Vibrations Magazine Leeds and West Yorkshire September 2013 Free
05 Editorial 06
22 Beacons 24
Vibrations is Editor Rob Wright - firstname.lastname@example.org Design Ben McKean & Niall Hargrave email@example.com Picture Editor Bart Pettman - bart @vibrations.org.uk Reviews Editor Steve Walsh - firstname.lastname@example.org Live Editor Tim Hearson - email@example.com Web Editor Ellie Treagust - firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributors Bart Pettman, Rob Wright, Neil Dawson, Rochelle Massey, Kate Wellham, Paul Whiteley, Kate Wellham, Steve Walsh, Mike Price, Sean McGeady, Cactus, Rosie Ramsden, Glen Pinder, Mat Forrest, Amy Walker, Oscar Gregg, Tim Hearson Cover Photograph Leeds Festival by Bart Pettman The Search Vibrations is looking for Advertisers - 2000 magazines seen by music lovers across Leeds. Contact email@example.com Writers, Photographers, Artists and Sub editors - Come be a part of it, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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Editorial Hello, Vibrators old and new,
Yes, Leeds still has the independent spirit – with Nathan walking around the Brudenell Social Club sipping tea and enjoying the general ambience, it is, as my wife pointed out, as if he were having these amazing gigs in his front room. The Cockpit and Futuresound is still representing far more than the run of the mill and doing it for all the right reasons – I mean, it is not such a rare event in Leeds to go to a gig where you will get three very strong acts for a very reasonable price. And the pledge system continues to be a benefit to the Leeds music scene, with the recent Hawk Eyes EP getting four Ks in Kerrang. It really is a sweet deal. So it is nice to feature two of Leeds’ most stalwart independent individuals in this issue, Mark Sturdy and Andy Abbott. But there’s still a thing.
Now, where am I going with this? I often ask myself that. No, got it – we need new blood too. New writers, new photographers... people who’ve fancied trying something like this but always thought ‘nah, couldn’t do that.’ Let me tell you, people, that’s where we all started. So, if you love music and fancy expressing your love in some way that won’t result in your arrest... get in touch. We’d love to hear from you... and I really am getting too old for this shit...
Words by Robert Wright
I must say, I was getting a bit fed up with festivals this year, solely based on the footage of toffs at Glastonbury and Latitude, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get excited by Leeds fest every year, regardless of the line up. What I will say, however, is how proud I am that the smaller, independent festivals are really stepping up. Beacons has had the best line-up ever, Bingley looks like being an utter blast and Live at Leeds for next year... well, let’s just say I’m excited. It seems that keeping it independent really is the key, as I have had on the ground reports that The Great Escape has been ruined by big money and big money grubbing – charging extra for big venues is just not cricket, and it just alienates your audience.
Here’s the thing. I had a very candid, very revealing and at times touching interview with Vibrations founders Tony Wilby and Jack Simpson (the full interview will be in our tenth anniversary issue) and the one thing they wanted to know was: where is the new blood? To which I say: all around, just waiting to be found. Even though I am hardly a young man anymore and get out rarely, I still get out enough to witness new and exciting bands coming up, artists and photographers making beautiful objects, promoters taking hits left right and centre just to get the new stuff out there – these are exciting times we’re living in. Just check out Happy Daggers to reassure yourself.
Soon to be tir-Ed, Aug 2013
Welcome to this year’s big festival issue! It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago that I was pulling my two man tent out of deep storage, evicting the woodlice from my big boots and wondering how few clothes I can take (as that takes up valuable booze space) – one of these days I am going to just pack a wimple and that will be it. Be warned.
Ah, Leeds Festival 2013... what a blast. Three and a half days of rock bands, food stands, teens unleashed and more mud than a seventies glam rock compilation. Mostly highs, a few lows (mainly the price of food, booze, the weather and the mud, all of which are in the hands of the gods and the organizers. Same thing really), this year’s festival had something for everyone, and that something was trench foot. Ho. Just kidding. I’m talking about the music of course! Sheesh. Rob Wright went to the Somme of the North for your delectation...
After last year’s frankly disappointing line up, I was genuinely excited about this year’s Leeds heavy (and I do mean heavy) Dance To The Radio night, culminating in Marple’s Dutch Uncles. Opening events are Leeds’ very own Menace Beach. An intriguing mix of Pixies indie, Horrors goth, Belle and Sebastien twee and Nestor’s gurn, they woo the wandering masses with their catchy groove. By the time they are done, the crowd are thoroughly warmed up for the ensuing moth attack, and what an attack it is! Harriet conducts the mayhem in reassuring home service tones, while Jim and the boys unleash riffs to die for. The crowd reacts feverishly, moshing up a fury and loving every minute. Almost as much as Black Moth themselves. Totally awesome scenes. Still feeling up for it, the crowd continue to show the love for Sheffield’s Crookes who make a noise not unlike Maximo Park, but with a splash of Paul McCartney and Buddy Holly for good measure. Really. Epic indie of a lively persuasion. It’s about then that things start to go wrong, weather wise. The skies open, rent by lightning, as Hookworms’ drone shake the clouds apart. Noise and drone, My Bloody Valentine and Hawkwind; not the most accessible of music, but the fragmenting crowd seems to like it... at least those that can find shelter. Really in your face, as is the weather, which is why, just prior to Dutch Uncles playing their set, health and safety call time on the night and close the arena. Looking around, it is not a surprise as only 30 or so stalwarts remain, surrounded by the rising waters. A disappointing end to an otherwise breathtaking night.
Somehow I make it through the night. Don’t ask how. So does the arena, which is surprisingly clean and clear after the deluge. The first few timid souls have gathered at the Festival Republic stage to witness Futuresound winners Battle Lines open the festival proper. A throbbing, moody bass greets the early risers as the band cast a tremulous electronic gothic
spell. It is entrancing. Watching Carly and her bandmates reminds me of watching a band who graced this stage many moons ago, called The XX. Can lightning strike the same place twice? I have to make tracks quite sharpish to catch the end of Leeds alumni Dinosaur Pile Up open the Radio 1 stage. They are more stoner, more sturdy now, and ‘Nature Nurture’ is a proper festival thumper... but that Matt Bigland is looking very Seattle these days – let’s just leave it at that, and head over to see Hawk Eyes’ homecoming gig on the newly relocated rock/lock up stage. It’s a small crowd but it grows as the boys from the Hawk rack up some proper classics – ‘I Hate This’ and ‘Witch Hunt’ sounding amazing in the enclosed space. Naturally there’s a circle pit. Black clad and full on, there’s a reason SOAD took them on tour; because they fucking rock. In the shoe horned link to beat all shoe horned links, I leave Hawk Eyes playing ‘Witch Hunt’ to go and see Witch Hunt on the Introducing stage. A slow, troubled two piece, they make a striking sight, like The Creatures but young. Gothic, enigmatic, charismatic and... was that the chill of something passing I felt? Brrr... Off to warm up with the China Rats, which change my opinion on them every year. This year, I find them catchy and charming, their simple brit pop tunes becoming familiar to my aging ears. They’ve gone from endearing to enduring and, I must admit, I am won over. Time for a musical bitchslap at the hands of Hacktivist out of Milton Keynes. They open with their musical tribute to Kashmir (every rock band has one, trust me) and take a while to get going, but once up and running the combination of three vocals/mcs and a metal guitar creates an impressive speed metal grime mash up and a new lease of life for a Jay Z standard. Like Enter Shikari or the way that The Streets should have gone, it’s aggressive, confrontational and I like it. For a stark contrast, it’s off to see Haim, three young women who really like Fleetwood Mac. A lot. The sound is somewhere between Elvis and the Knife, but it is a soothing antidote to the manic delivery of Hacktivist. I indulge for a while, enjoy the peace, but the time is approaching... Trent o’clock... I’ve heard rumours that Mr Reznor is not a happy bunny tonight. I’m sure he won’t let it show. So, positioned before the sound desk we patiently await the arrival of the dark lord, who proceeds to melt our faces with ‘Wish’. It’s a hard, fast set, taking the best from their umpteen album career, including ‘Survivalism’, ‘The Fragile’, ‘March of the Pigs’ and, of course, ‘Head Like a Hole’ – but no ‘Hurt’ and no ‘Closer’. Blimey, he is pissed off, despite his dad shorts and gilet. It’s a good set, but, I can’t avoid saying it, lacking. Off to the Radio One stage, via Dog is Dead at the Introducing stage (poppy and appealing, like a puppy),
Photography by Bart Pettman
to see Azalea Banks. Apparently she has a reputation for being difficult, and to see her strutting about the stage in a skintight cartoon body suit, flanked by two androgynous dancers, oozing sexuality and sass, she may well be difficult but that’s what comes with ATTITUDE. Machine gun delivery, psychedelic visuals, total stage domination and what a beat. I feel filthy. And Phoenix just make me feel filthier. There is nothing like French pop, and this is the best of French pop - catchy, technical pop genius with a gallic shrug of je ne sais quoi. Every song is a banger, every groove infectious and the only time you don’t have your hands in the air are when you have to wipe the tears of joy from your eyes. Vive le Phoenix! On Liggen Hill with... Hawk Eyes They’ve just been on tour with System of a Down and just nuked the rock stage, and here I am acting like a bloody amateur asking them questions about what it’s like to be in a band. It’s a wonder they even deign to answer me... So, what’s happening now? Paul: I’m really not sure what’s happening. I’m exhausted after two weeks of touring and I’m delirious... we’ve been hanging out a lot together. Steven’s a bit new to it but... he likes it. So... what’s it been like playing with System of a Down for the last two and a half weeks? Paul: Amazing, brilliant, awesome, stressful, full of anxiety, best thing ever. All of those things. Steve: A roller coaster of emotions... had its highs and lows... Paul: We’ve come out of it a different band really, we’ve really had to be professional... it’s really good to know we can actually do it, we pulled it off in front of thousands of people. Ben: We try and keep going and going, but the work ethic is the same as when we started in 2004. If you’re gonna be in a band, be in a band. Don’t go and get a haircut; be in a band. What other advice would you offer? Steve: Don’t get your parents to pay for it, work at it yourself. Paul: Sometimes relationships get strained, sometimes we’re at each other’s throats, but everyone just wants it to be the best band it can be. Just persevere and persevere... we’re a square peg in a round hole, but we’re gonna keep on doing it. You must be doing something right - the pledge has done really well, you got four Ks for that... Ben: The response has been amazing, and with ‘Ideas’ we were really happy with the feedback we got from that... made quite a few end of year lists and it’s such an honour for people to actually think that about your music.
At your gig today, you started with a decent crowd, but that crowd actually grew too – are you aware of your growing following? Ben: It was nice to see some movement as well – people getting into it and having a really good time while we were playing, which is important. Steve: We don’t take it lightly – we treat [every gig] as we do the big arena gigs. Are you very analytic of your performance?
Rob: Even when we’ve had the best gig ever, we’ll come off stage and say ‘that bit was poo’. Paul: Our self criticism is the core of our band – it’s in everything we do from performance to artwork... Ben: 99.999999% was amazing, someone will still say ‘that bit could have been better.’ Still just analyse the hell out of everything. Paul: But the great thing about today was that we were in Leeds and I could hear loads of people singing the songs back word for word... it’s really refreshing for us. What do you want to do now? Ben: We just want to keep playing to different people and expand our fan base slowly. There’s never been any real hype attached to the band, we’ve only just managed to get our noses above some of our peers, but I don’t think we owe anyone anything... apart from Danny North... and Vibrations of course... Aw, shucks, thanks! But it’s good to follow the development of a band... Paul: I think we want to maintain that humbleness though – I think that’s what makes us what we are... Steve: You shouldn’t try to kid yourself that you’re more than four kids who formed a band in a basement... we’re not dentists or doctors, we’re in a band, we play music. Paul: We never try to sell ourselves short, we give as much as we possibly can. We want to be honest. Being honest, what was the one thing about today’s performance that you would have wanted to change? Rob: That stage over there? (points to main stage) Headlining. Steve: And spaceships. Ben: And ninjas... Hawk Eyes ‘That’s What This Is’ is available now. They are currently finishing an album and will be going on tour in October and November. And they hope to spend some quality time apart. On Liggen Hill with... Battle Lines They won the Futuresound competition, charmed the management of System of a Down, have recently played with Bosnian Rainbows and just opened on the Festival Republic stage, but I am sure that, when they look back on this, the highlight of their day will have been talking to me on Liggen Hill. Um. Quite. So, you’re not quite finished for gigs today, are you? Tell us about this other festival you’re playing later... Matt: We are driving in half an hour to a place called Helmsley to a festival called the Parklands festival. It’s a really good festival – we played about three years ago. It’s pretty good to play two in one day. I suppose this morning must feel like a dream now, but how did you feel before you walked on stage? Luke: We had people helping us out, which was really nice, and we had a really good set for it – short, but good. It was cool.
