FEATURE: Hope & Glory 2017: Standing with Manchester

FEATURE:

 

Hope & Glory 2017:

 

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Standing with Manchester

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THE next couple of months, ordinarily, would be focused on preparing for…

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the summer festivals and big music events. That is still the case but there is a different concern coming in: the need to raise awareness and support for the victims of the Manchester terrorist attack. There will be a series of events that seek to raise donations to the families and those affected by the terrible attacks. Hope & Glory is one such festival who aims to raise much-needed donations so, with that in mind, a look at who is playing and how you can get involved…

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HOPE & GLORY 
STANDING WITH MANCHESTER:
NEW NORTH WEST FESTIVAL HOPE & GLORY TO DONATE PROFITS TO MANCHESTER VICTIMS AND FAMILIES

New North West Festival, HOPE & GLORY is to donate all the profits from ticket sales of its inaugural year to the victims and their families of the terrorist attack in Manchester earlier this month.

The inaugural boutique festival HOPE & GLORY is taking over Liverpool’s city centre, hosting an array of live music and entertainment across the weekend of the 5th and 6th of August with a line-up that includes Manchester headliners James and the 70 piece orchestra Hacienda Classical with fellow Mancunian special guests Shaun Ryder, Bez and Tim Booth.

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Try to imagine the very best bands, combined with a decadent Victoriana carnival, with a heavy dose of outrageous sideshows, and you’ll begin to get a picture of what HOPE & GLORY festival is.

This brand new festival for Liverpool, taking place on 5 & 6 August, is set against the stunning Victorian backdrop of the World Museum, City Library and St. George’s Hall and Gardens.

With weekend tickets priced at just £89 (inclusive of booking fee), you can expect a glorious mix of incredible music, comedy and fun – all within a few hundred yards of Lime Street station.

The main stage music for the weekend will be on The Great Exhibition stage. The second stage will deliver different delights across the weekend and will be called The Wonders Of The Age stage on the Saturday and The Wonders of the Age stage on Sunday.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The ShowHawk Duo, who will be playing on the Sunday

HOPE & GLORY Festival Promoter Lee O’Hanlon said:

I have lost count the number of times I have attended shows at Manchester Arena for professional purposes and personal enjoyment. I attended the vigil the following night in Albert Square and then attended the Simple Minds concert in Manchester that same night. I was moved like I never have been before. The defiance and strength the people of Manchester showed that night and in the days after the attack was the most powerful thing I have ever experienced. The images of children and young parents broke my heart so goodness knows what the families are going through. I can’t begin to imagine…I just want us to be able to support the friends and families of those injured or who lost their lives as well as the emergency services that supported them, in any way we could. As a North West Festival with two Manchester artists as our headliners, the choice was simple. It’s simply doing what we can, standing with Manchester. These people want to change our way of lives. I grew up on the music of the North West. These people are strong and if we can help them a little then we will.”

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IN THIS PHOTO: Public Service Broadcasting, who will be playing on the Sunday

Lee O’Hanlon’s business partner, Iain Kerr concurred:

“Lee suggested that we donate profits from the festival to the cause and I knew in an instant it was the right thing to do.”

The festival which boasts a host of artists from across the north and wider UK is set in the heart of Liverpool behind St. George’s Hall, in St John’s Gardens and William Brown Street where 12,500 fans can enjoy the festival while indulging in the stunning Victorian backdrop of the World Museum and City Library. A specially created arena will be home to the festival – all within a few hundred yards walk of the main Lime Street train station

Fans from across the North West will be able to attend each day with the festival finishing in time for the last trains from nearby Liverpool Lime Street Station.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Lucy Spraggan will play the Wonders of the Age Stage (on Saturday)

FULL LINE UP AND STAGE SPLITS:

SATURDAY

THE GREAT EXHIBITION STAGE

James
Razorlight
The Fratellis
Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon
The View
Embrace
Badly Drawn Boy
Pigeon Detectives
The Membranes And 25 Piece Choir
Clay

WONDERS OF THE AGE STAGE

Starsailor
Lucy Spraggan
Dave Mccabe (Zutons) w/ Ian Skelly (The Coral)
Chris Helme (The Seahorses)
Ordinary Boys
Wild Front
Haunt The Wood
The Jackobins

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  SUNDAY

GREAT EXHIBITION STAGE

Hacienda Classical
Ocean Colour Scene
Tom Chaplin
Lightning Seeds
Public Service Broadcasting
Reverend & The Makers
Zak Abel
Show Hawk Duo
Trampolene

WONDERS OF THE AGE STAGE

The Twang
The Shimmer Band
The Blinders
Coquin Migale
Vynce
Avalanche Party
Cabezudos
Glass Mountain
Indigo Velvet
The Dantervilles

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IN THIS PHOTO: Clean Cut Kid play on the Sunday

HOPE & GLORY also features an abundance of entertainment across the site with Spoken Word performances, magic shows, comedy and acoustic acts plus extravagant and outrageous side-shows and so much more fun for the whole family to enjoy.

THE LADY GARDEN STAGE
Featuring spectacular entertainment including Football Legends charity darts match, Charlotte Church in conversation with renowned journalist Simon Price, Celebrity Charity arm wrestling, The Victorian Acrobatic Team, The Liverpool International Air Guitar Competition, Harminder the Elephant, Dinosaur Baby in the Pram, Dance of the Lobsters and The Woman Who Grew Up Into A Tree.

Additionally, over the course of the weekend and throughout the festival site, there will be a Foam Party, Prince Albert’s Little Secret (Cocktail bar), Mothers Ruin (Gin bar), Mr Edison’s Electric Emporium, Dr Johnson’s Clandestine Gathering, The Hoop & Stick, Darwin’s Little Darlings, Stephi La Reine’s Fashionista Hour and the organisers promise more ‘weird and wonderful happenings.

HOPE & GLORY is an exciting addition to the UK’s festival scene, providing a quirky and fun weekend for all the family to watch, enjoy and discover some of the best talent in music and art, all within a unique and attractive location and now, for a heartfelt cause.

Tickets available from:

http://hopeandgloryfestival.co.uk/buy-tickets/

Weekend Tickets (inc. booking fee):
Adult £89
Under 16s £59
Under 10s £49
Under 5s £FREE

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(Thanks to Wilful Publicity for the festival information).

INTERVIEW: Alice Mary

INTERVIEW:

 

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Alice Mary

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A divine slice of Electro-Pop has arrived in the form of Loving Game.

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It is a stunning song from Alice Mary and one I was curious to learn more about. The author is a classically-trained artist who is a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix. Her debut E.P., I Am Here, is the results of years of training and a devoted and passionate love of music. One hears elements of Jazz, Psychedelia and Classical in her record collection: diversity and contrasts that show up in her own work. I talk to Alice Mary about recording in her bedroom studio and whether that is preferable to the studio. She talks about drummer Alex Walker and bassist Alex Bloxham and how influential they were to I Am Here’s sound.

I ask about tour dates and what the future plans are for Alice Mary. She tells me about her favourite albums and whether her vulnerable and self-assessing lyrics are quite tough to project; how important her eclectic musical background is and a few key artists we should keep our eyes on right now.

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Hi Alice, how are you? How has your week been?

Good!

Glad the sun is finally out after weeks of rain!

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

I’m a singer-songwriter, Electronic producer and guitarist. I’ve been recording in my bedroom since I was fourteen and am finally releasing my first solo E.P.

Loving Game is your new single. What can you tell us about it?

It started out as an instrumental I made when I was messing around with samples of an old autoharp; chopping them up and adding filters and things.

The day after I got dumped I wanted to distract myself; so I started writing lyrics and pulling together fragments of lyrics I’d written over the preceding months.

I started singing them over this instrumental and I finished the song that afternoon, I think.

The cutting lyrics are balanced by quite lifting and positive composition sounds. Was it important getting that balance and contrast working together?

Yes. I’m really glad you noticed that: I’ve always liked songs with depressing or dark lyrics that contrast with the overall sound of the song. I think too much of one emotion can be boring and also is not really representative of what life is like.

I’m a big fan of Soul and Disco which always sounds so uplifting but when you think about what the actual words mean it’s often pretty depressing!

I Am Here is out on 7th July. What kind of songs and subjects will be on the E.P.?

The next song to come out is called Failing in Love; surprise, it’s quite depressing! The other two are more upbeat but still dealing with themes of introspection and self-examination – and something that comes up a lot for me is bouncing between extremes and trying to find steady ground between passion and apathy; love and hate; caring too much and not caring enough.

Drummer Alex Walker and bassist Alex Bloxham have helped flesh out your music and add their voice to it. How important was it having them work on I Am Here?

Really important. I had worked and worked on the tracks for ages on my own and had no perspective on them anymore.

Having two talented musicians with fresh ears look at them really helped to lift them from flat home recordings to these bigger, more accessible songs.

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A lot of your music was recorded in that bedroom studio. Is it quite hard taking those songs from that intimate space and putting them on the stage?

Technically, it was quite hard as there are a lot of samples in the songs that can’t really be replicated live; so we have some sounds played on a backing track and getting all that synced up with a click-track for Alex (the drummer) to play to was quite a chore at times. I do one song with an iPad and my guitar goes into a pedal board so with all the technology there’s quite a big potential for technical issues.

Emotionally-speaking, while I do get nervous before playing it’s not harder to play these songs than any others. I enjoy singing my own songs as there’s a perverse sense of fun in singing really personal things to a room full of people – particularly as I’m fairly private in everyday life.

Can we expect to see you perform anywhere this year?

Ah. I am finalising some dates at the moment! I’ll post on my website and Facebook when they’re confirmed. Will probably be one full-band show and one acoustic in June and July.

Your music has gained praise from some big D.J.s and influential places. Is it quite humbling getting that kind of reaction?

Compliments are lovely but I’m always thinking about what I’m making right now. It would be nice to go back in a time machine and tell the ‘me’ that was working so hard on these songs all the nice things that have been said about them (if that makes sense….?).

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You are a classically-trained, Hendrix fan who became a Pop artist. How did that happen?! What was the moment that compelled you to go into that sphere?

When I was studying Music at university, and simultaneously getting into Electronic and Experimental music, Pop was always presented as frivolous or superficial in comparison to ‘serious’ music – so I always liked it but only as a guilty pleasure. When I was in my third year at university, I got more interested in the concept of guilty pleasures and actually wrote my dissertation about it!

Once I started examining it I began to dislike it as an idea: why should you feel guilty about liking something?! So, as I grew up and began to embrace other parts of myself, I was uncomfortable with it – it seemed natural to also embrace Pop music.

There are so many reasons I love Pop. I don’t know where to start. It is so broad; it can take from any and all genres; it talks about everything and anything; it’s big and dramatic and it’s not ashamed!

I know you love a bit of Techno. Is that genre something you’ll be bringing more into your music.

Actually, the E.P. has quite a few 808s in there – sampled, not real, I’m afraid. I would love to do something more minimal and with fewer lyrics in future. I’ve gotten my hands on modular synthesisers a couple of times in the past and I’d love my own modular system and some analog gear – just need some more cash…

Your lyrics are quite bare and, when needed, self-examining. Is it quite emotional and difficult being that vulnerable and exposed or is it quite liberating?

Definitely both.

Also, it’s basically like keeping a musical diary so I can look back at songs I wrote a few years ago and remember how I felt – and also see patterns where something I wrote when I was younger has resonance in my life again now.

It’s also really great to be able to take difficult experiences and make something beautiful out of them.

Who were the artists you grew up listening to and idolised?

I started out as a guitar player and I idolised John Frusciante (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Jimi Hendrix, of course. Then, Miles Davis when I studied Jazz at school; then Radiohead and Joni Mitchell as I got more into songwriting and lyrics.

There are so many!

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I have to say my friends here: Semi Precious, Hayley Ross; Heroics, Blocko.

This one isn’t necessarily new, and she’s not making music at the moment, but my friend’s project Amygdala is just so (so) good and never got the attention it deserved.

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

Joni MitchellBlue

The first time I felt like someone had gone inside my head; found thoughts I’d never expressed and expressed them better than I ever could.

Bright EyesI’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

It’s a start-to-finish-album: I rarely listen to one song without listening to the whole thing

RadioheadAmnesiac

This one first got me into Electronic music and (also) I love the mean lyrics sang in a sweet voice –  such as “If you were a dog they would have drowned you at birth”.

Honourable mentions:

Holly HerndonPlatform

PortisheadDummy

The RochesThe Roches

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What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?

Work out actual goals that you want to achieve in your career and ask yourself why you want to achieve them. Seek out work that will feel good while you’re doing it – not something that just looks good to other people. You will have to do a lot of boring admin. work and put yourself out there over and over. Make sure to keep making music as much as you can to remind yourself of who you are.

Be proud of everything you make and learn how to present yourself confidently to other people – it’s boring holding yourself back because you’re embarrassed.

Don’t worry if it feels like you’re showing off: people really do want to hear about you and your music. I still count myself as a new artist so I should probably print this out and stick it on my wall.

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

Just one?!

I’m listening to Emotions and Math by Margaret Glaspy right now; so how about that?

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Follow Alice Mary

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Official:

http://alicemarymusic.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/alicemarymusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/alicemarymusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/alicemarymusic/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/alicemarymusic

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqpYfSKDI2zgdio2l_YBnDg

INTERVIEW: Frankie Oliver

INTERVIEW:

 

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Frankie Oliver

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NOT many artists can say they have the backing of stations like BBC Radio 2.

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Frankie Oliver is a highly-regarded artist who has worked with legendary producers and was once signed to Island Records. His album, Here I Am, is out on 9th June and is a record that comes from the heart. It looks at family and the impact they have on his life. I ask Oliver about the album and whether there were difficult moments. Tracks such as Cos of You have quite emotion cores so I ask if it was challenging transforming those sad and negative feelings into something musical and productive. Oliver discusses the importance of Reggae and artists like Bob Marley. Songs (on his album) like How Many Times deals with cheating and useless politicians – those who stand by as innocent people are shot and do nothing about it.

