Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Reviews

Fucking Hallelujah: Children of the Pope

The Children of the Pope—judging from the band’s name alone, you know you’re in for something good. Taking “fucking hallelujah!” as their slogan, they describe themselves as a “…religious group from South America and Europe currently based in London.” The band’s intense love for “…dirty guitars, manic shouting, and surrealist melodies,” culminates in just the sort of sound that would have gone over big at the Troubadour in ’68, and holds audiences spellbound today. The band’s rise since their formation in 2018 (in the “grimiest parts of South London,”) has been meticulously documented on video and film by Lou Smith, and they’ve shared stages alongside the likes of Insecure Men, Brian Destiny, and Honkies.

Their latest single “Junkie Girlfriend” is out today on Isolar Records. At first listen, it’s a tune that manages to be simultaneously fresh and nostalgic. Opening with jangling guitar and backing vocals reminiscent of early Beatles stuff, the Parlophone sessions …but no, wait, breaking away in a sharp shout from the sha-la-las come lyrics to shatter the illusion of finding comfort in nostalgia because here we are again, in the same old narcotic mess, the girl with the golden arm and the needle sticking out of it.

Children of the Pope filmed live at Venue MOT by the South London scene’s documentarian-in-chief, Lou Smith.

Beneath the upbeat vocals, the neat, almost martial drums, the jangling tambourine and bright guitar trailing down like drops of mercury, it’s all fun and games until somebody shoots a mainline, as the narrator notes of his paramour’s coping mechanism: “the way you smile at me/when you find your vein again.” Rather than getting tangled up in typical romantic tropes, the lyrics offer a gritty perspective into a fraught relationship and all the vacillations and sadly unanswerable questions that go with it: “What can I do/Over you?

Have a look at the band’s manifesto:

Manifesto!’ by the Children of the Pope.

Take it seriously or snap your fingers at it, react as you please, but, have a think. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle—are we still in the thick of it? Its plot still a daily truth for millions? Sure. It’s prescient as hell, always has been. Even before it was written it was true. We’ve been post-Eden longer than memory reaches; it gets a little tiring, out here in the moral desert. To find such substance, such brazen intention, in a rock n’ roll outfit during an era when minds have become so collectively warped that it’s somehow considered acceptable to call Maroon 5 a rock band, is a welcome oasis indeed. As Pete Townshend said: “All good art cannot help but confront denial on its way to the truth.” Denial is a real blood sport these days, and the Children of the Pope are confronting it head-on, in the quest for some kind of truth. It’s out there somewhere. We just gotta keep looking for it.

“Junkie Girlfriend” is out today on Isolar Records. You can listen to (and buy!) the single at the link below.

Punk/Rock Uncategorized

Interview: Outer Stella Overdrive

Capturing an essence of nostalgia whilst simultaneously looking to the future, Outer Stella Overdrive are a band that you need to be rocking out to, right at this very moment. The London lads Command your attention with contagious tunes, a charged vibe and an attitude that they’re ready to take on anything; stating that they want to ‘open up the industry’ when they checked in with TW.

Dazzling with a soon to be trade-mark grin, Raff Law thrashes lead guitar whilst belting out their passionate lyrics and is joined on vocal duties by Kelvin Bueno who also provides their bouncing basslines. Accompanying Kelvin on the heavy rhythm section is unwavering drummer Rudy Albarn, and Amin El Makkawi brings a magic flare on keys. Collectively, they’re creating a raucous sound that’s managed to tap into something we’ve been missing on the current UK rock scene; bringing a real boost of individual energy and undeniable excitement.

Channelling a proper rock approach, they have a raw and creative production sound that harkens back to the iconic music that they were raised on. In turn, this style helps to fuse their classic punk attitude with the fresh, forward-thinking injection that they bring to the table, thanks to growing up in modern London.  

The sound encapsulated is big and bold; spanning genres with rocking riffs, a funky rhythm and even surreal psychedelic jams. On top of this, they pack in witty but thought-provoking lyrics (as discussed below) in addition to erupting choruses that fill their songs with even more passion and leave you ready to both rave and revolt.

