Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 79 / the alternative music tabloid
Show Me The Body New York, I love you but youâ€™re bringing me down
Regina Spektor / Julia Jacklin / Sneaks / Angel Olsen / The Lemon Twigs / Pillow Person
julia jacklin – 12 the lemon twigs – 14 sneaks – 16 pillow person – 18 angel olsen – 20 show me the body – 24 regina spektor – 32
Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 79 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId
Show Me The Body New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down
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Regina Spektor / Julia Jacklin / Sneaks / Angel Olsen / The Lemon Twigs / Pillow Person
c o v er ph o t o g r aph y D av id Co r t es
Whilst on a work experience placement in my early twenties, a brilliant and well-respected music writer gave me a piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten. It’s not like he sat me down as if to share an important and great secret from his world (I think he might have said it in passing in a lift), but it stuck, probably because it was something that everyone knows all along – no matter how much you think you might be friends with the band, you can’t be; not really; certainly not as much as the band are within themselves. That was fine with me – all bands are glued together by their conceived art and undulating egos; I got it straight away. And besides, I had loads of friends anyway. LOADS. The sense in which I didn’t like this truth was in the idea that by writing about the music I loved – precisely because I loved it – I had ceased being a fan and started being a journalist; a wormy bastard; out to trip you up. Musicians had been warned about people like me. Of course, that sits at great odds with what we try to do at Loud And Quiet, but it’s a factor that I’ve always been aware of. I don’t want to be friends with every band I interview (seriously, I’ve got so many mates already), but hey, I’m open to it, and I certainly don’t want it to be off the table because they fear a stitch-up at the hands of the press. After eleven years and 110 editions of Loud And Quiet, in certain small circles our reputation proceeds us as a magazine not out on the stitchup. Evidently that circle does not encompass Stewart Lee (who answered just two of our questions posed to him and is therefore missing from this month’s issue), and D.C. DIY wunderkind Sneaks, who almost answered less but is featured anyway because we love her record. Show Me The Body, I’m happy to say, I think I won over during my time spent with them. A fierce, opinionated, original hardcore group standing up for the people of NewYork, we might just be buddies now. Even though I’ve got, like, millions. Stuart Stubbs
fo u nde r & Editor - Stu ar t Stu b b s Art Dir e ction - B.A. M. D IGITAL DIRECTOR - GREG COCHRANE Sub Editor - Ale xandr a Wilshir e fi l m e ditor - Andr e w ande r son Bo ok Editor s - Le e & Janine Bu llman
T his M o nth L &Q L o ve s a d a m fa r r e l l , An d y Pr e ve ze r , a nne tte l e e , d avi d co r te s, J od ie B a na szkie w icz, j o e p a r r y , I va no m a ggiul l i, na tha n be a ze r , P hil ip p a B ur t. The views expresse d in Lou d And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opinions of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserve d 2016 Loud And Quiet LTD. ISSN 2049-9892 Printe d by S harman & Company LT D. Distribute d by loud and quiet LT D. & forte
Actor/comedian MATT BERRY has defied his teachers who wouldn’t allow him to take GCSE Music. This month he releases his fifth album.
att Berry: Sixteen was very important to me because it was the age when I was told that couldn’t do GCSE Music, because I couldn’t read music. That was significant because I thought it was unfair, because other than painting it was the only thing that I was interested in at school. So the guy fucked me, in a way. He was like, ‘well, you can’t read music, so what can I do with you?’ I just thought, you wait, mate. I approached music from a different angle, because I wasn’t interested in the theory side of it. I was given an organ when I was 14, and that was amazing, but I couldn’t play other people’s stuff, so all I could do was write my own songs, because I couldn’t read the tab, like the other kids could. I had a really early Tascam four-track, and I’d build up these songs, and that was what I was doing when I was 16. But the school side of it stopped at that point. They kind of had to shut me down, because all the lessons were going to be in theory, and I’d made it very clear that I didn’t give a fuck about all that, because I thought it might ruin the magic. And I still can’t read music, for the same kind of reason. This was in Bedford, in a town that was normal. That’s the best way to describe it. I got into Jean Michel Jarre when I was around 12 or 13, and he was my first concert, when I was 14 – Docklands in ’88. A couple of the more interesting kids at school were into similar things, but everyone else was into
A s t old t o S t u art S t ubbs Iron Maiden. Nirvana hadn’t yet happened, so it was also that early, first wave of house. It wasn’t great. Radio 1 was still playing Phil Collins. They hadn’t gotten rid of all those old DJs at that point. None of it meant anything to me, so I went backwards and listened to things like Roxy Music and Bowie and Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield. But I don’t think anyone else in my class had ‘Oxygen’, put it that way. My parents were always great, and they never stopped me from doing anything. My dad would make homebrew and he’d let me have it whenever I wanted it. So before going out to the park, we’d get pissed on homebrew. It was homebrew, painting and music – that was all I did. I’ve got an older sister, and she’d take the piss, like any sibling does. She’d mimic my voice, which when you’re that age is a fucking liberty. Now it’s very funny, but when you’re 16 I would have been furious. But the thing is, she had the good record collection, and opened me up to Roxy Music and lot of stuff that blew my mind, so, y’know, they do have their uses. And you need someone to take the piss, because you can’t take yourself too seriously. I didn’t play my songs to anyone at first, because, y’know, you’re just polishing turds for the first year or so. But I started to get the hang of it and I introduced more instruments into it – I had a guitar and bought myself a bass – and then I saw that Mike Oldfield had done all of ‘Tubular Bells’
himself, at the age of 18/19. So I thought to myself, I’ve got to get a move on. It was a big push for me. Doing it all myself was that control thing – I wanted to write the songs. But I wasn’t particularly outgoing and confident; I just knew what I didn’t want to do, and that caused a bit of trouble at school. I’d been in a few school plays by then, but to be honest it was just an excuse to not do real work. It was something that I knew I’d be able to do but I didn’t take it too seriously. I mean, I wouldn’t have expressed it this way, but I knew when I was 16 that I wanted to remain in the arts, and that was what I wanted to do forever. I wanted to paint or do music, or even if acting came along, I would have been fairly happy with that. They’ve asked me to come back to my school and give a talk, actually, and a couple of weeks ago I got an honorary doctorate from Bedford University, which was a real honour for me. But it’s kind of weird, because those thoughts can come back. It’s an ironic set of circumstances – being awarded something for your contribution to the arts, yet when I was doing the arts there, I was fairly unremarkable to them. I have often thought, though, that if they’d been more new aged about it, and given me loads of support and opportunities, I might have lost interest. Them not giving a monkey’s was probably quite significant, because it drives you. It’s all positive, though. And I’m really lucky. That’s the main thing. I’m very very lucky.
books + ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR
Eddie Murphy Reef Younis catalogues the failed music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / for deciding to sing with clipart. In ’89, Murphy returned with his Nile Rodgersproduced second album, ‘So Happy’, hit #70 on the Billboard 200, and did an oddly competent impression of Prince and MJ as he sang “Mr. Murphy needs some satisfaction” on the suggestive ‘Put Your Mouth On Me’. Four years later and ‘Love’s Alright’ emerged to complete the current Murphy album trilogy. Featuring the awful ‘Whatzupwitwu’, it also included ‘I Was A King’ with Shabba Ranks, where the duo’s powerful message around slavery and America’s exploitation lyrically hit hard but softened when you see Murphy dressed like a ‘Millenium’ era Backstreet Boy in the video. Turns out he never stopped making music, he’d just stopped releasing it. After building a studio in his previous home (sold to Alicia Keys) he built another studio in his Beverly Hills mansion and returned with a new single, ‘Red Light’, with Snoop Lion (née Dogg) in 2013. Strip away the knowledge that it’s Murphy rocking a fake Jamaican accent and it’s a listenable, almost convincing social commentary of the kind he pushed with Ranks over two decades earlier. And with whispers of new album ongoing, it seems Eddie really is a Boomerang.
You probably don’t know it, but Eddie Murphy has released three studio albums, having collaborated with Michael Jackson, Nile Rodgers, Rick James, Stevie Wonder, Shabba Ranks and Snoop Dogg with varying degrees of success. That Rolodex of musical heavyweights looks impressive, but dipping into the grab bag of Murphy’s music career requires some careful extraction. After a few comedy albums that combined his stand-up routine with tongue-incheek music numbers, his debut studio album, ‘How Could It Be’, arrived in 1985, neatly sandwiched between Beverly Hills Cop 1 and 2. Panned by the press but a commercial success, the album spawned the indelible ‘Party All The Time’ but even with the success of that track (it hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100) it seemed that for every action there was a reaction. Take the sax-addled 1982 track ‘Boogie in Your Butt’ from his self-titled debut stand up album, where Murphy lists a series of objects you can stick up your arse, or the eyebrow-raising ‘Whatzupwitu’ where Murphy and MJ dance, make googly eyes at each other and over-sing to a Powerpoint presentation backdrop. That track was released in ’93 so neither could even blame the ’80s
b y janine & L ee b ullman
Turning Blue by Benjamin Myers moth
Following on from 2014’s excellent Beastings, Benjamin Myers’ latest book is a folk-crime novel set against the backdrop of bleak, weather-beaten Yorkshire Dales. In Turning Blue the fates of driven police detective Brindle and journalist Roddy Mace intertwine during the investigation into the disappearance of a local girl.Their enquiries face a wall of local silence, creepy loner Steven Rutter, a resident small-time celebrity and an uncompromising landscape filled with deeply held secrets. Turning Blue is cool, dark and hypnotic. As we’ve come to expect from Myers, landscape and nature play an important role in the book, providing the rough-hewn canvas on which Myers paints yet another gripping, shadowy portrait of humanity.
Playing the Bass with Three Left Hands by Will Carruthers
Elvis Style: From Zoot Suits to Jumpsuits by Zoey Goto
faber & faber
Will Carruthers played bass with Spiritualized and Spacemen Three, providing the low notes in both bands’ pulsing, modal incantations to the joys of heady chemical experimentation. Famously, Spacemen Three’s disintegration played out rather messily and publicly, just as the band were about to make it big. Playing the Bass with Three Left Hands tells the story of the Spacemen Three implosion and subsequent birth of Spiritualized, hilariously. The book is filled with sage advice (it’s the middle left hand that’s the real one), and Carruthers’ acerbic description of the whole affair marks it as the most well written, funniest and most fascinating rock biography for a while.
When Elvis Presley took rock’n’roll mainstream sixty years ago, the black and white world of the 1950s had never seen anything quite like him. Elvis Aaron Presley was a hillbilly cat from Memphis who’d grown up dirt poor until he shook his hips in pegged pants on national TV and defined what rock’n’roll looked and sounded like for an entire generation. Zoey Goto’s wonderful book collates totems and artefacts that made Elvis Elvis, from the black leather horse-hide two piece he wore in his 1968 special to the gold watches, gold suits and Cadillacs he filled Graceland with. Elvis Style is exhaustively researched and offers an intimate glimpse into the offstage world of The King.
getting to know you
Jenny Hval Experimental Norwegian artist Jenny Hval follows up her 2015 breakthrough album, ‘Apocalypse, girl’, with a record that explores female vampires and menstruation next month. ‘Bitch Blood’ is her most fictional and autobiographical work yet. /
The best piece of advice you’ve been given Produce it yourself. The film you can quote the most of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All 7 seasons.
Your style icon Jordan, from 1978 cult film Jubilee, directed by Derek Jarman.
The one song you wish you’d written ‘Hearts and Bones’ by Paul Simon. But I never could.
The celebrity that pisses you off the most even though you’ve never met them Lars Ulrich. I feel like he is in every single music documentary I see, haunting me like an annoying ghost with a Danish accent. Always saying the same stupid things (there seems to be only 3 people appearing in music documentaries. Lars Ulrich, David Fricke, and Dave Grohl).
What is the most overrated thing in the world? The trickle-down theory.
Your pet-hate Being cold. Your favourite word ‘Myrull’ (Norwegian for cottongrass). The worst job you’ve had I got a job once in telemarketing selling rare coins. I was hired by a man who said the customers were older men and liked young women’s voices. He had no front teeth. I never even showed up.
Your biggest disappointment The Internet.
If you had to eat one food forever, it would be... Sriracha. People’s biggest misconception of you That my hair has something to do with it. Favourite place in the world Arizona, for its little fluffy clouds. The best book in the world I LOVE DICK.
what would you tell your 15-year-old self? “It’s not just you, those guiatar solos are stupid”
The thing you’d rescue from a burning building Books. Your hidden talent Dreaming.
What would you change about your physical appearance? My hair. Your first big extravagance I bought a really expensive guitar once, then panicked and had to return it, which was horrible. Afterwards I stood outside the shop and cried. But eventually I found a much cheaper and much better sounding guitar. What is the most overrated thing in the world? Relgion. The characteristic you most like about yourself My speed. Who would play you in a film of your life? The bigger and much more interesting question is who would direct it?
The worst present you’ve received Various bathrobes.
Your biggest fear I can’t decide between [1914 horror film] It Follows and neoliberalism.
What is success to you? Making people cry.
The worst date you’ve been on The ones I didn’t know were dates until I realised I had to run away.
The most famous person you’ve met I stood next to Björk. I didn’t say anything because I’m too shy, but all the pores of my skin were leaning towards her.
Your favourite item of clothing Things that are not mine.
How would you like to die Happy.
What talent do you wish you had? Slayer strength.
What’s your biggest turn-off? [The Rebecca Solnit essay] Men Explain Things To Me. Your guilty pleasure FlightRadar24.com. And watching GRWM videos on YouTube. Your best piece of advice for others Value your doubts. Also: Never ever listen to the dude in the music shop.
Julia Jacklin The Australian with a ferocious country-pop deconstruction of the quarter-life crisis Photogra phy: james adams / writer: joe goggins
le f t : J u l i a j a c k l i n p h o t o g r a p h ed i n B o n d i Be a c h , s y d n ey , A u s t r a l i a .
’m going to be learning a lot about myself in the next four months.” Julia Jacklin doesn’t really have a frame of reference for where her fledgling career is headed next. Her debut record, ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’, is scored through with the idea of failure, and the word ‘idea’ is of crucial importance there. It’s not that the Sydney native truly had reached the end of the road by the time she came to record her album, it’s just that she felt she had. It’s a feeling that will be by no means unfamiliar to those who’ll be drawn to Jacklin’s music; the idea that you’ve hit your mid-twenties and, suddenly, you’re on the scrap heap. The insidious sense that you must already have let life pass you by, that one way or another you failed to make the necessary jump when you should have done. In Jacklin’s case, it was the jolt of her sister getting engaged that brought into sharp focus the fact that she wasn’t where she wanted to be, at twentyfour years old. Things hadn’t quite worked out the way she’d perhaps been expecting them to in her late teens and early twenties. Music and songwriting was only ever supposed to be a flirtation; Jacklin’s lifelong ambition, stretching back to childhood, was to grow up to be a social worker. Writing, recording and playing would fall into line as a hobby. At that age, you think you can take the world on. You hit your midtwenties, and crippling anxiety kicks in. It’s not a new story, but it’s certainly a relatable one. “When I wrote this album,” she says over a Skype call that’s late in Australia and early in Britain, “I hadn’t really been touched by the music industry. Not at that point. I didn’t have a label, or a manager, or a booking agent. Nothing like that. I was very, very fresh, so I guess a lot of songs reflected that central idea. I felt like I was running out of time. I felt like I should have achieved more by this point. I channelled all of that into this group of songs.” ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ is a record scored through, from start to finish, with that very specific kind of angst; a collection of songs that plays like a series of snapshots of that precise type of worry, and it’s hard to extricate that
existential crisis from the nervous energy that runs through the individual tracks, however sunny they might sound at times. Jacklin reached a crossroads at which she had to decide whether to pursue social work – as she’d always intended to – or turn away from the real world and pursue music full-time. “The problem was that I didn’t really have any obvious route into music,” she admits. “I finished the album before I had any kind of foot on the ladder. I came home from New Zealand and thought, oh, shit! What happens now? But I ran into a music manager who’d gotten me on a tour with Marlon Williams that year, and I sent him the album, and now he’s my manager. That’s when things started to happen; he got me into South by South West, and I started to understand how everything worked.” SXSW is one of those strange institutions that seems to increase exponentially, year on year, in terms of both its perceived importance in helping acts break through and also how closely controlled it becomes by sponsors and pre-prepared media interests. Jacklin, happily, managed to come through it without anything in the way of a horror story. “I’m sure good things would’ve happened for me anyway,” she says, before swiftly tempering the uncharacteristic bullishness with a hasty “maybe.” “It definitely accelerated the process, because you’ve got all these people in the same place, but you know everybody’s probably having a very different individual experience. We were super lucky. We got good slots in good venues, and people actually came to them! We didn’t fuck up too much, I guess. You hear about that – people having nightmarish shows with technical problems or whatever – but we were good. Which was nice.”
