INTERVIEW: Atlantic Machine

INTERVIEW:

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 Atlantic Machine

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WITH a cracking new single out there for the people…

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I have been chatting with Atlantic Machine about I Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend. The duo of Jim Lowe and Tiffany Page talk about the song’s background and their upcoming album, Mosquito (out on 18th May). I ask how Atlantic Machine got together and the sort of music that compels them – they talk about gigs and plans going forward.

The duo talks about favourite new artists and an album that means a lot to each of them; what advice they would offer new musicians emerging; if they ever get chance to detach from music – they tell me what one can expect from one of their live sets.

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

Great, thanks. Been busy this week working on the video for the next single called Toronto - out April 27th.

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

Atlantic Machine is a London-based duo fronted by vocalists Jim Lowe and Tiffany Page.

I Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend is your latest cut. What is the story behind the song?

The story is fairly self-explanatory as read in the title but presented in a more tongue-in-cheek way.

A new album is out on 18th May called Mosquito. What can you reveal about the stories and inspirations that go into it? What was it like recording it?

The album has nine tracks inspired by many different themes, spanning from good and bad relationships; heartache and losing a friend, to feeling upbeat with some nostalgic moments. It was great fun to record the album and collaborate with talented musicians. It’s always exciting hearing the songs develop into their final form.

Is there a track from the album you would select as a highlight?

One of our favourite tracks is Automatic. It has some pretty special drum playing and string arrangements on it which capture a cinematic vibe.

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How did Atlantic Machine find one another? Jim and Tiffany; how did you find one another?

As well as being the man behind Atlantic Machine, Jim is a Grammy Award-winning producer who works with many other artists. Jim met Tiffany whilst working on her Mercury-signed album in 2010.

How do you think your music has developed since your first sessions? Are you always learning and integrating new sounds?

The first, self-titled (Atlantic Machine) album was written, mixed and produced by Jim as a solo artist. Mosquito, however, sees Jim collaborating with Tiffany Page, which has brought a new flavour to the music. This album is slightly heavier than the first record and we’ve mixed vintage synths along with guitars and real strings.

Yes, we are always experimenting with new sounds and have no set boundaries with what we are laying on the tracks.

What sort of music were you raised on? Is there an artist you both gravitate towards?

Tiffany was raised on Neil Young, The Doors; Grateful Dead and anything '70s. Jim was raised on various things from the late-'70s and '80s, including David Bowie, Lou Reed; The Police, Japan and Iggy Pop. Both of us are pretty open-minded and into whatever has good vibes.

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Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?

There are some gigs in the pipeline yet to be confirmed…

If we came and saw an Atlantic Machine show; what could we expect in terms of the sounds, set and sensation?

It would be a rocking, upbeat set with singalong tunes - including a few moody tracks.

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

For Jim, it would be Lou Reed Transformer

Yes, a classic record. I was introduced to this at an early age and it just stuck with me. It just had a cool sound and great songs but, really I was drawn in by the album’s front cover!

For Tiff; her favourite would be Nirvana MTV Unplugged in New York!

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

We hope to bring Mosquito to many live audiences and keep being creative.

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

For Tiff; being on a plane with Brian May from Queen and experiencing Glastonbury 2010.  For Jim; jamming with Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood and Kelly Jones - and also meeting Keith Richards backstage in L.A., 2003.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Just keep working hard, craft good songs and maintain an endless drive. Believe in yourself!

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Jim really likes Wolf Alice. Also, Jim worked with a guy called Leaone, who has a good baritone voice and thought-provoking songs.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Leaone

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

What’s really good fun is finding the inspiration for videos and artwork. It gives your ears a rest and lets your eyes do the 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).

The Doors - The Spy

David Bowie - Ashes to Ashes

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INTERVIEW: CHANCES

INTERVIEW:

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 CHANCES

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THE tremendous trio of CHANCES

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are readying themselves for the release of their debut album, Traveler, and have been discussing its latest single, Fire to Go. I learn how the guys got together and learn what the music scene is like in Montreal – they recommend a new act to watch and discuss the music that inspires them.

I was keen to know whether they are coming to the U.K. and whether they have a precious memory from their time in music; what they have plotted for the rest of the year; the advice they would give new artists of the moment – they each select a great song to end the interview.

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

Hey, Sam. Thanks for taking the time to listen to our music! We're busy getting things ready for our album launch and tour which kicks off in Montreal at the Phi Centre on April 26th, followed by dates in Quebec City, Toronto; Hamilton and Ottawa. Super-exciting! It's our first album…we can't wait to release it into the world!

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

We're a trio based out of Montreal. Chloé and I play synths/keys and sing; Vincent plays the drums. We've been together since 2016. CHANCES is a mix of our influences and cultures. We like to blend Pop hooks, synths and vocal harmonies with both electronic and organic sounds. The songs are rhythm-based because the writing usually starts off with one of Vincent's drum sequences or beats. Chloé and I share lead singer duties, often singing in unison or in harmony.

We're inspired by World music as well and like to see how we can fit that influence into catchy melodies with original harmonies. There's a feeling of openness to what we do, a willingness to stay curious and to touch upon universal themes.

To be visual about it…in concert, Chloé and I face each other with mirrored synth/keyboard set-ups. Vince is directly in the middle of us at his drum - and with the audience, we form a circle. From the beginning, we had the word 'empowerment' in mind. It's been a guiding element in the creation of the songs and our live show. Writing songs that will give energy to those singing and listening. This band is a lot about sharing and communion amongst the three of us and with our audience. There's a give-and-take we strive for that feels really good when it's happening.

What can you reveal about Fire to Go and how the song came together?

Fire to Go is an ode to resilience. It's a break-up song that was written to inspire strength. We have a way of writing together as a trio that works really well for us. This time, Chloé started with one of Vince's beats and composed the melody. I felt the melody had something powerful about it; especially with the way the chorus lifts-off. I sat down and came up with the first draft of lyrics. The rest came together as a trio; working on the arrangement and finishing the lyrics together. It was a fluid process. 

There is a relationship angle in the song – standing strong against easy temptation. Have you all experienced bad breakups and going back to someone?

I think that, whenever you break up with someone, there's always a certain amount of building yourself back up that happens afterwards: there's a period of time where you need to take care of yourself and figure out who you are now that you're not with that person anymore. This song is about that…it's about finding your footing again and believing in yourself; standing your ground, protecting your boundary. Sometimes, that's easier said than done and music can help inspire courage

When did CHANCES form? How did you all meet?

We met in Montreal and toured together to promote Chloé's second album. We realized there was something special about the three of us onstage together. We knew we wanted to keep playing together when her tour ended in 2016. So, we decided to try writing as a trio to see where it would take us. We went on a road trip to Bon Iver's Eaux Claires festival in Wisconsin in the summer of 2016. It really inspired us to see so many incredible bands; a lot of them with female lead singers of all ages and backgrounds – and, of course, Bon Iver live was equally amazing; we're all fans of his work. 

We came back from Wisconsin with our band name and lots of ideas for the project and started writing and recording.

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I always ask Canadian bands whether there is a great scene in the country. What is it like for a musician in Canada?

We live in Montreal, which has a really vibrant scene! There are so many fantastic bands and artists coming out of Montreal and Quebec these days! We feel lucky to be a part of that scene!

Traveler, your debut album, is out (27th April). What themes inspired the songwriting? Was it fun to record the record?

Traveler is a collection of songs that talk about different themes ranging from love, truth; the power of your words, women's issues; kundalini/chi, breakups; loss and courage. 

We recorded it bit by bit over the past few years with our co-producer/recording engineer, Pierre Girard. We call him our ‘fourth band-mate’, even though he doesn't play live with us. He was a really important ally in the studio. The recording process was exciting, sometimes challenging and sometimes flowing easily. As we grew as a band, we also learned how to work together in the studio. It was really fun to hear the songs come together, transform and each become a shining diamond.

When you write a song, it pours out of your heart and mind often in a simple, rough form and you don't necessarily know how it will sound when it's all finished, arranged and recorded; especially in this type of project. You keep polishing it and polishing it till it reflects emotion in just the right way and makes you feel the way you want to feel when you sing it and listen to it. That made this a pretty exciting record to make!

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Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?

We have a few gigs coming up! 

April 26th - Traveler album release show:  Phi Centre, Montreal

May 3rd - le District, Quebec QC

May 8th - This Ain't Hollywood, Hamilton ON

May 9th - The Burdock, Toronto ON

May 10th - National Arts Centre, Ottawa ON

June 12th - Centre des Arts, Opening for Alex Nevsky, Baie Comeau, QC

June 13th - Salle Jean-Marc Dion, Opening for Alex Nevsky, Sept-Iles, QC

June 15th - Felix Leclerc Cultural Centre, Opening for Alex Nevsky, La Tuque, QC

July 28th - Place du Marché, Shawinigan QC

August 2nd - Salle Jean-Pierre Houde, Chateauguay QC

August 9th - L'ange Cornu, L'assomption, QC

October 13th - Outremont Theatre, Montreal QC

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Will we see you come over to the U.K.?

We would really love to tour the U.K. and are putting that out there (smiles). We're currently looking for an international booker…our show is ready to hit the road!

What do you hope to achieve in 2018? 

We would love to tour outside of Canada. We, basically, want to play these songs, reach out to as many people as possible and see the world as we do it! We also want to keep writing new material and to collaborate on a few songs as well. 

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

A few summers ago, we were touring in northern Quebec. We had stopped in a small sea-side village called Petite Vallée. One night, Vincent cooked up an amazing meal over a fire on the beach. We used flat stones as plates and had this amazing seafood pasta meal and white wine as the sun went down; sitting around the glowing fire, the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop. It was unforgettable!

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

Oh wow; what a fun question! 

Seeing as Bon Iver was sort of a spiritual father/guide to our band; I would have to say we would love to open for him! 

Our rider

Chips, kombucha; chocolate, red licorice; veggies, fruit; Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi; beer, crackers; gouda and Babybel.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Write.

Read, see inspiring movies; travel, keep your brain fed.

Take walks. Play outside. 

Write some more.

Check out some live shows. Learn a new instrument.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Thus Owls

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

We recommend Thus Owls. They aren't exactly new but they don't have the recognition they deserve!  They're based out of Montreal and their music is magic. Here's a link to one of their songs.  

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

All three of us love to travel. Vince is a great cook; I (Gen) jog and do indoor climbing; Chloé hangs out with friends and jogs.

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).

Thanks (smiles).

Vincent: You and I - Local Natives

Chloé: Fourth of July by Sufjan Stevens

Gen: New York by St. Vincent

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INTERVIEW: Sisteray

INTERVIEW:

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Sisteray

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I am pleased I get a chance to chat with Sisteray

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as it has been a little while since I last featured the boys on my pages. They tell me more about their new single, Algorithm Prison, and the story behind it. I ask whether privacy and data protection is something we need to all be more aware of; if the guys have more material brewing for later in the year – they talk about their formation and how their music has progressed since the earliest days.

I learn more about the tour dates booked and new artists we should be checking out; what the mood is like in the Sisteray camp; if they spend time away from music relaxing – the guys each select a song to end the interview.

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

It’s always non-stop in Camp Sisteray. This E.P. isn’t even out yet and we’re already back at Sisteray H.Q. in Haggerston writing new material…always moving forward. Algorithm Prison was premiered on Radio X on Thursday and we’ve been announced as the headliner for Soma Fest in Chelsea on 21st April; so, a good week all in all.

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

We are Sisteray from London Town and we are the future of the Post-Post-Post Punk generation.

Algorithm Prison sounds like an interesting title! What is the story behind the song?

This tune is more of a rallying call than a storyteller. Niall does this spoken-word part in the middle of the song when we play it live which goes: “This is Algorithm Prison. It's is about the darker side of social media. We’re fed up of having random posts and adverts rammed down our throats day in and day out and we want to know if you’re happy being a target market because we’re not!”. That sums up the song perfectly.

At a time when the Cambridge Analytica scandal is still raw; do you think we all need to be wary of privacy and how much of our data is being given away?

Yes, absolutely. Should someone in, I don’t know, Outer Mongolia, be able to target people in rural U.K. towns with ads saying immigrants are coming to take their jobs?! Absolutely not. That sort of thing is dangerous to our democracy - and who knows what would happen if malicious people got hold of your personal information?!

We started our own Cambridge Analytica-style personality test called ‘Are You Trapped in an Algorithm Prison?’ under the guise of ‘Hoxton Analytica’. It’s ironic, but a lot of people ended up signing up to our mailing list to take the test.

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I last chatted with you about your 15 Minutes. It had an original concept. Do you feel it is important to keep fresh and stand away from the mainstream/predictable?

Absolutely. People consume music much differently these days and it’s important that you live and breathe what you do as an act. We believed in every aspect of 15 Minutes, from the theme, to the art; the special fifteen-minute shows we performed and to ensure the release was exactly fifteen minutes long, as that was our fifteen minutes… a moment in time where we could put down our flag and make a real statement.

I understand an E.P. is due very soon. Can you reveal its title and the sort of themes that inspired the songs?

We can’t reveal the title until Vallance Records does but it’s another statement piece from us, that’s for sure. Algorithm Prison provides a great taste of what’s to come. We take shots at the press, the stale state of the music industry and more…

That’s all Sisteray can say for now!

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How did Sisteray come together? Do you share similar tastes in music?

We came together under odd circumstances, really. I’d wanted to start and band for a while and had been writing some tunes with my brother, the original drummer. I met Niall at some Thrash Metal gig at the old 12-Bar Club in Denmark Street. Me, Ryan and Niall wrote some tunes and booked a gig in Camden. Mick was an old workmate who joined three weeks before our first show, learning all the bass parts on an electric guitar. Believe it or not, the first time he ever strummed a bass was at our first ever gig!

Calum Landau recently joined us last year on the drums. He’s a fantastic musician and songwriter, as well as an up and coming producer/engineer - and definitely brings a lot to the band.

We all have quite eclectic tastes in music. In the tour van, we’ll listen to anything from The Clash to Eminem; Blondie, The Velvet Underground; Kendrick Lamar, Pixies; Bob Marley, Django Reinhardt and The Specials. We’ll listen to anything, really.

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

Nirvana In Utero

One of the most honest albums ever made. Still gives me chills.

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Do you guys have any gigs lined up? Where can we see you play?

21st April – Soma Fest, Chelsea

8th April – Café INDIEpendent, Scunthorpe

1st May – The Workman’s Club, Dublin

3rd May – The Black Gate Cultural Centre, Galway

18th May – The Great Escape Festival, Brighton

19th May - The Royal Standard, Sheffield

2nd June – Camden Rocks Festival, London

20th July – NambuccaPalooza Festival @ Nambucca, London

14th-15th September – AnfiRock Festival, Huelva

17th October – 100 Club, London

If you had the chance to support an artist, and choose any rider; what would that include?

Would love to warm up the crowd for John Cooper Clarke, the same way he used to warm-up Punk crowds; that’d be something special. As for a rider; just a table tennis table, some balls and a bat. That’d keep us entertained for hours, just as the Sheffield Hallam Uni student union did.

Oh…and some vegan sausages for our Mick.

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

We just want to connect as many people as possible; make them feel part of a community. We’d like to give as many hardworking grassroots bands and venues a leg-up as possible and make and release as much music as possible.

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

Our Camden Rocks headline set at The Good Mixer (last sometime). That was the most eventful hour or so of my life…I’d never seen so many people packed into a space like that! Non-stop crowd-surfing all night; just the way it should be!

