I guess it’s currently the elephant in every room up and down the country. But I would have thought an indie gig on a Sunday night is one of the less likely places for the EU referendum to rear its head. But it is here as well. First, more prominently in support act Porridge Radio, their guitarist donning a European flag as a cape and their lead singer blurting out “Stay in Europe!” at one point between songs. Almost as if it’s an obligation she suddenly remembered needed to be met. “It’s pretty scary” Mat Cothran of Elvis Depressedly confesses later to the crowd. But we shouldn’t worry. “I’ll protect you. Nobodies getting through me.”
I can’t think of the last time an album’s title summed up the emotional state of its content quiet so succinctly as Mitski’s fourth album Puberty 2 does. Now in her mid-twenties, Mitski’s album marries the relentless melodrama of feeling everything for the first time while in your adolescents with the self-reflectiveness and dry wit of a more mature perspective.
The album starts with ‘Happy’. Beginning with a stuttering electronic drum sound, while Mitkski’s voice warbles, sounding quivering and uncertain. Suddenly a skronking sax line comes in and the song bursts into a driving piece of heartland rock. In the song, happiness is personified as a late night visitor who comes over to embrae her in a moment of passion. “He laid me down / and I felt happy/ come inside of me”. Maybe it’s a sniggering double entendre, but it speaks to how your sense of self-worth, love and sex can become so entangled they can become interchangeable. In fact ‘come’ is used in this double meaning throughout the album, both to signify orgasm but also as an invitation and beckoning. In the next verse, ‘Happy’ sneaks out while she’s in the bathroom and she’s left to clean up the mess he leaves behind. The song asks the question if happiness is really worth the effort. When it inevitably leaves you, all you’re left with is the acute sense of its absence.
‘Dan the Dancer’ is a vivid character study wrapped up in what a is simple punk rock number on first appearances. Mitski describes her insular protagonist learning how to be himself around another person and the feeling of liberation that comes with it. “Of course you couldn’t know / it was you and you alone / he had shown his bedroom dance routine”. It’s probably the album’s most optimistic moment. Showing how another person can offer you brief respite from yourself. But this is mainly because it’s one of the few times Mitski is able to step outside of herself. Something she longs to escape from on ‘Your Best American Girl’, the album’s glorious, soul-crushing centrepiece. It’s an ecstatic cry of wanting something so badly while also knowing you can never have it. What makes Mitski’s music so powerful is she realises these moments – when your emotions are so all encompassing that you can’t see anything else – are also the most life affirming. Like pinching yourself to see if you are in a dream, the pain makes you aware you are real and alive with excruciating clarity. It’s a song that has yet to be surpassed in 2016 by much.
Probably too much ink has already been spent on Mitski’s Asian American identity, especially as she says herself that her songs are meant to be universal odes to loss. But it’s hard not to equate the idea of a ‘best American girl’ with a particular symbol of whiteness, making Mitski doubly alienated from it because of her ethnicity. Musically the album draws on sounds typically dominated by white males, such as indie rock and folk. All of the genres the album absorbs are self-consciously used from the position of an outsider. She’s just as distant from whatever genre she is embodying as the subjects of her unrequited longing. There’s also a vein of beautifully subtle synth work running through the album, able to bring out those swells, like a sob rising in your chest.
A thrashing piece of lo-fi indie rock, ‘My Body’s Made of Crushed Stars’ would probably have been more at home on the more bare bones Bury Me at Makeout Creek. But it’s still more than welcome here. Mainly thanks to Mitski’s breath taking vocal delivery, the gain on her voice adding to the raw vulnerability.
Her voice is one of the album’s greatest strengths, able to inject devastating emotion into a single syllable. Every time she repeats “cry” on ‘Fireworks’, or “my baby” in ‘I Bet on Losing Dogs’ she’s able to ring amazing emotional range out of the phrases by using different emphasis or dragging out or shortening vowels. She belts with such emotion it sounds almost as if she might come apart at the seams. Often her voice wavers for just a moment, as if she’s about to become overwhelmed, before quickly regaining composure and carrying on.
