LOUD AND QUIET ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 36 / THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC TABLOID
World, you need a change of mind
Plus Willis Earl Beal Chairlift Weird Dreams Hatcham Social Gang Colours Maria Minerva THEESatisfaction
CONTENTS AP RI L 2012
09 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TH E † FACTOR / AM E RICAN BOY JUSTICE AND THEIR GRANDIOSE LIVE SHOW ARE MADE FOR THE MAINSTREAM, SAYS REEF YOUNIS
10 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SI NG LES & BOOKS THIS MONTH’S SINGLES, EPS AND PAGE-TURNERS, FROM CHET FAKER, MMOTHS AND MORE
COVER PHOTOGRAPHY LEON DIAPER
14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LAB E L P ROFI LE ROBOT ELEPHANT RECORDS ON THEIR DARKLY EXPERIMENTAL OUTPUT
CHAI RLI FT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 BEATING THE TV AD CURSE WITH A SLICK AM RADIO POP ALBUM
MARIA M I N E R VA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 ESTONIAN SLEEP MUSIC
LOUD AND QUIET PO BOX 67915 LONDON NW1W 8TH EDITOR - STUART STUBBS ART DIRECTOR - LEE BELCHER SUB EDITOR - ALEX WILSHIRE FILM EDITOR - IAN ROEBUCK ADVERTISING ADVERTISE@LOUDANDQUIET.COM
GANG COLOU RS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 WILL OZANNE TAPES PEOPLE IN SECRET. HE FINDS IT CREEPY TOO
W I LLIS EARL B EAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF THE 27-YEAR-OLD WHO’S SURVIVED THE ARMY, EXCORSISM AND X FACTOR USA
H AT C H A M S O C I A L . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 EVER GET THE FEELING YOU’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE? DEJA VU WITH LONDON QUARTET HATCHAM SOCIAL
KI N DN ESS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 THE LEVEL HEAD OF ADAM BAINBRIDGE; A MAN WELL AWARE OF THE TRICKS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
WEIRD DREAMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 EVEN A BAND WITH A ROLLING CAST HAS TO HAVE AT LEAST ONE MEMBER STICK AROUND. WEIRD DREAMS HAVE TWO
T H E E S AT I S F A C T I O N . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2 REBEL SOUL MUSIC
CONTRIBUTORS BART PETTMAN, CARL PARTRIDGE, CHAL RAVENS, CHRIS WATKEYS, COCHI ESSE, DANIEL DYLAN WRAY, DANNY CANTER, DK GOLDSTIEN, ELINOR JONES, ELLIOT KENNEDY, EDGAR SMITH, FRANKIE NAZARDO, GARETH ARROWSMITH, JANINE BULLMAN, LEE BULLMAN, KATE PARKIN, KELDA HOLE, GABRIEL GREEN, GEMMA HARRIS, LEON DIAPER, LUKE WINKIE, MANDY DRAKE, MATTHIAS SCHERER, NATHAN WESTLEY, OWEN RICHARDS, OLLY PARKER, PAVLA KOPECNA, POLLY RAPPAPORT, PHIL DIXON, PHIL SHARP, REEF YOUNIS, SAM LITTLE, SAM WALTON, SONIA MELOT, TIM COCHRANE, TOM GOODWYN, TOM PINNOCK THIS MONTH L&Q LOVES ADRIAN READ, ANDY FRASER, BEN HARRIS, BEN WHYBROW, BETH DRAKE, LAURA COULSON, LEAH WILSON, PATRICK JOHNSON, SONIA MELOT THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN LOUD AND QUIET ARE THOSE OF THE RESPECTIVE CONTRIBUTORS AND DO NOT NECESSARI LY REFLECT THE OPINI ONS OF THE MAGAZINE OR ITS STAFF. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2012 LOUD AND QUIET. DISTRIBUTED BY LOUD AND QUIET AND FORTE DISTRIBUTION. PRINTED BY SHARMAN & COMPANY LTD.
36 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ALBUMS FILMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 SPIRITUALIZED, GRAHAM COXON, BLACK DICE, YOUTH LAGOON AND ALL THE MONTH’S KEY RELEASES
IAN ROEBUCK DAMNS LAZY SEQUELS AND PRAISES THE FAMILIARITY OF THE GREAT WES ANDERSON
42 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LI V E PARTY W OLF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 JEFF MANGUM’S ATP, SLEIGH BELLS, CHARLI XCX, AZEALIA BANKS, THE MEN & MORE
THE INAPPROPRIATE WORLD OF IAN BEALE / CROSS WORDS / GET THE LOOK / IDIOT PARADE
WELCOME AP RI L 2012
You know what sells pop music – gimmicks and tricks. No amount of smoke and mirrors can cover up the strongest
CONTRI B UTOR
smelling horseshit, though – if the goods are rotten, a pretty bow isn’t going to fool anyone into buying it. Similarly, the best song in the world can do average things if its salesman is a crushing bore. Distribute your music on reused Betamax tapes, name your band an unpronounceable symbol, promote your next show exclusively via morse code, do photo shoots but never let anyone see your face – none of it will make any difference if your record is dirge and you charm like mud.
L E ON DI A P E R
In that respect, Kindness has it all. A few months ago he started
We ﬁrst met Leon when we interviewed him, not as a photographer but as the frontman of London band Colours. Since then he’s founded a record label called Marshall Teller that’s released a heap of bands we’ve reviewed and interviewed (including Weird Dreams, featured for the second time in this issue). Kindness is Leon’s second Loud And Quiet cover shoot – the ﬁrst was Factory Floor. “When photographing within a studio environment I always favour the natural light every time,” he says. “Due to the environment being a blank canvas, it makes you think a little more about what shots to go for. Having a busy surrounding, you sometimes slip away from the subject matter. This shoot made me rein in and focus a little more.”
sending us lavish, mysterious promos; there’s not much on the web about him; he played a show last month – the invitation was a weird short video. In other words, Kindness – or Adam Bainbridge – has the tricks down. He also has the songs, though – some his own, some from unlikely sources (The Replacements, Anita Dobson), all of them inspired by hi-fi ’80s funk, club, dub and disco. On top of this, he has something to say, particularly about the false idea that indie labels are saints, about how
London’s underground is frustratingly exclusive, about how “ninety-five per cent of everything you should want to know about a new artist should be in the record.” Most of all, he’s aware – not just of the gimmicks, but of how his lo-fi past helped him sign a major label record deal and just how absurd the music industry really is. Adam is really aware of that, as is Willis Earl Beal, a young man who made it to the Boot Camp stage of X Factor USA, wised up, got drunk, got out and wrote the oddest blues album you’ve ever heard, around the time Chairlift composed their AM Radio record, ‘Something’, and Hatcham Social completed the unquestionably direct ‘About Girls’. This month we looked into the world of the mainstream. Maybe we should have done so earlier.
COVER SHOOT: ADAM BAINBRIDGE AKA KINDNESS AT RECESSION STUDIO, LONDON BY LEON DIAPER
BEGINNING AP RI L 2012
AMERICAN BOY / TALES FROM THE OTHER SIDE BY LUKE WINKIE : OUR MAN IN BAR AK ’S BACK YARD
Illustration by Gareth Arrowsmith - www.garetharrowsmith.blogspot.com
POP JUSTICE JUSTICE AND THEIR GRANDIOSE LIVE SHOW ARE MADE FOR THE MAINSTREAM, SAYS REEF YOUNIS
FEAR AND LOATHING IN AUSTIN: A LOOK AT SXSW THROUGH THE EYES OF A LOCAL RESIDENT
In 2007 Justice were one of the many electro duos that had plugged themselves in with the sole intent of dishing out ﬁsts of electro-based carnage. A gargantuan combination of Queen meets Daft Punk, their brand of rockpowered disco was an abrasive, obnoxious penetration of the ferocious kind. Four years, numerous awards and two proper albums later, 2011 was the year they ofﬁcially plugged those giant amp stacks – and themselves – into the mainstream, with what was a deﬁnitely a disappointing second album in ‘Audio, Video, Disco’. Mainstream. Already you’re squirming, ready to rail and wail that I’m calling them sell-outs. Well, I’m not, because even as early as 2008, the Justice personality was already formed with imposing Marshall stacks, a volume-upto-11 dynamic and a matrix of LEDs. After all, Daft Punk did robot helmets, customised Adidas shoes, created pyramid stages made of light, and DJ Heroed themselves – to criticise Justice for grabbing the musical blueprint, squeezing it into tight leather and proceeding to kick the living shit out of it would be naive. In 2008, I staggered out of a sweltering Benicassim tent, partially blinded, deafened and bewildered by Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay’s decimating live show. Last month, I watched them spearhead something similarly damaging in a show of equally superlative power that surpassed their new material and peeled the plaster off the Brixton Academy parapets. Swarms ﬂocked to the cross in a frenzy, and in performances as grandiose and theatrical as theirs, the painstaking love, design and even choreography plays out perfectly in Justice’s electro-rock opera. As a live show, it’s got the same production value of anything over in the West End. And how we scorned at the prospect of Simon Cowell offering to help those poor DJs missing that deﬁning, ever-elusive factor between anonymity and HMV stardom, but here it is: the ‘X’ could easily be replaced by the ‘†’. The Justice Cowell might see in his square-topped mind is not necessarily the wiry, sweaty Gaspard and Xavier but rather “Justice: The Event”, but, then, that’s always been where they are most fully realised. ‘Audio, Video, Disco’ may well remain a record too weak for your headphones or home stereo, but their live show, as always, serves as loud, bright proof that you can provide a backdrop to picnicking families and estate agents at V Festival and sustain the cultural kudos of the cool kids of Paris and London. Think twice about giving up on them.
In less than a week, hundreds of thousands of people will descend upon my adopted Austin, Texas. Every hour, promo emails stuff the inboxes of everyone in the industry, desperate for a quick feature, a shoehorned interview, or a mulled-over record review. Writers across the globe are preparing for this pilgrimage – stressing over showcase dates and drinking partners. The relatively small cradle of Austin is hardly the place for something as nation deﬁning as SXSW, but the insanity marches on. Since I moved here I’ve learned what a false impression SXSW leaves. Austin moves at a beatiﬁcally lethargic pace. The sun hangs high over the Southwestern hills, clouds drift in lazy acceleration, when school is out you can walk blocks and blocks without seeing anyone else. Those who only make it down for that fateful week in March must think the city is always on ﬁre. It honestly couldn’t be much further from the truth. It’s a place where people gather to aimlessly ﬂoat through their mid-20s. I’m pretty sure the homeless people here eat better than most New Yorkers. It actually can get a little aggravating. Personally, I dusted up a little storm a few months ago with a feature I wrote about the disengaged social-status that a certain group of long-time Austinites walk with. The scene is very self-inﬂated; people are constantly patting themselves on the back for living in a city that gets written about in Fader. It also fuels a bewildering, slightly blasphemous, mostly unavoidable ethos of “man, I hate SXSW”. Or the more popular “SXSW used to be so cool, now you just have to go the house shows.” Hang out in the wrong bars and you might actually hear people complaining that Jay-Z is playing a corporate show in the next few days. It’s amazing what otherwise sensible people can turn into when they start talking about music. There’s also a question of how much SXSW matters. It’s a big, giant, crazy event with journalists running all over the city trying to get 11th hour coverage that they type up in ﬁrst-draft hangovers before getting up to go out and do it all over again. I don’t think there’s any piece of copy I’ve generated from the conference that makes me especially proud. Bands blow thousands of dollars to make it out here for a week, and ultimately most come back empty handed. For me, well, I’m here to have fun. In the next week I’ll see more bands than a lot of people get to see in an entire year. That is a privilege and a perk. It’s something I simultaneously fear and adore at the same time. Call it selﬁsh, but the few moments where this crazy, stratiﬁed industry comes together are the most cherished, if also the most absurd.
I’VE LEARNED WHAT A FALSE IMPRESSION OF AUSTIN, TEXAS, SXSW LEAVES
BEGINNING SINGLES & EPS / BOOKS 01 BY JA NIN E & L EE B U L L M A N
(CHESS CLUB) OUT MAR 26
MMO T HS EP
C H A R L E S BO Y E R DUC K S / Y OU H AV E N ’ T GO T A C H A NC E
(SQE MUSIC) OUT NOW
That 18-year old Icelandic producer Jack Colleran has named his project Mmoths, and track 1 on his debut EP ‘THNX’ says a lot. If it seems like Colleran is trying to make the familiar abnormal, it’s a trend that runs through his ambient, electronic concoctions. We’re meant to say how the ﬁve tracks here sound like nothing you’ve heard before, except they do. ‘EP1’ could easily be the work of Baths or Dam Mantle or Seams or countless others fascinated with warm swaths of sound and popcorn pips. That’s no bad thing, it’s just that even to a bedroom electronica connoisseur the differences between Mmoths and his peers are extremely nuanced – the rain sound effect throughout ‘Heart’, featuring Keep Shelly In Athens; what appears to be that dripping tap noise some people can make by ﬂicking their cheek, fed through an echo chamber clad with static. This is late night, post club music, and it’s pretty good. There’s just not much to say about it.
(BLANK EDITIONS) OUT MAR 26
From London label Blank Editions comes The Solo Series – a collection of limited 7” records by people usually found in other bands. Each release will come in a handmade sleeve with an individually numbered insert and a set of original photographs glued inside. There’s no question that it’s a nice idea, but so was communism. Charles Boyer of Electricity In Our Homes is ﬁrst up, quickly suggesting that The Solo Series is a wonderful, idyllic conception that will quickly be doomed without stronger songs. Packaging and collectability only goes so far. Boyer’s two tracks sound raw to the point of unﬁnished, sung out of tune, played out of time, and completely fucking weird. With EIOH, he’s taken 7 years to release a debut album (out last month, and really rather good), and ‘Ducks’ and ‘You Haven’t Got A Chance’ have us believing that it’d take another 7 for a Charles Boyer LP that’s listenable.
S ATA N IS R E A L : T HE B A L L A D OF T HE L OU V IN BR O T HE R S B Y C H A R L IE L OU V IN A ND BE N J A MIN W HI T ME R (IGNITER)
The Louvin Brothers were a 1950s Country and Western close harmony group who, having got their break singing gospel, began to specialize in singing hit songs that praised the Lord, America and Christian life. Indeed, one of the brothers who made up the group, Charlie Louvin, was the epitome of the clean living, God-fearing Christian. It was his brother Ira who had the devil in him. Ira became infamous throughout Nashville for his onstage mandolin smashing and his hectic personal life. The more successful the band became, the more Ira liked to go out, get drunk and chase women. He even got married occasionally, with less than ideal results. His third wife, Faye, shot him ﬁve times in the chest while he attempted to strangle her with a telephone cord. The same Ira, on tour with a young Elvis Presley, told the upstart who would be king that his music was trash. The King wasn’t happy and a backstage fracas ensued. Aside from the many often hilarious tales of Ira’s debauchery and a seething sibling rivalry the Gallaghers could only dream of, Satan is Real serves as a welcome reminder of the musical legacy left by the brothers.that went on to inﬂuence artists from Gram Parsons to Nick Cave.
T HIS IS GONN A HUR T: P HO T OGR A P H Y A ND L IF E T HR OUGH T HE DIS T OR T E D L E N S OF NIK K I S I X X B Y NIK K I S I X X (WILLIAM MORROW)
Imagine how interminably shit this book sounds. Then double it.
Single reviews by John Ford Blowback by Lee Bullman and Michael Forwell published by Pan Macmillan available now. www.leebullman.com
C HE T F A K E R T HINK IN G IN T E X T UR E S
Until now, Chet Faker’s claim to fame has been his cover of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’, which landed at number 1 on Hype Machine last year. It’s provided the Australian with worthy bragging rights – a husky, intricate version performed by a man with a 20-a-day habit. This 7-track EP (which includes the ‘No Diggity’ in question) is soon to have the soul vocalistgone-bedroom-electronic-artist played, perhaps quite literally, by everyone. ‘Thinking In Textures’ is masterfully measured, whether on purpose or not. Its highlights (the 2-steppin’, Gold Panda-ish ‘Cigarettes and Chocolate’ and ‘I’m Into You’, which sounds like Oliver Simm of The xx collaborating with James Blake) will keep Hype Machine ticking over; ‘Terms and Conditions’ (Incubus vs James Morrison) will scoop up Radio 2’s trendier listeners; ‘Everything I Wanted’, although the weakest track, makes for Sunday afternoon, middle class spliff music that’s far better than Zero 7. And, of course, ‘No Diggity’ can easily round up those people who either don’t like new music, or like irony too much to realise just how smart Chet Faker’s take on Blackstreet is. And while there is something all inclusive and ‘safe’ about ‘Thinking In Textures’, Faker’s jazz, pop and hip hop talents are undeniable.
NOT MUSIC : JOHN FORD’S NON AUDIO FE ARS AND FANTASIES
Photography by Thomas Kavanagh
C E L E BR I T Y B A S HING Like most people, on January 1st I dreamt up a New Year’s resolution that I knew I couldn’t keep. It was ultimately along the extremely vague and quite unmanageable lines of ‘be nicer’. I’m a perfect gentleman to my friends, of course, but I am one for scorning strangers for the most minor of offences: the kid next door squealing like a giddy pig; the woman on the train with the unsavory iPod; the bloke who has queued for ten minutes like the rest of us but still hasn’t got his money ready to pay – you know the types. Celebrities are the worst though, only they’re not at all, they just can’t shout back through the telly. I’m the ﬁrst to call Jeremy Clarkson a wanker (ok, because he really is), and Phil Jupitus (who really isn’t, not really). I’d forgotten my resolution as soon as I made it, and moaned my way through January and half of February, and then I watch an episode of Room 101. Shit, Alistair McGowan was on. I hate that guy, always shoehorning in a David Beckham impression. Yet, for some reason – and not because of the resolution – I hung in there, and in doing so realised just how wrong I’d been. McGowan’s ﬁrst suggestion for exile was children (you’ve got my attention, Alistair), his second, beer, and, more speciﬁcally, how bad it tastes when you’re a teenager but how heterosexual males can’t possible express such a non-macho thing (this is good), and ﬁnally, funnily enough, headphones that chronically leak sound (is my diary missing?). In realising that Alistair McGowan and I agree on most things (or at least 3 for 3), I also realised just how unfair I’d been in slamming celebrities without really knowing them at all, as obvious as that sounds. McGowan does himself no favours (I mean, how are we meant to know the real man when his own mother has probably forgotten what his natural voice sounds like), but peering into his Room 101 thoughts, I like the guy. Hell, maybe I’d like Phil Jupitus if I knew what he hated? Jeremy Clarkson may be a lost cause (unless he went on Room 101 and put Richard Hammond in there), but for everyone else (nearly), you have the beneﬁt of doubt. I’ll get back to the general public next year.
