Categories
Punk/Rock

Cowboyy: Britain’s Latest Bandits

If you’re a Londoner like myself who seemingly can’t stay away from the holy trinity of music venues, The Windmill, The Sebright Arms and The New Cross Inn,  you’d have certainly already heard about Cowboyy. The latest 4-piece lineup to come storming out of the UK’s woodwork has already rightly attracted the attention of music heads and BBC 6 DJs alike with their exceptional first single ‘Gmaps’

At first glance, the band’s lineup is a patchwork of secondary school stereotypes, each styled like the four kids in your class you’d never thought would interact, let alone form a band. But behind the athlete on drums and maths wiz on vocals exists a brotherly bond which has been essential in forming the band’s unique charm. We got to know a little more about Cowboyy when we spoke to them recently.

Hi guys, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. What has the reaction been to the new single?

Reubin: I think the response has been really good, so we’re excited to see what’s ahead, but for now, we’re just happy for it to be out and to see what’s next.

Tell us a bit about the process. When did you start working on recording the single, and how did you do it?

Stan: I wrote everything beforehand, and then I got a band together to record the songs. It was about 6/7 tracks in that day. We had a different drummer and an additional guitarist who joined to help but they weren’t permanent members and we then went back and recorded another track after meeting and playing with Rhys, making the forthcoming EP a five-track. ‘Gmaps’ is the first song from the EP. I recorded and co-produced it with the David Evans at the Old Chapel Studios, which is local to me. I mixed the songs with him and over-dubbed guitar round his house. I intentionally did this all beforehand as I wanted to do something by myself for myself. We then worked on the live set and playing together after this.

How would you describe your style? You mentioned the first time we met that you disliked being pigeonholed by today’s very broad stylistic labels.

Reubin: I think the idea of being forced into a category or compared is always gonna be a factor in music but right now I think we all know what we’re making and what we’re all proud of it regardless. 

Stan: Our musical style or personal? Either way, I’m just doing whatever I want.

Rhys: I don’t know, when people ask I just say experimental noise rock sort of thing.

How did your name come to be?

Stan: I’ve liked the sort of Hollywood idea of cowboys since I was younger. Before we started gigging, we went by my full name. Cowboyy kind of alludes to the solo artist thing but we are and will always be a band  

How did you all meet, and what were your different influences like?

Reubin: I met Stan at a party a few years back and we instantly got on because of our passion for music, especially hip-hop.

Stan: I then met Kai and Rhys through Instagram. we all like math rock, jazz, fusion, hardcore, funk etc.

Rhys: Tony Williams is a big influence, Chris Pennie from Dillinger Escape Plan and I like the drumming on a record called Scenery by Ryo Fukui

Have most of you played in bands before?

Stan: Yes I’ve played guitar, written music and been involved in production since about 16, but never done my own thing.

Kai: I’ve played in bands before this but only really at a local level.

Rhys: I’ve played drums in bands since I was about 16.

How do you think the music scene has responded to your music?

Reubin: I’m not sure but there definitely something brewing that got people talking.

Rhys: Sometimes it’s really good…sometimes not so much.

Who are some bands you’re excited about or could see yourselves playing with?

Reubin: None have really caught my eye for me or maybe it’s because I’m intimidated by their current status but I’m sure one day we’re gonna support some really cool bands.

Kai: Deathcrash are a band I really like at the moment and I could see us playing with them at some point.

Top three records of the year so far?

Stan: There’s not been a massive amount of music coming out this year I’m super into, I guess DOMi and JD BECK’s ‘NOT TiGHT’ and Palm have dropped a couple of singles, I’m excited about their new album.

Rhys: I really liked Island Of Love’s ‘Songs Of Love’ EP

Kai: As Stan said, Palm’s new singles are great and I’m really excited to hear their new album. For the other two, I’d say Return by Deathcrash and Badi Sabah Olmadan by Altin Gün

Reubin: For me, it’s Cheat Codes by Danger mouse, Gemini Rights by Steve Lacy and Arrangements by Preoccupations. Like Stan said there hasn’t been a lot coming out but there definitely some albums on the way I’m really excited for. 

What does the long-term plan look like for Cowboyy?

Stan: Have fun playing music and hopefully people like it.

Reubin: I’m looking forward to the journey ahead and the music we gonna create next!

Rhys: Space.

Kai: Moon first then Mars.

Along with the release of their first music video, the band announced their upcoming EP, ‘EPIC THE MOVIE’ coming March 6th next year.

Yeehaw.

Photo by Ele Marchant
Categories
Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock

Jessica Winter: “I Want to Find Something Real”

Magic lies purely in belief. Without belief, all magic and illusion crumble, but it’s a fine line between suspending disbelief and abandoning reason, and for that reason many people choose to block out the idea of magic entirely–their loss. I have always depended on finding magic in Jessica Winter’s music, and she has always provided it, so reliably that it sometimes seems like she might be a being from another planet. With a soaring magic carpet ride of a voice and a talent for writing pop hooks that rivals anybody on the charts today, her sound can’t be tucked neatly into any identifying genre but exists in a liminal space between electro-pop and indie goth, laced with jagged, searing punk rock rawness. Winter has called it “crance” (music for crying and dancing to simultaneously.) The Cure’s Robert Smith is a fan.

