Boxed In – Interview – 2015

London based producer Oli Bayston has already had a fruitful career in music – being the front-man for Manchester band Keith who were joint winners of the Road To V competition with Bombay Bicycle Club in 2006, as well as being part of a string of brilliant releases from the likes of Toy, Willy Mason and The 2 Bears. Oli went on to start a new band with all his own material in 2013, Boxed In, releasing an eponymous début to great critical acclaim this year. After a sell-out show at Sticky Mikes Frog Bar and a fantastic show at the Great Escape Festival this year, BrightonsFinest couldn’t be more excited to have Boxed In back playing The Haunt on 14th October. We had a quick chat with Oli the day before he started his tour to find out about his background in music and where he is on the second album.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Berkshire, near Slough and Windsor. It is The Office territory. I was there for sixteen years and then my parents moved to Essex, where I stayed until I went to Manchester University to study Music Production. Then I joined a band and ended up staying there for a good eight years.

How was your experience of Manchester’s music scene?
It was great! Everyone will have their own specific experience of music in the city, particularly when there is such variety. I was in an Indie band so I was listening to a lot of that, but at the same time I was going to a couple of great club nights – one specifically called Eyes Down which played Techno and Detroit House in a really small club called The Roadhouse. That’s where I cut my teeth clubbing. Although it was less clubbing but more a small intimate place to listen to all this amazing underground dance music. Those nights have stayed with me ever since.

What music were you brought up on?
My parents are both classical musicians – my dad is a piano player and my mum is a singer – so I grew up around a lot of classical music. I then found my own style of music writing when I was in my early teens and started writing silly love songs on the piano which have become more complex as I have got older. You are a product of your influences, a combination of everything that has inspired you. The music that I am now making is a combination of the classical music I was brought up on, the Techno and House I listen to as an adult, and the early days of learning how to write a song in a simplistic way as a teenager.

Was there a song or an album which made you decide to start writing your own music in your own way?
It was probably The Bends by Radiohead. Although albums like In Uturo by Nirvana and stuff by The Stone Roses who I was already a huge fan of, even early REM I was a fan of when I was twelve/thirteen.

What was the first instrument you played?
It was the piano and it is still probably my favourite. It wasn’t for quite a few years because it wasn’t my go-to instrument as I started to learn the guitar when I was eighteen and used to play it in my down time and write songs on it. I think I have now settled back into what is now my primary instrument, the piano – the one I am most akin to and the one I write most my songs on. I would be interested to try some new ones, maybe the Bassoon next – Boxed In album two could be a Bassoon opera.

When did you start playing as Boxed In?
It was when I moved to London, I wanted to find a new outlet after I left Keith. I had a lot of songs that I wasn’t quite sure what they were or why they sounded the way they did. One day I decided to spend a week writing a predominantly Electronic album. I ended up doing a ten track album with lyrics and pretty much had it finished in five days. That’s what I thought was the Boxed In album, but then decided to take things further and make it more interesting and unique by introducing live musicians playing electronic music. Towards the end we incorporated more synths back into the sound, but predominantly it is an acoustic record playing electronic music.

Is there a story behind the name?
It is a lose reference to a Francis Bacon painting called ’Head VI’, one of my favourites paintings. It’s his depiction of Pope Benedict XIV in a big arm chair, bastardising him by putting a big screaming mouth on his face and encasing him in a square structure so it looks like he is trapped. For me, that describes what it feels to be a song writer.

How do you approach the writing process?
I tend to do it all on my own. Boxed In album two I have written all myself apart from a couple that we have jammed out as a band in the studio. I have my own studio in London which has all my toys in it and I feel very comfortable in. Sometime lyrics will come to me in other places and I’ll bring them to the studio, but quite often it will start with music which will then form the message I want to relay in the lyrics.

What inspires your lyrics?
They mostly comes from personal experiences. There are some fictional ideas on the first album too, based loosely on scenarios from Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife. The first album is very personal, it’s all about the trials and tribulations of being in and out of relationships.

Have you been thinking about the next release?
I have written about forty demos! We will record the next album in January hopefully, so it should be out the middle of next year. It’s important for me to keep things moving. I tend to write a lot of music, that why I write for other people. Not saying it is all good but a lot gets written all the time, it’s important for me to have an outlet. I write about a song a day.

What has been a musical eye-opener and how has it affected you?
When I was in my early teens, I realised this was what I wanted to do. I was learning and reading music in the way classical musicians do. I found it so liberating to enjoy music but not on the written page, dictated to me by someone else. Realising that there was this whole other world of music that involved creating from the ground up, not just impersonating other people’s ideas. That’s why I love song-writing, it is all encompassing creatively, an entire message.

What would be in your perfect group of any four musicians?
Vini Reilly on guitar, from The Durutti Column. Jah Wobble on bass, from Public Image Ltd. Janis Joplin on vocals and then Animal from The Muppets on drums. I would kill to see that live. A really chilled guitarist, a punky bassist, then Janis Joplin’s vocals with a Muppet on drums – it could work really well.

What would be your perfect line-up of any three acts for a concert you are putting on and where would it be?
It would begin with Miles Davis playing the whole of Kind Of Blue, then Jeff Buckley and the headliner would be CAN. They would be playing in the Inner Hebrides in Scotland. I played the Isle of Eigg festival there which was really cool – the Island is owned by the people who live there, so there are no police or security.

