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

Why We Love: Young Guv

Ben Cook, the man behind “Young Guv”

Instagram has changed my life in many ways. On the bright side, it has given me many international opportunities, such as writing for this brilliant magazine. On the negative side, it has rendered my attention span so useless that chances are, I reached down and stared at my phone screen before I even finished typing this sentence (I actually didn’t. There is hope for me.). However, in the former category, I have been introduced to countless new songs and bands thanks to a mixture of advertisements and random posts on the site. 

Recently, I was scrolling mindlessly through my phone when I stumbled across an artist by the name of Young Guv. I vaguely recalled having seen the name before, but I hadn’t investigated further because I figured he was just another rapper. However, I stopped on the post that had come up in front of my indifferent eyes and took a listen to the clip. Immediately, I emerged from my stupor as the chorus of the song, which was called “Only Wanna See U Tonight,” floated into my ears. The song had the trappings of late 70’s power-pop mixed with the sheen of mid-90’s alt-rock. Shining guitars popped out over crisp drums, melodic bass, peppy tambourine, and the almost saccharine vocals of the project’s mastermind, Ben Cook.

Stunned, I played the clip over and over again before it occurred to me that I ought to go and listen to the actual song. I listened to it a few times and enjoyed it greatly. It almost felt like a guilty pleasure; surely this was some cynical cash grab. The production was too clean, the vocal harmonies too ear-catching, the guitar tone too sunny. However, over the course of the past month, “Only Wanna See U Tonight” has repeatedly floated back into my head until I relent and listen to the song again.

I then took the big risk of exposing myself to the rest of Young Guv’s catalog. From the beginning, I was worried that Guv’s other songs wouldn’t stack up to the pop glory of “Only Wanna See U Tonight,” so I approached them with trepidation. I was proven joyfully wrong. “It’s Only Dancing” brings the energy of the earliest days of new wave, with guitars caked in the chorus and the drums providing an insistent and instantly groovy treadmill for the song to run on. The song brings to mind Joe Jackson, Rick Springfield, and Bruce Springsteen. If you told me that this song was from 1981, I would absolutely believe you. Even the production works on that level, which is a surprising feat in a world where a lot of pop stars try to ape the 80’s “sound” by throwing atmospheric synths on their music.

Other gems in Guv’s catalog include “Lo Lo Lonely,” which cranks the distortion to a point reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub and Weezer. Emphasizing the influence of the latter band, Cook’s vocals ooze through the song like Matt Sharp’s on The Rentals’ sophomore album Seven More Minutes. Moving in the complete opposite direction is “Caught Lookin’,” a song that sounds like what you’d get if you stuck Mac Demarco in a DeLorean. Gently plucked acoustic guitars meet swirling synths and grooving bass. The overall feel is funky and suave, which is punctuated by female backing singers and a subtle drum machine that hits at just the right moments. An airy saxophone firmly ends any debate.

Overall, Ben Cook and company have shown that they can write some real fine songs. They accomplish the difficult task of writing guitar pop that isn’t overproduced but doesn’t rely too much on nostalgia. Their next release, a double album consisting of Guv III and Guv IV, is expected on March 11th through Run For Cover Records.

Young Guv, courtesy of Run For Cover Records
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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.

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Creators Monthly Why We Love

IRATION STEPPAS – DUBS INNA 3000 STYLE

This month for your favourite bus read, I want to discuss dub music. It’s a deeply influential genre that never disappoints and still, little is known about it and its protagonists. Digging into its fascinating history is always a treat, not so much through written accounts but by witnessing a tradition that still prevails on the dancefloor, almost 60 years from its inception in Kingston, Jamaica. I recently went out to see Iration Steppas celebrate their 30th birthday at Trinity Centre in Bristol and it was as neat as I hoped it would be. It had been a while – I almost forgot how potent and uplifting dub can be; it’s like an assault to the senses with its thrill-building reverbs, psychotropic sirens, and guts-shaking bass. It sways you off your feet in the best way possible, especially when played by its top vanguards. Here’s a taster of my awesome time at Trinity, although this video doesn’t do justice to what happened that night.

Iration Steppas are one of the best in the game – you’ll understand what makes them so special if you see them live. It’s mesmerising how good they seem to feel when they’re at the controls, and they make you feel it, too: quintessential happiness. It all began years ago, back in the 70s when Mark Iration and his long-gone friend Sam Mason were just a couple of teenagers collecting records. They were fascinated by the likes of Jah Shaka and Jah Tubby’s and curious enough to try and make their mum’s amp sound louder – so they got into building their own sound system and experimenting with it.