Besides performing as a solo artist, she’s produced acts such as Jazmin Bean, Gorillaz and Phoebe Green, and is currently scoring season two of the hit CBBC series Princess Mirabelle. She’s done countless collaborations with artists such as Lucia and the Best Boys, MADGE, Walt Disco, and Cid Rim. She’s also formerly one half of the cult favorite duo PREGOBLIN, her signature soaring vocals gracing all the hits. 

Once, while talking with one of Winter’s occasional collaborators, I asked him if he thought that Winter had out-of-body experiences when she sang. Her voice was capable of reaching such incredible heights, to use it must bring on a kind of mystical experience. Was that so? I asked. Could you see it when you watched her sing? He nodded, grinning. A voice like a magic carpet ride, indeed. (Winter described her style of vocal delivery in a Wonderland magazine interview in 2019 as “Julie Andrews singing Marilyn Manson.”)

With her pale teardrop-shaped face framed in delicate wire spectacles, she looks like Isabelle Adjani in the ‘80s, fine-lined sylphic beauty with a steel core. A childhood spent in hospital informed her worldview, as she developed an expansive imagination to cope with the isolation and confinement. That extraordinary imagination has translated into dark, elegant pop songs embroidered with poignant, sometimes deeply cutting observations. Her writing is defined by a remarkable honesty; she possesses a rare knack for telling universal truths without falling into the realm of cliché. (For example, the autofiction stylings of “Play,”the first track of her debut EP Sad Music: “I’m feeling famous/I’m feeling international/I got my money and my body/A miracle/I’m everything I ever needed growing up/I’m a fuck up/And I’m ok.”) 

Winter was born in the seaside town of Portsmouth, England, but spent most of her childhood on the neighboring outrider, Hayling Island, which she describes as, “…a tiny Victorian island…it’s bizarre, it’s just like everyone goes there to die. We weren’t very well off, and you could get a house there that was quite decent for the price of a flat in Portsmouth. The people there are either just druggy or pensioners. It was quite a bleak place to grow up.” 

She moved back to Portsmouth aged 15; it was there that she began writing her first fully formed songs. “I actually started writing song songs when I was about 16,” she reminisces. “But I’d always written little bits of music on the piano when I was growing up, because I’ve been playing piano since I was about two. So, I was writing (music) but…until I became a more mature person, I didn’t really write songs.”

“I used to use my uncle’s lyrics when I was 16. He would always write lyrics but he never knew how to do music so I would just take his lyric books and then start writing songs for him. Because I never really had anything to say at the time; I was just a child, figuring it out. I just thought life was how it should be, because you do at that age, and it’s not until recently that I’ve actually realized how messed up and traumatic my childhood was. I knew that I had a lot of pain, which is why music was a therapy and I always did it, but I could never put it into words until I got a bit older.”

Since then, Winter has written two EPs (2020’s Sad Music, followed by More Sad Music a year later) and several singles. She recently signed with the label Lucky Number Music, and her third EP, Limerence, is due to be released in the near future. 

“The EP covers similar things to what that word means,” Winter explains. “It’s basically an obsession or an addiction to love. There are three stages of limerence, and each one gets a bit more psychotic. I feel like the songs as well, each song gets progressively more psychotic…the way the songs have been picked and listening to it as a whole, I just thought it really makes sense to call it Limerence because not only is it an addiction to love, or an obsession with love, there’s also a song that covers just addiction in general, so I thought it was just a good word for the EP.”

Choreograph, the first single from the upcoming EP, was released on September 20th. The music video is a sly homage to the classic film, Singing in the Rain, featuring Winter in her signature wire-rimmed glasses and sharply tailored grey suit singing her heart out to the heavens in a thunderstorm. The lyrics are a commentary on the hard truth that love can’t be forced, and that picture-perfect ideals don’t always make for happy endings. It’s a joyous rejection of the over-marketed Hollywood fairytale: “real love/can’t be choreographed.”

Of the track, Winter says she wanted to express the feeling of searching for, “…something real in a place of very forced situations. People saying like, ‘this is love,’ by having the nature of a certain set-up…or just going like, “this is a good time,” because of the way things look… Even venues are just being created to look good on Instagram. ‘This will give you a good time, because you’re going to get loads of photos in this place,’ and it’s just like, whoa! Surely there’s more than that, surely there’s more to life than how things are on the surface. It was like, made out of desperation. Come on! There’s more to life than this. I want to find something real.”

Categories
Punk/Rock

Humour: So Young’s Latest Hardcore Signing

Glaswegian 5-piece band Humour is the latest and most rip-roaring addition to the instantly addictive lineup of bands on So Young records’ roster.

The boys, many of whom met at primary school or whilst studying in Glasgow, have poured their collective talents into their new EP, “PURE MISERY,” set for release on November 25th. The recent singles “yeah, mud!” and “alive and well” have teased a hard-hitting and unmissable six-track record later on this year.

Totally Wired Magazine spoke to two of the band’s founding members, guitarist Jack Lyall and frontman (plus visual artist) Andreas Christodoulidis.

Hi guys, what have you been up to?

Andreas: Just getting the artwork for the singles finalised and quite a few interviews too.

