In 2010, it’s rare that you’ll find an artist that’s four albums in and still described as emerging. But Zola Jesus, born Nika Roza Danilova, isn’t like other artists. In fact, she’s unlike pretty much anything else on the planet at the minute. Walking in on her performance, the first thing you hear is her voice – powerful, controlled and pitch-perfect, the simplest of instrumentation needed for backing, sounding simultaneously hopeful and apocalyptic.
Most remarkable is how breezily she seems able to belt out track after track as she paces from side to side on the stage. Make no mistake, Nika is miniscule, a shot of blonde hair poking out of her all-black outfit, but the anguish and authority in her voice seems to be second nature. In a generation of bands that haven’t really needed to be voc ally cogent, she’s a quirk, a one-off. In a year where the weak-at-best Florence Welch is considered exceptionally gifted, it’s startling to be crammed in small room with such a prodigious talent.
The tracks themselves come largely from the recently released Stridulum II, but the problems of having a sound largely based around gloomy synth and an into-the-void caterwaul mean that much of the setlist is largely indistinguishable. A voice with the depth of Danilova’s deserves a lot more subtle orchestration than two men fiddling knobs behind her, and with time that expansion should certainly occur. Still, it’s a performance that’s nothing short of breathtaking, and the clapping from the audience lasts long after the stage is vacated.
For one night only, thanks to a freak of tour scheduling, Zola Jesus isn’t even top of her own bill, either. In perhaps the best two-for-one offer Manchester will ever see, Canada’s Women take to the stage after a 40 minute interval. The change of style and pace is somewhat jarring, but it’s difficult not to fall for the quartets jaunty lo-fi jams.
Angular, heavily distorted and, at times, purposefully without tune, it’s a noise that harks back to the pre-chillwave days of 2008, where recording your album with a load of fuzz on top was pretty much the most radical thing anyone could imagine. Whilst the hype around many of their contemporaries might’ve died down, Women have always been a cut above most of their supposed peers. Their shoegazey, drone influenced racket is aided, at points by a tent peg, a Nintendo DS and a man on a keyboard playing a single note, and it’s this kind of bizarre improvised brilliance that makes them such an engaging prospect.
‘Eyesore’, the standout tracks from their new album ‘Public Strain’, is a highlight gloriously off-kilter for all of its 6 minutes. Elsewhere, they’re still bustling with ideas, and old favourites mix with newer efforts without much fuss. They’re angular, switched on and a reminder that there is a world beyond the bedroom acts that have come to dominate of late. The room, cramped and packed, heats up almost unbearably throughout the set, and by the time Women finish, there’s the stale smell of t-shirts and sweat to accompany the lingering applause. We’re in 2010, a bit of a crossroads for music. One this is for certain though – Manchester won’t see a gig like this again for a long, long time.
Investing hours of effort and energy in an effort to make beautiful, powerful music must never have felt more wasted than it does today. Days could be spent searching for that perfect ebb and flow with expensive and painstaking work done in the studio, all for your work to be less popular than a Justin Bieber song slowed down 800%. But with Her name is Calla’s work, the wrench behind the sounds is almost tangible, as the group craft atmospheric, post-rock tinged odes that tug on the heart strings, with their myspace fittingly stating ‘we don’t take shortcuts’.
They’ve spent the past 6 years recording tracks and releasing them by a plethora of different means – with limited cassette, CD-R, clear vinyl and wooden-boxed CDs making up parts of their back catalogue. This year has seen the release of their first official full-length record, an 80 minute sprawling epic entitled The Quiet Lamb. Layered and complex, it’s an engaging work that serves to illustrate the skill and nous of a the band.
Ahead of their show at Manchester’s Night n Day café on August 30th, Sophie from the band got in touch for a chat about iPhones, genres and the mysterious hipster occult band Vgynazz.
Hiya, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Sophie, and I play violin and sing in Her Name is Calla. The other members are Tom Morris (lead vocals, piano and guitar), Mike Love (bass and vocals), Thom Corah (trombone, piano and vocals) Adam Weikert (drums, banjo, ukelele, double bass, piano, everything else).
I’ve seen you described as post-rock, shoegaze and, spectacularly, darker than the deepest sea. How would you describe your sound?
Haha! I’m not sure… I don’t think I’d use any of those adjectives – sometimes it’s harder to classify it further than being rock music. But then simple “rock music” has connotations of its own. It generally doesn’t sound like us… on our new album, The Quiet Lamb, we have the sparsest of acoustic songs recorded on an iPhone with just Tom and a guitar, to the album closer – a Mexican gallop through every Wild West film ever made, complete with brass section, chants and a very complicated bassline!
There’s a lot of drama in your sound – are there many stories behind the pieces?
Our EP, The Heritage, was a conceptual album, with themes of ultimatums, generational inheritance, and loss. That continues into the album, but several tracks are perhaps closer to our personal lives; quite a few of them are autobiographical.
And what’s the process for putting a song together, especially given the complexity of them?
Generally, Tom will have ideas for the songs – lyrics, maybe a structure, or both – and we’ll all come together and play it out. Tom might give us the basic idea of the song, but none of the songs would sound right without our individual contributions. Our various melodies and harmonies for the tracks were developed through playing the album tracks live for the past 2 years.
