INTERVIEW: Party Fears

INTERVIEW:

 

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 Party Fears

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FEW bands are more international and exotic than Party Fears.

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They formed in Seoul but are based in Berlin. Not only that: they source members from Northern Ireland and Australia. It is a varied and multinational blend that goes into their musical palette. I talk to the band – mostly Eilis and Maggie – about how they got together and whether their music, which promotes feminism and whether there is an imbalance in the music industry. They talk about their eponymous debut album and memories making that. I ask about tour dates and what they have booked in the diary.

Party Fears give some new acts we should all be aware of and discuss their upcoming performance at Loud WOMEN FEST; whether they tuned into this year’s Glastonbury and advice for artists starting out.

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

Maggie: Good!

I got a washing machine – my first ever. It’s pretty exciting.

Eilis: Good. The weather’s nice and all.

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

Maggie: I’m the singer and guitarist. I’m from Northern Ireland.

Party Fears is kind of (a) Frankenstein’s Monster of Indie-Rock and nostalgia – for all the Rock music I never learned to play in my teens? Maybe?

Sometimes people say we’re ’90s; sometimes ’80s: we’re neighties (sic.).

Eilis: I’m the drummer and am from Adelaide, Australia.

I met Maggie playing in a previous band in South Korea.

Did you guys watch Glastonbury? Is that a festival you hope to play one day?

Maggie: Yeah!

I watched Radiohead’s set in the bath!

Eilis: Maggie gave me running-commentary. It’s almost like I was there.

Can you tell me how Party Fears got together and whether there is an event/moment that compelled that band name?

Maggie: ‘Party Fears’ comes from an incredible song by The Associates called Party Fears Two; but it’s also a little personal, I suppose? I can be a bit of a head-melt!

As Eilis says: “She brings the party, I bring the fears”.

Eilis: Maggie and I first met is 2013 in Seoul, South Korea.

One morning, on her rooftop, we agreed to move to the other side of the world and make music together. Some promises are never broken.

I left Seoul first and went travelling for a few months whilst Maggie worked super-hard and made the first Party Fears album – with the help of our mates in Korea. Then we arrived a year ago in Berlin.

You have members from Australia, Germany and Northern Ireland. It is advantages having international blood in the ranks? Are your songs fuller and more varied because of it?

Maggie: It’s a blessing and a curse.

It’s hard to get coverage with an international lineup as you’re not really from anywhere. Same goes for funding or bookings…

Eilis: Yeah, Australia doesn’t want to know about me!

But, it’s a blessing because we’re dealing with the same set-up/language/cultural challenges: ‘A load shared is a load halved’ couldn’t be more relevant.

Maggie and I have pretty different musical knowledge/taste – that adds a lot to the Party Fears sound; especially when we’re writing.

Party Fears’ eponymous album was released earlier this year. What was it like putting the record together? Was it quite a smooth process?

Maggie: Cliché answer here…but it was a massive learning experience.

I worked with some of my best friends and favourite musicians, so I was very, very lucky – I kind of still can’t believe they wanted to work with a dummy like me!

It was also lonely and hard. I’m used to being in bands… so doing a ‘solo’ record was really challenging; I lived in my head a lot. Didn’t sleep. Ordered McDonald’s breakfast delivery more times than I’m proud of.

I would call Alberto, the keyboard player, and just burst into tears saying I couldn’t do it. But I did it, with my buddies’ help – just like in the movies!

Spoiled Fruit, to me, is the standout. Can you remember the day that was written? Did you set time to write songs in blocks or did they form themselves over the course of a few weeks/months?

Maggie: Ah– thanks!

Spoiled Fruit started life as a song I wrote about a horrible manager at work (maybe round 2007?). I totally forgot it existed. When I remembered it, I exhumed it and gave it a reworking. It helped that I was crippled by a silly crush. Lots of material!

Songs will usually come to me when I’m falling asleep, waking up; in the shower, waiting for a bus… then I develop them over a longer period of time. That process is more studious and staged than the initial song idea.

Are there any plans to release singles/videos from the album?

There are a couple out there already on our YouTube.

The one for Spoiled Fruit is directed by our buddy and hero, Mark (from Nice Legs/Henry Demos).

I think we’re ready to move on from the album now.

Eilis: We recorded a single in April and are recording another three tunes this summer.

We’ll, no doubt, make some B-grade videos to go with them.

Check out our Facebook for release dates.

What does the rest of the year hold in terms of more music and touring dates?

We’re going on a two-week Ireland/U.K. tour in August with the final date being Loud Women Fest in London. We went to Ireland in May and we had a little too much fun.

Hopefully, more touring is on the Party Fears cards. We’ve also got a bunch of shows in Berlin, which are really fun – Berlin crowds know how to show up!

Maggie: We didn’t plan on adding Ireland to August’s tour but Belfast and Dublin ensnared us with their craic and chips.

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I know you are playing Loud WOMEN FEST. Are you excited about playing that date?

Eilis: Stupidly excited.

Maggie: So excited!

We played a women’s festival in Belfast recently and it meant so much!

So many other great bands we’re dying to see!

You play, as you say, Punk and Rock. It has a feminist edge. Do you think, given the sexism that exists in music, it is important bands like Party Fears are heard?

Yes!

We have an exhausting litany of instances where our lady-bits led to us being treated differently from male counterparts.

It’s really frustrating and distracting.

I love that there are more female-strong, P.o.C. and genderqueer artists garnering attention in media– shout out to The Spook School – who we saw recently in Berlin and blew us away. Pillow Queens from Dublin, too!

I love Band of Horses as much as the next person but the more of us there are taking up space and being seen, the more the tide of dude-bro-neck-beard-Rock will turn!

Eilis: Until people aren’t shocked that I’m the (female) drummer, we’ve got our work cut out for us. There are more and more women making music, and together, we can shake the gender stereotypes in the music industry.

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Are there any particular bands/acts that have inspired your sound?

Bombay Bicycle Club are mentioned almost every practice. Hahahaa.

Maggie: Oho… It’s really hard to know what inspires your sound and what you just like to dance around your room to…

Kate Bush, (David) Bowie; Kirsty MacColl, Gang of Four; PJ Harvey, Radiohead; The Associates, Lene Lovich; The B52s, CHIC; Cyndi Lauper, Bombay Bicycle Club (for sure)….

North Atlantic Oscillation, Midlake; Joan Armatrading, West Side Story; Lau, the Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) O.S.T… It’s a bit all over the place…

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Eilis: Australia: Olympia; Berlin: SchnickSchnack, Last Days of Elvis; South Korea: Nice Legs.

Maggie: I’m going to copy Eilis’ format…

Ireland: Beauty Sleep and Bad Fit; Berlin: Mondo Fumatore, Strand Child (and what Eilis said). South Korea: Table People, always and forever.

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

Eilis: Gloss Drop by Battles.

It’s like nothing else I listen to and every time I listen I’m always surprised by something new. The drummer is so tight and so groovy: life goals. Lately

I’ve also been listening to bands with thick Australian accents (think Courtney Barnett, Camp Cope; The Bamboos, Ball Park Music; Sex on Toast) – maybe it’s because I’m far from home – nothing quite like an Aussie twang.

Maggie: Table People’s Ride with Me!

Radiohead’s The Bends was probably my most formative album but Ride with Me is absolutely everything I love about Indie music.

It proves that with the right people and enough hard work; even a D.I.Y. Indie band of ragtag buddies can make a close to perfect record.

In fact, it is perfect. It’s just perfect. Go and listen to it, please.

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

Practice every day to avoid future you hating past you for not practicing.

Boring: develop a good technique or you’ll get weird cartilage build-ups in your wrist – which you’ll complain about every day until you DIE.

Eilis: Play with as many people as possible and don’t let your skill level hold you back from joining a band/playing gigs…then practice often.

There are constant ups and downs – especially when starting out. Stick at it: it’s 110% worth it.

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

Eilis: Two by Nice Legs

Maggie: This is difficult!

Mondo Fumatore are playing with us in Glasgow and we love them…so let’s go with this!