If you could work with any artist(s), who would it be and what would they bring to Boxed In?
I would love to work with the creators of Shangri La at Glastonbury and see what kind of set up they could create. That would be fun. Doing this one off performance where they curate the choreography and pyrotechnics.

What are your future plans till the end of the year and after?
We have of a tour of the UK starting on 7th October, stopping in Brighton on Wednesday the 14th. Then a couple more shows this year including a festival in Bilbao and playing in Margate with Hot Chip. Then the second album next year, which is really exciting – all the tracks are written so just need to record them and hopefully it will be out before next summer. I still do a lot of production for lots of different music, I have got this nice balance between the two now.
 
 
 

Tiggs Da Author – Interview – 2015

 
Wow is an understatement! A Concorde 2 crowd could not believe the emphatic way Tiggs Da Author introduced himself to Brighton with a set that warranted a headline stadium slot. Addictive beats mixed an East London sound and old skool R&B creating a high energy show which had the majority dancing, and left the venue with a buzz like no other. He may not yet be a house hold name, but give it a few months (when he would have performed on Later with Jools Holland), Tiggs Da Author will be the UK’s next big thing. BrightonsFinest caught up with Tiggs before his support slot to Rag’n’Bone Man to find out more about him and his music.
 
Where did you grow up?
I lived in Tanzania till I was eight years old. Then I moved to the UK and have spent most of my life in South London. I go back to Tanzania every year to spend Christmas and New Year with the family. When I’m there I always go to Jazz clubs and find out about the new music that is coming out. The music over there is amazing!
 
Are you a big fan of Jazz music?
Not just Jazz, I would say it takes up about 20% of my music. Jazz music has a sort of feel that you cannot describe until you are there and witnessing what is going on live. That’s what I really like about it – it has its own rules, it’s unconventional and it takes incredible skill.
 
Can you remember the first album you bought?
I think it was Dizzy Rascal’s Boy In The Corner. At the time I used to listen to a lot of pirate radio with my friends and heard about him that way. Then I saw the video for ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’ and thought I just had to by the album it was on.
 
Did you ever envision progression of your sound from Grime sound to what it is now?
No. At first I thought, “This is cool, all my friends are rapping. I’ll do the same thing”. My friends went onto pirate radio, so I followed them. I then started to love music more than I ever planned to. Eventually I started to listen to more and more music but it was when I went back to Tanzania that I started to pay attention to African Jazz. Before that, my mum used to play it in the house but I was a kid and didn’t care for it. Now as I am older, I want to keep some of my roots and foundation I’m my music. When I got home from Tanzania, I started messaging people on Facebook, got a band together and started making this kind of music. You can see the Grimey influence on ‘P.O.W.E.R.’, from my first EP, then on ‘From The Jazz We Come’ I am still rapping but mixing it up with singing to. That was definitely a transition period for me. I was trying to say to people that I come from Jazz, embrace it then add my own vibe to it and hopefully people will love it.
 
How do you approach writing music?
I need to shut myself away. I don’t really like writing around anyone. I can be in my own space, my own zone and really get to focus on what I am writing about. I don’t want to be writing just for the sake of writing, just saying lines because they rhyme. Imagine doing coursework which has to be in the next day and you are around people who aren’t working – it would be impossible.
 
Tell us a bit about your single ‘Georgia’?
It kind of defines the direction I’m going in for the album. It’s up tempo, witty lyrics, melody and chorus driven, and the majority is on that same vibe. It has that East African influence in the way I deliver some of my lyrics and in terms of melody, but it also has Mowtown drums and a 60s influence that gives it its driving energy.
 
I saw some backstage footage to the ‘Georgia’ video with you in a massive trailer, looks like it was a lot of fun?
It was epic! America likes to do everything “huge”. It was literally on a whole road and there was so many people – I was like “Flipping hell! I guess I cannot mess up then”. I had to, you know, man up. It was good I got that test early, so if I’m in a situation like that again I will know how to handle it. It can be overwhelming, but it was still really good and I had a lot of fun shooting it.
 
The internet has been going mad over ‘Run Run Run’, will it be the next single?
It’s so crazy! I haven’t even put the song out for people to hear, it’s only on Fifa 16 and the advert for Ruby World Cup. People keep asking me about it and where they can get it. It’s another cool song and as long as people like it …..
 
What has been a musical eye-opener for you?
When I had my first show at Servant Jazz Quarters and saw the reaction I received. That was a pivotal moment for me. I was like “Ok – I want to do this”. It’s hard to explain it. You can see how you make people feel and that is a crazy feeling.
 
If you put on a show of three acts, who would it be and where would you put it on?
Bob Marley and Amy Winehouse. Then Michael Jackson closing the show as he is a bit of a mover. It would be at the Roundhouse. I went there the other day and really liked it, it’s not too big and the acoustics are really nice.
 
If you could work with anyone, who would it be and why?
I would want to do a chorus with Tupac, let him do whatever he wants. I would be sick!
 
If you could have written any song, which one would it be and why?
My favourite Michael Jackson song, ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’. That song has some super vibes! If you hear that song and you don’t want to dance, there is something going on in your world.
 
What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m listening to so much. For instance, today I listened to Jack Bugg, Stormz, a killer jazz band, James Blake – really weird combinations of music but I like it.
 
