Editor Mary is in Toronto for CMW 2016 this week.
Ongoing coverage of the event will be on our Twitter and on the site this way.
SXSW 2016 | 2015
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By Mary Chang
on Monday, 28th March 2016 at 1:00 pm
Liverpudlian Mike Nelson, aka pop singer/songwriter Banners, made his Austin debut last week, playing a series of shows at SXSW 2016. Wowing crowds with his engaging pop songs, the Northerner signed to Island Records’ American stable was a hit across the board.
I feel incredibly lucky to have grabbed him for a chat after a particularly memorable appearance Wednesday afternoon, playing with his band on what ended up being a very crowded stage at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. Since getting signed to Island, he’s moved to our side of the pond to Toronto to concentrate on his career and we discuss his move, along with what it’s like to play in a band with his friends. Have a listen below.
For more coverage on TGTF on Banners, including the wonderful self-titled EP he released earlier this year, go here. You can watch the promo video for his song ‘Ghosts’ below.
Late on the Wednesday afternoon of SXSW 2016, I made my way south of downtown and across the Colorado River to the Hyatt Regency Austin to see an intimate acoustic show by singer/songwriter Roo Panes. Having never seen a gig in this venue before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but when I walked into the hotel lobby, I was surprised to see the stage set up just inside the front doors, where casual passersby could enjoy a bit of live music alongside those of us there specifically for the show.
Ahead of his early evening performance in the lobby, I had the chance to sit outside on the hotel patio and talk with Panes about his new album ‘Paperweights’, which I reviewed just before my trip to Austin, right back here. Also in the interview streaming below, Panes touched on his first album ‘Little Giant’ and the continuously ongoing nature of his songwriting process.
Prior to the start of the interview, Panes and I chatted about his previous travels to the United States, which have included a trip to the Grand Canyon and a brief stay in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The subject of Grand Rapids would come up again near the end of Panes’ acoustic set inside the Hyatt Regency Austin lobby. He serenaded his small but attentive audience with new album tracks ‘Summer Thunder’ and ‘The Original’ before harkening back to a song from his 2012 debut EP ‘Once’, which was titled ‘I’ll Move Mountains’ and which Panes revealed was written while sitting outside on a patio during his time in Michigan. If you haven’t already heard it, you can take a listen to ‘I’ll Move Mountains’ in the video just below.
Thank you to Phoebe for helping us arrange this lovely interview.
TGTF’s collection of previous coverage on Roo Panes can be found by clicking here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 25th March 2016 at 6:00 pm
Tourist, better known as London musician, songwriter and producer William Phillips to his mum, announced a few weeks ago his debut album release was on the horizon. ‘U’ now has a release date – the 6th of May – and the latest video from the album has already met controversy.
The promo for ‘Run’ has a NSFW version that you can view on i-D here, but here on TGTF, we liked to keep things clean and family friendly, especially during the work week, and (possibly) even more so on holy days such as today (oops). Most electronic songs have an insistent heartbeat, and when you’re faced with a song entitled ‘Run’, I think it’s safe to say that its beats will be massive, and that’s definitely true with this song. Essentially devoid of lyrical content, it’s a nicely atmospheric track to ease you into this Easter bank holiday weekend. Have a good one!
‘Run’ will be released as a single alongside Tourist’s new album. For more Tourist on TGTF, go here.
The Tuesday night of SXSW 2016 found me queueing on East 5th Street (east of the interstate) for the DIY Magazine stage at Hype Hotel. The street outside the venue was packed with punters headed for either the highly anticipated Hype Hotel showcase or the equally popular Fader Fort event just across the street. I waited in line for over an hour before finally getting into Hype Hotel, just as hotly-tipped American duo Diet Cig struck their first guitar chord and drumroll.
Descending on Austin from New York, Diet Cig were the subject of much chatter in the queue outside the venue, and once I saw them on stage, I realized why. Frontwoman Alex Luciano introduced her bandmate Noah Bowman with the witty one-liner “this is your mom’s new boyfriend,” setting a deliberately not-so-serious tone for the evening’s festivities. The bratty lyrics to Diet Cig’s early tracks ‘Sleep Talk’ and ‘Dinner Date’ struck a chord with everyone’s inner teenaged self, and Luciano’s punchline “it’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt”, seemed remarkably appropriate to her vivacious but wildly irreverent personality. The stage at Hype Hotel at first seemed too large for the pair’s single guitar and drum kit, but as it turned out, Luciano was quite a spirited guitarist, running and jumping around the stage (dare I say it? even ironically?) like a high school cheerleader.