I learn more about the coming months and what Frankie Oliver has in mind; that one new artist he recommends we follow and how he feels about performing at 100 Club on 7th June. He discusses working with producers Sam Bergliter and Delroy Pinnock and the advice he would offer new artists emerging.

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Hi Frankie, how are you? How has your week been?

I’m very well, thank you. My week has been so far, so good.

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

I was predominantly known as a Reggae artist who has been away from the industry for some time – but come back with a new album filled with Blues and Soul.

Tell Me, your recent single, has been championed by BBC Radio 2. Has it been quite humbling receiving accolades and huge positive feedback?

Yes, it has been, to be honest. you know that your friends and family are going to tell you your songs are great, it’s only when BBC Radio 2 playlisted Tell Me that I realised my friends and family weren’t just trying to be nice!

Here I Am is the new album (out 9th June). What can you tell me about the sort of themes and subjects explored within the record?

The themes and subjects on Here I Am are basically from my life over the last twenty-or-so years. Some of the subjects are true and some of them are not but I will let the listener work out which ones are which.

I believe one of the songs, Cos of You, is about the death of your mother. How difficult was it recording the song and has your family heard the final product?

Cos Of You is not really about the death of my mother: it’s about me telling her that if I could live my life again I wouldn’t change a thing other than the timing of her death. I just wished she could’ve been here to see her grandchildren grow – she would’ve been so proud.

The second-half of the song is, basically, about the woman who helped me through the pain of losing my mother so early in my life – and has been my rock throughout my life.

I’m sure it’s because of those two people in my life that I chose the path I did.

How Many Times, another standout, looks at the repeated mistakes of politicians. What kind of emotions were going through you when writing that? Do you think musicians have the power to effect change, for good, in society?

I wrote How Many Times when there seemed to be a spate of shootings of innocent people with their hands in the air surrendering (but still being shot) – it was an incredible few months. I also considered the stories of soldiers who came back from war and struggle living their life after putting their own lives at risk – and having to sleep in cardboard boxes because of the lies of politicians.

I don’t know if musicians have the power to affect change but I do know it’s a way of me letting out my frustration.

Here I Am mixes groove with 1960s-Soul. Who were the musicians that inspired you to make this album? Who were the artists you grew up listening to?

As I mentioned earlier, I was already a Reggae artist and my early inspirations were mostly Reggae artists, but more than anyone else, Bob Marley. I also used to listen to Motown and all that great stuff by Sam Cooke, Otis Reading and Etta James. The list is endless.

It seems to be, there are two halves to the album: the more upbeat, sun-kissed songs and those more emotional and hard-hitting. Was there a conscious decision, when writing the album, to have that contrast or did that unfold naturally?

I think some of it was consciously written and some of it wasn’t – I think it was just depending on the mood I was in when writing the song.

What was it like working with producers Sam Bergliter and Delroy Pinnock? What did they bring to the mix?

It was fantastic working with those guys because it was almost like a telepathic relationship.

We all knew what we wanted from the record and came up with a happy-medium if there were disagreements.

You were signed to Island Records in the early-’90s and recorded with the production team, Sly and Robbie. What was that early experience like?

I can only put it like this: those guys are legends in the industry and it was like a youngster being told he can go and train with the first team.

These are guys that have played on so many classic songs so it was an amazing experience.

Of course, you stepped away from Island Records and had a bit of a break. Was it hard stepping away from that label and was it necessary at the time?

It wasn’t really a hard decision. It was a music career or my family: there was only ever going to be one winner.

I know you are headlining the 100 Club on 7th June. Is that a gig you are looking forward to?

Yes. I’m so looking forward to doing the gig at the 100 Club. It’s a prestigious little venue I’ve always wanted to play and it’s in my hometown. What more could I ask for?!

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After the album release, what are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of recording and gigging?

I’m hoping to get out on the road and gig all over the country, and hopefully, when the time is right, start working on the next album.

Who are the new/upcoming artists you advise we keep an eye out for this year at all?

I’m loving Rag ‘n’ Bone Man at the moment.

I heard him on the radio doing an interview just before his hit single broke and thought what a lovely, young, level-headed guy he sounds.

He has come from a good musical background. Yeah, he’s the one.

What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?

Yes. Just concentrating on being yourself is the most important thing. People give you advice about how to be what to do what to say but the most important thing is always be you and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.

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

Ok.

Satisfy My Soul by Bob Marley

I love that song.

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Follow Frankie Oliver

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Official:

http://www.frankieolivermusic.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/FrankieOliverMusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/folivermusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/frankieoliver/

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK6aMX5WG-J8_UiLeIiPhpw

INTERVIEW: Sleep Party People

INTERVIEW:

 

Sleep Party People share sublime new single 'Fainting Spell' [405 Premiere]

PHOTO CREDIT: Denis Morton

 

Sleep Party People

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THERE are few artists as compelling and consistent as…

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Sleep Party People. Brian Batz is the multi-instrumentalist behind the project and one of the most restlessly inventive musicians working today. I ask about the ‘unusual’ sound behind the single, Fainting Spell, and what we can expect from the new album, Lingering (out 2nd June). Sleep Party People gives me insight into the recording process and how it differs to 2014’s Floating. I get an insight into themes of anxiety and stage fright – a definite Muse for Fainting Spells – and what it was like working with Antlers’ Peter Silberman and Air vocalist Beth Hirsch on the new record – the latter, of which, was a huge coup and unexpected treat.

I quiz Sleep Party People about Copenhagen, the base for Sleep Party People, and what the music scene is like there. Curious to know more about Batz and his live band’s attire – where they adore rabbit masks and have a general woodland vibe going on – and whether that offers protection and some form of comfort. I learn more about the albums that have inspired Sleep Party People’s creator and whether, as Batz performed the parts to Lingering himself, it was easy getting the record down with fewer bodies and outside voices.

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Hi, Brian, how are you? How has your week been?

Been really good so far, thanks.

I’m really excited these days because we are slowly approaching the release date of my fourth album, Lingering.

I’m counting the days now….

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

Yeah sure.

Well, I started working on Sleep Party People back in 2008 because I was tired of working in band constellations and compromising on everything regarding the songwriting. I’ve, since, released three albums (2010, 2012 and 2014) and now I’ll release my fourth album, Lingering, on June 2nd. The genre is hard to describe but it’s a blend of Dreampop, Shoegaze; Slowcore and Noisepop. I guess.

When I play live with my band we all wear homemade bunny masks which, together with the manipulated vocal sound, has become the trademark of Sleep Party People.

Can you reveal the background to the track, Fainting Spell, please?

The whole track basically wrote itself, because of the piano loop, which I recorded while my old upright piano had too many broken strings – a sound which, to me, was inspirational and kick-started the songwriting process of this track. The lyrics are about how I as a child experienced social anxiety and how it felt to be afraid of the unknown.

I clearly remember every time I had to talk in front of the whole class: I nearly fainted and I always forgot the words. My mind and memory always went totally blank. I really hated school. It was really an issue for me. It’s actually funny how you take that part with you into your adult life. I’m still not a fan of speaking in front of too many people.

I believe whilst recording that track, you had a piano ‘mishap’ – broken strings and a high-pitched sound. Was it, in hindsight, quite a good thing you had the chance to ‘experiment’ and get something odd-sounding and beautiful?

Yeah. As I’ve mentioned, it was actually a really good thing the piano had these broken strings. I remember playing on it and instantly felt inspired to make a loop using these untuned notes on the piano.

As I’ve mentioned, it was actually a really good thing the piano had these broken strings. I remember playing on it and instantly felt inspired to make a loop using these untuned notes on the piano.

The notes sounded more like bells than a usual piano – and its eerie tonal-quality gave it a very specific and certain mood – which was very appealing to me.

I love when things like this happen in the studio.

It forces you to think differently because you have to embrace its flaws and broken sound – which is a very different process from writing a song in a more traditional way.

Lingering is out on 2nd June. What are the main themes and objectives of the album? How does it differ from your previous work would you say?

The album was written over a two-year process in the studio, and, in that period of time, I experienced different inspirations and moods – which is why the album has a lot of different themes and sonic explorations. Mainly I wanted to create a really organic and airy album which had a more band-like feel to it and I had that approach throughout the whole process. It was maybe the only dogma rule I had, but as everyone knows, rules are only there to be changed. So, during the making of the album, I went through a lot of searching in terms of how I, sonically, wanted it to feel and sound.

I tried a lot of different things in the studio before I started mixing the songs. On this album, I also spend a lot more time on the lyrics that I’ve ever done before.

For some songs, it took weeks to finish the lyrics, which is very new to me. I’m used to basically write the lyrics while recording the final vocals or right before I’m recording the cue vocal. But, this time, I needed to enter a deeper and more heartfelt lyrical approach. I wanted to push myself further than I usually do.

The album has different themes, but, basically, I wanted to write about who I am and what shaped me to be the person I am today – but also touch lyrical themes such as love and the refugee issue, which we still are experiencing today – and how people react differently to this devastating worldwide problem.

I do know Fainting Spell has that childhood anxiety and sense of stage fright. Was it, then, quite a daunting experience getting into music and being centre-stage? Has music given you that confidence you lacked during childhood?

Funny enough, music has always been my mental helper. Call it my personal psychologist if you will. Since I’ve been thirteen-year- old, I’ve been playing music in front of an audience and I’ve always enjoyed it big time. But, back then, I was never the front guy in the bands I played in. I often ‘only’ played the guitar or drums, so I could kind of hide; which suited me perfectly. But, when I had to perform as the lead singer and main guy in Sleep Party People, I was terrified. My first concert with Sleep Party People was a support gig for The Antlers in Copenhagen and I remember almost puking and shaking before entering the stage to play the songs for the first time.

I’m happy I had the mask on, though, because that gave me some kind of comfort and I could almost enter an actor’s role instead of being myself – which, at that time, made me go through the concert without having a heart attack.

Haha. Today, I’m actually enjoying every second when I’m on stage. I guess I’ve just played so many gigs since that I’ve finally come the conclusion that it’s just a concert and it’s actually just fun to play the music in front of an audience who really adores what I’ve created so far.

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ARTWORK: Roby Dwi Antono

You perform the album, Lingering, entirely by yourself. Do you like that sense of control and is easier or harder – to create so consistently – with no outside voices?

Yeah. I’ve performed almost everything myself although I had Anders Bach from Ice Cream Cathedral to play all the drums on the album. Usually, I play the drums myself, but this time, I wanted my pro friend to do it – and I’m really happy he wanted to help out because he really adds that last drive and sound to the album.

Normally, I want to do everything myself because I feel I’m capable of creating what I hear inside my head if I’m alone.

If I were to explain it to someone else I think the outcome would’ve become somewhat different and that’s not what I’m aiming for. I actually enjoy working alone instead of working together with someone else – especially when it’s my own project; although I’m aware of the danger by doing so because you, sometimes, hit the wall and come to a dead-end. This happened during the making of Lingering several times, but I guess that’s just the part of being creative.

Sometimes you have good and bad days and you just have to embrace that part. I was lucky to have Anders Bach (Ice Cream Cathedral) and Jacob Haubjerg (Luster) as co-producers on this album and they really helped me throughout the whole process – and so did my manager Christian Taagehöj. Every day I emailed them the stuff I was working on in the studio and then they commented and kept me going and inspired. They were basically the wind under my wings. So to speak.

Saying that, you collaborated with The Antlers’ Peter Siberman and Air vocalist, Beth Hirsch. What was it like working with them and what do they bring to the album?

Peter helped me create a very nice choir part for the song, Dissensions (feat. Luster). When I wrote the sketch for this song, I could hear his vocal in there somewhere; so I wrote him an email to ask if he wanted to record some vocals for the track. He said yes and, later, he mailed the tracks to me and I was mentally blown away by his choir arrangement. I’ve always been a fan of his work so it’s a great honour to have him featured on the album.

Beth actually wrote me an email after hearing my third album, Floating. She asked me if I wanted to collaborate and to be completely honest, I was so star-struck when I received her email. I’ve been a huge fan of hers and especially her vocal performances on Moon Safari (by Air). So, this was a dream-come-true and the timing was perfect because I was actually working on Lingering when she wrote to me. The process went extremely smooth. She recorded a sketch on her Dictaphone and then I worked alone on that idea for a while – where I interpreted her sketch a bit and recorded everything until I was ready to send the song to her.

I got her approval and she really liked how it turned out. Thank God!

Then, we started modifying the arrangements and then she recorded the vocals in Porto, Lisbon – and later on, I mixed the song. We’re both very excited about how our collaboration went.

Floating is your 2014 album. What have been the main changes and developments in your music in the past three years?

Floating was a concept album; an album I wanted to write, record and produce during my one-month stay in San Francisco – and, afterwards, I used a small amount of time overdubbing parts in Copenhagen (and then mixed it). So, that album took me maybe two months to make and that was a fun and very intuitive process. So, when I had to make Lingering, I wanted to do the opposite. I wanted to really dive in the process and use a lot of time to write, record; produce and mix the album.

I’ve, basically, spent more than two years writing the songs and lyrics on this album – which, to me, means it’s a more delicate and thoughtful album than Floating. Not that it’s better because of that. It’s just different because of the different working process.

Copenhagen is your base. What is the music scene like there and is it as active as, say, London?

The music scene in Copenhagen is better than ever before.

We have so many great artists right now and more Danish acts are being signed to great labels around the world. So, it seems as if the eyes are on Denmark right now. Or at least I feel so.

On the road, you have your five-piece band and wear rabbit masks on stage – almost a Wind in the Willows version of Slipknot. What is it like performing with the guys and why are masks worn on stage?

