INTERVIEW: Lunafruit

INTERVIEW:

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Lunafruit

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THE tremendous Lunafruit have set time aside…

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to talk about their latest single, Rise, and what its story is. They talk about meeting one another whilst playing as session musicians in the same studio; how they split their time between Barcelona and London – the guys highlight some upcoming musicians worth a shout.

Lunafruit reveal what they want to achieve by the end of this year; whether there is any more material arriving soon enough; whether they get any time to unwind away from music – the guys each select a song to end the interview with.

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

Hey! Good - our week has been very full and very exciting. We’re in pretty intensive rehearsals for our summer tour at the moment, so really enjoying getting creative with our tracks in a live setting.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Sure thing. We’re Lunafruit; otherwise known as Elliot (Guitar, Vocals and Percussion), Sophie (Vocals, Keys and Sax) and Archie (Bass, Vocals and Sax). We’re a trio that sometimes has extra guests and our sound is somewhere between Pop, R&B; Soul and Funk.

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

Rise is a simple tune about that hazy time between sleep and waking up. We wrote it very quickly in a couple of hours on a summer evening whilst recording in Spain last year. We tried to capture that sense of simplicity in the production of the track - and we’re super-happy with how it’s gone down so far.

Lunafruit formed after the three of you met in your role as session musicians. Were you playing for the same artist – or did you happen to meet at the same studio?

Yeah! We were all working at a studio called Abubilla in South London a couple of years ago and realised we shared musical taste and wanted to make the same kind of music. So, we founded the project and here we are!

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You spread your time between South London and Barcelona. How do the contrasting areas affect your music? What is Barcelona like for music and gigs?

The two cities bring a really different energy to our songs, which were written between the two whilst Sophie was based out there this year. Obviously, in greyer days in London, Barcelona brought out a sunnier side to the tracks and we were really inspired by going to see lots of Latin-influenced music out there. Barcelona’s music scene is a lot smaller than London’s but full of diverse sounds from around the world. The two balance each other perfectly.

I understand there might be more material later in the year. Can you reveal whether that might be an E.P. or another single?

Yep - we’ve got an E.P. in the pipeline for later this year.

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Do you all share tastes in music? Do you recall the artists you grew up around?

Archie listens exclusively to Funk and Disco and resents the band for not letting him wear sunglasses while he plays bass.

If you were sent to a desert island and could only take one album – not nicking this from any radio show or anything! – which would it be and why?

Right now, it would be George Benson. We’ve been listening to a lot of his stuff doing rehearsals and it’s been providing a lot of energy and inspiration.

What do you hope to achieve before the end of 2018?

By the end of 2018, we want to have played a lot of shows, met lots of people and started some collabs. Also, Sophie wants to complete her Grade 3 castanet.

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Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Archie once played the recorder with his nose on T.V. Don’t ask.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Vulfpeck would be dreamy. Our rider would include a lot of Penguin bars.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Play, play, play. Even the bad ones when no one’s listening.

Where can we see you play? Do you have any gigs approaching?

We’re off to Scotland for some shows there as part of the Edinburgh Festival in August and then we’ve got our homecoming show at Kansas Smitty’s in London on 4th September.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Midas Hutch/PHOTO CREDIT: Fabio de Frel

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Too many to mention! At the moment, we’re really into Midas Hutch, Poppy Ajudha and Emma-Jean Thackray as a starting point.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Poppy Ajudha

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

We’re pretty tunnel-vision on our project at the moment but, when we want some time, out we love going out for a good old-fashioned boogie - and a lazy day in the park always helps.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Sophie: I Am in Love - Jennifer Lara

Archie: Stay for a WhileGibbz

Elliot: Family Affair - Sly and the Family Stone

Cheers!

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Follow Lunafruit

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FEATURE: Blue Meanies and the Liberation of Pepperland: Celebrating Fifty Years of Yellow Submarine

FEATURE:

 

 

Blue Meanies and the Liberation of Pepperland

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images/Press Association 

Celebrating Fifty Years of Yellow Submarine

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ALTHOUGH the soundtrack was released…

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images/Press Association

in January 1969; the Yellow Submarine film was unveiled to hungry audiences on 17th July, 1968. Let’s talk about the music first of all. This was a period between The Beatles’ eponymous album (or ‘The White Album’) and Abbey Road. Those two albums are considered among the very best from the legendary band – Let It Be, their last album (to be released rather than recorded), left some critics cold and was not a huge success. The band was not strangers to film by the late-1960s and had already released the album for the much underrated Magical Mystery Tour – the record was unvalued as opposed the film itself. The boys, in 1968/1969, were winding down their career and knew that the end was not too far away. Many critics were a bit ho-hum regards the album for Yellow Submarine. Some loved the second side – compositions by George Martin – and liked a couple of songs on the first side. George Harrison, perhaps, offered two of the best songs in the form of Only a Northern Song and It’s All Too Much. Yellow Submarine (the title cut) had, obviously, already appeared on a Beatles record: it was part of 1966’s Revolver and seemed weird, but wonderful, on that record. All Together Now is catchy and chat-along but does drag a little bit; the title-track is fun and inventive whereas Hey Bulldog is a so-so rocker – All You Need Is Love is one of The Beatles’ best but sounds a little odd on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.

George Martin composed second-side pieces like Pepperland and Sea of Monsters; March of the Meanies and Sea of Holes – they all seemed to fit better with the film itself and would have been hard to cause too much offence. Some viewed the aforementioned It’s All Too Much as tessellated and a mantic interweaving – gidouiled and spiralling (Barry Miles wrote that for International Times, in fact). Some debated an E.P. would have been more suitable: release a four-track work that collates the best four songs from the soundtrack. Others felt fans had been hankering for a Beatles soundtrack for a long time and Yellow Submarine came along at the right moment! Some felt, even though the material has a bit of a recycled feel; The Beatles at half-strength is a better proposition than a full-strength peer; others felt Hey Bulldog, in fact, was a stormer. The original compositions and already-heard songs on side-one were okay but everyone seemed to agree on one thing: the George Martin-composed side-two is/was a more fluid and impressive work. I guess, given the content of the film and its trippy nature, non-vocal (for the most part) music was a more suitable accompaniment. Released fifty years ago with a host of screenwriters, directors (for the animation and (brief) live action); the film was launched to the world. There was so much excitement for this tripped-out, colourful extravaganza from the world’s best band – even though The Beatles’ voices were provided by actors (some doing rather dodgy ‘impressions’)! If you need the full plot; I have gone onto Wikipedia to save you the time:

Pepperland is a cheerful, music-loving paradise under the sea, protected by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The titular Yellow Submarine rests on an Aztec-like pyramid on a hill. At the edge of the land is a range of high blue mountains.

The land falls under a surprise attack from the music-hating Blue Meanies, who live beyond the blue mountains. The attack starts with a music-proof blue glass globe that imprisons the band. With the band sealed in the globe, the Blue Meanies fire magical projectiles from big artillery stationed in the blue mountains and render the Pepperlanders immobile as statues by shooting arrows or dropping giant green apples upon them (a reference to the Apple Records music label), and drain the entire countryside of colour...

...In the last minutes before his capture, Pepperland's elderly Lord Mayor sends Old Fred, an aging sailor (whom the even more elderly mayor calls "Young Fred"), to get help. Fred activates the Yellow Submarine and takes off in it ("Yellow Submarine"). Old Fred travels to Liverpool ("Eleanor Rigby"), where he follows a depressed Ringo and persuades him to return to Pepperland with him. Ringo collects his "mates" JohnGeorge, and finally Paul in The Pier, a house-like building on the top of a hill. The five journey back to Pepperland in the yellow submarine...

...As they start learning to operate the submarine, they sing "All Together Now", after which they pass through several regions on their way to Pepperland:

·         Sea of Time – where time flows both forwards and backwards to the tune of "When I'm Sixty-Four". At one point, the submarine passes itself as it loops through time.

·         Sea of Science – where they sing "Only a Northern Song". Just before the song finishes, they pick up a monster.

·         Sea of Monsters – The monster is ejected into a sea inhabited by other weird monsters. Ringo presses the panic button on the submarine, ejecting him from the submarine and into the sea. He is seen riding one of the monsters, who tosses him around, and with the threat of Native American-like creatures, resulting in John pressing another button on the submarine, sending the US Cavalry to successfully defeat the creatures and rescue Ringo. It is also where a monstrous "vacuum cleaner beast" sucks up all loose objects, creatures, the entire landscape, and finally itself, popping the submarine into a strange empty void...

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Sea of Nothing – This blank region is where they meet Jeremy Hillary Boob Ph.D. ("Phud"), a short pudgy creature with a painted clown face and cotton tail, but a highly studious and helpful ally to the Beatles, who sing "Nowhere Man" in reference to him. As they leave, Ringo feels sorry for the "Nowhere Man" and invites him to join them aboard the submarine.

·         Foothills of the Headlands – Thanks to Jeremy, this is where he and the Beatles are separated from both the Submarine (and Old Fred) and where John sings "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Pepper (foreshadowing that Pepperland is yet to come) causes the beings in the Headlands to sneeze, blowing the Beatles and Jeremy into the Sea of Holes.

·         Sea of Holes – Here, Jeremy is kidnapped by one of the Blue Meanies patrolling the outskirts of Pepperland. Ringo thoroughly investigates one of the endless number of holes and puts it into his pocket. While searching for Jeremy, Ringo jumps onto a green hole which turns the Sea of Holes into a Sea of Green. From here, the group arrives in Pepperland, followed by Old Fred and his Submarine...

Reunited with Old Fred and the submarine, they look upon the landscape: a sorry sight. The beautiful flowers have become thorns, and the once-happy landscape now a barren wasteland. Everyone is immobilized and made miserable by the evil Blue Meanies, only able to move when permitted (such as when the Meanies feel like bullying them). The Beatles, camouflaged as Pepperlandian cutouts, dress up as Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and reacquire (steal back) some instruments (their own instruments were lost in the Sea of Monsters) from the warehouse where the Meanies impounded "all things that make music". The four are discovered at the last second (Ringo accidentally steps on a bagpipe) and a clown Meanie sounds the alarm, causing the Beatles to flee hastily from the Meanies' vicious multi-headed (and multi-bodied) dog. Once in the clear, after defeating some apple-bonkers, the four rally the land to rebellion, singing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", eventually forcing the Blue Meanies to retreat...

...The Chief Blue Meanie retaliates, sending out his main enforcer, the Dreadful Flying Glove, but John easily defeats it by singing "All You Need is Love". Pepperland is restored to colour and its flowers re-bloom, as the residents, empowered by the Beatles' music, rise up and take up arms (flowers) against the Meanies, who are fleeing headlong back to the blue border mountains where they came from. The original Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are released (thanks to the hole carried in Ringo's pocket from the Sea of Holes) and Ringo rescues Jeremy. The Beatles then have a rematch with the four-headed Meanie dog, singing "Hey Bulldog", with the Beatles victorious once again (This scene was in the UK version). The Blue Meanies are forced to retreat, and the Chief Blue Meanie tries to save face by killing Jeremy, but Jeremy performs some "transformation magic" on him causing the Meanie to sadly concede defeat. John extends an offer of friendship, and the Chief Blue Meanie has a change of heart (partly due to the "transformation magic" performed by Jeremy) and accepts. An enormous party ensues, where everyone sings "It's All Too Much" with everyone living happily ever after...

...At the end, we see the real Beatles in live-action, having returned home, playfully showing off their souvenirs: George has the submarine's motor, Paul has "a little 'LOVE'" and Ringo still has half a hole in his pocket (having supposedly given the other half to Jeremy, which Paul offers to fix "to keep his mind from wandering", a reference to "Fixing a Hole"). Looking through a telescope, John announces that "newer and bluer Meanies have been sighted within the vicinity of this theatre" and claims there is only one way to go out: "Singing!" The quartet obliges with a short reprise of "All Together Now", which ends with translations of the song's title in various languages appearing in sequence on the screen, which concludes with the words "Released through United Artists" on the bottom-right-hand-corner of the screen”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press Association 

Two soundtracks from the film have been released: the second, in 1999, contained all the songs from the film except A Day in the Life. Apart from the odd original composition (like Only a Northern Song); fans got a mixture of Beatles classics from their recent albums. It was a head-swelling, mind-tripping film that showed a new side to the band and was really well received. Although a few retrospective reviews have scored down the film and felt it has not aged well; at the time, there was a huge swell of love for the Beatles masterpiece. Even if the soundtrack was a little muted in terms of the band’s best; few had any complaints regarding the film itself! It is remarkable to think there is so much love for the fifty-year-old film! We have this ongoing fascination of The Beatles and digest everything from them. Like their albums; we hold their films in high esteem, even if they have produced some pretty average ones (Magical Mystery Tour, for one!).

Special screenings are occurring today – check search engines to see if Yellow Submarine is playing near you! – and revel in the brilliance, giddiness and wonder. This year will see another fiftieth anniversary for The Beatles: their eponymous album was released in 1968 and will be met with a lot of acclaim, respect and special shows. I am annoyed I do not have time to get to a cinema but will buy the film from Amazon and watch it as soon as I can. We have not really seen any real equivalent to Yellow Submarine since 1968. Some bands have had films made about them but nothing as phantasmagorical and spellbinding as Yellow Submarine. Even if the boys’ career had reached its real last peak and was threatened with a steady decline; the film, Yellow Submarine, was a reminder of what the band could achieve and why they were so loved.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images/Press Association

Even though we only get to see a brief glimpse of The Beatles (at the very end); a new wave of affection came through and swept the world. Have a look at the film and, if you can, get to a cinema and see it on the big screen! Listen to the album and listen to all the gems and pleasures waiting within. There are plenty of times ahead we can mark a Beatles anniversary and celebrate one of their terrific works. Today belongs to Yellow Submarine and a film many of us wouldn’t have been able to experience the first time around (in 1968). I defy you to watch the film and not hum the title-track until…

YOUR voice runs dry

FEATURE: Is This America? How Perspective and Direction Can Be Gained from Artists Regarding Gun Violence in the U.S.

FEATURE:

 

 

Is This America?

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash 

How Perspective and Direction Can Be Gained from Artists Regarding Gun Violence in the U.S.

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LAST night…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sacha Baron Cohen (right) in a sketch for Who Is America?/PHOTO CREDIT: Showtime

saw Sasha Baron Cohen’s latest project, Who Is America?, hit the screens. In it, he played a range of characters who, essentially, dupe idiotic U.S. figures – politicians, for the most part – into endorsing arming toddlers and children with guns. As the series progresses, he will fool high-profile politicians like Sarah Palin – perhaps not the hardest thing to do considering the sort of thing that comes out of their mouths! It is shocking seeing how easily these people open to up to Cohen’s characters and endorse the most ridiculous thing – whether it is guns camouflaged into soft toys or the idea of arming those as young as four! Whilst it is disturbing hearing and seeing such casual and reckless attitudes to guns; some critics have made a point: is it revelatory or does it already confirm what we know about many U.S. politicians (mostly Republicans)?! The Atlantic reviewed the opening episode of Who Is America? and had this to say:

The big, shocking capper of Who Is America?’s first episode sees Cohen’s character Erran Morad, an iron-jawed Israeli gun activist, coax several current and former members of Congress into endorsing a program that would arm kindergarten students. People like former U.S. Senator Trent Lott, Rep. Joe Wilson, former Rep. Joe Walsh, and gun lobbyist Larry Pratt are filmed reading ludicrous prepared statements peppered with lines like “Our Founding Fathers did not put an age limit on the Second Amendment!” It’s a gotcha moment meant to underline the blind extremism of ideology—but is that something American viewers really need further confirmation of right now?

There have been similarly mixed reviews that applaud the boldness of Cohen but wonder whether we are learning anything new. It will be interesting to see how the series progresses and what we can learn. It is hard, at a time when gun violence is at a shocking high and the ignorant Trump is in office, to find real solutions and breakthrough. Gun violence in the U.S. is as old as the nation itself: from Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to the ongoing and unending high-school murders; we have struggled to get to grips with the sheer volume of tragedies in the U.S. I realise gun violence is not a problem limited to America. Most nations on Earth, in some form, have to deal with gun violence but it is especially pronounced in the U.S. – especially such a powerful and influential world power. This current political incarnation (in the U.S.) is not going to further the calls for a ban on gun sales. The fact we have Donald Trump in office at the moment means the problems are as rife as ever – someone who feels owning a gun and ‘defending yourself’ is a right and is inalienable. Musicians have always been at the forefront when it comes to addressing the issue – mainly black artists, it has to be fair. Gun violence affects every community but it is the minorities of American that tend to suffer worse.

