Page 1






The North East’s creative community are still active and in need of support, we’ll try to round up as much of the interesting and useful stuff as we can






There may not be any launch parties, but there’s still some great music being released by local artists (and some virtual gigs!)


In-depth conversations with musicians, artists, filmmakers, comedians, theatre makers and creatives


We celebrate our 14th birthday with a free compilation album, available for download via Bandcamp, featuring some of the most exciting artists in the North East








Editor Claire Dupree Website David Saunders Creative El Roboto Advertising Claire Dupree Stay social, connect with us NARC.magazine @narc_magazine @narcmagazine


29 LAURENS COURT Photographers Calum Bruce / Tracy Hyman / Thomas Jackson / Idene Roozbayani / TJmov Cover Image Vicky Markham Contributors Andrew Bailes / Paul Broadhead / Paul Brown / Mark Corcoran-Lettice / Laura Doyle / Mollie Field / Lee Fisher / Ewan Gleadow / Lee Hammond / Jon Horner / Tracy Hyman / Emily Ingram / Eugenie Johnson / Jason Jones / Beverley Knight / Ben Lowes-Smith / Jay Moussa-Mann / Kate Murphy / Ikenna Offor / Stephen Oliver / Nicola Owen / Paul Ray / Helen Redfern / Damian Robinson / Elodie A. Roy / Steve Spithray / Jamie Taylor / Ali Welford / Cameron Wright


Live reports from Supergrass, Elvis Costello, Martha Hill, Homeboy Sandman, Jon Hopkins, Behold A Pale Horse and more


Demo reviews of Sandy & Ziad, RiverSyde, Odin Coleman, Mr Bigfoot and 4 Mile Drive


Reviews of singles by Sophia, Julie Grant, Fowl, Sid Bano, Lazy Rave, Birdman Cult, McCormick and Paige Temperley, plus EP reviews of tired eyes, Kenny Cadence and Sleeping on Television


NARC. Magazine, John Buddle Work Village, Buddle Road, Newcastle, NE4 8AW Tel: 0191 226 7980 Email: Web: Published monthly by NARC. Media. Printed by Reach Printing Services, Middlesbrough. Distributed by CSGN All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without permission from the publishers. The opinions expressed in NARC. belong to the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of NARC. or its staff. NARC. welcomes ideas and contributions but can assume no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or illustrations


New releases from Max Bianco & The Blue Hearts, Ajimal, DMA’s, Thundercat, Gregory Porter, Bury Tomorrow, Enter Shikari, Yves Tumor, Marker Starling, Sir Richard Bishop and many more


Phil Layton from Middlesbrough’s Play Brew Co talks about some of his favourite songs

Next Issue Out 29th April

FROM OUR EDITOR These are sad and surreal times indeed dear Constant Readers, and I’d like to extend my personal best wishes to you and yours. All the words that could have been said, have been said by those wiser than me (and, let’s be honest, a fair load of absolute bullshit has been said too, but that’s not quite as poetic). I’m not going to use this space to tell you things you already know (WASH YOUR HANDS! STAY INDOORS!), as I see it, our responsibility is just to simply continue to be here for you – as readers, musicians and creatives of all stripes. It has long been our mantra that we exist for YOU, without you (collectively) there is no need for US; we need you in order to exist. With that in mind, we are determined to continue in our commitment to support the individuals and businesses that need our help in getting their messages out there. It is our responsibility to shine a light for those who find themselves in a dark place. The region’s creative community may have never been so fragmented, but we are also intrinsically connected. It’s not just the ongoing crisis which unites us, it’s our belief that what we do, collectively and individually, is important. In all honesty, it’s this attitude that’s kept me going over the last couple of weeks. As advertisers were steadily forced to cancel their commitments; as I watched red strike-through lines appear across my content spreadsheet; as our distribution outlets pulled down their shutters and I felt the heartbreak of every one of our friends’ business closures; as I faced up to the fact that for the first time in 14 years we wouldn’t publish a physical magazine; and as I feared for the future of my livelihood, alongside so many others. I won’t tell you I’ve dusted myself off and come out of it with a positive message for you; that’s simply not true. But what I have done, and what I’m absolutely determined with every fibre of my being to continue to do, is to BE HERE to tell your stories, because they’re so incredibly important.

So consider this your call to arms; and if you’ll forgive the cliché, help us to help you. Get in touch with us through whatever means and tell us your story. Tell us about your music, your writing, your film, your dance, your art, your comedy, your acting, your blogging, vlogging, streaming and your beautiful creativity. We want to know about it all. So to the here and now, and while you may not hold the usual beautiful bundle of paper in your hands, you do – thanks to the ever-wonderful skills of creative director Vicky Markham – hold a digital copy of the same beautiful little world we have created. I’m still figuring out the limitations and surprising benefits (clickable links!) of this format, so I hope you’ll bear with me a little. I’m delighted to say that this month, despite the vast majority of our content going in a big folder called CANCELLED STUFF, we still have a packed edition for you; we have decided to still print the interviews our talented writers spent so long toiling over, mainly because the artists, creatives and musicians still have stories to tell and interesting things to say, and we know you haven’t got much else to do so you may as well read them (Another benefit: emojis!). We also celebrate our 14th birthday – and I’ve been heartened that people have been singing happy birthday to me for weeks now, strangely when I’m in public bathrooms… (sorry) – so I’m delighted that we can offer you a free download of our annual compilation album, featuring some of the region’s most exciting musicians (see page 31 for your download link). We also have a couple of features that might help you to make sense of the strange world we find ourselves in, including tips on self-care and some ideas on how you can fill your time. We’ll be keeping a permanent feature in the magazine about what’s happening locally and in the creative community: find Reasons To Be Cheerful on page 4. For the foreseeable, this is what we can offer you, but we’ll be doing our damnedest to make it the best little bundle of pixels you can hold in your hands. If I may, I’d like to ask one thing of you; please share this magazine with anyone you feel might be interested in reading it. Help us to get the stories of our creative North East out to the furthest reaches of the region and beyond. We hope our cover image, featuring the names of our friends who find their doors currently closed, speaks for itself. Stay safe Claire



REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL WORDS: CLAIRE DUPREE / EUGENIE JOHNSON It’s not all doom and gloom out there; when the situation is challenging, artists always find a way to create. Here we’ve compiled an ever-growing list of places for you to seek entertainment, sustenance and advice, with an emphasis on independent North East businesses.

STREAMING, VIRTUAL VIEWING, PARTICIPATION & MORE Teaming up with Pedestal VR, Tyne & Wear Museum and Archives are offering virtual tours of Great North Museum: Hancock, giving you access to their biology and ethnographic stores as well as their Ice Age to Iron Age gallery. You can still visit Newcastle's Discovery Museum in virtual form, as a variety of their exhibits and rooms are available to look around for free via Google Arts & Culture. If you need an artistic fix, go for a jaunt around the Laing Art Gallery's extensive collection on Google Arts & Culture. Artworks at Middlesbrough's Platform A Gallery are available to view online. Its diverse range of exhibitions, including current works by Leslaw Tetla, can be enjoyed in glorious 3D via the Artland website. Newcastle’s Side Gallery are asking for suggestions on how digital content can be produced for their audience. Not only that, but hundreds of their exhibitions are available to view for free on their website. A digital visit to BALTIC is now possible, with all their current exhibitions including Judy Chicago and Animalesque, plus related video tours by BALTIC Crew and other filmed events available to view. Plus there’s a digital version of the recently opened Abel Rodriguez exhibition containing extensive install photography, plus the full 16 minute film Abel. They've also recently uploaded


We've tried our best to be as comprehensive as we can and we’ll update this every month. If you'd like to tell our readers your news, please get in touch: As things seem to be changing on a daily basis at the moment, we apologise for any errors or changes to what's listed here.

the first of their Meet & Make Online videos, featuring artist Mat Fleming. Follow and use #balticconnect to stay plugged in to their activities. Independent Teesside arts organisation Dovetail Joints have launched a virtual gallery and interactive exhibition space for artists to exhibit their work. Submissions and collaborations are welcomed. Slated to take place from Friday 1st-Sunday 3rd May, GIFT (Gateshead International Festival of Theatre) is still going ahead, albeit in digital format. Organisers have been working hard to ensure collaboration and interactivity remain key to the GIFT experience, with a host of talented artists and practitioners providing a vibrant bite-sized programme exploring connection, international identity, sustainability in art and climate emergency solutions. We'll bring you much more info in our May issue. Theatre company Open Clasp have made their production Key Change available to watch for free on their website. Devised alongside women in HMP Low Newton to tour to male prisons, the criticallyacclaimed work presents an illuminating portrait of women in prison. Northern Stage are making sure you can still get your fix of theatrical news and opinions thanks to their podcast which will offer interviews, stories and theatre-related chat. Currently online is a conversation between theatre company Curious Monkey's director Amy Golding, Northern Stage's associate director Mark Calvert and

Young Company associate director Louie Ingham. Listen to the podcast here. From Wednesday 1st April, Eliot Smith Dance Company dancers will be delivering free dance classes, from contemporary to hip-hop and ballet to yoga, tailored for young people, dance professionals and the elderly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday via their social media channels. You can also watch performances from ESD's vast repertoire via their website, and company dancers will be hosting free Q&As. If anyone understands the importance of laughter right now, it's The Stand Comedy Club. With three branches (Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow) and a wealth of excellent contacts in the industry, they're well placed to bring some of the hottest comedians directly to your screens. Saturday Night Live at The Stand will stream live on Saturday 4th and 11th April via YouTube, with more info announced as it happens via their website. Writer CJ Cooke has mobilised a swathe of superb writers for the very first Stay At Home literary festival, taking place via their website until Saturday 11th April. Workshops, readings, panels and Q&A sessions will take place, with events of particular note including our region's own Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, who's in conversation with Maggie O'Farrell, and North East poetry magazine Butcher's Dog's editor Jo Clement who chairs a poetry showcase. With 7-8 events per day, and everything free of charge, it'll be an informative and enjoyable way to spend your time.


Abel Rodríguez installation view, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Image by Rob Harris (c) 2020 BALTIC NARC. scribe Catharina Joubert has kicked off her new podcast series Regeneration Studio with some excellent content exploring how the independent creative sector can weather the Covid19 storm. Future podcasts will explore inspirational stories of business creatives and the positive impact their work has on their communities, with arts and culture at the forefront of her explorations. Listen here. The Star & Shadow Cinema is a much-loved staple of the region's music, film and artistic scenes. While they're regrouping and their volunteers are helping out in the community, they'll also be broadcasting a radio show and invite listeners to get involved with tracks, recorded messages, idents, reportage, mixes and audio treats. Listen via Mixlr here. South Shields actor and pub manager Stephen Sullivan has turned his hand to storytelling on his increasingly popular Facebook page. Storytime With Stevey offers live storytelling with tales for kids and adults, often complete with costumes and unusual props. Running out of educational diversions for the kids? Newcastle-based singing teacher Kate Covell-Bullock is hosting online singing lessons every Monday at 10am for children stuck at home via her Facebook page. Aside from this fair magazine, of course, there's nowhere better to get your local music fix than our region's BBC Introducing programmes. Broadcast on BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Tees on Saturday nights from 8pm, the lovely Nick Roberts (Newcastle) and Rianne Thompson (Tees) will keep you entertained and informed.

When you're as plugged in to the local scene as Stockton's Georgian Theatre, it can be incredibly hard to go dark. The venerable venue and their hard-working team are determined not to let music lovers fall by the wayside, every Saturday they'll be streaming live sets via Facebook from 7.30pm. Artists you can expect to hear from include Shakk (4th April), Kaitlyn Kempen from Komparrison (11th April) and Joe Ramsey (18th April). Keep an eye on their socials for more info as it happens.

Spearheaded by acoustic vocalist Gareth Beddard, a group of North East musicians have banded together to provide entertainment via Facebook page Live Jam @ Lockdown. Their aim is to bring performances from across the UK, festival-style, with a pre-booked roster of performances. Artists are able to add a digital 'tip hat' but the main aim is to share and enjoy live music. They're hoping to run the project every weekend across the lockdown period.

We Shall Overcome kicked off in 2015 in response to the government's austerity cuts, and have been using performance and musical events to raise money for a variety of food banks, outreach organisations and crisis centres. In continuing their good work, they'll be hosting WSO Isolation Festival, an all-day virtual gig on Facebook on Saturday 11th April. Musicians and poets will perform in their own homes, beaming their performances straight to interested viewers, from midday to midnight. Performers include Grace Petrie, Phil Odgers, Attila The Stockbroker, The Wakes and many more. Voluntary donations are requested at the group's GoFundMe page

Local vloggers NAMI Up North are hosting live takeovers on their Facebook and Instagram pages from North East artists, taking place every evening at 8pm until 20th April. Expect everything from live music to stand-up comedy and spoken word performance.

All systems are go for Lindisfarne Festival, which takes place from 3rd-6th September at Beal Farm in Northumberland. To keep prospective festival goers entertained they present the Lindisfarne Lockdown, a series of livestreamed performances from some of the artists taking part in the festival. So far there's been yoga classes and live music, with poetry, comedy and much more on the way a couple of times a week, all streamed via their Facebook page.

