Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Beach Boys - Love You

The Beach Boys

To mark the occasion of The Beach Boys new album release ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ (coming soon in June) I thought it would be worthwhile to take a closer look and shine a light upon a true lost classic in the Brian Wilson cannon, titled ‘LOVE YOU’.

The post ‘Pet Sounds’ late 1960’s and early 1970’s weren’t strong commercially for The Beach Boys with their releases only very rarely cracking the top 100, which if you think about their run of high end monster hits in the mid 60’s is quite a drop in status. The material was still great on albums such as ‘Friends’ (1968), ‘20/20’ (1969), ‘Sunflower’ (1970) and the exceptional ‘Surfs Up’ (1971) although the sentiment of love and peace seemed out of place after Altamont and while everyone else was playing loud fuzz guitars and throwing anti-War/Nixon sentiment slogans across their work The Beach Boys were still trying to shake the tag of ‘all American surfer boys’. Around this time the group actually considered changing their name to simply ‘Beach’, they reconsidered at the final hour perhaps realising that their fans would be their backbone in the oncoming years and re-inventing the wheel this late in the day might not be the best idea for all involved.

One of the main reasons for the lack of direction within the group was the fact that leader and producer of the group Brian Wilson had suffered a drug induced nervous breakdown and wasn’t in any shape to crack the whip in the studio and create magic anymore. Whilst the band were left to their own devices they all brought their own influences and input into the group but without a guiding spirit leading the way, too often they only managed to produce a muddled collection of tracks with the occasional gem hidden within.

Throughout this period the group tried many different tactics to get Wilson firing on all cylinders again and even built a studio in his house where they would convene daily to record and write. He sometimes came to the studio if he heard something that he felt he could improve or had an idea for, otherwise he’d hide in his room and wait until they left before walking around the studio like a museum of days gone by and imagining ghosts from the past surrounding him.

After the success of the greatest hits package ‘Endless Summer’ (1974) the group got a definite second wind in popularity due to the fact that a new generation of kids had appeared at their shows and could appreciate their sixties songs as ‘new’ material. This release apart from fulfilling contractual obligations also helped the group bounce back from another failure, the lacklustre ‘Holland’ (1973) album. The ‘Holland’ album was refused upon its completion by the record company until Brian was almost forced into a room and completed the song ‘Sail on Sailor’ (with ‘SMiLE’ collaborator Van Dyke Parks) which was hastily added as track one as it was clearly the only high point on a below par collection of songs.

On the wave of the success of the greatest hits tour the band felt the need to make another new album and after the false start of ’15 Big Ones’ (1976), and another critical hammering, Brian (who was beginning the early stages of therapy) started writing demos almost as a mental exercise and for what would be his own solo album. It had taken almost ten years between the aborted ‘SMiLE’ sessions and 1976 but it seemed that the group and management were finally going to let Brian actually write, produce the music that he wanted to and hand the creative reigns back to him after spending the previous four or five desperately trying to pull them away from him at all costs. It was this creative freedom that helped unlock the now dormant magic and for him to create one of their strongest albums. As usual in the face of punk and disco the album sunk without a trace although time has been much nicer to this album then many others and certainly it has lasted longer than many of the flavour of the month disco groups that outsold it. The album also included more audio experimentation and new sonic boundary pushing with extensive use of new synthesizers and Moog keyboards throughout.

The album is laid out in contrasting sides with the opener Side A being more upbeat, fast songs with the flip side concentrating more on slow, melancholy (a genre Brian Wilson has always excelled in). Some of my favourite moments on this record include the almost childlike ‘Solar System’ which sounds like a soundtrack to a grade school science documentary about the milky way but has so much genuine feeling and happiness in it you can’t help but feel cradled by the chords and repeating harmonies as they flow and repeat throughout. The standout track of the album that showed that they were still yet to be a spent force as a group is the excellent ‘The Night Was So Young’ which includes vocals from the whole group and is the most contemporary moment here. The Moog Synthesizer is used throughout as both keyboard effect and bass, this is shown to great use on ‘I Bet He’s Nice’ which includes a low register Bass line played on it and shows that even though everyone else may have pigeon holed Wilson as a sixties relic he was still on the cutting edge and creativity. ‘Mona’ has been quoted as being one of Brian Wilson’s favourite songs he’s written as well as being his favourite on the album itself. It is an old fashioned song and ‘musical compliment’ to Wilson’s musical hero Phil Spector (naming his songs throughout) wrapped up in a sixties rolling doo-wop arrangement sung by Dennis Wilson (who by this time was battling his own drink and drugs demons and whose voice was almost as shot and raspy as brother Brian’s).

