Man Of Moon – Interview – 2015

In the future expect to hear considerably more about Man Of Moon but at this point they are a well-kept secret and have only got one release to their name, however the promise of the 19 year old duo from Edinburgh is hard to ignore. Michael Reid and Chris Bainbridge amalgamate psychedelia with post-punk motoric grooves and I recently asked Chris some questions to find out more about Man Of Moon.
 
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Musselburgh and went to school in Leith. I've lived by the sea for 16 years. The sea has had a big influence on my music and the style of music I write.
 
What music were you brought up on?
I was brought up on The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Tracy Chapman and loads of others when I was much younger. Then my older sisters and cousins introduced me to artists such as Nirvana, Jonny Cash, Billie Holliday, A Tribe Called Quest, Rage Against The Machine, CAN and Radiohead.
 
What was the first instrument you played, and when? 
The first instrument I played was the guitar when I was five or six. I played some drums and bass guitar at school, as well as bass in quite a few bands but then went back to playing guitar a lot at about sixteen.
 
Has your style of music always been the same?
Our style of music has slowly changed over the past 2 years. It’s become a lot more fast paced and heavy. Until recently we were still trying to figure out what kind of music we wanted to create but now I feel we are very clear.
 
What made you start Man Of Moon?
We both met at college studying sound engineering. Our class needed a guitarist and a drummer to record a few jams so that the class could practice. We then started skiving off college to practise and write which then quickly led to us leaving the course.
 
How would you briefly describe your music?
I would describe our music as intense, fairly dark at points and spacey.
 
What are your main influences?
We both like loads of different styles of music and artists but the main influences for our sound would be Russian Circles, Mogwai, She Keeps Bees, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead and CAN. My lyrics are inspired by my mates and family.
 
Do you prefer writing music or recording music?
I prefer writing music a lot more than recording due to the fact that you’re constantly changing little bits and listening back to them, and figuring out what sounds best and then trying it out live. I prefer this over recording where you’re setting something in stone.
 
Tell us a bit about your debut release, The Road?
Our debut single 'The Road', is probably the closest we've come to Krautrock yet. It's been a big song for us in the live set for a while and it felt like a natural single. It's been released on the Melodic label and features 'This World' as the B Side, it gives a good balance to the 7" as both tracks are very different, so we feel it shows two sides of the band.
 
What are your future plans?
We still have a few festivals coming up: Belladrum, Electric Fields, Joctoberfest and Twisterella are all looking good, we've had a great summer playing festivals and don't want it to end! We also get to play our first show in mainland Europe it's in Belgium at BIG NEXT FESTIVAL on 12th Sept, we're excited about that one! There are other dates in the pipeline for October and November, but still be too announced, so watch this space! Other than that, we are booking in dates to record an EP, which we expect to release early in 2016. Finally I must mention that we are absolutely delighted to have been asked by The Twilight Sad to support them at The Barrowlands in December we saw Mogwai there recently and it's an incredible venue!
 
Website: ManOfMoon.net
 
 

Tuval & The Heights – Interview – 2015

Tuval & The Heights
I first came across Tuval & The Heights at the 2014 Drill Festival. The three piece, who have only been together about a year and a half, radiated talent and played a sound that lives long in the memory mixing an early Bombay Bicycle Club with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jeff Buckley. The man behind the music, Tuval Schneerson, is also in another band called Object Object with his drummer, but this solo project gives us all a glimpse of what the 19 year old is capable of as well as what is to come. I met Tuval for a drink to find out more about him and his latest EP Obscure Salvation.
 
Where did you grow up?
I lived I London until I was 5 years old when my family moved to Brighton. My family is from Israel so I go over there to visit quite often.
 
I’ve heard Israel has a great music scene?
Definitely in Tel Aviv. I have made some friends over there so we always see some music in grotty bars, similar to Brighton but with a strong middle-eastern twist. I definitely get something from going over there and hearing the music.
 
What music where you brought up on?
Where I come from in London there was a lot of Reggae music. Also lots of different styles of music, especially Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd which I still really love. My dad is a bit of a synth wizard as well.
 
Can you remember the first album you owned?
It was probably from one of my dad’s old music folders – there was a Led Zeppelin collection, Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. One of the first albums I brought was ACDC’s Highway To Hell. From the age of eleven I was obsessed with ACDC and Iron Maiden.
 
Can you remember the first time you picked up an instrument?
Probably when I was ten years old. I went up into the attic and there was an old acoustic guitar with two strings. I used to just bang that guitar until my fingers would bleed, trying to figure out songs on those two strings. I was then introduce to an electric guitar, which my parents found next to a dust bin.
 
How do you attack the writing and recording process?
A lot of the songs start with me on guitar and then I’ll sing over it. It is mainly just me playing all the instruments so I try and picture the whole arrangement; adding textures, synths and guitar layers. Simple ideas usually move into something completely different as the life of the arrangement comes together.
 
Has your music always been in a similar style?
When I was about thirteen I played a bit of Metal which then moved on to playing Dub/Reggae and Drum & Bass – both a million miles away from what I play at the moment. I was in a band called Mellowphonic which played Funk-Rock, kind of Red Hot Chili Pepper esque but with a more Jimi Hendrix twist. That was certainly different to my music now, but not too far away.
 
When did you start Tuval & The Heights?
I first release a solo EP on my own last year as Tuval called Slide, which was a bit like James Blake production wise with electronic drums performing with a looping pedal. I kind of envisioned how it could come together with musicians, and met Edward Myers (drums) and Liam Toller (bass) at Northbrook College (which I was also going to for music) to do a one off gig. We all jammed really well – the songs have a studio identity, but live they would take a different form.
 
