Dork, December 2020 / January 2021

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Index Issue 50 | December 2020 / January 2021 | | Down With Boring

Hello, ‘Dear Reader’ Contents Apparently, fifty is the new forty. And traditionally, Dear Reader, they say life begins at forty. So, doing some complex science, maybe life actually now begins at fifty? That's what we're counting on, as this month your favourite music magazine (that's us - shut up, it is) reaches its milestone fiftieth issue. While most of you may shrug and wonder why that's such a big deal, we're pretty proud, so forgive us a moment of self-indulgence, yeah? No, the cake is all ours. You can't have any. Still, we've found a way to celebrate in style with two fabulous cover stars and a double end of year issue packed to the bursting seems. On one cover, we've got YUNGBLUD. When he first crossed our office stereo in Dork's early days, we'd have struggled to predict precisely where Dom would end up just a few years later. Now a superstar leading the way for a whole generational movement, he's done well. New album 'weird!' drops this month, and it's every bit the strange, remarkable pop odyssey you'd hope. For our second cover, we're focusing in on our

Ø4 Intro 12 Best of 2020 16 Features 34 Hype List 2021 70 Incoming

Ø7. Rostam

The Vampire Weekend founding member and pop impressario is 'in the studio'. We checked in to find out what he's up to.

16. YUNGBLUD annual celebration of new music; the Hype List. Led by the brilliant Baby Queen - an artist who pretty much encapsulates everything we're about - you'll find hundreds of names we think you'll have in your ears over the next twelve months. This isn't one of those tip lists which attempts to predict 'success' on some arbitrary, commercial level. Instead, we're just throwing out some names we like, who we think will play a big part in our year to come. Some of them may well become massive, some probably won't - but all of them are worth checking out. There's a

vast Spotify playlist you can load up to make the task simple. We think of everything. As we come to the end of the weirdest, most challenging year in recent memory, it's testament to the passion and commitment music inspires that we've still got things to be excited about. That's something to be thankful for. Here's to the next fifty issues.

Stephen ‘Editor’ @stephenackroyd

As new album 'weird!' prepares to drop on a year worthy of the title, we meet one of the most exciting pop stars on the planet.

28. Joe Keery

An actor-slash-musician for whom the latter is far from an afterthought, Stranger Things star Joe Keery's is an artist in the truest sense.


A bright point in a year of boredom and mundanity, BENEE's alt-pop bops are an oasis in a sandy desert of dull.

34. Baby Queen Leading off our 2021 Hype List, Bella is a bright, brash and unrelenting voice intent on making pop real exactly our kinda gal.

Editor Stephen Ackroyd Deputy Editor Victoria Sinden

Associate Editor Ali Shutler Contributing Editors Jamie Muir, Martyn Young Design Lot 105 Scribblers Abigail Firth, Aleksandra Brzezicka, Beth Lindsay, Blaise Radley, Chloe Johnson, Connor Fenton, Dan Harrison, Edie McQueen, Finlay Holden, Jake Hawkes, Jamie MacMillan, Jay Singh, Jessica Goodman, Melissa Darragh, Neive McCarthy, Phoebe De Angelis, Steven Loftin Snappers Chico Fernandez, Fil Mawi, Harry Were, Holly Whitaker, Lewis Khan, Lewis Vorn, Lyndsey Byrne, Melanie Hyams, Meredith Traux, Phoebe Fox, Pooneh Ghana, Sarah Louise Bennett, Sophia Wilson PUBLISHED FROM WELCOMETOTHEBUNKER. COM UNIT 10, 23 GRANGE ROAD, HASTINGS, TN34 2RL All material copyright (c). All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form, in whole or in part, without the express written permission of The Bunker Publishing Ltd. Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure the information in this magazine is correct, changes can occur which affect the accuracy of copy, for which The Bunker Publishing Ltd holds no responsibility. The opinions of the contributors do not necessarily bear a relation to those of Dork or its staff and we disclaim liability for those impressions. Distributed nationally.

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Barn on the Farm (1st-4th July 2021) has announced a bunch of up-and-coming acts for 2021’s festival. The list of new and emerging artists features the likes of Baby Queen, Alfie Templeman, Holly Humberstone, KennyHoopla, Olivia Dean, Bow Anderson, and Griff.

James Blake has announced a brand new covers EP, helpfully titled… ‘Covers EP’. Recorded during lockdown and following on from his string of fanrequested covers over on the ‘ol social media, the EP includes a recent version of Frank Ocean’s ‘Godspeed’.


2020 has been weird. Very, very weird. Every cloud has a silver lining, though. After months of enforced downtime, musicians have had loads of time to prepare new ‘stuff’ for 2021. Over the next few pages, we’ll speculate, investigate and generally ‘suggest’ some of the albums you could be getting excited about next year.

Quite probably the most anticipated pop record of 2021, chances are something is imminent. Yes, the world is a mess - but if there's one thing that just might save it, it's a third album from Lorde, right? Right. Well, Dear Reader, hope is a dangerous thing to have, but it's also something we an all cherish close as the year draws to a close. Though in late 2019 she told us the record would be delayed as she grieved the death of her dog, Pearl, by May of this year she told us that she started going back into the studio in December, and "good things came out. Happy, playful things." The album apparently has "its own colours now", which is pretty significant news, and is "so fucking good". "I am truly jazzed for you to hear it," she exclaimed. We expect it won't be all that long now. 5.

Run The Jewels are launching their own craft beer. It comes as part of a collaboration with video game Cyberpunk 2077, which has already seen them release the single ‘No Save Point’ with its accompanying Mike Diva-directed video.


Due: Very soon indeed? We know we’re getting a new Bleachers album soon, Dear Reader. How? Because Jack Antonoff has told us we are. Just a few weeks ago he replied to a tweet asking where the band’s third record was by saying “it’s so close” and that he’s “working on it every day.” Jack went on to confirm it wasn’t going to be delayed due to ‘the current situation’, he’s done with writing it and the finishing touches are underway. Indeed, at the

Oscar Lang Dirty Hit’s young songsmith is reportedly hard at work in Liverpool recording his debut album. We’ve little more to go on but that, but with the latest of a string of Really Very Good EPs dropping round about now, we expect big things. Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard Dork faves Buzzard3 are recording their debut back in Cardiff, apparently. We’d expect to hear news about that towards the start of the year. Matt Maltese We’ve heard on the gossip grapevine that Friend of the Magazine Matt is already at work recording album three. No hanging around there, eh? No firm plans yet, mind. IDER Recently releasing a brand new track ‘Saturday’, IDER have already delivered their first new music since their debut, ‘Emotional Education’. We know they’ve got more up their sleeves. We’ll be hearing more soon.


Django Django have announced their new album, ‘Glowing in the Dark’.Billed as “a creative rebirth for the band of sorts”, it includes a collab with Charlotte Gainsbourg, and is preceded by the title-track.

time of writing two new tracks have just dropped, '45' and 'chinatown' - the latter of which features Bruce bloody Springsteen. Huge.


Due: At some point before July 2021, probably. We’ve suspected we’re due a new alt-J album for a while now - specifically when the band started booking festivals for last summer. Obviously, those dates

í alt-J, they do love a good triangle.

never happened, but they’ve begun putting shows in the diary for 2021. One of those, in Lithuania, suggested in the announcement that the band “will present a new album in Vilnius next summer.” So, new alt-J album before July 2021. You heard it here - erm at best second. Prepare the monks! We’ve got some chants to learn.

Bastille Due: TBC

What do we know about a new album

Tom Vek has released his first album in six years, ‘New Symbols’, plus a new “visual hi-fi” music device, Sleevenote. A press release explains: “With a perfect 1:1 square high resolution display, the 7.5” diagonal tablet-style device brings hi-definition, full fidelity album artwork to digital music."

from Bastille? Well, Dearest Reader, we know ‘some’. We’ve recently had the two single track drops - ‘WHAT YOU GONNA DO???’ (with Blur guitarist Graham Coxon) and ‘survivin’’. Beyond being inconsistent crimes against proper use of capital letters and punctuation, they’re signs the band have been at work recording. And they have! In a recent interview with Glasgow Caledonian University publication The Edit, Dan Smith confirmed “there is an album in the works”,

but he couldn’t confirm when we’d be getting it. Meetings have happened, and discussions are ongoing, but releases often need touring, and touring currently an issue. “It’s going to come. It won’t be a hundred years from now, but we don’t know exactly when,” he offered. Yeah, we know how you feel Dan.

Arcade Fire

Due: Which album are you talking about, exactly?

í Arcade Fire have written everything, now. HAHAHA. Sorry.

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it thirty eight thousand times this week alone. Come back Wolf Alice, we miss you! YES, WE’RE rather eager to have Wolf Alice back, back, BACK!!! But 2021 will surely be the year our calls are answered. Festivals are being put in place for the summer (Mad Cool in Spain has already been announced). That suggests there’ll be something new to play by then given second record ‘Visions of a Life’ arrived more than three years ago now. At the start of 2020 Dirty Hit label bigwig Jamie Oborne said they were set to start recording back in February, with plans to release by year end. Obviously ‘certain events’ have pushed that deadline back a touch, but once the world starts opening up again, we’d keep our eyes firmly locked.

Due: Don't be shocked if we hear something very early in 2021.

At the start of lockdown - approximately 1000 years ago - Arcade Fire’s Win Butler revealed that the pandemic had put a stop to the recording of the band’s new album. Instead, he was writing more. Well, Most Dear of Readers, he’s certainly done that. In a recent interview on Rick Rubin’s Broken Record podcast, Butler explained instead of finishing up one album, they’ve written “two or three”. He went on to reveal that he “can’t remember a time when I’ve written more” and that they intended to start sessions this month. Perhaps one of the tracks might be the stomping 'Generation A', debuted live as part of Stephen Colbert's Election Night TV special in the US. Infinite content indeed. .


Due: TBC The xx's Romy Madley Croft blessed us recently with a brand new popslash-club banger ‘Lifetime’, and very good it is too - but is there more to come? Well, back in April during an Insta live sesh, she suggested there is. As well as giving




Multi-instrumentalist and founding member of Vampire Weekend, Rostam Batmanglij released his solo debut 'Half Light' in 2017. Now, he's working on the follow-up. Words: Abigail Firth

Indie pop's fave producer Rostam is making a jazz record. Well, kind of. He's stepping out of his comfort zone to reference more bebop on his upcoming second solo album and the follow up to 2017's 'Half Light'. That's proper music talk, but rest assured, it's just a bit saxier than what we're used to. And it's not the pop kind of sax we hear on, say, The 1975's albums either, it's the more unconventional, classic kind. We've heard bits of it on Haim's 'Women in Music Pt. III' – a record entirely produced by Rostam alongside Ariel Rechtshaid – especially on 'Summer Girl', and there's heaps of it on this album's first offering 'Unfold You'. "I feel like some people I've seen have felt the song was very sexual, which I think is good. But I think for other people, maybe it doesn't strike them that way," he says of the song's reception. The track is a delicate, finger-clicking number with, of course, a major saxophone line running throughout, and a little taster of what's to come hopefully in the first half of 2021. Rostam meets us live from his selfbuilt studio in Los Angeles, which today, he notes is particularly lived in (although his assistant usually cleans it up and, get this, vacuums the couches for him) because he's been hard at work finishing up his next solo record. "I mean, it's not supposed to be finished at any time. I guess it's supposed to be finished when I'm happy with it, which is definitely what I believe. I think there are probably people who can work on something forever and there are people who maybe should work on things a little longer than they let themselves and I'm more in the camp of I could work on it forever."

"It feels like the beginning of a new era" Rostam

He's been working on the record for some time now, and basically been in the studio all of lockdown, save for a trip to Massachusetts in July. It's a trip that he takes every summer, and this time was a well-deserved break after polishing off two records – Clairo's 'Immunity' and Haim's latest – and buckling down with his own. "I was even going so far as like, I was using Pro Tools as I was packing up to go get into the car to get to the airport. And I was like, trying to bring all my stuff that I would need to work on music while I was by the beach. And then I got to the beach. And I was like, oh I'm not doing this. I'm not doing music. So it was great to just take a break from everything for three weeks. "And at the very end of the trip, I decided to make a music video, which was the video that came out for the song 'Unfold You', and that was made the last three days on the beach. When I came back, I basically had an album to finish, and I knew exactly what I needed to do, it's been fun since then." This upcoming album has also been a chance for Rostam to break out of the sound he's become known for in the past decade or so. Between his work as part

of Vampire Weekend and his involvement in albums for Haim, Clairo, Charli XCX, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maggie Rogers and more, there's a thread that runs through his production discography which is loosening up a little. "I enjoy getting lost, and not exactly knowing what the record is, and kind of finding it and finding myself. I think, with this album, I wanted to make a change. Aesthetically, I look back on so much of the music that I'd made from the time I was 22, when I produced the first Vampire Weekend album, that was the beginning of my career as a musician and my career as a producer, and I felt like so much of that music was connected in different ways. Classical music for me was one of the things that connected all these different kinds of music and songs that I was making, and I decided I wanted to make a conscious effort not to lean on classical music as the touchstone. So like this record that I'm finishing now, it feels like the beginning of a new era." So he's moving on from classical to jazz, and starting with arguably one of the best instruments of all time: the saxophone. Like he's mentioned before, he's not creating his own 'Careless Whisper', but he's definitely showing off a sexier side, and a saxier side. "I wasn't even thinking about how people associate the saxophone with sex, which is funny, that's like very typically me to be like so deep into my own creative process that I miss out on something that's potentially very obvious in terms of a connection. But I guess, because to me the saxophone has many moods. It's not just like a signifier for sex, but maybe some people hear the saxophone that way. And now I'm nervous about what they're gonna think about my record. I would say that some of the songs are about sex. And some of the songs have saxophone. But not all of the songs with saxophone are about sex." At this point, we ask Rostam for his top three saxophone solos, sadly to no answers, but he did dive a little further into why he's not referencing pop-jazz.

"I became so inspired by the idea of trying to put jazz from the Bebop era into the framework of a song, and there are definitely times that that's happened. Like, A Tribe Called Quest is a great example of combining Bebop with rap music, but you don't hear that much like old jazz in pop songs. So that was something that was floating around in the back of my mind. "People like John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker, I think those people, those saxophone players, very much have a melodic style. To me, there's something so inspiring about just trying to reference some of those melodic styles, in the context of a song that has lyrics and a song that like, your seven-year-old cousin could like. I guess my mission is to be able to make something that anybody could like, but then also is there to push the boundaries of what can be in a song that anyone can like. Can the interview just end now? Because I feel like I said, exactly what I wanted to say." Unfortunately, it can't, because we've got some more twists to discuss. Like Rostam writing a whole song on the record heavily feverish and suffering from COVID-19. "A few people have said that that's their favourite song on the record," he says of the track, which he also states is structurally two verses on repeat along with a guitar solo the same length as the vocals. He's also working on some pretty exciting new stuff with Georgia, because spinning one plate is never enough for Rostam. "We started a song together that we wrote in one day about a year ago. And then she sent me another idea she started, and I've been working on that and adding things to that. And it's fun. She's in London, I'm in LA, but it's been fun to collaborate remotely. And it's been fun to make dance music and feel like my objective is to really make music that you're forced to get up and dance to, and I hope that she feels the same way." Sounds like there's plenty to look forward to in the coming year from Rostam, whether you're bebopping or just bopping. He says he's a natural optimist, so he's looking forward to it too, and that he's hopeful for the future. "I feel like when you're doing interviews about albums that haven't come out yet, or aren't even finished yet, sometimes you've learned more about the album from talking about it for the first time than from making the album itself, because you're sort of guided by this other part of your brain. I would say the record is about change. I think internally, like how we experience change internally and how our minds adapt to change, and how sometimes we refuse change, and other times we're able to embrace change. I would say that's what the theme of the record is." P 7.

Building on lessons from their debut, Feet are channelling a newfound 'mature' approach into their fast-approaching second album. Words: Jake Hawkes

There aren't many bands around that take inspiration from the living conditions of The Monkees – in a pre-pandemic world, living with the same people you write, tour and travel with was probably seen as a bit much. Not for Feet though, who cheerfully bundled into a house in Muswell Hill and set about becoming a "hive mind" (their words, not ours). "It's actually fortunate that we all live together now, because we can all just play in the living room," says frontman George, adjusting the screen on his laptop so we can see more than just his knees. "The neighbours don't seem to mind too much, we've had the chance to write and practise quite extensively really." "We've got some new neighbours," adds bassist Oli, sitting down next to George and pouring an Orangina into a glass. "So the living room used to be next to a kid's bedroom, but now it's




just some office or something – we smashed it on that front, now we can be even louder." "The only issue we have had is that the sound was quite..." George clears his throat. "Disparate. A lot of the stuff we wrote just did not work together, so we wrote 15 tracks in our little bubble, went to play them properly when the first lockdown eased, and we could get into a practice space, and then realised we'd have to scrap most of them. Who knew that five-minute prog-rock songs don't fit with our other stuff? That's the issue with the conceptual echo chamber – constructive? For sure. Grating, frustrating, horrible? Yes. But we got through it, and we're at a point with the new stuff where we're feeling a lot more confident, although we might go skewwhiff again and have to be brought back into the light once more." "Maybe that's how we'll survive these lockdowns," jokes Oli. "Just exploring these fucking horrific avenues of music until we're allowed to go to the pub again." Scrapped prog-rock concept albums aside, the process has been productive for the band. "I'd like to think we've developed," says George. "I want it all to

be more coherent than it was last time around. I think we're a bit more mature, maybe a tad more intelligent? My idea with the new music is to put across the idea of the band as a hard force. We want to sit in that little niche in the indie market of playing hard music..." he pauses. "I'm just saying words right now, none of this makes any sense! The sound is a work in progress, but we're moving somewhere." "We're trying to strip it back in a lot of ways," offers Oli, picking up where George trails off. "We want you to be able to picture us playing live when you hear the songs, so we've recorded some demos live, and we're just trying to make sure it's not too shiny this time around. "I think we found ourselves too far in the deep end on the first one, because we just skipped the basics and dived straight into the expensive studio. It taught us a lot, but I'd say we're now trying to recapture those earliest times in the band, just walking it back a bit." George nods along, before adding: "I don't want to be negative about the first album at all, because it gave us an audience and I wouldn't want to take anything away from the experience people get off that. But that doesn't mean that as a group, we don't want the next thing to be better. What the album really lacks in our view is a sense of a band being in a room and the energy that goes along with that. It all feels a little bit too clinical for me, too pop –

"We don't fuck around writing sixminute songs that nobody wants to hear any more" George Haverson


we went with a pop producer because we were under the impression it would teach us pop values." He laughs. "Which I guess it did, because we don't fuck around writing six-minute songs that nobody wants to hear any more. "We're less impressionable now, so we're comfortable getting ideas across in the simplest way possible. We're going by the ethos of 'it needs to sound as dumb as possible'. If five kids can pick up a guitar and learn to play it in five minutes, then we've been successful. "Sense of humour is obviously important too. A lot of guitar bands don't...." George makes a face. "They have their own ways of writing, and I've got my way of writing, I guess [good save, lads – Ed]. You don't necessarily have to paint this grand concept where everything is this big metaphor. You can write a song about wearing jeans or washing your armpits in the shower – both of which are obviously absolutely terrible examples, sorry about that. Your political values and everything else aren't necessarily wrapped up in the music – it doesn't have to all be 'here's what I think about this', sometimes it can just be an observation, and that means you can sing or talk about anything you want." With new music well underway and *all this* looking to continue well into the new year, Feet have spent a while considering what to do. "It's gonna get to a point where you realise there's no benefit in waiting for it to get better," explains Oli. "Until quite recently we were thinking we could just wait until everything's back to normal to get stuff out, but that's not gonna be the case for a long time. We can't just keep doing Instagram sessions for the rest of time, we've got to release music at some point." He shrugs. "The landscape is the same for everybody isn't it, so the whole idea of having these tactics is redundant now. People need to respect that they still have fans out there and that there's an audience for new music, even if you can't flog any gig tickets along with it." "In an ideal world, we'd do a massive tour alongside the second album, which is hopefully coming next year," agrees George. "But I'd rather release something to an audience that are asking for it than to just sit on it for ages. The lack of feedback is hard, though, because without a live audience you can just keep doing and there isn't any pushback if you're making shit songs. Nobody is there to boo or throw anything at us, so we can go as far as we like. Although in a socially distanced venue they'd have to have better aim and we'd be able to see exactly who was throwing stuff, so maybe that's less of a worry anyway." With all this talk of a second album, the important question remains: how will the band top the celebratory tattoos they got after the release of their debut? George ponders for a second, before answering. "We're thinking of getting matching grills, I reckon. or maybe signet rings, some kind of bling." P

Bombay Bicycle Club have announced a new live album, ‘I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose – Live At Brixton’. Recorded at the band’s sold out Brixton Academy show in November 2019 to celebrate their debut’s tenth anniversary, the release is due on 11th December.

an update on the day job (“We are making new music, we’re very much band and we still love each other very much... I know that we are a bit slow at putting out music”) she also claimed she’ll have her own solo album “soon”. “For the past couple years I’ve been writing a lot of songs for other people, writing a lot of songs for myself,” she explained. “I ended up with all these songs so I’m going to release a solo album under my name. It’s just going to be under Romy. I’m hopefully going to be releasing it soon. I have loads of songs and I feel excited to try something new.” Sounds like there’s more to come, then?

Pale Waves

Due: 12th February 2021 We've been waiting quite a while for a new album from previous Dork cover stars Pale Waves. Their debut album 'My Mind Makes Noises' came out over two years ago now, but it's follow-up is imminent. Titled 'Who Am I?', there's a distinct late 90s, early 00s alternative pop vibe to the record, as shown on lead single and opening track 'Change'. Recorded with super producer Rich Costey (Muse, Foo Fighters, Sigur Rós) before and during lockdown, it's set to land on 12th February 2021.

í The most 90s album cover ever? Yeah. Probably.

The Matthew Healy Solo Experience Due: Nope. We're not making those sort of predictions here.

Is Matty Healy recording a solo album? Dunno. Is he? Well, his mum says so. In a recentish interview with that musical bible of note, OK magazine, Denise Welch revealed "Matthew

Blossoms have released two new Christmas songs, ‘Christmas Eve (Soul Purpose)’ and ‘It’s Going To Be A Cold Winter’. The pair of bops – the first of which features Stockport Junior Voices Choir – are out digitally now, with a 7"″ vinyl to follow on 11th December.

Pixies, Becky Hill and DMA’S (pictured) are going to play a gig series in Newcastle next summer. Live From Times Square will take place in the city centre on 4th August (featuring DMA’s), 5th August (Becky Hill), and 6th August (Pixies). More dates and acts are still to be announced, too.

along, it could still make the cut. Really, though, he's already working on what comes next. These bands, we ask you.

í Laying down a debut album? Easy, mate.

Royal Blood

Due: Possibly imminent?

Shame Last month's Dork cover stars are quickly approaching the release of their new album. Titled 'Drunk Tank Pink', it'll be out early doors on 15th January and spoiler alert - is really, really, really fucking good. Like, honestly. We went wow. We never go wow. Goat Girl Another early 2021 record, Goat Girl's second album will be released by the end of January. It's called 'On All Fours' and was recorded with was produced by Dan Carey in early 2020. There's also a track called 'P.T.S.Tea', which is genius.

With their fourth album on the way, Scotland's finest pop trio have been busy bees. It's no secret what CHVRCHES have been up to. If you've paid even the slightest attention to the social media feeds of Lauren, Martin and Iain over the last few months, you'll have seen them grafting hard on their fourth album. Recording from lockdown, they've taken the 'work from home' advice to heart, creating the record from their Glasgow and LA abodes. As for what we can expect - there's been all kinds of little snippets shared. A recent Instagram story by Lauren suggests it'll be darker ("Tutu era is over"), and in mid October, Martin revealed he and Iain had been mixing the album for two weeks ("mostly 10 hour studio days").

Due: Hard to say with a band capable of being so self-sufficient, but we'll definitely have *something* soon.

We've already heard one track from Royal Blood's third album - the stomperiffic 'Trouble's Coming'. So when are we getting the rest? The duo were in the middle of recording when lockdown hit, meaning they had to take a break. During that gap, more songs were written, others were tinkered with, and - according to a recent interview - two more tracks were added. There'll be a change in what the band are doing - they've been clear to state it won't just be the same again and as a self-produced album it's likely to be the purest version of what they want to achieve. All of which means, when it's finally time, we'll definitely hear it coming.

Sports Team is working on a solo project". “I’ve got two boys in the entertainment industry. It’s a nightmare but I’m very proud of them both," she continued. I’m very lucky that both my boys have got good heads on their shoulders.” There have been rumours of all kinds of 1975 related musical activities since the release of 'Notes on a Conditional Form' and the band's cut back on social media during lockdown. In one interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music, Matty claimed that there'd be something of a solo album swap with bandmate George. “One thing that I know that we’re gonna do is that I’m doing a Matty record and George is doing a George record," he claimed.

"And we’re gonna produce each other’s records. So that’s gonna happen.” Still, we all know what it's like with these musicians. They say stuff. There's also been rumours of that debut album for pre-1975 band Drive Like I Do - something Matty was pretty optimistic about during the interview for his most recent Dork cover earlier this year. There's also been hints of game soundtracks, new stuff with The Japanese House, and loads more. Indeed, just as we went to print Matthew took to reddit to jokingly claim the band would be "spending the next year making GHEMBLABMSSLMFIYOYFIM". Key bashing or an actual acronym? Hard to tell with

that one.

Easy Life Due: TBC

One of 2020's most likely to bands who never actually got round to dropping that expected debut thanks to our old mate COVID, 2021 should definitely see a first Easy Life full-length proper arrive. They've already had chart success with mixtape 'Junk Food', but that much anticipated album is apparently fully written - or sort of. In a recent interview frontman Murray suggested it was being finished up in terms of mixing and production, but also he was still writing songs and if the right thing came

Due: No, seriously. Next year. Isn't it too early for another album from Sports Team? Well, erm, no. It doesn't seem like it is. Our spies tell us the band have been at work on the record which Alex Rice teased in a post-debut Dork chat earlier this year, and we may very well see it much sooner than we'd otherwise expect. You could suggest it's the sign of a band in a rich creative vein of form, eager to keep moving and building excitement, or you could speculate they just want to move more quickly than Lady Gaga so they can release it unchallenged by their bitterest rival. Either or, really. 9.

Lana Del Rey has unveiled a take on the George Gershwin classic ‘Summertime’. Released in aid of the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras, the track aims to raise awareness of the two organisations who have been hit hard during the worldwide Covid pandemic.

SG Lewis has announced details of his debut album. Titled ‘times’, it’s set to arrive on 19th February 2021, with news coming alongside a brand new track ‘Feed The Fire’, featuring Lucky Daye.

Up-and-coming London rapper CHOZE has announced his debut album 'D.I.Y' - due early 2021 - with his brand new single 'BADDERZ'. A statement of intent for the year ahead, it's "an introduction to what is yet to come from CHOZE," he says.

OMG! IT'S...


At this point, there's not much that could happen in 2020 that we'd call unexpected. This probably comes pretty close though. Viral star of 2016 Millie B – whose claim to fame until now was sending for Sophie Aspin as part of Blackpool Grime Media – went viral again when the song blew up on TikTok. The track, now renamed 'M to the B', sees a then 15-year-old Millie throw insults at Sophie about her contour and getting murked by Little T while chomping a KFC and wandering around Lidl. Quite frankly an iconic bit of British culture, so imagine the joy for everyone who'd forgotten about BGMedia when the song resurfaced on TikTok earlier this year and became the soundtrack to the most viewed video on the platform ever. While most of the people using the sound probably don't know or understand its origins, they all seem to be enjoying it, with the likes of James Charles and Madison Beer creating their own videos along to it. The song also hit number one on the Spotify UK chart, so have THAT Sophie. So, in what is perhaps peak Dork content, we grabbed Millie to ask her a few questions about the track's resurgence and what she's been up to lately.

global fame? It's crazy! It doesn't really feel real if I'm honest as I never imagined my song would've blown up like it has!

