INTERVIEW: Yvonne Hercules



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Yvonne Hercules


IN terms of genetics and family background…

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Yvonne Hercules leaps off the page and inspires curiosity and fascination. I ask about her Jamaican/Sierra-Leonean roots and how important that is to her music/writing. Hercules talks about new single, Roving, and issues like oppression against the black community and politically inactivity. I was interested to hear her views on recent race-related events and how she feels about this. The London-based singer-songwriter tells me about idols Lightnin’ Hopkins and Bessie Smith; how Lovers Rock Reggae played an instrumental part of her formative years and whether Roving is an indication of future fertility. She waxes lyrical about the Blues and what it was like filming the imaginative and striking video for Roving.


Hi, Yvonne. How are you? How has your week been?

Hello, my week has been great thank you! Very busy but exciting at the same time!

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

Sure! My music is a blend of Ambient-Folk, Blues; Soul & Electronic sounds. I tend to pay a lot of attention to lyrics and would say this is something I like to do within my own music. My lyrics are littered with metaphors and imagery. I like to write about real-life experiences which have happened either to myself/people I know – or things that are going on in the world around us.

Roving is your new single. What can you tell me about its origins and influences?

Roving came out of a place of frustration for issues taking place across the world – in particular, issues relating to police brutality (particularly in America).

I actually had the title of the song before I had any of the lyrics. I liked the idea that ‘to rove’ means to wander/travel constantly without restriction. To me, it’s the epitome of freedom and I felt it spoke to the heart of what some of the disadvantaged groups of people have been experiencing. That freedom in whatever capacity is sold as something of a basic human right; but, in reality, there are restrictions to some as to what this actually means in practice. At the same time, I liked the idea that we are constantly roving/meandering around these issues without really getting anywhere.

It has an oldskool Blues/Folk sound to it. Who are the artists that have moulded your song and inspired you along the way?

I would say, definitely, people like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bessie Smith – who I feel had such a raw quality to their voice and songwriting – I connected with emotionally. I also was massively inspired by Folk legends such as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell – whose songwriting I have always admired for being very honest and incredibly beautiful – also Bon Iver. I remember listening to the first album thinking I would love to, one day, write songs that are as beautiful as this!

I know the song looks at police brutality and oppressing against minority groups. Was there a moment or particular event that compelled you to put pen to paper?

I remember reading a lot of news articles and things on social media about the Trayvon Martin and Alton Sterling cases. I also remember, at the time, feeling very frustrated/upset about what was going on and continually seeing new stories emerge about another young black male or female who had been killed by the police; for reasons that didn’t justify how they were treated and why they were killed. The thing that really inspired Roving the most was Ava DuVerny’s documentary 13th.

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It really brought home the issues affecting black Americans and other people of colour groups (across America). It made me think about how these issues also affect individuals living in other parts of the world, including the U.K.

I was also inspired by other related issues concerning disadvantaged groups across the world such as L.G.B.T. rights; the refugee crisis etc.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Gallifent Photography

Attacks against minority groups continuities and it seems the police, in some nations, use force and violence without consideration for human life. What do you think can be done to reduce and eliminate the problem?

I think there needs to compassion and regard for all people no matter your age, race; sexual preference etc. I think we, as human beings, need to be rallying for the needs of others just as much as our own. I also think the concept of respect needs to be addressed as it should be mutual. We’re always taught that we should respect authority, but when this isn’t reciprocated by police and the institution, these groups need to be made accountable.

The video for Roving is quite eye-catching and intriguing. What was the concept behind the video and what was it like seeing it back?

The concept for the video was something both I and Eliot (the videographer) came to an agreement on. It was really interesting to hear his ideas as he comes from an art background so is quite conceptual and really imaginative. I really wanted there to be a movement that took place in one space: to emphasise the idea of freedom and it being a restricted for certain groups of people.

Seeing it back was really great and I was lucky to work with such a talented group of people – who I felt really managed to channel the heart of what it was Roving meant. There was quite a lot of improvised choreography which literally meant I got to stand and watch the others just move their bodies in the most incredible way; with feeling and in a way that matched up to what I had intended when I first put pen-to-paper (or finger-to-iPhone I should say!)

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Can you reveal any details about any new albums or E.P.s? Will we see a new release in the coming months?

An E.P. is definitely in the works, however, I am still in the writing phase so can’t give any details on dates of when it will be released.

I’m almost there with the material. I feel like we will make the final cut (so definitely) soon.

I want to talk about the Blues legends like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Bessie Smith. Are they idols of yours? What is it about the Blues style that resonates with you?

Definitely idols of mine! I always felt like I connected with them emotionally as artists because of their delivery. I think Blues, out of every genre, has the ability to do this – maybe because of the simplicity; there’s a focus on not just how they’re singing but also what they’re singing about. There is an emphasis on the overall emotional feel of the music.

