Tuesday, 18 December 2012

BARBERSHOPERA – INTERVIEW AND REVIEW


Interview with the cast of Barbershopera, the Three Musketeers, and a review of the show at the Drum, Theatre Royal – 15/12/2012

From day one, the point of this blog was to celebrate my love of the eclecticism within music and maybe open a few minds and ears to something a bit different. Barbershopera are something very different but also something very, very good. Although they perform their shows within a theatre and go under the guise of musical theatre, the songwriting ability and the vocal talent possessed by the four folk behind Barbershopera would be impressive in any arena. Thanks to a bit of cheeky journalistic opportunism on my part, I managed to arrange a brief chat with the four vocally talented members of Barbershopera before one of their performances of the new show, the Three Muskateers, at the Drum, Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

The Barbershopera crew relaxing in the Theatre Royal bar
I sit down with all four members in the bar and their camaraderie is immediately obvious for all to see. Right to left (see photo) I am chatting with long serving members Lara Stubbs and Pete Sorel-Cameron as well as new additions Tim Sutton and Minal Patel. Now, these four have absolutely no connection with Plymouth but the Barbershopera crew are now on their third Drum Theatre Christmas residency and the first question I have to ask is, well, why? Why Plymouth? Why Christmas? Pete kicks us off, “The Theatre Royal is really supportive and is massive as far as theatres in the Southwest go. Cornwall has some really nice theatres but nothing on the scale of the Theatre Royal. The first time we played they just offered us the chance to do our Christmas show here and we really enjoyed ourselves so that’s why we keep coming back. It’s a nice way to build up to Christmas too. We’re staying in a new area this year out at Devil’s Point which is quite close to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall so we’re hoping to get some nice lunch tomorrow”. Lara is keen to jump on the Plymouth love-in too, “The Drum has a fantastic reputation with new writing and new plays so it’s great to be involved and to be invited back”. The traditional image for barbershop music is four chaps in straw boaters with red waist-coats and waxed moustaches and one of them has a voice like Brian Blessed. Therefore, you might expect a certain kind of audience but the average audience for a Barbershopera show literally covers that 8 to 80 spectrum that advertisers seem to love so just how have these guys managed to make their appeal so broad? Wearing a rakish new hat, Tim is keen to explain, “I think this is a show which has intelligent humour, hopefully quite contemporary humour and a lot of it is modelled on and influenced by contemporary comic style. So there are lots of different levels for lots of different people who might want to come along. Also, a lot of people appreciate the effort that’s gone in to the show musically”. Lara is perhaps the calm, decisive ‘Spice’ of the Barbershopera clan,”It’s actually really lovely to have such a wide spectrum of audience because it sort of, oh God this is going to sound really cheesy, it sort of brings everyone together”! “There are no fans we actively discourage”, quips Pete, clearly the livewire of the group both on and off stage. “Every show is different. This show, just to warn you, contains some French. So there are some people who really dig on the really niche GCSE French jokes while some people really like some of our more bawdy gags and some like the more subtle, political jokes. So depending on the age or the taste of the audience we can have a completely different show every night which, as a performer, is amazing.” Tim “For instance, last night we had 50 members of a Plymouth ladies barbershop choir who come because they love the style and the harmonies”.

You're for the Barber-chop-era.....sorry
Anyone going to Barbershopera show will realise after about 10 minutes that these guys never stop moving or singing for the entire show and with no microphones, no stage breaks and sparse props they really have to sell the story through their talent and a few wigs. The energy and commitment to performance that they put in requires an awful lot of stamina so surely they have a rigorous, Rocky-esque training regime, yes? No. “Punching meat is pretty much all we do”, deadpans Pete, smiling wryly from under his moustache. Minal Patel speaks up for the first time,”We don’t really do anything. There’s a term that we use called show fit and that’s what we have to be. We have two weeks of rehearsals which is nothing, especially for a show like this and especially for me as this is my first professional job since leaving drama school. I was used to having 4 or 5 weeks to rehearse for a part in a musical and then suddenly you have 2 weeks to prepare for a show where you’re doing the acting, the singing and all of the musical elements. So you just go past a level of being human and you work such long hours because you just have to do it right. There’s no way I can avoid the work or side step it because once you’re on the stage there’s no getting away from it, you have to perform”. Cheeky Pete butts in again, “The show keeps you fit as well. It’s basically an hour and a half of sweating with some funny stuff thrown in as well of course. It’s more exciting than just watching us sweat. I don’t know whether the dancers from the panto would say that we have a hard job though. We just watched the panto today and they work pretty hard but then they get time off stage which we don’t and their costumes are better than ours”.

Being funny night after night is often  said to be something that turns comedians in to bitter, morose recluses so I’m keen to know what keeps the show fresh for these guys after a 10 date tour followed by a long residency. “During rehearsals I always go through a stage of thinking that the material is hilarious and really worrying that I won’t make it through a show”, admits Lara, “but then it just becomes....not so much dead as just another line. Then, to bring it to life again, you have to get it in front of an audience so that you can almost remember where the jokes are. Every night people laugh in different places which also gives everything more freshness”. Tim,“There is one bit that really makes me laugh and in the first show that we did in the Midlands I was laughing too much and I couldn’t sing the line. So I have to remind myself that it’s not my job to laugh but to deliver the laughs and let the audience take care of the rest.”

Listen With Monger is a music blog so I had to get to the music question sooner or later. Although barbershop is the underpinning style of the shows, the quartet do work in a lot of different styles from R’n’B and Pop right through to Opera and Doowop. But away from the stage, what really gets their heads a’bobbing and their toes a’tapping? Pete suddenly turns serious (I’m scared), “Barbershop is quite a static genre really, there aren’t really many contours of emotion. It’s either quite cheerful or quite mournful all the way through. So me, Rob [Castell, writer and sometime performer] and Tom [Sadler, writer] were at Uni together and sang a lot of close harmonies, because we were really cool, and thought it would be really funny to write an opera in the barbershop style which has evolved in to this group. There isn’t a lot of pure barbershop in the show now but we had to play around with it to fit in with the humour”. That’s all very well, Pete, what about after the show? What do you kick back with after the after party? “We’re all going to be doing a bit of karaoke later actually”! Lara explains her background, “I’d always sung lots of Soul, Pop and Rock as well as songs from musicals but never any barbershop. Lots of close harmony stuff but nothing like this.” Pete’s moustache twitches again, “I’m an Indie kid. I like to sing the brand of Indie Folk that is terribly in right now. I am a big fan of playing my guitar and singing songs that people can’t dance to.” Tim, “I studied classical music at University and am a composer as well as an actor so a lot of the time I’m writing for choir or opera with a variety of arrangements.” “Musical theatre is my passion,” Minal humbly admits,” but there are so many styles within musical theatre that saying that isn’t as limiting as it perhaps used to be. That variety makes me want to sing.”

As the bar is filling up with children carrying the stuffed carcass of Basil Brush (it’s a panto thing I later find out, not some sort of fox hunting ritual), there is only time for one more question. So what of the future? Will we be seeing Barbershopera on our television any time soon? “It would be nice to do some TV. We are in talks and something is bubbling away but nothing is confirmed just yet,” teases Lara. “We are airing on Radio 4 on Christmas Eve at 2.15pm which is going to be great, really excited about that. We’re also going to try working on our online presence more because our Youtube music videos have gone down really well, they are great fun to make and it’s a really good way to reach loads and loads of people.” Does this mean a follow up to the Will and Kate video from last year (see above), possibly featuring a royal baby? “Possibly, you’ll have to watch this space....”!! That, people, is as close to an exclusive as we’ve had on this here blog!