Mark Iration (left) and Sam Mason (right)

It wasn’t until the 90s when Mark Iration met Dennis Rootical, that Iration Steppas as we know them today were born. Mark’s journey started small, this-used-to-be-a-wardrobe-and-a-bag-of-nails small, and turned into a monster of a system, tons of dubplates, and a decked-out studio with a board that’s got 100-something channels. Iration Steppas are some OG, full-of-character bunch of mixing artists, who made a real contribution to dub through their music. Their way of connecting with the crowd is spotless, and it serves dub a great honour. They always put up this fantastic show with their DYI, uniquely craggy rhythms and improvised lyrics each time the record needs turning over. And wait until you see them in a soundclash. Their greatness, I think, comes from some absolutely fantastic and annoyingly hard to come across tunes that are then mixed and presented in a very soulful, unforgettable way.

Iration Steppas opened new worlds with their Year 3000 production style; even the name itself hints to a particular craft where inspiration from mentors, old school lyrics, and sub-bass frequencies meet a unique sound that touches on house, acid, and jungle. 30 years in the scene and Mark and Dennis have the same awe-inspiring energy, the unfailingly authentic techno hue to their music, and remain one of the most loved sound systems worldwide.

If this sparked your interest I suggest you save the date for the premiere of INA VANGUARD STYLE, a documentary about Iration Steppas, courtesy of Dubquake Records.

And before I go, please go see them live. It’s the kind of thing you should do at least once in your lifetime. Here’s where to find them over the next few months:

LEEDS 12 & 13th November @ Freedom Mills with support from O.B.F. and Charlie P – tickets for the 12th and here for the 13th

BRISTOL 27th November @ The Fiddlers with Macka B and Aba Shanti-I – tickets

LONDON 17th December @ Fox & Firkin – tickets

LEICESTER 26th December Boxing Day Special with Aba Shanti-I @ 2Funky Music Cafe – tickets

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

Why We Love: The Umbrellas

The Umbrellas, courtesy of their bandcamp page. From Left: Keith Frerichs, Matt Ferrera, Morgan Stanley, Nick Oka

I am an absolute sucker for Sarah Records bands. I first came across the label after seeing a picture of The Field Mice on Instagram. Thinking that they looked cool, and knowing that the band Seapony had covered one of their songs, I gave them a listen and was blown away. The jangly guitars, the punchy drum machines, the melodic bass, and the poetic lyrics quickly endeared me to the late 80’s-early 90’s indie band. Once I had dug through their catalogue, I began checking out the rest of Sarah Records’ roster, finding such amazing bands as Another Sunny Day, Brighter, and 14 Iced Bears. All these bands had vastly different yet oddly similar sounds, and I began searching for any sort of modern-day equivalent.

Despite my keen eye, The Umbrellas still hit me like a brick wall. Again finding them through a random encounter on Instagram, I noted the cool, understated indie-rock aesthetic of the name and decided to give them a listen. On top of this, I saw that they were part of Slumberland Records, another fantastic indie-rock label featuring, at least at some point, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Crystal Stilts. Seeing that The Umbrellas had a new self-titled debut album out, I dove in headfirst.

Immediately from the first chords of opener “Lonely,” I was transported back to the magical moment that I had stumbled upon Sarah Records back in high school. The nostalgia was visceral and quickly had me hooked. Jangly guitars bounced around a persistent drumbeat, and Matt Ferrera’s notably Field Mice-esque singing style was spot on. The lyrics are beautifully simple, describing the insecurities stemming from a relationship gone wrong. Morgan Stanley also provides vocals on this song, her voice floating ethereally through the flickering guitar notes. Overall, “Lonely” is an incredible opener, and should they ever visit the East Coast, I would love to hear it live.

As the album continues, The Umbrellas show off other facets of their songwriting strengths. The song “It’s True” is a delicate, intimate acoustic ballad, with raw vocals traded by Ferrera and Stanley as melancholy chords chug beneath them. The two singers sing both separately and in harmony throughout the song, like two birds in a late summer sky. “She Buys Herself Flowers,” one of the singles off of the album, features R.E.M. style guitars throughout that occasionally show signs of The Byrds and even early surf music. Stanley’s frank vocals are on full display here, as are a set of remarkably clever and catchy lyrics. Later in the album, “Never Available” features sunny guitar arpeggios and 60’s psychedelic style percussion. Gentle keys also buoy the song and provide an extra layer of atmosphere to the song. The simple refrain of, “You’re never available,” is an instant earworm and ensures that the song sticks in the memory of the listener.

