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Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock

Ten Years On: The Drums’ Prodigal Son, Portamento

Portamento’s album cover. Courtesy of Pitchfork

Saying that something is life changing is dramatic. However, in the case of indie-rock band The Drums, I can make this statement with absolute certainty. They shaped my music taste, influenced my songwriting, and provided the soundtrack to some of my best memories. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2010, is one of the best albums of that decade, in my humble opinion. The production, the songwriting, and all the subtle flourishes and embellishments present within those twelve songs is unbelievable, especially for a debut album. There are few other releases like it.

In 2011, the band released their second album, titled Portamento. In an Instagram post celebrating the album’s tenth anniversary, band leader Jonny Pierce mentioned how the album was considered to be a flop, a victim of the “sophomore slump.” He is not wrong in saying that. Compared to the debut album, the reviews for Portamento were noticeably lukewarm. According to Metacritic, the average score for the album was a 64. YouTube music critic TheNeedleDrop gave the album a 5/10 after praising the debut album. Fans were confused by the album, and I will not hesitate to say that I was as well. After spending so many listens absorbing the shimmering guitars, beachy harmonies, and lovesick lyrics of the first album, I did not know what to make of Portamento, and as a result, I shoved it aside.

Portamento differs from the debut album almost immediately with the song “Book of Revelation.” The production is less shiny, and the tone of the song is more sullen than even the darkest moments of the debut. Jonny is also singing in a much higher register than he did before. On the debut, his singing was safe and fit the music like a glove, whereas on this album, he is pushing the envelope. Considering how flamboyant Jonny’s live presence is, this change makes sense. It also shows that he is not afraid to take risks to get his point across. 

As the album continues, it throws more curveballs at the listener. “What You Were” and “Money” feature a much higher emphasis on synthesizers than on previous releases, with various keyboard stabs poking through the thin fabric of guitars. The latter also features some interesting vocalizations that will surprise many fans of the debut album. The dive into synths hits its peak on the song “Searching For Heaven,” which is all synthesizer and saves for some haunting vocals. 

However, ten years on, it is safe to say that Portamento has aged remarkably well, turning many of its skeptics into supporters, including me. I love many of the songs on this album. The emotion is more potent, more urgent than on the debut album. While that album dealt with love in a way that was melancholy but also tinged with sunshine. It was broken hearted but still had its composure. Portamento, meanwhile, does not hold back any punches, with its lyrics lacking the poetics of the first album but packing more of a punch, such as on the song “If He Likes It Let Him Do It.” The songs feel brutally honest, and the listener can feel whatever Jonny is feeling without any doubts. 

The music is also far more dour, but not to the detriment of the listening experience. The aforementioned “Money” was the first single off the album, and it is one of the catchiest songs The Drums have ever released. Despite its breakneck pace, each instrument is tight to the groove. The lyrics are a bit more tongue in cheek, with the chorus “I want to buy you something / But I don’t have any money” being wryly humorous and relatable.

At the end of the day, I will always adore the debut album, and it is to this day my favorite Drums release. However, I owe Portamento an apology. It is a stripped down, emotionally turbulent album, and an experience completely separate from the debut album. Once you separate Portamento from The Drums, it shines in its own light, where it belongs.

The Drums Circa 2011. From left: Connor Hanwick, Jacob Graham, Jonny Pierce

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Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews Uncategorized

Indie Idols: Will and the People

Image by Daniel Harris

Have you ever attended a concert and decided to skip the support acts? After all, they’re not who you’re there to see and one more drink in the bar is so tempting! If you have, I must say I think you missed out on some possibly brilliant music. I used to think that the support acts were just an unnecessary warm up to the main event, however, I have come to realize the error of my ways, and have since discovered some impeccable artists supporting others. This month’s Indie Idol is evidence of that. In 2019, I attended a Barns Courtney concert at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, and had looked up the support acts, Ulysses Wells and Will and the People, on Spotify before going in. Now I must admit, I was not entirely convinced of Will and the People’s music when I first heard it but after seeing them perform, in their underwear I might add, I was hooked. Their performance was incredibly energetic, charismatic and addictive, and I have since seen them again – most recently at Boardmasters festival just over a week ago. At which their performance was once again sublime and full of frontman Will Rendle’s usual antics – crowd surfing for example.

