Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 78 / the alternative music tabloid
Car Seat Headrest Will Toledoâ€™s 12-album overnight success
Jessy Lanza Shame BADBADNOTGOOD Exploded View An L&Q guide to End of The Road
ENd of the road – 12 shame – 16 exploded view – 18 badbadnotgood – 20 jessy lanza – 22 Car seat headrest – 26 air – 32
Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 78 / the alternatIVe musIc tabloId
Car Seat Headrest Will Toledo’s 12-album overnight success
Jessy Lanza Shame BADBADNOTGOOD Exploded View An L&Q guide to End of The Road
c o v er ph o t o g r aph y h ea t h er m c c u t c h eo n
On the opening day of the Euros, I recorded the latest episode of our Midnight Chats interview podcast with Joseph Mount aka Metronomy. When we weren’t distracting ourselves with talk of the football, tracksuits, Honda automobile chatrooms and Kate Nash (it really was more interesting than it sounds – check it out), we got down to the matter at hand – discussing Metronomy’s new record and the fact that Mount will not be touring it.The spoiler goes that he wants to spend some time with his young family, but the topic prompted him to note the 3-year cycle that befalls almost every recording artist going these days, involuntarily stuck on the road to make ends meet, financially, and to toe the line of the great modern PR campaign. Will Toledo doesn’t join Mount in his current rejection of that release schedule insomuch as he spectacularly surpasses him. Writing and recording in his Virginia bedroom under the name Car Seat Headrest, Toledo has put out 12 albums since 2010, R. Stevie Moore style. Admittedly, for the most of it, Toledo hasn’t had to even consider behaving as a label would like him to (the first 10 of his records he put out himself, via Bandcamp – you can still listen to them all there), but since signing to Matador things don’t seem to have changed at all – he released his first record for them in October 2015 and will follow it up with ‘Teens of Denial’ this month. There’ll be another in 2017, he tells Alex Wisgard in this issue. As someone who edits, Toledo’s prolific output had me feeling sceptical about its true merits. And the truth is that I can’t comment much on his earlier LPs. ‘Teens of Denial’, though (released digitally last month) has already become his breakthrough album, and impossible for me to ignore, as more and more of our writers asked me if I’d heard it. Once I had, I immediately realised how effective Toledo’s publish-as-you-play ethos is. Really though, it shouldn’t be so strange that a young musician wants simply to write and write and write. Stuart Stubbs
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Riot Grrrl legend KATHLEEN HANNA remembers the dark side of her Junior year, sadly shared by too many other young women
athleen Hanna: When I was 16, in 1984, I was selling drugs. It was weed, mainly, so pretty soft-core, and that was how I made money to buy my thrift store clothes. I really liked to experiment with clothes back then. I thought, ok, what if I turn up to school like this today? How will people treat me then? I first turned up with feathered hair, and I was a rocker/stoner person, and everyone treated me like crap. So I thought, ok, I’m going to try to be popular, so I dressed in the preppy fashion of the popular kids and within two weeks I was popular. I said everything they said, I did everything they did, and I was like, ‘this is total bullshit’. By the time I was 16 I changed up how I dressed every day, partly because I had to sell drugs to different communities in the school. I had a stoner outfit, a rocker outfit, a ’60s look, because that had become really popular in the ’80s. I had a pair of red, chequered cowboy boots, which I’d rent out to other students, too. I was a hustler, always trying to make money, because I lived with my mum who was a nurse and didn’t have any money, and I wanted to go out to reggae shows. I should have started a store, really, but I was very good at selling weed, because I could morph into different friendship groups – I was friends with some jocks, but also some death metal kids. At 16, I was also date-raped that year. I was at a party and I was really drunk, and I went into the bathroom to throw up – I can’t imagine that this
As told to Stuart Stubbs person found me attractive; I had puke all over my hair. But somehow he got me into the bathtub and raped me. Years later, he Facebooked me. Like, what the hell!? He had no idea. I’m sure he thought that raping someone while they were throwing up was fine, and at that time there really wasn’t a consciousness about that – if two teens were drinking and they have sex, it’s just that they had sex, but I know I was raped, because I know I didn’t want it. I completely blacked out, and I just remember partially opening my eyes and seeing the guy doing what he was doing and closing my eyes again. So that’s another wonderful part of being 16. To be honest, it didn’t affect me until later – I just blocked it out. I just thought of it as this unfortunate thing. It wasn’t until much later when I was in Bikini Kill and we went and played the Pine Street Theatre back home and that guy who raped me came up to me with another guy from my high school, and they had a bunch of beer. I wasn’t drinking at the time, and he was like, ‘have a beer with us,’ and I was like, ‘oh, I don’t drink’. And then the guy who raped me tried to force a beer down my throat, like, ‘no, c’mon, drink with us.’ He was holding my head and forcing a beer down me and all of sudden it came back to me – I’m being touched by my rapist. I didn’t really talk about it or think about it because I’d been raped by a stranger before. But that happened when I was 15, so it’s out of our 16-year-old discussion. [Laughs] And I don’t
mean to make light of these things, it’s just that so many women, and definitely some men, experience the same thing.The reason I’m talking about it as if it’s normal is because in a lot of women’s lives it is normal. It’s one in three or one in five, so it’s not a freaky situation. And I grew up in an abusive household, full of male predators, so I was trained to be a good victim, and then later on when I learned about feminism I learned to become a survivor and realise that those things weren’t my fault – don’t chalk it up to a hard-knock life. I’m just proud of myself because beside from those situations I was stalked by a guy at my school who I’d dated twice. He threatened me and was violent to me and one day he had me in his van and was like, ‘this isn’t over until one of us is dead’. And I managed to talk my way out of that, and I honestly believe that if I hadn’t been so fucking smart he would have murdered me. So I look back on that time and think, yeah, it was totally awful, but I’m so proud of how I handled myself, because I’m still alive. And that’s a lot of the reason why I don’t mince words when it comes to violence against women. I’ve experienced it and I definitely want other girls and women to know that they’re not alone, especially in having multiple things happen to you. Because that’s when you think you’re going crazy. ... I feel like I’ve been a total bummer.You’ll have to say that I was laughing a lot. I’m the horrible capitalist rape victim.
books + ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR
Joaquin Phoenix Reef Younis catalogues the failed music careers of mega celebrities. Illustrated by Josie Sommer. / From grainy clips of a flapping freestyle at a 2008 show in California to a drunken, almost inaudible appearance at a club in Las Vegas, and the more infamous footage of his ‘performance’ at Miami’s upscale LIV club, Phoenix’s gruff, beatchasing delivery certainly provoked ridicule but also provided an essential touch of craft that made the ruse last as long as it did. Yes, it was bad, but it was also believably bad, falling somewhere between a young Youtube MC’s hurried wordplay and your friend who genuinely believes he can freestyle if someone just gives him a shit beatbox. Fast-forward a few years and it seemed like Phoenix’s rap career was rising from the flames, this time as a producer. With Pusha T returning from his own hiatus in 2013, a Phoenix/Kanye double-act was reported to have created the beat behind ‘King Push’ but, sadly, it turned out to be a misunderstanding after he’d merely passed the beat on. Still, when a supposed collaboration with Kanye West and Pusha T needs credible investigation to be disproven, you have to wonder when art imitates life. Either way, as the stories surfaced, I hope Phoenix stepped back and whispered to himself: “I’m Still Here.”
In 2009, you might have seen a dishevelled Joaquin Phoenix sat mumbling and gum-chewing his way through a car-crash interview on The Late Show with David Letterman. Bearded, man-bunned and brilliantly apathetic, for every sarcastic barb Letterman sent his way, a monosyllabic Phoenix oozed indifference; the ebb and flow of the conversation dying despite there being a pretty sizeable elephant in the room. Phoenix had announced that his most recent film, ‘Two Lovers’, would be his last, and that he was quitting acting to pursue a career in hip-hop. Letterman’s curious delight and confusion set against Phoenix’s apparent Hollywood delusion made for cult viewing, as did the subsequent mockumentary, I’m Still Here. But while Phoenix’s proposed new career ultimately proved to be a brilliantly elaborate hoax that saw a host of A-Listers maintain the charade for the big screen, beneath the full frontal nudity, the faeces, and satire of the film, the beauty that both excited and confounded those paying attention to the unlikeliest of rap game entrances was that Phoenix actually stepped up to the mic as well as the camera, although one was considerably more inglorious than the other.
b y ja nine & L ee b ullm a n
Tim Book Two: Vinyl Adventures from Istanbul to San Francisco by Tim Burgess
Under the Big Black Sun: A personal history of L.A. Punk. by John Doe with Tom De Savia
faber & faber
Tim Burgess makes music, but music also makes Tim Burgess. He is to be found often hunched over, flicking through a box of vinyl in the hope of finally scoring that Elodie Lauten seven inch or another mint copy of Eno’s ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. He’s on a quest to track down the albums recommended to him by musical friends and heroes, and the vinyl recommendations are then the jump-off point for ruminations on the music, the shops, the people, the gigs, the laughter, the tears, and the past, present and future. It makes for a fantastic book – required reading if you’ve ever lifted a twelve-inch square of plastic from a dusty rack with a smile that could be seen from space.
Ever since Louie Louie had to go, punk rock has bounced back and forth across the Atlantic. At the end of the ’70, in Hollywood’s back alleys and dive bars, punk meant Black Flag and The Germs and the journey to the Sunset Strip. And it meant X, the band John Doe plays bass for. The Californian punk scene of the time has since passed into legend. Outside of the records and some flyers and fanzines, very little documentation survives of what was obviously a vibrant, sleazy, dark and shiny moment. In Under the Big Black Sun, Doe collates recollections of some of the people whose grit, determination and glamour made the whole thing happen.
Porcelain by moby faber & faber
Prior to conquering the world with his album ‘Play’, Moby had paid his dues in the famously hedonistic environments of New York nightclubs like Mars, Palladium and Limelight. Even in a nocturnal world of misfits, Moby, a tee-total Christian vegan, stood out. In Porcelain he tells the tale of how a skinny kid from Connecticut survived the dance music underground.The New York of the time comes alive here, as Moby’s by turns funny, sad and always honest telling of his story shows us a city where artists could survive on next to nothing and take the time to find their sound. Eventually, the skinny Christian kid would go on to help make dance music ubiquitous; Porcelain shows us what he had to go through to do it.
getting to know you
Erol Alkan Under the name Beyond the Wizards Sleeve, Erol Alkan and Richard Norris delivered their first remix in 2006. 10 years later they’ve just released their debut album, ‘The Soft Bounce’ – a lush band record that takes in sultry French cinema, psych and ’60s sunshine pop. Here, the private Alkan completes our GTKY questionnaire. /
The best piece of advice you’ve been given “If you believe in something enough, it’ll eventually happen, so never give up.” Your favourite word ‘Hypnotic’.
Your first big extravagance A Roland Jupiter synthesizer that I bought around a decade ago and haven’t used as much as I’d have liked to have. Your hidden talent I can cook.
Your pet-hate Liars. If you could only eat one food forever, it would be… Lasagne. The worst job you’ve had I’ve taken pride in every job I’ve had. The film you can quote the most of Spinal Tap. Favourite place in the world It would be home, London. After that, Los Angeles. As a Brit I’m easily swayed by the food and weather.
Your favourite item of clothing Right now it’s a red and black T-shirt I was bought for my birthday. Your biggest disappointment It would need to be something I had some form of control in, as it’s a waste of time to be disappointed in others and their actions. There’re a few but sometimes they help you get the best out of yourself in the future. Your biggest fear Failure. The best book in the world Impossible to answer.
Your style icon Never had one.
Who would play you in a film of your life? Vincent Cassell or Tahar Rahim.
The one song you wished you’d written Too many to list. That’s a tough question.
What talent do you wish you had? Paul McCartney’s gift of songwriting.
The most famous person you’ve met I once spent 30 minutes talking about mobile phones to Michael Stipe whilst tripping on Absinthe. I somehow ended up sitting between him and Courtney Love. Think it was around 1999. He was really pleasant.
How would you choose to die? Not to in front of anybody who cares about me.
The thing you’d rescue from a burning building The hard drives with around 200 unfinished projects on them. The worst date you’ve been on It would have been an eternity ago, but nothing springs to mind as terrible. Your guilty pleasure Cake. The characteristic you most like about yourself I feel I’m honest.
What is the most overrated thing in the world? Alcohol. What would you change about your physical appearance? Being so tall brings a few physical problems so I’d just focus on those. What’s your biggest turn-off? A lack of humour. What would you tell your 15-year-old self? Nothing. It could influence me to avoid mistakes that needed to be made. Your best piece of advice for others Don’t be afraid of failure. Keep trying. Never give up.
A Loud And Quiet guide to End of The Road A n n a M ered it h pl a ys t he L oud An d Quiet Big To p s t a g e o n Frid a y 2 n d
Staff picks The 7 acts we’re most excited about seeing at Larmer Tree Gardens between 1-4 September
End of The Road fits Joshua Jaeger and Stewart Bronaugh like Download fits Iron Maiden and T in The Park fits sausage meat and strong lager. That’s musically and thematically. The New York duo formed whilst touring in Angel Olsen’s backing band and wrote their debut album, ‘Shoo’, in the back of vans. Needless to say, it’s a record that hungers for home and lovingly romanticises the journey, sounding not unlike Elliott Smith and resurrecting the ’70s soul sound of the Fender Rhodes electric piano. Sure, go and see Whitney too, but EOTR will be Lionlimb’s first UK show, and for something more jazz club than country barn, don’t miss it. 02. Bat For Lashes
Natasha Khan has recently been previewing her fourth album, ‘The Bride’ (a concept record about a cursed wedding that never was, due to the untimely death of the husband-to-be), in churches up and down the country. Her crystalline, haunted cry has wisped down every nave that seems constructed just for her broken heart. For End of The Road she’s told us: “there’ll be candles and a really sacred feel… but we might get some extra
musicians on stage to make it a bit grander, and then I think we’ll do some old songs and some covers.” It’ll probably be the most atmospheric performance of the weekend. 03. Cat’s Eyes
Faris Badwan and Rachel Zeffira were forced to pull out of an End of The Road in-store show last month after they realised that they couldn’t do their new album, ‘Treasure House’, the justice it deserves with the stripped down lineup that could fit on the stage at the Rough Trade record store. It bodes well for every show they do play. While their eponymous debut album in 2011 was largely inspired by Spector’s girl groups of the ’60s, ‘Treasure House’ is more in the vein of ‘Paris 1919’-era John Cale, with feather light orchestrations arranged by Zeffira who then flip-flops with Badwan on lead vocal duties. 04. Anna Meredith
You should be taking earplugs to every festival you go to anyway. At Reading it’s because people shout “bollocks” through the campsite all night; at End of The Road this year it’ll be because Anna Meredith will perform her completely unique hybrid of neo
classicalism and jet-engine, twisted, loud, loud, loud electronic pop (?) music. Joined on stage by virtuoso cellists, a fierce drummer and a guitarist light-years beyond bar chords, Meredith conducts this studious racket from behind a bank of synths while usually blowing into an oboe that sounds like something else entirely. It sounds good, right? 05. Joanna Newsom
It’s all part of Joanna Newsom’s allure that she’s also kind of elusive. She supported the release of her fourth album (2015’s ‘Divers’) with a select few interviews and scattered live appearances. Fortunately, EOTR is a place close to her heart (she returns having headlined back in 2011). Live, she’s exquisite. Not so much as playing her songs as casting spells over the audience with her orchestral harp and a small selection of accompanying performers. Plus, truth is, with Newsom, you’re never quite sure when she’ll be back again. 06. Margot Price
Fans of contemporary (non corny) country music don’t have to look far at this year’s festival. It’s in abundance. Karl Blau, Whitney, Julia Jacklin all put
their spin on it. So, too, does Margot Price, the first ‘country music’ signing to Jack White’s Third Man Records. She’s been cast as the genre’s rebel outsider, something of an outlaw, but really she’s just being herself – a 33-year-old mother who has survived her fair share of ups and downs. She may have one cowboy boot in the traditional world of country (she’s the daughter of a farmer, and moved to Nashville after college, sung in empty bars on Broadway), but Margot Price is more about the grit than the glam side of middleAmerica’s beloved soundtrack. 07. Flamingods
If you take one look down the End of The Road line up in search of a cosmic jam band who might just capture the daft and freeing and trendless magic of listening to music in a field for a weekend, one name will jump out, and it’s not necessarily Flamingods. We’re going to go and see Goat as well, but this collection of percussionists from Brixton are more inclusive than the psychedelic Swedes, with a charming, homespun inhibition that’s catching once you’re feet away from them and their drum collection from Tanzania, the Middle East and the Amazon Basin. More often than not, they’ll also let you get up there and join the band for the night.