Considering that this is their first album, I am shocked at how masterful The Umbrellas’ songwriting sounds. It is impressive how well they conveyed their influences while also adding a modern touch to a classic sound. If the album was simply a shameless ripoff, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much. After all, The Field Mice already existed. However, The Umbrellas utilize enough nostalgia to captivate listeners while providing enough nuance to stand apart from the crowd. I tip my hat to this great new band, and I cannot wait to hear what else they have to offer.

The Umbrellas’ self-titled debut album cover, courtesy of bandcamp
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Uncategorized Why We Love

Why We Love: Maggie the Cat

And just like that, summer’s over and it’s October, the month when spooks and ghouls roam the earth freely. Prime time for the debut solo release from a founding member of south London’s finest and freakiest gang of voodoo high priestesses, Madonnatron.

If you’ve heard Madonnatron, then you’ve heard Maggie. Her voice is the lynchpin of the band’s signature sound, the gathering force that holds it all together, powerful and hypnotic. She’s recently struck out on her own, embarking on a solo career under her Madonnatron moniker, “Maggie the Cat.”

With her Farrah Fawcett hair, glam rock eye makeup and brooding, melancholy, stare, she explained the evolution of her solo work thusly: “Maggie the Cat emerged over the last few years like the mutant love child of covid and my long running obsession with Elizabeth Taylor, most notably her character of that name from the Tennessee Williams play, ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’

Her debut single, “I Think Last Night I Killed A Man,” is a definite shift from Madonnatron’s harsh, witch-punk sound. The production is more technically intricate: “… centered around a lot of quite dark, melancholic symphonic refrains juxtaposed with 80s synth sounds and disco drum patterns. The vocals are something of an id festival and may have ventured into other realms in places as I’m shamelessly emotional and the voice is a real channel for the soul, I think,” Maggie explains.

“Bianca Jagger rides in on a horse any second…” she teased on Instagram, days before the single’s release. A fitting comparison; the stylization is very Studio 54, albeit with a touch of what Maggie the Cat calls, “general murderous content,” a sinister speciality of supposed sweetness followed by violence, honed in the service of years of lyric writing for Madonnatron. Her blog describes the forthcoming album as “…simultaneously bewitching, erotic, menacing, and occasionally chilling (although never without mischief.)”

Trashmouth Records, the infamous New Malden-based independent record label that nurtured the raw, loose-cannon power of cult favorite rock n’ roll bands such as Warmduscher, the Fat White Family (and of course, Madonnatron) into musical adulthood, are backing Maggie the Cat’s solo efforts.

You can purchase “Last Night I Think I Killed A Man,” via Bandcamp at the link provided below. It is available to stream on all platforms.

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Creators Monthly Rap/Grime Why We Love

Why We Love – DATKID

One day I’ll fall in love with you like my ears did for hip-hop” is what my favourite poster on the wall of my childhood den said. I must’ve had it up for ages; I always loved hip-hop and spent countless hours listening and dancing to it in my bedroom, in the studio, and on stage. It was probably its mood and cadence that I really enjoyed at first before I started grasping the essence of it, the meaning behind the slang in verses about battles with poverty and crime. Years later I moved to Bristol and was introduced to Datkid – he’s got a sound I’ve personally not often heard off the East Coast and generally anywhere in the last 10 years or so. I’m still unsure whether it’s his well-thought, raunchy and oddly-satisfying lyrics, the heavy technical know-how, or the stern I don’t give a f*** attitude that fascinates me. What I do know is I re-live that moment my ears fell for hip-hop every time Datkid comes on.

He’s no new addition to the scene; Bristolian emcee and Crud Lord, he formed the rap collective Demorus back in 2008 and dropped his debut Dkay and Gramma 3 years later. He then linked up with the Bristol rap collective Split Prophets and featured on a number of their projects, including Drugs​, ​Booze & Dental Issues. Raw and factual, the album is a ride to the dark underbelly of the city. He released Home By 8, an epode to the art of tag, and that’s when his notoriety started to shoot up into the sky.

With a bunch of exceptional solo projects and gnarly features under his belt, Bristol’s very own Datkid quickly became a lead prospect in the British rap scene as he kept throwing top-notch productions at his fans. 2019 brought about Confessions of a Crud Lord, one of his mightiest projects so far, where alongside Four Owls producer Leaf Dog he serves a grim affair in all its flagrant dirtiness. The album features heavy craftsmen like Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn, and Roc Marciano, and it neatly sums up the tone of What’s the point in living if you’re just surviving?