Hailing from Brighton, Will and the People formed in 2010 with brothers Will and Jamie Rendle (although Jamie joined later), Charlie Harman and Jim Ralphs and are considered by many as one of “the most down to earth bands, who appreciate every single one of their fans and put 110% into their live shows!”* It is with no doubt that Will and the People definitely go over and above with their gigs, the atmosphere is electric and shows tend to be a generally riotous experience, whether they’re the support or headline act, Will and the People will be a highlight of your night. The band have so far released four albums, with a new one promised for November, and it is difficult to classify Will and the People’s music into a single genre as every song is so distinct from each other that the variation is like a signature of the group. One of the band’s earliest tracks, Lion in the Morning Sun, for instance, has some very obvious pop music vibes but is full of ska and reggae fervour, with a strong but fast paced walking beat, almost reminiscent of the ska-punk or 2 tone genre that rose to popularity with bands like The Specials or The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, whereas more recent tracks like Justify, a track released in September of last year, has a more emotional rock ballad sound merged with rap elements and ethereal aspects similar to that of the band Evanescence. 

Of the band’s work, the song that stands out most to me as something special is the 2019 single Gigantic. Lyrically, the track tells the story of love, specifically familial love and how the people you choose to surround yourself with and those who love you can make the world better than anything. It discusses the sentiment that you would do anything for your family and friends, as evidenced in the first lyric, “I could be there for you, if you want me to,” as well as, the idea that even if you’re feeling down or lonely you will always have your family and friends to fall back on, just as they would have you, no matter how far away you are. The accompanying music video effortlessly depicts the warmth and sentimentality of the song, as it is presented as a sort of home video, going from door to door collecting relatives, young and old, to go to a large family get together. Hearing Will call his grandmother in the opening seconds really elevates that feeling of the music video and overall creates a human connection with the audience as you almost feel like you are part of the family.

Lucky for all who love them, Will and the People have a new single coming out on the 27th. In two days! Animal, a long awaited song that has been all over the world in its production stages, is sure to blow your mind. And! To add to the excitement, are on tour around the UK right now, and then all over Europe in the first few months of 2022.

*Quote from Tom Embling, who saw WATP on the 22nd in Bristol, where they, once again, performed in underwear. The tour wardrobe must be very compact!

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock Reviews

notes from the trenches

After a month of an environmental microbiology summer course at uni, and two months of unloading produce trucks at farmer’s markets, I return to you a changed girl. This means I’m absolutely exhausted, so tanned my dermatologist is frightened, and I’ve cut my own bangs again. The good thing is I’m still 20 and according to everyone I know who’s over 40, completely exhausted, broke, and sporting a questionable hairstyle is just how I’m supposed to be at this particular age, so at least I’m living up to someone’s expectations. 

Speaking of expectations, the Berlin-based chanteuse Anika’s sophomore album Change recently appeared on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart, an exciting development in the trajectory of a very worthy artist’s career. Limited edition, cherry-red vinyls of the album are available on Bandcamp, and tickets for her upcoming fall tour are available via a link in the recent interview Totally Wired conducted with her.

2021 is the 10th anniversary of Trashmouth Records, and as Charlie Steen of Shame says: “Trashmouth fear no fever, no nausea or fatigue, no symptom can scare them; they are the antidote.” In light of that statement, I think we should place all our trust and possibly also all of our money into Trashmouth, as an antidote is exactly what we need right now, in so many ways.

Before I was exposed to the sonic wonderland created by the Trashmouth tribe, I foolishly thought all modern music could either shuffled into the category of Taylor Swift or Avenged Sevenfold, and therefore I didn’t listen to much, as when given the choice between songs about sad cheerleaders or necrophilia, I’d rather hear the sound of silence. And then along came Madonnatron and Warmduscher on Iggy Pop’s BBC 6 radio show, and I was hooked, enchanted, a devoted convert.

Trashmouth’s latest release is a single that will feature on their anniversary compilation album, a remix of Weston Decker’s “Lazy.” Weston Decker is an American artist based in Boulder, Colorado; in his Spotify bio, he purports to have been conceived in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I consider DFW to be the first circle of hell in my own private model of the inferno, so I tip my hat to anyone who has been summoned into being somewhere in its chaotic grey arteries, and managed not be plagued by demons, etc. “Lazy,” is a tasty little indie pop number with an infectious rhythm, and the Trashmouth remix of the song has sharpened it–brought out its cheekbones, as it were—the driving electronic beats making a good thing even better.

Also on the Trashmouth release radar is a remix of Madonnatron’s “Venus and Rahu,” out today on all platforms. According to their Spotify bio, Madonnatron formed by “arising unabashed from the mists of the Thames.” In 2019 the band released Musica Alla Puttanesca, a much-lauded musical experience (the album cover of which depicts the laser-eyed gaze of the Madonna setting the world aflame, a theme which falls perfectly in step with Madonnatron’s usual agenda of the more darkly delicious art forms) on the Trashmouth label.