Aft e r 10 ye ars o f as kin g , sufjan stev ens final ly a g ree d to play end of t h e ro ad in 2 015
Road map The 11-year history of End of The Road, from founder Simon Taffe’s drunken conception to the present day
Simon Taffe, a man with a background in construction and a love for music, spent 2005 at 10 different festivals. Whilst at one of these (Green Man – then “800 people, two toilets and one security guard”), he got drunk and felt inspired to launch End of The Road the following year. “You could email bands directly back then,” he says, “so I started emailing bands and I got a few messages back from managers and I got so excited. Like, ‘this is easy!’ I had no idea what I was doing – I called the NME to see how much advertising was, and I called a toilet company, and worked out the back-of-the-cigarette-packet calculations.” He then recruited Sofia Hagberg, a friend who was good at blagging into shows, to help convince bands to come and play. Between them they booked Ryan Adams and Badly Drawn Boy for the inaugural End of The Road in 2006, at Larmer Tree Farm in Dorset, budgeting for 5,000 tickets. They sold just 1,600, so decided to run competitions on the radio and the Internet where everyone who entered won. With 2,600 people on site, Simon says: “We got just enough people to create an atmosphere, and luckily it didn’t rain. If it had rained, I don’t think End of The Road would have continued.” 2007
Losing “only 30 grand”, End of The Road’s second year was considered a huge success as it sold 4,300 tickets and secured bands like Yo La Tengo and Lambchop, as Simon and Sofia became more established names with artists and their bookers. The same year they wrote a letter to Sufjan Stevens but never heard back. 2008 – 2010
In 2008 End of The Road sold out its 5,000 tickets for the first time, with Conor Oberst, Mercury Rev and Calexico topping the bill and a lesserknown Bon Iver lower down. “And then we were stubborn for three years,” says Simon. “We kept selling out earlier and earlier, but we thought we’d ruin it if we got any bigger. Then I looked at it and thought, no, it
L&Q x EOTR can still be the same festival if we still have this garden area [then the main stage] and have really good names on it. Without expanding we were going to start repeating ourselves, like ATP did a little bit.” 2011
End of The Road’s capacity increased to 9,000 in 2011, as the festival landed a particularly strong headlining trio of Beirut, Joanna Newsom and Mogwai. Simon considers it the festival’s seminal year, due to the introduction of a new, huge main stage. He says: “Basically what we’ve done with End of The Road, everything that’s there has grown over the year. We’ve had a comedy line-up from day one; it was just really small. Rather than coming up with loads of new stuff each year we think how can we improve all the areas and make them as good as they can be. 2012 – 2014
After the success of 2011 (EOTR sold all 9,000 tickets on their first attempt, in a record time), Simon and his team launched the fabled No Direction Home festival at Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire, in 2012. “We don’t really talk about that one,” says Simon, noting that its failure was most likely down to it not being a different enough festival from End of The Road. It even detracted from EOTR ticket sales that year, and was jettisoned for 2013 and 2014 as Simon’s original festival got back on track and reached its current capacity of 15,000 – “The most we want to go to, certainly on this site.”
We’ve teamed up with End of The Road for the first time this year. Here’s what we’ll be up to onsite over the weekend
FRIDAY 2ND Loud And Quiet presents the Big Top stage, with a running order that looks like this… Beak> Shura Money Anna Meredith U.S. Girls Dilly Dally Weaves Pacosan 12.00pm at the Piano Stage: Live recording of our Midnight Chats podcast, with Anna Meredith in conversation: Come and see Anna Meredith indulge us in a lucid conversation that will then be committed to Internet history forever.
The line-up for End of The Road in 2015 rose the occasion of a festival celebrating it’s 10th birthday. The names of Tame Impala, The War on Drugs, Future Islands and Laura Marling were over shadowed by one, however. After 10 years of asking, Simon and Sofia finally got a positive respond from Sufjan Stevens. He announced he’d be playing the festival with a blog post that included a photograph of the original letter they’d written him in 2007. Beneath it, he simply wrote ‘Better late than never’.
23:30pm til late at the Woodland Disco: L&Q presents Bat for Lashes’ wedding reception: Join us and some guest DJs at a wedding reception disco that actually plays the David Bowie songs you want to dance to. Just don’t mention the fact that Natasha Khan’s husband-to-be died on his way to the church.
EV EN T HO UG H ' T HE B RID E' S' W ED D IN G N EV ER HA PP EN ED , WE' RE G O IN G T O T HRO W HER A PA RT Y A N YWA Y
Unlucky for some Bat For Lashes chooses 13 songs for her doomed wedding day
Natasha Khan will bring her latest, fourth album, ‘The Bride’, to End of the Road on September 3rd. There aren’t any happy endings, though. Spoiler: her husband-to-be dies on his way to the church. Directly after Bat For Lashes’ Saturday night headline set we’re going to throw her a wedding reception all the same, at the festival’s Woodland Disco stage. Don’t look at it as insensitive opportunism; consider it effective consolation via the music of Simple Minds and David Bowie. For now, here’s Natasha’s playlist for any bride going through the same trauma (god forbid), or, worse, anyone who has to attend another wedding alone this summer. The Carpenters We’ve Only Just Begun
We’ve been covering this one live and we’ve turned it into a really sad, dark, really slow minor version. It’s such a beautiful song that’s so full of hope, idealism and naivety. It’s just so high up there in terms of wishing something could be beautiful and all about the future. To me it has this slightly scary undertone of perfection always going wrong. Karen Carpenter’s voice always breaks my heart. She talks about ‘white lace and promises.’ I thought it was a really great wedding song with a slight undertone of ‘can it be this perfect?’ The Shangri-Las Leader Of The Pack
This whole album (‘The Bride’) has a story and there’s a guy in the story... there’s a song called ‘Joe’s Dream’ where he had a vision where he’s killed when he’s riding a motorbike. I just love that whole thing when it’s a story within a song. In the Shangri-Las song she talks about meeting this guy who her parents don’t approve of. She’s young and he’s really bad, and then she breaks up with him and he drives away with tears glistening in his eyes, and there’s the sound of a crash. I just love the melodrama of those girlgroup songs in the ’50s and ’60s. I love that it starts off with this really hot guy that she meets and then at the end she says, “the leader of the pack isn’t here anymore,” or something like that, and he’s not there anymore. He’s died. I like the grim-ness of that.
Koko Taylor Up In Flames (Wild At Heart)
I love this song because it’s so dark and sleazy and evil. She’s this woman scorned. I really like the idea of a widow – the Miss Haversham complex of being jilted at the alter. It’s just so destructive and dark. I really like that dark, seething, witchy, widow aspect of women. She encapsulates it perfectly. Chris Isaak Wicked Game
It links to the album for me because of all the sounds of the tremolo guitar. Musically it’s beautiful and his voice is amazing but also that deeply painful unrequited love. You can’t help who you fall in love with; you can’t control it. He doesn’t want to fall in love but he has no control over it. Sometimes love that’s doomed feels like that – you have no control over who you feel in love with. It’s something you have to go through. I love the Lynch-y tremolo guitar – again that kind of ’50s, Elvis sort of vibe. The Cure Pictures Of You
I think it’s all about memories and nostalgia. It’s just that classic thing. I used to play that when I was with my first boyfriend – my first love – and we would lie in bed listening to that. It’s just such a teenage, angsty... just the Cure in general remind me of being a teenager. That sort of dark feeling. All my pictures of you – it just conjures up so much sweetness and sadness. It’s all about the memories of someone. Dinah Washington This Bitter Earth
It really strikes me this song – it makes me cry. It’s just such a sort of crystalline, glacial... I imagine a couple dancing under really tatty, prom-queen dancehall lights. “What good is love that no one shares?” she sings. I think it’s about that feeling of loneliness that every human being has. How tough, and how hard, and how raw it can be to be alive. Love is obviously one of the things that can be most painful. Her
lamenting about if she can’t get the game of love right then life isn’t worth living. It’s sad but I understand that premise; that desire to be loved and to not fuck it up and get by through this difficult thing called life.
that I’ve probably ever heard. I just love Chet Baker for how sad his music is. “I get along without you very well... of course I do,” and then he describes all the ways he finds it hard to be able to get along. It’s poignant and sad.
PJ Harvey Is That All There Is?
10cc I’m Not In Love
This has a similar feeling to ‘This Bitter Earth’. It’s like, let’s all just get drunk because... fucking hell life is shit. It’s definitely an end-of-the-night one – very, very drunk, let’s keep on drinking because this is fucking harsh.
I feel exactly the same way about this song, but I love the kind of macho... This song has that macho thing of like, I don’t really care about you and I punch you in the arm, but actually you’re completely head over heels. It reminds me of Sofia Coppola films and ’70s sun-kissed Californian kids at High School.There’s something cheesy and brilliant about it. I love cheesy songs where guys are talking about trying to be macho but they’re not. Nowadays those kind of songs are like Enrique Iglesias and really cheesy, but then it had that kind of cool tension where you still fancied the man.
Womack and Womack Teardrops
Every flippin’ family party they always play that. Or every ’80s night, or every ’90s night, or every wedding. It’s just a classic. It’s such a good floor-filler. It’s kind of happy/sad. The lyrics are really sad but the music’s just got that happy/ sad bittersweet sound. It reminds me of my mum and all my aunties and uncles drunk at weddings. Nan’s sitting in chairs drinking at the end of the night – kids under the tables. It’s the family song. It’s a good one; everyone knows it. The Rolling Stones You Can’t Always Get What You Want
I think it’s self-explanatory, and it’s a really good sing-along. I think that’s something about weddings – really well known choruses that people can sing along to. And for me, that’s something the old and the young ones can bond over. The sentiment of this track is great. You can’t get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need. For me, ‘The Bride’ album is all about that. She doesn’t get the love of her life, which you thought was the man, but in the end it turns out to be herself. She learns to love herself and that’s what she needed. Chet Baker I Get Along Without You Very Well
It’s just the most beautifully sang song
Powermad Absolute Power
That comes from Wild At Heart, the David Lynch film. The scene where Sailor and Lula get out of their car and head bang. I think it’s hysterical and I love the idea of there being a big fucked up wedding where all the old ladies are frightened and everyone’s just losing their shit and head bangs really hard. I love a good head bang. Some really doom-filled heavy metal has to go on a doomed wedding playlist. Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna We Found Love
I just love this song. We did a cover of it in a really sad way. When you listen to the words it’s really fucked up what she’s singing, but then it’s a Calvin Harris banger, which I find hysterical. When I DJ that one out people do have a really good dance. It’s that euphoric, but really fucked up and sad at the same time. The bitter sweetness that I like. I think it’s towards the end of the night like. ‘fuck it, we’re drunk who cares?’ Dishevelled bridesmaids who’ve snogged someone they wish they hadn’t and people being sick on the wedding cake... that moment.
Shame South Londonâ€™s new post-punk platform for young politics Photogra phy: Jenna Foxton / Words: Ian Roebuck
Le f t : s h a me i n n ew c r o s s . [L- R ] C h a r l i e F o r b es , C h a r l i e S t een , E d d i e Gr een , S ea n C o y l e- S mi t h , J o s h F i n er t y .
h Theresa, baby / We’ve been going for a while / But I think I want more than your sideways smile.” Charlie Steen, front man of South London post-punk band Shame, is sat to my left spitting out lyrics to ‘Visa Vulture’, a crude love song to Britain’s home secretary Theresa May, that may or may not make their next demo cut. “Oh Theresa, honey / Know I mind the gap with my chargrilled meat inside your butter-bread baps.” He catcalls over four other Shame members attempting to drown him out around our dilapidated pub bench. “No one wants to hear your fucking lyrics, especially to that fucking song,” screams drummer Charlie Forbes with a mouthful of overcooked meat. But they do. As we gather roadside in Deptford, the stench of sewers made sweeter by happy hour pints, these punch-drunk, punk-blues teenagers are gathering pace as one of the most watched and crucially most talked about live bands in London. They predictably balk at the attention and prefer to discuss Theresa May’s urethra (we’ve skipped that lyric) or the imposing EU Referendum (didn’t end well, did it). Guitarist Eddie Green’s thoughts now seem bittersweet. “They were saying that the last General Election, despite it not really going our way, young voter turnout was much bigger than it has been in decades and it is only going to grow. Tomorrow is going to be so close. We are preaching to the converted but we feel we have to put our voice out there and vote remain.” The outspoken Forbes wades in again: “A lot of fucking indie bands are more interested in selling records and don’t want to divide opinions.” Not afraid to rock the establishment, Shame’s recent live video for their Fallesque song ‘The Lick’ repeatedly challenges the music industry’s tendency to be “relatable not debatable.” This lyric dominates a noticeably chorus free-song and typifies the band’s conformity. “We were just desperate to get something out there; Mica Levi got involved after coming to see us and asked to film it,” explains Steen as Josh continues. “It was important for us to do something visual – it makes people want to come and see us live because that’s what we are about.” The introduction of Levi (or Micachu, as she’s professionally
known) behind the camera has given Shame artistic clout to add to the cannon. “She doesn’t care about any of the bullshit, she’s not a socialite or after money. She just genuinely really likes music,” enthuses Charlie Steen, his passion pouring out. Mica, like many others, was startled by Shame’s growingly notorious live presence. Eddie sums up the experience best: “It’s quite funny playing a gig and looking at peoples faces in the crowd,” he says. “Half of them are loving it and the other half are thinking what the fuck is this?” “Much better to gain a reaction, though, surely!?” says Steen. “A gig by definition is entertainment; you’re allowed to entertain. You’re not there to look at the pedals so you should put on a show. At the same time, we’re not going to stand on stage and say you can’t leave.” The other Charlie finishes his burger before saying his bit: “As long as we get an actual reaction then that’s cool. Marmite, that’s what the album is called. I think that’s the best album suggestion we’ve had so far.” Everyone laughs before Sean brings the conversation down to earth. “It’s true, you either love us or you hate us, we’d probably get sued with that name, though. Perhaps we can call the album yeast extract instead.” “Of course we don’t care what people think,” says Steen. “You look back at any band that splits opinion and they were hated when they started. If you’re in a band and you’re trying to please everyone then you are doing something wrong.” So the band might go off script on stage, that’s fine.They invite controversy but not confrontation. At a recent gig tucked in Tulse Hill, a leafy corner of South East London, violence erupted and Steen is uncomfortable with this. “Yeah, we had a fight at a recent gig of ours,” he says. “Some bloke punched Eddie’s girlfriend in the face. It’s a bit of a wanker move isn’t it? If you punch a guy because he’s done something badly wrong I think that’s alright, but if you just want to promote violence then you’re a sad man with a small penis.” Eddie looks down at his drink and carefully explains. “To be honest, that happened when I saw it brewing in the crowd, this girl pushed my girlfriend
and her boyfriend got involved and manhandled my girlfriend so yes I put my guitar down and yes I smacked him but… everyone came up to me afterwards and said that was so rock and roll but no, it was fucking stupid and it shouldn’t have happened.” Sean lightens the mood a little. “Shame gigs are a safe place, we might beat ourselves up on stage but that’s it.”
alk moves on to The Birthday Party, Jesus and the Mary Chain and other bands whose provocative stage shows encouraged lively audience participation, for good or bad. For a set of 18 and 19 year olds, Shame really understand their heritage and influences. It’s this knowledge that has led them to put on their own night at their favourite venue, The Brixton Windmill. Everyone is excited now but it’s Josh who walks us through it. “It’s called Chimney Shitters. The reason why… Sean once claimed he got trapped on his roof at his house and needed a shit so he shat down his chimney. We all know it’s not true – look at his face… we know it’s not true!” Forbes tries to stop laughing. “There is a really good scene in South London,” he says. “It’s all about the scene man. It’s not just in the South but that’s mostly where we look. These are just our school friends and bands that we know. If we put on a gig at the windmill we know we will get at least a 100 people down so we use that audience that we have to bring stuff to people’s attention.” The chatter and hum around the table increases and I start to get a real sense of community. These five have been friends since an early age and as they move around South London their gang continues to grow. “We spent some time with Chilli from the Palma Violets – he really helped us out,” Steen tells me. “We needed to do some demos so he got us a great sound engineer and invited us down to where we practice. They are really nice guys and we also know the Fat Whites after practicing at the Queen’s Head in Brixton. We’ve just met them all along the way – Segs from the Ruts, Larry Love of Alabama 3, all these amazing musicians who have gone through it
all; we have always taken advice from people who have a lot to give.” Steen finishes as quietness descends. Forbes looks rather reflective now and adds: “Everyone has been so supportive…” Sean calls over: “Eat your greens for fucks sake.” “Fuck you Mum!” With happy hour coming to a close, pints are drained and cheap lager purchased. A trip to Glastonbury awaits tomorrow where the band have arranged unorthodox passes to play the Strummerville stage. “No one needs to know that,” Forbes tells me. “Actually, fuck it, we’ve got no audience, it’s not going to be on the front page of The Sun, Shame break in to Glastonbury!” Eddie seems exasperated by the whole thing. “I don’t like festivals,” he says. “I will play the gig and then go back to the tent, you fuckers can do what you want. Too many people trying to have fun in the same place, don’t like it.” The festival talk is soon tempered by Steen bringing up the referendum once more. “In the General Election it was relatively easy to slot people into groups, Tory, Labour or Lib Dem, but in this vote it seems that it’s been so different.We have a very small platform to a limited amount of people, but even if you have one or two people who might read or listen to what you have to say then you should do what you can to give information on a subject others might not know about.” I ask them if they’re going to write a song about the referendum. The reaction is mixed. “I think we’ve reached the point where it has become quite unfashionable to say anything political,” says Steen.“I don’t necessarily mean writing a political song – that could go really bad. You can fuck that up.” We’re back at ‘Visa Vulture’; Steen slams down his drink to audible groans. “I have remembered my favourite line – “Do you feel like a commoner exposed and dominated? / Have you gained a moral conscience yet or are you not that degraded?”
Exploded View How Anika found her way back to making music by accidently forming a band in Mexico Photogra p hy: Andrea Martin / writer: katie beswick
Le f t : [ C l o c k w i s e f r o m t o p l e f t ] H u g o Qu eza d a , A n n i k a H en d er s o n , M a r t i n Thu l i n , H ec t o r M el g a r ejo .
y interview with Anika takes place over Skype on a hot blue June afternoon. She’s at her home in Berlin and I’m in the kitchen of a rented apartment in Harlem, New York. In the week leading up to our chat a series of violent events has played out on both sides of the Atlantic, reverberating across continents and plunging almost everybody into a dark, contemplative mood. First, Christina Grimmie, the 22-year-old musician who came to prominence on America’s reality singing competition The Voice, was shot dead while meeting fans after a concert in Orlando, Florida; the next day over 100 people were gunned down at a gay club in the same city; 49 of them were killed, many survivors remain in hospital with lifethreatening injuries. As the world reeled and the media tried in vain to explain these unexplainable acts, Jo Cox, a UK politician and mother of two young children, was murdered in broad daylight as she met with her constituents in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Although we’re on different continents, recent events have closed the geographical gap. The distance seems small. Before the interview, I spend the morning listening to the self-titled debut album from Anika’s new band, Exploded View, a collaboration with Mexican musicians Martin Thulin, Hugo Quezada and Hector Melgarejo. ‘Exploded View’ is a thoughtful, contemplative post-punk record (“to be honest I would have termed it ‘school band post-punk,’” Anika tells me, as we mull over the genre of the work. “What would you call it?” My answer, “erm, experimental pop?”, is met with an unimpressed silence). Dark, rhythmic and remarkably prescient; the first single, prophetically titled ‘Orlando’, is a mournful musing on the fragility of life. It could have been written as a tribute to the Florida massacre, although it was, in fact, recorded in 2014. “Yeah,” Anika sighs when I ask her about the song title, as if her feelings on the matter are too vast to articulate. “That was the thing. It was really a strange, strange coincidence when that happened the other day; when that happened with the name – we’ve been talking a lot about it as a band.”
