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.

_______

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

_______

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.

 Image may contain: 1 person

Samantha Jade

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

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

Genre: Pop

Location: Perth, Australia

Image may contain: 2 people, indoor

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.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup

Kat Kenna

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatKenna1

Genre: Indie-Pop

Location: London, U.K.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Alice Avery

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

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

Genres: Pop; Rock

Location: New York, U.S.A.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Jessica Rotter

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

Official: http://jessicarotter.com/

Genre: Pop; Alternative

Location: Los Angeles, U.S.A.

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Alisiana

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlisianaI

Genre: Pop

Location: London, U.K.

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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.

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XY&O

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

Official: http://xyando.com/

Genre: Haze-Pop

Location: Cardiff, Wales

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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.

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Ivy Mode

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

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

Genres: Alternative; Pop

Location: Belgium

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Richard Maule

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

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

Genres: Folk; Electro.; Blues

Location: London

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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.

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Scott Lloyd

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

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

Genre: Singer-Songwriter; Folk

Location: Middlesborough, U.K.

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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.

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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.


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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.

INTERVIEW: Loz KeyStone

INTERVIEW:

 

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Loz KeyStone

______

FOLLOWING the release of the single, Livid

Loz KeyStone has unveiled the video to How Is It. Shot at a boxing night in Clapham – on his father’s old D.V. camera – it was at the place his brother fought (and won) his first fight. I was keen to learn more about that family symbolism and reasoning – why adopt older technology and unusual locations. KeyStone descends from rural French roots but grew up surrounded by art and culture in South London. That passion did not last long: he dropped out of Wimbledon School of Art to pursue music. I ask about the past years and education: how South London inspire him and whether his art training has been adopted in his current music.

To Feel Love, KeyStone’s debut album, was written as a reaction to his father’s death – an event that shook him and led to a series of late-night sworded encounters and one-night stands. Out of that intoxication and drunkenness came a focus: put down some music and channel the sadness and confusion into music. I ask about KeyStone’s South London flat and that D.I.Y. ethic; how much of those dark and wasteful nights go into the music and whether he is in a better frame of mind at the moment.

It is an honest, sometimes cagey interview with an incredible songwriter…

________

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

Not great, to be honest.

I’m trying to flog 300kg of potting soil that this guy gave me – as a deposit on a room I was renting in Harlesden. Turns out, the soil is just ordinary mud and no good to man nor beast for the kind of potting I was wanting to do this weekend.

I’ve been round the flat to try to find him but he’s boarded up the doors and windows and I can’t get him on his mobile – and the mud is worthless. I’m in talks with the Citizens Advice Bureau.

I’m hoping it’s just a misunderstanding but I’m starting to think I might have been swindled.

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

Yeah. I’m a musician from South London.

I’m also a painter and an avid gardening enthusiast.

South London is your home and base. What is the music scene like where you are and how important is the city in terms of your ideas and creativity?

To be honest, the city is great but it’s quite expensive so that doesn’t help with the creativity that much. Most of my ideas are irrelevant to London itself.

How Is It is your new track. What can you tell me about it?

People say I whisper too much when I sing and I think that that is particularly true of this track.

I like it though and someone on Tinder told me they thought it was quite sexy.

Family symbolism lies behind the video for the track. It was shot at a boxing night in Clapham – where your brother fought and won his first fight. What was the reason behind you filming at this location? Was it quite an emotional shoot?

I shot it there because I was going to watch him fight and I needed to get the video together. The night was fu*king mental though.

I was well-nervous for him but he smashed it.

There are D.I.Y. instruments and sounds on the track – matching the D.V. camera-shot video for How Is It. Is it important to you creating something intimate, home-made and simple?

Yeah.

I don’t have enough money to make anything else

You studied Painting at the Wimbledon School of Art. What was the reason for pursuing music instead and does your artistic style/passion reflect in your music in any way?

I sort of float from one thing to the other. I still draw a lot. Music seems to make me happier than most other things I’ve tried.

To Feel Love, your debut album, was written after the death of your father. How tough was it putting the songs together with that emotional reality on your shoulder?

I wouldn’t make something if I wasn’t enjoying making it.

The record was recorded following a year of, what you said, was a series of drunken nights and meaningless one-night stands. How much of that intoxication, sexual inhibition and anxiety go into the lyrics and music?

Yeah. It’s all over it.

I think every song has moments that are quite explicitly about sex. There wasn’t a huge amount of anxiety, though, and I’m not documenting it as if it was a bad lifestyle choice.

It’s not romantic like that. It was quite fun doing all that stuff – but it definitely wasn’t filling the void…

How are things this far down the road? Are you in a more positive mind-frame or do past memories impact you still?

I actually have a terrible memory which I think is quite useful in some cases.

I definitely feel happy right now but it is very sunny at the moment.

Are there any plans to tour your material in the coming months?

Yeah. I’m getting a band together at the moment.

Who are the new artists you suggest we look out for?

Rocheman, Finn Ryder and Swipht.

All excellent.

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

I couldn’t pick three. I love loads.

Off the top of my head I’d go with Mala by Devendra Banhart; Clear Moon by Mt Eerie and Boxer by The National.

But that’s just off the top of my head right now.

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

I’m certainly not someone to come to for advice about the music industry.

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).

Thank you.

Go with Squeaky by Finn Ryder

_____

Follow Loz KeyStone

Image may contain: 1 person, guitar and indoor

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/lozkeystonemusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/lozkeystone

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/lozkeystone/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/lozkeystone

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC11Wjp0QHQ2KlB_GbL8mrTA

FEATURE: The May Playlist: Vol. 4: “I’ve Got to Admit It’s Getting Better…”

FEATURE:

 

The May Playlist

 

 

 

Vol. 4: “I’ve Got to Admit It’s Getting Better…”

_______

THIS is an odd week for music for a few different reasons…

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Amazons/PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Goff

For one, there is new music from the likes of The Amazons, The Charlatans and alt-J: fantastic tunes from some of Pop’s best and some underground nuggets. Alongside that is the big event: the fiftieth anniversary of The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

We are seeing a legendary album share shelf space with brand-new records from some of our brightest young artists. I take tracks from Rita Ora, Bleachers and Dave and sprinkle in plenty of colour, spice and variety. It is another busy and surprising May Playlist

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PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Harris

The Amazons – Something in the Water

https://open.spotify.com/track/6aXamb2bP63nZmN8Len2Vu

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The Charlatans – The Setting Sun

https://open.spotify.com/track/2KcSbjIdVs6UUjE7dF4Ama

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PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Rudderow