You have a mother with Jamaican/Sierra Leonean roots and a father from Nigeria. How much of their heritage and D.N.A. goes into your music?

I grew up listening to people such as Bob Marley – he was also a massive influence on my songwriting.

My mum also listened to a lot of Lover’s Rock reggae which was really chilled – a more ballad-type of Reggae. This was such a difference to my dad’s Nigerian music – which was a lot more rhythmic. I think that a lot of my appreciation for music stemmed from these experiences. I always had the impression that music was supposed to move you in some way – whether that was physically or emotionally.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Gallifent Photography

Do you have any plans to tour in the coming months?

I think definitely, once an E.P. has been released, a tour will be in the works! Watch this space

You were born in London and grew up in a rural village outside Cambridge.  Obviously, you have Blues roots in your music but did you assimilate a lot of new artists and genres growing up in England?

I felt that I had a wide range of eclectic influences when growing up which I assimilated through the music of my parents. I listened to these as a child but, also, through sharing music knowledge with friends. I started listening to a lot more Rock and Alternative music in my adolescent year: artists like Nirvana, Blink-182 and Kings of Leon’s earlier stuff. I also started to become more interested in Folk music around this time: listening to artists such as Laura Marling, Leonard Cohen and The Mamas & the Papas (who were all big influences on my sound).


There is a lot of love for you on social media. What message would you give your fans?

I just feel so grateful to everyone who’s listened, shared or liked my music online: it’s always such an honour to have people who appreciate what you do or create. Especially since it has taken me a while to get to a point where I’m comfortable showcasing my music.

To have people respond positively is such an encouragement so I really am grateful to those who have shown me love online.

Which new artists do you think we should be keeping our eyes on?

Bokito – they’re a great band who I had the pleasure of seeing live recently! Would highly recommend that everyone does so! Also, a great new artist called Rebecca Christenson – she writes beautiful songs with an oldskool Motown/Soul feel. It is reminiscent of Amy Winehouse. Lastly, CNTR, who is a great Electronic songwriter/producer. He actually produced my track, Roving.

What advice would you offer any new acts emerging at the moment?

I would say find your authenticity/voice and keep sticking to it! I’ve found, also, meeting and networking with other musicians – and different types of creatives – has been such an important part of my growth.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can each select a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).



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INTERVIEW: Louise Thiolon



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PHOTO CREDIT: Arthur Wollenweber


Louise Thiolon


NOT since I reviewed Ellene Masri….

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have I had the opportunity to investigate a French artist. She (Masri) has Parisian roots but is now based in the U.S. In terms of artists still in France, my exposure is quite limited. I discovered Louise Thiolon recently and was won by her heartfelt, romantic and incredible music. Her songs mix French, traditional sounds and more accessible mainstream elements. Her self-titled E.P. is a five-track release mixed by Bar Zalel and recorded at three different studios. I ask Thiolon about the recording process and what it was like collaborating with musicians like Cécile Pruvot, Andrew Mazingue and Marine Maire. She explains the origins of my favourite song, Le Goût du Chagrin, and what the music scene is like in France. I was keen to learn Thiolon’s idols and whether we can expect to see her in the U.K. soon.


Hi, Louise. How are you? How has your week been?

I’m having a great week!

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourselves, please?

I’m a French singer-songwriter. I live in Paris and I started recording my music two years ago.

Your new (eponymous) E.P. has just been released. What can you tell me about the E.P. and the type of subjects you address?

It is my first E.P: a five-track album and it is talking about me; about how I started to realise that, sometimes, what I missed in life was to get to move. So, it starts with a statue that wants to get moving and open her eyes. These are my favorite themes.


Le Goût du Chagrin is a track stands out to me. Can you tell us a bit about that song?

Le Goût du Chagrin is about a journey into your deep emotions: a journey to find what you feel inside and finally to let go the sorrow.

It is someone who says he feels nothing and then, along the way, he finds different kinds of emotions and starts to move! Again, movement is important.

The E.P. was recorded at Aeronef Studio and Studio de la Chine. What was the experience like working in those facilities?

I also recorded at Studio Gouverneur in Paris. All three studios where great and I worked with good sound engineers.

Your ‘backing band’, as it were, includes Cécile Pruvot on viola and Bar Zalel. Have you always recorded with these musicians? How did you all get together?

I use to play with Bar Zalel in his own band, Cars on Rooftops – where Andrew Mazingue played the double bass. Cécile Pruvot and Marine Maire (cello) came together later. They were friends with Andrew so that’s how we got together!

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Listening to your music and it bridges traditional French sounds and something modern and accessible. Which artists and performers have helped you create your unique and rich sound?

I love This Is the Kit – the band of Kate Stables, it’s one of my favourite bands. The sound, the arrangements and the song constructions are very good.

I also love Lhasa and the famous French singer Camille – for the very poetic universe she creates. Raphaële Lanadère is also an inspiration for lyrics and songwriting.