There are tracks that fall over the line and sound too much like half ideas and demos but some of these, including the single line, 57 seconds long, ‘Ding Dang’ (which amazingly took two people to create) is silly although has a certain charm.

One of the tracks presented here that shows the deeply personal nature of the songs has to be ‘Lets put our Hearts Together’, a duet sung by Brian and his then wife (although soon to be divorced) and mother of his two children Marilyn Wilson. Her voice throughout isn’t perfect although she was far from being a novice as she had already had records released as part of the group The Honeys (produced by Brian in the mid 60’s to flex his Phil Spector aspirations). The song itself is more about the sentiment rather than execution of the vocalist and combined with Brian’s cocaine and cigarette husky tenor it works well. The message of the song is clear upon first glance although on repeat listens it does give the listener the idea that maybe you’re listening to a man completely delusional about his marriage while it collapses around him.

The history of The Beach Boys will always be crowned with their string of hit singles in the 1960’s as well has having the album jewel of ‘Pet Sounds’ as the centrepiece but for casual fans and new comers alike ‘Love You’ is an album for those looking for something a little different, as I fear you won’t get it from their new Mike Love helmed release.

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Great Escape 2012

Photos by Jodie Meggs

The Great Escape

Brighton 10th-12th May 2012

The Great Escape Festival has always been a favourite of mine to both attend and cover due to the location as well as the fact that the majority of acts play inside venues that aren’t bogged down with the usual problems you face at outside festivals throughout the British summer. Looking at the gigantic list of all the times and places of the bands performing over the weekend it seemed that a spot of band pruning would be required as I didn’t want to miss anyone great because they were on at the same time as an amusingly named trendy band. As for some of these bands, I think they need to sit down and have an honest and frank conversation with themselves. It’s not funny or clever to take famous actor/musicians name and swap the first letters around, it’s lazy and lame. So please hang you head in shame Com Truise, Chet Faker and Himi Jendrix (Ok I made up the last one but you can see where I’m going with this right?).

The first band I saw after making my merry way along the lanes of the Brighton seafront was School is Cool, a five piece of multi-instrumentalists that juggle between percussion, guitars, bass and violins with ease and planned performance. Their set is tight, well thought out and with their stage personas being both funny and engaging (hopefully on purpose otherwise I’m going to hell) they managed to tick every box that I needed to see from a new unknown band. They played well, had great songs and even managed to up the cool and avant-garde stakes by using the stage to stomp and drum on during a free for all percussion solo involving the whole group.

Finding out early in the day that new indie hopefuls Tribes had pulled out threw a curve ball in the direction of what to do next but with some other great bands lined up an alternative was decided upon. I caught the end of Pond’s set before Eugene McGuinness took the stage with his band. I haven’t seen McGuinness before and was immediately impressed by his command of the stage and strong tight band that rocked through his set never letting up. His new single ‘Shotgun’ was announced and although it’s a definite single it seems strange that McGuinness isn’t a lot bigger and widely known already as he seems to tick every box required in this business. A great set.

Bass Drum of Death helped blow away the cobwebs and although both loud and raw they seemed to go over the same riff and arrangement constantly throughout their set. Reminiscent of a magician showing you a trick, by the 10th time it’s not that impressive. The evening of the first night ended with Bwani Junction, a Scottish four piece who played loud, fast and sung in their own accents which made a nice change from the mid west American twang that has been appearing out of the voice boxes of artists from Belgium, Norway and Sheffield of late.

The Black Belles arrived in Brighton in their full stage attire, they are definitely a Third Man artist and like their mentor Jack White before them, the look and the image of the band is just as important as the music itself. With their jet black hair, makeup, covered only by vintage dresses and Black Fedoras, The Black Belles brought Halloween mixed with vintage Fuzz Blues to Brighton and lifted the bar very high for the rest of the artists who could be heard talking about them long after the show finished. Their set was compiled from songs off their first album including the opener ‘Wishing Well’ and their excellent cover of 60’s garage rock band The Knickerbockers song ‘Lies’. The 3 piece (the 4th member absent this evening for undisclosed reasons) are a well drilled and powerful combo with each taking turns to hold down the groove while the other takes a solo, special kudos to drummer Shelby Lynne as well for her almost demonic treatment of the kit throughout and for putting that ‘Meg White’ female drummer conundrum to rest.