Haha. Yeah. I hear that Slipknot reference a lot. I’m honestly really happy and I feel privileged to have my best friends with me on tour. They help me to deliver a great performance which sounds even more dynamic and explosive than the albums – and that’s something I appreciate very much. To me, it’s important to have people you like around you when you tour a lot – otherwise, I would go insane and become a sad bunny.

Speaking of a bunny, we wear the masks because when I started the Sleep Party People project I wanted to hide behind a mask when I played live – and on the first album cover there’s a boy standing in a hallway wearing a bunny mask. Back then, I thought it could be a strong trademark for the project to wear that mask on stage. We still wear the masks on stage although the sound has developed quite a bit. It’s the Sleep Party People trademark.

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Anxiety and dealing with stress are themes on your latest album. Do you hope your music will help those facing anxiety? How instrumental has music been when it comes to tackling your own psychological constraints?

If I can help anyone dealing with anxiety or stress, that would be absolutely beautiful. But it’s not my goal at all. I write about these themes because it helps me to get them out of my own system.

I guess it’s just like writing a very personal diary. But, if someone out there can relate to my lyrics and find comfort in them that’s (just) even better.

Are there any tour dates approaching? Can we see you in the U.K. soon?

Yes.

We’re currently planning a tour in Europe and U.K. is a part of that tour. Looking (very much) forward to be back on tour.

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

My Bloody Valentine by My Bloody Valentine

Because of its woozy and different-produced sound. That album really formed me as a guitarist and taught me that there are no rules whatsoever; in terms of how a guitar should sound or how clear your vocal and lyrics should be.

Scott 3 by Scott Walker

An album which instantly touched me.

All the lyrics and production are just flawless. He’s, in my opinion, one of the greatest singers of all time.

Third by Portishead

This is my favourite album of theirs. I love the obvious Silver Apples influences – which they modify and make into their own sound. It’s all just so analog and rich-sounding.

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

I have to mention Luster, which is a new Danish act, but also one of my new favourite bands. We actually did a collaboration together on my new album which I’m really proud of.

Jacob Haubjerg, A.K.A. Luster, is one of my very dear friends and I really hope someone out there will open their eyes and sign this talented friend of mine.

Check him out, yo!

What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?

Follow your own intuition and forget about what other people think about your music.

The most important thing is that you love your own stuff. Period!

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

Haha. Sure.

Play Good Dreamer by Luster.

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Follow Sleep Party People

Image may contain: one or more people PHOTO CREDIT: Dennis Morton

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/SLEEPPARTYPEOPLE/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SleePartyPeople

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/sleeppartypeople/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/brianbatz

INTERVIEW: Skinny Days

INTERVIEW:

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: @jonathanvivaaskise

 

Skinny Days

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I always love taking a trip outside of the United Kingdom…

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so I can look at some great music from Norway. It might sound like a very specific location but the country, over the years, has provided me plenty of joy and inspiration. In this case, Skinny Days’ Dag Holtan-Hartwig and Halvor Folstad chat about their coming-together and the story behind the new song, The One That Got Away. The boys give me the skinny (sorry!) behind the Electro.-Pop anthem and what it was like conspiring with guest vocalist Emilie Adams. I ask them about Spotify and what success there means – they have clocked up over seven-hundred-thousand plays so far – and the idea behind The One That Got Away’s video – which features two ‘oddball’ lovers.

The duo has, in fact, throughout their career, amassed over eleven-million Spotify streams and must count among the most popular and consistent acts to feature on the site. I wonder how the guys’ future plans are looking and whether there are any albums that have been particularly important to them. They chat about the approaching summer and whether they will get a chance to chill; whether we can expect an E.P. soon and why we should never trust a “tanned producer”.

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

Good, thanks!

Oslo has been surprisingly hot and sunny over the last few days. Nobody trusts a tanned producer, though, so we’ve tried not to venture out of the studio too much.

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

We’re two Norwegian dudes who met while studying in Liverpool.

For the last three years, we’ve been in Oslo; writing and producing songs for all sorts of artists and ourselves (Skinny Days). We’re signed to Sony ATV Scandinavia and Warner Music Norway.

The One That Got Away is your new single. What can you tell me about it?

It’s a Pop song where we try to capture what summer feels like to us.

It’s that lazy and happy but kinda melancholic-summer-nostalgia vibe – something like that, anyway.

It is tropical-tinged and anthemic. Was it quite important projecting something summery and kick-back?

Yeah, that’s kinda what we wanted to do. Like we said, this is summer nostalgia to us.

The video looks at the plight of two ‘oddball’ lovers. Whose concept was it and how important are music videos to you?

The girl who made the lyric video had the idea and sent it to us and we instantly thought the ‘oddball’ lovers were amazing and basically said: “MORE OF THOSE, PLEASE!”

Videos can really make a song ten times better, and although we have no idea how to make great videos, we’re sometimes blown away by how much better our songs get when they’re accompanied by a great video.

Emilie Adams lends her vocals to the song. How did you meet her and will you be working together again?

We wrote a song called Our City for TRXD and Emilie was brought in to sing on it. As soon as we started tracking vocals we knew we wanted her on one of our tracks – that smooth, velvety voice made us both fall in love instantly. With her voice, that is!

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PHOTO CREDIT: @jonathanvivaaskise

Is there an E.P. arriving later this year at all?

Maybe; who knows, hehe.

Your songs have amassed millions of streams on Spotify. What advice would you give any artist looking to hit those high figures and find success on Spotify?

The music industry is becoming such a weird and amazing arena right now, partly because of Spotify. It’s impossible to know what songs are gonna catch fire, but when they do, it’s as if gasoline is being poured all over it (hehe; sweet analogy).

Essentially, songs with a unique sound or identity tend to survive the Spotify-universe.

Can you reveal how songs come together for Skinny Days? Will one of you bring in lyrics or do you sit down and write together?

We have absolutely no particular strategy for writing song and there’s certainly no given order as to what comes first. Anything can happen.

Usually, there’s melody, lyrics and production in a perfect chaos.

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How did you two meet in the first place? Have you always been friends or was it quite a chance meeting?

We studied Music in Liverpool.

At the very Scandinavian hang out: Clas Ohlson.

Are there any tour dates coming in the future?

We’re gonna do a lot of writing this fall but then we’ll get out on the road again!

Summer is approaching and the weather is getting warmer. Do you get the chance to take a break from music and, if so, any plans for you two this year?

As we mentioned earlier: NEVER TRUST A TANNED PRODUCER.

But, yeah, we’re gonna go to Greece and Italy and (probably) can’t avoid the sun this year!

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Indeed.

Future Duper – rising up in the Future/Bass/Pop landscape!

Also total crush on Tove Styrke.

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

Kanye WestLate Registration

The skit about having to eat cereal with a fork – to save milk – is one of this album’s highlights. Combine funny skits with roses, and hey mama, you have yourself a masterpiece fueled by raw talent.

AudioslaveAudioslave

When Hal thought he was gonna become a Rock guitarist this was the soundtrack to a room full of posters.

Brett DennenHope for the Hopeless

Incredible lyrics and a wonderful voice/concept. Masterpiece.

(Runner-up that has to be named):

Arctic MonkeysWhatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Incredible.

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What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?

Work hard every day and have fun while doing it! That should be the easy part. The hard part is finishing things, but it’s hella important!

That’s when we started making money: the moment we realised we had to finish stuff.

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).

Gold by LIOHN

Say My NameTove Styrke

_____

Follow Skinny Days

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Official:

https://www.skinnydays.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/skinnydaysmusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/skinnydaysmusic?lang=en

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/skinnydaysmusic/?hl=en

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/skinnydaysmusic

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMgKibfohjA-4qMkwwKNhyQ

 

FEATURE: Jeff Buckley: The Man, The Legend

FEATURE:

 

Jeff Buckley:

 

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Anton Corbijn

 

The Man, The Legend

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IT completely escaped my mind that…

PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Argia

Jeff Buckley died twenty years ago today. I remember discovering his a few years after his death and was instantly shocked and numb.

You hear him sing and listen to interviews he conducted and get a real sense of a young man who could have changed the world of music, forever.

Dying at the age of thirty is a savage injustice but for someone who had that gift and ability – it seems a huge injustice he should leave us so prematurely. I guess the circumstances of his death were avoidable but, knowing more about Buckley, you wouldn’t be surprised he did what he did. I shall not go into the harrowing details and tragic last moments but focus on the man himself and what he gave the world. There are few who can deny what an impact albums like Grace had on the world. I will go back a bit and talk about the first experience I had of Buckley’s music. His Live at Sin-é (Legacy Edition) – I shall include songs in a playlist below – album is my favourite live album because of its intimacy and extraordinary performances. I have written about it before so shall not go into too much detail: only to say it is something you need to hear. We all know about his multi-octave, planet-straddling vocal abilities and one can experience his full range in all its candour and power. Back in 1993, in that Irish coffee-house, Buckley took to stage with little more than a Telecaster, amp and microphone.

PHOTO CREDIT: David Tonge

What I love about that double-album is the range of covers and originals. Songs we would hear fully-realised on Grace were still in the experimentation stages. One can witness early cuts of Last Goodbye and Lover, You Should’ve Come Over. Hallelujah is in there as is Grace; there are some beautiful cover versions from the likes of Bob Dylan (Just Like a Woman, I Shall Be Released and If You See Her, Say Hello) and Van Morrison (The Way Young Lovers Do and Sweet Thing). Each song becomes a sermon and a transcendent thing. Buckley did not merely represent the song but transformed it into his own thing. To take a Bob Dylan song on is quite a brave thing but few manage to top the authority and majesty of its author. Buckley had such affection for the material he was tackling it never seemed like he was trying to, necessarily, make it his own – make it more accessible to the people.

He put his heart and soul into every number and ensured an immense amount of love and passion went into the recording.

Listening to that live album and one learns more about the young man. Shortly before heading into the studio and creating Grace’s masterful strokes; one can (for free) hear Jeff Buckley play a staggering set to a few select patrons. Not only did the man produce sensational readings but unveiled his personality. There are quirky asides and improvisations; chats to the crowd and funny observations. You can hear his Miles Davis impression and some on-the-spot renditions of Smells Like Teen Spirit and Moondance; riffs about chair shortages and a one-on-one about Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Buckley’s idol and “Elvis”. I urge people to check out the album and get a real glimpse into Buckley’s mind and music.

PHOTO CREDIT: Hideo Oida

Of course, Grace is the album we all know Buckley for and was his sole studio record. It is an album that cannot be overrated or understated: fully warranting its acclaim, stature and reputation. Not only because it introduced the world to one of its finest singers and young songwriters but the legacy and effect it has had on modern music.

One can barely stumble through the list of contemporary male songwriters and avoid Buckley as an influence.

I review and interview so many who count him as an influence: not only reserved to men but many female songwriters, too. I am not sure whether it is the enticing beauty and intimacy or the allure and peculiar potency of his voice – musicians are still stunned and captivated by it twenty years after Buckley’s death. Yes, there are a couple of less-than-miraculous tracks on Grace (So Real is a bit of an afterthought and an inferior rocker; Eternal Life has the wrong tempo and emotional slant) but every classic album does.

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From the title track’s immense rapture and monumental emotionality to peerless covers of Lilac Wine and Corpus Christi Carol; Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’s extraordinary images and songwriting to Dream Brother’s enigmas and personal relevance. What we all associate with Grace is its standout moment: the cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Countless cover versions – of Buckley’s rendition, especially – have shown nobody can touch his unique take and supernatural powers.

I would offer a moratorium to anyone who still feels the need to cover Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen wrote it; Jeff Buckley OWNS it – simple as that, guys! It is a song that brings shivers to every part of the body and buckles the knees with its purity and sexuality – Buckley’s version was the celebration of the orgasm, as he revealed. Take Grace as a whole and it remains a staggering that, tragically, had no siblings.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Argia

Buckley was preparing to record the follow-up, My Sweetheart the Drunk, when he died. Versions of songs and possible inclusions are available on an album (Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk) but it is hard to say how many, if any of those songs would appear on the final record. Buckley was fiercely creative but a perfectionist, too. So many possible songs were scrapped – he thought they were not good enough – so, in other hands, we might have had an album.

Of course, it makes it extra-sad that we never got to hear that album.

Who knows what would have been on it and the effect it could have had?! Best not to speculate but preserve what he did leave and make sure it reaches as many new people as possible.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Argia

Sadly, there is a large core that only knows Jeff Buckley for Hallelujah and assumes he wrote the song – Buckley was a terrific songwriter but no Leonard Cohen! Anyway, Jeff Buckley showed what a talent he was and, if one looks hard enough, you can discover all manner of records and live tracks.

Buckley could easily transfix an audience in a coffee-house but was capable of creating rapture in an arena. He always yearned, near the end of his life, to return to those smaller spaces and recapture some independence.

That said, one need only listen to Buckley’s gigs at The Bataclan and À L’Olympia to hear what a reaction he received. Maybe it was the French audiences but they would scream at the first few notes of a song. Completely dumbstruck and hysterical at Buckley’s mere prescience: the man himself would be awed and seduced by their affection – charmingly, and laughing, calling one audience strange people for being so impressed. It showed what love there was for Buckley and, in turn, how much that meant to him. At a time when we associate big gigs – from mainstream artists – with a slick feel and a lack of audience connection; Jeff Buckley cast all the pretence and ego away and played music to actual human beings.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Argia

The interviews Buckley conducted through his life (as you will hear/see from the YouTube compilation) provided plenty of humour, revelation and vulnerability. That exceptionally sweet and soft speaking voice gets you hooked but one is blown away by the maturity, intelligence and articulacy on offer. Buckley would tell stories and prompt theories; talk about his music past and what his songs meant.

Rarely, and for good reasons, would he discuss his late father, Tim Buckley, and whether he was close to him.

