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

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

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

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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)

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

INTERVIEW: Time for T

INTERVIEW:

 

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Time for T

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I was excited when hearing Wax, the new single from Time for T, because…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Luke Moran-Morris

it has a light and sugar-coated feel but tackles issues around life and death. I ask the band about the song and its coming-together; whether they can disclose more details about their forthcoming, debut album and the significance of its title: Hoping Something Anything.

There is an international feel to the band – various members from different nations – so ask how they came together; whether there is any sonic shift since their eponymous debut E.P. and how patronage from sources like BBC Radio 1 feels.

The guys talk about the fan feedback and love feel; the kind of gigs they have approaching and whether they get a lot of downtime between gigs/recording – and how, if they get some, they prefer to spend it.

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

All good, thanks.

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

We are a band that formed in Brighton in 2013.

Sorry to ask but I have to ask the origin behind the band name, Time for T?

It started off as a bit of a joke.

At first, it was a solo project and people call me ‘T’; so, I thought it was a funny idea to have this name plus, I needed a name for the MySpace page at the time.

When the other guys joined, the project the name just stuck.

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Wax is your new single. What’s it all about?

It’s kind of a sugar-coated song about death and the time we have on this planet. How we should live to the fullest potential because after we are gone, the world will keep going.

It comes from your debut album. Can you reveal more about the kind of songs and ideas you’ll be exploring on that record?

Our debut album was recorded in patches throughout 2016 and it has many ideas and sounds that are probably attached to the fact we recorded it in patches.

I think there are certain signature sounds that tie it all together such as the organ sounds and the dreamy guitars.

But, the album really does go from real deep and calm songs to groovy upbeat tracks – to get you dancing in your car seat.

I love listening to music while driving; so I guess this record will be a journey for those who are driving but also for those who are sitting still.

What is the significance of its title, Hoping Something Anything?

Good question.

It’s the title of one of our most-recent songs and it just seemed to resonate with us. We make music in the hope that something will come out of it and, so far, it has taken us through some amazing experiences such as playing in Beirut and having our music aired on BBC Radio 1 etc..

This title suggests that we are hopeful and are ready for anything.

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How would you say the band/your music have changed since the 2015 E.P., Time for T?

I believe we are now better musicians and have a lot more experience under our belt. You would hope that with every release, you become better. This is our debut album so we put a lot of love, time and energy into it. The last E.P. is something we are proud of and it was definitely an important learning curve.

I feel that our sound is now more unified and consistent.

We know where we are going with our sound. The fact that we produced the album ourselves was also a really important difference: we got the chance to explore things we wouldn’t normally have the chance to and that can be scary sometimes as there are infinite possibilities – but, also, can really make you hone into what you believe works as a sound that enhances the song.

You source membership and ideas from Brighton and Britain via Portugal, Switzerland and beyond. How did you all come together at the start and would you say the cosmopolitanism in the band reflects directly in your music?

Absolutely.

We all met in Brighton having come from different backgrounds and locations. The unifying factor was that we all moved to Brighton to pursue music and had a love for the ‘60s, ‘70s and World music.

I think that as a band we reflect this mixed background but, also, the sounds that united us in the first place.

Previous songs have been played on BBC Radio 1 and featured on Spotify. Has it been quite overwhelming getting attention like that and seeing your music connect with so many people?

It’s really nice to have our work recognised and to know that thousands of people from around the world are digging the tunes. It can be overwhelming but in a very positive way.

It also gives us the energy and determination to create more music that can connect with people.

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How important are the fans and the kind of reaction you get on the road?

It’s everything.

We wouldn’t share our music and play live if it didn’t get a good reaction from people. At first, the music is made for our own enjoyment and the need for creating something new, but the energy one gets from the people who listen to the music we create is also a catalyst for creating and playing more and more.

It’s a nice, vicious cycle.

I know you have some U.K. gigs in the coming few months. Which dates are you looking forward to most? Any international dates to follow?

We are looking forward to playing at Green Man Festival in Wales. We played there last year and it was one of our favourite festival shows ever. The line-up there is always amazing and the crowd are real musos.

We will be playing all over Europe after the album comes out in September. It’s been a while since we have been on the road so we are really looking forward to it.

What do you guys get up to outside of the band? Is there much time to wind-down and relax away from music?