Do you get to go to many gigs?
Yeah. Best one I saw recently was probably Pharrell at the Apple Festival. I am a huge fan. I really like his old catalogue which he played a lot. It was sick!
 
What are your future plans?
At the moment I am working towards my album, so I need to complete that and then release a few singles from it. Do a lot more shows and support slots. I just want to give people more of my music and hopefully they will love it the same way I do.
 
 
Listen to ‘Georgia’ on Spotify
 

The Big Moon – Interview – 2015

The Big Moon are a band that really excite BrightonsFinest and they should excite you too. The four piece made up of Jules, Cellia, Fern and Soph (from Our Girl), create enticing energetic rock that will captivate any audience. With only three songs available for us to hear at the moment, which are frankly all brilliant, we have been treated to a duo of fun grungey bangers in ‘Eureka Moment’ and ‘Sucker’ as well as their new single ‘The Road’ which is more of a slow jam and shows another side to their music. BrightonsFinest was pleased to grab a few moments with the girls to find out more about the band.

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H. Hawkline – Interview – 2015

Before being a full-time musician, Huw Evans was radio presenter with Huw Stephens on SC4 and then had his own stint as a radio host for BBC Radio Cyrmu. After a string of brilliant odd pop releases, Huw moved to Los Angeles with his partner Cate Le Bon who also produced his second album, In the Pink of Condition, one of the most underrated albums of the year. H Hawkline brings his live show to Brighton on 24th September at The Basement, co-headlining with Gwenno, so we got in contact to find out more about his music.
 
Where did you grow up?
Born in Cardiff, wrenched to Prestatyn aged nine.
 
Do you think were you lived has influenced your music?
We’re all sponges, a front door here, an empty room there, it all goes in, has to come out somewhere.
 
Was there much of a music scene in Cardiff?
In Prestatyn no not really, but the further west in North Wales you head the more music you hear, Wrexham is maybe the exception in North East Wales. Music was banned in Prestatyn on the second Tuesday of every month from 1996-1997 and that is a true fact. Though sometimes the cross foxes would have the jukebox on very quietly, whispers of Prince would drift like smoke down the high street if the wind was headed in the right direction, to the start of Offa’s Dyke.
 
What music were you brought up on?
Beatles, Garth Brooks, Queen, Radio Cymru on the kitchen radio, lots of truckers requesting Bryn Fon from phone boxes, news at 10.
 
Can you remember the first album you owned?
Not really, mostly had hand-me-down compilation tapes from friend’s older brothers, maybe it was The Doors movie soundtrack compilation with Val Kilmer acting his little socks off between the songs, the snake king, lots of thunder.
 
What was the first instrument you played, and when? Do you have a favourite instrument?
Recorder / corkscrew
 
When and what made you start performing as H Hawkline?
2008 / money troubles
 
How would you briefly describe H Hawkline’s ethos?
If it can’t be whistled or hummed it’s no good, if you’re still whistling and humming in three and a half days time, it’s too catchy. It has to lie in the middle somewhere. Whistle me once, more fool you, whistle me twice and I can be very nice if you like.
 
What affect has your time in LA had on your music?
Chorus affect.
 
What are your main influences?
Beatles, books, beautiful things.
 
What inspires your lyrics?
A last minute panic.
 
How do you approach the writing/recording process?
Hide away initially, and then surround with people who can compensate for my inadequacies.
 
Do you prefer writing music or playing live?
Both in equal measures, although sometimes live more. I do like going places.
 
Have you been thinking about your next release?
I’m writing it at the minute. Two songs in I’d say it’s relying a little too much on the black notes of the piano – it’s those longer ones that the pluggers like. I think today I’m going to try upping all the tempos to 120 and scrapping the strings.
 
What would be your perfect line-up of any three acts for a concert and were would it be put on?
Garth Brooks with the exhumed corpses of Wg Sebald and Serge Gainsbourg as stage props in the house.
 
If you could work with any artist, who would it be and what would they bring to H Hawkline?
Dr Dre / finances.
 
If you could have made any album ever, which one would it be and why?
The Cleaners From Venus – Blow Away Your Troubles. They recorded it themselves and it sounds really good and the songs are great.
 
If there is one artist that everyone should listen to, who would it be and why?
Yourself, forget about what everyone else is doing.
 
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Currently right at this minute listening to a playlist of John Lennon demos and rarities on Youtube. You should listen to it too, it’s great! Just type in JOHN LENNON DEMOS it’s the second search result.
 
What makes you happiest when you are not playing music?
Photoshop, pritstick, ink, and a scanner.
 
What are your future plans until the end of the year and after?
Weirdly I have a To-do list next to me that I’m working on, I’ll copy it out verbatim:
Sort out design website
Book car for end of the road
Book bigger car for tour with Gwenno
Finish new songs (try upping tempos)
Remember to eat lunch
Record album in November
2016 – Make it big
 
 

 

 

 

Gwenno – Interview – 2015

Born and raised in Cardiff, Gwenno Saunders is no stranger to Brighton being the former front woman of Brighton’s The Pipettes. Since they disbanded, Gwenno has toured as a synth player with Pnau & Elton John and released her debut album Y Dydd Olaf, first on limited release with Welsh label Peski and then re-released by Heavenly Records this year. Her psychedelic electropop sound which is all sung in Welsh got a rave review from BrightonsFinest and has made us mightily excited for her co-headline show with H Hawkline on 24th September at The Basement. We spoke to her to find out more about her music.
 