Matt: Being first on, you’re not sure how it’s going to go or what kind of crowd’s gonna turn up, but you get a sound check and it’s a bit more relaxed. What was your main reason for doing the competition? Luke: We used to go to Leeds festival when we were kids, well, teenagers... Matt: You think back to when you were 17 you’d be like buzzing... Luke: ... and it’s a good stage too, it was a really good crowd, so we’re glad we did it. Was it wish fulfilment or a bit... you know? Matt: Well, we played Beacons last week and we’re doing the festival tonight, and we’ve got a couple of big tours lined up... it’s just we’re a bit of an outsider on the bill when you look at the kind of bands here. It’s forced us to be more creative though, to rehearse more, it’s given us more impetus as a band. Aren’t you managed by the same guys that manage System of a Down? I mean, they’re pretty heavy... Luke: I think our music is quite heavy. There’s a lot of low gothic riffs in there. I drop my guitar to A. Matt: Someone once described us as swerve pop. It’s weird because there’s definitely a core root of pop... Luke: We’ve been working with them for a year though, and they’ve got quite a nice vision for us that we’ve started to adopt with the way we write music now. Matt: I think it’s a positive thing that we stand out on their roster – we don’t have any other band that’s competing for the same ground – admittedly we’re a tiny band, but we stand on our own. Are you moving towards a heavier sound then? Luke: The song that we’ve just released, ‘Colonies’, it’s a good picture of where we are right now, because that’s a very simple melodic song – the main riff is just three notes. The
vocals are very dark and that’s the way we’re going for. Matt: A few friends of the band have seen us being really sludgy, Pitchfork type band, or they could see us being a pop band. My idea is that I’d like to stay where we are, in the middle. I’d really like to have a pop edge and a dark edge as well. Is it difficult to maintain that balance in the band? Matt: We trash a lot of songs... Luke: We’re very self critical. Matt: We may have written fifty songs, but we’ve only got twelve we are happy with... Luke: I always say ‘would I enjoy listening back to it?’ and if we don’t, we’ll ditch it. What influences you most? Luke: It depends on what we’re listening to at the time... Matt: We never say ‘we want to write a song like this’... it’s a blessing and a curse, but we all come from different musical tastes, and that comes out in the writing... How do you think Reading will compare to Leeds? Matt: We have a longer set at Reading and we play earlier and we don’t really clash with anyone, so I think it will turn out really good – it’ll be early, but... I’ve never been to Reading, I’m quite excited. Luke: It’s the north south divide... Reading’s meant to be a lot busier... I’m looking forward to it. Matt: We’ve had shit loads of people here and we’ve been a bit overwhelmed... Luke: ‘cos we finished playing then came to the guest area and there’s been loads of people from the Leeds music scene – labels, management, bands – so Reading will be an opportunity to see loads of bands. You can hear ‘Colonies’ at http://www.battlelines.co.uk/.
From class to blast: Skindred are playing the main stage. Front man Benji comes on to the Imperial March mash up wearing a red sequin jacket and Han Solo trousers. This is his most understated moment in the gig. Pretty soon, all Pwelhelli breaks loose, a pile up of dub, speed metal and skank with a welsh accent. It should be a car crash, but the result is a Bugatti Veyron. Virulent and furious, I am topless by the end, doing the Newport helicopter and loving it. One of the highlights of the weekend. Parquet Courts, one are better than I expected. Crunchy and taut, they’re an overclocked Strokes but maintain that slacker nonchalance. It’s hardly new, but that’s not a bad thing. And ‘Stoned and Starving’ sounds great live. Hoping to make it two for two, I hop over to see Fidlar, expecting something a bit risky. What I get is by the numbers three chord generic punk. They make all the right noises but are seriously disappointing, so I bugger off to see Sheffield’s Bring Me The Horizon, who are very entertaining. It’s an aggressive performance, but has elements of the epic and, dare I say it, prog and I do enjoy it. To quote the band themselves: ‘wasn’t that fucking fun?’ Off to the Lock Up stage to see the Computers, and they’re a different band. Really. They are actually a different band – Quicksand, who’ve moved up the schedule, are like a hard rock British Sea Power – a bit more thoughtful and refined and not the sort of band you expect to see on the Lock Up stage. Now Feed The Rhino are a different matter. A slimmed down Fucked Up with the most violent pit I’ve seen yet this weekend. The noise is unrelenting hardcore with vocalist Lee Tobin crouched on the shoulders of the crowd for most of the set. It’s an impressive set... and the rain is cracking the flags outside, so I stay. Now it’s time for The Computers’ peculiar brand of bee bop, gospel, rock n roll and metal. Part corrupt preacher, part fallen crooner, Alex testifies, prophecies and generally entertains while the rain falls. They’ve gone more Motown than rock these days, but it’s still fun, games and damnation for all. A slight break in the weather allows me to cross the rivers of mud to the Festival Republic stage to see Temples, a mystical, psychedelic bass heavy band sending out throbbing melodies across the troubled waters. I lean back and take in the Jefferson Aeroplane vibe and thank god I haven’t had any brown acid... just white cider. Freak out, man.
I’m nearly done for Saturday but can’t pass up the day without some cooking with Skrillex. Five minutes count down on the screens before the curtain drops revealing a graffiti’d mecha space ship with Skrillex at the controls. What follows is one and a half hours of lasers, smoke, pyros, vids, lights, flames and beats dropped so hard they leave craters. From skank to metal, dubstep can go anywhere anytime, as illustrated when Skrillex ship rises above the stage, whipping the crowd to a furious pit of ecstacy, writhing, thrashing and generally losing it. We’re through the looking glass now, ladies and gentlemen. After hours in the alternative tent for a bit of Fuck Buttons. Long winded drones with the occasional beat seem to last for ever as the crowd slowly slip into a stupor – not what you really want after midnight on a Saturday. Fortunately, Lee Vincent has the antidote in the shape of his Gangsta rap DJ set. Warren G, Snoop Dog, Run DMC and even Anthrax/ Public Enemy have their moment in an a hour of winding, grinding, rocking and pistol whipping – all barely a step away from being an Ibiza foam party. A great way to end a great day. Shame about the mud.
Going to any stage further than the VIP section is now a major expedition, but go we must as there has been a rumour that Lunar C will be taking part in the rap battle at the 1extra stage. He never shows, but we do get characters with names like Bowsky, Envy, Nova and Innuendo spitting lyrics at each other... literally spitting. It gets pretty personal and if the PC police ever found out... special mention must go to Envy, a female rapper who was brave enough to step up in what is inherently a very male orientated ‘spectacle’. Boy, does she get a hard time. Enough is enough, so I check out Saddleworth’s Twisted Wheel at the Introducing stage, who are riffing on Miserilou when I get there. It’s raw raucous rock n roll, with a dash of Libertines slapdash. Confident, consistent but fun. My first real shock of the day comes from Modo Stare, boasting three members of the terminally cheerful Coopers, who come on with a Weimar republic darkness and songs of such bleak delicacy that I am almost weeping tears of ice into my Thai noodles. And this is only their fourth gig. Seriously. If you want an aural mindscape, imagine an amalgamation of The Knife, Arcade Fire and Rolo Tomassi. Breathtaking. I retreat to the press tent to try and catch them (see later) and manage to catch a bit of The Blackout too, who are talking about an ‘Em and Em’ who is coming on later and do a bit of a hip hop medley. Very silly, very fun. Festivals should be fun, a philosophy that up and coming two piece Drenge share. Possibly. The vocals are garnish to the heavily rock and roll riffs, but it’s an enjoyable dumb as hammers set, punctuated
Bit more reserved today. Need to spend more time at the Introducing stage, so I open the day with Glass Caves. They have a tight, well crafted alt pop sound in the style of Vampire Weekend or Alt J, but with an underlying surf rock melancholy – the melancholy of Pontefract perhaps? Enough of the crypticism, bring on King No One, the winners of this year’s Centre Stage, courtesy of St Martin’s House. Confident and proficient beyond their years, the sound is mathy, angular, complex and melodic, with a vocalist who has both depth and versatility – essentially, the best aspects of Wild Beasts and Wintermute in one band. Really classy.
I decide to rest up before going out to catch some System of a Down, crossing the slicks in time to witness ‘Chop Suey’, ‘Toxicity’ and ‘Sugar’. Operatic, forceful, melodramatic and spiritual – could there be a better band to herald in the mudageddon?
by an onstage, staged strop. I decide to try one last time to see Lunar C over at the 1extra stage and succeed in seeing the man and his mates strutting their stuff. Very stripped down, but the most fun I get from the set is playing ‘let’s deliberately mishear the lyrics’. Dragging myself back through the dance tent, I get to see Willy Moon playing pure psychobilly (yes, in the Dance tent) flanked by two very attractive women playing drum and bass. It’s like the Cramps reborn. They throw in some Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, some Shakin’ All Over... music from the dawn of sex. Then they close with that tune from the ipod advert. Ah, now I get it. I hang around for Jaguar Ma. Maybe not the best idea as I am about to slip into a coma and their music is a combination of the Orb with words and My Bloody Valentine without ear splitting noise. Ah hell, I’ll just find somewhere to lean and enjoy it. I decide to eschew the Foals on the main stage for The Bronx, a noisy piece of fun that has an eighties metal stamp with a fast and loose punk ethic. Matt Caughthran gets down and dirty in the mud and throws a giant stuffed heart to the mob on this their last gig of the tour. Energetic, fast and fun, I have a feeling that Foals would not have been as enjoyable. I make one last trek through the mire to see Australia’s Tame Impala at the Radio 1 stage. They arrive fashionably late under a purple-red light and proceed to spin a patchouli drenched dreamscape of a Pink Floyd ilk. Then they break into ‘Elephant’, the crowd goes crazy and we all have a stomping good time. I take a step back to the Lock Down stage to witness the awesome Tomahawk. A band featuring members of Battles, Mr Bungle and The Melvins? Fronted by Mike Patton? I fight my way to the front and bask in the filth, a mix of drum and bass, metal, prog and tech, that kind of cross genre tomfoolery that defined Faith No More. It feels like I’m back in 1993, listening to ‘King For a Day’; the moshers may be slamming into my back, but this is too gorgeous to miss. Mike, we love you. I’m nearing the end of my useful life as I watch the post-punk posturing of the Savages. Very lovely, very sultry, but it’s time to bring this mother home with a bit of Eminem. I stand shivering in the mud for three tunes before deciding that British Sea Power is a better option. Not that Eminem is bad, not at all, it’s just I want to go where I’ll feel comfortable, and BSP are good at that. With ‘Machineries of Joy’, ‘Waving Flags’ and ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ (featuring guest vocals from Savages’ Jehnny Beth), plenty of foliage on stage and BOTH bears, this is a massive crowd pleasing moment. ‘We’re all in it’ sing the boys on stage. I don’t think they’re just referring to the mud. Thank you, Leeds festival, for yet again bringing out my inner adolescent.
