E.P. REVIEW: Chapter and Verse- The Wolves Back Home

E.P. REVIEW:

 

Chapter and Verse

 

 

The Wolves Back Home

 

9.5/10

 

The Wolves Back Home Cover.jpg

The Wolves Back Home can be purchased here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-wolves-back-home-ep/id1112714327

TRACK LISTING:

The New Breed9.5

Tunnels9.5

Shelf Life– 9.5

Electric Tongues– 9.5

Slave– 9.6

DOWNLOAD:

 Tunnels; Electric Tongues; Slave

STANDOUT TRACK:

Slave

RELEASE DATE:

13th July 2016

__________________________

AS dependable as turmoil and unease is in the modern world…

so too is the rise of a great London band. I will dip into the London band market- something I have done a lot- and look at Post-Hardcore bands and the day-to-day experiences of being in a band. Every publication and journalist have their tips and recommendations for bands this year. The Amazons, Baby Strange, and Estrons, between them, Punk/Rock vibes; Pretty Vicious are young upstarts that are worth your attention. Extend it outwards and The Bohicas and The Carnabys employ enough soul-searching and ‘60s-sounding Post-Punk magic to seduce critics. It is quite subjective when you think about it. There are so many great bands in London; it is hard taking it all in. Depending on your tastes and preferences, you are pretty much covered. I tend to find too many bands are proffered without just cause and rationale. Critics are too keen to promote bands who have a vague spark about them: it leads me to wonder what their criteria are and how low their expectations are. There are some journalists that have their ear to the ground and seek out the most original and striking groups. Bands like Pumarosa are at the higher end of the spectrum. The five-piece fuses spacey, psychedelic and Dance music strands together into a heady and feet-buckling cocktail. The future looks bright for them; a great band that has a very unique and special sound. London has so many corners, avenues, and neighbourhoods. Even if you spent your life in East London, you would be spoiled for bands and wonderful music. Big cities have that creative vibe and cosmopolitan blend. London, especially, is a great place to make music and absorb creativity. Whilst the capital is strangulating slightly; getting too packed and expensive: it is not putting everyone off. In spite of the expense, compaction, and rush: it is the natural place for those who want to create stunning music.

Chapter and Verse hail from East London and are clearly finding a lot of motivation and inspiration from the area. It is, to my mind, the best part of the capital for new music. The quartet has burst onto the scene and is one of the most explosive and hungry bands you’ll hear this year. Before I continue my point- and raise a couple more- it is worth meeting Chapter and Verse:

Josh Carter: Lead Vocals

Darren Gosling: Guitar

Jonny Hopwood: Bass/Backing Vocals

Ash Morton: Drums/Backing Vocals

CHAPTER AND VERSE might seem like fresh faces to the scene, but with their explosive debut EP ‘The Wolves Back Home’ these East London boys are hitting the UK like they’re veterans. With a raw, energetic twist on the alt-rock genre, Chapter and Verse released their debut single ‘Shelf Life’ in March 2016 and sold out their first ever show in less than a few weeks. Now with a relentless tour ethic, the quartet are quickly becoming one of the bands to watch this year.

Formed in early 2015, the four boys came together with an immensely diverse taste but a unified vision of creating honest, passionate and hard-hitting tunes. The result is a cocktail of noisy alt-rock that has been likened to the sound of Circa Survive, Crooks UK and Saosin.

‘The Wolves Back Home’ will be self released by the band through all usual outlets and supported with an extensive touring schedule – all handled by the band themselves.

It would be nice to see the boys get a label deal and find someone who can help handle their affairs. I have affection for groups that have a D.I.Y., autonomous approach to their music. So many modern acts (mainstream mainly) have legions of producers, agents and support crew handling everything they do. At times, you wonder whether said band have any control or say in their careers at all. One of the great things about a take-everything-on tactic is you get to make music you want to make; tour where you want and plan your diary. There is a flip-side that means things can get overwhelming and too hectic. Most fledgling bands have to cope with everything themselves until they gain a reputation and catch the ear of management. Chapter and Verse and expertly handling their music at the moment but one suspect they would benefit from a few pairs of hands. The boys are so busy right now; a bit of pressure release would give them breathing space and a chance for relaxation. That something to ponder, but for now, it is worth investigating the Post-Hardcore bands in the U.K. Scanning the mainstream/established scene and everyone from A Day to Remember and Alexisonfire are making a mark. Add Pierce the Veil and La Dispute and you have a variation there. Post-Hardcore is becoming very popular right now.

Not that it has suddenly exploded and come from nowhere. Maybe a reaction to world affairs or a frustration at modern music: the genre is attracting a lot of bands. Orlando’s Sleeping with Sirens; Kentucky’s Emarosa and our very own Oceans Eat Alaska are among the finest of the breed. Punk is always going to be a popular genre and new bands are finding fresh ways of reinterpreting its grit, passion, and raw edges. I feel there is a rallying against the stilted, committee-led Pop stars and beyond-dull raft of Folk artists around. Of course, there are plenty of great acts in these types of music: my general feeling is (Hardcore/Post-Hardcore bands) are tiring of colourless, soft music: keen to inject vitality, atmospheric and drama into the boiling pot. Many will have cliché views of Post-Hardcore: a lot of screaming and noise with no real nuance or composure. Since the ‘80s- when the genre started to take a hold- it has been growing and expanding. The San Diego scene rose in the early-to-mid-1990s and led to a Post-Hardcore movement under the Gravity Records label. Since then, the genre has incorporated more sub-genres and become more detailed and wide-ranging. Not just taking Punk/Grunge as its basis; modern-day examples lace Power-Pop, Sludge-Metal and Krautrock to unleash something cross-pollinating and beautiful. The Frankenstein’s monster approach to music-making is not as reckless and undisciplined as it seems on paper. Current Post-Hardcore bands not only want to appeal to a wide range of listeners; they are pushing boundaries and ensuring their music is as deep and varied as possible. Even if you are not a fan of ‘traditional’ Post-Hardcore; Chapter and Verse are guys that make it accessible and tangible; they do not blow you away with force and alienate.

The E.P. The Wolves Back Home announces them as a huge proposition and a band to clutch to the chest. I know the chaps have a busy and itinerant next few months ahead of them. So far, the gang has taken in Rebellion (Manchester) and Mother’s Ruin in Bristol. To launch their E.P. they rocked The Old Blue Last in London. Yesterday they were up in Glasgow ensuring Nice ‘N’ Sleazy was appropriately sweaty, dirty and aghast. After travelling hundreds of miles in the last few days- from London to Doncaster to Glasgow- the four-piece will want a second to decompress and recharge. Many underestimate the rigmarole and strains of music today. It is not as idealistic and simple as you would conceive. As Chapter and Verses have shown; there is a lot of graft and grind required. They love performing to the people but the toll it takes and the work they have to put it- it is enough to take it out of the best of us. I have seen so many great bands burn out and crumble under the pressure that is put before them. When it comes to Chapter and Verse; you know they will straddle the reality checks and tiring days. Not only does their music ensure they have a solid and loyal fanbase: their attitude, determination, and discipline means they will remain and grow. Touring duties are done for a little bit; they will be heading back from Glasgow and assessing their future. The reception and love The Wolves Back Home has garnered mean they will not have a lot of time to rest.

The New Breed kicks things off with a rude awakening.  The song brings oceanic and water-themed metaphor to the surface. Prophesising sailors and guardians of the ocean are trying to lead our heroes astray. “Waves won’t collapse” it is said if you follow the light; instead of what’s in your head. A sinewy, dark figure waves you (the hero) from the harbor with a “warm smile”; turning his back and asking us to mourn for “your lost soul”. Following a rictus and riot of strings and beats; a heavy, wave-crashing slam that gets the head spinning- the band keep is calm and fascinating in the early stages. The song’s lyrics are a lot deeper and more intelligent than the majority of acts out there. Story-like and scenic; literary and mythical: each listener has their own visions and interpretation of events. “You’re not the one we need” is chanted with intensity and anger; turning against preachers, false idols and lying voices; the fascination levels reach the ceiling. Maybe rebelling against impure friends and those that lie- there are so many options for interpretation and truth. A great band that delivers urgency and obliqueness; one cannot help but draw conclusions and paint their own story. Words of madness and stupidity are swirling; we have to (as the chorus documents) have faith “in the new breed”. Maybe musicians of the latest generation are being attested. Stop proclaiming and heralding those who are fake, shallow and sort-lasting. Perhaps critics and labels pay too much attention to those underserving. Whatever the real truth behind the song; its teeth-baring drive and slamming chorus cannot be ignored. Guitars spiral and dive; the percussion and smashes through boulders; the bass guides and brings the layers together. Our hero’s voice is strong and intense to the last; passionate and forceful. Disbelievers said the storm “could never bring you home”; vessels struggle and vivid imagery is unfolded. Kudos must be given to the band performance which is tight and magnetic to the end. A dramatic and bold opening number that perfectly introduces the band to us.

After that riot of scenery and impassioned delivery comes Tunnels. Grungy, low-down guitar slam fades up into a head-banging riff for the masses. Electrifying and rollercoaster right away: every listener will be immersed and drawn into the song. Our hero feels it is hard not to look back and to better times perhaps. Claiming there is “nothing to show” from current endeavours; there is a light in the tunnel and a hope. A song that looks at insecurity and a sense of anxiety: there is, as the song says, a comfort knowing others feel “lost in their own skin”. From the oblique and novel-like intrigue of the opener: here is something more emotional, personal and direct. Crisp and clear production means the vocals are decipherable and intelligible; ensuring the lyrics register and everyone can appreciate them. The “soothing rush of comfort” that comes with the realisation (we are not alone) seems like a mantra Chapter and Verse live by. We all feel alone and unsure at the best of times. Knowing others feel the same can be a comfort and compensation. “We’re no longer alone in our own homes” is a line that could have a variety of meanings. Perhaps being under surveillance and control; feeling suffocated in the mass of people; not having time to ourselves.

Walking and Smiling!.jpg

It was a sentiment that stood out to me and seems to define the song. Modern life and its insecurities mean few of us feel completely relaxed, safe and secure. Given recent political and world events: Tunnels is a song that sums up general consensuses but provides a suggestion of unity and fight-against-the-oppressors. Not just reserved to lyrical intelligence and passionate vocals: when the instruments stand alone; you see another side to the band. Beats tease and slam; the guitars are vibrant and louche; the bass swells and bounces- a perfect punctuation and parable that ties the song’s chapters together. Sceptics and critics poke at the hero; there is that sense of repression and exhaustion throughout the track. One eye “on the backdoor” adds more nerves and unsettled drama to the song. The lead runs on empty for miles and is buried under the weight of things: a chorus that gets in the head and can get the crowds united in song. The words tumble and the song gets hotter and harder: the vocal more animalistic and angered as everything starts to sink in. It is perhaps worse getting what you want sometimes as the hero explains. By the end, you sit back and try and take it all in. Such is the primal urge and anger of the song; the mixture of emotions and feelings. Another stunning song that shows just how accomplished the band is.