‘Crack Baby’ with its clumsy drug addict metaphor, is probably the album’s weakest moment and also frustratingly the longest. When some of its other songs aren’t given anywhere near the amount of time they deserve, you wish the four plus minutes spent on this song had been given to something like the closer ‘A Burning Hill’ or the amazing ‘Fireworks’.
When we arrive to ‘A Burning Hill’, she dissolves completely into her own metaphor until the two are one and the same:
I am the forest fire/
and I am the fire and I am the forest/
and I am a witness watching it/
I stand in the valley watching it/
And you are not there at all .
Any which way she turns she is confronted by the fire, but more crucially it’s her self she sees everywhere in the place she longs to see someone else. Her solution? In the last lines of the album she offers a piece of stoicism:
I’ll go to work and I’ll go to sleep and I’ll love the littler thing /
I’ll love some littler things.
All you can do is love the little things. The little things like this beautiful and heart-breaking album.
Why is it that when love enters our lives, we fall into it? The expression to ‘fall in love’ reflects our fundamental ambivalence towards the sensation. Something that hits us with such force, it’s exciting but also terrifying. Containing the subconscious knowledge that something so strong contains the seed of its own destruction. Fear of Men’s new album Fall Forever suggests that once we begin to fall, we never really stop.
Fear of Men’s debut Loom – while possessing glimpses of indie-pop brilliance – was too slight and unobtrusive to make any lasting impact. On Fall Forever, Fear of Men haven’t exactly gone for bombast, but their inner-facing world has turned into something more deceptive than its surface first appears. It’s an album that meets you with a silent gaze, but behind its eyes there’s a brewing storm of emotional turmoil. The twee sensibility that their first album could be accused of has all but evaporated. Replaced by icy electronics and more overt darkness.
Lead singer Jess Weiss’ lyrics deal with the cataclysmic fallout of a relationship, but one she is never able to address directly: “I’m afraid of things I can’t explain”. We see the aftermath but never the event, only able to glimpse what these fears might be through inference and interpretation. On ‘A Memory’ we are given a stream of consciousness of her thoughts: “When we kiss… / The impossible guilt”, but we are never made privy to what the source of this guilt is, only its destructive consequences. We are given hints, particularly in the song titles. Often words not even mentioned in the actual lyrics, the titles work almost as a key by which to navigate or interpret Weiss’ impressionistic narratives. Weiss’ references are often obscure and oblique, pulling from mythology and literature. In ‘Erase (Aubade)’, Aubades are poems or love songs about lovers parting at dawn, sometimes to avoid being discovered because of the forbidden nature of their relationship. But the lyric “I erase these things/I don’t need what I left behind” inverts the form. She’s leaving with assertion, not because of shame. ‘Vesta’ is a Roman goddess of domesticity, and Weiss quietly confesses “I want to build a world with you”. With its ambient instrumentation of reversed chords and skipping samples to create its misty and veiled atmosphere, ‘Vesta’ almost sounds like an inchoate reality slowly beginning to come to together.
‘Onsra’ takes its name from an Indian word, which refers to the bittersweet emotion of knowing the love you are feeling will never last. The use of a word that has no equivalent in English points to language as a fundamentally inadequate tool for processing grief or trauma. Unable to work through the pain or supress it entirely, the music of Fear of Men is one of paralysis. Unable to move in one direction or another because of conflicting desires or feelings, it’s caught in a deadlock. It’s no wonder that the imagery they often choose to accompany their music is statues.
‘Undine’ is an elemental being associated with water, usually a female figure. For Weiss is the Undine of her own memories: “Your words flowing through the back of my head”. From all of these an image begins to emerge. But it is one without clear definition and one Weiss refuses, or is perhaps incapable, of showing us in its entirety.
