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Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock

Adwaith – Bato Mato: The Welsh Trio to Rule The World

The genre-defying Welsh language trio Adwaith hit their home music scene hard in 2015 and have since brought their spellbinding sound and punching attitude to stages at Glastonbury, Green Man and many others across the UK. The larger British music scene has quickly embraced the band’s extraordinary energy and our prayers have just been answered with Adwaiths new album Bato Mato. Fresh back from their weekend at Glasto, we spoke to Gwen, Hollie and Heledd about the album’s reinvigorated sound and their hopes for carrying Welsh language music to a mass of new listeners from across the world.

James: Hey guys, how was playing Glastonbury?

Hollie: Crazy. What a mad experience.

Gwen: It’s just so massive, it’s impossible to see all the bands you want to see. But we did keep finding new things.

James: I heard that a festival had something to do with starting the band in the first place, why don’t you tell me a bit about that.

Gwen: Well Hollie and I have known each other since we were babies. We went to this Welsh festival in 2015 and after the festival, we thought; well we both play instruments, why don’t we start writing music together? We started off with a few covers, which were truly awful, what covers did we try to do?

Hollie: Oh dear, we tried to do ‘Build a home’ (The Cinematic Orchestra) and we attempted some First Aid Kit as well. But we started getting annoyed with ourselves so we thought; let’s sack this off and do our own thing.

James: Do you think those covers will ever see the light of day?

Hollie: There were no recordings of them thank God.

James: Going back to the festival where it all began, which bands did you see which really inspired you?

Gwen: I think that year Gwenno was playing and a band called HMS Morris. At the time there weren’t any female musicians on the Welsh festival scene, so seeing them made us think that it was something that we could do. So we went back and started writing then had our first gig in September 2015, which is where Hollie and I first met Heledd. We didn’t have a drummer and luckily Heledd happened to be there, so we were very lucky she came to the gig.

Hollie: Thank the lord!

James: I imagine that getting a band started in Wales must be very different to doing it in a major city like London. Would you say you guys are from a pretty rural area?

Hollie: Oh yes definitely rural.

James: Was it difficult finding places to play in the early days?

Gwen: We were lucky to have this venue called The Parrot in our town and that’s where we Hollie and I saw our first bands and eventually played our first gigs. We were very very lucky to have the venue because I don’t think we would have started a band without it.

Hollie: Definitely not.

Gwen: Or even have had the opportunity to play gigs if it wasn’t for that venue. The Welsh music scene there was very supportive of us and particularly of Welsh language music as a whole.

James: Would you say that there are a large amount of Welsh artists performing in the Welsh language now, or is it something which has yet to cross into the mainstream in Wales?

Gwen: I think it is quite hard for Welsh language artists to break out. I think our audience is mostly outside of Wales but industry-wise, it is still quite hard to get support sometimes. We’ve been looking for a booking agent for quite a while now, and a lot of them have said ‘you’re great but you’re singing in Welsh.’ So it is still quite hard but it is getting better and you see more artists breaking out of Wales and doing more gigs outside of Wales which is really nice to see.

James: This new album, Bato Mato, tell me how important it is to you.

Hollie: It’s so important to us, it’s our little baby.

Gwen: I’m hoping it exposes Welsh language music to a big audience and it’s kind of the next step now after the last album Melyn. We’re just excited to see where it takes us. Melyn took us to some crazy places so I’m hoping this will let us continue on that crazy journey.

James: What was the writing process behind the album like?

Gwen: We wrote most of it after a trip together to Siberia. We did a gig out there and I think it was just such a crazy experience from start to finish that we just couldn’t not write an album about it. We were very inspired by the landscapes and the people and these big industrial abandoned buildings. It was a bit grey and a bit bleak. We came back and we just had to write an album, it was during lockdown so it wasn’t how we would usually write together; sending ideas back and forth. It wasn’t ideal but lockdown gave us a bit of a break to work on our sound and the tracks.

James: Did the album turn out how you expected when you first imagined what it might sound like?

Gwen: I think we had a vision for it, we definitely knew we wanted it to sound a lot more developed. Compared to the last album I think the pop songs are more ‘poppy’ and the dark songs are darker. Everything is more intense and saturated. We knew we wanted to do that. I don’t think we envisioned it quite how it turned out but it’s definitely turned out better than we hoped.

Hollie: When we went to the studio we had loads of weird instruments that we had no idea how to play, just to see what sounds we could make by experimenting. You can probably see one of them behind Gwen right now.

James: Oh yes, what is that, Gwen?

Gwen: It’s a Zhongruan, which is a Chinese instrument. It’s very bizarre looking and I’m still not really sure how to play it.