Award-winning composer and regular performer of lunchtime piano recitals back when we were all allowed outside, Steve Luck's talents are still available to those in isolation thanks to his livestreamed recitals, which take place at 1pm every day via Facebook Live. See the link on his page to buy him a coffee in return. Durham-based record label Nice Mind Records are working on a new podcast to add to their series, planning to premiere on Easter Sunday the new show will have a theme of Spring and rebirth. It's also a great place to stop off for info on what their artists are up to. Joining the bedroom acoustic gigs and housebound techno DJs in what is now being called #coronacore (© Ben Myers), ‘Stagger’ Lee Fisher is going to be replacing



L-R Beccy Owen’s Couch Choir; Eliot Smith Dance Company his cancelled DJ gigs with some live streaming. Thursday 9th April was supposed to be his Riddim! reggae night at Ernest but you can catch him online from 9pm. Likewise, his Easter Sunday soul session will be online (with guests!) from 8pm. Online weekly songwriting sessions are taking place of We Make Culture's Young Musicians Project meetings, usually held at Pop Recs in Sunderland. Musicians aged 1419 can can check in for a Zoom session every Saturday from 11am, and sign up for one-to-one songwriting sessions with Marty Longstaff, Natasha Haws and Beccy Young. Email to book a session and check out their Facebook page for more info. Also masterminded by We Make Culture, and hosted by Cornshed Sisters' Jennie and Liz, the Pop Choir Project is going digital. They encourage anyone with an interest in singing to join their fun and relaxed sessions titled Pop Choir Project Lockdown, with the admirable catchphrase of 'when the world goes weird, we will keep singing'. They'll regularly post videos of songs to practice and the choir will 'meet' regularly via Zoom. See their Facebook group for more info. Singer-songwriter Beccy Owen, whose debut album with The Refuge came out last year, is hosting Couch Choir, an inclusive, pay-as-you-feel pop-up choir taking place every Sunday morning via Zoom, giving the chance to (literally) harmonise with others even as social distancing sets in. Sign up by emailing


CROWDFUNDERS, CHARITY INFO, COMMUNITY RESOURCES & OPPORTUNITIES Curious Festival is set to celebrate its fifth birthday this year and they are continuing in their mission to develop LGBTQIA+ arts and audiences. They've launched a crowdfunding campaign to help make Curious Festival 2020 happen, which will be open until 6th April. Independent theatre Alphabetti have made an appeal for donations while their income is frozen. Committed to supporting their staff and reopening once the crisis has passed, anything you can spare will be appreciated. While government assistance may be of some comfort, it's still a worrying time for our region's music venues, with many independent businesses still dealing with large overheads just to keep a roof over their heads. Beloved Ouseburn venue The Cluny are staying true to form and promising four weekend showcases of superb live music when life returns back to some semblance of normality. Dates and line-ups are TBC, of course, but they're encouraging advance tickets to be bought via their Crowdfunder page, for what will no doubt be some of the most anticipated comeback gigs around. Don't miss out! Local treasures like Newcastle Castle, which operate on a charitable basis, will be hit hard by the current situation. Support them until they can reopen their doors by donating a few pounds. Arguably, without rehearsal rooms there would be no music scene. While our region's rehearsal spaces are currently closed there may still be ways you can support them.

Friends of First Avenue Studios have set up a GoFundMe page to keep the historic space going; celebrating their 30 year anniversary this year, it's a much-loved local studio with a committed team – give them a hand by chipping in to their Fighting Fund, and consider our other local studios and how you might be able to help them in future. The Biscuit Factory are aiming to support their team by asking for donations, however small, via their website. Their collections are also available to browse and any online orders are currently still being processed. The good folks at Sunderland's Pop Recs Ltd. do a heck of a lot more than provide coffee, chats and the odd record sale from their Stockton Road hub. Now the shop has had to close, we urge you to 'forward buy' a coffee or chuck them a few quid via PayPal ( to help them keep up their great work when things get back to normal. South Shields cafe Sea-Change provide sustainable employment for those with autism and learning difficulties, they've got a voucher system in place for those who'd like to support them upon reopening as well as a crowdfunding campaign. Visit their website for details of both. The recently established Artist Food Bank Network is a volunteer-run collective of artists, musicians, studios and galleries who banded together to support the Trussell Trust's local food banks, with organisations hosting collection points for food and non-food items. With the current lockdown situation they're appealing for donations via their GoFundMe page to raise money for the Trust, with donations being split between Newcastle West End, Newcastle East and Gateshead food banks.


L-R Radioh Europa by Action Hero (c) JMA Photography part of GIFT; Curvy Sounds Set up by the Free Trade Inn, the Cumberland Arms and Mean Eyed Cat, a crowdfunding campaign is open to directly support street food traders in the area, It'll allow people to 'prepay' for meals at the pubs' most regular traders, including Shanty Town, Scream For Pizza, Goodtimes Tacos, Cubanos and Catalinas, once the restrictions have lifted. Live Theatre are keeping their Creative Opportunities open, ensuring that there will still be productions in the pipeline. Writers for short play event 10 Minutes To... are being sought until 3rd April, the deadline for their £2,000 bursary for story-led theatre-making is open until 30th April, while script submissions for full-length plays are being accepted until 31st May. For more information visit their website. For those working as freelancers in the cultural sector, it's never been more important to stay plugged into networks. The excellent Tyne & Wear Cultural Freelancers Facebook group is a haven of calm, where helpful members post supportive information and advice. It's also a welcoming place to talk about your own project, particularly with collaboration and feedback in mind. The Theatre Fans NE page on Facebook is a hub for those who love watching theatre. Masterminded by the folks who ran Jabberwocky Market pop-up theatre events, it's become a ‘go to’ site for theatre fans and audiences to share resources on online streaming, news about theatre shows in general and theatre-related content and chat. The Sunderland Indie is a networking site for artists and creatives based in Sunderland. Their aim is to help independent artists in the area promote their practice and network with eachother.

An exhibition and performance-based event will take place at Arts Centre Washington from 16th October-7th November. Newly set up collective Come Together NE aim to provide a support network for artists in the region, with fundraising activities at the heart of their plans. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for developments. Musician Ruth Patterson of Holy Moly & The Crackers has written a blog post about cutting her latest tour short due to the coronavirus. It's an honest reflection on her experience of living with disability, and also a heartfelt call to look after those who are chronically ill or disabled and to keep community spirit alive. Stockton’s Georgian Theatre is the cornerstone of the town’s music scene. It’s not just a historic music venue, it’s also home to Tees Music Alliance who do tremendous work in supporting musicians, audiences and the creative industries, and their work in the community strives to support a thriving music scene in the region. Wholly independent and operating as a not-for-profit business, The Georgian Theatre have started a crowdfunding campaign to help them continue their good work.

ONLINE SHOPPING So much more than a musical instrument and repair shop, Curvy Sounds provides a thoroughly important community service to musicians. The Heaton Hall Road shop is determined to help artists in their endeavours to create. Repair work is currently on pause while they catch up with orders, but they will create a collection

service at the shop, arranging a time when customers can collect purchases made online or repairs from the shop doorstep if they are able to. They’ll post all updates on their website and socials and their online shop is available at any time. Netflix and Amazon may have sorted out your viewing needs in isolation, but when things return to normal the lure of the big screen will be hard to resist. We recommend purchasing a voucher for Tyneside Cinema to help see the independent picture house through this rough time. They’re also appealing for donations, which you can do online or by texting TYNESIDE and your chosen amount (10, 20 etc.) to 70085. The #artistsupportpledge is helping artists through a simple concept; they post images of their work that they are willing to sell for up to £200 each (plus shipping) and each time they reach £1000 of sales, they pledge to buy another artist’s work for £200, helping others within the artistic community. It’s never been more important to keep your local record store in business. All our regional stores are able to offer web shopping and deliveries, so check individual pages for information. Some, like Newcastle’s Beyond Vinyl, are also setting up live streams and podcasts. 586 Records Beatdown Records Beyond Vinyl Reflex CD & Vinyl RPM Saxosoul Records Sound It Out Records Vinyl Guru


PREVIEW There will be many philanthropic enterprises out there attempting to raise money to support people in this difficult time. We’ll keep an eye out for those based in the region and with a focus on the arts. Here’s a couple of goodies:


RESTAURANTS WITH DELIVERY SERVICES Artist and producer for Middlesbrough’s Creative Factory, Gordon Dalton has set up an emergency fund for artists on Teesside. Providing a hardship fund for artists, cultural workers, practitioners and creative freelancers that can’t work or have been adversely affected, the Covid Impact Fund For Artists will be available to anyone with a TS postcode. Donate here. The Community Foundation has set up a Coronovirus Response and Recovery Fund alongside other funders to help support community organisations within the region. Through the fund, they are looking to award grants to local charities and communities, helping to reach those that need the most support. Donate here.

If you need further advice and the official sites aren’t helping, try our region’s support agencies and experts... It’s a confusing time for musicians and creatives who may find themselves with cancelled tours, releases put on hold or legal issues to wrangle with. Whatever your query, the good folks at Tees Music Alliance continue to be on hand to offer advice. Drop their resident music experts Chris and Dave an email on Business development agency Generator’s social media pages continue to post advice and support from the many agencies they work with. Keep an eye on their feeds for updates via Help Musicians, PRS Foundation and more. Sage Gateshead continue in their commitment to support early career musicians and emerging artists, even when their doors are closed. Throughout April they’re hosting a series of one-to-one advice sessions via phone or video call covering artist career advice, and work-related health issues (both from Thursday 9th April), plus a webinar on keeping well physically, mentally and vocally (Monday 20th April). Also worth a read is Managing Director Abigail Pogson’s emotive blog post ‘This will only exist in the moment...’ The venue are also running a resilience fund, for those who would like to donate.


Support the region’s independent restaurants by buying your takeaway from them direct. Please get in touch if you’re offering this service (or know someone who is)



Buy direct from some of the region’s best breweries, bars and producers. Get in touch if you’d like to be added to this list.





Patrick Gosling



Words: Tracy Hyman Patrick Gosling is a familiar face on the North East music scene, having previously been the frontman in indie band Far Pacific. Along with the added creative freedom, his solo endeavours have led to the South Shields songwriter working with Boy Jumps Ship’s Jonny Rob, recording three tracks in Jonny’s new studio, Deptford Sound. New single Hollywood is one of those three tracks, a brilliantly catchy piece of observational guitar pop. The hookline in the chorus “She was dancing for fame in Hollywood” will have you singing along for days. The current climate of celebrity and its impact on society is a hot topic for discussion. Patrick looks at the path taken from unknown to celebrity which so many seem obsessed with, along with the subsequent downfall. Lyrics follow a girl and her dreams of making it big, starting simply with gently syncopated, rhythmic guitar before rising to the rich, dynamic choruses. It is a


three-and-a-half minute piece of catchy, upbeat guitar pop. Hollywood is available to download from all major streaming sites from 3rd April. Patrick will celebrate the release at a newly rearranged gig at Head of Steam, Newcastle on Saturday 5th September



Words: Steve Spithray I write this on Sunday 22nd March. The date seems important to note. As we adapt to our new situation, we’re continuing to support bands still releasing scheduled material and continue to provide a platform and give visibility to those still creating. And as March blurs into April, Venus will be the brightest of all the planets in the sky; the Leeds (with a hint of Hartlepool) all-girl rockers release their debut EP Wicked Things on 3rd April. Opening track No Signs is their heaviest yet; crunching riffs are underpinned by Jess Ayres’

deliciously unhinged lead guitar, meaning those early Guns N’ Roses comparisons won’t go away. As the track bounds around from all-out rock and roll, signature drops and subtle electronica, it’s socially charged, a little dangerous and assuredly informed. God knows the world needs a band like Venus right now. But Wicked Things is also the band’s most mature release yet and in Amy they have their first bona fide classic. Those that have heard the track live will know it sometimes struggles to find a natural spot in the band’s increasingly varied setlist, but the recorded version’s long sparse intro has just enough discordant energy pitted with the band’s now trademark atmospherics that the paean to mental health, where Amy is the alter-ego, becomes a prescient soundtrack to the scarily rational panic many of us are rightly now feeling about the world; for fans of Mazzy Starr and PJ Harvey. Bookending things is more minor-pentatonic abandon on You’re Alright, I Guess, a snarling rock club anthem. Aggressive pure punk, dualling guitars and singer GK’s strongest and most vitriolic delivery yet. An early soundtrack to these troubled times. Venus release Wicked Things EP on 3rd April




Words: Claire Dupree Newcastle’s alt. pop agitators Badger gear up to release their sophomore EP, Power And Agility, on Friday 24th April and will present a live-streamed gig on the same day. Made of up beat makers Simeon Soden and Chris Maltby, the duo’s fusion of melody-fuelled

electronica and spoken word culminate in a maelstrom of sound and fury. “Power And Agility is a culmination of two years of experimentation within the sound harnessed on Seize Warfare.” The duo explain. “The opening and closing tracks Narcasm and Sarcissism are a nod to the IDM influenced pre-vocal tradition of early Badger, and sandwich the pre-Apocalyptic anthem Sadboy and the 6am realisation of Grumble. Lyrically, whilst retaining the common existential themes of the first EP, Power And Agility is less patient in its condemnation and lends itself more space to breathe.”

An internal drift of frequential positioning has seen beatmaster-in-chief Simeon Soden (AKA, ako) take a more commanding role in bass canvasing, whilst lyricist Chris Maltby has taken to the higher end of the spectrum with some experimental guitar lines. Their live-streamed gig will take place on Friday 24th April via the band’s and label Kaneda Records’ Facebook pages. Also performing will be improvised psych funk two-piece Psydove. Badger launch EP Power And Agility with a live-streamed gig via Facebook on Friday 24th April





Words: Tracy Hyman Shower of Teeth are a heavy rock band from Newcastle. On the back of two singles Vagabondage and Eccies and Accas, they release their debut album Oranjedoom this month.

Shower of Teeth start as they mean to go on with the opening track Til Death Do Us Party, distorted guitars and racing drum rolls increase in pace until the vocals and guitars come in. Escalating in intensity, it’s a high-paced and ferocious assault. The energy is unrelentless, with vocals screaming across the riffs. Title track Oranjedoom starts with distortion and strummed chords before drums and bass cut across the beats, putting the listener on edge. Heavy and dynamic, their screaming brand of rock music transports the listener to another headspace. These songs were written with the live show in

mind; picture chaotic, frenetic energy, head banging and mosh pits galore; it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Final track Nutbush City Blues starts with ever so slightly painful distorted white noise effects until cymbals join guitars, yielding to more riffs and solo-esque meanderings. A gentle interlude in the middle winds the piece down before ramping it back up again to a climactic ending. Shower of Teeth release Oranjedoom on 12th April

N O R T H E R N A R T. A C . U K


*(DLHE, 2018) (NSS, 2019).