Their latest single Camel Blue is out today, and ahead of the release Raff, Rudy and Kelvin chatted to TW about their evolution, lockdown life and what else they have coming your way…

A: It’s hard for your music to be defined by just one genre as you seem to effortlessly integrate such an array of styles. How would you summarise your sound in a few words?

KELVIN BUENO: I would say two words. I’d say ‘Outer Stellar’.

RAFF LAW: A few words are so hard, especially when I’m writing it but I’d say ‘powerful’ and ‘imaginative’.

RUDY ALBARN: I would say ‘our life’. And ‘true’, true is also a big, big keyword.

A: There’s clearly a real variety of influences thrown into the mix, is this a conscious effort and do you take any inspiration from outside the world of music? 

RAFF: We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from just London, in the ‘Out + About’ video, we shot a few weeks ago, we touched on how London inspires us. In the project that we’re releasing in the form of singles at the moment, it’s like the epitome of what we’ve been living and breathing the last few years. Our experiences and things that don’t sit well with us. 

RUDY: What we’re going through at each point, I think it’s a collective feeling between all of us. We’re just throwing things out. It’s a natural exploration and just comes to us in whatever way it wants to develop.

KELVIN: It’s almost an unconscious effort. None of us try to make any music of a certain style. We just make what we want to make and do what we want to do.

A: Do you guys have a particular way of working and have the recent months had an impact on this?

RAFF: We have a formula but it’s changed because of lockdown. For the past two years, we’d write songs together three or four times a week. Outside of that, I’d be writing a few lyrics on my phone and shit, but I wouldn’t be playing much music outside. Lockdown forced me to have to play the acoustic guitar for like three months without the guys.

KELVIN: We found that balance of our process. We write in a setup, instrument environment, but we also go away and write in isolation, then come back with lyrics and build from there. It’s just the rawest form of songwriting there is; no technology, just vibing together.

RUDY: Oh yes, it fired us up in that time to be like, ‘shit, we got to do this’. A thing that was cool was when we started rehearsing, instead of playing the songs that we just recorded, the last time we were together, we were like, ‘let’s just write new ones’. 

A: How do Outer Stella Overdrive want to change the game?

KELVIN: First of all, put this music back where it needs to be, band music at the top. In the industry, everything sounds like it’s in one place, in one lane. We just want to open up everyone’s ears, open up the industry and opportunity. Inspire the next generation to be like- “I want to pick up a guitar”.

RAFF: I think the process that we have; mates writing music together, it’s so much fun. I personally think it lies in its enjoyment. Our shows are all about energy and positivity and having a good time which is especially true right now when we can’t play shows and the government are telling ballerinas to go cyber.

RUDY: I feel like a lot of music at the moment is solo artists and producers and I think having a group of musicians all play together is a completely different vibe that’s a special thing missing in the industry at the moment. I think it adds another element to our music, just the way we write and, like (Raff) said about everyone getting together, seeing friendly faces.

A: You’ve been putting out some class tunes the past few years now and it’s exciting to see that you’re regularly topping the ‘Punk List’ on Spotify these days. Could you tell us a bit about what the band has in store for us next?

RAFF: Three Piece has recently come out and we have some video content made with Luke Scully (the Creator of ‘Out + About’) to go with that coming soon. 

KELVIN: We’ve also got two more singles to come (the first being ‘Camel Blue’ that’s out today). Then we’re going to drop an EP which consists of these last four singles that we’ve dropped and a few more tracks. It kind of encompasses our journey up to this point.

Then next year, we’re going to have a proper project for you that we’ve just recorded. The first EP that you can look forward to is ‘Counting Self-Doubt’, which will come at the end of this year. And that will change the game.

A: How do you feel you’ve evolved in your musical journey so far?

KELVIN: I think we’ve evolved so much that it isn’t natural. It’s been three years and we’ve really been patient with it. We haven’t just been trying to pump everything out, go big straight away and sign to whoever, wherever we can. We’ve just kept ourselves to ourselves and grown. 

