V i b r at i on s m a ga zi n e l e e d s a n d w e st y or k sh i r e a p r i l 2011 free
reviews one fo r the road passp o rt Control SECOND HEARING
p igeo n detec ti ve s rosie do o n an Blackl i ster s
Editorial Under the Influence Sam Saunders -Lofty Final Column? British Wildlife Festival The Pigeon Detectives Rosie Doonan Leeds Festival Announcment Passport Control Blacklisters Tour Diary Reviews Live Reviews Second Hearing One for the Road The Search Vibrations is looking for... Advertisers - 2000 magazines seen by music lovers across Leeds. email@example.com Classifieds - Band mates wanted? Equipment to sell? Rooms to rent? firstname.lastname@example.org Writers, Photographers, Artists and Sub editors Come be a part of it. email@example.com Demos - Send them in to: Steve Walsh, Reviews Editor Vibrations Magazine PO BOX 476 Leeds LS7 9BT
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Vibrations is: Editor Rob Wright firstname.lastname@example.org Design Workshop www.thisisworkshop.co.uk email@example.com Picture Editor Bart Pettman firstname.lastname@example.org Reviews Editor Steve Walsh email@example.com Founded and Published by Tony Wilby firstname.lastname@example.org Jack Simpson email@example.com Advertising Department Tony Wilby firstname.lastname@example.org Web Team Simon Hollingworth www.vibrations.org.uk Charlotte Watkins www.myspace.com/vibrationsmagazine Contributors Simon Lewis, Neil Dawson, Nelson, Tom Martin, Daniel Heaton, Sarah Burton, James West, Giles Smith, Rob Wright, Hayley Avron, Sam Saunders, Tim Hearson, Amy Allaker, Steve Walsh, Bart Pettman, Nadine Cuddy, Jess Wallace, Mike Price, Danny Payne, Rob Paul Chapman, Tom Bailey, Daisy Taplin, Spencer Bayles, Jack Sibley. Cover Photograph The Pigeon Detectives by Andy Willsher.
Blimey, that came around a bit sharpish – one moment I’m trapping and skinning stray cats to make warm clothes for my giant children (that’s what happens when you cut our benefits, Cleggeron – cats die), the next I’m considering going to work in hot pants because the weather has got so balmy. Spring is here, aha spring is here, and what a busy spring it has been so far. Since I last ranted at you, dear reader, I have been hobbing and nobbing with the great and good - oh, and Simon Glacken (just kidding Simon, you cuddly megalomaniac you) - and doing such things as leading in the groans of disappointment at the announcement of Beady Eye on the Leeds Festival line-up (no word of a lie – this roomful of bitter old hacks and twitchy scenesters actually groaned when they were announced – it was brilliant!), cornering arts council officials and almost literally asking them for 10p for a cup of tea (that’s what happens when you cut our grants, Cleggeron – officials get bothered) and directing A & R people to suitable lunch time eateries. I am living the dream. Jollity aside, it has been brought to my attention that the Leeds Music Scene has been neglected, underrepresented, underrated in the annals of UK music history. Everyone has heard of the Mersey Sound, Madchester – even the miniscule Fife-based village of Anstruther has its Fence Collective – but who celebrates the Leeds sound? Are we too eclectic for the pigeon-holers to handle? I mean, look at this issue; you’ve got The Pigeon Detectives, Rosie Doonan and Blacklisters: varied or what? Perhaps that’s why there hasn’t been 4
a celebration of our goth/anarcho/ post-rock/hardcore/jazz/punk/avantgarde etc. heritage. Well, let’s try and redress that there balance...
as we send a bunch of reviewers wandering around Leeds to get the best of the queues for Live at Leeds... and we play some football.
On a more encouraging note, the Yorkshire Embassy at SXSW has done sterling work, with Tigers That Talked winning a grant for $2500 after a close fought debate with exNIN keyboardist Allesandro Sonoio. Actually, he won, but he turned out to be such a good sport that he split the prize - nice work! Anyway, big congrats to Pat Fulgoni and his ambassadors for continuing to spread the good word despite these difficult financial times (that’s what happens when you cut our funding, Cleggeron – people still keep sticking it to the man... er, I think).
In the meantime, enjoy being under the influence of Chris Catalyst, pass customs with Frank Turner and the Lancashire Hotpots, get personal with Hawk Eyes, have one for the road with Paul Heaton – it’s all for you. But here I am waffling on when you could be reading – go on! And as Eldritch said ‘life is short and love is always over in the morning’ – let black winds carry you far away...
Back to the mag. I hope you notice how weighty it feels in your hands, because this issue is quite literally jam packed with good stuff – reviews, interviews, previews... other words ending with –views (that’s what happens when you cut our perspicacity, Cleggeron... oh, give it rest for pity’s sake!) – so much so that I have had to trim a bit here, hang fire there and generally brace myself for the onslaught everywhere, so I shall do a bit of ‘next time in Vibrations’ for you... Gasp! as Steve Walsh, our intrepid reviews editor, hosts a gig in his dining room. Howl with pleasure! at reviews for Eureka Machines, Pattern Theory and Scaramanga Six’s new albums (brothers Morricone, I trust a review copy will be winging its way to me as we speak? Don’t make me a liar...) Chortle at the loss of shoe leather!
Spring is here, a ha spring is here, a nd what a busy spring it ha s been so fa r. Surprisingly Sober Rob Ed
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The Beat Surrender Presents at Milo 28th April Tape The Radio + Supports £4 adv / £5 door 7th May Masters In France + Pretty Riddles + New York Drama Club + Audit Control £3 adv / £4 door
20th May The Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club + The Voluntary Butler Scheme £5 adv / £7 door 21st May The History Of Apple Pie + supports £4 adv / £5 door
11th May Starfucker + supports £4 adv / £5 door
28th May The Horn The Hunt (album launch party) + Supports - £3 adv / £4 door
12th May The Kabeedies + These Ghosts + This Many Boyfriends + The Cads £4 adv / £5 door
17th June Trogons (ex Kasms) + supports £4 adv / £5 door
All tickets available from Jumbo Records, See Tickets and Wegottickets
Under T he I n f l ue n c e Chr i s C ataly s t
S am S aun ders Lof t y Fin al Column ?
Robochrist, Sisters of Mercy, Scaramanga Six, Eureka Machines… hell, he’s even done a musical threesome with Willie Dowling and Ginger Wildheart on ‘Wichita Line Man’. But what was the catalyst for the Catalyst? Hayley Avron gets to the bottom of things…
The musical breadth of Leeds is amazing. Consider Ustad Dharambir Singh at South Asian Arts, Iration Steppas at the West Indian Centre, copsandrobbers in Hyde Park, Leeds Festival Chorus and Opera North in the city centre. Remember the country’s longest running folk club is in Leeds at The Grove, strong jazz roots, hundreds of guitar bands and everything in between. It’s an amazing city.
So, the question is this: which one song has had the biggest influence on your songwriting / playing? And yes. You have to choose one. Otherwise you will RUIN EVERYTHING. ‘Starman’ - David Bowie
But where could you go to browse and connect with all this? If you wanted to discover the riches outside your own circle, how could you link up with a sitar teacher, a jazz drummer or a gospel singer? Where can you sit and drink coffee on the off chance that you would meet someone unexpected, gifted and into the same things as you? Where would you go to rummage through a collection of recorded music from all those sources?
Where can this song be found? It’s taken from the seminal 1973 album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’. Side one, track four. Do you remember when & where you first heard it? I can’t be sure. The entire works of David Bowie were surgically implanted into my brain at birth, at the same time as my ability to ever find my keys was removed. However, I swear I have a very early memory of seeing The Krankies, dressed as space invaders, singing it on their ‘hit’ TV show. I remember knowing the song then, though. Ziggy Stardust was the first record I bought, and later my first CD when I upgraded to a Panasonic Midi System in 1991. I still have that midi system. Do you remember what went through your mind when you first heard it? Again, I don’t recall exactly, but I know it was like hearing and seeing something from outer space, even by the ‘80s. Especially to a six-year-old boy from East Yorkshire whose first viewing/hearing of it consists of a man dressed as a spaceman singing to a Scottish woman dressed as a small boy. It must have been like watching the stars fall from out of the sky in 1973.
Had you already started making your own music before you heard the song? If so, did it change your approach to writing in any way? No, but David Bowie shaped a lot of the things that I decided to do with my life. David Bowie made me realise that you could be whatever you wanted to be, and Mick Ronson was from just up the road from us. This also made me realise that such lofty goals weren’t unobtainable. Have your feelings / opinions about the song changed in any way over the years?
3. The guitar is great if you play it right (which Mick Ronson and Bowie most definitely do). 4. Hooks are brilliant. 5. Being out of tune is a bit annoying. Has it had any effect on your playing style / live performance? Without a doubt. Bowie showed that flamboyancy and energy was intrinsically linked with pop. He also showed me that I would never be able to pull off what he does, and so I don’t generally even try. No Bowie: no Lady Gaga, no Sex Pistols... and I’d also controversially say that metal would have been very different if not for his influence. So, what are you listening to at the moment? Right now, Ziggy Stardust again. The last three albums I’ve really liked have been ‘Let ‘Em ‘Ave It’ by Giggs (brilliantly produced, laid-back, intense grime), ‘Kvertertak’ by Kvertertak (Norwegian hardcore-y metal, dead punk, dead loud and brilliant live too) and ‘So Divided’ by ... Trail Of Dead.
Yeah, I still appreciate the genius pop sensibility, but ‘Starman’ itself suffers from the I’ve Heard It Way Too Many Times Now syndrome. From that album I much prefer ‘Moonage Daydream’ now. And from Bowie’s albums I probably like Diamond Dogs or Hunky Dory better now. In what way has it influenced the way that you approach your songwriting? 1. Singing about stuff that means apparently nothing is fine. 2. Dressing good is a cool thing to do.
What’s in the pipeline for Eureka Machines (no toilet jokes, ta...)? We’re about to release our second album, which is called ‘Champion The Underdog’. It’s big and poppy and shiny and it’s the best thing any of us have ever done. It’s not re-writing any rule books or pretending to be anything it’s not. It’s just good, honest, silly pop music, with noisy guitars. Champion The Underdog is out on 3rd May on Wrath Records and I too remember ‘Starman’ on the Krankies...
Where w oul d y o u go t o rumma ge t hro ugh a co llect io n of reco rded m us i c fro m a ll t hos e so urc e s ? Online is good. But face to face is better. At gigs or in bars is standard, but a dedicated coffee house, near enough to the City Centre, close to home and open in the daytime, would be perfect. If the same place also had a performance space for master classes, teaching rooms for instrumental tuition and facilities for related arts like photography and craftwork it would really start to look very exciting.