The DistrictsIf Before I Wake

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alt-jAdeline

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Lucy Rose – No Good at All

https://open.spotify.com/track/1zv91MvyaynZz2iigMOIsE

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Rita Ora – Your Song

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PHOTO CREDIT: Phoebe Fox

Get InuitAll My Friends

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Katie LondonKing of Hearts

https://open.spotify.com/track/12shWZPAMElzE6TG8Zppuh

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Lana Del Rey (ft. The Weeknd)Lust for Life

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Gothic Tropic Don’t Give Me Up

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Dagny Wearing Nothing

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Real Estate Stained Glass

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EMA Breathalyzer

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Amber Coffman – Nobody Knows

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Marika Hackman – Cigarette

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PHOTO CREDIT: Neil Krug

Benjamin Booker – Believe

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PHOTO CREDIT: Teen Vogue

Dua Lipa (ft. Miguel) – Lost in Your Light

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rosaline Shahnavaz

The Magic Gang – Your Love

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 – Nights with You

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Allie X (ft. Valley Girl) – Need You

https://open.spotify.com/track/1OjWMRoXwwMgezK1lf7Mzw

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PHOTO CREDIT: @Vanessaheins

Carly Rae Jepsen – Cut to the Feeling

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The Unthanks – Happiness

https://open.spotify.com/track/6eVfsMh0IRcUrXYFcaXSMc

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Charlie Fink – The Howl

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Bleachers – I Miss Those Days

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Enter Shikari (ft. Big Narstie) – Supercharge

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Coldabank – Lovin’ You

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Girlhood – Together

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Grace Carter – Silence

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Halsey (ft. Lauren Jauregui)  Strangers

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Isaiah Dreads (ft. One Acen) – Hot Spice

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Kali Uchis (ft. Jorja Smith) – Tyrant

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Klyne – Sure Thing

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Lion Babe Hit the Ceiling

 

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Little Mix (ft. Stormzy) – Power

https://open.spotify.com/track/4BJ5T8ZZZ3UrPG7k0OVQrp

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Low Island – That Kind of Love

https://open.spotify.com/track/0URpGtRlfLU7NjC40eA0Uz

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Mark Elliott – Good Way

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Melvin Ashong – Powem

https://open.spotify.com/track/5j9eR8mhxaO2dKI3XlWIah

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NEIKED (ft. Mimi) – Call Me

https://open.spotify.com/track/6qUFDGt5RGblU3LqGDXlUW

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Mabel – Bedroom

https://open.spotify.com/track/3YeXzPvp9EOHqkNSV0OYzs

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Dave – 100M’s

https://open.spotify.com/track/5Z1EX2sRJk1e8tQofsFnVW

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Vera Blue – Mended

https://open.spotify.com/track/7tj9bP2fBemdiRo77wCzPw

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Nick Jonas (ft. Anne-Marie and Mike Posner) – Remember I Told You

https://open.spotify.com/track/42NpUvd0I2kdIuMXX4nobE

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Noah Cyrus – I’m Stuck

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ta-ku

Wafia – 83 Days

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Washed Out  Get Lost

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Nu:Logic (ft. Thomas Oliver) – Side By Side

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Wild Youth – All or Nothing

https://open.spotify.com/track/16hdgBIMFc2dK8iWYQCvGz

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PHOTO CREDIT: SHOT BY PHOX

Pale Seas – Into the Night

https://open.spotify.com/track/1m9Y0ylmK6lByLFLrp2FwZ

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PHOTO CREDIT: @TomAdamGreen

River Matthews – Light the Way

https://open.spotify.com/track/3HlWEa0jL2Gw4HvEpaLKa7

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Julia Michaels – Issues

https://open.spotify.com/track/1sXUWdKx03aP9Gmzft58rt

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Novo Amor – Colourway

https://open.spotify.com/track/2oa53bhiNPCz2CGh26AYxi

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Pia Mia (ft. Jeremih) – I’m a Fan

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3LAU (ft. Yeah Boy)On My Mind

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Theo Verney – Mind Fire

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Ryan Sheridan – All of It

https://open.spotify.com/track/10UyYzEWBzSIitDXCv928R

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PHOTO CREDIT: Alice McCall

Samantha Jade – Circles on the Water

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Tiësto & KSHMR (ft. Talay Riley) – Harder

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Tom Joshua – Boys in Cars

https://open.spotify.com/track/1r0ZMjM2VZzitCWhdhIzjP

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Lindsey StirlingForgotten City from RiME

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Sia (ft. Labrinth) – To Be Human

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Brooklyn and BaileySimple Things

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Tender – Nadir

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Meek MillGlow Up

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Popcann (ft. Davido) – My Story

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Postiljonen – Crazy

https://open.spotify.com/track/0kRokKRebaOCdIfTJ8zbJ9

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Dastic (ft. Cade) – Let Me Love You

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Ryan Adams – Prisoner

https://open.spotify.com/track/4t221L17yyQfFe7kRluTew

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AJR – Come Hang Out

https://open.spotify.com/track/3EuL0buAsLnXb1JWtNVleF

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PHOTO CREDIT: Bifean Cartel

Her (ft. Zefire) – Swim

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London Grammar – Oh Woman Oh Man

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Avatarium – The Starless Sleep

https://open.spotify.com/track/3cIxpr7A9NrKOs7FrydXTn

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Justin Townes Earle  – Kids in the Street

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Alestrom – Mexico

https://open.spotify.com/track/6xEcJi5tmXFhaT0m62VZd9

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Lil Yachty – Harley

https://open.spotify.com/track/5MjDHb5bnvY4Jz2Aue17Hj

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Yellow Claw (feat. Moksi & Jonna Fraser) Open

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The Beatles – She’s Leaving Home

https://open.spotify.com/track/1Ipl1kvks5s6GKn6oqgzeY

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Shaikra – Nada

https://open.spotify.com/track/1D8bmUIhLHEO4KMS2SHwUx

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James Vincent McMorrow – Thank You

https://open.spotify.com/track/2WGVb25hoch25nmL4XLzTI

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Ben Ottewell Watcher

https://open.spotify.com/track/6OJLz8qvBwvrYomJOsLiYe

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Skye Steele – Living a Storm

https://open.spotify.com/track/1GYgIr0WvYj2JXE9yXI8jW

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Bryson Tiller – Somethin Tells Me

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Carl Louis – Human Being

https://open.spotify.com/track/4i0yaYLrLtkhnGMrelDvSw

 

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MellahOld Friend

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Ella VosYou Don’t Know About Me

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jonathan Pilkington

Kite Base – Dadum

https://open.spotify.com/track/2mNdgbOSHQS9a5ZJhvh0jq

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ARTWORK: Melodic Virtue

Thunder Dreamer – You Know Me

https://open.spotify.com/track/6xQqcLXcm25CifTQ6IJ8Dc

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Camilla CabelloI Have Questions

https://open.spotify.com/track/3NgCzSW98SsqBdpYcnm4kv

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles/PHOTO CREDIT:  Apple Corps Ltd

It is weird getting a chance to (legitimately) include a track from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Alongside the 1960s brilliance, I have been drinking in the best new music and underground treasures. Let’s hope – as the weather REALLY hots up – music keeps giving us so many treats and unexpected offerings.