One can only imagine, if Jeff Buckley were alive today the sort of tabloid questions he would receive – not talking about the music; only interested in gossip and personal pain! I guess few of us listen to interviews of our favourite artists and check out that side of things.

PHOTO CREDIT: David Gahr

Unless they are promoting something, would you really bother digging through YouTube or Google?!I probably wouldn’t but, when it comes to Buckley, his interviews are timeless and ever-relevant.

There is wisdom and lessons that have outlived him and should be followed by people today.

I guess it is easy to get sentimental and see 2017 as a rather sad year. In fact, I rarely think of Buckley in sad terms anymore. Sure, there is emotion and reaction but rarely depression and loss. I am a huge fan so ensure I make him part of my regular rotation. Listening to his interviews feels, in a strange way, he is there and always ready to talk to you. I sound like someone who has a final voicemail from their departed lover as a reminder and last fragment of their being. I know Buckley is gone but having those recorded conversations keeps him as alive and here as his music does.

There are other recordings Buckley left, aside from his live albums and Grace so would recommend everyone spend a bit of time getting acquainted with them. There will be a day when everything he ever put his voice to his discovered but I have a feeling there will be more. Like all legendary artists, he seemed to garner greater popularity and attention after his death. Like an old Jazz hero, he was not properly appreciated in his lifetime.

His native U.S. audiences appreciated his music but did not give it the chart and commercial success it deserved.

A few critics were unmoved by Grace and there was a bit of a struggle getting his music spread. Maybe 1994 was a bad year to release a debut album. In a time when Grunge was still going and U.S. Rock was a hot commodity; perhaps Buckley’s tender and emotional songs were a little too watered down and ineffectual for audiences who demanded something raw and body-moving.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Argia

One can argue, were Grace released a few years later, it would have reached dizzying heights and made him an instant household name. The French understood him and ensured he was given proper adulation; British audiences similarly supportive and effusive. It is sad albums like Grace received more widespread acclaim and better understanding after Buckley’s 1997 death.

Now, it is widely seen as one of the greatest albums ever and a tantalising insight into a stratospheric talent.

Rather than wonder what could have come; stand back and witness what was already there. Few new artists can create something as fully-formed and realised on their opening salvo. I apologise for splitting infinitives and stepping over cracks but I cannot give credence to any notion Buckley was overrated and ordinary. I have seen some suggest that and always have this primal and near-violent reaction.

PHOTO CREDIT: Hideo Oida

If you feel he has been raised, unfairly, to near God-like levels then you are not listening to him properly and understand what his music was about. Fair enough people want to criticise but do not expect proper music-lovers to back that notion. The mark of a truly legendary artist/album is the influence it has on future generations.

We can all see and hear the results of Buckley’s existence and how much he means to musicians.

His incredible voice and wonderful work has crossed gender and genre boundaries; raced right around the globe and compelled so many artists to take up music and showed a certain degree of vulnerability and sensitivity. Many, even at the time Buckley recorded Grace, were reticent about showing any sensitivity in their music – fearing it would be mocked by critics and juxtapose the mood at the time.

PHOTO CREDIT: Anton Corbijn

Now, there are no such stigmas and fears: in a way, Buckley helped break down boundaries and ensure musicians were unafraid to reveal their soul through their work. Of course, there are few modern artists who get close to matching Buckley’s magic and talent but there are many who get close. Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s lead, was enormously affected by Buckley after seeing him perform in London. Following his gig at The Garage, Yorke hurried to the studio where he recorded Fake Plastic Trees. The performance we hear on The Bends is the same one that was recorded, by Yorke alone, after that revelatory moment – after finishing the song, he broke down in tears. If it weren’t enough to help create an album like The Bends – Buckley is responsible for the more emotional and beautiful tracks on the record – one need only listen to the radio today. I can hear Buckley’s tones and spirit in our current crop which gives me a lot of heart.

They are not trying to copy him but show their love and thanks for a brilliant young man who, in a short life, gave so much.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Argia

It may be twenty years ago he left us but, whilst sad, it should not be seen as a chance to mourn and feel sad. Yes, he should be alive today and could have done so much more good but that is the way things are sometimes – life can be cruellest to those who warrant the greatest luck and success. Rather than becoming morbid, it is a chance to celebrate Jeff Buckley and, for many, discover him. There are a lot of people who might never have heard his music or only know him through Hallelujah. Trust me; you will have a great and eye-opening time hearing those rare recordings and live gems from the Californian legend.

No matter what mood you are in, there is a Jeff Buckley song that will suit you and provoke a reaction.

I wonder whether we will ever see another singer like Jeff Buckley that has that rare blend of biblical talent and a loveable personality. Buckley was mysterious and complex but, in the way he spoke and delivered his music, simple and open.

PHOTO CREDIT: Hideo Oida

His personal life was off-limits and he did not feel the need to talk about relationships and private aspects. It was about the music and ensuring it was as brilliant as it could possibly be.

I cannot recommend Jeff Buckley enough and overstate how important he is.

We are living in an age where many songwriters are surrounded by producers and feel the need to farm-out creative and writing responsibilities. There are plenty of talented and able artists who are not culpable but Buckley’s music should serve as an example of what a proper artist is all about: no extra bodies or outside forces: a man who defined what a singer-songwriter should be. I shall leave you with a quite by Buckley that seems very relevant and meaningful given the events of the past week. It talks perfectly demonstrates his intelligence and understanding of humans. In the words of the great man himself:

Our suffering is peeling off and revealing a brand new skin, a new power

PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Argia

LOVE heals all wounds and not just time alone.”

 

FEATURE: The Music Bug: Chasing the Dream

FEATURE:

  

The Music Bug:

 

 Image result for music photos unsplash

 

Chasing the Dream

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YESTERDAY’S visit to Broadcasting House…

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has lit a fuse in me. It was the first time I stepped inside the building – having marvelled at its outside for many years – and a lot different to what I was expecting. After the initial bag search – security being stepped-up and tightened – it was into the reception and the eye-catching array of screens, people and technology. It is, if you have not been in there, a very modern and slick building that is very well run and smooth. You come in and have your photo taken and then, whilst waiting on one of their comfy leather sofas, get to watch people come in and out and all sorts of things happening – journalists and guests escorted around and lots of chatter. It is when you get past the reception area the eyes and mind really start to widen. I did not see the entire building but, going up to the third floor, it was filled with desks (not your average, boring office types) and studios. Once you get past the desks, you get the Green Room and the small studios of BBC Radio 5. It is awesome sitting in the room and listening to a radio broadcast happening inches from you – they play it on a digital radio but the broadcast is coming live from a studio right beside you; so you can see everything happening. My experience at the station was, albeit limited, but a great and virgin experience. I have been on T.V. before but the first time on radio. The initial nerves were, I hope, dispirited when the show started, and it became a more relaxed environment. My reasoning behind being there was to discuss the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In the ‘pro’ corner – arguing it deserves its acclaim and legendary status – was Howard Goodall. I have been a fan of his for years and known his work ever since becoming obsessed with Blackadder. He composed music/the themes for the show’s series and has worked across T.V. and film. Whilst chatting in the Green Room, he explained how he was involved in a BBC Radio 2 documentary looking at the album and doing a lot of interviews.

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There was talk of an interview with Paul and Ringo for the documentary but they felt Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was created by young men – it would feel odd looking back on it having aged and moved on. Regardless, Goodall discussed what he has been up to and the complexities involved in unpicking and unearthing all of the album’s outtakes and sounds. Giles Martin, son of the legendary, and sadly departed, producer George Martin tasked himself with the job of collating all this rare material and wading through the archives. All those alternate takes and conversational snippets one can enjoy on the fiftieth-anniversary releases were not easy to find, that is for sure. Goodall discussed the album’s merits and how it first touched him. It was great chatting with a bit of an icon and someone so passionate about The Beatles. In the studio, he and Steve Lillywhite – a hugely prolific and established record producer – who was opposed to the notion Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band warrants such celebration. He contested it was a mishmash of sounds and a very loose, if visible, concept. He proffered it contained awful songs and very few bright spots; the two best songs mooted for the album, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were not included (winding up on the follow-up, Magical Mystery Tour) and The Beatles’ obsessiveness in the studio ‘inspired’ other bands to make something overblown and ridiculous. Goodall observed the fact they spent a long time making the album is not their fault – if other bands create rubbish music then that is because of them. Texts came in during the show and the balance of opinion switched from Goodall’s favour into Lillywhite’s camp by the end. It was fascinating being in middle, as it were, and a ‘Devil’s Advocate’: giving my opinions and why the album is relevant to me.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Howard Goodall

It was very much the titans Goodall and Lillywhite going against one another: I feel Lillywhite had some valid arguments and was a lot more spirited in his passion. Calling from Jakarta, not sure why he was there, I was amazed by Lillywhite’s venom and attack of the album and Goodall’s defence and supplication. It was a fascinating debate refereed and guided by host Will Gompertz – as part of his regular Sunday morning arts section. After the segment ended; headphones down and handshakes completed, Goodall had a car waiting to take him to his next interview whilst I was ejected into the warm air of Portland Place. Reflecting on the day, and the myriad sights and wonderful memories, it has given me that music bug: the need to go on radio more and get more involved. Perhaps not part of a debate – especially against an album I revere so fondly – but a longer show that discusses music or some aspect of it. I am not sure but, believe it or not, there was a smile on my face most of the time – even when Lillywhite was taking rather crude shots at some of The Beatles’ best work (having the gall to turn his nose up at A Day in the Life). Regardless, being in a building like Broadcasting House was immense and I definitely want to spend more time there. Having that feeling of being rather important (even briefly) was a huge rush and being on air, even in a reduced and minor role, was something I want to repeat. It got me thinking about careers in music and how infectious it can be. As a journalist, all of my experiences are written and I rarely get to meet the artists I feature. It is a process I perform because it is convenient and inexpensive.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Will Gompertz

I hope to move in the direction of YouTube and do some recorded interviews/features. It sounds odd but, nearly six years since setting up this blog, it is being outside and away from the laptop that brings the greatest pleasure. A short radio interview has not only solidified my intention working somewhere like Broadcasting House – or Salford’s MediaCityUK –and taking a much more physical approach to music. I am not sure what it is about music but those who are involved in it will endlessly chase that dream and ensure they keep their passion going. A lot of times money and a lack of opportunity cane put people off but there are plenty who doggedly peruse their careers. That is impressive to see in an industry that is notoriously difficult and competitive. Those musicians I review/interview have to battle the odds and often struggle to make ends meet. In any other role, you’d quit and get another job. For artists, nothing else will do and there is no way they are giving in. I feel the same way and, despite the fact I do not get paid for what I do, have that determination to produce as much as I can. Creative fertility aside; it is the rush and joy of finding great new music and getting to learn more about an artist. My creative urges will, invariably, lead me to London or Manchester: somewhere there are those chances available. Regular jobs, practical and necessary as they are, leave me rigid with boredom and misery. If you are going to spend your life in an office, say, then at least be there because you want to be. I have worked and lived pragmatically and ‘responsibly’ and, God help me, it is a dull and lamentable existence. Even if the risks are high, the rewards of working in the music industry are worth every bruise and knock-back.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

It was fantastic being at the BBC and getting to be inside a building I have longed to visit for years. It is, in a small way, recognition of what I do and my work is getting out to people. In a wider, less personal sense, it is always worth sticking with what you are doing – regardless of whether it is in music or another field. I have been going for nearly six years and have a long way to go yet. Touching patronage and requests make me want to keep plugging and setting my sights as far and wide as possible. It will not be easy getting where I need to be but have that clarity at least. Whether I end up in radio or P.R.; settle in London or Manchester, I know music is what I want to do and where I want to remain. Passions should not be denied and should never be called into questions. I am lucky to be surrounded by some very supportive people and have been lucky to grow my subscribers and blogs – ensuring it regularly reaches six continents. The coming months will be interesting and quite important. Determined to get that all-elusive music job and live in an area I actually want to is going to be difficult but necessary. That little window into the BBC has opened the sweet jar and given a taste of what it is all about. I do not want to stop chasing the dream and see no reason to. Other musicians/music peeps should never abandon their hopes and always strive to be bigger and better. I am excited to see what the rest of the year holds and what chances are out there. Maybe they will not be as super-cool and big as a trip to the BBC but I have the taste and…

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DO not want to get rid of it.

FEATURE: The ‘Classic Girl Group’: Time for a Return?

FEATURE:

 

 

The ‘Classic Girl Group’:

 

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Time for a Return?

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THAT might seem like an odd headline…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Fifth Harmony

given the fact we have girl bands performing at the moment. Whilst the likes of Fifth Harmony and Little Mix are in operation; it seems like the ‘fad’ has gone out of fashion. I wonder whether the girl group had its moment and the focus is on other areas of music?!

In 2017, we are seeing a lot of great solo artists and bands being celebrated but very few girl groups.

It might seem quite irrelevant: do we need them and is there really a big gap in the market? I feel, in a way, music is losing a lot of its characteristics and having a detrimental effect on young artists. I am not a fan of boy bands as, to me, they are too commercial and do not have that special ‘edge’ that the girl groups do.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Baby Queens

Right now, there are not many great options and acts you would say are inspiring the young generation. I have reviewed girl groups in the past but the last time might have been a couple of years back – there are few coming through right now that really excite me.

There are a lot of Pop stars and manufactured acts; we have some awesome bands and solo talent worthy of massive love but that girl group dollar seems to be an inactive currency.

Again, many might debate there is not a real need for them: we have survived without them for a long time and there are no big demands out there. Whilst older acts like Bananarama are reforming – maybe a bit of a cash-in rather than a genuinely exciting proposition – there is, I feel, a need to promote and encourage the kind of girl band that inspired and motivated young listeners.