Shelf Life is the middle child that is not awkward or second-nature in any sense. The lead is in a cold sweat and has a burden on his shoulders. A selfish heroine is making the same digs and digging a grave for the hero. Perhaps a relationship that has restarted and ended: two people who have a history and unable to break a pattern. Promising never to do this again; our boy is being cheated and punished once more. Like The New Breed: here, we get a song that could have several meanings and comes equipped with provocative possibilities. On the face of things, you assume a relationship is being focused upon. Never using clichés and obvious lines: the band is masters when it comes to story and original sentiments.  Selling out his friends for lifetimes; his hands are sore and his head is aching. Not a child anymore; these ideas and lines start to reveal more of the truth. Perhaps an immature and dangerous love is being documented. A relationship that is inherently damaged and deceitful; our front-man is betraying friends and focusing on the wrong people. Backed by his brothers-in-arms; the composition swells and strikes with appropriate fever and focus. Ensuring the E.P.’s momentum and consistency remains sharp and intact; Shelf Life is a song that has radio-play potential. I have mooted the possibility of Post-Hardcore transcending beyond cobweb-strewn cells into the mainstream’s regard. Shelf Life is a track that is accessible to the masses but pleasing to the archetypes of the genre- bona fide fans who appreciate the heritage, edginess, and cool-ness of the music.

N I C E / N / S L E A Z Y 
Tonight in Glasgow for @pshiftband's EP launch! Get down and show us you Scots do it!
📷 - @jaywennington 
#chapterandverse #thewolvesbackhome #nicensleazy #glasgow #london #uk #paradigmshift #live #newnoise #newmusic #newband #neweverything #ffo #circasurvive #saosin #emarosa #letlive #malloryknox #bmth #giglife

The best acts are those who can make music that has mass appeal but never feels sold-out, watered-down or untrue to their ethos. “I thought this was going to be everything” the hero screams- as though he is directing it at his girl. The E.P.’s cover features a blurry-faced hero doing up his shirt whilst his wolf-headed girl points a gun to the back of his head. You feel Shelf Life is the sonic apparition and representation of the cover art. Perhaps the defining chapter from Chapter and Verse: mistakes have been made and incongruous bonds formed; mistakes and lamentable decisions that are breaking our man in two. A sorry state of affairs has unraveled and a relationship (that seemed long-lasting on paper) has dissipated and crumbled. Again, the instrumentation adds contour and flavor to the song. The bass stands out with its grumble and rumble. In fact, the entire band is on top form and gives the song a tight-knit sound. Selling out his heart “with punchlines”; our man flees west and packs his cases. After the ruins of the night before have been stepped over: the recrimination and accusations come through sharply. The girl has been a lifeline that was once an anchor; now she is a Siren that has caused irrevocable damage. Unable to put emotions onto paper: the composition goes a long way to defining the pain and confusion. If the hero seems expendable and lost; there are signs he can rebuild and find clarity again. As the song wraps up; I wonder whether it is strictly relationships being looked at or the nature of friendships. Clearly, deceit and mistrust are being looked at but one wonders how far that extends.  Another song that gets the brain working; you need a few listens to understand the truths being laid out. Benefiting the body, soul, and blood: Shelf Life is another jewel from a shining crown.

L O U N G E / 4 1 
Workington tonight with @veragraceband and @thedistantnorth ! 
#chapterandverse #thewolvesbackhome #lounge41 #workington #veragrace #thedistantnorth #newmusic #newnoise #newband #neweverything #london #uk #love #ffo #saosin #biffyclyro #donbroco #malloryknox #letlive #giglife

Electric Tongues is the penultimate gambit and opens rather unexpectedly. Soft and romantic pianos greet the song and beckon a soothing and tender vocal. Keeping his hands by his side and remaining steady; it seems like a particular girl is being sung about. Walling to cherish her (if only for the night) you can feel that sense of longing and affection. On that note, the combination of guitar strings- which grow headier through the opening maneuver- let you know something harder and heavier is waiting around the corner. The percussion rolls and dives; the piano continues to seduce whilst the guitar threads a tapestry and gives the song fluidity and movement. Together, the band creates something huge by being sparse and minimalist. Well-chosen, intelligent compositional notes give Electric Tongues a grandeur and sense of occasion without resorting to ecstatic vocals and primeval performance. “You’re better than I” and “I can’t dance” are sentiments that put my thoughts back in relationship arenas. Previous tracks across the E.P. have been blame-shifting and self-assessing; acid and vitriol have been common ghosts. Here, we have something more refined, uplifting and affirmative. Our hero wants to spend the night with the girl; embrace the moment and not ruin his chance. There are no rose-tinted glasses; just a man who is laying his heart on the line. Chapter and Verse show they can be sensitive and open without seeming out of their depth.

The Wolves Back Home benefits from this richness and variety: Electric Tongues is one of the most vital cuts on the record. Past the half-way mark, when ideas of recklessness and youthful abandon are suggested, the song tightens and becomes more inflamed- perhaps in tandem with the heated sexuality and bedroom eyes the song is laying out there. The band steps out and deliver an aural assault on the senses. Combining like a decades-old band that has conquered the world: that confidence and instinct makes the song sound enthralling and spectacular. When our hero comes back to the microphone, there are some regrets and doubts. His bleary eyes are clearing; he tries not to wake the sleeping girl. Perhaps too forward or ill-advised in his conquest: the morning after is a severe hangover. Given the song’s title; I was thinking about social media flirtation and how we create false expectations/relationships on Facebook, for instance. Chapter and Verse are wonderful when it comes to second-guessing and subverting expectations. Electric tongues are “just for the ride”- a myriad of images and possibilities come to fruition- and there are deep-seated regrets for sure- the girl should never have been by his side. Starting as a romantic and hopeful song has twisted into something rotten and devilled.

Ending proceedings is Slave. Sparing no expense when it comes to setting the mood: the song gets underway instantly; keen to deliver its messages. Our hero proclaims: “You don’t know me at all”. Maybe directed at an ally or friend; an acquaintance who thinks he has him sussed. Salt is being tossed in the wounds and a lot of pain comes out. Making sure The Wolves Back Home ends with a bang: Slave is the most intense, concentrated and memorable track from the collection. The chorus, in particular, is quite vivid and quotable. “Slave/You got what you came for” gets the imagination working overtime. The lead urges him/her to think slowly: this might be the last chance they get. Oblique but endlessly fascinating; what do those lyrics refer to? It is a tough one but a conundrum one is willing to challenge. It is in this song where all the band’s merits and components are galvanised. The composition is the most compelling of the E.P. Sounding like a Bond theme; it has espionage danger and an anthemic quality to it. Perhaps Chapter and Verse would be available to score the next Bond film? The guitars are at the most viper-like and biting; the percussion boulder-like and meaty; the bass precise and melodic. The lead’s vocal is at its most passionate and nuanced here. His words talk of endurance and evolution: a need to move on and grow perhaps? Each new revelation pushes the story on but causes me to question my motives and interpretation. Slave’s anatomy brings respite, river-side contemplation and watery graves together. A dark and unsettled song that finds the hero wrestling with consciousness and his conscience- he is betraying the ones he loves, it seems. The band have been storing up some special fireworks are ready to release them. That compositional quality keeps glistening. Basslines remind me of Rage Against the Machine’s eponymous debut, and for that matter, does the song itself. The lead speaks candidly and directs his words to the subject. They do not know him and are playing him for the fool. Again, one wonders whether a sweetheart or friend (former maybe) is causing this upset and anger.

Mixing Post-Hardcore bands with R.A.T.M. and Muse (to an extent) and you have a song that signs the E.P. off with aplomb. Another track that could get the crowds heaving and voices shouting clear. It never rushes or seems too eager to please. The composition takes care to work its magic; lacing in emotions, shades and ideas while the vocal is restrained for the most part. Even when our hero is casting aspersions; there is never histrionics or any wild-limbed tantrum- just a controlled man keeping his emotions in-check. That said, there is a natural explosion point that sees everything become a little too much. Hoping he can stay sane; all that tension is released and the song kicks up another gear. The chorus proclaims this is the last chance to evolve; the slaves got what they came for. I keep wondering what that alludes to and the true origins of those thoughts. The gift and wonder of Chapter and Verse is they leave absolute clarity to their own pens; each listener is free to take the song’s lyrics where they may. Compositions and vocals and more direct and obvious but always imbued with complexity and originality. I have mentioned Rage Against the Machine who are synonymous with their intelligence, innovation and kinetic bond. Chapter and Verse seem like a British, Post-Hardcore equivalent: perfectly explained and realised on Slave.

I have looked at the rise of Post-Hardcore and how conducive London is to creative inspiration. These twin charges will continue unabated. Our capital is leading the race with regards innovative and exceptional music. Other cities (Manchester especially) are always going to be crucial but London is going from strength to strength. As the city becomes more cosmopolitan, variegated and busy; it is having a positive effect on musician. Vibing from the mixture of faces, races and places: the new wave of artists is hardly struggling for inspiration. When it comes to subject matter, if you are based in boring towns and villages, you are a bit stifled and stuck. Big, busy cities have plenty of life and action; it spikes the imagination and is just what a musician needs. On that thought, venues and opportunities to perform are wide ranging and vast. Fellow bands/artists help to promote their city-mates and these aspects together has scene London’s music is among the world’s finest. I have over-simplified it but perhaps it needs no further explanation and insight. I love the best Rock/Indie and Alternative bands out there but often feel like there is something missing. Maybe not as bold, adventurous and memorable as they could be- the spirit yearns for something a little different and more explosive. Step up Chapter and Verse who come ready with a suitcase-load of fireworks, dynamite and fire. If you are nervous approaching the shores of Post-Hardcore then have no fear. The London clan is not people who want to appeal to their cliché and followers- exclude others and be seen as a niche act. Splicing a variety of genres into their Post-Hardcore base: a stadium-sized band that are capable of becoming mainstream artists of the future. It is lamentable certain genres have not gained full recognition and have to struggle beneath the surface. Chapter and Verse’s The Wolves Back Home is a professional and immediate E.P. that hits you upon first listen. Across the five tracks, you are enthralled, compelled and overcome by the power, quality and performances from the London band. Few acts have registered as hard to me as Chapter and Verse. It does not matter if you’re a Post-Hardcore fan; Chapter and Verse are a band for the people. Their touring log has been full and it will get fuller as time goes on. It may be the debut E.P. but The Wolves Back Home sounds like a creation from an established, long-standing band. There aren’t many that can release an E.P. that appeals to every sense and part of the body. Unusually, you see weak links and lesser numbers. When it comes to ticking all the boxes and touching every listener; Chapter and Verse…

DO that perfectly.

 

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Follow Chapter and Verse

 The Wolves Back Home Cover.jpg

Official:

http://www.chapterandverseuk.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/chapterandverseuk

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ChapterandVer5e

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/chapterandverseuk/

 

TRACK REVIEW: Laura Roy- Don’t Chase

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Laura Roy

 

 

Don’t Chase

 

9.3/10

 

Don’t Chase is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/lauraeroymusic/dont-chase-the-feeling-2

RELEASED:
February 2016

GENRE:
Pop; R&B

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

Vancouver, Canada

The E.P. Laura Roy is available via:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/laura-roy-ep/id1111711933

TRACK LISTING:

Don’t Chase

Looking the Other Way

Bright Lights

Full Moon

Take Me Down

Plastic

________________________________________

ANOTHER week has passed and we find ourselves in the midst of yet…

more unsettlement and terrorism. It is almost ‘expected’ that we will wake to hear devastating news somewhere around the world. It seems like an odd thing to open a review with: music is that sanctuary that allows us a place to hide and reflect. It is not often I get to investigate a Canadian artist- I used to a lot but have not done lately- so it is great to discover another tremendous Canadian musician. Before I come to her, it is worth looking at the best Canadian acts around; the strength of current artists emerging- finishing by looking at the importance of starting the musical education young. In terms of the country’s legendary acts: everyone from Rush and Arcade Fire have called Canada home. I have said it in previous reviews but is remains true: a nation that continues to promulgate and create some of music’s very best. Of course, we could look at the historic acts and what they have brought to the world. In terms of the modern acts emanating from here: we should keep our eyes out for a few prime examples. The Franklin Electric are based out of Montreal and have been tipped as one of Canada’s most exciting young acts. A hook-laden sound that mixes Indie and Folk together has seen the ensemble collect rave reviews. Reuben and the Dark and Brave Shores are worth spending more time with. The latter, in particular, are renowned for their insanely catchy songs and brother-sister connection. HIGHS have been growing in stature since touring with Twin Forks and Cold War Kids last year.