TRACK REVIEW: Harry Pane – Fletcher Bay

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Harry Pane

 

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Fletcher Bay

 

 

9.2/10

 

 

Fletcher Bay is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym1Jxno_eZM

GENRES:

Folk; Alternative

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

22nd March, 2017

Image result for harry pane the wild winds

The E.P., The Wild Winds, is available at:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-wild-winds-ep/id1208393253

_______

ONE of the reasons I have been so busy lately…

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is because I’m putting together a body of work I can use, I hope, in order to seek employment among some reputable music publication. The same work ethic can be applied to Harry Pane. I will talk about touring and those who gig relentlessly; a bit about Northamptonshire’s (where he is from) music and various ways of funding recording; getting that producer/location down and music that brings the listener into the songs – a little bit on hitting a wide appeal and getting reputable stations under your belt. Let’s begin with that first point and the nature of touring. I have written articles recently that talks about mainstream artists and the promotion ‘game’ that is played: another looked at artists who suffer anxiety and whether touring demands are responsible. In terms of those big artists; there is a real need to fit into a certain way of working. When an album or single is on the horizon, there begins a meticulous and structured campaign that sees every media source hit and this bit-by-bit drip-feed or a promotional release. You have the social media revelations and, before you know it, a huge amount of gigs. I wonder whether there is a lot of pressure put on mainstream artists to promote harder than ever. One can apply this to new artists: the competition so fierce, there is that need to perform as much as possible. These long hours and brutal demands are taking a toll on a lot of artists. Anxiety levels are rising and the desperation for revenue – gig money is the only many artists will receive – is pushing our artists to the limit. It is quite a brutal and unforgiving scene, so I wonder whether there needs to be some form of mediation and restructuring. To me, there are the same amount of venues (or fewer) but the number of artists is climbing ever-higher. One wonders whether that compression and compaction is causing a squeeze on the music scene. It all sounds rather negative but I wanted to address one side of touring and what a new musician faces.

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In terms of Harry Pane; he is someone whose music plays on the softer side: it has captured many hearts but has a broadness and sonic diversity that has seen it appeal to a wide range of sources. Because of that, Pane is in demand and has been performing around London quite a lot. He is based down here now and revelling in the opportunities and unique, characterful venues we have in the capital. Whilst many artists are pushing themselves hard – and finding anxiety and stress follows – Pane seems to have a good balance. Yes, he is much-demanded but is able to perform regularly whilst affording himself some off-time. I have mentioned how Pane’s music has a gentleness and passion to it. Does my concerns, and the fact some artists are burning out, apply to those who play harder, more energised music? Maybe the sheer energy and strain exerted per gig, carried across a year of dozens, is too much for their bodies and minds. Is it easier for an acoustic/Folk artists, say, to sustain a jam-packed gig calendar and have a real sense of optimism? Maybe so but, in Pane’s case, there is that natural love of the road. That is why I wanted to address touring and gigs. Whilst many feel a bond with the studio and prefer it there – if I were a musician, I think I would – there are many who yearn for the buzz and love one can only get in the live arena. Even if your audience is quite intimate; there is something inexplicable magic and transcendent about holding court and connecting with the people. I think THAT is what many, and Harry Pane, vibe from. You have that closeness with the crowd and are able to see the reactions first-hand. I have read live reviews from Harry Pane’s recent shows there is that consensus: he is someone who can captivate an audience and get a very raw and pure emotion from every patron. It is not a shock, because of that, he is pretty active right now.

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I have this by-proxy/second-hand paternalism with Pane and hope, like the best new artists out there, he is taking time to recharge and chill between gigs. I can understand the need to get the music out there and build the fanbase but, at the end of the day, he needs time to decompress and reflect. There are a lot of pressures on new artists so, dealing with them, is quite a hard struggle. One thing that impresses me about Harry Pane’s gigs is how comfortable and assured he appears. A young man he may be but he is someone who has the skills and affinity of an older musician – completely natural and connected with the stage. I will come to look at his new E.P., The Wild Winds, but can only imagine, in light of its release, there will be many new fans who will want to see Harry Pane in the flesh. Whilst there are concerns about the health of our musicians and how much is on their shoulders; it is possible to get regular gigs and not push things too hard. Pane has been performing around London and the U.K. but one suspects he would welcome a broader, more ambitious itinerary. It seems, listening to the depth and richness of his music, it is translatable and utilitarian. One does not have to be accustomed to a genre or style in order to bond with Pane’s music. I could envisage him tackling the American market and finding success in states like New York and Los Angeles. Of course, we often associate America with the big cities and states but forget all the other great areas in the country – Nashville and Seattle among them. I hope Pane, in months to come, is allowed access to explore America, Europe and other areas. I can see him gaining big international acclaim – whether he wants to remain local at the moment, and carve out a niche here, is up to him. There is a lot of excitement around Harry Pane and that, in time, will see him becoming a big proposition abroad.

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Harry Pane has sold out London’s The Bedford and established himself as one of London’s brightest new hopes. As music becomes larger and more expansive; counties and areas outside the big cities are becoming less attractive and more anonymous. It is great living in the environs of London or Manchester (or Glasgow) but does that proximity pose any benefits to an ambitious musician? Whilst one has a greater chance of success in the cities, I would argue it is pretty hit-and-miss whether one could gain any exposure in smaller areas. I have featured artists from Reading who have been able to survive here without relying on London but that is a rare exception. So many artists tell me the same thing: there is no active scene where they are and feel the need to have to go to the big cities. I have been looking at Harry Pane’s home county, Northamptonshire, and whether, in practical terms, there is any sort of music base. I know there are some larger towns/cities (away from London) that provides a platform for musicians but, in terms of Northamptonshire, there is a limit. Foundrymans Arms offers live music and chances for bands down in Northampton – it is as popular destination but quite limited in terms of space and music variation. O’Neills, (Northampton) in The Drapery, is more reputable and hand-picks the best bands around – making sure local punters are treated to a discerning collection of acts. Whilst its online reviews might suggest there are better pubs/venues around – one suspects the food service and ambience is more culpable than the quality of music – the Irish bar provides a range of genres and sounds for people to enjoy. Roadmender, down in Lady’s Lane, Northampton, brings together the best Indie D.J.s around and hosts its world-famous (one wonders whether that claim is rather ambitious; their definition of ‘world’ might not extend beyond the county) Propaganda club night and caters to those who prefers their music bass-heavy and banging.