You’ll see the progression in the music from what’s out right now, to what we’re about to release, to those coming out next year. We’ll just let the music speak for itself in terms of that.

RAFF & RUDY: Amen.

A: If you could recruit any music musician dead or alive into the band would you go for why?

RAFF: I’m going for Peter Green.

KELVIN: So strong. Ah, shit. Yeah, it would be.

RUDY: Well yeah, I wouldn’t want another drummer in the band so I’m cool man.

KELVIN: I would recruit fuckin Janis Joplin just to do some squeals in the background.

RUDY: We could do a feature or a little project.

RAFF: Yeah, that would be groovy.

A: I haven’t been fortunate to catch Outer Stella Overdrive live yet but from videos I’ve seen, it looks like you create an insane atmosphere. Would you say that you’re more in your element performing live or recording the studio? 

RAFF: We’re in such different states of mind. In our live performances, we try to play our songs with as much of a high energy as possible and put on a performance. I love getting the crowd involved, whether that’s getting them to do certain dancing or callbacks. I think if you make everyone feel welcome and part of it, it makes it more memorable. You want everyone to remember that gig, that first time they saw you play.

KELVIN: In the studio, we’re actually perfectionists and so precise, so like Raff said we’re in such a different state of mind. Performance-wise we’re willing to sacrifice some of the details that only musicians would notice, to put on a show and just get everyone going crazy with us.

RUDY: I’d say from a live perspective, you’re in a different mindset where you’ve got something to do and that’s the goal at the end of the day. In the studios, you can be more open and absorb more without having to go to that certain place.

A: Many of your lyrics make bold statements that seem to come from a real personal place. Do you have any favourites that you’ve written? 

RAFF: Personally, I feel like the lyrical journey is a whole different experience in itself and I think the best lyrics that we’ve written are what we’ve done in lockdown. As a band, we’ve realised that if we write more fifty-fifty, our songs come from two different personal points of view and life experiences.

KELVIN: It’s much more interesting. Let’s pick a line of something you’ve written and I’ve written.

RAFF: Lost track of time, drowning my sorrows down the line, signing my life away for five minutes of comfort. It’s a fact of mine, that I much prefer the night when the darkness hides the light that shows discomfort’.

KELVIN: In terms of real powerful, moving shit, I think the starting verse in Three Piece-’Another day in London Town, where you can get stuck up and it can get gory. Feds pulling anything that’s brown cos they work for the Tories. So I keep my head right down cos they got it in for me’.

RAFF: To end on this, the lyrics on the singles and the project that we have coming out next year are so bold and the message is so clear. We touch on mental health, we talk about being locked up and not feeling free, our anger towards the government and how they haven’t been thinking about the youth and creatives…  

KELVIN: We talk about our personal philosophies and ways of viewing life, a lot of the tracks are quite reflective.

ALL: Peace out from OSO

Check out Outer Stella Overdrive’s brand new single Camel Blue and their other top tracks on Spotify now

New Wave Punk/Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: La Femme

Some bands are difficult to understand. Not being able to speak much French, I understand just about as many lyrics from the exquisite french band ‘La Femme’ as I understand their mind-boggling, hypnotic and seemingly other-worldly style – but you don’t need to speak the language to find out what a truly amazing band they are, you just need to listen.

La Femme are a group totally unafraid of playing around and creating mesmerising sounds. Completely entrancing at the best of times, they are truly one of the best psych-rock bands out there at the moment. I’ve often found myself sitting on a train listening to one of their songs and totally losing all attachment to reality, like the world around me is melting away between my fingers – usually, I’m listening to this corker of a tune;

Their debut album Psycho Tropical Berlin is something I keep coming back to on a regular. My year doesn’t feel right without listening to it at least once. Putting on their songs feels like falling through deep space, or one of those heist movie scenes where they gear up and put their plan into motion… I thought this edit perfectly describes listening to this particular song, however, TWM does not endorse drug taking of any kind, unless that drug is La Femme.

Everyone loves a good psychedelic punk band, but La Femme are something else. Heavily influenced by bands such as Velvet Underground, guitarist Sacha Got and keyboard player Marlon Magnée formed La Femme in 2010 then released their first two EP’s to high national and international praise.

