IMAGE CREDIT: @etags_desig
Sun King is available at:
Indie; Pop; Punk
27th February, 2017
Performed by Maggie Devlin, Alberto Alba; Mike McGrath, Tyler Ryan; Rhiannon Shepherd and Brad Wheeler
Produced by Brad Wheeler, Robert Kelly and Maggie Devlin
Engineered by Brad Wheeler at Union Studios, Seoul
Mastered by Richard Bradley at Long Range Mastering, St John’s, Newfoundland
Mixed by Robert Kelly at Union Studios, Seoul
Cover photo by Rah Petherbridge Photography
Design by Adam Brennan
The album, Party Fears, is available at:
THERE are a lot of things to cover in the review…
but, to start, a couple of points that need addressing. I will speak about artists that move location; Berlin and why it is becoming popular; Pop bands and different sounds there; feminism and using music as a useful platform – a bit about variety and mixture of bands (in terms of nationality and tastes). I want to start with social media and organisation as, again, it is something I am forced to bring up. Party Fears are a great band but, looking at my diary for the next few weeks; there is a notable and evident problem that I see: artists not really covering social media and organising their links into one. It is something I often bring up but, for artists, I think is quite useful. One of the most important things I must stress for artists is how disrupting and inconvenient it can be having to scrabble around for social media links. I know Party Fears have lots of sites but, if you are going to discover them all, one must not have to hunt for them. I have had to go to their Facebook and then do a Google search for the remaining sites. They do not have, as far as I can see, an official website, so it is incumbent on them to put all the relevant links on Facebook – or SoundCloud, if that is easier. In any case; they need to make it easier for people like me to see where they are and where I can discover their music. If one has to work hard to put the piece together: that means a certain annoyance will come in and it means I go elsewhere. I have a lot of positives to cover but, in an age where competition is fierce, it is things like this that can see an artist slip behind the pack.
The artists that impress me most are those who have a rich and well-stocked social media portfolio. They might have an official website but, in any case, ensure there are loads of good photos and information on Facebook. For Party Fears; the music is terrific but there is little known about the guys. Unless you track down management/P.R. companies – how it one likely to get the necessary background about them?! I know they all emanate from various areas but, when it comes to their histories and favourite sounds – there is nothing to suggest what they would be and anything to do with that. Photos are numerous but, in terms of quality and variation, it is quite tricky. The photos I have used are the best I could find but it would be beneficial for the band to get some professional shots done and get a lot of current, good images shot – the ones they have, the good ones, are older, in any case. That would give people like me more to work with in a review and provide a visual representation of them. All those social media links and music-sharing websites need to be central and easy to access. If they balance this with a full biography and links to interviews – this would afford them a fuller cupboard and be much more attractive to reviewers/journalists. It sounds like I am having a go but there are so many promising artists that are failing to require something as elementary and easy as this. The next few reviews I have are pretty light in terms of visuals and information. The thrill of finding an artist that has loads of images and great background information is rare. I wonder whether musicians are relying too heavily on music and forgetting how influential social media is. Speaking with Party Fears’ drummer, Eilis, it seems like there is a lot of excitement in the camp. That is pleasing so, with the group becoming more determined, they will need to get their online sites fuller and more information-led. Their music is fantastic but, to stand ahead of the competition, getting these areas addressed is crucial – as soon as possible, really.
I said there were positives so, after a bit of a telling-off; moving on to them. Looking at Party Fears and where their members hail from – there are so many different nations in the camp. I will come to look at that more, soon, but, given the fact they are based in Berlin, it means they are in a wonderful city for music. That wasn’t always the case and, rather oddly, they were based in Seoul. If one looks at South Korea; you will not find a lot of bands like Party Fears. Maybe there are but, doing a quick search, it seems Pop rules the roost. Girls’ Generation are the biggest Pop force in the country. The nine-piece are a sensation there and command huge audiences at their gigs. Bands like BIGBANG and Wonder Girls have gone down in the country’s history and made a huge impression on the music scene. It seems K-Pop and mixing Western Pop with Eastern imagery/culture seems to be a popular currency. I can understand why a band would move to Seoul but, in terms of opportunities, it really depends on the kind of sounds you are producing. For Party Fears; they have a Pop aesthetic but it is less commercial and twee than a lot of Korean artists. They have an importance and socially-aware palette that needs a more aware and multi-cultural audience. It is pleasing to picture Party Fears in the city, playing to the people. I have never been to Seoul so I am not too sure how varied and deep the music scene is. I get views of Pop and something quite sugary but, in actuality, there are quite a few genres represented there. The biggest move was when they all convened to Berlin and settled in the German capital. That is a radical and unexpected shift. The mindset to go from Asia to Europe is quite dramatic. It is important to keep moving and go where you feel most comfortable because, I feel, too many of us get stuck in a rut and remain somewhere we are unhappy. The band, knowing Berlin is a more stable and opportunistic base, upped sticks and are settled in a wonderful city.