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Follow Party Fears

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Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/igotpartyfears/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/igotpartyfears

Instagram:

http://www.thepicta.com/user/igotpartyfears/2314940536

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/igotpartyfears

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE-bxPdwMITgOgH7ZfEobFg

INTERVIEW: Roman Road

INTERVIEW:

 

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Roman Road

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THIS might be the first time I have featured a boy band…

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on my site. I have reviewed/interviewed girl groups but, when it comes to the chaps, it is a rarity. Roman Road differs from one’s perceptions of a boy band. They have rich harmonies and a lyrical/compositional aesthetic that runs deeper and wider than your standard fare. David, Adam; Cliff and Aaron talk about their forthcoming single – primed and ready for summer – and gaining acclaim from Capital F.M. I ask them about playing London Live and whether there are any dates in the calendar; how they all came together and what kind of acts/music they have been inspired by.

The band talks about future recordings, how their music comes together and the records that mean the most to them. On top of that, I get an insight into a close and tight group of young men who want to make a big impact in music – they are going about it the right way…

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

David: Yeah, we are all good.

Very busy time of the year as we are prepping for gigs – and our single is out this summer so can’t wait!

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

Adam: We’re Roman Road: a Pop group from England…

Cliff: …four lads who like a good cup of tea

Did you guys watch Glastonbury? What did you make of it? Any highlights?

David: All the headliners were insanely good!

Radiohead, Foo Fighters and, to top it, off Ed Sheeran. They all absolutely nailed it!

Cliff: Ed is the man.

I loved the part where he was rapping and he told everyone he forgot his verse. Haha.

Man is a legend!

Adam: Glastonbury is one them festivals where you just wish you were there.

I’m sure it’s every musician’s dream.

Aaron: Maybe see us there next year…

Cliff: …yeah, in the crowd. Haha.

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Can you tell me how Roman Road came together? Were you all mates before setting up the band?

Aaron: Me and Cliff were friends at school and we met the other two through the same circle of friends.

David: Adam was living in Spain when he finally came back to join us.

Cliff: We were all very musical from a young age and the boy band route was always one we wanted to take – thanks, Backstreet Boys!

You have said you differ from most boy bands. In what way, would you say, you distinguish yourselves from others?

Adam: We aren’t your stereotypical boy band…

We all have unique vocal tones and varied musical influences – but it all blends together and makes a decent sound (we like to think. Haha!).

David: Visually, we are quite different.

We don’t follow that typical formula and like to keep our individual styles.

Cliff: Same when we do cover songs, we always like to try something that not everyone is doing.

We want to be original and fresh…

Aaron: …saying that; we still have a strong essence of boy band.

I’m the funny one; Cliff is the cheeky ladies’ man; Adam is the mysterious one and David is just weird.

I believe you have a single out in the summer. What can you tell us about its themes and inspiration?

Aaron: The song is called Summer All Time – and it’s literally about summer and having fun.

David: It’s always a good idea to bring a fun summery-type song in summer.

Adam: Obviously, David. Haha.

But, yeah, it’s gonna be one of those feel-good summer-type Pop songs.

Cliff: We’re actually running a competition with our fans to design the artwork for the single – and some of the designs so far are AWESOME!

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Roman Road have been announced, by Capital F.M., as Vodafone future-breakers for 2017. How did you guys feel when you heard that?

David: Hearing our name on the biggest radio station in U.K. was insane!

Cliff: We were all together when it was announced and just staring at each other – not in a creepy way, by the way. Haha.

Adam: Marvin Humes announced it and we were pretty stoked by that – as he was (obviously) in a boyband before and he’s someone we respect and aspire to be like.

Aaron: We also got a cheeky mention and feature on Christmas Day – which was a nice present from Father Christmas.

I know, back in summer last year, you played to thousands as part of London Live. Was that a pretty daunting and nervous way of announcing yourself to the world?

Aaron: Absolutely.

The London live gig was nerve-wracking but as group we took it in our stride: it was amazing, for the first time, seeing an audience that big enjoy what we do.

David: Knowing people at home were watching, and the thousands in the crowd, was a great feeling.

It hypes you up before you go on stage.

Adam: You need the nerves before you go on, too – they soon turn into adrenaline and, before you know it, you are flying around the stage.

How do the songs come together for the band? Do you have designated songwriters or do you all pitch in with various lyrics/parts?

Cliff: Me and Adam do the majority of the songwriting – but everyone gives input on lyrics or melody lines.

Aaron: It will be 3 A.M. and Cliff will send us a ‘voice note’ on WhatsApp with a new song idea or arrangement. Haha.

David: The plus-side is everyone in the band can play guitar and Cliff (also) plays the piano; so it definitely helps when it comes to writing a new track.

Who are the bands and artists who have been most influential to Roman Road and your sound?

All: Backstreet Boys!

Aaron: The boy bands from the ’90s/early-’00s really had something special.

We love Backstreet Boys because of their amazing vocal abilities and harmonies.

Cliff: I use to sing and dance in my bedroom to Backstreet Boys, NSYNC; Blue and all them influential bands who really could sing well together.

It was definitely an influence, not only on the band, but as individuals.

Adam: We are also big fans of Little Mix and Ed Sheeran.

They are repping the music scene at the moment.

What kind of gigs do you have coming up? Anywhere we can catch you?

David: We have a few gigs up and down the country lined up.

The next big one is in Burton in July alongside Matt Terry and Union J.

We will be performing the main stage there. No pressure!

Aaron: We also start our first set of school tours this September around the U.K. – so we are super-excited for that.

After the single, will there be an E.P. or album? How far ahead are you looking right now?

Cliff: We are always writing in our spare time, along with our schedule – so there will be more singles coming out

Adam: We’ve spoken about releasing an E.P.

We will probably go to Paris to record that with our producer.

David: Right now, we are planned up to around October.

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Cliff: I was at a Busted concert a few weeks back and their support act was awesome: the Natives…go check them out!

David: Another cool band to check out are The Tailormade – who we met at Pride last year.

They have a quirky sound and we’ve become really good friends with them – so I’m sure they will love us even more for this mention. Haha.

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

Adam: John MayerContinuum.

The man is a genius. I love his work: he’s one of the reasons I learnt the guitar.

Cliff: One of the albums I played on loop growing up was Michael Jackson’s Bad.

He was an inspiration to everyone. Dirty Diana is (also) one of my favourite songs ever…

Aaron: …probably the reason why you can hit those high notes, Cliff. Haha.

I’m a Motown fan, so anything by Stevie (Wonder) is gold to me.

David: I really love You Me at Six’s new album, Night People.

I love Josh Franceshi’s voice.

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

Aaron: Our advice to a new artist is to stay focused: every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes’.

Cliff: Most importantly, enjoy what you do.

Try to find a sound that works for you and get yourself out there as much as possible.

David: Make sure you use all the social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook etc. – and try to build a following.

Adam: Check out websites and bloggers who can help with getting your name out there.

Be patient, stay committed and good things will come your way.

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).

Aaron: Little MixPower

Adam:  Justin BieberDespacito

David: Ed SheeranSupermarket Flowers

(Have your tissues ready)

Cliff: Artists for GrenfellBridge Over Troubled Water

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Follow Roman Road

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Official:

http://www.romanroadmusic.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RRoadMusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/romanroadmusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/romanroadmusic/

Spotify:

https://play.spotify.com/artist/3uW0B6BSPeCG2fGsYm7jBJ?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6z-qlSgPx6_7vKyAu1Zstw

FEATURE: The Best Tracks of the Year (So Far)

FEATURE:

 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Songhoy Blues

 

The Best Tracks of the Year (So Far)

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WHILST I am in the process of moving my blog over…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar

to its new website; I thought I’d do a couple more pieces here to keep myself busy. As it is almost July; I have been reflecting on the music we have experienced so far – deciding which albums and tracks have made the biggest impression.

I shall do an album run-down at a later date but, for now, a collection of the songs, I feel, have defined 2017.

