be like he was maybe going to produce a couple of songs and then it just ended up him doing the whole thing,” continues Charlie. “And then Owen Pallet got involved after we recorded it. He was who Mark had in mind for it but he couldn’t do it because he was doing Mika’s album or something. So
we were looking at other people, and people were sending in mock ups of it and they were all sounding a bit kind of ... cheesy and pointless.” Luckily though, a window opened that allowed Pallet to join the recording, something Charlie, until that point unaware of Pallet’s work either as Final Fantasy or his production for the likes of Last of the Shadow Puppets, was delighted about: “I didn’t really know his work at all, but when I found out he was doing it I listened to the Final Fantasy stuff and thought it was fucking brilliant. I started listening to Arcade Fire... obviously I’d heard of Arcade Fire but I’d never really given them any time or listened to them. So embarrassing. I’m really stupid and let things pass me by, and then get into them like ten years later.” And it wasn’t only Charlie who was impressed by the way Pallet works: “He’s such a nice guy as well,” says Matt. “We had to go out to Prague to watch the orchestration. It was amazing just to hang out with him.” “He actually came to England a little bit before and he came round Matt’s house and we went through everything,” continues Henry. “He’s so proficient, doing these mock ups on his laptop. Any little concerns 19
we had he’d sort it out on the spot.” But what have Owen Pallet, and of course Mark Ronson, brought to the recording? How indelible is their mark on Welcome to the Walk Alone? Well, for anyone who has heard the first release, London (a free download single available via the band’s website); the apparent answer would be ‘not much’. Sounding like a classic Rumble Strips cut from Girls and Weather, the track ticks all the boxes you’d expect from the band. Punchy horns punctuating a swelling vocal-driven chorus; a marching drum and fingers to the bone guitar bashing, the track sounds like a band very comfortable with the sound they’ve shaped and happy to ride it home on a horse called No Risks. Across the rest of the album though, it’s a different story, with Daniel in particular bordering on the operatic. Building from a repetitive short stab of violin topped with a lilting piano melody, the strings kick in fully on the 20 second mark and fill the song with a powerful blast of glamour that is as reminiscent of Phil Spector as it is Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sounds weird? It is, but it’s brilliant. And that’s what it seems The Rumble Strips have on this record that maybe they didn’t on the first. A pop sensibility, coupled with eccentric
ambition. Nothing is too big, nothing too excessive, but because they’ve still got that true rock and roll heart, none of it is gratuitous. Take Not The Only Person as an example. Kicking off with what sounds like Queen playing the Penny Crayon theme-tune over the drum roll from James’ Laid, the intro builds to an early crescendo before taking a one beat breath and crashing back in with the power of Charlie’s voice backed up by Pallet’s soaring strings and the band’s tight as hell rhythm section. And all the while it sounds like the band you loved from the first time around. So did it feel like Pallet had swelled the ranks further, turning five into six? Henry thinks so: “Yeah, to me it sounds like that, like he filled a little hole. Yeah I think it is like having another member when it’s done that well, instead of having someone just coming in.” When it comes to Mark Ronson’s influence, it’s not that straight forward. Known for his love of horn stabs, it’s almost like he’s rebelled against his reputation, taking a band known for their brass and taking it out. That’s not the case though, insists Henry: “That’s the way it’s ended up, but that was more to do with the way it was written to be honest. It was all written on piano and guitar. Tom was playing guitar
and it’s easier to write stuff like that. With the first album, Charlie wrote the whole album and it was just us trying to find a way to play it. We thought it’d be nice to have some brass on it so we put some brass on it and worked the songs out that way round. Whereas this time the songs were written on piano and guitar initially, and then they didn’t really need brass just because we’re known for using brass. There’s a couple on there with brass but nothing like the old album.” And are they happy with the results? “Definitely,” says Henry. “[Ronson] had such a definite way that he wanted to do it all. It was quite an elaborate process to make things sound proper... we used a lot of vintage gear and stuff.” “Like he used three drum mics to give it a lot tougher drum sound,” continues Charlie. “More like the Strokes or something like that. I think the first album... I always think those songs could be a bit tougher. This is what it should have sounded like.” So with the album about to be released, what do they dream about for the future? “I think I’ve got some un-tangible thing in my head that I don’t have goals,” begins Charlie. “I’m sure I
do have some goals in the back of my head that drive me...” “I think that’s the way you have to think, because nothing is ever reliable,” adds Matt. “We’ve been going in the right direction, but there’s been a lot of steps on the way. You just learn to control your expectations.” “I still belief that we’ll be successful though...” says Charlie, trailing off. Whether success follows or not, The Rumble Strips are certainly going to get a lot of attention when the album is released in July. My personal opinion? It sounds like a bolder, braver and significantly more ambitious version of the same band that recorded Girls and Weather. And once the band hit the festival circuit this summer, I don’t think anyone will be talking about who produced the album, they’ll just be talking about a band who has just arrived with their biggest and best work to date, and for a group of friends who have do ne it all by sticking together (and a song about a bicycle), that’s one hell of an achievement. Roll on the summer. Thanks to Feya and everyone at Brick Lane Bikes for helping us with our photo shoot. Check out Brick Lane Bikes online at www. bricklanebikes.co.uk
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�hoenix A beginners guide to Alex Bean's favourite band. Ever. Let’s pretend that all the bands you’ve ever truly, madly, properly loved feature on an internal family photo wall like the one at your gran’s, where people in graduation gowns, wedding snaps and Sunday League football team photos all vie for that coveted spot in middle; the spot where the frame is twice as big as the others, twice as polished and shines as a beacon of total favouritism over the other members of your music collection. On my wall, Phoenix hold this spot, looking very French and a little bit awkward.
Phoenix are a glorious, delicate French pop band, impressive in that the passion and warmth that their music generates doesn’t at all equate to their cult-status. Let me assure you, those who know Phoenix, LOVE Phoenix. I am one of those people. The band entered my life in Christmas 2000 when their first UK release, Too Young, was played on John Kennedy’s XFM show. I was in my Mum’s kitchen eating left-over gammon and it stopped me dead, one of the few genuine moments when a song I’ve never heard has frozen me to the spot. Thus began a relationship with the quartet from Versailles who graciously agreed to soundtrack the next decade of my life. Each album released would tie in with a personal milestone - their debut, United, was my first year at university, with If I Ever Feel Better representing the nights out, and Embuscade being the long-lazy comedowns. 2004’s Alphabetical coincided with my first ‘adult’ job and a move to a life so glum that I’d spend most mornings hiding in bed with a hangover, listening to Run Run Run to transport me to a sun-dappled Montmartre– about as far away from the concrete horror of Liverpool as possible. Album 3 came along at another turning point, and tracks like Long Distance Call became my paean to breaking up, falling down and starting over. Phoenix hold the spot for my favourite album and single ever – no mean feat when you’ve spent most of your life greedily consuming music. I was at a Spanish festival last summer when they played, and hunted singer Thomas Mars down like a tragic fan girl, only to find I couldn’t talk to him. I even endured Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette because I wanted to spot their 10 second cameo. I’ve got it bad. With the release of their fourth album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, upon us, now seems an optimum time to ask Phoenix who makes them feel as giddy as they make me. With a shared musical appreciation dating back to when they first met aged 6 at infant school, there’s no need for debate on who lives on their own imaginary photo wall, as Deck explains: “Our shared musical history goes right back to childhood. We must have been in our early teens when we saw a David Bowie clip from the Hunky Dory-era on TV, which was before we even fully understood the concept of an ‘album’ or a ‘single’. I remember us being entranced by this wild guy with red-hair and I went to the shop and brought this music with his name on. I didn’t understand then it was his most recent album. I got it home and was really really disappointed. Bowie was my first album and nearly ruined it forever. ” After recovering from the shock of pastel-clad Bowie, the boys fell hard for Bob Dylan, a rite of passage love-affair and the face they insist would now claim their prime wall spot, lording over the other bands in his leathers. Dylan told them a future as a band was calling. His ‘skill for lasting and effortless coolness (outside that period in 1980s)’ proved to be a benchmark of quality whilst they went on a hunt through other musical scenes. “We’d listened to a lot of different styles from De La Soul, Stone Roses, Roxy Music through to classic French artists. When we got together as a band we pulled those influences in, selecting carefully – we were very adamant we’d never be a covers band of sorts.” Phoenix’s eventual formation and debut in 2000 came right in the middle of the influential house scene, French Touch, a movement born in Montmartre which took a team of producers and musicians (including Daft Punk, Cassius, Air and Stardust) and spat out some of the most joyous house records ever, in the process putting the Parisian music scene very much back in vogue. One of French Touch’s big hitters was Cassius’ Phillipe Zdar, and it seemed only right that a man they greatly admired was asked to mix Phoenix’s first album and again return to the fold for the fourth. Deck reflects: “We formed in that explosion of French Touch, and although we’ve always been on the outskirts of the scene we are considered an electronic band. Zdar was the natural choice to work on this album as we’d been recording in his studio and he’d be popping in and
out, dropping in a suggestion here and there very casually and it would always be brilliant advice. We soon made his involvement more official and it was a great working vibe, although it would sometimes become very tough as he’s a man of extremes - which meant while making the album he was either super ecstatic, bringing us champagne and the like, or crying in a corner.”
"It’s better to be deemed a cult band than be a shitty famous one.”
he announcement of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix initially filled me with dread. Maybe this would be the album that would finally let me down, that would go unlistened, unnoticed and stand out on my shelf as a beacon of disappointment. Maybe the first band I truly loved would finally make the wrong move. But of course it didn’t disappoint. It’s a record which continues the sound of their effortless summery pop, and with Zdar on board it gains a welcome electronic undercurrent. You may have heard the first tracks to be taken from the album, Lisztomania and 1901, which highlight how natural this collaboration has been. But what about that funny and ever so audacious album title? Deck explains: “We’ve always been a super controlled, elegant band, very conscious of all of our output and quite serious. One day this title just arrived. It’s a title you just can’t say no to, it’s too big and fun and completely childish. Maybe people will think we’re aligning ourselves with classical music and getting ahead of ourselves, but that’s not the case – but we would have Amadeus on our wall. People either think it’s the best or worst album title ever and that’s a pretty good thing.” Regardless of the quality of title I’m unsure as to whether this will be the album to finally push Phoenix out into the racks of Tesco and performances on Paul O’Grady. This doesn’t trouble me at all as I’m not ready to lose the selfish-smugness that comes with sitting on an amazing band that not many know about. But I wonder if after a near-decade of being in a band, that prospect bothers them. “We’ve been called a cult band for years and while it’s not an offensive term, it is a good way to summarise a band that has no success - haha. The idea of the mainstream is a bit scary, we want to continue doing this, being free to make music that we’re really happy to present to people with no compromises. We are thoroughly indie, and it’s quite perfect this way; after all it’s better to be deemed a cult band then be a shitty famous one.” 23
�irror, �ignal, �anoeuvre St Vincent put to the test...
Annie Clarke’s career is motoring along quite nicely thank you very much, and after a formative few years of hanging out the passenger side of her best friend’s ride (The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, to be precise), she’s now in the driving seat. If debut album Marry Me was the lessons, then second long player Actor is the test. Rhian Daley, clipboard in hand, put Annie through her paces.
“We used to listen to the Doors on car trips... I remember being like 8 years old and hearing ‘father, I’m going to kill you now’ and finding that pretty disturbing, but pretty cool” reminisces Annie Clark, otherwise known as St. Vincent, her solo project that has brought her back to UK shores to promote her second album, Actor. Sat on a sofa in the maze-like offices of her label, 4AD, Clark rests her feet on the table in front of her and widens her eyes. “I can’t remember not being in love with music, I don’t know when it started. I don’t remember a time before music. It’s like a black hole... like pre big bang.” She laughs, staring into the distance as if trying to imagine that time. As a teenager, she tells me, instead of going to summer camp, she would go on tour with her aunt and uncle, both jazz musicians, taking in the sights of Japan, China and Russia. Growing up she listened to a range of music like “Sleater-Kinney, things on Kill Rock Stars, all that indie cool jaguar-through-bad-amp music” but also taking in the sounds of “Steely Dan, Mingus, John Coltrane music snob music” at the same time. When talking about her parents’ encouragement with her music, she smiles somewhat proudly, saying “my mum never had to tell me to practice the guitar, I was pretty self-motivated in that regard.” It’s clear that Clark is a music lover - always has been, always will be.
“I don’t think I could write from anything other than my own experience, but that gets filtered through a lot of stuff. I wash it in the washing machine with bleach and colour.”