What is the music scene like where you are in France? Is there quite a lot of commercial music or more traditional, native sounds?

In Paris, the scene is very rich: lots of Jazz; a lot of French Pop that is actually growing fast with beautiful new bands. There are some traditional sounds too: from Swing to Eastern European or Middle Eastern.

I know you have just unveiled your debut E.P. but are you thinking ahead to new music and getting back in the studio?

Oh yes. I definitely would love to record an album soon!


Can you remember the moment you decided you wanted to get into music? Was it a family member or any particular incident that sparked that desire?

I always loved music. I played the piano very young; then percussions and guitar. I love learning to play new instruments. But, it is when I finished my studies – when I was twenty-one – that I decided to go to Paris to study Jazz and practice more intensively.

Are there any tour dates planned for this year? Maybe a chance seeing you in the U.K. at some point?

It is not planned yet but I’ve already played in the U.K. and I have friends there.

I love the U.K. and I want to go back soon!

How important is the support you get on social media in regards your drive and passion for music?

I think it’s important, especially now, because it can offer you some good opportunities to meet people and get some gigs… because, otherwise, it’s hard to get to play live.

So, yes, social media is a big part of the work at the beginning.

If you had to select the three albums that have meant the most to you; what would they be and why?

Tcheka – Nu Monda: because I’m in love with Cabo Verde’s music and the way he plays the guitar…

Camille – Le Fil: wonderful and poetic

Michel Petrucciani and Eddy Louis – Conférence de Presse: it is pure happiness to listen to them together!

Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?

Juliette Armanet, Woodbell and (I also love) the new album from Albin de la Simone, L’un de Nous (not a new artist… )

Have you any advice for songwriters coming through at the moment?

Oh, no. Just take the time to feel… and take courage!

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song (not one of yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.

Ok. You can play George BrassensJ’ai Rendez-Vous Avec Vous; or Asa’s Maybe – if you prefer a song in English.


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PHOTO CREDIT: Arthur Wollenweber







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PHOTO CREDIT: Derek James Miller


Erin K


YOU only need check out reviews from the likes of…

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NME and BBC London to realise Erin K has touched the hearts of many. Having just arrived in London – where she moved to as a child – the U.S.-born singer-songwriter discusses her attachment to the capital and why the last few weeks have been especially busy. I was interested in learning more about her debut album, Little Torch and the sort of themes addressed. No Control is Erin K’s new video so I ask about both: how it feels to have the album completed and what it was like shooting the video. The feisty, memorable musician has been compared to artists as disparate as Pam Ayres and Suzanne Vega. I ask how it feels to gain those comparisons and who are the artists that have inspired her along the way. Given that heritage and connection to London; Erin K talks about how it felt to play venues like Union Chapel. She hints at what the following months hold and gives me an insight into the anatomy of her music.


Hi, Erin. How are you? How has your week been?

It’s been busy! I’ve just landed in London with a one-way ticket here: after three years spent in N.Y.C. it’s exciting to be home again (finally) and so beautiful in London this time of year. I’ve missed it.

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

I’m a musician with an art school background who has fallen into the ‘Anti-Folk’ genre of music. My songs are often simple in melody and straightforward, lyrically. I’ve been known to pick some pretty unusual subjects to write about in the past and I have an odd appreciation for hybrid animals.

You were born in London but have been to Italy – now based in the U.S. Are you quite a nomadic artist or is there something about America that was hard to resist?

I was born in the U.S., actually in Denver, Colorado – my family relocated to London when I was young and I think, over time, London has become more of a home for me than the States.

That said; I really enjoyed the time I spend in the U.S. and will always have a connection there – both from family and upbringing.

Italy is a surprise and welcomed relationship that’s unfolded in the past four years including five tours there; a camp-related charitable project I’ve become involved with and, most recently, I was granted citizenship!

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Are you touring and recording in the country at the moment?

This week, we will start a tour in Italy with an all-girl group formed last winter in Milan. I’m hoping to put together a band here in London pretty quickly so I can start playing here again. I’ve been recording with a producer who mixed my last album in Kent and we are about half way through a second album.

It seems like you are a world away from the tentative performer of old – having headlined Union Chapel and Bush Hall. Has increased touring grown your confidence or was it a particular person/moment that caused that transformation?

I’ve always been a pretty fearful performer and, at times, it seemed like something I would never move past. It can be very frustrating to be on stage and not give it your best because of nerves.

That said, I suppose it’s the same fear that can define a performance and deliver a sense of honesty. I still have a lot of hesitation each time I go on stage but I’ve learned to be a little more in the moment and not in my head – especially after the last tour, facing audiences of four-thousand! There’s no time for freezing on those stages!

I have seen reviews that have seen you compared with Pam Ayres (a great poet but, in this case, a bit more foul-mouthed) and Suzanne Vega. Does it make you laugh hearing these words or is it quite an apt comparison?