A couple of tracks on the album were written by others: Adam, who wrote the piano and electronic introduction, Moss Giant; The Monroe Transfer, who contributed an interval of string music; and my own string-based demo of Thief, which was written as a present for Tom when he was feeling down.
You’ve got your second album coming out soon. What’s it like making an album in the wastelands of the music industry?
Our first record was more of a really long EP. The Quiet Lamb, to us, is the real first album!
For us, the wastelands of the music industry was the situation we grew to be in with the first record. Everything was a lot more money-orientated, packaging wasn’t considered as highly, it was all rushed… To us, that creates the loss of the tenderness and fragility of a personal music record. And now we have taken the time to stay up all night at each other’s houses, or in the living room with our children, to record our parts patiently and carefully; we’ve spent hours compiling beautiful artwork from our friends and fans for the packaging; and we’re worrying a lot less about who’s looking after the books.
I think the industry is at a turning point – I know as a music fan, I’m readdressing why I hadn’t connected so much with many artists for a long time, and so I’ve made the effort to buy physical copies of CDs to hold, or really sit down and appreciate a certain artist without feeling oversaturated by the amount of music at my fingertips. We try to do this with our listeners too – our packaging is extensive and detailed, and worth buying. We’re personal and easily contactable – we’re not a faceless band.
Yeah, I was planning on asking about that – what are your views on this new trend for bedroom producers and purposefully mysterious acts?
I don’t mind what people want to create, but I personally find it very difficult to connect with bands that make their names unpronounceable, or who create deliberately awkward music. My favourite music is the stuff that I’ve really been moved by or that I’m emotionally invested in, and I’d feel a bit let down if the musician didn’t want to invest time in his/her listeners, too. Plus, there’s nothing worse than going to your favourite artist’s show and realising they’re horrible! I’d like to think that we’re a lot more approachable than that.
You’re coming up to Manchester for a gig on the 30th. You stopped gigging for a while though, why was that? And are you excited to be back in the live arena?
We did a big, long UK and Europe tour last summer, and then another in March this year – we’d love to tour more, but it’s hard to all get the time off together! We love playing together though and we’re always excited to play again. It’s exhausting, emotionally draining and very hot and sweaty, but it’s the best way to spend your time off work!
Are there any upcoming bands you’d recommend?
I’m mainly listening to the new (and old) albums from quite established bands, like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Shearwater, Laura Veirs, Cat Power… But as for new stuff, I’d recommend our friends Birds of Passage, The Monroe Transfer – and my boyfriend’s band, worriedaboutsatan, of course!
Any chance of Her name is Calla teaming up with the mysterious (worriedaboutsatan hipster sideproject) Vgynazz then?
It’s difficult to remember a time when guitar based alt-rock actually sounded exciting. It’s 2010 now, and the bright future that awaited indie has long since burnt out, with the lingering remnants only serving to remind what a bitter disappointment it all was. So as Maximo Park’s Paul Smith starts his solo careers, Kele Okerere turns into the dance-hound he’s always wanted to be and The Cribs desperately try to justify the inclusion of Johnny Marr that has so expertly sedated their once visceral noise for the anthem-hungry dad market, it’s genuinely exciting to know that all is not lost, and there’s at least one band that offer a way forward.
Of course, there’s every chance you’ve heard Sir Yes Sir before. They’ve been around since 2005, but it’s only now that they’ve managed to get around to putting out their debut album. Starting out as a two piece before expanding to a trio, they’ve recently graced the airwaves of Radio 1 with their angular energetic racket. Comparisons to the brothers Jarman are probably as close as you’re going to get, but it’s more a connection to a time before they were a parody of an indie rock band. With “Reigning over Silence” out now on Hope Club records, the threesome got in contact to chat about the death of the music industry, being white middle class and, well, loads of things:
Hiya, how are you?
Dan – OK thanks
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do:
Dan – We’re in a band called Sir Yes Sir, we don’t do much but when we do we try to do it well (it being playing indie rock)
What can people expect when they listen to you?
Dan – Some good songs, played ok, ???
Your music sounds heavily influenced by the whole slacker rock movement of the 90′s. Which one record would you say most influenced you growing up?
Dan – I guess… influence is a strange idea, but if it means something that informs what or how you do or see or listen to something then I think the first proper Granddaddy album influenced me most between the ages of 16-18 (prior to that would have been oasis, super furry animals and so on)
Sam – I remember my cousin making me a compilation with Lemonheads, Silver Jews, Dinosaur Jr and Pavement on it, but I was 15 or 16 before bands like that really started to interest me. Before that probably stuff from my parents record collection, the first Ramones album andlots of Soul and Tamla 45′s, so folks like JR Walker, Curtis, Sam Cooke etc..
Why’s it taken so long for you to put out an LP?
Dan – Even though we’ve recorded and made cds for ages (for us and our friends), I don’t think the idea of doing a ‘proper’ album ever occurred to us until some fellas offered to put us in a studio for two days. But now it feels kind of easy to do, so we plan on releasing a lot.
Joe – I think the answer to this is linked to the answer to the previous question, being influenced by slacker rock. To be honest, we’ve had quite a few people offer to assist us in terms of putting out records/looking after us over the years, and as soon as the offer arrives we kind of lie back snoozing dreaming of playing loolapallooooooza only to snap out of it when the ‘carer/home help’ decides that we need to put some work in ourselves and leaves us. But finally this time it resulted in a couple of releases and could well kick start a pro active revolution in the minds of SYS, but it probably won’t.