I was talking recently to University of Leeds Music finalist Kate Zezulka who was just finishing her dissertation on Leeds’ South Asian Arts (hence my belated discovery of Dharambir Singh). Kate is a guitarist and guitar teacher who plays a very nice classical guitar made by the English Luthier Earl S. Marsh. She is also a bit of an activist for opening up the musical communities in Leeds to each other. For the last two years at least she has been developing her idea of a Leeds Music Hub: a funded arts’ place close to the city’s musical centre of gravity, where musicians could work, volunteer, meet, drink coffee, attend master classes, play acoustic sets, listen to CDs from the archive, teach beginners, start new projects or just pass the time of day. She has won funds from two sources already: the social entrepreneurship body UnLtd and the University of Leeds’ Proof of Concept fund. She is working hard on bigger chunks of Arts Council and National Lottery money. She has been calling on advice and support from fellow music students and from Leeds’ music activists like Sam Nicholls (aka whiskas), Katie Harkin, Nestor Matthews, Owen Brinley and Lins Wilson. Fran Rodgers is preparing a website (holding page at www.theleedsmusichub.co.uk). The social media side of things is getting sorted too: the Twitter name will be @leedsmusichub and Facebook is being set at www.facebook. com/pages/The-Leeds-MusicHub/139826612750496?sk=info A small cash residue from the longforgotten Leeds Independent Music Awards is being handed over to
help establish the Hub’s CD archive (already a couple of hundred CDs strong). Whatever else is done though (and much is still open to suggestion) a good building on a good site is crucial to the concept. Things could start in a nomadic way, but to work fully a Leeds Music Hub will need to have a well-known home, independent of other identities or cliques (real or imaginary). One prominent Headingley site that Kate told me about – still under negotiation - would be perfect. If any of this sounds like something you might want to get involved in as a volunteer, teacher, contributor or user, you can get in touch with Kate by sending a message to: info@ theleedsmusichub.co.uk. Kate’s concept of a genuinely open place means that she expects her own ideas to develop and change through other people’s contributions. She’s working on a legal structure to make sure that it can be run as a not-for -profit organisation. There will be a condensed sampler of the Hub with drop-in workshops, advice, and a chance to chat about the Hub itself at the Live at Leeds Unconference.
C ake w i l l b e avai l ab l e . I t ’ s on F r i day 29t h A pr i l . 7
Briti s h W i l d l i f e F e s t i val
Runners - James West
@ Th e Ge o r g e/Nati o n o f S ho pkeeper s / B r ud en ell S oc i al C l u b , L e e d s Over the last five or six years, promoter Adam Nodwell, Mr British Wildlife, has developed a reputation for providing a fantastic platform for a particular strain of wired, nervy guitar bands drawn from other regional centres of musical exploration as well as here in Leeds. This was the fifth British Wildlife Festival and its ambitious four day, multi venue programme promised to be a triumphant validation of several years’ hard work by promoter and bands alike. Thursday ‘Leprosy, I’m not half the man I used to be’ – 10 minutes in and it’s apparent I’m about to review the open mic. A quick sprint downstairs to The George’s basement, then, where The Uprights are setting up. It’s thrashy, riff-based punk rock with a side order of feedback but it’s good fun. Colourful Mountain then proceed to drown us all in delay, their Lap-Steel centred noise-rock sprawling towards
That Fucking Tank eh? A pretty simple band to get your head around: a brutal collage of metal and rock riffs thrashed out with a decidedly punk ethic. Technically excellent and some killer stops, their balls-out performance makes for a brilliant end to the opening night. Hot stuff. Tim Hearson — Friday Friday night kicks off at the eccentric and low-lit Nation of Shopkeepers bar
Juffage - Sarah Burton
the more soporific end of things. Probably one of those If-this-wereRadiohead-we’d-all-be-going-mental type bands, but Italians with excessive pedal boards don’t make for an instantly convincing set. In the words of Superhans ‘the longer the note, the more dread’. Clearly a mantra for Buzz Aldrin, their nihilistic noise-rock carries a post-punk edge which walks the fine line between brilliance and atrociousness. Some interesting concepts which could be built on but the band definitely takes the night up a notch. 8
with Amateur Assassins, a screamo– electro band from Stoke. Definitely different, slightly off with their timing but did what they came to do - which was to ‘piss in our ears’, apparently. Next up were Liverpool’s Mugstar. These garnered a more appreciative audience, with their extended Krautstyle riffing coupled with atmospheric synth/guitar. The layers of metronomic beats dissolve into understated guitar riffs that just pour over the crowd. Leeds-based band Runners finish up this night of electro-funk goodness.
This band is difficult to describe: they have an upbeat, powerpop sound with cutesy electro synth that sounds not unlike an 80’s arcade game. They don’t disappoint, even though the lead singer performs the whole set with his back to the audience, and finish off the night expertly. Amy Allaker — Saturday Hail Blacklisters! Billy and his mates seem to suck up the pre-booze tension in the Brudenell Social Club and spit it out in obscene bursts onto a surprisingly dense and nodding crowd for this early in proceedings. High volume noise ministry for born again perverts. In the games room however Ultra Humanitarian are anything but with their drum and budgie torture vibe. A bit bemusing really, and I am expecting more of the same from Gum Takes Tooth until they start laying in like Battles with freaky vox and tricky beats. Yes, you can have a guitar band without guitars. Ben Wetherill has changed just a tad – in fact Trumpets of Death are so far from his folk beginnings that you cross time zones to get there. Vicious, discordant, bible-black and reeking of industry, this is a real descent into the silicon valley of shades. Ugly times, beautifully rendered. Any band that has a double-neck guitar deserves special note, and if the Bad Guys were a personal ad it would read ‘angry rock of a contentious nature WLTM men with beards’. Yes, they rip off the occasional Soundgarden and Black Sabbath riff, okay so they are a bit Danzig but... how often is it that you get to see genuine non ironic metal at one of these shindigs? Bad Guys, we full metal salute you!
From the overblown we go to the undercooked – Juffage has gone all lo-fi, dumped the effects and drums and become a man with a guitar in his portable front room. I’m all for honing the ephemera but... I liked the ephemera. Bring back the funny stuff. Fortunately, Kong have not simplified. Now Oceansize are out of the frame, these bad boys can concentrate on the proper stuff. I’d forgotten how good ‘Leather Penny’ was. I won’t forget again. Beards are very popular, and considering their infectious quirk guitar pop (like a female polarity Cowtown), it’s understandable, but the banana beer is really kicking in... I come around a bit for Three Trapped Tigers, but am too far back to appreciate the electronic post rock vibe, instead writing illegible nonsense for their set. I’ve given up on taking notes completely by the time Vessels take to the stage. Good thing too as they are all about the beat tonight. I cast myself happily into the broad strokes of ‘The Trap’ and indulge myself in ‘Idle Hands’. Though ‘Meatman’ is prominent by its absence, the rest of the new stuff makes huge sense live, but encore ‘Altered Beast’ steals the show. They really do keep getting better. Rob Wright — Sunday Back at The George, multiinstrumentalist trio Adult Jazz live up to their name by playing intricate, only occasionally pretentious songs that certainly have a jazzy feel but also have space to take in funk and African rhythms, which makes them sound like a more experimental version of Vampire Weekend. By contrast,
Black Moth want to drag us back into the primal sludge of no nonsense, between the eyes metal. It’s efficient stuff if a tad retro. London trio Nitkowski simply tear a hole in the centre of the evening with their fiendishly intricate but furiously, devastatingly played metal-math-punkjazz. Their largely instrumental pieces almost sound like several different songs have been smashed together to create a thrilling new hybrid. The few moments of calm reflection are soon detonated by another frenzied, hurtling burst of guitars locked in headlong pursuit of some kind of ecstasy. Utterly brilliant.
the booming portentousness of yet another hectoring epic becomes a bit one dimensional. The frantic guitars belong to Bearfoot Beware, who bring the whole thing to an end in a riot of impossibly fast and devilishly complicated punk-metal songs that sound like the musical equivalent of abstract art, all angles and geometry and no compromise. Steve Walsh Vessels - Sarah Burton
The sound is excellent all day, with the hard but clear mix giving post rockers Invisible Cities a much heavier sound than I’ve heard in the past, and while this gives some extra punch to their finely arranged tunes, the drums were oddly swallowed by the crunching guitars and flying viola. Non-believers must be sick of reading this kind of thing by now, but Cowtown remain one of the most consistently brilliant live bands operating in Leeds just now. The riddle of why they aren’t more widely known may soon be answered - the new songs seem to be a more successful amalgamation of their natural quirkiness and inherent poppiness. Rather than fizzle out, the day, and the Festival, ends in an explosion of shouting and more frantic guitars. Relative newcomers Heart Ships do most of the shouting. They’re a big band, with six members on stage, but you need this many people and guitars to make the epic songs they evidently specialise in. Stirring stuff initially but by the end of the set
Mugstar - James West
The P i g eo n D e t e c t i v es The R o t hw e l l I n c i d e n t
cause of the quick turnaround: “they used to put out an album every six months, so we started saying this in interviews and before you knew it the press had picked up that we were going to release an album within 12 months of the last – we didn’t want to lose face.”
They’ve sold tons of records, they’ve played Millennium Square and they’re big in Brazil, but they still have time for the home team – what nice chaps! Tim Hearson shares a pint with a brace of Pigeon Detectives...Photos by Bart Pettman
a decent crowd to play in front of.” It wasn’t long until the PDs came to the attention of some of the big Leeds movers and shakers. Whiskas (¡Forward, Russia!) in particular gave them a boost with support slots on the ¡Forward, Russia! tour and a debut album release on Dance to the Radio. Dirty Pretty Things, after hearing the PDs early demos, took them on their first big UK tour. Yorkshire scene heavyweights Kaiser Chiefs assisted too by adopting them for a jaunt round Europe.
Rothwell: Birthplace of the Rothwell Temperance Brass Band (Who, you ask? Only the 2009 Yorkshire Region Brass Band Competition Champions, that’s who) as well as Joseph Priestley, the inventor of fizzy pop, and home to the largest Working Men’s club in the country. It’s from this rich cultural heritage that our avian inquisitors herald and in the Black Bull, one of Rothwell’s glorious locals, Matt and Ryan agree to talk band stuff. It’s a storybook tale of 5 lads who met in primary school, grew up together, started a band and (as Bryan Adams put it) ‘tried real hard’. The concept of starting a band even drove them to set up a makeshift rehearsal space in one of their garages. “We carpeted 10
the walls, fixed the roof and door, put bars on the windows, it were great,” says Matt.”Went in 2 weeks later and the carpet had fallen off and it had all gone mouldy. We never actually practiced in it.” From this to a first gig at the Packhorse for family and friends and then a steady climb up the Leeds scene ladder. Any venues in particular the lads are particularly fond of? “The Vine used to be an experience,” says Matt, “you’d be sound checking in the afternoon and there’d be people passed out on the bar.” All good fun. “I used to like The Mixing Tin when it was The Mixing Tin. It’s now Mr Ben’s Comedy Club,” he adds, “we had a lot of our early gigs there and because it was a really small venue you could
have 30 people in there and still have an atmosphere.” The Cockpit, too, as Ryan explains: “It were quite prestigious to play The Cockpit.” The late promoter John Trueman (Flat Nose John) took a shine to the PDs after chancing them at a few Cockpit gigs and getting some decent crowds in return.
