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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 6:00 pm
It’s Friday, so it’s time to get weird. This time, we’re going to Sinkane for the goods, in the form of a video only true visionaries would be able to come up with.
I’m not exactly sure how they did this, but as it’s described in the press release, music video directors Philip Di Fiore and Christopher J. Lytwyn shot a live performance of Sinkane and his band. As you do when you’re music video directors. Okay, that sounds simple enough. Then Di Fiore and Lytwyn took the footage they had and then digitally altered it by faffing around with musical instruments as the visuals were fed into said instruments. Di Fiore says of the finished project, “We were able to get beautiful combinations of colors and waves of light which moved with the musicians – as if we filmed the band live at the Aurora Borealis.” And it’s true. Watch the resulting video below.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 5:00 pm
Given our Web site’s generally UK-directed alignment, it would have been rude not to stop by the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation night at the start of Wednesday night programming. I’m not really into psych rock, but I had been pleasantly surprised seeing Kettering’s Temples live in DC 6 months after giving them a pass at their high-profile slot on the Saturday night at the British Music Embassy of SXSW 2014. So I decided I was ready to have an open mind about Blossoms, whose songs played on 6music didn’t excite me much. I was very pleased that as a live prospect, the Stockport band are much more engaging.
Despite their young age (read: too young to drink in America), they’ve got a lot of swagger, and not just for appearances: musically, they’re a very tight unit. As frontmen go, Tom Odgen is a lanky, Pantene-beautiful, long-haired lad, bound to be a pinup on teenage girls’ walls in the very near future, but he also does a good job at commanding the audience. Then again, I’m a sucker for a Mancunian accent; 2 nights later, out in what seemed appropriate for boys from Manchester, sat out in the rare Austin rain, we complimented each other on our accents…
But the real expert on stage was lead guitarist Josh Dewhurst, whose axe-playing prowess was on full display on the single ‘Cut Me and I’ll Bleed’, among others. The single itself also is a primer on how to construct a radio-friendly pop song, going from a sinister, Scooby Doo-like minor key verse led by Myles Kellock’s keys to more positive chord progressions in the chorus. I had an accidental but entirely enjoyable opportunity to see the Northern lads play again Friday, when they filled in last minute for an absent Ghetts. In short, they won me over, including this possibly unusual tender moment about “the stately homes of England” in ‘Blown Rose’.
After greeting friends from the Beeb, I was off to see Public Service Broadcasting play at LA promoter School Night!’s show at Red 7’s outdoor patio. I wasn’t about to miss my favourite tweedy chaps play a rare outdoor performance. I would have preferred better lighting – the dark reds and blues projected onto the stage seemed more appropriate for later acts to come Beat Connection and Urban Cone.
But despite the darkness, both their older songs from ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ sat well alongside newer ‘The Race for Space’ tracks. “This is a song about an airplane” ‘Spitfire’ was met with audience cheers, as was early ‘The Race for Space’ cut and uber funky number ‘Gagarin’ and 6music favourite ‘Go’. (Catch my interview with J. Willgoose, Esq. of the band here.) I was sad to leave just as ‘Everest’ began his ascent towards its climax, but I had a date with some new Irish friends.
I arrived to Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room in the midst of Meltybrains? mental set for Music from Ireland. Another group of young European lads let loose on the festival environs of Austin, but entirely different results: at one point, everyone in the band jumped off the stage to start a conga line, and their fans were more than willing to join them in the impromptu dance formation. Their thing is masks, having handed out hundreds of lovely spray-painted ones to punters at the Gibson room that night, which was quite the marketing coup. All week, I saw music fans walking around Austin with their mask attached in varying alignments on their heads. You knew immediately they’d been at the Meltybrains? show Wednesday night and had enjoyed it so much, they wanted to help promote the band. Super cool.
The band’s most recent single ‘Donegal’ demonstrates their comfort with mixing up styles and genres, with lyrics in falsetto, atmospheric electronica and compelling beats and percussion, all mixed together, and live, the energy of young Ireland comes through loud and clear through their music. At one point I mused that maybe they were alien Rastafarians.I kind of wish I had arrived earlier to witness more or all of their live set, as I knew I had other obligations Friday afternoon during the full Irish breakfast at B.D. Riley’s and this would be the only time I’d get a chance to see them gig. But of what I did witness, it became abundantly clear that they were one of the top, if not my top band discovery at SXSW 2015. Stay tuned for Carrie’s interviews with both acts at the full Irish breakfast coming soon on TGTF.
