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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 28th April 2015 at 11:00 am
Last week, London-based Life in Film had just started their support slot with the Wombats on their month-long tour of North America, beginning in Toronto on the 21st of April. After quite a long drive from the Great White North down to the City of Brotherly Love, I had an opportunity to chat on the phone with their frontman Samuel Fry (vocals and guitar) after they arrived ahead of a gig at Union Transfer and got a chance to do some “looking around Philadelphia, it’s really beautiful”.
It’s an exciting time for the band, as they’re gearing up to release their debut album ‘Here It Comes’ on both sides of the Atlantic in under 2 weeks at the time of this interview; Samuel describes the LP’s title as representing “a statement of it [all] coming to fruition”. I feel I also have caught Samuel at a good time, as at this point they’d only played one gig on this side of the pond at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace that he described as “an amazing show”, and everyone was in high spirits and full of energy. And also apparently full of the often maligned, indigenous to Pennsylvania meatloaf scrapple from a local diner where they’d stopped in that morning for breakfast. But rather than digress into a retelling of the band’s varied diet while out on the road here, I went straight into asking Samuel how the band got together.
“Me and the guitar player Ed [Edward Ibbotson], we went to school together. Then we both went to different universities. While at university, I met Dom [bassist Dominic Sennett] and Micky [drummer Osment] because they were at the music college I was at. We [Samuel and Edward] moved back to London after we finished, and Dom and Mick decided to move to London as well. We all got together and decided to play music together.
“But we were kind of just mucking about at first, you know? We all lived together, yeah, and we used to hang out and listen to a lot of music, really. Then we found a little practise room near where we lived, which was underneath a snooker hall. It was a dingy little dungeon, it was really nasty! But it was kind of cool because no-one else really practised there and so we could go whenever we wanted to use it , and we started to put a couple of songs together. Felt good about [them] and went from there, really.”
a still from Life in Film’s performance with Berlin Sessions earlier this year
I tell Samuel that from the longtime Life in Film fan’s perspective, it seems like the debut album has been a long time coming. He agrees. “Yeah, I suppose it does, it’s quite a long process. When you start off [songwriting by] doing just the odd song. You kind of record one song at a time so you can get a feel for it at first, you know? And you’re writing as you go, and you’ve just started out gigging and stuff, and that’s a bit of a process. And then you start working with different people like managers and labels, and all of those things take time. That’s the nature of a debut album, I suppose. The next album, we’d probably record it all as one…we wouldn’t go through so much demoing and kind of early development of our sound. We know where we’re at and what we want to do… So, yeah, it does feel like it’s taken time, but I’m not surprised, really.”
Famed producer Stephen Street was called into work on Life in Film’s ‘Here It Comes’, so I ask him if any or all of their band were fans of his work with the Smiths or Blur. “Very much so. We love the Smiths, and we love Blur. So when originally thought there was the possibility we might be working with him after we managed to get a demo under his nose and he listened to it, he offered to work with us on a couple of tracks, and we were really buzzing about it. It went really well and we got on with him really well, and we managed to get him to agree to do the whole album. So yeah, it was a really exciting experience, to learn from him, from a person with those kind of credentials.”
I asked further if knowing about Street’s storied work history made it harder to work with him in the studio. “I think it was a bit intimidating, initially”, Samuel admits, “because he’s worked with all these amazing musicians. But he’s used to working with so many talented people. But to be honest, as soon as you meet the guy and you chat to him, he immediately puts you at ease completely. He’s a really down to earth bloke. So very quickly, we felt very relaxed in his company, and it was a nice process to go through, basically.”
He then reveals to me he got a super special moment with a super special piece of equipment in Street’s studio: “I got to play Graham Coxon‘s guitar…well, Stephen lent to Graham Coxon [for] the first time he played the telly, a Telecaster apparently. And he let me borrow it for some of the songs. It has a really amazing sound, that Telecaster vintage sound, and I was playing Graham Coxon’s guitar…and I was really chuffed about that!”