Jack: Oh yeah, a few of those.

Andreas: We’re getting a little bit better at it but still not great, as you’ll find out.

Well, you boys are one of the latest signings to the new SoYoung Records; how did that come about?

Jack: Our friend sent them one of our songs at the end of last year.

Andreas: He’s a photographer, so he knew them through work. But he didn’t actually tell us he was going to do it.

Jack: Yeah, and then they just had us down for a gig in London; we played with Folly Group, who were already on the label.

Have you guys always been in bands before Humour?

Jack: Well, we’ve all always played in bands together or separately for some years, but never properly, always as a sort of hobby, not trying too hard to be good at it.

Does it feel good then now to have a record deal and be breaking into that professional side of the industry?

Andreas: Oh yeah, definitely, we were quite scared of the prospect of releasing [the EP] ourselves, which we initially thought we might have to do. We had already written most of the tracks and thought we were happy enough with it that we’d want it out in the world, but we didn’t know how we were going to do it. We were just really hoping that there would be some interest from a label.

Jack: Yeah, we thought it was something we wanted to release properly instead of putting it up on Soundcloud. We wanted that physical copy element to the record too. So the fact that a label has done that for us is really cool.

When did the EP begin to take shape? Was it something you guys wrote during lockdown?

Andreas: Pretty much; it’s funny because some of the songs are now about two years old, ones which we wrote right at the beginning of lockdown. It’s nice because the EP has become quite varied as our writing process has changed over that time.

Jack: I think it was nice because if we weren’t in lockdown, we might have been tempted to release a song as soon as we wrote it, but with this EP, we had about 15-20 songs which we could choose from for the record. It was a nice position to be in, although we probably won’t get that chance again.

How does music taste differ between members of the band? Are your likes and dislikes all quite similar?

Andreas: Well, we’ve lived together for many years now. I think that when we met, we all had very different backgrounds, although our taste has become much more similar since living together.

Jack: I suppose when one of us finds something new and plays it to death, the others hear it so much that they either end up liking it or think that they do.

What would you say the music scene is like in Glasgow where you first formed the band?

Jack: It’s really good, certainly in Scotland it’s the best place you could be for music. Most of us grew up in Edinburgh, which feels slightly different from Glasgow. There are so many venues in Glasgow. There are small ones, and bigger ones, and you can keep climbing up the ladder. With anywhere else in Scotland, you’ve either got one really shit pub or a massive warehouse.

Being a more hardcore post-punk band than most, do you think the music scene in Scotland has been welcoming of your style? I think it’s only in recent years we have seen a more classic example of punk emerge back onto the scene.

Andreas: It’s hard to tell, although we’ve done just as many gigs in London now as we have in Scotland. I think the right scene in London has already been created for us, but there aren’t as many punk bands in Glasgow right now.

After this EP lands, are there any other bands you want to play with?

Andreas: Well, we’re lucky that we’ve already gotten to play with a bunch of bands we really like and in some ways tried to emulate, such as Folly Group and Do Nothing, who we listened to a lot when we were just starting out.

And what kind of people do you hope are drawn to the new EP and your music?

Jack: Well, we’re not even sure what to call our style anyway, a sort of hardcore/punk sound with some surreal and sometimes quite funny lyrics. So we hope that anyone who likes the sound of that will like the EP.

Andreas, I know that your own visual artwork plays a big role in the new singles and EP. Would you tell us a bit about that?

Andreas: For sure. I found it very easy to make the artwork in response to the music as there were a lot of overlapping themes and things to draw from. But we all have loved when bands have an animated lyric video or other sorts of graphics based on their album art. So I think the visual element was a really nice accompaniment to the music.

So what have you got leading up to November? Anything we should look forward to before the EP?

Jack: Well, we’re in London at the end of September, then in France for a few days. I’m not sure if that’s announced yet, but it is now. Then Rotterdam in October.

Humour’s next sold-out gig at the 100 club promises even more madness.

Their latest single and the title track of the band’s upcoming EP is out today.

Follow the band @humour_music and pre-save the album here.

Categories
Punk/Rock

Murder Capital Announce New Album and European Tour

Irish post-punk band The Murder Capital have announced their forthcoming second album Gigi’s Recovery, with a UK & EU tour to follow.

The announcement comes the morning after the release of their latest video for A Thousand Lives, the second track from the forthcoming album, paired with a striking video by Tommy Davies (Common People Films), a collaboration which has stirred our excitement for what’s still to come.

The band looks set for a hypnotic and expansive era of their music, flourishing dream-like guitar riffs and lyrics throughout the latest single.

Gigi’s Recovery is out on January 20th via Human Season. See tour tickets here.

Photo Credit: Marcus Prouse Jr.

Categories
Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: The Cleaners from Venus (aka Martin Newell)

Martin Newell, the man behind The Cleaners from Venus

Martin Newell is a fascinating character.

In 1980, Newell formed The Cleaners from Venus with Lawrence “Lol” Elliot, though since then, he has remained the only consistent member. Under this moniker, Newell has released a multitude of albums, and this isn’t even taking into consideration his wealth of material under his own name. Starting with Blow Away Your Troubles, Newell showed the world what to expect from The Cleaners from Venus: wonderful, jangly music that was staunchly lo-fi.