Anyway, what’s the album about? Is there any kind of grand arching narrative to it?
Joe – The narrative could be ; white middle class male suffers from constant minor emotional hassle but is too apathetic/lazy to sort it out.
Something that’s always confused me is the actual process of making an album – how did you go about it?
Dan – It’s pretty easy… Some guys wanted to start a label and paid for us to record in a studio, so we went and recorded a bunch of songs we’d written over the previous couple of years. Then I mixed it (which took ages) and we sent it back to the label to put out, and got a friend to do the artwork. Then the label sent it to get pressed, and there was a disaster, which wasn’t in the plan, but finally the label sent it to some shops to sell.
And you recorded it with Harvey Birrell – what was he like?
Dan – He was nice, he knows what he’s doing. He was really hands-off which was weird… because we’d done loads of home recording we were used to doing things ourselves, and I thought that having somebody else record us would mean we end up sounding different, or get some input from them (like “that song is really terrible” or “stop dicking about and do another take because that one was terrible” or “lunchtime’s over boys, let’s make an album!!”) but that didn’t really happen. So don’t blame Harvey if the record makes you want to cry, that’s all our fault.
Sam – His studio’s built on the bottom floor of this anonymous looking terraced house in Wood Green, and it’s where he’s recorded the last No Age, Dananananakroyd, Penny Rimbaud records. But we didn’t really get a lot of opportunity to pump him for showbiz goss to be honest, everything was recorded in two days. It was still sweet to work with him, though. I think we’d all like to go back there given the opportunity.
What was it like doing a session for Radio 1?
Dan – That was cool – just being able to play in this massive room, and having the day off work… it felt like a holiday I guess, and like we’d totally conned our way into doing it.
Joe – The engineers were the most accommodating that two men who are constantly in each others company and working with musically inept players could ever be. They also handled the constant panning for dirt on superstars’ behaviour with a shrug of the shoulders, as they’d had em all! They refused to say anything negative about anyone they’d had in, a lesson for todays gossiping youf.
With the music industry falling apart and everything, do you ever feel like it’s time wasted?
Dan – For sure, but that’s kind of the point, it’s a good way of wasting time. I don’t think we’re under any illusion that we’re ever going to get rich, so if the music biz falls apart then it doesn’t really matter to us (although I hope it doesn’t because I like buying records)(and in fact I don’t think it ever will, just maybe the money goes out of it)(which I guess sucks if yr semi-pro and can’t work a job and tour and record, and don’t make any money from records + publishing, but for amateurs like us it’s o.k)
Joe – Personally I can’t wait for the apocalypse. If the ambition to make a ‘career’ from music was taken away, I think half of the bands about wouldn’t exist, and that would be a boon for a country that needs young people who can use their dexterity in industry ie plumbers, electricians. Its pretty disheartening when you hear some people in bands talking, its almost as if the sole purpose of creativity is to ‘make some bloody money’ or at the very least to boost their sexiness. I’m not suggesting that artists shouldn’t be able to earn enough to survive and continue to create, but when the ‘industry’ hurls cash at flash in the pan indie rock n roll I don’t know who benefits. I suppose at least we’re not in the fashion business, cos that would be an even more superficial hell- but the two are increasingly entwined, i blame stella mccartney.
In the 5 years you’ve been together, you’ve played with loads of bands, but what’s been your worst gig in that time?
Dan – Christ there have been loads… the ratio’s probably 2 terrible shows:3 ok shows:1 good show. We’ve played with some terrible bands, and to rooms of no people, but the worst gigs are when the promoter’s a dick – cos if it’s busy, he gets money, and if it’s not it’s cos he hasn’t done any work.
Also, what’s it like being in a band that’s ‘from’ Manchester? I interviewed Iceland’s Ólafur Arnalds the other weeks and he was saying how good it has been to come from a country where people have a song sense of identity about the music. Obviously, Manchester has the whole Oasis/Stone Roses/whatever thing attached to it – do you ever really have to deal with that when you’re playing outside the city? (I’m more interested from my own point of view than anything)
Dan – I live in London so don’t worry about it, but I think so many people in mcr (not necessarily people we like or hang around with) have a massive chip on their shoulder (the chip has the faces of Ian Curtis, Bonehead and Hucknall and carved into it), and it’s totally boring… I’m not sure anyone outside of Manchester really cares about it to be honest.
Joe – Speaking on behalf of the band that’s based in Mcr, I don’t worry about it either until its suggested that its somehow a tag or prefix. But then I think we probably all consider this, like if a band is from Glasgow you expect that they won’t be absolutle shite but if a band is from anywhere south of Sheffield apart from London or Brighton they’ll probably be playing a kind of funky rock with influences from all over man and a guy with dreads who got them a slot at Womad. So perhaps coming from Manchester will be confusing for the out of own punter, will it be lad rock or will it be rain soaked and introspectiveness? I guess with us you gets neither, you get shoddy alty rocky.
And what do you think of the ‘scene’ in the city at the minute?
Dan – It seems better now than when I lived there (about 3 yrs ago), there seem to be lots of good promoters now, and the Deaf Institute seems to have brought some life into the town. Maybe it’s just cos I don’t live there anymore that it seems more interesting?
