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Maggie The Cat: Donne Moi Ta Chose

Released on October 25th, “Donne Moi Ta Chose” is the third single from Maggie the Cat’s forthcoming album on Trashmouth Records (the title of which remains shrouded in delicious anticipation). Expect kitsch, campy glamour with avant-garde pop leanings and generous lashings of the old Madonnatron witches’ brew that we all know and love.

With her white-blonde hair, enormous kohl-lined blue eyes and soulful, crystalline voice, Maggie embodies a Hollywood starlet by way of south London with a sense of humor and a license to kill. Add that to her smart and imaginative songs about desire, murder, bloodshed, longing (and now, in French!) and what more could you possibly want from a pop chanteuse?

“Donne Moi Ta Chose” is described in the label’s release notes as “… a playful dose of scornful disco-sleaze, a mechano-electronic disco anthem for the shameless & the obscene.” The lyrics manage to be both funny and erotic (a difficult task to accomplish, indeed). The line, “savouring your trash/rutting in the aftermath. . .” conjures images of Ann-Margret in Tommy, frolicking in baked beans, melted chocolate and champagne bubbling inexplicably out of a smashed television set and into her white satin bedroom. It’s sexy, funny, weird, a bit surreal, and very, very Maggie. 

Maggie also recently guest-starred on the acid house supergroup Decius’s latest single, “Show Me No Tears,” her husky, soulful vocals dripping deliciously down over the throbbing techno beat. The video for the single shows a slew of orgiastic scenes from the proverbial casting couch, shot in handheld “gonzo-porn” style (to borrow a phrase from Irina Sturges). The track will feature on Decius’s upcoming debut album, Decius Vol. 1.

“Donne Moi Ta Chose” is out now on Trashmouth Records. You can buy the single at the link below. https://maggiethecattrashmouth.bandcamp.com/track/cry-baby-trashmouth-mix

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Reviews

Children of the Pope: Thalidomide Boy

“It was madness and sadness and drinking and dope and tears and anger and harsh plaster smiles…many people were rip-smashed and optimistic, but some knew better…”—Steve Levine

We are living through strange days, passengers on a badly engineered, shoddily constructed suicidal roller coaster with no finite end, zipping hell bent for leather into a fiery sunset without so much as a complimentary nitrous oxide mask to ease the increasing discomfort of the journey. Perhaps the least honorable way to spill your blood in public (and on the internet) is by complaining, and let this not be viewed as a complaint or a critique of a demented situation, but as a careful documentation of it. We are off into the unknown, heading straight into the inner reaches of outer space without any sound knowledge of the territory or its laws. 

Music, as always, is a chief source of solace, a refuge and an escape, and this month we are afforded a bit more of it in the form of the Children of the Pope’s most recent single release: “Thalidomide Boy,” debuted on October 14th, on Isolar Records.

It’s a song that follows in the vein of the group’s beloved psych rock– dreamlike, but with a twist of hard-nosed guitar riffs and a storyline to break your heart. The vocals carry an eerie, ethereal echo, as if resounding up from some cold cavernous depth. It’s not a comforting song, not a song to kick back on the loveseat and sip a glass of wine to. But you have Sinatra for that. The Children of the Pope are here to serve a different purpose entirely. They have proved their prescience once again with a track that explores the age-old way we find succor (“he brings the laudanum/clasps his hands around the cross”) without ultimately being able to drive away despair (“and he shouts/ and he screams/for everyone to see/ he’s the kind of guy who ends up walking in the middle of the street.”) It’s a relatable, empathetic depiction of a pattern that cuts through all our lives, albeit in different ways and forms.

Juno Valentine, the group’s front man and chief lyricist, spoke about the song’s meaning in-detail: “The song is a short story I created about a juvenile opiate dealer who suffers from a sleep walking disorder and ends up in 24-hour peep shows and blue movie cinemas and makes that his home for a good part of the week. He’s a devout Christian, but still appreciates the smells and atmosphere of the cinema screen. I think the whole story originated from feeling like an outcast growing up… a surrealist exaggeration of my time as a teenager.”

You can catch the Children of the Pope live at the Windmill Brixton on October 29th. Tickets are on sale on the venue website, linked below.

https://www.windmillbrixton.co.uk/events/2022-10-29-halloween-hellhole-all-dayer-the-windmill

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Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

How To Let Go – Sigrid

Wow, I cannot believe Sigrid invented music. That’s how I felt after hearing the latest LP from singer/songwriter/superstar Sigrid.