I see a lot of artists who move cities but, largely, this is in the same country. There are a few that move across the seas but few are quite as itinerant and bold. If I were to depart the U.K., I would either go to L.A. or Melbourne. The former has that wonderful music scene and is a perfect slice of the U.S. West Coast. There is so much for a musician/music-lover to discover there and is a very attractive possibility. Melbourne has a full and variegated music scene and, like L.A., boasts warm weather, wonderful sites and a great way of life. I could, down the line, see myself going there and spending a few years in either area. The U.K. is great but it is important to keep moving and experiencing different parts of the world. That is the only way one can become fuller and a more rounded human. Party Fears’ lineup mixes nationalities so they needed to go somewhere that has like-minded internationalism and blend. Berlin seems the perfect place for them to push their music and learn. There is evidence to suggest the band have a bright future so Berlin, with all its venues and fellow bands, is a lot more promising than somewhere like Seoul. I have spoken about the city before and am always struck why people move there. It is not a bad place – one of the best cities on Earth – but I never really considered all its merits and sides before. I guess, in music terms, there is a growing scene and so much diversity. It is appreciable and understandable Party Fears decided to make their home here as the city is bursting, vibrant and safe. Moving and relocating can be unsettling but, when you get it right, it makes a huge difference. I hope Party Fears have found their home and are very settled in Berlin. There is a big community in Berlin and they are in the perfect place to build their music and get it to the people.
There is something about Berlin that is luring a lot of artists in. The last artist I interview – that moved to Berlin – decamped from London and now feels he is in a better place. There is less stress and it is a more affordable way of life. Maybe the music scene is not quite as impressive and varied in Berlin but there is something about the politics and buzz of the city that pulls you in. More democratic and secure; the people a little less harried and pushy – this can make a huge difference to the mindset. If you are in a place you feel secure and relaxed; this has a profound effect on the music and the creative outlook. Party Fears, with their eponymous album, seem to take from their past and present but it feels like an album about where they are now and hope to head. I mean, there is not going to be a geographical shift but, given they are in Berlin; I feel they will exploit the city and make good use of all the venues they have around them. I will not go too much into Berlin – as I have covered the venues and artists in previous reviews – but I feel the way of life and people there are as appealing as the music coming out of the city. The average Berliner, compared to a Londoner, would be, I guess, more polite and a little less physical. London is the best city for music, in my mind, but, because of that, it is more compact and busy than any other. That stressed nature means many people are finding living quite stressful. Many are leaving the city and going somewhere else. The band started when Northern Irish native Maggie Devlin moved from Seoul and, with her, brought Australian Eilis Frawley with her. I know the guys have a mixed and fascinating line-up in the band but it is those ‘central’ duo that inspires me. They have conducted interviews speaking about Berlin and their transition. Seoul, it seems, is still in their blood and a bigger factor on their music than Berlin.
IMAGE CREDIT: @natalisucks
It appears there were some great bands in South Korea they jammed with. The way of life there is vastly different to where they are now. I stated how peaceful, compared to London, Berlin is but, perhaps, there is still a lot of stress and issues in the Germany city. It is a cosmopolitan area so, as such, you will get a lot of rush. I feel, long-term, Berlin will be a better fit because it brings to mind another band. ZAP!/Zap! (depending on how angry you are) is a trio that brings together Australian and Greek roots. Its lead currently stars in the Trivago adverts and the band provides a sound quirky and fascinating. You will have to check them out but they moved from Australia and are based in Berlin. It seems they are more at-home here and bonded to the people. I will have to go to Berlin but there are a lot of aspects that are drawing people like bees to pollen. The fact Germany’s leader, Angela Merkel, seems to represent the people and is a strong figure – compared to our P.M. and the U.S. President – means the nation is in safe hands. Because of that; the economy is safer and Germany is keen to be an integral part of Europe – compared with the British, it seems! There is history and culture in Berlin; a lot of mixed nationalities and some of the best music in the entire world. One cannot underestimate the importance of stability and politics in terms of music. Going somewhere that is stable and ‘of the people’ is a great comfort. I feel that is why so many are leaving areas like London and coming to Berlin. It is a city that offers the same level of excitement and opportunity but there is far less uncertainty and division. Party Fears, they say, feel more connected to Seoul at the moment but that will change as they become more immersed in Berlin.