ECC ARCHIVES THE LATEST MANIFESTATION OF AVANT-GARDE PURVEYORS EXPERIMENTAL CIRCLE CLUB Between 2002 and 2006, Southend-on-Sea was a slightly less sanitised satellite town to grow up in. It was thanks to Rhys Webb (now of The Horrors) and a couple of friends with daft DJ alter egos who created Junk – a monthly psych’n’garage happening in a hotel basement, where CDs didn’t exist and The Seeds and The Sonics were played instead of RnB. Junk’s death would have been made all the more sad had it not made way for Experimental Circle Club – a joint music and art project from Ciaran Oshea and Thomas Silverman, who met in hospital and continue to prove
“STARTING IN SOUTHEND WAS GREAT. RACISTS LOVE DANCING”
just how subversive the underground can really be, via sporadic parties of video art and music (the ﬁrst one was in a Westcliff brothel, someone got attacked with a travel kettle), a couple of photographic books, the most far-out stage at Offset Festival, and, now, a ﬁlm project called ECC Archives. “Seventies heroin addicts with a video camera” is what inspired ECC Archives – a wholesomely DIY affair inﬂuenced in no small part by New York’s No Wave movement that spilled into the 1980s. Ciaran and Thomas ﬁlm their favourite
experimental noise bands (so far Clout!, Blue On Blue [pictured], Eels On Heals and, most recently, Electricity In Our Homes) in a whitewashed, disused ofﬁce block. They play three songs to one static camera. It’s extremely rudimentary, like a purposefully no-ﬁ Later With…. “I’ve always stuck closely to what my father taught me about ﬁlm making,” says Ciaran. “‘Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance’. Everything I’ve loved has been born out of experimentation, whether that is not knowing what you are doing, not knowing your instruments, not having the right equipment, being limited. In this day and age you can have anything you want at your ﬁngertips, but I think that can sometimes make people complacent.” ECC revels in its struggle, probably because it was born in a town unforgiving of the leftﬁeld. “Starting in Southend was great,” says Ciaran. “Racists love dancing. It was a challenge, but I think anywhere you face adversity and aggression you’ll ﬁnd an underground resistance. We are the resistance.” It’s unsurprising to hear that Archives – like ECC’s initial ‘happenings’ – is a product of disenchantment. They put on nights because they were sick of going to other peoples’, but what about when you then get sick of going to your own? “We got disillusioned promoting straight up club nights,” says Thomas, “and always disliked crowded places, but we still wanted to watch the bands, so what’s better than a private audience with all those other weird and wonderful bands we love in the comfort of an empty room?” Perhaps a select few friends get to see these stark performances ﬁrst hand, too, while the rest of us can see the rigidly amateur ﬁlms the Archives already have to offer at www.experimentalcircleclub.co.uk/eccarchives. Before the notion of ‘punk’ got so shiny, it looked something like this.
ROBOT E LE P HANT RECORDS THERE’S BEEN SOME WEIRD ELECTRONIC SOUNDS COMING FROM EAST LONDON OF LATE
Robot Elephant started with a garage release (the brilliant London trio Speak & The Spells), but has since really come into its own as a great Witch House label, having released ‘ISVOLT’ alongside US label Disaro. What excited you so much about the genre? “We think it’s a bit of a misconception that we are a Witch House label. We release music that the two of us like, so it can turn out to be garage rock, chip tune, bedroom produced electronic music or folktronica or whatever. As far as Witch House is concerned, it’s interesting bedroom electronica going beyond all generic boundaries, which produces extremely innovative music by amazing artists. The genre was massively diluted by hobby producers ﬂooding the market with poorly produced tracks, which lead to a lack of conﬁdence. But in a way, this is just part of a creative revolution where everyone can produce something, having real talent or not.” Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt always felt that a label should have a look and a sound (his label’s being grunge). You have a strong identity yourselves that suggests it’s a theory you adhere too also? “This idea comes from the ’90s – a time where a lot of music was categorised strictly into genres and new movements were separated into tribes. If you look at the recent Sub Pop catalogue, you will ﬁnd that they themselves moved away from that philosophy, releasing garage-punk bands like Male Bonding alongside chillwavers Memoryhouse, hip folksters Fleet Foxes and hip hop from Shabazz Palaces. That’s were we want to see Robot Elephant in a couple of years – an eclectic collective of artists producing music that is simply
brilliant. If you want, you could call our distinct label sound “future pop” (a term we like to argue over). Music that’s a bit ahead of its time but will soon be inevitably meshed into the underground and overground.”
in the times of the Internet. In London there are so many labels and ‘music industry’ that nothing stays remotely underground for more than 5 minutes, so it’s not so much fun for a small label to pick up on.”
But your output is deﬁnitely focused. Do you think that’s what makes Robot Elephant different to other indie labels? “A key thing is that we’re releasing music that we like without too much thought to popularity. Our persistence to release music that ‘hardly anyone likes’ (a running gag between the two of us) keeps it a bit different. We also have quite a lot of ambition for the label and are really trying to run it professionally. Proper PR Campaigns, proper distro, videos etc. It annoys us that people seem to think that having a D.I.Y. ethnic means that you are unprofessional and basically winging everything. What it means is Do. It. Yourself. On your own terms just for wanting to do it. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to do things properly!”
Since starting the label, what are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned? “Patience mainly. Don’t rush into anything or try to rush the act to ﬁnish quicker. Make sure you provide quality on every level.”
We’ve interviewed a couple of bands from your roster – Ritualz from Mexico and Husband from northern Italy. How did you come across these people making these nightmarish songs in their bedrooms? “Our main medium to discover music is obviously the Internet. Soundcloud is now the primary website to receive and ﬁnd demos of bands. As far as music discovery is concerned, we check on Soundcloud what trusted people favourited, listen to podcasts and listen to what other trusted people recommend.” In fact, Speak & The Spells aside, you’ve only released acts from outside of the UK, right? Do you think there’s something quite un-British about doomy electronic music, particularly? “We would like to release more UK acts, and in fact we’ve got three releases lined up with UK bands and artists. We still think the geographical identity of a band is an important factor that can be utilised in promoting them effectively, even
How would you describe what Robot Elephant is all about to a member of The Wanted? “Releasing music that hardly anybody likes on an antiquated format that hardly anyone has.” This weird, dark kind of electronic music that has been dubbed Witch House – many people thought it would have buggered off by now, but we’re pleased to say that it hasn’t. What do you think is its staying power? “The thing is that if people like it, then people like it. It might not be cool in the press anymore but it still means a lot to a lot of people. Press and buzz wise, people are starting to freakout about ‘Seapunk’, which is basically the new Witch House thing. I don’t really know what that is all about but maybe there is some great music in there.” What’s up next on Robot Elephant? “New unusual sounds from all over the world: Hipdiebattery from Romania, Ourobonic Plague from Perth, Woodpecker Wooliams from Brighton, Blue on Blue from London, Os Ovni from Florida, Deadfader from Berlin and more.... including a long-in-the-making full length album from Husband! Right now we are focussed on the Robot Elephant vs. Tundra Dubs compilation and the Fostercare album and tour. Check out our Robot Elephant party at Shacklewell Arms, London, on April 20, and Sticky Mikes Frog Bar in Brighton on April 24 featuring Fostercare, Husband, Blue on Blue, Hipdiebattery.”
Interview by Danny Canter / Photography by Tim Ferguson
Since pressing their ﬁrst 7-inch in 2010, Anthony Chalmers and Sebastian Weikart have been responsible for giving us a fair chunk of experimental music from around the world, a lot of it dark and electronic. More is on its way in the form of Fostercare’s black trance album ‘Altered Creature’ and a split LP compilation with the equally ‘out there’ Tundra Dubs label of Oakland, Los Angeles. But if you think that makes them a Witch House label (like we did), think again.
P h o t o gr ap h e r E lin o r J o n e s Wr i t e r S am Wal t o n
Chairlift Beating the TV ad curse In the 80s and 90s, it was Levi’s. In the new century, it’s Apple who have a new ditty for each of their TV commercials, invariably from a buzz band who are perfectly happy to soundtrack the latest iWhatever if it means getting heard… and getting paid. The trouble is, while songs from the ads often make hits, they rarely make careers, as members of Spacehog, Orba Squara and countless forgotten others will surely attest. Chairlift could’ve been saying that too, a year and a half ago. At the tail-end of 2010, the band had just ﬁnished an
eighteen-month tour promoting ‘Does You Inspire You’, a promising, intriguing, if occasionally patchy, debut album that stylishly combined 80s kitsch and sombre electro pop. More pertinently, though, the album also contained ‘Bruises’, a bright, familiar (maybe a little too familiar for fans of The Cure’s ‘Close To You’) track that the wider world recognised as that “handstands for you” song from the latest iPod Nano ad. With the tour over but the ad still on the telly, ‘Bruises’ was bigger than the band, and now they had the unenviable task of writing album two
in its shadow. To make matters worse, founding member Aaron Pfenning and lead singer Caroline Polachek had split up after three years together, leaving a two-piece where once was a trio. But somehow, whatever didn’t kill Chairlift appears to have made them stronger and, after signing a major-label deal with Colombia Records and a year in the studio together working 9-5, ﬁve days a week, the remaining duo of Polachek and Patrick Wimberly came up with ‘Something’, one of the strongest, most cohesive collections of songs you’re
likely to hear all year. Sung with equal parts longing and sass and then produced to within an inch of Madonna’s ‘Papa Don’t Preach’-era lawyers by Dan Carey (the man behind Kylie’s ‘Slow’, amongst others), the songs hang together effortlessly, and carry with them a real sense of craft. That particular care and attention to detail was a deliberate decision this time round, too: “With the ﬁrst record, the songs weren’t written in a disciplined, or even experimental way,” explains Polachek, perched on a laundry basket in her dressing room at The
“Playing with something that already has rules that you can break is fun”
Borderline, where she and Wimberly, who sits opposite her but says virtually nothing in our hour together, are about to play to a sell-out crowd. “The ﬁrst record was more like, ‘Hey, this sounds like a song! It’s got a chorus and some verses! It’s done! Let’s record it! Yay!’ There wasn’t a lot of ‘well, could it be better?’; there wasn’t a lot of testing. But this time around we learned that that was possible, so from the very ﬁrst day we started writing we wanted to make a super focussed record.” That focus also extended to reining in the abundance of inﬂuences and sounds that peppered ‘Does You Inspire You’. Where album one had features as diverse as an ambient instrumental, a country ballad and a track that would best be described as indebted to Cyndi Lauper, ‘Something’ is deliberately streamlined. “We kept it down to about twelve synth sounds for the entire album,” explains Polachek. “Like, these are our two leads, these are our two pads, these are our two percussive sounds, etcetera, and it was a really good writing tool.” The effect works, too: despite having nothing sonically in common with the early days of rock’n’roll, the facepalm-simple musical palette which ‘Something’ keeps makes it feel frequently as solid and punchy as the equally basic ‘Jonny B Goode’, and while the album moves around in tempo and mood, there is a very satisfying sense of togetherness across the eleven tracks. A by-product of this restrained palette, though, is a very distinct sense of time and place – speciﬁcally, the major label music of 1980s America – but Polachek is unabashed at her fascination with the period. “For me, I’m drawn to it because of its mystery and formality,” she explains. “And I know that formality makes it sounds like it’s rigid, but I actually ﬁnd it quite liberating for there to be a format
to the music, so that you can almost hide behind it and play with it, and, in playing with it, that’s when you see someone’s personality. Maybe that’s just super postmodern, and maybe that’s my reaction to the overabundance of information in the Internet age, but I just want to feel in control of something, so I’m using an old medium that we’re all already familiar with to engage with that. “You know like when you’re a kid you’re given animal toys, and you have this set of rules: here’s a lion, you can make the lion roar, but then in taking that lion and making it walk backwards or whatever, that’s your play. And playing with something that already has rules that you can break is fun.” It’s pleasing to hear that this sense of subversion is deliberate, because it makes the complexities that lie beneath the surface of ‘Something’ that much more delicious. For while this is ostensibly a collection of pure pop songs with killer hooks and huge choruses, unsettling lyrical images are also abound: ‘Take It Out On Me’ is a break-up song dressed up as an execution (“I’m not afraid, so take me outside / I know what you’re here to do / Shotguns up familiar sleeves / Undercover but nobody’s fooled”) and ‘Cool As A Fire’’s piercing observation that “weakness wins if weakness shows” is not the only one of its kind. Indeed, Polachek enjoys this duality of disposable pop with a slightly sinister background hum. “I’m really interested in the idea of a Trojan horse, like sending something to radio that deep down in its soul is very strange and subversive and leads you astray,” she explains. “I like the idea of bundling these very accessible songs with not just cookie-cutter emotions, so that ten-year-olds hear us on the radio but get something different to their usual. When I was ten years old, that’s when my ﬁrst really big, emotional interactions with music happened. It would be really cool
to be that kind of band for them, but at the same time make music that’s rich, and not dumbed down at all.” But by far the most attractive thing about ‘Something’, which elevates it above similar recent 80s-tinged pop records from the likes of Nite Jewel and Zola Jesus, is the strangely cinematic melancholy that it so frequently evokes, as if providing the soundtrack for the closing scenes of a ﬁlm or the endless backwards panning shot that serves as a backdrop to the credits. The album’s anthemic stadium choruses deliver an immensely pleasurable jolt that’s somewhere between the Proustian rush brought on by digging out your old Walkman and the comforting warmth of a familiar jumper. But alongside the enjoyment is the longing sigh of a thinly remembered bygone era, and it makes for an emotional impact akin to being slightly sad-drunk in the back of a minicab at 3am on a Saturday night, while Heart or Magic plays in the background. However, Polachek insists that although this nostalgia is not coming from Chairlift’s side, the poignancy and melancholy certainly is. “I never heard that 80s music when I was young,” she explains. “The reason I’m attracted to it now though is that it’s only on in gas stations and banks and supermarkets late at night – these cultural graveyards and desolate places. We wanted to reference those brecordings from the 80s, these big pop songs that nobody listens to anymore, and I think that’s where the album’s sense of melancholy comes from – there’s deﬁnitely an attempt to evoke that loneliness.” Live on stage, however, there’s no such thing. Indeed, Chairlift – now augmented to a ﬁve-piece live band – give a performance that’s nigh on euphoric. Polachek is a commanding frontwoman with a classically beautiful face, but is out
to be weird: she dominates the stage with a series of moves half-way between Peter Crouch and Jarvis Cocker, and sings with alternately demented yowls and seductive purrs. She also strikes the crowd into utter silence during the songs – when she sings the ﬁnal line of ‘Ghost Tonight’ a cappella, the show feels more like a recital than a gig.They play most of ‘Something’ and a couple of oldies – including ‘Bruises’ – and it’s an undeniably slick, glossy performance that is as impressive as it is enjoyable. Indeed, there’s an undeniable sense of the well-oiled machine to this entire incarnation of Chairlift and its current output that inspires conﬁdence in the listener. The whole of ‘Something’ swaggers not with any arrogance, but just a sense of satisfaction and honesty at a good job well done. Equally, Polachek elegantly walks the ﬁne line herself between smugness and self-deprecation, both on and off stage, and comes across as eminently thoughtful and wise, particularly with regard to the future of her band. “We’re frankly just not that interested in playing a lot off the ﬁrst record,” she explains, when I ask if she feels any obligation to give a nod to the past at tonight’s show. “I mean, we like those songs, we’re proud of the recordings and we’re proud to have our name on them, but no-one has requested them.” Of course, that’s not the case of the old “handstands for you” track. As I ask speciﬁcally about ‘Bruises’, Wimberly’s iPhone chirps with a Jobsian sense of timing. “We love playing ‘Bruises’,” Polachek insists. “We love it because we love how excited people get, taking out their iPhones and dancing around like maniacs. It’s endlessly ironic. We mustn’t see it as a millstone, even if we have played it a million times – we accept we’re at the beginning of our career, and we haven’t written anything bigger.”The pragmatism is admirable, but the thing is, they have.