James: I’m sure you’ve noticed a big shift in the music scene where bands are becoming more experimental with their sound, breaking down the barriers of genre and even working against their own established sound. Has that resonated with you guys with the new album?

Gwen: I think all of our music tastes are very different and diverse, so it made a lot of sense to write an album that wasn’t genre specific. I think that’s how you make and keep music exciting.

James: What’s next for you guys? Are places like London becoming your new home or are you more interested in trying to break a bigger music scene in Wales?

Gwen: We want to make Welsh music a big thing. World domination is the end goal. I think that the Welsh language in music has previously been frowned upon by people outside of Wales and people in Wales. So that’s really urged us to want to spread the Welsh love and to play Welsh music around the world, and then to open doors to other bands to do the same.

Heledd: I feel like we definitely want to stay in Wales too and create a bigger scene there, and also inspire more people there to want to embrace music.

James: I mean I for one would love to see more bands singing in their own language. I love bands who sing in their own accents and so to make your language a part of your music is really great. So what’s the immediate plan after the launch of the album?

Gwen: We’ve got a little tour lined up and some festivals coming up soon, with hopefully some gigs abroad by the end of the year. Just to gig the album as much as we can.

James: I’ll be sure to catch you guys playing soon. Any upcoming gigs in London that I should know about?

Hollie: Oh yes! Moth Club on Tuesday the 5th of July. Come down!

Adwaith’s new album Bato Mato is out now via Libertino Records. Catch them at Moth Club on July 5th. Tickets on DICE.

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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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DISCOVER

Bishopskin: Lean Closer

As befits an unusual band, Bishopskin’s new release, “Lean Closer,” had an unusual beginning. After failing his driving test for the seventh time, lead singer Tiger Nicholson sat down in the grass alongside a busy road and watched the cars rush by until the sun set, half-singing and half-shouting what would become the song’s refrain over the roar of the traffic. “I then recorded a version of it on the top deck of the bus and sent it to James, who made this broken man’s worship into the song we have now,” Nicholson said.

The finished product is a tender little hymn, to which Nicholson’s warm, throaty, golden tones are well-suited. Its country-folk lilt led the band to label the track as less “primal,” than their recent single, “I Was Born on an Island,” but the injection of another genre ultimately serves to showcase the band’s impressive range.

The track features contributions from Seth Evans (Black Midi) Duc Peterman (HMLTD) and Alex White (Fat White Family and beyond—c’mon, the guy’s in so many bands, trying to keep track of them all is like trying to keep tabs on Warren Beatty at an Oscars afterparty, circa 1973).   

“Lean Closer,” is out today on Isolar Records. You can purchase the single at the link below. You can follow the further adventures of Bishopskin on Instagram @bishopskin and @isolar_records

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

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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 Punk/Rock

Trashmouth Records Remix Release: Meatraffle’s ‘The Horseshoe’

The latest installment in Trashmouth Record’s 10th anniversary celebratory series of releases is a remix of Meatraffle’s ‘The Horseshoe.’

Trashmouth Records, an independent label run by brothers Liam and Luke May, is South London’s equivalent of Muscle Shoals’ Fame Studios. The Mays recorded, engineered and produced the debut records of incendiary artists such as Madonnatron, Warmduscher and the Fat White Family. In the label’s own words: “Trashmouth produced and released records by bands that no one else would touch with a 10-foot pole and not only lived to tell the tale but proved to have been visionary in their blind faith.”

“Trashmouth Records – 10 Years Still Not Dead” marks the 10th Anniversary of the inception of the Trashmouth Experiment and features remixes of some of the label’s favourite tracks and artists…”

Meatraffle, photographed by Lou Smith (@lousmithphoto)

In the words of Meatraffle ringleader Zsa Zsa Sapien: “Happy anniversary to Trashmouth, the label that gave birth to Fat White Family, Madonnatron, and most importantly, Meatraffle. The magic of Trashmouth is its vision and ideology and that ideas always prevail over ability and craft, that’s why they saw something in us that we didn’t even see!”

“You gotta love Trashmouth…the greatest small label out there, shamefully written out of the South London scene history books by bandwagonist music journos.”

“Trashmouth is run by Liam and Luke (The May Twins) who are free from any nasty sexual diseases, really softly spoken and polite…and will be permanently saluted by us, forever grateful. All hail the cult! Death to false indie!”  

Join the infamous label in celebrating ten years of “Blood, Booze and Tears in Equal Measure…” by purchasing their 10th anniversary record, featuring remixes from their top artists, available on Bandcamp and beyond.

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: 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