Joe – I think that there are more bands who are unafraid to just play music together and see what comes of it, I feel like its moving away from the stylised ‘lets be in a band and look like this first and sound like this second’ that was in Manchester when i first moved here to a more relaxed yet immediate sense of creativity, with people staring bands with people in other bands they’ve seen and appreciated locally. and at least outwardly a sense of bands supporting each other rather than some terrace rivalry. In no way should this sound like some kind of sixties spirit, I’m thinking more Dischord in d.c in the early eighties than Woodstock or free musical love.
Have you got any exciting plans for the future?
Dan – YES
Sam – Album no 2 is in the pipeline, also potentially moving sideways to a new label too. Hopefully someone will ask to play some shows before this year’s out.
Whether true or not, the last few years has felt like new acts have raised the bar for good emerging music. Though there are now many thousands of acts all producing interesting work for a dwindling, fractured audience, there are still very few tracks that have the ability to make you swoon on first listen. Whether heard through the many blog posts hyping the band, on the radio, or even in one of the many Topman shops that have been spinning the track in the last few months, Falling into Love is undoubtedly one of those songs, the descent into honeysuckle admiration marked by each of it’s sickly sweet choruses. Unsurprisingly, the band responsible for making such a heady mixture of folk and pop are hotly tipped to make huge strides with their forthcoming album – and that band is the wonderful Planet Earth. They had a chat with us about their forthcoming longplayer, heavy metal influences and their worst ever gig. And for your chance to win the recent Young & Lost Compilation (featuring Planet Earth, Noah and the Whale and a load more) and a copy of Planet Earth’s latest single on the label, see below. There are two sets to give away, too.
Hello Planet Earth, how are you? What have you been up to?
Hi PP. I’m good thanks. I just got back from a week away in Berlin and Paris. It was fun.
For those who don’t know, could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
We are a ‘four piece’ indie rock band based in London England. Three of us met at University at Manchester where we started out playing folky stuff, but since the addition of Tom, our drummer, we’ve started to rock out a bit more.
And just to confirm, you are not a metal band, correct?
You didn’t take any inspiration from HED (Planet Earth), then?
Nope. Not yet anyway…
People might have heard your song being played in a Topman. Is it strange to be soundtrack people’s fashion purchasing?
I suppose it is a little. I actually used to work as a shop assistant in a high street clothes store so I know what it’s like to have the same 10 songs played on a loop to you for 8 hours a day…it’s not much fun. So I more feel sorry for the staff having to hear us all the time.
What’s your process for writing a song? It’s always been something that has beguiled me.
Usually I work on finding an interesting chord structure or riff or whatever and then build lyrics around that. But there’s no set formula, sadly. Sometimes a song just plops out fully formed and sometimes it takes weeks or months to get right.
Your last single featured Noah and the Whale and I Know I Have No Collar. Is that something we can expect to continue with your album?
I really wanted our last single to be totally collaborative – even the press release was written by a friend of mine. But it was quite difficult to pull everyone together and get it all done on time. Charlie from Noah will produce the album, but we have a settled line up now so I don’t think there’ll be any special guests this time, I want to try to keep it simple.
And how is that getting underway?
Well the plan is to record it with Charlie in October. We have most of the songs written so it’s just a case of polishing them and making them sound presentable. It’s going to be all new songs I reckon.
Of course, that single was released on Young and Lost Club. What’s it like working with the label?
YALC have been incredibly supportive of us. When you’re starting out it’s so important to have people around you who support you, because otherwise trying to ‘make it’ in the music biz can be a little disheartening. But they’ve been really amazing to us, and given us complete freedom to do whatever we want, which is all you can ask really.
And you’re playing the 5th Anniversary show – what can we expect?
Some new songs, and the sight of us enjoying Noah’s new pop direction!
You must have been to a few gigs over the years – any that you’re particularly embarrassed about? I went and saw The Kooks on my 18th birthday. That was sad, especially with Jamie T supporting.
The only one I can think of is seeing Audioslave at the Astoria at their first London gig. They are/were an absolutely atrocious band. But then I’m not really embarrassed about it because I got to see Tom Morello close up, and he was a bit of a teenage hero of mine.
What can we expect in the future, anything exciting?
Well the album is something I’m hugely excited about, I can’t wait to get into the studio, and hopefully it’ll all turn out sounding good.
Also, which upcoming bands are you fans of?
I really like Ex Lovers, who will be playing at the YALC birthday bash too. Apparently their first album will be coming out soon and I’m excited about that.
As you may well be aware, Young & Lost recently turned 5 years old, and to celebrate, they’ve put out a wonderful compilation CD. For your chance to win one of two copies of it plus a Planet Earth 7″ from the label, you’ve simply got to send your honest answer to the following question to firstname.lastname@example.org:
What is the most embarrassing gig that you’ve ever been to?
The two most cringe worthy answers will each win a set. Competition closes Wednesday 18th August at 10 a.m.
The idea that Manchester has a coherent scene has long since been redundant, and proof of that doesn’t come much clearer that the excellent Cats in Paris. Despite what might be thought of the city, it’s consistently been diverse throughout it’s history, and the trio are a proud addition to that. Comparisons are somewhat redundant when you talk about a trio as unique as these, with Of Montreal being the closest act to bear a likeness, a reference point that still seems somewhat unsatisfactory. On the face of it, they make ridiculously catchy pop songs – but the truth is that their music has a lot more depth than that.
