FEATURE: BBC Radio 6 Music: Lauren Laverne

FEATURE:

 

BBC Radio 6 Music:

 

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Lauren Laverne

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THIS is not the first time I have put…

PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.marksandspencer.com/c/style-and-living/lauren-laverne

BBC Radio 6 Music under the microscope. In the last few months, I have looked at the station’s fifteenth anniversary and Shaun Keaveny’s tenth anniversary. It might seem like I am on the payroll but, in reality, it is a natural reflection that is being felt across the nation. Each day, we aim to start our day with as much positivity as possible. To me, the radio (and music) provides this. Away from the amped-up, saccharine options your dial could touch: there is a much more respectable and impressive proposition in ‘6 Music. I have been following the station for a while now but, over the last year-or-so, felt myself become more attached and invested. Keaveny’s show is an essential fixture for every weekday. His humour, gruffness and ‘quirks’ – the Macca impressions and dead-air fumble; paper rustling and dropped links/beds – make it one of the most addictive and personal shows you will hear on the station. I keep turned for Radcliffe and Maconie – the banter and bond the boys have is sensational – and love D.J.s like Craig Charles, Nemone and Steve Lamacq. There is a great northern contingency at ‘6 Music – seems like a strange thing to bring up but few big southern stations have a lot of northern talent – and that is personified in Lauren Laverne. My first exposure to her was, like many, listening to the music of Kenickie. Formed in 1994 (perhaps the best year for music, ever); the Grease-referencing band achieved a huge amount in their three/four years together. Not only did they share the bill for Ramone at their final U.K. appearance at Brixton Academy. Courtney Love saw Kenickie perform and, in eloquent terms, described them as a “raw-boned bunch of f*cking sex”. That is high-complement from someone who is not exactly a shrinking violet on stage. Kenickie’s two studio albums, At the Club (1997) and Get In (1998) arrived at a time when Britpop was fading (near-extinction) and U.S. guitar music was starting into to take hold. Because of that, the band’s raw and honest brand of guitar music – cacophony and fun mix with funny lyrics – and incredible band chemistry made them a critical and fan favourite. Whilst it was sad to see the band disband; it did not mean Laverne put down her microphone and guitar for good – in a metaphorical sense, at least.

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Perhaps a Kenickie reunion is not on the cards but it is the start of a woman whose passion and expertise of music cannot be denied. Joining BBC Radio 6 Music in 2008 – well, re-joining them after doing stints for various D.J.s previously – it seems like her natural home. Gone are the more controversial days (describing The Spice Girls in less-than-sisterly terms) but all her music and industry experience goes into her current venture: the much-admired 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. slot on ‘6 Music. Another reason for doing this was to celebrate the D.J.s that go into the nation’s best and most-authoritative radio stations – and the fact Laverne just celebrated her thirty-*edited* birthday. I, like her faithful listeners, wish her a happy (belated) birthday and pay tribute to one of radio’s finest. For me, like my love for Shaun Keaveny’s show; is the mix of warm and humour one gets (from Laverne). I find D.J.s, on other, lesser stations, can either be a bag-load of crystal meth (never shutting up and always turning things up to eleven) or too dry and long-winded to really captivate. What you get at BBC Radio 6 Music, and Laverne especially, is a human who is who they are away from the microphone. There is no fakery and ‘persona’: simply an honest and relatable human being with a limitless curiosity and passion for music. It is those qualities that mean I am tuned in every single weekday morning – except for tomorrow where I’ll be job-hunting and location-scouting for a London-based music job. Whilst I scour the city; that show will be in my mind. Many of BBC Radio 6 Music’s shows have themes and chances for the public to call in. To me, Laverne curates the three-finest examples: Desert Island Disco, Memory Tapes; the majestic and (one that I’d love to do) sensational Biorhythms.

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The former is the listeners’ chance to cast themselves to an imaginary island. In the vein of Desert Island Discs; it is a chance to get their music heard and their story told. Memory Tapes, as the name implies, is a listener explaining their music loves and the songs that have meant most to them. The latter is the chance to select three songs: less to do with circadian rhythms; Biorhythms are “any regular recurring motion, rhythm”. Listeners are asked to select a ‘physical’, ‘intellectual’/intelligence’ track alongside an ‘emotional’ choice. It is great hearing the various selections and why an applicant chooses the songs they do. For me, it would be a dream but a nightmare: narrowing things down to a single track for each category! It is, alongside her other two regular slots, a brilliant idea and one that brings people into the show. That is the first thing I would recommend about the show: the people listening at home have a chance to participate and be involved: not just with features but providing feedback and suggestions as the show unfolds – Laverne runs a regular People’s Playlist where listeners can suggest a song based on a theme. It is another feature that is beautifully constructed and fascinated – complete with obligatory Simpsons clips and a range of interconnected music on a central theme. Lauren Laverne has worked on BBC Radio 1 and did not exactly spring straight onto ‘6 Music straight from her band days. Those various guides and experience go into a show that has seen listener figures rise and hugely passionate and loyal fanbase cement. Next year, she will celebrate her tenth ‘birthday’ as a permanent fixture. One feels this is where she is meant to be and everything has been leading up to this. I am not one who believes in fate or karma but, one feels, there is a certain cosmic alignment that has put Laverne in the seat at ‘6 Music. You can hear how assured and comfortable she is there – this never comes at the expense of compromise and complacency. Every week, you get something new and can hear how much it all means to her.

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Not only is this defined by the commitment and connection she has to the listeners but the music itself. I shall come to the second point soon but – returning to that earlier point – there is a maternal instinct and spirit that radiates from Laverne. I have heard phone-ins where listeners have been telling their story and reasoning why they selected/love the music they do. Often, there is quite a tragic story at the root of their appearance. Again, many D.J.s might nervously skip past any tears or revelations: Laverne embraces it and provides comfort and understanding. It is that simpatico and natural warmth that goes into everything she does. Not only does her natural accent and personality make her a unique and impossible-not-to-love woman but the way she bonds and banters with listeners. A lot of radio stations have so few female D.J.s in their ranks and it always makes me angry. Platforms like radio should be gender-blind and not so beholden to the boys’ club idea we have of modern music – where award shows and festivals are decided by the white and middle-aged. Laverne not only inspires many current female D.J.s to push themselves and get their voices heard but the new generation emerging. In terms of music, there are few who have such a passion and obsession for the craft. BBC Radio 6 Music is, in a way – having studied a couple of years in Cambridge myself – the Cambridge University of the radio world. If one wants to join such an elite and prestigious station, they must show they have the acumen and academic nuance to succeed and survive. In the case of Lauren Laverne, one imagines someone whose formative years were spent rifling through vinyl collections like a beaver goes through wood. Seemingly born to be stood in a local record shop checking out all the best new and classic releases – you get all this in the way she proffers and promulgates the music played on her show.

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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.starwoodmediacentre.com/uki/w-hotels/news/2015/07/31/w-london-leicester-square-celebrates-20-years-of-britpop-music-with-icon-of-the-era-lauren-laverne?locale=en_GB

6 Music cannot be found playing the worst of the mainstream and the chart music you get on many London stations. They pride themselves on spinning only the finest sounds around: that which hits and resonates with the discerning and proper music lover. Laverne has that musical education and background and has spent most of her adult life either performing or promoting artists. I listen to her show for many reasons but discovering new artists is one of the key reasons. I have written about Billie Marten a few times on my site (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/feature-billie-marten-lionhearted/ and https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/track-review-billie-marten-live/ among them) but first heard Marten’s dulcet, otherworldly tones on Laverne’s show. I think it was Lionhearted that came to my first – I might be wrong – but, since, owing to Laverne’s connection and appreciation of Marten, heard her music played many times. Because of that, and the great interviews she has conducted with her, I am now a huge fan of Billie Marten and ranked her debut album, Writing of Blues and Yellows, my favourite from 2016. Marten is just one (of many) of the artists that have been added to my playlist because of Laverne. Of course, her colleagues have that same attitude: not only give us the best-established music but unearth those artists that are primed for future success. Every week, Laverne has live performances from the biggest names in music. It is an opportunity to hear some incredible performances from amazing musicians. Her infectious enthusiasm for these live sessions is another asset of her show. Not only am I compelled by the live interviews I hear on Laverne’s show but those she has recorded for ‘6 Music/other stations. Her chat with Kate Bush (in 2011 when promoting Director’s Cut and 50 Words for Snow) is one of my favourites and affirmed my awe and love of Kate Bush. It was a terrific talk that spilled-over with mutual respect, deep conversation and fun, This is not the only example of times where Laverne has brought the best from her guests – talks with Sir Paul McCartney and Kate Tempest are highlights of mine.

Outside of her show; there seem to be no limits to Laverne’s energy and talents. In April 2015, she established The Pool: an online platform aimed at women that was co-founded by Sam Baker. Not only is music and culture a big part of the site but political, society and current affairs. It digs deep, in terms of talking points and its take on the arts, and has a talented group of contributors and journalists working for The Pool. Although it is, like ‘6 Music itself, somewhere I am keen to work for/with; I feel, perhaps, it is more aimed at women. Regardless; I take a lot of inspiration from it and The Pool, like Laverne’s extra-curricular activity, has pushed me as a writer and made me more ambitious and wide-ranging. In past years, I have not tackled issues like sexism and racial imbalance in music. I have written a ‘handbook’ for new musicians and a Spotify guide: all, in part, because of the shining example set by Laverne. She is someone who has family commitment but manages to balance that with an unimpeachable love of what she does. If she is not running The Pool or interviewing stars she is appearing at talks and delivering lectures; keen to not only lend her experience and influence to the world of music but so many other areas – women’s rights among them.

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It seems like there is no end in sight for one of the country’s finest D.J.s and music fans. I can trace so many of my current ambitions and future dreams back to Lauren Laverne and what she does. From hosting a special Record Store Day show from Vinyl Tap (Huddersfield) to helping foster and support some of the nation’s best artists and journalists: there are few out there like her. As she moves into the next few years, one feels her ambitions and empire will grow larger still. I can see an interview series taking shape – something I am working on for my own site – that sits down with stars and really drills down to the nub. Maybe there will be more radio ventures and new novels/music from Laverne but one thing is for sure: she has found her place at BBC Radio 6 Music and her listeners, myself included, would be reluctant were she to move on. As it is, she is one of the station’s most-popular talents and someone who brings life, joy and wonderful music to our weekday mornings. It is hard to fake enthusiasm and passion for music: we would see right through Laverne were she lacking dedication. There is no worry there as she is one of those people who lives, eats and breathes music. If you have not heard I show I urge you to tune in and discover why so many people have been captivated and hooked by it. It is just left to say congratulations on the years Lauren Laverne has spent with ‘6 Music – a strange thing to say but nine years is a long time and impressive indeed – and thanks for being so instrumental and important to so many out there. Like Shaun Keaveny and her colleagues at the station, her show is invaluable and, for me personally…

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AN essential part of my day.

TRACK REVIEW: Heir – I’ll Pick You Up

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Heir

 

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I’ll Pick You Up

 

 

9.6/10

 

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I’ll Pick You Up is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/heirtheband/ill-pick-you-up

GENRES:

Pop; Indie

ORIGIN:

Leeds

RELEASE DATE:

22nd March, 2017

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NOT only is it great getting to look at…

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a Yorkshire-based band but a unit that has all the basic elements nailed down. It may sound like my standard are not too high but it is, as I will explain, something of a rarity. Before I come to that, I will look at the bands of Leeds, past and present, and why the city is so important; how Yorkshire music is influencing the modern scene and band’s releasing music – how it all comes together and the components involved. I’ll also take on issues of Pop and getting the compositional and thematic blend just right; a little on image and colour. I will start off – and keep it brief to spare the lash of overfamiliarity – with that problem of distinction and promotion. I have said it in previous reviews but still see this coming up. When I interview or review an artist there are a few things that are guaranteed to shrivel the testicles. For one it is using the word ‘journey’ – I am sure there was a time in history, not so long ago, when it wasn’t used by every musician on the block. Today it has turned into a trope and something that makes my skin crawl off the body. The second is those who feel compelled to alienate anyone by having few photos or any visual representation – arguing enigma and modesty are the keys to satisfying and ingratiating oneself to the listener. In an age of over-commercialisation and overconsumption: how can one assume this position with a straight face? The third, and least nagging qualm is to do with general information/disorganisation. You get artists neglecting to list all their music-sharing/social media links on their official page/Facebook. Sometimes, they have their Twitter handle but you have to do a search for all their other links. It is, at best, forgetful and irking; at worst, unprofessional and lazy. In terms of Heir, they have hurdled some potential obstacles. Aside from the fact their name, A) provokes hair/royalty-related puns – Heir apparent/Heir loss etc. – and, B) is a bit tricky narrowing on a search engine – ‘Heir’ would be too vague; ‘Heir band’ will bring up Hair-Metal bands; Heir Leeds might bring up Leeds barbers – they, at least can be located and have an intriguing single-syllable moniker. It is the other parts of the equation that please me.