The final day of the festival saw a few great acts playing at venues such as Komedia as well as car parks (King Charles) but it was the double hitter of J.D McPherson and Alabama Shakes that stole the festival for me personally. J.D McPherson plays rock and roll, honest true to the bone rock and roll, from a time when it was still considered the ‘devils music’, a time when it was still called ‘boogie woogie’ and rock ‘n’ roll diners were still a glint in the taxman’s eye. With his Chuck Berry attack on guitar in songs like ‘Fire Bug’ to his bona fide Little Richard primal scream in single ‘North Side Gal’ McPherson led his 4 piece backing band through a fast packed wall shaking ‘across the tracks’ performance that I doubted could be beaten at this festival.

Alabama Shakes have been growing in popularity very quickly of late with everyone from Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner, Bernard Butler and Jack White queuing up to shout their support and love of the group to anyone that will listen. Arriving at the venue ‘Komedia’ I immediately saw the massive queue snaking up the street in support and this dear readers was just the queue for us humble hacks, the actual queue for the fans was double that. It seemed that the arrangers of the festival hadn’t planned for the massive increase in popularity of the band as well as the fact that they would be gracing the cover of NME the week of the festival. After finally getting in I was hit immediately by the sheer power of the group, not in volume but just in vibe and presence on stage. It’s very easy to make obvious comparisons to Janis Joplin, Lorraine Ellison and even Otis Redding as lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard tears through the songs with a voice full of honesty and true emotion but it’s the cradle of her band that shows the true greatness of the music. This is a group where the musicians aren’t looking for the spotlight; they are old school players that are there to make sure the music and the singer sound as great as they can with no ego trip or guitar pyrotechnics involved. The set included single ‘Hold On’ as well as ‘Heavy Chevy’, ‘I Found You’ and the soul stirring ‘You Ain’t Alone’ (from their ‘Boys & Girls’ debut album), the later which pushed the gig over the edge from being a ‘set’ to ‘standout performance’. This summer real music is making a massive comeback and Alabama Shakes will be leading the charge.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Black Belles INTERVIEW@The Great Escape 2012

Interview with The Black Belles
The Great Escape 2012

Q. I first heard The Black Belles from your cover version of The Knickerbockers track ‘Lies’, would you say that this late 60’s era is the genre that influences you as a group the most?

Shelby Lynne (Drums): I’d say we all have individual influences that are separate but then as a band there’s a lot that we all really love and that’s what comes out of us with our music I think. We do love lots of 60’s music, 50’s and 60’s really and then we all have separate little decades that appeal to us in unique ways.

Olivia Jean (Vocals/Guitars): I love girl bands, surf music and Phil Spector.

Q. I hear a lot of Link Wray, Duane Eddy, Dick Dale on the guitar especially, would you say that’s true?

Olivia Jean: Yeah I like surf music (laughs)

Q. You have a very striking image with the hats, makeup and overall look of the group, do you feel that this is just as important as the music itself and do you think that too many indie bands lack imagination with this area of things?

Shelby Lynne : Yeah!

Ruby Rogers (Vocals/Bass): Definitely, we like to dress for the stage. It’s nice to have a uniform as it does help to unify the band and prepare us.

Q. Would you say that it helps get you into the right frame of mind and gets you ready for the show?

Shelby Lynne: It definitely helps to have a hat on (laughs)

Q. There have been a few different stories about the origins of the band and your connection with Jack White. Did he see you playing and then decide to record you or was it a group that he invented and put together under his own design?

Olivia Jean: Yes, well we’ve all been playing music for a long time but we all have mutual friends at Third Man (Third Man Records) so it’s not like he (Jack White) picked us up off the street and threw us in a room (laughs) and put a group together, it wasn’t like that at all. Some people try and make up their own wild stories about the whole thing but it’s not a manufactured band at all.

Q. How is he (Jack White) to work with? He produced, co-wrote and directed your video…

Olivia Jean: He’s always really easy to work with, really open to ideas, very funny.

Ruby Rogers: I think that he definitely has a vision though about what he wants, but there is definitely collaboration between us although ultimately he has total control.

