V I B R AT I ON S M A GA ZI N E L E E D S A N D W E ST Y OR K SH I R E OCT OB E R 2010 FREE
KATH AND TH E MI G H TY M E N A CE LEEDS FES TI VAL R ICHARD GR EEN KASSIUS
WOT GORILLA? PASSPORT CONTROL REVIEWS SECOND HEARING
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Editorial Under the Influence Leeds Festival 2010 Sam Saundersâ€™ Festival Column Tom Martin and Festivals Passport Control Richard Green Wot Gorilla? Kath & the Mighty Menace Kassius Album Reviews EP/Singles Reviews Live Reviews Second Hearing
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Photo Credits Kath and the Mighty Menace - Tom Martin Richard Green - Bart Pettman Kassius - Bart Pettman Leeds Festival - Bart Pettman & Tom Martin (Live) Sky Larkin Photo thanks to Daniel Heaton
Vibrations is: Editor Rob Wright email@example.com Design by Workshop www.thisisworkshop.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org Picture Editor Tom Martin email@example.com Reviews Editor Steve Walsh firstname.lastname@example.org Founded and Published by Tony Wilby email@example.com Jack Simpson firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Department Tony Wilby email@example.com Web Team Simon Hollingworth www.vibrations.org.uk Charlotte Watkins www.myspace.com/ vibrationsmagazine Contributors Tom Martin, Neil Dawson, Bart Pettman, Rob Paul Chapman, Rob Wright, Steve Walsh, Daniel Heaton, Spencer Bayles, Sam Saunders, Kate Parkin, Mike Price, Tom Bailey, Dan Lomas, Justin Myers, Alex Taylor, Stacey Dove, Tim Hearson, Jess Wallace, Daisy Taplin
Starting an editorial is like starting a new roll of toilet paper: trying to find the beginning is a bind in a pressure situation, the first few sheets end in shreds and if you don’t get the right layer, the whole roll will be out of sync. Actually, I’m pretty sure that most of you will be wanting to use this editorial as toilet paper right now, but the high quality of the paper is such that you will probably turn a small chore into a major project. Damn, my first editorial and I’m already resorting to toilet references. You never got this sort of thing with RPC, did you? So, autumn is upon us, the shadows and the nights are lengthening, the festivals of high summer are but a memory in your overdraft and Christmas is on the horizon threatening to further crunch your credit. Some of you will be starting university, experiencing that first frisson of independence... or is that the Jagerbombs... and tentatively extending feelers into the local scene. Some of you may have been here forever and wear the tired expression of the veteran who has seen too much too often at the Brudenell, yet still holds out for that one great act to make it all seem worthwhile. Well, just because the sun has not got his hat on, it doesn’t mean that it’s all gone quiet over here. Quite the reverse, in fact. Now that the schools and colleges are back in session, a myriad of bands will be out there, clamouring for your devotion, hoping to catch ‘em young and get ‘em hooked and building up their fanbase through fair means or foul. Albums, EPs and demos will be thrust into unsuspecting hands,
t-shirts hauled over willing frames, buttons will be pinned to lapels in recognition of allegiance. The festivals haven’t gone away, they’ve gone indoors. It’s all very intoxicating... now that definitely is the Jagerbombs. Really, autumn in Leeds is a very exciting time musically. Just take some of the releases in the last couple of months: Sky Larkin, power pop impresarios; Her Name Is Calla, melodramatic post-rock turned up to eleven; Pulled Apart By Horses... nutters. I’d just like to bring to the attention of you, dear reader, two releases that are... revolutionary in concept, but just the sort of independent thinking you’d expect from Leeds based bands.
“D AM N, M Y FIRST ED I TOR I AL A ND I ’M ALR EADY R ES ORTI NG TO TOI LET R EF ER EN C E S.” The late great Grammatics and the very much with us I Like Trains have both adopted the pledge system for releasing their latest... releases. The principle is this: the band says they’re going to release an album, but need to get so many people to pledge so much cash before they can get it produced. Essentially, putting the demand before the supply. Now call me naive, call me a hopeless
optimist, but this sounds like the sort of activity that could give the majors food for thought (or at least an amuse bouche) and help protect the less mainstream bands from death by download - the album only becomes available once it’s been paid for. Too late for Grammatics, sadly, who were certainly hamstrung by pre-release downloads of unmixed versions of the album, but it does mean that a band with a decent following can do their own thing, without having to depend on a record label to fund what might turn out to be a diluted version of their sound. For me, it’s yet another example of Leeds’ musical independence. When the promoters weren’t interested in touching Leeds venues, up popped the home grown promoters; when the major labels stayed away from Leeds, the bands made their own labels. Hell, even the magazines are independent labours of love - case in point. For all of you who are new to this, spread the word. For all you veterans, be proud it’s all down to your dedication. I’d just like to leave you with one last unconnected example of true dedication. In Cardiff Bay, home of the fictional Torchwood, a wall has been decorated with tributes to the character Ianto Jones, who died in the last series. A wall devoted to a fictional character. The dedication found in the Leeds music scene is a bit like that. Only less scary. Most of the time. Rob Wright
U NDER T H E I N F L UE N CE. . . DAV I D MA RT I N , I L I K E T RAINS David Martin is the lead singer for I Like Trains, a band previously noted for their referencing of historical events in song. For their new ecologically-themed, fan-funded album, they’ve swapped their vintage British Railways jackets for mariner’s gear. David took some time out from preparing for the album’s launch at The Deep in Hull to discuss a key song writing influence. What’s the piece of music you’ve chosen? ‘Svefn-g-englar’ by Sigur Ros. I would have liked it to be something less obvious, but this is one where I can clearly track how it’s influenced me as a musician. Where can people hear it? Agaetis Byrjun (album, released in 2000)
When did you first hear it? Guy (Bannister, I Like Trains guitarist) and I went to a Radiohead concert at Oxford South Park in 2001 when we were 19, and Sigur Ros were supporting them. I’ve never been so unprepared before or since to experience a band like Sigur Ros. I’d heard of them but not heard anything by them, and when they started our jaws dropped. Our overriding memory was of people around us laughing - they didn’t get it. It just clicked completely for us; it was an eye-opening moment. It’s all about the instruments; he sings, but there are no lyrics. I love good lyrics and they’re important to me, so this is a bit of an anomaly in that respect.
What about it inspired you? It was completely alien. He was singing in a made-up language and playing his guitar with a bow. We’d been making music before that, but we looked at them and said, ‘How the hell do they do that?’ It wasn’t virtuosity; it was more a technique and tone where everything just came together. It was guitar, bass and drums but in a way those instruments hadn’t sounded to us before - it’s quite easy to forget now because of the ubiquity of what they’ve done since, along with the other bands that have come in their wake with diminishing returns. We went out and bought reverbs and delays and bows for our guitars to try and emulate it, experimenting and learning a completely new skill set. Prior to that we were into Belle & Sebastian and Kings of Convenience, where guitars sounded like guitars, but as a result we had a feverish period of trying to make guitars sound as little like guitars as possible! Can you describe your own songwriting process? It starts in different places but doesn’t really come together for me until there’s a theme I can hang my lyrics on. I know then where it needs to start and end. It could start with a phrase I like, that I work into something more cohesive or substantial, or it could start with us jamming together on guitars. How much research goes into back-stories for your songs? I’ve bought books and gone into libraries to beef up the stories. It can be time-consuming to read an entire book on a subject, but I try to get everything I can out of those stories. I didn’t ever want to come undone,
with people saying ‘that didn’t happen’, but there is artistic licence. On the new record we’re looking forward, to where the human race is heading, and so I’ve done a lot of reading about climate change - people like George Monbiot and James Lovelock - and that’s influenced the new songs. How much does the subject matter affect the feel/sound of a song? It’s not a conscious influence. I tend to have a certain amount of a song written and then bring it to the band to build on. I often don’t have an idea of how it’s meant to sound so we experiment and it finds itself, although we all steer it in different directions. I tend not to get too precious, because I know it’ll change. What are you currently listening to? Villagers’ album is really good. I’ve been listening back to Sigur Ros, which I hadn’t done for a long time. When we were making the record I was listening to Wild Beasts, Low and Jeniferever. What are you currently working on? The new record – He Who Saw The Deep - is finished, and we’re currently doing some b-sides. There’s a video being made for our new single, by the guys who did I Concur’s ‘Sobotka’ video, which we loved. The whole process was funded by Pledge Music, which I can’t recommend highly enough (see http://www.pledgemusic. com/projects/iliketrains for more info). ‘He Who Saw The Deep’ by I Like Trains is out at the end of October. Details at http://www.iliketrains.co.uk. Spencer Bayles
L E E DS F E S T I VA L 2 0 1 0 Despite the various accusations levelled at it by the coarse festival goer who desires only the most obscure and intimate festival because they are actually, in truth, raving misanthropes, it’s the music festival biggy and a whole lot of fun, mostly. The two Robs can attest to it, and here attempt to distill the printable essence of what was Leeds Festival 2010.
T HU RS D AY Rob Wright Dance To The Radio The Neat, a four-piece post punk band from Hull following in the footsteps of Mark E Smith, with harsh guitar and indecipherable sloganeering from Merrick ‘Mez’ Green. It’s very The Fall so things could get interesting. Everyone in the band who isn’t Merrick should start crapping themselves now. In a tenuous link comes the bowelloosening noise of Chickenhawk. Matt Reid pounds the drums stirring up a healthy mosh pit, but the real proverbial hits the proverbial when vocalist Paul Astick unleashes for ‘I Hate This, Do You Like It?’ Throw in a tortured guitar and you have one hell of an electrifying gig. Which make the usually impressive Bear in Heaven sound very electronically cold tonight. Mournful and tuneful is all very well, but more is needed to top complete chaos. Jon Philpot’s falsetto is haunting enough, but it’s a definite come down. I wander off and check out the underground bingo (‘I shoot babies for kicks – 46’) before turning in – big day tomorrow...
F RIDAY What better way to start the day than a healthy dose of mathy hardcore in the shape of Penistone’s Rolo Tomassi? Eva screams, warbles, pirouettes and
pogos around the stage like a platinum blonde pinball protégé as brother James directs the mosh pit with the rest of the band cranking out the riff and grind. All this and manners too. I only manage to catch the last handful of bars from Kasiuss due to the joy of clash, but they seem to be doing fine, so I drift back for Everything Everything. Suffering from the customary NME stage sound issues, Michael Spearman’s drums are threatening to drown out Jonathan Higgs’ octave-straddling voice, but the chaotic blend of 80’s electro with its hissy harmonics and angular time changes is an alluring, smart brew that is both cool and clever. Three failed experiments in the name of variety: Yuck, 3Oh!3 and Chief. Yuck intend to be My Bloody Valentine or Spiritualised, but look so bloody bored and sound more like Ash on the wrong speed. 3Oh!3 are incredibly popular but sound and look like an electronic Kid Rock – very unpleasant. Chief make swampy American folk music and look decidedly swampy too. For goodness sake, someone make me laugh. Russell Kane, a Lego-haired indie kid, is a suitable antidote for all this and his five minute bursts of comedy about porn, social comment and masturbation are just right for lightening my darkening mood. It’s not re-inventing the wheel by any stretch, but the jokes come at such a rate that you’ll find something to laugh at. I laugh a lot. Leeds festival wouldn’t be the same without a surprise gig, and this year’s worst kept secret is Gallows playing as The Rats; Frank Carter comes onto stage semi-concealed in a hoody and
goes on to command the crowd like a tourette-ridden commodore – ordering, at one point, a circle mosh that goes around the tent. Good stuff. Keeping on a punk tip, I head off to see Frank Turner for a bit of a sing along. Despite the muddy sound both him and the audience are in good spirits and prove that folk and punk are more than comfortable bedfellows – ‘Try This At Home’ is the liveliest folk/punk anthem since the Pogues’ ‘Irish Rover’. In a vain attempt to shed a couple of decades, I sneak into the Crystal Castles gig. Alice Glass oozes contempt from every pore, crawling onto the stage and only pausing in her vocal barrage to hurl abuse at the audience – but she’s very professional. The beats provide the pulse for this nihilistic beast of burdened. ATR are not having such an easy time – only two of the three microphones seem to work, and Alex Empire appears to be getting angry. When they do resolve their issues, there is a glimpse of the merciless power, posturing and uneasiness that made this band so seminal. Pendulum was a mistake. One, I am not twelve; two, my ears can no longer cope with the deteriorating sound in the NME tent. The only way I can tell what is being played is from the ‘duh-duh-duh’s of the crowd. I really wanted this to be exciting, but the most exciting bit about it is a man climbing a tent support. So incomprehensible that I wander off, miss the point of Arcade Fire and have an early night.