First of all, I’d like to point out that 2022 has gotten off to a fantastic start for the release of new music. Hell, this month alone has already made me nervous about just how this year’s wrap-up of our favourite albums will go down. But between you and I, I think I’ve found my winner.

Upon the release of “Mirror” last year, I was ecstatic about the potential of Sigrid’s next musical outing. Sucker Punch was already one of my favourite albums of 2019, but my goodness, the soundscape of Sigrid in 2021 blew me away. From “Mirror” to “Burning Bridges,” the heavy emphasis on this broader, heavier, and dirtier sound gave me goosebumps.

Opening track “It Gets Dark” majestically defines what you’re in for this time around. With the swooning string-led intro, tripping you up into a song carried by a groovy bassline, Sigrid is bigger than ever and wants to make that known. All throughout this album, Sigrid lets out her inner rockstar. Anyone who’s seen Sigrid live knows that she and the band put so much soul into their performances with a larger emphasis on a live sound, but translated into the recorded tracks such as “It Gets Dark?” My god, can you imagine how much this track will go off when played live? Can we, also, appreciate how beautiful the music video is? Stunning. And also a little bit mad. A planet snaps in half, and out comes Sigrid. I mean, what?

The depth of this album really is insane. It combines elements of 80s pop anthems, 90s club music, and, of course, a large pump of rock mixed right into the very flesh of How To Let Go. So much so that on “Bad Life,” we see a Bring Me The Horizon feature on the track. The sentiments of Sigrid’s writing are the same as ever, though, bringing you the purest of vibes to dance along to (and the words behind “Bad Life” are no exception).

Each track drenches you in power; it fills you with adrenaline and glee. Songs such as “Dancer” and “Mistake Like You” feel like the slow-mo part of your own film where you turn around and stand up for whatever it is you believe in. The beauty of Sigrid’s style radiates relatability in a way that anyone can identify with her tunes, and everyone can get down when the lights go down in the club or on the slow train home from work. There’s only so much I can type because words don’t do the album justice when the production, the melodies, and the lyrics all melt your heart, ready to hold you through the tears and grab your hand for the bops.

Every single dropped was a hit, so I don’t want to dwell too much on what you’re most likely to be more familiar with already. The deeper cuts of tracks such as “High Note,” “Dancer,” and “Risk Of Getting Hurt,” however, are magnificent. My absolute favourite track off the album that I’m 100% unashamedly and (probably unhealthily obsessed with) is “A Driver Saved My Night.” It does not need much explanation; it is ridiculously gorgeous and funky, and I absolutely love it.

I really feel like there’s something for everybody on this album; just take some time aside, stick your headphones on, and stream How To Let Go.

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Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

WE – Arcade Fire

Has it really been five years since Everything Now, perhaps one of Arcade Fire’s most polarising albums? And my my, what a road we’ve been on since then. So, it begs the question: Arcade Fire, where are we at?

After the release of “The Lightning” I and II, we see that Win Butler and friends have taken a more traditional approach to their songwriting; not too dissimilar to sounds you’d find off any of their albums from Funeral to the Suburbs, but obviously with a much tighter approach to production. To me, WE sounds like the bridge between The Suburbs and Reflektor, and I’m all for it.

The album kicks off with “Age Of Anxiety I” and “II (Rabbit Hole),” and it’s a really strong start: the percussive breaths on “Anxiety I” make for a really effective way to almost unnerve you, and the beautiful piano hook that gets shaken off halfway through for this feistier synth-led other half. “Rabbit Hole” takes these same soundscapes but performs it in a way that almost leaves you in a trance. It gives big Reflektor vibes and prepares you for what the rest of the album has to offer.

“Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” is a very sweet song. It feels like a hug straight from the band. Written with Win and Regine Chassagne’s son in mind, this wholesome track may come across as cheesy and cringey. If The 1975 can get away with it one minute and then sing about tucked-up erections the next, however, I really don’t see why Arcade Fire can’t write one with a more direct and sentimental approach. Yes, it may feel less three-dimensional than some of their earlier work, but I don’t think that should devalue anything else they do.

“Unconditional II (Race and Religion),” featuring the ever-wonderful Peter Gabriel, really brings those 80s vibes back into the mix (if you took off the vocals, I’d think you just played me something off the upcoming Stranger Things 4 soundtrack). It’s always a pleasure hearing the Regine-led tracks from Arcade Fire’s discography, and “Race and Religion” absolutely keeps that trend going. Having Gabriel on the roster of artists Arcade Fire have worked with is a blessing as they always know how to work with fantastic talent, and his contributions feel really at home here. I mean, shake up some of the instrumentation and it could be a Genesis track.