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IN THIS PHOTO: All Saints

Let’s go back to the 1990s when, I feel, we hit the peak and gave the music world the best girl groups ever. I want to mention Destiny’s Child, En Vogue and Spice Girls as an example of girl groups that have left a legacy and really made a mark on music – a bit about All Saints (and) Salt-N-Pepa.

To me, there are few better examples of the ‘genre’ than En Vogue and Destiny’s Child.

Both American acts; between them, they penned some of the most defiant and compelled anthems of the 1990s. En Vogue are still active today but, like Banarama, they are past their best and seem to be prolonging a career that hit its heights years ago. Their 1990 debut, Born to Sing, impressed critics and sported the standout track, Hold On. It has become a staple in their catalogue and spoke to so many young women.

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IN THIS PHOTO: En Vogue (2016)

In fact, I am a fan of their work so it was not a case of campaigning to women: their messages spread across genders, races and nations. All four members of the group – Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, Dawn Robinson – showed they could handle lead vocal duties and were stunning when mixed in harmony. The girls had their own style, sophistication and ethos and were not a marketing force designed to sell records to young women – a cynical case of marketing ‘strong’ singers and seemingly deep messages with the intention of making millions and becoming as commercial as possible. Funky Divas, their stunning second album, was the one that really put them on the map.

There was sexiness, sassiness and strength right through the record.

My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) was that clear signal to the over-eager man: cool your jets and treat me with respect. That defiant and strong-willed attitude not only resonated with the listeners but inspired similar-minded girl groups and female singers to inject more confidence into their own music – straying away from predictable themes and by-numbers songwriting.

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IN THIS PHOTO: En Vogue

It Ain’t Over Till the Fat Lady Sings boats the histrionic range of the group – some sumptuous harmonies and gravelled vocals in the chorus – whilst Hip Hop Lover is as catchy and body-moving as they come. To me, the album is defined by Free Your Mind: a rebellion against racist and sexist attitudes.

The song, as the title suggests, is a plea to stop seeing colour – as a negative thing and barrier – and seeing behind the person.

Whilst a lot of the girl groups I will mention are black – and there is a political and social element to their finest songs – what marks En Vogue out, aside from their mature and thought-provoking lyrics, is the connection and genuine friendship between the girls. Whilst EV3 reduced the band to a trio; they still proved they could pack a punch and remain a tight unit – Don’t Let Go (Love) one of their staples and best moments. Sure, like Destiny’s Child and The Spice Girls; losing a member weakens the band but it did not destroy them. Dawn Robinson left the band to peruse a solo career but, as we now know, En Vogue will release Electric Café in August.

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It may not have the same clout and relevance of their early albums but is a welcomed return of a group that have shown what a great girl group is: one that is able to appeal to a wide range of listeners and tastes without sacrificing sharp and meaningful lyrics and natural, soulful vocals. Like En Vogue – and I forgot to mention them earlier – TLC arrived in the ‘90s and inspired so many young women with their incredible bond, fantastic songwriting and instantly recognisable hits.

They might seem very similar to En Vogue but, in most ways, that were very different.

Sadly, the group disbanded when Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes was killed in a car crash (in 2002) but the legacy the girls laid down cannot be ignored. In fact, like En Vogue, they are back: in 2015, following touring and new excitement in the ranks, the girls successfully funded their eponymous album after with the help of a crowd-funding pitch. On 30th June, the girls will release their first original album since 2002 – unveiled a few months after Lopes died – and it will be exciting to see them back. It is interesting seeing classic girl bands return and I wonder why – I shall examine that more, later.

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IN THIS PHOTO: TLC

TLC, on 1994’s CrazySexyCool and 1999’s FanMail, created two of the strongest albums of the decade. Despite Lopes’ struggled with alcohol – which created tensions in the ranks – the recording sessions were completed and, aside from those production setbacks, the album gained big reviews and a lot of positivity.

Established producers like Dallas Austin, who worked on TLC’s debut, were back but new contributors like Sean ‘Puffy’ Combes helped bring in new Hip-Hop elements and fresh insight.

The mid-tempo grooves, Prince-esque funk and Hip-Hop beats – combined with rousing, effervescent horns – captivated critics and saw songs like Waterfalls elevated to huge heights. Throw in the provocative and unforgettable Red Light Special and Creep – plus a stunning cover of Prince’s If I Was Your Girlfriend – and you have an album that remains one of the most astonishing follow-ups in music history.

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The girls displayed incredible vocal talents and kinship throughout and, considering the tensions that arose from Lopes’ addiction issues, it is a cohesive and unified work. FanMail received eight Grammy nominations and, whilst only winning three, was another huge commercial success and critically-approved record. The album’s ultra-modern approach – the girls in metallic colours on the cover; futuristic styles and a progressive, forward-thinking sound – was a departure from their previous release. Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes, like their previous albums, coined the title and showed, in spite of past issues, was one of the most compelling and consistent voices in music.

Huge tracks like No Scrubs and Unpretty proved they were in no shortage of bangers and many critics were seduced by the contrasts and nuances – steely and strong songs against sweet reflectiveness; woman-of-the-earth consciousness and sisterly defiance.

They are back and, like En Vogue, seemed to define themselves by their independence and strong wills together with songs that were ethical and compelling but had Pop catchiness and were accessible to all. They were not the only girl group of the decade that deserve mention.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Destiny’s Child

We are all familiar with Beyoncé’s solo work but, back in 1998, she helped introduce the world to Destiny’s Child. Although their eponymous debut boasted quite a few producers and helping hands; it is the girls’ talent and connection that resounds and endures. If their introduction was not quite as distinct as other female R&B acts of the time, it gave us a glimpse of what was to come. Rodney Jerkins and Missy Elliott (among others) came in for The Writing’s on the Wall and strengthened the songwriting and sound. The vocals, from all four, were stronger and the tunes – there were some weaker ones – more memorable and instant.

Although there was a line-up shift, too, and some controversy around the album – members of the band claiming that were disproportionately paid – tracks like Bills, Bills, Bills, Bugaboo and Say My Name are anthems from the girls.

Jumpin’ Jumpin’ is popping whilst Hey Ladies is confident and standout track. Throughout the album, themes of empowerment and equality were investigated: the group always eager to promote female solidarity and defiance. It is not cliché and false: the songs stem from four women who use their music to speak to young women and (try to) affect change.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Destiny’s Child

Survivor, like their previous albums, spoke out against cheap women, dishonest boyfriends and doubters but, unless you are looking for extreme depth and philosophy, the songs were effective and hugely catchy – lodging in the mind and shouting their messages every time you listen. Even today, songs such as Survivor, Bootylicious and Independent Women Part 1 are worthy of modern-day updates.

That is the issue really: do we have any act like Destiny’s Child around today?!

Although Destiny Fulfilled (2004) was a disappointing farewell for the girls – too many songwriters and a rehash of their previous albums – what they left behind not only led to Beyoncé’s extraordinary solo career but inspired a generation of girls and young women. Like their peers, their music spoke to men and appealed to a range of other music-lovers; unlike their peers, they have not attempted a reformation.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Salt-N-Pepa

I guess the other girl groups worth a mention were based closer to home. Sure, we had U.S. group Salt-N-Pepa whose contribution to music should not be overlooked.

More of a Rap act than R&B than Pop; their confidence and sassiness really struck on debut Hot, Cool & Vicious.

Maybe not as virtuoso as their Rap peers; the thing about the group was how much they improved and strengthened as they progressed. Their first two albums arrived in the 1980s but Blacks’ Magic came out in 1990. A lot of the song were written by Fingerprints (Hurby Azor) and cementing them as a credible and serious act. Not merely a crossover act with a few good hooks – Push It, perhaps their most-famous track, was more about its synth. hook than the rapping – Blacks’ Magic was them arriving. Empowerment, sexuality (safely-promoted) and self-confidence were all over an album that had more than its fair share of standouts. Let’s Talk About Sex, the song that was plastered all over MTV, was a paen to safe sex and caution; a look at censorship and loose morals. 1993’s Very Necessary continued the great work and helped get their music to new audiences.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Salt-N-Pepa (2016)

Opposite to those U.S. girl groups talking about feminism and female empowerment were British alternatives who made a big impact on the charts in the 1990s.

The Spice Girls are (possibly) the biggest British girl group and, that said, had their own brand of female unity and strength: Girl Power.

That was, perhaps, best represented through songs such as Wannabe. Some critics felt that track was false confidence and too commercial but The Spice Girls’ debut, Spice, was a fascinating and popular work that launched them to the world. Say You’ll Be There was the girls’ bonding and overcoming tough times; 2 Become 1 about lovers so powerful and together they were a single unit – messages about contraceptive and safe sex included. Who Do You Think You Are? about the shallow celebrity lifestyle and needless fame. Maybe the lyrics were not as deep and provocative as their U.S. rivals but, what set the group aside was their infectious fun and irresistible charms. Unlike many of the U.S. girl groups, Spice was not laden with songwriters.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Spice Girls

It was an impressive and addictive debut that was bettered by Spiceworld. It is a catchier and more rounded work that saw the girls trade verses and improve as vocalists – Mel C was especially lauded and praised.

Maybe the ideals of Girl Power were traded for sexiness and a sense of maturity but one can argue that was a reaction to commercial pressures – not repeating themselves but still retaining that sense of strength and feminism.

Spice Up Your Life brings Latin and Bollywood influences – the colours and vibrancy of those films – into a song that, despite some recording issues (interruptions and chaos whilst the girls were trying to get it down) it proved to be a big commercial success. We all know there were tensions in the group and Geri Halliwell’s departure did cause weakness and doubts in the camp. Many felt the group would not survive and that was the end of things.

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Spiceworld was such a huge commercial success and found the girls on nearly every radio station around the world. That sort of pressure, coupled with gig demands and endless promotion, would be enough to strain any bond.

The girls, unlike a lot of today’s girl groups, were not overly-manufactured to sell a brand: there was respect and love among them and a real sense of friendship.

Post-Geri efforts were, for the most part, a bit of a failure. Forever, released in 2000, lost a lot of the enthusiasm and catchiness of their earlier albums and put too many cooks in the kitchen. It was a valiant effort but not fitting of a Pop phenomenon that helped change the face of music in the mid-late-1990s. Those always-rumoured reunion talks have been flying – they might happen one day – but it is best leave The Spice Girls on the rack: one of those incredible groups that, whilst not incredible singers or profound songwriters, created music that got into the head and was bloody fun!

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All Saints, the British-Canadian quarter, released Red Flag in 2016: a harmonious and impressive album that hinted at a new phase of confidence from the girls. In the girl group clash in Britain between The Spice Girls and All Saints – the Blur vs. Oasis of that genre – there was a definite difference.

All Saints were seen as a tougher, more credible alternative to The Spice Girls.

With some bold covers (Under the Bridge and Lady Marmalade) and incredible one-two-three – Never Ever, Bootie Call and I Know Where It’s At – it was a stunning album that might not have reached the heights of Spice but provided a viable option for those who wanted a sexier, bolder version of The Spice Girls. Given their tabloid infamy and meteoric rise; Saints & Sinners (2000) was, to me, one of the last truly great efforts from a girl group – appropriately arriving at the start of a new decade.

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IN THIS PHOTO: All Saints

The superlative singing, incredible sisterhood and unique personalities made the album more than a commercial exercise. The girls were individuals and proved, perhaps unlike The Spice Girls, they were all strong and capable vocalists – providing a honeyed and sumptuous sound when unified. Pure Shores and Black Coffee were not only two of the finest tracks from All Saints but two of the best songs of the early-‘00s.

Perhaps having William Orbit at the helm – who provided a similarly magic touch for Madonna’s Ray of Light – would have seen their debut album much stronger and assured – the same can be said of the follow-up, Studio 1.

In a bid to evolve and stay fresh, the girls employed Reggae and Ska touches and stripped a lot of their identity with it. Although Red Light is a brilliant return-to-form; it seems Studio 1 is a bit of a lumpen statement from a group who needed time to retreat and rethink. Whether you prefer to the fun and addictiveness of The Spice Girls or the more sensual and mature work of All Saints: both groups showed the British (and Canadian) alternative was capable of impressing critics and providing serious, long-lasting work.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Fifth Harmony

Of course, the girl group has been around for decades and not a phenomenon of the 1990s. Whether you are a fan of Diana Ross and the Supremes or The Bangles; there have been options since the 1960s – even earlier, in fact. One can argue The Andrews Sisters, the close-harmony/Doo-Wop group of the 1930s (they endured into the ‘40s and ‘50s) were a ‘girl group’.

We have seen an evolution over the past seventy/eighty years – which is probably not a surprise.

One can argue The Bangles are the finest example of the girl group. Their 1984 debut, All Over the Place, was a stunning introduction to the girls and marked them as a serious musical force. Perhaps Different Light (the 1986 follow-up) was a bit more commercial and less solid but was no failure either. Everything arrived in 1988 and produced one of their biggest tracks in Eternal Flame. Surprisingly, the band produced 2011’s Sweetheart of the Sun and created something that sounded very similar to their best work. It was a modern record but nodded to 1960s Pop and could have arrived in their ‘80s heydey.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Little Mix

I would argue the girl group is a relevant proposition today but has changed nature and sound. Maybe we should not see them, now, as girl groups but ‘girl bands’. There are Pop/R&B alternatives like Little Mix, Fifth Harmony and (Wales’) Baby Queens but, in my view, there is not the same kind of strength and memorability as the 1990s’ alternatives.

Fifth Harmony, to be fair, speak of female unity and independence in 2015’s Reflection.