The song was actually named after Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando: A Biography, and the repeated refrain, ‘Life, it sings / Or croons rather / Like a kettle on a hob / Life, life what art thou?’, is a direct quotation from that book. In an email I receive a few days after our interview, Anika tells me that “the main character [of Woolf’s novel] has become a symbol to all those who believe they can free themselves from the restrictions imposed on our bodies, on our freedoms; the song is a celebration of life’s simple pleasures; of union in our differences.” In this way it seems an ideal record to release right now, and the ties to the terrible shootings in Florida only serve to underpin the message — although Anika is, understandably, nervous about appearing to cash-in on a tragedy. “It’s a very difficult issue and we’re still figuring out what to do, because obviously we want to be respectful to the people [involved in the massacre],” she says. “And it’s difficult. Do we change the name of the song? Or do we release it and then speak a lot about the events? Which I think is an important thing to do. But it’s tricky.’ And it is, indeed, a delicate balance to strike; on the one hand being given a platform to speak out on world events, and on the other, taking care not to fuel the fire of hatred that’s behind such violence. “As musicians, as people in the public, you definitely have a responsibility to address issues and to really put your stance across,” she says. “And Martin is gay, so for him he really wanted to speak out because of that. But it’s very difficult, you know, I do have to admit.”
he grimly serendipitous timing of ‘Orlando’’s release is characteristic of a project that’s been produced through struggle and accident at almost every stage. By 2014, Anika explains, she felt disconnected from music and uninspired. She’d made the move to Berlin after releasing her first album in 2010 (the Nico-ish ‘Anika’, recorded with Bristol trio Beak> was a treasure for dark dub fans who found it), in the hope that cheap rent and a vibrant artistic community would provide an ideal environment for creativity. She
soon found that that wasn’t the case. “It was great for a bit, but then I realised I lost my struggle. There was nothing to battle, it’s just too easy here.” So she travelled, and eventually found herself planning a trip to Mexico, hoping to make a documentary. “But I needed the flight to be covered, so I got a booking at a festival there and then I was like, ‘oh shit, I don’t have a band!’ So I put the band together remotely – my friend helped me. And we started rehearsing; we had a week before the show and I’d sent them all of the songs and we’d been trying stuff online, and I went there and we started to play and I was like: ‘WOW’.This was the first time I had that passion for music again, you know? It was a tough time, but it was the first time I was making music out of necessity again. And it was sort of enjoyable. I mean, it was also very challenging, but that’s what was nice. We ended up, kind of by accident, writing an album. And we became very good friends and then I went back and re-recorded it and now we have a band, so that’s it. That’s the story.” But how do you write an album by accident? “We were rehearsing for the shows and we were waiting for one of the other members to come, and he was always late, which in Mexican time means like eight hours late or something. We just ended up just playing. They started playing and I started writing lyrics and it was like this psychological unwinding; words from the unconscious just coming out. I was dealing with a lot of my problems at the time and they came out in the songs — so, you know, sort of by accident.” Anika believes passionately in the restorative power of music, as both an individual and collective therapy. Making and listening to music is a way of coming to terms with who you are, of finding out what matters in a world that wants you frightened and hating yourself. “Why is it that we’re at this point now?” she asks. “I think people have just forgotten what the point is. They’re not sure what the meaning is. In Europe, and especially in England, we’re so surrounded by advertising. And what’s advertising’s biggest way of selling? It’s fear. It’s saying ‘you need to buy this make-up because otherwise you’ll be ugly’, ‘you need to buy this
because otherwise you won’t get a boyfriend’ – it’s playing on fears; when you’re surrounded by all this shit of course you’re going to get complete panic attacks. Especially in America and Euro pe, anxiety disorders have been rising massively and why is it?” In a way, Anika’s whole existence; her nomadic lifestyle, travelling the world, using music as a way to connect across cultures, is a push against the consumerist European way of life, and especially against the conservative British culture that sanctions any attempt at non-convention with judgement and ostracism. Anika and I both grew up on the outskirts of London and her description of a Little England obsessed with status and the maniacal fulfilment of ‘adult’ milestones is familiar to me: “When I’d go home, old friends would ask the same questions: ‘do you have a house? Do you have a car? Do you have a boyfriend? Are you planning on getting married?’ – all these things, what do they mean?” she laughs, incredulous. “I hate this. I used to go back and I’d say: ‘to be honest, I’ve still got a bike. I still rent a flat and I’ve got housemates. I don’t have a mortgage. I don’t have a house. I’ve nothing actually.’ But does that make me a worse person? I dunno. Does that mean I’m not living in reality? Does that make me not a responsible person? I don’t know. I think I’m happy. I took risks and I’m happy to see the world. It’s made me appreciate so much more, going to places like Iran and realising that people are people wherever you go. People have got the same problems, you know? And dressing up your life with all this bullshit, these safety nets, I mean, what does it mean? ‘ Anika’s Skype camera isn’t working, but I imagine she shrugs at this moment. I hear a yawn. She apologises for rambling, for her tiredness; takes a sip of tea. “Music can play so many different roles. It’s great for escapism, but I think right now it’s good to remember that it can help you with your fears as a therapy. Music was great for my teenage angst. It’s great in the political times. It doesn’t have to be overtly political but you can listen to it for more than escapism. You can listen to it to unpick the hurt that’s congealing in your chest.”
BADBADNOTGOOD If it feels like all your favourite rappers are getting jazzy, itâ€™s probably thanks to these Canadians Photogra phy: Colin Medley / Words: Daniel D ylan Wray
Le f t : B B N G i n t o r o n t o . [l - r ] Ma t t a . t ava r es , Le l a n d W h i t t y , C h es t er h a n s en , Al ex s o w i n s k i .
here’s a dichotomy to the existence and success of BADBADNOTGOOD that is ultimately at the core of what makes the band such a modern treasure. Of course there is the surface level collision of four young, white, classically trained jazz musicians – Matthew A. Tavares, Chester Hansen, Alexander Sowinski and Leland Whitty – collaborating with some of the rap world’s most hardened and fearsome performers. However, it’s also the head-butting and the solidifying of the classic and the contemporary worlds beyond those musical collisions too. It was their classical music training, immaculate theoretical knowledge and pristine musical abilities that led them to be found creating instrumental jazz tracks covering Odd Future, but it was the contemporary world of which we live (and they operate) in that transcended those musical explorations beyond practice room larks. Through a YouTube video, a Bandcamp upload and a Twitter account, they soon found themselves contacted by Tyler, the Creator before going on to working with him. A contemporary example of which there seems to be an increasing amount of in recent years, of the jazz world shaking off accusations of stuffiness, preciousness and an antiquated and formulaic set of conventions. In the ensuing years the band have continued to teeter this line between the classic and the contemporary, playing straight jazz one moment – as on their 2014 album ‘III’ – and pioneering and experimental hip-hop the next, á la their last LP, ‘Sour Soul’, a record which the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah could be found at the vocal helm, alongside hip-hop royalty like DOOM and Danny Brown. Outside of this, the group has also worked production and remixes for various artists, such as Rhianna, Drake, JJ Doom, Earl Sweatshirt, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Talib Kweli, Little Simz and a whole host more. In a further twist of expectation and convention, a group of very young men who were so inspired by hip-hop culture (drummer Sowinski was so taken with the story and concept of MF DOOM that he would himself wear a (pig) mask whilst playing in the early days, before
he grew out of it and realised it wasn’t very ‘him’) that they sought to emulate it through the seemingly antithetical musical tools they had available to them, have, in the space of only a few years, become one of the go-to bands/ production units in the entire genre. Arriving at album number four (called ‘IV’) in almost as many years as they’ve been around, the band find themselves at a juncture in which all their worlds appear to be meeting in one place: silky contemporary jazz, gliding electronics, hip-hop beats, retro soul and esoteric leanings, with the continuing presence of collaborators still a dominating one. On this new album the guests featured are Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring, Colin Stetson, Kaytranada, Mick Jenkins and Charlotte Day Wilson. It’s left the band in a unique position of feeling unclassifiable as they continue to evolve and find their own groove whilst still dancing furiously to the influence of others’. As Sowinski says: “I guess people label it jazz but we don’t really call it jazz because we use jazz as almost a tool when we’re composing and writing songs. But there’s also elements of rock music, Brazilian music, electronic music, soul music. It’s all over the place. It’s really hard to describe… it’s very unique, we’re proud of it.” Whitty feels the group eschewing the conventions of tradition in the jazz world has been instrumental in them carving out their own space to operate in. “We’re not really concerned about keeping the tradition,” he says. “We spent a lot of time studying it and using a lot of the tools we learnt from studying it – the theoretical and harmonic aspects. It’s stuff we use literally every day. But really, at the end of the day when we’re writing, all we’re really trying to do is create something that’s unique and honest to who we are. We don’t really belong in any sort of box or are following any tradition or anything like that.”
n their previous album, all initial collaborations with Ghostface Killah were done electronically; a back and forth of emails and file swapping. For ‘IV’ an altogether different and more
physical approach was taken with all collaborators travelling to the band’s studio in Toronto to work on the songs. It was this set-up that led the flow and feel of the record much more than any set-out agenda or initial concept, as Sowinski points out. “We used the physical studio vibe to create a cohesion,” he says, “to work on it stepby-step together and to get how it feels having the vocalist or musician play right there – to share a vision. It’s really important and it’s a totally different feeling on this record because of that.” Of selecting who to work with on ‘IV’, I ask the group if there was a hit list of people they wanted to in the room. “The only person on a hit list, so to speak, was Colin Stetson,” Sowinski says, adding, “I went to high school with Charlotte Day Wilson; Sam Herring we did a Future Islands remix of previously so we were in touch; Mick Jenkins we knew and Kaytranada is a good friend of ours who we’ve been doing music with for the last year and a half – we’ve done tonnes of stuff with him, so having him on the album for a song and having him contribute percussion and synth lines and picking his brains was super essential.” The role of Colin Stetson in the process and his inimitable saxophone blasts was a particular scoop for the band. “It was a huge honour for us to work with him,” says Hansen, and Whitty – himself a saxophonist – also echoes these feelings: “That was really amazing, for me. I’ve been listening to him his entire career; I’m a huge fan of his. He has just completely changed the approach of how he interprets the saxophone and it was really amazing to stand beside him and be there for his whole process.” He then continues to explain what he got out of seeing Stetson play up close. “His general stamina to playing too, he’s a super healthy, fit and active guy. Which really reflects in the way he plays – it’s a sort of necessity for how intense everything he does is. When you see him live it’s almost like everyone is experiencing that with him to a certain extent. At the end of the song when he takes a huge breath, it’s like a huge gasp for everybody in the room too.” So, from experimental saxophone players to electronic producers, to hardcode rappers, to pop singers, I ask
what is the essence at the heart of successful collaboration in the world of BBNG? “It has to be someone we can get along with in a lot of different settings, to have a good time with them,” Hansen says. “There’s a million super talented musicians out there but finding someone you resonate with, there’s not. We’ve been lucky with everyone we’ve met. Sometimes it’s intimidating when dealing with someone of a certain stature or certain abilities, there are always nerves, but you just have to try and connect with them on a personal level and concentrate on making music. We have been pretty lucky. There have been some things that have fallen through, even just in the meeting stage, but that stuff is out of our hands. I can’t ever think of a time in which we’ve gone in the same studio as someone and it’s not worked out. Which is super lucky.” Whilst the group came to notoriety through their interpretations of other people’s songs, this aspect of their output is restricted purely to live sets these days. Often to make up for the lack of physical presence of vocalists on certain songs they choose not to perform without them. “I think we’re really focusing on keeping things original at this point. The covers we have been doing are just a fun aspect of the live show that the audience can latch onto if they know the songs,” says Whitty. “From a production standpoint we’re definitely focused on just coming up with new ideas right now.” So, as the group continues to press forward, it leaves the inevitable question of who else are they looking to work with in the future? “I feel like jazz seems to be on the rise right now in terms of popular music,” says Whitty, “especially through people like Kamasi Washington and the whole Brainfeeder [Flying Lotus’ record label] family, and they’ve always been a huge inspiration for us, so I think working with anybody like that – Flying Lotus, Thundercat – would be really amazing.Then shooting even higher, I’d say someone like Frank Ocean would be really cool to actually write with.”
Jessy Lanza The pop writer who isnâ€™t a pop star, the cool kid who isnâ€™t a hipster Photogra phy: Jonangelo Molinari / Words: S am Walton
iewed from one angle, Jessy Lanza is a pop star. She sings short, melodious songs full of sass and bubblegum, hook and counterhook, the kind that are hummable in the shower by the tone deaf, and tappable to on the car steering wheel by even the most arrhythmic of music fans. She appears on her album covers looking alternatively moody and glamorous, and gives carefully choreographed live performances that mimic as closely as possible the recorded versions of her songs. Viewed from another angle, however, Lanza’s pop stardom feels like a trick of forced perspective. In an era of global pop stars on first-name terms with the rest of the planet – Beyoncé, Taylor, Rihanna, Justin (twice) – the inclusion of ‘Jessy’ to that cadre seems uncomfortable, almost churlish: not for Lanza, the cavalcade of vogueish producers and hired-gun songwriters, bulking out album credit lists until they resemble telephone directories. Not for her, too, the giant sums of major-label money washing up against the gilded doors of New York recording studios, bloating the creative process into a focus-grouped composition by committee. Instead, Lanza makes her music – pop or otherwise – in collaboration solely with her boyfriend Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys in her home town of Hamilton, Ontario, and releases it through Hyperdub, an independent label most famous for putting out tough, pioneering and experimental dance music. It’s not just her aesthetics, either. Her imagining of a pop song, too, is a knight’s move from anything that you’d encounter on ‘1989’ or ‘Purpose’, presented with an asymmetry absent from her more varnished contemporaries, and refusing to deliver the straightforward payload that they would demand. “I always think of the music I make as being a mashup of all the pop over the last 40 years that Jeremy and I like,” Lanza offers by way of brief self-description, perched on a sofa shaped like a giant pair of lips in a soulless Barcelona hotel lobby, a couple of hours before performing at Primavera Sound. “But it’s a hard one for me to answer. I see it as being pop music, but I know that when I say that to some people, it probably doesn’t make much sense.” Given her presence on concert bills over the past three years alongside the likes of Caribou, DJ Rashad and Teklife’s DJ Spinn rather than anything more chart-friendly, Lanza is probably right to question the logic of her self-
proclamation. That ambiguity, though, is exactly what’s interesting about her music: it’s also what offers multiple points of accessibility, from the melody-addicted pop kid down to the amateur production boffin glued to online Ableton tutorials. And, as with the art, the artist too: an hour in Lanza’s company reveals a personality as ambiguous as her records, one that feels happy in her own skin but also humble, unbothered by the trappings of “cool”, and as approachable as any friend with whom you’d spend an evening in the pub. In short, Lanza’s is a very modern story, free of genre labelling or stereotype, the product not of a proven formula but of a resistance to that: the pop writer who isn’t a pop star, the cool kid who isn’t hipster, the musician who is, simply, herself.
anza, the daughter of two musicians, was born 31 years ago in the rust-belt town of Hamilton, Ontario, halfway between Toronto and the American border at Niagara Falls. She first fell in love with music to the sound of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul in the early ’90s and, as a kid, her parents encouraged (rather than pushed) her nascent love of performing. “My dad was pretty domineering,” Lanza remembers, “but I was always into it too. I was always into singing at school and talent shows. I definitely liked it.” She had clarinet and piano lessons for fifteen years before going to Montreal’s Concordia University to study jazz, where she first toyed with writing music seriously. “All my friends at school were all into that neo-soul sort of stuff, so for a long time I made genre-less, shitty singer-songwriter stuff to accompany it,” she explains. While at Concordia, she wrote and recorded an album, but her heart wasn’t in it. “I just didn’t know what I was doing,” she confesses. “I’m not ashamed of that record, necessarily, but I think I’d be pretty horrified if it surfaced!” Becoming increasingly disillusioned by the strictures of her course, she dropped out and returned home. Skint, working three jobs and back living with her mum, she eventually ran into fellow Hamiltonian Greenspan, who gave her a copy of the recording software Logic. Everything started to change. “Before that, I was wandering quite a bit, it was a weird time,” she recalls. “And then I basically just taught myself how to use Logic through
YouTube tutorials – If there’s anything you want to figure out, it’s on there! – and just slowly Jeremy and I worked on a lot of different music before we got to what became the first record.” That album, 2013’s ‘Pull My Hair Back’, became the blueprint for Lanza’s sound: gauzy, gossamer and with earworms aplenty, but also served with a level of studied detachment. That distance, however, was no deliberate hard-to-get ploy, insists Lanza, looking back, but more of a simple necessity: “As much as I like singing, I’ve never felt comfortable with my voice, so I think with the first album especially, with all the different pitch-shifting and delays on my voice, was a way for me to disconnect from it and get into the production side of things,” she reflects. “I’m much more comfortable with hardware in front of me,” she laughs, making a goofy version of the international sign language for playing the piano as she talks. And what about now? Her second album, ‘Oh No’ feels noticeably peppier – faster, for one, but also more substantial, and just generally a more enjoyable album, both to listen to and, it seems, to have made. “Well, I think I’m just less depressed now!” Lanza chuckles, when asked what’s changed in the past three years.Then she pauses, feeling suddenly bashful about making a potential revelation. “Oh god that sounded awful didn’t it! Like, ‘oh boo hoo I’m so sad’!” she half-grimaces, her likeable self-awareness cutting through again. “It wasn’t like I wasn’t in some sort of deep, dark place or anything, I was just… I don’t know. I think everybody has their ups and downs. It’s a pretty common way to feel, I think.” Without pausing, she pulls herself back on topic. “But anyways, I think with the second album I just didn’t really care anymore if people felt my voice was shitty. Or not! I was just like, fuck it, I’m going to sing!” I raise my eyebrows at the idea someone would tell Lanza her voice is “shitty”. “I’ve actually had people tell me my voice is mediocre, which is even worse,” she laughs. “I wish someone would say, ‘oh her voice is shit’, like, ‘you’re total shit,’” she says, emphasising the insults, “But really it’s fine,” she brightens up. “I like it! I think it’s good for your character.” For many musicians in her position, a throw-away line as self-effacing as that would seem disingenuous, almost a plea for contradiction. But Lanza seems to go out of her way to stay grounded, mainly via her trenchant
Right: Je ssy Lanz a in t he sant mar ti a r e a of barcelona, s p ain.
