2021 has been a year full of surprises. After months of lockdown throughout the previous year, gig-goers were more excited than ever to taste the sweet adrenaline of live music again.

With most musicians having to spend most of 2020 in lockdown, the world knew it could only expect a wave of brilliant albums this year unlike no other, and boy, did the world not disappoint.

If, like us, you were ready to catch that wave, you’ll know about the sheer amount of fantastic music released by some of the world’s most exciting bands, with some newcomers who have since earned their place on our playlists amongst some top bands and artists. Without further ado, here’s our recap of some of this year’s favourite albums.

Amyl and the Sniffers – Comfort To Me

Amyl and the Sniffers: Comfort to Me Album Review | Pitchfork

Photographs can barely give credit to the sound of Amyl and the Sniffers. Nothing can quite capture their pure high-octane adrenaline shot to the heart, tanked up with a thrill and urgency akin to Vincent Vega reviving Mia Wallace in ‘Pulp Fiction.’ An almighty duo of Gus Romer’s bass and Bryce Wilson’s drums strike the match on the album’s opener ‘Guided by Angels’, followed by the fizzling fuse of Dec Martens’ on guitar, before in a burst of flames, fireworks, and fury we are slammed with the voice of Amy Taylor.

‘Comfort to Me’ is guttural perfection, chewed up and spat out glory, filled with a simmering rage and a pulsating vulnerability. The Caltex Cowgirl burns her way through every track, always defiant and at times delicate. From the thrashing sincerity of ‘Security’ to the bitter sermon of ‘Knifey,’ Amy Taylor has truly mastered her own particular blend of lyricism and performance. My personal highlight of the album is ‘Hertz,’ a song that I danced around my kitchen to with such ferocity that I pulled a muscle in my neck; a whole working day of painkillers and Ibuprofen gel later, and I can still tell you that the headbanging was worth it.

Jessie Smith

Idles – Crawler

IDLES announce new album Crawler, share lead single The Beachland Ballroom  — Kerrang!

After their 2020 album Ultra Mono hit the post-punk world like a sledgehammer, projecting the band into the spotlight across the world, their follow-up album, Crawler, became the second hit that we all so desperately needed this year.

In a time of shabby politics and poor decisions, by some divine intervention, a small band from Bristol have risen up to heal the world over, personifying the frustrations of a disillusioned generation and giving it a voice so loud it was unignorable.

Today, Idles are compared with the likes of The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and other hardcore punk rock and post-punk bands in the making. If you’ve had a chance to attend an Idles concert this year, you’ll be aware of the band’s devout following and the almost holy nature of their stage presents.

James George Potter

Self Esteem – Prioritise Pleasure

Self Esteem - Prioritise Pleasure gold vinyl - Transmission Record Shop

“Girl Power”: The immortal slogan of the Spice Girls and title of the 1996 album by Shampoo. However, its origin supposedly comes from a zine published by the US punk chicks of Bikini Kill in 1991. In The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, it is written that ‘they articulated an agenda for young women in and outside of music.’ 30 years later, and we are presented with Prioritise Pleasure, the highly-anticipated new album from Self Esteem.

It is a manifesto for the modern girl, a cornucopia of style punctuated by battle cries, all while celebrating strength and vulnerability. Throughout 2021 there has been a steady release of singles and videos, as well as a slam-dunk on this year’s festival scene, all creating anticipation for the album itself. The reviews are in, and they are stratospheric, stars upon stars upon stars as far as the eye can see.

From “Prioritise Pleasure: Self Esteem’s Story of a New Girl Power” by Jessie Smith

Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams

Arlo Parks: Collapsed in Sunbeams Album Review | Pitchfork

The long-awaited debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams by the indie icon Arlo Parks finally arrived in January this year. As a Black bisexual woman in an already oversaturated music industry, it is so refreshing and rewarding to see the success that Arlo Parks has gained since her music debut in 2018, becoming a contemporary to the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo, but a superstar in her own right.

