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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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Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized

Maggie the Cat: Femme Fatale Extraordinaire

Today marks the release of Maggie the Cat’s second solo single, “I Love You and I’ve Got a Gun.” For those of you who are new to the work of this femme fatale extraordinaire, she’s formerly the lead singer of South London’s witchiest glam-rock group Madonnatron, and currently flying solo under the moniker, Maggie the Cat. 

Her new single, “I Love You and I’ve Got a Gun,” showcases her signature flair for film noir drama interwoven with deeper themes of power, baring the psychological struggles that so often accompany love affairs, and threading her work with a feminist undercurrent.

The impetus for the song occurred in 2019, when Maggie the Cat’s two-year old son, who’d just begun to speak, toddled up to her and announced: “I love you, and I’ve got a gun.”

“I thought, ‘Oh my God!’ ” Maggie remembers. “A: why’s he talking about guns? And B: that’s amazing. So I held onto that (phrase) as an idea, and I wrote the song.” Stefania (of Madonnatron) suggested that Maggie might find inspiration for the song’s lyrical content in the Italian B-movie, “The Girl with the Pistol,” starring Monica Vitti.

” …I watched the film and I loved it,” Maggie explains. “It went so well with the title, I just literally wrote the lyrics about the film, and about the character in the film: her madness, her obsession. Following on from Madonnatron, there’s nothing like a bit of amorous killing. I’ve worked on it from time to time over the last couple years and it’s morphed from being a guitar song into this kind of pop, arabesque thing, that now will grace the airwaves.”

A haunting, fretful ballad with gorgeous instrumentation influenced by both modern North African pop music and traditional rai, “I Love You and I’ve Got a Gun,” is ultimately a powerful blend of ‘a tale as old as time,’ with the strong left hook of a crime thriller.

You can follow Maggie’s adventures on Instagram @maggiethecatmusic and @trashmouthrecords. Her latest single, “I Love You and I’ve Got a Gun,” is available to stream on all platforms, and available for purchase on Bandcamp.

Categories
Creators Monthly Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock

Ten Years On: The Drums’ Prodigal Son, Portamento

Portamento’s album cover. Courtesy of Pitchfork

Saying that something is life changing is dramatic. However, in the case of indie-rock band The Drums, I can make this statement with absolute certainty. They shaped my music taste, influenced my songwriting, and provided the soundtrack to some of my best memories. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2010, is one of the best albums of that decade, in my humble opinion. The production, the songwriting, and all the subtle flourishes and embellishments present within those twelve songs is unbelievable, especially for a debut album. There are few other releases like it.

In 2011, the band released their second album, titled Portamento. In an Instagram post celebrating the album’s tenth anniversary, band leader Jonny Pierce mentioned how the album was considered to be a flop, a victim of the “sophomore slump.” He is not wrong in saying that. Compared to the debut album, the reviews for Portamento were noticeably lukewarm. According to Metacritic, the average score for the album was a 64. YouTube music critic TheNeedleDrop gave the album a 5/10 after praising the debut album. Fans were confused by the album, and I will not hesitate to say that I was as well. After spending so many listens absorbing the shimmering guitars, beachy harmonies, and lovesick lyrics of the first album, I did not know what to make of Portamento, and as a result, I shoved it aside.

Portamento differs from the debut album almost immediately with the song “Book of Revelation.” The production is less shiny, and the tone of the song is more sullen than even the darkest moments of the debut. Jonny is also singing in a much higher register than he did before. On the debut, his singing was safe and fit the music like a glove, whereas on this album, he is pushing the envelope. Considering how flamboyant Jonny’s live presence is, this change makes sense. It also shows that he is not afraid to take risks to get his point across. 

As the album continues, it throws more curveballs at the listener. “What You Were” and “Money” feature a much higher emphasis on synthesizers than on previous releases, with various keyboard stabs poking through the thin fabric of guitars. The latter also features some interesting vocalizations that will surprise many fans of the debut album. The dive into synths hits its peak on the song “Searching For Heaven,” which is all synthesizer and saves for some haunting vocals. 

