INTERVIEW: The Blackheart Orchestra

INTERVIEW:

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The Blackheart Orchestra

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THE award-winning songwriters, composers and multi-instrumentalists…

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Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington are The Blackheart Orchestra. The guys are currently touring in Germany and have a load more dates coming - as we, slowly, head into 2018. They talk about their upcoming dates and what we can expect from them next year. I ask about their latest single, Born to Live, and how they manage to fuse Classical elements with sounds of the 1980s. The guys explain how they manage to create a fulsome sound on stage; the music they grew up listening to – and whether they have time to rest this Christmas!

I discover the magic and sound that goes into The Blackheart Orchestra’s immense and symphonic sound; how they got together; how their home-city, Manchester, affects their drive and creativity – a few new artists we need to investigate.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi, we are great, thanks.

Our week has been great. We are currently on tour in Germany - so every city, every venue and every day is an adventure at the moment.

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

We are a multi-instrumentalist duo from Manchester. People say we are quite unique because we fuse acoustic and electric instrumentation with vintage synth sounds and percussion - and mix 1980s Pop textures with Classical.

Artists that we most often get compared to are Kate Bush, Pink Floyd; Florence and The Machine and the Cocteau Twins.

Born to Live is out now. What can you reveal about the track and its origins?

The track was written after going through a pretty emotional time: it is all about fighting back.

There are Classical influences and a nod to the 1980s. Did you grow up around quite a varied array of music? 

Very much so...

Between the two of us, we have vastly different musical backgrounds and tastes - there probably isn’t one artist or one album that we both share. It could have ended in the biggest crash and the shortest-lived band of all time - but, actually, our diversity has enriched everything we do and, by putting such odd ingredients together, we try to create new never-tasted musical flavours (which people seem to like).

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I am interested learning how The Blackheart Orchestra got together. When was that moment the band formed?

We actually met in a rehearsal space in Manchester.

Something just seemed to click instantly and, before we knew it, our first album had written itself - and we had a tour lined up.

You are mistaken for an eight-piece act (when people hear you)! You change instruments and have a range of sounds at your disposal. Is it hard keeping a track and producing such a big sound?!

We both play over six instruments each and really enjoy having so many instruments and sounds at our fingertips on stage. It feels like second-nature to us now but I guess, when you stop and think about what we are doing, our performance is like a huge choreographed dance. Every single sound is played live and we move from one instrument to another mid-song; sometimes with each of us playing two instruments at the same time. 

Louder than War recently reviewed a concert and described our stage as “An Aladdin’s Cave of a laboratory for the evening for them to conduct their sound experimentation” – but, to us, it’s just the norm to chop-and-change throughout the set. It would feel incredibly odd now to just play a guitar or piano throughout a whole set.

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Your music has, already, gained plaudit and fond focus. How does that make you feel?!

We are incredibly proud to have so many people all over the world listening to, and writing, great words about what we do.

To have our own musical heroes, who we grew up listening to and are learning from, contact us calling our music “inspiring” is just mind-blowing.

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Manchester is where you are based. What is the city like when it comes to fostering new artists?

To be honest; it doesn’t feel like we are based anywhere: we have spent most of our time together touring in many countries. But, Manchester has always been a vibrant city full of music with no shortage of places to play - and new talent blooming everywhere.

Is there going to be some more material coming in 2018? 

We have spent most of 2017 touring to promote our new album, Diving for Roses, which was released back in May - but we find being on the road is our most fertile writing environment. We have somehow managed to write the next album so, as soon as we get some downtime, we plan to get into the studio.

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IN THIS PHOTO: This Is the Kit

Which new artists do you recommend we check out?

Oh; there’s just so many - but artists that we are enjoying listening to on tour are This Is the Kit, Eivør, Kiasmos and The Great Park.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Kiasmos

Are there any tour dates coming up?

When we come to the end of our tour of Germany, we are almost done for 2017. We have a few remaining dates in the U.K. in early-December.

Nov 20: BERLIN - Oblomov (Germany)

Nov 23: BERLIN - Culture Container

Nov 24: BERLIN - UnterRock

Nov 25: HOYERSWERDA Speicher No 1

Nov 26: DRESDEN - Wulbert's

Dec 2: SLEAFORD - Pickworth Hall (U.K.)

Dec 7:  MANCHESTER - The Cedar Room

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Then, we have a full U.K. tour planned for Feb/March, 2018 dates. So far, the dates are...

Feb 5: HAWICK - String Theory

Feb 15: CAMBRIDGE - CB2

Feb 18: BIRMINGHAM - Kitchen Garden Cafe

Feb 23: WIGAN - The Old Courts

Feb 24: STROUD - Under the Edge Arts Centre

Mar 2: MANCHESTER - 3 Minute Theatre

Mar 17: SOUTHAMPTON - The Art House

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If you each had to select the album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Chrissy: This is such a difficult question! I think mine would have to be Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette

The album is just so raw with emotion…from rage to fragility; it’s such a perfect depiction of how creating music can be so cathartic.

Rick: Disraeli Gears by Cream

I bought it by accident when I was eleven-years-old (I bought it for the cover I had no idea who Cream were). It started my musical journey and taught me how to play guitar.

 What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Be yourself: everyone else is taken..."

I can’t remember who said that - but it is so true. I guess we can’t help but take influence from everything that we hear/see/experience, but it is expressing your own unique voice or view in your own way that makes it your own personal property (and your Art).

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Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

Christmas is our downtime - so we plan to be still! 

What is The Blackheart Orchestra planning for 2018? What do you hope to achieve by this time next year?

We seem to have gained a lot of momentum with Diving for Roses so I think the aim is to continue to build and get our music to as many ears and hearts as possible. We hope to have a new record ready next year, too - so it’s all exciting times ahead. 

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Chrissy: Petrichor by Keaton Henson

Rick: Silver Blue by JD Souther

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INTERVIEW: Rachael Yamagata

INTERVIEW:

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Rachael Yamagata

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SINCE unveiling her album, Tightrope Walker, it has been…

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pretty hectic and busy for Rachael Yamagata. I speak to the U.S.-based artist about plans for new material and what we can expect. Yamagata is from Virginia but based in Woodstock, New York. She discusses the music scenes there and the artists she is influenced by; what she has planned for next year – and how her music has developed and progressed through the years.

Yamagata is in the U.K. and bringing her music to the British audiences. She played Salford last night and prepares to captivate Edinburgh tonight. If you have the chance to see the incredible American in the flesh – there is time to catch her as she makes her way through the country (hitting the Islington Assembly Hall on Tuesday).

PHOTOS: Laura Crosta

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Hi, Rachael. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi, there. Very good, thanks.

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

I’m a Woodstock, N.Y.-based artist who has been writing and performing songs for seventeen years. I began my music career in Chicago and have spent time on RCA Records, Warner Bros. Records - and now an independent artist working with Thirty Tigers

My songs are heartache and tonic for a weary, yet inspired, soul. I love cats.

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Tightrope Walker was released earlier in the year. How has the reaction been? What was it like recording the album?

Folks have been really enjoying this record...

It’s new territory for me: more blatantly optimistic, but with a darker, more radical production sense. It’s the first record I’ve truly produced and we went to town with unique sounds – drumming on metal ladders; tracking rain and Moogs, horns and strings; French spoken-word etc. 

We recorded nearly everything in my house - so the vibe was very organic and experimental.

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You worked with a few other artists on the record. Who was the most memorable to record with?

We created a bit of a hive among us and had many nights filled with group dinners and fires in the backyard. Many of the musicians have come out on tour with me previously - so it felt like we were on the road again.

My sound engineer, Pete Hanlon, engineered the record and is a genius with lush soundscapes; Zach Djanikian, Owen Biddle and Kevin Salem are also long-time collaborators that brought unique flavors to the album. John Alagia co-produced with me and we have a long history of working together.

I remember him fondly as wearing his winter hat and overcoat inside when our heat went out. We made it through!

Tightrope Walker followed (2011’s) Chesapeake. How do you think the two albums differ?

Chesapeake was an emotional release – a spastic celebration really of going independent. It was very collaborative with many of my previous producers involved. We holed up in a house on the Chesapeake Bay during the summer and made our own summer camp. Most songs were tracked together - and it was very in the moment. 

Tightrope Walker had a bit more of a preconceived vision of mine intertwined in it. A lot of the demos I tracked had parts already mapped-out – but, mostly, I had a different idea of sonics that I wanted to integrate into each track.

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Is there going to be new material coming up?

Yes.

This winter I plan to do more recording. I’ve written a slew of new songs and am just wrapping up my tours to give myself time to record.

Tell me about the artists you grew up with. How influential were your parents and their tastes?

My parents introduced me to a lot of the singer-songwriters of the 1970s... 

I was really drawn to a great storyteller who could paint a picture and evoke emotion with words and melody. I loved Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens; Elton John, Ricki Lee Jones and Paul Simon…in college, I sang in a band (Bumpus) and those guys introduced me to Nina Simone, Tom Waits; Sly and the Family Stone…

Later on, I would discover Jeff Buckley, Led Zeppelin and Rufus Wainwright. I think I’m influenced by artists all over the map - but it always comes back to a good story.

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Virginia is where you are based. What is the scene like there? What is the music like?

I’m actually based in Woodstock, N.Y. - but I was born in VA. Woodstock is a wealth of great artists with a lot of history to the town of course. It was the home of The Band, Bob Dylan and so many others. I think the community is a great hotspot for creativity and new music. 

A lot of artists recognize the magic of area - and come up and stow away to write and create.

You have Japanese and German roots. How does your heritage and background inspire your music?

I think growing up with a multitude of cultural influences opened me to the connectivity of humans across differences. I’m fascinated by what connects us through our human struggles - and how it defies any preconceived notions of how we are separate.

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You are in the U.K. to do a series of gigs. What was the reason for coming here? Have you played in the country before?

Yes. I’ve done several tours of the U.K. before, but they’ve been spread out over many years. I’m trying to return as much as I can to really serve the fans here. Live performance is such a special thing - and it offers a unique connection to the audience that I love.

Do you plan on seeing sights and having a wander when you are travelling around Britain?

I hope so...

A lot of tours involve travel during the day and full schedules - but we fit in as much as we can.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Diane Birch

Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

I love Emily King, Lucas Nelson; Emily Kimble, Keren Ann; Diane Birch, The Milk Carton Kids

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If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

Joni MitchellBlue

Her melodies are so expansive that I always think there is some huge production behind her - and am mystified that it’s often only one instrument and her voice. It reminds me how much space can be filled with a great song.

Rufus Wainwright Poses

Magical chord progressions; insane harmonies (and just) more magic (magic, magic).

Carole King Classic

To-the-point. Concise, gorgeous simplicity.

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Think out of the box. Connect. Follow your crazy ideas - and be true to yourself.

Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

Family-time, for sure.

I’ve been on the road consistently for three years straight, and it’s time…

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name any song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Ballad of the Sad Young MenRoberta Flack

It’s insanely long - but will rip the heart to shreds (in a good way).

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TRACK REVIEW: Gelato - Breaking the Spell

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Gelato

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PHOTO CREDIT: @movementartliam  

Breaking the Spell

 

9.1/10

 

 

Breaking the Spell is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/gelatomusic/breaking-the-spell

GENRES:

 Rock; Alternative

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

9th January, 2017

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The E.P., Weird, is available via:

https://open.spotify.com/album/0hpRvlItxQYCMVcxGkQKjJ

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THIS outing marks a bit of a departure…

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but it is going to have some consistency. I shall come to talk about the guys of Gelato but, before I move on, some recommendations for the guys. They, as I will address, a modern band that will inspire so many other artists. I want to talk about Rock and the way it is coming back; those artists who have the potential to move beyond London; how important gigging is – and the bands taking advantage of it – how certain modern acts are inspiring the new breed; where Gelato could head in 2018; the way they, like their finest peers, develop between releases; the future of music and the artists that can ensure years from now. Like yesterday’s review – where I was given some explanation as to the brevity of images – I will take the same task up with Gelato. The guys are not the least attractive boys you will see, so it would be nice to see their face out there more. I will drop my endless campaign for visual representation but, once more, it is a subject that almost saw my look elsewhere for reviews. I will not labour the issue too much but it is paramount we disimpact the problem surrounding shyness and rarity. Yesterday, when it came to my review, the reason there were so few current photos was because the label/artists wanted to bring more photos out upon the release of the new E.P. It got me thinking about modern music and how the listener is spoon-fed information. Listeners and fans browse social media and will be looking for artists to follow. For me; I am seeking reviews and will only consider artists that have a collection of modern and older images. It seems baffling music/releases have become such a campaign and meticulous plan. I know the guys of Gelato are not like that: they are less precise and prefer to release their music with less rigidity. They do not have that stringent – and rather egregious – approach to images and exposure.

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I will touch more on this issue but, before then, an urging to the boys to spend some cash next year getting some more snaps up there. At the moment, they have a few shots but there are not that many high-quality snaps that one can discover. The reason I said this review was a departure is for two reasons: for one, the music I am reviewing has been out for quite a few months; the second relates the exception I am making for the band. I am, going forward, not reviewing artists I have assessed before – this is the second time I have featured Gelato – and, when it comes to photos; I am being a lot more stringent and hard. The band has a great look and sense of confidence so I would like to see an array of images for the guys next year. It is not a criticism but a way they can get their music to new markets. The guys have had a busy year and there are some great live shots on their pages. I am confident they will have a triumphant year. One of the ways they can get their music/name to international audiences is getting more photos shot. It will be more appealing to journalists and shows they are keen to get themselves promoted and visible. Maybe their endless touring and hard graft has meant there is little time to get in front of the camera and get themselves shot – let’s hope they set aside time to release new images in the New Year. I will move on to all the positives soon but, right now, I want to talk about release schedules, Actually, when looking at Gelato, they are the antithesis of the calculated and marketed artists who have their music released at exact moments – to make the biggest impact. I have alluded to artists – who have come my way – where I am asked to release reviews on precise days (and interviews); there are a few images for each campaign; new images not released until the next release/campaign. 

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I am worried there is too much business and marketing in modern music. I understand the need to get the music out there and make sure it hits hard. If every stage and avenue is slowly fed and planned precisely; it means music is too serious and lacks the naturalness one desires. I love musicians – like the artist I featured yesterday – but was annoyed there were only a few photos; the only way new ones were coming would be with a new release. One of the amusing things about this review is the fact the E.P., Weird, is nearly a year old. I can’t remember when the guys approached me to review their new music – it must be a few months ago now. What I admire is they are not with a label/agency that is too concerned when the music is reviewed. There are no strict deadlines and, as you can tell from the dates/review; the music I am featuring has been out there for a while. It would seem rather if a proper-good Rock band were that business-minded and organised. I love the loose approach of Gelato and wonder, as I review their latest material, what they are planning now. The guys have a fantastic sound but I am curious – before I come to my next point – how they can get more fans. Their Twitter numbers are not too bad but, to me, they warrant a lot more attention. Maybe getting involved with Spotify playlists and hooking up with other artists there – making playlists with other bands who will, in turn, reciprocate the gesture. Maybe contacting venues and radio stations and getting their music played. The band have been busy performing and getting their music to the people. Another aim for 2018 will be getting those social media numbers up and putting the feelers out. Gelato have a terrific sound and, like like-minded Londoners such as Duke of Wolves, they are creating music that is pushing Rock forward.

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I would like the guys to hit a four-figured Twitter following next year; get more bodies into their Facebook; get their music heard on stations like BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 Music. Maybe they have been featured here before but, as they aim and dream of 2018, those would be realistic goals. If they combine all of this – and get some more photos up – they will mark themselves as a force to be reckoned with. I shall return to some more backseat-management in the conclusion but the reason I do is because I know how good the band is – I would not bother hectoring an artist if I felt they were unworthy of that energy. I have been a little harsh and cold on Rock this year. The mainstream is the platform for bands/artists and, if the ‘best-of-the-best’ is not up to scratch; that enforces your opinions on everything else. I know there are some stunning bands like IDLES emerging: one of the best bands in the country who are melting Punk and Rock together into something unique and fascinating. The mainstream Rock scene has been a bit patchy this year. On the one hand; there have been fantastic releases from Queens of the Stone Age (Villains) and IDLES (Brutalism). I consider those albums the strongest Rock/Alternative offerings from this year. There has been some much-hyped and potentially promising L.P.s from Foo Fighters, Royal Blood and The Amazons. The latter is a newer band who were tipped for big things – before they unveiled their eponymous debut. Royal Blood took an eternity following up their self-titled debut – the resultant How Did We Get So Dark? impressed some but, for me, failed to move on from their debut; it provided fewer gems and left me feeling aggrieved. The same could be said of Foo Fighters who have endured through the decades but are long past their best. I am seeing some better artists in the underground.

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I have mentioned IDLES – lest I compare them to Jesus – but they have resurrected a faith in me. I know there are fantastic newer Rock/Indie bands like Duke of Wolves, REWS and IDLES. The first two are less-heard-of and are making big strides right now. Even if the most-spotlighted and promising Rock bands in the underground are from London: there are plenty further north who will make a big step in 2018 (maybe the media will be slower getting up that way and giving them their dues). Gelato remind me, in a way, of Queens of the Stone Age and Muse. They have the grumble, desert crawl and concrete of Queens’; they have epic strings and the bombast of Muse – perhaps a little more concentrated and concise than Matt Bellamy’s outfit. Weird is an E.P. that moves on from Gelato’s previous material and adds new threads. They have not abandoned their hallmarks and core but have stepped out of the shadow of Queens of the Stone Age and creating more of an identity. I am determined to get Rock put into the forefront next year. I feel there are too many who assume the genre is dead and past its best days. Some of the mainstream examples have not helped this point: the need to get the best of the underground into the fray is essential. Other genres are taking glory so it seems essential Rock is provided oxygen and proper respect. Gelato are one of those bands who is taking steps in the capital and getting their faces out there. They have recently played with Duke of Wolves and getting a lot of buzz from crowds. I feel, when the guys release more material, they will get a lot of demand from other parts of the nation. It is great their new tracks are making impressions in London: making sure they aim for other parts of the U.K. is paramount. I know they will do this because their exciting and electric performances are thrilling London’s eager fans. I feel Gelato are a band who would love to do some international touring and take their music to nations such as the U.S. and Australia. I feel the former is a nation they can succeed in.

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I am excited seeing how the guys have moved on. Since their E.P., Daydream, they have incorporated new aspects and become more confident. I can tell the boys have gained a lot of experience from the stage and picked up assets and aspects from other acts. Their music is broader and ventures into fresh territory. It is vital artists get on the road and do not spend too much time on social media. Maybe Gelato need to spend a little time on social media and getting more bodies in but they are having a ball on the road right now. Their live act is exhilarating so it is no surprise they want to keep that going. What amazes me is how the guys are able to keep the energy high but learn from every performance. They do not repeat themselves and, when it comes to lyrics/sound, each E.P. is a fresh revelation. I think the reason their latest E.P. is so strong is because they put the hours in and learn from the stage. They gauge reaction to their previous material and, when the crowd reacts, they are getting ideas and guidelines for future material. I feel too many acts repeat themselves and think the public want the same thing all the time. That is a problem that has blighted bands like Royal Blood and The Amazons – too incredible live acts who have not provided too much variety and depth in their studio material. Royal Blood are one of the best live acts out there but there is something lacking on their albums. Gelato manage to create a strong live show but give a different experience on an E.P. This will inspire new artists and give them guidance. If some of Rock’s ‘best’ have created a bit of a damp smell: there is a lot more hope with the approaching breed. Gelato are among the foundations of new Rock/Alternative that have proper talent and longevity. There is more colour and interest when you hear Gelato – music that gets into all parts of the body.