Instrumentally, quietness and space characterises much of Fall Forever. All this would suggest this is not a very fun album to listen to, but the hooks are still there and this is still unmistakably pop, just imbued with a feeling of strangeness. There is something almost folkloric about Weiss’ vocals and melodies, as they cycle round in hypnotising patterns. The shadow of Portishead looms. Indeed, there’s something of ‘Machine Gun’ in the unrelenting snare rolls of ‘Until You’. Not that Fear of Men have gone trip-hop, but Weiss’ voice has a lightness to it similar to Beth Gibbons. Almost resting on top of the atmospheric electronics, like she is floating upon a body of water. There are moments of dissonance as well. ‘Island’ employs scrapping metallic samples and rapid-fire bass drum kicks. At these moments the music almost feels concrete, only to break into smoke when you reach out to try and grasp it.
This feeling of misdirection also runs through the music itself. Fear of Men’s Fall Forever stays at one tone and atmosphere for basically its entirety, but its one so difficult to pin down that it remains constantly engaging. It’s like a still image of an optical illusion that changes as you are simply looking it, one moment assertive or even triumphant, the next melancholic and defeated.
Defying all assumptions of how the music industry works in its upper echelons, James Blake – a pale lanky English guy who started off making progressive dubstep on tiny independent dance labels – has become virtual pop royalty. He’s written and appeared on songs with Beyonce and Drake and collaborated with Frank Ocean and Bon Iver. The anomaly of Blake can be explained by how he has essentially bridged to gap between the vocoder heavy, American rap productions that now dominate mainstream music, and then applied it to the context of British electronic dance culture. It was a perfect fit even though his music has always felt it’s designed for your headphones instead of in a club. Part of what was briefly known as ‘Night Bus’, electronic music meant for the journey back after the club, in a limited space where the line between evening and morning has disappeared. Blake’s music lives in this mysterious time rather than to be enjoyed on the dance floor. On The Colour in Anything we’re still in Blakes’ world of perpetual nighttime, the sun just on the cusp of beginning to rise and the city is so quiet the loudest thing you can hear are the bird songs.
In his early production James Blakes’ vocals began as samples. Small impressionistic splashes of the human voice dripped over the tracks. Even though now he’s properly singing, his melodies still maintain the logic of samples. On opener ‘Radio Silence’ he sings in short phrases that are used alternately to build up the songs. Likewise the piano parts abruptly cut off at the end of a bar before the note can decay naturally, lending them an air of artificiality. In contrast, it’s the less organic sounds that have a more natural sense of movement and transition. They move the songs along while the acoustic instruments – mainly his vocal and piano parts – circle round, dropping in and out. He’s always had a knack for manipulating his voice to serve different functions. On songs such as ‘Noise Above our Heads’ and ‘Choose Me’, these short vocal snippets – sometimes the looped last vowel of a line – become the rhythmic backbone of the songs, while the synths build to a crescendo. The opening croon on ‘Love me in Whatever Way’ sounds like a mournful saxophone in some jazz standard.
As is often the case on a James Blake album, there are at least one or two songs where all the production is stripped back and we’re taken back to what is the root of his sound, a man and his piano. And on The Colour in Anything this quota is filled by ‘f.o.r.e.v.e.r’, a beautifully simple ballad, full of observations almost microscopic on their level of sensitivity: “notice just how slow the killer bee’s wings beat / and how wonderful you are”.
Blake’s lyrics often resemble snippets of a conversation or inchoate thoughts rather than a clear narrative. They have often felt like something of an afterthought for Blake, but on The Colour in Anything these ambiguous glimpses can be evocative despite the small amount of information they give us. On ‘Choose Me’ he pleads: “You don’t weigh me down like you think you do”. From just this small detail, we’re magically able to fill in the space to create the whole image of the relationship. How he feels, how she feels, where they’ve been and where they are.