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They are intelligent and concise when talking about their music – they might have called one of their songs a ‘journey’, but I have not felt the need to cyber-slap them just yet. What really resonates is their organisation and professionalism. Their websites are all nice and clean and tidy. They have social media links together and make it easy to discover the full extent of their music/information. In terms of biography, there is a not on there and you get an insight into what makes them tick and where they have come from. Photos are all included and there is that important balance of exposure and concealment – never giving too much away but revealing enough to the potential journalist/listener. Again, many might say (being neglectful) is not a big problem. Flip that argument to the music itself and does the same question provoke a different reaction? To me, if you are bone-idle and ignorant with your music, people are not going to take you seriously. Music is as much about the visuals and promotion as it is the meat-and-bones. From my perspective, I want to learn about an artist and get an idea of who they are. I need their SoundCloud/YouTube links so look for that; a bit about where they are from and the kind of insights that compel reviews and interviews. If this is lacking then my attention-span and interest will wander elsewhere. Music is so completive you cannot afford to be negligent and assuming when trying to promote yourself. Heir have a distinct image and make-up that not only catches my eye but lets me into their camp. You feel included and the boys are all-too-keen to give a window into their creative mindset and recording history. By collating all the information together one gets an impression of a young band who are tooled-up for success.

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I will move on to other topics but this, neater than usual, brings me to image and colours. I shall apply this argument to music but I love artists who think about the components and layers of their photos/images etc. With Heir, their previous E.P.s/singles have really interesting cover art. You get something that mixes cartoons and art: a pairing of youthfulness and seriousness. I know music is more important than artwork and images but, if you are offended or bored by, say, a single’s cover how likely are you to investigate further? People keep telling us, I think, we all have short attention-spans so you need to pull the listener in from the off. Heir provide brightness and a vivid colour palette. They ensure they, on social media, mix live photos with various shoots. It is a tried-and-tested formula that has not only seen them attract influential sites and D.J.s but recruit new fans. Their music is original and strong but, were they to be remiss in regards their images and information, I feel fewer people would be so invested. Again, you might say is it very subjective – being so obsessed with the complete package – but there is a correlation between artists who expend effort across the board and turnover. I see so many new acts give a couple of photos and nothing on their Facebook page’s information section. Surprise, surprise, they do not last long and struggle at the bottom of the pecking-order. On the musical Yellow Brick Road, the new musician must walk hand-in-hand with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion: have the bravery, intelligence and heart (is that the right order?!) to take music seriously. If you are dumb enough to take the audience for mugs then you will fail. If you are not courageous enough to reveal a bit of yourself then, yes, you will fail. Also, if you do not show heart and compassion then people will not reciprocate. Heir take their role in music seriously and are being rewarded with affection and focus.

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The guys have just released the E.P., When the Lights Went Out and launched it across BandCamp and social media – released through Jumbo Records and Crash Records, Leeds. It is this tie and affection or their native businesses that get me to my next topic: the music and people of Leeds. The powerful five-piece are comfortable in Yorkshire and feeding off the city’s reputation, spirit and landscape. We all know the classic/contemporary bands that have come from Leeds. Right now, alt-J are the city’s biggest exponents and showing why the Yorkshire hotspot is so lauded – that variation and mix of genres is something Leeds’ musicians share. Kaiser Chiefs, Pulled Apart by Horses and The Wedding Present comes from Leeds – as do Hope & Social. Borrowing some tips from https://www.fredperry.com/subculture/article-leeds-sound; I can see the sort of sounds that are being favoured in Leeds right now. Talk about great images and a captivating mix-up and Fizzy Blood come to mind instantly. Fizzy Blood’s I’m No Good was released at the tail-end of 2015 but, contrasting another one of theirs, Sweat and Sulphur, you have a terrific song(s) that show their range and diverse musical tastes. The band have a modern aesthetic but have not neglected the humble vinyl: a series of split seven-inch singles have been put out and they beautifully breed classic physicality with modern digitalisation whilst retaining plenty of heart and soul. One of the best images I have seen – on https://www.fredperry.com/subculture/article-leeds-sound – is the backstage image of The Velventeens. Not only do they have that ‘60s-sounding name but look the part. Beautiful, moody and youthful: you can stare at them, not in a creepy way, for a while. The mixed-gender, decades-straddling outfit have a great ‘60s core but – through support slots with The Spitfires – have reached big audiences and are making impressive steps. Edgar Duke are a Psych.-Funk-cum-Alternative mash-up that brings classic songwriting (comparisons to The Beatles have been made) and eye-catching song titles (Psychedelic Spaghetti Western stands out!) together.

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The last few new bands to keep your peepers sharp for this year are Neon Dolls, Harkin and Dulahli. The former is an Indie-Rock quartet that has a mix of sleaze and please: they have registered with the local crowds and are one of those festival-ready bands. The middle-named band is, actually, the project of Katie Harkin of Sky Larkin. She is the fourth member of Sleater-Kinney and shows how adaptable and hard-working songwriter she is. Keep a watch on Harkin: one of those acts that are starting locally but have national potential. On that score; Dulahli proves, as if you didn’t know, Leeds has more variety than Rock and Indie. It is hard to categorise Dulahli but, as the name might suggest, there is a quirkiness and craziness – fizzes and bursts of Hip-Hop; Electro. Revelations and Post-Dub-Step kisses. The unnamed cocktail (Going Dulahli, maybe?) has caused a ripple of excitement in the press and music community. It seems obvious tackling a song as open for reinterpretation as Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. It such an iconic and picturesque song – even if Simon barely gets into double-figures when it comes to his abandoning-lover-in-a-variety-of-situations mandate. His version is, well, pretty special and something you should go and check out. That is just a flirtatious nod to the veritable Caligula-curated spank-fest that is the Leeds music scene. An organismic compendium of various-sized and shaped beauties are crafting music that is, to me at least, the equal of London’s best. Some of Leeds’ acts I have reviewed – the pink-and-blonde-haired humourous Pop of Jen Armstrong; the epic Rock of Allusondrugs (their frontman bears more than a passing resemblance to Kurt Cobain) – have been some of my reviewing highlights. I have never visited the city – a southern boy wearing a second layer in this kind of weather opens me up to derision, cutting barbs and sneered choruses of “You southern wuss!” I should bear it – and allow my cheeks to be tear-stained a bit – to get a grasp of the weight and magic of the local market.

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If one had to list the five cities that define British music you might plump for London, Liverpool; Manchester, Glasgow and, Bristol, maybe? I feel Leeds should be near the summit of anyone’s rundown. I have listed a shakedown of Leeds past and present and those established and primed for mainstream entry fees approval. I want to talk about Heir and how their approach to Pop music is invigorating and inspiring but, before then, urge them to remain in Leeds. For most other places – those boring and dull areas outside the capital – I act as a locum for the immigration bureau or cultural attaché. It takes zero alcohol and few pokes in the eye socket for me to jump onto the London tourist panel. I do my best to steer artists to the city and get them to abandon home and hearth – pack the bags up and take in the sounds, sights and smells (some of which can strip the colour from your pupils with a single whiff) of the wonderful city. Anywhere other than Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool; I would always suggest an artist move to London. Being in Leeds, I feel Heir have the best of all worlds. Not only have their won the heart and dowries of the capital’s biggest movers-and-shakers but have a large and lucrative county at their feet. Not only is Yorkshire’s supernatural, wondrous panorama the stuff of classic literature – its music scene is busy and changes depending where you step. You cannot singularise the Yorkshire music scene on the basis of Leeds alone. It is a plural noun whose cuisine varies from town-and-city-to-village. The steel of Sheffield leaves a different taste to the vibes of Huddersfield, York and Bradford. After nibbling on those mouth-watering areas and you better have some gut-space for the heady dessert-notes of Kingston-upon-Hull and Ripon. In fact – I will steer this back to Heir in a second – but there is a fantastic commingling of antwacky (me dusting off The Big Book of Yorkshire Slang for Southern Numpties again) and gradley: plenty of curious snickets and aboon musicians. One of Yorkshire’s rightest new stars hails from Ripon: the oft-mentioning-on-these-pages beauty and songwriting excellence of Billie Marten (another pound in the ‘shameless name-dropping and obsessive rambling jar’).

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I did say I’d detox from Marten but, in this case, she is a perfect figurehead that backs my argument up. She is from Ripon – I think she has moved away from there – but sounds apart from the sort of musicians coming from Sheffield, let’s say. Not only is Yorkshire God’s county (whether you believe in him or not – I don’t – that is) and she is a divine presence in the congregation of Yorkshire’s choir. Heir – told you I’d get back to them! – are quintessentially Leeds: lovers of modern Pop and Rock but with an ear for the older, often-underused sounds. The quintet’s succession to the Leeds throne (I’ll keep the heir-related puns to a minimum!) is starting and they are enthralling crowds in the city. In terms of Leeds venues; you have one of the best-regarded venues in the country, Brudenell Social Club. Bringing together eager newcomers and established acts: nestled in Hyde Park, it has been around over a century and looks set to preserve not only its four walls but the rich music scene of Leeds. I am not sure whether Heir has played there but it is a venue that would give them even more support and attention. On that theme, The Wardrobe (down St. Peter’s Square) has an underground gig space – a bar at the top of the two-tier venue – and is a great ‘warm-up’ spot for musicians – before stepping up to the bigger stages and louder crowds of arenas and festivals. Leeds University Union seems to have Heir written all over it. Down in Hirst’s Yard; one can sup a fine craft ale before grabbing some grub – enjoying a diverse portfolio of musicians for the price of an N.H.S. condom. I feel The Fox and Newt is a great spot the lads could thrive in as it is an old-fashioned boozer but one that is refined and has a certain dignity. They have stunning acts play in the intimate space. It is not the cliché vision of long-bearded middle-aged or pretentious hipsters: one gets a nice mix of ages and nationalities under the pub roof. Oporto, with that brilliant name (sound like a Shakespeare play that never was!), is situated down Call Lane and has a trendy vibe that brings club-nights, tribute acts and nationwide talent together. Big bands like Slow Club, Dutch Uncles and Glass Caves have enjoyed a hospitable evening at Oporto. A Pop band like Heir might feel slightly cowed by a venue like Santiago but they should not fear it. Down Grand Arcade, there are a range of independent shops/bars set alongside this up-and-coming whiskey bar. Frank Turner has popped in for more than a dram and it is another essential stop-off on the Leeds venue tour. I would like to see the Heir fivesome play there as I feel they’d get a really hearty reception. The same can be said of my favourite Leeds musical hang-out: the niftily-named Nation of Shopkeepers. I am sure Napoleon Bonaparte would turn his nose up at the sounds emanating the Cookridge Street joint – take grievance at the name and find his homunculus-self trampled under the weight of Yorkshire gig-goers and grub-seekers. I love the place because, since its 2009 opening, supported the likes of the XX. Two Door Cinema Club and Band of Skulls – Real Estate, James Blake and Spring King have rocked the venue to its foundations. If it is not for the Gallic Saint-Helena exiled kind then it is perfectly suited to those who want to check out the artists primed for great things. Because of that, I feel Heir would do well here – a venue they should invest in. In fact, Heir could do a tour of Leeds’ best venues and showcase why they are one of the city’s finest new prospects.