Photography by Lucy Johnston www.lucyjohnston.co.uk
She’s toured the world as a member of the Polyphonic Spree (she later jokes the one thing she learnt from them is that “costumes are key” and describes the experience as “summer camp for mildly deranged children”), played in Sufjan Stevens’ tour band and made a name for herself under her St. Vincent alter-ego with Marry Me, her debut record. Along the way, she’s picked up comparisons with PJ Harvey, Bjork and Feist (something she seems unaware of until we discuss it) and has joined the burgeoning Brooklyn arts community, preferring bustling New York to her previous residence in Texas. On Actor, Clark has produced a contender for record of the year, eleven tracks of electro-rock ferocity (The Strangers, Actor Out of Work) and haunting piano-led balladry (The Bed, The Party). Produced by John Congleton, (whom she met during her time with the Spree and claims she bonded with over a shared in-depth knowledge of serial killers) it takes every aspect of her life and uses it to weave a story that is underscored by Clark’s innovative musical arrangements. In fact whilst writing the record, she sat down and watched a plethora of movies to help inspire her to create her own plots. After listing some of the films she saw (Sleeping Beauty, Stardust Memories and Funny Games - “the original, not the weird American remake” - to name but three), she gazes around the room, before beginning to explain her writing process. “I don’t think I could write from anything other than my own experience, but that gets filtered through a lot of stuff”, she states assuredly. “Like, I wash it in the washing machine with bleach and colour. It goes through a process and it comes out to be something that is part fabricated, part absolutely true and part god-knows-what. It all kind of weaves together and it’s hard to remember what’s fact and what’s fiction.” I ask her about her debut album, and she pauses before tentatively allowing herself to speak. “I think the Marry Me record - I don’t want to say anything disparaging about it, cos I’m totally proud of it – but if I listened to it I think I would think that it’s like an exuberant teenager saying ‘look what I can do! look what else I can do!’ This time around she decided to try her hand at being a “serious musician and a proper arranger”, and feels that she’s achieved a more focused piece of work that is “less cute” and “less twee.” Whilst Marry Me was by no means weak, Actor is a more mature record that showcases the craft and care of an artist nearing the peak of her powers.
Live, the St. Vincent experience usually involves a full band rather than just Clark by herself. Unfortunately, due to expenses, she couldn’t afford to bring her fellow musicians with her on this visit, taking to the stage alone. The night before we meet, she wows a sold out Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, where hardcore fans shout encouragement, cheer excitedly and at the end of the show refuse to stop clapping until she comes back for an unplanned encore, and even then continue to applaud fervently. The striking star-in-waiting enjoyed playing that show alone because “the room was small enough and the whole thing got to feel very personal and fun”. Looking slightly taken aback by the crowd’s enthusiasm, she later explains the reason for her puzzled expression was down to playing “a lot of promotional shows in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago and those are typically not so much for fans but for press people so you get unenthusiastic golf claps. I forgot that last night was a proper show for proper fans, and when people started really clapping I was totally taken aback, like ‘oh wait, this is what it’s supposed to feel like! this feels great! I love this!’” When she’s not casting herself as the lone troubadour though, Clark plays with her backing band, an experience she says that gives “a little bit more blood and guts and drums, and things can get a little bit crazier.” As it is, by herself she presents an almost flawless rendition of her recordings. In between songs she shares anecdotes with the crowd, responds to their banter, and looking like she’s having the time of her life. Of England, she professes a love for the gig-goers who she likes for their humour as well as their good nature. “The crowds are really sweet and there’s like a wit built into the humour here, which I really like and appreciate. Not all Americans get sarcasm, so when you meet someone else who’s very sarcastic you’re like ‘hey, I think we can be friends. I know your kind’”, she comments, grinning at the thought of meeting some like-minded souls. The warmth that exudes from her might make you think you’re already friends as she laughs at your jokes, throws her wit back at you and then plays you a song. Even in a sold out venue she can make it feel as if you’re just hanging out, part of a small circle of mates. Crossing her legs a final time, Clark sits up and gives a winning smile, and why not? She’s got a stunning album waiting to be unleashed, and last night she gave one of the best performances Hoxton has seen in some time. Verdict: An easy pass.
�and of �kulls The year was 1994, Brit Pop had exploded; Blur and Oasis wanted a fight; Portishead and Tricky went head to head for Trip Hop supremacy and I was heading for my 18th Birthday. I could drink legally, I could rent Hellraiser and Heathers from Spar, and my appalling A Level results were due as soon as I came back from a celebratory holiday in the South of France with my friends. It’s fair to say my coming of age was nothing special. I was a troubled youth with curtains, and a lumberjack shirt, though with sideburns to die for and a twinkle in my eye. I was also hopelessly in love with my best friend Rachael; she was my Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. Some 15 years later a three-piece hailing from Southampton have taken my pet name for dear Rach and turned it into a great title for their debut album. Rachael? We had a thing, but we never made it. For Band of Skulls it looks more
likely, and it’s only 6 months since they record their demo. In March of this year iTunes picked up their debut single, I Know What I Am, and were so impressed by it that they made it their coveted Single of the Week in April. They have, if you like, been blooded, with a thirst for more of where that came from. “We were just looking at each other and going ‘wow we weren’t prepared for that’” says Emma Richardson, the bassist/vocalist for Band of Skulls. “We’ve been friends for years, we met at college, and in 2004 Matt (Hayward) and Russell (Marsden) asked me if I wanted to play bass in their band; they had a gig in 2 weeks. I had never played bass, just guitar, so they threw me in at the deep end.” Their sound is not typically ‘British’, sounding more like a twisted three way involving Jack White, Chrissie Hynd and an Overdrive distortion pedal mud wrestling in a swamp in Mississippi. “We’ve always had this sound,” says Emma. “We never wanted to be a skinny jeans band. My parents had a massive record collection, you know, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, BB King, a lot of Chess Records artists, so with that influence you go towards what you know, what
you’re brought up on.” In a novel approach to the process, all three band members write the songs, and there is, as Emma explains, healthy competition between the members: “[With the 3 of us writing] it gets the best out of us, we have competition to write the best lyrics or the best music, you get a different perspective, there’s this unsaid feeling between us; it makes us solid. Russell is a legend with the guitar, he’s playing lead, rhythm and doing all the loop pedals and effects. Matt’s on backing vocals as well as drums, it works.” Certainly does, and the sound is huge for a three piece.
reviously known as Fleeing New York, the name Band of Skulls comes from a club night they used to attend at The Talking Heads club in Southampton. The club’s sign, which was a scene from Hamlet, was a hand holding a skull, and they loved it so much it stuck. “Southampton is one of those places where you can just go out on your own and bump into five or ten people you know and have a good night. There’s loads of up and coming bands.” And I just thought it was all about Craig David and Icon. Now that they’ve taken their first step, what’s next? “We’re like
professional musicians and you know we’ve got to get better. It’s the best job in the world, but we’re trying to get better all the time. We’re doing it because we love it. Doing gigs and writing songs.” With the future looking bright and a digital release exclusive to iTunes available right now, they’re not taking anything for granted. As Emma concludes: “We’ll be out there spreading the word and working hard.” The band’s press sheet spouts all kinds of truths or fabulous lies, like Russell survived a near fatal car crash that was started by weaving to the rhythm of Ace of Spades by Motorhead; Matt played tennis with John MacEnroe and Emma has a collection of over 20,000 albums and singles. Are these true? Who cares? But they certainly make a mockery of Oscar Wilde remark that “Dullness is the coming of age for seriousness.” In yer pipe. Words by Matt Bowring Photography by James Perou www.photosimian.co.uk
17. The age at which you'd served the cider-sharing apprenticeship in the park and gravitated to the big league of pubs and studentfriendly nightclubs. Old enough to need a razor, but still so fresh-faced that being able to pay a kid's fare on the bus was acceptable compensation for the shame of being ID'd half an hour earlier. A time of realisation, discovery and, for many, the first time of getting behind the wheel. That feeling of driving off in a hatchback full of sixth-form mates for the first time is where Alessio Natalizia, aka blessed-out pop revisionist Banjo or Freakout, is at right now, having embarked on his first full tour with gig sidekick Daniel from Gentle Friendly. They've even got a new car especially for the trip. I meet with the pair in Manchester's Sand Bar ahead of their gig at the nearby Deaf Institute, and it quickly becomes apparent that this jaunt is very much a learning process.
�anjo or �reakout
"We're still working out what works best live," Alessio explains, sipping a coke while Daniel plays with a Dictaphone that is exactly the same as mine. "We're trying to do a mix between electronic and physical things, like using real drums. It feels more powerful - it's louder, like a wall of sound." He's not wrong - watching Banjo or Freakout in action later tonight, it's astounding how much clearer, tougher and alive it feels in comparison to the dreamier, enveloping rhythms of his recordings (which were largely recorded alone). He's done the live thing before - notably as a member of Italian punk funk outfit Disco Drive - but not like this. "Rock bands are dead! I don't think it makes any sense to play with just real instruments," he tells me. That may explain why BoF's first batch of tracks - a collection of covers of songs by artists ranging from Amy Winehouse to Burial - sound so far removed from the originals. At first, the idea was to put together a compilation of remoulded takes on tracks from albums of the year. As he became more absorbed, the process taught him more about how he can make the music he wants to create. "I don't think my music is electronic - I do everything as though
I'm playing the guitar or the drums," he says. "When I did the covers, I also got to learn how to work with the computer and samples. With other people's music you can do what you want - it feels less personal. It's a good way to learn."
his, I think, is the point about Alessio and BoF. Essentially I'm speaking to a 30-year-old who has been in bands for years and has very possibly played more gigs than I'll ever go to, but there's also an innocence and sense of adventure permeating the man and his music. "I like the period I'm living now!" he exclaims, by way of illustration. "It's all new to me because I moved to London in September and started doing things I could have been doing when I was 18. Moving away, meeting people, hearing new music. I hang around with lots of younger people. When I go to a club I feel like the oldest person there!" Staying on the age track, I inquire into Alessio's youth and learn that he was a big fan of Pavement and Sonic Youth, but more is revealed when I offer him the chance to trade his family for another, slightly cooler version. His mum, he confirms, would be either Doctor Who theme creator Delia Derbyshire or Rihanna, while his Dad
would be "someone from Can". Daniel asks if he's talking about Damo Suzuki. "No, he'd have to be an uncle," Alessio clarifies. "He'd be the uncle that gives you all the drugs, like, 'hey, have some of this!’" We go our separate ways at this point - Alessio and Daniel to an abortive soundcheck, I to kill time before the gig starts (fortunately my bedraggled appearance is ID enough these days for me to get another pint). Later, I'll speak with a distressed Alessio who has misplaced his laptop and the keys to his car, dangling BoF's road trip over the precipice. Somewhere in Germany, an old rocker is forced to lift the needle off his vinyl and pick up the phone to impart some fatherly advice to an anxious and apologetic Italian... Words by Neil Condron Photography by Kamil Janowski www.kjanowski.com
or How I Learned to Love the Mixtape
Forget file-sharing – mixtapes are the universal medium of musical exchange. Indie kids cut out ironic photos from magazines, write cult quotes on the front cover and make heartfelt compilations for their boyfriends and girlfriends. Budding hiphoppers buy ropey belt-drive turntables and gleefully ruin an hour of Gangstarr instrumentals by incessantly scratching a ‘Ffffffresh’ sample over the top. Rapping over a stream of other people’s beats is the most likely route to mainstream success for underground MCs. And as for house music – well what sort of idiot buys a minimal techno tune unless they’re planning to obscure the tedious two-minute outro section with the beginning of another record? While the concept of a compilation is as old as recorded music itself, the pursuit of creating a continuous stream of music out of separate tracks can be traced back to pioneering disco deejays like Francis Grasso, and the dawn of hip hop in the Bronx. The overlaying of two records created a culture that still dominates the dark hours of the nation’s weekends, but yet there’s no inherent value in a continuous mix – tune selection is the critical factor 30
in a mixtape. As anyone who’s ever attempted to put an hour long mix together will tell you, you can have the best records, blend them seamlessly, and still be left with a duff mix. Why? Because mixtapes are a labour of love, and if your heart ain’t in it, then it’ll just be so many songs in a row… Hot Chip are about to release their Bugged Out mix – a two CD take on club (Bugged Out) and home (Bugged In) listening. In stepping up to the Bugged Out plate, they join luminaries like Erol Alkan, Felix Da Housecat and Miss Kittin. And the format suits them – they are a truly 21st Century band, writing, producing and performing their own material, but also remixing and deejaying other people’s music on a regular basis. It stands to reason that they should be able to cobble together a half decent mixtape, and sure enough their Bugged Out offering is impressive stuff. I spoke to Alexis, their diminutive lead singer about steel bands, found sounds and the art of collaborative compiling: “We approached the Bugged Out mix in a pretty straightforward way really. Felix, Joe and Al took care of the Bugged Out CD, and Owen and I worked on the Bugged In. Because we didn’t have to produce a seamless club mix, we were able to just pick songs that we were fond of, our favourite party tunes”. And, sure enough, the Bugged In part of the package is anything but seamless, refusing to settle on one style for any longer than a couple of tracks. The twenty tracks that made the final cut include Fleetwood Mac, Biz Markie and The Esso Trinidad Steel Band. “The Esso track, ‘Apeman’, is a cover of a Kinks song, and I’ve
“It’s true that people’s consumption of music is affected by convenience, but a drunken mix of mp3s could still be good. I guess I’d always appreciate someone taking care over something.”