The Toronto band are another example of just what is lurking within Canada. I use the word ‘lurking’ because it seems almost conspiratorial. I have been lamenting the fact certain nations are overlooked by the British media. We are keen to proffer homegrown examples but rarely expand into foreign territory. Sure, the U.S. is featured heavily but why not Canada? Laura Roy is based out of Nova Scotia, which is a area many of us would not normally think of (when it comes to great music). Hillsburn are one of those bands that blow you away live. Not an opinion reserved to the locals: powerful visuals and contagious vocals; pummeling energy and a kinetic band bond mean their shows are the stuff of legends. The Stanfields are stalwarts of the European and Canadian scene: having been performing for years; they are a native group that provides sweat, memorability and a raucous night. The Town Heroes have picked up awards in Nova Scotia and it is not hard to see why. The guys rock hard and are among the most consistent and engaging acts in Canada. The Jimmy Swift Band, The Trews, and Gypsophilia are a trio of Nova Scotia acts, but in truth, it is the tip of the iceberg. Unless you are in close proximity or well-connected across social media, how do you ever hear about these acts?

It might be a debate for another day but the factor remains: Canada is a nation that should be put in the spotlight; their musicians are among the finest in the world. Laura Roy hardly does much to dissuade my opinions. Canada has quite a few hot Pop-cum-R&B stars: many of them will not linger long in the mind. The last few years have been productive and busy for Roy. Battling to make a name for herself; there seems to be no stopping her right now. One of those musicians that connects with producers and gets herself out there: small wonder she has resonated and caught the eye of some big names. Before I carry on my points; let me introduce Laura Roy to you:

Laura Roy is a singer/songwriter based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A captivating songwriter, vocalist and college music graduate, Laura has shared the stage with the likes of Canadian RnB sensation Jully Black, JRDN, Ludacris, Rakim and Freddy Gibbs. Voted “Best R&B Artist” by the Coast Magazine, she is known for her powerhouse pop-RnB vocals. Laura is also a four-year attendee of the prestigious Gordie Sampson Songcamp, put on by the Grammy-winning writer in Nova Scotia every summer, and was invited to participate in songwriting camps via The Songwriter’s Association of Canada in Montreal and Toronto in 2015.

During these camps, Laura had the opportunity to write and connect with producers and writers like Rob Wells (Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande), Alex Greggs (N’Sync, Lady Gaga, Mad Decent), Caitlyn Smith (Meghan Trainor, John Legend, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks, Cassadee Pope), and Gordie Sampson himself (Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill). Needless to say, Laura has come a long way since selling her first EP out of her backpack at the age of 16 on school lunch breaks. The project contains 6 songs infused with synth-pop, 90’s r&b vibes with soulful melodies and catchy hooks, she adds “I’ve been working on the EP for the last year and a half. I’ve tried to make sure the music represents my experiences in a way that feels true to who I am as an artist right now”. Written and recorded in Toronto and New York City with producers Adam King, Joel Stouffer (Dragonette) and Ari Leff (Epique), Laura Roy’s debut EP is now available on iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music. 

I have waxed lyrical about 2016’s best albums. Every month seems to unveil treasure and surprise. Shura is the latest artist who has really caught my ear. Her debut album, Nothing is Real, is primed to ride high in the charts this weekend. A singer that gets into the heart and distinguishes herself from the raft of Pop/mainstream acts. Languid and introverted on the one hand; theatricality and presence on the other. The East London star is someone that has hit the ground running seemingly. Inspired by Janet Jackson and Madonna: her music hits the heart and puts you in mind of the greats of Pop. Away from her, there is ample evidence to suggest this year will be a good one. The past few years have seen determinable and varied quality. This year, something remarkable has happened. I am not sure what has motivated it- perhaps this is the sign of things to come? – but wonderful albums keep tumbling forth. Laura Roy is working hard to ensure she ranks among the mainstream’s finest.  Like Shura; Roy avoids clichés and makes old subjects feel new and revitalised. A mix of confidence, playfulness and fragility remain; a blend that feeds into the music. It is Roy’s personality and drive that comes to the surface with intensity. Many artists start music quite late (or develop a passion for it late) and seem rather inexperienced and uncertain. Growing up around a wide range of artists and sounds: Roy’s early life and childhood compelled her to write her own songs. I myself became obsessed with music from a young age. I feel that everyone should involve themselves during childhood: there is no excuse to overlook and ignore wonderful music these days. The love and connection Roy experienced through music can be heard in her latest offerings. Her eponymous E.P. has already picked up some lucrative and praise-heavy reviews. From the U.K. to Australia: journalists and fans have been queuing up to lend their opinions. We get that blend of familiar and unique with Roy.

When it comes to assessing Roy’s current endeavours; it is worth looking back and seeing where she started. Older tracks like Tonight and Getting Back to Loving Me have a lot in common with Laura Roy material. The vocal and sound is quite similar and no radical reinvention was required. The subject matter stays close to issues of love and commitment; embracing what you have and honesty in general. The biggest difference from the older material and current offerings is the conviction and confidence that emanates through. I say this about a lot of artists but it rings true here. You can detect that step-up and leap forward. More assured and convincing: Laura Roy is the moment the heroine announces herself as a true artist and future star. Maybe it is the subject matter or production; the time that has passed but you can definitely detect a change and growth. Her E.P. brims with wonderful songs and instant smashes. No filler material to be found; it is a record that is not designated only to Pop and R&B lovers. The coming years will be interesting to see. Whether Roy keeps with her sound and expands it somewhat, we can only guess. A lot of the song themes have familiarity and predictability to them but never presented in a tired and obvious way. Over time, it may be hard breathing new life and invention into topics of love, heartache and the like. I, for one, will be excited to see how Laura Roy evolves and changes as an artist. For now, we have an extraordinary talent who is starting to hit her peak form. Laura Roy is an E.P. that can perfectly soundtrack any day and season. It has an evergreen nature that extends beyond setting and time. The themes, subjects, and sounds will resonate with many and do not push anybody away. Some musicians are too niche and insular; never truly welcoming everyone in. No such qualms when it comes to Laura Roy.

The finger clicks and distorted vocals swing in heavy and hard. The initial moments see shuddering electronics and solid beats (again electronic) provide plenty of drama and emotion. It is an out-the-gates song that does not get too heavy early on. Instead, you have a subtle, sexy song that is keen to shake its hips and elicit a smooth groove. Roy’s voice is high, proud and determined. Balancing Pop accessibility with something a little raw and R&B- a performance that brings to light the song’s tease and mystique. Our heroine has to stop chasing something- whether a boy or an ideal- and seems frustrated. Maybe being kept awake and tormented: it is right there “in front of me”; teasing and heartbreaking all at once. Most will instantly jump to ideas of love and satisfaction. Perhaps a particular man is in her thoughts: someone who is causing trituration and desire; she is unable to release that frustration and get what she needs. That instinct to chase and push too hard- our heroine wants a little taste- is palpable. Your mind starts thinking of other possibilities and potential.

Maybe not reserved to passion and affairs of the heart. Perhaps the song relates to ambitions and fulfilling dreams; a desire that stems from the soul rather than the heart. “Tell me when it’s going down” gives the lyrics a sense of tangibility (for a teenage audience) but something deeper. On paper, you would think Roy to be your average Pop star. When you start decoding and listening to the lyrics; you discover someone a lot richer and more developed than her peers. We never deal with tropes and stereotypes. The lines marry simplicity and complex without either losing identity or confounding the listener. Before the chorus arrives; ideas of a drugs fix get introduced. So strong and eager is this need: it is hard to shake off; causing shivers and anxiety. When the chorus finally does arrive- the momentum had been building for some time- it is a joyous and instant Pop hook; a confident and impassioned vocal that is celebratory and cautious. There is a part of the heroine that offers sage advice (not chasing something that will come to you) but a determination and recklessness- keep pushing and hoping no matter what. The beats explode and the electronics swell: everything gets bigger, brighter and more intense. Few will be immune to the impact and instancy of that chorus: one that is delivered perfectly. The heroine implores economy and patience. If you chase it- whether a dream or another human- then you risk losing everything. It is no good being too eager and thinking it will never happen. If you work hard and have belief: what you crave and dream of will find you. While an individual and unique voice: there are little shades of R&B contemporaries to be found.

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Embers of Rhianna come out in the sexier, more luxuriant deliveries. That tone and intonation slip into some of the phrasing, which gives the song a sense of familiarity. Laura Roy is a singer that does not hang onto the coattails of others: she is her own boss and brings some influences into the palette without seeming replicate. Don’t Chase is a song that is relevant to all listeners. Not confined to teenage audiences and young women: everybody can find guidance and wisdom here. We all aim and have that urge to get something; we pine and desire things we feel are out of reach. Given what we know about Roy; it is likely music and success are in her sights. The beauty of Don’t Chase is the fact it is never too obvious and direct. You never take the lyrics at face value: each lyric can apply to different possibilities and scenarios. Our heroine’s heart races and palpitates; she wants it that bad: there is never exaggeration when she sings; you know how much it means. Plaudits must be given to the vocals but the composition too. Don’t Chase is built around a largely electronic foundation: it gives the song a fizz, panache, and ready-for-the-club vibe. A song that could get the beach-dwelling jumping; cause sweat and celebration in nightclubs- plenty of utilitarian potential and impact. Better than that; the track is radio-friendly and accessible. Stations across the globe will want to spin it and revel in its delights and layers. By the closing stages, you are desperate for the song to continue. After an exhilarating and wave-riding ride: the listener will want more; our heroine teases a little but does so perfectly. Too many musicians needlessly fill songs and provide extended instrumentals. That can cause a loss of focus and seem rather tacked-on. Roy ensures there is economy and concession in her music. Don’t Chase would be pretty ironic if it were to wander and linger too long. By keeping things short and to-the-point: the song will be repeated and revisited many times over. Few Pop-cum-R&B acts get me excited and stick in the mind. I feel there are too few that sound distinct and have their own way of working. Laura Roy is an artist who has grown up listening to legends but never duplicates what they have said. The highlight from her eponymous E.P.: Don’t Chase is a sunny, passionate song that is guaranteed to see Roy cross oceans and get into the heads of international ears.