If you’ve listened to WE already, you may have noticed I haven’t mentioned anything about any of the “End of the Empire” tracks. Now, this again very well could just be personal preference, but every time I’ve played this album, the content of these tracks just doesn’t sink in and, instead, goes straight over my head; nothing pulls me in. This is a massive shame as I do seriously enjoy WE as an album otherwise. To have such a large portion of the record, around 10 minutes from the prelude throughout all 4 parts of the “Empire” tracks, somewhat affects my experience of WE. If you’re able to enjoy any of the “Empire” tracks, then absolutely all power to you; I hope to join you someday. Perhaps it’s just not the time yet for me to fully appreciate those songs.

The album as a whole certainly has an identity, but I won’t say it’s their most noteworthy work by any means. It’s a very back-to-basics approach that takes a lot of the best elements of Arcade Fire’s sound and streamlines them into one coherent record (which is absolutely fine, take it as a pallet cleanser if you will). I do, however, think that the production is slightly too polished. A lot of the time, I’m listening to the songs and feeling a build-up that’s never quite finished. In some cases, I think it’s literally just the dynamics of the mix, where something just isn’t loud enough, for example. Does that itself ruin the album for me? No, not at all. I think some albums are better suited to live performances, and from what I’ve seen so far, these songs do sound better in those settings.

I think this album will definitely be one that grows on people more as the days and months go by, and whilst it may not be the Neon Bible or Reflektor 2 that people will always seem to want (because realistically, people don’t know what they really want) we can always count on the fact that WE, will always have –

Fabulous music from the fantastic Arcade Fire.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Reviews

Fucking Hallelujah: Children of the Pope

The Children of the Pope—judging from the band’s name alone, you know you’re in for something good. Taking “fucking hallelujah!” as their slogan, they describe themselves as a “…religious group from South America and Europe currently based in London.” The band’s intense love for “…dirty guitars, manic shouting, and surrealist melodies,” culminates in just the sort of sound that would have gone over big at the Troubadour in ’68, and holds audiences spellbound today. The band’s rise since their formation in 2018 (in the “grimiest parts of South London,”) has been meticulously documented on video and film by Lou Smith, and they’ve shared stages alongside the likes of Insecure Men, Brian Destiny, and Honkies.

Their latest single “Junkie Girlfriend” is out today on Isolar Records. At first listen, it’s a tune that manages to be simultaneously fresh and nostalgic. Opening with jangling guitar and backing vocals reminiscent of early Beatles stuff, the Parlophone sessions …but no, wait, breaking away in a sharp shout from the sha-la-las come lyrics to shatter the illusion of finding comfort in nostalgia because here we are again, in the same old narcotic mess, the girl with the golden arm and the needle sticking out of it.

Children of the Pope filmed live at Venue MOT by the South London scene’s documentarian-in-chief, Lou Smith.

Beneath the upbeat vocals, the neat, almost martial drums, the jangling tambourine and bright guitar trailing down like drops of mercury, it’s all fun and games until somebody shoots a mainline, as the narrator notes of his paramour’s coping mechanism: “the way you smile at me/when you find your vein again.” Rather than getting tangled up in typical romantic tropes, the lyrics offer a gritty perspective into a fraught relationship and all the vacillations and sadly unanswerable questions that go with it: “What can I do/Over you?

Have a look at the band’s manifesto:

Manifesto!’ by the Children of the Pope.

Take it seriously or snap your fingers at it, react as you please, but, have a think. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle—are we still in the thick of it? Its plot still a daily truth for millions? Sure. It’s prescient as hell, always has been. Even before it was written it was true. We’ve been post-Eden longer than memory reaches; it gets a little tiring, out here in the moral desert. To find such substance, such brazen intention, in a rock n’ roll outfit during an era when minds have become so collectively warped that it’s somehow considered acceptable to call Maroon 5 a rock band, is a welcome oasis indeed. As Pete Townshend said: “All good art cannot help but confront denial on its way to the truth.” Denial is a real blood sport these days, and the Children of the Pope are confronting it head-on, in the quest for some kind of truth. It’s out there somewhere. We just gotta keep looking for it.