L-R: Sam Neale, Michael Blair, Brian Lonsdale


BEVERLEY KNIGHT TALKS TO NEWCASTLE ACTOR SAM NEALE ABOUT THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED CORONAVIRUS THEATRE CLUB, WHICH ENCOURAGES ACTORS, WRITERS AND DIRECTORS TO CONTINUE TO CREATE Before Covid-19, you could say actors were generally a placid bunch online. Maybe the odd dressing room selfie and motivational quote were shared. Now, as our entire lives are forced to be lived online and in isolation, things are changing. “Now I see a lot of fear and uncertainty, but also a lot of solidarity, pro-activeness and creativity.” Says North East writer and performer Sam Neale, as she gives me the low-down on how her new company Coronavirus Theatre Club came about. Most of her employment comes from regional theatre in the North East. “Honestly, I would have had to sell some of my vital organs, and possibly my children, had it not been for Live Theatre and Alphabetti Theatre and their support. I love performing live, and I love writing for the stage; it’s a massive buzz. The thought that lockdown might ruin some venues and push people into hardship is absolutely devastating.” It’s clear that our region inspires Sam, as she continues. “There’s a sense of community and collaboration that exists because it can sometimes feel like an island here. We are in that sweet spot between London and Edinburgh and therefore not really connected to either, so we do our thing and support each other and keep our scene alive because, well, we have to.” When pal and fellow actor Brian Lonsdale tweeted on Tuesday 17th March ‘Streaming monologues from your bedroom is going to be this year’s War Horse’, it was a half-serious remark, but it started a conversation between Bri, Sam and actor and musician Michael Blair. “We started spitballing ideas of how to stay active, visible, and (perhaps most importantly) sane during isolation. Within 24 hours our new Twitter page had amassed over 1,000 followers, and we’d devised a rough plan of what we were going to do.”

Their aim is to connect writers, actors and directors at any stage in their career who wish to stay active during isolation and create short pieces of work that can be broadcast online. “We put a call out for writers to submit a 10 minute monologue to be given to an actor who learns, records and broadcasts it live from their homes.” The first screening will have taken place on Sunday 29th March, with subsequent performances following weekly (the next will be on Sunday 5th April) screened via their Twitter page. “These may become more or less frequent depending on how quickly we receive material and can attach actors and directors to scripts.” The response has been overwhelming; in just a few days they received 80 plays, and the submissions continue to roll in. Sam reveals: “We are seeing such a wide range of experience come through, from recent graduates to established television and West End performers. The message is clear, people want to keep busy, so we want to help them do that while creating some really interesting pieces of work that audiences will engage with.” Creating a full-length live production with a larger cast and creative team, all done via live streams, is the goal. “We would also like to partner with theatres who wish to broadcast pre-recorded shows that have otherwise been cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We have a community, it will support you, and you can continue to make art if you want to. Join us!” To get involved with the Coronavirus Theatre Club writers should send 10 minute monologues to Actors and directors can send their Spotlight link, CV or blurbs to the same email. Stay up to date with screenings and other news via their Twitter page @ClubCoronavirus





ALI WELFORD TALKS TO THE NEWCASTLE/MANCHESTER-BASED DUO ABOUT THE RELEASE OF THEIR THRILLING NEW KRAUTOPHONIC DELIGHT For a duo who’re not so much a traditional band as an ever-evolving performance piece, it seems apt that Warm Digits’ latest thrilling kaleidoscopic rush should go by the name Flight of Ideas. A typically bustling, technicolour krautophonic delight, the pair’s fourth studio effort raises the bar once more following 2017’s breakout Wireless World - unleashing a blizzard of ravishing hooks, yet never forgoing bold design for the whims of an ever-swelling audience. “Something we’ve always been interested in is the aftermath of the culture of the second half of the 20th Century,” details Steve Jefferis, the duo’s guitar and electronics wizard. “The original idea was to look at the culture of ideas from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and where that idealism ended up. There were all kinds of ideas that had something new, exciting or important about them - but what seemed to happen is that proponents of particular ideas hung on to them so tightly that they then became blind to where they were going wrong or what the limitations of those ideas were. We started to feel that there was some contemporary resonance to this theme. We’re living in a time where we’re all digging in our heels about what we believe and what we understand about the world, often at the expense of our capacity to hear and take seriously people who hold different views to us and come from other sides of the narrative. It


feels like we’ve become estranged from the truth; the rhetorical quality of an argument is often what carries debate, even if it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the facts.” Whilst rarely overt, this timely manifesto plays out over the course of 10 superlative, quintessential Warm Digits bangers, brimming with a vim and rhythmic charge now transcending the role of best kept local secret. Conceived remotely between their bases in Newcastle and Manchester, it’s also a record with which Steve and irrepressible sticksman Andrew Hodson repeat and refine the formula introduced by its predecessor, augmenting their characteristic instrumentals with a diverse roster of guest vocalists. “There was much more back-and-forth between us and the vocalists this time, but the exact process was different for everybody,” Steve reveals. “Rozi Plain for instance did her thing, and then our job was to work out how that music could speak for what we wanted to achieve with this album. Others were much keener for us to shape things for them. For the song we did with The Lovely Eggs, they were in the thick of recording their own album, so Holly was keen for us to get involved with the lyric writing and vocal melodies.” Perhaps most fulfilling of all was The View From Nowhere, a collaboration with esteemed Scottish singer Emma Pollock, issued



as the record’s lead single. “We both enjoy people like Robyn and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and we’ve had the idea for a long time of doing a slower, melancholic disco song with a female vocalist. We thought Emma could work well; the emotional quality of her voice is what’s always got me, both with her solo work and with The Delgados. The song had a title and a very rough idea to it, which she then took and translated into something which to me feels like what she does best, with lyrics which are elusive and emotionally powerful, but quite difficult to pin down as to what they’re actually about. The View From Nowhere turned into more than the sum of its parts, I think, which is exactly what we hope for with these collaborations.” “Then comes the issue of how we represent it on stage…” he continues, delving into the song’s visual accompaniment. “Obviously a lot of our guests can’t join us for live dates, so the question for each song becomes ‘how can we do this in a way which doesn’t pretend the vocalist is there?’ For The View From Nowhere, illustrator Josie Brookes and animator Tom Madge went to film Emma recording the song. They printed out 600 frames of her singing, then hand animated them, so you end up with something that’s physical and has an unreal, stop-motion quality. It’s another joy of what we do -

finding people who do things which are consistent with our visual language, which is quite graphic and colourful.” As the record races to a full-throttle conclusion, the stonking space disco of False Positive (a future live favourite if ever there were one) is followed by one last – mysteriously uncredited – vocal on the propulsive closing title track. “That’s me!” Steve admits. “It’s the first time either of us has sung on one of our records. With a couple of tracks where we were sending melodies or lyrics to the guests, I did a guide vocal to give an idea of what we had in mind. Then Andrew started to say ‘well, y’know Steve, you can actually hold a melody, I think you should sing a song!’ I wasn’t very keen on the idea, but then he started using examples of people – like my favourite band, My Bloody Valentine – who stick their vocals through all sorts of distortion and delay, and have them as part of the mix rather than sitting above it. I still feel slightly ambivalent about it being on there, but Flight of Ideas wasn’t quite working as an instrumental. I think we’ve just about gotten away with it!” Warm Digits’ new album Flight of Ideas is released on 3rd April. The band’s album release show has been rescheduled to take place at The Cluny, Newcastle on Friday 11th September





Image by TJmov


LAURA DOYLE TALKS TO THE NEWCASTLE SONGWRITER ABOUT DEFYING CLASSIFICATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS WITH HIS IDIOSYNCRATIC SOUND MXYM is a lot of things. Goth, indie, emo, Queer, musician, singer, producer, witch – there’s a lot of labels he identifies with. Since 2017, this 23-year-old singer-songwriter has been putting out music that defies classification and expectation. From the melancholic piano ballad Edinburgh, to the grimy electronic hooks of Hard Drive, MXYM has come to represent a whole lot of things. This journey of identity and understanding began a while ago... “I started writing songs in Year 8, but I couldn’t play any instruments. I was just writing terrible poetry. After college came that weird phase of, ‘What do with my life? Do I want to do the thing that I want to do, or do I succumb to capitalism?’ I decided to do what I wanted to do. Two months after I finished college I started learning guitar and immediately started releasing music. Which is a terrible idea, but I did it anyway…” As his career progressed, MXYM found his feet as a songwriter. “My writing got more introspective. When you start to come to terms with yourself, it’s more of an inside battle at first. Dealing with your own inner demons is a bit more complex than, ‘I didn’t get a message back on MSN, what am I gonna do?!’” The exploration of identity is a frequent source of inspiration for many artists, but since heteronormativity permeates every aspect of our society, coming to terms with potentially deviating from this ‘norm’ is bound to throw up some thoughts. MXYM’s newest single, the vibrant glam rock aria Sixteen, is a hard look at early, unrequited love. “Sixteen is about when something in your life happens that changes who you are and your relationship to other people. This is someone who has done something that has affected my way of life. You might


think this person is ‘the one’, but they’re not. It’s figuring out how you can move on from them, because otherwise you’re going to take that into every other relationship you’re in.” Introspective writing leads to honest, vulnerable content that gives the listener no choice but to emotionally invest. This is might be a Queer person talking about their Queer experiences, yet the universality of these themes set to genre-busting music makes MXYM’s work truly accessible. “My dad listens to classic rock religiously. From my mum, I got musicals and the weird music you get on Top of the Pops 1982… And I love musical theatre. My favourite artist is Marilyn Manson – he’s not a Queer person and does not make Queer music, but he has a big Queer fanbase because he feels welcoming to the culture with the way he plays with gender and sexuality. I just like big figures who do big art. Madonna’s Ray of Light, [Bowie’s] Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane: that combining of music and art inherently has some level of Queer to it, and it’s that natural coalition I’ve always been drawn to.” MXYM is perhaps best described as an art project. Every release plays into an anthological aesthetic, which will hopefully one day form their own ‘gallery’ of music and imagery. MXYM’s interesting, unique catalogue makes it easy to forget he is but one person doing what he loves. But, if there’s one thing that remains constant across this genre-spanning discography, it’s honesty. MXYM’s music carries relatability and understanding which transcends identity itself. MXYM releases Sixteen on 6th April



Wambui Hardcastle (far left) with members of Young Company in Where Do We Belong by Pamela Raith Photography

YOUNG COMPANY CLAIRE DUPREE TALKS TO FREELANCE THEATRE MAKER WAMBUI HARDCASTLE FROM NORTHERN STAGE’S YOUNG COMPANY The actors and writers of Northern Stage’s Young Company are unafraid to confront the big questions; their shows Where Do We Stand? and Where Do We Belong? have offered audiences the chance to hear the kaleidoscopic views of the 16-21 year olds that make up the ensemble. They’re currently preparing for their new show Where Do We Go Now?, which it’s hoped will get an airing in the near future. Wambui Hardcastle is a young freelance theatre maker from Newcastle, inspired to get involved with Young Company after witnessing the passion and creativity of the company “It was during my Summer Holidays in 2017. I was scrolling aimlessly and It popped up on my feed. I remember having an almost visceral reaction of knowing that I needed to be part of that group of people. They all looked like they were having the time of their lives while also making super cool work.” She cites the adrenalin kick she gets from performing as one of the key reasons for joining the group, but a sense of community is also important. “The artists I’m a lucky enough to be surrounded by are there because they care. Because they believe in work and what it’s trying to say. Being able to work with people who simultaneously


can inspire you in new exciting ways every day will keep you forever magnetised to an art form.” Wambui explains that Young Company’s productions interrogate the world around us by looking through the eyes of people that live in it. “Sometimes the only way you can explain and raise big ideas and themes is by making them small and bringing them close to home. Where Do We Go Now? is about laughter. And it’s about new world orders – and the possibilities for them to exist. And it’s about change and love and pain – how it resides in us all differently. It’s also about the climate. And capitalism. And dancing! But ultimately the show is about us. Us the human race as a whole, and us, the young people occupying Stage 2 at Northern Stage.” Wambui is vehement in her opinion that the region’s youth aren’t heard enough in a theatrical setting. “Having ‘Youth’ or ‘Young’ in the name is simply a factual description of the people making it – it doesn’t make their thoughts and beliefs any less relevant or worthwhile. Young Company can’t – nor should we – be the only mouthpiece to represent every young person. There is most definitely more to be done here.” While Wambui is less than optimistic about the amount of paid opportunities available to young people in the arts, she’s also grateful for initiatives like Young Company to enable her to learn her craft. “If I can ensure that I am going to be able to make epic, challenging art that matters with people that properly care, then I have found my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” Find more information on Young Company on Northern Stage’s website



PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS RELEASE THEIR THIRD ALBUM VISCERALS THIS MONTH, AND IT’S A BEAST. LEE FISHER SPOKE TO THEM ABOUT SHORT SONGS, GLAM ROCK AND LOO ROLLS These are febrile times (literally so, for an unfortunate few) and when I caught up with Pigsx7, their debut US tour had been pulled because of Coronavirus, and nobody can be sure what happens next. Despite that, the band’s passion seems largely undimmed. “I don’t think the current goings on should sap our enthusiasm too much,” says guitarist and studio ninja Sam Grant. “We were really gutted to have to say no to travelling to the States, but the primary drive for what we do is having fun and creating music. It’s safe to say


that in the current climate, we stood to lose a significant amount of the fun.” The band have said that Viscerals was largely written in the studio and I wondered if this was a creative decision or just a result of their hectic schedule. “Part of going into Blank somewhat blind was due to how much time we’d been touring, we hadn’t dedicated a huge amount of time to writing prior to the ‘hunkering down’ period because of that,” explains guitarist Adam Sykes. “But after King of



