Back in 2011, Obaro Ejimiwe aka Ghostpoet was suddenly catapulted into the limelight when his debut offering Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Glitchy, moody and like no other record out there, it not surprisingly lost out to the red-hot favourite, PJ Harvey and her Let England Shake album. "Looking back on it, it was like where do you go from there!" says Obaro from his London home. "But it was great way to open some doors and allow me to be taken seriously as an artist. It kind of follows you around, it's like a musical knighthood." Being nominated is certainly good enough for most people, and can even be better than having to deal with the unexpected pressures of actually winning the damn thing. In any event, people stood up and took notice of this unusual talent, as Gilles Peterson had done a couple of years earlier…
Three young and beautiful sisters, called Emily, Camilla and Jessica, who can sing like angels, and write memorable, easy-on-the-ear songs, all set within a broad-brushed indie-folk palette. How could this not work? Well, it did. And it's not taken them very long to become established, on the verge of releasing their second album, If I Was, and with a sold out UK tour just in the bag, including a date at London's Hackney Empire…
Since the early noughties Alice Russell has been at the forefront of the raw funk and electro-soul scenes, collaborating with the likes of Quantic, ™ Duke, David Byrne, Nostalgia 77 and Mr Scruff, and signed for most of the time to Brighton's long standing Tru Thoughts label. But with a very young daughter, Agnes, now a huge part of her life, we were wondering what Alice Russell would do now, in terms of her musical career? Whether or not she had the passion to belt out those songs that have enraptured fans around the globe. After all, for some people, nothing else really matters, and most everything seems a little superfluous, silly even, as they engage in the life long process of nurturing. But, apart from the fact that, for the vast majority of us, livings have to be made, and work we must, it's obvious that Alice still has the desire to continue developing as a singer and musician, despite being, as she puts it, 'milk-brained'…
Gaz Coombes, Mick Quinn and Danny Coffey formed Supergrass in 1993 in Oxford, at the tail-end of the 'new wave of new wave' movement, and the beginning of Britpop, a golden age for British guitar music, as record decks were being dumped for electric guitars. Of course, Blur and Oasis were the heavyweight champs, the musical equivalents of Ali vs Frazier, slugging it out, somewhat half-seriously, before the eyes of the world. But not far behind were this highly energetic indie pop rock band, who released Caught By The Fuzz on a small independent before being snapped up by Parlophone. That song, a fantastically catchy slice of urban mischief delivered in a slight faux-cockney accent by Gaz Coombes was the first single to be released by the major label. "It wasn't trying to be a real statement, but at the time we knew that it was a big deal. Kids all around England were getting nicked for having a bit of hash on them. In Oxford that kind of thing happened quite a lot. It's all true, so it was easy to write. It wasn't funny at the time… I was only 15 and shitting myself! The song has that disturbing energy. It's comparable to your heart racing. The adrenaline rush you get when your mum walks into the police station is similar to the energy of the song," Gaz has said. This was followed by Mansize Rooster and then their piece de resistance, Alright, a song that climbed to number two and is one of the defining songs of that era, a three minute slice of hugely infectious guitar pop music that radiated youthful optimism. "We weren't part of any particular movement, although we were signed as part of this new wave of new wave movement, which turned into Britpop. We didn't fight against it, we just operated in our own little space."
The international phenomenon that is Stomp has its roots in Brighton, which is where their HQ is still based. In Hove actually, in The Old Market, a grade II listed building built by Charles Busby and steeped in history. It's a building that was erected in 1828 for the purposes of providing a marketplace for the sale of meat, fish and vegetables, and supplied the residential development of Brunswick, then an independent enclave. Which seems apt, as Stomp themselves, and their overall production company Yes/No Productions, have carved out a hugely impressive performing arts and film company, that remains totally independent, and is still very much a part of the local fabric.
