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As this year’s SXSW Music Festival rapidly approaches and our preview coverage kicks into high gear, we’re once again excited to bring you showcasing artists’ answers to a special SXSW 2017 flavoured set of Quickfire Questions. The latest showcasing band to turn in their answers is Liverpool psych-rock five-piece The Vryll Society, who tapped guitarist Ryan Ellis to fill in the blanks. If you need a little background information on the band before diving in to his responses, our own Rebecca recently reviewed The Vryll Society’s new single ‘Sacred Flight’ right back here. Stay tuned also to our roundup of Northern English bands making the trek to SXSW 2017 here on TGTF next week.
Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Space Rock Sorcery?
What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
I can’t wait to go and get lost in the night and then eventually find my way into a nice bar with a pool table. Also I’m gonna try some hot sauces, that’s right up my street.
Of the bands who have already been announced, do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
I’m hoping I get to go and see Temples, I’ve seen them once before they’re spot on. I’ve seen Nile Rodgers is doing a talk as well, so I’d love to go and wrap my ears around that.
Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
I think we’re cool on that topic, the weirdest thing is probably gonna be a pair of shorts with peacock patterns on them.
If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Oufff, I think it depends on the mood doesn’t it? Potentially a lovely cold beer that I haven’t tried and if I’ve already had a few then definitely a gin and tonic.
(If this will be your first time at SXSW) What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
I’m more excited than nervous, I’ve never been to the States before so overall I’m buzzing about the whole thing. I’ve heard the festival itself is pretty cool, so that’s just a bonus too.
What is your favourite album from the last year, and why?
I think it’d be The Coral – ‘Distance Inbetween’. You know what you’re getting with The Coral; it’s always going to be great isn’t it? Ferocious sounds everywhere, it’s fantastic.
Now, let’s get into our usual list of Quickfire Questions…
What song is your earliest musical memory?
I don’t know about actual first memory but I remember very well listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival in the car with my Grandad, coming home after school. I love them now, that’s probably got a big part in why, to be fair.
What was your favourite song as a child?
When I was a child it was probably ‘Here Comes The Sun’ [by The Beatles] or ‘Morning Glory’ [by Oasis]. I used to sing “All your dreams are made when you’re chained to the mirror and a razor blaze”.
What song makes you laugh?
A song that makes me laugh, James Brown – ‘Living In America’. It just reminds of that interview where he’s a bit worse for wear with those fantastic orange shades on.
What song makes you cry?
A song that makes me cry, ‘A Song With No Words’ performed by just David Crosby and Graham Nash. Unbelievable.
What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
A song that reminds me of falling in love. Ermmm, ‘I Believe In Miracles’ by Hot Chocolate.
What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Listening to a lot of artists make me upset, especially when they aren’t here anymore and I won’t get the chance to meet them or see them.
Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
At the minute it would be ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ [by Crosby, Stills and Nash].
Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
John Lennon, for now.
If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I don’t know, maybe something mad like a marine biologist or an astronaut, hopefully.
If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
I’d bring Jackie Gleason – ‘Music For Lovers Only’, maybe he’d let me bring some more in after that.
Thanks to Ryan of the Vryll Society for his considered replies, and to Matty for his kind assistance.
Alt-folk singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop will introduce her new album ‘Memories Are Now’ to English audiences this spring with a list of live dates spanning the end of March and beginning of April. The album dropped on the 10th of February via Sub Pop. You can watch Sub Pop’s introduction to the album just below the tour date listing, and you can read TGTF’s recent review of ‘Memories Are Now’ right back here.
Tickets for the following live shows are available now. A full list of Hoop’s upcoming tour dates, including February and March dates in North America, can be found on her official Facebook. Our own previous coverage of Jesca Hoop is collected here.