Laura Roy is fairly fresh to the scene but already has proved she is up to the demands. So many young artists arrive without having thought things through. They will replicate others are write songs that are too familiar. Don’t Chase explodes right from the off and lets you know this is music from someone unlike anyone else. It is not an apportion when it comes to her E.P. If you thought Don’t Chase was an obvious highlight that makes everything else seem pale, then think again. Looking the Other Way is tumbling, busy and calm. The vocal has a smoothness and soulfulness to them. Our heroine is checking herself and trying not to say anything stupid. Supported by colourful electronics and a calming influence: there is that need for correct choices and well-chosen words. Maybe speaking with her boyfriend: there is a history and past that is coming to the surface; one wrong word and things could explode. Whether argument or something else has caused this situation; you are invested and interested to see where it goes. The beats snap and crackle; punch and pound: the vocal swings and swaggers but has vulnerability under the skin. Once more, we get a huge and vivacious chorus. “You can say it a million times” is a mantra that has some cold truths- the boy has screwed up and had his chance. Seeming pushy- the boy feels she is being unreasonable- he is playing the victim it seems. A perfect compassion piece to Don’t Chase: it is almost a juxtaposition in a lot of senses. The opening track is upbeat and restrained yet has a positivity and wise head on its shoulders. Looking the Other Way is nervier and angered. Roy is trying to keep things together and not lose her head.

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Bright Lights comes in and provides some comfort and calm. Swimming in a sea that is “open wide” we get a story of Roy’s current light. Perhaps used to a more subtle and homely existence: the recent months/years have seen her embrace late nights and bright lights. Perhaps a metaphor for stardom and popularity: she is never losing focus and keeping the spirits high. People will try and drag you (our heroine) down but will never succeed. In the song, you get a sense of pining and longing. Perhaps a boy is at home and being missed but you would never know it. Our heroine is in the moment and in the whirlwind of the city. Living for the moment and embracing all life has to offer: a song that never loses its huge energy and force. The focus is on Roy’s voice which grows in eagerness and strength as the song progresses. Following a fraught and unsettled predecessor; Bright Lights provides some joy and distraction. Full Moon and Take Me Down show different sides to Roy. The former is a smooth and R&B-heavy song- one that puts me in mind of Aaliyah. Taking the lights down; it is the E.P.’s most reflective and heartfelt track. Setting her heart out there; once more, love comes back into the spotlights. Even when the sky pulls “us apart”; the love they have is a full moon. You cannot ignore the conviction and range in Laura Roy’s voice. Someone capable of switching moods and styles over the course of an E.P.; she is one of the most amenable and flexible singers in Pop. Take Me Down is a song that gets to business straight away. Determined, suave and sexualised: the heroine provides an alluring and enticing vocal. Her boy is causing quite a reaction in her. Fighting against the pull and allure: she is helpless and not willing to fight the feeling. Putting the song in the bedroom; it is one of the most ‘adult’ and risqué songs from the Canadian. Pushing against ideals and expectations- being for teenagers or just a girl- this proves Roy is a woman with urges and not willing to hide them. Catchy vocals (“Every time we do this” is delivered with twirl and accent; instantly repeatable) whilst the composition remains fairly composed and demurring.

Plastic closes proceedings with a huge punch and ceremony. The hardest-edged and gritty song on the album: Roy is strong and fighting throughout. Pushing her chest out and with fists aloft: this is a declaration from a woman that is not taking any crap. Plastic hearts cannot love or feel; her subject is getting a dressing-down. Comparisons to Arianne Grande, Rhianna, and their peers might come to mind. The song could ride high on the R&B charts and something a young Beyoncé would have killed for. It goes to show how versatile and unpredictable Roy is- whilst being consistent and focused. Previous numbers have shown a mix of fragility, exoticness, and hopefulness: a mixture of emotions and dynamics that give songs nuance and variation. Plastic is a track that signs her E.P. off with a huge impact. Almost the highlight- not quite able to steal the crown from Don’t Chase– your hat goes off to Laura Roy. She manages to evoke memories of R&B queens without ever stepping into their territory. What we get is a young artist with her own skin and her own stories. Every song is short and memorable- she never outstays her welcome or elongates unnecessarily. It means you get quite a few tracks but the E.P. never overruns. Too many provide a three/four-track E.P. that lasts for twenty minutes. Not only do they not provide enough contrast and content (in sheer numbers) but they need lack the necessary editing and honing.

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Laura Roy has shown she is going to be on the scene for years and is an incredible artist. It was wonderful investigating her eponymous E.P. and you know more material will arrive. Whether the next year will see another E.P. or album; that will be exciting to see. As I mentioned; Roy has already gained reviews and press from various continents. Not just a hometown hero: the future is very bright for Roy. I would love to see her come to London and bring her music here. There is a clear market and plenty of stations/venues would love to host her. Before I get ahead of myself, it is worth pointing out the strengths and pluses she possesses. Don’t Chase is a stunning song that rattles around the head and will get everyone singing. Not just a shallow and vague song: lots of great advice and layers can be discovered; a song that keeps revealing joy and potential after dozens of listens. Those who like their music intelligent, instant and colourful; make sure you dive into Laura Roy and…

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HAVE a smile put on your face.

 

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Follow Laura Roy

 

Official:

http://www.lauraroy.ca/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Lauraroymusic/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/lauraroymusic

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/lauraeroymusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/lauraroymusic/

 

INTERVIEW: Carina Round

INTERVIEW:

 

 

 

Carina Round

 

 

DERANGED to Divine is perhaps the starkest and most beautiful…

album names I have ever heard. It pretty much sums up the work of Carina Round. Based in L.A. now: the British-born musician has collaborated with some of music’s heavyweights- from Dave Stewart to Ryan Adams. Deranged to Divine– available to pre-order https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/deranged-to-divine-itunes/id1119504638- is out shortly and unifies and combines the multifarious, spellbinding work of a stunning musician. Having achieved and experienced more than most artists: it is all hands on the deck for Round. In August, she returns to the U.K. for some promotional dates. Taking in the likes of London (The Lexington on 5th) and Brighton (The Green Door Store on 11th) it is an exciting summer, for sure. There is perpetuity and an evergreen quality to Round’s work: her music gets inside the soul and evokes something unexplainable. Taking all this into consideration, I was keen (with respect and nerves) to press Round. We discuss her childhood and musical icons; the juxtapositions between L.A. and Wolverhampton (her hometown) and plans for new material…

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Hey Carina. How are you? How has your week been? For those new to your music: can you introduce yourself, please?

I’m great. I’m just off the back of a U.S. and a European tour with Puscifer for our latest album which went really well. I’m currently preparing to for some shows with Tears For Fears and my U.K. solo tour in August- in support of my record Deranged to Divine which is a self-curated retrospective spanning the last 15 years of my career.

You are based in L.A.  What is it about Los Angeles that is so attractive to musicians?

Well, the entertainment industry is based here. Also, before you reach a certain level of success as an artist- unless you come from money- it can be quite difficult to live comfortably. There’s a certain quality of life here just because of the nature of the location:Ocean, Mountains, Weather; that it’s hard to get in many other big cities, yet it offers the same amount of potential. And then, after reaching a certain level, I find many artists move over here from N.Y.C. They can still do what they need to but have a much less stressful life: bigger house, large working space, a pool; maybe they start families.

The legacy afforded to California as a hub in the ‘60s and ‘70s by the Laurel Canyon Scene (Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Joni Mitchell, Mamas & Papas, James Taylor; Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne etc.) or music from the Wrecking Crew sessions had enough longevity to carry over a romantic ideal too. I think even (though) that is long gone.

In reality, though, it can be very isolating- many hours alone in cars. A few simple tasks can take a whole day. No walking anywhere. No real central energy.  A lot of the time this can be pleasurable and conducive to creativity. For me, I need to inject myself into a nucleus of overwhelming human energy every now and then. Like charging a battery.

 

 

Your music clearly resounds with listeners around the world; your voice and confidence are outstanding. Did you grow up in a musical background? Were your parents influential with regards your musical ambitions?

Music was always a part of my life from as long as I can remember. I grew up in Wolverhampton with a single mother and listening to music and dancing was a big part of our household. Then at around 6, I moved in with my grandparents and it was a huge part of that household too. My grandfather had a terrific voice. He would be singing more often than not singing and I just adored him for it. It became a big part of my physical expression as a child to go about my day singing my face off. Both pre-existing songs and stuff I made up in them moment.

I began writing poetry before I was a teenager. I picked up a guitar and began crafting songs around the age of 15. At this point, my attendance at school dropped off a lot but my self-education began to bloom. I really began to find my voice. That’s what I was going to do. While my single mother couldn’t really get behind the idea of allowing me to flunk she didn’t really have much choice. Once she realised that she was nothing but supportive.

On that front: which artists and singers were particularly important to you growing up?

Growing up – Led Zeppelin, Roxy Music, and David Bowie played a big part in inspiring me to express myself through music. Japan and the voice of David Sylvian. I discovered Can very young. Bob Dylan, Neil young; Nick Cave is a constant. Kate Bush of course. The honesty and warmth with which Patti Smith writes poetry and the rawness with which she performs is an ongoing inspiration. The Bulgarian Women’s Choir excited me vocally a lot. The recording of Chess Records and Northern Soul music were a big presence in my youth. As well as whatever was on the radio at the time.

When it comes to writing a new song: what motivates you to put pen to paper? Is it scenes from day-to-day life or the realities of love (or a mixture of both)?

For the most part, I draw from my own experiences. I’m a very emotional writer so it’s difficult for me to say read a synopsis and make up a song for it. Unless I have an emotional response to someone else experiences, then I can draw from that and arrange a song based on emotional reaction. That’s where the initial inspiration comes from; then once that’s in place I can approach it more cerebrally and elaborate with technique. The exact relaying of an experience is not really what matters to me in terms of inspiration. It’s more the feeling I get from what’s being said.

You tour and perform with a large band (of guys no less). What is the atmosphere like on the road? What is it like having to tour and live with a bunch of guys?

For some people, a bus full of people is problematic regardless of the sex. I’ve grown pretty adaptable to that situation and everyone keeps to themselves when necessary and mingles when it’s appropriate.

There were 4 women on our bus. It’s actually pretty well-balanced.

Deranged to Divine is out on 29th July; taking material from your career between 2001 and 2015. What compelled you to release the album?

I released the album partly because I knew I was going to be traveling through Europe with Puscifer this summer – the tour had sold out and the response to the album is very positive. It’s garnered a much bigger fan-base and I wanted to release something that would be a cohesive yet eclectic; experimental and very personal introduction to my solo work (for people who have never heard it before).

Can we expect to see any new material from you in the coming months?

Yes. I will be touring until the end of the year and I would like to spend next year making, releasing and touring a new solo record.

Looking into Deranged to Divine: you have collaborated with some extraordinary musicians over the years. Which artists have been particularly great to work with?

My relationship to all of these people and artists are different and the work and time spent was unique to each. I learned a lot from each of them. You know, I worked with Ryan (Adams) off and on over a few years. My work with Dave (Stewart) spanned over a decade and I spent a few hours in the studio with Billy (Corgan) – but each experience had a lot of utility for me as an artist, as well as providing moments of outright joy. They are all very memorable for different reasons.

From August; you are embarking on a mini-tour of the U.K. Does it feel good to have home on the horizons? Do you miss the West Midlands and Britain?

Yes, I miss my family and friends of course. The friends that remain over long distance are usually the ones worth missing. I never really miss living there. I have developed some strong and important family in Los Angeles over the last decade. I do, though, miss the seasons and the weather in the U.K. strangely enough. I long for cold damp air for painfully extended periods of time. Then after a fortnight of visiting I’m ready to go leave.