“Most of my favourite mixtapes are not mixes at all, they’re compilations like the Pebbles and Nuggets psych-rock collections, or just mixes that my friends have made me.”
been going through a stage of listening to loads of steel band albums recently, some of the stuff that Van Dyke Parks has produced. The choices we made for the Bugged In CD were quite personal” says Alexis. But can a compilation that will be avidly consumed by thousands of Hot Chip fans really be a personal affair? Doesn’t making a mix in public fundamentally alter the process, making you stop and consider what people will think? “Its like writing a song, you know? It might be about personal things, but it has appeal beyond that too – it shouldn’t stop being interesting just because someone doesn’t get all the reference points”. And, sure enough, tracks elsewhere on the Bugged In CD represent side projects (Joe Hot Chip’s Greco Roman Party Rhythm is a savage exercise in electro precision) or personal acquaintances: “We included a track by Pictish Trail (King Creosote guitarist), because we’ve had quite a lot to with each other over the years. I got to know the Fence Collective when I was working at Domino Records, I played a solo show with him recently, and now we’ve done remix work for him”. If the Bugged In CD is a cosy lovein, the Bugged Out mix goes straight for the jugular. Sequenced and mixed by Felix and Joe, it is a streamlined, gracious and powerful blend of melodic minimal techno, half-step hybrid house and growling next-level electro. Where the Bugged In CD is all about the meaning of particular songs, the Bugged Out mix gallops along, cramming twenty-four tracks into just over an hour including a new Hot Chip track, Take It In. In the age of instant Spotify playlists, the pleasure of hearing
a band you love taking a snapshot of their current passions seems all the more sweet. Surely sending someone a link to download will never be the same as handing them a homemade compilation? “I’m not too precious about that sort of thing to be honest. It’s true that people’s consumption of music is affected by convenience, but a drunken mix of mp3s could still be good. I guess I’d always appreciate someone taking care over something though.” Taking care over the process of making a mixtape has always been what’s sorted the wheat from the chaff. It’s the difference between a Greatest Electro Anthems in The World Ever III CD and the compilations of career crate diggers like Andy Votel, or the Soul Jazz label. “Most of my favourite mixtapes are not mixes at all, they’re compilations like the Pebbles and Nuggets psych-rock collections” says Alexis, “or just mixes that my friends have made me. I’ve been quite into some of the compilations on labels like Drag City and Sublime Frequencies, and also some of the ‘found sounds’ collections, where people have gathered together pre-recorded sounds that they like”. A more concise definition of the mixtape would be difficult to imagine. It isn’t about perfecting beatmatching or having the most upfront tunes – it’s the projection of personality that counts. And be it indie compilation CDs, hip hop scratchathons, or just collections of noises, long may people continue gathering together the sounds that they like. Words by Adam Corner Hot Chip's Bugged Out mixtape is out now through New State
“Wait. You want me to ask them about suicide?” If we’re talking landmark moments in life, the end is certainly one of note. It’s three o’clock on a depressingly sunny Wednesday afternoon. The kind of sunny where the light glares through your office window, cutting in between the blinds to flare across your monitor with a taunting call to be outdoors. I’m sat on a wiry office chair, tapping between the dead skin and hardened crumbs that fill my keyboard, emailing Kruger. “The photos we took remind me of the Virgin Suicides. See if you can reference that.” “So you want me to ask them about killing themselves?” No reply.
“We could talk about Catherine Turner’s amazing performance in that film. She plays the mom and she’s so good. You can totally understand her motivation for being like, super strict evil mom. Oh wait! You can also say that we toured with Air who did the soundtrack for Virgin Suicides!” Now I’m on the phone to Annie, one third of Brooklyn dream poppers, Au Revoir Simone. They make the kind of music that might accompany a day like today, were the office windows suddenly to turn into butterflies and the walls carried off by singing bluebirds. They’re the Bronte sisters of indie, bringing to life an imaginary world of sweet melody and tragic synths. “We’re in Milan right now. We’re ordering dinner in an amazing restaurant” she exclaims, moments before disappearing to order something that sounds pretty gourmet. I joke that European hospitality tends to better us Brits. “Oh my gosh, it’s amazing!” she coos, drawing out the vowels for emphasis. “I would say this is definitely a coming of age moment.” I ask where their first gig outside America was. “Iceland, Airwaves” she answers with a slight shrug as my hand cripples itself around the phone in jealousy. “We were very impressed with Moshi Moshi for having us. It was very special and amazing, cos I guess we had played in Montreal, so I guess that’s technically outside of the United States, but for New Yorkers it’s practically in the same country.”
"You can’t let like, greed or wanting to be famous or whatever get in the way. People do drugs, have sex and do it through their music but we just like the way our keyboards sound."
’d read somewhere that Annie first met her band mates on train. This is a lie. In true Au Revoir Simone style, it was through some kind of magical adventure, as she enthusiastically explains. “The thing was, Erika was playing in a band with my… now he’s my husband, but back then he was my boyfriend, and we sort of saw each other and said hello but we were never really friends until we ended up going on this big adventure together. We were visiting some friends in Vermont and we both had to come back early cos we had real jobs, so we got driven by this sort of redneck guy to the train station, and then we took the train to Boston and we went at this breakneck pace on the subway to catch this other train that we needed to get on, and we made it in like, two seconds, and we just had this really fun adventure, running around and talking, and that’s really when we became friends and knew we just wanted to use music as an excuse to hang out together.” OK, so when was the moment that you realised, actually, this isn’t just an excuse, it’s a damn ace band? “I would say, it’d be the first practice, cos all of a sudden there was just this insane chemistry. Heather came at like, the second or third practice, right away, and we just had this insane ability to psychically write songs together, just go in the same direction, musically, and it just felt really, really good. It felt so magical I would come home and I would say to my boyfriend; ‘I’m in the BEST BAND EVER!’ even though we didn’t sound good at all. I mean at all. But it just felt so fulfilling and so special and it really moved us emotionally that… I don’t know. It just felt great and we never expected anything, like even to play a concert or anything but… we just liked it.” There are many milestones in the life of a band, and I’m guessing that first gig is a pretty big one. “It was in the winter. I can’t remember if it was 2003 or 2004.” Well, maybe not then. Annie continues with a distracted lightness, “I’m inclined to say 2004, like the very beginning of 2004. It was in the winter and Erika has this old Volvo and we loaded up all our little toy keyboards in it and we drove in this huuuge snowstorm through this snow drift to this kind of like… It wasn’t cheesy, but it definitely wasn’t a kind of cool club, to play. We were opening up for her keyboard teacher and they were really, really sweet, and invited us to play and it was so good, but after we were done… I guess it wasn’t the best show. We had a great time. People were like, ‘Woah! We really like your bangs!’” I offer that you kind of want that reaction, but maybe with a ‘d’ replacing the ‘g’? “Exactly” agrees Annie, suddenly getting the joke with a rush of giggles. “We got the bangs thing so… that’s what we did. But we practiced, and practiced and practiced and we got better I think.” Much like a first gig, releasing a debut record must be a pretty big deal. And they always say the second album’s ‘difficult’. So with the release of their third LP, Still Night, Still Light I wonder how the band are feeling: nervous or nonchalant? “It’s so funny cos I feel like when our first album came out it was sort of a surprise that it even came out at all, because we originally started it as a demo to get more shows, you know? So there was zero pressure for the first album, and then by the time we got to the second record, we didn’t really feel like there was any expectation because the first one never really seemed like that huge of an event for us, so the second one sort of felt more like the first, so we just tried and tried and tried and tried to make it a record. And by the time we got to the third album, it was more about creating songs that we wanted to hear more, so we ended up hiring a different producer and making sure the songs were how we wanted them to be.” Thinking of landmarks in regular life, well, the only thing worth excitement was turning eighteen and finally making it through the hallowed doors of venues that before offered nothing but a headshake and embarrassing exit. Turning it transatlantic, I ask what the big 21st was for Au Revoir Simone? “I guess it was when we first got to England when we toured with We Are Scientists and we first showed up, I can’t even remember where the first show was, and it wasn’t even that big of a show and it was for like, 2,000 people, and we were like ‘WOOOOAH! TWO THOUSAND PEOPLE ARE HERE?! WOOOOAH!’ I make some joke about retirement and spoken word art that isn’t really funny. “It’s just a band. It’s just fun” she replies, humouring me. “You can’t let like, greed or wanting to be famous or whatever, or people do drugs, have sex and do it through their music but we just, we like the way our keyboards sound.” So if The Rolling Stones are drugs and sex through their music, what are Au Revoir Simone? “Friendliness… keyboard sounds and dark chocolate.” Yep, that’s about as far away from suicide as you can get. Lovely. Words by Jen Long Photography by Christopher McLallen www.christophermclallen.com
Black Moth Super Rainbow Old age... it comes to us all. Apart from Peter Pan, Donny Osmond and Cliff Richard. Oh, and Jimmy Saville, he's always been 80. But yes, old age, it will get you. Life, as we know it follows an undeniable trajectory, the jubilant incline of youth; the platitude of middle age followed by a wrinkly decline and incontinent. Somewhere on this graph of human mortality there is, though, a 'POP' moment, a dreaded - or maybe welcome - realisation of 'gosh, I am now an adult, I have to organise my own bank statements, think about other people and stop treating my body like an ongoing game of swing ball.' This moment? It's called coming of age.
"I think it was the first time where I felt that I don't have the awesome energy that I had yesterday," sighs an American man called Tobacco. He is the lead singer and general proprietor of extravagantly named, critically lauded Pennsylvanian outfit Black Moth Super Rainbow, and he remembers his coming of age moment well. "It was when I thought that I should probably make myself go running instead of just running for no reason. It was the day that I realised that you have to force yourself to run to stay in shape, I think that was probably my moment." Indeed, coming of age, usually understood as a psychological experience, isn't just about growing up but also the beginnings of your body giving up. "My body took care of itself until one day it just stopped," he recalls. "That was probably not too long ago, probably about 2005-ish. When I got my first car I didn't feel like I'd grown up, when I moved out of home I didn’t feel like a grown up; it’s just realising when you're old I think - that is what it does it for me." Tobacco, you see, might be getting older - he quietly now embraces the inevitable slide into the landing bathchair, Antiques Roadshow 34
addiction and the Mecca Bingo Super League - but it doesn't make the wonderful music the 29-year-old makes any less childish. After all, the other members of his fellowship are named as ludicrously as The Seven Fields of Aphelion, Power Pill Fist, Iffernaut and Father Hummingbird (actual names include Ken and Maureen). It's their weapon in the losing battle against maturity and doubles as their cloak of mystery. "We all decided we didn't want to go by our real names we wanted to keep the personalities separate from the music," justifies Tobacco, with Kruger obviously striking a nerve. "People want to know too much about the personal lives of the people who're making music that they enjoy - there are bands out there who're blogging about their bowel movements, and that’s fine, but it’s too much. When I was a young kid ten years ago I didn't know anything about the people I was listening to." He breaks for a breath. "There was sort of like this wall, on one level that’s like I can see why people want to break that wall because we're not super stars or anything we're just regular people. But on the other hand it’s just cooler to not know." Having admitted he's probably on the wrong side of the graph's peak,
youth isn't something which Tobacco and co are afraid to dip back into. "When I first started doing the Black Moth stuff I was really inspired by old kids shows which I grew up on," he whispers. "We have a station here called PBS and they play like Sesame Street and all the poetic kids shows - they had these great analogue synth bumpers before and after the shows and I was always trying to go for that." Little Tobacco, years before his coming of age moment, never dreamt of making music for a living. No that didn't even come until 2006. "I could never really see that far into the future. When I was a kid I was into nothing for a while and I hated music," he says remembering his childhood back home. "My parents tried to get me into a school band and everything but I wasn't having it and eventually I got into freestyle BMX. I realised I'd probably not be good to do that for real so I started that as a hobby. I never had the vision to feel where I might go and have any real drive as a kid. "I guess I was trying to recapture a part of my childhood," he adds a little glumly back on the subject of his new record. "These days I guess it’s a little more adult, but it’s still not adult."
