Monday 30 March 2009

The Dawn Chorus + The Melodramas + The Autons + The B Of The Bang @ Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms

“Good music by people who care,” is the strap line for Jellymaid Music; a record label based in Portsmouth, Uk. Jellymaid specialise in supporting local artists, so it is therefore fitting that the labels first ever showcase is held in the most established music venue in their home town.

The B Of The Bang are known for their experimentation, often bringing sombre lo-fi folk and electronica to the stage. For this showcase however the group play to the Wedgewood Rooms strengths, discarding much of their acoustic sound. “I’ve broken my banjo,” announces lead singer Chris Whitear, eliciting “Ahhh’s” from the crowd before the band launch into the metallic commotion of Little Bean. It’s straightforward rock, but characterised by a very English baritone vocal and the bands need to be just a little bit different. The stage front has pieces of the bands artwork on display, there are three drummers forcing the beat along and during Lung, their most anthemic number, detuned guitars can be heard working hard to ensure that the sound never veers too far into the mainstream. There are hints from this performance that the band have the potential to find a place higher than bottom of the bill, from the singers confident but slightly awkward Bono/ Chris Martin moment of leaving the stage to embrace the crowd, to the almost sanguine sounding Delores. Whether such mainstream propriety would sit permanently comfortable with the bands ethos is questionable however.

The Autons bring ties, interesting hair and shouty indie electro punk pop of the variety that can be found in many toilet venues around Camden on a rainy Tuesday night. Be careful with the world electro though. This does not imply that Autons are part of the new rave gang, or even the Brooklyn cool kids. Their form of indie electro consists of dark buzzing guitars and hyperactive keyboard moments that blend together like The Buzzcocks and Carter USM playing British Bulldog in the playground. Nearly every snarling song rushes headlong into a frenetic sweaty refrain designed for the moshpit, although tonight with such a range of guitar based bands on display The Autons sound seems a little misplaced.

The Melodramas arrive with a bucket load of “Woah woah woah’s,” energy, floppy fringes and tambourine bashing skinny jean indie pop with their song The Day You Die. A few years ago we would have given this band a begrudging thumbs up, but right now their sound seems dated and unadventurous. It’s landfill mortgage indie, empty of any real substance or meaning. “We used to be a metal band called Slayer, but those days are behind us,” they announce. Frankly we would prefer to listen to Slayer. If you believe that great art and music is created by progressive development and the attempt to create something new and inspiring then The Melodramas will not appeal to you. If you simply want some 'nice jaunty tunes with guitars' and not an ounce of challenge then The Melodramas will be your cup of tea. Breaking More Waves seem to be in the minority with our opinion of this band though, who are clearly having fun as do most of the audience.

Frank Turners favourite new band are The Dawn Chorus , and it is easy to see why. The band may not have the coolest of looks, fashion or haircuts, but are slowly building an audience that has lead to a UK tour in April and festival slots confirmed at both Bestival and 2000 Trees later this year. The Dawn Chorus are rooted in acoustic sounds, but with songs like A Blast From The Present they add high noon trumpet fanfares and chanted harmonies to produce something that is joyously uplifting and honestly life affirming. It's ambitious, absorbing and well crafted without ever being immediately obvious. The Dawn Chorus carry commodities of good old fashioned quality playing and songs that pack a punch through careful structuring and arrangement. Their songs range from alt. country pop to bigger indie rockier numbers, but without exception every song the band plays fills the Wedgewood Rooms with a sound far removed from that of an English south coast city.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Passion Pit - The Reeling

Here at Breaking More Waves we don't normally post reviews of singles so upfront as this, but right now we are feeling like a desperate lover, unable to constrain our unbridled lust for the new Passion Pit single The Reeling. So review it we must even though the damn song isn't out until the 11th May in the UK.

The Reeling is confirmation that the Chunk Of Change EP wasn't just a fluke and that our tipping of Passion Pit as one of our Ones To Watch For 2009 was entirely justified. The Reeling is dizzy distorted dance pop that rides the wave of hype with a keyboard shaped surfboard and seventies style disco beats. Michael Angelakos banks his trademark falsetto up against a full on children's choir with an infectiously catchy chorus of "Look at me oh look at me, is this the way I'll always be, oh no, oh no." It's a shuddering beast of a pop single that deserves to be heard at every indie dance party in the land.

There's no video at the moment, but if you haven't heard it on the radio yet, this handy little widget will let you hear the song.

Thursday 26 March 2009

The Hot Toddies - Interview

Just a week or so ago we brought you the finest band from San Francisco Bay area, The Hot Toddies. Now before they head on over to the UK for a tour in April, it’s time to sit down with a virtual internet beer and ask the group a few questions.

First of all can you tell us a little bit about The Hot Toddies, where do you come from, who you are, what inspires you and the type of music you play ?

The Hot Toddies is an all-girl indie rock band from Oakland, CA: Heidi Bodeson (bass, guitar, and vocals), Erin Skidmore (guitar, bass, and vocals), Sylvia Hurtado (drums and some vocals) and Jessica Wright (keyboard, guitar, and some vocals).

It’s been a round for a while now. But can tell us a little bit about the album Smell The Mitten ?

Smell the Mitten was recorded in the summer of 2007 with our good friend and sound engineer, Johnny Genius. It was our first full-length album and the songs on it were written over a period of about 2 years around many campfires and backyard parties. We did most of the album, besides drum tracks, in Johnny’s apartment and drank a lot of whiskey and wine while recording. The vocals were recorded in a closet that was converted to a recording booth.

Have you plans for a release this year, and if so what can you tell us about it ?

We have about 6 new songs ready to record and will be heading into the studio with another great engineer friend, Michael Fajen, in April when we get back from the UK. So far the songs are really different from each other – we’ve got a few rocking fast ones, an acoustic ukulele song, a song in French, and a jazzy little song about cooking and sex. We get a lot of song writing inspiration from travelling so we’re hoping to write a few new ones for the next album while on tour in the UK!

Your music is very much based in 60’s pop and doo wop. What bands from this era do you like yourselves and can you recommend any great tunes from that era to readers of Breaking More Waves ?

We do like a lot of 60’s era artists, although not just limited to pop or doo-wop. The Beatles and The Beach Boys are pretty classic influences of course. We also love the soul stuff – Otis Redding, James Brown, and Irma Thomas. The ladies in The Shangri-Las, The Crystals, and The Ronettes, had some great songs as well during that time. But honestly, we never set out to write anything that sounds retro or “60’s” at all. Apparently it just comes out that way. We do love the layered harmonies of that era and there’s also a lot of contemporary bands we admire that use them too like Mates of State, the Ditty Bops and Fleet Foxes.

At Breaking More Waves we have come to the conclusion that there simply cannot be truly original music anymore as there are only so many notes and so many noises...everything is going to sound like something that has gone before. What do you think of this statement ?

We would probably agree with that statement. And add that we think it's great that there are musicians out there trying to revolutionize music and create something amazingly new and unique... but that's never been our shteeze. The Toddies like to keep it real and simple in order to have as much fun as we possibly can. And when we're suddenly hit with a major musical epiphany, we'll just go with it.

If we were putting on a party and getting drunk, The Hot Toddies would be the soundtrack to at least part of that party. What records would form the soundtrack to your party and why ?

Our party soundtrack would definitely be selected for danceability and sing-along potential: The Beatles, James Brown, the Decemberists, Journey, Queen, and the Pogues would be some of the artists on that list.

You’re coming the UK for a tour with Foxes! How did that come about ?

Basically we met Foxes! through Myspace while talking about setting up a show in Brighton, and discovered that they wanted to do a tour around the same time. We really liked their sound so we decided to combine forces! We’re very excited to see them live and make some new friends.

We’re really looking forward to seeing you play. What are you looking forward to when you come to England ?