S AT URDAY Los Angeles’ Health are unfortunately lost in translation - they’re too ambient to be in the dance tent, too tribal to be in the Festival Republic tent and on way too early. This is an acquired taste and, apart from their last song, apparently lacking in core. Almost as ridiculously scheduled as Health is Holy Fuck, their ambient Ozrics-esque twiddling and beat herding is moody but unmemorable. Wild Beasts bring me right into it again, so suitably buoyed, I return to the dance tent, only to be stopped in my tracks by Wilder. Stylishly mashing together Friendly Fires and Devo, these Bristol boys have a good set of tunes and beats on them and are definitely getting there. Fourtet is never going to win performer of the year but he does know how to lay down a beat, build it, drop it, mix it and mainline it to your central nervous system. Even a clod-hopper like me is driven to moving his feet. Metronomy are more of a spectacle with their beat responsive heart globes and audiencefriendly rapport, and do a good line in pop beats and dance-lite. Not as floor-filling as Hot Chip, but more fun and the drummer comes from Leeds – hurray!
I saw Minus the Bear a while ago at the Cockpit and they seem to have got beardier and proggier since then. They are pleasant enough, but they start their set in AOR country before moving on – a band that you have to give time. The last three songs are very impressive though, full of odd time signatures, dynamic shift and intrigue.
Foals, on the other hand, start with a flurry of flashy fretwork on ‘Cassius’ before sliding into a slow malaise. In fairness though, they do manage to redeem themselves with widdle by the end.
reviver of sorts. More invigorating is Dublin’s Mighty Stef, unashamedly unfashionable but real fun rock and roll. It’s okay to write tunes about good times. Thank goodness some people still remember that.
I really can’t get enough math today – Gallops manage to give me some of that plus a bit of techno keyboard and some tricksy jazz drumming. A bit mix and match, but you can’t blame them for trying to please everyone. Caribou is not out to please – their ambient, moody, blue lit softly spoken sounds are more primal than the earlier Holy Fuck, but it is only their hypnotic single ‘Sun’ which really stands out. Fortunately British Sea Power is anything but ambient. Standing on a foliage strewn stage, these Brighton boy scouts kick off with ‘Atom’ and do not let up for a moment – giant bears stalk the boards, terrace chants of ‘Easy! Easy! Easy!’ rend the night, Noble clambers over the keyboardist and everyone has more fun than anyone should with songs about aeroplanes and birdwatching. Great British.
Another surprise comes when I find that Biffy Clyro are actually very good and a lot heavier in the flesh. Simon Neil looks like a tramp in pink spandex, but their desolate chordage and lofty anthems are real air punching stuff. ‘Mountains’ has got to be heard in the open air to be believed.
S U ND AY New Young Pony Club are a striking looking bunch, but are having some trouble hitting their stride – their electro pop sound is swamped by the space. But after a paean to partying things pick up and they romp home in fine style. Girls’ JAMC style vocals over reverberating surf guitar is a bit too lofty and wistful to be anything but soporific, with the only edge being provided by the single hefted beer at the beginning of the set. With the album out, Pulled Apart By Horses have a genuinely full set, and their onstage enthusiasm remains undiminished, even when James Brown destroys his guitar. An improvement on last year, but expansion required. Yeasayer almost finish me off – they’ve gone all moody and atmospheric, but ‘Madder Red’s desolate howling is a
I’ve been nervous about seeing Queens of the Stone Age again. Fortunately the music is spot on (though the tuning is not), cherry picking tracks from their thirteen year career, though ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ and ‘Burn the Witch’ are particularly glittering. There’s plenty of cajoling from the stage and there’s plenty of movement in the crowd for a dynamic set that has something for everyone. Phoenix are an optimistic bunch – their tunes are uplifting, lilting, synthetic and mesmeric, and when you take this together with a pretty impressive light show you get a nice synaesthetic aesthetic. Trippy and emotional... and I wish I’d left it there, or stayed for LCD Soundsystem. But I have to see GnR for myself. Axl ambles up and down stage, going through the motions on songs that used to fire the blood and looking... not great. I find a bench in the guest area, crack open a bottle of wine and listen to ‘November Rain.’ Actually, it’s not so bad when you can’t see it... Rob Paul Chapman The Leeds Festival is a curious beast If Glastonbury is the daddy of all festivals, and Latitude the fashionable guardian-reading uncle; then Leeds aspires to be the errant toddler, careering round the living room yelling “I’M A PIRATE” whilst attacking the furniture with a plastic sword. Sometimes it was genuinely great, regularly good, mostly fine, occasionally dull and almost never catastrophically bad. And even when it was, it was interestingly so.
T HU RS D AY
F R I D AY In an inspired piece of cack-handed programming, Futuresound winners Kassius (Festival Republic Stage) are pitched directly against Futuresound runners-up Club Smith . The former have brought reinforcements as they pack the tent with the poshest festival crowd this side of Glyndebourne. They comprise 50% David Arnold and 50% Biffy Clyro. If they can focus on the former and tone down the latter they could be genuinely outstanding.
Spectrals faces something of a Fermat-shaped quandary. If one is to base their entire shtick on replicating the sound of ‘Be My Baby’, how does one present this live sans-studio without exposing the fact that the songs in question are not as good as ‘Be My Baby’? Fermat’s theorem took 350 years to crack. Just thought I’d put that out there…
Club Smith are fellow North Yorkshiremen (albeit rather grubbier around the ears), but sail closer towards the choppier waters of The Killers. It is danceable indie, Jim, and very much as we know it, but more than serviceable for shoe-shuffling on a warm Friday lunchtime in a field. However, if toe-tapping and shoeshuffling is your thing (and if not, why not?) it doesn’t get much better than The Futureheads. Pure pop euphoria at its finest. Joyous.
Chickenhawk face no such problem. They know what they do, and my do they do it well. This is not to everyone’s taste, but in a genre where some can thrive by going through the motions, it’s nice to see there’s still plenty of scope for innovation. Not something in abundant supply for Bear In Heaven, but they convincingly suggest that a field in remote North-West Yorkshire could conceivably be a pleasingly insalubrious 80s New York sleaze pit.
With a spring in the step, it’s time for a shift in mood. MC Dave Twentyman goes through the audience-banter comedy motions on the Alternative Stage before introducing the laconic talents of Kevin Bridges. The set is fine… up until the point where the 23-year-old makes a joke about a 25-year-old in the audience being too old to be at a festival. Somewhere near the back, a 33-year-old shifts uncomfortably…
Talking of insalubrious sleaze pits, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly’s Sam Duckworth grew up in Southend-onSea. Amazingly this hasn’t knocked his resolve too much as he knocks out a glorious set of warmth, pathos and trumpets. A lank-haired miserablist in front of me reckons it’s “shit”. A few minutes later I spot him dancing along several feet further forward. Job done, DTTR.
Fortunately, for those moments of doubt, there are the breezy and beautiful ruminations of Freelance Whales. Rulebook remains stoically un-ripped, but it’s sweetly diverting. At the other end of the spectrum, The Invasion Of…, inclusive of one Libertines drummer, seem pleasingly out of step with tight beats, swirling psychedelia and gothic drama. It is occasionally inspired, but more frequently toe-curlingly awful,
exclusively down to the ham-fisted vocal delivery. Needs fine tuning, but there is potential. Darwin Deez seem keen to use their time to do something a little different. Specifically, breaking between songs to perform Napoleon Dynamite-styled dance routines. It’s funny the first time, but it does become wearing pretty quickly. Rufus Hound is in taboo-busting mode. Unfortunately these are the taboos of 1973, as he veers skittishly between ‘right-on-sisters’ and straight-up chauvinism. Best leave him to it as he works himself up into a lather about The Church and oral sex, presumably not at the same time… The Church also springs very much to mind (but not oral sex) when watching Serj Tankian. The impressively bearded one conducts his crowd like a congregation, not unduly aided by Tankian’s day-glow white suit. The theatrical bombast is refreshingly different, even if a new song does sound like a cross between ‘It’s Raining Men’ and ‘Holding Out For A Hero’. The good news continues as there’s enough time to catch the majority of Villagers’ set. It’s a touching and beautifully understated performance stuffed full of quality song writing. The Libertines meanwhile, shamble through the motions. Fans will talk about the ‘chemistry’ of the ‘special moment’ when these four bohemian troubadours reunited for a reported £1m pay-day. In search of something more grounded, the BBC Introducing suggests that The Law (terrible name, marginally better band) have also made extensive notes in the margins of the Fisher Price “My First Book of Indie Rock”. But at least they were not being paid £1m for the trouble.
In the face of this simpleton-rock, thank the lord for Arcade Fire. It’s a set that delivers everything, except much of a crowd. One suspects the army of Blink 182 dunderheads who seem to make up one in every three T-shirts are off in search of their intellectual level with Pendulum. Still, at least it means more room for me down the front. A more than civilised way to enjoy a world class headliner.
S AT URDAY The BBC Introducing Stage is clearly not the place to ease oneself into the day gently. Blacklisters approach the concept of an early start by serving their metaphoric breakfast tea spiked with napalm. There aren’t many places where you can eat your cornflakes while watching a deranged man tear around stage and crowd screaming about having giant swords for hands and chopping off men’s cocks. Following them, Kverlertak turn out to be gloriously unreconstructed Norwegian metal. A big beardy man makes unironic devil horns. This is profoundly silly, and I love every minute of it. The world needs more songs about Thor and Odin.
Before the day started I was convinced that the Queen meets Scissor Sisters meets Andrew Lloyd Webber curio that is Foxy Shazam would either be the best or the worst band of the festival. And I’m still absolutely convinced I was right, although I haven’t fully decided which yet. I’ll get back to you on that one.
A late-running NME Stage results in me catching more of Los Campesinos! Than I would ideally have liked, before Mercury nominees Wild Beasts begin. The latter feel more detached than some of their vintage performances, but the creative talent alone, and the abundance of beautifully crafted sexually ambiguous melancholic songs mean they are still comfortably amongst the best bands of the weekend. If Wild Beasts are chalk, then Chiddy Bang are definitely cheese. But there is a place for bounce-about crowdpleasing hip-pop. The fact that a quick 5-minute field-hop can produce these two acts as a double bill is one of the life-affirming pleasures of festivals. Dan Nightingale offers-up punchlineless hackneyed comedy of the “remember-that-thing-from-whenyou-were-a-kid?” variety. In stark contrast is Angelos Epithemiou, who produces a masterclass in the science of comedy, signposting clearly how he is going to make you laugh way before the pay-off, making it all the funnier when he does. I don’t think ‘comedy genius’ is putting it too strongly. Bloc Party’s temporary loss is groovebased euphoric electro-indie-dance’s gain as Kele capitalises on the good will afforded by glorious sunshine and general bonhomie by serving up some expertly crafted pop music. More surprisingly, Cypress Hill are also on sparkling form, with the Tom Morelloproduced new material sounding particularly perky, which is far from the case for Tame Impala, who justify 50% of their name with a set so pedestrian it might as well be flanked by a cycle lane. Back on the main stage things are taking an odd turn as Weezer open their set with a (possibly intentional?) tuneless intro that honks like 30-yearold clown car. They recover with a few hits, before unexpectedly diverting into a forward-defensive Wheatus cover. No really… With dancing shoes still frustratingly gleaming, it’s down to Roots Manuva to rectify this lack-of-damage. Even the stage’s muddied sound quality cannot dilute the boundless joy of bouncing like a loon to superior UK hip-hop.