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Rose and Crown Bistro, by contrast, is as austere and dignified as its name might suggest. It prides itself on British cuisine but had a worldly flair: this is reflected in the eclectic selection of music they provide. From Jazz and Rock to Blues; there is something for everyone to enjoy. Royal & Derngate – another quintessentially English-sounding boozer – reopened in 2006 after a multi-million-pound redevelopment. The venue is more family-friendly than most venues – translation: not quite as cutting-edge and happening as you’d hope – but, because of that, is a more broad-minded and accessible venue than many in Northampton. Rushden Con Club is one of few venues outside Northampton that hosts the best acoustic and electric artists from around the county – sourcing its talent from surrounding areas, too. One can enjoy a friendly environment, cheap drinks and exceptional music. The British Arms – one imagines Northamptonshire to be quite Brexit, given its patriotic pub names! – offers some world-class banter and a top-notch selection of real ale. Navigate the classic bants and bearded-men-tasting-ale-visions and one can access some great live music down in Wellingborough. The Deco, nestled in Abington Street, Northampton, is a restored 1930s cinema and a beautifully-appointed site.  Whilst its beautiful auditorium is more suited for theatrical events; it does showcase musicians and is one of the most striking venues in Northamptonshire. The Castle Theatre and Arts Centre showcases mighty Blues and smooth Soul music; brilliant Folk and Rock ‘n’ Roll spark. It is another great site in Wellingborough that shows what an impressive scene the town has. Whilst Northamptonshire does a music scene, it is rather sporadic and not quite as consistent as somewhere like London. Northampton, especially, is quite a strong centre and, if an artist can get some local gigs and enjoy the convenience of London, that is quite a nice blend. I feel Pane is situated in London because he has a talent and ambition that cannot be satisfied by a few local bars. That unslakable thirst is best left to London and its vast array of venues. That said, one cannot understate the importance of the local scene and preserving those all-important venues. Without them, talent like Pane would not be able to campaign and expose his music – he would be forced to make costly visits to London and might not get the experience he requires. Now he is based in the capital, he is starting to build up a solid and loyal fanbase – and get gigs in other parts areas the country.

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Not only has Harry Pane got that desire to perform and wonderful critical acclaim but the backing of record labels and the public. In terms of finding finance for music; many musicians are struggling to put together the necessary fees. I have seen many go down the crowd-funding route: not only to get fans involved in the production and process but because they have no other options. In Pane’s case, he got funding from Island Records – the Great Britain of the record labels; no small fish – after prospering at Meet & Jam and PRS Music’s ‘Road to the 100 Club’ competition last year. It was a great competition with a lucrative prize. Having a big label like Island Records funding an E.P. is an invaluable prize. I know Pane warranted the victory and earned that accolade but, as an artist, had a lot of pressure turned off. He did not need to stress about where the funding would come through and limit his horizons too much. I worry, even if one goes down the crowd-sourcing route, they are producing music how a recently-bankrupted millionaire would plan their trip to the supermarket. The calculator is out and they would be working out the cost of each instrument/studio day/song. Because of that, a lot of music’s potential is being strangled and artists are having to take less-expensive routes around. I understand how technology can compensate – apps. and software that can make recording and compositions more affordable – but they cannot replicate and replace the natural sound and potential of real instruments. How to find sufficient funds for new musicians might see me straying off-topic – no change there, then! – but it ties in with Harry Pane. Consider what The Wild Winds would sound like were he to have to self-fund one go down the crowd-funding route. I know there would be willing backers but there is that inherent stress: can he hit targets in time and will he generate enough?! As it is, he was not asking for a massive budget but has that comfort-blanket of Island Records. The likes of U2, Amy Winehouse and Elton John are/have been on that label so, not only will Pane get the finance from them but a wealth of experience and knowledge.

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The nature of funding and production is something that is on my mind a lot and keeps many artists awake. One wonders whether having a sense of financial uncertainty is good for an artist – they work harder and provide more gigs; find economic ways to get their music produced – but I feel there are far more detrimental and negative aspects. I am pleased for Pane as he earned that honour and has been allowed a certain freedom and elasticity. Listen to his E.P. and it is not crammed with needless instruments and effects. What one hears is something natural and pure: an artist stretching his imagination but displaying a keen ear (and eye) for concision and focus. Not to hark on about Island Records but that is quite a coup for someone so young. It would be nice to see that association continue in the future. Having Pane on their books would be a bonus for them and he, I think, would fit perfectly into their stable. Right now, I am looking ahead and where Harry Pane will go now. Another E.P./album seems certain but one thinks, when that arrives, how it will be funded. I would like to see him go down the crowd-funding route. Some artists can be sniffy when you bring up that area. To me, as long as you give the supporters proper recompense and reward, it is a mutually-beneficial cohabitating that means a musician need not sweat fiduciary nightmares – the fan gets something and knows they have helped make an album/E.P. If a musician has enough money, and goes down this path to save themselves spending a bit of cash, there are some ethical qualms. For Pane, he is not Scrooge McDuck – diving into a huge vault of coins at the end of each day. It would allow Pane’s fans to back a wonderful project and the artist an opportunity to conserve some finance for other considerations – maybe pouring it into a great music video or funding vinyl releases of the album/E.P.

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Looking at the credits for The Wild Winds and one cannot help but be impressed by its producer and location: Dani Castelar and Valencia. The fact Pane got to go to Spain and record in such a Paradise. Down in the port-city; he got to enjoy the southeastern coast – where the Turia River entangles the Mediterranean Sea – and surrounded by futuristic structures, planetarium and interactive musicians; the wonderful vistas and gorgeous views. I am all for keeping things basic and making recording simple and affordable but, in this case, one can see the case for going to Valencia. Not only, whilst there, could Pane get inspiration for songs but have a perfect place to relax. One thinks of the modern artists sweating in a high-tech studio and it being a rather robotic and unremarkable procedure. That is true in a lot of cases but, if one can achieve it, going somewhere inspiring like Valencia not only creates a better working environment but an all-in-one holiday/retreat where an artist can get ideas for music and chill at the same time. Kudos to Pane who, one suspects, was not there for a jolly – it was a considered choice and has, as a result, led to some atmospheric, scenic and beautiful music. One hears the E.P. and looks at Valencia: its coast and age-old geography; that clash of modern and historic and the diverse population there. Even if you are British, and do not have a lot of cash, France is on our doorstep – as is Scotland (if you are English). Do your research and investigate those studios that provide a sense of the inspirational but affordable at the same time. One imagines a jaunt to Paris, say, would not be that expensive. The studio costs are not as steep as they are here and, whilst in the city, you get access to romantic and heart-melting images. It is a romantic, perfect city that can make the heart beat faster and compel every musician – not only those who make tender, touching sounds.