Hi Millie! How are you finding your new-found

Would you have ever imagined when you



2020 wasn't good for festivals, what with there barely being any of them before the evil shadow of COVID-19 hit. There's more hope for 2021, though. As vaccines arrive, testing plans are firmed up, and everyone accepts that they really need to get the show back on the road, or else. With that in mind, the Great Escape has announced the First Fifty acts for 2021. Next year's opening gambit includes the likes of Arlo Parks, Baby Queen, Bree Runway, Holly Humberstone, Olivia Dean, CMAT, Michelle, Remi Wolf, Tayo Sound, Thomas Headon, Blu DeTiger, Joey Maxwell, KennyHoopla, The Magic Gang, Oscar Lang, Walt Disco, Bob Vylan and more. More than that, the festival thinks they'll be firing back in style for their belated 15th birthday. "With development of the first two vaccines as well as the roll-out of government trials for mass testing and tracing," a statement reads, "The Great Escape is confident that a full capacity event can be achieved. Through a mix of vaccine and testing, as well as trial events, the festival will be ready and eager to safely welcome people back to live music." Alrighty, then. The Great Escape will take place from 12th-15th May at various venues across Brighton. Tickets are on sale now. P

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How did you feel when 'M to the B' resurfaced? Well, it's my least favourite track that I've made, so I had a lot of mixed emotions. I always knew the song was still out there being played by people but I never expected it to be worldwide! Obviously the track has been around for some time, do you think any of the people using the track on TikTok are aware of Blackpool Grime Media? Would you like them to know about it? I don't think everyone knows about Blackpool Grime Media, especially people from outside of the UK, but a lot of people are clicking on to where the video's come from and done their research. I don't really want to be known by 'BG Media' as I was a lot younger when I was on there. Is there anyone in music you particularly look up to? When I was a teenager, I listened to Lady Leshurr a lot, and still do so. That's the way I wanted to come across in my sends, funny and humorous instead of being serious all the time like others.

originally released the Sophie Aspin send it'd reach people like James Charles and Madison Beer? No, I definitely never expected anyone like James Charles and others to be singing to my song, it's so crazy!

Do you have any more music in the works at the moment? Times are hard at the moment in regards to music, I'm hopefully recording something soon, but I don't think anything's for certain because of COVID.

How has your life changed since the track blew up? To be honest, my life hasn't changed much since my track blew up, the main reason being this COVID situation. I haven't been out much and haven't had any recording sessions as of yet as you are limited to what you can do, unfortunately, so I'm having to hold back a lot until things get better. My social media has blown up massively, I've now got 1.2 million followers on TikTok! So yeah, it's crazy stuff.

While the track is pretty jokey, would you rather be taken seriously as an artist going forward? Yes, I definitely would like to be taken more seriously instead of being known as the chavvy kid that sends for people! I would like to make real music, it's hard to say no to big opportunities! Can you tell us a fact no one else knows about you? A fact that no one knows about me? I prefer nights on the sofa watching films instead of out nightclubbing. P


Ten Tonnes

Girl Are You Lonely Like Me?

What’s that coming over the hill? No, it’s not a monster – it’s Ten Tonnes, back with rollicking new number ‘Girl Are You Lonely Like Me?’ Drenched in that familiar blend of bluesy-indie buzz, it sees Ethan kick in a new chapter with bucket-loads of intent and confidence ‘Girl Are You Lonely Like Me?’ is the first slice of new music from Ten Tonnes since the release of last year’s barnstorming self-titled debut album.

calling in life, it’s easy to try so many things that you end up confused. It can lead to an enormous build-up of frustration. You may fantasise about exacting revenge upon your real or imagined enemies. Ephemeral things and small-scale escapist experiences can provide some relief!”


Man's World Marina has shared her new single, ‘Man’s World’. The follow-up to last year’s two-part album ‘Love + Fear’, the track was created alongside a number of female collaborators, including producer Jenn Decilveo and engineer Emily Lazar, plus filmmaker/photographers Alexandra Gavillet and Coughs. There are also a number of remixes coming

up from the likes of MUNA, Empress Of, and more.

album. Speaking about the song, she says: “Reminiscing about a Christmas I had with a person I love. When laying in bed glued to their body didn’t feel close enough. When we wanted every second to last forever.”

Biig Piig

Feels Right í Marina - she's a proper diamond, eh?

girl in red

two queens in a king sized bed girl in red is getting in the festive mood with her new single, ‘two queens in a king sized bed’. It’s a romantic one, and follows a buzzy year for the newcomer, who’s set for an even bigger 2021, prepping for her yet-to-be-named debut

Biig Piig has shared her new bop, ‘Feels Right’. Drenched in dancefloor vibes, the song follows on from her recent double-dose of ‘Oh No’ and ‘Liahr’, plus ‘Don’t Turn Around’. “‘Feels Right’ is a track about the energy of a night out,” she explains. “I miss going out so much. The feeling of letting go and being surrounded by sweaty people; meeting strangers and one-night romances; the tunes and ecstasy. Feel like pure shit just want her back.

So we made ‘Feels Right’ with that in mind. The closest we can get to that feeling again right now is writing about it.”

Tayo Sound Gone

Tayo Sound has released a new single, ‘Gone’. Produced by Courage, the 18-yearold Nigerian-Scottish songwriter’s new track is a bit more low-key than his previous upbeat bops. Tayo says: “‘Gone’ is probably one of my favourite tracks I’ve written so far. It’s a straight up sad boi heartbreak song. Courage produced this one and we both knew that it was a vibe from the moment we recorded that opening guitar.” The track follows on from early drops ‘Cold Feet’, ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Someone New’, with a debut EP arriving next year.

í Skip the new Top Gun film, Ten Tonnes is the real Maverick.

KennyHoopla ESTELLA//

KennyHoopla has dropped another surefire sign of world domination to come in 2021, with scorching new track 'ESTELLA//'. Clocking in at just two minutes, the punchy number sees Kenny team up with Blink-182’s famed Travis Barker on drums for the sort of pitinducing banger that’ll be everywhere over the coming 12 months. 'ESTELLA//' follows a breakthrough year for KennyHoopla, with the release of debut EP 'how will i rest in peace if I’m buried by a highway//' cementing his place as an essential one to watch

Dry Cleaning

Scratchcard Lanyard Dry Cleaning have shared their new single, ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’. The group’s first release on 4AD, who they signed with back at the start of the year, it arrives with the directorial debut of artist duo James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks, aka Rottingdean Bazaar. The band explain: “In the search for your true

Billie Eilish Therefore I Am

You'd imagine there was someone, somewhere, who was convinced Billie Eilish was a flash in the pan. A one album wonder who couldn't possibly recreate the magic of her debut. If such a person did exist, 'Therefore I Am' is the cards on the table, definitive proof that, no, she's the real deal. 'Therefore I Am' - the third song to arrive from the Eilish stable in 2020 - is quite probably her most singular, immediate statement since 'Bad Guy'. Rich, velvety and warm, it only intensifies the ASMR-lite 'When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?'. At the same time, it's a track with its teeth fully bared. With the cutting sass of a teenager at the heigh of her powers, it's sneering brilliance drips with contempt. A first taster of work done under lockdown, Billie's still got it. P 11.

This has been the weirdest and most challenging of years. Not much in the way of live music, basically no festivals - an entire music scene forced to reinvent itself to fit a new reality. And yet, in spite of all that, it's been kind of brilliant. New names have pushed through to the fore, some exceptional records have been released, and Alex Rice hasn't accidentally shaded us in The Guardian once in 2020. We think. Result.


Yes, it's actually happened. As a magazine determined to further the cause of pop nonsense at every given opportunity, could there be any other band capable of taking the crown in 2020? Despite thriving in the live arena, an enforced lockdown was no match for the most divisive pop gang since... well... you know who. Taking to a world without rules like a gracious swan - gliding on the surface, while kicking like mad beneath - their debut album 'Deep Down Happy' created a genuine moment. If it wasn't for someone at Big Pop HQ throwing a wobbly (what do you mean you can't sell albums for 99p? A sale is a sale!), there's every chance they'd have had a Number 1 album on their hands. But in losing out gracefully to Lady Gaga, Sports Team showed there's also a touch of class to a band unafraid to ruffle a few feathers along the way. Love them or hate them, very few sit in between. Really, there's no higher compliment we can pay. Down with boring indeed.




of 2020 12. DORK


Reader's Poll 2020 THE RESULTS

Last issue, we asked you to tell us the bands, artists, albums, songs and 'stuff' that have dominated this weirdest of years. You did so, in your thousands. We've had out our big pop science kit and compiled the results. This is your fault, not ours. BAND OF THE YEAR

Sports Team

Yep, we have a brand new Band of the Year. After a winning run which dates back to the first ever Dork Reader's Poll, The 1975 have finally been knocked off their perch by Sports Team. We're never going to hear the end of this, are we? 2. THE 1975 3. IDLES 4. BLOSSOMS 5. HAIM


Declan McKenna

Our Dec has had quite the year. It's easy to forget just how great a progression second album 'Zeros' is. Fast becoming a legit A Lister. We're really very proud.

No, there's no debate over this one. The return of one of our most favourite bands is as urgent as ever. Yeah, we'd like a Lorde album too, but this is Wolf Alice. Hurry up, guys.

Declan McKenna

Wolf Alice


Rina Sawayama Yes, Sports Team are our band of the year. Yes, we're giving Rina best breakthrough. Why? Well - she's released our Album of the Year, and we set the rules. Shut up.



Declan McKenna

We're not sure why Dec is so popular in this category - Henry Young of Sports Team would have been our pick too, what with his past life as a sports journo meaning he'd ace those rounds.





Wolf Alice


They're the Band of the Year, so it only makes sense that Sports Team also take through the Best Breakthrough prize. you'd have to be nuts to award it to anyone else, right? Right?! Shut up.

Our Dec is a worthy winner in a very, very strong field which also proves - undeniably - Alfie Templeman is bigger than Taylor Swift. Well done, kidda.

If you lot hadn't have said Wolf Alice, we'd have been having words. Thankfully, we'd expect we'd see over half this list deliver in 2021. Fingers crossed.



Sports Team



Alfie Templeman

Lady Gaga

There are many advantages to being stuck inside with Gaga. Firstly, she seems lovely. Secondly, you'd never run out of bacon for sandwiches. 2. TAYLOR SWIFT 3. HARRY STYLES 4. HALSEY 5. MATTY HEALY


Justin Bieber

The boy wonder takes the prize in a shortlist packed with Hype List staples past and present. Proof indeed that there's an exciting batch of new talent coming through, which start their work in earnest when second placed Arlo Parks drops her debut album right at the start of 2021.

You know, at this point, we start to feel quite sorry for Justin Bieber - though not as sorry as we feel for Matty, who has somehow managed to come above a legitimate COVID denying numpty. Ouch.




Reader's Poll 2020 THE RESULTS


Sports Team

DEEP DOWN HAPPY We're not really shocked to see 'Deep Down Happy' win our reader album of the year prize. You're an organised bunch, aren't you? We're especially happy to see both Rina - our album of the year - and Phoebe doing so well, though. Good taste, people. 2. THE 1975 - NOTES ON A CONDITIONAL FORM 3. PHOEBE BRIDGERS PUNISHER 4. RINA SAWAYAMA SAWAYAMA 5. DECLAN MCKENNA ZEROS


The 1975

IF YOU'RE TOO SHY (LET ME KNOW) Is The 1975 winning a category ever an upset? One of the biggest bops of the year, it beats out Sports Team due to their fans splitting the vote - 'Long Hot Summer' and 'Stations of The Cross' both narrowly miss out on the top five. Indie is a cruel mistress. 2. SPORTS TEAM - HERE'S THE THING 3. DUA LIPA - PHYSICAL 4. LADY GAGA & ARIANA GRANDE - RAIN ON ME 5. RINA SAWAYAMA - XS


Sports Team

DEEP DOWN HAPPY In a year where the forces of alternative music have found themselves foiled at the final chart hurdle, it's no shock to see Sport Team's valient battle against Gaga come in first place. Still, the Rolling Stones becoming shopkeepers to deny Dec ranks a close second. 2. DECLAN MCKENNA ZEROS 3. FONTAINES DC - A HERO'S DEATH

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The Albums of 2020 Rina 1. Sawayama Sawayama


Released: 17th April 2020

Sports Team DEEP DOWN HAPPY It's been a banner year for debut albums. No shock to see those at the top of the list, but welcome appearances for Working Men's Club and Sorry too.

The fact that Rina Sawayama's debut album is a masterience comes as no surprise. That had been on the cards for quite a while. What did shock is when the Mercury Prize rule makers decided the Future Queen of Pop wasn't eligible to be nominated, despite the fact that clearly - it should have been in with a decent shout of winning. Some nonsense about passports might be enough to have some boring, backwards industry suits deny Rina her dues, but we won't be having any of that round these parts. Inventive, incendiary and immediate, it's everything music should be.



Taylor Swift

FOLKLORE Both 'Folklore' and 'how i'm feeling now' rank in our top ten albums of 2020, so it's no shock to see them lead the way here, too. 2. CHARLI XCX - HOW I'M FEELING NOW 3. BLOSSOMS - IN ISOLATION


Down With Boring

It's not a fix. Promise. The vast majority of you did indeed vote for our weekly audio magazine of new music. Just don't shout about it too loud, it'll go to their heads. If you want to know what you're missing, tune in every Monday at 8pm GMT on Dork Radio, or search for 'Dorkcast' in your podcast app of choice after. End of plug. 2. OFF MENU 3. SONG EXPLODER



Declan McKenna

Sports Team

Released: 4th September 2020.

Released: 5th June 2020.


Declan McKenna's second album is - bluntly - magnificent. Not just because it's packed with timeless, interstellar bops, but also it shows the progression Dec has made as an artist since his breakthrough debut. Far from a flash in the pan, the boy McKenna is here to stay.

Deep Down Happy

Some albums are about more than just the songs. Sports Team's debut is definitely one of those. A great record made even better by everything that surrounds it, the fevered excitement that follows the band around is almost audible - like a secret track left low in the mix throughout.

4. Phoebe Bridgers Punisher 5. Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia 6. Run The Jewels RTJ4 7. Georgia Seeking Thrills 8. Taylor Swift Folklore 9. Charli XCX How I'm Feeling Now 10. The 1975 Notes on a Conditional Form 11. Haim Women In Music Pt. III 12. The Big Moon Walking Like We Do 13. Beabadoobee Fake It Flowers 14. Hayley Williams Petals For Armor 15. Sorry 925 16. Moses Sumney Græ 17. Blossoms Foolish Loving Spaces 18. Conan Gray Kid Krow 19. Bombay Bicycle Club Everything Else Has Gone Wrong 20. Another Sky I Slept on the Floor 21 Mura Masa R.Y.C.

22 Working Men's Club Working Men's Club 23 Soccer Mommy Color Theory 24. Glass Animals Dreamland 25. Porridge Radio Every Bad 26. iDKHOW Razzmatazz 27. Pillow Queens In Waiting 28. Lady Gaga Chromatica 29. Sea Girls Open Up Your Head 30. Idles Ultra Mono 31. Dominic Fike What Could Possibly Go Wrong 32. PVRIS Use Me 33. BENEE Hey u x 34. Dream Wife So When You Gonna... 35. Creeper Sex, Death and the Infinite Void 36. Yungblud weird! 37. Aluna Renaissance 38. Tame Impala The Slow Rush 39. The Magic Gang Death of the Party 40. Boniface Boniface

Reader's Poll 2020 THE RESULTS



Sorry, you're going to say there's anyone else who should be taking this one home? Dork is a notoriously footie free zone, but even we have to give space to a footballer who refuses to sit back and count his money. Well done, lad.

Awww, shucks. Our online fest earlier this year *was* rather good, wasn't it? Hundreds of acts across three days, maybe we should do it aga.... <sniiiiiiiiip - Ed>

Marcus Rashford



Donald Trump

Dua Lipa

This one's no shock, either. Silver linings, though. We'll be rid of the dried out old wotist before too long. Thank fuck.

Released: 30th January 2020.



When it comes to Big Pop, 2020 might just have been the year of Dua Lipa. Though Gaga and Swifty both dropped records, it's arguable that 'Future Nostalgia' contains two or three songs capable of being named track of the year. Discotastic.

2. The 1975 - If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) 3. Sports Team - Here's The Thing 4. Rina Sawayama - XS 5. BENEE - Snail 6. MICHELLE - SUNRISE 7. Blossoms - If You Think This Is Real Life 8. Dominic Fike Chicken Tenders 9. Baby Queen - Internet Religion 10. Alfie Templeman - Happiness In Liquid Form 11. Shame - Alphabet 12. Mura Masa Teenage Headache Dreams (with Ellie Rowsell) 13. Arlo Parks - Eugene 14. Hayley Williams Simmer 15. Phoebe Bridgers Kyoto 16. Declan McKenna The Key to Life on Earth 17. Daði Freyr - Think About Things 18. Conan Gray Heather 19. Powfu & beabadoobee - death bed (coffee for your head) 20. Curtis Waters Stunnin' (feat. Harm Franklin)


Yep, there could be only one, couldn't there? Though a lot of you were still scratching your heads at what Slowthai was up to earlier this year. Personally, we'd go for number 5. It's all been utterly bonkers. 2. SLOWTHAI AT THE NME AWARDS 3. US ELECTIONS 4. SPORTS TEAM VS GAGA 5. ALL OF IT


Harry Styles

Yes, obviously Harry Styles. But Alex Rice at three? The third most stylish person in pop? There's hope for all of us, eh? Now, where do we buy yellow trainers from? 2. LADY GAGA 3. ALEX RICE 4. MATTY HEALY 5. RINA SAWAYAMA




Declan McKenna

Artists have been playing with live streams without the ability to perform live. Dec's recent effort was a particular highlight. 2. IDLES 3. GLASS ANIMALS


Glastonbury With Glastonbury's 50th birthday delayed a year, we were denied Taylor topping the Pyramid Stage. Fingers crossed it still happens. 2. READING & LEEDS 3. TRUCK FESTIVAL


Alex Rice

Oh good. Can't see any way this will backfire. Well done everyone. This is all on you. 2. PHOEBE BRIDGERS 3. LIAM GALLAGHER 4. DECLAN MCKENNA 5. HALSEY 15.


Words: Ali Shutler. Photography: Sarah Louise Bennett. Stylist: Davey Sutton. Grooming: Sven Bayerbach @ Carol Hayes Management using NARS. Photographer's Assistant: Dani Willgress. Stylist's Assistant: Steven Huang.

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There was once a point where claiming YUNGBLUD could be the voice of a generation would have been enough to inspire more than the odd confused expression. How things have changed. With new album 'weird!' imminent, he's now a champion for the disenfranchised - the leader of a movement that refuses to conform to expectation. Sounds like our kind of scene, eh? We caught up with Dom before the UK's second lockdown to sign up. 17.



"It's never been weirder than right now" Yungblud

fter years of trying to connect with others, YUNGBLUD’s debut album ‘21st Century Liability’ saw Dom alone, “fucking angry" and asking ‘is there anyone out there like me’"? Full of hyperactive rage and taking issue with everything from global capitalism ('King Charles') to shitty lad culture ('Polygraph Eyes'), it turned out there were millions of like-minded individuals waiting for someone to stand up and say something. Galvanising an international fanbase to be unapologetically themselves in a way that hasn't been seen since My Chemical Romance's 'The Black Parade', YUNGBLUD quickly went from shouting to half-empty toilet venues to owning festival main stages and selling out academies. A string of breakout collaborations with the likes of Halsey, Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons, Marshmello, Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker saw him constantly unpredictable and sent his ascent into hyperspace. "People telling me I'm not going to be able to make something work turns me on. If I got something to kick against, I win," he tells us. Despite radio hits recruiting millions of people to his cause, the anti-idol isn't betting his career on more. He leans closer, like he's about to tell us a secret, and smiles. "I've got hit fucking songs that I didn't put on 'weird!' because they mean nothing. All I care about is stadiums and culture. I care about bringing people together and allowing them to feel like it's alright to exist, in the same way that they made me feel like it's alright to exist." But don't you need those hits to get you to stadiums? "No." 'parents', Dom's biggest song on streaming, has never been played on the radio thanks to lyrics about cleaning his teeth with bleach, putting a toaster in the bath and fucking his best friend in the garden. That hasn't stopped him reaching

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people though. Last October, New York police were forced to close down Times Square after a meet up with fans to celebrate the release of the 'original me' video saw thousands of people descend on the corner of 44th and Broadway. The same thing happened in London a few months earlier when Dom played a pop-up gig in Soho. His headline show at Brixton Academy had fans queuing for two days before the show. "It's not about hit singles. I look up to artists like Amy Winehouse, Thom Yorke, Kurt Cobain, David Bowie and Lady Gaga because they told the fucking truth. What does a smash even mean? I just want to be relevant to people's lives and people's existence. I am YUNGBLUD, and so is everyone who connects to my music." Earlier this year, Dom went to a postGrammy Awards afterparty. It's not his usual scene - he spent the night after the NME Awards doing karaoke with fans at Camden boozer The Hawley Arms instead of heading to glitzy shindigs with the likes of Taylor Swift or Matt Healy, but when in LA… While he was there "some twat with a bit of canapé on his lapel" approached him and, with a roll of his eyes, asked what the formula for YUNGBLUD's success was. "He thought I was doing some sort of act," like YUNGBLUD is just a character Dom plays onstage. "There ain't no formula. You tell the truth, you connect to people person by person. You don't sleep for four years. That's it, there's no bullshit to it." But the results are undeniable. With a sold-out Brixton Academy in his back pocket and five soldout nights at London's Kentish Town Forum alongside a European headline tour that'll play to around 200,000 people in the near future, it's all a little ridiculous. "What's crazy is the Doncaster show." Growing up, Dom never felt like he belonged there, but now "people are coming from Poland, Italy and Atlanta to my hometown, and I can't wait. Donny train station is


Sweater: Lisa Marie Trousers and shoes: Natasha Zinko x Duoltd 19.


Top, shorts and gloves: Adam Jones Rings and bracelet (left): Chrome Hearts bracelet (right): Trust Judy Blame Archive Shoes: George Cox

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going to be a fucking riot with 5000 cross-dressing punks. "Bloody hell that station looks like the fucking Addams Family," grins Dom, doing his best northern accent. "Yeah it fucking does," but they're not Addams'. It took him long enough to find this family, though. "No one wanted to know at the start. I was seen as a b-rate Arctic Monkeys and fair enough, but no one was listening. No one knew what I wanted to build." And that includes Dom. In the beginning, "I just wanted to meet some mates, play some shows and find some people like me." Being the leader of this pack wasn't the plan, but he was never going to let his fans down. "I can't believe what we've done since. We've shattered every fucking rule in the book. At the start, no cunt wanted to know. Now every major label is using me as a textbook example, trying to sign 'the next YUNGBLUD'. It's hilarious, and I owe everything to the fans. YUNGBLUD ain't me, YUNGBLUD is us. I feel so freaking proud to be part of something that's changing people's lives. I have done nothing, we have done everything." A few days ago, Dom and guitarist Adam Warrington were drunk at home, giving each other stick and poke tattoos. Peak lockdown. Dom wanted a BHC on his ankle and Adam, channelling every middle-aged dad, asked why before reminding him that it'd be on him for the rest of his life. He doesn't normally get angry, but this set Dom off. "They are my fucking life," he snapped. "This isn't a job where I switch off at 7pm.

From the moment I open my eyes to the minute I go to bed, I'm thinking, 'how can I reach these people? How can I make them feel good about themselves? It's this codependency between me and millions of people." Ballsy second album 'weird!' tells their stories. With the Black Hearts Club behind him, he doesn't need to play by the established rules or live by industry standards. He's fine being an outsider. "There's a lot of things I should do for my career, but that's boring. If people can expect what I'm going to do next, then I've lost. It's not about following the ideas from a 50-year-old in a boardroom. If I've got to be inside that nice warm house with that fucking Sunday dinner, I've got to not be myself. I'd rather be outside in the fucking rain with my freaks." It's what 'The Freak Show', the closing track on 'Weird! is about. "Times might change, and you might break, but I'll spend the rest of my life believing in you," sings Dom over an ambitious track that channels Eminem, Panic! At The Disco, Lady Gaga, My Chemical Romance and David Bowie. For the first time in his life, YUNGBLUD has an audience to let down. He's got people hoping he fails. The pressure "is fucking nuts, but it's great to feel loved." He's excited and nervous about the release of 'weird!' but "it's not scary because it's about them. I've met kids of every age" - he affectionately calls everyone a kid - "of every shape, of every colour, from every continent and I've heard their stories. This album is about

"We've shattered every fucking rule in the book" Yungblud

Coat: Natasha Zinko x Duoltd Beret: Trust Judy Blame ArchiveN 21.


my generation, unfiltered and uncensored. It's full of stories about life, gender, sexuality, identity, love, heartbreak, depression, anxiety, loss and gain." Like the coming-of-age chaos that Skins captured, this album is about the weirdest years of our lives. Despite the label suggesting he push the release of 'weird!' back to next year because of COVID-induced production issues, "the kids needed it this year," Dom insists. "It's very scary right now, and when you have time to think, you only provide yourself with more questions. You start to question every single aspect of your existence, and this album has a lot of answers." It's also full of surprises. The rage of '21st Century Liability' has been replaced by love ("I've got nothing to be angry about anymore because I fucking belong somewhere") and the opening track 'teresa' sees Dom properly sing ("Bet you didn't know I could do that, did ya?"). It is, by his own admission, "weird and different, but it still feels like me." He still struggles with his gender, identity and depression. "It's never been weirder than right now, but I've got something to fall back on. It's like a trust exercise with four million people." The charm of this record, and what YUNGBLUD had become, "is that it's a ball of confusion," he says. "But every single person on this planet is a ball of confusion, so why not own it." Since that first album was released in 2018, he's "just learned to be proud of who I am. That self-belief came from his fans. "They allow me to be me. We encourage each other to be proud of who we are. If you don't fucking know who you are, be proud of it. I'm wearing dresses and make-up, and they're giving me the confidence to just go balls to the fucking wall with it." It's something Dom's wanted to do since being a kid, but obviously, playgrounds in Doncaster weren't a safe space for expressing himself. "Now I'm celebrated for it." Yeah, he still feels like an outsider "but I'm outside with 'em. We're cuddling like penguins to keep each other warm." The journey to the psychedelic love of 'weird!' amidst all this acceptance wasn't an easy one. Years ago, Dom was one of three people living in a two-bedroom flat in London that had issues with damp and dodgy electronics (a fun combination that meant turning on a light was a life or death decision) as he struggled to make anyone take notice of his music. He and Adam watched videos of Foo Fighters playing Brixton Academy and allowed themselves to dream. "If we play that venue, we'll have made it."

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Coat, trousers and shoes: Natasha Zinko x Duoltd

"This album is about my generation, unfiltered and uncensored" Yungblud Last September, those dreams came true after a bizarre, troubling few months. Dom almost lost his mum in a car accident, and the band got famous real quick, with kids waiting at the airport to meet them ("amazing, but impossible to fathom"). He'd also fallen in love and experienced heartbreak for the first time, a life-changing experience under normal circumstances but much more extreme with the whole world watching. "I had everything I

wanted, but I was still anxious and depressed." That Brixton show changed things. "Up until that point, I thought this was all a dream." After the show, he did some naughty stuff, saw a girl but couldn't sleep so he went up Primrose Hill and the lyrics for the title-track poured out of him. "It was magic. I didn't know what the album was going to sound like, but I knew what it was going to be about. Them. At that moment, everything made sense.