Tuesday 28th March 2017 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Wednesday 29th March 2017 – London Lexington
Thursday 30th March 2017 – Bristol Exchange
Friday 31st March 2017 – Leicester Musician
Saturday 1st April 2017 – Brighton Patterns
Sunday 2nd April 2017 – Norwich Epic Studios
Monday 3rd April 2017 – Cambridge Portland Arms
Thursday 6th April 2017 – Manchester Gorilla
Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin has unveiled a new video for ‘Coming of Age’, the latest single from her 2016 album ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’. We first encountered Jacklin at SXSW 2016, where she captured my heart singing a song about her kid brother. So, it seems singularly fitting to me that the aforementioned sibling has joined Jacklin for the ‘Coming of Age’ video, playing the on-screen role of videographer to Jacklin’s quasi-professional, blue-blazered reporter.
Jacklin-as-reporter and her brother take an “objective” look back at their hometown of Springwood as they trail back through their old haunts in search of “news.” Jacklin even manages to catch her old boss from Springwood Gardens Chinese Restaurant on film. “I didn’t think he’d remember me,” she confesses. “It’s been a decade since I spent my weekends cleaning plates and putting prawn crackers in the deep fryer.”
The actual footage for the new video was recorded by Jacklin’s high school friend Nick McKinley, who presumably spent a fair amount of time in the pictured Springwood scenes himself once upon a time. His nostalgic yet playful visual interpretation of the song makes it easy to believe Jacklin’s genuine incredulity in the chorus: “I didn’t see it coming, my coming of age”.
Julia Jacklin’s debut album ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ is out now on Transgressive Records. You can read TGTF’s complete past coverage of Jacklin right through here.
Header photo by Angel Ceballos
Over a decade into a music career that has been largely self-propelled from day one, singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop has naturally developed a tough skin. She wholeheartedly embraces that hard-won independent streak on her latest album ‘Memories Are Now’, which dropped last week courtesy of Sub Pop Records. Hoop and producer Blake Mills (Fiona Apple, Laura Marling) took the opportunity to break out on their own, recording Hoop’s fourth LP outside their familiar Zeitgeist Studios setting, where they previously worked under the watchful eye of American producer and A&R professional Tony Berg. Hoop says that on this record, Mills pushed her to streamline the musical arrangements, working without hesitation and using whole live takes where possible to maintain authenticity and momentum.
The album cuts right to the chase with eponymous lead track ‘Memories Are Now’. The song’s musical arrangement consists almost entirely of a stark guitar ostinato and Hoop’s vocal melody, with dynamic and textural interest created by means of artfully layered vocal harmonies. The austerity of the instrumentation allows Hoop to make her lyrical presence known in the unequivocal lines “I’m coming through, no matter what you say / I’ve got work to be doing, if you’re not here to help, go find some other life to ruin / let me show you the door”.
The album’s mood swiftly shifts from confrontational to reflective in ‘The Lost Sky’. We featured the haunting and beautifully-constructed lead single as our Video of the Moment #2227 at the end of last year, and it stands out as the centerpiece of the album proper. Working at the time without the benefit of a press release, our editor Mary interpreted the song and the promo video as navigating a romantic relationship with a mentally ill partner. It turns out that her instincts about emotional devastation and mental distraction weren’t completely wrong, as Hoop has since explained in her own description of the song’s obsessively repeating lyrical verses:
I have a dear friend who was in a horrific accident that left him in a coma for two weeks. We thought we had lost him. He woke up to find himself silently divorced. This was a heartbreak for all related, and I wrote this while we were waiting for him to wake up. His experience drove me to explore my own relationship with abandonment. When you don’t have any say in how a relationship plays out, when you’re cut off, there’s a relentless loop that plays again and again in your own mind of those words that you would say . . . if love was fair enough to let you speak it.
Gently plucked guitar and clicking percussion open ’Animal Kingdom Chaotic’, before Hoop’s chant-like vocals come in, creating a hypnotic pattern of call and response between the melody and the backing harmonies. The uneven rhythmic pattern of the central lines “you know you wanna but the computer says no / you know you wanna take back control” adds to the sonic interest and the thematic intrigue. The ironically sing-song quality of ‘Simon Says’ is balanced by a heavily distorted guitar line and rapid-fire pop culture references behind quaintly folky vocal harmonies and rhythms. The similarly alliterative ‘Cut Connection’ is vocally harsher and more forcefully punctuated in its visceral tribal-style rhythms, as Hoop invites “come on, be the drummer in my heart.”