The album kicks off with an arpeggiated acoustic guitar and lo-fi-ambient sounds underneath a poem by Parks, setting up the journey that, by track three, has already taken you all around town. “Hurt” puts the car into first gear, a great opener demonstrating those sounds we’ve become familiar with from singles like “Green Eyes” and “Eugene.” The use of sampled and chopped drums gives the track this slightly agitated feeling that goes hand-in-hand with the themes of Parks’ lyrics. The album earned Parks the win for Best Breakthrough Artist at this year’s BRIT Awards, and rightfully so.

Liam Lynch

Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend Album Review | Pitchfork

Blue Weekend was the highly anticipated third studio album from English alternative rock legends, Wolf Alice, who delivered us this masterpiece in June this year. Speaking for the band’s now worldwide audience, the LP couldn’t have come at a better moment. Its hit-by-hit tracklist accompanied by several beautiful music videos got us through the worst of the summer lockdown.

While their previous album Visions of a Life did a superb job of satisfying the hard-rock appetite of fans, Blue Weekend offered up the more melancholic and elegant side of the band’s dual persona.

James George Potter

Silk Sonic – An Evening with Silk Sonic

Bruno Mars + Anderson .Paak | An Evening With Silk Sonic - playlist by  Phillip | Spotify

Coming in at just nine tracks, An Evening With Silk Sonic cements Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars as a duo to keep an eye on. The pre-releases (“Leave The Door Open,” “Skate,” and, my favorite of the three, “Smokin Out The Window”) gave listeners a peek into what was to come, and their accompanying songs undoubtedly keep the momentum going.

There’s something incredibly glamorous about this record. It just makes you feel lavish and expensive, doesn’t it? The prominent golden hues throughout their music videos and outfits add to that feeling, and my God, does it give an ego boost. The combination of Mars and .Paak is otherworldly, and each of their abundant musical talents transforming into one almost feels like a divine gift from the gods themselves.

From: “Review: An Evening With Silk Sonic” by Kylie Warrix

The Marías – CINEMA

Get lost in a dream with The Marías on “Cinema” | ALBUM REVIEW

The lethargic soundscape of CINEMA by The Marías is everything they’ve built up from prior releases, excavating out a direct highlight to not only their own discography but to the whole roster of music 2021 has had to offer us.

CINEMA injects you with all the traits The Marías are known to deliver, whilst adding the spice of different genres and styles that, before now, would seem abnormal for them. As far as debut albums go, it hits the spot in all the right places. It follows you through so many emotions. It’s sexy and dreamy and leaves you craving more of the handsome harmonies that cradle you.

Tracks such as “Hush,” “Spin Me Around,” “Heavy,” and “All I Really Want Is You” are prime examples of what The Marías does best and sharpens every expectation. Upon being introduced to them by the lovely Kylie then finally becoming absorbed into CINEMA, The Marías have solidified themselves and this record as one of the best of the year. If you catch me spending a day not listening to at least one track from this masterpiece, I’ll give you a tenner.

Liam Lynch

Clairo – Sling

Clairo: Sling Album Review | Pitchfork

Oh, Clairo. My sweet, sweet songbird. I adore this woman with everything in me, and that love grew tenfold when I first listened to this record. Each song feels like getting that hug you’ve been in need of for far too long (they have healing powers, I swear).

This is such a transformative record for Clairo; it carries a more mature sound that proves bedroom-pop isn’t the only genre she can master. Sling has been on repeat for me during these colder months, and if you still have yet to give it a listen, I implore you to do so. It is the musical equivalent of watching the sky melt with the sun as it sets.

Kylie Warrix

La Femme – Paradigmes

La Femme: Paradigmes Album Review | Pitchfork

This album was the first one of the year to make me say, “This is for sure going on the end of the year wrap-up.” No further questions were needed; I was set on getting it included all the way back in April when it was released. La Femme truly never disappoints, and their abundant creativity shines through clearer than ever in Paradigmes.

Their ARTE Concert performance is absolutely brilliant as well; it brings each song to life so flawlessly. It spans for a little over an hour, but I promise you, every moment makes it worth it. Give it a watch, go on. Right here. You’re welcome.

