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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 13th October 2016 at 11:00 am
London-based artist Douglas Dare appears to have changed his image quite a lot since we profiled him ahead of SXSW 2014 2 years ago. This Friday he’ll be releasing a new album on Erased Tapes Records, the revealed black and white cover art showing him blond-haired and barechested, with a ball of hair (and feathers?) coming out of his mouth. ‘Aforger’ follows the artist’s well-regarded debut album ‘Whelm’, which was released in 2014. Here’s what Douglas had to say about the album title and the place from where the music on the new LP came from:
The album title plays with the idea of a forger – someone creating imitations or copies, and reimagines them as the creator of something that’s no longer real. Prior to writing the record, I came out to my father and came out of a long relationship, both were hugely challenging for me and questioned my idea of identity and reality. These thoughts leaked out into the record and formed the core of Aforger. I was determined not to write a break-up album or repeat what I’d done before.
To celebrate the release, he’s letting everyone have a full stream of the entire collection of songs ahead of its release at the end of this week. ‘Aforger’ can be pre-ordered from Erased Tapes here and it will be available on Friday from all good music retailers. He will be playing a headline show at London Electrowerkz on the 8th of November.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 13th October 2016 at 9:00 am
Socially conscious Northern band VANT will be very busy in the coming weeks. In addition to support slots previously announced with You Me at Six and Nothing But Thieves, they have revealed their own headline dates in the UK for next month. Tickets for VANT’s headline tour are on sale now. For a full listing of their appearances for the rest of the year, check out this list of tour dates on their Facebook.
You can stream their newest single ‘Peace & Love’ below the tour date listing; their debut album ‘Dumb Blood’ is scheduled to be released on Parlophone Records on the 17th of February 2017. For past coverage on VANT on TGTF, including Steven’s review of their recent ‘Karma Seeker’ EP, follow this link.
Saturday 12th November 2016 – Newcastle Cluny (Dr. Martens #STANDFORSOMETHING show)
Friday 18th November 2016 – Bath Moles
Sunday 20th November 2016 – Leicester Scholar
Monday 21st November 2016 – York Fibbers
Wednesday 23rd November 2016 – Edinburgh Electric Circus
Thursday 24th November 2016 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Friday 25th November 2016 – Hebden Bridge Trades Club
Saturday 26th November 2016 – Coventry Kasbah
Monday 28th November 2016 – Brighton Haunt
Tuesday 29th November 2016 – London Scala
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 12th October 2016 at 6:00 pm
I guess the days of bands purposely obscuring the meaning of their songs are gone. This summer, we had Los Angeles ladies Warpaint returning with ‘New Song’, which was – surprise! – a brand new single. On the other side of the globe, Australian’s San Cisco, too, decided to be lazy, revealing this week a song called ‘B Side’, which will be the b-side to an upcoming single not quite released to the general public yet. Darn. The band decided to keep things in the family for this one, taking travel footage of band member Jordi’s little sister Peppa and her boyfriend Matt on their travels in Japan. As might be expected for two kids visiting a foreign country, there is an excessive amount of silliness, but the DIY video pairs remarkably well with the surprisingly lo-fi approach the Fremantle indie popsters have taken with the song. Guess we wait for the a-side, though I’m going to facepalm if we find out it’s called ‘A Side’. Please, San Cisco, please, just no. For more of TGTF’s coverage on San Cisco over the years, go here.
In sharp contrast to the sparsely attended gig I saw in Phoenix on the last Monday night in September, that week’s Tuesday night show at Tucson’s Rialto Theatre was packed to the gills, with fans lining up outside over an hour ahead of doors to see Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard. Though Hansard’s fame on American shores came largely from the movie-turned-Broadway-musical ‘Once’, his more recent repertoire, including 2015 album ‘Didn’t He Ramble’, has also been well-received, as evidenced by the large turnout in Tucson on the night.
I was motivated to arrive early to the show myself to see the support act, violinist and composer Colm Mac Con Iomaire. We at TGTF were introduced to Mac Con Iomaire at SXSW 2015, where he regaled us with a memorable riverboat performance hosted by Generator NI. However, those familiar with Glen Hansard’s storied career will know that Mac Con Iomaire is also Hansard’s bandmate in The Frames, and his appearance here was integrated into Hansard’s show even beyond his supporting slot.
Mac Con Iomaire played a elegant and pleasantly prolonged opening set of instrumental music that warmed the crowd up nicely, beginning with the lovely ‘Emer’s Dream’ and finishing with ‘Thou Shalt not Carry Timber’, both from his 2008 solo album ‘The Hare’s Corner’. In the middle of his set, he played through several newer pieces from 2015 LP ‘And Now the Weather’, including a bittersweet dedication to his late sister (whom he referred to very quaintly as having been “promoted” to heaven), titled ‘In the Arms of the Angels’. Mac Con Iomaire demonstrated his compositional skill as well as his technical versatility, switching from violin to acoustic guitar for the recently commissioned ‘Solasta’, which he also performed recently for RTÉ Radio 1.