Without further ado, the quartet make their way backstage to prepare for the show and, after a swift pint, I make my way in to the theatre to await the show, The Three Musketeers. As the lights go down, four figures in white, puffy shirts slide across the stage. They tell the story of the famous Christmas Pudding embargo placed on the French town of Pissypooville (there’s that bawdyness) and one young girl’s quest to infiltrate and eventually win over the infamous Three Musketeers. This is done through the medium of song, naturally, some evocative dancing and various moments of cross dressing.  The characters number an extremely camp Duke of Buckinghamshire (Sutton), the evil Cardinal Richtea (Stubbs), a strangely giddy M’Lady (Patel) and a golden plum obsessed King Louis XIII (Sorel-Cameron). All four cast members change character seamlessly and switch between languages, accents and wigs like they were born to the stage. The energy and fun coming from the stage is infectious whilst the humour is superbly timed and extremely well observed – the moment that the French consider replacing the Christmas pudding with their own, substandard delicacies at the ball is wonderfully ironic and beautifully performed. By the end of the show, the cast are indeed sweating (there’s that training paying off) but they are also beaming as are the audience. The climax of the show is a medley of reworked Christmas favourites, from carols to Aled Jones, and some audience participation that manages to get everyone involved without the usual, British reserve. These are a talented bunch and after seeing them live again I’m glad I didn’t get to ask the one question that I had to leave out because of the crowds in the bar; would you ever take your act on to Britain’s Got Talent? Britain has got talent but we don’t need a text vote to prove it, just get out there and find it for yourself.

More information:


Check out Barbershopera’s the Barber of Shavingham as Radio 4’s play of the day on Christmas Eve at 2.15pm 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

INTERVIEW WITH LAST SHOP STANDING


Interview with Chris Muirhead and Tom Thrasher, the men behind Plymouth’s new independent record store, Last Shop Standing

Last Shop Standing as you come through the door
On a frosty Monday morning in December I find myself hanging around Bretonside bus station in Plymouth waiting for a man I’ve only ever talked to Facebook and I have to ask myself if I've really taken my life in the direction it should have gone. Before the thoughts get too depressing, however, a chirpy, bearded man approaches, shoulders hunched against the cold, and shakes my hand before leading me in to the latest bastion against soulless commercialism, against the lowest common denominator, against mass market drudgery – Last Shop Standing.

The store was conceived in the early part of 2012 by friends Chris Muirhead and Tom Thrasher and opened in all its glory at the start of December which, considering the unit used to be a store for greasy catering equipment, is an impressive effort on its own. Add to that the challenge of opening an independent record store in an age of digital downloads and X-factor induced musical apathy and, well, there is only one question to start with; why did you do it?! Muirhead answers, largely because Thrasher is either still in bed or on his way, “I was approached by my friend Tom. He was working in a job he hated, I’d just been made redundant and I was then working at a vinyl and CD processing place where I noticed a marked increase in bands and labels ordering their music on vinyl. When Tom first approached with the idea I did think it was madness and thought maybe a website would work but the more we looked in to it the more it became something that people wanted. People want a place to go and listen to music and do more than vaguely connect with people online but to actually sit down with other people and talk about music”. So from two mates having a great business idea (we've all been there, right?) to the wonderfully boutique record store I’m sitting in right now there must have been a few obstacles on the way, yes? Muirhead again, “This unit was absolutely disgusting. There was a lot of grease and getting it done up was a lot of hard work. The part that we thought would be a lot more fun was picking the selection of records for the shop and with sale or return being non-existent we had to be absolutely sure that whatever we bought would sell. So that was a lot of late nights in front of spreadsheets looking at thousands and thousands and thousands of releases saying ‘that one’ and then having to justify to it each other.”

Vinyl destination
At this point, Tom scurries through the door and is eager to join the discussion immediately while he makes himself a cuppa and I ask how business has been since opening up less than a month ago. “It’s not like we expected to be mobbed every day and we didn’t expect there to be nobody here but it’s certainly been encouraging. Now that we are actually open I’m more interested in turning people on to vinyl I think. We’ve had people come down who collect vinyl or are used to buying vinyl or have got back in to it recently but it’s the people who come down who are just intrigued by a new record shop that I’m interested in turning on to vinyl and the whole lifestyle that goes with it”. Now I’ve spent many an hour rummaging through record shops up and down the country and already these guys already seem like two of the most passionate and affable record shop owners I’ve ever come across but just what is it that makes them think this is still a necessary presence on the high street (or bus station in this case)? Thrasher jumps in, “Musical is a social thing I think. I mean, I’d get bored if I could never talk to anyone about what I was listening to and I was just sat at home on my own. We’ve seen that already with people coming in and discussing what they’re listening to and what they’re buying.” Muirhead takes it to a more sociological level, “Discussing something online is different because you’re hidden behind a screen and you have that 30 second delay while you think about what you’re going to say. When you’re actually sat down with someone and you’re listening to music there’s no protection and you learn so much more from each other’s reactions and reflections because you’re not sat at home listening to different music and discussing an album that hasn’t even come out yet.”

Passionate stuff for 10.30 on a Monday morning, eh? On a lighter note, there are bound to be confused customers or bored travellers waiting for the next bus out of Plymouth but have they had any particularly misinformed requests? A wry smile crosses Thrasher’s face, “We had a request for Rod Stewart and one guy came in asking for a Lady Gaga album. He wanted it on vinyl though, for his wife. He liked classical music but we don’t really know anything about that and we don’t have enough space to stock everything so we asked if he liked anything else and he came back with “Seattle music from the 90s”! It’s quite a jump but from that I found out that he hadn’t heard the Pixies so we sold him Doolittle. Whether he liked it or not, I don’t know.” To make a success of this shop, Chris and Tom will need to learn how to turn browsers in to buyers or sounds in to pounds so if I was to ask them to sell me something for £20 what would I get? The immediate, unflinching response from Muirhead is “That depends on what you like really”. Exactly the right answer. Thrasher picks up the thread, “There are certain records that people will pick up and I would be able to say “that’s one of my favourite records, I want a copy of that”, like the new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album. Then again I want most of it”. “It’s very dependent on mood as well”, Muirhead expands, “you might want something quite uplifting or you might want something more melancholic. The thing with our collection is that it’s a load of classics from the last 20 or so years and then new releases. We’re really excited about new music so we would talk to you about what you like to try to find something that fits but we certainly wouldn’t try to palm something off on you”. Thrasher explains, though, that they do get some challenging customers, “A guy I kind of know came in on the first day and just said “sell me something” so I asked what he was in to but he refused to say so I suggest the Neutral Milk Hotel record because that’s my favourite record. You’d have to be made of stone not to like that record”.

Set the records straight
Passionate, knowledgeable, moral and thoroughly articulate to boot. Surely this is too good to be true. Is having music geeks running an independent record store not akin to alcoholics running a pub though? Doomed to failure, surely? “Maybe”, muses Muirhead, “Firstly you have to remember that it’s a business. That analogy works but the difference is an alcoholic running a pub would die, our passion won’t kill us”. Thrasher agrees, “You wouldn’t want someone who knows nothing about beer running a pub and that’s the same for us. I’ve heard of people going in to HMV to ask if they have any Tom Waits and they just get told that he doesn’t work there! It’s poor customer service but HMV are going to die soon anyway.”