Kylie Warrix

Doja Cat – Planet Her

Here's Everything We Know About Doja Cat's New Album 'Planet Her' | Genius

Doja Cat was my #3 most listened to artist on my 2021 Spotify Wrapped, and Planet Her’s “I Need To Know” was my top song overall. So, needless to say, I am obsessed with her and everything she makes. Each and every track on Planet Her carries an awe-inspiring sense of vibrancy; there is not a single song that doesn’t make me want to stand up and salute it like a national anthem.

It has been incredible watching Doja get the hype she undoubtedly deserves, and this record has cemented her as a legend in the making. Since Earth’s progressively getting a bit weirder, you may as well take a trip to Planet Her.

Kylie Warrix

Pink Pantheress – to hell with it

PinkPantheress - To Hell With It | Mixtape Review

PinkPantheress’ short-but-sweet debut mixtape to hell with it is a fantastic slap in the face. There’s not a single dull moment on the record, and its length leaves you wanting more. The 20-year-old producer is perhaps one of the major staples in music right now, really driving the resurgence of old-school UK garage-inspired music that ties so hand-in-hand with modern jungle and drum ‘n’ bass music—a scene in the UK that may have gone underground and evolved but one-hundred percent is still a vibe we all fuck with. 

In an oversaturated indie-pop market, the catchy samples, melodies, and emotional lyrics make way for such a refreshing selection of tracks that, because of the success of TikTok, have already become ingrained in our heads (and for such good reason). We may only be at the opening eyes of PinkPantheress’ career, but there is so much more to see for her future. The fact nearly everyone I know, without even knowing PinkPantheress, has heard more than one track off to hell with it proves that she knows exactly what she’s doing with her craft, and we’re all along for the ride. 

Liam Lynch

Tyler the Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost

Tyler, the Creator Releasing New Album Call Me If You Get Lost Next Week |  Pitchfork

Alternative Hip-Hop’s favourite son returned this year with his album Call Me If You Get Lost. Tyler’s sixth studio album is the follow-up to his world-renowned LP IGOR released back in 2019 and features a whole host of new collaborators from artists like Lil Wayne and Pharrell Williams.

IGOR set the bar high for the rapper, but by no means was he flustered in the face of expectation. The new album has quickly become one of the most talked-about albums of the year and acts as a statement about its various ups and downs throughout.

James George Potter

Damon Albarn – The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows

Damon Albarn: The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows review –  beautifully haunting | Damon Albarn | The Guardian

Damon Albarn is quite high-up on my list of most-loved musicians, so I was beyond thrilled to hear about this record’s arrival when it was first announced. On the day of its release, I popped into my favorite record store (shout-out to Criminal Records in Atlanta, I love you!) and felt my heart race once I spotted it in the new releases. Funnily enough, right after I grabbed it, I got a message from our very own James that contained a video of Mr. Albarn himself sat by his piano.

Pushing my mountainous levels of jealousy aside, I listened to the album once I got back home and instantly felt like I was being transported to another realm. This is, without a doubt, an album chock-full of creativity and genius. Truly an avalanche of unadulterated beauty.

Kylie Warrix

Lunar Vacation – Inside Every Fig is a Dead Wasp

Album Review: Inside Every Fig is a Dead Wasp // Lunar Vacation : The  Indiependent

More Atlanta representation, folks! Lunar Vacation has been on my radar for quite some time now, and they’re well on their way to becoming something even bigger. Inside Every Fig is a Dead Wasp is the band’s debut album, consisting of eleven blissful tracks. After clinging onto their two EPs so dearly, this record is everything I could’ve ever hoped for from Lunar Vacation. They already have their own distinct sound, and the album emphasizes the dreamy, pool-rock goodness beautifully.

(Also, lead singer Grace has one of my favorite voices. Like, ever.)

Please, please, please give this record a go; you’ll be glad you did.

Kylie Warrix

Black Midi – Cavalcade

black midi Announce New Album Cavalcade, Share Video for New Song: Watch |  Pitchfork

There are few bands around today who are able to fit so much personality into an eight-track album, but Black Midi, a four-piece band originally from Croydon, are one of those all-around rare exceptions. While the music video for the album’s first single, “John L,” has become one of the most talked-about of the year, it will leave you wondering what you put in your drink (in a good way, we promise).