The Spanish rock supergroup Hinds recently collaborated with the German musician Kid Simius on a driving, upbeat, club track entitled “We Like to Party,” out now on Jirafa records. It’s the ideal track to make summer last a little longer, to stretch out those last lingering days of warmth and relative freedom. Hinds like to party; I remember watching them give a full-throttle rock n’ roll performance in an abandoned church at 2 a.m. one hot summer night a few years ago, and being duly impressed with their IPA consumption, as well as their musical prowess. 

This, then, is my final “notes from the trenches,” as I think everyone has swallowed quite enough of my opinions over this long, hot, pandemic summer. In the words of Groucho Marx, “Art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew ‘em they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now… you tell me what you know.” It’s someone else’s turn to give you their opinions on life, music, the universe, and everything. If you need me, I’ll be in the bar. All you have to do is whistle. 

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop Videos Why We Love

Why We Love – Salac

Salaċ is a Gaelic industrial duo whose music creates a Pagan dystopia as they whisper labyrinthine speech-to-song poetry over mystic beats. Clíona Ní Laoi and Max Kelan Pearce resemble some modern-day blue Bards, moulding audiovisual sorceries and anagogic poetry into a ritual of lunacy.

Part of the avant-garde Bristol collective Avon Terror Corps, the two orchestrate a resurgence of primal sound. Slithering noises and intricate inflections of their voices come together almost as if life and death are revealed to one another. Ceremonialists that speak to the wicked, Salaċ creates an epitome of disturbing magnetism through their ensembles of electronic distortions with obscure cadences.

The 13 songs on Sacred Movements take you for a trip through a clammy ambiance where softness and ragged vibrations come together in harmony. The heaviness of their performance is bewitching; it forges the album into a sanctuary of sunken alchemy. A twitching glow through a gloomy forest, an ode for the debauched and the midnight lords, this album is a remarkable eulogy to Gaelic ritualism.

Corybantic gyrations of sound will carry you away as you listen to The Dead Don’t Forget / Clouds Over The Moon. Spell-casting lyrics and daedal piano notes are as theatrical as they are auditory pleasing, testifying to the grand artistry of the two.

Illicit Rituals is another compilation of 13 pieces that evoke a sanctified dimension of industrial music, where mechanical whirring and ominous statics meet grave wailings. A thrilling mind trip that goes through legerdemain rhythmic pitches and sinister verses, the album is a cyber chaos that seems to come from the underworld.

Moony modulations inspired by an ancient world of magick and sacred initiation open the door to a realm of contemporary ceremonies of the depraved. A divination of the occult and a fascination with the natural world become apparent in the duo’s official video for Procession To The Underworld – the two burn sage and their bodies twist and turn as they summon hoary forces. Draped in gauzy veils and crowned with leafy branches, they dance to the convoluted buzzing and the vicious basslines.

Salaċ has a chilling and truly unique approach to industrial music. There is a fantastic peculiarity that makes their music a momentous expression of talent and affinity to the folk traditions as they get closer to their roots and depict repugnance towards the oppressors of the true Celtic spirit.

Listen on Bandcamp                                                                         

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Jazz/Blues Pop/Indie Pop Soul/R&B

Kimberly Davis (CHIC): From Brooklyn to the World

Kimberly Davis, the story of a girl from Brooklyn whose journey through music led her to become the lead singer in the most famous disco band there has ever been: CHIC.

With classics such as ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Everybody Dance’ ready to perform to the world, we got a chance to catch up with Kim before she embarks on CHIC’s UK tour this August.

As Kim joined the Zoom call from sunny New York, I was instantly greeted by a smile and energy as infectious as CHIC’S ‘Good Times’ groove, behind her, an incredible array of shoes covering her apartment walls.

James: Wow that’s a lot of shoes Kim!

Kim: Haha! Oh yes! It’s something of an obsession!

J: Have you decided which ones you’ll be bringing with you on tour?

K: Oh yes! But you’ll have to wait and see!

J: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! It seems like not long ago I was a student interviewing Nile Rodgers for our student TV show, so it’s fantastic to meet one of the other immense talents of CHIC.

Where do I start? You’re just about to go on tour, and over the years you’ve played with some absolute legends of music. I’m interested to know where it all began for you.

K: Well, my mother was musical, she was a singer. My father was a musician so there was always music around the house, whether it was auntie playing disco or grandma playing gospel. I would sit in front of the TV and sing the commercials or the theme songs to shows.

J: Do you remember the point in which you decided: “This is what I wanna do with my life,“?

K: I was always in the church choir and even sang at family reunions. My mom took me to see the movie ‘Fame’ about the NY School of Performing Arts. I remember seeing the students dancing on tables and singing in the hallway, and I thought, “There’s no way I’m not going to that school.” I went for four years and that taught me everything I needed to know.