Q. Are there any plans for the summer festivals in the UK?

Shelby Lynne: We don’t know, we haven’t talked to our booking agent in regards to any at this stage.

Olivia Jean: They are sorting some stuff out and still confirming some other shows, I know that we have a few shows throughout the summer that are booked sporadically in the U.S and Canada.

Ruby Rogers: We’re also in talks with some shows in Spain as well.

Q. As a Third Man artist I would assume you have the same opinion on the download verses Vinyl debate as they do. Do you prefer people listening to your album as a whole piece or downloading individual tracks?

Olivia Jean: At this point in our career the whole thing definitely (laughs). I’d prefer them to listen to everything as a whole, as we’re still growing up. This is our first album so we’re trying to find the solid Black Belles sound. So on the album a lot of the songs sound really different from one another. You won’t get a real idea about what we’re trying to do if you just listen to one song.

Shelby Lynne: Exactly and I think that the general rule is that it’s really important to listen to the whole album from start to finish, look at the front cover, the back, the artwork it all ties together. Especially with this band the visuals are an important aspect, we really put a lot of care into each part of it.

Olivia Jean: Lots of tears went into it (they all laugh)

Shelby Lynne: Yes a lot (laughs) even the track listing we played really close attention to all the minor details right up to the way it looked finally.

Ruby Rogers: We’d hope that people use the sleeve of our album as a poster on their wall, we really love the artwork.

Q. Congratulations with getting your music added as the intro music for The Elvira Show in the U.S. Do you see a Black Belles movie in the pipeline? The Black Belles VS The Black Keys perhaps?

(All Laugh)

Olivia Jean: We’ve never thought about it but now you’ve planted the idea, the seed… now it sounds like something we’d want to do (laughs).

Ruby Rogers: We have frequently talked about directors and movies and genres of movies that we like that we’d like our songs to be in for soundtracks.

Q. There was a film that the band Ash made on tour called ‘Slashed’ that included a lot of other bands playing different characters/killers such as The Hives, Coldplay and Dave Grohl, a real old school slasher movie. Would that type of thing appeal to you?

Ruby: That would be cool

Shelby Lynne: Yeah (laughs) in black and white obviously, high contrast.

Olivia Jean: That would be fun, some time in the future but no plans for the time being.

Thank you very much (official site)

Thanks to Andy Barding and Ben Swank at Third Man Records

The Futureheads ; INTERVIEW @ CAMDEN CRAWL 2012

The Futureheads

The Futureheads
Ross Millard – Vocals/Guitar/Banjo
Barry Hyde – Vocals/Guitar/Mandolin
David ‘Jaff’ Craig – Bass/cello/vocals
Dave Hyde – Drums/bass/vocals

Q. For a band that have toured world wide and played all the major festivals why did you choose Camden Crawl?

Barry: They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse (laughs) I think we are here mainly because we love playing KOKO and the last time we played Camden Crawl, we played here. In fact, halfway through the set last time one of the support bands maliciously decided to set the fire alarm off.

Ross: Sabotaging the gig.

Barry: Yeah, knowing that if the fire alarm goes off in this venue that all of the electricity and all of the PA electricity shut off automatically so we’re here for revenge…

Q. I’ve noticed that all your albums seemed to have been released in May-June was this on purpose or coincidence?

Barry: We didn’t really plan to release stuff in spring but I think it’s a pretty good time to release things as people are more open to new music whereas in winter they tend to be hibernating (laughs) I just think that we used to have a cycle of recording then touring and recording again but with this album (‘Rant’) it took us a year to make it on and off and then later this year we are releasing two more albums as well.

Ross: although ‘Rant’ did actually come out in May (laughs).

Barry: We are really trying to break old habits and break the cycle of things although, three albums in one year it looks like we’ve succeeded.

Q. Do you write on the road?

Barry: No.

Ross: Its quite difficult when you’re touring as you’re preoccupied with doing the gigs and enjoying the experience of being ‘on tour’ although you do remember individual ideas that you’ve put to one side for a better time that you can then bring to the table when we get back at a later date. But writing on the road isn’t really something we do; I don’t think many bands do it either that we’ve met.

Barry: Linkin Park! I heard that they have a tour bus that is a recording studio, there aren’t any beds on it or anything like that, they are literally recording whilst travelling which I think is quite amazing really.

