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Interview: Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand of Phenomenal Handclap Band

By on Sunday, 23rd August 2009 at 9:43 pm

DSC01026-tgtfinterviewShortly before their group the Phenomenal Handclap Band took to the stage at DC9 on 21 August, New York City DJs and cofounding members and producers of the PHB Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand graciously sat down for a chat. They’re terribly funny chaps to boot. I’m always curious what Americans think of Britain too…and apologies in advance if anyone is offended about their opinions of the traditional fry-up!

From what I can tell, the UK just loves you. I first I heard of you was through the UK – I heard “15 to 20” on Radio2, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie‘s show. And then I heard you guys doing a live set for them. Now how did that come about, were you over there for a tour?
Daniel: We paid them a lot of money. Payola! You know, that’s the one thing people are unwilling to talk about! Payola has made a bigger comeback than any of this dance rock or disco crapola that they’ll have you believe. The press should be covering payola.
Sean: No, I don’t know how it happened…I don’t know…
Daniel: (looks at Sean with a serious look) You can’t just take my answer?
Sean: Okay, fine…

Seriously? Okay…(all laugh)
Sean: No, they actually took a shine to us because they heard the song through Zane Lowe of BBC Radio1. They knew we were going to be in town, in Manchester, so they invited us to come by the [BBC Manchester] studios. Not the most interesting of stories of what happened but…being at BBC Radio2 was so much fun.
Daniel: Those guys were awesome.
Sean: We didn’t know who they were, of course. And so it was so cool to be around these major celebrities and be around these guys we’re supposed to know, but we were just able to appreciate their charm, like, at face value. Really charming.
Daniel: They obviously carry a lot of weight but we don’t kind of perspective on that, so we just saw them outside of all of that. They are really genuine and really cool. Maconie came to see us at Latitude [Festival] and they were genuinely enthused.

I didn’t know one of your songs debuted on Zane Lowe’s show…
Daniel: Actually yeah, that’s how Paul McCartney heard us and all that business…because before that we didn’t know who Zane Lowe was, and his sphere of influence.

Ah right, the Paul McCartney story. I’ve heard about this but can you tell it again for our TGTF readers?
Daniel: Uh, so Paul McCartney heard one of our songs on Radio1. And I guess he called in, wanting to know what it was. You know, heavy duty stuff! We were like, “what? Paul McCartney?”
Sean: So people asked us, “so what’s next, what’s next with this?” And I said, “I don’t care.”
Daniel: Exactly. I think that’s enough. And people asked, “are you going to meet him? Are you going to do a record with him?” Isn’t it enough that Paul McCartney like called to ask who we are. He knows who we are. We sent him an email, he wrote us a letter, and we wrote him a letter back. So he knows who we are, it’s amazing. It might take him a minute to remember, but at one moment our name passed through his lips, and that’s enough.

Continue reading Interview: Daniel Collás and Sean Marquand of Phenomenal Handclap Band


Video of the Moment #109: Girl in a Coma

By on Sunday, 23rd August 2009 at 6:00 pm

Girl in a Coma is made up of three girls from Texas. As their name suggests, they are Smiths fans (but then again, who isn’t?) and the first time I saw them was as the support act for Morrissey’s American tour in late 2007. It must be intimidating for a band to do a support slot, and even more so if you’re opening for El Moz, but they held their own, rocking Constitution Hall satisfyingly with their brand of girl punk.

Their new video for the not-so-punk song ‘El Monte’ feels like a nod to the film version of ‘Grease’ – watch it below and see if you agree. If you’re a girl, I’m sure you can relate to the song’s sentiment.The band’s singer Nina Diaz, with her big brown eyes, will mesmerize you. Check out their new album, ‘Trio B.C.’, now out on Blackheart Records.


Live Review: Phenomenal Handclap Band at DC9, Washington DC – 21 August 2009

By on Sunday, 23rd August 2009 at 11:19 am

DSC01004-tgtfWashington venues have suffered in the last 2 decades – a bunch of clubs have closed or changed for the worse, and there really aren’t that many great, small places bands can play. I can however vouch for the great DC9, which sports a small but cozy gigging space on its second floor. This is the venue that played host to the Phenomenal Handclap Band, Daniel Collas and Sean Marquand‘s musical vision put in a live setting.