Well, to be honest, it’s probably pretty accurate! But, I’d say more so with my earlier material than recent songs. My songs may have been a little more ‘out-there’ and confrontational in the beginning but they all came from real experiences – often emotional and visceral. We have different ways of interpreting experience and maybe I’m not so foul-mouthed today – but I try to retain the same honesty with my approach. I don’t mind the comparisons; I’m flattered!

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PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez

In those terms, who are the artists that have compelled and driven you as a musician?

It’s hard to say. I feel like listening to the lyrics of bands such as The Moldy Peaches and The Velvet Underground gave me a freedom with songwriting. I spent many years in Texas as a child and I do think there is a bit of a Country influence in much of what I write. I remember really loving Kate Nash and Laura Marling when I first started writing so they were probably influences as well.

No Control is your latest video. What was it like filming that in a rather barren part of Iceland? What was the reason for filming it there?

It was unbelievable to visit Iceland and to make a video there. I truly believe that the best way to see a place is to take on a creative project there and this is exactly what we did.

I’ve never seen such a transient landscape and one so untouched by people.

It would be sunny in one moment; hailing the next. The highlight for me was the black Jökulsárlón beach with giant icebergs washed upon it. There is nothing that can prepare you for such a surreal scene. It’s was magical!

It was directed by Stefano Poletti. What was it like working with him?

Stefano is passionate and a true artist to work with. He never lost motivation; even during some very trying periods (because of weather). I would love to work with him again.

What, would you say, is the inspiration behind the song? What compelled you to put pen to paper?

I probably shouldn’t say this but I wrote the song while on a mission to buy avocados in a supermarket in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I remember stopping in the aisles to record the melody quietly on my phone. I do this a lot when I get an idea and in the case of No Control, the song was written in just an hour. Other songs take years! With regards to the subject; I’m sure it was a response to a relationship but I can’t tell you much more.

The song is the third single from your Little Torch album. What has the reaction been like to your music so far and has it been quite humbling getting such a lot of positive reviews?

It’s been great to get such positive feedback. I guess I’ve been pretty lucky in that sense.

I’m excited to see how people review the material in its entirety after its release this week.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Derek James Mille

Have you any new music in mind? Can we expect to see anything new this year?

You definitely can! I’ve just started my second album and have been recording out in Kent with Kris Harris (who mixed my last album). It’s been really exciting to work with him – and a very comfortable environment as well. I can’t wait to show some of it and I hope to have the first single out this Fall.

Listening to your music and I hear attitude and rebellion with wonderful rich music – brass sections and funky beats unified and blissful. Do you feel too many modern artists are a bit tepid and restrained when it comes to their lyrics and music?

I think songwriters are driven, differently, when it comes to writing and recording. I’m really happy with the brass and string sections in a song like No Control; but also very content with other songs that exist without.

Sometimes, lyrics take prescience for me in how a song should be presented, and other times, it’s more to do with melody and atmosphere.

I feel this is true for any musician and one style or focus shouldn’t be placed above another.

If you had to select the three albums that have meant the most; which would they be and why?

Jolie Holland Escondida: I find this album so beautiful, natural and simple. I love the style of her singing and never tire of listening to this.

The Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground & Nico: This is definitely one of my favourite albums for many, many years. I love each song for a different reason. Nico’s vocal is so honest and beautiful and the instrumentation – such as the viola on Venus in Furs – is incredibly moving. Lou Reed’s lyrics are magic.

Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire for No Witness: This isn’t one of my top albums (yet) but definitely something I’ve found loving in recent years. I love this girl. Her voice here is and hypnotising and so powerful.

Is there any advice you’d give to artists coming through at the moment?

To appreciate all you have and not focus on what you are without. The creative process will change and evolve and it’s important to stay malleable to this.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Shuggie Otis – Strawberry Letter 23


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THERE is a lot to get through in this interview so I shall…

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keep the introduction (relatively) short and sweet. Sisteray brings together Niall Rowan (Vocals) and Dan Connolly (Guitar) alongside Marco Polo (Drums) and Mick Hanrahan (Bass). They want to re-write the Indie handbook and are doing a good job so far – lauded by stations like Radio X and BBC Radio 6 Music. The band formed because of a shared love of music – acts like The Smiths and The Clash – and are one of the most together and brotherly units around. The London-based group talk to be about their new project, 15 Minutes, and its incredible concept. Because of their much-celebrated live performances; I was keen to discover what touring is like for the group and whether there are any dates coming up – and what it feels like being invited to play Camden Rocks. The lads reflect on their influences and heroes; they chat about Andy Warhol and vinyl and give me an insight into the one band member who is a bit naughty.

It is a stunning and insightful interview with one of Britain’s fastest-rising bands…


Hi, guys. How are you? How have your weeks been?

Hey! We are great! The last few weeks have been a blast. We released our 15 Minute project – which became a whirlwind and we are really just enjoying the aftermath.