What would you say are your main influences?
There are a few musicians that have stayed with me as well as a few newer ones. Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Buckley are the more obvious ones. Heavier stuff like Dinosaur Jr and Nirvana. I’m really into Flying Lotus and the stuff he does with Thundercat, also St Vincent. I’m also influenced by a lot of beat poetry as well as various literature and philosophy. The Doors are probably my favourite band ever.
 
What inspires the lyrics?
At the moment, most of my songs have been about my own experiences. I like to conjure up images which have been a kind of an expression. I haven’t quite got to the point where I can write a story about something else yet.
 
Tell us a bit about your latest EP Obscure Salvation?
There is a dreamy and surreal feel to it. It is almost the first peak into what is to come, as I have a lot of new songs in the pipeline to go towards an album. ‘In My Head’ is the only song on the EP that has The Heights playing on drums and bass, and it gives you an idea of the direction we are going in.
 
What has been a musical eye-opener?
Definitely something like The Doors was eye-opening – ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ is the first track on their debut, and it made me want to see what was on the other side. One of the great musical experiences for me was when I was twelve years old at Glastonbury Festival watching Neil Young perform ‘Hey Hey My My’, it was just such a strong experience. I am constantly having eye-opening moments, each month. For instance, Kendrick Lamar’s new album To Pimp A Butterfly absolutely blew my mind.
 
What would be your perfect line-up of any 3 acts for a concert and where would you put it on?
I would have Led Zeppelin opening up, followed by The Doors, with Jimi Hendrix headlining – maybe at the Green Door Store. That would be the gig of all gigs in my eyes.
 
If you could work with any artist, who would it be and what would they bring to Tuval & The Heights?
There are a lot of people from the past that I would love to work with who are my obvious favourites. But ideally I would want to work with Flying Lotus – he is doing some amazing collaborations, blending elements of Jazz and Hip-Hop. That would be something which would be a great experience.
 
What are your future plans?
I’ll keep gigging, performing and meeting as many people as I can, as well as working towards the album. I might be doing a collaboration. I will try and travel a bit as I like to get influences from everywhere, maybe South America to get some Latino grooves in me.
 
Bandcamp: tuval.bandcamp.com
 

C Duncan – Interview – 2015

C-Duncan - Interview -2015
Glasgow’s Christopher Duncan is a rare talent. He constructs all his songs from the bottom up, recording each layer of the track in his own bedroom studio set – which is almost unbelievable when you hear the quality of his debut album Architects. Being a an alumni of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) studying music composition, there is a definite classical tinge to C Duncan's music which makes it sound completely unique, as if it was from a different era but at the same time being remarkably fresh. We did a Q&A with C Duncan a few days after the release of Architects to find out more about him.
 
Do you think where you live has influenced your music?
Yes, definitely. Glasgow is such a creative place and there is a real mix of styles coming out of here at the moment. There isn’t really a ‘Glasgow’ sound anymore so you can make whatever you want without having to fit into a trend. Glasgow has a massive music scene. So many great bands come out of Glasgow and surrounding areas. There are a lot of really great venues in the city that cater for various different types of music.
 
What music were you brought up on?
I was brought up on a lot of classical (both my parents are Violinists). Particularly Baroque and Romantic music. We also listened to a lot of The Carpenters when I was growing up.
 
Do you have a favourite instrument?
I started playing the piano when I was 6. I don’t really have a favourite instrument, but I write most of my music on guitar or piano, so they are the instruments I’m best at playing…
 
What makes you happiest when you are not playing music?
Painting, reading, watching films and eating (particularly pizza and pasta).
 
When painting, do you listen to a certain type of music and do you think it influences your work?
I usually listen to classical music when I’m painting. A lot of impressionist music and contemporary classical. The sense of repetition in a lot of contemporary music works its way into my paintings.
 
What drives you to write music?
I basically can’t stop writing music. There isn’t anything that drives me to do it other than my love of and obsession with writing songs.
 
Has your style of music stayed the same?
In a way. When I was at school I wrote and played a lot of heavy metal music, then at conservatoire I was writing classical music, and now I’m making more dream pop inspired music. I have always had a love of melody and dreamy harmonisation which has stayed the same throughout the various different styles of music.
 
What are your main influences?
Music and art of different kinds. Having musical parents, and studying music, I have been surrounded by so many different genres of music, a lot of which has influenced me. Particularly impressionist music and alternative artists like Dirty Projectors, Bjork and Thundercat.
 
What inspires your lyrics?
Places mostly. I am quite affected by the environment that I am in and the feeling I get from certain places. I always have a clear picture of locations in my head when I start writing lyrics.
 
How do you approach the writing and recording process? Do you surround you self with people or hide away behind closed doors.
I hide away behind closed doors. I like to create music alone, and once I’m happy with it I share it with others.
 
Do you prefer writing music, recording music or playing live?
I always thought I preferred writing and recording, but since finishing the album I have had to do a lot of shows. It was very nerve-wracking at first, but I now enjoy it as much as writing and recording.
 
Tell us a bit about your debut Architect?
I wrote and recorded Architect alone in my bedroom over a year long period. It is a collection of songs that are tied together by style, not necessarily by themes. Although there are recurring subjects throughout the album, it is an album of standalone tracks.
 