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I am worried the hyped mainstream is not the best examples of the genre. By that; I mean there are too many false idols and acts that are not worth their weight in gold. If we want genres like Rock to survive and inspire; we have to spend more time heightening and discovering the true originators in the underground. Many feel IDLES were overlooked this year and did not get the nods they deserved. I feel the Bristol band will have a lot to say in 2018 and, let’s hope, they are provided adequate reward and kudos. Gelato are another band who will compel and intrigue the bands just starting out. Many bands are picking up their instruments and looking for guidance and ideas. If they are following the mainstream and acts that have created so-so albums; that will mean their career is going to be quite a struggle – unable to craft their own path and produce anything genuinely new. Let’s get out of the mindset that the commercial and mainstream are the way forward. I think the hungry and hard-working newcomers provided greater explosion and potential. I have noted how the band has progressed between E.P.s. I have been following them since 2015 and can see the evolution unfold. It would be primed for a David Attenborough voiceover: a band who have swam through the undergrowth and walked into new lands. Weird is a different beast to anything the London band has done before. I would worry if Gelato repeated themselves on their latest release – that would be a bad approach and mean their popularity would stagnate. At the moment; the guys are picking up fresh ears and getting under the radar. Next year will be a big one for them and I would not be surprised if another E.P. were to arrive. Maybe they are ready for an album because, with every year, they grow in stature and ability. They have conquered the stage and seem determined to hit arenas and big festivals in years to come. That is a possibility and something they should prepare themselves for.

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I shall move onto a cut from their latest E.P. but, before then, the way bands like Gelato can progress and sustain. I know they take a very serious approach to live performance and are gaining invaluable life-skills from the stage. I shall allude to photos and social media in the conclusion but I recommend the boys broaden their horizons and take some ideas from other artists. By that, I mean there are inventive ways they can market and promote future music. Cassettes are, oddly, coming back in and many acts are releasing music this way. If they were to think of a single after Christmas – it would be nearly a year since fresh material – they could consider ways to separate themselves from the crowd. Maybe a new way of recording on vinyl; an oldskool cassette release or an original marketing campaign. It would be good to see them continue to play in the capital but get themselves up the country – combining conventional venues with some slightly less obvious stages. Perhaps they could combine with other artists and get a female voice on one song. I know their budget is tight so they could not do anything too ambitious. There are inventive and original ways they can get their music out there. Like Queens of the Stone Age – a band they take guidance from – they could bring new instruments and sounds into the fold. The music Gelato are putting out is fantastic but, in order to get to the top of the game quicker, they need to consider some fresh elements and movements. I keep saying next year will be a big one – it really will be. Too many bands keep the same sound and do not change things up. The industry is cruel and will afford little love to those who do not provide change and promise. I shall move onto a fantastic song but some things for the Gelato guys to ponder, perhaps.

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In past days; Gelato would have gone straight into the song with teeth and menace. Here, on Breaking the Spell, there is some irony. They have rebelled and moved fromtheir past instincts and provided greater calm build on this track. The strings lightly twang and hover in the atmosphere. It has a shadow quality and a sense of romance, actually. The listener is hooked and interested by the graceful and teasing sound. It brings you in and makes you wonder whether there is an animal lurking in the shadows. Parping, coughing strings have a bit of fuzz and grumble. It is a perfect pairing with the delicate and straight aspect that introduced the song. The curiosity rises and the percussion joins the fray. Our hero is being turned upside-down and around; he is on a rollercoaster and trying to fight against oppression. One of the issues I have found with Gelato’s recording is the vocal clarity. A lot of times, the words are either buried under the composition or a little drawled. The reason I am reviewing the band is because all the layers and effect come together brilliantly. The lyrics do get a bit distorted but one can extrapolate from context. The band are one of the tightest around so it is no surprising discovering an exceptional composition and gale-force blast. The percussion is sturdy and commanding whilst guitar/bass riffing gives the track some studs and heels. It is a swaggering and chest-out song that will make the body move and get the crowds uniting. The hero switches vocals between Josh Homme-like low notes and some pure falsetto. It is a shift and contrast that gives the song restlessness and energy. Illusions and confusions swim in the mind; there is the need to break away from a life that is causing stress and tangle.

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One picks out certain words and phrases but it is the delivery and intensity coming from the front that gets under the skin. The vocal has more in common with U.S. artists than local sounds. Maybe one detects bits of Dave Grohl and Josh Homme but there is a great sense of personality from the vocal. It contains plenty of heart and fortitude; there is the need to find peace and change; some anger and snarl coming from the tongue. The teeth are out but, rather than go on the attacks; our man is making sense of things. Maybe the inspiration comes from relationships and domestic strife. I wonder whether there is a romance breaking down – or the band is addressing something broader and more universal. Few can escape and evade the funk and sass of the song. The chorus is one of the finest the band have created in their career. They have always been fine crafters of the chorus, but here, they have formulated something hypnotic but restrained. There is more composure and reflection. Rather than go for the gut and attack constantly: we get textured strings and brooding contemplation. Secrets are coming out and events have reached breaking-point. However you interpret the song; it will get into the head and compel interpretation. I was imagining the hero struggling with a relationship but trying to make his way in the world. Maybe he has his own way and dreams; society is not letting him fulfil and do things his own way. There is a lo-fi charm to the song that means its raw and granite voice remains intact. It sounds like the song is coming from the stage: too many modern Rock bands give their songs so much polish. By the end of Breaking the Spell; you go back and dig deeper into the song. Even though the words get lost in places; it is a fantastic offering from a band always growing and changing. Their E.P., Weird, is a move forward and departure from their previous work. Not as hook-driven and intense as their previous work: here, there is more maturity and complexity working away.

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It is another solid and fiery release from the Gelato crew. I have been following them since the beginning and impressed at how far they have come. A band that is not beholden to trends and the lure of commercialism. They are doing things their own way and, in doing so, inspiring other artists. Weird is a three-track E.P. I recommend you all get involved with. The guys have been playing in the capital recently and will be winding-down for Christmas. I know this year has been very busy for them but they must have plans for 2018. I know they will think of new material and I think they should up their game. That is not a commentary on their quality but it regards their social media and touring aims. They can get some more images shot and think about getting out to new audiences. I think international touring would be a possibility. Maybe getting their music to big radio stations and putting some thought into a marketing strategy. I have said how I dislike the business and over-engineered aspect of new music. Artists who release material and do it in stages are the ones I will rarely get behind. Coordinating photos and promotion is something that music can do without. There is something refreshing and compelling about Gelato. I have come to their new music rather late – their ‘new E.P.’ is quite old, now – but I admire the fact the gang are not too stressed about having reviews released at the moment of release – happy for journalists to approach their music a bit further down the line. I hope this aspect of them continues undented but there is much territory for the guys to claim next year. They have bags of talent and are one of the best new live acts in London. They are proving their worth at the moment and have the promise to get to the mainstream very soon.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @movementartliam

I hope they manage to put some new material out next year and keep the momentum hot. There are so many Rocks acts who do not change their sound and copy what is already out there. There are some familiar strands when you hear Gelato but, riding over all of it, is a unique group who are not willing to fit too easily into the conventional. There is an oddity and a strangeness that appeals the darker side of the psyche. Their riffs are meaty and the percussion slams; the strings twang and spike; the vocals have real grit and depth. I am compelled the follow the band and, whilst I will not be reviewing them again, I will ensure I keep my ears trained and eager. As we move into the next year; many will wonder whether Rock can produce the good and get into the head. This year has not been a great one for mainstream Rock. The best results have been from the underground and the newer artists. I hope the balance swings and more attention is provided to the best young hopefuls. I mentioned how IDLES were overlooked a lot: maybe that will all shift in 2018?! What I do hope is people realise there is a lot more appeal and potential in Rock/Alternative than you’d imagine. There is colour and excitement; something different and appealing – plenty to recommend, for sure. I shall wrap this up but have found myself coming back to Gelato and their E.P., Weird. It is a fantastic offering from a young act that want to remain on the scene for a very long time. If they keep releasing songs like Breaking the Spell; they have the potential to do that…

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WITH ease.

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Follow Gelato

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FEATURE: Turn Up the Volume! The Brilliant New Breed of British Female Radio D.J.s

FEATURE:

 

Turn Up the Volume!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Goldierocks

The Brilliant New Breed of British Female Radio D.J.s

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THERE are many I have had to omit from this list…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Tasty Lopez

but there is a wealth of terrific female radio talent out there. I feel, when it comes to D.J.s, there is less exposure of and spotlight on female talent. Maybe that is different in clubs and the music world but, if one looks at the major/mainstream radio stations; the majority of their members are male. I hope that changes because, as you will see from this list, their voices are incredible, essential and much-needed!

I have picked sixteen female D.J.s from the best independent and nationwide radio stations around…

PHOTOS (unless otherwise credited): Getty/Press

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Arielle Free

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Stations: Hoxton Radio; Pyro Radio

Bio:

"With her down to earth nature, Scottish TV Presenter and Radio DJ Arielle Free is one of the industry’s rising stars presenting Thursday’s 4pm6pm on Hoton Radio.

A face of the ITV family, she can currently be seen waking up the nation each weekend on ‘Scrambled.’

As a self confessed music geek, in 2015 Arielle was selected by Ministry of Sound to re-launch their radio station, taking the coveted drive time slot broadcasting live to a global audience Monday to Friday.

With her passion for new music and music festivals, Arielle seeds most of her summers hot footing it around the UK’ biggest festivals including live hosting at Glastonbury and Bestival to name but a few.

For two years Arielle was lead anchor on 4Music fronting shows “Would you rather…?”, “Feelgood Friday” and “Boxplus Live.”

Official: http://hoxtonradio.com/presenter/arielle-free/

Follow: https://twitter.com/ariellefree

Emma Conybeare

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Adrian Lee

Station: Capital XTRA

On-air: Weekdays, 2-6 A.M.

Official: http://www.capitalxtra.com/radio/shows-presenters/emma-conybeare/

Follow: https://twitter.com/EmmaCB_

Goldierocks

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Stations: Bestival FM; selector-radio.com

Bio:

"Goldierocks, AKA Sam Hall, is an international DJ and broadcaster with a celebrity following that includes Kate Moss, The Rolling Stones, Richard Branson, Larry Page, Giorgio Armani, Gordan Ramsay, Madonna and The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge (she's performed exclusively for them all).

Her weekly, award winning global new music radio show 'The Selector', which she’s presented for 8 years now, is legendary to those in the know. Broadcast in over 44 countries on FM, to over 4 million listeners a week; transmitted in China, Mexico, South Africa, Cuba, India, Spain, Malaysia, Russia & more. The Sunday Times has described it as "the most cutting-edge British music show out there." She also conceived the idea and now presents the specialist spin-off dance show ‘Selector After Dark’ also broadcast worldwide".

Official: http://www.goldierocks.co.uk/

 Follow: https://twitter.com/Goldierocks

Tasty Lopez

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Station: Soho Radio

Bio:

"Hailing from sunny Sydney, Australia, this spicy little mama has been spinning tunes, busting vocals and making beats since she was a teen. Starting in the rock’n’roll scene with her all-girl line-up Creepers, she moved onto making big bad girl electronic beats with her duo Twincest. Then moving into production, DJ’ing and other collaborations, including taking part in Karen O’s ‘Stop the Virgens’ Opera at the Sydney Opera House.

Since relocating to London this year, she has been working as a feature vocalist with international and local artists, being played on Triple J Radio, FBI Radio and BBC Radio 1 program Diplo & Friends. She has also been cooking up some exciting production and co-writing with new artists".

Official: https://www.sohoradiolondon.com/presenters/tasty-lopez/

Follow: https://twitter.com/TASTYL0PEZ

Becca Dudley

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PHOTO CREDIT: Motel Rocks

Stations: Hoxton Radio; Beats1

Bio:

"Monday’s 4pm6pm playing the best in reggae, dancehall, bashment, trap and rounding up the hottest gigs in London.

25 year old, Essex born Becca graduated from The London College of Fashion with a degree in Fashion Styling and Photography. On leaving she combined her passion for fashion with working as both an editor and stylist for FIASCO magazine, interviewing (amongst others) the legendary dub reggae artist Lee Scratch Perry.

In 2012 Becca was signed up as one of the new faces of MTV UK fronting daily news – 4 years on and she is their leading presenter. She currently hosts over 7 shows across MTV including her very own music show, Live Lockdown as well as covering worldwide music events with World Stage.

Alongside TV Becca has a passion for radio, she is a regular DJ for Apple Music’s international station Beats 1 and also presents her own specialist reggae and dancehall show on Hoxton Radio. She has launched her own brand DEADLY and will be putting on events in London with international reggae artist Protoje. As if that’s not enough you can also find Becca dj-ing reggae, dancehall and hip hop at major venues across London and the UK, spinning at festivals such as Glastonbury and supporting some of the worlds biggest reggae and dancehall artists".

Official: http://hoxtonradio.com/presenter/becca-dudley/

Follow: https://twitter.com/beccadudley

Moxie

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PHOTO CREDIT: Vicky Grout

Station: NTS Radio

Bio:

WEDNESDAY
3PM-5PM LDN

FORTNIGHTLY

"Part of the NTS family since day dot, Moxie has held her bi-weekly Wednesday show since the stations first broadcasts. Inviting esteemed guests for interviews & mixes and breaking new, unreleased music, she’s got your Wednesday afternoons covered... Tune in to hear anything from soulful house and disco to rolling techno".

Official: https://www.nts.live/shows/moxie

Follow: https://twitter.com/DJMoxie

Elspeth Pierce

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Station: Hoxton Radio

Bio:

"Elspeth Pierce hosts the Hoxton Fashion Show, Wednesdays 10am12pm and Elspeth Selects new music show Tuesdays 4pm5pm.

Style expert Elspeth has her finger firmly on the fashion pulse. She has presented all the off-court action at The Wimbledon Championships for Vogue magazine online, styled and presented live fashion events from The Clothes Show to Britain’s Next Top Model and hosted live radio shows from London Fashion Week. She is also in the thick of the action when it comes to sport having recently interviewed the New Zealand All Blacks and fronted premier league football show Betsafe Football.

As a fashion stylist and presenter, Elspeth started her career at ITV This Morning, styling models and celebs for the live shows. From there she landed a role as freelance fashion writer for Reveal Magazine and as fashion blogger to shopping centres countrywide".

Official: http://hoxtonradio.com/presenter/elspeth-pierce/

Follow: https://twitter.com/elspethpierce

Siggy Smalls

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 PHOTO CREDITLefteris S Primos

Stations: SISTER; Pyro Radio

Bio:

"Sometimes you can find her in front of the camera when she isn't modelling Siggy Smalls is either travelling up and down the UK from DJing at highstreet stores to some of Londons hottest bars and warehouses.Depending on the venue she can adapt to any style of music by reading the crowd or being on brand...and she isnt shy to switch up her sounds.. Picking up her headphones going back only 2014.. sounds mixing on radio and then moving to the open world siggy has put in the work for someone who has only been doing this for 3 years..Spinning tunes in the Rainforest in Costa Rica to the Nevada Dessert to the High Streets it's clear Siggy likes to spread her musical wings and play to whom desires! Music is clearly her passion and with her unique style she blends the sounds with her own style.. and last year was a life changing year for her when she was asked to DJ at one of the worlds biggest festival Burning Man with 80,000 people attending!"

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/siggy_smalls

Follow: https://twitter.com/sigourney_s?lang=en

Lucid Stannard

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Station: Balamii

Bio:

"Lucid Stannard is a London based DJ known for her tune selection; sewing together disco, afro, world, house and funk.

Resident of Lucy's Disco, Lucid has been spreading her wings rapidly throughout London and as far as Berlin and Croatia. Since playing at secret garden party last year, she has played for a number of well known brands and parties, including Baby G, Gottwood, Festival Number 6, Futureboogie and Percolate. Playing an array of genres from funk, jazz, disco, house, afrobeat and everything in between, it is no wonder so many people tune in to her radio shows on Balamii and Netil Radio".

Official: https://twitter.com/Balamii

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/lucidstannard

Carly Wilford

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PHOTO CREDITJack Goodman

Stations: SISTER; Dash Radio

Bio:

"Pioneering brand new tastemaker radio platform SISTER, Carly Wilford is a ground breaking presenter and DJ with boundless energy, unstoppable character and endless drive. Down to earth, warm and honest, she gets to the heart of the artists she interviews and is not afraid to push boundaries. Creator of online hub I Am Music, she uncovers the stars of tomorrow and helps them to break the tough and ever changing industry".

Official: https://carlywilford.com/

Follow: https://twitter.com/CarlyWilford

B. Traits

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Station: BBC Radio 1

Bio:

"B.Traits is a producer, DJ and radio presenter, bridging underground music from techno to jungle to house.

BBC Radio 1 Friday nights from 1 - 4am
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01lsv7b

Eclecticism. Evolution. Education. 

Three intertwining principles that form the foundation of the career of Brianna Price. A journey that has seen her relocate from British Columbia, Canada to London, England; break the UK singles chart with her rave/bass hybrid track ‘Fever’; become an established and respected radio broadcaster for BBC Radio 1 through which she vehemently champions cutting edge underground electronic music; cement her reputation as a trusted selector at countless leading music events; and most recently become an advocate for drug education within her adopted home. Underpinning all these achievements is Brianna’s passion for sounds from across the musical spectrum, and her now well documented rampant eclecticism
".

Official: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01lsv7b

Follow: https://twitter.com/BTraits

Kate Lawler

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Station: Virgin (London)

On-air: Weekdays, 1-4 P.M.

Official: http://virginradio.co.uk/kate-lawler

Follow: https://twitter.com/katelawler

Clara Amfo

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Station: BBC Radio 1

On-air: Weekedays, 10 A.M.-12:45 P.M.

Official: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b039rx03

Follow: https://twitter.com/claraamfo

Harpz Kaur

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Station: BBC Asian Network

Bio:

"Harpz currently presents the Weekend Breakfast Show on the BBC Asian Network (Saturday & Sunday’s 6am-10am). Alongside this she is a regular cover presenter for the Asian Network Breakfast Show.

Harpz is a qualified Journalist, and became a finalist at the Asian Media Awards 2014 under the “Outstanding Young Journalist Of The Year” category. She has worked with some big, household brands in the commercial industry such as BBC Radio 4, Capital FM, Metro Radio & 2BR where she acted as a News Anchor.