A lot of singers and musicians will be inspired to follow you into music. What advice would you offer them

If you’re anything like me you won’t be ready to listen anyone’s advice until you learn something the hard way. That being said, I think the most important thing that I learned, the hard way of course (and continue to learn) is that in any collaborations or relationships in general, it’s always good to remember that, no matter who it is telling you otherwise- and how many years of experience they have- it’s ok to say no to something that you don’t feel is an authentic move for you as an artist. The flip side of that, of course, is to learn to make the distinction between a ‘no’ that is safeguarding you from future regrets of inauthenticity and a ‘no’ that is just from fear of being pulled out of your comfort zone.

Finally- and for being a good egg- you can name any song you like; I’ll play it here…

It’s Raining Today – Scott Walker.

 

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Follow Carina Round

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/carinaround/?fref=ts

Official:

http://carinaround.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/carinaround

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/carinaround/

MySpace:

https://myspace.com/carinaround

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/carinaround

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/carinaround

 

INTERVIEW: Brothers Rasputin

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Brothers Rasputin

 

 

THERE are few bands that have the personality, sound and magic of…

London’s Experimental/Soul-Surf clan, Brothers Rasputin. Frontman Mitch gave up his time and was keen to chat about the band. I was eager to learn about their origins and sound- who influences it and how their creative process comes together. The guys have just got back from a tour of Eastern Europe and are in no mood to rest yet. New single Been Meaning to Say is entwined with ‘Britpop’ vibes: it investigates the turmoil and bustle of London; how easy it is to get lost among the rabble. With all this in mind- a new E.P. will follow this year- I was excited to hear what Mitch had to say; what the band had in mind for the remainder of 2016…

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Hey. How has your week been? What are you up to at the moment? 

Great thanks. Just got back from our Eastern Europe tour: great people, great weather and dirt-cheap booze. A recipe for success!

For those unfamiliar with Brothers Rasputin; can you tell us how you guys came together?

I was a solo artist, a child Rasputin: using loops and I met Rommy when I got in his face during a performance. Obviously, he was instantly hooked. Rommy started drumming with me, but we found that using only loops was a bit constricting. Nick is a sound engineer in a studio, and a bass player (and my brother) so was the obvious choice. From there we were able to take the live looping, but open it out into more complex songs.

Your music is a blend of Funk and Soul; you have been described (affectionately) as “London’s favourite Funk-Soul sociopaths”. Is this a fair description? Which bands or albums have influenced your sound?

Well, it may seem like we’re sociopaths on stage, and I certainly have some kind of pathology, but there’s no lack of conscience. I just (always) loved bands and performers who react to the crowd and get people involved in the show. I think there’s a duty to entertain if you’re on a stage so it seems natural to get with the people and cajole them into a reaction. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Music-wise, I’m a huge Prince fan (gutted when I heard; even though he hadn’t made a good record in over 25 years. The world’s a sadder place) and definitely take inspiration from his stage antics. We all have a love of old classic Funk: Bootsy, Sly, Clinton; but I also come from an American guitar background, so love Janes Addiction and the Butthole Surfers. Hopefully, this motley mix comes together as a ramshackle whole somehow.

The vocals of Brother Rapsutin are full of richness; high-pitched and beautiful. Which singers have been inspirations; did that vocal came naturally?

As I said, Prince is huge for me: the most expressive singer, with no boundaries of what’s acceptable. But also, Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) has been a big influence- particularly his solo stuff. He uses the voice as an instrument, and can make the most unlikely noises; just amazing. There’s a cartoon quality to his stuff that I love. I love all the sound effects on the old Warner Brothers cartoons, and that comes into what we do, I think.

 

 

Been Meaning to Say looks at the rush and turbulence of the city: being chewed and spat out; buried under the stress. Being based in London; did anything particular compel the song? What is life like (in London) for a modern-day band?

Well, there’s no use complaining, as we love making music, so will do it whether or not we get monetary compensation- but it is tough, especially a city like London; a bit pricey to say the least. Saying that, though; London’s buzzing with bands and venues and, though it gets a bit saturated, there isn’t a better place for getting gigs and going to discover new bands. I’ve lived in Paris and there’s definitely not the music scene there is here- which is reflected in the amount of good music that comes out of England. (Saw some great bands in Paris too, though-Catholic Spray and The Idiots to name a couple)

London has so many positives for musicians. What are the best things about living in the city? Any particular venues or spots you guys are especially fond of?

One of my favourite places at the moment is Cafe Oto in Stoke Newington. I’ve seen some great shows there- Sun Araw, Neil Hagerty; Thurston Moore. It’s a real intimate place with a community vibe. I much prefer smaller venues as you really get to feel part of the show. Seen some great stuff at the Old Blue Last too. White Denim were mind-blowing there.

That’s the great thing about London: it’s 24/7 every day; the weekend, and there’s always something going on. You know if someone you like is touring that they’ll be playing in London. Have to give my favourite restaurant Tayyabs a shout-out too. The food is great in Paris, but you can’t get a good curry. The chops at ‘abs are unbeatable.

The single melts ‘Britpop’-sounding anthemics and rousing Hammond organ. Was it important to give the song a positive vibe; keep it from being too tense?

We’re positive people. I like to sing about dark stuff, but you have to laugh at it too. There’s obviously a place for brooding introspective stuff but I think joy is a harder emotion to channel than melancholy. The world’s a dark place these days, but there’s always humour to be found. Brighten up!

You guys have a new E.P. out this year. What can you tell us about that?

We never really stop recording, so E.P.s seem the best format as you can just get them out and move on. After releasing the Get Over It E.P. last year we just carried on recording. We are lucky enough to have (a kind of) fourth member in Mike McEvoy: a real legend and great keys player; funky as hell. He has a rich history and managed to hook us up with some of the horn players from The Mingus Big Band. Lucky for us they had a few gigs at Ronnie Scott’s’ while we were recording, so came in and recorded on a couple of tracks (which Mike scored). A great experience and so good to hear a great horn section on our tracks.

Having Mike onboard really fills things out, so we were able to cut the other tracks live which give the E.P. a great feel. So, we’re currently finishing up mixes with that and the whole thing has come out with a real live, party feel to it.

After that (the E.P. release) the band heads to Eastern Europe. Are you looking forward to that? Will it be your first time over there?

We just got back! But, no, we went a couple of years ago too. Rommy is from Slovakia (used to drum in legendary Slovak Punk band Konflict) and we hooked up with some great people who asked us back. Life’s harder over there- so people party even harder- and are just really responsive-give them a good show and they give back!

I am always keen to see which artists are most important to a musician. Which acts/albums were influential to you growing up?

Yeah, we’ve all been obsessed with music from an early age. For me, I could choose any Prince album between ‘81 and ’88. But, if I had to choose, it’d be The Black Album; it was huge for me. Locust Abortion Technician by the Buttholes, Ritual by Janes Addiction; Check Your Head by the Beasties. I’m also a Harco Pront fanatic: his album Jibberish is amazing. I’ve been trying to track him down for the last ten years; he totally disappeared. The last few years I’ve been hooked on Bootsy: Player of the Year is the cream.

Are there any current acts- either mainstream or niche- that you would recommend to people?

Like I said; I saw Sun Araw at ‘Oto; also caught him at Corsica Studios in Elephant’- great little venue, and he totally blew me away. Like a lot of people, I was awestruck with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album; through that, I discovered Thundercat and Flying Lotus. Right now I’ve got Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead on repeat: beautiful and a great mix of the organic and electronic. Also liking the L.A. Priest album. I’d never heard of his band Late of the Pier but I found the track Oino online and got hooked from there.

For those who do not know much about you; could you tell us a secret- something nobody knows about you?

Me and Nick are distantly related to Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. My nan met him at a family wedding but unfortunately we haven’t collaborated. Yet.

As a band; what has been your career highlights so far?

The Mingus Big Band horn session was a definite highlight. Working with musicians of that calibre is humbling but amazing, really pushes you to work harder. We love playing live so just playing shows; especially with Mike (is just good times). Rockscape in Slovakia was brilliant: it’s great to go somewhere you’re playing to just strangers. Jam Cafe in Notts. was a real pleasant surprise and a great party.

Do you have any advice for any musicians coming through; those who are not sure if they have what it takes?

Well, what does it take? Seriously, you have to have a genuine and forceful passion for it. You have to make a lot of sacrifices along the way. But, if you love what you’re doing, you’ll do it regardless. So, my advice really is: if you don’t fundamentally love it, at some point, you’ll run out of steam. If you do, then it doesn’t matter how known or unknown you are; it’s just a buzz doing it. If it feels right, it generally is. The process is the point, not necessarily the result.

Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here) – why is it special to you?

The Big Ship by Brian Eno. Very different to all the stuff I’ve listed in this interview, but just beautiful- and I can’t listen to it without getting a lump in my throat. So, introspective and melancholy- I’m totally contradicting myself here! Hopefully, that’s what you get with Brothers Rasputin- a laugh, a cry; a panic attack…and a good night out!

 

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Follow Brothers Rasputin

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/brothers.rasputin/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/brosrasputin

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/brothersrasputin

TRACK REVIEW: CB aka Country Boy- Beast Mode

TRACK REVIEW:

 

CB aka Country Boy

 

 

Beast Mode

 

9.6/10

 

 

Beast Mode is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdKQm3PyzL0

RELEASED:
21st  June, 2016

GENRES:
Rap; Hip-Hop

ORIGIN:

Houston, U.S.A.

____________________________________

IT has been said in previous posts of mine…

the satisfaction I get when returning to artists: those who have survived the tests of music; continue to play and succeed. One of the worrying aspects of modern music is how fraught and unsure everything is. Not to labour the point (as I have before) but the industry is incredibly tough right now. Depending on how steely and talented you are- even talent cannot guarantee safety- will define how long you will ensure. Too many great artists have disappeared because of various factors. Whether financial strains or competition; the demands of being on the road- it is always difficult saying goodbye to a wonderful band/artist. Before I come to my featured artist; it is worth looking at originality and its importance; the artists coming out of Houston, Texas (where my featured act hails) and Hip-Hop/Rap of the moment. If we take a look at the mainstream right now: there are certain acts you know will be standing the test of time. Aside from the legends and regulars- those who have been around for years- a great many brand-new musicians are making some exciting sounds. I have mentioned the likes of Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Glass Animal (they have been around for a little bit) and Julie Jacklin are releasing music that gets straight into the brain; stuff that once heard, is hard to forget. I feel the mainstream/modern music stagnated a bit last year. Sure, there were some great releases: by and large, it was a rather lackluster affair. This year, for whatever reason, we have seen so many terrific musicians form.

Stalwarts such as Beck and De La Soul are charging hard; bright and original bands are showing the way- quite an exhilarating time. If you want to keep your head above water- making music sound like a torturous set of obstacles- you need to set yourself aside from your peers. We got into a situation where there was a heap of Indie/Alternative bands emerging. Each one, more or less, sounded the same. Sticking too closely to a Biffy Clyro-cum-Foo Fighters aesthetic: once you have heard the originals; you are loathed to hear a slew of second-rate replicas. Away from that, the artists that really deserved acclaim and support- the innovators and true visionaries- were receiving less airplay and column inches. Happily, 2016 has focused attentions onto artists that have something a little special about them. There are some great guitars bands around; more Electronic-based musicians are emerging; some tremendous Pop/Folk acts, too. A richness and variety is emerging: one that was missing in action year ago. Aside from the nature of your music and its genre: you need to consider other aspects. So many musicians are complacent to sit back and wait for gigs to come about. Others will do the bare minimum with regards social media output. Some release music occasionally: taking a long time to get something fresh into the market. This trio of concerns must be adhered like a gospel. Even if you have a P.R. company or manager behind you, it is vital to keep your ear to the ground. Study the market and look at the venues/spots that play your kind of music. Contact them and ensure they know your name. Social media is a vast and opportunistic thing that should be utilised by musicians.

