Castrovalva Delorean drivers Ellen & the Escapades Leeds and West Yorkshire Free august 2010
passport Control Customs and Excise Leeds Festival Special
Rob Paul Chapman firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Metcalfe email@example.com
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Rob Wright email@example.com
The Contents 5 Magazine Editorial 8 Leeds Festival Special 11 Ellen & the Escapades 14 Futuresound 16 Cowtown 22 Delorean Drivers 26 Castrovalva 30 Customs and Excise 31 Passport Control 32 Album Reviews 33 Single Reviews 34 Preview Reviews 35 Live Reviews 38 Second Hearing - Your Demos!
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Cover shot Cowtown by Bart Pettman Cowtown vibrations 3
So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight… I won’t go into detail to save spoilers, but there is a wonderful moment right near the end of the final series of The West Wing. Alan Alda’s oddly likeable Republican candidate is packing up some belongings from his temporary office and contemplates the concept of things coming to a natural close. He muses on what it is to move on from something that has defined him as a person and who will always struggle to let go of the objective which has previously consumed him, regardless of whether the objective was met or otherwise. However, it is always the case that there will be someone behind them to take on the same objective. Sometimes the first guy will fail and be forgotten to assume the role of historical footnote, others will succeed and be considered or celebrated more significantly for their achievements. But either way, his primary objective before going on to meet whatever challenge lies ahead, be it the original goal, or another as-yetunknown path, is to pass on the baton. It is the natural order of things. The reason I’m so fond of this scene is that in watching it, it not only acted as a virtual microcosm for 7 whole series and over 100 hours of exceptional viewing; but it also perfectly captured the experience of actually watching the programme itself. Before The West Wing, I couldn’t remember being so attached to a television programme that I knew I would be entering a period of mourning once it was over, and started to get these feelings with an episode or two still left to go. But these emotions pass, and are soon replaced by a different set, and these are less self-absorbed and infinitely more public spirited. You become the introducer, the crusader, the champion. You see it as your mission to spread the word of this greatness to those currently untouched by its brilliance. And
secretly, you envy them, for you know that they have the whole thing to look forward to right from the very beginning. And much like the conversation you would have with your 14-year-old self (apologies if you are still 14) you would like to be able to tell them to savour and appreciate the time because soon it will be gone and they will be left to pass the baton onto the next guy. I am guessing that a lot of you are like that, because no more prevalent is this mindset than in the music fan. I am 33 years old and still making mix tapes for those I barely know with the same faith and conviction that the door-knocking Jehovas Witnesses from down my road have when they tell me I should let Jesus into my life. I tell Dave who I met at that wedding last week that he should be letting Cardiacs, Wild Beasts, Oh No Ono, Plastic Fuzz, Scaramanga Six, The Resplendents, Delorean Drivers, Shatner, Stuffy & The Fuses, Lone Wolf and The Wind-Up Birds into his life. Barring a medical miracle there will never be another new Cardiacs album, but there are already eighteen albums out there varying from occasionally astonishing to consistently astonishing, which I may well know backwards, but Dave is yet to hear a single note. And how I envy being in Dave’s shoes right now… I mention this, not just because it has given me the chance to spend 500 words talking about The West Wing and Cardiacs, but more because the same natural order of things is taking place right here at this very magazine. Albeit on a scale of far less cultural significance in the grand scheme of things, but naturally one of great personal relevance. It’s nearly three years since I had the honour of taking over as editor of Vibrations. And in that time I have occasionally been heard to damn its very existence as the first and last of the summer sun comes up and goes
down in the time it takes me to type out an hour-long transcript or correct another writer’s theirs, theres and they’res (and a special thank you to all of you who gleefully bound up to me to point out the ones I’ve missed!) However, that probably only accounts for around 5% of my time… the remaining 95% have been some of the best times of my life and I have been able to indulge every mix tape-making music nerd’s dream of reaching several thousand Dave-At-Weddings each issue to tell them how they should be letting Cardiacs, Wild Beasts, Oh No Ono, Plastic Fuzz, Scaramanga Six etc etc into their lives. The task of Virtual Mixtape Pusher-inChief passes (or rather phases) to Rob Wright, one of the most gifted writers I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. I have no doubt he will have the same unflappable and unfathomable support that I received from the team here. My role has only been possible because of the outstanding work of Tom (photos), Tony (publishing), Tim (design), Jack (advertising) and Rob himself (reviews). I get this column and my name in print around the mag, so you can see what I do. The vast majority of what they do goes on behind the scenes, and is every bit as essential as the words on the page. I’ll still be around and contributing where required (and where I can shoe-horn in my own personal favourites as I’ve been attempting to do with varying degrees of subtlety from ‘not much’ to ‘none at all’ since I arrived), but this is almost certainly my last editorial. And after all, what is a platform for, if you can’t indulge in a bit of ‘Gwyneth Paltrow’ mawkishness. [I’ll leave you to finish off your own Chris Martin joke here]. So for now, thanks so much for reading, and I’ll see you down the front. And if you are Dave from that wedding, the mix tape is coming, I promise… ATB. RPC vibrations 5
Euroshame: A Modest Proposal by Sam Saunders
I think there was a Eurovision Song Contest in May. I heard on the news that Royaume Uni (nul points) had come last yet again. I have no idea what the wretched tune sounded like, but if it was other than execrable I would not quite burst with mild surprise. Please don’t send me the mp3. I hope that all concerned woke up screaming with shame and soiled beds on more than one subsequent evening. The only real question regarding this abomination of inauthenticity, cynicism and cultural pustulescense is whether Leeds should mount its own international festival of ineptitude to rival future Eurovision events. What I have in mind is taking a venue in Leeds (let’s say The Fenton or The Clothworkers Hall at The University of Leeds) and filling it with lusty-voiced Bohemians who might sing in the styles of imagined European forebears while dressing badly and mocking the ancient art of dance. The songs would all be taken from back catalogues of local heroes, so far unknown to a wider world.
track of These Monsters’ “Who Is The Tall Sick Man (of Europe)?”. The dance routine could feature a final snapped removal of the penis gourd that revealed, Buck’s Fizz-like, a much smaller gourd underneath.
Envision, if you will, Sam Robson of Club Smith dressed as a Swiss Goatherding Maiden, yodelling his way through “Wii Arms” by Cowtown. Perhaps the band could provide a (royalties free) karaoke mix to enable TV broadcast quality on the night? I think that could be a rule. Some kind of laser torch from Maplins could generate exciting visual effects to brighten things up. We might contact Chris Grayson of Live and Unsigned to provide text-voting facilities to cover the prodigious expenses we would incur. To vote for Sam, text “smelly cheese” to 0800 123456, or something. “Calls cost at least £2, so please, for God’s sake don’t ask any responsible person before calling more than ten times”.
This idea really has legs. And, possibly, law suits. A table might be provided for each contestant’s team of paid-in Mumagers, Dadagers and Friendagers. Plastic flags on small sticks (£9.99 at the door) might add a sense of belonging, and of hostile animosity. CCTV cameras could be trained on those moments of unpleasantness as bonus points were randomly awarded in bucketfuls to the organisers’ favourites. Scuffles could break out and fire hoses could be trained on miscreants for enhanced viewer experience. Indemnity insurance would be a major overhead – obviously – possibly financed by a premium ticket scheme whereby smokers could have access to a privileged smoking lounge on the fire escape.
Perhaps Chris Catalyst could follow, in Dutch clogs and a penis gourd, singing in the style of an ancient Amsterdam procurer to the backing
As the concept grew and the fanbase widened the post codes of Leeds could be mobilised to provide Regional and Area Qualification
Following Chris, perhaps David Thomas Broughton might duet with Benjamin Wetherill on a tune with a Balkan lilt that ended in something resembling mutual death? (extra points if registered by a bogus coroner). I have in mind a song like “Thieving Magpie” from The ABC Club - light, happy-sad whimsy just suited to ancient grudges and unpronounceable curses.
Zones. LS2, LS6, LS15 and LS16 - the historical resonances are rich with tribal antipathies and local pride. Each subdivision could then run its own (franchised) nights of competitive karaoke-style Euro Unsigned Dancing Obscurity Cover Nights (EUDOCN). Progress to later stages might be linked with higher ticket prices and concessionary taxi rates to bring punters in from the further regions of Pudsey and Garforth. I can just taste the adrenalin now as I visualise next year’s issue of the Morley Observer and Advertiser. My eyes mist over with pride (this was MY idea, by the way) as that imagined newsprint rubs off on my fingers: “The boys from Morley High School wowed the judges at the live regional final of EUDOCN at Morley Town Hall this week , where they competed against 3 other acts hoping to prove they are the best in the region” Local celebrities like David Gedge and Alan Raw could be designated as judges in the publicity material, and be given the option of having “other commitments” on the night itself so as to avoid the need for attendance on the night (not to mention any personal unpleasantness that would arise in the excited environment of a world class competitive karaoke-style Euro Unsigned Dancing Obscurity Cover Night). What have we got to lose?
Leeds Festival Special
Festival Republic have knockedup a reassuring combination of the brave, the brilliant and the baffling to ensure the upcoming Leeds Festival should comfortably hold its own against previous years. Even if the music isnâ€™t your thing (and there really should be something here for even the most esoteric of tastes) there should be enough tabloid sub-plots of a combustible nature to keep the casual observer enthralled.
with drugs, crime and casual violence, but in an unusual nod to its less salubrious past, the organisers have decided to recapture these elements symbolically in their choice of bands. Jailbirds? Check. Drug casualties? Check. Notoriously temperamental rock auteur previously threatened with extreme and highly imaginative levels of violence by very same festival boss during last appearance in Leeds? Check.
Itâ€™s been a thankfully long time since the festival was associated
Thus we have more superficially patched-up acrimonies than one
could reasonably expect from a mainstream festival bill. Which can only be entertaining for the neutral, if perhaps not for the backstage security staff. I donâ€™t know whether there are odds being offered on a major act not making it through their full set before flouncing off in a rock-star hissy fit (possibly with instrument involuntarily modelled as hat), but with the impressive selection of egos on offer, it has to be worth a fiver. Either way, Melvin Benn, we salute you. You sir, have balls.
(from the 4 main stages)
musically promiscuous Johnny Marr who briefly dallied with the band a few years ago before sidling up to Wakefield favourites The Cribs who find themselves on the same stage shortly after.
Sheffield’s Rolo Tomassi probably make the strongest case for your opening slot attentions on the NME/ Radio 1 stage, providing you don’t mind your angular thrashy indie-punk shouty and wilfully inaccessible. Which is fine by me. In search of melodies (several simultaneously with regularity) it’s a long-hop to the main stage for a double bill of The Futureheads and The Mystery Jets, two acts who promised much in their early career but have either failed to kick on (the latter) or worse still started the steady tumble down the running orders (the former). Still, popularity and quality have rarely had much correlation, so there should be more than enough to hold interest here.