On Liggen Hill with... Modo Stare Take The Coopers, a dash of kohl liner and an iceberg load of cool and what do you get? Apart from the obvious frozen mess, you get Modo Stare! I manage to collar them coming out of the press tent to talk about public transport and all that band related shizzle...
Two of you used to be members of the Coopers... Chelsea: Still are actually! So us two (Ryan) and the Drummer are in The Coopers and John actually played with us a lot in The Coopers... Ryan: So out of the seven of us, three of us are still in The Coopers, but we do this as well. So... real busy then? Ryan: Yeah... really busy. Chelsea: Luckily it’s like our favourite thing in the world, so I’m happy to be busy with that. It’s a win win situation. Today’s gig was your fourth gig with Modo Stare – is that true? Chelsea: That is absolutely true. Our first gig was the Futuresound competition to play here, so that was a bit nerve wracking, then we did a little warm up gig in Bradford, then Reading, then Leeds. You’ve done Reading; you’ve done Leeds. Which was better? Chelsea: Today’s show (Leeds) felt really special. Ryan: We’ve only done a couple of shows, so we’re still getting comfortable. Still feel better after every show we do. Chelsea: Obviously the no mud at Reading thing is a bonus – mud aside, today’s was my favourite show so far. Modo Stare... it’s a bit darker than the Coopers... Chelsea: Just a little! I love the intensity of Modo Stare... Sometimes we can’t always get that out with The Coopers – I love bringing the uplifting side to The Coopers but I love getting super intense with music, ‘cos it’s like a totally different sound. Ryan: And obviously because Jon (Headley) is the song writer... I mean, the way Modo Stare happened is Jon disappeared off the face of the earth for three months... Jon: Wales. Ryan: ... then he came back with just like a bunch of music and had an album as well... so this is like the live thing coming together. Chelsea: We’ve all played together for years, so it wasn’t brand new, so when he asked us we said yes. I’m so excited to play out the genius in this mind (Jon’s)... If you had to make a choice between The Coopers and Modo Stare... what would you do? Ryan: I dunno... we just like playing music... Chelsea: So whatever one works out the best... To finish on a lighter note... what have you got planned for the rest of the weekend? Chelsea: Alt J... and Tame Impala, fellow Aussies, cos we missed them yesterday at Reading... Ryan: we saw a bunch of good bands yesterday, like the Foals... so more of that! You can listen to Modo Stare at http://modostare.com... I suggest you do... And check out www.vibrations.org.uk for interviews with Hacktivist and Dog is Dead.
Bats for Slashes Okay, pay attention at the back! The objective of this lesson is to tell you about Leeds latest disco sensation, so cutting edge that they’re buried about five mm into your flesh before you know they’re there. The aims are that all of you will be wanting to check out their infectious grooves, most of you will know that three quarters of them are teachers and some of you will know the meaning of the word ‘serendipity’. Now Kate Wellham will take the class, after a little bit of house keeping... no, you can’t get a glass of water! “Maybe we’re evolving into bats or something. Cultural bats.” Tommi, drummer from Happy Daggers, hasn’t been at the disco biscuits. We’re discussing those occasional alignments of the stars that are too odd to be coincidence, and sonar is his theory. There was that time he was watching TV and thinking about Bowie’s Life On Mars, only for it to appear on screen seconds later. Then there’s the fact that he’s just returned from the bar to our table in the Library and immediately mentioned Donny Tourrettes, for no reason at all, only to find out we’d also mentioned Donny Tourrettes in his absence. Even weirder is that, prior to this, nobody at all has mentioned Donny Tourrettes for over 3 years. This is nothing compared with the way in which Happy Daggers somehow managed to pre-empt the biggest chart invasion of disco since the early 70s, perfectly timing their own emergence as one of the most exciting new bands in Leeds. It could all have been very different, had they rehearsed between any other set of walls. Their first jammings happened at a space in Sowerby Bridge which Tommi remembers with a shudder as being ‘like the scene of a murder’. “There was a little kind of rickety door,” says bassist Jon, “it was some lock-up at the end of this really dark, dank and horrible corridor, and just one light bulb. We spent a good year getting to know each other in really awful, cold and damp conditions.” “It’s weird you should mention that,” adds Tommi, “because when we first started writing, all the songs were really dark, until we moved to the Rock n Roll Circus room.”
Nile Rodgers was nowhere to be seen, and Daft Punk had just written the soundtrack for Tron, when Happy Daggers got the bat-signal that saw them reinvent themselves: “We’d started out with a dark, alt poppy sound,” says Jon. “The changing point was driving down South one day. Me and Tommi stopped off at a service station, picked up Ministry of Sound disco anthems, put it on in the car, and it was disco manifesto time. We’d already written a couple of songs
that had a disco sort of vibe, then we started listening to a shitload of disco and went ‘right, that’s what we love’.” The result has been described best, they think, as ‘rock and soul’. It takes confidence to do what Happy Daggers have done: perfecting themselves in unfashionable funk and soul backwaters, only to emerge on the crest of an unexpected wave. “We’re comfortable enough to be able to do what we need to do,” says frontman Sinclair. “We’re quite fortunate because we clearly are slightly different to a lot of things that are going on but we still get good receptions.” If in doubt, please refer to their debut performance at Live at Leeds, playing the second stage at Leeds Met and packing the room out for their biggest performance to date. “We could only see the first few rows but we knew it must have been pretty busy because it was just a wall of sound that came back at us,” says Jon. Despite the number of times Sinclair says the words ‘lucky’ and ‘fortunate’ when explaining their trajectory, that’s not quite the full picture. Replace ‘lucky’ with ‘industrious’ and ‘fortunate’ with ‘stylish’ and we’re nearer the truth. The band spent the run-up to the gig giving out an eye-watering number of CDs with a QR code and the gig details, which was lucky. They were also fortunate enough to have engaged the services of equally lucky and fortunate filmmaker Roger Armstrong, who can do a lot with a little. The result is that you can’t miss them, and that they look as good as they sound, despite having no real resources. The way the band came together probably genuinely was lucky. Or cultural sonar, or whatever. Danny, Tommi and Jon all knew each other from York, where they had been in various bands at University before moving to Leeds. Sinclair, hailing from Bradford, was in a band in Leeds called 16 Days, who had stopped playing original material. Sinclair still found that he had ‘loads of ideas for songs but no avenue’. Meanwhile, the band containing the others had just come to the realisation that they were - in their own words - ‘shite’. Cue introductions from mutual friends and a couple of jams, and they lived happily ever after. “I feel quite fortunate, it’s difficult to randomly meet a group of people who’ve got similar personalities,” says Sinclair. “If you want an analogy,” says Tommi, helpfully, “we’re a bit like an atom. Sinclair’s like the nucleus and we’re like electrons.” He’s not actually serious. However, Jon is serious when he earnestly adds: “Being in a band is like being in a gang,” and is solidly mocked by the other three, who suggest they all wear matching headbands. It’s too tempting not to ask for a comparison between the York and Leeds music scenes, and you’ll be relieved to hear
Photography by Paul Whiteley
that Leeds gets the thumbs up for a sense of community, according to the 75% of Happy Daggers who would know. “I suppose it’s a bit more mature really,” explains Tommi. “People say hello. You see guys in the street in York and it’s like the Jets and the Sharks.”
they’re in a band”. Sinclair: “It’s weird when they say things like ‘are you in a band Sir?’, ‘yeah’, ‘NOOOO, what do you do?’ ‘er, sing’, NOOO WAAAAAY SIR’”. Tommi: “I asked a question about Shakespeare, and one of them put their hand up and went [falsetto] ‘hold me baby’.”
Their stomping ground in Leeds is as atypical as can be expected, favouring jam nights populated by the more mature and characterful gentleman performer (or ‘dad bands’ as they are more commonly known). “The floor is sticky, the booze is cheap, and there’s some bald, 40-odd-year-old guy going at it,” enthuses Jon. Apparently Leeds is good for this kind of talent, particularly compared with Tommi’s local back home in Chester, where the jam nights are full of metalheads, “so it was basically a competition about who could play the drums the fastest.”
Full marks to Tommi’s class for doing their homework.
Guitarist Danny, who has also lived in Liverpool, is full of praise for the sessions in Irish bars. A trail of Leeds’ hotspots it ain’t. “You get a lot of people like stuff because they think they should like it,” says Tommi. “These lads that I go watch down the Vic, they’ve got beer bellies, bald heads, but the music’s amazing.”
Surprisingly, considering the extent of their polish, Happy Daggers have only done one short UK tour, taking in five gigs in a week. It’s the first time any of them have really toured at all, and it was brief enough that they all still reckon that the journey is half the fun. The only downside any of them can think of was their stay in a London hostel which Sinclair describes as being “like some bad episode of Dr Who”, and Tommi as “a Congolese concentration camp where they follow you round the corridors if you’ve got a carrier bag.” Sinclair adopts an uncanny Nigerian accent: “What sandwich have you got there? Is that from Tesco?” Perhaps their stress-free experience of touring has something to do with their presumably extensive experience of school trips. Three of the four band members - Sinclair, Tommi and Jon - are teachers by day. The kids finding out that their teachers are in a band is an occupational hazard, and one which they’ve all fallen victim to. Jon: “It’s exciting enough finding out your teacher’s first name, imagine finding out
Despite the genre they’ve chosen and its historic inability to come to blows with any serious issues, there’s no apathy from the band in the face of the difficult times we’re collectively experiencing. It’s clear from the turn the conversation takes that these three are taking the Tories’ changes to education as seriously as any good teacher would, and are just as angry. Danny, meanwhile, is working his way free of the army, and isn’t quick to talk about that particular trial. What makes these people want to dance this much? “If you watch the news, times are just bleak,” explains Tommi. “It feels like we’re almost in the apocalypse. Let’s just try and get a good thing together, let’s just ignore the news and George Osborne and fucking Michael Gove.” Jon continues: “In the 70s when punk came through, it was a reaction to what was going on. It doesn’t feel like what’s happening at the minute there’s been any sort of musical reaction. Now we’re sort of getting onto a sort of disco funk groove it almost feels like that’s a bit of a reaction. Music that’s going to make people happy rather than being all bleak.” “The only way to change the world is change the mood,” says Tommi, zen-like, before adding: “Fuck Michael Gove, let’s dance!” You can befriend Happy Daggers on that there facebook, or check out their tunes on https://soundcloud.com/ happydaggers. Note I didn’t make any lines references... no one makes kids do lines these days...
