By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 19th September 2012 at 4:00 pm
When Keane were in America this summer, they stopped by Nashville to record, via analogue, several tracks for ‘Upstairs at United’, a special edition four-track vinyl 12″ for local record label 453 Music. This release is available now, but why not sneak a peek of the band in the studio, recording this version of ‘Silenced by the Night’? You can below.
And if you haven’t already, you can enter our lucky draw for a pair of tickets to see Tom, Tim, Richard and Jesse at Manchester Arena on the 29th of November on us; all the details are here.
By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 19th September 2012 at 11:00 am
Trophy Wife is gearing up to release some information on their debut album that’s finally coming out…soon, we think. In the intervening time though, I asked singer / bassist Jody Prewett to field my questions about what they’ve been doing since their last release in autumn 2011. He was a true gent, considering all my queries – even the nosy ones – thoughtfully. Read the interview below.
So where do we find you three today?
The three of us are frozen in a permanent state of high alert and readiness.
Your last major release was the ‘Bruxism’ EP, in October 2011. That EP was really unique, in that each of the five tracks were produced by a different producer or co-produced with you. How did that project come about, and how did you secure all these different people to be involved with it?
After we did the two singles with Moshi Moshi we really wanted to explore the extremities of our sound and push ourselves into places we hadn’t been before. We were aware that a lot of people may have had us pigeon-holed as a quintessential indie-dance band after those first releases. The EP was a learning curve and I think we managed to find a certain cohesion despite the disjointed nature of the recording process. We emailed a bunch of producers to see if they were up for getting involved and luckily they were. It enabled us to channel more intense emotions into our music, I think.
Sleeping disorders were the focus of ‘Bruxism’. Even though you didn’t spell out who had what, I felt it was very personal to put forward that these disorders were a part of your lives, to put that into song. What spurred you on to do this, to use it as a plot device for the EP?
It was strange because we didn’t sit down and plot that we wanted there to be this recurring theme through all the songs. When we looked over the words and meanings after completion there seemed to be this common thread concerning sleep and nocturnal states. These things happen subconsciously; it was a time of change for us in various ways and we did have certain anxieties hovering over us which perhaps fed into the music directly.
The ‘Bruxism’ EP felt to me a very natural, yet a rapid evolution from your earlier singles ‘Microlite’ and ‘The Quiet Earth’ / ‘White Horses’. How do you compare those early singles to the EP, and to the new album?
To us it felt like a logical next step although sonically there was a vast difference both in the sounds we used and in our approach to writing. Whereas Microlite and The Quiet Earth happened very quickly, we started taking multiple different routes to the final version of a song this time. There’s definitely more of a polish to those tracks. We’ve tried to take a lot of what we learnt from it and run with it for the album.
Will the new album have such an eclectic mix of producers? Or did you produce it yourselves, or stick with only one producer (such as Ewan Pearson, who produced ‘Sleepwalks’)?
We’ve worked with our live member Andrew Halford who produced (the ‘Bruxism’ track) ‘Seven Waves’ with us. He’s an incredibly attentive man, we spent a lot of time in the early hours of the morning coming up with textures and sounds. The album feels like a singular body, which I think we achieved by going away to write so we could live and breathe it every day.
After the EP, you seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Were you writing songs for the new album all that time? You guys are really mysterious people.
We wanted to disappear somewhere and completely immerse ourselves in the creation of the debut record and we had the opportunity to do it after ‘Bruxism’. The majority of the album was written in the winter of that year. We stayed in a riverside cabin on the banks of the severn; it was pretty cold and damp and the walk back from the studio in the pitch dark was terrifying. It was a bit like one of cabins in Friday 13th. It enabled us to focus entirely on this one thing and let the album happen organically.
The big news last month was that you are finished (putting the finishing touches?) to your debut album. So where are you in the process, really? Can you reveal to us the album title yet? Or what can you reveal about the upcoming release?
We can’t confirm anything yet, we hope to release it in the new year. The album is tantalisingly close to being done and dusted. In the meantime, we’ll be announcing an exciting new release very shortly.
You’ve been releasing video teasers of the new album on your official Tumblr one a week in a collage format. It’s been great to get these teasers but they also make me more anxious about the album and I really want to hear it now! Did you consider the kind of mental torture the collage would have on your fans?
