Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 77 / the alternative music tabloid
LEVELZ Community in Action
Plus Jackie Lynn Shock Machine Alex Cameron Mitski Oliver Coates Catâ€™s Eyes
Alex Cameron – 12
Labour MP and Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham announced this month that he intends to run as the first Mayor of Greater Manchester in 2017. I know this because a comment he made in the press about the city’s musical heritage inspired a fluff piece on Radio 4’s Today program, in which presenter Nick Robinson (himself a Mancunian, in spite of his accent) asked John Robb and Terry Christian if Burnham had a point – was their city trading off its past musical glories instead of creating new ones? Hardly a maverick suggestion, but when outdated pop culture ponderings finally reach Radio 4 (they’re doing the return of vinyl next week), it’s worth listening in for the 101 refresher to and fro, especially between a couple of comical blowhards like these. So Robb used his airtime wisely, to promote new local guitar bands (particularly some bunch called Cabbage, who he really rates), while Christian, naturally, insisted on dismissing Burnham as a bore, shitting on Labour and making a crap joke about football. No one enjoyed all of this more than Robinson, who asked the pair to sign off with one tip each on a new local musician or group who might just offer an alternative to The Stone Roses as the sound of Manchester in 2016. Robb said Cabbage again, while Christian redeemed himself with a nod to someone wholly outside of the city’s white rock lineage – grime wunderkind Bugzy Malone, who’s in place to emulate South London’s Stormzy in the more unlikely setting of the North. I was hoping LEVELZ were going to get a mention, too. A 14-strong collective of rappers, producers and DJs, they’re challenging every preconception that comes with being musicians from that great Northern city. But they’re also pushing forward UK grime as a whole, with influences of g-funk, dub, jungle, soul and disco, and a sense of true community that’s as typical of Manchester as any of its great bands. Bands like Cabbage. Stuart Stubbs
Oliver Coates – 14 Jackie Lynn – 16 Mitski – 18 LEVELZ – 22 Cat’s eyes – 28 shock machine – 30
Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 77 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId
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lEVElZ Community in Action
Plus Jackie lynn shock Machine Alex Cameron Mitski Oliver Coates Cat’s Eyes
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The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opinions of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2016 Loud And Quiet LTD. ISSN 2049-9892 Printed by S harman & Company LTD . Distributed by loud and quiet LTD. & forte
Metronomy’s JOESEPH MOUNT recalls the magical teenage year when he discovered the look he’s still wearing today
oseph Mount: I think this was our last family holiday, when I was 16 and my sister was 18. There we are, looking at some construction in Berlin. I’ve always said to people that I found my style when I was 16 and I literally haven’t changed since. I would have been wearing white trainers, and I’ve still got that Adidas jacket.That’s all I wore and it’s all I’ve worn since. My jeans were baggier then, because I was getting into hip-hop around 1998. That holiday was a lot of fun, but it was the first time I felt like I wanted to break away and do my own thing. Me and my sister spent a lot of time on that holiday looking in charity shops. At the time I was trying to find a VHS copy of this breakdancing film called Beat Street – I had these older friends who once showed it to me, and I managed to find a copy of it in Berlin, but it was in German, of course. I religiously watched that. It wasn’t a very long holiday, but it was a significant one. I was definitely trying to be cool. Where I used to live in Totnes [Devon], there was this art college in Dartington and I’d met a few skateboarders in their early 20s, so I was spending a lot of time with people who were a lot older than me. It was around that time that people started playing me DJ Shadow and Dr. Octagon, so I think I was on the right track. I met Gabriel [Stebbing], who used to play in Metronomy, when I was 14 or 15, and the two of us went on this musical journey together, feeding off
A s to ld to S tua r t S tu bb s each other’s tastes. When we met we were playing in a band listening to The Beatles and The Who, and I was into Weezer and Nirvana and all that kind of stuff, and then we started listening to things like The Beastie Boys and Missy Elliott, and then ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ came out. We both realised that we didn’t have to restrict ourselves to Britpop. And then because of all the skateboarders I was hanging out with, they were watching all these skateboarding videos, which had the most ridiculously adventurous soundtracks, like Busta Rhymes. I was absorbing a lot of cool stuff, because I was into skateboarding as much as anything else. We used to hang around the Safeway carpark inTotnes and think we were in San Fransisco, waiting for girls to realise that we were the coolest boys in the school… I don’t think the penny every dropped for them. Everyone else was into The Fugees and Portishead and smoking weed, or they were into Roni Size and Drum and Bass… andThe Levellers. It was a West Country thing. I did very average in my GCSEs. I didn’t even get Cs, actually. I got an A in art, because it was the only one I cared about, but it was basically all D’s. Part of the problem was that before I did my exams I knew that I wanted to be a musician, so why would I need to do very well in science? I cruised while I had my eye on the prize, and I feel quite happy that at that age I was so sure of what I wanted. It’s nice
if you ask a 16-year-old what they want to do and they say they want to be an professional skateboarder, you should just be like, ‘well fucking do it’, because you can make an incredible living doing that kind of thing if you really do it. It’s easy to dismiss the dreams of a teenager, but I know plenty of people who are doing what they wanted to do when they were 16. All my friends did Graphic Design, but I remember that I did Textiles because I knew that a lot of the girls would do it, and I could get to know them… and I was a bit interested in Adidas jackets. But what I made was fucking incredible…The band I was playing in with Gabriel, called The Upsides, won this battle of the bands and had to go and play in the final of this national competition in Leeds, so I made Gabriel a pair of flares for it – on the bottom of the flares was a flame effect. We should have won that competition but we were beaten by a band called Toi Machine who had a scratch DJ. We were genuinely really fantastic, though. The guy that produced our demos played Paul McCartney in a Beatles tribute band and he was obsessed, so the production of our demos was pretty brilliant. A guy who worked with Franz Ferdinand’s management saw us and wanted to take us on, but then one of the band went to university and it all fell apart. That band was me, Gabriel and James Hoare from Veronica Falls and Ultimate Painting – we really could have made it.
books + ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR
Ryan Gosling Reef Younis catalogues the failed music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / Sat somewhere between Bobby Picket’s ‘Monster Mash’ and Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’, its curious blend of ’60s pop, Hammond-heavy Halloween vibes and Gosling’s creepily theatric vocals clearly laid out their commitment to the Munsters aesthetic. A year later, Dead Man’s Bones’ self-titled debut album arrived, complete with songs about zombies, werewolves and death. Two years in the making, and with shades of Arcade Fire, Bryan Ferry and Tom Waits, Pitchfork called the album “unique, catchy and lovably weird” but the more curmudgeonly Spin – seemingly determined to ignore most of the background – believed that Dead Man’s Shoes weren’t about to “reverse the rule that actors make dubious pop musicians.” Regardless, Gosling stepped up on bass, piano, cello and vocals, Shields learned drums, and Dead Man’s Shoes stayed true to their initial concept of a monster-themed musical by replacing a traditional support band with a talent show, performing with dancing neon skeletons and glowing ghosts, and playing with a local choir for thirteen gigs on a brilliantly inevitable Halloween tour. Dead Man’s Bones was a horror show; it just wasn’t the one it should have been.
Ryan Gosling is a man with life wrapped around his little finger. He has the looks, the Hollywood career, the beautiful girlfriend and family, the indie cinema kudos, the well-meaning Internet memes and yes, inevitably, he can play guitar. On-screen, we saw him strum a little ukulele ditty in Blue Valentine but away from those twee cinematic flashes, Gosling takes his music seriously. Back in 2005, the former Disney Mouseketeer met Zach Shields in the kind of scenario Perez Hilton has made a career out of. With Gosling dating his then co-star, Rachel McAdams, and Shields involved with her sister, the pair found odd common ground in a shared affinity for haunted houses and Dead Man’s Bones was born. After all, what could go wrong for a project envisioned by an Oscar-nominated actor and his girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend using instruments they didn’t yet know how to play to write songs about ghosts, ghouls and monsters? After deciding to play every instrument themselves, avoid click tracks and electric guitars and try to record every song in no more than three takes, their first official track, ‘In the Room Where You Sleep’, made its way into the world on Christmas Day (c’mon, Ryan!), 2008.
by j anine & L ee bullman
The dark carnival by Derek Ridgers
The Rise, The Fall and The Rise by Brix Smith Start
Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump
Carpet Bombing Culture
faber & faber
Derek Ridgers has been stalking London by night, camera in hand, for decades. As a result his collected work is a well-stocked treasure trove of peacock sleaze, midnight danger, saucer-eyed high times and stoic fuck-you individuality. At a time when every self-obsessed look-at-me bore in the country is currently clogging up the internet with pictures of what they had for breakfast or the shoes they wore last night, Ridgers offers something with a bit more substance. The large format black and white portraits that make up The Dark Carnival are dark, deep and fun, as Ridgers exposes the viewer to a world most of us don’t know, a world where anybody can be a star and the normal rules definitely do not apply.
Shockingly, The Fall’s career contains a period in which they almost came within spitting distance of the mainstream pop charts. There were proper videos, designer clothes and an impossibly cool, glamorous American girl playing shimmery waterfall chords on a six-string Rickenbacker guitar. The Rise, the Fall and the Rise is Brix Smith Start’s memoir, the tale of a West Coast girl who fell in love first with an English band, then with their singer. Post-Fall, Brix continued to go her own way, marrying Hendrix obsessed violinist Nigel Kennedy and forging a place for herself in the fickle world of fashion. Her book chronicling the events is open, honest, funny and warm, and highly recommended.
Six months ago, Donald Trump’s attempt to run for American President was either sneeringly dismissed or sniggered at by those supposedly in the know who told us week after week that the man’s fall from grace had begun. It hadn’t. And if things don’t go well for Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party in November, the Donald will be the Commander-in-chief of the world’s biggest army. Donald Trump’s memoir is every bit as selfaggrandising, boring, badly written and shit as you would expect. In it, the bad-taste billionaire tells the heart-warming tale of how, armed with nothing but a first rate education and a multi-million dollar inheritance, he became the man he is today. Don’t read it, obviously.
getting to know you
Stuart Braithwaite Stuart Braithwaite’s latest project away from Mogwai is Minor Victories – a group he’s formed with Rachel Goswell of Slowdive, The Editors’ Justin Lockey, and Lockey’s brother, James. He likes animals and curry, and can take or leave Madonna, selfobsession and prison. /
The best piece of advice you’ve been given I was told by mum when I was 14 not to take heroin.
The characteristic you most like about yourself I’m nice to animals.
Your favourite word ‘Curry’. Your pet-hate Negativity.
Your hidden talent I’m good at Tetris. Your favourite item of clothing ’80s Skull Skates hoody.
If you could only eat one food forever, it would be… Dahl.
Your biggest disappointment The end of the Scottish national football team’s campaign for the European championships.
The worst job you’ve had I’m lucky in that I’ve only had one non-musicrelated job (doctor’s receptionist) and I quite liked it.
The celebrity that pisses you off the most even though you’ve never met them Madonna. Your biggest fear Incarceration.
The film you can quote the most of Spinal Tap.
The best book in the world ‘Stoner’ by John Williams.
Favourite place in the world Koh Lipe in Thailand is lovely. Your style icon Jimi Hendrix.
People’s biggest misconception about yourself That I’m very serious.
The one song you wished you’d written ‘Street Hassle’ by Lou Reed.
Who would play you in a film of your life? Steve Buscemi.
The most famous person you’ve met I’ve met Kate Moss a few times. She was really nice.
What talent do you wish you had? I wish I was multilingual.
The thing you’d rescue from a burning building My blue Telecaster and my skateboard if I had a spare arm. The worst date you’ve been on I’ve hardly been on any dates to be honest. Your guilty pleasure Vegan chocolate. I’m so rock and roll!
What is the most overrated thing in the world? Wealth. What would you change about your physical appearance? I’m fine with it. Flaws are interesting. What’s your biggest turn-off? Self-obsession.
Your biggest extravagance I bought a pretty great hi-fi amp recently. The worst present you’ve received My mum bought me a Rangers FC annual once. Martin our drummer also bought me a royal wedding cushion.
How would you choose to die? Peacefully, whilst asleep and very old.
What would you tell your 15-year-old self? Stick in, it’s all going to be fine. Your best piece of advice for others As above.
Alex Cameron Australian sleaze pop from a guy who used to dress up as an old man Photogra p hy: sibilla calzolari / writer: ian roebuck
LE F T : A le x C a me r o n i n Te mp el h o fer F el d , t h e f or me r a i r f i el d o f Be rl i n ’ s T e mp el h o fer Air p o r t .
haven’t done many telephone interviews so I’ve had no time to develop any policies or pet peeves,” Alex Cameron tells me from his balcony in Berlin. This may sound odd but face-to-face Alex does have terms and conditions you see, and you can read them on his idiosyncratic web 2.0 home. Samples of which include, ‘interviews with Alex Cameron (hereafter ‘the artist’) are to be held at AMF Bowling, Randwick,’ or how about, ‘under no circumstance should an interviewer mention Alex’s teeth. His teeth, their size, and his gums are a very sensitive issue.’ I avoid all denture talk but do ask the Sydney born Cameron if he’s for real? “Well, I like talking on the telephone but there is a certain amount of time that I will allow a phone to be pressed up against my ear – I don’t like to feel the heat of a phone. That’s the only thing I can think of right now… oh and there is a slight delay on this call, which I am noting.” After a good while chatting, Alex eventually answer’s my question but for the time being his wonderfully complex online and onstage identity are all I have to go on – that and the dead pan voice still discussing telephones on the receiver. Alex Cameron is a secret and he knows it. “Outside the committed few who have heard my album, ‘Jumping The Shark’, it’s just industry who know me. I am known in show business but not by the general listening public,” he proudly tells me. “The strangest thing happened, I was getting these emails from a friend of mine, Henry, he was a sound engineer that I worked with in Australia and he was saying how he had a radio show, so I sent him my songs and I thought that’s weird Henry has a radio show but it turned out later it was Henry Rollins and I had made a mistake. The songs ended up on KCRW in Los Angeles.” I have no idea if Alex has a friend called Henry; it’s the way he tells them, I think. Like you’re waiting for the punch line. ‘Jumping The Shark’ is Alex’s storybook of sadness; it’s an intimate ensemble of his deepest thoughts that’s strangely uplifting considering the dark lyrical content within, not too dissimilar to Mac Demarco’s largely forgotten ‘Rock and Roll Nightclub’ EP. Whether you feel like dancing or pulling the curtains, it turns out a synth and drum machine are heavily
potent weapons in his hands. “Well on the whole part, my songs are quite sad,” he says. “There is a thread of sadness throughout the entire album and the record really hits you, it hits you for six, you know, it’s a melancholy that makes you feel ecstatic.” Secretly Canadian obviously felt the same way. The label is now on board after witnessing Alex’s much revered support shows for bands like Foxygen and UMO. It seems they have as much faith in Alex as Alex himself. “I wanted to be a musician and I figured that I am either successful and good at what I do…. and I know that one day I am going to be very successful and one day I will have my impact, or I am just very deluded and I might be mentally ill? There might be that potential and either way it’s win, win. Secretly Canadian didn’t seem like bullshit artists, they seemed like people who had earned what they got and they made a big impression on me and my saxophone player Roy Molloy.” We forgot to mention Roy Molloy. Roy is not just Alex’s Saxophonist, he is his business partner (Alex’s words, not mine). Without Roy, ‘Jumping the Shark’ might never have happened. “We were next door neighbours as kids and we worked together, went to high school together, delivered pizzas together. He is just as much part of the project as I am. He’s a tram conductor in Sydney. He actually won the southern hemisphere’s best tram conductor of the year award. In Sydney everyone knows Roy from the trams because he is by far the best conductor.” It goes silent whilst I gather my thoughts; Alex continues anyway: “In all seriousness he is just one hell of a conductor, he really owns the tram. He’s got fans, people come to our shows and they say look it’s Roy from the trams, you know what I mean.”
ou can catch a glimpse of Roy in any number of captivating online films Alex has posted online, including a hypnotic trawl through SXSW, which reinforces the brand (again Alex’s words) and captures Alex’s passion on being the eternal support band. “I take the utmost pride in supporting a band,” he says, “it’s an underrated job
– it’s something that has got shame in it. Most people I know, young in the music industry, would have a big discussion saying are we going to take this job? For me its not a matter of if we are going to take a job, it’s a matter of how are we going to do this job well. Can we open for UMO? Can we work a Mac DeMarco crowd? As a support act you need to be able to shift and shape yourself – what are you doing on stage that makes you engaging and why do people want to watch your music? Can you work a crowd into one that is favourable? I think I can. I think I can get any crowd to work. Roy and I can turn any room to our favour and we have, every single room we have played.” It’s heartening to hear Alex’s selfbelief and as the conversation continues I find myself at one turn baffled, another inspired. “For a long time I would make myself older every day. I would do make up and I became an old man,” he tells me. “The idea of doing that was so I could spread myself out across multiple identities and live as characters and I could peel my face off, that could be something I do, peel it off.” I knew he played with the sense of self but this still surprised me, so are we talking on stage or down the corner shop? “I would do it on stage but also on days where I didn’t have a show. I just felt like doing it, it was odd. I would be on the train and I would catch my own reflection and I would notice that I was an old man. It was confronting and I think other people might have been confronted by it – it pushed the idea of identity really for me and also it helped me understand what it means to become a character. I made friends with an old person, they saw me one day without the make up on when I came back to town and they said I thought you were an old person!” I decide to ask him for a second time, are you for real? “It’s totally for real, everything I do is 100% realistic. I mean, I tell stories, I play with words and I turn my own personal experiences into microscopic tragedies, it can feel monumental and catastrophic. I am enhancing my own personal experiences but I am telling the truth. I know peoples first reaction will be to laugh and the second to wonder exactly what they laughed at.