For those of you that don’t know, Bretonside Bus Station also houses one of Plymouth’s finest venues, the White Rabbit, so surely the proximity means there will be some hook ups between the two independent ventures? Muirhead, an ex-White Rabbit employee, is enthusiastic again, “They put on a lot of gigs there which is great and Dan [James, White Rabbit Head Honcho] has been a huge help from giving us advice to giving us the bar stools that we’re sat on! And when they put on bands that want to get involved they can come in to the store to do a signing or an acoustic session as well. We’re going to be fairly strongly linked because we want this whole area to be more vibrant and less depressing really. There’s an old record store next door, Really Good Records, which is amazing for 2nd hand stuff and now there’s a live music venue and us. So if there was a cool vintage clothing store or art shop that would be amazing.” There are lofty ambitions afoot though as Thrasher explains, “We want to be able to say that Plymouth has the coolest bus station! It’s way better than Bristol.”

With vinyl surrounding us and a decent smattering of CDs available I wonder what the proprietors think of the recent resurgence of the cassette tape on the new music scene. Scepticism is rife, “I don’t know how popular it will get. There’s maybe a Hip-Hop element that may push it along but I think it will be around for a couple of years and then fizzle out”, reckons Muirhead. Thrasher, though, gets straight to the point, “It’s not like vinyl where the sound is just better. It’s almost just a way of selling your music or something to print a download code on to. It might as well be on Betamax, you could replace the tape with anything. Our friend was joking that he might bring out an ale and just print the download code on the glass so you get a song with a pint”. Uncharacteristically, Muirhead warms to the format, “We’re stocking one tape at the moment from local band Whoanows [reviewed on this very blog] and I’ve got a tape player in my van that I normally just plug my i-Phone in to but I gave it a go and it does have some redeeming features. The quality isn’t good but it is distinctive. I mean the Clash works amazingly well but Public Image Ltd sounded awful. It’s almost as though you should have to listen to the Clash on tape! A bit like watching old horror movies on VHS I guess”.

So what for the future, where can Last Shop Standing go? Muirhead gets animated, “There’s still a lot to do with the store and we’re aware that you can’t just get away with being a record store anymore. We’re going to be branching out in to selling limited edition screen prints, concert posters, magazines, books and indie cinema DVDs. Not a huge amount but the sort of stuff that we would recommend. We’re also hooking up with One C Records (Plymouth based vinyl and tape label) and the Il Pleut T-shirt and screen printing company to try to incorporate different things and innovate. There will also be in-store performances from local and national acts and poetry nights. Other than that it’s just promoting the shop and buying lots and lots of records”! At this point I can hide my jealousy no longer and only my damned lack of cojones prevents me from ringing my day job boss and quitting so that I can run off with these likely lads to join the musical circus. Thrasher sounds a word of warning though, “When you start stocking a shop you realise that you know absolutely nothing. We’ve gone through stock lists for labels and never heard of any of the artists. I mean, we just got a compilation album in called Sexual Lives of the Savages (Soul Jazz Records) which is Brazilian post-punk and it’s brilliant but I do not know one band on this compilation”.

Last Shop Standing is what it says on the tin. It’s the last place you can go to get any kind of real interest in your musical tastes and advice based on more than what the last tune you listened to on Spotify was. There is only one thing that I don’t like about this shop and that is the fact that I’m not running it. Ah well, maybe there’s room for a spin-off store in Cornwall. Penultimate Shop Standing, anyone?

More information

Thursday, 13 December 2012

WOAHNOWS – EP REVIEW

Whoanows - Foma

Woahnows – Foma (self release – tape/download only)

OK so maybe I’m a little late to the party with this one (the EP was released back in September) but after hearing the track ‘Go’ on the split single with the PJP band I thought the Woahnows warranted a little further investigation. ‘Go’ is back as the opening track on this five track tape only release (you get a download code with the tape though, don’t worry techno-heads) but if you want to know what I think of that then you’d best read my review of the aforementioned split single, hadn’t you!? Bleeding straight out of ‘Go’ is the furious and unrelenting ‘Collective Asperation’ (sic) which hits you in the face which jerky guitars, distorted vocals and a gang mentality that jars beautifully with the message behind the lyrics. ‘Packets of People’ is so unhinged that you fully expect the wheels to come off at any minute but, thoughtfully, a few moments of calm have been dropped in by the Plymouth trio. Title track ‘Foma’, however, is my peach in this particular fruit salad though with shades of Idlewild, early Biffy, Dananananaykroyd and any number of hardworking American hardcore pop-punk bands. “If this is the life, I’d rather be dead, living to work, living despair”, now there’s a lyric. We’ve all had that feeling haven’t we? It’s a Monday morning after an amazing weekend doing just what you love and thought just drifts in to your head between the bleating of your alarm clock. Those are also the opening lines to EP closer ‘Poor Greedy Poor’ which holds itself up as an anthem for the day jobbers, the day dreamers and those always one day away from packing it all in. All in all, this is a vital set of songs but, as with so much of the stuff I get sent, I don’t think it does the band justice but only the live experience will truly tell so I’m going to keep my eyes out for live shows. See you there?

More information

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

HOLLOW GIANTS – SINGLE REVIEW

Hollow Giants - Dreams/Fears

Hollow Giants – Dreams/Fears

Two men, one garage, an iPhone and an eight track to record a song on. That’s all you need to make rock’n’roll and even then the iPhone is a luxury! The beauty and simplicity of this song is the imposing urgency coupled with gratifying immediacy created by two guys doing something the utterly believe in. The hypnotic drums keep coming with such relentlessness that you can almost see the concentration on the sticksman’s face as he maintains that ferocious horse galloping rhythm. From somewhere deep inside that rhythmic drumming comes a swirling, fuzzed up guitar line that is dripping in Black Rebel Motorcycle Club but also reminds me of Achtung Baby era U2 and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Finally come the vocals, all frustrated restraint and gritted teeth that suggest the garage they recorded this in was mighty cold. Plainly speaking, this is rough around the edges and there are things that could be better but the heart and soul is there for anyone to see. A little like finding a dirty, mangy cat mewling at the bottom of your garden – not much to look at by something in those dark brown eyes tells you to take it in, clean it up and the rewards will be plentiful. There’s your quote – Hollow Giants are like a mangy cat that you should adopt.

More information:

Sunday, 9 December 2012

THE IDIOT BASTARD BAND – LIVE REVIEW

Bunch of idiots

The Idiot Bastard Band @ Carnglaze Caverns/Rum Store – 07/12/12 

On paper this evening consisted of sitting in a cave at a balmy 10 degrees Celsius watching four upper-middle aged gents playing some covers and some songs of their own. In reality that was exactly what was presented but the slight tweak was that the four gents in question were Ade Edmonson, Phil Jupitus, Rowland Rivron and Neil Innes – four giants of comedy. As they take to the stage following an introduction from a white dinner-jacketed cave owner (weird, I know), the quartet hit the ground running in terms of comedy, musicianship, banter and charm....of sorts.  From their own songs, like Edmonson’s beautifully observed version of the overheard mobile conversation  that we’ve all heard ‘Man On A Train’, to covers, Arctic Monkeys ‘Don’t Sit Down Cos I’ve Moved Your Chair’ was a highlight for me, everything was done with fun, good humour and surprisingly excellent musicianship throughout.