Whether that is a problem of social poverty or police brutality; there is a definite sense and spine of racism in America. Whilst a lot of high-school shooters, and victims, are white; police shootings have shown how there is a definite sense of discrimination and racism that has disgusted the world. A lot of poorer communities are seeing gun-related deaths rise; one-off attacks are going off – such a scattershot and frightening range of problems to address. Whilst mental-health is a subject and contributory factor; it is hard to find a common link and solution. Musicians are, to me, among the most power and influential people out there. We all remember Childish Gambino’s potent and extraordinary video for This Is America. The video was only released in May but had already received three-hundred-million views on YouTube. The video sees Childish Gambino in the forefront, dancing and smiling. In the background, there is carnage and riot; we see a scene of a man being shot in the head by Childish Gambino – all the while, there is a blend of blasé and shocking. Kendrick Lamar tackled gun violence and hypocrisy – being singled out as a terrorist or gang member – on his albums, DAMN. and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. WIRED wrote a piece following the release of Childish Gambino’s video for This Is American and nailed it alluring appeal:

Working under his rap pseudonym Childish Gambino, Glover, like Walker, suggests a story of impossible escape. It’s tough work, blood-soaked and vacant redemption, but—and here’s where the artifice begins to reveal traces of brilliance—it’s playful and soul-moving to the point one only wants to keep peering into its dark interiors, waiting for the next truth to sprout”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The tracklist for Kendrick Lamar's album, DAMN./PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It is the most striking and talked-about video we have seen in many years. It got me thinking back to the Folk protest movements of the 1960s and '70s when Bob Dylan was singing about war masters and political deceit; the anti-war artists proffered peace and love over arming troops and taking innocent lives. The idea of protest and musical rebellion got tougher and more inflamed by the time groups like N.W.A. and Public Enemy broke through. From the (mostly) white Folk artists offering a peaceful, if angered, plea for calm and togetherness; the new wave of Hip-Hop artists were a more fierce and direct example. From Public Enemy’s calls to fight the power and N.W.A.’s observations of police violence and racist attacks – artists have always been able to offer direction and perspective. A lot of the advice from artists – from the Folk agents to Hip-Hop heroes – has centred around greater awareness and care. It is not about vengeance and striking back at those who perpetrate murders and continue to keep gun violence in the press. Whilst the need for common sense and a change of the law has been a consistent vein running through decades of music; the way artists are discussing gun violence now has changed. The piece I have just quoted talks about Childish Gambino’s video and its climax:

“…And in this, his ultimate trick is his most nightmarish. Throughout the video, Gambino and the school children are the lone people untouched, dancing with the history of Jim Crow alive in their feet, contorting and romping, faces plastered with sly, elastic grins. But it turns out to be a mirage—in the final flash, Gambino’s character is seen manically fleeing down a dark hall, a mob at his back. With harrowing clarity one last note boils, then pops: even when you play their game, they still turn on you. "This Is America," unlike so much protest music, ends as it began—with death, pain, blood. We never know what exactly comes of Gambino, but Young Thug’s closing lyrics bear the impact of a dagger. "You just a big dawg, yeah/I kenneled him in the backyard".

The message is clear: ignorance and accepting what is happening is not going to be a solution. Activation and education are needed; people to stand up and do something. Whilst the actual solution to gun violence might be years away (or impossible at any time) pacifism and turning a blind eye will not improve anything. Songs like This Is America do not point at easy answers and say how we can end gun violence and ensure peace come to the U.S. (and the world). It might be a lot to ask that of musicians but, right now, artists like Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino are providing perspective and forcing us to open our eyes. Music videos are a powerful tool and can be more influential and revelatory than any political speech or news report. I feel, too, a lot of the powerful messages and call for action is coming from a very specific area of music. Black artists of music might have seen their race and people suffer the worse violence but, look at the statistics, and gun-related deaths affect everyone. I wonder whether more artists should be tackling the state of America and the endless spate of attacks. Maybe many feel they lack conviction or knowledge but that would be foolhardy – one need not be a gun expert or know the inner-workings of the N.R.A. (National Rifle Association) to realise what madness there is. The important thing to consider is bringing the subject to the people and getting them out of the assumption staying quiet will see the problem go away.

It is debatable how much constitutional change has been achieved from musicians’ messages but a well-timed song or extraordinary video can open up channels and educate. There are always those who will say music and certain genres have always had a rather spotty association with guns. Some have accused U.K. Trap music of influencing those who carried out gun-related murders in the capital earlier in the year. Others look at the so-called glamorisation of guns and that lifestyle in Hip-Hop videos as fuel for those who carry out murders and school shootings. If people think musicians are endorsing guns and saying it is ‘cool’, then that is motive enough to shoot. This debate has been going for decades and is usually aimed at the film and video game industry – are we all so impressionable we will copycat scenes of gun violence we see on our screens?! Another interesting article looked at those in the Rap and Hip-Hop communities not only opposed to changes in gun laws but culpable when it comes to associating guns with fashion and a normal lifestyle:

Unfortunately not every rapper believes in supporting the changing gun laws. On Saturday (while not in attendance at a #MFOL event) Killer Mike appeared in an NRA video voicing his support for gun ownership. The division of rappers on “conscious” issues affects their persona and their music. Artists who take time in their discography to discuss gun violence can be considered conscious rappers, while artists who use guns in their music to show they mean business are classified as gangster rappers. It’s rare to see someone who creates a gray line between.

As Gangsta Rap was born out of Compton in the 1980s, aspiring rappers tried to follow N.W.A. by not only voicing their reality on police brutality, but their fashion, including a bandana and a glock on their hip. While these defining characteristics poised questions towards gang culture and not always about the music, guns became a centerpoint for toughness in the streets.

Their ability to take a life or at least to scare an unwelcome beef away, created a persona of being untouchable to outside groups”.

I think there is a long way to go regards galvanising people on the issue of gun violence and bringing it to an end. There are even splits and divisions in the music industry which leads me to believe there will always be those out there who feel gun ownership is intractable and acceptable; shootings are either a form of defence or a reality of living in certain communities. It is hard to change everyone’s voting habit but it is clear artists are not lying down and watching these senseless killings. There has been a blindness that has run through music (and society) for a long time. I posed the question regarding music as a whole and why more artists have not spoken out against the horror we see on the news. They need not be American and do not need to be a Hip-Hop artist: any artist is entitled to their say and is capable of provoking reaction. The crucial message that has been common music since the 1960s to the current time is sitting there and expecting change to come will achieve nothing. So much discussion has opened up on the strength of a single music video alone. Childish Gambino’s masterful This Is America – directed by Hiro Murai - has scorched its images and messages into the eyes and minds of everyone who watched the video. It is a protest for action and awareness; that America’s gun problem is not going away and the only way we can ever hope to see any change and improvement is…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

TO come together and speak out.

INTERVIEW: Two Legs

INTERVIEW:

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Two Legs

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I have been learning more about Two Legs

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and his terrific new track, Grin. He gives me the lowdown on the song and talks about the possibility of more music. I ask where we might catch him play and the artists who inspire his sound – Two Legs recommends some upcoming musicians we would do well to follow.

I was keen to ask what music means to Two Legs and what he hopes to accomplish before the year is through; what he does when not making music; three albums that have made a big impression him – he shares a favourite memory from his time in music.

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Hi, Two Legs. How are you? How has your week been?

It's been the best week of my life. Thank you for asking. 

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

Hello everyone. My name is Two Legs and I produce Electronic music and I sing - and it's really great!

Did you watch the England game (semi-final) in the World Cup? What did you think of the result?!

I watched all the England games; it was great fun. But, ultimately, there are thirty-one losers in the tournament and we just became one of the many.

Your single, Grin, is out. Can you tell me what the story behind the song is?

Grin is my first co-written release. The verse was written a few years ago by my mate Francis Kershaw under the alias 'Odd Socks'. Then, recently, I was making some beats and his verse line popped into my head. I then worked on a chorus, structure and, luckily, Francis approved of the final product. 

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The track is about letting things build up internally without speaking out about how you feel. In that sense, it looks at how our whole world is internal and how rarely we get to see this hidden part of each other in any full clarity. 

It is your third release of the year. Do you think there might yet be more material arriving before the end of 2018?

Yes, definitely. The attention span of the music industry moves so quickly; you have to keep up with it with regular releases. I've got loads of demos, so I'm just fine-tuning a couple to get ready for release.

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Are there particular musicians who have inspired you and contributed to your own sound?

Lots. Bands like Phoenix, Foals; Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils. Then, House/Techno/Ambient Electronic musicians like Moderat, David August; DJ Kose and Kiasmos etc. I've got a lot to thanks for those guys.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

Worldwide fame, rehab; a glorious comeback and then rehab again.

Will there be any tour dates? Where can we see you play?

Yes, for sure. I'll be playing at the live residency I curate at Archspace in London called Limbs - a night created for live Electronic music. There are a few more options in the pipeline also.

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Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

My first gig with a band I was in during school. At the start of our final song, we threw many, many Jaffa Cakes into the crowd which then got chucked around a lot. The venue wasn't best pleased.

Is it possible to convey what music does to you and the power it holds?

Not entirely. I always find words can never really describe a track or how it makes you feel. That's why I quit music journalism: because attempting to describe music is inherently futile. Not to rain on your parade or anything - keep it up!

Which three albums mean the most you would you say?

TychoDive

Always gives me shivers and a mega-powerful sense of nostalgia to summer when I was eighteen.

Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence

The songwriting and use of space are unbelievable.

It's not an L.P., but an E.P., by Benoit & Sergio called Boy Trouble

It first got me into dance music and showed me it was possible to mix that House sound with melancholic; narrative, vocal-based songwriting.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I'd support Drake.

My rider would be a paddling pool of KFC gravy and an inflatable Cartman from South Park for me to chill in the pool with. 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Only make the music that you want to make and that you connect with. Don't try and force it into something else you think is commercial because what is commercial changes so fast that, by the time you've made it, it's probably irrelevant - and then you've made a sh*t song for no reason. There's no longevity in that.

Also, the likelihood of any of us reaching financial stability through music is very slim so make sure you're enjoying the process rather than sacrificing yourself for an elusive end goal which you're not guaranteed to reach.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Jude Woodhead

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Jude Woodhead, Tungz; Mined, Paige Bea and Ben Wickins.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Paige Bea

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I work in music during the day as a nine-five. Then, I need to find time to do all my Two Legs stuff, so there's not much time to unwind. I meditate, but not as much as I'd like to. Also; exercise is big for me to de-stress. I do love a bit of footy.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Ten City - That's the Way Love Is (Underground Mix)

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Follow Two Legs

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INTERVIEW: Holloway Road

INTERVIEW:

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Holloway Road

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THE chaps of Holloway Road

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have been talking with me about their single, No Place, and what it was like filming the video. I ask how the duo got together and what it is like recording in Nashville; some new artists we should look out for – the guys reveal what tour dates they have coming up.

Holloway Road tells me whether Country, in their view, gets the attention it deserves; who they count as idols; what they hope to achieve before the end of the year – the guys end the interview by choosing two very different songs!

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

Very good, thanks - until England went out of the World Cup! 

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

We are Holloway Road; the most badass Country-Pop duo you have never heard. 

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Are you enjoying the heatwave we are having at the moment?! Does it compel songwriting and inspiration?

Absolutely. Any excuse for Rob to wear his short shorts! The sun being out really puts your mind in a better place so, of course, it sparks inspiration. 

How did you form ‘Holloway Road’? Do you remember that first meeting?

We have both played in bands together since we were kids. We can remember a conversation in the smoking area of a club about five years ago talking about making music that we could get excited about and, five years later, this is where we are!

What is the tale behind the new single, No Place? What was it like filming the music video?

It's a very personal song because it's about our journey together so far. Filming the video was great fun but, be warned; when hopping on a retro BMX for the whole day as the seats are made of hard plastic. Very unpleasant. Haha. 

I know you have been recording in Nashville. Is it a place you feel at home in? Is it a pretty exciting place to record in?!

We have great friends in Nashville that have taken good care of us and always made us feel at home. 

As far as recording goes; we have not done much out there - most of our time in Nashville is spent songwriting - but what we did do was very laid back and people there tend to just let the creativity flow, which is how it should be.

You are inspired by Country and Pop. Which artists did you listen to growing up? Who do you count as idols?

We love everything from George Strait to Florida Georgia Line when it comes to Country music but we love all genres. 

It's the same with idols. Florida Georgia Line are a great act to look up to as we have similarities and watching what they have achieved in so little time is inspirational. But, there are too many to mention - from the Eagles to Justin Timberlake.

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Do you think Country music gets the attention and oxygen it deserves in this country? Do you think it warrants greater focus?

We certainly think it's getting there and will continue to grow, and rightly so!

What do you hope to achieve before the end of 2018?

The same thing as every year: progression! As long as we come out of every year feeling like we have moved forward and in the right direction to world domination then we can wake up happy.

Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Not one that sticks out, as we are constantly making great memories and hope to continue.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Florida Georgia Line! 

We always choose our own rider and it usually consists of beer and bananas. Mainly because Jack has a banana phobia, so everyone likes to wind him up.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Keep it fun!

Where can we see you play? Do you have any gigs approaching?

Of course! We have a busy summer of festivals ahead of us before heading out for some tour dates later in the year - we're playing Nashville Meets London, Bestival; Carfest and The Long Road among others. Head over to www.hollowayroadmusic.com for all show updates and social media pages. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Levi Hummon/PHOTO CREDITKate Dearman Photo

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Levi Hummon, The Brummies; Jillian Jacqueline, Russell Dickerson and Devin Dawson

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jillian Jacqueline

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Yes. All the things we shouldn't...

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Jack: Enya - Orinoco Flow

Rob: Kano - GarageSkankFREESTYLE

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Follow Holloway Road

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INTERVIEW: ARI

INTERVIEW:

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ARI

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YOU definitely get a load of vibrancy, character and fun…

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when you speak with ARI. The American songwriter talks with me about her debut single, Baptize, and its story. She tells me about her childhood home and which musicians inspired her at a young age – ARI reveals how salsa dancing and cooking helps her relieve tension!

I ask her whether there are tour dates coming up and the chances of some U.K. dates; which upcoming artists we need to keep an eye out for; how she spends time away from music – ARI ends the interview by selecting a rather tasty song!

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

Hi, I'm ARI. Music is my passion; passion is my music. My musical passion is my passionate music. 

Baptize is your debut single. What is the story behind the song?

Baptize is the first song I had written for my solo project. It's a song of catharsis for me. I was in the midst of dealing with repressed waste and self-hatred and the way in which it's manifested into unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors. For me, it's about freedom from the chains of the mind we've shackled ourselves in.

Or something like that. 

Is it exciting having the song out there and ready? Do you already have visions of more material?

It's exciting, it's nerve-racking. I'm no cucumber. I'm desperate for validation and I want to be liked, loved and respected. Love me.

Yes. I write most days so the visions are ever-present in my day-to-day; sometimes I've spent the entirety of a day writing and I wake up the next day and realize it's sh*t. Other times, I feel connected to the song and it feels like I've released the story haunting me through that song. That's my favorite part about songwriting. Free therapy.  

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It seems you have been raised on the arts and around music. What was your childhood home like?

My folks are good people, good parents. They haven't made careers of making art, but they are artists in many ways. My father loves music and spent the majority of our time together during my childhood educating me on some of my favorite artists and driving me to and from dance rehearsals. My mother encouraged me with her abundant love and occasional ass-whoopings (kidding, mom, I love you.).

My childhood home was peach-colored on the outside, and inside, unfortunately. Our living room hosted reclining green-leathered La-Z-Boy sofas that my older brother used to hide things he broke around the house underneath. The kitchen had a white-tiled island and there was a guest bathroom with a warm toilet seat. Not a heated toilet seat, but warm still. Mostly from the excessive use. Busy house, busy toilet.

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Childhood was tough. No one knows what they're doing and then, when you're an adult and wreaking havoc on your own life, you're like: "Well, sh*t. That was a screwed up thing that happened in my childhood and I'm damaged and should probably work on that". We all have stuff. We're products of joyous moments and traumas and we fumble around on this planet until we die. I say that with a smile. I'm not a black hole. Usually. 

Tell me about the musicians that inspired you at a young age. Who are your heroes?

Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone and Sam Cooke are some of my heroes. The way in which they turn darkness into light is truly holy. 

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Is it true you cook and go salsa dancing to release tension and express yourself?!

TRUTH! I do love to cook. My grandmother and mother expressed so much love through preparing food during my youth. I hope I'm not perpetuating misogynistic stigmas of women in kitchens here, but the kitchen was where we shared stories, laughed; gossiped, yelled; cried and created dishes to share with people we loved. I love to cook. I love creating something from start to finish and consuming it with such quick turnover.

Making music takes a little longer. Yes, I do salsa dance; not just salsa, though. I used to be a ballroom dancer. Dancing is a delicious way to release. It's primal, it's liberating…

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

Right now, I'm doing shows around my hometown of Los Angeles, where I currently live. More to come soon….

Might you come to the U.K. and play here? What is the live music scene like where you are?

I do plan to come to the U.K. In fact, I'll be there next month for writing and recording sessions. I may even do a show whilst over there. I love it there. Looking forward to spending time in your neck of the woods. 

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Do you have any ambitions to fulfil before the end of the year?

Lord, if I did not, why even wake up every morning? Hamster-wheel life is depressive. I'll be releasing new songs all year and doing shows. I'll have a full-length album done and released by the end of the year.  

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

I love how you spell ‘favourite’. Much sexier than my American version. My favorite memory from my time in music is happening now. I'm writing less how I think people want me to write and more from a place of how I actually think and speak. It feels good being honest. Is that a memory? Not really. I don't answer questions properly. Sorry. 

Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?