“Junkie Girlfriend” is out today on Isolar Records. You can listen to (and buy!) the single at the link below. https://childrenofthepope.bandcamp.com

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

Why We Love: Glasvegas

Glasvegas circa 2011. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I’ll never forget when I began listening to Scottish band Glasvegas. In seventh grade, I started branching out from the music I heard in the car or on the radio and almost accidentally started listening to them. My dad had received their 2008 self-titled debut album from my uncle, and because of that, I began listening to it. I immediately fell in love with the atmospheric, dense sonic world that Glasvegas created on the album. Songs such as “Geraldine,” “Go Square Go,” “Daddy’s Gone,” and “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry” tackled emotional themes while enveloping the listener in swirling guitars, rumbling bass, and simplistic yet effective drums. Although singer James Allen’s vocals were obscured by such a thick Scottish accent that I often had to look up the lyrics to understand what was being said, I still adored the album and still do to this day.

It turns out that I was not alone in my love for the album. After its release, it ended up going platinum, a big feat for an indie rock band. The band had actually formed years earlier in 2003, slowly working and building a fanbase over the years through constant touring, free demos, and a music video for the demo of “Daddy’s Gone.” This slow build in recognition meant that the album was a deserved smash hit, and Glasvegas enjoyed the benefits their self-titled album reaped.

In the years that followed, the band released two more albums: EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ in 2011, and Later…When The TV Turns to Static in 2013. Sadly, these albums did not perform as well critically or commercially as the debut album. Following the release of Static, the band’s output dried up with the exception of a small tour in 2014 to support the album. As the years went on and the band continued to remain silent, it seemed as though they had broken up. Allen’s struggles with drug use also painted the future of the band in a bleak light.

However, the band suddenly reemerged in 2018 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the debut album. They went on tour and re-released the album with a gold cover. They also released demos of the debut album to all streaming platforms. Then, three years later, the unexpected occurred: Glasvegas released their fourth album. Titled Godspeed, the album contains eleven tracks, two of which serve as interludes. Each of these tracks creates a world that not only harkens back to the debut album but also expands on it. The track “Stay Lit,” despite the title, is actually an acoustic guitar-driven track that has a morose, haunted feel to it. “In My Mirror,” one of the standout tracks on the album, pulses with a sense of urgency and contains some of Allen’s most impassioned vocals to date. “Dying to Live” runs in a similar vein, with Allen practically spitting out the lyrics in desperation over a tense instrumental. The tracks “Keep Me A Space” and “My Life Is A Glasshouse (A Thousand Stones Ago)” echo the first album with their sweeping textures and grand soundscapes.

It is nothing short of staggering that Glasvegas were able to make such a quality album after eight years. However, it is also not outside of the band to pull something like this off. After all, this is the same band that existed for five years before their debut album, slowly honing their sound and polishing their craft. Clearly, work ethic is a major part of Glasvegas’s ethos, which is something that must be admired. Many other bands would have folded under lesser circumstances, but with Godspeed, Glasvegas proves that they are made of tougher stuff.

Glasvegas’ new album Godspeed. Photo courtesy of XS Noise

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Reviews

Brian Destiny: Brian’s Got Talent

Brian Destiny (aka Nathan Saoudi of Fat White Family) has been gigging around London as a solo act since 2019. His debut EP, Brian’s Got Talent, was released on February 4th; expect introspective, up-tempo songs from the melodic mastermind behind Fat White Family’s hits such as “Feet,” and “Tastes Good with the Money.” Featured on the EP alongside Brian Destiny are brothers Dante and Gamaliel Traynor, who produced, recorded and co-wrote much of the material.

The EP opens with, “Is It Gonna Be Love?” a track full of indefatigable optimism, featuring smooth, echoing, vocals from Brian Destiny punctuated by bouncing guitar and distant, droning sax. As the EP’s first single, it’s accompanied by a music video illustrating both the excitement and the emotional pain of the eternal quest for love.

“What If I Told You That,” is an old-school rocker, showcasing Dante Traynor’s fierce guitar, riffs like streaks of blue lightning over buzzing synth. It’s a tribute to the pain of that ironic final stage of growing up, when you’ve been an adult for a while but haven’t really had to take it seriously. Suddenly, you’ve got to go all the way and repress (or in this case, kill) your inner child: “What if I told you that/I killed a child/Thirty years old, so I took his life.” Despite the dark nature of its content, it’s impossible not to dance to. That’s part of the magic of Brian Destiny: inserting truthful, hard-hitting content, into songs that are also supremely danceable. 