 
Do you think where you live has influenced your music?
I think that everywhere I’ve lived must have influenced me in different ways, I’ve always lived in cities – Cardiff, Las Vegas, London, and Brighton. They’re all very different from each other but I suppose that they share a similar template. I’d love to live in the middle of nowhere someday too and I’m sure that would completely change my music.

Is there much of a music scene in Cardiff?
There is, and it’s incredibly varied. Cardiff’s population is growing which means that it’s changing all the time too, and I think that having some more established independent art spaces has helped to merge the music and art worlds again, which can only be a good thing!
 
What music were you brought up on?
Alan Stivell, Clannad, The Chieftains, Meic Stevens, BUCCA, Heather Jones, Y Trwynau Coch, traditional Yiddish music, Brenda Wootton, Billy Bragg, a lot of protest songs – The Internationale, The Red Flag etc . So loads of different music but no Anglo-American pop/rock at home, which meant that it took me awhile to figure out that landscape but also gave me a different perspective.
 
Can you remember the first album you bought?
Well, my Irish dancing teacher used to listen to a lot of 70’s easy listening music in the car on the way to class – The Carpenters, Lionel Richie, Mamas & Papas etc. and the song that really stood out for me was ‘Almaz’ by Randy Crawford and I remember going to Kelly’s Records in Cardiff’s Indoor Market to buy it. I just thought it was the saddest song ever when I was seven!
 
What was the first instrument you played, and when?
My Uncle taught me piano when I was young, and I really enjoyed it, and I learnt violin at school and got through to grade 4 on both but the Irish dancing took over for a while. I came back to the piano later on in my teens and it was lovely to re-approach it outside of the classical sphere so I suppose that some kind of keyboard instrument would be my favourite.
 
Do you still have an affinity with Brighton from your time with The Pipettes?
I really do! I remember arriving in Brighton around 2005 and going to a gig at the Volks on my first night. There were two guys dressed up as aliens playing electronic music and they were brilliant – I wish I could remember what they were called! I remember immediately feeling completely free to do anything and I really appreciated the confidence that musicians seemed to have to embrace the ridiculous. I was only aware of the more post-rock side of what was going on in Cardiff at the time so it had a huge impact on me.  People weren’t afraid to embrace pop music either, which I thought was fantastic. Funnily enough, when I moved back to Wales I soon discovered that a lot of performance art/music had been going on there for decades, it’s just that I hadn’t been aware of it. But I think Brighton helped me see that it was there.
 
The style of your music has jumped drastically from your time with The Pipettes to now, is this down to your time with Pnau & Elton John?
The chance to tour with Pnau was a brilliant one and it came about through my friend, Joe Harling, who happens to be from Brighton. What was great about it was that firstly, I was just a synth player and backing vocalist as part of the live setup so I could step right back and learn from them. Secondly, as Pnau, there isn’t an obvious concept so that to me it was incredibly free having come out of something that was so conceptually rigid. Both Nick and Pete are obsessed with sound and coincidentally I was starting to record my own stuff and going on my own sonic adventure so I learnt a lot during my time with them.
 
What made you start performing as Gwenno?
Well, when I was eighteen and I first started performing it was because I thought that the world needed more Welsh and Cornish language pop!
 
How would you briefly describe Gwenno’s music?
Musically, at my core I love a good song and what I’m trying to do is to create a sonic world around it, and to embrace different sounds from different places. I’m trying to find the balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar.
 
What are your main influences?
Childhood memories of music, 20th century avant-garde composers, The Weimar Republic, Welsh language post-punk, and boundary pushing musicians working in and outside of Wales today.

 
What inspires your lyrics?
The need to try and define the world that I see around me.

 
Tell us a bit about your newest release Y Dydd Olaf?
The album was inspired by a sci-fi novel of the same name, written by Nuclear Scientist Owain Owain and was published in 1976. It shares similar themes with Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World but has the added element of the protagonist being able to share the experience in a diary form as the overlords in the story cannot decipher Welsh. That solidified my own sense of purpose with the music that I was making when I came across the book, and helped me focus on creating my album.

 
What has been a musical eye-opener and how has it affected you?
I listened to a lot of Datblygu when I first joined The Pipettes and it had a lasting impact on me, it reminded me of the culture that I was from and helped me navigate in an unfamiliar world.
 
If you could work with any artist, who would it be and what would they bring to Gwenno?
I think that Brian Eno would be incredibly interesting to work with, I enjoy his theories and it would be good to learn from them and challenge them too!

 
If there is one artist everyone should listen to, who would it be?
It would have to be Malcolm Neon, a one man Kraftwerk/Visage machine from Cardigan who recorded most of his output during the early 80s in his bedroom.
 
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Ruth White – ‘Flowers of Evil’, Anelog, Julia Holter.

 
Do you get to go watch many gigs?
Datlbygu played their first gig in 20 years in April at a festival that we (Peski) curated for the Wales Millennium Centre called CAM’15 and that was pretty perfect.