Music-legend Iggy Pop didn’t seem to mind being pulled down the rabbit hole and promoted the band’s music via his Radio 6 podcast. Cavalcade is the second studio album from the experimental-rock-jazz-fusion-math-rock-avant-prog (and other genres you never knew existed) band.

James George Potter


Kid A Mnesia: Exhibition – A masterful blend of music and visuals

Teeth grinning wildly. A sea of trees, washed of colour as to appear lifted from a book. These are the first things you see when you load up Kid A Mnesia: Exhibition, Radiohead’s latest venture into virtual art. It’s as you tentatively walk through the only door in sight and ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ creeps in as it creaks shut behind you that the eerie brilliance sets in.

From then on, you are left to explore a vast labyrinth commemorating the music of Kid A and Amnesiac, the releases that cemented Radiohead as a madcap force to be reckoned with at the turn of the millennium. Visually, the exhibition employs the contrasting cold and warm aesthetics of the twin albums to outstanding effect. Pristine white interiors and their uncanny sheen give emphasis to the vibrance of more dilapidated areas like the Pyramid Atrium, which acts as something of a central hub leading to each location. Here, and in many other sections, the experience makes full use of its digital nature, conjuring up immersive environments that could only exist within the confines of a computer; featureless clay figures and particle ghosts aimlessly shuffle from room to room, overgrown roots shoot up grey walls, and imposing structures hang weightless in the air, suspended in nothingness. Elsewhere, rampant graffiti and newspaper clippings surround you, while televisions display hellish cartoons and studio footage. Imagine the most surreal dream you’ve had, imagine at least ten more, then make pathways from one to the other through the deepest, darkest corridors of your mind, and you’ll have something close to what’s offered here. 

So far, we’re only skirting on the surface of what this treasure trove holds. After an hour of walking, I thought I had discovered most of the major features, but was pleasantly surprised to find that what I’d seen made up only around one-third of the exhibition. In fact, I had missed many of the larger exhibits. 

Though the visual elements are impressive in their own right, the way they integrate with the audio is the crux of the ‘gameplay.’ One chamber, set to the mechanical groove of Amnesiac opener ‘Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box,’ features an ominous cube at its centre. Stepping on any of the floor markings in its shadow causes your surroundings to warp, and dramatically alters the mix – one isolates angular reversed guitar melodies and casts a spectral maroon overlay into the room – while walking up and down the scaffolding around the edges adds and strips away the track’s descending bass riff. There are many more of these interactive moments to be found, and each one makes slow exploration rewarding. Even lingering in the areas between installations is worthwhile, with each boasting a completely unique atmosphere.

Kid A Mnesia: Exhibition is for the most part nonlinear, and the one occasion in which the player is forced to remain in one area for a certain amount of time winds up feeling just as freeform as the rest. Stopping to fully appreciate every detail could take hours, but it’s refreshing to sink time into something for the thrill of discovery rather than achieving any specific goal. 

That isn’t to say this is a relaxing time. The world around you poses little threat (many of the creatures you come across seem docile, perhaps even friendly) yet a foreboding sense of dread is prevalent throughout. After all, the music on which this museum bases itself can hardly be described as easy listening: ‘Idioteque’ and ‘Like Spinning Plates’ weave social panic and biting political commentary into their lyrics;

While you make pretty speeches,

I’m being cut to shreds

‘How To Disappear Completely’ plays out like a cross between a lullaby and an anxiety attack; and ‘Knives Out’ sees the band descend to morbid depths;

If you’d been a dog

They would’ve drowned you at birth

All of these emotions and more are reflected in this audiovisual fever dream. Arbitrarily Good Productions and Namethemachine have done an outstanding job of translating the ‘feel’ of these albums into a multimedia format, though the contribution of longtime collaborator Stanley Donwood cannot be understated. Having designed all of the group’s artwork with frontman Thom Yorke since The Bends, everything you come across in the exhibition is as much his work brought to life as theirs. His artistic output with Radiohead has been plentiful, and every project they’ve worked on together could easily produce something as extensive as this. Repetition is rarely their style, but it’s hard to resist the idea of expansions celebrating other release eras. That being said, there’s more than enough here to satisfy.

