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ISSUE170

MARCH21

FREE

BONNIE & THE BONNETTES KATHRYN WILLIAMS FAYE FANTARROW LOVELY ASSISTANT DON COYOTE

RELIABLYINFORMED


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PREVIEWS 4 | MARCH PREVIEWS

ISSUE170

MARCH21

FREE

RELIABLYINFORMED

New releases courtesy of Cait, Dressed Like Wolves, Nel Unlit, Craig Clark, The Folding Desert and Shakk, plus livestreams from Grey Tapes, Los Coyote Men, Daliso Chaponda and Felt Nowt comedy club. There’s a host of online art exhibitions including virtual galleries from WETDoveTail, PBVArts, The Auxiliary, NewBridge Project and Eston Arts Centre, unusual film project Route A66: Northern Valhalla and loads more!

INTERVIEWS 13 | CELEBRATE EVERYTHING 14 | KATHRYN WILLIAMS 16 | HANNAH ROBINSON 17 | DON COYOTE 20 | BONNIE & THE BONNETTES Leigh Venus is dazzled by the bite-sized foot-stomping, pant-wetting, glitter-throwing drag party which is about to be beamed straight into living rooms, courtesy of Bonnie & The Bonnettes

I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling slightly anxious about the months ahead. Having been vehemently told to ‘stay at home’ for nearly a year, the prospect of literally rubbing shoulders with other people fills me with an equal measure of fear and excitement. That time is a way off yet though (she says with some feeling of relief), and I for one will be taking tentative steps back into the world rather than flinging myself at people come 21st June (not that I ever did that ‘before’, of course!) Right now though, as the spring slowly emerges outside my home office window, I’m thankful for slightly warmer weather and daring to daydream again about venturing out for some nature-filled explorations. Constant Readers who know of my penchant for travel should be proud of my continued abstinence from Skyscanner, but I can’t promise it’ll last for the duration of the year! The forthcoming changes will mean an awful lot to our friends in the hospitality industry, and I’m hopeful things work out as everyone wants them to. Writing this at the end of February, I’m eagerly awaiting the plethora of gig and event confirmations to come pinging into my inbox over the coming weeks. Although we may still be locked down for now, there’s still plenty to engage with over the next month, and our pages are bursting with online shows, exhibitions and releases of all kinds. Editor Claire Dupree info@narcmedia.com Website David Saunders narcmagazineonline@gmail.com Creative El Roboto Advertising Claire Dupree info@narcmedia.com

Cover Image TJMov Contributors Paul Brown / Jonathan Coll / Kristopher Cook / Mark Corcoran-Lettice / Caitlin Disken / Laura Doyle / Mollie Field / Lee Fisher / Lee Hammond / James Hattersley / Beverley Knight / Jay Moussa-Mann / Kate Murphy / Robert Nichols / Michael O’Neill / Ikenna Offor / Stephen Oliver / Damian Robinson / Elodie A Roy / Dawn Storey / Leigh Venus / Robin Webb / Ali Welford / Maria Winter / Cameron Wright

Stay social, connect with us NARC.magazine @narc_magazine @narcmagazine NARCmagazineTV

18 | COLLISION & CONFLICT 19 | TLR 22 | STUART ROOK 23 | TEESSIDE RISING 24 | FAYE FANTARROW 25 | SISTER SHACK 26 | WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE WORKING CLASS? 28 | JANICE BURNS & JON DORAN 29 | LUCY NICHOL 30 | LOVELY ASSISTANT REVIEWS 31 | DEMOS

Demo reviews of Charlotte Forman, Jvck November, Ecota, Alfie Blue and Pitmatic

32 | TRACKS

Reviews of singles by North East artists including YVA, Wnter, Eyeconic, KRAiG DiEL, MXYM, Gaz Price, Mount Johnson, The Strands, Human History., Igg, Michael Gallagher and Mt. Misery

34 | ALBUMS

Reviews of albums by Arab Strap, For Those I Love, Cathal Coughlan, Jane Weaver, Genghis Tron, Xiu Xiu, Tune-Yards, Fruit Bats, The Anchoress, Death From Above 1979, Israel Nash, The Snuts, Pet Needs, Black Spiders, Field Works, Hannah Peel, Ted Barnes, Citizen, Teeth Agency, Chad VanGaalan and Doohickey Cubicle

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NARC. Magazine, Tel: 07748 907 914 Email: info@narcmedia.com Web: www.narcmagazine.com 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

The Six Twenty’s Melanie Rashbrooke talks about some of the tracks included as part of their I Made You A Playlist project for Northumberland Winter Festival

Next Issue Out 31st March

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PREVIEWS

MUSIC

CAIT RELEASES NEW EP, SOMETHING LIKE THAT Words: Maria Winter This month sees the release of a new EP from talented Blyth-based songwriter Cait, entitled Something Like That. Currently based between her North East roots and a small coastal town in South Africa, Cait’s music often reflects her

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inspirations from both locations. Having independently released her brilliant debut EP Ocean Hearted during the first lockdown, Cait’s soft, acoustic sound has received acclaim from the likes of BBC Introducing in the North East, and her new EP demonstrates a musical delicacy through elegant guitar and vocals. The six song EP is the perfect illustration of Cait’s signature sound, with the title track setting the tone. The thematic content often relates to nature, and Cait’s ability to capture the listener’s attention both melodically and

lyrically is profound, highlighting her storytelling talent. The corresponding music video to the track Binary Star also fits perfectly with the musical serenity; set on a beach, it depicts an affectionate relationship between two lovers. Something Like That provides the perfect escape during the current circumstances, so if you’re looking for something harmonious and relaxing to whisk you away, this EP is for you. Cait releases Something Like That on 4th March www.caitmusic.bandcamp.com


OCTOBER HIGHLIGHTS

PREVIEWS

Image by Darren Jelly O’Kane

MUSIC

GREY TAPES @ THE GLOBE ONLINE

Words: Laura Doyle Live music – what a thing, right? Just as it was starting to feel like a distant memory, folks like the good people at The Globe in Newcastle nail a provisional plan to see us through the desolate time. They’re hosting Newcastle’s beat

maker and producer collective Grey Tapes in the most economically minded way: a livestream beamed directly into your homes. Electronic music has an unusual reputation in this game, with too many people thinking that it’s just a bunch of people essentially pressing play so that they can mime along to their pre-recorded beats. This presumption is really damaging, because it erases the hard work that actually often goes into electronic performances. Grey Tapes are even more live than most other electronic artists, completely

doing away with any kind of backing track. Any sound you hear Grey Tapes make is fresh off the line, manufactured for that performance and that performance alone. So while it isn’t ideal that you’re unable to witness their experimental sounds face to face, you can at least settle in for the night in the knowledge that you’re experiencing an evening of unique and wholly original music. Grey Tapes perform a livestream gig via The Globe online on Saturday 27th March www.greytapesuk.bandcamp.com

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PREVIEWS

Dressed Like Wolves

MUSIC

DRESSED LIKE WOLVES/NEL UNLIT RELEASE SPLIT 7”

Words: Laura Doyle Teesside buddies Dressed Like Wolves and Nel Unlit have teamed up to release their new singles together as a split 7”. This release switches things up quite a bit from Nel Unlit’s usual fantasy neo-folk work, creating intricate soundscapes for Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel Sandman. A first for the collaborative nine-piece, Nel Unlit has delved into the autobiographical with this love letter to partners everywhere in the emotional Six Nights. A smidgen of a capella and bright acoustics make for a truly moving spectacle of feelings. Dressed Like Wolves meanwhile are getting in on this gratitude inspired action with their own companion single, Big Pool, recorded as part of a campaign to help out live music venues which have suffered since the pandemic, namely Middlesbrough’s Westgarth Social Club (where I got a free Jammy Dodger on the door the first time I went there, true fact). The

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unsuspecting pub has been the site of many a Teesside band cutting their teeth on its compact stage. Big Pool adds to the nostalgia for those simple, communal times with gentle indie beats best suited to the breaks between bands spent by the bar. Both tracks are doing their own thing, but both are a love letter in their own way; that’s why this move makes total sense. Dressed Like Wolves/Nel Unlit release Six Nights/Big Pool on 26th March www.nelunlit.wordspress.com www.dressedlikewolves.bandcamp.com

ART & LIT

MORGAN BLACK @ ESTON ARTS CENTRE ONLINE

Words: Maria Winter Throughout March, Eston Arts Centre will be premiering Solstice – a new film by Morgan Black, via their social media pages. Morgan Black is a gender nonconforming artist, whose experience includes performance, digital video, drawing, sound/music and written and

spoken narrative. Featured in print by the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, their work demonstrates incredible talent and effortlessness. Morgan Black is also a prominent activist for LGBTQIA+ causes, as well as one of the founding members for Dundee-based art collective the Queer Dot, which strengthens queer voices through online and public shows. Talking about Solstice, Morgan Black writes: “The film focuses on the poetic mythological interpretations of winter and, specifically, the Solstice – which is the turning point of the year in many cultures and societies. Channelling the works of Robert Graves, the film explores the relationship between landscape, natural cycles, nature, and human interpretations of, and relationships with, these themes.” Drawing inspiration from Graves’ lunar cults and scholars of mythology Joseph Campbell and Jane Harrison, along with philosopher Eugene Thacker’s ‘world in itself’ thoughts, dark ecology and black metal music. Solstice by Morgan Black will be premiered on Eston Arts Centre’s social media pages from 1st-31st March www.facebook.com/estonartscentre www.instagram.com/estonartscentre


PREVIEWS

Bumi Thomas by Amoroso Films

MUSIC

UNITY FESTIVAL

Words: Claire Dupree Newcastle-based Skimstone Arts, who lead the charge for inclusive arts practice and social action in the region, have put together an intergenerational and international line-up for their online UNITY festival which runs from Friday 5th-Sunday 7th March. Comprising of free online live music, storytelling and workshops, an array of talent will take part. Friday night hosts Claire Webster Saaremets and Kema Sikazwe (aka rapper Kema Kay) will launch the festival on their very own internet radio station, where audiences can hear more about what’s coming up over the weekend. Newcastle rapper Kay Greyson will bring her fusion of modern hip-hop to the main stage as Saturday’s night headliner and on Sunday night, British Nigerian jazz-folk-soul singer-songwriter and guitarist Bumi Thomas takes on headline duties. The music ‘tent’ is also the place to be for learning new skills. Try out everything from family friendly rhythm workshops with David

Stickman Higgins and a special songwriting workshop with Skimstone Arts’ musicians Liz Corney and Quinn Green, to learning the art of African dance techniques with Nii Kwarty Owoo. There’s even the opportunity to work with rapper Kema Sikazwe and aspiring young performer Daniel to get a taste for freestyle rap or to join in a live virtual sing-a-long with Bethany Elen Coyle. In the Chill Out space, festival goers can be immersed in shared stories, nature and fantasy. UNITY Festival events take place via Zoom. Visit the Skimstone Arts website for details on how to join www.skimstonearts.org.uk

COMEDY

FELT NOWT COMEDY SHOWS

Words: Cameron Wright With the pandemic posing a burden to multiple industries, comedy is no exception. With comedians losing the opportunity to perform, the Community Interest Company Felt Nowt are pushing all their

profits directly back into the industry. Dedicated to serving the comedy scene in the region, the company was born out of a need to serve and endorse the world of local comedy. By providing the finest comedy talent across the North East, Felt Nowt aims to elevate spirits while simultaneously nurturing the art form, and shows are delivered from a proper stage with professional lighting and sound. Every month they present an array of solo stand-up sets, with March’s delights coming from comics such as John Scott and Carl Hutchinson (both Friday 5th) and Nicola Mantalios and Neil Harris (both Friday 19th). Their Felt Now Friday events showcase the works of four unique comedians and a host for just a tenner for a household ticket, with this month seeing sets from Andy Fury, George Zach, Kelly Edgar and Raul Kohli (Friday 5th) and Lee Kyle, Sean Turner, Sam Mayes and Steffen Peddie (Friday 19th), all presided over by MC Hal Branson. Felt Nowt are constantly working to provide an array of distinct comedy experiences to their audience, while supporting the arts and providing a space for comedians to grow. With new events and comedians constantly scheduling concerts and sets, check out their website for updates and tickets. www.feltnowt.co.uk

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PREVIEWS

Los Coyote Men

MUSIC

LOS COYOTE MEN @ THE GLOBE ONLINE

Words: Maria Winter Trashy garage-punk band Los Coyote Men will bring their irrepressible energy (and iconic Mexican wrestling masks) to a livestreamed gig at The Globe, Newcastle on Saturday 20th March, where good music, good entertainment and an overall good time is the order of the day. The Globe’s livestreams have become a real lifeline for regional musicians, as they continue to showcase a variety of alternative music and arts events every week. Los Coyote Men have been producing music and touring for over 20 years, gaining an immense following for their incredibly unique, garage-punk sound. Likening themselves to bands such as The Cramps and The Sonics, this band will not disappoint with their energetic on-stage presence. With years of experience under their belts, Los Coyote Men will no doubt

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take this livestreamed set-up and give the audience a night to remember – unlikely to allow the format to restrict their style, their take on a virtual performance is certain to be memorable. In their own words… “You want more evil than Knievel? Check my ass that’s a tail swingin’ from it!” We couldn’t put it better ourselves! Los Coyote Men perform a livestreamed show via The Globe Online on Saturday 20th March www.theglobenewcastle.bar

ART & LIT

3RDWAVE

Words: Jonathan Coll The Collective Studio is an initiative which aims to give artists in the North East the inspiration, resource and support with which to flourish. It’s part of a collaboration between The NewBridge Project and Newcastle University and its Institute for Creative Arts Practice, and has been producing some fantastic work in difficult circumstances.