After putting out their debut record two years ago through Akoustik Anarkhy, the band lapped up plaudits from the the likes of The Line of Best Fit, The Fly and Drowned in Sound. Whilst they’ve put out two singles and completed a European tour, everything seemed a bit quite on the Parisian front – until recently. Having recorded new song ‘chopchopchopchopchop’, they’ve had a psychedelic video made to match, complete with rotating faces and hands dressed up as cowboys. Throughout this month, they’re also putting each day’s headlines into song, which has already yielded some phenomenal results – there are no other bands that could deal with the death of a South Korean man by landmine such touching and still so tuneful. Michael, the band’s violinist, synth player and vocalist, got in touch to have a chat about what it’s like to be a Cat in Paris:
You’ve been around for quite a while, haven’t you? Your debut album came out back in 2008…
It has been a while now, about 3 years. We cobbled the first album together pretty much as soon as we had songs ready. As quickly as they were written, we recorded them . With careless abandon. Since then we’ve been touring, recording with more care, and a whole heap of fannying around.
Anyway, about your sound – you’re unlike anyone else in the country at the minute. How would you describe it? A clichéd question, but what inspired such a dramatic sound?
I suppose a lot of it is down to the love of surprise and contradiction- trying to make things unexpected and complicated enough for a re-listen, without ever getting lost up our own behinds. That’s the attempt anyway, sometimes it’s a precarious tight rope. It’s quite easy to drift into bellend territory, or have something that is not layered enough. Lots of our songs get abandoned because of this.
There is also our short attention spans that play a big part. We get bored easily, and have so much more enthusiasm when a song takes unexpected turns, and flops from genre to genre. It’s rare I can listen to an album all the way through. In fact, I don’t think I’ve listened to an album all the way through since I was 18.
There aren’t many bands that could get away with writing a song a day about the news. Why have you started the project?
I’m not sure we’ve gotten away with it yet! The idea came from a general frustration from trying to record our new album and it taking forever. As I said, we rushed out Courtcase 2000 and we’ve always felt it was a little short of the cookie, it needed a little longer just to iron out the creases. So the reaction was to spend AGES on the next one. We spent 6 months just sorting out four tracks. We still haven’t finished recording, should all be together by the end of August. It’s good being perfectionist about it, but the sense that time is slipping away was getting to us. We thought, “how can we combat this?” Forcing ourselves to write a song every day seemed like a pretty good solution. Then we can balance perfectionism on the album with the prolificacy of the Daily News Project. Best of both worlds? Either that or we’ll just burn up and die.
How do you go about getting the song together? It must be hard getting a different topical track together each day – what’s your process?
We did a few practice ones in July, to see how long it would take. And we have a heap of drum tracks recorded if Ben needs to be away, or it’s impossible to record. We have a stockpile of ideas too, ready to suit the news of that day. There will be some “specials” too. A Sport Special would be good. Or maybe a Local News day. Suggestions are always welcome.
Are there any news stories that you wouldn’t touch? I was glad to see you lending your support to the aid effort for Pakistan.
Yeah, of course. Some topics are out of bounds, mainly specific cases of sexual assault, things like that. Never mind the fact it’s uncomfortable, unpleasant and improper to sing about, it’s also the seedy part of the news that I think is hysterically over reported anyway. Strangely, huge scale disasters don’t seem so bad to cover. I suppose they’re de-humanised by the sheer scale of them. Singing about the floods is unpleasant, but it is the news, and was kind of unavoidable. I’m hoping for much better news over the next month.
Is this a plea for help? Can we expect a career change in the near future for the band? You’re already more informative than Sky News.
I would like to work with Jeff Stelling and Paul Merson on Sky Sports News. Can you make that happen?
As well as jazzing up the news, you’ve just put your video for chopchopchopchopchop online – the video’s amazing by the way. Who’s idea was that? Who did it?
Thanks! It’s a combo effort between David Ziggy Greene ( http://www.samu.co.uk ) and myself. He did the bulk of it, with the awesome animations and overlays, although I helped out by chopping out 150+ heads from drunken footage of people shouting “chop” after gigs, and did a heap of video editing too. We’d thought of the idea quite a while back, when we were touring Europe. David is really the fourth member of our band, he comes on tour with us to do live visuals and manages to hypnotise most of the crowds we play to. He also makes rather awesome comics, including a tour comic from one of our recent tours. ( http://forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2010/swimming-with-shoes-on-gags-gags-and-life-on-the-road/ )
And of course, I’ve got to ask – what’s the song about? I’ve read something about a serial killer?
Yeah, it’s about a chap called Randy Roth. He killed four of his wives before he was caught. My friend saw his fourth wife get killed on the beach. He faked a drowning. Afterwards Roth went home with the woman’s kids, and to cheer them up, rented out “Weekend at Bernies” for them to watch. For serious. It was detailed in court. Most of the song is really about Weekend at Bernies, I have to admit. Still can’t believe Empire magazine only gave it 1 star out of 5 this month. Travesty.
What can we expect in the future? there must be a second album on the way at some point, surely?
Yeah! It’s not far off. By Autumn is the plan, it’s going to be a push, but a damn enjoyable one. We have way more tracks than we need, so we’ll have to spend a bit of time being ruthless and getting rid of songs that don’t cut the mustard.