acklin lives and operates out of the inner-western Sydney suburb of Glebe, where she spent her post-university years working a mundane day job on a production line, at a factory that turns out of essential oils. It was that good, old-fashioned manual graft, though,
that lent her the strength of conviction to record her first full-length record on her own terms, rather than just cutting tracks in her garage, as had previously been the modus operandi. “I really liked this record by a girl from New Zealand called Aldous Harding,” she explains, “so I looked into who it was that recorded her, and he turned out to be really affordable.” Ben Edwards was the man in question, and Jacklin promptly decamped to his sitting room studio in Christchurch. “I just lived at his house for a month. I guess it sounds like a little bit of a stretch for my first album, but New Zealand is my favourite place in the world, and I’d worked very hard at a very shitty job for a very long time to get there, so I thought, why not? – I felt like I’d earned it.” Not that, by the end of that fourweek stretch, Jacklin was totally happy with the finished product. “It took a long time to get my head around,” she laughs. “We had to re-do one of the songs when we got back home, and I’m still not fully sold on the record. I mean, I love it, but I just can’t imagine that anyone ever finishes an album and feels like, ‘oh, yeah! This is definitely ready for the world to listen to!’ At some point, you have to draw the line. You could carry on tweaking and making adjustments for the rest of your life.” As is always the case, the Internet reaction to Jacklin’s releases so far has been awash with references to her obvious musical touch points; her offbeat lyrical style recalls Fiona Apple, as does her delivery, which has a tendency to tilt from matter-offact one minute to borderline operatic the next. Sharp-eared listeners have also pointed out a similarity to fellow indie darling Angel Olsen, with direct parallels drawn between ‘Unfucktheworld’ and Jacklin’s ‘Pool Party’. “They’re both big influences, one hundred per cent,” says Jacklin unashamedly. “I think I’m a pretty straightforward writer. If I was the sort of person who wrote knowing in their head that they were working towards a record, then things might be more structured, but these songs were just kind of written on and off at uni. I never really tried to shut myself off from the music I loved. I definitely
wear my influences on my sleeve, and that’s a huge part of folk music; listening to people who are better than you, and trying to see what it was they did that was so cool. Once you’ve figured it out, you can put your own spin on it.” With ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ out in October (via Transgressive Records), the focus for Jacklin now turns to going out on the road in support of it. As somebody who stumbled into the industry at what, as far as she was concerned, was the eleventh hour, it’s an arena that still feels pretty new to her. “It’s not that I’ve not travelled a lot,” she says. “I’ve done plenty of that. Ever since high school, really; going off and wandering, travelling and being lost in your early twenties. Like a lot of other people, I did do that.” The rigours of the road, of course, will serve up a different scenario entirely. Jacklin has made it over to the UK already (she played a clutch of shows at The Great Escape back in May, and made it up to Leeds and Liverpool around the same time) but once she wraps up an extensive North American jaunt in the early Autumn, she’ll return to the UK having landed a plum support gig – opening for men-ofthe-moment Whitney on their November run. The pairing makes total sense, once you hear how Jacklin too is offering us a new, un-stuffy take on country music. “We’re going to be out with a full band on that European tour. I’ve never really done this kind of touring,” she says, “where it’s going to be relentless, and where I’ll be singing night after night, and where I’m gonna need to figure out how to best preserve my voice – it’s things like that I’m worrying about. As long as I can make it past the first two weeks, I think it’ll all be good. I hope so, anyway.”
The Lemon Twigs The teenage brothers revisiting the greats of the 1970s, sometimes all at the same time Photogra phy: gabriel green / writer: ian roebuck
le f t : B r o t h er s b r i a n D ’ Add a r i o [ l ef t ] a n d M ic h a el D ’ Add a r i o i n h a c k n ey , L o n d o n .
very interview must have a story. This isn’t going to be like a Paul McCartney one where you read it and you think, oh man, he said that in the last interview. This is an exclusive, an original!” Michael D’Addario is standing up, wildly gesticulating, his big brother Brian sat beside him head in hands. A story fails to instantly materialise but this is The Lemon Twigs – don’t expect the narrative to flow from A to B. The teenagers from Long Island are in London for their debut UK performance. News of their idiosyncratic stage show and peculiar, knowing brand of classic rock is spreading fast. “We couldn’t believe it was sold out,” says Brian. “Most places we have played, people are there because of the venue, not for us – this is the first time we have sold out and it’s our first time in Europe in general. Every time I buy something I get a joyful feeling. I don’t know why, I guess it’s the currency.” Michael’s still standing. “Oh yeah, it’s cheap as hell. Tell that to the judge, motherfucker, I am rich now!” Brian smiles fondly at Michael this time. “We haven’t even see Paul yet,” he says, taking us back to McCartney. “Simon Pegg is coming later, though,” Michael finishes and takes a seat. Later this evening the brothers will astonish the Sebright Arms basement with an accomplished but joyfully erratic set that playfully captures elements of The Beach Boys, Big Star, even Bowie. Right now they’re two polite, slightly giddy young men batting off passing members of public whilst trying (and failing) to sit still. “Sorry, we’re doing an interview at the moment but maybe you could speak to our manager who is just around the corner,” says Michael to a smartly dressed couple that stop to ask for tickets. “That fellow was so sharp, he had Beatle boots,” says Michael. “There are a lot of Beatle boots here. That’s one thing that’s different from Long Island. Brian likes London as he likes mods; I don’t really like mods, even though I am a little…” He gestures at his choice of clothing. “It’s frustrating because people keep saying I look like a mod or that’s the mod way.” Brian interjects: “You do look just like a mod.” Michael’s up again, flat cap off, he
launches it at Brian’s face and the interview careers to a halt once more. With the brothers back in arms I ask if the infighting is the sibling band thing – you know, the cliché. “No, that wasn’t the brother stereotype,” says Michael. “It’s literally because I just don’t want to hear him talk anymore. Sure it’s the brother thing on one side of it but it’s just association – we have been together now for the past I don’t know how many hours. I will be doing it to the other band members as well.” He picks up his cap and scopes out the nearby benches for targets. I talk him down by asking about family but it’s Brian who answers. “That’s been our whole existence. We were singing with each other first before we could play any instruments and our Mum was having us sing harmonies. There are videos of us where she’s saying, ‘Put your fingers in your ears Michael,’ so it’s kind of intense. I mean, it wasn’t like training or anything, it’s just that we happened to enjoy it from the get go. I guess she saw we had talent and because our Dad is a musician she probably hoped we would follow him.” Both Brian and Michael talk animatedly about their parents, and an artistic background and strong familial support have clearly allowed the band to flourish. “Well that’s very true,” says Michael. “My parents are a bit older and I think when they got together they wanted to, you know… pass on their knowledge, if you know what I mean. So I think that mum was attracted to dad as he had talent. I think she wanted his seed – his seed was worthy!” Michael’s up and leaning into the Dictaphone now, just when it was all going so swimmingly. Right on cue another member of public stops by. “Oh, this is my girlfriend’s aunt,” Michael says distractedly. “We’re just doing an interview but I’ll be with you very soon.” Michael kindly attempts a more serious tone: “Honestly, Mum and Dad have been really, really supportive and we’re very lucky. Dad wanted to come to England with us now as he’s a big Beatles fan, maybe next time.”
n the entertainment business since a young age, both Michael and Brian
were child stars (check out their IMDB pages) so it’s with a heavy dose of irony that their debut album on 4AD will be called ‘Do Hollywood’. It also happens to have been recorded in LA with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado. “We recorded the album two Februarys ago,” says Brian. “Well, we recorded the basic tracks and then a bunch of strings for the record were done over the course of last year. We knew what the album would sound like long ago; we were just adding bits and pieces. Jonathan was awesome to work with. It was very seamless. We didn’t have to explain this one has to sound like this and this one has to sound like that – we had made demo’s of the songs previously and he really liked them, he didn’t want drastic changes on it.” Michael grins. “He just recorded it! But he’s got a lot of cool stuff.” Brian jumps straight back in. “He recorded it but he got the best tones and he knew exactly what equipment to use. He is always on craigslist or eBay. When we connected with Rado there hadn’t been any support before that. We’d had it from our parents, sure, but never from an outsider. We were big Foxygen fans so when he liked our stuff we were just like, ‘wow!’” ‘Do Hollywood’ is an album of many parts with songs of many parts. A beautiful, mad jigsaw of ideas, it’s a wonder how such disparate elements hang together so remarkably well. The opening ‘I Wanna Prove To You’, for example, takes in the Minder theme tune, Wings and the kind of ’70s prom music that could soundtrack a massacre montage in an early Scorsese movie within its first 60 seconds. Sudden bursts of fairground-ish tunes are another reason why The Lemon Twigs will no doubt not be for everyone. “We kind of write separately and then we come together to edit stuff out,” Brian tells me, which makes sense in terms of their ‘A Day In The Life’ style of songs within songs. “The album is half and half; it goes my song, Michael’s song and so on. It’s uncomplicated, it makes the most sense.” Michael is a touch more self conscious when explaining his own writing methods, which stands to reason considering he’s a 17-year-old exploring his art. “We were writing
just regular songs, then we started getting so many ideas,” he says. “I always have too many parts, then I get really attached to them and don’t want to take them away. I am hoping to not do that anymore! It makes for an intriguing thing but as we develop we are interested in crafting original songs.” This seems like a perfect juncture to ask the band about comparisons; after tweeting ‘NOT GLAM!’ in response to an English newspapers feature (it kind of is), I tread somewhat carefully. “Musically it’s not really influenced by glam,” says Brian. “If you have heard the record, maybe a couple of tiny parts. Of all the music that we are really obsessed with, the glam stuff and that era doesn’t come into the equation.” “I love Bowie,” contradicts Michael, “and it’s certainly not something I avoid. I mean, I know T-Rex but my favourite bands are Big Star and Badfinger and stuff like that. Let’s be honest, they are talking about the fashion, but it shouldn’t just be about what we look like.” The brothers turned to their parents for advice on the matter – it seems like Brian listened. “If you look on Wikipedia, because our Mum told us to, she said you can understand why they are calling you Glam right? It’s because it says it’s for people who dress up, wear make up and play music, so I guess they’re right! We love the classic rock comparisons and obviously stuff like The Beach Boys.” Further down The Lemon Twigs twitter feed you will find playlist after playlist of Brian Wilson, a passion the young Brian cannot hide. “If you’re a fan of his maybe you will go through a year or two of being obsessed and then come away from it for a while but guaranteed you will be drawn back as there is always more shit you know! He is a great songwriter and never lost that, just like we want to be great songwriters.” I never do get to hear that exclusive Lemon Twigs story. Michael’s promise is swept up by yet more passers by and our chat stops amidst suitable chaos.
Sneaks Eva Moochlanâ€™s tongue-in-cheek approach to D.C. post punk seems to extend to her difficult interview technique Photogra phy: nathanael turner / writer: katie beswick
le f t : E va Mo o c h l a n a k a s ne a k s , p h o t o g r a p h ed i n s an t a m o n i c a , C a l i f o r n i a .
neaks is the stage-name of D.C’s Eva Moochlan. This selfconsciously cool, street-inspired moniker epitomises the youthful spirit of her debut album, ‘Gymnastics’. It was written, Moochlan tells me, by “just taking from my environment, lyrically: words, some of what sticks out in a commercial, or what sticks out in an ad, what words grab my attention. And then reusing that with a different meaning. With my own meaning.” The result is cartoonish, edgy, bubble-gum post-punk. A fast, fun record with tracks that are like little explosions of the city that burrow their way right down into your subconscious (a week after I hear it, I’m still trying to shake the sound of ‘True Killer’, the lead track, from my cerebrum, where it has curled into a persistent earworm). ‘Gymnastics’ is so full of attitude, so tongue-in-cheek and current, that you imagine the album cover might have ‘youth’ scrawled across it in neonbright graffiti. What with her selfaware songs that seem to have been composed for a very contemporary high school movie (think Tarantino remakes Clueless) and the fact that, after recording an album in her friend’s basement, Moochlan has been approached by no fewer than three labels who’ve all subsequently released it, this is a girl who obviously knows what she’s doing when it comes to making music. When it comes to promoting music, she’s less sure. I interview Sneaks to discuss the reissue of ‘Gymnastics’, on the North Carolinabased Merge label, and her forthcoming album, still very much a work in progress, due for release next year. This should be an exciting time for any young musician: after two small-scale releases of her debut record (a local label produced an early version on tape, and Danger Records distributed it on a limited vinyl release in France), she’s about to drop the record internationally, she has tour dates scheduled across the US and in London, and Merge is locked in to producing her next album. It’s a dream-come-true, surely, for a 21-year-old who spent her freshman year at college writing songs alone in her bedroom. But in person Moochlan doesn’t exude the charisma and
confidence of her musical persona. She does not seem like someone thrilled to be sharing her record with the world. She seems, well, low-level pissed off. Perhaps it’s because we get off to a bad start: there’s been a timing mix-up and she’s not in D.C. when I call, as anticipated, she’s out on the West Coast, in Big Sur, so it’s 8am instead of eleven and she’s not expecting me. (“Can you talk now or shall I call again later?” “Erm, I mean, I can talk now.”) Or perhaps it’s because she’s at a retreat and, therefore, tuned into a spiritual plane that is so far removed from the music industry that the conceit of media coverage feels ludicrous. Certainly, the landscape that serves as her backdrop during our video call – those undulating green hills sprawling out lush and fertile, rolling right off into the distance – makes me wish I were outside, connecting with nature in the real world, instead of stuck in this tricky situation, making stilted conversation over a terrible broadband connection. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that Sneaks is not wholly enjoying the experience of talking with me. It’s not that she’s rude, if anything she’s good-girl polite; it’s just that, as soon as the questions move away from specifics to do with the production and distribution of the album, whenever I touch on anything even remotely personal (where she grew up, her development as a musician, supportive family and friends), she clams up, becoming monosyllabic and evasive. Maybe she doesn’t realise I’m a fan of hers. When I ask her if there are musicians who have had a tangible effect on her work she lets out a long, bored sigh. “Yeah,” she says, “there are. But I don’t really feel like mentioning them.” She wants her music to stand alone, she says, to speak for itself. Which is fair enough, but it feels very much like another conversational avenue closed down; another sentence about her music that I can’t write. The details Sneaks does grudgingly consent to share are hard to spin into a compelling narrative: yes, her parents are supportive, she eventually concedes. Yes, her family were “kind of” musical: her Dad taught her guitar and is “a big inspiration,” although her mother “doesn’t listen to music.”