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Don’t rush into anything: take your time to develop a great sound and great songs and don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way because that’s how you learn. Also, copy no one. Be yourself and don’t be afraid to be different…even if it takes a while to break through…

Eventually, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

485C, The Black Roses; Aerial Salad and Nadia Sheikh.

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

No, not really! Whenever we’re not selling vegan pies or promoting our own shows, we’re on the road or going to gigs! We live and breathe everything we do and we love it!

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).

Calum: The Lemon TwigsThese Words

Niall: A$AP RockyA$AP Forever

Dan: The VaselinesSon of a Gun

Mick: Novelist - Stop Killing the Mandem

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TRACK REVIEW: Josh Michaels - Above the Water

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Josh Michaels

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Above the Water

 

9.7/10

 

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Above the Water is available via:

https://soundcloud.com/user-427547948/above-the-water

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Pop; Alternative

ORIGIN:

New York, U.S.A.

RELEASE DATE:

18th April, 2018

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I do not usually review artists more than once…

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but I am making the odd exception lately. One of the reasons I wanted to feature Josh Michaels again was to go back to New York and re-explore the city. It also gives me a chance to look at how he is developing and a song that is exploring a determined and defiant subject. Above the Water is a song I am keen to get down to but, before then; I will look at New York and why it needs to be brought more into the forum; why yesterday’s Record Store Day should compel us all to take an interest in new artists and seek out hidden treasures; songs that deal with battling holes and pits – coming out the other side and showing fortitude. I will also explore musicians who mix in Classical tones and operatic notes with something accessible and mainstream; a little bit about spreading music into the world and getting exposure – ending on the way we can get more American artists here. Michaels was born in New York in 1990 and, since then, he has made a big impact in the city. It can be hard getting recognition in a huge place like New York but, if you have the passion and skill to overcome hurdles and stand out from the crowd, it is rewarding sticking with it. I wanted to look back at New York as it is an area we do not really hear about in the British press. Our media is still obsessed too much with homegrown sounds and, unless a big artist from another part of the world is riding high; how often do we investigate cities like New York?! I guess there are finite column inches and features; we cannot instigate an overhaul so we limit what we say regarding British music – it would be nice to see more of a balance. I love New York because its music has always been at the forefront of popular music. My favourite New York act, Beastie Boys, seemed to encapsulate the rawness of Brooklyn and the panoramic, vast nature of the state.

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Although they spent a lot of time in L.A.; they knew where they were meant to be and where their music sounded natural. Other, more recent artists have shown what diversity and talent there is lurking in every avenue. From 49th Street to the rarest bars of The Bronx; to the streets of Staten Island to the packed and busy Manhattan – there is wonderful music being brewed like you would not believe! I guess there is a misconception that New York is so packed and hustling that you never get time to rest. People are often seen as rude – many prefer the easier nature of L.A. and its scenes. We can make a cliché of New York the same way as we would London. New York, and its five boroughs, is a rich tapestry that has its ugly spots: there are so many more wonderful areas that inspire the imagination and compel the heart to beat faster. It is alive and teeming; there is colour and culture spilling from every shop and restaurant. I have never been myself: music from the state is how I experience all it has to offer. There is a new breed of artists who are exploring New York’s vivid and multifarious landscape and articulating what it is like to live among its people. Who can deny the allure and mindblowing scenes one would witness when they head to Manhattan, for example? Josh Michaels has planted himself right in the bowels of New York and has been exploring everything there is on show. He has played successful gigs and drawing influence from the streets and the people around him. There is, I feel, a distinct ‘New York sound’ that seems to differ from what we’d hear in London and other areas. I have been looking to head to New York, simply because the music coming from there is so strong. Artists like Josh Michaels are hungry and want more people to know what is coming from there right now.

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I will return to New York but, before then, let me have a look at why I am revisiting certain artists; how Record Store 2018 is an important event – and why we need to be more open with our music. Many might think a link between Record Store Day 2018 and an artist like Josh Michaels would be a hard link to fuse. I did not get too involved with the day – was tied to the laptop, alas – but I am one of those people who goes to record stores, not to pick up something I am overly-familiar with; I go because I want to pick up something new and unexpected. I feel we get into a habit where we surf and get our sounds from the Internet. We still buy vinyl – it is a bumper time! – but most of us still prefer the ease and convenience of the Internet. Josh Michaels is releasing some fantastic music and, whilst he has his fans and will be celebrated in his native New York; his music is the sort that would benefit vinyl release – as someone happens upon his latest single on 7”. I am not sure whether he has considered branching into vinyl territory: he would get a lot of appreciation and love from record store-hunters in New York. My point is that people like Josh Michaels compel greater investigation and love of music. There is something grand and deep regarding Michaels’ voice. He has that nostalgic ability and a sound that reminds me of the some of the greats from music. I think his music warrants a bigger audience and is something that might get overlooked online. One might argue physical sales, as a whole, are declining – how can we expect to substantiate a return to older methods?! I am compelled by Record Store Day because it allows people the chance to celebrate vinyl and look at music past and present; songs and records that mean a lot to us all. Josh Michaels is someone I can envisage looking through vinyl and exploring where music came from; how it sounds purest; why vinyl has such a great sound. I listen to his music and hear a young man who has not lost touch with the beauty of music and the purity one can get from it.

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I will talk more about this subject in later pieces but, stay with me; I feel Record Store Day should not only act as a call for vinylheads to get out there and converse with their fellow obsessives: we all need to think about the way we digest music and how, on days like this, we stumble upon artists we might not of otherwise have encountered. The various in-stores and performances that happened around the world (yesterday) provided an opportunity for new musicians to reach the music-buying public. I am not sure what was happening in Michaels’ part of New York; I can imagine there was activity and excitement spilling out into the streets. There is something about Michaels – a cool and suave nature – that makes my mind leap to vinyl and a young man who understands how to entice a listener in. So many digital outlets exist: I wonder whether we are losing touch with music’s authenticity and its origins. I said I’d explain why I have featured Josh Michaels again. I love his work and, although I am hungry to look at new artists; I feel there is something enticing about his sounds and the sensations once gets when listening to him. Maybe it is his deep and rich voice; perhaps there is something in the delivery – I feel there are other reasons. Michaels has that ability to draw the listener into the song and involve them in the story. It can be hard doing that: Michaels seems to do it with ease and conviction. Every song deals with different matters and builds on what came before – there is no repeating himself and giving a samey and predictable brand of music. If Record Store Day teaches us anything; it should be that we need to spend more time with artists and their music. Digital streaming is easy and allows us to flick through songs/albums without pausing for breath. When Michaels comes to recording an album – I shall allude to that later – one hopes the purchaser dedicates some time to exploring all the songs and not merely browsing without much regard.

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Josh Michaels’ latest song, Above the Water, is one whose title sort of nods to the origins. Many artists, before, seemed to look at love and everything it meant to them. I feel now, in 2018, music is starting to look more inward and investigate personal struggle. Maybe that is an over-generalisation and exaggeration: I am noticing more and more people discuss anxieties and the need to stay resolute when challenged by the pressures of life. I wonder whether that is a reflection of life and how much more stressful it is getting for us all. We have love songs still, of course, but there are so many songwriters exploring what it takes to survive and keep your head high in the world. Michaels, on his new song, has been looking at just that. He feels the pinch and knows how hard it can be getting by and staying positive – let alone succeeding and making a big name for yourself! Maybe that shift and change in subject matter is a good thing. We are told we are a more anxious and unhappy world; people are finding it hard to stay happy and there is more pressure on the shoulders. Many authorities and governments are ignoring the epidemic and so many are going unnoticed and unaddressed. I fear we are living through a time where many lives are being lost needlessly and the mental-health crisis is at an unmanageable level. That might sound dreadful and completely negative: music is here to offer some form of constructive guidance and, in addition, provide support and understanding. Josh Michaels is a musician who goes through the same strains and challenges we all do. Living in New York has its great sides and obvious benefits. I will not labour the depressive side of this argument too much: we are here to be positive and find something pleasurable. It is encouraging artists are not focusing too heavily on commercial outlets and writing aimless, predictable love songs. Many young Pop artists are addressing what they experience and how life is for them and their peers.

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We all want to find music that talks about life and is completely honest with us. I love a love song – it is something we all need. I get a bit bored with the same tales of recrimination and accusation. Those songwriters who turn the pen inwards are to be congratulated. Music is so competitive and busy right now. It would be understandable to write something ordinary and safe. Many do and, to me, that marks a fear and lack of courage. Josh Michaels has written about passion but, more than anything; he wants people to see the world and modern life through a wider lens. I experience depression and anxiety myself. It is not unusual to find people who go through a lot of stress and unhappiness of a day. Music, to many, is escapism and a way of forgetting about their strains. I want a balance when it comes to sounds: music that makes me feel better about life and what I go through; I need to hear songs that explore what I am feeling and make me feel less alone. It can be hard bonding with a listener that goes through anxieties and finds it hard facing the demands of the world. Michaels knows a single song will not change the planet and many of us will still find it hard to negotiate the pitfalls and traps. What he has done, on Above the Water, is to discuss a subject that many might consider ‘taboo’. It is always hard opening up about struggles and how hard it can be moving along in life. Above the Water is not a haunted and depressive song that bemoans others and casts blame around. What we do get is someone who goes through tough moments but, rather than let them bury him; Michaels is writing it down and trying to visualise something positive. There are, sure, times when he feels things are getting too much for him.

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Josh Michaels has that strength and willingness to reveal his pains and translate that into music. Many might assume he has endless heartache and pains in his life. He is, in fact, no different to many of us in the world. There are positive and negative feelings that he has to deal with on a daily basis. Rather than bury all those sensations and contrasts; he has written them down and is trying to help the listener deal with their own issues. A reason why his music is so stirring and bold is the way he projects his voice and all the emotions evident within. That has come from his Classic training and his love of bigger, operatic sounds. I love his voice and how much passion he manages to exert through his performances. There are few singers, to my mind, who manage to get that same sort of power and nuance through their voice. I am always looking out for singers who have that extra gift and magic to their music. Michaels has spent a lot of time following artists and delving through various genres. He has that love of Classic and Opera but there are Pop sounds that filter through his music. What one gets is a concoction that is hard to resist. It marries the older, stauncher angles and opens into something flourishing and florid. The way he manages to unify something exclusive and limited to the accessibility of the mainstream – that is a hard trick to pull off! I am always obsessed with the voice and what it can provide a song. It is challenging, in this time, to get ahead of the game and stand out from the competition. Josh Michaels excites me because he seems to get into the head and heart naturally. The way he sings and gets his words out sounds so effortless – I am sure there is experimentation and challenges getting the voice sounding just right.

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I am keen to move on to the song itself but, before I get there; I want to look at finding American artists and how we can get more of them over here. As I type this; I am listening to a live album from Jeff Buckley – where he recorded at a New York café back in 1993. The way he managed to entrance the audience throughout those recordings; the sheer gravitas and pull of his voice and music…that is not something you find a lot of these days! He was a success in the U.S. but he found more acclaim in the U.K. and Europe. Maybe it was the fact we ‘got him’ and seemed to understand everything about his life and ambitions. The music has/had that ability to resonate ad strike every listener. Maybe it was a bit too sophisticated for the American audience – no offence to Michaels and his county folk! – but that was the way it went. I feel, since then, we have seen a few American artists succeed here and get acclaim- in terms of new music and unsigned artists. Largely, we are seeing few U.S. musicians come over here and find big acclaim. Most of the music we are exposed to – and the media promulgates – tends to be British/home-based. It is hard finding the money and demand to come from the U.S. and play over here. One cannot simply pack their things up and come over here for a jolly three-week jaunt. That kind of dream and freedom is reserved to those who are big propositions, indeed. In terms of Josh Michaels; he is someone we need to see over here. I am not sure whether he has plans to come to the U.K. and play for us. I hope he does get a chance to because, in my mind, we are not seeing enough American talent come here. That might be the media here and the limits they have; it might be the cost and the sheer commitment it takes to get over here and sustain interest. I feel many U.S. artists are staying put is because we often gravitate towards artists from our own nation. The press is responsible for proclaiming artists from all around the world: if they stick local then that means we will have a relatively limited scene. I hope there is a way for Michaels to come and play some venues over in London. He would go down a treat and add something new to the British live music scene!

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The first thing one notices when listening to Josh Michaels’ new song is how immediate and stunning it is. From the very off; we have this song that gets under the skin and makes its mark. There is some guitar noodling – the sound of the string being teased and caressed – but the voice comes in and Michaels makes himself known. He urges some calm and us to remain calm and controlled. Going to sleep and counting sheep; taking moments to unwind and try and detach from the chaos and crap around us – that is hard to do. I am in the position where I want to find some lessons from music and make my anxieties feel less pressing and urgent. Michaels, on Above the Water, is a calming influence that manages to get inside the head and make things easier. One can sense the strains the songwriter has and how this song is about relaxing himself and finding a place of safety. I have been listening to Michaels for a while but now, on his new track; he feels at his most alive and captivating. The song itself keeps you gripped and, after paens to relaxation and counting sheep; you see the bird fly away and raindrop tears dry up. Michaels brings is some clattering production that mixes with a song that has a bare and naked backing. I mean, the production is surprisingly lo-fi and sparse. It means the voice gets into the fray and stands aside. It is almost like listening to Michaels perform from his bedroom. One feels an intimacy and connection with the listener you do not get from the flash studio-treated songs that layer things up and polish it beyond the point of approval. Everything, in a song about struggle and staying above the waves, is redemptive and positive. Michaels urges people to stay strong and enjoy the new day; to keep determined and see the light.

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If you thought the song would stay calm and bare for long; the chorus explodes into life and you get that explosive combination of Pop sounds and the impassioned operatic vocals. The scene bursts and fireworks brim from every avenue of the sky. The song races and things get hot and, right then, the listener is lifted and transported. The sheer effectiveness and power that is portrayed in the song, at this moment, is alarming. You are brought right into things and get a physical smash. Following the hero and what he is saying; that need to get people looking ahead is impressive. Rather than retreat into the carapace and let things get too much; we see the hero stand up and flex his muscles. There are ways we can get buried and things can get too much. Bristling and inflamed; Above the Water turns into this bellicose and military march that matches pounding percussion with that all-conquering voice. Our man is talking about tears and the fact we can get bogged. The sunlight will shine through and things will get better. The chorus and brighter moments wash right over you and it is so tempting to staying in the song forever. The power and addictiveness of the track mean we will come back time and time again and find meaning in it. Ghostly far-off vocals mix with the electric guitar – as the song goes down – and you have a chance to breathe. Above the Water dips and it rises; it has that wave of rhythm and sass that builds with the beats and gets the hips moving. My earliest observations and topics may have led the reader to believe the song was going to be foreboding and haunted. Instead; it is an experience that throws the shackles and lights the sky with colours. You will listen to the song once and get that instant and undeniable thrill – you’ll come back in and witness new cadence and inflexions each time you return. I hope my words have explored the song in enough depth and with ample intelligence and eloquence. In short terms: it is a fuck*ng beast of a song!