We’re really looking forward to meeting everyone! So far all the bands, promoters, and fans we’ve talked to have been so nice, we’re looking forward to sharing several beers with you all. And fish and chips. Yum!

What is the ideal night out for The Hot Toddies ?

Sushi dinner with plenty of beer and sake, followed by rollerskating, a beach bonfire and then sneaking into a nearby hot tub.

Breaking More Waves is getting the drinks in, what are you all having ?

Let’s see… if we’re at the bar in England, we’ll take some shots of nice Irish whiskey, 4 snakebites, Absinthe, Stella and 4 shots of Fernet. For more chill evenings, just 4 bottles of wine will do.

Ok no problem, we'll join you in that except for the Absinthe... it doesn't agree with us. And finally, just how hot are the Hot Toddies ?

Well, just to set the record straight, we did name ourselves after a drink – not trying to claim anything on the hotness front – but we think that’s for you to decide.

Thanks Hot Toddies !

So this April, if you are in the UK, get out and see The Hot Toddies and discover if they are hot or not. We’ll be reporting back from their Portsmouth gig which is being promoted by our good friends the The Hong Kong Gardeners. If you are in the Portsmouth area you can get tickets here. We’ll let you know what we think !

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Planet Earth - Bergman Movies

Yes folks, it’s more new folk. Planet Earth sound like a lo-fi version of Noah And The Whale. This is not surprising when you consider that Charlie Fink added drums to this song and helped record some of the bands earliest demos. It goes even further, with Planet Earth having been out on tour with the Noah boys and girl in the autumn of 2008. And if there are musical and vocal similarities, then Planet Earth seem to have decided why stop with just that and instead go the whole hog with similar lyrics as well. On Bergman Movies they sing “ In ten years we’ll be having babies, in twenty we’ll be getting divorced, but five years ago we were in love for the first time.” Five Years Time similarities anyone ? Just a little perhaps.

This single is a sweet unpolished tune, with a world weary ‘my cats just drowned’ monotone vocal and slightly scrappy but jaunty acoustic guitar. It sounds like Planet Earth have had the soundtrack to Juno non stop on their stereo for the last six months and before that it was If You’re Feeling Sinister by Belle and Sebastian.

In April the band are out on a UK tour supporting The Wave Pictures before they wind it all up with appearances at The Great Escape and Stag & Dagger Festivals in May.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Perceptions Of Success In The Music Industry

With Duffy being proclaimed a success at the 2009 Brit Awards, Breaking More Waves asks how we measure such success.

If there is one thing that the on line revolution of the noughties has changed in relation to music, it may well be the accuracy of public determination of what is successful. In the past for the majority of the public, success has been related to commercial sales.

However, with the IFPI estimating that more than 40 billion songs were downloaded illegally in 2008 - that’s 95% of total music downloads, it is becoming increasingly difficult to judge who is really popular. This year one of Breaking More Waves favourite new pop stars Victoria Hesketh aka Little Boots gave away her single Stuck On Repeat free as an I Tunes single of the week. It was the most downloaded I Tunes free single of all time. But it will not feature in the UK Top 40 Charts as nobody paid for it. So does that make Little Boots successful ? She certainly won’t have made any money from those downloads. Hesketh has said that she views this as a success. As an artist she wants people to hear her music, the free I Tunes single has enabled that to happen. She has gone on to say that she believes that where there is good music people will find a way to make money from it, but maybe not in traditional form of CD sales.

What Hesketh is alluding to is the now widely used term synchronisation. These days artists can earn significant revenue from getting their music on computer games, television adverts, ringtones and the like. An artist could make large amounts of money, have their music heard all over the world and yet only sell a small handful of singles or albums. So is high potential earnings through synchronisation ‘success’ ? And if so how can it be measured for the public to gauge who is successful ?

Breaking More Waves believes that from an artist perspective success should not just be viewed in terms of sales. As Einstein once said “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value." We believe success is about completing what the artist intended with integrity. For one artist this can mean making money, but for another like Little Boots it may mean being in a position that the public get to hear your music irrespective of if you make or lose money, for another it may be putting on their own live show to just a handful of friends. Simply finishing what the artist planned to do can be viewed artistic success. Unfortunately many artists don’t actually have a plan or any particular goals when they start out, and so are never able to appreciate success. Without an appreciation of success it is easy to lose inspiration and momentum irrespective of initial motivation.

Success for the artist is judged by the artists own criteria, but this may not match with public perception. Old perceptions of success for the public were usually benchmarked against if an artist was riding high in the singles and album charts and if they were appearing on programs such as Top Of The Pops. From this information the public knew that the artist was popular and probably earning significant amounts of money from sales of their albums. It was a simple and effective model to measure pop success.

To measure commercial success now however there are a huge number of factors. Synchronisation earnings, ticket sales, indie label profitability against major label profitability (on a major an artist may only see 5% of whatever profits their CD’s sale, on their own indie they would reap a much larger share), legal downloads, merchandise, product endorsements and many more factors means that the music industry and the public have no single and reliable means of measuring commercial success.

There are lots of different models of success. and artistic success and commercial success may not always be the same thing. In this digital age, personal artistic success can still be easily defined by the artist themselves and with the cheap availability of technology artistic goals can often be more easily accomplished than the past. Commercial success is however a much more complex being for both the music industry and the public to grapple with. Perhaps it is for this reason that there are now so many awards shows such as the Brits, Mercury, Mobo awards etc as the industry attempts to clarify the artists it deems are succesful.

Monday 23 March 2009

Mono @ Brighton Digital

Brighton Digital may not be the ideal venue to witness the Japanese post rock of Mono, a band whose musical scope has seen them enlisting a large chamber orchestra to work with them on their new album Hymn To The Immortal Wind. A black arched sea fronting nightclub, live music is very much an afterthought of Digital, the design layout being primarily focussed on suiting the needs of raving clubbers. In addition Mono themselves do not go out to be a visual band. With the exception of bass player Tamaki the group choose not to stand for most of the show, leaving the majority of the audience staring at what appears to be an almost empty stage and a bank of dazzling lights that blaze into the retina.

If this all sounds rather under whelming, then the music of Mono is certainly not. Mono deliver an instrumental soundtrack of ferocious guitar noise that rises and falls in chiming sonic crescendos, often displaying structures more associated with classical music. Every track they play evolves to find new dreamlike ambient textures and layers. There are moments of monumental beauty as well as hypnotic ear crushing darkness. Song titles seem irrelevant. This is a show that feels like one piece, structured into a series of sonic chapters.

Despite the walls of sound that Mono produce, the band also bring to Brighton a deep sublime elegance, with piano minimalism and light glockenspiel touches added to some of their compositions. It is a sound that slowly draws the audience in, enveloping in a powerful atmospheric otherworldliness. Obvious comparisons can be drawn to Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky, but in many ways Mono have a more focussed restraint than these bands. They forge a narrative that is brutal, cinematic and bigger, yet it is also full of intricate subtleties.

Mono are a band at the top of their game; staggeringly hypnotic and as a live act, potent beyond belief.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Hockey - Too Fake

Last month we reported from a gig at Brighton Audio where Portland boys Hockey thrust a varied mix of indie dance sounds into our faces that captured the essence of LCD Soundsystem, The Rolling Stones and The Rapture in a frenzied half hour set. We were almost impressed, but the band let themselves down with some unforgivable second rate white funk moments that made even the most excruciating slap bass moves from Mark King of Level 42 seem acceptable. Maybe this is why their original label Columbia dropped them before they had even released anything. However another major, Virgin have picked them up and Hockey now release their debut single Too Fake in the UK on March 16th. Having been out on the road with Passion Pit, the band will be supporting Friendly Fires in April and May before hitting a variety of summer festivals and own headlining dates.

Too Fake is a brash, confident squib of a song with a gyrating bass line and a chorus designed to slay doubters. It has a rasping vocal smothered in fuzzed up distortion that has bolted from the same stable as The Strokes. Except at this riding school they’ve been serving the funk pills. “Watch out I’ve got too much soul for the world,” yells lead singer Ben. Let’s hope he remembers that over excess is not particularly a good thing.