J: For a lot of young people starting out the way you did, the music industry seems massive. Do you feel as if you’ve always had the confidence to tackle that, or was that something you had to learn also?

K: I had a lot of insecurities when I was younger, especially going from junior high to high school. I said to my music teacher when auditioning for high school, “I don’t know if I want to go because I’m not going to stand out anymore. I’m not gonna be the girl that can sing anymore, I’ll just be part of the crowd.”

K: She just said, “Are you insane?! You’re gonna learn from everyone there… the students, the teachers!” And that’s just what I did. Once I got past that fear of I’m not gonna be the stand-out singer, it was all a learning process. You never want to get too cocky. My last words when speaking to singers are always, “Be fierce, but stay humble.”

I wanted to ask Kim a bit about how she managed to raise her son for 17 years, all whilst working a full-time job and singing on the side. Surely there is no better role model for young musicians trying to make it today.

J: Something I think frightens a lot of young musicians today is this feeling that if they don’t ‘make it’ whilst they’re young, they might ‘miss the boat.’ But of course, you went away from the limelight for 17 years to raise your son before landing the lead role in CHIC.

K: I think everyone is always afraid of that, it’s bad that it’s something society has made us think. But I mean, think of all the actors that didn’t make it until they were in their forties. You’re never supposed to stop pursuing your passion. Your passion is what keeps you alive, it’s what keeps you going, so you can never give up and think, “Oh, I’m past my prime.” Says who?!

J: And surely taking a break from your music career must have come with a lot of life lessons, too?

K: Well, I never stopped singing. I had a full-time job but my hours were from 12 pm – 8 am. I would get up, take care of my son, go to work, sing during the daytime and then back to work again. Every day I was still doing something: an open mic night, a wedding… Now that my kids are grown up, I get to travel and do what I wanna do. Even though you may take a break, you never truly stop.

J: During that time, did you ever anticipate that in a few years time you’d be singing all over the world with one of the biggest bands ever?

K: (laughing) Absolutely not. I was a child when [CHIC] dropped most of their music, so I was singing along to all the classics growing up. Ralph, the band’s drummer and a good friend of mine, called me one day and was like, “What are you doing?” I said, “Dude I’m at work, what do you mean what am I doing?” And so he says, “You need to get down here right now, they’re auditioning.”

K: In the same day, I left work to go to the audition, got the gig and came back to my job to quit at lunch!

J: What was it like the first time rehearsing with Nile and the band? Was there a moment when you realised ‘Holy sh*t, I’m the lead singer in CHIC?

K: Well the guys in the band would tell me all the time, “You raised the bar for what we’re doing.” Initially, Nile wanted to stop doing CHIC. He was so depressed and sick about the band that he just wanted to stop doing it. They all just weren’t happy, so they said to Nile, “You don’t give up playing, you just switch up the band.” And so that’s what he did.

K: He switched up the band and now we’re family for real. We laugh together, we cry together, we live with each other more than our own families. So you know, we are family.

J: Do you think you joining the band installed a lot of confidence in Nile then?

K: Oh yeah, totally. He’s excited about getting back out there, and it’s gotta be a good thing because now we’re coming back out and people have been waiting. You know, this kind of music is infectious. Every gig is like a dance party. There are no dull moments, and that’s what we look forward to. I love the fact that kids 5 years old are singing “We Are Family.” That means someone passed down to them the songs just as my parents did to me.

J: What’s been some of the most memorable gigs for you?

K: The most prominent one I would definitely say is Glastonbury. That was awesome. I remember Barry Gibb playing “Staying Alive” and everyone, even the security, broke out into a flash mob. Dubai was amazing and playing the Sydney Opera House was incredible.

K: Just travelling the continents with Nile is crazy. But I’m just helping him live his best life. When I sing “Get Lucky” he gives me this intro about how he almost died from cancer, and now he feels like the luckiest man alive. So I’m just helping him to relay his story and that’s all I need.

J: So I suppose you must feel like you’ve gotten to Nile pretty well?

K: Oh yes, he calls me his little sister. We did a song together and he didn’t hesitate to play on it. I said to him, “I have this song coming out and I feel like I hear you already on it.” I sent him the stems, he did the song and it went to number one. He’s just the best boss really.

J: Is there any advice you’ve always kept or maybe told your son in pursuing his own dreams? Is there anything you would say to your young self as a girl in Brooklyn?

K: It’s basically just: do not give up your passion. That’s just the bottom line. If you give up your passion, you literally die on the inside. If you’re someone that likes drawing and you can’t find a pencil or paper and that stops you, it’s not your real passion. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you should never stop. And again, be humble, that’s how you keep getting your blessings.

J: And in fact you started your own singing academy this year, why was that so important to you?