In 2007 the Detectives released their debut album ‘Wait For Me’ recorded at Soundworks Studios in Leeds. Their live sounding LP sauntered into the album charts at No.3 after heavy plugging by the likes of Radio’s Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley. Then, less than one year later, ‘Emergency’ emerged. “When we’d finished recording our first album, we sort of kept on writing,” Ryan explains, “so by the end we had this collection of songs that we were happy with so we thought there was no point deliberately waiting another year.” Matt also cites Beatlemania as the
So now we come to 2011, 3 years after the release of ‘Emergency’ and its clear the challenge posed by the Beatles’ machine-like production ethic has moved to the back of the PDs collective mind. Matt explains: “it’s not been as long as you’d think: 12 months went down the drain with touring and promoting the 2nd album; we recorded this one around June last year, so it’s been ready since July. It’s just all the bullshit that goes with it – the whole machine behind getting the album out is what takes the time.” ‘Up, Guards And At ‘Em, due for release on April 4th, has a more deliberative craftsmanship behind it. In searching for the next development their quest took them to New York with a carefully chosen producer. “We really wanted to work with someone who hadn’t yet proved themselves but still had enough of a back catalogue
for us to see he wasn’t going to make a complete bollocks up of it.” After about 4 months of searching they found Justin Gerrish who worked on the last Vampire Weekend record as well as John Mayer’s ‘Battle Studies’, Muse’s live album ‘HAARP’ and Herbie Hancock’s latest, ‘River: The Joni Letters’. What’s different then? “We didn’t set out to sound like another band or whatever but we didn’t want to just rewrite the first two albums.” Experimental without pretension was the aim of the game. Ryan says: “we ended up changing guitar lines for all kinds of weird stuff.” The pair then start to reel off a list of instruments; Marxophone, Mellotron, banjo and, of course, the good old synthesiser. “The core of it is still Pigeon Detectives; it’s just got this edge to it without being ridiculous.” Did all of it gel? “I tried singing with a French accent,” says Matt, “that didn’t work.” A distinct shift away from the initial ‘what you hear is what you get’ aesthetic, but how does it translate to the live show? “Initially it was a bit weird having given Justin total control,” says Ryan, “when we arrived in New York we could play all the songs in a room together but he stripped them all down then built them back up again, so realising that live is a bit more difficult.”
Matt also cites Wakefield based promoters Louder Than Bombs as a huge boost up the food chain: “they put us on with The Kooks, Arctic Monkeys, 10,000 Things, Sunshine Underground and ¡Forward, Russia! so they were good at bringing touring bands in and letting local bands support and that showed us what the benchmark was if we wanted to be a professional band as well as giving us 11
‘ O u r re c o rd l a be l’ s he re , o u r fa mil ie s a r e he re – e v ery t h in g ’ s i n L eeds f or us ’
They’ve even added a sixth member to the line-up to pad out the sound. “It’s working well,” adds Matt, “It’s given us a new excitement for playing live shows – I think we’ll win a few new fans and probably lose a couple of old ones but then that’s the price of progress.” I wouldn’t worry though, the danger that they’ve done an ‘OK Computer’ on us is quite minimal – they’re still a guitar band at heart. At the minute they’re gearing up for the impending UK tour which, at the time of writing, already has 5 sold out dates including the final homecoming show at the Leeds Met – proof they’re still able to generate excitement even after a 2 year gap from the airwaves. So do they feel like they’ve made it? “To be honest, when we were writing songs in Ollie’s bedroom and just taking those to the stage, that made us feel like we’d made it,” says Matt. “The first time we worked with a producer we felt like it and then when you can buy your own CD in HMV... anything after that is a bonus”. What about owning a bar in York? Currently Matt is part owner of Monty’s Rock Café (Quiz on a Monday, Music night on a Wednesday). Dream or hobby, it’s still pretty cool. Where next then? “We’ve actually got a massive South American following; we’re always getting twitters from Brazil and that.” Ryan points out: “they’ve got a big black market for CDs so you’ll never make a penny from album sales; however they do love gigs and stuff so we’d love to play out there.” The Pigeon Detectives are an excellent example of a passionate bunch of lads who, by a combination of determination and good fortune, are now in a position to return the favour. Anyone in particular they’re keen to
help out? “We’ll only have bands on that we like, like Cage the Elephant – we took them on tour and now they’re doing quite well, especially in America so maybe they’ll return the favour.” As a nod to the Kaiser Chiefs, they’re also taking Hull’s The Neat – currently associated with aforementioned Kaisers – on tour during the upcoming UK dates. Also impressive is their commitment to keeping it indie – ‘Up, Guards and At ‘Em’ will again be released on Dance To The Radio. They’re extremely level-headed too, given the Platinum selling debut album and Gold selling follow-up. I’d put this down to the home connection – it’s odd to think that the same two gents sat in front of me have entertained crowds in their tens of thousands yet seem perfectly comfortable exchanging friendly banter with the local barman. “We get sick of answering the question ‘when are you going to move to London?’ For us it’s a no brainer to stay in Leeds. Our record label’s here, our families are here – everything’s in Leeds for us.” The rise of the Pigeon Detectives, a continuation of Leeds’ growing Indie guitar band tradition, has been well-earned and commendably humble. Any last minute advice for bands looking to make something of themselves? “Play gigs, play gigs, play gigs.” Enough said. ‘Up, Guards and At ‘Em’ is due for release on 4th April and you might be able to get a ticket to see them at O2 Academy in April if there are any cancellations. Don’t bet on it though... www.thepigeondetectives.com
Rosi e D o on a n Burl e y T e a F o l k A home-grown veteran of the Leeds music scene, it turns out Rosie Doonan is also a thoroughly lovely person, who makes an excellent cup of tea. Despite being in the middle of a tour, she found half an hour to talk Leeds, Jazz, and Tom Waits with Jess Wallace. Photos by Tom Martin, Make-Up & Styling By Nadine Cuddy
When I meet Rosie Doonan, it is hurricane season in Burley and walking is no longer an option; you can only hope to blown in the vague direction of your destination. Finding a hostelry to host our meeting is not a pleasant prospect. Luckily, Rosie shows an incredible amount of trust in the kind of characters who write for Vibrations and invites me in for a cup of tea because It’s far to cold for a pint.
London and once we started getting gigs and stuff it became impossible so I moved back to Wakefield and he moved back to Wakefield and it went from there.” Ben is Ben Murray, and that ‘Folky duo thing’ produced ‘Mill Lane’, an album that earned the pair a Radio 2 Folk Award nomination. Since then, Rosie has branched out as a solo artist, and ‘Pot of Gold’ is her second solo album on Silvertop Records.
“ i t ’ s fa r t oo co ld f or a p in t ” . Once we are settled in her kitchen, I ask her about her recent show at the Adelphi, part of the tour for her second album, ‘Pot of Gold’. “It was a good gig,” she says, “but it’s always good at the Adelphi, there are always loads of people there.” Playing in and around Leeds is something of a homecoming for Rosie, having been born and bred in nearby Wakefield and then returning to Leeds after a stint in London to make her most successful music. So many do this the other way round, growing up in Leeds and then moving to the capital, so I’m interested to find out what brought her back. “Well, I was living in London and just doing all the London gigs,” she say, “and then an old friend Ben, who I’ve grown up with and whose dad is my dad’s best friend and they’ve played in bands together since we were kids, and he suggested that we started like a folky duo thing, so we started practicing; but he was living in Cumbria and I was living in 14
With this success in mind, Rosie still doesn’t foresee a return to the capital any time soon, which is good news for Leeds. She clearly feels at home here, considering the Leeds music scene as one big happy family: “I think Leeds is brilliant,” she enthuses, “in terms of new music and musicians I think it’s absolutely packed with really good talented musicians and I love the fact that everyone’s friends are all in bands - it makes it a nightmare to get gigs because you can never rely on any of the band members but it’s
nice that everyone’s got each other.” Luckily, she didn’t suffer from the notorious ‘difficult second album’ problem when making ‘Pot of Gold’: “I don’t think it was difficult to do another album because my style of writing is not necessarily the same,” she explains, “I sort of picked up the ukulele and was doing those 20s sounding songs. I mean there’s obviously some on there that are sort of generic ‘Rosie’ songs but I think it’s the same as everything, I started
off thinking I’m just going to keep it really simple and just have my voice and whatever the instrument is and it never ever ends up like that. It just develops naturally I think.” This natural artistic process is reflected in the album; its songs sound organic and the instruments that have added extra layers to the tracks all sound like they should be there. It seems clear that Rosie has a depth of knowledge about music that allows her to trust her instinct. This is unsurprising; she was brought up
in a musical family, and with her dad playing in folk bands she spent her summers doing the festival circuit from a young age. With this in mind, it seems surprising that music wasn’t always Rosie’s plan: “I didn’t want to be a musician or a songwriter until I was about 17, I was really late in starting,” she confesses, “I went to college and did performing arts and I was dead set on being an actress, but then we did a bit of music in one of the performing arts classes and I just thought I think I want to do this instead; from then on that’s what I’ve been doing.” Despite this late start, as a result of her upbringing Rosie had a grounding in different musical styles that undeniably contributes to her skill, something she readily admits: “Obviously I listen to Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash and all that kind of stuff, but to be honest my mum and dad were really into soul music, and that’s what we grew up listening to. I mean, obviously we went to dad’s gigs and the folk festivals and stuff so we were always surrounded by it in that respect, but that’s only the odd time - it’s not constantly and my mum and dad were massively into soul and blues.” This makes perfect sense, the folk influence is clear in Rosie’s composition, but her voice is all soul. With rising success comes the inevitable comparisons, and Rosie’s had some intimidating ones, from Joni Mitchell to Tom Waits. “To be honest, I’ve never really understood the Tom Waits comparison anyway,” she admits, “I mean I like him but I’ve never really understood the comparison. The one I get most is Joni Mitchell - I think I told someone that I listened to a lot of Joni Mitchell and from that point on I get it all the time. That’s quite intimidating because she was massive in the 60s and 70s, in the folk revival era but you know that’s what they do, don’t they, they’ve got to compare you to somebody so I kind of think well they’ve got their... somebody.” In the spirit of rustling up some new comparisons, what music were you listening to while making the new album? “I was listening to the Andrews sisters, that’s where that
kind of 30s and 40s stuff comes from. I listen to a lot of jazz, Ella Fitzgerald and all that kind of stuff, but they’ve been main influences forever really.” It’s readily apparent that Rosie is passionate about music in all its different forms. With this in mind, I wonder how she feels about the lasting place of soul and folk in today’s market: “I think soul music will always have a place,” she says, “I mean just look at the success that Adele’s having at the moment. In terms of folk, I think when it came back in the 60s and 70s there was a lot of people doing the old style, and folk’s sort of come back, but it’s just singer songwriters now - there’s nobody doing the kind of traditional old songs that were passed down from family to family through generations. So in terms of traditional folk, I’m not sure that it will always have a place but I think the song writing stuff will, because everybody loves it.