Too Fake Music Video

Friday 20 March 2009

Doves @ Portsmouth Pyramids

Doves occupy a similar ground to Elbow, in that they are both unaffected by fashion, hype or the whim of the music industry. Having first come to the public attention at the start of the decade, both bands have everyman lead singers who possess a dour but beautiful tone to their voice, and release consistent and constant bodies of work defined by quality. At their best each bands music is powerful, uplifting and life affirming.

Portsmouth Pyramids is sauna like in its heat and humidity for Doves return to a venue they last played in 2002, the mechanical services of the next door swimming pool clearly thinking the mainly male crowd here should be dressed in swimming trunks.

Backed by five large white circular lights and a series of sometimes rather obvious projections (Sea Song for example shows the sea) Doves are here to show that after four years of domestic upheavals and loss they are back, doing what they do best; making music together. Showcasing a variety of new songs the band are, except for one false start, musically tight and competent without ever being revelatory.

The new songs the band play consolidate much of the sound that they have become known for on their previous three albums; big, epic soaring guitar anthems. There is no huge change in direction, just a hint of an ambient electronic spark here and a pinch of rhythmic experimentation there, but otherwise it is business as usual. This familiarity of style fails to ignite or deliver the excitement of the discovery of the new, but it is comfortable and presumably satisfies the bands fan base. New single Kingdom Of Rust is a perfect example of this, a road trip into the past lyrically with a sound that could only be this band.

It’s not all about new material though. There’s the superlative Here It Comes where lead vocalist Jimi takes a backseat on drums rather than standing stage front with a guitar, and Pounding also sounds unsurpassable. Maybe it’s the environment of the Pyramids - the heat in the air and the carpet on the floor, but the audience fail to respond with the energy or euphoria one would expect from such an established band and sound. Even the carnival percussion on final song There Goes The Fear receives only a muted cheer rather than a deafening roar.

Doves continue to make widescreen sky reaching music. Tonight it just didn’t fly quite as high as it could. Bridesmaids rather than brides, for this evening at least.

Thursday 19 March 2009

La Roux - In For The Kill

This is how quickly the UK musical climate has shifted. Eighteen months ago In For The Kill by La Roux would have been laughed at by many of the so called serious music critics who were too busy cuddling up with Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, The Courteeners or whatever other turgid and banal landfill indie band they had dragged up that week.

Now it seems that the same critics love La Roux. Fickle ? Maybe. That's fashion and pop music for you. Creative people often have a desire to move onto something new. So now they love La Roux.

And rightly so. In For The Kill is the best slice of synth pop that Vince Clarke never wrote. It’s Yazoo meets early Depeche Mode with Elly Jackson’s two tiered voice, all high pitched female robot and flatly melancholic at the same time. With lyrics about fighting desires, emotions and devotions it’s synthtopia at its best and makes Breaking More Waves want to run out and hug a Korg.

Even better however is the remix of the song from Croydon dubstep producer Skream who strips the track down to just atmospheric bass heavy ambience and vocal to create something new, dark, haunting and menacing. Radically different from the original, this is how remixes should be. Do pop music a favour, buy this song off I Tunes and propel it into the charts.


Wednesday 18 March 2009

The Horrors - Sea Within A Sea

This week The Horrors return with a new single Sea Within A Sea. The song is currently available to download legally from the bands official website. Just click here to download. The website also features the video, which although we have provided the You Tube version below, is much better viewed full size on The Horrors own pages. A low budget performance of psychedelic flashing colour, distorted images and occasional strobing it is artily simple and effective.

Clocking in at a massive eight minutes, Sea Within A Sea smashes preconceived ideas about the band being D grade weirdo freak goth punks with little imagination. Sea Within A Sea is a sullen spacey Joy Division like mix of krautrock and sequencers that bears little resemblance to anything that their debut Strange House served up. With soft funeral vocals coming on like a mournful drugged out Ian McCullough of Echo and the Bunnymen, front man Farris Rotter turns his eyes upward, hinting at a vision of following his own path, irrespective of the dangers. “I walk alone, barefoot on wicked stone tonight, will you leap to follow, will you turn and go, will your dreams stay rooted in the shallows?” he asks before repetitive pulsating electronics take over and Farris affirms that the path he is following will hold new fears and dangers.

The Horrors need to continue to embrace those dangers. This is a band delivering something better than we ever thought possible. Massively uncommercial, slightly hallucinatory, lacking in any sort of melody or catchy hook, it is all the more satisfying for it. The song will polarize opinion, and some Horrors fans may be very disappointed. Still goth, still dark, but also very different from their previous work.

The album from which Sea Within A Sea is taken is entitled Primary Colours and is produced by Portishead man Geoff Barrow. It is due for release in May. Let’s hope it is as much a step forward from their debut as this single is.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

The Hot Toddies - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

The Hot Toddies are still relatively new to Breaking More Waves, although they have actually been around for some time. Initially formed back in 2004 on a beach in Mexico, the band are a four piece from Oakland, California who play effervescent, bubblegum garage surf pop with sixties girl group reference points and a DIY aesthetic. Think of the Go Go’s and The 5,6,7,8’s and you’ll be somewhere near the mark. Consisting of Erin, Heidi, Sylvia and Jessica the group have so far released one album, Smell The Mitten and another is promised later this year. Their sound is that of the best college summers and hanging out with friends at the coolest parties.

The toddy girls have recently confirmed a tour of the UK including dates in London, Liverpool, Brighton and just round the corner from Breaking More Waves HQ in Portsmouth. Breaking More Waves recommends that if you live in Blighty you try to catch one of these shows where you will be able to hear their retro all girl harmonies and funny quirky lyrics. “Photosynthesis is my favourite chemical reaction, when the plants are growing it gives me so much satisfaction,” they sing on Photosynthesis. Their biology teachers must be proud. Then there is the internet romancing do wop balladry of HTML “You touched my modem, we went to the bop, my heart gigaflopped, when I saw your...W W W, whoa-oa-oa, dot com.”

The Hot Toddies; Very much a musical pick you up with a sense of fun. Watch out for an exclusive interview with the band here soon ! Here's a video to a track that is just over 50 seconds long, entitled Suck My Balls. Warning : Contains extreme language that will make you laugh nervously !

Monday 16 March 2009

Polly Scattergood - Polly Scattergood

Polly Scattergood has released an adventurous debut - an uneasy leftfield pop album. It will be loved and hated in equal amounts. Much of this is due to Polly’s Plath / Wurtzel styled lyrics, and her girlish close to the microphone theatrical childlike vocal which the listener will find either exceptionally irritating or mysteriously magical. Musically it is characterised by a backdrop of disturbing soundscape sparseness that gives space for the singers angst ridden and vulnerable melodies to shine.

Opening song I Hate The Way tiptoes into focus with dark edgy electronica before guitars and drums explode in a wrathful crescendo and Polly whispers sadly “Do do do do my doctor said I’ve got to sing a happy tune.” The piece then dissolves into ghostly middle of the night noises and beats with Polly sweetly croaking about wanting to be loved, anorexia and paranoia. It's seven minutes long and sounds like a bleak frightening modern day Tori Amos or Kate Bush. Elsewhere there are hints of Sarah Nixey from Black Box Recorder when Polly delivers a spoken word introduction to Unforgiving Arms. "He's a typical writer, always in love with what is gone, and I'm a typical sinner, with a knife inside my back jean pocket." Untitled 27 is a spacey solar system of floaty voices, and tinkling pianos reminiscent of something Massive Attack may produce, whilst Please Don’t Touch is poppy and upbeat musically, despite lyrical references to broken fingers in dark parts of the room.