Eventually they will realise they laughed because they liked it and it was true and it made them feel something.” I am invested in Alex now – a believer. I tell him I laughed the first time I saw the video for ‘She’s Mine’, Secretly Canadian’s well chosen single to launch the album, and proof that melancholy can move you. “I was terrified of dancing when I was in high school, there was nothing I wanted to dance to. Then I started making music and listening to records with grooves to them, especially anything that carries a strong human feel with it. I like grooves that make you want to move your arms as well as your legs. Bossa Nova rhythm is great as it’s kind of like you move your whole body to it, which is how I am dancing in the ‘She’s Mine’ video. I am really hustling and sweating the whole thing. That dance move I am doing on top of the car is something I like to think that I invented. I call it the Sydney Strobe. My good friend, Kirin J Callinan, in our discussions he doesn’t agree, he seems to think that he came up it. I am happy to share it around though. We call it the Sydney Strobe as it’s more or less two movements and nothing in between. I am going to say I came up with the name as I feel I’d be doing myself a great disservice if I didn’t. “How many more questions have you got, I am going to change ears, my right ear is really hot.”
Oliver Coates The cellist that became obsessed with the sound of early â€™90s pirate radio Photogra phy: heather mccutcheon / writer: sam walton
Le f t : O l i v er c o a t es n ea r h is h o me i n El ep h a n t a n d c as t l e, L o n d o n .
liver Coates recently adopted a kitten. He’s named it Alanis – after Morissette, of course – but not out of admiration for her musical exploits. Instead, it’s in homage to the Canadian singer’s unexpected rejuvenation as an agony aunt in the Guardian. “That’s actually quite ironic,” I suggest, mischievously, to the concert cellist-turned-electronic producer. He takes the bait, and starts to point out how Morissette’s most famous song is genuinely full of ironies, and not merely ironic because, as the stand-up routine goes, it describes no ironies whatsoever. Coates excitedly tells me of staying up late discussing the idea of irony with his friends as a result of all this, going so far as to look up the word in the dictionary (definitely, I’m informed, not an ironic act). The upshot: he’s certain that Alanis (the singer, not the kitten) is on safe ground. He tells the story with a smile, as if to acknowledge its ridiculousness, but there’s an accompanying seriousness that reveals his sweetly earnest predilection for leaving nothing in his life unexamined. It’s a habit that, over the course of the next hour or so, will play out in a series of intense, tangential and largely unprompted speeches about the contemporary classical composers Feldman and Xenakis, electronic producers Actress and Shackleton and the works of Hitchcock, Kafka, Eco and Beckett. Even the sociocultural mores of music in Russia receives a brief, heartfelt tribute. In short, Coates is a serious man. His super-analytical approach to life has, inevitably, fuelled his musicmaking, too, and nowhere is it more evident than in the unusual creative process behind his second album, ‘Upstepping’: nearly every sound on the record, in debt both to the garage rhythms of ’90s London pirate radio and to 20th-century classical music, originates from Coates’s cello, which he has manipulated to mimic hi-hats and kick drums, synth washes and white noise. From one angle, the album is a demonstration of his complete mastery of the instrument (Coates received the highest mark ever from the Royal Academy, and his work as a soloist is what pays the rent), but
from another it’s a rather touching act of devotion to the music for which he has an almost cosmically reverential love. Coates began playing the cello when he was six, after seeing one in a neighbour’s house in Wandsworth, and by nine he says knew he was going to be a musician. He spent his teens listening to everything from Radiohead and the Manics to Shostakovich and Prokofiev, while becoming increasingly proficient at the cello (“When they put a book in front of me and said ‘learn this by next week’, I found that quite easy,” he admits), but his first exposure to the dance music espoused on ‘Upstepping’ was via a teenage obsession with a specific drum sound. “There was a time where I was just obsessed with a particular kind of snare rush on pirate radio, and I spent my Sunday afternoons searching for them on the car radio,” he explains, painting a picture of an awkward, musically prodigious teenager academically deconstructing the somewhat feral worlds of illegal urban broadcasting from the passenger seat of a parked family hatchback. He soon developed a taste for Warp Records and started messing around with drum programming himself, but found it difficult to get beyond what he describes as “just noodling”. The problem, he insists, lay in setting limitations: “When I was just performing, I liked that the scored, prescribed stuff was all on the page,” he explains. “It was nice when somebody else arbitrated the limits.” However, now 33, with a decade of international performance behind him, Coates has discovered a little more confidence. “I’m more comfortable these days being the person who sets the limits,” he says. “It’s like everything I’ve done in the last ten years where there’s been an imposed limit, where I’ve done that phrase four times but I wanted to do it twenty times in ten different ways – I couldn’t, because I wasn’t the author. I’m much happier now with this quiet agony of counting out and designing structures of my own.” That confidence, mixed with Coates’s neurotic predisposition for listening on a granular level, is the basis for what makes the dancier half
of ‘Upstepping’ so captivating: his meticulous study of how electronic music is built allowed him to replace each element of classic drum sequences, hit by hit, with his own sounds, finishing up with something that sounds simultaneously familiar and curious. “I started looking at the function of a kick, the function of a high-hat,” the role it plays in the track, how it helps the music, why it works,” he explains of his painstaking sequencing process. “I’d look at each sound’s potency in the overall track, and then ask if the sound palette could be widened beyond the history of sampling and drum machines, and how that could evolve this instrument that I’m meant to be so proficient on. I wanted to unlearn the instrument and then find new physical ways of playing it.”
f the results of Coates’s tinkering appear joyfully uncanny to anyone tired of the more sterile end of dance music, ‘Upstepping’’s other four tracks are less straightforward. Dark and beatless – or, at least, with no pulse you could dance to – they hark back to Coates’s interaction with the music he actually performs during his day job: while all composed by Coates himself, they bear striking resemblances to specific pieces of 20th-century classical music, (‘Memorial For Hitchens’’ direct quotation of the opening of John Tavener’s ‘The Protecting Veil’ being the most immediate), suggesting that even in his most creative mode, he can’t help but reference the pieces he knows and loves. His habits as a performer die hard. He half agrees. “For so long, my work has been interpretation,” he says of his main gig as a performer, and recent conversion to composer. “You are tasked with going out on stage and owning whatever’s in front of you. Right then, you’re the conduit: at that moment, the composer is dead, because you’re the only person who can convince the audience.” I ask him whether he feels that the performer’s importance is sometimes overlooked. He begins another intense screed, proffering the theory that Homer didn’t really exist, and that his
writings are just amalgams of “many fractured stories”. He starts to debate with himself notions of authorship. Does he see any correspondence there to his own work? He frowns. “Well, I don’t think I am the author of my album,” he says, finally. “I think there are many tunes running through all of us at any point.” Perhaps that’s Coates’s oblique way of acknowledging the influences that he’s whittled into ‘Upstepping’. More likely, he’s just enjoying the continued musicological hoop-jumping. Either way, the contents of his record render it somewhat academic: for all the highfalutin philosophy he bounces around, Coates has also made a bit of a banger, ripe for playing on big sound systems. It’s interesting to pick his music apart, but it’s worth remembering that it’s also fun. “That’s relatively new to me, actually,” he agrees, when suggested, in the nicest possible way, that he lighten up a little. “For a long time, I had this idea that playing the cello in this scripted, disciplined way was what I was best at, but in terms of developing aesthetics that leaves a long way to go. Now, when I write, I think about where people want to hear and move to my music.” Turns out, though, that answers to those thoughts are still pending: “For the last record, I talked about being in a remote Scottish island with a glass of whiskey,” he says, when asked in what context he would like people to listen to ‘Upstepping’. “But for this one I don’t know.” He pauses and stares up at the ceiling, and a eureka expression dawns. “Actually, I heard it on the laptop speakers of a friend of mine in an airport and I liked the compressed, tinny aspects of it. I’m not worried about masses of bass. It felt very open, you know?” Perhaps that encapsulates the oddness of ‘Upstepping’ – an album inspired by underground electronics and claustrophobic new music, yet best listened to off a laptop somewhere as expansive as an airport terminal. It’s an unusual choice, certainly. Maybe even, given his industrious attention to audio detail, it’s an ironic one. “Don’t you think?” I ask him. He grins, and says that reminds him: he must get home to the cat.
Jackie Lynn Haley Fohr is sick of dudes telling her what to do. And so is her rebel country singer alter ego. Photogra p hy: Dustin con d ren / writer: katie beswick
Le f t : H a l ey f o h r i n t h e Be d - S t u y n ei g hb o u r h o o d o f b r o o k l y n , n ew y o r k .
o, who is Jackie Lynn?” I ask Haley Fohr, and she smiles, smooths her long, purple hair over her shoulders and launches into a wellrehearsed narrative, reciting the autobiography of her alter ego in serious, measured tones that suggest we’re talking about someone real – which, it turns out, we almost are. “Jackie Lynn is a woman two years younger than me,” she begins. “She was born and raised in Franklin, Tennessee. Five years ago she moved to Chicago, to the South Side. She took a Greyhound bus and on the way there she met a guy named Tom. They quickly fell in love and she kind of got wrapped up in this drug trade he’s involved in. They had a good time for a few years, and then he left. Vanished overnight, after a big fight. Left her in a lot of debt, fending for herself. She took the reins in his business, got herself out of debt.” She pauses for effect. Jackie is currently ‘at large’ and on the road looking for Tom.” That’s one answer, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Because Jackie is also Fohr, or Fohr is Jackie. It’s true that at first glance they have little in common. Fohr is whimsical; a smart, bookish musician with an existential streak – up until now she’s worked as Circuit de Yeux, producing ethereal, avant-garde folk music – while Jackie is straight-talking; a no-bullshit country singer who has played the drugs trade and won. But alter egos always offer an unexpected flash beneath the flesh of their creators. Jackie is the embodiment of Fohr’s rebel femininity, her sexy, dangerous side, created as a fuck you to all the men who’ve ever tried telling her how to live her life. Jackie is unashamedly a woman. “She’s a sister. She’s definitely female and I’m excited to present something that is so obviously female.” “I recorded ‘Jackie Lynn’ [an album released this month via Thrill Jockey] about a year ago and it’s been really interesting, the coalescing of our lives,” Fohr explains. “Jackie’s powerful and she’s sexy. She’s got it together. For me it was like a superhero or something that I could be, maybe. Traits of a woman that I probably never felt comfortable in. But suddenly this record’s coming out and I do. I don’t
know if it’s just the age and the time in my life or if it’s because of the Jackie Lynn or what.” Fohr came up with the Jackie Lynn concept on a foggy morning in LA.The idea evolved quickly, and she was excited. But then, as she told friends her Jackie plans, Fohr was shut down by a man with an opinion. (She won’t name him but tells me he is “an older gentleman, late 30s. Kind of a big deal. A film guy.’) He didn’t like the idea? “He said: ‘that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard; you should let it lie. Do not follow this through, you will regret it.’ And to me that meant that I had to do it.” She turns on a little of the Jackie attitude. “I’m just so sick of dudes telling me what to do.” It’s something she’s noticed more as she’s grown a little older; the way men just don’t hold back from offering their point of view. “On a broad spectrum I think men are gendered to tell women what to do. They are gendered to have the answers and they feel confident to say don’t do that, do this. And women are gendered to respond in a way that is appealing and pleasing and agreeable. So in a way it was the perfect way for Jackie to be born, as a response, and it’s not an agreeable response. It’s her response.”
ackie’s disagreeable edge is not just a generic feminist statement; it’s also Fohr’s not-so-subtle way of enacting revenge on specific guys. She explains how some of the songs work as an outlet for those fantasies of violence and retribution that we all carry in our darkest hearts. “One track in particular, called ‘Smile’, is Jackie at her limit, walking down the street, and another man coming up to her and being like, ‘why don’t you smile, baby?’You know when I was in high school I had this teacher that was like, ‘smile Haley, smile Fohr,’ and I had a secret fantasy where I strangled him to death and told him to shut the fuck up – where some really violent, hilarious comical situation would go down. So that’s… that.” Although I am totally on board with the feminist retribution – which of us hasn’t harboured shoot ‘em up fantasies after being told what to do by
some dude or another (and you have to admit, Fohr’s line ‘I’m so sick of these jocks/with their little tiny cocks’ is one you wish you’d written) – I am less sold on Jackie’s relationship with Tom. What does it mean that Jackie, this strong, fierce woman channelling her cunning and her sexuality on her own terms, leaves a lucrative drug racket to chase some deadbeat across America? Fohr considers my question and shrugs. For her, it’s not an issue. “I mean, Tom was just a conduit. Jackie was on her way already to Chicago, she didn’t move there for Tom. I just think that’s how life goes. You dive deep and you get hurt or you have a great reward. You never know.” Fohr has worked hard to strike an even balance in the presentation of Jackie Lynn.There is a fine line between intriguing and cheesy and she is well aware of the drawbacks that come with the adoption of an alter ego, which include unlikely and unflattering comparisons. “Until this project, I’d never honestly heard of Chris Gaines,” she laughs, “but I’ve been getting that a lot with this.You know Chris Gaines?” (I don’t) “Garth Brooks becomes a rock singer – he did it a little different to me in that he did embody Chris Gaines and tried to play it off as, like, ‘who’s Garth Brooks?’ To me it was super-lame and definitely not a path that I wanted to take with Jackie.” Jackie hasn’t performed yet; she has no interest in promoting her own record. “I have a lot of people interested in interviewing Jackie. But she’s not available, obviously.” There are physical relics available though. The album she left behind, on vinyl (the record won’t be released in any other format), in a gold and red LP sleeve, dusted with cocaine. “It’s important to me that it’s vinyl only. It’s not on CD because Jackie listens to vinyl. She doesn’t listen to CDs — they’re pieces of junk.” You can hear in the music that it was freeing for Fohr to break away from her experimental roots and try a more mainstream sound. She agrees, although she’s adamant that ‘Jackie Lynn’ wasn’t made to appeal to a wider audience (“I would say the audience comes into play zero percent. I don’t think about that side of it at all.”), it was a means through which to stretch
herself musically. “For me, technically it was really eye opening,” she says. “Jackie is a really chilled, cool woman vocally, and my style is really this operatic unique warble, so even just delivery and like using more words and consonants and telling a story, rather than these abstruse, nebulous grand ideas, was really fun for me and challenging. It was fun coming out of my own personality. The weight got really heavy – doing these existential quests all the time – and having something so concrete and physical and intact laid the foundations to have a really great time with this project.” Still, I wonder how her fans, friends and family have reacted to this aboutturn. ‘Jackie Lynn’ – a dark, mysterious alt. country record that’s also easily enjoyable – is so different from Fohr’s other music that she might easily have alienated her existing audience. “They love it,” she smiles. “They prefer it for whatever reason. My grandmother has all my CDs and I sent her the promo for this one, and the comments I get are ‘I love being able to understand what you’re saying.’ You know, the songs are shorter: easier to digest for people who aren’t going to experimental free jazz shows all the time.” I ask if the world will ever get to meet Jackie? “We did have one get-together in which Jackie invited her friends over and that was really interesting. There’s some interviews done, so perhaps they will come out into the world. And I did a DJ gig where I wasn’t Jackie but I was definitely stepping towards her.” Fohr breaks off, excitedly. “I’m into that shit man. I’m so into dressing up and taking on these alter egos just for a night. It’s a secret adventure. It’s not like I’m going into a bar and going ‘yo, what’s up! I’m this person tonight’, but in my mind it’s this game where I’m pushing the envelope of who am I, and who am I tonight, and what I’m wearing, and how am I presenting myself and how I carry my body.” She smooths her hair back again and tells me, with an animated intensity: “Living life as art is something I’m extremely interested in at this time.”