I remain unconvinced by The Gaslight Anthem, so instead I shall be popping back to the NME to see if 3oh!3 can possibly prove as terrible as their name. Even if it’s as vocoder-heavy, sub-Justice europop live as it is on record, it’ll still be better than that name. Dublin’s Conor J O’Brien (trading as Villagers) has certainly had tongues wagging with his bewitching voice and effortless grasp of melody. Worth a mid-bill look on the Festival Republic stage to see if there’s enough substance behind the musical prettiness to suggest staying power beyond the pleasantly diverting. Should be interesting to compare with Modest Mouse on the Main Stage at least, not because there is anything in particular that they have in common musically, but more to demonstrate how to build an indie infrastructure that can still be winning critical acclaim well over a decade after first becoming journo darlings. I wouldn’t rule out a cameo from the
Festival Republic stage. Friday closes with a strong selection of headliners. Ash (Festival Republic), Bad Religion (Lock-Up) and Pendulum (NME) all have a strong allure, but the opportunity to catch one of the most inspiring and inventive bands of recent years in Arcade Fire on the Main Stage should be too good an opportunity to turn down. Their sustained absence (a couple of years is a long time in pop music) may have been enough to draw howls of angsty teenage derision from Blink 182 fans, but for the open minded, the Canadians have consistently proved themselves one of the best live draws around. Should prove a fitting end to a potentially interesting day.
Saturday Personally, I’ll be eskewing the Marr-fest to check out Serj Tankian on the NME (probably without the Auckland Symphony Orchestra with whom he recorded an album). As frontman of System Of A Down he always seemed on a different plain of sophistication to some of the more meat-headed metal bands around at the same time. After it’ll be Dizzie Rascal on the main stage for predictable grime-goespop fun, followed by Cancer Bats on the Lock-Up Stage, who aren’t particularly good, but do sound like a Daily Mail headline, and that is likely to keep me entertained after the hardcore-by-numbers has ceased to amuse. Pre-headline is something of a funvacuum. Certainly the temptation to rubber-neck the reunion of human car-crash meets unsustainable solo career otherwise referred to as the reforming of “one of the most important bands of the past 20 years” (apparently), should be avoided. True, The Libertines certainly have “paved the way for countless imitators”. But I cannot buy into the theory that this was in any way a good thing. For those after a genuinely exciting reunion, the more discerning fan could do worse than Berlin-based shouty techno-Fall noiseniks Atari Teenage Riot on the
Saturday on the main stage is something of an anomaly and contributes towards what is on balance the weakest of the days. It appears to have been programmed with three sets of people in mind. Those who were 13 in the early 90s and wish to relive the experience (Cypress Hill, Weezer), those were 13 in the early 2000s and wish to relive the experience (Blink 182, Limp Bizkit) and those who are 13 now and will probably deny all knowledge of liking these bands in a few years time (Paramore, You Me At Six). I was 13 in 1990 so you can work out which camp I’m in. And besides, I saw Cypress Hill at Reading in ’94 and they were bobbins then… meh. Still, if you’re reading Vibrations, then you’re obviously way too cool to be hanging around the main stage. Come to think of it, you’re probably way too cool to have a 30-something specky slap-head tell you who to go and see at a largescale corporate festival, but seeing as we’re here now we might as well press on. Recent Brudenell visitors Kassidy could be worth a mosey past on the FR. Nothing to shake the foundations of rock and roll to its core, but if smoky harmony-centric Scottish long-haired indie is your bag then you should be in luck. After that, you might want to remind yourself what year it is by crossing to the Dance Stage to take in the vibrations 9
amusingly monikered Japanese Popstars (they’re from Dublin, see?) Recent single Destroy featuring Jon Spencer provided a pleasingly sleazy dance groove. Anyone for Sparks-meets-80s-HairMetal-meets-High-School-Musical? Excellent! Foxy Shazam on the FR for you then, who have drifted so far off the socially acceptable Kitsch Scale as to occupy their own glitter dust and jump-suited microclimate. Frankly, their world looks more fun than ours. So best ping-pong to whence you came for Holy Fuck on the Dance Stage who consistently prove much better and more accessible than the stupid name suggests. (I can’t imagine they ever had a Dadager). Wild Beasts on the NME will be familiar to most of you, not least because of our continual fawning over them. But this does not make them any more missable. Perhaps then a wind-down with the ambient musings of Four Tet on the Dance Stage, before investigating the currently Bloc Party-less Kele on the NME who appears to be bidding for Madonna and Robbie-like single name recognition. It’s only a matter of time before he starts to refer to himself in the third person. However, if recent offerings are anything to go by, he could prove himself another Albarn in the impressively adept in multiple genres stakes. Git. Am I the only person to have noticed strains of Weller (circa Style Council perhaps?) in Minus The Bear (FR)? Bit more beardy though, can’t imagine the Modfather putting in such little sartorial consideration. Decide for yourself and while away half hour in whimsy as there doesn’t look a lot else on. Foals look a shoe-in on the NME, probably followed by We Are Scientists to minimise movement. While Klaxons would prove a perfectly acceptable NME triple-bill, or British Sea Power on the FR for those inclined, the highlight of Saturday to my mind is Roots Manuva on the Dance Stage. The UK has always punched below its weight when it’s come to producing hip-hop innovators, but Rodney Smith is a genuine and enigmatic talent.
Sunday Gaggle (FR) have a tendency to divide people. 20-piece female choirs taken to playground-style chanting don’t tend to be everyone’s cup of tea, but you won’t see anything else like them this weekend. Floridians Surfer Blood on the NME should bring you back to earth and remind you what most reverb-heavy “anthemic” US indie has sounded like over the past 20-odd years. Hmm… Worth hanging about for New Young Pony Club though, to hear what The Waitresses would sound like if they were still making music 30-odd years later, and anyone had heard of them, and were inclined to book them for festivals. Perhaps B-52s circa Mesopotamia meets Krafwerk would be a less obscure reference? After that, Ukrainian nut-jobs Gogol Bordello on the Main Stage should cheer even the most cynical of sorts with their unique brand of Partytime Gypsy Punk, putting them in a genre clique of approximately one. Many of you will be heading for the FR to see local equipment-botherers Pulled Apart By Horses, but personally I remain unconvinced by the anarcho-lite flailing. Lovely people and all, but I can’t help feeling we’ve seen it all before. I’ll also be steering clear of the appropriately named This Is Hell on the Lock-Up, so it’ll either be the spacious synth choruses of The Big Pink or time to wind the rebellion clock back a further 25 years to see NOFX on the main stage.
If you like your band names Ronseal-style, I’d avoid Egyptian Hip-Hop (FR) who are neither. I can fully appreciate why people from Manchester would want to keep quiet about it, but this is going too far. They also make that kind of Gary Numan-gone-funky discobeat stuff that was all the rage a couple of years ago. It sounds a
bit dated already, but is diverting enough. One band who do not suffer from the same problem are Streetlight Manifesto (Lock-Up). It is impossible to sound dated when you’ve never been in fashion in the first place. Ska Punk is a curious beast, as likely to make your average music fan break out in hives and a cold sweat as it is to cause involuntary pogoing. I don’t mind admitting I’m occasionally partial to the latter, so I expect to emerge triumphant, but sweaty, probably muttering something to the affect of being “too old for this shit” whilst grinning manically. Delphic (NME) have been getting good press, although I’m yet to fully understand why. Previously they might have been known to Leodians as Snowfight In The City Centre, and before that Lisa Brown, so at least they are gradually improving their choice of name if nothing else. For the final straight it’s looking like a main stage double bill, firstly with the remergence of QOTSA post Them Crooked Vultures experiment and then finally for everyone’s favourite pasty-dreadlocked iron-filing-gargling kilt-wearing sociopath. The last time Guns ‘n’ Roses played Leeds Festival, Melvin Benn did all but kick them individually onto the stage himself. In fact, as he revealed to me when I interviewed him for this very magazine a couple of years back, he had their manager held up against the wall by his throat threatening to call the police in advance for the murder he was about to commit if Rose & co didn’t get their noticeably lardy arses out on stage forthwith. Benn is not a small man, and accordingly the sulky one duly obliged. However, to us mere punters unaware of the backstage shenanigans, the real surprise was that they were actually rather good. Whether they can repeat the trick this time, or complete the set, or even turn-up, is anyone’s guess, but there are sure to be talking points either way. However, if you’re unmoved by the potential soap opera on offer, at least LCD Soundsystem (NME) should provide a viable alternative. Rob Paul Chapman
She was happy in the haze of her unknown hour, but Ellen Knows She’s Visible Now…
Photography by Tom Martin
Kate Wellham caught up with Leeds’ Glastonbury Heroine Ellen of the Escapades to take the singer’s emotional temperature before departing South-Westwards for their defining set. The remarkably relaxed singer is happy to talk band mates, opportunity, and Blue Balls. That’s right. Blue. Balls. vibrations vibrations 11 11
Imagine a band in Leeds who have worked like a collective bitch for years and years and years - jumping at every opportunity; pouring every spare penny into turning themselves into a marketable package, entering every competition and crossing their fingers so hard each time that mild RSI has set in – and by spring 2010 they’re just about ready to give up when they enter the competition to play a Glastonbury main stage... Well if that band exists, they’re going to be pretty pissed off with Ellen & the Escapades. “We’d completely overlooked that competition and we didn’t even really look into applying to it on time or anything” says the Ellen of the aforementioned Escapades breezily, of the competition to play Glastonbury which they won after being together for a piffling two years. “Our manager said ‘by the way, I’ve already entered you for this thing’, then we got an email saying we’d been selected for the final 12 so we didn’t have to go to any public vote or anything, and they asked us to go down and play. We weren’t expecting it at all, we just thought ‘well we’ve got nothing to lose’”’ For the rest of us seething with envy, perhaps it’s just beginner’s luck. Feeling better now? Well don’t, because
last year – after one year together – they were selected to play the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds. Do you hate them yet? To be fair, if this is sounding as though E&TE have gone from zero to nicking your chips and laughing in your face in under two years, it’s not quite like that. Firstly, there have been less successful musical adventures before this one; Ellen was in 16-bit Revival (emo), Chris was in Antidepressants (grunge), and James was the youngest member in the homoerotic-sounding Leather Zoo (old) where he exerted his heterosexuality by going out with the singer’s daughter and getting sacked (“the only thing he had to say was ‘it was worth it, cos she was really hot’”). Secondly, but most importantly, there’s the fact that they’re really bloody good. Comparisons with Bob Dylan and Carole King are well deserved – their songs are, in Steve Lamacq’s own words, ‘wistfully reflective’ and subtle. Not a note is wasted, and Ellen’s voice is soft, smoky and mature beyond her years. Unlike their previous experiments with other genres, the five-piece are unquestionably suited to folk, a patient, timeless scene that has always attracted skilled players rather than pop stars in the making. Ellen admits that her first instrument
was piano and that when singing, she “always used to be a bit terrified”. It was only when she learned to play guitar that she found the confidence to do it onstage. The band first met as friends at college in Leeds, but it wasn’t until Ellen and guitarist Chris started doing acoustic gigs together that the other three presumably realised that a voice like Ellen’s doesn’t present itself every day. “I remember not really thinking about being in a band, and then we played this gig at Royal Park Cellars and the other guys came down to watch and everyone joined. It wasn’t really that planned.”