Maria Minerva Estonian sleep music P h o t o gr ap h e r D an Ke n dall / Wr i t e r I an R o e b u c k
“I think music should have some kind of sex appeal, but it doesn’t mean you need to talk about it openly.” We aren’t supposed to discuss Maria’s sexuality, not that she’s banned the subject, it’s more that she’s bored with it. “I don’t want to talk about it too much as I’m tired of people leaning on the feminine aspects of my music,” she explains. “Honestly though, I think I may have made a mistake in leading people on.” Maria Minerva – or Maria Juur to most – is acutely aware of her public persona. Loﬁ disco queen and a proliﬁc purveyor of retro, she’s carved a unique space of her own. Channelling her astonishing knowledge of European dance music through a leftﬁeld, fuzzy ﬁlter, her enigmatic music matches up beautifully with the seductive underground pop princess she’s created and so accurately portrays. She’s certainly schooled enough to construct such an image. Having left her home country of Estonia just two years ago, the 23-year old ﬂourished as a freelance art critic before taking on a Masters in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths. Leaving the Baltic behind, it’s music that’s become her most impassioned outlet. “I still feel brand new,” she says. “I feel like I don’t know how to do anything. The important stuff is deﬁnitely still to come – I don’t want to be one of those people who releases a couple of things and then disappears. London’s full of famous-for-a-year artists and I’d like a longer journey.” For a career so young, Maria already has an impressive back catalogue. Four cassette and vinyl releases through Not Not Fun and its more dance-orientated offshoot 100% Silk have established her at the forefront of hypnagogic pop (experimental music that explores the feeling of being halfway between sleep and full consciousness), a movement courted by Ariel Pink and coined by Wire magazine, a publication Maria interned for on her arrival to London. “Yes, that was when I was living in Camden,” she nods. “I just arrived and I thought is this it? I didn’t really get London at ﬁrst – no money and no real work, it just didn’t make any sense. But now it’s a much better place to be.” The alien environment was not the best of welcomes, but it did serve to inspire Maria. “It’s when I ﬁrst started making music,” she says. “I wasn’t going out because I didn’t know anyone. I’d
done zero music before this. Zero. I still can’t play any instruments,” she laughs. “I’m quite tech savvy though, so I taught myself everything – it’s the day-to-day stuff I have trouble with, like housekeeping.” She continues to laugh but it’s Maria’s technological prowess (and sharp intellect) that has shaped her individuality within the underground. “Yeah,” she half agrees, “maybe I can interview myself. No, no actually, there’s too much going on inside my head.” It’s probably not a good idea because Maria’s biggest critic is herself and she still ﬁnds it tough admitting her day-job. “I ﬁnd it really hard to call myself a musician. I was house hunting the other day and they asked what I did and what I played, I just shrugged, I don’t know really... stuff!” Maria recently packed up her stuff and ﬂew to Lisbon where she’s spent the
last three months relaxing in the warmth, seeing friends and recording her new album, expected in September. “Imagine going to a foreign country and then spending three months recording your own voice,” she says. “I couldn’t wait to come back to a City and see other people.” Her previous releases have been highly unpredictable self-contained works, the album ‘Cabaret Cixous’ unique with its playful take on lo-ﬁ bedroom psychedelia. “The next one is completely different,” she says. “‘Cabaret Cixous’ was very down tempo. There were some catchy songs on it but I wouldn’t know how to categorise it, which I quite enjoy – maybe psychedelic pop.” Her more recent EP for 100% Silk, ‘Sacred and Profane’, ﬂirted with the dance-ﬂoor. “Hmm I don’t think people dance to my music,
though,” she ponders. “For myself, I was mainly dealing with some serious dance music obsessions, the biggest being Euro Disco or Euro House, which is such a taboo genre, it’s most amusing. I’m obsessed with moving on, I don’t want to give away too much but everyone seems to have to do one thing in music and then disappear, I just want to evolve. I don’t know how to describe it; it’s just what I do.” So hard to pin down, Maria moves effortlessly from release to release, but one thing remains consistent – her relationship with the music she grew up with. “In Estonia I was surrounded by the worst stuff imaginable, when you Google Haddaway, ‘What is Love’, there is an article that comes up telling you that the biggest success it had was in Estonia. I was 10 so this is OK, but you get the idea. Pop is a very safe place. I live abroad now and I’m cut off from everything I’ve ever known so I always return to this. People are mobile and in London everyone is from somewhere else, and in a world where everything is moving people take what they know with them, it ﬁnds its place in music.” She’s a huge fan of Eurovision too, and a self-confessed Britney nut (she stole a line from ‘I’m a Slave 4 U’ for her recent EP). In fact, the girl from Talinn can’t get enough of popular culture.“It’s true,” she nods. “Right now the entire city of London seems to be listening to Ashanti or whatever and so this ﬁnds a way into my music. There are some aspects of R&B, like the subtlety of the voice. OK, I can’t do that Mariah Carey thing, but the intimacy and the softness of it is something I can claim. “The women in RnB are so speciﬁc about sex, though – the raunchiness of it. So maybe that’s what is similar to me too. I could never be that explicit myself, but I appreciate it.”
P h o t o gr ap h e r O we n R i c har d s Wr i t e r C hal R ave n s
Gang Colours Will Ozanne tapes people in secret He finds it creepy too Southampton-based producer and singer Will Ozanne assembles moments of hazy nostalgia from the building blocks of quintessentially British sounds. He calls the end result Gang Colours. Debut album ‘The Keychain Collection’ is a reverie in blue, blending the rainy day garage of The Streets with the electronic soul of Mount Kimbie and a catalogue of half-remembered instants collected on his trusty Dictaphone. Celebrating its launch on Gilles Peterson’s eclectic Brownswood label, Will is playing the bijou Vortex jazz bar in Dalston, London, supported by fellow electronic experimentalist Gwilym Gold. Lounging on a sofa in the ofﬁce-cum-dressing room next to the tiny gig space, he’s as excited about having a bash on the grand piano in situ as he is performing a secret cover song, which later turns out to be a number by another Southampton singer (I won’t spoil it here, but no prizes for guessing). Although he usually works alone,Will enlists producer friend Ryan on synthtriggering and knob-twiddling for the live performance. “He has his sampler connected up to the computer, so he’s almost like the composer and I’m just playing around. It’s a nice dynamic. I think for the next show we’ve got here we’re going to have a drummer as well,” he says, explaining tonight’s sell-out has prompted a secondVortex date on April 5. After picking up the basic
programming tool Hip Hop eJay when he was barely a teenager (“I got mad into Tupac really early, lots of naughty words”), Will moved on to much-loved old school workhorse Fruity Loops when a techhead cousin downloaded it for him. “I don’t think I would have done it if he hadn’t done it for me,” he says. “I’ve still got a lot of love for Fruity Loops, but when I went to uni it was kind of a course requirement to use Macs.” His digital music degree became the ideal testing ground for his emerging musical aesthetic, an ephemeral blend of piano, vocals and beats inspired by garage and dubstep. With his debut EP, ‘In Your Gut Like A Knife’, Will inevitably found himself ﬁled alongside other beats-and-blues artists like James Blake, Nicolas Jaar and Ifan Dafydd (who also provided a remix for his ‘Fancy Restaurant’ single). “Some people might think that I’d heard them and wanted to imitate them, but it’s completely the opposite,” he says. “It’s been a very gradual progression, and having an electronic inﬂuence with piano and vocals is something that I’ve always wanted to do, so I guess it’s come naturally. But it’s nice that there are artists like James Blake and Mount Kimbie around, because it makes my music kind of acceptable, I guess. So being compared to them is more of a compliment than anything.” Unlike his peers and rivals, though, Will’s record as Gang Colours is a thing
of homespun fuzziness, full of warm crackle and hiss that hints at its bedroom origins, as well as those lovingly collected Dictaphone snippets. But isn’t it a bit creepy, sneaking round and recording people’s conversations? “Creepy? Yeah,” he laughs. “I don’t know if it’s ever been weird, but now if I get out my Dictaphone everyone’s like, ‘Ooh, is this gonna be on the album?’ But back when I ﬁrst had it, I just kinda had it in my pocket. If I thought a moment was getting a bit weird and out of hand, when everyone’s pissed out of their face, that’s the moment when no one really cares, and it looks like a mobile phone in my hand, so I’m sneakily doing a bit of recording and you get some good sounds. If not, it’s a bit of nostalgia for the next day as well.” The collecting comes about by chance rather than design, he adds. “It’s all about those sounds, you know, like when you’re annoyed that you didn’t have your camera at that moment. Like, okay, I like the way that bird is sounding against that car, so you record it and see what happens.” It was rapper Ghostpoet who spotted Gang Colours and took his demos to Gilles Peterson, who promptly signed him up to Brownswood. “I never would have expected to be on that label,” says Will, noting its global roster of artists from across the jazz, soul and hip hop spectrum. “But it kind of felt natural that it was Gilles, someone who embraces
such a wide variety of music.You’ve just got to listen to his show to see where he’s at – one minute he’s playing some world music, and the next he’ll be playing Gang Colours.” Has he had much contact with the former Radio 1 (and soon to be 6Music) DJ? “Gilles has got his ﬁngers in so many pies, I guess his schedule’s pretty hectic. But you know, the last few times I’ve been in the Brownswood ofﬁces he’s been there, making a cup of tea – he manages to ﬁnd time for everyone really.” Despite not being a jazz buff himself (“I like the jazz that everyone knows about, like Miles Davis and stuff, but I’m just not that invested in it”), he seems to have struck a chord with other aﬁcionados – Jamie Cullum recently played a track on his Radio 2 show. “Yeah, it’s mental, I never thought I’d get on Radio 2! And especially on a straight-up jazz show where he only plays 10 tracks, and one of them is mine. It might just be my approach to playing piano,” he says, adding that he isn’t trained in jazz. “I just did up to Grade 3 and then did my own thing, and explored the keyboard through practice. I guess it comes out a bit jazzy sometimes.” Gang Colours will be at Green Man Festival in Wales this summer, but before then there’s a smattering of dates across the country and a session for Huw Stephens at the BBC’s MaidaVale studios. “It’s pretty constant at the moment,” he says. “But it’s a good ride.”
Willis Earl Beal The extraordinary story of the 27-year-old who’s been through it all – homelessness, an Army discharge, exorcism and X Factor USA. Somehow, he’s still here P h o t o g r ap h e r P hil S har p / Wr i t e r O mar r Tant i
Willis Earl Beal is someone many people have heard something about. You may have heard that he’s XL’s new singersongwriter signing or listened to his ﬁrst single, ‘Evening’s Kiss’ on a blog or two. You may well have heard that at one point, not so long ago, he found himself unemployed and sleeping rough. You may have discovered that he makes his telephone number freely available for anyone to call him at any time of the day or night. That he thinks the Internet is “evil” and that he’d shut down Facebook given the chance. You may even know that he took part in last year’s X Factor USA and maybe you’ve watched the bemusing videos online that prove it. But it turns out none of us really know who Willis Earl Beal is, because up until recently he didn’t have any idea himself. It’s 36 hours after the 27-year-old has played his ﬁrst ever UK gig in a Dalston sweatbox. In fact, it’s only a couple of days since he set foot outside of American soil for the ﬁrst time. The man himself is unhurried, walking with a cowboy’s gait, talking with a meandering drawl and greeting with a stiff handshake. An oldtimer in a new-timer’s body. It’s midafternoon, but he swigs from a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale (“I discovered this stuff during X Factor,” he smiles, [more on that later]) and jokes about how his ﬁrst taste of British culture, just nights before, had been walking into a kebab shop in east London. He ordered “some chicken thing on a spit between two pieces of bread – it was kind of unpleasant,” he says. Not nearly as unpleasant as some of the experiences the singer has survived during his extraordinary life so far. Growing up in Chicago, Willis Earl Beal was a self-diagnosed loner. His mother was a traditional Christian Baptist. As a teenager, he found it tough to make friends, struggled at school, and joined the army, but was later discharged on medical grounds. In his early twenties, he decided it was time for a radical change. Tired of breathing in the heavy city smoke, he’d dreamed for years about an idyllic life close to the desert. He’d
seen it in the movies. In August 2007, he packed up his modest possessions and moved 1,300 miles to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It wasn’t what he’d expected. The ever-sunny mirage of endless prosperity and opportunity he’d imagined had the same grubby underbelly as any other mechanical metropolis. Soon he had no income. And shortly after, no zip code. “When I was homeless, I just started to sing on the streets – that kind of thing,” he says, peering from behind a pair of plastic glasses and playing with his chin. “Once I’d gone through a series of misadventures, I would write things down on napkins and be like, ‘Oh, well that sounds good’.” Those were the ﬁrst
songs Beal ever wrote – the same ones later recorded using a cassette karaoke machine, which appear on his forthcoming debut album ‘Acousmatic Sorcery’. It’s reminiscent of his heroes right through from Bo Diddley to Daniel Johnston.Instead of quittingAlbuquerque, he vowed to dig himself out of the situation. He moved through shelters, queued to get work as a daily labourer and eventually saved enough money to put a roof over his head. “When I ﬁnally got a little hole in the wall for myself to live, I would collect instruments,” he recalls. “I’d never been trained in instruments in all my life, but I felt like I had something to express and played
them in the best way I knew I could. I didn’t see it was good or bad, just a necessary thing. Just like going to the toilet or anything else. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, well I want to be a superstar’.” He’d left home looking for a fresh beginning, but instead found new lows. “I don’t recommend homelessness as a means to discover some kind of deeper part of yourself,” he says ﬁrmly, looking at the ﬂoor and shaking his head.“I don’t recommend homelessness at all. What I saw out in Albuquerque was a lot of kids who were like,‘Well, I’m rich, let’s just go away from home and not be shallow. I’ll be a homeless person because that’s going to bring me closer to whatever.’ That’s
not the answer.” But it kind of did help Beal ﬁnd the answer, or if not the answer, then at least make sense of a few inner truths. “Being homeless, it helped me, but at the same time I realised that everything I’d been looking for I had in the beginning. This whole thing was a spiritual journey and nothing more – it was a search for myself. It wasn’t about trying to get into a scene or trying to write songs.The fact that this has happened is just afﬁrmation or conﬁrmation that if you’re innocent and you have prayers in your mind, then you can’t go wrong.” Saying that, what happened next did go wrong. In summer 2010, Beal
separated from his girlfriend, left Albuquerque and returned to Chicago to live with his grandmother and brother. Again he struggled to ﬁnd employment and was sat hopelessly on the collection of songs he’d written out in the south west. In between bouts of reﬂection and home-cooked dinners, the family would sit down every Thursday night in front of the TV to watch American Idol. They’d heard about the upcoming launch of Simon Cowell’s X Factor USA and auditions were taking place in the city soon.“It was kinda like,‘Hmm, I can sing - why not?’” explains Beal, looking back. His grandmother thought it was too big of an opportunity to miss. She stuck the train fare in his trouser pocket and packed him off. “She’s always been supportive of me,” he says affectionately. “No matter what. The other people in my family are a bit kind of ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ My grandmother just gave me the money to get up there. She said, ‘You wanna sing? Go ahead’.” Call it innocence, call it inexperience, but once again, like his arrival in Albuquerque a couple of years previously, The X Factor was not what Beal was expecting. He had a sense, trudging alongside the smoggy highway out to the suburban arena where auditions were being held, that they wouldn’t get along. “I was thinking, ‘What the fuck am I doing? What is happening in my life? I’m 27-years-old and I’m trying out for a talent competition’. But what was I going to do, turn around?” Reluctant to waste his grandmother’s train fare, and not seeing any other immediate opportunities, he walked on. “It was God awful,” he remembers with an expression that’s more wince than smile. “We stood in the rain. Some chick almost caught hypothermia. This nice fat lady and her two daughters let me stand under her umbrella. We ﬁnally got up there and sang this shit and we were soaking wet. We had been at this stadium all day and they said, ‘You’re good’.” Beal had made it through. Next up he’d perform under the glaring studio lights, with an audience that included some of his family, and in front of the judges (who at this stage were Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A Reid and Cheryl Cole). “Simon had actually told me to shut up because I was babbling,” he says, putting on an English accent to continue the story. “He was like, ‘You’re going to be an absolute nightmare to work with, but it’s a nightmare I’m willing to have’. And Cheryl Cole – Jesus Christ – I was singing directly to her.Those eyes! She was looking right at me. She just loved me.” He swaggered off stage with four yeses and a passport to Boot Camp. But besides that solitary high he found himself thrown into a claustrophobic circus he detested. Look at the YouTube clips – there’s discomfort and fear in his eyes. The experience was eating him. “You listened to Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ like 63 times, learning dance moves,” he
“Outside the beer and burritos, X Factor USA was an awful experience. Very unpleasant” says of the environment. “What did the choreographer guy say? He said you’ve got to learn to ‘work it’ for the judges and I thought to myself, ‘Yep, I’m a prostitute’.” Surrounded by fame-hungry wannabes (“bashing on pianos every minute of the day”), by the time it came for him to sing for the judges again his soul had shattered. “I’d already given up prior to even going up there,” he says. “I thought, I’m just not supposed to be here. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but this is not it.” That day he smuggled in a bunch of beers, locked himself in the gents toilet and got drunk. At showtime he wobbled out onto the stage and forgot the words to Tom Waits’ ‘Goodnight Irene’. His X Factor journey was over, without any ‘best bits’. “Outside the beer and burritos, it was an awful experience. I’m glad I did it. It’s something else to talk about, but it was very unpleasant.”
be told, we could have just picked up the phone to hear more about Willis Earl Beal’s improbable story. In fact we did, but it rang and rang. In the early days he left ﬂyers in shops and bars with his phone number on and a magazine put it on their front cover. Now he puts it on his website promising to “sing you a song” if you call. He has people who phone him regularly as well
as the occasional surprise (a man claiming to be Mos Def, once). “There’s been a few nuts,” he admits, with an easy grin, “but it’s been largely positive.” It’s a gesture which embodies Beal’s almost frightening openness, in his music and his conversation. He answers every question with a mixture of humour, honesty and almost heart-breaking selfdepreciation.Those at his ﬁrst UK shows a few weeks back would have seen the T-shirt he wears and the home-made banner he performs in front of, emblazoned with his personal slogan, “No-body”. As we talk he also pulls up his cardigan sleeve to show the same words tattooed on his forearm. “I came up with a moto to go with it: ‘I am nothing, and nothing is everything’,” he says. “It ﬁts with my feeling which was, ‘Obviously I’m not much, because nobody thinks much of you, but then there’s something there.’ I’ve always felt protected. I’ve never been able to fall. I’ve tried really hard to fuck my life up but I’ve never been able to.” All of which points to the idea that Beal is either a folk-playing cat with nine lives, has the most rotten luck, or that personal faith means some divine force is watching over him. “No, no. It’s something different,” he says, before recalling how his mother once had him exorcised by a preacher (“I would wake up in the night complaining of seeing witches and shit”). The experience was hollow, and had the off-putting result of
turning Beal onto atheism. Now he says he’s worked out the balance of his own beliefs. He says that through all his falls he’s had reassurance, from somewhere, that everything is going to be alright. “My skills are marginal, rudimentary at best,” he conﬁdes. “My singing ability is pretty good I guess. Lyrics? A bit cliché but I think they work alright. Quite honestly, it’s not my talent that got me here.What happened was that I believed. Parallel synchronised randomness, electro-magnetic brain waves, radio signals out to the universe with a concentrated intention.” He’s not joking. “It’s going to sound real crazy but there’s some wizardry at work,” he continues, pointing out the title of his debut album, ‘Acousmatic Sorcery’. “Once I got out to Albuquerque, I don’t know if it was delusion or not, but I started to receive tangible signs that I was going in the right direction. I’d see shooting stars on cue, I’d speak to the sky, I saw faces. I wasn’t even on drugs. No alcohol. No drugs. Just a guy who never grew up. A guy who never really fully believed that he was a loser.” “Before, I used to wonder,‘How come I was left alone? How come I can’t play music like other people? Why can’t I have a girlfriend? How come I got kicked out of the army for failure to adapt? Why wasn’t I a scholar at high school? Why can’t I be a part of something?’” He pauses for a breath. “Now I’ve come to the conclusion that the whole reason I exist right now as Willis Earl Beal, ‘The Singer’, is because that’s my thing – being alone. That’s where it all came from – complete nothingness. No talent, no opportunity, no money – and things exploded.” Our time together is nearly up. Today he’ll return to the studio – he’s writing some new material and also rerecording some of those very ﬁrst songs, this time on equipment he didn’t ﬁnd in a recycling bin. He says he’s feeling content and extremely lucky. By his own admission Beal’s made some bad decisions – ones which have left him shivering on the street in winter, his grandmother taking calls from strangers at midnight and left him stood drunk “dressed as a bum” in front of Simon Cowell on national television. It’s all laid bare as a detuned, un-airbrushed, lowest-ﬁ outpouring on his debut album. Beal is a real bluesman, an open storybook, through and through. “I don’t have any regrets, I’m glad this all happened,” he says, ﬁnishing his bottle of Brown Ale and drying his mouth with his sleeve. “Whether I get a whole lot of money and people love me, or whether I don’t get any money and people hate me I don’t have any regrets. All I’m trying to do here is make enough money so I can live a comfortable life with my girlfriend. I want to be a man. I want to have a family. I want to do all the things you’re supposed to do once you’re a man.That’s all I want. But as far as trying to be Lady Gaga, being some kind of prodigy or starting a cult – I don’t want that.”