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The Wild Winds has the distinction of Dani Castelar in the producing chair. He (one would imagine a woman with that forename spelling) has produced work for the likes of R.E.M. and Paolo Nutini. That is an impressive couple of names that makes me wonder where Nutini has got to – I am desperate for an album that follows Caustic Love. He is one of those artists that can release an immense and mind-boggling record like that then bugger off for a while. I digress, sorry, but, with those names under his belt, Castelar knows what he is doing. If one reads Castelar’s bio,. you get an idea of why he is such a sought-after producer:

Co-Producer of Paolo Nutini’s  No 1 album Caustic Love, Dani is an engineer/co-producer of several years experience. Originally Chief Engineer of Grouse Lodge Studios in Ireland (Co.Westmeath)where he worked with a wide variety of artists with a range of musical styles. Highlights of those years would be sessions with The Waterboys, Jacknife Lee(Snow Patrol, REM and Bloc Party) Michael Jackson and the producers who worked with him including Will.I.Am, Rodney Jerkins and Babyface and then working as engineer with Paolo Nutini, recording the album Sunny Side Up. 

Leaving Grouse Lodge, Dani worked as an engineer in various London studios and frequently worked with Jim Duguid, co-writer of Paolo Nutini’s first album These Streets. During this period he was offered a residency in Sonic Vista Studios in Ibiza, working with Swedish House Mafia and everyone else in the club business and the artists who wanted to record while they were playing in the clubs”.

That information is taken from his official website and you can have a look at that at your own leisure. Castelar has worked with eclectic artists and a mixture of bands and solo artists. Working with samples, computers and creative tools: one gets a musical equivalent of Valencia in the studio. There is the traditional and older methods of recording but those ultra-modern comforts.

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Harry Pane, not only gets that perfect backdrop but a studio/producer who has worked with some of music’s best artists. So many of today’s artists do not credit their producer or overlook it – they are an integral part of the machine. Without their guidance, input and discipline; you would not get the same sound and quality. The producer is not only there to get the sounds recorded and make sure it all runs smoothly. They provide notes and ideas; urge the artist to try new things and expand their horizon. Pane is a new artist but not a stranger to music. Going to Valencia, he would have had his own ideas for the E.P. and what he wanted to achieve. I imagine there would have been conversations in the studio between the two. Castelar, having worked on an album like Caustic Love, would be urging a rawness and nakedness from Pane. He would have been putting forward ideas of calm and introspection. What one gets is a meeting of different minds finding a common compromise. You get to hear strength and power but plenty of tenderness and gentility. Overlooking the unique beauty of Valencia; all these combinations would have augmented the music to rare heights. I hope Pane and Castelar work together again as they seem like a great partnership. The producer does not have too big a say but is not exactly in the background. I can see the duo conspiring again down the line – The Wild Winds is a wonderful creation that benefits from two minds and one man’s personal backstory.

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I try not to sample from the buffet of fellow reviews – because that clouds your own ideas – but there is a common thread. Most journalists note how Pane’s music is physical and emotive. One is drawn into the songs and walking alongside the hero. I refrain from using the word ‘journey’ – I will only start pistol-whipping musicians that use this word; it is a trope that does my nut in – but there is something curious and progressive. The songs are episodic in a way they seem to point at different times of Pane’s life. Not that The Wild Winds is conceptual and a single narrative. What I mean is the songs sample from various scenarios and years of the hero’s life. There is, in a strange way, the seven stages of grief. The title of the E.P. would suggest something turbulent and capricious. I feel there is disbelief and denial – emotional events the hero feels are unwarranted and too hard to handle – whilst one senses bargaining and guilt contrasting. Pane has anger and depression at heart – but that hope and defiance above it – and, finally, there is that bargaining/acceptance. What that ‘spark’ was exactly – the trigger for this emotional complexity – one is unsure. As much as I detest certain words being thrown around needlessly; one cannot quibble (The Wild Winds) is a man looking in himself and looking for answers. The listener can either remain passive and the architect of the bystander effect – seeing someone in peril but choosing to ignore it – or involve themselves in the experience. The E.P. is a five-song presentation that demands interaction and interaction. Once there, one finds something emotive but not too heavy. It is not a tough listen in the sense it is overly-vulnerable but there are some splintered stables one must navigate. More than that, there are certain points where you are staring directly into the creator’s eyes. It is a solid and fragile stare that says so much and asks for support. Like connecting with a troubled stranger: there is that temptation to walk away but you become engrossed; struck by a sense of civic duty to assist. That is not to say Harry Pane is an emotional wreck flailing in a sea of depression – he is a tough individual but wears his heart on sleeve. I will go into more detail about the E.P.’s origins and stories but wanted to focus on Fletcher Bay. It is the latest single and a perfect introduction to a rare talent.

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I shall ease towards the conclusion but, before I do, wanted to remark on radio patronage and how important a diverse support group is. Again, I am making Pane sound like a destitute waster – my lexicon and vocabulary could use an M.O.T. – but I mean he has a vast and varied backing that sees his music put into a range of different hands. Fletcher Bay has been added to various playlists – including Spotify – and championed by the BBC. Pane has been lauded by BBC Introducing in London, Northampton and Oxford. Not only does he have that home support (new and old) but reached into Oxfordshire. Those counties are important but go beyond that. Kerrang!, of all people, have connected with his music – showing there is something in the music that speaks to those who prefer something quite direct and hard. Tracks like Old Friend have a Rock edge; small wonder it should appeal to Kerrang! The five-track E.P. does not rest in one genres and casts its net pretty wide. Because of that, Pane has managed to appeal to a number of different radio stations and sources. A smart and wide-ranging artist who, one suspects, grew up with a diversity of genres and artists – all reflected and distilled into The Wild Winds. Given the hefty emotional weight one hears; it would be foolhardy to represent that with acoustic strings alone. That would lead to a rather flimsy and threadbare album. One needs to hear the authoritative fist of the electric guitar do its work. That is not to say Harry Pane fires off seven-minute solos and two-handed arpeggios. He keeps it restrained and dignified but is not afraid to indulge the lash of the electric guitar when needed. I have heard a lot of Folk/finger-picking artists who produces E.P.s that do not stray far in terms of sounds and instrumentation. Pane is someone who can keep Folk authenticity intact but step into Rock and Alternative realms. Not only has his music managed to cross counties and radio stations: one knows, when it gets more exposure, it will; cross oceans and see gig demands coming in from abroad.