Much has been made of her lyrics, but they are impossible to ignore. How many of them are auto biographical and how many are simply stories is never clear, but they are far removed from the mainstream. “You can call me a fake sir, you can call me a fraud, you can spit on my French knickers, you can call me a whore,” she commands before promising the ride of your life on Bunny Club. Bizarrely the song imitates the melody of Snow Patrol’s Run with its “Roll in, roll out,” chorus. Despite this melodic similarity, these are not the words of someone aiming to reach the masses. The highlight of the album, towards the end, is Nitrogen Pink which grows from an intimate bedroom confessional to a fuzzily contorted electronic storm as Polly sings “And all the education daddy, it never paid, because the fat man he took my innocence away.” It’s intense yet impressive.

This is an album that is peculiar, dark and intimate and will appeal to those who want their pop music to be slightly more challenging than standard chart fare. Best listened to late at night, preferably with the lights turned low, it gives increased satisfaction with each listen.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Alessi's Ark - Bandstand Busking

Building up to the release of her next fairytale folk single Over The Hill, the sweet and whimsical Alessi Laurent-Marke, better known as Alessi's Ark took some time out to play for the bandstand busking project. Often near forgotten and redundant, these ornamental structures are screaming out to be kissed with life by modern artists. Bandstands are spaces designed for music and performance, often having an exquisite elegance and charm, yet often they stand as circular empty ghosts.

A significant number of exciting artists have now played for the project including Emmy The Great, Frightened Rabbit, Blue Roses and Of Montreal. Alessi is the latest to sign up. You can see all of the performances, including further songs from Alessi here, but for now here is a version of her debut single on Virgin, The Horse.

Friday 13 March 2009

The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die

New folk, new rave, new gazing, new wave of new wave. It seems like every single genre has a ‘new’ element to it. With Invaders Must Die, The Prodigy take no notice of the new, and keep it very old school.

Invaders Must Die harks back to the days before Liam Howlett, Keith Flint, and Maxim Reality dropped a stinker with Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. This is an album full of adrenalin heavy beats, pummelling bass sounds and dirty electronics. It piles on layer upon layer of aggression, samples and vocal hooks that at their best match up to some of their very best work, even if it shows virtually no progression from their early nineties anthems. Take the turbo sound system of Warrior's Dance for example, which features sped-up Barbie on acid female vocals and stomach churning bass rave sounds last heard somewhere in a field in Hampshire about 1992.

This album is stupid, break beat, hyperactive and absurdly fun. The Omen is a deliriously mindless chart fighting single with its sloganeering shouted sample of “Now the writings on the wall, it won’t go away.” It just screams for a bit of thrash dancing amongst strobe lights and dry ice. Run With The Wolves is the most outwardly rock number on the album, bringing in Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and a sample from So Refined by Senser, but for the most part Invaders Must Die is all about a tried and tested sound of crazy dance till you explode stadium rave. This is an album that says its ok to get out those glow sticks and bandanas again. It may be formulaic, but it still rocks.


Thursday 12 March 2009

Andrew Foster - Welcome To The Beautiful South

One of the most wonderful films about music in the last decade is Once. It is a beautifully human tale of a Dublin singer who falls for a Czech immigrant. It features the most tender but uplifting music that gels in perfect synchronicity with the visuals. Butterflymind by Andrew Foster sounds like a lost outtake from that film. There are gentle soft hued acoustic guitars, flushes of subtle piano and voice that gives off a secure fireplace warmth. Foster is seated in the traditions of the male singer songwriter for sure. There is nothing progressive or particularly unusual about his songs such as Watching Clocks and the harmonica led Hovering Over The Red Button. Instead he is steeped in the craft of developing his skill, to produce a melody that is natural and honest. He writes in a quiet personal way exemplified on tracks such as the questioning Snow Through The Window where he asks “What if I had never taken a chance? What If I’d had never spent the time? What if I had never replied to the mail?” Before concluding “You wouldn’t know me and I wouldn’t know you.”

Foster is central to the hub of the more intelligent, and mature sounding young artists that herald from the Portsmouth scene. A collaborator with both Loz Bridge and The B Of The Bang both featured earlier this week, Foster has supported a whole range of artists from eighties singer songwriter Nik Kershaw to the likes of Mumford and Sons. To conclude our Welcome To The Beautiful South feature, Breaking More Waves took a bit of time to ask Andy a few questions.

You hail from the south of the UK, where exactly are you based and have you always lived in this area ?

I am a Portsmouth born lad, and have also spent some time living in London, I was disillusioned by the whole experience, but I did learn some invaluable life points from it. I do love this area as I adore the sea yet a few miles down the road are vast areas of forest and nature. This town for all its faults has a strong place in my heart.

What do you think, as a musician, is the benefit of being located where you come from ? And what are the bad things ?

Obviously being so far away from any major city is a downfall for industry stumbling across acts but that shouldn’t really be a problem, as not all signings and success’s come from London, Manchester, or Birmingham obviously! I don’t think it matters where your from if you have a car and the internet. It may just take more time which can be frustrating. When you’re in London you realize just how many bands/artists there are in a small space competing for attention. That can freak you out a little; at least here you have space to learn your craft and to cultivate your art. The benefit is Portsmouth is loaded with songwriting subjects! It feeds me ideas……

Portsmouth is a mid sized city and yet over the years it seems to have had very little success in producing bands and singers that have had significant commercial success compared with other cities of a similar size. Why do you think this is ?

I have been on this “scene” if you want for many years now and I’ve seen the way this town works, and it saddens me a little. The minute someone gets a whiff of success then jealousy kicks in from there contemporaries and they are discarded from the area like they are automatically U2 sized! It’s a strange tick this city has, the undercurrent is very competitive and the city will never develop any kind of scene like Liverpool or the small east London scene that erupted in the early noughties because of it. There’s no reason for industry to take the trip here on a whim as nothing is asking to be looked at. If an artist put this place on the map then the band would then disappear out of the city with the tag. No-one would be brought up with it. I don’t regard myself on a scene anyway I don’t really enjoy the idea as I like to think of myself as stand alone. I do like what B of the Bang, Loz, and myself have though. This is the closest thing to a scene I will ever feel comfortable in as we help each other and respect each others art. I will never be jealous of Loz in a way that isn’t constructive, he deserves everything he gets. It’s a shame people don’t know what goes on down here though as we do have some amazing music in this little city. If artists helped each other out a bit more then we could give the industry a reason to be here. I do quite like the flying stealth ideal though, you have to get out amongst it and show your face. No one’s going to see you if your playing a local Portsmouth pub every night. Love Albert Road Day, and SouthseaFest are events that could possibly bring the town to the forefront, like a mini sound city or Edinburgh Festival. Even then there’d be a squabble over who was better that day! Its definitely getting better though, and there are people and bands that are respecting each other more and more.

What are your three favourite venues to play in the South ?

I have strong ties to the Cellars as I like what they do there and will always have respect for that place as it has played a huge part in shaping me. From the gigs I have done and the artists I’ve watched there, it’s been integral to me learning my craft. The Wedgewood Rooms is where I started my starry eyed gig watching days so that will always be a special place, I still get a shudder walking onto the stage that has housed so many greats. The third would have to be the Bedford in London. The hospitality is unrivalled, the sound is great, and they really care about the music.

Tell me a little about your music, and your musical plans for the future.

I’m predominantly an acoustic artist. It’s where my voice sits better, I like intricate voicings on acoustic guitar and I enjoy understatement in a track. Saying that I listen to a lot of heavy music and also went through a dabble with electronica. I started my musical life in a rock band from which I was front man, and I have also produced many local acts. I’m still a huge fan of music even through being a songwriter and studying music technology the logistics in that still hasn’t destroyed my passion for the appreciation of other peoples little slices of soul. This forms a good canvas for a melting pot of influences. The records take on a slightly different form but I enjoy the craft of the song, the bare bones…the Ryan Adams School of songwriting if you will!