It is not shameful or embarrassing asking for assistance. Reach out to followers with regards gigs and venues. One of the best ways to get your music heard and shared is to perform as regularly as possible. It may sound like an axiomatic point; a lot of musicians are being rather lazy in this respect. Facebook and Twitter and invaluable when it comes to sharing music and reaching out to fellow musicians. It is simple to keep yourself in the public attention. Regular updates and posts; hitting up promoters, venues, and contemporaries. If you do this, you are giving yourself the best chance of success- showing a great work ethic and determination. I know music-making take a long time. You do not want to rush releases, but given the competitiveness and packed nature of music, how long do you want to wait? Studio costs can be galling, so a more D.I.Y. approach may be needed. I am not suggesting you unveil a new track every week, but should be looking to have (fairly) regular releases. Many artists have failed to remain because they have taken too long to get music out. They may release an album with promise only to stay quiet for the next year or so- whatever happened to London Grammar, on that point?! Before I continue onto new points, let me bring CB aka Country Boy to your focus. Slamming out Houston, Texas, the Hip-Hop star has been setting the scene alight for years. Growing and maturing as an artist; developing and pushing his talent- there are few as hard and biting; memorable and intense. A God-fearing artist with a pure heart and an incredible talent; I am pleased to revisit the wonderful music of CB aka Country Boy. When I look at American-made music, my attentions often go to L.A. and New York.

It is rare I get to visit the other 48 states; let alone those far away from either (California and New York). Texas is one of the most prolific and busy U.S. states for music. We all know Nashville and the Country music scene. Many might be unfamiliar with Texas and the kind of music coming from there, in general terms. Historically, everyone from ZZ Top, The Tontons and Destiny’s Child come from Texas. American Fangs and Scale the Summit show what variety and quality comes from the state. In terms of the modern-day Texan acts: there is a good deal of wonderful artists emerging. Buxton (from Houston) are part-Rock, part-Indie and one of the most promising bands coming from Texas at the moment. Young Mammals have been friends since school and write songs that reflect the dichotomies and variegation of the city. The Wild Moccasins are another Houston band to investigate. Debbie Harry-esue lead vocals and legendary live performances, where confetti and balloons are released to the crowd, make them a stunning proposition. Surf, Indie, Alternative- and everything in-between- goes into New York City Queens’ music. Another sensational Houston band: the coming years will see them translate to the mainstream. Deep Cuts are a Latin boy band but one who make serious music. CB aka Country Boy is someone who gives Houston a definite flair and passion. Whilst the city has a great many bands: our hero is among the few great Hip-Hop/Rap acts in Houston. Again, perhaps stereotyping, when we think of Hip-Hop in America our minds go to New York, predominantly. The likes of Beastie Boys and Run the Jewels have ensured New York is firmly on the Hip-Hop map. Los Angeles, again, is pretty reliable when it comes to innovative and quality. CB aka Country Boy is an artist who has his own blend of fast-flowing Raps and thought-provoking lyrics; authoritative delivery and atmospheric compositions. Soul Full was the last album released by CB aka Country Boy (back in 2015) but the future is looking very assured. Beast Mode leaves you wondering what is ahead; will we see another record out this year?

Many reading this will be new to CB aka Country Boy. Even if you are not a Hip-Hop/Rap fan; you will find much to love. Inspired by the likes of Biggy, 2Pac, DMX; Project Pat, Fat Pat, Z-Ro; UGK, Scarface, OutKast, and Nas: if you are inclined to any of these acts, you will find much to love within the music of CB aka Country Boy. These musicians should be used as a starting point. Little hints and suggestions of each come out (in ‘Country Boy’s music) and will please those affiliated and fond of older Hip-Hop. CB aka Country Boy is a modern, forward-thinking musician that has a solid sound but always looks to change things up and adapt. Each song employs new compositional notes and lyrical themes. Inspired by events of life- our hero reflecting on the daily happenings and life events- Beast Mode is one of the most electric and instant songs CB aka Country Boy has created. Previous albums Soul Full and The Flood demonstrated how confident and consistent CB aka Country Boy is. Whereas Soul Full had softer, more restrained elements- bits of Soul and less intensity- The Flood was a more spiky and edgy album. Each record has its own sound and neither replicates the other.

Although CB aka Country Boy puts his stamp on both albums; the diversity and variated between them is amazing. Not one to keep things predictable: The Flood was a change of pace and embraced new themes and concerns. Soul Full had redemptive songs that looked at hope and brighter days. Paens to music and self-confidence came through in an L.P. of uplift and positivity. Sure, a few tracks had anger and negative edges, but for the most part, the record shows its author in a more reflective and optimism mindset. The Flood contained more danger, warning, and fear. As the title suggests: an album that was sharper, more uneasy and tense. Beast Mode comes from that album and is filled with confidence, braggadocio, and attack. Straight from the lights, haze and unpredictability of the streets: a razor-edged cut that is (perhaps) CB aka Country Boy’s most scintillating offering so far. Being in such key form and fine voice; let’s hope the coming months see the Houston hero plan some new moves.

The swansong for The Flood comes in the form of Beast Mode. Glitchy electronics create a definite sense of purpose of occasion and atmosphere from the get-go. CB aka Country Boy is going in hard: in animal, beast mode; you can feel that declaration, venom, and swagger. Our man swings a baseball bat- in the video; a rather apt and necessary prop- and recollects picking up scars and wounds. Fights, metal bars, and concrete slam: the hero introduces us to a jagged world of violence and self-confidence; avoiding defeat and throwing down the gauntlet. Whether earned or not: the arms are out and the teeth are showing. CB aka Country Boy is like an animal and making himself large. Showing everyone who is boss; in Hip-Hop circles and on street levels, he cannot be overthrown. At the early stage, one wonders whether Beast Mode recalls youthful transgressions and reality; perhaps it is a natural default. “All I know” are words that reveal truth and provide clarity. Our man has always lived this way and seems natural tense and coiled. Maybe wary of attack and confrontation; a state of eternal confidence: this is the way things are going down. The lyrics spit and tumble: fast and free-flowing it draws you into its wave and suction. Electronics are fairly light but provide spike, bubbling emotions, and colours. It is a wonderful background that gives depth and drive- almost like a bassline moving through the song- whilst beats are fist-pumping and taut. Tattoos are telling the story and show where our hero came from.

Documenting his loves, losses and days: images flash in the mind and more truths revealed. CB aka Country Boy is blessed and God is in his heart. Lyrics looking at killing and death- confessing sins to a local priest- take your mind into unsettling territory. Whether referring to animals, challengers or something else: you can feel that electricity and snakebite; the heat is being turned up. Perhaps some lyrics get lost in the flurry and rabble; the clarity sometimes suffers because of the sheer energy of the performance. Beast Mode is a song that ticks all the boxes in spite of this. Props must be given to CB aka Country Boy who turns in one of his most accomplished and committed vocal performances. People are jealous and hating the hero: because of his completion and skills; he has been getting grief and facing some stern disapproval. Whoever is in his face and whatever is being said; our hero is having none of it. Throwing two fingers up in a rebellious fit: nobody wants to get in his face and incur his wrath. It is a tense situation and bold proclamation from one of Hip-Hop’s brightest stars. Perhaps (Beast Mode) is a documentation of local press and how he is perceived.

It does not matter if you support his plight and agree with what he is saying. Maybe some might be galled at the assertiveness and aggression; the triumphant mood and sense of ego. That is what Hip-Hop is all about; in its D.N.A. and blood. The Hip-Hop world is filled with people trying to get one up on you: it can be a savage and competitive market where Rap battles and feuds are a common thing. Pop and mainstream disputes seem childish by comparisons. Because of this; the abrasive and fraught reality of the culture; it is hardly surprising seeing CB aka Country Boy in fiery mood. If he were to accept this and be beta male; his song would not carry weight and conviction. Every listener will get hooked into the weight and addictiveness of the song. The head will nod and the arms move: it is an anthem that can get crowds singing and jumping. Beast Mode is CB aka Country Boy at his most forceful and hyped. In past songs, there have been some anxieties and fears addressed. Certain records have been reflective and introverted. Even at his most investigative and self-assessing there is a huge confidence and sense of occasion to things. Beast Mode sees the Texas native at his very finest. Few songs make me want to play them again and again for energy alone. Nuance and layers are rife throughout Beast Mode. The vocal is cocky but never too arrogant: constantly hypnotic and in-command. Electronics and beats come together splendidly through the song.

Every time I feature an America or international musician in general; it provides me opportunity to discover new towns and styles. As I mentioned at the top of this review: a lot of my U.S.-led reviews see me stuck in New York and Los Angeles. Not that I am complaining, mind. I love those areas and am never disappointed when N.Y. and L.A.’s finest come to my focus. Every now and then, it is good to recognise other states and cities. One of my biggest regrets is how few American acts I get to review- that hails from outside Los Angeles and New York. Having CB aka Country Boy back and large; it takes my mind to Texas and the music from there. I am a big fan of Hip-Hop and Rap but find few modern artists that really capture my attention and imagination. In the past, there have been plenty of examples that fill my stereo. I have noted giants like Beastie Boys. This year, there has been a resurgence and upsurge in Hip-Hop. Mainstream stars like Drake, Kendrick Lamar; The Game and Kevin Gates have released stunning albums. 50 Cent and Bas- a fair few others- have added their name to the rostrum of Hip-Hop diamonds. I am not saying other genres have not made their mark, as that would be naïve and foolhardy. Hip-Hop struggles to make it onto the radio waves because of its nature (quite profane at times). We are living in a time where certain music is widely played and represented; other genres are niche and struggle for any acclaim. That is what makes 2016’s Hip-Hop success so impressive. The likes of Kendrick Lamar have released music that crosses borders and subverts expectations- stunning critics and resonating with a wide range of listeners.

CB aka Country Boy seems a man with no desire to rest and take it easy any time soon. The amount of material he has released speaks for itself. The quality, passion, and conviction grow with every new release. He is a star-in-waiting that seems primed to nestle alongside Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and the mainstream’s best. Influenced by the likes of Scarface and 2pac: who is to say he cannot ascend to their heights in years to come? The touring schedule looks busy and wide-ranging for CB aka Country Boy. Taking in various states and cities: the juggernaut keeps rolling on for our hero. Looking at his social media feeds, you get inside the mind of someone who places music above everything else. Whether making calls and setting up gigs; promoting his work or connecting with his fans- one of the most hard-working and driven people around. We need more people like this in music. Maybe I have bemoaned a lack of energy and smartness from some musicians. Yes, it is hard keeping energy up and making the right moves in music. If you have great tracks and a wonderful voice, there is no guarantee you will get easy success and things will be simple. You have to keep plugging and aiming hard; not let the stresses and bad days affect you. I get to speak with a lot of musicians and so many get deterred and fatigued by the realities of the game. The only way to ensure you get some attention and longevity is to keep at it and stay focused.