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I have spoken a lot about Josh Michaels and various sides to him. He is someone who has managed to transcend from local hero and is being seen as an international artist of note. I am excited to see where he goes from here and how he manages to build on this celebration. Above the Water is a call for those who go through tough times to stay resolute and not be weighed down. It is personal and explores the artist’s need to keep his head afloat and not be pulled by the waters. I am not sure whether he has more material planned – he is prolific at the moment – but I know there are plans in his mind. I would love to see a Josh Michaels album and know it would be popular and well-received. What I have noticed from him, since I first reviewed his music, is the passion and confidence in the voice. It is hard to succeed in the industry and it can be impossible finding time to explore and get out into the world. I hope he does come to the U.K. and play here some time. I am excited seeing where Michaels can go and what he can accomplish. He is a talented artist who writes and performs in his own way. New York is a wonderful city/state that offers chances to those who want it bad. I am not certain how music will evolve through this year but I would like to see New York getting more respect. It is a fantastic and wondrous place to discover all that music has to offer. Josh Michaels is in the midst of all this and, one suspects, trying to add his name to the illustrious list of champions and new innovators. That is what we want from an artist: someone who has that strength and wants to get far. That is only a matter of time for someone who has found his sound and has a dedicated fanbase. I will leave things here – lest I go on too much – but I am excited to see where Michaels goes and what he can achieve. His latest song is proof he is an artist who warrants more acclaim and respect. Listen to what he says and get immersed in the music. If you strip away all the strains of life and the roadblocks put before you; turn on a song like Above the Water and learn from it; it does, in its own way…

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MAKE things easier.

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Follow Josh Michaels

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INTERVIEW: PBSR

INTERVIEW:

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PBSR

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IT has been cool speaking with PBSR

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about his upcoming E.P., …and dusky doors. It is released on 27th April and is crammed with wonderful songs and fascinating insights. He reveals the inspiration behind the song, Volcano, and what defines the E.P. as a whole.

PBSR talks about moving from Spain to London; how he got started in music; the albums and artists who mean a lot to him; what gigs he has lined up; what advice he would give to new musicians – he tells me about a particularly fond musical memory.

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

It’s been great, thanks. Just arrived from my hometown, where I’ve been chilling for a week. Also, I'm doing a gig as the bass player of MAVICA.

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

I am a 24-year-old composer and multi-instrumentalist from Murcia, Spain. I’ve got a Classical background and also write music for pictures - in addition to working with graphic designers, photographers and other artists in art exhibitions and performances.

...and dusky doors is your new E.P. How would you define it in terms of the themes it explores?

This E.P. represents a journey that starts when I left Spain to come to study in London - and all those ‘dusky doors’ that I’ve had to face since then. There is openness and embrace of the natural world throughout.

How important was it providing a lyrically and musically panoramic, scenic sensation?

I feel that music is intimately related to the image and, therefore, to the (visual) world we live in.  

I am interested in the song, Volcano. Can you talk a bit about how it came together and the role it has in the E.P.?

It’s got a very important role in the E.P., at least for me, as it was the song that gave me the inspiration to shape the E.P. - and it kind of influenced the rest of the songs to have a similar aesthetic approach.

What do you hope people get from the E.P.? Is there a message you want the listener to take away?

The process of making this E.P. has taught me a lot of things: to be patient, to trust myself and to work consistently until something is done. Hopefully, people can read through that message and, through the music, find themselves their own meaning.

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Murcia, in South East Spain, is where you were raised. Did your parents bring music into your life at an early age?

Yes. My mother played in a Folk band in Murcia and my father has been my source of music inspiration from an early age. I started to study classical guitar when I was seven with an old Admira Spanish guitar that my mother had.

Can you remember a time or artist who changed your world and set you on this path?

My father used to play a lot of Mike Oldfield. I think he was one of the first and most important musicians I’ve ever paid attention to - and I still think I have something that reminds me of him in my music. Later on, when I was sixteen, bands like Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky opened my mind to other territories I had never explored before.

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Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?

I’ll be playing WAM Festival in Murcia on 5th May. It’s going to be great to present my new E.P. there - in front of all the people that have seen me grow, both as a person and as a musician.

I’m also supporting Telefon Tel Aviv on 24th June at Achspace, London.

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

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells III

It was the first album I probably listened to from a critical and musical perspective, still being a kid.

Sigur Rós - Takk

With this album, I matured my musical taste and it opened a whole new world of possibilities never heard before.

Bon Iver - 22, A Million

An album that’s had a massive impact on me, emotionally and inspirationally-speaking.

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

To play in as many places I can. In a few months, I’ll have the band ready, so we’ll be able to expand the set and reach a larger audience, hopefully.

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

I used to play with my older brother, Guille, and my friend el Monfly in a sort of American Punk-Rock band and it was hilarious. A few weeks back, I watched a few videos and I can’t believe it’s been more than ten years already!

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What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Just be honest with yourself and with your music.

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IN THIS IMAGE: The album cover for Nonduermas (by Rey Lobo)

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

MAVICA, Rey Lobo; Malena Zavala and ASTRO...

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Malena Zavala/PHOTO CREDIT: Victoria Cranstoun and Malena Zaval

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

I try to meditate every day: it’s the way I’ve found to not think of anything.

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).

Sufjan StevensMovement II – Sleeping Invaders

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Follow PBSR

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FEATURE: On the Grass, Earphones In… The Sunshine Playlist

FEATURE:

 

On the Grass, Earphones In…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Dean Chalkley/NME 

The Sunshine Playlist

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WE are at a time of the year…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

when the sun is out and we are not freezing our bottoms off as soon as we leave the house! The days of scraping the ice from the windscreen and wearing two layers of clothing are, it seems, done with. I am glad we do not have to endure the endless chill and negotiate single-digit temperatures! I recently put out a spring-themed playlist that nodded its head to the warming climate and the lighter days. I wanted to go further and get together a collection of songs that project sunshine, heat and the approaching seduce of summer. I have included a song from the sadly-departed producer, Avicii – who lost his life yesterday at the age of twenty-eight. Alongside him are artists old and new who can put us in mind of warmer days.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Avicii/PHOTO CREDIT: Sergi Alexander/FilmMagic (2015)

It is just as well things are turning and we are all in a better mood. I have been scowling the annals and libraries of music and have collated a summer/sunshine playlist that keeps the vibes going and pumps heat and a sense of sweaty allure from the speakers. Sit back and listen to songs from a range of genres that do, I hope, get the blood pumping and put smiles on faces. We may only be in April but there are signs to suggest things will only improve from here. Let’s get together, crank up the stereo high and spin some songs that…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

GETS the heat rising!  

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FEATURE: High Court Judges with Northern Accents: Does Morrissey’s Latest Controversy Mean We Need to Create Distinction Between the Artist and the Music?

FEATURE:

 

High Court Judges with Northern Accents

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 ALL IMAGES/PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images 

Does Morrissey’s Latest Controversy Mean We Need to Create Distinction Between the Artist and the Music?

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THE BBC raised an interesting point…

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in an article that asked whether it is possible to separate an artist like Morrissey from his music. I will crib a section from an NME article that outlined the latest controversies and contradictions from the always-nuts world of Morrissey:

The former Smiths frontman has been increasingly vocal on his new Morrissey Central website in recent weeks, using the site to fire back at newspaper articlesand to take aim at Sadiq Khan.

Now, in a new blog post, Morrissey has voiced his support for For Britain, the far-right party founded by Anne Marie Waters. Waters formed the party following her departure from UKIP after Nigel Farage dubbed the activist and her supporters “Nazis and racists”.

“I despise racism,” Morrissey writes in his post, which takes its title ‘I’ve Been Dreaming Of A Time When / the English / are sick to death of Labour and Tories’ from the singer’s ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ lyric.

“I despise fascism,” he adds, continuing: “I would do anything for my Muslim friends, and I know they would do anything for me”.

This is not, as we know, the first time the legendary songwriter has been embroiled in scandal. It seems odd, for a man who seems so against and horrified by racism he would align himself with a far-right organisation. He has taken to the stage to attack, well…anything and everyone.

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Maybe it is the ongoing violence in London or the chemical attacks in Syria – maybe he has a bad case of piles and wanted to vent at the world! Whatever has rattled the parrot in his cage; it is clear the Mancunian icon needs to calm it down a bit. Existing and life-long fans have been turning their support away from the songwriter and criticising his words. I can understand why someone like Morrissey would feel enraged and annoyed at the world. We know spiky and open songwriters like Mark E. Smith tend to leave the filter behind and say whatever comes to mind – the fact he is no longer with us leaves a bit of a gap. What bugs me is the fact Morrissey has a platform where he can inspire and act as an inspiration. I can approve of his attack of the P.M. and the way of Government are handling the affairs of the nation. Morrissey went after London Mayor Sadiq Khan – a semi-racist and noxious slight... – and accused him of lacking any love and respect. Mayor Khan is doing the best he can and, whether you like him or not; he is not culpable for the spate of murders in the capital. Morrissey’s usual ‘meat-is-murder-and-people-who-eat-it-are-wankers' rant came out – he needs to update and polish that tired argument! – and, although I am a pescatarian myself; he is winning no new fans by being so angered and spiteful.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

He is allowed his own politics and agendas – one feels he has been saying the same thing for decades and it has not changed things for the better. Many might argue the fact Morrissey is adding nothing new to the cauldron of controversy should not irk people too much. Morrissey's blog piece (reported by NME) raised eyebrows:

In his post, Morrissey describes Labour as “hopelessly naive,” Prime Minister Theresa May as having “turned Britain into a international target” with her policies and the “Loony Left” as “concerned only with victim culture”.

He accuses the press of making “inflammatory and unjust comments against any new party that threatens the same old bloody pointless two-party system”.

“Please give For Britain a chance,” Morrissey appeals again. “They will bring an end to the modern Westminster mania for self-destruction. For Britain is the bulldog breed that will never surrender. Both Labour and Conservatives have already sold you down the river into righteous oblivion.”

“This is my last political strike,” Moz adds. “No wish to upset anyone! But the time has come to fight, and Labour and the Conservatives have their backs to the sea. Are you capable of change?

Morrissey has given his views about the Kevin Spacey-Harvey Weinstein scandal – rationalising their crimes and being rather naïve about the seriousness – and has barely said a positive and nation-unifying thing since his days in The Smiths.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

This brings me to the issue of the music vs. the artist. We can separate the two but they are intrinsically linked. People, young and old, listen to a musician’s work and they are going to be interested in what they say. What grinds my gears is the strength of Morrissey’s music and how he and fellow artists have inspired the music world. Outspoken musicians such as Liam Gallagher have never been short of oxygen and outrage – most of Liam Gallagher’s anger and comments are aimed at his brother, Noel. In fact; Liam does not attack every politician out there and alienate himself from the rest of the world. I listen to Morrissey’s music and it can be hard keeping my brain engaged and my mind focused. I always think about things he comes out with and wonder, truly, if he wants people like me listening to his songs. You can separate a musician from their songs – that does not mean you respect them and do not judge them when they say something stupid. A musician’s primary job is to provide fantastic sounds and do the best they can in the industry. Part of their job entails being responsible and trying to inspire those who follow them. There is a difference between rebellion and a Rock and Roll spirit compared to those who court condemnation and judgment.

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IN THIS IMAGE: Liam Gallagher

Many have marked the death of Morrissey as a force in the industry. If you judge his earliest bloom (1984) and his latest album (Low in High School was released last year) – have we finally had enough of the icon?! Low in High School had some good moments but was a definite deterioration and slump compared to some of his recent albums. My favourite moments from Morrissey’s solo career come around 1992-1994. I love Your Arsenal (1992) and it seemed, after a fairly unbalanced start to his solo life, he was hitting the stride we knew he was capable of. That album was full of swagger, bite and hard-hitting, brain-buzzing tunes. Vauxhall & I, the fan favourite, was released in 1994 and kept that pace and genius alight. If one wants an abridged history of Morrissey’s barbed and scathing comments; you need only look at a Rolling Stone article from 2013:

When Morrissey blamed Beyoncé for the near-extinction of the rhinoceros at a Los Angeles show last week – "The rhino is now more or less extinct, and it's not because of global warming or shrinking habitats. It's because of Beyoncé's handbags" – it was only the latest in a decades-long series of pointedly provocative comments by the ex-Smiths singer and animal rights activist. Earlier in the week, Morrissey refused to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live! because the cast of pro-hunting reality series Duck Dynasty were slated to be fellow guests. Kimmel bashed Morrissey on the show and aired a parody Duck cast-as-vegans clip; Morrissey responded in typically withering fashion, saying Kimmel "found time to jokingly promote gun-ownership – hugely amusing for the parents at Sandy Hook, no doubt" and claiming that "Jimmy Kimmel himself has finally revealed his show to have an overwhelming loss of meaning."

 But animal rights is only one of Morrissey's pet issues. The singer also has a history of lashing out at the British royal family – and pretty much anything and anyone else he feels like. Some of his outbursts have drawn accusations of racism; others, merely poor taste. And some are just funny. Here are Morrissey's most vicious disses, bon mots and general nastiness:

·         2013: Morrissey refers to David and Victoria Beckham as "The Peckhams," describes them as "insufferable" and says they should be "dragged to the edge of the village and flogged."

·         2012: Morrissey links the suicide of a London nurse to the Duchess Kate Middleton. "There's no blame placed at Kate Middleton, who was in the hospital for, as far as I can see, absolutely no reason . . . She feels no shame about the death of this woman. The arrogance of the British royals is staggering, absolutely staggering."

·         2012: Morrissey has his band wear "We Hate William and Kate" shirts onstage.

·         2012: In an open letter to his fan club, Morrissey rips into the "blustering jingoism" of the London Olympics, comparing the mood in the U.K. to Nazi Germany. "The 'dazzling royals' have, quite naturally, hijacked the Olympics for their own empirical needs, and no oppositional voice is allowed in the free press. . . The spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain."

·         2011: In an interview with Billboard, Morrissey calls Lady Gaga"nothing new" and says her style is "fraudulent, and the exact opposite of erotic." He also refers to Madonna as "McDonna" and says Michael Bublé is "famous and meaningless."

·         2011: Of the Norway massacre in which 77 people died, Morrissey heralds to a Warsaw crowd, "That is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald's and Kentucky Fried shit every day."

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash 

·         2010: Discussing animal cruelty in China, Morrissey tells The Guardian, "You can't help but feel that the Chinese people are a subspecies."

·         2009: Morrissey leaves the stage at Coachella, explaining "The smell of burning animals is making me sick. I can smell burning flesh . . . and I hope to God it's human."

·         2002: From documentary The Importance of Being Morrissey: "Bring me the head of Elton John . . . which is one instance in which meat would not be murder, if it were served on a plate."

·         1997: Morrissey bashes Madonna again. "Madonna reinforces everything absurd and offensive. Desperate womanhood. Madonna is closer to organized prostitution than anything else."

·         1994: When asked about an incident in which an Australian student shot a starting pistol at the Prince of Wales, Morrissey responds, "I wish that Prince Charles had been shot. I think it would have made the world a more interesting place."

·         1992: Morrissey knocks dance music. "It's the refuge for the mentally deficient. It's made by dull people for dull people."

·         1985: Morrissey slams the charity group Band Aid and its co-founder. "Bob Geldof is a nauseating character. Band Aid was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music."

·         1984: Morrissey blasts the Cure. "Robert Smith is a whingebag."

·         1984: Morrissey laments the failed assassination attempt on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after the Brighton hotel bombing. "The sorrow of the IRA Brighton bombing is that Thatcher escaped unscathed."

I am a big fan of Morrissey’s stance on animal rights and the fact he does, deep down, have a love of Britain and wanting to keep the people safe. I have quoted so heavily from other sources because we need the facts in front of us – my personal views should not muddy the water and create bias.