Planning is a difficult thing to do with art as I sit and wait for inspiration to strike and it does thankfully, very regularly. Career wise you can only do so much before a hand of fate comes and gives you a go. There are countless artists that should be heard but aren’t being and for that reason my plan is to keep going until I feel I have given it all my worth. But I will never stop writing and performing no matter what. It’s who I am and what I want to do with my time here. I’m a little obsessed with the idea of communicating an emotion through music.

What inspires you ?

Nature inspires me so much, I’m very aware of my surroundings and the way they make me feel. Hyper sensitive in fact, I can feel changes in the vibe or tone of a conversation or environment. Sometimes it’s a curse but it does make for some interesting songs! A lot of my songs are from something I have experienced or gone through but it all amounts to how I feel about something. For example a book will ignite a thought process and I will then relate it to something in my own life. Sometimes I will write in the third person say on a recent track called Justice. That is character based as I can honestly say I have never been so jealous I have killed the next door neighbour with a brick to the face! Other musicians inspire me also; I could watch Loz Bridge play for hours. Some people have this weird connection with there instrument, like they are communicating another language and transferring emotion when they play. That’s very inspiring to watch. I take in everything, I’m like a big sponge, I don’t miss a thing….whether i’ll remember it is a whole different story!

You’ve self released a CD. What are your thoughts on the argument that major record labels are not healthy for an artist who wants to maintain artistic integrity and not compromise ?

This is a very good question Breaking More Waves. It’s difficult as not feeling the other side of being on a major label, I can’t really comment on the horror stories you read about artists being pulled in awful directions. What I do understand is that a major labels interest is the product. In effect they are car salesmen; they very rarely know the cars real history, on what basis it came to be in the showroom or to whom it will leave. The only prime objective is to sell it. This is the same with songs, and I fully understand the process and why it is there. The fact is I have self released many a CD now but no one knows it’s there apart from the people that stumble across me or see me live. Major labels give you the grand exposure that propels an artist into the public conscious and that is obviously where you become judged artistically and financially. This is that constant battle between integrity and necessity from which all artists struggle with. Neil Young is an inspiration in no compromise but an artist like him nowadays would not survive in this current climate. He obviously has a huge legendry back catalogue of work in which to base him self on…he is safe. For the emerging artist it is very hard to write what you feel and have success without shaping. Its luck as to whether something catches on, and it crossing over organically. I for one very much subscribe to the traditional songwriting vibe of what comes out sticks, it crosses my mind sometimes to make it more palatable or friendly but it never comes to be.

I really hope I can maintain my integrity as an artist if the call comes for me and mass promotion happens. Artistic respect is the main reason I do what I do, and it’s hard to speak to people emotionally with a financial target breathing down your neck. Money and art……there’s a violent relationship!!!

So if Breaking More Waves were to offer you a big fat dirty wad of cash to use on of your songs for a TV advert would you take it ?

I’d like to say no…..bear with me….!

It really depends on many factors. If I were asked to write a piece for the advert I would do it immediately no questions. I come from a background in music for film as I worked in a very big studio in Soho as a runner and trainee so I understand that people get paid an astronomical amount of money for 30 seconds of audio. With the struggling musicians wages as they are a hefty chunk of cash would help me live my life like a normal person, as apposed to what I, and many others in the area are doing now!

As for one of my songs, that would be a different matter as they are emotionally attached to me. It would feel like watching other people kiss the girl you love! There is the argument that it gives more exposure, but you ask any Nick Drake fan if he got a shudder when watching a recent ad….i’m sure he’d say yes….Maybe us musicians are too precious and pretentious….maybe we just don’t like our art to be used as a pawn in selling burgers or razors! Its a tough decision whether you like it or not money is important in life.

You’ve done a whole load of support slots with a range of really varied artists. Any juicy gossip on any of them ?

I don’t do well with gossip, sorry to disappoint! I can tell you that Wit from B of the bang has a very good cheese collection…..

Finally, this article is called Welcome to the Beautiful South. What is your favourite song by The Beautiful South ?

I like the sound of a Rhodes keyboard so it has to be Perfect 10!!!

Thanks Andy, that’s another vote for Perfect 10 then from the bands of the south!

Here's Andy playing live, complete with a messy beginning....

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Lucky Elephant - Welcome To The Beautiful South

The Isle Of Wight. The Garden Isle. The home to three quarters of Lucky Elephant. A place where plastic dinosaurs, crooked houses, steam railways, castles, and scary wax works all sit in a charming and unique way with a large number of old age pensioners and two very different music festivals. The Isle Of Wight Festival is a big mainstream beast which this year features the likes of The Prodigy, Razorlight and Neil Young. Bestival is the smaller, cooler, more eclectic festival set in the beautiful grounds of Robin Hill Country Park which this year hosts Kraftwerk, Massive Attack, Seasick Steve, Klaxons and Little Boots amongst its many attractions. Breaking More Waves chooses Bestival over the Isle Of Wight Festival every year, although this time we will be praying for dry weather following last years horrendous wash out.

Bestival is run by Radio 1’s Rob Da Bank, and it is his record label Sunday Best that have signed Lucky Elephant. The band are due to release an album this June. They will also be playing at Bestivals smaller sister festival Camp Bestival.

The bands sound, rather like the Isle of Wight, is unusual, eclectic, sunny and old fashioned mixing retro synths, tape delays, Wurlitzers, harmoniums, drums, ukuleles and guitars in a warm, sensual and beautiful way with wonderful heart grabbing French accented vocals supplied by Emmanuel Labescat. Breaking More Waves caught up with Emmanuel and found out a little more about the band. Emmanuel has an alluring use of the English language that adds a certain romanticism to the interview that also comes across in the bands music. Over to Emmanuel.

Tell us about Lucky Elephant and where you are from?

Half of the elephant is from the Isle of Wight, however a third elephant has also just moved to Ventnor, this beautiful little town in the very south of the pie. The home of the elephant is actually London, on Leonard Street, Old Street. Tall Paul, who plays the bass, runs Treacle Studios with a couple of other friends. It's a wicked place, really really not the traditional "studio" you can find in London - those places are awful - everybody who went to one of those big commercial studios knows that. You would have to pick a number and get in the queue it'd be the same. The home of the elephant is different, really low-fi, just a real and very inspiring place. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and another big act too, don't remember the name, came down there because it feels like a place to play music. And they don't rob you too. Which makes everyone agree about it. We very lucky to somehow being a little part of this place. Personally, I'm coming from a town by the sea in the south west of France, on the Atlantic Ocean, very close to Biarritz. A little town called "Capbreton". It's quite famous for its surfing conditions, and for being a place where people for the major cities come and spend their summer holidays. In a way, it's very similar to the Isle of Wight if we consider the contrast between the busy summers and the long and empty winters.

What do you think, as musicians, are the benefits of being located where you come from ? And what are the bad things ?

I guess it depends where you come from. If you love playing music and you are coming from a place where people are very enthusiatic about music in general, with loads of live venues to go out and play or hear other people play etc etc...then why move? To be really honest, I'm not sure the place where you make your music has any importance, what really counts is where you meet the people you choose to make music with.

At Camp Bestival last year Breaking More Waves had a ʽfestival moment' when we saw you play. Your music was just perfect for the atmosphere. Have you had any ʽmoments' when you've played live? If so what were they and where were they?

Thank you ;o) . Camp Bestival was wicked! What a site that was!! From that stage we could actually see the sea! What a day. It was such a different concert to the other ones because the audience was made of different people, very different ages, and from that stage we were worried about all those little toddlers dressed up as little flowers, or lions or ladybirds , trying to stand on their feet while we were trying not too play too loud... Concerts are so different all the time. That's one of the very humbling things of making music. You never know how good it can be until you go there. One of my favourite gigs was playing at the Windmill in Brixton, for maximum ten people. We would have had more space on a Valentine's card, and there was hardly nobody there, but somehow it felt like everyone was having the best unexpected "moments" ever, on that night! You have some very cool moments, but also some very "special" ones -like having one of our harmoniums down on the third song of a set!! "Shit". ;o)

Talking of Bestival / Camp Bestival, how did you come to be involved with Sunday Best?