The next morning I went back to feeling like I was an alien, but in those moments you grow up two years in two minutes." 'weird!' sees the first YUNGBLUD love song, "which is crazy because I never thought I'd sing about love," he says. "I grew up with a lot of fighting in my house, my mum and dad used to fight and sometimes, it turned physical. I don't have many regrets, but I left home very young. I regret that I left my sisters in that house when

that was still going on, and I wasn't there to shelter them from it. I thought if that's an idea of love, then I want no part of it." Everyone can relate to the line "nobody taught me to love myself, so how can I love somebody else?" Then he met Halsey. "[She] completely turned my world upside down and reinvented every single feeling that I felt regarding love. To experience love on that level was pretty mind-blowing to me. No one prepares you for it; it's like being hit in the face by a football on a freezing cold day. It didn't last, but that doesn't matter. I owe everything to her, in terms of my understanding of love, and I'll never take that away because we were amazing together. We're very similar so we were dangerous for each other and we're better off friends. She's amazing, though." Dom talks to his fans a lot. When he was touring, he'd speak to them after shows, and now, with lockdown in full effect, he Facetimes them or chats to them via DM. Despite everything, he feels more connected to them than ever. "I'm never a teacher, and I ain't got all the answers. I know what I think, but it's always changing. They've helped me, and I've helped them, it's so mutual." It was after a conversation with some kids about being pansexual that he realised he identified with that, and all the sex on 'weird!' comes from his newfound "confidence to explore my sexuality and learn about it." There's a lot going on, on 'weird!' as Dom shows off twelve different sides of his personality, but throughout, there's the message of believing in yourself and the choices you make. The story behind 'mars' still gives Dom a shiver down his spine. He met a young trans girl in Maryland whose parents couldn't understand that she wasn't their son, and had always been their daughter. As a reward for good grades, they agreed to take her to a YUNGBLUD show, and when they got there, they saw other kids like her. "They saw the passion, the energy and the reluctance to be anything other than themselves." After the show, they took her out for a burger and accepted her as their daughter. "That shit is what YB is about. We, as a community, provided a change in someone's life. We offered happiness to someone's existence. That's fucking mad." A lot of 'weird!' is Dom giving that power to his 15-year-old self, who moved away from Doncaster because he didn't feel like he belonged and tried to find himself in London, drugs and sex. "I wish I had this record then. I didn't open up about it


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"Love is like being hit in the face by a football on a freezing cold day" Yungblud 25.


"Fuck me, the government is fucking it right now" Yungblud

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on the first record because I was too insecure. But the fans gave me a confidence to talk about whatever the fuck I want. I've grown up so much since my first record, in terms of my sexuality, my identity, and so have they. I can talk about my heart, I can put it on a silver platter because if someone stabs it, someone else is gonna patch it up. Who's going to hurt me? I've got an army of a million fucking people around me." Making people feel like they belong is a powerful thing, especially if that's a rare occurrence. "If you feel like you're an alien on another planet, you can survive. There is oxygen here. I know that that ‘cos I'm on it with you, and I'm not dead yet. There is life on Mars." Between that and his anthems of acceptance, people credit Dom with saving their life. "I didn't save fuck all. You saved your own life, maybe I was just the soundtrack to it. You were at a crossroad, and you could have definitely driven off the cliff, but you fucking chose to turn left." As for what's next, 'weird!' isn't just an album, it's an 18-month project. Fans are probably getting a surprise on release day to make up for delaying the album from November to December, and Dom has 50 other songs ready to go. There's a grunge song with a rapper that sounds like Nirvana. There's a pop-punk smash with Machine Gun Kelly ("give the people what they want"), there's a piano ballad that sounds like Bon Iver, and there's a metal song with Wargasm ("I love anything that's against the grain"). There's a bit of everything. "If you try and put YUNGBLUD in a box, you're not going to last very long. My next release is never going to sound the same as what's come before it. If it's going to piss people off, I'll do it. If it's going to make people question me, I'll do it." 'weird!' is a very British album, it's why Dom moved back from LA to London to release it. "Despite everything that's going on I'm proud to be English, but fuck me, the government is fucking it right now. It's the same everywhere, though. We just have to keep talking ‘cos one day we're going to be in the shiny shoes, and they'll be in the fucking ground. This isn't me saying 'I've got the prophecy' with this album, these are your fucking words. Learn from each other, talk to each other, start conversations. At the end of the day, my community and my generation is undeniable." Despite young music fans' history of making the likes of One Direction and Billie Eilish the biggest things in the world, they're still looked down on. Their tastes written off as a phase, the community they build around an artist dismissed as nothing but


growing pains. "People empower the young generation, they fucking have too because we're too loud, but they don't believe it yet. They will," promises Dom with a grin. "We'll make them believe in us." "The biggest misconception of me is that I'm some bratty kid who doesn't know what I'm talking about. This record is for those cunts," grins Dom. He's spent the weeks leading up to the American Election finishing every tweet with #FuckTrump and encouraging everyone to "use their voice", while also raising awareness about the proposed abortion ban in Poland ("the choice of abortion should be your right and your right alone, it is your human right!"). Last year, he projected the message 'Hope For An Underrated Youth' on the houses of Parliament ahead of dropping the track "about the forward-thinking, racism-hating, LGBTQ+ liberal 'sinners' that we all are." Yeah, there's a lot of emotion on 'weird!' but it's still a political record. "I'm a reactive artist, there's so much about the BLM movement and LGBTQ+ rights on this album. There's so much about the world in it. I've learnt a lot about my generation, and we don't want to be divided. The way we win is by uniting, so I wanted to create a record that is very uniting." Gone is the cynicism of the older songs that came from a lifetime of being downtrodden and spat on. He's optimistic because he's found somewhere he belongs. "I'm with a group of people who'll march into battle together. The first record was us going to war, watching the world go up in smoke. This one is us rebuilding the world we want." We don't need to be told things are fucked, we're not stupid. "If we keep our head above the water though, we're going to be alright." "I want to provide people passion, happiness and amplify the sadness so they can talk about it. That's fucking rock'n'roll. This record is talking about my heart because this community has such a massive heart. It's emotional as fuck because it's been such an emotional few years for all of us." YUNGBLUD has gone from a lone figure raging against the machine to a million-strong community of like-minded individuals. He's comfortable playing shows to thousands of kids who scream every word, of every song. "When we get back on the road, come to my show and ask me if I need a hit to play a stadium," he smirks. "You just have to get so big that no one could ignore you and it's happening. It's not about anything else except them and the world we're building together. Everything else can fuck off."" P YUNGBLUD's album 'weird!' is out 4th December.

Jacket and trousers: John Lawrence Sullivan Corset: Natasha Zinko x Duoltd Shoes: GCDS 27.





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Oh sure, you already know Joe Keery from being a dead famous actor type in Netflix smash hit Stranger Things and all sorts of big Hollywood films - but there's much more to him than that. With a lifer level passion for music, he's currently operating under the guise of DJO, dropping smart, groove-filled bops like this year's 'Keep Your Head Up'. We tracked him down to talk more. Scoops ahoy? Sorry. Very sorry. By: Jessica Goodman.

he last reason you'd want to gain any notoriety in music is because you are an actor," Joe Keery expresses. "That shouldn't make any..." he trails off, shaking his head. "That shouldn't be a qualifier." It's a Friday afternoon in Atlanta, and Joe Keery is enjoying some downtime from, well, being an actor. The Stranger Things / Spree / Domino's Pizza ad star is back at work filming the new series of Netflix's smash hit sci-fi show after production was shut down in March. In the interim (and now on any days off) he's been dedicating his time to his other creative pursuit: music. Inspired from a young age by a love of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and School Of Rock, music has long been a creative outlet for him. Playing in bands Don Quixote and Post Animal before starting solo project Djo, he might be more well known for his time on screen than his time in a recording studio, but it's clear that writing and performing music is just as much a part of his life as acting. "You can't escape that sort of stuff," he explains of the notoriety he gained with the success of Stranger Things. Being able to reach more people with music because of that success while also wanting people to see past it and enjoy the music in its own right is a bit of a double-edged sword. "It has allowed more people to listen," Joe states. "I was making music for a long time and having nobody listen," he laughs. "I don't take it for granted, but I also just don't want to exploit it." Releasing music under a different name and hiding his face behind dark glasses or face paint in press shots, the centre of attraction is unshakably the music – and that's something that speaks for itself. "I feel like the only thing that you can really do is make music that is hopefully interesting," he expresses. "That's what I'm trying to do now, just make stuff that I think is different and interesting and exciting to me, and just find a sound that makes me excited." From the psych-shrouded sonics of debut album 'Twenty Twenty' to disco dance floor bop 'Keep Your Head Up' and beyond, that's exactly what he's doing. Everevolving (an impressive feat just one album in), with Djo he's crafted a sound that refuses to be pinned down. "You only get your first record once," Joe reflects of his debut release. "I just think a record is such a beautiful art form, to put on something and listen to it from

start to finish." A meandering venture through shape-shifting psychedelia, the ebb and flow of energy that makes 'Twenty Twenty' such a cohesive body of work is an open invitation to do exactly that. "I just wanted people to be able to put it on, close their eyes and imagine," Joe enthuses, "imagine what they could…" he continues, trailing off and trying again "imagine..." Another pause and he gives up on the thought entirely. "I don't know. Fuck." Whatever you want to imagine

was born: out of a determination to get people dancing. "I feel like it sounds serendipitous," he comments, adopting a faux preaching tone as he continues, "'keep your head up through this crazy shit we've got ourselves in'." Written a year ago with frequent collaborator Adam Thein (who plays in Dolores with Post Animal's Javi Reyes) 'Keep Your Head Up' is a track with a body-shaking energy capable of getting you movin' and groovin' with the best of 'em. "It's just about loving yourself

"I was making music for a long time and having nobody listen" Joe Keery

while you're listening to it, 'Twenty Twenty' echoes with an ethereal quality that makes it a potent accompaniment to wherever your mind might wander. "It surpassed my expectations, for sure," Joe affirms. "It's cool to watch the life of it. There's still people who are unaware that it's me, and that's awesome. I love the discovery of people being able to figure it out." Playing these songs live late last year turns out to be what paved the way for the creativity that followed. "It was fun, but it made me think, 'oh man, these are slow ass, sad songs," Joe taunts fondly. "We wanted to make something that people could dance to." That's how this year's single 'Keep Your Head Up'

and taking it easy on yourself, which I think is some good advice to heed by," Joe conveys. "It can be really easy to be really hard on yourself. Take it easy." Easier said than done, of course, but in the current climate it's a sentiment that feels ever more important to hold on to. "I'm lucky that I can work on music," Joe expresses of how he's coped with this year's lockdowns. "That's been huge. I've been able to get a ton of work done in that way." Turning to creativity in hard times might be somewhat of a cliché, but it's also something of an innate response. "Now that I have the experience of making one record," Joe conveys, "and it was this crazy experience of 'argh, what the fuck is this all about?!'" he laughs, "I feel like

now I'm just starting to figure out my own groove." If the busta-move inducing energy of his latest single is any indication, groove is exactly what we can expect to hear from him next. "For better for worse, I'm the type of person who doesn't want to ever do the same thing twice," he describes, then clarifies "or do the same thing twice in the same way." Driven to innovate and evolve as he creates, it seems that what we can expect, in that case, is the unexpected. "The things that influenced the first album are still an influence on me, but I won't deliver the same product," he portrays. "I've learned a couple of new things, exploring with new instruments." If the sky's the limit, as they say, then from the sounds of what he's offering, Djo is going to soar. Whatever creative direction he travels in next, with a love for the art form that's as strong as his love for creating it, you can be sure the results will be something special. "That's part of the fun," Joe enthuses, "trying to sift through all the songs that we're working on and just figure which of these sonically fit, or thematically fit, or lyrically fit, and what kind of listening experience you're trying to create for people." If what he's working on is as vibrant and textured as what we've heard from him so far, you know we're in for a treat. "I guess the goal is to just make something that's different," he conveys. "Hopefully it's a record that is interesting enough to warrant more than a couple of plays, something that you can listen to and get new things from on the tenth listen and on the fifteenth listen. Those are my favourite records." As for when we're likely to get a taste of this new material, that remains unclear. "Hopefully soon," he voices. "Hopefully this year." A pause. "Hopefully next year." Another pause. "Hopefully the year after." If he's offering new music every year, there'll be no complaints from us. "Hopefully next year," he eventually settles, "but there's a lot of work to do still." They say that if you do what you love, then you'll never work a day in your life. For Joe, music is his passion, and he's got no intentions of stopping any time soon. "As long as it's a fun thing and I feel like there's a reason to do it, I'll continue to do it," he asserts. "I feel like I'll always end up finding a way to get back to it." P 29.

By: Martyn Young. Photos: Harry Were.

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A rare bright point in a pretty damn difficult year, BENEE's arrival has been a serotonin shot in the arm. With her debut album finally here, the future looks brighter already. 31.

ew Zealand sensation BENEE is different from your usual pop star. She loves animals, she loves swimming, she loves snails, she's fearless and brimming with confidence and is ready to shake up the pop stratosphere while forming her own idiosyncratic world for us all to wonder in. The new pop age of BENEE is upon us. BENEE is the creative outlet for Stella Rose Bennett whose journey into making music and creating viral hits was a relatively recent one. "I've always loved music and grown up around a lot of music," she begins. "I used to play the saxophone and the guitar. It only hit me that I could do something with it in 2017. I had released SoundCloud covers [including songs by Amy Winehouse and Gnarls Barkley] which were terribly recorded into GarageBand. They had me terribly playing acoustic guitar and then I got into contact with my now-producer Justin Fountain and made my first proper song in the studio. I used to play about with GarageBand when I was 15, but nothing was ever really good. When I got into the studio, I was like, this is so freakin' cool. Then I released a song and thought this is insane, I want to give this a crack." Since then the rise for BENEE has been swift and striking as she progressed from a couple of EPs released in 2019, 'FIRE ON MARS' and 'STELLA AND STEVE' culminating in this year's success of the global smash hit turbo banger 'Supalonely' which has had everyone talking for months. For Stella, her rise to stardom in this particularly strange and

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emotionally punishing year has been a bittersweet experience. "This year has been pretty crazy," she explains. "It's been really good for my career but terrible in every other way. The hype that 2020 got was insane, and it's just been a bloody shitter for everyone. It's been pretty weird having my biggest song and also having a global pandemic and things like the Black Lives Matter movement and climate change and everything that feels so much more important and are more important. It's been weird to find a balance." Despite the trauma and upheaval going on in the world, Stella still had to prepare to take that jump to the next level in her career. "I realised, alright, I'm going to release an album. I kind of have to. It's the right time," she says. "People have found lots of comfort in music during this time, so that's when I realised that artists have to keep working even with everything that's going on." "Hey, you roll on!" she exclaims with all the youthful exuberance of someone who is not going to let adversity stand in the way of what she wants to do. 'Hey u x' is the sound of BENEE making her own sense of a mixed-up world. It's hyper-modern and super resonant for contemporary times. The album is a perceptive snapshot of all the emotions, fears and dreams that our generation experiences in modernday society. Big emotional themes rub up against playful vignettes of surreal imagery and crushing heartfelt depths. It's hard to really characterise BENEE's sound. In fact, it's so hard you'd give yourself a bloomin' headache even attempting to try. It's better just to kick back

"2020 has been a bloody shitter for everyone" BENEE and luxuriate in her own idiosyncratic bubble. "I describe it to people like my whole plan was to be like a Jackson Pollock painting and have all different sorts of materials splattered onto one canvas," she says excitedly. "When you start out as a new artist, no one knows anything about you. For me, it was putting my songs onto the canvas and making them all over the place like organised chaos and also having visuals that add to that and just having a bigger picture. I like everything to be eclectic and messy but at the same time, organised." Maybe the best way to try to describe the sound of BENEE is to say there is no sound. Fluid and free from boundaries her music is infused with infinite possibilities as she flits from pure pop to industrial drum and bass, whimsical folky ballads and intense electronic beats to pristine indie-pop. She can do it all. "My sound has changed a lot, and I've learnt that I can really make anything that I want to," explains Stella confidently. That's a good feeling. Sometimes you forget that. This album is where I want to be in terms of experimenting with different genres and playing around with all sorts of themes. I feel confident that this is the place I want to be at the moment. I've grown a lot, and now there are people listening to me so that means I can call the shots a bit more." Indeed, despite featuring a staggering and impressive

list of collaborators including (deep breath) Lily Allen, Gus Dapperton, Mallrat, Flo Milli, Kenny Beats and Baker and, phew, Grimes, the album is very much defined by Stella's personality and vision. Collaboration has always been at the heart of her work though going right back to the song's conceptual state. "I want to work with as many creatives as possible. Collaboration is a huge thing for me," she says. "I'm very stoked with everyone who has collaborated on this album. It's very surreal to me. All of the people on the album, I got my people to reach out to their people because they came to mind and I was like, fuck yeah I want these guys on the album. I was shocked when they all agreed and wanted to do it. When I have a song, I always know whether or not I want a feature or not. I always have someone in mind who pops up. That's when I thought about how can I make this happen." While all the collaborations on the album thrilled Stella one was really notable. "I love them all equally. Every one of them has smashed it and added so much more to the songs," she says. "One that surprised me was Grimes. I'm a huge, huge fan. I never even thought of her at first because I thought she was just way too good for me. I was very stoked with that one." There isn't really one distinct theme that ties the songs on 'Hey u x'


It's clear from BENEE'S lovely banger 'Snail' that she loves animals so it is only right and proper that she takes part in Dork's semiregular tradition of finding out who would make up her animal band. "I think I'd go for a powerful rock trio," she explains. "I'd have a kangaroo playing bass, a big fat bear playing guitar and fox on drums." Snails obviously too beautiful and delicate to take part in this aggressive, dynamic combination.

together. It's an album that highlights a whole wide range of emotions. One of the quirkiest and most compelling songs on the album is a simple tale about a beautifully humble garden creature. "I'm writing about a snail," begins Stella. "An isolation, lockdown story about a snail and a human. Snails are really quite cute. They're quite random. People always forget about them. They're innocent. When you watch them, they're quite fascinating, and I was doing that a lot during lockdown." While some of her lockdown was spent gazing at snails and admiring their quiet beauty the album, Stella created this year also highlights some darker times and bleaker feelings like the isolation of songs, like 'Winter' written while she was, "lonely in LA and hating where I was at the time and wishing that I was in New Zealand, with the quiet and not having to go out and talk to anyone." The album acts as a window into Stella's world. "I like how it's like someone is being sent a message like 'hey u x' and someone is opening my brain and getting the whole rundown of my feelings and emotions. The album is very honest, and I want it to feel like the listener is a friend. I think you learn a lot about me listening to it," she reflects. One thing that Stella always wants to communicate with all her work is the importance

of emotional honesty and being unafraid to show her emotions, whether happy or sad. "It's extremely important, and it's something I previously struggled with," she confesses. "I still don't really like talking to people about how I'm feeling, which is the case for a lot of people. I have people commenting on photos, saying your life is perfect. It's good to remind them that I'm very far from that and I'm very much a human who has emotions. With social media, you can look at Instagram and go, fuck, their life is so awesome. It's important to remind people that there are a lot of low points as well that come with a life that looks so glam." That honesty and relatability is one of the reasons why BENEE has grown such a devoted, perceptive audience. There is no mystery or no barrier. She understands what we're feeling, as she feels the same way. It's not just her own career that has been on the rise in 2020. Stella has always been helping to nurture and discover new talent by forming her own record label, Olive. "With a lot of new artists that I find sometimes I just get this crazy feeling about them, and I'm like holy crap this person is so cool! I want to talk to people about them, and I want to help them. That's why I started the label because I want people to hear these artists that I

find. People are listening to me now, which is crazy, so I'm going to use that," she explains about the impetus for starting the label. "With Muroki, the first guy I currently have signed, I found this song of his on Spotify and played his song 'For Better Or Worse' for maybe three months almost every day. Ridiculous, obsessiveness, this is the best song of my life levels. I get that a bit with different artists, but the thing for me is I want to be so so pumped on an artist. I met him, and he was so cool, and he has this crazy stage presence. I just want to be so into him. I would hope that any label has that feeling about their artists. Looking for artists to sign in the future, I just want to have that same belief that they're super cool and someone I want to work with." So, the future looks to be exciting not just for Stella but for the artists she's working with and hoping to discover. It's all part of the creative whirlwind that makes BENEE such an interesting and exciting artist right now. She may have been hamstrung by the global pandemic and unable to play shows just like everyone else in the world, but just like the magical world of her other true passion of animals, nature always finds a way and BENEE has managed to navigate her own unique way to the top of pop's tree. P BENEE's album 'Hey u x' is out now. 33.

Scan this code in Spotify to listen to a special Hype List 2021 playlist, featuring over 100 new acts! 34. DORK

THIS IS NOT A TIPS LIST. You'll hear a lot about lists at this time of year. Lists predicting what acts will be huge in the year ahead. This isn't one of them. Don't get us wrong, we think the artists that appear over the next few pages are brilliant. We think some of them will be massive, release amazing albums and tour the globe - if touring is a thing in 2021, anyway. But we're not picking them because of the size of their record contract or if we believe they're a sure thing for a big debut album in q3. Instead, we've hand-picked a group of new, exciting acts that we think best represent what Dork's 2021 will look and sound like. A collection of characters that raise our pulses, we've surrounded them with dozens more names - all fresh, engaging and fizzing with potential. 2020 may have seen music forced to go slow, but with a future so bright, the next twelve months could be very special indeed.


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Stylist: Riya Hollings. Make-up: Francesca Brazzo at The Wall Group. Hair stylist: Rohmarra Kerr. Photographers Assistant: Dani Willgress.

On a mission to make pop music that's big, brash and without the bullshit, Baby Queen has arrived. Prepare the throne. 35.


Baby Queen is everywhere. No, we're not just talking about being 'the future of pop music', or being the name on everyone's lips when it comes to artists destined to turn 2021 into their own personal playground. That should be a given by now. We're talking quite literally about the contents of Bella Latham's bedroom. There's posters, music video props, and a hefty batch of fan mail that she picked up earlier in the day. Stacks of vinyl copies of debut EP 'Medicine' abound. Everything you can possibly imagine, it's here somewhere. Oh, and a giant prop version of her own head. "It actually fell on me the other day," Bella laughs. "I swear I look like such a narcissist, surrounded by myself all the time, but this is everything to me. I go to sleep and dream about the songs, what I want to next, how to go bigger and better than what I've done before. This is all I have." This is what happens when the dream starts to become a reality. At the start of 2020, only a had few heard rumblings of Baby Queen - a pop star redefining the preconceptions of a genre. One with tracks biting into what it means to be alive, to grow up and to deal with a modern world content to drive you to your knees. Those early whispers have grown far louder now. Shaking away at the very structures pop music is built upon, what's about to follow is nothing short of a game-


"A lot of art comes out of trying to make somebody love you" Baby Queen

Ă­ The many faces of Baby Queen, taken from her Really Very Good vid for 'Buzzkill'

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"Kids are growing up fucking sick to death of bullshit" Baby Queen

changing earthquake. It's not just a new artist to fall in love with, but an artist understanding that, for a new era, pop needs to be real again. "Different generations have different demands for what they want from music," Bella lays out. "Like, the reason Billie Eilish is the pop star figurehead of this generation is that she's honest. Everyone who is breaking now is real." That idea of hiding behind a look or a narrative? Baby Queen isn't about that. If anything, Bella stands as a mirror to what's really going on in so many lives. "It really is the pendulum swinging back from the era of airbrushed perfection; the pop stars who stand there looking pretty, singing their songs about the perfect life written by someone else. None of the kids growing up now, and I'm actually getting goosebumps talking about it, but none of them want that. They're growing up fucking sick to death of your bullshit, and it's not going to fly anymore." These aren't just statements for the sake of it. It's a movement that makes up Bella's entire being, born from risking so much to reach platforms that her idols stand on. To be that artist to others, rather than simply putting out music for the sake of it. It comes from that undeniable human desire to be loved and to accept loving yourself. "I think a lot of art comes out of trying to make somebody love you. That's where my best work has come - trying to make somebody think that I am good enough. "That's where it really began." When Bella Latham was 12, she had a flipbook filled with observations and notes she was willing into existence. Alongside Taylor Swift quotes and lyrics, there'd be lines like 'you will never drink alcohol' and 'you will never smoke a cigarette' scribbled inside. 'You will win a Grammy' follows. It isn't always as easy as that, though. "I'm really interested in understanding why you

yearn for certain things in life," she notes. Growing up in the coastal city of Durban in South Africa, music was an outlet for the teenage Bella to delve into her love of poetry. She was drawn to the warm country sounds of Fleetwood Mac, but developed an instant love of Swift. Finding comfort in feeling like she was being heard by someone else, it changed her life. "There's a difference in wanting to make music and then wanting your music to be heard," she elaborates. "It sounds really shallow when you say that you wanted to be a star from a young age, but there's a lot of pain which pushes in that direction." It's a pain which Bella pinpoints as a "feeling your true worth was never seen. That you were overlooked. You project those feelings onto everyone else; that you simply aren't good enough." It became a survival mechanism, "a way for me to say - everything you didn't see in me, there are other people who appreciate it. It was a way for me to look forward when I was younger and say - fine, you can be mean to me at school, but fuck you!" The refrains of a favourite Taylor Swift song (that one day she'd be 'living in a big old city, and all you're ever gonna be is mean') became an unshakable goal. It's what drove Bella to get on a plane, move over to London and set about achieving that dream. "I'd made this demo CD and

N DAMEER 20 year old Dameer was born in Dhaka, one of the most densely populated cities on the planet. He's taken that influence, moved to Kuala Lumpur and become a multiinstrumentalist capable of bridging the hemispheres with a brilliant alt-pop swagger. Listen to: 'Believe'

N SMOOTHBOI EZRA Irish 18-yearold producer and multiinstrumentalist Smoothboi Ezra already has the requisite huge Spotify streaming tab nailed (10 million, 'FYI'), despite releasing their music entirely independently to date. Taking influence from Phoebe Bridgers and Mitski to Kate Bush, they've a lot more planned for 2021. Listen to: 'Familiar Sadness is Too Comforting'

said to my family that within three months I'd be signed to a label," recalls Bella, shaking her head. "It was such a childish idea of what it would be like. I had this spreadsheet of everything - labels, management companies and everything but nobody wanted to hear a thing. I was 19 years old, sleeping on people's floors and thinking - fuck, I'm not going to do it, it's not going to work." She describes those early years as ones that left a lasting impact. From working at the famed Rough Trade East to being out of control but relentless in her desire to meet people, it reached a turning point. "I went through this really intense breakup, and I almost went back home to South Africa. Nothing was happening with my music, I was broke and in this basement flat that was like the size of a couch. I remember saying to my best friend from Essex, 'I better go back, then'." "She was like" - cue impression - "'babes, honestly babes, give it one more year babes'. And I just thought, yeah, fuck it. You dumped me, now I'm going to become the biggest artist in the world." That fire, honesty and attitude gave birth to Baby Queen. Satirical, brash and brimming with the sound of human connection in the modern age - she's an artist turning news feeds and WhatsApp chats into signof-the-times anthems. Of

"I was 19 years old, sleeping on people's floors and thinking fuck, I'm not going to do it" Baby Queen

city-life, late-night moments and stand-your-ground honesty. Refusing to paint fake pictures, that essence of 'anti-pop' breathes in the stories of 'Buzzkill', or the pressured social media demands of perfection on 'Pretty Girl Lie'. Baby Queen has found a voice, cutting through the bullshit like a diary of angst, anxiety and inner-dialogues that show you're never entirely on your own. "I find because my music deals with so many really personal issues, other people who are listening can open up that side of them too," explains Bella. "People find comfort like I did before. These kids need to compare their real lives with another real life, because they don't have that." That community, or the Baby Kingdom, is an essential home for many. It's not just another fanbase moniker to sell t-shirts, but a place they can find acceptance and love. In a lot of cases, it's a personal connection too. "My fans are just incredible. It's actually

like a small devoted family, and that's a shock to me. Nothing can prepare you for that. I think a lot of my fans are very similar to who I am. I call them every night, like some of them have my actual phone number and we facetime 24/7." That must be quite a responsibility? "Definitely. I feel like the more I learn about myself, the more I can really help people. It's kinda my duty to do the work on myself, so I can be there for people who are relying on me." It's a refreshing openness in a pop world dominated by giant machines that crank into gear each and every time a new star emerges. With Baby Queen, that mechanism is being dismantled in favour of a togetherness that can take on the world. When debut single 'Internet Religion' first landed, it was like a light being switched on. "It felt like before then, I was at a stoplight, and everything was on hold," remembers Bella. "For years, I felt like I was just waiting to actually be alive. That time was horrible, it was the most painful thing. Like I can't explain how awful that feeling is of wanting something so bad and not knowing how to get it. You don't feel like a real person until it really begins. With 'Internet Religion', releasing it felt like I could eventually breathe out after holding my breath for like three years. It's where my life began, and now I'm entering new chapters that look and sound different every few months." 37.