reluctance to leave Hamilton, a postindustrial town full of ex-steel workers that she describes, with a half-smile as carrying “a lot of broken dreams” and “layers and layers of human misery.” But despite the comic bleakness, Lanza’s sticking with her hometown for reasons greater than inertia. “It’s is a very down-to-earth place,” she explains, of her decision to stay put. “I think Hamilton’s good for reminding you that there’s only a niche market of people that care about you!” she says, cheerfully. “Hamilton keeps your ego in check, which creatively is good. It’s good to not be in the zeitgeist, to just be able to go into a bar and talk about whatever. You get good ideas that way, by just talking to normal people. “I mean, it’s nice to be around people who don’t give a shit about what I’m doing,” she continues. “It’s pretty boring to talk to people who are doing the exact same thing that you’re doing, and to people who just want to talk about themselves and their music and art. I just don’t want to talk about my art and their art all the time. “And,” she adds, warmly, “it’s nice to be close to my mum and my family. I’m a homebody really. Maybe there’s a small part of me that wants to be out there and not care about home, but that’s not really me.”
n the hackneyed old story of pop, the starlet always moves from the depressed old provincial town to the gleaming city to become a glittering success. Before meeting Lanza, I wanted to know if she ever yearned to chisel her off-kilter music into a highkicking pop show – after all, both her albums tease that hunger, albeit in the most tantalising or oblique ways. Clearly, though, Lanza’s ambitions couldn’t be further from that. “I like being under the surface, I think,” she muses, trying to explain where – apart from Hamilton – she gets her selfeffacing nature from. “I mean, it’s
better than being some sort of Kanye ego-maniac isn’t it? I don’t like that at all; I feel like you’re just setting yourself up to be totally embarrassed of yourself.” She cringes at the mere thought. Instead, Lanza seems to have adopted the dying art of no-nonsense knuckling down, having a plan and seeing it through. Refreshingly, it’s a workmanlike spirit that also rather augments the experience of listening to ‘Oh No’, too. “This time around there was less flailing around,” she explains. “There was less of Jeremy and me going ‘aggh, does this work?’. We were both a lot more set in the idea of ‘this is what we’re going to do’.” And that set idea? “A pop – or poppier I guess – record,” she replies. Lanza’s right to use the comparative: ‘Oh No’ exists on the edges of pop
music, but a pleasing sense of the uncanny still lingers, like pop as drawn by M.C. Escher, or taken into a hall of mirrors, almost as if years of academic study of music is stopping her from doing the easy thing. “I know what you mean,” she concedes, “it creeps back in there all the time, all those jazzy chords. I do find myself defaulting to certain progressions that we were taught to practice over and over in school – but as that time in my life gets further away it’s easier to just forget it. “In the end, though, I love listening to other people’s music and just copying what they do. That’s the biggest motivation for me. I mean, I’m pretty sure that for the past six years I’ve just been writing different shitty versions of ‘Love Come Down’,” she smiles, singing the three-note intro to
Evelyn Champagne King’s disco classic. “It’ll always come back to me, like ‘oh this one sounds like ‘Love Come Down’, again’,” she sighs, “and then I won’t finish it because it’s really bad. Then a year later I’ll make another boop-boop-boop!” She laughs again. As foundations for songs go, though, I suggest she and Greenspan could do a lot worse than ‘Love Come Down’. “Well, yeah, it’s not for lack of trying!” she agrees. “I think Jeremy and I both really like pop music, and really admire singersongwriters and the art of songcraft. It’s just that neither of us can quite get it right, you know?” It’s just as well. Viewed from the right angle, then, Jessy Lanza is a pop star. But, far more satisfyingly, it’s from all the wrong ones that her true personality radiates.
Back to the bedroom As Alex Wisgard spends the day with Car Seat Headrest, Will Toledo discusses his prolific work-rate and how via a love for language and self-imposed honesty he’s achieved a breakout album with his 12th LP, ‘Teens of Denial’ Photography: Heather McCutcheon Words: Al ex Wisgard
Car Seat Headrest are stuck in traffic. In an eight-seater van, beleaguered by the finest congestion the city has to offer, the band’s journey to the BBC Radio 6 Music studios takes over an hour. They’re coming from the Matador Records office in Wandsworth, south London, which boasts a hostel-like apartment for their touring bands, complete with laminated list of house rules (sample: “We’re here to sell your records, not do your dishes”). Even after traveling to London from last night’s Brighton show, it’s a long drive for a band with everything to think about, and the Seattle quartet is too exhausted to sleep. Stoic bassist Seth calls shotgun, but keeps pretty quiet for the ride – although he does look at me apologetically when Luke (tour manager, sound man and driver) breaks the silence to ask how I plan to vote in the referendum. With hair like a young Paul Westerberg, the band’s guitarist Ethan sports a white
Rig ht : Wil l t o l ed o a ka ca r sea t hea d rest in fit z ro v ia , cen t ra l l o n d o n .
t-shirt with “mentally ill” scribbled across it in Sharpie. He sound-checks his guitar later with The Replacements’ frenetic ‘Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out’ and Neil Young’s fried ‘On the Beach’. The bipolar song choices seem appropriate. Drummer Andrew, who was attempting to catch a quick nap in the apartment before Ethan screamed “Time for school!” at him in a Marge Simpson voice, is quickly distracted by a pack of cards, shuffling them masterfully before challenging the band’s figurehead, focal point and songwriter, Will Toledo, to a game of gin rummy. “Dude,” Andrew says to me halfway through the game, “this guy always cheats. You should tell the world that in your article – Will is a filthy cheater at card games.” Toledo looks mock affronted. “Yeah... Card Cheat Headrest,” he smirks to no one in particular, before returning to the game. Which he wins.
e haven’t had good luck in the UK,” Toledo warns me earlier in a cafe down the road from the Matador Records office. “Last time we played here my guitar string broke after one song and I decided not to play guitar for the rest of the set, and then the power went off during one song. It just descended into madness.” He’s not alone in thinking this – at some point in the day, everyone in the band tells me they feel like London is “cursed” for them. Our sit down interview is just a small part of a characteristically busy 24 hours for the band, in the middle of an uninterrupted ten-day run of shows on their longest tour to date. After loading into the 6 Music studios to record a session for Steve Lamacq, the band immediately load back out and drive across the street to the 100 Club for a sold out show. Then on to Manchester the next day. “We’re all pretty wiped out at the moment,” Toledo admits. Then again, all this activity is the price a band pays when they release what might be the year’s best indie rock album.‘Teens of Denial’ is Toledo’s twelfth under the Car Seat Headrest banner, but the first to be recorded in a proper studio, with Beat Happening producer Steve Fisk. It’s also the first record Toledo has made with the live
band, who have only been playing together for six months. Still, the difference is immediately felt. ‘Teens of Denial’ is a seventy-minute tour de force, the album opens with a blunt declaration of interchangeable postteen angst – “I’m so sick of...fill in the blank” – and careers through all manner of self-reflection and self-hatred. Unlike almost every Car Seat album that’s preceded it, this record doesn’t feature Will calling himself out by name. “I think I just loathed myself while I was writing ‘Teens of Denial’,” he explains, “too much to feel comfortable saying my own name. It was supposed to be a very selfdisintegrating sort of record – I’m really getting down to the roots of myself, in that sort of pre-name stuff in a way.” ‘Teens of Denial’ hits its peak on ‘The Ballad of Costa Concordia’, an extended 12-minute metaphor, which likens the singer’s control of his own life to the wrecked Italian cruise-ship, while nodding unexpectedly to controversial ‘trans-racial’ activist Rachel Dolezal. “She said: ‘My life is one of survival and the decisions that I’ve made are based on surviving,’” Toledo tells Steve Lamacq halfway through his 6music interview. “I think that’s the mentality that a lot of people have had, especially
my generation – just going day to day and surviving.The question of morality just kind of drops out of it.” It’s the keen survival instinct that really cuts through the album, and what makes it a relentlessly affirming listen, despite its bleak subject matter. The development of Toledo’s selflacerating lyrics have resonated with his existing fanbase of adolescent Bandcamp-acolytes, but the musical nods to Jonathan Richman (on the exceptionally-titled ‘(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)’), Guided By Voices and Pavement are what’s caught the ear of the press, who have been quick to label him as “the saviour of indie rock” and “indie rock’s newest hero.” The plaudits don’t sit well with the twenty-three year old. “I’ve never felt less fond of indie rock in my life,” he says, only halfjoking. “I’ve always considered myself to be making something larger than that. When people say these things, they mean to be nice, but I feel like they’re just pigeonholing the music in this one category. If you want to move beyond that – and I would definitely want to do that – I feel like I can’t accept what people are saying about me. In my own head, I have to be working on the level that I want to
work on: what I want to achieve versus what I might have already achieved, which I care less about.” The attention has also meant that even his Tumblr page, where he posts assorted recordings and musings as anyone with a Tumblr does, is under scrutiny – something Will learned the hard way after uploading a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’, which swiftly got picked up by a number of music websites. “I’m used to just putting stuff up and having 30 people see it,” he says. “I knew that the exposure was wider now, but I was hoping that you could keep circles to themselves, but that didn’t happen. I put it up, and I thought it was good enough to put it up in the first place, but...y’know, I didn’t intend it to be the next single. So, plenty of people heard it that I didn’t necessarily want to hear it. I just have to be more conscientious, but I hope not to let it bring me down, and that if I want to share something, I’ll still share it.” Not long before our interview, however, his Tumblr featured a repost from They Might Be Giants, in which the veteran band say they’ve been listening to Car Seat Headrest. Will’s online response: “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait... a minute…” The two Johns have long been an influence on Toledo’s music, though it’s one that
he’s unsurprised people haven’t picked up on. “As far as my ‘studies’ go in musicality,” he tells me. “They Might Be Giants were a very helpful teacher. I really had to boost my listening skills, just to figure out what they were doing. Because they’d have relatively simplesounding rock songs that had all these weird chords in it, and weird structures, and just interesting arrangements of songs. I think that rubbed off on me. When I was revisiting them just in the past week or so, it was impressive that they were the one band I was really into in high school that I haven’t lost any respect for.” (Toledo’s ‘Pyramid Song’ cover received over 38,000 plays on Tumblr. By comparison, his teenage band’s cover of ‘Ana Ng’ has yet to break 500. Go figure.)
nother of the less-desirable reasons for the press surrounding ‘Teens of Denial’ has been the controversy around ‘(Not) Just What I Needed’, which once included an approved interpolation of a Cars song. Days before the album’s release, the Cars’ Rik Ocasek changed his mind, and all copies had to be destroyed. It cost Matador $50,000. “Vinyl’s a scarcity, so to see it just get sent to a landfill is depressing,” Toledo sighs. “Really, they should have recycled all of it.” The band managed to rework the song with just 48 hours to spare before its digital release last month, but Toledo is still smarting. “I’ve just gotten fed up with this whole thing, especially while we’re on tour. I kept finding out more and more. I found out we can’t perform it live, because you’re technically supposed to do royalties to the artist when you cover a song. If we played the Cars bit live, and someone filmed it on YouTube, then they could bust us, apparently. So at that point, I was just like ‘Goodbye that song, I’m not going to think about you anymore.’” Car Seat Headrest’s discography is littered with references to other media. Toledo is the only songwriter I can think of who can go from referencing the myth of Echo to a one-off character from an episode of cult kids cartoon Hey Arnold (“Stoop Kid”) in a single
bound. “In every other form of media,” he tells me, by way of justification, “whenever something comes out within a culture, there’s usually cultural references within it. There never seemed to me to be a reason why music couldn’t do that as well – it’s culturally embedded, so a musician should feel free to reference his own culture in the music.” Fortunately for him, Matador remain supportive of Will to write the way he always has. “For the next thing that we release, I’ll definitely present them with all the samples that need to get cleared and try to pave the way for that to happen as soon as possible. It’s still important to me to make music that way. I don’t want to be bogged down by all that legality of it. Kanye West certainly isn’t – ‘The Life of Pablo’ has so many samples on it, and it’s an awesome record, and I think that’s the type of music that people should be making nowadays. It’s just in touch with what art is - it doesn’t get created in a vacuum.”
s with any budding four-track musician, his initial forays into home recording were based almost entirely on the bands he loved, though his knowledge of their histories were patchy, thanks to his family’s censorship of the music biographies which littered his house. “There’s some of my books on my shelf back in Virginia that still have this white-out tape over a bunch of words, and over John Lennon’s penis,” he tells me, referring to the front cover of the ‘Two Virgins’ album. “There was one book where all the swear words were censored by my sister, and I went through and scratched them out after years of wondering what that long word was – turned out to be ‘sexual revolution’.” Unlike most young music fans, Toledo would shun going to see the bands he loved play live. “I think just because most people come into guitar music making the music live, with a band,” he says. “I just heard these records and I started recording on my own approximations of this guitar music, but there are just a lot of idiosyncrasies because of the way I was developing my music on the
computer, and one of those was that there was a lot more stuff that felt a little more like hip hop with loops and samples and stuff.” Toledo cites Nirvana’s ‘With the Lights Out’ box set and Of Montreal’s ‘The Early Four Track Recordings’ – and Microsoft Sound Recorder – as the formative influences on his desire to self-record. His parents, meanwhile, were supportive in that way that only parents could be. “As long as I had money coming in some way or another, I think they were OK with it. They put aside money for college, so I had that sort of buffer time – I was just majoring in English, so there wasn’t much going on there...” he trails off, grinning. Studying English and Religion at William And Mary, the second oldest college in America after Harvard, gave him time to develop his material, and his studies seemed to play a hand in the way his writing evolved. “It was the methods of talking about [literature] that wore me out.” he says. “Just having to listen to the other students spin their stupid theories, and professors just taking it because they want a class discussion to happen. After a certain point, I didn’t even want to come to class because I just wanted to experience the book as I
“I’ve never felt less fond of indie rock in my life. I’ve always considered myself to be making something larger than that.” loudandquiet.com
read it, and not as these people see it. “I was writing lyrics to serve a larger purpose,” Toledo goes on, explaining his fondness for writing tracks that sometimes stretch past the fifteen-minute mark. “That came from reading these poems that are hundreds of years old, and still retain a sense of emotional urgency or importance to it... I always kinda liked longer songs. I found this fake tracklist that I wrote when I was in elementary school, just for this imaginary album I’d written – there were three songs on it that were over ten minutes.” He claims that there was no initial game plan for the Car Seat Headrest project, though once he garnered a response to his early material, it made him rethink. “My grand idea was to have no persona attached to it, but just put out as much as I could and build this massive catalogue, and gradually gain attention that way. But you know, as soon as people started paying attention to it, it became harder to not have a personality attached to it. I didn’t put up the lyrics to the first four albums because it was mostly gibberish – I was just experimenting with sound more than anything. But I found that the lyrics I actually put thought into were the ones that ended up being the
songs I liked more, so I just started focussing on that. “I like seeing directors and artists as they develop,” he says when I ask him whether there was ever a consideration of pulling the albums from his Bandcamp once he signed to Matador. “I wanted to make it clear that it didn’t come from nowhere, and it came from a place that a lot of people do come from. It’s not impossible to get to here from there. I was lucky in that I can kind of have it both ways, because a lot of people will just see ‘Teens of Denial’ as coming out of nowhere. And if that’s the kind of person they are – if they’re just interested in the now, and what’s hot now – they can be interested in that, and they can think that I came out of nowhere. And for people who are more interested in chasing those narratives of artistry, that Bandcamp is there. And it will stay there.”
ar Seat Headrest’s real turning point is arguably its sixth album, 2011’s ‘Twin Fantasy’. There, the longer songs rub up against some uncomfortable confessionals (‘Beach Life-in-Death’ sees Toledo scream “I DON’T WANT TO HAVE SCHIZOPHRENIA!”), and some naked hero worship. “God,” he pleads on the swaggering ‘Cute Thing’, “give me Dan Bejar’s voice and John Entwistle’s stage presence.” It was also the album on which Toledo really began indulging his unconscious, incorporating some of the more fucked-up elements of his dreaming life into his lyrics, as well as his waking one. “I think I do it because I’m not really that inventive of a guy,” he explains. “People say it’s really boring to talk about dreams, but usually I would rather hear about people’s dreams than what they’re actually doing in real life. It reveals about what you worry about, what you think about, and what is important to you. Even just the way that people talk about dreams reveals a lot about how they perceive the world – what they emphasise, or how the narrative works, or if the narrative is just action. Compared to the dullness of reality, it’s kind of a wellspring to draw from.” He is, however, quick to explain that there are some elements of his
brain that he has to keep off the page. “There’s definitely aspects of the dreams I don’t want to talk about. The song I’m working on right now is about sex dreams with people that I would not want to be having sex dreams about. But the task of writing about something and conveying the idea of it, without exposing the parts of it that you don’t want to expose, that’s kind of a fun challenge. John Lennon said ‘Norwegian Wood’ was a song about having an affair, which he was trying to write about without his wife knowing. I like that, I like hiding a narrative in a work in a way that is both obvious, but not obvious unless you know what you’re looking for.” One striking line amongst many on ‘Twin Fantasy’ is the blunt declaration midway through ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’ – “This is the part of the song where Will starts to regret writing it.” I ask how often this regret creeps into his process, and he laughs. “That regret was more about the feeling of putting something out there that is exposing myself more than I want to. When I first started getting into making personal music, I tended towards the extreme side of things, but it wasn’t satisfying to me – it ended up being more embarrassing than anything. So I did start trying to develop the John Lennon technique of revealing exactly as much as you want to. And I think that’s a more rewarding way to approach it artistically, because it allows for more ambiguity of meaning than if you’re just sort of laying everything down, [of Montreal frontman] Kevin Barnes style, and saying exactly what you mean to say. “I was just thinking about Kevin Barnes earlier,” he says. “I feel like he needs to get over this particular phase of his career. He’s got a lot of albums, and there are several great ones that sound very different, and that’s the way he has to work. But I try and avoid that. I don’t want to put something out there that’s just a steppingstone to something else. I want everything to be considered in its own right.” The journey towards what became ‘Teens of Denial’ began in 2014, as a reaction to the response he received to his 2013 double album ‘Nervous Young Man’. “I think people just had a hard time listening to it because it was so long,” he says. “On a personal level, I kind of disliked it because a lot of the
“For people who are more interested in chasing my narratives of artistry, that Bandcamp is there. And it will stay there.”