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

We are Niall, Marco; Dan and me (Mick) who, together, make Sisteray: four boys who became mates through our shared beliefs. We write songs about our views on everything: from politics to fame and fortune. Our live shows are where our music really comes alive.

I know you guys were formed through a shared love of music. Can you remember when Sisteray clicked into place and how you all found one another?

Dan started the band with his brother, Ryan (who used to play the drums). He met Niall on Denmark Street at a gig and got talking about what music they liked – and things just clicked. I was working with Dan at the time and we had spoken about forming a band.

One day he just called me and said we have a gig in three weeks and do you wanna play bass? I hadn’t played before but thought why not.

After a short stint, Ryan got the option to go to university so we found Marco who was coming over from Italy. He listened to our songs on the plane and by the time he got here he knew all of them. That was when we clicked. Marco brought a whole new style and outlook to us.

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On the subject of those influences; who are the bands and artists you all have in common?

We actually have a pretty eclectic mix of influences – I think that’s what makes us work. We all love The Clash, Billy Bragg; John Cooper Clarke and Kendrick Lamar – politically-minded artists and bands – people who are willing to say what they think through their music.

Starting out with spontaneous gigs and solid performances; you moved on to headline shows and gaining huge respect. Were those early days of touring quite tough or, in hindsight, have they helped get you where you are today?

It is always tough for new bands that don’t have the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’. We do bits-and-bobs of work – when we can otherwise we couldn’t afford to do the gigs. It is worth every second of falling asleep when you’re doing a job: being out on the road with mates and seeing people actually care what you have to say is a great feeling. We work hard and when we aren’t gigging we are out at gigs. When it matters that much to you, you make it your life.

15 Minutes is your latest project. Can you tell me what it is all about and how that concept came to being?

15 Minutes was an idea based on the Warhol quote “Everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes”. These days, you release something and if you are lucky people will talk about it: if you are even luckier it will be for more than fifteen minutes! So, we decided to create exactly fifteen minutes of music that was our thoughts on Brexit, fleeting fame; societies’ need for instant gratification and the idea of nostalgia in the music industry. It was recorded at Lightship 95 with producer Rory Atwell and was two days of chopping and changing to make it work. It is our best work to date.

I know it references Andy Warhol’s famous speech (that, in the future, everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes) but what compelled you guys to set up a PledgeMusic camping to get the material onto vinyl? What has the response been like so far?

The project was happening, and as a band, we love the idea of being on vinyl. All the labels and people we spoke to about releasing 15 Minutes said it was too expensive – because eleven minutes is about the maximum amount of music you can cut onto vinyl.

For it to still sound good and we needed it LOUD so only twelve-inch was going to do. So, we decided to set up a pre-order for the release ourselves on PledgeMusic: offering a few extras and were overwhelmed by how quickly people responded.

It’s great having your music available immediately online but holding that physical copy will always be something special.

Recently, you played at The Victoria in Dalston. Was that the first time 15 Minute’s material got a live airing? How did that gig go down?

We’d been playing a couple of the songs (that became things on 15 Minutes) live for a while, but once it was recorded, we started doing these fifteen-minute sets in the run-up to the release – we have a clock counting down the fifteen minutes on the stage so that the audience can see. Of course, it’s a bit tricky because you only have to chat a bit and you’re eating into the time – so you either have to up the tempo considerably or, like we did at The Victoria, the clock goes into the red and it ends up being seventeen minutes – naughty us!

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People love the idea and have been really getting on board: we have bands and promoters calling us asking us if we want to squeeze fifteen minutes in at their gigs. It is just a great way to get the concept across.

You have some great gigs coming up – including a spot at Camden Rocks. Is that the one you’re most looking forward to or are there other dates that are creating a buzz in the camp?

We love Camden Rocks: It is a home from home for us. We started the band rehearsing in Camden – until the space got taken over by Crossrail. We played last year and it was brilliant so we are looking forward to it again. This time, we have a later headline set so we are up against some of the big boys! We also have a great gig coming up with Blinders and The Shimmer Band at Camden Assembly on 28th April which we are really looking forward to. We love both bands and love what they have to say. Of course, Camden Rocks is not the end of our festival news. Watch this space.

Stations like BBC Radio 1 and ‘6 Music have championed your work. How does it feel having huge D.J.s speak so effusively about your songs?

It’s great! You should add Radio X onto that list because they’re doing a lot to support new music.

It is always a weird experience hearing your own songs when you don’t expect it. Some people have really got behind what we are doing: John Kennedy has played everything we have done and we are always grateful – but at the same time there is that feeling of, “Well, about time”.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in terms of material and touring?

We have loads in the pipeline. There are festivals and gigs all over the country and once 15 Minutes has had…. its fifteen minutes. We have loads of new stuff ready to go. We haven’t decided in what form it will come yet but it is ready to go however we decide. We are just trying to keep up with the demand!