As well as keeping herself occupied in Radio, Harpz began her own Youtube Channel “DJ Harpz TV” – where she created a platform for her listeners to get to know her on a more visual basis. She used this channel to speak with artists within the music industry, which gave her the recognition she needed.

Before all of this, from a young age, Harpz had a goal that she wanted to achieve through her music and media expertise and set off on a journey that would consistently take her to new heights.

After persistence, commitment and determination, Harpz got her break-through and was given a slot on her local Radio Station – Fever FM. Harpz fan base grew bigger and bigger due to the success of her hard work through her shows and reaped the rewards after being offered the drive time slot, which took place every Saturday between 6pm -8pm – “The Strictly Bhangra Show”. After 4 years of commitment at the station, Harpz took on the role of being an admin at the station as well as presenting the Breakfast show twice a week".

Official: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09f2njd

Follow: https://twitter.com/HarpreetUK

Toni Coe

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Sian Anderson

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PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Blaow

Station: BBC 1Xtra

Bio:

SIAN ANDERSON IS A 25 YEAR-OLD MEDIA POWERHOUSE AND GRIME AMBASSADOR. ALONGSIDE RUNNING SIGHTRACKED WHICH IS HER OWN MARKETING AND PR COMPANY. SIAN ALSO HOLDS DOWN A SPECIALIST PRESENTER AND DJ SLOT ON BBC RADIO 1XTRA, RUNS YOUTH MENTORING PROGRAMME ONE TRUE CALLING WITH JULIE ADENUGA, AND IS A FREELANCE JOURNALIST FOR A HANDFUL OF WELL-RESPECTED PUBLICATIONS INCLUDING THE FADER, I-D MAGAZINE, RED BULL AND NOISEY (VICE).

Official: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dc11l

Follow: https://twitter.com/SianAnderson

FEATURE: “Who Runs the World…?” Incredible Female Artists to Watch in 2018 (Part III)

FEATURE:

 

“Who Runs the World…?”

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Taliwhoah

Incredible Female Artists to Watch in 2018 (Part III)

___________

AFTER this feature goes out; there is one more…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kimbra

instalment of fine female songwriters left. The point of the feature is to oxidise and celebrate the fantastic female musicians that are primed for big things in 2018. I have scoured my mind and posts and brought together, what I think, is an essential guide to the coming year. Among the feature are acts from the U.K., U.S. and Canada. There is talent from E.I.R.E. and Australia; Sweden and Malta are in there.

The final part of this rundown will continue to blend international magic and mystery. I am excited putting together these artists: names that are going to be big and celebrated next year. Ensure you check them all out and add them to your regular rotation – a fantastic listening experience and a wonderful way to spend the evening!

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Tallia Storm

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Location: London, U.K.

Genres: R&B; Soul

Official: http://www.talliastorm.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/TalliaStorm/

Pillow Queens

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Location: Dublin, E.I.R.E.

Genres: Alternative; Rock; Punk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pillowqueeens

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/pillowqueens/

The Aces

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Location: Utah, U.S.A.

Genres: Pop; Rock

Official: http://theacesofficial.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/acesmusic/

NADINE

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 PHOTO CREDITCK Goldiing

Location: London, U.K.

Genre: Alternative-Pop

Official: https://www.nadinemusic.org/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/nadinemusicofficial/

Andi

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Location: Caledon East, Canada

Genres: Alternative; Pop; Soul; Jazz; R&B; Electronic

Official: https://andimusic.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/officialandimusic/

Sarah Close

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Location: London, U.K.

Genres: Alternative; R&B; Electro-Pop

Official: http://sarahclose.co.uk/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/SAZCLOSE/

The Tuts

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Location: London, U.K.

Genres: 3-Tone; Indie; Alternative

Official: http://thetuts.co.uk/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/thetutsband/

Ashe

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Location: San Diego, U.S.A.

Genre: Vibes

Official: http://www.ashemusic.us/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/ashemusicofficial/

Hero Fisher

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Location: London, U.K.

Genres: Soul; Alternative

Official: http://www.herofisher.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/herofisher/

Sara Diamond

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Location: Montreal, Canada

Genres: Pop; Soul

Official: https://www.iamsaradiamond.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/iamsaradiamond/

Jack River

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Location: Forster, Australia

Genre: Acid-Pop

Official: http://jackrivermusic.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/jackrivermusic/

The Franklys

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Location: London/Lidköping/Milton Keynes/Guildford

Genres: Rock; Garage

Official: http://www.thefranklys.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/thefranklys/

 

Lial

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Location: London, U.K.

Genre: Alternative

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/lialmusic

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/lialmusic/

Gretta Ray

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 PHOTO CREDITLiam Pethick - Photographer

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Genres: Alternative; Indie

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/gretta-ray

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/grettaraymusic/

 

Taliwhoah

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Location: London, U.K.

Genre: R&B

Official: http://www.taliwhoah.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/Taliwhoah/

Cryptic Street

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 PHOTO CREDITMatthew Attard Photography

Location: Malta

Genres: Alternative-Rock, Post-Punk

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/cryptic-street

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/crypticstreet/

Kimbra

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Location: New York, U.S.A.

Genres: Electro; Alternative; R&B

Official: http://www.kimbramusic.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/kimbramusic/

Chess Galea

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Location: London/Surrey, U.K.

Genres: Pop; Soul

Official: http://www.chessgalea.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/chessofficial/

Pale Honey

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Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Genre: Indie-Rock

Official: http://www.palehoney.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/palehoney/

MALKA

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Location: Glasgow, U.K.

Genre: Alt-Pop

Official: http://www.malkamusic.co.uk/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/malkamakesmusic/

Ailbhe Reddy

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PHOTO CREDIT: @charlottelachaussee

Location: Dublin, U.K.

Genres: Indie-Folk; Rock

Official: http://www.ailbhereddy.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/AilbheReddy/

Julia Carlucci

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PHOTO CREDITMerik Williams Photography

Location: Ontario, Canada

Genres: Pop; R&; Neo-Soul

Official: http://juliacarlucci.com/

Follow: https://www.facebook.com/juliacarluccimusic/

INTERVIEW: Lisabel

INTERVIEW:

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Lisabel

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IT has been good getting to know the Italian-born…

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musician, Lisabel. She talks about her upbringing and coming to the U.K.; the sounds/artists that sparked her love of music; what she has planned for the future; a few new artists we should check out – and whether there are going to be any gigs before the end of the year.

I was keen to know more about her two singles, My Mister K and No More Blues I'm Free, and why she decided to release live versions of them Lisabel speaks about her styles and mix of genres; whether she is going to release any new music down the line – and the three albums that mean the most to her.

________

Hi, Lisabel. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi, Sam. I'm very good - and my week was great, thanks! How about you?

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

I'm a singer-songwriter based in London. I'm influenced by a mixture of styles like Jazz, R&B; Soul, Pop…I wouldn't know how to label my songwriting with one word, though - which, to me, is a good thing. Ahah!

Freedom...

My Mister K and No More Blues I'm Free are your two recent singles. What is the tale behind each?

I wrote those songs a few years ago - but I was waiting for the right moment to share them, publicly. They talk about new beginnings through the encounter of love.

What was the reason behind releasing the tracks as live videos? Was it a more natural and expressive mode of performance?

I guess so. I just wanted to showcase the songwriting more than the final arrangement. I decided to do it in my home to give an additional piece of my personality.

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How much of your creative focus and inspiration is taken from love and the subject of relationships?

A lot of it, I have to say.

People's relationships and nature are so powerful in the well-being of one's life. It's important to be grateful to those who make you feel stronger and more confident. I tend to write songs to let people know my feelings of gratefulness, joy or, sometimes, confusion (and so on...).

Is there going to be new material next year?

Yes. A lot of music is on its way...

I'm enjoying the ride of creating it, though. It's the most exciting time!

You are based in London. How important is the city? Is it somewhere that gives you motivation and influence?

Living in the city is great. There's a lot going on every day. Meeting people that are walking the same path as me is also very motivational, but I come from a small town next to the sea and the mountains called Arenzano (in Liguria, Italy).

I often miss that feeling of peacefulness that only nature can give. I do love the British countryside, though!

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DESIGN CREDIT: Francesca Maggiore

It seems, as your surname is ‘Biscaldi’, you have European roots? Tell me a little about your upbringing and coming to the U.K.

As I just mentioned, yes: I'm originally from Italy. I moved to the U.K. to study Music because I grew up listening to international music - and I've always sung in English! London is an incredible and productive hub for musicians, so it seemed like a good idea to explore music here.

Did you experience a lot of diverse music during your childhood? What sort of music were you raised on?

My parents listened to everything that was mainstream. I have vivid memories of Motown compilations in the car; numerous R&B and Pop artists. I went through a Rap, Hip-Hop and Rock phase with my brother, too!

Fun times!

What, would you say, has been your highlight so far in music?

When I was at university; I got the chance to perform a cover of a Jill Scott song called You Don't Know at the O2 Academy in Islington - as part of a students’ showcase night.

That was something!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Becca Stevens

Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

I couldn't stop listening to Noname when her album Telefone came out last year. She's amazing - and her band is, too.

Becca Stevens' new album, Regina, is also incredible. She's not new in the industry, though!

I recommend my friend Milena. Her album, Everyday, is a mixture of Electronic-Soul and Pop. I'm featured on one of the songs and recorded some B.V.s on the album.

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Also, an instrumental band called EMANATA are worth seeking out. They play fusion-Jazz - and the music is so unique and fresh.

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

Black Radio and Black Radio 2 by Robert Glasper. Also; The Lost and Found by Gretchen Parlato.

They are soundtracks of specials times!

Can we see you perform anywhere soon?

I don't have any show coming up at the moment, as I'm working on my album. I'd love to start gigging with my original music once it's all in place and ready to go!

What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

I'm one of them, so I would say...

Write the music YOU want to listen to and never stop soul searching. Honest music can heal!

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Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

I'll actually be here in London with family. I'm looking forward to it!

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Becca Stevens - Lean On

Thanks for this interview! Lis.

_________

Follow Lisabel

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FEATURE: 'The 1980s Revival': Why Revisiting the Decade Is a Good Thing for Music

FEATURE:

 

'The 1980s Revival'

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IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna/PHOTO CREDITPhotoshot   

Why Revisiting the Decade Is a Good Thing for Music

___________

WHEN I last highlighted the 1980s…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Press

earlier in the year; I lept to its defence. There is this perceived – and incorrect – notion the decade was a melee of over-layered hair and tragic clothing. I have said before how dangerous it is defining a decade in such simple terms. Yes, there was a poverty of style during the time but many assume the music industry reflected that poor taste – all synthetic, sickly and mass-produced. I get tired seeing the ‘best of the 1980s’ collections and the songs that appear on them. I have nothing against Mel and Kim, Kim Wilde and Spandau Ballet but, when one sees their ilk prolifically feature on these compilations, it provides a false impression of the '80s. Those sort of artists – and the bad fashions – were only a small part of the decade. If one wants a better impression of the 1980s; type into Google ‘the best albums of the 1980s’. The list you will get big provides a much clear insight into the stunning sounds and ground-breaking  artists of the time...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Talking Heads/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Press

From Talking Heads – they started in the 1970s but released stunning work in the '80s – and Michael Jackson; Madonna and Pixies; The Smiths and Tears for Fears – some of the world’s best records were created during this time. Maybe the Pop charts and commercial core had more than its fair amount of cheese but can we really say things are better now?! What makes the music of the 1980s superior is the quality of the Pop music; the sense of fun and timelessness we encountered. What I am finding is so many new artists, un-ironically, is that revisit of the big Pop sounds that defined that period. A lot of the inspiration is coming from artists like Madonna, Bananarama and Cyndi Lauper – the former is especially influential. Madonna is someone I have featured before, too, and her legacy cannot be overlooked – how she progressed from the innocent and ingénue Pop teenager to the innovative and boundary-pushing legend has compelled many.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Bananarama/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Press

You can quibble about the quality of some of the 1980s’ popular artists but stars like Madonna are in a league of their own. She showed what quality and depth was possible; how you didn’t need to conform to the worst traits of the time – compromise originality for fitting into the rigid and plastic Pop charts. A lot of modern artists are creating the sort of Disco-Pop mashes Madonna was penning on her first few albums. Prince is another artists who enjoyed great success in the decade: the two artists, between them, have changed the face of music. Even some of the lesser-celebrated artists of the 1980s – ABC; The Human League and Tears for Fears – are making an impact on modern music. That romance and ability to uplift and motivate; the production sound and the simplicity – it seems to go against a music scene where advancement and evolution are taking the joy out of things. There are a few artists who know how to pen a rousing and spirited number: that is far fewer/rarer than once was. There is a seriousness and mentality that means it is difficult discovering music that makes you smile and gets the body moving.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna/ PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Press

I have mentioned an artist like Madonna because her music, especially albums such as Like a Virgin and Like a Prayer, contained songs that have survived the test of time. Not only is there the aspect of the songs themselves – brilliantly written and performed – but everything tied to Madonna. There is the theatre and controversy; the celebrity and look – a complete artist with her unique sense of purpose. There are few big fashion movements and clearly identifiable musicians in the modern scene – few that catch the eye and compel you to dig deeper. For all the missteps and terrible attire of the 1980s: there was so much sensational music coming out we are talking about today. If we associate the decade with naffness and over-produced Pop syrup then, of course, there will be stigma and reticence. We need to get out of the prejudicial and cliché mindset that suggests the 1980s was a minor thing.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Pixies/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Press

I have alluded to the great Pop that arrived but, having mentioned acts like Pixies and Talking Heads, there was a rise of incredible Alternative sounds. I have lost count (of the number of bands) who sprinkle aspects of these two acts into their own music. Talking Heads, especially, are proving popular for many contemporary artists. Even though the U.S. band formed in 1975; their 1980s output like Remain in Light (1980) hold incredible potency for new musicians. Whether overtly referencing the songs – or integrating the complexities and colours into their interpretation – it is fascinating to see. The Smiths, too, have always provided new artists guidance and I am discovering so many new artists employ various strands of their back catalogue. I guess there is something potent and timeless when we think of The Smiths. The same can be said for the head-rush, mind-alternating music of Talking Heads. If we discount a lot of the sweeter, sickly Pop of the decade; we cannot undermine some of the female/female-led artists of the time. I have mentioned Bananarama but The Bangles are another source of fluidity.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Bangles/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Press

Some may quibble whether songs like Walk Like an Egyptian and Eternal Flame represent their more credible side. Their 1984 album, All Over the Place, featured a fantastic version of Going Down to Liverpool – originally recorded by Katrina and the Waves in 1983. 1986’s Different Light provided Manic Monday (written by Prince) and was a more commercial effort. Subsequent albums failed to match the consistency of All Over the Place – ironic, given the title! - but it is clear, in a short space of time, the U.S. band made a huge impact on the music industry. Their incredible harmonies and timeless songs were not only a product of the 1980s: many modern artists, in their own way, are taking the mantle from The Bangles and bringing their sounds into their music.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sade/ PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Press

If anything; I feel the 1980s revival is not going far enough. I have mentioned a few artists but listen to albums by Sade (Diamond Life) and Soul II Soul (Club Classics Vol. One) and there are lessons and inspirations to be found. The modern Soul/Dance scene has seen stronger days: I feel artists like Sade and Soul II Soul, if mixed affectionately, can provide a kick and spirit to the genres. It is debatable whether we have seen any artists as explosive as Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. Both, between them, have made a startling impact on music. Maybe the tight copyright laws mean sampling is not as easy as Beastie Boys made it look – many off-put by legalities and permissions needed to use other artists’ music. Members of Public Enemy are still operational - but the days of the U.S. Hip-Hop band have already ended.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Press

I realise quite a few decades are coming back in – and never really went away – but the 1980s is one that raises eyebrows! That misconception regarding quality and fashion often distorts waters and creates a false impression. You only need listen to the wave of Pop/Electro/Dance acts coming through and keep your ears open – you can hear the influence of the 1980s coming through. I am noticing more and more artists combining the early career of Madonna with the best Pop of the decade. There are bands taking shades of Pixies, Talking Heads and The Smiths and providing their own take. I hope more artists realise how strong and inspiring the 1980s is – and getting over the viewpoint it is a weak and tragic time. It was a fantastic time for music and one that still resonates with musicians. In a music scene where predictability and commercialism are putting many off; the 1980s’ preservers are making sure music still has a…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Beastie Boys/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Press

REAL dose of colour and spirit!

INTERVIEW: Avante Black

INTERVIEW:

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 Avante Black

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THE gorgeous and fascinating…

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Avante Black is someone everyone needs in their life! The talented musician talks tome about her new single, Acid Love. I ask about its story and whether it was based on real events. She talks about future plans and the differences between the music in Sweden and the U.K. – Avante Black has Swedish roots. I discover what she has planned for Christmas and how her music comes together.

I learn more about her future plans and artists that inspire her; the sounds she was growing up with; where we can see her perform  - and what she would say to any musicians emerging at the moment.

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Hi, Avante. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi, I’m very well, thank you! My week’s been alright, so far - the weather has been a beaut! 

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

I’m from a town called Uppsala in Sweden. I have been living in London for a few years. My work is a changing reflection of how it is to be young in love/out of love in this city…

…and about life here in general.

Tell me more about Acid Love. What is the story behind the song?

I had just found new love and, this time, it was a feeling I had never experienced before.

There are, so often, so many insecurities when you give yourself to someone; however, this time, I felt confident - and I felt like laying it all out there completely. 

It has already gained love from BBC – and many people online. Is it quite humbling and pleasing knowing the song has resonated so readily?!

Most definitely!

It’s so scary exposing your feelings so widely but, when people respond to it positively, there is no greater award. 

Do you have plans for an E.P. next year? What are you working on at the moment?

I have this group of songs that will form the E.P. At the moment, I’m looking back at a lot of experiences for inspiration.

I’m getting ready to open myself up even more...

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 PHOTO CREDITMathew Jones

This year has been a busy and memorable one for you! Is there a single memory that stands aside from the rest?

I remember, up in Nottingham in May, when I sang a song that has not yet been released; there were three people in the front just singing along to it - and I was like: ‘How do you guys know the words?!’.

It was amazing!

You have Swedish roots – but are based in London. What is the music scene like in Sweden – compared to the U.K. – and how much of your family/background do you bring to your musical ethos?

The music scene in Sweden is so different and so amazing...

I feel like genres are less significant: people just write and combine anything and end up with these amazing creations. It continues to surprise and amaze me. My dad used to be in a band called LSD in the 1960s. 'The L’ was a brutish pound. Sometimes, they’d play a reunion in our living-room, playing John Lee Hooker covers etc. My mum was more into lyrics and I grew up to Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Marianne Faithful.

However, I didn’t get into playing until I was fifteen/sixteen years of age. Before then, I was already aiming to learn Arabic and study Law. After a year in London; that goal changed drastically. 

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Can you recall the first time music came into your life? Was there a single/artist that struck your heart at an early age?

I think there are so many artists that struck me at the same time.