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Marika Hackman Boyfriend

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PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Gullick

Another incredible songwriter with a talent and sound like no other: Marika Hackman has produced one of this year’s finest albums in I’m Not Your Man. Relationship politics and personal empowerment are subjects addressed alongside more conventional love songs. Boyfriend is the album’s first single and, joined by her backing band, The Big Moon, it is a direct and unambiguous cut  – “I held his girl in my hands”. That tease and taunt – “She likes it ‘cause they’re softer than a man’s” – prove she is no conventional, predictable songwriter.

Subverting expectations and delivering one of the year’s finest anthems: Boyfriend is a song that switches from sweet-sung to out-right kick-to-the-scrotum! An honest and open album – Hackman is in a relationship with fellow musician Amber Bain (The Japanese House) – there are few more impressive lead-off singles than Boyfriend. Surprising, quotable and crowd-uniting: a song that is perfect for the start of festival season.

Royal Blood Lights Out

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Royal Blood’s album, How Did We Get So Dark? marks one of the biggest lost opportunities – a duo who could have created a truly epic follow=up. Their eponymous debut showed they were an intriguing prospect but the sophomore effort seems too similar and inflexible – not venturing into new territory or offering many surprises. That said; lead-off single Lights Out shows what the guys are capable of: tight and meaty riffs with a memorable chorus.

The album has more of that but it is a case of diminishing returns – Lights Out is the standout and finest example of what made their debut so special. Throw in a milk-infested, trippy video and Lights Out easily marks itself as one of the best songs from the year. Whether the duo – so soon after their latest album – is planning new material, I am not sure. Their recent set at Glastonbury received rave reviews and left many happy punters reeling – they are one of the most electric live acts in the world, that is for sure!

The HempolicsBoss Clock Me Style

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Maybe I should have put this up-top but The Hempolics’ Boss Clock Me Style is, without doubt, my favourite song of the year. La Roux and Paolo Nutini have highlighted the band’s strength: Maxi Priest (Faithless) stated they are the best bands in the U.K. – except for the fact they are an unknown quantity. That will change when their as-yet-untitled album arrives later this year. Boss Clock Me Style is a summer-ready, rum-flavoured jam that kicks its heels off and runs down the beach.

Its smooth and rousing horns back a spirited and engrossing vocal performance that gets the listener singing along and engaged. I cannot get the song out of my head and I hope it does not leave anytime soon. Against the celebration and magnification of the mainstream; there is something underdog and unconcerned about The Hempolics. They create chilled and glorious songs to lift the mood and make the listener enriched and happy. With Boss Clock Me Style, they have done this with aplomb!

Songhoy Blues Bamako

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Another band who made a triumphant Glastonbury appearance: Songhoy Blues are on many people’s tongues right now. The brilliant, bustling sounds capture Mali’s capital spirit – running the streets and drinking in the mood and magic of its culture. Whether provoked by the magical nightlife or the beauty of the day: a joyous and celebratory song that captures all the sights and scents of Bamako. From fruit vendors and chattering crowds; motorcycles and people interviewing and the smiles on people’s faces – the band transport you to one of their favourite places.

Taken from their new album, Résistance; it represents what the band are about and why critics are (rightfully) raving. Bamako, once heard, is an intoxicating liquor that gets into the blood and motivates you to move and celebrate. No mean feat from a single song – let’s hope the guys continue to produce music of this calibre.

Thundercat Friend Zone

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Thundercat is one of the most compelling artists right now, and justifiably so. Friend Zone is the third single released from his third album and recalls a scenario many people will be all-too-familiar with: being kicked out of the romantic circle and relegated to the ‘friend zone’. That sense of a man seeing the hopeful side of lacking responsibility – more time to chill with video games and spend time by himself – and not having constraints; it brings smiles as readily as it provides grooves. It is bass-sassy and spaced synths.

A complex and dizzying mix of sounds that adds lightness and variegation to the pains of those friend-zoned. There are ample treasures on Drunk but this, in my view, is the hallmark of an artist at his peak.

Sylvan EssoDie Young

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Another third-single-release – this time from a second album – arrives in the form of Die Young. A wonderful vocalisation of the contrasting nature of modern love. It has cynicism and doubts but hope and yearning. Sylvan Esso – another incredible live act – is lifted by Amelia Meath’s: a sumptuous blend of angelic and fiery. Taken from the incredible album, What Now; Sylvan Esso never claim love is a black hole and meaningless thing – neither do they over-romanticise and idealise it.

There is pragmatism and level-headed approach to break-ups and relationship. Wise and mature lyrics sit with a deep and rich composition that pleases the musically-minded and highbrow. The chorus is one of the most addictive and stunning of the year and, for that reason alone, it makes Die Young a must-hear song.

Fleet FoxesThird of May/Ōdaigahara

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PHOTO CREDIT: Shawn Brackbill Photography

Many people were unsure whether Fleet Foxes would be recording any new music and what form that would take. Almost a Robin Pecknold solo venture – Fleet Foxes have always had him the dominant force; he seems ever more present and omnipresent – the traditional components of the band are there but updated for new audiences. Gorgeous harmonies and spellbinding vocals, the type running throughout Helplessness Blues, are present but there is more release, anger and emotion here. Almost a release of pent-up feelings and strains: the nine-minute-long (almost) drama showcases Pecknold’s incredible lyrical voice and ability.

If I lead you through the fury will you call to me?” might allude to former bandmates and changing relationships – the band’s former drummer was moved to tears upon hearing the song – or the way the band has transformed over the past few years. Crack-Up, the band’s third album, has been met with critical acclaim and boasts many songs that get near to the joys, epicness and swell of Third of May/Odaigahara – none that quite reach those heights!

LordeGreen Light

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Written with Jack Antonoff; this is typical Lorde: a floor-filling banger that announced her return to the stage. In fact, the New Zealander had not gone anyway: merely brewing the follow-up to her promising debut, Pure Heroine. Melodrama, in all its finery and emotional variation, upped the game and sent a warning shot to all her peers. Lorde, not only proved she is worthy of huge success: I feel she is one of the finest young songwriters out there. Green Light is a breakup anthem with a difference.

Its spirited and captivating video showed she could do style as well as substance. A stunning track that shows what a consistent and evolving songwriter Lorde is.

Kendrick Lamar HUMBLE. 

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Perhaps an ironic title: the song’s video finds Lamar string down the camera advising his ‘competition’ get out of his way. A juggernaut of confidence and a perfect metaphor for Lamar: someone who is on fire and seems completely fearless. Of course, Lamar has the lyrical chops and genius to back up such claims. DAMN. is an album that possesses ample evidence is he (if not the) one of the best songwriters on the planet.

There are few as consistent and vital as Lamar. In a turbulent and transitional time in the U.S.; he is representing the fears, concerns and anger rampant in the country. Further singles like DNA and LOYALTY – whether you capitalise the songs or not – are bold and brilliant revelations from a peerless talent.

Radiohead I Promise 

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Whilst technically not a ‘new’ release – it is a song recorded during the sessions for Radiohead’s OK Computer – it is new to the world, and so, worthy of inclusion alongside 2017’s best. It is a song that naturally sits among the best tracks from OK Computer. Whether it was seen as not fitting the tone of the album or not quite right, I am not sure – it would not have been omitted for quality reasons! Thom Yorke’s angelic voice promises he will remain and be true; not disappoint and scare easily.

It is a beautiful confessional from a man who, at the time, was tapping into to national cynicism and personal anxieties. Following Radiohead’s much-celebrated headline spot at Glastonbury; many are wondering whether the guys are planning a follow-up to last year’s A Moon Shaped Pool. If they have B-sides and lost material as wonderful as this, there is no rush to get the boys back into the studio.

Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples I Give You Power

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Here is another band, like Fleet Foxes, many did not expect to see releasing material this year. Everything Now, their upcoming album, is released on 28th July and does not include I Give You Power. For that reason, it is a rare and one-off gem that shows how strong Arcade Fire is – enough brilliant material they can afford to keep this one away from their album. The group have released two songs from their approaching album – the title track and Creature Comfort – but neither have the immediate effect and aftertaste of I Give You Power.