It seems like artists who command respect and assume a sphere of influence should be more pragmatic and conscientious when it comes to what they say. A lot of media sources have attacked Morrissey and questioned what is happening with him. He has suffered health issues through the years and struggled with mental-health issues – should this be used as a justifiable excuse?! Other mainstream artists have anger and things to say to those in a position of leadership. They are better at articulating that frustration through something productive and inoffensive. One can look at comments made by the likes of Stormzy – who has voiced his opinions on the Government following the handling of the Grenfell tragedy – but his anger is motivated by that one event. He is not someone who takes swipes at multiple sectors of society and claims racism is bad – only to side with a party who are known for their radical views and hatred. I still listen to Morrissey’s music but am getting more and more bored of the man who created such brilliant albums. It is sad to think that the former Smiths frontman who, alongside Johnny Marr, penned some of the finest songs of the 1980s, has now been reduced to a rather bitter and bile-spewing middle-aged man who is tainting his legacy. He may loathe racism and oppression: the fact he is throwing his weight behind For Britain. His misguided comments and outbursts may not destroy his legacy and music; what they do is give the music an unwanted…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Knight for The Face, 1984.

TASTE of bitterness.  

INTERVIEW: Patricia Vonne

INTERVIEW:

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 Patricia Vonne

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THE prolific and extraordinary Patricia Vonne

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has been discussing her new album, Top of the Mountain. It is a full and intriguing record that boasts her traditional mix of English and Spanish-sung lyrics. I ask her about the album’s themes and why she concentrated on the idea of human embrace and uplift.

She talks to me about her upbringing and career so far; whether she has a favourite memory from music; if there will be tour dates outside of her home in the U.S.; what advice she would offer new artists of the moment – I ask what it feels like to be hailed as a Renaissance woman of Austin, Texas.

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

I’m in Germany on a five-week tour promoting my seventh album, Top of the Mountain - so, I’m having a great time sharing my music and rockin’ each town!

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

I’m a Latin Roots rocker from San Antonio, Texas residing in Austin. All my albums are bilingual. My music is Texas-influenced Roots Rock with a Latin flavor. My song, Traeme Paz, was featured in the film, Once Upon a Time in Mexico

 

Your seventh album, Top of the Mountain, is out on 25th May. What are the main themes and ideas you investigate through the record?

Triumph of the human spirit (Top of the Mountain); finding love the second time around (Tidal Wave); the power of the Holy Spirit (Illuminaria); love lost (God’s Hands); a wedding song (Canción de la Boda); Western mythology (Western Blood); Elvis (Graceland Trip); a song for my mother (Madre de Perla); human survival (City Is Alive); the challenges of dating in this day and age of online dating and #MeToo (Lil’ Lobo) - and  Lekker Ding is a coquettish love song inspired by the Dutch band, Golden Earring. It’s a charming Dutch phrase meaning  ‘sweet thing’ - which the lead singer called out to me when I shared the bill with them.

There is a celebration of the human spirit and the need to embrace something powerful and healing. Do you think, in these turbulent times, that message is paramount?!

Yes. It is paramount that we the people need to stand up and use our voices to resist the powers that be - that are devoid of human decency and moral compass. We are living in dark times.

The first track, Citadel, expresses this urgency: “This world is changing/our hands are tied/I’ve seen hatred lead the blind/Out of darkness comes the light/no more hatred no more lies”.

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Have you noticed a shift from your earliest material? How do you manage to stay fresh but keep your identity intact?

For me, it’s about finding inspiration. I found tremendous inspiration with each song, and some were exciting collaborations. I love to travel and meet people from all over the world. I love languages and incorporating different cultures into the music. I’m always searching for a fine muse and curiosity ignites the fire.

 

You are a recent winner at the Madrid International Film Festival - Best Animation for Huerta de San Vicente. How did that make you feel?! Tell us more about that video…

That experience was life-altering. The honor of winning Best Animation in Lorca’s ancestral country is the greatest honor and confirms my intention of keeping his spirit alive and honoring his contributions. An added gift was meeting his niece, Laura Garcia Lorca. She invited me to an exhibition celebrating his life at Residencia de Estudiantes, which was the progressive school in Madrid where he met his influential friends Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel.

I wrote the song as a homage to Federico García Lorca; one of the most influential Spanish poets of the 20th century. He was also a playwright and theatre director who, in a career that spanned nineteen years before his untimely death during the Spanish Civil War, resurrected the most basic strains of Spanish poetry.

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Lorca spent summers at the Huerta de San Vicente from 1926-1936. Here he wrote some of his major works such as Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads, 1928), Bodas de Sangre (1933’s Blood Wedding); Yerma (1934) and Casa de Bernarda Alba (1936), which I feature in my animation.

I visited his home, which is now a museum, in Granada, Spain and the experience was so impactful it inspired the song and animation.

I used original illustrations and stop-motion photography; illustrations by Patricia Vonne and Michael Martin. Rotoscoped by Johnny Villarreal (Edge of Imagination Station); music and lyrics shot and edited by Patricia Vonne.

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You have been called a Renaissance woman of Austin, Texas. What is Austin like for an ambitious songwriter?

Austin offers a great quality of life. It’s a liberal pocket in a conservative state. It’s the home of many influential artists, so the potential to be able to collaborate with them is great. With over 4000 musicians in Austin, the competition is also stiff, so it keeps you on your game.

We have entities like Austin Music Foundation that offer complimentary educational programs about the business, which is very helpful.

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Every night of the week, you can go out and listen to live music, which is very inspiring. One of my favorites is Jimmie Vaughan at his weekend residency at CBoys. He gave me the best tip on guitar-playing since I’ve been playing lead on my instrumental compositions...he told me: “Just play what you hear”...

Thanks, Jimmie!

Which musicians mean the most to you? What sounds did you grow up around?

I would listen to the Cruzados, Lone Justice; Johnny Reno, Buddy Holly and Elvis...

I was greatly influenced by the Mexican folksongs of the Mariachis growing up in San Antonio. My parents encouraged music in the house and we would sing as a family, with my mom accompanying us on Spanish guitar and teaching us how to harmonize.

I feel honored to have worked with or shared the bill with some of my musical heroes like Joe Ely, Rosie Flores; Charlie Sexton, Alejandro Escovedo; Texas Tornadoes, Johnny Reno; Joe King Carrasco, Raul Malo; Los Lobos, Flaco Jimenez and Doyle Bramhall, to name a few.

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Can we see you perform soon? Where are you heading?

A complete list of live dates is on my website. I’m on tour in Europe right now promoting Top of the Mountain. I have C.D. release parties back home in Austin TX at the Continental Club, May 26th; June 2nd at Sam’s Burger Jt. in my hometown of San Antonio and June 8th in Houston at the Continental Club.  I’ll be returning in the fall in Europe.

Will you head to the U.K. at all? Are you a fan of our music?

I toured the U.K. back in 2006 and got to perform a private event for Sir Michael Parkinson. I struck up a conversation with him about the film, The Slipper and the Rose, with British actress Gemma Craven (which is a family favorite). I enjoyed it immensely. I’d love to return.

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

After the release of my new album, I look forward to producing more music videos and animation films with my own Bandolera Productions.

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

Touring as a member of Tito and Tarantula...

They scored many of my brother’s films, From Dusk Till Dawn, Desperado and Machete. Tito Larriva, the lead singer-songwriter, had a band called the Cruzados. They were hugely influential in my music. On my debut album, I wrote El Cruzado as an homage. On my new album, I co-wrote Western Blood with the lead guitarist of the Cruzados, Steven Medina Hufsteter. That was a dream come true - and I got to play lead guitar on the recording. I feel like an honorary Cruzado!

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Believe in yourself and your art. You have one life to live...so make it count.

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Follow Patricia Vonne 

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INTERVIEW: Marchildon!

INTERVIEW:

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Marchildon!

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IT is great discovering an artist…

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who has had a long career and continues to make bold and fascinating moves. I have been speaking with Marchildon! about the new track, Sweet Potato Kisses, and what we can expect from his album, Please Pass the Potatoes. He tells me about fond music memories and the new artists we need to check out.

The Canadian songwriter reveals the inspiration behind his latest single and how that amazing and nostalgic video came to be; what the scene is like in Toronto right now; if he will come to the U.K. and play – he ends the interview with a cool song.

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Hi, Marchildon! How are you? How has your week been?

I’m well. This week has been exciting. It feels good to release new music.

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

I’ve been making music in Toronto for about sixteen years. The music I write and perform is Rock ‘n’ Roll songs sprinkled with a velvety Country tinge. I began playing bass in the critically-lauded, now-defunct Math-Rock quartet, From Fiction. While playing in From Fiction, I was encouraged to pursue my own projects. I had never really played the guitar before with songwriting as a focus. I quickly realized how fun and creatively rewarding it was.

So; ten full-length albums and one E.P. later; I think it’s fair to say that I’m happily obsessed…

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Sweet Potato Kisses is your new single. What is the derivation of the track?

Sweet Potato Kisses is a song I wrote for my son, Charles. I quit my full-time job to take a part-time job on weekends when he was a one-year-old. I stayed home with him during the week when my wife went back to work. He loved mashed sweet potatoes for lunch. He’d have this orange sheen around his mouth and then he’d kiss my knees while I played the guitar for him, which he loved.

So, the song was right in front of me. He’d just stare at me with those big blue eyes. The song is about when a parent finds focus with their child and appreciates the time spent.

The video was shot by your uncle in the 1980s, is that right?! Was it hard digging it up – or was it something you had safe and treasured?

Yes. My uncle shot the footage on a VHS-C video camera in ’85 or ’86. I emailed my Aunt Mary around a year ago inquiring. They miraculously had it in a long-forgotten box in their basement. It was like receiving treasure! Really meaningful. I digitized the footage and then my friend Valerie Calam edited it.

Please Pass the Potatoes, your eleventh album, is out on 4th May. What sort of themes are addressed throughout? I sense a ‘potato’ theme shaping up…!

The album is about the simplicity of happiness, the relaxing joy of monogamy and a driving ambition for self-awareness; all seen through the lens of family life. As for potatoes, they are really easy to grow. You are very likely to end up with accidental potatoes. Just like a surprise pregnancy!

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Is it hard coming up with new angles and materials so far into a career?! Does music itself give you constant inspiration?!

Not at all. I swear by a Lou Reed lyric from that Velvet song, Some Kinda Love: “Between thought and expression lies a lifetime”.

Yeah; I just love music. My evenings are mostly spent listening. It’s easy these days to keep up with what’s out there. I believe constant inspiration comes from constant repetition and practice. I believe everyone has a creative muscle. You just have to take the time to exercise it…

As Lou said: “The possibilities are endless”.

Toronto is where you are based. How would you describe the city’s music scene right now?

The Toronto music scene is constantly shifting and full of surprises. It’s a wonderful place to live and be creative. There are so many pockets with different scenes. I can go watch a Roots band or attend an Ambient music night. Whatever your flavour. 

The scene is overwhelming with talented people, young and old. It’s exciting!

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

The same thing I’ve always hoped to achieve: giving my current musical project existence and then moving on. It’s very important to eventually get away from what you’ve been attached to creatively. Start from scratch; turn your eyes into a blank canvas and go for a long walk.

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

Definitely, the time spent in Chicago recording the From Fiction L.P. with Steve Albini. He was such a great person. Watching him work was inspiring; one of the most articulate people I've ever met; hard-working and to the point. I had serviced my Fender Bassman before leaving for Chicago.

Right when we were about to hit the record button, he came in over the talk-back and said: “Something doesn't sound right with your amp, Owen”. So, down he came along the winding stairs in his mechanic suit and took the grill off my amp. He got me to hit a couple notes. It was discovered that one of the two speakers on the amp wasn't working. So, I ended up using one of his homemade speakers, which sounded way better. So much chunk and aggressive low end. We were all amazed.

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

Have Moicy by Michael Hurley, The Unholy Model Rounders, Jeffrey Frederick and the Clamtones.

This is my all-time favourite Folk-Rock album. Listening to this album made me realize that you can write songs about anything. As long as you mean it. Also; Jeffrey Fredrick doesn’t get enough credit. His songs are clever and heartfelt.

Top Track: What Made My Hamburger Disappear by Jeffrey Frederick and the Clamtones

Crazy Rhythms by The Feelies

I love a jingle-jangle sounding guitar. It just doesn't get any better than this: a real meditative listen from beginning to end.

Top Track: Forces at Work

Cowboy in Sweden by Lee Hazlewood 

This album blends cowboy songs with Psychedelic production; well-written songs that exist in a world of their own. Everyone is always talking Phil Spector production: I say ‘Lee Hazlewood production!’.

Top Track: The Night Before

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Are there tour dates coming up? Might we see you in the U.K.?

I will be playing The Cameron House in Toronto on May 4th to celebrate the release of Please Pass The Potatoes. (I’ll be playing on) Saturday, May 12th in Hamilton at the Capitol Bar. Opening acts for the shows: Julie Kendall (1977) and Jose Miguel Contreras (By Divine Right)

Unfortunately, no U.K. shows.

Is the stage somewhere you love being? How does it feel getting up there and playing songs to the people?

I was involved in a lot of theatre during my teens and early-twenties. Some film as well. I took acting in college. I like being on the stage. Playing songs in front of people is fun but what I love more is spontaneous banter. If I’m on top of my game with the stage banter, I find it fuels my band’s performance. It makes everyone loosen their grip and relax into their parts.

This is usually followed by stage moves and newfound postures. That’s when you know the show is cooking. That combination is what I live for when playing live.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I would say just focus on your body of work and try not to get too obsessed with the notion of ‘making it’.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: CupcakKe

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Oh yeah. Here’s a list of artists I admire from this year so far:

Cupcakke, Sidney Gish; Shopping, Onyx Collective, Nap Eyes; TNC6, Maxo Kream; Birthing Hips, JPEGMAFIA; Ought, Loma; Jennifer Castle, No Age; Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever, Cut Worms; The Men, EMA; Portal, The Soft Moon; Lea Bertucci, Tal National; Iceage, Beach House; U.S. Girls, John Prine, Parquet Courts; Suuns, A.A.L; Mark Renner, MorMor; Colin Fisher, Victime; Dick Stusso, Abyss X; Park Jiha, Grouper, Kraus; Eric Chenaux, Andre Ethier; Wand, Snail Mail; Kilchhofer, Jenny Hval; Vive la Void, Jean Grae; Quelle Chris and Kamasi Washington.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Jean Grae

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

It’s not really something I like to get away from. It’s always on my mind because it’s the only thing in life that I’m in total control of. No one’s telling me what to do with it because it’s inside my head. It’s my own private playful secret. It brings me great joy.

How do I unwind? Listening to records. It slows everything down.

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).

So Hot (Wash Away All of My Tears) by Spacemen 3. Thanks a lot Sam. This was fun!

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Follow Marchildon!

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INTERVIEW: RUEN

INTERVIEW:

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 RUEN

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RUEN has been talking with me…

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about her debut single, Bad Behaviour, and its background. I ask her whether there will be more material to follow; if there are new artists we should be backing this year; what it is like working with Palm Bay Music – I ask whether RUEN thinks female artists are being overlooked.

She is a producer and musician so, with that in mind, I ask why she transitioned from behind the microphone to step out-front; what gigs she has in the pipeline; whether her childhood household was a musical one – RUEN talks about ambitions and aims for the rest of 2018.

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

I’m good. A little tired, as I’ve just adopted a little puppy - but it’s been a great week, thanks!

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

Sure thing. My music has been described as early PJ Harvey-meets-Yeah Yeah Yeahs after a heavy night out sleeping with your ex.

Bad Behaviour is your debut single. Can you tell me about the background and how the song came together?

I wrote part of the song ages ago and then stumbled across it before Christmas last year whilst going through voice memos on my phone. I thought to myself: ‘Hmmmm; I actually quite like this…why didn’t I do anything with it?!’ I then brought it to a writing session and the song developed from there.