We all have other music projects and part-time jobs so we are all fairly busy people. Music has definitely become our main activity in the past couple of years which is great.

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

I (Tiago) am answering the questions but I think I can talk for all of us when I say that we all love Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and The Touré- Raichel Collective’s Tel Aviv Sessions.

Dylan, because the songs are just incredible in a lyrical sense and the melodies and grooves are right up our street.

Touré- Raichel, because it’s so different to what we make and so hard to play that we are just in awe at the sheer technicality – and exotic sounds that come out from the speakers when that album is on.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jen O’Brien

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

Yes. Olympia (Australian singer) is amazing.

We also really like Cotton Jones Basket Ride.

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

Do what you believe in for yourself: if other people like what you’re doing see it as a bonus but not the ‘be-all-end-all’.

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).

Cool…here goes:

Tiago: Delicate SteveTwo Lovers

Joshua: Bob Dylan Isis

Martyn: Jorge BenCriola

Oliver: The Touré- Raichel CollectiveBandirabait

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Follow Time for T

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PHOTO CREDIT: Luke Moran-Morris

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/timefort/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/timefortband

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/timefortband/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/timefort

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaYoayk_iLL4nL012g9Y6-A

INTERVIEW: Sonia Stein

INTERVIEW:

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Anja Rubin

 

Sonia Stein

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I have been talking to Sonia Stein about her new single…

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Lotta U. It follows on from One of Those Things and shows she is an incredible and consistent songwriter. I ask about the video for Lotta U and the inspiration behind the song – I noticed elements of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) in the video – and whether there is an E.P. coming. Stein talks about the artists she grew up listening to and how she first got into the industry.

Having recently played The Great Escape (Brighton); I ask how the performance went and whether there are any more tour dates in the diary. Stein talks about a special attachment to ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits and three albums that have helped define who she is – as a songwriter and a human.

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

Hi! I’m great; can’t complain! Sun is finally out.

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

My name is Sonia Stein and I sing/write R&B-influenced singer-songwriter Pop songs about love and other things, too (sometimes).

Lotta U is your latest track. What can you reveal about the inspiration behind the song?

I wrote the song when I was getting into an unsure situation with someone.

I was really excited, but also a little wary, about how it was going to go if it went on at all.

To me, the vocal has lustfulness with an underlying vulnerability. It conveys so many different emotions. Did that vocal performance come naturally or were there a few takes to get it ‘just so’?

I usually try to keep my vocal takes to a minimum. If I am recording them as close as possible to when I write the song they convey how I felt in a very genuine way that I don’t have to think about too much.

I think I recorded this within a month of writing it so the emotions are pretty raw.

I love the video and to me, the dancing interaction, remind me a bit of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God). Whose concept was the video and what was it like to shoot?

Thank you. I love that video! The concept came from the director Aaron Bevan-Bailey. It was quite an emotional process leading up to the shoot.

I was really nervous because I’m a bit camera-shy but I really wanted the chemistry to come through.

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Luckily, I had a really amazing choreographer (Michael Eckel) who put me at ease and my partner (Jordan Kennedy) – who was just the kindest and most sensitive guy you could have asked for.

One of Those Things, your previous track, contrasts to Lotta U. The video is more glamorous and city-gazing whilst the sound/texture of the song is different. Was there a conscious decision not to repeat yourself on Lotta U

The songs came about in two very different ways and at different times. One was written at home (Lotta U) on the keys while the other was co-written in a studio – which I consider two very different processes.

I wasn’t necessarily thinking about not repeating myself but I’m happy I can show a few of my songwriting tendencies early on – so I can keep making a variety of sounds.

One of Those Things gained a huge reception and a lot of online praise. Was it quite humbling to know that a song, originally a few ideas on a page, would get that kind of reaction when it went online?

Yes. I couldn’t believe how the views kept piling up so quickly. I’m happy the song and/or the visuals resonate with so many people.

I especially like the personal messages I get about what the song means to people.

It seems like more music will be on the way. Can we expect a Sonia Stein E.P. further down the tracks?

Yes. There is an E.P. on the way and more music to follow!

You have just played Brighton’s Great Escape. What was that experience like? Is touring a part of the job you relish?

The Great Escape was a really fun gig. I just recently started playing with a full band again so every show is so much fun. Singing is my favourite part of the job so the more I get to do it, the happier I am.