While Newell certainly has impressive melodic sensibilities, showcased particularly on the 1982 album (well, one of them, anyway) Midnight Cleaners, he also refused to let his songs get to the point of being “pop.” The closest The Cleaners from Venus came to this disgusting term was the song “Only a Shadow,” a tune with an earworm of a guitar melody and an anthemic chorus. However, everything is coated with a lo-fi hiss that behaves almost like the needles of a cactus. By this, I mean that it will scare off any surface level listener. However, for others, the almost demo quality of the recordings makes them more endearing.

Newell and Elliot, upon starting out, used hardly any equipment to record their music, sometimes even using homemade instruments. Eventually, a four track recorder was brought into the mix, which became Newell’s preferred method of recording. Rather than upgrade to a professional studio environment, he stuck to his D.I.Y. guns and continued letting the substance of the music speak instead of the style. And what an amount of substance there was!

The lyrics to each Cleaners from Venus song are woven together like the finest wicker basket. Whether they are painting gorgeously detailed pictures of life in England (“Wivenhoe Bells (II)”), highlighting working class angst (“Summer in a Small Town”), or outright damning the state of the world (“The Jangling Man”), each word is fascinating to listen to. Newell’s gift for writing is one that is truly overlooked, with each song packed with enough meaning to make the most stubborn folk music enthusiast blush. The sparsely recorded (and sparsely produced) instrumentation acts as the perfect canvas for these poetic yet direct verbal drawings.

During The Cleaners from Venus’ initial decade-long run, they largely avoided record labels and did not tour often. Newell has been quoted as saying that the music business and media “tend to ruin everything.” This only added to the mystique of the enigmatic band, and early cassettes of their work became highly prized collectors’ items. The sheer amount of support for the band’s works actually inspired Newell, who had largely decided to back away from music, to start recording under the Cleaners from Venus moniker again in 2010. Since then, he’s been prolific as ever, and he continues to record music even to this day, with his newest single “Lo-Fi London” coming out last month.

Outside of The Cleaners from Venus, Newell has lived an extraordinary life. He has been a successful poet and writer, even touring as a spoken word artist. In 1989, he teamed up with a fellow cleaner from Venus, Nelson Nice, to form The Brotherhood of Lizards, an acoustic duo that gained much attention for completing a tour by bicycle, riding their bikes to every show. Newell has also released six solo albums, with his first, 1993’s The Greatest Living Englishman, being his most successful release to date.

To this day, Newell embodies the idea of D.I.Y. done right. He does whatever he wants, and because of this, he has many dedicated fans. The Cleaners from Venus proved that, in the decade of excess and beyond, true heart and creativity will always stand the test of time. In a time where mainstream music has lost even more of its nutrients, Newell’s work past and present remains an organic field. All you have to do is take a bite.

Trailer for a documentary detailing the life and times of Martin Newell
Categories
Punk/Rock Videos

Deadletter Unleashes ‘Binge’

Taken from ‘Binge’ music video, directed by Tegen Williams

After building a reputation as paragons of the live performance, Deadletter soars even higher with ‘Binge,’ a biting incantation on intoxication. In a world of nicotine patches, ‘don’t talk to me before my morning coffee,’ and Klarna payment plans for your new shoes – frontman Zac Lawrence preaches at a world which demands everything immediately all the time. Instant porn, instant music, instant dating, and instant celebrity content have made us all shallow and impatient, and it’s hard to tell if ‘Binge’ is a call to arms against our current evolution or a sardonic ‘so what?’

‘Binge’ brings us a collage of post-punk, funk, and new wave. Written in 25 minutes back in January, Lawrence credits a formula of “drumline, bassline, lyrics, seasoning” to Deadletter’s creative process. It’s an organic recipe, all bare bones and knuckles and knees, building the skeleton of what a song needs before adding sinew and tissue. The drumline is of Alfie Husband’s doing, and along with George Ullyot on bass, the beat shoots straight to your muscles and gets you moving, all whilst scratching an impossible itch in the back of your skull. The guitar riffs from King and Bates combined have an almost Bowie sense of movement, bringing the glam that ‘Binge’ tells us we aspire to. Poppy Richler fleshes out the instrumentals on the saxophone, further demonstrating how the current post-punk scene’s revival of a horn section is a truly wonderful thing.

If there’s one thing that you can rely on from Deadletter, it’s that they bring an extraordinary energy to every song, every performance, and every music video. Lawrence is adrenaline incarnate, on screen and stage. He doesn’t just move his mouth, he entertains with his entire physicality; his movements are percussive, and his body is an instrument in and of itself. He is a frontman that steps down into the audience and growls in their faces while moshing along with them. Whilst premiering ‘Binge’ on BBC Radio 6 yesterday afternoon, Steve Lamacq said of the band that they “have an uncanny chemistry on stage” before describing their performance at this year’s Great Escape Festival as having a significant impact on the audience.

Photographed by @spela_is

With their EP Heat due for launch in November, ‘Binge’ provides us with enough Deadletter to keep us satiated for the time being – but we want more, because we are greedy little wretches and life’s a binge. The band are currently touring the UK, with dates featured below, so catch them while you can.