Sam and Paul have released an album in the early days of Sunday Best - under the name of "Boomclick", an album called Halfway Between. It's a lot more "produced" and different in a way to Lucky Elephant. I was lucky enough to have to sit next to Sam at work. That's how we met and then I met Paul, his mate from Boomclick. They took me to gigs, festivals, had really good fun. The good thing for me too was that i genuinely loved some of their music, specially songs like Must Have Been Crazy and Fire By My Side. I was very happy to be part of their gang, because I respected who they were as people. The bond with Sunday Best started from Boomclick, and it felt very natural for Sam and Paul once Lucky Elephant started to keep Rob Da Bank and Sunday Best in the loop of what they were doing.

Manu you are one of the most unusual and engaging front men we have seen in a long time. What is your approach to performing on stage ?

I naturally start by looking for the people who seem to be into our sound, it gives me a kind of trampoline to bounce upon! Then you become immerged into what you're doing on the moment. It'd be weird not to be...

Can you tell me a little bit about some of the sounds you make, as once again they are very unusual ?

First of all Lucky Elephant is kinda of a trio, because in the end it's three people playing instruments and someone singing. A trio always end up sounding bit different to more traditional set ups where you have a second guitarist, or an additional keyboard... I guess there are spaces that you can't fill, so it forces you to make the best music you can with what you have in terms of instruments available on the moment. The instruments are also kinda "vintage" as Sam plays an old wurlitzer, while Paul plays a Roland synth for the bass sound and a old Farfisa Pianorgan from 1964 that i bought originally for myself on Ebay!! Lawrence, who plays the drum, has been trained as a "jazz drummer" so he's as much into the rhythm/tempo than the tone of what he's playing. It's hard to say if he does it on purpose or if it's just totally natural, but he really approaches his drums like a piano.

We hear there is an album on the way. We're very excited about this, what can you tell us about it ?

It's very exciting. The album is called Starsign Trampoline and will be released on the 1st of June. It was confirmed just a few days ago. 2 tracks will be also released on I-tunes as a single on the 18th of May. The album has 11 songs, and each one of them took loads of care. And we also put loads of care into everything related to the album, from the beautiful artwork to the sound of the snare over this very chord - right there - listen!!... ;o) We had to drop some other tunes, not many, but about 4 or 5. Purely because we tried to put a collection of tunes together, to create something, more than just the "best" or more "catchy" or whatever tunes we had.

And are there plans for any more live shows ? We've yet to see you play at anything but festivals and want to see more....

We've spent most of the summer and autumn rehearsing the songs, recording and mixing the album. So we stopped playing live for three or four months. Since early January, we've been working on putting a new set together, and getting "stage fit" again as a band. Our first concert of the year was on the 7th of March at the Orange club in Canterbury and we were all really looking forward to it.

As this article is called Welcome To The Beautiful South, what is your favourite Beautiful South Song ?

Woman in the Wall

Thanks very much !! That’s been a brilliant interview.

No Thank youuu!!

Here is a sweet little video from Lucky Elephant. It's a self titled instrumental that is just screaming to be used as backing music for something wonderful. Breaking More Waves highly recommends that you make Starsign Trampoline an essential purchase this summer.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

The B Of The Bang - Welcome To The Beautiful South

The B Of The Bang from Portsmouth are just about to set out on a nationwide tour with The Dawn Chorus in support of their single Alfred, Light The Fires. The band will soon be parading their music, a mixture of folk, rock and doom laden electronics through some of the toilet venues of the UK. Their sound has been described as dark and elegiac, so it comes as quite a surprise to find that lead singer Christopher Whitear, whilst having a certain and stable vision of how his music should be, also has a subtle and sometimes self depriciating sense of humour.

This article is called ‘Welcome To The Beautiful South’. You are based in Portsmouth. What do you think, as musicians, are the benefits of being located where you come from ? And what are the bad things ?

Errr.....hmmm......good things.......errr.....the sea? Just joshing - I think Southsea especially has a great music community at the moment. There are some really strong bands around (The Dawn Chorus, Hold Fast, Loz Bridge & The Box Social, Andy Foster and others) and some great venues who really get behind live music (The Cellars, Little Johnny Russell’s etc...). Stuff like Southsea Fest last year showed that, when people set their mind to it, great things can happen. I love the whole 'independent republic of Albert Road''s reminiscent of the North Laines in Brighton. Only with less silly haircuts.

On the downside - Portsmouth is not really known for its cutting-edge, forward-thinking, embrace-culture attitude is it? But I do think that’s slowly changing. There's only 143 lad-rock, libertine rip-offs this year so that’s down 82% from last year...

Yes we agree that there have been a huge number of sub standard lad rock bands in Portsmouth. Where are the girls forming bands ? When there is a girl in a band it seems she is always the vocalist backed by males. And yes, whilst The Libertines at their peak were fantastic, there are too many imitators who make even the Pigeon Detectives look good. Anyway, moving on, you’ve just teamed up with Jellymaid Music. Tell us about them.

It’s run by Rich Tamblyn who owns The Old Blacksmiths Studios in Portsmouth. Basically, The Dawn Chorus released their album on it last year and it got some great reviews (including a not-to-be-sneezed-at number 7 in John Earls revered Planet Sound list of 2008.). Neil from the band asked if he could record some of our stuff and it worked really well so - like magic, we find ourselves fighting for a common cause. Not sure what that cause is yet mind....we'll be going on tour with them in April so we'll see....

You have a single out this week called Alfred, Light The Fires. Explain and discuss this song please.

It’s from a dream I had. Basically, it was this gothic animation type affair that had a little lad in a flat cap being mischievous in the 1930's. At the end of the dream he burns down an old peoples home, inside which is an 80 year old version of himself. What does it all mean Breaking More Waves???

It means you need to stay off the cider I think. Some of the sounds you make seem to come from a pretty dark place. Why ?

I can't afford light bulbs (chortle chortle). I don't just seems more.....appealing I guess. Its not a conscious decision. I just like minor chords.....there are couple of songs on the album that might surprise you though. They're almost....jaunty. (shudders)

You are building quite a reputation for your live sets where you sometimes go fully unplugged. Is that something you enjoy doing ? And where did the idea come from.

It came out of necessity really. The B Of The Bang is a collective, sometimes there are 6 of us, sometimes it's just me. We played a gig where everything was going wrong, power failures, equipment breaking. I just thought it might be nice to try it. I'd much rather be one of those bands that some nights are utterly fantastic and some nights are utterly shite. You have to try things to keep it interesting for yourself and the audience. Sometimes they work and sometimes not. Again, it's not really a deliberate attempt to be different. I just get bored easily. Those bands you go and see and it just sounds like they've put the record on, I sort of think "what's the point?"

Do you have plans for any further unusual happenings at future live shows ?

You mean like jugglers and dancing girls? Perhaps we could have some dadaism in there? A bit of confrontational situationist type stuff? We'll have to see - hopefully.....

Maybe you could get this man here to DJ before you come on ! I believe you shared a stage with him once ! You also have a reputation for liking your sound to be a little imperfect. De tuned guitars etc. Are you worried that this may put people off your music ?

It’s a weird one this. I speak to a lot of people who just don't seem to understand the concept of imperfectionism. I don't get the point of ironing out every little trace of what makes something human on a record. Obviously you want things to sound as good as they can but a little lo-fi never hurt anyone! The albums I love are ones you have to invest a little time and effort in, you can't really hear the words on Loveless but it's part of its charm. Beauty buried under noise. It's a recurring theme for me I suppose. If you were recording Leadbelly today would you use auto-tune on his guitar? I'm all for using technology but it should support and emphasise what you're trying to say, not squeeze the soul out of it. There's a bit of computer software that can tell you whether your song is likely to be a hit single, which is why a lot of stuff on the radio has that same chord progression, the same bit that changes key etc....fuck off Nickelback.