Ross: Although they usually fly everywhere in jets so they must have to have a REALLY good idea to take the bus (all laughs) that’s really big deal megastar stuff really, the best we’d get would be a 8 track in the van (laughs)

Barry: Obviously when you’re travelling in a vehicle or walking somewhere, that tends to be a common time for you to have ideas when you’re kind of distracted, so I think in a sense songs begin on the road when you’re just going about your daily business and then you have to make a date really and decide to work on the song on this day and record it on this day and then the rest of the process just takes over. You don’t stop writing a song until it’s mastered. I consider the mixing process just as important as the lyrical process or the guitar process, it’s not finished until you essentially press stop.

Q. Is a song ever finished? For the ‘Rant’ album you’ve re-recorded some songs from your back catalogue for example and then performed them live including different arrangements once again.

Barry: In that sense, in the terms of a life of a song absolutely it never ends, you can stunt its growth (laughs) or you can be really rigid with it and play it the same every night but that’s quite tedious for the band so everything slowly starts to take its own quality, but what we’ve done on this acoustic album we’ve made as when we made ‘Rant’ we re-invented some of our old songs for other instruments not just vocals.

Ross: Help give them some CPR! (Laughs)

Barry: By doing this they really do feel like new songs to us and its strange that for some people when you’re releasing albums that aren’t entirely of new material that they think “Oh they must have ran out of ideas” but to re-record an old song is as much of an idea as writing a new one, it takes as much work if not more as you have the original attachment to the song and the initial relationship so in that respect you have to let them change and evolve.

Ross: It’s very rare that you play every song off an album live anyway so it’s only when we’re re-arranged them that they have actually made it to the set, they just seemed to fit better in that acoustic setting this time around.

Q. Can you see a time where you’d do both versions in a live setting?

Barry: I think you could get away with that.

Jaff – Well in fact a friend of ours who heard ‘Rant’ said “well there were a couple of the re-recorded ones that were better than the original and some that weren’t” which was strange because we then had to explain that we weren’t trying to replace any of the originals or do them better as such we were just trying something new and trying them out in this setting and arrangement for our own enjoyment really.

Barry: It’s strange that people always need to attach reason to things. Sometimes there isn’t a valid reason behind something and you have people asking “so what are you trying to achieve with this album?” and we have to say…well nothing, we are trying to ‘achieve’ an album nothing more; it’s nothing about the demographic (laughs)

Ross: we just feel we’ve become better musicians as we’ve progressed and are trying new things out and it’s just as valid an experience to us as anything else that we’ve done.

Q. You’ve taken risks musically by recording a whole album of acapella songs. How did that come to pass?

Barry: We did a session for Jo Wiley and when you do a session for the Live Lounge it’s a good little challenge as you do one of your own songs, you have to do an arrangement of some else’s song that is in the charts that week so we chose ‘Acapella’ by Kelis and we managed to arrange it in about half and hour and then went and sang it live straight on the radio (laughs) and that was a much bigger risk than anything we’d done up to that point, although we enjoyed taking that risk definitely and got a lot out of it. It’s similar to when you play a bunch of new songs live at a gig, the feeling of relief when you’ve played them, and played them all correctly, is worth all the built up anxiety beforehand and leading up to it. It’s that risk that’s important because if you don’t care then what are you risking?

Ross: I think that a lot of bands feel misunderstood by others at certain times but with an acapella album, what’s there to misunderstand? You can’t really miss that one, you can’t hide behind anything, and it’s really upfront.

Q. Have there been any outside bands or artists that have influenced the writing and playing of the recent albums/recordings?

Ross: Led Zeppelin

Barry: 'Led Zeppelin 3' mainly, they took a risk there and it didn’t really pay off for them but at least they then followed it up with number 4 and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ so you have to think would they have ever written that if they’d never made number 3?

Ross: I think it was just speaking to each other as well that influenced the album, saying ok well we’ve always sang in 4 part harmony and added certain acapella parts to songs so why not try and do a whole albums worth of purely acapella songs, I think that by reducing the instruments as well it helped push the idea for a live situation as well as you can’t really do a whole 80 minutes of acapella music, you’d be asking too much of the crowd to sit there in silence throughout, especially when a good 90% of people aren’t capable of giving that much attention to something for that length of time when they’ve come to a rock and roll show. I mean no disrespect to anyone but it is very intense to do that for a whole show so we added the acoustic and older instruments like mandolins and cellos.