ating Us - released in June - is only 'adult' in the same way that you can't help but run on a bouncy castle at a kids party however old you are. It's their fourth LP - following 2007's acclaimed break through, Dandelion Gum - and also their bravest. A woo-some mix of Air, The Postal Service and Flaming Lips a slowly encroaching, dark floaty-beat delight born out of Tobacco's desire to make a deeper album. "To me Eating Us means things that are eating us, killing us, eating us on the inside. It’s kind of like a heavy thing to say but it’s just a sadder, darker record. I wanted to show we sound
happy but maybe these things aren't about these happy things you think they are." Indeed, song titles like Tooth Decay, American Face Dust and Born On A Day, A Day The Sun Didn't Rise, hint at that. As well as incorporating a more of a sinister edge to the lyrics Tobacco also, for the first time, went to an actual studio to lay down tracks instead of doing it at home. "I kind of had something to prove. The UK wouldn't be too familiar but in my past but I've gotten a lot of shit for having lofi production," he says. "I just wanted to see if - even if it was only once I wanted to see if I could make a record which actually maybe has the fidelity of somebody who is a lot bigger. Maybe these songs could stand up and it doesn’t have to be under a wave of fuzz and distortion." Therefore, with the experience of age on his side all fingers point towards Eating Us being a step up, a personal landmark, a discovering of self LP. "I don't know if I've made my coming of age record yet," he retorts. "Because I can't imagine what it'll be. If anything it would be this one because this was the first time I ever put thought into a record. This is the first time that I knew that actually a few people might hear when it came out. I tried to make songs that were grown up people songs, and not just ridiculous, self-indulgent noise things. "Maybe this one is the coming of age record," he concludes finally, before realising how mature that sounds. "But I don't think so." Words by Greg Cochrane Illustration by Jack Hudson www.flickr.com/jackhudsonillustration
Back in the Halycon days of the South Wales Valleys you would often find cats spray painted with spectacles and Hitler moustaches. Sometimes you would see them with noughts and crosses on their backs and someh you could clearly match the handwriting to the Black Flag graffiti all over the Gelli. Banksy wouldn’t have ever graffed up a cow if he hadn’t seen the handiwork of Macey and Buzzy back in ‘84. If I hadn’t seen these bespectacled cats and linked them with the Black Flag tags sprayed all over the village, I may never have come across the hardcore scene and now I would be on ‘roids, driving a one litre Escort, banging out Basshunter like the rest of the proles I grew up with. Developmental psychology believes that we humans go through these psychological changes systematically throughout our lives. For psychoanalysts, our cognitive development and conceptual understanding is moulded by such events. At six months, Lacan believes the identification of self through one’s reflection in a mirror is a significant stage in the construction of our identity. When we initially see ourselves in the mirror, we begin to attach the disjointed visions of our limbs and body parts into one ideal imago; we construct our Ideal-I and we enter into the symbolic order, beginning to contemplate the dichotomy between our reflected visual wholeness and the emotional disjunction of never, ever seeing our Ideal-I unless in reflection. It’s in this identification and objectification of symbolism within the likes of Henry Rollins and Greg Ginn that our Egos are constructed. For Freud, the Id (Syd Barret) is in constant battle with the Superego (Dave Gilmour) to control the Ego (Roger Waters). It’s all sex really. Freud believed humans go through five stages of development and seemingly, everyone in Dirty Projectors are stuck in the Phallic stage, playing with their dicks when they should be speaking to me about their new record. Dirty Projectors are in New York and about to play the Dark Was The Night benefit gig with The National, Feist and Sharon Jones. I’m in Llandaf, learning about pirates with the honourable Vic Reeves. I would have got a taxi over to The Radio City Music Hall but I have an ungodly aversion to Giant Apples. Freud would say I harbour subconscious desires for gargantuan testicles, but you have to remember Freud was a major exponent of the use of cocaine as pharmaceutical anaesthesia, and he prescribed himself more than George Jacob Yung prescribed
Words by Simon Roberts Photography by Christopher McLallen www.christophermclallen.com
the rest of the planet. Without the aid of a Freudian prescription, I’ve been waiting on a call from Dave Longstreth. It’s now been 3 days. The propaganda machine tells me he dropped out of Yale University so maybe he missed the lecture on how to retrieve voicemail and dial numbers which aren’t in his contact list. But I can’t really moan, he’s fighting for good causes and banging out tracks with the likes of Talking Head David Byrne and the luffley Bjork. DP worked with Byrne on the Dark Was The Night compilation, a sort of No Alternative for the Noughties. It was produced by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National and brought together the likes of Arcade Fire, Beruit, The Books, Yeasayer and Bon Iver. The DWTN project is organised by Red Hot. They raise awareness of HIV and AIDS through popular culture. So far, they’ve donated $7 million to AIDS relief around the world and any revenue raised from the sale of any albums, live gigs or videos in foreign countries stay within each country to help support HIV and AIDS prevention and relief. I suppose it’s like Live Aid, minus the ballbags. I would like to help the starving in Africa, but please don’t reward me with Bono and the Edge. And certainly don’t replace Brian May with his wife Anita Dobson and think I wouldn’t notice. I’m not as educated as Dr. May, but I’m no Helen Keller. DP are up to their Oxford shirts in charity. On May 8th they performed with Bjork at the 300 capacity Housing Works bookstore/ cafe on Crosby Street, New York. The Housing Works is another AIDS charity which offers community based support for the homeless. Tickets ranged from $250-$400 and all proceeds went to Housing Works. Dave Longstreth wrote a suite for 5 voices and an acoustic guitar. In Cardiff, you can attend the Huggard Centre to see Echo Mike perform selected tracks from Frank Sinatra Jnr, the proceeds go to the FFGJ (The Foundation of the Fucked on Gin & Juice). The Housing Works benefit was set up by Board Member and Stereogum writer Brandon Stosuy. Brandon also put out a Bjork cover compilation where the DP afrocised Hyperballad. Brandon knew Bjork was fond of the band and he suggested they worked together. Whether his labours will be fruitful is unknown at the moment, but when I see Dave, I’ll remember to ask him. I’ll also ask him for my vinyl copy of the album. The lovely people at Domino did send a CD but it’s in the confines of the Canton Postal Department on a Bank Holiday Weekend. I would normally illegally download albums when I’m in a sticky
spot, but I feel bad for Domino. First the Animal Collectives album is leaked months before the release, and now DP’s Bitte Orca. I was left relying on the good people of npr.com who are streaming footage of a live show from SXSW performing their new album. The IPM is saying the album is about Plaxico Burress, a New York Giants footballer who accidently shot himself in the leg in a club in New York’s Latin Quarter. It’s more about intricate Soweton rhythms and overstated understatements, not dissimilar to an Anthony with an attached Johnson. This record is incredibly structured when compared to their early works, Dave’s song writing is still immensely focused on the unfocused, but the success of Vampire Weekend (Ezra Koenig is a friend and former player with DP) may have influenced a fluidity in the new record. It was certainly apparent in the Rise Above Black Flag covers album. That record is just a beautiful re-invention of 1981’s Damaged, an album which is a pivotal force to which assessments are constantly made.
y whole childhood revolved around Black Flag, mostly their iconography with the My War t-shirt, with the puppet of Hilter used to inform my teachers that the Beatles we used to sing in assembly was irrelevant, utopic, a méconnaissance. The first time I heard Police Story, I didn’t even realise I had sung the entire song without once questioning how I knew the words. David Byrne described them as “completely strange and oddly familiar,” and he’s totally correct. When I first heard Black Flag it was as if I’d already know them, the iconography sprayed in protest was my attachment to a symbolism of challenging the hegemonic structures of control by angrily wearing a flag against the fascism of childhood. DPs Rise Above album is my early development without the imparity of being an idle, little bastard who just didn’t understand the methods of my makers. It’s the energy of youth with the eloquence of a rejection of an Ivy League education. If Buzzy and Macey hadn’t spent their time spray painting cats, Banksy would never have become the monolith he is and I would be narcissistically flexing in the mirror of the gym, unaware that psychoanalysis pejoratively describes my condition as egotistic, selfish and uncaring. All this may well be true, even with a Stella belly and an absolute hate of any reflection of my entire being. But just as narcissism stems from the Mirror stage and Rollins is a major exponent of the condition, Dirty Projectors project the furious anger of punk for gawky little fuckers like me who are too old and too frail to fight, and far too drunk to fuck. 37
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something in construction
Music Sounds Better With Huw Hello, Iâ€™m Huw Stephens, and this is my new Kruger column. A beautiful thing is Kruger, and on this here page I get to share some brilliant new music with you every two months. Hooray! I've seen a lot of brilliant bands lately; Local Natives at SXSW, Three Trapped Tigers and The XX at Camden Crawl, Peggy Sue at Sounds from the Other City and loads more at Radio 1's Big Weekend. Here, Kruger fans, are three artists that you should definitely check out....
Marina and the Diamonds.
Other Music, a record shop in New York City, email me their newsletter every week, but actually going there is wicked. For indie and leftfield goodness in the incredible city, I doubt you can beat it. The chart of bestsellers on the wall was familiar (Animal Collective, still Fleet Foxes of course), but Good Evening by Nite Jewel? Album purchased, it turns out to be a beaut. Soft and gentle wandering synth rhythms, ice cold beats and warm, luscious lost
Half Welsh and half Greek, when I asked Marina which half was which it was obviously going to be the Mam that was Welsh and the Dad from Greece. Brought up on pure pop and clothes in glamorous Abergavenny (has a very nice food festival so I'm told), Marina has carried these fascinations into her young adulthood, and now makes belters of pop songs that straddle the indie massive and the out and out pop crowd, a little bit like the Ting Tings
If Asher Roth is the new Eminem, and the new Eminem tunes aren't as good as his old tunes, and if Lil Wayne's rock career won't match up to his hip hop efforts, and if Stringer Bell off The Wire has a secret hip hop career, then this Seattle three piece are the hot new thing in indie hip hop. Oozing cheek, quick rhymes and occasionally filthy mouths, Pearl Dragon, DJ Gajamagic and Thomas Gray have a knack of making eloquent tracks that get under
vocals combine to make an album so gorgeous I've recommended it to everyone since I heard it. Albums that sound as if they're recorded in a bedroom but actually deserve the most expensive studio in the world make you love them even more. This New York duo sound like Kate Bush collaborating with the avant-garde dubstep producer who lives a few blocks up. So thank goodness for charts of recommendations in record shops is what I say.
did when they first came to prominence. I Am Not a Robot and Mowgli's Road are sudden sharp bursts of adrenaline-filled loveliness, impossible not to hum along with, with every other lyric making you think of Marina herself in a different way. Scratch the surface, and underneath the big sounds, marching rhythms and fantastic tunes is a girl who wants to sing and have a nice frock. Don't we all?
your skin and make you want to breakdance. Although the name might be tongue in cheek, their style and dopeness is unquestionable, even more so maybe than last year's US underground crew the Cool Kids. Get these, Plastic Little and Scotland's Young Fathers into a sweat box and you'd have the best night out ever, quite possibly.
She's gigging a lot at the moment, with slots at Latitude on the Lake Stage and Bestival included.
They play Washington on May 23rd. Kruger's paying for all of our flights to go! See you there!
www.myspace.com/nitejewel Catch them at Cargo in London on September 22nd.
Huw Stephens presents on BBC Radio 1 at 9pm and midnight on Wednesdays. Catch him at summer festivals, and curating Swn Festival, Cardiff October 23-25. Oh, and heâ€™s on Twitter too: /huwstephens 41
On The Road
You’re about to head off on tour... what’s the first thing that you make sure you pack into your case? High heels... actually, slippers. I’m a connoisseur of slippers. I’ve got some travel ones for the tour bus that fold up and go in my hand bag. They make me feel at home And what’s the thing that you’re bound to forget? Probably something really essential, like my passport. Remember the slippers, forget the passport. That’s my vibe. “I’ve got my slippers, please let me in the country.” Ha ha ha. How do you travel? Up to now we’ve had a splitter, but with this tour we’re expanding and it’s our first big sleeper van, so it feels like the big time! I’m very excited. It’s got lights and everything. Is this the biggest tour you’ve done so far? It’s not the biggest venues, but it’s the biggest headline tour. And all the venues are looking like they’re gonna be sold out, and it’s just our show so that’s amazing! What’s the one thing that keeps you sane on tour? Probably calling my boyfriend and my Mum. It sounds really girly but it’s true. You can have the best show in the world, but if you haven’t got someone to call afterwards to say ‘that was amazing,’ then it can feel pretty empty. Have you ever tried to kill any of your band mates while on tour? Noooo. Well… only on Guitar Hero. I’m pretty mean! Although my keyboard player Chris is ridiculous, so he still beats me. One day I’m gonna get him. Have any of them ever tried to kill you? Just on Guitar Hero. The others are addicted to PGA Golf but I don’t get involved. They’re like old men with that golf game. We only have PGA Golf and Guitar Hero on the bus, so all disputes
are settled with one of them. What do you miss most from home when you’re on the road? Really boring stuff, like being able to do my washing. On tour you can’t do any normal things like buy shampoo. It just doesn’t happen. When ever I come home for a night on tour, all I do is the stuff I haven’t had the chance to do. I miss my friends most, and my family. Do you enjoy touring? Yeah! It’s really exciting going on tour. There’s been a lot of press, which is kinda weird, so going on tour and actually selling out shows and having people come up to you after the gigs is really… real, it’s the most real thing I’ve got. Because I haven’t released anything yet, the rest of it feels a lot like hot air, so with touring it’s a real result. Where are you most looking forward to playing? Manchester is always good because it’s near Blackpool, which is where I’m from, and Leeds is always good because I was there for 5 years in Uni. Who’s been your favourite band to tour with so far? Probably Heartbreak. They’re amazing and so much fun. Sebastian is the coolest man on the planet! He’s superhuman onstage. Who would you most like to either support or have support you in the future? I’d really like to support Hot Chip, because Joe has produced my record and they strike a really good balance between pop and indie. I’d love to support the Pet Shop Boys as well. I twittered them because they’re following me, and Chris Lowe is from Blackpool as well. I said ‘let’s do a gig in Blackpool!’ and he messaged me back and said ‘yeah, lets do it!’ Nothing has come of it yet, but you never know. Me and the Pet Shop Boys. It could be amazing!
Photo by Dandem www.dandemphoto.com
Voted the Sound Of 2009 in the annual BBC poll of music industry insiders, Victoria Hesketh is on the low rungs of a very long ladder that extends right up to the stars. As she prepares for her biggest headline tour to date, we caught up for a pre-tour chat…
Read Little Boots' exclusive tour diary online at www.krugerlabs.com/blog For full tour dates go to www.myspace.com/littlebootsmusic 43
Read The Label
No Pain in Pop
London-based No Pain in Pop have only been releasing records since the summer of 2008 but already boast a back catalogue that includes HEALTH and Telepathe. Alongside the label they run an mp3 blog and promotions arm. We caught up with label boss Tom Oldham to get the skinny. What’s the first record you ever put out? A split 7" of Chrome's On It by Telepathe and Sunni-Geini’s SG Main Theme, last June. What labels inspired you in the beginning? In alphabetical order - Angular, Hyperdub, Rough Trade and Warp. They're all inspirational in different ways. And what other labels do you draw inspiration from now? The same, but less so I guess. What are NPIP doing to embrace the digital age? We run an mp3 blog to give away music free, and have an online store to sell records. We also give our releases away online once they've sold out. What do you think of Spotify? Spotify is great, though it should allow artist to upload their own music. What’s the best 5 records you ever put out? Our first, and so far only, five HEALTH, Telepathe, Banjo or Freakout, Gentle Friendly and the No Pain In Pop compilation. What will be different about record labels in the future? They won't exist. What role does an indie like NPIP play in today’s music industry? We give people a chance to discover new music without having it rammed down their throats. I guess we also try and help out new bands as much as possible outside of releasing them. What quantifies a successful release for NPIP? That both the act and us are happy with it. What’s your next release going to be? A Trailer Trash Tracy's 7" single due out in June, then we’ve some as yet secret releases planned for the end of the summer.