“The lead singer is always the one who gets scrutinised the most. I think because in mainstream pop a lot of it’s really image orientated” In their absence, Ellen describes the rest of the band, so they can read this and find out what she really thinks of them. “Jeff’s on guitar, he’s from California, he’s really laid back, with a Neil Young vibrations 12
voice. Chris plays keyboards and sings, and he’s the most eccentric one. When he performs he’s more over the top, we sometimes have to get him to tone it down - not in a bad way, he just gets really into it. Andy’s the most horizontal person I’ve ever met, he loses everything. I remember he came back to my house three times once, the first time he forgot his keys, then he came back for his wallet, then he came back again for his hat, so I had three knocks at the door. James is funny, he’s into more pop music than the rest of us. Everyone’s just really fun.” Being the only female in an otherwise all-male line-up, being the lead singer AND having her name incorporated into the band’s name could put Ellen under extra pressure in comparison with her bandmates if and when the press latch onto them. Like I am right now. But she insists that it isn’t a worry. “The lead singer is always the one who gets scrutinised the most. I think because in mainstream pop a lot of it’s really image orientated. “I didn’t really start singing until I got into Carole King because that was when I realised that you didn’t have to be Christina Aguilera, a girl singer could still be credible and didn’t have to have the most amazing belt-it-out voice.” If you think about it, she has a point. The charts are so dominated by massivelunged, big-haired warblers that you could cast a musical without looking outside the Top 20. Ellen and co aren’t interested in that frightening place that pop music has become, taking their inspiration from the classics. “From being really young, listening
to my mum’s Beatles records, I still genuinely feel like that was the reason I learned how to write a pop song. Just something simple that was memorable.” Of their experience of the Leeds music scene – three of them as Loiners and two as immigrants from lesser places – Ellen says “I think the first time we all played together was at Trash (RIP). I remember we’d not been together very long at all, and we only played about four songs and I had to do a couple on my own. “We all really love the Brudenell, that’s probably our favourite venue just to go and watch other bands, and we love the Gaslight Club at Oporto that Gary Stewart runs as well, I go there quite a lot and just watch.” “We’ve become friends with Gary, Sam Airey and Paul Saunders, I know some of the Just Handshakes We’re British people who went to our college, and the same with Sketches.” A Guardian profile focused on the band’s suggested inexperience of touring outside Leeds, somewhat unfairly saying that Ellen & The Escapades have ‘barely played a show south of Birmingham’, which may well be true in this country, but is otherwise misleading and negates the opportunity they could have had to talk about a festival in Switzerland called Blue Balls. That’s Blue Balls. Blue... Balls. Anyway, they played it. “We went on the train, I wouldn’t recommend it with guitars and suitcases. We had to get on the tube in rush hour but we had this comedy situation where most of us got on but the doors shut on Jeff and he
had to pull his guitar out of the door and we just pulled away and left him there. “It took us about ten hours altogether on three or four different trains. We were there for about 18 days and we had about two days off or something. We went in a recording studio, and did a couple of festivals.” Suck on that, Guardian. “We played this one festival called Blue Balls” - (that’s Blue Balls) - “where we were getting treated so well and got paid a ridiculous amount of money - we had catering and everything - and they put us up in this five-star hotel. People were just coming and giving us money, they thought that if you’re from England you must be some really famous band so we had loads of people coming up to us asking to sign CDs. Then we came back and played Leeds and Reading straight afterwards and we weren’t even allowed in the proper artists’ area cos we were only on the Introducing stage.” At time of writing, with the band about to depart, Glastonbury promises to be something else entirely, and the band have already been offered ‘about five or six’ different slots. “We keep getting emails about different gigs. The people who set them up said the public gigs will be amazing but the backstage ones potentially could be the best thing you can do.” And how is the understated Ellen feeling about this amazing opportunity? “Kind of nervous. Nervous and excited. I just freak out, you know when you don’t get a soundcheck and at first you can’t hear properly?” Something tells us they’re going to be ok. vibrations 13
Futuresound Rob Wright and Rob Paul Chapman pick through the fall-out from this year’s Futuresound competition to win a place on the BBC Introducing stage at the Leeds and Reading Festivals. We give you our thoughts on those who made the cut, and some of the best that got away Another year, another Leeds festival and another batch of hopefuls wanting to strut their brief time upon the big Introducing stage. Far be it from us to bang on about the success stories (this is becoming a bit of a cliché that, heaven help us, we have strived to create) but let’s look at those memorable moments that the ‘unsigned’ stage has created: The FFers getting lynched for not being the Foo Fighters; Tom from Pulled Apart By Horses vomiting mid sentence; Neil Hanson swearing so much during International Trust’s set that nothing could be broadcast on Raw Talent (apocryphal, but he did swear an awful lot). Anyway, bearing that in mind, we at Vibrations have decided it is probably our duty to report back on the West Yorkshire representatives plying their wares on said stage, and shed a tear for those who didn’t make it, but deserved to just as much.
Overall Winner: Kasius A bit of a surprise this one given some of the more celebrated and/ or fashionable names on the list, but there is a populist feel here which kind of makes sense. Futuresound have a cracking record in plucking quality out of leftfield for the outright winner’s spot, with past victors including Breaking The Illusion, Fran Rodgers and This Et Al. This is sweeping, epic rock – sorry – raawk music which will appeal to fans of Biffy and other hard-looking beardy tattooed bands with, y’know maan, like, feelings and shit. Occasionally overearnest, but polished and engaging with enough going on to sustain the attention of even the most flighty of flibbertigibbet. Nice gothic piano too. As winners, bypass BBC Introducing
altogether and skip straight to the Festival Republic stage to open the festival when everyone is still in bed. (RPC)
Competition Void: Sketches Bigging it up in the Leeds Six, Sketches follow in the footsteps of the Grammatics with their remorseful but dramatic musical stylings and lively melodies. Looked a good bet for a place on the winners list, before they were snapped up anyway by the organisers for a place on the stage making them illegible for Futuresound. Plenty of skyscraping falsetto and a real determination to them that earmarks them as someone to jump around to in wellies. (RW)
The Runners-Up: Wot Gorilla? Missing ¡Forward, Russia!? The funkier elements of Gang of Four? The less frenetic side of Mars Volta? This Halifax four-piece make the kind of music that used to be referred to as angular, before the word became wince-inducingly ubiquitous. Much like the style of music itself. But for anyone after a nostalgia kick from that heady summer of 2007, this should more than satisfy your craving. Decent enough. (RPC)
Club Smith York-based tight choppy worldly popular band that manage to splice the crooning allure of the Killers with the frenetic globalism of Vampire Weekend and the spaced-out synth epicry of Ultravox.
They’ve bunged out two EPs in quick succession and are doing... really quite interesting stuff. (RW)
Soul Circus Mercifully not to be confused with Soul Asylum, if the tracks on their myspace are anything to go by, this could be a big step up for the indie 5-piece. Whether it’s come a bit too soon, or just the right time, largely depends on how much they’ve been beavering away in the practice studio of late. But there is something pleasingly Who-like on I Still Believe, give or take some mid-80s power-rock vocals. (RPC)
Runaround Kids Slightly shambly indie three-piece from Wakefield who sound like the Cribs, but aren’t actually The Cribs. Albeit The Cribs after they’ve taken a truck-load of throat lozenges, and with occasional tendency to drift into the more experimental. Shades of none-moreindie bands such as Buen Chico and The Lodger, but lacking the same craft, guile or pathos. Hard to see the appeal, but then again I feel the same about The Cribs, so what do I know? (RPC)
Blacklisters Right, this is more like it – grunty riffsters with shouts to spare and a hatred of vowels. After seeing Chickenhawk tear it up last year and PABH do it the previous year, it is imperative that we get someone on that stage with the cojones to fuck shit up on the day, if you’ll pardon my French. (RW)
Bearfoot Beware Bears are so in this year, so these lively alt poppers would have been the perfect zeitgeist addition to the line up. Apart from that, their shout-along post-punk influenced style and affected lyrics are pretty grin-inducing and would have made them good ambassadors for the Leeds music scene. Pardon my pompousity. (RW)
Hail Animator Check out that logo – old school fontage! Quite. But that lofty guitar sound and edgy drums are just the sort of thing you could do with hearing rolling across the muddied pastures of Bramham. Though a warning to the death metal fans – they have nothing to do with Reanimator. Could have been a bit of a soft shock. (RW)
Holy State Noisy, nasty and quite frankly a bit of an earful, but just the sort of thing that you need to wake up a crowd who are
glutted on death burgers and trying not to think about how much exactly they’ve spent on Tuborg that weekend. Always good to have a band that will send people screaming and frothing at the mouth. (RW)
Castrovalva Noise-rap three piece with a rather impressive line in stage showery. They have the tunes, the attitude and the sheer have-a-good-time-all-thetime-ness about them that should have made them a shoe-in for the festival. Unfortunately, they were in the same play off as the next two bands, inevitably cancelling each other out... (RW)
Cowtown If there was any band more deserving of their festival moment... no, there just wasn’t. Two stonking albums, oodles of tunes, party in the making and rather smelly jumpers – look, the whole event just won’t be as much fun without them. Plus they need all the help they can get to escape their Brudenell gravity well. Next time… (RW)
Traitors From the ashes of three former unsigned alumni (Wintermute, SYEAYBIF, FFers) comes a math synth shoutcore super group – bet you never thought you’d see those words together. Would have been worth getting them on the stage just to bask in the glow of Chris Newbould’s effortless coolness. (RW)
Sam Airey Solo folk often does surprisingly well at Futuresound, but alas not this time. Sam has a nice, distinctive, smoky voice, a plaintive line in lyrics and a vocal affectation reminiscent of Regina Spektor. Ish. Plus, spare a thought for the stage crew – one man and guitar would have equalled a much easier change over than grand gothic piano. (RW)
Blacklisters playing at Futuresound thanks to Kyle James-Patrick
For dancing at the disco, bumper to bumper, All hail the three-piece who
Wear the Jumpers
Photography by Bart Pettman
Catrick the cat, vibrating pans and the saviour of Room C13. All touchstones for DIY enthusiasts Cowtown. Not to mention a unique way of remembering those baffling musical changes. “Go up to the bear, or down to the dog, in between duck and horse … That’s the system!” they tell Sam Saunders vibrations 16
This was the Ken Loach concept: ‘Cowtown The Movie’ was being made right here in Chorley Lane Car Park. We were just fifty yards from the urban canyon where the A58(M) Leeds Inner Ring Road provides a soundtrack of tyres whining on cracked asphalt. We were setting out to represent continuous motion and blurred exhilaration, outside Joseph’s Well while discussing a decade of music, cats, fruit and the longest journey of them all (Wakefield to Leeds). Dave Shields, facing me, had come that long way round, from Minsthorpe High School in South Elmsall where, (on May 30th 1991 aged 13 years) he had attended his first, thrilling, gig. It was organised by Miss Jones, doyenne of Room C13, with her Filofax of industry contacts and her flair for interpretive dance. She had summoned The Mission to play a warm up gig for their European Tour. The Lemonheads, Therapy, The Wedding Present , Inspiral Carpets, The Wonderstuff and Carter USM were also beguiled in during those years. Dave, now drummer for Cowtown and Monster Killed by Laser, was getting an education. “Formative years”, he confesses.