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The opening strings of Fletcher Bay have that classic, far-away dreaminess of the greatest Folk records possesses. A streaming and delightful arpeggio; one is floating down the river warmed by the midday sun. It is a gentle coda that prepares you for the song and gets the imagination working. I was thinking about the song’s title: going to Fletcher Bay and what it might look like. The guitar is soft and romantic but, underneath, has a strength and passion that gets you standing to attention and ready. When Pane approaches the microphone, he talks about a time when he “felt alive”; memories and the mind colliding, one presumes, at this favourite haunt. In the early stages, one gets hints of Bon Iver’s earliest work and the sort of intimate, gorgeous songs one could hear on For Emma, Forever Ago. Pane’s voice has a definite lust and urgency but, accompanying the guitar, a sense of wistfulness and contemplation. One imagines the song, in the first stages, is about that rare and treasured “discovery” the hero will remember into his winter days. It is a vivid and evocative start that gets you cast in the song; watching Pane wander down to the bay and looking around. Maybe it is that sense of quiet and calm that attracts him: there seems to be something mystical and safe in that place. Why he has chosen to come back here is left a mystery. Maybe there is a need to cast away the stresses of life and go somewhere that has always proven to be secure and restful. Perhaps Pane has gone through a tough run of days and, simply, requires some down-time. Listening to the meaning and depth in the voice; I get the impression there are bigger things unfolding and a determination to make sense of things. He has, I feel, had some bad news – or gone through a breakup – and is reverting back to a childhood state. Maybe there is a sense of transference. He is seeking a bosom and warming womb that acts as an artificial love and, maybe, degree of material warmth.

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In that moment – when the songs really starts to delve deep – one is still inside the song but standing back and allowing the hero to roam freely. He has a great love and knowledge of Fletcher Bay so is gravitating towards there once more. Soon enough, we hear about a second party. There is that need to be taken there by another person – whether that is a lover or friend, I am not too sure. Maybe it is an indirect plea for someone to accompany him there and experience the landscape with him. Hearing that makes me wonder whether there is a general wanderlust and determination – reconnecting with a place he has not been for a bit; merely visiting a great place – or there is a more serious reason behind it. I guess there needs to be little reason to come to Fletcher Bay but the song seems to have a secret it is holding back. Maybe Pane has a lot going on and needs to make sense of it all: his voice holds ghosts and truths but overshadows that with an intoxicating strength and determination. We hear a wordless coo and layered vocals: the hero more entranced and compelled at this moment; right in the middle of Fletcher Bay as he watches nature unfold. Pane looks at the birds and the stillness of the water. Whoever his travelling companion is, one gets the sense of a man trying to connect with the past but showing a stunning place to another human – it is as simple as that. There are few who will be unmoved by the purity and affection one discovers throughout the song. The hero paints so many scenes and strong images throughout the song – one feels like they are there alongside him. There are few, also, who will not connect with the talents and abilities of Harry Pane. His finger-picking sounds simple but is so intricate and full. One swims inside the notes and hears different things each time you discover them. That is the mark of a great musician: someone who can create something easy and relatable but fool you with complexity and intelligence – you are struck by the notes and the colour and possibilities that linger within.

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As the song progresses, we learn it has been nine years since Pane visited Fletcher Bay. He cannot believe it has been so long – one is curious as to the reason behind it – but there is that definite ambition to make this visit special. More curiously, it seems Pane’s heroine/friend is going to remain there – he is going to leave. I was wondering why he was going to go back home and his compatriot was remaining there. Perhaps this visit is a pilgrimage and commemorative occasion. It seems like Pane is putting something to bed and going there for one last, special visit. Maybe Pane is passing the legacy and magic of the place down to someone else – a new generation, perhaps – or sad to say goodbye to somewhere that is very special and treasured. Nobody can deny there are some mixed feelings and hard emotions at work but there is a lot of love and relief. The song changes course and meaning as it goes along. At the start, one assumes it is a simple trip to Fletcher Bay and a chance to reflect and relax. As it gets longer, you change your mind and see the song in a new light. It becomes much more emotional and personal: that travelogue/religious experience unfolds; handing down the secrets of Fletcher Bay to his accomplice. There is an inscrutability and enigma to the song that never really unfurls and speaks its mind. That is good because one gets a real, fully-rounded song that you can interpret however you feel. There is no obviousness and easy tangibility: there is not an infuriating detachment and obliqueness either. However you view it; it is a song that is dear to Harry Pane and, to me, the standout cut from The Wild Winds. There are few songwriters who can inspire the mind and provoke so many reactions and possibilities – almost conspiracies, in a way. It is a song you will return to – like Fletcher Bay itself – and try to get to the bottom of the song’s meanings.

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I will wrap this up by looking at the themes I introduced earlier – touring and its demands; music from counties like Northampton; funding from fans/record labels and that right producer/location – and bring in a new theme, the nature of ‘Englishness’ and being unafraid to look into their soul. Before all of that, I want to look at gigs upcoming for the London-based musician. Like his near-name-sake Harry Kane; Pane is a busy man and someone who is enrapturing the home crowds – it is a lazy parable but one I had to do! Consider the next month and Pane has some really interesting gigs. He plays Osterley’s Hare & Hounds tonight and, after leaving the affluent postcode in Isleworth, will look forward to the Vintage Nostalgia Fair (seems like needless tautology, there) in Wiltshire next week. That will be quite an experience: playing at a location, one suspects, will see its share of bygone relics and gloriously evocative nods to the past. In the way Valencia’s modernity and climate compelled E.P. imagination: a fair like that is sure to have Pane looking back and, perhaps, playing a more acoustic set. The Old Blue Last arrives on 8th June and is a great part of Shoreditch. It is in the inconspicuous Great Eastern St. and is a refurbished East End-style boozer that appeals to a trendy young crowd – indicative of the demographic and dichotomy one witnesses in an ultra-cool hipster nirvana. Putney’s Half Moon comes a few days later and there will be a visit to another super-cool hang: Mahiki Bar, Mayfair (on 28th June). To be fair, some of the reviews for the place are not staggering but you cannot fault the décor. It is a proper recreation of the East. There are hints to Hawaii and is the ultimate party destination for those who want exotic, beautiful flowers; some fresh fruit cocktails and toilets where you’re unlikely to find toilet paper stuck to the sinks and a disused condom machine sporting suspicious dents – it is a lot more palatial, graceful and clean. That will be a good gig and a really interesting space to perform. I am not sure whether, like Shoreditch’s crowd, it is young and hip and what you will get in Mayfair. Given the reputation and wealth of the area; it is likely to be predominantly young, cool/well-oiled crowd. Pane is not only reserving his talents for the fashionable elite of London but playing niche areas and broader, for-all-the-people areas. I am not sure whether there is more recording foot but assumes touring will form a big part of Pane’s summer/autumn.