SUNDAY I’m not entirely sure what Gaggle are so cross about, but I’m almost certain that it’s my fault. Half an hour of a dozen or so flag-waving (literally) scowling young women in tribal war paint and short dresses clasping cans of lager is not everyone’s cup-of-tea, but I’d take it over a lad-rock alternative any day.
Futuresound runner-ups Wot Gorilla? are from Halifax and posses a bunch of songs that could be interchangeable with Wintermute. It’s mathy and angular and unapologetically out of sync with the idiosyncrasies of fashion. It’s perfectly decent, but it has all been heard before, so I opt to bail half way through to catch Frankie And The Heartstrings who also produce the kind of music that has been heard many times before, but is sadly not decent in any way. It’s feather-light flimsy disposable indie pop of the worst kind. By way of complete contrast, the undisputed left-field champions of the weekend are Growth And Not Glory, or “The G.A.N.G.”, whose blissfully optimistic and charmingly playful party hip-hop works an absolute treat on a festival-ravaged crowd of considerable size. Topping off a Sunday afternoon of quality are Gogol Bordello who do exactly what you expect them to do. Their patented brand of anarchic gypsy-punk is absolutely tailor-made for festivals. Streetlight Manifesto give the early evening an adrenalin shot of intricate ska-punk with brains. For those partial to their guitars on the off-beat, they power through an exhilarating set of
careering bass and brass acrobatics. Talking of acrobatics, after Afrikan Boy has bemused with his oddly pointless warm-up shtick, Beardyman is onhand for some vocal back-flips. The human beatbox (quirky mannerisms fitted as standard) is astonishing for 5 minutes, amusing for 10 minutes, tiresome for 15 minutes, and annoying thereafter. So I leave. Which does at least allow me to catch the end of End Of Level Baddie, so to speak, which is worthwhile for the costume alone, even if the competent techno twiddling doesn’t entirely catch fire. The final band on the Introducing Stage (which has punched its weight across the weekend, despite the depreciation of local talent) are Little Fish. The Italia Conte mannerisms of the gregariously confident frontwoman are a little hard to warm to, but the tunes embed themselves by stealth, helped by some astutely measured Hammond and crisp militarystyle drumming. Which just leaves waiting around in a field for Guns ‘n’ Roses to grace us with their/his presence. This was gig as pantomime. Rock fans stand around in the cold booing and jeering, while Rose & co (emerging exactly half an hour late) collect their giant cheque while having a tantrum at the organisers for… well… something or other anyway… The set was fine by the way. Bloated and slightly pompous, but hugely enjoyable all the same. And whilst there is Billy Blister tearing around a small stage somewhere screaming about having giant swords for hands and chopping off men’s cocks, there’ll always be a pocket of resistance for those that value this festival.
SAM SA UN D E R S ’ M I G HTY F E S T I VA L C OLUM N
Between Friday at midday and Sunday at 9pm, 36 artists played on the BBC Introducing Stage, and Kasiuss played the Festival Republic Stage as Futuresound Competition Winners. I saw all of them, and another 29 acts on other stages. I have checked my notes and had a bit of a think. My conclusions are these: Firstly, the BBC Introducing Sage this year offered only a few bands who couldn’t have replaced the bands on many other stages. Musicianship and repertoire was every bit as good as the middle of the mainstream. Secondly, the feel across the site was that, while the people were friendly, the music had a conservative ring to it. Old bands play old songs - that’s fair enough. But hearing new bands rehashing 70s, 80s and 90s sounds with none of the finesse or surprise of the originals soon takes its toll on an old man’s soul. Would John Peel put up with this? No, he wouldn’t. Thirdly, this undertow of safety-first did not stop the best of the artists I saw from being markedly different, from injecting energy and ideas or from being madly entertaining. Leeds Festival has about 180 acts every year. I had a whale of a time making the most of the best ones. Fourthly, the strong community feel around the Raw Talent stage has gone now. I might have mentioned the first signs of this last year. But the process is now complete. The exciting days of 2005 to 2008 faded when bands were upgraded to Leeds plus Reading. The extra gig came at the cost of time lost in travel and no more togetherness with fans and friends at Bramham Park. On top of that, the anonymity of BBC Introducing has taken control of
the line-up. Local colour is relegated to Thursday (Thanks for keeping that going, DTTR!) or to the opening slots that the BBC sidelined. Only Sketches got among the mainstream artists whose profiles and videos appeared in full on the BBC Festival website. Sketches were, thankfully, on exceptionally good form and stood out as one of the best bands on the stage all weekend.
“M U S I C I ANSHIP AND R EPERTOIRE WAS EVERY BIT AS GOOD AS T HE M I D D LE OF T HE M AI N S TR EA M.” So a stage pioneered by Alan Raw as a local showcase has been taken over by London. The vestiges of Futuresound and a Martin House competition were allowed on, but only by increasing numbers and excluding these “outsiders” from full BBC coverage. Kasiuss, the actual winners of Futuresound, did get their Festival Republic Stage slot but didn’t merit even a picture page on the BBC site and found themselves on stage at exactly the same time as Club Smith on the Introducing Stage.
On another occluded front, Our Fold from Bolton made their third consecutive appearance as a dreary pub rock band, under the same name, on the same new talent stage. This really is pushing the idea of “introducing” to absurd limits. Moaning aside, the main point must be that a large number of people (including me) had a really good time this year. Outstanding bands on the BBC Introducing Stage included Club Smith, Sketches, Blacklisters, Runaround Kids and Wot Gorilla? For my money Sketches and Runaround Kids were the liveliest of the bunch, with Blacklisters and Wot Gorilla? giving fine performances. Soul Circus didn’t work so well for me. They played basic stuff in a set of conventional firstband songs. A memorable highlight was the discovery (by the Martin House Hospice who ran a competition) of the very refreshing Penguin from Hemsworth. They brought a big crowd, huge smiles and some very expressive and intelligent playing. In one form or another, this ruly (as opposed to unruly) bunch of youngsters are going somewhere. Apart from a collection of punchy songs, they had the good sense to drag a person-sized Penguin on stage to dance like Bez’s Mum for the second half of their set. A triumph, and a great credit to alternative community being developed around the site and its main charity- hello to Mrs Fox of Thorner, if you are reading! Your good work and your animal name fitted in very well with my main themes for this year’s Festival - community involvement and zoological band names.
TOM M ART I N TH I S I S W H Y W E D O IT Tom Martin, shutter bugger supreme, has been lurking at the front of mosh pits for many a year now, risking life and limb and expensive equipment all in the name of music. It is on this rare and therefore auspicious occasion that he has put pen to paper and let us into the weird world of the T-Moose. This is why he does it...
Oh… Hello there.... Sorry I didn’t hear you come in… In to where, you ask? Why into the dankly lit living room of my mind, of course. That’s right, I’ve taken time out from stealing people’s souls with my digital camera to write down my thoughts and feelings for everyone to read – look at me, I’m Lily fucking Allen! Well that’s it, we’re past the first of October now and you know what that means, don’t you? No silly, not the birthday of Mexican tennis professional Alejandro Hernandez, it’s because October 1st officially represents the end of ‘Festival Season’. So what were your highlights? I bet you went to something didn’t you? The very fact your reading a copy of Vibrations suggests to me that at some point you’ve probably made the decision to choose gigs over nightclubs, The Rebel Alliance over The Empire and most importantly Festivals over Club 18-30 holidays. From raving out to Atari Teenage Riot in Serbia to rocking out to Cancer Bats in the West Midlands this year has been kind to me, I’ve had some amazing festival highlights. I managed to get close enough to photograph one of the deer that live on the Lowther Park Estate where Kendal Calling is held. I’ve watched the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and Pulled Apart By Horses’ James Brown direct the construction of a human pyramid in the bar of a Polish hotel. And being allowed up to photograph from the side of the main stage at Leeds Festival, looking out across the crowd whilst my teenage heros Weezer play took my breath away.
Fantastic as these types of experiences have been and as grateful as I am for getting to do them, I think it’s the simple things that I love most about festivals. First and foremost being OUTSIDE! It’s so underrated; I love just being out in the fresh air, gawping around the place. Another one of the main festival goodnesses has got to be simply seeing people you haven’t seen for ages; festivals have an uncanny ability of throwing people together unexpectedly. Not to mention the new friends you come away with. Isn’t it lovely when that 14-year-old ginger girl you smoked methamphetamine with on the campsite adds you on Facebook on Monday morning? How about finding that one edible food stall on the entire site and the twenty minutes when the rain actually stops? The best things in life truly are free.
“LOOK AT ME, I ’M LI LY F U C K I N G ALLEN! ” With the highs obviously come the lows. Like the feeling you get standing in the middle of V Stafford and realizing that what you are breathing in is 7% Nitrogen, 2% Oxygen and 91% Piss. There are always the thefts and the campsite scare stories, but you can’t dwell on these negatives. Whatever size of festival you attend it’s always simply going to end up being a microcosm of society. The bad ones are always going to be in there. If you concentrate purely on the scare mongering negatives of society what
does that leave you with? Panorama with Jeremy Vine, that’s what. So if you’ve loved this year’s festival season as much as me the only thing left to do is keep the festival spirit alive this winter. I don’t mean in the same way that your friend’s dad keeps the 60’s alive by wearing a jumper with dolphins on it. I don’t even mean in the way that Jon Bon Jovi kept the faith alive through power ballads. I mean by simply looking for the best bits of the festivals transplanted elsewhere. There is a load going on in Leeds all year round plus whatever new events people decide to go out and create. You can still adventure to new places, like, gasp, maybe, erm… Harrogate!?! Get ridiculously fruity at things like Raise The Roof and Brainwash Festival and, as the German Market proves every year, enjoy large outdoor gatherings in the shit British winter. All you need is that festival spirit (you know the one I keep banging on about)! So cheers, here’s to next summer and, more importantly, making this the fruitiest festival winter ever.
PA SSP O RT C O N T R O L FUN L O VI N ’ C R I MI N ALS As you can imagine, a whole host of alarm bells went off at West Yorkshire Customs and Excise when we saw that this bunch were trying to breach our borders. Fortunately, Frank Benbini was happy to answer our questions and we didn’t have to resort to the basement, handcuffs and concrete bench treatment...
Reason for visit? Business or pleasure? To quote Jay Z, “I’m not a businessman/I’m a business, man”. Will you be staying with friends? All my friends will be on the FLC tour bus, our home away from home whilst on tour. Any fruit, vegetables, meat products or scooby snacks? We have Twinkies, Mountain Dew, Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms, Welch’s Grape Jelly, and, my personal favourite, Almond Joy. Did you pack your own case? That depends on what you find in there… Your name insinuates the possibility of nefarious activities within the boundaries of West Yorkshire – I trust you will keep things on the fun rather than the criminal side of things? I take it you have seen Red Riding... Last time I saw Red Riding she was leaving for her Grandma’s house. I have an alibi… speak to Snow White she can vouch for me.
You seem to be no strangers to Holmfirth – will you be bringing your own transport or do you require the hiring of a bath for the duration? The FLC tour bus will be rolling into Holmfirth – we come with our own fixtures and plumbing. On the subject of baths, seeing as we have recently lost one of our county’s greatest exports, Last of the Summer Wine, would you consider leaping into the fray in an updated version? I think FLC in Yorkshire is a genius premise for a TV series. Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Anything else to declare? We will tear the roof off the Picturedome and you don’t want to miss that do you? You may now proceed through passport control. Please enjoy your stay in West Yorkshire.
“ SPEA K T O SNO W WHIT E - SHE CA N VO UCH FO R ME.”
L A ST NI G H T ’ S T V ’ S FE STI V E R E C O R D I N G D IARY Thoroughly sick of Slade and chums clogging up the airwaves for yet another Christmas, we’ve decided to take action. We’re going to release our own festive single in December, with the lofty ambition to get it into the lower reaches of the Top 75. Okay, so that ambition could be a little loftier, but we’re nothing if not realistic
unencumbered by such things as drums and egotistical guitarists
JAN U A RY 2 010 J U LY 2010 We’ll give our Belle & Sebastian-ish sound a festive makeover - well, add some sleigh-bells at least. Maybe even a choir? In the scheme of the yuletide canon, it’ll be less like McCartney’s original ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ and more in the spirit of Tom McRae’s maudlin cover (which is well worth tracking down, by the way). Our song, ‘No Tinsel On The Town Hall’, sees a couple reminiscing about meeting by chance the previous Christmas, and dreaming of escaping to somewhere more exciting this year. It’s written as a duet, so a bit like a modern-day ‘Fairytale Of New York’, albeit with less name-calling and drunken slurring. And even less chance of being beaten to the Christmas Number One by the Pet Shop Boys.
