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Just ahead of the Transgressive Records 10th anniversary showcase at Buffalo Billiards on the 17th of March, I had the chance to sit down with Felix Bushe, Danny Ward and John Victor of London’s up-and-coming guitar rock band Gengahr. Bass player Hugh Schulte was unfortunately unable to make the trip to Austin due to visa issues, but the band had luckily been able to find a replacement bassist for their SXSW shows. We had to keep our interview short after having some difficulty finding each other in the multilevel venue, but the three on-hand members of Gengahr had time to give me a quick overview of their music, including their current releases in America and the UK, as well as their plans for more touring in the UK and Europe after SXSW 2015 and a full album release expected in Britain this summer.
Bushe, Ward and Victor all seemed very much at ease with both the interview and their upcoming set, despite the general chaos of the evening and the challenge of playing with an unfamiliar bassist. Their comfort level might have to do with the fact that they have quite a long history with each other, though only three short years playing together as a band. As it turned out, the band members’ relaxed, soft-spoken demeanor in the interview streaming below was a good indication of the subtle yet edgy songs I would hear in Gengahr’s stage set later in the evening. Their introspective, atmospheric style was a stark contrast to Spring King and Songhoy Blues, who played immediately before and after Gengahr on the night’s line up. If you haven’t already seen it, you can read my full review of the Transgressive Records showcase, including Gengahr’s performance, right here.
Thanks again to Brid for arranging this interview.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 30th March 2015 at 12:00 pm
It was November 2013 when Only Real flew smack dab onto TGTF’s radar. But South Londoner Niall Galvin gave the big dance in Austin a pass last year. Delaying his appearance at the world’s biggest music festival by one year was the right choice: he showcased at a well attended evening at Latitude 30, the home of the British Music Embassy for the week, sponsored by Blackjack London and the Association of Independent Music in the UK (AIM), where punters totally fell in love with his sunny, slacker style of music right at home on a lazy Friday night fuelled by too much booze and the inevitable exhaustion that comes with the week that is SXSW Music. His appearances in Austin were timed perfectly to show off tunes from his debut album for Virgin / EMI, ‘Jerk on the End of the Line’.
For the debut, Galvin halved his time between Atlanta and London, working with producer Ben Allen (behind the most recent Kaiser Chiefs album ‘Education, Education, Education and War’) and Speedy Wunderground label boss Dan Carey in Streatham, South London, to create an enjoyable listen and certainly an album that come true summer will be spun on open-top convertible CD decks. Fans familiar with his past releases -2013 EP ‘Days in the City’, monster hit ‘Cadillac Girl’, singles ‘Backseat Kissers’ and ‘Blood Carpet’, more recent single ‘Pass the Pain’ – will recognise and appreciate his past bangers, but there are also some excellent new entries on the LP as well.
After listening to ‘Jerk…’ closely, something fascinating to me came out about Galvin’s music: despite that sunny, beachy exterior and the psych-ey, slightly out of tune guitars driving the pop melodies forward, there is lyrical depth available to the listener, if one so chooses to seek it out. He also manages the feat of effortlessly blending the happy-go-lucky style of surf rock with what usually comes across far less bright, lyrics delivered in a hip hop style. Yet the overall effect is as pop and feels as wholesome as sucking on an iced cherry lolly in the middle of Latitude.
A single in early 2015, ‘Yesterdays’ is pure pop goodness for sure, but its chorus- “it’s in the way we were made, yesterdays” – exhibits a wistfulness, even if abstract, in the way things are. He’s not wanting them to change, he observes them as “it is what it is” and can be positive about it. I view this as Galvin’s quirky attempt to express “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Considering how down people are about life, the government, economy, etc., we could all use an injection of positivity, and what a friendly nudge in the right direction this is. With its strident guitar notes and electro beats and shuffles, another album standout ‘Daisychained’ takes a look back at happier times and our desire to hold onto those moments.
While Galvin is clearly someone who doesn’t take life too seriously, jumping into a bathtub full of Froot Loops for our benefit in last year’s ‘Pass the Pain’ promo, he shows his emotional side in some songs here, wearing his heart on his sleeve when it comes to failed relationships. He asks forlornly, “do you think of me at all? / ‘Cause it feels like we were already strong” in recently unveiled ‘Can’t Get Happy’. This is quickly followed up on the album with ‘Blood Carpet’, in which Galvin insists, in a Beach Boys-esque harmony, “oooh, I can’t forget you…at all.” The oddly mesmerising, repeated minor key guitar line in ‘Break It Off’ appropriately conveys the sorrow of being broadsided by the end of a relationship (“I thought that it would be me / to break it off / look at me now”) and the subsequent attempts to shake it off (“enough about love, it’s back to the lust”). Yes, even laid-back skaters can get their hearts broken. Sadface. Even with the heartstrings being tugged, Galvin does a good job of it, pulling off a catchy beat and unforgettable melodies.
Only two songs on the album deviate from the formula. ‘Petals’ sees Galvin go into a darker, moodier direction, channeling Dre, Snoop and the ’90s hip hop he explained in my interview with him in Austin that he loves. Closing track ‘When This Begins’ also exhibits dramatic shade, as Galvin sings, “I don’t want to wait no more / I never used to / guess I’m all grown up”. There comes a point in time that all young people realise they must accept responsibilities that come with being an adult. I don’t think he will completely leave the fun Only Real persona behind because having met him, I know that’s him. He’s a happy guy and his business is helping others escape into his sunny world. But if my chat with him in Austin is anything to go by, he’s choosing to and ready to take on even bigger things in the very near future. I’m looking forward to see what he does next.