There are myriad sounds and genres from the U.S. group but, as they were born from U.S. X Factor, one can hear too much gloss and a lack of identity. The girls have incredible voices and their songwriting range is impressive but there is something lacking. Last year’s 7/27 was less fun than their debut but, perhaps, more sophisticated and mature. Regardless, there are elements of 1990s girl groups in Fifth Harmony but that secret ingredient is missing. One can tell they are manufactured – not that some of the 1990s’ groups weren’t – and there are few anthems that can rival the likes of Free Your Mind (En Vogue), Let’s Talk About Sex (Salt-N-Pepa) and Wannabe (The Spice Girls).

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IN THIS PHOTO: Haim

Maybe the times have changed and tastes have with it. It would not be inconceivable to discover a group like En Vogue that could retain those themes of empowerment and independence and couple that with fun and swagger. Groups like that could talk about sex, race and feminism without making it sound like a shrewd commercial move: it was a natural part of their make-up and one of the reasons they went into music.

Now, the equivalent group seems pressured to address these issues in an attempt to seem mature and inspiring.

Maybe the likes of Fifth Harmony bring these ideas to the table but one senses marketing men and record labels directing their sound. Smaller production teams, a tight group and intelligent songs defined the best of the ‘90s and I feel there are few modern alternatives. British acts like Little Mix are proving popular but pale in comparison to the U.S. girl groups that caused such a buzz a couple of decades ago. I yearn for a 2017 girl group that instilled the virtues and potency of Destiny’s Child, En Vogue and TLC together with some All Saints/Spice Girls blends. Maybe talent shows are becoming too popular and threatening to produce the same sort of clones that have been circulating the last few years.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Warpaint/PHOTO CREDIT: Mia Kirby

There have been attempts at genuine girl groups but it seems the form is not as strong as it was. With Fifth Harmony, at the moment, the strongest example on the market; I am seeing a lot of girl band around. The Nyx formed in London last year and are, fundamentally, a fierce and powerful Rock group. Their twin lead songwriters have distinct styles and aim to change perspectives about female artists.

Maybe that is what we are seeing today: a natural evolution and development of girl groups.

There are Pop/R&B options but a lot of the best female groups today are channelling Grunge, Rock and Alternative sounds instead. A minor side-note but I am impressed by the amount of mixed-race girl bands/groups around. In an industry where there are issues of racism and inequality; I admire how many of today’s girl groups – IV Rox, Baby Queens; The Nyx and Fifth Harmony – like The Spice Girls and All Saints, are mixed-race and set an example. Maybe race is not a relevant discussion point for girl groups but it is pleasing seeing fewer all-white groups – too many of today’s Rock bands suffer homogenisation.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Nyx

The Nyx are leading a charge for powerful female Rock bands who are skewing expectations and dispelling preconceptions about female musicians. Honeyblood, Warpaint and Haim are fellow female bands who are not what you’d normally expect. Not to be an iconoclast but it seems like the Pop girl group is an obsolete force now.

There is, as there has been for decades, sexism and inequality in the industry: today’s girl bands are reacting with more force and directness than ever before.

It is interesting seeing those sonic shifts and the way things are changing. Maybe that ‘type’ of girl group – Pop and R&B-sounding – is a product of the 1990s, largely, and would be less effective today. There is a tendency to promote and celebrate the mainstream Pop artists and chart acts: would a genuine attempt at a serious Pop-inspired girl group really stand out and inspire?! It seems like, with this in mind, the best girl bands are picking up guitars and taking a more personal approach to music – writing their own songs and taking control of their art. It is good seeing fewer hands (men, at that) writing and dictating the music; that sense of talent and individuality is impressive too. That rebellion against sexualisation and over-exposure – too many modern female Pop acts too willing to strip and tease without reason – side required and burning bright. We live in a time when there is body-shaming and sexism; racial tension and political turmoil. I love the fact there are so many strong female bands coming through. I always worried Rock and Alternative were too male-dominated and defined by a real lack of diversity and variety. Now, with the wave of female bands emerging; it seems there is a bit of a mini-revolution. It is encouraging to see and will help fight the sexism and misconceptions in the industry.

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IN THIS PHOTO: TLC

I would, however, like to finish by stating there is a big gap left following the 1990s. I know All Saints and TLC are still around but their work is more mature and changed since their golden, early days.

I would love to see a girl group come along that can match the best of that decade and the kind of songs that were emerging.

Given the political state of the world, it is left to solo artists like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to document subjects like racial tension and solidarity. Maybe there are few Pop/R&B girl groups that have the authority and credibility to pull off a credible attack. Perhaps there is too much commercialisation and preference of the grittier, Rock-based girl band. I am not sure but still think there is a market for a genuine girl group that picks up where the likes of En Vogue left off. It might be the case there is not a huge demand for that music anymore but I am not so sure. I am really pleased there are some fantastic female Rock/Indie/Alternative bands but I miss that sense of fun and addictiveness we saw in the 1980s and ‘90s. Music can be effective and appealing but present a serious message. Let’s see how things go but I yearn for a girl group that can evoke memories of the past but remain current and relevant. Fifth Harmony and their contemporaries produce some good music but seem rather slight compared with the legends we grew up to. If there was a way of reintroducing the classic girl group, with as little commercialisation and manufactured talent show input as possible, I believe that would help create…

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IN THIS PHOTO: En Vogue (2017)

A stronger and more intriguing music industry.

 

TRACK REVIEW: Self Help – Gemma

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Self Help

 

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Gemma

 

 

9.3/10

 

 

Gemma is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/youneedselfhelp/gemma-02

GENRES:

Garage-Pop; Punk

ORIGIN:

Oxford, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

13th May, 2017

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The E.P., Always Trashy in Fillydelphia, is available at:

https://open.spotify.com/album/1obORl32EyoJRx2yuBRUWf

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FOLLOWING the tragic scenes in Manchester this week…

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it has got me reevaluating a lot of things. Included in this list are music itself and the nature of togetherness. I think now, more than ever, we are holding together and strengthening as a people – against forces that have tried to divide and destroy us. In looking at Self Help, I want to explore the universal nature of music and how it brings the people together. After that, I will move on to Oxford as a city for music and the importance of distinction and straying from the pack; a bit on lo-fi, raw music and the Garage-Pop genre; things to consider when trying to make an impression and artists we need to promote to the mainstream. I want to look, without going into gory detail, about the past week and how we have had to adapt as a country. If the attack at the Manchester Arena has shown us anything is how unwilling the British public are to be cowed and frightened by terrorism. The bloodshed witnessed following the Ariana Grande concert has pulled people together and we all look to rebuild and move forward. It does not matter the nature of the concert, in terms of the music played and genres, because it has brought all of the music world together in defiance and solidarity. That is the power of people and music: it is strong enough to unify and conquer. It might seem irrelevant when talking about Self Help but, after the attack on Monday, I am looking more deeply at music and how this country will react. There are fears whether we should attend gigs and whether it is safe to do so. I feel we all need to embrace music more than ever but, naturally, show some caution and care. Self Help are a band who have a great live reputation and will not be deterred by events like the terrorist attack in Manchester. We are still hearing the details and emotional stories from people caught up in the attack. Those who died and those still in hospital: people who got away and those who helped those in need. It is a scary and anxious time to be in Britain – and many nations, in fact – but people from all walks of life, and all corners of the music industry, have spoken with that common mantra: we will not be moved or deterred. Looking at a band like Self Help; the guys provide the type of music guaranteed to put smiles back on face.

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Whilst there are few links between Ariana Grande and Self Help, I feel a greater bond to music and celebrating the best out there. I am sure the band have been reflecting, like everyone else, and showing their support. Moving away from gloomier issues and it brings me, rather wonderfully, to Oxford. Usually, when an artist hails from outside a big city, I am hard-pressed to describe the music scene where they are. Recent subjects have come from Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire and, whilst there are a few venues around various towns/cities; it is not exactly overrun with heritage and availability. You don’t need me to tell you the great bands from Oxford: although, if I don’t, this review will be rather short! Supergrass, one of my favourite groups from all time, have put Oxford on the map and, in the 1990s, when a lot of attention was going to other areas, they ensured their home-city was not to be overlooked. The band have split (long ago) but have laid their marker and, in my mind, had an effect on Self Help. Although Self Help have a ‘wacky’/quirky brand of Punk-Pop; one can hear the energy and idiosyncrasies of Supergrass’ first couple of albums. That same lo-fi energy and interweaving experimentation draws a line between, say, I Should Coco, and Self Help’s new E.P. Perhaps there has been a bastardisation of Supergrass’ youthful, charming Punk/Pop blends – or mutated and modernised to suit contemporary needs –  but Self Help remind me of the ragged rabble and addictive rush of Supergrass’ finest moments. Talulah Ghost and Ride are from Oxford but, in terms of young and modern bands, Glass Animals and Foals call Oxford home – although they probably reside elsewhere. I love Glass Animals because of their strange and beguiling sound. Like Self Help; there seems to be this thing in Oxford where one can take from mainstream tastes but add something spicy, colourful and trippy. Supergrass, even in their early days, did things differently: Glass Animals employ lovely electronic sounds and compositional elements that spike the imagination; lyrics and stories concentrate on the less-focused-upon areas of life and love.

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While Radiohead formed, strictly, in Abingdon – eleven miles from Oxford – the Greenwood section of the band hail from the city. Oxford (and Oxfordshire) is synonymous with Radiohead and they, like Supergrass, are one of the huge acts from here. Aside from Foals; artists like Dive Dive, Stornoway and Dance a la Plage come from Oxford: Young Knives, Alphabet Backwards and The Dreaming Spires are adding their touches to the city. I have been looking around the search engines for new bands from Oxford and whether there is a new raft emerging. I guess there are a lot of good ones but there are few sites really shouting about it. I feel the local media need to do a bit more to expose their best artists and those making waves. Self Help are a band who have plenty of contemporaries and can learn from the legacy laid down by legendary bands such as Supergrass and, newcomers, Glass Animals. Always Trashy in Fillydelphia, with its cool name and possibilities, is an E.P. that has a lot in common with the history of Oxford music but is very forward-thinking and modern. I am curious to know whether there are bands like Glass Animals in the city and remaining there. I guess, with the rising rent/living costs, it is becoming less of a choice for artists – they are being forced to look elsewhere. I know London is pretty steep in general but I find, for the resident and musician, there is a lot more choice. I would be intrigued to know more about Oxford but know it has some downsides. Aside from being a cyclists’ Heaven – my idea of Hell, frankly – it is rather conservative and has that reputation as being a bit stuffy. It is a university city, obviously, so has a young crowd and that youthful energy and desire see a lot of its best venues thrive and expand. I have been seeking which bands are coming up through the ranks in Oxford.

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I think Self Help are one of the best in the city and, in terms of the ‘Oxford sound’, seem to fit into that mould. There is a refreshing lack of commercialism and the ordinary in the city: most of the acts like to push the envelope and do not provide anything boring and obvious. Before I move onto my next point; it is worth looking at why Oxford is such a popular place and the sort of locations musicians can play. Bullingdon (or Bullingdon Arms) used to be the Art Bar and has a smaller stage at the front of the place but a larger one at the back – where a lot of artists can be found performing. It has a club-style feel and was refurbished a few years back. There are various different theme nights, and, with its cocktail bar, proves to be a popular option for a varied crowd. The Strypes are playing the venues very soon and are one of many acts who will be taking to Bullingdon in coming months. Go down Walton Street and you can pop into the Jericho Tavern. It promotes Pop and Folk sounds and has a rather unordinary layout. A good-sized area in front of a stage upstairs and, by the bar, there is enough quiet so you can order a drink without hassle. It is a cool and reputable venue in Jericho that attracts many great artists and a real range of sounds. Not only do the new artists come through the doors: Jericho Tavern has assisted some of music’s true heavyweights on their course to fame. 02 Academy attracts a huge array of international artists and houses nearly fifteen-hundred people. It normally plays host to larger acts but, in time, it is the dream local location of Oxford’s finest acts. It is great to see the range of larger and smaller venues: it means established artists play here but there are ample opportunities for newcomers. James Street Tavern, off Cowley Road, has open mic. nights and is an essential pit-stop for fresh acts looking to cut their teeth.

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The Cape of Good Hope, on Iffley Road, has open mic. nights and live gigs; it is another terrific small venues and joins the likes of Old Bookbinders and Harcourt Arms as more intimate spaces – and ones that put on occasional events and live nights. Angel & Greyhound, on St. Clement Street, has acoustic gigs on Sunday and is a cosy pub acts can perform more chilled and laid-back set. Fat Lil’s, despite its classy and sophisticated name, is a bit outside of the city and located in West Oxfordshire. They, in Witney’s Corn Street, provide tribute acts and live artists to enjoy. It has the feel of a comedy club/small boozer but is proving fairly popular with bands in Oxford. Mason Arms, in Headington, has open mic. nights and is a lovely-looking pub that is an attractive option for local artists. We can see there are plenty if spaces that provide inspiration and impetus for Oxford’s brightest new acts. I have stated how there are opportunities for artists to do their thing and pick up crowds but, without that backing and guidance by the local press, one wonders whether we can correlate between the range of venues and the type of artists emerging – what style they play and whether they rely on local gigs or not. Self Help have performed around Oxfordshire but, one would imagine, are looking around the country for further gigs. Like Glass Animals and other bands from Oxford; they want to reach as many people as possible and have the sound to do that. Self Help, as I will explain, are not your usual, limited band and warrant widespread appeal.  It is great to see so many venues survive in Oxford but I am curious whether they will be under threat as the price of living rises. We are told it is one of the more desirable parts of the country to live in but, if the rent is too much, will people move away from the city and other counties – that will threaten the music scene and force artists to go elsewhere.