I think my first obsession was Tupac - when I was nine. I remember getting a T-shirt for Christmas. A few years later, it was Black Sabbath, and then, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen – they were always there from early age.

Sorry for the blurry answer: I find it hard to pick one! 

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I am interesting learning about an artist’s songwriting process. How do songs come together for you? Do you sit down and write songs – or do you rely on the muse of spontaneity?!

I rely on the instant feeling.

I might have gathered words, sentences or a melody - but most of my songs come along in the moment. I’m just practising my piano skills at the moment. As soon as I learnt a few chords from Same Drugs by Chance the Rapper; I started singing my own words and melodies over the same chords - and ended up with something new.

Sometimes; it’s like the songs write themselves. 

I feel female artists are stronger and more interesting than their male peers – yet, most of my requests come from male acts! Do you think female artists still have to struggle for equality and attention?

I think we’re all as interesting…

Being a woman is harder in so many ways – though, that doesn't mean male artist don’t struggle, too.  We’re in an amazing time with so, so many strong, talented and interesting female artists. To be honest, I hate having to divide the genders at all: an artist is an artist. If you write good songs and work hard it will show! The one problem might be not getting the right support.

Yet again, with the right motivation; you can create your own miracles. 

Are there any tour dates coming up? Where can we see you play?

I will play a very intimate show at the Servant Jazz Quarters (in Dalston) on 11th December. 

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Sälen

Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?

My friends Sälen are a must-check-out! They continue to amaze me.

Also…Average Sex

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Average Sex/PHOTO CREDITAgnė Papievytė

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

Oh…I hate this question - because I’ll change my mind as soon as I’ve sent this; but, I guess...

All Eyez on Me - Tupac

It was just such a big impact on me from early-on - and gave my young self a lot of confidence back in those days

Hung at Heart - The Growlers

I listened to it in-and-out over six months - and still am. Beach Rats will always be one of the best songs ever made.

Songs of Love and Hate - Leonard Cohen

I grew up on this album - and I think it defines me in so many ways. 

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Listen to advice but trust your guts. Keep working hard. Remember, as an artist, any backlash can be turned into something beautiful.

Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

I’m going to the South of Wales on Christmas Eve - and will spend a few days drinking cask ales and eating my body-weight in Christmas food. 

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name any song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Well. My friends always end on this one when they D.J. - so I might steal it. Sorry, Max!

Macy Gray - I Try

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Follow Avante Black

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TRACK REVIEW: Zoë Wren - She’s a Highway Man

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Zoë Wren

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She’s a Highway Man

 

9.2/10

 

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She’s a Highway Man is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/folkstock-records/zoe-wren-shes-a-highway-man

GENRE:

Folk

ORIGIN:

London/Cambridge, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

17th November, 2017

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THROUGH the course of this review...

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I will look at a range of different topics. I want to talk about change and creating differences – as well as looking for that in other people; the young and aspiring artists that receive reward and opportunities very early in their career; the importance of strengthened social media to connect with fans; artists who can mix education, awards and natural intuition; creating songs that differ in terms of themes and lyrics – the next step for artists who have created impressive foundations. I want to start off talking about myself a little – before I come to assess Zoё Wren. Wren is someone I am excited about but, looking at the way she is doing things, it has compelled me to rethink and re-evaluate things. In terms of writing; I am going to be, going forward, looking for review subjects off my own back. That is no slight to the talent I am being emailed – certainly not the case here – but I crave diversity and depth as my blog gets bigger and bolder. I am getting a lot of request from male artists and musicians who sound similar – to what I have already reviewed and assessed before. The deeper I get into music – and take my mind around the world and into different avenues – the more excited I get. There are limitations when it comes to opening the doors to others – the quality and originality can wane slightly. This new proclamation will take effect in a couple of weeks: it is a risk that might fail but I have a hunger to spread the genres and approach artists further up the career ladder. It makes me excited looking at someone like Wren. She is young but has already accomplished a lot. I am at the stage where the need for transition and improvement is paramount. In terms of living situation, job and happiness; the yearning and desire to better things and live life in a desirable manner has reached a palpable high.

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There is a temptation, in me, to relocate and go somewhere else; take a huge gamble and make a big break – where I am now, and what I am doing, is creating nothing but unhappiness. I guess writing is not as flawless and desirable as one would imagine. It is great seeking out artists and helping them get their music to a larger audience. The greater the hunger and ambition, the more time I am spending on the laptop. Spending that much time in isolation fosters depression and makes me withdraw into my own world – and keep cloistered away from the wider world. I have the need to detach from the digital-heavy workload and spend less time on the laptop. Seeing artists like Wren perform and grow makes me want to get out into the ether and connect on a personal level. I feel she has real potential and is someone doing much the way she wants to. That is a rare quality to find in music: most new artists follow the herd or follow a really rigid course. Before I come on to ladle compliment and raise her spirits: a little on things that can help her going forward. One of the reasons I am taking a more autonomous approach to reviewing is the need for more artists with great visuals and a stock of images. I realise I have flogged this horse to death but, as my blog gets more focus and praise; the craving to make it a professional outlet means the visual quality needs to grow. The majority of the review requests I have received have lacked a certain something – most of them concern photos and/or biographical information. There is plenty of information about Zoё Wren but, when it comes to images, one would like to see more. She is very photographic and, seeing as her music is reaching more ears, it is the time for her to get some professional shoots done. It is no coincidence the artists I go after have an array of wonderful photos and terrific music.

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There is a link between the two points: those who produce great music, and it proves popular, take a serious approach to the visual aspect and know the importance of visibility and exposure. There is nothing cheap and shallow about getting your images out there and making yourself stand out. Zoё Wren is a young woman who is entering music at its busiest and most competitive time. I have reviewed a lot of Folk artists who, on paper, have very little to distinguish themselves from the competition. If artists making similar music and seem alike; there are going to be few who will know how to separate them and detect the stars from the average. The Folk artists I have assessed have all been great but many I have had to dig deep in order to inspire words. That is not the case with Zoё Wren. She has an allure and photographic quality that would inspire some great images. I am not suggesting she spends an inordinate amount of money and has dozens of photos on the page. She is in a new phase of her career so people like me – and D.J.s, fans and venues – will search social media and take all this into consideration. It is one of my gripes for a very good reason: music is visual and the more images someone has online; the better a journalistic piece will look. The images in this review are good but, seeing how natural she is on the page, makes me want to expand that and see more. I know Wren will consider this in 2018 but she would benefit from a few shoots that see her in various locales. Not only will that update her snaps – a lot of her images are older - but it would show she is willing to spend money on her career and attracting the senses. The music she is producing is wonderful so it warrants serious acclaim and focus.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Allen

In addition to the images; getting more music videos and updates to the people would be great. Catered for by Folkstock; there is a safe-bed and professional body putting Wren’s music to the right people. Wren has a very visual dynamic to her songwriting so, backing her singles with music videos, would be a way of getting more celebrity on channels like YouTube. Visuals as crucial so one cannot limit themselves to audio platforms. Songs as impactful as She’s a Highway Man provoke filmic inspiration and it seems like there will be a video down the line. I am not sure what her 2018 has in store but I predict more music and gigs. Getting all these ingredients thrown into the pot means there is less chance of a culinary disaster – it’s a lazy image but you know what I mean! The artists I go after are those who have that blend of visual and audio; they have all the contours and layers cemented and firm – one is hooked and tempted to write about them. Wren is someone who understands this but one suspects her time and heart have been fully committed to the music and getting that right. Wren is one of the recipient of the 2017 PRS Lynsey de Paul Prize for emerging female singer-songwriters. She has played the Main Stage at Folkstock Festival – the youngest artists to do so; she was sixteen – and been championed by a certain Bob Harris. These honours would seem daunting to someone in their thirties: the fact Wren is nowhere near that age means the music is already connecting and fully-formed. With a new single fresh out to the world; I believe there are whisperings of an E.P. This is a very hot and productive time for the young songwriter. I have mentioned image and building the social media stock but, actually, when it comes to updates – Wren is doing very well and keeping her fans engaged. She has won that prize and taken to some big stages. One wonders what she can achieve in 2018.

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I know Folk is a genre that wrestles for appeal but, when you see artists like Zoё Wren emerge; one knows Folk will get the attention it has always deserved. Before I go on – to highlight how far she has come – I want to quote from her biography:

Zoё’s growing reputation has seen her invited to perform at Cambridge Folk Festival by Hitchin Folk Club in the summer or 2016, having previously been invited to perform on Stage 2 in Brian McNeill’s Festival Session at the festival after her floor spot in the Club tent the day before. In the final year of a music degree at Cambridge University, Zoё is certainly attracting attention having supported various artists including Peter Knight's Gigspanner at Cambridge Folk Club and Jim Causley at Hitchin Folk Club, where she has been booked three times in one season, as a result of winning the Best Newcomer award at Folkstock's Love Folk Live Awards. FATEA Magazine featured Zoё in their Autumn Showcase 2014 and her first headline gig was a sell out at Redbourn Folk Club in the summer of 2015”.

It might seem daunting accomplishing that much so young but it is a natural progression for someone who is striking the right chords. I have talked about education and how it can be beneficial mingling academia with a more conventional route into music. Some might see the Cambridge credit on her C.V. and wonder whether privilege and financial advantage has found Wren get the sort of education many of us will never be able to obtain - they would be wrong; it is her talent and drive that has got her there. Wren’s intelligence and aptitude that has brought her to our finest university. In addition to her academic success; she won a bursary for her music course at Cambridge, her parents are stall holders in Camden market - quite a varied background! The sort of thing she has studied will link with her upbringing and peers. Wren has been afforded a great chance to explore music and get an education from some incredible professionals. Many feel the best way to get a career in music sparked is to follow their own path and learn as they go along. There is a lot to be said for self-education and intuition. I find, if one wants to expand their horizons and bring more technicality into their sounds, pursuing education is beneficial.

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Wren is someone born into music and destined to follow it to its natural limits. She has always loved the form and her desire to get a degree in Music was only a matter of time. I have studied in Cambridge – but not at Cambridge – and know what the people are like there. It is an eclectic and fascinating city with a large student population. When I was up there (2002-2004), things were different. There were not that many music venues. If one wanted to see a musician up there, they would have to go to a local bar. Things have changed and local events like the Cambridge Folk Festival are invaluable for artists like Wren. It is a wonderful environment for someone who wants to take music by the horns and learn as much as she can. I know London will be a natural base for Wren because Cambridge provides fewer chances in the long-run. What it does do is give that prestigious educational platform and a great and vibrant Folk scene. Wren can assimilate what she has learned (from Cambridge) and bring that to the capital. I feel London still places other genres ahead of Folk. Perhaps Folk is not the most immediate and rousing display of musicianship but, in a time when the world needs something beautiful and refined; it seems Folk’s role will be heightened next year. Wren has an affinity for music and is a rare songwriter. One need only look at the title of her new single to know she is not like everyone else. Although I am detaching from Folk music for a long time – as I take my own route and seek different sounds – I know the beauty and magic one can hear when artists push boundaries. A lot of modern artists still focus heavily on love and are unable to understand the refined listeners wants something different and deeper.

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I know relationships and love are commodities that we can all relate to. If that is all you are hearing then it can be very tiring and uninviting. Wren will have experienced heartache but she knows the way to get her name above everyone else’s is to write music with a unique soul. That is the case when one hears She’s a Highway Man. When looking at that title I was, oddly, reminded of an old episode of Blackadder; where Edmund was fooled by a highwayman (played by Miranda Richardson) into robbing the Prince Regent (played by Hugh Laurie) and running away with her. Blackadder was tricked and robbed at gunpoint in the end. After receiving a cunning suggestion from Baldrick; the roguish highwayman/woman was hanged and the devious Blackadder was victorious. That is the last time I have heard the term ‘highwayman’ in the popular arts. Maybe Adam and the Ants – Stand and Deliver – have found success with this sort of theme but nobody has written about the topic since. It is a very old-time and historical image that one would think is devoid of musical potential. That is what makes Zoё Wren such an appealing artist. She has taken a subject that does not get exposure and provided her own take on it. Not only are her lyrics captivating and picturesque: the music backing it does not plod and drag: it is a spirited and nuanced blend that makes the song a winner. In fact, I have mentioned Wren’s upcoming E.P. – it will be called Gold and Smoke – and it seems there is an important gap in her latest song title. I have mentioned the image of a ‘highwayman’ but it seems Wren’s new single could be called She’s a Highway, Man.

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That might seem like a trippy and blissed-out image but it is Wren’s reimagining of a traditional number. When speaking with Acoustic Magazine - she explained the song’s origins:

The song is a twist on the story of the traditional song ‘The Female Highwayman’, in which the protagonist Silvie dresses up as a highwayman and robs her lover in order to test his loyalty,” explains Wren. And she should know a thing or two about that, having just completed her music degree at Cambridge University, which included a dissertation about the voices of women in folk.

“It’s a great example of an independent and intrepid heroine in folklore,” Wren adds. “However in the original story, everything works out fine and goes back to normal. So I wondered what might really happen when Silvie gets her first taste of true freedom, and whether a humorous swapping of gender roles might, in fact, reveal something a bit more interesting.”

That explanation shows what she has learnt from her studies. Engrossing herself in the roles of women in music and Folk greats; Wren has found a traditional song and skewed its gender roles. By reversing the gender roles, and showing perceptiveness, it has opened up a whole new world. In a way, She’s a Highway Man is a cover version - albeit it, one that Wren has put her stamp on! An incredible achievement from someone who has been in the music industry only a few years. I am excited by the E.P. and will take a listen to it when it comes out. I believe there were plans to release the E.P. this year but it seems like we have to wait a little longer for it. The reimagining of Folk stories gives the Folk musician a chance to show what she is made of. Her previous E.P., Pandora’s Box, was released in 2014 and gained a lot of love. Her music has been supported by Bob Harris and got under the skin of some big names. Next year will be a pivotal one for her. I cannot wait until the E.P. comes out and she has a chance to take the songs on the road. Right now, Wren is intoxicating crowds wherever she goes and proving herself one of the best new talents in the Folk world. I know how busy and bustling Folk is - so that is no small honour. I will wrap this point up – as I am keen to review the song – but I am interested in Wren’s songwriting approach and how she can reinvent traditional songs and give them a modern turn. It seems gender and parity are important to her. In a song where the central character met a somewhat unfortunate end: Wren’s approach was to provide a happier outcome; one that keeps the listener engrossed and engaged. There are some great songwriters out there but I wonder how many of them have the same imagination and considerations as Wren?

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The new track, She’s a Highway Man is a twist on the traditional song, The Female Highwayman. The protagonist, Silvie, dresses as a highwayman and robs her lover – in order to test his loyalty. The original song works out fine and everything returns to normal. This version keeps the story going and reverses gender roles. When Wren steps to the microphone; her voice is raw and exciting. The production means the recording sounds live and homely. One can imagine being in the same room and hearing the song unfold. It is a dramatic but levelled performance that builds on sprite strings and a warm, yet firm, voice. Wren talks about the hero spending long nights out and no coherence between night and day. Many might think there is an affair taking place but our heroine has suspicions. Wondering whether her man would stray; our girl has found a solution and retribution for his lack of attention. At first, there are suspicions without much concrete proof. Again; one might listen to the song and think the man is spending nights out with another woman. Knowing the inspiration behind the song – and looking at the title – we know things are different. From the tension and suspicions of infidelity; things see the heroine take her own path and flee the man. Rather than plot vengeance and wait for him to slip up; she adorns highwayman clothing and gets out on the road. Maybe there is a horse involved – or a modern equivalent? – but one can imagine the wind whistling through her hair. On the road, there is nobody to answer to and a lack of responsibilities. That freedom is provoking a surge of excitement and ambition in the heroine. Rather than see it is as a chance to emancipate herself from domestic shackles: one feels the highwayman/woman seek something more thrilling and dangerous. Part of her heart wants the risk and the chance to enter a more meaningful life. That meaning comes at a price it seems.

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When the heroine comes back home, she yearns for the road and, whilst she was undercover, rode to her lover and put a gun to him. Amazed at the powers “that came with the trousers” – a marketing strapline for Marks and Spencer, perhaps?! – that humour and revelation surge through the blood. The heroine is in a new frame and role and loving the exhilaration. Rather than approach her lover directly: the anonymity and subterfuge is a perfect masquerade. One hardly hears any tales that look at revenge and retribution in such an interesting setting. Equalling the score is usually a tense and cliché thing in music. Wren takes a different angle and provides something fascinating and funny. It is a way of providing the listener familiarity – cheating and the need to get equal – with something historic and based on fantasy. Maybe the need to detach from a rather rigid and boring life has led her to take this way of life. The thrill of danger and the illegality means the addictive quality gets into her blood. The fact she manages to rob her boyfriend is a huge reward. The boy trembled and gave her his things. When she is done; she asks for the wedding ring – or an engagement ring? The man clings onto it so one is not sure whether she got it in the end. Regardless; that thrill has taken effect and the highwayman role is hers now. That contrast between the home and road is really exciting. The man finds out about the deceit and discovers her web of lies. He begs the girl to stay and not succumb to that way of life – it seems she prefers dressing in a shirt and succumbing to the dangers before her. Maybe her has caused this recklessness but it is subverting gender roles. Many assume women should be in the home and obey the man. Instead; we have a woman who takes the opposite assumption and gives herself to the road. This new life is her identity and, as such, she has no time for romance and the old ways. She’s a Highway Man seems apt given the fact the girl is a racing and free spirit. She is not a ‘highwayman’ – that would be sexist – but she is someone who craves the adrenaline and shadiness of the tarmac. Maybe this is a modern reinvention of the highwayman tale but I find myself remaining in older centuries. It is an extraordinary song from a young Folk artist doing things very differently. She’s a Highway Man is a song that could gain a lot of love from Folk champions like Bob Harris and Mark Radcliffe. I am excited seeing just how far it can go!

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I have spoken a lot about Zoё Wren and what she has achieved so far. I maintain my opinions on her music – the fact she is captivating big sources means she is on the right path! I maintain my opinions about social media/images, too. It would be great to see more of Wren in photographic terms. One of the reasons I almost turned the review down – and delayed its publication – was the limit of photographs. Not that I am trying to get a beautiful woman to show her face more: every musician will want to get exposure and interviews etc. Visuals and photos are so important now; no artist can really expand and survive with very few photographs online. Zoё Wren is a talented and upcoming artist so I am sure this is something that will be addressed in the coming year. Wren has played The Song Loft and Cambridge Acoustic Nights. According to a Facebook update; this is what Wren’s weekend has in-store:

I've got a great weekend coming up - I'll be performing at Celebrate Christmas with Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery alongside the wonderful Minnie Birch and Emily Aldrich, followed by a live session on the Terry Krueger Folk Show on Saint FM Radio Station (94.7).

Then on Sunday I'm playing at Art? or Politics? It's a riot: Female Voiceswhich looks set to be a super - and very interesting - evening. Would love to see any London friends there!