Tour Dates:

18th August – The Blue Moon, Cambridge (Music Venue Trust Tour)

19th August – Chameleon Arts Café, Nottingham (Music Venue Trust Tour)

20th August – The Star Inn, Guilford (Music Venue Trust Tour)

21st August – Beautiful Days Festival, Devon

23rd August – Duffy’s, Leicester (Music Venue Trust Tour)

24th August – Elsewhere, Margate (Music Venue Trust Tour)

25th August – The Grain, Frome (Music Venue Trust Tour)

27th August – Reading Festival

28th August – Leeds Festival

16th September – Head Of Stream, Newcastle

17th September – The Flying Duck, Glasgow

18th September – Bootleg Social, Blackpool

20th September – Sidney and Matilda, Sheffield

21st September – Oporto, Leeds

22nd September – The Castle Hotel, Manchester

23rd September – Polar Bear, Hull (Supporting Yard Act) SOLD OUT

24th September – Dead Wax, Birmingham

26th September – Hope & Ruin, Brighton

27th September – Crofters Rights, Bristol

28th September – 100 Club, London


Tickets available HERE

Categories
Creators Monthly Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock Uncategorized

An Analysis of The Beach Boys: 1967-74

The Beach Boys during the late 60’s-early 70’s. From left: Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson

Pet Sounds is one of the greatest albums of all time. There’s no doubt about it.

Released by The Beach Boys in 1966, it peaked at number 10 on the charts, which was actually considered a disappointment seeing as how successful the band had been at the time. While modern critics have come to understand how groundbreaking this album is, at the time, critical reception was also more mixed than previous albums, with some recognizing the album’s intricate genius while others were confused by the dramatic change in sound and tone from the albums of yesteryear. After all, the last Beach Boys album before this point was the empty-headed fun of The Beach Boys Party!

Within a year, however, the tides turned: following Pet Sounds was the single “Good Vibrations,” a compositional masterwork that shot to #1 on the charts and restored The Beach Boys in the public eye, at least for a moment.

“Good Vibrations” was intended to be one of the songs off of an album called SMiLE, a collection of sounds that would go in even more bizarre and interesting directions than its predecessor. However, Brian Wilson’s struggles with mental illness and drug use, as well as anxiety over how the public would view the album, ultimately led to the album being shut down, at least for the time being. Some of the recordings for this album were quickly compiled into Smiley Smile, which confused many and did not perform well on the charts. This sudden halt in momentum was highly detrimental to both Brian’s mental health and the band’s status as stars, and for many, this is where the story of the Beach Boys ends. This could not be farther from the truth.

From 1967 to 1974, The Beach Boys proved themselves to be remarkable composers, lyricists, and musicians, even with the dwindling participation of Brian, though he still contributed songs and ideas from time to time. Starting with Wild Honey and ending with Holland, there were ideas and gems abound on each tracklist.

Wild Honey’s album cover

Wild Honey seems to be The Beach Boys dusting themselves off after Smiley Smile. The title track, standout single “Darlin’” (which shot to a refreshing #19 on the charts), and “How She Boogalooed It” proved that the boys could still have fun while advancing themselves as musicians. Other songs such as “Let the Wind Blow,” “I’d Love Just Once to See You,” and “Aren’t You Glad,” serve as foreshadowing to what was to come from the band in the future, with comprehensive melodies and thoughtful pacing. Carl Wilson also continues to prove himself as a vocal powerhouse on this album, his singing on “Darlin’” being particularly impressive.

Friends album cover

Friends, released in 1968, is one of the most overlooked albums in the band’s discography. The vocal stylings and song structures give off the sense that this album is the perfect pairing of pre-Pet Sounds pop sensibilities and post-Pet Sounds musical knowledge. “Anna Lee, The Healer,” “Passing By,” and the title track have an innocence to them that harkens back to days on the beach while refusing to stop moving forward. Dennis Wilson also begins to come out of his shell on this album, writing the songs “Little Bird” and “Be Still,” which are both beautiful songs and serve as indicators of where Dennis’s writing would go in the future. Overall, the album feels very appropriate for the time and features some of the strongest vocal concoctions from the band, particularly on the chorus of “Anna Lee, The Healer.”

20/20 album cover

20/20 sees the band emerge from the gentleness of Friends with a newfound grit and energy while still preserving their melodic roots. The first two tracks on the album, Mike Love’s perfect nostalgia bait “Do It Again” and a gloriously performed cover of The Ronettes “I Can Hear Music” kick the album off in style and even got some love from the record buying public. The tight, punchy pop of “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” is punctuated by loud, surprisingly distorted guitar licks throughout, while “All I Want To Do” features some of Mike Love’s most passionate lyrics yet, making the song a fun listen. However, the album isn’t all late 60’s coarseness: newly minted member Bruce Johnston has his moment in the spotlight with the piano instrumental “The Nearest Faraway Place,” and Dennis Wilson’s gently swaying “Be With Me” serves as a stunning power ballad. Other standouts include Al Jardine’s jaunty take on “Cotton Fields,” the soothing waltz “Time to Get Alone,” and the surprise SMiLE compositions “Our Prayer” and “Cabinessence,” which, while they don’t entirely fit the feel of the album, are still mind blowing musical experiments.