Gentle and gradually modulatory, ’Pegasi’ draws inspiration from familiar Greek mythology in its romantic metaphor: “through many love lit moons / I served my rider well / I suffered the bid / and took his spur into my side.” The instrumental harmonies behind the song’s joyful opening verse are sweetly triadic, but they take a deft, finely-tuned minor key turn as doubt and despair creep into Hoop’s lyrical lines.
Hoop imagines two album tracks centering on religion as being “twins” on the album. “Religion is one of those things that wells up, and takes over, and shows itself in dangerous ways when it’s out of balance”, she explains. ‘Songs of Old’ makes use of common Christian imagery as well as some of Hoop’s most delicately beautiful singing in its thoughtful exploration of the social and cultural damage that can come from viewing one’s own religion as all-encompassing and supreme over others. Album closer ‘The Coming’ is a more overt renunciation of Christianity, with Hoop declaring in bookend lyrics “Jesus turned in his crown of thorns today . . . and the coming never came.”
‘Memories Are Now’ has its moments of lyrical elegance and traditional folk beauty, but those qualities never seem to be Hoop’s overarching concern in this collection of songs. Rather, the album leaves the distinct impression of artistic decisiveness, marked by a thematic and sonic sense of self-assurance that is often missing in the overanalysed subtleties and mildly suggestive subversions of the alt-folk genre.
Jesca Hoop’s fourth album ‘Memories Are Now’ is currently available on Sub Pop Records. TGTF’s previous coverage of Jesca Hoop is right back this way.
Two Northern Irish artists, singer/songwriter Jealous of the Birds (aka Naomi Hamilton) and electronic musician Ryan Vail, have teamed up on a new collaboration titled ‘Love is a Crow’. Aptly enough, a human crow character, clad all in black, figures prominently in the song’s ‘Donnie Darko’-inspired promo video. He is intended to represent the ever-present spectre of uncertainty in romantic relationships, as Hamilton explains in the track’s press release:
‘Love Is A Crow’ touches on how sometimes, regardless of how passionate and fulfilling a relationship between two people is initially, one person’s doubt and vulnerability can self-sabotage it. In light of that, something about this love becomes damaged and almost sinister, which I think comes across beautifully in the song’s music video.
The new single is due for official release this Friday, the 24th of February, via Quiet Arch. The full release will include this version of the track, plus an instrumental version and remixes by The Cyclist and Die Hexen. The video was filmed in various East Berlin locations by director Joseph White.
Vail and Hamilton were excited to cross-breed their individual talents, each speaking highly of the other. Vail says, “After seeing her perform countless times, I started to discover this edge to her music that reveals itself the more you’re exposed to her. The sounds I developed were inspired by these findings.” Hamilton echoes his sentiment: “Ryan has this great quality of approaching this work with a kind of thoughtfulness that never gets in the way of productivity. He gets things done, which just made the collaboration simple and fun.”
Perhaps not entirely by coincidence, Ryan Vail and Jealous of the Birds are both scheduled to appear at SXSW 2017 next month in Austin, Texas. For up-to-date information about SXSW, keep following TGTF’s ongoing festival preview coverage, or check out the official SXSW schedule of artist showcases here.
American comeback band American Football have announced a short list of UK and Irish live dates for later this year, on the success of their second self-titled album ‘American Football (LP2)’. The band broke up almost immediately after releasing their self-titled debut LP on Polyvinyl in 1999, but Polyvinyl was also instrumental in American Football’s recent re-emergence. Following a deluxe edition re-release of their debut album, American Football played a series of well-received live shows in their hometown of Champaign, Illinois and in New York City. Seventeen years on from their first album, American Football dropped their sophomore full-length release last October, also on Polyvinyl. You can sample the understated semtimentality of album track ‘Desire Gets in the Way’ just below the tour date listing.
Tickets for the following shows are available now. You can find a complete listing of American Football’s upcoming live dates on their official Facebook.
Friday 1st September 2017 – Brighton Concorde 2
Saturday 2nd September 2017 – Manchester Albert Hall
Sunday 3rd September 2017 – Edinburgh Summerhall
Monday 4th September 2017 – Dublin Button Factory
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