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Will you be heading to out and doing any more dates this year?

I have a few small festivals in the pipeline at the end of summer but expecting a few more to crop up in the meantime!

Give me an idea of how you got started in music? Was there a person or moment that fostered that desire or have you always been passionate about music?

I just remember that I always sang. My parents always encouraged me to sing in front of guests and anyone that came over.

So, that tendency carried me into my teens when I started writing my own songs.

Who were the artists you grew up with as a child?

I remember being obsessed with our ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits V.C.R. tape with all their videos on it. I would sit in front of the T.V. and lip-sync to all the songs before I even knew what the lyrics meant.

I was also a big Christina Aguilera and Alanis Morisette fan.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Klaudia Stolarz

It has, already, been quite a crazy and memorable year for you. Is there a gig/memory that sticks in your mind as being particularly special?

I got to play in my hometown, Warsaw, a few weeks ago and that was pretty special. I got to sing for a lot of people I know who haven’t heard me sing since I was around thirteen – and a lot of new faces as well.

It was a really cool night.

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

Christina Aguilera: Stripped 

Just because this was an amazing album that I knew from beginning to end.

As a young vocalist, she was just something to aspire to.

A Fine Frenzy: One Cell in the Sea

This was the first time I came across music that I could identify with stylistically. I wasn’t very savvy at finding loads of music on the Internet so when I heard Almost Lover on MTV, I was like, ‘What is this? This is what I want to sound like!’.

Metric: Fantasies 

I discovered this album when everyone I knew already knew it – but Emily Haines was just so aspirational to me. She was a rockstar and a badass that sang in a soft voice and communicated through real poetry.

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

Have patience: So much of it.

Also, know when to stand your ground and when to take constructive criticism.

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!

Play Orion’s Belt by Sabrina Claudio.

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Follow Sonia Stein

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Official:

http://soniastein.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/soniasteinmusic/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/soniasteinmusic

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/soniasteinmusic/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/soniastein

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCymIN9yMAbQQvQqKLFHbL6A

INTERVIEW: Jack Tyson Charles

INTERVIEW:

 

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Alexander Michaelis

 

Jack Tyson Charles

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ONE of those records that get into the ears and fills the mind…

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with visions, possibilities and emotions – that is what one can say when experiencing a single hit of Restoration. It is the latest E.P. from Jack Tyson Charles and a creation I was keen to learn more about. He talks to me about Restoration and what the reception has been to it; why a recent gig with George Clinton and Parliament was so special and how influential London is to his work ethic and creativity.

Being Craig Charles’ son, I had to ask how inspiring and important his dad’s music and passion was. Jack Tyson Charles pays tribute to a hugely vital role model and what it has been like playing alongside him. Looking ahead, I ask whether there will be any more recordings this year and (ask) the three albums that mean the most to him.

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Restoration is your E.P. – released at the latter-end of last year. Have you been surprised by the positive reaction it received? Looking back, did you achieve and say everything in the E.P. you were hoping to?

I wasn’t really surprised by the positive reaction. The one the thing that is apparent when you independently release a record is how much feedback I have to self-generate. It was a really momentous occasion releasing the E.P. and then selling out the launch at The Jazz Café on a Tuesday night!

I was extremely warmed by the reaction I got and the subsequent interest. I’m slightly disappointed it didn’t reach the amount of people I would have liked.

But, also, realistic about how much responsibility rested with me and my team considering the independent way in which we got it out there.

I think the people who know my music and the journey I had been on to get it there would really appreciate the end result. That and everybody else lucky enough to have it bless their ear-drums – if you know what I mean!?

Wouldn’t You Know is my favourite track from the E.P. What can you reveal about that song and its origins?

It comes from being in a place where I really had to start evaluating my state of mind and – starting to make sense and articulate – almost storyboard the place that I was in. It was a vivid way of using the metaphors (I used) to paint a really informative picture of being at the mercy of other powers.

I feel it’s a song where I really managed to link the words with my reality – in the most poetic sense I could.

2017 is here so you must be thinking about new material. Is there an E.P. in-the-works at all?

2017 has been a different process, as much as I yearn to move on. There has been a real sense of having to honour the record, Restoration, and play as many live shows as possible with the band that made it possible.