The photo from the Sunflower album cover

The 1970’s kicked off with Sunflower, one of the band’s greatest albums. The Dennis composition “Slip on Through” kicks things off with gusto, followed by the soulful “This Whole World” and “Add Some Music to Your Day,” the latter of which features incredibly rich vocal harmonies. “It’s About Time” still stands out to this day as one of the band’s most grandiose, powerful tunes; it would become a killer live track in years to come. Ballads such as Bruce Johnston’s “Tears in the Morning” and Dennis Wilson’s classic love song “Forever” showcase a new dimension of the band’s softer side. The sonic experimentation on this record must be noted as well, with the cavernous opening of “Dierdre,” the proto-dream pop of “All I Wanna Do,” and the intricate, multifaceted “Cool, Cool Water,” the latter originating during the SMiLe sessions, showcasing a band not just evolving with the times, but leading the pack. 

Surf’s Up album cover

1971’s Surf’s Up features an even more eclectic mix of material. The album kicks off with the catchy yet urgent “Don’t Go Near The Water,” an environmental message that still holds up today, sadly. Following this song is “Long Promised Road,” which serves as a reminder of how amazing Carl’s voice is. Other standouts on the album include the sunkissed Bruce Johnston classic “Disney Girls (1957),” the thoughtful and atmospheric “Feel Flows,” and the incredibly bleak, Brian Wilson-penned “‘Til I Die.” Capping off the album is one of the more famous SMiLE cuts, the title track. Featuring multiple segments that coalesce under a dusky, murky instrumental and obscure lyrics, the song is yet another example of Brian Wilson’s compositional abilities.

In the following year, the band released two albums, both featuring new members Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar, formerly of the band The Flame. These albums, Carl and the Passions – So Tough and Holland, showcase a band that is confidently wading into the future. At this point, The Beach Boys had begun to see renewed critical acclaim and a steadily increasing presence at their live shows, though record sales were still lacking. They were embracing a new image, and with that, they kicked down the door in 1972 with some of their strongest work yet.

Carl and the Passions back cover, featuring new members Ricky Fataar (fourth from left) and Blondie Chaplin (second from right)

Carl and the Passions opens with “You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone,” a funky number that shows off a groovier side of The Beach Boys. It features intricate vocal harmonies, tight guitar solos, and stabbing piano hits that roll it along at a quick pace with Ricky’s drumming. Blondie gets his first shot at the spotlight with the strutting “Here She Comes,” on which he proves himself to be a strong vocalist. “Marcella,” is a quintessential 70’s Beach Boys track, with its sultry piano, lush guitars, rich production, and stacked vocals that flow every which way during the chorus of the song. “Make it Good,” is another spacious, beautiful Dennis Wilson ballad, with his vulnerable vocal backed by a Hollywood-esque wall of orchestration and vocal harmonies that could bring a tear to even the most hardened listener’s eye. “All This is That” feels like a late 60’s cut, with its meditative themes, blissful harmonies, and mellow vibes. Ending the album is “Cuddle Up,” another Dennis ballad that closes the curtain with a deeply emotional bow.

Holland album cover

Later that year came Holland, truly a spectacular album. These nine songs feel like the culmination of years of growing and maturing as artists. “Sail On, Sailor” is a powerful and entertaining opener fronted by Blondie, and its swelling 6/8 time instrumentation gives it an appropriate seafaring feel. The surprisingly sludgy and austere “Steamboat” follows, with Carl’s plaintive vocal acting as a beacon within the murky low tones of the instrumentation. The next three songs, “Big Sur,” “The Beaks of Eagles,” and “California” all comprise a suite known as The California Saga. The fact that The Beach Boys even attempted a song suite is commendable, but the songs included are even more so. “Big Sur” is a charming waltz powered by harmonica and pedal steel guitar. Dreamy lyrics describe elements of California that are often overlooked, such as its forests. “The Beaks of Eagles” is a stunningly creative piece, featuring spoken word sections accompanied by flute flourishes, piano, and ghostly harmonies. In contrast, there are also sections of the song that roll merrily along, as if to break the tension. Finally, “California” is a euphoric, grown up version of the 60’s sound, with Mike Love harkening back to multiple iconic Californian sites such as the Big Sur Congregation and the farmhouse in the sycamores. It’s a lot of fun and is probably the most authentically “Beach Boys” the band had been in years.

The second side of the album starts off with “The Trader,” a stalwart piece of music with its head held high before things quiet down after a sudden key change from D major to C major halfway through. “Leaving This Town” stands as Blondie and Ricky’s highlight during their time with the band, with haunting piano chords, heart wrenching lyrics, and a synthesizer solo of all things burning the song into the mind of the listener. “Only With You” stands out as one of Dennis’s most beautiful compositions. Velvety piano mixes with faint, heavenly strings in a way that has hardly ever happened, with the watery production actually helping the song’s graceful nature. Finally, “Funky Pretty” ends the album with some quality lyrics from Mike Love and an applause-worthy instrumental from the band. Also of note is the companion EP to this album, Brian Wilson’s fairytale Mt. Vernon and Fairway, the intriguing instrumental and descriptive narration making it a strange listen that proves that Brian still had something to say.