Hatcham Social With a heavy sense of déjà vu we play catch up with Hatcham Social to discuss new album ‘About Girls’ P h o t o gr ap h e r E lli o t Ke nn e d y / Wr i t e r St uar t St ub b s
I get the feeling we’ve been here – right here – before. It’s because we have. Nearly. Three years ago, almost to the day, Hatcham Social and I met in the pub next door to where we’re sat now, a few weeks before they released ‘You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil’ – an unquestionably ‘indie’ album that was somehow something more: a mix of fop pop, new romance, art rock, poetry and shadowy escapism. Songs like ‘So So Happy Making’ had the band reviving John Hughes movie soundtracks long before The Horrors started to sound like Simple Minds. It had taken them three years to make – an aeon in the instantly bored world of pop music – and the forthcoming ‘About Girls’ hasn’t arrived any sooner. Once again, it’s out in a matter of weeks, and once again, more so, even, it’s an album that doesn’t apologise for its melodic easy listening. It’s as straight-up as you might imagine an album called ‘About Girls’ to be. “We wanted to make everything direct on this one,” says singer Toby Kidd. “We put a limit on the amount of lyrics we’d allow in songs. I think the ﬁrst record was a bit wordy in places.” Even without‘Jabberwocky’(Hatcham Social’s melodramatic, gothic recitation of the Lewis Caroll poem), ‘You Dig The Tunnel…’ certainly is less pointed than the band’s new album, where lyrics like, “Bang bang, now I’m dead / Fifty bullets in my head” (from ‘Nicola Tells Me’) and “Kingsland Road, I stole a kiss / C’mon baby, let’s do the twist” (‘Would You’) are boldly without hidden agendas. Simplicity, after all, is to pop music what overdrive is to hard rock, and Hatcham Social make no bones about being a pop band. When I ask them if they’d purposefully tried to make a pop record, drummer Finn Kidd reasons, “well, you always do, don’t you?”. “Our idea of pop just isn’t the same as some peoples’,” suggests Toby, but there’s a good chance that it is. ‘About Girls’ might lack Rhianna bass and LMFAO’s party bangers, but it’s full of nagging hooks – something Hatcham Social have always excelled in, in the most English of ways. The “Shoot me down” chorus of ‘Like An Animal’, the shambling pop punk of ‘Little Savage’, the call-andresponse pomp of ‘Dance With Me’ – they could all ﬁnd Hatcham Social on
mainstream radio. ‘Would You’, with Toby lowering his voice to the bollockdropping warble of Brian Ferry, is clearly inspired by Roxy Music; ‘All Summer Long’ sounds even more like Elvis Costello’s ‘Oliver’s Army’; the closing ‘Stick Together’ is as classically sweet as the songs of Ray Davis,The Kinks being one of the many bands that Hatcham Social have covered before now.They do a mean version of Lou Reeds’ ‘Vicious’ too. Covers, in fact, have always been a way for Hatcham Social to maintain a desired level of enjoyment within the group, and it’s a group that looks very different today than it did in March 2009. Then, I was sat with brothers Toby and Finn (still here), and founding bassist Dave Fineberg and second guitarist
With [David and Riley] it was exciting musically again, but also as people… and they’re really good musicians.” Toby and Finn wrote and demoed the lion’s share of ‘About Girls’ in their own studio in Wales, until David and Riley’s input gave them the ﬁnished record. David says:“They’ve turned out to be…” “The worst ones,” laughs Toby. “So we won’t do that again.” “They’re the four or ﬁve potential singles,” ﬁnish David,“not to big ourselves up or anything.” Looking back at ‘You Dig The Tunnel…’,an album that went overlooked and underappreciated for one so fantastic, Toby says: “I’m pretty proud of that record. I wouldn’t do anything differently on it for when it was. I’m surprised when I listen to it, which isn’t very often, but,
“The whole ethos behind this record is it’s about dancing and lust and fucking” Jerome Watson (not). Watson – an enviably talented guitarist – left the band and formed The History of Apple Pie. “Dave did his thing and disappeared,” says Toby. For a time, Finn and his older brother – then and now the driving force of the band – cobbled together friends to play shows as they were booked, until Riley Difford became a fulltime member on bass and David Claxton replaced Watson. “My previous band were too serious and anal about everything,” says Riley. “Hatcham weren’t really. They were like, ‘let’s just play a Kinks cover’. It was fun.” Unusually, for David, this is his ﬁrst band. “I completely changed what I was doing,” he says. “I just had a normal job and was miserable.” “[Playing with new people] felt really refreshing, more than anything,” says Toby. “You get in ruts with people. Not so much musically – musically, it was always ﬁne with Dave, but being on tour and that, you get into ruts with people.
like, I listened to ‘Superman’, and I was like, ‘wow, that’s beautiful’. And there are songs that are really enjoyable to play live. That’s what we took forward for this record – we very much wanted to make a record full of the songs we enjoy playing live, because this record was going to be something we were going to be able to play live anywhere, with just the four of us. Don’t need an special engineer, don’t need any effects, don’t need someone pressing whatever – it’s a record you can play in a room and it sounds pretty much like the record.” And by the sound of it – the smoothed corners, the brighter melodies, the less acute guitars – ‘About Girls’ is more… well… fun? “The whole ethos behind this record is it’s about dancing and lust and fucking,” says Finn. “The ﬁrst record is about looking for a place to make your own, inside yourself; this one is about how you’ve arrived at that place so it’s time to party.” A lot of the record is autobiographical,
about girls the band have chased or been chased by, presumably since we last met. “Some of them aren’t girls, though,” says Toby, “they’re boys… who talk to girls. And the others are girls… who talk to boys. But, yeah, it is all quite truthful about our lives.” “It’s not been the making of the record that’s taken three years,” assures Finn. “That was a lot of other stuff.” “Yeah, we’ve had loads of songs,” says Toby, “enough to record three albums, but unfortunately, people who you work with in this world sometimes don’t turn out how you thought they would. So it took quite a while of reassessing and working things out and sorting some money issues that people had gotten us into. It’s taken a while, but we’ve got it all sorted and the next record will be a lot quicker.” I get the feeling we’ve been here – right here – before. It’s because we have. Nearly, but not that nearly. Hatcham Social still have a Dave, but a different one; they’re still making what is deﬁnitely a type of indie pop music, but it seems harder than ever to label as one thing or another; they’re intent on creating a world for themselves, just like before, it’s just a place that’s become less gothically insular and more outwardly up for a good time.They still laugh a lot between them though, and, as naïvely idealistic as it sounds, having fun remains their number one priority. Three years ago, Toby explained how he didn’t see putting out a debut album as “making it” any more than releasing a single or playing a show or writing a song, even. That hasn’t changed either, and the overtly direct ‘About Girls’ probably deserves to be hit just as much as the gloomily romantic ‘You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil.’ “I know it sounds like a cliché,” says Toby, “and you do want people to like it, but you want to do what you want to do, and hope that there are a section of people who think like you and feel like you. Because some people will just aim at making it, and they’ll do whatever they think will be popular. I think that’s the opposite to what we are – we ﬁnd something slightly difﬁcult and try and make it popular, and maybe fail,” he laughs. “But hopefully, eventually, you will like it!”
be kin P h o t o gr ap h e r L e o n D iap e r Wr i t e r St uar t St ub b s
The level head of Adam Bainbridge : A man fully aware of the tricks of the music industry
round six months ago we received an unmarked twelveinch record in the post, a newspaper of what appeared to be random black and white photography, and a note telling us that just 30 of these packages had been made and delivered. A couple of months later a second record arrived, minus the newspaper and note. Then what we thought was a third, but what turned out to be a CD hidden in the back of a lavish booklet the size of an LP. They’d all come from Kindness, and that name rang a bell. By February we’d also been sent an email invite to a show – a short video of a long haired guy sat behind a drum kit covered in sandwiches. “Bonjour les amis,” he said down the lens.“You might remember me from such shambolic shows as The Macbeth, the Highbury Garage, the Chameleon Club. Well, on February 23rd, you’ll have a chance to see just how shambolic it gets. I hope to see you there.” Curious. Trawling the Internet to ﬁnd out what the fuck was going on, we came across very little information regarding Kindness. Some out-of-date blog entries and a Guardian New Band of The Day article from 2009 reminded us where we’d heard the name before, but all they really conﬁrmed was that the guy with the sandwiches was called Adam Bainbridge, that he was Kindness, and that he played pop music inspired by ’80s funk artists. We knew that much already, though, from the records he’d sent us (singles ‘Cyan’ and ‘Gee Up’, and debut album ‘World, You Need a Change of Mind’). Even his website refused to rat him out, featuring nothing but the cover art of ‘World,You Need A Change of Mind’, and even then too big to be viewed all at once. Until now, Adam has steered well clear of interviews of any kind. “Ninety-ﬁve per cent of everything you should want to know about a new artist should be in the record,” he says; a hard point to argue against, even when you’re a music magazine.The thing is, wry, eloquent and visibly passionate, Adam makes for a refreshingly open interviewee. He talks slowly, often pausing to consider the question. It’s not to ensure he says what he’s supposed to, in fact it’s the opposite – to ensure he says what he wants. We take a seat in a Hackney coffee shop that doubles as a fashion boutique (of course). Adam ﬁnds a top hat and declares that he’ll wear it for the length of our stay. His press ofﬁcer mentions that a member of London band Tribes wore a similar one to the NME Awards last week. Adam quickly returns the hat to where he found it. White indie rock, as we’ll ﬁnd out, is not for him. Pointing at the espresso machine that’s recently stopped slurping and hissing, he says: “Every time that goes off I’m going to stop what I’m saying and say what I really feel – something outrageous that you won’t be able to hear on the Dictaphone.” A couple of hours later, we’re happy to know more than the remaining ﬁve per cent.
ecorded in Paris with Philippe Zdar of synth pop duo Cassius, ‘World, You Need a Change of Mind’ is a record clearly inspired by the 1980s that wanted to get down to funk, pop, slick RnB and New York disco.The Princes and Grace Joneses and Alexander O’Neals. The cosmopolitan crowd that never seemed that bothered about what was and wasn’t cool, but in turn became icons of alternative pop music.Then, it was about making music for clubs that may well have been subversive, but was deﬁnitely, proudly popularist; music with a production value so high you could hear it in the slap bass. Kindness certainly has that. “And that gave me the willies at ﬁrst,” says Adam, “because lo-ﬁ is everyone’s comfort zone – it sounds good. Sonically, there is a charismatic wooziness and a warmth and druggy haze over those kind of recordings, even if these people are teetotal knitters. Lo-ﬁ lends an immediate charm to recordings, and a song that maybe wouldn’t be as strong if revealed in its raw elements (this is the guitar part, this is the bass part, these are the drums) can be. Having come from that background, it is quite a scary prospect to remove the comforting charm that was on your previous recordings, and say, ‘here I am! This is the chorus and these are the chords!’. “Once you’ve made that decision and decided to not exist in your comfort zone, and not to deliberately obscure things, the only option left is to be fully ambitious and try to fully realise each idea,” he continues, “even if it means being a little over the top, or working with a crew instead of one guy with a VHS recorder in a basement, which is how we started off making videos – twenty ﬁve minutes with a primary school VHS camera, edit it in ﬁfty minutes and stick it on YouTube. That was a great feeling at the time, but now that those things have also become recognisable visual tricks for
new music videos, I felt I’d be more comfortable going to the other extreme and playing with the high production values.” Adam notes that a hi-ﬁ sound “leaves you nowhere to hide”. “If you just present what’s there,” he says, “you’re offering people a choice to say it’s good or bad. With the album, people might hate it, but at least it’s been presented to them honestly.” This month, on March 19th, he will release ‘Gee Up’, it having already been Kindness’s very ﬁrst single, released by Moshi Moshi in 2009. Re-recorded and no doubt improved, Adam decided to give the song’s original video the same treatment – a hi-ﬁ facelift. The result is an astute parody of a group attempting to appear lo-ﬁ at great expense, rather than out of necessity. The original grainy video of his band’s live performance plays out before we’re shown what’s really going on – the vast studio production behind this fake authenticity. A large crew mill around, people call for lattes, multiple cameras are reset, it turns out that Adam, whose hair in the video constantly obscures his face, has been played by a girl the whole time. The best gag, though, comes from what are presumably two record label employees. “I kinda like it,” one says. “Lo-ﬁ with hi-ﬁ values.” “Would have been better two years ago, though, wouldn’t it?” says the other. “I think that’s an honest comment that a lot of people at my record label would have said,” says Adam. “I was trying to imagine what some of the real conversations about the band would have been. I’m sure someone somewhere has said, ‘It’s great because they’ve really nailed what it is to synthesise that lo-ﬁ wonkiness, but they’ve made a record that sounds really polished and quite pop!’,” he says in mock executive excitement, then rolls his eyes. “‘Okay, well it wasn’t that deliberate, guys, but thanks for pointing that out.’ “I imagine there is some guy at a major label somewhere who says, ‘the blogs are going to love these guys, let’s make a really cheap looking video’, but he’ll
“Fair enough, give me a hard time for signing to a major, but then also come and ask me why”
spend sixty thousand dollars doing it. Or hiring a moronic production company that knows how to ﬁnd young people who look a certain way who are going to fake sex in the back of pickup truck in a junkyard. I mean, the visual cues that the mainstream has taken from lower budget music videos, you see it everywhere now, and it’s kinda gross.” Kindness has signed to a major label, though – Polydor, a division of the mega conglomerate Universal Music Group. “How has it been entering the dragon?” he asks. “I wish the coffee machine would start right now.” Adam orders another latte, returns and pauses. “No, in all honesty though, to make the record I envisaged, it needed a studio like Philippe’s (a fully analogue studio with a real desk and a lot of great synthesisers etc.). In the ideal world, you have everything you need in one place (and this really is the dream, and I’m not taking it for granted), and you can just get on with it. Philippe takes his studio seriously and he’s invested a lot of money into it, but he’s also recently won a Grammy [for his work on Phoenix’s fourth album, ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’], which means he’s no longer available to everyone off the street. And, basically, what he was charging wasn’t extortionate, but I’m not sure an indie would have paid it. I think they could have, but would they have taken a punt on a ﬁrst record with me? No. “And I had that conversation with people at indies, and all of the encouragement from their end was,‘oh, do it yourself, in your room, preferably on a laptop. Put that old school methodology out of your mind, because it’s really not relevant anymore.’ And I was thinking it was a reasonable thing to say, but at the same time I felt they weren’t taking my ideal scenario seriously.” In the great major label versus indie dispute, Adam – a man who has investigated both in no uncertain depth – offers an extremely measured view on the topic. He’s signed to a major, fully aware of the boardroom bullshit that goes on upstairs, but who’s to say that doesn’t happen at a lot of the indies? Not him. “Do you feel that majors are unable to support interesting new acts now?” he asks. “Because when acts get dropped instantly, are you not aware of the same thing happening at indies, because I am. There’s a lot of people who do development deals with indie labels and that material will never see the light of day, and these artists are working on creating their sound for a couple of years. “The thing I would say to a music fan is,‘Fair enough, give me a hard time for signing to a major, but then also come and ask me why. Or name a label that you’re a big fan of, and maybe I can explain to you something about those guys that you didn’t previously know.’ I mean, there are some indie labels who have as much funding from major distribution and publishing arms as the majors themselves. And the other thing is, everyone’s in cahoots. People’s shared interests are the same, it’s just who’s paying the cheques that’s different – I don’t think a young A&R man at Polydor has considerably different music taste to a young A&R man at 4AD. It’s true that the executive pressure might be different, but I think the reality for those bands is going to be quite similar. Or the policy of interference might be different but there’ll still be active interference from both kinds of label.” On top of this, Adam has “never been a huge subscriber to British indie music”. Indie labels, he loves, but not the white rock bands they’ve long been synonymous with. “I’m a guy with long hair who has a band when he plays live,” he explains. “I have an awareness that at any moment someone might assume that this is an indie band, and I’m not a huge subscriber
to that. So one way of bypassing that completely is to not sign to an independent label,” he laughs.“I don’t like indie music – culturally I have nothing in common with that. “One way to look at it is, by having this opportunity and taking it seriously, we might be able to claw back some of mainstream pop culture, because fundamentally it is rotten – it sucks, big time. And if there’s a way of clawing it back it’s hardly a bad thing either.”