 
What has been your happiest memory with music?
Probably making up silly songs in Cornish with my sister and my dad when we were little. One in particular, which we still sing on occasion, is a command to the red man at the traffic lights to go away or we’ll get violent which is set to a doo-wop melody. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds!
 
What are your future plans for the summer and after?
I’m heading on a U.K tour with the marvellous H.Hawkline in celebration of Heavenly Recordings being 25 years old and both of our albums being released this year. We’ll be at The Basement in Brighton on the 24th of September. So, come on over if you’re free!
 
Website: Gwenno.info
Facebook: facebook.com/Gwenno
 

 

Ryley Walker – Interview – 2015

It is once in a blue moon that a rare talent comes around, someone who is a free spirit, with the focus only on the music they want to make – Ryley Walker is that person. After learning his craft in bars and clubs of his hometown Chicago, Ryley has created a mammoth underground following and now is constantly selling out shows way in advance where ever he is playing. This is mainly due to his impressive improvisation and phenomenal guitar and vocals abilities, sounding like a Jazz/Folk protégé of Jeff Buckley and John Martyn. Although by no means is that the limit of Ryley’s inspiration as he is an avid record collector and seller, as well as producing a re-release of a rare folk vinyl he found in a Chicago record store. I talked vinyl records and influences with Ryley before his recent Brighton show to find out more.

What was the music scene like when you were growing up?
Punk Rock. Lots of shitty bands and nothing really that creditable. Once you got older in Chicago you realises that there is a sick Jazz scene, and there still is. When I got to the age of reason, I discovered things like The Big Black or The Jesus Lizard, and Tortoise. It was a tight musical community and it had a bunch of everything – you couldn’t miss anything.
 
How did you get together with your band?
Even though it is a big city of five million people, the jazz scene is still pretty small. You would go to the North West side to any bar and perhaps see five people a night, then meet them like that. Everyone is gigging nearly every night, it is so easy to make money as a musician there. Not tons of wealth as a musician, but it is also cheap to live there. You can flip records on Discogs and play two gigs a week, and you could have your rent.
 
So you do lots of buying and selling records?    
I am a record flipper and jammer by trade. You got to have everything, or nothing at all. It’s all back at the house in Chicago. I’m pretty backed up at the moment. I have a lot of people emailing me about their records and calling me an asshole right now, so I’m calling my friends saying “take the records out of the sleeve and wrap them in bubble wrap”.
 
What is your most cherished vinyl?
If I had to sell everything tomorrow, I would definitely hold onto a huge stack. I have a lot of records that aren’t even rare, but just the thought of me buying them is special. The copy of my Led Zeppelin III which I got from a friend of mine before he passed on, which is a very cherished record because the memory behind it – it’s one of my favourite records ever. I have a bunch of obscure cool psych rock, folk, jazz and weird guitar records too.
 
What have you been buying recently?
I am super into Canterbury Prog right now – Robert Wyatt’s stuff like Matching Mole live bootlegs that I’ll spend a $100 on each, a lot of his side projects too. Nick Jones is someone I’m really into at the moment, his album Penguin Eggs is amazing. He is an amazing British guitarist who doesn’t play too often these days as his hands are messed up due to a car crash just after the album was released, which is tragic as he is one of the greats.
 
I can imagine your tour van is full of records?
Yeah. There are a lot of cool charity shops about, so I’m always finding cool 45”s – a lot of old Northern Soul I’ve found here.
 
Do you get to go to many gigs in your free time?
I tend to be pretty busy when I’m on tour, but when I’m back home in Chicago I will make a point of seeing some bands as most of my friends are musicians. A couple of guys who are in my band have this other band called Health&Beauty who are amazing, it’s hard to describe unless you listen to them – to me it sounds like King Crimson if they were Dinosaur Jr.
 
Has your style of music always been the same?
I have had a few lives in music. I was in a lot of Punk and Noise bands for a while, playing a lot of the underground butt joints. The sleeping on their basement floor and waking up with scabies kind of circuit. That was how I got my chops. I always do collaborations and pick up improv gigs, I do that a lot as I feel like it make me a better guitarist. A friend will come to me saying, “We have got a gig at an Italian restaurant tonight. Two set, each an hour” and we will just jam. I love improvising.
 
Can you remember the first time you picked up an instrument?
My sister had a Casio keyboard. I would just play with the black keys, ripping on the pentatonic. I didn’t really like music till I was about twelve years old to be honest. It wasn’t like “the arts have stricken me at the age of four”. I was really in to sports and baseball which was all I wanted to do, but I was kind of a fat kid and sucked at sports so I played music.
 
What are your main influences?
With the newer stuff, it is definitely more literal – “here is my observation and here is what makes me bummed about it”, “here is the names, birth dates and social security numbers” you know. The great songwriters of England and America in the 60s and 70s is the foundation or basement. The first floor (or what you guys call the ground floor) you get to more of the out stuff; like Derek Bailey, Sonny Sharrock and Alice Coltrane. The combination of folk, jazz and world music I like a lot.
 
How do you approach writing music?
I will come up with a riff and then we will jam on that when playing live. I will make up words then keep condensing it, refining it, woodshedding it (sanding the edges off). It’s always like “oh shit, this could go really wrong” but its fun. Sometimes I will sit at home and write, but it is hard to finish stuff when I’m on my own.
 