A new three-stage workshop and exhibition programme entitled 3rdWAVE brings together the cohorts from the third and fourth year of the project, with the aim of injecting new ideas and concepts into last year’s work. This follows the successful launch of SCRAMBLE in Middlesbrough, which took place in March last year. This year’s edition was also initially planned as a real life exhibition, before COVID unfortunately curtailed those plans. The pandemic has not, however, dented any of the artists enthusiasm, and the pieces that mark the start of 2021 are every bit as creative and ambitious. Will Stockwell has produced an innovative way to display the artwork which links the third and fourth years of the project. The first wave of the site allows the artists to reflect on last year’s work, the second offers their response and the third wave displays some entirely new concepts, all tied up with a surfer-styled graphics making for an enjoyable meander across the sites and some varied work to enjoy. 3rdWAVE is available to view online now www.3rdwave.cargo.site


PREVIEWS

Image by Kraken Cinematic

MUSIC

SHAKK RELEASES NEW SINGLE, LOOSE ENDS

Words: Jonathan Coll Middlesbrough-based rapper Shakk returns with his forthcoming single Loose Ends, which drops on 19th March, and comes from having used a challenging year as the inspiration for some of his best work yet.

The forthcoming single maintains the same sort of intensity, flow and lyricism as last year’s single Toxic Rick, while keeping the ideas and subject matter completely fresh. The beat was produced by Versus, and there are ambitious plans in the works for visuals to accompany the track as soon as COVID restrictions allow. Hip-hop and grime are at their absolute best when they’re sincere, and Shakk has always used his own lived experience as the basis for his lyrics. He’s drawn on an introspective period spent in lockdown and used the experience to become the best rapper he can be. “Even though

2020 was a strong year for me as an artist you could say that I still had a chip on my shoulder entering 2021 with a feeling of something to prove and I believe this track reflects that attitude accurately.” He says of the song. He’s also spoken of his ambition to take his musical projects to the biggest stages, and is definitely one to keep an eye on as live events begin to pick back up. Shakk releases Loose Ends on 19th March www.facebook.com/shakkmusic

. LAUNCHES MARCH 8 . DIRECT FROM BASE CAMP BORO .

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PREVIEWS

Daliso Chaponda

COMEDY

DALISO CHAPONDA @ ARC ONLINE

Words: Cameron Wright By the time Daliso Chaponda rose to fame through 2017’s Britain’s Got Talent, he was already a seasoned veteran, having spent years honing his observations and sharpening his quips. Incessant touring and the meticulously crafted material helped shoot Daliso into the nation’s hearts and he has maintained his place there for years. The Malawian comedian turned Golden Buzzer contestant has been climbing the ladder, delivering his brand of warm and charming self-deprecation. With his slew of tours, his Citizen of Nowhere series on BBC Radio 4 and an appearance on 2020’s Royal Variety Performance, Daliso has become a welcome name into the conversation of British comedy. With the drastic changes of 2020, Daliso’s world was dramatically affected. Shaping an hour of cutting satire, he’s now ready to showcase his Apocalypse Not Now tour, which takes in Stockton’s ARC on Saturday 6th March. This

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online event will show Daliso’s fire through his slick, polished set which follows the politics and confusion we are all affected by. The Covid-safe experience can bring Daliso’s daring observations into your home, offering an essential respite, much-needed solace and a few laughs into the bargain. Daliso Chaponda performs via ARC Online on Saturday 6th March www.arconline.co.uk

ART & LIT

THE LIVING ARCHIVE @ THE AUXILIARY ONLINE

Words: Claire Dupree In our increasingly online world it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd and be visible to audiences. Nick John Williams, a Middlesbroughbased sound designer and artist, has come up with a way to help artists cut through the noise with The Living Archive. Designed as an “elegant solution for small and medium-sized organisations who want to engage audiences

online with their digital archives, media libraries and collections”, The Living Archive is an easy-to-use platform which can be used to connect with audiences, share digital content and create new channels of engagement. Studio holders at Middlesbrough creative hub The Auxiliary have been working with the platform to create a unique digital exhibition of their creative practices and experiences. “Together we have reimagined the way in which projects may be documented online as we present sketches, notebooks, works-in-progress and experiments, alongside finished artworks to give the audience a greater understanding, not only of the artist and their work, but of the rigour, playfulness, virtuosity and seriousness from which great artworks emerge.” Nick John Williams explains. “The studio holders and artists in residence will continue to upload content throughout the duration of the exhibition, creating a living document of their art practices for audiences to explore.” The Living Archive will go live on Monday 1st March and will run for the whole month www.theauxiliary.co.uk/living-archive


PREVIEWS

WETDovetail

ART & LIT

1:3 @ WETDOVETAIL ONLINE

Words: Damian Robinson Blurring the lines between everyday functionality and corporate communication tools, 3D artwork, like street art before it (and pop art before that), often makes interesting statements by taking everyday icons and transforming them before our eyes. Looking to promote such works, WetDoveTail, an online digital space which launches this month, will host virtual gallery events with artists from across the North East. Opening during the first lockdown, WetDoveTail’s projects have mushroomed out since; expanding to include experimental films and the 1:1 exhibition; the collective’s first funded exhibition in their digital space. Often striking artistic gold by finding interesting variances between the shades of software normality we take for granted, 1:1 was both moving and challenging; presenting work that was fluid and, on occasion, able to be interacted with.

Preparing to dazzle with artists who submitted work during a recent online open call, WetDoveTail’s next exhibition, 1:3, will continue in the digital vein and feature the work of 25-30 artists across a variety of mediums from video and performance-based creations as well as 2D and 3D works – proving again that the pop art form is often the most effective way of holding a mirror up to ourselves and demanding that we ask the big questions. 1:3 is online now at WetDoveTail’s online space www.wetdovetail.com

ART & LIT

LET US EAT CAKE @ PBVARTS

Words: Beverley Knight To honour International Women’s Day, creators Slutmouth (aka Bettie Hope) and Wild Lamb (aka Paige Livingstone), felt the urge to pool their forward-thinking ideas to curate their punchy exhibition Let Us Eat Cake, which will debut at new online space PBVArts from Monday 8th March.

Local, national and international femaleidentifying artists of a working class background are in their team, with the art upholding a booming voice demanding not just to be heard, but to be listened to with intent and respect. Bettie explains: “We are excited to introduce and showcase some fantastic female creatives from the North East and beyond. There’s wonderful momentum up here, and we aim to show the North for what it truly is: a powerhouse full of creatives!” Paige adds: “Growing up working class and being female in one of the most deprived areas in the UK will, if nothing else, toughen you up and sharpen your wit, and that’s something that I see reflected a lot in my work and also the work of my favourite local artists.” This collaborative curatorial debut will shine a light on the next generation of young, emerging talent from the region, with empowerment at the core of the dynamic artists involved. Let Us Eat Cake takes place at PBVArts from Monday 8th March for four weeks www.pineappleblack.co.uk

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PREVIEWS

Craig Clark by Natalie Pilkington

FILM

ROUTE A66: NORTHERN VALHALLA

Words: Claire Dupree According to Norse mythology, Valhalla is a sumptuous hall home to slain warriors presided over by Odin. The concept of a ‘Northern Valhalla’ may suggest fearless folk dining on never-ending parmos instead of slaughtered boar, but for artists Gordon Dalton and S Mark Gubb, creators of this intriguingly titled new film project, the inference is clear: along this stretch of road lies a place of mythic qualities. Route A66: Northern Valhalla is part road trip, part discovery of identity; following the A66 from east to west, the film will talk to people on the route about their hopes and fears for the future, with the aim of creating an archive of emotions and opinions. The artistic duo are old hands at crafting accessible and inclusive work which take reference from popular culture, politics and “a sense of the impossible”, and Route 66: Northern Valhalla will include exhibitions, collaborations and two special and highly visible public events. In order to make this project a reality, they’re looking for people who live along the route to take part. Collaborators so far include Minecraft YouTubers, mountain bikers, lorry drivers, up and coming MCs and skateboarders, as well as ‘lord of the logos’ Christophe Szpadgel, who has created logos for just about every black metal band out there, and has made a suitably striking logo for the film. Dalton and Gubb explain more about the project: “We are keen to meet, in real life, or online, as many people as possible to answer some questions, but mainly just to say ‘hi, how are you today?’ We are keen to chat to people with varied interests and opinions. Life along the A66 isn’t just a glossy, touristy drone film of

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our best bits, and it isn’t some boring film you’d see in a gallery. You see a much better reflection of current life on TikTok, and it’s funny, opinionated, diverse and immediate.” To get involved with Route A66: Northern Valhalla find them on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok www.instagram.com/northernvalhalla66

MUSIC

CRAIG CLARK RELEASES NEW SINGLE, IDAHO

Words: Laura Doyle A lot of people have taken 2021 as a fresh start. It’s not simply been about ambitious New Year resolutions that have slowly eroded away over the first couple months, but there’s instead been a genuine drive by many to just get over the last few hurdles before we’re home free. With this newfound optimism also comes musicians’ plans to make this year better than the last, and that means good organisation and structure. The epitome of this is Newcastle singer-songwriter Craig Clark’s tentative release schedule which, fingers crossed, will see him through the year on a stable note. Idaho is the first of four releases, which comes this month to ease us into the new year’s ventures with deep, rich indie folk sounds. Inspiration can come from the most simple of experiences sometimes, and Idaho found its roots in the concept of a mind-clearing drive. For those of us without licenses, a similar feeling might be found in a bracing walk, a meditative session, or some other focussed hobby – whatever helps you clear your head and work through life’s most troublesome problems. After a year of being cooped up and swamped in stress and uncertainty, this

compact dose of escapism is a breath of fresh air. Craig Clark releases Idaho on 5th March www.craigclarkmusic.co.uk

ART & LIT

NORTHERN WRITERS STUDIO EVENTS

Words: Maria Winter Northern Writers Studio bring writers together through workshops and events to provide encouragement to those with literary endeavours. They have some great opportunities for newcomers and experienced writers alike, whether you’re looking to develop your writing abilities, or just want to try something new. Every month they work with a Northern writer to deliver an inspiring workshop and on Wednesday 17th March they are collaborating with the brilliant novelist, performer and storyteller Sarah Dobbs. The workshop will introduce writers to methods used to create work for performance, using these methods to reconsider approaches to prose. There is also a spoken word event on Wednesday 10th March in aid of East End Women, hosted by Bridget Hamilton and Sarah Davy from Northern Writers Studio itself. With open mic slots available, this is an event worth taking part in. If you’re looking for something more regular, Northern Writers Studio meet every Friday and Sunday at 10am for their Write-In sessions. These free sessions bring writers together (via Zoom) to participate in a relaxed, communal writing experience. Whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, or planning submissions – everyone is welcome. www.northernwritersstudio.co.uk


INTERVIEWS EVENTS

The Sapphic Demandments as part of Base Camp’s Celebrate Everything Festival, by Keavey Gamwell

CELEBRATE EVERYTHING

CLAIRE DUPREE FINDS THERE’S MUCH TO CELEBRATE IN MIDDLESBROUGH, AS BASE CAMP PRESENT A WEEK-LONG SERIES OF EVENTS AROUND INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY It sounds like a call to arms: Celebrate Everything. At a time when changes on the horizon seem fuzzy and inconceivable as we still sit in our houses, the suggestion of celebrating anything at all sounds like a challenge. It’s one that Middlesbrough’s Base Camp are rising to though; having revamped their space last year (not to mention being one of only a handful of DIY spaces on Teesside which welcomed live music outside), they’ve continued to roll with the punches to provide a welcoming space for artists and musicians, and it’s this spirit of creativity they’re commanding us to celebrate, with a week-long series of performances and events which centre around International Women’s Day. Of course, Celebrate Everything is nothing new; having begun life as a music festival in 2019, it has since blossomed into a multi-disciplined event, and this year the fun is taken online, with performances captured by filmmaker Lizzie McKeone. “The clue is really in the title.” Says Base Camp’s Carmel Ramsey. “It’s an eclectic and dynamic showcase of some of the most exciting emerging talent from across the North East. We’ve moved it online until lockdown restrictions lift and pulled together musicians, artists, spoken word performers, writers, filmmakers, visual artists, rappers and much more. We have based the first raft of activity around International Women’s Day and chosen artists that we have long wanted to work with or who inspire us.” Kicking off from Monday 8th March and taking place throughout the coming week, the venue’s social media pages will present a showcase or performance every day by a female performer, all presented by venue

WE HAVE PULLED TOGETHER MUSICIANS, ARTISTS, SPOKEN WORD PERFORMERS, WRITERS, FILMMAKERS, VISUAL ARTISTS, RAPPERS AND MUCH MORE

manager Jemma Jelf. “The first wave of activity celebrates the amazing way women have negotiated lockdown. There will be new work, established artists working in new ways, one-off collaborations and some proper antics to put a smile on your face.” Highlights include poet, playwright and The Red Room founder Lisa Lovebucket performing a celebratory piece about her multi-roled experience of lockdown through the medium of the wig; all-round creative Keavey Gamwell presents The Sapphic Demandments Zine, a collection of illustrated/designed societal issues stemming from lesbian/ WLW (women love women) identity; filmmaker Elizabeth Evans captures the loneliness and isolation of lockdown with two haunting films; Sunderland band bigfatbig call out the haters, trolls and the misogynists in the music business with a brilliantly funny and incisive video; and Northern School of Art students Lace Collective exhibit work based on their individual and collective experiences of lockdown. Also of note will be a special event from deaf performer Colly Metcalfe, who collaborates with Darlington songwriter Eve Conway. “We had seen Colly Metcalfe at an event at Base Camp and were completely blown away by her performance. We wanted to pair her with a local musician and Eve Conway’s song Crucified by Hurricanes just seemed to be the perfect piece. We filmed [her performance] in the basement at Base Camp and the rawness of the surroundings along with the gracefulness of Colly’s performance and the soaring vocals are absolutely spine tingling. For me, that’s a real highlight of the festival. It makes me cry every time I watch it!” There are more performances on the horizon, with pop-up events planned throughout March and April, proving that perhaps we don’t have to look too far for something to celebrate. Follow the action via the venue’s social media pages at @ basecampboro www.facebook.com/basecampboro

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INTERVIEW

ART & LIT

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Image by Fiona Pattison


INTERVIEW

I FIND IT INTERESTING WITH SPEECH AND TEXT HOW WE READ BETWEEN THE LINES TO UNDERSTAND WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