However, ten years on, it is safe to say that Portamento has aged remarkably well, turning many of its skeptics into supporters, including me. I love many of the songs on this album. The emotion is more potent, more urgent than on the debut album. While that album dealt with love in a way that was melancholy but also tinged with sunshine. It was broken hearted but still had its composure. Portamento, meanwhile, does not hold back any punches, with its lyrics lacking the poetics of the first album but packing more of a punch, such as on the song “If He Likes It Let Him Do It.” The songs feel brutally honest, and the listener can feel whatever Jonny is feeling without any doubts. 

The music is also far more dour, but not to the detriment of the listening experience. The aforementioned “Money” was the first single off the album, and it is one of the catchiest songs The Drums have ever released. Despite its breakneck pace, each instrument is tight to the groove. The lyrics are a bit more tongue in cheek, with the chorus “I want to buy you something / But I don’t have any money” being wryly humorous and relatable.

At the end of the day, I will always adore the debut album, and it is to this day my favorite Drums release. However, I owe Portamento an apology. It is a stripped down, emotionally turbulent album, and an experience completely separate from the debut album. Once you separate Portamento from The Drums, it shines in its own light, where it belongs.

The Drums Circa 2011. From left: Connor Hanwick, Jacob Graham, Jonny Pierce

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop

The Wonderful World of Walt Disco

The Glaswegian glam pop outfit Walt Disco have been making waves in the European indie scene since their debut EP Young Hard and Handsome was released in September of 2020. Consisting of six members, James (lead singer); Finlay (guitar and keyboards); Lewis (guitarist); David (synth); Charlie (bass); and Jack (drums) the group’s appearance is reminiscent of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and mid-1970s Brian Eno with a dash of ABBA thrown in for good measure. 

Yet Walt Disco somehow remain totally unlike any other band that has gone before them. They have a distinctly 21stcentury feel, a fervent embrace of unapologetic self-expression and decadence (the intensity of which stems possibly from the increasingly alarming structural malfunctions seizing up our current way of life on Earth.) The band have quickly forged their own signature sound, inviting listeners into a colorful realm of rock n’ roll that Dork Magazine has dubbed, “Walt Discoworld.”

The group recently released a single entitled Selfish Lover, accompanied by a video featuring the band parading around an abandoned mansion decked out in glam rock deshabille and kabuki theatre-meets-Pierrot makeup. The Selfish Lover release coincided with an announcement that the group had signed to Lucky Number Records and were planning a tour of the U.K. to promote the single.

On behalf of Totally Wired, I recently caught up with lead singer James Potter and guitarist Finlay McCarthy for a chat on myriad topics ranging from writing pop songs on computers to raiding Grayson Perry’s closet, to the tour gigs they’re most looking forward to. 

The interview occurs on Zoom, because, well, of course: it’s 2021. James Potter appears on the screen first, their dark curly mullet pushed back over their ears, and shortly after, guitarist Finlay McCarthy pops up, sporting a Mick Jagger-y shag with the tips dyed blue. “I’m in!’ he crows, after exchanging suitably chummy greetings with bandmate James. (“Thank you, it’s a mess,” he says self-deprecatingly when I compliment his hair.) 

We get down to business, starting with the simple stuff: How did the band members originally meet? “Over the space of a couple of years. Me, Dave and Lewis were in the original line-up and then Finlay joined at the start of 2019, then Jack joined during a long tour in autumn 2019, and then Charlie joined in around December 2019,” James explains.

I ask what the main inspiration for starting a band was. “I suppose, personally, it’s just because it’s like the only thing I’m good at,” Finlay says. “Ever since I started playing guitar when I was like, 13, I was just like, ‘Ok. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna leave school and find people to play with…And I’m gonna take a part-time job until it works.’ And now it has.”

I inquire after who the primary songwriters in the band are. Do they all contribute equally, or do they have a Lennon/McCartney thing going on where some work on melody and some write lyrics?

 “I don’t think it’s ever been six of us in the same room, but all six of us contribute,” James says.

“We kind of had to look at the way we were creating over lockdown. And we found that a lot of it has come from writing through the computer rather than jamming in a room,” Finlay explains.

“I think often I find lyrics from the feeling an instrumental will give me,” James muses. “So it’ll be quite a lush instrumental often before I start writing lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics’ll come early but more often than not, I have to have a real feeling and emotions already from the music and find something from that. Because a lot of people won’t listen to lyrics. So, you don’t always even need lyrics, but melody is the main thing that moves people in music. And you need the right words to fit a melody.”