Cowards we’d realised that a bit of pressure and time constraint does us good so we weren’t overly concerned about the deadlines we’d set ourselves.” “We had an amazing 2018 and it was far more full on than we could have hoped for,” adds Grant. “So when the time came to have a breather and think about the next record, the window to record was only a few months away. I also had a kid on the way, which added to the sense of ‘let’s do it now’. Giving the situation a positive skew though, we had to look at and approach the writing and recording in a different manner to the previous two albums, and that’s been useful to help give it its own personality. We were again more ‘song’ focused on this album, like King Of Cowards, but with the confidence to explore some different avenues, and look at some more harmonically driven elements within.” After amusing mumblings from singer Matt Baty re: a glam rock direction, Viscerals actually includes their first high-heel-booted steps into that heady world of terrace chant choruses and pancake make-up with Crazy In Blood, huge chorus and all. “I think for the last seven years we’ve all secretly wanted to make a ‘glam stomper’”, admits Sykes, “but we’ve never had the guts to confess that to each other. Maybe Crazy In Blood is that confession.” Another thing you notice about the album is that the songs are even shorter than those on King Of Cowards. Again, was this partly a creative decision. “To a certain extent it was planned,” explains Grant. “Practically speaking, each of us coming with tracks fitted the nature of the

process this time around, and oftentimes that creates shorter pieces. But also, for me, writing shorter tracks is an opportunity to really focus the writing, distil things towards the essence of the track.” “Expect a cover of You Suffer on Album #4,” adds Sykes. Baty has said that the first time he became aware of quite how far the band had come was onstage at the Scala last year (which nearly led to the first recorded instance of a man from the North East shedding a tear). And it’s safe to say, given the fairly uncompromising nature of Pigsx7’s music, that their 6Music-sanctioned ascendancy is surprising. But then even bands like Hey Colossus are making inroads, so something is clearly afoot in the crazy world of ‘noise rock’. Baty explains that while the band are obviously influenced by a lot of metal, it’s more varied than that suggests. ”Of late I’ve been saying to people I’m just as inspired by the likes of Terminal Cheesecake, ILL, Lower Slaughter, The Cosmic Dead, Casual Nun and Luminous Bodies. I suppose there’s also of a lot of people who feel like they’re living through extremely confusing and madcap times, I guess a wider interest in more eccentric music could well be a reflection of that.” Speaking of which, the mighty Luminous Bodies included a tribute to Adam Sykes (called, naturally, Sykes, on their recent Nah Nah Nah Yeh Yeh Yeah album, released by Baty’s Box Records label). “It’s quite the honour,” says Sykes. “That album is nothing short of a masterpiece. Little known fact: there may be a similar, albeit more subtle Luminous Bodies name-check on King of Cowards.” As much as Pigsx7 are a key part of the aforementioned noise rock community, their loyalty to, and immersion in, the Newcastle scene is to be applauded. “We all work and live in or around Newcastle,” explains Grant, “and feel strongly attached to what is, in our opinion, a really amazing city full of amazing people who are never short of good spirit and friendliness. So we naturally feel a need to support and be a part of that where we can. We also have a strong bond with bands, labels and organisers in a number of other cities, whom we’ve grown up with as a band. We want to continue growing with these people, and ideally, be a part of one big ongoing family that has many branches in different places.” Grant admits that there’s a lot of unknowns right know regarding the band’s activities in the immediate future, although thinking further ahead, there are more overseas tours being planned as well as their biggest UK tour in the autumn (including a Northumbria Uni show on Saturday 5th December). And in the meantime? “At the end of the day, it’s just music… our album will still be out there, and everyone can pop it on Spotify at home while they count their loo rolls.” Viscerals is released by Rocket Records on 3rd April. The band play Newcastle Northumbria University on Saturday 5th December






SCOTT TURNBULL JAY MOUSSA-MANN TALKS TO THE NORTH EAST PLAYWRIGHT ABOUT HIS PLAY SET IN AN ALTERNATEREALITY TEESSIDE Scott Turnbull, ARC’s associate artist and creator of Where Do All The Dead Pigeons Go, will return to the stage with a show entitled Tales From The SMOG, an hour-long production with an instantly intriguing pitch: Time is running out for Detective Charlie SMOG. As he falls from the Swallow Hotel in Stockton High Street he considers love, life and whether he left £4.50 out for the window cleaner. “It started as a bit of fun,” Scott recalls. “I wrote a few spooky short stories and made them into weird little horror comics. Before I knew it, I’d created a bunch of oddball characters and mixed up narratives that were funny and slightly unnerving. I thought it would be cool if the stories were set against a supernatural backdrop. So, I created an alternate-reality Teesside where anything can happen.” Reminiscent of the humour and style of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the concept will definitely appeal to lovers of retro, sci-fi and quirky comedy. “I wanted The Smog to feel like a mad old B-movie with elements of Tarantino and David Lynch,” explains Scott. “I watched Twin Peaks again alongside A League of Gentlemen. This helped me create an absurd plot-line with a nice spattering of dark comedy. My favourite novelist is Kurt Vonnegut, so I popped an alien invasion in there and I love Bladerunner, so I set it in Teesside in 2049.”


Scott believes that people go to the theatre to forget about real life. “I wanted to create an alternate reality where aliens and werewolves exist, another dimension where time travel is possible and our possibilities are endless. And even though all these concepts are fanciful, they’re always told from a truthful, human perspective with real consequences for the characters. Teesside 2049 is a distorted reflection of Teesside 2020.” The show features the use of an overhead projector, through a mixture of pre-drawn and live drawings. “I started using the OHP as a storytelling device when I split up with my ex. She got the dog and I got the projector. It’s always been a useful and unique way of communicating my emotions. I often resent how heavy it is especially when I’m carrying it up Northumberland Street, but I love the nostalgic, tactile feel of it. More than anything, I love the fact that you can make an audience fall in love with a drawing.” Scott spent so much time creating the characters that it has allowed him to expand into other formats. “Now I’ve got a handle on what that world is and how it works I can start creating material for other platforms.” In fact, this month sees the release of the wonderfully named Radio Galac-Tees podcast which will feature interviews with Paul Smith from Maximo Park and Ross Millard from The Futureheads. Scott will also be releasing a short comedy sketch detailing The Fictional History of Parmos with Channel 4 and The North East Comedy HotHouse. “I’m constantly trying to create work that’s funny and absurd and hopefully a refreshing alternative to mainstream entertainment. I want Tales from the SMOG to be a good night out.” Keep an eye on Scott’s website for further information on when Tales from the SMOG will be performed







Image by Milo Gough

BEVERLEY KNIGHT TALKS TO THE DIY POP PUNKS ABOUT THEIR BRAND NEW ALBUM A slice of shimmering colour and bubblegum charm can brighten up any day, which is exactly what Charmpit brings to the mix. These DIY pop punks embrace the power of femme, with friendship and social justice high on their list. Admiring their infectious attitude, Anne-Marie, Rhi, Alex, and Estella brought me up to speed with their new album release. Charmpit are an international bunch, as Rhi explains. “Anne Marie and I met at university in Santa Cruz in 2008. I moved to London the summer of 2015, AM was already here and had met Alex by crashing his birthday BBQ.” Autumn saw the band forming as a ploy to fend off winter sadness: “We signed up for First Timers Fest at DIY Space for London. Alex overheard us practising and wanted in.” Estella was a volunteer sound tech and helped Rhi plug her guitar into an amp on stage for the first time: “Two years later she graced our ranks and brought this thing to a whole another level.” Wearing their DIY status with pride, Rhi reveals, “We were born in DIY Space! We like to use the term Do It Together to describe how we approach things.” Debut LP Cause A Stir is released on 3rd April


and is all about the narrative, playful harmonies and sparkling guitar. AM discloses: “We sat our butts in front of the TV and thought about what we wanted to say, like if we had a sitcom or were writing a musical. We thought of Cause A Stir as a silver mixtape, something you could send to a friend as a care package.” Highlight track Do It Together has a sweet uplifting sound with a positive message and it’s clearly the band’s anthem. “When we were writing our first song, Droolin’ 4 U, we didn’t know where to start but knew we were feeling very inspired by Shannon and the Clams and their 60s punk sound.” Rhi reveals. “So we Googled the most commonly used chord progressions of the 60s and used the same three chords in many beloved hits like Stand By Me. We wanted to do something kind of equally simple for this song.” For track Wild Wild Westfield, the lyrics are about their youth and hanging out at the mall. At that time, they never dreamed they would be in a band: “I think we thought about MTV, AOL Instant Messenger, A/S/L and ‘buying’ our first thongs. We had a lot of extra-curricular activities, but no hobbies. If we envisioned a stage then, we would see ourselves as Judy Garland, not with guitars, though we listened to mostly guitar pop bands.” Charmpit release Cause A Stir via Specialist Subject Records. They also have some great merch on their Bandcamp page





Image by Derek Bremner

FOR US IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT TO KEEP IT LOCAL AND KEEP CHIPPING AWAY In what seems like a microcosm, and as a testament to the graft pop trio Peaness have put in over the last couple of years, their energetic, melodic indie pop has captured the imaginations and hearts of many over the last few years, including BBC 6Music DJ Marc Riley. Peaness themselves (up until very recently) have operated out of Chester. “It’s quite nice being in a small town, I don’t think it isolates you from the industry in the way that it may have done in the past, we’ve always been a band who have kept doing something anyway.” Says bassist and vocalist Jess Branney. She speaks highly of DIY festivals and we touch on representation on festival bills and Jess very diplomatically muses “it’s down to the bookers really isn’t it? In the sense that everyone’s got their own personal taste and perhaps the bookers of bigger festivals just have more trad. rock tastes. For me, it’s important that people are just aware of DIY artists, female and non-binary artists, and that their art can be cultivated and supported. I don’t think anyone should be chosen just because they are female, it should be about talent and quality.” Recent release Kaizen (Japanese for ‘change for the good’) is a sugary


rush of positivity; while 2017 single Ugly Veg is an endearingly simplistic call to look to the greater good and collectively work towards a better future. Unafraid to shy away from the big subjects, the band’s track Breakfast was a playful if dejected take on the implications of Brexit. Jess is concerned about the impact visas are going to have on bands of Peaness’ level. “It’s just going to completely suffocate growth, when you’ve already got this circuit of heritage rock acts taking up space. I think the MU should be more pragmatic about it all too.” In spite of these potential obstacles, Peaness hope to embark on the second leg of their first major headline tour and “maybe get round to releasing an album! Who knows!” A testament to their band’s success is their emphasis on the importance of community, and Jess iterates how their work couldn’t exist outside of a community context. She has some sage advice to impart to young DIY artists: “Go out of your way to interact with other people who are in your scene or local area. With Peaness it’s always been a case of friends first rather than using anything high budget. There is trust in these relationships too. For us it’s really important to keep it local and keep chipping away.” Kaizen is out now, and Peaness have lots of great merch on their web store





We spend our childhood years often wanting little more than a bit of stability, and only the occasional experience we’ll later file politely as ‘character-building’. So what do you do when you walk forehead-first into puberty, your mam leaves to join a cult, and you learn you’ve been replaced with witch and wizard weekends and an affair with a tree? Here’s what. You take your thirteen-year-old self by the hand, grab a sausage roll and write a one-woman love letter to Newcastle that will stitch some of your emotional wounds back together, and send audiences out on a fizzing, electro-induced high. Waxa Belta Helta Skelta (currently awaiting rescheduled dates) is the work of Geordie clown, actor and Frisky Arts cabaret performer Serena Ramsey, who’s delved into her past and hit the rawest nerve to deliver a tale of abandonment you couldn’t make up if you tried. Bringing us a play with its own DJ (the music is live-mixed onstage by sound designer TingYing Dong), Serena takes the notion that a story about loss is best handled within the values of traditional theatre, and blows a 3D raspberry at it. “I love the audience to be thrown into a fully immersive world that is a shock to the senses,” she says. “They feel transported, and for an hour can forget some of the stuff that goes on outside those doors. I could have done with that as a kid, and even now as an adult that’s the work that really gets my blood pumping.” Waxa Belta Helta Skelta doesn’t use its escapism as a way out.


Instead, it becomes a way in, and it is through its pseudo-guise as a “trash, cult, Geordie dance electro party” that difficult emotions can at last get some air. At its heart, Serena says, it’s simply “a story of a young girl figuring out why her mam left her.” It’s a story she hadn’t gone near until a year ago. “I spent most of my life bottling up all those feelings of abandonment and anger,” she explains. “I told myself, ‘Face it now or it will just come up later. And hey, why not make something beautiful out of something really tough and uncomfortable?’” In doing this, I wonder what effect it has had on her life outside of the play. “My dad and I worked a lot on the voice-over throughout the show, and we finally got to talk about the grief we had both felt. We would go for a pint and finally be able to chat about how it had affected our mental health. My dad, a big Geordie lad from Westerhope, baring his heart to me and to this project, has been the biggest breakthrough moment for me.” For those who haven’t seen a cabaret piece at the theatre, Waxa Belta Helta Skelta will surely be all the more exhilarating when it finally gets an airing. “I would always encourage the audience to interact; laugh if they want to laugh, cry if they want to cry, shout if they want to shout, get up and dance with me (even if it’s in the wrong places).” People in the wrong places seem to be a lifelong influence on Serena: “The musicians, artists and cartoon characters I’ve always adored are the degenerates,” she says. “I think we all have a freak within us somewhere.” An autumn tour for Waxa Belta Helta Skelta is currently being planned. Stay up to date with Serena Ramsey’s work via her website




L-R, F-B: Harriet Ghost, Micky McGregor, Hannah Marie Davis, Michaela Forbes, Elijah Young, Andy Berriman, Barbara Williams, Tracy Gillman, Alex Oates, Sam Stafford

BLOWIN’ A HOOLEY NICOLA OWEN TALKS TO HARRIET GHOST FROM AWARD-WINNING NORTH EAST THEATRE COMPANY BLOWIN A’ HOOLEY ABOUT MAKING THEATRE ACCESSIBLE TO ALL Back in 2016 actors Harriet Ghost and Micky McGregor struck out with their own venture, a vibrant and dynamic new Tyneside-based theatre company focused on representing North East experiences and support for new artists. Blowin’ A Hooley’s first production was of Tom Hadaway’s legendary play The Filleting Machine, a working class drama centring on Davey, a young man who is torn between continuing his education and making money on the docks. It toured to community centres and schools around the region to a positive grassroots response. “We want to give people opportunities that they might not otherwise have access to,” explains Harriet Ghost. “Not just actors and other creatives but also audiences who might feel intimidated about going to a building-based theatre. The Filleting Machine got such a good response from people from places like the Meadow Well estate, so much so that they would come up to us afterwards and say that they recognised themselves or a friend or family member in characters and attitudes in the play.” Following this success Blowin’ A Hooley continued engagement with local communities, doing work which wasn’t necessarily meant for a wider audience but which focused on important training around the danger of getting into debt with loan sharks and also around grooming of young people for exploitation.