songs were more interested in songcraft than emotional engagement. I felt like I couldn’t engage with it as soon as the album was done. I struggle to make every song a deep reflection of myself and something I can connect to intimately. But that took a long time to come into shape, even though I know what I wanted to do. Usually knowing what you want to do does take longer to come into shape because you have to reject more material.” This rejected material eventually found a home on ‘How to Leave Town’. Released in 2014, it’s the last of his Bandcamp albums, and possibly the best thing released under the Car Seat Headrest banner. Tracks like ‘The Ending of Dramamine’ and ‘Kimochi Warui (When? When? When? When? When? When? When?)’ are burbling, synth-led anthems of defeat, without a guitar in sight, while blown-out closer ‘Hey, Space Cadet! (Beast Monster Thing in Space)’ was originally intended for ‘Teens of Denial’. What was planned as “a grab bag of stuff,” turned into very much its own
thing – an hour-long EP, which Toledo has previously compared to Sufjan Stevens’ ‘All Delighted People’. “That’s honestly still my favourite Sufjan release,” he admits, somewhat defensively. “I called it an EP at the time just because of the way that it was formed, but I definitely consider it one of my favourite releases that I’ve done.” He’s also looking to ‘How to Leave Town’ as more of a template for the next Car Seat Headrest album, which is tentatively due out next year. “I’d like to go back to self-producing for the next one,” he says. “I feel like I sort of... the scales fell from my eyes when I was working on ‘Teens of Denial’, and a lot of the lo-fi stuff I was working on just sounded like unnecessary trappings after that. But I would also like to work with other people in the future – I just wanna do as much as I can alone, but not shut other people out.”
here’s a collection of old men with battered record bags waiting outside
the 6 Music studios, though they don’t seem to be there for Car Seat Headrest. As the engineer unironically invites the band to “lay down some tracks” in the studio – an exposed-brickwork corridor within the station’s office – the session seems to go smoothly. Lamacq, ever-avuncular, manages to make the frazzled four-piece relatively relaxed in the sterile surroundings of the studio. Pro that he is, he even uses a question about their imminent Glastonbury performance (Ethan: “I’ve heard it’s a big deal, and it’s muddy.”) to segue into ‘Destroyed by Hippie Powers’. Half an hour after the session finishes, the band are across the road, crammed into the 100 Club dressing room. “Oh boy, I’m tired,” Andrew mutters, still sweaty from the BBC performance. “This is not going to be fun.” It isn’t long before he’s trying to engage his bandmates in a discussion about Pixar movies. Andrew contentiously insists that the only good Toy Story movie was the first one, which somehow doesn’t get him
kicked out of the band altogether. Despite the rodents scurrying around the floor, Ratatouille somehow doesn’t get a mention. Will, meanwhile, lies down on the sofa, staring at the framed photos and graffiti on the walls. The 100 Club seems to be a museum to itself, and it doesn’t sit well with him. “I’m much more concerned with knowing what bands I like have been at venues we’ve been playing recently,” he muses, before cracking a smile. “Fuck history.” The stakes are high for tonight’s show. In addition to tickets being sold out, Matador bigwigs – including label founder Chris Lombardi – have flown in from New York. The fans waiting outside skew decidedly younger than those standing around near 6 Music. “Shall we do a curveball set tonight?” Andrew asks the band as soundcheck begins, before inevitable gremlins threaten to curse the evening’s performance through the PA in a way that trounces any set list selfsabotage. Everything’s feeding back in ways it shouldn’t, and the promoter’s pat insistence that it will sound better when there are people in the room hardly helps matters. In the midst of the technical turmoil, it’s time for Will to check his mic. Stood still in the centre of the stage, he strums a single note and begins singing Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird on the Wire’. For four minutes, the band fall silent, as Toledo channels his world-weariness (literally - tour fatigue is a bitch) into one of the most devastating performances of any song I’ve ever witnessed, malfunctioning microphones notwithstanding. The bubble bursts somewhat when the PA levels change, and he has to sing again. Adopting the same pose, he strums a dramatic minor chord, and leans into the microphone with a dark tone of voice: “Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen, Leonard Co...” He starts laughing, hard enough to effectively call time on sound check. It’ll have to do. A few hours later, Car Seat Headrest are back onstage, their arrival soundtracked by Cohen’s ‘I’m Your Man’. The drummer’s threats of a curveball set were greatly exaggerated. The band tear through what you could almost call a greatest hits show. Opening with an assortment of ‘Teens of Denial’’s most brutal moments,
there’s still space for a tortured ‘Cute Thing’ and a dragged-out version of ‘Something Soon’ (introduced as “the hit”) which finds space for some perfect three-part harmonies that belie the band’s collective tiredness. They encore with ‘Bodys’ – another ‘Twin Fantasy’ cut, which Andrew tells the audience they’re playing because “You look like a dancing crowd.” It may be the closest thing Car Seat Headrest have to a disco moment, but its refrain – “Don’t you realize our bodies could fall apart at any second?” – isn’t exactly the kind of call-to-dance you’d get from most other lyricists. But it’s a triumphant ‘Costa Concordia’ that really stops pulses. As the track draws to a close, Seth and Andrew swiftly leave the stage, and through the noise Will begins to sing. “Like a bird…on the wire…” Once again, it’s met with four minutes of reverential silence, while the young man onstage slowly fends his way through the song, with almost as much gravity as Cohen has when he sings it now. The show is an unquestionable triumph - Andrew pointedly says that the curse has been lifted – but there’s one person who isn’t so sure. “I mean, it was OK,” Will says, standing near the merch stand after the set. “My throat’s been killing me all day, and I wasn’t happy with the Leonard Cohen song. It wasn’t as good as in soundcheck.” Before I can ask him why, a rep from Matador comes over with a box full of CD copies of ‘Teens of Denial’. No one in Car Seat Headrest has yet seen a finished copy of the album - at least, not since they watched 10,000 other copies get destroyed to satisfy the whims of a new wave frontman. Toledo’s eyes light up as he holds the result of two years’ work, despair and legal wranglings in his hand for the first time. It’s the happiest he’s been all day.
Moon boys Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel look back on 20 years of AIR, and whether the journey into space is over Photography: Jonangelo Molinari / Words: James F. Thompson
hen we started our careers, we were at the party for a French singer who was celebrating his 40th birthday,” remembers Nicolas Godin, sat in a sun-drenched garden opposite Air’s swanky hotel in Barcelona. “I said, my God, how can he be celebrating that? How can it be funny, how can he laugh and dance? I would be so depressed! I was there at the bar, 26, drinking some champagne and then…” He clicks his fingers. “It goes so fast, you don’t even know it.” Sat alongside the rakishly handsome Godin, now 46 years old but auburn locks still flowing, and his baby-faced bandmate Jean-Benoît Dunckel, a collective mid-life crisis for Air seems premature. But it’s true that the band have been a going concern for over 20 years now, ever since that party in Paris. In that time the pair have done much to shape how the Englishspeaking world conceives of French music; a gateway to Gallic insouciance and cool from Jean Michel Jarre to Serge Gainsbourg. Released back in 1998, debut LP ‘Moon Safari’ set the template and benchmark for all that would follow: sophisticated, downbeat electronic pop with a playful, sexual frisson. It’s a landmark record that at once epitomised the Air concept (the band’s name stems from an acronym, “Amour, Imagination, Rêve,” or “love, imagination, dream”) and one that perhaps even Godin and Dunckel would argue that they’ve never bettered. ‘Moon Safari’ also made an indelible impression on thousands of teenagers like yours truly, growing up and clumsily navigating the opposite sex. Since then, the two have released eight further albums that have oscillated between pop-minded accessibility (‘Talkie Walkie’) and ambitious experimentalism (‘10,000 Hz Legend’). The duo have also carved
out solo careers for themselves. Less than a year ago, I was over in Paris speaking to Godin for Loud And Quiet about his own first album, the superb, Bach-inspired ‘Contrepoint’ (I’d like to consider Godin and I are best friends now but I’m afraid it might be a onesided arrangement). In celebration of reaching the 20year milestone as a band, last month Air released the sensibly-titled compilation ‘Twentyears’ on Parlophone. “We wanted to go back on tour and to play live,” Godin says. “We didn’t want to make an album because if you do, it’ll postpone the tour. So I think the compilation was a compromise.” To that end, ‘Twentyears’ has served its purpose. As we speak, Air are in Barcelona for a big stage, sundown slot at Primavera Sound and are touring Europe and beyond over the summer. Of course, there’s a broader, almost philosophical question of whether so-called “greatest hits” LPs serve any purpose in the modern world of Spotify and self-curated playlists. All the same, the release takes in a smattering of the band’s most popular tracks throughout their two-decade career that should satisfy casual fans, even if a bit more adventurism might have done better at showcasing their ambition. “It was horrible,” Godin says of putting the collection together. “We have different tastes, then there’s the audience, there’s the record company. I’ll never do that again in my life!” He lets out what sounds like a genuinely pained sigh. “Making a compilation, you can’t decide; it’s like picking between your children. There are amazing songs that aren’t on there. I mean, it would be like that for any band.” Still, the opportunity to tour their back catalogue is one that Godin and Dunckel aren’t taking for granted. “It’s
kind of an achievement to be on stage and to be able to play a classic piece of music that you actually wrote,” marvels the former. “It’s a great feeling, truly. As soon as we picked up our instruments to practice [for the current tour], we said, wow, what good chords, what good melodies. The production of the records, the sound, the orchestrations…” He pauses for a moment to reflect, the sun glinting in his shades. “We did such a good job, you know. It’s incredible to play.”
odin and Dunckel both grew up in Versailles but weren’t yet friends in the Parisian suburb. In fact, the pair first met playing in an alternative band named Orange, in Paris. Dunckel had earlier joined the group, before a bandmate introduced Godin into the mix. Air actually began as Godin’s own project: an architecture student at the time, the sometime amateur musician was asked by a childhood friend to write a song for a new compilation to be released by Source, the small independent French label. Having then contributed ‘Modulor Mix’ and seen this re-released on British label Mo’ Wax in 1996, Godin asked Dunckel to join Air full-time soon afterwards. Despite the auspicious start, Godin doubted the project would go anywhere. “I thought that we would never make a musical career because my own taste was so different from everything on the radio in the eighties and nineties,” he recalls. “I really hated everything coming from the French music scene, it was pretty depressing. The sound of the sound engineers, the way the drums were played, the sound of the guitar players. It was just the worst thing!” Nonetheless, following a series of maxi-singles for Source – which were
ultimately gathered up and released on the excellent ‘Premiers Symptomes’ double EP in 1999 – Godin and Dunckel were asked to record a whole album. After working in a studio near Paris for several months with freelance engineer Stéphane Briat, the resulting retro-futuristic record, ‘Moon Safari’, was a near-instant classic. “Ever since I was a child, I’d dreamed of making a classic album – and I actually did,” Godin said to The Guardian recently. “The night we did ‘Sexy Boy’, I knew my life would change.” He was right. ‘All I Need’, ‘Kelly Watch the Stars’ and ‘Sexy Boy’ – with its raunchy, drop-D bass riff – soon wound up in the charts and in heavy rotation on MTV. ‘Moon Safari’ went Platinum in the UK, Gold in France and positioned Air as figureheads for French pop music abroad, though the pair never felt fully accepted in their homeland. “When we first had success it was coming from England, actually,” adds Dunckel, by far the shier of the two but finally weighing in with the same velvety soft accent as his bandmate. “We had English singing [from American vocalist Beth Hirsch] so it was perceived in France as something more Britannic.” Godin is typically far less diplomatic, putting it down to French taste in music instead – or lack thereof. “In England you are the aristocracy of rock and pop, you know? This is really something you’re good at. In France we are very good for other stuff, like fashion, art and stuff like that. But for music… ‘Moon Safari’ was hard for us to even tour outside of Paris.” Regardless, the LP also served to differentiate Godin and Dunckel from the harder-edged, house-focused French Touch scene of the time, even if the pair were enjoying the stuff being put out by exponents like Daft Punk. “There was a good energy in the city
Be l o w : N i c o l a s G o d i n [ l ef t ] an d J ea n - B en o î t D u n c k el i n b arc el o n a , a h ea d o f p r i mav er a s o u n d 20 1 6 .
between ’94 and 2000,” says Godin. “It was the best parties, the best DJs, we had this amazing house music scene, we were young, had a similar group of people; group of friends. It was crazy cool and it was the place to be for four or five years. It was something very Parisian with good moments; good memories.” From that point on though, he remembers when the scene began to sour. “After Daft Punk started to be successful, then the fun disappeared because everyone wanted to make money. Everyone started to change their style to try to make big singles like ‘Around the World’. A lot of these cool guys – who were making underground dance music before – started to try to write a hit single. It was horrible! And then the record companies started to sign some of them.” Never truly belonging to the French Touch scene – and having enjoyed success of their own – Air weren’t under the same pressure to commercialise as some of their Parisian peers in the wake of Daft Punk’s chartfriendly ‘Homework’ LP. After touring, the duo followed up their own hit record with a soundtrack to Sofia Coppola film The Virgin Suicides – its gorgeous strings-and-piano-driven tracks, like ‘Playground Love’ and ‘Dirty Trip’, deserving of attention in their own right – before taking a complete left-turn with the darkly esoteric ‘10,000 Hz Legend’. Some critics and fans struggled with the sharp change in tone from ‘Moon Safari’. Even the band themselves admit that they might have strayed too far, too soon from their breakthrough debut (“It’s much too complicated for me,” Godin said when we spoke about it last year). Yet the release is symptomatic of the streak of individuality and daring that Air were conscious to maintain right from the start.
“We didn’t move to London at the time, or LA. We kept our originality,” Godin argues. “Otherwise we would have been part of a professional world and we never wanted to do that really. We wanted to be more like normal guys who do some crazy stuff in the studio with free spirit, you know?” “It’s about negativity and positivity,” Dunckel says. “I could say that on ‘Moon Safari’ there are some really bad tracks, or ‘10,000 Hz Legend’ is a boring album and has some horrible songs on it. I could say many things. But I think that all the tracks we released and we presented to the audience have their quality and are good, and each album has its own spirit.”
he last “conventional” record from Air – ‘Love 2’ – arrived in 2009, just over a decade after the first. ‘Le voyage dans la lune’ (‘A Trip to the Moon’) came out four years ago and was intended as an accompaniment to a restored version of the seminal 1902 Georges Méliès silent film of the same name, while 2014’s ‘Music for Museum’ was a vinyl-only release recorded as a commission for the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille as part of their Open Museum project.
Sometimes, Godin in particular speaks in the past tense, as though we might have had the last music from Air as a pop band. “We kept this kind of freshness,” he says of the band’s discography. “Except at the end when we started to repeat ourselves.” I ask what he means. “I think any band at best has 10 glory years, then you start…” He trails off. “Whatever you try, it will be less interesting. Even if you make an incredible record, like if you were a newcomer, people will think, my God, this is amazing. But if it’s you, because they know you, they don’t want to hear something from you. I think bands are great for three, four albums, max.” In previous interviews, Godin has sounded almost pathologically opposed to bands like his own continuing to make music. When we spoke last year he even suggested that people over 40 shouldn’t be releasing records, full stop – all the while promoting his own solo debut album. It’s a curiously self-contradictory stance that doesn’t exactly bode especially well for future Air material ever seeing the light of day. “I think artists and audiences go through different phases,” Dunckel responds, lightening the mood. “Take the Rolling Stones. They’re old now
and maybe it’s not going to happen, but what if they found a new producer and put out some amazing new music, some incredible style of rock electro songs? We’d be so surprised by the quality but I think it can happen.” He smiles. “You never know, maybe it depends on the drugs that you take!” Godin laughs. “I think the Rolling Stones took all the drugs that were possible. We need to invent a new one!” “Okay,” Dunckel says. “They change their blood, take a new drug and release a new album in three days and it’s great. I think it’s possible!” Whatever it takes, hopefully this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing from Air.
Reviews / Albums
0 7/ 1 0
Metronomy Summer 08 bec au se By ge mma samway s. In sto res no w
While I spent the summer of 2008 clock-watching in a dead-end nineto-five, Joe Mount was preparing to release his second LP, and critical breakthrough, ‘Nights Out’. It’s still my favourite Metronomy record, in part because of its power to transport me to a more innocent time, and in part because of all the happy memories it’s subsequently soundtracked. Mostly, it’s thanks to its consistency as a set and the carefree quality to Mount’s songwriting. Eight years on, ‘Radio Ladio’ and the rest remain industrialstrength pop bangers, written long before the term “banger” became common parlance, let alone a misappropriated catch-all for anything with a vaguely whistle-able melody. Apparently, I’m not alone in feeling nostalgic. As Mount explains in the press release for this fifth LP,
“I wanted to make another record with the naivety of ‘Nights Out’: ten tracks, straight up, upbeat. Write another banger, then another, and don’t really think about it.” To do so, he’s temporarily rebooted Metronomy as a solo project and reverted to the DIY recording methods of the first two records, instead of approximating a lo-fi feel in expensive studios as per ‘Love Letters’. It’s a promising starting point, and ‘Summer 08’ features some lovely Easter eggs that ‘Nights Out’ fans will appreciate. There’s the crooked synths and meandering, almost discordant bassline on ‘Mick Slow’, both of which seem plucked straight from ‘Side Two’. On ‘Back Together’, Mount reprises his amusingly highpitched impersonation of “female” vocals à la ‘AThing For Me’, and ‘Old Skool’ and ‘Hang Me Out To Dry’
revive the lyrical motif of driving. Where the two albums really differ is in tone. While the former largely focuses on no-strings-attached flings and skims over heartbreak, this sequel offers a more mature perspective on hedonism, reflecting on sudden stardom and the subsequent strain on personal connections. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of joyous frivolity – see the flirtatious ‘Back Together’ and ‘Old Skool’’s wry portrait of London nightlife – but mostly Mount is preoccupied with the difficulties of preserving a lasting relationship on the road. There were signs of dissatisfaction on ‘Nights Out’ in lines like “All those evenings, spent disappointed on dancefloors,” but on ‘Love’s Not An Obstacle’ he sounds worn out, hollowly recounting “14 weeks with 14 lovers” and concluding, “Everything’s so complicated.”
