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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
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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.

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

Why We Love: Pons

Pons. From left: Jack Parker (drums), Sebastian Carnot (drums), Sam Cameron (vocals/guitar). Photo courtesy of IDIOTEQ

I’ll start off this article with two words: two drummers. I’ll add another two for good measure: no bassist. That’s right, Pons is a three-piece band featuring a guitar, vocals, drums, and more drums. They’re truly a sight and sound to behold.

Pons formed in North Carolina in 2018 shortly after the two founding members graduated high school. The two members in question are Sam Cameron, who sings and plays guitar, and Jack Parker on drums. Shortly after, the duo released their debut EP, titled They Look Like People. The EP features five loud, noisy, raw tracks that only hint at the power Pons was yet to harness. 

The start of Pons: Jack and Sam circa 2018. Photo courtesy of Pons’ Instagram

At first, progress was slow for Pons due to Jack attending college at the University of Vermont, where he became part of the short-lived but very popular emo band Boys Cruise. However, behind the scenes, the duo was still keeping the flame of Pons alive. After releasing a few more songs and embarking on a mini-tour in early 2019, the floodgates opened. That summer, Pons released Dread, their second EP. With this EP, they went on their longest tour yet, traveling from North Carolina all the way to Canada and back. This ambitious outing showcased the incredible work ethic that powered the band, and it was only the beginning.

As fall came around, Pons continued to build on the momentum of the previous summer. Sam moved up to Vermont in order to continue working on new material and play shows in the area. They also expanded, introducing auxiliary percussionist Sebastian Carnot, also known as DIE the Monk, at a show in September. While based in Vermont, the trio built up a reputation for pulling out all the stops live. One of their most popular antics was ditching their instruments and shouting lyrics discordantly over a pre-recorded backing track, wading out into the audience and dancing maniacally as they did so. The addition of a second drummer also meant that their shows became even noisier.

After releasing their debut album Intellect in 2020, Pons once again made a drastic move: they relocated to New York. Despite the high saturation of strange and unusual bands in NYC, Pons immediately stood out due to their raw power and noise. They began playing shows all over the country, darting from one state to another on a whim. Oftentimes, they would pay visits to Vermont, where they were still heroes of the underground. This included playing a show at Higher Ground with Vundabar.

Fast forward to today, and Pons are often cited as people’s favorite band to see live. Their commitment to their sound, style, and persona has also helped them stand out in a world where weirdness is often watered down and turned into a commodity. Their fierce work ethic also makes them stand out as a beacon for other underground bands that are looking to make a name for themselves on the road. Even if Pons’ music isn’t your cup of tea, their determination and passion will have you keeping your eyes on them.

The band’s latest single, “Leave Me To My Work,” is out now on all streaming platforms.

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Why We Love

Why We Love: Rosy Mackinnon

Rosy Mackinnon has been writing songs since the tender age of 12. She joined her first band at 15 and by 16 had begun commandeering her dad’s computer to record her original tracks (she figured out how to mix them, using Logic, on her own). Her debut single, “Getting Home,” was released in December of 2021; her second release, “Kill Me Sarah,” is out today.

“Getting Home” and “Kill Me Sarah” are both misty, enveloping tunes; the sort of music that imparts a sense of tender nostalgia to anything it might end up sound-tracking. Add delicate instrumentation and a sense of self and humor that’s rare to find in any artist, especially in one so young, and you have a recipe for rapidly rising talent. Rosy Mackinnon’s one to watch.

Rosy Mackinnon performing at an event in Manchester.

She lists Jockstrap, Adrienne Lenker and Leonard Cohen among her recent musical influences—before the first lockdown she was heavily inspired by Weyes Blood and the Velvet Underground, but her tastes have since shifted somewhat. Most listeners consider her work to fall under the ambient or experimental indie genres, and Rosy agrees: “I think I make songs that people could listen to after a long day or a night out… I’m under the indie bracket somewhere.”

She says that “Kill Me Sarah” was “… loosely based on a conversation I had with a friend. They wanted me to pretend to be someone else and I thought it could be an interesting narrative for a song. In the lyrics I made it more about an unhealthy relationship, not being enough for a person, even though they want more you put up with it for a time. I made the narrator murder their love interest at the end which I didn’t intend until I wrote the very last verse. I don’t think I fully realized until I read through it all again and I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ I called it “Kill Me Sarah” as a joke at first… it’s a Radiohead reference.”

“Kill Me Sarah,” is out today on Bandcamp and Spotify. You can follow Rosy Mackinnon on Instagram @rosymackinnon, on Spotify and on Bandcamp.

https://rosymackinnon.bandcamp.com/releases

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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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Why We Love

Why We Love: Decius

Their first single was released in anonymity, but today, the faces behind the music have been revealed. DECIUS have been all over the airwaves recently with a string of fresh releases and remixes. The South London-based acid house band’s mission statement keeps it honest: “Decius is when members of Trashmouth Records, Fat White Family & Paranoid London find themselves climbing out of a hole together at a disco after hours.”

With nine EPs to their credit, the group’s sound shifts lanes from marauding techno to acid-house punctuated with unnerving falsetto vocals and unusually intricate lyrics. It’s so rare to find a fresh take on dance music that when one finds it, they should grab it by the jugular and hang on like grim death. But Decius’s addictive rhythms will probably grab you, first.

The electronic duo Medicine 8, helmed by Trashmouth Records founders Liam and Luke May, was the precursor to Decius. (Medicine 8 did a cover of the Velvet Underground’s, “The Murder Mystery,” that Lou Reed liked more than the original. “They did it so much better than I did, and I love it when that happens,” Reed said gleefully.) Medicine 8 disbanded, but the Mays continued their voyage of electronic experimentation in the form of Decius, adding Paranoid London’s Quinn Whalley and Fat White Family frontman Lias Saoudi to their crew. 

They’re Iggy Pop’s house music of choice. He described their sound on his BBC6 radio show as: “Made by a loose amalgam of England’s most troublesome, wayward and wanton musicians, Decius gets the groove going in a different way, they kind of come at you out of the dark…” The hype surrounding the acid-house conglomerate doesn’t stop with accolades from the legendary Godfather of Punk: Decius’s recent EP U Instead of Thought was a featured highlight in the September 2021 print issue of DJ Magazine, and The Quietus recently did an in-depth interview with them, which coincided with the release of their ninth EP, Look like a Man

Their dark, danceable tracks have won the praises of DJs the world over, and if not for the unpleasantly sticky situation of the ongoing pandemic, they’d undoubtedly be playing a residency at the Panorama Bar in Berghain right now. Pre-pandemic, the group played gigs such as NYC Downlow at Glastonbury, Salon Renaate Sur Wilden in Berlin, and the infamous, much-missed World Unknown parties. Post-pandemic one can only imagine the sweaty glory that awaits.

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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