Their next production, currently postponed due to the Covid-19 crisis, is Yarns From Hyem, which continues to champion North East talent by sharing four hilarious and moving stories of love, loss, hope and resilience, all written, directed and performed by incredible artists from our region. “We were really disappointed to postpone our performances but we’re of course more concerned about public safety. We’d just begun our first week of rehearsals and it was exciting to finally be at that point in the project but our fantastic team have been incredibly understanding and optimistic. Working in the arts can bring a lot of uncertainty at the best of times and this has been devastating for so many freelancers and companies who have had work cancelled with no support. We can only hope that these issues have now been highlighted to such an extent that new support may be put in place and our industry, and country as a whole, can re-build and come out of this stronger. Also in the future, Blowin’ A Hooley are working with armed service veterans from the North East and developing a play based on the real life experiences of soldiers who were deployed to Afghanistan and, as with their previous work, the piece will tour to community centres, theatres and barracks along with an exhibition of veterans’ writing and artwork. Given such a strong start there’ll be much more to come from this exciting and grounded theatre company who keep the North East close to their hearts. Keep up to date with Blowin’ A Hooley via their Facebook page




ELODIE A. ROY TALKS TO THE WELSH NOISE POPSTERS AHEAD OF THE RELEASE OF THEIR NEW ALBUM The music of Welsh band Seazoo comes from a faraway yet strangely familiar place – it is an audio postcard sent from the sunny, colourful side of life. As colourful, perhaps, as the attractive pop-artworks that grace their album covers. The self-described ‘DIY band’, named after Anglesey Sea Zoo, have just released their second album Joy on their own Big Terry label. On listening to Joy, it’s impossible not to marvel at its gentle, humorous optimism and quaint hopefulness. It’s a cosy, immediately familiar collection of upbeat guitar pop songs, radiating with the curiously lasting glow of the indie 90s. Though I thought of David Lowery’s warm voice and shambolic aesthetics the first time I heard St Hilary Sings (from their 2018 album, Trunks), the band’s closer influences are to be found in Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Supper Furry Animals, Pavement or Grandaddy. Seazoo – Ben (vocals and guitar), LLinos (vocals, keys and artwork), Steff (vocals and drums), Dan (guitar) and Mike (bass) – have been together since 2014, and the sense of cohesion and tranquil togetherness seeps through their music. I asked Ben where the


persisting lightness of Joy came from. Having formerly written from (and about) darker places, he set out to study and document “personal happiness” – drawing inspiration from everyday, passing moments of bliss. “I began looking at the different things that people try to do to make themselves happy. I looked at happiness in my own life. It then became an exercise in escapism for me as much as anything else. There just seems to be so much rubbish and real darkness around every corner right now. The research for the songs made me feel better, which was an unexpected bonus. I wrote songs at weddings, or whilst running in nature. I looked at how friends changed their lives in search of happiness; I wrote on holidays and often really focused in on the pleasure in the day-to-day.” Joy was recorded over five days at Big Jelly Studios in Ramsgate and finished off at home in Wrexham. Ben started writing these new songs in 2018, immediately after the band’s luminous debut – Trunks – was released. Only ten of the sixteen tracks initially recorded in the studio made the cut so Seazoo still have “a load of tunes that didn’t really fit, and other beauties sitting on a hard drive half-finished” – which lucky fans may get to hear live. When the band are able to get back on the road, touring still feels like an adventurous gamble for the band, and one can’t help but feel inspired by their quiet perseverance, and the particular, bright climate their songs generate everywhere they travel. Seazoo’s album, Joy, is out now via their own Big Terry label. Check out their collection of merch on their website






What musicians chose as a central narrative in their music can, obviously, hold significant importance. A recent survey into the core reasons musical artists chose particular subjects to write about suggested that delayed gratification values such as legacy, rather than immediate chart placings or money, were a much heavier motivating factor. Whilst nothing ever lasts forever, it seems like the majority of artists are keen to leave something behind. Something important. Something to be remembered for. If legacy and cultural impact drives a musician’s output more than chart positions, then one of the hottest underground bands around are Meatraffle; a South London collective who put politics and ideas about collectivism as their central ideology. Previous banger Brother not only created a sound piecing together savage guitar rock, funky basslines and Blockhead-style vocals, it also sought to talk about the type of love never sung about – platonic love. “The mainstream tends to talk about love being between two people in a sexual relationship,” offers Meatraffle’s singer Zsa Zsa Sapien, “yet it doesn’t really talk about the love between two friends or two relatives, the type of love that is grounded in something that you



might have in common with someone. These are the types of love, and the types of relationships, we need to talk about more in society; I’d be nothing without my friends and my band mates and the people who support me when I need help.” Looking to impact others as well as leave a legacy, Meatraffle have also grown quite the reputation as a ‘must-see’ live band, full of wild guitar-driven moments and spontaneity. “It’s funny that we’ve developed this live reputation because if anything we’re not staged or overly rehearsed in any way,” continues Zsa Zsa. “I suppose, talking about this out loud, what that does give the band is a slight sense of danger and an ability to go off on tangents, whether that’s extending a song slightly or taking the mick out of ourselves. We tend to react to a crowd and change our styles on the night.” Gearing up for more releases in 2020, Zsa Zsa maintains that Meatraffle are a band trying to lift us all up, rather than just themselves. When talking about recent single Brother, Zsa Zsa leaves us with the thought about what he believes music can offer us in uncertain times. “Brother helped us to say the things most of us want to say but often are too nervous to say them. I hope our future material can make similar points.” They may not be a household name yet, but give this band time; they’re playing the long game. Meatraffle’s album, Bastard Music, is available now





Image by Calum Bruce

NO ONE WANTS TO STAY THE SAME OR REPEAT THE SAME STEPS, WE’RE ALL KEEN TO PUSH OURSELVES AND OUR MUSIC INTO NEW SPACES The band discussion, we’re told, started almost immediately after the release of 2017’s very well received, traditionally guitar/alt. rock-sounding debut album, Introduction; how should Laurens Court follow up a record which placed them on the fringes of the local ‘ones to watch’ lists and what would come next? Of particular interest to the North East five-piece was what should the next record sound like, and which creative decisions should be considered? Like most musical acts trying to build on the moment of a strong debut, Laurens Court’s artistic contemplation proved difficult. Do you follow your debut up with an output which is, in essence, more of the same or do you strive to rip up the rule book and start afresh with new ideas, new production tools and a move away from one genre into another? Having spent most of the past three years considering their next move, the band are now ready to deliver their eponymously titled new album. “It’s been an interesting journey,” confirms drummer Jack Otty. “We’ve talked a lot about the sound of the band and where we want to move to. No one in the band wants to stay the same or to repeat the same steps, we’re all keen to push ourselves and our music

into new spaces.” Driven by the record’s latest single, Burn, the album misses none of the angst, anger or sonics of Introduction, though interesting choices move their sound into original places; a saxophone solo on Burn and a slow menacing introduction to Falu provide suggestions of layered textures, whilst Coming On Down uses minimal, complex guitar lines to turn up the sense of loneliness and alienation prevalent across the nine-track release. “I think more than anything what we wanted to do with this album was to make music that was less expected but to keep the overall sound of the band,” continues Jack, “maybe in the past people expected quite a guitar-driven sound, and whilst we still have layers of guitar we also wanted to create sounds which fit with the lyrics of the record and the themes of anxiety and mental health. Sometimes you need the sound of a band as you change and fit with the lyrics.” Moving across grunge and prog rock, the self-titled release is a leap forward for the band both in terms of content as well as production and composition, something they’re keen to showcase: “More than anything we want to get the record out and let people hear the songs which we’re really proud of. Then we’ll start again and try to develop further.” Let the conversations start again. The third album, so we’re often told, is even harder. Laurens Court release their self-titled album on 3rd April









AXLS brings Snowblind to the fray, a retro sci-fi inspired track from their debut album First Contact. With a synth and techno-based instrumental and a poppy female vocal, the Newcastle trio create a catchy electronic feel. The band state how Snowblind’s “accessible lyrics can apply to anyone who feels they don’t have enough control of their own decisions on this little blue marble we call home.” Showcasing a story of Earth’s first contact with aliens, the band’s concept album is available now. (AB)

Cards on the table: for me, Bad Amputee are quite simply the best band in the North East right now. Led by local folk luminaire Phil Tyler, the three-piece’s stark sonic palette and dulcet slowcore harmonies coalesce on some of the most mesmeric songs to come from the region in many a year; the best of which have already been laid down for their soon-to-be-released full-length debut. “This is a song perhaps about things that did or didn’t happen in Northumberland one lost weekend,” is how Tyler explains their track. (AW)



Image by Helen Stevens



For many people music is a form of escapism, but for Teesside band Benefits it’s a place “to confront the issues and difficulties that this country is facing head on.” A loud, blown out riot, Marlboro Hundreds is a track imbued with astounding energy and rage at Britain’s political and social climate. “Reject hate”, “don’t fall into apathy” the vocals cry over the top of distorted crashing symbols and guitars. “We want to reflect the times we live in,” says vocalist Kingsley, “not be a distraction from it.” (AB)

Combining the attitude of The Runways with the pop punk sensibilities of The Subways and the humour of The Front Bottoms, bigfatbig unleash this energetic three-minute blast of brilliant frustration aimed at the all too familiar notion of toxic masculinity. The follow-up to debut Science, So Bored started out as “a bit of social commentary on a past experience of a one-sided relationship,” says singer Robyn Walker, also of Sunderland’s Picnic. But the song has evolved into more than that: “It’s become an amalgamation of everything I’m tired of dealing with. I think that’s more relatable, considering the reaction we’ve had.” (PB)

Image by Janina Sabaliauskaite




A prodigiously gifted cellist from a young age, Ceitidh MacLeod’s adventurous deployment of her instrument and sublime, smoky vocal are on full display on this, her debut single from May 2019. “Rhythm is a song about going at your own pace, not getting too caught up in what other people’s expectations are.” She says. Directed via a range of plucking and bowing techniques, its jittery allure is subtly fleshed out by bandmates Jamie Cook and Will Hammond, infusing its seams with a gentle stream of synths, spare beats and vivid vibraphone. Assuredly transcending folk music’s traditional barriers, it’s little wonder the project is drawing a steady flow of admiring ears from further afield. (AW)

“This song is all about when an aspect of your life isn’t meeting your expectations or things haven’t gone to plan, it’s time to put that dream to bed. You consult your trusted circle, swallow your pride, hold your head high and keep on keeping on, taking everything you’ve learnt with you along the way.” Corney Dixon’s sweetly harmonious voice is the backbone of this delicate track; backed by shimmering guitar and effects, it hides a positive message despite its tinge of sadness. “Parliament Of Owls, although sorrowful, provides an uplifting outlook on life; because even though you were hoping for better, you know there is something great out there waiting for you.” (CD)



This song is a luscious and solid example of folk rock, which is skilfully loud yet subtle; Aaron Duff’s rustic voice gladly retains a Geordie lilt that suits the band’s style remarkably well. Lyrically, the track explores patriotism in Great Britain. “This song is a response to issues all too current.” Duff reveals. “To the use of propaganda to incite hate, to the anger that is born of misinformation, to the fragility of life and the futility of conflict, to the horrible thought of history repeating itself. All Hail, All Glory is an ode to the glorious dead.” (BK)

Soft and reserved, Jodie Nicholson’s track Shelter creates a quiet space that would be at home on any rainy day playlist. With a slow, atmospheric piano melody and humming vocals, it’s not until the latter half of the song that Nicholson’s vocals cut through the instrumentation. There’s a longing and a determination in the lyrics to be with that someone once again. “The track is about losing someone and giving yourself the space or time to reflect and let go,” explains the Hurworth-on-Tees songwriter. (AB)


Image by Johnny Haynes



John Dole’s new track has all the spacey hip-hop vibes of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and the lyrical rhythm to keep up. A vibey, layered electronic rap track, Dole’s exceptional flow creates a commentary about “the modern mindstate”, our “lack of patience” and “how we’re all slowly becoming apathetic due to the barrage of media” we experience. Dole says it’s taken a long time for the track to properly come together as a finished piece, but the end product is well worth the wait. (AB)

The perky intro and the jubilant repeated refrain of “Giraffes! Giraffes!” kick this corker of a track off from the Northumberland band. Jumping from super-charged riff-filled rock through to snippets of bouncy joy and grinding heavy guitars before ending with a gentle indie pop sweetness, it’s a delightfully bonkers track which the band’s second guitarist, G, explains has a heart-warming message. “This song is about the joy of giraffes, bisexuality and being authentically who you are. We received a message from someone who said the song really helped them in understanding themselves. It was lush to know something we created actually helped someone in a tangible way! I did a happy cry.” (CD)



For Hartlepool’s indie pop outfit it’s time for some quiet reflection. New track The Dreaming Days Are Over boasts soft guitar and key melodies as well as a gentle vocal about the passing of the seasons and how we choose to spend our time. “I worry a lot about not spending my time more efficiently, or being productive enough,” says frontman Andrew Smith, “which is what inspired some of the lyrics of The Dreaming Days Are Over”. Quiet, pondering and emotive, the bright pop track expands Mt. Misery’s stellar output as they work towards their debut album. (AB)

