These trying times continue. But there are many pockets of resilience, and stunning new music is thankfully still being released, despite the lack of almost any live action. For the established bands it’s obviously an issue that careers, livelihoods, and simply their love of performing, have been thwarted and stalled somewhat, but for new bands it is even worse. Take Another Sky, the four-piece London based band led by singer Catrin Vincent.
Dublin is a musical hotspot right now, where bands such as Murder Capital, Thumper and Girl Band have been raising the post-punk bar of late, as they explore existential themes, wrapped up in loud, visceral music that sounds fresh, invigorating, and exciting. Like all the best music, it has come out of nowhere, organically produced and very much its own thing, not in thrall to anything in particular, nor following any fad or looking to win favour. And there is a pleasing earnest maturity about them all, where rock’n’roll is wrapped up in art and deeper meaning, rather than the (albeit also pleasingly) more straight-forward sloganeering of, say, Idles. The Irish have a way of being a little bit more coolly detached, and poetic, rather than intently staring or calling you out, as it were.
On Thursday 2nd July, a coordinated campaign was launched whereby artists, fans and venues posted on social media photographs and films of their last gig or event with the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay. On the same day a letter signed by artists, including Ed Sheeran, The Rolling Stones, the Gallagher brothers, Paul McCartney, Rita Ora, Coldplay, Annie Lennox and Sam Smith, warned that the UK could lose its prime spot on the world’s musical stage unless the government committed to supporting businesses and set out a timetable for reopening live music venues. The performers said venues are at risk of mass insolvencies and that hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost. All these artists started out by playing small, independent grassroots venues. They know the importance of them better than anyone.
It’s looking grim out there, like the veritable Ghost Town that The Specials so eloquently put it back in 1981 (albeit in response to the spate of riots at the time and rising unemployment). In terms of live music, it is grim. Beyond grim. Suddenly, after decades of uninterrupted live rock’n’roll, there is none to be had. Literally zero. Venues have shut their doors to live music, and as I write this the 50th anniversary of Glastonbury Festival is supposed to be happening. No festivals will be taking place for the foreseeable future. And while pubs are tentatively opening their doors, there will be no live music (the act of singing itself is deemed dangerous to other people’s health…) and probably not even piped music, as it is being guided that people need to be able to talk in normal tones and volume, rather than having to shout to get their point across.
Sports Team are the rising indie stars, a fun-filled guitar band, who romantise about Middle England, who like to sing about fishing, pubs, motorways, and the everyday in our lives, and who are at once dismissive of some of their fellow musicians, whilst being fully paid up members of the I Love Music club. Coming up on the back of word of mouth live hype, the six-piece band (made up of singer Alex Rice, guitarist and songwriter Rob Knaggs, drummer Al Greenwood, keyboardist Ben Mack, guitarist Henry Young and Oli Dewdney on bass) released their first EP, Winter Nets, just a couple of years back, the cover of which features a mock tudor house, sitting behind a flowering front garden.
When challenged, in 2018, by a fan via Twitter with the question “WHAT are you?”, Ghostpoet responded: “So Interesting. Why is it so important for me to be part of a predetermined genre with its parameters and rules? I’m just an artist who experiments with sounds and loves guitars. It’s ok to be confused, not everything in life needs explanation, sometimes we just have to go with it”.
Needless to say, these are weird and wonderful times. They are also extremely stressful for many, as the implications of COVID-19 insinuates its way into the hearts and souls of billions of humans on Planet Earth. But life goes on, as it must, and as it has evolved to. As always, our animalistic spirit shines through the desperation, fear and bewilderment. As the famous psychotherapist Carl Rogers observed, even the most malnourished and deprived plant will continue to strive towards growth and fulfilment. Is it any wonder that Keep Calm and Carry On is such an enduring mantra for the 21st century? Except that it’s now more Keep Calm, and less Carry On. Less going out, for instance. In fact, there is now no going out to see a show, a live gig, or festival. For musicians, along with everyone else, the times have changed, and no-one knows quite for sure if we’ll ever get back to anything approaching pre-CV (pre-Coronavirus).
The Dublin four piece have been kicking around for more than a decade. With vocalist Dara Kiely, guitarist Alan Duggan, bassist Daniel Fox and drummer Adam Faulkner, making up the band. They have two albums under their belt, both released on the Rough Trade label: Holding Hands with Jamie (2015), and last year’s The Talkies. With a loud, tightly coiled aggressive sound, the band are literally manipulating their instruments, while Kiely howls his way though via impressionistic lyrics. Portraying themselves as ‘the least macho bunch of people you could think of’, the band’s name has also caught the imagination. Brightonsfinest Jeff Hemmings caught up with Dara Kiely, chatting about the importance of noise, Leonard Cohen, and how he became a singer.
In existence as the current line up for little more than two years, London-based Dry Cleaning brought together longtime friends bassist Lewis Maynard, drummer Nick Buxton, and guitarist Tom Dowse, before they recruited vocalist Florence Shaw at the end of 2017. An artist, university lecturer, and photo researcher, she had never performed live before, and had never been in a band. But she always kept notes and lists, for her artwork. Lists of headlines, neuroses, grievances, advertising copy; words, and comments culled from the media, social media, youtube commentary and the like.
Paul Pascoe has been a stalwart of the Brighton music scene since the 90s, featuring in a number of bands including Mudlow, Fire Eyes and Palm Springs, as well as working at Church Road Studios, recording, mixing and producing many artists who have come through their doors since it was set up back in 1996. Another band of his, Beat Hotel, has been recently resurrected again after a lengthy hiatus, and which also features Arash Torabi (The June Brides, The Granite Shore), Stephen Brett (Mojo Fins) and drummer Dave Morgan (The Loft, The Rockingbirds). They have a mini-album ready for release at the end of January, and a launch gig at The Hope & Ruin. Paul chatted to Brightonsfinests’ Jeff Hemmings about the studio, Beat Hotel, songwriting and music in general.