She pauses for an extended second, “So that was a contrast growing up.” Moochlan does seem like a genuinely sweet, intelligent person. And I get the sense that at least some of her unwillingness to share the background details of her life, to discuss her musical tastes and longerterm aspirations in any detail, is to do with the fear of putting herself out there. Early on in our conversation, she hints that she is apprehensive about what releasing a record might do to her personal life. She tells me that signing with Merge “was kind of scary,” and that she was particularly concerned about the attention. Opening up a little she admits, “I was like, oh my gosh! How do I deal with, just, like, that drastic movement? But at the end of the day I just want my music to be available to everyone. And that’s what Merge was offering me.” I’ve interviewed lots of artists who find the promotion process difficult, and I understand. Media exposure can feel intrusive, but it is there to create an interest in your work – and, if you’re going to consent to give interviews, surely you understand that you have to share your opinions, engage with the questions, or tell at least some compelling anecdotes (they don’t even have to be true!) that might spark a reader’s interest in your work. And Sneaks’ album is of interest to you. “You’ve written this catchy, edgy album!” I want to shout at her. “You’re a witty young woman with ideas! Just bloody help me tell people about it!” But she doesn’t want to. She’s adopted a non-disclosure tactic and she’s sticking with it. “I’m not paying attention to what’s being written about it,” she shrugs, when I ask her how she’d like to see her work discussed, what she’d like potential fans to know about her music. “I just don’t think it’s that important. That’s not my job. People can write about it, they can try to sell it, but I’m just gonna do me.” It’s a bizarre statement to make to someone who is literally about to write a feature on your work.Although, it is honest. “Can you tell me about the progress of the new album?” I ask. “How does what you’re doing now differ from what you’ve done with ‘Gymnastics’?” “I’m really excited,” she says,
“because there’s been a lot that’s happened over the past three years that I’ll be able to shed light on.” “Anything in particular?” “Erm…” There a long silence. “Just like,” she pauses, as if even this is an unwarranted invasion, “transitional things. Relationships. Environment. Those kind of things.” “So you grew up in the suburbs of D.C, tell me a bit about that.” “It was pretty boring.” “Were you making music growing up, or just playing guitar for fun?” “Playing guitar for fun.” “Does your father still have anything to do with your musical career?” She doesn’t answer. “…or is he more, sort of, a source of guidance now?” “He’s a source of guidance. In many ways.” “And are there any other important figures who are supporting you in any way at all?” “Definitely.There are a lot of people behind the scenes.” “Anyone you’d like to mention?” “No.” “Right. Ok.” “I have a great group of friends.” “And the name Sneaks…” I’m getting desperate now. “It’s just a word that I liked.” We continue on in this vein for some time, with all my prepared questions stone-walled, and no real conversation to refer back to. I’m just throwing out whatever comes to mind, hoping something will spark her interest. But Moochlan’s becoming distracted – we’re barely twenty minutes into the interview and it’s clear that she’s done. “I should go soon,” she tells me, gesturing at the space behind her, which it turns out is the retreat’s dining hall, the only place with wifi; its huge windows look out over those lush hills. “Hang on,” I say, “Can you just hang on a few minutes? I just have a couple more questions.” But Eva Moochlan is definitely over the interview. There is a moment of silence as she considers her options, and then a familiar click emitted from the keyboard at her end. The call is over. Sneaks has retreated.
re you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin: sometime in the early noughties, a hometown friend of Sarah Jones was touring the murkier venues of the UK and Europe in a jobbing covers band when he was approached to join Badly Drawn Boy on tour. He accepted, recommending Jones for his old job. After Jones “had a little panic about the prospect of joining a proper band”, she took up the vacated stool and, at some point during three years on the road, bumped into Barry 7 from ’90s electronic misfits Add N to (X). He asked her to enlist in his new psych band Prey, so she did. When Prey disbanded, Barry introduced her to Andy Spence from Cornetto-munching new ravers New Young Pony Club, so she started playing with them. Through that, she ended up drumming for Kele Okereke’s electro-disco solo project and met Leo Taylor from The Invisible, which led to her joining the Bat For Lashes live band, and playing with experimental post-rock band Geese, who included alumni of Four Tet’s old band Fridge, who happened to have gone to school with members of Hot Chip. Are you keeping up so far? Good. (In the meantime, Jones was also asked to work with Air, but was, perhaps unsurprisingly, too busy.) Then, at a Christmas party five years ago, someone from Geese mentioned that Hot Chip were looking for a drummer. “I was like, ‘I play the drums!’” recalls Jones, timidly. “I got a text the next week saying ‘do you want to come in for an audition?’ And I was like,” she shrinks into herself a little in remembered disbelief as she speaks, “‘Yeah, er, I do!’” A week later, she was signed up. It’s not as if she’s slowed down since becoming a permanent member of Hot Chip in 2013, either. In between touring and writing with them, there’s been NZCA/Lines, the retro-futurist group with Michael Lovett (onetime Metronomy collaborator) and
Charlotte Hatherley (formerly of Ash), and also Technology+Teamwork, her duo with Anthony Silvester, ex of the XX Teens. Indeed, there would be no finer way of rendering the last decade of Sarah Jones’ life than through one of Pete Frame’s beautiful Rock Family Tree posters. And now, after all that, there’s Pillow Person, with, well, nobody else. For the first time in her musical life, Jones is flying solo, and after a decade of playing other people’s psych rock, camp disco, indie noir and synth pop, she’s putting herself front and centre. Why now, finally? “Well I’d always written little things before, but they were so embarrassingly shit that I never played them to anyone,” she confesses, nursing a beer in a pub garden overlooking Hackney Downs. “Years ago I lived above a carpet shop in Dalston, and underneath the shop was the most disgusting stinky cellar that we shared with a doom band and some other people, and I just used to go downstairs in my slippers, with a cup of tea at funny hours in the morning if I was jetlagged, and play drums and write stuff. But I didn’t know what I was doing. “Then I remember being really really drunk with Hot Chip on our UK tour, maybe like two years ago, and they were all just going, ‘oh, play us your stuff’ or maybe more recently than that, or maybe not, I don’t know. But they were like, ‘go on, go on, play it!’, and it was pretty daunting, with Alexis sat right there. I was totally like, ‘arrrgh’ – but afterwards they were all like, ‘yaaaay!’ and really nice to me.” This, incidentally, is how Jones really speaks: with a boggle-eyed whimsy and over excitability that suggests slight incredulity about the state of her life and belies the fact that she’s one of the hardest-working and most sought-after drummers in pop. “After that,” she continues, “Joe said, ‘let’s try something in the studio’, and I had one day with him, which was really fun – but I did have to sort of
stop myself and go, ‘am I actually going into the studio to do my music with him?! Like, what?!’ I totally felt like I was getting away with it.” From those sessions came ‘Go Ahead’ and ‘In My Game’, both imbued with the same combination of slightly nutty synth squelch and classic house idealism that crops up on Hot Chip records, but augmented by Jones’ sweetly girlish inclination for singsong melodies that recall playground skipping chants. It’s a winning combination, and one that fares even better on a third track that’s included in the single – a version of ‘Go Ahead’ sung by Jones in Spanish. “The day I went to see Moshi Moshi [Records] to discuss ‘Go Ahead’ I was like, ‘wait a minute, I should record my song in Spanish,’” she explains, when asked not just about the bonus track but also about an underlying Hispanophilia that sees the Pillow Person Bandcamp page declaring “location: Mexico”. “My Dad’s half Spanish, but I didn’t grow up speaking it, and I regret that a bit now. A lot actually. So I thought it would be a sort of push in the right direction.” She pauses, and a broad grin crosses her face: “That,” she continues, “and also, er, because Spain’s wicked? And I totally like the idea of getting big in Mexico! And Chile too! “It sounds like such a cliché, but those countries just have this very warm attitude. I’m naturally quite shy around people, and I feel like I’m very English around English people. But I’m not so much like that when I’m around those people. You feel a bit like you’ve been given permission to not feel shy anymore.” It’s a telling remark: Jones’ social self-consciousness may be noticeable across a pub table, but when music is involved, there’s a different story. Her incessant playing and collaboration, not to mention stamina (“I’ve pretty much been on tour for ten years,” she observes at one point. “It really tires you out.”) come completely naturally.
With music, she suggests, the pressure is off: “Even though I’m shy, drumming is the one thing that I like so much that it feels okay,” she says, “and because I haven’t been taught properly or anything, this sounds so cheesy but that means it’s all me. I haven’t been taught to be anything but me, which means if anyone tries to catch me out or tell me I’m doing it wrong… well,” she smirks a combination of triumphalism and apology, “they can’t!” It sounds like good therapy. What’s more, it’s an attitude she’s actively extending to Pillow Person, too: “At the end of the day, I’ve come to realise that with music, everyone’s just trying to have a nice time. Nothing should be scary,” she declares, blithely. “When I started off I was so nervous and shy, and it’s nice to get to the position now where it’s not so much that you don’t care, but that you think well, it’s only music. And it is. It’s just music, and music’s really fun, so it’s fine, it’s really fine. The Pillow Person stuff is just what came out, and that’s that, move onto the next thing. “I just want to have fun with it really,” Jones insists, again, later on. “It can seem like the most important thing in the world, but when you step back, no one’s dying, it’s all right. And when you think like that,” she resolves, contemplating how she ended up here in the first place, “you start to think things like, well, why not stop playing the drums for a bit and just have a little sing?”
rig ht : sa ra h jo n es a ka pil l o w perso n , pho t o g ra phed in b et hn a l g reen , l o n d o n .
Pillow Person Somehow, drummer Sarah Jones has found time to launch a solo project Photogra p hy: jonangelo molinari / writer: sam walton
THE BIRTH OF PILLOW PERSON “A name like Sarah Jones is just so common. There was even a girl on my school bus called Sarah Jones – it was Sarah Blonde Hair and Sarah Brown Hair. [But she was more popular than me. I’d turn round and everyone would be like, ‘oh no, not that Sarah Jones, the other Sarah Jones!’ and I was like, ‘oh screw you, whatever!’] So I started calling myself Sarah Sausages – and, ha, I don’t even eat sausages! Then one night I was in Glasgow [with Hot Chip – have you ever been to the Sub Club in Glasgow? I think it might be my favourite club in the world. Anyway,] Hot Chip were DJing at Sub Club after we’d done our gig, and we knew it was going to be a big night because it’s always amazing there, so Felix was like, ‘I’ve got my pillow person ready!’ I was like, ‘what?’ and he was like, ‘when we get back it’ll be like I’ve got a little person made of pillows there in bed to have a cuddle with.’ I thought it was just such a sweet idea, and as we were walking to the club, Felix said, ‘you should totally be called Pillow Person.’ I was like, ‘yeah, you’re right, I should so be called Pillow Person. That’ll do.’”
ngel Olsen is a bit groggy. She’s just returned from filming a video for her upcoming single – a trip which in turn came off the back of a mini-tour of North America – and she’s readjusting to being at home. It’s a luxury that she hasn’t been able to indulge in much since shooting to indie fame with her 2014 LP, ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’. Despite the effervescent character I’ve seen in past interviews, the first few minutes of our conversation
are muted and, for a second, I’m not sure how things are going to go. “I’m lucky if I get seven hours of sleep,” she laments, creaking into action, coffee in hand. “I was making a video in the desert. But I was doing press while I was making the video so I’d get up and do press, then we’d make the video and I’d stay up until three and then I’d get up and do it again.” As she describes the cyclical blur of commitments her voice becomes a drawl, mimicking the
abject lack of glamour of the affair. Minor complaint registered, she pauses briefly as though to dust herself off, pick herself up and get into gear. “But it’s all been very exciting. I have a lot of energy!” And it’s a good thing she does. The breakout success of ‘Burn Your Fire’ saw Olsen and her band clock up nearly a hundred dates in 2014 alone, but after coming home from her last European tour, she was given strict
doctor’s orders not to play live for the foreseeable future. Having been sick for two weeks on the road, struggling on a nightly basis to communicate her plight to non-Anglophone audiences, enough was eventually enough. Since then, she has been refining her worklife balance to ensure that she exists in a space somewhere approaching sanity. “I go to therapy, I try to live a healthy life.” Most important of all, however, is her strict detox from music and the
Angel Olsen In the eye of the birthday party Photogra phy: nathaniel wood / writer: david zammitt
above : A nge l o ls e n in e as t hollyw ood, lo s ange le s .
music industry. After a string of performances – or birthday parties, as she refers to the self-centred bubble of being on stage – she finds it difficult to go back over it all, or to be around people at all. “You’ve been giving a birthday party every day. And leading a group through that that sometimes don’t want to be part of the birthday party,” she says with a wry laugh. “When I’m at home I’m not talking about music most of the time. I might be working on music but I’m not going to hang out with my friends and share it with them here. I have a very different personal lifestyle at home. It’s very sacred to me. I don’t really like to perform a lot in this town because I want the privacy and the relaxation.” Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, she has made her home in the much smaller city of Asheville, North Carolina, 600 miles south west of where she grew up. With a population of less than 100,000, its chief musical claim to fame is as the home of the Moog Music Corporation, but it’s precisely this lack of pretension that drew Olsen in, and which helps to keep her not only sane but grounded. “It’s a hard place to be famous, unless you’re in an Appalachian folk band or you’re in a hip hop group that’s worldwide successful, it’s kind of a weird place to play. But I like that about it. I like this tiny little place where I’m small.” Her days in the thick of the Chicago music scene are long gone. With artists at every turn, in every café and every bar, she grew tired of the city’s suffocating force. Yet she still values her relationships with other musicians in helping her deal with fame, even if it is – as she is keen to hammer home – fame on a relatively minor scale. “Talking about the things we go through and how alien and isolating it can be [helps]. People think it’s a blessing – and it is,” she says firmly, careful to impress upon me that she doesn’t take this for granted, “but it is this weird, twisted kind of blessing. You do something well and then you
have to talk about it until it gets smaller and smaller and means less and less.” As well as devising homemade techniques to keep on top of her psychological health, with such a large chunk of her life spent on the road, Olsen has had to adapt her creative approach. The early parts of that sprawling tour were difficult, proving to be barren creative ground as she grappled with the process of writing songs at no fixed abode. “It’s been an adjustment. I wrote some of the songs on side B of this record when I was in Australia. And then I wrote some of the others when I got back from this trip to Istanbul and Greece.” She lights up and her speech quickens as she recalls her most recent excursion. “It was like when The Beatles went to India,” she jokes, “in my head!” Born out of a desire to reconnect as a band and throw off the shackles of their newfound status as colleagues, it turned out to be just the artistic trigger they needed. “My band hasn’t really hung out together as people. We went from friends to business people very quickly and developed habits and wanted space from each other. Back in the day we used to ride bikes to our shitty rehearsal space,” she remembers, drifting off, “before I was getting paid and they were getting paid. Now, seeing the changes, it just felt like we had gone through so much together. So many boundaries have been set up now because I’m a boss, I guess. So we needed to hang out – go to these beautiful places and just hang out.” The fruits of the resultant burst of inspiration will be released on September 2nd as ‘My Woman.’ A stunning LP of two halves, it is an album made by an obsessive music fan for obsessive music fans. “If you’re a record listener,” says Olsen, delighting in the details of the album, “and you put it on your record player, side A is going to be more upbeat, and then side B is going to be heavy; me hanging out with my band and having a good time.” A labour of love, it captures her
group at their telepathic best. Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, producer Justin Raisen encouraged them to record it live from the off in an attempt to maintain the energy of their mesmerising live show. Initially it was a disorientating experience, but as each member recorded in a separate room the chemistry didn’t take long to bubble up. Says Olsen: “We couldn’t see each other and we all had different mixes in our headphones so we were all hearing something else.” When it came together, it really came together, and as the synergy grew they found themselves enjoying the silences, the perfectly timed gaps in songs as much as the drum fills and guitar lines. “People don’t have to shred all the time,” she asserts, as if I was saying anything to the contrary. “Sometimes what’s wonderful is when people aren’t playing – those moments where the audience has to imagine the note, imagine what happens.” The live nature of the recording also means that not everything is pitch perfect, imbuing the finished article with a human character Olsen holds dear. “Stewart [Bronaugh, guitarist], goes into two guitar solos on ‘Sister’ and on one of them he kind of goes out of tune and loses it a little bit and then he pops back on.” I can almost smell the guitar strings as she gets lost in a list of ‘ands’ with her excitement. “Well, that’s my favourite part of that song!”
aking the electric folk baton from ‘Burn Your Fire,’ ‘Your Woman’ runs in all manner of new directions. The psych-pop, country and frazzled electric guitars of its predecessors are still present, and the influence of Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Hank Williams is still felt as keenly as ever, but this time Olsen has made a determined decision to incorporate those sounds and ethics as part of a much wider palette. The modus operandi, you feel, is to emulate rather
than imitate this time around. Lead single ‘Intern’ is a solid mark of how far Olsen’s sound has come, and a decent synopsis of the rest of the LP: a dreamy, drumless lullaby shaped of decidedly synthetic, rather than acoustic, textures. It could be lifted straight from Four-Calendar Café-era Cocteau Twins. And while it would be easy to cast the album as a sonic volte face – Olsen’s equivalent of Dylan going electric, or Radiohead’s muchexaggerated ditching of the guitars on ‘Kid A’ – it is more subtle than that. Marrying ‘50s rock and roll and late ‘70s punk to gothic keyboards and sequenced drums, ‘Your Woman’ sounds like it is from the present rather than the past as Olsen eschews purely traditional instrumentation for a perfect blend of digital and analogue. “I didn’t want to make a piano album,” she says assuredly. Instead, she has come to find synth, organ and Mellotron much more flattering to the voice than the piano’s colder sounds. “With piano it’s like playing drums and singing and juggling and you have rhythms happening on two hands and then you have the rhythm of your voice. It’s kind of like a maths problem to me, but I needed something new. I like playing the grunge stuff and I like playing the pop stuff and that’ll always be a part of me but I wanted to embrace this.” The only problem, she says, is that because she was having so much fun with her new approach the songs just grew and grew, to the point where she was seriously toying with the idea of a double album. Rock music’s most overblown of statements, it didn’t happen – and she’s coy when I suggest we might get another album in quick succession. “I had this dry spell for a really long time. I’m writing again, so we’ll see.” As well as the undoubted stylistic development, ‘Your Woman’ is notable for the sheer number of sounds Olsen manages to craft from her own vocal chords. She seems to be able to move between voices with ease, literally from one track to the next. The sweet ‘60s girl group delivery on ‘Sister,’ for example, segues impossibly with ‘Woman’ and the sound of a female who has lived, loved, lost and everything
in between, belying Olsen’s 29 years. It’s a product, she says, of sheer impatience. “I remember recording as a kid and wondering when I would get an adult’s voice. I was like, ‘This is boring, I have a kid’s voice.’” She should smoke and drink more, I tell her, and she’ll get that late Dylan gravel before she’s 30. “Yeah, and I’m sure my balls will drop eventually and then I’ll sound like a man and I’ll be so psyched. The seventh album will be called ‘My Man’ and it will be the most literal record ever released.” I’m keen to understand how she develops such disparate timbres and intensities but she’s self-effacing, and puts up a wall before she reveals the magic recipe. “Well, I get out of practice a lot of the time. When I get back from a long tour sometimes I don’t even want to sing for a month or so – like, I
don’t want to hear my own voice because I’ve sung Hi-Five too many times. I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to know it; I don’t want anyone to high five me any more.” But as she gears up to do it all over again and take the latest creation to her public, she’s ready to go. “I end up pushing myself in my live performance,” she says, and I know she isn’t lying. “I learned this over the last couple of years. I like the records I’ve made, and ‘Burn Your Fire’ was definitely a turning point, but when I listen to it – and I don’t listen to it – but if I heard it on the radio or something, it’s kind of weird and alien because the versions have gotten better to me in a live setting with a bigger band.” Far from braggadocio, these are the words of a woman who has firmly
found her feet and isn’t afraid to say so. And with an album as solid as ‘Your Woman’ up her sleeve, why would she be? “We do a live version of [threeminute acoustic number] ‘Acrobat,’” she gushes, and it’s clear that the old enthusiasm has returned. “It’s seven minutes long and it’s real laid back and stone-y – very different from the record. I’m looking forward to that!” It’s time to go, and I get the sense that Angel Olsen could chat for several more hours, long past any appointments she or her management might have made as she ruminates on Dolly Parton, the confusing role of Twitter in a musician’s life and the poor state of music journalism today. But we’ll save that for next time. “I really appreciate you taking the time,” she says politely, “to ask me about my birthday party.”