Datkid’s latest prodigy, Wakmo, is nauseatingly grand. The secret to that is, of course, Illinformed’s finesse in producing sickly ghoulish beats. The bars are gloriously depraved, and they take you right there to that warped, crude-but-candid reality of Datkid’s life and career. It’s so dazing and potent that you don’t just listen to it but can actually feel an ugly aggressiveness breathing down your neck for a second. A tribute to the rapper’s hometown loyalty, the album boasts an impressive number of guest stars. Rappers like Bil Next, Mistafire, Wish Master, or Eric the Red will unapologetically discharge more sick verses with deft flows off onto you, therefore bringing about one of the most hardcore and obstinate rap albums that ever emerged from Bristol.

I urge you to listen to this one ’til the very end. And before you forget, go ahead and buy his music via Bandcamp. You can check out some more music and merch on the Split Prophets Bandcamp too.

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

Why We Love: Kitner

Kitner. From left: Conor, James, Will, Brianne

The local music scene is an ever changing landscape no matter where you come from. When I started making music with my band Friday Life back in 2017, there were around five bands that comprised the music scene, maybe a few more. However, four years on, Friday Life is the only band left standing, and that’s remarkable even to me. Local bands breaking up happens for a multitude of reasons: people begin going to college, members move out of state, scandals radically shift the prospects bands once had, the list goes on. It is as common as it is unfortunate.

For awhile, Boston based band Kitner seemed to be another local band come and gone. Forming in 2015, the band started as a five piece featuring Conor Maier (guitar, vocals), Brianne Costa (keys, vocals), James Christopher (guitar), Christine Atturio (bass), and Will Buiel (drums). They quickly recorded an EP of home demos, followed shortly by the release of a self-titled EP in September of that year. 

The EP gained momentum, with many people downloading it on bandcamp. The band played a few shows in Massachusetts over the next year as well. They even teased a return to the studio. However, due to their commitments to other bands as well as some member changes, the band vanished. For over four years, Kitner seemed to be just a memory, with the self titled EP being all that remained.

However, in 2019, Kitner quietly returned to the studio. Now a four piece consisting of Conor, Brianne, James, and Will, the band recorded their debut album, titled Shake The Spins. Announcing their return in April of 2021, Kitner set to work promoting their new album, set to be released in October through Relief Map Records. The hype was immediate, not just because the long absence had allowed their previous EP to garner a larger following, but because the music involved sounded incredible.

The first single from the album, Beth Israel, was premiered on July 29th by The Alternative. Starting with some mellow but present acoustic guitar, the muted vocals soon enter, giving the song a primitive feel, like a bedroom demo recorded on tape. It is warm, and it builds anticipation for when the wave comes crashing down. 

Sure enough, the wave hits a little over a minute in. Roaring, anthemic guitars meet steady, powerful drums that hit you like a train. The hushed vocals are replaced by rough, raw shouting from Conor that brings to mind an alternate universe where Jim James of My Morning Jacket fronted an emo band. Brianne’s light voice perfectly compliments Conor’s vocals, adding a dimension to the music that fits in your ears just right.

The wall of sound soon breaks in the final act of the song, with the acoustic guitar and softer vocals returning, accompanied by the solemn wail of a feedbacking guitar. The interplay of Conor and Brianne’s voices is clearer here as the two sing different lines, creating a tapestry of words and sounds. The drums begin building up again before sending the song off with bluster accompanied by some retro sounding keyboards.

Kitner’s return can only be described as triumphant, and that’s after just one single. If the rest of the album sounds like this, then Shake The Spins might easily be the album of the year. 

Kitner. From left: Brianne, Will, James, Conor. Photo by Brittany Rose Queen

Bandcamp: https://kitner.bandcamp.com/album/shake-the-spins

Spotify:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kitner.ma/

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Pop/Indie Pop Videos Why We Love

Why We Love – Salac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen on Bandcamp                                                                         

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New Wave Punk/Rock Why We Love

ANIKA: the Totally Wired Interview

The artist currently known as Anika is no stranger to the feelings of separation and isolation that we’ve all struggled with over the past 18 months. Born in Surrey, and currently based in Berlin, she sees herself as “…a foreigner in both lands, belonging to neither…” Anika is a musician, a poet, a political journalist, and a DJ, and she’s spent the majority of the pandemic busily weaving the threads of her multiple artistic practices into the creation of Change, her first album in 11 years.