Party Fears are a Pop/Indie/Alternative band but their sound manages to mix so many different possibilities and cultures. They take a slight fleck of the Rock and Pop bands from Seoul and sprinkle that with the current flavours of Berlin. Having Irish and Australian members in their band; they take from the music scenes of each country and mix that all into the boiling pot. The genre of ‘Pop’ seems a very diverse one and it gets a bad reputation. We associate it with a certain commercialism and mainstream lust. That would be unfair because there is a lot of Pop music that has credibility. Party Fears melt Pop and Rock together and produce something different and credible. The band is not the sort that is going to be looking towards the charts but they want to connect with as many people as possible. Some genres are quite rigid and defined but there is a lot of flexibility with Pop. It is hard to compare Party Fears with anyone in sheer terms of sounds – they are an original group and not keen to be lumped with anyone else. I guess the best way to assess them is the fact they have actually taken some influence from K-Pop and the great bands of Seoul and are integrating that with all the sounds they are discovering in Berlin. If one listens to a station like BBC Radio 6 Music – I know I seem to mention them in every review! – you will find a lot of Indie/Pop bands that are original but bring elements of other artists into their sound. Party Fears have a definite grit and energy to them but their chorus and vocals have an accessibility and sweetness that perfectly balances the harder aspects. It is hard to define and explain but I feel Pop is widening and changing perceptions right now. Modern mainstream artists like Lorde show you can play a mixture of Indie and Pop but not fall victim to the worst traits of the mainstream – the manufactured and plastic sounds that aim for Spotify figures rather than credibility.
Feminism and consciousness are important aspects of Party Fears’ music. The band uses their music to write about important themes and tackle sides of society many do not. They are a feminist band and, the fact Maggie Devlin is their central lead, means you have a strong female voice at the forefront. I know their eponymous debut has been getting a lot of great reviews: many highlighting how deep their music goes but the fact the band is original and striking. They have Punk elements and fuse that with Pop/Indie to create music both rousing and colourful. Few can deny how promising Party Fears are because they manage to step away from the mainstream followers and create their own brand of music. Listening to songs like Sun King and one dives into the lyrics but is stunned by the complexities and simplicities of the music. They have that Pop core but incorporate the grit of Punk and something hard to pin down. There is a chemistry and connection in the rank that adds a little something special to the music. I have mentioned the mix of simple and complex: that is not something to overlook. Many artists, I find, lack the ability to make their music easy to understand and accessible – whilst performing songs that have various layers and nuance. Party Fears are relatable and I can see their music becoming very popular on radio stations around Britain. It is hard to ignore them and not fall for their incredible songs. I have rambled about Pop but that is the magic of it. It is a genre that gets a bad rap in this day but is a lot more interesting than many give it credit for. I listen to Party Fears and know Punk is as important to them. I am not sure which artists they grew up listening to but one imagines there is a blend of the 1970s and present. They have a fondness for big choruses and getting their words into the brain.
I will end this introduction by looking at Party Fears and what makes them unique. It is hard, when collating pictures and information, knowing where the band starts and ends. Devlin and Frawley are the centre of the group but there are other players in the mix. Maybe some of the photos in this piece are outdated – having changed since their Seoul days – but I have to go on what I find online. I know the Australian-Irish alliance is the main drive but, considering the whole sound of Party Fears and we get a variety of players and sounds. In any case, returning to my main point, it is that mix of Irish and Australian that intrigues me. Many bands take their members from different nations but one of the reasons that make Party Fears fascinating and strong is the fact they source from different nations. I know there is a great music scene in Northern Ireland but not as many opportunities as one would hope. I can understand why Devlin would move there and go somewhere a little busier and more spirited. Frawley, emanating from Adelaide, has had to say goodbye to all the surf, wine and women. Well, as the drummer himself said in a recent interview: the city has its share of murderers, churches and wine – one wonders whether they are all linked or need to separate themselves from one another! I have always wanted to go to Australia but know, again, it depends on where you go in order to gain success. There are few cities as promising as Melbourne and Sydney. Adelaide has some great music and Brisbane is a definite hot-spot. I guess, when you are looking ahead, you need to think about security and success. If the guys remained where they were – or stayed in Seoul – would they be able to progress their music?! It is debatable but it is what they have taken from their nations/past that makes them the force they are now. Not only do they take from their home-nations and backgrounds but have taken ingredients from Seoul. Stir this into the brew that is Berlin and you have a band that differs from everything else out there.
