Back in 2013 I first came across Courtney Barnett when she packaged her two previous EPs, I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris, and How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose, into one long player, and gave it a full UK release. The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas saw this Australian singer-songwriter start casting her spell over overseas listeners with her hazy tales of suburban banalities. In particular, the track ‘Avant Gardener’ was a powerful calling card. An intriguing song initially about the mundanity of getting up on a Monday morning before being inspired by her neighbour to do some gardening, before an unexpected and ambulance-inducing asthma attack takes over, laying waste to Barnett, all detailed in her endearingly lethargic sing-song voice. Even better, the accompanying video features her and a foursome playing tennis, wearing all whites, and playing with wooden rackets.
When I first came across Superorganism, and the fact that their 'Something For Your M.I.N.D' was actually being played on mainstream radio, I was suspicious. Was this some kind of manufactured band of happy-clappy optimists, devised by a scheming Svengali? How were they managing to muscle in on the auto-tuned, pop-music-by-numbers production line that pollutes our airwaves?
In the internet age, there are no boundaries to your creativity, and the ability to showcase your art beyond friends and family. This is the great musical revolution we are currently witnessing. Largely gone are the record label gatekeepers, the highly controlled and limited airwaves, and the weekly inkies, who back in the day could knock someone down as hard as they could give a helping hand. If you are willing and able, the playing field is now more even than ever. However, as always, cream often does rise to the top. As Tom Robinson, a champion of new music on the radio, said to Brightonsfinest recently, “You only have to put something on YouTube that is brilliant, and the word will spread. You don’t have to go through the bloody gatekeepers anymore.”
What's in a name? It's the cause of much consternation amongst those who have to carry the burden, the weight of it. Should it be meaningful, and relevant to the sound, or perhaps it should have no obvious ties? Maybe it just sounds good, and looks just fine in the eyes and ears of the beholder. Whatever the case may be, all bands have to have a name, and over the years I've spoken to countless acts who hate what they are called, but are burdened with it for ever. Not so with Her's who, although completely aware that the apostrophe is “massively incorrect", sound quite content with the ambiguity of it.
Being the daughter of a legendary musician usually has it upsides. Doors can unexpectedly swing open, interest can be piqued. However, as well as those who rode off the coattails of a famous parent, there are countless examples of children of rock offspring who have achieved success in their own right, right back to early rock'n'roll. Joe and Sam Brown, Hank and Hank Junior Williams, Tim and Jeff Buckley, Martin and Eliza Carthy, Don and Neneh Cherry, Bob and Ziggy Marley, and Ravi Shankar and Norah Jones, to name but a few. However, it's a path strewn with pitfalls, and unfair nepotism. Why the hell would you want to do what your parents did? Wouldn't you rather forge your own path?
It's been quite the journey for the guitarist and singer-songwriter Kurt Vile. Having that distinctive (and real) name helps, but that will only take you so far. A dedication to your craft, and working with like-minded souls is most important, and Vile has that in spades. He knew early on that music is what he wanted to do. From DIY recording and releasing in the early part of the century, to forming The War on Drugs with long-time friend and collaborator Adam Granduciel, Vile signed with the highly-esteemed American independent record label Matador in 2009 and has remained with them ever since, combining work with The War on Drugs, a high profile collaboration with Courtney Barnett, and his own music, in forging an impressively productive career, whilst at the same time trying to be a dad to his two young daughters.
"It was at the Grey Horse in Kingston," says Anna Calvi about her first public performance. "I remember I played 'Purple Haze' by Jimi Hendrix. I wasn't singing, but I remember it gave me such a buzz. I think it ups the stakes as a performer when you're playing in front of people. You're wanting to take more risks, and you want to push yourself further. I think I had that from the very first time I played on stage."
London’s Teleman have already set the bar high with the release of three singles so far this year, ‘Submarine Life’, ‘Cactus’, and ‘Song For A Seagull’, from their widely anticipated third studio album Family of Aliens, released via label-home Moshi Moshi. The foursome flaunting their new-found harmonious marriage of beguiling pop sensibility and pulsating electronic undertones, allied to sharp lyricism, buoyant guitars and instantaneous melodies, and coated by Tom Sanders’ remarkable vocals.
There are some, whose lack of generosity of spirit is topped up by industrial strength bile, who simply cannot abide Tom Odell, the singer/songwriter. Back in 2013, the NME notoriously awarded Odell's debut album no stars out of ten. That's right, ZERO. In the review, the NME described the then 22-year-old singer as a “Poor, misguided wannabe who’s fallen into the hands of the music industry equivalent of Hungarian sex traffickers”. The reviewer added, “I wish I could say there’s a place in Hell reserved for Tom Odell. There’s not. Just loads more Brits. He’ll be all over 2013 like a virulent dose of musical syphilis”.
Simon Raymonde lives and breathes music. It’s been around him all his life. His dad, Ivor, was a very noteworthy producer, arranger and musician. Simon played bass and helped produce the work of the Cocteau Twins, a relatively successful and influential indie band of the 80s and 90s. He’s run a record label, Bella Union, since the late 90s, produced and mixed bands such as Brighton’s Clearlake, James Yorkston, and Fionn Regan, and more recently opened a Bella Union shop in the heart of Brighton, selling almost exclusively Bella Union music (as well as his son’s fledgling label Opposite Number, some of Colin Newman’s – of Wire fame, who lives locally – recorded ouput, a few books, and some high quality screen-prints). He’s also taking to the stage again with Lost Horizons, a band he formed with former 4AD label-mate Ritchie Thomas, formerly of Dif Juz. Even though he’s well into his 50s, he’s more immersed than ever, and remains a massive fan of music, old and new.