Barry: We like the old instruments as well as they are so old as they are very ancestral instruments to us so it’s a good feeling when the songs go across in this way, songs like ‘The Keeper’ are very elemental in their presentation, we are trying to present something old as new songs, the melodies are so strong and so familiar as well as they were written in an era when the songs meant more and there was more of a craft, where as nowadays its not as much about the craft its about being crafty (laughs)

Ross: that’s what we really like about these songs as well, they are so simple in their construction, there are no mathematical riffs to remember or strange time signatures to remember, it’s about getting up there, playing the songs and having a good time.

Barry: I’d say that the build up over the previous four albums have been a kind of apprenticeship to this stage that we’ve arrived at now and once you get to that stage it’s almost validation of what you’ve achieved and you can then look at things objectively and say right what can we do now?

Q. Have you heard Todd Rundgren’s 1985 album ‘Acapella’? If so was it an influence on the concept?

Barry: You mean Dolph Lundgren? (Laughs)

Ross: It’s when he sampled himself and used the vocals through a synth type emulator.

Barry: oh no, no I haven’t heard, I’d like to though definitely.

Jaff: I saw him when he came over for the ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ gigs in Hammersmith and that was amazing although I wasn’t too sure about him also doing the blues band stuff at the start but the main show was really great.

Barry: It might be a good idea actually to have a bad support band then the crowd is so appreciative of the first note of your set (laughs)

Q. What are the plans for The Futureheads for the summer/rest of the year?

Ross: We have a handful of festivals through the summer and a gig at Shepherds Bush Empire coming up, then after we will be releasing the next part of the acoustic albums. We have also been recording each of our shows on the tour so hopefully we’ll have a live album out as well to follow.

Q. Can the fans expect a return to the electric line up after?

Ross: Yes well we have a gig next week that’s full on band, so sooner than they think (laughs).

Barry: It’s been a very rejuvenating experience playing acoustic and acapella so going back to electric instruments after such a long time off will be exciting, we can’t wait.

Thank you

Many thanks to Chris and Ric at Artrocker

Camden Crawl 2012

Camden Crawl
Saturday 5th May

Camden Crawl has always been a favourite of the musical calendar as it regularly mixes both signed and unsigned bands together on the same billing as well as giving them equal time to grab new fans and show what they’re made of to a willing audience and passing trade. Whether it’s the latest flavour of the month or last weeks heroes trying to make a come back to push their new album it’s not to be missed.

Looking through the line up, I did at first feel that there were too many bands I’d never heard of and the task of trying to find the next big thing within a tapestry of mediocrity did seem a challenge. The day started slowly with Loverproof who seemed to meander along papering over the cracks of well-worn indie clich├ęs. They were followed by Shuga who although had a nice patchwork of ideas were let down repeatedly by the execution and lack of musicianship. Not that musical dexterity and individual chops are the be all and end all for music but if you are going to write and compose in that style it may be a good idea to get someone on board that can play the pieces correctly time after time.

Continuing my merry way up through Camden I passed many venues and after witnessing a few more uninspiring sets I wandered into the Camden Lock just as Electricity in our Homes were kicking off. The line up is classic in formation and includes the typical bass, drums, guitar and vocals in a Talking Heads style. The uber clean guitar played dry as a bone and with plenty of spank helped with the presentation of the songs. However, it was the drummer, especially, that was keeping the crowd bopping with machine gun like fills and off beat dance rhythms, nice stuff.

The first band that upped the game and were on form from the first song were Hatcham Social (also at the Camden Lock) their set, compiled of a nice mix of new and old songs including the fan favourite “Crocodile” from their 2009 album ‘You Dig the Tunnel, I’ll Hide the Soil’ as well as the recent single ‘Like an Animal’. It seemed that we’d finally begun to pick up momentum, what would be next?