KATHRYN WILLIAMS

JAY MOUSSA-MANN TALKS TO THE NORTH EAST MUSICIAN ABOUT THE RELEASE OF HER DEBUT NOVEL

Set amidst a series of darkly foreboding events, The Ormering Tide is the beautiful debut novel from Mercury Prize-nominated musician Kathryn Williams. A coming-of age story, The Ormering Tide is told from the point of view of Rozel, the youngest girl in a family situated on a little island near the sea. Life seems gentle enough, until Rozel’s brother goes missing and she finds herself in the middle of a tangle of secrets, slowly winding around her as she is gradually pulled into the lives and lies of everyone she knows. Although the story isn’t actually set there, Jersey was a powerful inspiration for the characters and setting of the novel, and Kathryn explains that she’s always been fascinated by the island of Jersey. “I’m really interested in Jersey because it was occupied in the war. It has the remains of things like German towers and walls and underground hospitals. Something that was occupied and then all of the people that made those things left...I find that really interesting, it’s like a fingerprint of time and history that is actually physically on the landscape.” The characters and their mystery live with you long after you put the book down. I found myself returning to the story, wanting to revisit these people I’d come to know so quickly. The intrigue is very much buried in the individual history of the characters, seemingly imprinted in the soil and stone of the island. I particularly related to Rozel; she sees life in an unusual light, often standing on the peripheral, slightly removed, but bearing the weight of knowing too much. Yet like most children, no one quite notices her powers. She is in tune with the sea and nature, she sees things others can’t and secrets are revealed to her in dreams. “I wanted to make the way Rozel saw the world poetic and unique in her own way,” says Kathryn. “As it develops through the book, and she’s starting to get older, the really free, artistic way of seeing the world is sort of toned down a bit.” At one point, Rozel is able to understand something that no one else can. She is as surprised as everyone around her and a duty suddenly falls to her. She is described as speaking “falling down a hole language”. Kathryn enhances the story with poetic moments like this: lines that sound like song, speaking very deep truths; words ebb and flow, sentences wash over pebbles on the shore. It’s truly satisfying. “How you read language is interesting to me,” Kathryn reflects. “I find it interesting with speech and text how we read

between the lines to understand what people are saying.” One of my favourite lines in the book was used to describe Rozel’s mother, Maman: “She had an invisible string to her children, it could let out like a spider’s web, turn corners and knot back on itself but if she ever felt it slacken, she knew it would take over, it would cloud her. Maman’s thread had broken a few years before me, when the baby that had been inside her, came out dead...” The book features strong female figures; Rozel, Maman and the neighbour Mrs Bertram are all striking women in very different ways and themes of motherhood permeates throughout. The Ormering Tide is full of secrets. Dark ones, happy ones, touching ones, with a single thread running the length of the plot, pulling you in. Funnily enough, Kathryn feels as though she has finally revealed a secret of her own that she has been keeping for a long time. The book itself! “This is new territory; I’ve done so many interviews over the years for my musical career. This is the first time I’m talking about something that has been quite a big secret and private for a long time.” The title holds a secret too; a clue to the overarching theme. I hear a smile in Kathryn’s voice as she tells me, “The secret really came from ormers and the ormering tide...” The book’s title refers to a special time in Jersey that occurs during spring tides when ormers, a type of small marine snail, can be harvested. For centuries have been used for trading, eating and decoration. There are strict rules to follow and the window of collection is very small. This ancient tradition was part of the inspiration for Rozel’s story. “There’s only a couple of times in the year of the island where the sea recedes and things are revealed...and the things that are revealed are inside shells...” During Jersey’s occupation of World War II, ormers provided much needed food to Jersey residents. The Ormer Mother of Pearl has been used in a variety of items, such as musical instruments, furniture and jewellery. For Kathryn, this was part of the inspiration for the book. “Something shining inside something that’s camouflaged to a rock is really beautiful. The idea that secret shining bit of the shell then becomes something that’s kept and made into furniture...it’s just intriguing.” The Ormering Tide by Kathryn Williams is released on Monday 22nd March www.wreckingballpress.com/the-ormering-tide www.kathrynwilliams.co.uk

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

HANNAH ROBINSON

Image by Coast to Coast Photography

I WANT MY PERSONALITY TO COME THROUGH ON THESE SONGS, BUT AT THE SAME TIME I DON’T WANT TO GIVE EVERYTHING AWAY

KRISTOPHER COOK FINDS OUT MORE ABOUT THE GATESHEAD SONGWRITER’S SELF-PRODUCED EP Where do you go when you’re trapped at home? Bet you’ve picked up a hobby or two, or focused more on your creative side; you know, the spark that’s long gone unnoticed. Either way, local artist Hannah Robinson is making the soundtrack to your mental wanderlust, and has been for quite some time now. “I’ll sit and recite songs I made when I was 12/13 and recycle them to use now. I’ve had a bit of writer’s block recently, so going back and either adding or taking bits away definitely helps. The lyrics are obviously bad, but there is definitely something there for me to use.” Musically, she pulls from a range of colours – despite her style emanating a whole lotta rouge. Hannah names Ladyhawke and first real sonic crush KT Tunstall as set inspirations. Presently she trips to California via a somewhat famous coast. “My current vibe…I love Best Coast – they love the reverb, same as me! It has this beach sound to it which works really well with my voice. Reverb and echo definitely do – it’s also really fun to just experiment with.” Hannah releases her new EP, Dark Desires, this month, and everything that you see and hear is made in-house by her directly, from artwork, instrumentals and vocals, to doing the promo. “I definitely feel like I’ve gotten more of a following since being in lockdown – especially on YouTube. People have so much spare time now and access to technology to find you. It’s definitely helped me

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take advantage of the space I’ve got with my music videos as they’re all done in the house or wherever.” Lo-fi and washed out in a somewhat melancholic sadness, 2020 single Confusion leans on that spacey late-night lounge vibe, and is a literal confession of a DIY mind. Fool For Him, another gem from last year, lives life in carousel-like retrograde, documenting the push/pull of fond thoughts over another soul. As well as a solo performer, Hannah is also the guitarist in Gateshead act Carabiniers, whose style skirts the sounds of garage rock and ska. Her upcoming solo project is not a farewell to the group, but an understanding of fresh challenges that appear when going out on your lonesome. “These are all songs that I’ve produced myself, and it’s a lot of pressure on me to make sure it goes down well and that people like the songs.” Hannah explains that with Dark Desires she’s leaving everything open to interpretation. “I want my personality to come through on these songs, but at the same time I don’t want to give everything away. I want it to be a bit mysterious, which is where the name comes from.” Hannah Robinson releases Dark Desires on 26th March www.facebook.com/hanrobinsonmusic


INTERVIEW

MUSIC

DON COYOTE

Image by Pippa Poppay

MARIA WINTER TALKS TO THE NEWCASTLE BAND ABOUT THE PROCESSES, INFLUENCES AND ARTISTIC DECISIONS BEHIND THEIR NEW EP Newcastle band Don Coyote thrive when performing live; with the lack of opportunities to get their thrilling fusion of jazz and blues-inflected distinctive indie rock and pop across in a live setting, they’ve gone with the next best thing on their new EP. “We wanted it to sound organic. Close enough to what it would sound like if we were actually gigging,” says Sam, the band’s vocalist and guitarist. Their EP, Don Quixote’s Tinder Profile, is filled with delightful musical elements which ably show off the trio’s talent. From funky bass lines to intricate guitar riffs, Don Coyote know how to engage their listeners through their music. Featuring two previously released singles, Somebody and Don Quixote, the band continue their sonically coherent journey with the addition of two new tracks, To Be Kind and TSIA. According to Sam, the eclectic title reflects something “a little old school with a new flavour”, with bassist Charlie adding: “in modern relationships you can’t really avoid thinking of Tinder” – an undoubtedly true statement. With no initial set vision for the EP and the abruptness of the first lockdown, the time apart gave the trio a chance to turn to their original material. With a desire to replicate the improvisational qualities of their live performances, they struggled to stick to just one version during the recording process. “We make a conscious effort to change the songs up during gigs,” says drummer Aidan.

THE NOTABLE COMPONENT TO THEIR RELEASE IS THE EXPLORATION OF UNIVERSAL, THEMATIC CONTENT

“Me and Charlie both don’t like having just one version of the song. When we play live, there is more of a fluidity to it where we can change it up.” For the listener, it’s this spontaneity that enables each song to take many different directions – these moments of distinctness allow for variety and flavour to shine through. The notable component to their release is the exploration of universal, thematic content. The first track, Don Quixote, features punchy guitar rhythms in correspondence with prominent, rebellious lyrics regarding a “belated, moody adolescent stage”, as Sam describes it. The tracks Somebody and TSIA effectively play on the listener’s emotions by incorporating themes of love and kindness into the musicality, reflecting more of a pop vibe. Finally, To Be Kind holds a lasting impression, perhaps due to its incredibly relatable narrative; the story depicts one of Sam’s challenging days at work teaching kids, with the music effectively emulating the journey of emotions he encountered throughout the day. Appealing to a broad range of listeners through its subliminal blend of genres, this EP definitely highlights the individual creative touches brought by each band member through collective experiences, which successfully constructs their overall identity. Don Coyote share their goal: “We want to keep making songs, get more of a following, and it would be nice to do an album sometime this year.” Don Coyote release Don Quixote’s Tinder Profile on 19th March www.d0ncoyote.bandcamp.com

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

L-R, T-B: Bridie Jackson, Lindsay Hannon, Iona Lane, Ellen Moran

COLLISION & CONFLICT LAURA DOYLE FINDS OUT ABOUT THE GEOLOCATED SOUND WALK WHICH BRINGS NORTHUMBERLAND’S HISTORIC LANDSCAPES AND THE CREATIVE RESPONSES IT PROVOKES TO LIFE You sometimes hear talk of an ‘immersive experience’, be it in the theatre, while listening to an album, or when reading a book. These are usually rather figurative examples though – we might feel like we’re part of the action, but we’re still ultimately on the sidelines. Green Croft Arts is changing the game on this with their new project Collision & Conflict, which launches on Friday 26th March. In the current climate that has been so detrimental to traditional art consumption, this project aims to bring cultural experiences to one of the remotest areas of the region. Through the joys of a smartphone app, hikers can take a journey around Wall Country accompanied by a specially curated soundscape of music, sound, storytelling and spoken word. Fourteen artists with ties to the region have contributed pieces in their respective fields to inform, educate and entertain. Bridie Jackson will be combining her musical prowess with that of Northumberland-based writer and designer Jude Irwin, who already has a track record for encouraging accessible, bracing walks; composers and sound artists :zoviet*france: contribute their genre-defining music to the project; multi-media artist Dan Fox has a basis in absurdist theatre and site-specific sound and lighting masterpieces; theatre director Oliver Furber’s pairing with actor and filmmaker Ramzi Maqdisi is certain to provoke an interesting theatrical response to the surroundings; sound artist Joe Snook teams up with electronic music composer and performer Dean Dennis; historian and storyteller David Silk will represent stories from the area with help from musician Lindsay Hannon in a quest

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IN OUR FAST PACED AND EVER PROGRESSIVE WORLD, IT IS IMPORTANT TO STOP FOR A MOMENT AND DISCOVER HOW THE PAST AND PRESENT HAVE BEEN INTERTWINED, TO HELP US SEE MORE CLEARLY WHAT THE FUTURE COULD HOLD

to unite our past with the present; spoken word specialist Ellen Moran has already covered topics such as feminism, community change and the housing crisis, so taking on contemporary community issues facing Northumbrians will be a new, worthwhile venture; the region’s rich mythology comes under the microscope of writer Emma Newrick; while Iona Lane’s folklore inflected sounds will seek to uncover rural folktales. We’re all pretty used to stories of Romans, their forts and roads living up here, but we rarely think about the link between our history and the present day. The Borderlands, defined by conflict and collision throughout its remarkably dramatic history, has long been a battleground for control and power. Hadrian’s Wall marked the border between the Roman Empire and the ‘barbarian wilderness’, but it also represented trade, communication and community. Let’s face it, it would be a pretty terrible wall for simply keeping everyone out if it’s full of gates and checkpoints. Perhaps you can learn more about this at the stops at Milecastle 45A and the Roman Army Museum and Carvoran Roman Fort on the way. Following the collapse of their Empire, the Romans were replaced with warring border clans, abandoned by London and Edinburgh who were unable to govern the area without their former infrastructure and resources. Remnants of such skirmishes are easily spotted at Thirlwell Castle. For those local to Walltown Country Park, it’s an ideal two hour daily exercise. But if it’s a little bit out of your way, worry not: Collision & Conflict is accessible until October. Pandemic allowing, we should all hopefully have plenty of time to do a little exploration of our own. In our fast paced and ever progressive world, it is important to stop for a moment and discover how the past and present have been intertwined, to help us see more clearly what the future could hold. Collision & Conflict launches on Friday 26th March and is available until October. For more information and directions on downloading the app, visit Green Croft Arts’ website www.greencroftonthewall.com


INTERVIEW

MUSIC

TLR

L-R, T-B: Jodie Nicholson, MARKETPLACE, Joe Ramsey

WE’RE TRYING TO PUT OUT MUSIC BY ARTISTS WHO ARE AT A TIPPING POINT WHERE THEY’VE ALREADY DONE WELL ON THEIR OWN, BUT WITH OUR SUPPORT, CAN HOPEFULLY STEP THINGS UP A NOTCH