Tonight was a celebration of comedy music and the comic song with absolutely no pretension, no ego and very little taste in clothing. Versions of the Flight of the Conchords’ ‘Carol Brown’ and John Hegley’s ‘I Need You’ and Ian Dury’s ‘There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards’ sung by a beautifully expressive Rivron on drums. There is an element of performance and timing to the show that tells you that these guys care about the comic song but there is just enough improvisation and corpsing mid-song that to keep the set fresh and, most importantly, keep it fun for the band. However, It’s on the wondrous ‘Infusion’, originally by Nervous Norvous, that these particular Bastards come in to their element. Edmonson and Innes take a musical lead while Rivron provides hilarious and often confusing sound effects for each car crash featured in the song. The cherry is added by Jupitus, though, regularly halting proceedings to question the homo-erotic nature of the lyrics (“shoot the juice to me Bruce”, “pop the fluid in me Louis” and “put a gallon in me Alan” being the choicest of these lines). It’s this combination of musicianship, improvisation and utterly genius comedy timing that makes this such a fun show.

The climax of this show is twofold and leaves the audience with a warm glow – necessary when you’ve spent the evening sat in a cave during a damp December in Cornwall. Firstly, “I Am A Coldplay Song” is the band’s attempt at an anthemic ballad which the band will be remembered by but it’s also a wonderfully straight-on assessment of the shameless design on structure of the crowd pleasing, tear jerking, BBC montage beds that are spewed out by the indie-soft-rockers. This was accompanied by Jupitus orchestrating a mobile phone light show (“Just the Nokia’s”) which, amazingly, lit up the caves like some sort of low budge Jean-Michel Jarre laser display. After well deserved and prolongued applause the band returned to their instruments to perform the Innes penned Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band hit “I’m The Urban Spaceman” to rapturous applause and a full audience sing-a-long.

The moral of this story, then, is that the next time four old(er) men invite you to follow them in to a cave on a dark night then you might want to think about following them. You never know, you could have a riotously fun evening of music and comedy. Alternatively, you could have a horrible, life-changing, mentally scarring experience but at least you’ll be able to enjoy the Geology!

More information

Thursday, 29 November 2012

THE CREEPING IVIES – ALBUM REVIEW

The Creeping Ivies - Stay Wild

The Creeping Ivies – Stay Wild (Dead Beat Records)

Release Date: 10th December

OK, so here we have a duo from Scotland who introduce themselves as Becca Bomb and Duncan Destruction, play stripped down garage-rock and have an attitude that far outweighs their musical talent. I’m hooked! This is raw, primal stuff that distills the essence of rock’n’roll into a potion that can be kept in a vile around the neck of a Russ Meyer heroine. Imagine Adam West’s Batman wondering into a den of iniquity to find a villain only to be surrounded by evil dancing henchwomen – well ‘Black Cat’ is the theme tune to that scene.  ‘Madhouse Blues’ has a hypnotic rhythm to it that draws you in and ‘Spinning’ is drenched is sustain and disdain.

Becca Bomb has the same vocal style as Karen O at her most vitriolic and if you imagine that played out over the top of music in the style of the Cramps, White Stripes or the 5,6,7,8s then you’re getting somewhere near the raw energy produced by this dynamic duo. The fact that Duncan Destruction plays a stripped down kit featuring just snare, floor tom and a cymbal makes the rhythmic nature of this music all the more impressive. This is music for the masses and tunes like ‘The World’ and ‘House of Ivy’ have a genuine ‘pop’ quality that Edwyn Collins or Phil Spector would love to get their hands on. ‘Rock N Roll Ghost’ is as close as the Creeping Ivies come to a ballad but even then it’s absolutely full of soul, atmosphere and attitude. As a parting shot ‘Stay Wild’ is a natural choice and I’m sure this is the tune that crowds go mental to at the live shows as both members of the band thrash the living daylights out of what little kit they have.
There’s no denying that these guys aren't the most talented musicians around or even the best songwriters but what matters here is that they are performing the music they love with passion, honesty and a sense of rock’n’roll fun about them. All the Creeping Ivies want to do is rock out and make you dance, so why not give them what they want?

More information: http://thecreepingivies.com/

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

VIOLET BONES – ALBUM REVIEW

Violet Bones - Decline of Vaudeville

Violet Bones – Decline of Vaudeville (The Animal Farm)

Release Date: 26th November

I bet Violet Bones are great live. I’ve never seen them play but I get the feeling that they have to be fantastic on stage. I’m basing this theory purely on the fact that they play songs that aren’t necessarily predictable but, on first listen, you can tell what’s coming next and that usually makes a crowd feel comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these are bad songs and they are certainly well performed, it’s just that it feels like I’m listening to Honeycrack or Three Colours Red or the Pigeon Detectives.....again.

‘Chemicals’ is a cheeky, cockney bounce-a-long with lots of urgency and choppy riffs while ‘Villains’ is some sort of anthem for being beaten up in a pub brawl – although it ends up sounding like the story your mate tells when he got mugged by two 12 year-olds and turns it in to a gang of angry Chelsea fans to save face. Rik, Oz, Si and Stu don’t feel the need for full names and I suspect this makes them feel like they are a little bit punk but the trouble is the music is too polished and the lyrics try too hard. For example, on ‘I Feel The Need’ the line “My Boss he don’t like me, he finds my look offensive, these clothes are dirty, who cares? They’re not expensive” just sounds like someone trying to be rebellious rather than a dyed in the wool rebel.

‘Now Or Never’ sounds like a yobby, gobby rant to getting leathered that the “College” band in Hollyoaks might get on to Grimmy’s show with and ‘It’s Not What You Said’ is a 2 minute rant that could be the musical equivalent of the “you’re not my muvva” argument in Eastenders. Credit where it’s due though, ‘Aristotle, Albion and Lerne’ has a great, triumphant positivity about it and is, lyrically, a refreshing departure from the rest of the album as the band take on broken Britain and pointless wars in foreign lands. Album close, ‘Most Times’, is a mellow, melancholy Mumford-esque tune that never really goes anywhere and leaves the album on a bit of a flat note after the energy and enthusiasm of the previous 10 songs. Essentially, I don’t dislike ‘Decline of Vaudeville’ as such, I just don’t know when I’d ever listen to it and I don’t think I know anyone else who would want to.

More information:

Live Dates:
1st December – The Shed, Leicester
21st December – The White Horse, Sudbury
22nd December – Floods Tavern, St Ives

Sunday, 25 November 2012

C. A. SMITH – ALBUM REVIEW

CA Smith - Someone You Love

C. A. Smith – Someone You Love (Throwing Hands/We Are Busy Bodies)

Release Date – 3rd December

C.A. Smith. The Mayor. Christian Anderson Smith. Mayor McCA. The Hamburgler. One of these has not been used as a title for this Canadian songsmith but songsmith is the only moniker that matters. Much like old Folk troubadours, Smith doesn’t necessarily deal in slickness or pitch perfectness but instead he creates heady atmospheres and tells stories over undulant soundscapes. At times Smith explores the same lo-fi backstreets as Beck, E, or David Kitt but then saunters down slacker avenues alongside the likes of Weezer, the Dandy Warhols or Evan Dando. Then again, on ‘Shoot’ here is a one man band outdoing what the two people of White Stripes used to do in their early days. ‘I Wanna Pet’ is a bitter-sweet tale of a man in desperate need of a kitten but who has but two pairs of trousers to his name so can’t support a small feline – a responsible bum if you like. If you’re looking for a slacker waltz then look no further than ‘H4B’ or perhaps you would prefer to wait 3 minutes for the full on rock’n’roll romp of ‘Hey Bloo’.