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Just before I get down to Heir’s current and past music, I wanted to talk about how they tackle the Pop song and provide distinction. As I type this, I have heard a classis Folk/Pop track in (Carole King’s) It’s Too Late. Even back in 1971, when it was featured on Tapestry, that song was revered and dissected. It is such a gorgeous and heart-breaking thing – a song that has hope and lightness but gets to you with its sense of loss and regret. Not only do the lyrics touch you but you are, if you have ears, affected by the melodies and composition. The emotive, spine-tingling piano and guitar strings; that overriding sense of orchestration and grandeur; spliced and helically entwined around a pure, naked heart – one that beats unlike anything else. One could campaign, with a pretty strong argument, this song is about as flawless as you can get. If we look at modern Pop music, there are those who prefer the harmless, commercial brand – easy hooks, shallow lyrics and easy gratification – and those who yearn for something more adult, talented and wealthy. Heir put powerful harmonies and hooks with grit and organic songwriting. There is infectiousness and earworm-ready songs but that does not come at the expense of maturity and authority. The lads have, clearly, had a great musical education and, in songs like I’ll Pick You Up, brewed a heady and propriety mixer. There is vibrancy and cheer but a running current of wariness and gracefulness. I hope I get to the nub of the song (below) but see it as a perfect concoction in Pop. An historically survey of the genre sees mixed results and a clear evolution. I find the stench of the charts and tween demands still rules the roost. There is a faction of artists who pay no quarter to easily-digestible and throwaway Pop. Heir knows a certain accessibility and familiarity will see them gain popularity and acclaim but they do not compromise their ethics and own voices. One can take a song like I’ll Pick You Up, and decompose its levels. A savvy and exceptional band who take care to ensure their melodies, hooks and choruses are as striking and nuanced as their titles, middle-eights and vocals – you will not see this much thought and consideration in many of their peers’ songs.

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Previous singles Scrapped Paper and Be Somebody gave me an insight into what Heir are all about. The former, one of their most-celebrated songs, begins with a jubilant and funky introduction. The song springs and scratches: that jump and direction gets into the head and summons up something summery and delightful. When the hero comes to the microphone, and the song progresses, our hero claims nothing has changed – the words are written on the page but nothing has altered. The guys know how to pen a cracking melody and open up a box of kaleidoscopic treats in the song. There are high falsetto notes and dreamy swathes; it breezes and presses. Whilst the composition has a sunshine vibe and recalls classic 1960s Pop; the lyrics paint something a little less satisfied. That scrapped piece of paper is being thrown away like a meaningless thing. That relationship they have, as she drinks across the table with friends, seems disposable and meaningless. It is an original and unexpected look at love and affection – no clichés and lazy lines employed. The entire song gets into the mind and is perfect for festival-goers and those who want something escapist but meaningful. It is a more taut and tight song than Scrapped Paper but has that same dynamic. What we have is a song that looks at defiance and success – a man who stands in a forest clearing and is determined to prove people wrong and find his way – tied with an uplifting and spirited composition. The boys show how tight and together they are. Each performer is incredible throughout and brings depth and emotion to the song. It is a great companion to Scrapped Paper and one that could easily fit alongside Be Somebody on an E.P. Both naturally lead to I’ll Pick You Up and it shows, even over three tracks, how far the guys have come and how consistent they are. Throw in the terrific All Comes Down and When the Lights Went Out and you have a series of songs that show where the Leeds band have come from – just how developed and professional they sound already.

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I’ll Pick You Up is the latest cracker from the quintet and a song I was keen to jump on. Although, in the South, the sun is reluctant to come out; the guys project a veritable summer smile with their latest song. The song’s heroine is watching the headlights approach and seems to be the proverbial rabbit. There is a feeling of disorientation and being lost. Maybe she is losing her way or, in a literal sense, has fled and looking for sanctuary. Our man is at the microphone and sees all this unfolding. He knows the heroine has had some hard times and is in a bad place. If you take it as metaphor; perhaps the girl is struggling to find happiness and maybe not as spirited as once she was. One of the problems with Heir’s previous tracks was a certain lack of clarity. Maybe it is the production values here or a conscious step from the boys but the lyrics are much easier to understand and the song seems less cluttered – previous songs have seen intelligibility as an issue. Here, everything is clear and punchy: you are never struggling to hear what is said and, as such, you fully appreciate what is happening. Putting myself in the story, we hear about the girl’s ambitions: she wants to see the day flowers crack through the pavement. It is another powerful image that really expresses a sense of loss and need. The girl is ambitious and hopeful but has seen too much pain and disappointment. Even in the earliest stages, I am wondering what the origin of the song is. Perhaps the heroine has experienced a bad break-up and is reluctant to trust another man. Maybe she is battling self-doubts or feeling like the world is against her. It is rare to see a male band change perspectives and assesses the world from a woman’s point of view. Previous tracks have cast blame at reluctant and disloyal lovers but here there is a sense of empathy and guardianship.

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The literal and metaphorical are explored in the following verse. Our man will drive the girl where she needs to go if needs be – get away from things and find somewhere safer. He will lift her spirits and, if her body weakens, one feels he will carry her to a peaceful place. It is a charming and vivid set of images that come to mind. What I love about the song is the fact the composition and vocal have that vibrant nature and luminous nature. In a way, I am reminded of Everything Everything. The Leeds band has the same sort of accelerated vocal and original presentation – some faster lines and unique annunciation; punctuation and pauses when needed. The composition has that nimble and colourful quality: the bass and guitars have groove and pace but plenty of command and control. The percussion keeps the back straight and drives the song forward. All of these elements together and one gets a real burst of character and life. You engross yourself in the song and the story unfolding. In terms of production; I get hints of 1970s Funk and 1990s R&B. It is an alluring combination that mixes sexiness and strut with smoothness and caramel notes. You get colour and light; there is a whole range of different emotions and possibilities working together in the song. The hero sees the leaves fall – forming a perfect, golden blanket – and he wants to take the girl somewhere silence is the only sound. Playing the part of the saviour and hero: I got a real sense of a man who, although not romantically involved with the girl, has a great depth of feelings for her. The drums are never compressed which gives them open license to invent and roam. Similarly, the bass jumps and races; it is a superb performance that gives I’ll Pick You Up so much quality. Our hero is taking the girl with him and getting away from the city. The band support his plight with their most impressive and fully-rounded performance so far. It shows how much confidence is in the band and how much this song means to them – an inspired track that finds each of the five members at their peak.

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I don’t mean this in a detrimental way but the boys could well see songs like I’ll Pick You Up used in shows like Made in Chelsea. Whilst it would not be suitable for scoring a depressing conversation of love or another first-world argument; it could perfectly suit a sunny and scenic scene of London – as the camera tracks across Chelsea and the blend of expensive and luscious. Maybe that is not something they have their minds on but their latest track suits that kind of situation. It is a track with a great commercial appeal but one that does not conform to the charts and mainstream. I’ll Pick You Up is a lot stronger than anything being produced by the mainstream Pop elite. There is that addictive quality that will have you coming back to the song time and time again. It is an episodic song that goes from the opening scene – the girl hoping for goodness and positivity – whilst the hero comes and promises support. They then see the light and the sun start to shine in the final stages. It comes full-circle and is a fantastically realised and penned song. So much thought has gone into the structure and lyrics. You are invested and find so much to recommend. There is depth and accessibility alongside some fantastic single lines and a chorus that gets into the head and will not lodge. Likewise, the boys are brilliant in terms of the sonic sights they project. Each player complements and supports one another but there are moments when each step into the spotlight. I love the silky and punchy bass; the percussion is constantly energised and funky whilst the guitars switch from jumping and fizzy to scintillatingly sexual. Our hero gives a wonderful vocal performance that shows compassion and pride. He is not trying to make a move or be crude: offering a shoulder to the girl and a way out of her despondency. Put everything into the pot and you have a fantastic song that is likely to be the centrepiece of any forthcoming E.P. from the Leeds band.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Portia Hunt

There are a lot of festivals and big events coming up and I am looking forward to seeing how Heir fit into the fold. They will, no doubt, have festival commitments but I’m not sure to what extent. Based in Leeds – I shall get back to my earlier point soon – they have a lot of great venues on their doorstep. I have given a guide as to the best venues around the city. Let’s hope the guys take full advantage of all the wonderful spaces they have available and get that live experience coming in. They do not need my guidance and recommendation as they have already compelled some big stations and decision-makers. In a huge and unpredictable band market; there is no hard-and-fast rule how to succeed and what you need to offer. In Heir’s terms, it is their incredible live performance and instant songs that do the work. I know the band have blown away crowds lately and seem to be getting better with each performance. They revel in the adulation from the audience and vibe from the sparks and excitement of live gigs. I’ll Pick You Up is the third single from the Leeds rhinos and has the band producing alongside Harrison Stanford. Being in an infant state, there are certain limitations and inevitabilities for Heir. They cannot command the biggest stages just yet and must rely on the local circuit for that experience and exposure. Fortunately, they are in a great city and appealing to those who want a fresh and exciting Pop band. It is no surprise they have got into the hearts of so many gig-goers. Heir’s performance already has that professional quality and there is a great connection between the lads. I guess they will be looking to get an E.P. out and building on the tracks they have already released. Each of their releases has been met with positivity so there will be high demand for an E.P. or album. Right now, Heir will want to exploit the festivals and get themselves around the country. Although they are picking up steam and acclaim in Yorkshire; one wonders whether other parts of the U.K. would highlight. It seems London would be a natural ambition for them. In terms of Heir’s music; I can think of quite a few venues that would be interested. It is both exciting and busy for the band. They are new so have to prove themselves but have the enthusiasm and determination to play to as many people as possible. The reception they have received thus far vindicates and compensates the hard graft and impressive work ethic.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Portia Hunt

I’ll wrap things up by coming back to some earlier themes: the music and venues of Leeds; Pop’s potential and getting the best out of the genre; artists that expend the effort to ensure their faces, music and information is readily available. Leeds’ reputation for world-class, original music is in no dispute. I feel the media pays insufficient attention to the city and should refocus its priorities. I guess I say this about every area overlooked in favour of London. Yorkshire is such a large and fascinating county and is providing some of Britain’s best new music. I have always had an affection for Leeds and the terrific artists it produces. Once again throwing a nod to https://www.fredperry.com/subculture/article-leeds-sound – or ripping its clothes off with my teeth, driving it through the duvet like a ballistic missile and having a nifty fag whilst I run for a taxi – and there are even more Leeds treasures who are going to be climbing the ladder this year. The Barmines – the city sure knows how to produce well-named bands – have a sentimentality for Britpop that is less wistful and more retro. They have played alongside The Feeling and, in big statements like These Days and Nights, know how to pen a song that burrows into the consciousness and sets up camp. A bliss-violent contrast of Happy Daggers is, in a way, reflected in their music – except the daggers are stabs of Disco funk and jive. They are a slick and danceable band that, like I said earlier, take older themes and give them a modern shine. The Mexanines have already played Kendal Calling, Kazoopa and a variety of impressive gigs. They are a Leeds band that have carved a loyal fanbase and are drawing in new acolytes with every gig. The same can be said of The Dangerhounds: a band I am very familiar with. Having reviewed and spoken with frontman Adam Hume many times; I can attest, without bias, how strong the band is. They have been around since 2015 and their exceptional Big Bad Wolf is not as snarling and oppressive as the name suggest. Pure Pop nuggets and big choruses sit with exceptional electricity and a tightness bands twice their age lack.

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Young Amphibians – again – behold the naming chops! – have a big Radiohead love that mix’s a bit of Kanye West. Their track Pablo’s Honey is, essentially Radiohead’s debut with Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo horned into the second syllable. Perhaps the origin is not that obvious but it is a great title for a song: they have replicated this with bangers Please Remove the Plastic and End of Today, Start of Tomorrow. The former can rival The Bends’ (Radiohead’s peerless sophomore album) for its guitar intricacies and intricacies. Leeds groups/artists know how to stand out and have a good ear for pollination, original sounds and eye-catching names. A song like Please Remove the Plastic get you wondering where the plastic is being removed from – all sorts of images and scenarios fill the mind. Depending on your mindset it can range from innocent (peeling the protective plastic of an iPhone) or regretfully dragging the sofa covering from your incontinent nan’s favourite sitting spot. It is easy to fall for a band – or at least be intrigued to stick your head around the smoke-filled, soothing sound-emitting doorway – and take them to heart. That is something a lot of new acts ignore. I hear so many samey and predictable song titles. You would be shocked how unimaginative and mindless some artists are: conversely, there are plenty who have the wisdom to stand from the crowd and show some imagination. Heir are part of this group and ensure every branch of their musical family tree is genealogically sound. There is a lot to think about when you start in music. I have compared the whole process to a business plan because that is, in essence, what music is: it is a business that rewards the most intrepid and entrepreneurial. Getting that mission statement right is key: why you are in music and how you will stand out. Whilst things like profit-and-loss sheets and inventory budgets might sound boring but they are all essential considerations. Bands think images are not important and people are capable of finding the social media links by themselves. If you give the listener too much ‘responsibility’ it not only shows a lack of credibility and promise but a disregard for music and those you are charged with winning over. Like a bank or business partner: potential fans are only going to tolerate so much bulls*** before they look at a more profitable and professional option.