We hear there is an album on the way. We’re very excited about this, what can you tell us about it ?

I can tell you it's called Beginning. Middle. End. It has 11 songs on it and a few incidental bits of music that link some of the songs. I want it to be like watching a film or reading a book, hence the title.

The video for your song Lung had a great concept. How did that come about ?

It's great because it had very little to do with me! Some friends of ours have a small film company called Pinter Moments. We get on really well and have a lot of similar views on music and film. One of them, Cal, sometimes plays guitar with us and he had this idea for the 'pass-it-on' motif. We did a bit in real life too....leaving CDs and tapes around for people to listen to and give away. They're probably still there....

And finally, this article is called Welcome To The Beautiful South. What is your favourite Beautiful South song and why ?

....I’m sorry I have to go......

The single Alfred, Light The Fires is out this week, you can buy it here. Catch The B Of The Bang on the road with The Dawn Chorus in the UK at a venue near you soon, check the Myspace for details. Here is the video from one of the bands own self releases, Lung released prior to signing to Jellymaid.

Monday 9 March 2009

Peggy Sue - Welcome To The Beautiful South

Peggy Sue, from Brighton, used to be called Peggy Sue and the Pirates. They consist of Rosa “Rex” Slade and Katy Beth "Klaw" Young, now recently joined by a drummer called Olly. Their sound is stripped down, raw and minimal with just a guitar and drums with guest appearances from other instruments such as the melodica and tambourine. Their music is heavily based on strong soulful vocals and quirky harmonies combined with an odd mix of rockabilly and punkish folk. They have played numerous gigs including some high profile supports with Kate Nash. The group have released several EP’s and singles as well as a monthly demo CD for a period of a year. Let’s meet them.

This article is called ‘Welcome To The Beautiful South’. You guys are from Brighton. What are the good and bad things about being a musician in Brighton ?

We’re actually Londoners but the band was born in Brighton and I think it wouldn’t be the band it is if it hadn’t been. Good things are that the music scene is so diverse and not really cliquey at all and everyone is very supportive of each other. So we’ve played with bands like Blood Red Shoes and the Maccabees which musically doesn’t make perfect sense but shows the sense of community there is. The worst thing is that it can get a bit depressing if you start thinking about how many people and bands there are there and how unlikely it is that everyone will make a career in music.

What is your favourite place to play in Brighton ?

We played a show at the Duke of Yorks cinema that was amazing.

If Breaking More Waves was a tourist visiting Brighton what would you recommend we do for a weekend ?

Go to see a film at the Duke of Yorks it’s the best cinema and the popcorn is really cheap. Play the 2p machines on the pier and walk down the seafront past Hove to Moroco’s for an ice cream even if its cold. On Sunday have a Sunday lunch – Brighton is the best place for Sunday lunch. My favourites are The Constant Service or The Walmer. Go for a drink at the Hand in Hand but don’t take too many friends because it only fits about 20 people.

You used to be called Peggy Sue & The Pirates. Where have the pirates gone ?

We had musical differences.

You’ve recruited a drummer. Tell us more.....

Olly joined the band about 6 months ago. We’d wanted to get a drummer for ages but all the drummers we knew were already in bands. We bumped into Olly in Texas and said we were looking for a drummer. He’d come to watch us a few times back in England and his first reaction was ‘no, don’t get a drummer I like it how it is.’ But he called us when we were back home and said ‘if anyone’s going to be your drummer its going to be me.’ Its definitely changed the sound a lot but not in a bad way – he’s an incredibly creative drummer and also very fun. He’s a good addition for sure.

Your live sound has a raw edge to it that you have managed to keep in your recordings. Is that something that you plan to continue or are you going to ‘gloss up’?

I don’t think we will ever ‘gloss up’ partly because we are still not amazingly skilled musicians so part of the rawness comes from our abilities. Luckily all the music we love the most retains that rawness and we tend to be less interested in artists once it seems like they’ve perfected their art. Still, our song writing skills and our guitar playing abilities are improving all the time and we want to make music that we are proud of and that is long lasting but it would also be quite nice to make a living out of it. That spontaneity of anti-folk music and other music that isn’t overworked is really beautiful but at the time we’ve never been purely an anti-folk band our voices have a huge R’n’B and soul influence and that is music that is all about being perfect and impressive so hopefully we can find a middle ground.

We’ve seen you play a couple of surreal gigs. At Camp Bestival last year you were dressed as animals and the year before that you played in a Toy Museum at the Great Escape. Have you had any other surreal gig experiences ?

We played a show in Austin, Texas last year at a man named Hank Sinatra’s ranch. The stage was made out of old metal and there were hens and a huge bbq. All the English people were just following the shade around the garden in a little group because it was so hot. Then Two Gallants played later on and the drummer had to keep his kick drum in place with a big rock. It was basically the best day ever.

You’ve toured with Kate Nash and have just got back from dates with Mumford and Sons. What was it like ?

Both tours were amazing in different ways. The Kate Nash tour was the first tour we ever did and also the first tour she ever did so everyone was new to it and excited and it was really fun. Plus we got to play Shepherds Bush! The Mumford tour we just did was incredible though, it was much more humble but still the crowds were amazing and attentive and musically it made a lot of sense. We were all travelling in one van and sleeping on friends floors and it really makes you feel like you’ve gone somewhere – more so than when you stay in a travelodge every night that looks identical and stop in a service station that sells the exact same sandwiches. Although you do end up a bit smellier.

You also have something in common with Breaking More played Bestival. We appeared there Djing in the Hidden Disco. Do you have plans for more festivals this summer, and if so any clues which ones ?

Yes lots. We want to play as many as possible. The only ones we have confirmed so far are Bestival and Green Man but we’ve got a long list of ones we want to play.

You’ve been putting out a CD a month to your fans. How challenging was that, and why did you do it?

It was challenging because we’re a big shambles and time management is not our strong suit. The actually making and posting of the cd's had a lot of stages and thus lots of moments where we just didn’t get things done it time. The CDs themselves were not a challenge to make - we put on a new song, an old song and a cover – and recorded them in friends bedrooms or on a dictaphone. We did it partly because we had no plans for official releases and we were getting restless and partly because we had a back log of old songs that we knew would never see the light of day. It was also a good way of forcing us to work on new material. It was a great thing to do and I’m really glad we did it and it’s pretty cool that all the months except the last two are already completely sold out.

Thanks very much for answering these questions. But finally, as this article is called Welcome To The Beautiful South, what is your favourite Beautiful South Song ?

Perfect 10

Peggy Sue are playing various gigs and festivals this year. Catch them if you can. You can see a video of the girls dressed up at Camp Bestival, shot shakily by Breaking More Waves here.

Or here is a slightly less wobbly video !

Sunday 8 March 2009

Loz Bridge and the Box Social - Welcome To The Beautiful South

We recently introduced Loz Bridge in our New Waves At Breaking More Waves feature. Now it’s time to meet the man himself.

Hello, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your band and the music you make.

Hello, I’m Loz Bridge and I front Portsmouth-based band Loz Bridge and the Box Social. We’ve come up with a style loosely termed Dark Americana which encompasses old time blues and jazz elements brought up to date. We sing about witches by the fax machine, breaking china and drinking cider, and the many awful things that go on down by the river. We’ve just released our first EP “Witches” and we’re currently trying to spread the word all over the south coast scene.

As a musician what do you think the best and worst things about coming from Portsmouth are?