It’s this impressionistic quality to Blake’s music that often makes it so fascinatingly difficult to unravel how exactly he manages to create the effect he does while seemingly using so little. Everything is suggestion or inference. Inspected up close each part can make little sense, it’s only once you step back and take it all in at once that the gaps are magically filled and the whole, luscious image becomes clear. ‘Two Men Down’ is punctured by a noise that sometimes sounds like a pop, sometimes a manipulated dog bark. ‘Timeless’, a delicate motif, gives way to a siren-like noise. There’s nothing melodic about these sounds, and they should stick out like sore thumb on his delicate, futuristic R’n’B, but somehow they fit in effortlessly, their presence barely felt.
At seventeen tracks and over 75 minutes long, The Colour in Anything is a lot to take in and at no point does it veer away from what you might expect a James Blake album to sound. From the instrumentation, to the delicacy of future soul production, to his trademark warble, everything about his trademark sound is in place. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an album full of achingly beautiful moments, and can make your heart swell with just an expected change in a chord progression.
In that notorious online letter Eagulls wrote a few years back – which has come to unjustly overshadow their music – the main sense you get is a frustration at bands leaving behind a legacy of music that sounds like it’s from the UK in favour of pursuing global trends. Eagulls on the other hand certainly don’t. Evoking the grey urban landscapes bands like Joy Division so famously conveyed. The level of Eagulls’ success is down to how they manage to pull off the unique trick of combining this bleak, uncompromising atmosphere with hooks that once they get their claws into your brain, never really let go. It’s a pretty competent blueprint, and Eagulls could have spent the next few releases re-using it to make fan-pleasing albums, although perhaps with slowly diminishing returns. But Ullages isn’t that. It’s a more expansive record. We’re still in the same claustrophobic council estate, but their gaze is fixed on the sky, instead of on the enclosing walls.
In Kafka’s short story ‘A Country Doctor’ a doctor travels to inspect a young man. Upon arrival he discovers a wound as ‘gapingly obvious as a mine-shaft… worms, the length and thickness of my little finger, roseate and also coated with blood, are writhing against the inside of the wound.’ His patient’s fate is sealed but the doctor comforts and assures him he will recover. Kafka was living in a European country with an equally cavernous wound left in its side to fester. The rise of anti-Semitism in his native Prague and the absurdist slaughter of the Great War was all hurtling Europe blindly to even more unspeakable catastrophe.
Bad Breeding’s debut S/T likewise sees a rotting infection at the heart of European society. One caused by ideologically-crazed governments, and burgeoning extreme right wing xenophobia that’s blooming thanks to catastrophic austerity measures. It’s a wound brushed aside just as feebly as the one that Kafka’s doctor inspects: “you lack perspective. I, who have been in sickrooms far and wide, tell you: your wound isn’t so bad as all that.” If it’s not treated, things can only get worse.
Bad Breeding’s album could almost be one long sustained note being emitted from this wounded body. Letting out a cry of pain and anguish that rarely fluctuates and never falters. Sonically enacted by relentless blast beats and an impenetrable, dense wall of noise and feedback. There’s still variation enough for it to remain engaging. The ‘Corrupting Fist’ snare stubbornly stomps on beat while the guitar flails around wildly, while ‘Moral Itch’ all but totally collapses into swirling, violent convulsions.
It’s also a howl that is far from inarticulate. Lead singer Chris Dodd’s word choice is often poetic, sometimes flamboyant. The wordiness rubs against the relative simplicity of the music and makes the songs feel overloaded, like having to process horrific and depressive imagery we are constantly bombarded with from our various news sources. The short length of the songs seems to be something Dodd has no control over and he has to think what he’s going to say in real time. He almost never bothers with rhyme or meter because such things are frivolous. He’s rushing to fit in everything he needs to say before everything comes to an abrupt end. He’s never finished. There’s always more to say because the horror never stops. The songs are mercilessly and brutally short. Barely offering a moment of pause between them. The songs tumble and crash into each other like a car pileup. There are choruses here, but they’re working on the level of practicality of a battle cry. Closer in spirit to the short and simple chants designed to spread quickly through an anti-government march.