Another nomination for my sound of young Ireland is the lovely Orla Gartland, who already had her first headline tour of North America under her belt even before she arrived in Austin. Wide smiles from the lovely ginger lass and her band were the order of the day, as Gartland played a selection of super poppy, super catchy songs from her catalogue that you know will hit the spot for teenager and tweenager crowds that are already stalwarts of Kodaline and The 1975. I think her success is already assured, with upbeat, synthladen numbers like ‘Lonely People’ and ‘Souvenirs’, driven by her clear, confident voice, which were accompanied by the squeals of delight from young fans excited about every one of her songs.
I found myself at a loose end and let’s face it, there will be moments during your SXSW where you physically do not want to move anywhere, especially if you’re stuck in a mob of people and you can’t move anyway. I caught a bit of James Vincent McMorrow, whose headgear could rival James Bay’s for biggest and most annoying hat of the festival. I very rarely enjoy falsetto – it works in Meltybrains? because there is more than just the voice to lead the song – but I found myself completely underwhelmed by his singer/songwriter machinations. Funnily enough, Carrie was somewhere else in the crowd but because the place was so packed, we never ran into each other; despite her affinity for the singer/songwriter genre and her excitement in seeing McMorrow, we came to the same conclusion about his performance.
I returned to Latitude 30 for the final act of the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation show, Spring King. If there was something that certainly was not lacking this year at SXSW, it was loud rock music, played fast and raucously. While what they offer is not earth-shattering (watch the BBC filmed video of ‘City’ from this set below), hey have the kind of ethos that the Vaccines had on their first two albums, before they went pop with this year’s single ‘Handsome’. Which one of these up and coming bands are ready to take over the Vaccines’ mantle in that part of the music scene is anyone’s guess, but for sure, Spring King is one option.
At the close of the Creative Belfast showcase on Monday night, editor Mary and I were invited to attend a special St. Patrick’s Day Brunch on a Boat, sponsored by Generator NI and Invest Northern Ireland. The boat launched from the Hyatt Regency Austin boat dock and floated down the Colorado River for a couple of idyllic hours on Tuesday morning, while we were treated to muffins, mimosas and intimate, scaled back performances by several of the showcasing bands from the previous evening.
The first artist to perform on the brunch lineup was Hannah McPhillimy, who is the keyboard player for Belfast pop band GO WOLF, but who is also a talented singer-songwriter in her own right. She performed a brief set of her own tracks, showing her versatility by switching from the ukulele to the keyboard for her accompaniment. I was enchanted by the sweetness of McPhillimy’s voice and by the very different songwriting style in her solo work compared to that of GO WOLF, so I was well pleased when she agreed to an interview with me at the end of the boat ride. (You can take a listen to her interview here, if you haven’t already.)
McPhillimy was assisted by her GO WOLF colleague Scott Jamison during part of her solo set, and at the end of her performance, the full band came up to take their turn on the stage. The vivid synth pop we had heard from GO WOLF at the British Music Embassy the night before mellowed easily in this quieter setting, matching the cordially relaxed mood on the small open air boat.
Perhaps the most breathtaking performance of the morning was by alt-rock quartet More Than Conquerors, who in a rather unexpected stylistic transformation, appeared here as an acoustic trio. Kris Platt’s strident vocals, which cut so well through the band’s full electric sound at Latitude 30 the previous night, were softened and delicately harmonised by drummer Jamie Neish and guitarist Danny Ball, while bassist Danny Morton looked on from the small back deck of the boat. I was surprised, to say the least, to hear this band sound so lovely in an acoustic setting, but the sensitive performance of ‘The Great Deceiver’ we heard here is evidently a mainstay in the band’s live repertoire, though it hasn’t appeared on any of their recorded releases to date.
The final act on the brunch’s music lineup was a somewhat more predictable choice, folk duo The Lost Brothers. Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech were clearly in their element playing to a small room of quiet listeners, performing from a seated position and tapping their toes in unison with one another as they sang. They took the opportunity to show off their seamless vocal harmonies with a lovely performance of ‘Under the Turquoise Sky’ and closed the curtain on the morning’s festivities with a charming cover of ‘Moon River’ as the boat headed back into the dock.
Special thanks to Mark from Generator NI for inviting us along on the Tuesday morning river cruise. Stay tuned to TGTF in the coming days for coverage of another river-related event from later in the SXSW 2015 week.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 1:00 pm
I can’t even imagine the daunting feeling, all the apprehension young artists must feel when they have gotten word that they’ve gotten a shout to SXSW and the next step is actually coming over and playing shows on the world’s biggest stage in Austin. This is what I’m envisioning must have been in the minds of all the members of The People the Poet from South Wales, who played two shows in Austin during the week, opening both the first night of programming at the British Music Embassy to usher in the music festival and the Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales night, then the start of the British Music Embassy programming on Saturday afternoon. In both cases, the band left SXSW 2015 punters in awe with their combination of emotionally charged lyrics and powerhouse instrumentation. From the second they got offstage Tuesday night, Austin was all abuzz over this young Welsh band who had clearly made their mark on the event in Texas.