Nina Simone's Pastel Blues; Leonard Cohen's Songs of Love and Hate and the Bee Gees' Main Course.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Moses Sumney

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Yes. Two of my dear friends and collaborators, Saro and Neek. Also; Moses Sumney. He's not new by any stretch but, if you're not familiar with his work, get familiar. He's a genius.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I do. I spend a significant chunk of time with my not-so-baby brother. We live together and he's my best friend. He's brilliant and very much an active part of my life. We explore art, music and the inner-workings of our brains together. He's a cool cat and an artist as well. I hate him a lot…can you tell?

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Moses Sumney's Worth It

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Follow ARI

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FEATURE: Spotlight: Phoebe Bridgers

FEATURE:

 

 

Spotlight

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Lego for Under the Radar

Phoebe Bridgers

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I look out at music…

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

and you have a clash between those artists with original spirit and personality and those who sort of fall out of the memory. It is hard, in a modern age, to grab attention and hold people spellbound and hooked – we often wander between artists and struggle to keep focused for too long. I tend to find those who hover on the fringes of the mainstream hold the most power and grace. Phoebe Bridgers is one of very few modern songwriters who tick all boxes and stay in the mind. I am not suggesting we lack great songwriters in the world but too often, to me, the modern artist lacks all the necessary qualities for longevity and stardom. There is something grounded and yet inaccessible about Bridgers. To me, she seems to be the ultra-cool and popular: someone people would flock around; she would attend the best parties and people would hang on her words. That said, there is no ego and arrogance from the American artist. At twenty-three-years-old, the L.A. musician is getting her music to the world and taking some big steps. She has been playing music for a while but her debut album, Stranger in the Alps, arrived last year. I find a lot of young artists, when they release debut albums, tend to sound either too nervous or similar to someone else.

There are exceptions but too many find their feet a couple of albums down the line. Listen to the first notes of Smoke Signals – the first song from Stranger in the Alps – and there is that confidence and brilliance. The fact the song is over five minutes shows how much Bridgers believed in it – an album where every track but Smoke Signals (Reprise) lasts over three minutes. It is the sound of a young artist in love with the music and not willing to cut anything too short; always willing to let lyrics breathe and choruses the time to bloom and flourish. A review of Stranger in the Alps, from Consequence of Sound, highlighted the natural and personality-driven nature of the music:

The album’s also full of interesting cadences, both in terms of the rhythms employed and Bridgers’ verses. Her words sometimes spill out over the meter and convey the messiness of a thought in a way that matches the rough-hewn sentiment of a song. These arrangements complement her voice beautifully. Multiple tracks feature intricate guitar-picking sequences, while Bridgers sings out with a voice that reverberates in the spaces between the notes”.

The narratives that run through the songs draw the listener into the song and involve you in the imagery. One track might see you in a car with Bridgers as she observes the American landscape with thoughts of relaxation in her mind; another might look at a mortality and personal relevance. It is the beauty and inventiveness of the debut album that strikes me. Another artist that strikes my thoughts, when thinking of Bridgers, is Billie Marten.

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PHOTO CREDIT:  Morgan Martinez of Hooligan Mag

She released her debut, Writing of Blues and Yellows, in 2016 and that record moved me immensely. I adore the beauty of the vocals and how (Marten) mixes Folk of the past with something modern to create her own world. It is the intimacy and sense of revelation that got into my soul. Marten does not push the listener away and hide: the British teenager wants people to come into her life and walk with her. The same can be said of Phoebe Bridgers. She, like Marten, seems like an older head on younger shoulders. There is elegance and wistfulness on some songs; in other moments, one gets the sense of a curious woman trying to get more from life and get out of a funk. I can imagine Bridgers’ early life and childhood was about exploring older artists and legends like David Bowie and Joni Mitchell; vintage representations of Los Angeles and dusty books. Maybe I am painting her as a heroine of a classic novel but, unlike many of her peers, it is the music and work that matters most. You get the sense so many artists are all about Instagram and followers; how to market themselves and lose any sense of personality, naturalness and physicality. Bridgers engages in social media but, looking at her Twitter feed, and she is much more personable, appealing and open. She might offer a random thought or ask questions of her followers – there is a loose and accessible aspect you do not get with a lot of songwriters.

In many ways, it will be fascinating to see how Bridgers follows her debut and what direction she takes. Worldwide attention and increased popularity could go to an artist’s head and change their music for the worse. That is a gamble for most but I feel, with Bridgers, she will produce something similar to Stranger in the Alps. There are so few artists able to produce such intelligent and scenic/story-like lyrics together with music that has grandeur, complexity and so many colours. It is amazing to think (Stranger in the Alps) comes from someone so young, making her first steps in the industry. Maybe there is a pressure to follow up something so great or an accompanying pressure regarding emerging talent and how Bridgers will keep her place. These anxieties are natural but she need not fear anything. Her debut is still gaining a lot of love and recently, she worked with Noah and Abby Gundersen on Killer + the Sound. It is a wonderful, haunting single that takes Bridgers’ voice in a new direction. Listen to the songwriter speak in interviews and she comes across as a typical, if more intelligent and cultured, American woman who wants to touch people with her music. There is confident and humour but she has a shyness and reservation that suggests, when she comes away from the stage or winds down, she shuts the world away and focuses on herself. It is hard to say either way: Bridgers has a slight enigma and mystery that add to the musical experience.

Bridgers conducted an interview with The Telegraph a few months ago and discussed her debut album and what she is doing next. She talked about her album and how she managed to make it on her own terms because of the commercial work - in 2013, while playing in a Punk band called Sloppy Jane, she was approached to record a cover of the Pixies song, Gigantic, for an iPhone advertisement – and did not have to sign with a label:

Doing stuff on my own terms and making a record without being signed to a label – I credit that all to my commercial work,” she says. “I was playing so many shows at the time that I barely even went to my senior year of high school and was certainly not turning a profit. Then I did that commercial, which was only five days’ work, and it was like getting signed to a label. It was like a development deal”.

We have an artist who wants to make music on her own terms and, aside from a high-profile advert, is not willing to get into bed with labels and advertisers. The authenticity and sense of self is important to her; not bending to commercial demands and making an album that sounds right to a label. In the same interview, she talked about Ryan Adams – they brief dated not long after he turned forty (she was twenty) – and a song that was inspired by him.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Another snippet from the conversation showed a more child-like vibe – against the tales of dating an older musician and taking so being thrust into the public consciousness at a young age. The balance and blends you get with Phoebe Bridgers make her such an intriguing and captivating personality:

Growing up in LA, with parents who never had much money – her father was a construction worker; her mother, a receptionist – Bridgers cloistered herself in a twee Harry Potter world. Her bedroom, she says, was a shrine to the J K Rowling stories. I was totally obsessed until I was about 13 – I love that the female characters aren’t just accessories.” She gets out her phone to show me a picture of her posing gleefully at Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross station”.

It seems like Bridgers has a busy time ahead of her – a lot of touring and dates right through until the latter part of the year; interviews and promotional duties in-between those dates. After all of the gigs and manic whirl has died down; it seems like Bridgers will look ahead to another album and following up Stranger in the Alps. It will be an interesting experience and a different process to the one that created the debut. Bridgers has travelled the world and seen her profiled raised; she has experienced new love and downs – plenty of food for new material. Whatever she comes up with, it is sure to beguile and delight. In a music scene where there are few genuine stars and standout characters; a lot of people could learn an awful lot…

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FROM Phoebe Bridgers.

INTERVIEW: Zitro

INTERVIEW:

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Zitro

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IT is has been great speaking with Zitro

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about his upbringing and influences. He talks to me about his new track, DVD, and taking control of the music video. I ask about the origins of the track and whether he is planning ahead regarding future material – Zitro discusses his touring plans and how he unwind away from music.

I ask the songwriter whether he has goals to achieve before the year-end; what advice he would give to fellow songwriters emerging; a new act we should check out and investigate – he reveals three albums that mean a lot to him.

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

My week has been painful and stressful - like every other week. It’s been a rough year. Trying my best to get to where I need to be, mentally.

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

I go by the name, ‘Zitro’. I write tunes for the broken, the weak and the silent in the styles of R&B, Pop and Soul. I produce my own music, therefore every note and sound you hear is 100% my own.

DVD is out. Can you reveal the inspiration behind the song?

It’s actually a summary to the theme of my sophomore album, Cult Classic. The world is one big bystander to people’s pain and struggles and, in most cases, the world finds them entertaining. I talk about how they are “cult classic” T.V. shows/movies to society. Social media plays a big role in this as well.

I believe you directed and edited the music video. What was it like putting the video together?!

It gave me a lot of confidence - just the fact that I could bring my vision to reality without paying thousands of dollars to do it. I love working on film and I regret not thinking of it sooner.

Is there more material coming? Are you working on more material?

First comes my sophomore album, then a couple of E.P.s along with various collaborations. I’ve also had some cool film ideas, including one I thought of last night before bed.

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How important are The Bronx and its people regarding your music?

My music is directed towards the whole world and society, not just The Bronx. I hope The Bronx can get on board with the message that I’m giving and, hopefully, then it’ll be a more peaceful place to live in.

Which artists did you grow up around? When did music come into your life?

In elementary school, teachers would assemble us students in some classroom and have us watch Michael Jackson tapes on V.H.S. and then that’s when I knew what I wanted to do in life.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

As much as I can...

More films, more songs; more live performances and maybe even something different.

Will there be any tour dates? Might you head to the U.K. at all?

The first chance I get to go touring, I’m jumping on that opportunity - AND it will start in the U.K.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

The show that I did at The Delancey was a show I’ll never forget; although I could’ve done it more differently. I still strive to create better memories. There’s more I want to do.

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Which three albums mean the most you would you say?

Janet Jackson - The Velvet Rope

Prince - Come

Gallant - Ology

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

It would change my life if I opened for Gallant, or worked with him at all. I’ve met him a few times but we’ve never discussed a collaboration. Hopefully, next time, I won’t be such a chicken about it.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Everyone’s a critic - but be your worst one. See everything wrong with your craft from the harshest critic’s eye and perfect it afterwards.

Also; don’t sign anything without reading it first.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Joshua Morata

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Joshua Morata, a brilliant songwriter and filmmaker. He’s the one who actually influenced me to make my own video. His new album, Somewhere, just came out this summer and I feature on one of the songs.

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Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Playing some good ole Fortnite! I haven’t had so much fun playing a game since World of Warcraft. Season 5 blew my mind.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is a Place on Earth. A song that I’ve kept close to me this year to get me through depression and anxiety. I hope it’s your favorite, too

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Follow Zitro

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INTERVIEW: KROWNS

INTERVIEW:

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KROWNS

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I’M starting off the week by speaking with Kyle of KROWNS

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who has been telling me about the band’s new track, High While the World Ends. I ask whether there is more material coming in the future and the sort of sounds that influence KROWNS; if there are any new artists we should get involved with – he reveals the gigs coming up for the guys.

Kyle tells me about Calgary and how supportive the city is; the advice upcoming artists should take to heart; how he manages to relax away from music – the band members each choose a song to end the interview with.

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

Sup. We’re stoked after releasing High While the World End and appreciate all the support. 

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

My name is Kyle McKearney. I sing and play guitar. My brother Shade McKearney is on bass and sings (and provides samples). Adam is on drums; he sings and plays keys. 

 

High While the World Ends is your debut single. What is the story behind the song?

There’s a lot going on in the world. Sometimes, we need to set aside all the bullsh*t and just be humans together. We wanted to come out swinging and High' was the best fit for that. 

How did KROWNS get together? When did you start playing together?

Shade and I are brothers and have been playing together since we were young kids. Adam was with us in a previous band and has been a third brother for years. KROWNS was birthed when I started writing down my story and started getting right with my past. 

Is there more material coming from you guys? What are you working on?

We’ve got more songs ready: we’re in it for the long haul. 

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Can you give me a sense of the artists who inspired you all to get into music?

We had to sneak music. Our parents were very strict regards what we listened to. We sneaked Eminem, Nirvana; Green Day, N.W.A.; The Offspring, Marilyn Manson; Metallica, lots of mixtapes. We loved The Beatles anthologies.

Shade: Misfits, Lauryn Hill; Rancid and Sublime.

Adam: Michael Jackson, Nirvana and Punk bands like Bad Religion. 

How supportive are the people and venues of Calgary? Is it a great area to make music in?

People have been super-supportive of KROWNS. I wouldn’t say Calgary is easy: it’s a conservative city and most people don’t care about original music. There is some great support from venues like The Blind Beggar but it’s honestly like most cities. Some good some sh*t. 

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What do you hope to achieve before the end of 2018?

We wanna have a tour schedule set up and have a few more songs released. We wanna go play in Germany and Australia.  

Have you all got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

That’s a tough one. It seems like the hard times stick out - the bus breaking down and a trailer flying off, rolling through the ditch. The suffering is always memorable and enjoyable when you’re grinding with your boys. 

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

We’d love to open for Post Malone. His shows are fire and the crowds have such a good vibe. Drake, 21 Pilots and Imagine Dragons would be sick as well. 

Our rider would have a bottle of Jameson’s, a box of IPA; a box of Cubans and whatever else.

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What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Just be honest. Don’t pander - and keep writing till you don’t suck. 

Where can we see you play? Do you have any gigs approaching?

We just finished a single release show in Calgary but only pending shows at this point. Nothing else has been announced. 

Might you come to the U.K. down the line? Do you like British music?

I love British music. I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting and writing with Roger Taylor of Queen. Amazing dude. We’d love to come if you’d have us. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Swae Lee

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I’ve been listening to Swae Lee and Lil Pump. Check out Dermot Kennedy from Ireland; he’s dope! 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Dermot Kennedy

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I build relic Fender replicas as something to focus on while I’m not busy with KROWNS. I love it. We’ve had a bit of time with the release happening and it’s always nice but we can’t wait to get to work. 

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Hurt to Look - Swae Lee (ft. Rae Sremmurd, Slim Jxmmi)

Clint EastwoodGorillaz

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All Apologies - Nirvana

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Follow KROWNS

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FEATURE: Monday Motivation Music: Songs to Kickstart the Working Week

FEATURE:

 

 

Monday Motivation Music

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ALL PHOTOS: Unsplash 

Songs to Kickstart the Working Week

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A lot of people are struggling in this heat…

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and there are others who do not want to be stuck indoors whilst the sun is out! In any case; many of us are reluctant to get out into the working world and spend our time in a sweaty office! Every Monday morning is a challenge: it is getting harder to lift the energy rates and participate in a full day of rather tedious work. It is another hot and sweaty week ahead, and so, we all need a bit of a kick and motivation. For that reason, I am ending the weekend by putting together a Monday-ready playlist that should add a spring and sense of energy to the step! Put on the playlist and shut the world off; let the songs get into the head and, once they have done their work, they should keep you going…

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UNTIL the weekend (or the end of Monday, at the very least!).

FEATURE: Se-X-X-X Laws: Is Music Becoming More Cautious When It Comes to Sexual Content?

FEATURE:

 

 

   Se-X-X-X Laws     

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ALL PHOTOS: Unsplash 

Is Music Becoming More Cautious When It Comes to Sexual Content?

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IT is bloody typical that The Guardian has just published…

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a piece I was going to write! Whether there is something in the air or not; they have released their opinions regarding sex in modern music. I have covered this topic a bit but I have been hankering to return to the topic. Past pieces have looked at sexism and exploitation in music videos; whether there is too much sex on show in modern music. Now, I am taking an opposite approach and asking whether things are too muted and conservative! One can look at the scandals in Hollywood and sexual abuse claims as a warning to all artists to think about how they behave. Whilst there has not been the same unadulterated and despicable cases we have seen in Hollywood - Harvey Weinstein, especially – I have heard far too many cases of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour in music. Bands and artists have been shamed; testimonies revealed and allegations made – there are many more afraid to come forward and so many potential incidents that have not been oxidised. I am not suggesting music has long been the back parlour of Caligula’s summer house: cavorting and flesh-revealing antics mixing with debauched imagination. Musicians, for decades, have used sex to sell and provoke a reaction. I have just finished up writing a piece that included Madonna. She was/is no stranger to causing controversy and stirring people up but, in actual fact, it is people’s misconceptions and overreactions that have been the problem.

Madonna has always been about empowerment and pushing boundaries. Her music, imagery and videos have compelled and inspired generations. There are still artists who put sex into their music and videos but, look around, and things have gone very quiet. I can still recall when Miley Cyrus was tarred and feathered for her Wrecking Ball antics. Others, including Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, have been accused and judged before for revealing flesh and dancing provocatively in their videos. It seems, in most cases, it is female artists receiving most of the moralising and judgements. Men, on the other hand, approach sex in a different way. Whilst a lot of females have been in the press for empowerment and body confidence; a lot of male artists have been accused of inappropriateness, sexism and lewdness. There are definite gender divides and moral lines we need to consider. In any case, I feel modern circumstances and times have dictated how sex is discussed in music. Many current Popstars are writing about relationships in more sorrowful and diary-like ways. They are chronicling heartbreak and self-reflection rather than the joys of passion and the quest of lust. Some genres, like Hip-Hop and Rap, still boast physically assertive and sexually defiant artists (both male and female) but the goalposts have moved.