Surf rock is something that has traditionally always lived on America’s west coast. The laid back lifestyle that the area supposedly cultivates is perfectly matched in the music, and it’s heritage is still seen today, with Wavves and Best Coast both putting out new albums that Pitchfork have seen fit to declare ‘Best New Music’. Whilst the languid tunes will forever be linked in with the likes of California, the east coast is more renowned for giving birth to punk rock and all that followed. Slow Animal may be based in New Jersey, but it’s not difficult to hear that their focus is the other side of the country.
Their songs are predictably filled with reverb and distortion, whilst their own bandcamp happily brands them ‘fuzz pop’. There is another element at play here though, and for all their best intentions, the duo never truly manage to escape their roots. For all the overtones of surfing and garage pop, the foundations that they are laid upon are fast and furious, adding an intensity to a genre that is otherwise languid. This juxtaposition of ideologies is precisely why their demos are such an enthralling listen – with their four tracks clocking in at just over 10 minutes, it’s nothing short of a joyride. Far from laid back, it’s the Californian dream pumped up on amphetamine, a wonderfully dizzy collaboration.
Though some people achieve coolness and many more have coolness thrust upon them, but it is a slim minority who are born cool. If you were going to him into one bracket, it’s pretty certain that unouomedude would be in the latter column. Though there are many hundreds of bandwagon chasing wannabes about trying to ape the ‘chillwave’ sound, the breezy ease with which the young Floridian pulls it off suggests he barely even tried, despite making what already sounds like one of the definitive releases of the year. Marsh EP has just been made available through bandcamp and AMDISCS, bringing the first wave of invention and guile to the genre since Washed Out et al caused bloggers to make the thing up a year or so ago. To celebrate, I asked the young man behind the project for his thoughts on the movement, his plans for the future whilst brushing on what it’s like to be a ‘buzz band’ that actually has an awful lot of talent.
Just to start off, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do:
Well, I’m Uno, I’m 19, and I live in Jacksonville, Florida. I make pop songs and take photos; but I mainly make pop songs.
Every day you seem to be on another influential blog – Transparent, smokeDONTsmoke and Get off the coast have all done features on you, amongst many, many others. What’s it like having so many strangers write about you?
Its awesome! I’m glad I’ve been getting so much support. It also feels weird seeing myself on different blogs that I read and seeing people talk about me but not to me. It’s a strange change, but a good one.
Despite this current flood of attention, it seems like you’ve been making music for quite some time – you’ve put out an album of sorts , ‘Collections – Volume 1′, which features tracks you say you recorded between 2007-2009. Why has it taken so long for your talents to gain recognition? where have you been?
Well honestly I just don’t think my older stuff was as well crafted. When I hear some of those songs now I can’t help but to think “I should have changed this thing here” so that’s why I put it out as a collection rather than an LP. I had some people listening to my stuff then, but not nearly as many as now. After I took a break from releasing music to craft my skills I came back with some new tracks and sent them to a few blogs, then those blogs posted about it and other blogs got it from them. It’s just been taking off since then.
Of course, like anything that is in the slightest bit electronic at the minute, you’ve been branded as ‘chillwave’ by many. What are your thoughts on the whole glo-fi etc. scene? And are you comfortable being a part of it?
Haha, I don’t know, I’m okay with it. In my head I think of ‘chillwave’ and ‘glo-fi’ to be different things. I think of chillwave to be more sample-based, hazy, nostolgic, electronic music, and glo-fi as just lo-fi dreamy music. They’re probably the same thing though, I have no clue. I don’t really use samples besides some percussion sounds. A lot of people think the riff in “Dream Home” is a sample but it’s not, Its just a synth in the background, guitar, bass, and electronic drums. I think genres are just used to easilly group similar minded music, and I dig a lot of the other musicians who are in the same ‘category’ as me, so I’m totally fine with it.
And you’re from Jacksonville, Florida. How much of an influence do you think the area has had on your work? Is there a cohesive movement going on there at the minute?
There are some awesome bands here, but I don’t think there is much of a movement going on here. Unless I just don’t know about it, which is possible. A lot of the stuff on ‘Marsh’ is about my old friends here, so those songs have some Jacksonville influence in them. There isn’t too much to do here so Jacksonville isn’t that interesting.
You’ve just put out Marsh EP. Is there a main focus of the release? What’s it about?
It’s basically just about memories, dreams, summer, and fun. I wanted to include descriptions of my favourite times hanging out with friends so I could always look back and remember them. Other songs are just based off of dreams that remind me of fun times. With the music, I just wanted to make summery pop music.
With all that hype about, is there any news on a long player? What can we expect in the future?
Hopefully I’ll be able to work on an LP. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay consistent long enough to make songs for an LP but I’m definitely going to give it a try. I have a few new projects in the works right now, but everything is kind of up in the air so we’ll see whats next.
Another thing: I’ve searched about but been unable to find any reviews or evidence of you playing live shows. is it something you’re planning on going into? Is there a lot of pressure for solo, electronic acts like yourself to go into the playing live? Or are you already doing it and I’ve just missed a load of rave reviews?