Maybe it is timeliness and, one assumes, Anti-Trump accusations; the potency and prowess of Mavis Staples’ voice, as she growls and roams the song with authority and bite, or a mix of the two. In any case, it is a typically assured and terrific song from the Canadian band.

Julie Byrne Sleepwalker

New York-based Julie Byrne’s album, Not Even Happiness, marks her as an astonishing singer-songwriter. There is a sense of escape and the open road: making changes and embracing a certain freedom. That is perfectly defined in Sleepwalker. Its finger-picking is scenic, motion-propelled and physical. One cannot help but get carried away by its momentum and energy. Byrne’s lyrics are not conventional and often are free from rhymes – shorter stanzas and more poetic than structured. It provides a more natural voice from a songwriter who one cannot compare to anyone else. Wonderful lines like “They often spoke as though I had been set free” gets the listener thinking and seems to talk about a young woman with mature, older shoulders.

She is a dreamer and a free-spirit but, one suspects, in need of stability and answers. Cryptic, curious and ambiguous: you pick apart the lyrics and try to get to the bottom of a curious and passionate soul. Sleepwalker is a phenomenal and assured songwriter finding her voice and making her presence known. The scary thing is: she seems a couple of albums off her true potential. Consider the class, intelligence and solidity of Not Even Happiness – that is a rather frightening and exciting proposition!

INTERVIEW: Babe Punch

INTERVIEW:

 

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Babe Punch

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THERE are few more depressing things one can read in an email…

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than a P.R. company/label saying a band’s interview answers are delayed because they are sitting exams! Being in my thirties; I have not had to stress about an exam – not an academic one, anyway – for a fair few years. Babe Punch found time to talk about their new single, Control, and what the music scene is like around Nottingham/Derby – where they are based. Four of the quintet are women, so I ask whether all-girl/girl-heavy bands are becoming more common and the reason behind this. Previous singles like Snake Tongue have been highlighted by NME: it seems the band is on an upward trajectory at the moment.

They talk about how the band got together and balancing music and regular life – and whether it is tough doing that whilst in their teens. I wonder whether heavy competition is daunting to them and how they feel about the upcoming months. The guys select the album they love the most and recommend some cool artists for us to check out.

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

Hey! Great, thanks.

We’re very excited because we’ve got loads of exciting releases and gigs coming soon.

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

We’re a Grunge-Punk alternative five-piece from  Nottingham/Derby with Vocals by Molly Godber, Carys Jones and Katherine Pennington on Guitar; Abbie Roberts on Bass and Adam Fletcher on Drums.

Control is your new single (out on 7th July). What can you tell us about the song and its origins?

We wrote Control about a year ago in a very sweaty practice room in about ten minutes.

Carys brought the chord sequence and we all just kind of went from there – and when we’d finished it, knew we had to record it.

It might be looking far ahead but is there an E.P. arriving later this year?

We’re not looking at doing an E.P. this year but we brought one out last October and we want to keep releasing stuff.

We do have another single coming out VERY soon.

Do you think your sound has changed since releasing the Control E.P. (last year) and songs like Snake Tongue?

Definitely.

We’ve had a few member changes – which developed our sound – and we were a lot younger when we wrote Snake Tongue – so we feel like it’s matured since then and even since the E.P.

We feel like we’ve got a lot more experience now and Molly feels a lot prouder about the lyrics she’s written recently.

You are all still in your late-teens. When was the moment Babe Punch came together?

Molly, Carys and Abbie knew each other in school.

When Abbie got a gig opportunity, she asked Molly if she wanted to form a band – so Molly asked Carys to play guitar.

Molly had become friends with Adam so he joined after our old drummer left a bit later on. We knew Miles – who plays guitar in the Control single recording – as one of our friends. Molly met Katherine at college – who was happy to join for the summer.

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There is a definite confidence in your music but is there any trepidation and nerves considering the competition out there?

We’re not nervous at all: it’s great that there are a lot of good bands out there at the minute and we don’t view it as a competition. It’s just really exciting.

We’re just writing music that we love to play rather than comparing ourselves to other bands. We’ve got belief in the band so it’s never really been a consideration. We’re just happy to be coming up alongside great bands!

Most of your band (aside from Adam) is female. It seems female-heavy Punk/Rock bands are becoming more popular/visible than ever before. What, would you say, is the reason behind this movement?

We guess it’s because everyone’s so supportive of each other and more and more women (and girls) are being inspired by other female musicians to form a band – so it’s like a spiral.

We think they’re becoming a lot more visible in emerging bands – like bands that we’ve played with – but still not hugely in mainstream music at the moment, though.

So, hopefully, this scene can help to change that.

They seem to be replacing the traditional girl band. Do you think, owing to sexism in the industry, girl bands have had to get more aggressive and direct with their music?

We think that’s true for a part of it, yeah. Some of the reason for the aggressive style is just being within that genre. But we do feel that a lot of people don’t take us seriously until we start playing – and maybe, sometimes, it’s needed in order to get past that problem and get noticed.

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The band is based around Nottingham/Birmingham. What is the music scene like where you are?

We’re based around Nottingham and Derby but we can be from anywhere you want us to be!

We love the Nottingham music scene so much. There are so many amazing artists such as Cameron Sinclair Harris and The Shrives and venues like JT Soar – and everyone’s so supportive.

Can we expect to see you play live anytime soon? Where about might you be heading?

Our next gigs are in Nottingham supporting Ezra Furman at Rescue Rooms on 6th July; then, on 7th July, we’re playing a launch party for Control at JT Soar with The Shrives, The Varletts and Cameron Sinclair Harris. Then, on 8th July, we’re playing The Waterfront Festival.

For gigs after that, and in other cities, watch our social media!

Are there certain bands/artists that have inspired the BABE PUNCH sound would you say?

We have a lot of different individual influences but some of the main ones for all of us are Hole, Courtney Love; Savages and The Breeders.

Can you give us the names of any new artists you recommend we check out?

There are loads in the Nottingham scene (like the ones we’ve said) as well as The Varletts, Cherry Hex and the Dream Church; Unqualified Nurse Band, LIINES and Erica Hardy Fry.

We also love Vultures and Nachthexen (from Sheffield).

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

Molly: Very hard to say but I think Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac.

They were one of the first bands I found by myself and Stevie’s (Nick) lyrics and the album’s dreamy feel was unlike anything I’d heard before. The combination inspired my songwriting a lot.

Abbie: Live Through This by Hole.

Because it made me want to form a band.

Carys: Probably Revolver by The Beatles.

They’re the band that has inspired me the most and, for me, Revolver has some of their most influential songs. George Harrison’s passion and spirituality sets him apart from other guitarists.

Katherine: I’d say Blackbird by Alter Bridge.

The way they play their instruments is really expressive and the lyrics are meaningful – and based on their own life experiences – so, I guess, that inspired me to in that way make music that makes people feel something.

Adam: Led Zeppelin III

Because, the first time I listened to it, I was struck with the drumming and the unfiltered power that John Bonham created on it – combined with the classic Led Zeppelin riffs.

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

Gig a lot and focus on your live sound before jumping into the studio too quickly.

Don’t be discouraged by people who look down at you or don’t take you seriously and don’t listen to anyone who says you’re sh*t!

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).

Molly: Iggy PopCandy

Carys: The Velvet UndergroundSweet Jane

Katherine: NirvanaHeart Shaped Box

Abbie: New OrderBizarre Love Triangle

Adam: Will SmithGettin’ Jiggy wit It

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Follow Babe Punch

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Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/BABEPUNCH/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/babepunch

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/babe_punch/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/babe-punch-1

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTI9Es0SQWIWtr-wniwGlTQ

FEATURE: So Long, WordPress: Music Musings & Such Is Moving…

FEATURE:

 

So Long, WordPress:

 

Image result for moving home unsplash PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

 

Music Musings & Such Is Moving…

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THIS is going to be the final time I’ll publish to WordPress…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

unless there is a problem with my new website. In fact, trying to put a new post up has failed so, until that is remedied, I am here. The ambition is to move everything over next week and get it all sorted. I will be moving to https://www.musicmusingsandsuch.com/ and putting all my features, interviews and reviews over there. I hope to have the first piece up later today but it might take a bit to get it just-so. It has been good publishing on WordPress: a quick and easy way of getting posts up with plenty of options available. It has been great publishing there but time for something a bit more professional and stylish. The new website offers menus a better layout; it is going to be better in the long-run. Once I get my head around things and acclimatise. The old website will still be there – in case I need to go back there here and now – but most new posts will take place on the new site. In terms of notifications, anyone who is a subscriber to Music Musings & Such might need to keep updated on the Facebook page for any news. I will try to set up a notifications/subscription option for the official website so one gets emails when a new post is up. Keep an eye out and what goes on over the next few weeks. It is going to be a (bit) sad departing WordPress but it is time to take the blog to…

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THE next step.