There are no rules written that have dictated this sea change but it is interesting to observe how sex is less potent and visible than as recent as a few years ago. To quote from the competing Guardian article; they have looked at ‘sad/sexy’ – how nihilism and a more introspective version of sex have infiltrated music:

As the decade progressed, sad/sexy spread everywhere: the melancholy libido pulsing through the music of the Weeknd, James Blake and the xx (Intro became ubiquitous), you could hear it in the mumbled force of the self-styled Scandinavian sad rappers such as Yung Lean and Spooky Black. Gay culture was gifted a sad/sexy icon in Frank Ocean, who wrote a mini-anthem to the restless dissatisfaction of pharmaceutical cold coupling with Novocaine – a kind of dress rehearsal for sad/sexy’s own three-tier Bohemian Rhapsody, Channel Orange’s Pyramids. The boyband milieu gained its own sad/sexy pinup, too, as One Direction lost their resident weed magnet, Zayn Malik, who went on to pick up the sad/sexy cues of his immediate heroes – Drake and the Weeknd – in Pillowtalk, hooked by the none-more sad/sexy parentheses of “fucking and fighting”.

Not that mainstream heavyweights like Drake and James Blake have gone all soft and lost their libido. Sex is, as the article explores, complicated in this decade. Artists are concerned with mental-health and social media’s effect on the mind.

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Whilst we are still engaging and exploring sex as before; perhaps the digital takeover has changed the way we think, interact and spend out leisure time – have artists the time, energy and focus to even think about sex?! It seems the projection of quick-fix and sexual release is rather ill-judged and cloying at a time when sexual indiscretion and abuse of power is in focus. Maybe we are all too sucked into the machine and guiding our lives through technological eyes. Dating apps and the Internet have changed the way we date – not always for the better, it seems. I am not suggesting we are interacting less but modern musicians, new and mainstream, have less free time to socialise and are relying on the Internet for communication, dating and hook-ups. One can still find male artists writhing and thriving with their trousers down; there are female artists promoting empowerment and their femininity…others are more direct and happy to show curves and a sly smile to get YouTube videos up and their key demographic engaged. Many Pop and mainstream artists are making music for teens and young minds. A more sanitised and moral-minded scene has to come in to ensure the wrong messages are not being put into the world. How explicit an artist should be is a difficult thing to judge.

I agree that sex and relationships are becoming defined by anxiety and a more thoughtful approach. Scandal, accusation and thrills still can be found in music but, largely, heartbreak and rebuilding broken foundations play a much stronger role than tantalisation and getting your rocks off. You are spoiled for choice when it comes to the list of best sex-themed songs ever. NME produced one last year - and a lot of the inclusions (sixty-nine in total, appropriately!) are from an awful long time ago. Modern(ish) songs like Lana Del Rey’s Cola take a rather direct and unapologetic tact – the title refers to the taste of her pussy – but that is rather tame in comparison to what we have witnessed previously. Once was the time when groupies surrounding the biggest bands are there were hellacious and eye-watering stories of sex and excess. Those days have gone (for the most part) and musicians have to be a lot more cautious and responsible in this day and age. There is, too, a line between sexiness and explicitness. One can claim a lyric from Lana Del Rey is more provocative than it is sexy. One does not need to talk about sex in a juvenile and pornographic way: the sheer tease and sense of allure can be much more potent and powerful.

From Beyoncé, Kelis and Ciara making demands and making their intentions known to some of the biggest male Hip-Hop stars boasting of their exploits and ‘measurements’ – there has been a definite decline when it comes to discussing sex in music. Maybe the content is still there but it is not as spicy, memorable and evocative as once was. For those who feel this decline happened at the start of the decade; there is proof to suggest, in 2011 at least, there was plenty of sex in the music mainstream:

Get your heads out of the gutters, America's musicians. We always knew that with all your nipple-showing and lesbian-kissing and crotch-grabbing that you're obsessed with sex, and today we have the science to back it up: "Approximately 92% of the 174 songs that made it into the [Billboard] Top 10 in 2009 contained reproductive messages," says SUNY Albany psychology professor Dawn R. Hobbs in Evolutionary Psychology. That's right--"reproductive messages," our newest favorite euphemism.

Those 174 top-selling songs were analyzed in order to determine how many sexy messages they contained in any of 18 sexy categories, including "arousal," "sexual prowess," and "genitalia." There was an average of 10.49 sex-related phrases per song, with R&B being head-and-shoulders(-and-maybe-some-other-body-parts) above the two other musical genres analyzed, country and pop. "Sexual appeal" was the most popular theme among both R&B and pop songs, while "commitment" (yawn) was most prevalent in country music”.

Sex is more readily available on the Internet and the media. We have sites that offer cheap hook-ups and stringless-sex; the raciness and thrill we once got from music videos and Pop, in comparison, seems a bit tame – or it is too overloading, perhaps? Another article, from earlier this year, differentiated between ‘love’ and ‘sex’. Plenty of artists can articulate the complexities of love and how it has positive and negative effects. Sex, in many ways, is a less complicated area of study. Many songs fit in an overlap where sex and love intersect: many solely discuss sex whilst others do not bring it to the table.

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A lot of the most provocative and sexually revealing Pop artists have got older and, with children and marriage, changed their worldview and are focusing on more family-orientated themes. Modern Pop acts like Dua Lipa and Tinashe are stirring and alluring – able to show flesh and lick their lips without getting too ‘detailed’ and explicit. Male artists, especially, in modern Pop are straying away from the topic. There are genres where sex is freely explored but look at the modern charts and how many songs on the rundown look at sex? This article asks whether sex sells and looked at its (sex) prevalence through the decades. They answered the big question:

Okay, so I know I’ve really been riding my luck with guessing what you’re thinking, but how else do I link my points? Here’s to hoping you’re thinking DOES SEX REALLY “SELL” THEN?!?!?!? Interestingly, sex mentions follow a consistent up and down cycle, peaking for a year or two before falling dramatically, suggesting that sex sells until people get fed up with over-saturation.

…Additionally, artists who largely mentioned sex but did not mention love would have maximum 50 weeks on the charts, yet artists mentioning sex spent much longer on the charts if they also mentioned love. Also, many artists did well on the charts with many mentions of love with few or no mentions of sex. This once again reinforces the idea that sex itself doesn’t sell, but love definitely sells”.

Look back through music’s history and you can see a gradual decline – with a few peaks and dips here and there – when it comes to sex in the mainstream. Love, as I said, is still burning bright but more often than not artists explore intimacy and emotional connection as opposed physicality. Why, then, do I bring up this issue?! I am happy with what is happening in music and am not a sex-craved listener who wants to get his fix anywhere possible. I feel, however, we are in an uncomfortable and difficult time when we must tread carefully and be aware of the consequences of what is being put into the world. Recent scandals, coupled with a changing lifestyle that is more technology-driven and less ‘human’ has changed how we date and bond with one another. I do worry we have gone too far and are being too safe. I am not suggesting artists are puritanical and have lost their libidos altogether – it would be nice to see a bit more expression, boldness and risk-taking from artists.

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I understand caution should be employed and artists need to be responsible for their content. Taking precautions should not replace expression and being honest about sex. We all have it – speak for yourself! – and there is nothing wrong with it at all! Rather than use it as a commercial selling point and push too many boundaries for the sake of streaming/video success; talking about sex in a very real and relatable way is perfectly acceptable. Confident females are not afraid to express their sexuality and empower their peers. Male artists, in some genres, are discussing sex but making sure it is not too seedy and crass. Perhaps we have become too guarded and are not really sure where lines should be laid and what is seen as ‘too much’. I know there is sex out there but I would like to see more of a spark and revival. Artists can talk about sex in a very inspiring, empowering and educational way. One assumes any sexual reference is lurid and offensive: when done right, it can be incredibly powerful and memorable. From songs like Teenage Kicks (The Undertones) and Like a Prayer (Madonna); Love to Love You Baby (Donna Summers) and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones) – music is stocked with sexy and arousing songs. Whilst we do not need a full-on sexual revolution and awakening; I would suggest a bit more expression and optimism is needed from modern artists. It is okay to write about melancholy and heartbreak; talking about love’s capriciousness connects with listeners and is as honest as anything. It would be nice, once in a while, for an artist to lock the door, turn the phone ringer off…

AND let the postman knock the damn door down!

FEATURE: The Legends Club: Artists Who Have Endured and Continue to Inspire

FEATURE:

 

 

The Legends Club     

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IN THIS PHOTO: Paul Simon/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Artists Who Have Endured and Continue to Inspire

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A couple of interesting things have come out of this weekend…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

that has made me reflect and look carefully at the music industry. Paul Simon, as we know, will soon be retiring from touring forever. He is on his Homeward Bound tour and has played at London’s Hyde Park. It is sad to think the American legend will not take to the road after he has completed this tour. Many artists say they are going on a ‘farewell’ tour but they come back for the money and milk it until the cow is dry. It is a good tactic, I guess: scaring the fans and letting them believe this is the last time you will see your heroes on the road! It reminds me of a sale where a shop is closing down and you need to hurry now! It goes on and on and then, when they have enough money, they keep trading as normal! Paul Simon, sadly, is sincere and serious regarding his declaration. The man has won his right to spend time with family and take things a bit easy. Not that a lack of touring miles translates to ‘taking the load off’. Simon is still going to record material and, in fact, has announced he is to release In the Blue Light: a record that sees some of his best-loved material reworked. This is not a new thing in music.

Kate Bush did the same with Director’s Cut. She took songs like This Woman’s Work and added a new spin to them. Paul Simon, on the album, will reinvestigate songs like Love and How the Heart Approaches What It Years. You can learn more here and discover the blend of material that is being reworked by the master. The article I have just quoted provides some useful and revealing information:

Simon writes in the liner notes: “It’s an unusual occurrence for an artist to have the opportunity to revisit earlier works and re-think them; to modify, even completely change parts of the originals.

“Happily, this opportunity also gave me the gift of playing with an extraordinary group of musicians, most of whom I hadn’t recorded with before.

“I hope the listener will find these new versions of old songs refreshed, like a new coat of paint on the walls of an old family home”.

In any case; it is another solo album from Paul Simon; a career that started back in 1964 with Simon and Garfunkel’s debut album, Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. It seems extraordinary to think Simon has been releasing material for over fifty years! His thirteenth solo album, Stranger to Stranger, was met with critical acclaim and it showed, at the age of seventy-five, he was able to produce work that rivalled his very best. Only two years later and we will get ANOTHER record from Simon.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Fleetwood Mac/PHOTO CREDIT: Rock Hall Library and Archive

The fact Simon is still producing work and looking ahead makes me think about the legends of music and how they have endured. I will mention a few more but look at Rock gods such as The Who and The Rolling Stones. With so many of their peers biting the dust or unable to get along – Pink Floyd springs to mind! – it is amazing to consider they have not stopped playing/recording since the 1960s. Fleetwood Mac, another band that has endured some turmoil and upset, are still going – without Lindsey Buckingham, mind – and show no signs of quitting. They are embarking on tours and, whilst another album might be a way away; it is good to see the band going strong and in love with music. I will bring up another music-based revelation that has got me thinking about sustainability and endurance. Today, many argue, is a very different scene to that of the 1960s, for instance. Artists need to promote themselves endlessly and be kind to themselves and each other – look after their mental-health and be as supportive as possible. A couple of articles look at longevity in the industry and give helpful hints to musicians. This article looks at social media and creating a brand:

The next question is – how do I develop myself enough today to get longevity in the future? Hard work and dedication are two of the most important values that you have to think about when you’re in the music industry.

When you’re first starting out, you need to be able to find a fanbase. These fans might already be focused around one particular artist that fits in with the music you are producing but you’ll appeal to them with your own, unique brand. Establishing a brand is extremely important because that is how your audience will know who you are and why they should like your music beyond “it’s good.”

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

The first thing to ensure that you have a solid brand would be getting a social media. This is important to have if you want to continue to build your brand and to make sure that you are consistent on each website that you use. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even Snapchat can engage both current and new fans. It is also important to get your music on as many different platforms as possible, either by streaming it online on Spotify, Soundcloud, or Apple Music or by selling physical copies if that’s a profitable option for you”.

How do the Rock titans like Mick Jagger, Robert Plant; Roger Daltrey and Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) ensure and survive? This article, written ten years ago, put Rock stars under the microscope and theorised why they continue to work and retain a fanbase. One pointer that struck my eye was the issue of changing your style. Do you keep the same character/sound going or change it up or risk losing some support?

So does one evolve within a particular way of writing as Nick Cave has done slowly and spectacularly, or constantly try new things? Both can work if done well. I know many people who, after a youth pursuing the shock of the new through Frank Zappa or Naked City, are now beginning to "get" Bruce Springsteen. Why are they warming to these conservative chord sequences? It seems Bruce sustains a career thanks to generation after generation of youngsters growing up just enough to get his romanticism of the everyday. Whereas Joni Mitchell, Björk or, occasionally, Neil Young maintain a hardcore following while gaining and losing admirers from project to project, Bruce just accumulates through maintaining a general level of solid quality”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Bruce Springsteen/PHOTO CREDIT: Danny Clinch for Variety

I guess you could say it is as hard to survive now as it was back then. By that, I mean artists like The Who and Paul Simon started in a different time when music was very different and they did not have to promote in the same way. There were fewer competitors and they did not have to face up against a mass of new and unsigned artists. On the flip side; those who were releasing albums and in the charts were incredibly good and determined. Not only have these musicians overcome a tough scene and quality rivals but they have managed to settle in the present time – where there is social media, a new way of working and fresh demands. Not only do the long-standing artists have to think about retaining fans and winning new ones but they have to make that decision whether to change their style or keep going as they are. Consider Bob Dylan and Neil Young and how radically their music has shifted since the 1960s. In fact…it isn’t such a leap, really?! They have not succumbed to the need to add synths and pumping drums to their music: they have kept that solid and reliable foundation and adding the odd touch here and there. Look at someone like Madonna, mind, and she has taken bigger gambles. I guess a Pop artist is in a different position to a Folk act.

She could not really produce the same sort of music she was producing back in the 1980s. Consider her pumping out Like a Virgin and Cherish in 2018 and it would not really sound right. Ironically, 1980s-inspired music is big now and many artists have taken from Madonna. The Queen of Pop turns sixty next month and it will be a fantastic opportunity to pay tribute to her influence and legacy. She continues to tour and release material and reinventing herself at every turn. Consider how she has shifted from her 1980s albums such as Like a Virgin and Like a Prayer and what she came up with on 1998’s Ray of Light. She took a gamble adding darker electronics to her sound at the end of the 1990s but it paid off; she entered a new creative phase and continued to score big reviews and sell-out venues.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Tabak/Sunshine/Retna UK

Even as she enters her sixties; the Queen of Pop puts out spirited, raw and sexual material that shows immense confidence and direction. She has updated her early-career sound and add modern touches and hooked up with the best talent of today – rather than resting on her laurels and assuming she does not need to change a thing. Madonna has always influenced and directed music. Matt Cain, when speaking with The Guardian, discussed how Madonna opened up gay culture and made self-expression and sexual revelation more acceptable. She

“…But I love how Madonna’s never wanted to be seen as a nostalgia artist and how in recent years she’s become even more politically outspoken. Her speech at the Billboard women in music awards in 2016; she called out the “blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse” she’d experienced as a woman in the music industry. So many people have relied on Madonna’s music for emotional support in their lives and I’m so glad she’s still here, still expressing herself, absolutely on her own terms. Because if she hadn’t been doing that when I was younger, I’m not sure I’d be here now – and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today”.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Madonna opened up discussion about sexuality and feminism. She continues to speak out about misogyny and sexism in the industry – it is that strong voice and passion that keeps people hooked and compelled. Madonna changed popular culture and transformed the way we look at women and music in general. It is not a surprise, therefore, as she approaches sixty that she has that huge fanbase and a big demand – there are whisperings she might appear at next year’s Glastonbury Festival. Madonna, like Paul Simon, has produced such a vast body of work and created different personas. She has survived and managed to change skins; keeping fascination high and inspiring generations. When she hits sixty on 16th August; it will be a great opportunity to mark her endurance and what she has given musicians. Sadly, a lot of icons have passed because of addiction and drug-related deaths. Prince, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson are a few who have succumbed to drugs – whether accidental or not. I know bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones have ‘dabbled’ in the past but they remain clean and focused today – they know they need to stay healthy and, essentially, alive to continue their careers.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Paul McCartney leaving Apple headquarters (London) in 1969/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I have been thinking about others, like Paul McCartney, have had decades-lasting career and continued to evolve. McCartney has gone from The Beatles to Wings (who, he claims, were not a great group) and has endured a successful solo career. If Madonna has survived criticism and attacking voices – against her promiscuousness and confidence; others who feel she is a diva – and not embarked on farewell tours and the ‘comeback trail’. McCartney, too, has received criticism – not the same sort but he has overcome doubting tongues – but shrugged it all off and remained level-headed and professional. McCartney, during an interview last year talked about balancing fame and fortune with being grounded and normal:

For someone who's been so famous for so long, this particular billionaire vegetarian seems surprisingly charming and self-effacing. But with anyone whose life and work has been explored at length from every angle, it can be difficult to separate the myth from the man.

How would his friends describe him, does he reckon?

"They'd say 'Paul is one of the best guys you could ever meet. He's honest. He's loyal. He's friendly. He's funny. He's a great mate, generally'."