At the end of the summer, I am going to take a real break from the gigging and focus on what my next move is.

But, for now, I am happy to give this record as many send-offs as it deserves and is possible!

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You have just played a couple of London shows – at Old Street Records (28th April) and Pop Brixton (29th). You have a few dates in the capital in the coming months and a slot at Glastonbury. Is there a gig you are especially looking forward to?

The boys at Soundcrash, who have supported me for a long while, booked my band to support George Clinton and Parliament at the Funk and Soul Weekender – which happened to fall on my birthday, May 13th.

Of course, it is not just you on stage – you have your band in support. Can you tell me about them and how you all sort of came together?

It’s been a long journey. The last five years or so I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and playing with so many talented musicians who have leant me their ears, their souls and, most importantly, their time.

Whilst everybody has their teeth in projects of their own, I’ve been lucky enough to have them help me realise the vision in my songwriting. I am looking forward to the time when they can call upon me to gratefully return the favour – If I’m lucky enough!

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PHOTO CREDIT: Benjamin Eagle Photography

Obviously, Funk and Soul are big parts of your musical upbringing. Who are the artists you were raised on – those who fostered your love of the genres? Which would you recommend to us?

I was a child of the ‘90s and, before I got wind of my dad’s Funk and Soul love story, I was listening to anything from Oasis to Frank Sinatra; Michael Jackson to the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Wu-Tang Clan, Outkast; Lauryn Hill and Stevie Wonder.

With my dad’s influence, later came The Beatles, James Brown; Gil Scott-Heron, Herbie Hancock; Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin and so on…

I have to bring up your father, Craig Charles. He is a huge champion and aficionado of Funk and Soul – with popular shows on BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio 2. How influential is he to you? Has he been one of the main driving forces behind your music career?

My dad is as influential as he wants to be. He is a stalwart of the game. I feel I came to music on my own terms, though.

I started out as a drummer and have always been interested in rhythm. My dad’s influence came later in life with the emergence of his radio show and the plethora of music we had access to. I feel that music would never have needed a vessel to reach me other than the sound waves.

In March, you did a warm-up set at his Funk and Soul Club. What was that experience like? Are you two going to be collaborating this year?

Being involved with my dad’s shows is always a pleasure: his crowd is energetic, responsive and must be addictive to play to. Every time I’ve supported him we’ve been so well-received. The one downside being that the old man himself is normally too late to make my stage time. Being that it is on Saturdays – his radio show goes ‘til midnight – and, on Friday, he’s more often than not touring the country with his Funk and Soul D.J. sets.

The time he has made the live show, most notably the E.P launch at The Jazz Cafe, he has been blown away by the support I’ve managed to garner; especially in my home town of London.

I’ll add that he is a man that never stays in one place: always striving to push forward with his ideas and championing other acts at every opportunity.

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There are few artists as dedicated and naturally suited to the London lifestyle. Where about in London are you situated at the moment and how do the city and its citizens impact your music and sound?

I’m situated between Manor House and Crouch End. I have a lot of ties with warehouse communities in that and other areas. They have spawned their own kind of musical hubs and provided me with hugely liberating, fulfilling experiences. London can often feel like the centre of the world BUT it’s easy to take for granted the opportunities available in the wider reaches of the country (for a start).

My city has always been kind to me and the support that I get helps stimulate my ambitions; also gives me great belief that I can reach as many people as possible

Basically, I feel that London doesn’t always have to be the epicentre from which I can progress.

Already, you have done and achieved so much. Is there a single memory or gig that sticks in the mind? That one you would love to preserve forever?

Single memory or gig…?

I really enjoyed my time gigging and touring with Lack of Afro. I debuted on five tracks for his album, Music for Adverts. I enjoyed my first experience of touring, which culminated with a barnstorming show at Concorde 2 in Brighton – which, I can happily say, was the most polished and professional (and magnificent) I have felt on stage to date.

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Other than that, selling out my Restoration E.P. launch at The Jazz Café, on a Tuesday night, to my whole London family on 22nd November, 2016 – that would my seminal moment to date. The feeling of being able to have your own released and accessible music for the first time will take some topping. But top it I will!

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

An album of summer anthems that my dad had probably got in The Daily Mail when I was six.