K: I’ve been trying to do it for so long, people have been asking me to give them lessons ever since I hosted open mic nights. I’ve never had a chance to do it, but this whole pandemic has given me the time to do that. I’m teaching these young people because I love it! Zoom is such a beautiful thing because it means I have students from all over the world.

J: It’s always a tricky decision for a lot of young people pursuing music. Whether or not ‘music school’ is the right thing for them, or whether it actually makes a difference at all.

K: Absolutely, I suppose the difference is that I don’t give out degrees, but I can help people at a more personal level. If there’s a student who has trouble hitting low notes, I can show them exercises that will help them. I can also put a student in front of people with a real status in the music industry or get them to open up for us.

J: That sounds incredible, and we’ll be keeping our ears close to the talent that you work with. Thanks so much for talking with us, and hopefully we’ll catch you when you come to London!

K: Absolutely, thanks hon!

If you’re in the UK, be sure to catch CHIC on their UK tour through August and September, and for singers searching for the perfect mentor, check out Kimberly’s Academy here.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

notes from the trenches

I don’t like festivals all that much (mud, granola and hallucinogens are a very bad combination in my opinion, especially when you could be going swimming), but I missed them like hell last summer when they were a total impossibility. It’s cheering to have them coming back, albeit in a small capacity. Instead of having a quiet cry whilst reading Glastonbury According to AA Gill, we can experience festivals in person again—at least to a certain extent. 

Anyone who thinks they can socially distance a mosh pit has another thing coming, however, as a socially distanced mosh pit would basically be paying to go for a three-mile run. Imagine what the aliens would think. Humanity must be a sort of never-ending Marx Brothers film to extraterrestrial lifeforms…

But never mind that, onwards to Very Important Music News. The Cambridgeshire-based indie-pop duo Collars debut EP Everything Present 1 dropped on July 16th, and it’s prime summer listening. You can catch the duo live at any number of venues across the country this summer and fall.

Lil Simz’ recent collaboration with SAULT, Nine, is absolutely unmissable. It’s the only album I’ve had on repeat all month. Come for SAULT’S signature smooth melodies and addictive beats, stay for Lil Simz’ witty, introspective raps.

Nathan Saoudi’s band Brian Destiny debuted loads of exciting new material at a socially distanced show last month. Totally Wired’s very own James George Potter went to investigate and was instantly hooked by the Brian Destiny sound, “I Wanna Be Gay,” being the stand-out tune of the evening. 

Trashmouth Records have released a remix of Meatraffle’s The Horseshoe. I could write a lot about it but there’s already an article up on it, so I’ll just say it’s an absolute bop, because it is.

It’s a short column this month, as the heat is affecting my cognitive abilities. Signing off now to submerge my head in ice or to listen to Everything Present 1 again–both are equally effective ways to calm down and cool off. It’s either that or move north, and I just don’t have the patience to deal with snowshoes and the possibility of getting involved in rumbles with polar bears over fish finger sandwiches. It’s just not worth it, and I’m not going vegan again. Much like this column, life is far too short.

Yours in solidarity and Bandcamp Fridays,

Annie x

Header Photo Credit: Brian Destiny live at Oslo Hackney by James George Potter

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop

The Wonderful World of Walt Disco

The Glaswegian glam pop outfit Walt Disco have been making waves in the European indie scene since their debut EP Young Hard and Handsome was released in September of 2020. Consisting of six members, James (lead singer); Finlay (guitar and keyboards); Lewis (guitarist); David (synth); Charlie (bass); and Jack (drums) the group’s appearance is reminiscent of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and mid-1970s Brian Eno with a dash of ABBA thrown in for good measure. 

Yet Walt Disco somehow remain totally unlike any other band that has gone before them. They have a distinctly 21stcentury feel, a fervent embrace of unapologetic self-expression and decadence (the intensity of which stems possibly from the increasingly alarming structural malfunctions seizing up our current way of life on Earth.) The band have quickly forged their own signature sound, inviting listeners into a colorful realm of rock n’ roll that Dork Magazine has dubbed, “Walt Discoworld.”

The group recently released a single entitled Selfish Lover, accompanied by a video featuring the band parading around an abandoned mansion decked out in glam rock deshabille and kabuki theatre-meets-Pierrot makeup. The Selfish Lover release coincided with an announcement that the group had signed to Lucky Number Records and were planning a tour of the U.K. to promote the single.

On behalf of Totally Wired, I recently caught up with lead singer James Potter and guitarist Finlay McCarthy for a chat on myriad topics ranging from writing pop songs on computers to raiding Grayson Perry’s closet, to the tour gigs they’re most looking forward to. 