One thing has led to another. From signing a record deal over Zoom (cheers, pandemic) to meeting musical heroes, there's not a moment to pause. "Meeting Matty Healy, now that was a pinch-yourself moment," she laughs. "His stylist was styling the 'Buzzkill' video, and I was talking about my love for Taylor Swift and Matty, and she was like 'I'm going to text him and say you're a fan'. Next thing I know, he was there, and I was just like, what the fuck is going on?! The whole video was huge, and I…" Bella pauses with a smile. "I just think it's amazing what you can manifest. Sometimes I'm like how did you, a little kid from South Africa, come here and climb that ladder to be where I am now. I feel really proud of that journey, going from the lowest low to like turning my whole life around. No fucking idea how I managed that!" Now with a taste for those superstar heights, it's no surprise that Baby Queen's path is firmly set. With that hunger to reach more and more ("honestly, I'm one of those people who are never quite satisfied"), Bella is ready to continue blazing a path. "This year, it felt like

"It's amazing to be putting out music right now, but you don't understand what's coming in January 2023" Baby Queen

there were three things I needed to say before I could creatively move on. I hate the internet, I hate the way you edit your pictures online, and I am depressed and take antidepressants," she lays out. "I've said it, and now I'm onto what comes next." "It's very much going to remain as that stream of consciousness, but there's a bit of love in there, a bit of heartbreak, and everything in-between. Like, there are a couple of songs coming out next year that are so honest I thought my label were going to say that I couldn't put them out." Bella describes what's to come as being "very adolescent. It feels

really angsty". Bursting with even more confidence and bolder in sound and scope it may seem silly to point out that the best is yet to come but… the best is yet to come. "Right now, I'm just so excited to show people what's coming next," she

beams, putting into action a plan that she's been sketching in her mind for years. "Like, it's amazing to be putting out music right now, but I'm like guys… you don't understand what's coming in January 2023. Now that's huge!" It should be no surprise that the future sits squarely on Bella's mind. After years struggling to make it, and with the world at her feet - there's a new sheriff in town. "My producer asked me the other day, how do you feel? And to be honest, I don't really know. It's such a whirlwind, and most of the time I'm in survival mode just getting everything done. There's not really a moment to bring my head up and be like, oh I'm here. You never know what you want to achieve. You can plan for stuff, but you can never really anticipate it actually being a reality." What Bella does know is that, as Baby Queen, she can shape a future and connect in a way that she long dreamed of when she was scribbling away in those notebooks at home. Of being that person who can reflect the everyday truths and worries that everyone feels on a grand scale. Of being that reassuring voice, that you're not alone in all of this. "My whole thing is that you can't help other people or change people's realities, you can only be completely honest about yours and not pick and choose the parts that you show. I want to be

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in a good place for those people who look to me and my music. If you're all over BELLA-NELLE? the place, then you can't be What happens when you that person, write a love song about and I know that you and a fictitious TV my fans just character, like how Baby want me to be Queen has with 'Want Me'? okay." Well, we make a bad pun What makes about it and find out more… Baby Queen “So obviously I hadn’t been so exciting is in love for ages, and I was precisely that. watching Killing Eve and Pop can be saw Villanelle (played by fun, silly and Jodie Comer of course) and everything else thought… i’m going to have in-between to push myself to the brink but the world on this. needs more. In I built it up in my mind to a lot of ways, the point now that my fans Baby Queen is actually send me pictures anyone trying of Villanelle! Those are the to navigate this gifts I get! thing we call Thing is, now I’ve written a life. We're not song about her, it’s done! If always perfect. anyone wants to pitch for it We're not this and my next song, send me unattainable their profile and I’ll work out vision. We're my new obsession hahaha human, and Catch is, you can’t like me every flaw, back! I have to be not good terrible enough for you - that’s how decision and it works!” wrong move we make helps makes us who we are. "I think a lot of people have that mindset now," continues Bella, unwavering in the mission statement. "That mindset of - just be real with me and tell me something that means something, or don't tell me anything. If you're going to put yourself out there and you're going to sing these meaningless songs, then we don't want to hear it. We don't give a fuck. We want to see a real representation of our actual lives. Genuinely, zip it." Pop has reached a pivotal moment. In a world reeling from division - where what's actually truthful can be buried under lies - there's a cry for a dose of reality. In Baby Queen, 2021 looks set to welcome a new voice. "The only thing that will ever get in my way is me and my mental health, so there's constant work there that I have to keep doing," Bella admits, "but I think it goes back to being a fan and having seen it happen before. I don't think I could be more prepared than I am now. I'm just going to put my head down and grind to album two, and then I can tell you what this all feels like!" There simply isn't a timeline where Bella Latham isn't leading a new pop wave. Baby Queen's throne is indisputably hers for the taking. Now that's leadership we can get behind. P


N ELLIE BLEACH London based Ellie Bleach has been compared to both the indie brilliance of Goat Girl and sardonic wit of Lily Allen, which makes perfect sense. Matching pop hooks and razor-sharp lyrical barbs, she's got that magic touch. Listen to: 'I Thought I Saw You Last Night'

N ODD MORRIS Rising Irish types Odd Morris have only been together since March 2019, but they've already shared stages with the likes of Ezra Furman and Fat White Family, had two BBC 6 Music Recommends tracks of the week, and delivered some gloriously tense indie gems. Listen to: 'Your Four Walls'

N JULIA BARDO Formally part of Mancunian breakthrough types Working Men's Club, Julia Bardo's decision to go it alone is not one of those bad moves an artist will go on to regret. Growing up in Brescia, Italy, her move to the UK's northern musical mecca started a path that led to a remarkable debut EP, with a debut album to follow. If you're a fan of Angel Olsen, you should probably check it out. Listen to: 'Please Don't Tell Me' 39.


Los Angeles artist Remi Wolf excels in flamboyantly stylish pop bops that are unlike anyone else. Photo: Meredith Traux.

Remi Wolf isn't dull. Not even slightly. Between the ages of 7 and 17, she trained as a competitive skier, but now makes the kind of weird, wonderful, freewheeling pop-funk that brightens up even the greyest of skies. Committed to a Day-Glo aesthetic that sits outside of your standard genre boundaries, whatever she does over the next year, it certainly won't be boring.


You've had a very exciting 2020, what've been your highlights? Super rollercoaster type year; SO many ups and downs. I am most excited that people are liking my music. And I'm working on new music, which feels really therapeutic. I have a lot of processing to do, and I wanna get it all out in my art. What is it about your music that draws so many people to it, do you think? My music is truly an extension of myself. It's my raw and honest expression of how I am feeling. So I think people may be drawn to that honesty, BUT I really don't fucking know, haha. How have you found

working on new music during the past few months? Have 'world events' impacted you much there? I had a couple of months in there where I was incredibly inspired. I think the state of the country, the world and COVID19 have forced me to make major lifestyle changes, start taking way better care of myself and the people I love. I am having a good time talking about all that change and growth in my writing. You've written a little for other acts in the past, how did those opportunities come up? Is it something you're going to do more of in future? Most of them have been pretty random. How it's gone in the past is I will have had written a song, and for some reason, it won't feel totally right for my project. Another artist will have heard the song and liked it, and then we kinda go from there. I'm definitely interested in doing more writing for other artists in the future. But right now, I am totally focused on making an album that I am completely and utterly proud of. Has the boost from playlists, TikTok and the like gone some way to making up for the lack of gigs this year? Yes and no. People are definitely hearing my music on a bigger scale because of playlisting and apps, and nothing can

"My music is truly an extension of myself" Remi Wolf

replace that level of online exposure. But still, nothing compares to playing live and connecting with people in person. It's the best feeling in the world. I miss that much, just being sweaty and singing my fucking head off and dancing and screaming and hanging out. The internet stuff feels way more detached and cyborg-y. Do you have much in the diary for 2021 yet? It's so hard to plan, but I have a bunch of stuff pencilled in in case the world opens up - and a bunch of secret things I am making regardless‌ Honestly, though, I really need to find a place to live because I have been drifting around California for most of quarantine and my top priority is settling down in a spot so I can feel comfy living my life, lol. If you could wave a magic wand and have anything in the world happen during the next 12 or so months, what would you go for? I want love to enter everyone's hearts and heal all pain. And I want Trump out of office; he's an evil little elf. P


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Walthamstow's Olivia Dean wears her heart on her sleeve; every tune an introspective masterclass in storytelling. Photo: Fil Mawi.

While most of us may have spent the summer missing live music, Olivia Dean took matters into her own hands. Packing out a custom yellow van, she took to the road playing socially distanced shows. It's that kind of commitment that marks out an artist dedicated to make things better, with emotionally rich, powerful music that has genuine soul. That, and she was also featured on Blue Peter. That's one up on everyone else.


Hi Olivia, how's it going? What are you up to today? Hi! It's going well! Keeping on keeping on, you know? Today I'm giving myself a manicure, playing some guitar and trying not to worry about the US election. It's exciting your new EP is coming. You started working on it before lockdown kicked in, right? Did that impact how it turned out? Yes and no. I had the meat of it done before lockdown. If anything, it allowed me to focus


Let's be honest, Dear Reader - Ireland is doing Quite Well with the new artists at the moment. To that growing list, add 23-year-old Kynsy - a juxtaposing alt-pop force with a bit of an edge. Listen to: 'Happiness Isn't a Fixed State'


"I like to find the positives in a negative situation" Olivia Dean

on it more without any distraction. I'm so happy with how it's turned out, and I can't wait for people to hear it. How have you found working around all the restrictions this year? Obviously, it's been a tricky year for everyone, but it has pushed me to find new ways of doing things. I like to find the positives in a negative situation. I converted my big yellow van and toured that throughout the summer. I also managed to shoot my own music video in my back garden for 'Baby Come Home'. I feel like I've learnt a lot! Has the isolation impacted your songwriting at all? Did it help you focus in on yourself? I tried to take the pressure off myself and focused more on finishing ideas rather than writing new ones. It was nice to have a creative break. I focused on myself a lot more and feel like I know myself so much better for it. Do you think people have wanted different things from music this year to normal? Yes, I think people are looking for

If you can make a vague reference to an A-list popster being into your music, you're onto a winner. Lav has that box ticked; her track 'From Me, The Moon' was namechecked by Billie Eilish as one of two she wished she'd written. Winner. Listen to: 'Reds'

comfort in music more so than ever before. Me and my friends have really been looking back to old music.

Is this collection a precursor to your debut album, or is it still a bit early for all that? An album is certainly on its way. I've got something in the works for next year, just watch this space. Do you have much in the diary for 2021? Yes! Two sold-out shows at Jazz Cafe, which I'm so gassed about. And hoping to get the truck out of hibernation so I can do some more regional shows. It feels like a brave move to be booking in gigs at the moment, have you had to plan your touring with social-distancing in mind? Yeah, the whole idea with the truck was that it allowed me to perform in safe spaces where the audience were able to social distance. It is totally self-contained and self-sufficient, so we can really just rock up and perform without creating too much of a crowd or disturbance. What do you hope to have achieved come this time next year? Really good question, I'd love to have done some more shows around the UK and put some more music out into the world. I just really hope we are back to some kind of normality by the end of next year. Stay safe, peoples. Sending love! P


Recording a debut album for release next year, The Mysterines already sold out their first ever headline UK tour. Supporting the likes of Sea Girls and The Amazons, they've got the raucous indie chops to go far. Listen to: 'I Win Every Time' 41.


N THE GOA EXPRESS The Goa Express are a band. Seriously, that's somewhat rare in 2021's COVID-safe new act circus. Hailing from the Northern industrial powerhouses of Todmorden and Burnley, then drawn to the nearby cultural hotspot Manchester, there's something reassuringly 'proper' about them. Listen to: 'Be My Friend'

N MALADY They might just have released their debut single - the LCD Soundsystem influenced 'London, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down' but there's something about Malady that feels like lightning in the bottle. A mixture of indie guitar brilliance and dubstep, ravey, IDM undertones, it's early days, perhaps, but exciting ones all the same. Listen to: 'London, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down'

N PRIYA RAGU Tamil-Swiss Priya Ragu - freshly signed with Warner Records - has already made an impact in India with her not-quiteas-you-know-it R&B. With recent single 'Good Love 2.0' providing a levelled up introduction, there's much more to come here. Listen to: 'Good Love 2.0'

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If you're looking for an Actual Future Superstar on this year's Hype List, you could do worse than fix your gaze on Bree Runway. Dropping a year of stellar bangers, she's even teamed up with a living legend (MISSY BLOODY ELLIOTT!) - and she's only just getting started. Next year, she's out to change the game. By: Abigail Firth.

Bree Runway has IT. Whatever IT is – the X factor, the star quality, whatever – she's got it. She kicked off 2020 with single 'APESHIT' and has gone from strength to strength ever since, dropping stan worthy bangers and visuals to match all year long. One-upping herself every time, each release has been bigger and wowier than the last, all leading up the release of her '2000AND4EVA' mixtape in November. She's had a stellar year, boasting collaborations with Rina Sawayama, Rico Nasty, Maliibu Miitch, Yung Baby Tate, and most recently… MISSY ELLIOTT; a full circle moment for Bree, considering she'd long been inspired by the legend and has been compared to Missy countless times. Bree also pulls inspiration from Lady Gaga, Grace Jones, Lil Kim, and more, making her basically everything you'd want in a pop star, and spits those references back out with her own stamp on them. She slides right in with the new pop crop – probably somewhere in between Rina and Rico actually – with her early 2000s flair, fearless aura, pending fashion icon status, and a vision that'll take her stratospheric, you'd be a fool not to jump on this train. It takes us a while to track Bree down because she is SO. BUSY. but we manage to catch her while she preps for something that's likely to be another iconic shoot/video/ performance. Hold tight, the Runway takeover is COMING.

Hi Bree! How are you and what are you up to? Hi! Currently in glam getting ready to shoot something really amazing, can't tell you yet. So - end of year time - how's 2020 been treating you? 2020 has been beating my ass, that's the best way to describe it. I feel like I've been fighting through pandemic after pandemic, from BLM being at the forefront, to corona this and that.

It's been a lot to handle. I've had to fight for inspiration, for creativity and for sanity all whilst making sure I stick to my promise to myself of consistently releasing art. It's been A LOT. Your new mixtape just came out, what can you tell us about it? It's pretty explosive from the moment you press play, I wanted to give the people life and an escape, and a burst of life. It's very much that throughout.

"I wanted to give the people life and an escape" Bree Runway

Obviously THE Missy Elliott features on the single ATM - how did that come about? Ahhh not over it, never will be! Well, we've already had a previous interaction when the internet went into a frenzy over me apparently being like her lil daughter when I dropped 'APESHIT'. Fans were begging for an 'APESHIT' remix from her, but it didn't happen, but I remember literally saying to myself, me and her will make a song THIS year... I dropped 'GUCCI', and I was literally about to sleep and received a call from my A&R and it was to tell me that Missy wants to do a record with me, safe to say I didn't end up sleeping that night. You've got a major selection of features on this release, is there anyone else you'd like to work with in the future? Hmmm, I'd love to work with Young Thug, Grimes, Lady Gaga, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, my list is endless really. How do you feel this project compares to your last EP? I feel like this project is more honest, and lets you into my mind more. The track '4 Nicole Thea & Baby

Reign' is a bit of a change of pace for you - was that a hard song to write? It was a very hard song for me to write, that's why it's so short. I never in a million years thought I'd lose Nicole in that way, it's really hard to talk about, still struggling to understand it. You've described the songs as 'all different girls' - if the tracks were real people, which one would be your bestie? I think 'ATM' would be my best friend. She's got the right idea, she's teaching the girls they deserve the world, they deserve to be showered with GOODS, they are worth it. You're fast becoming a cult fave like Rina Sawayama and Charli XCX, so, do you have a name for your fans yet?! The Runwayz. How do you feel you've grown or changed as an artist this year? I feel like I'm much more resilient, my perseverance game is serious right now. 2020 has strapped me up with so many lessons, and I've overcome so much, and put out some great work regardless of how the year has dealt with us. I feel like I can conquer anything now. What's been your highlight of 2020? This Missy feature! What have been some of your favourite releases from other artists this year? Tame Impala's new album is GREAT. You've said before that the plan for 2020 was just to be as consistent as possible - is that the vibe for 2021 too? 100% I'm about to change the game and up the levels even more. Is there anything left this year from you for us to look forward to? The 'ATM' music video! It's soooo fire. P



Regular readers may recall TV Priest from their feature in last month's Hype section. They had a debut album, 'Uppers', which was set to be released this November via really very good label Hand in Hive. Well, that's changed. Now, they've signed with the legendary SubPop - worldwide, no less - and said album will finally be with us on 5th February. They're no less exciting for it though, a supremely powerful postpunk force that, with a good wind and (we hope) the return of live music, should be a decent sized dent in 2021. Listen to: 'Decoration'


Terms you'll hear a lot this year - '90s influenced' and 'bedroom pop'. The brilliant Jordana fits both pretty perfectly, mixing grungy indie rock influences with strings and the production of NYC's MELVV - usually more concerned in EDM. She's already got a 'sleeper debut' collection 'Classical Notions of Happiness', with a followup 'Something To Say To You' out before the end of the year. Listen to: 'I'll Take It Boring'


With a mini-album 'Always In My Head' just dropped, and a debut album "prettymuch" finished according to the band, APRE are all set for 2021. With a love of 80s pop icons and no fear to go big from an introspective place, recent track 'Without Your Love' showed exactly what they're capable of. Total bop. Listen to: 'Without Your Love' 43.




N EFÉ Yet another product of Ireland's really very prolific music scene, Dublin's EFÉ has just dropped a debut EP. Sitting alongside fellow upstairs Arlo Parks and April, she's the definition of a lovely time. Listen to: 'Garden'


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N LILLY AHLBERG Lilly Ahlberg may have been releasing music for a couple of years now, but with her debut EP 'Call Me' dropping in 2020, she's blessing us with exactly the kind of coolerthan-us Scandi pop that never, ever gets old. Listen to: 'Call Me'

Sinead O'Brien is at the forefront of a new wave of Irish poets. By: Blaise Radley. Photo: Holly Whitaker.

N LUCY GAFFNEY From Belfast but now Liverpool based, Lucy Gaffney has already been praised by such prominent critics as Liam Gallagher (who apparently called her music 'celestial' - who knew? - Ed). Previously part of a band with her brother and collaborator Thom, she's now going it alone, her dream-popwith-an-edge is sure to punch through. Listen to: 'Send Me Away'


Beaux caught the attention of his label, Dirty Hit, by sending them a DM after watching last year's The 1975 headline set at Reading. Equal parts Troye Sivan and Rex Orange County, he's got it made. Listen to: 'Get On With Your Life'

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She's done 'numbers' on 'TikTok' with her bop 'Backyard Boy', but there's more to our Claire than that. 16 years-old and with an ace EP already under her belt, the potential here is huge. Listen to: 'Backyard Boy'


I you're going to call your band Porij, and then drop a single called 'Dirty Love', you've got to expect a few ripe gags, but this Manchester based quartet are less jizz and more jazz - but with a main course serving of pop too. Listen to: 'Dirty Love'


In her creative life, Sinead O'Brien often faces a choice between two options. Fortunately, she's a dab hand at having her cake and eating it too. By day, she's is a senior designer for endlessly renowned fashion provocateur Vivienne Westwood, while by night she's a post-punk poet, drawing acclaim from everyone from John Cooper Clarke to Speedy Wunderground's Dan Carey. That embrace of two sides, of yin and yang, seems to date back to one simple choice she faced, day-in, day-out throughout her upbringing. It's a question most teenagers probably ask themselves at one point. Vivaldi, or The Beach Boys? "My mom had like a tiny little Ford Puma, do you know those cars? It was in the 90s. It looks like a cat, but it was silver. She only had a tape player in the car, and two tapes that she owned: Vivaldi and The Beach Boys. So every morning on the way to school, I had this great choice of which to listen to. I think it was the perfect smash of references - Beach Boys or Vivaldi - equally on this light, high headspace. It's like the scales of justice." Sinead's own work might not immediately call to mind either Baroque classical music or 60s chamber pop, but there is something she does share with Antonio Vivaldi and The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson: an ear for composition. Taking up the piano aged 6, her first brushes with music were rigidly classical, a direct inverse of the tumbling energy of her recent output. "I don't think any of that went into the music itself. It was maybe the piano teacher I had who had such an effect on me, and on the rigour and the discipline in my approach to working. There's an element of conducting the band as well; I really love that role." Several moons on, and a few diversions later, Sinead has dropped the piano and dropped her first EP, the excellent 'Drowning in Blessings'. Now, her eyes are trained on further experimentation. "I'm never really happy to sit where we are, we're always like trying new things." Like Brian Wilson, Sinead is as much the lead singer of her outfit as the driving creative spirit, curating mood, theme and pace. "I'll have a set of lyrics ready, and then Julian [Hanson, guitarist] will just do some sketches. He'll send four or five different ideas. It's not really random, it's kind of hard to explain.

We're quite connected, quite deeply connected, me and Julian, so when I give him a reference, there's a lot more to it than what I say that day. He knows more than what I'm telling him." It's those lyrics that have set Sinead apart as such a striking musician, and cemented her place as a worthy entry on Dork's 2021 Hype List. Her half-spoken, half-sung style is "just the way it comes out", though the technique reaches far further back to a tradition known as "sprechgesang"; literally, "spoken singing". "That's an ancient word, actually. I'm always reading about Greek mythology. The most ancient Greek and Roman plays had music behind them, and then lyric poetry emerged from that. It just isn't the most popular method of creating music right now, but it's not really a new system or anything. It's kind of fun for me to discover that there were roots there, as far back as that: maybe before song, who knows? I think people were speaking before they were singing, right?" If the twin choice of Vivaldi or The Beach Boys provides part of the bedrock of Sinead's approach to music (though she's taking more inspiration from David Byrne's book How Music Works lately), then the daily nature of that decision drives another key part of her creative process: repetition. "We had years and years of the same choice," she says, referring back to her school commute. "Which I think, that repetition, it's my own torture. I love to repeat phrases or songs or music. That was my first lesson in repetition in music." It's no surprise that each line at the start of 'Most Modern Painting', the first track on 'Drowning in Blessings' leads with the phrase snippet "This could be…" Through repetition, Sinead hones in on the ambiguity of language. "Repetition in habit, in daily habit - I do find it quite soothing. It's almost like if you visualise it as a circle, and every time you do the repetition, new meaning emerges. You revisit a place, and you revisit it differently. You, yourself, are different, and the place itself is different. When you look at an atomic level, nothing is ever the same. Like at any time. Repeating is how you re-experience things differently with what you've learned or how you've grown. I'm a really strong believer that the words aren't all they mean. How you say the words

"I'm obsessed with cello. I feel like I should put an ad on the bottom of this like, call me if you play!" Sinead O'Brien

or how you intend them to be - you can really load them." Still, it's significant that Sinead made a quick reference to repetition as torture. It's hard to talk about routine and cycles of behaviour in 2020 without acknowledging the totally unprecedented, but mostly deeply boring cage we've all been rattling around. "I made it my task to adjust myself to the indoor-ness, like everybody else, and come up with a whole new world of routines. I put imagery that I loved, and that was inspiring to me and things that I'd never seen before all over my wall, so that separate to work I had windows into different avenues I might write about, or things I might dream about," she says, framed against those same bedroom walls for our Zoom call. "The feeling of other places is really important to keep connected to. There are other places; it's not just your bedroom. "I think it's about finding new routines and not flitting around too much. This is the thing: in lockdown, you feel like everything and nothing is possible. You have an amazing opportunity to write your life story, but you also have... not. It basically balances out more or less the same as before, because you can go nowhere, but you can do everything. Try making sense of that." In many ways, the first lockdown represented another split path, another double life with a new set of habits. For Sinead, those new routines centred largely around roaming the nearby nature reserves and marshes, something she'd never really been into before. "I found that really, really great. I think this time around what I'll do differently is... I'll try to walk further away. I got so sick of my morning walk; I got so sick of it. But, in the autumn, everything looks different." It makes sense for a songwriter who's as much a poet as a singer that her writing process is driven by observations, both personal and of the natural world. In fact, she's just gotten back from a spontaneous solo trip

to Newquay ("It was kind of like Agatha Christie Goes Surfing - I was just writing a little bit every place I went") in what will probably end up being one of the last flashes of freedom before 2021. The importance of serendipity in these moments shines through. "I met a fox the other morning. It was great! He was running and jumping in all these puddles, and when he saw me he was like, huh? It was a really wild fox, like a really free one. I was looking at him, and then I hid behind a piece of wood. I looked back out, and he was looking to see if I was still there, and then I was like... 'I am still here'. It was so great to have this conversation with an animal. So yeah, anything can happen." And while those new routines may have opened up new creative pathways, when we ask what one thing she'd most like to see return in 2021, Sinead is quick to answer. "Live music. I said that like it was such a breath of fresh air, or a sigh. If I hope for that and wish for that, then it would already mean that other things are in place. It'd mean that friends and family can already see each other, and that things are more up and running, and probably there's a vaccine, and all of that other stuff that really does matter, too." She pauses, before reflecting on her recent return to live music: a sit-down socially-distanced EP launch at The Windmill in September. "It was like I landed again in the world just looking at people for the first time, like, 'Oh my God there are people here'. It was really special." As for her own output in 2021? It's set to be the year of the cello (you heard it here first). "I've been listening to really weird cello music. I'm obsessed with cello. I feel like I should put an ad on the bottom of this like, call me if you play! Cello has a different vibration, or deeper vibrations... going back to The Beach Boys. And Vivaldi! I can't wait. I can't wait! It's going to be such a treat having been stuck inside for so long. Honestly, I have so much stuff ready. It's exploding out of me." Whether channelling Ancient Greek lyric poetry, or her fiery post-punk peers; classical composers or surf rock Agatha Christie, if there's ever a fork in the road, Sinead will find a way to accommodate both paths. Load up the tape deck, and strap in for the drive. P


19-year-old Sydney based MAY-A might only have released a handful of singles to date, but she's already taking flight. Signing to Atlantic Records (pop potential, tick) she's drawn obvious comparisons with the likes of Lorde, Billie Eilish and Clairo. In truth, though, she's very much an artist on her own terms. Listen to: 'Apricots'


Trinidad-born, Romford-raised rapper, songwriter and producer BERWYN has already had his fair share of critical acclaim for recent mixtape ‘DEMOTAPE/VEGA’. Ten tracks, written and produced in just two weeks, it's got the kind of raw authenticity which marks the very best of modern British music. Listen to: 'HEARTACHE & CHEST PAINS'


In truth, it's early days for Abbie Ozard - but with tracks like this year's 'TV Kween', holding the Liverpudlian back seems rather futile. High definition, 90s-tinged alt-pop, there's a certain charm spun throughout. Not too shiny, but easy to love all the same, 2021 should provide more underground gems. Listen to: 'TV Kween'


The brainchild of 22-year-old Norwegian Benjamin Schandy, Jimi Somewhere's genre-neutral alt-pop has already punched through the playlists. With a debut album due early in 2021, he's going - well exactly where his name suggests. Listen to: 'Bottle Rocket' 45.