Andrew Raine of Diesel Vs. Steam. He joined Dave and Hils as well and started telling them what to do (according to Hilary). At about the same time he had started working on the first of eight annual Chinchilla Festivals, while working at the gothic grunge rock emporium GRIN in the Corn Exchange… ”strange days”. But here we all are in the future, in a blur of trajectories, trying to make sense of a brand new Cowtown album and a decade of astonishing creativity and change. Cowtown’s conversation is like their music. It’s breathless, intense, funny, thoughtful, open-hearted and super friendly. No answer is definitive and no question is shut down. All futures are still possible. As we chat, others come past and say hello or wave in recognition. Buen Chico are the main turn tonight while Cowtown are playing as a warm-up for their valedictory appearance at tomorrow’s last-ever Chinchilla Festival (the first of which was here, at Joseph’s Well, in 2003). Those early days in Leeds 6, and that hopeful time when a new millennium ticked over were special for each of
the band. As Jon says: “moving to Leeds and that whole music scene completely changed my life”. Dave, too, was overwhelmed with what Leeds 6 had to offer: “Walking round Leeds 6 when I first moved there was just amazing: hearing ace bands playing in basements, just walking past a house hearing some amazing band. It was a long long way, artistically and culturally, from Wakefield.” Jon adds “It gives off the impression that everyone is just playing what they want to do, and that means I can do what I want to do”. They recall band names in a great rush: Bilge Pump (especially), Casino Volante, Capo D’Astro, Kill Yourself, Printed Circuit, Pifco, Diesel vs. Steam, Propulsion Family Picnic… It’s not as if the scene is dying. Far from it. Earlier members are moving out into the “suburbs” (LS4 and LS5) and beyond. But new arrivals on the house party scene, and organisers like Stroidy and Adam Nodwell are at work. Nodwell’s British Wildlife Festival looks like a very acceptable replacement for Chinchillafest, for one good example.
Hilary Knott, infectiously bubbly (but sometimes hushed) had travelled to our meeting from a childhood around Wrexham in North Wales and was facing me, to my left. The Tivoli in Buckley had been her first taste of live rock and roll, with The Lemonheads in her early curriculum. Moving on from there to Bretton College and Wakefield she had spotted Dave Shields’ Muppet drumming. The ordinary magnetic forces drew them both to Leeds and they sort of started a band with her playing guitar and Casio keyboard. By 2002 Jonathan Nash, now hopping about enthusiastically to my right, had arrived in Leeds from Telford. His parents had moved from Birmingham where Jonathan’s Dad had played a Gibson SG in a Sabbath-like band. At school, with bleached-blonde hair, he had had a quantum mirror experience to Dave’s C13 enlightenment. Not a gig with the stars, but a firm instruction that there was no way he could wear his Ned’s Atomic Dustbin “Not Sleeping Around” t-shirt on nonschool uniform day. It didn’t curb his enthusiasm. So by the time he spotted Hilary playing Toytown instruments with the short-lived Kimpossible at a squat party in Victoria Road in Leeds 6 he was already playing in the pivotal band Brown Owl with Mark Simms and
In talking about the end of the Chinchilla Festival, Nash thinks back to those earlier days of what he affectionately calls “blind naivety” and says “ever since then I’ve been doing all this diy activity stuff which is essentially putting on festivals, helping bands, helping bands that help us … for years and years, trying to do records and gigs and stuff. And then I noticed that I wasn’t really concentrating on the band, and trying to play the most interesting music we could.” Which brings us back to this new album: “Excellent Domestic Short Hair”. We established that it was not Schrödinger’s cat, but Catrick, Hilary’s Domestic Short Hair that donated a name for Cowtown’s second album. Free association and a childlike spontaneity in all things creative seem to be important to the processes that fire their music. Nash had wanted to use the concept from Shellac’s “Excellent Italian Greyhound” cover, with Catrick pictured among the fruit. Short of fruit for the occasion, the album duly become “Excellent Domestic Short Hair”. The album can be bought or freely streamed from Bandcamp, It’s released from Hil’s homebrew label “City Hands” and the culturally smart move is to go for the beautiful hand printed and numbered limited vinyl.
In the band’s working processes Nathan at the Brudenell has been a long-time supporter of Cowtown as well as Chinchillafest. “A really sweet guy” says Dave, with Hilary and Nash echoing the sentiment. They can see how things have changed at the Brudenell since the early days, with more high-profile gigs than ever before. But they still count themselves lucky enough to practice there and have nothing but praise for Nathan and the club. “Those rehearsals”, says Hilary, “are pretty military. Intense practice, precision practice, intensive over and over, working on odd time structures or the demand for this to fit with this … even though there’s nothing in between to make it work” says Jon. “I’ve got a system”, says Hilary, “I’ve got little stickers on my keys, so sometimes I can remember “go up to the bear, or down to the dog, in between duck and horse …it works! That’s the system!” Those futures? More European travels, (with Andrew Raine as Judith Chalmers, taking them to le Pont du Gard?), The BBC Introducing Stage at Leeds Festival 2011? Live At Leeds 2012? The Bilge Pump curated ATP 2013? Such are my fantasies. The band seem to me to live in a much livelier present.
It’s not often that you bump into talented people with such a genuine lack of self importance or calculated ambition. Jon had been flyering for Chinchillafest (note the irony) outside venues on the Live At Leeds weekend. “And everyone I spoke to was saying “Why aren’t Cowtown playing at Live At Leeds”? But I don’t have any concept of how this thing comes together. And they say “Well, you get recommended by a promoter, I’d have recommended you if you’d asked me” And I don’t get it. Why would I ask someone to recommend my band?” It’s a good question. I wholeheartedly recommend Cowtown to anyone who wants a good time through exceptional music. And if you were wondering how Cowtown became their name, you can be reassured that after “Horse the Band” had been taken by others, and many much worse names had been considered, the first song ever written by “The Twin Quasars of Rock” (That’s John and John of They Might Be Giants) was called ‘Cowtown’, and that seemed reason enough as Jon, Hilary and Dave watched the duo’s biography on DVD.
Their first album had been recorded in Hilary’s kitchen. Jonathan says “It was mixed like a studio album but there was no separation or overdubs or any of that.” Dave laughs and remembers: “There were pans vibrating and stuff like that: golden days!” Hilary says that “In the past there’s always been something not quite right after it’s all finished. Last time it was the drum sound that wasn’t good enough, so this time we wanted to go somewhere where we would definitely get a really really good drum sound. And that’s what we got.” They agree that there is a polish to this one that made using Cottage Road Studios well worth it. Jon ponders, “The sound quality is really slick: smooth and level, but with our own approach enforced. It’s a proper studio album.” Hilary says “It suits a lot of the songs, I’m really pleased with it.” Characteristically, most of the chat about the studio is about the people there. Friend Matt Peel, Andy the really funny former member of band Midget who Jon remembers seeing at a festival when he was 15, and owner (and Back to Basics DJ extraordinaire) Dave Beer, another “Really funny guy”.
I fought DeLore and DeLore wonâ€Ś.
Photography by Tom Martin vibrations 22
Rob Paul Chapman meets DeLorean Drivers and discovers a surreal world of the London glitterati performing Billy Joel songs with the band in their pants.
With one more band left to go, I was beginning to contemplate the task of writing up a review where I hadn’t liked a single band on a night when I was seriously beginning to question whether I even liked music at all, when on came DeLorean Drivers…
We’re a miserable, jaded and cynical bunch us music hacks. Especially the self-proclaimed, unpaid, opinionated, unqualified and almost permanently disillusioned breed of local music hacks.
“That is something I always wanted to happen” beams the band’s male frontman Darren Driver, “that when someone comes to see us, for half an hour, they would be able to put their life on hold and just run with it”.
Every so often you interview some bunch of chancers or other; mostly on the basis that there is an outside chance they may actually sell some records at some point.
…half hour later and I’m dancing round Joseph’s Well car park (stone cold sober) grinning like a six-year-old high on Sunny Delight who’s just been told he’s going to meet Father Christmas in Disneyworld on a spaceship. God I love music sometimes.
and grows until by the end everybody is in that moment and not thinking about anything else. And if we get that, then we’ve done our job” “You can get people onside through basic body language” suggests Darren’s fellow front-foil Kate. “Simple things like eye contact, smiling, looking like you’re enjoying yourself. Stuff like that. It is really not rocket science.” “There is a lot you can do to make people think ‘this looks interesting’” continues bassist, Billy who makes up the 33% of band members permanently present for our interview as others drift in and out like family members round a kitchen table, “It makes it easier for people to go with it”. The band are as much defined by what they are not as what they are.
So you spend an hour in a dingy pub while the singer talks of “only being about the music, man” the guitarist name-checks as many obscure references as he can remember from his Fisher Price ‘My First Book Of Being Cool’, while the bass player conducts his own one-way conversation baring no passing resemblance to the questions asked and the drummer contributes solely through Neolithic grunts. All four will communicate in exactly the same flat charisma-less drawl that you’ll spend the next 12 hours desperately trying to decipher and correctly attribute, pausing only briefly to have a little cry to yourself while contemplating the crushing futility of existence. If by some miracle, the great unwashed see merit in their identikit indie-bynumbers and they go on to sell a few records, the joyless task of extracting anything interesting out of them will pass to the next mug up the musicwaffle food chain, but at least you’ll be able to say you got there first. Yay. Go me. So, why, for the love of God, do we bother…? It was an internal monologue much to this effect that I was having with myself almost exactly a year ago as I type. A Friday night in Leeds covering a new label showcase where I’d got exponentially more curmudgeonly as the night had worn on having endured a parade of acts I’d observed with almost ecstatic levels of indifference.
It is a philosophy that undoubtedly goes to the very heart of this exceptional pop-powered nine-piece. To be able to take an audience – any audience – and transport them into a different world. It’s escapism, of course it is, but not in the arch or ironic way that you are meant to indulge such patronising concepts as ‘guilty pleasures’. This is escapism that you lose yourself to, like watching a great melodrama, It’s A Wonderful Life or Brief Encounter. Something a little bit alien that bears no resemblance to your personal reality, but that can consume you for a short while before you go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before, slightly happier and more enlightened. “The ideal gig happens when we go onstage and put a lot of energy in.” explains Darren, “Then if we get a lot of energy back from the crowd, it grows
“Too many bands lumber on stage in their jeans and spend 20 minutes fannying about tuning up, milling around and basically looking like they don’t really care” suggests Darren. “We’ve always wanted to be a reaction to that, presenting something, not representing something.” “The nice thing about there being nine of us is that we’re able to have a party amongst ourselves, so if the worst comes to the worst, we’ve got nine best mates on a stage together” laughs Kate, much as you imagine she probably would do if the worst really did come to the worst. “This is the one thing I’ve been involved in my whole life where every gig, every practice, every rehearsal I’ve thought before hand ‘yes! I can’t wait!’” It translates. The band have gone from vibrations 23
having a small but fervoured cult fan base, to having a large but fervoured cult fan base, following tips in the NME, Music Week, The Guardian and Gay Times, as well as one of the most exciting live shows in Britain. None of this happened by accident. “We were a band for a good 18 months before we told anyone about it,” says Darren. “We wanted to arrive fully formed. We didn’t want to be scratching around developing while we were on stage. If you think how many gigs we’ve done over the years between the nine members, we were able to take the very clear decision that we wanted it to be absolutely right before anyone saw it. We had written songs that were markedly more upbeat than any of us had been involved in before, and this was what we wanted to do.” Kate picks up the story: “We started the album and it’s taken two years to record and things have changed as we’ve progressed. The first few songs that we did are now no longer representative of who we are and so we are going to re-record them, which should be really nice as we all know those songs so well”. The songs will be the same, broadly – although you can never quite tell what Choque is going to do!” adds Darren. The Choque in question is Choque Hosein, the producer-come-label-boss of Vandal Records, former head of 48 Crash and member of Black Star Liner. “He has an energy I am yet to believe!” grins Darren. “He’s a great record producer though,” counters Billy quickly lest we get the wrong idea. “He’s the first producer that I’ve worked
with who will actually produce” says Kate. “If you’re in the vocal booth you’ll regularly get [adopts nasal Yorkshire tones] “fook off that is shit!” in your ear “do it again!”” “Darren! That lyric in the last verse, line two, it’s fooking bollocks!” joins in Darren, in similar voice “Get it rewritten!” “It’s great to be pushed by someone who isn’t bothered about time restraints” enthuses Kate. “Daz and I have been in the studio until six in the morning just going over and over and over it again until it’s better. Working with someone who has all that passion is certainly inspiring to me”. “He will never push us to do something that he’s not prepared to do himself” assures Darren, with genuine affection. Push he does though, setting the band up for an Elvis-like schedule of five shows in three nights in London followed by a tour of the north straight after including the Sheffield O2, Bradford Playhouse and others. The London marathon made logistic sense though to showcase the band to the multiple interested parties. “It was great, we were able to just leave all our equipment set up and just turn up for the next show,” smiles Billy. “It’s the place that The Brute Chorus use to rehearse and they had given over their practice space for us to use as a changing room,” recalls Kate “It was like we were in their house.” “They were there recording a cover version of ‘Always a Woman’ by Billy Joel while half our band are wandering around in their underwear getting ready” Darren laughs before confirming how nice the band had been to them.