It had classics like I Don’t Like Cricket (Dreadlock Holiday), Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go; Sunshine on a Rainy Day and Will Smith’s (DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince) Summertime! We listened to it on repeat for three consecutive summers whilst driving from Somerset to Devon – me and my dad both singing hysterically with the windows on his Roller down and my hands out the window skimming the air.

Earth, Wind & Fire: Earth, Wind & Fire.

No descriptions needed.

Outkast: Stankonia.

Because I fuck*ng love them and I’m too tired to explain why. But, if pushed, I’d say Outkast because it was during a time when I would memorise the lyrics that I liked.

I also like the fact that you could still buy records that had the lyrics on sleeves – even those as intricate as Outkast’s!

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

I would recommend listening to Amadis and the Ambassadors; Jez Hellard & the Djukella Orchestra; Lester Clayton; The Turbans; Jade Bird, Bellatrix; Strangelove and Kontroversi.

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

My advice to new artists would be to get in a band; rehearse fu*k-loads. Believe in your sound; do what feels right and always remember that your inner-voice is the real you.

Don’t let anything get in the way of the inner-you.

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).

Please play:

David GrayBabylon

or

FunkadelicI’ll Stay

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Follow Jack Tyson Charles

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PHOTO CREDIT: Alexander Michaelis

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INTERVIEW: Aja Volkman

INTERVIEW:

 

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Aja Volkman

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AFTER a good listen of Aja Volkman’s solo debut album, Sandy

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I was excited to learn more about the American musician; the themes and ideas that contributed to Sandy‘s sound. She talks to me about the album and whether it was quite an emotional experience. Eager to learn about her band days – she used to front the L.A. group, Nico Vega – Volkman discusses Emily Kohal: the Warpaint lead who gave Volkman the push needed to perform on stage; they are still great friends to this day.

Volkman reveals whether her at-times-uprooted childhood – having divorced parents for one – was a hard experience to endure and how infant hearing problems impacted her decision to go into music. I ask her whether there are any tour dates planned and if a U.K. visit is likely.

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

Hi! My week has been great.

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

Yeah! My name is Aja Volkman. I am a singer-songwriter. I was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon and now I live with my husband and three kids in Las Vegas. I used to sing for an L.A. rock band called Nico Vega. Now I am doing my own thing. I just released my first album called Sandy.

My Man is the lead-off single of your debut album. What can you reveal about the song’s origins and creation?

It’s actually a pretty personal song. It’s about unconditional love.

I wrote it about my husband. I also am a huge fan of throwback vibes in music. I tend to incorporate tonnes of different styles into my songs.

Joshua James really helped me bring this song to life. It was just acoustic before and he helped with crafting a more flushed out version.

Sandy is out now. Was it quite an exciting time putting your first solo album together? It sounds like it was, at times, quite an emotional process. Does it feel quite a relief hearing it back now?

It’s wonderful to have a vision and see it through. I actually really believe in not overthinking things.

This album was not overthought. I wrote it over a year period and then we recorded it in five days. It was nice to go into the studio with what I already felt was material that represented me well.

Joshua was the perfect producer because the songs still needed completion. They were pretty raw and basic.

The album came together, over a year, with Joshua James in support. How influential was he putting the songs together and what was the reason behind a ruminative and un-stressful approach to recording?

He was already my spirit-animal when I went in.

I’m a huge fan of his work and how liberated he is. He is his own person completely. It was great for me to have someone around with solid ideas because I can be pretty flexible – almost too flexible. It’s so important to make music with people that make you feel good. People you can trust.

Formerly, you fronted the L.A. band, Nico Vega. Is it quite different being solo or do you have more freedom to create the music you want?

It’s so different. I’ve always felt pretty free with music but Nico was more about the live experience for me. Sort of just letting myself go completely. This is different: it’s more peaceful; more harmonious with my lifestyle right now.

Meeting Warpaint’s Emily Kohal was, I guess, a pivotal moment in terms of stage confidence and the boldness needed to perform live. How did you come to meet her and do you see one another quite regularly?

She will always be one of my best friends. We grew up together and sort of found our voices at the same time.

It was awesome to have someone to bounce ideas off when I was just getting started. Our first and final performance was high school graduation. Haha.

You are the wife of Imagine Dragon’s frontman, Dan Reynolds. You met after Nico Vega opened for his band. Was it quite a nerve-wracking moment meeting him? What was it about Dan that formed that ‘click’?