The interview occurs on Zoom, because, well, of course: it’s 2021. James Potter appears on the screen first, their dark curly mullet pushed back over their ears, and shortly after, guitarist Finlay McCarthy pops up, sporting a Mick Jagger-y shag with the tips dyed blue. “I’m in!’ he crows, after exchanging suitably chummy greetings with bandmate James. (“Thank you, it’s a mess,” he says self-deprecatingly when I compliment his hair.) 

We get down to business, starting with the simple stuff: How did the band members originally meet? “Over the space of a couple of years. Me, Dave and Lewis were in the original line-up and then Finlay joined at the start of 2019, then Jack joined during a long tour in autumn 2019, and then Charlie joined in around December 2019,” James explains.

I ask what the main inspiration for starting a band was. “I suppose, personally, it’s just because it’s like the only thing I’m good at,” Finlay says. “Ever since I started playing guitar when I was like, 13, I was just like, ‘Ok. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna leave school and find people to play with…And I’m gonna take a part-time job until it works.’ And now it has.”

I inquire after who the primary songwriters in the band are. Do they all contribute equally, or do they have a Lennon/McCartney thing going on where some work on melody and some write lyrics?

 “I don’t think it’s ever been six of us in the same room, but all six of us contribute,” James says.

“We kind of had to look at the way we were creating over lockdown. And we found that a lot of it has come from writing through the computer rather than jamming in a room,” Finlay explains.

“I think often I find lyrics from the feeling an instrumental will give me,” James muses. “So it’ll be quite a lush instrumental often before I start writing lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics’ll come early but more often than not, I have to have a real feeling and emotions already from the music and find something from that. Because a lot of people won’t listen to lyrics. So, you don’t always even need lyrics, but melody is the main thing that moves people in music. And you need the right words to fit a melody.”

Walt Disco behind the scenes of their ‘Selfish Lover’ video, photographed by @m_adeleinegrace

We move on to discussing the band’s latest single, a high-energy pop number called Selfish Lover, written during lockdown: “Yeah, it was like, April last year,” James recalls. “Lewis sent a garage band demo. We really liked the energy of the instrumental. We just wanted to make it a wee bit more circusy and interesting, so we gave it the intro bassline and the sort of slightly swingy feel…”

Despite having good bones, the song took a lot of “chipping away,” at before it reached its final state, Finlay says. James grins and admits, “…the guitar riff, the middle eight and the first chorus one, was a guitar riff we stole from another song that didn’t quite make it…”

“You stole a riff from your own song? Self-piracy?” I laugh. 

“Yeah, we stole a riff from our own song because the rest of the song just wasn’t strong enough, but it had a really good riff. So, we were like, fuck it, we’ll just put it in this song…David Bowie plagiarized his own songs all the time,” James says. I mention how much James’ voice reminds me of Station to Station era David Bowie on certain Walt Disco tunes, and the conversation turns to the band’s musical inspirations and influences. 

“Having six of us, there’s quite a mishmash, but we all share very similar interests, like the Associates,” Finlay says. “We got really into electronic music over lockdown, cos all we were trying to do was write pop songs. And sometimes you just wanted to switch off and listen to a beat or a cool sound. That kind of seeped into the pop songs that we were trying to write.”

James delves deeper into dissecting the band’s writing methodology: “We’d often start with these quite complex, experimental electronic tracks and then complete that as its own little thing, and then send it over to a different computer and then view it differently… and then once the bass and guitar are on, give it a pop structure and pop melody. That’s the most successful writing process we’ve had.”

Walt Disco behind the scenes of the ‘Selfish Lover,’ video. Photographer: @m_adeleinegrace

The conversation veers from songwriting to another crucial part of Walt Disco’s collective artistic practice: getting dressed up. Thinking of the flamboyant mix of costumes in the Selfish Lover video (where the band wore everything from thigh-high black leather boots to baby pink satin corsets, housewifely 1950s half-slips, faux fur wraps and leather harnesses,) I ask if they have a favored designer or stylist.

“For the Selfish Lover video we were working with a stylist called Jack Shanks…he’s great,” James says. “He’s kind of the same build and the same height as all of us and that means he’s got lots of great things in his own wardrobe that fit us, and then we’ll always bring lots of our own wardrobes to the shoots. 

“Once everyone’s dressed, I make sure I have a look at everyone, ‘cause I love styling. It’s quite funny when everyone’s ready, and then I go round and am like: ‘I need to have a line-up,’ and then I’ll be like, ‘You’re not done,” and “you’re not done.’” They laugh. “Sometimes they’ll get a wee bit hurt and I’m like, ‘No, it’s for the video.’ It has to be right.”

“It’s always been something that’s been a big part of the band, even before we worked with stylists. Getting ready in the dressing room was always fun,” Finlay reminisces fondly.