What has been you happiest memory with music?
Receiving the first box of vinyls of Architect.
 
What would be your perfect line-up of any 3 acts (dead or alive) for a concert and were world it be put on?
Bjork, Radiohead and Portishead. That would be a great concert! Venue: Cottiers in Glasgow.
 
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Whilst writing this I am listening to Julia Holter. I am listening to a lot of Thundercat, tUnE-yArDs and Kathryn Joseph at the moment.
 
What are your future plans for the summer and after?
I will be touring a lot over summer in the UK and Europe. I have started work on a second album too!
 
 
Have a read of our album review of C Duncan's Architect here.

The Maccabees – Interview – 2015

"How's Brighton?", asks Felix White, guitarist with The Maccabees and a former resident of the city, that back in the mid 2000s proved to be the ideal launching pad for this classic indie band, one who had initially sprung out of a loose South London scene that had included the likes of Jack Penate, Rumble Strips and Jamie T. I tell him it's still rocking. He tells me he really likes a local Brighton band called The Magic Band, who he saw supporting Wolf Alice recently ("they love playing with each other, and it was really refreshing in this world of posing and nondescript guitar music")… "I went to Sussex (uni), and most of the boys went to Brighton (uni). Lan (Orl ando Weekes, singer) went down to Brighton to do illustration, and at first it was just a means of keeping the band together, so we decided to have various excuses of degrees to keep The Maccabees going. We all dropped out pretty fast (laughs). Brighton is where we got a deal, so we decided to stay for a few years, before migrating back to London."
 
I tell him that the last time I interviewed him, he said his brother, Hugo, was still living down here…. "My brother did stay down here after we all went back, but he got brought back into line! We are all Londoners at heart."
 
It's been quite a journey for the five piece, with four of the founder members still a part of the band; Orlando, Felix & Hugo, and bassist Rupert Jarvis. Robert Dylan Thomas was the original drummer, to be replaced by Sam Doyle in 2008, who has remained with the band ever since. And keyboardist Will White joined in 2010.
 
Synonymous with a particularly buzzy Brighton scene at the time that included British Sea Power and The Kooks, Hugo remembers their time in Brighton as an exciting one, and a place where they wrote both their debut album, Colour It in, and the 2009 follow up, Wall of Arms. "Brighton was a relief from growing up in London. It was somewhere that was a bit calmer for a while (although they caused a bit of a mini-riot at their infamous Concorde 2 gig in 2006). It was a nice place, especially at the ages of 19 or 20. It didn’t feel like anyone you knew had a job, everybody was just hanging out all day, and everywhere was just five minutes’ walk away. There were so many venues and so many bands, it was quite exciting for us."
 
According to Felix, Brighton was the place where it all came together. "A significant part of our development was in Brighton. Before that we were basically like kids, in a pub band, and didn't have much ambition beyond that. Brighton helped a lot; it's a small community with a lot going on, so it felt much more tangible to get something going. If we hadn't moved to Brighton I don't think we would have found that context for ourselves at that stage. It was only through word of mouth or whatever, filling out the Freebutt (infamous Brighton venue that is no more) every other week or whenever that was, that was when labels came to see us and we found management."
 
Ah, yes. Curly! "Yes, I saw her yesterday, we are very much in touch with Curls. She's a successful agent now!" Laura (Curly) Davidson had been a promoter in Brighton, promoting under the name Curlygigs, and that is how she came across the band, who she took under her wing, eventually joining up with JPR Management, with whom they remain.
 
Named after flicking through a copy of the Bible – the original Maccabees were the leaders of a rebel Jewish army that seized Judea in 2nd century BC, and reasserted the Jewish religion – the band, who apparently have no religious affiliations, released their first single, 'X-ray', in late 2005, on the small Promise label, followed by 'Latchmere', released on Fierce Panda, which was championed by Steve Lamacq. Subsequently, they were signed to Fiction Records (who they have remained with ever since), and in 2007, with the buzz growing rapidly around the band, released their debut album Colour It In, which featured such gems as 'First Love', 'About Your Dress' and 'Toothpaste Kisse's. Those early songs were hugely infectious slices of exuberant and jerky indie-pop, featuring Orlando's distinctive warble, and touching on teenage concerns like love and, er, the Latchmere swimming pool wave machine…
 
 
Follow up album Wall of Arms cemented their reputation as a first class indie guitar band, while third album Given To The Wild saw them reach their highest album chart placing (number four), as well as being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Meanwhile the song 'Pelican' earned a prestigious Ivor Novello for Best Contemporary Song. From their early, fast and furious beginnings the band had now developed a sound that is increasingly euphoric and epic; there was/is a touch of Arcade Fire creeping into their work, although they remained great at shifting gears throughout a song, dynamics, intensity and space always to the fore, and yet grounded in some kind of earthiness, perhaps more as a result of the relatively shy personas the band inhabit. Things were going well for the band… But, when they finished touring the album at the end of 2013, The Maccabees started turning their attention to album number four, and for some reason, it wasn't happening… "It took a long time to work out what it was we were making," says Felix. "We felt pretty confident that we could just make a record, but looking back on it we weren't pulling together what we wanted to achieve. We worked for a year, couldn't agree on anything, didn't have any idea of 'the palette' of what it was we were making.
 