Seething with discordance, lyrics intentionally unrecognisable for the most part, I Can’t Explain has a dark and sinister feeling that underpins its driving beat. However, it continually transforms and in the latter part that ambiguity subsides in a bid to reveal its underlying poignant message of “Extinction will take over me”. Equally coinciding with the band’s feelings on this track, which are: “Welded together vigorously in the dim sunlight of the winter months and now available here for your enjoyment, I Can’t Explain is a jilted heaving cacophony designed to swindle and whack your tender eardrums out of their confusion.” (LH)

Image by Selim Maclean

Image by @a_scenic_overlook



Featuring members of Retriever, Cheap Lunch and Black Lung Club, Pit Pony have become a much-loved local band. Spearheaded by Jackie Purver’s assured vocal and the fulsome crunch of a twin-guitar engine, Dutch Courage bullishly bears the rollicking garage chops which have catapulted them among the North East’s hottest tips. “Dutch Courage is about stupid things you do as a teenager. Everyone can relate to telling a little white lie when they were younger to get themselves out of an awkward situation and maybe embellishing it too much and regretting it later.” (AW)

Although ostensibly a vehicle for the more introspective pursuits of Newcastle musician John Edgar (Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister, Okay Champ, Eat Fast), the term ‘solo project’ does little to convey the spirit of collaboration surrounding The Dawdler. Dark Clouds showcases both the emotional heft and tonal contrast of Edgar’s writing, floating his lonesome vocal over an enchanting melody which could almost be described as chipper. “Lyrically, it’s quite bleak. Something terrible’s always lurking. Musically though, it’s quite joyous. Calum’s synth is lovely and warm and totally lifts the song.” (AW)






HELEN REDFERN HAS LIVED IN THE NORTH EAST FOR OVER 20 YEARS WITH HER FIVE KIDS AND TWO DOGS. SHE’S BEEN WRITING FOR NARC. FOR THE PAST FOUR YEARS AND HAS PUBLISHED TWO NOVELS AND MARTHA & ME, A BIOGRAPHY OF NORTH EAST DANCER ELIOT SMITH. HAVING BEEN IN-HOUSE WRITER FOR YOGAMATTERS, A YOGA AND WELLNESS ONLINE RETAILER, FOR OVER THREE YEARS, SHE’S RECENTLY LEFT TO FORM THE GREEN HEART COLLECTIVE, A SUSTAINABLE INITIATIVE DEDICATED TO UPCYCLING CLOTHING AND GIFTS SO THAT NONE OF US HAVE TO BUY NEW EVER AGAIN! HERE SHE OFFERS SOME TIPS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT HOW TO COPE WITH THE ONGOING SITUATION. We’re breaking new ground here. There’s an unprecedented overuse of the word ‘unprecedented’ in the media. That’s because nothing like this has ever happened before on such a global scale. We’re being forced to change. The ground is shifting beneath our feet. We don’t like it. It’s scary. But what choice do we have? We’re each being called to find a way to adapt to this new world order. Here are five ways to make that more achievable and potentially bearable.


We’re not ‘stay at home’ kind of people. We’re addicted to the buzz of creating, participating and spectating. ‘Live’ is where it’s at. And yet our wings have been clipped for the foreseeable future. In a growing number of cases, the cage door has been slammed shut. We’re being advised to turn to yoga, meditation and breathing techniques to support our mental and emotional well-being, because if ever there was a time for the world to discover a new respect for calm, it’s now. It’s all out there online – all the resources you could ever need to get you started and keep you grounded and balanced. Yoga With Adriene has rave reviews – try one of her 30 day yoga journeys to see why. If you want to keep it local, check out Jo at Happy Yoga Newcastle and the Facebook group created by YogaTherapies’ Chris Jackson - The YT Socially-distant Social - where you can get answers to all your yoga and well-being questions.


We used to call days like these ‘duvet days’ – those rare occasions when we had no place to be and nothing to get done. But we cannot allow these next few months to become an endless round of ‘popcorn & PJs’ days. That way lies madness. OK, so this will take a bit of time to get right, but time is not something most of us are short of right now. Don’t create such a rigid timetable that there’s no room for manoeuvre. Build in time to cook, exercise, create, learn, chill, connect…and designate an area for each activity, utilising all the space available to you. For those of you who still fondly remember the joy of drawing up a colour-coded revision timetable, this will be a walk in the park. For the rest, I suggest a chalk board and decent eraser.


Reality TV shows place ordinary people in weird situations and make them do weird shit because we all love to see how people like

us cope with stressful, extreme situations. Well, guess what: we’re living that reality right now. And we may well surprise ourselves. We may not be the hero we imagined we would be, but that’s OK. We are what we are, and we need to do what’s right for us to help us get through this. Try writing, journaling or doodling. Get it all out and down on paper in words or images. Without judgement, that’s the key. Be kind to yourself. This Yogamatters blog about how to journal has useful pointers if you’re new to journaling.

4. CREATE A NEW WORK As creatives (that’s all of us!), we need to keep creating or we may spontaneously combust. That’s how we’re made. Our regular path of creativity may be fraught with anxiety about the future right now, so how about trying something new? If you’re a writer, why not paint? If you’re a musician, why not write a short story? Choreograph a dance, film a scene, write a performance poem, mould some clay… re-discover the joy of creating for creating’s sake. 64 Million Artists is a great forum if you’re lacking inspiration with their new Create to Connect challenge having just begun, or try out Toby Litt’s free 10 lesson course on writing short stories.

5. DEVELOP NEW CONNECTIONS It’s vitally important to stay in touch with our tribe right now. Family and friends take on a whole new significance in times like these. But we thrive on making new connections; those chance encounters in the pub, the like-minded people at a workshop or gig, those talented individuals we get the opportunity to collaborate with – we need all that stimulation to flourish. In the current climate, that world of encounter has been forced to move online. So much new and exciting stuff is happening in the virtual world, and you’re being invited to jump in. Don’t just scroll and surf – there’s no satisfaction in skimming the surface. Go deep. Explore. Join some online groups. If you find inspiration there, stay. If not, move on. Find what feeds your soul and rest there a while. Whether it’s an online cooking tutorial, pub quiz, workout video or even a visit to a gallery via the hashtag #museumfromhome, there’s a ton of great resources via social media.



Elvis Costello by Thomas Jackson

ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE IMPOSTERS @ SUNDERLAND EMPIRE (03.03.20) Words: Ewan Gleadow The fear of a performer locking eyes with me as I pretend to mouth the words to their B-side classics is something that strikes fear into my heart. My first ever gig would have to be someone whose music I knew inside and out; Elvis Costello and The Imposters is just that for me, and what a truly incredible experience it was. Costello and his Imposters were on top form for the evening in a superb display of their most well-known tracks, including Pump It Up and Accidents Will Happen. It wasn’t without its problems though, and the sound was inconsistent with Costello’s voice drowned out by drums. The performance starts strong, the fast-paced Clubland opens up a spectrum of nostalgic favourites like The Detectives, which sets a moody, sleuth-like tone through a song held up by a heavy bassline and sultry vocals. Costello presents us with a strong, emotive vocal solo toward the end of Alison and an extended version of Oliver’s Army, which is as politically charged now as it was forty years ago. Surprisingly lacking in new album material, Costello’s latest tour looks to bring about the glory days of a musical career that spans nearly fifty years. A half century later, and Costello can still belt out the classics without missing a beat.

FASTER THAN BOLT @ LIVE THEATRE, NEWCASTLE (14.03.20) Words: Damian Robinson Showcased as part of the Live Theatre’s Elevator Festival, work in progress production Faster Than Bolt may be one to keep a close eye on when looking for interesting theatre work to be excited about for the coming year. An interesting exploration of the UK Government’s early 2010 programme of ‘dispersing’ asylum seekers away from London and into ‘regions’, Faster Than Bolt uses a story about hitch-hiking from Newcastle to the London 2012 Olympic Games as a metaphor for the physical and emotional journeys taken by refugees as they acclimatise with new cultures and new surroundings.


Cleverly interspersed with moments of aerobics and innovative use of house lighting, with their implied suggestions of defying gravity and stereotypes, Faster Than Bolt is a piece which encourages not only a reflection on how we treat asylum seekers but also of the limiting beliefs often imposed onto unheard and marginalised voices. Set within the context of Faster Than Bolt having only had four initial rehearsals before its first ‘draft’ performance, this one-person show offers serious promise for the future.

GARY WILKINSON, WORRY PARTY @ THE CUMBERLAND ARMS, NEWCASTLE (13.03.20) Words: Damian Robinson Whilst some events may be struggling with attendance challenges, it’s good to see a strong turn-out already in place in time for tonight’s main support act Worry Party. Channelling themselves into XX territory, Worry Party’s dreamy synth textures are performed perfectly; moving us in and out of a style of down-tempo, almost trip-hop, pop which glistens with emotional directions and moves between male and female vocal leads. Nicely warmed up, and comfortable in our electronic world, the evening climaxes with three separate movements from local synth pioneer Gary Wilkinson. Supported by interesting, often claustrophobic, visuals, Wilkinson’s core strength is in his ability to imagine and create different electronic spaces, each making subtle but distinct social and political points. Showcasing three different electronic movements, each with their own distinct sound and atmosphere, Wilkinson proves himself a master of electronic production. Wind Farm (with themes about mass usage of wind turbines) glistens with hypnotic, often ambient rhythms, whilst Fixed Odds Betting Terminals and Cannabis Farm see Wilkinson move into darker, more menacing, environments; the former showcases the desperation of addiction, employing a dark/techno feel, while the latter uses a more menacing, trippy sound to build up its sense of fear, alienation and paranoia. Serious messages and serious music.


Martha Hill by Tracy Hyman

MARTHA HILL, MT. MISERY, FAYE FANTARROW @ INDEPENDENT, SUNDERLAND (07.03.20) Words: Mollie Field Since discovering Martha Hill a couple of months back, I have been nothing short of addicted to her organic and eclectic sound, she’s become an artist I’ve picked up and simply have not been able to put down. Her songwriting is hugely infectious and intricate, delicate yet brassy. What followed at her live debut to sunny Sunderland did not disappoint, that it was a couple of days before International Women’s Day made it even more fitting. Martha and her fierce band brought bags of soul and sass to Holmeside. The walls of Indie’s cosy upstairs room filled with raw vocals, smooth pop hooks, delicate cello, brass, drums and jazzy keyboard sections in a punchy and distinctive cocktail. Martha’s gritty sound, which refreshingly blends pop, rock and electronics, has rightly established her as a real fast flyer in the North East music sphere. Support for the evening contributed to the unfolding of a stunning showcase of diverse local music. Ferociously talented songbird Faye Fantarrow demonstrated tracks from her EP Lines, managing to be stunning, shivery and nothing but soulful. Hartlepool’s treasured indie pop four-piece Mt. Misery also did not disappoint, delivering nothing but energy with their dynamic, cool as ice sound, instrumentally as much vocally.

JON HOPKINS, HAYDEN THORPE @ SAGE GATESHEAD (05.03.20) Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice Opening up shop while much of the audience is still climbing in might be a come down from the pomp of Wild Beasts, but Hayden Thorpe’s set is a quietly confident gem: given the stripped-down nature of his debut Diviner, this piano-and-backing-track performance works just fine, and even in this intimate showing Thorpe retains plenty of stardust (not to mention that remarkable falsetto, as gravity-defying as ever.) Bolstered by a fine Tim Buckley cover and an adept reimagining of Wild Beasts number Palace, the

solo life is proving a good look on him. Advertised as a chance for Jon Hopkins to explore his more meditative, piano-driven work, the Polarity tour does offer him a chance to demonstrate his mastery of the instrument and provide some reflective pauses. The small band assembled alongside him however rarely gets much of a look in, and when it’s time for Hopkins to turn back to his more dancefloor friendly material, they’re disposed of entirely. As accomplished as Hopkins is as a producer – and the audience euphoria that greets the likes of Open Eye Signal and Everything Connected is a powerful thing – it’s still unusual to see a performance that renders its own selling point so moot. It’s a great evening of music, but rather than bringing unity to his catalogue, his two core modes of working feel further apart than ever.

GRL @ BASE CAMP, MIDDLESBROUGH (07.03.20) Words: Damian Robinson Created as an event to showcase the work of 14 artists and bands, each containing at least one woman, credit must go to organisers AMPT for curating such a strong line-up of inspirational artists. There was simply too much to mention in a short review, though personal favourites came from, in the musical space, pop stalwarts Head of Light Entertainment and headliners Bugeye, who both used synths, guitars and harmonised vocals to make lovely, warm pop. Performance wise, the heavier and more alternative sounds which came from both GGAllan Partridge and Dead Naked Hippies both also deserve credit for the punk visuals and spirit they brought to the day. And whilst it’s a bit unfair of me, I’d say my favourite one-two moment was from local spoken word enthusiast Sarah Crutwell, whose sense of self was especially empowering and who was followed by Leeds’ Bad Bug, whose ‘60s good time R’n’B and garage rock style was particularly affecting. There’s a huge need for strong counter-culture artists to make loud noises and provoke people to think differently, and we saw 14 of those today.



Homeboy Sandman by Idene Roozbayani

HOMEBOY SANDMAN @ THE CLUNY, NEWCASTLE (04.03.20) Words: Ikenna Offor A very palpable thrum of ardent anticipation rushes through The Cluny as Homeboy Sandman takes the stage – all around, the mixed crowd of ageing backpackers and hiply-clad whippersnappers gingerly sidestep one another whilst jockeying for unobstructed sight lines. It’s a special breed of hip-hop fan that comes out on a nippy weeknight, and these fine folks milling about me are definitely of that stock – far from your casual punter easily daunted by brisk conditions, this lot would undoubtedly brave a blizzard if only to bask in the torrid radiance of the prolific Queens-based MC’s fiery bars. That, dear reader, is the sort of fervid fealty the Boy Sand inspires in his legion of fans, including yours truly – it’s basically the reason why, despite a mild case of the sniffles (non-viral, thankfully), I gamely attempt to keep pace with Name’s tongue-twisting alliterations, but cock-up every other word. But, what’s the appeal, you ask? Well, it’s simple – his head-spinningly abstract yet technically-grounded rhymes, particularly on both Easy and Stroll, maintain direct and explicit connections to the boom bap era traditions of yore. In a rap landscape currently overrun with the gleeful inanity of Soundcloud froth, the potent combo of Homeboy Sandman’s dexterous flow (especially impressive during a manic rendition of Yes Iyah) and unflappable brio (as displayed throughout the rambunctiously freewheeling set) squarely positions him way above the rabble. And if you can’t respect that, then like Hov said, your whole perspective is wack.