Battle for New York Everything’s bigger in the city of New York. The buildings, the lights, but the gentrification too. Show Me The Body are a punk band fighting back. Photography: david cortes / writer: stuart stubbs
New York City has always been dying and excelling at the same time, depending on who you’re talking to. For visitors, it’s incapable of disappointing. Ever. “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years,” wrote Tom Wolfe, and he’s right. But what about after five years? What if you were born and raised in New York, and some people are, you know? For a lot of those people – average, true, living New Yorkers – it’s perpetually worse off than it was. That’s the message I get from a weekend spent with native punk trio Show Me The Body, whose
debut album, ‘Body War’, contorts and screams with appropriate fury. In 1989 it was Lou Reed who felt disenfranchised with the city, then torn apart by the AIDS and crack cocaine epidemics, insufficient funding for local amenities and an out-of-control crime rate. He pumped it into his fifth solo album, ‘New York’. “I’ll take Manhattan in a garbage bag / With Latin written on it that says ‘It’s hard to give a shit these days’ / Manhattan’s sinking like a rock / Into the filthy Hudson, what a shock.” Deadpanned by Reed, the level of sarcasm is hard to fully read on ‘Romeo Had Juliette’, but as he told Rolling Stone
in ’89, he meant every word of it. Maybe James Murphy did too when he sang: “New York I love you, but you’re wasting my time / Our records all show you’re filthy but fine.” Like I say, always dying and always excelling. Show Me The Body’s fight isn’t against anything as patently ugly as what New York went through in the 1980s, but neither is it a fashionable comment ran with by LCD Soundsystem. In a town that has grown fast and matured quickly, they’ve seen gentrification do its familiar work, and they care about its negative impact a lot more than most other 22-year-
olds. “The city is dying,” singer Julian Cashwan Pratt told The Guardian at the end of last year. “I can’t really write love songs currently because the city is changing so hard and it’s happening in ways that are really sad. It’s displacing a lot of people. Friends and family are threatened with eviction every week.” The day after I arrive in New York is Show Me The Body’s first show in two months – a lifetime for a hardcore band like this one, who’ll tell me: “What we do is play shows. That’s the whole damn point.” This one is to celebrate the release of their debut album, which they duly gave away via
r ig h t : t h e b a n d ’ s a l b u m lau n c h s h o w a t i mp er i a l bal l r o o m d a n c e s t u d i o , c h i n a t o w n , n ew y o r k c i t y .
their single page website last week (you can still get it there). On my first attempt to find it I walk straight past the launch party venue, or ‘spot’, to use a New York-ism that I’ll hear a lot whilst here. It’s not in Williamsburg or Bushwick or even the Lower Eastside. It’s in China Town, on a street lined with crab tanks in windows and the hot smell of fish and exhaust fumes in the air. On this street there’s also a staircase in a doorway that leads up to the Imperial Ballroom Dance Studio. It’s a chintzy place, with allwood floors and mid-red drapes that make it feel like Ving Rhames’ place in Pulp Fiction. Owners Irene and Ming have been teaching Latin dance here for 20 years. Tonight, for the first and probably last time, it’ll be slam dancing on the panelling, at an all-ages DIY punk show. A bar is set up on the building’s flat roof. Tables and chairs are taken up there, too. A wired, cartoonish roadie named Dennis hauls the PA the band have rented from him up the stairs and begins to assemble it on the floor. Man-with-a-van kind of stuff. I meet Harlan Steed first – SMTB’s bassist and sampler. He’s a calmly spoken, polite guy who’s just graduated college in Vermont, where he studied architecture and design. Harlan found tonight’s show space on Craigslist. Singer Julian initially seems pretty wary of me – this square looking British reporter who’s about to step into a world that is inclusive by it’s own definition but one that is extremely protective of itself, also. The less journalists snooping around the better. More than anything, Julian doesn’t want himself and his band and his community misrepresented, which I fully understand. It’s why Show Me The Body do almost everything themselves. They don’t even have a manager to say ‘no’ on their behalf – they’ll say no themselves. Drummer Noah Cohen-Corbett – the youngest and most relaxed member of band – says a quick hello and takes a seat in the corner. He’s cool rather than shy. And there’s Gabriel too: Julian’s cousin and the band’s drummer before Noah, who produced ‘Body War’ and is still a tight member of this small team. He’s done a little acting, also, landing bit parts in The Soprano’s and Woody Allen’s latest movie. It’s Gabriel who asks the ballroom’s manager to systematically turn on and off the countless lights and lamps in a million different combinations as he and Julian carefully work out their desired mood of the space. The red drapes have to go. Show Me The Body
are the most no-frills band around right now. As Dennis wrestles with the band’s uncontrollable sound (he has to check with Harlan if that piercing feedback coming from his pedal bank is planned [it is], and if that other screech coming for Julian is too [it’s not]) the Imperial Ballroom starts to fill early with New York’s young hardcore community. Almost everyone who enters appears to be a personal friend of the band’s, hugging one or all three members on their way up to the roof. Dennis is losing his mind. Julian knows “the best spot” for food around the corner, so we slip out as more kids come in off the street to drop ten bucks in the jar by the door. Show Me The Body don’t do pre-tickets sales so there’s no real way of knowing how many people will be here when we come back, although their last show was shut down by the police after 300 fans burst a 100 capacity room.
s the five of us (the band, photographer David and me) file into the busy Chinese restaurant a block away, I’m aware of how wrong I’ve been when I’ve visited friends who’ve moved to foreign cities and told others how I lived like a local whilst there. Julian embraces John, the owner, who finds us the last remaining space on a large, communal round table. “We’ve got these guys in from out of town,” Julian tells him, “so we’ve got to show them all the best places to come to.” Food simply starts to arrive – rather than us ordering from the menu – while it turns out that the younger guys sharing our table are coming to the show. Julian coolly leans over to shake a hand when one of them says hi and how much he’s been looking forward to it. “Half of the show is the people that show up,” Harlan tells me. “It’s not just the band or the music. It’s about the people who are there to throw down and get us there.” A large part of that is making sure that the band has somewhere to play, where their friends and fans aren’t denied access. A DIY show at the Imperial Ballroom Dance Studio makes that happen, as have the other nontraditional spaces SMTB have performed in, which include the alleyway beside Harlan’s house (the band’s rehearsal space is in his basement), the Queens Museum and under the BrooklynQueens Expressway (or the BQE). The gentrification of Brooklyn, in particular, is closing down a lot of DIY and experimental spaces. More often
B el o w : J u l i a n , n o a h a n d harlan on the staten i s l a n d f er r y . r i g h t: w i t h n ew y o r k ’ s f i n est .
than not it’s to make way for more luxury condominiums, but in a particularly ironic twist it was Vice Media that closed Glasslands and the non-profit Death By Audio in 2015 when the company bought the repurposed warehouse that housed the two venues. Even more unfortunate was how The New Yorker featured Bushwick venue Palisades on its cover at the end of April 2016 only for it to be shut down by the NYPD a month and a half later due to building code violations. It might be paranoia that leads Julian to tell me “the press kills things” but the assumption isn’t totally unfounded in this case, and I can see why I might be conceived as a whistleblower, even inadvertently. A deal-breaker befalls the remaining venues of NYC – nearly all of them are over 21’s only, and it’s Show Me The Body’s policy to play for people of all ages. “I think our scene is cool because it’s both underground and it’s for the kids,” says Julian. “The crowd isn’t inundated with young professionals and shit like that. It’s just kids looking to have a good time and party and shit. “It’s an interesting thing,” he says, “because in some ways there’s mad places to play, you could say. But what are those places? The Mercury Lounge, Baby’s All Right – these are places were young professionals can take their girlfriends and get a fancy burger. They’re not places for kids – most of them are 21+. When I was a kid I couldn’t go to any of the mad shows
that I thought looked awesome, because I wasn’t old enough, so I would never want to put anyone in that position.” “Part of it’s also, why should we have to slot ourselves into those places to begin with?” asks Harlan. “That’s the appeal of being an underground band. Why should we have to go to Baby’s All Right to put on a show? The crowd can’t even get in there. We’re not into creating barriers. Maybe that’s not the intention that those venues have, but that’s what they do. Right now we’re more interested in building our own spaces for people to go to. We’re looking all over to find good spots to play where everyone can be and not feel like they’re shut out.” John comps us one of our rounds of beers as we get the bill. We tip big and leave.
he ballroom is full when we go back, with 300 odd kids split between the roof and inside where supporting DJs play a mix of bass and noise. We’d left Gabriel finessing the lighting situation – seems like he landed on turning them all off, except for a couple of spots that the band brought with them. It makes for intense anticipation as SMTB, the only live band on the bill, pick up their instruments come 1.30am. From out of the darkness kids are itching to go, encroaching the band’s floor space
even before Julian steps onto a speaker and twists his jaw and retches his tongue above them, bug-eyed and freaky. If the show itself is half as exciting as these tightly wound preceding moments it will still be quite something – a ritual of chaos; a hidden community letting go in what might be America’s maddest year yet. And that’s exactly what happens. As SMTB throw down their fierce amalgamation of hardcore, industrial noise and hip-hop, fans clamber to shout Julian’s lyrics back into his face. They feel exactly the same as he does about the struggle of New York living, communally stuttering “I go so far I push so hard / Just to live under this monolith” at the top of ‘Body War’’s title track before it drops into its rolling groove, and screaming, “I think about my city when I think about hell” in the more straight-up punk rock track ‘Tight Swat’. “Shit I never asked for / But it’s shit I’m down to scrap for!” From the opening, doomy ‘Aspirin’, which starts with the kind of metallic grinding that helps make HEALTH such an interesting noise group, Harlan’s bass kicks out a low end pummel, accompanied by odd electronic accompaniments that he manipulates from a pedal bank raised on a table top. Julian butts towards and away from the mic between verses. Noah smashes the shit out of his kit. The crowd pushes forward. The band’s own space diminishes. It’s probably a good thing that it’s all over in 20 minutes; with Julian pushing out
through the crowd to god knows where. He never comes back. The party finally winds down at 3am so we drive to the apartment I’m staying at in the East Village to share some beers, a couple of joints and an ice cream cake whilst listening to War. It’s 20 blocks away and with a few of the band’s friends coming along also there’s no way we can all fit in Noah’s grandma’s space cruiser, which the band tour in and is currently also filled with gear. Still, we give it a good go, with David and I sharing the front passenger seat of what is a pretty small family car. A couple of days later Harlan will tell me how Noah and Julian share the driving on tour, and how when Julian’s behind the wheel they always get busted by the cops, but never when it’s Noah. “I don’t know what it is,” he says, “Noah’s just got this calmness.” Tessa is one of the band’s close friends wedged into the space cruiser. When I ask her what it is about SMTB that she likes, she says: “Show Me The Body are special to me because they awakened me to music I didn’t feel I liked. They opened my mind.”
couple of days after the show Julian texts me an address of where to meet him, Harlan and Noah for lunch, at Doabha Deli at the north end of the Upper West Side known as Manhattan Valley. Columbia University is a block or two away and some of New York’s most affluent streets are a short walk in the opposite direction. ManhattanValley itself is hardly the Bronx in the ’80s but it feels like a relatively untouched neighbourhood, void of chain stores and alfresco cafes. It feels clean but authentic. The colloquial term for it, ‘White Harlem’, sounds about right. When I tell the band that I’ve never been this far up the island before, Gabriel says: “No one comes up here, that’s why we like it.” He and Julian live together nearby (they’re NewYork lifers and their family has been in the area for a long time) and Noah, who grew up in the suburbs of Western Massachusetts, is also staying on a couch around the corner, although he seems unsure of where he’ll sleep tonight. Harlan has lived in Long Island City, Queens, his whole life. He met Julian at Elizabeth Irwin High School down in Greenwich Village, a 1920s “progressive commy school” earlier attended by Robert De Niro. The pair clicked over Lightning Bolt and Primus, whose thrash funk influence can be heard in some of SMTB’s music. Julian’s further introduction to the hardcore community came when volunteering
at the Lower Eastside’s ABC No Rio social space, which still hosts Saturday matinee punk shows today. The venue also features an art gallery space, a zine library, a darkroom, a silk screening studio and a public computer lab. The Indian Doabha Deli is perhaps the smallest on the street, where the compact seating area is next door to where the dal is served straight from the guy cooking it. “This is the best spot,” Julian assures me – the band eat here at least twice a week; once again the owners greet them like like old friends. Over our trays of food we discuss Brexit (the referendum result is two
days old and still raw), theatre (Julian’s brother is a trained dancer currently performing in the hugely successful Punchdrunk production Sleep No More) and Donald Trump, although the latter only briefly before Julian points out that none of us should waste our time and energy talking about him. Indeed, inciting SMTB to slag off a neo liberal maniac like Trump is fish-in-a-barrel conversation. Instead I ask them if the show the other night was a typical one for them. “We hadn’t played in New York for a minute,” says Julian. “It’s always like that in New York – pretty hyped, pretty fun, pretty violent. I think that show
was a little more violent because there was no stage. It was a little bit more like a warzone. “We play spots like that to get away from the control,” he says. “The bouncers. The BQE, we did that show because we had another show the week before and it got shut down before we were able to play because the cops got called, and a homie of ours then passed away that week, and people last saw him at that show, so the BQE show was a way for everyone to come together and not be alone. A lot of people were thinking about it, and that was our way of getting the community together. Like, fuck it – the
cops shut down our last show, and they can shut down this show, and the next show, but we all need to be together right now. There’s no money involved, or drink and tickets sales, just people coming together.” Directly informing SMTB’s strong feelings surrounding community are their stronger feelings surrounding choice – something that Julian seems exasperated by. “There are a couple of other artists that represent what we do as well,” he tells me later, “but you have to make that choice. We have to make that choice every fucking day, at every show – to represent the kids and represent New York in a positive way. You can’t just play the shows and hope that happens. We like to make that choice and other people don’t. “People are like, ‘oh, you’re it right now’, or whatever, but buzz bands just get opportunities, and opportunities in life are beautiful things – that’s the reason all four of us are sat here right now. We’ve got an opportunity and you’ve got an opportunity, you get me? So it’s all about which ones do you take and how do you use those opportunities. How do you have the discussion with people before you walk into the room? What do you think about yourself sitting there? How do you feel about the dudes sitting across the table? Be sure it’s a good feeling. If it’s not, you should probably walk away.” Show Me The Body continue to operate in this way – the three of them unapologetically calling the shots. It’s that approach, and the fact that this is their first big feature and shoot, that leaves us in limbo for a couple of hours following lunch. The moment for photographs has arrived and Julian is particularly self conscious of being shot staring into the middle distance like he wants to be in U2, regardless of how much I try to assure him that we don’t want to capture the band like that. We first try a roof overlooking the Hudson, courtesy of a friend of Gabriel’s. But after a joint there and a couple of games of X-Box (which none of us are cut out for, especially Gabriel, who I think might have even managed to kill himself in Call Of Duty), the roof is out of bounds to us, so we descend back to street level in the oak elevator. The second idea that we all seem happy with is the band and some police officers, on an ironic tip considering certain tracks on ‘Body War’ reference police brutality – an issue that the band take as seriously as anybody should. Problem is, Manhattan Valley is hardly crawling with cops, which prompts us to chance our luck walking into a
“The powers that be in the city are trying to end you” precinct and innocently asking the officers if they’ll come outside for a photo. Julian about turns at the door once he remembers what’s in his carrier bag; the officers politely decline reasoning that they’re understaffed today and sending us in the direction of Central Park – “they’ll love you there.” So there we are, hunting cops in the middle of New York’s greenery, which is a pretty bizarre situation to be in – kinda fun and kinda awkward as the light starts to dwindle and I start to panic. No cops anywhere. As we schlep south towards the Natural History Museum (Harlan has texted a friend studying there who might be able to sign us in via the staff entrance for unprecedented access – sadly it’s another brick wall despite his brave fighting of our corner at the security desk), Harlan tells me about his studies at Vermont, and how he appreciates the band waiting for him to graduate, “because at one point it really did look like I’d only be able to do one or the other.” His father, who was at the Imperial Ballroom show with Harlan’s brother, is a builder who studied visual art at prestigious NY music and art school LaGuardia. “I’m more interested in the use of space,” he says, “which is what the other night was about. I’m not interested in destroying buildings, I’m interested in saving them, and I’d rather use what I studied within the band.” He points out that SMTB apply the study of space to their music also – the dynamics of ‘Body War’ prove him right. Because for SMTB’s fierce live show, strong anti-capitalist beliefs and anger at their unforgiving city, their music is far from mindless where even the most vital of hardcore bands often thrash at one pace. ‘Body War’ is a mix of Death Grips style noise, industrial punk, early Beastie Boys staccato vocals, hip-hop, sludge rock and drone. Harlan’s bass always grooves but at different speeds and fuzz settings, from the quick scuzz of ‘Tight Swat’ to the much slower padding of the trippy ‘Death Sounds 2’. On ‘Chrome Exposed’ it makes a weird forever ascending buzz; on ‘Aspirin’ it’s the track’s heartbeat that’s both doomy and mechanical. Julian wires a banjo rather than a guitar through his amp for an unconventional grating noise that at first seems as though it might be completely electronic. In turn he raps, sings and screams his abstract lyrics. Just when you think you’ve got that one element sussed out he delivers ‘Metallic Taste’, a lullaby
that is more like King Krule than anything else. Or the ambient spoken word ‘Honesty Hour’, on which his traumatised vocals crow “a response to music culture and hardcore culture, and taking it back to what I think it should be about, which isn’t about what is ‘proper hardcore’ or the toughest shit you can do, but what’s the realest shit you can do.” You will have definitely heard some of the band’s elements before, but never jammed together quite like this. ‘Body War’ is one of the most exciting experimental punk records in years.