I ask Samuel if he has a favourite song off the album. “I personally like ‘Anna’ [‘Anna Please Don’t Go’],a song Ed wrote. I think it’s got such a nice pop song kind of structure, but it’s got so much sentiment. It’s always been a favourite of mine, personally. I think as a band, we all like ‘Forest Fire’ quite a lot because for the recording process for that, we got a lot of different instruments and loaded them up, and it all fell together nicely. I think we achieved something quite atmospheric with that one.”
We touch back on the show in Toronto they played less than 48 hours previously and in a city some 750 kilometres behind them. “That first show in Toronto, the reception was brilliant”, muses Samuel. “We couldn’t have asked for more, really. Everyone’s been really friendly. So now it’s on for tonight in Philadelphia.” Many more shows and many more drives are up ahead for Life in Film during this lengthy stint supporting the Wombats around the continent, and I’m confident our audiences will take to their engaging songwriting.
Thanks very much to Samuel for chatting with me, and Anna and Jonny for helping sort out this interview.
I was first introduced to The Wombats when I was 15. I was trying to convince my friends I was a bit emo because I liked The Black Parade, knew all the words to ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ and bought Kerrang! once or twice.
When The Wombats came along with their ‘Guide To Love Loss and Desperation’, telling me to ‘Dance To Joy Division’ and ‘Kill The Director’, it was a surprise when I found these likeable lads from Liverpool on repeat on my iPod (one of those big clunky ones). The Wombats have the ability to write instantly recognisable and likeable pop music and for a few years they continued to, before disappearing into obscurity in the way other successful bands of that time had, a la The Kooks, The Hoosiers and The Zutons. Lots of bands with ‘The’ at the start it seems…
But then, showing a remarkable resilience, to *not* stay dead. The Wombats returned with ‘This Modern Glitch’, an album that despite leading with probably the weakest single of the bunch – the melancholy ‘Anti-D’ – was crammed to the nines with incredible pop music. ‘This Modern Glitch’ remains, to this day one of the best modern pop albums released since the turn of the millennium. Don’t dispute it. Seriously, don’t bother. Can you think of a record with as many pace changes, singalong anthems and dance floor killers? Nope, don’t bother, there isn’t one.
So when the mysterious #yourbodyisaweapon emerged, you can only imagine the excitement. And to my joy, the track that followed was superb. Murph’s stingingly brilliant lyrics remained while his brilliant ability to make love and breakups sound as sordid and morbid as can be was evident throughout. It also had all the trademarks that The Wombats had honed on ‘This Modern Glitch’ and remains a tune that will bury itself inside your brain and refuse to get out.
So, my hope for ‘Glitterbug’ grew and grew, before the eventual release this month. Thinking if ‘Your Body Is a Weapon’ is the start, then this record is going to be crammed full of goodies like their last. Annoyingly, and I suppose somewhat predictably, ‘Glitterbug’ hasn’t lived up to expectations. But that’s where I’ll stop with the naysaying, as with any other band this would be a good record. Not just a passable album, but one to be proud of. Such was the weight of expectations after the heady heights of ‘This Modern Glitch’.
‘Glitterbug’ opens with the woozy ‘Emoticons’, casting a cynical gaze at the world of dating in the 21st century where” ‘all these emoticons and words, try to make it better and only make it worse”. Songs ‘Greek Tragedy’, alongside ‘Give Me a Try’ and ‘Your Body is a Weapon’, are probably the only songs with the kind of verve and catchiness seen on ‘This Modern Glitch’. The breakdown on ‘Greek Tragedy’ will have indie discos from Liverpool to Lincoln going berserk, whilst ‘Be Your Shadow’ is the kind of self-deprecating brilliance we expect from Murph.
On the flipside of the coin, I thought ‘Headspace’ was the band taking the mick ake the first time I listened to it. The lyrics are childish, the dreamy setting the melody places it in makes it sound like poor ’80s synth pop and “I feel feel feel like a disco ball” just sounds bloody stupid. ‘Pink Lemonade is a sceptical look at a night out with a pissed girl, which I’m sure any British bloke has had to deal with. It’s about as endearing as you’d expect. The record identifies a clear change from the bouncy pop goodness The Wombats have become known for. Moving from dancing jubilantly in “that bar in Tokyo” to more crass admissions like “there‘s no greater sight than you in your underwear, removing mine”. Sadly, Murph, while you’re often brilliant, there’s a line and you’ve crossed it there.