ll wrapped up in a blanket scarf and with her shoulders hunched to fend off London’s April chill, Mitski Miyawaki is tired. It seems a perennial problem for the 25-year-old, who regularly tweets in the middle of the night lamenting her brain’s nocturnal alertness when all around her the population slumbers and snores. While I boast, a little insensitively, of my own regular 8-hour appointments with the Sandman, she describes a cycle that typically involves a short-lived fit of sleep around midnight followed by a rhythm of tosses, turns and half-dozes before settling into a few snatched hours as the morning comes around and the rest of the world gets ready for the day ahead. At one point, she says, it was even more of a struggle. “When it was three hours, I was waiting tables all day – for twelve hours – and then I would do whatever music thing I could fit in after that.” It’s a wonder, then, that she gets anything done. For she certainly gets things done. Her fourth album in five years, ‘Puberty 2’, is by far the most ambitious project to date for the artist known simply by her given name. Though the song writing on the first three LPs was of a consistently high standard, it always felt like Miyawaki was constrained, and while 2012’s ‘Lush’ and its follow-up, 2013’s wonderfully named ‘Retired from Sad, New Career in Business’, hinted at sounds fashioned out of raw materials beyond the indie rock, with their pianos and strings you sensed that there was more to come, a wider palette to be experimented with. And this time she has mined a new quarry altogether. It’s all the more impressive for her serial lack of rest, though she says she’s just become clever about how she uses her dwindling pool of reserves. “I have no energy, it’s just that I’m very good at rationing it. I have no social life, I don’t have fun – ever – it’s just all work.” The production, crucially, has slid up a gear. Under the watchful eye of trusted long-time collaborator Patrick Hyland, ‘Puberty 2’ boldly breaks out
rig ht : Mit ski Miyawa ki in sho red it ch, L o n d o n , t he mo rn in g a ft er p la yin g Da lst o n v en ue B irt hd a ys.
of prescribed structures through skilful, confident sleights of hand that just wouldn’t be possible with solely acoustic instrumentation. From the first machine gun synthesised drum stabs of opener, ‘Happy’, you know you’re in for a more interesting – if a little bumpier – ride this time around. Stylistically, it is also Mitski’s most varied work. Impressively blending a range of ostensibly disparate genres, from trip hop to new wave via punk and electropop, it’s a beautiful tapestry that works as a whole despite the seeming incongruence of its parts. One minute it recalls the early 2000s indie rock of Grandaddy (‘Dan The Dancer’) or the neo-grunge Waxahatchee (‘Fireworks’, ‘My Body’s Made Of Crushed Little Stars’) and the next it’s all smart eighties slow jams (‘Thursday Girl’) and dreamy synths that would have psychedelic tears dripping down Robin Guthrie’s wee cheeks (‘I Bet On Losing Dogs’). It all arises from a growing confidence in her own abilities and a newly found disregard for reproducing the songs on stage that have given Miyawaki the freedom to evolve. “For the last album [2014’s breakthrough ‘Bury Me At Makeout Creek’] I was very conscious of being able to recreate the songs live,” she admits. “And my live situation was very lo-fi, where I would either have one guitar in a basement or a three-piece band in a basement. So I wrote songs that would translate well to that environment.” She is clearly excited by this fresh brashness. “For this record I wasn’t so concerned about playing it live because I realised that I could just have a different live version. I just wanted the record to sound good, to go into the studio and do what served each song regardless of how I would play it later, live.” But while the fruits of those toils
are hard won, Mitski is evasive when it comes to the album’s title. There was no ‘Puberty 1,’ of course, and so I ask if it is intended to hint at a sequel to or reflection on the changes she went through in her teenage years while she now goes through the metamorphosis of her twenties. “Most things that are important, I deliberately don’t think about,” she states cryptically with a look that says she wouldn’t tell me anyway. “So maybe it has loads of meaning and that’s why I gravitated towards it, but how it happened was that me and the producer were just riffing on what the album title should be, just joking around and I latched on to it.” She pauses. “Maybe I latched on to it for deeper meanings but I try not to get too existential!”
orn in Japan to a Japanese mother, a lot is made of Miyawaki’s heritage as journalists scramble to label her work as flowing seamlessly from her background. In interviews and reviews she is almost always described as Asian or Asian-American before any mention of her music. It’s something that understandably grates. “It’s like racism masked in progressive thought,” she says. “At the end of the day, therefore, I’m not a person. I’m a symbol. And then people start talking about how I’m not representing it properly.” She rolls her eyes and sighs, her articulateness making it obvious that she’s thought hard about her stance on the issue. “Sometimes it’s helpful when there are other East Asian girls who message me and they say, ‘Oh my gosh, there aren’t any other East Asian women. I didn’t realise I was missing that figure until I saw you.’ That’s always encouraging.” Having self-identified as a feminist from early
“When I was a teenager I was a junkie for emotion and I wanted it all” loudandquiet.com
on, she has also found that people assume every song is written from that perspective and with a feminist thesis at its core from the poet laureate of Asian(-American) females. “I’m not writing as an Asian woman,” she says, “I’m writing as a person. I’m not making music to be a politician and I’m kind of being dressed up as that.” Rather than simply an Asian female, then, Mitski sees her identity as much more complex. She’s spent chunks of her life living in China, the Congo, Turkey and various parts of the United States. Although it should be pointed out that that Japanese passport didn’t come easy. I ask about her childhood and she pauses and smiles before recounting the story of her birth. When Mitski was just about ready to come out into the world, her mother flew to her native Japan in a rush to secure citizenship. “My mother… crazy. It was crazy of her to do that, to carry an unborn child in her stomach while she’s travelling from Africa to Japan, give birth, fly back to Africa.” So rushed was the task that she nearly emerged mid-flight. “I was almost born in the plane, according to my mother. Although I don’t know how accurate that was! And then, once she’d recovered, we just went back.” The wistfulness that runs through her songs, she says, is a direct result of that peripatetic life. “It’s shaped my identity at my core and that informs my music,” she tells me. “A lot of it is to do with leaving – saying goodbye – and going to a new place and not belonging. I think those are big themes in my music, objectively!” Who needs critics when you can write your own reviews? It’s that sense of longing that functions as the thread running through Mitski’s work, tying together all of those genres so beautifully. For as well as a longing to be somewhere else, so many of her songs are born out of a longing for someone else. At every turn there are broken relationships. Some have faded, some have burned out brightly but she’s yet to write a song with the happy ending she so craves. She admits that in her formative years she sought out these experiences,
Mitski This is gonna hurt
Photogra phy: p hil shar p / writer: david zammitt
saying: “When I was a teenager it was all about experiencing everything. I was a junkie for emotion and I wanted it all.” Now, however, she just wants a relationship that works within a life that works. “Lately I’ve found that I just want to be happy. You get a little older and you just get tired. So maybe when I was younger I chased that and sometimes I would do it for the song. I’ve had a lot of relationships where I knew from the start… I was like, ‘Oh, this is so juicy. This is gonna hurt!’” She rubs her hands in mock delight. “Now I just don’t have the time or energy. Honestly, if I could give all of this away for happiness, I would. I would rather be boring and happy than be fucked up and – apparently – a good artist.” Feeling that it would be impolite not to, I offer my sincere thanks and she beams. “You’re welcome!”
s well as dealing with an external world that loves to foist their own ideas of identity upon her, Mitski has also struggled to keep a handle on where her public persona ends and her private sphere begins, as fans and critics alike presume they know the woman behind the music. Where once only friends sought to empathise or share in her life narrative, now members of the public take it upon themselves to get involved, even when it’s far from appropriate. For a while, this affected her work as she tried to second-guess what her audience wanted from her. “There was a period where I thought it paralysed me,” she says. Luckily, she was able to seize back the reins. “The world kind of disappears. When I write I’m not thinking of anyone but myself. I am the protagonist, I’m the drama queen,” she laughs. “It’s all about me.” Unfortunately, while she manages to keep her art separate, this intrusion
has disturbed her on a personal level. “I think it does affect me in my day-today,” she says. “It’s quite sad – maybe I turn everything into a sad thing – but what I’ve noticed is that so many people think that they know me now. It’s very weird because they don’t, and what’s paralysing is getting messages or emails from people I’ve never met acting like they’re my best friend or expecting me to do things for them. I’ve had people say, ‘So, my mother is in the hospital and she has cancer. Can you please come visit her?’ That’s been paralysing.” Sadly it’s part and parcel of a career that has been quietly ramping up and looks set to take off in earnest in 2016. Miyawaki, however, has a very different idea of what accomplishment looks
like. It certainly doesn’t involve selling thousands of records, and it isn’t dictated by her bank balance. “I don’t think I’ll be successful this year because what I see as success has nothing to do with material shit. I want freedom; the freedom to do as I please and be left alone, finally.” The ‘finally’ is telling, more than hinting at the struggles she goes through for her art, and the many voices that surround her in her day job. “I think I’m working this hard so that maybe in ten years I’ll be left alone to just make the music I want to make at my own pace. I think that’s very ambitious because no adult gets left to do what they want to do and my ultimate ambition is to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.”
We agree to check in in 2026, and I remind her of a smaller ambition, namely a recent tweet where she said that all she wanted was a permanent place to live. As though she’d forgotten all about it, discounting such a lofty goal as mere fantasy, her eyes light up at the prospect. “If I was concerned with material shit I would have a place to live by now, but yeah, I would like somewhere to go back to!”
Purple Reign Manchester collective LEVELZ like a laugh, but they’re also challenging everything we thought we knew about the music of their hometown and UK grime and hip-hop Photography: charlotte patmore / writer: daniel dylan wray
rriving at Wellington House – a converted cotton mill in Ancoats, an inner city area of North West Manchester – to meet the fourteen-strong collective of MCs, DJs and musicians LEVELZ, I’m greeted by a group of middle aged men bumbling out of a taxi. All of them are dressed, rather shoddily, as a variety of ’90s WWF wrestlers. They seem to be waiting around to be let into the same entrance of the building I am, which immediately makes me think I’ve arrived at the wrong place. After a phone call, long-time DJ and LEVELZ’s sort-of manger, Rich Reason, comes to the door calling out “Dan” through a crowd of bewilderedlooking blokes in spandex and once he realises I’m not a paunchy Hulk Hogan fanatic, he lets us all in. The wrestlers try and find the bloke they’ve rented a room from to have some sort of wrestling stag party whilst Reason takes me upstairs into the main building to meet the rest of the collective. Having formed a couple of years ago, the core fourteen of the group consist of members: Biome, Black Josh, Bricks, Chimpo, Chunky, Dub Phizix, Fox, Jonny Dub, Metrodome, Rich Reason, Skittles, Sparkz, Truthos
r i g h t : 8 memb er s o f t he 1 4- s t r o n g l ev el z i n t heir c o t t o n mi l l s t u d i o in a n c o a t s , ma n c h es t er.
Mufasa and T-Man. Many of the group are veterans of the Manchester scene and have been involved in various other projects, solo outings, club nights and labels in the city, with others more new to the world. The record label Estate Recordings in particular is home to many of the members’ solo projects over the years, acting as a sort of cultural meeting point for the outfit. Once inside I’m informed we’re running behind schedule and still waiting for some members to turn up. I then arrive to a scene that’s a little bit like an out of control school trip as Charlotte, the photographer, is trying to herd a rowdy and unruly bunch of young men into something resembling an organised manner to take some pictures. Boisterous and mostly with beers and spliffs in hand, it proves a futile task as her voice is often lost to the screaming laughter, jumping around and general horseplay of a group that, it turns out, place having a good time as a pretty high priority beyond most things other than music. The old mill, with several metal door fronted rooms placed equally along a long corridor almost resembles a prison in its layout and LEVELZ are very much acting the escaped inmates.
They clamber the frame of some leftover structure that exists in the corridor and just as they look set to settle for a group photo some people begin to walk past with trolleys, loading in gear. It appears LEVELZ have new neighbours and said new neighbours couldn’t look more miserable about it, looking especially repulsed by being offered a go on a joint. Some of the group even begin running and leaping over the gear that is being loaded in on a trolley as music pumps loudly from one of the two studio’s the group have in the building. “He’ll learn, mate. He’ll have to,” says Skittles of the building’s new tenant. “Just wait until next week when the metal bands come in or the cover bands that just play the same songs on loop, like some house version of ‘Lady in Red’, I tell ya man. That is hell.” Within the group’s two studio rooms are mountains and mountains of records. Whether those are being played, music is worked on for beats or bars are being spat, it seems to be a continuous and thriving hotbed of activity with members constantly rolling in and out. The building has even become home to some of the members over the years, Skittles having lived there for a year and a half. It’s the
C l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l ef t : T - ma n , j o h n n y d u b , c h u n k y , black josh, Bricks.
creative epicentre for the collective – a place for the group, who have more members than a football team, to funnel ideas, explorations and experimentations into something resembling a unified output; the sound that is LEVELZ. They released their debut fulllength mixtape earlier this year called ‘LVL 11’, represents the variety and diversity of its membership, thrashing around between grime, g-funk, dub, jungle, hip-hop and anything else the group fancy leaning towards. Reason has in the past described the outfit as a cross between the Wu Tang Clan and the Happy Mondays, and as far as capturing what a group of pisstakers they are, the latter comparison
certainly works, but such is the breadth of their membership, and the sound they create, they shake off genre and comparison with contempt. “Fuck genre,” says Fox, trying to capture the essence of what makes the group them. “I think a reason why so many of us are involved with so many different types of music is, one, boredom, and two, not wanting to represent any sort of one-dimensional view. I get upset sometimes and want to shank people and other times I get happy and other times I want to cry and I think in LEVELZ there is a good mixture of all those emotions in there.” “That is tough,” says Black Josh when trying to pinpoint the sound and output of the group. “We’re really nice
people but we make really angry music and a lot of shit has happened to us, so we all get a bit angry and make this angsty shit. However, we’re inspired by beautiful things. It’s a positive thing, even when it’s a negative, in the broader scope of it it’s positive.” Often deciphering the truth from a wind-up during the course of the interviews, which are broken up into several small group sittings across the day, is a tricky thing and the large majority of questions I ask are met with jokes, deflections through jokes or an exaggerated lie in the name of a joke. Humour is clearly a driving force behind a great deal of what the group do; it’s what connects them on a level beyond their musical abilities and
interests and they love dishing it out to me for pretty much every question. Although perhaps simply they don’t trust me and suspect I’m a narc, as Fox says to me at one point at the end of an interview. “I’ve got a question for you,” he says. “In my experience and where I come from, people who wear shoes like that work for the police or some sort of Government service, yeah? So it makes me quite suspect about this interview and where it’s going.” Another humour perhaps loosely based on a truth is Chunky’s explanation of how the group got together and met. “Basically, we all started going to the same drug dealer. So you have all these different rooms and circles going on, you have a room
Cl o c kwise fro m t o p l eft : Fo x , Trut ho s Mufa sa , Met ro d o me, skit t l es, chimpo .
full of the weed smokers and you had people doing bing in the bathroom and then the bing circle and the weed circle meet and the m-kat and psychedelic circle, you all start to walk past each other in the corridor at your dealer’s house. If you’re queuing up to go to the bog you’re probably going to have a conversation, you know what I mean? Then eventually you’ve got the smack heads, the coke heads and the weed heads and it’s like, ‘right, let’s make some tunes.’ It was a natural progression because you could easily be in a crack den and not produce anything productive.” Whereas Johnny Dub says that, “most of us have been doing stuff for over ten years now, from being a little rat on the street just
trying to get your face out to actually try and do stuff.” Bricks echoes such a comparison: “When I was being a rat on the street I met most of these guys.”