dam grew up in Peterborough, the son of an Indian mother and English father. He moved to Paris to study photography, then to Berlin, then, brieﬂy, to Philadelphia. He says his main goal when creating ‘World, You Need a Change of Mind’ was simply working with Philippe, and, despite being a solo artist, he considers his debut album his and his producer’s – a collaboration. “The ﬁrst Phoenix record was an alternative pop touchstone for me,” he says,“with its sonic potential and embracing of the hi-ﬁ sound. And yet it doesn’t sound crass, and it doesn’t pulverise you in the way that a David Guetta record would. It sounds very genuine – they threw everything and the kitchen sink into it, and it’s their sincerity that glued it together and made it sound like people with a real passion for music had synthesised something unique at that moment in time. I had that same ambition. Having loved a lot of different sounding records, was there a way to synthesise the greater aspects of all of those and make it into something that was one person’s ideal new artist statement?” Created with live instruments as opposed to samples and plugins, Kindness’s album sounds like a record cult club DJ Larry Levan would have dug. Musically, it has all the warmth of old skool analogue dub music, with an added ambient undertone that’s more 2012, and more chillwave. For a man who doesn’t like white indie rock, Adam’s cover of The Replacement’s ‘Swingin’ Party’ would come as a surprise had he not melted it down into a gently pulsating last dance, and the same could be said for his take on Anita Dobson’s ‘Anyone Can Fall In
Love’ (itself a take on the Eastenders theme tune) – here a proto slow jam that’s either sexy or sinister, depending on how paranoid you’re feeling. There are plenty of upbeat numbers too, that point more towards Adam’s love for the modern alt. pop of Phoenix, and ‘That’s Alright’ (possibly the album’s best track) is like Paula Abdul collaborating with Afrika Bambaataa, saxophones squealing over a typical ’80s soul brag that booms “The beat is back!”. It’s taken Kindness ﬁve years and at least four countries to reach this point, though. During that time, he left London for Philadelphia to take part in an arts residency proposed by a friend. “He said: ‘Here’s the deal. I’ll give you a room in our house, a bicycle, a studio, if you want to do something musical, a PA system, instruments and a four-track, and you’ll have a month to work, but we’d like you to leave something at the end of it’.” It was essentially the start of Adam’s musical career (in 2007), and having a deadline and knowing that he needed to produce a ﬁnished piece of work to trade for board, it gave him the focus to complete a twelve-track CDR. He’d only half attempted to make music before then, uninspired by London and unimpressed by the underground’s general unwillingness to collaborate. “I might see a guy play a show at an Upset The Rhythm show, or at Barden’s, and I’d say, ‘wow, that was fantastic. Would you consider playing guitar for me next week? I have a little recording set up around the corner and I really love your guitar playing’, and people would just give you a dirty look. I’m not sure if it was a defensive thing on their part, but for all the inclusiveness there was a reluctance to really collaborate. To go up to someone cold and ask if you can do something together, it was like I’d pissed on a photo of their grandma. In Philadelphia, people would be like, ‘Sure. Do you have 15 minutes now? Let’s do it’.” The reason his name rang a bell is because Kindness ﬁrst released a single in 2009, creating quite a furore in the process. He disappeared soon after, well aware of how ridiculous the hype had become. “I felt the whole thing was absurd,” he says, “because the press interest seemed completely out of proportion to what I’d actually done. And I felt the NME were particularly very heavy-handed – at one point they gave me an ultimatum along the lines of, ‘we only break new artists at this point in their career; if you don’t do something with us now, you’ll never get anything with us again’. And I didn’t have any label or management, and I was given this intense ultimatum by this music magazine that, at one point in time, I really respected. I couldn’t help but think, ‘why?’. “The same goes with interviews. I mean, even now, you as a journalist and myself prior to the release of the album, we only have a ﬁnite amount of things to talk about. Imagine what it’s like when you have a two-track 7-inch coming out on an independent record label, you’ve never played a show and you’ve literally only just ﬁnished writing your ﬁfth song. What is there possibly to talk about? As least you’ve heard my album, but even then… “I’m not saying that every new band should emulate MIA, rip up the rule book and throw it away, because that can be posturing as much as anything else, but, in interviews, there is this bland imitation of what’s been before, being reproduced by the white, generic indie rock bands I was talking about.”Adam pauses.“Although the more hideous crime is being twee,” he says.“If there’s another twee, white indie rock interview I’ll strangle them with their Belle & Sebastian stockings.” Adam Bainbridge should deﬁnitely do more interviews. He’s pretty good at them.
Weird Dreams Even a band with a rolling cast has to have at least one member who sticks around. Weird Dreams have two P h o t o gr ap h e r P hil S har p / Wr i t e r D K G o l d s t e in
It’s been well over a year since we ﬁrst chatted to the entrancing pop outﬁt Weird Dreams. Then they’d only been together for three months and have since gained a fourth member, guitarist James Wignall, then lost him, and are about to lose bassist Hugo Edwards too. They’ve released their second EP, ‘Hypnagogic Lullaby’, toured with seminal college rock idol and Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus, and are about to bring out their debut album ‘Choreography’. “After we did a tour with Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks our guitarist moved on,” explains Doran Edwards, the earnest frontman of the duo, before quickly reiterating, “to another band… he didn’t die. So we got a new guitarist and our bass player is leaving after this War On Drugs tour [which ends at The Great Escape on May 11], but we have another bass player. We started the band as me and Craig [Bowers, drums] and we like the idea of there being a rotating line-up with the guitar and bass. If it sticks it’s cool, but it’s nice to keep that singular vision with two people.” We’re sat in Doran’s studio ﬂat, which is right by a train station, so you can hear commuters rattling past every few minutes. There’s bric-a-brac everywhere and animal pictures on the wall, beneath which sit the two men that keep this vision of Weird Dreams alive. It’s fascinating to see them in their normal attire, with tattoos caking their arms, considering that the last time we met they were decked out in Twin Peaks themed outﬁts for Halloween 2010, Craig swathed in an Indian headdress and Doran soaked in fake blood. As well as the band, these guys still have day jobs, not to mention the indie label Sleep All Day that Craig founded and maintains. “Yep, I’m busy all the time,” he conﬁrms, “but it’s cool. It’s worth working for a while and hopefully that’ll pay off, but it’s good to keep your feet on the ground.” Can they imagine a time when the music will support them?
“Yeah, I’d love to. I’ll just keep imagining that,” Doran kids. “When you start thinking of it as a career, though, I think that’s when the music will start getting cheap, because you’re putting the wrong focus on it. I’d rather do a full time job for as long as possible. Especially nowadays, it’s not like in the ’80s and ’90s when there were huge amounts of money being given out all the time. But maybe that means there’s not as much shit around.” In the near-two-year span that Weird Dreams have been a band, they’ve learnt a lot about the music industry, although Doran admits that he already knew a huge amount about it. “No surprises to me,” he starts, “it’s still great. Then, when you play with people like Stephen Malkmus and War On Drugs, you learn so much. Especially Malkmus, as a person, who’s toured for 25 years now. You’ve really got to watch those kind of people and enjoy the fact that they know exactly what they’re doing. It’s not just about being tight or a performer, there’s something about the way the band sounds every single night – I ﬁnd it amazing that they can carry the same energy.” Doran and Craig bagged a spot on the Malkmus tour because their agent put them forward for it, but the man himself picks who he wants to play with “and he chose us, so that was nice,” utters Doran, who also tells me that through this they ended up driving across the Swiss Alps (“one of the most incredible things I’ve seen”) where they found themselves in an odd venue in Switzerland. “We had this broom cupboard as a dressing room and it had blue walls and the most crude grafﬁti I’ve ever seen,” Doran continues. “It was a woman’s body with penises for limbs. It was artistic but just disgusting. We got really crazy that night and I remember drawing a penis that went all the way round the top of the room and I remember our friend holding my leg and playing it as a guitar on the dance ﬂoor to Rammstein or something.” He cringes at
the thought of the tour antics they never thought they were capable of but seem to have transferred to the War On Drugs stint, which one night in Bristol involved “three bottles of rum and 24 cans of beer” between ﬁve of them. But in terms of the gig, the duo were blown away. “War On Drugs were incredible actually, I’m still not over that,” Doran recounts in awe. “I love the latest album and the thing I most related to Weird Dreams was the textures and pulsating sounds – and live it was just so good, wasn’t it?” He directs to Craig, who agrees. “It was like that every night,” he says. “I think the UK part of the tour was probably show number 60 for them, but they were playing it like it was their ﬁrst. They got lost in the music, it was amazing. For us it was really inﬂuential to see.” “I think that’s the thing that we’ve learnt over the last two tours,” Doran continues. “And also with doing an album – you start to understand the depth that you can get. Because I’ve always wanted to keep it minimal, but I’ve realised that in production there are a lot of things you have to do for it to still sound minimal. Like the guitar part – you think,‘Ok, let’s just have one guitar there’. However, a band like War On Drugs – they’ve got samples of ambient sounds, then a keyboard player and all this noise that makes up all these layers. So yeah, we need more layers on the new Weird Dreams stuff.” Bearing in mind they ﬁnished ‘Choreography’ at the end of August 2011, new material isn’t something they’re shy of. “I’ve written about 40 tracks since the last album,” Doran enthuses, “but I haven’t had time to record them properly. So, on my phone I have hundreds and hundreds of memos trying to map it all together, but it’s not good for you to have unﬁnished work. Having a deadline is really good for me. I sit around playing my guitar most of my spare time – I think it’s much more exciting to get an initial idea than to
ﬁnish it. “I’ve recorded a couple of demos recently for the ﬁrst time in six months and what we we’re saying about how you evolve and learn, it’s pretty interesting. For me it’s amazing how much I’ve learnt since the last record, because already I don’t think there’s much space on the album. It’s got a lot of parts all of the time – which in itself is cool – but I think the next one will have a bit more room in it and take its time.” “Also,” adds Craig, “taking all these inﬂuences from being on tour with other bands and learning about our instruments more, just giving it that space to become something new again.” “Maybe we should focus on this album and not worry about the space on the second one yet,” laughs Doran and he’s
“A labour of love it was, that record. But hopefully you can hear that”
probably right, seeing as it’s not even out until April 2nd. The delay can be put down to the band, who wanted to “do it justice” and ensure ‘Choreography’ had ample time to build excitement in the press. It was recorded at Palace Studios with modish east London producer Rory Attwell, although the band produced it themselves, not entirely due to a lack of funding. “Regardless, it would have been self-produced,” Craig assures as Doran describes the process. “I think I would have just got into an argument about it because I know exactly how I want each bit to sound,” he says. “I’d love to work with a producer that I know I can work with, but I’ve had experiences in the past where that’s not been the case and it can get really ugly. I
can see the faults in the record from there not being a proper producer there, but I think that’s good for your ﬁrst record, that’s how it should be. “But what I was saying, about having a singular vision and wanting to keep it that way, it wasn’t an option for me to have someone else produce it. And ﬁnancially, it was a lot more viable. I would love to work with someone on the next record. I really would. Because I wrote everything myself and did all the demos, then when we were recording I did my guitar, bass, some second guitar, vocals and three-part harmonies for all the songs, and being there for every second to make sure every note is played in the right way is really tiring. I hit the wall quite hard in the middle, which sounds crazy because it should just be
fun, but I wanted it in a certain way so much that it took its toll. A labour of love it was, that record. But hopefully you can hear that.” From start to ﬁnish, ‘Choreography’ is a clear indication of how Weird Dreams have grown as a band since their formation in July 2010. A record that combines gushing doo-wop instrumentation and the indie classicisms of The Shins with unsavoury social topics and a certain amount of psychedelia, it starts off fast-paced and urgent, with more of an upbeat tone than the skewed ballads that approach towards the end, like ‘Little Girl’ (one of the oldest songs) and the last track Doran wrote, ‘Choreography’, named so because Doran’s mum used to be a dance teacher. “When I was really young,” he clariﬁes, “she was doing a masters or a degree in contemporary dance and my nursery was on the campus, so I was always there. I remember the grounds of the polytechnic – it had these rolling hills; it was quite amazing. My grandma would always pick me up and I remember spending a lot of time sitting in the studios watching my mum teach and a lot of the music they used was Philip Glass, Kate Bush and things like that, and I remember the movements were really interesting. There’s a weightlessness about it – a lot of twisting and letting people fall into your arms – and when I think of all of the songs on the album, they have a lot of meaning and metaphors. There is a theme, but it’s not trying to tell a story. Choreography reminded me of growing up and seemed to sum it all up. I think that it’s also a really beautiful word.” There’s certainly a leitmotif running through Weird Dreams’ songcraft. Their whole sonic aesthetic basically encompasses that bit in old school ﬁlms when someone is daydreaming and the scene ripples into their fantasy, but with each track,individual visions are conjured. “It feels to us like it’s a seamless collection of songs,” proffers Craig. “When you listen to it, the texture of sounds carry on through the whole thing. That was our intention the whole way through,” he states as Doran mentions that it’s funny it worked out that way because the songs are from different EPs. “I think the ﬁrst EP and the second are quite different, which we did on purpose,” he declares. “Everyone was talking about beach music and even though I’m a really big Beach Boys fan that really pissed me off. We live in east London – there’s not a beach for hundreds of miles and at that point it was getting really cold, it was a shitty winter so we wanted to make a darker album. It was seasonally affected. So the two best songs from both EPs are on an album with newer tracks.” “It’s all part of what we are,” Craig justiﬁes. “It doesn’t sound completely alien from the ﬁrst track we ever recorded to the last track we did. It’s all Weird Dreams.”
HEESatisfaction – the Queens of the Stoned Age, as they describe themselves – have been making serious ripples lately, ahead of the release of ‘awE naturalE’, their debut album for Sub Pop. But if they sound kinda familiar, it may be that you already know those distinctive voices from ‘Black Up’, 2011’s enigmatic offering from Shabazz Palaces, also released via the Seattle grunge label. The self-styled ‘lo-ﬁ rebel hip hop’ duo have actually been active on the U.S. city’s music scene for a few years, releasing mixtapes like the wonderfully titled ‘Sandra Bollocks Black Baby’ and ‘THEESatisfaction Love Stevie Wonder: Why We Celebrate Colonialism’, but it was teaming up with Shabazz Palaces, creation of the former Digable Planets rapper Ishmael Butler, that ﬁnally put them in the spotlight. As well as lending jazzy vocal tones and sharp rhymes to ‘Black Up’, Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons have performed often with Butler and his percussionist Tendai Maraire, and now they’re back in the UK supporting Little Dragon, a band who they’re also big fans of. “We did a show with them in Seattle years ago, we opened up for them, and we just connected immediately,” says rapper Stas, the smaller-’froed half of the duo. “We did another festival with them and kept in contact.” Stas and Cat, partners in music and life, meet me in their sweltering dressing room at Kentish Town’s Forum, where, despite the mild weather outside, they’ve cranked the heat up to tropical inside. Tonight’s show will be one of their biggest, but they’re not sweating it. “We get a little nervous,” says Cat, the larger’froed band member, then, with the sultry jazz voice, “but then we get on the stage and that character of THEESatisfaction comes out, so we can just sit back and go somewhere else.” Their show, much like Shabazz Palaces’ live act, is stripped back and sassy, the two women in full control of beats and vocals, even throwing in a casual dance routine or two. “We’ve had offers from people to be our hype man, but we just hype each other on stage,” says Cat. At college, back in Seattle, the pair had circled each other for some time, meeting through friends and when Cat was doing spoken word nights. “I’d be performing and we’d kind of catch each other’s eye,” she laughs. They started to hang out, and then date, and now it seems they eat, sleep and breathe with each other, making music at their home in the North West.
P h o t o gr ap h e r L e e G o l dup / Wr i t e r C hal R ave n s
THEESatisfaction Lo-fi rebel hip hop Cat spent her early years in Hawaii, where keeping up with music meant playing the tapes her brother had sent over from the mainland. Everything on the island was a step behind the trends, so she turned to jazz, funk and disco for her musical nourishment,as well as Senegalese music and even dance acts like Technotronic and, charmingly, Pet Shop Boys. “I remember when they opened a Walmart on the island,” she recalls. “That was such a big deal!” Meanwhile, Stas was absorbing the gospel music of her Baptist church in Tacoma,Washington (where members of the congregation included Tendai of Shabazz Palaces, she later discovered), before being turned on to gangsta rap as a teenager and later the neo-soul of Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild. Pooling their inﬂuences in THEESatisfaction, Cat and Stas take elements of De La Soul’s Daisy Age positivity, Sun Ra’s cosmic Afro-futurism, ‘70s Black Power funk and Brainfeeder jazz-hop to create a sound that has its roots in the past while ﬁrmly looking to the future. New single ‘QueenS’, for instance, has a groove that unravels like J Dilla retooling Stardust, with Stas exhorting the danceﬂoor to move “from your limbs to your Tims”. Casting has just ﬁnished for the track’s video, but details are under wraps, says Cat. “We’ve gotta keep it a secret, but we’re casting 20 black women from the New York area and we’re ﬁlming in Brooklyn in a couple of weeks.” The look of the duo, from their glitzy vintage bomber jackets to their striking album cover art, is as much a part of the project as the music itself, and it all stems from the pair’s particular synergy. “The art of THEESatisfaction is partly an expression of our relationship,” they explain. Having put out a whole catalogue of mixtapes, the release of ‘awE naturalE’ came as a relief after nearly ﬁve years of working on their sound. “If we had our
way we’d have released it as soon as we ﬁnished it,” says Stas.The album sidesteps hip hop conventions in favour of an eclectic mix of styles. “We just wanted to make something we really liked, and sounded good to us,” she adds. Surprisingly, none of the music on the record comes from samples, all of it is made at home on a laptop and drum machines, with the exception of vocal and percussion contributions from Shabazz Palaces on the Afro-jazzy tracks ‘God’ and ‘Enchantruss’. It’s an organic process, says Cat.“We live together so we just write when we feel like it, if we’re in the groove, when we’re feeling happy or feeling sad.” They spotted Ishmael Butler on the Seattle scene, then performing under his Cherrywine moniker, but it took a while for the cent to drop. “We loved Digable Planets, and when we heard Ish perform we were like, wow, he sounds like Butterﬂy [Butler’s stage name in DP] – but it took us a while to realise!” Still, it was only a matter of time before the city’s small hip hop scene brought the musicians together.“We’d seen him around so many times, we knew we had to meet him,” says Cat. Like ‘Black Up’, ‘awE naturalE’ holds numerous allusions to ambiguous spirituality and personal politics. “We are spiritual, in that we believe in something bigger, but not in terms of organised religion,” says Cat, revealing the inﬂuence of Sun Ra’s unique brand of out-there cosmology by adding, “We believe in other galaxies, other worlds – we believe in life, I guess!” She goes on: “We believe in living, truly living, to the fullest extent in a positive manner, you know? That’s like our daily belief, to live and do the things you want to do without harming anyone else, if possible.” Is that attitude something that’s missing from contemporary hip hop? Thinking a second, she decides: “I think it’s missing from the world.”