The final track ‘Curveballs’, in just name, probably sums up how I feel about ‘Glitterbug’. It’s a curveball: something The Wombats have thrown at us. I’m just still not sure whether it’s just my high expectations making me disappointed with this record, or whether it’s actually the fact ‘Glitterbug’ just isn’t all that good?
Certainly, this shouldn’t be the end of The Wombats. Not at all: Murph and co. still remain relevant, as even when they aren’t trying they can pull out fantastic pop music, a brilliant live show and a horrendously loveable mop of Liverpudlian loveliness. It just hasn’t clicked with ‘Glitterbug’. But after their last effort, I think they’re allowed to try again. Don’t you think?
The Wombats’ third studio album ‘Glitterbug’ is out now on 14th Floor Records. For more on TGTF on the band, go here. Below is an NME interview Murph did with NME about the LP.
“If you look at me from a different angle, do you see something that you just can’t handle?” calls The Cribs frontman Gary Jarman early on during the band’s sixth studio LP ‘For All My Sisters’. There’s something apt, if a little ironic about that: The Cribs come from a turbulent time, one where they’re outspoken about their peers, and regularly shifting their sound (not to mention producers) from album to album. On this sixth outing they’re not asking for a ‘reset’, to be considered again by anyone who’s passed by their 13-year stint without realising. Instead they’re simply looking for another chance to grab your attention; it’s a reboot, if you will.
2012’s compilation ‘Payola’ has helped draw a line under their early works, and on the Ric Ocasek (of the Cars’ fame)-produced follow up, they live up to this heritage as indie disco darlings. Mid-tempo, powerhouse rock greets you on opener ‘Friendly Free’, with scrawny riffs bleeding out around the howled vocals. The Cribs have rarely been so accessible, and the catchy pop jaunt of ‘Different Angle’ does a lot to help that perception. There’s teasing riffs and a jerky freneticism, all captured with the sense of abandon and Yorkshire swagger that made ‘Men’s Needs’ stand out 8 years ago.
It’s neither the first nor last of their classic sounding, punk-rock collection; ‘Burning for No One’ risks staying with you all day for another yelping chorus of “rose-tinted romance”, even if the comparison with a burning candle is not quite as raw or vivid as the antics they might have covered in the past. The heavier sound of ‘An Ivory Hand’ is a punkier addition meanwhile, woven with poisoning guitars and bolshy drums, all of which remain enthralling during the nostalgic atmosphere they channel.
Much has been made of ‘Simple Story’, Ryan Jarman’s ballad on the album, so I’ll say little more about the lyrics and let you decide for yourself if he’s considering life as man’s best friend or an entirely different animal. “Let me off the leash and watch me running the grass…” is hardly a lyric that’s going to help his case, but after 3 minutes, his introspective pitying and subtle synths give way to a highlight of the album in ‘City Storms’. It’s forthright and refreshing, a slice of dizzying, hook-laden guitars that carry a Peace-like quality. ‘Summer of Chances’ has equally appealing bursts of skittish rock, as they rattle off gutsy lyrics throughout, not least with the snarky remarks of ‘Diamond Girls’:- “sometimes I wonder if I got you wrong, you don’t have to agree, you’re not as straight as you wanted to be…..how did you get so free?”.
For an album that marks the first of two from the band in 2015, The Cribs have returned with a convincing sound. This is the brothers at their most ingenious, returning to feel-good guitar music, with ‘Pink Snow’ adding a decisive final blow as the album’s closer. At 7 minutes long, it veers from a grungy sombreness at first, to a climax of euphoric, earthquake inducing riffs and howls. Regardless, it points to The Cribs rekindling their unique tenacity that no other band has. With this album of flat out, rough cut riffs from the Yorkshire stalwarts, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that their sensibility for writing bold punk rock is nowhere near close to drying up. In fact, it just got a whole lot stronger.