Away from music, do you guys spend a lot of time together? Is there a bit of a trouble-maker in the band or that one character that creates a bit of a stir?

Ha ha. Our Dan can be a bit naughty – we spend as much time as we can together! To be honest, when we aren’t working, we are doing something band-related. So, we don’t even get a choice!

Between gigs, rehearsing and watching other bands, there is no time for us to be apart. We are like brothers: we all love each other and there are times when we all hate each other.

Marco is quite hard to keep still so he is usually the one making trouble.

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If you each had to select the one album that has meant the most to each of you; which would it be and why?

Niall: I’d probably say Station to Station by David Bowie because it references so many things. For me, it’s an album you have to persevere with and as such you really appreciate it. It’s only six songs but it (just) feels like something pure and very creative. The title track alone feels like a movie because of all the changes and the journey it takes you on. It just seems very original and at times very instinctive.

Dan: Shock Troops by Cock Sparrer because, simply put, it sounds like a sonic-boom condensed into an album

Marco: My favourite album is Scarsick by Pain of Salvation. This album is goliardic (Marco is Italian) and a change of direction for them. Railing against a certain type of American and their stupidity – and also a call to arms against making shitty commercial music for the sake of it. The whole thing about people selling their images to the mass media: it’s still going on now; nothing’s changed – and perhaps Sisteray reflect a bit of that in 15 Minutes.

Me (Mick): As always, the hardest question to answer. I played with the idea of (Bruce) Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park but then swerved right off and decided on Billy Bragg’s Talking with the Taxman About Poetry. It is songwriting greatness; tracks like Ideology and There Is Power in a Union will forever be relevant – and Honey, I’m a Big Boy Now is one of my all-time favourite songs.  Billy play’s a big part in our music and has even endorsed 15 Minutes on Twitter! We are big fans of words; especially John Cooper Clarke, Kate Tempest; The Streets and Sleaford Mods.

What advice would you give to any new artists coming through right now?

This might be a bit contentious but now is possibly one of the easiest times to be a new band. There are promoters up and down the country (now) who think it is ok not to pay bands – and just offer a few beers (if you’re lucky) and a pizza. So, if you can get to, say, Sheffield, there’s a gig for you. There are loads of online applications for festivals and, if you seem ‘nice’ to them, then you might get offered a slot.

But, what’s not easy, is standing out from the crowd: offering something different and challenging. Work hard and spend as much time as you can writing music and rehearsing.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rhona Murphy Photography

Just keep pushing! Don’t assume the world revolves around your band. If you play a gig stick around to watch everyone. If you’re not playing a gig (be out) at other gigs flyering and talking about your next gig. Never be afraid to write about what you believe. Not everyone will like you; whether you write Pop or (about) politics – so just write what you think. If you think you’ve got what it takes then get in touch: we are always on the lookout for bands for our monthly club night, Welcome to the Monkey House.

Who are the new acts you recommend we check out?

Definitely check out BERRIES and SONS: both great friends of ours and both kicking up a fuss. Blinders are great as well. They are charged and angry and always put on a great show. There’s a band from Northern Ireland that we’re really keen to check out called Touts. Their tracks always seem to get played next to ours on the radio.

Of course, we have to mention The Wholls. If you haven’t heard of them yet you soon will. They are an amazing live band with great songs and don’t follow any fashion. It isn’t a competition but, if that band aren’t massive, it will be a crime against music.

Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that)

Marco: The Clash I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.

Dan: Wonk Unit Horses

Mick: The Jam The Eton Rifles

Niall: Kate Tempest Perfect Coffee


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PHOTO CREDIT: Vallance Records







INTERVIEW: Black Flowers Cafe



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Black Flowers Cafe


I remember reviewing Black Flowers Cafe a while ago and being…

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impressed by their unique sound and connection. There is something about the Italian band that makes you want to come back time again. The guys have their eponymous album and a run of fantastic singles under their belt – and a reputation as one of the best live bands around. I wanted to press them about the new single, Never Trust Me, and just what inspired it – it is from their new E.P., Islands (out on 28th April via Ghost Records). The boys talk about that band name and how their new material differs to their previous work. They reflect on their most-treasured memories and hint at a few artists we should be looking out for. It has been great reconnecting with the band and seeing where they are headed. Black Flowers Cafe are one of the most exciting and compelling young bands right now: sit back and hear what Gaetano, Fernando; Antonio and Angelo have to say…


Hi, guys. How are you? How have your weeks been?

Gaetano: We’re doing pretty well, I guess! The last few weeks have been quite intense. We have worked on a lot of things and it was very exciting.

Right now, we are planning other stuff but we are looking forward to this weekend – there will be a lot of news.

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

Fernando: Here’s Fernando: I sing and play Guitar, Synth. and Percussion. There’s Gaetano who plays Bass and Percussion; Antonio on Drums and Angelo on Lead Guitar.