‘Standard Process’ implements recordings of machinery such as pneumatic drills, the same equipment some of Bad Breeding’s members use in their day jobs. But the guitar’s whirring tremolo and the pulverising bass on the other songs more than suffice in producing this effect on their own. The heavy guitar tone of Tony Iommi in Black Sabbath has been said to mirror the industrial noise of the metal factories he worked in. Likewise Bad Breeding sound like one of these industrial landscapes come to life. A rough beast ready to churn you up in its grinding gears and spit you out like mince meat.
Rather than the directionless misanthropy typically associated with punk, Bad Breeding have specific targets in their line of site, and almost no one is spared. ‘Venerable Hand’ takes aim at the left wing media in the face of the current migrant crisis: “Left wing press print words of kindness / Nothing more than moral pornography”. But it’s the current government and they reserve most of their venom for. Everything from zero hour contracts on ‘I Strive’ and mocks the aspirational jargon of Torie policy: “Aspiring to be aspirational / But not quiet grasping / how to remain upwardly mobile” reveals these as empty rhetoric, meaningless phrases that can be used almost interchangeably and have no reflection of reality. Unemployment and jobseekers policy is succinctly summed up as “fit for work / Ill enough to die” on ‘No Progress’, while ‘A Cross’ challenges institutional power abuse of organised religion.
Returning to the wound, in the video for ‘Corrupting Fist’ these injustices and brutalities are equated with not just pulsating human tissue but also self-harm. While Dodd confesses: “I Blame myself, blame you, blame everyone”. Bad Breeding positions all of this as attacks inflicted by a body upon itself, whether as a nation or the human race in its entirety. The ridiculousness and sheer stupidity becomes clear. We might as well be punching ourselves in the face.
Quotes from Michael Hofmann’s translation of A Country Doctor
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In my younger and more vulnerable years, I ventured to catch Wire headlining a small tent at a boutique festival. Only being familiar with their first three classic records, I was fairly confident I was going to be treated to a ‘best of’ set typical of a band that’s been going for as long as they have. What I got was something else entirely. There was no ‘Three Girl Rhumba’, no ‘I am the Fly’. They threw me a bone by playing ‘Map Ref 41 N 93 W’ but apart from that I was left totally benighted. This isn’t a band that’s still going to cash in on former glory. In reality Wire have a remained a creative force to be reckoned with for their five decades of existence, constantly exploring and pushing boundaries. The difference between them and other groups is that Wire have never really broken up, so there’s never been an opportunity for nostalgia to accumulate. Last year’s self titled album however, was exactly how you might expect a Wire album to sound but with some of the sharper edges sawn off. Nocturnal Koreans on the other hand is more of a studio creation (some of which was recorded at Brighton Electric studio) and has one of the last things you would expect from Wire of old, that it actually has warmth to it.
They haven’t entirely rejected their past, still maintaining a relationship with it that isn’t passive, so that they can go about reshaping it to fit more comfortably into their current form. Their 2013 album saw them returning to songs that date back to the period just after their third album 154 and never made it passed touring. They then went about rewriting them to create the excellent Change Becomes Us, a Wire album that somehow manages to exist in every period of their period simultaneously.