They were a bit difficult to pin down but after their Saturday afternoon show, I was able to nab Tyla Campbell (guitarist and resident band social media maven) and Pete Mills (bass guitar) for an interview about their time out in Texas, including visiting a shooting range in Houston, then seeing this famous rodeo that Willie Nelson played in Austin; we here at TGTF have no idea about it, but I guess we’ll have to investigate next time we’re in town, especially since the organisers advertise children riding sheep. Tyla and Pete also tell me about their varied band influences, how their self-released album ‘The Narrator’, with stories entirely sourced from fans came about, and the importance of those fans.
One of the more famous punters at their Tuesday night show was Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary, who was so taken by their sound that he had them in for a live session to perform ‘People’, which is the Lynyrd Skynryd-flavoured track I was telling them about! You can have a listen and watch to the session of the song below under the interview. (So wait a minute, I beat Dermot O’Leary tipping a band before him as well as Lammo? ::smug::)
For more information on The People the Poet, visit their Facebook or check out our past articles on them.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 12:00 pm
So how exactly does a Chinese-American girl find herself partaking in complimentary paella and sangria and watching a bunch of Spanish bands with a bunch of people from there or of that heritage? If it’s in March, it can only mean one thing: SXSW. The glittery, colourful music carnival that was SXSW 2015 included six vibrant acts performing as part of Sounds from Spain in a tent Wednesday afternoon; none of them were like no another, which added further interest to the proceedings at Brush Square Park. Initially, when Carrie and I began planning out our Wednesdays, we were both bracing ourselves for an afternoon of poncho wearing and outdoor drenching by the rain that had been forecast.
It did rain – we awoke to it tapping on the roof of our friends’ house and we both groaned to ourselves for the terrible weather misfortune we anticipated later – but by the time I reached Brush Square Park to begin my coverage of the Sounds from Spain showcase at the exceedingly early time of 11 AM, the rain clouds were gone and about 2 hours later, the sun came out and started beating down on us, causing both of my interviewees Xavi Marín of Oso Leone and musician/producer beGun to yelp that even for Spaniards used to oppressive summers, it was too hot! As the week went on though, we wished that the sun had held out, for hot sun is still better than rain chucking it down, agreed?
Oso Leone was first up on the afternoon’s bill. Drawing their inspiration from nature for some of their song titles (‘Ficus’, ‘Cactus’), this band mixes up experimental, psychedelic, and chill and drone-y rock ‘n’ roll to create some of the most interesting soundscapes I’ve heard in a long time. The only other band I can think of who have been this inventive in producing unearthly music is Sigur Ros, so think Sigur Ros, but more melodic.
Disco Las Palmeras are essentially a Spanish-language Pixies, with frontman Diego Castro preferring a deadpan, disaffected vocal ala Black Francis. They played it loud, they played it fast, and they had a good time.
Madrid girl group Hinds (formerly known as Deers until American band The Deers sicced their lawyers on them) and their sunny, ’60s-style garage rock need no introduction. As popular as they are in the UK and Europe, they’re just starting to make inroads here in America, which might explain why someone in their camp had the crazy idea to book them for 16 shows during their week in Austin. Hey, the 1975 played some 13 shows at SXSW 2013 and look where they are now, so maybe there’s some method to the madness. (Stay tuned for Carrie’s impression of them Saturday night at the NME/PRS showcase at the British Music Embassy, where I believe I should thank my lucky stars for not being allowed into the venue, as Carrie described the situation like being stuffed like sardines in a tin.)
Rulo Y La Contrabanda have a very classic rock ‘n’ roll sound and since I speak so very little Spanish, I lost of the emotion of the songs not comprehending what was being sung. Most of the crowd didn’t have the same problem, cheering wildly for them and I assume having arrived early for the next act.
Phew. Okay. No amount of mental preparedness could have readied me for the punters’ reception of Macaco. A blonde Spaniard isn’t very common, is it? Apparently, this band with this guy Dani Carbonell out front is huge. I mean, massive. The amount of oestrogen in the tent went sky high just before they took to the stage, so it’s a safe bet they’re a big deal in the Spanish-speaking world.