Cat and Stas wear their personal politics on their sleeves, too – or rather, their heads. Rocking a natural afro is still a brave and unusual move for a black woman, even – or perhaps especially – in the 21st century. “Yeah,” agrees Stas. “I mean, I don’t look down on people who don’t have natural hair, you can do whatever you want, it’s your hair. But for us, this is just what we want to do, it’s just easier for us, it feels better and it’s healthier. It is a statement.We walk down the street anywhere and, well, we were in Brooklyn and people were like, ‘Angela Davis!’ [the veteran afro-sporting black activist]. It was amazing and also empowering – there were a lot of older people who were like, ‘right on!’” “But we’ve been seeing more afros,” adds Cat. “Last time we came to the UK we saw a lot of ‘fros, and we’re seeing more and more.” Their collection of tattoos is also revealing. They sport matching ‘Thriller’ tats in honour of their hero Michael Jackson, as well as a treble clef and bass clef for Cat (“I can sing in those ranges, and it looks like a ‘CS’, which is Cat Satisfaction”) and for Stas, South African song lyrics around an outline of the continent.“I went to Cape Town in 2008, and we went to this township and were taught this song – the title means ‘what have you done to deserve this?’ – and it was running through my head the whole time.” The symbolism of Africa is still important, for them and for black music. “Yeah,” nods Stas,“I mean you always got to connect, or at least try and remember, think back to where you came from. Even if you don’t exactly know where, just always keep that feeling and memory of ‘I was from there’, you know.” Standing out from the crowd has placed THEESatisfaction in a strange bracket of hip hop oddballs and outcasts, few of whom have much musical ground in common. Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael agrees that the ‘blog rap’ niche they share
with artists as diverse as Lil B and Odd Future is an appropriate grouping in terms of their attitude, experimentalism and underground popularity. Referring to Berkeley rapper Lil B and Los Angeles’ Odd Future, Stas says there is deﬁnitely a connection between the West Coast acts. “Both of those artists are deﬁnitely challenging what rap and hip hop are. Like Lil B’s album,‘I’m Gay’, that shit was ﬂy to me. There’s a lot of people that hated him, he got so much ﬂak for that, but I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. He wasn’t gay, but I mean, the concept of being gay in hip hop...” Even saying it makes a statement? “Yeah. And same with Odd Future, they’re like punk rock kids, coming from broken families, and I know in the ’80s there was a lot of black kids who grew up without their dads, so just having that energy and going against all the auto-tune rappers is cool.” Cat agrees that the new wave of hiphop is all about punk rock attitudes.“One of our friends would always play this song that starts, ‘I got something to say, I killed a baby today’ [‘One Last Caress’ by Misﬁts] and that’s a really punk rock song – you’re like, that’s so terrible! But at the same time, sometimes with intense feelings, somebody needs to say it.” Despite the historical plundering that provides the building blocks for ‘awE naturalE’, they still keep an ear out for new artists. “We’re always looking to see who else is out there,” says Cat. “We just found this one girl, she’s amazing – Lianne La Havas. We’re hip to her. And The Internet [side project of Odd Future producer Syd Tha Kyd], Esperanza Spalding – she’s a jazz singer and bassist, she’s really amazing.” Meanwhile, Stas gives her stamp of approval to M.I.A. and Azealia Banks. It’s to be expected really – two bold and bolshy women with smart mouths and even smarter talents; that’s THEESatisfaction all over.
LOUD AND QUIET ALBUMS LIVE FILM REVIEWS
AL BUMS 07/10
THEESatisfaction awE naturalE (Sub Pop) By Luke Winkie. In stores Apr 9
Spiritualized Sweet Heart Sweet Light (Double Six) By Sam Walton. In stores Apr 16
After 25 years in any business, reputations will precede you – so when Jason Pierce further delayed ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’ last month to make tiny changes to the album, the world seemed unsurprised. After all, this is a man whose perfectionism once led him to spend four years making an hour of music; another month on a record that’s been in gestation since 2008 is nothing. But if fans have become patient in recent years, they have also become used to a more restrained Spiritualized incarnation – the slender ruminations that punctuated the last album, and the garage rock of its predecessor, suggested that Pierce’s days of free-jazz gospel bombast might be behind him. Thankfully, this record suggests otherwise, containing a slew of bona ﬁde Spiritualized epics that do all things good Spiritualized epics should do: ‘Hey Jane’ dices with exhilarating cacophony, ‘Get What You Deserve’ sits on the same drone for its entire seven minutes, delivering a steady vice-tight throttling while gospel choirs and horns rise above, and ‘Headin’ For The Top Now’, not content with simply
dropping the ‘g’ from its title, is all heaven and Jesus and bright lights that are, presumably, blindin’. Among these marathons, though, sit simpler pop songs that are dwarfed by their neighbours. As beautiful as the likes of ‘Too Late’ and ‘Freedom’ might be in isolation, they feel saccharine and cloying here. Indeed, the album’s closer, ‘So Long You Pretty Things’, encapsulates everything that makes ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’ both thrilling and frustrating. Its opening minute is a sentimental duet between Pierce and his 11-year-old daughter, culminating in the latter’s giggles, and must be the most twee thing Pierce has ever recorded.The track then drifts into unremarkable orchestral pop before exploding into the most joyous melody you’ll hear this year, augmented by an ever-more-epic ﬁnale fanfare. But instead of being a perfect parting shot, the track feels merely rescued by its highlights, and slightly muddled by its multiple directions. And while ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’’s highlights are frequent and terriﬁc, there’s no escaping the fact that the paths trodden here are well-worn: for every standout track it’s hard not to recall a better similar one from a previous record, leaving the album feeling oddly like a Spiritualized megamix – persuasive, engaging and exciting, but ultimately only a memory jogger for past glory.
Regardless of what you might end up thinking of ‘awE naturalE’, we can all be pretty happy that it exists. Essentially the second ever hip-hop record coming from the well-established, well-respected, and ostensibly well-inexorable Sub Pop, it’s living proof that even the oldest of the OGs can learn a new trick or two. Just last year the label put out wonderful nontraditional albums like Washed Out’s ‘Within and Without’ and ‘Black Up’ by Shabazz Palaces – I mean, not only is the music good but it does a healthy job saving a national treasure from looking out of touch. So consider THEESatisfaction their ﬁrst homegrown project. An eccentric, spaced-out soul-hop duo plucked right out of their native Paciﬁc Northwest.They’ve made waves on a funky ethos and their association with current abstract-rap godheads Shabazz Palaces. It plays like a loose, chromatic stream of consciousness, only weighing in at 30 minutes, made of Icy disco grooves (‘QueenS’), spiked, beat-poet snide (‘God’) and stuff that could ﬁnd its way into a Quentin Tarentino joint (‘Sweat’). It’s feminine, it’s smoky, and it’s wonderfully dislodged from the music industry - rarely does something sound so retro and futuristic at the same time, you get the sense that Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White are just as passionate about consuming as they are producing. Will it have a lasting impact? Probably not. ‘awE naturalE’ isn’t showcasing an artist necessarily interested in torching the world; in fact it best resembles the sort of alt-rap mysticism that made big splashes around the turn of the century, reminding us of Def Jux’s heyday, or early Anticon discs. Perhaps they’re not going to blow us away, then, but they already seem poised to have a great career.
Bear In Heaven
The Year of Hibernation
Ways To Forget
I Love You, It’s Cool
(Lefse) By Laura Davies. In stores now
(Tape Alarm) By D K Goldstein. In stores Apr 2
(Moshi Moshi) By Olly Parker. In stores Apr 9
(Dead Oceans) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Apr 2
(Memphis Industries) By Nathan Westley. In stores Mar 19
Essentially, this is a laid-back, Californian, solo record, but it also has all the ingredients to actually make a sizable dent in the musical landscape.There have been many attempts of late (Grouplove, Edward Sharp et al), but none quite live up to the ethereal promise quite like San Diego-born Trevor Powers, who has created somthing gorgeous and sad enough to soundtracked Where the Wild Things Are. ‘The Year of Hiberbation’ might only by eight tracks long, but the ﬁve-minuteplus ‘Afternoons’ alone forgives that. It’s what MGMT should’ve done on ‘Congratulations’, and is already a contender for anthem of the summer. Powers is going on tour with Death Cab for Cutie soon, so you get the idea.The crystal-cut guitar sound, snapping laptop drum beats and gooey vocals equal a mysterious offering that really will stay with you.
Remember LiveJournal? It was birthed around the time the Internet became a household necessity and by 2008 it was responsible for a text exchange between frontwoman Laura Wolf and guitarist Craig Nunn about starting a band called Internet Forever. Four years later, and with the acquisition of multiinstrumentalist Chris Alcock, they’re ready to release their eponymous debut album. Produced partly by them, James Rutledge and Dreamtrak, the record is slathered in lo-ﬁ textures and veers towards twee pop.Wolf ’s vocals are riot grrrl-meets-college rock, alongside Postal Service-like blips (as on ‘White Light Collision Course’) and sweet indie harmonies (‘I Don’t Care’). Brassy sax and trombone parts then come as a surprise amongst all the nicities – a few winces in an otherwise grinning debut.
The vocals on a record can draw a listener in, or repel them. It’s also utterly unpredictable how the sound of a person’s singing voice will affect you, and two seemingly very similar voices can have me on the dance ﬂoor or reaching for the off button.Take Clock Opera for example: I like the intro to ‘Once And For All’. Its pulsing electronic opening catches me instantly, then the vocals crash in and it’s a bit Guy Garvey, it’s a bit Doves, a bit dull but pleasant, and suddenly I’m hating it.What follows doesn’t win me back. It’s still a bit Doves, a bit Elbow but a bit electronic (did I mention this?).Turns out the lyrics of ‘Man Made’ were “formed by deconstructing and reassembling a 20p women’s magazine story about a beauty pageant in a Siberian prison.” Interesting, perhaps, or is it a dull gimmick with no chance of ever connecting with you emotionally? It’s probably that.
The ﬁrst thing that strikes you about ‘I love You, It’s Cool’ is just how busy it is – every layer, tiny corner and minute detail seems drenched in intricacies.The expectant results is therefore a messy, incoherent, spoiled album, perhaps, but instead the Brooklyn trio have managed to make a record that is a masterful display in arrangement and song craft. Heavily reliant on offbeat cadences, pulsing synthesisers and wonky atmospheres, coupled with distinctive vocals, this gives anything Phoenix,Yeasayer or Of Montreal have done a serious run for their money. Highlights are plentiful and their successes are just as reliant on sonic experimentation as they are pop convention. Bear in Heaven may be on a self-described path to “take the pop song and ruin it” but they may just have inadvertently done the opposite here and conquered it.
Drummers going solo – it’s rarely a great idea, is it? This is New Yorker Frankie Rose’s second album though, and a marked improvement on her last, which heavily hinted at what bands she’d previously been in. Once of Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls, Rose has undergone a dramatic transformation that is the sonical equivalent of exchanging Doc Martens for sparkly strappy platforms; the stern rawness of her previous work being buffed out until what remains is shiny slabs of polished and occasionally ’80s-tinged, guitar-led, vamped-up pop.While ‘Know Me’ and ‘Night Swim’ both ﬂirt with the hallmarks of The Cure’s classic ‘Disintegration’ output, much of ‘Interstellar’ ﬂows with an ethereal pop-lite spirit, which helps seal this as an album that is hard to ignore. Her next record should be amazing.
Pinkunoizu Free Time (Full Time Hobby) By Chal Ravens. In stores Mar 26
The debut from Copenhagen-via-Berlin band Pinkunoizu didn’t so much arrive on my desk as waft down on a tattered Persian carpet to pour me a thimbleful of intoxicating syrup.Taking the post-rock of their previous incarnation, ‘Le Fiasko’, the four Danes douse elliptical grooves with ‘60s pop tones and hypnotic melodies to create a lo-ﬁ grooviness that fans of Stereolab or Animal Collective would welcome. Opener ‘Time Is Like A Melody’ is like seeing a sunrise from underwater, rhythms expanding and contracting like lapping waves.The grooves aren’t merely groovy, though, but alluring, sucking you into a fantastical hinterland of vintage psychedelia where Eastern scales and one-chord drone jams mesh with bathroom echo guitars and sweetened melodies. There’s no showing off here though – all is decidedly low-key. Much like ‘936’, Peaking Lights’ sleeper hit last year, ‘Free Time!’ deserves to be the gauzy backdrop to another Indian summer.
AL BUMS 06/10
Sees The Lights
Open Your Heart
Grinderman 2 RMX
(Hardly Art) By Luke Winkie. In stores Mar 26
(Sacred Bones) By Danny Canter. In stores now
(Matador) By Reef Younis. In stores Mar 19
Keep Warm with The Warm Digits (Distraction)
With Vivian Girls’ stock in a nosedive and the rest of the balmy, buzzy, indie-rock generation dipping towards a critical crash, La Sera is on her second record in a year. Basically the solo-project of the Vivians’ Katy Goodman, ‘Sees the Light’ is a breezy, low-stakes venture of lightly spiked, melodramatic guitar-pop from someone who’s been doing this sort of thing for a long time.Yeah, the mainlined hooks on ‘I Can’t Keep You on My Mind’ feel good, and the gentle “doo-doos” that dot the teary ‘It’s Over Now’ might stick around for a while, but you ain’t gonna play this one twice.You might fall in love, assuming you haven’t been thoroughly jaded by literal hours of dream-swollen, bedroom-sewn pop that came before it. So go ahead and pass this one along to your mum. I mean, it’s not like the songwriting is bad, there’s just a lot of competition.
Sounding like a super distorted Sonic Youth, ‘Leave Home’ – The Men’s second album – only reached this side of the Atlantic in November, and already we have ‘Open Your Heart’ – a (slightly) less abrasive take on the American garage band sound.Where the last piled on the fuzz and let the feedback squeal, this album explores the various veins of that most wholesome of US genres – Country. In the hands of The Men, though, things remain loud, often fast and very un-Carrie Underwood. ‘Turn It Around’ is bludgeoning bar brawl music; the instrumental, wiry ‘Country Song’ carries the uncertainty of the open road; ‘Oscillation’ is a pumping psychedelic number spoken by a trucker killer. It’s this willingness to evolve and The Men’s undeniable competence in fucking with rock genres that makes them the best post-hardcore band around.
Not everyone has the option to release a grab-bag aggregation of offcuts, deleted singles and remixes before their ﬁrst full-length debut, but it’s the prolonged route Tanlines embarked upon.With ‘Volume On’ whetting the appetite in late 2010, ‘Mixed Emotions’ has the pressure of belatedly delivering or being quietly reduced to a slight return.Where the former was varied and diverse in its ambition, ‘Mixed Emotions’ is the crystallisation. Still slipping and sliding through a world of understated tribal rhythms, playful pop, and feather-light synth, it carries the worldly pop promise of Rainbow Arabia’s ‘Boys and Diamonds’ and saunters through the woozy side of Animal Collective. ‘Green Grass’ plays just the right side of an 80s montage and the hazy ‘Rain Delay’ ticks the requisite pop boxes. Solid but not staggering, ‘Mixed Emotions’ is apt.
By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Apr 16
(Mute) By Reef Younis. In stores Mar 26
Warm Digits debut record is an album in a constant state of ﬂux, juxtaposed between time and place. Some songs ring with such classic, acquainted tones that they absolutely must have been made in Germany in the early 1970s and yet others embody everything progressive about modern day electronic music. However, the hybrid created by the sonic wormhole in play creates an engrossing and enlightened collection of songs.The debt owed to Neu! is astronomical, but they manage to inject their music with enough idiosyncratic, contemporary gusto (much akin to Holy Fuck!) that the inﬂuences they clearly possess stay on the right side of plagiaristic.There’s a closing nod to Eno on ‘Here Comes The Warm Digits’ too but as Jean-Luc Godard once said, “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to.”
Nick Cave isn’t a man who need repeat himself very often so when he asks for the stars to come out to play, those fuckers will tumble from the sky, only stopping to contribute to a remix album of sneering, teeth-baring, bombastic blues before they blaze all the way down. Here the second (and last?) of Grinderman’s albums is put through it; UNKLE, Nick Zinner, Josh Homme, Andy Weatherall and Matt Berninger lending their remixes, takes and interpretations to Cave’s ferocious malevolence. Almost every track is a depth charge of dark matter to keep the blood boiling, the whiskey ﬂowing and the stories rolling, each feeding into the raucous primal reverie, Homme dropping his QOTSA signature all over ‘Mickey Bloody Mouse’, Factory Floor mercifully building noise on skulking ‘Evil’, and Weatherall warping a few realities on ‘Heathen Child’.