Comparisons to the band’s seminal first three albums are inevitable but Wire don’t try to ignore them, they simply want to have a say in the conversation as well. They retain their aversion to length that’s there right at the beginning on Pink Flag. But while Pink Flag dealt in sprawling vignettes – glimpses of what could be fully formed pop songs – the band quickly get bored and move on to the next one, sometimes not even sticking around long enough to wait for the chorus to repeat. In contrast Nocturnal Koreans follows each song through to their natural conclusion but instead opts to keep the track listing to a snappy eight songs. Their debut almost predicted the robotic assemblage of music in the 21st century, songs reduced to visual blocks of audio on a computer screen to be re assembled however you might wish. Here – and on last year’s album – Wire have actually developed a bit more of a human touch. While in their early work the monotone of Colin Newman’s voice could be something of a barrier, almost a conscious attempt to cover up how catchy the band is capable of being. Here Newman’s bark in early Wire has been replaced by softly humming vocals. On ‘Deadweight’ he lets out “Glide like butterflies” in one long breath and the song feels like it is lifting off the ground. His voice is subtly processed throughout, creating a milder version of the ‘crying robot’ vocoder effect. Still, nothing is laid out for you and repeated listens are still necessary in order for their songs to fully reveal themselves to you.
‘Numbered’ makes sly nods to ‘Three Girl Rhumba’ from 1977’s Pink Flag. The cryptic instruction to “Think of a number” becomes the more defensive “You think I’m a number” perhaps in defiance of the assumption their age may have hindered their creativity in any way. It very much sounds like how you would expect a Wire tune to sound – brittle, sparse guitars and monotone vocals – to the point were it verges on self-parody.
The songs that feel more loose and trippy are the album’s best moments. ‘Forward Position’ tackles the concept of being unable to forgive from an almost futurist angle: “I’m a black box, I remember / every promise that you broke”. Framing a nameless, strained relationship in a post-human, almost Ballardian light. The instrumentation, softly swelling synths and delayed guitars is strikingly shapeless when you consider the music they’re most well known for has the rigidity of building blocks. The title track describes sleepless nights spent touring America and in its best moments, the album captures the hazy and indistinct world that lies between consciousness and unconsciousness. ‘Internal Exile’ even sees them working a brass section into their sound, but again instead of stabbing blasts of noise they pulse with ambient atmosphere.
Nocturnal Koreans finds Wire moving forward but also too often glancing back to the past. But for a band into its fourth decade, Nocturnal Koreans shows a version of Wire still wanting to push the parameters of their sound in ways that bands less than half their age are willing to.
It’s a fine line trodden by indie bands with strong pop sensibilities. It’s possible to openly embrace accessibility while still retaining some semblance of cool, but equally they can just end up feeling disingenuous and uninspired. Tonight’s support act Vitamin unfortunately fall into the later category. Sounding like they were grown in a petri dish by a major label, they may have the choruses and the coiffed, pouty frontman, but it all feels a bit soulless. Based on the lukewarm at best response from the crowd, I’m clearly not alone in thinking this.
If you take a look out your window, it looks as if (whisper it) summer might be just around the corner. No better time then, to get acquainted with the music of The Island Club. Whether it’s the gloom of winter or the tranquillity of autumn, the Brighton music scene has music to suit all seasons. Within that spectrum, The Island Club undoubtedly fill the quota of music to accompany lazy, sunny afternoons.
So far we’ve been treated to two tracks from the five-piece, the super sleek ‘Paper Kiss’ and the more woozy and melancholic ‘Sober’. But anyone who’s caught them in the flesh will attest there’s plenty more where that came from. They pack an absurd amount of hooks and melody into their not-too-short but very sweet live sets. By this point they could probably put together a bit of funk-infused indie pop in their sleep. We managed to get them all together in the same room and asked them a few questions about where they came from, what they’re doing, and where they’re going.
Let’s start from the beginning, how did you all meet? How did the band get together?
Mike – Julien and I started writing together pretty early on at Uni, after meeting through a mutual friend and we went through a few band members before finding Sam and Dave. It really clicked musically straight away with them.
Julien – I met Sam at a house party, he told me his life story. I had to be friends with him after that 'cause I knew too much.
Barney – I actually knew Julien from school, he drunkenly asked me to join his band in Brighton to which I drunkenly agreed.
Julien – We'd been in bands before and I knew we could write well together.
Where do you all hail from originally?
Mike – I grew up in Stevenage and Sam hails from Swindon. Barney and Julien both come from a small village just outside of Guildford.
