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Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock

Indie Idols: Crywank

The 1980s were a wild time, to say the least. Teenagers were rebelling – as per usual – and creating their own kind of lifestyle, diverting the general expectations of growing up and maturing that had dominated previous decades. Fashion was outrageous, attitudes were eccentric and controversial, and all of this was reflected in the music. Punk emerged from the underground and, in a symbiotic relationship with the youth, the face of music was forever scarred for the better. Bands like Sex Pistols and the Ramones exploded onto the scene expressing anarchy and distrust in the establishment, loudly displaying their political agenda and providing a voice for like-minded young people. Throughout the decade, punk influenced countless subgenres and subcultures, encouraging political freedom and rebirth of the most riotous kind, while also merging with others to create completely unexpected, but lyrically brilliant, hybrid genres.

This month’s Indie Idol embodies the spirit of punk while exhibiting its versatility within other genres by displaying elements of anti-folk – a musical movement established in the 1980’s to “mock the perceived seriousness” of the decade’s popular music, serving as a protest through clever lyricism. Crywank, a band spontaneously conceived by Jay Clayton in Manchester in 2009 upon receiving their first guitar, expresses a more personal kind of anarchy, announcing displeasure with mundane realism we have all probably felt from time to time, as well as dealing with more serious issues like mental health. I Am Shit from the band’s 2013 Tomorrow is Nearly Yesterday and Everyday is Stupid album, for instance, serves as a criticism of one’s self, overthinking everything you have said or done, and being stuck in a loop of self-doubt and inadequacy. The lyrics are hard-hitting and emotional, with a characteristic DIY-nature that adds to the charm and meaning of the song.

Arguably, Crywank takes a more comedic stance in some of their productions, helping to lighten the typically downbeat mood of their work while fitting to the anti-folk genre, still providing that dramatic social commentary the band and sub-punk genres are known for. Songs like An Academics Lament on Barbie, which comments on the irony surrounding the suggestion that Barbie is a feminist icon for young girls, having had over a hundred different jobs, many in typically male industries, while also being subject to strict and traditional female beauty standards that fail to represent the vast majority of women. Or Tin Foil Hat Crew at the Student House, which discusses constantly being monitored by companies online and other politics while also featuring the highly intellectual lyric, “Slap my thigh call me messy sweaty petty silly sausage,” from the duo’s 2017 Egg on Face. Foot in Mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling. album, for example. Both of these songs also demonstrate Crywank’s musical diversity by embracing a sound vaguely similar to that of Parklife by Blur, with more melodic speech rather than general singing, while still harking back to their punk-inspired roots – which are especially evident in the final few lyrics of Tin Foil Hat…, “Don’t Be Evil, Ooglie-booglie-googlie-booglie.”

(Check out Story of the Lizard and the Sock for another dark comedy-esque song)

The group’s most recent and final album, Fist Me ‘Til Your Hand Comes out My Mouth, a name that most definitely reflects the outrageous and uncensored nature of the 1980’s punk movement, features an eight-part story about friendship and its effects on the band. And, as the title I Love You but I’ve Chosen Me… suggests, the importance of loving oneself before attempting to love someone else. The album is, overall, fairly different from Crywank’s previous seven albums due to a larger focus on instrumentalism, such as in The Best, poetry, similar to Jamie T’s use of Sir John Betjeman’s The Cockney Amorist poem in his debut single Sheila, and a more upbeat sound – the existentialist lyrics are still going strong, though. 

The band seems to have steered clear of music videos in the traditional sense, preferring to upload live versions or random rehearsal sessions onto their Youtube channel. However, the few music videos that have been created for their most recent album all exude a sense of incomplete chaoticism that perfectly reflects the sentiment of their whole musical catalogue. The videos tend to be stylised in a low budget arts-and-crafts-type manner using watercolour (Egg and Spoon) and torn paper (Ego is a Phoenix) to depict the narrative while making the meanings of the songs feel more tangible to the audience and, once again, hinting at the homemade elements of punk style. Album art for the band is definitely something to behold, ranging from a simple photo of a shelf adorned with wooden cat sculptures to a fluorescent drawing of a two-headed monster with the iconic World War II “Kilroy was Here” doodle looming above. However, I feel as if the variation in album art reflects the large range of topics and emotions discussed and felt through the band’s work and does show progression in the bands freedom of expression over time.

Unfortunately for all who love them, Crywank’s musical career is coming to a voluntary end after their next North American tour, which has been postponed to 2022. However, their music and merchandise will continue to be available on dogknightsproductions.com until it is all sold out. In the meantime, check out Memento Mori and Hikikomori, my two favourites by the band. 

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Reviews

Review: Billie Marten – Flora Fauna

Billie Marten has returned with her third album, Flora Fauna. Back in January when its release date was announced, I immediately called dibs on writing about this record. After stumbling upon Billie’s music through the wonders of Spotify around this time last year, I have been fully captivated by her ever since. A sound so euphoric and otherworldly, her music is the embodiment of stepping into a stray patch of light where the sun managed to peek through. 