Songs about duality and self-discovery seem to be a common theme with Destiny. On “Feed the Horse,” distorted, churning rhythms back the tale of a sobering revelation: “I never knew/I never could guess/the shadow of life/is the shadow of death.” The voyage culminates in an outsider intellectual’s increasing discontent with the general population’s blind conformity to societal expectations. “Everyone’s driving/Some people are flying/Where’s my horse?” Destiny sings, segueing into the unforgettable line, “Where’s my motherfucking giddy-up?” It’s a serious, heavy, song, but not so much so as to deny us a laugh. You might not catch that that the heavy backbeat mimics a horse’s galloping hoofbeats until the second listen; the song’s rich layers underscore its genius.

The final track of the EP, “Never Again,” is a gorgeous, haunting melody that kicks off with an ominous chord and melts into a tremulous, rippling keyboard. The lyrics are bittersweet, hopeful: “I know what can be taken/and I know what can be kept /I’m pretty good at math/the answer ain’t regret.” It ends in an orchestral swell of violin and cello à la Sergeant Pepper, courtesy of Gamaliel Traynor, with whispery, ethereal, flute from Alex White, and a bright, rich, trill of brass from Adam Chatterton as a final close-out.

Brian’s Got Talent is ultimately a tale of rebirth, of becoming. It looks to the future with hope, not fear. The cyclical nature of our existence is acknowledged, as is our main purpose—to love, and be loved, and to search for a place, albeit temporarily, in the surging course of it all, in which to simply be ourselves. After all, it takes a hell of a lot of courage to wake up every day and ask, is it gonna be love? 

You can find Brian Destiny on Instagram @brian.destiny and @dashthehenge. You can purchase Brian’s Got Talent here: https://briandestiny.bandcamp.com

Brian Destiny, shot by @stiff_material. From left to right: Dante Traynor, Nathan Saoudi, Adam Brennan and Gam Traynor.

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

Why We Love: Buerak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Punk/Rock Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pop/Indie Pop Reviews Videos

Prioritise Pleasure: Self Esteem’s Story of a New Girl Power

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

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

Self Esteem is the creation of Rebecca Lucy Taylor, formerly of Sheffield duo Slow Club. In interviews, she has described wanting the experience of Self Esteem to be without boundaries. You are one; you are included as you listen to her or watch her perform. This is made easy by the raw authenticity she represents. 

Sometimes a song can strike you like lightning, paralysing you in some half-forgotten moment while the world around you melts into a soft-focused slow motion. Although it’s often that a song can be like a horoscope and pull you in with the generalised feelings about living that we all feel, you are rarely presented with words and emotions that tug at such specific pieces of you; it’s as though someone has ripped pages from your diary and put them to music, or plucked the memories straight out of your skull. 

With Self Esteem, I was presented with that standstill moment as I flicked through my Spotify Discover Weekly on a hot overground train in June. “I Do This All The Time” burst through my headphones, “Look up. Lean back. Be strong. You didn’t think you’d live this long.” The chorus is disjointed, a broken-voiced howl with soft harmonies spread beneath like butter, before you are met with a slow, steady sermon: “Old habits die for a couple of weeks, and then I start doing them again.” 

I was transfixed by her honesty and drawn in by the intentional and rhythmic way she spoke. There’s been a resurgence in the musical spoken word, with artists such as Kae Tempest and Sinead O’Brien heading the charge. With “I Do This All The Time,” Self Esteem capitalises on this fresh yearning for the overlap of poetry and production, the desire for recitation and a narrative, and the narrative she gives to us throughout is a compelling reflection of our own. 

We are launched into the story by “I’m Fine,” an accusatory statement with the fire of female rage – it is the outburst that comes as the product of silencing yourself for someone else. The following album is peppered with recurring motifs; you catch lines that repeat from one song to the next. 

The lyric, “My hunger times my impatience,” appears firstly in “Fucking Wizardry” in an expression of how the feeling opens you up to others taking advantage of your vulnerabilities and being impulsive and reckless in their treatment of you. The lyric then appears again further down the line in “I Do This All The Time”: “Now and again you make complete sense,

but most of the time I’m sat here feeling stupid for trying, my hunger times my impatience equals the problem.” This time the hunger and impatience put us at fault, for allowing our expectation of someone else’s behaviour to exhaust us and get in the way of our happiness. 