No matter the order you experience events in, the exhibition is bound to leave you feeling intrigued, impressed, and just a little bit terrified. Between this and the awe-inspiring Dreams of Dali, the argument that video games are a lesser art form is growing thinner by the day. As a matter of fact, staring up at the towering oddities scattered through the exhibits reminds of witnessing Dali’s elephants in that VR project, if markedly more frightening. One can only shudder at the thought of Kid A Mnesia: Exhibition in virtual reality – perhaps simultaneously out of primal fear and immense excitement at the possibility. 

Unless that daydream comes true, your best bet for experiencing it is in the dark, with a good set of speakers or headphones and a decent slice of your day carved out.

I’ve been wary to avoid the term ‘game’ in this review because it forfeits most of the mainstays of modern gaming, save for movement. However, it’s hard to envision this being done in any other format, and despite a message at the entrance insisting ‘this is not a game,’ in my eyes it encapsulates exactly what games stand for: Immersion. Moreso, it’s emblematic of the integrity and generosity Radiohead fans have become familiar with. Art this detailed often comes with a hefty price, so granting free passes to anyone with the hardware to run it is as bold and selfless as their 2007 ‘pay-what-you-wish’ release of In Rainbows. 

If your machine can handle it, this is a must. With or without prior knowledge of Radiohead, there’s something to be found for everyone, enticing faces and places lurking around every corner. It really is something to be experienced, equal parts macabre and melancholy, and at all times evocative.

Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews Why We Love

Why We Love: Buerak

Russian post punk is a genre that has slowly but surely permeated American musical taste. Some early examples include the dreamy Motorama and the grim but vibrant Human Tetris. I was introduced to the genre through the latter after stumbling across arguably their biggest hit, “Things I Don’t Need,” on YouTube during the summer of 2018. Immediately, I fell in love with the song. It had everything a fan of post punk wants: gloomy bass lines, spectral guitar riffs, cryptic vocals delivered in a baritone, and hyper talented drumming that even a machine would struggle to replicate. From that song on, I began delving deeper into the genre.

Suddenly, in the summer of 2020, the genre exploded onto the scene. Molchat Doma, a Belarusian trio, took TikTok by storm with their song “Sudno,” a title that translates to “Bedpan.” Due to this song’s rapid climb in notoriety, other similar sounding bands were sought out and gained popularity as well. However, one band that has not truly received their dues, in my opinion, is Buerak.

Buerak is a Russian duo that formed in 2014, releasing their first singles the same year. The two members are singer/bassist Artyom Cherepanov and guitarist Alexandr Makeyev. Hailing from Novosibirsk, Russia, Buerak has been dubbed part of the “new Russian wave.” They are also notably prolific: since their founding in 2014, the pair has released six full length albums, eight EPs, and twenty singles. They have also released nine music videos.

I first came across Buerak thanks to some friends in Belfast who posted one of their songs on Instagram. Intrigued, I deciphered the Russian characters in the title and found the song, called “Sports Glasses,” on YouTube. From the very start, the frantic drum machine, insistent bass, and spider-like guitar hold the listener in their wintery grip. After a moment, the song transitions, with the drums lessening a little but not losing the tempo. 

Cherepanov’s peculiar and unique vocal delivery then takes center stage. The vocals are almost deadpan save for a few instances where he emphasizes words. Despite the urgent feeling of the song behind him, the way he sings gives the impression that he is reading rather than singing, which works oddly well. In a way, the vocals become an anchor keeping the hyperactive instruments from flying off the rails. However, at the end of the song, the vocals depart and the instruments close out the song with gusto. There is heavy use of crash cymbals on the drum machine, and the guitar becomes fuzzier, while the bass provides the powerful undertow.

The crazy drum machine patterns, razor-sharp guitar lines, and ever present bass are staples of almost every Buerak song, though many of their songs utilize other stylistic measures as well. For example, on their 2017 sophomore LP, “Modest Apartments,” more than one guitar is featured on some of the songs, creating a captivating tapestry of sound. On some other songs on the album, synthesizer comes in, taking their already 80’s-inspired sound to new heights.