N MONEYPHONE Toronto genreblurring duo MONEYPHONE are both proudly DIY and also proper pop culture magpies. Following up 2018's much praised 'Athletes' EP with two singles in 2020, they're far from phoning it in. Listen to: 'Indecision'


London-to-Melbourne-and-back-to-London-again newcomer Thomas Headon first got to grips with his music-making skills via a series of YouTube covers, before branching out into his own world of immensely likeable, quirky pop. London-based Thomas Headon might still be fresh out of the blocks, but over 2020 he dropped two EPs full of bops that showed a promise that already see him knocking on the door of the DIY altpop A-list. With a sense of humour and a willing enthusiasm, his music manages to find light in the darkness, without ever trying to paper over the cracks. Plus, you have to respect anyone who owns a life-sized Harry Styles cut out, right? Goals, right there.


N ELIO Elio is, apparently, co-managed by Charli XCX and officially appointed as Troye Sivan's fave new popster. That's no shortage of big names in the Toronto star's corner. Listen to: 'hurts 2 hate somebody'

N DEB NEVER Deb Never is one of those achingly cool types who - after trying her arm in several different bands decided to go it alone and move to Los Angeles. Since then, she's toured alongside Dominic Fike and Tommy Genesis, collaborated with Kenny Beats and has a new EP due next year. Listen to: 'Stone Cold'

N HOME COUNTIES Bristol has brought us a few better than decent bands in recent years. Home Counties definitely vault that bar with ease. Their EP 'Redevelopment' is as brilliant as it is fun, but there's meaning under the surface too. Listen to: 'That's Where the Money's Gone'

46. DORK

How have you found 2020, then? Bit of a weird one, eh. Yeah man, this one's been kinda strange. The first lockdown, I was actually really fine, enjoyed the time inside and spent a lot of it trying new things and tbh getting a lot of work done. I have been and currently am in a lot better place mentally than a lot of people were/are, and I'm so thankful for that. The only thing that's really got me like "fuck this" though has been shows being rescheduled. I was meant to play my first headline show to like 100 people in April, then it got moved to September, but that was a tour to like 800-1000 people shows, then it got moved again. Other than that though I have very thankfully been ok! Stayin' inside, wearin' my mask, keepin' safe, y'know? What first sparked your interest in music? Damn, this is a good question, I don't even know? When I was a kid I really wanted to be an actor... did a whole bunch of musical theatre (including being Oliver in Oliver) and then realised I couldn't dance. As much as I still would love to get back into doing a bunch

of acting, I'm really focused on making music right now. Always loved music. Also, my sister was a fan of everyone before they were big when I was growing up too. It was really cool to see people like Ed Sheeran in front of 100 people at one point, hear twenty one pilots songs before they were huge, same with bands like The 1975. She really got me into loving music, I think. What prompted you to start uploading your cover versions online? I was (and VERY much still am) a product of the internet. My thought process at the time was just, if I want to be a musician, I have to upload covers to YouTube. That was the time I grew up in... Troye Sivan, Dodie, Cavetown. So cool to see the way they've all progressed. Covers on YouTube never really did it for me, though. They got me my management who really brought me into the world of music, but I think I really felt a part of it once TikTok became a thing. What an app, man. Did that experience help you to decide what you wanted your own original music to sound like? No, but yes. I 'fell into' bedroom pop, like many, by complete accident. I just made music by myself which was definitely listenable but wasn't some completely polished production or final product. That's my favourite thing about that whole 'bedroom scene' it's just kids doing shit by themselves. That's the way it should be, though. You should learn to do your own thing before someone introduces you to the entire professional world of creativity. Lately, I've even enjoyed just going

back to the basics. Makes things so much simpler, and also I personally focus on the important things like songwriting while doing so. I think by accident because of the time we live in there has been an entire genre created around it, which is dope. Can you remember the first song you wrote? How does it compare to what you're doing now? Hahahaha, yeah the difference is that it sucks. It was a song about a new guitar I got called 'Six'. It's not even ironically bad, it's

"My favourite thing about that whole 'bedroom scene' is that it's just kids doing shit by themselves" Thomas Headon

just so horrible. I'm never playing it. You have my word on that. Not to get too deep, but I think it's really important to note that I've been writing for like 6-7 years now. I grew up in a time where everything was instantaneous, so to me, it was really hard to remember that songwriting is a skill that you have to work at in order to get something good every now and then. I still write bad songs, I still give up halfway through, I still can't be bothered, and I still write songs I absolutely hate. It's just something you gotta keep having a go at, man. This is too spiritual, but I think my point is that I did not give up! As nobody else should, either!

Is being a musician living up to the hype so far? Feel like it would be if I was playing shows. I guess so. I mean, I'm not gonna sit here and be like 'hahaha yeah what I don't even care lmaoooo'. Like yeah, bro, it's better to be sad with 'an audience / career' for the moment than it was without it, but life is still very normal for me. I feel like my idea of properly being a very successful musician is being in LA with a huge house and partying non-stop, but right now I'm just living my life as I would before. I live with people with normal jobs, I see friends at the pub, I'm still young, so I spend money on useless shit like clothes. I dunno. It's so great to be able to do what I want all the time and have this be my 'full-time job', but I feel absolutely no different. It's cool. Like it's not, but it is. Weird man. What are you working on at the moment? It's a very obvious answer, but right now just music. That's all I wanna do, and thankfully it's all I am doing. I'm writing as many songs as I can and just working with as many people as possible. I got very lost with music videos, branding, design and merch the whole lot lately, but now I'm just finally working on creating music and only music. I'm not sure if that means a third EP or just singles for a while yet... but it just feels so good to make and write music by myself that I'm happy with. Honestly feels like I'm back in Australia completely on my own again, just with a tight group of people I can bounce things off of. Creatively I'm so happy to be where I am. It's great. The short answer is nothing! Nothing besides music.

Are you creative in nonmusical ways too? I mean, look, I try lmao. I directed all my music videos. This is said as a bit of a joke now, but I'm actually so proud that I fully storyboarded and really had full control creative of those videos, they made my vision of that second EP a lot stronger. I'd love to say I'm doing lots of design work for like a clothing line or writing my own screenplay, but I'm super happy right now to literally only be creating music at the moment. It's what I'm best at right now, and the only thing I wanna focus on. In future, I wanna act a whole lot more, write for other people, design clothing, create podcasts and write TV and literally do anything, man... but right now I'm just so happy to only be making music. Doing the music videos and having the entirety of the 'creative control' for the second EP was great as I said, but it took my focus away from what I really wanted to do for the moment. Made me a lot busier than I needed to be, etc. Was so much fun and again I'm glad I did it, but I think I'll stick to writing songs for a little while. If a genie popped up and offered you three wishes for the next 12 months, what would you go for? Damn man, I don't know. Three wishes. Ok well, number one is definitely that the tour goes ahead, without a doubt. Number two, probably better vision. I got glasses the other day. Now I like have to actually wear them otherwise everything's blurry. So that'd be good to have better eyes. Other than that... I'm not sure. I'd like a glass of water right now, maybe that. I'm just gonna go get one instead. P



With over 100 million streams and co-writes with A-listers like Dua Lipa under her belt, UPSAHL is no untested talent. Her recently released second EP 'Young Life Crisis', is packed with big pop bops, too. Listen to: 'People I Don't Like'


21-year-old April Lawlor is yet another Irish prodigy (seriously, Ireland is smashing it) who pulls from all ends of the pop spectrum. Her second EP 'Luna' is a must listen. Listen to: 'Watching You Disappear'

N JOEY MAXWELL South Londoner Joey Maxwell knew at a young age he wanted to be a musician - which is impressive, we wanted to be a steam train. Still, with his distinctive pop bop talent, he's got the same momentum. Listen to: 'streetlights'


It's been a rough year for bands, unable to play live, get together for rehearsals, writing sessions and the like, but that hasn't held back Courting. Recent track 'Popshop!' is an absolute triumph just over two minutes of side-eye at the commodification of music that arrives as a teaser for their debut EP 'Grand National', due next year via Nice Swan Records. Listen to: 'Popshop!'


Rose Gray is developing somewhat of a talent for the 90s-indebted dancefloor-ready banger. In the past few months she's dropped two of them - 'Save Your Tears' and 'Same Cloud' - as well as a very good cover of Saint Etienne's 'Nothing Can Stop Us'. That last one seems like it may be somewhat of an accurate prediction, huh? Listen to: 'Save Your Tears'


2020 has seen Chappaqua Wrestling very much find a groove. Heading grungier and dare we say it - slightly heavier, they've developed a swagger that's to be admired. Recent track 'The Rift' - a song about conflict and divisions in society - has genuine teeth, but a sense of melody too. An impressive development from a band well worth keeping a beady eye upon. Listen to: 'The Rift' 47.



You can never really tell what somebody else is going through. What thoughts cross their mind, what they deal with day to day, how they react to situations. For Holly Humberstone, it's in honesty and openness that she's found herself tapping into universal feelings, reaching and connecting to fans across the globe - and why, in the space of a year, Holly's world has begun to shift. "I always think about this," notes Holly, reflecting on a 2020 that for all of its restrictions, barriers and fears, has blown away any expectations she may have had going into it. "I think a year ago if I saw myself and where I am now, I'd be like woah! It's just so cool and overwhelming to see people are relating and connecting to these songs so much, like above and beyond anything I could have seen coming." It's easy to see why so many have been pulled into the Holly Humberstone orbit. With a knack for perfectly putting to words the brutal realities and impact we all can have on each other, it's a rich sound that doesn't just make you turn your head but makes you stop dead in your tracks with its sheer power. "The music I make really is a reflection of the music that I've connected to the most," she explains. "There was something I really liked about the idea of people knowing the inner workings of my brain or whatever, and then people being like 'oh, I feel like that as well'. I find it really cool that I get to share that personal side of me to everyone." Pulling at her own life and the experiences that have guided her over the past few years, Holly Humberstone has been plotting these moments from a young age. Growing up in the Lincolnshire countryside, family life was a creative and musical one - herself and her three sisters allowed the freedom to explore every artistic element, constantly surrounded by music and adventure. "We're all really close, and my parents have really amazing music tastes. It meant that music was always playing when we were small," remembers Holly. "I always really idolised female ballad singers. When I was 8 or something, I was obsessed with like Celine Dion and Kylie Minogue with this big fast CD collection. We weren't allowed a TV, I think that was the only rule we had, so we would use the time to do all these creative things instead. I was really grateful for that, looking back now." Discovering new CDs from her parents' respective collections, it was albums like Damien Rice's 'O' that grabbed Holly's attention, and by 11, she was already scribbling songs looking to emulate the artists she was listening to. "I think maybe subconsciously I was absorbing all of that when I was small, and it stayed with me, wanting to make my own versions of that. The artists I love, whether that's Lorde or Phoebe Bridgers, for example, they haven't filtered their thoughts at all which is something I really love because I feel like I can then see those inner workings of someone's brain." Whilst her sisters embraced the more

Her music is the sort that silences rooms, stops people dead in their tracks from whatever boring task they were otherwise doing. There's something about Holly Humberstone. By: Jamie Muir.



With rich tales of life and love against a backdrop of punchy beats and coolerthan-you melodies, Hope's recent EP 'Girl Eats Sun' was a proper statement of intent. Expect much more to follow. Listen to: 'All My Girls Like To Fight'

48. DORK


Welsh bedroom popsters who have a new EP 'Fine' to drop before the end of the year, Rosehip Teahouse have already had nods from all the right places. Yes, including us. Listen to: 'A Million Times'


daine (no, not Diane - Ed) has the Charli XCX co-sign every future-poster needs, but there's much more to her than that. Inspired by the likes of Code Orange and Turnstile, she's subverting expectations as she goes. Listen to: 'Ascension'


"I was obsessed with Celine Dion and Kylie Minogue" Holly Humberstone

sticking close to the ones you love. "That song is really personal, probably the most personal song I've ever written, and all of them on that EP are based on real experiences and feelings I've had over the past two or three years. It's like putting your heart on your sleeve and putting yourself out there. I wouldn't have it any other way because that's the music I connect to the most. It's the music that makes sense of your own feelings. "Without even thinking about it, these songs come out. I'm just writing for myself to work through my messy brain mostly." Like the artists Holly herself loves, it's a confessional style that won't just see her become a very big deal indeed over the coming year - but become the sort of artist that means more than just a simple play here and there. "Me and my friend and producer Rob, we're always like - is someone gonna get a really shitty tattoo of these lyrics? Every line and lyric has to be poignant," explains Holly. The result has seen countless messages flood towards Holly. "I get responses saying how they may have been through the same sort of situation as I have or how one of my songs is now their and their best friend's

song which is really cool. Even if I'm helping a few people with a song, that's so fucking sick!" It's not hard to witness a future for Holly that sees thousands in front of her singing along to every note. From the early days of turning up to open mic nights in front of 20 people to stepping on stage in arenas supporting Lewis Capaldi Holly had no choice but to develop that confidence that gives her wide-eyed ambition for what's to come next. "I remember telling all my friends that I was going on tour with Lewis Capaldi, and then getting on tour the next day and realising oh shit, I have to go and do these huge shows in front of so many people! I hadn't done shows even half that size before. There was no way I could back out, so I had to just go for it," laughs Holly. "It was great, though. Nobody knew who I was so I got to go outside and see all of the people queuing up outside the venue and really got to see what the experience would have been like if it was my own tour. I had the moment where it was like, woah, I need to have this for myself one day. I really realised then that this has to happen for me as well. It was so inspiring." One EP down, and the future for Holly is packed with constant writing and expanding the musical palette she's already shown the world, carving out the next chapter for a superstar who seems destined to become a relatable shoulder to cry on, laugh with, and dance alongside in 2021 and beyond. "I really don't have much of an idea of who I want to be in a few years, but I have an idea of who I am right now, what I want to do right now and how I feel right now, which is already different from who I was when I wrote the songs that came out this year," admits Holly, laying out what comes next. "I feel weirdly like I've already outgrown those songs; honestly, I get bored of my own songs so quickly because… well… "I feel like I'm going through crucial years at the moment in my life, and I'm constantly changing. The songs aren't relevant to the person I am now, and that's a good thing because I have to be replacing those songs with ones that are and the cycle just continues. It's really cool to see that I am creating my own little world around me, and without that first EP and those songs, I would have no idea where to go. It's that starting point I needed." The dream for Holly is to see people from around the world connect with the songs she's writing, but like the artists she loves and admires, that honesty remains key. Exploring the thoughts that spin not only within her own mind but those around her; it's like holding a microscope up to your arm and seeing those goosebumps rise once again. When you think nobody else knows what you're going through, it's time to look to Holly Humberstone. P


academic side of school life, and her friends were thinking of careers in law or the business world - Holly wanted to simply write, play and listen to music whenever possible. "I really tried to be interested in those sort of things," cracks Holly. "I enjoyed History and English and stuff, but I couldn't really see myself doing it forever and secretly I'd go home and just be writing songs from the moment I got in." After finishing her GCSEs, Holly decided to upload what she had been working together online in a mixture of nerves and excitement about what people would think. "I was like, whatever - I'm just going to put it out there because it's what I really enjoy doing. I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction from everyone - just really supportive, and it went from there." Direct, open and unflinchingly honest - it's a recipe that Holly Humberstone carried to this day. Digging into the emotions, fears and hopes that circle your mind, it revealed a therapeutic outlet to tackle those thoughts. Take 'Deep End', the stunning opener to Holly's debut EP 'Falling Asleep At The Wheel', breathing with a hypnotic beauty that hints at dark, grungy vibes on a track focused on mental health and the importance of

London three-piece PVA are riding in on a wave of glitchy post-punk. Photo: Lewis Khan

N CHARLI ADAMS Charli Adams' debut album 'Bullseye' is set to arrive in early 2021. With a title deprived from a nickname Justin 'Bob Iver' Vernon gave her after a night playing darts in a Nashville bar while recording, she's also mates with Phoebe Bridgers. Top pop networking points, Chaz. Listen to: 'Didn't Make It'

N FAMOUS London trio Famous may be attempting to speak future success into truth with their given name, but their tense, Krautrocky charge is packed with the kind of nervous energy which sticks in the mind. Listen to: 'Nice While It Lasted'

N JWESTERN Leeds alt-popster JWestern (AKA John Gooding) has already dropped a debut EP, 'Just People', which offers the same fuzzy nice times as Easy Life or Arlo Parks. One to watch very closely indeed. Listen to: 'Check In'

London has turned out more than the odd interesting band willing to push at the boundaries of late - including a few that aren't afraid of having a bit of crossover appeal at the same time - but there's every chance that PVA might be end up being the best of the lot. A trio who know the power of dance music, yet aren't afraid to play with what that means, there's something in their ability to find the sparks that grow into raging flames.

How did you lot get together then, have you known each other long? E: We met at a karaoke bar in south London. Josh and I had been informed by the DJ that we'd both requested 'Emotions' by Mariah Carey, so we decided to do a duet. I was blown away by his whistle tones. We decided to start playing together about two weeks before we played our first show, and then we just started playing whenever we could, building up the set as we went. It was just Josh and I for the first seven or so months, Louis came to see us once at the Bunker Club in Deptford and told Josh "You need drums". We've been playing as a three ever since. What has the evolution of your sound looked like? Has it been a lot of work, or did it spring fully-formed? J: When we started it was Ella and I playing as a two-piece, we would use a laptop for drum samples and synths. E: That set up had a very specific sound to it, and was a bit limiting in terms of how we were able to play the songs. As time passed, we were joined by Louis on drums which caused the sound to evolve and for our set up to become less restrained to the limits that using samples brings. We started writing a lot more with the live set in mind rather than starting off with demos. More recently, we were able to get some more kit that allows us to play and

"We met at a karaoke bar in south London; Josh and I had both requested 'Emotions' by Mariah Carey" Ella Harris write in a new way, without the confines of laptops and backing tracks. The set/sound has changed a lot over the last two years, but we've always just tried to make music that feels good in the moment.

N BLANKETMAN Another promising band out of Manchester, Blanketman are the post-punk newwave projected through a less po-faced prism. Both brilliantly fun and really quite cool - without ever seeming like they're trying too hard - they're our kind of gang. Listen to: 'Taking You With Me'

What were your first steps to getting your music 'out there'? E: Just playing shows, all the time. We've done four or five in a week before; 8pm slots with ten people watching and a five-minute soundcheck. It's character building. Do you have big plans for 2021? J and E: It's hard to say with everything that's going on at the moment. COVID permitting, we have exciting plans. Hopefully, we'll be kicking it off with a tour with Lazarus Kane for IVW. P 49.


N DELILAH MONTAGU There's something about Delilah Montagu. The Sussex newcomer - who frequently records in Los Angeles 'FYI' channels all her worries about growing up and finding herself into incredibly assured, laidback pop songs that are both a bit 90s but also timeless. Listen to: 'Loud'


In a year when it's been really very difficult for bands to do much of anything (rehearsals via Zoom, perhaps??), Coach Party have pushed ahead like few else with their coming-of-age indie. By: Jamie MacMillan. Photo: Phoebe Fox.

N FAR CASPIAN Leeds producer Far Caspian - aka Joel Johnston - is one of the lucky few who often works from his own home studio, bashing out new material at any given opportunity. With a new dreampop bop - 'Warning Sign' - just out, there's more to come in 2021. Listen to: 'Today'

N PHEM phem has already featured and cowritten with the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, G-Eazy and The Used, and toured the world with Lil Xan and Grandson. It's her own music that really cuts through, though. Recent EP 'How U Stop Hating Urself Part 1' seals the deal. Listen to: 'stfu'

N MERCI, MERCY With over 4 million Spotify streams to her name - yes, this is how we measure stuff now - 19 year old merci, mercy's recent 'no thank you, no thanks' EP highlights an artist of genuine potential. Alt-pop of the highest order. Listen to: 'Tequila & Lemonade'

50. DORK

"I look like dogshit!!" Out of the many things that 2020 has given us that we'd like to see 'do one' and toddle off, Zoom interview calls are often up there. But sometimes it provides pure gold, and that's the case when he voice of Coach Party's Jess blasts out of our speakers before we even catch a glimpse of her tonight. Laughing as she appears, Dork is finally face to face (ish) with onequarter of one of the Hypiest bands in our Hype List for 2021. Because out of the many things that 2020 has given us that we want to cling on to very tightly, this band from the Isle of Wight is most definitely up there. All aboard the Hype, erm, Coach then. No messing, there are very few bands that are getting us THIS excited right now. After signing to Chess Club Records in late 2019, their debut EP 'Party Food' arrived and acted as a giant wake-up call for anyone not paying attention to what had been happening a few miles off the south coast. Following swiftly in their wake, a bop of a collab with Alfie Templeman and more killer singles. It has been Quite The Year for Coach Party, then. "2020 was so hyped as our breakthrough year, and then... But it's gone as well as I guess it could have been considering," smiles Jess tonight. "So I'm super grateful for that, though I wish we could have played some gigs obviously." Lack of gigs aside, the buzz around the band has been increasing exponentially after every release so far. And what a


run they're on. 'Party Food' showed a band already running at full speed, and one that could go in any direction they chose. If 'Breakdown' and 'Space' felt like a band that could crash through into the mainstream like a Wolf Alice, 'Bleach' showed that Jess was more than willing to open up in the most brutally honest, and painful, way when she sang "I think about dying by myself but I'm not suicidal, just a little underwhelmed". The following two singles, 'Can't Talk, Won't' and 'Really OK On My Own' carried on in the same vein. All in all, it's been a blistering year then. "Yeah definitely," agrees Jess. "I think 'Party Food' was really special, and they were the songs that had got us our manager and then with Chess Club. But we didn't really value them that much. Like, we just thought it was fun writing and recording some songs. But we've moved on quite a bit already, those next releases feel more true to where we're going. It's quite philosophical really, that's who we were then, and this is who we are now." Where they could go next, and who they are now, is massively exciting. "I think we want to try and be more heavy, we're definitely trying that for these next few releases," Jess offers. "I'm at this road at the minute where lyrically, a few of the songs are getting quite dark and a bit meaningful. And I kinda like that we're a bit playful sound-wise, but then be like 'hmm, might top myself', too." Careful not to sound flippant at this point, she leans in to the camera as she elaborates a bit further. "I

think it's that feeling of what I think everyone feels inside, but they don't say it. The main thing I'd love people to take away from us is, you know, we all feel not that great sometimes. And those dark thoughts can happen to the happiest of people, and I think music is quite sugar-coated sometimes. I'd love for us to not have that," she finishes firmly. Admitting that people have asked her if she was ok after some of the last releases, it's clear that this openness is going to continue into the band's forthcoming EP as she describes it as songs that have been 'plucked from her heart'. As we chat about how the band could go anywhere musically, talk turns to who they'd like to emulate impact-wise. "We all collectively really love Wolf Alice, so yeah, I'd love to be similar to them," she says. "And I know there's a lot of Weezer love within everyone, so that's a contender too. But it would also be nice to break another barrier because I think there are so few bands at the minute that are actually breaking through. Pop rules all collectively at the minute! I'd love for the whole time of indie to just come back around, like it was in 2010 with Bombay, The Cribs and everyone. I'd love festivals to just be this collection of mental bands." As you'd imagine, the IOW Festival has fond memories for Jess - but not the ones that you'd maybe imagine. "My favourite bit of that whole weekend is just on the Monday driving past the ferry terminals and seeing everyone in

"2020 was so hyped as our breakthrough year, and then..." Jess Eastwood

welly boots looking like they've just attended their mum's funeral. Carnage!" she cackles. Island life is embedded in Jess, despite many of Coach Party's songs talking of escape of some sort. "I think it's 'testing' here," she explains. "You get branded as being a bit of a failure if you don't move off it as a young person. But I chose to stay. I'd really love to move, but I want to do stuff with the band. And I love the sea and how quiet it is. In the summer, it's just like living on a paradise island with ice cream vans on every road." With a new 300-capacity venue opening in the centre of the island, Jess states that it saved the island's music scene. And with the likes of Jess' friend Lauran Hibberd still living there, it's a scene that is starting to gain attention fast. "She lives two minutes away from me. We went to Aldi together the other day," she laughs. "I'm a Morrisons person, though. I didn't realise that they just throw the stuff at you in Aldi. She was like, 'Catch it!' Are we music royalty on the island? Definitely." Bands like Plastic Mermaids, Champs and erm, Level 42 live locally too, leading her to roar "Christ, we're the celebrity island!" With time split between

working at a local farm park - Benedict Cumberbatch and James Blunt popped in recently to the delight of many (not together we should add), and catching up on her beloved conspiracy theories, life seems good. Looking ahead to next year, Jess is adamant with what comes next. "I reckon it's time we start cracking on with music now, we've got a lot of demoing and writing to do," she nods. "We've been doing some really exciting co-writing lately. Went up to London a few weeks ago to do some with Juliette from The Big Moon, and met Joe from Amber Run a few weeks ago too. Yeah, so we're really cracking down on writing as much material as possible. Because if we can gig then, we want to play as much as possible and have as much material behind us as possible." There are no plans for a full album in 2021, with the singer keen to keep building anticipation first. "Basically, when we write an album, I need to know that when it goes out that it will be Mercury Prizeworthy. That's what I need," she laughs before chatting about one of this year's contenders. "That Sports Team thing was brilliant with Lady Gaga, that was quality entertainment. I bought two copies just because I wanted them to win. One of them was on iTunes. And I don't even use iTunes..." Mercury Prize nominee for 2022? With the start to life that Coach Party have made, honestly, you wouldn't be surprised at this point. Better get on board, this party has just got started. P



Galway four-piece NewDad have already secured A-list status on BBC 6 Music. There's nothing stuffy about this lot though (yes, we're calling 6 Music stuffy - Ed) rather an achingly cool vibe that recalls The xx at the height of their powers. Listen to: 'Blue'


21-year-old Bea Miller has 'garnered' a mind boggling 2 billion streams to date, been named one of '100 Women Revolutionising Pop' and has become a viral hit on TikTok. That's full house at Hype bingo! Listen to: 'FEEL SOMETHING DIFFERENT'


Portland born and raised, Max Leone was probably destined to be 'Really Quite Cool' from the start. Experimenting with drums, piano and violin (ooo, get him - Ed), he relocated to LA and took flight. An altpop virtuoso in the making. Listen to: 'Cautious' 51.