TRACK REVIEW: Kat Kenna – Mermaid Song

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Kat Kenna

 

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Mermaid Song

 

 

9.4/10

 

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Mermaid Song (Teaser) is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/kat-kenna/mermaid-song-teaser

GENRES:

Indie-Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

22nd June, 2017

The full-length version will be available on iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music from 1st July, 2017

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THINGS I want to discuss in this review include….

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getting your music played in unique and impressive places; cinematic songs and haunting melodies; Kate Bush as an influence; Russia and artists who emanate from here – a little bit about quirkier songs and sourcing inspiration from unexpected sources. Before I come to look at Kat Kenna and her upcoming single, I wanted to return to a theme I have addressed a couple of times: projecting a sense of theatre and cinema. Music is, for many people, a source of escape but it is a way into another world. If an artist does things ‘right’ – creates original songs and does something genuinely different – it can be a wonderful experience. I find myself bonding with artists who are a little bit special and have that additional something. In terms of Kenna’a sound; she produces songs that have emotion and passion but grander strands working away. I listen to a song like Mermaid Song and, whilst it has that inner-charm and relatability – there is a lot of different sounds working away in an atmospheric and powerful number. One of the best things I find in new musicians is when you get to entrench yourself in a song and go somewhere magical. It might seem exaggerated, but I use music as a way to detach from problems and find something safer and comforting. If an artist can pen a song that makes me forget my woes and provides wonderful scenes and stunning images – they are going to lodge in my mind and compel me to investigate further. Music, at the moment, is definitely in the spotlight for a number of reasons. Not only is Glastonbury still raging but there is a lot of negativity and division in the country. I raised it in a feature (yesterday) and wondered where the Urban explosion is. We are seeing people speak out against the government and a lot of strife and stress invade the street. It is a fragile time and, for that reason, music has an important role to play. Not only is there an opportunity to project the sort of anger and questions we are seeing all around us but unite people. Listening to Kat Kenna’s music and one is afforded the chance to step into another world and have their senses lifted.

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There are few artists who depart from the traditional love song and offer the listener anything fascinating and original. What I love about Kenna’s music is the way it gets inside the head and draws the listener into her mind. It is a place where the conventional and extraordinary mingle alongside one another. Whilst I yearn to discover artists who attack the problems we see and provide guidance; there is a part of me that wants to dive into escapist music that can lift my mood and intrigue the imagination. Kat Kenna has traded in conventional love songs but, on the evidence of her latest number, is not like her peers. I know I keep banging on about artists that stick to the ordinary love song but there is no end in sight. Even if you are a prolific mainstream artist, you can pen songs that depart from normal once in a while and still retain your audience. I feel there is too much tepidness and safety with our mainstream artists. It is down to unsigned/underground musicians to give the consumer music that strays into quirky and unusual territory. I will come to other areas soon but, listening to Kenna’s music, think it is important to address that cinematic-haunting dynamic. One bandies a word like ‘cinematic’ around and gets the idea it’s going to be biblical, rousing and epic. In a lot of cases, that word relates to music that has edge, grandeur and vivacity. Kenna ensures her music projects vivid views and characters; paints fantastic possibilities and a sense of the beautiful. Mermaid Song – which gets it full release next week – could be used in an indie film or romantic comedy. With a title like that, one might think it is a song Flight of the Conchords might write but, in actuality, it is a stunning and full-bodied song that could easily fit into the mainstream – albeit, offer credibility and an edge that is lacking there right now. I hope the song does appear on a T.V. show or film because it has that individuality and potential. Kenna, when writing, has managed to provide some shadier, darker edges but married it to a wonderful vocal/composition that means it has enormous appeal and adaptability.

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Although Kat Kenna is starting out at the moment, she has been performing for a long time and had her music used on a soundtrack for a Russian film, Rehearsals. Today, a lot of artists have to gig endlessly to fund their career and struggle to break into profit. Music is a tough industry where one has to expend a lot of passion and energy with very little reward. In order to get into the black, many are pushing themselves to the limits and, in many cases, having to do a full-time job. It is an exhausting industry but one driven by passion and determination. Kenna, who is about to release her first single, has seen her music being used in Russian production – where she used to live – and had that exposure. I am interested discovering how musicians get their work used on film and T.V. scores. It seems like one would need to have a long career – and that exposure in the public eye – before people approached you. Not only has Kenna has her music used in a Russian film but seen (her music) on compilation C.D.s. All very important and impressive steps in a career arc that is seeing her get some impressive bookings in the U.K. I will come to that later but, before that, want to expand on film and T.V. and how rare it is to find – artists that do get their songs used and have the chance to find new audiences. I am not sure how big Russian cinema is – compared to here and the U.S. – but it must be wonderful hearing your music on the big screen. A lot of times, film music is instrumental or sources from mainstream/famous artists. I watch films and you hear popular songs and legendary artists being represented. Other times, there is only a score: rarely does one hear a new artist having their music put on the big screen. Kenna has that modest success and plaudit but it is not to be underrated.

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There are few who can claim their songs have made it onto a cinema screen and seen by a film-going audience. Not only has she got that attention in Russia but had her music used on U.K. compilation C.D.s. Maybe it is that atmospheric quality but I think there is something else: a gracefulness and unique edge that many people do not possess. With Kat Kenna, one hears an artist who has a filmic/cinematic quality to her. Looking at her and one can imagine her appearing in films and dramas. There is a definite beauty but an adaptable talent. She could appear in a Gothic drama or an offbeat road film; a grittier British drama or a mainstream romantic comedy. It might seem like a strange tangent but, when one sees and hears Kenna, one imagines her career taking her into films. Maybe she has acting ambitions and those kinds of credentials but it is a definite possibility. Because of this, there seems to be that knowledge and understanding of the filmmaking industry and the sort of music producers want. I know there are not too many film/soundtrack inclusions on her C.V. but that is going to change. There are not many people who can boast about having their music used in films so it is something Kenna should take pride in. Kenna tells stories and has a fantastic narrative voice. Because of that, it is unsurprising to have that film credit – a reason why I expect to find her music being taken to heart by British filmmakers. I feel Mermaid Song could find itself in a drama or comedy because of its flexibility and nuance. The song, upon first listen, summons scenes and possibilities so I can well imagine a young director/producer seeing that potential. Music and film have always intertwined and had a close relationship and I think it is important to encourage that romance. For new musicians, it is an invaluable source of finance and a chance for their music to reach a whole new set of people. More importantly, it is a sense of validation; knowing their music has that potential and popularity.

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Kat Kenna resides in London but moved here from Russia. In the past couple of months, I have looked at a couple of Russian artists and the music scene there. Like many European nations; Russia adopts the popular sounds of the U.S. and U.K. There are native stars but the best music comes from Britain and America so it is understandable people in countries like Russia listen to music from there. I feel, when we look at certain countries, there are clichés and stereotypes that spring to mind. If one imagines Russia and you might think the music is going to be quite edgy, dark and foreboding. That might play to a certain image we have of Russian music but it would be unfair. Kenna grew up in a unique part of Russia where ancient pagan Mari tribes mix with Slavic culture. It was/is a part where supernatural beliefs and magic are taken rather seriously. People like me might find that worrying and a little credulous but it is an integral part of the culture. There are nations and cultures throughout Africa where spirituality, dark magic and strange idols are worshipped and taken very seriously. It is not surprising discovering these kinds of practices in Russia. One can only envisage the kind of people and sounds Kenna was exposed to and how instrumental that would have been. We here might find Mari people and Slavic cultures foreign but for Kenna, it would have been a normal part of her life. Listening to Mermaid Song and you understand where it is coming from. There is oddness and quirk but not one that proffers false ideals and the supernatural. Instead, there is that exotic and beguiling mix of cultures and practices Kenna grew up around. She is a self-taught musician and appeared in the finals of Pop Idol Russia.