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Those new acts I am being inspired by are the ones who have a very rare sound and do not, necessarily, fit into the mainstream. It is understandable many want to be relatable and popular, hence a tendency to replicate chart sounds, but those who wish to remain relevant and evolving need to think about a sound that varies from the masses. Lately, there is an explosion of Electronic acts that mix in Pop and darker shades. There are few genuine Punk and Rock bands that get into the head. It is great hearing music that has that nuance and emotion but, away from that, one seeks something a little harder and more vibrant – songs that have a Rock/Punk kick with a little Pop undertone. Self Help are being noted because of their fantastic sound. It would be a disservice to call it ‘odd’ but it certainly does not conform to rules and the charts. There are so many artists that see what is proving popular and copy that. Whilst some add their own spin, and can create their own brand, there are many who do not distinguish themselves from anyone else. Music wants something fresh and artist that have their own mind. Those acts that surprise audiences and do something you weren’t expecting are the ones we should spend more time with. Self Help, in their E.P., have crafted a style of music that is distinctly their own. It may be rather vague saying someone needs to be original and interesting because that can mean something different to a lot of people. For me, I look for artists who can remain accessible and likeable but definitely are not easy to define. I have slated the mainstream a bit because there are a lot of acts who are quite generic and rely too heavily on technology and other writers/producers. I feel, the more people you have creating your music, the less personal it is. The sounds seem rather distant and anodyne and, because of that, seem to appeal more to the younger, chart-raised audiences. As I said, the most interesting acts are those who seem to craft their own little world. What I love about Self Help is the fact they have been acclaimed because of that rather fascinating sound of theirs. I suspect, on future records, they will expand and build it; record albums and E.P.s and add new elements into the pot.

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In Self Help, one hears lo-fi sounds and Garage-Pop mixing with some Punk shades. That all sounds quite vintage and older-days but is becoming more popular. Against the culture of technological advancement and crisp, polished sounds; there are those who prefer to take things back and nod to artists like Jilted John. The band put you in mind of those classic acts who had to make do with what was around at the times in terms of recording equipment and spaces. Because of that, there is no preciousness in regards gigging. They are happy in smaller spaces but capable of enthralling larger-sized audiences. I love big bands that can bring the grit and give you a gut-punch of Rock. Every now and then, I long for something a bit unusual and unheard-of. Whilst Self Help have been compared with The Modern Lovers and Plastic Betrand Band but, not being that familiar with them, judge it on its own merits and am fascinated by all the odd colours and suggestions in their music. When I come to review Emma, as you will see, it is unlike most music out there. I know there’s a danger, when artists separate themselves from the mainstream, to be seen as a bit too quirky and unusual. Before you know it, they are being played on niche stations and confined to those with rather ‘particular’ tastes. That is not the case with the Oxford band who are perfectly understandable and grounded but distinctly skip past the arcs of conventionality and predictable. All of this, combined with their solid live show and fantastic songwriting, marks them out for greater things. Their Always Thrashy in Fillydelphia E.P., as the name suggests, is not your ordinary serving. It has a sentiment and flavour that pleases the senses and encourages repeated listens. I would like to see the boys continue, sonically, down the path they are on but expand their horizons in regards E.P.s – include a few more tracks or shoot for an album. Given the variations and adventurousness of their songs – tied to a simple production sound and wonderfully unseasoned kick – the band have plenty more life and potential in them. What they have planned for the coming months, touring or recording, I would love to see them capitalise on Always Thrashy’ and keep that energy alive.

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I have stated the artists that want to remain and survive are those who create their own sound and innovate but how easy is that in an industry where so many artists are wrestling for success. I have heard a few bands like Self Help but none that have the same mixtures and strands. On that same topic; there is still that demand, in the mainstream, for something quite easy and uncomplicated. How, then, are modern artists supposed to stand out among their peers but fit into a market that is decidedly disorganised and commercial. Self Help are not a band who will compromise their ethics in order to fit into the charts but, at the same time, have that desire for success. Garage-Pop is an odd coming-together that, when in the correct hands, can be among the most pleasing music around. I am a big fan of Garage music and, from the earliest recordings by The White Stripes to a modern equivalent, alway find that lo-fi sound very alluring. Self Help have a bit of Pop shine buffing their music but seem much more comfortable when recording in a very simple, home-made way. I look around modern Rock bands and there is still too much gloss and over-production going on. It is good making sure your music rings clear but there is a loss of authenticity and meaning when things are too refined and machine-fed. The artists who provide something, essentially live-sounding, show a bravery but a nod back to a time when this kind of sound wasn’t optional. Many might say they are being nostalgic and throwback but, to me, it is the blast of fresh air music needs. I am still a fan of your traditional polished song but do find something curious and fascinating about songs stripped-back and basic. In those confines, it can be harder to exact as much potential and force as songs at the other end of the spectrum. In the case of Self Help; they evoke memories of days past but keep everything modern and primed for today’s market.

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Gemma starts with some scratched strings before somersaulting in a concrete mixer. It is like a classic 1990s’ riff going about its own business before being liquidised in a modern-day snarling cement mixer. There is a trip and some sonic festination: it lurches than races with a distinct drunken swagger. It is an unexpected and unpredictable introduction that drags your brain through the left-hand speaker and the soul through the opposing. The introduction is a fantastic and flourishing thing that has a catchiness and consistency that gets right under the skin and will instantly ingrain in the membrane. For those who like things instant and memorable will find much to recommend and bond with right off. You sing along and tap the feet but get drawn into the complexities and colours that burst. The percussion rumbles and races but stops at moments and changes directions. One hears bass and guitar notes that weave and flirt with rapture and sexuality; it then calms and contorts before springing all over the place. The infusions and contradictions make it such a vibrant and fascinating thing. When the vocal does come in, there is a sound of the ‘90s – not sure why that comes to mind but I detect sounds of the Indie and Shoegaze masters of that time – and a real sense of command. The vocal has a haziness and sense of somnambulism which can make it hard to detect some of the lyrics but that does not matter. What one does get is a frontman who is affected by this central figure and someone who is casting her spell. In terms of the origins of the song; it is a little difficult pinning-down where it might have originated but one can hear the emotion and urgency in our hero’s voice. The band conjures a wonderful soundscape and, in terms of sounds, you can hear bits of The Stone Roses, The Levellers and other bands – but never think too heavily of them. It is a wonderful array of classic artists and originality working in unison.

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Into the next verse, the composition is less overwhelming which gives the lyrics a chance to shine more. Our man asks the heroine a question: how she thought things would end. It might relate to a relationship that has hit the skids or a conversation that has turned sour. The hero seems in a good frame of mind and not too aggrieved at what is happening. Whether there has been some sort of natural dislocation I am not sure but there is casualness and cool that starts to come through. The background is less intense which leads me to believe there is some inner-harmony at the very least. Again, the band is terrific as one is bowled by that indelible spring and alluring concoction of notes and nuance. It is a fantastic cocktail of sounds that is never too heavy or under-produced. The band has that lo-fi greatness and a raw edge but there is something professional and fully-realised about Gemma. It is a song that could easily win over those who love their music polished and accessible but thrill others who prefer their music properly epic and live-sounding. I can imagine Gemma gains a great reaction when performed live as, listening to it in the context of the E.P., it seems like you are in the studio with the band. The heroine lives down by the riverside – that is where she resides – and is hiding herself away. One gets the image of the girl as a troll: sitting in fetid water and yelling at people walking across the bridge. Maybe it is something more human and modern: a rebel who spends time there causing trouble or looking for conflict. Perhaps she is reserved and hidden and someone who is best left alone. If you thought you could predict the composition and its course then you are in for a surprise. The track slows and almost stops near the end and has a calm and sense of intimacy to a point. Contrasted against the rushing and abrasive nature of the introduction; it is quite a switch and one that provides the song a greater range and sense of complexity. It is rare hearing a band that takes this much trouble crafting something rounded and considerate.

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Most would sling together a (comparatively) simple composition and not really think about emotional and dynamic shifts. The hero lets his voice stutter and repeat: such a distinct personality and presentation that gives the music such a sense of class and quirk. In a scene where there are few individual and standout frontmen; it is refreshing discovering such a great and fascinating voice. Towards the final moments, the tempo changes pitch and speed and, again, catches you by surprise. It is another unexpected element in a song that keeps things interesting throughout. It will be impossible ignoring the hooky guitar and bass; that rumbling, intriguing percussion and an incredible vocal performance. Even if you misunderstand some of the lyrics or guess its origins – there is no denying it is a fantastic song and one impossible to compare with others. Gemma is the star of Always Trashy in Fillydelphia and shows what a consistent and brilliant band Self Help are. I cannot wait to hear more from them and see where they go from here. I can imagine they’d be an exceptional live proposal so that is something I need to do – go see the band in the flesh. If you only listen to one song – why would you do that?! – then Gemma is a great in-road to Self Help. It is a terrific song and one that will stick in the mind many days after you hear it. That is a tough thing to achieve in a packed music industry: the impressive thing is how easy and effortless the band makes it sound. That might be far from the truth but means many will be interesting knowing what their secret is. Whatever it is, I hope they do not reveal it and continue to record exceptional songs like Gemma.

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Always Trashy in Fillydelphia suggests a band that have a sense of humour but keep their music serious. I have looked into the E.P. and love every track on it. A lot of bands produce an E.P. and have every song sounding similar: trying to create their ‘sound’ and show a consistency. Even if it is your first recording; there is no reason why you cannot be a bit varied and try different things. Gemma is the opener and I wanted to review the song as it kicks things off and is, for many people, the first thing they will hear of the band. The remaining three songs are distinctly the work of Self Help but each have their own personality. Before I come back to earlier points – Oxford’s music and lo-fi, Garage music; distinctive music and artists that are making an original statement; fitting into, but differing yourself from, the mainstream – I wanted to talk about the band and where they might be heading. Taking a look at The Oxford Times’ article at the start of March and Self Help were involved with a very important gig. Quoting from the article:

OXFORD musicians and venues have urged music lovers to take part in the UK’s first nationwide live music survey tomorrow.

Tom Keogh, Rob Maclennan, Jamie Corish and Nat Jones of Flatlands are launching their new EP at the Library pub on Cowley Road in the city tomorrow night. They’re just one of dozens of acts playing across the city have and encouraged gig-goers to join the UK Live Music Census, dubbed ‘Springwatch for live music‘”.

It goes on to say…

The census, a world first, has been orchestrated by professors of pop music at Edinburgh University”.

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That Springwatch-for-live-music event is something that should be done every year but, on that particular gig a few months ago, there was a packed bill:

  • O2 Academy, Cowley Road: Ashanti (R’n’B)
  • The Cellar, Frewin Court: White Kite (ambient synth-pop and indie-funk)
  • The Bullingdon, Cowley Road: Dot’s Funky Odyssey (Soul covers including Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson plus originals)
  • The Jericho Tavern: Masiro + The Hope Burden + Ghosts In The Photographs + Lee riley (Math rock; instrumental post-rock; atmospheric post-rock and drone music)
  • The Library, Cowley Road: Flatlands + Slate Hearts + Self Help + High Tide Royals (Upbeat indie rocking and ferocious grunge noise)

There were coordinating events in Glasgow, Newcastle; Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton; Brighton and, naturally, Oxford, designed to see what challenges face the modern music industry and help it flourish. Researchers claimed Oxford punched comfortably above its weight with bands like Supergrass and Radiohead defining the city. The patrons and acts performing that night agreed Oxford’s music scene was hard to beat – good enough to rival the likes of London and Manchester. I have never visited Oxford so would not know where to head first of all. If recent events show anything: we need to take risks and be bold. Events of the past few days have shocked many but, out of the tragedy, has come this unity and extraordinary togetherness. The music industry has seen its best and brightest join forces to speak against the evils we have all witnessed. Music is a loving community but it is rare to see so many disparate and diverse artists appear alongside one another. The underground music community has been reacting as there is this increased defiance: the desire to keep performing and plug on. There might be some delays with gigs and some fears but before too long we will see things return to normal. Self Help are among thousands of artists who are looking ahead and planning their summer. I would expect them to appear in one of two line-ups but it seems they are getting a lot of reaction in Oxford.

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The group has created a fantastic E.P. that definitely cannot be compared with any of their local rivals. Oxford has those exceptional alumni like Supergrass and Glass Animals but it is the new crop that are really interesting. I opened by asking whether the local press in Oxford and promoting their local artists but it may be a problem with the national press. Usually a music website or publication like Time Out does a ‘top-ten’ of bands from various cities. I am surprised there has not been one compiled for 2017 Oxford. It appears there are some great young acts emerging that need to be highlighted. Regardless, the city itself has that great mix of big venues and smaller spaces for all types of artists to perform. Ashanti, a U.S. R&B star, has played at the 02 Academy recently whereas Self Help have played at more intimate venues. There is nothing to suggest the guys will not be hitting the big arena in years to come and have that right on their doorstep. Maybe the cost of living is quite high so one wonders whether they will choose to live somewhere else in Oxfordshire. There are enough venues around the county but the real buzz and activity can be found in Oxford – easy commuting distance for Self Help should they decide to relocate. Oxford is not a city that dines out on its past glories without being able to offer anything new: plenty of eager and exciting new bands look set to keep the city’s rich and impressive music scene alive. Similar to masters such as Radiohead; the best bands in Oxford are ambitious and experimental but you can imagine their music surviving and inspiring many years down the line. I feel the mainstream media should do more to emphasise the music culture of various towns/cities. Whereas Glasgow, London and, say, Leeds have articles dedicated to their best acts of the moment – there is little on Oxford’s new music by comparison.