CLAIRE DUPREE FINDS OUT ABOUT A NEW TEESSIDE-BASED LABEL WHICH PAIRS ARTIST DEVELOPMENT WITH AUDIENCE ENJOYMENT A newly relaunched Teesside-based record label aims to combine musician development with quality releases, serving both artists and audiences. Launching this month, TLR (or (from) Teesside (with) Love Records) is run by Tees Music Alliance, who manage The Georgian Theatre in Stockton. Spearheading the project is mentor, artist manager and musician Henry Carden, who explains more about the label: “Over the past few years, we’ve done a lot of artist development and mentoring work, which has been really rewarding and (hopefully!) helped plenty of Teesside artists progress with their careers. However, in some cases we felt that for us to have the impact we wanted – and that the artist needed – we needed to be a bit more hands on rather than just offering guidance and advice.” The focus for Tees Music Alliance always leans towards support and development, with the aim of lifting musicians up and providing them with the tools and experience to succeed on their own terms. “As well as mentoring, the label is able to provide financial support for marketing and promo, as well as helping build a team around the artist for things like press, radio, marketing, playlist pitching etc. The aim is to do one release with each artist and equip them with the tools, contacts and confidence to do it themselves – or move onto a bigger label! – with their next release.” The current situation and lack of opportunities musicians have had to put their best foot forward on the live stage is also a consideration for the team. “Another big part of it is to help build a community of local artists. That’s something that’s been taken away from new

bands who’ve been coming through over the past 12 months or so – they’ve not had the chance to play gigs and meet like-minded people. Hopefully we can help facilitate a bit of that, albeit virtually for the time being.” Initially the label will be digital only, focusing on streaming, which is one of Henry’s particular strengths. “We’ll be looking to help artists build relationships with editorial playlist editors as well as independent playlist curators. It’s not all about getting big numbers though, we’re keen to help artists build sustainable and loyal fanbases who’ll join them on their artist journey for years to come. We’re not being constrained by genre and there’ll definitely be some great variety in future releases.” The first release comes from Hartlepool indie pop band Marketplace, who release their track CHARLIE on 19th March. “CHARLIE is a ridiculously catchy indie anthem. It reminds me of Grouplove and that’s no bad thing.” Henry enthuses. Up next will be Hurworth-on-Tees songwriter Jodie Nicholson, who releases an acoustic version of her song Move which she worked on during lockdown; and a new single from Joe Ramsey, who was one of the last artists to perform at The Georgian Theatre prior to lockdown. Henry emphasises that the team have an ear to the ground for other artists to work with in the future. “We’re trying to put out music by artists who are at a tipping point where they’ve already done well on their own, but with our support, can hopefully step things up a notch.” www.teesmusicalliance.org.uk

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COVER FEATURE

STAGE

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COVER FEATURE

THE TIME IS RIGHT FOR THE RETURN OF FOOT-STOMPING, PANT-WETTING, GLITTER-THROWING DRAG. IT’S JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED, PRACTICALLY A PUBLIC SERVICE

BONNIE & THE BONNETTES LEIGH VENUS IS DAZZLED BY THE BITE-SIZED FOOT-STOMPING, PANT-WETTING, GLITTER-THROWING DRAG PARTY WHICH IS ABOUT TO BE BEAMED STRAIGHT INTO LIVING ROOMS, COURTESY OF BONNIE & THE BONNETTES IMAGE BY TJMOV Loud, fun and entirely unapologetic, the North East-based theatre company, drag trio and all-round good time Bonnie & The Bonnettes are about to stage a triumphant return back into our lives and into our very living rooms, bedrooms and home offices with Boogie On Up; a series of short video performances promising to make us shake our tail feathers, stomp our feet and shimmy the day away. On the cusp of this upcoming avalanche of exuberance, Hattie Eason is squirrelled away alone upstairs in a Northern Stage theatre rehearsal space, pining for fellow co-founders Cameron Sharp and Rebecca Glendenning on the floor below. “I’m so lonely! Cam and Becky live together, and we decided not to go forward as a working bubble because we have our bubbles in the outside world, so Northern Stage has worked with us to make it possible to all be in the room along with our videographer TJMov. We’re doing everything in masks, sanitising and all that, but actually, it’s the most normal it’s felt in a year.” Despite the logistical challenges of developing a new show in the rarefied atmosphere of a global pandemic, Cameron Sharp remains sanguine. “Northern Stage and Live Theatre have been really good helping us figure out how we work safely in a Covid world, and Boogie On Up is a direct response to us not being able to be in the same space as our audiences.” Boogie On Up is released on Northern Stage and Live Theatre’s online platforms on the 14th and 26th of each month from March to June, Cameron is thrilled by the opportunity to offer bite-size chunks of Bonnie. “They’re easy for people to digest then carry on with their day. Everyone’s heads are so full we think people need a bit of fun, a bit of a boogie and a bit of relief. As silly as it sounds, we want to give our audiences the same experience they would have at one of our shows, only in a living room or a home office. They don’t need to dress up or be able to dance, but it is encouraged.” “People don’t need to have seen us before, either; they can be completely new to us,” Becky Glendenning affirms. “We felt a tiny bit useless early in the pandemic thinking how we could give something back, and if this is how we can do it, by giving people a little break for three minutes, then that’s what we’ll do.” Hattie is over the moon too that said boogies are not only completely free to watch, but they’ll stay online beyond their release. “So if you want to watch all eight in a row with your mates over Zoom and make a night of it, you can!” It’s a bracing, gloriously inevitable return to the spotlight for the much-loved company who found themselves, like many in the cultural scene, smack-bang in the middle of projects when the pandemic swept the land. “We were looking forward to our next show, I Died In A Mosh Pit, which is a collaboration with The Six Twenty,” Cameron reflects. “We’re still doing that and adjusting how we’re going to do it. The time away has been nice though, as it forced us to stop and evaluate where

we are as a company, where we want to be and how we’re going to get there, so we’re trying to think about it as a positive.” “We’ve tried to use it as a time for reflection and planning,” confirms Becky, “do things even though nobody can do anything, and plan for when we finally can do things, like Boogie On Up.” For a company that has been non-stop since its inception in 2016, the suddenly imposed hiatus was jarring. Yet, for Hattie, the passage of time has inspired both consolidation and strategic reflection. “When we started, we were very ‘go go go’. We toured our first show for three seasons, then got to work on the next show straight away, all while doing cabaret nights. People loved it, and we were on this mission to continually perform, so it’s been nice to take a step back to look at what’s working for us and what isn’t. We’ve considered what our audiences love most about us and how we can offer them more moving forward, and how we can give them what they love about us right now in the middle of all this.” For those of us with our appetites thoroughly whetted post-Boogie On Up, 2021 promises the return of The BonBons Cabaret – a cabaret show that celebrates the very best queer, emerging talent from the North East, something Cameron is particularly passionate about. “We think it’s really important for queer people to have that space and that sense of community again, that good night out. I Died In A Mosh Pit is going to be the best show ever too. I know everyone says that, but I think it’s going to be mint! We’ve got to a stage where we’ve come to own what our craft is.” If that wasn’t enough, Bonnie and Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular is pegged to return to Live Theatre. A crossover to end all crossovers, this festive mash-up sees our trio share the stage once more with Your Aunt Fanny, the unstoppable Live Theatre-spawned comedy sketch group. “That was meant to happen last year!” cries Hattie. “What’s so lovely is that we know it’s going to come in some form. Live Theatre said we want you and the Fannies back for Christmas, which makes us feel so good. We can’t wait to be back in a room with them, and the fact we get to offer that again will be the highlight of going back to the theatre for us.” With their electrifying live works Drag Me To Love, And She and The BonBons Cabaret sparkling like disco balls in our collective memory somewhere south of the lost year that was 2020, the time is right for the return of foot-stomping, pant-wetting, glitter-throwing drag. It’s just what the doctor ordered, practically a public service, something Cameron singularly agrees with. “I want to be knighted; I want to be a dame after this!” Surely granting this wish is the least our nation can do in return. Bonnie & The Bonnettes release Boogie On Up performances on the 14th and 26th of each month from March to June via Northern Stage, Live Theatre and their own website www.bonnieandthebonnettes.co.uk

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INTERVIEW

STUART ROOK

DAWN STOREY TALKS TO STUART ROOK FROM INDIE POP ROCK PROJECT LUX LISBON ABOUT FORCING CREATIVITY AND FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE BEATLES IN HIS COLLABORATIVE VENTURE WITH LYRAS’ LUKE GAUL

MUSIC

It’s been a long nine months for most of us and now, with another lockdown still in full swing, two Newcastle musicians have joined forces to try and create something positive among the madness. Hamburg 156 is the ambitious new venture from Stuart Rook of Lux Lisbon and Luke Gaul from Lyras, and was born out of Stuart questioning what really matters to him musically – and then setting himself and Luke something of a daunting task. “In musical terms I guess my personal answer to that question is songwriting,” says Stuart. “So I’ve decided to artificially force creativity by writing, recording and releasing 156 songs during 2021. I’m calling it Hamburg 156, which is a Beatles/Malcolm Gladwell reference. In 1961/62 The Beatles played eight hour, Preludinfuelled cover sets every night to entertain sailors and it’s generally accepted as how they got good. Multiple bookshelves creaking with Beatles literature are testament to my geekery in this, but this ‘Hamburg’ phenomenon is well-documented in culture generally and in Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell with his 10,000 hour rule. So I guess we are artificially creating our own personal ‘songwriting Hamburg’. 156 songs will really, really push us. We may even record something in Hamburg for the craic too, Covid permitting.” Stuart explains how the process has worked. “We’ve been working jointly with Luke and recording at Blank Studios in Newcastle with John Martindale from Shields. We’ll pick the best 14, polish them up and release the resulting album in June 2022 – but all 156 will be put up throughout 2021, as well as a weekly podcast where Luke and I document it and gently commiserate for an hour. We’re about 24 songs in now, or 6.5%!”

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DEEP DOWN I’VE KNOWN THAT QUANTITY (AND ASSOCIATED HARD WORK) IS THE ROUTE TO QUALITY The first track to be released was the quiet melancholy of Should The Stars Start Falling, featuring some vocals from Rook’s Lux Lisbon collaborator Charlie Austen, and at the time of writing the latest was 12/156 – The Death of Generation X – a quick and catchy little number with 80s undertones and a harmony and hook-laden chorus. Was the project always in the pipeline or was it a result of being unable to do much else during the pandemic? “It’s been gently nudged into fruition by Covid,” says Stuart, “but really deep down I’ve known that quantity (and associated hard work) is the route to quality for years. Tom Robinson has always said you need to write ten songs to get a good one and he’s right. So I’m just forcing something that I should always have been doing. Musically we are finding that trying on another band’s clothes to see how they fit for a few hours is both fun and fruitful. We just gently point in the direction of a sound and see what works – and if it doesn’t, well there is always another song coming tomorrow. Lyrically it’s not pre-planned however I’m sure themes will emerge over 156 lyrics.” Listen to the Hamburg 156 project as it unfolds via Lux Lisbon’s website www.luxlisbon.com/hamburg156


INTERVIEW

ART & LIT

L-R, T-B, : Dominic JP Nelson-Ashley, Ben Miller, Alice Wilkins, tuhutzs, Slutmouth, Samantha Durnan, Jamie Sample, Keavey Gamwell, Ishy Din

TEESSIDE RISING

CLAIRE DUPREE DISCOVERS CONNECTIVITY AND CREATIVITY IS BEING KEPT ALIVE AND WELL THANKS TO A FASCINATING INTERVIEW PROJECT Inspired by a blossoming creative scene and keen to find her place within it, artist, writer and ‘playwrong’ Lisa Lovebucket’s connection to the Teesside arts scene has always been a tangible thing; she founded the Teesside Literary Society in 2015 and set up multimedia cabaret club The Red Room in 2019. Her artist residency at Middlesbrough Art Weekender 2019 delved further into what was to become a real passion project, Teesside Rising involved feeding a series of 10 minute interviews with Teesside creatives into an artificial intelligence programme to make the content interactive. “When the whole world turned into a Zoom call last year, it occurred to me that Teesside Rising leant itself to a lockdown project.” She says of what has become an epic video interview series which has been steadily revealed via YouTube since January. Teesside Rising consists of interviews with a vast array of creative talent from the area, each lasting around 10-15 minutes, and conducted by a team of eight interviewers/transcript editors. Four videos are released every day via social media, with the final total of 230 interviews available within eight weeks. Narrating a personal and collective journey through the creative arts, Teesside Rising aims to form an important historical record of the positive and negative effects of the lockdown on the arts community. The videos span a vast range of disciplines and offer a variety of

NARRATING A PERSONAL AND COLLECTIVE JOURNEY THROUGH THE CREATIVE ARTS, TEESSIDE RISING AIMS TO FORM AN IMPORTANT HISTORICAL RECORD OF THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF THE LOCKDOWN ON THE ARTS COMMUNITY

insights. Lisa herself concentrated on reinterviewing the original 30 people who participated in her MAW19 residency project; Bobby Benjamin’s interviews focus on visual arts; Julie Easley talks to poets; Jane Jorgensen and Simon Shaw chat with musicians; CG Hatton’s conversations are with writers; and Rachel Laycock and Emma Wheetman interview an array of creative people from Hartlepool. “Obviously being a lockdown project conducted via Zoom, the quality isn’t always the finest. But the lo-fi recordings with background noises, invasions by pets and kids, the umming and ahhing, and the pinging tech all seem to fit with the feel of the piece, which isn’t intended to be a slick presentation, rather an informal but meaningful chat about how people engage with the creative arts and the journey their involvement has taken.” Lisa explains. “Although they have the same basic set of questions as a starting point, the interviews all tend to go their own way, together telling 230 different, personal stories. We also talk a lot in broader terms about what art is, why people do it, and the part it plays in society.” There have been many highlights from the project; each video is utterly unique, taking surprising twists and turns, some are emotional and many are positive and hopeful. “Filmmaker Lizzie McKeone was probably the biggest laugh, multi-disciplinarian Jane Burn made me cry the most, and Annalice Argyle from TRAC UK was the most formidable.” Lisa says, of some her favourites. “There are chats with seminal players like Kirsten Luckins, Sarah Jane Rooney, Dominic JP Nelson-Ashley, Vicky Holbrough, Laura Degnan, who have long been encouraging, nurturing and facilitating local artists and creatives. Hiphop dance choreographer Rob Law and artist Jamie Sample were a total delight. Shakk and Eyeconic gave me a bit of cred with my kids. But Danielle from GGAllan Partridge in a crocheted wrestling mask would be hard to beat.” Watch the Teesside Rising interviews via their YouTube page

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

FAYE FANTARROW MOLLIE FIELD DELVES INTO THE SONGWRITING TALENTS OF SUNDERLAND’S FAYE FANTARROW Sunderland songbird Faye Fantarrow is flying high from her recent Alan Hull songwriter award win, and her new release, the satisfyingly titled Boom, is guaranteed to establish Faye’s presence within the North East’s flourishing music scene even further. Having found her songwriting feet as part of We Make Culture’s Young Musician’s Project, Faye’s star has long been on the rise. Gaining recognition for her songwriting talents is surely only the start of the plaudits soon to come. Faye acknowledges the presence of her hometown within her writing. “You can’t live in Sunderland and walk through the town centre and not see all of the deprivation and the huge difference between Newcastle and Sunderland.” The social issues facing her city continue to inspire Faye’s music; “it sort of gives you a perspective of what real issues are when you’re writing.” Describing her writing style as aware and observational, she’s determined that her music contributes to a bigger conversation, and be a dialogue for change. “I’ve been given opportunities to write songs for things like People’s Powerhouse, where they will talk about social issues, and if I’ve been given a platform why wouldn’t I use it