He forgot devilishly handsome. "Yes, true. Also, devilishly handsome. Or do you want the real version? But yeah, I'm lucky. I've got some great mates, and they keep me grounded. One of my big fears in life was gettin' too full of meself. When you have the sort of success I've had, it would be easy to go 'You know what? I'm dead cool!' But coming from Liverpool, that's not the cleverest thing”. When I go back up to Liverpool, if there's any of that, it's like, 'Eee, Paul. Whatcha doin'? Now f… off!'. I get pulled back to reality real fast. "

Musicians today could learn a lot about remaining settled and grounded. I feel so many musicians from the 1960s and 1970s do not get too carried away.

Some might argue against that point but there is little room for egos if you want to keep growing your fanbase and winning critics – unless you are Kanye West, I guess! Discipline and that experience all make a big difference. A lot of new artists have just arrived on the scene and have to adapt very quickly. The big, long-lasting artists have been there and know what it takes to succeed. There is no secret to succeeding for so many decades. Some bands/artists split up or succumb to excess whilst others change their music and lose their fanbase. Those who keep releasing music and packing people in have changed with the times but not lost what made them special in the first place. I guess it is their love of music and passion for the fans that keep them going and drives their creativity. They act as a guide for new artists that you can endure for a long time and succeed in music. Whilst Paul Simon releases a new album and Paul McCartney gears up for touring a new solo album (Egypt Station); Madonna continues to perform and is sixty next month – The Rolling Stones, against all odds, are still kicking and owning stages around the world. We thank and celebrate them for their immense work and lighting up music for so many years. As we talk about disposability, commercialism and come-and-go artists today who do not last for that many years; have a look around at the legends of music that have changed music as we know it and continue…

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Rolling Stones/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

TO create amazing work.

FEATURE: Mercury Revs: Which Albums Are in with a Shout of a Mercury Music Prize Nomination?

FEATURE:

 

 

   Mercury Revs     

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IN THIS PHOTO: The album cover for Let's Eat Grandma's I'm All Ears/ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/Press Association 

Which Albums Are in with a Shout of a Mercury Music Prize Nomination?

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IF you enjoyed a British album…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Last year's Mercury Music Prize winner, Sampha

released between Saturday, 22nd July, 2017 and Friday, 20th July, 2018 (looking a few days ahead, it seems!); chances are it will be in with a shot of a Mercury Music Prize nod. The dozen longlisted albums will be announced on Thursday, 26th July and it will be exciting to see who makes the cut. Last year’s winner, Sampha, impressed judges and the public with Process – a fine record from the London songwriter. Hyundai, again, are putting their name to the prize and there is talk as to who might be nominated this year. Many feel the Mercury Music Prize has lost a bit of direction and is not inclusive enough. I think a couple of things need to happen when it comes to announcing the longlisted. It is too late to change course – as the albums have been selected/most have – but one suspects there will be a mix of the mainstream best and the outsiders. There is always a Jazz or Folk record alongside the finest from Pop, Rock and Alternative. In terms of the best albums from 2017; look at most rundowns and you will see a largely American crew. Artists such as St. Vincent, Thundercat and The National. I look at the assumed best of this year (so far) and there is a bit more variation – are we to assume the twelve albums that will appear on the list are going to be taken from this year?

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Thursday, 20th September will see a new British champion crowned and I wonder whether judges will go with an album like Sampha’s Process or something Rock/Pop-based? Dizzie Rascal’s Raskit was released a day before the cut-off point for eligibility (it was released on Friday, 21st July, 2017) but that could have been a good outside bet. Whether you love or loathe the new album from the Arctic Monkeys; Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino seems like a Mercury-worthy record! Many say it is not as intense and immediate as other albums from the Yorkshire band. I know it is a grower and seems like an Alex Turner solo album but there has been some great critical reception. At the very least, it would show the panel are willing to take risks and recognise an album that may not seem like a classic right now – something that has the potential to grow and establish its worth years from now. It is hard to make early predictions and one glaring thing stands out. Whilst there have been some tremendous British albums from the past year; look at the critics' lists and most of them focus on American works. In fact; type in ‘The best albums of 2018’ and the vast majority will be American. That is not to indicate British albums have not been able to cut it alongside the American best. A lot of the votes and lists are compiled by American critics who, let’s be fair, have myopic views and do not tend to spend too much outside their own nation.

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A couple of albums I have rather enjoyed are Microshift (Hookworms) and Open Here (Field Music). Both of the records scored well from critics; both bands are northern (Field Music are from Sunderland whilst Hookworms are from Leeds/Halifax). It would be good to see both of these records get a nod and sit alongside the very best. Young Fathers’ Cocoa Sugar, perhaps, is the frontrunner. The Scottish band won the prize back in 2014 for their album, Dead, and I would not bet against them winning the award for the second time. Critics have been raving and drooling over their latest work. Alexis Petridis, in a review for The Guardian, proclaimed:

The trio are smart enough to keep their experimentation sharp and to the point: the longest track here lasts four minutes, while the shortest – Wire, with its oddly Viz comic-like refrain of “Ooh, ya fucker!” – is over in 100 seconds. The end result is fascinating and forbidding in equal measure, and there’s clearly an argument that it’s also very timely: twisted and broken-sounding pop music for a twisted and broken era, replete with villains (the protagonist of In My View, a “greedy bugger”, actively enjoying not just the taste of his foie gras, but the cruelty of its manufacture) and lyrics that appear to swipe at nationalism and toxic masculinity, albeit obliquely. But equally, its strangeness feels less reactionary than internal: not so much the outcome of looking on, horrified, at the world in 2018 and trying to find a soundtrack, than the product of a band who inhabit a world of their own”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Young Father/PHOTO CREDIT: Julia Noni

I am certain Cocoa Sugar will be on the list of selected twelve – it is almost guaranteed to be among the shortlisted and frontrunners. Although Superorganism take their membership from various parts of the world; they formed and are based in London – they can be seen as a British band. I would think their album, Superorganism, is going to be included and I think it could be the album-to-beat alongside Young Fathers’ third L.P. Look at the choices I have selected so far and there is a lot of Pop and Rock in there. You get some synths and Indie shades in there but, largely, there are no Urban touches to be found. I have mentioned my love for Young Fathers but there is another proposition that could upset the odds: the marvellous duo of Let’s Eat Grandma. Their second album, I’m All Ears, is one of the best-received records of this year and a sure-fire Mercury nomination. The Sunday Times provided their view regarding the album:

Norwich’s Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth were 17 in 2016, when they released I, Gemini, a dreamlike debut that captured the magical otherness of adolescence. Their second album is a fun, futuristic mix of alternative pop and dance music that sounds like the product of two young women going out and discovering the world”.

I have reviewed most of the albums I have mentioned so far – not biased or anything! – and can attest to their brilliance. Looking at other fresh releases and Boy Azooga come to mind. Their staggering gem, 1,2, Kung Fu!, is one of my favourite albums from this year. I am expecting Boy Azooga to be in the chasing pack and, in no way, an outsider. Although, again, we are not straying too far from Pop and Rock; 1,2, Kung Fu! goes through different emotions and stages. It is a record that I am in love with and would like to see scoop a lot of awards. A couple of artists who deserve to be on the list but might be on the borders of winning are Bryde and Kate Nash. The former is the moniker of Sarah Howells and her debut, Like an Island, turned a lot of heads. A sample review, from DORK, tells you all you need to know:

Over the course of the record, Bryde juggles her mystical soundscapes and unapologetic guitars with pristine skill. There are moments of infectious beats and danceable choruses, of soft vocals and wisps of electronica. ‘Fast Awake’ is an energetic yet dark track, taking elements from Radiohead tracks ‘Bodysnatchers’ and ‘Myxomatosis’ in its powerful coalescence of haunting vocals and rapid percussion. Bryde invokes the ambience of Warpaint and emotion of Laura Marling in her impressive debut; namely in ‘Euphoria’, a piano-led ballad, and ‘To Be Loved’, a track saturated with power and ferocity”.

We are sporting so much brilliant talent in Britain right now – Bryde is among the very best out there right now. I could not give you any odds but, in bookie terms, she might be a 12/1 bet. Kate Nash is someone who has been kicking around music for a while and, again, another bright and brilliant London artist. Would the panel award the prize to a London artist after giving Sampha the gong last year?! I think Nash’s record, Yesterday Was Forever, departs from her previous record – 2013’s Girl Talk was not met with huge critical love – and her 2010’s My Best Friend Is You. We reviewed Kate Nash’s latest record for Too Many Blogs:

This record definitely evokes the spirit of a teenage diary. Singing in her distinctive London accent, energy drips off this LP, with the now-thirty-year-old delivering a punchy, tongue-in-cheek yet sincere message about the ups and downs of life. Nash addresses issues such as mental health in riot-grrl-esque opener ‘Life in Pink’, which despite the gravitas topic of ‘thinking about death all the time’ still manages to infuse a sense of optimism and unity”.

It would be a good idea to keep your eyes open for Nash and Byrde because both have produced records that have fared well and received great reviews – even though both artists are in different stages of their careers!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Nash

For a more Folk/Acoustic choice; you might want to consider River Matthews and his fantastic album, Imogen. Gorgeous songs like Fool for You and Sunshine sit in the head and swim in the blood. It might not be as urgent and spectacular as efforts by Superorganism but I wouldn’t bet against him being in the mind of the Mercury panel’s mind. I would also like to bring in Tom Misch and The Orielles for possible contenders. I love Misch’s Geography and, so too, do the critics. He has been making waves and made big strides since he came onto the scene. NME gave their views regarding Geography:

On ‘Man Like You’ Misch shows he’s found a way to fit traditional instrumentation into a modern pop format, but elsewhere he seeks help in the form of some stellar collaborations. Multi-talented singer Poppy Ajudha guests on dance shuffle ‘Disco Yes’, while standout track ‘Water Baby’ sees him team up again with louche hip-hopper Loyle Carner (also from south London). ‘90s icons De La Soul are the heavyweight feature on ‘It Runs Through Me’ — a euphoric, riff-laden tribute to the power of music”.

The Orielles’ Silver Dollar Moment trips through their back catalogue and throws in some nice angles and unexpected moments. The Yorkshire band are hotshots who are proving to be one of the most reliable and delicious bands in Britain. I am confident they will get a nomination and be included among the bookies’ favourites. If you want two established British artists who could get a shout this year then maybe Franz Ferdinand and The Wombats will be included.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Orielles

Always Ascending and Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life (respectively) are not the best works from each band but both sold well and gained some positive reviews. They might be outside bets but, again, I would not be shocked to see these albums included when the nominations are made. I would like to see Django Django and Shame make the Mercury Music Prize list. The Guardian reviewed Django Django’s Marble Skies and highlighted its worth:

“…It’s impossibly lovely, one of those moments when Django Django seem more like alchemists than investigators. They may never make a perfect album – a certain unevenness seems inbuilt in their approach, where not every experiment turns out quite the way you might have hoped – but they’re capable of making music that sounds close to perfection“.

Shame, a band who stunned with their debut, Songs of Praise, is another big record that NEEDS to be in the longlist. Many were baffled last year when IDLES failed to get an inclusion for the Mercury with Brutalism. IDLES might redress that error when they release their sophomore album at the end of next month but we definitely need to see a Punk-flavoured record included among the frontrunners. A few of last year’s nominated names – Kate Tempest and Loyle Carner – wrote about the realities of Britain from a London perspective. The Shame guys are from South London, so many might think another winner from that neck of the woods might be taking things a bit far!

I reviewed The Go! Team when they released SEMICIRCLE. Writing for Too Many Blogs; the music jumped from the speakers:

‘Hey!’ – again back near the top – is a snarling, stomping rebel that has horns and avalanche-beats striding and strutting like a bad-ass mother-fucker. It is one of the best tracks on the album and one that reminds me of their debut. I mention it because as the final few tracks come to mind, I notice how far the band have come and how confident it all feels. ‘She’s Got Guns’ steps into hip-hop and rap more overtly than before with hints of Neneh Cherry during her ‘Buffalo Stance’ days, and ‘Getting Back Up’ is a finale that seems to unite ‘Mayday’ with ‘Semicircle Song’ in a grand showdown”.

It is another outside shot but I could well see that album included among the twelve that will be announced very shortly. The other albums I would like to see included are Florence + the Machine’s High as Hope; LUMP by LUMP; Jon Hopkins’ Singularity and Lily Allen’s No Shame. I feel a Lily Allen/Shame name-similar, London head-off might be a good battle. Laura Marling has been denied a Mercury award so I would like to see her (and Mike Lindsay).

I feel LUMP is the best shot at a nod because of the uniform positivity the record garnered. Whilst the other records did receive big love; I feel it the time for Laura Marling to receive her dues – and her wonderful partnership with Lindsay. The Line of Best Fit nailed the eponymous album perfectly:

Lindsay’s experimental compositional style that has evolved through Tunng, Throws and producing other artists’ albums, brings out Marling’s assertive vocals. The last two songs in particular are full of breathy, mouth sounds. When Marling sings “Salt air is healing / Nakedness revealing / They go so well” on “Shake Your Shelter”, it is a beautiful summation of LUMP’s sound and message – an ambient, compelling and unique look into whether contemporary life really has to be so empty”.

I suspect Jon Hopkins is going to be this year’s equivalent of the ‘outsider’. You know the albums I mean, They might be Jazz-influenced or a bit out-there; not commercial enough or one of those records that demand proper attention. I feel, mind, if I were to compile a top-six I would have Hopkins’ record alongside Let's Eat Grandma; Field Music, Shame; LUMP and, maybe, Arctic Monkeys. That would be a varied and interesting camp where anything goes!

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IN THIS PHOTO: LUMP (Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay (and 'LUMP')

What do my predictions show, then?! Well, for one, there is still a heavy leaning of male artists but, to be fair, more female inclusion than previous years. There is a lot of Pop and Rock in the list and a complete absence of anything too far-out and experimental. There are no controversial shouts – like Ed Sheeran from last year – but there is mainstream Pop in the form of Lily Allen and Kate Nash. Both of those artists have plenty of attitude and grit in their music – something the panel looks out for when deciding on their choices. My personal face-off would be between Field Music’s Open Here and LUMP’s LUMP. Maybe neither album will be longlisted or, if they are, neither will win. One never knows what to expect when it comes to the Mercury Music Prize. Many are shouting against a pitch for Arctic Monkeys; others are calling for newcomers like Tom Misch to get a nomination. Whilst many best-of-the-year-so-far lists are putting American albums/artists near the top of their pieces; the selection of albums I have included in this piece show there is ample British brilliance. Who will win the Mercury is anyone’s guess but one thing is for sure…

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WE have been spoiled for choice this year!

INTERVIEW: Dragonz

INTERVIEW:

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Dragonz

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I have been chatting with producer Dragonz

about his new single, Dream Days, and working with singer Joe Bateman. He reveals how he came to meet the singer and whether he is working with Bateman again; the sort of music that drives his own creativity; what he hopes to achieve before the end of the year – Dragonz reveals three albums that mean a lot to him.

I ask the producer whether there will be any tour dates coming up and what advice he would give to new artists emerging; if there is an upcoming musician we need to get behind – I ask whether Dragonz gets any time to chill away from music.

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

Pretty good. I have been busy with the launch of our single, Dream Days, which came out on 6th July - and also been working on some new tracks.

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

I’m a producer and songwriter based in North London. I write melodic Pop tracks and work with various featured artists.

Dream Days is the new song. What is the tale behind it?

These are pretty dark times for the world and I just wanted to write a positive, happy love song.

Was it easy putting it all together? Was the creation quite natural and fast?

The writing of the song was fairly straightforward, yes, but it took some time to get the production sounding right.

Joe Bateman is on the track. How did you come to meet him? How did you react to hearing his vocal back?

I met Joe online. He’s very talented as well as having a great voice; he plays guitar, piano; violin, mandolin and drums to a high level. I was delighted with the vocal he did on the track. It’s very beautiful and I think it is reminiscent of Sam Smith at his best.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Joe Bateman

Which musicians are most important regarding your own sound? Did you get into music quite young?

Yes. I took piano lessons from an early age and did up to Grade 8 on it. I also taught myself the guitar and music production. I’ve always been a huge lover of music and have a very wide range of music that I like, from the 1950s to the present-day.

Is there going to be more material coming later this year do you think?

Yes. I’ve already recorded another track with Joe and hoping to bring that out a month or two after Dream Days comes out.

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

There are no tour dates arranged as yet, but would be great to be able to do that.

Is the stage somewhere you enjoy being? Is there a different sensation being out among the people as opposed to the space of the studio?

I prefer the studio myself, that’s my natural habitat, but I do enjoy playing live as well.

Do you have any ambitions to fulfil before the end of the year?

I would love Dream Days and its follow up to become a success.

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Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

I haven’t got one particular memory, but my favourite part of the songwriting and production process is when I hear vocalists singing my songs and bringing them to life - never tire of that

Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?

That’s a difficult one because I like a huge amount of music - and also much of the music I like these days tends to be single-based. But, if pressed, I would have to say:

London Calling by The Clash; Very by the Pet Shop Boys and Hot Fuss by The Killers.  