That may be easy for me to say, but music rewards those who battle and dream. Originality, relatability and consistency are commodities that are lacking in a lot of new music. There are still too many bands/acts that want to sound like someone else; too keen to copycat them in order to fit in. The consumer likes hearing artists that have a little bit of someone else in them. Naturally, we want a bit of familiarity; something that instantly strikes the ear. Given that, there are limits: nobody wants to discover a (new) musician that sounds exactly like anyone else. Too many musicians hide behind social media and do not actively connect with their followers. Lacking the human touch: it can be sad to see, indeed. Throw into the mix, there are so few musicians that keep producing wonderful songs. Even the most promising- or those we thought would go all the way- tend to struggle after a time. CB aka Country Boy suffers no such fate. You can hear his origins and the types of acts that have compelled his music. Little shades of 2pac and DMX are in there, but for the most part, we get something very veritable and native. Beast Mode shows how assured and consistent our hero is.

I have speculated whether an album is due and have not heard anything via social media. It would be great to hear a new CB aka Country Boy cut before 2016 is through. Previous albums and releases have been met with huge acclaim and respect. No doubt remains in my mind: the next few years will be very prosperous and wonderful for the Houston star. He is working on new projects and films; constantly touring and making sure he connects with the people. One of those musicians that not only (has) managed to stay relevant, popular and strong: a young man whose best days are still in front of him. It would be great to see CB aka Country Boy comes to the U.K. and plays here.  I am not sure whether he has come over here, but there is certainly a demand. Maybe U.S. commitments will make that impossible, but let’s hope it is a future possibility. Britain has some terrific Hip-Hop/Rap artists so there is a market for CB aka Country Boy to prosper and inspire. Whatever he has in mind with regards touring; it will be interesting to see if he comes across to Europe. I know he has a fanbase over here and that will only increase with the release of Beast Mode. If you want an artist that brings something new, edgy and ambitious to the table; ensures the songs stay in the head, then take time out and discover Houston’s CB aka Country Boy. In a music world, that is crowded and uncertain…

HERE is someone that never disappoints.

 

____________________________________

Follow CB aka Country Boy

 

Official:

https://www.countryboyraps.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/JonnyCarrollMusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/cb_countryboy

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/countryboyraps/

_________________________________

Music

https://soundcloud.com/countryboyraps

TRACK REVIEW: XamVolo- Runner’s High

TRACK REVIEW:

 

XamVolo

 

 

Runner’s High

 

9.7/10

 

Runner’s High is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsG2M-uNUX4

RELEASED:
16th June, 2016

GENRES:
Jazz; Alternative; Soul

ORIGIN:

Liverpool/London, U.K.

____________________________________

IT is quite an understatement to state…

the world has undergone a lot of turbulence and uncertainty the past few weeks. Everything from (repeated; continued) terrorist attacks and economic/political strife stalks us: a dark shadow that continues to chill and terrify. Away from that, celebrity deaths- how many more will 2016 see? –and uncertainty is creating an odd mood. The spirits are down- whether you see this year as cursed- and the general population are divided. Against the backdrop of this upheaval; music seems a necessary balm and medicinal countenance. Before arriving at my featured artist- a hot, young talent is ever there was one- it is pertinent reflecting on this year’s music- and acts coming through- the rich variety of voices out there; artists that develop and adapt to their (changing) surroundings. New music is a curate’s egg that is hard to crack. In terms of the underground acts, those unsigned, under-the-radar, I have seen a lot of brave and bold artists emerge. There is such a sense of purpose, passion and drive (among musicians) that makes me very excited- a new generation that can make some real changes- more on that latter. It is the mainstream that, surprisingly, have been in fine form this year. 2015 left me a little dispirited and unsure. Yes, acts like Kendrick Lamar laid down incredible statements- an exception that proved the rule.

Conjoined to a mortal and sobering calendar year; some of music’s greats have departed the world; has been some splendid music. Quick-dropped releases; from Radiohead, James Blake and Beyoncé, took up by surprise; providing emotional, career-best songs in the process. Fresh acts like Beyond the Wizards Sleeve look set to make a big impact. ‘Old masters’ Paul Simon, The Avalanches and DJ Shadow are back in force, the former emphatically; the others beneath their best, whilst nuanced, stunning records from Laura Mvula, Anohni; Daughters and  PJ Harvey have given us plenty of treats and wonder. It is only July and it has already been a bumper year for albums/musicians. However you approach this year- a fatalist who sees it as a sad one; an optimist who sees light and hope ahead- music is that static and certainty: something that will always give comfort and direction; a political party that works for the people. Given the proliferation and accessibility of music-streaming sites, making sure your music is expressed openly and freely, it can be tricky taking it all in. It is concerning how much musicians have to struggle; new artists often struggle to make money and survive- that is best for another day. You cannot deny how rich, varied and exceptional today’s music is. Different people have different bonds to music: what defines it for them. Whether you love deep lyrics and cutting lines; a full and powerful composition: for me, the voice is king. It is the delivery point for songs; the instrument that brings songs to life. One of the most depressing aspects of music is poor/unoriginal vocals. Too many musicians do not win you with their voices: they can be stale, limp and un-contoured: not capable of gripping the emotions and registering an impact. Luckily, plenty of wonderful singers exist: fully able to get hairs standing on end; the blood rushing and the jaw dropped. I have been lucky enough to ‘discover’ some tremendous singers- Lánre is the latest, real treasure- and it can be hugely rewarding. Unless you are a world-class lyricist- not too many on the modern scene- or a tremendous composer: the voice, is that selling point; that hook that gets the listener involved and seduced. I have mentioned artists like Radiohead and Laura Mvula- two ‘complete package’ acts that are exceptional in every department; but how many truly original, archetypal voices are out there? I bring this point up- in my usual, around-the-houses manner- to introduce XamVolo. If his looks and style do not strike you- a mix of Miles Davis, André 3000 and old-skool film icons: someone who sticks in the mind and stands out from the pack.

A very striking and impressive young man: his voice defies description, synonyms, and rational explanation. The much-lauded vocal giants of the mainstream, Adele among them, are starting to lose that unique edge (lyrics and subject matter too rigid; not giving the voice a chance to shine) whilst XamVolo has plenty of dynamic back-story and wonderful, colourful sides: someone who has that instant star quality. Some musicians shout their presence and force themselves upon you: XamVolo is a more seductive, slow-playing artist who has exceptional gravitas and authority being who he is- without pretense, overpowering and forcefulness. I need to raise a new point; before I come to that, let’s meet XamVolo:

 “I can’t really think of much else outside of music day-to-day,” says singer/songwriter and producer Sam Folorunsho a.k.a Xam Volo. “I thought that it must be possible to become a musician, so I decided to put my all into it.”

At the age of 21, XamVolo seems wise beyond his years. A true artist, he oversees every element of his music, which he describes as “a messy mind over raw, dark jazz grooves”. Since moving to Liverpool to study in 2012, the Londoner has embraced himself in the local music scene with his unique and enigmatic take on Neo-Soul and Jazz. Influences from Erykah Badu, Miguel, Frank Ocean and Maverick Sabre echo in his music, with a gospel-infused sophistication and often abstract lyrics. 

“I was into Grime when I was younger,” Xam Volo says. “Slowly I developed a taste for RnB through Hip Hop, before discovering Jazz and Soul and really falling in love. Neo-Soul may be a newer genre, but it captures all the elements that I love about music, and it’s home to such a distinct and timeless sound.” While studying for his degree and craving a more creative way of life, he began taking his music seriously before deciding to make it his chosen career. “An older friend gave me his copy of music software FL Studio 7 and I began making my own songs, “ he says. “I haven’t looked back since.”


He describes growing up as “hard, identity wise,” but adds that his childhood experiences have made him become a better artist today. “I lived fairly comfortably, but even as a child I was made aware that material things weren’t everything. The experiences I had growing up are a part of who I am, and for that I am grateful.” With one younger brother, he says that his family is close but “isn’t too involved” in his music. 

As his career began to take off, and with a number of self-penned songs under his belt, Xam Volo began playing gigs in London and Liverpool. He performed for a few gigs held at the members-only GH Bar, which saw him perform acoustically with the resident jazz band around Soho. It was live performances such as this that gave him the confidence to apply to perform alongside other local unsigned artists at the Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF). As one of the five overall winners – chosen from thousands of hopefuls by a panel that included Grammy Award-winning producer Steve Levine – Xam Volo was deemed by the judges as ready to embark on a professional career in music. The five winners, along with 10 other finalists, performed on the LIMF Academy Stage in the Sefton Park Palm House over the 2014 August Bank Holiday weekend, in front of thousands of music lovers. Describing the event as one of his career highlights so far, he says: “It was brilliant to receive so much exposure for my music at the festival. I’m really proud to have been a part of the 2014 academy, and I’m looking forward to seeing the artists that emerge as part of the 2015 event.”


Xam Volo also released his EP Binary In Blue in 2014; something that he admits was intended as a darker project but was re-started because he wasn’t happy with the original. He chose the name for a few reasons – binary as meaning ‘two parts,’ because he viewed the EP as having “two widely relatable songs and another two calmer and artier tracks”. Despite it not being Blues in genre, he picked topics that he felt paid some level of tribute to Blues music and its culture. Described on Soundcloud as ‘alternative Hip-Hop, Soul and Jazz,’ the Binary In Blue EP can be downloaded at XamVolo’s Bandcamp page. 

As well as his growing music commitments, Folorunsho has another creative talent, as a graphic designer. “I’ve done that longer than music, but it isn’t as interesting,” he says, adding: “I guess I get to design my own album covers.” With music where his heart truly lies, he believes firmly that “there are so many musical needs to cater to – any sound will resonate and fill its own gap. There’s always someone out there who will crave your sound.”
Looking to the future, XamVolo hopes to gain more exposure, grow his team, and learn more through performance and collaboration. He says: “Ultimately, I want to create a community sharing the mindset I express through my art. Whatever happens, I’m excited to find out if the path I end up following gives me a career even more suited to my character than the one I can fathom currently. Then, who knows how much further I will be able to aim?”

 The young musician has had quite a hectic and fascinating past few years. Starting out in Liverpool; cutting his teeth and experiencing his first music crushes; XamVolo has moved to London: a natural Mecca for inspired musicians. Comfortable and vibing from the cosmopolitan smoke and side-street-treasures of the capital: the people and city have got into the blood; compelled his songs; made quite an impact. There is a great mix of traditional and unique with XamVolo. A solid and wise academic path ensued: studying a music degree; leading him to crystalise his ambitions and purpose; a great team behind him: the hero has a solid support and knowledge base at his disposal. A lot of artists arrive, perhaps without a degree or studying music, and do it alone: progress and discover through feel (rather than form). That is not to say XamVolo lacks passion, soul, and authenticity- he is one of the purest and natural musicians around. Gaining experience and education: that has helped shape his sounds and direction; enriched his (beautiful) tracks. Enigmatic, mysterious and genre-fusing: the likes of Maverick Sabre and Frank Ocean are thrown into his melting pot.