I FELT REALLY HELPLESS, AND THE ONLY WAY I COULD THINK TO REGISTER ALL THAT WAS TO WRITE A SONG 24

to explain what’s happening in Sunderland and cities that are like it.” Faye’s views on songwriting are refreshing, songs about “getting the girl and having all the money” have a certain appeal, but her own approach is far more down to earth and socially focused. “You’ve got to talk about the other issues. I think that’s what growing up in Sunderland has done for me.” With a strong sense of self, Faye’s greatest inspirations come from local circles. “I massively admire bigfatbig, I love what they are doing for the female scene... The Sunderland music scene in particular is a heavily male indie band-dominated scene, and that was very intimidating to try and penetrate.” Her commanding way with words extends to the new single and embodies Faye as an artist; raw and unapologetic. “I wrote Boom in the first lockdown. At a time when you’d think everyone would come together, it just polarised people. It got to the point when you didn’t feel you were doing enough, you were trying to read up on things, sign petitions. I felt really helpless, and the only way I could think to register all that was to write a song.” After the release of Boom Faye’s eyes are firmly set on a future EP; her hopes high for some live shows on the horizon. “Right now, the dream is just to be playing a tiny intimate gig somewhere, so hopefully that can happen soon.” Faye Fantarrow releases Boom on 12th March www.facebook.com/fayefantarrowmusic


INTERVIEW

EVENTS

SISTER SHACK

L-R, T-B, : Bratakus, Estella Adeyeri from Big Joanie, Big Joanie, Allison Wolfe

CAITLIN DISKEN TALKS TO CHANTAL HERBERT FROM BLACK-LED FEMINIST ORGANISATION SISTER SHACK ABOUT PROMOTING WOMXN ENTREPRENEURS AND CREATIVES “If you’re angry about injustice, you need to redirect it at something that aligns with your values,” says Chantal Herbert, founder of Sister Shack. “I’ve always stuck up for womxn, and I’ve managed to redirect that anger and use it constructively.” Sister Shack, a Black-led, feminist organisation which aims to promote womxn entrepreneurs and creatives, was set up following an incident where a man challenged Chantal, a DJ, to set up her own platform – and that’s exactly what she did. “I first promoted Sister Shack on Facebook, and I was shocked by the massive response,” says Chantal, who spent years being mansplained whilst DJing. Aiming to create a safe space for womxn, Chantal stresses that Sister Shack is a collaborative and inclusive space. “There are really creative womxn out there who don’t get the marketing they should, and don’t have the same level of confidence as men,” she says. “Sister Shack is there to promote womxn, including non-binary people, and give everyone a chance.” Promoting womxn is exactly what Sister Shack aims to do this International Women’s Day (Monday 8th March), by running a series of online events and artist spotlights from Saturday 6th-Saturday 13th March. Events will kick off on Saturday 6th with a live set from Kintra, a Scottish twin-sister violin and DJ duo who embody everything Sister Shack believes in: talented womxn creating unique work. Sunday 7th will see Sister Shack hosting a four-round quiz based on womxn icons, which will be broadcast on Facebook Live.

IF YOU’RE ANGRY ABOUT INJUSTICE, YOU NEED TO REDIRECT IT AT SOMETHING THAT ALIGNS WITH YOUR VALUES

On Monday 8th, Sister Shack will host a Q&A between grrrl punk pioneer Allison Wolfe, Scotland-based riot-grrrl duo Bratakus and Estella Adeyeri from Big Joanie, a Black feminist punk band. It’s an event that promises to be both inspiring and engaging, with Chantal noting that moving events online has enabled her to book such diverse guests, and will enable womxn to take up space in a different way. “Not having a physical space is sad, because you don’t get that collaborative feeling, but one great thing about moving to an online platform is that it’s available forever. The womxn will take up more space in that sense – as long as it is recorded, you can reach more people in the long term.” Alongside the events, Sister Shack will be spotlighting the work of two creatives on their social media pages and website: Dami, founder of Visuals by J.O.D and Lewk Good, Do Good, and freelance illustrator Kerry-Anne Mayes. “I really respect Dami’s work, and think what she does is really interesting,” says Chantal. Dami’s brand is focused on representing minoritised communities and ensuring that the experiences of Black queer womxn are heard. Dami’s store has raised over £300 for Sistah Space, a domestic violence unit for Black womxn. Meanwhile, Kerry-Anne’s work focuses on drawing womxn. “I really love Kerry-Anne’s art, as she portrays womxn of different ethnicities. Her work is incredible and fits really well with International Women’s Day,” Chantal notes. Sister Shack is a collaborative space, and Chantal is keen to thank everyone taking part. “Sister Shack wouldn’t be anything without the core people involved. Seeing the strength of womxn during Covid just shows how resilient womxn are.” Sister Shack’s International Women’s Day events take place from Saturday 6th-Saturday 13th March. For more information and tickets, visit their website www.sister-shack.com/iwd-2021

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INTERVIEW

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE WORKING CLASS? LAURA DOYLE TALKS TO THREE ARTISTS WHOSE EXHIBITION AT THE ONLINE PINK-COLLAR GALLERY INVESTIGATES TOPICS OF CREATIVITY AND CLASS Ask any creative how their year has been and you’re highly likely to get an answer along the lines of, “Absolutely horrendous, thanks. You?” Their entire industry is on its backside, after all. Disproportionately affected by this sorry state of affairs is the working class; even outside of the struggling artist narrative, those living pay-check to pay-check experience economic instability at the best of times. If it’s tough right now for cultural industries, it’s even tougher for those from a working class background within them. Pink-Collar Gallery is tackling this issue head on; this online space works to represent the under-represented. They’ve recognised the importance of working class voices in the arts, and the danger of their extinction within the field without intervention. Their latest project, entitled What Does It Mean To Be Working Class?, seeks to answer the question with the contributions and testimonies from five working class artists. It’s an ambitious project, given the fluid definitions of ‘working class’. Is it just someone with a low income, ‘low skilled’ job? Or is there more to being working class than just your profession?

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3D artist Erin Dickson argues the way we understand the term is outdated, yet maintained as a kind of social control. “Instead of working at the dockyards and donning flat caps, we are getting degrees and working for tech giants,” she explains. “The Working Class can now be defined as just another ‘other’, a way of judging without merit or pigeonholing a vast swathe of society.” Socially engaged creative producer Shonagh Short agrees on the malleable nature of ‘working class’ – perhaps it is a status defined by its precariousness. “I think it’s really hard when you try and define [class] in economic terms because that can change throughout your life without fundamentally altering who you are – my situation now is not as financially precarious as it was in the past, but one unexpected life event could completely flip that... For me, class is about culture and belonging, and I know for a fact I am working class when I find myself in a space that isn’t.” Teesside photographer Kev Howard suggests a different approach to understanding what working class is, and that’s through geography. His view is that where you’re brought up can irrevocably shape your


INTERVIEW

ART & LIT

Erin Dickson

WHAT IS IMPORTANT ABOUT THIS PROJECT IS HIGHLIGHTING THE SPECTRUM OF WORKING CLASS-NESS. THERE IS NOT JUST ONE EXPERIENCE OF BEING WORKING CLASS IN THE UK self-perception. “The vast majority of people I know who are working class are highly skilled in the work that they’re doing. I live, and was brought up, on Teesside, a predominantly industrialised area. Now, that’s changed. We’ve gone from industrial to service industry. So do you define [working class] by the people, or the socio-economic situation or the geography? Is it a combination of all of those? I think it does change for each and every person.” Regardless of what makes someone working class, we exist; there are some unique experiences and troubles that come with such a label, self-imposed or otherwise. For Shonagh, it’s the struggle to understand “unspoken codes of behaviour and etiquette that seem to come naturally to everyone else in the room.” Erin is maybe more concerned with “invisible barriers” which come from bias “towards the wealthy or well-connected, which in the case of most working-class artists keeps us outside of the in-crowd.” Meanwhile, Kev points out the stigma and economic deterrent that surrounds the idea of stepping outside of ‘working class boundaries,’ be it seeking higher education or an interest in cultural capital. “Even just that decision of, ‘Am I going to go to work, or am I going to go into Higher Education?’ is massive. When I went to university, it was free, and it should go back to being free. Working class people might not have the financial security to properly consider it.” And lo, we get to the crux of the matter: society has told us for centuries that it’s not our game to play, and that we should stick within class distinctions. What Does It Mean To Be Working Class? not only rejects that idea, but actively dismantles it through giving these artists from a working class background a platform to do with what they wish. Kev Howard’s approach is as interactive as it can be given the

restrictions faced. “My initial plan was to focus on people with disabilities who were working class. But because of lockdown, a lot of those people have been shielding. That’s meant I’ve had to rethink quite a lot. I’m photographing portraits of people who are working class, and alongside this are their narratives of what it means to be working class. Also if they are a creative, it’s what it’s like to be working class and a creative. Speaking as someone who was born with disabilities, the working class is a marginalised group; if you’re working class and disabled, you’re a marginalised class within a marginalised class. I wanted to explore that. Lockdown has gotten in the way of doing that as I wanted to.” Erin Dickson is taking a deep-dive into biases she has faced personally because of her roots, in particular preconceptions surrounding Northern accents. “Accent prejudice is an absurd but well-rooted part of being British, sitting comfortably alongside our obsession with class. I think what is important about this project is highlighting the spectrum of working class-ness. There is not just one experience of being working class in the UK.” Let’s face it, it’s tough to be working class, and we deserve more help and support than we get. But these difficulties should not be dissuasive in the quest for cultural fulfilment. In an industry steeped in institutional bias against those from a different economic background, it is perhaps time to make our voices heard. What Does It Mean To Be Working Class, featuring work by Kev Howard, Shonagh Short, Erin Dickson, John James Perangie and Mark Parham will go online at Pink-Collar Gallery from Tuesday 16th March-Saturday 15th May www.pink-collargallery.com

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

JANICE BURNS & JON DORAN

Image by Megan Savage

ALI WELFORD TALKS TO THE FOLK DUO ABOUT THEIR COMPELLING SOUND AND UPCOMING LIVESTREAM SHOW Showcasing artists from across the musical spectrum, Newcastle bar The Globe has found a means of thriving while others lie dormant thanks to its comprehensive livestream calendar. “The Globe is a real hub and I think the livestreams are amazing for community,” says Janice Burns, whose duo performance with Jon Doran will be broadcast on the evening of Friday 26th March. “Along with the music itself, you end up with lots of dialogue in the comment sections, and I think it helps people feel connected at a time when that’s missing from everybody’s lives.” “Our last stream even had two listeners from Germany!” Jon recounts. “They exchanged postcodes, and it turned out they lived just a couple of blocks from each other. We still have no idea how either of them knew about us!” Originating from differing musical backgrounds as well as opposite ends of the UK (Janice, from classical stock, joins our Zoom call from her native Glasgow; traditionally reared Jon from back home in Gloucestershire) the pair’s paths converged in Newcastle, where they remain based. “We met while studying folk music at the university,” Janice recalls. “One day I heard Jon do a number called Sir Richard’s Song… it’s the most beautiful song, and I remember thinking I’d love to sing harmonies. Eventually we went to the studio and sang it together at about 11pm after a night at The Cumberland Arms, and that was the beginning of it all!” Greeted enthusiastically by the local folk circuit, the duo performed together for three years before collecting five of their finest for last September’s self-titled EP. A “no bells or whistles” exhibit of their chemistry, the release amply exhibits a gift for vivid and compelling storytelling, together with a capacity to convey their own identities via the medium of traditional song. “People place a lot of importance on regional areas and where songs come from, but as we’re an Anglo/Scottish duo we tend to juggle both sides of the border,” Jon says. “We’re drawn to songs from our

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own areas, but often we simply use region as a means of breaking into those vast, endless archives of source recordings.” “I like a song to have that initial connection to where I’m from, but I’m more concerned with whether it’s relevant towards things I care about today,” Janice concurs. “A good example is Song of the Fishgutters. The reason I particularly like that song is that it’s about women who were hard working, gritty and independent at a time – the 1950s – when folk songs were generally centred around men. A lot was and still is written about the working-class experiences of men, and women are too often left out of that conversation.” Together with performances for The Globe and others, the duo have further reason for optimism having secured a slot at next year’s Celtic Connections festival. The show follows their nomination as finalists at the Danny Kyle Open Stage showcase; material reward following a year which – despite refusing to place pressure upon themselves – has proved improbably productive. “There’s a lot of folk specific organisations who have been doing great stuff,” Jon acknowledges. “It’s been rough for everyone, but we’re lucky to have the set-up we do and such a supportive demographic to play to.” Janice Burns & Jon Doran play The Globe, Newcastle at 8pm on Friday 26th March. Livestream tickets are available from www.theglobenewcastle.bar www.janandjon.co.uk

PEOPLE PLACE A LOT OF IMPORTANCE ON REGIONAL AREAS AND WHERE SONGS COME FROM, BUT AS WE’RE AN ANGLO/SCOTTISH DUO WE TEND TO JUGGLE BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER


LUCY NICHOL

INTERVIEW

MOLLIE FIELD DISCOVERS THE SOUNDTRACK TO LUCY NICHOL’S NOVEL THE TWENTY SEVEN CLUB, A TALE OF FANDOM AND FRIENDSHIP, MEDIA AND MENTAL HEALTH

ART & LIT

“You need to look for a vehicle for how to tell a story, and I knew it had to be music.” Where were you when the news broke of Kurdt (for the fans) Cobain’s death? Or Jones, Winehouse, Joplin, Hendrix or Morrison for that matter? Inside the pages of Lucy Nichol’s striking debut novel, The Twenty Seven Club, Emma is working nine to five in her beloved city of Hull. Her friendships and adoration for rock music are keeping her sane. When news of Cobain’s death breaks, Emma becomes consumed with anxiety, her 27th birthday fast approaching... she fears she may be next to join the club. The multi-talented writer, mental health campaigner, PR specialist, Courtney Love fan girl and vanilla milkshake club biscuit enthusiast has delivered a vibrant tale of fandom and friendship; an intricate investigation of media and mental health. Nichol’s career started in PR, before making her move to the Toon and picking up a fortnightly column on mental health with Sarah Millican’s Standard Issue. “They are the ‘in crowd’ because they are inclusive and not exclusive... so I thought it was a brilliant place to start writing about stigmas.” Nichol continued to develop her own distinctive voice on mental health, publishing A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes: Naming and Shaming Mental Health Stigmas, the non-fictional memoir of her own experience with anxiety disorder. “Having an anxiety disorder didn’t make me like Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket, it doesn’t make us weak feeble little women.” Nichol speaks about nostalgia, music and breaking mental health stigmas with vigour. “I knew I wanted nostalgia; I knew I wanted music. I found so much comfort in alternative music growing up and to bring it all together, to be able to get something out there about anxiety and about how the media impacts us, The Twenty Seven Club was born out of that.”