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Work hard at improving your skills and never give up. It’s a very tough business and you are probably going to need to handle a lot of knock-backs before you become successful.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Jon Sine/PHOTO CREDITKIDKUTSMEDIA l Photography

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I’ve been listening a lot to a producer called Jon Sine recently. I like his style. He also has a great YouTube channel documenting his musical journey.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I’m very into travelling. I’ve been to Taiwan and Hong Kong recently. I also like sports.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Here’s a song I really like by Max Jury (Little Jean Jacket) - remixed by Jon Sine, who I mentioned before

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Follow Dragonz

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INTERVIEW: Sharkmuffin

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Kelly Knapp  

Sharkmuffin

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IT has been a ball speaking with Sharkmuffin

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PHOTO CREDIT: Kelly Knapp   

about their sound and the vibe in camp. They have a new song, Your Stupid Life, out but I speak to them about their previous cut, Liz Taylor. The band discuss their tastes and which new artists we should keep an eye out for – they reveal some U.K. dates and talk about their love for the country.

I ask Sharkmuffin about their early musical experiences and whether they feel women in modern music are told how to play and look; how they all unwind away from music; if they have any advice for artists coming through – the band each select a song to end things with.

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

Tarra Thiessen: Good! I was at the Jersey shore for the fourth of July and ate some Taco Bell on the way back from the beach - and my insides are feeling a little weird now.

Natalie Kirch: Great! Very full! I finished teaching for the year and pretty much went straight to the beach to relax with my family and BBQ; then, hopped to another beach to spend some time with friends and listen to some music.

Jordyn Blakely: I’m good. Drinking my first coffee of today, which is one of my favorite moments of the day! I went to the beach a lot last week with a friend, and my mom visited me over the weekend. I love summer because I get to see friends more often.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Cult Days

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

TT: I'm Tarra - I sing and play guitar.

NK: I’m Natalie - I sing harmonies and play bass guitar.

JB: I’m Jordyn and I play drums! I sing backup vox sometimes, too.

Can you talk about Liz Taylor and the song’s origins? How did it come together?

TT: My mom has been wearing Liz Taylor’s white diamonds perfume since I was a child and it’s impossible to wash that smell out of clothing, so everything always smells like that when I go home. But, she actually she texted me the other day and said she’s going to start wearing less of it! So, that was an unexpected result of the new song.

When did Sharkmuffin get together? How did you meet? Is there a story behind the band name, too?

Natalie and I met and began playing with each other six years ago and we met Jordyn while she was drumming for a band called Butter the Children in 2012. Sharkmuffin has had a very colorful cast of drummers over the years (you can find all of their faces, including Jordyn’s, on the cover of our first record, Chartreuse) and we’re so happy to be playing and touring with her again!

NK: Tarra came up with the band name and since we have heard of many associations and rumors that came along with it. Even if none of them is true; it’s fun to hear what our friends, fans and critics come up with - so I don’t want to burst any bubbles! Tarra and I are about to celebrate the sixth year since our first show together (and my first show ever) on July 14th, 2018. Jordyn was one of the first few friends to drum for us and we are thrilled that she’s back in the band and able to tour and record with us now.

JB: I’ve played with Sharkmuffin off and on over the years and have been friends with them since I was new to the music scene in N.Y.C.; so it’s exciting to be more involved with them musically and get to know them better!

It seems you have plenty of ambition, drive and spunk. Do you think too many female artists are told how to play/look? Do you think changes need to come in?

TT: I don’t have any specific memories of anyone directly telling me how to look/play but I feel like social media, in general, can breed an anxiety that everyone else is doing better than you – which can seep into your unconscious and influence your aesthetic in a way that it may not have gone. But, it’s definitely positive to be inspired by your peers and to feel like we’re all in it together.

We’re the first generation of musicians to have such a direct way to promote our shows and music and create a community around it - and that change in the music industry itself is really positive and leaves room for everyone to have a unique voice. Everyone in the music community we’re a part of has been super-supportive of us and I’m really grateful for that!

NK: I agree with Tarra! I think that, being a woman, you will most likely encounter some subtle attempts to subdue or reconstruct your ‘image’ or tone. However, we have been lucky enough to perform how we want to and create what we want to and, for the most part, we have been surrounded by positive and proactive people.

JB: Totally. I feel there is intense pressure for women to be ‘hot’ and that that is more important than their talents, thoughts and feelings they’re trying to communicate through their work. In the entertainment industry, this is especially emphasized but I think you just have to believe in yourself and believe in what you’re doing and know that what you’re creating is more important than how much you appeal, sexually, to a group of people. If the right audience is listening, then your appearance shouldn’t be the most important thing.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @mixtapemyheart

I get a sense you mix a love of the West Coast sounds of the 1960s; bits of Riot Girrrl and the Grunge movement of the 1990s. Is that a reflection of the artists you grew up around?

TT: Yes ! I grew up listening to The Ventures, Dick Dale; Nirvana, Bikini Kill and The Beach Boys. I also love '70s classic rock like Led Zeppelin and the Garage-Rock bands in the early-'00s like The White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

NK: Definitely! My parents played a lot of Classic Rock like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles; Beach Boys and David Bowie growing up but also Motown/female-fronted Pop acts like The Supremes or The Shirelles. I discovered a lot of the Grunge and Punk-era bands like Nirvana, Bikini Kill; Blondie, Hole; Sleater-Kinney, Sonic Youth; Pixies, The New York Dolls/Johnny Thunders (and so forth) on my own.

I don’t like listing bands like that because I always forget some huge influences, but oh well! I also really like The White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Tarra and I realized early on that we had very similar tastes; although I think she adds more of a surf tone to the guitar inspired by some of the Cali acts - and I add a lot of raw simple sludge like the East Coast Punk artists.

JB: I also was obsessed with Nirvana and Led Zeppelin when I started playing drums and loved Classic Rock stuff like Jimi Hendrix, Queen; The Doors, The Beatles; Janis Joplin, Black Sabbath…I also loved Punk and Pop-Punk when I was new to playing music like Rancid, Operation Ivy; The Distillers, The Casualties; NOFX,  MXPX and Minor Threat. It’s been fun to revisit these earlier influences in my playing – plus, Sharkmuffin introduces me to new music and bands that I wasn’t aware of back then.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @mixtapemyheart

Is there a pretty varied scene in Brooklyn right now? How does it compare to the other New York boroughs in terms of sound and tone?

NK: I think it’s varied in terms of genre but we would like to see some more of a convergence between different types of music and more cultural diversity within the genres.

JB: It’s such a large environment with so many participants, so it’s kinda like a lot of smaller circles that Venn diagram into one another and all connect since we’re all in the same place, sharing the same venues and audiences. I like that because it gives ‘the scene’ some diversity and it feels like there is a sense of togetherness. I guess it varies in terms of different genres or instrumentation. I’m not around there enough to know, but it seems like Manhattan has a more D.J.-oriented scene with less prominence of live performance.

What do you hope to achieve before the end of 2018?

TT: Write and record our third L.P.!

NK: Ditto that!

JB: Yay. I’m down!

Have you all got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

TT: It was really amazing playing last year at Mello Fest in the U.K. and we met Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin backstage. That was nuts! Also; our first record release at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn was one of my favorite shows ever.

NK: Both of those times were incredible moments for me! Also; recording at the Record Plant (everyone treated us like queens there) and with Patty was a definite highlight. She was a big inspiration to us growing up, so it was cool to play with her. She was also very down-to-earth and easy-going.

JB: We played a show opening for HINDS earlier this year and it’s always exhilarating to play a big show like that; it still feels new. The audience was really fun and welcoming. I love meeting new people. It was a learning experience for me to be in such a different setting. Also; playing Brooklyn Bazaar with Gym Shorts was cool. I got so hyped on that band after seeing them! There was someone giving free tattoos during the show, which was hilarious and weird and I love playing shows that are weird.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Kelly Knapp   

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

TT: The Breeders. I just want a bowl of unwrapped fruit punch Starbursts to eat after our set.

NK: The Breeders, for sure! Lots of sparkling water, chips; hummus and hot sauce to add to that.

JB: The Breeders would be amazing! Autolux would be a dream come true. Lots of candy, beer and cheese backstage, please! That sounds kinda gross all together - but I love those things individually.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

TT: Do not take anything (criticism, inter-band drama etc.) personally. Appreciate everyone’s time and energy involved in your project, no matter how small.

NK: it sounds cliché but clichés exist for a reason - believe that you can do it. Always be grateful to the people that support you, both within your band and in the wider scheme of things.

JB: Yes I agree with those! Try to keep going even if you feel discouraged or encounter rejection, which will happen. Listen to yourself regarding what you want: you won’t please everybody and you can’t control what people think of you.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Megan Mosher

Where can we see you play? Do you have any gigs approaching?

Our U.K. dates are:

#SHARKMUFFINUKINVASION2018TOUR

7/27 PORT ELLIOT FESTIVAL

7/28 THE COTSWOLD INN, CHELTENHAM

7/31 GWIDHW, CARDIFF

8/1 AL'S DIME BAR, BRADFORD

8/2 THE CRYPT, NORWICH

8/3 THE GREEN DOOR STORE, BRIGHTON

8/4 THE ANGEL, NOTTINGHAM

8/6 THE UNDERGROUND, STOKE

8/7 THE LOCK KEEPER, CHESTER

8/8 NIGHT & DAY, MANCHESTER

8/9 THE PARISH, HUDDERSFIELD

8/10 SEBRIGHT ARMS, LONDON

8/11 THE SWAN, IPSWICH

I believe you are coming to the U.K. to perform. Are you quite prepared for our stiff upper lips, weak beer and dissolving Government?!

TT: I like whiskey. Do you have whiskey there?! You know who our President is so I think we’re ready for anything!

NK: We love the U.K.! Everyone was so kind to us our first round there and the country is really beautiful.

JB: I’m really excited to explore new cities in the U.K. I haven’t visited before. I feel I have a lot to learn in regards to the mannerisms there; British are always so polite but I can’t tell if they just secretly hate you. Haha. But, I can understand why everyone would hate Americans right now, sadly.

Have you performed over here? Do you like British sounds?

TT: Natalie and I came last year with a different Sharkmuffin line-up and we loved a lot of the bands we played with. We played The Great Escape last year in Brighton with PINS and played again on our last night of tour with Pussy Liquor at Green Door Store. We’re playing at Green Door Store again on August 3rd!

NK: Yes. We had such an amazing time meeting everyone over there and traveling around the country.

JB: I’ve played in the U.K. with a band called Wardell and another time with Kino Kimino. My favorite show was at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh (with K.K.). The bands were all great and the audience and the venue were so friendly! This is my first time with Sharkmuffin though. It blows my mind how ancient some of the castles there are; they were so well-built!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Lola Pistola/PHOTO CREDITKaya Yvsi

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

TT: There are so many great bands in N.Y.C. right now like Def.Grls, Tall Juan; Lola Pistola, Sloppy Jane and Fruit & Flowers (who just came to the U.K. last month as well).

NK: All of those bands are great. Also; Lost Boy ?, Kino Kimino (that Tarra and Jordyn also play in); Haybaby, The Big Drops; THICK, Grim Streaker; Holy Tunics, Sic Tic; BIG UPS, Gustaf; New Myths, Dentist; The Off White. So many more. SO MANY!

JB: Big Cheese, The 94 Knicks; Poppies, NOICE; Free $$$, Yazan; Ovlov, Sean Henry and Anna Altman!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kino Kimmino/PHOTO CREDITThomas Ignatius

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

TT: Natalie’s family has a really lovely house at the Jersey Shore. Last time I was there I found a baby praying mantis on a donut pool tube and that was magical. I drank a glass of wine while floating around the pool for like an hour after that.

NK: Yes. That house is our place of zen. My cats and my parents’ cats also roam free on the lawn so there’s also adorable fluffies in addition to the water. I saw a baby seagull today - he was really cute and I was worried about him but then he made his fledgeling flight. The original house was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy in 2012 but some of Tarra and my first collaborations were in my old room at the original house.

JB: Not lately, but I’m really enjoying everything I’m doing musically! When I’m trying to tune out I watch movies or T.V. with friends, go on walks; cook with my roommates, play in my backyard with my cat; read books, color in coloring books. Going to shows and jamming with friends is a big way that I unwind, so, maybe I need more hobbies. Haha.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

TT: DRINKS - Real Outside

NK: Lost Boy ? - Taste Butter

JB: Cleaners from Venus - Only a Shadow

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Follow Sharkmuffin

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TRACK REVIEW: Ay Wing - Ice Cream Dream

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Ay Wing

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

  Ice Cream Dream

 

9.3/10

 

 

The track, Ice Cream Dream, is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRtvNPrdyjw&feature=youtu.be

GENRE:

Pop

ORIGIN:

Berlin, Germany

RELEASE DATE:

27th June, 2018

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THIS time around…

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

I have a few things I want to look at. Ay Wing is someone I am familiar with and I always love what she produces. I will talk about artists who can consistently produce smart and professional songs – together with great videos – and summer-ready tracks that summon the sun and actually stay in the head. I will also look at artists who want to get the audience involved and create a complete musical experience; those based in Berlin and what the scene is like there at the moment – finishing by talking a bit about Ay Wing and where she is heading. It has been a little while since I approached Ay Wing and what she is doing. I love her music and how she has progressed but, over the past few months, she has made some big steps and produced, what I think, is her finest work. I am looking out at music and seeing all varieties of Pop and Alternative come through. It is interesting watching artists come through and what is available in the market. I have talked about Pop a lot and can see it is split between the more commercial brand: that which is radio-friendly and does not necessarily challenge the mind too much. That sort of music aims itself at a pre-teen/teen market and can produce some great tracks. There is another camp that produces deeper and more serious Pop – this can be quite introverted but aims itself at a broader demographic. If one looks at Ay Wing, you can see she falls between the two camps. Her music has a sense of fun and energy but its lyrics and mood are a lot more intelligent and nuanced. It is possible to produce great Pop music but not have to dumb it down or pander to a particular audience. Look at a song like Ice Cream Dream and you get a classy and sparkling song that has lots to recommend. I will speak about the song in more depth but, when listening, you have a real sense of quality and professionalism comes through.

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

Ay Wing has always been known for her whip-smart songs and incredible delivery. I feel Pop music struggles to unite the masses and projects a particular image. We tend to associate the genre with the more commercial and throwaway – has that always been the way? I listen to what is coming through the mainstream and popular radio and there are a few good tracks but, largely, the music does not really stay in the mind. The artists who go a bit deeper and take Pop in a new direction and the ones I am really backing. It is a hard trick to produce something fun and light whilst ensuring it gets under the skin and stays in the mind. Ay Wing is one of those artists who manages to keep her trademark sound but produce something incredibly different every time. That might sound like a contradiction but you only need to look at how songs like Strange and Ice Cream Dream differ. She is a fantastic artist who knows what the people want and delivers every time. I have nothing against those who like their Pop music with the maximum fun and little substance but, for me, there is a lot more to cling onto when you have to think and are properly motivated. There is so much music out there right now – one cannot afford to produce cheap and lacklustre songs. AY Wing makes the listener bond with the song. Her lyrics mix sassiness and humour with emotion and revelation. Her compositions are delightfully multifarious and candid; the production is always sharp and wonderful – you get an incredible experience with every song released. It is not only the smart lyrics one is drawn to with Ay Wing; she pokes fun at fads and trends and can make us think and laugh at the same time. Ice Cream Dream looks at fitness fads and how seriously we take our leisure time. She is just the sort of artist we need to embrace and keep close to our chest.

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

I love how Ay Wing manages to produce great videos for each of her songs. Again, in Pop, you do get a few great promotional videos but many of them lack any real imagination and humour. Maybe that goes back to the song itself: if the lyrics are cliché and routine then that is not going to provoke something imaginative and incredible. I feel modern Pop, and videos, is defined by wastefulness and missed opportunities. There is a new breed coming along that is taking the genre in a new direction and adding their own touch to Pop. Ay Wing, on her latest track, has ticked every box and produced something hugely enjoyable. Ice Cream Dream is summer-ready and makes you get up and dance. Maybe that is quite ironic in a way. The song looks at our obsession with the gym and fitness; how it lacks any real looseness and we can get very po-faced about everything. The lyrics and videos, instead, make you smile and urge the listeners to get up and move their body. It is summer and, with the sun showing no sign of abating; we need those songs that keep the mood high and makes the senses fizz and spark. That is another thing that has struck my mind. In terms of positivity and energy; how many songs have you heard lately that have a genuine sense of fun and put you in a better frame of mind? I feel songs either go for fun and exciting but come off as empty and unspectacular. You do get artists who rival Ay Wing and her style of music but, to me, there are not enough. When the weather is like this, we need to hear songs that keep us all positive and join us all together. I will move on to another subject but it is worth noting how few Pop artists there are out there who manage to balance intelligent and observational with the rousing and joyful. If we can encourage more artists to take this approach – and take their songwriting in a new direction – then it will create a stronger and more inspiring mainstream.