“b e caus e e v e ry b ody l ov e s i t. ” Despite the success of Rosie’s collaboration with Ben Murray, she has no plans to stray from the solo path any time soon: 15
“I will always continue recording solo,” she says, “but I’ll always have other stuff going on as well, so if a project came up that I was really into I wouldn’t say no to it. I mean we’ve often thought about setting up a band that isn’t in anybody’s name, and just having a big band full of everybody that plays generally.” Now totally distracted by the thought of just how many musicians they could manage to fit on the stage at the Brudenell, I concentrate for long enough to find out what festivals we can catch Rosie at this summer: ‘‘Well I’ve just got into the second heat of Glastonbury,” she says hopefully, “but they’ve got to whittle it down so I’m not...well I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’m playing Larmer Tree and one called Martyr’s Fest, but I can’t remember where that is.’ (It’s in Tolpuddle; both that and Larmer Tree are in Dorset) With that, I wish her the best of luck for the Glastonbury competition and the rest of the tour, drain my tea and am swept from her house by the wind, like something out of the Wizard of Oz. It has been a genuine pleasure talking to Rosie, and with no sign of slowing down after the tour for this album she deserves to go far. Just not to London please. Rosie’s second album, ‘Pot of Gold’, can be found at all good stockists and you can catch her at the Larmer Tree Festival in July. www.rosiedoonan.com www.myspace.com/rosiedoonan
Leed s Festival An n oun cemen t Pulling together this magazine every couple of months by necessity involves focusing on the detail of what’s going on in and around Leeds. Of course, it helps to keep looking out to maintain some kind of perspective and its sometimes easy to forget that there’s a bigger pond with bigger fish out there. Perhaps the new Leeds Arena will bring those bigger fish even closer... Photos by Daniel Heaton
With all this going on, it’s easy to forget that Leeds does actually host one of the biggest summer music festivals on the planet. At the launch event for the festival Melvin Benn (Managing Director of Festival Republic) made a point of reminding us all of this fact. He also pointed out that the Reading half of the operation is 40 years old this year, the Leeds leg being a mere 12 years old, and that it is now the longest running rock festival in the world (probably). These are not insignificant facts. For long enough, if you wanted to go to a rock festival in this country, you had precisely two choices – Glastonbury or Reading. While, arguably, the former has managed to maintain a strong identity as well as keeping sponsorship and corporate money at arm’s length, the Reading/Leeds Festival has at times struggled to maintain its own USP, especially in the face of the proliferation of other large and small festivals. In recent years, Reading/Leeds has settled down to be a showcase for what could be described as ‘traditional rock music’ and while it can seem a tad conservative in these genre hopping
times, Benn stresses that there is a governing ethos to the festival that’s not driven solely by corporate backers (unlike other festivals you could name…). However, it has to be said that this year’s headliners (The Strokes, Pulp, My Chemical Romance, Muse) and many of the main stage acts underneath them can be found on the posters for Reading/Leeds Festivals in the last 10 years, and one wonders how long they can go on shuffling the same deck of cards. The one thing Reading/Leeds is indisputably extremely good at is providing a stage for up and coming bands and Benn reiterated his continuing support for this crucial aspect of the festival. The BBC Introducing stage provides a fantastic opportunity for small bands to get some vital experience and exposure. Many Leeds bands have benefited from this in the past few years. The appearance of former BBC Introducing stage bands on the larger stages in subsequent years is clear evidence that Benn and his team see this aspect as more than mere window dressing. For me, that’s where the lifeblood of Reading/Leeds is, and that’s where you’ll find me whenever I’m there. Steve Walsh Neil Pengelly Vibrations’ Rob Wright managed to grab three precious minutes with the power behind the Leeds and Reading festival (chemical) throne – booker Neil Pengelly!
How happy are you about securing this line up? Really happy. We got Muse doing a one off European show and it’s nice to have someone new like My Chemical Romance stepping up rather than the same old headliners. Which is more satisfying, bagging the big names or discovering the next big thing? Every single one is as important as the next, you’re always trying to make sure the next band is the right one. I’m really looking forward to booking the new band stage having secured some of the bigger acts already. So you do have a match the band line up in mind when you book? Yeah, we try and do it so it’s not too repetitive, so the bands complement each other, but at the same time challenge each other a bit. Jane’s Addiction – much excitement – what was it like persuading them to come out of retirement? It was great, and it will be a great setting for them, headlining the second stage – they’ve got a new studio album coming out done with Dave Sitek from TV the Radio and the combination of Jane’s Addiction and Crystal Castles... it will just be one of those nights that is pretty special. Finally, can you give us any clues about who else might be playing? No.
Pa sspo rt C o n t r o l Frank T u r n e r
PAS S PORT CONTROL Th e Lan cashire Hotpots
After seeing that Frank was in something called ‘Million Dead’, Passport Control thought there might be a bit of a serial killer style issue here. After showing him to the ‘Hannibal Lector’ suite, Tony Wilby fed questions to him through a slot in the door whilst keeping clear of the fava beans...
In order to ease their smooth passage into this fine county of ours and perform at The Well on 23rd April, Bernard Thresher, spokesperson for the aforementioned Red Rose folk quintet, answers a bundle of probing questions using the truth, the whole truth or nothing like the truth. Will his band proceed through passport control? Read on and find out.
Will you be bringing any foodstuffs or live animals across the border? I’ll be flying into the start of this tour from the USA, having been to Germany, Australia and Canada in the meantime. I won’t be bringing anything with me on purpose, but small animals have been known to hide in my beard when I get tired.
Reason For Visit? I’m on tour around the UK letting people know about the new album, ‘England Keep My Bones’, which is due out in early June. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve done a solo tour in the UK. It’s exciting to be playing smaller, more intimate shows. Will you be staying overnight? Naturally. I’m something of a nocturnal creature, my day doesn’t really get going until about 5pm. And is that with friends or relatives? Travelodge are my friends. Did you pack your own case and what am I likely to find in it? Yup, not much of any real interest in there I’m afraid - dirty clothes, slightly cleaner clothes (can’t tell the difference sometimes), a washbag, and as many books as I can get away with carrying. Who are you travelling with? I’m happy to say I have two of my favourite songwriters out with me Ben Marwood, from Reading, and Franz Nicolay, lately of The Hold Steady. I’m a huge fan of both, and it’s great to be sharing a stage with them. Beyond that I have my crew. We’re a tight family. 20
Any brushes with law enforcement officers within the past five years? Haha, one or two. I thought I was getting arrested in Florida the other day, but it turned out the cop was a fan who wanted to get an autograph. Any prior Yorkshire experiences we should be aware of, good and bad? I’ve been through Yorkshire many times over the years. On balance my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive - I even considered moving to Leeds once.
“I c an ’t af f or d to b e Ch ar li e S h een .” Yorkshiremen are known for being frank in their opinions. Being Frank yourself do you feel a special bond with God’s Own Country? Haha, um, I suppose so. My sister lives in Leeds. Northern crowds are, generally, much better than southern ones. Everyone knows this, and I say that as a southerner born and bred.
Yorkshiremen are also known for their fiscal prudence. Are we likely to see an outbreak of rock and roll excess when you arrive? Um, maybe. I’m not exactly Charlie Sheen or anything, but I do like a drink. I can’t afford to be Charlie Sheen. You studied at Eton College. The last high profile visitor to Yorkshire that attended Eton College was David Cameron. Should we be concerned? I’ve no idea. I don’t think I have anything much in common with our Prime Minister. George Orwell also went to Eton, and I’m much more interested in talking about that. If you were to deface your own Wikipedia page what tall tales would you tell of yourself? I have in fact been party to this happening already. I have a friend, Andrew O Neill, who is a stand-up comedian. He has been known to fill my Wikipedia page with lies. I got seriously confused once when a radio DJ asked me, during a live interview, what it had been like being in Saxon (a bogus fact inserted into my page by Andrew). I was totally stumped. What is the best untrue rumour you’ve ever heard about yourself? Apart from being in Saxon? Someone once asked me, in all seriousness, if I was Alex Turner’s uncle. To which I could only ask how old they thought I was, exactly! People make up weird shit all the time. I generally try to encourage it. Frank Turner escaped shortly after this interview to promote his new album ‘England Keep My Bones’. Tony still has his face.
Is the reason for your visit business or pleasure? Bit of both really. Why have you got a rubber glove on? You’ll soon find out, by the way, do you mind me referring to you as simply the Hotpots? No not at all. In fact I quite like it. How long have the Hotpots been together? Feels like 5 minutes in my mind and 30 years on my liver. What’s it like to be in the land of the winning side? Winning? In what? Olympic drinking and that’s about it. What first inspired the Hotpots to get together? It was an invitation to a Village People themed afternoon karaoke session at West Sutton Labour Club. The spread was cock on! What would the band members be doing if they weren’t in the Hotpots? The same thing we do whilst being in the Hotpots. Going to work and earning a crust son, I’ve got two cats to feed ya know. Did you pack that accordion case yourself? I did, but I then left it unattended next to a group of young people who had music playing on their mobile phones without headphones in. One of them was wearing a t-shirt with a slogan that read, “Put a donk on it”. They seemed nice enough.
Are you visiting friends or relatives whilst you’re in god’s county? Neither. I’m here on an individual spiritual and mental journey aiming to find inner peace and real ale that is 10% ABV. Any fruit, vegetables or meat amongst your luggage? I’ve got a tin of garden peas, a tin of boiled spuds, a steak Frey Bentos and a can of mandarin oranges in my hand luggage, but if you take that I’ll have no snap for tomorrow. Is the Lancashire Hotpots musical style part of a uniquely Northern genre? Is it ‘eck! Anyone from any part of the world can play C, F and G as badly as us. Should we put aside our differences and simply consider ourselves Northerners together? I’d prefer to be called a Nu-Man. It’s my new group I’m trying to establish, without hatred or discrimination, where we can all live as one in perfect harmony. Oh and listen to ‘Cars’ whilst dying each others hair black and feeding each other cold rice pudding straight from the tin. Have the Hotpots ever played the Phoenix Club? That burnt down didn’t it?
Any criminal convictions? Only that I am guilty of loving each and every Hotpot fan (large slice of cheese for Mr Thresher). Any flat pack furniture in your suitcases? How big do you think this suitcase is? If you can’t get that horrible cheap Scandinavian furniture in yer Yaris, you’ve got no chance of getting it in my Primani suitcase. Do you prefer your chippy tea to be cooked in beef dripping or vegetable oil? Listen, as long as it’s hot and covered in gravy you can cook it in yak’s milk for all I care. Feed me chips. Do you think taking classic song standards and reinventing them with refreshing new lyrics is the future? Well it sounds like a jolly good idea and I don’t think anyone is doing that at the moment. I tell you what, keep that between you and me and we’ll split the winnings. Anything else to declare? A) I love a man called Speedo. B) It’s not that big. C) I like to get 12 hours sleep on a Monday night. D) I’m on the cider and........sorry I’ve got to go, someone’s at the door. Mike Price http://www.myspace.com/ thelancashirehotpots
The Q u ee n ’ s H o n o urs Bla c kl i s t e r s
gone wrong? “I don’t think so. People have usually walked out if they’re not going to watch it, and if they’re gonna be involved, they’ll probably get the vibe, especially if they’re gonna be near enough to the front where I’m going to... touch them.”