Tell us what they are. No, it’s a secret. What got you into music in the first place? Probably a combination of The Chart Show on Sunday morning ITV as a child and numerous film soundtracks... especially the Jurassic Park one. What was the first record you ever bought? My first memory is winning a Jive Bunny mega mix on Bournemouth pier, though I guess the first proper record was a Green Day or a Rancid album. What made you want to set up a record label? A lot of it came from living in New Cross and watching labels like Angular Records take flight. Also, seven inch vinyl feels and smells fucking cool. What is the secret to NPIP's success so far? We’re not bold enough to suggest we've had any success. If we had, not giving up would probably be the biggest reason. Do you have a company moto or ethos? Paint the map No Pain In Pop! Other than NPIP, what are the most exciting indie labels about at the moment and why? They’re all North American at the moment - Lovepump, Flemish Eye, Gloriette, Captured Tracks and In The Red. What has got you excited recently? Sunshine. What has pissed you right off recently? Lack of sunshine. Anything else to declare? Our thanks and respect for you interviewing us. No worries!
Win No Pain in Pop's first 5 releases. Go to www.krugerlabs.com/competitions 45
ADVENTURES IN THE BEETROOT FIELD
LONDON21 LEEDS22 GLASGOW23 MAY2009 1 WRISTBAND OVER 80 ACTS MULTIPLE VENUES 3 CITIES
COLD WAR KIDS THE MAE SHI, EVAN DANDO, LOVEFOXXX ANDREW WEATHERALL & MICACHU & THE SHAPES WHITE DENIM, RUSKO TIMES NEW VIKING, WILD BEASTS, THE TWILIGHT SAD CURSIVE, SLOW CLUB WWW.STAGANDDAGGER.COM MAPS, ABE VIGODA JACK PENATE (DJ SET), N-TYPE Check website for full line up details FILTHY DUKES, MARINA Tickets £15 Advance + Booking Fee (Per city) & THE DIAMONDS, DAN BLACK, PHANTOM BAND Also available at all Firetrap stores. CASIO KIDS, DAG FOR DAG THE XX, & MANY MORE Presents
Pop Will Eat Itself
Where are we? Sa Sa Sushi, in the middle of London. Why did you choose sushi today? Because it’s expensive and I’m very cheap, and I thought I was getting a free lunch. And I like it. Are you a good cook? No, but I’m a good sandwich maker. They generally involve lots of different things, and I lay it all out. Even if I was making a crisp sandwich I would line up the crisps so there’s equal crunch across the whole sandwich. That’s the kind of person I am. Sandwiches are my forte. What’s the best filling? Anything that’s there, I’ll just ram it in. I like a bit of chorizo, and expensive cured meats, but there’s a lot of salt in them, so I wouldn’t recommend them everyday otherwise something will go wrong internally. Do you have any special dietary requirements? No, I’ll eat most things. Although we were in China once and there were grubs. I don’t know what had been done to them but I draw the line at things like that. Anything that smells all right and looks okay I’ll put in my mouth. Before you signed to Warp, what would a typical meal for you? Pasta and a bit of cheese. I was trying to save money because I was doing a part-time job so that I could play with the band. Now you’re onto your third album, what do you eat these days? Pasta with chicken. I’ve added a meat to it! Have you got a favourite song about food? More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads is one of my favourite albums. Have you ever written a song about food?
I’ve got to go through our songs now in my head. The action in some of our songs takes place in a cafe, so if I racked my brains I could find one. You always request five tins of mackerel in tomato sauce on your rider, because “we do like our Omega 3 oils”. What about Omega 6? I’m going to change the rider now, I’m going to talk to our manager. Omega 6… it must be good. When does the new album come and what can we expect from it? May 11th. It’s a very upbeat record. You could dance to certain songs on our other records but there’s a groove that runs all the way through on this one. People can still expect a dissection of relationships and a romantic world view of everyday life, so I think people will be able to relate to it as well as dance to it. If you had to invite five of your contemporaries round for some sushi and a sing-along, who would it be? The lads from Hot Club de Paris are really funny as well as being excellent musicians. That’s three already… and the two guys from Field Music. David and Peter Brewis. Two of the best musicians I’ve ever heard, never mind shared a stage with. What ingredients go into a Maximo Park song? A little bit of spice, a fair chunk of meat and a lot of garnish. What’s the recipe for a successful career? Don’t eat too much at the start of your career otherwise you’ll end up a porker and all the fashion magazines won’t put you in there anymore. Just remember to enjoy the whole of the meal and savour it. I think that’s the important thing.
Photo by James Perou - www.photosimian.co.uk
If it’s true what they say, and you are what you eat, then Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith injects modernity into an institution, brimming with freshness and a raw lyrical bite. Or maybe he just likes sushi.
Maximo Park's new album, Quicken the Heart, is out now on Warp. Thanks to Sa Sa Sushi. www.sasasushi.co.uk 47
Changing the Records This is a tale about records and resilience. About the art of selling without selling-out. About globalisation knifing itself in the back. About the return of localism, and a world hungry for some different ideas. About record shops – and the sounds, the smells, the faces and the stories that give them their identity. Words by Adam Corner Pure Groove and Rough Trade photos by Dandem - www.dandemphoto.com Spillers photos by Matt Hilde - www.matt-hilde.co.uk
n his influential book Transition Towns, Rob Hopkins describes the strength of a community as its ‘resilience’, defined by the number of interconnecting links it contains. A resilient community will have people with specialised skills, local knowledge and overlapping interests. It will withstand changes in the wider world, because it knows how to look after itself. So many resilient communities have been sacrificed in the name of globalisation. Locally run and owned shops have been replaced by multinational chains that neither know nor care about local resilience. When sub-prime markets collapse in New York, small businesses go bust in 48
Wolverhampton. In hitching our cart to the juggernaut of global capital, we have lost our ability to fend for ourselves. It’s a story that is played out in town after town, retail sector after retail sector. And independent record shops have not been immune. Over 500 stores have closed in the UK since 2004. Most of us will have a story about a record shop we once loved that closed its shutters for the last time. How many of our records bare the price tags of shops that no longer exist? But in the idiosyncratic stock and specialised knowledge of our remaining independent record shops lurks the
resilience of our music communities. Promoters exchange rumour and gossip, label owners play demos of forthcoming releases and deejays bring in mixes that they recorded on the weekend. Independent record shops embody an approach to music that sticks two fingers up at £7 chart CDs in the supermarkets, and chooses instead to drool over cassette-only limited edition box sets. It may not be the most efficient way to do business, but at what point did efficiency become the standard by which we judged our musical culture? Since Reagan and Thatcher dismantled the post-war scaffolding holding international trading together, the brutal ascent of the corporation has been all-encompassing. Untold diversity has been sacrificed at the alter of efficiency and profit. Tesco’s viral homogenisation has displaced corner shops, newsagents, and greengrocers left, right and centre, spraying their blue-and-white striped stench on lamp-posts across the country. But in the spirit of celebrating the diversity and identify of independent record shops, International Record Store Day was established in 2007 by a group of enthusiasts in America. To be eligible to participate in Record Store Day, shops had to be independent (i.e. not
public limited companies), locally owned (rather than remotely managed) and a minimum of 50% of their stock had to be music. In other words, the day is about physical independent record stores – not online retailers or corporate behemoths.
his year, the event took place on Saturday 18th April, and involved 100s of independents in the UK. Some of the most treasured names in independent music held in-store events, hosted special guests, and dished out limited edition releases pressed specially for the day. Record shops up and down the country marked the day with instore activity. It was a chance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their fellow indies, and to celebrate the culture of the independent record shop. Sandy McLean, from Avalanche Records says that Record Store Day was an opportunity to show people that their shop was still alive and kicking, with a deejay set from Dananananaykroyd and a live set by The Virgins. But, said Sandy, the instore is something that they regularly use to attract new customers. The digital revolution has made obtaining music (legally or otherwise) a consumer experience that requires a laptop rather
than a shop assistant. Record shop customers are by-and-large an ageing demographic, and a significant part of the download generation simply don’t spend their Saturday afternoons leafing through the racks of record shops anymore: “A lot of our customers are either looking for rock music, or punk and metal – there’s a huge metal scene in Scotland. But when we hold in-store events, we get some different faces down – younger people that show up to see new bands for free and in a small venue.” A glance at the special releases that were scheduled for Record Store Day suggests that independent record shops are still very much where the action is when it comes to exciting and innovative new music. A live and acoustic recording of Asobi Seksu, an Ebony Bones single on Sunday Best Recordings, and a Domino compilation featuring Eugene McGuinness, Junior Boys and King Creosote were all made available for one day only. If the kids ain’t down with record shops anymore, then maybe the kids are missing a trick. But according to Pure Groove records in London, the digital generation gap has been over exaggerated. “The idea that young people don’t use record shops any more, that they don’t want
“The idea that young people don’t use record shops any more, that they don’t want physical products, only downloads and mp3s, has been blown out of all proportion.”
physical products, only downloads and mp3s, has been blown out of all proportion” says Simon Singleton, “we had Patrick Wolf doing an in-store on Record Store Day, and he’s got a really young following. We sold 100 Patrick Wolf vinyls that day.” The seismic shift to the digital consumption of music is not going to be reversed. And why should it be? While the major record labels fret about the reduced profitability of their products and press charges against file-sharing websites, most of the independent music industry has begrudgingly embraced the digital age. Realistically, record shops selling CDs and vinyl are not going to be part of this brave new world. But as Simon at Pure Groove points out, while the internet may have hoovered up trade from the high street, it has also revolutionised the way that people produce and consume music. “The trick is being able to capitalise on the buzz created by the internet, not try and fight it. And with music, we’ve got a built-in advantage – there’s always the live element. People will always want to see live music, and if we can make our shops live music venues, then people will always come in”. And the record shops that are still alive and kicking know a thing or two about how to keep the people coming
in. Since moving to new premises last year, Pure Groove have installed a bar serving drinks, and chairs and tables so people can use the shop even if they’re not buying records. “The bar helps to create a better atmosphere for instore gigs”, says Simon Singleton, “and the better the atmosphere the more likely people are to come back to the shop. We can’t compete on price with the internet stores, we have to offer something else – but that’s the same for retail in general, not just music. Think how many bookshops have wi-fi and sell coffee now – you’ve got to be able to adapt and evolve.” The call to adapt and evolve is echoed in shops up and down the country. “You’ve got to raise your game” says Lucy Squire, owner of Catapult Records in Cardiff. “People expect better customer service and a wider range of products, and you have to be able to provide it. At the moment, we sell a lot of music clothing, but in a year’s time it might be something else. You have to be able to keep moving.” While Record Store Day is strictly speaking concerned only with record shops – actual places filled with actual people exchanging cash for slabs of vinyl – the day is really about an ethos. The supremely successful (if hyperbolic) Boomkat online catalogue 49
is second to none in terms of small acts, limited runs on records, favoured artists, specialist knowledge and upfront releases. Despite operating as an internet-only retailer, their independent credentials are impeccable. As part of the independent web of shops that make up the Chain With No Name, they play a critical role in the vanguard of protecting music from the creative destruction of generic globalisation.
istening to the people on the ground talk, you’d be hard pushed to detect signs of their imminent demise. In fact, rather than wither and die in the corporate shadow, the record shops that are still around are fighting it out harder than ever. And according to Graham Jones, author of new book Last Shop Standing, there’s a reason why the record shops that are still here have survived. Despite setting out to chronicle the decline of the indie, Graham uncovered a network of shops that collectively comprised the heart and soul of the British music industry. “It’s true that a lot of shops have closed, but the ones that are left are the good ones – the ones that have found a niche and fought it out. Vinyl is really taking off again, and the supermarkets simply won’t stock it. Plus, there’s been a noticeable ‘Woolworths Effect’ – with Woolworths and Zavvi going down, people have come flocking back to their local shops in some towns.” And waiting for them behind the counter are the staff of the record shops, who play a pivotal role in their local music scenes and often go on to bigger and better things. Phonica deejays like Hector and Heidi are Saturday night Fabric regulars. Drum and Bass hitman High Contrast trod the boards at Catapult Records before taking up production full time. Scottish indie darlings Camera Obscura cut their teeth in Avalanche. At Diverse Records in Newport, the shop was turned over to the Goldie Lookin Chain for Record Store Day. “Eggsy has wanted to work here for as long as I can remember” says Matt Jarrett from Diverse, “so I gave him the opportunity to make the coffee for the day!” Like so many other small record shops, Diverse perform the important function of joining up the dots in the local music scene. Following on from the GLC takeover, they hosted a gig in local venue Le Pub. Matt says that the appeal of the shop isn’t just the releases it stocks, but the fact that it acts as a hub for the music scene: “We stock independent magazines, which promote independent labels and bands, which only get stocked by smaller shops like us”.
“It’s true that a lot of shops have closed, but the ones that are left are the good ones – the ones that have found a niche and fought it out.”
Overleaf, left: Ashli Todd from Spillers promotes Record Store Day, right: digging for gems in Rough Trade East. This Page, top: instore line up at Pure Groove, bottom: RSD goes off at Spillers. Opposite: Patrick Wolf signs records at Pure Groove.