So with attention on the band increasing, I wondered how the media are pitching a band seemingly out of step with most current trends. “In general, I think it’s unhelpful to try and pin us to a genre or compare us to a particular band because everyone hears different things,” muses Darren. “People have mentioned an 80s influence, which personally I don’t hear. I hear more of a 70s influence, but if people hear an 80s influence that is absolutely fine.” “You have to tell them something though, because there is a big difference between Death Metal and Classical” points out Billy pragmatically. “So you’ve got to pitch it somewhere. Sometimes it’s best just to describe the line-up, so we have drums, bass and two guitars. On top of that we have four singers so there’s lots of harmony. We also have Kate playing violin so there’s strings, [referred to by Kate as the “slag racket”] plus there’s Nathan who plays keyboards and lots of electronic things so there should be plenty to keep people interested!” “To me, it’s the natural progression from stuff like the Phil Spector sound and things like Motown and Brian Wilson. That’s where the roots of it are to me,” offers Darren. “The big sound with stuff layered over the top of other sounds. Uplifting, accessible, good fun music where people will come along and just have a really good time” “If I put my ipod on and a song like Black Mirror by Arcade Fire comes on, it’s amazing to see the reaction. It can completely change the mood of a room. It’s not deafeningly loud, but it can definitely darken the atmosphere,” Kate suggests. “I’d like to think that our stuff would do the opposite, but obviously I’m not self-indulgent enough to put my own stuff on my ipod!” vibrations 24
Original Shoutlawz Photography by Bart Pettman
They love the Grime, but they’re definitely not Gangsta. Leeds’ premier NoiseHop agitators Castrovalva explain their route from sprawling improv to an album full of singles. “We’ve opened a door to bands to really express themselves” they tell Rob Wright. Sometimes, a band just takes you by surprise with its instantaneous success. More often than not, the band themselves are just as surprised. But not Castrovalva. They seem utterly convincing and convinced of their abilities, so much so that towards the end of the interview, Ant utters the supremely confident line, “We are going to be the biggest band in Leeds.”
For all those who are wondering – and by way of an aside – the name Castrovalva has nothing to do with Peter Davison and everything to do with MC Escher, though Ant does confess to having watched the episodes. Aside over. After a year of relative quietness, Castrovalva resurfaced at the end of last year and appeared to have gone all gangsta on their single ‘Thuglife’. “We didn’t decide anything,” says Ant, his Birmingham accent beginning to make itself apparent, “it just...” “I wouldn’t say we were gangsta,” says Leemun, putting his Guinness down and making his presence felt, “I think we’ve kinda opened a door to bands to really express themselves.” Leemun’s involvement with Castrovalva came about when he was sent the track ‘Bellhausen’ by Ant, a track which Dan and Ant were considering binning. Leemun, who was at the time dabbling in a Mars Volta style band, loved it so much that he decided to record a vocal line for it into a tiny microphone on his Apple Mac at three in the morning
(being told to ‘shut the fuck up’ by his girlfriend) and thenceforth became the ‘third instrument’ in Castrovalva. “If I’m honest,” he continues, “the track of our first singles ‘Thug Life’ and ‘Outlawz’ wasn’t hip hop, but because of the names and the way it was presented it turned around as hip hop.” In fact, to be more accurate, Ant later points out that their sound is ‘noise hop’, for all those wanting a comfortable little genre to pop them in, but for now Dan assures me that their primary intention was to create a homage to hip hop and grime. “We love the grime,” says Ant sincerely. “One of the themes I really like about grime,” says Dan, “is that a lot of the bass lines just repeat through the whole song. A lot of our songs have a really strong groove that just locks in; that one big bass line.” The hip hop connection is further reinforced by Castrovalva’s unique artwork, designed by Leemun on the fly. It turns out he was staying in Paris at the time and didn’t have access to his usual materials for his distinctive
What is even more surprising is that, despite this, they are very nice people. Formed in 2007 by Dan (drums) and Ant (bass) as a noise project to complement their running of a small record label (Salt The Wound Records) and providing bass for a mate’s band respectively, Castrovalva hardly had the most auspicious of beginnings. “We started in 2007,” starts Dan, “but we just spent the first year...” “Pissing about,” finishes Ant. Dan and Ant do this a lot, this finishing each other’s sentences business. It’s a pretty cute relationship thing: Ant is sardonic and charming, Dan is self-deprecating and enthusiastic. Leemun is the garrulous son, but for now he is quiet and nursing a Guinness. “It was just something we did really infrequently,” says Ant, “but some of the stuff we were coming up with we liked a lot more. We did the odd gig here and there and wrote some more stuff. Then Brew Records said ‘you’ve got this live record, you should do a proper CD’.” “It was them who kicked us up the arse really to start writing again,” says Dan. The proverbial arse kicking by Glacken and Tom resulted in their ‘first album’ in late 2008, and though neither Dan or Ant recognise it as a debut as such, it did mark the start of Castrovalva as a formal entity. vibrations 27
collage style. “I had to go into Paris and get some magazines and stuff and see what I could create,” he says, “it just turned into a massive gangsta theme. I was staying with this girl so I just jumped on her computer. She was shouting at me in French, but she let me get it done.” If it had been fashion week in Paris, things could have turned out a whole lot more different. It is beginning to become apparent that Castrovalva are taking spontaneity to new levels. As demonstrated when Leemun blurts out “the album was rushed!” Neither Dan or Ant look perturbed, so he continues: “Our manager was like, you can’t tour the EU unless you’ve got an album. So we wasn’t really ready, so we had to put our heads together.” Dan nods. “When we started doing gigs and stuff we were actually an improv band,” he says, “we’d show up at venues, play for half an hour.” “We’d have a set of riffs and the songs would blend into each other,” Ant continues, “one day we’d play a song and we’d think we’d be playing it for three minutes, then it would be seven minutes – we only realised that when we started to record them, and a lot of those songs have carried over into what we do now.” After hearing about some bands who spend months and years rehearsing before even thinking about booking studio time, it sounds so... risky.
‘there’s nobody here’ – the doors were supposed to be open. So I went to see what was going on and there was a massive queue.” It turned out that the door staff thought that they were still sound checking, even the Foo Fighters was being played through the PA. “(Ant) came back in and it was like the messiah with all these people behind him”, says Leemun, “after about two songs it was half full, then I looked up again and it was three quarters full.” All in all about six hundred punters turned up and got Castrovalva in full effect: “When we play live we’re trying to push it,” says Ant, “go crazy, jump around – we have some trouble standing still. We sweat an awful lot.” Ant is still amazed at all the people who wanted a photo with him after the gig... possibly because of the sweat. Then when they played Nation of Shopkeepers later in the day they actually had a stage invasion. Dan understandably calls it their ‘highlight of the year’. But the year’s not over yet. Their European tour has been pushed to the end of the year, they’re due to hit the road with fellow ‘classic rock’ noisy
mothers Holy State and will be carrying out a charm offensive on the judges of Futuresound and Introducing BBC. As well as that, they plan to release an EP called ‘Mammals’ that will be full of ‘hooks and singing’, according to Leemun, an album full of grime-like skits and on which ‘every song must have the potential to be a hit single’ according to Ant and a four way split 10 inch with Kong, That Fucking Tank and Shield Your Eyes. “It’s called ‘In Our Prime’,” says Ant, “because we’ve had such a response this year.” It all seems to be happening at once for Castrovalva and even though they reckon their primary audience as being between 18 and 24, forumsters in their forties and fifties are praising Castrovalva, even though they ‘don’t understand it’. “You kinda know when you get that point in a band when you’re in your prime” says Leemun, “it’s definitely where we’re going and people will know this is our sound. If another band tries it, people will say ‘they’re just trying to be Castrovalva.’” Strong words, but they mean every one of them. Watch out, Kaiser Chiefs – the outlawz are after you...
“Except for the single, which we rehearsed,” oh that’s a relief, Leenum, “every track on the album was actually done on the day and recorded on the day so it was fresh for us.” It sounds unworkable, but it ‘completely works for them’, as well as the likes of Rock Sound, NME and Drowned in Sound, who all gave it very favourable reviews, and Artrocker, who made it album of the month. “I was cheeking them,” laughs Dan, telling me how he found out about it, “I said, ‘why don’t you do a feature on us?’ and they said ‘so album of the month’s not good enough?’” Not only that, but NME demanded to have ‘Hooliganz’ for their recent downloadable mix tape. Unfortunately, the tour fell through due to a disagreement with their booking agent. Which is a pity, because Castrovalva are quite something live, as a large proportion of Live at Leeds goers will testify following their two packed out gigs on the Saturday. “We opened the stage at the refectory,” says Ant, “and at about ten to four we thought vibrations 28
The People’s Free Republic of West Yorkshire Customs and excise Disclaimer:
Firearms of any kind, especially firearms and floral tributes, or the sound thereof. Rodents (regardless of their temperament). Funny chin beards. Braids. Oversized hand rolled cigarettes. Foreign asthma medicine (I don’t care how much you’re wheezing). Skeletons. Fortresses (crystal or otherwise). Air horns (sirens and the like…). Ken. Ryu. Clubs. Equine derivatives. Insane limbs. Neither blood nor whiskey. Feral animals. Exclamation marks (after !!! getting in a couple of years ago, we’ve learned our lesson). Any kind of religion, ritual or the like. Errr… the like. This list is not comprehensive and will be added to and removed from at the discretion of WYCE, depending on whether Customs and Excise get comped this year. Thank you.
British Sea Power by Tom Martin
It has been brought to our attention at passport control that there will be a significant influx of popular combos from ‘out of town’ during the August bank holiday attending the musical event known as the Leeds Festival. Though we are sure that the majority of the bands involved will be strictly law abiding and adhere to the strictures of the West Yorkshire Customs and Excise (WYCE) directives, we would like to point out that the following items have now been prohibited:
Application For A Temporary Yorkshire Visa Name:
M artin Noble of British Sea Power
Reason for visit? Leeds Festival and...?