Carl Wilson during the Holland sessions

After 1974, with the release of the hugely successful best hits compilation Endless Summer, the dream was over, and the music that followed largely revolved around trying to repeat past successes, chase pop trends, and cover oldies. However, the music produced in 1967-74 proves not only that The Beach Boys were far from adrift after Pet Sounds, but that each member could shine in his own right. Even the worst cuts from this era demonstrate that the band was fighting into the future, discovering new and interesting ways to express themselves. Although not nearly enough people know about these classic albums, for those who have listened to them, they will always stand the test of time as musical classics.

Categories
Punk/Rock

Alien Chicks Release New Single ’27 Stitches’

Alien Chicks’ explosive new single ’27 Stitches’ was released last week to a truly epic reception at the Brixton Windmill. Joined by other hot bands on the scene, Cowboyy and A Void, the most likewise stylish of London’s music lovers gathered to watch Alien Chicks’ captivating lineup tear up the stage.

Video by Lou Smith

Fired-up fans left with a healthy fill of sweat-fueled mayhem and some carrying a small vial of the band’s shared bathwater around their neck. The band’s upcoming music video may give us some much-needed answers around that… 

Listen to the new single here.

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

Adwaith – Bato Mato: The Welsh Trio to Rule The World

The genre-defying Welsh language trio Adwaith hit their home music scene hard in 2015 and have since brought their spellbinding sound and punching attitude to stages at Glastonbury, Green Man and many others across the UK. The larger British music scene has quickly embraced the band’s extraordinary energy and our prayers have just been answered with Adwaiths new album Bato Mato. Fresh back from their weekend at Glasto, we spoke to Gwen, Hollie and Heledd about the album’s reinvigorated sound and their hopes for carrying Welsh language music to a mass of new listeners from across the world.

James: Hey guys, how was playing Glastonbury?

Hollie: Crazy. What a mad experience.

Gwen: It’s just so massive, it’s impossible to see all the bands you want to see. But we did keep finding new things.

James: I heard that a festival had something to do with starting the band in the first place, why don’t you tell me a bit about that.

Gwen: Well Hollie and I have known each other since we were babies. We went to this Welsh festival in 2015 and after the festival, we thought; well we both play instruments, why don’t we start writing music together? We started off with a few covers, which were truly awful, what covers did we try to do?

Hollie: Oh dear, we tried to do ‘Build a home’ (The Cinematic Orchestra) and we attempted some First Aid Kit as well. But we started getting annoyed with ourselves so we thought; let’s sack this off and do our own thing.

James: Do you think those covers will ever see the light of day?

Hollie: There were no recordings of them thank God.

James: Going back to the festival where it all began, which bands did you see which really inspired you?

Gwen: I think that year Gwenno was playing and a band called HMS Morris. At the time there weren’t any female musicians on the Welsh festival scene, so seeing them made us think that it was something that we could do. So we went back and started writing then had our first gig in September 2015, which is where Hollie and I first met Heledd. We didn’t have a drummer and luckily Heledd happened to be there, so we were very lucky she came to the gig.

Hollie: Thank the lord!

James: I imagine that getting a band started in Wales must be very different to doing it in a major city like London. Would you say you guys are from a pretty rural area?

Hollie: Oh yes definitely rural.

James: Was it difficult finding places to play in the early days?

Gwen: We were lucky to have this venue called The Parrot in our town and that’s where we Hollie and I saw our first bands and eventually played our first gigs. We were very very lucky to have the venue because I don’t think we would have started a band without it.

Hollie: Definitely not.

Gwen: Or even have had the opportunity to play gigs if it wasn’t for that venue. The Welsh music scene there was very supportive of us and particularly of Welsh language music as a whole.

James: Would you say that there are a large amount of Welsh artists performing in the Welsh language now, or is it something which has yet to cross into the mainstream in Wales?

Gwen: I think it is quite hard for Welsh language artists to break out. I think our audience is mostly outside of Wales but industry-wise, it is still quite hard to get support sometimes. We’ve been looking for a booking agent for quite a while now, and a lot of them have said ‘you’re great but you’re singing in Welsh.’ So it is still quite hard but it is getting better and you see more artists breaking out of Wales and doing more gigs outside of Wales which is really nice to see.

James: This new album, Bato Mato, tell me how important it is to you.

Hollie: It’s so important to us, it’s our little baby.

Gwen: I’m hoping it exposes Welsh language music to a big audience and it’s kind of the next step now after the last album Melyn. We’re just excited to see where it takes us. Melyn took us to some crazy places so I’m hoping this will let us continue on that crazy journey.

James: What was the writing process behind the album like?

Gwen: We wrote most of it after a trip together to Siberia. We did a gig out there and I think it was just such a crazy experience from start to finish that we just couldn’t not write an album about it. We were very inspired by the landscapes and the people and these big industrial abandoned buildings. It was a bit grey and a bit bleak. We came back and we just had to write an album, it was during lockdown so it wasn’t how we would usually write together; sending ideas back and forth. It wasn’t ideal but lockdown gave us a bit of a break to work on our sound and the tracks.

James: Did the album turn out how you expected when you first imagined what it might sound like?

Gwen: I think we had a vision for it, we definitely knew we wanted it to sound a lot more developed. Compared to the last album I think the pop songs are more ‘poppy’ and the dark songs are darker. Everything is more intense and saturated. We knew we wanted to do that. I don’t think we envisioned it quite how it turned out but it’s definitely turned out better than we hoped.