On the whole Camden Crawl throughout the years has been a chance to see big bands in small settings as well as your mates band who have managed to get a spot in one of the smaller venues, there are really so many bands that you may not have heard of that it’s very much hit and miss for a lot of the newer acts. The Hawley Arms has always been a great standby and haven for rock and roll so when in doubt heading there is always a good decision. The Vex were listed as playing next and from the rumblings on the circuit of late it seemed that checking them out would be a wise decision indeed. From the first notes of the set I can honestly say I was knocked out, no atmospheric build up or “ladies and gentlemen blah, blah” intro, not even a casual Ramones style “1, 2, 3, 4!” it seemed that almost telepathically the band entered the stage plugged in and BAM! Turned to 10 in the blink of an eye and didn’t let up until the last song…

With the swagger of the Clash and the Queens of the Stone Age (but with underlying SKA/funk chops on hand ready to be thrown in mid flow) The Vex are definitely one to watch, and for other bands on the circuit, one to fear! There were wide eyed musicians in the audience as well as those at the side of the stage tuning up ready to go on next that looked like the game had been lifted and a new plan needed to be formed if they were going to continue with their original ideas and indie form. The music itself was immediate and strong from the start, songs such as ‘Invictus’ and ‘The Revolutionaries’ showed both the power in the band with the thundering drumming from Joshua Boulton as well as well crafted chorus’s and hooks (especially in the latter with Josh Schwegler (guitar/vocals) and Jack O’Shea (guitar/vocals) sharing the microphone a’la Peter/Carl).

Day one finished off with The Futureheads at KOKO (see interview below). Performing tracks from their recently released ‘Rant’ album the acapella arrangements of both new and older songs from their repertoire went down well the majority of the time although there were rumbles of misunderstanding from casual fans that had crammed into the venue expecting a standard indie show. The set itself was an exercise in peaks and troughs and on more than one occasion the crowd started to get restless as pure acapella songs were introduced. As well as the harmonies and vocals some songs were also embellished with classic instruments such as banjo, acoustic guitar, cello and mandolin which added an atmosphere of a beer soaked Irish pub and managed to transform the crowd almost immediately. Songs such as ‘The Keeper’, ‘The Old Dun Cow’ and the now classic ‘Hounds of Love’ got the biggest cheers of the night although the excellent version of ‘Acapella’ by Kelis with the amazing almost beat box synth pattern from Ross Millard and Jaff left many with their mouths wide open. On the whole today’s bands have been a mixed bag with highs and low’s throughout, although considering the nature of the event it only further proves that the life blood of new music is still alive and well if sometimes buried beneath the layers of predictability gap year bands.

All attached images are strictly © Beki Cowey / Bekitakespictures (2012) and are licensed to Chris Lancaster for one-time online use in conjunction with futureheads interview. Further use is not permitted without prior consent, and unauthorised use in any media is prohibited.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Tribes Live@Shepherds Bush Empire


The UK scene circa 2012 has got off to a sluggish start with only a few special bands making their mark on the greater good. Tribes are indeed one of the special ones, they are one of the few bands that have escalated their way up from the indie crowd and are now, in my opinion, one of the best bands currently on the scene at the moment. The show tonight at Shepherds Bush Empire was packed from the start and when you consider that there were two support bands to sit through before the main attraction you'd be forgiven for thinking that the venue would be half empty at the early stages of the evening.

Tribes have an already fiercely loyal fan base that know every lyric, chorus and song from the get go. Tonight's set started with 'Whenever' from their 'Baby' album and then straight into fan favourite 'Girlfriend' from their early days 'We Were Children' EP. Each song barely stretches past the 3 minute mark but after all this is rock and roll and not orchestral progressive jazz so in true Ramones style we of the iPOD and fast food generation want things quick, fast and to the point and Tribes deliver on all points. Although when you read the 'brudda's' comparison don't mistake Tribes for a head down fast punk band, their songs are extremely well crafted slices of power pop played with swagger and conviction.

The set was mainly compiled of songs from their debut album as you'd expect, with tracks such as 'Sappho', 'Corner Of An English Field', 'Himalaya' and 'Nightdriving' all making appearances early on. Filling the remainder of the set were many songs from their earlier EP's including the crowd storming 'Not So Pretty' from the late 2011 'When My Day Comes' as well as their first encore song 'Coming of Age', another track harvested from their first EP 'We Were Children'. The group looked very much at home and at ease taking the headline spot, a position I would expect them to be fulfilling more frequently in the near future, as well as being one of the festival favourites this summer.

In a time where progression in indie music seems to simply mean moody faces, brogues with no socks and synths, Tribes are bringing songwriting and pop influences back and draining them through their own personal brand of rock and roll music... and from a fans point of view what more can you ask for?

originally on '405'
photo: Jodie Meggs