J UN E 2 0 10 Quite by chance, the first recording session is booked on the decidedly un-festive Midsummer’s Day. We’re recording at Diamond Studios in Wakefield, under the watchful eye of producer Will Richards. Will’s an easy-going guy, which is lucky as we intend to give the studio a baubletastic makeover to get the right vibe. Recording the backing track goes smoothly, helped by the fact we’re
The word is out: ‘Indie-pop band seeks impromptu choir members’. Advertised on Facebook and various work bulletin boards, we get a good amount of responses, making it suddenly seem like not such a ludicrous idea.
AU GU S T 20 1 0 Back at the studio, any worries that no one would turn up are quickly dispelled. 25 people are there for a prompt 10am start, lured not by promises of fame and fortune, but of mince pies and ginger beer. We set about the task of getting everyone to sing “Aaaaaaahhhh / Bare, bare, bare” (er… you’ll have to hear it for that to make any festive sense).
S EPTEM B ER 2 0 1 0 It’s finished! As predicted, it’s more melancholic festive ballad than party anthem, so more likely to soundtrack a slow-dance around the tree with that boy/girl from down the road who’s been making eyes at you all year, than a can-can around the half-eaten mince pies with Uncle Jim.
And now the marketing (a.k.a. the hard work) begins. We’re consciously not releasing it in the week of the Christmas chart itself, instead opting for week before - w/c 6th December - as there’s no point battling it out sales-wise with the big hitters, when we’d happily settle for a solitary week at Number 75. Hey, if you can’t have a dream at Christmas…. ‘No Tinsel On The Town Hall’ will be released on 6th December, with proceeds going to Samaritans. Please visit www.LNTVweb.co.uk for updates.
IT’S NO T E A S Y B E I N G GREEN Richard Green has had an eventful life. In fact that’s something of an understatement. An understatement of roughly the same magnitude as observing that an Antarctic winter can get chilly of an evening.
Now, 11 years after his breakthrough band Ultrasound split in the most acrimonious of circumstances, they are back together. Rob Paul Chapman was down the front to witness this historic on-stage reunion in London and Leeds, and to talk to the mercurial Wakefield-born guitarist about the very high highs and extremely low lows that have got him to this point. Gig #1 Ultrasound + Younghusband, The Lexington, London. Although, contrary to rumour, I have discovered that the streets of London are not paved with gold, it appears that it is possible to watch bands in the capital at a good venue. As great as The Lexington is, it was clearly too small for the first Ultrasound gig in years. Fortunately elbow-room is not yet at a premium by the time support band Younghusband emerge. Unfortunately for the crowd, inspiration is. The blueprint seems to be: have idea; repeat idea ad nauseam for 5 minutes; end. Occasionally, when the idea is really good, this is bewitchingly effective. But too frequently the idea is too flimsy, and the meandering minimalism fails to maintain interest. With five minutes to go until Ultrasound take to the stage, WeimerRepublic music-hall pipes while atmospheric smoke billows forth. At least, it was assumed the smoke was for atmosphere, although later it transpires that this was the result of near-fatal exploding equipment. But, despite the best attempts of fate to intervene, on they stroll to a tumultuous reception, which does
little to abate as the band serenely progress through the first four tracks of their sole (very) long-playing release, ‘Everything Picture’. In truth, it is not technically perfect. But there is so much love and goodwill in the room, the band could trump their way through the hits of Kajagoogoo and the crowd would lap it up. As it is, the energy of the musicians elevate an already outstanding set of material to exaltationary levels. Occasional technical errors are greeted with wry smiles and warm laughs, and it’s infectious. Much like the album that preceded these gigs all those years ago, this is an experience where the flaws only enhance the beauty. Gig #2 Ultrasound + The Scaramanga Six + Insect Guide, The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. Theoretically, this should have been the easier one. With the first night jitters having been comprehensively slain, this should have been about settling back into the groove of being a band again. But of course, if things were straight forward, it wouldn’t be Ultrasound. And so various niggles set everything back considerably, resulting in Insect Guide not turning up on stage until around 40 minutes after they’re due. It’s worth the wait though. Clearly they have been clocking up the Jesus & Mary Chain rotations, but it’s a lot more agreeable than some of J&MC’s more abrasive moments.
Agreeable is not something The Scaramanga Six would thank you for calling them. But behind the pantomime villain persona of Steve Morricone and the more brooding acerbity of brother Paul, beat hearts of pure pop quality. Even tonight’s set is perfectly underpinned by an impeccable appreciation of the basic components of melody and harmony. This is perfect pop music, partially concealed behind a very well-tailored suit of bombast and drama.
“ IT WA S A SSUMED T HE SMO KE WA S FO R AT MO SPHERE, A LT HO UGH LAT ER IT T RA NSPIRES T HAT T HIS WA S T HE RESULT O F NEA R- FATA L EX PLO DING EQ UIPMENT.” Ultrasound have never been shy when it comes to ladling on the bombast and drama either, albeit in a less controlled manner. But like The ‘Six, it only works because it’s grounded in an understanding of what comprises the perfect pop song, as evidenced by the quite touching spectacle of a large room full of people bellowing all of the words
to ‘Stay Young’ and ‘Same Band’. Arguably, this was the better of the two shows, In no small part down to the sensitive and highly astute sound mix provided by Trevor Baines who managed to accentuate every crucial nuance that a less accomplished hand might miss. But really we’re just filing brilliance here. Both shows were magical. Experiences that transcended the normal gig-going routine. This was music as catharsis. It’s the morning after the night before, and the night before that. And I am standing on the deck of a conspicuously large boat. It is a little way from looking as its owner eventually intends but having bought it as a dilapidated wreck, it’s still an impressive achievement to have got it even this habitable. “I enjoy digging up old relics and putting them back together” he declares. I can’t be sure if the entendre is deliberately double, but it affords a wry grin. It is worth noting that both boat and owner are utterly charming. And although he now seems very relaxed, 5 minutes before heading out on stage for the first time in 11 years was a different story.
“It was weird. Panic mainly,” he explains, “We were sat in the dressing room and were all in this kind of Zen-like trance, unable to speak to each other. Then the tour manager came in white as a sheet. Normally he’s like Obi Wan Kenobi, the most unflappable man on the planet, but something was obviously wrong. He said ‘I have to tell you that unfortunately all of your gear has been trashed’. The in-house sound guy had knocked all of my gear over and smashed it to smithereens. So our guitar tech suggested that we try to blag an amp together from bits of smashed amps, which somehow he managed to do. We were literally five minutes from completely pulling the show. The same sound guy had already managed to tip a pint of water over my pedals, so I don’t quite know what was going on there, but perhaps subconsciously he was trying to sabotage it!” The idea of getting the band back together was born out of tragic circumstances with the news that Cardiacs frontman Tim Smith, a huge inspiration to the band, had suffered a major heart attack and double stroke and was requiring intensive and constant care.
and I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope. Time slowed down and I could hear his footsteps. But within 20 seconds of him walking through the door it was just like old times again. I did wonder what might happen, I thought what are we going to do? Sit around and talk about it, rake over the past and sort it all out between us? But it didn’t seem appropriate or necessary. We haven’t spoken about it at all, we just get together and play music. That what a band is for.” And what a band it was. Tiny, Richard and drummer Andy met at Wakefield college. They moved to Newcastle where they met bassist Vanessa and later Matt. They moved to London in dribs and drabs, and after a few false starts came together as Ultrasound. After playing around London “to no one, basically” they were on the verge of giving up when a one-off gig in Oxford reinvigorated them enough to start sending out demo tapes again.
In the end, the Tim Smith tribute gig was shelved, but figuring they’d made it this far they figured they might as well get together anyway. Relations had not exactly been cordial the last time they were a band, most notably between Richard and Matt Jones the keyboard player, the former leaving the band to form another band (and move in) with the latter’s girlfriend Steph. Given the historical acrimony, meeting up must have been cause for nerves?
“The story goes that it was the first tape the NME pulled out of the bag, and we got asked to go and play this gig at Dingwalls. There were all these label guys in the dressing room afterwards with chequebooks in their hands! It was just pandemonium. We were absolutely gobsmacked. We thought we were just this weirdo prog rock band that nobody would ever sign. We got offered a deal there and then in the dressing room after the gig and then this whole kind of industry bidding war started to happen. Me and Tiny were living in this pokey little flat in Acton and were on the dole. We were really, really broke, and hungry, and we were getting taken out to all these posh meals by these label guys. I remember them spending £800-900 on a meal, just to impress us. We would just eat as much as we could, because we didn’t know if we were going to eat for the rest of the week! I remember Tiny filling out [his jobseeker’s book] and put ‘flown to LA, first class!’ No one would believe him!”
“[long pause…] Yeah. Actually, I was really nervous about it,” recalls Richard, “I spoke to Tiny on the phone, and he came to see me. I heard him coming up the garden path
Ultrasound became darlings of the music press, but strains were beginning to appear and the album was taking a while to come together. “In hindsight we started it too late. We
“I got an email from Tiny [Wood, Ultrasound singer] explaining that we’d been asked to reform to do this fundraising tribute gig at the South Bank,” he reveals, “I hadn’t spoken to Tiny since the end of 1998.”
left it too long because we kept going out on tour. We kept trying to arrange a time to do it, and then the record company would call up and tell us that we’d been offered another tour with Travis or something, so we’d go and do that. Things weren’t good towards the end of making the album.” By the time the album limped out, much of the support from the music press that championed them had started to wane “It was a bit frustrating, but I remember the record company saying “oh well, let’s push that to one side and do another one” a week after we’d finished it. They were really conscious of what journalists were saying and were playing that game. I remember kind of knowing as we were finishing the album that we wouldn’t make another one. Which is why it ended up being such a long album, trying to get everything onto it.” And so Richard jumped ship to form The Somatics with Steph and drummer Bruce Wood. Was Green’s reputation enough to get a label to take a punt on the new project from concept? “No [it wasn’t easy] at all. And I rather arrogantly presumed that it would be. In reality it was the complete opposite, no one was interested at all. In fact, I think that people had a lot of counter-intention against it happening. Certainly in the industry, many people felt really let down. But we couldn’t create anything in Ultrasound at that point.”
They were eventually picked up by Beggars Banquet and gained admiration from a small audience, but never really threatened to cross-over into the mainstream in the way that Ultrasound did. “I’m really not sure why, but Tiny has this innate ability to connect with an audience. He’s like Freddie Mercury! But with The Somatics, I’m not sure we really had that kind of vibe. The first album is dark. I wasn’t in a very good place when I was making it. And I think it’s got this really intense introspection to it.”
the time making that album it was really good fun, because we did it in our own studio, and were all working on it together in every capacity. If you look at it objectively, then it does appear to be a very messy situation. And for a very brief period, it was, and it felt very uncomfortable. But if you look at it now, Steph’s got this beautiful daughter, this amazing human being, and that is just so right. It’s just part of the cycle of everything.”
Certainly it failed to impress the mainstream critics.
You can’t help thinking that if more people thought like Richard Green there would be a lot less fighting in the world. His karma is infectious and it’s an attitude he adopts for everything, including the Ultrasound reunion.
“For a while, if you typed ‘psychedelic fucking bollocks’ into Google, the number one result was The Somatics website!” laughs Green. “Whereas with the second one, I remember making this conscious decision to really try and reach out to the audience. It’s a lot less introspective and is a lot more welcoming.”
“We started to think something magical could happen then. I don’t feel any different deep down to how I’ve always felt. I’m still hungry, and I’ve still got lots of ambitions that I’ve never achieved. It’s not like we’re living in 1958 and rock is just music to upset your parents; it’s music that can unite people.”