Ha, no I don’t play shows right now. I played a couple in 2007, but not since then. I’ve been asked to play some shows lately and unfortunately, I had to temporarily turn them down. I want to wait until I get a good live setup to start playing shows again. I’m sure it will be worth it for myself and others when I start again though.
I was reading something the other day about how we are all the culmination of the culture we imbibed as children. If that’s the case, what would you say you are?
I’d say I agree. I still listen to some of the music I grew up on and I still watch some of the same shows. I still see some of the media I consumed early in life involved in the things I do now. So guess I’m a Degrassi-loving punk rock ghostwriter.
Last thing: any bands that you’d recommend?
There are too many good bands to recommend! Well there’s Star Slinger, Teenage Reverb, Phillip Oskar Augustine, Persona La Ave, Kiss Kiss Fantastic, Ricky Eat Acid, Bijan Allen, Horray!, and so many others that I’m going to feel guilty for not mentioning.
Fallowfield’s The Corner is one of Manchester’s most dank, disturbing bars – a purposefully droll parody of run down bars and garish tack, it’s a self concious hole in the wall that has built a reputation for itself as most daring of Trof’s local outlets. The seemingly water damaged walls, awkward wall fittings and ridiculous seating arrangements perfectly lend themselves to the stripped back, dark beats that Brown Brogues specialise in. On a damp Friday night, the duo come on stage well after midnight, storming through a set whilst their equipment fails them – a floor tom needing an impromptu added band member simply to hold it up, a guitar struggles to deal with the effects of some idiot spilling cider on it.
In emails after the gig, Mark from the band claims that the gig was a ‘shocker’, but if it was, it barely showed. A mere 24 hours after supporting the amazingly bad Shit Browne, the twosome showcased everything that has made them on of the regions hottest talents – barely concealed venom laying at the heart of their superb, almost rockabilly rhythms, furious but utterly under control. That they’ve got a tape out on Suffering Jukebox isn’t a surprise – that boutique labels from across the land haven’t been bashing down their door before hand is. The cassette is called A Night of Living Sickness and Mark from the Brogues has answered a few questions about it, as well as grazing on being from Wigan and fancying Colleen Green:
Brown Brogues – Treet U Beta
Hello Brown Brogues. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Mark I play guitar I’m gonna answer these questions overlooked but not read by Ben who plays drums.
You’ve got a new tape out on Suffering Jukebox called ‘A Night of Living Sickness’. How did that come about?
The lovely Jack Cooper emailed us a few weeks ago around the same time as the Avi Buffalo show and asked if we wanted to do a tape on SJ and then we met at that show we talked and sorted it he wanted a very warts and all recording and we had the perfect one from a long day in Darwen a long time ago. We’ve been following the label since it’s inception really psyched to be working with them. The best bands in Manchester are working with Suffering Jukebox Milk Maid, Mazes and Former Bullies. Plus Colleen Green’s really cool she’s from California not Manchester…I fancy her, I think
And what was the recording process like? Sounds pretty bizarre from what I’ve heard.
Well the recordings for the tape are quite early, I did them semi legally in a post war industrial unit in Darwen that I ‘managed’ to get the keys to, It was cool though like a fortress you drive in and lock yourself in. The Buildings were really long and thin so it was really cool to go put microphones at the other end and play around with massive reverb sounds. It was not long after I finished an Audio Engineering course which was all digital and close micing and boring. Now we record the opposite way, with old mics to tape and in one take because the reel to reel spits off the drive belts if you rewind it. After recording I jammed it through a cassette for some extra compression. We went back to that industrial unit to practice but some local band gave me there number to hire a practice room from me, I was tempted to do that but as we were trespassing in the eyes of the law thought it was best not to and we’ve not gone back.
The front cover for it is brilliant (see right) – are you related to the cover stars?
Sadly not, Ben got that image from somewhere. We are kind of related to the guy on the inside of the cover and thats a better image than the front taken on my holga. It makes me laugh every time I see it..It’s worth buying just for that image alone.
I hear that you’re from the wilds of Wigan or roundabouts, does it get frustrating being lumped in as ‘Manchester’? Is there much of a scene where you’re from?
No we prefer to be lumped in as Manchester. I hate Wigan, Wigan can suck my Johnson.
You seem to be playing everywhere, all of the time. What’s the worst gig you’ve played?
The worst one was at an all day Folk festival in Wigan (of all places) when we’d just started out, we did it as a favour for a friend who probably thought he was helping us out. As we got there we realised it was a terrible mistake, we didn’t want to be there and I’m pretty certain nobody wanted us to be there either. Awful. We played 5 songs to 5 pissed off cardigans, died inside, then went home.
You’ve also been getting a fair amount of hype – what do you think about all these acts who purposely set out to be a hype band? Are you counting down the days until Altered Zones feature you?
I think they’re funny and usually really talented. What’s Altered Zones?
What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you since you’ve been in the Brogues?
Its not really band related but the weirdest thing was my last birthday I came downstairs and there was a crazy old woman with a dog in my house. Eventually the police took her away and she was sectioned because she thought her son and her husband were trying to get her.
What can we expect in the future then? Anything exciting?
Err after the tape we were talking to Jack about putting out some vinyl which would be amazing. We are supposed to be playing in Paris around October time. We are both traveling across the states in early 2011 then moving up to Manchester finally.
The tape is out now, priced at £4 and featuring 8 songs. You’ll probably quite like it.