Where does that name, ‘Black Flowers Cafe’, come from?

Antonio: It comes from the idea of an imaginary place where to exchange influences. When we write new stuff, we try to take inspiration from a lot of things and everyone in the band brings his own background.

Can you tell me how you all got together in the first place?

Angelo: Me and Fernando are the older members of the band: we began in 2009 and then, after some self-produced stuff and some line-up changes, here we are.

Never Trust Me is your new single. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the song?

Fernando: We wrote it in five minutes or something like that – very smooth. The concept behind the song is based on the moment when you feel that something is passed forever and childhood is only a memory.

But the emotion that you can feel again brings you to that place that is near and far away at the same time.

I believe you have an E.P., Islands, approaching. What can you reveal about that to us?

Gaetano: There will be a lot of surprises – keep your ear open.

How, would you say, your modern work differs to your earliest material?

Angelo: It has been a long process. We tried so many ways: Indie, Post-Punk; Electronic, Trip-Hop – but now we found our identity. We are in deep love with world music – Afro.-Pop and stuff like this. We are writing a lot of songs.

Who are the artists that inspired you guys growing up?

Antonio: There are so many artists but I think you should look at yourself in the mirror: put the bad things on your back and focus on the good things.

You need to be aware of your qualities and follow your own way.

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Can we expect any new tour dates later this year?

Gaetano: Of course. We’re still working on details.

What have been the fondest memories for Black Flowers Cafe so far?

Fernando: The need to being ourselves; the importance of having your own voice and expressing your point of view.

Do you guys get time to unwind and take time out of music? What do you get up to in your spare time?

Angelo: Actually, some of us are studying; others are working.

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What are your plans for the rest of this year?

Fernando: Building surprises!

If you had to name an album that has meant the most to each of you which would they be and why?

Antonio: I think So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club has been very important for our change. It really opened our eyes.

Angelo: … I think Zaba, too…

Gaetano: … Yes, by Glass Animals.

Fernando: Sure. So exotic that we all fell in love with it!


What advice would you give to any new artists coming through right now?

Antonio: Just be yourself and write beautiful songs.

Who are the new acts you recommend we check out? Which song would you like me to finish with?

Gaetano: He’s not a new act but I really love Sampha‘s Blood on Me.

Fernando: I would recommend Chimes by Febueder (and Little Cub)

Antonio: Andromeda by Gorillaz

Angelo: I will suggest something older that I really love. After a long time I found their vinyl and they just came to my mind: La Gatta Cenerentola by Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare


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INTERVIEW: Elena Ramona



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Elena Ramona


IT must have been about four years…

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since I first discovered the music of Elena Ramona. Interviewing her back in, maybe 2012/’13, it was wonderful finding a young woman with so much passion for music – one of the most genuine and honest people you will meet in the industry: her enthusiasm and dedication to the craft affected me greatly. Early songs like Rise and Lying Blue Eyes showcased a fine songwriting ability and great range: switching from deeply personal and emotional to strident and coruscating. Since then, she has continued to perform and record and is one of the most-promising young songwriters around. The Neon Lights is the latest song from Elena Ramona and covers new ground. It takes in Dance and Electronic sounds and is another bold step from her. I ask the singer-songwriter the inspiration behind the song and what she wants people to get from it; whether it is important having full control of the music/creative process – Elena is a video editor and has creative control of her work. I ask whether Skiathos, the Greek island she is from, has a thriving music scene and what sounds can be heard there; what it feels like having (her music) played on This Morning and what she hopes to achieve this year.

PHOTOS:  Andy Boschier MAKE-UP: Vicktoria Khol Webster


Hi, Elena. How are you? How has your week been?

I am very well, thank you for asking. Hope all is well with you.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

Hi, everyone. My name is Elena Ramona. I am a Pop singer/songwriter based in Guildford, Surrey. I studied Vocal Performance at the Academy of Contemporary Music and I have been pursuing my career as a musician ever since.

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The Neon Lights is your latest single. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind that?

I have always had issues fitting into social groups, and throughout school, I was quite lonely. This song is inspired by me feeling ok with me.

The main message in the song is to be yourself: embrace who you are and keep going.

I used the analogy of neon lights to portray a happy, confident message.

Neon lights are strong, bold and unique and I want my listeners to feel like this when they hear this song.

In terms of sound, it is a move away from your previous stuff – one of the most insistent and confident tracks you have done. It has elements of Pop, Funk and Dance. Was it quite daunting pushing into new areas or was it quite liberating?

It was very daunting to start off with because I didn’t know how people would react to such a different sound from me – but I am so glad I have released this song.

The reception, so far, has been really positive and impressive. Is it quite humbling getting such a warm reaction from fans and new followers?

The response to this new track has been amazing and has humbled me greatly – it has gained airtime with some really big, well-known radio stations and platforms.