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PHOTO CREDITSara Herrlander

Another impressive facet of Ay Wing is the way she involves people in the music and makes it an immersive thing. I bond with music in different ways but am always more moved by artists that want to engage and drag you into the song. Too many artists are either very serious or produce music that falls a bit flat and pushes you away. This is a discussion in itself but my point remains: if you hear a song and am physically and emotionally moved then that is most of the work done. Ay Wing has these bouncy synths and big beats. You have that physical experience and are compelled by everything going on. Her summer-ready jams and indelible songs are designed to linger in the mind and connect the listener with artist. I am not suggesting other artists are more concerned with profit and quick delivery but I love those who take time and craft songs that infiltrate the brain and really activates the senses. It is hard to describe but, with Ay Wing, there is so much going on. From her changeable colours and consistent quality through to her fully-worked and stunning videos – there is a complete and ready artist waiting to strike. She might be away from the mainstream right now but you have to think, in time, she will get to the big leagues and be able to influence. Right now, her fanbase is growing and there is a loyal core that backs everything she does. That is a sign of an artist who never lets the quality dip and knows what people want. The songwriter puts so much detail into the music and spends a great deal of time crafting songs that demand repeated listens. I am one of those people who consume a lot of music and, most of the time, it can be hard to recall and retain the sounds. Some artists provoke remembrance but it is tricky in this day and age to pen something that stays in the consciousness.

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Ay Wing is different in that respect. She wants people to sing her songs and, when performed live, chant and perform with her. I feel we need to create artists who are a complete package and do not only create songs for quick commercial gain. That is an interesting line to draw. I can identify some great mainstream acts who will run and run but, as things get more competitive and busy; artists coming through need to think about more than the music. If you can pen songs that have incredible compositions, memorable lyrics and wonderful lead performances then that is an accomplishment in itself. It is hard to deliver all three but, if you can, then that is something to be proud of. Music is about visuals and creating projects. Recording fantastic videos that add something new and stand aside from the pack is another thing new artists need to consider. Another point to bear in mind is following up songs and keeping intrigue high. I mean, rather than produce songs after song and not think about longevity; artists need to create a personality and characteristics. Ay Wing puts her all into music and you can tell, from the first few notes of any track, that it is her work. That is what I mean by characteristics and personality. Too many artists produce songs but they do not link together and it is hard to separate them from their peers. Ay Wing can write about different subjects and broaden her horizons but you know it is one of her songs because there is a common link and distinct D.N.A. I hope my words – rambling at times though they can be! – show why Ay Wing is an artist with a big future. Pop is a challenging and demanding genre; it is tricky to succeed and do something genuinely original. I wanted to look at Berlin and why it is producing great artists.

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VIDEO STILLJean-Christophe Dupasquier

Berlin is a city that is attracting more and more people right now. Every city has its own blend and brew but, to me, Berlin is one of the most stunning and appealing areas to create. I am seeing so many artists move there because it offers everything they want. London is still fashionable and desired but more and more people are flocking there. It is a city where you can find success but there is not a lot of room and chance for breath. Maybe eyes are shifting elsewhere but, as rents get more expensive and cities here become busier, people are looking abroad and other parts of the world. Berlin is a city that has always pulled great musicians in and been the source of inspiration – the likes of Iggy Pop and David Bowie have created some of their best work whilst there. One gets a cosmopolitan and diverse vibe but things are a little less hustled and expensive. You can move around and make your way without being jostled and compacted. If you want to rent an apartment or stay for a while, it is not going to break the bank and leave you poor. It is the mix of languages and cultures that stand out to me. People are excited by the music coming through and the creative spirit in the air. I have never been to Berlin myself but I know the music scene is incredible and expanding. People in Berlin are friendly – for the most part – and venues are sprouting up all over the place. From Junction Bar to Quasimodo through to Monarch and SO36 – new artists have choices and can get their music heard. Radio stations are supportive and it is not as hard as you’d imagine moving to Berlin and climbing up the ladder. One of the biggest reactions people get from Berlin is the openness and sense of relaxation. For a city that is popular and modern, that might seem like an impossible thing.

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VIDEO STILLJean-Christophe Dupasquier

Musicians can go to the German capital and not get overly-stressed and fatigued. Many like-minded souls can be found there and it is a great place to be. I can understand why Ay Wing located there and moved from Switzerland. She performs with a live band but, as a songwriter, her mind is free to wander and project in Berlin. Inspired by the sights and people around her; one wonders whether her music would sound the same if she lived in New York or London. I am not too sure whether Berlin Pop is as popular and different to that in London but I know for a fact there are so many wonderful musicians in the city. More supportive and communal than London, perhaps; it is understandable why Berlin is a go-to dream-spot for musicians. I am not going to move there myself but might go and visit in the next few years. I am attracted to various cities and how the music scene differs depending on where you can go. New York, London and Los Angeles have their own vibe and you get a real sense of what the artists are about. Berlin seems a lot more diverse and challenging than a lot of cities around. Listen to Ay Wing’s E.P., Ice Cream Dream, and you can hear the humour, fun and vibrancy the German capital is associated with. That might sound odd given impressions of Germany – not being that funny and fun – but we would be wrong. It is the colour and artistry of the music that sticks in my mind. Ay Wing is a modern artist who is not concerned with black-and-white and shades of grey. She is a vivacious and captivating soul that mixes the underground clubs and sweaty bars with the vivacious and delightful overground. I feel more people will want to go to Berlin and set up shop there when they hear artists like Ay Wing come through. She has embraced the city and its culture and integrated it into her music.  

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If you look at the video of Ice Cream Dream (I suggest you do) you will see toned and good-looking people working out and alluringly looking at the camera. There is a funky and finger-clicking bass that suggests a Disco freakout is about to ensue. I was hooked by the very first notes and invested in the song. Whilst the bass is consistent and has a polished sound; the vocal sounds far-off and has a rather sparse quality. There is a nice clash between the bass working away and the heroine – who seems like she is recording the vocal a little way from the microphone. She talks about fads and how we all do the same thing. Whether we are down the gym or meditating; doing yoga or embarking on some boring and soulless regime. What we are trying to achieve is rather pointless in a way. Maybe one wants to keep the weight off or sculpt their body into a ‘perfect’ shape. Maybe there are chemicals firing in the brain and the release of endorphins. It is amazing why we go through all the trouble of sweating and hurting our bodies to achieve very little. Some of us need to lose weight and genuinely need to be in the gym but most of seem to be chasing some weird ideal. There is that boring and machine-like quality of the gym-goers. Others do less strenuous activities but it is all for the same reason: trying to achieve some form of physical and spiritual wellbeing. How much do we actually accomplish by doing all of this? We get dressed up in ridiculous clothes and are so serious about everything! Rather than walk in the park and have a stroll through the city; why do we insist on being part of the get fit cult?! It seems rather extreme and unnecessary. The video shows a cast of characters who show what I mean. From the muscular gym-goer to the man in shorts doing blanks and pointless exercises.

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VIDEO STILLSJean-Christophe Dupasquier

The heroine has seen them all and, in her mind, there is that desire for calories and sweetness. Maybe those who exercise and go to the gym have that need. They want the taste of ice cream but feel they need to deny themselves for no real reason. They feel eating something tasty and naughty might pull the ripcord of their physique. As the song progresses; the commentary of the modern fitness fanatic unravels. She looks at this pursuit and how we all get sucked into the latest fad. Why are we spending so much of our time doing this?! The chorus lays out what we all want: various flavours of ice cream and the chance to not follow the rules. One of the only issues with the song, like a few I have heard, is the way the lyrics sometimes struggle for true clarity. It can be difficult understanding what is being said at times. Maybe that is because of the production – the vocals are a little far-off – or the pronunciation but one has to fill in some blanks themselves. It is not a big concern because there are words and lines that stand out and you can piece the story together yourself. The chorus is the clearest part of the song and delivers the biggest hit. What amazes me about the song, and Ay Wing, is the way funky and fun is mixed with a sense of judgment and seriousness. The song itself is funny and uplifting but the heroine is casting her finger at those go to all this trouble and embark on such strain. There are great wordless vocals and beats that come through; the song gets hotter and fuller when the chorus swings in. The listener is definitely engaged and, in an ironic way, working out to the song. One feels the best way to burn calories and get a blast of fun is to dance to the song – rather than go to the gym and sweat it out with countless others!

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VIDEO STILLJean-Christophe Dupasquier

Even the first time you hear Ice Cream Dream, you understand what it is all about and it will make its mark. There is a great 1980s quality to the song. You can imagine it fitting with the best Pop of the day and one gets memories of the decade in Ay Wing’s performance. The heroine talks about demons and shadows on the subway; the way we are inundated with messages and slogans – maybe brainwashed by advertising and what we should look like. That dream of ice cream is always there and that is what we should be doing. Rather than get hung-up on shaping our bodies and driving ourselves into the ground taking a more relaxed approach is much more advisable. The heroine is a powerful voice and it is hard to refute her advice. Lyrics become clearer in the second verse and you can definitely hear a sharpness come in. That taut and sexy bass continues and perfectly fuses with crackling beats and strident vocals. There is so much life and allure coming from Ay Wing’s voice. Even though the performance is not rapturous and ultra-hyped; you get a sense of fun and physicality that gets you off your seat and involved. Ice Cream Dream is a Pop song for the modern age. It is catchy and engaging but never cheap and shallow. You have plenty of lyrical depth and intelligence working throughout; humour and memorable lines – all topped off with a fantastic central performance. Make sure you check the song out and listen to the video that accompanies it. Both show what a creative and ambitious artist Ay Wing is. She keeps getting stronger and better and one suspects, before long, she will be mixing it up with the biggest artists out there.

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ILLUSTRATION CREDITPhilipp Basler 

Things are getting hotter and better for Ay Wing. I have been following her for a while and can see how she has developed. Her E.P. was released in the spring and its title cut is out in the world. The songwriter has been busy promoting and taking her music across Europe. I am not sure whether she is coming to the U.K. to perform soon but it would be great to see her. Ay Wing has been thrilling crowds and is amazing people with her latest track. Ice Cream Dream is an amazing song that has that wonderful video that makes you smile and remains long in the brain. Everything about the songwriter amazes and I know she will go a long way in the industry. I hope there are U.S. opportunities and the Berlin-based songwriter gets the chance to travel far and wide. Maybe there will be more material this year but I feel Ay Wing will want to get her music around Europe and reach new audiences. The talented and extraordinary musician is out there on her own and has very few like-minded peers. It is because of her I have become more involved and invested in Pop. She shows what is capable in the genre and how it is possible to write intelligent and challenging music but throw in plenty of fun and colour. It is the brightness and explosions she brings to music that makes you follow her and want her to succeed. We shall end things here but make sure you get involved with Ice Cream Dream and listen to the whole E.P. The title-track is a stunning work that looks at fitness and our obsession with getting trim but adds plenty of humour in there. We are so serious when it comes to our bodies and the staying fit – something that should be fun and not that intense at all. Artists that can make you laugh and raise smiles are few are far between and, because of that, we need to keep Ay Wing close. The songwriter has come up with a real gem and proved herself to be one of the most original new voices around. As the sun shines and the heat continues to rise; we are all having ice cream dreams. Rather than labour in the gym and tire yourself on a treadmill; spin the latest track from Ay Wing and get fit and smile…

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AT the same time.  

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Follow Ay Wing

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FEATURE: Minorities Retort: Tackling the White-Majority Bands and Adding Greater Diversity

FEATURE:

 


Minorities Retort     

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Tuts/ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/Press Association 

Tackling the White-Majority Bands and Adding Greater Diversity

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IT is always hard…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Princess Nokia

concocting titles for features like this through fear of causing offence and saying the wrong thing. I feel, mind, that my reservations and hesitations are the tip of an iceberg that is not succumbing to global warnings. We keep seeing bands proffered before us with the same looks and results. There is a camp, mind, that suggests the band market is suffering in a digital age; that people are more drawn to solo artists and we can never return to an age where groups ruled the market and changed the world – I shall get to that a bit later. I am responding to an article that, in parts, I shall quote from: a piece from The Guardian that looked at the whitewashed band market and how homogenised the scene is. Look at solo artists/duos (etc.) and, whilst there are more white artists than minorities; there are plenty of strong and potent black and minority artists adding their say to the mix. From U.S. stars Beyoncé, Solange Knowles; Nicki Minaj and Drake through to Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z. Even though there are these established stars – and a new crop that is coming on strong – you wonder whether artists like Princess Nokia and Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) pull in the same sort of recognition and dollar as white artists. In many ways, the mainstream charts have been open and never really discriminated.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Michael Jackson (photoed in the 1980s)

To me, a lot of our impressions and ethics stem back to a time when black artists struggled to get their music on T.V. Look at the early days of MTV and artists like Michael Jackson: someone whose best songs were denied access because his face ‘didn’t fit’ and wasn’t white enough – that sort of attitude, today, would be met with fierce criticism and outrage. In many ways, we have progressed since the 1980s but, in some, we are still a little ignorance and exclusionary. Look at the strongest and most compelling music from the past few years and so much of it is being produced by minority artists. I have mentioned the likes of Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar but, when you look at the freshest and most compelling Soul, Hip-Hop; R&B, Pop and Jazz out there – some serious heavyweights and talent that are not getting the recognition they warrant. From award show fiascos – not enough black artists nominated and winning big prizes – through to the way we still associate ‘perfection’ and idealism with the young, white and beautiful. I refute the call (that) bands are a spent force and the regency of the solo artists is here to say. In many ways, we can never return to those glory days when titanic bands owned music and were the most influential. 1960s’ icons like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles are past their prime (or simply past); The Who, Sex Pistols and The Clash are older and resigned; the likes of Pulp, Blur and Oasis are through – think about modern music and it might be hard to name a lot of great bands we can rely on time and time again.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Who (pictured in 1965)/PHOTO CREDIT: REX

You can hardly deny there is a lack of talent and potential everywhere in music. Look at the unsigned best and there are phenomenal bands in every possible area of intrigue. I get to interview and review so many: look at the mainstream and there are still bands we can get excited about. I will return to the issue of quality/quantity but, in all of this, you cannot deny this: there are very few black faces in bands. We can speculate why this is but, for me, it is down to history and image. All the bands I have mentioned are white and, again, it seems like there is a nervousness promoting black bands. In my journalism travels; I have encountered bands with mixed races and a balance in the ranks. Some have one or two black members whilst others are all-black – never the same genre; mobile, exciting and primed for success. I do wonder whether their route to the banquet table of music will be blocked because, historically, we have not seen many black bands. The article I was alluding to looked at the Decolonise festival – now entering its second year. I have been a little discriminatory (how easily it can happen) when looking at minorities missing from bands and assuming only black artists should be talked about.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

There are, as I know all too well, so many fantastic Asian artists who are part of bands; brilliant mixed-race groups that do not get the respect they deserve. The article picks up a bit on what I was saying regards music’s past and the largely-white bands:

British guitar music wasn’t always so white. People of colour were vital in founding the UK’s punk and indie scenes. But while everyone knows the Sex Pistols and the Smiths, Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex is hardly a household name, while the contribution of Zeke Manyika to Orange Juice is often overlooked. Decolonise was set up in part to confront this “whitewashing”, says organiser Jon Bellebono. “Bands with people of colour have always existed and lots of them have been successful.” Their legacy, Bellebono argues, is just not celebrated in the same way”.

I have mentioned how there are bands, past and present, where one or two members are black/Asian – the majority may be white. Britpop and its all-white, distinct image did not help matters; most of the best minority artists from previous decades have not been involved in bands; look around music now and, again, most of the fantastic black and Asian artists we are seeing on our screens are solo/duos. One of my favourite musical encounters as a journalist was with the ‘cover stars’ The Tuts.

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I have been desperate to feature them again because I think it has been about three years since last I put them on my pages. Nadia, Harriet and Bev are the glorious three-tone band who have been around a while now and continue to strive, grow and strike. One could forgive them for looking at the way the industry still promotes white bands above everything else and feel their time will never come. They continue to play and, I know, are inspiring and influencing other artists. Look at this biographical snatch from The Tuts and you get a sense of how far they have come and what they have achieved:

In 2014 Billy Bragg invited The Tuts to play his LeftField stage at Glastonbury. The effervescent appeal of Nadia’s irreverent stage persona and, as Billy himself called it, the ‘fabulous cacophony’ these three women conjure up every time they play makes for an unforgettable live experience. Pauline Black was in the crowd and soon after The Tuts joined The Selecter on their 2015 UK tour.

The Tuts’ music owes something to the Libertine’s brash, devil-may-care aesthetic but they are not fashionable, and hopefully never will be. This is not beautifully crafted gloss for the latest hipster market – the tunes are too good for that. Their timeless three and four chord rants sung out in authentic working class accents carry the X-Ray Spex and 70s New Wave mantle onwards. The Tuts are ‘indie’ indeed, but not in some generic introspective sense: here is a band that possess that irrepressible spirit unique to independent DIY bands. There is no escaping it, ready or not, The Tuts are coming…

They have been playing a lot since they released their album, Update Your Brain, back in 2016. I am excited to see what comes next from them but, as the article continues; they are aware of the realities and how the industry looks at bands with black and Asian members:

The Tuts have found themselves put on a festival’s “urban” stage alongside MCs and grime artists, while critics describe Big Joanie, an emerging black feminist punk band, as “soulful”. “We’re closer to Nirvana than a soul band,” says singer-guitarist Stephanie Phillips. “The whole idea that you see black women and they should be there warbling out some Beyoncé to you – it’s [about] not being able to critique what’s in front of you because of your own ingrained prejudice.” It was Phillips who thought up Decolonise, having felt a “vacuum” existed since her teenage years in Wolverhampton, “and remembering there was literally nothing, no kind of acceptance for people like me”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Big Joanie/PHOTO CREDITElise Rose

Big Joanie, another band name-checked in the feature, are a feminist Punk band who among the most exciting around. Whilst the Decolonise festival has finished for this year; there are bands like Nova Twins and Girl Diet attracting focus and starting to get their name heard. Whether you perceive the band market as flagging or not, there is an inalienable truth: you cannot ignore bands of colour and minority artists. Orange Juice and Bloc Party – two bands who have black members in their ranks but are, themselves, in the minority -  are rare exceptions of bands who feature minority musicians…one wonders whether there will be big changes soon. Whilst a lot of the emerging bands with black and Asian members in their ranks play in the Punk/Alternative realm – The Tuts’ three-tone is an exception – you do not need to look back too far to see a time when there were a lot more black and Asian faces in bands. Look back at female Soul and R&B artists like Sister Sledge (are they more Disco?!) and Diana Ross and the Supremes – a lot of great Motown and Detroit talent ruled and remain in the history books. The 1990s brought us the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child – one of very few all-black female bands from the past couple of decades – and All Saints...

