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(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #369 and #370: The Spook School and WOMPS

By on Wednesday, 20th January 2016 at 11:00 am

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

Scottish bands The Spook School and WOMPS have two traits in common aside from their origins in Scotland: both released new music in October 2015, and both are scheduled to appear at SXSW this coming March.

Edinburgh twee-pop outfit the Spook School are taking it easy to start off the new year, as transgender band member Nye Todd (guitar/vocals) recovers from his recent “top” surgery, which he has discussed on the band’s Facebook.  The Spook School, comprising the aforementioned Nye Todd, along with Adam Todd (guitar/vocals), Anna Cory (bass/vocals) and Niall McCamley (drums), collectively write and perform sunny, upbeat indie pop songs whose lyrics forthrightly tackle the deep issues of gender identity, sexuality and romantic relationships.

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Their aptly-titled second album ‘Try to be Hopeful’ was released last autumn on Fortuna POP! and featured the high energy single ‘I Want to Kiss You’. The song is described in the album’s press release as “[capturing] the excitement and anticipation of meeting someone, thinking they’re the most interesting person ever and not wanting to wait to see them again.”

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Glaswegian punk-grunge hybrid duo WOMPS is an evolution of the now-defunct experimental music project Algernon Doll, involving Ewan Grant on guitars and vocals and Owen Wicksted on drums. Their first double-sided single was produced by none other than Steve Albini, who worked with grunge rock legends Nirvana and more recently with American indie rock band Cloud Nothings. The WOMPS single release included the tracks ‘Live a Little Less’ and ‘Dreams on Demand’, which is featured in the video below. WOMPS are expected to release their first full-length LP in the early part of this year on London indie record label Damnably.

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(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #368: Banners

By on Monday, 18th January 2016 at 12:00 pm

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

Solo artist Mike Nelson, hailing from Liverpool, is better known these days by his alias Banners. Previous to his work on Banners, Nelson honed his talent in his younger years, singing across Europe in variety of concert halls and cathedrals with the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and Liverpool Kop choirs. Upon hearing his eerie and ethereal vocal range on his latest single ‘Start a Riot’, you can see how this unusual training paid off. It was through collaboration between Nelson and Canadian producer Stephen Kozmeniuk, who has previously worked with the likes of Madonna and Nicki Minaj, that Banners was born. It’s safe to say that Banners is a big departure from both.

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‘Start A Riot’ already has a 2.7 million listens on Spotify, while ‘Shine a Light’, which was also released in 2015, has an even more massive 3.6 million listens. This is impressive, considering that all of Banners’ releases have only been within the last 12 months. While there isn’t a lot out there for those keen on hearing more from Banners, what is available is quality stuff. Nelson’s smooth vocals are often reminiscent of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver: while Vernon’s voice is a tad more gravely, both artists capture the howling, haunting vocal range that evokes mountains, forests and misty seascapes.

The wavering guitar on ‘Start a Riot’ is reminiscent of Snow Patrol’s ‘Open Your Eyes’ or ‘You’re All I Have’, while Banners’ ‘Shine a Light’ reminds me of Imagine Dragons, specifically the hammering drumbeat and the warbling oohs in the background of the track. The dreamlike rhythm of ‘Start a Riot’, combined with the soulful oohs that are scattered throughout the track, both really make this song stand out as a bold and beautiful number. ‘Start a Riot’ begins gently, with just Nelson’s vocals and a soft piano, before building into a genuinely interesting and enthralling pop track of cascading sound and striking vocal melodies.

Along with the news that as Banners, he’s already signed to Island Records in America, the gravity and authority of the singles gives the distinct impression that Banners is set to make a big dent in the music industry over the next 12 months. Mixing catchy lyrics with a pop sound, Banners embodies a particular mainstream pop aesthetic that contemporary listeners are drawn to. Judging by the recent meteoric success of Ed Sheeran and Bastille, Banners appears ready to follow in the footsteps of giants.

Banners is scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin in March.

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(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #366 and #367: The Big Moon and Abjects

By on Thursday, 14th January 2016 at 12:00 pm

Original of cropped header photo of The Big Moon by Laura Allard-Fleischl

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

I always love an all-girl group. While there have been more of them in recent years, fully female groups are still relatively uncommon and inevitably, you end up comparing them all to each other. You run the risk of potentially diminish these bands in their own right by such comparisons but overall, it’s reassuring to see women making a respectable dent in the world of music, particularly in the vein of hard-hitting rock, and comparing them to one another is simply to rejoice in their numbers.