Working in such a competitive environment, the response to this track has really inspired me to keep going.

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You edit and work on the videos closely yourself. Is it important having that sort of control and is it quite rewarding and satisfying working on a video from start to end?

To be able to work on the editing and directing process myself – for my own videos – is very rewarding and satisfying because I have full creative freedom.

I know some of your songs, like The Neon Lights and Lying Blue Eyes have been used on T.V. and shows like This Morning. How does it make you feel hearing your songs on the big screen?

Hearing my songs on the big screen is surreal. The feedback given for both tracks was so kind and encouraging.

You’re based just outside of London and have been making music for quite a while now. What have been your favourite memories up until this point and what do you hope to achieve the rest of this year?

My favourite memory so far is returning to my old school in Wiltshire and mentoring young musicians.

This year, I would love to release more music and break through to national radio stations around the world.

I would also love to perform with a Jazz band and see in the New Year in style.

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Can we expect to see an Elena Ramona E.P. or album this or next year, perhaps?

Yes, you can. I am working hard to make this happen.

Being from the Greek island of Skiathos, you must notice a difference between the music scene there and in the U.K. What is the scene like in Skiathos and are you returning there to perform any time soon?

Skiathos is a tourist island full of amazing traditional Greek musicians who play to guests in restaurants and create a truly magical atmosphere. However, if you find yourself in the club-strip in town you will hear lots of commercial Pop and the same club music that we hear in the U.K.

I will be returning to the island this summer and I hope to perform in clubs and at beach parties with my new music.

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Is there a message you would give to your fans and follows on social media?

Thanks so much for your response to my new track The Neon Lights. I have received many lovely messages and it has really encouraged me to keep making music. 

Which new artists do you think we should be keeping our eyes on?

My good friends from uni, Luke Edney and Evert Outen, are both incredible supporters to me and awesome musicians. Check them out if you like acoustic numbers or upbeat groovy piano covers.

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What advice would you offer any new acts emerging at the moment?

Stay true to yourself.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

I listen to this song when I need a little pick-me-up or when I am at the gym – this whole album is great.

Knife PartyBoss Mode


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Image result for the who 1967 IN THIS PHOTO: The Who




IN past features, I have looked at various years in music…

Image may contain: 4 people, people sittingIN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles/PHOTO CREDIT: © Apple Corps Ltd

It may seem inconsequential and random selecting 1967 but that is not so. Not only is it fifty years since that great year of music unravelled – almost scary when you think about it – but it is the year the, debatably, greatest album of the 1960s arrived: the peerless, world-shaking Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I am so excited about the fifty anniversary of the album and what an event it was. Not only was it one of The Beatles’ finest creations but a record that changed the shape of music. In a couple of months, there will be a lot of celebration and commemoration around the album – radios and journalists all having their say on one of the most influential moments in music history.

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing, plant, flower, tree and outdoorIN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles/PHOTO CREDIT: © Apple Corps Ltd

Because of that, I was keen to see what was happening that year: the variety of sounds and type of record that were defining 1967. Not only was it the year of Summer of Love but one of the most productive and extraordinary of the 1960s. There are those, myself I must confess, who feels the 1960s was overrated: apart from legends like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan: how many wonderful artists were around? Well, it seems there was an exceptional wealth of music and brilliance during the decade. 1967 is one of the best years for music and one that led to the creation of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

I look at the twenty albums that defined a fabulous year of music…


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The DoorsThe Doors (4th January)

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Aretha FranklinI Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (10th March)

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The Velvet Underground & NicoThe Velvet Underground & Nico (12th March)

Image result for The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced

The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceAre You Experienced (12th May)

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LoveForever Changes (November)

Image result for Pink Floyd – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn album cover

Pink FloydThe Piper at the Gates of Dawn (5th August)

Image result for Captain Beefheart – Safe as Milk

Captain BeefheartSafe As Milk (June)

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The DoorsStrange Days (25th September)

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Otis Redding and Carla ThomasKing & Queen (16th March)

Image result for The Kinks – Something Else

The KinksSomething Else by the Kinks (15th September)

Image result for The Who – The Who Sell Out

The WhoThe Who Sell Out (15th December)

Image result for Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow

Jefferson AirplaneSurrealistic Pillow (1st February)

Image result for The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

The BeatlesMagical Mystery Tour (27th November)

Image result for Smiley Smile – The Beach Boys album cover

Smiley SmileThe Beach Boys (18th September)

Image result for The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold as Love

The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceAxis: Bold as Love (1st December)

Image result for Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield Again album cover

Buffalo SpringfieldBuffalo Springfield Again (18th November)

Image result for Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding album cover

Bob DylanJohn Wesley Harding (27th December)

Image result for The Byrds – Younger Than Yesterday album cover

The ByrdsYounger Than Yesterday (6th February)

Image result for Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen

Leonard CohenSongs of Leonard Cohen (27th December)

Image result for The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1st June)