Andy Abbott – Ex Cathedra Part 1
There is no such thing as a quick chat with Andy Abbott. This is not a problem, but sometimes, when you have to wield the editorial scalpel, it is a shame. But, like Alexander, why trim away the already lean meat of a meet with Andy when you can cut it clean in half? So here it is, the first half of Steve Walsh’s ‘brief’ chat with West Yorkshire cultural legend, Andy Abbott... I start by asking guitarist Andy Abbott about That Fucking Tank (TFT), his noise/drone rock duo with drummer James Islip, which has just celebrated its 10th year of operations. I note that TFT’s fourth full length album will be called Document of the Last Set. “Should we be worried?” I ask half joking, “Does this signal the end of That Fucking Tank?” “Er, I don’t know. I’m quite keen on seeing this record as a kind of bookend. Sometimes it’s good to have a bit of time to reflect on what you’ve done and maybe think about a different way forward. I dunno…” is Abbott’s response. If the extent of your awareness of Abbott is in his capacity as TFT’s guitarist, then his response may signal a very dull interview ahead. But I actually wanted to get the subject of TFT out of the way early, because it is in fact the least interesting thing about Andy Abbott. If you think that TFT are at the peak in their creative powers at the moment, as demonstrated by their last album TFT, this may be a bizarre thing to say. But if Document of the Last Set does turn out to mark the end of TFT, then I for one will not be too put out. Want to know why? Read on… In fact, Abbott’s creative activities are spread across a bewildering range of subjects and areas that, over his 15 year or so residency in Leeds have extended and accumulated his experience to the extent that he now finds himself in a position of cultural influence he could only have dreamed of when he first moved here.
generated over the past decade, and is a founding member of expanding Leeds/London/Milton Keynes art collective Black Dogs. Over the same period, Abbott has pursued an academic career first at Leeds College of Art and Design (2000-2001), a Fine Art degree at Leeds University (2001-2005) and post graduate studies from 2008 to 2012. Abbot’s journey begins in the early 90’s with a meeting in a secondary school in Matlock where Abbott and Islip found themselves sharing a desk. “Me and James have been playing together since we were 11. We just started playing Metallica, Therapy? and Black Sabbath covers. Neither of us did music but we were interested in it and that’s how we became friends.” Islip moved to a school in Leeds but the pair stayed in touch and in the summer months Abbott put on bands with Islip at local youth centres in Matlock. Did you get big audiences? “No. Well, probably as big as we get now actually (laughs)!” After moving to Leeds with his Matlock band (Viagra. No, really) in 1999 to make a name for themselves, Abbott found a series of dispiriting warehouse and call centre jobs draining his enthusiasm and energy and decided upon a very 60’s way out – art college. Despite having no formal training, Abbott got in at Leeds College of Art to study Fine Art. The grant paid the rent and freed Abbott up to get more directly involved in the burgeoning Leeds music scene. “I was seeing stuff that was totally mind-blowing to me” says Abbott, “and it was all organised in a very similar way to what we were doing in Matlock, y’know, low key, obviously not for profit, just doing what you could with what you had. And that was a real epiphany for me. You can carry on having this inclusive, collective, participatory vibe……..but with good music! (laughs).”
So to summarise: in addition to TFT, Abbott plays guitar in Nope, plays bass guitar in Brass, a fledgling trio formed with Shield Your Eyes’ guitarist Stef Ketteringham, and, increasingly, as Elizabeth, his solo guitar and effects/ loops project. He runs Obscene Baby Auction, is involved in Bradford promoting collective No Hands, is a committee member at both the 1 in 12 Club, Bradford’s long established anarchist club/venue, and at the similarly constituted Wharf Chambers in Leeds. Phew.
Inspired, Abbott formed Real Fucky Fucky. This was a pivotal turning point. Abbott explains: “The side project, the band I was just doing for a laugh, was much, much better than the band (Viagra) I was doing with ‘careerist’ intentions. We were just basically a Jesus Lizard rip off band, but got these really great responses. After around a year, James joined on drums and we started playing together again.” This band morphed into Kill Yourself, which fell apart after a couple of years when singer Giles Bailey moved to Glasgow to study art. At a loose end, Abbott and Islip started That Fucking Tank “as a fill-in band, a bit of a joke…and it’s carried on for 10 years”.
BUT, Abbott is also heavily involved in art as a pactitioner, with a stream of events, exhibitions and publications
Although Abbott’s move to Art College was inspired more by necessity than any kind of specific ambition, his
art studies provided a kind of conceptual framework for shaping his ideas about music, and its place and function in social, cultural and, yes, political terms. Ideas drawn from Situationism and Dada that employed spectacle and confrontation to shake up audiences expectations were used liberally: “We thought it would be really good to do a band that never released a record, like the only way you could experience them would be as a live band. There’s no internet presence, no press, nothing, there’s just this band that plays live and that’s the only way to experience it. But we’d get people coming up to us after gigs and asking ‘Er, have you got a CD for sale?’ and we’d go ‘NO, we’re NEVER going to do a record!’ And we just ended up feeling like pretentious twats so we decided we WOULD do recordings but only as a document of what we were doing live.” What came first, the artist or the guitarist? ‘Weeelll, I did drawing when I was a kid! We had a guitar in the house when I was growing up but I never played it. I don’t come from a musical family at all. Art was never really a major part of my life, except that it was probably the subject I was best at at school. But when I was in Leeds in order to get out of the call centres it seemed like Art College would be the easiest route, but I was only ever doing art as a prop for being in bands.” Abbott ended up on a “very high minded, very theoretical art course” at Leeds University that at least opened his eyes to the “Situationist International, all this interesting counter cultural stuff that was happening right from Dada up until the 60’s, to that link with punk, and around that time I realised that probably all the things I found interesting about music in a punk, underground way had already been explored. And I realised that these (art and music) aren’t two separate things anymore: the punk underground scene and the counter culture underground art scene were both doing the same thing. And that’s when we started doing this art collective called Black Dogs, which was done very much in the same way we did music – a non institutional way of thinking about doing and organising art and art shows that just said, ‘Right, let’s just make it happen.’” That simple phrase has in a way become the bedrock of all Abbott’s activities over the last decade. Characterised as ‘DIY culture’, Abbott’s interpretation of what this means is however much deeper and much more political than most people’s. As a direct result of
and reaction to the elitist teachings they came across at University, Black Dogs deliberately set out to try and democratise their art, Abbott himself constructing a replica of Leeds landmark the Electric Press chimney out of thousands of hand-made card bricks based on the premise that the amount of time invested in a piece of art has a direct relationship to how it is appreciated by its audience. Abbott is keen to stress that he doesn’t really agree with this notion any more, underlining not that he’s fickle but that he’s not afraid to change his mind. In fact, Abbott has become much more political in recent years, in the sense of having a belief that people can live their lives in a more satisfying way. “My thing that runs throughout the art practice, the writing, the music is anti-work, I suppose, anti the capitalist form of work anyway. The idea that you sacrifice your time in order to get some reward. I never enjoyed Whatever next? when you’re just on the clock for someone else.” All Abbott’s key experiences since moving to Leeds had pointed him towards the idea that the things he did in his spare time were actually the things that gave him more satisfaction, enjoyment and rewards than the kinds of activities expected of a young able bodied person in a 21st century capitalist economy. “For me, unpicking those ideas led to a more politicised position, which for me proposes a complete upheaval in the way things are organised economically, socially and politically in order to expand that joy and share that joy that you feel when you’re doing something just for the sake of it. You could have a society based on it, a bit Utopian I guess, but why not? What would a society be like based on those moments where you don’t feel tired, you don’t feel overworked and you’re just enjoying it? Why can’t we base our societal structures on that idea, rather than competition, individual self-interest…and consumerism? For me DIY is this collective, co-operative position, and that’s the big difference with capitalism at the moment.” Would you characterise this as Marxism? Socialism? Anarchism? “Yeah, there’s an element of all those things in it, but it’s not that it defines itself in opposition to capitalism. Y’know, there are good things about capitalism…..” Bloody hell, a rock musician talking politics based on his own experience. Whatever next? You’ll have to wait and see... next issue! In the meantime, check this out: www.andyabbott.co.uk
Another storming celebration of underground music, Beacons beckons once again. We tentatively send in Mike Price and Sean McGeady to report back on a festival that refuses to stop getting better.
Mike Price: After a previous scheduled visit to Beacons fell victim to the weather, it was great to see a largely good forecast for the weekend. Vondelpark proved to be the first band I caught live, an interesting blend of chilled out folktronica playing to a pretty packed out Loud and Quiet main stage. Ghostpoet and Bonobo offered continued opportunities to mellow out here, keeping the crowd bubbling away throughout the evening as they welcomed in the weekend. Nevetheless, you felt some wanted more beats or noise as the open air Red Bull music academy stage DJ cranked out banging dance tunes attracting an ever increasing throng......looking good as long as the rain held off. Sean McGeady: Curiously shuffling through Beacons’ kitsch kingdom in search of sound, I passed film tents, flag mazes and inflatable slides before finally discovering Battle Lines at the You Need To Hear This tent. Atop dark, driven pop, Carly Humphries’ skittish voice called out to a crowd that continued to grow until the end of the band’s festival-opening set. Dazed by quasi-mythical Northern sunshine, carousers assembled at the Loud and Quiet stage for the cocksure progressive pop of Egyptian Hip Hop. After playful audience interaction vocalist Alex Hewett eventually discarded his guitar and abandoned his post, opting instead to gallivant across the tent like some bewildered migratory gadabout. He stood amongst the crowd and watched his band perform without him. He seemed impressed. As well he might.
backed by five band mates, four of which brandished a Gibson SG with evil intent, sending the power levels through the roof....you could practically see the riffs coming. Meantime, our screaming front man completed his stint about 10 rows into the crowd as arms, legs and everything in between went over the top around him. Credit to the security staff, merely ensuring no one got hurt, letting everyone enjoy themselves. Too right, too, as this was rock and roll at its most primal, most definitely the perfect way to start your Beacons weekend. Needless to say these guys are my new favourite band and to soothe the post FU tinnitus Nancy Elizabeth provided a calming rootsy antidote to the rock and roll excess in the rug filled shoe free zone, namely the Into the Woods tent as I picnicked with the Teddies into the wee small hours.
SG: Predictably, Beacons awoke to rain on Saturday. The prevailing precipitation wasn’t suited to the mellow indie pop of JAWS, who sounded meek without the sun’s glory to bolster the crowd’s zeal. MP: A bit of Saturday afternoon psychedelica looked on the cards as the promising Temples took to the main stage with James Bagshaw cutting a bit of a dash with his corkscrew curls. Their recent single, the dreamy “Shelter Song” wouldn’t sound out of place on Revolver. Following in the quartet’s footsteps breezed the rather wonderful Melody’s Echo Chamber, cut from the same cloth musically as their predecessors but without any of the rough edges courtesy of some electronic fairy dust, complementing a boatload of pop sensibility from the French chanteuse.
Back in the You Need To Hear This tent, crowd surfing was conducted by Eagulls’ robust punk as security restrained a man outside. Sneering frontman George Mitchell didn’t seem to give a shit. He kept his crowd engaged while remaining characteristically unengaged himself.
With my synth appetite well and truly whetted by now it was local duo Galaxians who provided the killer shot on the second stage. Take one serial killer lookalike synth whiz whose brain has been replaced with the memory chip from Stevie Wonder’s Moog, add one drummer tighter than a mother superior’s front bottom and you have a sound funky enough to make George Clinton feel like Arthur Scargill. Thirty minutes was never going to be long enough for these guys and those watching were heartbroken at the end but hey, there’s always a next time.
MP: There was a bit of a mosh pit developing although that was nothing compared to the riot that was the set of Canadian Hardcore 6-piece band Fucked Up. Front man Damian Abraham, stripped to the waist and looking like he shits in the woods with the bears, admirably
SG: After the gut busting grooves of Galaxians, Gold Panda seemed unfortunately lacklustre on the Loud and Quiet stage. Though captivating, the subtleties of his set couldn’t truly be appreciated after such a bombastic synth assault.
SG: At midnight Machinedrum aimed to appease those at the Resident Advisor tent still yearning to dance. His low volume initially inspired a polite chant of “turn it up!” from the starving crowd. When he did, Travis Stewart’s artisan blend of jungle, R&B, hip-hop and house was really able to take hold, his two hour dipsomaniac disco providing the gurning soundtrack to a thousand drugfuelled exchanges.
MP: After the 2011 Beacons washout, several impromptu consolation gigs were put together all over Leeds, including a memorable Sunday night triple header at Nation of Shopkeepers. The opening band that evening were the rather splendid Wolf People, a cracking acid/folk rock crossover who’d just got off a sleigh ride from Nantucket and two years later are tearing the roof off the main stage with their surprisingly accessible sound.....‘Tiny Circle’ is a real groover and put me in ebullient mood for the final day. Continuing the Canis Iupis theme on the …Hear This stage, Lone Wolf, the alter ego of local songwriter Paul Marshall, showcasing a choice selection of exquisite compositions, including the urgently poppy ’Ghosts of Holloway’ and closing with the tour de force ‘Keep Your Eyes on the Road.’ SG: The juxtaposition of screaming incandescent rage and introspective transcendental fugue states inhabited by the members of Hookworms made for a confounding spectacle. Though somewhat inaccessible, there was no denying the might of the band’s performance. Their psychadelic krautfuckery had the Loud and Quiet stage in a fervid trance.