Nuts, apples and lots of bananas. The meat will be delivered on stage. Did you pack your own bags? No, we have a bag packer. We have poor spatial awareness, especially Phil and his jumping off speaker stacks.
To see my old Leeds friends and see my Mum and Dad’s new house. They lived near Roundhay Park when I was growing up, and now they have just moved 20 miles away. They have all my old possessions in a box, but I managed to grab my insect collection before the move.
Health and safety are very interested to hear how you will be assessing onstage risks considering your siren player’s slip and trip on one of your last visits.
Business or pleasure?
That reminds me, I need to listen to Gazza’s recent telephone conversation during the Raoul Moat manhunt.
Can I tick both? It’s always a pleasure anyway. Will you be staying with friends or do you have your own tent or bivouac? I have a tent, and can knock up a bivouac, but I may be staying at my folks new house I think, or in a hotel down the motorway to get to Reading. Do you have any liquids or canisters with you? We have Calor Gas and petrol. I hope the beer and vodka is wating on ice. Are you carrying any fruit, vegetables or meat products? We hear one of you may have a heron habit...
As long as Phil doesn’t dress up like Gazza / Kevin Keegan, all will be safe.
Seeing as some of you are no strangers to West Yorkshire, will you be renewing your allegiance to the Yorkshire flag (made out of a light batter and served with gravy)? If i see my Grandad, I will effectively be drinking from the golden cup of Yorkshire. Anything else to declare? No, let’s get in amongst it. You may now proceed through passport control. Please enjoy your West Yorkshire festival experience.
Passport Control because we can’t just let them all in…
Everything Everything by Sam Saunders
Application For A Temporary Yorkshire Visa
Do you have any liquids or canisters with you? You know the trouble we had a couple of years back...
Are you willing to lead a chant of Yorkshire; Yorkshire; Yorkshire, despite your trans Pennine origins?
Leeds Festival and...?
We’ve got booze..? Everyone’s got booze, right?
Lead, no. Join in, possibly. Chants in general aren’t really our bag.
Performance, enjoyment, entertainment, artistry.
Any fruit, vegetables or meat products?
Anything else to declare?
Business or pleasure?
Both please. Our job relentlessly combines the two.
Did you pack your own bags?
eremy Everything from J Everything Everything
Reason for visit?
Will you be staying with friends or do you have your own tent? Last year four of us collapsed in one tiny tent at 4am, fully clothed. We awoke being sun-cooked in our own crepulence. I see no reason not to repeat this winning formula.
All our rucksacks are the same. We were given them in America and we don’t have any of our own STUFF, so we exist on the freebies. They match. We look like Italian exchange students. So, in answer to your question, I might have, but I might have packed Alex’s by mistake.
MAN ALIVE You may now proceed through passport control. Please enjoy your West Yorkshire festival experience. Thank you
REVIEWS albums Cowtown Excellent Domestic Short Hair
those utterly loveable bands. This is an What doesn’t work so well is where the utterly loveable album - but watch out for bands don’t play fast and loose – Bear that song - it will stop you short. Hands stick to a mathy complexity and come out sounding a bit dull and Rob Wright Blood Oranges show how tired straight guitar indie now sounds. It is nice to see the ‘old boys’ break out of their comfort zones though, with a remix from Dance To The Radio ‘Sunshine and a new upbeatish song (Various Artists) from Trains – slow change, but change Still Occupied Though nonetheless. As a whole is certainly You Forget more hit than miss and definite proof of life after math. Rob Wright
Matt Bentley Entropy (Self released)
Cowtown, lords of lo-fi and matching jerseys, have managed to hold out on us for three years since their debut ‘Pine Cone Express’ and though they have gone from four to three, their new offering is just as frog mad as the last, if a little bit more structured and boasting an unusually grown up middle.
This is the fifth sampler, if memory (Wikipedia) serves me correct, since Dance To The Radio formed in 2004, and is the first since the great band massacre of 2008 - only I Like Trains and The Sunshine Underground remain as representatives of the old guard. But Fear not, though, for the thrifty three have not forgotten their big bag of catchy who wants to dwell on the past - the tunes and random lyrics, only it appears future’s where it’s at. that this time around they’ve got a taste Though it would appear that the future for retro gaming as well as 50s surf rock, has been retro-fitted. Airy atmospheric 70/80s post punk and noughties indie synths fill the spaces on Bear in pop. Shudder at the spooked out synths Heaven’s ‘Ultimate Satisfaction’, though and jap pop squeals of ‘Ghostwave’, this enigmatic goth-out is unexpectedly power up to the pronky chord uplifting; Club Smith turn ‘Lament’ into progressions of ‘Champion Joypad’ and a huge sweeping guitar-led Ultravoxian shout cheerfully to the anthemic ‘Wii epic; Paul Thomas Saunders crams My Arms’ – you should get that one in about Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and two seconds. Mary Chain into an unholy matrimony to the throb of ‘Albatross’ on ‘Death of a Though it feels more guitar led than Sports Personality’. the previous album, you can still hear Cowtown’s distinctive see saw keyboard style, but joining it is a darker, more mature 80s Human League-esque synth that lurks beneath the froth, and this maturity overflows into the epic ‘(Kim) Deal Breaker’, a song where Jon and Hils surprisingly play it straight – the unsettling harmonies and arrhythmic beats make it an unexpectedly affecting joy amidst such happiness, so much so that it eclipses the rest of the album.
That is not to say the rest of the album is under par – on the contrary. If you can pummel together Beach Boys cool, Deerhoof oddness, B-52s pop, Devo surrealism and then bung the whole lot through an 8 bit filter... that deserves some respect. Plus, Cowtown are one of
What is surprising though is the way that these new kids on the block are playing fast and loose with the genres and making them work. Post and math rock are obvious bed fellows and Three Trapped Tigers create an equal partnership between the two on, um, ‘II’, Just Handshakes yet again effortlessly demonstrate how to splice Jap-pop and world music on ‘Hold Your Breath’ and Honour Before Glory combine Visage, MGMT and Depeche Mode on ‘Lions’. Special mention must go to Rosie Elnor Dougal for being a sombre Sophie Ellis Bextor supported by the Supremes. Work that out.
I’m always slightly sceptical when reviewing an album that comes presented in nicely designed artwork - not that it doesn’t beat the all too familiar folded scrap of A4 hands down, but there’s the possibility the artist has invested more in style rather than substance. Thankfully in the case of Matt Bentley’s latest offering, it is immediately clear that as much effort has gone into the all-important substance. Granted his percussive acoustic style is not quite as revolutionary as his press sheet would have you believe, but by the same token, this is not the work of an amateur hastily throwing ideas around for the sake of it. Tracks such as opener ‘This Old Town’, ‘Worm’ and title track ‘Entropy’ all stand out with pleasant melodies and varied instrumentation accompanying the leading acoustic rhythm. Additionally, the two instrumental tracks, an art form often neglected, are a refreshing touch, showing Bentley’s competence as a musician and his ambition to create something more than just the usual singer / songwriter fodder. Though ‘Entropy’ is made with care and consideration, Bentley might not be the kind of act to take Leeds by storm vibrations 32
anytime soon, but it’s hard to ignore the quality of craftsmanship on offer here. Tom Bailey
Beards Brick By Boulder (Ouse)
Claire Adams (bass), Kathyrn Gray (analogue keyboard-drums and vocals), and Matthew Dixon (guitar) are Beards. On heavy vinyl from diy label Ouse the “Brick By Boulder” album offers a great deal more than eccentric costumery. To be honest it offers no eccentric costumery at all - it’s the band that do that.
second album has all the joys of their first, And, now with New Added Moz! Richard Morris (also of Quack Quack) has added keyboard textures and happyjuice added to the Pifco drums/ guitar sensory overload. Chirpy? You bet. ‘UK Adults’, the single, has a superb guitar riff and more tune than you would have thought possible. Heavy? Oh yes - just listen to Mary pummel that drum kit. Rasping? Steve’s Rickenbacker slices like Tom Petty’s never did. Wry lyrics, rapped out in Mark E. Smith style, swerve around the keyboard tunes like puppies chasing elegant heels. The pace is furious, the riffs are wantonly profuse, everything is compressed and tightly sprung. Just add volume and you have a happy explosion of glee for dancing pleasure. Final track ‘Shnell’ trumps anything speedcore can dish out by adding lyrics you can hear and tunes you could nearly sing if it weren’t for the frantic tempo. There are probably drugs that emulate the thrills of this kind of music but they’re more expensive, don’t sound as good, and fail miserably on the lovely packaging arrangements. Run Of The Mill is one of those labels that guarantee 100% wholemeal quality, and this is their premium batch loaf with nowt taken out and plenty of the good stuff thrown in for good measure.
The eleven tunes are punkingly short and snappy. Rhythms are jerky little hot tin roofs for cats to vacate with appropriate shrieks. Kathryn’s vocals are Sam Saunders pinged off the surface of synth noises and beats but Claire’s bass holds it together so ambitious aesthetes and SINGLES pissed-up uncles can dance into happy Rose Elinor Dougall oblivion. It’s music for committed party Find Me Out time, but with enough surprise and invention for chin strokers like me to nod (Dance To The Radio) along with a lopsided grin. Rose Elinor Dougall has her own rich voice, but I don’t think it’s wrong to The beauty of putting these bare 22 mention Kate Nash and Lily Allen, postminutes onto vinyl is that what most feminist women of slurred delivery and of us have experienced as another demented appearance at a house party, emotional disdain, expressing voices of real, sometimes over-judged young squat or gig somewhere (and good fun at that) can now be listened to properly, women in vulnerable situations. This single has a jazz feel and a very fine with some appreciation of the fact that tune. It’s a remarkable leap for Dance To there is plenty of variety and a glut of The Radio - but then, that’s what DTTR good ideas wrapped up in it. “Brick keep doing. Lee Baker has done a great By Boulder” is much more than just a job as producer. The big contrast with souvenir. B-side ‘I Know We’ll Never’, a very good Sam Saunders acoustic track, shows just how fine the main track is.