Breton Other People’s Problems (Fat Cat) By D K Goldstein. In stores Mar 26
More of a collective than a band, Breton emerged from a group of ﬁlmmakers, which goes some way to explain the erratic disposition of their music – that and the fact they’re named after the French father of surrealism, André Breton. Rather than simply taking to instruments, this London-based outﬁt will record and sample anything from a razed building to keys unlocking a door.The result is a cacophony of noise á la the Fluxus artists and neo-Dada musicians of the ’60s, and would likely only appeal to a select few if it weren’t for the varying vocals that pull it neatly together.The chants on ‘Jostle’ echo the Mystery Jets, but an agitated Tom Vek-ish baritone ﬁlls ‘Ghost Note’, while ‘Electrician’ seizures in Moogy electronics, hand claps and Entrepreneurs-aping singing.The record was written in a disused bank in Kennington, recorded at Sigur Ros’s studio in Reykjavik – including strings and brass by German composer Hauschka – and is a unique effort that’s far from just another synth album.
A L BUMS 09/10
Graham Coxon A+E (Parlophone) By John Churchyard. In stores Apr 2 Last time Coxon released an album – 2009’s overlooked, if overlong, psych folk concept record ‘The Spinning Top’ – Blur were reforming and set to play a huge show in Hyde Park. And so history repeats for ‘A&E’.The timing might mean solo Coxon gets more attention, but it also devalues his albums to ‘side project’ status.Which is a shame, because his eighth record is about a hundred times better than the Rocket Juice And The Moon album will ever be. Harnessing Coxon’s love of krautrock and weirdo collage rockers Chrome, the dirgey side of ‘A&E’, exempliﬁed by the pounding ‘The Truth’, sounds somewhat like a collaboration between Silver Apples and The Stooges, with crashing guitars and feedback laid over burbling, metronomic synths.The strongest songs fully integrate his ‘Happiness In Magazines’-era pop chops with this darker sound, though – ‘Seven Naked Valleys’ features avant-noise crescendos, bleating saxophones and a mountainous, distorted riff. It all still sounds like Graham Coxon, albeit a version who’s ﬁnally given his weirdo tendencies free rein without resorting to heads-down skate-thrash. In the red corner, the pop yob-disco of ‘What’ll It Take’, in the blue corner, the swampy drones of the misanthropic, murderous ‘Knife In The Cast’, and in between, possibly the ﬁnest Coxon album yet.
(Mad Decent) By Chal Ravens. In stores Mar 26
(Bronze Rat) By Olly Parker. In stores Apr 16
Much as a ﬁlm buff would watch a Hammer Horror, certain records require evaluation as a genre piece. ‘Brostep’ may be rightly maligned or just misunderstood, but it certainly sets its own standards. There are basically two ﬂavours on the over-long ‘Songs’.The ﬁrst is the cut’n’shut bruiser, starting off like Eurodance diva Cascada before dropping into the requisite ‘ﬁlthy’ wub-wub bassline – play while simultaneously streaming porn and Googling supercars.The exception is ‘Pressure’, a honking slice of absurdo-pop, like Basement Jaxx at their ﬁzziest, which just cries out for Katy B on vocals.The other ﬂavour is lower tempo dub-lite, touching on Gorillaz territory while revealing Rusko’s perhaps misguided belief that he is the heir to King Tubby’s throne. Adopting an end-of-exams-foam-party mindset enables a fairer assessment of the undeniably competent work on offer here, and the fact is, six out of 13 songs are 100% ﬁt for purpose – rules dictate a halfway score!
The idea of a tortured artist can be an attractive one, but sometimes artists suffer from too much; too many inﬂuences, too many layers and too many ideas.This is Gemma Ray’s problem. She’s clearly a talented guitarist, songwriter and singer with inﬂuences ranging from Sparks to Mudhoney (NB: none of this album sounds like Mudhoney), but she struggles to ﬁt all these ideas into one singular cohesive sound. Hence we slide from the ’60s tinged pop of ‘Put Your Brain In Gear’ to glistening nu-folk of ‘Fire House’ with neither really ﬁnding their feet.This feeling is brought home with our bonus tracks – ‘Gemma Ray Sings Sparks (with Sparks)’ – two Sparks covers by Gemma Ray covered by Sparks featuring Gemma Ray (I think). Forced to stick, in some form, within the frameworks of the originals set out by Sparks, even as she tries valiantly and brilliantly to break away at every turn, the focus gives a chance for her obvious talents to shine through. Less is often more.
Sea of Bees
Blood Red Shoes
Dead Set On Living
Towards The Low Sun
In Time To Voices
(Hassle) By Matthias Scherer. In stores Apr 16
(Heavenly) By Reef Younis. In stores Apr 9
(Bella Union) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores now
(V2) By Nathan Westley. In stores Mar 26
(Brew) By Mandy Drake. In stores Apr 9
“Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” So said none other than Jedi master Yoda, who we feel conﬁdent to say has never listened to the Cancer Bats. Maybe he’s been too busy selling out to Vodafone, but if he had, he’d know that a healthy amount of anger will sometimes lead to fucking scorching records. ‘Dead Set on Living’, which channels its fury into riffs so hard Chuck Norris’ ﬁngers would bleed playing them, is such a record. “There’s a special place in hell/for motherfuckers like you,” spits singer Liam Cormier on opener “R.A.T.S.”, and this is about as conciliatory as it gets.With riffs worthy of Machinehead (‘Drunken Physics’) and the ability to speed things up punk rock style (‘Rally the Wicked’), a sense of deﬁance in the face of hostile circumstances is conveyed, which is both refreshing and urgently needed.
This marks something of a break up record for Julie Ann Baenziger. After the rather lovely debut, ‘Songs for the Ravens’, ‘Orangefarben’ feels like a second, prolonged diary entry and another open invitation to sit, settle down and listen. Gentle, contemplative and warming, it marks the obligatory milestone of the failed relationship but turns it into something passing and positive. Where her lyrics plot routes of introspection, the delicacy of Baezinger’s child-like voice is a constant delight, carving through careful melodies with poise and clarity. It’s arguable that a singer/ songwriter can only be as good as the stories they tell, and in the case of Baezinger there’s a rich stock (of religion, sexuality and openess) for her to draw upon. It is, however, an entirely different art to make the personal both appealing and endearing.
Few people have the command over their instruments quite like Dirty Three.When those jazzy drums start tapping and whispering ever so delicately, acting like the calm before the storm as Warren Ellis’s crying violin starts to wail over Mick Turner’s indistinguishable electric guitars strums you just know it’s them. Apart from the opening curve ball thrown by the agitated and demented ‘Furnace Skies’, it’s pretty much business as usual for the rest of the album, but rather than feeling jaded or empty, they continue to execute songs of subtle beauty and quiet refrain.There are no raging sonic explosions on the record as displayed on such previous outings as ‘Authentic Celestial Music’ or ‘I Offered It Up To The Stars & The Night Sky’, but what the album lacks in the way of detonations it makes up for in unobtrusive beauty.
In life, we are often held back by limitations that are either of our own making or unjustfully placed upon us. Laura Mary Carter and Steven Ansell chose to be a guitar and drums duo, and for their third album they’ve beaten their selfimposed restrictions. ‘In Time To Voices’ is a mature, multi-layered album that marks a step forward in their sonic journey where their last saw them standing still.The steel edged ‘Cold’ drips with tight rolling drums, dual vocals and ﬁrm melodies that serve as a bridge between BRS past and their more dynamic present, while ‘Je Me Perds’ shows a riotous explosion of Nirvana-esque frustration, and ‘Slip Into The Blue’ holds rich Pixies-style overtones to its guitar lines. Despite - or perhaps because of - their rigid limitations, Blood Red Shoes have stuck at it to pull of the well-heeled whiskey, betterwith-age trick. Good for them.
To get pumped and shoot people, the US Marine Corp. wire their helmets into bands like Masterdon, and off they go. It’s pretty fucking twisted, and so too is Blacklisters’ black noise debut. It’s too bat shit to play shoot-em-up to though – a groove is never locked in for longer than 20 seconds, the time signatures manically ﬂip about and singer Billy Mason Wood wretches and mumbles as if he’s a hostage with a sock down his throat. It’s not the stuff of Country File soundbeds, nor much else beyond fans of experimental, violent metal. For those people, though, ‘BLKLSTRS’ is as far from dumb as it’s possible to get, with tracks names like ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’ and ‘I Can Conﬁrm that Ruth Abigail is Not Dead and Is Planning To Make a Movie About Her Life’. Clearly, beneath the mangled rock, Blacklister do not take all of this too seriously.
Black Dice Mr Impossible (Ribbon) By Sam Walton. In stores Apr 9
Black Dice began their career as anarchic thrash noiseniks ﬁfteen years ago, performing abrupt, aggressive music designed to piss people off. In the context of antagonistic punk, that’s an admirable aim, but once you subtract the fury and antagonism and add badly played electronics, you’re left with the postmodern equivalent of a grinning kid singing “I know a song that’ll get on your nerves” while he fumbles around with Battles’ live instruments. And unfortunately, that’s pretty much where Black Dice ﬁnd themselves with ‘Mr Impossible’.Their sixth LP is an aural mess that certainly retains the ability to piss people off, but contains neither the bile to make it thrilling, nor the structure or subtlety to make it intellectually arresting. Instead, ‘Mr Impossible’ is the musical equivalent of an internet troll – antagonistic for the sake of it, irritating in short bursts and plain tedious in longer ones, with very little to say behind the impulsive nonsense.
ATP CURATED BY JEFF MANGUM Butlin’s Holiday Centre, Minehead 09-11.03.2012 By Daniel Dylan Wray Photography by Piotr Lewandowski www.popupmusic.pl
Arguably the least commercial lined ATP has seen in recent years, it’s a point proved as Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise burst open the weekend with a fun and undeniably infectious show, drawing on the collective’s various other projects, from Elf Power to The Gerbils, the highlights coming from the often explosive versions of the latter band’s songs. Robyn Hitchcock takes on his seminal ‘I Often Dream Of Trains’ album and wins, delivered with a sense of humour and charm that is as quintessentially British, quirky and brilliant as the album itself. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, any doubt that Jeff Mangum may struggle to emit the sheer power and ferocity of the Neutral Milk Hotel records are soon squashed when he opens his mouth. As it transpires, he is a powerhouse of an acoustic performer, as he broods with a seething intensity that teeters between magniﬁcence and brilliant terror.The crowd are not only in awe but in love, couples dance and hold one another, single men belt out every lyric with a burning intensity and everybody is utterly
transﬁxed.The closing rendition of ‘Two Headed Boy’ is majestic enough already, but then a sea of ex band members burst out from the curtain and begin to pound into ‘The Fool’ – the closest thing to a Neutral Milk Hotel reformation anyone is ever likely to see. It’s incredible stuff, and the wait for Mangum’s ATP (postponed at the end of 2011 until now) has been worth it for this moment alone. The following of Joanna Newsom proves to be one of the most beautiful back-to-back musical pairings perhaps ever curated. A solo show, just harp and grand piano, she plays with a sense of authority, but also a sublime delicacy that makes you want to cry. The Fall are simply The Fall. Brilliant, of course, they inject a growling sense of rowdiness and mayhem into the evening, and the closing ‘Theme From Sparta FC’ is a particularly brilliant rendition. Thurston Moore keeps things plugged-in too, ditching the acoustics and strings from his most recent ‘Demolished Thoughts’ album and
instead playing a noisy, chugging set that lies far more closely to Sonic Youth, all conveyed with fervent, sonic violence. It’s Saturday, and while the seagulls ﬂy and squawk their demented shrieks and the sun beams down hard on the little town of Minehead, a storm of catastrophic proportions is brewing in the upstairs of this Butlin’s resort. Boredoms unleash a blood-curdling performance. Delivered with gargantuan force and ferocity, they don’t so much start the day as ignite it – nothing is as loud or explosive all weekend and I doubt I’ll see anything quite like it for the rest of the year either. Any hangovers are sent ﬁring to the back of the room, splattered against the back wall, along with everyone else’s grey matter. Meanwhile, the self proclaimed ‘noh-wave’ group Yamantaka//Sonic Titan perform an unsettling show; one that somehow sits between relentless dronings akin to Sun 0))) and a hint of new wave that almost nods to Blondie. It’s a bizarre but beguiling thing, where Low deliver a
set that succeeds in being just as eloquent and beautiful as it does raucous, fuzzy and noisy. Mount Eerie decides to play lots of new material, but people chose to talk over it instead.What could have been one of the festival’s most intimate and beautiful moments is squashed (for me) by some of the audience’s pococurante. Still, there is still Yann Tiersen, who draws almost exclusively from his more rock orientated material from albums ‘Dust Lane’ and ‘Skyline’, and the set is delivered with a precision and gusto that displays an ability to work within any genre he desires. As midnight approaches there are grumblings amongst some people at the lack of noise, energy or danceable material on display for a Saturday night.These are soon silenced by the brutal onslaught of Scratch Acid, David Yew prowling the stage like a deranged and rabid animal, the band a raging bundle of snarl and hounding bite, delivered with a brutality and angst that is inescapable.
God bless the poor fucker after the show that is responsible for mopping up Yew’s piles of spit that’s covered the stage like cow pats in a ﬁeld. ACME (American Contemporary Music Ensemble) performs a beautiful recital of Gavin Bryars’ ‘Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet’, easing the throbbing Sunday hangovers with sweeping and delicate strings – a glorious start to the day. Boredoms then blow everyone’s minds again, and The Magnetic Fields draw heavily on their latest record, ‘Love At The Bottom of The Sea’.The size of their catalogue of course leaves us wanting more, but their performance, when in full ﬂow, is simply gorgeous, Stephen Merritt’s voice ﬂowing like a golden river of chocolate treacle. Sebadoh [pictured] ﬁnish the festival in a celebratory manner.Their chaotic barrage of lo-ﬁ indie is as charming as ever and the closing sing-a-long of ‘Brand New Love’ is a marvellous ending to a magical weekend.
AZEALIA BANKS Heaven, Westminster, London 27.02.2012 By Stuart Stubbs Photography by Elinor Jones
In a world where Nicki Minaj is so desperately trying to be Lil’ Kim, comparing Harlem’s Azealia Banks to a young Missy Elliot is all too easy, but quite forgivable. Like Kim, Minaj hides behinds wigs’n’tits and bombast; like Missy, Banks lets her fast tongue sell the hype. She keeps saying cunt, like Kim would, but with one DJ (Cosmo) and one costume change – from a blue satin oriental dress to an identical red one – Banks feels inﬁnitely more real than her Young Money counterpart and hip hop peers. It’s not to say that she’s not having fun with her rude raps (she enters to the Prodigy’s ‘Outta Space’ and Basement Jaxx’s ‘Romeo’, balloons fall from the ceiling for ‘212’, free candy ﬂoss is given out on arrival, hand held confetti cannons are ﬁred three times), and, expletives aside, the recurring Rhianna synths make this street rap more ready for mainstream acceptance than you might think. She can sing too – like, really sing, wailing an a cappella rendition of ‘Valerie’ (horrible song choice but piped out like Aretha) and giving anti-autotune garage vocals to ‘Liquorice’ between its Salt’n’Peppa-ish brat chat. Azealia Banks deserves to be considered the most exciting rapper around.
LIVE 01 Sleigh Bells Photographer:Tom Warner 02 Django Django Photographer: Sonny McCartney 03 Charli XCX Photographer:Tom Warner
SHARON VAN ETTEN
XOYO, Old Street, London 27.02.2012 By Chal Ravens
Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, London 06.03.2012 By Chal Ravens
Cargo, Shoreditch, London 01.03.2012 By Samuel Ballard
Electric Ballroom 01.03.2012 By Stuart Stubbs
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 20.02.2012 By Kate Parkin
After hovering on the fringes of the big time for a few years, Django Django ﬁnally made a splash in January with their magical eponymous debut, securing hours of radio play with the enigmatic effervescence of single ‘Default’, which they despatch with conﬁdence early on tonight.The XOYO punters tessellate and squirm in the oversold venue, eager to get an earful of this ‘hot new band’, as if Django Django hadn’t been playing London’s toilets and trendholes on a near-weekly basis since 2009.To be fair, this is version 2.0 – tighter, stronger, and most deﬁnitely weirder, or at least truer to their own odd-kid-out nature. Singer and guitarist Vinny Neff is the pretty face centre stage, contributing shards of Link Wray twang and surf guitar and clacking his coconuts vigorously (the third pair of the tour after having them stolen each night). Bassist Jimmy Dixon does his best turkey neck while keeping close harmony, Dave Maclean (whose big brother is in The Beta Band, ﬁttingly) takes on the not-so-simple task of keeping time, and the gorgeously named Tommy Grace does everything else required on synths. Sweating through their uniform Django t-shirts, the band ﬁnish with the ecstatic nonsense of ‘WOR’, soaking up the adoration with genuine surprise at their newfound status as critical darlings and commercial contenders.They won’t be seeing a venue this small again.
A pint is being spilled. At least ﬁve people are jumping up and down, and not half-heartedly either. For a Shoreditch pub on a Tuesday, this has got to count as an unqualiﬁed success for DZ Deathrays, Brisbane’s ﬁnest – and possibly only – two-piece thrash-rock popbrutalisers.To a backdrop of blinding Dan Flavin-style strip lights, which sear hot colours into our retinas long after the amps have gone cold, singer and guitarist Shane Parsons and drummer Simon Ridley lay down a deceptively intricate set of pop songs-gone-bad on this ﬁrst night of three at the Old Blue Last.The DFA 1979 comparison is an obvious one, but it’s the classic rock and metal canon that’s the real wellspring for DZ – the primal heaviness of Sabbath, the squealing chewiness of Jack White’s guitar, the furious thrash of Anthrax and, maybe most of all, the stoopid genius of anyone who’s ever crushed a beer can into his head just for laughs.They might style themselves as two slapdash slackers getting lucky with a bunch of garage jams, but listen up – those razor-edge riffs, sharp song structures and knockout dynamics are no accident. Hold on to your pint.