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More-modern examples like Fifth Harmony and Little Mix have kept that alive – the fact the female Pop group as a concept is dwindling means, again, fewer minority artist are being represented in bands. It may sound like I am retreating and submitting to the facts of market forces and facts. That is not true at all. Things are getting harder for musicians in all areas. For women, it is a struggle to get their voices heard on an equal footing – regardless of their race and history. Look at the sexism and un-level playing field and, in many ways, the black/Asian female band has to fight harder than anything. If you consider bands are under solo artists in terms of importance; women are underneath men and black/Asian artists are under white – it is a daunting challenge for bands whose members are not all-white. The scene has changed so that Pop bands/girl bands are not a mainstream draw anymore; there are plenty of black faces in music but, largely they tend to be solo artists. I am not going to accept bands are done for and we are never going to see a wave of great artists create the same sort of impact as Oasis and The Rolling Stones. Pop still holds a huge sway and Punk/Alternative, genres with more minority bands, still have to work on the fringes and have not been granted a passage to the mainstream.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

Look at this article - it addresses the Pop/Soul market and how black artists are failing to compete with white counterparts:

“…According to Greg Boraman, manager of the Freestyle label to which Omar is signed, the key reason for the artist being sidelined is a myopic conservatism. “It does seem that black soul music artists [as opposed to urban acts] are often engaged in an uphill struggle to compete with the current crop of white major-label soul-influenced, but firmly pop based artists. Whilst I don’t doubt the sincerity of those artists’ love of soul music, the industry, especially mainstream radio, seems institutionally uncomfortable with music that’s more soul than pop”.

Another article, when looking at Rock and Roll music, looks back at artists who addressed civil rights/slavery and asks why these messages, by white artists such as Bob Dylan, replaced the largely-black Blues and Folk scene:

How did rock-and-roll music—a genre rooted in black traditions, and many of whose earliest stars were black—come to be understood as the natural province of whites? And why did this happen during a decade generally understood to be marked by unprecedented levels of interracial aesthetic exchange, musical collaboration, and commercial crossover more broadly? Many of the most famous moments of 1960s music are marked by interracial fluidity: a young Bob Dylan’s transformation of a 19th-century anti-slavery anthem, “No More Auction Block for Me,” into the basis for “Blowin’ in the Wind,” a song that would become one of the most indelible musical works of the American civil rights era; or the revolution of Motown Records, in which a black American entrepreneur bet against the racism of white America and won, and in doing so created the most successful black-owned business in the country”.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Bob Dylan

I do not think bands themselves are responsible for the lack of minority representation in music. They (the bands) have to fight against a largely-white market and a current scene that is not only seeing more a largely white mainstream rise; bands as a commodity are less present and visible than ever. Many might pose this at my feet: Why do we need to see bands with black/Asian members if the music itself (by white artists) is good?! That is a point but it is not about a sense of quality over equality. Bands like The Tuts are producing fantastic work and, were they afforded more of a spotlight, would be able to affect change and help create a more balanced band scene. In the way we need to tip the scales regarding gender inequality; open the doors for L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. artists and ensure music is not so homogenised and closed-off – making sure every band we see on music websites, magazines and T.V. screens is not all-white (forgive the poor grammar there) is essential! I am a little tired of the divisions and the discriminatory policies that have been present for some time. As the past day or two has shown; this country is pretty good at protesting and voicing its unease! I wonder whether greater public concern needs to turn the way of music and the largely-white, male-run dogma that has not received a swift and violent boot to the nuts. I am not solely talking about female bands with minority members: I have reviewed and interviews fantastic bands where their male members consist of white and minority faces. In any case; we need to make changes and listen harder to minority artists/bands wanting to step up and get their music heard. Many might think the situation as it is now is okay (they would be wrong) and bands who have struggled to get attention will keep quiet. From Big Joanie and The Tuts to every other mixed-race/black band who have played second-fiddle for; it is very clear they are going to raise their voices…

UNTIL they are heard and understood.

FEATURE: Hunters and Joyful Resistance: The Finest August-Released Albums You Need to Own

FEATURE:

 


Hunters and Joyful Resistanc     

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash 

The Finest August-Released Albums You Need to Own

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WE are still digesting all the great records…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Anna Calvi

July has to offer and not willing to rest any time soon. The next couple of weeks, in my view, are a little quiet in terms of the ‘big releases’. I am looking ahead to August and the pleasures that await. IDLES’ sophomore album, Joy as an Act of Resistance arrives at the end of the month and completes a period where we will see new releases from Anna Calvi, The Lemon Twigs; Alice in Chains, Slaves and Nicki Minaj. In honour of a varied and exciting August ahead; I have collated the albums you’ll want to get out there and buy – those that demand some serious passion, time…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Alice in Chains

AND attention.

ALL IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images/Press Association

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Gulp All Good Wishes

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Release Date: 3rd August, 2018

Genre: Space-Pop

Pre-Order here

James Living in Extraordinary Times

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Release Date: 3rd August, 2018

Genre: Rock

Label: Liberator Music

Pre-Order here

 

Deaf Havana Rituals

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Release Date: 10th August, 2018

Genres: Rock; Indie; Alternative

Label: Warner Music Australasia

Pre-Order here

Nicki MinajQueen

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Release Date: 10th August, 2018

Genres: Hip-Hop; R&B

Labels: Young Money/Cash Money

Pre-Order here

Ariana GrandeSweetener

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Release Date: 17th August, 2018

Genre: Pop

Label: Republic Records

Pre-Order here

SlavesActs of Fear and Love

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Release Date: 17th August, 2018

Genres: Punk/Hardcore

Label: Virgin

Pre-Order here

Alice in Chains Rainier Fog

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 IMAGE CREDIT: BMG

Release Date: 24th August, 2018

Genres: Rock; Alternative

Label: BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

Pre-Order here

Candi Staton - Unstoppable

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Release Date: 24th August, 2018

Genre: Soul

Label: Beracah Records, Inc.

Pre-Order here

The Lemon Twigs Go to School

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Release Date: 24th August, 2018

Genres: Indie; Alternative

Label: 4AD

Pre-Order here

Anna Calvi - Hunter

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Release Date: 31st August, 2018

Genres: Art-Rock; Alternative

Label: Domino Recording Company

Pre-Order here

IDLES Joy as an Act of Resistance

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Release Date: 31st August, 2018

Genres: Post-Punk; Punk-Rock

Label: Partisan Records

Pre-Order here

 

INTERVIEW: Tennyson King

INTERVIEW:

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Tennyson King

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THE fantastic Tennyson King

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has been discussing his new single, Coast, and where it draws inspiration from. I ask the songwriter about his upcoming album and what we can expect; how his Canadian and Hong Kong roots affect and influence him; which artists have made an impression on him – he recommends some upcoming artists to seek out.

King talks about three albums that mean a lot to him; how he spends time away from music; what tour dates are coming up – King explains exactly what music means to him.

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

I’m great! Thanks for asking. My week has been great. I just started my Western Canadian tour last week in Whistler, BC. I’ve had some shows in the Okanagan valley and, currently, I’m on Vancouver Island for five days with shows all over. It’s been great to be in the beautiful nature of British Columbia and play music all over.

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

My name is Tennyson King; a singer-songwriter based out of Toronto, ON and originally from Hong Kong. I play and write what I describe as ‘Psychedelic-Folk-Rock-driven by guitar and vocals’.

Coast is your new single. Is there a story behind the song?

Coast was written with lots of inspiration from my two tours in Australia during 2017. I spent most of the year there playing music and when I wasn’t playing music; I was living out of my van and cruising around the country. One specific area I dug was in Queensland between the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. The song talks a bit about the adventures and experience I had while there and, musically, emulate living life on the beach.

I know there is an album coming. Can you reveal the sort of thing we might hear? What themes and ideas did you explore?

The tunes on the upcoming album have a similar chill vibe like Coast. It’s music for the everyday person who is working hard doing whatever they do but craving, dreaming or reminiscing about the love of travel, nature and the beach. The overall tone is very care-free but, lyrically, touches on very self-reflective thoughts that I believe many of us have.

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You have Hong Kong and Canadian roots. Where do you spend most of your time? What are the main differences in terms of the music scene?

When I’m not on the road, I usually spend my time in Toronto, Ontario though, in the coming year, I’ll be spending some time in Hong Kong and doing my first tour out in Hong Kong and China which I’m really looking forward to.

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Which artists were you inspired by growing up? Who do you count as idols?

Growing up, I was inspired by bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica; The Beatles, David Bowie; Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam; Tom Waits, Rage Against the Machine and so many more. Idols…I’d say John Frusciante from R.H.C.P., David Bowie; Tim Buckley, Eddie Vedder and  Anthony Keidis…and I’m sure there are other ones, too.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

Just as long as I’m still playing music and travelling by the end of this year I’ll be happy.

Will there be any tour dates? Where can we see you play?

I’m currently at the start of a two-month tour of Western Canada - with shows in British Columbia all the way back to Ontario. My tour dates are on my website. I’ll then be heading over to China for a tour in October and back to Australia for another tour in November.

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Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

One that comes to mind right now…

I was playing a show in Darwin, Northern Territory in Australia last year. I started one of my songs and a dude who worked for a reptile place at the festival came on stage and put a giant 9ft snake around me; so, I ended up playing the rest of the tune with it wrapped around my neck and body. You can watch it on Facebook. It was my Britney Spears moment.

Is it possible to convey what music does to you and the power it holds?

Music makes me feel everything. It’s crazy how it can make you feel sad, happy and so many more all in one shot. For me, it’s a type of therapy: when I listen and when I write as well as when I perform. It’s a new high that nothing else has been able to replace in the past years of my life.

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Which three albums mean the most you would you say?

Tough question

In the past year: 1. Bahamas Barchords; 2. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and 3. Eddie VedderInto the Wild.          

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. 

Rider: probably just a sweet cheese spread for after my show.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Work hard, be yourself and be nice.

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               IN THIS PHOTO: Iskwé/PHOTO CREDIT: Cass K M Rudolph

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Iskwé, This Way North; James Hickey, Candice McLeod and Corey Theatre.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Candice McLeod

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Lately, I haven’t had much downtime but I like to go for a motorcycle ride, going for cottage/lake getaways; swim and beach chills.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Play Life Is Hard by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

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Follow Tennyson King

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IN THIS PHOTO: Cesar Barbosa 

Official:

http://tennysonking.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/tennysonkingmusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/tennysonking

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/tennysonking/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/tennysonking

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/tennysonking

ALL PHOTOS OF TENNYSON KING (unless credited otherwise):

Jen Squires

INTERVIEW: Polar Youth

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Guillaume Kayacan

Polar Youth

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FROM a Saudi Arabian artist…

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IMAGE CREDIT: Florent Hauchard

I now head to Belgium to interview the fantastic Polar Youth. She has been talking about her latest single, All Night, and working with DJ Fresh and Georgie Allen on the track – Polar Youth talks about future material and signing to Virgin EMI.

I ask which artists inspired her growing up and what the differences are between music in Belgium and the U.K.; whether there are tour dates coming up – Polar Youth ends the interview by selecting a cool track.

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Hi, Polar Youth. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey! I’m good, thank you. Hectic! I’m moving into my new place and I forgot how much time goes into that…and, of course, I’m very busy promoting my new single.

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

Like it’s written on my social media: I’m ‘’a 23-year-old girl from Belgium who makes music she likes”. I’ve been producing music on my laptop since I was twelve. I learned to play the guitar before that and, at the age of sixteen, I learned to play the drums – but, most of all, I love to play the piano. My music is mainly inspired by Electronic music and Hip-Hop. I live in the beautiful city of Ghent where I love to hang out with my friends in the many clubs and cafés in the city.

All Night is your new track. Is there a tale behind the song?

I was fortunate enough that some of my earlier music was picked up by DJ Fresh. I met him at a concert in Ghent and, after I had sent him a few of my tracks, he was so kind to invite me in his studio in the U.K.  

One of the demos I had sent him was an early version of All Night.

It is a big and bold song. Was it a challenge putting it all together? How do you approach producing a track like All Night?

I had been working on that track for some time. Initially, the tempo was slower than it is now. For some time, it was just one of those tracks sitting on my hard-drive but, when DJ Fresh asked me to play him some of my music, I also chose that track because I really felt it had something. Playing that track to Dan (DJ Fresh) was exactly the right time to take it out of my hard-drive.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Guillaume Kayacan

His first idea was to make it more up-tempo. He also invited the amazing singer Georgie Allen to do the vocals on that song to make it into the final version. We were in his studio for four days and we worked really hard on the track. We had a great time - and I was learning so much from DJ Fresh.

Do you have more material planned for later in the year?

I just released an official remix for Sarai a couple of days ago. Sarai is an amazing artist from Australia. When she asked me to remix her latest single, Get to You, I immediately said ‘yes’. As for other plans, even though it’s very hot and beautiful outside, you’ll mostly find me in the studio during this summer…that’s all I can say for now.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Guillaume Kayacan

You just signed to Virgin EMI here in the U.K. How excited were you when that happened? How supportive have they been?

This was all new to me, so it took me a while before I realised how big this was going to be for my career; to be able to work together with Virgin EMI. To be honest, I couldn’t have thought of a better company to work with. They have been so supportive and they have such a great team. They really listen to what I have to say instead of just seeing me as a money-making machine. They care about the artist; they care about the music and they are professional – it has been a great experience.

You are unique but I wonder whether you have music idols? Who do you count as inspirations?

It surprises quite a lot of my friends every time I say this, but my biggest idols are Nicki Minaj and Post Malone. They make amazing music and are (so) unique in their own ways. Very often, I am also inspired by my fellow producer buddies from all over the world. We listen to each other’s music, talk about it…it’s a great source of inspiration and feedback.

Originally from Belgium; what are the main differences between the music scenes there and in the U.K.?

I really noticed how open-minded the music scene in the U.K. is. I talked about this too with Dan (DJ Fresh) when I was with him. I feel like U.K. radio shows are more focused on good music instead of what’s charting in the top-50 - and they give new up-and-coming producers a lot of support too. In Belgium, the music scene is great too and I have worked with some of the finest artists here but, sometimes, I have the impression that people here are a bit less bold and less daring with respect to new music and new styles.

Having said this, it is great for a young artist like me to be able to work in so many different environments.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Guillaume Kayacan

Where are you heading on tour? Where can we catch you?

Lately, I’ve been very focused on getting tracks done, more than anything else, and as I said I will also spend the better part of the summer in the studio - but you will certainly be able to see me later this year.

What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

I hope that, in 2018, I will be able to touch a lot of people with my music. I am also working hard to finalise the new tracks and I am putting together a show for later this year. I hope to see my fans there and thank them for their support.

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IMAGE CREDIT: Florent Hauchard

 Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

The time I was in the studio with Dan (DJ Fresh) and his team was absolutely magical. These four days were hard work but also a lot of fun. I learned a lot about music and about the industry. Sometimes, other producers would just come by to say hello and then we let them listen to our progress of All Night. Their input and encouragements gave me a boost to finish the track. We were all in such high spirits and we worked day and night. I will never forget this.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Definitely, Post Malone, I’ve never seen him live but his music is amazing and he’s such a down-to-earth person.

My rider would contain fruits like kiwis and bananas for before the show and a delicious pack of fries with mayo for after the show.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

The most important thing is to keep working and don’t give up. I know a lot of people say this but that’s because it’s 100% true.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Lani Rose

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

My dude Lani Rose from the U.S.A. He’s an amazing producer AND also a top-notch singer-songwriter. A huge shout out to Laxcity. He’s an awesome producer from the U.K. and I hope one day more people will recognise how talented he is. Also; check out SARAI and The Endorphins (yes, I know, I made a remix for them).

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 IMAGE CREDIT: Laxcity

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I have two cats which help me to relax during breaks. I also go out with my friends in Ghent. A big hobby of mine is gaming, so that’s also how I spend some of my time not working on music. I’m also passionate about motorcycles. Riding around on my bike after a day of work is one of my favourite ways to wind down and clear my mind.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

People say what they want about her, but I think she’s an amazing artist.

Bhad Bhabie - Mama Dont Worry

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Follow Polar Youth

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