GROWING UP THERE WAS A WEIRD GLAMORISATION OF THE TORTURED ROCK STAR. I THINK WHEN WE’RE YOUNG WE TEND TO GLAMORISE DARKNESS The exploration of mental health through the media lens of the 90’s grunge scene is integral to the novel’s identity. Nichol explained where this idea originated. “That was the music I loved, but I think growing up there was a weird glamorisation of the tortured rock star. I think when we’re young we tend to glamorise darkness.” Talking on fandom, Nichol adds, “we don’t know them as human beings, we only know them as headlines and artists, we know their art, and we know what the media tells us, so I was just really interested in going behind the scenes of that.” Clearly music is a passion in her life; we talk Desert Island Discs, her playlist is sterling: “Senseless Things, Nirvana, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Babes and Toyland and Bikini Kill...” Music’s ability to comfort proves to be timeless. A live theatre adaption of The Twenty Seven Club is in the works, with support from Newcastle’s Live Theatre and Arts Council England, and the adaption is set to come to the stage, hopefully, at the start of 2022. She’s producing the show in collaboration with her husband Chris, who is in theatre, Nichol assures me: “I’ve said its non-negotiable, I have to be music director...we need to have senseless music in, we must have some Nirvana.” Lucy Nichol launches The 27 Club on Wednesday 3rd March with an in conversation event hosted by Anna Foster (BBC Radio Newcastle) on behalf of Forum Books, which will explore how music has shaped her work. Guests include Guy Mankowski and Karl Whitney www.lucynichol.com

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

LOVELY ASSISTANT ALI WELFORD UNCOVERS THE RETRO AESTHETICS AND LOVE OF ‘50S TORCH SONGS AT THE HEART OF THE NEWCASTLE REVIVALISTS’ SOUND

With opportunities to break onto the circuit all but extinguished, the COVID year has created a backlog of ripe local newcomers, all itching to showcase their wares once venues re-open. Foremost among them are Lovely Assistant, an accomplished and marvellously understated outfit whose eponymous album slipped out amidst minimal fanfare some six months back. Currently available on a vinyl-only basis, the record’s wider release is being patiently withheld until such a time as it can be celebrated properly – a fitting scheme considering, as leader and principal songwriter Kieran Rafferty explains, they spawned from the type of social alignment that’s now dispiritingly alien: “Dave [Turnbull, guitar] and I met at a gig – we struck up a conversation between bands, and I realised that he also made music as Fax Machine. It turned out we lived just a street away from each other, so we kept saying we should do something.” After collaborating on a string of promising demos, Rafferty sought about expanding his new project to a full band. “What I really like about Matt [Hardy, percussion] is his ability to play simply and steadily,” he recalls. “As for Annie [Griffiths, vocals/keys], she’s somebody I got to know through teaching in the music department at Newcastle University. I was already a fan, and I’d started writing duets and thinking of people I’d ideally like to sing with. You’re able to get a lot of drama and tension from that format, and now it’s become very much what we do.” Besides ranking chief among the record’s considerable charms, this

IT’S LOVELY ASSISTANT’S INHERENT WARMTH AND QUALITY SONGCRAFT FROM WHICH LISTENERS WILL REAP THE GREATEST REWARDS 30

interplay between the pair’s voices lends itself beautifully to Lovely Assistant’s decidedly retro aesthetic. It’s a sound exemplified by gorgeous highlights such as Some Press-Ups For Juliet, Last Of The Aircraft Are Leaving and this month’s single Love Moves In Ordinary Ways, and as Rafferty explains constitutes far more than nostalgic indulgence. “We often think that popular music began around 1955 and took off in the ‘60s, but there are whole cultures which aren’t even thought about. There’s almost something novel about me being interested in historical music and ‘50s torch songs, as they’re so underrepresented in popular culture. Of course they’re nostalgic, and of course there’s a sense of longing which goes with them, but technically some of those original singers were really amazing. I love newness, but when entire cultures are forgotten they become fresh experiences for many people. “If you’re playing a piano that’s 80 years old, it’s inevitably going to sound like it’s from a local church hall – but there’s something in the process as well,” he continues, acknowledging the record’s vintage, lived-in timbre. “A big part of it was down to Will [Thorneycroft, producer]. A lot of mastering has a particular sheen to it, but we specifically asked for a more naturalistic ‘70s-style master. It’s not a request you receive very often, since people usually want hifi.” Fundamentally, though, it’s Lovely Assistant’s inherent warmth and quality songcraft from which listeners will reap the greatest rewards. Apparent to those at Bobik’s last August – the group’s sole live appearance to date – it’s an essence that’s all but assured to ensnare further converts once the wretched cycle of lockdowns and restrictions finally relents. Lovely Assistant’s eponymous debut album is out now. The Love Moves In Ordinary Ways single is released on 1st March www.lovelyassistant.bandcamp.com


DEMOS WE WANT YOUR MUSIC!

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: ALI WELFORD

DEMO OF THE MONTH

Ecota – What We Gonna Do? For Valerija Michailova, the pandemic has been neither a disaster nor a hindrance, but rather the springboard from which she’s launched her musical journey. Born in Lithuania and now based in Newcastle, the songwriter has used her free time to fashion Ecota, a new alias whose modus operandi is showcased splendidly by this charming bedroom-pop nugget. With its washed-out guitars

Charlotte Forman – Eternity

Eternity sees Durham singer Charlotte Forman resume a foray into original music which began back in 2016 with the five-track Soul Destination EP. Her most personal turn to date, the track is an emotional celebration of her relationship with brother Alex; recalling a period when their familial bond helped each of them overcome the traumas of bullying. With its dramatic vocal tics and overwrought climax, its less desirable components are perhaps overly in thrall to the clichés of post-Adele pop-soul, yet the sentiment – an inseparable bond which transcends biology – is undoubtedly powerful. www.facebook.com/charlottef94

Jvck November – Outro

With claims such as “I’m in my early twenties with the mind of a veteran” at its outset, you might assure Outro to be just another slice of pig-headed rap braggadocio. What materialises, though, is something far more introspective – the musings of a man at a key stage in his adult life, acutely conscious of

burying Val’s vocals deeply and distantly within the mix, What We Gonna Do? invites obvious comparisons to dream-pop heavyweights such as Real Estate and Beach House, though a more vivid likeness is the bittersweet, bottled-lightning allure of the debut Youth Lagoon album – particularly during this short-but-sweet delight’s chiming back end. A budding new talent – let’s hope it’s not too long before Ecota debuts out in the wild! www.soundcloud.com/ecota

time’s inexorable advance. “Most of my mates have started their families” he reflects, atop an elementary beat whose sole purpose is to platform his words. “I don’t want to look back on my life and think about the things which could have happened,” he concludes: “It’s time to put my plan into action...” Good stuff – if a little close to the bone! www.soundcloud.com/jvcknovember

Alfie Blue – Dream Girl

Hartlepudlian Alfie Bingham has his sights set among the clouds on this introductory track – a sanguine, hook-laden shot of escapism whose blissful dreamscape is positively – almost aggressively – resplendent with the zest of youth. It’s not the easiest outlook to relate to for those of us who grew jaded before reaching double digits, yet beneath the over-glossed sheen there’s a contagious brand of hyper-melodicism to Dream Girl that’s equally difficult not to be swept up in. Provided this jangly synth gem is no one-off, there seems little reason for the 18-year-old to adjust his skyward aspirations – though if this

is how he sounds now, I shudder to think how jaunty he’ll be in two or three years’ time! www.facebook.com/alfieblue.music

Pitmatic – New Ways

“Yeah, life’s a bit shit…but hang in there, because things are about to get a whole lot better!” It’s not a particularly novel base from which to build a song, is it? It’s the kind of recurring trope I was building playlists around back during Lockdown #1 – before inertia truly kicked in and compiling endless tenuous rundowns became as depressing as my barren social calendar. That said, it’s probably a message we could all do with hearing right now. There’s not a whole lot going on musically, but Ashington duo Darren and Sam’s yearning (“The days are long, the nights are even longer / It’s been two months now since I last seen ya”) is hearty and sincere enough to pull New Ways through – and who’s to say it won’t do the same for a clutch of listeners? www.facebook.com/pitmaticband

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TRACKS

YVA MISSING ME

(PLEASE TRY TO GET IN TOUCH 8-6 WEEKS AHEAD OF THE MONTH OF RELEASE)

Image by Andy Martin

Words: Ali Welford First steps tend to be the most difficult, and have certainly proven so for Newcastle songwriter Eva Stone, whose debut EP was first touted some five years back and will finally land next month. Moreover, this stunning second single not only suggests it’ll have been worth the wait, but also provides an insight into just what took her so long. Inspired by years of fragmented, anxiety inducing sessions in London, Missing Me is a deep, introspective ballad from an artist – and more importantly, human – seeking to rediscover their sense of self. Riddled with fear, envy and existential dread (“It’s hiding there inside of me / I’m scared that one day it’ll come to be uncontained”), it’s a potent, intensely relatable account of mental health’s omnipresent burdens. Marvellous. Released: 12.03.21 www.yvaofficial.bandcamp.com

MXYM PAGEANT Words: Michael O’Neill A phenomenal rush of euphoria bursting at the seams with character and energy, Pageant is an utter triumph of sputtering synths and hooks so clean you could eat your dinner off them. It’s an incredibly eclectic and engaging piece of pop wonder, with the North East-based artist fusing a disparate range of influences (from Marilyn Manson through to Madonna) together to create something which is entertaining and immediately catchy as hell. There’s a wonderful undercurrent of emo running through the vibrant soundscape of pounding drums, slashing power chords and arpeggiating synths. It taps into a sound that is always deserving of better representation within the local scene, and MXYM is a refreshingly radical addition to our rapidly diversifying musical community. Released: 26.02.21 www.facebook.com/themxym

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REVIEWS OF SINGLES AND EPS BY NORTH EAST ARTISTS. WANT YOUR MUSIC FEATURED? EMAIL NARCMEDIA@GMAIL.COM

EYECONIC PRAYING MANTIS Words: Ali Welford It’s one of hip-hop’s oldest tropes; rapper hares out of the traps with an orgy of braggadocio, only for personal reality checks to send them and their music crashing back to the realms of mere mortals. For Polish-born, Teesside-based Eyeconic, however, this familiar process has unfolded in reverse. Whereas last year’s full-length Do Not Resuscitate proved an unusually pensive debut, Praying Mantis asserts its territory with blaring bass and baying punchlines; the result of a lockdown spent escaping the “dark pit” which hung over past works. Likening his prowess to “Lewandowski when he’s shooting with his right foot / Tyron with his right hook / Edgar Allan Flow but I don’t write books,” it makes for a refreshing narrative flip. Released: 12.03.21 www.facebook.com/iameyeconic

IGG SEEKING TO LOCATE THE GREENERY Words: Kate Murphy Igg’s Natural Symbiosis was one of the standout demos of 2019: snake-charming rap that spilled bright colours all over the brain. With a knack for producing music that seems to physically move, his latest offering also boasts clever rhymes – “It’s all just so obscene to me / Maybe I just need a complete change of scenery / Like living in a city seeking to locate the greenery” – and brings added humour in the deep ghost-wobble of its lowest male vocal, and the sharp, shiny-pure bell that rings in a note of winking satire throughout. The song itself rocks like a bed, or a DIY wagon with loose wheels. It’s lo-fi and slick at the same time, and smart and weird is never a bad combination either. Released: 19.03.21 www.soundcloud.com/iamigg


WNTER FAMILIAR EP Words: Ali Welford Guilt is the overriding thread running through this latest extended play from Wnter, the new solo project from Newcastle musician Mike Ely. Determinedly self-produced, the three tracks on Familiar are presented as polished electro raptures, yet bear melodic and emotional hallmarks hewn unashamedly from the emo and pop-punk currents of the mid-‘00s. On paper it sounds ghastly, though while his insights into infidelity and domestic violence aren’t especially profound they are at least delivered with sufficient panache to match their benevolent convictions. It’s more latter-day Blind-182 than Cap’n Jazz, but it’s hard to knock the pride with which Ely sports its influences, not to mention his sublimely gratuitous Geordie vernacular. Released: 05.03.21 www.soundcloud.com/wnter_x

MOUNT JOHNSON THE CALM WILL COME Words: James Hattersley Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Mount Johnson has busted out of lockdown to deliver his debut single, The Calm Will Come; a flurry of the guitar-driven ambient indie variety. Under this most recent banner, singer songwriter Matthew Johnson has taken influence from across the spectrum of the genre, mixing experimental soundscapes with a vibrant rock and roll energy. There is an effort to create a unique environment for the ears, with different textures to explore and get lost in – whether that be the sparsely decorated verses, the melodically loaded chorus sections or the echo-drenched vocals that offer a plea of better times ahead. Even in these bleak times, things will get better. Released: 05.03.21 www.facebook.com/mountjohnsonmusic