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It is amazing to think a person could appear on a show like Pop Idol and have a young upbringing that involved Mari tribes. The two would not go together, one thinks, but there you have it. Were Kenna to not have had that experience, one argues she would be a less interesting writer and not have the exceptional qualities she does. I think of Russia and know there are some great artists there but, one suspects, not the thriving scene many of its artists would hope. I am seeing a lot of musicians come from Russia to the U.K. Maybe there is a political reason behind this migration – Putin’s regime and the young feeling rather nervous right now – or the fact Russia is not quite as impressive as the U.K. – when it comes to music and chances available. That said, the nation does have a few great venues and has sported some wonderful talent. What fascinates me about Russia is the traditional cultures and sounds that we do not have here. As I said; Kenna has assimilated these into her music and provided it spice, mystique and the enchanting. We have political strife here but do not have many niche cultures that can inspire musicians. Apart from African and Asian influences; there are not many minor religions and tribes that one can discover. I am not sure whether that is a good/bad thing but, from a musical perspective, it would be wonderful to see. I urge curious musicians to travel to countries like Russia and take inspiration away. I can only imagine what it was like being surrounded by Mari tribes and Slavic sounds. Whilst I am not one who has any time for magic and the supernatural; someone like Kat Kenna would have had her eyes and mind opened, for sure. One can hear a sense of magic and supernatural feed into Mermaid Song. Away from less-than-conventional tribes and cultures; Russia has a very active music scene and would have provided Kenna with a lot of impetus and drive.

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She is now in London and, I feel, the perfect place for her. Following her social media feeds and I have seen how affected she was by the terrorist attacks in the capital. She has been shocked – like all of us – by the brutality and horror we have witnessed. Her heart is definitely in London and, let’s hope, her body remains here for many years. I feel artists like Kat Kenna have an important role to play right now. I mentioned how there is a need to articulate a sense of anger and impatience – owing to the way the government has let its people down and ignoring those in need. Against the tide of outrage and anger is that need to project love and togetherness. This is where Kenna comes in. Many of her peers are producing music and soundbites that promote a sense of unity and uplift. She performs at London’s The Finsbury on 3rd July –  and will have other gigs approaching. I feel London has the spirit and people Kenna can take guidance from. Her debut single has an odd love story at heart but I know Kenna is taking a lot of heart and inspiration from the people around her. I expect her forthcoming E.P. will reflect a sense of where she is now and wants to head. Having arrived from Russia a few years ago now, it seems like this is her musical home. I can tell how much music means to her and London (and the U.K.) is the perfect place to foster and further that love. Whether she chooses to appear on talent shows here or not; I feel Kenna will take the self-producing route and do music her own way. She has a lot of potential and music in her and I am fascinated seeing how that progresses and evolves in the coming years.

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Mermaid Song, as I will explain, deals with an unconventional coming-together and has its body and mind by the sea. It is a song one imagines stems from literature and a rather charming tale. It is not your ordinary and predictable love song and, because of this, I wanted to look at the more left-field side of music. I hinted how the mainstream is still overrun with uninspired love songs and less willing to depart from the convention. There are artists who provide music with a bit more edge and originality but, if one wants something extraordinary and different, you have to go to the underground. It is not to say Kenna’s future sounds will all have the same unusual flavour as Mermaid Song but it is wonderful hearing someone who takes a different approach. Over the past couple of weeks, I have reviewed a few artists who look to the water when it comes to their music. It might sound niche, but there is something alluring and addictive about the sea and its potential. Not only in terms of the romance one associates with its views and stillness; there is that mystical, fictional aspect that many writers are co-opting. Kenna’s single brings together a sailor and mermaid in a song that has twists and turns – you think it is going to end violently but has a sweeter ending. It can be hard writing these kinds of songs but they are less personal than you’d imagine. Naturally, Kenna has to detach from her own experiences and project something fictional. It is a lot easier writing songs about your own life but I find it much more impressive when musicians borrow from literature and fantasy. Consider songwriters like Björk and Kate Bush (more on her, soon) and they have amassed legions of fans because they do not do things the same way as everyone else. Sure, they write about traditional love but take their mind and music to special and unusual places.

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Mermaid Song is a track that has grace and passion but that unusual spirit that will linger for a very long time. Perhaps Kenna’s Russian background and unorthodox childhood has led her to the music she makes now but I feel Kenna is one of those spirits that refutes the ordinary and chases the extra-special. I know there are a lot of people who are getting tired of the predictable nature of mainstream music. Inflexible and pedestrian a lot of the time; where does one go if they want to hear music with a lot more life and originality? Kat Kenna is one of many new artists taking a stand and offering the music-lover something more detailed, deep and fascinating. What I love about Kenna’s music is the potential it has. She has more material coming very soon as I am looking forward to seeing what her other songs contain. Whether we have peculiar love songs and oceanic trials, I am not sure but there are going to be few one-dimensional love songs. Many would argue those quirkier, less-traditional artists do not have the substance and commercial appeal you’d hope for. That is true of many artists but not with Kenna. She has a great knowledge and understanding of music and is not going to balk against that. There is enormous commercial/mainstream potential to Kenna’s music but there is extra flavour, colour and sense of the majestic. Because of this sense of individuality, Kenna is getting gig chances and finding more fans come her way. It is always tough taking your first steps in music but it will be a productive and exciting time for Kenna. She has a wonderful city at her feet and establishing herself as a magnificent singer-songwriter. When she does take to the stage at The Finsbury, it will not be long until more gigs come her way. The more people she gets her music out to; the more confident she will become – and that will lead to greater productivity and ambition.

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Before I come to Mermaid Song, I want to look at one of my music idols: the always intoxicating, Kate Bush. She is an artist who always motivates me and, when looking at my record collection, responsible for some of my most-treasured memories. The Kick Inside is my favourite album and one I associate with immense beauty and the sensual. I can see links between Mermaid Song and, say, Wuthering Heights. There is that slight eccentricity and taking inspiration from an unusual place. Bush’s record-breaking number one took from a classic work of literature and stunned listeners with its confidence, peculiarity and sheer confidence. Kenna is a fan of Kate Bush and you can tell in a lot of ways. I find Kate Bush creeping into modern music a lot. It is not only female artists who take guidance from the legendary artist. I am not sure if Kate Bush is going to release any more material at all (let’s hope she does!) but her influence and importance cannot be denied. There are few that have had such an impact on modern artists. I hear a lot of the newcomers and detect various points in Bush’s career. Few can match the vocal dynamism and range – Bush has that unique personality and projection – but there are other elements of Bush’s aesthetic many are taking to heart. In a way, given Kenna’s exposure to Russian cultures and the supernatural; it is unsurprising someone like Kate Bush so have such an effect. She, even on her debut album, talked about spirituality and the unusual. Not quite as extreme as Mari tribe but, on songs like Strange Phenomena and Moving, she looked at synchronicity, sexuality and coincidence; The Kick Inside and Room for the Life looked at birth and motherhood whilst Them Heavy People investigated the teachings of Jesus and learning as much as you can whilst young. The Man with the Child in His Eyes is a child worrying about the fate of her man – maybe lost at sea and consumed with worry. I can imagine an album like The Kick Inside provided much inspiration for a curious Kenna. One can hear some familiarities in Mermaid Song.