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Before I come to those introduction points (again); listening to The Wild Winds offers emotional honesty but projects, in the softer numbers, a sense of Englishness and heritage. It might sound off from an E.P. which, for the most part, wrestles demons and issues of acceptance. I often review Folk artists whose palette contains a lot of greens and yellows. It is quite a soft and autumnal sound that provides glimmers of sunshine. With Pane, one gets a multitude of shades but, more than that, a link to the ancestral albums that would have inspired the young songwriter. I listen to songs like Fletcher Bay, The Wild Winds and Real Souls and get a sense of something older, compelling and evocative. Against the more spirited numbers, I listen to these songs and plant myself somewhere riparian, dreamy and peaceful. In terms of ‘Britishness’ one imagines stately homes, National Trust parks and beautiful gardens. Perhaps there will be a stunning riverside retreat or a London park teeming with wildlife, nature and diverse faces. That is what is conjured up in many of The Wild Winds’ songs. One can hear comparisons to some of Folk’s innovators but a sense of a young man looking for something safe, comforting and relaxing. Against the harsh un-predictableness of life and that need for confession – the hero wants to find sanctuary and a sun-kissed intimacy. The deeper, more intense songs/lyrics take you somewhere else and portray a man who has made mistakes – others have made them too – and is trying to make a better life. Perhaps there have been bad days and bleak moments but there’s a need for acceptance, evaluation and redemption. In an age where many concentrate on love (solely) and keep their deepest emotions subdued and invisible – Harry Pane uses his transgressions and pains, not to sermonise and seek sympathy, but let the listener into an honest and transparent heart that tells no lies and warrants empathy and understanding. Of course, the E.P. is more complex than that – but am not here to review the entire thing – but Fletcher Bay is a perfect insight into Pane’s incredible songwriting talent and unique story.

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I opened by opinioning many new artists are relentlessly touring because that is the way to make money and get their music heard. It is true you need to be visible in order to gain success and attention but it seems (the new musician) goes to extreme lengths merely to turn a profit – small and modest as it is. Because of this, tied to social media usage and the amount of time spent online, they are becoming exhausted and anxious. This is not the case with everyone – and there are many artists that love touring as much as possible – but few checks to safeguard those who are becoming overwhelmed by the demands. Maybe it is me being overprotective but in the case of Harry Pane, he seems to gain strength and determination from the array of venues he performs at. As I have detailed, he has a broad and fascinated next few weeks and, after that, will have various options. If there is the possibility of performing further up north, I would see cities like Manchester and Glasgow as perfect areas – maybe the latter is a little far away. Yorkshire, again, is a valuable market he could enjoy plenty of memorable nights in. One hopes, as he becomes more successful, he will take some time to breath and enjoy what is around him. Every passionate musician needs to commit and work hard but also need to realise they are human – get out of that ‘work head’ and enjoy some days off to escape to the country or explore the depths of the city. Pane is in London but started out in Northampton. He still gets back but is finding so many different options in the capital. I have mentioned a few great Northamptonshire venues: the county has a music scene but not as active as, say, Berkshire or Hampshire, perhaps. I opened by stating Northampton is close to London – a sixty-one-mile drive – but, if you look at a map, it is situated at the top of the triangle alongside Oxford and Cambridge. The intimidator between the two rival university cities: a Northampton artist almost equidistance between the two – forty-one miles to Cambridge; maybe a dozen more to Oxford. There is a good local scene in all three counties and, seeing as it is a short distance to London, perfect for anyone who wants to emigrate but be close enough to home. Northamptonshire is where Pane started and cut his teeth – without it, one argues how far along he would be now.

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I’ll bring this to a close to and mention Island Records, who helped finance The Wild Winds, and the unique creation of the E.P. That legendary label, following Pane’s competition victory, offered the money so he could record the five songs. I hope, as I posed, Pane does affiliate with Island Records as, not only do they have that stellar roster of artists, they are they based in London but are a huge contemporary force. Not only representing hot new acts like Oh Wonder but showcasing quite a few acts at this year’s Great Escape. Sigrid, Joe Fox and Sigima were there; Dagny, Picture This and Tired Lion performed memorable sets. It cannot be long until Harry Pane performs at the Brighton festival and, with some guidance by Island Records, have a supportive network of label-mates and industry heavyweights. Whilst some artists find label-funded/crowd-sourced records ethically and morally suspect; I, like the majority, feel it is a great incentive and much-needed in an era where money is tight and competition high. It is not an easy route for artists: one gets the chance to have a direct hand in an artist’s work and, in many cases, gain rewards for their faith and contribution. I wondered whether, on future records, Pane would go through PledgeMusic or a similar site. It would allow him to involve the fans and not have to sweat over finances. If he were to, for example, allow backers to be in a video or get into a gig for free, that would be a huge incentive for donations. It is a cooperative that has mutual benefits and guarantees – if successful, anyway – a record gets made.

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I shall leave this piece returning to Valencia and a recording location few could match. The Spanish coastal city has modernity and contemporary vibrancy but pairs that with centuries-old views and a sense of tradition. It is a popular because of its cathedral, central squares and busy market – a compartmentalised market that offers a range of foods and delicacies; an opportunity to run shoulders with tourists and Valencianos alike. The perfect and popular beach of La Malvarrosa is great to luxuriate in whilst, by contrast, The Fallas festival – where each area of the city, and some outlying towns, spend a whole year constructing large and exuberant statues; then exhibit these statues on the streets for a whole week, throwing fireworks at each other – twenty-four-hours hours a days – with street parties and plenty of dressing up and parading – which is a unique experience that needs to be top of anyone’s plans. Away from the old Turia riverbed and the soul-lifting views is the modern side of Valencia. The futuristic buildings in the City of Arts and Sciences boasts, among many other things, the L’Hemisferic. It is, in a nutshell, a building shaped like a human eye – or a slightly deflated equivalent of the Sydney Opera House and harbour. Not only do all of these varied and spectacular sights/experiences exist in a single city but a whole other world – one where Harry Pane found a natural confidante and brother in Dani Castelar. The legendary producer has helped guide huge artists like R.E.M. and Paolo Nutini and, in Harry Pane, has found a promising artist who has the same potential as those artists. One gets saw of the Alternative Athens (Georgia, U.S.) sound of R.E.M. – their cerebral, provocative rhythms and melodies – with the incredible honesty and rawness of Palo Nutini. Having produced Caustic Love – songs like Iron Sky are as bracing and jaw-dropping as they come; Scream (Funk My Life Up)’s sauciness and provocativeness – some of that heritage and experience goes into The Wild Winds. Pane has a sexier, rockier side that, like Nutini, is willing to open the heart and soul and let the listener in. That perfect city and natural producer-songwriter bond has gone into an E.P. that has few equals this year. If artists are looking for inspiration and a new working methodology, they might consider a sojourn abroad – European cities are especially compelling and convenient. Fletcher Bay – which sounds like a super-cool U.S. detective – has been celebrated and highlighted by many, and rightfully so. It is a moment of brilliance in an E.P. that contains four others. If Harry Pane continues with the same level of quality and originality it will be…

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QUITE a proposition!