MT. MISERY IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE Words: James Hattersley Taken from their upcoming album, In The Blink Of An Eye, Mt. Misery masterfully portray the frame of mind that someone who has been stuck in a never ending groundhog day-style of lockdown for the past year is likely to have. In truth, the song proceeds to tote the idea of directionlessness; something many can firmly relate to. Thankfully, this track is not lacking in focus and its sultry sounds create an almost hazy dreamscape; reminiscent of nostalgic summer. Shimmering guitar accentuates the laid back rhythm and creates a lush lo-fi indie feel, while vocals croon over the top. A stunning and relaxing whirlwind of unmotivated bliss. Released: 12.03.21 www.mtmisery.bandcamp.com

THE STRANDS WAVEY Words: James Hattersley North East newcomers The Strands are back with new single, Wavey; a more mature take on the hard-hitting indie rock of past releases. The track highlights the harsh effects of modern working class life after feeling the pain and uncertainty of 2020. Something we can all relate to. Not necessarily a sad affair; the emotive and raw vocals are juxtaposed with triumphant instrumentation, layered harmonies and an overwhelming sense of warmth. The rhythm plods along a breezy pace, with a fluttering of guitar and synth. Madly pleasant and irresistibly hummable, Wavey is an extremely passionate effort – expertly capturing that unknown future dread that is currently buried in our subconscious, echoing in the tentatively raw chorus line, “Will this end?” Released: 05.03.21 www.soundcloud.com/thestrandsmusic

KRAiG DiEL ALL I EVER DID Words: Michael O’Neill A brisk and pristine slab of trap-pop bearing all the classic hallmarks of the genre: crystalline beats, immaculate hooks and a bitter narrative ripped straight from the Weeknd/Drake playbook. On a surface level, All I Ever Did sounds precision-engineered for the Top 40 with some genuinely phenomenal production that is mixed to perfection. However, the overall impact is let down somewhat by the often bitter and harsh lyricism; it’s clear that the target of All I Ever Did smashed his heart to smithereens, but the excruciating misogyny that is constantly on display just makes it impossible to really sympathise with DiEL’s laments, holding back the potential of what is otherwise a brilliant piece of pop songcraft. Released: 05.03.21 www.soundcloud.com/kraigdiel

GAZ PRICE THE MUSKERZ ARE COMING Words: Michael O’Neill A brilliantly earnest piece of classicist Britpop-inflected songwriting, The Muskerz Are Coming doesn’t try too hard and doesn’t fall short either. The Hartlepool-based artist aspires to be “somewhere between a Gallagher and a Billie Joe Armstrong”, and he certainly succeeds at striking a balance between the former’s command of melody and the latter’s prowess for socially conscious but pop-inflected lyricism. Price’s biggest influence, however, is his hometown, and The Muskerz Are Coming paints a vivid picture of this without slipping into overused clichés or over-earnest sloganeering; instead, Price opts for refreshingly brutal honesty, with a strong respect for the craft allowing The Muskerz Are Coming to stand toe-to-toe with your Cinnamons and your Braggs. Brilliant stuff. Released: 26.02.21 www.gazprice.com

HUMAN HISTORY MOONCHILD Words: Kate Murphy This is quite charming in places, sounding a little like a lone robot discovering the human in itself by learning the piano. With those could-break-up-at-anyminute vocals, the hook is a fond reminder of Aqualung’s Strange And Beautiful, the emotion almost too much to be contained by the device beaming it back down to Earth: “How d’you fly like that / And stay up?” comes the pensive line, as if putting words to a baby’s thoughts as they look up at a spinning mobile, vocals suspended as if in space. The song gathers momentum until an explosion is thrown out into the stars and the blackness, where synthesisers meet strings, chaos meets calm, and human life enters a vast, silver-tinged new world. Released: 05.03.21 www.humanhistory.bandcamp.com

MICHAEL GALLAGHER LULA Words: Kate Murphy Smoothly produced and accompanied by a feel-good guitar, this is made for hot summer nights, burbling beer gardens and new faces. Sometimes you want something that goes down easy, and this is to the ears what a Wotsit is to the palette. Michael Gallagher’s tale of a happy one night stand melts over you in pastel shades, and holds all the promise of that time at the end of a balmy day, where darkness has set in but the world is open for business, and feels like it’s yours. It hits the three-minute mark almost bang-on, but doesn’t need to say any more or any less. Stays in the lines, sticks in the head and does the job. Released: 05.03.21 www.soundcloud.com/michaelstephengallagher

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ALBUMS 4.5 / 5 HANNAH PEEL FIR WAVE (MY OWN PLEASURE)

5/5

ARAB STRAP AS DAYS GET DARK (ROCK ACTION)

Image by Paul Savage

Words: Ali Welford Arab Strap’s dissolution in 2006 was in many respects an unusual one – the amicable parting of a duo mindful that tales of sex, drugs and misspent youth inevitably grow less sustainable with the onset of age. Their subsequent return has raised eyebrows too, not least as both Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have thrived in the decade-and-a-half since. Considering their respective track records, the acid test facing As Days Get Dark isn’t so much whether it’s any good, but whether it reignites the quintessential, intangible magic of old. Can two polished, accomplished musicians, each entering their late forties, still truly pull off an Arab Strap album? If The Turning of Our Bones – a glorious comeback rave about corpses, reincarnation and shagging – quashed those doubts, As Days Get Dark consigns them to the realm retrospective mockery. “I don’t give a fuck about the past” may be an effective opening line, but it’s also a fervent statement of intent, a standard bearer for a record wholly unconcerned with rekindling former glories. Middleton’s guitar may still slink seductively as Moffat purrs of lust and dark, filthy streets, yet the Arab Strap of 2021 are a hyper-evolved upgrade; the product of independent dabbling in everything from traditional folk to jazz and abstract electronics. They’re a slicker, smarter beast, and – whisper it – a markedly superior one. For all their notoriety as Scotland’s miserablists-in-chief, As Days Get Dark is jam-packed with moments that’ll have fans old and new squealing with glee. Some – such as the shadowy ode to nocturnal excess Here Comes Comes! or Another Clockwork Day, an improbably beguiling window into the life of an ageing, unfaithful sex addict – offer an updated take on familiar tropes, but others go much further. Would the Arab Strap of old have had the audacity, for instance, to write Fable of the Urban Fox, a brutal yet hilarious tour-de-force in surrealist storytelling that’s part folky stomper, part string-laden banger? You suspect not; and although the rough edges defining classics such as Philophobia are long gone, the upshot is a triumph as complete, characteristic and essential as any in their catalogue. Released: 05.03.21 www.arabstrap.scot

ALSO OUT THIS MONTH Teenage Fanclub – Endless Arcade (Merge, 05.03) // Zara Larsson – Poster Girl (Black Butter, 05.03) //Tom Grennan – Evering Road (Insanity Records, 12.03) // Owen Pallett – Island (Domino, 05.03) //Alex Bleeker – Heaven on the Faultline (Night Bloom, 05.03) // The Paper Kites – Roses (Nettwerk, 12.03) // New Bums – Last Time I Saw Grace (Drag City, 19.03) //The Underground Youth – The Falling (Fuzz Club Records, 12.03) //Dialect – Under~Between (RVNG Intl., 19.03) // Noga Erez – Kids (City Slang, 26.03) // Nubiyan Twist – Freedom Fables (Strut Records, 12.03) // Birdpen – All Function One (JAR Records, 05.03) // Renee Read – S/T (Keeled Scales, 26.03) // The Ghost of Helags – We Came From Stars (Warsaw Recordings, 05.03) //Philip Kane – Book of Broken Things (Corrupt, 12.03) // Ariel Posen – Headway (Soundly Music, 05.03) //Mike Clerk – The Space Between My Wears (Wardlaw Music, 26.03) //Clever Girls – Constellations (Egghunt, 26.03) //AZITA – Glen Echo (Drag City, 05.03) //Middle Kids – Today We’re The Greatest (Lucky Number, 19.03) // Cool Ghouls – At George’s Zoo (Melody/Empty Cellar, 12.03)

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Words: Lee Fisher It was the astonishing ‘colliery-band-in-space’ album, Mary Casio, that introduced me to Hannah Peel’s increasingly diverse and powerful music, and now Fir Wave is here and it’s very special. Peel was given access to KPM’s Delia Derbyshire catalogue and these sounds, reconfigured and reworked into often unsettling forms, provide the sonic palette for the seven tracks here: Wind Shadow has eerie Children Of The Stones vibes, Reaction Diffusion harks back to the spaciness of Mary Casio but with dubby flourishes, the eight-minute title track shifts through a series of moods like a condensed soundtrack. Perhaps the most affecting track is Emergence In Nature, which evolves from a warm, organic quasi- techno into something soaringly ecstatic that got my blood up. Released: 26.03.21 www.hannahpeel.com

5/5 FIELD WORKS CEDARS (TEMPORARY RESIDENCE) Words: Lee Fisher I went into this album with little idea of what to expect and emerged 35 minutes later really quite overwhelmed. Part of an ongoing series of collaborations from Stuart Hyatt, this ninth Field Works album brings together a heady mix of musicians (Marisa Anderson and Nathan Bowles leapt out at me) to produce a gorgeous blend of pedal-steel and fiddle-driven ambient Americana suffused with influences from Lebanon and the Middle East – indeed half the album features the warm, smoky voice of Lebanese musician Youmna Saba reading or singing her own poems, while upcoming country musician HC McEntire reads poems by Todd Fleming Davis. The music is warm and woody and shimmering, like the soundtrack to a Kelly Reichardt movie or an afternoon nap. Absolutely enchanting. Released: 05.03.21 www.fieldworks.bandcamp.com


ALBUMS

5/5

4/5

4/5

TED BARNES 17 POSTCARDS (MORNINGTON RECORDS)

TUNE-YARDS SKETCHY. (4AD)

FOR THOSE I LOVE S/T (SEPTEMBER RECORDINGS)

Words: Robert Nichols I fell in love with this album instantly. The very first tender instrumental postcard, For Rose, captured my heart and I was hooked right through to the finishing line of the weeping wailing violin on The Aftermath. It has been 12 years since UK acoustic folk songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ted Barnes last released a solo album and he has gifted us 17 Postcards, beautiful snapshot insights into those missing years, marked by loss and love. A magical melancholy weaves across an album of many hues and shades. Theatrical. Unhurried. Taking the time to be sensitive to detail, perhaps a banjo plucking at our heart strings. It is not just the lyrics, the instrumental songs are equally as poetic. Released: 19.03.21 www.tedbarnes.info

4/5 FRUIT BATS THE PET PARADE (MERGE) Words: Lee Hammond This album charts yet another wonderful chapter of Eric D. Johnson’s career. However, it finds him more melancholic than you may have previously expected, it’s an album for a quiet Sunday afternoon. Relaxing and beautiful yet still possessing an exceptional richness, from its title track and subsequently the opening track, The Pet Parade, has a wonderful depth. This carries through the record as Johnson and his band fluctuate between the upbeat Holy Roses, to the delicacy of Gullwing Doors. It’s a record which holds your attention with its beauty and effortlessness, which in turn possesses such incredible power. All of which is perfectly compounded by the closing track Complete, the simplicity and the intensity colliding to form the perfect ending. Released: 05.03.21 www.fruitbatsmusic.com

Words: Lee Hammond From the opening bars of Nowhere, Man it’s immediately apparent who you are listening to. This is Tune-Yards at their best, off-kilter bombastic beats, chopped up and delivered with every ounce of passion that it deserves. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement, but the real gold lays within Merrill Garbus’ lyrics, and sketchy. addresses a wide range of themes. From the pertinent attacks at white supremacy in Homewrecker, to the rallying cries that echo from Silence Part 1 (when we say “we”). sketchy. is designed to make you think, contemplate and evaluate. Whilst it does this perfectly, it does it with that signature Tune-Yards stamp, the power and enthusiasm oozing from every note, a triumphant record! Released: 26.03.21 www.tune-yards.com

Words: Ali Welford Lots of records purport to be ‘personal,’ yet few take the concept to such intimate and painful extremes of David Balfe’s debut. A no-holdsbarred psychological memoir composed following the suicide of best friend and former bandmate Paul Curran, For Those I Love is wrought with shock, confusion, desolation and helplessness; an uncurbed outpouring of emotion synonymous with the processing of grief. Balfe’s words are delivered in unflinchingly dense Dublin brogue, and electronic melanges provide a vibrant backdrop; yet sonic sensibilities seem immaterial on a work singularly unconcerned by user-friendliness. Littered with treasured voice notes and WhatsApp messages, it’s a vivid memorial to a friendship too precious to be forgotten, and quite possibly the most authentic, cathartic example of artistic expression you’ll hear all year. Released: 26.03.21 www.forthosei.love

5/5

4/5

THE ANCHORESS THE ART OF LOSING (KSCOPE)

CITIZEN LIFE IN YOUR GLASS WORLD (RUN FOR COVER RECORDS)

Words: Paul Brown She’s been pretty busy these last few years, has Catherine Anne Davies. Moonlighting with Simple Minds, duetting with Manic Street Preachers, releasing an album of the year contender with Bernard Butler. We’re lucky, though, she’s found time to return to her day-job as The Anchoress, because bloody hell, the Art of Losing is stunning. Navigating the depths of human suffering (and she’s had plenty), she has given us something raw, real, challenging, but utterly enriching. From the spiky opulence of Let it Hurt, to the stylish rock of Show Your Face to the stark, chilly interlude of All Shall be Well, this is such a full, rich piece of work that I can see myself frequently revisiting it for years to come. Released: 05.03.21 www.theanchoress.co.uk

Words: Ikenna Offor Despite a healthy penchant for challenging expectations, as revealed across three previous albums, Citizen have often been reductively labelled ‘emo’. That said, given the Ohio three-piece’s proclivity for peppering percussive rhythms with angsty confessions, it’s not hard to see why. Filigreed with moody textures and grungy flourishes, their intriguing oeuvre threads a deftly spun collage of eclectic influences into anthems that are meticulously calibrated for maximum oomph. Playing largely to that strength, this fourth record – which, from the angular riffs of Death Dance Approximately right on through to Edge of The World’s effervescent crescendo, finds the band more juiced than on 2017’s bleaktastic As You Please – reaffirms Citizen’s commitment to perpetual evolution, whilst also staying true to their punk-esque pith. Released: 26.03.21 www.citizentheband.net