Her debut album, Anika, released in 2010, was produced and co-written by Geoffrey Barrow and his band, Beak. Anika’s choice to include a cover of Yoko Ono’s “Yang Yang,” (a prescient song that explores the mindset of a sleazy politician and his scurrilous dealings) on her debut garnered attention as the sign of a precocious talent with encyclopedic musical knowledge and a keen-eyed perspective influenced by her training as a political journalist—think The Velvet Underground and Nico meets Yaeji, meets Nilufer Yanya.

Change is an album full of both hope and warnings (Anika wrote “Never Coming Back,” after reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a wake-up call to the devasting effects of humankind on the natural world,) but on the title track, Anika’s trademark, icily cool Nico-esque drone takes on a certain tenderness, assuring her listeners that, “…I think we have it all inside…I think we can change…”

Change has already been named by Rough Trade as one of the best albums of 2021. Stereogum, Uncut, and Mojo have earnestly sung its praises. Anika is soon to embark on touring efforts, playing across Germany, France, and finally reaching the U.K., which will be her first trip to her homeland in two years.

TWM: It’s been 11 years since the release of ‘Anika.’ How has your approach to creating music changed and evolved since then? 

Anika: Quite a lot of time has passed. I have done a lot of collabs and learnt with each one, the most significant of which was Exploded View; that one really taught me how to be in a band, how to talk to each other, how to compromise, be compassionate, be honest and respectful. 

The first album was recorded without the intention of purpose or ever releasing it. This one was written very much with purpose, though the songs seemed to write themselves. That’s the thing about the texts, I don’t like to sit and write about specific topics. I bring diaries, books and notes to the demo recording session and then the music takes hold and I flick through the notes and the right ones float out; the music acts like a key to unlock all the stuff that is on my mind, but I hadn’t quite registered. 

I recorded it in stages. I’d make drum loops the day before and layer some chord progressions on top and go in armed with these. I’d loop the drum, play it in the back, then try the chords on different instruments, change it up, push against it. Last would be the lyrics. With ‘Freedom,’ and ‘Finger Pies,’ I did those at home, during some crazy night sessions, playing layers over each other. 

As for the lyrics being a freestyle gateway to the unconscious, it was very much like that with ‘No One’s There,’ from the first album (2010’s Anika.) Also, all the Exploded View records were recorded like this. 

This time around, I also wrote the music, which is a big difference from the first album because Beak were fully responsible for that. I also really wanted to co-produce this time and that was important. Once I was done with the rough track ideas, I did speak briefly to Geoff (Barrow) about whether I should take them over to Bristol to record there but with corona, this…was off the cards and to be honest, I am happy the way it turned out because it pushed me to do even more myself and learn more that way. Geoff is also cool like that; he likes to give space for growth and doesn’t try to hog projects. Probably because he is so busy and in demand! 

TWM: What was the process of creating and recording an album during a pandemic like? 

Anika: Yes, that was weird. It was very intense. Specifically, because my home situation was very intense and I was going through quite a lot of personal stuff at the time, on top of corona and the apocalyptic news events. I had to trust somehow and keep going, without overthinking what or why i was doing this. There were less people involved, that also made it more intense.


TWM: ‘Change,’ is an extraordinarily hopeful song, especially in the face of an increasing deluge of frightening news and events…I find it incredibly moving for these reasons, and I think it’s a very important song for people to hear and to fully absorb. What inspired you to write it?

Anika: I was reading all this stuff in the news about people doing bad things. I was also seeing people close to me do bad things. People do bad things. Sometimes it’s just for a time, it may be due to circumstance, their history, we can never really know what leads to it. Especially in this climate of distorted news and news bubbles, people are led into traps and false perceptions of reality. I think it’s important to stick together in these times and see these bad decisions and actions as transient and that most people have the capacity to change.


TWM: You posted on Instagram that you kept, “Covid19 Diaries.” Did anything you wrote in them end up on the new album, in the form of lyrics or otherwise?

Anika: I think ‘Sand Witches,’ actually came from this, or parts of it. Also ‘Change,’ had parts and for sure ‘Never Coming Back.’ All of them were a little from it. It was really important to keep these diaries because it kept my mind active and interactive with events and things going on. The instinct is to shut off, [to] numb. I wanted to embrace the thoughts I thought I should be scared of. 

TWM: How has your background as a political journalist influenced your artistic career? 