Beloved of Vessels and Hawk Eyes, Futuresound victors and secret royalists, Blacklisters are the newest old boys on the scene, making a lot of noise, throwing shapes and... handling the goods. Rob Wright cruises over to their neck of the woods to get the gen on the men...Photos by Danny Payne
It’s always nice meeting musicians that worry you: in a part of town you don’t know; in a nondescript warehouse; behind a code locked door. Still, I’m thirty-nine, I’ve had a good innings. Only when I reach their penthouse studios I am greeted by a smiling Billy, a plush looking rehearsal space and an offer of hot tea. I am to live another day apparently. Once settled, tea in hand, I set about the casual grilling of one of Leeds’ most exciting, vivacious and
unpredictable new bands, Blacklisters. Unpredictable they may now be, but the origins of Blacklisters were a bit more traditional. Reading born bassist Owen and drummer ‘from the highlands’ Stobb first met up twelve years ago at the Leeds College of Music and, after collaring guitarist Dan (unwell at the time of the interview), started playing blues around bars in Leeds (“our guitarist still plays blues in bars” notes 22
Owen). Over the years they wrote some ‘shit’ (sic) songs and... then met Billy. About this time they started getting into local bands like Hawk Eyes (formerly Chickenhawk), Whores Whores Whores and That Fucking Tank, as well as Shellac and Jesus Lizard. For a while they played some ‘shit’ (sic) gigs until they bumped into Adam Nodwell, who put them on the second British Wildlife Festival line up. From this they made friends with Hawk Eyes (“behaving like fools and idiots seemed to be something which we had in common,” admits Billy), who took them on as support and introduced them to the movers and
shakers of the Leeds scene; basically, the kind of long-winded overnight success that Leeds specialises in. Blacklisters join what is currently a very healthy ‘extreme’ scene in Leeds, with bands such as Normal Man, Castrovalva and Hawk Eyes doing very well for themselves. What gives? “A lot of those bands you mentioned,” says Owen, “there’s that element of humour attached to a lot of it.” Not reactionary, just funny then? “I wouldn’t say we were reacting to anything, no, more playing to our
strengths,” says Billy, “four guys, hanging out... touching each other’s balls.” He laughs cheekily. “Yeah, we sit around, we behave stupidly and have a good time and make each other laugh and make very aggressive music.” “It’s aggressive but not taking itself too seriously,” says Stobb laconically. Blacklisters could never be accused of taking themselves too seriously. The first time I saw them , Billy was ranting about a man with swords for arms who was ‘cutting off cocks’; a scary but funny act. “I’m not doing an act,” says Billy, correcting me, “but I am doing something that is different to what I’m like.” He then tells me about one gig where prior to going on stage he started to sing Cyndi Lauper songs, and as a result the whole gig became ‘about songs by Cindi Lauper’. Billy laughs at this. Sometimes it just dies on its arse. I guess it makes me laugh
“ So met imes it just dies o n it s a rse. I guess it ma kes me la ugh.”
In a bid to change the subject, I ask about their on the face of it surprising victory in the Futuresound competition last year – surprising in that they managed to see off a lot of supposed ‘shoe-ins’. “It was affirmation for all that stuff we’d been doing,” says Owen, “it was recognition almost. I was pretty surprised but... I dunno... we deserved it as much as all those other bands.”
Humour is a great way of breaking down barriers too, as Owen points out: “it adds that dimension to it that makes it more of a show than just running through a set. That personality that we have, that dicking around side of us, comes through more when we’re playing a gig. I think that’s a way of channelling it to an audience.” Billy agrees with Owen enthusiastically. “For years I didn’t say anything between songs. I’d never say anything, and I’d be quite afraid of it - there were just these long silences, so I thought ‘I might as well say something’. But I don’t try and be antagonising. If anything, I’m trying to make people want to get involved in it, because our music is quite abrasive.” And you want to move people? “People have said I look like a spastic dinosaur or something when flailing myself around. But we have a really good time doing it, and we’d like it if people didn’t just stand there and go ‘god they’re really scary and serious’.” So that explains your feeling up of random blokes? “They’re not always random,” mutters Stobb. “I know I do get touchy feely,” says Billy, “but then sometimes you’re pushing at people and they get a bit turned off by it... I guess that is the bit where I get a bit letchy.” Has it ever
Though on further inspection they were hardly ‘match fit’ for the gig. “It had been my stag weekend,” says Stobb. “I was in a bit of a state.” “But it was proper vindication of the fact that all these people turned up,” says Billy, “and they all were really positive about it. When we got through it was ‘wow... good! We’ve been telling you that we were good!’” Following on from their success at Leeds, they’ve been playing support for various musical friends, lacking both booker and album. But one of those lacks is about to change. Possibly. Billy admits that the album has been in progress for the last two years, due to a lack of ‘strong enough songs’ and their curious writing method. “We all throw ideas in and argue about things for a while,” says Stobb, “it’s not like a lot of bands where one person will write the songs and then dictate it.” Where does it start then? “Riffs,” says Owen, who with Dan provides the riffs, “Usually ‘I want a song to sound like this’.” “Very rarely does someone come in with two ideas that connect to one another. It’s usually someone with one idea and we have to build the whole song around that – if we had a better way of doing it, I’d snap it up in a second. But everything has to be fought for and argued for...” “...that’s why it takes ages,” completes Owen, “but we do take song writing seriously. I guess it’s one of our strengths.” What about the words?
“They come right at the end of the process!” laughs Billy. “Sometimes they even come a year after the song has been performed live – I have a really odd way of writing words...” “A really bad way...” interjects Stobb. “I just hate doing it,” admits Billy. “Usually it starts with a bunch of ‘mnuh mnuh muh’ – noise – which sounds like words, and then it will gradually morph into words and finally the song will be written.” Billy currently has six songs to complete for the album. “You wouldn’t necessarily know,” says Owen, hoping I’ll keep this out. Album completion may take some time. Not all songs take an age to write though. “’Trick Fuck’ was really quick actually...” says Owen. “There were some left over lyrics from an old song,” says Billy, “I just have this thing about really big handsome guys that are just dumb as fuck that use their handsomeness and their strength to bully people.” Apparently he was dragged around the Skyrack by some ‘rugby-type’. “He was really good looking... and it stuck with me and I thought ‘I bet you are so stupid’. So that pretty much wrote itself.” Going back to the recorded stuff, they hope to have the album out later this year, but in the meantime they have a 10” split on Dance to the Radio with Hawk Eyes, Castrovalva and Dophins. Their contribution to this release celebrating National Independent Record Shop Day (and not the royal
wedding) is a track called ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’. “It all started out as a joke,” laughs Billy, “It was called ‘Clubfoot’, and then my friend says ‘you mean like that song by Kasabian?’ So I just started having to do this gag that we were doing this song by Kasabian And now it’s stuck to the point where it couldn’t be anything other than ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’.” So with the release of the album... at some point and the 10” in April, what else will Blacklisters be doing? Having
a baby, apparently, as Stobb and Mrs Stobb are expecting a little Stobb in May. “We need to be looking around for what we can do basically, because of stuff like that it’s a bit...” unspoken by Billy, but understood. But if any child ever had need of mad uncles... well, he’s spoilt for choice... Blacklisters play at the Brudenell on 22nd April to celebrate the release of their DTTR 10” split – and the Wedding. Of course. God save the scene!
We d o n’t h at e t h i s and y o u ’ l l l i k e i t - part 2
check he promotes himself to lighting engineer and during the actual gig he does a fine, fine job, although his choice of strobe lighting didn’t always help me to see what I was playing.
Last issue saw Chickenhawk... sorry, make that Hawk Eyes take on Holland, Germany and Belgium, watch crackheads and engage in secret activities with our Tom Martin. What now for the frantic four? Bit of UK action with Alexisonfire, methinks...Photos by Hawk Eyes
November 4: Cardiff, UK @ Solus Paul hungover and broken stays with Mark. We aimed to set off for Cardiff at about 11but Paul is not in a good situation - he sounds like death and needs to sing later. When he arrives he decides to not speak for the rest of the day. Funnily enough, this technique seems to work as his voice sounds really powerful later that night.
room is huge and very daunting. With the buyout our driver James goes to get us all pizza. WIN.
Travelling with The Computers is a chap called Penny who used to be in the band The Automatic. Considering how popular that band was, he’s very unassuming and doesn’t really mention his previous outfit much. Well that is until we reach his hometown and there is a giant picture of him in our dressing room. He just kind of giggles at this and wanders off. Good Lad.
November 6: Leeds, UK @ Metropolitan University Home time, everyone gets to sleep in their own beds. Only thing is everyone disappears to do their own thing, which makes me nervous. Arrive nice and early for sound check. Very strange to be at the University to do a gig, we should be up the road at the Fenton. The gig is a lot of fun. Paul asks the crowd if any of them saw us at The Fenton four years ago. There are a lot of liars in the crowd.
Tonight we are sleeping in a practice room kindly lent to us by Mark Foley of Strange News from Another Star. Paul is staying at Mark’s house as he is still about to die. In the morning I wake up with some form of meat on my face. We continue down the health route and get a breakfast in a takeaway tray from a van. One of the most amazingly disgusting things I’ve eaten. We go and pick up Paul who is a bit more alive and off we go in the little van again. November 5: Portsmouth, UK @Pyramids When we arrived at Portsmouth Pyramids, finding the entrance is really difficult; I end up walking across a mezzanine; below is a swimming pool. All I can think is if I throw myself off here it could be an insurance nightmare for the Pyramids. Again the 26
Tonight’s gig was one of my favourites of the tour everyone was totally on top of their game. Paul dived into the crowd mid set to be met by someone trying to strangle him with his own guitar lead - what a treat!
November 12: Nottingham, UK @ Rock City Last night of the tour and a mixture of sadness and extreme tiredness is in the air. As with a lot of larger venues we are going to be charged a fee to put our merch out. We decide to be cheap and put our merch in another room. As we are setting up the merch there are two people practicing some form of martial arts - a little strange but then one of them puts on a Batman costume and some sort of ethereal soundtrack and they continue. Me, Matt and Ryan continue setting our merch out in absolute silence. I have no other words to say about this scenario.
lot of fun, ‘I Hate This, Do You Like It?’ in particular is a lot of fun to play. Quite a few people who seem to know a lot about our band come up to me afterwards, still a very surreal thing. I feel very grateful that people give a shit about what we do. All the bands go out for a few drinks afterwards, nothing untoward happens and everything is fine as a result. This was another cup of tea evening.
The last gig of the tour goes really well - good crowd response, or at least no one tells us to get fucked. Drive back to Leeds to collapse ready for an early start for London tomorrow. Matthew gives people ‘advice’ out of the window of the van. This is always amusing. It usually entails him literally shouting ADVICE! at people.
Loading up seems to take forever as everyone is so tired - my technique seems to involve moving the gear one metre at a time and having a five minute rest between each piece of equipment.
As soon as we finish playing we have to pull the gear off stage and pack it outside. This is one of the least fun things to do in the world. Most of the touring party go to Santiagos afterwards for a ‘Cup of Tea Evening.’
November 11: London, UK @ The Forum The venue today is ridiculously grand - there is a balcony upstairs. About a year ago we played a few metres up the road and I remember staring at this place - as if they are letting us even enter the building.
Imagine yourself what happened then triple the hell and you are half way there.
Radio 1 and Kerrang arrive to interview us. What is all that about? I will remember this day for a long time.
As Alexisonfire are playing a young chap gets thrown out for crowd surfing, which is slightly silly but apparently they are ‘the rules’. This would be a small problem if only the chap hadn’t removed all his ‘normal’ clothes and was wearing nothing but a wetsuit, claiming all his normal clothes and his phone were inside the venue. Genius situation
November 9: Glasgow, UK @ ABC Firmly told by the promoter if we incite any sort of movement or circle pits from the crowd the whole gig will be cancelled.
For the first time in a while I feel nerves before we play. They disappear once we are playing looking around I remember thinking how bizarre a situation that songs written in a horrid, musty basement in Leeds would find their way into a venue this size.
Lots of people queuing outside and it is ridiculously cold. Everyone is in good spirits and the lovely Take a Worm For a Walk Week come out to see us. If you don’t know their music you should check it out. The gig is a
November 10: Newcastle, UK @ Academy 1 Tonight as I look in the first row, I spot some people in Chickenhawk Tshirts that’s a nice sight, especially in a city we’ve only ever played once before. As we load out our gear there are a lot of people waiting for Alexisonfire who
get very excited every time the back door opens and boo every time they are disappointed. We purposely open the back door to get more boos. It’s life affirming to be booed. Turkey and Cranberry sandwiches are also excellent.