I guess you have been thinking about the next release then?
We have a bunch of new songs and have recorded some of it. Hopefully it will be out by the middle of next year. It’s a little different, but also a little better if I was being honest and frank. It is not like I’m doing a dub record or anything, but I would say it is better words and music.
 
Tell us a bit about the John Hulburt Opus III re-release you have been involved with recently?
I found it in this record store in the West Chicago in the suburbs. Its about an hour away from my house by train but it is a cool store, I’ll make it out there once every couple of months. I know the owner really well so whenever they have vinyl they think I’d like they will hold it back for me, and they sold it to me for about $10. When I got home and I was doing my research, I realised it’s a really rare record. The record its self is really good and there are only 100 presses. The album was made in Chicago in 1972, when there wasn’t really a Folk scene in Chicago so it’s a really special record for its time. I tracked down John Hulburt’s sister through a string of record nerds to see if she would be ok with me re-releasing it, and she said “that would be amazing as he would have really wanted people to hear it”. So I put together a re-release with some cool liner notes done by some great Chicago writers. It’s great for the world to be able to hear a Chicago Folk artist of that time as there weren’t too many.
 
What had been a musical eye-opener?
There are lots of those kind of instances. I have a lot of good friends that I have met over the years. Some of my best friends I have seen live for the first time then have gone up to them afterwards and been “Wassup dude, that was great”, then sat around all night talking about records.
 
What would be your perfect line-up of any three acts for a concert you are putting on and where would it be?
This would probably change every time I think about it. Live at The Fillmore (San Francisco): Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and John Coltrane.
 
If you could work with any artist, who would it be?
I’m going on tour with Danny Thompson (bass player extraordinaire who played with Pentangle) in February across the UK where we will be playing together. That was a big dream for a while and now it’s a reality. There are a lot – Anne Briggs doesn’t play music anymore, so to have her come out of the wood work and play music again would be amazing. She’s is one of my favourites of all time, one of the best who only had a few releases.
 
What are you listening to at the moment?
I don’t really listen to music whilst on tour as it used to fry my brain, I try to read a lot more books. Peter who drives the van is in charge of the radio and has a cool music taste – a lot of compilations like Ethiopian and Moroccan psych and traditional bands, which are all home and field recordings.
 
What are your future plan?
We are going to Israel, which I’m looking forward to. In October I am touring with Michael Chapman (prolific folk/jazz artist) in the Sates. In November I might take a chill pill, play guitar at home, watch movies and finish the record. Then there’s the tour of the UK with Danny Thompson in February 2016.   
 
Buy John Hulburt’s Opus III from Tompkins Square Records: tompkinssquare.com/hulburt.html
Read a review of Ryley Walker's show at The Hope & Ruin HERE
 

Andy Shauf – Interview – 2015

Andy Shauf was my favourite find of the Great Escape Festival 2015. His delicate and riveting storytelling style commanded a typically rowdy audience to be completely silent and were left in a state of wonder for this amazing songsmith and his band. Having written and performed under his own name since 2006, his beautiful self-release album in 2012, The Bearer of Bad News, was re-released this year giving him a far wider audience and the acclaim his special song writing deserves. With Andy and his band coming to Brighton on the 1st September to play The Prince Albert, we spoke to him to find out more.

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The Magic Gang – Interview – 2015

There are a few groups that people keep mentioning, one of them is The Magic Gang. Having formed in Brighton, they’ve been building an ever rising local fan base and after a very successful mini tour around the UK, they are now on everyone’s lips as “the ones to watch”. There is no doubt that there are big things are on the horizon for Jack (rhythm guitar and vocal), Kris (lead guitar and vocals), Paeris (drums) and Angus (bass and vocals). I recently spoke to the band at the Brighton’s Vice Party to find out more.

Where did you all grow up?
[JACK] We are from area’s around Bournemouth. We didn’t know each other when we were there, but we all came to Brighton around the same time.

[KRIS] We met in weird different ways in the sixth Form.

What kind of music where you brought up on?
[KRIS] The Beatles and Stevie Wonder, my mum used to play it to me when I was a kid.

[PAERIS] My dad was really into stuff like Joy Division and anything on Factory Records. Maybe a bit of U2 as well.

[JACK] My dad listened and played a lot of T Rex. When I was younger I was more into Oasis as that was what my brother was playing.

Can you remember the first album you owned?
[KRIS] Good Charlottes second album (The Young And The Hopeless), the one with all the bangers on it.

[PAERIS] Songs For The Deaf by Queens Of The Stone Age

[JACK] My mum bought me Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP. I liked it at the time for all the swearing on it, but I still like it now for lots of different reasons.

How did you all come together and decide to start a band?
[PAERIS] Me and Christian used to be in a two piece about four years ago. Then when living with Jack we started other bands, and then we kind of merged.

[JACK] It was like a Super Group of all of our side projects, which then became the many thing.

[KIRIS] It became more focused, just by chance really as people were kind of into what we were doing.

Can you remember your first jam?
[Jack] The first jam was when we wrote our first song together.

[KRIS] People used to call us a “slacker rock” band, but it is more like a “work very hard” band. We are really a bunch of boring bastards that will sit with a guitar for hours writing a song. But we do jam too.

How would you describe you music?
[KRIS] When we started it was sort of a bit more obvious, scrappy and alternative. The kind of vibe we are on now is more of a soulful pop song. It is more about writing songs than trying to jam something out.