‘For All My Sisters’, the sixth album from Yorkshire band The Cribs, is out now through Sony Red / Sonic Blew. Listen to the audio of ‘Different Angle’ below.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 23rd April 2015 at 1:30 pm
May is almost upon us: that wonderful month that brings us Live at Leeds, The Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City, not to mention two delectable bank holiday weekend. It’s all about to kick off!
Thanks for our mates at Gigs and Tours, we have a way to make your second May bank holiday weekend even sweeter. How about if we offered up three pairs of tickets to see the man, the legend that is Brandon Flowers performing at London Brixton Academy on Friday the 22nd of May to start the second holiday weekend? Are you game? You are? Then you’ll want to enter our contest below, naturally.
You’ll need to fill out our form below completely. First, give us your full name. Second, give us your email address. (We need a way to contact you if you win, silly.) Third, give us your postal address. (These are hard tickets, so we need to be able to post you your tickets if you win.) Finally, to prove you’re not a robot or maybe even one of those evil touts, answer this question any self-respecting Killers / Brandon Flowers fan knows the answer to in their sleep: what major American city is Brandon Flowers from? Couldn’t be easier, right?
That’s it. Of all the correct entries we receive, we’ll choose three winners at random to receive a pair of tickets apiece to the concert on the 22nd of May. Sound good? Be sure you get your entries in by 5 PM British time Friday, the 24th of April, when we’ll close the contest. As mentioned above, we’ll contact the winners by email, so make sure you’ve entered your email address correctly. Good luck! If you’d rather not chance it and want to buy tickets to this show or any of the other’s on Brandon’s UK/Irish tour, all the details are here.
Please note: this contest is open to UK residents only and you must be able to get yourself to London for the show at Brixton Academy. Please note that this show is 8+, and all under 14s must be accompanied by an adult (these are Brixton Academy’s rules, not ours, and TGTF won’t be held responsible if you’re turned away at the door for being underage and not meeting the venue’s age requirement). All duplicate entries will be discarded.
This contest is now closed. Winners will be contacted by email.
Brothers Harry and Alfie Hudson Taylor picked up their craft from a young age, busking on the streets of their hometown of Dublin. With that experience in mind, along with the success they’ve since had across the UK and Europe, the pair’s debut album ‘Singing for Strangers’ has managed to capture their endearing presence and disarmingly beautiful folk-pop.
Amidst their young years, their warming collection of handclaps and triumphant harmonies exude a charming maturity, first highlighted by ‘Just a Thought’. A racing piano melody and rousing choruses keep their opener light and bouncy, leaving it all too easy to draw comparisons with fellow Irish gents, Kodaline. The same goes for the blissful hooks and anthemic choruses of ‘Chasing Rubies’ and ‘World Without You’. However, the duo can, and do play the aces up their sleeves.
On ‘Butterflies’ they produce a resplendent folk ballad, a gorgeous arrangement of genteel acoustic guitar chords and yearning lyrics. It gives you the first notion of how versatile their sound can be: it’s timeless if you wish to coin the cliché, but there’s a sense of honesty and growing confidence through the record. “Wish I could have told her I’m freaking out” and “when I broke into her heart, I threw away the key” cry the vocals on ‘Night Before the Morning After’; by the time you reach ‘Weapons’ however, they’re shouting out to shed any secrets and “put down your weapons”.
From this confidence comes the blistering Americana inspired ‘Battles’. They’ve found a different pool of influences, channelling fiery folk this time, as their love story transpires and burns vehemently. “We are tied to the truth….the tie that binds me to you” they spout with fierce delivery, as they do battle with your emotions in the album’s closing stages.
Their call to arms is followed by another burst of personal defiance, as the tempo-shifting, blues inflected ‘Don’t Tell Me’ carries similar gusto. It feels a little repetitive and relentless, but nonetheless they manage to create some impact; it’s not as punchy as the track’s predecessor, but it’s got all the right intentions, even if it doesn’t have the same vigour and lunging refrains. ‘For the Last Time’ and ‘Off the Hook’ go on to highlight their stripped-back heritage; it’s something of a sobering and delicate come down after the radio friendly first half of the album.