There is a dry, deadpan humour running through Smith’s songs that make you do an aural double-take which is never more apparent than on ‘Apologize To Your Boyfriend’ and the addictively perky ‘Addicted To Chapstick’ which features some wonderful ukulele and harmonica interplay. The album finishes off with the ever-so-polite ‘Drinkalottawater’ which gives you various tips for a successful life, including “brush your teeth three times a day, make sure you floss ‘em too, say the things you wanna say and do what you do”. It’s not groundbreaking stuff but it’s from the heart, it’s done with a glint in the eye and a wonderful way with words. So, if the music of C.A. Smith was a chap then I would gladly share a bottle of port with it and chat in to the small hours about life, love and loneliness. P.S. It wasn't the Hamburgler.

More information:

THE BAD JOKE THAT ENDED WELL – ALBUM REVIEW

The Bad Joke That Ended Well

The Bad Joke That Ended Well – The Bad Joke That Ended Well (Stolen Body Records)

After a long trip-hop hangover, Bristol seems to be finally re-emerging as a real musical force to be reckoned with in the UK. My recent joy at discovering the debut offering from Velcro Hooks has now grown at hearing the delightfully badly named The Bad Joke That Ended Well. The Bristolian Sextet (now that’s a band name) trade in dirty, gritty, nasty garage blues covered in swirling organs and throat shredding vocals that send uncomfortable shivers down the spine – the kind you get when a creepy colleague invades your personal space at the office Christmas party and you realise everyone else has gone on to the pub and it’s just the two of you left..........Anyway, the music. Sounding somewhere between the Animals, Grinderman and Lou Reed, the album opens with the wall of sound that is ‘Journeyman’ before the rhythmic and organ heavy ‘I’m Not There’ kicks and really get things moving. There is a deranged quality to this music that I can imagine creates something of a frenzy in the live arena but on record is the aural equivalent of watching a madman thrash about in a cage, all wild eyes and foaming mouth.

‘Hold My Hand’ is almost a Country-Blues lament with ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ style keys slathered all over it whilst ‘Mountains’ is a perfectly titled tune that creates images of a lone-ranger ambling through the Rockies on the back of a weary steed. ‘Dance of The Dead’ reminds me of Listen With Monger favourites The Clench with its Wild West tinges but it’s on ‘Sundown And Out’ that TBJTEW really explore their sinister side as the hypnotic and slither keys work gives the song a seductive swagger that is the soundtrack to the Devil trying to buy your soul. To finish up with, ‘Strangler’ belts out like a tune the Rolling Stones wish they could still produce if only Jagger had taken a more Shane MacGowan approach to his vocal performances. A foray in to North American pastures is surely on the horizon in 2013 and, with any luck, some success. My only word of caution is that I can’t hear any obvious stand out tracks on here that would suggest commercial success. Then again, it took The Black Keys a couple of albums to properly crack it and now look at ‘em!?

More information:

Live Dates:

15th December - On The Rocks, Bournemouth (Vinyl launch)

Friday, 23 November 2012

BOW TO EACH OTHER – SINGLE REVIEW

Bow To Each Other - Darling

Bow To Each Other – Darling

Release Date: 22nd November

A Canadian and a Norwegian walk in to a bar in Liverpool.....and the result is Bow To Each Other. Gunhild Kristoffersen and Megan Kovacs (guess which is which) are the duo making music under the appropriately Karate Kid inspired moniker and ‘Darling’ is a slice of late 80s synth pop that is made for the remake of the Lost Boys/Working Girl/anything with Meg Ryan in it. Echoey electronic drums, cheap sounding keys (in a good way) and a wistful Scandinavian vocal make this a joyous tune for that moment when you break up with your summer boyfriend in a trendy bar in Hoxton. Anyone listening to this can’t help but want to reach in to the air, grab some invisible hope and then clutch it to their chest with a pained look upon their face. Just give ‘Darling’ a listen and see if I’m not right.

More information:

Live Dates:
12 December – Kampen Bistro, Oslo
15 December - Litteraturhuset, Oslo

RESEARCH TURTLES – ALBUM REVIEW

Research Turtles - Part 2

Research Turtles – Mankiller Part 2 (Normanium Records)


Louisiana. A state built on swamps, deltas and Kid Rock wrestling with alligators on a stoop to the sound of banjo music. So it’s a little surprising when out of the swamp comes the slick, melodic pop-rock of Research Turtles. Obscure name side, these guys have developed a sound that is reminiscent of Redd Kross or the Feeling with the campness dialled down and with less of a Queen obsession. At just 6 tracks ‘Mankiller Part 2’ genuinely presents the second half of an album in an intriguing approach to releasing music in the digital age (or maybe just a solution to getting music in to the public domain while it’s still fresh and not finding yourself in crippling debt to pay for studio time). It’s no great surprise, then, that opener ‘Guy Like Me’ sounds just like the kind of low-key, lo-fi track you would find in the middle of an album with Dandy Warhol’s-esque strummed acoustic guitar provided the bed for spaced out keys and drawled vocals. ‘The Fancy’ is an altogether more upbeat affair with frontman and bassist Jud Norman doing his best sleazy rock voice over the top of polished indie-rock riffs.

For a band that openly extol the greats of the bygone British music scene, Research Turtles have seemingly fused together the Beach Boys’ harmonies and the groove of bands like Weezer to create some genuinely fun romps, such as ‘Break It Up’. ‘Space’ gives more than a nod to the grunge era and the line “I’m temporarily away in space” is just begging to be sung back at the band on a dark, sweaty night. In fact, the more you listen to this album, the more you realise how much musicality and genuine songwriting talent the quartet possess. ‘Into You’ is a jerky, bouncy indie-pop bundle of innocent teen love that would probably be a smash hit worldwide in the hands of One Direction but thank God it’s not in their hands! People often accuse me of not liking pop music but I am a huge fan of good, well written pop and this is it. And to finish up is the slacker, shuffle-pop of ‘What Can I Say?’ which is dripping in the Lemonheads, Teenage Fanclub and too many 90s Britpop bands to mention (oh go on then, just for fun, Octopus, Lush, Shack etc). I don’t know whether it was intended this way but listening to the second half of this album has made me really want to hear the first half because if Part 2 is this good then must be fantastic right? I mean, sequels are never as good as the originals right?

More information:
http://www.researchturtles.com/music

Saturday, 17 November 2012

SHOUT TIMBER – SINGLE REVIEW

Shout Timber - Rich Man

Shout Timber – Rich Man

Release Date: 10th December

Back with a free download single, Shout Timber have love on their mind and they want to tell you all about the one-way love between a snooty rich man and his girl who is, frankly, both enlightened and a bit of a whore (within the three minutes of this song she manages to bed a couple of chefs and the entire crew of a boat). Musically, these guys are making a strong bid to become the British Vampire Weekend  which I’m not convinced we need but there is no doubting that they have a real knack for writing upbeat, catchy, indie-pop nuggets. If they can survive long enough to find their own niche in the music world then I think Shout Timber might just have something but that is quite a big if these days.