"When we started making the record we thought we could make Given To The Wild again. We started noticing our own tricks and techniques and it started getting a bit boring. How we were making music is that we would send little bits and pieces to each other; but it's almost like we started to notice how each other does it, and it turns you off from it almost immediately. So, we almost had to re-learn how to write as a band in a room again. And some of that was a painful process because you want to be able to layer stuff up, change certain things or take hold of it. Once we came round to the idea that this is going to sound like we do in the room – one instrument each, there would be no vocal layering and that there was going to be a piano player on it, it was the total opposite to Given to the Wild album.
 
"Then we realised maybe the record is to do with the area we were in; it was our studio, we were making it ourselves, maybe we should try and make it sound like the room…? Try and make a conceptual, soundscape, cinematic type record; and try and make it sound like a band again. Being involved in Elephant & Castle, and living in that area, that's why it all came together… we are all from the south and we all live within a small radius of it.
 
"It was an interesting time to be there because the whole of London is getting re-generated at the moment; they are knocking down peoples homes and council flats, to build buy-to-let properties that no one is living in. There is a kind of surreal air to London at the moment. Elephant is the last untouched bit in central London, and it has only just started to really happen. So, it felt when we were making the record we were witnessing, like a time and a place. It was never going to be like that ever again, because there was so much rapid change going on around it, and that's how it informed the record."
 
 
The album cover features The Faraday Memorial, looking rather attractive in this night time shot taken in the 70s; a sort of modernist, yet nondescript building that inhabits the middle of the extremely busy Elephant & Castle gyratory. Even though I used to drive through that area all the time, I can barely remember it. "There you go!" exclaims Felix. "It just emphasises what I just said, that you wouldn't normally notice it. It's been there since the 60s.
 
"Driving through it, people see it as a transition place that you go through. Once you are involved in a community, you see how many layers there are to it, and the interesting things that are going on in there. Again, that was another thing that informed the record, things you wouldn't normally take a second glance at, that seem mundane, but is worth re-analysing; taking hold of where you are from and noticing and not taking it for granted."
 
It had been over a year since they had gigged, but with the album finally coming together, they went on the road at the tail end of '14, ending suspicions that perhaps The Maccabees were intending to call it a day. As well as a few dates supporting Mumford & Sons in the US, they also came back to their former home, for a surprise Great Escape gig in mid-May, that wasn't announced until the day of the show, the final main act of the three-day festival. "It was tagged on to the end of a short tour," says Felix. "There was definitely a sense of people having queued a long time, maybe not getting into that many venues, and it was the last thing that happened. A lot of weary faces maybe, over indulged faces! It definitely had that last rites vibe… They had a confetti canon which went off at the end of gig, which is one of the least Maccabees things in the world. The most apologetic show you will ever see, but we had a great time."
 
 
The Maccabees, like many a great band, didn't have much of a clue when starting out; their experiences of music making were very limited, but as a unit they gelled quickly, and became one of the best indie bands of the 2000s… "In our case that was definitely the case. The first record we made we didn't know what a reverb pedal was. We were a garage type band, really. We've got to the point where we've made this record and produced it ourselves. There has been an accelerated learning curve to it. But, I think you are right in what you are saying, you end up discovering things about yourself, and it becomes a language that you evolve that only you have as a band; you haven't been taught by anyone, you haven't learned keys, songs in the key of A or whatever. It's boring when someone plays a guitar solo perfectly, who wants to do that! I can't do that!"
 
As we speak, Glastonbury is on the horizon and Felix is looking forward to it… "The last time was six years ago. I can't wait, I want to see Patti Smith on Sunday. I will stick around, I haven't anything better to do!" Indeed, their performance on the Other Stage was a big deal for them, Felix grinning from ear-to-ear throughout. And old friend Jamie T came on stage to join the band for a song. Did that South London scene actually exist, back in the mid 2000s? "We weren't hanging out that much, but there is an element of truth in it. It's interesting, we got told all the time that there were so many guitar bands. We got constantly asked about, 'why are there so many guitar bands'? And now we get asked why aren't there any guitar bands. I don't know the answer to either of those questions.
Jeff Hemmings
 
 
Marks To Prove It
 
Wall of Arms
 
Can You Give It
 
Toothpaste Kisses
Precious Time
 
 
 
 
 

Prince Vaseline – Interview – 2015

Photos by Jolyon Holroyd
The most satisfying way of finding a band is always “unexpectedly”, and at the release show for CLOWwNS debut album, that is exactly what happened when I was blown away by an enthralling set by the support band Prince Vasiline. After buying their most recent album (A Natural Coloured Pleasure) at the gig, I was even more taken by their powerful blissed sound and I had to find out more about this new discovery.  I met up with front-man Max Erle to get more information on when, how and why Prince Vaseline came about.

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CLOWwNS – Interview 2015

CLOWwNS have an excellent reputation as a fantastic, dramatic, meaty presence on the live stage and their début album has been whispered about for months and months. By the eventual release on Monday 29th June anticipation had reached fever, particularly after their recent singles 'Trousers' and 'She Says I'm A Clown' had found champions on BBC 6Music proving their appeal extends beyond the live show. Close examination of The Artful Execution Of Macho Bimbo proves that when you strip away the sweat, energy and intensity you still find exceptional song-writing beneath and that is a rare talent (as you can read in my review here). I caught up with guitarist and founder member Andrew Claridge to find out a bit more about the band;

Can you give us a potted history of CLOWwNS?
CLOWwNS was an idea first. [Singer] Miles Heathfield's idea. He told me about the idea whilst we were drinking in the old Freebutt, after which it quickly became an idea with some songs. Then it became a band. Past members include Andy Halliday, Tom White, Matt Twaites and Alex White, all of whom made significant contributions to the cause. These days I find it hard to imagine the band without the bang and boom of Damo Waters and Etienne Rodes. I love them very much.