Walt Disco behind the scenes of their ‘Selfish Lover’ video, photographed by @m_adeleinegrace

We move on to discussing the band’s latest single, a high-energy pop number called Selfish Lover, written during lockdown: “Yeah, it was like, April last year,” James recalls. “Lewis sent a garage band demo. We really liked the energy of the instrumental. We just wanted to make it a wee bit more circusy and interesting, so we gave it the intro bassline and the sort of slightly swingy feel…”

Despite having good bones, the song took a lot of “chipping away,” at before it reached its final state, Finlay says. James grins and admits, “…the guitar riff, the middle eight and the first chorus one, was a guitar riff we stole from another song that didn’t quite make it…”

“You stole a riff from your own song? Self-piracy?” I laugh. 

“Yeah, we stole a riff from our own song because the rest of the song just wasn’t strong enough, but it had a really good riff. So, we were like, fuck it, we’ll just put it in this song…David Bowie plagiarized his own songs all the time,” James says. I mention how much James’ voice reminds me of Station to Station era David Bowie on certain Walt Disco tunes, and the conversation turns to the band’s musical inspirations and influences. 

“Having six of us, there’s quite a mishmash, but we all share very similar interests, like the Associates,” Finlay says. “We got really into electronic music over lockdown, cos all we were trying to do was write pop songs. And sometimes you just wanted to switch off and listen to a beat or a cool sound. That kind of seeped into the pop songs that we were trying to write.”

James delves deeper into dissecting the band’s writing methodology: “We’d often start with these quite complex, experimental electronic tracks and then complete that as its own little thing, and then send it over to a different computer and then view it differently… and then once the bass and guitar are on, give it a pop structure and pop melody. That’s the most successful writing process we’ve had.”

Walt Disco behind the scenes of the ‘Selfish Lover,’ video. Photographer: @m_adeleinegrace

The conversation veers from songwriting to another crucial part of Walt Disco’s collective artistic practice: getting dressed up. Thinking of the flamboyant mix of costumes in the Selfish Lover video (where the band wore everything from thigh-high black leather boots to baby pink satin corsets, housewifely 1950s half-slips, faux fur wraps and leather harnesses,) I ask if they have a favored designer or stylist.

“For the Selfish Lover video we were working with a stylist called Jack Shanks…he’s great,” James says. “He’s kind of the same build and the same height as all of us and that means he’s got lots of great things in his own wardrobe that fit us, and then we’ll always bring lots of our own wardrobes to the shoots. 

“Once everyone’s dressed, I make sure I have a look at everyone, ‘cause I love styling. It’s quite funny when everyone’s ready, and then I go round and am like: ‘I need to have a line-up,’ and then I’ll be like, ‘You’re not done,” and “you’re not done.’” They laugh. “Sometimes they’ll get a wee bit hurt and I’m like, ‘No, it’s for the video.’ It has to be right.”

“It’s always been something that’s been a big part of the band, even before we worked with stylists. Getting ready in the dressing room was always fun,” Finlay reminisces fondly.

I ask if there are any particular designers or fashion icons whose closets they’d like to raid.

“I think the one for both of us would be Grayson Perry,” James says, and Finlay oohs in agreement. “Definitely one of the biggest fashion icons of this century.”

I ask which artists first sparked their interest in music as kids, and Finlay looks a bit sheepish. “This may sound totally mad, but I didn’t like music when I was little. I just wasn’t interested in it, at all, until I got to high school. But I remember in my music class, we got a temporary music teacher that showed me ‘My Iron Lung,’ by Radiohead, and I was like ‘That’s cool.’ That kind of sent me down the rabbit hole.” 

James hasn’t heard this story before, and seems vaguely disappointed that Finlay’s “musical awakening,” took the form of Radiohead: “…a shame,” they say. Finlay thinks for a moment and adds, “It’s probably subliminal, but my mum was playing a lot of Kate Bush and stuff in the car, when I was little. I didn’t like it then, but I do now.” 

The soundtrack to James’ growing-up years was very different: “There were a lot of very guitar-y CDs in my house. Also, my parents would put on Queen and Scissor Sisters all the time, but I can’t remember if it was my request or not…it would kind of make sense if it was. I remember the CD player and the sound system were a real centerpiece of the living room when I was six or seven.”