I couldn’t tell you I’m afraid, coz I don’t – I was born and raised in Preston, and (after a 3 year stint in Amsterdam) moved to Portsmouth in 2003. I can tell you what the best thing is about coming to Portsmouth, is that I’ve made some amazing friends here, some of the best I’ve had. All that bullshit they spin you up North about how people aren’t friendly down south should be ignored. I found the accent incomprehensible when I first arrived though. “Rynd the rynd-a-biyt”? what’s “Rynd the rynd-a-biyt?” I’m into it now though, I’ve started doing my shopping at “Asdas” and all women have become “hon”.

If I had a weekend to kill in Portsmouth where would you recommend I go, and what should I avoid?

Despite what people will tell you, there is a thriving music scene in Portsmouth, and you should definitely head to The Cellars, The Wedge, The Drift (upstairs, never downstairs), and now that they’ve installed a new PA Little Johnny Russells to check it out. You should definitely eat at The Agora (Greek and Turkish), the Kum Pan (Thai), Rosies or Lemon Soul. If you want to see a film try and bypass the tyranny of Vue and nip round the corner to the No.6 independent cinema in the Historic Dockyard. Anywhere on Albert Road should guarantee you a good night, but whatever you do stay well clear of Guildhall Walk. Unless you want your face glassed off that is, in which case knock yourself out…

To be provocative for a moment, one of Breaking More Waves criticisms of the Portsmouth music scene is that there is too much back slapping with not enough constructive criticism. This can lead to artists becoming inward looking in a ‘big fish in a small pond’ kind of way. We think it has something to do with the geographic nature of Portsmouth – it’s almost an island. It possibly explains why so few bands from Portsmouth achieve any commercial success nationally. Would you agree or disagree, and explain what you think about this criticism.

Hmmm, this is a tricky one…

Let’s say you’re right and what Portsmouth needs is more constructive criticism, from where is this criticism going to come? I once read a piece of advice by a record company big shot to struggling young bands that said no-one in the business will ever tell you to your face that you suck, just in case you do make it huge and they become the one idiot who didn’t believe in you. I think that holds true for most elements of the local scene, but it’s established critics like this blog that do have an obligation to be impartial about the material they’re reviewing. I’d argue however that the main point of these critiques is not to educate but to entertain. And let’s be honest for a moment - as an artist the only real reason I expose myself to criticism is in the hope of receiving some positive criticism. I’m not genuinely interested in a constructive analysis of my latest EP, I want a sweet sound bite from a recognised name that I can slap all over my website to generate more interest. If the EP is slated then I’m not going to change my whole style to fit in with his or her comments, I’ll do my best to ignore them and carry on as before and I’d advise any self-respecting artist to do the same! Which raises another interesting point – who’s advice is right, and why should I listen to your opinion? Surely it’s the obligation of any artist to follow his own judgement, and conduct himself and his work according to his own values. I wonder how many times the artists we all now hold in high regard for their individuality had to endure and ignore the opinions of those around them who were all too keen to offer their ‘constructive criticisms’?

I’d argue that if as an artist you don’t possess the ability to judge your own work objectively then you don’t have what it takes to make it in the competitive market. It’s not the plaudits or slatings of your peers that define you, it’s whether what the product you produce is what people want to hear. If you want some criticism then ask yourself this question: do people come to your gigs? Surely that’s the only bottom line that really counts. If not then you’re doing something wrong, and by that token the only critics with a truly meaningful voice are the ticket-buying public.

Now, if you’re the band arguing that you’re not getting your big break because you live on a peninsular…move! Sorry, but I just don’t think that excuse cuts it when there’s local bands like Tremain regularly transporting their fanbase to London and back to secure gigs like their recent show in the O2 Indigo2! Bjork made it global and she’s from Iceland - you don’t find a more desolate rock than that. It doesn’t even have trees for God’s sake!

If you set your own limitations at the edges of your hometown then that’s as far as you’ll ever get, and that’s as true in Preston as it is in Portsmouth…or Iceland.

Some really good points there Loz, and at some point in the future Breaking More Waves may well discuss the value of criticism, as we believe it does have value, both in the sense of professional journalism and amateur music blogs and fanzines. But for now let’s move on. What is ‘the box social’?

A ‘Box Social’ means different things depending on which country you find yourself in. In America I believe it’s fundraiser where they auction off lunchboxes. In Canada I think it’s like a big car boot sale, but my favourite usage is from Victorian Britain. It was deemed inappropriate at this time for young people of opposite sexes to mix together unattended, so the responsible parents would throw parties in their houses called Box Socials where the kids could mingle and the love would flourish…

In my world it comprises Andrew Foster: genius intuitive guitarist and some-time banjo fiddler (and singer/songwriter in his own right), Andy Booth: double bass wrangler and ladies-man, and Matt E: man-mountain and simply the best drummer I’ve ever known.

We hate the word ‘influences’ as it infers ‘who do you like to copy’ which is not always true. So instead, tell me about five albums that you love, irrespective of if they are influences on your band or not.

Alice, by Tom Waits
I’m obsessed by anything and everything that Tom Waits produces, but I think this is the album I come back to most often. It was described by Waits as an album of ‘fairy tales for grownups’ and that encapsulates everything I love about it. Magical and innocent, terrifying and monstrous.

The Bends, by Radiohead
For all of the disconnected, Radiohead offer a horribly disconnected friend to be weird with. I’ve found that the images from this album (the machine that can’t communicate, the fake plastic trees, the gunboat in a sea of fear) are the ones that most articulately define the feelings of alienation, so it’s the album you come to when you feel the most alienated. And that’s a pretty special thing.

Want One, by Rufus Wainwright
There’s moments that come along once in while where you hear something genuinely new, things you didn’t know existed in the world until that moment. That’s how I felt when I saw a clip of Rufus Wainwright performing ‘Vibrate’ from Want One on some late night review program back in 2003, and was hooked. His mix of the classical and the contemporary and some truly awe-inspiring song-writing is something incomparable. He’s one of those guys that makes you wonder why you’re bothering to try since you’ll never say it as clearly or as cleverly as him. Incidentally, seeing Rufus live performing songs from Want One and Want Two was one of my favourite gigs ever.

Without You I’m Nothing, by Placebo
There’s just no-one in the world who can do what these guys do as well as they can do it, and there’s something incredibly appealing about that. When Molko sings the chorus line from the title track “Without you, I’m nothing”, you really feel it – that’s something you can’t fake.

On How Life Is, by Macy Gray
Maybe it was just that this album arrive at a point in my life where I started to write music that I’ve got such affection for it. Or maybe it’s just the groove. This sits in the category for me of a perfect album, there’s no waste, no fat, nothing I’d loose to improve it. It’s ten perfect tracks, a killer voice, amazing feel – and if you ever doubt Macy’s songwriting abilities just listen to ‘Still’ and tell me she can’t write a good tune.

How do you approach playing live, and do you enjoy the live experience?

Playing live for us is like cooking Chinese food; it takes us a month’s worth of serious preparation to play for half an hour. And I’m happy with that - I’d far rather spend a month producing half an hour of really honed material than go out gigging three times a week playing stuff I don’t really care about. I basically want every show we do to be worth the ticket price. Everybody has bad nights and that’ll never change, but if we fuck up because we haven’t rehearsed enough then that’s our fault and there’s no excuse for charging people money to see that show. Also, I have trouble persuading people to come and see me support a band that I wouldn’t want to see myself so I now try to wait for shows that I have a genuine emotional investment in, then I can get enthusiastic when I’m trying to sell it to people.

What are your plans for the band this year?

Well after my rant earlier about setting your own limitations I think my priority has got to be getting out and about gigging outside of Portsmouth!

And finally, as this article is called ‘Welcome to the Beautiful South’, what is your favourite Beautiful South song?

Rotterdam, for a particular reason. As Chris Rock said, “Whatever music was playing when you started having sex, you’re going to love that music for the rest of your life.” So…

The Witches EP by Loz Bridge and the Box Social is out now, and you can read more about it here.