The initial seconds of Sun King see twee notes mingle with spectacle and spirit. There is a blend of 1980s and 1990s Pop-Rock – some Art-Pop and Indie of today thrown in. Devlin’s unique voice comes in and provides plenty of character and body to the song. It seems the song’s subject needs to tell their story and come among the people. Whoever this person is; the heroine lets her breathy and sweet voice implore and supplicate. Maybe it is a political figure – or subject known to the band – but, right away, you see visions of this person come to mind. The figure looks taller “from the undergrowth” and it doesn’t matter what they are doing now. The words intrigue and spring from the microphone. In Devin; they have a singer that puts so much personality, character and quirk into the vocal. You get her natural accent but, considering the song/album would have been conceived whilst in Seoul – how much of the city’s music go into Sun King. There is a charm and spirit one might find in K-Pop – without it being bubblegum and too mainstream. The music of Party Fears brings together so much distinction and eclecticism so it is hard to label it alongside anyone else. Their feminist aesthetic makes me think, perhaps, there is a mixture of cynicism and gender-switch in the song. Maybe the ‘king’ figure is a man and not as wise as he should be; perhaps a female and someone who has a lot of rare insight to offer. Perhaps I am jumping to conclusions but I cannot help applying some interpretation to their feminism. The central figure has a lot to offer – it seems the band/hero/heroine knows very little – so there is that need to drink in this wisdom and instruction. Whilst I pick the words apart; there is twanging and luscious bass that sits with colourful and expressive electronics. That pairing of Art-Rock – the type Talking Heads purveyed in the 1980s – and 1990s’ finest Pop-Rock makes it a heady brew.
The more one gets into the song; the more interesting and deep things get. From the opening skip and rush comes a composed and delicate segment that, I think, sees Devlin talks about the hero having nothing to say – some of the decipherability gets lost given the sweetness and preciseness of the performance. It is a beguiling and unexpected parable that takes the energy down and takes the song into a new phase. It is a twist that one does not see coming and takes you by surprise. Devlin’s voice is at its purest and conveys immense passion and entrance. I wonder what the new segment represents and whether it is a darker turn in the story. The opening looked at taking lessons and learning but, now, there is a feeling of emptiness and disillusionment – maybe they are not as sage and learned as one hoped. The drums kick up and a there is a funkiness to the song, now. The head is empty and the eyes are wide: it seems the hero is not as regal and reliable as he presents himself. Against this attack; we get squelchy electronic and keys with random notes and angles. It is a fascinating and full composition that puts so much together. Devlin’s songwriting chops are assured but, here, they seem to hit their peak. I listen to the song and feel it is addressing political figures, men, who are leading people to dark places. Maybe it is a look at prominent men and how much power they wield. Just because they are in positions of authority; does this mean they have all the answers? They are “too far blind” and gone to realise they are dead/lost. Ominous backing vocals accompany funeral organs and the song, mixing in precise and pulsing beats, gives the track such allure and variation. Aching and strummed electronic guitar with a single vocal – “You say nothing” – keeps the song fertile, agile and unexpected. Sun King goes through so many different phases it is hard to nail it into place. That is good because it provides a physicality and evolution that few bands provide. The song’s subject is being taken down and questioned. Everyone will have their own perspective but I think there is a judgement levied at high-powered men and the way they operate. Maybe more personal aspects are being presented but that is the joy of the song – and how it will strike people in different ways. By the end, the band keeps the sonic mobility strong and fascinates the senses. Sun King is a fantastic song brilliant and compelling song that shows how strong and promising Party Fears is.