Sharon Van Etten is full of smiles and wise cracks. And why shouldn’t she be? Things are going from good to great for the Brooklyn-based songwriter. Her latest album, ‘Tramp’, has seen the continuation of an upward trajectory set in motion by 2010’s ‘Epic’, and the vein of honesty, which is starting to become a hallmark of her work, proves to be well transferred to the Cargo stage. Kicking off her London date with album opener ‘Warsaw’, however, doesn’t get things off to a ﬂying start, but some initial timing issues are ridden out and ‘Peace Sign’, ‘Save Yourself ’ and ‘Kevin’ all bring the narrative of Etten’s third record ﬁrmly back on track.The key theme running through both live and recorded sound is an overbearing and often brutal openess, which is evident in both her lyricism and stage presence. Having often been quoted as describing her work as “self therapy”, the tracks have naturally become an extension of her own personal experiences – with refrains like, “You chained me like a dog in our room” (from ‘Love More’) – that are then taken out and played in front of audiences that can become the willing ears for a cathartic hour and a half of sonic soul cleansing. Going to a live show like this raises one question – how would songs so personal be conveyed.The answer, quite simply, proved to be in startling fashion.
As odd as it sounds, the idea of “you’ve gotta see them live to get it” makes some kind of sense. It’s not as if they’re going to play covers you like more than their own songs, after all, but it’s worth giving it a go, especially when a band releases a ﬂawless bump’n’thrash hip-pop record and follow it with something slower, less exciting and ultimately a bit disappointing. Perhaps the more down tempo tracks that make up Sleigh Bells’ ‘Reign of Terror’ LP will ﬂy in a dark, busy venue.The opening ‘True Shred Guitar’ – sounding like a meatier, lessridiculous ‘Paradise City’ and ﬁtting Alice Krauss’ studded leather jacket – makes a good go of it, as does the following cursed black nursery rhyme of ‘Born To Lose’. Now with a second guitarist and a bank of Marshall stack amps behind them (very Justice), Sleigh Bells have never sounded louder or hungrier, Krauss still a tornado of raven hair and tattooed arms, regardless of the notable drop in BPM. But then we hear a chunk of the band’s gnarled debut, ‘Treats’, interspersed with the rest of album number two, none of which (with the exception of ‘Comeback Kid’, which lands ﬂatter than expected with this otherwise on-side crowd) is close to the opening numbers. By the end, it’s conﬁrmed that Sleigh Bells are still a hell of a live band, and Krauss is still a star, but there’s no denying that they are currently touring a duller set than that of 2010.
Wistful hearts lurk beneath thundering drums as Stealing Sheep pluck at the edges of ‘I am the Rain’ turning it into a delicately hemmed ‘Venus In Furs’. Barely risking anything approaching stage banter, they shyly bury themselves beneath a raft of percussion. As the night draws on the gap still widens, as, building from a barely audible hum to a throbbing, urgent cry, ‘Paper Moon’ both soothes and disturbs in equal measure. It takes the audience by the hand, dragging them into the woods, before cheerily abandoning them to the eerie gloom.There is a wildness to Stealing Sheep that creeps out in their animal themed songs like ‘The Mountain Dogs’, new track ‘Bear Tracks’ and the twisted, fairy tale-like ‘Bats’. Dreamily smudging the lines between naïve sweetness and trembling darkness, it effortlessly buries itself into the quiet recesses of your brain.Yet, despite all this, the band’s gentle attempts at conversation fall on deaf ears, the crowd too brash and too loud for such delicate souls. Last year they transﬁxed an accidental crowd at the local Constellations Festival, so it’s a shame when the lo-ﬁ stomp of ‘White Lies’ turns shrill and disjointed. Reaching a tangle of confusion rather than a triumphant strike, it’s a sad ending for a group that is capable of so much more.
SISSY & THE BLISTERS
CAMP, Old Street, London 23.02.2012 By Edgar Smith
Concorde 2, Brighton 03.03.2012 By Nathan Westley
The Plug, Shefﬁeld 22.02.2012 By Daniel Dylan Wray
Komedia, Brighton 06.03.2012 By Nathan Westley
The Scala, Kings Cross, London 06.03.2012 By Omarr Tanti
Few bands inspire like one from the US that’s clearly twitching with hate and fear of its country’s mainstream. A critical mass of angst is clawing at its face beneath The Men’s salt-glazed, torn-apart punk, and these guys (+girl) seem set to inherit the role of garage innovators from the likes of No Age,White Denim and Crystal Stilts. Happily, as their precursors get ﬂaccid and worn, their replacements are something harder, faster and more versatile.Tonight, an unsold-out but inspiring, untamed show sees the band (all of whom song-write) pull together the disparate sounds of Spacemen 3, Sonic Youth, Motorhead and Mudhoney into their own hypereclectic cosmic hardcore.The feeling is a sublime, looselyorchestrated chaos: strings snap like hairs, guitars tune during songs, lots is done on-the-ﬂy, drums are either smashed to fuck or provide a wash of cymbals behind sketched guitar meditations.Those of us who’ve had last year’s ‘Leave Home’ on repeat get about two songs – a reconﬁgured ‘If You Leave’ and an adulterated version of the already odd, half-cover/half riff-bricolage ‘()’. As if pre-empting a backlash against hipster metal tones, their new material, from the just-released ‘Open Your Heart’, sees tuneful melodies pinned to driving 70s stoner rock and even, at some points, a skeletal power pop that rings true those “Thurston Moore fronting The E Street band” comparisons. It’s a brutal party.
With the frequency in which a new pop siren is rolled out by some label or another it’s always somebody else’s go. Right now, it’s Charlie XCX’s. Her stage persona, like with many updated consumer led products, shares the predicament that at ﬁrst glance she appears to be all too similar to what has passed before, and tonight she’s not a million miles away from sounding like an extra hip Smash Hits cover star. On closer inspection, though, there are a few key differences that should see her conﬁdently strut her way towards pop superstardom. Flanked by two machine abusers, the trio ﬁre through an electro-powered set indebted to brash ’80s pop that has been re-energised and buffered so that it has that modern day sheen; that iPad sell.The dark undercurrents of ‘Stay Away’ align with the work of Zola Jesus, but with a brighter burning pop ﬂare, while the upbeat ‘Nuclear Season’ is the type of song that Gwen Stefani would ﬂash a dagger-like glare at before running off to beg for something half as good. Ultimately, future pop princess Charli XCX has all that is required to separate her from the legions of other female solo artists also crying out for attention, perhaps even beyond next week.
SBTRKT’s wonky yet velvet smooth debut album awed many a folk last year – as much an exploration of the vast scope of possibilities in production as an execution of pop song writing and ﬂat out experimentation.The most prominent and immediate difference on stage to on record is the drums; they inject a fervent vivacity and offer a wild range of manic, unpredictable cadences that ﬁre off on twisted angles. Joined on stage by Sampha, they oscillate between the instrumental and experimental numbers to more poppier croon-a-longs, the latter continually sending the crowd into a rabid frenzy that makes the reality of it being 10pm on a Wednesday night feel more like 6am on a Sunday morning.When the encore comes they ignite and explode; truly erupt musically – the bass pounds heavy, dirty and thick, grumbling through the venue.The electronics pulse and hum with uncontrolled intensity to create an overwhelming onslaught of sounds and layers that shoot out over the audience. Even as the crowd bounce along to the full throttle escapades ﬁring from the stage it still feels like SBTRKT commands a degree of restraint and subtlety, and his ability to exhibit such craft – and subsequently manipulate the audience – makes the evening as fascinating as it does enthralling.
Despite possessing an archaic, retro name that could easily lead to the assumption of them being a female-fronted, retro-cabaret pop act with a largely anonymous backing band in tow, London quartet Sissy and The Blisters prove to be a band of four gangly youths who have a strong rock’n’roll air around them.They are purveyors of the type of polite, garagetouched sixties rock’n’roll that is neither offensive nor revolutionary; a throwback to the past with their feet so ﬁrmly rooted that by hearing their music alone it would be hard to deﬁne which decade they were from. But while this would often be a blemish on any band hoping to appear remotely original (and Sissy certainly don’t), there remains the undeniable fact that this band play the part extremely well. Rather than be forced with over the edge bravado, tonight’s performance is nothing more than a reliably steady, characterless run through of occasionally organ-ﬂourished retro-rock by numbers that, at times, melds the twistedness of sixties hellraiser Arthur Brown with the 21st Century moves of The Horrors.Too polite to stick two ﬁngers up in your face and leave a mawkish ever-present stain, tonight’s performance ultimately bode well for retroists, but not anyone else.
The security are looking at each other and shrugging their shoulders.They shine torches in the eyes of a couple of crowdsurfers as half of Scala pours onto the stage to dance with the band. It’s because tonight Baltimore’s Future Islands are celebrating. It’s their twentieth show in succession and their tenth London gig in three years. Each one has got bigger and wilder. Of course ringmaster and front man Samuel T Herring is in a playful mood (he always is). He jokes about having his backside pinched by stage invaders, wipes his sweaty brow on a pair of long johns and plays with a toothbrush (?) someone’s brought along. He salutes the crowd’s explosive reaction to each track like an emotional Jack Black with a bellowing “FUCK RIGHT”. But he also gives sincere speeches about how far the trio have come. Indeed, three albums in they’ve now got an enviable library to choose from – highlights like ‘Before The Bridge’ and ‘Balance’ from last year’s ‘On The Water’; further back, ‘Walking Through That Door’ and ‘Long Flight’ from 2010’s majestic ‘In Evening Air’. And, of course, ‘Tin Man’. “I feel like I’m just hanging out with my buddies,” roars Herring, a man who lets it all out on stage even more than on FI’s super emotive records. He boggles at the size of the crowd as if it’s Wembley Arena, and on this form Future Islands are only making more friends.
By IAN ROEBUCK
A DANGEROUS METHOD Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightly; Michael Fassbender Director: David Cronenberg
L-R: Bill Murray,Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton in Moonrise Kingdom
Cinema Preview Cinema rehashes are lazy and dull, but the familiarity of Wes Anderson is far from it Comfort in familiarity is a commodity rife in all walks of life and in cinema it resonates more than ever.This isn’t anything new, the system’s been trading in nostalgia tinged talkies since its inception, but chasing down the dollar has become ever more reliant on sequels and the same old stories.Take the increasingly desperate Dan Ackroyd, a perfect case in study – the smile that graced your face at the ﬁrst mention of Ghostbusters 3 has no doubt given way to a grimace. No Bill Murray, yet Ackroyd steamrolls on, encouraged by the box ofﬁce success of Blues Brothers 2000; Dr. Pete Venkman be dammed. A more imminent release and inﬁnitely more upsetting is American Reunion, Stiﬂer and his mum in tow along with a whole host of has-beens: a movie that’s been made simply to highlight jaded careers where once there was a glimmer. (Alright, nobody expected miracles from Mena Suvari and Jason Biggs, but bit parts in TV series American Horror Story and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (seriously) were not part of the agenda). Of course, familiarity in cinema isn’t all scraping that barrel or ﬂogging that horse, there’s warmth in an auteur’s touch that offers audience reassurance. Holding centre stage in the debate,Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. A trailer has been circulating for months, but his heart-warming shtick seeped into the conscious of cinemagoers some 14 years ago with Rushmore and has been inﬁltrating the pop zeitgeist ever since.Trail-blazing TV series like Arrested Development made way to movies like Richard Ayoade’s magniﬁcent Submarine, both indebted to Anderson’s acerbic wit, attention to detail and screamingly obvious signature style. He’s said it himself, “you can spot ‘em a mile off ”, and from the opening words in Moonrise’s trailer, we are drowning in Wesism’s – “What kind of bird are you,” offers Jared
Gilman’s Sam, a character central to the child romance that anchor’s the movie, his maturity and tone harking back to Rushmore’s Max Fischer. Jason Schwartzman would be proud and of course he’s present again, as is Bill Murray in a bad parenting role, the music of Françoise Hardy and all things Anderson. Roman Coppola, who worked with him on The Darjeeling Ltd, is back too, on scripting duties. Anderson’s always leant heavily on notions of friendship and family and these themes return here. With love and loyalty central to his stories, you get the feeling he’s no Hans Solo himself, preferring to surround himself with familiar faces… and a Wilson brother or two.You can’t fail to be seduced by dead centre framing, wide screen wonder and lustrous use of colour, but many are, Anderson able to split an audience with his deadpan scripts, super-clever kids and array of pomp. Also never far away from criticism, many people question style over substance, his sheer range of inﬂuences (Francois Truffaut, Mike Nichols and even Martin Scorsese) not persuasive enough. But for the unconverted, Moonrise Kingdom does offer some fresh ideas, albeit in casting and little else. Bruce Willis is perhaps the most intriguing, back doing comedy after an on-going glut of awful action movies sure to climax with a Good Day to Die Hard (coming 2013 and staring Sir Patrick Stewart). His timing and way with a one liner potentially ruined by The Whole Nine Yards (and The Whole Ten Yards) but Anderson’s thrown him a lifeline here. Ed Norton and Tilda Swinton add a touch of highbrow haughtiness too, as does Frances McDormand; all three having the subtlety and range to make Moonrise tick, and we still haven’t mentioned Harvey Keitel. Alright, there’s not a Wilson brother in sight but the latest addition to the Anderson annals is a friendly face that’s most heartily welcome.
Body horror has long disappeared from David Cronenberg’s canon. At 70, he now trades in a ﬁne line of psychodrama. 2002’s underrated Spider preceded the brooding A History of Violence and the menacing Eastern Promises, all of them exploring the psyche with not a mutation in sight. An adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure, A Dangerous Method is Cronenberg’s playground. A perfect vessel for the director’s provocative style, it’s a potent study of the relationship between Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and their patient and eventual colleague Sabina Spielrein. The ﬁlm plays out in just as intense a fashion as its subject matter.That’s not to say it’s not entertaining, it really is. A beautifully structured movie, it’s surprisingly very funny, the blackly comic script lifting an already fascinating story arc. At its core are three engrossing performances from Michael Fassbender (Jung) Viggo Mortensen (Freud) and Keira Knightley (Spielrein), each walking a wire and the text loaded with meaning. Much has been made of Knightley’s frankly manic portrayal of Spielrein, ﬁrst a hysterical patient of Jung’s then his lover and analytical peer. Sure, she’s completely bananas and what she manages to do with her jaw is more disturbing than anything you’ve seen in a Cronenberg ﬁlm since Videodrome, but this almost laughably over the top character is completely at odds with Fassbender’s Jung, who’s full of bourgeois restraint.They collide astonishingly. We’re left with little breathing space as the dialogue envelops each scene and we’re swept into Jung and Freud’s enthralling father/son relationship and debate of is there more to life than sex? Freud certainly doesn’t think so and his droll observations on Jung’s tumultuous research proffer charming moments of cinema. In the mix there’s Vincent Cassel, his take on Jung’s hedonistic patient Otto Gross another delight. It’s Otto who’s the catalyst for much of the ﬁlm’s drama as he memorably tells Jung “never suppress anything”.
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PARTY WOLF CROSS WORDS An angry puzzle 2.
THE IDEA Answer the clues to ﬁll in the crossword.Then, once you’ve got them all, arrange them to form a hidden sentence. Email it to info@loudandquiet. com by April 13th to be entered into our price draw.
A CLUE It’s called Cross Words for a reason - the ﬁnal sentence is likely to be dumb and angry, like last month’s: When one person playing Super Bowl mines terribly while another swears, nobody looks good. It’s pretty fucking tricky though, so a slight variation is ﬁne by us.
THE PRIZE Yeah, it’s the same as last month’s (again) - a year’s subscription to Loud And Quiet Digital and a copy of our I AM V 12-inch record. STILL (yep, it’s holding its value) a prize draw with a cash equivalent of £15! Just imagine!
Down: 2. Electronic Italian duo released via Robot Elephant Records. (7) 3. John Lennon wrote it for Yoko.Wolfmother wrote it for laughs. (5) 4. Probably the most famous female on the planet. (8, 5 with 6 across) 6. Bryan Ferry album form 1974,‘_____ Time, _____ Place’ .(7) 7. My Chemical Romance lyric “___ _____ of pills I’m taking, counteracts the booze I’m drinking” - powerful prose. (3, 6 with 11 down) 8. How the Manics think we got their sun. (5) 11. See 7 down. Across: 1. Half of Gary Barlow’s other job. (4) 3.What links The Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay and The Subways? (4) 6. See 4 down. 9. A commonly used name for Tyler,The Creator, Hodgy Beats, Earl Sweatshirt and the rest of them. (2) 10. Dot Cotton’s GP. (3) 12. Sheryl Crow thinks it’d do us all good. (6) 13. Kate Bush’s 1990 album ‘Never for ____’. (4)
GET THE LOOK Dress like someone famous
WILMAAAAA!!!! I’ve always loved the prehistoric age – a time when man was at his most primitive, living in caves and tickling each other. Recently I’ve started to really (Bed)rock [*wink*] animal prints and the whole safari thang. I mean, I’ve had a snakeskin belt before, and a pair of Crocs, but nothing as wild as this waistcoat. It’s real leopard, I think – Camden Market is brilliant for all of this kind of stuff. I’d keep everything else earth tones though; you don’t want to look like a fucking idiot. And as for the slacks, I like to wear mine cut off at the shin, partly to make it feel even more like I’m on safari, partly so everyone can check out my FitFlops (kinda like Crocs, but more 2012). Don’t mind if I Yabba Dabba Dooooooooo!
Don’t brag this statistic,Transport for London. I don’t go on about how 96% of the time I ﬁnd the toilet instead of my pants, do I?
Oi! Fat Mo! I never knew you had a twin! HA! I’m being punk, Mo
Oh yes, well pleased with that! Thanks, ASOS. I look propper punk... Actually, check this out...
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely ﬁctitious.
PHOTO CASEBOOK “The inappropriate world of Ian Beale”
Kindness / Willis Earl Beal / Gang Colours / Hatcham Social / Weird Dreams / Chairlift / THEESatisfaction / Maria Minerva