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.
One of the most welcome comebacks of recent times has to be the return of London four-piece Bombay Bicycle Club. During a whirlwind opening phase of their musical lives they released four albums, the last one, So Long, See You Tomorrow, reaching number one in the album charts, in 2014. But soon after the wheels started to come off, and by January 2016 they had made the decision to call a halt. “Well, I think you have to look at why we stopped doing it,” says Ed, backstage at Concorde 2, before their ‘outstore’ show in celebration of their new album Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. “At the end of 2014 everyone was tired out and we really didn’t want to do it, and everyone wanted to do different things, and do the things that they had always wanted to do. Like, Jamie went to university, and me and Jack made our own albums. And I think in doing that, during those three or four year years we realised that what we had was incredibly special and perhaps we had taken it for granted before.”
It’s been a bizarre year. While Parliament, social media and the country-at-large have been tussling with Brexit and elections, the musical landscape has somewhat reflected that turmoil via a fragmented po-pourri of emotions, feelings and heightened surreality.
Formed in 2014, the London all female four-piece hit the big time when their stunning debut album Love in the 4th Dimension was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, a recognition that here was a good old fashioned indie rock and pop band who had the tunes to back up their enticing female gang imagery. Since then they have indulged in their various solo projects, played backing band to Marika Hackman on her I’m Not Your Man album, toured with The Pixies, and are about to release their second album, Walking Like We Do, followed by a tour with Bombay Bicycle Club and their own UK headline jaunt.
One of the few bands to outlast the indie guitar band explosion of the mid-2000s, Field Music’s un-selfconscious, anti-fashion stance has seen them compared to the likes of Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, Scritti Politti, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel and XTC. They may not have achieved much in the way of commercial success, but for the last 15 years they have been pouring their hearts and souls into Field Music, as well as a number of side projects including Peter’s You Tell Me band – also featuring Admiral Fallow’s Sarah Hayes – and David’s School of Language project, whose third album, 45, was released last summer, a satirical take on the 45th Presidency, Donald Trump.
Cacophonous feedback informed the beginning, the guitarist and singer Theo Polyzoides bent over forwards next to his amp, before the band struck out on a stridently noisy punk rock beat, Theo hopping on to his amp, back facing the cameras, before jumping off and reaching the mic in time to yelp the words to ‘Speakerface’. This was my introduction to King Nun, filmed in lo-fi, recorded live, but released as an accompanying video. It was electrifying. I loved it from the first seconds.
For two decades the Brighton based record label Tru Thoughts has been a prolific force amidst electronic music, jazz and hip hop, with artists such as Bonobo, Rodney P, Ty, Quantic, and Alice Russell gracing their books. Still headed by founder Rob-Luis, they continue to find, and nurture new talent. Tiawa Blackhorse has just signed to the label, and is one of many acts performing at Tru Thoughts 20th birthday celebrations, along with Hidden Orchestra, Anchorsong, Wrongtom, J-Felix, and many more. Tiawa took some time out from touring to have a chat with Jeff Hemmings, about Brighton, music and her musical partner Jack-Chi (Jack Kingslake).