Outside of the studio, Buerak is known for their energetic live shows. Despite the occasional mishap that comes with using a drum machine, the two musicians, Cherepanov in particular, get the audience frenzied and dancing to every song. Oftentimes, the crowd often sings the songs back at the band, showcasing just how popular they really are.

If you love Russian post punk, then I cannot recommend Buerak enough. Their music is similar enough to other bands in the scene to attract fans of the genre while being unique enough to stand out from the crowd. The energetic rhythms and wonderful production have always brought me back to the band ever since I first heard them back in 2020, and I have never been disappointed.


Why We Love: Wunderhorse

Are you a child of the Windmill Brixton? All of us babyfaced, barely legal and sneaking tins into gigs before screaming along to ‘Social Experiment’ by the Dead Pretties like some still-pimpled pheromonal cult. We’ve all seemingly grown up in the past five years, and the Dead Pretties frontman himself, Jacob Slater, is no exception. 

There has been a slow tease of singles, beginning with ‘Teal,’ which holds some of the flavour that you’ll find familiar from those wild nights in 2017; it’s there in its hyperactivity, as well the balance of a gentle croon against that snarl from the back of the throat. Fans of old are launched back into the arms of the Jacob they used to know, whilst the new are freshly immersed in a world of shoegaze and Britpop. The lyrics, however, are a nostalgic piece of heartache, with love and death juxtaposed against a thumping crescendo that fills you up and up and up until you feel as though the raw vocals are ripping from your own throat.

A B-side to ‘Teal’ follows shortly after in the form of the short but eerily saccharine ‘One For the Pigeons.’ To me it’s a bittersweet Jeff Buckley and Sufjan Stevens hybrid, taking the falsettoed voice of one and playing it over the instrumental stylings of another (‘The Other Woman – Studio Outtake’ meets ‘Death With Dignity,’ if you want me to specify). It’s gloomy and unusual, once again with surreal lyrics of love and death, but this time as a tranquil lullaby of a chaser to the youthful adrenaline shot of ‘Teal.’ 

The most recent release as of November is ‘Poppy,’ a vibrant and heady piece of 90s-esque psychedelia that emanates the opiate-suggestive title of the name, but only in sound. In both lyric and tone, Slater once again gives us a masterclass in evoking nostalgia, placing a haunting backing track to our hindsight. ‘Poppy’ feels as though it should be played in the background of melancholy time-travel, like a theme song to a TV shows akin to ‘Life on Mars’ or ‘Ashes to Ashes.’ The lyrics fall away in the middle of the song, leaving us with roughly two minutes of intense guitar that sends you to some dimension where Woodstock and Spike Island meet. 

Wunderhorse plays with my nostalgia because I was there, being choke-slammed whilst crowd surfing to the Dead Pretties at Moth Club. The themes of love, death, and the passing of time take me back to that era too. I unexpectedly got to spend a little bit of time on a project with Jacob this year, and we had a couple of chats about the past. We talked about who we were then and who we are trying to be now, and after listening to his new songs, I now know I couldn’t have had a conversation about those topics with a better person.

(photographed by Yi-Hsuan Li / @maretrail)

Nostalgia is a treasured artefact, something that is generally untethered by any one particular emotion, but when it does hit a nerve or strike a chord, it’s easy to get lost within it. While listening to Wunderhorse it’s easy to float around in the past, whilst also wondering about what comes next. Have we really grown up all that much? I certainly hope not.

Not yet anyway.

Wunderhorse plays at the Lexington on 10/03/22
Tickets available via Dice

Punk/Rock Reviews

Brian Destiny: “You’ve Got to Be Doing Something with Love.”

Brian Destiny and Nathan Saoudi are the same person. Most of the time. 

Nathan, with his mop of dark curls and film star grin, is perhaps the most constant member of south London rock n’ rollers the Fat White Family, helping to write the band’s material, as well as playing keyboard and providing backing vocals. In his elder brother Lias’s words, he’s the “anchor” of the band, the emotional bomb diffuser, the only stable element in a roomful of exceedingly reactive molecules. 