‘Jerk at the End of the Line’, Only Real’s debut album for Virgin / EMI, is out today.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 30th March 2015 at 11:00 am
Paris Hilton aside, it’s pretty much a given that all electronic musicians and producers, based solely on the amount of equipment and software they must familiarise themselves with and become technological adepts with, are technical geeks. Yet one of the wonderful, unexpected awakenings I had this time round in Austin for SXSW 2015 was meeting and getting a chance to chew the fat with three great thinkers in the electronic world. I had a great chat outside the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 Saturday afternoon with Erased Tapes artist Ryan L. West, who records and produces under the name Rival Consoles, and we chatted about his music, as well as the state of electronic music and where it’s going.
Is the recorded form of electronic music stale? Ryan seems to think so, agreeing with Barcelona musician / producer beGun that it’s super important for an electronic artist to make a bold statement when performing live and giving the audience more than what can be found online and bought as mp3s and albums. He also tells me about how he hates the term “EDM” and we discuss the lack of women not only as punters at electronic artists’ gigs but also the lack of women in the genre; coincidentally, our conversation predated this Pitchfork op-ed on the same topic Ryan posted on his Facebook by 2 days.
Not all of our chat was contentious. Ryan explains how he tried to turn on its head the usual “crass and crude” nature of electronic music as a medium in his EP released last year, ‘Sonne’, in in which he strove to bring not just colour but lightness and brightness to his music. He also tells me about his dynamic stage projection and light show he showed off at the Blackjack London / Association of Independent Music (AIM) evening Friday night at the British Music Embassy, which turns out to be at the mercy of whoever’s hands he wants to leave it with on the evening. Interesting? Without a doubt, yes. Listen to the whole conversation below.
Read my preview of his SXSW appearances in my Bands to Watch piece here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 6:00 pm
It’s Friday, so it’s time to get weird. This time, we’re going to Sinkane for the goods, in the form of a video only true visionaries would be able to come up with.
I’m not exactly sure how they did this, but as it’s described in the press release, music video directors Philip Di Fiore and Christopher J. Lytwyn shot a live performance of Sinkane and his band. As you do when you’re music video directors. Okay, that sounds simple enough. Then Di Fiore and Lytwyn took the footage they had and then digitally altered it by faffing around with musical instruments as the visuals were fed into said instruments. Di Fiore says of the finished project, “We were able to get beautiful combinations of colors and waves of light which moved with the musicians – as if we filmed the band live at the Aurora Borealis.” And it’s true. Watch the resulting video below.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 1:00 pm
I can’t even imagine the daunting feeling, all the apprehension young artists must feel when they have gotten word that they’ve gotten a shout to SXSW and the next step is actually coming over and playing shows on the world’s biggest stage in Austin. This is what I’m envisioning must have been in the minds of all the members of The People the Poet from South Wales, who played two shows in Austin during the week, opening both the first night of programming at the British Music Embassy to usher in the music festival and the Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales night, then the start of the British Music Embassy programming on Saturday afternoon. In both cases, the band left SXSW 2015 punters in awe with their combination of emotionally charged lyrics and powerhouse instrumentation. From the second they got offstage Tuesday night, Austin was all abuzz over this young Welsh band who had clearly made their mark on the event in Texas.
They were a bit difficult to pin down but after their Saturday afternoon show, I was able to nab Tyla Campbell (guitarist and resident band social media maven) and Pete Mills (bass guitar) for an interview about their time out in Texas, including visiting a shooting range in Houston, then seeing this famous rodeo that Willie Nelson played in Austin; we here at TGTF have no idea about it, but I guess we’ll have to investigate next time we’re in town, especially since the organisers advertise children riding sheep. Tyla and Pete also tell me about their varied band influences, how their self-released album ‘The Narrator’, with stories entirely sourced from fans came about, and the importance of those fans.
One of the more famous punters at their Tuesday night show was Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary, who was so taken by their sound that he had them in for a live session to perform ‘People’, which is the Lynyrd Skynryd-flavoured track I was telling them about! You can have a listen and watch to the session of the song below under the interview. (So wait a minute, I beat Dermot O’Leary tipping a band before him as well as Lammo? ::smug::)
For more information on The People the Poet, visit their Facebook or check out our past articles on them.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 11:00 am
There was some question whether or not London duo Public Service Broadcasting, who enjoyed popularity and recognition for doing the unusual on their first album ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ by putting public service announcement clips to music, were going to be able to wow us again the second time around. Or would they suffer from the dreaded sophomore slump? Suffice to say, I wholeheartedly enjoyed the spaceflight-themed ‘The Race for Space’, which was released in late February; not only did it prove that the project still had legs, it made me optimistic that there were shedloads of ideas still there up in the brain of PSB’s mastermind, the honourable J. Willgoose, Esq.
After closing out back-to-back British Music Embassy bills – Thursday night during the Ben Sherman / UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)-sponsored showcase, then Friday afternoon during the Embassy’s daytime programming – I had the absolute privilege of interviewing Mssr. Willgoose to ask him how the Austin shows had went, seeing that this was their second year in a row of showcasing at SXSW. We also chatted about the new album and how it fits into the continuing Public Service Broadcasting story, and what’s ahead for them this year, including several exciting festival announcements, and he bigs up Dublin as the best gigging city in Europe.
Willgoose also admits getting emotional about playing the 6 Music Festival 2015 in Newcastle last month (where our head photographer Martin had a whale of a time seeing them play and photographing them performing on the Gateshead Sage’s concourse Sunday night at the festival) because he has fond memories of camping with his then-girlfriend (now Mrs. Willgoose) and buying a digital radio to bring on their trip for the expressed purpose of catching the first broadcast of a Public Service Broadcasting song on 6music. See? Even behind that bow tie, all that tweed and glasses, there lies the true heart of an artist. I knew it was in there, I just honestly feel so honoured I had the opportunity to chat with him. Listen to the interview below.
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