MP: I finally manage to track down the ELFM stage on the outskirts of the site, catching 2013 Centre Stage finalists Jacobean Ruff whose folky set is well received, then followed by terrific swing band Louis Louis Louis... your kids will love these guys. Back to the main area and a first trip to The Social to have my fillings loosened courtesy of the dancehall dub of the magic Iration Steppas. Shortly after, Drenge confirm that Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, is not wrong on the second stage. SG: Fans went briefly feral at the You Have To Hear This tent as the untamed stoner punk of Wet Nuns marked the first of a trio of acts that would see Beacons end in gloriously forceful fashion. Maintaining the momentum, Savages followed with a typically intense performance. The cathartic aggression of their gothic post-punk and animalistic rhythm section had dedicated followers going batshit crazy, and was a pleasure to behold. MP: They’ve really sharpened up live since last year’s Leeds Festival, noticeable as they fired out ‘Husbands’ and ‘Flying to Berlin’. With the end of what has been a superb weekend looming, there’s nothing left to do but get one last sledgehammer sized fix of heavy rock from the better-than-their-moniker-suggests, Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats. SG: A deliciously dark end to a mostly sunsoaked festival, black t-shirts adorned with familiar iconography filled the tent and it was clear just how much of the audience attended the festival solely to see this final act. From behind fog and manes Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats told Satanic tales backed by swinging occult fuzz that made everything else at Beacons sound like the untempered whimpers of a distant fawn. Though the festival ended at eleven and security ungraciously urged everyone out of the arena, there was something of an epilogue which involved a surreal saxophone-playing pied piper leading myself and approximately forty merry revellers into a faraway field by performing refrains from ‘Careless Whisper’. Beacons, I expect to see this mystery hero on the main stage next year. Cheers.
MP: Local Natives are always a class live act and bringing the main arena to a close in fitting fashion as punk veterans Wire rounded things off at a rammed second stage, packed to the rafters with veteran punks, keen to see the creators of Pink Flag roll back the years. Kicking off with ‘Marooned’ their 12 song set closed with the title track of their aforementioned most famous long player to rapturous applause.
Sturdy As He Goes Mark Sturdy – musician, label owner (Sturdy Records), author and stalwart of the Leeds music scene. After growing up near Wetherby and going to university at Warwick, he moved to Leeds, wrote a book about Pulp and got involved in things musical. In the last three years he has got married, started Don’t Falter, released records by The Sequins, The Wind-up Birds, Post War Glamour Girls, The Seven Inches, joined The World Service, become a dad and was surprised to find it was somehow possible to combine the latter with still doing band, club night and label. Phew! Cactus turns up the heat and grills the man in question... Your latest band was Freemasonry in the Philippines, who played their first and last gig at the Fenton on 19 July. Tell us more… I just fancied doing something completely for the hell of it. I know Kroyd [The Wind-Up Birds] and James [Post War Glamour Girls] through the label etc, so asked them “do you want to form a band, write a bunch of stuff really quickly, play one gig and split up?” and they did. Kroyd just writes reams of lyrics constantly so I knew we’d have no problem with material, and James quite rightly has a lot of time for Kroyd so I knew he’d be up for it. Richard from This Many Boyfriends came on board with his Casio VL Tone and lovely voice, and somehow we had a set. Two days before the gig we roped in Liam from Moody Gowns on bass – one rehearsal was all he needed because he’s an actual musician. I’m not a great musician by any stretch but I fancied doing a band where I’m the guitarist/main ‘composer’ because I thought it’d push me a bit – especially as I hadn’t so much as taken my guitar out of its case for a good five years. The timeframe meant that nothing got overthought – if someone had an idea, it went in. As a result it was rough and a bit shambolic, but there was a freshness and spontaneity to it, and as we were only doing one gig it meant nobody got too self-conscious or precious about things. I really enjoyed it, and think the others did too. What other bands have you been in? 1. Arthur’s Departure (2000-2003) Vocals, guitar, occasional violin. Archetypal ridiculous inept student band. Thoroughly unique though. One of those bands that was crap and great at the same time. Still hugely proud of the little we achieved.
2. Unexploded Shells (2004-2008) Vocals, guitar. Arthur’s Departure fizzled shortly after I left the Midlands, then editing Sandman for a year gave me a taste for band type activities around Leeds. When I was leaving Sandman, I sent a message out to the contributors saying “Oh by the way, some of the writers are forming a band, anyone who fancies it let me know.” What I didn’t mention was that I was the only person aware of this plan, which was how I ended up fronting a band that also included Tom Goodhand (then a youthful Sandman writer, later editor of both that and Leeds Guide, NME contributor and all sorts besides) and
some character called Steve Walsh [Vibrations’ CD reviews editor]. Tom and I wrote and sang the songs, and a brilliant guitarist called Tim Corbridge (subsequently seen with Ali Whitton, The Lodger and The Birthday Kiss) significantly raised their capabilities. It was a bit more ‘proper’ than Arthur’s Departure – quite a lot of gigs and recordings. We got slagged off quite a lot for allegedly abusing our position as well-connected local journos, which is odd looking back because we spent an awful lot of our time playing to our girlfriends at the Primrose or the Mixing Tin on a Wednesday night like everyone else (and enjoying it very much, I might add). 3. Adel Primary School Orchestra (2007-2011) Guitar, chime bars, triangle etc. Good version of ‘Summertime’. 4. This Many Boyfriends (2010) One day (2 gigs) filling in on bass. 5. The World Service (2011-present) Bass. Proud sideman to the substantial songwriting/singing/guitaring talents of Owen Lloyd (also known as the French Defence) and Jonny Hart (also known as Jonny from Delorian Drivers). How do you write songs? In my last band it was a case of “Quick! Play something!” and then everyone else played something too and then it was a song. In previous bands it was a case of pissing around on a guitar at home till I had something half-presentable, then playing it to the rest of the band and we’d gradually hew away at it till it was at least three-quarters presentable. So basically the same process, but slower. In both cases my favourite bit was where everyone else put their own ideas in – even a guitar part or a drum beat that you weren’t expecting is enough to drag a song off in a completely different direction. Same thing when someone else would come in with a song and I got to put my stamp on it. What’s your favourite venue? Unfashionably, I used to really like playing at the Primrose – still think the fact that place no longer does live music is a sad loss to Leeds. And the Packhorse, much like its namesake, is a reliable, seldom-acknowledged stalwart. Why start a record label? I’d always wanted to do a label, but the catalyst was several years spent working with Loqui, just trying to do what I could for them because I thought they were such a great band – this turned out to mainly be doing their website and spending a lot of time piecing together an archive compilation (‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better’) which, although it didn’t have the label name attached to it, could possibly sort-of stake a claim to being the first Sturdy Records release. Eventually they’d recorded a track called ‘Hermes Pan’ which they were describing as their next “single”, and because I’d already built up this relationship with them they were happy for me to step in and try to make it a bit more of a proper release. The other thing that fed into it was the experience of trying to
push Unexploded Shells recordings. We did a succession of self-released EPs and I always spent quite a lot of time trying to get them nicely packaged, sending out promos, getting press – basically being the record label, I suppose. I was arguably a bit better at doing this than the actual music, so when the band finished I was inclined to carry on doing that side of things for other people.
worth of the Sheffield Star Pop Page etc. Worked on it on and off through school and university, after which I finally managed to get a publisher for it, and the advance meant I could drop everything else to get it finished. And there it was!
If the label has an ethos, it’s simply to get music heard that otherwise might get overlooked. The Wind-up Birds, for example, probably wouldn’t have got picked up by any other label. Why? Because they’ve been around for a while, don’t fit in with any prevailing trends and don’t tend to push themselves forward like good little careerist indie-boys. They’re not reasons for them not to be heard! Call me an idealist but none of that stuff matters to me in the slightest if the music’s good.
What other writing do you do/have you done? I attempted to carve out a career in music writing for a few years after the book came out – hence a year as inaugural editor of the Leeds edition of Sandman, articles in Leeds Guide and The Fly, and eventually a few things in Mojo. I got a bit disillusioned with it all in the end as, far from having vast amounts of money thrown at me for self-indulgently rambling on about whatever I’m interested in, it turned out to involve a few things I’m not terribly good at – hard work, stamina, motivation, self-discipline and suchlike. In retrospect it was more about the subject matter than the actual writing for me, so once I’d covered a lot of the stuff I was interested in I was kind of done with it.
Post War Glamour Girls look like they are potentially going places. How does it feel to have started it off and then waving them goodbye? It feels like I’ve done my job. The last thing I’d want them to do, if they were getting offers from elsewhere, would be to keep releasing records through a poxy outfit like Sturdy. That’s not the point of the label – it’s about helping bands progress, and if they have the opportunity to move on to bigger things then that means I’ve succeeded. So I’m genuinely pleased that stuff’s happening for them, and dead proud to have played a part in the early stages of that. How do you feel about the Sturdy Records day at Oporto last November? I was really pleased with how things turned out around both the all dayer and the associated compilation. So many great bands turned in tracks for the album that it felt like a real honour to be able to put it out. With the all dayer, the thrill was being able to put so many bands together that maybe wouldn’t cross over in the normal course of things – so you had Rob from Loqui playing onstage with The Wind-up Birds, Richard from This Many Boyfriends onstage singing the praises of them and The Seven Inches, Owen (French Defence) doing a song with Richard, a load of people witnessing the greatness of Racket Ball for the first time… it was a day where the whole felt like more than the sum of the parts, and the parts were brilliant to start with.
You wrote a book (Truth and Beauty – the story of Pulp) – how did that come about? Pulp were my favourite band as a teenager in the mid ‘90s, and their story had rich pickings for a train spotter like me – lengthy, mostly undocumented pre-fame history, vast swathes of forgotten ex-members, stacks of obscure unreleased demos (and this was the days before the internet, when ‘forgotten’ and ‘obscure’ had a totally different meaning). A couple of ropey cash-in biographies had come out at the height of their fame and I thought “I could do better than that” and just started putting it together, tracking down ex-members, interviewing people, sifting through 20 years’
Any more books in you? I don’t think so, no. Very happy that I managed to do that one!
What’s your approach to life? It’s a complete cliché, but I genuinely believe it’s better to regret things you’ve done than things you haven’t. Go and do some stuff, spread yourself around a bit, you’ll probably get some things wrong but there’s a good chance you’ll get some things right as well. How do you fit in your family life? When mini Sturdy was on the way, I thought it was more likely than not that I’d have to give up certain things – I really didn’t know whether the label or the club night had a future. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually possible to still have some sort of life outside of Grown-Up Things, for which the tolerance and indulgence of Mrs Sturdy should be given some credit. I probably still need to get a bit better at dividing up time and fitting things in though. Goodness knows how he finds the time for it, but check out Don’t Falter and keep an eye out for more releases from Sturdy stable...
Albums Spectrals – Sob Story (Witchita) Spectrals aka Louis Jones have/has been stomping around for a while now, though is still younger than a lot of my clothes. Sob Story, the follow up to 2011’s Bad Penny, is a more contemplative, poignant reflection of his getting on a bit (ha!) but now he wants to party like it’s 1959. On previous outings, his sound has been compared to Phil Spector and that whole Motown thing, but here Louis seems to have discovered the early sixties, specifically the Mersey sound, and the guilty pleasures of country. ‘Let Me Cave In’ opens up with arhythmic strumming that soon consolidates into a driving pop beat underpinned by a simple guitar melody topped with Louis’ distinctive voice, a mix of Steve Harley, Richard Hawley and Elvis Costello but still unique. ‘A Heartbeat Behind’ slides a hint of melancholy into the mix, but is so neatly crafted and infectious; then just to throw you completely ‘Karaoke’ hits a baggy beat, chucks in some John Squire-ish guitars and pulls up the pace, just in time for the titular ‘Sob Story’, a Tennessee waltz of epic proportions. This essentially sets the framework for the rest of the album, but the crafting is admirable.