More Info & Free Download:


Live dates:

22nd November – The Hideaway, London
3rd December – The Water Rats, London (supporting Animal Kingdom)
4th December – The Actress & Bishop, Birmingham (supporting Jaws)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

HITCHCOCK BLONDE – EP REVIEW

Hitchcock Blonde - Five Pounds

Hitchcock Blonde – Five Pounds EP

Female fronted power-pop, indie-rock bands have developed a bit of a bad reputation since the advent of Girl Bands and the nu-metal approach adopted by people like Evanescence. But with bands like Garbage and Skunk Anansie making a comeback there is obviously a market for some new acts in this sub-genre  Step forward London four-piece Hitchcock Blonde to make their case and what a case it is! The first of the six tracks contained on this EP is the uncompromising and relentless potential chart smash of ‘Baby Knows Best’ which is a bitter and spite-filled anthem for all those that have been on the wrong end of a controlling relationship (is there a right end of a controlling relationship? Discuss). As a showcase for frontwoman Ella Grace’s vocals, this is the perfect opener displaying her fragility alongside her ferocious bite. ‘Buzz Kill’ is a more straightforward, full-speed pop-punk track but does display the subtleties that have been sorely lacking from artists approaching the pop-rock genre from the poppier end of the spectrum without a proper understanding of how rock’n’roll works. Drew Wynan’s off-kilter guitar riffs and thoughtful arrangements are in great affect on ‘Cutglass’ showing that Hitchcock Blonde can break out the stadium sized power chords as well as the intricate indie rhythms you would expect from Franz Ferdinand or early Biffy Clyro.

On ‘Sexy Like You’ Grace comes over all Nina Persson with coy, crackled vocals but her inner diva soon breaks free and then that vocal range is there for all to hear again. It’s exactly the kind of song that you might hear on Heart FM by the person who came 4th in 2009’s X-Factor and it would pass by unnoticed due to the lack of passion or belief in the song. What Hitchcock Blonde have developed is the fine art of crafting superior indie-pop-rock songs and then performing them with such relentless energy and insistence that you’re not allowed to them pass you by. ‘Let It Go’ could be Blur and Lush having a jam back in the 90s after listening to too much Hole and EP closer ‘Animal’ has Debbie Harry’s sneer all over the top of a tune that Josh Homme wishes he had written for the next Queens Of The Stone Age album. I've not seen these guys live yet but I can only imagine that the live show is a spectacle befitting of the schizophrenic nature of their multi-genre straddling tunes. It’s not a phrase I often like to use but with the talent and potential they possess, Hitchcock Blonde are certainly ones to watch...

More information:

Live dates:
15th November 2012 – The Peel, Kingston
26th January 2013 – The Shed, Leicester
21st February 2013 – The Vic, Swindon
8-9th June, 2013 – Alive’n’Dubbin, Suffolk

Saturday, 10 November 2012

WHITE BONE RATTLE – ALBUM REVIEW


White Bone Rattle - Creature Of Curiosity

White Bone Rattle – Creature of Curiosity

Release Date: 26th November

Siblings in bands are not always a good idea are they? There is a spark that can sometimes be good for the creative process but, more often than not, there is a destructive nature that comes with members of the same family making music together (man, that’s sounds so wrong). White Bone Rattle are a Maidstone quartet made up of two pairs of brothers so this album should, by rights, be either a creative masterpiece or the sound of music imploding. Album opener, ‘Eyes of the Island’ is a promising start with a gyrating bass line driving the tune along under a hypnotic riff but it’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff. ‘Milk’ is somewhere between Deep Purple and the less novelty moments of Slade and shows off singer David Hayfield’s drawling, rasping vocal. However, it’s on the single ‘Miss Mist’ that this album really kicks in to life as the relentless fuzz guitars and pulsing bass create an addictive groove reminiscent of the Black Keys and suddenly that creative spark is clear for all to see.

Album title track, ‘Creature of Curiosity’, is pure Sabbath with droning vocals over the top of guitars and bass playing the same circular hook and ‘The River Will Rise’ is a psychedelic groove that has a beautifully timeless quality and deserves to be used on the soundtrack of a 70s flashback movie. This isn't groundbreaking music stylistically but it is incredibly well put together and there is an authenticity and drive on every song that is infectious. This is a band that needs to make road movies, ride motorbikes, take mind expanding substances and then put the whole thing down on twelve inches of vinyl in nothing but mono. ‘Horse’ is the perfect example of why this band is necessary right now with bass lines that Noel Redding would be proud of, drums that keep everything moving inevitably forward and guitars so fuzzy that if you squint you’d swear they were Bigfoot. On ‘When I Return’, White Bone Rattle have created the perfect tune to soundtrack shuffling around a mansion the day after a rock’n’roll party in a hazy daze of happiness and confusion. But what’s this? The party is in full swing again on the downright dirty scuzz blues-rock of ‘Sleep Talking Fool’ which sees the Hayfield brothers harmonising to beautifully sinister effect. As the album lurches to a close, Jamie Chrisp pulls out his best Hendrix chops on ‘Taken By The Movement’ and brother Liam breaks out his shuffles across the drum kit with such a range of styles that Keith Moon may or may not be a very proud illegitimate father.

For a debut offering, ‘Creature of Curiosity’ is insanely well thought out, expertly performed and has the atmosphere befitting of an album recorded in an abandoned Victorian psychiatric hospital in London. If I had the money to spare I wouldn't have any hesitation in buying a beat up old Winnebago and some valve amps and driving it across America with White Bone Rattle in the back to play in every Whisky Bar and Steak Grill on the way. And I would take the long route.

More information:

https://www.facebook.com/whitebonerattle

Thursday, 8 November 2012

THE MOUSE THAT ATE THE CAT – SINGLE REVIEW

The Mouse That Ate The Cat - 40 Years From Now

The Mouse That Ate The Cat – 40 Years From Now

Release Date: 26th November

The Scots tend to do indie-pop pretty well don’t they? The Dykeenies were fun and Drive-by Argument is still one of my favourite band names of recent years, so imagine my delight when one member of each of these bands got together to form the deliciously menacing The Mouse That Ate The Cat!? Their new single, ’40 Years From Now’, is a swirling, confusing, disorientating blizzard of electronic bleeps and off-beat drums all wrapped around a warning to those in the prime of their lives who insist on being miserable about every little thing. The lyric of “If you’re unhappy now, how do you think you’ll feel 40 years from now?” is joyous and sobering in equal measure for a man in his early 30s! This is a wonderful slice of pop with a brain, a heart and a healthy dose Scottish realism that makes me think this duo are the precocious little brothers of Idlewild or the cheerier cousins of the Cooper Temple Clause. Essentially, this is ‘When I’m 64’ for the Facebook generation and I can’t work out if that is wondrous or depressing.