Three tracks deep at the time of writing, ASHWARYA has yet to put even the slightest step wrong. Her gloriously dark alt-pop mixes the sixties Bollywood music played by her grandparents as she grew up with more up-to-date influences like Billie Eilish. First track 'PSYCHO HOLE' remains one of the sleeper gems of 2020. Listen to: 'PSYCHO HOLE'



"In times of trouble, music is what helps me through" Mysie


With debut mixtape 'Send Them To Coventry' just out, Pa Salieu has already scored magazine covers and 'brand collabs'. There's way more to him than the flashy surface trappings of the hype train, though. Smart and raw, there's a confidence that marks him out as a future superstar. Listen to: 'Block Boy'


York - previously famed for 'that indie band your dad still goes and sees Shed Seven' - might just have a new bunch of heroes. Four-piece Bull's mission is to make the music they want to listen to, inspired by the likes of Pavement and the Pixies. They're already played with the likes of Squid, The Orielles and Pip Blom and - at a point where the indie band has been at a huge pandemic shaped disadvantage may be one of the most likely to pull ahead of the pack. Listen to: 'Bonzo Please'

Already picking up accolades for her songwriting prowess, Mysie is a special talent. Photo: Chico Fernandez.

Most of the artists on this list are pure potential, but not Mysie. Mysie is already winning bloody Ivor Novello awards. "Honestly, it's madness," she told us earlier this year when her Rising Star nomination came through. Now she's taken home the prize, the South Londoner's ascent is picking up pace. The granddaughter of a renowned Ugandan jazz musician, the talent is in her bloodline, but her journey is only just beginning.


What are you up to today? Just been writing music and bingewatching Bob's Burgers, hehe. It feels like you're prepped to have a really exciting 2021 - how have you found working on new material lately? Has all the social-distancing impacted your productivity? A lot has gone on, so I've been pretty inspired when it comes to writing new material. Socialdistancing hasn't really impacted my


Are you still a potential pop star when you've got over two million monthly listeners on Spotify? Apparently, JC Stewart is releasing his, quote, 'boldest pop song to date', 'Break My heart', early in January - so we'll see, eh? Listen to: 'I Need You To Hate Me'

52. DORK

this year has been lifechanging, and I've really enjoyed collaborating! For me, it's super important, and I love to see how others add a different perspective to my art.

productivity, in fact, it's revived it in a way I never thought. It's made me connect with myself even more. I feel that lockdown offered no distractions to my creativity; it took me to a different space. Does 'the state of things' feed into what you find yourself wanting to write about? I think subconsciously yes, at times. I'm always present when I'm writing, and I find it super cathartic. I think the beauty of it is the feeling of escaping the world you're currently in. Tell us about what you've got coming up, there's a new EP, right? Yes, I've got an EP on the way for the new year! How have you found working with Fraser T Smith? Do you enjoy collaborating? It's been amazing working with Fraser, and I've learned so much from him. Being mentored by him


Centered around core duo Jim Higson and Daniel McCarthy, KAWALA are a band with their own sound. With their 2020 delayed due to, y'know, reasons, they still stayed inventive, playing sets for a 'controlled number' of fans in parks. Smart. Listen to: 'Ticket To Ride'

N MEALTIME Manchester sixpiece Mealtime are a mixture of many things. Dance, indie, hip hop and electronica all plays a part in their big lucky dip. As much a collective as a band, there's method in the madness. And really, who pays attention to genre anymore anyway? Exactly. Grab a napkin and tuck in. Listen to: 'Denim'

Do you think you're going to hold off thinking about a full album until the world is in a slightly better place? I won't hold off. I think in times of trouble, music is what helps me through. If I can make someone feel something, whether that is hope or nostalgia, it can be really healing in times of unrest. What was the aftermath of winning an Ivor Novello award like? It's such a huge thing. Unreal. Winning the Ivor Novello award has been incredible. It's really amazing to be recognised for my work so early in my career. I'm just super excited for the future and the music to come out. What are you most looking forward to at the moment? The music. Can't wait to drop my next EP to the world. P


Do we need to introduce Tate McRae? She's already had a Top 10 smash single ('you broke me first') and a much bigger honour - a Dork cover, no less. A pop prodigy set to blossom, you could say she's already arrived' Listen to: 'don't be sad'


CLAUD Newly signed to Phoebe Bridgers' label Saddest Factory, Claud's music is proper charming stuff.

21-year-old Claud Mintz that's Claud to you and I is the first artist to release through Phoebe Bridgers new label Saddest Factory. There's much more to them than that, though. Formally known as Toast, Claud's brand of bedroom alt-pop has a warm, welcoming tone. Most recent track 'Gold' is a story about contradictions, and certainly fits Bridgers' mission statement of "good songs, regardless of genre".


Hi Claud, how's it going? What are you up to today? Hellooo! It's going pretty well over here. I woke up a few hours ago, and now I'm searching eBay for a stuffed penguin. How have you found 2020? It's been a weird one, hasn't it. 2020 is that one bully in middle school that makes your life MISERABLE but you come out a better person because of it‌ hopefully. Congrats on signing to Saddest Factory, how did that come about? Thanks! I've been releasing music on my own for a while, but Phoebe reached out to me about a year ago. I've been a fan of hers for a minute, so that was cool. After hanging out a ton, and I realized how much I liked and trusted her vision for my project. Plus I love supporting other artists, especially queer artists, cause like, fuck the patriarchy, right?

"I love supporting other artists, especially queer artists, cause like, fuck the patriarchy, right?" Claud

Is your debut album all done and dusted now? What's left to do? It is both done and dusted. All that's left to do is make a few music videos and annoy people when it comes out to actually listen to it. How did you find the process of putting it together? Was there a steep learning curve? I didn't realize I was making an album until about nine months in. I write songs sorta non-stop, and this album is the best of the bunch thus far. After deciding which songs told my story the best, I spent about two weeks in New York this summer doing some final production and then mixed it at Electric Lady Studios (which was a dream come true)! How have you approached curating the tracklisting? It all fell into place pretty naturally; I just followed my ear and instincts. Most of the songs are so different from each other, so by paying attention to what fit/sounded the best next to each other, I was able to work it out. It feels like bedroom pop is really having a moment, what acts have you been enjoying? Hmm, I'm not even 100% sure what qualifies as bedroom pop, but some of my favourite artists right now are HAWA, Spencer., MICHELLE, and Erika de Casier. What inspires you, both in music and in life? My friends inspire me! I feel lucky to be surrounded by such creative people. What are your hopes for 2021? I hope we get Trump out of office, stop the spread of COVID-19, and bring live shows and just life in general back. Seems like a lot to hope for right now, but I'm trying to stay positive and optimistic. P 53.


N LOVELEO LoveLeo - aka Leo Reilly - may have a very famous dad (no, really, when you work it out... Ed), but he's also a talent on the rise. This year's 'LOOK AT THE MESS I'VE MADE' EP has that kind of infectious energy that sticks. Wonky pop at its finest. Listen to: 'HEAD OVER HEELS'

N PERSONAL TRAINER Signed to Sports Team's Holm Front label, Personal Trainer are an Amsterdambased collective based around singer/songwriter Willem Smit. Occasionally drawing on members of fellow Dutch indie types Canshaker Pi and Pip Blom, as well as UK based talent Home Counties and Bull, recent track 'Politics' is - technical term fucking brilliant. Listen to: 'Politics'

N ALEX GOUGH Another Irish boy wonder, he featured on the soundtrack to the smash hit telly adaptation of Sally Rooney's Normal People, and just released a debut mixtape, 'Forever Classic'. He said it, not us. Listen to: 'HEART ATTACK'

MICHELLE New York collective MICHELLE are all about summer vibes - perfect for road trip adventures, or just sitting by a window. Y'know, whatever lockdown allows. By: Jamie Muir. Photo: Sophia Wilson.

John. Paul. George. Ringo. Just listing four names immediately makes you think of a certain band, right? Yes, they may have had a bit of an impact on, y'know, the world, but it's also a big reminder that bands aren't just this one thing. It's made up of individual people with their own stories, their own dreams, their own goals and their own personalities that bubble away at the surface of an overarching banner. If there's ever a group that symbolises this to a tee, it's MICHELLE. The sixpiece - made up of Charlie, Julian, Sofia, Emma, Jamee and Layla - thrive in their individual voices while joyful in the magic that comes from joining together, and it feels like the world is about to catch on. Not too shabby for a band who only were together for the first time when they were playing their first gig. "In my mind, and feel free to correct me guys, but we made that first record and thought that was great, that's done! Then we got asked to play…" explains Charlie, gathered on a Zoom call as they remember back to the unlikely path that has led to thousands falling head over heels for that MICHELLE sound. "When we left that show I still had this impression that we were all moving on to that next thing, time to never see a lot of these people again. And then we started getting asked to play more shows, and it was like, okay… I guess this is a thing now. That's what really solidified us, this awareness that people gave a shit and wanted to see us."


And why wouldn't they? Starting life as a concept album project being crafted by Charlie and Julian, that idea of collaboration found themselves reaching out to those they thought would be perfect for it. Jamee, Sofia, Emma and Layla added the voices that would form what would become their debut album 'Heatwave', where tracks came together in a day on a record exploring modern life living in New York. "It all started from this awareness of what other people were doing artistically," adds Charlie. "Everyone was doing these really badass things, so it's not 'oh MICHELLE is a collective because we also do these other things' MICHELLE exists because everyone was doing these other things first and that's what brought us all together." "We didn't go into it thinking, oh let's get the band together," continues Jamee. "We didn't realise we would be performing this album or writing a second album together, we just came together as a group of friends." From the first rehearsal ahead of that debut show at Bard College, the connection was there. Clicking immediately and having fun around each other, that reaction wanting more was just one element that helped inspire them to push on with what they had. "That's definitely a huge part, but also just getting to know each other when we would hang out and we would just end up making music," elaborates Sofia. "We would continue making music just because we were

18-year-old songster Tayo Sound has worked with the likes of George from AlunaGeorge and Rob from Easy Life, as well as Al Shux (Kendrick Lamar, SZA), Blake Slatkin (Juice WRLD) and The 23rd (Khalid, Grace Carter). He's also fucking awesome. Listen to: 'Cold Feet'

54. DORK

hanging out and getting to know one another so that just continued the momentum." "My first impression of everybody, which I think is a good sign, is when I meet someone, and they're just on a higher plane of existence than I am. Like, damn - you're operating 10 levels above me, I will never be able to get to you. What can I do to get to you?" smiles Julian. "I think that's the impression I got of everybody - oh my god, you guys are just operating on this higher plane of existence - I'm just grasping on to whatever I can to get a fraction of time and their attention. "I see everyone in this band as such close friends, and when we get together, we are one strong unit. One unified unit." The mutual admiration and love for one another can be heard brimming from the sounds of MICHELLE. A freedom to explore and meld different sounds and influences and a tireless drive of collaboration has you standing on your toes wondering what will come next. Dazzling early standout 'The Bottom' has given them a dreamy pop launchpad into the worlds of smooth jazzysoul with 'Sunrise' and sunkissed R&B with 'UNBOUND'. It leaves the door open to try whatever they like, the individual creatives ideas and visions mixing together to form a sound undeniably of their own. "It's a game of personalities," lays out Sofia, reflecting on how the world of MICHELLE becomes one with the breadth of ideas that bubble about in each of them. "Everyone comes up with melodies and hooks,


Fat Trout Trailer Park - or Sean Raab, for it is he, etc etc - is described in his own press bumf as 'a post-punk interpretation of how people in the future would think the past sounds like'. Far be it for us to be lazy, but - yeah, about right. Listen to: 'Backseat'

and together we work out what works best and what we like the best, and it turns into a track from there. Sometimes we have a concept, and we write about that, and sometimes it just comes out - we navigate it all out that way." "I just think," adds Charlie, "the thing with MICHELLE is that everyone makes such different music on their own that whatever combination of people you slam into a room, there's always going to be something different that comes out. So whether that's R'n'B or pop or some darker synth-y thin or folk music or jazz - it's all represented in the MICHELLE world."

"It's great to create joy, but we are very aware of the injustices going on in the world" Jamee Lockard

More than anything, it's a journey of artists connecting over music and blossoming into a friendship that joins them together in a moment of feverish excitement and love. The platform that they each now find themselves with is something not lost on MICHELLE either, of how important it is to speak out and put into the world what each truly believes and represents. "Sometimes our music falls more into the category of escapism where we're creating this world, and

we're pulling the listener in, and it's not very reflective of the world around us," ponders Jamee. "It's great to create joy and create joy for other people, but we are very aware of the injustices going on in the world, and so we use that platform. Once people are drawn into our world by listening to our music, we then speak to them and say hey, you can help here. We can help. Let's do this together." "I also think that we wouldn't want anything to be forced if it wasn't on our minds," points Emma. "If it felt like we were trying to do something separate to ourselves, then it wouldn't be of interest nor would it be of interest to other people. Things become clearer as time goes on. For example, I can look and think not necessarily about what I want to do or everything we want to do - but also have ideas of what I don't want to do or sing about or write about. It's all about how do we reassess how the actual music takes part in those conversations as opposed to just some image shared on the internet." With 2021 sure to bring brighter days, MICHELLE's next steps are sure to be unmissable. They may not have planned it, but together they're primed to take on the world - one sizzling track at a time. There'll be shared taco nights, there'll be that constant drive to impress one another, and there'll be countless memories to come - for now, MICHELLE are revelling in simply finding others who can share that dream with them. Together, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who can stop them. P


With a debut album, 'Nightmare Vacation', arriving at the end of 2020, featuring production from the so-hot-right-now 100Gecs, Rico Nasty is very much an artist on her own terms. Attention is demanded, not requested. Listen to: 'OHFR?'

HYPE LIST 2021 55.



If you go on TikTok, you'll know Blu DeTiger. Her song 'Figure It Out' was one of the biggest trends of the year, but that's not all there is to her. A New York based multiinstrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, performer, and 'bass virtuoso', she's been a touring member for Caroline Polachek too. Listen to: 'Figure It Out'


renforshort can shift from sugary sweet to wouldn't-want-to-meetthem-down-a-dark-alley in a heartbeat. She's already had an impressive 2020, including the really very good 'i drive me mad' and 'fuck, i luv my friends'. Bubblegum grunge meets bedroom pop, she's a breakout artist if ever there was one. Listen to: 'fuck, i luv my friends'


Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Corpus Christi, iann diorr has already made waves alongside 24kGoldn on number one single 'Mood', so yeah - not exactly small fry here. Still, with a new EP on the way, and on the road to a debut album, expect much more to come. Listen to: 'Sick and Tired'


Mae Muller does big pop. You can see that from her nods from the likes of Sam Smith and Little Mix, or the 100 million global streams already stacked up. With a UK tour maybe, probably booked in for 2021 (y'know how it is), and an EP just dropped, she's on the path to the playlists already. Listen to: 'HFBD'

56. DORK

ASHN There are few acts as all-in as singer-rapper-and-future-pop-phenomenon Ashnikko. By: Steven Loftin. Photo: Lewis Vorn.

"My songs are my pep talks to myself" Ashnikko

NIKKO Emerging through the quagmire of 2020 came Ashnikko. Swaggering into everyone's lives with her vehemently playful feminist agenda, and unabashed way of dealing with, well, everything. Her success in the darkest of days, of course, means the London based US singersongwriter is the name on the tip of everybody's tongue. When Dork gets on the phone with Ashnikko, she's back in her homestead of North Carolina. "Hold on one second. Sorry, my brother's jumping on a trampoline behind me." It's been a gruelling day of scribblers asking her questions since 2020 has been the year of Ashnikko after all. Far from the poised personality that flits between playful and demonic on the radio, today's voice is rather exhausted, but such is the


life of a pop star. Getting ready for the year ahead, with her debut project/mixtape/whathave-you now pushed back to 2021, that certifiably makes 'Demidevil' perfect for our Hype List. How does Ashnikko go about preparing to carry such weighty commendation from yours truly (ahem), and for the year ahead? "I've realised that I'm fully capable and confident in my abilities to deal with the obstacles the life is thrown at me and the opportunities that I have," she says. "But I'm not sticking to a very solid rigid plan for my career, and kind of just taking things as they come. Right now, we're in the middle of a global pandemic like nobody could have really prepared for this." Ashnikko is undoubtedly one of the year's most iconic breakout stars. Her striking blue hair, and intricately designed getups that cross between an anime villain and something a bit hellish - all this is for good reason. Her

influence strings from "cartoons and comic books, and fantasy novels" including the Sandman graphic novels, and Midnight Gospel on Netflix. "My brain can't think about it too hard, or it loses its artistic edge - it's an amalgamation of all the different things I've consumed in my little head." Of any plans to evolve Ashnikko as an entity as she progresses through her braggadocious dark and twisted world, she says: "I have a pretty clear vision of how I want to look and sound and be perceived, but how we go about that is all up in the air, who knows." Perception is key in the world of pop. People need to know just what you're about, and that rains down from the lyrics you sing to the clothes you wear, so Ashnikko's is her taking the podium growling and snapping at the time wasters she's had to put up with; refusing to conform to anything, and instead, shaping herself into something untouchable an icon for the disillusioned who just want to be invincible. So just where does that ability to 'not give a fuck' come from? "It certainly comes with age and maturity - and some days I really do give a fuck," she rebuts. "And so, it's just like a character that I [use to] put out my music, but sometimes I actually am that person. But don't believe everything you see on Instagram." Do you mean yours? "Yeah, it's a carefully curated highlights reel of my life, and my music is. I put my best foot forward, but that's not the real reality of humanity and the human experience." "Making this project was super therapeutic and cathartic for me," she says of 'Demidevil' and getting

her chance to process that human experience. "I got to be [a form of] vulnerable that's really angry. I got to feel powerful and confident, and feel a little sad. So definitely making a body of work is super cathartic. "I write songs - those are my pep talks to myself. I write my songs for myself first and foremost, they definitely come from a place of needing to hear that in the moment so instead of waiting for someone to pep talk to me - I pep talk myself." Now that 'Demidevil' is all locked up, ready for the cage to be opened on February 19, has it captured the Ashnikko you'd hoped it would? "I feel like I'm - as everyone else is - a very multi-faceted human being that cannot be summarised in one project. I would like to put out multiple projects that evolve with my character, but yeah I'm super proud of this project, and I'm really happy with these songs. I can't wait for them to come out." Surprisingly, hidden amongst the songs of power and empowerment, and an adapted cover of 'SK8R BOI' ('L8R BOI') featuring such scathing lines as ("she's not a therapist, don't wanna take care of him, she's an independent girl") and the frankly hypnotic 'Clitoris! The Musical', comes a couple of moments that remind you that behind Ashnikko certainly comes a real person. "I do find it quite hard to be vulnerable in my music," she admits. "But it's definitely an avenue that I'm exploring. I'm extremely open and honest human being, and I do feel comfortable there, but I think finding the right words to express myself can be kind of difficult." When the right words hit, according to Ashnikko "you just feel it," and when

'Demidevil' is full to the brim of sniping remarks but still offers moments of introspection, it's hard to disagree. It's a mixtape that offers powerful empowerment without forgetting humanity. This is part of the reason why Ashnikko's seen such success, with the streams racking up into the millions, people are latching onto that feeling of strength and independence. The world is still turning even while it's on pause, so a voice like Ashnikko's is perfect to cut through the silence and provide that sanctity. "I'm really touched that people can listen to my music and gain some sense of confidence," she reflects. "That's something that I was in search of with artists when I was younger so I'm super grateful and honoured that I can be that for other people, and kind of pass the torch." 2021 is truly looking like they hypiest of hype years for a variety of reasons. The sun's looking a bit brighter, we might actually get to go to real gigs again (!!) and even from within the brightly coloured crooked cave dwelling that Asknikko lurks about, with 2020 being a year of personal and professional growth while the world falls and apart and gets back up again, she's ready to take no prisoners and firmly dominate 2021. "I've had fun being outside in nature and kind of reevaluating what it is that I want from life," she ruminates. "And I love my music, and my music career but I also love being happy and not mentally ill. Just readdressing my priorities is has been a good moment for me. Also, the success of my music. When I was in a really - when everyone - was in a really low place has been quite uncertain, that has been quite surprising. I'm just super, super grateful!" P


N HOT MILK Dual-fronted emopop upstarts Hot Milk have already been making a noise over the louder end of 'things' for a while now, but as they keep dropping banger after banger, expect that interest to widen out imminently. Listen to: 'June Gloom'

N BAMILY Brixton-based DIY indie popsters Bamily are longtime friends Tim, Charlie, Louis, and Benjy. They're bright, bold and influenced by a whole heap of different and disparate 'things'. A good time all round. Listen to: 'Oh Damn'

N DEEP TAN Hackney-based deep tan have garnered support from all the right places. Sometimes post-punky, sometimes smart, atmospheric pop, they're a trio who seem to understand energy and texture almost instinctively. With live dates to come in 2021, expect much more to follow. Listen to: 'Shimmer'

N PHIL MADELEY Dropping a debut EP, '21st Century Witch Hunt' earlier in 2020, Birmingham's Phil Madeley has already (sort of) set up his own church. Far be it for us to complain about such ambitious plans from our pop stars, it shows a willingness to play with ideas that many would shy away from. Sign us up. Listen to: '21st Century Witch Hunt' 57.



Glam Glasgow bunch Walt Disco have stepped up so far this year they've ended up on the roof. By: Martyn Young. 2020 has obviously been a difficult and challenging year for everyone throughout the music industry, but the most special bands are borne of resolute stuff. Glasgow's Walt Disco are possessed with an unquenchable spirit and desire to bring their own idiosyncratic brand of pop to the masses and have a good time doing it. Despite playing no shows and all the difficulties that entail, the six-piece have spent the year defining their vision and truly cementing their place as one of our most striking new bands. Rather than wallow in a turgid malaise, Walt Disco decided to get to work as singer James Power explains. "I've been using the word repurpose a lot. We've been repurposing the time that was meant to be getting in front of new fans to change to do as much writing as possible. I think it's probably been better for us in the long run. We know how to do it. Music is an everyday job, and we've been getting better at producing our own songs. So, we wrote an album. We're working on it now, and it's being produced now, and we're writing a second album. It's a fun time. We can't really work because of lockdown because we work in


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"We sat down and decided, right, we are a pop group" James Power pubs and stuff, so we just have to do music." Despite an inability to do most of the things that new band's traditionally do, this year has been a landmark year for the band. "2020 was a fresh start anyway for us," continues guitarist Dave. "We finally solidified our line-up. When we started writing the album, we could work out what sort of band we wanted to be. The music we wanted to make and the statements we wanted to make. Also, having an EP to release helped tide us over and remind people that we were still about." The EP in question is the bonkers, unhinged brilliance of 'Young, Hard and Handsome'. "They're fun songs. The world needed songs like 'Cut Your Hair' this year," laughs James. "It was a good halfway signal between where we are now

and where we're heading musically. We've embraced a lot of production and sounds that we always liked but never put onto a record before. It was a massive learning experience," he explains of this pivotal release. Walt Disco are a band defined by fearlessness. They have spent the last few years ramping up every aspect of the band from their flamboyant stage shows to their striking visual aesthetic to their music which has blossomed in everincreasingly odd pop directions. They're a band who now firmly what they are and you're going to love them for it. "We've moved in a more experimental pop direction," asserts James. "We sat down and decided, right, we are a pop group. It was nice to figure those things out without a label telling you that's what you are. Whether we have a label or not in the next year, they'll know, and we'll


know, what the vision is. Everyone in the team knows that vision, and it's uncompromising now." There are infinite possibilities for the currently being worked on debut Walt Disco album, but one thing that is clear is that the band's wild spirit will be all over it. "It's about making records with high concepts that reflect what we need to write about at the time and what the world needs to hear," explains James confidently. "The stuff that's going to be on this first record isn't going to be sad or bedroomy or not dancey. It's going to be positive tunes. We can talk about feelings and sad feelings because it's life, but we just didn't think the world needed a dreary record and we didn't want to make that record. It's all about the performance aspect. We always wanted to translate our stage show." Anyone who has seen Walt Disco perform will know how exciting that stage show is. They are a band who know and recognise the importance of making a statement both musically and visually and are looking to move forward as a strong pop entity encompassing all aspects. "Pop artists are performance artists," says James. "All these huge stage shows from people like Lady Gaga or Dua Lipa have outfit changes and choreographed dance routines, and we think it would be really interesting if a band added that to their show. So, hopefully, you'll see all of us on stage with mics dancing." Exciting stuff. A job lot of Britney style head mics should be winging its way to Glasgow right about now. Perhaps the best thing about Walt Disco is how they revel in defying conventions. They're not interested in what a band should be. "There will be some songs that have no guitars and no live bass but lots of vocals and synths, but we don't want to just scrap them because we think we're a band. We just want to be able to play what we want to write," says James. The last few years have been a voyage of discovery for the band, from playing early shows in Glasgow to touring the country with countless other Dork faves like Sports Team, all the while growing in confidence to highlight their true passions for exuberant, queer progressive pop. As we move into 2021, there's no one else quite like Walt Disco. "We used the band as a way to discover how we wanted to present ourselves in day to day life," says James. "As an artist, you're in a privileged position as you can think about things in a way that the average person doesn't get to think about. You have to delve deep into your psyche and feelings to write songs. "I like how people have seen us develop into the people we were always meant to be. It's nice that it's beself-discoveryurney for fans. I'm glad that it was public so we can normalise that self discovery." P

N VIJI Austrian-Brazilian London-based singer-songwriter Vanilla Jenner - aka Viji - has signed to The 1975's label Dirty Hit and already dropped a debut EP. As you'd expect, she's both fresh and exciting, with a line of alt-pop that hits all ends of the spectrum. Listen to: 'Cherry'

N DEAD PONY Glasgow's Dead Pony may be coming out of an always impressive scene, but there's something especially propulsive about their all action post-punk blast. With a debut EP coming up for 2021, a noise this loud is sure to gain attention. Listen to: '23, Never Me'

N SILVER SPHERE There's a suggestion that Silver Sphere - that's Sophie Cates if you want to use 'real names' - is from another planet. There's a chance she could have a point - her cool as fuck pop does sound like it could come from space. Listen to: 'ghosts!'

N KID KAPICHI Hastings isn't where you'd expect to find hot new musical talent - trust us, we'd know - but Kid Kapichi have been pushing to make waves for a while now. With a debut album expected soon, now is the time. Listen to: 'Self Saboteur'

YARD ACT Leeds' Yard Act aren't like many of the other acts mentioned in this year's Hype List. In a year where it's been hard for bands to make much progress - what with live music in tatters - this bunch have something that punches through the noise. Formed when friends frontman James Smith and Ryan Needham one half of Menace Beach, no less started creating minimalist tracks using a drum machine and borrowed bass, they expanded out and found their own voice. A spoken word middle section about a woman killing her imaginary husband? Sure, why not? Gloriously addictive and brilliantly bonkers in equal measure.

recording ended, and I carried on talking; I'm not very good at editing myself usually. It did feel like a bold move, especially after 'Fixer Upper' did alright, but it felt important not to get bogged down in trying to emulate our past success. We felt we needed to be true to what this band was about and what we wanted to achieve in the long run, which is creative freedom, rather than just repeating ourselves to diminishing returns.

Hello, James. Give us the tl;dr of your time in the band so far - you formed last year? Bloody hell, I just had to Google what tl;dr was. We are exclusively a lockdown band at this point; we sound class in the practice room though.

Do all these characters weave into a wider narrative? I'm writing a short story/novella about the first four tracks we're releasing

If you had to write a five-word sell for Yard Act, what would it be? Tired men get second wind. P




Your music has a very distinct vibe in the way you deliver satirical humour, how did you develop that? Bloody hell, I just had to Google what satirical was. I was raised to take the piss, but it comes from a place of compassion rather than cynicism. I think it's important to keep your ego in check, and to do the same for those you love. Mockery doesn't have to be malicious. 'Peanuts' is a funny one isn't it, how did it come together? Releasing a track with such a huge change of pace in the middle feels like a bold move. It came around because the demo

Do you ever incorporate people you know into songs, or are they mostly fictional? I am a lyrical assassin, and there is a target on the forehead of every fucker I have ever known.