Tonight Danny North has come down to see us. He was supposed to help us with equipment, but during sound
Alexisonfire perform some sort of eighties power ballad cum howl cum armaggedon, one of the most amazingly bizarre things I’ve heard, especially with the kids reactions down the front. Hang around with everyone to say goodbyes and thankyous. This tour was an amazing experience and a real honour to be able to play in front of so many. Rest please. Rob Stephens 27
Fortunately, it’s an album built on some genuinely excellent song writing. It sounds like an album of hit singles. And that is simultaneously the biggest achievement and most notable flaw of this album.
verses, jagged guitars and feedback to provide a suitably epic closer.
A l b u ms The Trumpets of Death – Teet + Teeth = Teeths (Tin Angel Records) This band used to be billed as Benjamin Wetherill and the Trumpets of Death, but perhaps in recognition of the extraordinary musical journey that Wetherill is on, the songwriter’s name has been pointedly dropped. And, the fact is that many past fans could well be appalled at the music contained on this CD, so Wetherill may well be trying to spare their blushes. The music is now fashioned from jazz, noise, electronica, ambient, minimalism, krautrock and heavy metal. There’s a whiff of improvisation too, but the songs are actually quite tightly structured. However, it’s clear that the words and melodies are still based on folk song themes and styles, albeit with radically altered structures. For example, opening song ‘Press Gang’ deals with a familiar folk theme, but the swirling, eerie, unsettling and almost formless music provides a much more fitting backing to the floating hell-hole Wetherill’s protagonist finds himself conscripted to than any traditional musical backing ever could. Elsewhere, ‘Woodrow’s Lament’ is an astonishing eight minute instrumental collage of low key noise and ambience that mutates into something that could almost be Sunn O))) or Swans, and ends with, of all things, a recorder trio. Final track ‘Cruel Ships Captain’ moves between folky 28
Make no mistake, this is an important recording, not least because it offers radical new possibilities for traditional folk music. Drummer Alastair Nielson has left since these recording were made, and the band now operates as a trio, a fact that suggests Wetherill remains determined to pursue his own thrillingly idiosyncratic muse. After this, anything is possible. Utterly astonishing. Steve Walsh http://www.trumpetsofdeath.com/
Galores – Galores ‘Is that a children’s choir?!’ Fuck. This is not a cool album. The artwork is gorgeous, a pleasing doodle into which a lot of effort has been put in. Is it any wonder that I feel somewhat conned when I put this on and hear the strains of average music making? The tunings are off, the music is flaccid and the whole thing sound like a 70s psychedelic failure. To top it off, the lack of tightness in the rhythm section and poor production makes for a difficult listen at times. I’m being a tad unfair – there’s a lot that’s good about this album. Much variety, a vintage feel and plenty of character – I’ll leave it up to your aesthetic conscience as to whether
or not the knackered piano that punctuates certain numbers is a nice touch. So what is it then? The value of this album depends entirely on Galores’ intentions. If it’s a bunch of mates pissing about in a recording studio then it’s a valiant effort. If it’s a genuine attempt at a budding pop career then I’d suggest they take a flight back to 1967 and practice like the dickens because the 70s start in 3 years and they need to be ahead of the game. Tim Hearson www.myspace.com/galores — DeLorean Drivers – DeLorean Drivers (Vandal) It is the Fermat’s Last Theorem of pop music: How does a brilliant live band capture that essence on record? For anyone questioning DeLorean Drivers’ eligibility to have a crack at this conundrum, this hurdle was negotiated some time previously. But have they cracked the formula? No, but it’s an heroic failure. The sound falls somewhere between disco and Indie-disco. Superficially it works nicely, but it feels paradoxically short of both impact and warmth. Leigh Eargoogles’ frenetic drumming is pushed back in the mix which tempers the excitement, and no one has quite worked out how to extract maximum ‘oomph’ from the multiple layers of vocals. Then there are the lyrics. In a club the arm-waving anthemic choruses make perfect sense. But in the unforgiving light of day, they can feel a little trite.
Essentially, this is a collection of wonderful pop singles in some very pretty packaging, but there’s an unsatisfying lack of cohesion. I do really like this album, but flawed it is, if elegantly so. Rob Paul Chapman http://www.myspace.com/ deloreandriversband — handmadehands – handmadehands (bdeye music) We were pondering only at the last Vibrations editorial meeting about where all the good new bands were, and lo and behold this lands in our PO Box. Essentially the band are three brothers, Simon, Chris and Dan Fletcher, with the fully formed ability to orchestrate a huge range of sounds and textures to fashion what are excellent pop songs that manage to incorporate a mature outlook on life without compromising said pop sensibilities. After the novelty intro of ‘Not Worth Wasting’, the CD kicks off proper with ‘Over the Edge’ and ‘Happier Accidents’, a brace of flawless commentaries on maddening aspects of modern life, while ‘Sunshine’, the new single, is a breezy celebration of the simple things in life (“I have the mind of a child they tell me…Too stupid to understand that happiness is meaningless it seems”). As the barbed nature of ‘Sunshine’’s lyric indicate, it would be a mistake to assume the band are naïve dreamers. ‘You Were Always’ charts the tragic trajectory of a relationship, while ‘Arguments’ is a poignant portrait of the destructive circularity of that endearing human trait. As a debut, it’s hard to fault and I’m already looking forward to the next one. Steve Walsh www.handmadehands.co.uk
Monmon – Garage Rock Labels. Something we writers apparently love. Imagine my delight to find Monmon have helpfully named their debut album ‘Garage Rock.’ Sometimes these reviews really do write themselves.
is the sound of life, of alcohol and people and ups and downs.
It’s certainly a bold move. After all, it gives me a vast yardstick of references with which to compare it against. Fortunately for Monmon, whilst this ten track offering might not deliver what you’d initially expect, it conveys a level of authenticity very true to its namesake.
The songs take inspiration from ordinary experiences. They are crafted into explosions of sound, with lyrics that roll off the tongue seemingly effortlessly into the waves of musical impulse. The album is filled with these adrenaline-rushes, but the real gold is in the track ‘One Hundred and Thirteen’, where they take a step Expecting to be assaulted by a back from their norm and engage in barrage of detuned guitars, relentless a truly stunning array of vocal layers drumming and ear bleeding vocals, and instrumental weaving through a opener ‘Whale’ has a much more minimalist change of chords. In doing patient build, both self-assured yet so, they break away from the pop charismatically laid back. Until just formula we’ve become so fond of, and past the three minute thirty mark. prove themselves to be something else. When the aforementioned fury is Daisy Taplin finally unleashed. http://middlemanband.co.uk/ — The trio of ‘Roofie, ‘Leeds Brig, William Gray – Vertical Wealth Sunday Morning’ and ‘Shudder’ follow, For a man who perpetually sounds all with a much more direct approach; like he can barely be bothered there’s simply no hiding from their big finishing a sentence, ex-Smokestack and noisy choruses. It’s only much William Gray is surprisingly prolific. later on with ‘Knives’ that any fatigue starts to show, the pace slowing This, his second album, comes less before the closing duo of ‘Monkey than a year after the excellent ‘None Fist’ and ‘Ring Out The Bell, Lloyd’. of The Above’. This is unlikely to Like all good garage albums, disappoint either, albeit delivering a ‘Garage Rock’ is equally ambitious somewhat more detached feel. . and chaotic. The perfect balance of disciplined songwriting, left beautifully There also appears to be a little more raw around the edges. ambition here. ‘All The Best Ones Do’ Tom Bailey starts off uncomfortably like Tears For http://www.monmon.co.uk/ Fears with an Argos drum machine — possibly borrowed from Plastic Fuzz, Middleman – Spinning Plates but it blossoms into something rather (Blip Records) lovely. ‘Open Season’ has some Infectious melodies and beats galore, perfectly pitched saxophones, ‘The Spinning Plates is the new Middleman Nail That Sticks Up’ blends Joe album released in May. Jackson piano and sci-fi effects, whilst The band have developed their ‘Places To Run’ could happily sit on a formula for song writing, and they David Lynch soundtrack. None of this stick to it loyally for the most part of should work, but it does. the album. The tracks are energetic, vigorous and upfront, with effects Central to all this is Gray’s sublimely under-laying strong rhythmic economical voice. Not a breath is features and synths, thrusting the wasted, and a wash of wistful, but listener into a vibrant social scene, charming melancholy envelops creating an insight into the higheach track. powered atmosphere that permeates Middleman’s performances. This is On balance, it requires a little more not just a bunch of recordings, this work than its predecessor, but should 29
Her Name Is Calla - Giles Smith
do more than enough to consolidate Gray’s position as a unique talent within a market where differentiators are at a premium. Rob Paul Chapman www.myspace.com/ giantgraystacks
EPs Buen Chico - The Seasons EP I thought Buen Chico had hung-up their instruments for good, but it looks like they are back and on first listen, it seems they’ve gone all prog on us. However, on second hearing you realise the band have beefed up their sound and started to take things a bit more seriously. The results are good; proceedings kick off with the barbecue friendly pop of ‘Summer’, followed by the better, more downbeat ‘Autumn’. Following the natural order of things, the even gloomier ‘Winter’ oozes S.A.D. before the band finally reap what they’ve sewn with ‘Last Song’. Buen Chico have grown up. Mike Price http://www.myspace.com/ buenchico — Spirit of John – Spine I don’t know when Leeds went transatlantic, but I am not complaining about it. Joining Hope and Social in the Yorkshirecana revolution is Spirit of John, with their new EP ‘Spine’. Stomp along to the frenetic ‘Aurify’; mull to ‘Sweet Morning’; banjo-duel yourself silly to ‘Anniversary Song’ and make yourself at home where t’buffalo roam. Geographical joking aside, if you love Low Anthem and are waiting to see what H & S do next, you could do a lot worse than these good not so-ole boys. Rob Wright http://www.myspace.com/ thespiritofjohn
Just Handshakes (We’re British) – New Adventures in Pop No. 8 EP (Elefant) The press release for this EP claims the band ‘bonded over a shared love of gin and Swedish pop’. There’s no evidence of copious consumption of alcohol in these four up-beat pop tunes, but the Swedish influence fortunately comes from The Cardigans rather than ABBA. This means that beneath singer Clara’s almost impossibly twee vocal style there’s a harder edge to the music. This gives extra substance to these four, well crafted tunes that are the latest in long tradition of floppy fringed jangly pop that stretches back at least as far as Orange Juice. Steve Walsh http://www.myspace.com/ justhandshakeswerebritish