It’s a mutually reinforcing cultural circle – the magazines support the shops, the shops support the bands, the bands play in-stores and benefit from the exposure in the magazines. Everyone depends on everyone else, and somehow ends up being more than the sum of their parts – the elusive resilience that even Amazon’s most sophisticated preference-matching algorithms can’t destroy. And it’s a story that is repeated across the county. Spillers in Cardiff hosted the hotly tipped Truckers of Husk plus local boys Funeral for a Friend, who the Spillers staff have watched turn into a major musical force. “We support people who support the shop” says Ashli Todd, a long serving member of the Spillers team. “Our customers are so loyal, and we recognise that. We want to give them something to reward the effort they put in.” And while some independents are increasingly doing their trading online, Ashli is clear where her priorities lie: “You can’t do an in-store on-line can you? Have some conviction – get off your arse and come in!” This kind of passion for living and breathing music is infectious, and can be the difference between a thriving local scene of underground bands and local promoters, and a town where generic acts on heavily branded tours visit the local aircraft hanger to fulfil their contractual obligations. Spillers has been feeling the cold wind of corporate development on its collar more than most – almost every building surrounding it has been decimated to make way for a multi-level mall of mega-proportions. Spillers literally lives in the corporate shadow – but its resilience shines through nonetheless.
the corporate greed that runs through the music industry in general,” says Jones. “All the majors back their own hot new signings in the beginningof-year charts, so the charts become meaningless. Music fans see through this – they don’t want to be pushed into liking the music that has been allocated the biggest promotional budget. They want to discover what they like for themselves.” In the era of one-size-fits all globalisation, discovering something for yourself is nothing short of a revolutionary idea. But the polished sheen of globalisation is wearing off. Washed-out corporate pseudo-culture will only cut it for so long. Instead of facilitating a multi-cultural exchange, globalisation has allowed McCulture to devour the world. The last record shops standing might seem like relics from an age gone by, but they contain the seeds of the future of music. When the last corporation has gone the way of Woolworths, and the echoes of globalisation are fading away, what will be left? Music and memories, records and resilience.
Last Shop Standing by Graham Jones is available to buy from independent book shops, record shops and online retailers. Thank you to everyone involved in this feature, especially Ashli Todd, Simon Singleton, Graham Jones, Matt Jarrett, Sandy McLean and Lucy Squire. From Kruger 22 onwards we'll be profiling an independent record shop in every issue, starting with Diverse in Newport.
f course, it’s easy to romanticise the record shop. They are run to make a profit, and their survival depends on them doing so. But while making money is a necessity, profit is unlikely to be the sole purpose of a record shop. “Noone starts a record shop because they think they are going to get rich” says Graham Jones. “There are much easier ways of making money than running a record shop. Most record shops are run by music fans, and start out as an extension of someone’s personal collection.” And in the same way that a suspicion of bigger-is-better capitalism is creeping into people’s shared consciousness, the profit-driven motives of the music industry are coming sharply into focus. “Its not just supermarkets stealing independent shops’ trade that’s the problem, it’s 51
Team Kruger A monthly night of great new music from ace bands on the up. The 3rd Tuesday of the month, at The Social. Next up... May 19th : Kid A + Magic Arm + Thee Fair Ohs June 16th : Team Kruger end of term PARTY!! Full listings at www.krugerlabs.com/live
Every month * La Shark photographed at Team Kruger by Kamil M. Janowski - www.kjanowski.com
Also at The Social : Monthly nights from Chess Club, Broader That Broadway, Goldielocks, Huw Stephens (Radio 1 Introducing), Hip-Hop Karaoke, Platform Live, 1965 Records, Sonic Cathedral and lots more. The Social, 5 Little Portland Street, London - Nearest Tube : Oxford Circus - www.thesocial.com 52
The Kruger Singles Club is a free download record label, releasing a free download single on the first Monday of every month. Members of the Singles Club also get access to six months of archive singles to download, with the full archive available to stream at www.krugerlabs.com/singlesclub. It's free to become a member and anyone can join. Go to our website and sign up today.
www . krugerlabs . com / singlesclub
t Ou ! w No
Download Now! THE MICE GIRLS
Shhhh, The Mice Girls are a secret. So secret in fact, we donâ€™t even know who they are. What we do know though is that the beeps and bleeps of May single Twitchcraft sent us into an eyepopping fit when we heard it. Ace.
The Norwegian / Kruger love-in continues in June as we bring you Captain Credible and his special brew of death techno brain fry. Coming from the same camp as the amazing Casiokids, think Squarepusher meets Kid Carpet, in colour!
Sweaters 'Sky Mall'
Kruger's download club is like a cannon, firing heavy duty slabs of outrageously great new music every month
Bethan Elfyn - Radio 1
Tin Can Telephone 'Recycling Is Cool'
Canaries 'Birds Of Prey'
It's an amazing free music system from Kruger Magazine. You can always rely on them for good stuff
Lauren Laverne - 6Music
Silver Gospel Runners Portasound 'Would You Settle 'The Wrong Parade' For Less'
After two years of uncovering musical treasure, the Kruger Singles Club is yet to fail. 100% free, 100% ace
Jon Hillcock - XFM
DiY Label Of The Week!
Radio 1 Introducing
Sometimes interesting things happen in the world of popular music. Words: Jen long, Rhian Daley, Ioan Morris & Susie Wild
Doves, swine and deer(hoof) Overpriced pints, someone trendy making nasty comments about your new haircut: these are the fears of day-to-day gig goers. However, there’s new trouble in the ranks… swine flu. Apparently, standing in a confined space packed full of several hundred other sweaty punters isn’t the best way to stay healthy. It’s just been revealed that Britain’s first confirmed swine flu case attended a Doves gig alongside 15,000 other fans at the HMV Picture House in Edinburgh only days after arriving home from Honeymoon in Mexico. If you were at that show, and you’re reading this now, don’t worry. Apparently it only takes about three days to realise you have the virus, so you’re probably fine. Spare a thought instead for all the Deerhoof and Cornelius fans in Mexico who’ve had their shows cancelled thanks to the outbreak. Never mind the overhanging shadow of death, they’re gonna have to wait for the all clear from the WHO to see their favourite art-rockers. Back in the UK, with the great outdoors festival season right around the corner, let’s just wait for Live Nation to create some kind of indie facemask and keep watching the bands we love. It sort of makes the trip down Barfly more exciting, anyway.
Alcopop Supermarkets are ace. Not only do they sell compilations of hits from any chosen decade or genre, they always have reduced sections where after 5pm you can buy the kind of egg mayonnaise sandwich filling you would never normally consume, for fifty pence less than its recommended retail price. And they sell booze. Cheap booze. Amazing. But not so amazing if you’re one of the estimated six pubs a day that’s facing closure thanks to escalating taxes and competition from Tesco and co. This has, in turn, led to a drop of around 2% in the payouts musicians are receiving from PRS, the Performing Rights Society, for having their songs blasted out through the jukebox PA on a Saturday night. So, what’s the solution to this? How about we all turn our houses into venues and pay the bands in biscuits? Or just get out more.
Four on Tour Original art-rockers Gang of Four have influenced far too many bands to name over the length of their career, with tonnes of today’s current bands owing a lot to the Northern heroes. Back in 2003, their seminal 1979 album ‘entertainment!’ was named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and this year marks 30 years since it was first released on EMI. To celebrate this anniversary, the Leodensian quartet is back and hitting the road for a short four-date postsummer jaunt around the UK. At shows in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leamington Spa and London, fans can expect to hear the whole of the classic album played alongside brand new material and old treats from the Four’s remarkable decade-spanning back catalogue. Tickets are available now via Crowd Surge. Gang of Four are now on Twitter, follow them at www.twitter. com/gangof4official
Leckie’s Indian reckie Renowned producer John Leckie (Stone Roses, Radiohead, Muse) is at the forefront of a new project created by the British Council and the University of Westminster’s Faculty Music label, which aims to champion UK creativity using British production talent as an inspiration and teaching tool, develop emerging Indian music talent and increase confidence regarding stepping onto the international stage. Last year, Leckie flew to India to audition local bands from Mumbai and then set about recording them with Dan Austin in Yash Raj studios, Andheri. What they recorded has already been released in India but is now scheduled for a June 1st release date over here. The four bands chosen by Leckie (Indigo Children, Medusa, Advaita and Swarathma) will also be playing at this year’s Great Escape in Brighton before heading out on a short UK tour. www.indiasoundpad.com 54
Lake Stage looks ace at Latitude The sun is starting to make an appearance again and that can only mean one thing - festival season! Latitude , one of the best in the Festival Republic stable, returns again this year, promising to be even bigger and better than ever. With headliners of Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and other acts like Ladyhawke, Music Go Music, Passion Pit and Yes Giantess, it looks like a scorcher. Add in the BBC Introducing stage, curated by Kruger columnist and Radio 1 man Huw Stephens, and it just gets better. The Lake Stage looks like the place to be, with Kruger favourites Pulled Apart by Horses, Golden Silvers and Joe Gideon & the Shark confirmed, and the full line up hasn’t even been announced yet. Oh, and Team Kruger DJs will be playing there on the Sunday. Yay!
Pirates keeping music biz afloat? A study from the BI Norwegian School of Management has claimed that those who illegally download music are also 10 times more likely to be paying for it – who’d have thought? Could it be that Evil Pirates (the ones who pillage good and righteous superstars, rape music sales, and partake in filesharing) and Real Music Fans (those who only seek high bit-rate Jack Johnson albums from the one reputable online retailer they’ve heard of ) - who were thought to be two separate and diametrically opposed groups are actually one and the same? The report, conducted by Professor Anne-Britt Gran, surveyed nearly 2000 people and found that - if the results are indicative of wider trends - effectively (and ironically), so-called ‘pirates’ are the music industry’s largest audience for digital sales, buying well in excess of those who only download from legal sources such as iTunes.
Recording rights extended The likes of Cliff Richard and Paul McCartney can once again sleep easy on their wads of cash as the EU voted to extend copyright protection on music recordings from 50 to 70 years. If the measure becomes law it will ensure that many of the world’s most profitable back-catalogues (i.e. that of The Beatles) do not become copyright-free for at least another few decades. Obviously, it’s not in the interest of Sirs Cliff and Paul to lose control over their intellectual property, though some would argue they already have. It’s important to note, however, it is not only the rich and famous that will benefit from the decision. MEPs also voted to set up a fund for session musicians – many of whom only signed performance contracts at the time of the recordings – so that they will receive 20% of producers’ revenue from the extended copyright period.
Swift demise for Iggy ad The Swiftcover insurance advert featuring Iggy Pop has been banned. The ad, which saw Mr Pop claim “I got Swiftcovered,” was ruled by the Advertising Standards Agency to be deceptive, because the firm doesn’t actually provide car insurance for entertainers. A report published on the ASA’s website stated that “Because the policy was promoted by a well-known musician, which might lead some viewers to believe the policy covered those who worked in entertainment, when it did not, and because Iggy Pop did not have a policy with Swiftcover, we concluded the advert was misleading." It goes on to say that the advert "must not be broadcast again in its current form". The credibility of a punk legend and a large insurance company, gone in 30 seconds. Good job everyone.
EVILS shapes up The very ace Shape Records are all set to release the EVILS album Hello Children Everywhere super soon. Even better news is that the single - The End of the World - is currently FREE to download from the Shape site, and he’s made an exclusive FREE mixtape which you can listen to at the very same Shape site too. Shape say: “As promised, in order to whet collective appetites for his forthcoming single and album EVILS has done a mean, super mix entitled The Axis Of Evils.” The colourful mixtape includes tracks by Black Devil Disco Club, White Noise and Yellow Magic Orchestra. You can pre-order the LP there now. That’s a lot of reasons to head on over to: www.shaperecords.co.uk, be there or be…Shapeless. In other mixtape news John & Jehn have made one called 60minutes of Love. Check out: www.makeyourmumbeproud.blogspot.com
The painless release of a single and a tour US Indie sensations Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have a new release and a huge UK Tour imminent. Kicking off in Brighton at The Great Escape on May 14th and carrying on well into June you can catch the twee-noise-pop-shoegazers all over the shop from Glasgow’s Nice n Sleazys to Dot to Dot Festival. Going a long way to show that POBPAH know a lot about making good music as well as being pure at heart, the band also have a sparkly new single called Young Adult Friction, which is out through Fortuna Pop! on the 18th of May. Lead singer Kip Berman said: “The chance to see all these [UK] places where so many bands we loved growing up came from feels like a pop pilgrimage.”