Though Laurel might have already dropped a debut album, it's fair to say she feels like an entirely new artist. Dropping bombs as 2020 comes to a close, both 'Scream Drive Faster' and 'Best I Ever Have' sound utterly huge, written on a road trip through the heart of the American West. Panoramic power-pop at its very best. Listen to: 'Scream Drive Faster'

"I am a lyrical assassin" James Smith

which links them all together, I'm hoping to have it ready for February, but it's taking a lot of work, and I'm short on time at the moment. It's good though; it makes sense once you suspend your disbelief. What inspires you, both in music and in life? A genuine belief in a better tomorrow. I firmly believe things are going to be alright in the end.

First began as a way to write openly about the struggles of growing up in north Dublin, For Those I Love has also become a way for Dave Balfe to pay tribute to best friend and former bandmate Paul Curran, who passed away in 2018. With that kind of hefty import upon it, this is music that sits outside of the usual lanes, concerning itself with something far deeper. Listen to: 'I Have a Love' 59.



Described as a "self-styled global pop star who lives at home with her grandparents in Dublin", on her recent single 'I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!' CMAT showed she understands the power of yeehaw. Obviously, its subject matter is a little more in-depth than that, but a sense of fun alongside a dose of meaning is exactly the kind of medicine we'd prescribe. With sold-out, socially-distanced shows planned for next year, this is one partner that's sure to stray beyond the ranch. Listen to: 'I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby'


WizTheMc's new EP 'What About Now' is wall-to-wall bops. It's a proper fun in that heart-on-sleeve bedroom pop, should-be-all-overplaylists way. A really lovely time that marks out the Cape Townborn, Germany-raised artist as one with buckets of feel-good musical stardust ready to be sprinkled over any track he lends his hand to. TL;DR, we like it. Listen to: 'All My Friends are Stoned'

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FFO The Orielles et al, Drug Store Romeos are the sound of a relaxed Sunday afternoon; a band to wrap yourself up and get lost in the loveliness of. By: Jamie MacMillan. Photo: Melanie Hyams. To say that Drug Store Romeos see the world differently to most of us is a bit of an understatement. This is a band that feel, and describe, sensations and songs in colours instead of words after all. Even after five years of touring and rehearsing that has perfected their ethereal psychedelically hazy dream pop, and despite some high profile support slots, they are still a secret to many due to the veeeerrrrryyyy limited amount of songs available online. But with a debut album on the horizon, 2021 looks like the year that finally changes all that. So get your colour charts ready, for the trio are about to let us all into their world. "It's so nice being near the sea," vocalist Sarah Downey smiles under the kind of warm blue Brighton skies that can easily make you forget about all the 'stuff' that's happening in the world. "It's always a bit more of a dystopian world in London and I kind of feel like I'm nearer the end of the world


if I'm there." Tucked away by the coast amongst houses that she describes as "each being a different shade of ice cream", it is a world away from the city full of grey suits and even greyer streets that Sarah lives in presently. Describing her summer as a drifting period of watching peoples lives from the top of a hill, the last few months has left her feeling, like most of us, that time is still mending after a period of feeling seriously wonky. But as we reach the end of The Year That Shall Never Be Talked About Again, Drug Store Romeos are about to shift through the gears, starting with the dreamy and ethereal 'Jim, Let's Play' released just after our chat. Five years in, it's wild to think that this is only their fourth single. "We're all getting a bit restless now," Sarah admits. "[Debut single] 'Now You're Moving' doesn't even feel like our song any more. The recorded version is so different to how we play it and how our tastes have changed. And to be honest, we were never 100%

"Nature is continuously changing, and so are we" Sarah Downey

happy with it when it came out anyway!" In truth, listening to that first release now, it seems strangely grounded in a way that follow-ups 'Frame Of Reference' and 'Quotations For Locations' never did. "Totally," agrees Sarah. "We've completely changed, and our sound is just so different to how it used to be. Not saying it is any better or worse, it's just change. That's what music should do, and what artists should allow themselves to do. Because otherwise, it's creative castration, isn't it? Nature is continuously changing, and so are we." Having taken five years to get to this point, today there's a refreshing unwillingness to be downbeat about the temporary blip that we're all living through.

Time away from gigs is being channelled into finessing and finishing the debut record (the lyrics are, very specifically, "89% done") and Sarah seems ready for the final push. "It's gonna be really intense because we're doing it in lockdown," she admits, "so its gonna be studio-home-studio-homestudio-home for the whole time. And I don't actually have my own bedroom, I share it with my friend, so it's going to be full-on. But I'm excited! It's going to be journey, a solid one and an emotional one I'm sure." Preparations for the studio are being made as we speak, even down to a print of 1920s transcendentalist Agnes Pelton being bought to get Sarah 'in the mood'. "She went to the desert and drew these astrallike spiritual energies in the skies, I'm gonna stick that up in front of me. When I'm singing, I really want to be able to put myself in the world, which I feel most represents the songs." Describing the style of the record as "a world made from places within that world", she pictures it as a process of drawing from different strands that are connected by a central thread yet distinct from each other. "There are some songs that I'm really excited for people to hear," she says, "Because it feels like they don't quite belong anywhere, but then they also do but only in a new way." Got it? "There's one song that's like kites in an open sky! It's like Verna Lint's 'Underwater Boy', but rather than being in the water element, it's in the sky." The inevitable question: What colour is the album? "There's definitely a range," she laughs. "It's a journey of colour for sure, with blues and purples very much in the foundations. Then we do a jump to some more cheerful yellows, maybe oranges, with little snippets of bursting emeralds of green." She pauses for a second and then grins. "We're a bit of a nightmare, to be honest." There you have it then people, Drug Store Romeos, Hype List 2021 and a bit of a nightmare. Next year could be brighter than ever. P




An Ivor Novello nom, a spot on Disney's Christmas advert Griff's going to be an unavoidable force very soon indeed. By: Abigail Firth.

Every now and again, a pop star comes around who's so buzzing with talent they can barely keep it in their little bodies. Griff happens to be one of those pop stars. At only nineteen, she's a singer, songwriter, producer, occasional seamstress, have-ago director, and all-round mindblower. She's got the wisebeyond-her-years lyricism of the Lordes and Eilishes before her (that's earned her an Ivor Novello nomination already) and the world at her feet. Growing up in a small village called King's Langley just outside of Watford, she's come a long way since she started producing her own songs on her brother's Logic software. Although 2020 has had Griff reverting back to her old ways, making not just music, but videos and performances from her room this time around, she's on the cusp of something major. We 'meet' Griff in that very room, guitars hanging on the wall and mum shouting in the background (yes, actually), for our chat about 2020, her massive new song with Zedd, and what the future holds.


Hi Griff! How has this year been treating you? I mean, I think it's treated everyone pretty rough, but, d'you know what, looking back, I feel like I've actually done loads of stuff, like I've released loads of music, and I think we've just had to adapt. It's been a fun challenge, like trying to release music and trying to stay creative in this time. So overall, I feel great about this year. Well, it's good to hear because it's been a bit of a shitter really, hasn't it.? I know, I know. I think we just had no choice but to try and

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make the best out of it, and still release music and put out good stuff, and it feels like people like it.

How do you feel like the stuff that happened this year has affected your way of working, or anything that you've put out? At the beginning of lockdown, I was really excited because the way I first started writing songs just me here in my music room producing, doing it all myself. Before lockdown came, I was busy travelling so much that I was quite excited to just be by myself again and write where I used to. And then it came, and I just wasn't creative at all. I think there is something about when crazy things are happening in the world, it's hard to just write pop songs about breakups because it kind of feels a bit insignificant. But I think it's forced me to be creative in other ways, like making music videos at home in quarantine or other things like that. And you put out a lot this year, and which have been your favourite releases? I actually really love all of them, that's such a bad answer. Okay, maybe '1,000,000 X Better', but I love them all for different reasons. I think that the Zedd song was definitely like, pretty surreal, and it still feels surreal because it's just so huge and that's like such a once in a lifetime opportunity. But then I feel like '1,000,000 X Better' is a real fun uplifting song, and I personally really love that song. Obviously you did just put out that song with Zedd, what can you tell us about it? Yeah, how this came about was crazy. I was in LA in February, and it was literally like the second night I was about to leave, his A&R got in touch with our team and was like "there's this song we'd love to hear your vocals on", and the bridge wasn't written and there was a few lyrics I ended up changing, but generally the song was done, but obviously it was

freaking Zedd so of course I'm gonna like do it. I'd heard like with 'Stay' and with 'The Middle', he like gets every girl to sing on it and then he picks who's the best vocalist, so I didn't think I stood a chance at all. So I was like, I'll give it a shot, but I'm sure he'll probably pick someone that's like way more established. So to hear that he'd stuck with it and really loved my vocal was really incredible. Is there anyone else that you want to work with in the future? You know what I get asked this, and I always have no idea and like, my mind goes blank. I'm up for working with like so many people. I don't think I have like a dream end goal. I always think like an old like icon, like Dolly Parton or something would just be like so fun. You know? Something like that would be great. You've been writing music for a very long time, did you always know that you wanted to be a musician? I always knew I loved music, but don't know if I ever believed I could actually make a living off it. I think I was like, trying to be quite realistic about it. I was writing new songs loads, just in my spare time, but I think up until I signed a deal, I thought I was gonna go to uni and study geography or something. It's always been a passion, but I think it still feels surreal that I'm able to, like, pursue it. You know? Who were some of the artists that you really looked up to when you were growing up? I guess I just listened to what my parents played and a lot of the CDs that were around was Stevie Wonder and Mary J. Blige and just like old R&B and soul. And then I completely fell in love with Taylor Swift when I was around eight. Her album 'Fearless' was the one for me. I've always looked up to her songwriting. And then Lorde, I love Julia Michaels, I love Banks, Haim, that kind of world.

How would you describe your songwriting in three words? I say honest, emotional, and hopefully, uplifting. Those are the three that I think subconsciously I try to achieve in every song.

You've talked a lot in the past about how you don't want to sound like anyone else, or like be like any other artists, what has it been like finding yourself and standing out when the pop landscape is so saturated? I feel like it's the only way you can do it, when no one knows who you are, it's so much harder to grab people's attention when you look and sound like everyone else. It's always a challenge to try and think, what is everyone else not doing? Or what can I do that's a little bit different? Because it would be so easy to just do more conventional, commercial sounding pop and like, look the same as everyone else. So it's always a challenge, but it's quite fun embracing, like all the unique things there are about me and throwing them into the music and all of that. Was there a point where you sort of started embracing your own individuality? I think it's been quite a journey. I've always stood out like a sore thumb because I've grown up in this tiny village called Kings Langley, which is like very, very, white middle class. And in my school, I was probably like, one of the only people of colour. So I think there's always been that sense of like, being a little bit of an outcast, I guess definitely in the way I look, and then also just being from a family that's not British and middle class. Over the years I've just had to get used to it and had to embrace it because otherwise, it's just exhausting. Music was definitely something that helped me express myself and just throw myself into something and make myself feel like creating something good. You've written about how you grew up with your parents

being foster carers and specific things like that. How do you weave that into your songwriting while making it kind of a universal concept? I've never been through heartbreak. There are so many types of heartbreak, but the conventional 'a boy broke my heart', that's actually never happened to me, so I kind of had no other choice but to draw from other experiences that I've had, where people have left my life or that kind of thing. It felt quite natural to just tap into feelings that I feel like I can relate to, but maybe it's not exclusively about love. That's what 'Good Stuff' is about, and like a few other of the songs that are sad actually aren't about like, 'oh a boy broke my heart'. Is there anything that happened this year that made you feel 1,000,000 times better? What made me feel a million times better? I mean, to be honest, releasing that song did. What else made me feel a million times better? I'm really excited that I'm going to do a show in the Tate Modern [this has happened since our chat]. That felt like a real win because all the conversation around live shows is that it's just dead in the water and no one's going to do anything exciting for a while. So that feels like a real breakthrough, and it feels like we're still doing something cool with live events.

And, ideally, what will 2021 look like for you? Ideally, I'm gonna release loads of new music and write even better music than I've released already. Ideally, I'm going to be able to do shows and do them around the world. And yeah, I just I hope more people discover my music because I still think it's like super early days. So I hope we get a bit of momentum now. And then in the new year, we just like really take off and loads of people discover what I'm doing. P


"It's always a challenge to try and think, what is everyone else not doing?" Griff


New Zealand-raised but London-based newcomer Molly Payton arrives pretty much fully-formed. Her songs are rich, accomplished and instantly relatable in a way that belies her young age. Listen to: 'How To Have Fun'

N LAZARUS KANE By now Dear Reader, you well know that Dork loves A Character. But we weren't prepared, at all, for Lazarus Kane. Weird and wonderful, there's always room for big, theatrical pop that’s bangon ready for Saturday night discos. Listen to: 'Night Walking'


The pseudonym of Canadian/ American Jordan Benjamin, grandson combines rock, hip hop and electronica to make fizzing alt-pop. With a debut due before the end of 2020, he's even been co-signed by noted music critic Bernie Sanders. Listen to: 'Dirty' 63.


BUZZARD BUZZARD BUZZARD Fun, tongue-in-cheek and in-your-face. There's never a dull moment with Welsh bunch Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard. By: Phoebe De Angelis. Photo: Pooneh Ghana.

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NOISY used to be NHS cleaners (insert Thursday clapping here), but they've given that up to concentrate on weirdo rowdy nonsense. With dates supporting YUNGBLUD, YMA6 and Bad Sounds planned for 2021, there'll be lots to go round. Listen to: 'I Wish I Was A...'

Tom Rees from Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard may be the most honest man in rock'n'roll. In amongst "ripping off T-Rex songs" and "licking John Lennon's arse" - and a second national lockdown - his band have made lemonade out of the very bitter lemons of 2020, embracing the time off to really get their creative juices flowing. Producing as much content as possible has always been important to them, and after a productive year, they're teeing up for a big 2021. Welcome to lockdown 2.0, will you guys be doing anything different this time? It's felt a lot less lockdown-y. Like, Greggs is still open. I've been coming to the studio on my own to mix stuff; we're working on an album. I'm in a very fortunate situation, I understand that there's probably not a lot of musicians that have a space that they can go to. They probably just cooped up inside their homes, which is not the greatest thing. But we've been quite fortunate. You've just released' 30,000 Megabucks', was that track intended to open discussions about dodgy practices in the music industry, or was it more to purge you of pent up anger? It's the kind of the song that exists in this weird, ironic space where we're talking about how horrible the industry is, when really, we're functioning as part of it. The concept of owing people money is one of the strangest things. It gets really depressing, but I kind of just thought whatever, I'll just be in debt. The sad thing about it is that we didn't get any backlash from it, and I kind of wish we did. The guy in the company I wrote it about probably doesn't even know. He's sat on his yacht somewhere. Having a glass of fucking bucks fizz. He's got no idea. I'm not a conflict guy anyway, so that's a good thing. Passive aggression, I think they call it. What an apt time to release a song to 'take down the man', when we're all being encouraged to re-train. Yeah, that's really interesting. It could apply specifically to what's happened to the music industry itself, and probably other creative industries as well. In the beginning of lockdown, I thought, maybe just maybe all the big labels or big publishers, and big agencies, will realise that they've got no more work for the next two-ish

years, and they'll be like, "maybe we should actually pay musicians and artists, these are our lifeblood, as soon as these guys can't do anything, we then can't do anything". But unfortunately, what's happened is that the responsibility of all these things has fallen in on the artist. For instance, previously, it was enough to get a press day, or do a photoshoot. Now, you've got to be able to handle a camera. You've got to be able to shoot a livestream. I think it addresses that area well, of how artists continuously adapt to what seems to be this strange free-market economy, but free-market economy of the musicians and not of the music. Today you find people buying into the music industry as a whole and how good they are at TikTok or whatever.

"There's been such a drought that I find myself fetishising shows in my dreams" Tom Rees Your virtual gig, The Beautiful Show, sounds exciting - how will a classic Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard show translate in a virtual format? I'm very excited about it. It's going to be held at Portland House in Cardiff, which used to be an old bank. It's very lush, very big with all marble walls. Very fucking decadent for a rock show. We've got some guests coming down as well, making appearances and stuff. We've got one really fucking insane guest, who I just cannot believe is actually happening. It's very cool. I wish I could tell you, but I feel like I'm in like the next Avengers, like I'm holding in that Iron Man died. If there was one thing you'd want listeners to take away from your music, what would it be? Being a musician is usually wrapped up in the idea of egos, the idea of "me", and I think this is an instance in which it is really easy to give a dishonest answer. Just to say, 'Oh, I hope they just enjoy it'. Every musician whenever they write music or release music, they're always thinking of some legacy: 'Am I gonna be remembered? Am I gonna do this?' And so I think that's the primary thing for me. I got a really emotional



22-year-old Brighton type GRACEY (all caps, guys) has already had a Top 10 single in 2020. With a minialbum 'The Art Of Closure' dropping at the end of the year, it probably won't be the last. Listen to: 'Empty Love (ft. Ruel)

Matilda has already been tour support for the likes of Arlo Parks and beabadoobee. Writing her first song at 11, by the age of 20 she's been at this one a while already, really. Listen to: 'As It Is'

reaction when we first did the EP, and it came back as a physical copy. It was this idea of legacy that had me thinking, 'Well, I know that this is in my hands right now. And if in 50 years, this is in some granddad's basement somewhere, and some grandchild finds it, then I've done it'. That's the primary function of creating music, to stay out of place in history a little bit. That's sounds like a massive thing to say. What can we expect from Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard in 2021 - where is the band going, what is the band doing? Just playing as much as possible, there's been such a drought that I find myself fetishising shows in my dreams, just imagining the first gig back and how amazing that is going to be. We've always felt like whenever we've gone on tour, it's never been enough shows, we've never been ready to go home, and we always want to do more. And ideally, we'd be on the road 300 days of the year. For some reason, going on tour is the only time I actually feel like I'm doing work as a musician because all the rest of it is just getting pissed and just playing music with your mates hanging out and being in a band. And getting out on the road is something that actually feels like good honest work, you know? Because I always struggled to justify having a studio and just recording music all day, when there are builders who do manual labour in some really honourable profession, and I'm just always in here playing chords to myself. Just you watch, next time I speak to you, I will have been on tour for like two years straight, just dreaming of another lockdown for some time off. Who would be on your Hype List for next year? There's a band I've been working with in Cardiff called SHLUG, and they haven't released a single song yet, they've got them recorded and ready to go. They've got an online presence which I'm told in this day and age is a really hot thing to have; that vibe that says, "We're online, we don't have any music out yet, but just trust that we're cool". They're like one of the heaviest bands that I've ever heard in my life. I used to play drums in doom rock bands when I was younger, so it kind of fulfils this strange part of me. They're really, really good. Lots of great energy. Whenever things sort themselves out and life sort itself out. There'll be crushing around the UK, no doubt. P

N ALEC WIGDAHL Based in L.A., Alec Wigdahl started his musical journey aged 15 as a form of therapy. Releasing an EP while still at high school and discovered via social media, he's not scared of a personal-buteffective pop bop. Listen to: 'Summer is Over'

N PHOEBE ∆X∆ Greek-Cypriot, Irish, Welsh Londoner Phoebe taught herself to write, record and produce music from her parents garage. A bright pop pioneer, if you work out how to type triangles into your phone, let us know, yeah? Listen to: 'Things'

N LOWERTOWN Freshly signed to Dirty Hit, Olivia Osby and Avsha Weinberg are one of those duos that perfectly can capture a feeling or emotion in a song. Inspired by the likes of Animal Collective and (Sandy) Alex G, they're capable of making a vibe attempted by so many definitively their own. Listen to: ' Best Person You Know'


Two EPs and a debut 'project' down, Omar Apollo is becoming one of the hottest voices of a constantly shifting alt-pop scene. Already having sold out London dates at Heaven and Village Underground, and recording alongside the likes of Dominic Fike and Kali Uchis, honestly, he's probably already arrived. Listen to: 'I'm Amazing'


Something we really enjoy here at Dork, you may have noticed, is when acts are a fun, enthusiastic and not afraid to poke fun at themselves, the world, us anything and everything. One of the acts brightening up many a miserable corner, is Jawny. His upbeat, personality-packed songs are guaranteed to smack a smile on even the glummest of faces. Listen to: 'Honeypie'


Yes, yes, Bow Anderson is a much tipped pop star. But also, when she was 13, she used to be a Team GB competitive trampoliner. Yes, a freak accident made her give up and seek a different path, but she certainly knows how to put a bit of bounce into her bops. These two things are definitely, 100% connected. It's science. Listen to: 'Island' 65.



Hauskey is one of those types who writes, performs, and produces all his own records. Show off. Then again, when you're making the kind of perfect, grovve-heavy, blissful altpop the Perth newcomer is, have at it mate. Listen to: 'Somewhere'


Devon does big guitar bangers. Working with long-time Dork faves Bad Sounds, the Forest of Dean popster is set for a big 2021 from what we've heard on the grapevine. Ooooo, etc. Listen to: 'Why Do We Wake Up? (Before the Good Bit)'


London up-and-comer Kamal. is making waves with his lo-fi, heart-onsleeve pop tunes that weave a slow-down, take-a-minute magic to put a calming spell over even the most hectic of times. Listen to: 'Blue'


Gracie Abrams has a very famous dad, but enough of that - she's also making waves on her own terms. The 20-year-old dropped one of the year's best EPs, 'minor', and has been getting plaudits at every turn. No surprise, when you consider her bittersweet, emotive pop pulls all the right heart strings. Listen to: 'Friend'


Meet the next big things in pop-punk. Photo: Lyndsey Byrne. Let's be honest, the shiny end of rock music can feel stuffy and stuck in the past at times. The same old guys playing the same old songs, before resorting to smashing out something that they used to play on MTV2 in the early 00s to get a reaction. That isn't Meet Me @ The Altar. Not one bit. A band who feel like they could be part of something bigger, better and fresher than anything the genre has managed to turn up in years, 2021 seems like it could be theirs. "TĂŠa and I met on YouTube after she came across a cover


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"Our new music is very mature, you can tell we are growing up" Edith Johnson I did of 'Holding On To You' by twenty one pilots," drummer Ada Juarez starts. "I was 16, and she was 14. She messaged me on Kik, and we became friends immediately! We both wanted to be in a band, and naturally, that's exactly what we did - we started Meet Me @ The Altar. We ended up holding auditions around the same time, and that's how we met Edith - but she didn't join the band for

another two years." It's that kind of energy that permeates their music. Enthusiastic and jammed full of potential, the sense of possibility is palpable. Drawn to the importance of community in pop-punk ("it was so fun to be around back when I was in high school," Ada recalls), they're a band who understand the heritage of their chosen art form. Using their lyrics as a form of therapy, they're not afraid to be honest in their music. "We write about what we are feeling at the moment, which can be sad, or happy," vocalist Edith Johnson enthuses. "There is so much beauty in honesty and vulnerability, especially in music." With peers falling over

themselves to get onboard their hype train (both Alex Gaskarth from All Time Low and Dan Campbell from The Wonder Years have tweeted about the trio), there have been some definite career goals along the way. They're already one of the first recipients of Halsey's Black Creators Fund and have signed to Fuelled By Ramen - a label responsible for so many iconic bands. There's new music planned for 2021 ("it's the best stuff we've written so far.... You can tell we are growing up"), but really, they're just eager to get back on the road. "If I could check anything off my bucket list during the next 12 months, it would be going on loads of huge tours." Edith hopes. You and us both. P

Liverpool based performer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and total clever pants Pixey has spent the back end of 2020 dropping 90s influenced bops that add a shimmery sheen to even this darkest of years. Deciding to go big on music after a near fatal viral illness in early 2016, she learned to record, play guitar, drums and bass and carved out a sound pulling on all the right influences. Early days, perhaps, but consider this Dork's strongest recommendation possible. Listen to: 'Just Move'


Joesef has been racking up the tips for a while now, but this year's EP 'Does It Make You Feel Good' has seen the rising Scottish star find a catchy yet impactful groove. Collaborating with the likes of Loyle Carner won't do any harm either. Listen to: 'Does It Make You Feel Good'




Growing up in a digital world where the idea of sticking to any singular genre seems somewhat quaint, KennyHoopla's influences are wide and varied, but his music is singularly awesome. Able to cross the streams at will - mostly because he's not even trying to - he manages to juxtapose the bleak and uplifting in a way that connects to basically everyone. Listen to: 'plastic door//'


ROLE MODEL - or Tucker Pillsbury to his parents - is one of those alt-popsters that feels like they've probably seen all the answers beforehand. Born and raised in Portland, he grew up skiing and skating before heading off to film school. While he might have hated it, it led him to music. The rest is Really Very Exciting history. Listen to: 'blind'


Yes, Grace Christian, aka mazie, does bedroom pop. Yes, it has sad lyrics and happy vibes. Yes, we've seen those things before. But actually, maybe not. With an intrinsic appreciation of pop culture (she used to run a semi-successful 1D fan account, apparently), there's something about mazie. Listen to: 'no friends'

London-based, Irish popster Biig Piig is currently hard at work on a debut album after an especially buzzy 2020.

music the last couple years but as for an album I’m still trying to work out what that means for me. I’ve got ideas for a project though 100% next year

Zach Nahome, JD Reid, Luca Buccellati I’ve been working with a lot recently; we’ve found our process and it just comes so easy with those guys.

The buzz around Biig Piig is nothing new. With a string of brilliant singles over the last twelve months, including the glorious 'Switch' and possibly even more impressive 'Don't Turn Around - Jess Smyth's star is in the ascent. Part of the fast rising NiNE8 collective, with a debut project to follow, 2021 looks like it'll be even bigger.

How's work on the album going? Has the downtime allowed you to work more on it than you might otherwise? I work in studios around London, usually the same one in Brixton which is close enough to where I live. During lockdown I wasn’t writing at all really to be honest. I was just in a bit of a pause period, staring out the window trying to understand what was happening to the world. But once the lockdown was eased the first time we were able to go back into session with guidelines, I think next lockdown I’m gonna start making more from home tho. I wanna be able to be selfsufficient like that.

Have you been able to do much with NiNE8, given all the restrictions? Has remote collaboration been an option? Yeah! We were lucky cause we had a full two weeks in the studio making music before lockdown 1 came in so we made two tapes, one we dropped recently and the next incoming. I really missed them during lockdown, you forget how much you need people round ya, but yeah, we’ve got a whole lot ready to drop. It’s exciting.

How are you? This year has been tough. You okay? I’m alrighty! Thanks for asking, it’s been a strange one this year man, but we’ve our health and that’s the main thing.


Growing up, Master Peace claims he was more likely to hear Simply Red playing in the house than Tupac. The poor blighter. Still, it's done him well. Blurring genres between hip-hop, r&b and indie, he's a magpie that's able to create music that feels real and authentic, but never trite or preachy. Listen to: 'Eyes on You'

At the end of last year, so many acts were set up to make their big push in 2020, then obviously music sort of stopped. Have you seen the last few months as a pause to plans already set, or an opportunity to create and reset? Sooo I’ve been making lots of

At the start of lockdown you said you've been experimenting with various producers in the studio. How's that gone? Yeah it was good! I’ve found my fave producers to work with now I think.