As is the poetic simplicity of the lyrics. In ‘Karaoke’, Louis states his uncertainty as plainly as a haiku – ‘I don’t think I was cut out for this/but who is?’; in ‘Sob Story’ he opens with a line about the heavens opening, then follows with the referential ‘but they’re not ready for me yet’ – desperate, melodramatic but economic too. The only criticism I would level is that after a while, you start to lose the clarity of Louis’ voice to the pure melody of it – your brain just strips it down. That sums this album to a tee though – stripped down pop that is so simple it just has to be ultracomplex. Rob Wright
NARCS – Two Birds, One Stone Later (Clue Records) Turbulent alternative rock four-piece NARCS, and their latest album Two Birds, One Stone Later, give an entirely new definition to crooning vocals, courtesy of lead vocalist, Wilko, and noisy, guitar-driven tracks with tumultuous drum beats and heaps of lo-fi resonance. This gritty, torment-laden debut, full of musical and rhythmic rantings about the classist injustices of the political system, is a wholly fresh, Northern take on indie rock, and is saturated with heavy guitar lines and cutting lyricism. Debut single ’19’ is nearly 3 minutes of menacing, unforgettable hooks and intense riffs, overlapped by polished, unrelenting drum-based back beats that crash into action only after the creepy drawl of the track’s short instrumental intro. The single’s elusive title symbolises not only the Leeds-based quartet’s political conscience in that it counts the number of Prime Ministers that have emerged from the confines of Eton, but ‘19’ also sums up what makes NARCS stand out among an ever-growing crowd of angry, commonplace alt-rock bands lacking in poignancy and true purpose. Two Birds, One Stone Later is a debut album that above all screams intellect, as well as the rarity that is refined instrumentalism and pounding, merciless musicality. Further standout tracks, ‘Creatures’ and ‘Irregular Reader’, display that NARCS’ musical stylings are double-edged. They cover meaningful, soft-paced melodies with lyrics that gently preach to all listeners in full force, such as ‘People, don’t adjust your pedestal heights’, as well as the best of loud and grainy, angst-ridden beats. Rosie Ramsden Bodywork – The Grind (Self release) With a boom and a tumble of bass, we’re off. The beginning is quite reminiscent of Frankie Goes To Hollywood but soon trickles off into Japan… It is really quite sumptuous and very well put together and a good guide to the rest of the album. Throughout its nine
songs, The Grind explores a number of sounds from the 80s – ‘Tap That’ has the portentousness of post ‘Vienna’ Ultravox, ‘Body Heat’ is more Japan, both ‘Lift Up Your Love’ and ‘Global Hypercolor’ channel the Pet Shop Boys. There are hints of Talk Talk, Propaganda, Tears for Fears – the list of bands goes on and on. Bodywork are born out of the ashes of Trumpets of Death (the same line up, as far as I can tell). And there lies the problem – they aren’t Trumpets of Death. There’s no drone, no wailing sax (apart from a couple of restrained excursions), no bludgeoning power. None of the things that made Trumpets of Death vital and exciting. If that’s what you’re after, you’re in for a disappointment. And yet, and yet…there is no denying that it is a great album. The more I listen to it, the more insistent it is – it is catchy, funky, achingly beautiful in places (Ben Weatherill’s voice is still stupendous) and knowingly perfect in its construction. But can we please have the lost second Trumpets of Death album too? Cactus Available as a free download from http:// www.bdywrk.com/ The Red Shades – Shake Your Bones (Self release) Hailing from our fair city of Leeds, The Red Shades are a three piece rock and blues band with so many ideas they thought the only way to get what they wanted out of their debut album was to do it all themselves, and here it is, Shake Your Bones, written, recorded and produced by the band.
And as debut releases go, this is a mighty fine start. The thunderous opener ‘Lonely’ shakes, rattles and rolls you over, coming on with a Black Keys swagger and a confidence rarely seen on a debut self release. ‘Run’ has the same sonic quality, expanding their sound further with Hammond organ, emphasising the guitar licks that resound all over the record, pummelling and driving everything along on this slick production. ‘Chains’ and the title track carry on this hard rocking theme, channelling
their inner Led Zep, Wolfmother et al. Some of the slower songs, ‘Penny’ and ‘Beside Me’, show a band willing to diversify and show song writing credentials but can fall a little short, landing in a Stereophonics kind of MOR, rock-for-the-masses that doesn’t live up to the expectations the rest of the album promises, though album closer and slow burner ‘Alison Sings the Blues’ show they can pull this off with the right song. Although, these are mere gripes on my part, for what is genuinely a great effort for a first release. Glen Pinder The Seven Inches - The Seven Inches Get Disorientated (Sturdy Records) What is ‘indie’? The question seems to pop up every time I discuss The Seven Inches with anyone. For me ‘indie’ can be characterised as a song based form that lyrically seeks to articulate the trials and effects of social awkwardness, aspirations and disappointments in the shape of generally upbeat songs driven by, usually, guitars. There, that’s pretty positive in my book. No pejorative implications at all. Of course, ‘indie’ can be as shitely executed as anything else. But it’s also been responsible for some of the most joyously inclusive pop anthems of the last 30 years. Take The Seven Inches, for example… It’s taken them over ten years to put this debut album out and some of the songs included are that old as well. Most gig goers in Leeds have probably seen The Seven Inches at least once and probably come away with an impression as fuzzy round the edges as the band’s sound. What this album does is wipe away all the dodgy support slot sound mixes and exposes the songs to proper scrutiny and do you know what, most of them are bona fide indie pop gems. The songs are extremely well constructed, brilliantly played and singer Ian Cockburn is finally exposed for all to see as a damn fine songwriter and lyricist. Songs like the brilliant ‘The Little Things’, ‘Openness And Honesty’ and the title track read almost like a celebratory manifesto of what ‘indie’ is, while the irony of ‘Our Gang
are some real groovy songs and some filler. Yes, it does make me want to go and see them. No, they aren’t going to be superstars.
This album will refuse to leave your MP3 player and you will refuse to turn it off.
I like the Voltaires. “No songs over 3 minutes 30 seconds, GUARANTEED!” declares their Bandcamp page, instantly appealing to the punk in me. After a nice woozy brass intro, the album rattles along as you would expect it to. Catchy, short and to-the-point garage rock. The song writing is good, the riffs are catchy and Gareth Williams throws some excellent vocal shapes.
Unstable Journey – A Fire In the Trees (Bearded Crab)
Cactus The Voltaires – The Voltaires (This Is Art Recordings)
There’s something distinctly ‘70s about this album. Its opener, ‘Always Wrong’, starts with a fuzzed guitar riff reminiscent of Hawkwind’s ‘Brainstorm’, and then expands into a grungy rocker, the bassline lolloping with the melody alongside solid drums. For me, the only let down is the vocal. But more of that later.
Unfortunately, the album is not quite the sum of its parts. I imagine The Voltaires are an excellent, raucous live band, but album is a little antiseptic. I wanted to feel the sweat dripping off the ceiling but all I was really getting was cups of tea in the studio. Maybe a live album might capture the sound better. Or you could just catch them live.
This recipe features in a number of songs – fuzzed and phased guitar, walking bass, a drumming backbone, slightly whiney vocals. And, in the main, it works very well, though the vocals are the weak link – Mitch doesn’t have a great range (except for ‘Saviour’, where he is really rather good). There’s nothing too fancy – no soloing histrionics. Instead they concentrate on creating something more interesting.
I confess that I find the rockier number more effective. The aforementioned ‘Saviour’ and ‘Always Wrong’ deserve to be on full blast. But some of the quieter songs don’t work so well. ‘Swan Song’ meanders for eight minutes or so before bursting into life. ‘Jay’ starts slow and takes a couple of minutes to get going. The exception is the closer, ‘Gojira’, which takes fifteen minutes to go nowhere in particular, but does so with verve and style. To sum up the album – you’ll like some of it, and some of it not so much. It’s good, but not great. The playing is high quality, but not exceptional. The production is fine. There
Various Artists – ‘kin Hell Fest 2013 Fund Raising Compilation (Self release) At the end of April this year, ‘kin Hell Fest, a celebration of the UK underground metal scene, ran for three days at Templeworks in Leeds. It was a roaring success. However, organiser Paul Priest had really ramped up the scale of the festival from its inaugural one day affair and, to be blunt, he bit of more than he could chew. Personally it was a financial disaster for Priest. Someone suggested he put together a compilation of tracks donated by the bands that played the festival with the intention of selling it. Priest thought this a decent idea and set the wheels in motion. Being a very well connected and respected guy, pretty soon he had amassed a huge collection of songs sent in by most of the bands that played, as well as from dozens of others who didn’t. Initially unsure how to
of Friends’ deftly undercuts the idea that Cockburn is anything like an ‘indie’ sentimentalist. The songs are packed full of great lines and rhymes (‘That’s the trouble/ With Barney Rubble’ from ‘Hanna-Barbera’, a song about and a critique of the history of kids TV animation) and are a joy to listen to. The only criticism is that there’s not much space in the songs and their soundscape is a bit dense and cluttered.
sort the donations he finally decided to just bundle the lot together and slap a £4 minimum price on it with the suggestion that you could pay more. So, what you get for your money is 82 separate tracks making up a whopping five and a half hours of music that, in effect, acts as a primer for the strength and depth of the current UK underground metal scene. Inevitably it’s a patchy affair but for every duff track (Asomvel) there’s half a dozen others that blaze away in glorious style (like Atragon, Guanoman, Hammerfist, Horrific Sexual Atrocity and Ishmael, the last now sadly defunct) but there are quite literally dozens more. As an added attraction you can marvel at the inventiveness of metal band names and the titles they give their songs – my favourite is ‘Shittifying Quaffage of Hideous Smegmatic Rectal Chunder’ by Crepitation. Who cares what it sounds like! Fortunately Priest appears to have now got himself out of debt but the comp is still available to buy, and buy it you should, if only to make sure ‘kin Hell Fest 2014 happens. Steve Walsh Available to buy (and don’t be stingy now) at http:// kinhellfest.bandcamp.com/ Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip – Supreme (Self release)
This is Leeds artist, stand-up, writer and singer of surreally idiomatic songs Artistik’s seventh album. So how did that happen? Novelty comedy music is supposed to have a shelf life shorter than crab meat. Time was, Artistik albums were a collection of send-ups or pastiches of styles of music or even specific songs overlayed with his unapologetically Yorkshire tones and wild, firecracker imagination. Well, simple fact is that Artistik’s largely ditched the reliance on pastiche and over the last few years considerably sharpened up his lyrical and songwriting acumen while losing none of his wit. It should also be said that the music has also sharpened up considerably and while Artistik’s constant musical companion Jonny Flockton has always been a good guitarist, his playing here is a joy to listen to from start to finish.