e finally find a couple of cops down in the subway by Columbus Circle, which is at the complete opposite end of the park from where we started looking. In the interim we also rule out a photo at John Lennon’s Dakota Building, smoking weed in a deli and a shot outside Trump Tower. Photographer David meets the band a few weeks later for a much more fruitful ride on the Staten
Island Ferry… in the rain. It’s getting darker as we sit in the bottom corner of the park beside one of the city’s two malls, full of designer shops that are so far removed from everything Show Me The Body represent they appear to mocking them. “No one’s trying to reinvigorate community,” says Julian, dejected, “they’re just trying to push something. New York’s all being sold.” But this is still one of the greatest cities in the world, I say, admittedly as a tourist about to return home to his own great city that faces so many of New York’s problems with gentrification. It’s easy for me to say that, but seeing how much SMTB care about this place, I find it hard to believe that they don’t still think that too, deep down. “It’s shit I’m down to scrap for!” “Sometimes I believe it,” says Julian. “It’s nice to hear you say that, but it’s hard, man, to see everyone you know go through struggle to keep living. And everybody who doesn’t know you are going through their own shit, but more than that, the powers that be in the city are trying to end you. That’s
how it feels sometimes. But it’s good, too, because a lot of people say that New York is dead because it’s being bought up, but that’s not cool, because if you have that mindset you’re not part of the solution. The city is brewing and a lot of anger is happening, and people are trying to find things and kids are trying to make things.That’s something I’m super excited for, but it’s not being talked about.” They say that people who move to New York do so to get away from their families and people from New York stay because of them. That’s how SMTB feel to me, who extend that loyalty to the young people of the city that support them. “People think we’re nihilists because a lot of punk and hardcore does cop out,” says Julian. “It’s just like,‘fuck this, fuck that’.‘We’re against this!’ That’s totally cool, but what are you trying to build? What are you trying to facilitate? When people come to your shows, is the object just for people to wreck the venue? Or are you going to church? You understand what I’m sayin’? I wanna go to temple.”
Regina Spektor Death, motherhood and other things, in the Russian American’s own words Photography: Shervin Lainez / writer: james f. thompson
The traditional narrative around Regina Spektor is a pretty severesounding one, retelling how her and her parents fled to America from the USSR in 1989. Fair enough – it’s an interesting back story – but speaking to her on the phone from Los Angeles, rather than coming off like some pofaced Soviet archetype, Spektor sounds about as all-American as apple pie. Utterances are peppered with enough soft-voiced “likes,” “ums” and “y’knows” to totally belie somebody who is an intellectual, classically trained multi-instrumentalist and a Russian émigré to boot. Now residing in New York City, fifteen years into her career and Spektor sounds as infectiously enthusiastic as a bright-eyed songwriter about to release her debut album. In fact, this month, the 36-year-old is back with her seventh LP and first in four years, ‘Remember Us to Life’, the follow up to ‘What We Saw from the Cheap Seats’ from 2012. Her past couple of records have shot straight into the top 3 of the Billboard 200 and the new album is unlikely to buck the trend. Certainly there’s definitely an ‘event’ feel to the release, with security so tight that I only end up with a copy 24 hours before Spektor and I are due to speak. It’s worth the wait, of course. Across 11 tracks (and 14 for the deluxe version), Spektor treats us to full-scale orchestral productions of baroque pop that swirl around her characteristically fanciful and neatly-weaved tales. Although Spektor is no diarist with her lyrics – preferring instead to relate her experiences through stories and imaginative characterisation – that album title is no whim. ‘Remember Us to Life’ broadly centres on Spektor’s emotional conflict in coping with the loss of loved ones over the previous few years, all the while bringing up her first child (a son, born in 2014) and enjoying her marriage to musician Jack Dishel (the pair wed in 2011). The new LP is also something of a departure for Spektor in that she harnesses her voice’s fantastic range purely for the purpose of singing, as opposed to using it as more of a percussive instrument on albums of the past. This time Spektor also largely does away with electronic influences other than opener ‘Bleeding Heart’, preferring instead a mix of organic
pop, jazz and classical instrumentation. Equally though, this is no easy listening affair; rather, coupled with Spektor’s melancholy lyrics, ‘Remember Us to Life’ is a truly affecting listen from the first note to the last. “It’s about loss and navigating the world”
I think that [the album is about] loss and navigating the world while a lot of people that I loved have been leaving the planet in all these different ways; some from old age, some prematurely with disease, or tragedy… It’s been very hard to sort of reconcile my optimism with that. I’ve always been aware of melancholy and it’s always been a big part of my life and a lot of art and the music and the writing that I’ve gravitated to has been full of that. It’s never just sweet, it’s always bittersweet. I think that in those last years when I sort of got pummelled with loss, it got harder to reconcile my vision of the world with what was actually happening. “It’s about learning to live with grief and melancholy as an integrated part of your life. I don’t think anybody ever gets over that kind of stuff but you go through it and then you feel – even though it’s horrible and nobody would choose it – you’re grateful to be fully connected to the world and to still be here. You kind of try to reconcile staying strong and positive with not being in denial of all these things that are part of the world and are really painful too. That’s all in the record for sure, maybe more so than before. “Out of murkiness comes art”
It’s kind of interesting because I felt, how is it that I’m with this baby, and in all this awe of life, and then when I’m writing I’m writing all these really sad songs? I think that it’s not necessarily like a ‘blender’ you know, where it’s like okay, you’ve put in some blueberries, some strawberries and then you push the button, pour it out and it’s some blueberry and strawberry mush. Experiences are mixed with so many other things when they flow through our system; our subconscious, our hopes, our dreams, the hopes of
our parents, the experiences and stories that we’ve heard through our life. It all sort of goes into this murkiness and out comes art. I’m never like, oh, I feel really happy right now, I want to write happy songs. I’m just grateful to get to write songs. It’s such a good feeling to just tap into something and make art, but it doesn’t necessarily correspond to my daily life. It surprises me too. “Motherhood is amazing”
Basically, it’s absolutely incredible. I have to say, like, I was really nervous beforehand because I knew that I was gonna be completely in the experience and I was never going to put music first. It’s just not in my personality. I think I just love kids so much and I’ve loved them… since I was a baby, I think I’ve loved babies! So there was a part of me that was really scared that I wasn’t going to prioritise art and make it, and I wouldn’t be able to find time. But I was really amazed that I did more work and figured out how to use my time better than I had in years, really. I wrote more and I was more inspired. I felt more excited to make art and felt more creative. You’re tapping into the connective tissue of the universe. Life goes around in cycles and you become a participant in that; you become a participant in generations and the links that connect great-grandparents and grandparents; parents and children.You become connected to the fact that all of nature does this; all animals, birds, plants. At some point all of them are tapping into this procreation thing. We don’t know exactly why and I think it’s different for different people and animals and beings, but it’s just kind of there; the pulse of things moving forward. “My parents loved me so much”
All of a sudden I understood my parents so much better. I didn’t really realise how much they loved me – they loved me so much. I grew up with very loving, giving parents and then as soon as I had the baby I was like, fuck, my parents loved me so much! If they loved me the way I love this baby, I am
fucked! This is just too much! I kind of had this moment where I wish I’d known, on that level, earlier. I knew it intellectually but I didn’t know it, know it. It’s kind of like when you hear all that stuff about love and you’re growing up – you can watch movies and you can read books and you can know these great epic stories like Romeo and Juliet, and then one day you fall in love and you go, ‘Oh… this is that.’ You didn’t really know. [Having a baby] is kind of like that; another room in the house that had been locked has just been unlocked and now you get to step into it and kind of participate. “I’ve had time to be myself in the world”
To me, motherhood has been an incredible experience but I also think that it’s not like… I would never be like, everybody must have a child. It’s this way for me because I wanted it and I was ready. I’ve had so much time to be myself in the world. I’ve had time to explore my art and make records and tour the world and do all these things. It’s not like I’m thrown into this completely not ready and sacrificing my self-fulfilment and all these other things, so of course it’s different. I have things that a lot of people don’t have. I have a lot of support around me, I have a husband who also wanted this, and we’re both artists and prioritising staying artists and being parents. There are tremendous amounts of people where it literally changes their life and although they’ll always love the child – that love is always there – it changes their life. Their life changes in this way that they don’t want it to and they’re not happy. I just know how amazing it’s been for me and I feel like it’s an important thing to share – as a musician – that I had these worries and I actually found [after childbirth] that I could make more art. If somebody’s sort of afraid and wants to be a parent but is afraid they’re not going to be able to make art anymore, then I just want to tell them that I feel like I wrote some of my best work having been a parent and it feels really amazing to make art. If that’s the fear, it shouldn’t stop them.
tell me about it
never used to like this and now I love it.’ Another song they used to really like, maybe they never ever want to hear it again, you know; ‘I’ve taken all the nutrients from it and it’s got nothing left for me.’ I like that. That’s what music is to me, it’s almost like food – like a supplement or something. “My kindred spirits are fiction writers”
“I am definitely still myself”
I have these deadlines for the album and I swear, at one point when something came back last week and it was somehow all formatted all funny, I had to step out into the garden of this place in Venice [Los Angeles] and I had to take a moment to take two shots of vodka in the middle of the day! It led me to day drinking! I was thinking, what’s happening? I’m supposed to be together; I’m a mum, I’ve just finished this record… You know it’s funny though, things like that, they’re almost comforting. If I ever wondered if I wasn’t myself any more, well, I am definitely still myself! “I wish I had more time”
Finishing all these deadlines for artwork, for somebody like me who’s so… who wants everything just so, you know… I sometimes wish I was a more casual person about it, but I’m not! But you know, perfectionism does its part; it serves its purpose well, for certain things, even though it drives me a little crazy sometimes. I’m never
not grateful that I didn’t notice that, you know, that one sound really popped out at one minute and fortyfive seconds, so I’m grateful for that. But I wish I had more time! I always wish I had more time. “It’s hard to play favourites with songs”
We’re doing two versions of the record. There’s gonna be the regular version which has 11 songs on it, but there’s another version… At first I was like, this record is going to have 13 songs on it! But it was too long and I couldn’t sequence it, and eventually I was very happy with the regular one. But there are three other songs we’re now putting on a 14-song deluxe version and in hindsight, I’m almost kind of upset that one of the songs isn’t on the regular version. It’s a song called ‘New Year’ that I really love. It’s funny because even my producer earlier was like, ‘That should be on the regular record!’ Another one is called ‘The One Who Stayed and the One Who Left’ and that’s a special one to me too. Then the very last one is called ‘End of Thought’, and it’s the littlest one and in some ways it’s
the most different one of the bunch but I really like it too. It’s hard to play favourites with songs! They all have something to offer. Two of the extra songs on the 14-song version got recorded along with all the other songs, and they have full orchestral production on them – they’re not any ‘less’ than the other ones. “Music is like food”
I think the thing that makes me very excited and why I can’t wait for the record to be out is that I think at different times different songs become different things to different people. Once you’ve lived with the record, maybe it’ll switch to other songs, or switch back.To me it’s a very breathing, living thing that someone invites into their house, kind of like a pet, and they can interact with the record when they’re in different moods, or different times of their lives. Maybe for months they can skip over one song as soon as it starts – something about it just annoys them – and then one day, when the time is right, that song just becomes the exact thing they need, and all of a sudden they’re like, ‘Wow, I
I’ve never thought of storytelling as keeping myself out of the music. I always want to be in it. I am pissed off about stuff [Russia, Donald Trump and world affairs] and I get very upset about it. On ‘What We Saw From the Cheap Seats’ I had a song called ‘Ballad of a Politician’ that was maybe applicable to what’s going on now. I feel like I’m truly present in all of the songs, but with my emotions I feel like my kindred spirits are fiction writers; people who develop stories and characters – much more so than diarists. I don’t want to have my own daily life in my art, you know? I don’t want to have my ‘get together with somebody’ record and then my ‘breakup’ record – it’s just not interesting to me.The world is big enough to have all different kinds of art in it.You seek out your tribe; you seek out your people. Maybe Kafka isn’t for everybody but he’s for me; he’s for my tribe. I don’t feel like when I read a fiction writer that they have any less of themselves in there. Even painters, you know, who paint a vase and flowers.They’re people who paint and it’s incredible but I would choose a Van Gogh painting over a vase of flowers because he’s like the Kafka of that; he stretches his perspective, he’s not just painting exactly what he sees, he also wants to add more of himself and his emotions to it.
Reviews / Albums
MIA AIM in ter s c ope By gr eg c oc h r a ne . In sto re s se p t 9
If this is to be the end, then what of MIA’s legacy? Maya Arulpragasam’s already expressed that this, her fifth album, is probably her last. She recently told Rolling Stone, “I’m really fucking tired and I want to fucking retire and raise my kid.” Just over a decade ago there wasn’t an emerging voice more exciting than hers.The London-born, Sri-Lanka raised artist’s ‘Arular’ was a striking listen – a politicised, mish-mash package of global sounds, delivered with a message that was flaming, fierce and forceful. Written across continents after she was refused a visa into the US, it’s follow-up, ‘Kala’, arrived two years later. It encased the Diploproduced megahit ‘Paper Planes’, a direct response to western attitudes around immigration, and a track that’s dwarfed anything else she’s done since .
This outsider provocateur was suddenly a big pop star. In 2009, on the day she was due to give birth, she performed at the Grammys with Jay Z and Kanye, so she tried to straddle both worlds. She announced ‘Maya’ with the brutal video for ‘Born Free’ but then appeared on Madonna’s album, landing herself legal papers from the NFL after flicking the finger at Superbowl XLVI. After that, 2013’s ‘Matangi’ oddly seemed to pass under the radar as MIA continued to criticise governments, presidents, the media, her label and caused controversy with her views on the Black Lives Matter Movement. MIA’s always been an artist to make a point. But if this is her last action, then it’s an uncharacteristically blunt set of knives. Maya says she’s omitted the views on politics, gender, race and
substituted them with warm thoughts and love. After a history of public disputes she’s even reconvenes with ex-boyfriend and collaborator Diplo who produces/ remixes a track on ‘AIM’’s deluxe edition. Saying that, even without the elevating powers of its extraordinary video, it all begins in typical MIA fashion with the thrilling ‘Borders’. ‘Go Off’, too, adds to a bombastic opening and the Blaqstarr (who produces much of the album) remix of ‘Bird Song’ completes a strong start for this grand finale. But then it all heads very south. With a number of producers involved, and a number of recording studios (mostly in London), ‘AIM’ feels disparate, like a collection of ideas rather than songs. There’s a collaboration with former One Directioner ZAYN –
whose contribution is a forgettable, wafty chorus line to a disappointingly generic pop song. ‘Foreign Friend’, a shadowy slice of US hip-hop, passes without note. Skrillex has already lent sounds he adds on ‘A.M.P. (All My People)’ to other artists over the past five years. The Richard X-produced ‘Ali r u ok’ could be great, but goes nowhere, and ‘Visa’’s main highlight is the fact that it samples MIA’s own song ‘Galang’ from ‘Arular’. The album wraps up with ‘Survivor’, MIA cooing “Survivor, who said it was easy?/ They can never stop me” over a set of delicate synths that just drift into the distance. MIA’s powers of provocation may have waned with her most recent releases, but it feels unjust that an artist once so potent might go out with a wimper like this, rather than a bang.