BEHOLD A PALE HORSE, ROXY GIRLS, WITNESS PROTECTION @ STAR & SHADOW CINEMA, NEWCASTLE (06.03.20) Words: Damian Robinson Kids grow up so fast today don’t they!? Years ago I’m convinced bands playing their debut show would be fairly shambolic; now they seem to arrive fully formed and ever-so-perfect. Whether it’s the large crowd who’ve turned out to watch them, or whether


it’s because they’re just superb, live virgins Witness Protection open the show with sheer sonic feedback, drive and determination. Using interesting visual backdrops and swirling lights as support, the band rock hard with noise crushing guitars and synths and a lead singer with a distinct Newcastle accent. Sunderland’s Roxy Girls take over in a typically shambolic post-punkmeets-Postcard-Records blend of new-wave guitars and low rumbling bass patterns. Set-list free, and playing ‘knocky nine doors’ with the sound technician as they constantly change their monitor levels, they are, naturally, brilliant. Headliners, and album launchers, Behold A Pale Horse finish off a terrific evening with their wall of proto-punk-rock meets techno-and-electro sounds. Wrapped off nicely with fine soulful vocals, She Said and Let It Burn steal a show set full of soul and a wall of sound which varies and surprises as they progress to their climax.

MARIKA HACKMAN, DO NOTHING @ RIVERSIDE, NEWCASTLE (27.02.20) Words: Ben Lowes-Smith Do Nothing are a young band bursting with ideas; their laconic post-punk is refreshingly narrative and although wearing its influences on its sleeves – your usual late 70s early 80s post-punk tropes, and by extension The Strokes – the singer’s imaginative, amusing take on the world breathes new life into their weather-beaten processes. Particular highlight is single LeBron James, a stream of consciousness, laugh-out-loud funny and genuinely memorable track. They have won a new fan tonight. Marika Hackman’s records are to my taste, but there’s something really unremarkable about tonight’s performance. Marika and her band draw mainly from their agreeable new record Any Human Friend, but the songs seem rehearsed to the point of the joy being sucked out of them. Indeed, it feels as if there’s a detached smugness to the performance tonight, as songs are rattled out with a tedious hyper-professionalism. It’s a shame, Marika’s voice is beautiful and her lyrics are emotionally incisive, but she genuinely doesn’t seem invested tonight.


Supergrass by Thomas Jackson

SUPERGRASS @ O2 ACADEMY, NEWCASTLE (24.02.20) Words: Ben Lowes-Smith I genuinely believe that Supergrass are a classic British singles band in the same mould as say Buzzcocks, as I was excited as the prospect of seeing them, despite the fact so much of their music is inseparable from the idea of youth. The last time I saw Supergrass, it was pre-smoking ban on the Supergrass Do The Hits tour and they were ferociously battering away at an enviable canon before any member of the band had hit 30. Tonight is different of course, the setting more corporate, the audience older, the carefree joints replaced by the glow of smartphones. Some of Supergrass’ music hasn’t aged so gracefully in parts, slower more plaintive numbers like Late In The Day and Moving feel more Hallmark greeting card in tone than ever, but when Supergrass hit the spot – which they do often – they are evergreen. They sarcastically open with In It For The Money, play Alright dismissively, but in spite of the motions they are going through they still really mean it. Caught By The Fuzz sounds like the 24-carat masterpiece it always has been, Lenny and Mansize Rooster are absolutely joyous. They are, ultimately, still an absolute joy.

HEATHER WOODS BRODERICK @ OLD CINEMA LAUNDERETTE, DURHAM (28.02.20) Words: Ali Welford With bass, drums, three keyboards and three guitars, plus a full complement of pedals and percussion accessories, Heather Woods Broderick has returned to the UK equipped for audiences in their hundreds – not a launderette in one of the nation’s lesser travelled tour stops. Nevertheless, with a fully rehearsed show and bandmates Andrew Carlson and Dean Anshutz in tow, there’s no question of paring things back. If the setup swallows half the floorspace, so be it! Although best known as a key cog behind Sharon Van Etten, the Oregon-based songwriter has proved more than capable of mirroring her friend’s golden standard, not least with last year’s sterling third album, Invitation. However, despite that record’s breakout success, tonight’s set resists the lure of a front-to-back showcase, instead offering a snapshot of a far wider catalogue. Certainly, the reverberating echoes of I Try and

the gorgeous sprawl of Nightcrawler make for gorgeous standouts, but there are also gems from prior records, not to mention Home Winds and Hummingbird Skylight – the former a stand-alone single issued as part of a campaign to fight climate change; the latter an effective reinterpretation of a song penned by her partner. “We usually do a rock encore!” she jokes, introducing the evening’s sole concession, a solo acoustic rendition of Turned. It’s an illuminating sign-off, and perhaps aligns with what many anticipated en route to such an intimate space. In reality, those expectations are far, far exceeded.

OTOBOKE BEAVER, DRINKING BOYS & GIRLS CHOIR @ SAGE GATESHEAD (21.02.20) Words: Ali Welford There’s a fervent, healthy-sized gathering in Sage 2 for the muchanticipated visit of Japan’s Otoboke Beaver. Sure, we may seem ambivalent in comparison to livewire guitarist Yoyoyoshie, but a punk band stirring such genuine excitement in 2020 defies logical explanation. I’m terrible at enjoying myself, and even I’m experiencing an epiphany; a year’s worth of giddy gig thrills condensed into 50 precious, unfathomably fun minutes. Stupidly fast, tight as hell and far, far too funny to be obstructed by a mere language barrier, it’s a performance of joyous, thrashing and borderline frenzied pandemonium. It’s also one of remarkable fortitude, where even those numbers which barely clock 20-seconds are bolstered by unflappable hooks, ensuring even the wildest rides never threaten to derail. Having quit their jobs back home, they’ve also mastered the art of trumpeting merch, and even conclude with a song about shopping – as though their regular verbal hints were just that little bit too subtle. In a sense, they’re the only wasted moments all evening; everybody yet to purchase a copy of Itekoma Hits is already rushing to the desk. There’s also plenty to enjoy from South Korean support Drinking Boys & Girls Choir. Skate-punk isn’t a sound I’ve devoted much time to since my mid-teens, but much like Otoboke Beaver there’s a verve to tunes like National Police Shit, I’m A Fucking McDonalds and BIG NINE, Let’s Go which renders resistance futile. It’s enough to stave off nightmarish visions of Sum 41, and even survive brief misguided dabblings in ska and oi! Top stuff.



IF YOU’RE AN UP AND COMING BAND OR MUSICIAN, AND WOULD LIKE YOUR MUSIC REVIEWED IN OUR DEMO SECTION, EMAIL A TRACK TO INFO@NARCMEDIA.COM AND TELL US MORE ABOUT YOURSELF! WORDS: EMILY INGRAM In these times of uncertainty (and strangers coughing phlegm on you whilst you try not to cry on the metro), you can always rely on the musicians of the North East to pull it out of the bag. This month’s demos are no different: in true NE style, we’ve received a plethora of tracks from each corner of the genre spectrum.


Odin Coleman – The Get Down

As always though, there is one stand-out track that seems to have a replay value just beyond the others: our demo of the month for April is The Get Down by Odin Coleman. Perhaps it’s the painful passing of Daniel Johnson still ringing in my ears, but something about this gorgeously lo-fi song just makes you feel right at home. Clearly, there’s a number of all-American influences at play here (despite the fact that Coleman is clearly quite at home within the

Sandy & Ziad - Sex On The Phone

This lewd and funky number from Sandy & Ziad is an absolute corker. With a name like SEX ON THE PHONE, and a single, mysterious tag on Soundcloud - ‘#disco’ - I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The track itself brings groovy licks and gritty vocals in equal measure, with lyrics sleazy enough to rival Hugh Cornwell. In any case, maybe try not to listen to it with your nan around (unless she’s into super sexy funk).

RiverSyde – The Words You Fail To Say

RiverSyde are an energetic, punky outfit with enough pep to sort you for the entire quarantine period. At times, The Words You Fail


local music scene). The Get Down combines all of the crackling and rustic qualities of blues field recordings with the twang of country guitar, and joins the two in holy matrimony with a great big dollop of wailing, distant vocals. The finished article is drenched in nostalgia, and finds its place nestled somewhere between Kurt Vile and the Microphones. In other words, it’s a sad, abandoned log flume ride at the county fair, and I want to go round again.

To Say is in danger of straying a little bit too far into ‘I hate my home-town’ territory: it’s a danger that a lot of pop-punk bands seem to face as the genre continues to swell. Nevertheless, fans of early Brand New or A Day To Remember will have undoubtedly found their new favourites with this thumping, guitar-led tune.

Mr Bigfoot – Ragdoll

Another one to watch out for in the pop-punk stratosphere is Mr Bigfoot, with their track Ragdoll. What begins as standard alternative faire soon explodes into a veritable delight of big, fuzzy melodies and angsty vocals, rendering this one a solid grower for anyone who’s looking for something alternative, yet fresh. Plus, the positively claustrophobic lyrical

content of the track seems eerily fitting for a time when everyone feels like a bit of a misfit.

4 Mile Drive – Always Brighter It’s not all doom and gloom, though. For those who are searching high and low for something with a poppier tone, look no further – 4 Mile Drive have your back with Always Brighter. An impeccably put together track, the band manage to strike the perfect balance on all fronts: the vocals are sugary-sweet, without being sickly; the guitar hooks are catchy, but never generic; it’s just a really great, alternative-leaning pop track. What else could you want?


T-B, L-R: Birdman Cult, Sophia, Sid Bano Well, I don’t know about you but I need a bit of cheering up. Thank God then for Sophia’s Take A Ride. This steelpan-speckled pop rock hop-along reminds me that life is too short to hang around with losers. I love her upbeat lyrics, her can-do attitude and feisty vocals. The feel-good hit we all need right now. Bouncing in next, Paige Temperley returns to these pages with her new song, Who’s Gonna Want Me? Her folksiness just isn’t my cup of tea and there’s part of me that really doesn’t want to like this track. Yet there’s also another part that just can’t help but enjoy her overwhelming grace and sophistication as a songwriter. Consider me charmed. Two tracks down and I’m already felling much better. What a shame then that Fowl go and mess it all up with Kool Aid, a shambling punk rock opus inspired by the Jones Town Massacre. Hats off to them though, this bleak, cliff edge of a song has some lovely turns of phrase and a cracking guitar riff. Next up, tiredeyes soothe my soul with their new EP, Mallard on the Collar. Their stripped-back guitar and breathless harmonies are a little too soothing for me and I soon find myself drifting off. I loved their sound but after four tracks, I felt the EP lacked the texture and variety to keep me gripped. Birdman Cult certainly doesn’t have that problem. Their new single, Janet, is just the kind of song that grabs you by the unmentionables and doesn’t let go until you promise to get up and dance. I loved the whip-smart storytelling and sing-along chorus. Great stuff.

Keeping my vibe going north, Lazy Rave have got me golden with Music Is My Woman. There’s nothing revolutionary here, just good solid drums, guitar and a Casio keyboard. Like a good cup of instant coffee, it perked me right up. Feeling fully caffeinated, it’s time to take a listen to Sleeping On Television’s new Underworked EP. This rich collection of layered synths and never-ending arpeggios wouldn’t feel out of place on a sci-fi movie soundtrack. Cinematic gold. If you enjoyed the music from the NHS’s Couch to 5K Plan, you’ll love McCormick’s single New Tattoo. Alas, running isn’t really my thing and l didn’t get on with this track at all. Likewise, I’m afraid with Julie Grant’s There’s More To Me Than This. There was something slightly off about the timpani and I just wasn’t a fan of the overall sound. It’s nicely put together and she has a lovely voice, so please believe me when I say that it’s just me. Sid Bano has been to South Shields on a Saturday night and I’m not sure if he liked what he saw. Shields paints a washed up scene filled with fag ends and fistfights that I’m sure any Sandancer will know all too well. I found the song instantly recognisable yet somehow alien and hyper real. Nice work. I really didn’t think that I was going to enjoy Kenny Cadence’s new EP, Niche. The more I listened though, the more it got me right in the feels. It’s a record filled with self-doubt and regret but also one packed with soul and honesty. She Said is especially heartbreaking and the stand out track for me. Definitely one to check out.