The second Somatics album is an astonishingly accomplished record, but once again, personal complications were never far away, as Green’s wife Steph – the bassist in the Somatics – became pregnant with drummer Bruce’s child during the recording of the second album.
A lofty ambition perhaps, but it is music that has reunited five former friends and long may it continue. As we emerge from the hull of the boat into the sunshine, I’m reminded of the line “My advice to all you boys and all you girls is never try to be old”. I can’t help hoping he succeeds.
“A three piece is very difficult to manage from a relationship perspective,” he reasons, “There were awkward moments. But not completely. I remember that most of
WO T G OR I L L A ? – FR O M STA G E T O PA G E In a brief moment of relative calm amidst the hurly and indeed burly of Leeds Festival, Vibrations ligmeister Rob Wright got backstage with Halifax’s Wot Gorilla?, took some booze he shouldn’t have, ate a Lion bar, asked them a few questions and scribbled down a few answers before having to make himself scarce...
Hello chaps, what did you think of the gig? Simon Marks (drums): Not bad... I usually worry about loads of things, like... I spat on one of the monitors... Serious stuff that. So which gig felt better, Leeds or Reading? Simon Marks: Erm... (looking a bit sheepish) Reading sounded best... Johnny Hey (bass/vocals): ...It feels more comfortable playing in front of strangers. Leeds had the best audience though – it was a home audience and felt more like summer. Well recovered. Now you’ve done your bit, what do you plan to do for the rest of the festival? Simon Marks: Get pissed. Mat Haigh (guitars/vocals): Catch some bands. Simon Marks: Oh, and meet some people... and get pissed with them. Right, I’ll see you in the bar then! But before I’m turfed out of here, do you have any sage words of advice? Simon Marks: It does help to establish yourself before you start gigging... get comfortable with where you’re going to play and who you’re going to play to. Mat Haigh: ... but get the balance right. Don’t get too comfortable – throw something unexpected into the mix.
TH AN K YOU, GENTLEM EN. ENJ OY TH E REST OF TH E F ES TIVA L!
A NY O NE F O R ME N A CE? A touching tale of interband relationships, multi-instrumentalism, Grohl worship and finding ‘the one’ - Kath and The Mighty Menace reveal all to Kate Parkin in the back of the Brudenell Social Club...
This is a story of boy(s) meets girl. The meeting and making of Kath and the Mighty Menace is more love story than band story: three individuals, dissatisfied with being alone, or in fragmented former bands, join forces to give the music industry “a good kick up the arse”. As they attest, it’s a musical match made in heaven. Meet Leeds’ hottest new rock trio, Kath and The Mighty Menace. Sat in the backroom of the Brudenell it feels like a bizarre rock-band board meeting. Paul prances around the room, gesturing wildly, while Kath and Steve shuffle and shift positions. The band features Kath Edmonds of ‘Just Kath’ fame and former Japanese Fighting Fishes, Steve Ramsden and Paul Crowther. They met when Kath supported their former band and, despite having been together barely a year, have already forged a fierce bond. “I was proper blown away by that sheer presence and projection, just Kath and her acoustic guitar,” Paul explains.
Kath is an imposing front woman, an out and proud lesbian, drawing her influences from bands like Siouxsie and The Banshees, Skunk Anansie and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, all fronted by “really powerful women.” She laughs: “You have to try and guess what Paul might like.” I look him over, taking inventory of the dark hair, big moustache, black t-shirt and few carefully chosen tattoos. Laughing I offer: “Queen?” (that ‘tache does have a hint of the Freddy Mercury…) Steve groans, head in hands: “Put her out of her misery.” Paul mutters, suddenly bashful: “It’s Dave Grohl. I love him!” Seemingly the comment in the Yorkshire Evening Post review, where Paul was described as having ‘the best drumming action this side of Dave Grohl’, was not that much of a coincidence. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a compliment, when I was 16 years old he was the first drummer I ever listened to. I’m self taught, so everything I’ve picked up as a drummer I’ve picked up from him,” explains Paul. Kath smirks: “Including haircuts, attitude…”
Haircuts aside, Paul is an inventive drummer keen to mess around with time signatures and fills that would baffle lesser drummers. As a band too they seem to have struck a perfect balance, which Paul describes as: “Not taking life too seriously, having a good laugh, but doing a really good job.” Kath adds: “I think that’s a key point, how dedicated everybody is. We’ve pretty much dedicated our lives to it.” “This is the best band I’ve ever been in,” Paul and Steve add together. Kath concludes: “We’re so happy we’ve found each other, this is the one.” Keen to avoid the connotations of Kath ‘with backing band’, it helped that Steve and Paul had already established themselves as a formidable drum and bass combo in former band Japanese Fighting Fish, but they feel they’ve found ‘the best possible unit’ in Kath and the Mighty Menace. Paul adds: “I’ve never felt this intertwined and comfortable and warm in a band before, never!” When it comes to song-writing they are equally democratic. Kath: “Paul is a better singer than me, he can hit notes that I can’t hit. If, to make the song sound the best, Paul has to do the harmony that’s fine by me. It’s just an understanding really.” Paul adds: “Kath’s the best drummer in the band by the way.” All of the band are in fact, ‘multiinstrumental’. Kath plays guitar, piano, bass and drums, while Paul and Steve
both play guitar and drums. Currently they play fleshed out versions of Kath’s solo songs, but they are headed for the studio in November and keen to start writing as a band. They’re slowly building their live momentum with a small selection of gigs including Josephs Well and a memorable gig at the Batley Frontier Variety Club. Paul explains: “You’ve got your best gigs where you’re playing to the bar staff and you’ve got your other gigs where you’re playing ok, but its jam packed. We’ve just played one that’s the best sound.” He adds: “We went to the Frontier, there weren’t that many people, but there was a proper massive rig and it made us sound great.” Kath adds: “It gave us a taste of what we can achieve.”
and are choosing to stand alone. Paul explains: “If you’re around a music scene you can immerse yourself in it and become part of all this crazy politics or you can kind of hover above it and still be involved. There aren’t many bands out there that are giving the music industry a slap in the face. Every ten years music gets a kick up the arse anyway. You got Nirvana and the Grunge scene, kind of changed everything, or people say they did, then all of a sudden, 2000, ten years later you’ve got all the Nu-Metal movement, bands like Korn and Linkin Park setting stuff on fire. It’s died down again, just like it did in the late 90s and I think the music industries due for something else.” Kath interjects: “The wave of the female fronted thing seems to be quite strong at the minute.”
“ THIS IS T H E B ES T BA N D I’ V E E VER BE E N IN . . . WE’R E SO HAP P Y WE’VE F O UN D E AC H O T H E R, T H IS I S T HE ON E ”. While songs like ‘Guessing’ are more KT Tunstall, Japanese Fighting Fish were harder rocking with a slightly sinister edge - how did they find the transition? Paul starts: “We’re a great believer in musical dynamics, but in terms of style and aggression I don’t think owts changed.” Steve adds: “If we were to go into a band and totally change we’d just drop into everything else that’s out there.” “We’re now starting to create a precise aggression with clarity and once we’ve got that, Superman!” Paul laughs. Unusually for the Leeds scene they are not part of a contingent of bands
I mention the recent, mostly electrotinged, movement of solo girls, like La Roux, Ladyhawke, Little Boots and Florence and The Machine. Kath comments: “A lot of them don’t play their instruments, though. You might be a really good singer, but I think female performers, I hate to say it, sometimes they can let the side down a little bit. I think if you can be a female performer and play up there with the best, up there with the guys then you have a lot more chance to be respected.” By the time this goes to press Kath and The Mighty Menace will have already played at the Brudenell, followed by an appearance at Dirty
Hippy Fest at Milo. They’ve been practising hard, but not too hard: “In practice today Paul does backing vocals on one of the last songs and he sounded like a Theremin,” Kath laughs. Paul starts making weird noises and doing his best Kate Bush ‘Wuthering Heights’ impression. Time to get serious though, and to ask the elusive question; why did Steve and Paul leave Japanese Fighting Fish? The ‘Fish have an album, ‘Just Before We Go Mad’ due out in September. It seems an odd time to leave if things were going well. Steve explains: “We had a meeting and stuff and it was just differences really.” Kath continues: “It was great cos I got a message on MySpace, and it was Paul saying that it hadn’t worked out with their band and that now more than ever they wanted to have a jam with me.” “Things happen for a reason,” Steve comments. “It’s all been a blessing in disguise, it really has,” Paul concludes.
“ WE’RE NO W STA RT ING T O CREAT E A PRECISE A GGRESSIO N WIT H CLA RIT Y A ND O NCE WE’VE GO T T HAT, SUPERMA N! ”
Clichés aside, it’s evident how hard it would have been for the boys to split themselves between the two bands. Paul starts: “I think we’ve all had a blast at that when we were kids, in two bands cos you thought you were super special. It’s like, ‘Look at me multi-tasking’, then you go into the studio and you start playing the other person’s song on your guitar.” Steve adds: “A band’s like being in a relationship.” “It’s give and take and understanding, you can’t spread yourself really thin,” adds Kath. Paul comments: “It makes you realise how lucky you are to have a band like these guys.” Kath responds: “My life has got much better, I feel lots happier. I can cope with everything else.” Before we all run off and join a hippy commune the banter about Paul’s new hefty Borat ‘tache returns. “People say I look like Dave Grohl or Russell Brand,” he moans. Steve adds: “It’s his mannerisms as well.” Paul scowls, flouncing his arms and pouting: “Are you calling me camp?” “I think he’s more like Louie Spence from Pineapple Dance Studios,” laughs Steve. Taking this as a challenge Paul leaps up and kicks his leg obscenely high over his head, before attempting the splits.
“ ARE Y OU C A L LIN G ME C A MP ?” “ I T HIN K H E’S M O RE LIKE LOU I E S P E N C E F RO M P I N E A P P L E D ANC E S T UD IO S ,”
KA SSI U S JO BI Z PE O P L E Carpe diem (it’s Latin for ‘seize the day’, not ‘that bar in Leeds’) is a phrase that Kasiuss have taken quite literally to their hearts and, as they reap the benefits of grabbing life by the proverbials and squeezing them until they go ‘gleek’, it’s proving to be a pretty good maxim for life. Sam Saunders collars them in a quieter moment at Leeds Festival and gets all fable-ous...
The year of Kasiuss (it has only been a year) is a litany of fabulous stories, stories that might be based on fables, could translate into fables, or be fables. When I asked them at the end of our interview which questions I hadn’t asked, Jo Bothamley tells me of a fable he read online. He found the story, he said, when the heavy band he and Biz Denton had formed in London had just collapsed under the weight of trying to do gigs and pay rent. A man called Kasiuss had lived in an idyllic forest beside a generous river. The river carried a beautiful woman in a well-made boat. Kasiuss walked beside it and they talked as naturally as if they had been born together, falling in love even as she steered her craft into the safer depths away from the bank. She called to him to swim over and join her, to travel with her and start a family in a richer land further downstream. Kasiuss hesitated and thought of all he would lose if he followed his heart. He shouted to her to wait, to join him on the bank in comfort. She refused and her boat slipped away on the current. As months and years went by his regret grew deeper. Eventually he set off on a journey to find her. When he found her, she was happily married with her family. His chance had gone.