I ask if there are any particular designers or fashion icons whose closets they’d like to raid.

“I think the one for both of us would be Grayson Perry,” James says, and Finlay oohs in agreement. “Definitely one of the biggest fashion icons of this century.”

I ask which artists first sparked their interest in music as kids, and Finlay looks a bit sheepish. “This may sound totally mad, but I didn’t like music when I was little. I just wasn’t interested in it, at all, until I got to high school. But I remember in my music class, we got a temporary music teacher that showed me ‘My Iron Lung,’ by Radiohead, and I was like ‘That’s cool.’ That kind of sent me down the rabbit hole.” 

James hasn’t heard this story before, and seems vaguely disappointed that Finlay’s “musical awakening,” took the form of Radiohead: “…a shame,” they say. Finlay thinks for a moment and adds, “It’s probably subliminal, but my mum was playing a lot of Kate Bush and stuff in the car, when I was little. I didn’t like it then, but I do now.” 

The soundtrack to James’ growing-up years was very different: “There were a lot of very guitar-y CDs in my house. Also, my parents would put on Queen and Scissor Sisters all the time, but I can’t remember if it was my request or not…it would kind of make sense if it was. I remember the CD player and the sound system were a real centerpiece of the living room when I was six or seven.”

I say that with the music industry stopped in its tracks for so many months, returning to the previous cycles of promo, releases and touring must feel almost alien in its strangeness. 

“You get used to your face not being anywhere, and then it’s everywhere!” James agrees, laughing.

Starting in July, Walt Disco are set to embark on a thirteen-date tour staggered over the course of four months. I ask which gigs they’re most excited to play. “I’m excited to go back to Edinburgh. That’s my home,” Finlay says, face lighting up. “And the gig we played there in October 2019 was the biggest gig we’ve ever played. Can’t wait to go back and play an even bigger venue.”

After so many months of forced stagnation, live music is back in action, and so are Walt Disco. 

Tickets for Walt Disco’s 2021 U.K. tour are on sale at: https://www.songkick.com/artists/9265324-walt-disco/calendar

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized

Why We Love: Will Orchard

Will Orchard is one of the most astonishing musicians of recent years. Originally hailing from the state of Rhode Island, he began making music in 2014 under the strange and immediately eye catching moniker “LittleBoyBigHeadOnBike.” 

Armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar, he released his self-titled EP on December 30th, 2014. However, he did not even come close to slowing down there, proceeding to release an EP every week from December 30th, 2014 up until 2016. To date, he has amassed over 100 releases under his belt. 

Most of these EPs contain sparse, plaintive songs featuring Will and his acoustic guitar. However, other EPs feature instruments such as bowed guitar and keyboard, as well as guest vocalists. 

As he put out more and more music, Will also began to cultivate a following by playing live frequently. Although he started out hovering around Rhode Island and Massachusetts, by the middle of 2017, he was venturing out to states such as North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 

Around this time, he began to update and remodel the music that he released, recruiting other musicians to help him round out his ideas. His official debut album, God Damn Wonderland, came out on June 23rd, 2017, and contains some of the most beautiful and unique music to date. While the sounds and styles of his previous works still dwell in the undertones of the album, they have been augmented with atmospheric yet personal production, as well as a wide variety of instruments including banjo and clarinet. The album truly catapulted Will into a league of his own as a musician, displaying his knack for crafting intricate melodies and nostalgic lyrics that emit an almost childlike sense of wonder. 

The touring became even more constant as Will and his band canvassed the country multiple times every year. What makes this even more shocking is that Will did all of this independently; there was no record label backing him. Even more mind blowing is the fact that during this time, Will joined another band, The Brazen Youth, as their touring bass player, meaning that he then went on even more tours. The Brazen Youth have also done well for themselves, even playing a coveted set on Audiotree. 

Following the release of his debut album, Will continued to release self-recorded EPs as well as two other albums, 2018’s Big Blue Butterflies and 2020’s Old Friends On The Mountain, the latter of which was the first album released under his own name rather than LittleBoyBigHeadOnBike. Both of these albums were very well received by numerous indie publications as well as his audience. 

Despite the pandemic, Will has stayed productive: he has played on numerous live stream concerts, signed a record deal with Better Company Records, and released a new album, I Reached My Hand Out, on May 7th, 2021. 

Will Orchard live at Askew in Providence, Rhode Island on November 9th, 2019.
Photo by Jack Downey

Listen to Will Orchard on Spotify now.

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Review: Olivia Rodrigo – SOUR

Like a lot of people, I first heard of Olivia Rodrigo through her record-breaking song ‘drivers license’ that spent eight weeks at number one. What I did not know was that she had originally become famous through acting on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Because of her multipotentiality, however, she has excelled in both. Having released her debut album SOUR on the 21st of May 2021, there is a lot to marvel at.