The whole album explores mutual accountability and how much we can blame ourselves or others for negative cycles of behaviour. It touches on forgiving, or not forgiving, self-love, and balancing that with the utterly human need for love from others. 

“Hobbies 2” is fuelled by the apathy of hook-up culture and how women train themselves to match the energy of what they are presented with; for many of us, the modern sex-positivity movement didn’t come with the warning label to teach us about demanding and expecting aftercare till it was far too late. 

This is followed by the album’s namesake Prioritise Pleasure, a heavy and pulsating celebration of letting go of the behaviours that are for the sake of those around us and not ourselves. The backing vocals are pure gospel; you can imagine them filling the high and cavernous ceilings of churches. The effect feels like a shared spiritual epiphany. 

Recovery and rehabilitation aren’t linear, and this doesn’t just apply to substances. It applies to behaviours, experiences, trauma, and relationships. Despite the power and conviction of Prioritise Pleasure, the songs that follow subvert the expectation of where you would want a Hollywood version of the story to take you. 

The mood drops as “I Do This All The Time” explores the grief of the self and the parts of ourselves that we willingly sacrifice; it climbs through your mourning till it reaches that optimistic climax where we promise ourselves that we will be okay again. “Moody” then pushes us back down again; we’re sexting our exes “during the mental health talk,” we’re drinking too much, we’re struggling to accept the reality of a foregone conclusion. 

This bargaining stage of sorts continues through “Still Reigning,” where we are once again falling back into the pattern of placing the needs of others (“The love you need is gentle, the love you need is kind”) over ourselves (“I feel everything, and nothing at all”). We relapse into our bad habits, we’re not taking care of ourselves, which brings us to the brilliant anger of “How Can I Help You.” 

With a Yeezus drumbeat loud enough for the gods to hear, the lyrics are spat into the face of those who have wronged us in a sing-song-shout of a chant that mimics schoolyard bullying. Female rage is vilified, sexualised, and used against us – it is refreshing to hear it so rawly expressed, especially at a time when so many women feel unsafe at the hands of men. 

“It’s Been A While” takes us back to mutual accountability, but this time focuses on how it feels to try to heal when you don’t feel like the other side is letting go of you either. Once more, we are secondary, we are an afterthought, but for as long as we know we still linger there, it will be all the more difficult to move on. 

So we need “The 345,” a soft and slow expression of trying once again to rebuild self-love.

It’s a monologue spoken to yourself in the mirror, encouraging the creation of new promoting purpose and motivation in the wake of previous plans falling apart; it’s a gentler spin on Prioritise Pleasure, still encouraging living for the self but whilst trying to figure out how to treat yourself with tenderness. 

Following in its wake is “John Elton,” where we truly start to feel the loss and try to figure out what to do with it: “So, this all that’s left of it, a dull ache in my stomach pit, as I try to make the memories fit a less rejecting narrative for me.” Our longing is still present in “You Forever,” and we have come to accept that it may never leave but acknowledge how well we’re doing on our own. The tune is bright and optimistic, we still hold the love, but we are capable of living. 

Finally, we reach “Just Kids.” We all remember how we met the people we fall in love with, and maybe we remember it just outside of reality. La vie en rose kicks in, the heady drug of romance clouds over any mishaps or words are spoken out of turn, but that doesn’t matter. The human memory is a subjective and everchanging thing, and we were fortunate to once 

be in a place where love could bloom and grow, despite whatever happened next. We’re finally forgiving, both of others and ourselves: “Maybe you didn’t really mean to make me doubt my life, and it really wasn’t okay, but I never did say, and I feel so sorry for you and me.” 

Self Esteem’s girl power isn’t only about anger or what defines femininity. It’s about making space for yourself, as a woman, first. It’s about understanding your emotions, knowing where your relationships, your family, and the patriarchy may have adapted and changed who you are and whether you wish to accept those changes or fight against them. It’s about analysing yourself and your relationships, not accepting things as black or white, and about taking responsibility for yourself where you can. 

It’s self-care, it’s grief, it’s healing, and the best part is that we can all share these experiences together. We can empathise and understand where our experiences aren’t the same as others; we can support one another through our highs and lows and guide one another when we falter. We can know when to step back, when to allow our emotions to run their course, and when we can forgive. 

Prioritise Pleasure is Self Esteem’s moving tapestry about finding your power through the pain, and I hope it inspires us all to accept and love ourselves in a new and exciting way. Changing for the better and learning how to live with yourself is a scary thing, I know. But isn’t it so very exciting?