Since the band’s beginnings in Biarritz in the South of France, nine people from cities across the country now form the band’s lineup today.

Last month, the band released their brand new single ‘Paradigme’, along with a message for their fans; “Paradigms vanish, masks come off. From now on, nothing will be the same anymore.”

The band also released this truly captivating video quite unlike any we’ve seen from them before:

With a bold new image and brand new ideas, La Femme have set out to re-brand themselves for a new era. The announcement of their partnership with IDOL digital distribution and the promise of an upcoming album means we’ll be keeping a close eye on La Femme and are looking forward to our brains being melted once again by this truly remarkable group with a surprise around every corner.

Listen to La Femme on Spotify now.

Indie/Indie Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: Post Animal

If you’ve ever experienced the psychedelic odyssey of sounds produced by Post Animal then I’m sure you’ll be happy to join me in this celebration of their cosmic creations. Alternatively, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of delving into their discography then I strongly urge you to find out a little bit more about them right here and join the trip…

I can still remember feeling as if I’d hit the jackpot when I discovered Post Animal in the same week that I moved to London back in 2016. At this point, they only had a handful of songs on their Spotify but those few special tracks were enough to recognise the gem that I had on my hands and have me hooked. Played out on repeat, their merging melodies became the soundtrack to my new adventure, discovering their rich sounds as I discovered my way in a new city.

Best described as ‘current psychedelic meets classic rock’ the six-piece progressive outfit formed in Chicago two years prior to my discovery. A variety of members contribute to vocals and consist musically of Dalton Allison on bass, Wesley Toledo on drums and Jake Hirshland on keyboard and guitar; joined on the latter by Javi Reyes, Matt Williams and Joe Keery (a name that you might recognise from a little-known Netflix series called Stranger Things). 

Around the time that I discovered the guys, Keery’s breakout acting gig almost brought everything to a halt, but fortunately, they managed to work around scheduling and were able to carry on producing more of their sonic soundscapes. However, as his role (and hair) on the cult show began to get bigger and some time was set aside to pursue solo project Djo (check out the album ‘Twenty Twenty’ for another fantastic listen), Keery decided to take a break from touring with Post Animal. Since his partial departure, the band have continued to go from strength to strength, flowing along like their music and realising second full-length album ‘Forward Motion Godyssey’ earlier this year.

Although collectively coherent, Animal’s songs span a broad range of sounds and an extensive array of influences creep in across tracks. Upon initial listen, it’s hard not to feel like When I Get Home is cut from the same cloth as many well-loved Tame Impala tracks- but it’s by no means a copy thanks to the incorporation of some 70s rock elements. There’s also a Reckoner-Esque sound driving their eponymous track as well as songs like Safe or Not; kicking off with an initial acid house hit and transitioning into something reminiscent of Two Door Cinema Club and funk-fuelled How Do You Feel all on the same album. Not to mention the poppy stand out single Ralphie from the first album ‘When I Think Of You In A Castle’ and the likes of earlier track Lonely Jones that at times evokes a hint of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ (I could go on but I think you get the gist).

It’s hard not to shout about all of their songs, as each holds a place in my heart but it is clear to see that the band have grown over their years together. Certain elements of their self-produced tracks like captivating hooks and arpeggios came naturally to the guys from the get-go. However, a determination to cover such wide experimental ground meant that some of their earlier work was lacking a little lyrical direction. There was never an issue with this as their songs were still strong and got the ball rolling; it’s just more evident since they’ve truly come into their own. Progressing with a real ‘forward motion’ they’re now displaying more introspective lyrics whilst channelling a slightly darker sound which makes for an engrossing departure from the dream-like one fans were used and really dazzles.

It’s exciting to know that Post Animal have the self-awareness and skill to evolve as they have. This, combined with their ability to transport you to a summertime by a lake in the States (even during British autumn) and distort the lines between genres proves that they’re a class act and provides me with the faith that you’ll love them just as much as I do.

Check out Post Animal and Djo