More information:

Live dates:
24/11 – The Doghouse, Dundee
25/11 – The Tunnels, Aberdeen
27/11 – P.J. Molloys, Dunfermline
30/11 – Mad Hatters, Inverness
01/12 – The Blackstairs Lounge, Wick
02/12 – Newmarket  Bar, Thurso
07/12 – Electric Circus, Edinburgh
14/12 – King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
15/12 – Bakers Niteclub, Kilmarnock

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

DEAFKID – SINGLE REVIEW

Deafkid - Pig/Talk

Deafkid – Pig/Talk

Release Date: 12th November

Deafkid is one of my favourite band names for a while. I mean, it’s still not as good as Ringo Death Starr but then what is? But what is in a name? Well, in this case, Deafkid comprises of Christopher Lockington and Florian Sauvaire playing with a big bag of audio tricks. This double A side single kicks off with the dreamy, Jose Gonzalez-esque landscapes of ‘Talk' which enthrallingly shows of the folky roots of Chris whilst allowing Florian’s French drumming background to flourish with irregular beats and off-kilter rhythms. Both members of Deafkid had a hand in the undeniably brilliant debut offering from Ghostpoet, ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’, and you can tell that they weren’t just making the tea and fetching the Rizlas. ‘Pig’ kicks in with New Order style mechanical beats before echo-laden, plucked guitar rides over the top like an 80s chat-show introduction. There’s just enough here to stop this from becoming dinner party background music and, after a few listens, new layers reveal themselves. What I like most about these two songs though, apart from the fact that they’re both beefy numbers at around 5 minutes each, is that they have reminded me of some old favourites like Bent and Ben’s Symphonic Orchestra that I really ought to dig out and reacquaint myself with. Deafkid have got some serious skills and I recommend that you give them a listen but I don’t see them breaking any record sale records just yet. Definitely ones to keep an eye and ear on though.

More information:

Live Dates:
10th November – Water Rats, London
6th December – Proud Galleries, Camden

Monday, 5 November 2012

ADAM ISAAC – ALBUM REVIEW


Adam Isaac – Train Tracks (One Track Records)
Adam Isaac - Train Tracks

Just to get this out of the way straight away, yes this is the Adam Isaac that some of you may have seen on the Voice making a geriatric Welshman spin around in his chair like a confused pensioner on Boxing day. But let’s face it, these TV talent shows are just a way for artists who already have a back catalogue to get some extra exposure because large scale broadcasting companies won’t back new talent so let’s not prejudge the music shall we? Isaac is a good looking chap but, again, that doesn't preclude him from having any talent does it – just look at Dave Grohl.

Opening track ‘Carry You Through’ is a sweeping, piano lead track that has the potential to sour and swoop through a range of emotions. ‘She’s A Star’ is a soft-rock ballad that would fit perfectly on the soundtrack of a film during that scene where the heroine stops letting everybody put her down and decides to fight for herself for once. There’s a very 90s American Indie feel about ‘Would You Believe It’ and ‘From The Skies’ has the earnest qualities of an ex-boyband member trying to go it solo – I’m looking at you Mark Owen. There’s no denying that Adam Isaac is a talented musician and has surrounded himself with equally talented performers but there does seem a certain spark missing in these songs. It’s not that the album lacks variety; the cod-funk of ‘Show Off’ is a Robbie Williams singing with Red Hot Chili Peppers strut through the mind of an egomaniac and ‘Some Kind Of Animal’ sees Isaac exploring his inner rock-star in the way that Muse did on their first recordings but with less success. No, it’s more that the songs feel like they've been created by one of those fake bands that always play at the prom in American High School dramas like Dawson’s Creek. All the melodies are very soaring with evocative pianos and quiet bits in the middle so that the main characters can finally kiss but it doesn't feel real. I can’t imagine how this music would sound live as the production quality is so clean that you don’t get a sense of any rawness or honesty.

Now don’t go misunderstanding me, this isn't a straight out slating of Adam Isaac. I think he genuinely has some talent but I’m just not sure it’s being used in the right way. You see, in the U.S. I think Adam would be huge by now, such is their penchant for the more earnest side of Indie-Rock but to hear this brand of music coming from an Englishman just doesn't sound quite right. Blame my cynical ears if you will but when he sings “I just wanna be myself” in ‘Be Myself’ it just reminds me of an angry teenager rather than someone genuinely battling with issues of self-image, self-identity and self-loathing – the wonderfully harmonious backing vocals and 80s hair metal guitar solo don’t help as it’s harder to hear the pain when it’s layered in so many layers of sound. There is hope though, album closer, ‘You Don’t Know’, has some genuinely interesting arrangements and melodies running through it and perhaps suggests a slightly more innovative direction for the singer in the future. If I had to give one bit of advice, and Christ knows why anybody would ask, I would steer Adam Isaac away from The Voice and suggest he goes off for a while to find his own voice.

More information: http://www.adamisaac.com/

Live Dates:
November 9th – Bunters, Truro
November 10th – Live & Unleashed @ Sailer’s, Newquay
November 17th – Torquay Town Centre, Christmas Lights Switch On
November 22nd – Exeter Princesshay, Christmas Lights Switch On

Saturday, 3 November 2012

INTERVIEW WITH BROTHER & BONES


Listen With Monger talksexclusively to Rich Thomas, frontman, guitarist and songwriter with up andcoming Folk-Rockers Brother & Bones

Rich Thomas in full flow
It’s been a long time since I've sat on the steps of Bretonside Bus Station in Plymouth talking music withpeople I hardly know. Probably about 16 years in fact. So sitting here on thiscold, autumnal night chatting to a man with long hair, wispy facial hair and along overcoat, feels odd but reassuring at the same time. The man in question, the man being
questioned, is Richard Thomas - singer, songwriter, acoustic guitarist andgenerally accepted heart-throb who fronts Brother & Bones. I've been a fanof the band for a little while but as with anything interesting or exciting, I've wanted to scratch beneath the surface and see what makes the band tick. Not tomention the fact that there is precious little information on the band aroundas they prefer to let their music and near-legendary live shows do all thetalking.

A relaxed but tired looking man sitsnext to me, happy to talk about music, his love of the Southwest and theexperiences of the band’s first headline tour. “We’re four dates in to the tourand we’ve done a couple of headline shows and the reaction has been great. We’replaying new stuff from the new EP as well as some older stuff that we’ve beenplaying around with and reworking. There’s also some even newer stuff that’snot quite ready to play live yet but hopefully by the end of the tour we’ll beplaying some even newer stuff”. You can see that playing the songs live is whatreally matters to Mr Thomas as his eyes light up when we’re chatting but forone of the hardest gigging bands in the UK, what has been the highlight of theirnumerous live dates this year? “There’s been so many gigs and they've all beenfun in so many different ways. There have been points where it could have beentragic but they end being a lot of fun. Like when played Beachbreak Live we hada power-cut about 15 minutes before the end of the set but we turned it in to anice little drum interlude. Yannis [Sachinis, Drummer] just went on this epic,10 minute Bonham –style drum solo with the lights out which was amazing. Wealso played a gig with Feeder on Lusty Glaze beach in Cornwall and the weatherwas just perfect with the sun setting behind the crowd while we played. So we've been really luck really and played some amazing shows.”

Brother & Bones, they give you wings. Sorry.
Now we all know that the Brother& Bones live show is the stuff of legend but without great songs to backthem the band would only be half as good as they are. The originality of theband’s music means that you can’t compare one song to another and that begs thequestion, where do the band draw their influences from? “ We've got a veryeclectic taste across the five of us. For instance, Si [Robinson, Bass] listensto a lot of Jazz which you wouldn't believe when you see him flinging his bassaround on stage. He’s also an amazing keys and trumpet player and plays uprightbass, he’s one of those people that you want to hate because he’s so talentedreally! Yannis is in to a lot of heavier stuff as well. There’s a lot of crossovertoo though, we’re all in to Led Zeppelin, Rage Against The Machine and Incubus.Myself and James [Willard, guitar] really love a lot of Blues players likeStevie Ray Vaughn and we've got a lot of Ray Charles in the van. Personally I’mreally interested in songwriters like Dylan or Ray Lamontagne and I listen to alot of older stuff like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young and other 60sstuff. Hopefully we put that all together and it gives us a fairly unpigeonholablesound”. When I register my surprise at the singer’s willingness to cite Incubusas an influence, Rich jumps on the point, “I don’t give a fuck about whatpeople think is cool, I do give a fuck about good music though and I certainlygive a fuck about Incubus”. 