It’s about someone in an abusive relationship that keeps going back.

The track is quite Jazz-tinged and smoky. Was it a fun track to put together?

It really was. I actually ended up using most of the demo takes and then added to it later down the line. I love the break after the chorus - I had fun looping it over and over in the studio and jamming guitar ideas over it.

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Will there be more material coming along? Can you reveal what other singles are in the pipeline?

There is, yes! My next single is due to be released in June and, following that, there will be a couple more singles.

What is it like working with Palm Bay Music? Do you get a lot of creative freedom and mobility?

As one of the founders of Palm Bay Music, I wanted to create a home for the music I was making - and so I set up an Independent music label. It’s been quite an exciting venture; we already have a second artist we are working with and are planning to release more music later this year.

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You are a producer-turned-musician. What compelled the decision to embark on your own music career?

I’ve been very musical from an early age and was always playing in bands growing up. I think there was a point when working with other artists where I was thinking: ‘this is really cool - I wish it could be my song’. I really enjoy the production side of music as it can be so creative. I started co-writing for the first time last year and then thought to myself: ‘I love these songs; I’m going to have a go at self-producing and then release them’.

Female producers and artists are relatively overlooked and under-promoted. Do you think this is a problem that needs correcting?

I think it’s more about people’s awareness than a problem that needs correcting. The music industry has always been very much male-dominated, especially form the recording side of it, but I think more women are now speaking up and making themselves known.

The rise in social media has provided a platform for women to speak more about what they’re doing and, through this, I think they are gaining more recognition and people’s awareness and perceptions are changing.

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Which musicians influenced you to take up music? Who are your childhood heroes?

I grew up with watching my mum play in bands and was always taken to her gigs. I think that got me into playing music, initially. My parents’ music was an eclectic mix of Folk and Heavy Rock; so there was lots of Queen, Deep Purple; Van Halen and Led Zeppelin when growing up.

When I started buying my own music, I was listening to a lot of Muse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs; PJ Harvey, Incubus and Placebo.

Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?

You can, yes. I’ll be at The Finsbury in London on 3rd July.

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

That’s a hard one to answer! Musically, I’d love to do some more writing and start recording some new music. I already have a few new ideas that I’m ready to take into the studio. I’d also love for my music to reach as many ears as possible!

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

I worked with singer-songwriter Kimberly Anne recently on her album project and we recorded a track at Konk Studios in London. That was pretty cool. Such an iconic studio and seeped in so much history. It felt really great working there.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Oh, wow. Well, as a new artist myself, that’s a tricky one! I guess I would say keep writing songs. I think we can get so caught up in everything else that is involved in being an artist these days such as being you own manager, accountant; label, booking agent, social media manager etc. that we forget that it’s all about the music we make.

So, yeah… just keep writing - it’s all about the songs.

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IN THIS PHOTO: ARK

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

There’s an artist called ARK who I wrote with last year and she’s amazing. She has just released a new single. You should also go check out DIDI - proper Pop-Punk-Rock. She’s a great songwriter.

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IN THIS PHOTO: DIDI

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

I always make sure I get downtime.

When music turns from a hobby into a job, I find it’s so important to do non-musical things to wind down. I like to go walking and I often take long walks along the beach, which also often end up with sitting in a pub with a pint. I love reading and have a strange obsession with crime dramas - Netflix is my go-to at the moment. I enjoy watching Luther.

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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).

I came across this band on Spotify called BLOXX and I’ve been hooked! Their song, Curtains, is currently on my regular listening list

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Follow RUEN

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FEATURE: The April Playlist: Vol. 3: As Record Store Day Takes Hold…

FEATURE:

 

The April Playlist

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IN THIS PHOTO: Father John Misty 

 Vol. 3: As Record Store Day Takes Hold…

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THERE are a lot of people stepping up…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Bishop Briggs

their passion for music today! Record Store Day is here and, with it, fervent and feverish crate-diggers will be out in force – getting their hands on all the re-releases, new offerings and classic vinyl. Away from the throng of record store heat are the best new songs from the world of popular music. There are cuts from Father John Misty and Ariana Grande; Janelle Monáe and Leon Bridges; The Coral and Courtney Barnett – a rare and unexpected release from Mazzy Star has gifted our ears this week!

It is an exciting, packed and big-name week for music that sees the likes of Anne-Marie and Blossoms stack up alongside Prince, Bishop Briggs and Miles Kane – something, you’ll agree, for everyone!

ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited othewrise): Getty Images

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Father John MistyJust Dumb Enough to Try

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Anne-Marie – 2002

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PHOTO CREDITSara M. Méndez

Miles Kane – Loaded

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Janelle Monáe – I Like That

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Ariana Grande – No Tears Left to Cry

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Blossoms – There’s a Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)

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PrinceNothing Compares 2 U

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Billie Eilish, Khalid - lovely

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Leon BridgesBeyond

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The Coral – Sweet Release

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Courtney Barnett – City Looks Pretty

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Grace Savage – The Hunger

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Kelsey Lu – Shades of Blue

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Louise Golbey – Still

Lykke Li – deep end

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Mahalia – No Reply

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Mazzy Star - Quiet, the Winter Harbour

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Morrissey – By the Time I Get to Wherever I’m Going

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Sasha Sloan – Runaway (Vertical Video)

 
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The Vamps – Hair Too Long

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Alexis Taylor – A Hit Song

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PHOTO CREDIT: @lindseybyrnes

Bishop Briggs – Wild Horses

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The Paper Kites – Arms

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The Shires – Loving You Too Long

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PHOTO CREDITRahi Rezvani

Editors Darkness at the Door

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AURORA Queendom

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Let’s Eat GrandmaIt’s Not Just Me

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Ben Howard Towing the Line

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The Tallest Man on Earth Somewhere in the Mountains, Somewhere in New York

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Morgan Saint - Just Friends

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Daughter - All I Wanted (Live at Asylum Chapel)

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JONES - Tender (Acoustic in London)

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Kylie Minogue (ft. Gente de Zona) Stop Me From Falling

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The Pale WhitePeace of Mind

TRACK REVIEW: Gypsyfingers - Half World

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Gypsyfingers

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Half World

 

9.5/10

 

 

Half World is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNqJSlL3tk8&feature=youtu.be

GENRES:

Folk-Rock; Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

20th April, 2018

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IT has been a little while since I last reviewed Gypsyfingers

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but they seem to have lost none of their step and magic. I will talk about their new song, Half World, in a minute but, before then, I have a few things to talk about. I wanted to talk about changing dynamics and sounds; duos who have a clear connection and understanding; how Folk is expanding and subverting expectations; bringing physicality and dance into music; building a reputation as live performers; where Gypsyfingers go from here; the rare inspiration behind songs. I have featured Victoria and Luke Oldfield before when they released their album, Circus Life. I was mesmerised by the record and was blown away by all the sounds and beauties working away. The rich interplay between Victoria and Luke; the incredible songwriter that mixed fast-flowing raps and luscious acoustic music. In many ways, Gypsyfingers remind me of a modern-day Fleetwood Mac. There are other artists who have similar sounds to Gypsyfingers but, when you examine the duo carefully; they have extra strands and dynamics that take them beyond the simple rivals and those who aim for something big. Circus Life is a remarkable album but, on their latest song, there is an indication the sophomore album will be even richer and more astonishing. On Half World; one gets the impression touring and extra time has added to the locker of Gypsyfingers. That brings me back, actually, two artists: Fleetwood Mac and Kate Bush. The former, in this case, can be brought in when it comes to comparing Circus Life’s sounds and what we can expect going forward…think the transition between Rumours and Tusk. It sounds like irony – considering Circus Life and Tusk have elephants in common – but I mean there is a toughening and added confidence in Gypsyfingers’ latest sounds. They have added to the brilliance and innovation of their debut album and now, listening to what they are creating now; I hear added muscle, production genius and naturalness. I cannot wait to digest the rest of their album but, on Half World; there is something magical and exciting we can digest. Luke and Victoria have been touring a lot since their album and have, in that time, sipped from the waters of current music and seen what others are doing.

They have quenched a thirst and sojourned to the studio. In the time between then and now – 2014 to April, 2018 – there has been a lot brought on board. Some might say a four-year gap is a long time between records but the time has been spent crafting something that seems natural to them. Mainstream artists are a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to leaving that sort of gap. Royal Blood and London Grammar failed to add anything to their debuts when they left a three/four-year break. The same, I assume, cannot be said of Arctic Monkeys. The Yorkshire band is back with a fresh album very soon and, you know, it will live up to the marker laid down by AM. One of the reasons I feel Gypsyfingers will satisfy the demand and justify the pause is because they have spent their time working on something that departs from their album. I can hear aspects of Circus Life on their latest single but, when you dive deeper into the song; there is nuance and sounds I did not notice before. Maybe it is the extra experience of being on the road but, when you keep hearing the song; I feel it is the strength of the lyrics and how much the song means to the duo. I said I would mention Kate Bush – I know I said I’d cool it on the Bush references but, as it is relevant, I cannot go back now. Bush saw her music expand and strengthen from her debut album, The Kick Inside – which, I maintain, is her finest L.P. – and really hit her stride by Hounds of Love (1985). That seven-year period saw her move through phases and take more control of her music. Although our duo has not had the same experience as Kate Bush; I notice a difference between the sounds of Circus Life and Half World. In a way; their album has more in common with the earliest work of Kate Bush: it is light and innovative and has that ethereal beauty running throughout.

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Half World is a darker and, maybe, more mature work that has extra production layers and sees authority and confidence rule out. That is not to say Circus Life lacked oomph and wonder: I stand by the review when I said the record was one of the best of the year. Now, a bit further down the line, we are seeing the new phase of Gypsyfingers and where they are now. I will talk more about that but, right now, I want to explore duos again. If anything, duos are the most varied and nimble form of music in the world. I am articulating that a little hazily. What I mean is there is the freedom and mobility to explore new sounds and not be too beholden to festivals and what has come before. Luke and Victoria started making music together when they were dating – maybe only friends, I guess. They are now married and that would assume they’d be cemented and on the same page. One of the big reasons some bands split up is because members have different ideas in terms of direction and what they should be making. Many duos comprise married couples or lovers – that does not mean they are more secure and solid. If anything, there is a risk that closeness could compromise creativity unity. Victoria and Luke have been together a long time and have a democracy that works well for them. Whilst Luke is more involved with composition and production; Victoria is more in the forefront when it comes to the songwriting and lyrics (as she writes most of the songs). I may be jumping ahead when it comes to their writing but they each have their role and fulfil it wonderfully – even though Luke does provide vocals at times and the duo both work on music and ideas. Other duos, in other genres, have a different set-up and way of working. What connects all of them is that passion and understanding. I have reviewed the likes of Rews – a female duo – and it is that incredible friendship that leads to brilliant music.

Whereas solo artists are alone; bands are more driven by other factors…duos build their work on that close relationship and something means a lot to both. In the case of Gypsyfingers; Luke and Victoria have similar tastes and ideas; they are incredibly close and that love for one another comes through in their music. That closeness could lead to squabbles and disagreements – I have seen duos form cracks because there have been different agendas – but Gypsyfingers are one of the tightest and most together forces in music. One can detect this similarity and connection when listening to the music. I still feel duos do not get the respect they deserve. I have known Luke Oldfield a while now – he is the song of the legendary Mike Oldfield and a knob-twiddling super-producer who has worked at Toe Rag Studios – and know his past. I have been reading up on Gypsyfingers and it is their different backgrounds that, oddly, leads to that harmony and brilliance. Luke comes from a Rock background and, one feels, has spent more studio time with the likes of The Wytches (a Brighton band) and similarly heavy-hitting groups. Victoria has a Classical background and knowledge of dance. In a way – returning to my Kate Bush analogy – it is like Bush and Dave Gilmour (who was hugely influential when it came to her debut album) in the same group. You have that understanding of Rock and Alternative sounds and someone who brings expression and physical beauty to the songs. Many duos I see write in a similar way and share musical tastes. A reason why Gypsyfingers are so strong and varied is because of their disparate and eclectic starts. When you melt Victoria’s seduction, dance and beautiful voice with Luke’s production, musicianship and history – you get a fantastic brew that surpasses everything I can see out there in the music market.

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It would be naïve to simply label Gypsyfingers as ‘Folk’. Sure; one can hear elements of Folk artists and acoustic sounds but they are more than that. Luke and Victoria have taken the genre and added their own musical backgrounds to the genre. On Circus Life; I noticed Kate Tempest-like Rap and Hip-Hop with Fleetwood Mac-nodding sounds. The record was full and lush; it retained its core and foundations but was not as restrictive and narrow as some Folk albums. That record was laid down at Tilehouse Studios. It is a space created by Mike Oldfield that houses vintage recording equipment and a beautiful scene outside the door. It is nestled in countryside and is perfect for those who want to study and knuckle down in the studio; relax and detach when they have finished for the day. That may sound like an odd digression but, when you hear the music; that contrast comes through. Gypsyfingers have that connection with nature and their take from the world around them. I hear that bond with nature and spirituality; the grace and perfection of the outside air. They mix that style and inspiration with what older technology boasts: a nod to past music and how artists used to work. On Half World, for instance; you hear the crackle and nostalgic pull of the production with the nature-explosion of the vocals. By that; there is a pulling together of classic and vintage music with the here and now. Gypsyfingers are not a duo who are drenched in nostalgia and want to return to the past: their music operates in the present-day but, given their upbringing and love of music; a nod to older sounds is only to be expected. I have seen many duos come and go – it seems like Gypsyfingers are here for the long run! The fact they have such depth and diversity in the ranks means they’ll have creative options for years to come. I have not talked about live sounds and how working on the road can strengthen what happens in the studio.

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After Circus Life was unveiled; the duo embarked on extensive touring and visited a lot of different stages. They toured with James Blunt in Warsaw (in 2014) and did a three-week tour of Poland. They got a huge reception in Eastern Europe and were afforded the chance to connect with people who would not otherwise have got to hear the music of Gypsyfingers. They supported Tubular Bells for Two and are ready to strike on their own and get new gigs. In fact; they have Isle of Wight Festival (23rd June) booked and will head to Hyde Park BST (13th July). Those are huge dates and much deserved when you think about it! The fact they have visited new countries and fresh faces means all of those travelogues and sights assimilate into their new music. I can hear more depth and adventure in Half World. I have tipped my hat to a new album but, when the time is right, the duo will unleash that to the world. What I am expecting is something that builds from Circus Life’s expansive mind and curious heart and integrates all the threads and memories they have collected from the road. Touring and constant live gigs are reasons why artists strengthen and create their best work. I can only imagine what the duo will learn when they head to big festivals this summer. They will be on some enormous platforms and get the chance to play to thousands of people. Right now, they are in a great position and have a worldwide fanbase. All of these little boosts and bonuses have been brought into camp and go into their latest single. I will come to look at the song in time but, before then, I will remain on this theme. Many overlook how important gigs are when it comes to creativity and longevity. We are in a time when venues are closing and people fear irreversible damage will be done to the scene.