Has the sound changed much since the early days?
In a word 'no', in three words, 'no, not really' and in six words, 'no, not really…. well, a bit'. It's become broader and better executed but essentially it's the same racket it was always meant to be.

Many of the songs seem to reference clowns/fools and their ilk-which came first, the band name or this theme?
The band name and lyrical preoccupations were born together. It's a comfortable straitjacket.

How do you go about writing the material -is it a joint effort?
I've heard both Keith Richards and Bono declare that they believe their songs are already written and they simply pluck them out of the ether. Which is rubbish of course, but when Miles and I first convened in an attempt to write some songs, we quickly discovered that our respective ideas dove-tailed almost seamlessly and the songs came thick and fast. Almost like we were plucking them out of the ether. These days we generally spend more time crafting them. Once we get into the rehearsal room with Etienne and Damo the songs often change shape until we're all happy with them, a process that is occasionally frustrating, but mostly not frustrating, and frequently very enjoyable.

Your début album sounds great-where did you record and what was the process like?
Why thank you very much. We recorded with Joe Watson, with the final mix being done by Cameron T. Devlin of Hidden Cam Studios. The process was quick-fire, followed by pacey, interrupted by a very great meandering, a final decision, some more meandering and another final decision. We're hoping the next one will be more straightforward.

Who is Macho Bimbo?
We've all met Macho Bimbo. Some of us ARE Macho Bimbo. Most of us are just wary of him.

If you had to sandwich yourselves between two bands to create the ultimate evenings entertainment who would they be and why?
I'd like to be sandwiched between the familiar beauty of a reformed Smiths and the strange. perplexing world of Brighton's very own Vile Imbeciles.

I've heard you re-imagine songs by The Specials (Ghost Town) and Ian Dury and The Blockheads (Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick) live-is that late 70s-early 80s period a big influence on you?
Although that era of music was the first to capture my imagination it's a coincidence that the songs we've covered are from that period. We have some kind of vague, self-imposed, remit that any songs we cover have to have made it to the top of the charts in some form, and there just aren't that many chart-topping tunes that fit the CLOWwNS aesthetic. We do have another cover version in the pipeline. It's by Adam and the Ants. From the late 70's-early 80's period. Maybe you do have a point.

Who are you listening to at the moment?
I rarely listen to music. The last band I fell in love with were Vile Imbeciles. Their most recent album, 'D is for W', is a work of genius.

What's next for CLOWwNS?
We'll continue to play more shows (next Brighton gig is Fri 25th September at The Prince Albert) whilst getting on with the business of recording album number two and we're keen to find a manager. If you'd like to manage CLOWwNS we'd be very pleased to hear from you. Very pleased.

Adam Kidd

Website: clowwns.com
Facebook: facebook.com/clowwns
Twitter: twitter.com/clowwnsband

 

The Vacant Lots Q&A – Interview – 2015

Jared Artaud and Brian MacFadyen create their own brand of Psych Rock. By combining neo-psych, drone, post-punk, shoegaze, and a whole host of electronic psychedelic trickery, the minimalistic layered sound is an enthralling mix. Their all-encompassing live show hypnotizes – producing powerful lyrics, raw riffs and motoric beats that you can’t shake away. I spoke to the American duo before their show at The Joker to find out more about The Vacant Lots.
 
Where are you from?
[Brian] We originated from Burlington, Vermont in the States. And we are now living in Boston.
 
How did you both meet?
[Brian] In 2009 we met through the local music scene, and from there we spent about a year demoing, building our sound and writing music. It wasn’t till 2010 when we started to do shows, going on tour with Spectrum in the United States. We put out our first single in 2011, ‘Confusion’, with Mexican Summer (label) and just recently we have bought out our début album with Sonic Cathedral.
 
How much were you influenced by where you grew up?
[Brian] When we both started, there was this art collective called Tik Tik who would put on events, screen print custom posters for acts and also book a lot of out of town musicians. We got to play with Women (now Viet Cong) through them which was great, they really connected a lot of groups in Burlington. We then moved away out of Burlington toward the East coast to Boston, New York and Montreal.
 
[Jared] It wasn’t so much the music scene in Burlington, it was the amount of space in that city that allowed us to work. No one would ever bother you. Our influences mostly come from outside sources like literature, film, and music.
 
What are your main musical influences?
[Jared] Early 50s rock’n’roll; Bo Diddly, Little Richard, Steven J Hawkins. I really love Native American music, the drumming in particular has really influenced the style of guitar playing I have been working on. Some of those patterns are very simple but also very powerful and I have been trying to work that into my guitar playing. Staple influences are Suicide, Velvet Underground, as well as some elcetronic stuff like New Order, Kraftwark.
 
[Brian] I definitely lean to more electronic sounds. From an 80s neo-wave scene to New York with groups like ESG, the stuff LCD Soundsystem has been mirroring. I love that kind of stuff – it’s very much like the Blues in a sense that it is stripped down to almost nothing happening, nothing changes but it is still compelling.
 
Anything specific literature and film wise?
 [Jared] I particularly like films of Ingmar Bergman, Robert E Pearson and In literature I Tony O’Niel, Jerry Stall. A lot of the lyrics are inspired by cinematic or literacy influences. It’s amazing what you can find through these different art forms – then funnelling it all through this one medium of rock’n’roll.
 