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Later Bush albums like Hounds of Love and The Dreaming would have given guidance to Kenna – Hounds of Love’s second-half was about someone lost at sea, hoping for rescue and salvation. Kate Bush is, it might sound obvious, one of the most influential artists of all time and we can see her music transferring to the young generations. Vocally, Kenna has elements of Bush, too. There are those high and breathless notes; the same sense of drama and theatre. It is a beguiling blend that instantly transports the mind somewhere distant and wonderful. I am not sure how this Kate Bush fandom will manifest itself on Kenna’s E.P. but I would not be surprised were there moments that recalled Bush’s finest songs. I am fascinated by artists’ influences and how important it is in regards their own music. Listening to Kat Kenna and the heart and mind embrace in an electrifying tango. The heartbeat is strong and connects with a love song with a difference. The soul is made curious and involves itself in the story. In fact, the mind is pricked and the body forced to move. Mermaid Song activates all the senses and leaves you wanting more. I have mentioned Kate Bush a lot in these pages but next year will be a very important one: forty years since the release of The Kick Inside. It is extraordinary to think the album is that old – I remember hearing it a lot as a child – but it seems as fresh and important as the day it was released. I am not sure if Kenna is a big fan of that album but I can see comparisons between her music and that contained within the 1978 masterpiece. Given the fact so much of today’s music is stagnant and rigid; having Kate Bush’s legacy and brilliance kept alive is brilliant to see. Let’s hope that continues (not just when looking at Kenna) because it means music is a much more interesting and magical place.

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The mermaid remains in the water and offers the air from her lungs – evocative and striking words that open Mermaid Song. That gorgeous, pin-sharp voice rises and choirs with pride and passion in the opening seconds. There is little build-up – except for the sound of the ocean crashing – before we hear Kenna’s voice take control. It is an enchanting and unexpected to hear something as beautiful and immediate. The first words take you down to the ocean-side tranquillity and the solitude of the shore. The mermaid, it seems, is a Siren that has brought the sailor to the rocks. Much like a ship of men been lured to the cliffs; here, the hero seems immersed in the waters and struggling for breath. The fact the heroine/mermaid is offering air and safety suggests something has already happened. The heroine is bringing the ill-fated sailor to the shore. She offers a sense of relief and chance to catch the breath. The composition remains quite light and unobtrusive: it gives Kenna’s voice the chance to project and work. From those high notes from the off; the tone is more grounded and lower. Her style changes from ethereal to conversational – a way of transition from setting the scene to explaining the story. There is a narrative and story arc that one can follow from the start. You are engrossed in a peculiar love story that could have been torn from the pages of classic literature. I swam in the song and saw myself an onlooker, as it were. The ravaged sailor – or in the midst of the crashing waves – is being guided back to land and in the arms of the alluring mermaid. Being a fictitious/fantasy – mermaids not existing, and all – the listener is free to project their own story. If it was a deeply personal love song, it might be harder to bond with and, as such, the appreciation might be limited.

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Different genres and styles come into Mermaid Song. There are electronic buzzes that come into the song; Folk details and a Pop overture. It is a mix of sounds and colours that gives the song so many surprises and twists. The heroine looks into the blue eyes of the hero and wants him to stay with her. Maybe, traditionally, a sailor would kill a mermaid – or vice versa – and there is a sense it will all end in tragedy. Kenna’s voice rises back up and has a sweetness that gets into the heart. Nobody can deny how impressive and impactful her voice is but, the more you listen, the more depth and nuance you discover in it. Drums gallop and pound as Kenna opens her heart and wants the hero to return to dry land. She will always remember him but wants safety and compassion. Were the man to stay in the ocean, his life would be fraught and there would be inherent danger. In a way, she is performing a kindness and ensuring her hero makes his way back home. She will, as it is said, always remember him and carry him in her heart. There is something touching and pure about the mermaid’s words. There is no selfishness and hostility knowing the hero is going to return to land. There might be a sense he wants to remain there and not be separated. Maybe tears are being held back but there is impracticality to the romance. The mermaid will always remember her man but there is no way they can remain. Few can deny the tease and sense of romance when thinking of the ocean – there is that solitude and lack of responsibility. I am not sure what brought the two together: a shipwreck perhaps or the fact they have known one another for a long time now. It is interesting proffering interpretation but, living in the moment, sad to see them split.

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I love the details and layered vocals. The drum acts like a heartbeat and adds urgency to the mix. There are strings and electronic sounds that provide the sound and smell of the sea. The heroine, Kenna, casts herself as the mermaid – watching the man step onto dry land (warning him not to run) and always watching him. I wonder, when hearing the development and conclusion of the song, whether it is an adaptation of a personal experience. Of course, Kenna did not, literally, romance from the ocean but, maybe, there is a painful breakup from her past she has put into Mermaid Song. That feeling of having to say goodbye – although it is not ideal and easy – because one of the parties will be hurt. At its core; there is a very relatable and human experience we can all relate to – even if the lyrics are fantasy-based and story-like. I am stunned by the breadth and strength of the song. For a debut single, it is extremely confident and sounds complete. There are no nerves or weak moments at all. Everything is realised and assured from the very first bars – a fantastic song from a young artist who a lot of years ahead of her. Mermaid Song has an unusual edge but, the more you get into the song, the less ‘out-there’ it seems. By the end, I was hoping more words would be coming. The story sees the hero go back to land whilst the mermaid watches from afar. At all times, I was looking inside metaphors and wondering if the sea/land, mermaid/sailor were embodiments of emotions and places. Maybe Kenna has experienced something heart-breaking and this is the way to deal with it. Perhaps the song is, literally, as it appears – every listener will have their own thoughts.

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I will wrap things up by recommending, next week; you get a hold of Mermaid Song and follow Kat Kenna. She is a promising artist I can see going a very long way. Before I revert to some earlier points, I will look ahead and what is in store for Kenna. I have mentioned her gig at The Finsbury already. That is somewhere she is going to love playing. I have been a couple of times and always it is a wonderful space that brings in a great range of people/musicians. There is an E.P. coming up so it is a busy time for Kat Kenna. She has a lot to think about and will be busy in the coming months. I know there are a lot of venues that would love to feature her music and host her. London is a huge city that is growing larger and more exciting. Musicians are flocking to the city and keen to immerse themselves in the frenetic energy and life of London. It is crowded, yes, but there is so much activity and choice. You can never get bored here and, for the musician, they have the best music scene in the world. Not only does London have some of the best artists in the world but some of the finest venues. I am not sure what Kenna has in mind for the remainder of the year but I am sure promotion is a bit part of that. I will take things down but want to revisit a few different themes: Russia and the differences here; Kate Bush and her influences; songs that have a peculiar and untraditional edge. I will revisit Kate Bush for a few seconds because she is an artist I have limitless passion for. Mermaid Song has shades of Bush’s early work and draws me to my favourite album ever. While no one can replace or match Kate Bush; there are so many young artists who take influence from her and continue her legacy. I say this like Bush has retired – never know if she is planning new work! – but she is not as prolific as she was. Kat Kenna’s voice has definite hints of Bush at her most entrancing and bewitching.

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Naturally, Kenna is compelled by other musicians but I sense a distinct connection to Kate Bush. Take a thing like Mermaid Song – and its strange love story and ocean setting – and it seems like a lost cut from The Dreaming, perhaps. It is pleasing seeing new artists inspired by Bush’s sound and adapting it into their own music. Kenna is individual and original but you can definitely hear little flecks of Bush running through Mermaid Song. Many of us – moving on, now – do not associate contemporary, popular music with Russia. That is not a dig at the country but there are not many nations outside Britain and America that have a strong mainstream culture. Many countries consistent a steady diet of British/American music but there are local artists that make it into the consciousness. Nations like Israel, Australia and Canada are strong; Sweden, Iceland and France, too. For Russia, there are some great artists around but we do not hear about the nation in general. I am intrigued by what Russian music promises and the type of music we might be missing out on. What I love about the country is the fact there are cultures and people who inspire wonderful music and imaginative sounds. I have mentioned how Kenna spent her early years around magic-believing people and tribes. Growing up in such an ‘unusual’ environment must be eye-opening for a promising musician. I can imagine Russia’s mix of clans, types and people compelled a young Kenna and has directed the music she is writing at the moment. Listening to Mermaid Song and there is that strangeness and odd beauty that can trace its roots back to Russia. There is an element of Kate Bush but a distinct nod to Russia. I am interested learning more about Russian music and what is available there. I have discovered a few great Classical artists there; some brilliant Folk artists and Pop singers. How deep this diversity goes I am not sure but it is clear there is a lot more to Russia than meets the eye.