Preoccupations Preoccupations Sec r etl y Ca n a dia n By james f . T h omp son. I n store s Se p t 16
So, farewell then, Viet Cong. Mere months after delivering their selftitled debut LP, the Calgary postpunks were forced to change their band’s name. Airport shakedowns, repetitive interview questions and a steady stream of abusive e-mails from American Vietnam vets about their controversial moniker evidently took its toll. The foursome probably should have anticipated the backlash. Then again, front man Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace seem perennially embroiled in controversy. The pair’s last band, Women, disbanded after an on-stage brawl involving smashed guitars, proclamations of career suicide and
Flegel dressed up “offensively” as Mr. T. To the uninitiated then, Preoccupations might seem like merely the latest incarnation of a group of dunderheaded also-rans. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Women were one of the most intelligent underground indie outfits in a generation and last year’s Viet Cong record was phenomenal; an album-of-the-year contender. This second self-titled release from what is effectively the same band furrows similarly “difficult” thematic troughs as the last – stuff like existential angst; pervasive boredom; isolation – but manages to sound like a considerably more
optimistic collection of songs. True, this says a lot about just how bleak a picture the previous LP painted. Yet there’s definitely a glimmer of hope this time where before there was none whatsoever. Last time out, abrasive sheet metal guitars and skittish, stop-start drumming made for a record that seemed to convey the cusp of a nervous breakdown, even before the lyrics compounded the sense of dread. Here, the reborn Preoccupations (the jury’s still out on that name) allow themselves to bed down into proper rhythms more often, from the galloping midsection of 11-minute epic ‘Memory’ and the all-guns-blazing ‘Zodiac’,
through to the frenetic ‘Stimulation’. The overall experience is simply a much more “listenable” one; the LP puncturing the occasionally overwhelming sense of foreboding and paranoia with one of positivity – euphoria, even – just as Flegel sings about “suicide machines” et al. Sonically, the band’s palette has also expanded; artfully-deployed synths on tracks like ‘Sense’ root the record closer to its ’80s British influences – the Chameleons, Bauhaus et al – while propelling the band well beyond them (see the harrowing coda to closer ‘Fever’). Almost despite themselves, Viet Cong were a great band. Improbably, Preoccupations are even better.
A long time has passed since we first heard the beautiful vocal idiosyncrasies of Angel Olsen in her early collaborations with the likes of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and her third album, ‘My Woman’, is another affirmation of her remarkable talents as a songwriter. For the first half of the record, that very distinctive voice sometimes carries songs that in the hands of another singer might flounder; the straightforward punkish vibe of ‘Never Be Mine’ has vague shimmers
of Blondie, while ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ is elemental rock’n’roll and a little bit Cate Le Bon. The production here is scaled back, close to a demo almost. In these opening few tracks, the songwriting perhaps doesn’t quite match Olsen’s aesthetic ambition, until the swirling, fizzy, chaotic rush of ‘Not Gonna Kill You’ kicks in and the record comes alive, just before it enters its slower, more tender half. From here on in, Olsen excels. ‘Heart Shaped Face’ is laconic, heavy with heat and meaning, a slow
steam rising from a slower tempo and the vocals as beguiling as can be. Many of these songs are the very definition of slow-burning; what feels insubstantial at first then really ignites and envelops us. And there’s a beautiful coherence and consistency within each different side of this record. Olsen’s immense talent hovers under the surface throughout, and of course the vocals are consistently stunning. Find yourself a quiet hour and soak it all up.
0 7/ 1 0
Angel Olsen My Woman ja gj a gu wa r By c h r i s Wat keys. I n store s se p t 2
Cowtown Paranormal Romance
Teenage Fanclub Here
Merchandise A Corpse Wired For Sound
De La Soul The Anonymous Nobody
H ot S al vati on
P e ma
By hay l ey scott . I n store s no w
B y a l e x w is ga r d . In s to r e s s e p t 9
By k ati e b e s w ic k . In sto r es s e pt 2 3
B y h en r y w ilk in s o n . I n s t o r es a u g us t 2 6
Having become synonymous with Leeds’ DIY scene, it’s always confounding to see LS6’s longest running band described as ‘newbies’. For the less enlightened, Cowtown formed 12 years ago, with ‘Paranormal Romance’ being their fourth album. Clocking in at just 23 minutes, there’s a brevity that works in their favour – short but never sweet, noisy and accomplished, all twelve tracks epitomising what Cowtown have always done best: creating high-energy rock music that confronts anxieties through positive expression. ‘Castle Greyscale’ is arguably the band’s finest moment, made of Hilary Knott’s trademark, hyperactive keyboard skills, Jon Nash’s monotone vocals and David Shields’ propulsive drumming. MJ’s production also succeeds in retaining the kinetic urgency of the band’s live shows. Still intent on making music that focuses on fun rather than the dour earnestness of a lot of rock orientated bands, ‘Paranormal Romance’ stands out as being dynamic and over-stimulated in a way that’s not effusive or trying too hard.
For the three albums since their 1997 high water mark, ‘Songs from Northern Britain’, new Teenage Fanclub records have been the musical equivalent of putting on a woolly jumper for years on end. It’s been looked after well enough to avoid becoming threadbare, but the further it falls out of fashion, the less inclined you are to take it out of the wardrobe. Here, the first Fannies album for six years (following the fine ‘Shadows’), is no different. The quintet add a few restorative stitches around the edges, but stick to their homespun, decidedly mature sound. ‘Hold On’, ‘It’s a Sign’ and ‘WithYou’ all recall the band’s earlier work from their very titles on down, but it’s still difficult to express any doubt about the mellow sounds on offer. This record’s twelve songs are comforting, comfortable, and gorgeously crafted, but you probably knew that already. Unfortunately, they’re also as undemanding as they are rewarding. They say it best themselves during ‘Hold On’: “Simple pleasures are all we need.” It’s a humble manifesto that sums up ‘Here’ almost to a fault.
‘A Corpse Wired for Sound’ takes its title from a short sci-fi story by JG Ballard. This reference, say the band ex-punk band from Tampa, Florida, alludes to their current fragmented, born-again state (they are now a trio collaborating long-distance). Merchandise is, according to guitarist Dave Vassalotti, a “distended corpse responding to you from both sides of the Atlantic.”This alarming metaphor seems a little extreme for what is, in many respects, an unremarkable record that neither tries nor succeeds to transgress generic conventions. That is to say, I suppose, that there’s nothing shocking about ‘Corpse’, although there are moments of greatness, as the band happily return to their earlier mope-rock sound; namely in the beautiful lingering intros, which seem to cleverly offer a kind of aural reflection on the song to come – especially evident on ‘Lonesome Sound’ and ‘I Will Not Sleep Here’.There is truth and beauty here, certainly, but it’s a floating, meandering kind of truth that speaks more to the mundane loneliness of the everyday than it does to wired corpses, distended or otherwise.
It’s been eleven years since we last heard from De La Soul and, with new album ‘And The Anonymous Nobody’ coming as the product of a $600,000 kickstarter (the second highest amount the platform has seen, after videogame Star Citizen), it’s fair to say that fans have a vested interest. With anticipation high then, the preachy, string accompanied opener courtesy of Jill Scott particularly drags until proceedings kick off – sample free and newly primed for hip hop in 2016. While favouring a new jazz-inflected sound, at its best the record recalls the laid back beats of ‘Stakes is High’ and the lyrical wit and off the wall humour of ‘3 Feet High’ (see ‘You Go Dave’ in particular). With cameos a-plenty though, it’s almost inevitably hit and miss. Snoop helps deliver an old school anthem with ‘Pain’, Estelle and Pete Rock an RnB hit with ‘Memory of’ and Little Dragon an intriguing, classically driven oddity in ‘Drawn’. All are high points, but elsewhere the disjointed David Byrne daydream and cringe-worthy Justin Hawkins appearance are better off avoided.
Hamilton Leithauser will forever be associated with the gripping intensity of ‘The Rat’ but his voice and ambition has always been about more than operating as The Walkmen’s vocal battering ram. It proved as the band moved away from the glowering force of ‘Bows + Arrows’, and with their 2014 hiatus ongoing, Leithauser’s debut solo album, ‘Black Hours’, became another solid exploration of older music and older times. It was on that album that
Leithauser and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij first collaborated but here they’ve emerged with something fully-formed. On the face of it, it’s a partnership that sounds exactly as you’d expect: latter era The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend meeting somewhere in the middle. ‘Sick as a Dog’ moves with a delicate touch, Leithauser’s throaty falsetto adding rawness to the track’s easy-going lilt; ‘Peaceful Morning’ initially comes on as a banjo-led, Dylan-like ditty before
Leithauser cuts loose in a way that only he can, screeching to the heavens like he stepped on a rusty nail; and ‘When The Truth Is…’ transforms from sultry doo-wop into raucous basement bar shanty as sweet melodies drift through cigarette smoke and loosened ties. It’s a concept that plays out beautifully with Rostam’s production softening Leithauser’s lupine power and makes ‘I Had a Dream That You Were Mine’ a storied, sepia waltz through more sentimental times.
Hamilton & Rostam I Had A Dream That You Were Mine Gla ss no te By R eef y oun i s. I n stor es sept 23
Reviews 0 4/ 1 0
The Veils Total Depravity
Drugdealer The End of Comedy
So So Glos Kamikaze
Grumbling Furs Furfour
N et t we rk
We ird W o r l d
Vo t iv
Thri ll J o c k ey
By gu ia c ort assa. I n stor e s aug u st 26
B y a l e x w isg ard. I n sto r es S ep t 9
By g r e g c o c hran e . In sto re s s ep t 9
B y d e r ek r o b er t s o n . In s t o r es s ep t 1 6
During their 12-year career, Finn Andrews’ Veils have always been plumbing the sonic zeitgeist: in their studio albums, Andrews’ dark, signature ballad songwriting has constantly been shaped to embrace the new sonorities around at the time of the recording. ‘Total Depravity’, The Veils’ fifth album, makes no exception, marking the first step of the British outfit into the electro/hip hop realm, the spark to ignite this new development being a fortuitous encounter with Brooklyn producer and one half of Run The Jewels (and fan of the band) El-P in Los Angeles. But if the preconditions may seem good, the same cannot be said for the result. Alongside songs like ‘In the Blood’ and especially ‘Iodine & Iron’, which sound powerful and genuinely interesting, are moments that aren’t convincing and fitting enough for a band of this creative calibre. ‘King of Chrome’, for instance, with its Kanye-esque preaching approach, borders on cultural appropriation, while the filtered voice and ’90s R&B backing vocals on ‘Do Your Bones Glow at Night’ is a total depravity that culminates in a big blunder.
Continuing his trend for giving band names a narcotic edge, Drugdealer is the new project from former Run DMT and Salvia Plath toker-in-chief Michael Collins. Their debut album, ‘The End of Comedy’, is notable for most of its vocal duties being taken up by other people, most prominently Ariel Pink, plus members of Sheer Agony and Weyes Blood, whose Natalie Mering goes full Carole King on the title track. Its best moments come when Collins takes the mic himself, particularly on the languid ‘Sea of Nothing’ and ‘Were You Saying Something?’, which raids the sixties with as much magpie-eyed glee as Elephant 6 acts did in their prime, and follows on from Collins’ Salvia Plath work, in that sense. Still, the bulk of ‘The End of Comedy’s wilful genre experiments meander, chopping and changing style almost for the sake of it. The last thing you hear is the sound of exaggerated laughter, which slowly becomes engulfed in Lynchian digital distortion.You could join in, but you’ll probably forget what was so funny once you straighten up. Wait, what was this album called again?
People have often heard the stories about The So So Glos before they’ve actually heard the band, their local pro activity and on-the-road antics regularly proceeding them.These are the four brothers who built two of the scene’s foremost DIY venues (Market Hotel and Shea Stadium), have broken each others’ bones through inter-band brawling and generally lived band-life in the ludicrous fashion that ‘careerchoice’ constitutes. Over two albums and two EPs they’ve distilled their slightly dysfunctional spirit into a series of 3-minute chunks of punk rock. Their songs talk about national politics, social issues and local injustice – all with gritty passion. ‘Kamikaze’ is more refined than previous efforts (in particular the instant ferocity of their 2008 breakout ‘Tourism /Terrorism’) but it’s a mixed bunch – ‘A.D.D. Life’ could pass for early Green Day, ‘Going Out Swingin’’ like Dropkick Murphys and ‘Sunny Side’ is a punk stab at The Kinks. It’s largely cartoonish fun.The So So Glos may not be the best band in NY, but it’d be an infinitely poorer place without them.
Staring at the cover of Grumbling Fur’s fourth record for long enough provokes much the same sensation as listening to their wonderfully infectious psychedelia and leftfield pop – you feel sure an epiphany can’t be far away. For Alexander Tucker and David O’Sullivan have served up yet another deliciously eccentric set of tunes that tease and meander, and cement their status as one of the underground’s most vital psych acts. “Difficult” is often attached to those who steadfastly walk their own path, but what’s most impressive about ‘Furfour’ is how accessible and warm it all sounds; don’t let the scraps of spiritual texts and odd time signatures fool you. From the mellow groove of ‘Acid Ali Khan’ to the dark chug of ‘Suneaters’, there’s plenty of killer pop here; the clarity of thought and the simple beauty of their melodies are hallmarks of ‘Furfour’s best moments. And when you’re mixing panpipes with dub, home made beats and sitars – and making it sound so easy and effortless – you know you’ve found a very special album indeed.
Hit ‘intrude’ on KeatonHenson.com and you’ll come across a digital rendering of a tattered writing pad that’s all stained paper, rough edges and hand-drawn pencil. Turn the first page and you’ll read: “I hope you listen as though it were all for you. I hope she knows it was.” It’s the perfect intro, and a line that stands as both an invitation and warning of Henson’s admittedly self-protected world, where the slow creep of desolation hangs heavy. It’s a familiar cross to bear for any singer-
songwriter (one that most befits an artist as pensive at Henson), and a fine line between artistic introspection and woe-is-me indulgence, but Henson sighs his way through it with trembling reluctance. Plumbing the same maudlin depths as previous efforts, ‘Kindly Now’ is a similarly sad, slow show. Opener ‘March’ is a string-laden hug goodbye; ‘The Pugilist’ transports us back to the time Damien Rice briefly ruled the world; ‘Comfortable
Love’ builds up a weighty head of steam for the day Henson plucks up the courage to hopefully play out a Greenman sunset. Elsewhere, ‘Old Lovers in Dressing Rooms’ is exactly as it sounds; a heart-string-tugging short story of awkward conversations whereas his voice hits tremulous lows as he almost whispers, with a bullet, “It is love but I fear it won’t do” on ‘Good Lust’. Bleak but beautiful, ‘Kindly Now’ is the soundtrack you want if you’re happy being sad.
0 7/ 1 0
Keaton Henson Kindly Now PI AS By R eef y ou nis. I n sto re s se pt 16
Tama Shud Evolution
AlunaGeorge I Remember
Lucy Dacus No Burden
An th ol ogy
m a tad o r
h eav en ly
By j oe goggin s . In st o re s a ug ust 26
B y S am walt o n. I n st o re s s e pt 1 6
By he nry wi l ki ns o n. I n s to r es s ep t 9
B y g ui a c o r t a s s a . In s t o r es s ep t 9
There doesn’t appear to be any official line on why Anthology Recordings have chosen now to release the soundtrack to the 1969 cult surf movie ‘Evolution’, so we might have to look for answers in the music instead. Australian psychrockers Tamam Shud recorded this album live with the film it was to soundtrack projected onto the wall of the studio, but the results aren’t as fluid or freeform as you might expect; this very much feels like a collection of songs rather than one long mood piece. There’s plenty of points at which you can recognise where this kind of fuzzy sixties rock and roll is being appropriated in 2016 – see the noodling guitar work on ‘Falling Up’, or the transition from prettiness to posing on ‘The Slow One and the Fast One’, which feels like a forerunner to their present-day countrymen Tame Impala. What really marks ‘Evolution’ out as a curio, though, are tracks like ‘Mr. Strange’ or the ‘Pet Sounds’skewering ‘What a Beautiful Day’ – genuine psychedelic weirdness from a bygone era.