Getting back to Jo and Biz, Kasiuss the band formed, rehearsed and rose to playing on The Festival Republic Stages at Leeds and Reading Festivals within one year. They were determined to miss no boats and refuse no chance of a miraculous outcome. Jo puts it succinctly: “You should never be scared to leave something behind for the sake of doing something better.” For Biz Denton (writer, singer and guitarist) and drummer Jo the first miracle was recruiting (in Harrogate) two like - minded, talented and determined accomplices in one fell swoop. The fact that they were brothers - one recruited by Biz and one by Jo in separate excursions unknown to each other - was just the beginning of a series of improbabilities that led to their most recent triumph. This summer, at the end of a week’s video shooting in a huge warehouse, the drip feed of Futuresound’s competition announcements eventually confirmed their winning position - exactly as the last takes of their video were being completed. Biz ran triumphantly around the perimeters of the warehouse shouting so loud so many times that he couldn’t sing for a week. And this was on top of selling out Harrogate’s Royal Hall on the back of a series of DIY pub gigs around the town. Adam Odle (bass) and his brother Jason (keyboards and backing vocals) let Biz and Jo do most of the talking. As Adam says if there ever is a ‘creative tension’ in the band, it’s Biz bringing stuff in and Jo saying “I don’t like it”. But I detect no interpersonal tension at all, and the ‘not liking’ element seems rare. The general atmosphere about Kasiuss is of four lads (plus a vital “family” of lighting director, sound engineer and general assistant) who enjoy each other’s company and trust
each other’s musical taste and talents. All have some musical training; all could play each other’s instruments in a crisis. The songs come from Biz, but they immediately take on the Kasiuss sound once performed. The four of them were brought up in some of Harrogate and District’s less wealthy (but musical) families. All but Biz went to the John Fisher School, where music and the arts are encouraged, and their whole approach is to look to their own efforts and the good will of friends and people they meet. For one example, the video producer (Nick Thompson) was the boyfriend of one of Adam’s clients (Adam is also a talented hairdresser). For another, when cash ran out for Biz and Jo in London they moved back home to Yorkshire and managed to live rent free (Biz with has single parent Mum). But the money they are starting to earn from a busy gig schedule is all being put back into the band. As Biz says, they are a million miles away from complaining about their self-imposed poverty. Their pride, excitement and enjoyment at what they are building for the future are immense. Their dramatic rock sound got a huge push forward from sessions at Sawmills in Cornwall where their (already sold-out) EP was made. With some experience of an ‘overproduced‘ recording in London, the ‘absolute drilling’ they got at Sawmills forced them to work on their live energy, repeating and repeating things until the raw recordings could be presented without quantised, snapped on, drum sampled anonymity being poured into the mix. Jo said “It was an eye-opening experience. Hearing the results of a recording that captures the live
energy, sound and individuality of the band really makes a difference in the rehearsal room later. We work so much harder.” He has no illusions about already being ‘brilliant’. The set they played at Leeds Festival showed that their sound is far more developed and confident than most one year old bands – but here they are saying they still have a long way to go. Biz says: “I don’t want to release an album when nobody knows about us. I’d rather work solidly for a couple of years.” Playing live is what they are doing to get the audience. After that, away downstream, lie main stages, big tours... the whole thing. In the background, a London-based band manager who knows them from the old days is unofficially guiding then - one more of the ‘family’ who, like Ben the lighting director turns up during our morning interview in Bramham Park’s sunshine before their Festival Republic debut. They are exhausting company – many more stories were packed in, dozens of ideas and enthusiasms – but all leading upwards and onwards. It‘s all gloriously naive and hubristic – but no one knows that as well as the band themselves. If you feel a cynical Leeds sneer coming on, just go and chat to them. You’ll end up handing out flyers for their next gig. Their enthusiasm is contagious. To repeat: “Don’t be scared to leave something behind for the sake of doing something better.”
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A L B U MS Jonjo Feather - Is Or OK (Numb Tongue/Cargo Records) The cover picture for Jonjo Feather’s enigmatically-titled debut album is a bleached out and minimal photo of the man himself - cool hairdo covering his face - rolling up the sleeves of his white suit, ready for some elite hipster action. He mostly trades in a superior brand of scuzzy garage rock, but unlike that genre’s worst excesses, it’s far from being style over substance. Melody is in abundance, not least on singles ‘Taxi’, ‘I Suppose’ and ‘Little Spark’, which are all present and correct. ‘I Suppose’ in particular is a pop gem, its sinister riffing and drawled vocal making it sound like a lost classic from the late ‘70s. Even better is ‘Dark Candy’, a haunting, stripped-back lament built around a mesmerising riff and featuring the kind of tune that would be hard done to if it doesn’t find itself sound-tracking some kind of posthedonistic comedown movie one day. At all times the voice is right up front and centre, recorded in such a way that it gives the impression he’s perched on your shoulder, whispering in your ear; unsettling at times and surprisingly comforting at others, he’s like a mildly cosmic rock ‘n’ roll angel on your shoulder. Spencer Bayles www.jonjofeather.com
Humanfly – Darker Later (Brew Records) Humanfly, post-metal as dark as it comes, have red shifted to the Brew stable and in the process brought out a follow up to 2008’s ‘II’. Considering how dark that was, nothing but neutrinos are escaping from this one. To be honest, though by no means a light album, ‘Darker Later’ is a lot more multi-hued than previous releases, but that doesn’t mean a compromise on heaviness. Opening track ‘This is Where Your Parents Fucked’ is a colossal riff laden down-tuned sludge fest, comparable to the likes of Pelican, Mastodon and Kyuss, with John incanting ominously to some Mesolithic god; immediately it feels more developed than anything on ‘II’. ‘English and Proud and Racist and Stupid’ continues the development, with Dave’s staccato drums punctuating a panicked, angry, shameful swarm of riffs that drop out, suspend, then return in a riot of noise – the emotional journey of the belligerent mob and musical story telling mindful of Sibelius, of all people. Then with ‘Stew for the Murder Minded’ they almost go pop. Sporting a more commercial structure, energetic rhythm and melody, it powers along like mutilated pop punk, before crashing to the ground and grinding to a halt.
‘The Enemy of My Enemy is Me’ is a snappy little tribute to Sunn O))) and the titular ‘Darker Later’ is a beautifully poignant acoustic intermission before the immense opening of ‘Heavy Black Snow’. It’s a very ambitious piece, but doesn’t quite work. Rose’s narrative is a shade too light and slightly redundant – Humanfly know how to use leitmotifs, themes and dynamics, why bother with words? Apart from that, ‘Darker Later’ is a big step forward for Humanfly – they’re leaving their post-metal comfort zone and entering a world of light and dark. Not always successful, but progress is about making mistakes. They’re learning from them. Rob Wright www.myspace.com/humanfly Being 747 - Amoeba to Zebra (Wrath Records) The story of life on earth compressed into twelve months through 14 songs of top quality pop and roll, narrated by the primal voice of Steve Morricone - what more could you want? A 16 page booklet? Got it. The bombast of the Scaramanga Six? Yup. The tunesemithery and great voice of Dave Cooke? Of course. It brings real rock music to kids and serious science to adults. There are simply no losers. Did you know that it wasn’t until Christmas Day (in our scaled down history) that Tyrannosaurus Rex died out? Barely 60 million years before Marc Bolan? If you have passed this by as novelty music, though, there is plenty of time to think again. Ballads, rock and roll, indie smashes ... it is a genuinely fine collection of tracks with high production
values and absolutely none of the pastiche contaminants that usually accompany such educational efforts. Between them the trio know all that needs to be known about the science and the music to do a first class job of both. There is a political message too. At the very last (in ‘The Power of Speech’) Cooke intones “there has to be a thrilling climax ... at the stroke of midnight life stands precariously on the edge of a precipice. We now have the choice: cherish or destroy.” You decide. Sam Saunders www.being747.co.uk www.wrathrecords.co.uk
Pulled Apart By Horses – Pulled Apart By Horses (Transgressive Records) This self-titled debut from the Leeds four-piece has been a long time in the making. By modern standards, it seems an age since the quartet was formed from the ashes of Concentration Champ, Mother Vulpine, It Takes Bridges and Monster Killed by Laser. Worth the wait? Definitely, although repeated listening may be required. The opening track and lead-off single ‘Back to the Fuck Yeah?’ pays tribute to Sam Raimi’s best known big screen release (Evil Dead in case you were wondering) with Tom Hudson and Robert John Lee trading serial killer vocals next to a frantic bubblegum punk sounding rhythm section. Other highlights include second single ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’, where Tom shrieks throughout “I’ll make you dance with my balls on fire” - stirring stuff indeed.
The remaining tracks on the album continue in a similarly roller coaster vein although as you approach the mid-point, the unrelenting nature starts to grate a little. Thank goodness for the terrific halfway powerhouse ‘I Punched a Lion in the Throat’ which slows things down just enough for you to draw breath for the final onslaught, culminating in the magnificent finale that is ‘Den Horn’. Promising. Mike Price www.pulledapartbyhorses.com Her Name Is Calla – The Quiet Lamb (Denovali Records) It’s hard to even begin describing an act such as the Leeds, York & Leicester collective that is Her Name Is Calla without using such clichéd terms as atmospheric and epic. Not that The Quiet Lamb, the band’s second full length to date, isn’t worthy of such praise, as the 12 tracks on offer here may be some of the most challenging, ambitious and accomplished efforts I’ve ever heard from a ‘local’ band. It’s just far too easy to throw around such terms when dealing with a band of this genre. Opener ‘Moss Giant’ is a clear sign of the band’s intentions. Anyone wanting a quick fix of music will be disappointed, as this five minute foray takes its time to build slowly from gentle ambience. From there on each track is its own journey – with ‘Long Grass’ and ‘Thief’ being the most memorable, alongside the endurance test that is the 17 minutes and 6 seconds of ‘Condor and River’. It would be far too naïve and sloppy to label this as pretension and over-indulgence, as there are clear ideas here that the band execute with confidence and passion. However, for all the thought that has gone in, Calla suffer an all too familiar failing of post and progressive rock genres. Running at well over an hour, my attention had wandered by the end. Whilst the closing trio of ‘The Union’ is a clever premise, each track sharing a similar Spaghetti Western feel yet remaining distinctive, it just comes across as a little bloated. Regardless, The Quiet Lamb will certainly resonate with anyone with the aforementioned
genre leanings. You can’t deny the musicianship on display, and although it may not be the most instantaneous album, with time, and numerous plays The Quiet Lamb slowly shows its teeth. Tom Bailey www.hernameiscalla.co.uk www.denovali.com
Sky Larkin – Kaleide (Wichita) “I know there’s potential!” are the first words out of singer Katie Harkins’s mouth on this, Sky Larkin’s second full length CD, announcing from the off that it’s business as usual for a band increasingly displaying all the signs of being, one day soon, very big indeed. So, business as usual means a succession of irrepressibly bright and punchy songs made up of that by now trademark mix of fantastic pop hooks and edgey weirdness that manages to defy logic, not to mention gravity, and sound (mostly) utterly fantastic. The opening brace of songs, ‘Still Windmills’ and ‘Kaleide’ itself, are a glorious collision of rushing riffs and quirky anthemic melodies that leave you breathless. What has changed is their level of self confidence and belief. Harkin’s words are even more assured and her voice excels at making the songs’ snaking and spiralling melodies such a compelling journey. More importantly, drummer Nestor Matthews and bassist Douglas Adams have turned into a powerhouse rhythm section that’s still adept at deploying light and shade to support the sometimes wild swerves of tone that pepper the arrangements. The ease with which they now deliver punch and drive means that a song like ‘Spooktacular’ simply rocks like a horny rock beast on heat.