2014 was a great year for music and particularly a great year for music in Brighton. It was quite a job to keep up with all the great releases throughout the year, we featured almost fifty music reviews including Birdeatseaby, Blood Red Shoes, Fragile Creatures, Momotaro, Royal Blood, The Levellers, The Mojo Fins and Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey. Wilko Johnson had an amazing year, this album with Sussex-based Daltrey looked like it was going to be his last, but he has since recovered from what was diagnosed as terminal cancer – this was one of our first departures from purely Brighton-related album reviews – something we'll be expanding more into this year. With so much going on we launched a 'New Music' section on the home page half way through the year to showcase new music videos from local acts and beyond. The list of bands we featured highlights how much great new music was about – the list included: Afrikan Boy, Alice Russell, Chungking, Clowwns, Demob Happy, Dizraeli & The Small Gods, Fable, Fickle Friends, Gaps, Iyes, Kate Daisy Grant, Lutine, Marika Hackman, Octopuses, Passenger, Pink Floyd, Prince Vaseline, Rose Elinor Dougall, Royal Blood, The Cure, The Physics House Band, The Self Help Group, The Wytches, Tigercub, Time For T and many more.
Responsible for a trio of minor classics in the late 70s, in the form of Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154, Wire combined a new wave aesthetic, with art school nous and punk rock noise in creating a unique sound, that transcended musical boundaries. From the frantic punk rush of 12XU to the sublime psychedelic pop of Outdoor Miner, and from the warped industrialism of Once Is Enough to the spooky new wave sounds of I Am The Fly, Wire had it all, alternating a strong melodic nous with an experimental streak.
But, they threw much of that aside, somewhat intentionally, with their fourth album, Document and Eyewitness, a live recording that captured not only the band's desire to not be bound by their history but also expectations heaped on to them by their fans. It seriously divided fans and critics alike, and soon after Wire called it a day, whilst pursuing various solo and collaborative projects.
Made up of Steven Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter, Blood Red Shoes formed in Brighton ten years ago, from the ashes of their respective bands; Cat on Form, who released two albums of hardcore punk music on Southern Records, and Lady Muck. Coming from the DIY scene, they organised a jam one day and within a few weeks had written some songs and organised a gig, such is the chemistry that immediately sparked into life. Hard working and with an unrivalled enthusiasm for music, their loud and energetic music is a mix of punk, post-punk and underground american rock and hardcore, drawing inspirations from the likes of Nirvana, Queen of the Stone Age, Fugazi and Sonic Youth. They've released four albums, toured the world many times over and continue to win new fans with their lively stage shows and down-to-earth personas.
On a rare break, the Horsham raised Stephen is 'relaxing' in Brighton, catching up with friends, and looking forward to their last show of the year, as part of Drill:Brighton.
Back in 1997, after just one gig apparently, a bidding war erupted, with Gomez at the epicentre of it all. After playing to 25 labels, they settled on Hut Records, who then released the debut album Bring It On. Not only did it go platinum (300,000+ copies in the UK alone), it won the Mercury Music Prize the following year.
Ben Ottewell, one of three singers and four songwriters in the band, still smiles at the memory of it all. "It was very unexpected, and there was no time to catch your breath," says Ben, who has lived in Brighton for ten years. "I was a late comer to the band. The rest of the guys are from Southport (Ben is from Derbyshire), had grown up together and been writing and recording together for a couple of years before I joined. A mutual friend of ours had a tape of theirs (a tape!) and it already had the likes of Whipping Piccadilly and 78 Stone Wobble on it, pretty good stuff. I met Ian (Ball) in a bar through mutual friends – like a blind date – and we got friendly over Tom Waits and cheap beer. He heard me sing, we did a tape, the others heard it, and I was in.
To make it in the highly competitive world of music you have to be super dedicated, work your butt off, and try and close down as many distractions as you can. Joni Mitchell famously did that, working all hours of the day to get a song just right, finding the space and quiet to get 'in the zone'. Nick Cave has an 'office' that he goes to where he just writes, thinks and writes. Paul McCartney used to get in to 'work' before anyone else so that he could develop ideas in solitude. It's a side of the music industry you don't see very often, and for good reason… artists like to show off their finished works, not some half-finished scrap. It's all about the mystique, the mysterious ways in which creative types get from A to B.