What made you start making music?
[Brian] It was when we first met that we realised that was the direction we wanted to go. I entered it in a way a lot of people do, in the school band playing percussion as well as being in the orchestra, learning the classical side of things. When we started playing, I was on a drum kit and then moved towards adding a lot of electronic elements. For me, there was never that point where I thought this (being a band) was it and will work. The first time we ever met, Jared come over to mine with someone to jam, a day or so around my 15th birthday. It was immediate – I probably still have the email were he responded back about how the chemistry was really good between us, but not so much the other person. For a while we tried lots of different options to get another person in, either on guitar or bass, but it was always so clear cut that the two of us worked really well.
 
[Jared] There was this point on this first jam where I waited for this other guy to turn his back, I looked at Brian and we ended it there. I came back the next day and it was instantaneous, the chemistry was just there, on a really intuitive level where we didn’t have to speak much and songs kept coming out. From there we have been a very collaborative song writing team, working in the limitations of what two people can do with sound. We reduced everything to the fewest elements possible to create the most maximum sound we could.
 
[Brian] We may have lots of different influences, one of the most important things for us was our vision of creating music and our own sound, pushing each other to go further. We are still doing it to this day – we have just finished recording our second album a few weeks ago in New York City with Ted Young (Rolling Stones, Kurt Vile, Moby, Sonic Youth), who also worked on the first album (Departure), and it’s really pushing the music further.
 
How do you find the recording process?
 [Jared] With the most recent record, it was definitely more efficient. With the previous album we had rough outlines of what we were going to do, and a lot of the time spent was trying to figure out what we going to add and will it work. You do have to leave a certain amount of the time to experimentation, as a lot of the best things come from just tuning things on and it just worked in a spur-of-the-moment sort of way. With this record, especially on the electronic side, I was able to program and get it exactly the way I wanted it. Obviously guitar, vocals, some auxiliary and solos where done after as we hadn’t worked them out yet, but most days we would start and DI [digitally input] in the stuff we had already perfected outside of the studio – which was reassuring in that way as we had that foundation and we could spend more time getting the other bits how we wanted them.
 
Is there going to be a release soon?
 [Jared] Just recently, Sonic Cathedral have put out this 7” with an Alan Vega (Suicide) remix of ‘6AM’ and an Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre/The Warlocks) remix of ‘Never Satisfied’. Hopefully we will be putting out another EP a few months down the road with some of the new material.
 
What has been a musical eye-opener?
[Jared] I was 15/16, not starting to play the guitar till 18 – music had always produced a powerful effect on me, but I was watching a TV programme and Iggy & The Stooges came on and my whole fucking life changed. I remember going to The Wiz in New Jersey and buying Raw Power, it was almost excessive how much I listened to it. I had never heard anything like that. I would say you have to go through a lot of bullshit and shitty music to get to the stuff you love.
 
[Brian] I remember seeing The Cramps footage when they were playing in a mental hospital and thinking “Man, that is some shit!”, completely switched my perception.
 
[Jared] Brian is classically trained percussionist, but also the best drummer I have ever seen. Having that basis to work from really helped shape the music, especially in the collaborative process. He also has an engineering background, and makes our own effect pedals and a lot of the gear we use.
 
[Brian] I have a set up at my place now were I make pedals and little synths – from a cost stand point as well as an experimental one. A lot of the people who make these as a hobby share how to do it online. A quick google search and you can find archives of people perfectly documenting the schematics, drilling templates, screen print designs, everything –to the point where they have almost made it for you, you just got to buy the supplies. In creating new sounds, there are so many possibilities. You can take a familiar circuit like the Jimi Hendrix overdrive pedal, you can move things around so easily and get some completely different sounds with very little effort.
 
[Jared] I’ll say to Brian that I have just tested this Fender Champ and that I really love the tone. He’s like just give me two weeks. Which is mental!
 
What are you future plans?
[Jared] We will finish this tour around the UK and Europe, then complete the second record and get that out soon. We have some shows with The Hookworms in the States along the East coast, but we’ll manly focus on the record. Then the cycle continues.
 
 

Theo Verney – Interview 2015

Even though Brighton has a thriving music scene, it is getting increasingly rare to find musicians who are actually born and bred in our lovely city. Theo Varney has spent his whole life by the sea and has created a mighty reputation as one of the most talked about and highly rated musicians in Brighton at the moment. Theo’s music definitely talks for its self with tracks like ‘Heavy Sun’ and ‘Mountain Rose’, and he has started putting his influence on a variety of Brighton bands by acting as a producer and engineer. I had a quick drink with Theo before the recent launch of his stirring third EP Brain Disease to find out more about Brighton’s nicest guy in Rock.
 
Do you think living in Brighton has influenced your music?
To be honest, what I would say has influenced me more is my Fathers taste in music – Prog and Classic Rock. Bands like King Crimson and Caravan, or Free, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. It’s more that era – I love Jazz and Blues as well.
 
What was the first instrument you learnt to play?
I started playing violin when I was 4 years old. I did want to play the guitar earlier than that, but my Mum said it was just physically too large for me to play. I had a really great music teacher called Stuart Deeks who would say “play what you want Theo”, and as a hyper active kid I was playing this horrible screeching noise. He would say “that was good, but let’s refine it”. I’m really grateful to him as I can remember him asking if I wanted to do the graded system. I asked him what it was as I didn’t know and he said “you have to learn some songs and play them to some people”, I asked if I can choose the songs and he said “no”. I was like “why would I want to do that”, and he totally agreed with me. So he would go through violin books playing me songs until we found one I liked, and then I would learn it by ear as I can’t really read music.
 