Although Wren’s studies have recently completed: she is keeping her hand in the Cambridge market and taking advantage of the venues/events there. It seems the city is perfect for a Folk artist who wants to embrace a blend of pastoral surroundings and the buzz of a university city. Step a few miles away from the dreaming spires – or is that Oxford?! – and you get the countryside and rural retreat. That is why Folk is a big business there. London has a growing market and there are many labels/venues that would love to see more of Zoё Wren. I know her E.P. is being worked on right now - it will be out in February, I understand. She is working with Lauren Deakin Davies on it and that combination will lead to great results, for sure!

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It is an E.P. that has Wren excited and hopeful. That is understandable and, as we approach Christmas, she is not slowing down. She will play St. Pancras Old Church (London) on 22nd before doing a few radio performances/interviews before the year is done. It seems this weekend is a busy one and will get her music to new faces. If you can see her in London, make sure you do. There is a rooted and lovable quality to Wren that means she gets into the heart before a word has been spoken. She is a modest talent but someone with a big future. I am not sure whether there are any other plans apart from the E.P. next year. I guess she will situate herself in London and spend less time in Cambridge. That is a guess but, as her career grows, the need for relocation and attention will grow. There are so many Pop and Rock acts out there: a chance to see Folk artists take some spotlight is much-needed. Make sure you investigate She’s a Highway Man and follow Wren’s progress. She keeps her Facebook/Twitter pages updated so you can get the latest insight and decisions from those sites and follow her progress. I know 2018 will be a huge one from an artist that has achieved a lot the last few years. She is a prize-winner and played festivals; released an E.P. and studied at Cambridge. All of this provides foundations for a musician who has a lot more to say. I will follow her career and see where she can go next. It is an exciting one for Zoё Wren and her music. Take a listen to her latest single and get dragged into a wonderful world…

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YOU will not want to escape from.

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Follow Zoë Wren

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INTERVIEW: S.O.S

INTERVIEW:

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S.O.S

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THAT name might seem like a cry for help…

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but, when it comes to S.O.S, there is no such peril – I shall forgive the missing full-stop after the second ‘S’ in the name, too. Sophie is the woman behind the acronym. I ask her about the new single, Bloodline, and what the story is behind that; why she moved from her native Malta to London – and the artists/albums that have compelled her.

She regularly performs on the London Underground and reveals why London, and its people, are important to her drive and desires. I ask about future recordings and gig plans; whether she will ever gig in Malta again; a new artist we should keep our eyes peeled for – and how she will be spending this Christmas.

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Hi, Sophie. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi! I’m good, thanks. My week’s been busy - but fun and productive! Bloodline has just been dropped and the feedback so far has all been really positive; so, yes - a great week so far!

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

Sure! My name is Sophie - but, on stage, I’m known as 'S.O.S'.

I’m a twenty-three-year-old singer-songwriter; originally born in Malta. At the age of eighteen, I followed my roots to the U.K. and was awarded a scholarship to study songwriting at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. Since then, I’ve been writing and releasing my music independently - whilst gigging around the U.K. and busking on the London Underground network.

Bloodline is your latest song. Can you tell me about its story and creation?

The idea for Bloodline came to me after someone disabled became part of my life...

I  had never spent much time around someone with a disability before so I found myself feeling a bit odd about the situation - and unintentionally ended up treated this person differently to everyone else I knew. I also began to feel sorry for them because of how different their life had to be (due to their disability).

The more I spoke to people about these thoughts, the more I realised how universal this mentality is - and how it could be applied to any category of society that doesn’t form part of what we consider to be the ‘norm’.

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Bloodline is my way of saying that at, at the end of the day; we’re all the same and shouldn’t be judged or defined by the way we look. I think this is quite an important message to get out into the world - especially given the troubled global situation we currently find ourselves in; where it seems like cultural differences divide us rather than unite us.

Do you think we are living in a time where we’re divided and troubled? Is Bloodline a need for people to come together and react?

Yes! Although the concept for Bloodline stemmed from a more personal experience, the song has developed into a universal reminder that we are all uniquely individual and should encourage and embrace people’s differences. I also strongly believe that in the face of the terror and sadness we are currently witnessing throughout the world, we should react by showing compassion and kindness towards the people around us.

At the end of the day; love and unity will always win!

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Edges of the Mind is your upcoming E.P. What are the themes and ideas you look at throughout?

Edges of the Mind is my very first E.P. and is a collection of work that I’m very excited to share with everyone.

It explores a whole load of controversial themes that are rarely highlighted inPop music. I enjoy writing about various unspoken, and sometimes awkward, topics and situations that have either effected myself or the people around me. I think that (especially) given that some of my listeners are quite young, it’s really important to be discussing topics like these - so that everyone knows that we all go through similar problems throughout our lives and it’s ok to talk about them.

How important has your gigging around London regards your honed musical skills and new ambitions?

I love gigging around London and I think over the years it’s played a major role in helping me find my confidence as a performer. If I think back to the beginning of my journey as an artist doing music and performing live in the U.K.; I was so inexperienced and nervous on stage especially since I had only just started playing the guitar. I remember my first gig was in Hammersmith and I could not have been more scared.

Since then, I practiced loads and every time I had a gig I gained little more confidence and gradually began to actually enjoy myself with a guitar on stage - instead of being a total bag of nerves. On top of the gigs, I do a lot of busking around London now, too, which is a lot of fun - and I think it’s also been a really great way of honing my skills and growing some thick skin…trying to entertain a few hard-to-please commuters.

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Your sound is contemporary and recalls acts like Lorde. What do you think of modern music and artists like Lorde and Halsey?

Ah. I love them both so much!

They both have such individual sounds which are so unique and distinct. They’re definitely trendsetters in the music industry that don’t copy anyone else. I think their music speaks volumes to the younger generations whilst still having a timeless feel to them. They inspire me constantly and I will forever look up to them.

I definitely think the world need to see more strong female artists like them right now!

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Speaking of ‘bloodlines’; you have Maltese heritage. Do you ever play in Malta and what are the differences between the music scenes there and the U.K.?

Yes! I do have Maltese blood - which I am very proud of - and which I like to shout about wherever I go. Although I’ve taken on the U.K. as my new home; I’ll never forget where I came from and I’m humbled by the amount of talent that keeps coming out of the little Maltese Islands.

The music scene in Malta is very different to the U.K. and I think that’s probably one of the main reasons why I made the move six years ago. Although I love Malta, and I can’t say enough good things about the place, I felt that the music opportunities were slightly limited and since I wanted to have a career in music; rather than just do it as a hobby.

I felt the need to be in London - where the opportunities are endless.

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Give me an impression of the artists you grew up listening to. Which artists did you discover as a youngster?

Ok; so this is going to be totally cringey...BUT I was a lot younger at the time, so please forgive me…

I’d love to give you a really cool answer here like The Beatles or Michael Jackson but, no, I (luckily) came across those brilliant artists a little later on in my life. The artists, or should I say, bands that I literally grew up listening to were Steps, S Club 7 and the Spice Girls. Yes, I admit it: I was definitely a fan of the Pop bands back in the day. My sister and I used to learn all the words and choreography from video-cassettes of their tours. Luckily, since then, I have discovered a lot more interesting and significant musicians and artist.

But I guess being a fan of those cringey bands, when I was a kid, is all part of my story!

You have performed warm-up for the likes of Take That; been celebrated by radio stations and fans – some big achievements, there! What has been your proudest moment so far in music?

Looking back I think that, although it’s hard to choose, I would have to say that my most memorable moment would have to be the time I played one of my original songs to thousands of people on the Main Stage at London Pride in Trafalgar Square - and having them all sing it back at me!

Definitely; one that I’ll share with my grandkids one day.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sarah Close

Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

You definitely need to check out Sarah Close and Jazz Mino!

They’re both good friends of mine and are both doing amazing things with their music right now!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jazz Mino

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

To be honest, I’m more of a singles kind of girl but, if I had to pick three albums, they’d have to be:

 + by Ed Sheeran

Because this was the album I literally had on-repeat when I first moved to London. Whenever I listen back to it now, I instantly go back to all those feelings I had as a young eighteen-year-old girl - moving away from home into scary London to try and begin a career in music.

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Pure Heroine by Lorde

Simply because it’s timeless to me. I still listen to it on a regular basis and it’s a constant form of inspiration to my music. I feel like I hear new elements in her tracks every time I have another listen - she’s so clever like that, keeping her listener hooked!

The last one would have to be a mash-up of three Michael Jackson albums: Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad

I mean…who can deny the brilliance of those albums?! Yes, I can easily say I am a massive M.J. fan! In particular, these three albums really shaped me both as an artist and as a person. I’m also a keen dancer, so I’ve always been massively inspired by the complete package this amazingly talented human being had to offer.

I (just) massively regret never seeing him live!

Can we see you perform anywhere soon? Where can we catch you play?

I’ve actually got quite a few private gigs coming up - which are all hush-hush - but people can regularly finding me busking on the London Underground (usually at Kings Cross station).

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Just keep doing what you’re doing: the world can never have too many artists and, if you believe in yourself, other people will believe in you too! The best advice I’ve ever been given in my career is to never copy what anyone else is doing - because trends come and go but the artists who will really shine through and stick around are the ones who create their own individual trend and style.

Be the trendsetter and let others copy you!

Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

I love Christmas and always look forward to it every year!

Christmas is all about family for me so, as usual, we’re planning a massive family gathering full of food, presents and booze! I always like to try and squeeze in a visit to Winter Wonderland at some point, too; so I’ll have to save a date for that.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Yes. Sure thing!

I’d love it if you could play my friend’s new single Crush! Her name is Jazz Mino and she’s doing big things with her music right now - so everyone should keep an eye out for her!

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Follow S.O.S

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INTERVIEW: Happy Abandon

INTERVIEW:

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Happy Abandon

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THE boys of Happy Abandon set time aside to talk about…

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their new music. Justin and Peter talk about the latest single, Heavy Lines, and their superb album, Facepaint. Jake - their drummer when they perform live - tells me how he came to be part of the fold. I find out about the inspiration and stories that drove them; how studies in North Carolina played an important role in the formation of Happy Abandon; the artists of the current-day they recommend – and the classic albums/acts they hold dear.

The duo/trio talk Christmas plans and the music scene where they are; challenges they faced when making their album; what touring dates they have approaching – what advice they would offer new songwriters, too.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Peter: My week has been a mixture of feelings: re-acclimatising to default life, spending time with my girlfriend; catching up with friends - but mostly trying to recharge after being on the road for about two months. It’s always an odd feeling coming home after a tour - but this time, it has been exceptionally jarring.

Jake: I feel like I’ve finally recovered after about ten days of being home – I’m getting back into a semblance of a routine. I made it to Brett’s surprise birthday-party and saw a lot of great local singers take turns doing celebratory karaoke.

It’s great to be back and see familiar faces and places...

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

Justin: Happy Abandon is what I like to call an Orchestral-Indie-Rock band. In a live setting, that manifests as a power-trio along with our drummer Jake Waits; with three-part vocal harmonies and various effects pedals, vocal processors - and various percussion flavors to help make the sound more textured. On our recordings; we have a close collaborator named Alex Thompson who provides keyboards, piano and string arrangements; which allows us to incorporate violins, cello; timpani, loads of orchestral percussion - and loads of vocals. 

What makes us different, I think, is that, though we all have studied music in some capacity - and most of us have been in choirs, marching bands; orchestras and other Rock bands over the years - the shared experience that all four of us have is theater.  I think this background helps with our work ethic when it comes to rehearsals and getting to the gigs but also in the way we value performance, dynamics and the audience’s role in a show. 

We’ve all lived in Chapel Hill, N.C. since we met as students here in 2010.

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‘Happy Abandon’ strikes me as an interesting name for the band. What is the derivation of that choice?

Peter: To me, the name ‘Happy Abandon' is a very good representation of what music, and art in general, can do to people. A state of ‘happy abandon' is somewhat, literally, blissfully disassociated; or at least that’s how I think of it. A well-written song that strikes me emotionally can take me out of my surroundings and into a place I associate with that song. Whether that emotion is positive, negative - or anything in-between - it is a choice we make every time we put on a song.

So; the choice to name the band ‘Happy Abandon’ seemed very appropriate. 

How did you guys meet in the first place? Did you all bond easily and naturally?

The three of us were students at the University of North Carolina (at Chapel Hill) at one point. We all contributed to the college music scene as well as the scene that expanded into the more major cities that surrounded our college town. The chemistry between me and Jake was unquestionable from the first time we played through, what would become, a Happy Abandon song. I respected Jake’s drumming from a band we had both previously been members of - and I was curious to see what he could do with the music I was writing at the time.

Justin was not the first bassist for the band – but, at a certain point in the band’s career, we knew we needed a committed member. Jake and I knew Justin from U.N.C. as well. I knew him as one of the most hardworking and committed musicians in the area. He seemed like the right fit.

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Jake: I was inspired by Peter’s work in Morning Brigade and, from the very beginning of Happy Abandon, I was excited to work alongside him. He had all these ideas pouring out: ideas for ways the percussion might fit into the guitar parts. It became a conversation of developing these ideas until they grew other parts and sort of had lives of their own - that was within the first year or so. When Justin joined, it was like something existential clicked into place (along with his sweet bass-lines) and I feel like the band, all of a sudden, was ready to plan tours and hit the road.

Heavy Lines is the latest single from you guys. What is the story behind it?

Peter: Heavy Lines was one of the first songs Jake and I started working on. I wrote that song before Happy Abandon was even an idea. I was writing it during a time when the relationship I was in at the time was coming to its inevitable end. The thought came to me during the scenario I describe in the song - as well as the scenario I describe in Severed Seams.

I think of those two songs as sibling songs.

Facepaint is your album. It has received a lot of praise and support. What was it like hearing it gain so much kudos?

It feels great...

I think anyone getting praise for their work would be happy about it. It’s very encouraging in this unforgiving field. I’m extremely proud of the album; each song coming from a place of significance. When I hear that others are affected by the music in a positive way, it’s very affirming.

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Was it an emotionally challenging and difficult album to put together? Did you face hurdles along the way?

The songwriting process was definitely emotionally challenging - but that’s expected.

These are songs that I’ve been working on for years: each one representing an event in my life that took some sort of emotional toll on me. Working on the album was actually an extremely pleasant experience. It was smooth, fun and eye-opening. Hearing the songs develop, instrumentally, was very trippy for me - because I had been playing these songs a certain simple way for so long; with just the ideas of other instruments.

 But, actually hearing the strings and timpani and whatnot completely changed the game. 

There are soundscapes and lush arrangements in the record. Is Facepaint, to you, part of a single narrative - or a collection of stories that represent different stages of your lives/experiences?

I had no intention of creating an album as fluid as Facepaint.

The songs we chose for the record all came from different stages of my life - but there is still a uniformity between them all. I didn’t realize this entirely until the album was finished. I found that each song was about loss and how loss can manifest itself in so many different ways.

I was happy to find a natural flow to the album.

Who are the musicians you are all inspired by?

My number-one is Sufjan Stevens.

I love his ability to bridge an individual unique sound with accessibility. His lyrics are brilliant and his compositions are very engaging. He doesn’t stick to one model. I’ve also been inspired by Sigur Rós, Andrew Bird; Belle and Sebastian, Gregory Alan Isakov; Björk, Joanna Newsom (and so many more).

Justin: As a bass player; my favorite musicians are John Entwistle of The Who and Ira Wolf Tuton of Yeasayer.  As far as bands that inspire me; I absolutely adore Radiohead, R.E.M.; St. Vincent, Grizzly Bear; Local Natives, Alt-j…I could go on forever.

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What comes next for the band? Do you have more material in mind? How are plans for 2018 going?

After touring three of the last four months, basically, non-stop; we’re taking time to be home with family and friends for the holidays - and working our survival jobs. We’ll be playing a pair of shows in Washington D.C. and New York City next month before Christmas. Then, we’ll be flying out to Holland in mid-January for a string of dates supporting Bettie Serveert - and a few other shows scattered around Western Europe. We have started messing around with some new songs and ideas - and will probably spend some more time refining and fine-tuning them. 

We have no immediate plans following our return from Holland.

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IN THIS PHOTO: And the Kids/PHOTO CREDIT: Courtney Chavanell 

Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

Peter: Hop Along; And the Kids, Adult Jazz; Big Thief, Bully; Diet Cig, Half Waif; Petal, Mothers; Alex G, Weaves and Alvvays.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Half Waif/PHOTO CREDIT: Tonje Thilesen

Justin: Japanese Breakfast, Sunjacket; Pinegrove - the new Perfume Genius album - Birds of Avalon and Jenny Besetzt

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IN THIS PHOTO: Birds of Avalon

Those last two aren’t particularly new but they are bands from our neck of the woods that just put out new records - and they are so good.

If you each had to select the album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Honestly, the most important record to me might very well be Live at Leeds by The Who

It’s certainly not my favorite album - and as a live record, I don’t think it really ‘counts’ for the purposes of this question - but that’s the record that changed everything for me.  Prior to hearing this album, I was learning how to play bass and I liked listening to loads of music; but I didn’t think of it as something I could pursue beyond a hobby. 

But, hearing three instruments and three voices filling up all that space live - in the moment, warts-and-all - totally gave me a new perspective on what a band was. I probably played along to that record every day after school for two months - and I almost never go on a road trip without it.

Jake: (The untitled album by) Sigur Rós - ()

I’m fascinated by the percussion. The compositional, dynamic and emotional range of it inspire me. It is slow-moving; filled with some magic resonance or power - and the second-half, towards the end of the record, gets HUGE. It’s a masterwork in my opinion. I always find some new instrumental or vocal line that fixates me in a way that hadn’t before.

T.L.D.R.: I just sink into it. Nothing can follow me in….

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Peter: Be kind, be you; don’t put on a front, ask questions about others - rather than constantly waiting for an excuse to talk about yourself - and your achievements. Be open to opportunities, suggestions; don’t get defensive - but don’t let people push you around.

Justin: Play with people who make you feel like you can always be a better musician and person. Don’t take any opportunities for granted and always listen to your body - especially when you’re traveling for months at a time.

Jake: Be confident, stubborn and polite (not necessarily in that order).

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Where can we see you play this year? Any plans regarding coming to the U.K.?

Justin: We have upcoming shows booked in Washington D.C., New York City; Raleigh, North Carolina. Then; we’re playing shows in Oss, Goes; Ensched, Amsterdam and Arnhem - all in the Netherlands.

We are hoping to figure out a show or two in the U.K. between dates in Holland - but having ‘just’ played a couple of shows in London and Milton Keynes this past July: returning to the U.K. might be in the cards for later. We’ll see!

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Christmas is not too far away. Do you all have plans already - or will you be busy working?

Peter: My girlfriend and I are going up to D.C. to spend Christmas with my family - and I’m too excited.

Justin: It’s looking like I’ll be staying in N.Y.C. for a few days after our show spending time with my brother; then travel back to North Carolina with him for Christmas at our parents’.  I’ll probably work a bunch between Boxing Day and New Year’s.

Jake: Time to see all my family! I am fortunate to have a big extended family that gathers around the holidays. There’s always good conversation, goofing-around and love. I do have a N.Y.E. gig and, even though it’s work; there’s no way I’d rather bring in the New Year!