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ALBUMS

5/5

3/5

4.5 / 5

XIU XIU OH NO (POLYVINYL)

GENGHIS TRON DREAM WEAPON (RELAPSE RECORDS)

JANE WEAVER FLOCK (FIRE RECORDS)

Words: Cameron Wright Xiu Xiu have spent their previous eleven releases exposing their volatile and fraught emotions, weaponising stark contrasts in dynamics and timbre to plunge the listener into the severe and extraordinary waves of emotion. With Oh No, songwriter Jamie Stewart steers away from the explosive and fiery theatrics of their previous work, ruminating instead within the emptiness of betrayal and loneliness. Becoming the band’s most approachable release, Oh No retains the overwrought, emotive tensions of Xiu Xiu, yet turns away from anger and embraces an intimate, nurtured darkness. Duetting with artists like Grouper or Chelsea Wolfe, community is forged from the ashes of isolation. Acknowledging the unity within grief becomes a focal message, weaving a distinct texture within the fibres of Oh No. Released: 26.03.21 www.xiuxiu.org

Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice Making an unexpected return having entered a hiatus shortly after the release of 2008’s landmark electronica/metal hybrid Board Up The House, Genghis Tron decide not to pick up where they left off but instead to move their ambitions much further in the distance. With the addition of new vocalist Tony Wolksi and live drummer Nick Yacyshyn, Dream Weapon streamlines their sound away from grindcore blasts and IDM glitch towards a less abrasive, more grandiose post-rock direction: when it works, as on the mantra-like title track and fiery closer Great Mother, it’s a smart and satisfying evolution, but with the likes of Alone In The Heart Of The Light stubbornly refusing to take light, it’s a gamble that doesn’t always pay off. Released: 26.03.21 www.genghistron.bandcamp.com

Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice The four years since Modern Kosmology have found Jane Weaver reinterpreting her back catalogue with Loops In the Secret Society and collaborating on a reimagined soundtrack for cult fantasy animation Fehérlófia, but on Flock she uses the lessons of her recent excursions as ballast for her most pop-focused collection yet. Weaver’s ear for detail and arrangements remains as pleasingly eclectic as ever, but on the opening lilt of Heartlow, the Tangerine Dream-goes-glam collision of Stages of Phases and offbeat funk of Sunset Dreams, there’s a new-found immediacy to enjoy. Lyrically, Flock is driven by a world-weary but sincere plea for connection and autonomy that resonates strongly here in 2021, an openness that’s a major reason why this feels like such a confident step forward. Released: 05.03.21 www.janeweavermusic.com

4/5

3/5

4/5

TEETH AGENCY YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIVE IN PAIN (STONES THROW)

CHAD VANGAALEN WORLD’S MOST STRESSED OUT GARDENER (SUB POP)

CATHAL COUGHLAN SONG OF CO-AKLAN (DIMPLE DISCS)

Words: Robin Webb Chicago visual artist Mariano Chavez and London based producer Jesse Hacket have delivered a freethinking fever dream of lizard lounge, Afro-bendiness interspersed with laconic paganist tribal beats and elephant samples. It’s a real mixed bag of influences and lo-fi electronic fuzz and warble; Lynchian horror on Harpoon Land, 80’s synth Krautrock with One For Tusk, 60’s psych stoner in Fazer Folk and just plain out-there with Do You Like Bunnies. Peanut Butter Wolf has curated this debut album on the fiercely independent Stones Throw label, and perfectly epitomises the label’s ethic in experimental output. While not suffering too much from such a diverse range of styles, the album certainly works as a whole – be a bunny, use that third eye. Released: 12.03.21 www.teethagency.com

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Words: Robin Webb A dreamy, psychedelic folk concoction, offered up by multi-faceted Canadian Chad VanGaalen as he ponders an oft-surreal existence in this his seventh studio album. The spirits of Syd Barrett and the Beach Boys (b)looms large in the vocals and nestles amongst the lo-fi electronic exotica. It‘s Chad’s way to deal with what he claims were the terrible conditions for growth throughout 2020, and yet he’s managed to cultivate a springy garden full of ripening odd fruits and veg. One of the stand-out tracks is Samurai Sword, which is accompanied by a self-produced animated video where Chad uses his father’s paintings as a backdrop for his startling, slightly bonkers psychedelic vision, which fits neatly into this altogether unreal album. Released: 19.03.21 www.chadvangaalen.com

Words: Elodie A. Roy Cathal Coughlan’s new songs, the first ones in eleven years, are like fevered dreams – full of uneasy tossing and turning. On the title track, Coughlan chronicles our “lonely century” (Noreena Hertz’s words) – he sings about data, distance, androids and the vacuum of digital life. Song of Co-Aklan has a monochrome, crepuscular atmosphere to it. It has retained something of the soft-spoken, political anger of Momus, Bill Pritchard and other sleepy-eyed poets of the Thatcherite era. It also contains shades of the irrepressible drama and sorrow of early Nick Cave. Song of Co-Aklan is of our time and yet of another time. Coughlan’s voice is as uncompromising and harshly hypnotic as it ever was – it belongs with the night, and compels us to see better. Released: 26.03.21 www.cathalcoughlan.com


ALBUMS

5/5

5/5

4.5 / 5

ISRAEL NASH TOPAZ (LOOSE MUSIC)

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 IS 4 LOVERS (UNIVERSAL MUSIC/SPINEFARM)

THE SNUTS W.L (PARLOPHONE RECORDS)

Words: Damian Robinson Drawing inspiration from a number of genres (Americana, soul, rock and prog) Topaz sits at the two extremes of what a great album can symbolise and achieve – connection to past albums which have influenced our sense of self, and an introduction to a world of new sounds and possibilities. Removing itself from the ever-narrowing world of sub-genres, Topaz takes big ideas and mixes them with an incredible palette of musicianship. Opener Dividing Lines, somehow the offspring of Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig in the Sky and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Happening Brother, showcases an album that is equal parts soulful vocals, intricate guitar playing, layered orchestral moments and acoustic stillness. A total masterpiece in vision and execution. Released: 12.03.21 www.israelnash.com

Words: Damian Robinson With more than a hint of modern industrialism, Is 4 Lovers finds DFA1979 carrying on their sonic voyage to discover where exactly a pop melody begins and ends. Kicking hard with wave after wave of sonic layering, yet hard rock at it’s heart (particularly on stand outs Modern Guy and one+one), Is 4 Lovers uses breakbeats, vocal effects and synth surroundings to constantly drive an album of unrelenting energy and surprise. Merging together the hard rock of Muse (particularly on glam stomper Free Animal), with the sheer force of electro rock outfits NIN, The Prodigy, At the Drive In and Daft Punk, this is a rock record at heart but a one with no desire at all to follow standard patterns, rules or production. Released: 26.03.21 www.deathfromabove1979.com

Words: Beverley Knight The last time Newcastle savoured The Snuts was a ‘pinch yourself’ moment as they supported The Libertines at the Virgin Money Unity Arena in August 2020. During this monumental occasion, the crowd sat up and took notice of the West Lothian four-piece covering the 60’s smash Summer In the City. The lads’ debut lingers in the same lane by capturing the essence of rock, dipping its toes in to pop territory. Jack Cochrane’s voice is remarkable as boisterous hooks, riffs and rhythms ring out, especially in the crowd rousing tracks All Your Friends, Don’t Forget It, Punk and Glasgow. Softer textures are exposed in Top Deck and memories are relived with heartfelt backing on Boardwalk. Released: 19.03.21 www.thesnuts.co.uk

4/5

4.5 / 5

4.5 / 5

DOOHICKEY CUBICLE DON’T FIX ANYTHING ;) (SELF-RELEASED)

BLACK SPIDERS S/T (DARK RIDERS RECORDS)

PET NEEDS FRACTURED PARTY MUSIC (XTRA MILE RECORDINGS)

Words: Robert Nichols Soothing, swirling synth-pop from the west coast Canadian duo with the throwaway name but enticing sound. Formerly Booty EP, Alli Deleo and Francis Hooper produce a dreamy melodious soup. It feels like musical cloud watching as their airy vocals slide on by through the easy mix of oozing synths and guitars. Precise percussion pins it all down to a three minute pop plan. Singles Thinking and Airbag have instant appeal, but there are delights at every turn. Dive in between the layers to pull out lyrical jewels and even surprising narratives. Remixes and collaborative forces bolster and enrich. But gently does it. Sit back, close your eyes, relax into the mix and feel the smile slide up your face. Released: 12.03.21 www.doohickeycubicle.com

Words: Stephen Oliver Sheffield’s answer to AC/DC are back from their four year hiatus with a riff-led blast full of sing-a-long choruses. This heavy rock quintet may have had to cope with the technological challenges of creating music in an epidemic, including recruiting a drummer (Planet Rock DJ Wyatt Wendel) that some of them had not physically met, but the end result is very tight. Producer and engineer Matt Elliss has done a great job capturing the energy of a live performance, which is occasionally missing in British rock albums. Crisp distorted guitars and clear vocals follow the pounding drums. This is a great excuse to dust off the air guitar and to enjoy the dirty rock and roll once again. Released: 26.03.21 www.patreon.com/blackspiders

Words: Stephen Oliver This debut album feels fresh as the punky tracks hurtle out of the speaker at a frenetic pace. They may describe themselves as playing anti-anthems, but inside tracks such as You Look Like You Never Bought A Scratchcard are folk-like social commentary. Tracy Emin’s Bed has become my new ear worm with its catchy lyrics. With 11 tracks in just 33 minutes, no song overstays its welcome. Given a lively mix by Frank Turner, the listener is presented with a battle cry to act. But amidst the finger stabbing angst are melodic undertones. The songwriting craftsmanship combines the need to make a point with lively, bouncy guitar-led onslaught. Fractured Party Music confirms Pet Needs as an act with real potential. Released: 12.03.21 www.petneedsband.com

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MIXTAPE WORDS: MELANIE RASHBROOKE, THE SIX TWENTY

I’m Melanie; artistic director of theatre company The Six Twenty. We make live, loud, social theatre for a good night out. There’s always music involved. Whilst in lockdown we’ve been making a new project called I Made You A Playlist, where you can dedicate a track and story to a special person or place that you’re missing right now. These will be livestreamed in March as part of Northumberland Winter Festival. For this Mixtape, I’ve picked a small selection from the tracks and dedications we’ve received so far (along with a couple of my own). I Made You A Playlist will be live-streamed on Wednesday 10th-Thursday 11th March at 7.30pm as part of Northumberland Winter Festival. To add your own track to our playlist or book your free tickets go to www.thesixtwenty.com Listen to the Mixtape on Spotify: www.bit.ly/NARCMixtape

THE BEACH BOYS DON’T WORRY BABY It’s a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ anthem, that’s come in handy these last couple of months. “When it was my birthday in Lockdown I remembered the birthday I spent with my Dad at home. We went to the coast, had a lemon top and one of those long chats. He’s really good at those” From Elijah. For Dad and the beach. Added to the Playlist in Jun 2020. Listen

ANOTHER SKY FELL IN LOVE WITH THE CITY This one’s dedicated to friends, specifically those that are far away. Best enjoyed through headphones. “We used to share songs with each other, that moved us. Some people have inside jokes but we had songs, that was the sort of friendship it was. This is for my best friend who I had to leave behind in order to move to my dream city.” From Nina. Added Jul 2020. Listen

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS THERE SHE GOES MY BEAUTIFUL WORLD A good song makes you feel something regardless of your mood at the time. Whenever I need a boost this goes on. Full blast. “It reminds us of walks taken in the Northumberland countryside. Particularly Simonside, Thrunton Woods and Druridge Bay. We can’t wait until we can all be exploring together again soon.” From Claire and Paul. For Linsey and Daniel. Added Feb 2021. Listen

MANU DIBANGO BESOKA ON SALSA Best enjoyed with a coffee, that becomes a dinner, that becomes a late-night drink, that becomes all-night dancing, because no one wants it to end. This one’s dedicated to late nights with good friends. Listen

MARCIA AITKEN I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU For lazy Sunday mornings. Best enjoyed with a brew (preferably brought to you). Listen

PREFAB SPROUT KING OF ROCK N ROLL Until recently I’d misheard these lyrics, proudly singing “I’m a cookie” full pelt (rather than Albuquerque). Best enjoyed with a crumpet (in the bath). From Laura. For her sister Becky. Added Jul 2020. Listen

SMOKY TIGER THE TREE PLANTER’S WALTZ Just added to the Playlist and it’s a total game-changer. “We’ve not been able to visit our favourite part of the world over lockdown and we miss the people and the place, the stars and the woods.” From Carole and Robert. For Stonehaugh Village (Northumberland). Added Feb 2021. Listen

JACK MCDUFF AS SHE WALKED AWAY Dedicated to drinking wine in the garden as the days start to get longer. Listen

TOM WAITS TANGO TILL THEY’RE SORE Dedicated to staying up far later than you should (on a school night). Listen

LOREEN EUPHORIA For all the parties we’ve missed and will soon have again. Best enjoyed with atmospheric lighting (smoke machine optional). “Like many events, it couldn’t take place in its usual form this year. It’s the highlight of my calendar and we always have a party to mark the occasion. We have score cards (categories include hotness, sing-along-ability, costume flamboyance). There’s bingo, drinking games, the works!” From Sam. For the Eurovision Song Contest. Listen

BONUS TRACK: CHUMBAWAMBA TUBTHUMPING Every good Mixtape needs a bonus track and this one’s become a bit of a collective anthem for The Six Twenty. It’s the closer to our comedy quiz show Mixtape and feels like the perfect anthem for right now. Dedicated to collective laughter in venues packed to the rafters. Best enjoyed at maximum volume. Listen

DO YOU HAVE A NEW RELEASE PLANNED, AN UPDATE TO INFORM OUR READERS OF OR A STORY TO TELL? WE’RE HERE FOR YOU EMAIL: INFO@NARCMEDIA.COM 38


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Skimstone Arts presents the intergenerational and international

Festival FESTIVAL HEADLINERS: Sound Recordist & Composer Chris Watson Rapper Kay Greyson & Singer-Songwriter Bumi Thomas

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NARC. #170 March 2021  

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