With a two-year gap between Flora Fauna and its predecessor, Feeding Seahorses by Hand, I fully believe that it was well worth the wait. Each song is masterfully crafted with an almost entrancing sort of magic that envelops you in a warm embrace. With a voice comparable to silk, effortlessly gliding through the soothing instrumentals of each track, a moment of bliss is promised the second you press play. 

“Garden of Eden” was the first track unveiled to the public, and it is—without a doubt—one of my favorites. Everything about it is utterly stunning, but do not even get me started on that chorus. It’s one that makes you feel truly alive and elated to be so. Evoking feelings of freedom and contentment, this track has been on repeat. I mean, can you blame me? Absolute goosebumps.

In an Instagram post, Billie writes:

“It’s about the competition to grow and constantly be better, about how we all desperately need to be fed and watered and given space to thrive, and yet we’re so subscribed to this idea of pushing and evolving that we’re not actually doing the living part.”

“Creature of Mine” and “Human Replacement” were the other two tracks revealed prior to the release of Flora Fauna. Both of these songs are divinely rich and mellifluous, and although they bear different musical qualities and approaches, they complement one another magnificently. Out of the two, I would choose “Human Replacement” as my personal favorite; the lyrics, the band, the melodies… everything.

The meaning behind this track is significant as well. Shedding light on a devastating reality, Billie emphasizes just how unsafe every little task can be for women. Her impactful words have a thunderous music video to match, and I strongly encourage you to give it a watch.

You’re just not safe in the evening

Walking around

You could be taken

You’re just not safe in the evening

No room for doubt

Human replacement

“Ruin” is another show-stopper. I’m obsessed with how the instruments interact with each other in this song, going from somewhat of a playful riff in the verses to a brilliant explosion in the chorus. It’s an extremely clever arrangement that undoubtedly serves its purpose in telling the story lyric by lyric. On that same note, these lyrics are incredibly compelling as Billie expresses her personal struggles with self-love. 

“If I spoke about another person the way I do about myself, it would be horrific, it would be bullying,” the young singer confessed in an interview with Independent. “I was really not good on tour. I was so tired and cold all the time and couldn’t project my voice.”

The album in its entirety is mystifying. Each individual second in every song dances into one another so intricately, it’s impossible to only listen to one. With additions like “Liquid Love” and “Walnut,” why would you, anyway? This is a record you genuinely want to take the time to appreciate in full.

Like what you hear and live in the UK? You can catch Billie Marten on tour later this year, so grab tickets while you still can!

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop

Minos the Saint: The Lockdown Interview

Minos the Saint are a staple in the southern music scene, as inevitable as king cake at Mardi Gras and crawfish boils in summer. Their eerie, effervescent take on folk and zydeco classics has singled them out as unique amongst local Louisianan festival-circuit bands.

Founded by Ben Herrington in 2013, Minos the Saint is composed of five musicians: Peter Simon (vocals and guitar) Ben Herrington (accordion, keyboards, and trombone) Micah Blouin (percussion and vocals) Joel Willson (violin and mandolin) and Arisia Gilmore (French horn.) 

Totally Wired recently caught up with Ben and Peter to find out what Minos the Saint have been up to during the turmoil of the previous year, when we can expect new music, and what their plans for the future are.

Totally Wired: “Awake and Dream” was such an astonishingly beautiful debut. Any plans for a second album in the works? And as the creators of the album, how would you describe “Awake and Dream”?

Peter: “Awake and Dream” is our first work, and really captures a very special time where our joined collaboration was realized. The album is intended to portray our live performances which are often described as dynamic and whimsical.  We are finishing up our second album, tentatively titled “Atchafalaya Child” set to be released this summer.   

Totally Wired: Like your website bio says, Minos the Saint is definitely not a typical LA folk band. Y’all have such a unique, layered sound, it’s entrancing. How did your different musical backgrounds knit this sound together?

Peter: We started as a duet, then grew to six!  This slow burn, “bit by bit” approach helped us realize the creative mind and input of each member.  

Ben: Yes, also I think a key is that all the musicians in the band have a wide variety of musical interests.  As varied as aspects of our sound can be, I think we really lean heavily on elements which are comfort zones for each of our members.  While we’re always trying to push the envelope as a whole, much of what we do is based on expressive techniques that we’ve each been working our whole musical lives to refine.  Bringing those individual life-long pursuits together to form a whole is what continues to make it enjoyable and exciting for us.

Totally Wired: The pandemic has obviously been an extremely trying time for anyone with a job in the arts. How have you guys been keeping it together?

Peter: We’ve managed to keep moving forward simply because we have an album to make.  So, in a way, the pandemic offered us a time to stop and capture the material we’ve been working through.  

Ben: Also, I think the last year has really brought us on this interesting journey of questioning and learning about what it means to express ourselves as a band.  For a while, it seemed like there was this momentum forcing us to figure out how to express ourselves remotely.  Having gone down that road for a time, I think now we’re maybe at a place where we can see the beauty of small-scale human interaction with new eyes.  Everything old is new again. 