f you listen to some of the group’s RinseFM sets, not only are they exemplary of the group’s diverse tastes, musically, stretching out across disco, soul, funk, hip-hop and rap but they also hit home this seemingly crucial role of humour. They recorded and placed their own fake adverts into the sets, which are as ludicrous as they are biting and socially aware. It’s a comparison that could be applied to some of their own music too, such as
‘Drug Dealer’, which at once points out the economic benefits and ease of taking on such an occupation whilst hitting home the larger social issue that renders this the only plausible line of work for some young people growing up, as well as highlighting the comparative damage of a kid slinging a bit of weed and larger governmental practices. Whilst the majority of the group shake off any comment when asked about the political nature of them as people or their music, Skittles is the only person to address its role in any half-serious way. “How would it be possible for anyone to be non-political in either their life or their music?” he says. Perhaps the biggest political
statement the group have made came when their booking agency, Elastic Artists, went into liquidation and reportedly sunk £400,000 worth of unpaid salaries to its artists with it. The group faked an anonymous-style hostage video, complete with masks and a half naked tied and taped up victim who was hanging upside down and being burnt with a hairspray can and lighter. Having a link with the company from an ex-employer they even hacked and took over their social media accounts in a further act of ransom. It was then ended with a fake advert that advertised the job of an artist as an unpaid worker. From the group’s perspective it was a bunch of guys getting on one in the studio
being daft and in the early hours coming up with the extensive practical joke. In the eyes of those looking in, it reportedly led to a police call. Johnny Dub jokes: “The police were contacted but they realised they didn’t have the resources to take us down. They probably came to the conclusion that it was safer for the Manchester Metropolitan Police Force to step down.” It was, by the sounds of it, the result of a messy, stay-up-a-long-time period in the studio, as Reason tells it. “All I’ll say on that week is that we don’t fully know how much was real. It all got a bit weird. We were at the centre of it and I know quite a lot of the story but there was shit that was going on because we were speaking with the music press and social media, so I don’t know if the police were really called.” The impact of the incident of their agency soaking up all their money was a lot more serious, however. “It was like half your income for the entire year,” says Reason. “Nobody has got a penny from it. We were owed, all of us together because a lot of individuals were booked through the agency on top of LEVELZ, a five-figure sum. We didn’t even get our mixtape mastered properly because we couldn’t afford it; we didn’t pay rent for two months – they were red lettering us. That agency going down and swallowing about £400,000 worth of people’s salaries
Abo v e a n d b el o w : s p a r k z MCing and surfing at M a n c h es t er ’ s h i d d en c l u b . op p o s i t e p a g e: m et r o d o m e a nd j o h n n y d u b .
had a real significant impact and we’re still feeling the reverberations of that. We couldn’t even afford to do a sponsored post for our mixtape release for example. Some people felt it was a strong reaction but to do nothing [felt helpless] even if it was just a protest. It’s completely unprecedented in the music industry to do that sort of thing.” Dub explains it was a reaction to a startling lack of clarity and communication behind it all. “What I wanted to get out of that first and foremost was some answers,” he tells me. “But they dealt with it so fucking badly. We wouldn’t have needed to
have gone down that route if they had been up front. We don’t want to be known for that at the end of the day.” “Speak for yourselves man, you wet bastards!” Chunky throws in. Despite all the ribbing and silliness and occasional novelty outfits that some of the group are fond of, any sense that LEVELZ may be veering a little too close to Goldie Lookie Chain territory is always offset by the music they produce. Skittles may like oversized brightly coloured sunglasses and wear a daft umbrella hat from time to time but put a microphone in front of him and he’s like a foaming pitbull being let off the leash. He can spit fast and mightily, mightily hard. There’s an edge to the group, a ferocity and a biting, sneering bark that is inescapable – a listen to the surging ‘LVL07’ alone will be enough to hit this home. It’s the age-old instance of not taking ones self too seriously but taking the music incredibly so. When putting together their mixtape a large group of LEVELZ relocated to rural Wales, a trip that was instrumental on both a creative and personal level. “It was so secluded,” Fox says. “Having a studio in Manchester we could do it here but having so many other aspects of live intruding you can’t shake it off. It was a beautiful place to be. You’d go to another room for a break but you’d catch a vibe from the beat and then end up throwing something on that.” “Because we all make different styles of music ourselves it ended up being a bit like a decent house party,” adds Chimpo, “you’d have like the slow jams room and the jungle room and the reggae room. That was what it was like in the house we were staying in; we had about four or five different set-ups in different rooms and each
room would be a totally different vibe and you’d lock on something in one room and throw a bit of keyboard onto something and then move into another room and it would be totally different in there.” “For five days we were constantly making music,” says Fox. “I fell asleep when my body refused to stay awake.” Black Josh says that despite running out of weed on the first day, “It was inspirational. Going away on that weekend to record got me away from my tiny gaff is Rusholme and I found myself in the sort of house you aspire to live in. If you blow up in music that’s the sort of house you want to be living in. It was a good thing to put in the context of saying we’re at the start of LEVELZ but this is what you could achieve.”
hen asked what LEVELZ offers him creatively that other projects and solo stuff don’t, Skittles jokes in response: “Fuck all, a pay cut.” But he goes on to talk about the sense of camaraderie that comes from having such a large group number as being key. “You’re with your mates aren’t you,” he says. “You could go play Jamaica tomorrow at Sizzla’s BBQ and if you’re on your own you’re fucking on your own, aren’t you? LEVELZ is like going to a mates house but you’re getting paid and you’re doing what you love. If I’m playing in London and LEVELZ are playing in Bristol, there’s not a chance you’d be thinking about staying in London. You’d be thinking, ‘can I do that London show and get to Bristol in the same night?’ A few weeks ago we were at Fabric in London and LEVELZ were at a gig in Kettering, Fabric being like one of the most famous clubs in the world, but it was like, ‘fuck that, get me to Kettering in the middle of nowhere.’ Someone drove to Fabric, played a show and we drove back to Kettering. But really, it’s a fucking pay cut isn’t it?” The cross-generational nature of the group has cemented what many refer to as being a family unit. Metrodome got taught by Chimpo’s mum at primary school and Fox, as the oldest member, can see the structure of multiple generations playing an integral role. “It is a bit like family,” he says, “which is a bit harsh from me because I’m proper cut and run when it comes to my family. If I don’t like someone I’ll just fuck them off whereas LEVELZ is a bit harder. I have to deal with people here and it teaches me to put things into perspective. It’s
about patience too and understanding people’s space so in that sense it becomes more than just a music thing. It’s growing together.” Despite the harmonious family bonding type situation the group creates, I query as to whether any ego arises with there being so many people in the group, perhaps competing for space on a track or to implement their own ideas. The entire room erupts into laughter. “We’re all one big ego that gets along,” says Bricks with Skittles adding, “Everyone knows why they’re sick and what they’re sick at. All of our ego’s are in the right place.” A healthy confidence is certainly found within some areas of the group though, as Black Josh points out. “Nigga’s see me in the rave and are like, ‘I know you’ve got something to say.’ I’ve never, ever begged for a mic in my entire life. I’ll be in the smoking area and nigga’s come up to me and say, ‘Yo, Josh spit me a bar’ and I’ll be like, ‘how the hell do you know I MC?’ and they say, ‘look at you, of course
you’re a rapper.’ The city of Manchester as a base and as a musical legacy is a crucial one for the group. LEVELZ’s cataloguing of notable events in their history so far, through songs and gigs, is based on the Factory Records approach and as Reason sits back legs crossed in a large feather coat, he seems to possess an air of the Svengali perhaps based on Tony Wilson. “Growing up in Manchester has played a big part in LEVELZ, it is very diverse,” points out Dub. “It’s a small city but there’s a lot going on. It’s not a sound as such but it’s an amalgamation of sounds. There’s a synergy between us whether we’re doing a disco type thing or a grime-y type thing.” Reason feels that Manchester is currently going through a strong swing period. “I think it’s time again. Any great city has its ups and downs. There’s a civic pride to what we do. I believe that this is one of the best cities on earth to be creative. It comes in waves and I think now is Manchester’s time.”
“We’re really nice people but we make really angry music and a lot of shit has happened to us” loudandquiet.com
After an evening spent larking around at the studio drinking beers, working on tunes and laying down spontaneous vocal takes with everyone jumping on one another’s tracks in seamless rotation, it’s soon time to go to the club where the group will take over a venue for the evening with rotating DJs and MCs in each room across the night and into the early hours. Located yards away from the barbed wire tall walls of Manchester’s infamous prison, Strangeways, the club slowly starts to fill, the evening kicks in and the sweat begins to pour. It starts to represent a similar state of chaos that I’ve seen from the group all day. A manic sort of energy, an intensity that is fuelled by the vigour and momentum of the group’s inner dynamism and a desire to lose themselves in a shared moment of musical creation. There’s crowdsurfing atop of shuddering dirty beats as bars are spat fiercely and Red Striped slopped around as people bounce feverishly in response. It’s in this moment I realise that for every frustration and passed, joked-away question I’ve encountered throughout the day, whilst trying to extract what LEVELZ are all about, it’s clear that it exists in a club full of raving kids, and being pummelled through a P.A in the hedonistic sweat of the night, not in a smoke-filled room talking to a bloke who is stopping them from recording, and who they suspect is a copper.
At Home with Cat’s Eyes P ho tography: sonny mccar t ney / wri t er: st uar t st ubb s
Rachel Zeffira and Faris Badwan met whilst neighbours in 2009 – a classically trained Canadian soprano and multi-instrumentalist, and the frontman of The Horrors, from the outskirts of London. Their early dates were spent in a supermarket in Camden, and in 2011 they released their first album together as Cat’s Eyes. Today they live on one of Primrose Hill’s most chocolate-box streets, where the focus of the front room is not a TV but Rachel’s electronic piano. They tell me it’s where they sit and play together of an evening. Upstairs is a small studio. Other instruments litter the floor, too – a violin, a Theremin, Faris’ ’67 Telecaster, and more alien, traditional woodwind instruments from Turkey, like the ney and the zurna. Further back in time Rachel has needed to go in order to find more musical instruments to learn and master; her latest is the curtal, a medieval bassoon, which she smuggled into Buckingham Palace earlier this year for a Cat’s Eyes stunt that made world news and called for the Palace to reassess their security measure. Rachel found herself on Canadian morning TV being asked to defend hers and Faris’ actions after they gatecrashed a private function
and successfully performed a rendition of new song ‘We’ll Be Waiting’ to attending (and appreciative) guests. “It’s definitely the funniest thing we’ve done,” says Faris. And so when you hear ‘Treasure House’ this month – the duo’s third album, released June 3 via Faris’ own RAF Records – be assured that the floating orchestrations that bring to mind ‘Paris 1919’ era John Cale have all been composed by the two of them, not bought in to make them appear more accomplished than they actually are. It’s the sentimental tokens and knick-knacks that most characterise Cat’s Eyes’ house, though. There are many items that Faris has lovingly made for his partner by hand, like a stuffed cat fashioned from bundled-up old socks, with Rachel’s name stitched in red across its chest, and a miniature tour diary he wrote for her whilst The Horrors promoted ‘Primary Colours’ shortly after they met. Other curiosities have been collected on the road; more still hold deeply personal memories and have simply gone past the point where throwing them out is even an option. They shared a few with us, although I got the sense that we hardly scratched the surface.
01. Moog Theremin
Rachel: “I ended up going to this Theremin convention at Brian Eno’s house, which was something else. People are always getting Theremins and just fucking around with them, but it’s actually very beautiful. It was watching Clara Rockmore play it so beautifully… I didn’t want to just make weird space noises on it, I wanted to learn how to play it properly.” Faris: “What was it you you said about the guy at the convention who’d spent 12 years making his own Theremin? Rachel: Yeah, there was this guy there who was so proud – he’d made this Theremin that had been 12 years in the making and he put it on the table and played a little bit of it and the Russian teacher said, “you have put it together upside down, it is all wrong.” It was just dismissed in one sentence. And this guy just sat on the bench with his head in his hands. “I have to start again.” On the new record this is on ‘Girl In The Room’ and ‘We’ll Be Waiting’.” Faris: “I don’t really play anything –
I mess around. But Rachel is at the point where she can pick up any instrument and learn it.” 02. Signed photo of Nick Mason
Rachel: “My first piano lesson student was Nick Mason from Pink Floyd, but I didn’t know he was in Pink Floyd at the time. I was just a teenager and I just got this phone call from a guy called Nick, and he and his wife and kids all wanted piano lessons. So I went to their house in Hampstead and basically for a year I taught them piano without knowing who he was. I mean, I knew who Pink Floyd were, but I thought he was into cars because there was a hedge in the shape of a Ferrari. When he came in I thought he was the gardener. So I was teaching the whole family in this recording studio in the basement, and one day I finally noticed this Pink Floyd disc, and I was like, ‘oh, are you a fan of Pink Floyd?’ and he was like, ‘not really.’ He thought I was taking the piss. Finally, I was like, ‘oh my god, I didn’t know,’ and he said, ‘well, it’s not like I walk down the street and people know who I am.’ He
supermarket game – misplaced items. Y’know when people decide that they don’t want something but they don’t put it back where it should go; they hide a whole chicken behind the kitchen roll… We had a game with points. It’s something that we’d both noticed, so we made it into a game.” Rachel: “I’ve got a picture on my phone, look – bladder infection medicine with Digestive biscuits!” 01
06. 1967 Fender Telecaster
Faris: “My guitar, I’m really attached to. I found this guy online who was 75 and selling his guitar, and I went up to Huddersfield to pick it up. He’d had it since he was, like, 20, and he was just a really great guy. I went to his house and talked for a bit and played together, and I like the idea of it having been loved for so long. I think he liked the idea of it going off to be played in another band. But there’s something really sad about people selling their guitars, and it was really brutal. I kept in touch with him, so he knew that it went to a good home. I don’t think that I could ever sell it.”
kept in touch and when I moved to Italy he would write letters. When I was teaching him he’d take the piss out of himself and keep saying, ‘I have a really bad sense of rhythm,’ and I didn’t get the joke at the time at all. It was an ongoing joke of his and a year later it finally made sense to me. But I don’t recognise people at all. I passed Jimmy Page in the street with a friend, and he smiled at us, and my friend was like, ‘do you know who that was?’ And I was like,‘the guy fromThe Monkees.’” 03. Puppet
Faris: “I got this in San Francisco. We live in what was [German philosopher and pioneering Marxist] Friedrich Engels’ house, and every week a tour guide comes past and they stand outside the blue plaque. If I hear them coming I poke the puppet above the shutters, which are always closed, so he’s looking out of the window in the gap at the top. And every week the tour guide is getting more and more annoyed, because the group see the puppet and start laughing, but it’s behind his back, and I put it up and down, or make the puppet go off and get a plastic pineapple. Everyone laughs, but every week he’s getting more and more passive aggressive. So now I hear him saying, ‘… and as you can see, some of the people in this house like to play games.’ Some of these tour guides can get an ego.”