5/5 Ajimal by Fraser Taylor


Words: Paul Brown You’re reading a North East-based music magazine so chances are you may know the Ajimal back story. Doctor by day, spectral genius by night. Picked up the name in Haiti, just to add to the other-worldly vibe. In a weird way though, it’s felt like having such a strongly defined story has been somehow harmful to how Ajimal is perceived as an artist. Like perhaps his art is perversely diminished due to what Fran O’Hanlon does with his days. As It Grows Dark/Light may be the point at which this changes though, because while his debut record Childhood was a wonderful piece of work, this is truly breathtaking. It feels like the point where Ajimal truly realises the staggering potential he showed during those ethereal support slots years ago where he’d hush a small room into pin-drop silence. As he matures as an artist, O’Hanlon is really mastering how to harness the power of his voice, and there’s a range of vocal versatility here we’ve not heard much from him before. Whether it’s the ghostly croon on Animals which somehow manages to channel both old school and more recent Scott Walker at once, or the lullabic whisper of Above All Else, Be Kind, the restraint he employs is devastatingly effective. There’s incredible depth and texture to the arrangements too, most notably on the astonishing lead single How Could You Disappear, which resonates with buzzing synths and chopped-up beats and is absolutely nothing like anything Ajimal has ever released before. This low-key banger gives way into another of the album’s pivotal moments, the beautiful A Quickening Step, which hinges on a startlingly mournful sigh of brass, sounding like the terminal exhalation of tired lungs. A Rapture Coming, however, is probably the greatest achievement on an album filled with them. It’s here that O’Hanlon truly captures the duality hinted at in the record’s title, with his sinister murmur and the unnerving instrumental feeling both elegiac and creepy all at once. 2020 has had a rough start, but with art like this in the world, we’ve got a fighting chance of coping. Released: 17.04.20

ALSO OUT THIS MONTH Flat Worms – Antarctica (God? Records, 10.04) //Savak – Rotting Teeth in the Horse’s Mouth (Ernest Jenning Record Co, 10.04) // Sun Araw – Rock Sutra (Sun Ark, 03.04) //Taupe – Not Blue Light (Scant Records, 07.04) //The Used – Heartwork (Big Noise, 24.04) // The Lovely Eggs – I Am Moron (Egg Records, 03.04) // BC Camplight – Shortly After Takeoff (Bella Union, 24.04) //Rufus Wainwright – Unfollow The Rules (BMG, 24.04) //Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Viscerals (Rocket Recordings, 03.04)// Warm Digits – Flight of Ideas (Memphis Industries, 10.04) // Dream Nails – S/T (Alcopop! Records, 03.04) //Midwife – Forever (The Flenser, 10.04) //Ariel Sharratt & Mathias Korn – Never Work (BB*ISLAND, 03.04) //Benjamin Schoos – Doubt in my Heart (Freaksville, 03.04) // Hollow Ship – Future Remains (PNKSLM Recordings, 03.04) // Irma Vep – Embarrassed Landscape (Gringo Records, 03.04) // Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea (InsideOut, 03.04) // Leo Abrahams & Shahzad Ismaily – Visitations (figureeight records, 03.04) // Live Burial – Unending Futility (Transcending Obscurity Records, 03.04)


Words: Tom McLean Beloved behatted jazz maestro Gregory Porter returns with his sixth studio album, All Rise, smoothing our somewhat bumpy transition into Spring with his velvety vocals. This is a strong album filled with classic Porter. Upbeat, gospel-backed toe-tappers like classy hit Revival Song and the pulsating Long List of Troubles blend seamlessly into emotive, gentle ballads such as the sumptuous If Love Is Overrated. It’s an album that carries the gravitas and compassion often found only in the best musical theatre. There’s a story to be told, here, and it ticks all the boxes. All rise, friends, the King of easy listening has returned… now get that bath running. Released: 17.04.20

5/5 REN HARVIEU REVEL IN THE DRAMA (BELLA UNION) Words: Beverley Knight Ren Harvieu is a sultry songbird oozing glamour. For her second release, she’s created an effervescently stunning record; current, but embracing its retro edge, with all the songs differing, yet complementing each other in the dreamiest of ways. Shifting between many instruments, Strange Things takes you on quite the little journey in its three minutes. Leading onto Teenage Mascara, where she flaunts her storytelling prowess; one moment she’s channelling a Hollywood icon and the next feeling a mess, yet always embracing her emotions. This Is Our Love is a bluesy and stormy number, whilst Little Raven shows Ren’s enviable vocal talent and creamy tones. Each of the twelve songs are charmingly gorgeous, I’m in awe. Released: 03.04.20








Words: Paul Brown As disappointed as many of us were when Sky Larkin wound things down, it’s been gratifying to see Katie Harkin secure the greatest side gig of all time as a touring member of Sleater-Kinney. Still, her presence up front and centre has been a miss, so it’s good to have her back with her intriguing new eponymous record. Harkin is heavily reliant on the intimate mood Katie’s voice and insouciantly catchy guitar lines create, but it works beautifully because she’s a master songwriter. At first it might seem like it’s missing a layer or two but you soon come to realise these insistent hooks have burrowed their way into your brain and there’s going to be no shifting them. Released: 24.04.20

Words: Stephen Oliver This is the second full album from Oakland’s Once & Future Band. Joel Robinow (keyboards, lead vocals), Raj Ojha (drums) and Eli Eckert (bass, vocals) are fusing together a number of musical influences. Imagine if the Beatles released a jazz album with regular changes in tempo and direction through each song. Now, if the idea of multi-segmented arrangements and complicated time signatures are your thing then you are in for a treat. Imagine cutting up the masters of early Queen and the Beach Boys and rejoining them in a random fashion with the out takes of 70s cinema adverts fused over the top. It doesn’t stay in a particular theme for any length of time. It is pluralistic and eclectic indeed. Released: 24. 04. 20

Words: Jon Horner It’s a pretty scary time but the palm trees on the cover of Marker Starling’s new album dance on through the tempest, reflecting songwriter Chris A. Cummings’ resilience. He sways from straight sincerity to knowing irony and back with ease. His dry humour would riff well with The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt but unlike Merritt, Cummings, along with producer, Sean O’Hagan and guest vocalist, Laetitia Sadler of Stereolab, punctuates his nod and wink with syncopated guitar splangs, lush leccy piano and a sparse, stepping and shuffling backbeat. A celebration of pastness but not without its contemporaries. The winds lash and the view from the window gets bleaker daily but it remains a fine place to live. Released: 24.04.20



4.5 / 5




Words: Ikenna Offor Markedly more ambitious but less sprawling than its star-making predecessor, 2017’s Drunk, Thundercat’s fourth solo effort is chock-full of upbeat strutters that strike an astute balance between ineffable funk nous and uproarious absurdity. There’s a frisky exuberance to lead single Black Qualls, which wholly revels in the chaotic euphony of its sum parts; elsewhere, the disco-laced Dragonball Durag unironically extols the ego-boosting virtues of that oh-so-indispensable ‘90s/’00s hip-hop style staple. Lissom grooves and cheeky mirth aside, this record also delves deep into the bass maestro’s tender side, forthrightly doling out a plethora of poignant musings with disarming candour. Whilst Unrequited Love and Fair Chance both aim squarely for the feels, it’s the presciently-titled Existential Dread that strikes the timeliest chord. Released: 03.04.20

Words: Elodie A. Roy Oneiric Formulary is the eleventh solo album from US experimental musician and crate-digger Richard Bishop (Sun City Girls, Sublime Frequencies). With its sparse arrangements, dominant guitar tones and exotic, ancient strings, it conjures up dust, buried legends and ghost towns. These ten instrumentals are in turn spectral (Graveyard Wanders), mournful (Renaissance Nod) and unsettlingly alive (Enville) – timidly calling forth stories, and immediately dispersing them again. Their mood and execution evoke, in no particular order, the stark, ethnic recordings of the 1930s (such as those reissued by the Secret Museum of Mankind label), 1970s pastiche/library music, the paper-thin tunes of Renaissance composer John Dowland, and 1980s neo-folk - it will take a long time to fully decipher these esoteric, self-erasing poems. Released: 17.04.20

Words: Paul Ray Yves Tumor’s astonishing new album finds Sean Bowie transcending his electronic roots in favour of huge, apocalyptic art rock songs and bruised, soul-flecked ballads. Anchored by nimble basslines and distorted, clattering drums, the album’s first half bristles with nervous energy, with Bowie’s remarkable voice twisting and breaking expressively. Kerosene! is one of the most thrilling songs I’ve listened to this year; a post-industrial Purple Rain for the 2020s, with guest vocalist Diana Gordon performing a star turn alongside Bowie, wailing and screaming in unison with a truly audacious guitar solo. The album’s latter half is unusually vulnerable and sincere for Yves Tumor, the artist crooning in falsetto over lush, roughly looped clouds of guitar and electric piano. An early highlight of 2020. Released: 03.04.20





4.5 / 5




Words: Damian Robinson For those who’ve been aware of him, and like the moment Dylan went electric, there’s a distinct change in sound from local favourite Max Bianco on his debut. Potentially the result of working within a new collective, Harlot Moon sees Bianco nudging his solo/acoustic folk sound slightly to one side in favour of a band-centred pop style, focused on collective themes rather than politics. Harlot Moon and Kiss Me showcase an artist comfortable with the electric/funkier side of folk (perhaps in the style of mid/late Lindisfarne or the Band) whilst the most traditional folk sound of Superflous shows us that Bianco can still create meaningful, sparse, political songs when inclined. Standout, and bluesy/Stonesy Crying All The Time demonstrates that whatever his style, Bianco knows what he’s doing. Released: 02.04.20

3.5 / 5 NICOLE ATKINS ITALIAN ICE (SINGLE LOCK RECORDS) Words: Paul Broadhead New Jersey-born Atkins sounds like an artist of another time on this, her fourth record. From the classic AM rock of the aptly titled opener AM Gold with it’s aptly timed message, “People needing people needing people,” to the 70’s MOR funkier aspects of Fleetwood Mac on Domino, again lyrically resonating deeply with the current climes, “Take me in your arms, they’re sounding the alarm.” Forever is a highlight, though it sounds for all the world like Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and herein lies the records main problem; most of it we’ve heard before. Atkins’ Nashville residence is all over Never Going Home and from then the album disappears into nice enough but largely forgettable mid-tempo swing. Released: 17.04.20


Words: Laura Doyle Southampton’s premiere metalcore ensemble Bury Tomorrow created something incredible with 2018’s Black Flame, any follow-up needed to knock it out of the park. Thankfully, less than two years after its predecessor, Cannibal continues to make the case for metalcore’s validity in the alternative scene. Too often, musicians can become constrained by genre conventions which stifle creativity; Bury Tomorrow consistently succeed in challenging metal norms to revamp and reimagine their sound. Quake breaks norms with dulcet guitars overlapping with powerful, low growls. Gods & Machines embarks has an almost pop-punk melody, but it’s piled high with the blasting drum lines and rapid-fire riffs that make Bury Tomorrow one of the UK’s greatest alt. assets of the past decade. Released: 03.04.20

4.5 / 5 ENTER SHIKARI NOTHING IS TRUE & EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE (SO RECORDINGS) Words: Cameron Wright The sixth studio album by Enter Shikari is an explosive tidal wave of masterfully produced raw energy. From the second those alluring drums sneak into the opening song, you are on the edge of your seat, ready to be torpedoed through an incredible musical experience. Never content rehashing old sounds, the album sees Shikari act as mad scientist, tinkering with instrumentals and intensities throughout the record. The album seems to be brimming with a euphoric yet unhinged and reckless power, while always being uncompromisingly exact and precise from the get go. The album shows the band taking their crazy visions to a beautiful pinnacle and, while it may not be their heaviest, it is certainly their most musically articulate release to date. Released: 17.04.20

Words: Cameron Wright The White Buffalo’s newest release provides everything we love about him. The often eerie instrumentals on tracks such as The Drifter, Sycamore or Cursive elevate the dusty, haunted vocal performances to their breath-taking emotional pinnacle and never distract from the gravity of the lyrics. These tracks capture the quintessential White Buffalo sound, as they build and build with heart-wrenching effect. As always, White Buffalo treats us to a few tracks that differ from this blueprint, such as the unapologetically dirty rocker Faster Than Water or the footstomping No History. While several tracks towards the end fail to reach the same musical intensity, the record contains stunning, full sounding pearls. It is an emotionally mature and expertly melodic record. Released: 17.04.20

4/5 DMA’S THE GLOW (INFECTIOUS MUSIC) Words: Jason Jones The Australian trio have proven once again that when it comes to good old fashioned, festival-razing rock ’n’ roll, there’s an outback in front of us Brits. Britpop revivalism sits proudly front and centre, but the palette of influences feels broader and more nuanced this time around, drawing on both the brooding synth of New Order and the psych of Primal Scream’s Screamdelica to create a stunningly accomplished record. Lead singer Tommy O’Dell has the voice of an angel in a Burberry baseball cap, while standout track Life Is A Changing Game is an enormous, end of the night banger that will leave indie kids in a state of spent euphoria. From start to finish, The Glow is an absolute triumph. Released: 24.04.20


Play Brew was developed from a passion of home brewing and nostalgia. My two young boys gave me the inspiration for creating the brand and its identity, I found myself watching old TV shows such as HE MAN, A Team, Airwolf etc. and buying the original toys I had in the 80s. With a love of creating new beer recipes and branding, Play Brew was born. Middlesbrough was a perfect fit for its home and I was keen to launch a craft brewery and taproom in the town. The taproom has become a huge part of the business and I didn’t expect to be so busy with events! The scene in Middlesbrough is really fun at the moment, with some great local talent which we like to support. I’m open-minded about musical styles and love to hear about new artists from all genres. Hopefully, once the current crisis is over, I would like Play Brew to be on the map not just for our amazing beers, but as a place where we dare to be different, with a safe and friendly vibe!

EIGHTH WONDER I’M NOT SCARED I adore 80s music and aesthetic, and this song takes me back to being in the American Dream Soda in Middlesbrough in the late 80s!

STEPHANE POMPOUGNAC LATIN CHA CHA The Hotel Costes series gives you a real sense of Parisian luxury and refinement.

THE DRUMS BOOK OF REVELATION Probably my favourite band – they sound like a mixture of Beach Boys and Joy Division, with a cool flowing vibe from California, even though they are from New York.

LEWIS OFMAN FLASH With hints of youth and at the same time of 70’s Italian film soundtracks, there’s a shivering atmosphere where melancholia meets joy in this song.

VENDREDI SUR MER MON CHAGRIN A real dreamy synth pop group from Switzerland. Her music is highly cinematic; think of slow disco balls and icy synths. Highly recommended.

THE METEORS YOUR BABY BLUE EYES I’ve just discovered these guys and the psychobilly genre, and it’s probably the most listened to style I’ve enjoyed to this year to date.

THE DELTA BOMBERS THE WAY YOU LOVE ME Another great psychobilly track.

REAL ESTATE PRIMITIVE Real Estate are a great band from New Jersey, they cleverly implement breezy melodies and a hazy style of indie rock.


Profile for narc_media

NARC. #160 April 2020