Pifco Delivering The Payload (Run Of The Mill) Like a deranged washing machine running on 480 volts, Pifco’s startling
The Wind-Up Birds Tyre Fire (Sturdy Records) On Parkinson Steps in Woodhouse Lane a despairing individual has written, in black letters, as if with a large brush, “JD IS A FAB MESS”. The intensity and hurt joy of that statement is exactly the review required by this outstanding Wind-Up Birds single. It is, I guess, a throwback to simpler ways of making direct pop music - semi-spoken, laconic wit with unfussy decoration and northern bite. Nevertheless, the perfect orchestration of B-side ‘There Won’t Always Be An England’ is special. Its nervous pity for a nascent EDL member in a bar has something nobler, and maybe more disturbing, than mere contempt. Sam Saunders
The ABC Club Thieving Magpie (Things To Make And Do) Vinyl. A stout cover. Two perfect songs. How much treasure do you expect for under a fiver? Well, how about a dreamily lustful singing voice, two sweetly struck guitar lines and a hazelnut praline of percussive glee and melodic bass? ‘Thieving Magpie’ is a bit chirpy and dancey, and a bit loose-limbed too. Arms are thrown wide and there’s spinning around with loopy swirls with a hint Explosions in the Sky guitar. It’s really lovely. ‘Friend Of Mine’ has a rasping twin guitar opening. The production shimmers with subtle changes while Zandra Klievens’ sultry voice engulfs the phrases of gentle rejection. Sam Saunders
DC66 DC66 EP (Self Released) Spotted recently on West Yorkshire Raw Talent doing an acoustic gig for Alan Raw, DC66 have this well produced EP for sale. Musically, it’s backward-looking Guitar Hero material with naggingly memorable riffs and high production values. All the techniques and moves are faithfully and expertly done, and the recording quality is very high. The anthemic tune of ‘Esoteric Lives’ would have been a big hit back when such things were in vogue a decade or so ago; there’s a hint of the folk tune in it, with the swagger of big guitar and large drums, but the vocal harmonies are vibrations 33
strong. ‘Harvey’s Alibi’ also stands out Hail animator with its swirl of Eureka Machines evident We Live In Boxes in its diesel-driven enthusiasm and ‘We Live In Boxes’ opens up with the confident dynamics. track ‘Simple Yet Wise’ and sets up Sam Saunders a blueprint clearly followed by Hail Animator; soft inoffensive guitar sits surprisingly but more than comfortably with heavy, harsh drum hits. Holy State
Holy State EP (Dance to The Radio)
nifty little mud fest is starting to get itself a name. Expect to go from the sublime Errors to the terrifying Kong, from the intricate Jon Gomm to the tech metal bludgeon of Chickenhawk and lots more besides. And it’s still for under a ton. Should be fun. Take wellies. Rob Wright
There is definitely a charm to this EP that most Indie bands can’t achieve. Leeds Fringe Festival ‘Working’ features an infectious piano I like this EP a lot. The muddiness that The Well, Carpe Diem, Dry line that never attempts to steal the grunged around their set at Leeds Dock, 19th – 25th August show from the aforementioned harsh Festival last year has cleared and the separate voices of drums, vocals, guitar drum sound but lies beautifully against it. If you find the whole Leeds Festival thing and bass make more interesting, scarier a bit mainstream, why not check out the The whole record is just like that: noises. Air horns on ‘Brain Caves’ set bands on this line up. There are a few dynamically perfect. It’s also quite the mood, but the rest is flamboyantly you might have come across (China inventive. The lead instrument in each loose, reminiscent of Polly Harvey’s Shop Bull, Elephants on Acid) but the song feels like it’s achieving its full belligerent moments on ‘Stories From majority are new or relatively new to the potential, a real treat to pick apart. The City, Stories From The Sea’. ‘The scene. And you get to stay at home and Beaus And The Oglers’, ‘Skull On Skull’ The only criticism I can offer is how sleep in a real bed. If you like that. and ‘Palms’ are distinctive, driven songs, inoffensive all the songs are. If just Rob Wright performed with flair, and I like the fact one song jumped out and screamed that they’ve taken the trouble to vary ‘Screw You!’ then this record would be the guitar sound from track to track; the complete. guitar sounds on ‘Palms’ are an object Leeds Festival lesson in how much heavy lifting can be Justin Myers Bramham Park done without needing to play too much 27th - 29th August or overfill the space with distortion. They The big one, and now they’ve care what it sounds like and it sounds Glass announced the line up for the Festival like they’ve spent some time in those The Sound of Glass EP Republic Stage, a pretty good selection deep plangent audio mines. too. Local success stories Pulled Apart The packaging alone persuaded me to Sam Saunders By Horses and Wild Beasts will be check this band out - there was even playing so expect enthusiastic chants a chapter of a story in the inlays of the E.P. And yes, there were glass samples of ‘Yorkshire!’ to ensue. Plus a chance to see an updated version of Guns and thrown into the songs too. Club Smith Roses play. Get in the ring. The Process EP Opener ‘Driftwood’s Daughter’ seems Rob Wright to suffer because of the glass though. I If there’s one thing you can’t accuse have to confess I don’t know too much York quartet Club Smith of being, it’s about glass in music but apart from in lazy. A mere few months after the the chorus, the glass just sounds out of acclaimed ‘The Loss’, they’re back with Bingley Music Festival ‘The Process’. Not bad considering they place and detracts from the riffs that are Myrtle Park, Bingley actually quite audibly attractive. only formed in 2009. 3rd - 5th September Of course, any band can quickly throw together an EP providing they have enough funds and some half decent (sadly not always essential) tunes behind them. So what’s the difference here? Each of these four tracks WILL make you foam at the mouth. Opener ‘The Green Room’ is a bass led, Roxy Music-esque floor filler, followed by the more driving, but equally rousing ‘Causing Doubt’. Elsewhere ‘Do You Despair’ moves along at a haunting, daunting pace, whilst ‘Young Defeatists’ delivers an upbeat resolve with its swelling choruses. Slick and impressive, you’ll struggle to find a better local EP. Tom Bailey
The glass inexplicably disappears after the first track and what we’re left with is some decent catchy rock music. I didn’t even mind that the guitar line in ‘Without’ sounded suspiciously similar to that in ‘Every Breath You Take’ - just make sure Sting never hears it. It is for the most part genuinely a good E.P. but today I learnt that wine glasses just don’t work as lead instruments. Justin Myers
PREVIEWS Moor Music Festival Heslaker Farm, Skipton 12th-15th August 2010 After being bigged up by both the Observer and the NME last year, this
Now in its fourth year, this live outdoor music event has put Bingley firmly back on the map. So who will be playing in 2010? Final details regarding the line-up are not yet complete, although James have been confirmed, as have The Enemy. No outdoor festival is complete without some dub-reggae so Dreadzone should go down a storm as should Seasick Steve. More importantly the roster also includes Bingley Music Live Beckons, giving some lucky bands from our area the chance to get involved. Finally, Bingley is a doddle to get to by train, the opening night is free and the weekend tickets only cost £30. Mike Price
LIVE Live at Leeds 2010 Various It’s been a long time since I’ve been up on the wrong side of 11am on a Saturday. But this is no ordinary Saturday morning. Returning for its fourth annual outing, Live at Leeds is back and bigger than ever. With around 170 bands, at 17 venues across the city, it’s hard not be intimidated by the scale of this city-wide celebration. This is my first ever Live at Leeds, and with that in mind I plan accordingly: focussing on venues I know, but also exploring some unfamiliar territory. What could possibly go wrong? So on with the plan, but upon my arrival at the Cockpit I’m met with disappointment, finding out that the hotly tipped Japanese Voyeurs have cancelled due to ‘Unforeseen circumstances’. Annoying, but not a total disaster as it gives me the ideal opportunity to head upstairs to watch local lad, Sam Airey. Cockpit 3 doesn’t take long to fill and by the time he starts, punters are lined up on the stairwell. His acoustic based act, complete with cello and banjo accompaniment, provides a gentle start to the day. Back downstairs and South Yorkshire quintet Rolo Tomassi give what can only be described as a furious performance. Coming on to M83, you could be easily fooled into expecting similar avant-garde synth led sounds, instead you get the deceivingly feminine frontwoman Eva Spence screaming down the microphone as if it has just stolen her first born, backed by loud, disjointed noise. Urgent and full of conviction, they really are an exciting draw for those with rockier needs.
A quick nip into the University Union, and there’s just time to catch Eureka Machines deliver a half hour of their high tempo pop rock goodness. With the Mine packed, it’s not hard to see why they’ve found such success. With a strong image, plenty of stage presence and ample feel-good tunes, they provide a much needed shot in the arm as the first signs of fatigue start to kick in. I head back to the Refectory for These Monsters. Like Brew Records labelmates Castrovalva, they produce a powerful set, although noticeably more controlled and less chaotic. That’s not to say this Leeds quartet don’t pack one hell of a knockout blow, just a different kind of knockout blow. They’re also the first band to take a justified swipe at the Hadouken! banner draped behind the stage. “How big do you have to be before leaving that out for 5 or 6 bands to play in front of before you seems perfectly alright?” they quip. It seems only a matter of minutes after their departure that the Refectory packs out for The Bronx. And rightly so, as they’ve earned a strong following over the years. They deliver exactly what you’d expect; a sweaty, gritty and commanding performance, with highlights in the shape of ‘Heart Attack American’ and ‘White Guilt’. Having spent most of the day in the more established venues, it’s time to go in search of a bit more intimacy. To my disappointment, ABC Club’s 7:30pm slot at The Packhorse is packed; people
are desperately crowding the doorway to catch a glimpse of the Halifax quintet’s blend of retro indie pop. Fortunately I manage to get into The Library across the road for Tubelord, who offer up a frenetic and well-received set. After a quick taster of Blood Red Shoes’ excellent Refectory outing, it’s time for the day’s biggest decision: Wild Beasts, 65 Days Of Static or Everything Everything? I choose 65 Days of Static as a) everyone is already hyping Wild Beasts and b) whilst Everything Everything intrigue me, it’s a long way back down to The Cockpit. My decision is soon vindicated, as the Sheffield quartet produce more than enough to earn praise as one of Yorkshire’s most unique and talented acts. It’s a struggle to articulate just how good they are without using the clichéd expressions associated with progressive bands such as ‘Euphoric’ and their hour slot flew by; quite an achievement given they are not the most instantaneously accessible of bands. As I make my final weary journey back to the train station, it’s crazy to think that I’m passing up performances by Hadouken!, The Sunshine Underground, Sky Larkin and a very special performance by Mariachi El Bronx at the Brudenell but Live At Leeds, you have bested me. I’m exhausted but I’ve savoured every minute of it - with barely any queues and a wide variety of artists and venues, there’s plenty to love. Alongside the success of Record Store
Local favourites Vessels follow and produce a half hour outing that showcases exactly why they’ve earned such high regard in these parts. Their set may have only featured four tracks, but from the slow build starts to the overwhelming climaxes I was hooked. Superb. After a short treck through the city centre I arrive at Leeds University Refectory ready for Castrovalva. At first, the half empty venue is a disappointing sight, but it’s not long before I’m impressed with their efforts from latest acclaimed offering ‘We Are A Unit’. Worth watching alone for the inhuman efforts of frontman Leemun: his frantic onstage antics only bettered by his crazed venture into the crowd mid set. Wonderfully chaotic, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Rolo Tomassi at Live at Leeds by Bart Pettman vibrations 35
Day, and that other Leeds Festival you may have heard of still to come, is there really a more thriving music scene in the UK than Leeds? Live at Leeds, I’ll see you next year for the rematch... Tom Bailey
Cissy / Kogumaza / Cowtown / The Spectrals @ Chinchillafest 8, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds Sadly, indications are that this will be the last Chinchilla Festival. Although the feeble turn out (on Friday at least) suggests Chinchilla supremo (and Cowtown guitarist) Jon Nash is winding up ops just in time in the face of apparent rising indifference and diminishing returns for the DIY circuit. Thankfully, Nash aims to go out in style. Cissy provide an appropriate slap around the chops to get things started. Their bright, punchy jazz rock may be constructed from devilishly complex poly rhythms and spine-bending time signatures but the whole thing is funky as fuck and a joy to listen to. Any band that can glue together Gang of Four, Chic and Can can’t be doing much wrong. All this frivolous momentum grinds to a halt in the stasis of Nottingham drone metal trio Kogumaza’s thick, reverberating churn of feedback. The fiercely primitive drums frame a sound that’s nine parts barely contained electronic skree and one part basic rock shapes, each amplifying the dramatic effect of the other. Sometimes the sound leans too heavily on familiar forms but the whole thing works best when it’s pitching on a sea of bucking sound. It may have been said before but Cowtown are an institution in Leeds and there can be few regulars in this city’s grubby venues who haven’t been exposed to these traffic light jumpered angular rockers. In fact, the band may well be due a backlash....but not from me. New LP ‘Excellent Domestic Short Hair’ may not have shaken up their template much but their Beefheartian caterwauling retains its zinging, careering rush. Cowtown’s perky momentum finds itself stalled in the chin stroking enigma that is The Spectrals. The band are usually content to have their vocals soaked in levels of reverb not seen since the ‘beat’ groups of the early 60’s, the sound and era they are clearly keen to emulate. While some songs are dreamy glimpses
of a kind of pop perfection, too often a right into Jesus and Mary Chain territory song trudges past miserably enslaved to - but considering his and Rachel’s its need to sound a certain way. (drums) previous form in The Manhattan Love Suicides, it’s no surprise. Static but Steve Walsh alluring post-punk noise.