Nathan is the Fat White Family. He’s the eerie, funhouse cascade of keyboard that kicks off “Bomb Disneyland.” The bouncing, delirious chords of “Touch the Leather.” The addictive melody of “Feet,” (inspired by the siren call of Algerian rai and good, old-fashioned disco, with three million streams on Spotify and counting.) No Fat White Family gig is complete without Nathan going manic at the end, dragging his keyboard over and playing it on his knees, occasionally using his skull, his nose, or his teeth to coax unearthly sounds from the machine, sonically lacing together Lias’s frenzied screams and Alex White’s Maceo-Parker-on-acid sax, into something beautiful yet apocalyptic. 

The Fat White Family are often derided for their punkish behavior (boozing, drugging, and participating in constant public tiffs with other bands) but musically, they’ve produced some of the most exciting, innovative sounds of the past decade. It’s a case of the public not being able to see the forest for the trees. C’mon, guys: Beethoven is here. Liszt is in the building. Open your eyes. Open your ears. 

The band has spent the last ten years in a relentless cycle of writing, recording, and touring. The pandemic stopped it all, but Nathan’s not one to bemoan what can’t be helped. He’s kept busy working on his newest solo venture, a band called Brian Destiny, along with the launch of his own record label, Dash the Henge. 

And so, on the day before Halloween, I find myself at Earl Ferrers pub in Streatham, where Nathan’s new label digs are situated, waiting for the man himself. Earl Ferrers has a plastic skeleton at the piano, and the makings of a toxic-slime green punch at the bar. Nathan appears, wearing a Fred Perry jacket, track pants and impossibly white trainers, and leads me up a winding staircase to the headquarters of Dash the Henge. 

It’s an open, airy room, with big windows looking out over the street, “like Paris,” Nathan says, as he brews tea and sits us down at a table covered in rolling papers, hastily scrawled setlists, vitamin bottles, and a half-eaten bar of Lindt 90%. The only sign of the Fat White Family is a stomach-lining-pink amp shoved into the corner, branded with the band logo. Speakers and shelves of well-loved vinyl line the wall, and a laptop blasts Miles Davis. (“I’ve only recently got into jazz, about two months ago,” Nathan admits. “I’m just going through all the big guns. Helps me relax.”) 

There’s something about the sparkle in his warm brown eyes that makes me think of the old Bing Crosby tune, “It’s Just the Gypsy in My Soul.” (Maybe he’ll hate that, but it’s true.) He’s started his new band, Brian Destiny, partly because he: “wants to make people dance. I like people dancing.” 

Brian Destiny is his alter ego: “My friend in Northern Ireland, he was called Brian. He was the first person that whenever I was sixteen, I just started playing guitar and he was quite serious, and he was like ‘You’re all right at this!’ and I wasn’t. I was shit. I hate playing guitar. So, I dedicated the name to the first person who gave me encouragement, music-wise.”

Despite the fact that Brian is, in a manner of speaking, his spiritual other half, Nathan doesn’t see himself as helming Brian Destiny. He doesn’t feel in sole possession of the band. “(Music) is like God’s language… my brother said a good thing the other day; he said, ‘singing is praying twice.’ If you look at all the best musicians in the past, I swear they’re all believers in God. All those blues guys, all those classical boys, Elvis Presley, the Beatles. There are all kinds of religious elements inside. To neglect that just makes me think that you’re not very open to another way of life. If you’re not open, how can it be good for creativity? Believe whatever the fuck you want, but no one can control music. You can only temporarily harness it. It can’t be controlled,” he explains. 

Brian Destiny at Dash the Henge HQ, shot by @stiff_material.

Growing up in Northern Ireland in the Noughties, Nathan’s interest in music was piqued by Top 40 giants like Michael Jackson and Dire Straits, as well as: “Motown, that stuff I fucking love…My dad was obsessed with Cat Stevens, and the Eagles, so I got into them very young. Bob Marley… I love that song, ‘Bad Boys.’ The hits, the big tunes. Eminem, Elvis Presley. I love ‘em all.” 