[JACK] The songwriting has always been traditionally influenced, which comes from listening to stuff like The Beatles

Is there a story behind the name?
[JACK] It came about very quickly.

[PAERIS] It was quite a methodical process. We wanted it to be The ___ ___. Then we tried to get the last word.

[JACK] Crew. Group

[KRIS] Club. Boys.

[PAERIS] Then after a couple of hours we got to The Magic Gang.

How do you approach the writing process?
[JACK] Whenever we demo anything we will always play it to friends to see if it is good or not, as it is always good to get an outsiders perspective. But as far as songwriting goes it is just between the four of us.

[KRIS] Respectively, we are all songwriters on our own so there are always lots of ideas.

I’ve heard you are sitting on a pile of more than 50 songs hidden away.
[JACK] Not all are demoed, but yes. We have this problem where we change the set a little bit too much. If we had it our way we would play a different set each show, but that is a bit self-indulgent really.

[KRIS] The current set we are keeping for the moment. It is a mixture of old and new.

Is there a new release in the pipe line?
[JACK] There is not much we know about it other than we have recorded some tracks. It could be for an EP, or could be for a single? There isn’t anything else I can say really.

[KRIS] Hopefully it will be in the next couple of months. There will definitely be a song online at least.

What has been a musical eye-opener?
[KRIS] When I first saw Girlband live. I’m quite an old hat, I’m really into my traditional pop songs. They all had the same instruments as us but they completely utilised their instruments for a completely different effect. Mind Blown. It was all sounds and not melody, so it was really interesting that I enjoyed it.

[JACK] I think I am still awaiting a moment like that.

[PAERIS] When Mac Demarco came over about three years ago and there wasn’t that many people there. I had never thought of doing anything like he was doing.

What would be your perfect line-up of any three acts for a concert you are putting on and where would it be?
[KRIS] Bulkans. They were a short lived band that have only put out one album, but it’s incredible. They are a hidden gem!

[JACK] Avi Buffalo. They did a really great album about five years ago and did another great album recently, but then immediately split up which I am gutted about as I never got to see them.

[KRIS] As we have been pretty contemporary with are choices, maybe we should choose someone who isn’t….. Bob Marley. We would probably have it at Bleach if Tim Hampson didn’t mind.

If you could work with any artist, who would it be and what would they bring to The Magic Gang?
[KRIS] We would really like to work with Canadian cinematographer Evan Prosofsky. His cinematography is stunning. He now does everyone’s cinematography – Paul McCartney, Mac Demarco, Adidas. He is hot shit, now that everybody has realised how unique he is. It would be good to work with Phil Spector as he is now. A burnt out post 60s Spector who has lost his touch, and reality.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
[KRIS] Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

[PAERIS] LA Priest is sounding pretty good. He’s one of the guys from Late Of The Pier.

[JACK] Brighton’s Abittoir Blues are my favourite punk band.

[KRIS] They are amazing. It combines a punk intensity with beautiful melody, and has an emotive effect but not like an emo band. It’s very overwhelming and intense.

[JACK] Shannon And The Clams are an American three piece band represented as a two piece. They play like 50/60s songs with a garage rock feel.

Do you get to go to many gigs?
[PAERIS] We went to Secret Garden Party and saw Jungle which was pretty astonishing really.

[JACK] Darwin Deez was great there. But we don’t really go to many gigs.

If you could have written any song or album ever, which one would it be?
[JACK] The chorus in ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. I always wish I had written that.

[KRIS] I wish I had written Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, it was him at his peak.

What are you future plans?
[JACK] We are looking to just release – we have so many songs that it is about getting them out there as soon as possible. Also to play as much as possible. We are touring with Swim Deep in October and playing with them in Brighton at the Concorde 2 on 25th September.

Facebook: facebook.com/TheMagicGang
Twitter: twitter.com/TheMagicGang

Oscar – Interview – 2015

Oscar Interview 2015
Oscar has been turning a lot of heads lately, becoming one of the most sought after acts to emerge from London. From an early age Oscar Scheller taught himself to write music, all by ear and hasn’t stopped since. As an avid record collector, his eclectic sound crosses many genres; from hip-hop grooves and moody punk grunge songs to lovelorn and dream ridden melancholy – music truly is his playground. Soon to be playing at the 234 Festival at the Green Door Store at the end of September, I spoke to Oscar to find out more.
 
What music were you brought up on?
Punk, House, UK Garage, R'n'B and Indie. Pop music with attitude.
 
Can you remember the first album you brought?
First album I bought was Now That’s What I Call Music! 34 – It had ‘Wannabe’, ‘Charmless Man’, ‘California Love’, ‘Mysterious Girl’, ‘Born Slippy’ and ‘Wonderwall’ on it. All bangers.
 
What is your most cherished vinyl?
Weezer – Weezer (Blue Album)  
 
Do you have a favourite instrument and why?
I started playing piano when I was six, but guitar is the most fun to play because it's so physical and percussive.
 
How would you briefly describe your music?
Happy/sad, melodic, groovy, uplifting
 
What are your main influences?
Anything with groove, soul, a pleasing melody and a good vibe
 
What inspires your lyrics?
Real life and reflections on experience.
 