Quack Quack / Chen Santa Maria / Please @ Chinchillafest 8, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds This was just a fragment of what was possibly the final Chinchillafest (ever) until the perpetrators can be persuaded to do it all again. With Runners and Cowtown and other projects steaming ahead, it might be a while before there is another. But the spirit lives on and we have to stand back and cheer with amazement at how many bands of real quality have played over the years - the videos and compilation CDs are treasured collectables and Chinchilla’s reputation is assured (and very widespread) Please are a lively noise guitar band with a certain sense of rock, roll and drumming mayhem. Keeby (also of Poltergroom) drums while Michael and Rowland prog out on guitars. Chen Santa Maria (from the US West Coast) are utterly different. Entirely improvised, the duo process basic guitar sounds through desks of electronic circuitry and bathe us in Big Sound. The carefully rationed bass hits are exhilarating. And, before we’ve even got to the headline turn, I still have time to get excited at the now unbeatable Quack Quack. Everything you knew was good - but with new added repertoire, a new album and masses of Trev’s fabulous sound engineering. Festival perfection. Sam Saunders
Insect Guide / The Medusa Snare @ The Library
Insect Guide make a lot of noise for a three piece, and I don’t mean they are loud, they just know how to fill a space. In their Weimar republic get up, they ooze seductive decadence and indulgence, amplified by the arthouse images playing above their heads. Add to this Su’s soulful Tracy Thorn-like voice and Stan Howell’s Kevin Shields influenced guitars and you get My Bloody Valentine/Souxsie 2.0 – the growl and the glamour. And of course that cover of ‘Paparazzi’. Edgy and sexy, but an incredibly short set serves only to whet not satiate the appetite. No twentyfive minutes of white noise either. Rob Wright
Wintermute / Traitors @ The Library In with the new, out with the old – though Wintermute are hardly what you’d call old. After five years the ride is over and drummer Ben is off to Australia to tackle shrimp on the Barbie and trapdoor spiders in the dunny. A sad joyous event. The joy is that Chris Newbould’s new band, Traitors, play their first live gig tonight. Featuring former members of Shut Your Eyes..., Wintermute and the infamous FFers, Traitors are hardly novices and their math infused world music groove – think Wintermute, Vampire Weekend and iForward Russia! - is solid and exhilarating, even when they delve into the ethereal at one point. The only problem is that their front man is having problems connecting with the audience - he treats them with such disdain that he almost walks through them at times. Probably just nerves, but it does kinda spoil the effect.
Now the sadness. Wintermute file on and are greeted with a huge roar of approval, The next forty five minutes is a whistle stop tour through their back catalogue of energetic, complex, catchy and riff laden tunes that is at turns poignant, humorous, invigorating and revelatory. Candid, joyful and relaxed, this is how a band should play – without a care. There are moments when Dan The Medusa Snare hove into view steps away from the mic and you can bathed in red lighting and unleash a hear the audience singing as heartily as torrent of fuzzed guitar riffs and slow, any arena crowd - it almost overwhelms determined beats while remaining cooly Dan emotionally. It’s touch and go for aloof. Adam’s vocals are muted but me too, and as the last roll of ‘Jambon! clean beneath this roar - if they had even Jambon!’ punctuates the evening, I am the slightest hint of reverb they’d slip amidst a crowd of choked up fans. One This takes me back. Two full blown post-punk bands with moody tunes, enigmatic back projections and mainly monochromatic wardrobes. I’m warming up for a Phono two-step and realising that anyone who gets that last comment will probably be too old to be reading this.
last thanks, a group hug and it’s all over. That’s one band Leeds is really going to miss when things get too predictable. Rob Wright
Pulled Apart By Horses / These Monsters / Holy State / Stagecoach / Talons @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds Nathan is looking nervous; the temperature has risen several notches; the Red Stripe in the Brudenell is flowing like... the Red Stripe in the Brudenell. Leeds’ ambassadors for idiocy are back in the ‘hood and they’ve mustered a fairly heroic line-up to celebrate their album release. Much to my dismay I miss Blacklisters (I am assured by one very well respected Leeds musician that they rocked) but manage to hit the floor, beer in hand, just in time for Talons. What a revelation! Throwing two violins into a post metal set up might seem rank foolishness, but the piercing glissandos carve aural wakes through the boom and roar of the guitars and drums like white hot katanas through wax; it sounds like being inside a building while it collapses. Stagecoach are a bit more... poppy. In fact, lead singer Luka describes themselves as ‘the light entertainment’. Even with a mandolin as standard they are pretty light – the guitar-led rock-pop exuberance of Ash, the lyrical playfulness of USM and the brevity of Brakes – but they’re happy and fun, so... whatever.
Pulled Apart By Horses are not clever, but they are big. Their riffs are simple and their lyrics are idiomatic, but they always deliver the goods – ‘High Five’ sees Tom and James demolish the deco standing on various bits of the Brudenell, ‘Punched a Lion in the Throat’ prompts a downpour of stage divers (to the point where Tom can no longer play his guitar) and ‘Meat Balloon’ is indeed awesome, if hardly radical. Some nice vocals from Rob and James slip in too, but this is all about the party, and they party hearty. Rob Wright
Vessels / These Monsters / Invisible Cities @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds Hot summer nights in Leeds; they cannot be beat for mixing it up socially, and it appears that most of LS6 has turned up outside of the Brudenell Social Club to see Vessels off on a short tour of all points south showcasing their new stuff in this sweltering season. Fortune favours the bold. It is a real pull to enter the hot box that is the Brudenell, but Invisible Cities are making a very pleasing and certainly sultry sound. Named after a novel by Italo Calvino, their sound is very worldy,
with the guitar picking out delicate South African melodies and the viola smoothing over any lumps or bumps. Their performance is minimal but joyful and as summery as a Pimms No1 fruit cup. Very pleasant indeed. So from soft we go to hard – very hard. These Monsters are fairly well lubricated when they hit the stage and plough through their heavier stuff for an audience now swaying from the heat and the refreshment. They manage to keep it together though, even though the set feels truncated and the saxophone is almost unheard. Obviously saving themselves for the tour. Vessels are doing a brave thing tonight. The stage is stripped down to the bare essentials: no second drum kit, no huge bank of synths but lots of guitars. This is a touring set up built to deliver the new and not dwell on the old, and the new is dancier, heavier and groovier. As a result there’s definitely a vibe going on and it is very, very uplifting, but the whole shebang seems simpler – no vocals and little banter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s impressive but it feels like Vessels are cutting themselves off from the audience. I’ll put it down to nerves, but they shouldn’t forget: God is in the details. Rob Wright
Holy State are, on the other hand, very serious, and pull in a real crowd. Though they look like humanities students, they sound, at turns, like Monster Magnet, The Stooges and QOTSA. It’s vital, angry and lively, but so drenched in bass that it’s reduced to nothing but a continuous sonic attack. Raw power, but too long. These Monsters, Leeds’ tightest reprobates, have set their phasers to rock. In a flurry of hairography, a strafing of riffs and a siren wail of sax, planets collide, galaxies fly apart and the stage gets a thorough working over. They’ve gone from meandering prog to intense post-metal and it is good. Better than good. It’s awesome.
Pulled Apart By Horses by Bart Pettman vibrations 37
The rest of this issue’s postbag of demos, singles, albums and ‘other’ in exactly twenty words after exactly two listens. Miscellaneous Submission of the Month:
Die Video Die Inbetweeners/Diamond Bounce-along pop music that sounds destined to backdrop the credits of a US teen comedy. Eminently likable, particularly track one.
for quirkiness] by innovative embedding of naturally recorded sound effects. Odd.
The Truth About Frank Murder Sleep An eternity of unfathomable ambient bleeps. Possibly Daleks having a barney at the wrong rpm... All together for the chorus…
X Ray Cat Trio Live At Cannonball Radio Problem: Rockabilly band great live, less so recorded. Solution: Live EP. Result: Listener agitated at missing gig in first place.
Draygo’s Guilt Trust Me Die Video Die by Tom Martin
Bearfoot Beware Introducing The Elegant Philanthropist Enjoyably perky post-punk vocals fight losing power struggle with annoyingly prominent look-at-me bass and drums that struggle to keep up.
Lapels What We Tried And How We Failed Notes suggest now-defunct band of “true brilliance”. Not “mediocre indie chancers”. Hence why I’m not a PR. Good titles though.
Johnny Powell The Broken Leg Sessions Unremarkable folk/ambient made more interesting/irritating [delete according to tolerance
Foreboding and melancholy temper vaulting melodies to thrilling effect. Greater than the sum of its influences with a cracking vocal.
Bicuithead & The Biscuit Badgers Comedy records are usually more fun to make than listen to. No exception here. More wit, or better songs please.
L-Mo Got Gumption? Funky acoustic shuffling with thick transatlantic drawl. Not to everyone’s taste, but fine within its field and excellently produced. Everclear?
Various Future Relics Collection of various bedroom bands’ demos. The odd potential Plastic Fuzz, some less likely. Occasionally hard work, but regularly rewarding.
Lasse Brawn Demo Pleasingly abrasive, but weakened (not enhanced) by absent bass. Renders this more of a face slap than a gut punch.
Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip Slammer Double-CD of frequently inspired nonsense. Best taken in bite-sized chunks to avoid outstaying its welcome, but will raise a smile.
Lifescreen Connexions Obligatory metal submission… hang on… it’s pretty good. Enough ideas to sustain interest and the occasional harmony works a treat.
Ayatana The Loafer EP Scuzzy desert blues pitched somewhere between Hendrix and Homme, but lacking required spark. Probably wish they were around in 1973.
The Exhibition The Crown/Coma Manages to cut a distinctive voice in the crowded soaring-indie market. Helped significantly by some thoughtful arrangement and painstaking production.
Exit State Death Of A Rockstar Apparently compared to such “greats” as… erm… Nickleback?? Christ alive, fire the PR boys, you’re not that bad! Perfectly serviceable.
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an l Chapm Rob Pau
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Performance tips No.23
Don’t Lose Control
Trying to do too many things at once can be counter-productive. If you’re getting this frustrated by the business of music and would rather channel all your energy into creativity and performance, why not join the Musicians’ Union? The Musicians’ Union can offer you advice on contracts, legal issues and disputes, as well as free equipment insurance, public liability cover and access to a huge network of your fellow musicians. Contact us today to see how we can help you:
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