We’re aware that we’ve been off the radar for a bit which is something that happens when you spend any amount of time on writing an album. We weren’t limited by time constraints or deadlines. We figured it was a task worth spending a lot of time on, making sure we’re proud of every moment on the album. It certainly hasn’t been our intention to inflict mental torture.
I have two guesses on what will happen once all the teasers are online: one, the whole thing will “come alive” in a full album trailer, or two, the collage revealed will be the actual album cover. Am I even in the right ballpark? Or please put me out of my misery and tell us!
We’ve got some ideas, but it would spoil the fun if we told you now!
By the way, who came up with the video collage idea? Do you feel this collage format fits with the general feel of the album? And if yes, how?
Ben (Rimmer, their keyboardist) came up with the idea after we talked about gradually leaking bits and pieces from the album. We’ve been off the radar for a while and we wanted to re-integrate ourselves into cyberspace. The images and sounds are all segments of the album, we wanted it to be like a puzzle or treasure hunt that leads you in.
After the thrilling promo video for ‘Microlite’, I am also really eager to see some videos for songs off the new album. Do you have some ideas for videos already in the works?
It’s something we’re actively doing all the time; Kit (Monteith, their drummer) works really hard on the visual side, making short films and taking photographs. Earlier in the year we shot a video in London which took us out of our comfort zone; it turned out to be mentally quite challenging. We’re very excited about showing that to people.
There were some really great acoustic videos filmed by Cock and Bull TV you guys did at Camden Crawl Dublin (‘Canopy Shade’, ‘Microlite’). Did it feel very natural performing those in such a stripped down way, considering how ‘built up’ in complexity all your songs are?
We’ve always enjoyed stripping the songs back into skeletal forms. We did a lot of acoustic sessions during our first headline tour and when we’re sitting around together we often seize the opportunity and film me playing a song in the garden along with the sound of birds and airplanes overhead.
Have you decided when the album will hit record shops? Will it be released through Moshi Moshi, or will this be a Blessing Force release?
We’re still working on the details for the release and hopefully we’ll be able to announce it soon. To say we’re desperate for people to hear it would be the understatement of the century.
Speaking of Blessing Force….we’ve heard it’s a collective that you belong to, along with Foals and other Oxford bands. What can you tell us about being part of it? What are its goals? What have been its early successes? (I’m guessing it has only been around as long as you guys have been around as a band.)
There’s always been this community in Oxford and the scene is very self-contained. It happened very naturally, a group of us had all been in bands and toured a lot so it made sense to pool all of our knowledge and what we’d learnt together. It’s better to work together than alone.
I read in a piece by the Guardian that you used to be part of the band Jonquil, who I saw at a Burning Ear showcase at SXSW this year. What happened when you broke up? The sound of your two bands seems very different.
Indeed. We had some of the best times of our lives when we were a part of Jonquil. We were a six-piece band at the time and the 3 of us decided it was time to try something new which has ultimately worked out better for all of us.
I’ve struggled to find a way to explain your music to other people. What seems very clear to me is that there are so many things going on in a Trophy Wife song: the instruments, the samplers, and vocals seem individually so disparate. But when they are all put together, they come together in a rhythmically complex, compelling way. How do you view the Trophy Wife songwriting process?
At the start we worked within a very narrow space, partly on purpose. It was more about being restrained and minimalist whereas I think it’s become a lot more expansive now without becoming in any way overblown. I think the three of us have very defined roles in the band. I still don’t think we’re ever going to suddenly veer off on a scenic psychedelic freak jazz detour.
It seems like you guys have been together for a while now (at least 2 years?), but we’ve only had snatches of releases. Is there a mother lode of Trophy Wife songs in a lock box somewhere?
Quite recently, we looked at the hard drive and found lots of loose sketches and unfinished ideas. We’re probably more selective nowadays, there’s some ideas that we’ll possibly revisit later on. Either that, or they’ll forever remain hidden.
And when will we get to hear some new songs live?
Some of the songs from the album have been performed already this year and they’ve already become a big part of the live show. I think we feel a lot more comfortable and at ease within ourselves when it comes to playing live, whereas before, there was a lot of adrenalin and nervous tension floating around.
Any last words you’d like to say to your fans?