 “I DJ’ed. Got a pair of decks when I was 16. Just in my room. Techno. Guitar I wasn’t as enthused by, but I still liked it because I saw it as a way to get into the music world. I still love techno. I’m doing another thing called Soft Tip; I don’t know if it’s techno or house, but it’s fucking dance…” 

He pauses to take a deep draft of strawberry smoothie from a blender—pre-gig nourishment, he’s playing with Alex Sebley’s band, PREGOBLIN, later on, at a venue in east London. The idea for a solo project in the form of Brian Destiny surfaced sometime around 2019: “It came about after the third Fat Whites album. I started writing a lot at that point.” His highly anticipated EP Brian’s Got Talent was recorded before lockdown but remained unfinished until early this year.

Writing for Brian Destiny is a serene process compared to writing for the Fat Whites, where so many fertile minds clamor for track space. Nathan’s favorite method is simply wandering around London until inspiration strikes: Long, solitary, walks are how most of Brian’s Got Talent was written.

“Whenever I walk more than two hours, I always get something. If you’re walking around somewhere that’s a bit isolated, you can just start singing. Strictly reclusive places. Sometimes I pick up litter when I’m walking…there’s more purpose to it. If everybody didn’t go to the gym but just walked around ferociously hunting litter, the whole country would look tidy. And these are problems that the old boys from like hundreds of years ago, that we all romanticize about, the painters, the poets—they didn’t have to contend with litter as a fucking one of their banes, did they?” 

The album’s first single, Is it Gonna Be Love? neatly sums up the differences between the Fat Whites’ and Brian Destiny’s musical missions. “It’s my basic philosophy, isn’t it? Love. I know it’s a loaded term, but if you can’t find something to do that you love doing, then it’s kind of like…pointless, isn’t it? Whatever it is, you’ve got to be doing something with love. That’s it. That’s the solution.”

Lou Smith, (the Fat White Family’s longtime photographer, documentarian, and friend, who often visited the Fat Whites during their tenure in Sheffield where Nathan ran the studio in which the band recorded their third album, Serf’s Up) says: “There was no social life in Sheffield, it was grim, freezing, grey, rainy, horrible. So, he built up that studio there, Champzone…he’s developed a very strong sense of what he wants. He’s definitely on a mission. And he knows how to get the best out of people…”

Running Champzone was good practice for Dash the Henge, which Nathan started because, “I’ve always wanted to have a little label. He drops the astounding comment that music wasn’t his first plan in life, but, as he says: “I wanted to have a laugh. And it’s good for community, isn’t it?” 

In an era defined by increasing feelings of isolation due in part to social media, close communities are at last being recognized for the precious commodities they are. Starting his own record label seems to be a continuation of Nathan’s desire to meld a tight creative community. Since establishing himself in the new headquarters of Dash the Henge above Earl Ferrers, he’s initiated open-invitation jam sessions, an everyone-gets-a-seat-at-the-table affair called Avant Practiced. There’s free curry afterward, and an inevitable slew of photos of some of south London’s best musicians gathered into a tiny room, riding the sonic waves wherever the music takes them, on Instagram the next morning. 

Nathan wants the two-headed beast of Avant Practiced and Dash the Henge to function as a think tank for local musicians: “You’ve got to make it plausible to do research, otherwise it’s just all this talk. Everyone has to rely on one another, but whenever you’ve just got an impulse to make something, and then you’re relying on someone who doesn’t quite understand that impulse, that’s when people start to get frustrated. You’ve got to make a little space…”

Liam May of Trashmouth Records, (the first label to sign Fat White Family, over a bottle of cheap sake, back in 2012) says of Nathan: “It’s impossible to quantify the kind of lubricating influence Nathan has on a band as dysfunctional as the Fat White Family. But the truth is, they wouldn’t have been able to move forwards, backwards, sideways, or anyways without him. Maybe it’s the casualness with which he picks his nose that has the power to disarm even the most searing animosity and crippling self-doubt? Who knows? It’s never easy to explain genius, and the beauty of magic is always in its mystery. . .”

Brian Destiny’s debut EP, Brian’s Got Talent, is out on Dash the Henge records in January of 2022. You can follow him on Instagram @briandestiny and @dashthehenge. His recent single, Is it Gonna Be Love?, is available to stream on all platforms.