Totally Wired: This is a bit unorthodox, it’s a reverse interview question! What question have you been dying to be asked—and never have been—by a music journalist? And what’s the answer you’d give?

Ben: The question: If your band were a Labyrinth, who would be the Minotaur? The answer: either me or Joel, but for different reasons:  Joel because he’s our chaos agent and myself because I am the most consistent in my demands over a long period of time.  

You can find Minos the Saint on Instagram @minosthesaint, on Bandcamp, and on Spotify.

Photo Credit: Aaron Hogan of Eye Wander Photography

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Uncategorized Why We Love

Why We Love: Sinead O’Brien

Sinead O’Brien is the Irish ‘punk poet’ that thrives on the edge; denying herself of anything cosy or familiar and instead opting for a ‘heavy heavy, busy busy life’ consisting of travel and new adventures. 

Always doing things differently, her spontaneous attitude and lifestyle result in a lot to be grateful for; helping her to deliver marvellous songs, exploring the beauty in darkness, that we can’t help but love and believe that you will too.

Born in Dublin and raised in Limerick, the singer has never felt much of an attachment to a particular place but has always sensed a calling from further afield. This free spirit and ability to adapt to new ways and places feed their way into her consistently evolving songs. Using expansive language and sounds that vary from punk and folk to a hint of soul and funk, she expertly provides tracks that take you on a journey where, just like her, you’re kept on your toes every step of the way.

Despite her desire for re-location though, there’s absolutely no denying O’Brien’s Irish roots. The moment that she opens her mouth, she has you hostage; her divine accent delivering mesmerising words with equal parts grit and beauty. Painting a picture with every line, including desolate wonders like I feel like the daytime chasing the night” to relatable longings for motivation with “Days like this are the wildest way, to tame the flames, to get the head to higher…” she always leaves you longing for more.

O’Brien is currently living (but most definitely not ‘settled’) in London; the city where her real musical journey began. Upon her move, she fully embraced her desire for fresh experiences by taking a page out of Jim Carrey’s book and simply saying ‘yes’ to any opportunities that arose. Fortunately, for music fans, that included attending a spoken word night in Brixton where she first performed her poems up on stage. Subsequently, the natural lyricist joined forces with current bandmates Julian Hanson and Oscar Robertson and began to put her words to equally grand music; turning dreams and expressive thoughts into songs.

Her talent in doing so was undeniable right off the bat which led to Chess Club Records; the same label as fellow alternative rockers Wolf Alice, signing O’Brien up. She then began to release her hypnotising tracks with them, before stepping up a level from South London pubs when king of the punk poetry game John Cooper Clarke invited her on tour. The two immediately hit it off (which is no surprise when you listen to each of their gutsy works), and, thanks to JCC O’Brien was introduced to Mark E. Smith who she describes as one of her “most valuable references ever”. 

As well as meeting one inspiration (who showed her the work of another), the tour with Cooper Clarke was also an opportunity to try a stint of something different once again, as like him she performed solo. After doing so she was told by a gig-goer that they could still “hear the music in it” which both she and myself completely agree with. Even without physical music present, you’re always touched by its essence thanks to her rhythm and heart, which is testament to the skill she has for her craft; consistently turning words into something so much more.

Her gifts don’t just stop there either, describing herself as incredibly determined from a young age, she pushed herself to excel in a range of areas both academic and creative- which even resulted in her moving to Paris to work for Dior. Just like her Irish upbringing, this motivation and affinity for style are also evident in her music; producing ambitious tracks that are sleek and well-tailored with a real artistic edge.

A sparse feeling is present in Sinead O’Brien’s songs, similar to that heard on Unknown Pleasures where space is intentional and meaningful; a bold move that not many even attempt to pull off. Each track contains an aura of magic, whisking you away on a different experience, that can vary from a trip to the dance floor on the snappy rhythmed ‘Taking on Time’ to dark dreams thanks to the strutting guitar and twinkle of keys on ‘A List of Normal Sins’. In doing so, she has laid the foundations to progress in any direction she wishes and seamlessly built her way up to releasing recent EP ‘Drowning In Blessings’; which to listen to feels like exactly that. 

O’Brien’s intense voice cuts straight through the musical foundations of Drowning In Blessings’ tracks, her strong delivery inducing chills and making every word hit. Exploring the cynical side of modern culture in the likes of single ‘Most Modern Painting’ she generates such existential excitement with her observations on this and ‘Roman Ruins’ that you can’t help but feel riled up and ready to rock. She perfectly balances this edge and gloom with slightly more gentle elements though; resurfacing distant childhood memories of lullabies and carousels on ‘Fall With Me’ and closing with ‘Strangers in Danger’, her packed song on relationships between people and life- a perfect opportunity for reflection after the journey.

Filled to the brim with talent and creating songs jammed with ideas that are not only personal to her but can also touch each listener, O’Brien creates worlds within her work, and I firmly believe that it’s about time you’re swept away into them.


Take a listen to Sinead O’Brien on Spotify.