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Kat Kenna bagged radio and presenting jobs when she moved to Moscow and has been in London since 2009. In the eight years she has been here; Kenna has been plotting and recording music – taking the first steps in her career.  I mentioned how Kenna has had her music played on soundtracks and on the big screen – she has gained notoriety and exposure in Russia. Mermaid Song is the first taste of Kenna’s upcoming E.P. I have provided a teaser of the song – it does not get its official release until next week – but take my word for it when I say it is a fantastic song that announces an original talent. I would love to see her perform a lot more around the country and take her music to new people. There are so many people who would love to see her up-close and, I for one, think she has enormous potential. Mermaid Song is a wonderful insight into a young woman who strays away from the mainstream. Let’s hope there is a lot more coming from Kat Kenna as she has a voice and songwriting style that is rare to find. It only takes a few hits of her debut single to realise the confidence and talent she has inside her. I have been listening to it a few times and discover something new every time I dive in. Make sure you acquaint yourself with a fantastic songwriter and a track that takes you somewhere magnificent. Mermaid Song is beautiful, brilliant and memorable. I must leave things now and return to the song because, God help me, it is…

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SUCH an addictive thing.

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Follow Kat Kenna

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Twitter:

https://twitter.com/katkennamusic

Facebook:

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

Instagram:

http://www.thepicta.com/user/katkennamusic/4146177113

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/kat-kenna

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC06VMtTJq06uMhnvd9v2Jeg

FEATURE: The New Music Revolution: Where’s the Urban Explosion?!

FEATURE:

 

The New Music Revolution:

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

 

Where’s the Urban Explosion?!

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EVERY hour we are seeing the fragmentation and ridicule of the current…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

government without abatement and discipline. It appears things can go one of two ways: Mrs. May’s government hang on and curate some sort of organisation and focus – against all odds and predictions. The other is we go through yet ANOTHER General Election and, as the polls are suggesting, elect Labour into power. The percentages have shifted into the red column and there is a feeling Jeremy Corbyn will rise to power before long. I hope the second option occurs but it seems not (right now). I think there is a lot of confusion and nobody is really sure what will happen. What we do know is there’s a lack of trust and respect for Mrs. May and it seems that is unlikely to change any time soon. Many are calling for her resignation whilst others are waiting to see what her next move is. People my age (young/young-ish) are lending grievance and scepticism the way of the Conservative government. The tabloid filth-diggers – synonymous for their low morals and loose ethics – were on Corbyn’s back and villainising him throughout the campaign. Their propaganda and vitriol didn’t really go according to plan! Now, the tables are turning and (tabloids) are starting to pour scorn on Mrs. May. It is unbelievable how fickle they are and how they really don’t believe what they write or say. One shouldn’t be shocked the tabloid are full of crap because that is how they operate every single day.

Whilst the press and government are divided; people are confused and unsure what is going on – there is stability and promise in music that is refreshing.

Well, in a way there are nerves surrounding the state of live venues and whether sufficient capital will be injected into the industry. Corbyn promised to support music and preserve the richness and tapestry we all depend on – and I believe him. He is not in a position to fulfil that now so, yeah, there are some doubts.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Grenfell Tower, London

The reason for writing this stemmed from a revisit of artists like Public Enemy. Kendrick Lamar is on my mind and, between these artists, you have fiery and intense voices that take the government to task and truly represent what their country is going though. Maybe it is a British thing but there is a definite need for anger and articulation to override the tutting and compartmentalised balking. Maybe there is not the same racial and social injustice that fired the likes of Public Enemy up in the 1980s and 1990s but there is something happening in our nation that needs to be addressed. I am putting a lot of pressure on our Urban artists to take charge but, historically, I find Hip-Hop and Rap are genres that carry more authority and innovation than, say, Folk and Rock. I may be wrong but the power and potency they bring to music remain with me far longer than it would, say a Folk artist campaign. I love Dylan’s protest songs but find myself gravitating to artists like Public Enemy for true sermon and leadership.

We have performers like Kate Tempest capable of penning socially-aware songs and (penning) brilliant observations – but where are the angry and bold young men and women at a time like this?!

I think it is a bit sad someone like Dizzee Rascal didn’t come along now – rather than in 2003. If Boy in da Corner were released today, one feels it would look at social isolation and deprivation; gang violence and manor feuds but address terrorism, austerity and the generational split – not to mention disintermediating from Europe and political cries. Imagine what he could achieve and what a Dizzee Rascal would sound like in 2017?! That is not beyond the questions – because he is still recording – but doesn’t have the youth and creative flair of fourteen years ago. I look around the Grime scene and, whilst I hear fantastic artists who speak honestly and passionately about their reality, there is nothing that blows my socks off.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

As we speak, Jeremy Corbyn is serving pints to punters down at Glastonbury and delivered a lionhearted speech on the Pyramid Stage.

Ironically, his oration will be the most high-profile and applauded on that stage. Over the past couple of days – tonight and tomorrow – some awesome artists will be amazing Glastonbury artists but few will be providing socially aware and explosive mandates. That is probably good because most people want to hear accessible and uplifting music: artists that get them all dancing and smiling. That is what the festival is about but, when we move forward, one wonders where those angry young voices will emanate from. We hear enlivened and passionate Londoners in the news – especially after Grenfell and similar high-rises being evacuated – but few in music that articulate that same sense of outrage and disgust. Maybe tastes are changing but I feel the Urban/Hip-Hop/Grime scene is divided. There are those legends like Wiley and Dizzee who have passed their best moments are not as young/essential as they once were. There are some agile and accomplished poets in the underground who are not getting the attention they deserve – or have a loyal fanbase unable to push the music to the mainstream. There are others who have the potential to succeed but will arrive a while from now. I know there are some fantastic musicians from the streets who are saying it how it is. Jeremy Corbyn – despite the fact he is middle-aged and white – seems to be one of the coolest and most switched-on politicians we have had for many years. If/when he gets into power, I think the disaffected youth will have a champion they can rely on. At the moment, and has been the way of things for too long, we are being nannied by over-educated androids whose spectrum of emotion and empathy is not exactly breaking. Take our current P.M. and do you think she is aware of what a working-class person is?! The streets, manors and lives of the hard-working salt are not being looked after.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy Corbyn

She would rather concentrate on policy and pieces of paper: detached from the reality of the country and devoid of any humanity. Corbyn seems like an attractive alternative that, if we go back to the polls, will sweep into Downing Street. Until that happens, there is a role for music to play. Although Corbyn has, technically, ‘headlined’ the Pyramid Stage; I wonder how long it will be until one of this country’s young Urban artists ascends that to that level? Maybe the motifs and mantras of these artists are too serious, real and affecting to gain populous appeal – a little heavy-handed and politicised for a crowd that wants to have a good laugh.

Look at the wider world and there is a definite desire to have the young musicians of this country speak out and get involved.

Of course, this need not be focused entirely around those in the ‘Urban’ genres: there is the opportunity for every type of artist to say something meaningful. As I stated; the nation is at its most volatile and malleable at the moment – it is uncertain how the government will fare and how much stability we have. This consequence is not down to bad luck or any sort of worldwide malaise: this is a problem we have created and are having to deal with – for no other reason than the fact our government has no understanding of the people (or the real world). Music has, historically, always been able to react at how society changes and speak for the people. Whilst I love all the great bands and artists creating sensational music this year – I need someone (or many) to pen an album that rips off the mask of government and points the finger squarely where it belongs. Aside from terrorism, displacement and voting divisions: there are more fun and upbeat areas that could mingle – on the theoretical – album. I know we have some of the best young artists in the world and it seems like the time – regardless of genre and privilege – to step up to the microphone and create something epoch-defining. Whether it is in-the-works or being formulated right now; I, for one, cannot wait to see…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

WHAT can be achieved.