The problem that faces most hype bands is a simple one – what to do when the crowd move on to fresher meat? Way back in 2005 Tokyo Police Club started out as a couple of friends putting together a few jams and playing a few shows. Their songs were short, snappy and breathless, as was the EP that followed. Clocking in at about 18 minutes, it got every well meaning indie kid around the world jumping around their bedrooms in glee. Radio play and the mass commercial acceptance that was expected never really followed, and their debut album, Elephant Shell didn’t get the acclaim that it’s witty musings deserved.
It’s been two years and the Canadian quartet have largely been mute since then, with a few solo projects the only sustenance for fans brought up on the bristling energy of ‘Cheer it On’. Music has moved on since those heady days, however, with the landfill indie that Tokyo Police Club seemed to be the perfect antidote to being all but dead.
Though times have changed, the band’s sound hasn’t, as their latest effort, Champ, showcases. The current trend for acts to be aggressively electronic or swathed in 60’s doo-wah pop means that, somehow, the melodic indie of Dave Monks and co. still manages to sound somewhat fresh. There’s another element at play here, too, with the band clearly having matured from the post-teenage angst that fuelled their earlier works. Compared to the frantic delivery that marked ‘A Lesson in Crime’, this is measured and meandering, possibly even pedestrian.
Undoubtedly, the band still make beautiful music, something the dip in pace helps emphasise, but the noise has always been hung upon singer Monks’ lyrical wordplay. Thankfully, he’s still as poetic as ever, and the focus of his output seems to be youth. The opening pair of Favourite Food and Favourite Colour are two of the more vivid examples, mixing both the nostalgia and laid-back, summer feel that the band must’ve hoped to evoke in this album.
The main sticking point is that, though still overtly tuneful, the group appear to have lost the ability to consistently make pulse quickening tunes. The skill has obviously not completely left them yet – Breakneck Speed tugs at the heartstrings and Wait Up (Boots of Danger) is neon in it’s brilliance, but elsewhere there isn’t the same ingenuity. The songs are still good, and many very on being great without actually stepping over the threshold.
Tokyo Police Club are undoubtedly talented, something they repeatedly show throughout ‘Champ’, and pretty much anything they put out is an utter joy to listen to. The amount of acts that could put out something with the quality of Hands Reversed as an album track is probably in single figures, and it must only be a matter of time before somebody makes a movie specifically to have all these glorious songs soundtrack it. However, Champ sees the trappings of being formulaic have begun to appear at the edge. On the plus side, there are few bands that can make the methodical sound so completely mesmerising.
5 years is not an incredibly long stretch of time. For instance, it was only 2005 when Crazy Frog was atop the charts with the desecration of Axel F, and the mental wounds that ensued from having to endure the barrage of ringtones that preceded it’s demoralising march to number 1 are only just starting to heal. But for an independent label to have lasted that long today is nothing short of a miracle. Young and Lost Club, however, is far from your archetypical no-budget imprint, and is celebrating the half decade of it’s existence with a best of compilation of the finest moments from the 50 singles they’ve put out in that time.
Founded by Nadia Dahlawi and Sara Jade at the tender age of 20, the one thing that shines through during the album’s 35 tracks is the duo’s ability to pick a winner. Starting out as a clubnight, the now well trodden path to starting a label was followed, and some of the most recognisable indie music of the new millennium has followed. Of all the bands on show, Noah & the Whale are probably the biggest name, and contribute the most well known tracks – you’d struggle to find many who don’t recognise the wonderful ‘5 years time’, and a hefty percentage of those would at least be able to sing along with the chorus of the softened, sentimental version of ‘2 bodies, 1 heart’ that opens the second disc.
As the quintet work on the follow up to their heady second album, it’s sad to note that they’re the exception rather than the rule of bands on the label fulfilling their potential. It’s fair to say that the most recent wave of guitar led indie music has had it’s day, and the demise of Vincent Vincent and the Villains, who open the compilation, is indicative of the dream gone sour, whilst the slide of Good Shoes from the next big thing to mid-level makeweights is just as disheartening. Though the style may not exactly be ‘on trend’, even the more dated tracks feel just as relevant as their contemporary counterparts. Larrikin Love may not have been around for long, but the sudden burst of ‘Six Queens’ is still genuinely exciting, and the same could be said of Pull Tiger Tail’s entry, ‘Animator’.
As with any retrospective, there are also bum notes. The abject failure of Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong to be anything other than the band that feature’s the bloke who played Sophie’s little brother in Peep Show is to be little be mourned, but ‘Lucio starts fires’ at least offers a reminder of the two weeks in 2007 when the music media thought they might be the future. There are probably few who miss the likes of Action Plan, Friends of the Bride and Stylofone, but they all still give a good account of themselves here.
Whilst the tracklisting for the first CD reads like an epitaph, the second shows just how on the pulse Young and Lost are. Golden Silvers are still making all the right noises, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool could easily still break the big time with their 80’s revivalism and Planet Earth are the best new folk-pop act in the country. There’s even a track from Everything Everything, before the days of record label battling to sign them and mass critical acclaim. If the majors showed anything close to the determination to give voice to new talent that Nadia and Sara have shown over the past 5 years, the music industry probably wouldn’t be in the mess that it current finds itself in. Thankfully, until it does, we can at least console ourselves with the fact that Young and Lost is still going strong.