04. Knitted dolls of Faris of and Rachel
Faris: “A fan who lives on the west coast of America made this doll of me a few years ago when The Horrors were in Paloma. We get given some weird stuff, but this it quite cool. And then for Rachel’s birthday this year I sent out an appeal to see if someone could find the person who made this doll, and I found her and she sent us this a month ago.” Rachel: “Because I get jealous – like, ‘I want a doll!’ It’s pretty amazing. Faris gets all the good fans – I get people like white supremacist leaders. Seriously. A guy who is really high up in all that
sent me a message about how much he loved my music. I thought it was my friends joking around but it wasn’t.” 05. Miniature tour diary
Rachel: “Faris made this tiny tour diary for me in 2010. There’s an entry from every day on the tour.” Faris: “We’d only just met, and I was going away on tour for quite a while, and Rachel always feels left out, so I put an entry in each day. “We met when we both lived on the same street. We first started hanging out in the supermarket. We’d go to the big Sainsbury’s in Camden in the middle of the night and play this
07. Collectable spoon of Victoria Falls
Rachel: “When I was little I used to collect spoons, and at the age of 10 I met this little girl in Africa and we became friends instantly.We kept in touch as pen friends for years, until we were 16/17, and then, when I moved to London, we managed to track each other down and she gave me this spoon. We were both around 23 by then, but she’d actually bought this spoon for me when she was 11, and everywhere she’d moved around the world (her dad was an ambassador that kept getting posted in different places) she’d taken this spoon with her because she was determined to give it to me one day. She was almost sad to give it up, because she’d been carrying me around forever, in a way, so now I take it with me wherever I move.” 08. Illustration of Rachel
Faris: “This is a picture that my little brother drew of Rachel, which he did the first time Rachel was over for Christmas. I really like the way kids’ drawings are. For every Christmas and Birthday present I get him to draw me a picture and put it in a frame and then one year I got him to do a portrait of Rachel, which she liked because she’s always saying she had olive skin, which is rubbish – she’s the palest person I know. But here Harry has given her olive skin.”
tell me about it
Shock Machine What Klaxon’s James Righton did next Photogra p hy: gabriel green / writer: james f. thom p son
“I still don’t fucking fully know what I’m doing but I’m getting there,” says James Righton, hunched over a rickety pub table on a sweltering-hot day in East London. It’s a stark and rather unexpected admission from a musician with more than a decade of experience at the coalface in a famous band. Yet, throughout our time together I’ll learn that Righton is full of self-doubt. Ensconced in new rave standardbearers Klaxons for more than a
decade, the 32 year-old found himself at a loss when the band effectively folded at the beginning of last year. Coupled with facing up to the prospect of fatherhood and the perennial success of his Hollywood leading lady wife (he and Keira Knightley married in 2013 and had a daughter, Edie, last year), perhaps Righton’s personal and professional uncertainty should actually come as no surprise. Certainly the name of his new project makes a
lot of sense in this light. ‘Open up the Sky’ is the first EP from Shock Machine, with an album to follow. Recorded in a cabin in the South of France last year with long-time Klaxons producer James Ford, the release charts Righton’s contemplation of his new place in the world – and where he might be headed next. Songs like ‘Confusion’ and the title track move Righton well away from the eighties-influenced dancepunk of Klaxons and instead further
towards seventies-style art rock and psychedelia; Pink Floyd through the prism of Tame Impala. Even the Shock Machine moniker is a nod to Canterbury scene legends Soft Machine – about as esoteric as it gets. “I was just trying to get as far away as I could from the three-minute, four chord thing,” Righton says. “Even though I’ll always love that. I couldn’t sit down and write ‘Golden Skans’ again, though.”
tell me about it
LEFT: JAMES r i gh ton phot ogr aphe d i n c lap ton, London.
“I fell into Klaxons by mistake”
I moved to London to start another band, that wasn’t happening, then I met Jamie through Simon who I went to school with, and then it took off. I just thought it was a big joke. It was funny because we played our first gig and I was gutted afterwards because we were terrible. We tried to play five songs I think and it was just a wall of noise and glow sticks and neon, whistles. Very bizarre. But we did this gig and then suddenly we got booked to do another show and there was a lot of interest and we were getting management but we’d hardly written a song together. Growing up outside of London and being in bands since I was a kid, I was always told and thought that being professional and good was the key to getting record deals and being able to do it for a career.Yet with Klaxons it was just the total opposite that generated such a buzz. We were just on this crazy curve where it just went straight up, then a slow decline. “I was on a 10-year gap year”
I think Klaxons had a very strange lifespan and existence as a band that was quite unique really but we had an amazing time, an insane ride and we ticked boxes. I look back now and I think, God, we did so much… playing with Rihanna at the Brits, just bonkers stuff, meeting my heroes and idols. If someone had said, ‘You’re going to work with [one half of the Chemical Brothers] Tom Rowlands’, a hero since when I was 15, I mean, what, are you kidding? Then you meet [Bowie producer] Tony Visconti, you know. I think as a band we got to do some insane things and we did it right, that’s what I love about it. I was like 21, 22 when it started and I was on a 10-year gap-year.
“We got absolutely out of our minds”
Honestly, I’ve forgotten some of the bonkers stuff we did. In Egypt in the White Desert [for the video to ‘Echoes’], we got a white grand piano shipped over and set fire to it. The day of the shoot, the Egyptian government said we weren’t allowed to shoot so they had to get paid off. I mean, we were only a band but we were a pretty weird band, who got up to some pretty weird stuff. We blew literally hundreds of thousands on albums that never even got made, we won the Mercury prize – I forgot we even did that the other day – we got absolutely out of our minds. It’s weird now because in music it’s a lot easier to have a laptop and do everything yourself, you don’t need a band, but we were just like pirates, looting and causing mayhem wherever we went. “I hated the idea of new rave”
The other guys wouldn’t mind me saying I hated the idea of new rave. I would do interviews where I would be like, ‘I resent this.’ I could see from that point on we were doomed. You can look at it one way and say, okay, it’s something that’s lazy and ‘tag-able’ and it’s a movement people can get behind of sorts, but it’s a weird one because there wasn’t any sort of sound. It wasn’t like punk or something where there’s a sound, this was based on an ethos and a random collection of… I don’t even know. It got people really excited and it gave us this push over and into the mainstream, but you knew at the time it was the death knell as well because you can’t ever live up to the level of expectation – you can’t grow in a kind more natural way, you can’t explore… you have to sell records. “We’d said everything we could have said”
know what we were aiming for. It was this weird thing where we were a big band in a lot of people’s minds – a lot of people knew us – but I just remember that people would be like, ‘Oh yeah Klaxons, whatever happened to you guys,’ you know what I mean? We had two more records, we were touring but it was, ‘Oh yeah 2007, ‘Myths of the Near Future’, yeah.’ I think there’s only so much of that you can listen to before you think, oh man, I’m not sure I can do this anymore. “I’m still in touch with the guys”
I love the guys but, you know, it’s really hard being in a band a long time. You grow as people, you change; you’re not the same people you were when you were 21. Your interests change; you might not be into the same things you were when you were 21, too. I ran into Jamie yesterday in Dalston, and Simon a couple of days ago – he’s back from New York. We live in the same areas. After spending 10 years together, lots of our friends are similar; we have a group of people who are our gang, because we grew up together. We hung out together and spent almost every day together for 10 years. Our circle became quite large, so you can’t just not bump into each other. It’s lovely, actually; I really love it. “What am I doing with my life?”
After Klaxons finished, I faced that existential question we all go through: what am I doing with my life? It ended – the band – and that was like a full stop. That’s a juncture and then I’m at a point where I’ve got to decide what I’m going to do with my life. It was a point when I was just questioning whether I want to continue and try again. You invest a lot in something like an album. If you make that choice, like, I’m going to continue with this, it could be a couple of years out of your life. It’s a choice that you don’t take lightly, really.
I don’t know if there was a definitive moment but there was a slow building feeling inside that maybe [Klaxons] were done. I can’t speak for the others – but I felt that we’d said everything we could have said within the collective unit that we were. I’m really proud of all three records and the EP that we made but I just didn’t know how we could exist anymore at the end of it. It just felt like it was so much effort to make records and in the end I don’t
“I was considering other things”
It was like [after Klaxons ended], what else do I do now? I’m 32, I’ve only ever had a job being in a band or working in a bar before, so… you’re fucked! Unless you want to get into management and the label side of it, or unless you’re one in 20,000 and you get a job on 6Music, then you kind of are fucked. A lot of people get into wine, or food, and it seems like it’s a transferable skill to get into that, or cheese, or like a craft ale company. A lot of it’s to do with making something and also labels, and producers and years, and it sort of taps into that geeky record collector thing. It’s funny where you end up in life – I’d love to find some stats on what happens to people at the end of bands. “I had a reason for Shock Machine to exist”
I went into my little home studio – a little room full of synths and guitars and stuff – and I just kind of switched off that part of my brain that was caring and just started to make music that I liked. It came really quickly, basically, because I had something to say – there was a feeling [of the shock of leaving Klaxons]. I had a reason for it to exist: I’m really scared, my career’s ending, oh my God what am I going to do with my life – it’s a real shock to the system, I’ve got a baby on the way… I don’t know, it was just something I had to put into music. With the new record, post-rationally, maybe I knew what I was doing but I didn’t do it totally consciously – it was almost like a mood I was trying to aim for. “From the heart rather than the head”
I listened to a lot of music that I loved originally – the Beatles, Todd Rundgren, Carole King, Beach Boys… All my life I’ve been into really interesting sounds, warm chords and melodies. I mean, I love things like Abba, Steely Dan, ELO and that kind of stuff with something that moves your heart. It’s more from the heart rather than the head. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling you get with those L.A., West Coast records. I just got into breaking down how some of the music in ‘Pet Sounds’ was made, just sitting at home at my piano and figuring it out, how a lot of the music is in 7th chords and things like that where naturally they do kind of sound more upbeat.
tell me about it
my wife at the Oscars last year] I got a few weird texts saying, ‘What the fuck?’ and all that. I didn’t know I was going to be sat next to Steve Carell, but you know, my wife had worked with him before so I’d met him. All of that stuff means nothing, though. I mean, firstly I’m just being a supportive husband who supports what his wife does. But honestly, that’s way more normal and sedate than anything we got up to as Klaxons.”
“Recording the EP was a ball-ache”
When we went to check out the cabin in the South of France where we recorded – because James Ford was making the Foals record around the corner – we had gone there and it was like spring time and it was freezing so we thought it could be pretty cool. We didn’t think of the heat and that we’d be making it in July in the South of France. So that was one thing – the fact that the heat was blowing out the monitors, and I only had two. But also I’d forgotten about the cicadas. You know, they rub their legs together and make that ‘Tsch tsch tsch’ sound you get in hot countries? We were in this wooded area and I was worrying – I didn’t tell the guys – but I was worried there’d be this cicada hum over all of the recordings, the drums, everything that was close miked. It was a ball-ache and if I had to make another one now I’d probably just go to a fancy-pants studio.
“I feel like I’ve already had success”
“I’ve proved to myself that I can do it”
My dream when I was a kid was just to go to a record store and see my record there. Not that I didn’t with the Klaxons, because it was there and you could buy our record, but it was a shared thing. This record, it’s very personal and I put a lot into this. I think maybe because I never thought it would happen, because I didn’t really believe I could do it – I really didn’t think I would be able to make something that I’d be proud of and I’d want people to hear. I guess probably I also had a lot of insecurities about whether I was good enough. I’d never really written lyrics, I’d written them as a kid but I hadn’t done it for years and I didn’t really do it in the Klaxons; we all had roles we fit into. I feel more confident now. “Being a musician isn’t a right”
I’m really lucky to be doing the thing that is my vocation. It is fucking hard to stay in it and make it work as a career; it’s really difficult. It’s weird because I’m 11 years in but I still feel weird when I write ‘musician’ on my visa. I’ll always feel like I’m totally blagging it. It was a big deal for me when I did a record deal around this record – it was still a huge thing for me. There is a small fire within me to
try and… you know, a lot of people don’t really know what I do, [for them] I was just in ‘that band’ ten years ago and that was it. “I’d go and see Shock Machine over James Righton at a festival”
There was definitely a feeling in me where I wanted [the project] to be judged for what it is. I don’t want any of the baggage. The name was a little nod to the Soft Machine and stuff too. I didn’t think there was any point in calling it my own name – I didn’t think there was any magic in that. I think Damon Albarn’s done it pretty well – he did Blur, Gorillaz, the Good, the Bad and the Queen – and it’s only now, aged 45 or whatever that he’s just Damon Albarn. There might be a James Righton record one day when I feel more comfortable with the skin that I’m in but I like the idea of a ‘band’ identity. Plus I just thought it looked good!
“My private life is sacred to me”
None of that would ever enter into any of my music or writing, ever. It’s just this weird thing, you can’t control press attention. Myself and my family, we just ignore it all. I mean, I just sit at home and play with my daughter. I don’t really let it bother me; I don’t let it enter into my world at all. My private life is sacred to me and I’m not that easy talking about it either. It’s this thing that I protect, and my music is this other thing. I don’t want anything to get in its way. At the end of the day I’m just a dad who’s very happy in his family life and who has a job – it’s a very weird job, not like a normal one – but then I’ve never known any different. It’s normal to me now. “All of the celebrity stuff means nothing”
All the [celebrity husband] shit is way more normal than any of the shit that the Klaxons got up to. I’m not joking. I mean, yeah [after appearing alongside
I’ve had lovely e-mails out of the blue from people I haven’t spoken to in about ten years, or people we worked with when Klaxons started who I haven’t seen in ages, mainly musicians and directors, and they’ve just said they’re really into [the new record]. They didn’t have to do that and for me, if the people I really love and respect are into it, that makes me incredibly happy. I’m not trying to make music intentionally for anyone else but I remember thinking if my friends are into it then I’ll be really happy. So, I don’t know what that means about the amount of people – probably like me and four people at the pub – but yeah. I’d love it if it did really well but as long as I can sustain being a musician and making music I’ll be happy. As long as I can afford to pay my piano teacher to teach me jazz chords I’ll be happy enough.
Reviews / Albums
Whitney Light Upon The Lake s ec r e tl y c an adia n
Photography by David Kasnic
By davi d zammi tt. In st o re s June 3
The word ‘supergroup’ is a bit of an oxymoron. I mean, Cream were decent but from Slash’s Snakepit to Audioslave it’s a term that conjures up music’s less, let’s say, tasteful moments. Indeed, much as I love ‘The Living Years,’ even I will admit that Mike +The Mechanics’ oeuvre is patchy at best. Now, however, we have Whitney. A more understated take on the model, they have quietly produced one of the year’s best albums so far. Boasting an embarrassment of indie riches in Julien Ehrlich (an alumnus of both Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Smith Westerns), Max Kakacek (another former Smith Westerner), Ziyad Asrar (Touching Voids), and a sprinkling of production fairy dust from the hands of Jonathan Rado (Foxygen) and Jacob Portrait (UMO), their collective CV is impressive. Like an Arsenal team sheet flapping
in the August breeze, they look good on paper. Whitney, however, are more than the sum of their parts. Taking the folk and countrydappled rock of the likes of Jim Ford and Gram Parsons as their foundations, they have already been labelled as throwbacks. But while ‘Light UponThe Lake’ clearly hankers for another sonic era, this group of twenty-somethings aren’t just nostalgic for the warmth of a bygone sound. No, they have also made it their mission to reprise a wholesomeness of sentiment; a purity of feeling that has long since expired in pop music. The magic is that they manage to do so with earnestness. Their songs never veer into pastiche or stylistic selfconsciousness, and never feel like they are constructed merely for the vague purpose of post-irony. And, in any case, who said the past should
be allowed to co-opt a sound or an ethos? Contemporary classical composers don’t get slagged because their sound is retro. A breakup album, its songs are wistful, melancholic sketches of those zoomed-in flashes of relationships that seem somehow to capture the whole; crumpled photo booth prints found at the bottom of a shoebox a couple of Christmases later. ‘Golden Days’, the album’s most immediate hit, for example, is a gorgeous, early Jackson Browneesque ode to the happier times shared between two humans, written with the magnanimity that only the twin luxuries of time and distance can afford. With a tender George Harrison guitar line that bends and keens, and a rousing coda of trumpets and sing-along ‘na-na-na’ vocals, it’s a brilliantly sunny celebration of the past that strides confidently into the
future, whatever it may be. ‘Polly’, meanwhile, is another standout; an affectionate meditation on those quiet moments when you’re visited by the ghost of an old love, just as you thought you were doing alright. Climaxing with a wall of brass, it again manages to be triumphant while casting one fond eye over its shoulder, observing what has been and is no longer. Elsewhere, the title track is a resplendent update on Crosby, Stills, & Nash (another decent supergroup, in fairness), while ‘Dave’s Song’ is a wonderfully bare country number that asks its subject for forgiveness amid wailing guitars and plaintive horns. But I could list every track and rhyme off a whole catalogue of touchstones so let me keep this simple: ‘Light Upon The Lake’ is a beautiful thing. Its melodies are beautiful and its honesty of emotion is beautiful.