Besides South by Southwest in Austin and lots of shows in their hometown of New York City, the band haven’t played much stateside; they’ve played music festivals in Europe and Australia this summer, but so far us Americans haven’t been properly exposed to them…yet. But I feel like they’re destined for something big, because dance feels like it’s coming back big-time, with bands like Bloc Party and Friendly Fires leading the charge. (Incidentally, the PHB are opening for Friendly Fires in the next couple of days out in California, which is a great live combination judging by the fab listening experience I had at le poisson rouge less than a fortnight ago.)

The PHB make sultry, sexy dance music, which makes a lot of sense given that Collas and Marquand used to spin dance records regularly at some of the hottest clubs in NYC. Collas’s fondness for ’60s and ’70s psychedelia and Marquand’s love of Brazilian beat music can be heard in their songs, conjuring up a dance party like no other. Given the current credit crisis, I think everyone everywhere could do with some joy in their life. And the PHB sound epitomizes the word ‘joyous’, with their brand of bouncy, happy, life-affirming music.

DSC01021-tgtfIf I had to choose, ‘You’ll Disappear’, ‘The Martyr’, and ‘Testimony’ were standouts, but frankly, I loved their entire set. I wasn’t around for the ’70s, but I feel like we’re in a special time right now that was similar to way back then – when bands like the PHB can come out and do what they do best – rock out and get people back on the dance floor.

Their debut album is available now through Friendly Fire Recordings. Zane Lowe of Radio1 and Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie of Radio2 have already gotten on the PHB bus of bliss – why haven’t you?

Here’s a video from their YouTube account so can get a feel for what they’re like live.

Stay tuned for my interview with Daniel Collas and Sean Marquand coming soon!

Continue reading Live Review: Phenomenal Handclap Band at DC9, Washington DC – 21 August 2009


In the Post #20: Hockey

By on Thursday, 20th August 2009 at 12:00 pm

I first heard of Portland new wave band Hockey through their single ‘Too Fake’ that got a lot of play on BBC 6music, back when the Mid-Atlantic air was still cold and snow was on the ground. (Admittedly, my ears perked up further when I heard they were the support act for a Friendly Fires UK headlining tour.) It’s only now, in the middle of the sweltering summer, that they’ve started to make waves in America – oddly enough, in a television advert for J.C. Penney (an American department store), in which the Shoes remix of ‘Too Fake’ plays while high school students turn the school cafeteria into their own fashion catwalk dressed in supposedly ‘school hip’ duds from the store. I’m too old and cynical to buy into this but to young, impressionable teens of America, good tunes usually translate to thoughts of, ‘oh yeah? This song is cool! I need those clothes!’ Leading to the sounds of ringing cash registers all over the nation. (Isn’t capitalism grand?)

I’m really excited that an indie band I only knew about from a radio station across the pond is finally getting some love in our own country. Whether mainstream exposure and association with a middle America department store will help or hurt the band’s profile is unclear. But one thing’s for sure: the adverts are certainly getting the band noticed stateside, and for an indie band, that is always a good thing. And hopefully it won’t take too long for the next single to show up on American radio.

‘Song Away’ is the third single from their forthcoming debut album ‘Mind Chaos’. It’s bouncy and bright upon the first listen, just as fresh as ‘Too Fake’ was to my Hockey-virgin ears back in the winter. Listen to a couple more times, and the lyrics are humourous as they are memorable: “this is believe me music / this is forget me music / this is who can love me you know / this ain’t no Roxy Music“. I give props to any band who can crowbar the name of Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno’s old band into a song, because you know if the song gets popular, kids will inevitably investigate who that Roxy Music is (which I think you will agree is better than kids not ever hearing ‘Love is the Drug’ or ‘Virginia Plain’.) If the official video can be believed (see it below), this song should be tearing up homecoming dances this autumn.

Hockey’s debut album ‘Mind Chaos’ will be released on 24 August in the UK. Hockey’s ‘Song Away’ single drops on 14 September.


Live Review: Friendly Fires and Phenomenal Handclap Band at le poisson rouge, New York City – 12th August 2009

By on Tuesday, 18th August 2009 at 9:38 pm

e-lpr-phb4Le poisson rouge (“the red fish” in French) is a cute little club at number 158 Bleecker Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. A sign outside insists it “serves art and alcohol”, which sounds like a somewhat pretentious designation for a venue hosting Friendly Fires, a decidedly unpretentious band. Upon entering the club, you see that the small lobby upstairs sports an aquarium, set off on an angle, filled with koi (but not one truly red fish was to be seen). Why I am going on about LPR? I guess it’s because I never thought a band like Friendly Fires, whose members have insisted their music is for everyone, would be playing some place artsy-fartsy like this. However, after the end of a two-night mini-tour with the band, this was decidedly the swankier and more interesting of the two venues (for one, it’s got a very wide stage making it easier for punters to be closer to the action). But before I digress further, let’s get to the music…