Having grown up in theWestcountry, there was always a frustrating, invisible barrier somewhere nearBristol that prevented any kind of success seeping through to the talentedmusicians of the region. So, with Rich having grown up in St. Ives, Cornwall,what does he think of the current music industry in the area he loves so much. “Ithink industry is the wrong word. It’s more of a scene and industry tends to belocalised to London. We had to learn very quickly how to deal with the industryup there because it’s still so cutthroat. But there’s a lot to be said forkeeping that naivety that you are allowed to have in the Southwest, keeping thehonesty that comes with performing the music in the place it was created. Maybeit’s a good thing that Cornwall is that little bit further away from theindustry as it means musicians can keep that purity and honesty in their music.The downside is that there is a lot of great music that might never see thelight of day but its better that it gets written in the first place which mightnot happen in a less open creative environment. There are times when being abig fish in a small pond can stunt your growth but I firmly believe that youcan make and take your own opportunities so it doesn't matter where you comefrom, if you’re willing to work hard enough then you can make your own success.I mean, Reef were huge and we've all seen what Muse have achieved.” We breakoff at this point to discuss Muse’s gig in the part-time greasy spoon behind usthat was once known as Tramps and marvel at the journey bands can go throughfrom playing in ‘every toilet’, as Muse once put it, to entertaining sold outstadiums.

Rich Thomas - intimate moments
If there is any justice in theworld, it won’t be long before Brother & Bones are playing to biggeraudiences and, for once, we’re talking about a band who is ready to entertainon that scale. I ask if the energetic and full throttle live performances thatare synonymous with the band are thought out or a more organic occurrence. “It’snever been premeditated but the way we play gives us the freedom to move andthe music we create kinda means you have to move. And we’re passionate people,y’know? Without wanting to sound too pretentious, the passion comes through themusic and out through the performance so, yeah, I guess organic is the rightway to describe it. The other thing is that performing is a very reciprocalthing and we get a lot of energy back from the crowd which just pushes us on toperform better and that makes the crowd go even crazier and it becomes this self-perpetuatingprocess. I've always believed that even if you’re just sat on a stool playing aguitar, people can only enjoy your music as much as you enjoy making it. As aband we enjoy each other’s company both musically and personally so it’s justgreat to be able to jump on stage and have fun with these guys.”

With everything seemingly ontheir side, the inner Manager in me is begging to know what they've got plannedfor the next year. So I asked. Well, it was an interview after all. “We’replanning on a full album release in 2013 which will feature some stuff from therecent EP as well as some new stuff that’s being written at the moment but weneed to find the right producer to work with. That’s our main priority at themoment, we want to create an album that really stands the test of time and is alasting piece of work. We’re heading over to Europe in March as well to playsome shows in Germany, France, Holland and hopefully Ireland as well. We’re allabout the live experience so it will be great to play to some new audiences.” So,with stage fast approaching, we wrap up our chat but on the way back to thevenue I want to get a few tips of new bands to check out for the blog and Richis keen to share a few of his favourites. “There are so many bands out there thatI could mention but I’d probably forget someone! In terms of good friends ofmine that are making music, there’s a girl called Rokhsan that I've done alot of shows with over the years who is amazingly talented. She’s ready tostart going places I think and is an incredible songwriter with such a uniquevoice. I’m also really in to Kill It Kid who are a really heavy, Delta-Bluesyband that I've been liking for a while.” And with that, Rich disappears in tothe venue to be greeted by smiles, hugs, handshakes and the odd furtive lookfrom a group of giddy teenage girls. So to add to the talent and good looks wenow have to add charm, wit and intelligence to the Rich Thomas CV. Since whendid budding rock stars turn in to such eligible bachelors?


Live Dates:
06/11/12 – Mama Stones, Exeter
07/11/12 – Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds
08/11/12 – Soundhouse, Leicester
09/11/12 – Boileroom, Guildford
10/11/12 – Moles, Bath

Friday, 2 November 2012

SEPTEMBER GIRLS – SINGLE REVIEW

September Girls - Wanting More

September Girls – Wanting More (Matinee Records)

Release Date: 9th November

A little while ago I declared Dublin’s September Girls to be my favourite new band of 2012 and ever since then I’ve been dreading something coming along to make me regret making me such a sweeping assertion. Thank the lord this single does nothing to change my mind although this is a limited 500 copy 7” vinyl release in the U.S. of A. which is mildly annoying. No matter, lead track ‘Wanting More’ is a wall of Phil Spector noise with a sparse quality breaking through the expansive sound. It sounds like how every amazing Indie Disco sounds from the toilets when you have that moment of wanting to sober up so that you can pull your best moves in front of the hot girl/guy in the Veruca Salt T-shirt. Chest rattling bass lines and pounding drums play out under a wall of harmonies and picked guitar lines that all blend in to a crescendo of yearning. Thumping, Beach Boys drums and whiny organ kick in to introduce ‘Hells Bells’ which, ironically, sounds like something Sleigh Bells and Best Coast might have knocked up together after a long weekend of Bourbon and too much sherbet. For me, it’s final track ‘Man Chats’ that is the standout track and boy what a track!? This is where you realise that September Girls aren’t just a group of five mates chancing their arm at being in a band. They live and breathe this music and aren’t about to cow-tow to any trends or popularist views. The drums are like Keith Moon on a particularly confused day, the guitars swirl, the bass throbs and the keys pierce like a lighthouse through dense fog. With labels tripping over themselves to sign these girls up and the Cribs picking them up for support slots in Ireland, everything is looking good for September Girls so get in on the ground floor folks.

More information:

Live Dates:
8th November – The Olympia, Dublin w/The Cribs
9th November – Mandela Hall, Belfast w/The Cribs
24th November – The Pavilion, Cork 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

PYLO – SINGLE REVIEW

Pylo - Enemies

Pylo – Enemies (Young & Lost Download Club)

Release Date: 26th November

It’s debut single time again! It seems I get sent a lot of these but I wouldn't have it any other way – I love a new band, fresh off the presses. Pylo are a quintet from Bath who say they are aiming to be ‘more than the sum of their parts’ which is a bold statement and also a slightly dangerous one. ‘Enemies’ stumbles in as a gentle and inoffensive Mumford-esque strum along and but is soon invigorated by some heavily distorted power chords. This combination essentially makes Pylo a slightly heavier Coldplay but there is a real sense with this song that it needs dragging along a bit. There are the falsetto vocals, the loud-quiet-loud bits and, for a band that only formed in early 2012, an incredibly polished sound but it just doesn't ignite. There is no spark, no hook and not one stand out lyric. Fair play to the boys from Bath, it’s an impressive debut but it does sound rather like a Snow Patrol album track and at just under 5 minutes it’s perhaps a little too long for a single. I reckon a little more gigging and refining though and Plyo could well be on to something.

More information:

Live dates:
2nd November – The Porter, Bath
10th November – Moles, Bath
11th November – Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London
21st November – Camden Barfly, London
24th November – Cherrie’s, Bridgewater
27th November – TBC, Bristol
29th November – Distrikt, Leeds
20th November – Babylon, Scunthorpe