In line with its subject matter, Mount’s arrangements often feel subdued, most notably during ‘Mick Slow’ and the plaintive ‘Summer Jam’. This in itself is not a criticism, but there are songs that fail to deliver, most notably ‘Hang Me Out To Dry’. Boasting a chorus that features Robyn’s airy vocals, Mount repeatedly strips away momentum with muted verses of sighing synths and mournful contemplation. It’s a decent enough track but, coming from two of the decade’s greatest electro-pop pioneers, decent equals disappointing. And therein lies the issue with ‘Summer 08’: it never quite delivers on its potential, and for an album supposedly bursting with bangers, it features far too few. But then maybe that’s Mount’s point: we’ll never recapture the euphoria of youth, so those rose-tinted memories should be relegated to the past.
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
Factory Floor 25 25 DF A By Reef y oun i s . In sto re s a ug ust 19
It took Factory Floor eight years to arrive at their debut album and it was worth the wait. After some personnel changes and transitions between guitar-based post-punk, bludgeoning industrial and signal-jamming electronica, the trio seemed content to settle on stampeding from the fringes straight to the centre of the dance floor. Maybe it was the discordance, the malevolent directness, or the violent satisfaction that throbbed just beneath some of the cold, sequenced machinations, but it made ‘Factory Floor’ a brilliant, often brutal exercise in treading a fine line between repetition and monotony. It was the sound of empty rooms and angry servers powered by
dark, dancing circuitry; hi-hats in perpetual motion; synths bubbling up from cracks in the ground; hologram vocals bleeding in from the ether. It took sparse elements and used them to punishing effect – tracks like ‘Two Different Ways’ and ‘Here Again’ looped, locked and set on a black march into a techno dungeon abyss. Two years later, and one member down, Nik Void and Gabriel Gurnsey are Factory Floor recalibrated. They talk of exploring new set ups, playing with unfamiliar gear and working through “transition” and “adjustment”, presumably associated with adapting to life as a duo. It’s an understandable shift but it’s also one that’s come
with a palpable tentativeness – less pummelling, more perfecting. It means that ‘25 25’ lacks some of the beats per minute immediacy that made their debut so bleak and enthralling. But where this album doesn’t have the jagged buzz of ‘How You Say’ or the same high BPM insistence of ‘Fall Back’, the low frequency murk of ‘Ya’ emerges with the twisted grin of Delicatessen-era Simian Mobile Disco, and ‘Slow Listen’ heads straight for the dance floor with busy pin prick hi-hats, 4/4 swagger and Void’s airy vocals repeatedly dipping in and out. It sets the tone for a follow up album that’s lighter and brighter than their debut without diminishing the
promise that these tracks could become larger than life in one of their incendiary live shows. But where ‘Wave’ feels closer to the offbeat tempo of ‘Turn It Up’, title-track ‘25 25’ feels like a made-for-live monster with its straight modular rhythm pushing the band’s familiarly sparse ideal. It’s a juxtaposition that also surfaces on the slower, more abstract ‘Upper Left’ and the playful vocal plod of ‘Relay’. Ultimately it makes ‘25 25’ less of the fist-pumping, dark matter followup we anticipated but that doesn’t matter too much – it’s still an album that delivers the dead-eyed propulsion we expect. Bring on their next restless foray.
Clams Casino, like a host of other high-profile rap and hip-hop producers (BOOTS and Kaytranada being recent cases in point), finds himself wanting to get out from behind the controls and into the limelight. Fair enough, really. Having helped pioneer yet another microgenre in the form of ‘cloud rap’ (it’s rap but a bit more ethereal – think chillwave with rhymes, if you remember chillwave) with his pals A$AP Rocky and Lil B, he’s chosen 2016 to stride confidently out from
the shadows. And while producer albums tend to be an exercise in selfindulgent point-proving (hi ya, Mark Ronson), the man his mother knows as Michael Volpe has actually created a solid, collection that, significantly, sounds like an album, cleverly straddling pop and hip hop while weaving a coherent thread. ‘Thanks To You,’ featuring Rihanna and Mary J. Bligesongwriter Sam Dew on vocals, is a gorgeous slice of left-field pop that sounds like Yazoo meets Timberlake,
while ‘Into The Fire’, a kaleidoscopic slow jam that draws on Miguel, Prince and ’80s soul in a play for the summer charts is ridiculously catchy without veering into the realm of kitsch. And as if he was worried it was all getting a bit too slick, Volpe throws in a few collaborations with his bezzies; ‘All Nite’ (feat. Vince Staples), ‘Be Somebody’ (with A$AP Rocky and Lil B) and ‘Witness’ (Lil B again) are jittery, corrosive affairs, ensuring that ‘32 Levels’’ edges aren’t too smooth.
Clams Casino 32 Levels C o lu mbi a By Davi d Zammi tt. In sto re s july 15
Haley Bonar Impossible Dream
Les Halles Transient
Exploded View Exploded View
Me mphi s I n d us t r i e s
no t no t fun
Sac re d Bo ne s
T r o u bl e i n mi n d
By d er ek r ober tso n. In sto re s a ug ust 5
B y g ui a c o rtas s a. I n s to re s J u ly 2 2
By ja m e s f. Th om ps o n. I n st o r es a u g u s t 1 9
B y h a y l ey s c o t t . In s t o r es j ul y 8
Born in Canada and raised in South Dekota, Haley Bonar harks back to an era when musicians were grafters, constantly working at their craft, refining and honing – not necessarily instant stars. For the prolific singer songwriter, this is her thirteenth release since 2001 – a prodigious work rate – and it shows. She’s always tried to bend her folksy Americana into a more pop template, and while occasionally stepping outside those lines – as on 2006’s bleak, sparse ‘Lure The Fox’ – ‘Impossible Dream’ sees her walk the middle ground, and to great effect. All ten tracks here find Bonar sure footed and in a confident mood, from the fuzzy energy of ‘Kismet Kill’ to the slow, anthemic ‘Jealous Girls’; it almost scans as her own, personal, Greatest Hits collection. But more than anything, it showcases Bonar’s ability to write simple yet catchy melodies and sweet hooks that function like dopamine and float through the mind like a warm summer breeze. “Something’s got into your head” she sings on the lazy, meandering ‘Skynz’, and she’s absolutely right.
Les Halles, that is French exotist Bapiste Martin, has been working in the New Age field for a while now, turning to forefather artists like Iasos and Emerald Web as a source of inspiration, but focusing on the use of pan-flutes, wooden wind instruments and field recordings to create ethereal and otherworldly soundscapes. ‘Transient’, his latest long playing on the suitably ‘outthere’, dub cassette label Not Not Fun, makes no exception. In its 35 minutes and 8 tracks, the listener’s mind leaves planet Earth to wander into alternative worlds and dimensions.There’s an aquatic mood to the album, as if the field recordings came from Atlantis after its sinking, capturing the bubbling noises of a civilization that learned to breathe underwater, without any claustrophobic feeling of drowning. As its title suggests, it’s the ideal soundtrack to temporarily leave the human existence and reach other possible realities. It’s genuinely difficult to imagine a different purpose for listening to this record, just as much as it is hard to really find a purpose in life to totally love it.
In 2010, British-German singer Annika Henderson – styled Anika – released a debut LP that was unmistakably the product of both her Teutonic ancestry and her Bristol environs: krautrock-cum-trip-hop paired with vocals so tonally deadened they could have made Nico blanch. If that album and its follow-up EP were unflinchingly claustrophobic, ‘Exploded View’ sees Henderson stepping beyond her synth-driven confines with a full band and an album of fully-improvised, first-take-only songs recorded straight to a Tascam eight-track. It’s a bold risk but a handsomely rewarded one, expanding the Anika palette beyond the monochrome of old without fading its deepest blacks.That said, Henderson still sounds almost scarily dispassionate and a sense of grim foreboding envelopes the whole record, with opener ‘Lost Illusions’ sounding like an accompaniment to animalistic violence, sex or some combination thereof. ‘Orlando’ is perversely danceable and ‘Stand Your Ground’ is as tuneful as it is harrowing. This is rock music in its most dark and instinctual form.
Negating the blues-rooted, formulaic progressions of trad-rock in a way that’s refreshingly playful, Atlanta’s Omni take all of the best aspects of late ’70s/early ’80s outsider pop and blend it with a melodic impulse that makes this debut LP prevail. It’s all too easy to accuse them of being derivative – the spidery, stop-start arrangements recall the likes of Pylon and Television at their most affecting, while the skewed, danceinducing hooks on opener ‘Afterlife’ share noticeable sonic likenesses with bands like Devo and Shopping – but their nostalgic tendencies are knowing and inspired, rather than merely imitative. It’s this ability to take from various influences without a hint of contrivance that makes Omni a welcome addition among the less convincing proponents of lo-fi. Effusive production techniques are forgone in favour of something primitive and fun – nothing sounds clean or overly accomplished, but their pop sensibility makes for something that’s still FM friendly. This is a pop record that works outside of the predictabilities of the genre.
The fourth album from Toronto jazz quartet BadBadNotGood starts out owing much to the slinky 1960s film scores of people like Lalo Schifrin, Harold Budd and David Axelrod, all smoky soundscapes offering flourishes of melody among a whole heap of cool-jazz atmosphere. It’s seductive stuff, expertly played and produced: ‘Time Moves Slow’, with Future Islands’ Samuel T Herring, is full of gravelly lament, while ‘Confessions Pt II’ has a driving cinematic urgency that would sit
perfectly under some lost Steve McQueen thriller. The record changes tack entirely for the second side, however, ditching the rather captivating Los Angeles noir ambience in favour of head-bobbing noodly jazz. Given the rather luxe space and minimalism that’s been before, the suddenly upped freneticism is a risky move, but thankfully one the band pulls off: ratatat drums and fidgety electric bass underpin the virtuoso sax playing on the title track, and their
backing of emerging rapper Mick Jenkins on ‘Hyssop of Love’ has all the ecstatic freedom of recent Kendrick Lamar tracks. Of course, this sort of stylistic yin and yang doesn’t create the most consistent listening experience, and ‘IV’ ends up resembling more two adjacent EPs than a single body of work. While that might be to the detriment of the whole, the split doesn’t detract from its individual parts, which remain stylish, sensitive and expressive throughout.
BADBADNOTGOOD IV I n n o vative L eisure By s am walt on . In sto re s July 8
Reviews 0 7/ 1 0
David West Peace or Love
Shura Nothing’s Real
Various Artists For Nepal
Tou g h Love
city s l a n g
Po l yd o r
E v il h o o do o
By j oe goggins. In sto res a ug ust 5
B y ch ri s watk e y s . In s to re s augu s t 1 9
By to m fe nw i c k . In s to re s j u ly 8
B y dan iel dy la n w r a y . In s t o r es j u ly 1 2
Neither woozy electropop nor deliberately-cultivated airs of mystery around an artist are in particularly short supply at the minute, so the arrival of David West – a U.S.-based Australian, once of the sublime Total Control – perhaps doesn’t hit home quite as hard as it should. He has indeed kept himself off of the traditional PR radar, with a highly limited online presence and just the one press photograph of himself, in which he looks endearingly like a young Bryan Ferry. No matter; ‘Peace or Love’, the debut solo fulllength that he’s been threatening to release for a while now, is a smartlyexecuted exercise in electronic experimentation, from the noodling guitar solos of ‘Dream On Dreamer’ to the shimmering eighties synths that fizz with nervous energy on the coyly-titled ‘Happiest Man in My Room’. West is by no means reinventing the wheel here, and there’s moments that see ‘Peace or Love’ threatening to meander – the awkward ‘Au Contraire’ is a case in point – but this is a sleek, playful effort that finds its place in a crowded market.
Cologne-born Marius Lauber has been releasing tunes since 2013, but this self-titled effort is his debut fulllength. Opener ‘Wait Up’ is Hot Chip in syrup, with hints of the big synth punchiness of Yeasayer’s latest record, while on ‘Night Moves’ the bpm cranks up, accompanied by some semi-euphoric sounding (but ultimately meaningless) vocals: “There’s no room to hide / The night moves on and on”. You get the picture. ‘Heart’ ironically has the least heart of all of these songs, an anodyne and processional strollthrough, which ticks all the generic boxes. Overall, though, this is superbly produced material, with a huge sound. It’s also a wonderfully warm-feeling record that wraps you in its arms and pumps its fuzzy beats directly into your frontal lobes. And the standout track, the hyper-melodic hook-fest ‘Fever’, is a mini-rush of synth-pop joy. If there is a criticism to be made of ‘Roosevelt’, it’s that it’s both a little one-paced, and highly generic. That’s quite a bit criticism, but it seems to be Lauber plan here, and what it sets out to do, it does very well indeed.
Alessandra Yakunina-Denton aka Shura first piqued our interest with the bittersweet synth ballad ‘Touch’, its combination of sleek pop and a hit viral video taking over the Internet back in 2014. That track drew Shura more than a few comparisons to the early work of Janet Jackson and Madonna, a trend she’s wisely maintained on her twoyears-in-the-making debut album. The central aesthetic of ‘Nothing’s Real’ fuses hazy electronica, pulsing synths and fizzy bass-lines, layering them over ardent, breathy vocals, while lyrically, she’s expressing a vulnerability – on tracks like ’31.12.2015’ and ‘Make It Up’ – which allude to self-confessional heartbreak, but rarely wallow in melancholy. This sonic backbone supports Shura as she dips in and out of genres; switching between shimmering electro (’Kids N Stuff’), icy bedroom R&B (’2Shy’) and stone cold pop bangers (‘Indecision’). A few tracks feel overlong – ’White Light’ drags itself out necessarily to 7+ minutes – but that hardly spoils this rich, elegant and intimate debut.
For this charity record, created to raise money for the ongoing devastations left by the 2015 Nepal Earthquake, Sheffield-based label Evil Hoodoo have gathered up a superb line-up of artists from the underground and psych-leaning world to contribute new or previously unreleased material. Featuring the likes of GNOD, Flamingods, Carlton Melton, Sex Swing and Mugstar it’s a record that works as both a real collector’s find, for those who already have an affinity for alternative UK noise, monolithic slabs of death fuzz guitar and grinding, spiralling and droning loops, but also as an excellent opening introduction to that world and some of the genres chief pioneers. Despite the variety of the 14 artists involved, ‘For Nepal’ still possesses a nice cohesion, too – the album can erupt in depthcharge-like explosions one moment and then be simmered down to a gentle ripple the next, with stretched textures and slowed-down groggy grooves. It’s a constantly shifting, evolving and unpredictable voyage, and all for a good cause.
In a strong year for country-leaning indie rock types – think Karl Blau’s tremendous latest, or the relaxed, rootsy triumph of Whitney – the sixth Health&Beauty album seems to turn the very notion of Americana on its head. ‘NO SCARE’ comes with some recognisable alt. country trappings (the space, the pedal steel, the winsome vocals of frontman Brian J Sulpizio), but rather than the Mojoapproved “Cosmic American Music”, this is decidedly Cerebral American Music.
Each song crackles with diversions and genres that the album’s sub-thirty-minute running time seems ill-equipped to contain. Opener ‘Back to the Place’ somehow takes in Death Cab, Sufjan Stevens, and Nels Cline’s free jazz flights of fancy in the space of little over two minutes. Only the unashamedly tradsounding ‘I’m Yr Baby (for Aaron Swartz)’ dares to truly stretch out, unravelling its sprawling beauty for eight minutes. This inability to sit still is ‘NO
SCARE’’s most fascinating and frustrating feature. You could listen to the micro-tonal harmonies, raw Silver Mt Zion angst and bluesy Neil Young-inspired undertones of ‘Beyond Beyoncé’ twenty times and still not see its ersatz-R&B coda coming. It’s impossible to argue that Health&Beauty are anything other than supremely talented and inventive. It’s only slightly less hard to wish that, even on so short an album, they’d tightened their focus a little.
0 7/ 1 0
Health & Beauty No Scare Wi c hi ta By al ex w isgar d. In sto res a ug ust 5
Dinosaur Jr Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
Stephen Steinbrink Anagrams
Blood Orange Freetown Sound
Terry Terry HQ
Do mi no
upset the rhythm
B y k ati e b e swi c k . I n st o res no w
By k at i e b e sw ic k . In sto res n o w
B y j o e g o g g ins . I n sto r es n o w
There’s music that one can enjoy, objectively – be moved by, even – music that one can see is ‘good’ or even ‘excellent’ in concept, form and delivery, but that wasn’t written for you. The musician had someone else in mind: someone more sensitive, more recently wounded, more overly taken with rhyming metaphor. Stephen Steinbrink’s ‘Anagrams’ was written for me, and maybe you, too – especially if you’re a fan of Elliott Smith’s easylistening sound and emotional heft. I was hooked, from the first chord, despite it seeming an unlikely prospect before I pressed play, what with the promotional blurb, all sincere and full of the usual clichés (“inspiring”, “unflinching”) about recovering from addiction and madness. But this is a joyful album; redemptive, true and full of insights that might have been plucked out of my diary, had I kept one. “Left reality 2002,” Steinbrink sings on ‘Psychic Daydream’, the best song I’ve heard all year: “thought that everyone was hating you.” I don’t know how Steinbrink, who’s been touring the DIY circuit forever, could improve what he’s done here, on his first LP made in a studio. I’m smitten.