How do you approach the writing/recording process, do you surround you self with people or hide away behind closed doors?
Always staying in, and staying up. 
 
Tell us a bit about your latest EP Beautiful Words?
It’s about waking from the dream. I wanted to make something that encapsulated the material that had surfaced and an EP was the perfect format to do so. I've been using a lot of old school drum loops and mostly write on a Casio keyboard and guitar – that was the foundation of the sound. I recorded it all at home. 
 
Is there an album coming soon?
Album will be out early next year!! It's eclectic.
 
What would be your perfect line-up of any 3 acts for a concert and were world you put it on?
The Smiths open the night. Then after a few drinks Nirvana co-headline with Big L, who even does a verse of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. At The Victoria in Dalston.
 
If you could work with any artist, who would it be?
Jai Paul. Cause we could get really stoned together and make amazing soul music. 
 
If you could have made any song ever, which one would it be?
‘Perfect Day’ by Lou Reed
 
Do you get to go watch many gigs?
I make a real effort to go to gigs as much as I can! Recently The Big Moon have rocked my world. Before that, Chris Cohen really stayed with me.
 
What has been your happiest memories with music?
Whenever a song comes together. And then you play it to someone and the response is good. And when people get in touch about the music too!
 
What are your future plans for the summer and after?
Doing a few shows with Teleman in September, then off to America for CMJ Music Marathon in October. I’m supporting Gengahr around Europe in October/November. Next release is a single which I'm very excited about.
 
Website: OscarOscar.co.uk
Facebook: facebook.com/Oscar
 

Natalie Prass – Interview – 2015

Natalie Prass - Interview
My introduction to Natalie Prass was the brilliantly odd video ‘Why Don't You Believe In Me’, produced by visual artist and best friend of 14 years Erica Prince. While the video is very memorable, the music is even more so. Natalie grew up in Virginia Beach (two hours away from Richmond in the USA), and after a short stint in Nashville to study Songwriting at Middle Tennessee State, she went to Richmond to meet up with old mate from school Matthew E White at his Spacebomb Studios. Together with Trey Pollard and more than thirty other musicians, they have created the wondrous self-titled debut which transports the listener into an unravelling love story like a film from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Natalie brings her band to The Haunt on 3rd September and I spoke with her in the middle of her European tour to find out more.
 
What music were you brought up on?
I grew up on Motown, Stax and The Beach Boys as that was what my Dad always played in the car and at home. My Mum played a lot of music like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. The first album I brought or rather owned (as my Mum brought it for me) was Dianna Ross & The Supremes.
 
Is there much of a music scene where you grew up?
Matthew White has really made something special of Richmond. He has always been the kind of person who creates and brings people together for a project, a natural leader. He started this arts group dedicated to cultivating local music called the Pathchwork Collective and then when on to start Spacebomb Records. Nashville has its own music heritage, mostly a lot of really bad Country Music. I had never heard Country before I moved to Nashville, and I didn’t like it when I did.
 
What are your main influences?
I listen to a lot of Dionne Warwick and Ella Fitzgerald. I’m am really into books like The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Raymond Carver. I try and read as much as possible, usually the really depressing stuff.
 
Your debut album has a very assured feel to it, did you have a clear image of how you wanted the album to sound before recording it?
Songs have definitely evolved, especially with that amount of musicians playing. When talking to Matthew about music, I wanted to make something that I would want to listen to. I am into all kinds of music, but it always comes back to the older records. With the musical skills that Matthew and Trey Pollard have for arrangements, they were able to bring my songs to life and they came out better than I could ever have hoped.
 
Have you been thinking about the next album?
It’s hard, when you are on the road you obviously cannot record. I have been writing – when I get into the writing zone I find I can’t stop. I have a lot of new ideas and even a few that are almost done. We have been incorporating some of the new songs in the set which has been fun, trying them out with the guys in the band.
 
What has been a musical eye-opener?
I bought All Summer Long by The Beach Boys when I was in High School, and it had ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ on it. I can remember it kind of shocking me with how beautiful it was with its melody and how effortless it was. I thought it was the perfect song. Definitely hearing Gal Costa for the first time also freaked me out as I had never heard anything like it before. Kind of a Brazilian psychedelic with lots of crazy noises and an amazing voice.
 
What would be your perfect line-up of any 3 acts for a concert and where would you put it on?
Gal Costa, Nina Simone, and then Ella Fitzgerald singing with Duke Ellington – playing either at the Beacon Theatre in New York City or the Olympia Theatre in Dublin. That would be pretty legendary.
 
If you could work with any artist who would it be?
I would love to work with someone like Joni Mitchell – that would be really cool. One of my favourite artists at the moment is Benjamin Clementine – he is so talented and musical.
 
What are your future plans?
First things first, I’m going to collect my dog from my parents’ house as I won’t have seen her in over a year. She’s gotten really fat, so I’ll be going on lots of walks. I don’t finish touring till December, and then we are off till next February. I’m thinking of going to Australia, as I would love to do that. In October I am really looking forward to doing a show at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City with War On Drugs, one of my favourite bands at the moment. I’m doing some really exciting stuff with HBO, which I can’t really go into more just yet, but that will be coming out next year. Also I hope to release a brand new single in January, but I haven’t decided which song yet. It’s really busy, but my priorities are writing, creating music and getting back in the studio.