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Peter: No Below by Speedy Ortiz

Justin: Slip Away by Perfume Genius

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Follow Happy Abandon

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INTERVIEW: NADINE

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: CK Goldiing

NADINE

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SHE was born in Switzerland but…

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resides in London. I have been talking to NADINE about her new track, Rise - and working on the eye-catching video with Gareth Kay. She tells me about her move from Switzerland and working with producer Dave Holden. Rise, the E.P., will follow and is something NADINE is excited to share with the world. I ask about her upbringing and whether she was raised in a musical household; how her third E.P. (Rise) differs from her previous offerings – and whether recording the new material has been a personal experience.

NADINE offers me a window into her music and the inspiration behind it; what she has planned for Christmas; recommends a few new artists worth our consideration – and why this week has been pretty non-stop.

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Hi, NADINE. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi, Sam! I’m good, thanks.

My week has been pretty full-on - but in a good way. Lots of preparing for the E.P. launch; my first radio interview and, amongst all that celebrating, my birthday!

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

Yes. I’m an independent singer-songwriter, originally from Switzerland; I moved to London six years ago - and have been working on my music since.

It’s great to have found a network of creatives in London!

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Rise is your new single. What is the story behind the song?

It took me a long time to write it…

I was inspired by many different events and I kept working on it during the course of almost two years. The story around this song is quite hard to put in words as it has got lots of layers to it. It’s about the vulnerable feeling in the hope of new love. It’s about having found something incredible that requires letting go of what I was used to. It’s about my experience of faith and how it challenges me beyond anything else.

I first thought it might be too personal or too mysterious but, the more badass and empowering it became, the more I wanted to share it with people!

Its video sees you working with Gareth Kay. What was it like shooting the video?

It was great.

I’m so glad I found out about Gareth’s videos online. I knew he was the right person to work with when I told him about my crazy plan of putting a trampoline in a church - and he thought it was a great idea. When on the trampoline, I thought to myself: ‘Wow. This is actually happening. It’s so much fun!’. Gareth was so kind and hilarious - and also made sure we didn’t compromise on quality amongst the madness.

The E.P., Rise, is out on 23rd November. Has it been quite a personal experience putting it together? Which songs stand out to you – and have particular meaning and impact?

The process of writing my own songs is usually a highly personal one.

It’s often interesting to then start collaborating with a producer and other musicians: that’s when it feels like a personal thing becomes a (more) common-good - which is sometimes scary, but rewarding. The opening song of the E.P. is called Pocahontas; it’s a song that means a lot to me - because the true story of Pocahontas has always inspired me (from) when I was a kid.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with people.

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PHOTO CREDIT: CK Goldiing

Dave Holden assists in production. You have worked together before. What is it about him that brings the music to life?

I always enjoy working with Dave because, next to being incredibly talented and professional, he’s also (just) one of the nicest humans to talk to - and to be creative with. His compositions are cinematic, gritty and powerful…which had a transformative effect on my ballads.

Dave also encouraged me to worry less about perfection when it comes to vocal performance - which I found empowering.

This will be your third E.P. Have you grown in confidence and ability, would you say, since your debut?

Yes, absolutely!

It’s a continuous learning-process - and I wouldn’t want to go back.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rodycloud Photography

You are based in the U.K. Switzerland is where you hail from. What was the reason for locating to the U.K.? Are there big differences between the music scenes?

I always had an interest in the international music scene and London felt like the perfect place to connect and grow my English - and my craft as a songwriter. I love the creative atmosphere in London: it’s very inspiring and it feels more natural to be a professional songwriter here than in Switzerland...

Yet; I always love performing in Switzerland because artists are treated very nicely and there’s less a feeling of being part of an oversaturated market.

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PHOTO CREDIT: CK Goldiing

Did you grow up in a musical household? How influential were your parent regarding your music?

Yes. My parents both enjoy playing music.

My mum used to write songs and perform in a band - that’s why it always felt natural for me to want to be a performing artist. My parents have always been incredibly supportive of my endeavours - which I’m very grateful for.

Which artists are most inspiring to you? Who were the names you loved when you were younger?

I used to listen to classic 1980s/1990s Pop; for example, Whitney Houston, NSYNC and Destiny’s Child. Nowadays, I enjoy songs with lots of lyrical depth; for example, that of (the maybe lesser-known) Josh Garrels or Sleeping at Last.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Polly Money/PHOTO CREDITSarah Louise Bennett - Photographer

Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

I’ve got an almost endless list for you - but there are some highly skilled songwriters out there…

For example: Polly Money, Beth Keeping; Shane Beales and Jules Rendell

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If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

It’s quite hard to pick whole albums nowadays: so I’m gonna have to go back in time a bit!

Brooke FraserFlags

The album I listened to while I started writing songs more regularly (before I moved to London).

Kye KyeFantasize

This album heavily inspired the sound of my second E.P. when I was working with producer JJ Mitchell.

StromaeRacine Carrée

I hope adding an album in French is allowed? (Indeed – Sam).

I can’t even begin to say how much I admire Stromae as an artist. There’s something (incredibly) unique about him - and he writes with such skill and integrity (and his music videos are incredible!).

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

I think I’m probably the one needing advice, to be honest.

Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

I’m going to visit my family in Switzerland.

I’m also going to play a gig on 31st and am going to bring a few of my British friends with me…which should be fun!

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

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Ryan O’Neal writes the most gorgeous lyrics and releases singles on a very regular basis. This is one of his Atlas: Emotion-series releases!

I hope you enjoy it too (smiles).

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INTERVIEW: K Anderson

INTERVIEW:

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K Anderson

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ALTHOUGH he is battling through a cold right now…

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K Anderson was keen to talk to me about his latest single, Cluttered. He discusses the complexities of love and why casual ‘dating’ is something he is not on-board with. I ask the Australian-raised, London-based songwriter about his plans for future music; which albums/artists have made the biggest impression on his heart – if there is a new artist we should all go looking for.

Anderson reveals why Cluttered departs, in terms of sound, from Bitter Wind and 14 Year Old Me; how the end of this year will be spent; what advice he would give to new songwriters – and why Cluttered was quite tough to pull together.

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Hi, K. How are you? How has your week been?

I’ve come down with the same cold the rest of London seems to be afflicted with!

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

Sure. Although, bear with me, as I’m notoriously bad at this kind of thing! I am a Scotland-born, Australia-raised; London-based, singer-songwriter - and I lean on the side of oversharing and melodrama…

What can you tell us about the new single, Cluttered? What is the story behind it?

I’m never very good at casual dating…

I don’t understand how people can be fuc*-buddies and not develop complicated and weird feelings for each other. Cluttered is a song about this: about being certain that you don’t want to be with someone at the same time as obsessively checking their Instagram feed - and wondering how your two surnames would sound together if you decided to go double-barrelled (not that I’ve ever done that, obviously).

You have described the song as falling between Michael Stipe and Toni Basil. That sounds like quite a brew! How did you arrive at the song’s sound and dynamic?

This one took a while to come together and there are actually a few different versions I tried before starting on this path. I knew that I wanted it to be brash and a little frantic and, for me, the bass is so important in this song. Getting that sound right really helped it come together.

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The song looks at messy relationships and a brief fling turning into something more substantial. How much of the song’s core stems from your own experiences of love?

I used to fall into relationships all the time. I mean, not all the time, but I was always so shocked if someone fancied me that I didn’t want to risk losing my chance! I think, as the years have gone on, I’ve made a concerted effort to cultivate this cynical old-man vibe - which makes me far warier (and also means fewer songs about the first stages of lust!).

Cluttered is a departure from Bitter Wind and 14 Year Old Me. Was that a conscious decision – tackling new ground?

No. It never is…

I don’t want to sound cliché, but I love so many different types of music - and don’t like to limit myself to how I think other people think I should sound. For me, it’s most important to serve the song and this is the sound that Cluttered wanted to take - so, I just followed it along that path.

Can we expect any new material in 2018?

In a word: yes.

I’m working on something at the moment that I think is very exciting - but I want to keep it a secret a little bit longer, so…you’ll have to make do with a simple ‘yes’ for now.

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Which artists did you grow up listening? What kind of sounds were you experiencing when young?

My family aren’t musical, so I mostly listened to whatever was on the radio growing up (which was a lot of Easy Listening!).

When I started to listen to music ‘seriously’ (I kind of hate this term, because I always took music seriously - even when it was supposedly throw-away Pop), I was really taken by strong female singer-songwriters (and it’s only been, very recently, that I’ve enjoyed listening to men) - think Ani DiFranco, Jill Sobule and Joni Mitchell.

I am interesting finding out how songs come to you. Do you have an idea of a track or do they arrive in a flash? How long would a track lie Cluttered take to get right and fully-formed?

There’s no one way…

Sometimes, a song is very quick to form and other times…not so much…

The general thing tends to be lots of re-writing; lots of time away to view it with fresh eyes - and additions of bridges and pre-choruses six-months after I thought the thing was finished!

You have had a busy career already and must be thinking ahead. Do you have any dreams/ambitions you hope to fulfil in 2018?

You’re trying to get this secret out of me, aren’t you?

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IN THIS PHOTO: Hanne Hukkelberg

Which new artists do you recommend we check out?

Not a new artist - but I’m really enjoying the new Hanne Hukkelberg album at the moment.

Are there any tour dates coming up? Where can we see you play?

Yes! I’m doing a short acoustic set at The Reverse’s single-launch party on 25 November in London town.

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

Oh, hell! That’s a tough one and depends entirely on the day you ask me….how about:

Living in Clip - Ani DiFranco

People told me about how amazing Ani was for ages - but I could never properly get into her music. Then I heard this record, which is a live album, and it all suddenly made sense. Her ease and charm come through on this record so clearly.

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Blue - Joni Mitchell

I know that people criticise this one as being too Pop and straightforward, but I don’t care. Give me this every day!

SpiceThe Spice Girls

So many memories and weird feelings wrapped up in this one!

What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Hustle. Create and share often.

Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

No plans yet. I tend to ignore Christmas until I have no other choice – so, I figure I’ve still got a good month before I need to panic!

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Since I’ve already mentioned her:

Hanne Hukkelberg (ft. Emilie Nicolas) - Embroidery

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INTERVIEW: Galaxians

INTERVIEW:

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 Galaxians

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THEIR name might provoke images of outer-space…

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or classic arcade games but, as is explained; the name has a different origin. Matt, from Galaxians, discusses the new album, Let the Rhythm In, and the colours and genres they include in their music – among them, lashes of Pop and Funk. He tells me how they met their newest recruit, Em, and the great music coming out of Leeds.

I find out about Ghost Town Recording Studio in Leeds and performing there; the themes that go into the album; the artists the band/Matt was raised on – and some valuable advice for new musicians of the minute.

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Hi, Matt/guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Matt: Hi, I am/we are A-OKAY, I think! Last week was one of extreme post-tour blues, but we had a rehearsal tonight - so it's nice to get back on it.

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

We are Galaxians; a trio from Leeds (U.K.) comprised of Emma Mason (Voice), Jed Skinner (Synthesisers and Programming) and Matt Woodward (Drums and Programming).

The band started in 2012 - and Em joined us in 2016.

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Can you tell me where that name, ‘Galaxians’, comes from? Is there a tale behind it?

We chose it just because it had a ring to it we both liked...

There's a common misconception that we are named after a computer-game - but neither of us has ever been into them; so we didn't know there was one (it’s called ‘Galaxian’, I believe).

It was just among a bunch of names we suggested - and was the one we both liked at the time.

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How did you all get together in the first place - and what was it about one another that led to the formation of the band?

Jed and I met in Leeds as a result of an email that Jed sent to my old band, Cissy.

Our synth player had recently left the band and Jed was interested in joining - but we'd actually already decided to form a new band (Azores) and didn't want a synth player as such. But, during the email exchange, I suggested Jed and I meet up and maybe jam - which we did and it was fun. I think the thing that really dawned on both of us was that we shared a common love for music - that none of our other friends were into.

From my point-of-view, I was just really into the way Jed played, too. I'd never been in a band with a synth player who played so funky - so it was a fresh and exciting thing - I was looking for a new way to approach the drums, too. A different angle. I wanted to learn a new discipline. 

Em joined us in 2016, but we've lived on the same street and known each other for over ten years. After we initially decided to collaborate on some ideas for the album; it just became obvious once we got into the studio and started working together that Em should be a permanent member of the band. 

Let the Rhythm In is your new record. What was the biggest inspiration-point in terms of themes and subject matter? 

There isn't ever a single or central inspiration-point for us, really, because we have a lot of different ideas - born out of both musical and non-musical influences and experiences.

The record didn't really stem from a singular concept or idea, but some of the themes we touch on in the lyrics are – for Emma and me particularly - a reflection of where we live and how the urban environment makes us feel.

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There are classic Disco/Boogie/1980s/R&B themes in there - romance, money; city-living, nightlife etc - but my feeling is that it's not always rooted in some of the more aspirational themes of Disco…but more along the lines of ‘ye; it's hard living in a dirty, sometimes scary, noisy city - but it's also inspiring’. In terms of creating art in a city environment; there is always inspiration amongst the decay and the noise. It's not pretty but the urban degradation, close proximity to others and the harsh realities of inner-city life can produce a certain rawness in music (that we really like).

I think that's one of the reasons I've always had an obsession with 1970s/1980s New York. 

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In terms of musical influences, there are many: Leroy Burgess, Gwen Guthrie; Jocelyn Brown, West End Records etc. It’s fair to say that we love the N.Y.C. sound, in particular, but not just the players. The way we composed and arranged the album version of How Do U Feel? was heavily influenced by John Morales and his original M&M session remixes. We really love his arrangements.

He’s one of those people whose remixes sometimes improve on the originals. His version of Lay It on the Line by Logg is a prime example. The original is great but John’s version is just something else..pun-intended (there’s also a Logg song called Something Else).

It was recorded at Ghost Town Recording Studio (Leeds) with Ross Halden. How much fun was it?! Was it pretty cool working with Halden?!

Ross is great to work with.

He doesn't have as high a profile as some other Leeds producers but, for us, he's the only person we want to work with here; partly because he understands where our sound comes from. He knows something of the history of the sound and the instruments used and gets as excited as us about reflecting on how, why and where some obscure; lo-fi, early-1980s Boogie-Funk record was made.

That's the kind of nerdiness and attention-to-detail we like… 

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A big part of working with Ross is that he's very flexible, eager to experiment; happy to try new things, encouraging and easy-going. What we've found is that as our working relationship with Ross has developed: he's taken on that fourth band member role, sometimes, and really helped us get the best out of everything - ourselves, the instruments and the songs. We feel that he actually digs what we’re doing and cares about it...

He puts up with our bullsh*t and weirdness pretty well, too.

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Leeds is your hometown. How much of the honesty and diversity of the people/landscape goes into your music?

It's a definite influence and a constant inspiration for us.

We’re all northerners - and I think it’s fair to say that northerners tend to be viewed as no-nonsense, no-bullsh*t people. There’s definitely some truth in that and I hope our music does come across as both honest and representative of where we live. I do love Leeds, but I’m not territorial about it because I love the North in general. North Yorkshire is where I grew up.

I really like West Yorkshire in general, too - and South Yorkshire is also good. In recent times I’ve grown to love places like Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool more and more.

 

There is great diversity in the North of England. I think that diverse, multi-cultural communities are beneficial to everyone and only enrich our lives - and the cultural landscape in general. Leeds is definitely good for that. The community I live in is great. Obviously, it has its problems like any other inner-city area but, on the whole, everybody gets along well - which is all the more positive when you see how tightly the streets are packed in; how small the houses are - and how close people live to each other. 

Do you think that area of the country gets as much focus as it deserves?

No...but Leeds gets a lot more focus than some of the other towns and cities around it (Bradford, for example). Leeds is a popular, young city and it’s a consumer mecca in the North - so it does okay. Plus, it’s always had a huge student population. There's a much wider debate on the distribution of wealth and resources in England - and how it affects parts of the country that are a long way from London. Successive governments and institutions have repeatedly shown an open sense of contempt for people in the North, too. Spend a week or two visiting deprived areas of the North East and you’ll see what I mean. People from working-class communities - in the North - do feel ignored and like they don't have a voice.

It's been like that for generations…

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Referring directly to the arts; Leeds doesn’t receive as much focus as, say, Manchester or Liverpool - because its musical heritage isn’t as well known or highly trumpeted by the media. I guess one of the things I’ve always liked about Leeds is that there are really great bands (a huge number of them since pioneers like Gang of Four and Delta 5) that have always existed underground or on the fringes. It’s always had a really prolific, varied; high-quality D.I.Y. music community and a great club culture, too…but people just like it underground here!

I sometimes wonder if new bands from cities, that have a more famous music culture, find it hard to break off the shackles of that heritage - or get tired of people in the press referencing it or comparing them to it.

 

I get a sense classic Disco is quite a draw for you guys. What music did you all grow up listening to?

Classic Disco is definitely a huge passion for us, but, equally, the post-Disco, pre-House era perhaps more so, actually. I think it’s the combination of live instrumentation – acoustic drums, bass guitars etc. – blended with the early synthesisers and drum-machines that really produced some incredible music - and a lot of experimentation. (All those sub-genres that appeared – Boogie, Garage; Proto-House etc.).

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Growing up; the first records I heard were albums my parents had: Changes by David Bowie; Revolver by The Beatles - stuff like that. I first heard Kraftwerk when I was in my early-teens and that made a big impression on me; as did Hip-Hop and Electro acts from N.Y.C. like Rock Steady Crew and Break Machine. I was also really into 2 Tone Records, The Jam; early U2, The Damned; X-Ray Spex, Kate Bush; Blondie, Prince....but, by the time I started playing drums, I was into Rockabilly; The Smiths and U.K. Indie stuff - and then, Hardcore stuff. My first few bands were Hardcore or Punk bands. I was exposed to lots of really amazing music at college - because the community there was really diverse and everyone liked music a lot. 

I didn’t really get into Disco and Dance music until much later on. The really exciting thing for me was that, when I did discover Dance music, a huge world opened up. I really got into it. It was a feeling and a vibe that spoke to me and I got it. I felt at home there and started going to Techno raves and parties - and meeting a lot of different people who really opened my eyes to a lot of things. I loved it then and still do. It speaks to the hedonist in me, for sure; but it’s the sense of community and a shared feeling or moment that you really feel.

It’s about liberation, discovery and giving in to the music.    

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Are there any tour dates coming up? Where can we see you play? 

We’ve actually just completed a U.K. and European tour off the back of the album release: playing in Leeds, Bristol; Amsterdam, Jeumont; Cologne, Brussels; Lille, and London. I had a great time and met so many ace people. The hospitality you receive once you get across the English Channel, sometimes, puts us to shame. Our next gigs should be fun. We’re playing with The Moonlandingz at Church in Leeds on 19th November; then a party in The Old Angel in Nottingham on 2nd December, hosted by Pete Woosh - who is/was a member of the legendary DiY Sound System collective, there. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kelela

Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?

That depends on how you define ‘new’...