In all, Hudson Taylor’s debut is a brief moment to sit back, mull over their many EPs and think “well, aren’t these chaps going to be about for a long time”. The production of their songs has become more elaborate and grandiose, but, the songs remain straightforward and heartfelt. Though it is not a re-education of folk music, nonetheless it’s an incredibly enjoyable explanation of where modern folk has got too; and in a number of places, where it’s heading too.
‘Singing for Strangers’, the debut from Irish brothers Hudson Taylor, is out now via Polydor Records.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 22nd April 2015 at 12:00 pm
One of the most important milestones for a young band is the release of the debut album. Although they’ve been poking round under the radar for some time now, London-based indie pop/rock band Life in Film finally see this goal come to fruition next month with the release of ‘Here It Comes’. At the helm of production duties was Stephen Street, famous for his association with the Smiths and Morrissey’s subsequent first solo album ‘Viva Hate’, as well as his long production history with Blur that includes ‘The Magic Whip’, out next week.
Life in Film’s style is one based on the rugged, lovely simplicity of the guitar band, and without fancy tricks or crutches, something that has rung true for years with the supporters of The Crookes and The Postelles. With the basic rock band-building blocks of guitars, bass and drums, an amazing song framed by a memorable melody can be written and performed. That is, if talent is present in spades, which is the case with this band.
Several tunes familiar to long-time fans such as myself appear on ‘Here It Comes’. ‘The Idiot’, with frontman Samuel Fry’s lamenting of a relationship gone bad (“love is wasted on you / and you don’t have a clue”), is a corker but counterintuitively, its peppy melody and happy guitar notes belying the tone of regret. Its unleashing on an unsuspecting, uninitiated public should be interesting. ‘Needles and Pins’, the title track of their 2012 debut EP, is another winner, driven by a jaunty, jangly guitar hook that swims and swirls around in your head and refuses to leave. Album opener ‘Alleyway’ is a much newer song, yet smartly doesn’t stray too far from this formula, except to increase the vigour with more prominent drumming from Micky Osment.
Another newer song and ‘Here It Comes’ standout ‘Get Closer’ starts sweetly enough with xylophone and oohs. But the track has a melody that never stays very long in one place, so as you’re trying to keep up with the band and shout along with them, “get closer! Get closer! Get closer!”, it feels like you’re in the middle of a cardiovascular workout. An enjoyable one at that, in which the boy next door apologises to the girl he loves, “I’m sorry that it’s not quite how you thought this would be / it’s always the fucking same, always the same / come round, I’d really like to see you / we could watch the television, you could cook a pizza”; not exactly Shakespeare, I know, but endearing nonetheless. And this the song that got them called the British Vampire Weekend? Can someone please explain this? I’m lost.
While there are high energy, fun moments on the record, there are also slower ballads to provide some welcome emotional shade. With its complex guitar pickings by lefty Edward Ibbotson against a gorgeous string section, ‘Anna, Please Don’t Go’ is a rare beauty as Fry plaintively sighs, “Anna, please don’t go, your heart’s in the right place / don’t be fooled by pain, it comes but it goes away”. The strings make another welcome appearance on the tambourine-tinged ‘Forest Fire’. Another slower tempo highlight is ‘Carla’, which I first became aware of after watching a Watch Listen Tell session the band did in Stoke Newington Cemetery in 2009 (yes, 2009, you read that right). The album version showcases the band members’ harmonies and the lovely guitars, with the overall sound as rich as its lyrical content.
I find it somewhat ironic that while title track ‘Here It Comes’ has a definite good time Charlie feel and has the makings of a summer festival anthem, its YOLO / carpe diem sentiment and yelps for “fun fun fun!” feels forced with this group. As much as I enjoy bands getting away from the topics of love and ending relationships, a band like Life in Film who are so good at writing such songs and making them memorable should refrain from fixing it if it ain’t broke.
Life in Film’s debut album ‘Here It Comes’ will be released on the 4th of May on ECC Records. They are currently on tour in North America supporting Liverpool’s the Wombats. For previous TGTF coverage on Life on Film, head here.
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