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Heir are no mugs and know this going in. Not only have they got a cool, if a slightly Google-unfriendly name, but they have cool single artwork and a real regard for colour, image and texture. This parallels their music which takes Pop’s classic and contemporary highs and melts it into an alcohol-drug-food cocktail that pleases all the senses – I shall finish this illicit and illegal-sounding sentiment soon. Essentially, the Leeds quintet has put huge effort into their music: not just the sounds and getting that right but ensuring they cater to the casual shopper or those who look for real depth and attention to detail. Those who are reluctant to appreciate the need for a full and illustrative social media spread are those lucky to survive long-term. I shall end this by talking about Pop’s contortion and modern malleability – with childhood remembrances – and how Heir are breathing life and colour into the genre. I feel people like me get into music and consecrate our existence to it because of how it can surprise you. If you turn the radio on and hear the same kind of artists doing the same thing; after a while, it can be a depressing thing to hear. When a song/artist arrives that offers something different and unexplained: that is what music is all about. I’ll end this by talking about Heir’s approach to Pop but, as a slight detour, how important originality and revelation is. My introduction to music can, conceivably, be traced back to a childhood birthday. A friend at the time, Jeff – who was born in the same hospital as me on the same day – bought me, as we exchanged gifts, a copy of The Wind in the Willows. It was the first ‘grown-up’ book I received and, with the turn of the page, opened my eyes to characters, fantasy and charm. Years later, I look back at that time and realise, subconsciously perhaps, that spark and realisation was my mind opening to new and daring things – that intense passion for music followed shortly after. Around that time, literature involved again, we had a school day where various teachers (in various cabins around the school/playground) were reading from a different book. Each child could, say, go from a reading of Swallows and Amazons and then, when finished, hop along to a new cabin and hear passages from Winnie the Pooh.

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It may seem inconsequential but that, along with that birthday parable, connects the dots that is my music make-up. In the same way I can draw a line through those experiences – to where I am now – I can confidently state that sort of eye-opening experience is becoming rarer. Technology and advancements make it harder and harder to truly nourish and expand a young mind. In music, how easy is it to open a new world to someone who has the entire world at the click of a mouse bar? There is a lot of weight to the argument around technology and social media: is it making us lazier and less connected; perhaps more informed and blessed. Music-wise, artists are feeling this hard: many unable to speak to a new listener and recruit effectively. Heir know it is a Herculean task appealing to those whose attention spans and tastes are limited and capricious. What they do is effortlessly mix older, classic Pop sounds and those favoured by the mainstream. Their colourful artwork and bright personalities is backed by music that puts a smile on the face but makes you think. There is definite depth in their sound: people will listen and take something away from each song. This is personified in I’ll Pick You Up. It has a certain briskness and spirit but, listen closely, and it reveals something unexpected and wise. The boys do not copy everyone else and aim for the charts: what they provide are actual, mature songs that aim for broader minds and true music fans. Maybe it will take time to fully connect with the younger audiences but they are making big strides thus far. When they do manage to do this – a few singles down the line, maybe – they will get bigger gigs and festival appearances around the nation. When that does happen, that is when…

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THINGS get really good.

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Follow Heir

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PHOTO CREDIT: Portia Hunt

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/heirtheband

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/heirtheband/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/heirtheband/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/heirtheband

BandCamp:

https://heirtheband.bandcamp.com/

FEATURE: The New Musician Handbook

FEATURE:

 

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The New Musician Handbook

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 WHILST there is, unfortunately, no hard-and-fast-rule for new musicians…

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there are a few things every artist needs to know. The reason for doing this piece is (me seeing) so many artists making the same mistakes. It is hard keeping on top of everything and having to spin so many plates. Even if you have management, as I will explain, you cannot sit back and assume they will take care of everything. Like parents; they have a certain responsibility but artists have to account for themselves and be mature. I know how hard things are in music and what a challenge it is separating from the pack; making a name and making your career last. I have collated a few points which, I think, are easily-avoidable pitfalls for every new act. I hint at ways to get your music out there and why interacting with other artists is so important.

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A lot of artists start off pretty promisingly whilst there are those who struggle out of the blocks. It can be hard determining what the public wants and how to succeed. There isn’t the same logic and rules for every band/artist so you need to be smart in how you run your careers. What I want to do with this ‘guide’ is give my perspectives as a reviewer and interviewer. I love the artists that come to me but have had to turn quite a few away recently – something I always hate doing. The only reasons for this revolve around a few things. Sometimes, there images ae substandard or lacking; the biography is slight and not interesting enough to hook me – with others, they might be a little too familiar and commercial. I feel every artist that that comes through will gain a fanbase and fans but the idea is to get as much support as you can. The only way to succeed in music is to avoid the pratfalls many fall into. After that, you need to show fortitude and energy: keep the gas revving and ensure you get your music to as many people as possible. In that spirit, I have compiled a short list of things each new artist needs to consider and factor in when they enter music…

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THE NAME

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Like a song; a lot of times a music career starts with a name. I guess this is aimed more at bands/duos/trios etc. but something worth mentioning. Search engines attract a lot of casual listeners and followers who could be waiting to discover your music. A name is important and, if you do not take it seriously, that will have a detrimental effect. One of the most irksome things artists do is PUT THEIR NAME IN CAPITAL LETTERS. It is becoming more common – not just with bands – and is something that journalists are not fond of. If you are a solo artist I am okay with it but not bands. If you have a common name – or one that is similar to another, then change it. There are a few solo artists I know – with upper-case names – I approve of but they are in the minority. It (capital letters) gives the impression you are bigger and better than anyone else. Some might say it is confidence and not a big thing but I am actually put off by artists that feel the need to capitalise their name. If you can avoid it, then do so. The only reason I would look at an artist who put things in block capitals is if their name was an acronym or, if it was in lower-case lettering, it would be too similar to an existing word/artist. Marketplace confusion is a real thing and something best to avoid. So, if there is another similar-named artist then I would accept capital letters.

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That said, you should do your research to ensure you are not doubling-up and risking possible legal strife. Another thing that bugs me about artists is weird names or those almost Google-proof. On the first part; you have acts who put symbols and odd letters in their name; misspell a common word or, in an attempt to stand out, put some capital letters and some lower-case in the same word. If you are making it hard for people to spell your name then, chances are, people will lose patience and get tired. Not only do you need a name that is easy to remember but one that is distinct and memorable. Avoid common nouns and names that will cause a listener meltdown. If you call yourself let’s say, ‘Lonely’, then how does that work?! You type that into Facebook and, unless there are few other acts with that name, you’ll get some unhelpful and unrelated results. Put that into a search engine and you’ll be scrolling all day. Type ‘Lonely Band’ and you’ll still be no further. Type more and more words and you are wasting so much time just trying to FIND an artist – let alone discovering their music and getting involved with their social media.

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The same way a business name needs to stand out and look great on the page; musicians need to take care with nominal. This is another point more aimed at bands but something solo artists can take note of. I applaud the decision to not use your own name and come up with something original. You would not believe the number of bands that title themselves ‘House’/’HOUSE’ or ‘West Street’. Having common terms and words in your name is going to drive people away through frustration. Before you launch yourself, make sure your name is easy to find and original – not something that will offend the eye or be difficult to spell/type. Take your time and appreciate how many times you have to say/type that band name. If you are a solo artist, it does not mean you need to use your own name. You can amend your forename or surname or be invesntive. It pays to look on Facebook/Twitter etc. to make sure your name, whatever you choose, is not that popular with other people. In essence, you want to stand out and make sure people associate a name with your music – and not several dozen others around the world.

IMAGES

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This is the one that really gets to me. If you have a dating site and do not put any images online – or a blurry image of you at the pub surrounded by dozens of people – how many people are going to ask for a date?! (you will get some really desperate sorts but nobody good.) Looks matter and this extends to music. If I cannot see what a solo artist/band looks like then I am not going to be interested. There are those who say the music does the talking and they don’t want to give too much away. Not only does this seem suspect – the music might not be THAT strong – but is a load of crap. Your music is meant to do the talking but that is the same with Radiohead and The Amazons. They have lots of photos online so what’s your excuse?! You need to have good-quality, high-resolution images online so people like me are tempted to do interviews and reviews. Most websites will look for a couple of photos but if you want an in-depth review/interview you’ll need a fair few images. I would suggest, even if you are a new solo artist/band; six images is not asking too much – they have to look good and not be phone shots and small, distorted pictures. I have (reluctantly) taken on acts who have a lot of photos but they are amateurish and out-of-focus.

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When you put that online it looks unprofessional and other artists are less likely to come knocking at your door. Before you put a single song out, think about images and getting an introductory album sorted. Contact photographer directly – you can do a web search for local talent – or ask a fellow artist on Facebook. You will get suggestions and, chances are, be able to select the most-appropriate photographer quickly. Costs are what put off most artists and that is fair enough. The fact the six photos can come from a single shoot means you’ll be done and dusted very quickly. Paying for someone to take some great shots – with a theme or in a cool location – might set you back a hundred quid or more, but you know, they will pay for themselves very soon. These are the shots you can send to potential P.R. companies and labels; it will look attractive to fans and journalists and does not need to compromise mystique and music. Again, put yourself in someone else’s shoes and what they want from an artist. Basic things like images and information should be a no-brainer: the fact I have to question so many acts about it is quite shocking.

INFORMATION

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A short one but something that leads on from the photo consideration. I will come to social media but, when you have yourself set-up there, you need to give the listener something to go on. Providing intelligence and biography allows them insight into your music and where you came from. Again, a faction state providing information like this clouds opinions and people will not be able to look beyond that – letting the music say what it needs to is the main thing. Yes, judging an artist on music alone is right but I am not going to have a clearly-defined opinion and images if you provide the following: all your social media links on your Facebook information section; a short – a paragraph or two – biography of how you got started and where you are touring etc.; the town/city you play in and a list of upcoming tours/releases. On that basis, that is essentially itinerary and hardly stripping yourself naked and putting it all on display. If I see that – alongside some cool shots – I am intrigued and will have an angle to go on. If you want anyone to review your music they need to know a bit about you – or the review will be a couple of sentences.

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For my blog, I take certain unique data and expand on that in my reviews. Say you come from Glasgow and are touring with Feeder next month; you write Britpop-style songs and have been lauded by the likes of NME. That is a conceivable schematic and combination and gives me a great leaping-off-point. I can talk about the Glasgow music scene and fellow artists; how important the city is and why we should look up there. I can discuss magazines like NME and how to get under their radar. I can look at getting acclaim early and then take on that Britpop point. When all that is on the page, alongside some cool, lush images then you have a big and interesting review. Other artists will come to me and fellow journalists will be curious and invested. Not only are you boosting your career and speeding the promotional/recognition process up but helping other artists.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND SHARING

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Once you have the name and images established then you will need to get your music onto social media – I shall talk about the music side of things later. Again, I do actually see artists who do not take full advantage of social media/music-sharing websites. I cannot iterate strongly enough how important it is to make yourself as visible and omnipresent as possible. Facebook and Twitter are the first ports and there are musicians who choose Facebook and not Twitter – do not underestimate how important Twitter is. It takes a matter of minutes to set up an account on both and the same amount of time to get started on SoundCloud and YouTube. Have a channel on each and make sure you share every song there: some listeners will be fans of YouTube whilst others prefer SoundCloud. Go to BandCamp to and Spotify, which I shall mention soon, is an essential inclusion. There are other sites but those are the main ones. If you have images and taking shots get an Instagram account too. By covering all bases and getting your music out to the masses that will make a massive difference. When you have all this, tied into promotion, ensure you provide regular updates to your followers and share every new video/song with them: they will not mind and why they followed you in the first place.

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Those who see an artist taking care of details and giving fans updates and information are a lot more likely to retain existing supporters and bring in many more. I cannot emphasise just how crucial it is keeping your websites updated and letting your fans. If you are touring or have a new song out; give them build-up and advise them at every stage. Social media can be a divisive tool but that it is what it is: a way of promoting your music and reaching as many as you can. I get annoyed at the sheer number of artists that ignore social media or are so lazy and cocky. If you have a Facebook then, naturally, people need all your other social media links and webpages. It is not good enough getting the fan/journalist to do all the leg-work for you. In that same spirit; we cannot discover your music if you do not tell us about it. Social media is designed for things like promotion so make sure you sign up to every platform going and utilise its services.