What drives you to make music?
It has always been the thing I wanted to do. School was pointless for me almost as I knew from day one that I wanted to be a musician. So whenever I didn’t to any homework, I would just say “I want to be a musician”. We had a good music teacher at school who would come in at the beginning of the lesson and say we could jam for the whole of the two hour lesson – it was at the time of UK Hip-Hop and Grime so we would jam out with everyone being an MC.
 
Has your music always had a Rock sound?
I’ve had a funny musical “path”. I started off playing rock guitar – I would mainly just learn Black Sabbath guitar solos – but then I went into producing Hip-Hop for my mates, which then lead me to more weird electronic stuff. I was playing gigs as an electronic musician playing shit on my laptop, and I was slightly disillusioned with it all as I was watching all these band like the Black Lips playing these rocking shows. So about four/five years ago I came back to my hard rock roots, but it has given me an interesting perspective on production and mixing.
 
When did you start playing as Theo Verney?
There was a very distinct point. I was playing in a hard garage band before this, and I was writing all the songs as well as recording them and putting a lot of effort into it. As the people in the band had other interests and I have always known what I wanted to do, I thought I may as well go solo which was about two years ago.
 
How do approach the writing process on your own?
It is kind of part of the demoing process. I come up with guitar lines, then vocal lines and then record some drums. I put it together in quite a digital sense by looping things. Once the structure is there, I will take it to John Daves who is recording the drums on the records who refines it and puts things in place. My three EPs have been all recorded at my place, as I have built up a good collection of nice mics and amps, but I have started working in a studio called Church Road Studios in Hove and I am recording my album there which has been a big step up production wise, and I am getting to use classic analogue gear which has been really cool.
 
Are you working with any else on your album (engineer/producer)?
I produce, engineer and mix all my own stuff. I did a degree in Music Production and am very particular with it. I’m a fan of the 70s production where it was big, plush and warm but not fake sounding. It was still layered instruments in a room with effects and reverb on it, rather than drum replacement and over quantizing things.
 
What inspires you lyrics?
It’s all personal. I don’t really think about it too much. Whilst demoing I record the guitar, drum and bass parts, loop it and then start saying nonsense over it. Something will then stick out and then I build the lyrics around that. I don’t sing about things I don’t know about because honesty is a huge thing in music.
 
Is there a theme to your recent EP, Brain Disease?
I wrote all the songs two years ago where I was in a bit of a weird situation and I felt like my brain was going to explode dealing with things. I have now gone into writing more mellow stuff as I have chilled out as a human being a bit, but back then I was pretty angry and just wanted to play really hard rock.
 
Has there been any main influences on this EP?
Always Black Sabbath. A lot of people have been comparing me to bands like The Stone Roses, but in all honesty I have never listened to them or anything from that Madchester scene. I think that those guys were listening to the same stuff as me when writing their music, taking influence from the same music.
 
What has been a musical eye-opener for you?
Metal was the first music that I got into that was separate to my parents taste – obviously I have now reverted back to my parents taste. The period of early Black Lips, Turbo Fruits, Jeff The Brotherhood and that Atlanta scene made me question what I was doing and it excited me. Seeing Ty Segall live too – I supported him with my old band when he was at the Green Door Store touring his Slaughterhouse EP, and seeing him do everything himself was a key moment for me.
 
If you could work with any artist, who would it be?
It’s so obvious, but I would love to jam with Jimi Hendrix. I would love to work with Ty Segall and the White Fence guys, have a jam and record some things. I think it would be really fun as I see them as contemporaries, so I hope it could happen one day.
 
What would be your line-up of any three acts and where would it be?
I would have Pink Floyd opening with their Pompeii set creating a spacy vibe, then Jimi Hendrix with Black Sabbath finishing the show. All at the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Pompeii.
 
What have you been listening to at the moment?
All Things Must Pass by George Harrison, No Other by Gene Clark, a lot of the Grateful Dead, all the Neil Young albums and Crosby, Steels & Nash.
 
 

Matthew The Oxx – Interview – 2015

There is no doubt that Matthew Oldfield's musical prowess is something that runs in his family, being the son of prolific composer Terry Oldfield and nephew to Tubular Bells creator Mike Oldfield, but his own unique brand of folk is bringing him great recognition of his own becoming favourites of BBC Radio’s Marc Radcliffe and Steve Lamacq. Having just released his tenth album, First Aid For The Drowning being the third under the Matthew The Oxx alias, his heady mixture of beautiful instrumentation with strong literacy and poetic influences is wonderful and makes you ruminate over the poignant themes that come across in his albums. I had a drink in a lovely pub in Lewes with Matthew to find out about what drives him to make music.
 
Have you always been local to Brighton?
I have lived in Lewes for about a year. I was in Brighton about ten years playing in a band called Drookit Dogs but needed a break so went traveling for just under 5 years using Australia as a base. I am originally from the Cotwolds and that certainly influenced me a lot. I studied poetry there, I was into walking and writing big time. Romantic poetry was also my big thing for a while, so I came to Brighton already quite green.
 
Your family are all very musical, that must have been a big influence growing up?
There has been music since I was a dot (0 years). I would finish school and have a violin class, piano class or singing class. It was good in a way but I had had enough by the time I was twelve and gave up piano, and then didn’t really pick up music till I was about 15/16 years old when I started playing guitar.
 