Julien – I was actually born in New Zealand, and moved over here when I was young.
Dave – I'm the only native Brightonian, born and bred. It's handy that these guys landed on my doorstep.
I can hear lots of different bits and pieces in your music. There’s a bit of psychedelia, indie-pop, disco and dance. Are these all sounds you purposefully draw on? What would you say are your main influences?
Julien – It started out with more of an indie sound. I definitely saw the potential for a more electronic sound so pushed for getting Barney in on synth. As far as the music goes it really is just a combination of what we like as a group. Sometimes an influence will be brought up during writing if we want to capture a vibe but we're mostly trying to write what we enjoy. I draw a lot of influence from sampled music in my guitar playing, and I like when a live part sounds choppy and disconnected. Also all hail the funk.
Barney – We all love a bit of Tame Impala, Daft Punk and Peace. Personally I was force fed a lot of Michael Jackson as a child, I know Mike fell in love with Hopes and Fears by Keane, and it was the first album that he properly became obsessed with. Sam recently mentioned that he listened to a lot of ABBA in the car growing up.
Sam – I think it really helps that most of us didn't grow up together and the music we listened to growing up was so varied.
You’re all at BIMM right? Do you think studying there – or even just being located in Brighton – has had any influence on the music you make?
Mike – BIMM is good for networking and you can get a lot out of it, but I wouldn't say it has any influence on what we write at all.
Julien – I'd agree. On the other hand Brighton is a great city, and living here probably effects the music we make on some level.
Sam – There are a lot of great bands in Brighton at the moment, it's cool to be a part of that scene
Julien – I suppose Dave has been the most influenced by Brighton having grown up here.
Dave – Yeah, it's just got such a good live music scene and you can't escape it. There's always touring bands and local acts.
Barney – I don't live here…
You released your first single ‘Paper Kiss’ near the end of 2015, can you tell us what the song is about?
Mike – It's about the corruption of money and how it can change people. I began to imagine what it would be like to put the richest 1% on an island, strip them from their cash and reputation yet let their egos remain… It would be interesting to watch.
Your recordings have a really lovely crisp, shimmering sound to them. Did you record and produce them yourselves, or where/who did you record them with?
Julien – We've only ever recorded with Neil Kennedy at the Ranch Production House in Southampton so far, at least with the tracks we've released. We demo tracks ourselves before we go to record them so we already have a solid idea of the production, but Neil has always had ideas for how to approach recordings, cause he knows his studio so well.
Sam – Neil introduced us to Geoff Swan who then mixed Paper Kiss and an upcoming single. Geoff managed to capture the sound we had in our heads.
Barney – We want to move towards doing more of the recording and mixing ourselves, so we have even more creative control over the sound.
There’s quiet a few members the band, how does your songwriting writing process work? Is there anyone who has to take on the role of leader or is it pretty democratic?
Julien – The initial idea for a track will normally come from me and sometimes Mike. We'll all write the meat of the track in the rehearsal room together, and we all have a say on how certain sections should feel.
Barney – We get really specific about the details of the track almost like producers would, so the track sounds 98% of the way there before Mike starts on the lyrics.
Mike – Writing lyrics and melodies usually consists of me pacing around my room for days on end whilst blasting the track experimenting with loads of different ideas. If I have a song idea, I'll bring it to Julien and we'll work on it together before we bring it to the group, we've always done it that way since the beginning.
You just sold out The Prince Albert for a headline show, which must have felt pretty good. How was it for you?
Sam – Massive.
Julien – It was the perfect mix of scary and brilliant.
Barney – I was already feeling celebratory at the beginning of the night seeing the room packed out! It certainly makes us hungry for even bigger shows.
David – Yeah, it was a really great show for us and we got a great vibe from the crowd. It was definitely a milestone for us.
Mile – Even the morning after the show we were thinking about what we were going to do next, we're always trying to up the ante.
You’re playing The Great Escape this year, have you been before? What are your experiences of the festival?