Let’s Eat Grandma I, Gemini tr an sg r e ss i ve By stuar t st ubbs. In store s june 17
Whenever you meet anyone from Norwich they all say exactly the same thing about their hometown – about how it’s a place that nobody passes through on their way to somewhere else, and so the good people of this medieval market town just get on with things by themselves, proudly and with little regard for the rest of the country’s ways. The isolation brings with it ridicule (a small-minded Alan Partridge under a cow) but also a feverous creativity currently found in the city’s growing art scene and experimental musicians like Luke Abbott. As far at ridicule goes, Let’s Eat Grandma are a soft target, on account of their ages (RosaWalton and Jenny
Hollingworth are 16 and 17, respectively) and the hyper can-dolet’s-do music that they make. Each factor is a product of the other, of course, and both make ‘I, Gemini’ a creative free-for-all that shouldn’t only be applauded simply for existing, but for its moments of defined excellence also. Considering LEG are from a generation raised on technology, it’s quite unbelievable that a record as varied (and nuts) as this doesn’t feature one sample – the keyboard, guitar, drums, saxophone, harmonica, mandolin, cello, recorder, glockenspiel and ukulele that ping around these 10 tracks are all recorded live, some slicker than
others. It’s best to list the styles they touch upon too, and it’s here where Rosa and Jenny do show their age with no fusty prejudice towards any one genre. The opening ‘Deep Six Textbook’ is what got beardy guys excited about LEG with its glacial pace and controlled drones. Those people might well feel they’ve been had by the following ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’, and maybe they have – it’s petulant by comparison and features deep disco synths, J-pop vocals and brattish teen rapping. Next there’s a stromping saxophone bit (‘Sax in the City’), pagan recorders and pat-a-cake sing-song (‘Chocolate Sludge Cake’), harmonised trad folk, a night-terror
fairytale, a really weird seasick song about sleep, a nod to ambient composition followed by something more tribal, and a closing ukulele rendition of the opening high-point – itself a joke at the end of an album that has throughout challenged the archetype of two young females making music together. It’s not without the missteps you’d expect from a debut this wild (‘Sleep Song’ is overlong; ‘Chocolate Sludge Cake’ annoying in part) but it seems reductive to denounce ‘I, Gemini’ on account of its lack of focus when we’ve grown so tired of young musicians obsessed with a nostalgia they can’t remember but we can and are sick of.
Recorded in Iceland, Germany and Ireland, Samaris’ latest album is the first since its members found themselves living apart, having moved, separately, to far flung cities across the continent. Some tracks even came to life in an Airbnb in Berlin. That geographic dislocation has coincided with a move to a sound that’s more restless than their debut, ‘Silkidrangar’. The arrangements are sparser this time, the agitated, impatient beats tending towards syncopation and the verse-chorus
constructions of its predecessors are all but dispensed with. For the most part, it works. The awkwardly-named ‘T3mp0’ (the album also includes ‘R4vin’, ‘T4ngled’ and ‘3y3’ in what seems like a tribute to my MSN Messenger chats circa 2002), for example, is a high point that evolves, shifting from a twitchy, dystopic nursery rhyme to a quasi-dance tune in its three-anda-half minutes, while ‘T4ngled’ is a sultry, neo-dub number that pairs Jófríður Ákadóttir’s sweet, mournful
vocals to a throbbing electronic bass line. Recalling The Notwist, Lali Puna and Thom Yorke’s solo stuff, in its more aggressive moments ‘Black Light’ touches on the industrial dance of Factory Floor. And while I set out to avoid the obvious Björk comparison, ‘Gradient Sky’ is so reminiscent of their compatriot’s late-90s work it would be remiss not to acknowledge it. Regardless, this is the sound of a band who aren’t content to rest on their laurels.
Saramis Black Lights On e l i t t le i n di a n By davi d zammi tt. In st ore s june 10
Photography by Jenna Foxton
0 7/ 1 0
Albums 0 4/ 1 0
The Gotobeds Blood Sugar Secs Traffic
Fear of Men Fall Forever
Jambinai A Hermitage
S ou n dway
su b po p
b ella u n io n
By c h r is watkey s . I n sto res june 10
B y a l e c w isgard . I n s to re s j une 1 0
By hayl e y s c o tt. I n s to re s j u n e 3
B y J a m es F . T h o m ps o n . I n s t o r es j u n e 1 7
Flamingods’ third full-length release in four years is a concept album; the tale of a character named Yuka making his way through a jungle. It’s as melodically ramshackle as we’ve come to expect from this group of world music jammers; lyrically, it’s often a very literal account of Yuka’s journey. ‘Majesty’’s strength is in its more cohesive and less frantic moments, and sometimes the south London via Bahrain band sound like they’re just trying slightly too hard, throwing too much into the pot. By contrast, ‘Majestic Fruit’ has a calmness and a lusciously layered sound, which eventually drops into a gorgeous single flute melody. Later, ‘Yuka’ brings rage and power to the party in a very fun way, and ‘Anya’ is an extended, mesmerising instrumental led by a chilled-out sax. But large chunks of this record feel both interminable and irritatingly dull. It’s split into two halves, with five songs representing the morning and five representing the evening of the day. It’s a nice handle on which to hang the differing moods of the songs, but for me, I’m afraid I couldn’t wait for the day to be over.
A cursory listen to The Gotobeds’ first Sub Pop album would suggest that the band spent hours trawling through Pitchfork’s Best New Music, trying to find what spiky indie rock is currently popular with Internet tastemakers. That’s not to say these acts were a direct influence on ‘Blood Sugar Secs Traffic’ – an early music video saw the band nonchalantly smashing a Parquet Courts LP – but if you’re digesting the same buffet of influences (“Swell Maps, Mission of Burma and old Fall records”) it’s hard not to crap out something similar. Surprisingly though, more often than not, it works. The band really comes into its own when they try to stretch out, as on the impossibly tense ‘Rope’ or enthralling sevenminute closer ‘Amazing Supermarkets’, which is a dense slacker sprawl with a glistening pop heart. Still there’s no arguing with the brutally anthemic ‘Bodies’ or the swooning ‘Glass House’, which could almost be described as pretty. The Gotobeds probably won’t change anybody’s life, but they probably wouldn’t care if they did.
Defined by its emotional resonance, ‘Fall Forever’ pertains to a certain kind of blissful melancholy – the type that perfectly illustrates the ebb and flow of being in love. And much like Fear of Men’s debut album, the prevailing quality here is in the clarity of Jessica Weiss’s voice. Lyrics remain abstract and personal, but there’s a noticeable tendency for Weiss to open up more than on 2014’s more cryptic ‘Loom’, and it’s a development that results in something far more intimate than anything the band have done previously. Thematically, it explores emotional extremes of closeness and distance, love and violence, held together nicely by icy electronics and dark, frenetic post-punk. On paper, Fear Of Men could be another indistinguishable addition to the dreampop contingent, but their genre defiance makes them far more unique than that. ‘Until You’’s comparative loudness – with its discordant synthesisers and propulsive beat – is a quality that they should revisit more. Frustratingly soporific at times, ‘Fall Forever’ remains a truly immersive record.
To most Westerners, South Korean music exists in pretty onedimensional terms; diabetesinducing sugary dance tunes accompanied by bizarre videos of doe-eyed, surgically enhanced teen idols and/or certifiable nutcases.The lunacy of ‘Gangnam Style’ might have pushed the boundaries of K-pop, but Seoul-based trio Jambinai already exist well beyond them, operating at a weird intersection between traditional Korean folk, drone music and ballsto-the-wall metal; Lightning Bolt with bamboo flutes and zithers. Few if any of their compatriots have mined this sort of territory before. Opener ‘Wardrobe’ wastes no time in stomping all over the listener with a phalanx of guitars, punishing drums and guttural wails before morphing into what sounds like a horror film climax at a graveyard. There are tranquil moments on the record too, though: ‘The Mountain’ and ‘For Everything That You Lost’ see guitar theatrics largely take a back seat to meditative keys and delicate Korean instrumentation. K-pop this most certainly is not.
Listening to Steve Gunn’s album, I’m overcome with a familiar, claustrophobic sensation that it takes me a while to identify. It’s the sensation of being trapped in the back of a Mitsubishi Space Wagon circa 1994. My childhood summers were spent mostly in my Dad’s car, sandwiched between four siblings, travelling to a caravan park in Devon, or a cricket match in Stroud, or to my Nan’s house in Basildon, while interminable ‘old man music’ played on loop. It was unbearably hot and
sticky because we didn’t have air con and my Dad doesn’t believe in driving with the windows open, in case a bird flies in. ‘Eyes on the Lines’ evokes these stifling summer journeys, played by a man who was once a member of Kurt Vile’s The Violators. So yeah, Gunn sure can play his instrument of choice, and in a classic American way that had him open for The War On Drugs last year. It makes me want to get out of the car and breathe clean, cool air, though, even though I’m listening in my kitchen,
with the windows open. Look, my Dad has good taste in music. What my 9-year-old self categorised as ‘old man’ was, in fact, Van Morrison and Steely Dan and Bob Marley. So, no offence to Steve Gunn – maybe his album is brilliant and I just can’t tell (though I will say that ‘Full Moon’, a kind of summery, laid-back, Beach Boys influenced track, is a highlight). Certainly, it achieves his ambition to evoke ‘the road’. It’s just a road I’d rather exit when possible.
Steve Gunn Eyes on the Line matador By kati e be swi ck. In sto re s june 3
The Kills Ash & Ice
Minor Victories Minor Victories
Reuben Hollebon Terminal Nostalgia
Pol y dor
d o m i no
pi a s
B r ig h t A n t en n a
By sam walton . In sto re s june 24
B y jo e go ggi ns . I n sto re s j une 3
By d ani e l d yl an w ray. I n st o r e s j u n e 3
B y g u ia c o r t a ssa . I n sto r e s j u n e 3
The fictitious tropical island of ‘Ibifornia’ is, apparently, a paradise where the hedonistic abandon of Ibiza combines with the sunshine pop of California to create, in the minds of its creators Cassius, some sort of portmanteau-driven musical idyll. The French electro duo’s second record is a paen to their invented Shangri-La, with all the attendant whiff of concept album: different songs and singers (including Cat Power, Mike D and PharrellWilliams) praise the island’s varying virtues, and the wild genrehopping contained across the record’s draining hour-long running time is defended as touristic adventure. The truth is that, as a holiday destination, Ibifornia has more in common with Dubai than anywhere more Arcadian, being full of near-miss appropriations of other places, whether that’s peppy disco (‘The Missing’), filter house (‘Go Up’) or, most bizarrely, stadium rock (‘Blue Jean Smile’). The lightly Balearic closer of ‘Ponce’ offers the only hint of depth in this grating, garish and tacky tourist brochure self-satisfied to the point of onanism.
It’s been half a decade since the last Kills record, but if we’re going to measure things out in numbers perhaps the five surgeries on Jamie Hince’s left hand would be a better place to start. An unfortunate mix of a gung-ho doctor and a finger slammed in a car door left him needing to learn how to play guitar again, with ‘Ash & Ice’ recorded in fits and starts between operations. All the more impressive, then, that this fifth album sounds so cohesive. Especially since Hince took a solo trip on the Trans-Siberian Express for inspiration, while Alison Mosshart wrote lyrics back at home in Nashville. The singer’s fabulous vocal profile helps, of course, as she snarls one minute (‘Doing It to Death’) and cracks confessionally the next (‘That Love’). In the end, though, it’s Hince’s wandering eye – and immobile middle finger – that seal it; the dancehall beat of ‘Days of How and Why’ and the flickering groove that drives ‘Let It Drop’ provide compelling evidence that, finally, The Kills have grown out of the staccato-riff-against-processedbeat template that’s defined them.
The promise of any musical collaboration that intertwines the textural explorations and brooding euphoria of Mogwai and Slowdive is enough to get excited about.Throw in the heavy-handed and often prosaic anthem-fuelled output of Editors, however, and you’re left with something less sure-fire. Minor Victories don’t especially sound like any of the three projects that make up its membership and have forged a sound of their own, although not an especially revolutionary one. Despite Rachel Goswell’s likeable and floating vocals, and the huge sweeping strings and guitars-asatmosphere approach, ‘Minor Victories’ still feels a little clunky and hasty in parts, as the brash drums overshadow some of the tonal delicacies that bubble underneath. There are also many considered and well-executed moments here, like ‘Breaking My Light’, and parts of the record float and surge powerfully. But such moments often lose momentum when paired with some of the jarring external inclusions, like Mark Kozelack, who can’t help but feel misplaced.
Besides working as a sound engineer and producer for many different acts, including Basement Jaxx, Reuben Hollebon has been working for a long time on his own music, which gave birth to his debut EP, ‘Clutch’. Four years on, the Norfolk-born, London-based musician is releasing his first LP. Largely informed by Radiohead and The National, Hollebon mixes songwriting with electronica, selfproducing the majority of the tracks here and working with a four-piece band in a studio that he uses as an additional instrument in itself. ‘Terminal Nostalgia’ features powerful anthems – like ‘Faces’ – while ‘Augustus’ is an interesting winter folk song, melding acoustic fingerpicking with electronica, à la Bon Iver. The songwriting and arrangements are strong and well balanced, but Hollebon’s peculiar trembling voice, reminiscent of Keaton Henson’s, is often out of control and a bit over the top. ‘Come Back Early’ is a big flaw on that front, but otherwise ‘Terminal Nostalgia’ is a pretty interesting record with more to discover.
If ‘Ark 1’ and ‘Re-Animations’ were consolidations of Erol Alkan and Richard Norris’ psychedelic predilection, ‘The Soft Bounce’ is the sound of the duo hitting their eclectic stride outright: no reworks, re-edits or reanimations. It might have taken longer than expected (they were working on original demos back in 2009) but their proper debut explores sultry French cinema, psych and ’60s sunshine pop with a confidence few others can rival.
Where opener ‘Delicious Light’ builds with patient, insistent intent, ‘Creation’ evokes the bright, effortless refinement of a vintage Stella Artois spot; where title track ‘The Soft Bounce’ creates the dreamy haze School of Seven Bells made a career out of, ‘Iron Age’ unleashes a swarm of wasp-ish guitar with one angry stamp of a pedal before sliding into the snakehipped funk of Beck at his best. There is also a depth and variety that plays through in the thick,
pensive soundscape of ‘Tomorrow Forever’, the psychedelia-riddled positivity of ‘Finally First’ and the pitch-perfect harmonies of ‘Triumph’. Part cosmic wormhole, part expansive passion project, Alkan and Norris barely put a foot wrong here – the M83-lite of ‘Diagram Girl’ the only real blot. Regardless, their cultured consideration makes ‘The Soft Bounce’ a brilliant distillation of everything Beyond the Wizards Sleeve stand for: a trip in every sense of the word.
Beyond The Wizards Sleeve The Soft Bounce ph an t a s y By r eef y ou n is . In sto re s july 1
David Nance More Than Enough
Jackie Lynn Jackie Lynn
Weird Dreams Luxury Alone
Ba da bin g!
me mp h i s ind us tr i e s
thr il l j o c k e y
t o u g h lo v e
By daniel dy l an wra y. In sto re s june 3
B y g ui a c o rtas s a. I n s to re s j une 1 7
By k atie b e s w ic k . I n s to res j u n e 1 0
B y c h r i s wa t k ey s . In s t o r es j u n e 1 0
This home recorded effort by Omaha DIY man David Nance operates very much under the shadow of the Velvet Underground. So much so, in fact, that even when not nodding to the group’s melodic suaveness or their atonal tendencies, there’s still a link to be found through some of the other groups the VU has shaped, in particular the Brian Jonestown Massacre. And much like the BJM, this is a mixed bag of songs, scattered equally with moments of brilliance and directionless dirges. It has a hazy, blurry psychedelic undercurrent to it, and there are moments it pulls you into its swirling vortex and others where you just feel a little like you’re stuck in a bog. It’s these two states that the record flips back and forth between throughout – one moment there’s a charming Parquet Courts-esque number that feels like a lost ’60s gem, full of ragged charge and fury (see ‘Fully Automatic’) and the next there’s a track that feels it should have been left in the rehearsal room, or at least cut in half (‘Never Gonna Fall’ really needn’t be 9 minutes long). It’s as enjoyable as it is frustrating.
If you think that mixing synth-pop with lo-fi indie will no doubt result in a bad experience, perhaps you’ve never heard the music of Weaves. Hailing fromToronto, the band, founded in 2013 and driven by the creative force of Jasmyn Burke and Morgan Waters, worked on their debut album over the last two years from voice memos recorded on Burke’s phone. Weaves’ DIY approach spans art pop and alt. rock, creating a pretty irresistible sound, oscillating between the two edges and through the 11 tracks on this first album. From the opening song, ‘Tick’, released as a single a year ago – a lesson in how gleaming synths can be used in pop – to the slack rock of ‘Shithole’, the Pixies-esque ‘Two Oceans’, and the exotic atmosphere and percussions of ‘Coo Coo’, Burke’s vocals make a perfect blend with Waters’ dirty guitar, her naturally controlled vocals bouncing against a feedback wall and landing perfectly in style. There are no ballads or down tempo tracks here, so on one hand it may lack dynamics, but it also works in Weaves’ favour to keep the momentum going. Constantly fun, they feel like a band on the launch pad.