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I am hopeful resurgence will occur and we will be able to retain the spaces we have out there. It is vital artists have somewhere they can play and new acts are able to cut their teeth – imagine what will happen to music if we are denied that! When Gypsyfingers hit the road – after their album was released – they had Patrick Kenneally supporting. He can play keyboard and drums at the same time – one might assume he has sticks being clasped by his testicles; the answer is a lot less graphic than that! – and bassist Tali Trow with them. Victoria, as a multi-instrumentalist, was on piano, French horn and guitars (with her vocal input) and Luke, as you’d expect, handled guitar duties and did vocals, too. That luscious and vast live experience meant Gypsyfingers were able to realise the sounds on the album and not have to compromise. After having that set-up and options at their fingertips; this has kept the creative flame burning and translated into the studio. What I hear now is even more bravery and inventive spirit of the duo. They have learnt new skills and been hit by other sounds. There is that distinct Gypsyfingers lustre and connection; it has been joined by other fabrics and feelings. It is hard to articulate, I guess – one needs to hear Half World and contrast that with Circus Life. You get all of the skills and experience of the performers in Gypsyfingers’ live performances. Victoria brings that dance and love of movement; Luke has that ear for epic performance – his old man’s influence comes into things – and, combined, there is an extraordinary show! You might wonder where the duo goes from here and how they will adapt. I cannot disclose too much regarding albums and future plans but, with a new song out; you know there will be a lot of chatter among fans. The duo has been busy since their debut L.P. and has been bringing their music to the people of the world. I am confident this year will be one of the biggest for them. There are fresh challenges and new stages to conquer; a sound that is more alive and stunning than ever – these are wonderful times for Luke and Victoria.

Victoria has expended words in regards Half World and it was her guitar experiments and noodling that sparked the song into life. One may assume, when it comes to guitar starts, it would be Luke that’d be behind that. It was Victoria’s that started things and the lyrics were influenced by news stories of migration and hostility. I am seeing artists compelled by what is happening on the news and how people are being overlooked. That title becomes apt and apparent when you think of the divisions and lack of humanity we are witnessing. The fact is this: we are living in a divided world and this is not the planet we want to see. Victoria was shocked and stunned by images from the news and how people can be so cruel. We should not live in a time when others are being discarded like trash and left to die – others have to fight their way to safety and negotiate a daily regime of bombing and violence. Victoria brought her sketch to Luke and that was then worked on in the studio. That germ and initial passion was given more body and direction when the two joined heads in the studio. The vocal ideas and marching footsteps were added to give momentum and guidance; Luke’s production gave the song unexpected elements – mellotron choir and ghostly sounds – but it all started from Victoria’s playing and observations. From Luke’s perspective; the new song picks up from where Circus Elephant (from Circus Life) ended. The big sound is aided by Pat Kenneally and Simon Hedges (bass); the song was featured in gigs when Gypsyfingers played Poland back in 2015. It has mutated and evolved since then but, from those earliest airings; people reacted and bonded with the song. The reason why the song is more relevant now is that more people are displaced and things are getting more callous in the world. The fact it has been played on the road and had the chance to expand and wander goes into the studio recording. It started life as a big, live-sounding song and has been kept in-tact in the studio version. It is a fascinating birth and progression that makes me think deeply about how music evolves and where inspiration comes from.

There are lips sour and worn by the dust and battle cries. There is a war and river running through her eyes and one gets big scenes and epic imaginations coming through. Half World begins with a gorgeous rippling and entrancing notes. Piano trickles and there is a build-up that gets into the mind and compels the spirit. It is a gorgeous and enticing opening that gets you thinking and produces an immense amount of atmosphere. Percussion and unexpected notes add physicality, emotions and new layers to the song. Victoria’s vocal is strong and focused. There is a sadness and seriousness that mixes with the beauty and sense of wonder. When one listens to the lyrics; you hear about boats left to dry and souls hovering in the sky. It is haunting to think but, when looking at the thing that influenced the song – migration and humans being left to die – you get a much larger and more striking view of the song. It is shocking to imagine people struggling to find safety and taking immense risks. The way Victoria delivers her words and builds those visions into the mind is staggering. Luke’s production and musical input give the song a physicality and depth that means every listener will involve themselves and get thinking. The video demonstrates new steps for Gypsyfingers. Their visual elements are more stirring and ambitious. At the start, we see Victoria walking along and the camera following her. That scene and setting mirror the relative calm of the opening moments. The song seems to take on personal relevance and meaning as it goes on. The heroine runs and is tracked through woodland; the visions match the lyrics and we cut between different settings – Victoria running and looking to the horizon. The narrative turns away from the news and ideas of immigration and to something more personal. She is still inspired by the need to change and make the world better – the horror and shocking scenes have made her look inside her heart and make improvements.

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Maybe we all get humbled and stunned by seeing others struggle and endure hardships. We think about ourselves and wonder whether our quibbles and complaints are justifiable. The percussion becomes heavier and the piano picks up speed. The heroine keeps the beauty and passion of the song solid but heightens and flies with the song. The video sees her in woodland, dancing in the sun; we cut to a bath where she gets in fully-clothed. In the song itself; there is a tightrope and things were good until the need we/he fell off. I think of these words as a metaphor for a security and safety that has now gone. Maybe there is a personal insecurity and transition that is being documented. In my mind; there is a look out at the world and the feeling life is not as safe and happy as it should be. The world is splitting and there is a clear divide between the privileged and those who have to struggle to live. You can hear those expressions of upset and wonder – where are we headed and how will the world change?! The mind is split between the personal doubts and anxieties and projection of the wider world. There are little elements of Muse when one hears the symphonic piano and drums clash – it is an interesting brew. If the demo for the song was influenced by news stories and displaced souls; there is more working away in the studio version. Our heroine has inspiration in her heart and is going through a change. It is hard to say whether hardships and stark images have focused her mind on music and making the most of her life; whether they act as a comparison to the wars and conflicts in her life. As the striking and memorable video moves along – images of the heroine in a bath and in the expansive openness of nature – you imagine different interpretations. Half World is a song that has a clear origin but its actual meanings can be interpreted differently by each listener. I was looking towards the heroine and how she has gone through phases and now, in 2018; there is a desire to change the world and make the most of her life. She is aware of the cracks in the planet and, maybe, she is casting her voice in the body of a migrant. They are looking at a better world and hope to reach some promised land. They see the way the world could be and that chance for happiness – getting into boats and risking their lives to escape poverty and war.

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The duo have been playing together since 2010 and started as the solo project of Victoria  - she was living in Paris at the time. Victoria moved to London and was introduced to Luke Oldfield. This was before they were married, you understand. He offered to produce a debut Gypsyfingers album and lend his hand to the mix. Their partnership formed and became deeper from there. Rather than it being a solo offering from Victoria; the duo became closer and, by 2013, they were a concrete and connected duo. New sounds were brought into the fold and, in 2014; Circus Life was brought into the world. It is interesting seeing how Gypsyfingers has grown from Victoria’s moniker and taken on a new life in 2018. Now; the guys now have expanded their sound and are working as a four-piece. They have recruited Tali Trow on bass guitar and have a fuller sound. I have mentioned them as a duo because I am not sure whether they will operate as a four-piece on the road or studio too – and, whether any of the notes we hear on Half World were part of the new line-up. In any case; it seems like things are evolving and growing for Gypsyfingers. Those fresh additions and ideas will add to their arsenal when they head to the Isle of Wight and play big stages this year. Half World is the next chapter in the Gypsyfingers odyssey. They have made changes since 2014 and are growing bigger and stronger by the release. I have been following them since then – I was not aware of them prior to that – and can hear new inspirations and chemistry in the music. I cannot wait to hear what comes next and where Gypsyfingers will go. They are playing gigs over the coming weeks/months and it will be chance to see Half World brought to the world. I am not sure what they have marked in regards a new album and when it is coming out – one assumes the new single is the first step from their sophomore record. I am looking forward to watching Victoria and Luke’s duo grow and tackle new areas. Half World is a fantastic and fascinating song from an act that is amongst the finest in the music world. Once you hear Half World; you will be taken away and compelled to think more closely. I have been listening to the song over and over and still…

CAN’T get enough of it!

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Follow Gypsyfingers

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Official:

https://www.gypsyfingers.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/gypsyfingers/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/gypsyfingers/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Gypsyfingers

Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/artist/77ldPpauhUXAZGYT4abA8h

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ1x8RNElu-Zb2_UvrMm9Ag

Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/gypsyfingers

PHOTO CREDITS:

Sleeping pic by Julien Weber

Jumping pic by Alexandra Cameron

Clothes rail pic by Sally Low

Victoria singing pic by Sally Low

Sitting in grass pic by Alex Cameron

Band Dressing room pic by Sally Low

INTERVIEW: Dakota Danielle

INTERVIEW:

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Dakota Danielle

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THE debut single is always…

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an exciting and eventful occasion for any artist. I have been speaking with the American songwriter Dakota Danielle about One Church and what inspired it. She talks about the artists who have inspired her to take up music; what it is like living and playing in Nashville; whether there is more material arriving this year – I ask whether she will come to the U.K. and play.

Dakota Danielle tells me about her studies in Tennessee and what she has planned for the rest of this year; if there are new artists we should get our ears around; what the music scene is like in Illinois (where she hails from) – the songwriter talks to me about her favourite albums and what she does away from music.

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

Hi! I am doing good (smiles). My week has been busy - but in a good way!

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

Of course! My name is Dakota Danielle and I am originally from Teutopolis, IL. I graduated from Middle Tennessee State and have been living in Nashville for two years, now pursuing a music career.

Your debut single, One Church, is out. What is the story behind it?

This song is about my hometown. It has a population of 1600 people and consists of one church and three bars. This song was written about the common characteristics (you hear) small towns have, but yet, there is still something unique about the town I am from.

What was it like working with Mookie & Evan (and) Michael J. Clouse III on the song?

It was a lot of fun! They were great to work with! I felt like my song was in good hands the whole time and we all shared the same vision.

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Is there going to be more material coming? Might we see an E.P. later in the year?

Yes. There will be more music coming! I have another single recorded that I am excited to put out there later this year (smiles).

How did you get into songwriting? Was there an artist you were compelled by at a young age?

Songwriting, for me, started when I picked up the guitar my senior year of high-school. I wrote a song about my aunt who had passed away when I was young. I played it for my family and seeing how something I had written touch them emotionally made me really want to dive more into songwriting.

I grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, Toby Keith; Dolly Parton, The Beach Boys; Neil Diamond and more. I feel like I had a lot of different artists that influenced my love of music.

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I know you are taking Nashville by storm – studying a degree in Commercial Songwriting at Middle Tennessee State University as you go. What are the people like in Nashville? Is it a great place to play?

I love Nashville! I feel like I am in a small town living in a big city (smiles). All the people I have met so far have been very nice and supportive. I love how there is music playing almost everywhere you go. It influences me and keeps me motivated.

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You are from Illinois. What are the main differences between there and Tennessee, would you say?!

In Illinois, there is definitely more fields, farms and flat land - also, windmills are a common thing. I had a few friends comment on how they have never seen a windmill...and that was so strange to me because I saw them a lot living in Illinois (smiles).

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Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?

I do! I am playing in Carbondale, IL, coming up and various places around Nashville in the coming weeks.

Will you come to the U.K. and play? Have you visited here before?

I would love to someday travel to the U.K. and play! I have never been.

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

I would have to pick the three albums I remember listening to all the time growing up because it brings me back to those memories.

Toby Keith - 35 Biggest Hits

I would have How Do You Like Me Now?! on-repeat

Aretha Franklin - Greatest Hits

Respect was my jam!

The Beach Boys - Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of The Beach Boys

Loved singing along to, pretty much, every song on this album!

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

I hope to advance my music career in 2018 as well as grow as a person. I would love to have my music heard by multiple people in the hopes of helping them express joy or sadness.

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

I will always remember the very first time I performed in public. It was at the Effingham Country Fair Talent Show. I played New Strings by Miranda Lambert and it was the first time any of my friends/family really heard me sing. It was a memory I will never forget (smiles).

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I would tell them to never give up, believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone - because that will help you learn and grow as an artist (smiles).

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Meg Williams/PHOTO CREDIT: Desirae Cop

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Yes! My friends Meg Williams, Allie Keck; Jessilynn Kidd, Cory Fisher; Meredith Joi, Stevie Woodward; Luke Caccetta, Taylor Martin and New North are a few off the top of my head!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Meredith Joi

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

Music is a part of my life and, without it, I feel lost...but, if I have time to chill and unwind, I am definitely a Netflix person.

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).

I am choosing a song that I always love to listen to! Dust on the Bottle - David Lee Murphy (smiles)

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Follow Dakota Danielle

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INTERVIEW: Hein Cooper

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Eve Thomas

Hein Cooper

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FROM the North of England…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Eve Thomas

I am now speaking with a songwriter who hails from Australia. Hein Cooper talks about his current track, Hear My Voice, and what it was like touring his debut album in Cornwall – the brilliant and celebrated The Art of Escape.

I ask Cooper whether he will tour in the U.K. and which artists have inspired him to get into music. He explains why this week has been a bit tough; what the scene is like in Sydney (where he is based) and whether he feels like he is moving into a new creative phase – Cooper closes the interview by choosing a pretty stunning song.

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

Hey, there. I'm good! I've been told to rest my voice by my doctor, so the last week has been a challenge regards not talking to anyone and staying quiet at home!

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

I'm a singer-songwriter from Australia working with music inspired by artists like Frank Ocean, Bon Iver; Ben Howard and Chet Faker. I love the idea of what is possible with Pop music: a song can be very left-of-field and still be a Pop hit.

I think my music is an exploration of a more authentic version of Pop. 

Hear My Voice is your new single. What is the story behind the song?

I wrote this song over a year or so. It took its time and started off as a poem I had written; then I wrote the music later on and placed it in. It's a conversation I'm having with myself about the self-discovery I'd been going through at the time.

It delves into the idea that we create different versions of ourselves as we live and grow - and it asks the question: 'Is there any real self behind all these people?'

In a way, it seems to be the start of a new phase for you. Do you think this is a big change and time of transition?!

Yes. I think so. I've had a lot of time since the release of my debut album to tour and think about music. I think this has really given me a new perspective and maturity to what I'm working on now. 

What was it like working with producer Will Hicks on the track?

It was great. He's one of those people who's got a casual vibe whilst doing real complicated stuff and, because it was only the two of us in the studio together, he kept it flowing well. 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Eve Thomas

You toured your debut album, The Art of Escape, and lived in Cornwall. What was that experience like? Did you learn a lot about yourself in that setting?!

Yes. As I said earlier; touring definitely moulded me as a person. Through 2016-2017, I played hundreds of shows through Europe and the U.S. without very much luxury or certainty. I'd be in Europe and have three-four shows booked weeks apart and have to figure out what to do in-between, without breaking the bank...

This led to staying with friends of friends, even grandparents of friends, in cities, small towns; near the ocean, arriving late at night and sometimes being stranded! It kept changing and, at times, it wasn't even clear what was happening the following week.

I think all of this really helped me develop into someone who was able to deal with that kind of stuff. It certainly helped me write new music. I ended up living in Cornwall for seven months after that and, basically, wrote music the whole time.

Sydney is where you are from. What is the music scene like there? Are there big differences between Australian and British music?

Sydney has a load of great musicians and songwriters at the moment and I think, more and more, are moving here which keeps lifting the vibe. It's the kind of place where you can get to the beach through the day and see a gig at night - which is pretty good in my opinion.

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Is there more material arriving later in the year?

Yes.

Which artists did you grow up around? Did you live in a very musical household?

My grandma was an Opera singer and my brother played Classical piano, but my parents weren't very musical. I started listening to music a lot more when I went to high-school. I fell in love with artists like Angus and Julia Stone and Jack Johnson. I was learning guitar and they had all these cool things for me to try and learn.

Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?

Yes!

April 27th: Black Bear Lodge (Brisbane)

April 28th: Penny Black (Melbourne)

April 29th: Porch Sessions (Adelaide)

May 3rd: Leadbelly (Sydney)

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

I'm taking it all as it comes (as things are always changing and reshaping), but I'd like to have more music out and get out there in the world to perform for as many people as possible.