David – It's a festival that I've followed for years having grown up in Brighton, and it's cool to know we're gonna be a part of it this year.
Julien – I'm a fool and have never been before but have been desperate to go for years. It's awesome that the first time I get to go is when I get to be involved and play.
Mike– I haven't been but I'm excited to play!
Sam – Playing TGE is something I've wanted to tick off my bucket list since moving to Brighton. Seeing all these bands you've listened to for years just walking round Brighton is really cool and we're really grateful that we get to be a part of it.
Anyone you’re particularly excited to catch at this year’s festival?
David – I'm hyped to see Mura Masa and Oh Wonder at All Saints Church.
Sam – Blossoms, Mystery Jets and Black Honey. Too many bands to list really. We actually played with Blossoms at the Prince Albert last year.
Julien – Yeah we did! It's crazy to see how far they've come in a year. I'm really looking forward to seeing Boo Seeka. I found them on Triple J not long ago and love the track 'Kingdom Leader'. I agree there's just too much to list though!
Mike – I'm Interested in seeing Beach Baby cause there's a lot of hype around them. Also Jack Watts and Nova Twins.
Barney – I'm gonna make sure I see Clean Cut Kid and KYKO, who I played a couple of shows with in some of his earlier projects.
Your sound definitely feels like it’s meant for the summer. Any other festivals you’ve got lined up to play this year?
Julien – Nothing we can announce yet!
What else does 2016 have in store for you? Any plans to release more music?
Mike – There's going to be a new single very soon, expect some new sounds at the start of May.
Sam – It's been a while since we put out Paper Kiss but we didn't want to rush the process on the next single.
Barney – We do have a lot more we want to release, so hopefully this year will get pretty hectic for us.
Julien – We're gonna move into a house together later this year, and it looks like we'll have a studio space in the back garden to write and record ourselves and others in as well.
What artists or albums are you listening to at the moment?
Barney – The new Grimes album has taken over my life at the moment. I've also been listening to the Koi Child album which Kevin Parker [of Tame Impala] produced. Bibio's new album is great too.
Julien – It feels like I haven't stopped listening to Currents (Tame Impala) since it came out. I'm just looking through my playlist now, and there's a lot of RATATAT being added, and The Internet. I also just found this nice electronic duo from Aus called Kllo, really liking their sound.
Mike – I’ve been listening to a lot of Vulfpeck recently, I just love how they cover every element of funk. The Weekend, Beauty Behind Madness is just a great pop record and I always find myself listening to it. Mark Ronson’s, Uptown Special, yet again another great pop record with some wicked collaborations.
David – Flume's latest singles are insane and his album is going to be next level. Also B4- 4.
Sam – I was listening to Kendrick Lamar's album To Pimp A Butterfly at the end of last year on repeat, but for 2016, I haven't really gotten in to any other albums as of yet. The Magic Gang are becoming favourites of mine; I'm really looking forward to seeing them live in Brighton as soon as I can. A friend of mine is in a band called RAIN, he's shown me some of their new stuff and I'm really excited to see what they get up to this year. Their first EP was great. They're from my hometown, Swindon, so it's really great to see some emerging music from back home.
Tonight at the Concorde 2, Black Mountain are doing their very best to try and appear enigmatic. Cast in black silhouette, their faces remain obscured for the entire hour and a half spectacle. There’s no talking, or banter, just monster riffs and prog-rock synthesisers. But that’s fine. Some feel crowd interaction is now almost as essential as the music for an entertaining evening. But it’s a rock and roll show. Not a stand-up. This is rock that exists in a perpetual time warp where the punk rock revolution never happened. While punk brought the band down to the same level as the audience, Black Mountain hail back to bands like Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd who were mythical figures: unobtainable, almost godlike. It has its own charms, after months of catching most music in tiny, 200-capacity-or-less venues, its refreshing to see a proper rock show, with light shows and bombastic sound engineering.