Jackie Lynn is all theatre. The eponymous alter ego of Circuit des Yeux’s Hayley Fohr, Lynn was propelled from her mother’s womb by a bolt of lightning on June 1st 1990 in Franklin, Tennessee – “They say I shot out of her like a bullet from a gun, right into oncoming traffic.” The authorities suspect she’s been running a Chicago cocaine racket with the mysteriousTom Strong (real name unknown), but they’ve no evidence and anyway, she’s disappeared. This album, encased in a cocaine-dusted, red and gold LP jacket, was all that remained when police arrived at her Sacramento & 26th Street apartment following reports of a domestic dispute. Fohr’s deep, sensual singing voice creates Lynn as a glamorous, transient figure; all smoke and ambiguity, like a cabaret drag queen. Sexy and melancholy, the songs (a style of cool, underground country music that’s way more accessible than Fohr’s previous work) pull us through her troubled journey, from Franklin to Chicago to who knows where she is now. It’s cinema for the ears. Jackie Lynn might be a fiction, but I love her.
Moving to Paris has given a more introspective air to Doran Edwards’ music. Gone is the hooky power-pop of 2012’s ‘Catastrophe’’s punchier tracks, replaced by something more soothing, lazy and hazy; a sound that feels something like smoke curling gently into a summer sky. Opener ‘Binary’ recalls The Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ – a distinctly psychedelic feel infused with concisely arranged melody. Elsewhere, ‘Fantasy Building’ is an extended, atmospherically ambient instrumental piece. It’s nice, but not as enveloping as it could be, and you do half expect to hear whale noises breaking through the haze at any point. It’s symptomatic of the meandering nature of ‘Luxury Alone’. The album’s two standout tracks, meanwhile, are the punchy ‘Digital Waters’, which sounds like a muted Wild Beasts, and the superb and melancholy ‘Chalk Scrawls’. Edwards has succeeded in making an album with a very strong musical identity, but its truly engaging moments – while very special when they do come – are too sparse for the record to have a lasting impact.
Overly emotional. Melodramatic. Self-doubting. Obsessive. Crushingly melancholic out of nowhere. You remember puberty, and I’m guessing you don’t fancy another go at it. But then there’s Mitski Miyawaki’s fourth album of fuzzed-up, post-grunge indie, the sort once found on MTV2; itself as nostalgic as reading your horoscope for some kind of clue that xxxxxxxx will shag you because of your new Kickers. ‘Puberty 2’ features all of those teenage troughs, and the
confusing, thrilling peaks too – the starry eyes, manic ambition and constant distraction of sex (overtly felt from the very start of opening track ‘Happy’ and more playfully so in the operatic, brilliantly overblown ‘Best American Girl’, which compares lovers to a couple of spoons). The most embarrassing thing about puberty, though, isn’t so much in these rapid mood swings but in how impossible they are to express at the time. Now entering her late 20s,
it’s what Mitski – a past composition scholar, and it shows – does so well, via shifting subtleties within the confines of alt. rock. She remains plugged-in throughout, even at her most sober, and by being more Portishead than Breeders, ‘Crack Baby’ helps give her the edge over other US artists also revisiting their formative years, like Waxahatchee and Speedy Ortiz. But you don’t need to imagine you’re a teen again to get ‘Puberty 2’ – rather accept that in some ways you still are one.
Mitski Puberty 2 dead oc ean s By s tuar t s tu bb s. In sto re s june 17
0 3 /10
The Claypool Lennon Delirium The Monolith of Phobos
Save! Monsters & Fairies
Ela Orleans Circles Of Upper and Lower Hell
Amber Arcades Fading Lines
Le s D i s q ue s D e L a Mor t B y re e f y ouni s . In s to re s j une 3
By Alex Wi s gard. In store s June 3
This debut album from Sean Lennon and Primus’s chief instigator Les Claypool occupies that difficult middle ground between psychedelia and prog. The eleven songs on ‘The Monolith of Phobos’ (let that awful title sink in for a moment) boast nonsense lyrics, multi-part songs separated into movements and excruciatingly clever-clever flights of fancy. The hypnotic anti-tech screed ‘Boomerang Baby’ and the poignant ‘Bubbles Burst’, both sung by Lennon, aren’t far removed from his underrated Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger project. However, Claypool’s inability to restrain his slap bass chops and Pythonesque way with a silly voice turns tracks like the sea shanty ‘Captain Lariat’ into exercises in try-hard whimsy. At its rare best, ‘Phobos’ sounds like vintage Ween – a studied genre pastiche that occasionally lets the listener in on the joke. Mostly, though, The Claypool Lennon Delirium lives up to its name like a fever dream; you want it to stop, and until it does, you just hope Paracetamol will do the trick.
H e av en l y B y tom f en w ic k . I n s tor es j u n e 3
ni g ht school By joe go ggi ns . I n s to re s J u n e 2 4
As a concept, dark beats and stream of consciousness lyrics typically make for solid listening, but on ‘Monsters and Fairies’ SAVE! never quite find their sweet spot. A collaboration between Marc Nguyen Tan, aka Colder, and poet Craig Louis Higgins Jr., their words and music rarely coalesce into something balanced and complete.With Higgins Jr. in London andTan in Spain for the creation of ‘Monsters and Fairies’, that sense of disconnection is palpable on the forgetful, sound effect-heavy ‘Rainy Monday’ and the senselessly annoying ‘What Are You Looking At?’ as the pair ease past through beats and stilted sentences. Elsewhere, the lurching electro of ‘Feel So Good’ evokes David Walliams’ disturbing cameo as Vulva in Spaced, and ‘Darkness in the Middle’ could be overlaid on any big budget, high concept fragrance ad. When SAVE! do keep it simple, as on ‘Easy Walk and Talk’, and when Tan’s busy, evolving beats are left to pull focus on instrumental interludes ‘TheTick’ and ‘The Light (Extended)’, ‘Monsters and Fairies’ briefly makes sense. Briefly.
I can’t imagine that anybody would pick up a record by the name of ‘Circles of Upper and Lower Hell’ and expect a.) no little drama, and b.) a record that was not entirely awash with self-importance. Sure enough, this seventh LP from Ela Orleans – born in Poland, based in Glasgow – provides both in spades, with the press release comically suggesting that the album is ‘loosely’ based on Dante’s Inferno. No shit! In actual fact, though, that is a common theme over the course of a record that inexplicably runs at seventy-three minutes, and during which Orleans’ obvious knack for off-kilter pop songwriting is utterly subsumed by self-indulgence. The atmospheric shimmer of ‘Sensation’ and ‘The Great Barrier’’s fizzing post-rock soundscapes remind us of just how much Orleans is capable of; it’s just that it’s augmented, here, by so many unnecessary electronic interludes, as well as the uninspired likes of ‘Ghosts and Whispers’.Truly cinematic music can be genuinely affecting at its best; this is far too muddled to truly come close.
Summer is here, which means it’s time for a slew of albums best described with adjectives like ‘dreamy’, ‘ethereal’, ‘swirling’, ‘reverb soaked’ and ‘jangly’. Amber Arcade’s debut ‘Fading Lines’ is no exception. It’s the work of Utrecht native Annelotte de Graaf, who’s ably aided by a backing band of stray members from Quilt and Real Estate. When she’s not making dreamy indie pop songs about jet lag (‘Turning Light’) and the random nature of being (‘Apophenia’), de Graaf works as a legal aide on criminal war trials for the UN. But the horrors of her day job are nowhere to be seen here as her wistful vocals drift across the album like a cool breeze on a sundappled (there’s another one) afternoon. If there’s a criticism it’s in the album’s unwavering tone, which walks the fine line between dreaminess and apathy, but is saved from the latter by the keen production of The Men’s Ben Greenberg. And with intelligent lyricism, euphonious vocals and just the right level of winsomeness, this may be the new soundtrack to your post-festival comedown.
Loose Meat are a band still so new that googling their name returns myriad recipes for a Iowan delicacy made with ground beef and fried onions in a bap above links to any musical accomplishments, despite one half of the band, Mark ‘Arp’ Cleveland, having previous as drummer in the much-loved Archie Bronson Outfit. Perhaps fortunately for Loose Meat (the food), the debut album from Loose Meat (the band) doesn’t offer much to buck that ranking, filling itself with competent
but forgettable indie-disco electro that occasionally sparkles but mainly sags. It starts promisingly enough: ‘Human Motivation’ and ‘Edge of Love’ both slink around with agreeable sass, but the record heads south quickly. ‘Octopus’’s repeated refrain of “dipped in, dipped in, we’ve been dipped in a biscuit tin” might’ve seemed enigmatic during recording but now is just baffling, and as childish and the record’s sleeve, ‘Regulator’ is a half-decent Hot Chip
track in search of a soul, and ‘Harbour of Your Heart’ is a CSS off-cut, at best. Much bluster abounds from the band about making music that “embraces a new eclectic sound”, finding “that rarest, golden musical moment: the new”. The bravado is entertaining, sure, but the truth is more prosaic: this is likeable, anonymous background stuff for your next house party while you wait for people to turn up; the kind of sound that’s outfamed by a burger.
Loose Meat Loose Meat Wh ipp ed C r e am By Sam walto n . In store s june 3
Cat’s Eyes Treasure House RA F By James F . Th om pso n. In sto re s june 3
Is this really the same Faris Badwan who once recorded an album of fierce goth-punk with The Horrors, with track titles like ‘Sheena is a Parasite’? Having heard this second LP from Cat’s Eyes – a tie-up with Canadian musician and soprano Rachel Zeffira – one’s first instinct is to squint back at Badwan’s early discography with a sizeable sense of incredulity. In the space of a decade, the 29 year-old has lifted his music from the gutter and pushed it upwards towards the skies. Yet today Badwan sounds like he’s always belonged there. Of course, this has been no sudden ascension. Back in 2011, third Horrors album ‘Skying’ fully
jettisoned the crunching guitars and frantic synthesisers of earlier fare and left them nose-diving in its wake, charting a new course through the clouds that took in dreamy 4AD influences like Cocteau Twins and early-nineties shoegaze. But that release – and the following ‘Luminous’ – still sounded firmly rooted in alternative rock music, however experimental the interpretation. With Cat’s Eyes, Badwan and Zeffira rely heavily on the classical background and multi-instrumental prowess of the latter to escape the boundaries of that genre. The pair’s 2011 debut painted the Cat’s Eyes template in broad strokes: grandiose strings and Zeffira’s pristine vocals
interspersed with sixties-influenced rhythms and analogue electronics. At its best, it was an album of transcendental beauty (‘I Knew It Was Over’). At its worst, it could be gratingly indulgent (‘Sooner Or Later’). On ‘Treasure House’, the balance has shifted well towards the former, even if there are still irritations, in Zeffira’s sixties doo-wop exercise ‘Be Careful Where You Park Your Car’ (incongruous here) and Badwan’s succeeding track ‘Standoff’, which comes off a little heavy-handed. Otherwise, this is a masterfully nuanced and ambitious LP. On ‘Chameleon Queen’ the two manage to channel both John Grant (check Badwan’s bittersweet baritone in
saying goodbye to an ex) and the Kinks (ditto the trumpets, triumphantly blaring away), with a juxtaposition that shouldn’t work but really does. The excellent ‘Girl in the Room’ then starts off like a gorgeous lost Broadcast song, before being dragged away by the undercurrent as waves of John Barry strings wash over it all. Best of all is all-too-brief closer ‘Teardrops’. Zeffira’s spectral quiver just barely stays afloat atop a delicate Philip Glass-style piano melody, before drifting into silence. Sublime and hopefully an indication of things to come, this is where Badwan and Zeffira move beyond even the skies, towards the heavens.
It’s little wonder it’s taken four years for The Invisible to make a new album.The follow-up to their Mercury Prize-nominated debut, 2012’s ‘Rispah’, was completed in the aftermath of the death of Dave Okumu’s mother. A few months later a freak accident saw the frontman electrocuted on stage in Africa and the campaign was understandably halted. Both events inflicted mental and physical scars, which have taken time to heal. Fortunately, the fittingly titled
‘Patience’ has been made in more positive circumstances. Outside of the trio, frontman Okumu is a notable producer (working with Jessie Ware and, more recently, Rosie Lowe) while bassist Tom Herbert is part of Polar Bear and drummer Leo Taylor has recorded with Adele and Grace Jones. It is, though, a unique chemistry that bubbles when the three friends reunite. There’re guests this time, too, including Anna Calvi, Rosie Lowe and Connan Mockasin, who all
contribute vocals, but it’s best when it’s just the three of them – like on the addictive Prince-esque groove of lead single ‘Save Me’, the spacey synth-injected opener ‘So Well’ and the wispy, creeping LCD Soundsystem-style ballad ‘Memories’. The whole thing all comes dressed in The Invisible’s indelible foggy funk lacquer. Odd moments feel a little unnecessarily extended, but having travelled back from a dark place, you can practically hear the smiles back on their faces.
0 7/ 1 0
The Invisible Patience n i n ja tu n e By gr eg c oc h r ane . In st o re s june 10
Reviews / Live
Quilt Hoxton Bar & Kitchen 16/ 0 5/ 20 16 wr i ter : James F . Tho m p so n Ph otogr ap her : Ra che l lip sitz
“We’re in Europe for three weeks and couldn’t think of a better time to have a break from America,” drawls frontwoman Anna Fox Rochinski, presumably in reference to taking refuge from the ongoing dystopian nightmare of the Trump presidential run. Quilt’s sun-kissed psych-rock recalls a more innocent time and opener ‘Passersby’ from latest record ‘Plaza’ sets the tone for the evening: languorous instrumental passages and delicate, three-way harmonies that sound like a day on a Californian beach in the Summer of Love without a care in the world. The Boston quartet seek solace from the perverse, frightening
realities of today through the sights and sounds of yesterday. With a floaty floral outfit and wavy brown locks, Rochinski looks pictureperfect fronting a band for whom time has in some ways stood still since 1967. The new album picks up where ‘Held in Splendor’ left off, sounding like Love’s ‘Forever Changes’ played by some sort of Real Estate and Espers super group affair. This time though, there’s a bit more conventional song craft at work. Where earlier, looser stuff tends to roll along like a daydream, tracks like ‘Roller’ and ‘Hissing My Plea’ lunge for attention in a live context,
with a punchy, angular sound that serves as an invaluable counterpoint within tonight’s set. Indeed, it’s the more straightforward fare that works best on stage if this showing is anything to go by, even if Quilt aren’t in any sense a “hits” band (there are no uproarious reactions to any songs on parade here). ‘Tie up the Tides’ from the last record is another winner: a jaunty meld of freak-folk psychedelia and indie pop. When the hazy, meandering odysseys begin to pile up though, all coalescing around the same few major keys, the experience shifts from the warmly nostalgic to the wearyingly repetitive. “The
drummer’s going to sing this one so it’s a good time to go for a bathroom break, or a cigarette,” says guitarist and singer Shane Butler, introducing John Andrews’s ‘Young Gold’ from the group’s first album. He’s joshing, of course, but after more than a dozen songs it’s actually an inviting proposition. Bearing in mind that a lot of the new ‘Plaza’ LP was actually assembled from old demos, over a whole night the impact of Andrews’s track and others is undeniably dimmed by a sense of collective overfamiliarity and fatigue. Could it be that Quilt are actually marooned on that lovely beach of theirs?
Bad Breeding Old Blue Last
Haelos Bussey Building, Peckham
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wr i ter : L i am K one ma nn
w r it er : J a m es F . Tho mp s o n P hoto g r a ph er : To m J a ck s on
Having spent a month zig-zagging across the extremities of North America in support of their debut album ‘Full Circle’, Haelos could easily be forgiven for putting in half a shift tonight. Instead, the London trip-hop-cum-shoegaze trio deliver a show well befitting of any homecoming, feeding off the energy of a blatantly overcapacity crowd in playing a set that makes their excellent new record sound like it wasn’t meant to be heard any other way. Minor-key melancholia abounds, yet the overall sensation is one of euphoria; an enlarged live line-up and the harmonies of Lotti Benardout and Arthur Delaney lending extra emotional heft to tracks like new single ‘Separate Lives’, ‘Earth Not Above’ and superb rave-up ‘Oracle’. Technical hitches aside, this is a big performance from an everbigger band.