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

There's a load. I've had one particular experience performing in Hamburg, Germany to a sold-out audience that I'll never forget. When people are all there in one room to hear your songs and you get the chance to share it, it is truly magical.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Be real. Don't worry if you're different to what's currently popular, because artists come and go these days like they were never even there - so, you may as well give people something you feel is true to you.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Julia Michaels

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

It's super-Pop, but I dig Julia Michaels. Others are Nick Hakim, SZA and Beach House.

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IN THIS IMAGE: SZA

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

Usually, it's a pretty constant thing - at least it's running through my mind always. If I get a chance, I like to go surfing.

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).

Thank you (smiles). Frank Ocean - Thinkin Bout You

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Follow Hein Cooper

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INTERVIEW: Beth Macari

INTERVIEW:

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 Beth Macari

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I have been chatting with the awesome Beth Macari

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about her new single, Clone. It is out on 18th May and I have been given access to the track ahead of its release. It is a confident and inspiringly upbeat song from a young songwriter on the rise. I speak to Macari about her home of Newcastle upon Tyne and whether more material will come; the music she grew up around – what touring dates she has booked.

Macari talks about supporting Rae Morris and the albums that mean the most to her; what advice she would give to new artists; if she gets much time to relax away from music – a fascinating window into the life and work of Beth Macari.

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

I am great, thank you! I am en route to Barcelona; so, it is a good week so far.

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

I am a Soul/Pop singer and songwriter from Newcastle upon Tyne.

Clone is out on 18th May. Can you reveal how the song came together?

I was in the studio. I wasn't in a great mood; so, I felt inspired to write a sassy but uplifting song – and, so, Clone was born.

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PHOTO CREDITDaniel StarkVicky Hedley

The song has a classic Pop vibe you do not hear much nowadays. Was it important mixing modern sounds with those classic roots?

Definitely. That's what my music is about: channelling the sounds that inspire me but keeping the production fresh.

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Which musicians have inspired your sound? Do you find greater inspiration in new or older acts?

I have always been inspired by the big voices of soul such as Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder. But, there are so many current artists and sounds that inspire me. I love listening to Anne-Marie and Jessie Ware at the moment.

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Will there be an E.P. or album later this year?

I am working on the music for my debut album at the moment.

Newcastle upon Tyne is your home. What is the area like for music? Do you take a lot from the people and sounds around you?

Newcastle has some great music venues and a great live music scene. One thing I do take from the people around me is the dedication to their art. We Geordies give our music everything we have got.

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You have supported big names - including Rae Morris. How important have these experiences been? Which artist, do you think, has taught you the most?

Rae Morris was lush. She had so much energy and appreciation for the audience. Every gig is as important as the next one. I try to learn something from every show I play.

Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?

I am really looking forward to performing at Hit the North Festival, in Newcastle, in May.

I’m also performing at Hardwick Live and Bingley Music Live in the summer and I will be hitting the road with my band later this year.

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

Joss StoneThe Soul Sessions Vol. 2

Because it’s just lush - and I love her cover of Teardrops.

Paramore - Paramore

Because it’s so fun and has such a diverse mix of songs and interludes.

Alicia Keys - Unplugged

Because I love how raw and true her voice is. Her early music (such as Fallin' and A Woman’s Worth) will always be some of my favourite songs.  

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

When Nicole Scherzinger told me my voice came from the baby Jesus.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Don’t forget why you are doing it. It’s easy to get caught up in the technicalities of the music industry: try to focus on your creativity and passion. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Anne-Marie

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Anne-Marie! I was lucky enough to meet her when she performed on a Sky One show I fronted the house band on - and she was so lovely. Since then; I have followed her music and really love her sound.

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

I like to go out for food with friends and family or go to the comedy stand in Newcastle. I think it’s really important to find time to switch off.

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).

I recently performed with The Manchester Camerata on a Motown and Northern Soul Show and Heatwave by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas has been stuck in my head ever since...

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Follow Beth Macari

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INTERVIEW: Cocoa Futures

INTERVIEW:

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Amroussi-Gilissen 

Cocoa Futures

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THERE are musicians I always look to feature…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Sara Amroussi-Gilissen

more than once because, every time I include them, there is a new angle or interesting revelation. I have been speaking with Cocoa Futures (Greg) about the hot new single, Sink in the Water, and its backstory. He looks ahead and reveals plans to release more material; why he and his band went on a brief hiatus – he tells me whether there are any dates in the diary.

I ask Greg what music he is influenced by and the new acts we need to keep an eye out for; if he has a favourite memory from his time in music; how he spends his relaxation time – he ends the interview with a rather good song choice!

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Hi, Cocoa Futures. How are you? How has your week been?

Good, thanks. Watched a bit of the Commonwealth Games. That was weird. Had a trip to Brixton. That was nice. Made a Gousto box. That kind of thing…

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

I’m Greg. I make music under the name ‘Cocoa Futures’ with my friends, Dave and Nick. We put out a debut E.P. in late-2016 and we’re following it up this year.

Sink in the Water is your latest track. What is the tale behind that one?

It’s about getting older and thinking about whether you’re growing or not. Not in a physical way: it’s not a song about getting taller...

You hooked up with producer Brendan Williams. What did he bring to the recording, do you think? Was it a good experience working at Manchester’s Low Four Studios?

Brendan and his studio are both great. It’s a pleasure to work with him.

What did he bring? I think you can think too deeply about why good producers are good producers. I think it, basically, comes down to the fact he’s really bloody good at music - and that he shares a vision of where things could go.

He’s also not afraid to bring out the bongos. 

The new track comes after a bit of a hiatus. Do you feel recharged and repurposed as a band?

Things feel pretty good at the moment; it’s nice to be popping songs out and playing shows. Things have also really livened up with a fancy new shirt that I bought.

I believe five other songs will be released this year! Can you reveal which song comes next?

Sorry. I’m not actually sure yet (smiles).

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PHOTO CREDITRou Gilissen

It seems Sink in the Water is a new direction for the band. The songwriting takes from new areas. Were particular artists in mind when writing the song?

I’ve been listening to loads of Prefab Sprout and The Blue Nile. I love how the songs are sung - and that’s definitely an influence.

The mood seems pretty good in the camp. Is this, do you think, the best time for Cocoa Futures?!

I think it’s a good time; I feel quite nice. It’s good to have six songs that I believe in coming out this year.

I’ve also given up vaping, which I think has made my voice better. Life is good.

What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

I’d love to play some more shows outside of London. Also; to be proud of the music that we’ve put out.

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

I’ll be a dictator and pick for everyone: In Rainbows (Radiohead). Cos it’s great.

Can we catch you perform anytime soon? What dates do you have coming up?

Yep. We’re playing our first full band show of the year on Friday, 11th May at Paper Dress Vintage in London.

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

Playing The Great Escape last year was really, really fun. A lovely, attentive crowd - and all done in time for tea.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Don’t think too much...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kylypso

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Kylypso’s last tune was a banger; Coby Sey keeps putting out amazing music; Hejira are incredible; Koalas from Manchester – played with these lot recently. Great!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Koalas/PHOTO CREDIT: Adrian Lambert

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

Yes. I like watching golf. Golf is life.

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).

Stephane SévéracHold on

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Follow Cocoa Futures

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INTERVIEW: Beach Riot

INTERVIEW:

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Beach Riot

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MY quest for superb band-made music…

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takes me to the shores of Beach Riot. I have been talking to Rory (Guitars/Vocals) about their latest pearl, Serial Scruff, and what the heck it is all about. He talks about their formation and how they have developed since their start – I ask whether new material is planned for the coming months.

Rory tell me what it is like having the support of Daniel P. Carter; the artists the band are influenced by; what their gig schedule is looking like; who they would support if they had the chance (and a dream rider to go with it); the albums that mean the most to them – Rory selects some new artists to get our gnashers around!

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

Hey! Pretty damn good, thank you. Nice to finally not feel like we live in the tundra, eh!?

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

I’m Rory (Guitar/Vocals) and we have Cami (Guitar/Vocals), Jim (Bass/Vocals) and Jonny (Drums).

Serial Scruff is your latest track. What is the story behind it?

I (Rory) was watching a documentary on this serial killer in America, and the psychology behind him, and it just got me thinking about what goes through someone’s mind. For some reason, lyrics just started pouring out of me - which they usually don’t...

Obviously; I could never actually know someone’s thoughts, so it’s all very hypothetical and, basically, more of a story. But, it suited the feeling of the song I’d just written: kinda bleak and anthemic.

The video, shot in the woods in black-and-white, looks like it was cool to shoot. Who came up with the concept? What was it like filming it?!

It was definitely cool: it was February and feckin’ freezing! But, super-fun to do. It was all the amazing mind and vision of Jim, our bassist. It’s kinda open to interpretation: we didn’t want to go too much into a literal story, but it’s got some nice cult-like Blair Witch-kinda-vibes going on.

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Daniel P. Carter has played the song! What is it like having kudos from a D.J. like that?!

Unbelievably mind-blowing, to be honest! I considered packing up and retiring to some distant island after that (laughs).

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How do you think you have developed since She’s a Hurricane. You sound more confident in your new song. Would that be a fair assessment?

That’s nice to hear! I think that first single was perfect for us because it really laid the foundation for what we are: a super-sweaty, energetic live band (hopefully, with a catchy chorus or two thrown in). This latest single is a bit more of a song if that makes sense.

But, it still has our fuzz-fest trademark all over it - although, our next single is gonna have a slightly different feeling to it…so, stay tuned (smiles).

Might we see a Beach Riot E.P. coming soon?

You, 100%, definitely might…

You have had a busy past few months! What are the things you have learnt about music and the band during that time?

We’ve learnt that it’s really important to be nice to people, to support your fellow bands and friends and, most importantly, to (just) do what you do best and have loads of fun doing it. Don’t look elsewhere and try to predict/copy everyone else. Be the people down the front singing along to your fellow bands; not at the back with your arms folded.

WE’RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER!

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How did Beach Riot form? When did you all find one another?

So, I was playing bass in another band, but I had just had written a few absolute fuzz-monsters that I had to exorcise from my body...so, I went to the perfect duo of Jimmy and Jonny to get some demos done. They sounded so good and I had so much fun - that I just knew I needed to do something proper with them. A mutual friend sent me the way of Cami and, luckily, she felt the same about the songs...

We never really practised, to be honest: we just learnt the songs and got gigging. This band is built on just having fun and not labouring too much on all the details. So, I took the plunge and left my last band - and I haven’t looked back.

Who are the musicians you count as heroes and idols?

Jim, my bassist, is, basically, my main music idol. I love everything that boy does. He’s the most talented, humble and incredible musician I know. I wish I could write songs like he does. After that, I can’t ignore the obvious Kurt Cobain inspiration. He taught me that you don’t need to have complicated chords or songs, or clever lyrics: it’s about the hooks and the feeling and the passion.

Mr. Josh Homme has also got a big part to play in the sound, as have an old English band called Cable. Finally, all the killer female-influenced bands I’ve grown up loving: The Breeders, Sleater Kinney; The Passions, Courtney Love…to name a few.

I know the rest of the band would say similar names. One massive one for Cami and Jim is the legend that is PJ Harvey.

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Do you guys have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?

We have a tonne of shows booked! We’re headlining The Lock Tavern in London on 28th April and, before that, we’re headlining The Prince Albert in Brighton on the 19th. May is gonna have us play at (at) least two Alternative Escape shows on Friday 18th - with a warm-up show the night before at The Social. There’s a few more dotted about, too.

Basically, we gig non-stop (smiles).

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If you had to select a dream artist to support, and a perfect rider, what would that include?

Hands down, Demob Happy.

We all love that band and they’ve recently come to a few of our shows and moshed - which is, basically, a dream come true. Awesome guys as well. Our rider would probably be red wine and four rounds of Sobs’ mozzarella sticks (Sobs is this dive of a late night takeaway in Brighton. It’s glorious).

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

I’m not with the others, so I’m gonna have to selfishly answer this one alone. I wish I could say something cool and interesting, but, I think if I had to pick one, it has to be Nevermind. It’s no exaggeration to say that, hearing that when I was twelve/thirteen, literally, changed my life.

What do you all hope to achieve in 2018?

I think we’d love to get out and tour proper and if we can get some festivals in, too. We’d be pretty chuffed with that.

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

Again, just me (Rory). Sorry. I think my favourite memory is actually a very recent one. We played a show for Bitch Craft in Brighton that was packed out and rammed at, like, 1 A.M. or something and people were moshing, crowd-surfing and singing along. Going from writing these songs in my room and imagining people doing that to actually having it happen in front of you...I mean; that’s what it’s all about right!? Dream...

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Do what you love, not what you think other people will love. Get involved in your local scene, support your local amazing promoters and bands. Be part of something not on the edge of something. Know when to stick up for your band...

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Not sure how new they count now, because they are KILLING IT, but our pals, Calva Louise, are cosmic.

Also: Two Tribes, Cutting Ties; Skinny Milk and many, many more…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Two Tribes/PHOTO CREDITNatasha Rukavishnikova

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

Wine, Sobs; nice British ale, stories about how amazing the wine and food is in Argentina; cats, barge holidays; coffee, Japanese food – and, probably, more wine.

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).

Freeze the Atlantic by Cable

Anything by Ty Segal for Jonny

Anything old from PJ Harvey for Cami and Jim

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Follow Beach Riot

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INTERVIEW: Bleona

INTERVIEW:

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Bleona

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THERE is something alluring and utterly…

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entrancing about Bleona. Maybe it is the accent and the way she sings; perhaps it is the passion and seductiveness she puts into the music – there is a feast for the soul, eyes and heart! I have been speaking with the Albanian-born, California-based artist about her new song, Wicked Love, and what follows that (Bleona’s just number one in the Billboard Breakout Dance Songs Chart).

She talks about moving from Albania to the U.S. - and shares a favourite musical memory. Bleona reveals her favourite music and what gigs are coming up; what it was like recording and creating Wicked Love; if we will see her in the U.K. this year; what it was like working with Timbaland – the Albanian songwriter tells me what it is like being revered as a musical icon.

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

Hi, darling. As I am writing these answers for this interview, I am sitting in the lounge of the Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA. I just finished my vocals from my new record called I Don’t Need Your Love, while now, I am getting ready to give this interview for Wicked Love - which is already out, as you know.

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

My name is Bleona…

I have been singing and performing since I was five. I have released eight albums back home and I am working on my first album in English (Executive Producers: Timbaland, Federico Vindver and Rob Knox etc.)

My music is Dance-Pop and is fun - but, it also has a very strong message about female empowerment! Back home, I have always been known as a rebellious entertainer and my music now, in English, is not any different.

Wicked Love is out. What can you reveal about its creation?

It is a song about real love, but that which is twisted. I got in the studio with the amazing Rob Knox and we came up with a record of real feelings; about how people are not perfect, because the human race is not perfect but, in the end, you still LOVE THEM and you still would do everything for them...

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It has heat-sauciness and tropical bliss! Did you write it with summer and festivals in mind?!

No. It just what came out for our hearts in the studio but, given the fact that in Los Angeles it is always summer, it would be super-hard to come up with a ‘winter-colour’ type of record (smiles).

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

Absolutely. As I said earlier; I just finished the second record today. It is really beautiful. My plan is to finish my first English E.P. and release teaching songs and videos every two months – so, I will be a little ‘busy’ this year (smiles).

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You were born in Albania but found your way to L.A. What compelled the reason to come to Los Angeles?! What is the city like for music and inspiration?