PROMOTION AND MANAGEMENT

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I have written a piece about Spotify already so will not go too much into this. It is one of the most popular and reputable sites for musicians and another essential tool to have. Look at that article and it will give you guides how to set up an account and share music. The best takeaways from that piece concerns creating playlists and connecting with fellow artists. If you like a particular act on Spotify, get in touch and share their music. You might share one of their playlists and that, in turn, will impress them. There is a bit of a myth when it comes to a magical Spotify number: they say two-hundred-and-fifty followers gets you verified. There is an obsession with reaching that number but it does not have to define your work and reputation. Few new artists will hit that figure straight away so be patient. Getting your music on Spotify is an achievement in itself and gives you access to a world of new and established music. They might include you in their playlist which means you could get your songs to new audiences. Do not be afraid of a certain audacity and confidence. You can try contacting a larger artist or sharing their music: this does not mean they will necessarily reciprocate but always worth being ambitious. Utilising the service and taking full advantage will get you to new faces and get those all-important streaming figures up. You need to ensure your music and work is shared on social media too. Every new song, video and work should be spread to fans; let them know about new releases and share news and unveilings. It is not pestering them: they want to know what is happening so you need to react to that. If there are fellow new artists you are fond of; suggest collaborating with them and working on something in the future – that will, again, get your songs to new people.

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Many new artists rely on others sharing and reputation to get their work to radios and journalists. From my viewpoint; I get a lot of acts contacting me asking for reviews and interviews. Not to blow my trumpet, but contacting as many appropriate blogs/sites as you can; means you are more likely to get a response. It seems simple logic but you also need to do your research: sites that do not promote your sort of music are unlikely to be interested. Any P.R. sites – like Mystic Sons – will accept new material and consider acts for review. If you do a search for ‘blogs and companies that accept unsolicited music’ you will get results. It is worth checking out all the blogs and websites that promote new musicians and getting in contact. Doing that legwork and doing it regularly gets you into a pattern. Every new release should be treated with that importance. You are selling yourself so get out to the people. The same can be said of radio stations. There are reputable stations like Chanel Radio who are on the hunt for new sounds but many local/national stations are broad and open-minded. A lot of national radio stations are welcoming of new artists so do your research and have a listen to what they play. It seems like a lot of legwork but, once you have done this, you will get used to it – and new promotional campaigns will seem less daunting.

THAT ‘U.S.P.’

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Most musicians have the goal of being signed to a record label/P.R. agency and getting booked to play the biggest festivals. Some acts achieve this quite quickly whilst most will have to wait longer. There isn’t an exact recipe for accelerating the process but a combination of research, graft and commitment will stand you in good stead. Whilst you cannot realty contact festivals and ask to be booked; there is more flexibility and accessibility when it comes to labels. Do your research before you contact them as they are busy people. Look at the P.R. agencies and smaller labels that house the sort of music you play. If they are free to emails and contact, drop them a quick line. If you have a full online spread and follow all the above points: chances are, that will put you above many others that contact them. Think of it like applying for a job. If your C.V. is sparse and disorganised then you will not get to the interview stage. Agencies are looking for artists that know what it takes to succeed and aware of what journalists/the public want.

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Recently, Gorillaz launched their forthcoming album, Humanz, with some pop-up, animated booths. I can’t remember the exact details but it was like Pokémon Go. You would hunt down these booths and, once found, hear the album in full. It is a P.R. track that nobody else has thought of. Go back to Radiohead launching a pay-as-you-wish strategy when launching heir 2007 album, In Rainbows. That was unheard of at the time but has inspired other acts to do something original and bold. A lot of new artists are too concerned with timescales and following what everyone else is up to. You do not need to do something as extravagant as Radiohead and Gorillaz – or would have the money or safety net to risk such a thing – but think outside the box. Maybe it is a cool photoshoot – mimic the greatest album covers ever or a strange theme – or the way your music is distributed. Vinyl is coming back into fashion and so, in some quarters, are cassettes. I see a lot of acts release double A-side or do a split-cassette release. Maybe you embrace an older technology or do limited vinyl pressings – for interviews and selected fans, for instance. Perhaps you do something new in the digital forum. Make it a bit of a game or puzzle when releasing a new song/album. It does not have to be too complex or expensive but putting imagination and thought into every aspect of your music. It can be fun thinking of new ways to record, distribute and promote your music. Some artists do a new release every week – under a certain theme or song-cycle- whilst others collaborate with other acts from around the world. Some perform at lesser-known venues or cute spaces: something out of the everyday and ordinary will stand in the mind and impress fans.

FOLLOW-UP…

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I have mentioned ways to contact P.R. companies and stations but venues are just as important. Once you have your music out, and it starts to gather steam, you will be thinking of tours and dates. If you have a manager or record label; they will take care of a lot of that – booking dates and coming up with tour posters etc. Those who have to do everything themselves do not have that luxury so need to make calls and send emails. There are some venues you can contact and enquire about booking gigs but some that scout for artists. Deepening on where you live and the style of music you make depends on opportunities and availability. Draw yourself a spider diagram or table that lists everything you need to consider and when by. You can compartmentalise and break things into various sections. Being organised is a good way of keeping on top of things: having a separate list of useful contacts and websites is another good step. The solo musician/band has a hell of a lot to tackle so making it easier for yourself will ease the burden.

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Once you are gigging and releasing material, you’ll not want to let the momentum drop. Ensure social media is updated and renew photos/do new shoots every year or so. Essentially, people want a mix of the familiar and fresh. If you do this successfully you will have fans for life. Do interviews and get a range of written and videoed interviews done – many interviews shared on YouTube can get a lot more attention than something on a blog, for instance. Be sensible and don’t burn-out but do not be too lacklustre, either. It may seem like a mouthful but it gets easier once you get going. One important thing to remember is the support of fellow artists. Always approach and see if they can help/share music and hook up with them. Music has a large and (largely) friendly community so do not be afraid to exploit that.

MUSIC

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The music itself, as many artists are eager to inform me, is the most important thing. Titles, again, are important so make them stand out – but not in a bad way. Overfamiliarity will do you no favours and the same goes with themes: push the imagination and do not write what you think marketing men want to hear. Of course, love songs and common fodder are popular for a reason. If you are flexible and inventive with your lyrics and music you are making a big statement and trying to stand out. If you keep doing what everyone else does and have your mind aimed at the charts you will have a short career. I always love an artist that takes care of images and promotion but the music is king. I love seeing a blend of familiar and original: artists that have mainstream potential but a definite edge to them. Do not be afraid to have a play and release a B-side; maybe offer an instrumental or do a collaboration few would think of. A cute-but-eccentric track or a themed album would impress; an E.P. with a brilliant gimmick or fantastic physical format; an electronic campaign that defies logic and expectation – if you do all of this then you can stand out and really clean up. It is important not being too gimmicky or blowing your budget – money is a big concern for all musicians.

IN CLOSING…

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I hope that does, at least, give guidance to new acts or those looking to see what the public wants. I am not patronising, but sometimes it is good to have an outsider’s view. As I said, I get so many acts coming to me without decent images and little information: their mantras are all the same and their music hardly lingers in the mind. This either puts me off or leave me a little cold. If I feel like this then, chances are, many others will. It is not impossible getting to the mainstream and, once there, affecting real change. Every artist is the same so their attack plan will be different to others. It is about common sense, as stated, and seeing what fits you. Basic considerations – images, social media and sharing your music – are common to all but the way you approach music and promoting it requires individuality and originality. Take what you will and I hope it makes sense. If I see another BAND (all in big letters, yeah?) with a couple of crummy photos and no information anywhere, I may have to give up music and become a Trappist monk. Journalists do not want to be annoyed and listeners want to discover great new artists! Consider all this and, with a few small steps, you can get your music…

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TO a huge and hungry market.

INTERVIEW: CO/NTRY

INTERVIEW:

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Antoine Bordeleau

 

CO/NTRY

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MONTREAL is an area of the world, like its country-mate…

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Ontario that gets limited respect from the worldwide music press. The Canadian (local) press might cover certain bands and artists but what of the international media? If CO/NTRY is an example of interesting, unusual Canadian music then there should be more attention levied Canada’s way. Beaver and Dave discuss the new album, Cell Phone 1, and what its origins are – perhaps the start of an epic, multi-art concept about the joys/heartaches of owning a series of mobile phones. The boys talk about songs Cash Out and Living in a Body and whether a European/British tour is in the pipeline. They discuss how their weeks have been – pretty desolate and hard if their answers are to be believed – and why they have such a broad approach to music and genres. It is a strange and beautiful interview from two guys making good, honest music.

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

Beaver: Great. We are fermenting everything we own… and I’m excited to get all my teeth removed.

Dave: I cut a hole in the bathroom wall and am sleeping under the tub.

Cell Phone 1 is the new album. What was the idea behind that title?

There was a period, back in 2004, when I had sixteen cellphones. Cell Phone 1 is the first of sixteen concept albums about each phone.

The sixteenth album will be sent into space to orbit the Earth.

The G.P.S. coordinates will be given to fans that purchase the previous fifteen albums. There’s only one copy and you have to go get it yourself.

Can you reveal anything about the sort of themes and subjects explored on the record?

Yes. Death, breakfast; microfibers, dental dams; large groups of children; potpourri. In that order.

Previous singles, Cash Out and Living in a Body, gained great reception in North America and the U.K. What was it like receiving that sort of praise? 

Kinda (sic.) like when your mother gives you a cookie, then slaps it out of your hand right when you’re about to take a bite – exploding the cookie and showering the kitchen in a cloud of dust that is inhaled -and eventually develops into some form of lung disease which we bottle and sell.

You’re Newfoundland-born, Montreal-based. How did you guys get together in the first place?

I first saw Beaver on a late night talk show that used to air in Newfoundland called; Now That’s a Hat! I called in to ask about the Stetson he was wearing.

Beaver: I got the hat from Mr. Stetson himself. He used to date my father.

They both loved rolled oats, crack and eating butter as a dip (not a spread).

I am intrigued by the music scene in Canada. How does the vibe in Montreal differ to that of Newfoundland or, say, Ontario?

Toronto is like dogs; Montreal is like trash cats and Newfoundland is like seals.

I understand, once you two formed CO/NTRY, you became a hit in the after-hours, seedy underground. It sounds quite adventurous and vivid. Any fond/memorable moments from those early days?

One time, we passed out at the party and woke up in a submarine.

Listening to your songs/albums and there is quite a varied and broad approach to genres. It is hard to define and pinpoint your sound. Was it a conscious decision to perform like that or something innate to both of you?

It kind of just happened that way. We made a dance record, Techno Prisoners, that we shelved. Cell Phone 1 was written on a track to track basis. Three tracks in, we had a Disco song; a Blues-Jazz track called Street Legal, that we’ve yet to release, and a Post-Punk-ish track about online gaming.

Songwriting is a very spontaneous process for us. We never try to write a specific kind of track: we just make all of our studio gear record-ready – then have at it until we hit the sweet spot.

I know you have a gig in Montreal next month. Any future gigs coming? Can we expect to see you in the U.K. anytime soon?

We’re playing at the St. Baby Jesus Church in Montreal on May 13th. We’re going to be performing a one-time-only set of ultra-high B.P.M. gabber church hymns. Coming to Europe in September to tour for three months. Fingers crossed for the U.K.

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

Beaver: Phil Collins. No particular album. I listen to it over and over again.

Dave: Elton John singles; various New Age albums.

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

Pelada.

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

Get as many credit cards as possible. Take out all the money you can in bills, hide it then declare bankruptcy; then go on welfare.

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

Beaver: Right Said FredDon’t Talk Just Kiss

Dave: Demis RoussosForever and Ever

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Follow CO/NTRY

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Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/countrymontreal/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/countrymtl

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/countrymtl

YouTube:

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

INTERVIEW: Matthew and Me

INTERVIEW:

 

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoor PHOTO CREDIT: Aubrey Simpson

 

Matthew and Me

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AWAY from the hurly-burly of the city-rush push…

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there are artists that are making wonderful music free from the stress and bustle. Matthew and Me are based in South Devon and premiered their single, Every Day, earlier this week. I ask Lucy and Matt about the song’s beginnings and how the duo got together – in a professional sense (as they are keen to distinguish). The guys explain what the scene is like in Devon and how love from some prominent D.J.s – including Lauren Laverne and Shaun Keaveny of BBC Radio 6 Music – feels. They look ahead to tour dates and gigs and provide an insight into the Matthew and Me songwriting process. Lucy and Matt tell me about their musical upbringing and how influential their childhood tastes are to their current output.

