It's been quite the journey for the guitarist and singer-songwriter Kurt Vile. Having that distinctive (and real) name helps, but that will only take you so far. A dedication to your craft, and working with like-minded souls is most important, and Vile has that in spades. He knew early on that music is what he wanted to do. From DIY recording and releasing in the early part of the century, to forming The War on Drugs with long-time friend and collaborator Adam Granduciel, Vile signed with the highly-esteemed American independent record label Matador in 2009 and has remained with them ever since, combining work with The War on Drugs, a high profile collaboration with Courtney Barnett, and his own music, in forging an impressively productive career, whilst at the same time trying to be a dad to his two young daughters.
"It was at the Grey Horse in Kingston," says Anna Calvi about her first public performance. "I remember I played 'Purple Haze' by Jimi Hendrix. I wasn't singing, but I remember it gave me such a buzz. I think it ups the stakes as a performer when you're playing in front of people. You're wanting to take more risks, and you want to push yourself further. I think I had that from the very first time I played on stage."
London’s Teleman have already set the bar high with the release of three singles so far this year, ‘Submarine Life’, ‘Cactus’, and ‘Song For A Seagull’, from their widely anticipated third studio album Family of Aliens, released via label-home Moshi Moshi. The foursome flaunting their new-found harmonious marriage of beguiling pop sensibility and pulsating electronic undertones, allied to sharp lyricism, buoyant guitars and instantaneous melodies, and coated by Tom Sanders’ remarkable vocals.
There are some, whose lack of generosity of spirit is topped up by industrial strength bile, who simply cannot abide Tom Odell, the singer/songwriter. Back in 2013, the NME notoriously awarded Odell's debut album no stars out of ten. That's right, ZERO. In the review, the NME described the then 22-year-old singer as a “Poor, misguided wannabe who’s fallen into the hands of the music industry equivalent of Hungarian sex traffickers”. The reviewer added, “I wish I could say there’s a place in Hell reserved for Tom Odell. There’s not. Just loads more Brits. He’ll be all over 2013 like a virulent dose of musical syphilis”.
Simon Raymonde lives and breathes music. It’s been around him all his life. His dad, Ivor, was a very noteworthy producer, arranger and musician. Simon played bass and helped produce the work of the Cocteau Twins, a relatively successful and influential indie band of the 80s and 90s. He’s run a record label, Bella Union, since the late 90s, produced and mixed bands such as Brighton’s Clearlake, James Yorkston, and Fionn Regan, and more recently opened a Bella Union shop in the heart of Brighton, selling almost exclusively Bella Union music (as well as his son’s fledgling label Opposite Number, some of Colin Newman’s – of Wire fame, who lives locally – recorded ouput, a few books, and some high quality screen-prints). He’s also taking to the stage again with Lost Horizons, a band he formed with former 4AD label-mate Ritchie Thomas, formerly of Dif Juz. Even though he’s well into his 50s, he’s more immersed than ever, and remains a massive fan of music, old and new.
On 11th July, 2005, The Kooks released 'Eddie's Gun'. The first fruits from their deal with Virgin, who had signed the band barely four months after coming together, on the basis of a strong look (skinny jeans and hats) and a handful of catchy songs that harked back to the classic pop period of the 60s, topped with influences from British new wave, The Libertines and Britpop.
Every now and then a band will turn up and simply blow almost everything out of the water. With its sheer vitality, its life affirming qualities, and its bravado. Idles are one of those. Taking their cue from what is almost universally regarded as an incredibly vibrant period of music making – the post-punk era – Bristol’s IDLES are fearless adventurers, and socio-political questioners, perfectly in tune with the chaotic and uncertain times we live in. They released their powerful debut album Brutalism in 2016 to high acclaim. The massively anticipated Joy As An Act Of Resistance is their follow up, with quickly sold out dates through the summer and autumn cementing their status as perhaps the most exciting band on the planet.
In 1987, Leeds band The Wedding Present, riding high on the buzz generated by a number of self-released singles and the support from the likes of Radio One DJ's John Peel and Andy Kershaw, released their debut album, George Best, also on their own label, Reception. It featured a now iconic image of that equally iconic footballer of the same name on the cover, and became a minor commercial success, scraping the top 50, and cementing the band's reputation as one of the best around, one who was spearheading the so-called 'indie' scene that had slowly grown out of post-punk, and which had been encapsulated by the legendary C86 cassette that the NME gave away with their weekly print edition. Dubbed 'the most indie thing to have ever existed', most of the bands on it subsequently faded away into semi-obscurity. Bands such as Might Mighty, The Bodines, Bogshed, and Close Lobsters. However, along with Primal Scream, The Wedding Present have, with the odd blip or two, stayed the course. In 2018 they are as highly revered as ever: they’re still releasing records, curate their own annual festival, At the Edge of the Sea, now in its 10th year, and even have a new film documenting their early years, Something Left Behind, to celebrate.
Glastonbury 2013. Chic are on the West Holts Stage, performing some of the greatest pop music ever made. 'Everybody Dance', 'Dance Dance Dance', 'I'm Coming Out', 'Upside Down', 'He's The Greatest Dancer' and 'We Are Family'. That was just for starters. It's relentless, the crowd growing somewhat delirious as Nile Rodgers digs deeper into his untouchable repertoire. 'Let's Dance', 'Like A Virgin', 'Lost in Music', 'Le Freak', ‘Notorious', ‘Good Times'. Sounds like a dream playlist, doesn't it? From artists as famous and diverse as Madonna, David Bowie, Sister Sledge, Duran Duran, Diana Ross, and of course Chic, what is the common factor? Nile Rodgers has had a big hand in all these songs, either with his band, Chic, or as a writer, and/or producer. His work in Chic and his writing and production work for artists like David Bowie, Diana Ross and Madonna has helped sell over an incredible 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide.
What is it about Brighton, and its fertile music landscape? Surely, there must be more musicians per head of population than anywhere else. Every other person is in a band it seems. Certainly BIMM has been a major factor, but so has The Great Escape, and Brighton's cultural history, a place invariably viewed as one to go to for the purposes of pleasure and entertainment. In particular, guitar-orientated music has been fruitful of late. Bands such as Tigercub, Black Honey, The Magic Gang, and Dream Wife all started here, a springboard to bigger things. There is definitely something in the water down here.