Even fresher on the music scene than relative newcomers Diet Cig, Los Angeles band PARTYBABY proved themselves straightaway as an act to be reckoned with. Comprising veteran musicians Noah Gersh and Jamie Schefman, the band premiered their defiant first single ‘Everything’s All Right’ just last summer, and they quickly followed it up with the equally pugnacious ‘Your Old Man’. Gersh and Schefman already have a full album prepared for release, and they chugged through their setlist at a frenetic pace. Despite the obvious aggression in their music, PARTYBABY were clearly determined to party as hard as they rocked, and the Hype Hotel crowd on Tuesday night seemed fully in favour of that idea.
After a brief DJ set by Bleached, Spanish band-of-the-moment Hinds swept breathlessly onto the stage, appearing to be dressed for a slumber party rather than a gig. Co-lead singer Carlotta Cosials mentioned that the band had only gotten to town half an hour before their set, so perhaps their attire could be excused on those grounds. However, a slumber party theme isn’t entirely inappropriate to Hinds’ lo-fi and free-wheeling style, and despite their somewhat disheveled appearance, Hinds sounded much more polished than when I heard them at the British Music Embassy last year. The ladies certainly appeared to enjoy their all-too-brief moment on stage as they raced through a set comprising tracks from their recent debut album ‘Leave Me Alone’.
London synth-rock band Pumarosa played an equally short but sweet set, after apparently sorting through some sound issues before they were able to begin. Their playlist included ‘Lion’s Den’, which saw frontwoman Isabel Munoz-Newsome bowing her guitar strings with a fuzzy mallet, and the dramatic breakthrough dance hit ‘Priestess’, which has quickly become a personal favourite track of mine. It might well have set everyone in the room into motion, except that we were all completely mesmerised by Munoz-Newsome’s own interpretive movements on the stage.
Pumarosa were followed by another British act, electro singer/songwriter Jack Garratt, whose Mercury Prize-nominated, Brit Award winning reputation had evidently preceded him to Hype Hotel. Having gained a fair few followers at SXSW 2015, Garratt played a blinding set on the Tuesday night that was in sharp contrast to the more muted tone I had heard from him on last year’s Communion showcase. His enthusiastic reception has been well and truly earned over the course of a year, and I was most pleased to see him having this kind of success on American shores so quickly upon the release of his debut album ‘Phase’.
The headline act of the DIY Presents showcase was American synth-based artist Empress Of, who is better known off stage as Lorely Rodriguez. Much like the electronic sound of Jack Garratt before her, Empress Of’s quirky dance pop belies the emotional depth of her lyrics, creating songs that are at the same time cerebral and intuitively visceral. Her show on the Tuesday night drew largely from her 2015 debut LP ‘Me’, and apropos to the album’s shimmery synths and ethereal vocals, this late night (er, early morning) set was swathed in hazy blue stage lighting, which cast a markedly chill vibe over the night’s final stretch.
I’ve often thought that one of the most exciting things about making the trek to Austin for SXSW is the opportunity to discover new artists that I might not otherwise have ever heard, especially musicians who are just on the cusp of attaining major success in their careers. One such emerging artist is West London-based singer/songwriter Isaac Gracie, who I had the pleasure of hearing for the first time on the Wednesday night of SXSW 2016. Editor Mary had already taken a listen to Gracie for her preview of the BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation showcase, but his songs were completely new to my ears on the night, and I was, quite frankly, stunned to silence by his powerful lyrics and the raw emotion in his singing voice. Fortunately, I managed to regain my composure quickly enough to catch Gracie for a very brief interview after his set, and as you’ll hear in the audio clip below, he is already making promising plans for the near future.
With only one song released ahead of his appearance at SXSW, Gracie is truly among the freshest of fresh faces on the music scene, but his name isn’t likely to remain unknown for much longer. His first single ‘Last Words’ created an immediate stir upon its release last autumn, receiving praise from the likes of NME and Beats 1 presenter Zane Lowe. His current debut EP ‘Songs from My Bedroom’ is still hot off the press, having just been released on Thursday the 24th of March via Buried Crowns / Virgin EMI. Included on that recording is the breathtaking track ‘Terrified’, which BBC Introducing captured in the following live video from Gracie’s Wednesday night performance at the British Music Embassy.
Thanks again to Isaac for taking a quick moment to do this interview, and best of luck from TGTF!
My very first interview of SXSW 2016 took place only a few hours after I arrived in Austin, but Scottish alt-pop band The Spook School had already played a handful of shows by the time I met up with them on the Monday afternoon. The band were in high spirits despite the oppressive Texas heat and the potential danger of falling rocks on the stage at Cheer Up Charlie’s, and the audience were most pleased with their energetic performance. (As you’ll hear in the interview below, they were even asked about the possibility of making and handing out t-shirts at their future shows!)
In the course of the interview, I talked with band members Adam Todd, Nye Todd, Niall McCamley, and Anna Cory (L-R, above) about their musical background and influences as well as their self-defined role as a “queer pop” band. If you’re interested in TGTF’s preview of The Spook School, which is mentioned in the conversation, you can have a look back at it right here.
Special thanks to Sean for arranging this interview.