What spurs you to make music?
Anything in day to day life, to what I am reading, or what I’m going through mentally or emotionally – growing, learning and living. But it is mostly about the poetry that I write, which is the beginning point to any song really. Sometimes I will be walking and the natural rhythms begin some sort of line and then I will develop that as I’m walking.
 
Is there a poet or a writer that you admire and keep coming back to?
I have been reading a lot of Balzac recently. I was churning through Tolstoy for a while, which was really amazing. I am working my way through the classics. I have just bought a book by Seamus Heaney which is just an amazing piece of work. They are all very influential in different ways. Wordsworth was huge for me as a youngster, Lenard Cohen as well.
 
What’s the story behind the name Matthew The Oxx?
It’s through I Ching, which is an ancient Chinese oracle. In English it is call the Book Of Changes. It is combinations of poetry – you could use a stick or coins which land on some poetry which you read as one and that guides the choices you make.
 
How does Mathew The Oxx’s ethos differ in each releases and each alias?
It’s a finite concept. I think it came hand-in-hand with me deciding to conceptualise the albums. I felt The Polyanna Cramp (2012) was a good introduction into the sound I wanted to make. Elephant (2013) was about the break up with a partner, whilst this one was about death. I’m forming the next ideas now. If you look at a band like The Rolling Stones, their concept has reach the end of the road. Music is so fluid now. I take a lot from say Damon Albarn who is constantly changing the way he approaches music, and that requires a different moniker as well because it represents something new. He has got his finger on what music does these days, which is constantly morphing.
 
How do you attack the writing and recording process?
I usually write the songs on my own and then start to develop them with others. There is a core in the band of a drummer and bassist, so I start there and then slowly bring in other people. It’s usually based around a session. Tim Bidwell, the producer, puts in a lot from a creative point of view. Between us we have a good mix – I have a more lyrical and folky angle and Tim has a more progressive angle.
 
You come across as someone who won’t settle for something you’re not 100% happy with?
I have got the songs for the next album, more than enough. Some recently written and some older, but it is always a mixture on the albums. There is so much anxiety around it that I have had to cancel recording sessions, as even though the songs are ready I am not. It’s a weird thing – you really have to be in the right head space to begin with.
 
Why did you choose the album title First Aid For The Drowning?
I just thought that was such a beautiful sentence. It said so much for the songs I had written and what I was going through. There has been quite a bit of death in the family over the past few years. I think it is natural at my age to start grappling with the ideas of death. The scene it’s taken from in Balzac’s novel The Wild Ass’s Skin is really powerful:– He is standing on a bridge about to throw himself into the river. There is a guy at the side of the river who is paid by the Parisian council to collect the dead bodies out of the river to keep it clean. The guy is about to throw himself in and realises that he’s more valuable as a human being dead than he is alive. He takes afront to this as he thinks how that is possible, so he gives it another go.
 
You can definitely hear the emotion that comes through in the album…
When I am recording I do get into really dark spaces, particularly if I am recording dark stuff. The album is about death, so for six months when re-listening and re-recording over and over again to these really intense and emotional things I have been through, it puts you in an melancholy state. I feel like the next album could be a bit more positive and a happier experience but the darkness is great as well. As an artist, if you tap into what I call “the river”, there is a core that can resonate with everybody. You take a song like 'Imagine' (John Lennon) which touches everyone – it doesn’t matter what it is about or what it is really, but somehow it has found “the river”. Usually it is a place of melancholy but it’s also a place of hope.
 
What has been a musical eye-opener for you?
Watching Koyaanisqatsi for the first time, Philip Glass wrote the soundtrack. It was a pivotal moment for Philip Glass, and it was a pivotal moment for soundtracking as well. The work itself is mesmerising, but it really hooked me onto Philip Glass. I have always loved classical music, but I loved the way he was able to bring it into a contemporary environment.
 
If you could work with anyone, who would it be and what would they add to your music?
It probably sounds crazy, but Phil Spector. I just love his production.
 
What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, an amazing writer. It’s like reading really posh ice cream.
 
What are you listening to at the moment?
I just discovered the new Lau album, The Bell That Never Rang – it’s blown me away. They are playing in Hastings in November, so I’ll definitely go to that. I listen to a lot of classical music, I like to work with my poetry and writing when I’m listening to music. Especially someone like Philip Glass where you can get into a trance like state.
 
What are your future plans?
May was a really mental time for gigs, so I’m having a bit of a break at the moment. I should be playing Glastonbury Festival as Mathew The Oxx and in the autumn we will be organising a tour.
There is a video for ‘I Am A Crow’ which we will release at some point.
 
 
 

Gengahr – Interview – 2015

The first track BrightonsFinest heard from Gengahr was ‘She’s A Witch’ and we were obsessed. Their early Radiohead vibe with a sunnier disposition is a guaranteed pull that will get stuck on repeat throughout the summer. The North London four-piece (Felix, Danny, John and Hugh) have supported stadium tours with Alt-J and The Maccabees, a well as a successful showcase for the BBC at SXSW festival in Texas and are now getting regular radio play on BBC 6Music with their latest single ‘Heroine’. They are quickly becoming one of the UK’s newest ‘must see’ bands and having seen them recently at Bleach and The Great Escape, it is easy to see why. I caught up with Felix Bushe (lead singer/guitar) and Hugh Schulte (bass) to find out about their newest album A Dream Outside and their musical journey up to this point.

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