I can list a few records I’m listening to right now - but they’re not new artists, as such. I’ve been listening to Kelela a lot recently and the Golden Teacher (Glasgow) album which just came out; plus, stuff by Jessy Lanza, Silver Linings (Melbourne); AMOR (Glasgow) and Talamanca System - amongst other things. My girlfriend, Reb, recently played me the new Jane Weaver record and an album by Kate Tempest; both of which I really liked. I buy tons of music regularly - but more older stuff than new...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Golden Teacher

I go through periods where I feel a little out-of-touch with new stuff. I don't tend to follow trends or focus on hyped bands that much. I still find out about a lot of music by going to gigs, but that also depends on how busy I am and how much money I have. I don’t use streaming sites or listen to a lot of stuff online; so, it sometimes takes me longer to discover stuff everyone else is already into. I like records and don’t like listening to music through a laptop - even through my hi-fi. It still sounds crappy to me…so, I’d rather listen to vinyl.

I like music on a tactile format - and vinyl is the only format for me.  

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IN THIS IMAGE: Jane Weaver/IMAGE CREDIT: Ethem Onur Bilgiç/Bant Mag

If you had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would it be and why?

I couldn’t: it’s just impossible.

The music is the meaning - and my love for it is ongoing. There are too many albums I love and music itself is too vast to pick a single album. Different albums produce different feelings connected to different things - and you can’t always compare them. It’s an art-form; so there’s subjectivity and relativity inherent in it, too. Our tastes often change throughout our lives don’t they? I still love some of the bands and artists I loved as a teenager - but there’s always music to discover now and in the future and, as I get older, my musical palette widens - and I become more open to stuff I might have hated ten years ago. 

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now? 

I’m not really a person who should be giving advice…but here goes (not in order of importance, by the way!):

1) Do what comes naturally

2) Enjoy the process as much as the finished result

3) Don’t be a dick (like I’ve been at times)

4) Be humble (arrogance is unattractive)...

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5) Show support and solidarity with people who might be in a less privileged position than yourself

6) Speak out about things that matter

7) Don’t get too sucked in by bullsh*t. Worrying about how many likes you have on Twitter is a slippery slope

8) Respect people

9) Manage yourselves - maintain control over what you do...

10) Go on tour and visit other countries as often as possible.

Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

I'm going to visit my mum by the sea...

It's beautiful there and I always enjoy Christmas with my mum. We're not religious, by any means, so we don't go mad for Christmas...but I'll take any excuse to feast on my mother's home-cooking.

I'm back at work on the 27th December for a few days. 

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Are there any plans for next year? What goals do you hope to fulfil in the coming year?

Well. We're always thinking about new songs and the next record. Ideally, we'll have enough material for album two towards the end of next year. We're always playing shows; so that never really stops - unless one of us goes on holiday or whatever...

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Confess to U by Omar S (ft. Nite Jewel)

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INTERVIEW: Luke Elliot

INTERVIEW:

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Thaddeus Rombauer

Luke Elliot

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A lot of attention has been paid the way…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Thaddeus Rombauer

of U.S. singer-songwriter Luke Elliot. I speak to him about his acclaimed album, Dressed for the Occasion, and the stories that go into it. I ask what it was like to work with producer John Agnello and how he came to meet Christa Shaub – former manager of the Pop superstar, Rihanna. Elliot talks about his plans for the coming months and the artists who have inspired him.

He also speaks about the music scene in New Jersey and what it was like taking on a whirlwind tour of Europe; what the music industry was like when he started out; a new artist that is worthy of more focus – and how his Christmas plans are panning out.

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Hi, Luke. How are you? How has your week been?

I'm ok. I've been in a studio (in Harlem) working on new material all week.  

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

My name is Luke Elliot. I'm from New Jersey and just finished a U.S. tour - after playing extensively in Europe for two-and-a-half years. Go buy Dressed for the Occasion.

Dressed for the Occasion is your current album. What kind of themes and stories go into the album?

It's made up of a lot of personal experiences - and a lot of other people's, too. I tend to take on characters here a lot more than I expected to. 

It just kind of happened organically.

Is there a particular song that strikes a chord with you? A personal favourite that stands aside?

Well. I have a feeling about all of them in one way or another...but I think People Like You really stands out. 

It hits a visceral part of me that the others don't.

 

Tell me more about Get ‘Em While They’re Hot and the inspiration behind that…

It has a lot to do with superstition...

I've always been a rather obsessive person and I think this song has something to do with trying to differentiate between an obsession and what's actually happening. 

It can get rather confusing.

What was it like working with producer John Agnello on the L.P.?

John is a force in the studio. He gets things done I couldn't have imagined. He has an unnatural way of taking my ideas and turning them into something that stretched far beyond their original horizon. 

(He's a good kisser, too). 

You signed with former Rihanna manager Christa Shaub and had a chance meeting with a European journalist – that seemed to set your career on the right path. Tell me more about that series of events…

I practically stalked Christa until she started managing me. 

We met through a mutual friend, years back, and I knew right away I needed someone like her to help me further my career. I called her until she picked up and when she wouldn't, I wrote her emails and messages on social media. I sent her new material and then would follow up a few hours later to ask her (her) thoughts. I was very pro-active. 

She finally took me on and we continued working the N.Y. circuit. Randomly, we met a Norwegian journalist who happened to write on me in the latest newspaper in the country. We got asked over for a tour - and things took off from there in Europe.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Thaddeus Rombauer

Can you tell me how you got into music and what the early days were like? Was it hard starting out in the industry?

This industry sucks.

It’s a nightmare. People are awful to young musicians trying new things - at least in the United States. ‘Professionals’ won't speak to you; club owners make you grovel for your money - and sound engineers are ill-equip and hate their jobs. Once you find a fanbase, though, it changes. All of a sudden, there are people coming to your shows. If you keep working, it just happens. 

But the industry, as a whole, is an unguarded snake-pit.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Thaddeus Rombauer

Which artists are most influential with regards your sound would you say?

Lots...

A lot of directors and authors have influenced me as well. It really ranges. There are too many to list.

I believe, before you embarked on a whirlwind tour of Europe, you never owned a passport or left the U.S.! What was it like stepping into a new world and embracing new countries?

It was a relief. I couldn't wait to travel. I think that excitement really translated to the people there. 

New Jersey is where you are based. What is it like there for a young and ambitious musician? 

I'm fortunate that I grew up near major metropolitan cities. I was always able to get away from the suburbs and see what else was going on. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Shilpa Ray

Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

I really like Shilpa Ray. She's great.

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

I couldn't pick just three: I'm not great at answering 'all-time-favorites' questions. Right now, I've been listening to a lot of Kurt Weill.

What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Do what you want to do, not what other people tell you. 

Pay attention to trusted sources and new ideas - but stick with your gut. Develop and always be willing to change - but learn the difference between compromising and losing yourself. At the end of the day, your ideas are what started the whole thing.   

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Where can we see you play this year? Any plans regarding coming to the U.K.?

We are looking forward to coming back to the U.K. soon but no dates have been set yet. Right now, we are setting up tours for Greece, Turkey; Sweden, Australia and the U.S., of course.

Christmas is not too far away. Do you all have plans already - or will you be busy working?

I don't know yet. My schedule changes at the drop of a hat. I hope I'll get to see my family for a bit.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Groom Still Waiting at the Altar - Bob Dylan 

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INTERVIEW: Chris Pellnat

INTERVIEW:

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Chris Pellnat

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THIS is not the first time the name ‘Pellnat’…

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has made its way onto my blog! I reviewed Erin Pellnat last year: right now, I have been speaking with her father, Chris. I learn more about his path into music and how he got started; details about his awesome album, Honey Venom Wings – some of the choice cuts and stories that go into the record.

Chris Pellnat talks about his favourite sounds and the music scene around Hudson, N.Y.; why the area is so special to him; whether there is more to come; if we can expect arrival in the U.K. anytime soon – and whether he feels he has grown as a songwriter (whilst recording his latest album).

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Hi, Chris. How are you? How has your week been?

I’m doing pretty great. Life can be hard - but life is beautiful, too.

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

I am a singer-songwriter from just outside of Hudson, New York (U.S.A.). I have played in numerous bands - and am currently the electric guitar player in the (Poughkeepsie) New York-based band, The Warp/The Weft.

I have done the solo singer-songwriter thing - as well as collaborations with other musicians.

Honey Venom Wings is your new album. What sort of ideas do you investigate on the record? What is the history of that title?

Honey Venom Wings is the album title and also the name of one of the songs. I named the album after this song because I felt this song best encapsulates the essence of the album - which is to say I was striving for a certain ‘elevated’ feeling that I think I came closest to achieving in the song, Honey Venom Wings.

There are several very light, fun songs on this record – even a silly novelty song called Vegetarian Blues (I am a vegetarian).

But, Honey Venom Wings is rather dark. It’s about being in a fever in a hospital and perhaps (being) near-death. But, it’s also strangely uplifting in some kind of subtle way - I think because it’s very spiritual.

The first song on the album is On the Ground, which is a dulcimer-driven Folk spiritual - it’s all about rising up to become more than we are.

Has it been a fun and illuminating process – recording and constructing the songs? Do you think you have grown a lot as a songwriter whilst making the L.P.?

Yes. I have done several recording with bands and with other singers and have dabbled a bit in recording - but this album is really the first time I focused solely on bringing some of my songs to life in a recorded form. It is very much a learning experience.

The final form/structure of a song, sometimes, isn’t worked out until it comes time to make decisions about how it’s going to come together in a recording. The recording process and tools influence the way you perceive your own songs - and the possibilities for what directions you can take them in.

It’s liberating in some ways: limiting in others.

The record veers in directions and embraces different sounds! Is that consistent with your music tastes and upbringing? Which artists did you grow up listening to?

I grew up listening to every possible thing I could...

I went through the obligatory Beatles, The Rolling Stones; Bob Dylan, and Bowie phases; then, Talking Heads and a lengthy Indie-Rock/Alt.-Folk phase; a Jazz phase (John Coltrane!); a Classical music phase (Beethoven, Mozart especially) - as well as being really into old Country music for a while (Hank Williams, Johnny Cash etc.)...but, the truth is, I’ve never really escaped from any of those phases: I still love it all and it lives within me. But, I don’t live in the past. 

My ears are always open to new sounds.

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Do you know what is coming next year? Are you working on any new material?

I am always writing and working on new ideas.

About 80% of it ends up in the garbage almost immediately: the other 20% are songs that I keep alive – to shape and fine-tune. Some of these will end up discarded, too, as my thoughts about them evolve. 

So...maybe 10% end up being songs I perform and record.

Hudson is where you are based. What is that area of New York like for music?

The entire Hudson Valley has a very vibrant music scene.

All of the cities (such as Kingston, Hudson and Poughkeepsie) are home to amazing musicians - and there are a good number of venues that welcome original music.

In addition to your own music; you collaborate with others – and perform with different musicians. Is it hard balancing those projects? Do you take a little from each area and incorporate that into your music?

I love collaborating...

My work with singers has been especially helpful to me. I do not think my voice is anything special - I am more of a songwriter than singer. But, when a super-talented vocalist sings my songs, my music really comes to life in a wonderful way. It’s magical.

I’ve also done some production for singers doing their own music – also a great learning experience in terms of internalizing and striving to really understand their work on a deep level…and act on that to hopefully convey their musical essence.

All of that influences what I do with my own music.

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Does the rise of Donald Trump impact your music? Is he someone who ‘inspires’ creativity in you?!

Politics is not a major focus for me but this presidency really has made non-political people like me focus on what is going on. I think the importance of creative pursuits and the arts is paramount now; when the nation is so divided and angry on both sides. Not that art can fix conflict - but it can show us something higher and more universal that transcends politics and goes to the heart of human existence.

We need that perspective to keep from being dragged into the partisan battles and division. That said; I did do one overtly political song. Shortly after the election of Donald Trump; Mercy Weiss and I made an anti-Trump music video for a song I previously wrote called Evil Baby.

The song didn’t start off being about Trump but, since he became President, we both saw that the song could easily be about him. Mercy sings the song and appears in the video.

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Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

Aside from Mercy Weiss, whom I just mentioned, of course, I would recommend The Warp/The Weft (the band I play in).

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IN THIS IMAGE: Mercy Weiss

Another Hudson Valley band I really like a lot is The Sweet Clementines.

At the risk of nepotism; I would strongly recommend the Brooklyn band Caretaker - fronted by my daughter, Erin. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Caretaker/PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Joseph

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

(This is an impossible question - I could name one-hundred such albums!  But, if you insist; here are three that are very special..):

Transition - John Coltrane

Especially on this album; Coltrane shows any musician with open ears and an open mind how to navigate music and make it do your bidding. In his case, it was incredible, imaginative; visionary improvisational music - but that same kind of exploratory curiosity and intelligence are needed to move one’s music forward, regardless of the genre.

Talking Heads: 77Talking Heads

Forty years later; this record still sounds bizarre, brilliant - and unlike any other Rock album before or since.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles

Yes, I know this is too obvious a choice to make - but I make it anyway. An uneven, in some places, muddled - but overall brilliant - record that changed everything.

Can we see you perform anywhere soon? Where can we catch you play?

I plan to do some more gigs in early-2018 (in the Hudson Valley).

Will you be coming to the U.K.? What do you think of the music over here?

No immediate plans -  but I would jump at the opportunity, should it arise!

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Be yourself - or be who you want to be - or be an elaborate persona you invent. Whatever…just don’t be what you think others want you to be.

Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

No immediate plans – just looking forward to hanging out with family. I get a couple days off from work.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive - Hank Williams

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INTERVIEW: Jennings Couch

INTERVIEW:

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Jennings Couch

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IN the raging and jam-packed sea of musicians…

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few manage to cling to the critical liferaft and make it to the tropical island of popular acclaim. It seems Jennings Couch has a fighting chance of safety and success! I speak with him about the new single, Serotonin, and a unique approach to relationships. There is a love of science and antiques in the bones of Jennings Couch – an angle I was keen to explore. He discusses his love of the sciences and some of his quirkiest possessions; the musicians who fuel his passions – and when new material is coming.

He divulges information about influence and the creative process; what he has in store regarding gigs; moving from the U.S. to the U.K. – and a new artist we should all be familiar with.

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Hi, Jennings. How are you? How has your week been?

I’ve been well, thanks!

This week has been quite busy preparing for a couple gigs next week and future single releases. I’ve got music videos, photo-shoots and rehearsals to do - and not enough me!

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?           

I was born in New York  City, in 1995, and moved to London when I was nine-years-old. I think the move really influenced the music I listened to growing up and, thus, influenced my songwriting.

I would say I’ve developed a strange mix of Alternative, Indie-Rock and Pop.

Serotonin is your new single. What can you reveal about its background and concept?

I’ve always loved philosophy and science - and I’ve always been interested in trying to take an abstract concept and turning it into a relatable song.

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for moods, particularly happiness, and I thought it would be really cool to create a love song using serotonin as the main idea; hence the chorus-line: “You’re playing havoc with my serotonin”.       

It seems you have had quite an itinerant life so far. What was the reason for moving from New York to England? Do you get a chance to go back to the U.S.?    

I came to England with my parents for their work. I would say my formative years were spent in the U.K and that’s why I adapted to this culture so well; so much so that I don’t feel American anymore and, whenever I go back to the U.S - which is only about twice a  year - it feels like I’m just a visitor...                 

Who are the artists you grew up listening to and were inspired by?       

I grew up listening to a wide range of music - from Heavy Metal to Folk.

Through every phase I went through, I believe I took any things that I enjoyed about each genre and put them into my own songwriting. For instance, I love a good Heavy Metal breakdown but I also love a beautiful Folk guitar riff. Finding a balance between what inspires me and what I am influenced by is a tricky (but satisfying) thing to do in songwriting.                

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You have spent time in bustling cities and the rural quiet. Do you source from your surroundings when it comes to music? 

I would say I don’t source ideas directly from my surroundings - but being in a new environment is always creatively stimulating for me. I actually find it quite difficult to write at home.

I often end up having my best ideas when I’m in a new place or on holiday.                        

A chance meeting with Kevin Malpass started you on the path you are on. How important was that meeting? Tell me more about it…               

Kevin and I clicked straight away…

We both enjoyed each other’s writing style and could really relate, musically. It was so important for me to meet someone who understands what I am trying to convey in my music - and he did it perfectly through his production of my tracks.                  

A new L.P. is coming soon. What themes and stories do you tackle on the record?         

The tracks that are going on the new L.P. are quite varied in their themes.

I cover subjects such as human equality and the future of our society. Again; I’m always interested in taking big ideas and consolidating them into a song or two.                  

I know a lot of scientific and philosophical subjects will be included. Do you consider yourself a bit of a science geek?! What is it about science and the world around us that compels you?    

I suppose I am a bit of a geek when it comes to science and philosophy! I’m just so interested in how the world works and how we form the reality in which we live in. I think it’s so important to question everything and remain open-minded.

There is no such thing as too much knowledge.                  

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One imagines there are collectables and rare items in your household! What are your prized possessions? What is the most unusual thing you own?           

I’ve got a real passion for antiques!

It’s just one of those strange hobbies I’ve developed over the years. My favourite era is the Victorian period; so I tend to collect items dating from 1830 to 1900. My most-prized possession is a silver Victorian pocket-watch from 1886.

It still works and I often wear it on a gold chain on my waistcoat.

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        IN THIS PHOTO: grandson       

Which new artists do you recommend we check out?  

Recently, I’ve been listening to an artist called grandson. He’s got such a unique sound that I’ve not heard before!

Definitely worth a listen.             

Are there any tour dates coming up?    

I’ve got some gigs coming up in Bristol, Cheshire and London - but I’ve also got a small tour in China the first week of December!      

I’m so excited and really hoping they like my sound over there!  

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If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

In my teens, I listened to a band called Lydia from Arizona in the U.S. They had an album called Illuminate - which captivated me and very much inspired the way I write today.                  

Another album that I love is Absolutes by Barcelona

It’s beautifully ethereal and always reminds me of hazy summers spent in the U.S when I was a kid.

Thirdly; I would say Parachutes by Coldplay

I love Chris Martin’s writing style and his use of big, complex chords both on the guitar and piano. Even to this day, I love every song on that album.                          

What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?                           

I was given a great piece of advice a while ago...

It was to (just) put your blinders on; keep your head down and keep doing what you’re doing - there will be a million NOs before there is one YES. There is also no ‘right’ way to be successful in music...

As long as you are prepared to have all the bases covered (i.e. social media, radio; T.V., sync,     writing for commission etc.) and you are patient; I believe it will work out.       

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Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already or will you be busy working? 

For Christmas, I will be visiting my relatives in my parent’s home-state of Indiana (in the U.S.).

It’s tradition that we do every year. However, before I can relax I’ve got a lot to do! From shooting music videos, rehearsing; getting ready for China - as well as preparing for the new releases in the New Year!               

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).  

In that case, as I mentioned before; I’m really enjoying grandson at the moment.