PHOTO CREDIT: @natalisucks
I will end this now but, before closing things, want to look ahead and see where Party Fears are heading. Their name suggests anxiety in the face of social integration – the outsiders that stand against the wall and prefer to clock off early. They are not the kind of people you’d find assimilating into the mainstream and compromising their ideals. Maybe I am over-reading things but they seem like a group that is determined to make a big difference and doing what everyone else is doing is not the way to do things. The band are in Britain at the moment so seems like the perfect day to review them. Recently, they have played Belfast and, I think, rocked Scotland yesterday. Tomorrow, they play alongside The Last Days of Elvis in Leeds’ Wharf Chambers and will see them play the third country in a week. It must be exhausting for the band but shows they have a lot of love and backing behind them. Few groups manage to command that kind of attention and popularity so soon. After Leeds; they play LOUD WOMEN Fest 2017 on 3rd September. Devlin was excited returning to Belfast and, it seems, that importance was not lost – connecting with her home crowd and proving what she has taken from the country. The band plays Scotland tonight, it seems, so, when they have a chance to breathe – they’ll be preparing their set for LOUD WOMEN Fest 2017. Given the fact Party Fears project a strong feminist message: playing an event like that is really crucial for them. There are not as many feminist/women’s festivals as there should be – more are coming through – so there are not many opportunities like this for the band. I know they are buzzing about the chance and are playing alongside various acts on the bill. You will have to go to Party Fears’ Facebook page – link at the bottom of the review – to catch up on all their exploits and gigs.
I started by roundly admonishing them for not having their social media in order. To be fair to them, they keep people updated on their gigs and developments but they should have an official website together. That would allow them to pop all their links/social media bits together and a portal for all their videos and songs. Maybe there is one out there but it is has been difficult collating all the necessary information. I would not usually expend this much energy debating this point but it is down to the fact Party Fears have that promise and strength I mention it. They are playing around the world and have a huge British following. People here will want to know more about them and where they are heading. Social media is the most effective way of doing this so, let’s hope, the guys do a bit of housekeeping and get some more current photos done – a good shoot that means journalists like me have some good images to pop in a review. The band has a lot of photos on their Facebook but I wonder how many are current and relevant – hence the reason the thumbnail is their cover photo (and does not provide the faces of the band members). Their line-up has changed – and they have worked with various personnel – so I am not sure exactly who plays with them in the studio and on the road. In any case; I am seeing their music develop and get stronger with each release. When Party Fears head back to Berlin in a few days; they will take a lot back in their luggage. The experiences from the road will impact their future music and they would have taken inspiration from the people they have met the last few day – and what they have in-store for the coming day. I didn’t have the chance to review the entire album – not able to expend adequate time and energy to feature all songs – so chose Sun King as a representative of the L.P.’s themes and strengths.
It is a stunning song and centrepiece of the record. I recommend people seek Party Fears out in full and discover what all the chatter is about. I have seen few bands as compelling and varied as them. Not only do they have that international membership but have lived quite a life. They are in the U.K. now but head back to Berlin. They have come from Seoul and met a lot of great acts when they were there. Who knows how inspiring and important that time was but it seems to have fed into their ethos and music. Berlin is their new home and it seems like, when they get to grips with the city, it will drive them and lead to some more wonderful music. The eponymous album is a good coming-together of where they have come from and where they are now. There is a great spirit in the band and they are enjoying getting their music out to the people. That thrill of being on the road is not lost and they seem to be enjoying travelling to new places – even if the accommodation does vary in terms of quality (the life of a band, eh?!). A few important gigs approaching so; if you can see the band play, get yourself down and witness something special. I will end this now but feel Party Fears are one of those acts that can be a mainstream force in time. They are making themselves visible and ensuring their music is different from anything else around. Party Fears is a tremendous album and, together with feminist messages and incredible songwriting, mixes Punk, Indie and Pop into a heady brew. Such is the force and nuance of the album; you find yourself revisiting it and discovering little nooks that were not there before. This quality and standard of songwriting is what will see them progress to the mainstream and add their own unique D.N.A. in. I feel there are few Pop bands that manage to convey anything meaningful and interesting. Party Fears are a necessary and inspiring band that we need to hear more from. Best of luck to them and I hope they have a lot of fun on the road. If you can get out and see Party Fears; you will witness an incredible and memorable show from…
ONE of our finest new bands.
Follow Party Fears