If you want to rock the world, there is only one place you need to start from: Los Angeles, California. I just happened to want exactly that. It is the only way to start. If you make it in the U.S., you have made it pretty much everywhere! I love this country and I am privileged to live in the U.S.!

A lot of Americans don't understand how lucky they are to be born in the U.S. Coming from a different world, I understand that nothing is impossible in America. 

Did you always want to be an Albanian icon?

I fell in love with the music at a very early age. All I knew is that I wanted to do music and I wanted to be on stage. The fame, the money and the icon status came later. It wasn’t planned…I just did what I loved and I loved doing it.

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Music, I know, came into your life very early. Was there a particular artist that motivated you to start songwriting?

I was raised listening to Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey - which happened to be the three greatest voices of this world!

So, I was very clear, since I was a little girl, that ‘this profession I have chosen’; it wasn’t going to take ‘just talent’, but hard work and dedication; some self-sacrifice and self-discipline - and, I think they are, absolutely, some of the people that inspired me on writing my own records.

What was it like hooking with Timbaland? What did he bring to singles, Show Off and Pass Out?

Timbaland was a challenge...but I love to challenges; I LIVE for challenges…

I love to challenge myself! EVERY DAY! It’s funny you are mentioning his name right now because, as we speak, he is working in Studio D and I am working out of the Studio E at Westlake Studios. We just greeted each other when I first got in the building and, as I was entering, Tim was like: “Here comes ‘Miss Dedication!”.

It is heart-warming, after all these years, to hear that one of the world’s best music producers; the first thing that comes on his mind when they see you is the word ‘DEDICATION’. I am happy about this fact as I want to be respected as an artist - especially from other professionals like Timbaland.

So, today overall, I am having a great day...

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

I hope for my music to be played everywhere - and I hope for people to have the time of their lives while they are listening to it. That’s all.

Which albums are most important to you – in terms of their power and impact?

Adele, Sam Smith and Bruno Mars, I would say, translate to POWER!

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Can we catch you perform anytime soon? What dates do you have coming up?

My next concert will be in N.Y.C. at the end of April.

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Will you come to the U.K. and play this year?

I would love to do that. I am looking forward to people inviting me to sing in the U.K.

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

It would take long nights to talk about memories in music for me. I remember, when I did my first tour ever, I passed through the main square of the town on my way to my concert. I saw so many people gathered together, like 20-30,000 people, and I asked my team that was with me in the car: “What else is going on tonight other than my concert? Where are these people going?”...

They started laughing and they said: “They are here for your concert, indeed!” I was like: “Whaaaaaaaa?! They all came to see meeee?!

It was a very strange feeling that I will never forget…

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What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Good is the enemy of great!

Do you get much time to chill away from music?

No, because I would die and I would be like a vegetable...

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How do you unwind?!

What’s that?! I like going with 100 miles/hr. Slowing down has never been my thing…

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).

Breathe - Jax Jones (ft. Ina Wroldsen)

I would love to have a record with him on it. I think he is fantastic.

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Follow Bleona

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INTERVIEW: Calan Mai

INTERVIEW:

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 Calan Mai

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JORDAN Lawrence is the man behind 'Calan Mai'…

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and has been talking to me about his brilliant new single, We’ve Got Love. I ask what the story behind the song is and how he manages to balance the fun and dark. Lawrence reveals his musical past and what comes next for him; which musicians are key to his sound and development – he tells me about plans to move to L.A. and lay down roots there.

I ask whether we can see a Calan Mai concert in the U.K. and, if pushed, which three albums mean the most to him; whether there are any new artists worth seeking out; how he spends time away from music – Lawrence ends the interview by picking a classic cut.

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

Hey, there! I’m doing well because it’s Thursday - and Thursday is the next best thing to Friday. My week has been stressful, as I’m currently packing up all my stuff and moving house. Looking forward to putting my feet up and watching some Netflix. Still trying to get through The Series of Unfortunate Events, which is dragging a little, if I’m being honest.

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

My name is Jordan Lawrence and I perform under the name 'Calan Mai' - which means ‘the first day of summer’ in Welsh. I write, record and perform Indie-Folk music, with a strong focus on lyrics and storytelling.

What can you reveal about your single, We’ve Got Love? What is the story behind it?

We’ve Got Love is about unconditional love and the pain associated with it. The song is the story of my family - a snapshot of our lives. Since I was a child, I’ve always been anxious for the well-being of my father, mother and brother and this song sums up the worry, sadness and joy of loving and being loved by damaged people.

I like the video and its animations/art. Did you have a lot of say regarding the concept?

I did. The director, Callum Scott-Dyson, has created videos for me before and he is great at creating treatments based on the vision of the artist. I wanted the clip to visually depict the lyrics because the song is, essentially, a story. To watch that story play out in animation is a lot of fun and, hopefully, forces the listener to hear what I’m actually saying!

The song has a light and fun sound – its lyrics are heavier and deeper. Was it hard mixing a breezy and sunny composition with the emotion of the words?

That will always be the hardest aspect of production. Finding the right way to present such a heavy song was difficult. On one hand, you have lines about my brother claiming he’ll die alone and my father escaping into the ecstasy of addiction.

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On the other hand, you have a positive message about the importance of loving unconditionally. All of that needs to be presented in an honest way that draws the listener into the story. That’s what we tried to do.

Is there more material coming down the track?

Absolutely. Too much material! I need to get decisive and figure out what’s next in the pipeline…

You hail from Australia’s Gold Coast. What is the music scene like there? Was it easy finding likeminded people and chances to perform?

The Gold Coast has a very small music scene but, ultimately, it is a city most people move away from for greener pastures. This is a real shame because plenty of talented people grow up here. I do believe, as the city grows, there will be more chances for people to perform...

In terms of finding likeminded people - I was extremely lucky to find people early on who fostered my growth as an artist and helped me take this whole music thing seriously. They’re in a band called FAIRCHILD. Give them a listen!

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PHOTO CREDIT: Eddie Jag

Which musicians struck your heart at a young age? Who do you count as influences?

The very first music to really strike my heart was Blink-182. I was eleven-years-old and they seemed to know what was going on. I think I’ve carried a lot of their influence with me, as strange as it sounds. Major Key melodies, simple refrains; catchy hooks - that’s a huge part of what I’m aiming for when I write a song.

But, it was artists like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon who really shaped me as a lyricist. I always want to tell a story the way they did.

Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?

No gigs lined up as of yet. My main focus is to save my money and move to Los Angeles so I can really start playing in America!

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Might you come to the U.K. and play here? Do you like British music?

I lived in Manchester for two years and played over there a lot! I love British music and I was absolutely blown away at how much talent was hiding in a single city. I still miss the U.K. and am very eager to go back again. Fingers crossed it’s sooner rather than later.

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

1) August and Everything After - Counting Crows

I discovered this album, accidentally, at the age of fifteen and Adam Duritz blew my mind. From the opening of Round Here, where he orders the listener to “Step out the front door like a ghost, into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white”; I knew I was hearing something special. These tracks got me through my last years of high-school - and really informed the sort of lyricist I became.

2) I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning - Bright Eyes

This album is the pinnacle of what I’m trying to do whenever I write a song - that is, let a listener into my world and create a time capsule of a certain time and place in my life. I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning gives you full insight into the mind of Conor Oberst at the time he recorded it: from the minutia of details about yellow birds to the state of the world to post-9/11 - it is an incredible listen and only grows more relevant to me the older I get.

3) For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver

Yeah: I know how typical this choice is. There’s not much left to be said about this album that hasn’t already been said. But, go listen to Justin Vernon’s recordings in the lead up to this masterpiece and try to figure out where the hell these songs even came from. The change in his songwriting and performance style is so immense, you have to wonder if it’s even the same man. That always gives me hope about myself as an artist. You never know how much you’re going to change. Heartbreak, misjudgements, loss - all of these things will continually shape you.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Eddie Jag

What do you hope to achieve in 2018?

I hope to move to the United States.

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

Opening for Band of Horses at the Manchester Royal Albert Hall. Unreal.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Surround yourself with people who do what they say they are going to do. Beware of those who only talk…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Dan Bettridge

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Check out Dan Bettridge. He’s an amazing singer-songwriter from Wales - and he’s currently releasing his debut L.P. in waves on Spotify. He and I have been friends since we met in New York for CMJ in 2015. Since then, we’ve both supported Band of Horses on the same tour, played SXSW 2018 and explored the streets of L.A. in wide-eyed wonder! All of this was by chance. Fortune has forced us into friendship. Life’s weird.

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

I’m a pretty major film buff and, in a lot of ways, I’m a bigger fan of movies than I am of music. At least as a consumer. I get to just enjoy movies. Music forces me to look at my own output and compare myself to other artists. So; I’d say watching movies, exercising and walking long distances for coffee are my ways to unwind.

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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 Lift Me Up by Jeff Lynne! Impossible to listen to that song without a smile on your face. Thanks for having me.

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Follow Calan Mai

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INTERVIEW: Moonheart

INTERVIEW:

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Moonheart

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IT is to Brooklyn…

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and a chat with the remarkable force that is Moonheart. I have been finding out about their new song, Bridestep, and whether they can shed any light regarding its birth. The guys – Kim takes up most of the answers – tell me how they got together and what their upcoming album, Feel It Out, will contain – what it was like recording it.

I ask how important Brooklyn is and what sounds they were raised on; if they have words of advice for artists coming through; if a trip to the U.K. is part of their plans – Kim and Michael tell me what they hope to achieve before the end of this year.

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

Kim: Hey! Doing pretty well. Thanks for asking (smiles). Aside from still having to do my taxes and being scared to do them (they’re gonna be a mess), I can’t complain. Michael already did his…overachiever.

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

I write songs and Michael produces them. It’s hard to describe how it sounds in words, but other people have done a really nice job of it. One of my friends calls it 'Future-Folk' and I like that. My family calls it ‘nice’.

Michael: Yea. I’d like to think that we’re somewhere in between ‘Future-Folk’ and ‘nice’. Kim writes beautiful songs with heart-wrenching lyrics and I try to dance around them with some electronic bleeps and bloops.

Bridestep is your new single. Can you explain its background and story?

Kim: Writing Bridestep helped me to sort out some lingering feelings that were eating at me about a relationship I’d ended in the past, without expressing myself in a way that I feel honoured how important that relationship was and is to me. I was meditating a lot on closure or the lack of it, on boundaries and what’s allowed to be said after the fact - and this song is an outgrowth of those thoughts.

Feel It Out, coming in spring, sounds exciting! What themes and ideas have gone into the record?

I’m always thinking about my ancestors, trying to connect and open up a pathway to them; feeling them work through my own work and movement; so, there’s always that thread somewhere in my lyrics. There’s also a good amount of grief in this album - the grief of physical and/or emotional loss, of dealing with some mental illness stuff (or not dealing with it). Opposites interacting with one another - openings and closings, expansion and contraction; high and lows and trying to find the balance among them - also plays a large part.

I think Michael, especially, did so much to portray that in his production. There’s a lot of organic sounds weaved into the digital sounds. I promise it’s not as depressing as this description makes it sound though. Ha.

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How was it recording the album? Do you both like being in the studio?

Michael: We actually recorded it in the apartment that we share here in Brooklyn, piece by piece over the course of about eight months or so. Some parts were much easier - getting to do them on our own time - than they would have been in a studio.

Kim: Especially vocal takes. I’m the queen of “just one more” take and then wanting to do at least ninety-three more...

Michael: Yea. I’m glad we didn’t have to pay for that…

Kim: But, for real though; it’s a little dream come true every time a song starts coming together and Michael and I have a little E.S.P going on in that regard. He tends to just know what I’m looking for without my having to explain much and it feels like magic every time.

It’s really fulfilling to shape something and see it through from beginning to end - and such a different muscle from writing. I love it

Michael and Kim. How did you meet one another? What brought you together?

We met in Boston, where we went to the same music conservatory. We didn’t really start making music or hanging out much until I moved to Brooklyn a couple years after he did, in 2014.

Michael: We bonded over trying to be better songwriters. We would do writing exercises where we’d send each other songs every day and ended up getting into each other’s music - and that’s what made us want to work together.

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I believe Brooklyn played a role in your careers. What is/was it about the area that led to songwriting?

Kim: It’s hard to pinpoint all the ways living here has changed me and helped me grow as a writer and person. But I’d say, for sure, one of the biggest factors in all of that is all of the sweet friends and artists around me who I get to watch do their thing beautifully often. The community here is constantly inspiring…

Michael: Yea. The community of musicians here is like nowhere I’ve ever been. I’m constantly humbled and inspired to do and be better by those around me, and that’s a great thing.

Kim: If you’re lucky you can find your people and what keeps you inspired anywhere, or at least on the internet. But, I’m glad we’ve found it here. I feel lucky to live here.

In terms of music; what sort of sounds did you both grow up around?

My dad was always playing all kinds of good stuff. A lot of Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu; Earth, Wind & Fire, The O’Jays and Prince. My mom loved Michael Jackson and the Whitney Houston. My granddad has a gorgeous voice and plays guitar and piano. My Nonnie sings too. Every family gathering with them is anchored by group singing and it was really special to grow up that way. They love standards, old spirituals and some Folk tunes, which got me into all of those things.

Michael: I grew up listening to a lot of Jazz. My parents weren’t that much into music, but my saxophone teacher introduced me to a lot of Jazz and Classical music. I was really into Stravinsky, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. Later, my sister got me really into Elliott Smith, Deerhoof and Björk.

Will you be touring any time soon - and does that include an eventual trip to the U.K.?

Kim: Fingers crossed!

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What do you hope to achieve in 2018 with your music?

On the topic of touring; I’d really like to tour our record in an extensive way outside of the city. I’m finding that playing shows is a whole other part of the body that writing and recording live in - and I want to tend to and feed that part much more; especially because I’m in love with playing in our current configuration - Michael and I, plus our friends Connor Baker on drums and Parker McAllister on bass. It’s new (we’ve only played two shows with this setup), but it feels really good and they make it so easy to sing.

I also hope that the music makes people feel soothed or lighter, or more comforted or recognized after listening to it, live or recorded. If it makes someone feel that way, I feel like I’m doing my job as a writer and a person.

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

Honestly; it’s been putting this album together. It’s a little dream come true every time a piece of the puzzle of a song is put in place

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Michael: Try not to compare yourself too much to those you think are doing better than you. Your path is always gonna be uniquely your own. Sorry for that Malcolm Gladwell corniness.

Kim: Be honest in your writing and be nice to yourself when it’s not coming easy.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Hite (Julia Easterlin) made a gorgeous record last year called Light of a Strange Day. She’s also a friend of mine. Her singing is so inspiring to me. She has so much control over her instrument and (especially) uses dynamics in such a moving way – and, whenever I hear her live, it makes me cry.

I love L’Rain’s self-titled album and can’t stop playing it. I’ve also been really into Kalbells lately - this great band from here that’s led by Kalmia from Rubblebucket. She’s great.

Michael: I’m really into Violents right now. I love Monica Martin’s voice and I really like the production...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Violents

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

I try to meditate, but I’m not good at; so, I usually go on runs or watch YouTube tutorials about other things I’m not good at.

Kim: I like to be in nature when it’s not cold and to read as much as I can. I also like watching trash T.V. when I have nothing going on; specifically, this beautiful mess called Vanderpump Rules, which I feel much less shame about now I know Rihanna watches it

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).

Kim: Oo. This is hard...I’ll show you my favorite Hite song (Light) since I told you about her.

Michael: Solo by Frank Ocean

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