London group The Big Moon are a dynamic mash up of indie rock/pop with a similar sound to Manchester’s PINS, yet they appear to be set to hold its own. Juliette, Soph, Celia and Fern haven’t been together that long, yet they create a timeless sound. Their two recent singles, ‘The Road’ and ‘Nothing Without You’ are well worth a listen.

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‘Nothing Without You’ is an upbeat tune that you can imagine dancing around to in your living room or playing full blast in your car on a road trip. ‘The Road’, in contrast, is softer and drawling, the jangly guitar hook running throughout the song quirky and playful. Juliette’s vocals are crisp and smooth, with just a touch of grit. Maybe how Haim would sound if they had a tad more Hole about them? The Big Moon have a bunch of upcoming dates in the UK as well, as the Dutch event Eurosonic Noorderslag Festival in Groningen this week.

Like The Big Moon, Abjects are an all female ensemble also from London. Whilst the two bands are equal in gender, Abjects are not entirely similar in sound. This trio favour punkier, garage rock numbers, coiffed with hairstyles to rival the Ramones. Their sound is bold, guitar-heavy and so edgy, you’d be afraid to reach out and touch it for fear of getting cut. [How ironic, then, that the below shot is their current Facebook profile pic? – Ed.]

photo of Abjects in a beauty shop, from the band's Facebook

Their debut EP ‘Gone’ features four catchy, confident tracks with no shortage of energy. The opening hook of ‘Gone’ reminds me of White Stripes, particularly ‘Fell in Love with the Girl’, with the raucous guitar being joined by the brash drums just moments into the song. At times, I can hear Ramones’ own ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, or Sex Pistols caught up in the thrumming guitars and unflinching drumbeats. This mix of garage and punk echoes throughout the EP, and really makes me excited to see what they do next.

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Abjects’ aesthetic, whilst involving punchy riffs and a fearless tempo, feels refined and stylised. Even the EP artwork and 12” vinyl is impressive and evocative of a different era: the pastel background colours layered with the black and white image of the band are a joy to look at and make me wish I owned a record player.

For years, critics and various and artists have been claiming that rock ‘n’ roll is dead. Back in 2014, Gene Simmons of KISS was advising young musicians to forget about learning how to play guitar and focus on X Factor auditions instead. Abjects are the kind of band that can restore faith in the future of exciting, authentic-feeling music.

The Big Moon and Abjects are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin in March.


Bands to Watch #365: Blanco White

By on Thursday, 24th December 2015 at 1:00 pm

London singer/songwriter Josh Edwards has only recently finished recording his debut EP under the reiterative moniker Blanco White, but his music has already created a stir on Spotify, receiving over 150,000 plays. Featured last week on the streaming service’s New Music Friday U.S. and Weekend Buzz playlists, Blanco White’s new track is called ‘November Rain’, but it is most definitely (and most thankfully) not a cover of the early ‘90s Guns ‘n’ Roses song of the same name.

Instead, Blanco White’s sound is more along the lines of Nick Mulvey‘s globally influenced folk. Josh Edwards’ singing voice is immediately suggestive of Marcus Mumford, which will appeal to pop-oriented listeners who might prefer the easy accessibility of Mumford and Sons, but Edwards’ vocal delivery is much more emotionally refined, and his music spans a more subtly shaded dynamic continuum.

The distinctly Spanish flavour of ‘November Rain’ should come as no surprise, as its arrangement reflects Edwards’ guitar studies in Cádiz, as well as the time he spent learning to play an Andean stringed instrument called the charango in Bolivia. ‘November Rain’ is driven by the momentum of its ornate and deftly executed guitar rhythms, while its pervasive minor key harmonies mirror the vaguely dark sentimentality of its lyrics. Lofty bowed strings and woodwind countermelodies in the orchestration infuse the song with just a hint of inviting warmth, perhaps an allusion to the gentle glow you’d long to feel upon coming in from the chill outdoors in the bleakness of mid-winter.

You’ll have to wait nearly until winter’s end to hear Blanco White’s full debut EP titled ‘The Wind Rose’, which is due for release on the 6th of February 2016 via Yucatan Records. But in the spirit of the current season, you can stream ‘November Rain’ on Spotify or take a listen just below.