Album �eviews Jon Hopkins / Insides / Double Six
Facts. Originally a pianist and composer, Jon Hopkins is also a self taught whiz in the studio. He's composed and produced music for a diverse range of artists; among them King Creosote, Herbie Hancock, David Holmes and Coldplay. Insides is his third studio album. And a strange, fantastical creation it is. The album opens with the delicate strings of The Wider Sun, all sparse beats and piano, which - on first listen - made me think I was listening to a chillout album – beautifully composed chillout of the highest order, but essentially, coffee table stuff. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come next. There's a seamless transition between The Wider Sun and Vessel, where the shift happens. The tracks blend together, and like in many other places on Insides, you forget you're listening to a collection of disparate pieces of music. Vessel starts with high-pitched ambience, and haunting echoed sounds that introduce a gently keyed melody, snapped away by a harsh, buzzing, breakbeat; minimal, industrial, yet the perfect accompaniment to the delicately fingered piano. Four minutes into Vessel, the piano and strings sing alone for the breakdown, when from nowhere, jittering electronics thunder into the speakers
and rip the heart from the tune: a sonic theme that is continued throughout the record. Album title track Insides dispenses with the orchestral niceties altogether, concentrating instead on building a slow, cinematic darkness interspersed with spooky piano arpeggios and heaving synthesized bass lines. It's the album's darkest composition, and my own personal highlight; a growling behemoth that stomps, slow and deliberate, through a squelchy mire of bass, while swatting at tiny flies that buzz around its head. While somehow keeping a flavour of the album, the other songs explore different musical directions. Wire is a pleasing jaunt into Ninja Tune-style instrumental hip hop. With its occasional piano and heavy cut-up drums, Colour Eye wouldn't be out of place in the warm up set of a Subloaded night. Light Through The Veins is the album's rock-opera; nine minutes of warm sunrise, a slow pan across glittering galaxies, the fresh morning over a party on the beach in west Wales, dry socks after a dash through the rain, a nice cold pint on a Sunday afternoon wrapping up a heavy weekend. Coldplay used samples from Light Through The Veins to start and end their album Viva La Vida (perhaps hoping listeners would forget everything that came in between). The last two tracks, A Drifting Up and Autumn Hill, are Insides' digital and instrumental comedowns; beautifully composed ambient pieces that draw the album to a peaceful close. Insides makes more sense when you know that its first half was used as the score to Wayne McGregor’s dance production, Entity, which has been touring the world since its premiere last year at Sadler’s Wells. Hopkins performed his music for Entity live with Random Dance in London and Amsterdam, but he's yet
to see the performance in full: from down in the orchestra pit he could only see the tops of the dancers' heads. Nevertheless, without the dance aspect, Insides would sound completely different. “It was a very inspiring project to work on,” Hopkins says. “Some of the key tracks on the album wouldn't sound like they do without the fact that it they were written for contemporary dance. It pushed me into to making some more jerky and spasmodic rhythms than I had before, to make it difficult for the dancers.” Insides is a highly visual listening experience, even beyond the dancing. It's more a collection of soundscapes than a pop record. His love of sound and pictures has spilled into recent work, as Hopkins has just worked with Brian Eno on soundtracking the film adaptation to Alice Sebold's novel, The Lovely Bones. Hopkins also lists the work of David Lynch as one of his major influences (alongside bands like Atlas Sound, The Books, and School of Seven Bells), saying: “I like to think that somehow watching his films all the time has influenced my music,
though I'm yet to work out how.” And like Lynch, Hopkins is a conjuror, an illusionist: symbolically combining imagery and sounds that shouldn't work together, creating new dimensions of listening. It is this melding of organic and inorganic heavily digitised electronic sounds combined with the pureness of piano and violin – that makes Insides such a pleasure to listen to. The album defies easy description. As soon as you think you've got it nailed to leftfield, breaks, dubstep or instrumental hip hop, jittering beats jutt out from thunderous bass lines and shift the musical paradigm. Welcome to the future. Words by Helia Phoenix Illutration by Eleanor Stevenson www.eakdesign.com Insides by Jon Hopkins is out now on Double Six.
�lbum �eviews Various Artists
Fabric 46: Claude VonStroke
Horses for Courses
Don’t Tell Clare
Best known for infectious spookfest single The Whistler (damn you T-Mobile), Claude VonS has long been one of the Bay Area’s best musical exports. As well as production, remix duty and djing, he’s also big boss man of TWO record labels (boompty dirtgroove house collectives, Dirtybird and Mothership), renowned for live sets that encompass some of the nastiest tech-house, ghettotech, minimal and electro to get booties moving and titties shaking: part of the vibe he brings to this compilation. He admits he didn’t want to bang together an out-andout dancefloor mix, and the result is 22 tracks of cut-up tracks from artists including Kiki, Italoboyz, Varislove and Claude VonStroke himself. Wobbly, bubbling, bass-heavy in places, Fabric 46 is a wry smack of that dirtybird flavour. Tasty. HP
Das Wanderlust’s new record is not so much of an eye-opener as it is an eye ripper, to a world of screaming, redfaced girls in buckle-ups. Remember those days? If I had a keyboard, a small drum-kit, a motorway pile-up on audio and a burning passion to make up some songs on the spot, I’d like to think I could pull it off just like Laura Susan Simmons. As it is, I haven’t. But seven drummers later, the Teeside trio, Das Wanderlust do pull it off. And in a manic sort of way, it’s a little bit beautiful. Yes. It reminds me of the way you feel when you –aged five - hit some pots and pans, and nobody listens. I’ll just go into the garden and bash it out a bit... Helen Weatherhead
RedDetroit Hello Children Everywhere Nettwerk The 80s was a time in my life that I’d have rather forgotten - or so I thought. The crap hairdos, black PVC, neon socks, Madness fingerless gloves, Romancing the Stone. I didn’t think anything good came out of the 80s, then I remembered. The Goonies, BMX, Marathon Bars, Susan Banks, Prince, Beastie Boys, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nintendo, Devo, Nightmare on Elm Street, Back to The Future, Art of Noise, Adam and the Ants, De La Soul and Commodore 64s. Which brings me nicely to Datarock. If you loved any small part of the 1980s, then – believe - this is your new favourite record. Anyone that composes a track about Molly Ringwald and can write a song based solely on Talking Heads Song titles gets my tenner. Superb. Matt Bowring
Shape Records Since emerging in 2005, Cardiffbased electronic musician EVILS has constantly provided a lively music phenomenon, not least for his habit of performing live inside a wendy-house. But the most intriguing thing about EVILS is the music he produces doesn’t sound like the work of just one man. Despite its electronic base, debut album Hello Children Everywhere sounds more like the product of several people rocking out with synths in a darkened basement than it does a man and his laptop. Bands like synth-punks Trans Am and Scotland’s Errors make more obvious bedfellows for EVILS than any solo producer, which is definitely to EVILS’ credit. This is an album of electronic music buzzing with the kind of raw energy that many producers spend entire careers attempting to synthesise. Si Truss
Iron & Wine
Hot Chip: A Bugged Out mix
Around the Well
Begone Dull Care
Quicken The Heart
Hot Chip must be in the running for band of the 2000s. Three influential albums with barely a duff track in sight, a list of remixes that constitutes a roll call of leftfield music credibility, and now a two-part mix that displays astounding talent behind the decks. The band describe the Bugged-In CD as a drunken Hot Chip house party, which includes Luther Vandross and the slightly cringeworthy Man Like Me, but also the storming Greco Roman Party Rhythm and Biz Markie’s endearing warbling on Just a Friend. On the Bugged-Out CD, the band stalk through bouncy, beautiful and beguiling tech-house, wiping the floor with most underground dance mixes. This is as good as house music gets in 2009 – a perfect, effortless blend of rhythm and style. Adam Corner
What allows Sam Beam to craft compelling sounds from whispery, gentle components that read like a recipe for polite blandness? Whatever the secret ingredient, it’s in steady supply on Around the Well, a two-disc round-up of rarities and off-cuts that maintains a strike-rate most artists’ 'proper' albums can only dream of. Iron & Wine fans baffled by Beam’s recent shift towards jam-band-mode will be delighted by the starkly beautiful, near-solo proceedings that kick off the comp. But the real magic happens when the band is around, particularly on the foreboding slow-burn of Carried Home, the eerily hypnotic aural equivalent of a slowly drifting pitch-black storm cloud blocking a burst of blazingly bright sunshine. Janne Oinonen
Junior Boys are a bit of a judgment call. If their breathy, earnest vocals are not to your taste, then there’s nothing on here that will change your mind. But they aren’t the darlings of the homedisco crowd for no reason, and there are moments on Begone Dull Care when their trademark machine-melancholy will send shivers down your spine. Although the coy lyrics occasionally jar (Sneak a Picture is a digital synth away from amateur dramatics), the album as a whole treads a unique emo-italo path. And when it works, it really works. The grandiose p-funk of Hazel and the fidgety electro of Bits and Pieces could only be the work of this strange and beautiful pair – the sound of a watery sun rising over a world-weary city. AC
With the never-ending conveyer belt of indie bands disappearing as quickly as they seem to appear, it’s a testament to Maxïmo Park that we are greeted with a third album. Quicken The Heart opens fiercely with Wraithlike, the trademark spiky, post punk guitars are quickly joined by lead singer Paul Smith’s unmistakable vocals. The album harbours a slightly darker tone than previous efforts. On The Kids Are Sick Again Smith sings of “pointless days pining” of summer holidays. Clearly, someone never got taken to Alton Towers. For the doubters, there is little new on display to change their foolish minds. But fans of the band will not be disappointed, as there are addictive hooks aplenty, and the pace of the album looks sure to translate well live. Jon Davies
�lbum �eviews Mika Miko
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
We Be XUXA
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
I Feel Cream
The Nishikado EP
Either Mika Miko have ADHD or their target market is those suffering from it. Of the 12 tracks on We Be XUXA only two of them make it past the two minute mark, with the majority barely exceeding 90 seconds. Not that this is a bad thing; instead of presenting a record of overblown epics, the nearlyall-female quintet (part of the noise/ punk LA scene) keep things short and sharp, with each song acting as a howto guide in creating lo-fi underground punk that thrusts you from the comfort of your room to the front of a tiny, dingy, sweat-scented club. Less is more and good things come in small packages – everyone knows that – and these are mantras Mika Miko obviously adhere to. Tidy. Rhian Daly
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson sounds a little like a children’s book series about bunnies and kittens, or perhaps the flabby-faced members of a forgotten boy band. Alas, he is 26 year old NYC resident MBAR (his nickname), a formerly homeless, TV On The Radio and Grizzly Bear advocated-singer songwriter. Before you press snooze, this is really rather good. Basement-folk handshake Buriedfed neatly begins proceedings before lo-fi clunk-rock highlights The Deptor and Who’s Laughing? take it to a higher place - pretty uplifting until you realise he’s singing about someone choking to death. Lyrically, a downer for sure, but these 10 heartquaking stories form one of the rawest, richest, most deliciously troubled offerings you’re likely to hear this year. GregCochrane
I love filth, pure unadulterated FILTH, I love Peaches and I love I Feel Cream. At first glance I thought I’d accidentally been sent a Sugarbabes record, the cover was all pretty, some really nice graphics and shit, so I got quite disappointed because I thought they’d packaged her up all nice, like when Opal Fruits changed to Starburst. My first words were “Where’s Peaches gone, I want some fuckers head for this”. But there are times when you have to let image go and just listen. I Feel Cream is some of the best electroclash out there. What Peaches didn’t produce herself she got her friends to do. Who are they? Well, Simian Mobile Disco, Soulwax, Digitalism and Drums of Death. Where has Peaches gone? She’s in your face, muthafucker! MB
Silvery have produced a tribute to the one and only Toshihiro Nishikado to whom we give gratitude for the remarkable invention that is Space Invaders - those little critters everyone knows and loves. Clearly, Nishikado is a hero to Silvery: this tribute could bring a tear to the eyes of the most hardened cynic. Following an initial pop-rock guitar-drums combo, a complete shift in direction transpires to what seems like a march through a warped funfair, for the likes of Susan Boyle, some might say. With wild synth riffs and vocals resembling David Bowie, Silvery suck you in to the unrestrained indie madness. Identity and Murder Holes continue the fairground theme, with unruly synth sections distinguishing Silvery from current and past indie bands. Sophie Lawrence
Enter The Vaselines
They Know What Ghost Know
Beacons of Ancestorship
Full Time Hobby
Kurt Cobain declared The Vaselines to be his favourite songwriters in the world. Now that’s no mean feat. Unsung and pretty much unheard of outside of their native Scotland, the band broke up shortly after releasing their debut album Dum-Dum in 1990. If you have never heard of them, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard their music. Molly’s Lips and Son of a Gun were covered on Nirvana’s Incesticide, and Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam was covered on Nivana’s MTV Unplugged. This deluxe double CD on Sub Pop is essentially a re-release of 1992’s The Way of The Vaselines that contained their body of work to date, but now contains a shit load of live tracks and rarities. It’s worth every penny. Beauty has never been so accessible. MB
If you’re looking for direct comparisons, then Fits is going to be a hard one to explain. Already, even on this – their second record, it’s difficult to describe what you’re hearing as sounding like anything other than White Denim. They’ve created an unlikely and utterly unique musical world where superaggressive hardcore punk can live in complete harmony with African rhythms, funk, folk, and even country shuffle. It’s a beautiful thing. Songs become charged to the point where even the band struggle to contain them, and sharp left turns, muddy psychedelia, mood swings and skuzzy riffs emerge and disperse with the impatience of a toddler in a raging tantrum. With 12 tracks and not a second wasted, Fits is an album of chaotic, restless brilliance that demands your full attention. Ioan Morris
If Aim had been digging in the crates for psychedelic soul rather than funk breaks, it would sound something like this. They Know What Ghost Know sits somewhere in the hitherto unexplored territory between the instrumental soundscapes of Doves, the beat-led freakery of James Pants and the warm, melodic, electronic fuzziness of James Figurine. And it’s very, very good. Yppah, also known as Joe Corrales Jr, is a man who deserves to be destined for greater things. Having been snapped up by Ninja Tune in 2006, he’s contributed music to several films. So if you’re looking for cinematic glory, try penultimate track A Parking Lot Carnival – a heart-racing cascade of end-of-night ecstasy drenched in shoegaze squall. And why the name Yppah? It spells happy in reverse. Aaaah. AC