Starting the evening off right were native New Yorkers the Phenomenal Handclap Band. Like most smaller bands I’ve come to know and love, I found out about them through a favourite BBC Radio show – specifically Radcliffe/Maconie on Radio2, who hosted the band for a short, three-song set the second week of July at the Manchester Oxford Road studios. On the strength of that performance, I was really looking forward to seeing this big band live. And I do mean big – their live show comprises 8 people, each who sing and play an instrument. If you like to dance to mad beats, kick-arse guitar lines, synths, cowbell, tambourines, or any combination of these – you will really like this band. The fresh ‘You’ll Disappear’ will remind you of the best, glitter ball disco tunes from the ’70s. The summery ’15 to 20′ has an infectious chorus and will get your whole body bopping to the beat. The PHB will be joining Friendly Fires out west for 2 California dates, in Pomona on 23 August and Los Angeles on 24 August), but us Washingtonians are lucky enough to have them all to ourselves at DC9 on 21 August.

After the stage was emptied of the PHB’s many instruments, it was time for Friendly Fires’s crew to start setting up their stuff. Sound problems caused this to take a lot longer than some of the patrons wanted to wait, who cat-called the crew and annoyed the rest of us who realized rather prudently that waiting for everything to be set just right would allow for the best performance possible by the band. Lead singer/synth player/bassist Ed Macfarlane was jumping up and down outside the green room door like Tigger, obviously impatient to get onstage and get things underway. It was well after midnight before the lights went down again and the band finally took the stage. Macfarlane, obviously upset by the delay and boos, ventured forth with an apology: “sorry for the wait. We’re going to make it up to you!” And with that, they launched into my absolute favourite track of theirs, ‘Lovesick’.

t-lpr-ff9Anyone who wanted to dance at the sold-out venue (which I believe was the majority of gig-goers that night) had only one option: sway with the rest of the crowd, which resulted in a mass of bodies pulsating to the Fires’s beats. With so many people, it was really hot, and after just dancing to and reveling in one song, I think everyone in the club was just as sweaty as the guys onstage. Macfarlane’s arms glistened with sweat as he sang and exhibited his now legendary inexhaustible style of dancing. This was the first time I got to see their new single ‘Kiss of Life’ performed live, and wow, it was great. Macfarlane introduced it by saying they had to play it a couple times after false starts to their concertgoers in Toronto but frankly, I couldn’t fault them for the version I heard this night. Jack Savidge’s drumming, Edd Gibson’s wicked guitar solo, and Macfarlane’s sultry vocals combined to make this one hot song for the summer. Maybe if they play it live more often, it’ll be even better…

The night ended with their now-usual set ender, ‘Ex Lover’, but with a twist. Per usual, Gibson got his cordless vacuum out and was driving it along the fretboard of his guitar and making zoom-y noises with it. Then Macfarlane surprised me by all of a sudden grabbing the speaker directly in front of me and turning it towards us, causing the screaming sounds from all the instruments to seem even louder. Cranking it up to eleven. Yep, that’s what the Friendly Fires are all about.

I’d like to give mad props to Will and the other staff at LPR for keeping things under control outside the venue, especially as many, many people walked up to the door nonchalantly expecting to buy tickets and then were shocked and upset when they were turned away, or turned up late and tried to jump the queue. It could have turned ugly and it didn’t, and they did their job with smiles.

After the jump: Setlists and photos…

Continue reading Live Review: Friendly Fires and Phenomenal Handclap Band at le poisson rouge, New York City – 12th August 2009


Video of the Moment #104: Jack Penate

By on Tuesday, 18th August 2009 at 6:00 pm

I might as well admit it to the world: I’m a sucker for a well-written pop ballad. (Maybe this has something to do with my two X chromosomes?) But it was quite a shock to me that Jack Penate, the London soul singer who earlier this year brought us the decidedly tropical-themed ‘Tonight’s Today’ and the dance-poppy ‘Be the One’, should come along with a tear-jerker of a tune to win my heart.

Filmed in the Jordanian desert solely on a Super 8 camera while Penate was on holiday, the bleakness of the surroundings suits the subject of the song and makes the point that you don’t need to fork over a massive amount of money to make a flashy video that’s memorable.

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About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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