So, the songs: you get the mad surrealism of ‘Sudoku Man’ (‘Sudoku on ‘is jacket/Sudoku on ‘is ‘at/Sudoku on ‘is trousers/I don’t what it’s made of but his suits fantastic!’); ‘The Lights Are On’ which is more or less a straight run through of Robert Palmers ‘Addicted to Love’ for which Artistik’s initially gets stuck on the first line and then plunges into some wild vocal improvisation (‘A fat Bob Dylan and a Fat Nick Cave/Selling rugs in a carpet shop/Big boys, big boys!’); the hilarious soap opera like Irish folk of ‘Adrianno Driscoll’ (sic); and the belligerent, foul mouthed rock-a-billy of ‘Wallet In My Pocket’. But the best stuff marks a new departure for Artistik where he manages quite brilliantly to mix pathos and bathos in songs like ‘Stars’, ‘Bali’ and even ‘Rex’, a song about a couple sharing the care of their dog after they split up. I know, it doesn’t sound promising but its tragicomedy of the subtlest kind. Brilliant. Steve Walsh Terra-ist – Welcome to My Civilian Army (Self release) In general terms, I’m not too keen on grime as a musical genre. Too often it’s musically tedious, using the same sound palette of grinding or bleeping bass, tinny drums and no discernible hook. And lyrics are misogynistic and/or crass – who wants to know about your watch? Included samples are frequently the most memorable bits. There are honourable exceptions that are socially aware, returning to grime’s origins as a form of protest. And this is the route taken by Terra-ist. The repeated themes are alienation and disaffection, losing and fighting back, having nothing and going tribal. And mostly these are delivered with panache. Like virtually all of rap culture, sooner or later there are some weak rhymes, but the balance here works. And the guest rappers are consistently high quality. Though you do have to question the accents – Terra-ist and his mates are Leeds born and bred and I wish they sounded like it. Musically, it plays it quite straight – Terra-ist has toned it down since his single last year. That had scraping metal edges and buzzes as background. This album has partially replaced that with some guitar shapes, bass-lines
Singles and EP’s Hawk Eyes – That’s What This Is (Self release) A common complaint levelled at Hawk Eyes is that they’ve gone too pop. Like this is a bad thing. What is wrong with getting a decent audience in, people? Well, this EP is not going to please you, but like Ideas will continue the open door policy that Hawk Eyes have adopted. It is still powerful, subversive stuff. The title track unloads a caklot of noise, gets you bobbing, then switches key, just to throw you. ‘Never, Never, Just Not Now’ sounds very very Foo Fighters but Rob’s cheeky guitar fills and Ben’s bass twiddling keep things just the right side of the Grohl. Special mention should also go to Steve’s use of cowbell/woodblock on ‘Cheap’ – Christopher Walken would be proud. Yes, one song could be mistaken for FF and another for Pulled Apart By Horses, but what is quickly emerging as the distinguishing feature of Hawk Eye’s is Paul Astick’s vocal versatility – he goes from sounding like Chris Cornell to John Lydon to vengeful banshee in a beat. He has stepped up from being an instrument to being the core of the band, and that is what is going to make Hawk Eyes. Don’t be surprised if they do a Muse. In a good way. Rob Wright Feeds – Words of a Fool EP (Self release)
In a follow up to last year’s hauntingly ambient album shadowformerself, this EP is the first of two releases by Graingerboy – lecturer, Balearic keyboard player and man who is currently recovering from ME. Considering what life is throwing at him, this is a lot more upbeat ambient. ‘Cheaper Than a Taxi Home’ tips it’s hat to French techno and The XX’s sub zero coolness, but also invokes the likes of Jamiroquai and MGMT while still being unashamedly intimate to the point of emotional nudity, considered in the nostalgic/anecdotal ‘Trainsurfing’ – the beats are there, but moving rather than just about movement, ‘Summersend’, recorded in collaboration with St Etienne, sounds like Lone Wolf via Massive Attack, moody late night grooves in a lonely bedroom, ‘Flying Solo’ cuts like The Knife and ‘Last Shop Standing’ is a sad memoriam of city individuality before the dark techno epic remix of ‘Vintage’ by JagzKooner. It’s a real slice of summer groove and as cool and moreish as blue raspberry Mr Freezes. Lovely, lovely stuff. Rob Wright Tight Rope – Demo (Self release) Sometimes it’s easy to give an average band a good review because they seem like a nice bunch who have their hearts in the right place. This is not going to be a problem with Tight Rope. Their demo is a heady mix of misogyny and the sort of social commentary of which Iain Duncan Smith would be proud. Poor little Tight Rope working their fingers to the bone while single mothers lounge in their luxury council flats. For the record, they want to sound like Arctic Monkeys. They don’t. Mat Forrest CHEERLEADERS – CHEERLEADERS (Self release)
To sum up, it’s unoriginal and basic. It’s everything you’ve heard before and they sound about as arsed to be regurgitating their music as I am listening to it. It’s not that their material is bad, but my God, it’s boring.
The Cheerleader’s debut EP sets their stall out pretty effectively. American-style rock with chugging guitars and a singer who sounds as if he needs a nice mug of honey and lemon. It may not be revolutionary but they do seem to be able to craft a song, even if it may be the same one five times. Not everything needs to be an EP. A couple of these tracks as a single might have left them slightly less exposed. To be fair, they are full of energy from start to finish, but that might be part of the problem. Homework: a change of pace.
It’s a good job they didn’t catch me on a bad day.
For once in my life, I am lost for words. Not because Words of a Fool by Yorkshire quintet, Feeds, is astounding, revolutionary or inspiring – but because I have literally nothing to say about this EP.
graingerboy – Silent Universe EP (Pop Crisis Recordings)
that sound like bass-lines and an occasional reggae or R’n’B vibe (check out ‘Scented by the Hive’). There is some groovy drum’n’bass grind (the middle of ‘Don’t you feel alone’ is very funky). And where it all comes together it is viscerally exciting (especially closers ‘Powerful People’ and ‘Slanguage’).
Esper Scout – Assumpta Tang (Self release) ‘Assumpta Tang’ is a trashy, edgy, bad-ass little number taken from Esper Scout’s new mini album, Poet Curses. With massive breakdowns, dynamic melodies and heavy layering, the progressive rock group have perfected their provocative style, and are set to raise some eyebrows when the album is released. It’s a good thing the release is imminent, because I honestly cannot wait. Amy Walker Brett Lee – For The Taking EP (Self release) ‘For the Taking’ is Brett Lee’s debut release as a solo performer and is a good starting point for the emotive troubadour. Opening proceedings with ‘Ever’last’ a song of yearning for young lost love. Its piano and vocal lead, propelled with splashing cymbals and driving drum beat, being in a similar vein to recent chart sensation Tom Odell. This is shown further on ‘Scream’, a simple piano ballad delivered in a low key, down beat way, only to rise for the chorus, each time around building to what you think may be the crescendo yet always pulling back, letting the vocal and subtle strings do their work. ‘Mistakes’ is again in the emotive piano led style with strings for emphasis and added heartfelt moments, standing just the right side of contrived lyrically and musically. Though he may not have the strongest of voices, Lee knows just how far to stretch his talents. Glen Pinder BongCauldron – BongCauldron EP (Superhot Records)
This four track EP starts with the high pitched whine of a fiercely overdriven guitar amp and then drops vertiginously into the gaping maw of the kind of brutal, bass heavy riff Black Sabbath would be proud of. This is ‘Tree Wizard’, which spends three gleeful minutes
battering the fuck out of that riff before making way for the equally rock smashing but slower grind of ‘Pissed Up’, which is peppered with gaps filled with shrieking feedback. Although, the stink of Sabbath is all over this music, not one second could be described as sounding retro. Last track ‘GIMP JIG’ is a twelve minute wallow in the thick embrace of delicious low end distortion and feedback, which is even more intense in the slow motion breakdowns. This is not clever music, but by Jupiter it positively flares with excitement and honesty. Steve Walsh Extra Curricular - Notify (Self release) A super cool, super sophisticated jazz/ funk/soul sextet from Huddersfield? It’s true! ‘Notify’ is an upbeat, funky tune that sports an implied half speed chorus that ups the slink factor considerably. Bassist Jack Button and drummer Noah Burton provide the bedrock of the sophistication, with both using electronic programming to boost the rhythmic possibilities, while the guitar and horns provide punchy accompaniment. Singer Thabo Mkwananzi has a strong voice that deftly invests the melodies with their own rhythmic element. Support track ‘Robbin’ Hood’ deploys the kind of upmarket disco feel that Chic trade in and has a great fist pumping chorus. The included ‘Notify’ remix by Noji (actually Button and mate Lee Robinson) extends the song but its linear treatment removes the rhythmic variation that drives the original and is rather lifeless. Steve Walsh
Hayley Gaftarnick/Zak Ford/Jonnythefirth/Gary Stewart @ Oporto, Leeds Earlier this year, I was eulogising about the quality of one of the increasing number of free to enter live music evenings in Leeds and thankfully, this trend is repeated every Monday at Oporto, courtesy of Gaslight Club, hosted by Caledonian interloper Gary Stewart. This night has helped unearth some of the city’s finest singer/ songwriters in recent times and the vibe is clearly ‘60’s Greenwich Village. Tonight’s event is showcasing the debut single launch of one of Leeds’ hardest working musicians Hayley Gaftarnick and her splendidly soulful ‘Turn to Stone’. Before that, there’s a blinding undercard to contend with, starting with the erstwhile Gary Stewart and his sparsely expansive Americana, brought to life by the exquisite fairy dust of Sam Lawrence’s electric guitar. Hmmm, that was rather good. Next up is one man wall of sound Jonnythefirth, sat behind a microphone and drum kit, guitar in hand as I watch open mouthed as he cranks out the most insanely catchy blues punk I’ve heard in ages... its brilliant. Given the poisoned chalice of following that is York’s Zak Ford, this time with only an acoustic guitar to hide behind. I needn’t have worried though, we have yet another fine voice singing quality self penned songs. Then, all of a sudden, I’m feeling a bit worried for the Belle of the Ball as she’s in danger of being upstaged unless she kicks some serious derrière and by her preset body language, she clearly knows it. Ultimately, that’s what separates the wheat from the chaff and tonight. Gaffers has called in the cavalry (including Rosie Doonan) to make sure there are no tiles left on the Oporto roof following her excellent set. The single is a triumph and despite being forced into some essential equipment repairs late on, her exquisitely husky vocal wrapped around a spellbinding mix of folk, jazz and blues leaves the packed crowd in raptures. Mike Price High House/George and Kane/Sam Airey/Witch Hunt/ Alyesha Wise @ Holbeck Underground Ballroom, Leeds
Once again, Leeds played host to the avant-garde institution that is Sofar, a global movement that specialises in hosting live performances in atmospheric and up-close venues. One of a number of poets from across the pond,
Alyesha Wise set the tone for what was to come. Hailing from Philadelphia, the powerful poet held a captivated audience with tales of gang violence, her grandmother and questions of identity and race. Fraught with emotive expression, her delivery thrust us head-first into the realms of spoken word with no sign of looking back. Next to grace the space at the front were Leeds-based duo Witch Hunt, performing a stripped down and ambient set which pleasantly brought to mind The XX. The intimate setting and warm night allowed Louisa Osborn’s rangy voice to be heard in full glory, and the reverb from Chris Mulligan’s guitar gave an almost ghostly, atmospheric feel to proceedings. If you haven’t heard Sam Airey yet, it’s unlikely to be long before you have. His tone and pacing combined with simple yet striking melodies gave the room a hushed intensity. The sort of music that makes you want to tell other people just how good it is. We were then treated to perhaps my favourite act of the night, George and Kane, two young poets from North Carolina. With verses on Da Vinci, Family, and spoken word itself as well as last minute contributions from Dancing Years’ David Henshaw and accordionist Joe Semple, the duo enamoured their audience with consummate ease and left us with that unique sense of having seen something truly great. The final act of the night came from Stafford folk ensemble High House. Filling up every inch of the stage and utilising a vast array of instruments the group treated us to some beautiful harmonies and foot tapping melodies, rounding off with a great cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’. As we filed out of the beautiful venue on the outskirts of the centre I, for one, felt rather privileged. Oscar Gregg Invisible Cities/Fresh Eyes for the Dead Guy/Tribal Fighters/Magnapinna @ The Fox & Newt, Leeds Magnapinna initially suffer a booming bass problem that destabilises the trio’s sound balance, but once sorted the precise, emphatic drumming, thick glutinous bass and lacerating guitar combine to make a kind of cubist funk that flows much more seamlessly than you might expect. In a venn diagram of metal, funk and hardcore, Magnapinna would occupy the place where all three overlap. “We’re a dance band” says Tribal Fighters bassist, “so get involved.” No-one does, largely because the band’s instrumental, Foals-ish sparse funk is just a bit too lumpen and unfunky to qualify as dance music. Still, the guitarist does some impressive two-handed tapping, they do a fun deconstructed cover of a Destiny’s Child song, and their newer songs (including ‘K-K-K-Kittens’) are more epic in a Muse-ish way and are much more interesting.