His song, Best Friends, is wicked and should be heard! I’d love to know what people think about it

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INTERVIEW: Radio Coma

INTERVIEW:

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 Radio Coma

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MAYBE this is the first time I have featured…

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a New Zealand-based artist/band this year! That might sound reasonable but, as I discover, there is a wealth of great talent coming from the country! I talk to Radio Coma about the scene there and their hot new track, Too Young to Die. I know Jo Kelsey (the band's lead) and have featured her music before. It was good to catch up with her and the guys and ask what they will be doing next; how the Radio Coma came together; whether they are writing anything new – and if a U.K. visit is in order.

I discover the members’ musical tastes and why they gel so well; why more eyes need to point in the direction of New Zealand – and a few new acts we should investigate.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey! We’re good - just recovering from our last few shows and planning next moves; lots of exciting stuff is happening this summer!

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

Radio Coma is a Rock ‘n’ Roll band based in Auckland, New Zealand. We’re Johann (Bass), LJ (Drums); Ozan (Guitars) and Jo (Vocals).

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Can I ask where the name ‘Radio Coma’ comes from? Is there a personal origin or story behind it?

Ozan: I had this mixed, mainly Chinese-speaking radio-noise coming from my guitar amp during a recording session - where I was using some vintage fuzz pedals. I kept it rolling because I thought it fit that dark song nicely - and we kept it in the mix. At the beginning, it became the name of that song but that was an earlier, never-released work - when the four of us weren’t even together.

Later on, when we were struggling with a band name, we also discovered that ‘Coma’ also means the nebulous envelope around the nucleus of a comet; formed when the comet passes close to the Sun -  which gives the comet a ‘fuzzy’ appearance when viewed by a telescope - distinguishes it from stars.

It all clicked together. We all loved both ideas and kept the name...

Jo. I know you are from the U.K. How did you all find one another in New Zealand?!

Jo: I got tired of London and the concrete jungle and was feeling totally uninspired. One day, I’d had enough so went out and bought myself a plane ticket to India; sold all of my stuff and ended up travelling the world and having some amazing adventures for a year or two. Eventually, I started (wanting to) settling down and found myself in New Zealand - which seemed like the perfect combination of sunshine, nature and city life.

Ozan had moved from Istanbul and Johann from France to work here. LJ had moved from South Africa for similar reasons to me. I’d been struggling to find musicians - and found Ozan and Johann while looking through endless ‘musician wanted’ ads. We had a few jams, started writing together; were joined soon after by LJ and haven’t looked back!

Too Young to Die is the new track. Can you reveal how the song came together and what lit the spark?

Ozan: The main guitar riff was there when I was trying to form the band and working with a drummer friend. We kind of put the basic riff together - but didn’t know what to do with it. Then Jo took it and came up with the melody and the lyrics. We kept jamming on it when LJ joined the band. That was actually the first-ever song we played all together. I looked Jo in the eye at the first chorus and we knew LJ was the one (one groovy man!). LJ and Johann both had their own take on the groove...

It was there, in a couple of jam sessions, with the full lyrics  - it became our first song.

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Is there going to be a music video for the song? Any plans for future singles?

No music video plans yet!

Right now; we’re gigging as much as we can and getting our live performances better and better - whilst gaining exposure (as we’re a fairly new band). We have an E.P./album in-the-works for next year, too.

New Zealand is where you are based. I do not encounter a lot of artists from there! Is there quite an active music scene in the country?

New Zealand has a very small but a very active scene.

Currently, there are some great bands we admire and some great bands/musicians came out from New Zealand in the past - especially in the early-1980s, when there was this famous 'Dunedin' sound: an Indie/Pop formation which can be traced back to the emergence of Punk-Rock as a musical influence (in the country) in the late-1970s.

Some great bands active now (who we love) are The Datsuns, His Master’s Voice and Skinny Hobos - you guys should definitely have a listen...

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What is it like in terms of venues and labels? Do you feel the band will grow and be able to flourish in the country?

We feel like we’re growing with every gig.

Starting with our first release (in May this year); we’ve been playing shows consistently and we feel like people really appreciate and see the hard work behind every tune and every groove. We’d like to tour New Zealand soon, too. It’s the same as being in any country: I think it’s natural to want to grow and venture out internationally when the time is right.

We haven’t had much experience as a band with the N.Z. labels yet. What we did, so far, was completely independent and our own work - including recording and mixing. However, we are looking for help in order to concentrate more on songwriting and be on the (more) creative side - rather than dealing with all the technicalities.  

There is a bit of a venue crisis, to be honest. There are also some good old ones we really love. Auckland and Wellington have a few really active places with great, supportive communities and owners around them. It’s all about the battle between the arts and property developments - pretty similar to what’s been happening in London over the last few years, sadly. Our hometown, Auckland, has been accepted into the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Music, very recently. We hope this will improve the scene, add more festivals and venues to the table - where they are needed more than ever...

Coming from London - where the music industry is so saturated - it’s awesome to be in a place where it feels like people really listen to your music; appreciate and fight hard to keep the scene alive.

We’re excited to see what we can do here...

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Tell me about the artists you all grew up on. What kind of albums did you all experience and fall for in the family household?!

This is a very interesting question for us to answer - as we all grew up in different parts of the world and were exposed to different kinds of traditional music; as well as western music. The answer would be very long!

Jo: I grew up as a Classical singer in Birmingham (U.K.), the hometown of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, so had a strange amalgamation of days spent singing Italian arias; nights in Rock bars - and parents who loved The Beatles. I remember dancing around the house to everything from Sgt. Pepper’s to Aretha Franklin and Etta James.

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Ozan has some Turkish influence. Raised in a musical family; he grew up listening to both Eastern/Western Folk music a lot; fell in love with Blues - when he picked up a guitar as a kid and found himself listening to all the Classic Rock, Blues and Funk greats - from the 1960s/1970s - every day.  

LJ grew up in church and played (mostly) Gospel and contemporary Christian music - until he started working as a session drummer in his twenties and he had exposure to various other styles and genres…he has no specific musical preference but has strong musical roots in Soul, Gospel and Rock - and can appreciate most genres: from Classical and Jazz to Metal.

Johann (mostly) grew up with French and Spanish music influence until he moved to U.K. - when he was twenty - where he was more exposed to Rock ‘n’ Roll and joined his first local band.

I guess our common ground is Blues and Soul and, of course, we all have  Rock ‘n’ Roll in our blood! Sol putting all these influences together and playing them louder and dirtier is kind of what we do really. We just get into our studio, start jamming - and it comes out!

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Which new artists do you recommend we check out?

There are some great Kiwi bands playing right now - check out His Master’s Voice and Skinny Hobos...

Of course; we also love bands like Rival Sons and The Delta Saints!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Rival Sons

Are there any tour dates coming up? Where can we see you play?

We’re really excited to put on a show with His Master’s Voice on 2nd December at Backbeat, Auckland - and have a few more planned early next year (check out www.radiocomaband.com for more dates). We’re also currently in the finals of the national NZ Battle of the Bands competition - which has given us a lot of shows recently. The final show is in late-December - so more shows and big plans will be announced after that!

Are there any plans regarding playing in the U.K.?

Right now, we’re working hard on N.Z. shows, an album and festivals for next year. As we’re a band of ¾ Europeans, we will definitely be there in the not-too-distant future!

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If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Ozan: I can never answer this with one album. On the classic side: it’s definitely Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti

That album means a lot to me. The story, the production; the lyrics, the Blues; the Hard-Rock, the instrumentation in it - there is a hurdy-gurdy in it!  

More recently, in terms of sonic structure and the whole Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit, Rival SonsGreat Western Valkyrie has had a big impact on me.   

Jo: That’s hard! Whatever’s happening in life; I always come back to Led Zeppelin IV

Every single day and state of mind: there’s a song that just makes sense. I’ve also been carrying around this amazing Janis Joplin 1972 live album (In Concert) for years and years. Her energy on stage blows me away. It just seems so raw and real - and I think that kind of honesty is missing from a lot of music these days.

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LJ: Mate! That’s like asking me to choose between my mom and dad! Haha. That changes, based on my moods and my musical journey at that time…this last while it had been Them Crooked Vultures (Them Crooked Vultures) on-repeat.

Johann: I am not a big fan of picking favourites but, since Zeppelin is taken, my first thought would be Black SabbathParanoid

Not only because of Geezer’s killer bass lines and tone - but it is also a milestone in the story of Rock albums: so many classics packed into eight songs. I hope we can be as efficient!

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Ozan: Make friends….and then make more friends. Keep doing what you love and what you believe in - no matter what. People on the street, at a bar: they hear the honesty in the music...so be yourself and be authentic.

Jo: Make something you believe in and will put your heart and soul into: a project you’re not fully committed to will fall apart pretty quickly. There is a lot of soul missing from the music industry recently - let’s bring it back!

Also; remember that it’s called the ‘music business’ for a reason - you have to be prepared to treat it that way for a sustainable career doing what you love.  

Christmas is not too far away. Do you all have plans already - or will you be busy working?

We’ll probably take some downtime to see family and friends. We’re all ready to start writing more - so lots of time for jamming too, hopefully.

The best thing about New Zealand is Christmas at the beach!

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Are there any plans for next year? What goals do you hope to fulfil in the coming year?

We’re working now on an E.P./album that we hope to release next year - and have a few other things in the pipeline. (Just) more gigs, festivals and tours; some more writing - and making as much noise as we can!

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Ozan: Yavuz Çetin - Oyuncak Dünya

Johann: Platero y tuCigarrito

LJ: Them Crooked VulturesElephants

Jo: Where I’ve Been - Rival Sons

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INTERVIEW: Rothwell

INTERVIEW: 

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Rothwell

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DUE out on 8th December through Bright Star Records (via Universal)…

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Freedom will be emancipated and available to the world! It will be accompanied by an arty and memorable video – one I ask Rothwell about. The bright young songwriter explains the story behind the song - and how it feels gaining kudos from the likes of Annie Mac and Justin Bieber. Rothwell has already provided guest vocals for Metrik (on the track, We Got It) and has cut her teeth at some big festivals.

Next year will see the Bristol singer-songwriter embark on new challenges and goals. I ask what she has planned and how she got into music; the musicians and sounds that have taken her this far; what it feels like gaining respect from big names – and how the remainder of this year will be spent.

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Hi, Rothwell. How are you? How has your week been?               

I’m very well, thanks. My week has been busy, but fabulous!      

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?           

Hi. I’m Rothwell. I’m singer-songwriter from Bristol. I’ve written with the likes of Metrik - and I’m now releasing my own Alt-Pop-Feel music.

Freedom is your upcoming single. Can you tell me more about it?

Freedom is a track I wrote with my friend, Kideko, about the destruction of youth and self-helplessness.

It’s a new direction for my music - and I can’t wait for everybody to hear it.

The video (coming soon) is quite arty and seductive. How did you feel seeing it back for the first time? What does the visual represent to you?

When I first watched it back; I was very excited as it fits perfectly with the artwork and the new sound. The ideas behind the visual are the juxtaposition between the beautiful colours – clashed against the subtle destruction of smoking.

Do you think, being so young, there are responsibilities and pressures that make you panic? Are too many people seek gratification from the wrong places?!

I absolutely agree and, sadly, I feel that our generation has been exposed to and brought up in an era of judgement within social media and social stereotypes.

Is there going to be more music coming down the line?

Absolutely. I am working on two more singles which will be with you all soon. I’m writing my debut album...

So; there is loads more coming!

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Justin Bieber and Annie Mac are two – of several big names – who have picked up on your music. How does that make you feel?!

I’m always so happy when anyone listens to my music...

It’s something I work really hard at - and getting recognition is amazing! When Annie played the track I danced around my living room like a kid on Christmas morning!

Many might recognise you as a guest vocalist on the Metrik track, We Got It. Was it hard transitioning from the background – now stepping into the light?

I really enjoyed the whole process with Metrik.

It actually started as a piano ballad I wrote with our friend Alex and then Metrik took it from that into his world - so I kind of feel like it was our joint musical baby! I loved performing with him at Reading Festival this year and he always lets me do my thing - so I am very, very excited releasing my own work.

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You have had a busy year playing big dates and supporting some notable stars – including Bieber. What have been your fondest times of 2017?

Playing at British Summer Time was definitely a highlight - and travelling across Europe supporting Ryan Adams was amazing!

How did you get into music? Were there particular artists you adored growing up?

I have always been into music and have studied it since I remember. I grew up listening to the likes of Julie London, Paul Simon; Nina Simone and Eagle-Eye Cherry.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: CuckooLander

Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

Billie Eilish, Sigrid; Grace Mitchell; Elli Ingram and CuckooLander. These are the artists I’m listening to at the moment - and I’m absolutely obsessed!

There seems to be a real ‘Girl Power’ theme running through!

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If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

GracelandPaul Simon

Because it’s my all-time favourite. I actually have tattoos of his lyrics!    

For Emma, Forever AgoBon Iver

Because it reminds me of discovering my own passions in music as a teenager.

Stripped Christina Aguilera

I listened to this album from start-to-finish growing up - and can definitely recite every word!

Can we see you perform anywhere soon? Where can we catch you play?

I’ll be performing at the Gibson Rooms in November. I’ll be supporting Louise at Scala in the New Year.  

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Keep going, be true to yourself: things take time and if this was easy, everybody would do it!

Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?

Find me in Bristol with a litre of Baileys surrounded by my family! But, yes; knowing my calendar, I will probably be in the studio on Christmas Eve or something!

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Diamonds on the Soles of Her ShoesPaul Simon

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INTERVIEW: Shenna

INTERVIEW:

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 Shenna

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TAKE a glance at Shenna and one will experience…

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smiles, colour and fascination! I have been speaking with the New York-based songwriter about her new song, MAGENTA - and how it differs from her previous offering, Made of Gold. I find out about Shenna’s favourite music and how of New York’s (five) boroughs differ, music-wise; whether we can expect to see her in the U.K. – the new artist that stands above the rest.

I discover what Shenna is doing this Christmas; how she came into music; what it was like working with Austin Bello; if an L.P. is forthcoming – and the musicians that compelled her step into music.

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Hi, Shenna. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey! It’s been cool - just been organizing some shows to end out the year!

For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?

Hey guys!

My name is Shenna (Shay-nuh) and I am an Indie-Pop artist from Virginia - but currently live in N.Y.C. I am a singer-songwriter and am known for my quirky fashion, red hair - and writing songs about life experiences others can relate to.

I’m all about embracing individuality!

MAGENTA is fresh from you. What does the song represent and what influenced its creation?

MAGENTA is definitely a different vibe compared with some of my past music!

The song represents feeling sexy, confident and having all eyes on you in that moment. I picked the color ‘magenta’ as the feeling because it is such a unique color. Seriously; when you Google ‘magenta’ a lot of different colors of pink and purple tints pop up - and it’s vibrant. I was honestly influenced by Bruno Mars’ last album - and wanted to create a female type of track (in that same feel).

Austin Bello is a name I recognise! What was it like working with him?

Yes! Austin is a member of an awesome band, Forever the Sickest Kids. Austin is one of the best writers and producers I have ever met. He is very passionate about music and honest with me when working together. We go through tons of ideas and he’s like: “That’s not it, let’s think bigger: let’s get weird on this track!” (laughs).

I totally love working with him I am such a stronger writer now studying and working with him.

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MAGENTA is your first material since the album, Made of Gold. Do you think you have developed a lot in that short time? What have you learnt from your time in music so far?

I feel I have developed, for sure!

Most artists want to create music that is relevant for the radio and trending in the moment - but may be afraid of losing who they are. I feel I have learned to make music that is for today but is still true to me! I have a lot of new tunes that are so much different and some that have a similar vibe to Made of Gold. I have learned that not everyone is going to like everything you do, release; write etc. but, at the end of the day, if you put something out you have to own it - and rock it to the fullest!

It’s just like an outfit. It is all about perception and how you own it and embrace your brand.

Is a new L.P. part of your 2018 plans?

I am working on a collection of songs and, who knows…maybe an L.P. will come of it!

Tell me about the artists who inspired you to get into music…

O.M.G.…

I love Corinne Bailey Rae and Sia because of their songwriting; Rihanna, because she is a brand - from makeup to fashion to her music; Bruno Mars...because he is the ultimate performer!

If you put all these artists into one...the world would not be ready! 

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From Woodbridge, VA; you moved to New York City. How important is the city and its people regarding your music and drive?

Being in New York; there is always something to do, somewhere to go network; some show to play, etc. I lived in a suburb area in Virginia which I do miss - because it really was a great space to clear my head, write and create. Sometimes, I go back to visit for a few days and write some of my best songs - like So Low and MAGENTA.

Each of the boroughs must have a different flavour and music scene. What is your favourite part of New York State?

Yes! Each borough has its own cool vibe and scene!

Harlem is very Jazz-oriented; the Bronx is more Rap-based; Brooklyn is actually very open to a lot of genres - but is the home for some of the greatest unsigned and signed Rap acts. Manhattan is, of course, very hip and mainstream! My favorite part has to be Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The music scene there is so cool - and a lot of people look like they belong NYLON magazine!

Your music has amassed a lot of love and support! How important are the fans and the loyalty they offer?

Without support, my career would still be ground-level.

I honestly see my support system as my team because they spread the word; purchase merchandise and keep me motivated! No matter how many releases I may have, it is always nerve-racking putting out my art to the public - and, seeing I have my dreamers to back me up and support, means the world to me, honestly.

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Do you have a favourite album and/or song from 2017? What have you been vibing with this year?

Hmm…that is a tough one.

I really like SZA. I have been vibing to Love Galore. I also really love I Feel It Coming by The Weeknd and Daft Punk - they are an amazing collab. Oh; I also love (basically) anything Chainsmokers-related.

I saw them live and, ever since, I have been hooked!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Dua Lipa/PHOTO CREDIT: Luc Coiffait

Which new artists do you recommend we check out?

Dua Lipa has a crazy following - but she is a newer artist. I suggest anyone reading this blast her on Spotify or Apple Music right now!

Are there any tour dates coming up? Will you be coming to the U.K.?

Yes! I actually just came back from London, which was amazing - but I plan to come back to the U.K. again very soon maybe (in the spring-time!).

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If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

That is tough!

I would have to say Off the Wall - Michael Jackson; The Emancipation of Mimi - Mariah Carey and last, but certainly not least, Corinne Bailey Rae  - Corinne Bailey Rae

Each of these albums I grew up with as a kid and played for hours; days, months – and up until this day. They made me feel the emotion behind every song - that I would lock myself in my room for hours and just listen…

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

My advice would be: there are very high moments in a rising artist's career - and, also, some very low. Despite what happens, keep your faith alive; make sure you focus on your priorities because there is always someone else outworking you - so you may have to sacrifice some of your free time.

At the end of the day; never quit on something you can’t go a day without thinking about it.

Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already  - or will you be busy working?

Yes! I actually am planning on releasing Christmas covers and, for the holiday, I am partnering with a huge brand for a toy drive. I am very excited for that. (As for) vacation-wise; I am going to go home to see my family and friends in Virginia for a little.

I am so excited to see everyone.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Raury - Mama

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