I say that with the music industry stopped in its tracks for so many months, returning to the previous cycles of promo, releases and touring must feel almost alien in its strangeness. 

“You get used to your face not being anywhere, and then it’s everywhere!” James agrees, laughing.

Starting in July, Walt Disco are set to embark on a thirteen-date tour staggered over the course of four months. I ask which gigs they’re most excited to play. “I’m excited to go back to Edinburgh. That’s my home,” Finlay says, face lighting up. “And the gig we played there in October 2019 was the biggest gig we’ve ever played. Can’t wait to go back and play an even bigger venue.”

After so many months of forced stagnation, live music is back in action, and so are Walt Disco. 

Tickets for Walt Disco’s 2021 U.K. tour are on sale at: https://www.songkick.com/artists/9265324-walt-disco/calendar

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Reviews

Review: Chase Cohl – Dear Dear: Volume I

As the sun leans in closer for a warm embrace and Mother Earth takes her first steps towards revitalization, the time has come to celebrate spring’s long-awaited arrival. So, what better way to welcome it than with a brand new release that is so beautiful, it’d make even the most gifted of songbirds envious? 

Chase Cohl’s EP Dear Dear: Volume I is absolute euphoria. Consisting of four tracks, it embodies a similar feeling to surrendering your skin to the divinity of sunshine; it is nothing short of pure comfort and invigoration. This is my first proper introduction to the enormously talented singer-songwriter who, also, explores the worlds of fashion and poetry. Hearing these songs for the first time felt like coming home after a long and tiring journey, intoxicated with the pure joy of being right where you want to be. 

Dear Dear begins with “Special Situation,” a song so blissful and pleasing to the ears, it’s only right to stick around for more. The backing harmonies paired with the flawless intertwinement of Cohl’s voice and the dreamlike, vintage instrumentals make this song an undeniable winner in my book. If you’re in search of a song to dance along to with a glass of wine, look no further.

Track two, “Take It Like A Man,” took on the role as the EP’s single, and it did its job phenomenally. It’s what I had first heard from Cohl while aimlessly scrolling through Instagram just mere days ago, and I knew right off the bat that I needed to write about her. After (very quickly) falling entirely entranced by the song’s colorful, 1960s-inspired sound, I genuinely could not get it out of my head. Watch the music video here!

“Still Crying,” despite bearing somber lyrics about the woes of break-ups, carries such a playful and bright tune. The back-and-forth between Cohl and the backing vocals throughout the chorus is truly satisfying and addictive to listen to. On top of that, its bridge dips into an enchanting pool that lulls you into a brief daydream just before getting right back into the song’s upbeat magic once more.  

The fourth and final track, “I Can’t Live Without You,” just might be my favourite. It paints an image in my head so effortlessly, and I could easily see it as the score to a film’s montage scenes. Despite it being the EP’s shortest song, it possesses so much beauty and airiness that you pay no mind to its duration. It strikes something deep within me that is impossible to shake, and to say I adore every single aspect is an understatement. 

In short, this is one masterpiece of an EP. Elegance and perfection can be heard all throughout, and because I am a newer listener, I will most certainly be taking a dive into more of Chase Cohl’s material (and you should, too!). 


To stay in the loop, be sure to follow Chase Cohl on Instagram and Spotify!

(Cover photo by: KRISTIN GALLEGOS)

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: Hello Yello

Very recently I was shown a live video session of Hello Yello and immediately I was hooked. If you ask me what music I’ve been addicted to this month it’s just been Hello Yello. Well, them and Harry Styles’ solo albums but that’s a story for another time. Now I’ll be honest right off the bat, I barely know anything about this band, and I’ve been looking online to find out more about them but as of right now I’m at a loss, so I’m going to let the music speak for itself here, and start you off with the track that got me addicted.

Like wow? Like not just really good songwriting, but a completely rounded and well-polished live performance. That was Sins off their 2019 EP Love Wins which is just banger after banger. It’s also a very refreshing sound because you can hear just how much inspiration has gone into making their identity, to the point where it’s not entirely obvious what Hello Yello’s favourite bands are, which again today is a real rarity. Sure you can guess and hear some genre-specific influences, but it’s still all left ambiguous, with a driving force that teases you to listen to more and more.