Second albums are famously tricky affairs, and trickier still when your debut spawned a single that’s had half a billion streams. But that’s the (kind of) enviable situation in which AlunaGeorge find themselves – and their desire to replicate the success of their hulking ‘You KnowYou Like It’ is palpable here, if never completely realised. There are plenty of game attempts though: ‘Hold Your Head High’ and ‘In My Head’ are the best shots at reproducing its popbashment slink, and the future-RnB stylings of ‘My Blood’ evoke the same alienated melancholy. But ‘I Remember’ is far more rewarding when it ploughs its own furrow.When live instruments replace electronics on ‘Mediator’, a rounder, warmer sound emerges that complements Aluna’s sugary singing voice far better than the rather broad electronic production elsewhere, and the pulsing ‘Heartbreak Horizon’ – more upbeat, straighter pop and, crucially, trying less hard – is a far comfier fit for Aluna’s addictively bratty vocals. As an album, that inconsistency is frustrating. As a teaser for album three? Intriguing.
Lucy Dacus’ voice sounds as if it’s one we’re all comfortably familiar with. Perhaps it’s partly because it sits nonchalantly on the spectrum between Laura Marling and Courtney Barnett, two of the strongest female voices to release records last year, and partly because album opener ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore’ is so self-assured and refined it sounds like it shouldn’t be a debut. Garagepop but with pristine production, she sings about stereotyping and musical clichés with a forthrightness and clarity that defies her years. From the country-blues twang in ‘Troublemaker, Doppelganger’ to the Dodos-esque guitar and drums crescendo on ‘Direct Address’, ‘No Burden’ is held together by Dacus’ recognisable sense of wit and candidness. Where she shines most though is in the stripped back confessionals of ‘Dream State’, ‘Trust’, and ‘Familiar Place’, her delicate vocals weaving a folk tinted course. Immediate and simple in its appeal, ‘No Burden’ displays talent and vision a-plenty. And at just twenty-one, it will be interesting to see where it takes Dacus next.
A year and a half after their bursting debut album, Memphis DIY rockers Nots are back, and it remains hard and meaningless to try and label the four-piece’s sound: it draws from early-punk’s urgencies but leaves aside its dirty, self-destructing nature; it is reminiscent of the best acts of the original Riot Grrrls era, but without ever feeling nostalgic and retro manic. In this second release, Nots add a touch of kraut to their mood, too, giving the restless beating of their songs a sort of spacey aftertaste, useful to loosen up the tunes’ tight hammering of guitars, bass and drums. Unfortunately, though, the distended synth echoes aren’t enough to prevent Nathalie Hoffman’s vocals from being impossible to distinguish from the instrumental saturation, a flaw that Nots carry on from their previous release. ‘Cosmetic’’s informed lyrics are lost in the lo-fi mix, relegated in the background and gone astray under layers of distortion, making it hard for the listener to get through the nine long tracks here with the interest they supposedly deserve. And it’s a pity.
Mykki Blanco offends people before he even opens his mouth. He’s a rapper and performance artist; African-American with Jewish roots; gender-fluid and gay. Since he first started dropping singles, mixtapes and EPs back in 2012, the onetime North Carolina native has unapologetically projected all the facets of his identity out to the world through his releases. On ‘Mykki’ – which stakes a claim as Blanco’s debut album – if anything the 30 year-old is more
direct than ever, offering up a searingly honest collection of stream-of-consciousness rhymes with bars on everything from his HIV-positive status (‘You Don’t Know Me’), the refugee crisis and Europe’s inherent racism (‘High School Never Ends’) and the tribulations of dating and the club scene (“The drugs don’t love me like you,” he insists on recent single ‘The Plug Won’t’). If all that sounds like hard work, rest assured Blanco knows how to
have fun (see ironic party piece ‘For The Cunts’ and raunch-fest ‘Fendi Band’). Ironically, in fact, the production side of the LP might just be too lightweight for long-time fans; where earlier stuff like ‘Gay Dog Food’ was scratchy and distorted, on ‘Mykki’ tracks roll by in bright, minimalist, club-friendly arrangements that position Blanco well for a tilt at the charts, albeit perhaps without the originality to match those fearless verses.
0 7/ 1 0
Mykki Blanco Mykki !k7 By ja mes f . T h om p so n. In sto re s se pt 16
Tim Presley The Wink
Sam Coomes Bugger Me
Matt Berry The Small Hours
Lorelle Meet The Obsolete Balance
dr ag c i t y
Do m i no
ac i d j az z
s o n ic c a t h edr a l
By j oe goggi n s . I n sto re s sept 16
B y c hri s Wat k e ys . I n s t o re s no w
By k at i e b e s w i c k . In s t o res s e pt 1 6
B y der ek r o b er t s o n . I n s t o r es s ept 1 6
This isTim Presley’s first solo record since he spent time recording and touring with Cate Le Bon under the moniker Drinks, and clearly it’s softened him up to the idea of further collaboration. Opting to release this record under his own name rather than the White Fence moniker, he effectively put together a studio team to record ‘TheWink’.Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa is behind the kit and Le Bon returns as producer, whilst engineer Samur Khouja also played a key role. Not that it’s necessarily fleshed Presley’s sound out all that much; his scratchy guitar work and lilting vocals remain very much at the forefront on an album that only ever really flirts with experimentation. When it tilts in that direction, the results are compelling – the rock and roll weirdness of ‘Solitude Cola’ and the menacing, spoken word ‘ER’ being cases in point – but they’re bogged down by too much meandering elsewhere. ‘Kerouac’ wanders as aimlessly as the man it’s named after, whilst the avant-garde ‘Long Bow’ irritates rather than excites, rendering ‘The Wink’ a missed opportunity.
Sam Coomes is one half of Quasi, one of those bands spawned from other bands who’ve existed seemingly forever in the US underground; highly prolific and merrily indifferent to either the units sold column or the opinions of pretty much anybody. His apparent stated aim with this debut solo record is to present simple pop songs to a leftfield audience. Accordingly, opener ‘Stride On’ kicks off with compere-esque vocals sitting under a fairground organ and drum machine backdrop. It’s sweet and simple. And from here on in the album keeps surprising and taking different turns – all of them good. ‘Shined It On / Lobotomy Eggs’ is like Flaming Lips meets Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, a lovely slow-paced ballad that drifts along beautifully. Then there’s the instrumental ‘Corpse Rider’, which is heavily psychedelic, and the superb, seven-minute ‘Crusin’ Thru / Just Like The Rest’ which morphs excitingly from a neat little pop song to something approaching krautrock. ‘Bugger Me’ is accessible, leftfield and exciting; a mission accomplished for Sam Coomes.
In those psychedelic waking moments, just before the sun comes up, one’s mind can go to strange old places; nonsensical connections between dream-world and reality manifests trippy morning hallucinations: the greying dressinggown hanging on the back of the bedroom door morphs into the exact form of your scary primary school teacher, birdsong becomes the sinister soundtrack to that bad date you had last Friday. This trippy ‘morning twilight’ was Matt Berry’s starting point for his latest record – an odd and occasionally charming collection. There’s lots that’s good here: the instrumentals, for example, lilting prog rock with a gentle folksy quality that compliments Berry’s smooth vocals. But the lyrics are bizarre to the point that I wonder, at times, whether Berry was deliberately taking the piss. ‘The Peach & The Melon’ is possibly the worst offender, with lines including, ‘‘Mrs Wagner’s pies were full of locals/ bifocals” and “The fox came in and woke me up/Damn creature/Ate my pizza”, leaving me genuinely baffled, though, admittedly, amused.
The metadata tells me this is ‘krautrock’, but it’s not; that’s way too simplistic a description. For a start, the rhythms are way too languid and dusty – ‘It Must Be The Only Way’ scans like some Austin, Texas psychedelia that’s been left out to dry in the desert, while ‘Ching’ has an oddly disconcerting air and sense of menace. By the time ‘The Sound Of All Things’ hovers into view – and we’re only at track number four – where a warm, Balearic wash gives way to pounding drums and some very heavy guitar, you’re left wondering exactly what’s going on. But the head-scratching breadth of styles and motifs on display on Lorelle MeetsThe Obsolete’s second album are all part of the charm. Jumping from the woozy, sparse ‘Waves Over Shadows’ into the fuzzed-out seduction of ‘La Distincion’ is the work of either a genius or a madman (and madwoman in the case of this Mexican duo), and the thin line that exists between the two are often what elevates art to greater highs. Whatever you call this, just buckle up and enjoy the ride; it’s thrilling.
Well, this is bad. Having decided back in 2011 to pool their resources in what they’ve described themselves as a “very peculiar” alliance, Interpol frontman Paul Banks and longtime Wu-Tang Clansman RZA have put together a full album of the stuff. On paper, its bizarre incongruence is enough to whet even the most sneering of music critics’ appetites. That is until you remember that WuTang’s last decent LP, ‘8 Diagrams’, came out almost a decade ago. And that Interpol haven’t made an
album of any sort of relevance in 12 years. Back then things were simpler. You needed a Harvard email address to sign up for Facebook, Take Me Out wasn’t even a drunken conversation, and you could still smoke your brains out in the pub. And, indeed, speaking of stale aftertastes, it was also the era of rap rock, a genre that precisely no one hankered after until Paul Banks and Robert Fitzgerald Diggs sat down to plot ‘Anything But Words’.
Exhuming the corpses of Evanescence and evoking the spectre of that Linkin Park and Jay-Z collaboration, Banks and RZA have created an album bereft of taste, hooks or poetry. By the time the latter’s Wu-Tang pals Method Man and Masta Killa are roped into proceedings for tuneless, aimless closer ‘Point Of View’, the shark, you feel, has been well and truly jumped. A vanity project 5 years in the making, I urge you to listen to anything but this.
Banks & Steelz Anything But Words War n er By davi d Z amm i tt. In st o re s A ug ust 26
Clipping Splendor & Misery Su b pop By s am wal t on . In sto re s se p t 9
LA experimental rap trio Clipping’s third album is a dystopian hip-hop space opera played out between the lone survivor of a slave revolt on an intergalactic cargo ship, the onboard computer that falls for him and, via multiple hisses, whistles and the clanking of industrial machinery, the ship itself. But don’t let the ripe whiff of concept album put you off: ‘Splendor & Misery’ is no prog indulgence, and doesn’t come with A Message, a shoehorned “plot” or a shred of ponderous pomposity. Instead, it’s a magnificent, nervejangling and altogether rather riveting blast of unflinching white noise and throb, virtuoso rapping and, most improbable of all, richly
romantic gospel-choir interludes designed as much to disconcert as to offer tuneful respite from and guidance through the surrounding sonic shrapnel. That ‘Splendor & Misery’ is such a cohesive piece of music shouldn’t come as a surprise: producers Jonathan Snipes andWilliam Hutson work as sound designers and film composers (they recently scored the cinematic criticism documentary Room 237, which explores interpretations of Kubrick’s The Shining – itself, coincidentally, a film not light years aesthetically from ‘Splendor & Misery’), and MC Daveed Diggs has another life as a Grammy and Tony Award-winning
Broadway musical star. But while the trio’s combined experience in musical narrative is clearly not wasted here, what adheres the record’s constituent parts better still is a delicious sense of intra-band competition: each member appears to be pushing for harder, more aggressive approaches here than in their day job.Accordingly, when Snipes and Hutson’s compositions, full of migraine feedback and reverberating bell tones, demonstrate more in common with musique concrète than with the work of their fellow Angeleno hiphop auteurs, it’s a tribute both to Diggs’ inventive wordplay and to his acrobatic oral dexterity that he
punches his weight so fiercely. The nearest neighbour to ‘Splendor & Misery’ in terms of sheer conceptual confidence might well be ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ – indeed, the only earthly lyrical reference on the entire album is to Kendrick’s ‘Control’ verse – but musically, it’s on another planet: Lamar’s jazz warmth is swapped for the icy vacuums of outer space, and Diggs’ dizzying, ever-shifting flow feels thrillingly peerless. The effect is to render ‘Splendor & Misery’ as an unmistakable Art Album: absolutely uncompromising in its execution, pace and vision – a whipcracking, tightly coiled, copperbottomed triumph.
After 2013’s monstrous ‘With Love’, Zomby’s most recent album is a much more condensed affair, taking in only 13 tracks instead of 33 but still feeling as sprawling and exploratory as its predecessor. ‘Ultra’ is a record that appears both restless and fluid, like a bad night’s sleep put to record; irritable and aggravated turns merged with brief moments of blissful serenity. The opening ‘Reflection’ has an almost sci-fi-grime thrust to it, the sounds of loading guns and
sputtering electronics leaving space for brooding, heavy synths to burst through the glitchy twitches and spoken word narrative. The album continues to itch and sputter and spew, restless patterns flutter and twitch atop dense, foreboding synth blasts and jungletinted undercurrents. On the Banshee-featuring ‘Fly 2’ Zomby toys with almost 0PN-like treated club music, the end result sounding like an RnB banger dragged down to the dungeon for torture.
The seven-minute Burial collaboration at the centre of the album, ‘Sweetz’, meanwhile takes centre stage and covers as much ground musically and genre-wise as most albums do over the course of their entire duration. Like much of the album, it weaves between restrained calm and unnerving dread, unfolding like a detailed narrative and leading one down a path that could lead to pure bliss or something too sinister to even contemplate.
Zomby Ultra h y per d u b By dan i el dy l an wra y. I n sto re s se p t 2
Reviews / Live
Gwenno Sam Wanamaker Theatre Southbank, London 0 1/ 0 8/ 20 16 wr iter : C h r is wa tke ys Ph oto gr aph er : ju stin ng
From the outset of her post-Pipettes solo career, Gwenno Saunders has been bold and brave and inventive. Thus she’s the perfect fit to headline this instalment of a series of equally bold shows under the Wonder Woman banner, staged at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and next door to the Southbank’s open-air Globe Theatre. Day-to-day these are venues more used to the tread of thespian feet than the trill of an amplified synth. Tonight’s show, alongside electro-pop gangs Pixx and Pumarosa, is one of the highlights of a month-long event, curated by the ever-impressive Lauren Laverne and her online platform, The Pool. The Wonder Woman series sets out to showcase female artists, and it does so
brilliantly. This evening, the gorgeous, tiny, wood-panelled room, usually used for theatre, is entirely lit by candlelight from antique chandeliers, which – amazingly – are lowered in between each set so that burnt-down candles can be replaced. When was the last time you went to a gig where what are effectively a squad of Dickensian lamplighters were also in attendance? At this place you cannot only see the whites of the performers’ eyes, but those of your fellow audience members too. Sat, as the attendees are, slightly to the rear and left of the stage, we get a front-of-stage view of the show and the three tiers of the audience climbing above us, towards the beautifully painted ceiling.
Gwenno’s songs are infused with as much character as the space she occupies tonight, each having an invisible yet tangible spirit of their own. And in this setting her gently mesmerising, underwater melodies excel. ‘Calon Peiriant’ floats along unhurriedly, coolly, before segueing seamlessly into an almost post-rockesque, apocalyptic string refrain at its climax. She is an artist unafraid of invention and of political statement. Of course her songs are sung entirely in the lyrical Welsh language (sometimes Cornish), but her vocals soar, conveying a deep visceral meaning even if most of her audience have no idea what is being sung. While her stage presence is natural and effortless, Gwenno’s intelligence and personality is
embodied in this performance. The music, in this confined space, floods and drains like a coastal tide, expertly crafted, unpretentious and completely enveloping. Late in the set, the exquisite subterranean electro-pop of ‘Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki’, with its hook-laden chorus, invades the senses. After set-closer ‘Amser’, Gwenno exits the stage to a standing ovation. Earlier in the evening the perfectly poised, glossy synth-pop of Pixx and a rawer, more elemental set from Pumarosa, which had at times a thrilling, nervous energy, combined to complete the line-up for a night where three sets in two hours felt almost, but not quite, too short. And above all, the ornate room brings a unique feeling to a very special event.