Hollie: When we went to the studio we had loads of weird instruments that we had no idea how to play, just to see what sounds we could make by experimenting. You can probably see one of them behind Gwen right now.

James: Oh yes, what is that, Gwen?

Gwen: It’s a Zhongruan, which is a Chinese instrument. It’s very bizarre looking and I’m still not really sure how to play it.

James: I’m sure you’ve noticed a big shift in the music scene where bands are becoming more experimental with their sound, breaking down the barriers of genre and even working against their own established sound. Has that resonated with you guys with the new album?

Gwen: I think all of our music tastes are very different and diverse, so it made a lot of sense to write an album that wasn’t genre specific. I think that’s how you make and keep music exciting.

James: What’s next for you guys? Are places like London becoming your new home or are you more interested in trying to break a bigger music scene in Wales?

Gwen: We want to make Welsh music a big thing. World domination is the end goal. I think that the Welsh language in music has previously been frowned upon by people outside of Wales and people in Wales. So that’s really urged us to want to spread the Welsh love and to play Welsh music around the world, and then to open doors to other bands to do the same.

Heledd: I feel like we definitely want to stay in Wales too and create a bigger scene there, and also inspire more people there to want to embrace music.

James: I mean I for one would love to see more bands singing in their own language. I love bands who sing in their own accents and so to make your language a part of your music is really great. So what’s the immediate plan after the launch of the album?

Gwen: We’ve got a little tour lined up and some festivals coming up soon, with hopefully some gigs abroad by the end of the year. Just to gig the album as much as we can.

James: I’ll be sure to catch you guys playing soon. Any upcoming gigs in London that I should know about?

Hollie: Oh yes! Moth Club on Tuesday the 5th of July. Come down!

Adwaith’s new album Bato Mato is out now via Libertino Records. Catch them at Moth Club on July 5th. Tickets on DICE.

Categories
Punk/Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: Working For A Nuclear Free City

If you look up the word “Underrated” in the dictionary, you’ll find this band.

Formed in Manchester in 1999, Working For A Nuclear Free City was an alternative, nu-gaze, boundary-pushing band that undoubtedly inspired and paved the way for countless bands and artists. With a career that spans just under two decades, the style and sound of their music were constantly evolving and redefining genres, resulting in an eclectic, inspiring, and impressive discography.

The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2006 and quickly gained acclaim from a number of major media outlets, with the BBC stating: “it’s the way that [WFANFC and The Longcut, another British music group] have distilled Manchester’s history into an exciting future brew that makes them important.”

Clocking in at just under forty minutes, the album plays like a hazy yet intense dream. One minute you’re floating through melancholic tones with tracks such as “The 224th Day” and “Pixelated Birds,” only to then be slapped in the face with fuzzed up bass riffs and striking drum beats on tracks like “Troubled Son” and “Dead Fingers Talking.” The overall sound is experimental and innovative with a carefully crafted mix of pulsing synths, punchy percussion, infectious gleaming guitar riffs, and distorted swirling vocals that all culminate in a compelling explosion of varying styles and genres (which can be said for their entire discography).

Album two, 2008’s Businessmen & Ghosts is just as striking, if not more. Featuring a re-release of a handful of the songs from the self-titled debut, this album’s duration is almost three times the length of the previous record – a staggering one hour and forty-four minutes long. However, with a sound of this calibre, even this almost two-hour listen will leave you wanting more.

The first new song on the album, “Rocket,” is a melodic, acoustic-driven, upbeat groove with atmospheric harmonic vocals that not only haunts your subconscious until you find yourself humming the tune days later, but also lets you know that this album is probably going to steer away from the previous sonic palette.

Further indication of this is “Sarah Dreams of Summer.” Maybe hinted at through the name, this is a breezy and carefree sounding tune with warm guitars and organs that sit cleanly around layered vocal harmonies reminiscent of Brian Wilson’s arrangements for The Beach Boys.

Fast-forwarding through the album, heavier tracks like “All American Taste” and “Eighty Eight” with their catchy bass riffs, phased vocals, and forefront vintage-tinged drum beats, sound like the love-child of Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, the latter of whom is cited as an influence of the bands. Other influences include artists like Primal Scream, Yo La Tengo, Devo, Bill Evans, and Yes. If you weren’t already curious enough to go and immediately jump into their music, I would hope that the combination of these names was the final push you needed.

Much like the growth between the two albums mentioned above, the sound of Working For A Nuclear Free Town’s music only expands over the course of the later (and unfortunately final) records, solidifying them as one of the most creative, defining, and timeless bands of the 2000s – and one that, rightfully so, should be a treasured part of your record collection or streaming playlists.

With the multitude of genres, labels, and categories that exist within the music industry, having a commonly identifiable sound is probably the safest way to go, especially for the sake of being commercially viable. Although, sometimes that can take away from the music, as well as the feeling it evokes. Whilst it might be difficult to pinpoint the exact style of Working For A Nuclear Free Town’s music, what is clear, however, is that this is the sound of a band who was never afraid to take risks, regardless of the cost or outcome – and that should always be celebrated.