Bad Breeding are short, fast, and loud. Less than one verse in and lead singer Chris Dodds is off the stage and into the crowd, strangling the microphone with a white-knuckled grip. The energy is undeniable. The band play at hyper-speed, with guitarist Charlie Rose moving so fast he resembles a punk rock Sonic the Hedgehog. A fight pit forms down the front as the crowd exorcise demons and burn surplus energy. It’s all working. Bad Breeding combine 21st century DIY and filthy ’70s punk without becoming a caricature. That is, right up until Dodds leans out and gobs over the crowd. The scales tip. For a moment things teeter on the verge of becoming a tribute act. Ever feel like you’ve been cheated? But the thing is, Bad Breeding really are very good. An airing of their debut single, ‘Age of Nothing’, and balance is restored.
Castity Belt Night & Day Cafe Manchester
Minor Victories Village Underground Shoreditch
The Kills Village Underground Shoreditch
Katy B Brixton Academy London
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1 4 / 05 / 2 01 6
wr i ter : j oe g oggins
wri te r: S am Wal t on
wri te r: nat h an we s t l e y
w r it er : S a m Wa l t o n
It says a lot about Sub Pop, staple that they are of the indie rock world, that there’s so many bands they’d like to sign that they had to start up another imprint to accommodate all of them – in this case, the superb Hardly Art. That one of that label’s flagship outfits, Chastity Belt, repeatedly counter good-natured shouts from the crowd tonight with professions that they haven’t yet mastered true interpretation of northern English accents says a lot about how far they’ve come. In any town that has its collective musical head screwed on, there will always be room for bands like these; bands with such intuitive understanding of melody, with such a brilliantly caustic approach to lyricism, with such irrepressible energy on stage.There’s a handful of new cuts, not from last year’s ‘Time to Go Home’. They all sound sharper than ever.
“It’s nice that so many of you showed up before the album’s even out,” announces Rachel Goswell after tonight’s opening song. Of course, being that the band consists of members of Mogwai (Stuart Braithwaite and Martin Bulloch), Editors (Justin Lockey) and Slowdive (Goswell herself), a ready-made fan base rather precedes them.That they sound exactly as you’d expect helps too: shimmering post-rock atmospherics, glacial vocals and chiming motorik guitar lines abound at extreme volume, with the night’s only surprise being Braithwaite’s uncharacteristically blues-rock solo during ‘Cogs’. On one level it’s predictable fare – the gig ends in a rush of feedback and white noise that even hitherto undiscovered Peruvian tribes saw coming – but when the din is this engaging, it seems churlish to complain.
Five albums in and five years after 2011’s ‘Blood Pressures’, tonight Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince deliver a fiery performance in the intimate-for-them Village Underground that suggests they are more than glad to be back. Although expanded to a quartet for live performances, it feels like a continuation rather than a new beginning as they seamlessly slide into their set. Opener ‘No Wow’ and the following ‘U.R.A. Fever’ kickstart proceedings but tonight’s show is one that melds old staples with a splashing of new ones from the forthcoming ‘Ash & Ice’. On songs such as ‘Hard Habit To Break’ and ‘Heart Of A Dog’, cranked-up guitar riffs strap themselves to a rolling rhythm that never strays far from the Kills’ classic blueprint. Committed and driven, The Kills are still a cult rock band, and happily so.
A strange one, this: Katy B celebrates her album that isn’t an album (‘Honey’ is more a tour through different styles of club music, aided by some big-name collaborations) with a gig that isn’t a gig: sporting just a DJ and drummer behind her, this homecoming show is, in essence, a throwback to Brien’s days doing PAs at raves: songs bounce past, all ready-mixed, just waiting for her to sing over them, while the focus on stage is all dancers and lasers. On the whole it’s joyfully bombastic stuff, carried along by Brien’s infectious excitability and big-ticket covers like ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’. For all the euphoria, though, there’s an abiding sense that Brien’s innate magnetism and musicality is slightly wasted on this huge karaoke session: charisma the size of hers demands a great big hulking pop show, not a sop to days gone by.
The Great Escape Various venues, Brighton 19 - 21/ 0 5/ 20 16 wr ite r s : tom f enwick
The most important thing The Great Escape (TGE) has taught me is that you have to accept the things you can’t change; because with 600+ acts vying for attention across the concert halls, nightclubs, churches, basements, apartments and backalleys of Brighton, you can’t catch it all. So it’s perhaps best not to view this as a festival at all, but rather a choose-your-own-adventure; one that favours bold choices in a quest to slay the dreaded fear of missing out. Whether you’re awake, asleep, eating, drinking, queuing or walking between venues, there’s a band playing somewhere – probably a band you really wanted to see – so it’s best to just let the cultural tsunami sweep you along and move onto the next thing. Anna Meredith gets proceedings going with an unexpectedly bonkers start. I don’t quite know what I was expecting. But it falls somewhere between Max Tundra and Elgar dropping pills and running through the countryside together and the results are raucous. It’s just what we needed to kick off the festival, before heading up to see the much lauded Frankie Cosmos, in the opulent Paganini Ballrooms. Cosmos seems enthusiastic, if a little flat on record, but manages to fill the air with a huge sound, winning over a packed room over despite a few technical hitches. Brodka [pictured], who also packs her venue, doesn’t feel like the winner of a TV talent show, but more like a melancholy chanteuse. But I’m reliably informed by the people next to me that she won season three of Poland’s Pop Idol; she’s more Lykke Li making gloomy lullaby’s than Michelle McManus, though, and it briefly makes me think of moving to Central Europe, where even Pop Idol can produce something rather wonderful. The Queens Hotel’s basement is probably more accustomed to hosting wedding receptions than industrial Finnish noise. But as K-XP’s chilly electro-rock surges with dark energy, swirling in the void, it makes the gold weaved net curtains and sprung dance floor take on an all-together more sinister tone. That intensity is counterbalanced by Mothers, who bring their bittersweet jangle to The Haunt on Friday
afternoon, Kristine Leschper’s vocal filling the room with spectral yearning. In complete contrast are Bristolian five-piece Idles, who take to the same grand Regency stage that Frankie Cosmos filled the previous day, unleash one of the weekends highlights with their soaring post punk fury. “Are we having a good time?” shouts the lead singer, to which the crowd hollers with affirmation: “Don’t do that… this isn’t fucking Butlins!” Aside from a few bigger names spread across the weekend, such as Mystery Jets and Stormzy, at it’s heart TGE is all about the new and emerging music. And a huge part of that is represented byThe Alternative Escape; a sort of festival within the festival where blogs and labels take over pubs to present up-and-coming artists. The nature of the Alternative Escape means you might see a lot of acts, but you’ll probably never find out who they are. Some may be tremendous, other not so much, some signed, others not: but they’ll fill your head with music as you wander the streets or step off a sideroad for a quick refreshment. The Mucky Duck is a particularly good
place for this, which apart from being rammed to the rafters is playing host to Swimming Tapes, who soothe us after Idles wholesomely abrasive rawk; their dreamlike lilt and Smithsesque jangles taking us into the night on a high. The Big Moon are then one of the most impressive acts on the final day. It’s all big, brash summer sounds which, while coming over as a little La Sera-lite on record, feel alive this weekend.The single ‘Cupid’ takes on a brilliant rancorous anger, while their exuberant cover of Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’ erases all memories of its association with Austin Powers. To dilute all the guitar rock on the menu, it’s back towards the seafront for South London rapper Cadet and a scrappy show, pulled together in front of a tiny crowd. But an enthusiastic audience, a touching story about his father – which ends with him having to restart a song three times to hold back tears – and a Grime banger before we leave means it’s huge smiles all round. Although that smile is somewhat diminished by the hyped Sorry Boys. It’s the kind of maximalist pop designed to drift across open fields, not rattle around an airless club’s basement,
and despite a spirited performance from their lead singer, they can’t really live up to the acclaim. Californian pop-punk quartet Partybaby are playing their first gig in the UK, and from their enthusiasm you’d think they’d sold out Brixton Academy. They’re not – they’re in a shabby pub at the end of the pier with bad lager and amazing views. Confidence can carry you a long way, though, and they bring sunny westcoast songs about young love and running away from home to a frenzied crowd. Of course, there were countless bands I didn’t see. The democracy of a festival like TGE means that even with a press pass you can’t just swan through the door, and by the Saturday local people have woken up to the idea that their whole city is now a festival so NZCA Lines, SG Lewis and Teleman all have queues round the block while 808Ink and and Oliver Coates prove logistically impossible to make. But you can’t be upset about these things because that’s the charm of TGE – it’s not about who you missed, it’s about enveloping yourself with a collective passion for music, and the experience is unlike few other festivals in the UK.
W r i te r : A n d re w A n d er s on
Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984)
Since I started writing the Singing Pictures column almost a year and a half ago I’ve seen some seriously strange stuff: Insane Clown Posse pretending to be Shaft, Gwar on an interstellar search for a missing penile appendage, Prince spraying people with his jizz guitar... the list goes on. But nothing in that time quite prepared me for the subject of this month’s column: Paul McCartney’s 1984 crapsterpiece Give My Regards to Broad Street. It is a film so outrageously pointless, so utterly banal, bland and boring, that it makes you question your very sanity. Here’s the thing: making a film isn’t easy. The journey from initial idea to finished final cut can take years, with sometimes hundreds if not thousands of people involved along the way. It’s a huge commitment – one you should only undertake if you’re confident of making something worthwhile. But archetypal embarrassing dad Paul McCartney didn’t let any of this trouble him. Plot? Nah! Believable dialogue? Sounds too much like hard work to me! Any thought of artistic coherency whatsoever? Do one! First up, McCartney is in the back of a car. It is raining, and he is late for a meeting. He’s daydreaming... then woosh! Suddenly everything changes and the ex-Beatle is driving down a road in a souped-up hot rod with a talking computer lifted straight from
the basement of my old junior school – one of those BBC ones you could programme with ‘10 PRINT “Mr Jones is a paedo”; 20 GOTO 10; RUN’ and be lauded by your peers. McCartney is hot-rodding off to a meeting with his record label, which is threatened by a crisis: the tapes for the new McCartney album have gone missing! You’d think they’d be relieved – thank fuck we don’t have to listen to the new Paul McCartney LP etc. – but instead they seem intent on finding the damn things. Oh, and another thing: if they don’t find the tapes before midnight then a really evil man with dark glasses will take over the company and make everything bad forever (possibly by re-releasing ‘We All Stand Together’ by Paul McCartney & The Frog Chorus). You might imagine that McCartney would offer a helping hand in the search for his tapes, but instead he rehearses and records a medley of Beatles songs with Ringo Starr. The songs sound how all ’80s rerecordings of classic ’60s tracks sound: terrible. It’s nice to see Ringo on screen though, even if he appears to have no more fucking clue why he’s there than Paul does. George Martin also has a quick cameo, controlling the recording session from the booth. George Harrison clearly had better things to do (like make his own shit records) and John Lennon was, fortunately for him,
dead, and thus avoided this whole embarrassing episode. Truth be told, I sort of pity Paul McCartney. He was always the least cool Beatle, and time hasn’t made him any cooler. I mean, his face looks like a collection of brackets and zeros when he’s singing... ( 0 _ 0 ( 0 ) 0 0... which isn’t a good look. It would have probably been best for everyone if he’d just stopped releasing records after about 1973. Instead, he’s carried on like a boxer who doesn’t know when to call it quits, becoming more punch drunk with every album – only with Paul it is joints rather than jabs that have done the mental damage. But can you really blame him when making music is all he’s ever known? Probably not. What you can blame him for though is how boring this film is. Instead of rushing to find the tapes McCartney fannies about at the recording studio, dresses up as what appears to be a giant sperm for a music video and generally does fuck all as slowly as possible. I’d say it was like watching paint dry, but at least once paint has dried there’s a sense of completion, a feeling that it was worthwhile. There will be no such feeling at the end of this film. As the various scenes unfold, it (slowly) emerges that McCartney’s friend Harry is the one responsible for the disappearance of the tapes. Harry is an ex-con, who Paul hired as
an assistant in order to give him a second chance. Paul seems convinced of his innocence, which we know because he repeatedly says, “I think he is innocent.” Dickens this ain’t. Speaking of which, we’re treated to a whole Dickens-inspired ‘Eleanor Rigby’ music video, which, I kid you not, lasts for half an hour. Even if you really like Eleanor Rigby (which I don’t) you wouldn’t want to listen to a 30 minute version of the song with ’80s production, especially not if it is accompanied by Paul McCartney pratting about in a stove pipe hat. What on earth was he smoking when he thought this was a good idea? (Oh wait... never mind.) Finally, thankfully, we come to the end of the film. We find out that Harry was stuck in a shed at Broad Street train station the whole time, having mistaken it for a toilet (literally a shit ending to the film). As a result the tapes are returned and there is no evil takeover after all.Yes, it’s terrible but I suppose it could be worse... And in fact it does get worse, because we’re back in Paul’s car and it’s raining and he is late for a meeting. Yep, that’s right folks: IT WAS ALL A DREAM. Not only is this lazy move taken right out of the infant school plot playbook, it also leaves you with a sense of unbearable depression... two hours of your life are gone, for no good reason. You owe me, McCartney.
Party wolf stag doooooo: When male friends get married, and you’re male too, you’re made to do this...
THE country bender
A city you don’t live in
THE progressive gamer
THE (ahem) ‘craic’: Let’s rent a big bastard house in the country where we can take drugs, play ping-pong and cook a really big curry!!!
THE (ahem) ‘craic’: Imagine a pub crawl like the ones you have at home, but where you don’t know which are the best pubs to go in...
THE (ahem) ‘craic’: “Hey pricks! Johnny here, Kev’s best man. So the plan for the big man’s stag is a weekend in Prague. Let’s totally fuck him over!”
THE (ahem) ‘craic’: A day of board games and craft ales at the groom-to-be’s house. Perhaps, if others are up for it, a late screening of Life of Brian, too. Bliss.
Try to ignore: That trapped-in-the-Big-BrotherHouse feeling, where you’ve spent the entire weekend’s whip on ASDA beers, ketchup and a single toilet roll.
Try to ignore: That, look, Liverpool has a Nandos, too. And a Lloyd’s Bar. And a Spoons. And a Topman. And a... Hang on a minute...
Try to ignore: That Johnny keeps saying how he’s been here before and knows all the best ‘titty bars’. It’s best to ignore Johnny altogether, actually.
Try to ignore: The puns.These are good people, but Christ gamers love a pun. So when someone says “BEER right back” as they head to the kitchen, DO NOT encourage them with a cheer.
the best man: Jamie is a stand up guy, actually. He’s done all the cooking, shared his drugs and found a cricket bat in the woodshed. The man’s untouchable.
the best man: I mean, it must be one of us? But, then, this whole thing is terribly organised. Maybe there’s isn’t one... It’s me, isn’t it?
the best man: Yeah, Johnny’s the worst. And have you noticed how he’s the first to fall asleep in his pint each night? Why isn’t anyone mentioning that!?
activity: The only thing to do in the country on a stag do is paintballing. It’s awful, but hopefully you’ll be on Jamie’s team.
activity: Well, let’s decide on who the Best Man is first. Maybe we should do that in a pub. But there’s more than one...
activity: Johnny’s mate in the city told him about a place where you can shoot guns for 85p. Fortunately, this is not true.
fancy dress: Curveball. There will be no fancy dress here. We are middle class occasional hard-drug-users, not dickheads dressed as Smurfs.
fancy dress: Now, that has been taken care of, if with very little imagination. Look, the groom is dressed as a penis! HAH!
DON’T worry: You’ll see Jamie at the wedding.
DON’T worry: If you go in groups of 3 over the next 2 hours, you’ll all get in.
the best man: Jen. She’s a woman. Because women and men can be best friends and want to share happy occasions with one another. activity: An 8-hour game of Risk, spiced up with Woodpeckers on ice.
fancy dress: Beleive it or not, the blue paint of a Smurf outfit will not hide your shame.
fancy dress: Agreeing to all wear a silly hat is just the right amount of fun. Right, Lord HATtenborough? That joke with floor them.
DON’T worry: The paint will at least wash off.
DON’T worry: It’s genuinely going to be a great day.
Oh God! His arm’s come out! I can assure you that I will look after your son’s body personally
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious
Photo casebook: The unfortunate world of Ian Beale