S i n g les Arthur Rigby & The Baskervylles – White Houses (self-released) In keeping with its cover art - a sepia-tinged maritime scene – ‘White Houses’ plays out like a message in a bottle, a woozily romantic ode to a Bearsuit - Daniel Heaton
lover with dreams of living by the sea. It’s a wonderfully wistful ballad, complete with lush, shimmering strings. Singer Benjamin’s big, strident voice - recalling Cherry Ghost’s Simon Aldred and the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon - adds another level of dramatic tension to the gorgeous melancholy. Spencer Bayles http://www.arthurrigby.co.uk/ — Stateless – Assassinations (Ninja Tune) One thing Stateless were always good at was being able to create a palpable sense of tension in their music. This is no exception, with Chris James’s voice filtering through the clattering percussion and sinister fuzz bass to deliver a suitably big chorus. There’s a great breakdown in the middle before huge drums come pummelling down for the finale. As a calling card for new album Matilda, it couldn’t be a more impressive statement of intent. Spencer Bayles http://www.myspace.com/ statelessonline Late Night Fiction – ‘The Only Way to Fly/To Entertain a Vertical
Posture’ (Grey Man Records) ‘The Only Way To Fly’ smashes into life, the tension before the release, and do they know how to release. LNF have mastered the melodramatic chorus to the point that your mood shifts from section to section; ‘To Entertain a Vertical Posture’ could easily pass for an Incubus song. This is well written music but I want more angst – they’ve got the grit, I’m just not feeling the pain. Well worth looking out for though. Tim Hearson www.myspace.com/latenightfiction
Live Bearsuit/Just Handshakes (We’re British)/The Wind-Up Birds/Blood Oranges @ The Well, Leeds Blood Oranges open the night with a pleasant set of pop-punk nicety and awkward banter. Tapping into the current spate of Alphabeat-esque male/ female vocal combos there’s some really nice dynamics and harmonies in there. A passionate yet rough set under dismal crowd conditions. Something about The Wind-Up Birds barked quasi-melodies and punk-rock
setup gets into your head. There’s nothing complex to their sound and it’s all the better for it; at times it’s more like performance poetry set to music but there’s a distinct bitterness and passion. Personal favourite ‘In a Yorkshire Call Centre I Knelt Down and Wept’ was sadly missing but under the circumstances I can’t complain. A few songs in and Just Handshakes (We’re British) sounds about right. A decidedly timid band with a lilting indie sound, you can almost forgive the shoegazing. There’s a lot of potential though and a cool vocal style (think Bajka from Bonobo’s ‘Days to Come’) juxtaposed with grungey backline make for an endearing set. Time to go synth crazy with headliners Bearsuit from Norwich. Part of the quirky squealing and hard-edged synth-indie movement, it feels like they are throwing everything at us to see what sticks. Plenty of energy but the odd synth/mic malfunction makes the set sloppy. Overall a bit unconvincing but in a more yoof-full environment would have worked – hard to shake the guitarist’s resemblance to a hipster Hitler though… Tim Hearson Deaf School/Jon Langford @ The New Roscoe, Leeds Since inventing alternative country with Mekons and, later, providing an art-rock shock to the corpse of rock n roll with The Three Johns, Jon Langford has gone on to build a back catologue as enviable as it is obscure. Mekons fine pop sensibilities always were defiantly shot through with artful guile and deep political intent, both of which probably explain the obscurity he continues to languish in. This gig was part of small tour as an acoustic duo with guitarist Jim Elkington with the focus very much on his solo stuff, in particular latest album ‘Old Devils’. The politics are still there (‘Strange Ways To Win Wars’), as are reflections on a life lived (‘1 2 3 4Ever’) but there’s space for only one Mekons song, the still
relevant ‘Edge of the World’ from the first phase of the Thatcherite revolution (‘With a yo and a ho and there’s one thing I know/We’re not in the same boat at all’). Deaf School were a self consciously contrived art-rock band from Liverpool in the mid 1970’s who spliced together 20’s jazz stylings and modish glam rock with variable success. Fortunately, enough of their material still sounds fresh enough to make the gig hugely enjoyable musically, except that the remaining original members aren’t really up to recreating things like ‘Capaldi’s Cafe’, and they leave the harder material largely untouched. Singer Enrico Cadillac looks and acts like an authentically aged version of his younger ‘self’, and guitarist Clive Langer looks wirey and wired trying to inject some fizz into the too safe by far mix. Steve Walsh — Her Name is Calla, Birds of Passage – The Left Bank, Leeds Though I spend nearly half an hour looking for a church that turned out to be in the opposite direction I was going, I get there in the end, just in time to see Birds of Passage haunting the chancel with her moody laptop, keyboard and bewildered vocals act. Her voice is pleasant enough, but the slow dirge and awkward inter-song silence make for the wrong kind of discomfort. Stage craft required. ‘Calla on the other hand know 31
Mojo Fury - Bart Pettman Just Handshakes - Daniel Heaton
heir stuff. Looking like a worker’s collective gathered around a picket fire, their songs of epic melancholy with just a hint of technical trickery and traditional folkery amply fill the vaulted space of St Margaret’s; you can just hear hints of Thomas Tallis rubbing shoulders with Radiohead. In juxtaposition, Tom is as ebullient and warm as the climate in the church isn’t, but his banter does not detract from the solemnity of the performance, enhanced by the natural resonance of the space, and by the time ‘New England’ beats out the finale you are in no doubt that this has been a bit special. Rob Wright — handmadehands/The Acutes/Lewis Todhunter @ Bradford Playhouse, Bradford This gig was organised specifically to launch handmadehands debut CD and it bore all the hallmarks of slickly put together marketing event. Was it all worth it though? Singer songwriter Lewis Todhunter got things underway, playing material that ranged from pretty authentic sounding country blues to more traditional British folk songs, all supported by some excellent guitar playing. His rather tentative delivery had him struggling against the hubbub of the audience, though. The Acutes, being electrified and, well, pretty damned loud, didn’t suffer from lack of audience attention. The duo’s approach has remained little altered over the years, with pop melodies moulded around droney riffing and hammering drums, and they remain one of Leeds’ most underrated bands. 32
As the specific focus of the gig handmadehands themselves may not be high on many people’s radar just yet, but if there’s any justice their really rather excellent debut should start to make people take notice. The band are made up of three brothers, Simon, Chris and Dan Fletcher, who play enough instruments to make them sound like a small orchestra. Superficially, their songs appear nothing out of the ordinary, but they soon reveal a deep maturity with fine pop sensibilities. Truth to tell, at this gig they probably tried a bit too hard, with the arrangements of the songs being sacrificed to the need to make a loud noise. Steve Walsh — Sisters of Mercy @ Leeds Metropolitan Universitry, Leeds Sisters are an institution; Andrew Eldritch is the goth-father and his flanking cohorts Chris Catalyst and Ben Christo are goths of rock in their own right. They haven’t released an album since 1993 but still have a legion of adoring fans, all stalking in from the night for this most unlikely of thirtieth birthday celebrations. In a billow of dry ice, the twilight trio take to the stage: Chris in sunglasses, his face an emotionless mask; Ben looking inappropriately jolly with his long curls and rock stance and the man Eldritch himself, ageless and hairless but wearing an analogous day glo t-shirt. Cherry picking from their modest yet striking back catalogue, every song is a crowd pleaser. ‘Amphetamine Logic’ Just Handshakes - Daniel Heaton
jostles up to ‘More’ nudges into ‘Dominion’ – my personal highlight is ‘This Corrosion’, but I’ve always loved the fact that the Sisters write dark pop songs and Eldritch has more in common with co-conspirator Jim Steinman than lookalike Aleister Crowley – and a good time is had by all. Look, you either get it or you don’t. Give in to the dark side. Rob Wright — Hobo Sunn/Duncan Harrison/Seth Cook/Neil Campbell and Michael Flower @ The Packhorse, Leeds Walking into a noise gig when its already in motion is an odd thing to do. It feels like you’re stepping into some kind of alternative plane of existence where the language and customs are sophisticated and ancient. Neil Campbell and Michael Flower used to trade as two fifths of Leeds’ Vibracathedral Orchestra, but now ply separate paths as collaborators with the wider noise and improv community. Their pedigree shines through and the music is refreshingly light and joyous. At mid point, Flower takes an unplanned guitar ‘solo’ as Campbell has connection problems. Happily, Flower has built a searing crescendo of flailing noise by the time Campbell’s guttural guitar kicks in to point the music at the stars. Magnificent. It’s not unusual for acoustic instruments to feature in noise bands, but watching Seth Cook leather
a drum kit while simultaneously manipulating a rack of effects boxes and emitting a metallic howl through a pair of headphones cum microphone most certainly is. The music is weighty and Cook undoubtedly has stamina, but I wonder if the spectacle is more impressive than the music itself. From this point things get oddly perfunctory. Duncan Harrison produces judders and howls from a series of antique and homemade boxes of noise generation but gives up after 10 minutes claiming his tape machine is broken. Headliner Hobo Sunn uses a sampler and noise boxes to make proggy soundscapes but again gives up after fifteen minutes for no declared reason. The line up should have been reversed. Steve Walsh — Invisible Cities/We Sell Seashells/ People in Jars/Master and the Mule @ The Library, Leeds First up were Master and the Mule, bringing their sound straight off the dark streets of Leeds. After spending an age tweaking their amps, they cracked on and created a fearful yet effortless noise. There are comparisons to be made with Tool, but they sound so much darker and sludgier that they encapsulate a more extreme version of what Tool tried to accomplish. Next People in Jars took to the stage with only two of their usually five. Playing melancholy songs that dragged their fists like our thickerskulled ancestors, they fleshed out their sound with vocal harmonies and some use of a loop pedal. Unfortunately it didn’t always work and didn’t quite deliver like the full band. Onwards then to the masters of crescendo, We Sell Seashells. Not being quite as clichéd as I remember them from previous gigs, these classic proggers seem to have developed their sound into something more convincing. Taking tracks from their upcoming album ‘Season’, they have developed into a more relevant band with jazz influenced techniques mixed in with their classic sound.