So attempting to box up their sound somehow, whether you’re a fan of Lil Peep, Steve Lacy, Weston Estate or any of the emo bands you loved back in the ’00s, Hello Yello is an identity that should just automatically be familiar with you. The way they combine evocative vocals, glistening guitar parts, these thicc bass lines and warm drums, it’s almost like each band member wants the music to do different things, and the way it ties together creates this wonderous sound that’s genuinely fresh like I cannot stress how new this sound feels for some reason. It’s really throwing old school rock with modern-day indie to the forefront in the best way possible.

The same year Hello Yello dropped My Life As A Teenage Robot, a double single that just delivers more of what they set out to offer with their first EP. There’s some real talent here, you could pair these tunes with anything from artists such as The Garden or Blac Rabbit and they’d fit in snug.

There’s a toxic trait rock music advocates have these days which can be summed up by, none o’ yall know what you want. It either sounds too much like one band or doesn’t sound enough like the greats of the past (it’s deeper than that but that’s me simplifying it drastically). The idea to save rock music is this backwards idea that started because rock music suddenly left the mainstream. But that has never meant that rock music was dead? (cough Adam Levine cough) Artists now more than ever are fusing the quintessential sounds of rock music with other genres they’ve been brought up on, or that they’re surrounded and inspired by, and Hello Yello is one band that is completely renovating the very DNA of rock music for the 21st century. It’s a genuine blend.

Rock/Indie lovers, eat your hearts out because Hello Yello are here to play loud and proud, and you’re going to absolutely love it.

So don’t be shy. Say Hello…

Check em out on Spotify here.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Review: Pale Waves – Who Am I?

A lot has happened in the time since Pale Waves released their first album. Despite the various trials and tribulations, one of which including a tour bus crash, the Manchester indie-rockers have proven that nothing can get in the way of creating absolute magic. Consisting of 11 tracks, Who Am I? taps into the beloved, nostalgic sounds of the 2000s, and going through each song helped me feel more like the ideal, cool-older-sister trope commonly found in movies of that era (Kat Stratford, anybody?). 

In comparison to 2018’s My Mind Makes Noises, their sophomore album presents a newfound edge that helps listeners unearth a more authentic version of Pale Waves. Now, don’t get me wrong; I absolutely adored their debut record, but it only scratched the surface of what they have to offer. That being said, it’s undeniable that they have begun to grow more into their own, unique sound, and my god, it is completely game-changing. 

I honestly wasn’t expecting this sort of switch-up at all. From the moment they released “Change,” I knew we were about to witness a brand new, monumental chapter in their career unfold. With a blissfully catchy track and a visually stunning music video to match, it makes sense why this is the way Pale Waves decided to kick off this new era.

Who Am I?’s dizzyingly romantic second single, “She’s My Religion,” brings forth some much-needed LGBTQ+ representation, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop there. “Tomorrow” beckons those who are struggling with their sexualities to take a deep breath and remember, as the lyrics emphasize, you cannot choose who you fall in love with. Not only that, but it also encourages fans who are grappling with their mental health to stick around and see that the world won’t always have you feeling trapped. It’s a truly gorgeous song that wields an impactful message we all need to be reminded of every once in a while.

Ben, I know that you love a boy

Sexuality isn’t a choice

Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

Won’t you just keep hanging on?

And Kelsi, I know life drags you down

Growing up in a small town

Always the odd one in the crowd

You know I’ll never count you out

This sort of vulnerability seen throughout the record is perhaps one of its most striking features. There’s been a distinct progression in songwriting that opens up more personal discussions, ranging from the intimacy of sex and queer romance (“Wish U Were Here”) to the ever-looming uncertainty that comes with reaching a mental and emotional low (“Who Am I?”). Seeing this newfangled sense of self from lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie, as well as the unapologetic comfortability that has come along with it, is incredibly refreshing. It introduces something notably special into their music, and the novel openness and sincerity found throughout this record have put them on track towards becoming a force to be reckoned with.

In short, Who Am I? is a wildly impressive sophomore album. Honest and bold, this record uncovers a new side of Pale Waves that marks a significant turning point for the band. Every track offers a different story that listeners can relate to and appreciate, and they all form a wonderfully cohesive collection of songs without sounding samey or repetitive. This could very well become a defining record for Pale Waves, and I’m eager to see how well it treats them.

Listen to Who Am I? on Spotify.