We were immediately drawn to each other but from quite different backgrounds.

We actually met when his band, Imagine Dragons, opened up for Nico Vega. They were just getting started. We just kept in touch and fell in love over the next year or so. He is my best friend and a total inspiration to me.

Sandy has quite a vintage, Blues sound. Who were the artists you grew up listening to and how important are those early sounds in the context of your debut album?

Well, I love everything from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan and Patsy Cline. There is a Cat Stevens influence and a little Cat Power. I really connect with a character-driven voice because mine is sort of like that.

Not technically ‘perfect’ but easy-going and recognizable. That’s what I truly connect with.

If I may, I want to ask about your blog. In a post earlier this year you revealed: “…the doctors told my parents there was a possibility I would lose most, if not all, of my hearing”. What was that like having to face that and do you feel your embracement and commitment to music is as a result of overcoming that scare?

I was so small when that happened that I wasn’t aware.

But, I have always struggled with my voice and my ears: there have always been hurdles. I think, sometimes, resistance helps you to figure out who you truly are. You have to work harder and push through short-comings. You have to want it really bad when it doesn’t come easy.

Are there any tour plans coming up for you? Any idea whether you’ll be heading to the U.K. this year?

I would like to say yes and it is a possibility. But, most likely, I won’t be touring this year because I have two brand-new babies and I need a little time with them before I start running around too much.

It seems your music and career so far has been impacted by your early life – a sense of instability having divorced parents – and discovery. Have any of those early memories and times gone into your songwriting or is it a time of your life you prefer to keep separate?

I think everything a person has been through molds who they are. I have amazing parents so I can’t say that I am damaged from anything they have done. But, I have made a lot of poor choices and learned from a lot of mistakes growing up.

I’m grateful to be where I am now. I feel very blessed in the way my life has turned out so far. My music has always been influenced by real life. That’s why this record is mostly happy.

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

You know it’s funny.

Our life at home is so crazy that I find myself listening to nostalgic, calming music. Enya and Miles Davis are on constant rotation at my house.

I can’t say I have been on the hunt for new music lately. This year has just been a doozy.

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

I would say Al Green’s I’m Still in Love With You – it was probably one of the first albums I memorized from beginning to end. It still always makes me feel good.

Another I would say is Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around – although it’s a record full of covers, I think he communicated perfectly through music. He made those songs perfect in my opinion. Not an easy thing to do.

Another album I love would be Soul Journey by Gillian Welch. She is so pure and simple and her songs are like lullabies for adults.

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

Just be you. Never try to emulate someone else. Being influenced is one thing. But being competitive with someone who isn’t you is pointless.

The world needs individuality. It needs us each to be who we are.

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).

Ha.

Play Song for Zula by Phosphorescent (I love that song).

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Follow Aja Volkman

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5EBlYUBqas8OolbVekdSiA

INTERVIEW: RJ Thompson

INTERVIEW:

 

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RJ Thompson

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TENSIONS and fears are, understandably, running high around the country…

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at this very moment. RJ Thompson, at the top of this interview, reflects on the awful week we have endured but chats about his new track, London. Trying to, as he states, “rationalise” the Brexit vote; the northern songwriter put pen to paper and another motivation: a phrase that he heard whilst on a tour of the River Thames (“If the lions are drinking, London is sinking”). I ask about the song’s messages and how Thompson himself feels about the way the country has been divided. Following the recent Manchester terrorist attack, unity is, of course, back among us but that feeling of political cracks and differing opinions is in the air. Thompson tells me about the city of Newcastle – he lives just outside – and what the scene is like there.

I was curious to know the albums and artists that have made an impression on him. Having recently performed a (memorable and talked-about) cover of Bob Dylan’s The Times Are A-Changin’ – apt considering the political nature of his music – if artists like him are important. I get word and update on Thompson’s forthcoming album and whether it will be a political affair: he tells me more about idols such as Ryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen and how support from stations such as BBC Radio 6 Music and Radio 2 feels.

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

I’m fine in myself, thank you.

Although I, like everyone, are really saddened by the events of the last couple of days.

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

Yeah, sure. My name’s RJ Thompson. I write songs and sing them at people in the hope that they like it. Haha!

London is the new video/song. Its origins might sound obvious but what is the song about?