Aptly named, SOUR reflects the post-break-up resentment and bitterness and the melodramas of teenagehood. The first track of the album is ‘brutal’, a heavy riffed self-deprecating song that feels reminiscent of punk rock. It reminds me of songs from Kate Nash’s album Girl Talk, which also acts as a representation of a modern angry sceptical female perspective. This musical depiction of Olivia’s emotions is something that is consistent throughout the album. As a consequence, the listener is drawn into her story over and over. In particular, I was captivated by the depiction of the repercussions of her relationship ending. This can be seen in the songs ‘traitor’, ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’ and ‘good 4 u’.

Had this album come out during my first break-up, I would have sobbed along to these songs. There is something so very pure and relatable about ‘traitor’. Yet, for me, it is missing the anger that ‘good 4 u’ skillfully conveys. In addition to this, it seems a little naïve, which can be seen as endearing and feels like a type of hindsight. If I had it my way, I would have ordered the songs differently as it is somewhat jarring to have all these different emotions crashing into each other track by track. However, at the same time, it makes sense for this to be the resounding theme of the album, a confusing reevaluation of identity. Therefore, if a stylistic choice, it is artful and introspective.

Continuing on from this, ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’ hurts in a young, vulnerable way. With the twittering of birds in the background and a laughing lilt to her singing, Olivia has managed to write a song that paints a picture with the listener as its protagonist. You are welcomed into her bedroom to watch her phone her ex-partner and can see her hanging out of her window on a late summer afternoon. The way the piano is played seems almost playful and enticing. Contrastingly, ‘good 4 u’ has a deep bass groove that makes you want to dance around irrationally. The sharpness in her tone is exciting and makes the lyrics all the more raw and honest. Currently, this is my favourite song on the album and really epitomises the amount of effort and emotion poured into SOUR

At the age of 18, Olivia Rodrigo has all the potential to keep on bringing out bops and SOUR is proof of that.

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

notes from the trenches: from Black Flag to Black Books

Black Flag vocalist and renaissance man Henry Rollins practices something he calls Protein/Carbohydrate listening. It’s a system in which he organizes his sonic consumption into two categories. New music—stuff he’s never heard before—is classified as protein, while old favorites are classified as carbs. He tracks his daily intake of ‘protein’ and ‘carbs’ in the obsessive manner of any fitness fanatic or health freak.

So far this month, my carb consumption has been way up, and my protein consumption has been way down, nonexistent but for the excellent, Austin, Texas-based band BLACK BOOKS, whose recent single Goodbye Cool (released in early 2020) is eerily prescient in the same sort of way that Contagion is eerily prescient. Watch it and see for yourself…

My roommate’s been playing the most recent HINDS album, The Prettiest Curse, on repeat 24/7, and I don’t mind a bit. The neighbors, however, are absolutely losing it–but then they always behave as though loud music is something physically threatening, like a crazed triceratops bulldozing through the front door. (An absolutely absurd stance on their part, and I find it’s best to help them work through it by blasting Frank Zappa.)

You know what Eve Babitz (cult writer and demi-monde darling of 1970s L.A.) said about really good songs? She said they were like booster shots, like concentrated doses of vitamins. The Prettiest Curse (despite its title) is like having an IV of healthful, revitalizing stuff. Through my roommate’s love of Hinds I’ve discovered the Spanish indie pop singer ESCORPIA, whose recent single Ten Cuidado has a promo video not unlike a three minute snippet of an Eric Rohmer movie. 

In other news of tremendous importance, INSECURE MEN have confirmed via a reply to an Instagram comment that their third album is forthcoming, a joyous prospect indeed.  There’s been a gaping hole in my soul ever since it became obvious that Ben Romans-Hopcraft’s supremely excellent outfit Childhood were not going to be continuing on in the immediate future, and hearing his work in Insecure Men consoles me greatly.

Totally Wired’s favorite “synth sensation,” JESSICA WINTER, has also hinted at new music. (Which reminds me: limited edition clear vinyls of her LP Sad Music, are currently available on her Bandcamp site, and I’d highly advise snapping one up for your record collection.)

DECIUS, a techno/acid-house outfit comprised of members of Paranoid London, Trashmouth Records and the Fat White Family (a combination calculated to make any self-respecting music geek hyperventilate) have released their first EP, entitled Bread and Butter, available wherever you get your music–I can’t keep track of all the ways to get music anymore–but it’s out there, so go get it.

Yours in solidarity and Bandcamp Fridays,

Annie

xxx

header art credit: @judehavoc