Visions Festival Various Venues, Hackney 0 6/ 0 8/ 20 16 WR I T ER : DOMI N I C HA LE Y PHOTOGR APH ER S : N ICK SA YE RS & R EBEC C A HUGH ES
People have been trying to pull off the one-wristband-multi-venue music festival in East London for years now, but this year, Visions may have finally nailed it. Now in their fourth year, the festival has grown from a relatively small, three-venue affair to a fullblown odyssey around central Hackney, complete with food markets, yoga sessions and a dog show where the mutts dress up as Bowie, Lemmy and Prince. Yet, somehow, even as Visions grows in both scale and ambition it never seems to lose sight of its main raison d’être as a forward-thinking creative showcase. The strength of Visions has always been the sheer amount of variety they manage to pack onto the bill. The collaborative nature of the event, with promoters Sexbeat, Bird on The Wire and Rockfeedback all working together to the book the acts, means that you always have plenty of different flavours to choose from, from DIY punk to glossy electronic pop. I kicked things off by heading down to Oval Space to watch a bit of Japanese Breakfast, the new project from Michelle Zauner of Little Big League fame. After getting a quick dose of layered, big chorus power pop, which pretty much lives up to the excitement building around her Secretly Canadian debut album, I take the brisk walk up the road to see Ulrika Spacek, to catch their mind-bending blend of fuzz, noise and old-school psychedelic rock. This sets the tone for the rest of the day, with each band bringing something different to the buffet – it’s Wesley Gonzalez’s MOTH show [pictured bottom right] that supplies an untouched dry humour and dance moves that combine Jarvis Cocker’s and Samuel T. Herring’s, his post-Let’s Wrestle songs a melodious ode to The Beatles and working men’s club cabaret. The shows at Mangle (a boxy concrete basement under a creative office block) are among the real highlights. Although the climb down from the bright August sunlight to the pitch dark of the cellar leaves you temporarily blind, the sets down there are the most intense of the day.
Show Me The Body barrelled through a set of noise-core to full blown circle pit, while Bleached and their head-nodding SoCal power punk are met by a smiling, headnodding audience and even a spot of feel-good crowd surfing. It fell to Lightning Bolt to really get the most out of this space, though. The Rhode Island duo always work better in a confined space, and the lowceiling and cold industrial feel of playing a subterranean carpark turned gig space suits them perfectly. Chain-sawing their way through 45 minutes of volatile, explosive noise rock, they show again why they are one of the best live bands around. And while many other experimental acts end up becoming monotonous once the shock factor has worn off, Lightning Bolt managed to zig every time you think they’d zag. Gliding between menacing build ups and unexpected phases of Deep Purple-style riffing
at ear-splitting volume, it’s music to keep you on your toes. The atmospheric set from ESG [pictured top] is equally as impressive. Taking over the cavernous interior of St John’s Church, the venerable New York jam band bring a dash of dance music to a festival experience that was beginning to feel a bit overpopulated with young people and guitars. One of the most sampled groups ever, the original line-up has largely been replaced by the sons and daughters of the original Scroggins Sisters these days, but that didn’t stop them rattling through a greatest hits set of sorts; reeling off classics like ‘You’re No Good’ and ‘Moody’ as most of the crowd dance like maniacs. For a group who have been making music since the late ’70s, it’s hard not be struck by the way their stripped-down combination of tribal drums and minimalist bass still sounds as forward-thinking today as
it did 40 odd years ago. By and large, Visions feels a lot more stress-free than a lot of festivals I’ve been to recently. The venue-hopping format suffers from some intrinsic problems – you either have to queue for ages as the whole festival tries to cram into some tiny venue, or you find yourself missing loads of bands as you trek to some venue two miles away. This year, it felt like Visions solved a lot of these problems, and while the programme at Oval Space ended up running way behind, the crowds flowed through the venues relatively easily, and a slightly more staggered line-up meant that the frantic rushes from point to point were mercifully kept to a minimum. Mostly people were able to happily amble up and down Mare Street at a steady pace, sinking beers and catching a few amazing bands along the way. Finally, an urban festival that works.
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Off Festival Three Pond Valley, Poland 0 5- 0 7/ 0 8/ 20 16 wr i ter s : an dr ew a nd e rson Ph otogr aph er : HO NO RATA KARAP UDA
I don’t like festivals. Or at least, I’m not the sort of person that normally attends them. For a start, I’m not a fan of crowds, which is a problem given a festival’s premise involves packing as many people into one place as possible. Then there’s the fact I don’t like feeling unclean, whereas attending a festival means being doused in a sticky mixture of beer and burly-man back-sweat for days on end. Further, the idea of having my alcohol-infused brain gently boiled overnight inside a baking hot tent doesn’t hold a great deal of appeal. I’ll admit my festival experience to date has been somewhat limited, based as it is on attending three consecutive Leeds festivals about fifteen years ago. Although I generally enjoyed the music, my main memories are of feeling sick after smoking shitty weed, having awkward experiences with girls, followed by even more awkward bowel movements in the filthy festival toilets. Oh, I also went to Lowlands festival one year, but don’t remember that at all (thanks to smoking not-so-shitty weed). I live in Manchester, so every June I’m treated to hoards of wellyclad Parklife wankers swelling the city streets in their quest for total mental incapacitation. Yes, I know it isn’t fair to judge all festivals by the standards of the Parklife crowd set, but you can understand why they make me rather wary. Finally, I’ve always had this overarching and somewhatsnobbish sense that festivals aren’t really about the music at all. To me they look like another latter-day capitalistic trick to make you cough up a ton of cash for something you don’t even really want (namely crap bands and even crapper beer). It was therefore with not a little trepidation that I got on a plane and headed to Katowice (pronounced kat-oh-vitz-eh) in Poland for OFF Festival, a gathering that promised a mix of pop, Polish, indie and experimental music. So, was this bitter cynic converted? Well, sort of… kinda… okay, I admit it – I’m now officially a festival fanboy. What changed my mind? Firstly, the bands. Normally festivals that advertise an eclectic line-up are
anything but. Instead, there will be about 100 all-white all-male guitar groups, a similar number of DJs (who look the same except with decks instead of drums) and perhaps a handful of other artists. But OFF Festival actually had a whole host of odd, obscure and interesting acts. The very first thing I witnessed on arrival was Adam Gołębiewski, a Polish drummer whose bio described him as falling between jazz, free improv, and contemporary music. What his set actually consisted of was him whaling on a drum kit with two bits of metal for the best part of half an hour, without once changing the beat. It was hypnotic, idiotic, and utterly amazing, the audience either grinning (like me) or going (like almost everyone else). At the other end of the scale was Ata Kak [pictured], a Ghanaian artist picked out of obscurity by American music collector Brian Shimkovitz. Shimkovitz came across a tape Ata Kak had released in 1994 and then spent the next 20 years trying to track him down. His boisterous, joyful songs had the whole crowd singing, pogoing and having a bloody brilliant time. Which brings me to the crowds themselves, who were a generous and gregarious bunch. It didn’t matter whether it was the first act in the experimental tent or the main stage headliners; each artist was received with a cacophony of cheers, chants and clapping… lots of clapping, in fact (Polish music fans
will clap at the drop of a hat, let alone the drop of a beat). Furthermore, in three days of booze and music I didn’t see one person who was any worse off than merry, and there wasn’t a single gurn in sight. Even better, the culture of filming everything through a phone instead of actually experiencing it doesn’t seem to have reached this far East just yet – the OFF crowd were smart enough to keep their smartphones in their pockets. Perhaps the reason the crowds were so kind is because they’re actually eating and drinking decent stuff without having their bankbalances decimated. Usually on trips like this a vegetarian like me is reduced to eating nothing but chips for days on end (with inevitable unpleasant colonic complications), but there were lots of vegan and gluten free options on top of the obligatory piles of meat (this is Poland, after all). All of it is affordable – a quid for a beer, a few pounds for a decent meal. You’re not allowed to take food or drinks outside the eating areas, which at first is annoying but you get used to it pretty quickly and even come to appreciate the fact that there isn’t rubbish everywhere.Then, once your body is done turning all that pleasant food and drink into notso-pleasant waste products, you get to use toilets which – by portable toilet standards at least – are pretty palatable. Another benefit of Poland being
cheap is that if you don’t want to camp (and I didn’t) you can get a hotel nearby for next to nothing (my room in a four star hotel worked out at around £35 a night, with far cheaper options also available). In the post-Brexit world where the pound is now worth a pittance Poland is an attractive option for the purseconscious festival punter. One slight sour note came in the form of cancellations, with the festival’s four biggest acts – Anohni, Wiley, The Kills and GZA – all pulling out due to illness. To lose one or two is understandable, but to lose four seems to suggest something more serious than illness might have been going on there. That said, the big names that did appear, like Lush, Clutch, Mudhoney and Devendra Banhart all delivered, and it didn’t seem to have much impact on the general mood. I guess what the cynic in me missed is the fact that a festival is, at its most basic level, nothing more than a gathering of people who have come together to share in a collective experience. If the people are nice – and the crowds at OFF Festival were dead nice – then there’s a good chance you’re going to have a great time. Throw in interesting music, tasty food and affordable alcohol and that good chance becomes a guarantee. I’d definitely go to OFF again, and maybe I’ll even try some other festivals next year – just don’t expect to see me at Parklife anytime soon.
W r i te r : A n d re w A n d er s on
Cool at Ice (1991)
One thing I’ve learned while writing Singing Pictures is that most band movies are bad. I’ve written around twenty editions now, and I would say that about five of the films were halfdecent and only two were genuinely good (Slade in Flame and Help!, in case you are interested). There’s a good reason for this – the motive of a band film is to make money, not make a good movie. Insane Clown Posse didn’t make Big Money Hustlas (or its follow up Big Money Rustlas) because they had something serious to say on the subject of police incompetence in inner city America. 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was not aimed at raising awareness of the problems faced by those who have to go through life being utter bell-ends. EvenThe Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night wasn’t intended as a challenge to England’s endemic class system – that part was just a happy accident. No, all of these movies were made because the band – or, more likely, the band’s manager – wanted to make a bit more money. And, as Hollywood proves with painful regularity, almost all films made on this basis are bad. They lack a creative centre, a purpose…a soul. They suck. Of course, you could say that Singing Pictures simply isn’t a representative sample, since it is based entirely on my tastes and what I choose to review. Writing about
rubbish films is funnier (and, if I am honest, easier), so I have an inherent interest in picking films that aren’t much cop, or that I think could make for good copy. Maybe there are lots of good band films out there I am simply not covering? I wish that that were the case, but it simply isn’t true: you should see the shit I’ve spared you from (Kelly Clarkson’s From Justin to Kelly comes to mind). I’m afraid that band films are always going to be crap cash-ins that follow a single rule: the more talentless the star, the worse the film will be. All of which, I am very sad to say, brings me to the subject of this month’s column: Cool as Ice, starring Vanilla Ice. As I alluded to a couple of paragraphs ago, writing about a bad film can be fun, as you get to make all kinds of jokes and silly asides without having to say anything too serious. That’s not the case here. This film is simply too awful for any joke or irreverent aside to assuage the pain and anger it makes you feel. I deeply regret my decision to watch this film. For a start, Vanilla Ice – real name Robert Van Winkle – is an entirely unlikeable character. He has twice been arrested for beating his wife, and later blamed her for both incidents. For his most famous song ‘Ice Ice Baby’ he ripped off Bowie and Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ and refused to credit them (he claimed,
amazingly, that the riff was different). He even has one of those douchebag beards that makes it look like his chin has been dipped in shit. This man, ladies and gentlemen, is a 100% A-grade tool. As I said, the more talentless the star the worse the film will be, so of course Cool as Ice is a real stinker. The basic premise is actually quite realistic: Vanilla Ice is a brainless, no-talent moron who roams around acting like a complete imbecile. He does this by trying to win the love of Jenny, who is going out with a boring, pushy boyfriend (Nick) who is meant to be an even more massive dick brain than Vanilla Ice, which of course is impossible (having said that, Naomi Campbell makes a brief cameo in Cool as Ice and she runs pretty close). To achieve his goal he jumps his motorbike in front of her while she is riding a horse. Can you imagine being so insanely arrogant that you think this is a good idea? Of course the horse spooks and throws her off. But, rather than immediately calling the police and saying ‘can you please arrest this man for his crimes against rap… oh, and he also just tried to kill me with his motorbike?’ instead Jenny just hits him a few times and calls him a jerk. Believe it or not, he does later succeed in winning her love via a demonstration of his rap “talent”. First he threatens to drop some
‘funky’ lyrics, then proceeds to produce a series of rhymes so awful that they would make a children’s bath-book blush. My conclusion: Vanilla Ice is to rap what Lambrini is to Champagne – a cheap, shit, sugary substitute that does severe damage to your brain. Later on it emerges that Jenny’s brother, Tommy, has been kidnapped because Jenny’s dad used to be a police offer and some of his old enemies want revenge. In what might be the most shoehorned plot of all time Vanilla Ice saves the day by rescuing Tommy and returning him home, earning him the love and respect of Jenny and her family. Vanilla Ice and Jenny then ride off into the sunset on his motorbike. Throughout the film Vanilla Ice’s attitude towards women is disgusting – he sees them as objects to be won and controlled, and he isn’t afraid to be physically, verbally and sexually intimidating in several scenes. What kind of sick mind would willingly agree to be shown in this light? I leave you with this question: who was the first rap artist to reach number one in the US charts – was it Run DMC, NWA or The Beastie Boys? Nope: it was Vanilla Ice. A man of monumental self-absorption and stupidity. A man who looks like the evil Russian guy from Rocky IV only more, well, evil. A man who can’t rap.The world is a pretty fucked up place.
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Anohni Hoping for a miracle + Cullen Omori / Pantha Du Prince / John Carpenter Olga Bell / SassyBlack / Julien Baker
Let's Eat Grandma
lEVElZ Community in Action
Not weird, just... different Plus Jackie lynn shock Machine Alex Cameron Mitski Oliver Coates Cat’s Eyes
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In search of
Pop's new enigma
+ Alan Vega Ex-Easter Island Head Floating Points The Sound Anna Von Hausswolff King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
I’ve been Tobias Jesso Jr...
Anna Meredith Composer in the wild
Top 40 Albums of the Year | Fat White Family CASisDEAD | Hinds | Rosie Lowe Roots Manuva | Jeffrey Lewis draws the songs of The Fall
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Ta me Impa l a Solitude is bliss
Gwenno 50 Cent Alden Penner The Big Moon Let’s Wrestle Mbongwana Star Slime
Beirut No No No, Yes
Party wolf what you could’ve won: You should go on a game show, but which one?
Deal or no deal
The game Naming Spice Girls songs, but not obvious ones that other people know. Try not to swear on TV when you’re teammate who’s also your mum says, ‘If You Want To Be My Lover’.
The GAME Saying what you see... as long as what you see is a legitimate saying. The answer is not, “A tick next to a guy holding one bird and a cross next to two birds in a bush.” MaybeTipping Point is more you.
The GAME You know that game down the arcades where you drop 2p’s down a shoot and onto silver sliding trays in an attempt to knock more 2p’s off the edge? That.
The GAME Indulging an old Radio 1 DJ by opening numbered boxes at random while assuring him that you have a system... Oh, and you have to quit your job and live in a Travelodge with all the other contestants, too. Cults are fun!
Hilarity ensues: Absolutely never. When your studio audience has an average age of 87, and are fueled by a diet of cabbage and scrambled egg, sudden excitement really is best kept to minimum. Win over the audience: Simply by dressing in a nice button down bowling shirt, ‘smart’ jeans and sensible, non-showy shoes. Go fucking get em! whatever you do: Don’t pick ‘Film’ in the Pointless final... unless you know any James Dean movies beyond Rebel Without A Cause, which you don’t. the jackpot: If you’re lucky enough for a rollover, you could be on for 2 grand here. Oh look, you won a block of perspex instead. Still, it’s been a day out.
Hilarity ensues: When someone reveals a square on the bonus board and it appears that Mr Chips is having a wank. Just look at Stephen Mulhern’s face!
Hilarity ensues: When it looks like one of your counters (actual 2p’s are too small to read on TV) is going to knock off one or more counters but then, at the last moment, its doesn’t.
Win over the audience: With your best anecdote at the top of the show. Extra points for making it a little bit Carry On. “I split my trousers at my wedding” is golden. “... and my penis was fully erect” is too much.
Win over the audience: Despite countless stories of the kind of big laughs and high tension shared above, Tipping Point is not currently filmed in front of a live studio audience. I know. I know. Weird.
whatever you do: Don’t take the bait and “keep guessing” on the double money round. You’ll only say something stupid, like “Creamy cat.”
whatever you do: Don’t shake the machine when the guy in the change booth is resetting the grabbers. It’s alarmed.
the jackpot: Chances are your opponents are lovely but dim. Be disappointed with anything less than a world cruise.
the jackpot: 10k is a damn sight better than the 18p and Zippo style lighter with a ganja leaf on it that the same game tops out at under Southend pier.
Hilarity ensues: Whenever Noel says. Let’s all be very calm here – I think he’s got a gun. Win over the audience: They’re called ‘The Pilgrims’ on ‘Deal’. Make them feel involved. They’re a nasty bunch, really. whatever you do: Don’t drink the kool-aid. the jackpot: You will win between 1p and 250 grand at the end of your ordeal. But that’s by the by. The real game is to simultaneously placate and annoy Noel Edmonds. Make it clear to him that you’re a non-believer, but not the Pilgrims who are conditioned to beat you to death in the car park.
What!!?? I don’t employ children. That’s crazy!
I don’t! Okay?
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious
Photo casebook: The inappropriate world of Ian Beale
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Bobby Gillespie Yeasayer