Never trust a man with shit on his brow.
And with that, we leave you with the latest bit of new Trophy Wife, a visual for ‘High Windows’. A beautiful acoustic version of the song is available for free download from the second page of the band’s Tumblr. We wish Jody, Ben and Kit all the best and hope we get some release dates and even more good stuff from them soon. A massive thanks to Jody for answering my burning questions!
By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 19th September 2012 at 10:00 am
We know you readers like free things. So today’s free thing comes courtesy of Natasha Khan, aka Bat for Lashes, in the form of free track ‘Marilyn’. (She sure likes naming songs after people, doesn’t she? ‘Daniel’, ‘Laura’…)
Download it for absolutely free from Amazon via this link. If you want to listen to it first, below is a stream of the song.
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 18th September 2012 at 6:00 pm
We got to thinking, there just aren’t enough cartoon characters in music videos these days. So Ben Folds Five have come to our rescue in that regard, in their new video for ‘Do It Anyway’. You’ll recognise (well, the older ones of you, anyway) the inhabitants of Fraggle Rock in this promo. Enjoy it below.
‘The Sound of the Life of the Mind’, the band’s new album, is out today. No doubt they’ll be playing it on their UK/Irish tour that begins at the end of November and goes into early December.
Friday 23rd November 2012 – Bristol Academy
Saturday 24th November 2012 – Nottingham Rock City
Monday 26th November 2012 – Dublin Vicar Street
Thursday 29th November 2012 – Manchester Apollo
Friday 30th November 2012 – Glasgow Academy
Saturday 1st December 2012 – Leeds Academy
Monday 3rd December 2012 – Birmingham Academy
Tuesday 4th December 2012 – London Brixton Academy
Wednesday 5th December 2012 – London Brixton Academy
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 18th September 2012 at 4:00 pm
I got a friendly Tweet this afternoon from I Dream in Colour alerting me to this ‘Sofa Session’ shot at Surrey Quays of the band performing an acoustic version of new track ‘Still Got A Hold On Me’. Well, what else would I do, except to share it with all your lovely readers of TGTF? Watch it below.
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 18th September 2012 at 11:00 am
So it’s been about a week since the nominees for the 2012 Mercury Prize were announced. We here at TGTF have been mulling over the options, and here are our early thoughts on who will win this year’s gong.
Mary Chang, Editor (current location: Washington, DC, USA)
With the exception of Leeds band Roller Trio, all of the acts nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize are no stranger are known acts. A large proportion of the 12 nominees are those with high profile debut albums. The releases by alt-J, Ben Howard, Django Django, Jessie Ware, Lianne La Havas, Michael Kiwanuka, the Roller Trio blokes and Sam Lee being considered this year all fall into that category.
Wait a minute, count those up again. That’s eight. You read that right. EIGHT. That’s means without even counting bookies’ odds, there’s a two out of three chance a debut album will be picked. Was this shortlist borne out of the fact that legend PJ Harvey‘s album ‘Let England Shake’ won the honour last year (and it was her second time winning), so the powers that be decided the list should be more heavily weighted to favour newcomers? The nominees should reflect the best of the best, and not because a band has suddenly leaped onto the scene on the strength of on media buzz. Let us not forget Speech Debelle’s win in 2009. Where is that follow-up album, eh, Debelle?
I’m not saying that there is no danger of having sentimental favourites nominated because there can be the thinking that although a band has been around forever and they never have won anything, let’s give them a go this time around, shall we? I am saying that given the importance and weight of a Mercury Prize nomination, let alone actually winning the prize, the winner shouldn’t be the band that has the largest promotional effort. Which, let’s face it, tends to happen with the Next Big Thing band, because thanks to the cynicism of labels, bands are pushed hardest when they are signed and put out their first releases. When the list was released last Wednesday, I groaned inwardly because there is one band on this list whose lead singer’s voice I cannot stand, but I expect to hear him and his band constantly on BBC Radio in the next 2 months without fail, all thanks to their Mercury nomination…
So my vote is for Field Music‘s ‘Plumb’. This is pop, but not in the way you used to view pop. It’s interesting and intricate, with piano and guitar lines that sound like no-one else’s. And more importantly, what they come up with is entirely unexpected. Brothers David and Peter Brewis trade off on lead vocal and drumming duties, adding two additional variables into the mix. They’ve made it okay not just to like but embrace the art rock genre, with its atypical time signatures, flying directly in the face of that urban pop piffle that’s become all too commonplace on radio. And this album has the word “smart” written all over it. Seriously, when was the last time you heard transitional bits in an album that were purposely made into tracks, and they worked? Should they win, I’m expecting naysayers to complain that they’ve been around too long and ‘Plumb’ isn’t as fresh as some of the debut albums that were nominated. Just because something’s new doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good, or the best. ‘Plumb’ is an intelligently written, intelligently made album that deserves this praise.