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

Yeah, good thanks – a fairly standard week in the life of Lucy and Matt. Our new single premiered at the start of the week so we’ve really enjoyed getting that out there.

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

We aim for our music to be some kind of escapism: a break from reality/mundanity and a little musical journey. Hopefully, that’s what we achieve with our tracks. We like the description ‘Dream-Pop’ – rich layers of sound, nice warm synths; lots of reverb and delay (and good feels).

Can you tell me how you both got together, please?

Romantically or the band? Jokes.

Well, we met at Darlington College and Matt formed a band at the end of his MA course. The line-up and band names changed a few times over the years but we’ve been a two-piece in this set-up for a year or so now. When we play live there’s four of us.

Every Day is your new single. What is the song about and how quickly did it come together?

It’s about appreciating people you love while they’re in your life and not taking people/situations/relationships for granted.

Enjoying your day-to-day and celebrating life, it’s a reflection of how fragile life actually is – and how you may as well try and love every minute you get.

It was recorded in our studio over a few evening sessions with Chris and Bear Bond in February and happened very organically.

The song follows from your Startpoint E.P. (released last year). How, if at all, has your sound/music altered since then? Are you taking in new inspiration in terms of sounds and themes?

Startpoint was quite a cathartic piece of work for us: a bit of a new beginning and a chance to try new things with Chris.

Since this record, we have really focused our time and energy on pinpointing the elements of music that we love; hours were spent honing the synth. sounds used in Every Day and we’re definitely interested in further experimenting with a more Electronica-influenced feel. Matt is now being naturally drawn to a lower vocal range which has been interesting to experiment with.

Matthew and Me hail from South Devon. What is the music scene like down there? Is there quite an active and varied scene?

Honestly, it’s not amazing. Devon is a beautiful and inspiring base for us but there isn’t much of a scene for our style of music down here – or certainly not one we feel we can fit into. However, there are a lot of artists and creative people based here so we’re lucky to have inspiring and alternative mates who are also engaged with the wider music and art scenes. it’s a beautiful place to work from and the ethos of the creative community as a whole is inspiring.

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We’ve tried to inject some life into Totnes by working at local venues and promoting nights – but touring bands don’t often make it as far as Devon!

However, we also help to run Sea Change Festival which, in year one was incredible – and we have an equally exciting programme planned for year two. This, we hope, can grow bigger year-by-year and then encourage acts to travel to us. We also aim to curate a year-round programme under the ‘Sea Change‘ umbrella.

A range of D.J.s and stations have promoted your music – no less some of BBC Radio 6 Music’s biggest names. How does that feel and does it give you the confidence to keep pushing? 

Yep, that’s exactly it – it does encourage us not to give up and to keep chipping away it’s an increasingly tricky thing to sustain; a full-band set-up in an industry which is seemingly very stretched at the level we’re operating at. But, we’re stubborn and it’s what we want to do.

We’re so grateful to people like Shaun Keaveny, Lauren Laverne and Huw Stephens for the support!

Can we expect an E.P. later in the year perhaps?

We have the songs ready that we want to record but it’s just getting everything to align so that we can record them with Chris. But the general plan is to record more as soon as we can. So ideally…Yes!

How do songs come together for you? Will one of you write the lyrics and work on the music or is it more joined-up?

It’s a funny process: the songs seem to come when you’re not expecting it. We sometimes do three or four different demos of a track and, by the time we get to the end of the process, we’ve decided we hate the song! Funnily enough, Every Day came about from Matt playing the drums and shouting a melody idea into an overhead mic and me playing an arpeggiated synth idea – none of which appears in the final version of the track but we went on a little journey to get to the finished thing.

Mainly, it’s just a case of putting the hours in. Matt does a lot of the initial lyric and melody ideas and I do a lot of the arrangement/drums/keys etc.; then we bring the tracks to Chris and he usually does something mind-bending that we couldn’t have even imagined.

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Aside from a gig at Servant Jazz Quarters on 12th June; are there any more dates in the diary?

I think we have something pencilled for the Exeter Phoenix the same week as London. But, otherwise, we’re really hoping to start playing more shows this year!

You have played Glastonbury and Field Day already. What have been the fondest memories for you both so far?

Playing the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury was definitely a highlight.

We played at Sea Change Festival in Totnes last year which was particularly special playing to a packed out home crowd just before British Sea Power headlined.

Who are the artists you both grew up listening to and how influential are your childhood sounds when it comes to your own music?

Matt: I grew up listening to a pretty wide variety of stuff. Dad used to like This Mortal Coil/Cocteau Twins and other Shoegaze and atmospheric stuff. His musical taste was pretty influential. He was also into a lot of contemporary Classical and minimalist composers – which had an effect for sure.

Lucy: I generally had terrible taste in music: Aqua, Spice Girls… but then got heavily into Jazz in my teens and learnt a lot through studying that. Then, I started playing in Sheffield bands so was influenced by the Electro-Pop and Punk-y-Indie things that were going on at the time there.

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

Lucy: I think Bloc PartySilent Alarm or DovesLost Souls were crucial musical moments in my life. But, it’s hard to whittle it down to just one record.

Matt: So hard to pick one record! Arcade FireFuneral reminds me of some pretty fun times at the end of uni. They played the whole record one Sunday afternoon at a Flea Market in Maeurpark, Berlin.

I remember sitting drinking beers and listening to the whole thing. When it came out it was powerful, energetic and original-sounding to me.

Are there any new/upcoming artists you advise we keep an eye out for this year at all? 

Lowly. We’ve been listening to those guys for a little while and they’re playing at Sea Change this year. We can’t wait! They have an incredible, unique sound.

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

Tricky one. Just keep at it: you have to make mistakes to learn. We feel like we’re on a massive learning curve the whole time. Believe in what you’re making 100%; otherwise, no one else will. Definitely only do it because you love it.

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

Lucy: There’s a live version of Autobahn by Kraftwerk that is absolutely brilliant (from MinimumMaximum). That’s my fave this week.

Matt: LordeTennis Court (Flume remix)

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Follow Matthew and Me

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PHOTO CREDIT: Aubrey Simpson

Official:

http://matthewandme.co.uk/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/matthewandmemusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/MatthewAndMe

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/matthewandme/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/matthewandme

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrVNcAC6NUCBP4jqdgEWLTw

FEATURE: The April Playlist: Vol. 5: Haim Queen; He Is Prince

FEATURE:

 

The April Playlist

 

 

 

Vol. 5: Haim Queen; He Is Prince

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THEY do not come much bigger than this one…

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The final April Playlist not only brings a long-awaited new single from Haim but a stunning track from Prince – just over a year since his death. It is weird hearing new Prince material but great these songs and recordings are coming to light. PJ Harvey and Katy Perry have new songs out: cracking songs from the underground are here; some gems from brand-new artists. The weather is all over the place and so is music – in the very best way, you understand. I am always psyched-up by the terrific quality and consistency of the music industry. As this list proves; there is a real wealth of talent and an overflowing chasm of potential. Dig your teeth into some sumptuous songs and spicy treats…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jesse Lirola

Haim Right Now

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Prince Electric Intercourse

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PHOTO CREDIT: Maria Mochnacz

PJ Harvey A Dog Called Money

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Gorillaz (ft. Grace Jones) – Charger

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Katy Perry (ft. Migos) – Bon Appétit

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Ardyn – Together

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Los Campesinos! – Renato Dall’ara (2008)

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Lucy Rose – This Is Called Home

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Circa Waves – Love’s Run Out

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PHOTO CREDIT: Guy Lowndes

Father John Misty – Total Entertainment Forever

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The SherlocksChasing Shadows

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GoldfrappSystemagic

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Sivu Lonesome

Planetarium – Mercury

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Lady LeshurrMode

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MANKIND – Three Handfuls of Dirt

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PHOTO CREDIT: Bellanova photography

DIDI Awkward

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Ghost Caravan – Drop the Game

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Slaves – People That You Meet

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Oli HannafordLocker

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Phoenix – J-Boy

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Skip Marley – Calm Down

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Toodla T, Andrea Martin and Stefflon DonBeast

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Gangly – Whole Again

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James Blunt – Bartender

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The Anarchy Arias – Ça plane pour moi

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Yungen – Do It Right

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Stanaj – Romantic

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PHOTO CREDIT: Dara Munnis

Brian Deady – Fall On My Knees

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Loyle Carner – Ain’t Nothing Changed

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Jeremih (ft. Chris Brown and Big Sean) – I Think of You

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Tom WalkerBlessings

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The FedzPlan

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Dapz on the MapMini Valet

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Will Heard – I Better Love You (Alex Adair Remix)

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Calum Scott – Rhythm Inside

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Joe Fox – Aftershow

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Blondie – Fragments

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Chuck Berry – Wonderful Woman

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DJ Antoine (ft. Mohombi) – La Vie En Rose

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PHOTO CREDIT: Pamela Littky

Fall Out Boy – Young and Menace

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Foster the People – Doing It for the Money

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Highly SuspectLittle One

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CarmodyMissing

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CaroCloser Lunatic

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Imagine Dragons – Thunder

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Kygo (ft. Ellie Goulding) – First Time

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Lizzy Land – Beat Goes On

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Lucas & Steve – Up Till Dawn (On the Move)

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Mura Masa (ft. NAO)  Firefly

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OneRepublic – No Vacancy

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R3hab (ft. RITUAL) – Hallucinations

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Rebecca & Fiona – Pop Bitches

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PHOTO CREDIT: Larissa Hofmann

MelisLove Song Idea

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Ride – All I Want

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Steve Aoki and Dvbbs (ft. 2 Chainz) – Without You

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Jasmine ThompsonOld Friends

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Tamar Braxton – My Man

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Twin Wild – Control

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The Vamps and Martin Jensen – Middle of the Night

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Murkage DaveCar Bomb

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Little GiantsBrother

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Ruth B. Dandelions

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PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Davidson

Drones ClubThis House

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Tove Styrke – Say My Name

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Kasabian – Are You Looking for Action?

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Of Mice & MenUnbreakable

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Two AnotherAiming Up

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Liam PriorDifference

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Sylvan Esso – Song

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TinasheFlame

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Cashmere Cat – Victoria’s Veil

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Thurston Moore – Smoke of Dreams

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The Cranberries – Rupture

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Feist – I Wish I Didn’t Miss You

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Lea Michele – Believer

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PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Gabriel

Mark Lanegan – Goodbye to Beauty

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RostamGwan

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PHOTO CREDIT: Elliot Watson

Allie XPaper Love

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The Heatwave and Ding DongLondon City

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XamVolo Old Soul

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Mary J Blige – It’s Me

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PHOTO CREDIT: Todd Turner Photography

He Is Legend – Silent Gold

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Figure Walking – Blue World

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Little Cub – Mulberry

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New Found Glory – Call Me Anti-Social

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Ryulchl Sakamoto – walker

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The New Year – Mayday

 

 

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DJ Format and Abdominal – Behind the Scenes

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BNQT – Hey Banana

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Travis Scott (ft. Frank Ocean)Lens

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PHOTO CREDIT: Kristin Slotterøy

Pom Poko Jazz Baby

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Superorganism It’s All Good

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The Japanese HouseSaw You in a Dream

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VestigesWoman

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Sløtface – Magazine

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PHOTO CREDIT: Joyce NG

ChildhoodCalifornian Light

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INHEAVENVultures

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James HerseyEveryone’s Talking

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Emma BlackeryNothing Without You

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PHOTO CREDIT: @whoisglp

Young ThugAll the Time

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Kid Ink Lottery

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Another typically mixed and exciting collection of new songs, singles and album tracks. It is wonderful discovering what is out there and the sheer extent of music – from stunning Hip-Hop slams to delicious Pop milkshakes. I will keep my eyes open as we head into May and prepare myself for what is to come. Although Gorillaz’s new album is out there are plenty of other big releases coming up: getting on top of everything is always a challenge. Keep your heads up, eyes peeled and witness what is to come…

TRACK REVIEW: Matt Perriment – Everlast

 TRACK REVIEW:

 

Matt Perriment

 

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Everlast

 