Bands to Watch #364: False Heads

By on Tuesday, 22nd December 2015 at 12:00 pm

False Heads are an East London-based indie rock trio, rooted in a wide range of influences from garage rock to post-punk. The band has recently signed to 25 Hour Convenience Store, the label headed by Gary Powell of The Libertines. The band has already garnered attention from the likes of NME and Q, and has won support from BBC6Music and BBC Introducing, amongst others. Following some alterations to the original arrangement, the line-up is now Luke Griffiths, Jake Elliott and Barney Nash, and the trio have just released new single ‘Steal and Cheat’, which is out now.

On the band’s Facebook, Powell describes how the “marriage between the audio and visual is so in sync that it makes it near impossible to take your eyes off the stage”, and even when listening to False Heads while sat at home at your laptop, it’s not difficult to image the energetic, riotous force that they must be onstage. On the recorded front, they originally released their first EP ‘Tunnel Vision’ in 2013, which was re-released the following year through Hit4Head Records. ‘Wear and Tear’, released earlier this year to quiet acclaim, is the band’s second EP.

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Comparisons might be drawn between False Heads’ newest single and The Libertines’ own back catalogue, but this trio are not to be confused for some poor imitation. That said, ‘Steal and Cheat’ does have similarities to The Libertines, more so than the False Heads’ previous stuff. Yet ‘Steal and Cheat’ is a standout track in its own right, and Griffiths’ soft yet edgy vocals, and the gritty lyrics are dripping with a captivating brazenness. The grittier ‘Wear and Tear’ EP released earlier this year draws on grungier influences: think Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, in particular ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, as it can be heard in the opening bars of False Heads’ ‘Twentynothing’.

False Heads pack a punch. Somehow dirty and clean at the same time, the band evokes a whole range of other artists and songs, yet this isn’t to the detriment of the band. They sound a bit like a melting pot of indie rock and punk influences from the past few decades. On ‘Wrap Up’, the punchy guitar rhythms echo the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, and ‘Fall Around’ evokes Pixies’ own use of stomping bass and pithy guitar hooks.

The trio have a number of shows planned for the New Year around London, and a brand new EP is expected sometime in early 2016. Keep an eye out, as they have big things planned for the upcoming year. In Powell’s own words, “Miss them at your peril!”


Bands to Watch #363: Swim

By on Monday, 7th December 2015 at 12:00 pm

Words by Rebecca Clayton

We’ve come a long way since the days of advertising for bandmates in newspapers. Swim, the Swedish chill-wave duo, prove this. Formed in 2013, Swim is the brainchild of Erika and Carl, who collaborated and shared ideas for a year before meeting in person. After recording, writing and producing separately for years, the pair’s forthcoming debut EP is out at the end of this week.

The pair remains relatively low on the radar from a social media perspective, but they will no doubt garner attention following the release of their debut single and EP title track ‘Next to Me’, a track that feels like it could have been unearthed from some dream-induced realm of cyberspace. The single has also garnered attention from the Swedish techno/trance pair Boeoes Kaelstigen, whose remix of the song has been posted to Soundcloud.

According to Swim’s Facebook page, the duo are looking to “create music for your late evenings”, precious moments of solitude, drives along the seaside and the last throbbing hour on the dance floor, and that is precisely the tone that this single conveys. Erika’s vocals, one moment hoarse and low, then hauntingly clear the next, lend well to the atmospheric and mesmerising rhythm of the track.

It’s easy when listening to Swim to pick up on some similarities to other artists tagged with the label chill-wave, such as Washed Out and Toro y Moi, and Erika’s dreamy vocals are reminiscent of Romy Madley-Croft of The xx. However, Swim don’t fit neatly or cleanly into any specific category. Erika and Carl’s own brand of chilled-out indie synthpop is fresh, interesting and genre-defying. .Whilst it does echo other artists in similar areas, the mixture of the mellow, dream-like rhythm, and Erika’s distinct vocals makes it hard to pin Swim down exclusively to one genre.

Swim have two shows planned for the new year, in Switzerland next April, no doubt with many more on the way. If their debut single is anything to go by, the EP due out later this week is set to be a triumph. The debut EP from Swim, ‘Next to Me’, is out on Friday, the 11th of December, on With Love Recordings.

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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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