Anika: The way I consume information, books, news and process has a lot to do with my education in this field. English was actually my worst subject at school. My spelling was/is terrible and sometimes I would feel like words were road blocks to my expression, blocking me into corners, as opposed to rivers. Luckily, studying journalism helped break down this fear and also helped my ability to process information better. Before I mostly studied math, so my brain was wired a little differently. 


TWM: What music did you listen to most during lockdown?

Anika: I listened a lot to the John Peel sessions. There are so many good ones and his lovely nature seemed to coax out these very personal and unique performances from many great artists…Bowie, PJ Harvey, Basement 5, Archers of Loaf, Flock of Seagulls, A Certain Ratio, A Guy Called Gerald, etc. The curation is very special. It was also the nearest I got to live shows. They are raw, yet very well recorded. Great stuff.

TWM: Which dates of your upcoming tour are you most looking forward to?

Anika: I love playing at Bad Bonn Festival, it’s so much fun! Also, France is a great place to play. The venues are so friendly, and the crowds are very cool. I’m nervous and excited about the UK, too. I have never really toured there, and I haven’t been (home) in about two years now! That will be strange. I’m very excited to play with the new all-girl lineup, they are killa.

You can find Anika on Instagram @annika.henderson. Her new album, “Change,” is available for purchase on Bandcamp. https://anika.bandcamp.com/album/change Tickets for her upcoming tour are available at: https://anika-music.com/tour-dates

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

Why We Love: Cabin Boy

I remember my friend John “Guppy” Guptill first mentioning the idea of Cabin Boy to me last July. What immediately stood out to me about the band was that each member was from a different area of the world. He then played me a demo they were working on, and I was even more intrigued.

In recent years, I personally feel that the emo/math rock genre has become somewhat tired. While there are many bands who pull off the style well, there are several more that don’t do anything new with the sound, leading to some aspects of the genre becoming tired tropes. That’s why when there is a band that not only improves upon the sound, but also makes it their own, it immediately stands out. 

A few months after this initial reveal of the band, Cabin Boy began building up hype incredibly quickly, and they hadn’t even released music yet. The buzz was largely due to the kinetic chemistry displayed by the band’s members: the aforementioned Guppy, a bass player from Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Josh Cartwright, the vocalist and guitarist of the band who hails from Liverpool, England; and Dan Goellner, drummer extraordinaire from Berkeley, California. Meeting through an online music community, the three bonded over shared musical tastes and began sending music to one another to build songs individually—a perfect setup during the pandemic.

Recruiting producer Max Mayman, who Guppy has described as “the secret fourth member of the band” and who Dan met at a concert in California, the band debuted their highly anticipated first single, “Falcon Brunch.” Released on February 14th, 2021, the song was a smash hit and received raving reviews from fans; it is truly a gem. Featuring bright, jangly guitars reminiscent of 90’s power pop, the song kicks into gear once Dan’s confident, upbeat drumming and Guppy’s melodic bass lines come into play. Josh’s voice is interesting as well; it sounds effortless and carefree, while also carrying an emotional weight that feels natural. The song bounces along, and even during the instrumental break in the middle, which features some gnarly finger-tapping, it remains unpretentious and fun.

The single proved that Cabin Boy could take their lively personalities and instrumental talents and turn them into something great, despite thousands of miles being between them. They did this so well that a few months later, they signed to notable emo label Flea Collar Tapes on May 16th. Shortly after this big news, they also released a music video for Falcon Brunch. A visually stunning affair, the video utilizes green screens in an incredible way, courtesy of Dan. Each member’s charm and charisma are on full display throughout the video, and it is a joy to watch.

The wave that Cabin Boy were riding grew in June when they released their follow-up single, “Tokin’ Tree,” on the 19th of that month. The song starts with jagged acoustic guitar chords and passionate vocals from Josh. After a little under a minute of this, the electric guitar, bass, and drums burst onto the scene ferociously. The song features a far more distorted, darker sound, but the punk ethos of Falcon Brunch is still there in the undertow. Dan’s drumming is crazy on this track, highlighting how great of a drummer he really is. Overall, the song shows a remarkable maturity in the band’s sound, and it’s only their second song. 

Cabin Boy hit a new high when renowned music critic Anthony Fantano reviewed the song and praised it. This, combined with their record deal, indicates a remarkably bright future for Josh, Guppy, and Dan. Despite the distance between them, they have proven that great bands can conquer all odds to make amazing music. Their unique energy and uplifting personas are sure to continue to win over music fans far and wide, and hopefully someday, we will get to see them come together and perform.

From left: Guppy, Dan, and Josh

Support Cabin Boy on Bandcamp!