Steve Walsh Superintendent/Himself/Unwave @ The Fox & Newt, Leeds Before diving into the review I have to apologise to Monster Killed By Laser whose headline set I sadly missed and so won’t get the pleasure of me dissecting their performance to within an inch of its life. Sorry guys, another time for sure. As I walk in, Unwave are cracking solidly on with their gritty, hardcore stylings. Strong beats and riffs are the order of the day and their continuous variation is impressive if a little hard to follow. Also, there’s a sense of discomfort coming from the band while they’re on stage which is a little disheartening to watch. A shame because there’s a lot in this band to like. As for Himself, I am unlikely to capture their essence within the paltry Vibrations word count but it’s safe to say I’ve not seen so entertaining a band in quite some time. Crammed onto the stage, the 5-piece launch into a mix of prog, ambient and rock. Then from out of the pack, one guitarist establishes himself as the frontman, displaying incredible vocal technique and beginning a baffling series of meta-lyrics. “This is all part of the show, nothing is left to chance” is the party line and you’re not too sure how to take this until our man starts to shout at the supposedly irreverent crowd before walking off stage to join us and mock the rest of the band. It’s pure performance art but it’s brilliant – the music’s bloody good too. Superintendent, given the unenviable job of following that curveball, do so with gusto even in spite of several technical hiccups along the way. It’s more straight-downthe-line Hardcore and comes at you with force as their tattooed-to-the-teeth vocalist writhes around on stage. A strong evening of music that I can only assume got even stronger after I left. Tim Hearson
This is an auspicious occasion. Possibly one of the last chances to see this band in a small venue before they adopt a ballistic trajectory to megastardom. But Super Luxury are only playing support, this is Hawk Eyes’ night so... let them have this moment. Going back to Adam Nodwell’s riff odyssey, Super Luxury... hmmm, an odd fish. They come on looking like Brit pop, plunge into some ankle deep sludge riffage over a simple beat, then Adam starts half growling, half mumbling into his mic. It’s like a sludge The Fall, and the audience response is that of general bemusement. Undeterred, Adam starts bantering nonsensically, while swigging WKD and lumping stools about. It’s all a bit unnerving... but I like the riffs.
The badly overrunning schedule didn’t seem to affect the enthusiasm of Invisible Cities’ patient audience, and with good reason. The bands past post/prog rock leanings have been largely erased in favour of an ebullient, joyful kind of groove based instrumental music that certainly takes itself seriously but is in no way po-faced. The tunes hip-shake around to rhythms that are combinations of Reichian minimalism and Nigerian highlife; it’s a heady, if subtle, brew played superbly by all four musicians with a telepathic empathy.
Hawk Eyes/Cut Yourself In Half/Super Luxury @ The Packhorse, Leeds
Cut Yourself In Half look like an eighties band making one last comeback, but do not let that put you off. They are air tight metal of a traditional nature, but with prog and speed metal aspects and riffs aplenty. Determinedly unfashionable and proud, CYIH hark back to a time when Metallica were still better known for their libation than their litigation... so maybe the eighties reference stands... Hawk Eyes are about to embark on a tour supporting System of a Down, so to see them in this upstairs sweatbox doing a gig for their loyalist fans is quite touching. It’s also a good chance for them to try out the new material from the forthcoming EP That’s What This Is before they hit the road. It’s still very in your face, very fast, very noisy, but like Ideas continues their shift to a more melodic monster. The set reflects this, with ‘Scorpieau’ being the only old track on display. But it is a powerful set, with Paul screaming his way through it, a full-on metal god, despite his specs sitting on a Marshall cab. ‘Hollywood Sweatshop’ and ‘Bears By The Head’ are utterly triumphant and as Paul steps into the crowd for the final song it is clear that it is time for this Hawk to fly. Rob Wright The Scaramanga Six/Young Liars/Mi Mye @ The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds Mi Mye, songwriting vehicle of Jamie Lockhart and currently formed from members of The Spills, ably open the evening with heartfelt and gritty tunes that generally last just a minute and a half. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for their short, introverted song-nuggets and when the violin comes out for the last few couple I’m totally sold. By contrast, Young Liars, step up with something altogether more atmospheric and post-rocky. In fact, loose though the Post-Rock label is I imagine Young
Fresh Eyes for the Dead Guy lurch between grunge, hardcore, bluesy boogie, poppunk and amalgamations thereof in a way that suggests they have a bit of an identity crisis. I reckon they should settle for hardcore, because both singers have great rock voices and the epic hardcore of their last song is explosively good.
Liars are pretty representative of what people tend to mean by the term: Solid Vessels-ian layers and grooves, some Maybeshewill style film quotation and signature soaring guitar lines. Strong though they are, there’s very little to differentiate them from the crowd and I find myself drifting off and thinking about how much I love 65daysofstatic... Don’t get me wrong, Young Liars are great at what they do but from my snooty little critical pedestal I see a band with all the right ingredients and I’m rooting for them to mix them in a way that’s just a tiny bit more inspired. Then the smartly shirted Brothers Morricone step up to close the night with their brand of foot-stomping, intelligent rock music. Leeds music scene patriarchs, The Scaramanga Six are somewhat folkloric and ‘the faithful’ are out in force tonight. As a relative virgin to the Scaramanga world, I don’t have the same nostalgic attachment to the lyrics as some of my older brethren but I can appreciate a good riff when I hear one and there are plenty of moments that make me cry out in approval. It’s a really stunning display of bravado and balls, sardonic lyricism and pop/rock composition. I’m immediately inclined to seek out their back catalogue and discover more of what I’ve been missing out on: The Scaras’ play for about an hour, just enough to scratch the surface. Tim Hearson MonMon/Invisible Hands/Operator 6/The Reacharounds @ The Library, Leeds Periodically, the idea that guitar bands are a dying out, thoroughly wrung-out-for-ideas thing of the past, surfaces, but the hoary old beast simply refuses to die. Of course, it’s hard to be truly original anymore and unless you’re lucky enough to actually have an original way of doing things, the best you can hope for is to revisit the past(s) and put your own stamp on something that’s already familiar. Take this gig for instance… Both The Reacharounds and Operator Six are what you could describe as ‘proper’ rock bands, playing ‘proper’ rock songs that have defined structures (i.e. verse, chorus, middle eight), the odd guitar solo and a sweaty urgency driven by desire and/or frustration. The Reacharounds sound may reek of mid 70s US AOR rock but they write and play with real skill and invention, and the vocal arrangements around George Riley’s lead are very strong. Operator Six’s sound comes from a similar root but is more diluted by punk and indie influences, and the songs are both less inventive and more formulaic as a result.
Invisible Hands (who launch their debut single at this gig) move things on a couple of decades or so to 90’s epic indie, centred around singer Jack Simpson’s songs and the seemingly casual ease with which he performs them – can’t imagine him suffering from stage fright at all. The songs sport memorable melodies and
imaginative arrangements, last song ending in a roil of noise and feedback, with Simpson letting his guitar drop to the stage as he staggers off, spent. Of course, MonMon are hostages to no-one and owe no debts to any previous ways of doing things. Much of the tension comes from the contrast between the literary bent of Andie Mills lyrics and the menacing swagger that pulses through their songs, boosted considerably when they play live. New addition Candy Hayes on vocals has added yet another startling element to the band’s sound, although her voice gets a bit lost in the fierce volume. And they hardly played anything from their superb debut album Garage Rock, either. For MonMon, the future beckons. Steve Walsh Racket Ball/Woog Riots/The Container Drivers/ Freemasonry in the Philippines @ The Fenton, Leeds Prior to this gig, Freemasonary in the Philippines announced it would not only be their first gig, but also their last. I’ve lost count of the bands I wish had applied a similar span to their careers. If you were there you saw and heard it all, if you weren’t you missed it. That’s it. The Container Drivers recorded output doesn’t do them any favours as it turns out they’re not really slavish copyists of The Fall at all. True, repetition forms a large part of what they do and, although the results can be variable, when they get it right they stoke a mean engine. So, while ‘There’s Something Dead In the Road’ is a very slim idea stretched way beyond its useful life, the similarly mantra like ‘They Found It Buried In the Ice’ works brilliantly. Last song is introduced as “a love song to Brutalism – it’s called ‘Buildings Go Up and Buildings Come Down’” to a nonplussed silence. It’s possible The Container Drivers are just too smart for their own good. German psychedelic disco synth pop woman-man duo Woog Riots probably sound exactly like you expect such a band to sound. Quirkily bubbly three minute synth and guitar driven nuggets of pure alt Euro pop. It’s put together with a great deal of subtlety and skill but by its very nature it’s never going to set the house on fire. Mid set the band hand out fractal glasses and play their last song on saw and ukulele. Like I said, psychedelic. Headliners Racket Ball continue to impress with their new found discovery of a driving, Krautrockian propulsion augmented by a skewed synth pop coating. I blame the new woman on keys – the Alchemic Effect of the Female should never be underestimated. The likes of ‘Etch-a-Sketch Face’, ‘When They Walked In’ and ‘New Lounge Ambition’ sound simultaneously like Sheffield in the early 80’s and the sounds of Jupiter in the 25th century. With politics and deadpan humour. Eh? Steve Walsh
Live Reviews / Previews Known for a long time as a peddler of all things acoustic, Gary Stewart is onto album number 2 and will be playing bits of it for your delectation at the Brudenell Social Club. There’s always a nice feel at Gary’s gigs so expect lots of warmth. Sky Larkin/Radstewart @ The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 23 Sep Sky Larkin are back after a solid hiatus during which Katie Harkin toured the world, playing keyboards with Wild Beasts. More, this tour is in support of their longawaited 3rd LP, Motto. Castrovalva/Exit International/Allusondrugs @ The Library, Leeds 23 Sep Leeds’ most oppressive bank Castrovalva have been doing a lot of stuff over the last year or so with 2-bassesand-a-drummer trio Exit International – the inclusion of Allusondrugs makes this gig a particularly messy one. Belgrave Street Feast @ Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds 4-5 Oct I’d expect to be hearing a lot about this place in the coming months – the listings speak for themselves. The Belgrave Music Hall is multifaceted venue bringing you a
great blend of food and arts – for the opening weekend they’ve brought out the big guns, too: Wet Nuns, Black Moth, These Monsters, Fun Adults, Battle Lines, Dirty Otter DJs as well as a host of street-food specialists. Johnny Marr @ Leeds Metropolitan University Union, Leeds 13 Oct Wizened Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr still commands a lot of respect in these parts and I’d expect this gig to be packed to the ceiling. If tickets haven’t already sold out by the time this gets printed then you’d best be quick quick… Future of the Left @ Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds 1 Nov If you thought I was bluffing on the above Belgrave listing, well I hope you’re happily silenced. Yes, welsh political Punk behemoths Future of the Left will be storming the Belgrave soon enough. Submotion Orchestra @ The Wardrobe, Leeds 13 Nov For those with more dubby, soulful tastes you’re unlikely to find a better offering than the sublime Submotion Orchestra. With performers of serious Jazz and Pop pedigree, Submotion are an imposing live prospect.
Gary Stewart and the Tin Foil Collectiive @ The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 20 Sep
Bi-monthly print music magazine covering bands in Leeds, and West Yorkshire (UK) featuring Leeds and Beacons Festivals and Happy Daggers
Published on Feb 1, 2014
Bi-monthly print music magazine covering bands in Leeds, and West Yorkshire (UK) featuring Leeds and Beacons Festivals and Happy Daggers