 

9.1/10

 

 

Everlast is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/matt-perriment/everlast

GENRES:

Folk; Singer-Songwriter

ORIGIN:

London

RELEASE DATE:

3rd March, 2017

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The E.P., Everlast, is available at:

https://open.spotify.com/artist/6sZDpE6FObUEWdKLJxv5IZ

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TODAY, because I am faced with an exceptional Folk singer-songwriter…

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it gives me the chance to discuss the genre and the artists defining and representing it best. I will look at London and how important it is to young songwriters and investigate albums/songs that get the chemical balance just right; tour dates and getting your name out there and this year’s festivals – taking a look at the singer-songwriter market and how competitive it is right now. I issued a moratorium, on myself to be fair, in regards mentioning Folk and the genre. Because I was receiving so many requests from Folk artists; it was inevitable I’d mentioning Folk artists and what was happening in the scene. It has been a little while since I visited Folk so I will come back to – albeit looking at the genre in a new light. This year, as I have discussed before, there is a Rock resurgence and need for urgency in music. Last year was a terrific one for artists assessing society and showing their discontent at injustices and imbalance. This year, there is going to be the same outrage and force: perhaps the nature of the songs is slightly different. Whatever genre we look at, it seems the public look for music with a sense of conscientiousness and passion. Folk is often seen as quite ineffectual and slight: quite vanilla and gentle in a lot of respects. Sure, when your music is largely acoustic and restrained it is hard to portray a sense of indignity and anger. Not only is it possible to convey indignation through Folk: the public do want a balance of emotions and something that is affectionate and comforting. I feel, one of the biggest issues with Folk is holding interest and creating nuance. I hear a lot of Folk artists that are pure of intentions but have not got a strong enough songwriting skill-set to keep fascination high. Against popular and memorable Soul, Pop and Rock assault: can Folk’s best truly compete and nestle alongside the big guns? Well, yes, I feel there is a definite role for Folk for a number of reasons.

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For a start, like Pop and Rock, the genre is not one-dimensional or easy to define. I have raised this concern before, I know, but wanted to reiterate. If you have a rigid view of Folk then you need to expand your horizons. In the mainstream, Pop and Rock artists are proffered but comparatively few Folk artists get the same attention. Favourites like Laura Marling and Bon Iver show the variation and polemic nature of the genre: the former, a more ‘traditional’ Folk artist but someone who pushes the boundaries and is one of the most consistent songwriters in the world – the latter more experimental and cross-pollinating. That acoustic-guitar-holding image always comes to mind: the songs will be quite trite and slight; the overall mood one of cannabis-leaf relax and a certain lackadaisicalness. Whilst it is true Folk is less ‘orchestral’ and complex than other genres; that is not to say you can predict it. Matt Perriment is someone who, in a way, reminds me of Britain’s best like Laura Marling. There are wonderful Folk artists who mix Indie shades in but are able to capture emotion, romance and literature – and a variety of other aspects – through complex-simple balance. It is not all strummed and peaceful nor overt and angered. With Folk, as Perriment proves, you can talk about common themes – love and the enigma of love – but cast your new wider and ruminate about the wider world. In doing so, yes, there are some acoustic chords but other instruments and sounds can be employed. In fact, the mark of a great Folk artist is someone who tries to redefine the genre whilst keeping it pure and relatable. It is a hard skill to master but one Perriment is equal to. Perriment has performed on the local (South-East/London) scene for six years now and has really honed his craft. I’ll come to the touring side of things soon but feel it bears mentioning: an experienced musician has got a lot of feedback from his audiences and used that market research to strengthen and embolden his musical ambitious. Everlast, again, more on that anon, is the latest E.P. from the London-based songwriter – the culmination of his previous work and years on the road.

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What Matt Perriment focuses on is melodic songwriting and meaningful lyrics: quite the opposite of what some associate with Folk. Before I move on, I want to talk about a couple of (disparate) topics to help define artists like Perriment. Just over a year since Prince died; a lot of artists and music lovers are coming through and stating how his music changed their life. On BBC Radio 6 Music a soundbite/trailer was an interview with – his name alludes me – a musician who claimed, before they discovered Prince, their music brain was black-and-white. After a burst of the Purple One, that changed to a multitude of colours. That is the best you can say about someone’s music: it eradicates a linear, boring palette and blasts a brain-load of bright colours over the wall. Maybe Perriment is not as vivacious and ‘energetic’ than the lamented last legend but his music has the potency to change perceptions and act as a gateway – busting myths about Folk’s (restrictions) and offering the listener a world of possibility. Like Pop, there is a dichotomy and division: the fluffy and commercial side that lacks real substance and the experimental/credible variety. The same can be said of Folk: understanding there are some fantastic sides to the genre is something people are overlooking. The last point (of this section) I wanted to mention was an album celebrating its eighteenth birthday in a few weeks. You might call Travis’ The Man Who a Soft-Rock album but, to me, it is more Folk/Indie. The songwriting on that, not replicated on Travis’ later albums, has a maturity, depth and originality. Although that album suffered some setbacks – its singles gained little radio-play to start; some critics were ambivalent – it has gained huge retrospective acclaim and seen as one of the finest albums of the late-1990s; Although, as I say, Travis have deteriorated in terms of quality; some of the songs in that landmark album have endured this far down the tracks – songs like Why Does It Always Rain On Me? and Driftwood are modern classics. The songs offer dissections of love and relationships but, more than that, offer insights into a man’s (Fran Healy) soul: treaties on youth, meaning and human connection. It subverts expectations about Soft-Rock/Folk and, because of that, ensures The Man Who inspires legions of new songwriters – each keen to learn as much as they can from Travis’ blend of fine melodies and inspirational songwriting. It was just something I wanted to bring up to prove, not only is Folk a genre that should not be easily labelled and, when you hear a unique and special songwriter, they can reveal more about yourself than you ever thought possible.

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I’ll come on to other themes on but wanted to put London in the spotlight – like she doesn’t get enough love letters and flirtatious glances as it is! Not one to overinflate the ego of a pretty buff and lusted-after city but it is a perfect place for any songwriter right now. Given the divisions and confusion in other parts of the U.K. – with Brexit and politics in general – there is a unity and common voice coming through in London. The people, I feel, are more together and show a sense of pride and passion few other (parts of the U.K.) possess. It is a shining example that extends to the music industry. Not only is there a fraternity among musicians but a great sense of hope regarding the ‘toilet circuit’ – preserving the small venues and ensuring there are few closures and threats to the fabric of live music. Some parts of London are becoming more gentrified (Peckham is one of those affected, positively, by this) whilst others retain their sense of identity – flaws, warts and all. There is a fantastic mix of nationalities, sounds and smells on the streets: each borough and corner of the city offer something different and exciting. For a songwriter, there is an immense amount of potential to be mined. Not only do current events and the capital’s population give songwriting impetus: the sheer quality and variation of artists emerging in London is extraordinary. Not only is that true of the native population but a large number of musicians choosing to relocate to London. This brings me, before I look at my last point, to touring and great venues to get your ‘foot in’, as it were.

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Perriment is situated in London but has, through virtue of his previous residency, played across the South East. Looking at his biography and one sees a few fantastic venues on there: namely, The Barfly, St. Pancras Old Church and the Groucho Club. Covering the hottest locations in NW1 and W1D, that triumvirate is the envy of most musicians – newcomers and mainstream alike. I cannot speak for Groucho Club but know what a revered and beautiful venue St. Pancras Old Church is for artists. It retains, as it is an actual, functional church, its historical and ecumenical vibe but has a degree of serenity, otherworldliness and awe – artists can render a crowd speechless in those hallowed walls. Conversely, The Barfly (Camden) is a bit more intimate and raw: it has a fantastic reputation but is a much more traditional and relatable London venue – perfect for a night of beer, laughter and serious tunes. The fact Matt Perriment has placed such high-profile, if diverse locations, is a testament to his talent and popular sound.  If one is based in the capital, the first goal on their list of ‘to-dos’ is to get established in the city. London is such a diverse landscape it can be hard achieving a reputation. Venues and fans in North London might want something different to the hipsters and well-beard in East London; those in the South might favour something Indie and Alternative whilst the esteemed and fussy in West London lust after sounds more angular, Pop-y and chart-bound. This is a generalisation, but you know what I mean?! The city is a beat with many sides and many different layers. Matt Perriment pens music that can satisfy the desires of the city’s four corners and extend much further than that. Touring is an essential part of a career and getting some great gigs in London is a luxury few are afforded. Having St. Pancras Old Church under his belt might compel him to seek out similarly-scenic venues like St. Giles-in-the-Fields and Union Chapel. That Camden gig might give him a taste of KOKO, the Dublin Castle and Scala – all within easy walking distance of The Barfly. Although The Barfly is now The Camden Assembly, it is a great launching pad for any ambitious songwriter. London is alive and bursting with great venues. It is not suited the voyeur musician who is curious to have a peek and never go in. You have to embrace the energy and fast pace of the city: get your music to the promoters and bookers – something Matt Perriment has done and will continue to do.

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We all know the singer-songwriter market is fierce and ultra-competitive. Perriment has not achieved the success he has by luck and good timing: he has that passion and talent that creates opportunities. Not only has he played great venues around London but played some international Sofar Sounds shows; played across the country and just come back from a European tour. He is confirmed for Blissfields and KT in the Park this summer and has a busy next few months – in addition to a headline London show later in the year. Hampshire’s Blissfields festival will be held between 6th and 8th July and has big names like Metronomy and The Cinematic Orchestra on its line-up. Getting a chance to play at that event is going to be a big career leg-up for Perriment. Not only is there a wide and diverse crowd there: playing alongside some world-class, established acts will provide confidence and guidance. I admire artists that plug and work on the smaller venues but getting into the festival circuit is a whole different world. Not only do you get to play to so many more people (at a single gig) but it is a huge stage. Having the confidence to play and succeed there will set you up for the rest of your career. Clearly, there is a lot of love for Matt Perriment and his sounds. Festivals and venues are keen to support him which gets me thinking about those artists lucky enough to play them. Is it a case of raw talent or a certain look/sound the festivals are going for? Some artists are booked because they are commercial and can attract big sponsors/crowds; others because they have a legacy and reputation. For new artists, I feel it is a case of true potential and ability. Those at Blissfields have seen Perriment play and heard his material: the man has a huge following and one of the most reputable and impressive young talents in London. At such a young age, it is great seeing Perriment get those terrific festival and London spots; playing around Europe and going from strength-to-strength. How long before he gets some big U.S. dates and finds himself trekking from Nashville to New York; over to L.A. before heading back to England?

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I want to talk about Everlast’s key track (in my view) but will end this section by expressing caution to some new artists. In the coming days, I am publishing a piece that is a ‘keys to success’ sort of article. Not that I am the High Priest of Music but have reviewed and interviewed hundreds of artists. Three of the biggest flaws/mistakes bands/acts make relate to their name, websites and music. Many artists, bands especially, often use a rather stupid name or something very common. A lot of them use nouns or overused names: sticking in the mind relies on originality in addition to being distinct. The number of bands I hear that have a name shared by many others – or never show in search engines because they are abstract or oblique – is infuriating. Then you get – often the same acts – who put very few photos online and hide themselves behind the music. The artists that attract my eye and make my blog look semi-professional are those with a range of high-resolution shots and a proper portfolio. This extend to social media and official websites: it has all their links in the one place and some good background; lots of links and regular updates. The third pertains to the music itself and not only being different but capable of attracting a large audience. You either get artists who are too mainstream and aim everything towards trends and chart positions or those who are too left-field or lack any kind of soul. It is a lot to digest and consider but not that hard, surely? Matt Perriment is someone who ticks all the necessary boxes and understands these points. Not only is his music tangible but different to what is out there but has the genuine feel of a professional, world-class act. It might seem insignificant but if you have few images and lack a certain professionalism then few reviewers and fans are going to flock your way. Perriment is a stellar and wise talent who has already taken a big step distinguishing himself from the herd – this will pay dividends in the coming months/years.