‘Freetown Sound’ – the third album to come from Dev Hynes as Blood Orange – is a mixtape mashup of the personal and political, as confusing as it is inspired. Hynes is something of a Jack-of-all-musicaltrades – songwriter for the starscum-solo-ar t ist-cum-composercum-producer of charity gigs (last year he curated two sold-out charity shows at the Apollo Theatre) – and this professional nomadism is apparent on this record. It’s a complex collage of voices and ideas, layered with references to musical and political movements and specific historical periods. At its best, it is clever and twisted: carefully choreographed layers of timeless pop that build to offer a searing critique on the shitty state of the world (see the opening ‘By Ourselves’ and ‘Desiree’). But there are some bum-notes too, and at its worst (‘But You’, ‘Hands Up’) ‘Freetown Sound’ is trite and mawkish and far too sugary sweet. Then again, this is a kaleidoscopic tour of Hynes’ inner world, and who am I to say that he’s not as sweet as he is clever?
There’s always that strange expectation that ‘supergroups’, for want of a better word, should sound like some weird amalgam of the bands that they draw their members from, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that isn’t actually the case. Consider Terry one of the rare exceptions to that rule, though; this Australian outfit is comprised of players from Total Control, Dick Diver and UV Race, and you can tell. Their debut LP, ‘Terry HQ’, is scored through with a melodic punk sensibility that plucks from all three bands; ‘Hot Heads’ burns with nervous energy, ‘Alfred’ and ‘Third War’ rely on a scratchy acoustic aesthetic, and the guitars are raw to the point of screeching on album centrepiece ‘Don’t Say Sorry’. You do get the impression that this is the sound of a handful of musicians getting together, throwing a lot of stuff at the wall and waiting to see what sticks. To be fare, they manage to get away with it, more often than not. With the vocals constantly changing hands, though, there’s little in the way of cohesion, which is one sense of scrapiness too far.
Mac DeMarco has long left behind what he once called “jizz-jazz” – the semi-novelty sound of his ‘Rock and Roll Nightclub’ debut EP, where he slowed his vocals to make them slur like a grotty Chris Isaak. “Slippery, sloshy, funky, underbelly music,” he called it, and if you miss that side of DeMarco, Alex Cameron is now your sleaziest guy in the club. ‘Jumping The Shark’ is a record made by an Australian wrapped up in his own myth-making (he told us last month how he used to disguise
himself as an old man and ride trams all day, where his “business partner” and saxophone player Roy works as a conductor; he has ridiculous T’s & C’s on his site for anyone wanting to interview him). Cameron does indeed slosh his way through it, clearly inspired by Bruce Springsteen but coming off more like Brandon Flowers’ take on Springsteen, if The Killers had recorded on a budget of 5 bucks. By the sound of ‘Jumping The Shark’, that really is the only way to pay
homage – Cameron’s lo-fi approach (the thin electronic drums and blobby keyboards) smacks of a man fully aware of how far he is from playing a stadium, and he revels in the character he’s built for himself: a cabaret underdog sure that he already is “Mr Showbiz” (a Cameron term), if only others would notice. None of this to say that ‘Jumping The Shark’ is a farce – it’s fun, and Cameron is a ham, but as he croons to a stop, “Mr Showbiz” sounds about right.
ja gja gu wa r By davi d zammi tt. In sto re s aug ust 5
It’s hard to believe J Mascis and his band have been back with us for over a decade. Indeed, the purists out there will point out that the original line-up have now made more albums this side of Y2K than they had before, seeing as Lou Barlow left the group back in 1988, after the release of ‘Bug’. But how do a trio with almost 150 years on the clock and a fairly narrow sonic toolbox fare on LP number 11? The answer is: not too bad, but not particularly well either. The tried and tested formula persists; the loud-quiet-loud, clean-distortedclean dynamics, Mascis’s gauche, teenage drawl, and Lou Barlow’s bass chord rumbles. And there are good songs. Lead single ‘Tiny,’ with its Undertones-y sun-drenched power chords is a triumph, while the lurching grunge of ‘I Walk For Miles’ is a success on the opposite end of the scale; a haunting five and a half minutes that’s as dark as the group have ever sounded. In short, if you’re after an album that sounds like Dinosaur Jr did 30 years ago then you’re in luck.
Alex Cameron Jumping The Shark S e cr e tl y ca n a dia n By rac h el r edf e rn. I n sto re s aug u st 19
Ryley Walker Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
MJ Guider Precious Systems
Roisin Murphy Take Her Up To Monto
kr ank y
Pi a s
la st g a n g
B y s am wal t o n. In sto r e s j ul y 1 5
By de r e k r o b e rts o n. I n st o r e s ju ly 8
B y j a m es f. th o mpso n . I n sto r es j u ly 2 2
After a string of EPs and a fleshing out from bedroom curio project to fully fledged studio trio, one might expect MJ Guider’s first album proper to have slightly more heft than the gossamer wisp that permeates much of ‘Precious Systems’: its songs don’t so much start as amble into hazy view, cloaked in reverberations, before dissipating with all the stealth of their arrival. The only disruption to this formula comes on ‘Evencycle’, a ten-minute investigation into short vocal loops and atmospheric fuzz that proves the most arresting moment. That said, when ‘Precious Systems’ is whirring away, it nonetheless retains a soothing, opiate wooziness, revelling in its distance and intangibility, content in its own abstracted soundworld. The overall effect is to experience the album as a lucid dream: the entire set encourages a nervous dissociation from reality, but refuses ever to drift into warming sleepscapes, instead holding the mood in a sort of uncanny hinterland. It’s unsettling, hypnotic stuff, not necessarily pleasant but certainly enthralling in the right context.
So, you think you know Róisín Murphy? By the time she’s solemnly intoning “Humans are fucked” at the end of the slow, taut ‘Thoughts Wasted’, you might not be so sure. “Broken hearts, shattered souls,” she adds for good measure, piling on the pathos. But the emotional burn of the track is typical of Murphy’s approach on her fourth solo album (following a Mercury nomination in 2014), and completes her transition from ice cool Disco Queen to thoughtful, cultured artist. There might be an eclecticism to the nine tracks here that suggest a musical magpie at work, but everything has a rare poise and assurance; from cosmic disco to dark cabaret, to baroque waltz, Murphy rarely puts a foot wrong, imbuing each style and song with her own wit and intelligence. Despite the disparate style on view, it’s compulsive listening, each little avenue she wanders down proving fertile ground for her talents. “The time is now,” she sang back in 2000; 16 years later, if she’s talking about her solo career, that statement is just as true today.
Over the past two years Jesse F. Keeler has risen from the ashes of a hitherto suspended music career like a polycephalic phoenix. After taking time out for family stuff, in 2014 he and Stebastien Grainger finally put out a second Death from Above 1979 record, a decade after the first, and now here’s a third MSTRKRFT (Keeler’s electronic project with Al-P) album nearly seven years after the last. Where the former was arguably worth the wait though, this LP ought never to have arrived in any of our lifetimes: it’s a total disaster, start to finish. Keeler has carried over all the scattershot freneticism from 2009’s ‘Fist of God’ but largely eviscerated his work of any semblance of fun or real danceability. Instead, track after track of interchangeable, atonal analogue synthesiser mutations whirl by, occasionally punctuated by distorted yelps that pass for vocals. There are glimmers of hope, like mangled Daft Punk paeans ‘Runaway’, ‘Playing With Itself’ and moody slow-burner ‘Morning of the Hunt’, but then, it’s the hope that kills you, right?
Angular. Taut. Motorik. Driving. Joy Division. Brooding. A band like Cold Pumas are tricky to discuss without falling into some kind of perverse game of post-punk review bingo. The same references and adjectives pop up time and again in these write-ups, drummed into a critic’s consciousness by years of repetition. And it’s a fucking drain – there’s no way to describe a record like ‘The Hanging Valley’ without resorting to those sorts of descriptors. But then,
most records like this rarely need further elaboration. Cold Pumas’ second album is as brittle as glass, though some edges are smoother; more sedate moments like the Deerhunter-esque ‘A Human Pattern’ and closer ‘Murmur of the Heart’ suggest the four years since their debut have given the band time to reflect, as well as find an extra member, making them four. There are points here where the Hackney-via-Brighton quartet sound effortless, and others where they
don’t seem to be trying at all; the shadows of Curtis, Hook, Sumner and Morris loom particularly large over the pseudo-profound nonsequiturs of ‘Severed Estates’ or the two notes which underpin the Ballard-meets-Burroughs verses on ‘Fugue States’. Yet, the chorus of ‘Open Mouth of Dusk’ (“Black are the clothes you fall asleep in... red is the line I should not cross”) is anthemic and knowingly ridiculous enough to suggest Cold Pumas are capable of more than they let on.
Dean oc ean s By gui a c o rt assa . I n stor e s a ug ust 19
After an acclaimed breakthrough with ‘Primrose Green’ and ten months spent on the road last year, Ryley Walker headed back home to the Midwest with a bunch of songs to work on. Soon after re-settling in Chicago, though, the young songwriter began writing new material, which ended up being the core of ‘Golden Sings That Have Been Sung’, Walker’s third LP. Set aside all of ‘Primrose Green’’s whimsy strains, Walker has finally blossomed into a mature and talented songwriter, putting together eight almost flawless tracks of solid and structured folk, alternating soft acoustic moments like ‘Funny Thing She Said’ to strong and powerful electric ballads like ‘Sullen Mind’. Walker’s new sound, informed by blues, jazz and psychedelia, holds up his typical fingerpicking, adding to it piano, harp, double bass and clarinet to a compelling outcome. We could split hairs noting that, maybe, the vocal parts are slightly lacking in shade, but nothing can really shatter the mellow Midwestern dream conjured by this album.
Cold Pumas The Hanging Valley F aux Di s c x / G r i ng o Re co rds By al ex w isg ard. In sto re s now
Japanese Breakfast Psycopomp d ea d oc ean s By c h r i s wat keys. I n sto re s a ug ust 19
While Philadelphia indie outfit Little Big League were on hiatus their singer and guitarist, Michelle Zauner, put together the Japanese Breakfast project; the songs we hear on ‘Psychopomp’ are revamped and reworked takes on material which existed pre-Little Big League, and in these bright new clothes Japanese Breakfast carries easily as much sonic heft as its sibling band. There is a tragic backstory that sits alongside the genesis of this band – Zauner’s mother had been diagnosed with, and later succumbed to, cancer, and this project is born of that desperately sad time. Yet this is melodic, guitar-heavy indie-pop done exceptionally well, with a
massive nineties vibe, as opener ‘In Heaven’ is a shimmering slice of melody-rich pop, which sounds something like My Bloody Valentine covering the Boo Radleys. It has a chorus that positively shines, and a brief but epic-feeling middle eight, both of which sit in contrast to the more unevenly poised lyrics. Meanwhile ‘The Woman Who Loves You’ is exceptionally poppy and slickly produced, with unadorned synth melodies sitting like a sugary centrepiece front and centre. For the first half of the record, these songs are short, sharp and punchy. (In fact, the entirety of this serving of Japanese Breakfast is consumed within twenty-five
minutes.) And this is how it should be; hits of melody so sweetly intense aren’t meant to be lingered over. ‘Everybody Wants To Love You’ is then like sixties doo-wop pop dragged into the Pixies’ rehearsal room and played on helium, before the record takes a more musically reflective turn later on, exemplified in ‘Jane Cum’, a surprisingly heavy slice of huge-sounding, sloweddown power balladry – something akin to A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’, but drenched in epic guitars and played on thirty-three. More than once, ‘Psychopomp’ gives you thrill of the new whilst ultimately listening to something inherently familiar – the instinctive
and visceral reaction that comes when you hear something that you know is going to stay with you for a long time, and as such, it’s a task to find the weak spots here. This is no one-trick pony of an album, either. Although bolstered in the world of indie rock, the stylistic variance – from pure, reverb-sunken indie and deft and engaging pop, to sombre vignettes like the title track, which features a heartbreaking spoken answerphone message – ‘Psychopomp’ showcases an exceptionally powerful talent in Michelle Zauner, on a superbly made debut that’s fizzy and thrilling, deeply reflective, and consistently compelling.
Wild Beasts’ enduring evolution has quietly made them one of the country’s most consistent bands. From the outsider pop of debut album ‘Limbo Panto’ and the sexual restlessness of ‘Two Dancers’ to the stripped back ‘Smother’, they’ve progressively harnessed the ostentatious intent that both coloured and, at times, cloyed their early releases. Their previous record, ‘Present Tense’ was a definitive, progressive marker – an album that saw the band
explore the distance between analogue and electronic – and ‘Boy King’ feels like the culmination of that search. As a result, there’s a voltage that courses throughout, giving ‘Alpha Female’ and ‘Eat Your Heart Out Adonis’ a dark electro edge. It drives ‘He The Colossus’ with binary simplicity, and pushes opener ‘Big Cat’ into the sighing electronica of Junior Boys. It’s an approach made all the more endearing with Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming’s vocal dovetail
continuing to blossom – where the latter’s soft tones emerge on the beseeching ‘2BU’, Thorpe’s oral acrobatics drive standout ‘Celestial Creatures’ with the power and purpose we’ve greedily come to expect. It’s a brilliantly soft evolution of the rich creativity that made ‘Present Tense’ run so deep, and a fresh take on the electricity, funk oddities, lovelorn supplication and familiarly bold intent that make ‘Boy King’ an album that only Wild Beasts could have made.
Wild Beast Boy King Domi n o By r eef y oun i s . In sto re s a ug ust 5
is for Exploring With the two largest stages at Primavera now facing each other for the biggest names to flip-flop back and forth, the temptation is to stop there for the weekend and just turn around on the spot. Try not to do that – Fitbitters are rewarded for making it to the indoors Hidden Stage for Cat’s Eyes’ late booking, the Beach Club (that really is miles away), and the Adidas Orginals stage, which goes toe-to-toe with Pitchfork for new music.
is for “For a minute there...” Even for the minority who feel that Radiohead’s Friday night marathon was contrary to a fault (me included – see ‘R’) there’s no denying that at a festival such as this, which is low on joyous sing-a-long moments, the coda of ‘Karma Police’, quite tunefully cooed into the night sky by 30,000 worshippers, is an envious moment to be part of.
is for Air
is for ‘Currents’
Talk about programming. Air get Primavera 2016 going in earnest with a big-stage sundown set that celebrates their 20 years of louche electro pop, which remains unparalleled. The band all wear white, as if to accentuate how effortless they’re finding all this – a breeze of songs from ’10,000 Hz Legend’, ‘Moon Safari’ and even ‘The Virgin Suicides’. It’s finally dark when they deliver a one-two of ‘Sexy Boy’ and ‘Kelly Watch The Stars’, which causes me to inadvertently hit a stranger in the face. They don’t even notice.
That’s the name of Tame Impala’s 2015 LP, which Kevin Parker appears to play through twice, and so by-the-book you start to wonder if the album’s being piped out from the sound desk. He mixes up the order (he’s not that daft) but while the massive crowd are wowed by this accessible arena psych, it doesn’t feel massively out of Kasabian’s reach whenever they choose to curse us with another record.
is for Dora The Explorer
is for Beach Club Primavera added a new Beach Club to their ever-expanding site, this year. It’s worth hiking there over a bridge and past millionaires’ super yachts, too, for the bespoke Bowers & Wilkins soundsystem, that allows you to stand in the centre of the tent and whisper a conversation while still feeling the deep bass. God knows how.
Not the real Dora The Explorer, of course – a balloon version of Dora The Explorer that floats up and up from the crowd at the exact moment that Brian Wilson starts to play ‘Good Only Knows’. It’s the most poignant and beautiful moment of the weekend, and – presumably – a perfectly timed stunt from a recent balloon owner who’s probably proposing to their partner right now. I’d have applauded if there wasn’t something in my eye at the exact same time.
is for Gimmicks There’s never much in the way of silliness at Primavera, and while that helps keep the stag dos away, all this serious business of “is ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ a truer extension of Radiohead’s evolution than ‘King of Limbs’?” can get a bit, y’know, Radiohead-y. Good news, fun people! There’s a new karaoke booth shaped like a campervan (hmmm), where people murdering ‘Mr Brightside’ is broadcast on external screens, and a Blind Date Booth, which is basically a shed with two doors, and a queue leading to each of them. On second thoughts, how about Johnny Greenwood’s new chaos pad, eh?
is for Hush The cult of Radiohead giveth and taketh away. Collectively, we earn the ‘Karma Police’ hymn because we all behave ourselves and are stony silent throughout the quieter moments from ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’. 30,000 drunk and high people packing it in is equally as arresting as enjoying a polite sing with one another.
is for Insufficient hip-hop artists Vince Staples, Action Bronson and Pusha T aside, Primavera’s unusually precise hip-hop lineup seems a little tepid this year, overshadowed by the grim reason for Freddie Gibbs’ no show, after he was arrested in France on a sexual assault charge.
is for Just what is Alex Turner doing up there?
Put plainly, he was dicking about, in a white vest, thrusting his balls into the camera for the video screens. C’mon Al, for Miles’ sake, yeah?
is for DJ Koze As the sun rises over the Med and fatigue turns to delirium, the perfect recipe for euphoria is daft filter house, splashes of disco and unashamed party classics. Drinking Dutch lager, watching a German DJ play French house in front of a Spanish sunrise – an we voted to leave Europe!!???
is for LCD Soundsystem The best performance of the weekend. James Murphy fine-tunes the band as they go, repositioning a mic here and dialling down an amp there. The songs sound as fresh (and fun) as they ever have, with a bonus reminder of what a unique vocal the group’s leader delivers as he barks to these tight jams that are 100% live and naturally raw. It’s so good I have to go home once it’s over, and not because it’s 3am.