Through Grime, a genre I am particularly fond of, Hip-Hop and Jazz: the young man has surrounded himself with some exceptional sounds; a wide range of musicians- each element and idol goes into the music. A chameleon and ever-changing young man: XamVolo has struggled to find identity; his early life was uncertain and tough. That modest and struggling upbringing- material possessions took a backseat to less extravagant realities- would break and unsettle most people. For XamVolo, the opposite has true: it has made him the person he is today. Shifting and blending into his environment- taking to London with verve, wide-eyed curiosity, and ease- this year has been a productive one indeed. XamVolo is someone who has the passion and talent to go wherever he wants in this industry. Runner’s High- his latest single- has already picked up acclaim and huge respect. Knowing what we know: XamVolo gets involved in the whole creative process; always thinking of ideas and new possibilities; what are we to expect?

This year has already been pretty hectic for XamVolo. The Closing Scene, released in February, was the first E.P. of 2016. Featuring compromise between isolation and self-dependence: there is a growing tension in the production, as each track progresses, and a sense of uncertainty pervades. Rescue Me opens (a confident E.P.) with under-the-surface swagger and purposefulness. Images of escape, self-dependence and escape intertwine- perhaps appropriate given the reference to Harry Houdini in the song- and there is a blend of claustrophobe and open declaration. The ego is undamaged to begin- as XamVolo attests- before an inner chaos unfurls. Be Cool is a felicitous inclusion that provides self-assurance and reassurance. Even when the pressure mounts and there is expectation mounting; it is okay to be relaxed and kick back from time to time- take it easy and chill. XamVolo is a busy artist always striving for bigger and better. Whereas Rescue Me possessed that edginess and rushing composition; the cool-as-you-like vocal and underlying tension- sounding like a Bond score; a tense scene unfolding- Be Cool’s composition is eponymous and refined- replete with soulful groove. Bone Marrow looks at a lack of experience: XamVolo is a young man with a lot to learn; there is‘darkness’- a synonym for that naivety and need to progress- that creates another nervy, nihilistic number. Breathe Slowly ends the E.P. is the precipice of the downfall: the apogee of self-destruction and solitude.

The Closing Scene, which could reference a film’s troubled, dramatic ending, becomes more heated and walls-closing-in with each number. The swansong sees that uncertainty really strikes hard: dilemmas are becoming suffocating; the hero is out-of-touch and struggling to take it all in. Met with respect, acclaim and fascination: that E.P. cemented XamVolo as a truly unique talent: one with a lot of questions on his mind; a restless soul in search of answers. Contrasting unflinching, cinematic compositions with composed- almost romantic at times- vocals and you have an artist who has few direct equals. Upon hearing The Closing Scene; you are compelled to listen again and study the songs- it takes a few listens to really get inside the music and its complexities. The listener poses their own questions and everyone will have their own takeaway. Runner’s High continues where The Closing Scene left off. The beats stutter and scrabble; the electronics fizz, rapture, and retreat- a song filled with emotions, life, and energy. Runner’s High could exist as an instrumental: such is the quality and impact of the music itself. Confidence is in no short supply from XamVolo. If The Closing Scene documented a young man unsure of himself; understanding how he needs to be hard on himself at times- the abiding sentiment was one of fear and disconnectedness. Compensating a heavy and burden-damaged soul were compositions (and vocals) filled with richness, beauty and huge highs- primal and sexual at times. Another E.P. will be arriving this year; an album is in the works, too. I know how far XamVolo has come as an artist. Every new offering increases his (solid) foundation and shows new talent and layers. One of music’s most distinct and captivating new musicians keeps getting stronger and exceptional. If Sam Folorunsho- the man behind the moniker- feels he is not as fulfilled and knowledgeable as he should be- the music he is making fills gaps and highlights an extraordinarily progressive artist.

Synthesisers and electronics kick and cabaret into life: Runner’s High begins with a chest-protruding, all-kicking, all-swinging, singing bonanza. There is a coolness and catchiness; an original bent that gets the listener hooked instantly; charmed and dragged into something immersive. Jabbing, static beats- that provide current and prowess- and the finger-clicking, scene-setting electronics are tied together with an exceptional, if understated, vocal. Our hero delineates his words and has an echoed, distorted quality. Against the ever-vibrant, vivacious compositions, there is a mystery and drama unfolding. Our hero recalls breaking bones and running through fires: at once, you start to imagine the story and where this song originated from. Evading enemies and overcoming strenuous obstacles: the revelations of a man who is trying to escape the past? A bad situation he is trying to forget? Whatever compelled the words, it is hard to evade the mixture of sultriness and danger; a clash of emotions (and styles) that gives the song such a weight. Few artists present tracks the same was as Runner’s High. R&B sway- the composition has velvet smoothness and a definite sexiness- and Jazz suaveness unites in something quite remarkable. The compositional is part-casual, part-urgent; the vocal precise and measured- a song that wants you to take in every note and semblance. Children in burning towers, perhaps a metaphor for how life has unfolded, are sentiments/expression that provokes imagination and speculation. XamVolo writes music of all differing kinds to express the spectrum of his talent: just what he can do and how many sides he has. Previous tracks- across The Closing Scene– investigated self-worth issues and his place in life- whether he was as satisfied as he should be.

We need more air” is a coda repeated; almost in a sense of desperation and suffocation. From the burning towers and the chase- trying to outrun enemies and find safety- you can feel the exhaustion and tightness. Our hero is at his most insistent and compelling: a mantra that is backed by jagged electronics and hardened beats. From a Jazz-cum-R&B motif; elements of Dub-Step and Electronica come in- making the song a lot more vengeful, animalistic and attacking. Vibrating, epic and intensified: the listener is enveloped in this whirlwind of sound. XamVolo keeps his voice restrained and disciplined: never losing himself in emotion or becoming too angered. We are all “changing forms” it is told. Every fresh line provides a piece of the story; a new confession that fascinates the mind. Provided the song’s title- the feeling of euphoria that comes from long-distance running- perhaps there is a feeling of transformation and betterment? Maybe the past was harsh and unsure; childhood dramas and being wayward; now there is ambitious, direction and focus. Unable to control forces and the changing ways; more ideas and possibilities enter the mind. Not only is the composition a fascinating and beguiling thing- changing the mood and dynamic- but the vocal is not to be outdone. Sections are layered whilst others are repeated; the central voice is strong and demands attention- together, the result stirs the senses. Accolades fade and attentions will wane, our hero tells. After that has occurred, and the ‘best’ days have passed; there is that runner’s high. You sense a man that is thinking into the future and worrying slightly. Progressing and improving since childhood; the current highs and success might be temporary and capricious. If the adulation and prosperity, as it is now, seems short-term and unsure; the future is going to be bright indeed. Our man has reserves of energy and always looking ahead. Times can be bad and there are worries on his mind. The more deep thinking and speculative will look beneath the lyrics and seek hidden meaning.

On first listen, you feel like you have it all worked out. XamVolo is looking at the past and how his days have stacked up. He thinks about the future and realises how changeable things are. Runner’s High– the title alone- makes me question my original impressions. Maybe this euphoria and stored energy are unreal and false. Playing a melody and using his master key: how long will this quality and innovation keep him in the music industry? That said, the words could be more straightforward and obvious- a man who is riding the high and is in a good place right now. Great songs get you thinking and doubting; positing theories and going right to the core. XamVolo’s dramatic and stunning voice makes every word elemental, haunting and intoxicating. Some vocals are ghost-like and stacked; others are elongated or distorted- creating a wonderful soundscape and impressions. Elements of Frank Ocean’s experimentation and authority can be detected; shades of James Blake shine through. It is the Blake impression that reflects with me. A mix of his The Colour in Anything era; shades of Overgrown: Runner’s High could rival any track from Blake. By the track’s closing stages, the fires burn and the song reaches its peak- completely dazzling, gripping and entrancing. XamVolo includes a spoken segment at the very end. Assessing the track, admiring its beauty, he looks towards a music video: how good it would look; the beats and sonics have such a visual appeal that needs to be included in a film. Of course, he was right. The music video goes a long way to bringing together all the images, ideas, and emotions the song promotes. Runner’s High is another step forward for the 22-year-old XamVolo. Truly one of the finest and most original talents we have in the U.K. I cannot wait to see how the years suit XamVolo. He has another E.P. (and album) in the pipeline and barely stopping for breath. If Runner’s High is an indication of where he is heading: XamVolo is going to be a megastar in no time at all. The track will be included on the forthcoming E.P., Chirality, and will be one of the year’s hottest releases.

I often talk of turmoil and the changing world. Two racially-motivated shootings occurred in the U.S. last week; it worries me. Perhaps the human races is evolving, but it doesn’t seem to be that way: humans are becoming more base, prehistoric and backward-thinking; not the sign of a developed, intelligent planet. I shall shelve my disgruntled rants, only to say this: if peace and government cannot quell the fear and pain; music has a big role to play. It is not escapism, as much as it’s a common voice: something that works with the people; provides answers and wisdom. As good as this year’s mainstream has been- an improvement on past years- it is new music that (continues) to provide the biggest spark; those rare artists and brash innovators. XamVolo attracts you by name and image alone: a man that has worked hard; learnt a lot and takes this all on board- a complete musician whose best days are ahead of him. Some great, Jazz-inspired singers- such as Gregory Porter- show how effective the voice can be.

There’s a wonderful, single-minded approach from XamVolo: somebody who puts everything into music; that is his chosen path and dream. Music does require that un-blinkered focus and determination. It is a business that will happily bury those not up to the job. Fortunately, XamVolo has many years ahead: someone who will be a mainstream star and inspiring figure. Given his background: searching for an identity; building his C.V. and gaining recognition; it seems like the future is set. That passion and pledge will see him rewarded. Runner’s High is the finest song from him: something that emphasises the voice and showcases the fine lyricism and genre expertise. XamVolo blends Soul and Jazz with something darker; a cocktail of shades and emotions that touch the listener directly- it does something quite fantastic. Brought up on music- XamVolo began playing and practicing when he was 12; singing to himself in G.C.S.E. exams- and has hardly slowed down since. Everyone from Erykah Badu and J. Dilla has influenced the young musician- Robert Glasper and Janelle Monae can be included.

Only just in his 20s: XamVolo has written and produced the Chirality E.P. Jazz and Soul mixes, despite the tender years of its author, signals progression and maturation: a musician that is growing and probing; discovering new possibilities. His raw, cinematic and dusky music unites older and contemporary influence: a four-track collection that is gathering support from the likes of Huw Stephens and John Kennedy. With several releases under his belt: it looks like the coming years will be very exciting and prosperous. Alongside Paul Phamous and Malay, the producers for Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, the debut L.P. is coming up. Not only will that be an opportunity to hear XamVolo fully-fledged and in his element- that amazing music fully exploited and defined. It is wonderful discovering an artist that is so consistent and ambitious. Hardly breathing between releases: a musician that is constantly working and releasing material.

It is hard to compare XamVolo with anybody out there- in terms of sound, personality and back-story- which makes him an extremely exciting proposal. The social media numbers are growing- his fan-base is building; huge numbers are behind him- and the touring schedule looks pretty busy. I would love to see XamVolo in London- not sure what his tour dates are looking like- and witness the musician close and raw. The forthcoming album, in addition to Chirality, highlights a phenomenal talent who is just getting started: a man who has a bright, golden future ahead of him. If you are unfamiliar with him, and not heard the music, then start with Runner’s High. Allow the music to feed in the soul; that composition get into the veins; swim in the imagination and provide a huge reaction. XamVolo is on a mission:

WATCH him soar.

 

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