John Fernandez (current location: Lincoln, UK)
The question on most people’s lips: “where’s the crazy curveball they normally throw at you?” I, for once, found myself knowing all the acts nominated, something almost unheard of over the last few years! When looking at the list the name that jumps out is an obvious one: alt-J have been gathering plaudits far and wide and feel almost as certain to win as the xx did in 2010. You really would be a fool to bet against them, but I never said I was anything but a fool.
My money is going slap bang on Plan B, an artist who over a short career has reinvented himself so successfully. ‘The Ballad of Strickland Banks’ introduced a character and backed him up with some of the most soulful tunes of the past decade, thoroughly thrusting Ben Drew into the mainstream. Now his new album ‘Ill Manors’ is out and he is firmly back to his roots, rapping about financial hardship on council estates and the plight of “Broken Britain”. Plan B says he wants to have the same impact by winning this that Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy in Da Corner’ did, and why not? He’s the outspoken voice of his generation.
alt-J are cool and have some killer tunes, but Plan B is representing the underrepresented and should win the Mercury Prize.
Luke Morton (current location: London, UK) alt-J must be the favourites to win the Mercury Prize this year, and for good reason. Since their inception in 2011 with the ‘∆’ EP, the Cambridge four-piece have been spreading their melancholy, indie pop across Britain to the delight of the mainstream music press including BBC Music and NME.
Debut LP ‘An Awesome Wave’ is a supreme example of the evolution of indie in the UK in recent years, as it flirts with ideas of folk, electronica, art rock and straight-up pop music. It’s been accused of being too pretentious but it’s in fact a perfectly-crafted, 44-minute odyssey into experimental playfulness that has produced the enchanting singles ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Tessellate’. There’s a reason the internet exploded at the release of this album, and hopefully it will receive the recognition it deserves.
Martin Sharman (current location: Gateshead, UK)
This year, the Mercury judges have the opportunity to comment on not just music, but society itself. For they have nominated Ill Manors, Plan B‘s uncompromising soundtrack to his eponymous feature film, a collection of grim stories set on a London council estate. This is the real deal: Ben Drew has the requisite first-hand knowledge to make a story of council estate debauchery and violence spring to life, and is reinforced here by collaborators of impeccable credentials. Never before has there been such a vivid piece of work documenting council estate life, and the moral- and morale-crushing struggle for survival which such an environment engenders.
Plan B pulls no punches; there are stories about drugs, violence, prostitution, drugs, gangs, and more drugs, leavened with heavy doses of swearing. No doubt there will be some who dismiss this as nothing more than a tabloid-style “demonisation” of the working class, exaggerating and exploiting their woes for cynical financial gain. Which is nonsense. Everything here has the ring of truth about it: Drew grew up on the eponymous estate; John Cooper Clarke is on board, and he, of anyone, knows his subject; take a wander through the syringes and discarded aluminium spoons of any run-down corner of London’s concrete chaos and then reasses those opinions. This is a more important piece of work than any dry government report on “Broken Britain” – its task is to seep into the consciousness of those lucky enough to have grown up on a manor not quite so ill, and make them aware of what’s going on, often just a mile or two down the road. In comparison, every other nominee appears twee and enfeebled – pretty music, but nothing with the relevance and gravitas of this collection. Richard Hawley fares particularly badly when listened side-by-side, smothering any relevance of intent with several decades’ worth of electric guitar. Ill Manors is the sound of today – however ugly the truth might be. Let’s hope the judges can find the bravery to reward fact over artifice.
The winner of the 2012 Mercury Prize will be announced on Thursday, the 1st of November. For an overview of all the nominees, read this post.