Remember the tortoise and the hare? The band’s sluggish namesake comes to mind when considering their recent work-history. Since 2004’s lukewarmly received It’s All Around You, the Chicago quartet have remained nearstationary. Beacons of Ancestorship displays admirable awareness of not just the weaknesses of the band’s latterday output, but the genre they played such a central role in originating. The album combines eight-minute synthstrangling epics (High Class Slim Came Floating In), melancholy mood pieces (Penumbra) and seamless mergers of melody and driving rhythm (Charteroak Foundation) to excellent effect; shaking off their style trappings, without losing sight of what made folks pay attention in the first place. JO
�lbum �eviews Royal Bangs
My Latest Novel
We Breed Champions
Deaths & Entrances
Like a great metallic ship carving its way through the murky sea of mediocre and banal melodies, We Breed Champions glitters with a beautiful chaos in the moonlight. On board is a messy, brilliant party, firing canons into the velvet skies that explode and cover everyone with vibrant shades of glitter. Opening track New Scissors introduces the mellow yet rousing sound while Little Switzerland serves up a slightly idiosyncratic cacophony of sounds a la Broken Social Scene, and the strong vocals of Japanese Cars cut on the sharper side of Death Cab. Each track drips with guitars singing their hearts out among a dirty, jerking tussle between each layer of sound, with rough Tennessee drawl adding depth to the cataclysmic blend of sounds. Sofie Jenkinson
Future alt. rock chroniclers might be baffled by the public perception of Sonic Youth. Aching, perpetual hipness. Sufficiently pretentious to have put out several slices of borderline unlistenable noise. Uncompromisingly experimental, yet always sounding roughly the same. All of it fit to describe a roundly derided combo, yet the New York quartet remain muchloved. The band’s debut for Matador solves the puzzle. Improbably exciting punkoid blasts, sweetly skewered oddpop, muscularly motorik riffage and moments of contemplative hypnosis. The Eternal levitates and sweats with more conviction, inspiration and joy than you’d demand after nearly 30 years dedicated to torturing guitars until they emits squeals and screams rational logic insists their delicate machinery shouldn’t be capable of. JO
Alliteration aside, weed and wobblers should be at the heart of any growing rude boy’s breakfast and when you’ve got your wonk on, Toddla T is like a Yardie Bake Sale, minus the bumbaclart. Nuff ruffige for dem bad man, nuff Roots for your Manuva’s but more wobble than a fat lass having a wank. And he’s a funny guy... like funny ha-ha. Funny like a clown, here to fucking amuse you. Funny like Joe Pesci meeting Sigmund Freud in a bar and telling him to go fuck his mother. Well maybe not that funny, but it‘s definitely funnier seeing Benjamin Zephaniah naked as the day is long reciting poetry on some key stage 3 educational children’s programme. That was just perverse. Simon Roberts
I’ve never been a fan of My Latest Novel. I saw them a few years ago and, well I got a bit bored. It was around the time they released debut album Wolves, which as a result, I didn’t bother listening to. And then I got asked to review this, the new album from the Scottish quintet. And guess what... I was wrong. It is far beyond boring. Layered, expansive, swirling waves of melody crash with dark lyricism and crying vocals that fall from the speakers, grabbing at your collar with an enticing desperation. I’d love to tell you how this album is a continuation of previous works, but given my stupidity and impending deadline, all I can do is urge you to buy it, while I hunt it’s predecessor. Jen Long
British Sea Power
Man Of Arran
The first LP from the hotly-tipped Scottish seven piece, and it’s a good ‘un. They’ve been inaccurately compared to Arcade Fire, but the more obvious touchstones here are the widescreen Americana of Sufjan Stevens and elements of the eastern-European folk favoured by Beirut. And it’s evident, as with those artists, that the music has been composed with the many nuances and dynamics of the instruments in mind – not simply flourishes added to a rock band. Their sound is one that positively revels – and rightly so – in the bombast of its many players, while also allowing for more subtle shifts in tone, from the unashamedly epic to the quiet and earnest; the effect is no less sincere. It’s hard not to be stirred. An impressive debut that justifies the hype. IM
BSP have never been an easy band to pin down. Early gigs saw the band give out Kendall Mint cake to the crowd from a stage decked in shrubbery; some lampooned their last album as an attempt to appeal to a mainstream audience; but anthemic doesn’t automatically mean hollow. Their latest album certainly shows a band who aren’t concerned with shifting units. This, largely instrumental, collection of songs was written to soundtrack a re-release of the Robert J Flaherty directed film, Man Of Aran. While you can imagine the gentle, cascading melodies perfectly compliment the film; taken out of its context the album slightly loses its relevance. This is strictly obsessive fan only material. JD
Recorded in Mumbai and funded by the British Council, India Soundpad aims to give exposure to India’s new alternative scene. So producer John Leckie returned with an album of four bands and a slot for each on the Great Escape festival. Hilltop by Medusa is the fantastic opening track, a very Radioheady piece of echoed guitar cool. And if Juana Molina’s Argentine folk can wow the beardy cool kids, then Advaita’s meditative sitar strummings should be equally at home in a Sussex field. If hearing Indigo Children’s reverb-rock alongside Swarathma’s plucky folk fusion and Hindi song lyrics is a bit jarring to begin with, this hybrid of East-meets-West proves, in the end, very easy on the ear. Barney Sprague
I used to like Ladyfuzz. They had pop sensibility, driving percussion, and cowbells. So I was pretty excited when I heard the first offering from exLadyfuzz sticksman Esser. It was slick, hook-laden, and bursting with the hints of a promising album. The singles that followed were just as full of refrains and glitches which caught in my mind for weeks at a time, but Braveface is different. As an album, it doesn’t flow. Some tracks are singles, some feel like filler, and a few sound like Blur. This isn’t to say that the songs aren’t good, but that they don’t sit alongside each other. It’s a disorientating listen. And while there’s still promise, I’m just not sure what it’s promising. JL
�ive �eviews Camden Crawl - Camden, London – 24-25/04/09 Camden Crawl is known for its unpredictable nature. Rumours do the rounds all weekend about recently reformed bands playing shows in tiny venues, special guests play surprise slots in some trendy pub or other and, this year, an aging band hire a London bus and do a series of ‘guerrilla’ gigs to show they’re still down with the kids. For the most part though, the Crawl is a chance to run around the streets of North London trying to catch your old favourite band whilst stumbling upon your new one too. Whilst the new bands booked by the festival are arguably more exciting than the more established, sometimes there’s the opportunity to see a band you loved a few years back returning to show the young pretenders how it’s done. The Von Bondies do just that, bringing their new line-up and US garage-rock sound to a packed Electric Ballroom and prove to be one of the highlights of the weekend. With the bar already set high, Man Like Me conquers the much more intimate Jazz Cafe with his sun-drenched grime, complete with brass accompaniment and crowd-pleasing choreography. After spanning the genres further with Kitty, Daisy & Lewis’ 50s rockabilly and James Yuill’s ultra-modern electro-pop, Gabriel Stebbing presents the first set of the night that surpasses the landmark signposted ‘good’ and travels into the territory of ‘so great I never want it to end’. Fronting the eternally summery surf-synth-pop outfit, Your Twenties, Stebbing pulls out some endearing moves whilst singing about OAPs falling in love (Fred & Nancy) and giving a girl all your money (Gold), all of which sound like future pop classics. The former Metronomy man’s ex-bandmates Joe Mount and Oscar Cash watch on from the side as the Enterprise’s floor threatens to give way under the pressure of the dancing feet of those crammed in to see what all the fuss is about. Following Your Twenties is going to be a hard thing to do, but luckily (or not, you choose) for TEETH!!! most of the crowd disappears in the break between the two. Not that they seem to notice, as tiny front woman Veronica SO leaps around like a woman possessed, screaming along to their noisy electro-punk as drummer Simon hits the skins so fast he’s a blur. Coming from the same angle as the Mae Shi and Pre, the trio provoke much the same reaction as those bands with first-time viewers as a gaggle of spectators look on, slightly bemused. Worn out from just watching TEETH!!!, we wearily 64
make our way down to Koko to be pleasantly surprised by Plugs and lose ourselves to Selfish Cunt’s political sleaze, before trying to recover in some form to do it all again the next day. Saturday is a much calmer affair in some respects, but in others far more frantic. Blur are apparently playing a secret gig at the Spread Eagle in the mid-afternoon as part of Andy Ross’ showcase. A number of bland, mind-numbing bands play before the man who signed the Colchester Britpop gods and the brains behind Food Records finally introduces - not Blur - but instead, just their guitarist Graham Coxon and his backing band to a rammed pub. Playing songs from his new solo album The Spinning Top, he is maybe not what was expected, but is brilliant enough for no-one to be bothered. Dead Bees and If You Want Me stand out in a set of entirely new songs, during which Coxon responds in good humour to banter from the crowd. After, sweating and slightly aching, the festival slows to a pace that better reflects its name. Alessi’s Ark pulls in a large audience at the Enterprise, rewarding those in attendance with her charming folkpop lullabies, before the final official act of the festival at Dingwalls, The Big Pink, pull in one of the biggest crowds of the night, desperate to see the most talked about new band around. Unfortunately, getting such people through the door doesn’t always equate to an attentive audience who are really into your show, as only a handful of fans at the front of the room seem to be paying much attention to the dry-ice loving band. Milo Cordell and Robbie Furze (along with their extended live band) don’t seem too bothered though, as they plough through tracks from their forthcoming debut album, drowning out any chatter with their feedback-drenched MBV-meetsSunn O))) post-apocalyptic shoegaze. A blissfully dark, if tinnitus-inducing end to a good weekend. Rhian Daly
�ive �eviews 6 Degrees Live – ICA, London, 29/04/09 Mica Levi might well be the coolest woman in the world. Yes, she looks like a Grange Hill extra from 1987, and yes, she shuffles across the stage like she’s moonwalking forwards, but those are the kind of idiosyncrasies that can be spun on their head to back up such a bold opening. So I will, and I have, and God bless her for both of them. Micachu, as she’s better known, and her band The Shapes are the most interesting and envelope-pushing act to have emerged in the last 12 months, and on this evidence they’re starting to get it really right in the live arena. What once were awkward gaps and misshapen holes in their stage sound are now carefully chosen blocks of white space. What once sounded like the bedroom clatterings of a busy art school brain now sound like the future noise of UK pop. That she can now reproduce the awesome range of sounds and feelings from her
blinding debut album Jewellery in front of a crowd means that for me she’s really arrived, and that’s what I call cool. The show was in support of ActionAid’s 6 Degrees Project, which aims to raise awareness in the fight for women’s rights around the world, and also featured upcoming folkster Alessi’s Ark, who I arrived late and missed, long term Tricky cohort Martina Topley-Bird, who I left early and missed, and eccentric pop-starlet thecockandbullkid, who charmed and delighted. Powering through a short set of 3 minute blasts that are as influenced by Hot Chip as they are Yazoo, 22-year old Anita Blay displays all the confidence of a cocky east Londoner married to a bashful self awareness that keeps her feet planted firmly. One to keep an eye on. Keep the other one fixed on Micachu. Mike Williams
Post War Years
O2 Academy, Sheffield
The Macbeth, London
Perplexing monikers and hushed silences were the order of the day when hotly-tipped Au hit town. The Portland duo, whose experimental meddlings have drawn comparisons to the likes of Sun Ra and Animal Collective, failed to deliver. Sure, the music is dandy (despite at times feeling somewhat contrived) and the entire set was virtually noteperfect, but for the duration it was impossible to ignore the feeling that there was just something lacking, a missing je ne sais quoi if you will. Au are a band who have all the makings of a great act, but haven’t quite nailed it just yet. Better luck next time. Betti Hunter
Since its inception last year, Now Wave has been consistently making the Deaf Institute the centre of a new musical cosmos. Tonight, that centre looks distinctly like LA alt-rock hub The Smell, with the alien sounds accompanying our journey to the heart of the universe coming courtesy of fluorescent noiseniks Health. The Californians seek instantly to obliterate any memory of what has preceded with the aural equivalent of electric shock therapy, throwing everything they have at us, leaving some bemused, some enthralled, but transporting us all to somewhere very strange. It ends, and we ask ourselves: how the fuck do we get home from this place? And why would we want to leave? Neil Condron
Many didn’t believe Doves could break the four year blank between Some Cities And Kingdom of Rust, never mind with a top album. This tour is the big two fingers to them. Live, Doves are the antithesis of their undeservedly miserablist media persona. Jimi Goodwin is a humble, goodnatured frontman, and twins Jez (guitar) and Andy (drums) Williams swap lead vocal duties for 90 minutes of new tracks sprinkled with greatest hits. The encore concludes with There Goes the Fear’s three man, samba-esque wig out: Jez on cowbell, Jimi abandoning bass to pound extra drums, and the whole venue dancing. Nine years since Lost Souls, Doves are only getting stronger. HP
If Foals had never happened then Post War Years would be huge now. Or, if Foals had never happened then PWY may not exist. Either way, there’s an instant similarity upon first impressions. As their live set goes on, further comparisons emerge: vocal parts sound like Bloc Party, horn samples like TV on the Radio and the guitars wouldn’t sound out of place on a Don Caballero record. But the fact that such parallels are so readily available isn’t necessarily a criticism; the ideas that Post War Years take from their influences are executed with skill and creativity. It already adds up to an interesting live proposition, but given a little more time to develop Post War Years have the potential to become something much greater than the sum of their parts. ST
HEALTH Deaf Institute, Manchester
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Win Tickets to Stag & Dagger 2009! Stag & Dagger festival, which launched last year in London’s East End, is back again this year, and bigger too! This year the festival heads up to Leeds and Glasgow, making a 3 day mega fest of ace music. Enjoy London on the 21st, Leeds on the 22nd and Glasgow on the 23rd of May. Bands on the bill include White Denim, The Mae Shi and Casiokids. We’ve got a pair of tickets to give away to each date. All you have to do win is answer this question: Who was the presenter of Saturday Kitchen before James Martin? Was it... A – Anthony Worrall Thompson B – Kurt Vonnegut C – Pauline Quirke Send your answer, along with your name, age and preferred city to email@example.com by noon on the 18th of May.
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