Finally Invisible Cities took over and did their thing. Slightly more mature than Seashells or Jars, their most fascinating ability is perhaps the building of simple structures to create a complicated middle ground between the previous bands. And so they weaved their magic and left the audience enthralled and endeared. Jack Sibley — Mojo Fury/Hold Your Horse Is/ Blacklisters/Imp @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds Imp are first with a sloppy style based around a few simple riffs. Fringes a quiver, they barely acknowledge the audience to such a degree it seems almost cute. Passionate unison vocal lines drag them out of the dirge, but not a particularly captivating performance. Blacklisters arrive on stage with all the restraint of a bull in a red paint factory as Billy Mason-Wood sprawls about, necking beers and insisting that every song they play will be another rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’. The band smash through time changes seamlessly and deliver a huge low-end payload. Mason-Wood, bored of the stage, wanders down to see what happens when you mix a spasmodic, inebriated screamer with an uptight, stiff-upper-lip audience. What live music should be about. More tasteful, but no less technical, Hold Your Horse Is rock up with an energetic set plagued by bass malfunction though they soldier on
like the pros they might become. The tight riffing and mathy stops round off a cracking performance. Mojo Fury explode with a set decidedly more poppy than the previous two dissonance-heavy behemoths. In a different context Mojo Fury may have been more impressive but without the stage presence of Blacklisters or the cool precision of Hold Your Horse Is they are found wanting. With a sound somewhere near old-school Biffy Clyro and U2 it’s hard to pin down their idiosyncrasies. Could do with some refining. Tim Hearson — monmon/Mondo Cane/Zeno @ Milo, Leeds Zeno are a typical example of that rather perplexing conundrum you encounter lots these days – three extremely technically proficient musicians who seem unable to produce a song with any kind of originality to it. The trio kick off with a cover of The Subways ‘Rock and Roll Queen’, but thereafter seem incapable of not sounding like Muse for more than half a song. Halifax trio Mondo Cane are similarly blessed with admirably direct technique and can negotiate tempo back flips with ease. They deliver lively grunge inflected indie, with Ross Greenwood’s rasping vocals clearly being an asset. Their songs do occasionally rise above the predictable and in the half finished sounding ‘Someday’ they have 33
Hold Your Horse Is - Bart Pettman
something that could be a magical blend of pop and flailing guitars. Any band that adopts the name monmon and has The Red Shoes projected as a backdrop will have to get used to being called pretentious. In fact, the band have a nightmare of a gig, with the vocals being largely inaudible for much of the time and the balance of the instruments wildly out of whack throughout. But despite this it’s clear that there is a fiercely original, singular musical vision at work that transcends the limits of the trio format. Awesome, even on a bad night. That’s pretty special. Steve Walsh — Napoleon IIIrd/The Trumpets of Death @ Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds There’s a tendency among certain circles to dismiss anything progressive as self-indulgent bullshit. It takes a band like The Trumpets of Death to remind you of just how right these closed-minded gits can be. It’s not the sound I take issue with, it’s the wanktastic delivery that grates. For starters, all the vocals are masked in some crap drowning effect making the proggy lyrics seem all the more ridiculous. The saxophone is a nice inclusion but arranged with no real care so that the overall set seems like one awful Mars Volta breakdown. Napoleon IIIrd, on the other hand, comes across as a more convincing act. A veritable science-lab of twiddlers accompany James Mabbett, the brains behind the operation, in a perky set of groovy intensity. A sound that’s difficult to pin down, it’s like they’ve taken a set of acoustic hooks and thrown them in a ball pool of 80s synth-pop, post rock and shouty indie. As experimental as you can take pop music, some of it works and some of it less so but it’s such a passionate delivery you’re more than happy to go along with it. The live show’s good fun too – definitely one to go see when you get the chance. Tim Hearson Rosie Doonan @ The Adelphi, Leeds Fresh from the critical acclaim for her latest album ‘Pot Of Gold’, it’s a 34
little surprising to see Rosie Doonan playing at something as small and intimate as the Adelphi’s reliably welcoming Acoustic Revolution session. While on record her style flits comfortably between pop and folk, this afternoon’s performance focuses more on the latter, the stripped down instrumentation showcasing a stunning, spellbinding voice that’s equal parts Feist, Kate Rusby and Norah Jones. She’s joined on second guitar by Adelphi stalwart Gary Stewart, whose contribution becomes most noticeable when providing harmonies and some deft finger-picking on a gorgeous ‘Lady Blue’, still stunning when stripped of the recorded version’s polish. The ukulele-led ‘Victor’, which on record is a touch overly whimsical, becomes darker when introduced as being about a man she wants to marry – “When he gets rid of his wife and kids.” Yikes. Great performance nevertheless, with Gary gamely joining in on the “I will always be your girl” refrain. Not with that beard you won’t, mate. The set ends with new single ‘Lay Your Love’, the kind of country-tinged folkpop masterclass fans of Ellen & The Escapades should be seeking out. Spencer Bayles — Vibrations’ Choicest Cuts The Scaramanga Six @ The Well, Leeds 22 April No doubt trailing tracks from sixth album ‘Cursed’ (out 26 April), described by the band themselves as their “most bombastic record to date”. Looks like its business as usual then… — Hawk Eyes/Castrovalva/ Blacklisters/Dolphins @ Brudenell
Social Club, Leeds 22 April A night of confrontational sonic mayhem designed to launch a split single collaboration between the featured bands for Record Store Day. Personally, I think the gig could end up splitting atoms... — Holy State/Black Moth/Nature of the Beast/Apple Cannon @ Santiagos, Leeds 28 April Another night of crunching guitars, black leather and flailing hair not for the faint hearted. — Live At Leeds @ all over the fecking place, Leeds 30 April This annual orgy of live music now spans the whole Bank Holiday weekend, although most of the madness still takes place on the Saturday. It’s probably best to just go with the flow rather than be choosey – who knows what you may stumble upon…. — David Thomas Broughton @ Brudenell Social Club 2 May Broughton is a strangely compelling performer who doesn’t really fit any of the pigeon holes lazy commentators have tried to put him in. Leave prejudices and expectations at the door and just embrace the idiosyncracies. — Stateless @ Brudenell Social Club 5 May The band’s hook up with DJ Shadow a couple of years ago promised much but seemed to stall. However, new LP ‘Mathilda’ is quite extraordinary. Let’s hope the band can recreate its expansive sonic vista live. — Eureka Machines @ Brudenell Social Club 27 May The return of the lean, mean rocking machine that…oh, piffle. Just go see this band, they’re fantastic. — Hebden Bridge Blues Festival @ various venues, Hebden Bridge 27-30 May Four day blues extravaganza that purposely provide a showcase for original, contemporary blues acts, and features a ‘Women of Blues’ night. At press time, some Leeds bands are included (Pocket of 3, Cross Cut Saw) with possibly more to be added. 35
Second Hearing – April 2011 You all know the drill by now. Two listens, summed up in twenty wise words. Pretty much like this intro. Tom Bailey Singles SupaJamma – Madaboutit Bold mix of rock and reggae. Bit lacking on lyrical content, but forgivable given overall goodtime vibes and mindmelting riffage. — Escort Knights – I Don’t Know Your Name Slick dance pop production, but feels about ten years too late. Oddly reminiscent of Spiller’s ‘Groovejet’ but far less cool. — The Finnlys – For Love Nor Money Simple and honest Northern songwriting. Slightly stereotypical imagery but done brilliantly. Really effective pacing, building to blistering finish. Highly recommended. — Behind Closed Doors No, not a Peter Andre cover. Instead something much much better. More upbeat, think Last Shadow Puppets go Spaghetti Western. — Demos / EPs Big Mister Doom - Avant Nowhere near as gloomy as their name suggests. Instead quite hip and ambient electro. Could easily be a videogame soundtrack. — Latinum More ambience, more electro, until a mid song shift into something much more menacing. Seamlessly executed but a little repetitive.
Seven Opens with some interesting, if a little obscure, vocal samples. Offers the EP’s most dramatic, tense and thought provoking moments. — Ape District - Abigail Brash and somewhat short-lived, but direct. Lo-fi approach gives away their punkier roots. Or just a lack of decent equipment. — White Lies Mediocre in comparison, lacks any bite or venom. Without that, their lo-fi approach now sounds just too amateurish and messy. — Powder Burn Bass led and slower paced, but poorly realised. Just ends up dragging on for far too long with unnecessary solos. — Buffalo Bones - Hell to Skeleton Exploder Don’t be fooled the title, whilst upbeat in tempo, the chorus doesn’t quite manage to deliver a big anthemic hook. — Silence Is Golden Totally different and not for the better. More Radio 1 than BBC6music. Just a bit wet. Should take own advice. — Fix It With Money Thankfully back to an edgy and slightly sleazy sound. Vocals sound like a young Mick Jagger at times. Good recovery. — Left Before I Arrived Thumping drum and guitar led intro, followed with great chorus and perfect big rock finish. Classic rockers will love it.
Elgazelle - Weekend Up-tempo rockabilly knees up. Bit of a novelty at first. Will no doubt become very annoying quickly with repeated plays. — Love On The Dole The novelty has definitely worn off now. The horns do add some ska flavour. Still screaming out gimmicky to me. — Time Out Why not throw in a little bit of doo wop for good measure?! Far too happy and pleased with itself. — Rich Kid The Northern Soul/Motown part of the tour, with added blue- collar lyrics for extra grit. Fun but silly. — Luva Gunk – Revolver Revolver Better than expected, given the awful band name and the unbelievably trashy artwork. Packed full of tired genre clichés though. — Tease Not a bad grubby little number, if you like that kind of thing. Unlikely to change the world anytime soon. — Area 39 – Stir of Echoes No tracklisting so therefore limited review. Not a big prog connoisseur, but seems OK. Nothing new but will please some.
One F o r T h e R o a d - Pau l H eat o n Paul Heaton, Hull legend, is back on the road for a series of gigs, including the premiere of ‘the longest pop song ever written’, ‘The 8th’. You don’t get this far without gathering a few pearls of wisdom. Spencer Bayles persuades him to cast them...Illustration by Simon Lewis
If you have a hunch about which songs on an album will make the best singles, go with it. With certain songs, you could tell that they were going to at least sound like they were hits. As for who chose the singles, that was me. When the first Beautiful South album was delivered, Andy [MacDonald, from the band’s label Go! Discs] said he thought ‘From Under The Covers’ would be the best single. I said I thought it would reach No. 26, but that if we released ‘Song For Whoever’ it would reach No. 2. Of course, ‘Song For Whoever’ reached No. 2, and from then on no-one argued with me. Though [Classic a cappella Housemartins No. 1 hit] Caravan Of Love couldn’t be a hit now - it was pretty unusual as it was at the time.
I thi n k i c o uld hav e d run k a l i t t l e le ss There’s no secret to writing a hit single. There’s no secret, but I would say its 70% melody, 20% rhythm and 10% luck. It was always a big surprise to see song after song do so well. With less pressure to come up with hits now, I can write 60-verse pop songs - my next project - without fear of failure. Covers only have a point if they do something different. I have a YouTube site of covers of my own songs that contains some interesting adaptations. I don’t think 38
there is such a thing as a bad cover apart from the one that attempts nothing different from the original. Pop music is not, never has been and never will be high culture. I love pop music today as much as I’ve ever loved it, which is not a lot. Pop music right the way back in the 50s and 60s has always been pretty low brow, so I don’t think it’s changed quite as much as people think. Back in 1990, folk were moaning that it had died, and that Stock Aitken and Waterman had killed it. Playing a tour of the country’s pubs, travelling between venues on a bike, is an eye-opening experience. Last year’s ‘Pedals & Pumps tour’ was prompted by seeing, with my own eyes, pub after pub closing down. The tour went brilliantly well, with people really taking to the idea at every level. The only people who were slow onto it were the Green organisations who were, to be frank, appallingly uninterested. Like the Tour de France, I had a support car of sorts: one that stopped off in pubs for a pint of Black Sheep. When it comes to choosing a career, always follow your heart. My Dad’s advice was that the history of my family had been ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none’, and that if I was going to go into music, to do it with all my heart.
song title is a woman’s name. The sleeve-notes run ‘Nancy, Marie, Diane… and Hard-Hearted Hannah, all of you! Ray Charles dedicates himself and his songs to you all’. My domestic life hasn’t really informed my song writing. Most people, when looking at the lyrical content of my songs, assume that I was either brought up in an unhappy household or that I currently live in one. Neither are true. Keep music and real life separate. You’ll never see me tinker with anything. I don’t drum my fingers to every beat going either. I find folk who do that pretty boring. I keep my writing aside from my every day life. When touring, find unique things wherever you are. All countries are memorable. I love this earth and all of its languages, accents, pitfalls, valleys, mountains, jokes and folks. Top of The Pops looked more glamorous on TV. Top of The Pops was a small studio full of grips and technical people bullying a very young harassed crowd of around 30. But the bar was fun. Regrets, I have a few. I think I could have drunk a little less. Spencer Bayles
Other artists’ sleeve-notes are as good a place to find inspiration as anywhere else. There’s no big story behind ‘Song For Whoever’, apart from that it was inspired by a Ray Charles album – ‘Dedicated To You’ - whereby each 39
Published on Apr 14, 2011
Bi-monthly print music magazine covering bands in Leeds, and West Yorkshire (UK) featuring The Pigeon Detectives, Rosie Doonan, Blacklisters