A couple of years ago, I was in London with my family and we took a sightseeing boat trip on the River. The tour guide explained to us the history behind the lions head statues – that line The Thames – and he used an expression: “If the lions are drinking, London is sinking“.

I wrote that down… it always stuck with me.

Then, last summer, in an attempt to rationalise some of the aftermath from the Brexit vote, I started to write this song.

The opening line – “They say that London would sink in a day, so put on a show/Well the lions are drinking today and I’m watching the river overflow” – is, obviously, a direct reference to that old saying. But then, the rest of the song focuses on the story of an immigrant who feels alienated and how she found hope within the chaos.

The video documents the last, crazy, months we have witnessed. Was it quite a challenging video to put together and how was it to film/compile?

It was actually really easy. I think all of us have felt bombarded by the events of the last twelve months – whether you agree with some of the things that have happened or not.

I wanted to make a video that reflected that but also focused on sending a message, as cheesy as it sounds, of standing up and fighting against things you don’t agree with.

Your last song, The Times They Are A-Changin’ (the Bob Dylan cover) is a bit of a departure from London. What was the decision to record that Dylan classic and was it a natural inspiration for a song that looks at chaos, displacement and turbulence?

The band and I put the Dylan cover into our live set last summer after the Referendum. It really resonated with people at the live shows and had loads of people asking me to record it – so we did.

In terms of politics and the way things are unfolding; what are your views on the upcoming vote and how the country is progressing?

Personally, I don’t like it. I feel like we, as a country, are becoming more inward and closed in our views. I also truly believe that the wool is continuously pulled over our eyes by certain sections of the government and media in an attempt to influence us into feeling a certain way or, for example, believing that immigration is the root of all of our problems.

That, to me, is bullshit, and is being rammed down our throats in an effort to cause division and fear.

I also have really strong feelings about the recent cuts to arts funding; particularly in my home region.

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I believe an album is forthcoming. What can you tell us about that?

Yeah, the album is currently being mixed. I’m aiming to have it out in the world in September. It’s pretty political in its lyrical content but it’s disguised in a wave of Pop goodness, haha!

You are, originally, from Newcastle. Are you still based there at the moment and how does the music scene there differ to other parts of the U.K.?

Yeah, I live just outside of Newcastle.

There are some really, really great local bands but it does worry me that the government cuts are having a stifling effect – with less schools encouraging creativity and music venues closing at a scary rate.

Your sound has been compared to Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Are these big heroes of yours? Who are the artists you grew up listening to?

Yeah, they are big influences. You can hear that in some of the music I think, although I do venture more into the Pop world that they do. I just like great songwriters: people who can make you think.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ian West | Photographer

I know you are about to announce a U.K. tour – including three dates supporting Jools Holland. How are you feeling about that and where will you be visiting on the tour?

We’ll be announcing all the dates in the next few weeks so can’t really comment much more on it, but I’m excited.

The new album tracks are quite different so I’m looking forward to the challenge of making them work live.

What are the plans for the remainder of the year in terms of music and other ambitions?

The album and the tour.

Then, back into the studio to work on whatever comes next.

How does the ongoing support from the likes of BBC Radio 2 and ‘6 Music motivate and inspire you as an artist?

It’s just really lovely that people from those stations are supportive. I would be making music either way but their support is so helpful in getting it in front of more people.

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

Ryan Adams: Gold – The album that really made me focus my songwriting.

Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town – well, it’s just a masterpiece in my opinion.

U2: Joshua Tree – it reminds me of my childhood: big U2 fans in our family.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Acoustic Magazine

It sounds like, with all this new music and touring, you could do with a rest. If you could have a perfect, Ferris Bueller-like day off, what would that consist?

Spending time with my wife and little boy. Maybe taking in a Newcastle United game; window-shopping at every guitar shop (ideally, more than window shopping) and plenty of good food!

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

Be bold.

Don’t be afraid, if you think you’re ready, to approach people for the best gigs.

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).

Ryan AdamsWhen the Stars Go Blue.

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Follow RJ Thompson

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Official:

https://rjthompsonmusic.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/rjthompsonmusic

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https://twitter.com/rjthompsonmusic

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https://www.instagram.com/rjthompsonmusic/

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRhwIp7BgMlX3Qu2rlPBJdg