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Cattle Bay is a gorgeous and tender song whose early notes summon up all sorts of images. The hero, whatever his proximity to Cattle Bay, has people either side of him “Calling out in dismay”. Perriment’s voice is measured and flows: it is like a river running through the song; albeit it, with complete calm and discipline. The strings-piano combination adds a sense of majesty and affection: one is soothed and soft but feels urgency underneath.  Whether looking at dislocation and transition – moving away and relocating – or an emotional state of mind; the song does compel each listener to arrive at their own viewpoint. Perriment’s voice rises from compelled and compassionate to rising and howling. It is a range and performance that ensures emotion and evocativeness are never far away. When hitting the high notes – his falsetto particularly pleasing – it takes the song in a new direction and creates different imagery. It is not your average Folk song – what you might hear in the charts – and has a distinct personality and objective. The hero is making his way and it seems is facing some resistance. Maybe I am misreading but that central location (Cattle Bay) keeps coming to mind and seems like a place he is moving from. Punchy percussion and elegant piano notes help support a composition that has plenty of passion and beauty but comes with enough strength and edge to hook a wider range of people. Essentially, it is a beautiful song from the E.P. and one that will inspire different stories and conclusions. Clouded has a similarly touching and gentle beginning – as with Cattle Bay. The song looks at having your mind distorted and fogged by the world around. From birth, it seems, the outside universe throws enough obstacles and challenges that it can hard listening to your own mind. The hero wants to hear his own thoughts and instincts but is being dictated to by everything around him. It is an interesting message and one that few songwriters tackle. It seems thoughts inside his head are causing issues and it is hard seeing what is right and having clarity. Like Cattle Bay; Clouded is a song that gets you thinking and immerses you. The Everlast E.P. is designed to summon dreams and help the listener drift away. There are strengths and urgency but the overriding ambition is to quell stress and hit the imagination.

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The title track gets underway pretty quickly and does not need too much build-up. The hero lets his voice get to the point and, it seems, purpose and place are being investigated. The man might be in a hole and going through the motions but there is that determination to succeed and prosper. It seems Perriment thinks about his position and role every day and there is a philosophical leaning throughout the song. There are challenges and setbacks but a definite spirit to make his way and thrive. Whether talking about his music career or life in a wider sense; you get the impression of a young man who is feeling a bit of weight but there is a definite courage and fortitude underneath. The opening moments rely on the softness and passion of Perriment’s voice and the familiar strings of the guitar. Everlast does not depart from the E.P.’s sister songs too much in terms of sounds but that allows a consistency and personality to cement itself. As the song progresses, there is a definite rising in terms of sound and thematics. The vocal becomes hotter and more charged whilst the lyrics display a sense of anger and rebellion. Our man is looking to rise above it all and, like other songs on the E.P., make better days. Things might seem tough and challenging but there is always that light ahead. Perriment is someone who, like us all, is being told he cannot do things or faces struggles in love and live. There is that idea of being in a hole and in a ditch: getting out and succeeding; becoming a stronger person making their own way is what I take from the first moments of Everlast.

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As things go to the half-way mark, one gets more of a view of what is happening. What affects me about the song is the way the composition and voice have a sense of familiar but like nothing else. Most listeners will be able to relate to what is being said and the sound but one can detect a distinctness and originality. There are a lot of Folk singer-songwriters and there is never a lot of room for movement and distinction at times. As I have shown in my earlier points, if you have the intelligence and vision, it is possible to give Folk new life and colour. Perriment perfectly balances a degree of legacy and familiar foundation with something intrinsically personal and new. You get the sensation of a man not beholden to sentimentality and nostalgia. Everlast, to me, is a song that emanates from the soul-depths of a man who has lacked a bit of direction and fortitude for a bit. That might sound harsh but he has, perhaps, been compromising and answering to too many other people – not taking direction and control of his own life. Here, there is that breaking-point where he proves there is a clear and strong man underneath. I feel there is a nod to the music and career of Perriment. Maybe he has faced some oppression and doubts when collating his music. One hears a distinct anger underneath the beauty: a desire to correct things and make a success of it all. The hero has been going “round in circles” and feelings things take its toll. Enough is enough, it appears. Although there have been those sceptical minds creating a negative wind; Perriment is someone beholden only to his own dreams and thoughts. Defining this contrast of struggle and determination is a subtle, yet shivering string sound (cello, perhaps?) that gives Everlast a dignity and gracefulness. In a way, hearing the vocal and Classic element fuse reminds me of Tracy Chapman and Nick Drake. Perriment, oddly, has that Chapman-esque sound and soulfulness to his voice.

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There will be those who compare Perriment to contemporaries like James Bay and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man but that would be doing him a disservice – and would not interest me were he to resemble them. To me, there is a lot more quality on display: a true voice that takes from a few sources but has that abiding sensation of the self. Perriment is one of those songwriters who is not consciously writing songs for the charts or getting five-star reviews in Heat magazine – no offence but that seems to be the definition of the vague and commercial songwriter. He knows what the mark requires and how Folk is evolving and responds to that. Rather than write a song that is chart-bound and radio-friendly; there is a real nuance and determination to appeal to those who like their music more cultured and deep. You can listen to the title track and let it infuse the senses and absorb the first time. When you get more into it, the song takes on a new guise and different points come to mind. When hearing the song more, I found fresh revelations and considerations. It seems Perriment, in general terms, is motivated to succeed and follow his own voice. Both in life and music, there are plenty who hold him back or do not have adequate faith. Later on, it occurs Everlast is directed at those witnessing the song unfold. It is not merely a personal motif and mandate but a supplication for anyone discovering this track to reflect on their own life. Many songwriters are too confined and do not often pen songs to inspire the listener. Here, there is a distinct impression of motivation and self-assessment. Certainly, when I got into Everlast, I was applying the lyrics to my own situation. Maybe I am misreading and over-reaching but it is rare to find a song like this. However you view its intentions, it is a solid and impressive song from a multi-talented young songwriter. Perriment proves he is not the cliché-laden artist that clogs the mainstream: instead, we have an artist with imagination, appetite and desire – qualities that need to be preserved and celebrated.

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I will revisit my early points later but, as I always do, want to point out where Matt Perriment might be heading this year. Of course, there are those festivals dates and the London headline show. He has toured Europe and in no shortage of demand and popularity. I am not sure if there are some local gigs in-between or after but it seems like there is a chance for Perriment to clean up in London. He has already played some phenomenal venues – like The Islington – and will want to conquer new territory and play venues he is a stranger to. Everlast is what we here to talk about an E.P. that definitely registers and resonates. I wanted to focus on the title track because to me, it is the defining moment and best representation of the project. It was recorded in the charming and incredible Iguana Studios in Brixton. That area of London is brimming with hot and cutting-edge musical talent so require a studio prepared to meet their demand. From the outside, it looks like a scaled-down version of Abbey Road – albeit lacking that iconic zebra crossing and alumni like The Beatles. That evocative and professional environment has led to an E.P. that showcases the full extent of Perriment’s talents. Its trio of songs – Everlast, Clouded and Cattle Bay – have been compared to the works of Bears Den and Ben Howard but, when you listen closely enough, it sounds unlike either. Perriment shows himself to be one of the most interesting and accomplished songwriters around. He sounds so confident throughout and, even in three tracks, covers huge ground. You get songs that invite you in and involve you in the imagery – you listen and transport yourself in the stories and intoxicating emotions. The compositions, Perriment recording his first E.P. with a full band, has a Folk sound that brings in other genres to create a full and multifarious collection. It is that voice that captivates and buckles the knees. In various gigs, reviews have noted how the crowd would start chatty and fidgety before having their jaws drop – when that voice takes over the space and gets into every heart. Although there is not a lot of anger and negative energy on the E.P.; you have a wide range of emotions at work and so many different contours. The title track best frames his sensational voice and exceptional way with melody and lyrics.

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I haven’t mentioned Folk for a while so have enjoyed assessing an artist who brings new light and life to the genre. Reviewers have been keen to compare Matt Perriment to the likes of Ben Howard and there is some truth – both have the ability to seduce and transfix listeners under their spell. What separates them is their songbook and lyrics. Perriment, like Howard, writes about love and life but in broader strokes – most contemporary songwriters lack necessary range and scope when addressing these themes. What you have is a keen talent who has a poetic ear and an eye for language. The way (Perriment) paints colourful and engaging canvases whilst retaining a sense of modesty and humbleness is to be commended. You get a pairing of emotional revelation and mystery. Everlast’s title track lives up to the intrigue and originality of its title: a song that, once heard, will be on your mind and not far from the fingers – as you play it again and again. It is, like I stated up-top, difficult figuring Folk and thinking it is simplistic. It is a genre, like any other, that offers a little bit of something for everyone. I am, I must admit, not someone who yearns for the days of the patrol Folk singer: those who strum pleasantly but offer little range and urgency. I am not including legends like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan: more the lesser-contemporaries who fail to register serious interest. Modern Folk retains shades of the 1960s/’70s but has modernity and assimilates into the mainstream easily. I have mentioned the likes of Laura Marling: she is a perfect example of someone who can borrow from the likes of Mitchell and Dylan but do her own thing. She is an original and accomplished voice who seems to grow stronger with each album. Matt Perriment is a great Indie/Folk artists who ties classic and modern and has the potential to recruit new followers to the genre(s).

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London – somewhere I will mention before ending – is undergoing gentrification in a lot of areas and one has to ask if this will have a detrimental effect on the music scene. The smaller venues (‘toilet circuit’) is the lifeblood of most new artists playing in the country. Most of these spots are in pubs, smaller clubs and the like: they are not the most aesthetically-pleasing and gain merit on the artists they play and general capacity. Most punters are not looking for palatial surroundings and a pretentious menu. Unfortunately, there is a tide of people who want to turn every part of London into Bloomsbury or Chelsea. Those areas are great and provide a sense of escapism – a middle-class Disneyland to the more urban and real slice of London – but they are valid in contradistinction to working-class areas and estates. These areas are part of the beating heart and should only be altered to reduce crime and social deprivation – not take away the character and identity of an area. I fear widespread gentrification will eradicate authenticity and threaten the existence of many established and popular music venues. Against the tide of aesthetic oppression; musicians are ensuring these venues survive and grow. Matt Perriment has played big venues around the city but relies on the smaller venues to test his material and cut his teeth. He is a growing artist who relies on the variation of venues. London is as magical and divisive because of the polemics and differences. Music is an integral part of this and not only enforces this diversity but adds to it. I can understand the lure of London – despite high prices and overcrowding – and it is a wonderful place for musicians to learn, perform and socialise. Matt Perriment knows this and is taking little bits from the city – all distilled in the magical boiling pot that is his music.

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2017 is as much about the big and defined artists as it is the newcomers. So far, I have been impressed by the best of this year: Loyle Carner’s debut album, Yesterday’s Gone ranks high among the pack. Like the last couple of years, some of the most intriguing material is being produced by Urban/Hip-Hop/Soul artists. Carner’s mix of personal and socially-aware lyrics and incredible compositions – mixing smooth Jazz horns and sick beats – has resonated with critics and fans alike. Sampha’s Process and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. are contenders for album of the year already. If the mainstream is seeing an explosion and continuation of tremendous black artists; the underground is seeing a parallel occurrence. Away from those styles of music, I am fascinated by the incredible quality one can experience. Matt Perriment is performing at a time where there is more music, choice and opportunities than at any other time. Yes, there is a competitive market but that means artists are working hard to stand out – in an ironic way, this is seeing the quality rise and bigger, bolder sounds. Perriment can be big and emphatic but entices easiest when he lets his soothing, gorgeous voice register. His compositions have detail and colour but an accessibility that means every listener will be able to extrapolate something from each. Those words, as I stated, project images and have a rare power. This, combined with the vocal-compositional magic is a potent and staggering realisation. Everlast is a wonderfully assured and professional-sounding E.P. that will get Perriment’s music into new hands. I guess, aside from cementing a reputation and doing great work, there is the ambition to take the music as far (literally) as one can. If you are a songwriter who wants to play solely to the home crowds then your ambitions are too limited – this will mean your lifespan is music has a ticking clock in its ear. It is difficult transcending to foreign countries and getting those all-important international gigs. Perseverance and dedication are vital factors and the reason Matt Perriment is getting gigs in Europe. I feel now is the right time to start thinking about the U.S. and the market there. Music lovers in America have an affection for superb British music so I feel Perriment has a big opportunity at his feet – many a mini-tour that goes from the West to East coast. Whatever he has planned for the remainder of this year will be motivated and propelled by Everlast. It is an evocative and sense-heightening triplicate of songs that reward those who favour deep and intelligent music. Imbued with a sensuous passion and underlying concerns; there are contrasts and contradictions to be found. Ingratiate yourself to Matt Perriment’s music and help get the London-based musician…

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TO as many people as possible.

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