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Follow Harry Pane

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Official:

http://harrypane.com/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/HarryPaneMusic

Facebook:

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

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/harrypanemusic

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZ9TiSUJNdf1NBGs3VrUh8A

INTERVIEW: Avalanche Party

INTERVIEW:

 

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Avalanche Party

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THERE are few bands out there as intriguing and characterful…

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as Avalanche Party. I ask the guys about the new single, I’m So Wet, and what the music scene is like in the North. The guys bring their answers from Europe – where they have just been touring – so I ask where they are heading next; whether we can expect any more material in the coming months and how their new track differs to the previous, exceptional Solid Gold.

The chaps prepare to play Camden Rocks on 2nd June and how it feels having the likes of Steve Lamacq recommend their music. Avalanche Party discuss their label, Clue Records, and sharing the stage/label with Leeds’ Allusondrugs.

In addition, they discuss influences and whether their recent tour of Europe has given them any chances to do some sightseeing.

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

We are all delightful. Currently on tour in Europe and soaking in all the wunderbar culture on the continent. It has been a fruitful week.

Toured Netherlands, Germany and Czech Rep so far – we’re about half-way through now.

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

We are Avalanche Party. It is popular amongst the musical press to describe us as feral Garage-Punk, Rock ‘n’ Roll. We’re based in the North Yorkshire Moors.

For those unaware of that place: it is in the middle of beautiful nowhere.

Sorry to ask an, perhaps, obvious question but what is the derivation of that band name, ‘Avalanche Party’?

When Zeus and Hercules go skiing they use oak trees – and take mushrooms – and shoot down mountains at 2000 M.P.H. until, eventually, their appetite for entertainment satiated they burn the mountains down.

That is the derivation of the name.

I’m So Wet is your new single – I am guessing it isn’t about getting caught in a sharp shower?! What can you tell us about its origins?

I’m So Wet is a love song born from looking at the frothy Irish Sea.

It follows the celebrated and exceptional, Solid Gold. Have you incorporated anything different into your music since last year or brought in fresh influence?

Not anything in particular or anything deliberate. I guess we’ve all (obviously) gigged loads since that single, travelled loads and seen some things and heard some great bands.

Have you any plans to release an E.P. or album in the coming months?

No album just yet. The time is not right.

But yeah we’re currently writing a new E.P. – hoping to release later in the year.

I do know you will be playing Camden Rocks on 2nd June. Is that your first time there? How are you preparing for the gig?

We are indeedy, and, yeah, it’s our first time.

Canny wait to play the festival! Heard that it’s a fine piece and it’ll be the last gig of our current U.K./Euro. tour before we hit the festivals over the summer.

I’m currently preparing with a beer in Bavaria.

Your music has gained backing from the likes of Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephens. Is it quite humbling getting praise from such big D.J.s?

Very humbling indeed. I used to listen to Lammo’s show when I was a teenager and Huw’s show in the present – listening to numerous sessions bands recorded for them and thinking I’d love these blokes to play our music.

For it to happen was right nice.

Leeds is your home. What is it like for an ambitious band there? Is the music scene quite active and full? I can imagine Yorkshire is an incredibly varied and vibrant county for artists?

Who told you that, eh?

We’re based in North Yorkshire but I guess you could say our local scene is in Middlesbrough – still a half-hour drive like but local enough.

Teesside has got a great scene at the moment and the North East, in general, has got a mint buzz going on. It’s a privilege to be a part of it. A good number of bands are starting to do really well – with more coming through.

When we played Reading and Leeds Festival last year there were four North East bands on the bill. It’s an exciting time.

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You are signed to Clue Records – home to, among others, Allusondrugs. Do the label give you quite a bit of freedom and have you ever performed with the Allusondrugs chaps?

Yeah. Clue’ have been great. They listen to what we want, contribute and make it happen. We’ve just released one of two singles for the label.

They showed a real genuine interest in the band and a passion. They’ve got a great ethos and some great bands on the roster.

Yeah, we have indeed played with the ‘drugs boys. Great bunch. Think we did two or three gigs together in December.

Can you give me an insight into the artists you all admire and grew up idolising?

We all listen to quite a smorgasbord of artists and combine many different influences. We can all count people like Nick Cave, Iggy Pop; Thee Oh Sees, Link Wray; Queens of the Stone Age, Ty Segall; Fat White Family, Amazing Snakeheads etc. as huge influences.

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Aside from Camden Rocks, you are currently in Europe. What has the experience been like so far? Any opportunities for sight-seeing?

We are, indeedy!

We’re just leaving Bavaria as I type. Apart from a couple van issues, it’s been great. All gigs have been fun and we’ve been well looked after by everybody. Met some really cool people. The show in Berlin was probably the best so far.

Not had too much chance to sightsee but had a wander around a bit of Berlin which was cool. Checked out some art on that. Had a stroll along the river in Prague too.

Larvely.

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You aren’t back home until the start of June. How does perform in Europe differ to the U.K.? Are the crowds a lot different?

The crowds have been dead receptive which has been great. Obviously, it’s a little different to playing back home as a lot of these people are seeing us play for the first time.

They tend to buy more merch. out here though. Which for poor folks such as ourselves makes a massive difference!

What are your plans for the remainder of the year?

After we finish this tour, we’re back for festivals over the summer and we’ll be touring the U.K. again from September onwards.

We’re gonna be releasing another single on Clue Records in the summer too and we’re currently writing a new E.P. A brand spanker.

It seems like, even off stage, you are quite a rowdy and ‘boisterous’ band. Who, would you say, embodies that Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit best?

Ha! I wouldn’t say that about ourselves. Iggy Pop is the still the boyo, though. Even now: 70-years-old. Incredible.

Incredible.

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

Difficult to pinpoint that one! We’ve been touring with a great band from Germany called The Vagoos though and their album is great.

Right now that is the album that means the most. Their latest album is called Heatwave.

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

Gig lots. Practice lots. Make friends.

Don’t be a cockwomble.

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)

The VagoosHeatwave

And Yet It MovesKetamine Ma’am

Fat White FamilyBreaking Into Aldi

King Gizzard and the Lizard WizardGamma Knife (from Nonagan Infinity)

https://open.spotify.com/track/3kzzVEO0pJCdm9iH0YPx8i

Iggy PopLust for Life

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Follow Avalanche Party

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Official:

https://www.avalancheparty.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/AvalancheParty/

Twitter:

https://www.instagram.com/avalancheparty/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/avalancheparty/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/avalanche-party

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVQHS8es36atxJMBqh8jAlQ