Sometimes the pop/weird mix doesn’t work, of course. ‘Coffee Drinker’ just sounds like a collection of bits and doesn’t really gel, and although ‘Angelica Houston’ is made up of not much more than a lyric that’s a brilliant haiku-like evocation of a frozen film frame, it begins to sound a bit thin stretched over nearly four minutes. Still, these are minor quibbles. Even after the evidence of this tremendous album, I’m quite prepared to take Harkin at her word and assume that (quite incredibly) we have yet to see Sky Larkin’s full potential. Steve Walsh www.weareskylarkin.com I Like Trains – He Who Saw The Deep (Pledge Music) After having your record label fold under you, lesser bands would have tossed aside their battered Fenders and become teachers, but seeing as I Like Trains were already in the education business, all that was required was a reimaging. History is history – speculating on the apocalypse is where it’s at. Regardless of that, for all its doomladen concept of a drowned earth, He Who Saw The Deep sounds remarkably colourful. Dave Martin’s idiomatic vocals, previously sepulchral, become more dynamic, lifting slightly on a swell and running to fade, or becoming the lead in a chorus of the damned on ‘Sea of Regrets’ and ‘When We Were Kings’, or dueting with an unnamed female vocal on ‘Broken Bones’. Ironically, it adds warmth. Alistair and Simon also get a chance to unleash, with the bass leading the way on the U2 tinged ‘A Father’s Son’ and Simon’s drums setting the stormy scene for most of the album – his martial disruption of ‘Progress is a Snake’ is masterful and timely. If David acts as narrator and Simon as the plot, it is down to Guy to provide the theme of the encroaching sea, such as via
the rolling motif of ‘When We Were Kings’ and ‘We Saw the Deep’ or the ice melt tinkling of ‘Doves’. Together with various strings and chorales, it’s a marvellously constructed conceit. Though this is definitely concept album territory, this is no feast of indulgence – quite the contrary. It is the quiet understatement of our possible impending extinction – as the sauropods and dinosaurs learned before us, the top of the evolutionary tree is a dangerous place to be – sometimes too quiet to be acknowledged. Nonetheless, this is their best, most haunting and most ambitious work yet and will have you close to tears for all the right reasons. Rob Wright www.iliketrains.co.uk Under the Bus Station Clock – Various (Philophobia Music) 20 different bands. 20 different tracks. A little daunting, but when faced with this second annual compilation from the increasingly impressive Philophobia Music any doubts soon disappear. This latest offering from the Wakefield based label offers a mix of the good, the not so bad, and quite frankly, the odd. The Bambinos’ effort ‘When The Weather’s Wrong’ is the first to grab my attention; the quartet’s strikingly high - pitched vocals proving very memorable - Wild Beasts be warned. Elsewhere there’s a naive charm to Salvage My Dream’s short-lived but impactful flurry ‘Cost of Living’, likewise with Michael Ainsley’s delightfully whimsical ‘Slip Smash’. However, it is the more downbeat tracks that standout amongst an otherwise fine selection that showcases a thriving alt rock scene. St Gregory Orange’s ‘Pan Away and Fade to Black’ and Harry Rhodes’ ‘Twitching Deep and Cursing Sweet’ battle it out to be the most ambitious on offer; both sublimely produced, whilst Piskie Sits’ ‘Sweet Little Weasel’ is effortlessly cool and accomplished. Cleverly left till last is Gimp’s ‘Candid Squash’: clocking in at over eight minutes it really wouldn’t fit anywhere
else. But by that point I’m already won over. If most record labels are grateful just to have one or two hidden gems amongst dozens of would-bes, Philophobia Music can consider themselves very lucky indeed. Tom Bailey www.myspace.com/philophobiamusic
Gary Stewart Band – Boy Cries Wolf This is the debut album from Scottish singer/songwriter Gary Stewart who has made a second home for himself in Leeds these past few years. The first track ‘Travelling Song’ is a lively introduction to the Scotsman’s extensive vocal range, and fills you with optimism for the remaining nine songs. He shows an impressive nous for song-craft, cleverly combining both folk and pop without betraying his Celtic roots, which really shine through on ‘Maggie Oh’. The album also features other Leeds based folk musicians such as Ellen Smith (of Ellen & the Escapades), Sam Lawrence (Wilful Missing), Martyn Roper (The Lovesick Cowboys) and Rosie Doonan (Doonan Family Band). Their contributions to this album can’t be allowed to pass without acknowledgement, especially on the track ‘Behind the Door’ with its dark connotations delivered with impeccable heartfelt vocals. ‘In the Pines’ featuring Doonan is for me a real stand out track and will have you reaching for the repeat button to hear again its bittersweet story told with sincere depth and feeling. You do suspect influence from the likes of James Taylor or Boo Hewerdine in the way the latter structures his songs in one or two tracks, but Gary’s first album is a captivating debut that left me craving to see him live. Dan Lomas www.myspace.com/garystewartband
start it’s an energetic burst of life. Its three minutes of infectious sing-along and foot tapping is made for playing live, yet seems to carry all the same energy onto record. Middleman has definitely found a working formula with ‘It’s Not Over Yet’. Justin Myers http://middlemanband.co.uk/
S IN G L E S / E PS Blacklisters – Belt Party EP (Childhood Sweetheart records) It’s not much of a car CD: attempting to drive to Blacklisters’ latest is like driving with a screaming, retching toddler in the back seat occasionally taking a break to rip a few chunks from your hair. Makes for fucking good metal though. The EP is rough in all the right places; reminiscent of early Deftones and Norma Jean, the vocals manage to maintain that emotion and raw energy often lost in recordings. Jarring guitar work and grungy bass push that energy through while the solid apocalyptic drums keep the tracks chugging. Blacklisters pack a lot into 3 tracks, but it makes you wonder whether it would transfer as well to a full length album. Their angular, visceral style demands to be listened to and has to be played at suitably high volume. Not exactly ‘easy listening’, but worth it if you’ve got the stomach. Tim Hearson www.myspace.com/blacklisters www.myspace.com/csrecordsleeds Middleman – It’s Not Over Yet Middleman seem to be the masters of writing catchy synth driven hiphop rock songs, something we’ve witnessed in the past with tracks like ‘Good To Be Back’. The band has returned with ‘It’s Not Over Yet’ which could be considered one of their most accomplished pieces thus far. From the
Runaround Kids – No Dreams/ Falling Into Better Hands (Philophobia Music) Fresh from their appearances at this year’s Reading and Leeds festivals, propping up the BBC introducing stage amongst some of the country’s hotly tipped newcomers, you’d be forgiven for thinking this new found attention might have gone to this Wakefield trio’s heads. Thankfully not, as this double AA side proves that Runaround Kids are all business. ‘No Dreams’ is an energetic and confident display of the band’s distinctive lo-fi garage rock, with only the subtlest of hints giving away their local flavour. ‘Falling into Better Hands’ is much more direct, launching immediately into verse, before generous helpings of glorious distortion follow. It might still be early days, but it’s hard to see any reason as to why they can’t continue their growth as one of the UK’s most promising prospects. Well worthy of the chase. Tom Bailey http://www.myspace.com/ runaroundkids
Kasiuss – Kasiuss Kasiuss’ huge potential is evident throughout this debut self-titled EP. Heavy, well crafted guitar riffs intertwined with complex, pounding bass set their songs alight as they bring aspects from different genres together to create a brilliantly unique sound. Beautifully epic piano engages the listener as they showcase just how vibrant their music is. Every song on the EP is set-list material, from the lively opener ‘Underground’, which shows a clear Muse influence, to the quirky ‘No Fear’, a theatrical track with tight rhythms, catchy lyrics and a masterstroke of an ending which leaves you wanting more.
Kasiuss provide us with five very intelligent songs bursting with energy. Each song is overflowing with capability and you can imagine how well they will transfer to a live gig. There’s a very exciting future ahead for Kasiuss to look forward too. Alex Taylor http://www.myspace.com/kasiuss The Spills – Smoke Signals EP (Philophobia) They say first impressions count for a lot. Opening track ‘Fish Eye Lens’ holds its own, with a slow-paced, wailing intro, yet to get a feel for the true sound of this Wakefield quartet you need to listen further. The next four tracks stumble into wellknown indie-pop territory; nothing that won’t have graced your ears before. Head-bob inducing melodies and eccentric lyrics don’t go unnoticed, they’re just hidden behind a wall of unoriginality. Much of ‘Smoke Signals’ could be an early demo from The Cribs, whilst ‘Strangers on Trains’ is firmly stamped with the Pigeon Detectives brand. It’s clear The Spills are clutching onto some kind of
bandwagon, though whether this will be a direct ride to Successville is debatable. Stacey Dove www.myspace.com/bumthespills
L IV E I Concur/Tomorrow We Sail/Hidden Bek @ Packhorse, Leeds Post-Rock is generally quite a beardy genre. Indeed, the Pack Horse’s somewhat cramped performance space was patronised by a pleasing number of bearded gentlemen ready for an evening of slow nodding and spacey instrumentals. Hidden Bek was the first to take the plunge with an admirable display of musicianship and a ton of atmosphere. Clearly a band with an ear for dynamics, the boys manage some massive feel shifts aided by particularly loose but accurate drumming. Variety in the form of an out of place, thrashy breakdown was a bit lost in the Pack Horse’s unforgiving sound mash but other than that, a solid set. Tomorrow We Sail then head to the stage armed with more effects pedals than I’ve had cups of tea. With a clear Sigur Rós influence punctuating the set though, TWS don’t fail to get necks loosening. There are a few really nice moments when the music strips away to reveal some particularly pleasant guitar-viola interplay or vocal harmony, but a slight lack of confidence stop these moments from being brilliant. Heartfelt and folky. I Concur finally step up to the plate to prove why they are the headline band. Their set is tight, ballsy and confident even in the face of minor technical difficulties, saved by a touch of awkward banter. A massive range of influences (Bloc Party, Smashing Pumpkins, Explosions in the Sky) makes the music hard to describe but familiar enough not to alienate. Despite introductions, I’ve still no idea what they were singing about (the Packhorse proves to be a bitch when it comes to sound) which is
a shame because from what I’ve heard I Concur have some of the most intriguing lyrics on the scene. The instrumental stuff stays balanced though and is compelling enough to keep you on board, even if you just catch a word now and then. Definitely an entertaining band to watch with a sound as subtle as it is energetic. Tim Hearson Sky Larkin/Dutch Uncles/Wingman @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds So, for some unexplained reason, regular Wingman drummer John can’t make the gig, so bassist Dan switches to drums, old mate Whiskas helps out by learning all the bass parts in three days, and singer/guitarist Harry is used to this kind of mayhem because he plays in several other bands anyway so what do a few more new faces matter. The music is loose (possibly a bit looser than normal) and nervy punk-pop, that stands up and punches back in a beery, matey kind of way. But tonight, they winged it (arf). Mancunian quintet Dutch Uncles play what used to be known as math-rock, although the ferocious intensity and fiendish complexity of the playing and songs suggest they’re keen to take it to another level entirely (algebra-rock?). What saves it from being one big boast in technique is the thumping tangential funk of the rhythm section and singer Duncan Wallis’s oddly child - like voice. The songs are so wound - up they don’t so much stop as seem to fall off the edge of something. Latest LP Kaleide suggests that triumphant home - coming headliners Sky Larkin are on the cusp of developing into that rare thing, a successful band that play genuinely innovative pop music. One feature of the new album is the increased level of attack Nestor and Douglas now deliver on drums and bass respectively. Unfortunately, the first third of the gig was scuppered by a soupy sound as the soundman seemed to struggle to mesh the careering noise with Katie Harkins’s vocal stylings. All of which means that the light and shade that is the root of what sets the band apart from lesser outfits was largely
absent. Fortunately, the best songs from Kaleide, like the title track, ‘Spooktacular’, ‘Landlocked’, ‘Still Windmills’ and ‘Shade By Shade’, benefited and mostly occupied the second half of the set when the sound had righted itself. A gig of two halves, Brian, with all that that implies. Steve Walsh
The Pattern Theory/Yonderboy/ Juffage @ The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds Never before has a gig left me feeling so strange, questioning all the music I‘d ever heard, the gigs I’d attended and what the hell I was listening to. Opening act Juffage did just that. Here was one man surrounded by a set up looking something like a kleptomaniac roadie’s garage, a mix of drums, pedals, cassettes and guitars. The integration of such instruments, with what I am sure was a smoke alarm sound thrown in somewhere, created a musical mental breakdown, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Juffage’s musical curiosity, eclectic use of sound and diverse instrumentation puts him squarely in the experimental genre, but his style is so far out of the box, he’s created his own. In a major contrast to the evening’s opener, Yonderboy took to the floor. To begin with, there was a sense of mellow familiarity that was initially difficult to shake - a definite influence by The Smiths. A few songs in and this soon escalated into upbeat melodies that got the Brudenell crowd moving. Vivid vocals and folky riffs combined with attractive lyrics that created songs which I kept humming the entire journey home and it clearly showed throughout the whole set that these guys love performing the music they’re making.