Personally, I couldn’t see or hear it (I felt like I was witnessing a cartoon), but maybe if I was a 20-year old living in Spain interested in pop, I might think differently? I’m embedding a recent video of theirs for your benefit and you can tell me what you think. I can only guess from this Facebook post of theirs that they guessed incorrectly that I was Japanese (haha).
Last but certainly not least was my main reason for being there that afternoon at all, my pre-SXSW 2015 discovery of self-described “landscape electronica” artist and producer beGun, who I previewed in this Bands to Watch post. Most of the time, electronic artists are draped in darkness, playing at night in purposefully shadowy environments such as clubs. I think it’s a special treat to watch a master like him at work during daylight hours, so you can see how much goes into his live performance. I loved every minute of it.
As he mentioned in my interview with him before he performed at the showcase, the Barcelona producer is adamant about electronic artists including “added value” to their performances, to make it worth it to fans to see a real, live human being actually making the music live instead of just pushing a succession of buttons on a laptop or synth. On this afternoon, beGun certainly delivered, creating a swirl of music enveloping you and taking you and your mind to another place. I had a word with Huw Stephens about his music, so fingers crossed you’ll be hearing his music on Radio 1 soon enough.
Thanks very much to Rocio, Xavi of Oso Leone, the Agoraphobia girls, beGun and Agustín and everyone else at the Sounds from Spain party who made this American feel so welcome. Music, paella and sangria…let’s do it all again next year!
After my chill time in Sounds from Spain, it was a shock to the system to run – I mean, like run – to the convention center in an attempt to catch Laura Marling on the Radio Day stage. Who designs a convention center with escalators that don’t go up to every floor? Texans. I finally gave up on the escalators, deciding on a lift and nearly knocking over James Graham of the Twilight Sad, who was coming out of one, in the process. I guess he had had his fill of Laura?
The Radio Day stage, being as tall as it is and sat in a room that feels cavernous, isn’t exactly going to give you the warm and fuzzies. That said, what we do know of Marling’s new direction and album ‘Short Movie’ released this past Monday, her new material isn’t intended to give you the warm and fuzzies. Marling’s new pixie haircut, matching with long cream coloured trousers that made her legs look like they went on forever and with some fierce, military-style buttons down the left side, gave her a look that meant business at the KCRW afternoon showcase.
Because Sounds from Spain was running a little behind schedule and I refused to leave Brush Square until I said my goodbyes to all my new friends, after I arrived at the convention center, I only managed to hear half of one song and the final one, which was ‘Short Movie’ that everyone’s already heard. Despite obvious fans clamouring to be close to their goddess, the room was devoid of warmth and charm, which for me detracted from the performance and overall, I was disappointed in what seemed to be a lack of energy onstage as well. I also think they could have cranked up the volume on the amps for a more emphatic impression, but maybe the performance was meant to be muted for this all ages crowd? Well, as Meatloaf sang, “two out of three ain’t bad.” Or six out of seven…
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 11:00 am
There was some question whether or not London duo Public Service Broadcasting, who enjoyed popularity and recognition for doing the unusual on their first album ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ by putting public service announcement clips to music, were going to be able to wow us again the second time around. Or would they suffer from the dreaded sophomore slump? Suffice to say, I wholeheartedly enjoyed the spaceflight-themed ‘The Race for Space’, which was released in late February; not only did it prove that the project still had legs, it made me optimistic that there were shedloads of ideas still there up in the brain of PSB’s mastermind, the honourable J. Willgoose, Esq.
After closing out back-to-back British Music Embassy bills – Thursday night during the Ben Sherman / UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)-sponsored showcase, then Friday afternoon during the Embassy’s daytime programming – I had the absolute privilege of interviewing Mssr. Willgoose to ask him how the Austin shows had went, seeing that this was their second year in a row of showcasing at SXSW. We also chatted about the new album and how it fits into the continuing Public Service Broadcasting story, and what’s ahead for them this year, including several exciting festival announcements, and he bigs up Dublin as the best gigging city in Europe.
Willgoose also admits getting emotional about playing the 6 Music Festival 2015 in Newcastle last month (where our head photographer Martin had a whale of a time seeing them play and photographing them performing on the Gateshead Sage’s concourse Sunday night at the festival) because he has fond memories of camping with his then-girlfriend (now Mrs. Willgoose) and buying a digital radio to bring on their trip for the expressed purpose of catching the first broadcast of a Public Service Broadcasting song on 6music. See? Even behind that bow tie, all that tweed and glasses, there lies the true heart of an artist. I knew it was in there, I just honestly feel so honoured I had the opportunity to chat with him. Listen to the interview below.
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