P HO TO GR A P HY: D a n i C a nto / E ric P a m ies words : S t u art st u bbs
A–Z of Primavera Sound 2016
At least that’s how I interpreted the comical cameo that comes and goes throughout U.S. Girls’ set. As Meghan Remy performs her feminist outsider pop with no little amount of passion, she and her backing vocalist are sporadically joined by a dude in a massive white Stetson, with a guitar, who shreds over tracks as Remy either melodramatically cowers from him or shoos him away. He then dips back behind an amplifier. He pops up three times in all, just in case you thought it was heatstroke.
No one really knows how Brian Wilson performing ‘Pet Sounds’ is really going to go. Most assume it might be a bit sad, on account of a legend in deteriorating health, but no one wants to miss it either. Wilson’s band is, of course, loaded with skilled players (including Al Jardine) who make ‘Pet Sounds’ really sing, from beginning to end. Wilson’s vocals are plenty strong enough too, and the innate joy of the occasion is never-ending as the band follow the album with Beach Boys’ greatest hits. They also play ‘Monster Mash’, seemingly for a bit of a laugh.
is for Michael Gira Look-a-like
is for Pet Sounds
is for Queuing There’s not much queuing to be had at Primavera (not even at the bars, which are massive and staffed by thousands), but the festival does now have a golden circle. Queue for it at your peril, and miss the triumphant pro Euro oomppah of Beirut across the site.
is for the Number of Brits There’s a lot of us this year. Not necessarily a bad thing (Brits are great), but it’d be a shame for our lot to inadvertently push out the Catalans from their own party. Most likely the Anglo surge is down to the inexcusable price of Radiohead tickets back home. Even then there are hordes of people with ‘need a ticket’ placards at the gate on the night they headline.That NEVER happens here.
is for Opening Party A word of advice: if you’re looking at the line-up poster next year and presume that all the bands listed will play the main body of the festival, from the Thursday to the Saturday, that’s not strictly true. Over the years Primavera’s opening party on the Wednesday night has mushroomed and is now officially part of the celebrations. Those unaware of that missed Goat and Suede this year. The same rule applies for Sunday night closing parties.
is for Radiohead Here’s the thing about Radiohead’s (long) performance – it takes an hour to get going, because it’s top-heavy with material from their last two albums, and even then it never flies. Yeah, yeah, I’m sure it’s a masterclass in technicality, and Johnny Greenwood is genuinely magnetic, but LCD made 2 hours feel like 40 minutes – Radiohead make time stand still... like it does in old people’s homes.
is for Ty Segall’s stage buddy However much they want it, whenever a fan makes it onto the stage they usually don’t have a clue what to do with themselves once they’re up there. Not this guy Manny, who gets Jim Morrison on us from the front row, causing Ty to swap places with him – Ty the wrong side of the crash barrier, Manny fronting a meaty rendition of ‘Feel’, which sounds more like the Beastie Boys. Whenever Manny isn’t screaming on his knees (he’s too wasted to remember the words), he’s poking the rest of The Muggers with a drumstick he’s found. Then Manny is back to slurring “I am your mother,” and something about babies.
is for U.S. Girls Versus Adidas The most refreshing thing about Meghan Remy is how she brazenly refuses to tow the party line. Still, when she calls out Adidas from their own stage (they asked her to wear one of their tracksuits, but refused to give her one for free – “We’ve all got to stop doing free shit for big corporations,” she rallies before shouting out her full address, expecting Adidas swag to be waiting for her when she returns home to Toronto) the cheer she receives should be a lot more convincing than it is. Instead most people blush and shuffle in their Sambas.
is for Sponsors Yeah, Primavera is becoming more and more heavily sponsored, with one of the two main stages now stamped with H&M logos. Your options here are to slope around the site grumbling about corporate dollar, in jeans from ASOS and an Urban Outfitters baseball shirt, or to realise that, actually, Primavera are putting all this cash to good use (the opening party on Wednesday is free to all non-festival goers and the people of Barcelona). And it’s not as if they’ve started booking The 1975 over PJ Harvey. Let’s worry once Shellac get turned away.
is for Weekend Crowd By the time Primavera ends on the Saturday, the rest of Barcelona is off from work and ready to party. Seems like most of this new, hyped crowd either aren’t so impressed with ‘V’ and/or don’t go for ‘H’ either, as things get chatty for Sigur Ros. The festival routinely ends, though, in a Catalan carnival, which is pretty good.
is for Xylophone There really was at least one xylophone at Primavera, which was telling of LCD Soundsystem’s approach to these comeback shows, and, by extension, everything they’ve always been about – details. They’re lugging this bit of kit around (and many other instruments they could easily omit) for one very brief appearance in their set. Although maybe ‘Someone Great’ wouldn’t be such a weepy high on a synth.
The thought of Sigur Ros closing out the main stage of any festival is pretty underwhelming (it’s hardly one last dance, is it?), but word is that they’ve got something pretty cool to show us, and their new light show is the visual high-point of the whole weekend. If I told you that they played behind an electrified gauze that lifted up and down and flickered between shapes and colours, dark clouds and red lazers, does that sound good? Probably not, but then that’s the point with an audio-visual show that could have been commissioned by MoMA. You should just go and see it.
Here we are at ‘youth’ again. Not a stellar show from the young’uns, but up on last year, spearheaded by Julien Baker’s coming-of-age folk tunes, which brings us back to ‘H’.
is for Visuals
is for Youth
is for Zapow! The sound the blown PA makes as Tame Impala’s album overloads the system. Their recovery is quite something, though – after 20 minutes of nothing, the band walk back out and restart the song mid sentence. So does that mean it definitely was a CD or definitely wasn’t?
Autolux The Dome, Tufnell Park
Olga Bell The Waiting Room, London
13 / 0 6/ 20 16
1 4 / 06 / 2 01 6
wr iter : j ames f. tho m pso n
w r it er : Sam walt o n P h o to g r aph er : m a x p h y t h i a n
There’s something of the precocious toddler giving a living-room performance to her parents at Olga Bell’s debut London headlining show: all the energy is going in one direction, and Bell’s eagerness for approval – flamboyant dance moves thrown before a motionless crowd, and awkward ad libs (“this one’s for all the existentialists in the house!”, “we’re all pretentious hipsters!”) – occasionally borders on the desperate. Applause that ranges from the polite to the enthusiastic follows each song, but more often than not it comes after a beat of silence that perhaps betrays the true emotional investment of the room: Bell’s latest album would be tough to recreate live with even the most bulletproof of full bands; instead, performing alone and scattered with flecks of her own unintentional selfsabotage, it falls somewhat flat.
Eyebrows raised when the lead single for ‘Pussy’s Dead’, Autolux’s latest, Boots-produced album, turned out to be ‘Change My Head’, a re-work of a track they first released 15 years ago. The song is an anomalously accessible detour amidst the skronk-fest new record, which makes tonight’s no-show all the more frustrating – and curious – considering the band play eight out of ten of the tracks from the LP. Just as ‘Pussy’s Dead’ could do with more hooks, tonight there’s plenty of Sturm und Drang but without enough pay-off, save for the four fantastic tunes from debut ‘Future Perfect’. Carla Azar’s drumming is superlative, as always, and Eugene Goreshter throws his bass around with giddy abandon but after 15 years, you have to ask, are this LA trio playing for us, or just one another?
Empress Of MOTH Club, Hackney
Tav Falco’s Panther Burns Ruby Lounge, Manchester
14/ 0 6/ 20 16
Aidan Moffat Psychic Ills Village Underground The Lexington, Islington Shoreditch 15/06 / 2 0 1 6
wr iter : gemm a sam ways
wri t e r: e d ga r s mi t h
w r it er : patr i c k g l en
0 4/ 0 5/ 2 0 1 6
02 / 06 / 2 01 6
wri t e r: nat ha n we s tl e y
“Uh oh, what happened!” Lorely Rodriguez cries off-mic, and the elastic synth lines of ‘Threat’ grind to a halt. Though temporarily befuddled by technical issues, Rodriguez regains control to deliver a set bubbling with unstudied enthusiasm and irrepressible energy. Whether violently shaking her curls or darting between her sampler and the front corners of the stage, Rodriguez is rarely still. Bolstered by a percussionist and synth-player, her happy-sad electro pop sounds more vital live than on record too, all thundering bass, metallic beats, and chopped and spliced vocal harmonies. The fact the sluggish Tuesday-night audience doesn’t give a great deal back – except during razor-sharp renditions of ‘Woman Is A Word’ and ‘How Do You Do It’ – is a shame, though thankfully not a dealbreaker.
Imagine the living history of rock and roll as an old jumper; the chunks left missing by deceased greats tempting you to finally bin it. Jam nativists Psychic Ills, integral if unseen, are a thread so deep they’ll survive to be recycled into foodstuffs for future alien masters. Ditching the hip, washed-out look of their native NYC, Tres Warren is in a white suit and Elizabeth Hart and the rest of the duo’s players look similarly like canyon-haunting Manson followers, to match a spanking new pedal steel, which glues the set (and new LP ‘Inner Journey Out’) together. Playing like they’ve just OD’d and are conjuring the audience in a predeath neural circus, they slide a glorious fraction out in the jammed sections, keeping the rest ticking over in the mode of distilled, hifidelity understatement they’ve honed in recent years.
Playing directly after the screening of Where You’re Meant to Be, a new documentary of which he is the star, Aidan Moffat plays a selection of songs from the film, which he originally toured around some of the furthest flung places of Scotland back in 2014. Comprising of traditional Scottish folk songs and ballads, Moffatt has given them a contemporary glean, transplanting the allure and exploits of contemporary metropolitan life into their historic foundations. It’s a performance that weaves between light humour, lurid deeds and poignant beauty. Backed up by a minimal band, it’s Moffat’s voice – often performed solo – that leads the charge of the evening, with it feeling much more like a living room sing-a-long than a traditional gig, capturing the very spirit and environment in which these songs were initially born.
Tav Falco snake dances his way to the front of the stage in a way that belies his seventy years. Combine the lithe skulk with his pale skin and jet black quiff, and he appears quite the vampire. One of the last survivors of his sort, Falco is a living museum of sophisticatedly deranged rock and roll – ‘art damage’ was the term that he once used. With Panther Burns, a group he’s fronted in one form or another since 1979, Falco takes the Charlie Feathers backbone to his music – the foreboding shuffle that underpinned The Cramps – and twists it ingeniously. Tonight he proves a master of making something romantic but spiteful, from the old dirty South of opium dens and whisky, campy pastiche and film noir imagery. Beyond his tribute to ‘you know who’, ‘Ballad of the Rue de la Lune’ had the crowd most transfixed.
W r i te r : A n d re w A n d er s on
The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle (1980)
In 1977, The Sex Pistols were at the height of their notoriety. They’d written and recorded some riotous tunes, been signed to and shoved off two different record labels, and even called Bill Grundy a “fucking rotter” onTV. What better time, then, than to make a film about the band, capturing the charismatic craziness of Lydon, Jones, Malock, Cook and their orchestrated world? Malcolm McLaren, not a man adverse to honking his band’s own horn, took the idea to 20th Century Fox, and Who Killed Bambi? was born. Except it wasn’t, and this article is not about that film. It should come as no surprise that 20th Century Fox pulled the project before it even got into proper production. Two days of filming took place – with softcore impresario Russ Meyer directing – before it all went, appropriately enough, tits up. Fun fact: the script was written by future film critic and Pulitzer Prize winner Roger Ebert, who published it online some years later (it’s probably still out there somewhere). You see, the negative publicity, which McLaren had so cleverly (in his mind, at any rate) created, meant the Sex Pistols were an untenable proposition. Newspapers hated on them, promoters cancelled their gigs and patriotic piss heads beat them up in back alleys. A band that started out being fun suddenly turned serious – and that’s no fun at all.
It all came to an end in San Francisco, with Rotten’s final line “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” a fitting epitaph. Well, it would have been, if McLaren had let the band split up rather than attempting to keep them going without Lydon.The result was a lot of posing, pretending and pissing money away. So with that thought in mind, ladies and germs, I give you the Sex Pistols film: The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. The film is a mockumentary that centres on McLaren – not a good starting point – and the concept is that Steve Jones is a detective trying to track him down and find out what he’s done with all the dough. McLaren pops up throughout the film, often with his small penis out, where he expounds on how he turned a band that couldn’t play into punk sensations and the biggest and worst thing to hit Britain since the Black Death. These he humbly presents as a ‘10 Commandments’ of music management. McLaren plays himself well: a unreformed, unrepentant arse-hole of quite staggering arrogance. No, it isn’t all that pleasant to watch him pontificate. And, no you’re not going to get an accurate picture of why the Sex Pistols were so good when they got it right. But yes, you will still be impressed by McLaren’s sheer scumbaggery. It is quite a feat to be stood with Johnny Rotten and Sid
Vicious yet still come off as the unlikeable one. The film takes a loose trip through the band’s history, from crappy early practice sessions to signing a record deal outside Buckingham Palace and sailing down the Thames to the tune of ‘God Save the Queen’ during Jubilee week. As I said, this is not the place to go for an accurate history of the band (for that try the Classic Albums documentary that is knocking around on YouTube), since the focus here is on McLaren-asmaster-manipulator and singular reason for the band’s success. Of course, the real truth is that it was Lydon’s clever lyrics, Jones’ tight guitar playing, Cook’s solidity, Matlock’s songwriting and, yes, McLaren’s instinct for infamy, that made them such a short-lived but long-remembered band. What I have written so far gives the impression that there is nothing worth watching here, which is wrong. There is a section where Cook and Jones visit Brazil and record several songs with Ronnie Biggs that is worth it for its I-can’t-believe-thatreally-happened wonderfulness. There’s the famous bit where Sid performs a perfectly appalling version of ‘My Way’ before shooting the crowd – a sad foreshadowing of events soon to unfold for him. Even some of the McLaren-inspired bondage bits aren’t bad, like a rather funny guitar flagellation scene.
There are also some quite crap parts I’ve passed over. Clearly short on content and concept, the film makes extended use of the band’s music videos, along with some live cut before Lydon quit. This stuff is good for a single sitting, but it doesn’t half drag at feature film length. Some of the story is told through animated sequences that must have looked lazy and dated even in 1980 when the film was first released, let alone 40odd years later. So what can we learn from this piece of cinema? I think the main thing is that a punk spirit/attitude/ ethos – call it whatever you want – isn’t much cop unless it is backed up by good art. The Sex Pistols might have been brash, brazen and on occasion truly tasteless, but they also made amazing music. For all McLaren prattling on how the band couldn’t play, the fact was they really could. And Lydon, bless his butterloving soul, wrote the kind of clever lyrics most punk bands would pull out their Prince Alberts for. Without those songs, the kind of punk the Sex Pistols were pushing promptly becomes a pitiful parody. Who Killed Bambi? could – and I stress could – have been a fantastic film; punk’s snotty retort to A Hard Day’s Night. Instead we’ve got an occasionally entertaining, but ultimately inauthentic, imposter. No doubt that is just what Malcolm McLaren wanted.
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Party wolf HEN doooooo: When female friends get married, and you’re female too, you’re made to do this...
The agenda A weekend of camping... sorry, glamping, which is camping in a bigger tent with a wired-in light switch. If you’re still wearing your Bestival wristband from 2015, welcome to the weekend of your life... again.
The agenda Newquay attracts swathes of hen and stag dos that all congregate in one timeless club called Sailors. Toby Anstis is DJing the night you’re there. Not as a celebrity booking, you understand – it’s just how the rota worked out.
The agenda Go out with a bang with your final (final!) trip to the island. Ibiza has always been for 30-somethings anyway. Just try not to think about how you’ve been made to pay 2 grand for the hen party of your least favourite friend.
The agenda What’s wrong with renting a stretched hummer, driving up to London, taking in a show and getting on the guest list of Zoo Bar in Leicester Sq? Probably that there’s no mention of feather bowers, right? Of course there’s feather bowers!
make it special with: A Butler In The Buff in your static caravan. His name is Karl, the website must have stretched his profile image, and yes, he’s aware of how awkward you’re feeling right now.
make it special with: A booth at Amnesia. In for a penny, in for a pound... of MDMA.
make it special with: The bottom game!The bride is shown 5 different bums, but which is her husband-to-be’s? Uh-oh, she’s picked B, which is her dad’s arse. And her day is ruined.
make it special with: A hot tub. Everything is made better with a hot tub. Including the Mr and Mrs quiz that there’s no avoiding at these things. Classic Darren, he got all the questions wrong. Bless him... nah, he does love her, though. Can mum come? Sure, mum can come. But only for one night. The best mums will insist on that matter.
Can mum come? If she’s the kind of mum who finds willy straws a hoot, then yes. She can also handle Karl once things get weird 5 minutes after he arrives.
what to wear: ‘Posh frocks and wellies’, for the country pub crawl that ends at the Dog and Duck’s karaoke night. They should cheer up in there.
what to wear: Argh, maaaannn. There are other hen dos in Sailors dressed as sexy sailors!!! Better get shitfaced.
who to befriend: Glamping is usually for a smaller crowd. Good news is it’ll probably only be you uni lot. Phew.
who to befriend: The toughest girl in the club, for when someone thinks you’ve copped off with their 118 and things get lively.
Can mum come? Absolutely not. Are you fucking crazy?! what to wear: Whatever you like, but remember, when a fellow ‘hen’ (urgh) pays you a compliment, you have to say, “Oh, this is literally so old, and cost, like, £5 from H&M.”Then compliment them. who to befriend: Turns out the bride’s quiet friend from work is gifted at telling pricky blokes to fuck off. You also both LOVE the pizza they sell by the pool more than everyone else. Hen dos are the best, for moments like these.
Can mum come? 100%. And aunties. It was them who suggest The Bodyguard The Musical – you could hardly wander around Soho in devil horns and winter coats without them 100 yards behind. what to wear: Comfy shoes. There are 65 Aberdeen Angus Steakhouses in Piccadilly alone, and no one can remember which one your table is booked at. who to befriend: The drunkest aunty, of course.
I feel so self conscious, swimming. I’m sure no one’s looking at me, though. Course they’re not. Get over yourself, Mick.
It’s your bum, mate. It’s sticking right up out of the water. Yeah, it’s your big bum.
Disclaimer: The representations of the persons herein are purely fictitious
Photo casebook: The inappropriate world of Ian Beale