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I shall leave things shortly but will talk a little about lo-fi, raw music that puts you, in a way, in a live context. Self Help’s primal but professional Garage-Pop is gaining them new fans but they have a lot of music ahead of them. I can see the guys touring wider afield and tackling international markets. A lot of artists produce glossy and well-produced music and then struggle to adapt it to a variety of live audiences. Replicating that sound on the road, whilst stripping some of the layers back, is a challenge and it can be hard figuring that out. Garage and Garage-Pop is a genre that is perfectly serviceable and popular but I am not seeing as much as I’d like. Self Help have a great sound and attitude and should, one hopes, they inspire other acts to follow their lead. Already respected in Oxford and making big strides in the city; I know the guys will not want to tamper too much with their established sound. I feel there are too few acts who have that lo-fi, exposed sound that appears like it is coming from a gig but sounds professional and nuanced. That is not easy to accomplish so full marks must be given to Self Help for crafting something unique. There are, I guess, a fair few other acts who have that same discipline and way of working but none have the exact sound and quality as Self Help. The band have a distinct and fantastic brand that is sure to see them taken far from Oxford in future years. They are in top form and have created an E.P. that will appeal to those who know Garage-Pop and people unfamiliar.

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I shall finish up by congratulating the band for creating an original statement and separating themselves from the mainstream. They have the popularity and potential to fit into the mainstream but do not really conform to what is going on there at the moment. I guess every artist wants the chance to get under the spotlight and have the acclaim and respect of their heroes. Getting there, sometimes, involves compromising and turning your music into something radio-friendly and foreign. Some are okay with this but I do not think one should dispose of their identity in order to become popular. I can see Self Help being one of those bands who hits a rich vein and finds themselves being played by some of the biggest stations around. Whether that means they will be picked up by a big corporate record label – and asked to change their music – I am not sure but I hope they remain independent – or at least independently-minded. I guess the mainstream is not all about Pop acts and that commercial sound – there are plenty of artists who can retain their own sound and fit into the charts without too much loss of integrity. In the case of Self Help, they have such an original sound, I would love to see how they adapt and acclimatise to the modern mainstream. Until that day, one imagines it is coming, they are doing well in Oxford and lucky to be in a city that has a rich and impressive history. I hope too, when people hear Self Help, they look deeply at the Oxford music scene and the type of artists there. They have this attitude and ethos that shows pride for the city and supports one another: artists often keen to highlight their peers’ good work. Always Trashy in Fillydelphia – and the highlight, Gemma – is a fantastic work from one of those young bands you know will be a big deal down the line. Make sure you catch them whilst their (relatively) inexpensive because, before you can blink, the gang…

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WILL be a pretty big deal.

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Follow Self Help

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Twitter:

https://twitter.com/youneedselfhelp

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/youneedselfhelp/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/youneedselfhelp

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKzSQ0MwdPob4AJH_XfD3aA

FEATURE: The Summer Hotlist: Ones to Watch: Part Two

FEATURE:

  

The Summer Hotlist: Ones to Watch

 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kirbanu

 

Part Two

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AFTER last week’s list of artists worthy of summer festival domination…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Stephanie Mabey

I am compelled to produce this second instalment – perhaps a third will follow. In this edition, I bring together artists from different nations and genres. These are the acts I feel will be worth a lot of attention as we think ahead to this year’s festivals. Maybe they are not quite at the headline stage but, in years to come, will be big names commanding thousands of fans. This is my run-down of artists worth plenty of time, appreciation and love…

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False Heads

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FalseHeads/

Official: http://www.falseheads.com/

Genre: Snot-Pop

Location: London, U.K.

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January

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/januarymusic/

Official: http://www.januarymusic.com/

Genres: Singer-Songwriter; Alternative

Location: U.K.

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Samantha Jade

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SamanthaJadeOfficial/

Official: http://www.samanthajadeofficial.com/

Genre: Pop

Location: Perth, Australia

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Chase Gassaway

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chasegassawaymusic/

Official: http://www.chasegassaway.com/

Genre: Singer-Songwriter

Location: Austin, Texas

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Noga Erez

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NogaErezMusic/

Official: http://nogaerez.com/

Genre: Electronic-Pop

Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

 

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Catherine McGrath

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/imcathmcgrath/

Official: http://www.catherinemcgrathmusic.com/?frontpage=true

Genres: Alternative; Pop

Location: Northern Ireland

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Rivita

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rivitamusic/

Official: http://www.rivitamusic.com/

Genres: Singer-Songwriter; Alternative; Pop

Location: London, U.K.

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Harry Pane

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/harrypanemusic/

Official: http://harrypane.com/

Genre: Folk

Location: London, U.K.

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Kat Kenna

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katkennamusic/?ref=br_rs

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatKenna1

Genre: Indie-Pop

Location: London, U.K.

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Alice Avery

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thealiceavery/

Official: http://www.thealiceavery.com/

Genres: Pop; Rock

Location: New York, U.S.A.

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Jessica Rotter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaRotter/

Official: http://jessicarotter.com/

Genre: Pop; Alternative

Location: Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Image may contain: 1 person, phone and closeup

Alisiana

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlisianaMusic1/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlisianaI

Genre: Pop

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 2 people

Ooberfuse

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ooberfuse/

Official: https://www.ooberfuse.com/

Genre: Electronica

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 5 people

PHOTO CREDIT: Wolf James Photography

To Kill a King

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tokillaking/

Official: http://www.tokillaking.co.uk/

Genre: Alternative-Rock

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person

Noralyn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NoralynMusic/?ref=br_rs

Official: https://www.noralynmusic.com/

Genre: Alternative-Pop

Location: Brisbane, Australia

Image may contain: 1 person

PHOTO CREDIT: Samar Hazboun

Dana McKeown

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanaMcKeonMusic/

Official: https://www.danamckeon.com/

Genres: Beatbox; Electronic-Pop

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: night

XY&O

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/xyando/

Official: http://xyando.com/

Genre: Haze-Pop

Location: Cardiff, Wales

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Lánre

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LanreWorld/

Official: https://lanreworld.wordpress.com/

Genres: Acoustic-Soul; African-Pop

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person

Jack Tyson Charles

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JackTysonCharles/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jackTcharles

Genre: Soul; Funk

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Ivy Mode

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ivymodemusic/

Official: http://www.ivymodemusic.com/

Genres: Alternative; Pop

Location: Belgium

Image may contain: one or more people, people walking and outdoor

Richard Maule

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Richard.Maule/

Official: https://www.richardmaulemusic.co.uk/

Genres: Folk; Electro.; Blues

Location: London

Image may contain: 5 people

Baby Queens

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Baby-Queens-523170581048847/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/baby_queens

Genres: R&B; Fusion; Soul

Location: Cardiff, Wales

Image may contain: 1 person

IV Rox

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IVROX/?ref=br_rs

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IVROX

Genre: Pop; R&B

Location: London/Essex, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, cloud, sky and outdoor

Scott Lloyd

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/scottlloydmusic/

Official: https://scottlloydmusic.co.uk/

Genre: Singer-Songwriter; Folk

Location: Middlesborough, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Kylie Hughes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kyliehughesmusic/

Official: http://www.kyliehughesmusic.com/

Genre: Pop; Alternative

Location: California, U.S.A

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing, shoes and outdoor

PHOTO CREDIT: Rhian Melvin Photographic

Psyence

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/psyenceuk/

Official: http://psyenceuk.com/

Genre: Rock; Psych.-Rock

Location: Stoke-on-Trent, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage

PHOTO CREDIT: @keithoreillly

Ailbhe Reddy

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AilbheReddy/

Official: http://www.ailbhereddy.com/

Genre: Indie-Folk-Rock

Location: Dublin

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

PHOTO CREDIT: Digital-Flow

Emma McGann

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EmmaMcGannMusic/

Official: http://www.emmamcgann.com/

Genre: Pop

Location: Coventry

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, sunglasses and outdoor

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Fribourg

The Molochs

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/themolochs/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/the_molochs

Genre: Alternative-Rock

Location: Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing, sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

ARCAVES

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ARCAVESMUSIC/

Official: https://www.arcavesmusic.com/

Genre: Dirty-Pop

Location: Southend-on-Sea, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person

PHOTO CREDIT: Karen McBride

Hayley McKay

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hayleymckaymusic/

Official: http://hayleymckay.co.uk/

Genre: Singer-Songwriter; Pop; Alternative

Location: Darlington, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Kirbanu

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kirbanu/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kirbanu

Genre: Atmospheric-Pop

Location: Heidelberg, Germany

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, playing a musical instrument, concert, guitar and night

PHOTO CREDIT: Projoe Photography

James Holt

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jamesholtmusic/

Official: http://www.jamesholtmusic.com/

Genres: Singer-Songwriter; Alt-Rock

Location: Manchester, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person

Elle Exxe

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElleExxe/

Official: https://www.elleexxe.com/

Genres: Pop; Dirty-Pop

Location: Edinburgh, U.K.

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Allusondrugs

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Allusondrugs/

Official: https://www.allusondrugs.com/

Genre: Alternative; Rock

Location: Leeds, U.K.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing and beard

SALT

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/saltukband/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/saltukband

Genre: Alternative-Rock

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, plant and outdoor

Harper

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HarperTheArtist/

Official: http://harpertheartist.com/

Genres: Pop; R&B

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: one or more people

Risa Binder

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RisaBinder/?pnref=lhc

Official: http://www.risabinder.com/

Genres: Country; Alternative

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Delaire

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/delairemusic/

Official: http://www.delairemusic.com/

Genre: Electronic-Pop

Location: London, U.K.

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Blushes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blushesband/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/blushesband

Genre: Indie-Rock

Location: U.K.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and text

Ivy Nations

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IvyNationsOfficial/

Official: https://ivynations.com/

Genre: Indie

Location: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Bree Taylor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BreeTaylorOfficial/

Official: http://breetaylor.com/

Genre: Pop

Location: Toronto, Canada

Image may contain: 1 person

PHOTO CREDIT: Isaac Murai

HEZEN

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahezen/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahezen

Genre: Electronic

Location: Paris, France

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Laura Cole

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauracolemusic/

Official: http://lauracolemusic.com/

Genre: Rock

Location: Ontario, Canada

 Image may contain: 2 people, indoor

Talitha Rise

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/talitharise/

Official: http://www.talitharise.com/

Genres: Art-Pop; Progressive; Folk

Location: Lewes, U.K.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing, beard and indoor

Sleeptalking

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SSSLEEPTALKING/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sssleeptalking

Genre: Alternative

Location: Bristol, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup and indoor

Novo Amor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iamnovoamor/

Official: https://www.novoamor.co.uk/

Genre: Alternative

Location: U.K.

Image may contain: 2 people, night

Aniya

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aniyasound/

Official: http://www.aniyasound.com/

Genres: Pop; Alternative

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person

After Eden

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EDENJONESMUSIC/

Official: https://www.edenjonesmusic.com/

Genres: Pop; Alternative; Soul

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard, closeup and outdoor

PHOTO CREDIT: Beli Klein

Nick Byrne

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nickbyrneuk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nickbyrneuk

Genre: Folk

Location: Marlow, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and closeup

PHOTO CREDIT: Gentle Giant Digital

Jade Jackson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jadejacksonband/

Official: http://jadejackson.com/

Genre: Country

Location: Santa Margarita, U.S.A.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Bisola

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bisolamusic/

Official: http://bisolamusic.com/

Genre: Singer-Songwriter

Location: London, U.K.

https://open.spotify.com/track/2ErcUmUdg6u1cjPQ6cbXuH

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and indoor 

The Coronas

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecoronasofficial/

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheCoronas

Genre: Alternative

Location: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sunglasses, sky, tree, outdoor and nature

Albert Man

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/albertmanmusic/

Official: http://www.albertman.com/music/nonm/

Genre: Alternative Rock/Pop

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Tiger Lilly

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tigerlillyofficial/

Official: http://www.tigerlillymusic.co.uk/

Genre: Pop-Rock

Location: Slough, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

LINA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lina.offiziell/

Official: https://lina-official.de/

Genre: Pop

Location: Germany

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, night and indoorJoshua Luke Smith

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joshualukesmithmusic/

Official: http://www.joshualukesmith.com/

Genres: Hip-Hop; Rap

Location: Bath, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, smoking and closeup

PHOTO CREDIT: Louis Lander Deacon

Lots Holloway

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lotshollowayofficial/

Official: http://lotsholloway.co.uk/

Genre: Pop

Location: U.K.


Image may contain: 2 people, shoes and outdoor

Majik

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/majiklondon/

Official: http://www.majiklondon.com/

Genre: Chill-Electronic

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Eckoes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iameckoes/

Official: http://www.iameckoes.com/

Genre: Electronic

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Gemma Louise Doyle

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gemmalouisedoyleprofessionalvocalist/

Official: https://www.gemma-doyle.com/

Genres: Pop; Opera

Location: London

Image may contain: 1 person

Rose Betts

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rosebettsmusic/

Official: http://rosebetts.com/

Genre: Folk; Alternative

Location: London, U.K.


Image may contain: 1 person

Ghost Caravan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ghostcaravan/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GhostCaravan

Genres: Orchestral; Electronic; Soul

Location: Toronto, Canada

Image may contain: 1 person

PHOTO CREDIT: Kriss LOGAN Photographe

Hyleen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HyleenOfficial/

Official: https://twitter.com/HyleenOfficial

Genre: Singer-Songwriter

Location: Cannes, France

Image may contain: 2 people

Them & Us

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/themandusofficial/

Official: http://www.themandusofficial.com/

Genre: Electronic

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 3 people

Bare Traps

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/baretrapsband/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BareTrapsBand

Genre: Indie-Pop

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

PHOTO CREDIT: Duston Todd

Stephanie Mabey

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephaniemabeymusic/

Official: http://www.stephaniemabey.com/

Genre: Alterative

Location: Salt Lake City, U.S.A.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Tim Kasher

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TimKasher/

Official: https://www.timkasher.com/

Genres: Alternative; Folk

Location: Omaha, U.S.A.

Image may contain: 1 person

Signal

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SignalOfficial/

Official: http://signalofficial.com/

Genre: Hip-Hop

Location: Basingstoke, U.K.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, closeup and indoor

False Advertising

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/falseadv/

Official: http://www.falseadvertising.co/

Genre: Alternative

Location: Manchester, U.K.