Before headliners The Pattern Theory had even played a note, their army of fans swarmed forward. Usually an indicator of good things to come and I was not proven wrong. Captivating from the beginning, their rich use of harmonious melodies sounds effortless, without the need of saturation by backing tracks and demanding vocals. Whichever venue you see The Pattern Theory at, and I strongly recommend that you do, their raw talent will take you somewhere else on an enchanting musical journey. Stacey Dove Pantha Du Prince/ worriedaboutsatan @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds I’ve been looking forward to seeing worriedaboutsatan live once more after first stumbling upon their glorious, earsplittingly loud, chiropractor-inducing performance at last year’s splendid Brainwash Festival. However, I hadn’t planned on a very close shave with a (possibly) stolen car on the way to tonight’s gig holding me up as long as it did, resulting in me only catching the tail end of their set. When I did eventually arrive, I was surprised to see only 50 or so people enjoying the duo’s down tempo electronic delights, leading me to ponder the question: is this duo the best kept secret in Leeds? What I did see of them confirmed that their top draw live show is no one-off as they quietly went about their business delivering impeccable nuggets of electronica from their fine debut long player Arrivals, whilst bent double over their array of electronic gadgetry. Next time I hope they bring a can of Ralgex. The main event, Hamburg’s Hendrik Weber, aka Pantha Du Prince, enjoys a more sizeable audience as 200 punters gather in eager anticipation, although I find it a tad baffling that so many Brudenell acts choose to play in front of the stage instead of on it - surely any fledgling band will gain more confidence this way. Nevertheless, despite a slow-ish start, our noodlemeister steadily builds up his set, largely consisting of tracks
from his wonderfully crisp new album ‘Black Noise’ and not surprisingly, the audience lap it up as the blanket of dry ice thickens towards the set’s climax. Mike Price
Sister Mantos/The Bacchae/Pifco/ Traitors/Trevy Trevwa @ The Royal Park Cellars, Leeds Trevy Trevwa began the proceedings with some space age electro concocted in the woods of the American Midwest. Atmospheric vocals made what could have been a mundane set an interesting start to an eclectic evening. Traitors, formed by ex-members of Shut your Eyes and You’ll Burst Into Flames, The FF’er’ and Wintermute, combined disco keyboards, heavy guitars and howling vocals to produce something that sounds like Foals might if someone really pissed them off. A fairly new band, they need time to develop. Pifco are a two-piece who fall towards the heavier side of indie dance. Their music is well structured and energetic, although the vocals were almost swallowed up by the instruments and turned into a wail. They had the air of a band comfortable with the fact that they have got the formula right. That may well be so, but there’s nothing exciting about formulaic music. The Bacchae produce the sort of thundering garage rock that makes you want to behave badly. They set the walls shaking as they thrashed their instruments with an energy that was utterly infectious. The vocals could have been stronger but this was a tiny flaw in a set that oozed spirit. Soon to be reincarnated as Black Moth, they seem as excited as kids at Christmas about what’s next for them - so am I. The night was closed by Sister Mantos and like something catapulted into LS6
from the Mighty Boosh, this threesome from LA sent the crowd into a state of shock. Costumes involved full face visors, gold spandex, and one man decked out in a leotard and foliage. Their soundtrack is psychedelic disco with a spirit of invention pushed to its absolute limit. They won’t be for everyone, but it’s an experience I would personally recommend. Jess Wallace Limetree Festival, Limetree Farm, Grewelthorpe, North Yorkshire After witnessing some real quality live music at last year’s Moor Music Festival, I’m delighted to have been able to check out the middle day of this year’s Limetree, another of Yorkshire’s fringe music festivals. There’s one main outdoor stage (Green Man) plus two supporting marquees (Jason Rae and Queerinspace stages), all of which have a variety of live music throughout each day, or so I think. Unfortunately, having grabbed a copy of the event guide I end up spending most of my day flitting between largely forgettable funk/soul outfits who still think it’s 1993 (anyone remember acid jazz?), together with the omnipresent Urban Gypsies dancing in front of each stage. Luckily there are some notable exceptions, such as the infectiously catchy country rock quintet Ahab, who’ve got a bunch of nicely crafted tunes, harmonise pretty well and go down a storm on the main stage in the early evening sunshine. Next up are another surprisingly assured outfit, Extra Curricular, sounding like they should be from Wandsworth but actually hailing from Huddersfield. The band are actually more like a collective as I count no fewer than nine band members on stage including an MC, two further vocalists, five other band members and a DJ. They really engage with the crowd during their chilled out set of urban sunshine R&B fused with Hip-Hop, and the audience gleefully respond. I was fortunate to see a 3-piece Rodina perform a soothing acoustic set at Leeds’ Royal Park Cellars last autumn and this time she has a full band
behind her on the Queerinspace stage and admittedly it’s a tight squeeze. However, the plugged in-sound really helps bring her carefully crafted songs to life and it’s a lovely intimate experience, albeit completely different to last time. As the evening progresses, bands are replaced by DJ sets from the likes of Utah Saints (great) and Craig Charles (er, missed that, was still grooving to the Utah Saints) although the James Taylor Quartet ended proceedings on the main stage with aplomb. Overall one feels that the quality and variety of the acts could be better although I can’t vouch for the other two days. Mike Price www.limetreefestival.co.uk Middleman/Mickey P Kerr/The WindUp Birds @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds The Wind-Up Birds opened the launch with music that screamed 70s punk with just a nod to spoken word. Their best song of the night, ‘There Won’t Always Be an England’, was lyrically inspired and easy to relate to. Though some material was repetitive and predictable, the stronger songs had more variety of tempo and dynamics. The second support act, Mickey P Kerr, began with hilarious banter. Unfortunately, he was dogged by memory lapses that stilted the flow of his material - disappointing after the promising start. Despite this he maintained a good rapport with the audience. Middleman are exciting and refreshingly unique; I dare you to pin them down to one genre. With catchy riffs and an explosion of celebratory performance, it’s impossible to sit on your arse whilst they’re playing. New single ‘It’s Not Over Yet’ has brilliantly rhythmic lyrics, shaped on stage to a rumpus of tight basslines and drum beats, mixed with delicious synth and guitar melodies. The wide range of influences shown in each band member’s lively stage presence and the surprising vocal harmonies in the choruses make this song so much stronger. This is a band that is confident and delivers high class
entertainment and song writing. I just wish the set was longer - there would definitely be demand for more. Daisy Taplin
VI BR ATI O NS T O P PI CKS No, not referring to a collection of nose gremlins, but a selection of shouldnot-be-missed live events in the next couple of months. Mmm, wholesome. Dinosaur Pile-Up The Cockpit 27 October Leeds’ hotly tipped grungy types round off a UK tour promoting debut album Growing Pains with a (probably) incendiary home turf gig. Ellen and The Escapades Brudenell Social Club, 4 November After a summer spent gathering (probably) lots of fans in a series of high profile festival appearances, Ellen and the boys touch base. Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Various venues, Huddersfield 19-28 November Awesome annual collection of cutting edge music from across the more esoteric corners of the musical landscape. Contemporary classical, sound art, jazz, improvisation and the occasional blast of noise jostle side by side in this unique, internationally celebrated event. Scaramanga Six & World Sanguine Report Santiago’s, Leeds, 20 November Huddersfield’s flamboyant scuzz rockers square up against wild improv vocalist Andrew Plummer’s band containing some of Leeds and London’s finest contemporary jazz musicians. This gig will be astonishing. Brainwash Festival Brudenell Social Club and Royal Park Cellars, 22 – 24 October
Fifth incarnation of what is becoming the pick of the crop in home grown Leeds festivals. Staggeringly good, genre hopping line up across three nights, hosting some of the the best bands from Leeds and other local scenes across the country, as well as a juicy smattering of international acts. I mean, Melt Banana!?!?!? Vessels Brudenell Social Club, 12 November Leeds finest post rockers will no doubt showcase material from their long anticipated second album. Constellations Festival Leeds University, 15 November The stars will indeed be out Les Savy Fav, Los Campesinos! and Broken Social Scene headline this brand new winter blues chasing festivals. Also expect appearances from Leeds’ own Chickenhawk, Spectrals and Runaround kids to complete a day of stellar entertainment. Tommy Evans’ Green Seagull Wakefield Sports Club, 15 October New project for Leeds College of Music alumnus drummer and composer Evans, featuring members of his ‘other’ band, the formidable IDST, and a trio of singers. Intriguing and (quite possibly) amazing. Part of the Wakefield Jazz Autumn season.
Higher Ground, Smokestack, Leeds, every Wednesday, 10:00pm till late New club night majoring on funk, soul and Motown at this small but perfectly formed bar that extends the menu of supercharged dance already covered by existing nights Harlem Shuffle on Friday and Rootdown on Saturday.
Yes, it’s the reviews column that reads like a list of cryptic crossword clues complied by Mike Price! Bang Bang Romeo – Little Love Forgettable ‘80s synth-rock trio fronted by Carol Decker sound-a-like. ‘Little Love’ sounds like something Sam Fox rejected 25 years ago. Sketches – Bleed Victoria Choppy guitar driven indie rock. Catchy yes, but perhaps the quartet should try less hard to sound like Killers lite. Hollie Sheard & Friends – By Hook Or By Crook Slick sounding soul tinged pop from this Leeds based singer songwriter. Should go down a storm on daytime Radio 2. The Red Pills – EP Demoesque quality Doctor Who inspired garage-rock. Not as good as it sounds and still far from being the finished article. Man Is Slapped – Socially Inept EP Surprisingly assured, future sounding and lyrically challenging dreamy synthpop from one-man gadget factory. Bit of work, could be pretty good. The Finnlys – Waiting Game A free download, this is spiky guitar pop from a young Leeds four piece. Think Pete Wylie meets Joe Jackson. Bearfoot Beware – The Love Life of Trevor Bennett Slightly bonkers garage-indie. Cartoon vocals, kung-fu guitar, clever lyrics. Anyone rhyming “lifestyle” with “dotcom profile” is alright in my book.
The Vaudeville Class – Devil at My Door Fuzzy proto-metal guitars front this barroom brawl of a number sounding like White Stripes playing at a bare knuckle fight. Albert Ross & the Otters– She Loves Me Not Barroom blues meets music hall resulting in a foot tapping boogiewoogie that gets under your skin pretty quickly. A blast. The 99s –Oh Me Oh My Less is definitely more according to this trio. Simple melodies, nice harmonies, short snappy songs, catchy as hell. Nice work. The Whatevers - Twisted Romance Little nuggets of bittersweet pop from this Ripon boy/girl duo. Early Super Furrys meets Belle and Sebastian via Wannadies. Wistful. Cotheria – I Know I’m Wrong Axe murderer vocals, twin guitars (one crunchy, one squealy), road drill bass drums, lots of facial piercings. Get the picture? Jokerz – Denial Hull based trio pick up where Amorist leave off although with a punkier, funkier edge. Still highly derivative stuff though. Radio Gypsy – Little Wings More Killers aping from this York based quintet, although they redeem themselves somewhat with the occasional unexpected time change mid-song. Joe Solo – Forwards is Just Backwards in Reverse Sparse, down-at-heel, politically
charged country-folk crossover featuring ex-Lithium Joe stalwart and veteran local performer. Soothing, apart from recycled song titles. The Commune of Rochefourchat – Album Singer Matt Flint recruited a clutch of musicians to bring his gentle, quirky, very English pop songs to life. Interesting. Laurence Son – EP Spoken word and lo-fi blues combine here to make Seasick Steve sound hi-tech. Populator – EP Geeky, urgent, electro-pop. The missing link between Depeche Mode and Hot Chip? Bit samey in places, rather good in others. People in Jars – EP Expansive, ambitious sounding post-rock from Leeds wannabe gimps highlighting the plight of the residentially challenged in their hometown. Most uplifting. Scott Wainwright – Every Man Has His Critics Genre defying nonsense from our eponymous hero who sounds like a kidnapped busker in a roller disco. Possibly Wakefield’s Beck. Curari – 1992 Female fronted hard rocking Barnsley quartet deliver a clutch of sincere but largely uninspiring power pop. Danny Laycock - The Exciting New Sound of... Haven’t the faintest what this sounds like as it wouldn’t play on my machine. Good thing or bad? You decide....
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:
0161 236 1764 www.themu.org.uk email@example.com
Published on Sep 30, 2010
Bi-monthly print music magazine covering bands in Leeds, and West Yorkshire (UK) featuring Wot Gorilla, Kath and the Mighty Menace, Richard...