While tip lists and awards might be all very well, you've already scored the ultimate prize - getting a track on the FIFA 21 soundtrack. It's a weirdly big thing in pop culture, have you seen more people finding your music through it who might otherwise not have come across it? Yeah 100% I’ve had a lot of lovely messages from people that have heard it by playing

the game. A lot of “Biig Piig lol what is that name but this track slapssss”, haha. Do you have much in the diary for 2021 yet, or is it hard to plan with so much uncertainty? I’ve got a lot of plans for 2021 for releases, as for shows though I’ve a plan but we’re just going to have to wait and see if it’ll be allowed. If it is though I think it’ll be really special the way I’m planning to do - it it’ll be more of an experience than any live shows I’ve done in the past In the name of positivity what's the single best thing that's happened to you in the past year? Trump got fired yesterday, lol - that was a highlight for sure. Otherwise, I’m starting to really get to know myself again. This year has put so many things in perspective, and coming out the end of it I’ve started to value time on my own with my thoughts and people I hold dear. This year has made me so much more grateful for my life and my health and my age and my friends and a whole lot of stuff. So I’m thankful for that. P 67.



ALFIE TEMPLEMAN Round these parts, Alfie Templeman is already pure A-list material. Over the next twelve months, expect the same to become true everywhere else. What a year for the Boy Wonder. Our Alfie hasn't even turned 18 yet, but in 2020 he dropped a 5-star fourth EP, the magnificent 'Happiness in

68. DORK

Liquid Form', landed his first Dork cover, and finished up by dropping two blinding new tracks, 'Forever Isn't Long Enough' and 'Shady'. If we'll get a debut full-length in 2021 remains to be seen, but there are few artists with as much pure potential as Templeman. Gradually building momentum - something that's sure to make him score a whole load more tips as we go into the new year - he's already a star. Just wait for him to go supernova.

GIRL IN RED Marie may have had a quieter year than we expected, but that only suggests 2021 is going to be nothing short of huge. This time last year, girl in red was on the cover of Dork. At that point, it's fair to say we had expected a debut album to come at some point over the next twelve months. There's no sign yet, but as the year ticks over, it's certainly imminent. You never know, we might even have news about it before we tuck into our Xmas dinner. When it arrives, expect an already-fevered fanbase to explode. We all know the groundwork is strong, but girl in red is more than just another new act. She's very, very special indeed.


ARLO PARKS Quite possibly the first super exciting debut album of 2021, Arlo is about to make waves.

Yep, there's an actual confirmed release date for former Dork cover-star Arlo Parks' debut album. It’s called ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ and will follow up on a triumphant 2020 when it arrives in January. Yep, that soon! “My album is a series of vignettes and intimate portraits surrounding my adolescence and the people that shaped it,” Arlo explains. “It is rooted in storytelling and nostalgia – I want it to feel both universal and hyper specific.” So there you go, then.


Dry Cleaning - now signed to legendary label 4AD - sit at the perfect point between critical acclaim and having-a-jolly-goodtime. With their recent single 'Scratchcard Lanyard' just released, news of their debut album should follow very soon indeed. When it comes, expect to be charmed, challenged, informed and engaged in equal measure. Not many bands can say that, huh?


We've not had that album yet, but it's coming - and it'll be huge.

When we put Ireland’s next supermassive band on the cover of Dork this time last year, we expected big things. Actually, we sort of expected a debut album by now. Bloody pandemic. Frontman Elijah Hewson told Spin the record was “about 40 percent done” before lockdown hit, with a clarification “the last 10 percent takes 90 percent of the time.” That was back in May. You’ll have to do the pop maths yourself, but a press release for their latest single ‘When It Breaks’ did say they’ve now finished work, and the album will be with us early in 2021.


22-year-old Phoebe Green definitely has pop potential. Already running up the radio playlists and tip lists in 2020, she's even had a nod of appreciation from Billie bloody Eilish. With her new EP 'I Can't Cry For You' dropping before year's end - spoiler, you'll find a 5-star review over the page - she's showing no signs of slowing down yet. 69.


Yungblud weird!

eeeef Gigantic, rebellious pop from an artist determined to make a statement on the widest stage possible. It's safe to say that YUNGBLUD's ascent to crown prince of weirdo pop hasn't always been expected. Arriving as what appeared to be a frustrated indie kid, not quite sure who he wanted to be or what his potential could lead to, those days are long, long behind us. Second album 'weird!' is poprock on the grandest, widest of stages. An inclusive carrion call to a disenfranchised generation, striding proud in the footsteps of era-defining bands who came before. Brash, inventive, confident pop music that stands proud and speaks true, every inch drips with pure theatre. 'super dead friends' sounds like the Beastie Boys snotty punk projected through a prism of 'Danger Days'-era My Chemical Romance, while 'cotton candy' is every inch the radio-friendly pop gem. In the quieter moments - the heartfelt, more introspective 'love song' - the deeply personal becomes a resonating force; identifiable desires laid bare. Crossing the lanes at will, it's a genre-free journey that manages to span both counter and mainstream cultures with ease. In 2020, YUNGBLUD is less a confused newcomer and more a ringleader to the greatest show in town. A circus where he performs every act and the final, showstopping number, it's less about individual sounds and more about the emotion contained within. 'weird!' is an album which inspires one of the strongest of all - true belief. Stephen Ackroyd


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ming Nilüfer Yanya



Riding high off her excellent full-length debut, 2019's 'Miss Universe', Nilüfer Yanya returns with a smaller, more focused EP that's no less accomplished. What makes her such a talent, and this EP such a strong reminder of her songwriting ability is that each of the three songs here feels ambitious, without ever sacrificing the charm of a catchy hook. Whether harmonising effortlessly with herself, or contrasting her high-pitched vocals with a sharp-toothed guitar riff, Yanya always feels effortlessly in control. Blaise Radley

PVA have packed their dance-punk ala LCD Soundsystem-on-MDMA formula into an easy to swallow yet hard-hitting, two-sided EP. 'Talks' is a back-and-forth dialogue about the fear of getting hurt. Accompanied by two remixes, Lynks' reworking dares to drag you to the dancefloor, while Mura Masa's is a climatic mix. 'Sleek Form' meanwhile encapsulates the ethereal alien rave experience, and 'Exhaust/Surroundings' consumes what's left of the night with dopey, worn-out beats. London's best new-wave dance formation has emerged. Aleksandra Brzezicka

Explosive is the name of the game when it comes to FLOHIO, and her new mixtape, 'No Panic No Pain' is no exception; it sees the rapper virtually aflame. The sound is constantly evolving and expanding in different directions, and it's hard not to feel caught up in each twist and turn. The titular track sees FLOHIO insist on the need for "more hype, more rage" - but her mixtape provides exactly that. It's a mission in unfiltered, turbulent energy, and one that cements FLOHIO as one of the most exciting names in music right now. Neive McCarthy

Feeling Lucky? eeeef

Laura Groves A Private Road eeeef

Five years since the release of her last project, and Laura Groves has returned with her best work yet. Largely selfproduced, 'A Private Road' is a glittering expanse of celestial soundscapes; each song she conjures is a heavenly entity. The songwriting is subtle yet effective as she retraces memories and pinpoints the sharpest emotions, smoothing their edges into something gentler. While the production is up in space, her lyrics are firmly rooted in the ground; explicitly human and beautifully sincere, tender enough to heal all wounds. Jay Singh

Toner eeeee

QuarterLife Crisis

Quarter-Life Crisis


Quarter-Life Crisis feels like one big reflection on love, life, and everything in between. With his debut EP, Ryan Hemsworth collaborates with a handful of brilliant and budding talents to create something that transports listeners to a dreamlike world filled with the most human of feelings. It opens with the nostalgic ‘Waterfall’, which sounds like it was pulled straight from an early 2000s coming of age movie and perfectly sets the tone for what lies ahead. Every song pulls on a different heartstring, with the bittersweet voice of Frances Quinlan, the childhood sweetheart-like innocence of Claud’s lyrics and the serene melody of 'Stars', featuring Yohuna, combining to make something that feels very much of this moment, while embodying the universal feeling of yearning that will exist forever. It's a refreshing and unique EP, with the personality of each artist seeping through to create something personal and intimate for a vulnerable, accomplished journey. Beth Lindsay


Yore eeeef Emerging from trendy East London space Vicious Collective, Callum Brown AKA Yore brings us a slick self-titled debut with collaboration at its core - including turns with Mellah, Nuha Ruby Ra, and Rakel from Dream Wife. Co-produced by fellow Ulrika Spacek veteran Syd Kemp, the pair have created an impressively cohesive album. Dreamy, almost psychedelic feelings feature alongside grungy tones, the real hook though is in the detail, with chordal riffs cutting through dreamy vocals and lo-fi ambiance to create something truly special. Melissa Darragh

No Panic No Pain eeeef

Rosehip Teahouse Fine eeeef

Dream pop newcomers Rosehip Teahouse arrived onto the Cardiff scene like Glinda the Good Witch in her sparkling pink bubble, bringing with them perfect twinkling lullaby pop to calm the psyche. 'Fine' is packed full of twee, cinematic landscapes to match their name, their music just as redolent of gingham pinafores and flower gardens. Listening to the EP is like falling down the rabbit hole with Alice, singer Faye Roger's effervescent vocals projected onto layers of sound. This is an EP to float in, maybe even to drown in. Edie McQueen


Hey u x eeeef On the surface, New Zealand tends to punch above its population-based weight when it comes to smart, shiny pop music. And while that perception may, in part, be based around the might of Lorde, it's not entirely ridiculous to consider BENEE the next most likely to make that interstellar jump. Crafting smart, bright, bedroom bops, she's already shown a talent for creating megahits. There's much more to debut album 'Hey u x' than TikTok-fueled smash 'Supalonely', though, and BENEE is no social media flash in the pan. From weird but wonderful follow-up 'Snail' to the laconically bewitching 'Kool', there are standout moments aplenty. All-star team-ups too - Grimes-assist 'Sheesh' providing a nod to 90s house which adequately makes up for the fact 'Plain', featuring queen of sardonic pop Lily Allen and Atlanta rapper Flo Milli, is actually - good song as it is - a little mean when you think about it. BENEE's potential is huge, and, as an opening gambit, 'Hey u x' sets the scene perfectly. Stephen Ackroyd


Beabadoobee Fake It Flowers

Potential realised, Beabadoobee's debut is exactly the bubblegrunge masterpiece expected of her.

iDKHOW Razzmatazz

Dallon Weekes is a master showman, and iDKHOW are an alt-pop sensation no-longer in waiting.

Marika Hackman Covers

A record that both breathes new life and provides more than the odd dead-in-your-tracks moment.

Laundromat Green eeeff

Green often symbolises new beginnings, and in a year so full of change yet somehow so mundanely repetitive, new beginnings often bring a refreshing break. In the case of Brighton’s Tony Hayes AKA Laundromat, his new EP does just that. Following on from previous EP ‘Blue’ earlier in the year, ‘Green’ brings a similar bedroom-recording-esque charm, coupled with selfdeprecating lyrics and resolving basslines to create an everyman album with a bit of edge. This is an EP that can really hit home without taking itself too seriously. Melissa Darragh

Grand Pax Wavey eeeef

Grand Pax is following up her debut EP with another genre-fluid success story that utilises understated production and an untraditional vocal performance to provide 9 minutes and 31 seconds of bliss that would be a perfect soundtrack for a quiet sunset. Thematically exploring movement, ‘Wavey’ embraces this fully through vivid yet warped synths and production that mean the soundscape never stays still quite long enough for you to focus on it. It's almost like a dream, simultaneously providing both euphoria and intrigue. Finlay Holden 71.




Classical Notions Of Happiness eeeef Separating her debut album into two halves, Jordana's '... To You' EP doesn't just finish the sentence 'Something To Say' started, but actively responds to it. The beauty of splitting a release is the structure it brings; in this case, Jordana divides the two parts by both mood and subject matter. 'Something To Say' is selfreflective and thoughtful, whereas '…To You' speaks to self-empowerment. The relatability of this record lies in the raw honesty Jordana exposes in her songwriting; opening up about personal battles and relationship struggles. Not only does she push boundaries of bedroom pop, with a new wave 90s influence and the addition of cinematic strings, but she pushes her own boundaries, too. Phoebe De Angelis

The Avalanches We Will Always Love You eeeff

Never shy of an ambitious project, The Avalanches have delivered a conceptual album beaming full of romanticism but set in outer space. We know what you're thinking (sexy aliens, right?), but there's less of the supernatural here and more of the human. In true Avalanches fashion - and with the help of an all-star list of guests - the album is jam-packed with state of the art technogadgets, from visualisers to stimulate multiple senses, to exploring the relationship between light, sound and spirit in hope to answer: "Who are we really? What happens when we die?" Basically, this is the Professor Brian Cox of albums. Phoebe De Angelis

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Are You In My Head eeeef Caro



Encompassing an expansive, spacey sound, diversely witty lyrics and a folkloric aspect that's highly intriguing, 'Burrows' is the debut album from Caro. 'Fall Apart' is a particularly delicious track to uncover, with quirky, amusing lyrics ("a penny for your thoughts / a pound for your anxiety"), and a post-pop, danceable sound that is entirely at odds with the colourful subject matter. Insistent but childlike percussion mixed with soft vocals, it is over before you've really uncovered the core of the track, shifting from under your feet like water. 'Form A Line' is completely different, a pertinent reflection on what goes on in a dictator's head. Single 'Cat's Pyjamas' is another standout, with Morrisey-levels of self-destructiveness wrapped up in casually addictive sonics. Closing track 'Figure Me Out' is more hardhitting, despite being lyrically softer around the edges. Honest without being overpowering, this track is Caro's debut at its best: whimsically sad, full of kookiness and an intense poetic nostalgia that is only amplified by the band's playful sonic exploration and frontman Adam Pardey's soft, searching vocals. 'Burrows' is full of hidden shadowy figures - it's seductive to explore Caro's eerie joviality throughout, and it's hard not to get stuck in their deserted, but magical, fairground. Chloe Johnson

There's something about the way VIJI perfectly blends a modern grunge vocal with glittering synths that takes all the grit out but maintains its nonchalant attitude. Remnants of Blink-182 and Avril Lavigne flash to the surface, which she carefully weaves into her own e-girl sensibility. She plays with classic 90s tropes of being rebellious and getting busted, but her tone goes deeper, embodying an angsty teen persona. It's the title-track that packs the biggest punch, moodily uttering "I don't wanna watch game shows on the fucking couch" before rebuilding to finally admit, "because I like you, and you like me too, so let's fuck with it". VIJI's way too cool for school; Courtney Love would be proud. Phoebe De Angelis

Matilda Mann

Because I Wanted You To Know eeeef Opening with the happy-go-lucky 'Happy Anniversary, Stranger', which tells a tale of love at first sight, Matilda Mann induces all the excitement of a protagonist filled with butterflies as she coyly says, "Maybe if you'd like to, I think we should talk soon." Riding the rollercoaster of emotions that love is, the shift in emotion to 'Robbed' is so sudden that Mann barely has time to check in before sending her listener off on this heartsick ride. 'As It Is' is the "Que Sera Sera" of the EP as mournfulness is swapped for acceptance, while 'Japan' sees the 20-year-old daydreaming of being able to fly away to get over someone. If only it were that easy, aye. Phoebe De Angelis


Death of an Optimist eeeef grandson’s debut album is, according to its creator, “both an origin story and an obituary”. That’s not where the juxtapositions end, either. A record that broods in bright strokes, it often manages to combine nervous, twitching energy and panoramic, open horizons within the same song. A genre-shifting beast, darkness and light sit side by side. From the fizzing, anxiety ridden alt-pop of ‘In Over My Head’ to the sharp edged, hard hitting ‘Identity’, there’s no territory grandson deems off limits. ‘Dirty’ swaggers with snotty, brat pack confidence, while ‘We Did It!!’ stomps with a terminal velocity that earns both its exclamation points. Two distinct characters wrapped in one perfect package, ‘Death of an Optimist’ is a sweet and sour double hit that’s sure to hit the mark. Stephen Ackroyd

All Things Blue


Exit Kid

Mirroring the highs and lows - well, mostly lows - of 2020, the debut from laidback Californian indie rockers All Things Blue flits through everchanging subject matter, moving from optimism and positivity to tones of seriousness and despair. Throughout, the theme remains fixed: "Where's my mind? I don't know." There's something cathartic in the structure, which is, in the best way, all over the place. 'Get Bit' sonically tries to make sense of all the disparate parts of life which flash before our eyes and ears, dancing between genres; the transitions between the gritty and the glittery are seamless. It's an invitation to feel, and come out the other side having learnt something. Phoebe De Angelis

Sody’s EP, ‘real growth takes time’, is a dazzling array of effervescent pop, suitably modern tinged with moments of more classic piano balladry. The teenager is precociously talented, despite threatening to quit music aged 12 after she didn’t win Teen Star. This fire to be the best has fuelled her in her fast rise upwards. The EP’s title is a lyric taken from the opening track ‘Butterfly’, the central image of slow transformation exemplifying the considered and thoughtful lyricism that’s threaded throughout. The track alternates between a wilful boldness and a breath-taking vulnerability. This is pleasing pop from a future chart-topper, and a timely reminder to make time to be gentle. Edie McQueen

Exit Kid, the grungier offshoot of Years & Years, are back with new EP, 'Garden', a five-track effort offering up grimy pop layered over thundering guitars. Three years since Emre Türkman joined forces with Dylan Bell, the duo's second EP sees them cast off the dreamier shades of their debut, focusing in instead on the growling bass tones and heavier aspects of their noisy rock inspired outputs. Rife with frustration and anxiety, a resolution that isn't quite there, there's a certain disquiet lurking in the way that the tinkling piano abruptly cuts out at the end. It's an EP that works out its frustration in feverish pop turns and frenetic guitar solos, one to echo the growing itch that our dormancy can't keep going much longer. Edie McQueen

Get Bit eeeff

real growth takes time eeeef

Lowertown Honeybomb, Bedbug eeeef

Atlanta newcomers Lowertown are a band who understand texture. Teenage duo Olivia Osby and Avsha Weinberg's debut EP 'Honeycomb, Bedbug' has that scrappy sense of cool that often feels the result of several faux-retro filters. Not here, though. There's an honesty to opening track 'Best Person You Know' that drips with the right kind of authenticity. Not so overtly wrought it becomes Real Music First nonsense, it possesses a more relaxed sense of what it wants to be. Entirely self-produced by Weinberg, Osby's vocals have that mildly angsty, frustrated but effortless edge that drifts with casual intent. Never knowingly trying too hard, Lowertown arrive perfectly formed. A true gem. Stephen Ackroyd

Garden eeeff

Sundara Karma Kill Me eeeef

Sundara Karma have never been a band to stand still. Though they may have started with a debut album that felt reasonably easy to slot into a defined box, since then they've done nothing but defy expectations at every turn. With new EP 'Kill Me', the Reading quartet have taken the foundations set by second full-length 'Ulfila's Alphabet' and sent them into hyperspace. Teaming up with future popster Hannah Diamond on creative direction, and harnessing the production talents of Clarance Clarity, it's a collection of tracks that sends Sundara streaming into the starlight. Album three should be exciting to say the least. Stephen Ackroyd


Oscar Lang


Olivia Dean

Oscar Lang may only be 20 years old, but his musical heritage sounds far, far more developed. On latest collection 'Antidote To Being Bored' there's a sense of indie swagger that could come straight out of the Gallagher handbook, but without any of the toxic undertones. Already fast becoming the glue that sticks a whole scene together (Oscar has collaborated as a producer and co-writer with the likes of Sports Team, Alfie Templeman and girl in red, dontcha know), it's while standing on his own two feet that his influence is really starting to shine through. From an opening title track that blasts through the front doors to the swirling, psychedelic indie of 'That Wasn't What I Said', this is bedroom pop with a mezzanine floor. Stephen Ackroyd

During this disjointed year, Dizzy made the most of their downtime, taking to sharing covers on YouTube. And so, their resulting 'Basement Covers' EP does what it says on the tin: covers, recorded in their basement. Simple yet effective, guys - we dig it. The most abstract cover here is 'This Must Be The Place' by Talking Heads, where they strip the song back to its bare bones, making it almost unrecognisable as they add an eerie overtone to the cult classic. Collecting their favourite songs across genres and putting a twist on their most beloved tracks, ranging from The National ('Light Years') to Britney Spears ('Lucky'), Dizzy have made a series of staples sound as though they've always been theirs. Phoebe De Angelis

Gen-Z's hopeless romantic Olivia Dean explores the multifaceted emotions experienced through a relationship, and more specifically in its downfall and eventual break-up, on this four-track EP, following a successful year of releases for the rising London-based star. Her personality shines through smart lyricisms and soulful tones that are balanced perfectly by producer Felix Joseph. This EP is coherent and consistent, displaying effortless vocals and production that brings the emotion of Dean's experiences to the forefront of the gorgeous soundscape. This release sets a very high standard for herself and anyone in the same space, inspiring high hopes for her future career. Finlay Holden

Antidote to Being Bored eeeef

The Dirty Nil Fuck Art eeeff

Described in its own associated press gubbins as "pure quarantine-core", The Dirty Nil are letting off some frustrations. That's not to say 'Fuck Art' is an album full of the subject matters that have dominated the last year. Concerned with those old classics of anxiety, getting older and struggling with the dysfunctional relationships around us, it's the recording process which turns it into a work of our time. Laid down in part in a panic before borders and studios closed, then remotely under challenging conditions, it adds a particular high-pressure fission to a full-length already packed with nervous energy. Like 90s college rock injected with pure punk urgency, art is subjective, but even wry enthusiasm is infectious. Dan Harrison

Basement Covers eeeef

Baby Queen Medicine

eeeee Planet Pop, prepare to meet your latest icon in waiting. What makes a pop star? It's a concept that's thrown around freely. Still, there's a difference between merely any musician you might be able to pull out of a line-up and a real celestial force. It's not about the number of zeros on the end of a record contract, or the volume of streams delivered a month. It's about attitude, personality and a certain 'je ne sais quoi' that eludes the pack. It's action, it's drama, it's being able to gracefully weave a whole universe around a few songs. Baby Queen is 100% a pop star. In the six months since her fizzing, attention-grabbing first single 'Internet Religion' arrived, Bella Latham has established a character that emits pure pop energy. Able to bait and switch between different aspects at will, she packs both a unique, defined identity and the ability to project that visage through subtly different prisms. Baby Queen is fresh, engaged and plugged-in, but also at times achingly cool, gloriously silly, deliberately brash or delicately subtle. Sometimes, she's everything at once - and it's brilliant. Her debut collection 'Medicine' has a Big Pop Bangers Only door policy - and when we say big, we're talking gargantuan. Pulling subjects from the zeitgeist, from mental health to social media burnout and bullshit, Latham manages to be a sneering satirist and a wide-eyed dreamer within the same cutting phrase. Knowing yet innocent, it never once comes across as cynical or angry for the sake of it. Take the grunge-pop party

burnout anthem 'Buzzkill'. Dripping with social anxiety, it's dry and self-aware, but also juxtaposes with day-glo energy round the edges. While the words cut close to the bone, they're never delivered in a way which feels deliberately performative. They're real emotions, raw and unedited, but also inclusive and hopeful too. 'Want Me', a hundred-mile-anhour fever dream about infatuation from afar, may be written about Killing Eve's Jodie Comer, but beneath that there's far more going on. Ridden with subtle insecurities, it's a supercharged version of Wolf Alice's 'Don't Delete The Kisses', dusted with coloured sherbet and wrapped in liquorice straws. 'Pretty Girl Lie', on the other hand, deals with identity in the social media age. "I get more likes when I don't look like me," Latham opines, not so much as a pitying moan, but more a self-accepting assessment of where we're at. While the digital world may not be as real as we think, there's an authenticity to Baby Queen's lyrics that cut through the bullshit. Each of these individual moments hangs together perfectly, clashing and complementing in either measure. Every one is a window into Latham's brilliant mind, cast in an indefinable magical light. Any artist coming out of the blocks with such big, bright vision risks appearing forced - of trying too hard to make it stick - but that's never once true here. Pop stars aren't really made, they arrive. Roll out the red carpet and clear the way - the era of Baby Queen is coming up fast. Stephen Ackroyd

Tayla Parx Coping Mechanisms eeeef

There's an undeniable funkiness to Tayla Parx's work that never fails to instantly invest you in a track, but there's more to it than a catchiness; Parx deploys clever writing that ranges from heartfelt tenderness to a witty sorry-not-sorry charm. Whether she's unabashedly eyeing someone up in 'Stare' or counting her cash in 'Bricks', you can't help but admire the debonair that she flaunts in her lyricism. Each track features some musical surprise, leaving you excited for what the next banger may have hidden within. There's no doubt that 'Coping Mechanisms' will provide more than you expect, and at least one track will find its way onto your playlist. It's music made for feeling good, and it does just that. Connor Fenton

What Am I Gonna Do On Sundays? eeeee

Phoebe Green

I Can't Cry For You eeeee At twenty-two years old, Phoebe Green has her finger firmly on the pulse of her generation’s anxieties and insecurities. ‘I Can’t Cry For You’ is a testament to owning your imperfections and accepting them as a part of yourself, a lesson which is accented by churning pop beats along with Green’s haunting vocals. There’s an honesty to these tracks, each of them highlighting faults that listeners can’t help but relate to. Whether it’s her constant struggle for perfection in ‘Golden Girl’ or her insatiable longing to fit in with ‘Reinvent’, she lays her cards on the table to ensure we get to the heart of every sentiment. If you’re looking for selfacceptance in the form of music, look no further. Connor Fenton 73.

This month, it's...

Phoebe Green Yes, Dear Reader. We enjoy those ‘in depth’ interviews as much as anyone else. But - BUT - we also enjoy the lighter side of music, too. We simply cannot go on any longer without knowing if Phoebe Green owns any Christmas jumpers. So we asked her. See?

you choose? Mammoths.

What did you last dream about? I had a really awful cooking show with my sister! We're actually good cooks, but we got too anxious and repeatedly fucked it.

What's the greatest Christmas film of all time? 'Love Actually' for sure.

What would you most like to find in your Christmas stocking? Granny knickers. Love em. Do you believe in aliens? 100%. What's the best part of a roast dinner? Gravy, if it's good gravy. What do you put on the top of your Christmas tree? A weird knitted angel, I'm not entirely sure where it came from. If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would

What's your favourite Christmas cracker joke? One dad tells every year about a guy going to the doctor saying he has a mince pie up his arse and the doctor says, "I've got some cream for that!" How tall are you? 5'6.5".

What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you? There are so many things running through my mind right now that I truly cannot bring myself to mention. If we gave you £10, what would you spend it on? One drink if I was in London, two if I was up North. What's the best thing you've ever won on a tombola? Fuck all, I've never won anything! What is your most treasured possession? A locket my mum and dad got me that I'm too scared to wear in

Down With Boring. 74. DORK

case I lose it. Have you ever been Christmas carolling? Yep. What's your biggest fear? Wasting my life away and never fully becoming the person I want to be. What is the best present you've ever been given? My mates all chipped in and took me to Berlin once, that was definitely up there. Have you ever been thrown out of somewhere? Yep.

What's your breakfast of choice? Chocolate Weetabix with banana and a spoonful of peanut butter. Microwaved for exactly a minute. Banging. How punk are you out of ten? I'd say a good 6.5. Who were you in your school's nativity play? The angel, multiple years in a row. Do you own any Christmas jumpers? Yep, light up ones. What was the last thing you

The week in music. Dork Radio. 8pm. Every Monday.

broke? Most likely an egg... Are you good at wrapping presents? Horrendous, but I put a lot of effort in. What do you always have in your refrigerator? Pepsi max. What's top of your bucket list for 2021? Go on tour! Phoebe Green's debut EP 'I Can't Cry For You' is out 3rd December. Search ‘DorkCast’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify & more.



Ambitions (EP)

Be Mine (EP)

6 November 2020

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27 November 2020