Hansard himself took the stage with a large entourage of accompanying musicians, including a string quartet, and opened not with one of his own songs, but with a rearranged version of ‘Sunken Waltz’, originally by Tucson natives Calexico. Having thus successfully charmed his way into the hearts of his Old Pueblo fans, Hansard then dived headlong into his own repertoire, which was no less eagerly anticipated. ‘Paying My Way’ and ‘Renata’ were early highlights of the set, both prefaced by engaging, though possibly somewhat embellished, banter from an Irishman with a willing and captive audience.
Commentary on the currently volatile American political climate was not to be avoided, I suppose, and in very Irish fashion, Hansard dedicated ‘Winning Streak’ to defeated American presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Later in the set, he performed an inspired version of Woody Guthrie’s classic ‘Vigilante Man’, with verses altered to name presidential candidate Donald Trump in a rather less than flattering metaphor. However, unlike fellow songwriter Foy Vance in Phoenix earlier in the month, Hansard’s political remarks were met with vocal agreement from the more liberal Tucson crowd.
Following a lively and naturally verbose exposition, ‘McCormack’s Wall’ was one of the night’s uptempo focal points. But having been billed as ‘An Intimate Evening with Glen Hansard’, the show included some nice softer moments as well, with ‘Wedding Ring’ making an appearance early in the set and both ‘Falling Slowly’ and a solo acoustic version of ‘Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting’ coming later on.
Near the end of the show, a dedicated and clearly emotional fan in the front row took advantage of a quiet spell to offer a book of her poetry to Hansard. In a genuine moment of personal interaction, Hansard not only took the poems but invited the young lady onstage to read one of them, while he accompanied on guitar. Flustered but determined to be courageous, she accepted, and was rewarded with an experience that she will no doubt tell her own stories about for years to come.
Hansard closed the set proper with rousing versions of ‘High Hope’ and my recent favourite ‘Her Mercy’. The more than 2-hour show truly seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, and of course the enthusiastic Tucson crowd pleaded for more. With his characteristic warmth and grace, Hansard acknowledged our applause by returning to the stage for a fond and singularly appropriate farewell in the form of ‘Song of Good Hope’.
A full listing of Glen Hansard’s upcoming worldwide tour dates can be found on his official Facebook. TGTF’s complete archive on Glen Hansard is right through here, and our previous coverage of Colm Mac Con Iomaire is this way.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 12th October 2016 at 12:00 pm
2016 has been an all around tough year. In my personal life, I don’t know anyone who’s managed to get through this year with nary a scratch. However, as the saying goes, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? ‘The Wave’, Tom Chaplin’s first foray into the music world without support from the band who helped make him famous, is solid proof of this. I think it’s safe to say that collectively as a group, we the media questioned whether Chaplin had it in him to pen a compelling album on his own. As the voice of the award-winning, highly commercially successful pop group Keane, no-one could touch him. But he was singing the songs of his equally (and depending who you talk to, even more so) talented bandmate, the Ivor Novello award-winning Tim Rice-Oxley.
Like many other rock stars, Chaplin has struggled with drug addiction but thankfully for us, he sought treatment before it was too late. On ‘The Wave’, he’s chosen to tackle his personal demons in song, and for all the world to see. It’s a vulnerable position to be in. And one going against what is all too familiar Englishman stoicism that he himself admitted to the Daily Mail 3 years ago that existed between him and Rice-Oxley offstage. In his audio commentary of ‘Hardened Heart’ available on ‘The Wave’ portion of his Web site, Chaplin admits confronting himself was “…an incredibly uncomfortable process for anyone, let alone a closed off, avoidant character like me…‘Hardened Heart’ documents that transition between imprisonment and liberation, and the hope that it can continue.”
While it may not make a whole lot of sense to those have never suffered depression, Chaplin’s decision to go public with his mental health battles actually has a two-fold benefit. One, by accepting and confronting his own struggles, it’s an effective way for him to see the extremes of the before and after, reminding himself of how low he was, how far he’s come and what a better place he is in now. Two, he’s an incredible, visible role model, providing hope to those who might otherwise not seek professional help but now will. The photo accompanying the story in ‘I Remember You’ reflects Chaplin’s desire to look back with compassion at the old version he used to know and he’s left behind after intensive, healing psychotherapy. Oddly, he’s chosen an all too gay saxophone solo – think of the one in Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ – to mar the opportunity of a true introspective moment. The title track closes out the LP, and in a fashion not unlike ‘Sea Fog’ concluding Keane’s ‘Strangeland’, described by producer Matt Hales as “a prayer for peace”.
‘The Wave’ opens the album with the cinematic grandeur of ‘Still Waiting’. Chaplin says, “If there is a narrative of going from dark to light through the course of my record, then ‘Still Waiting’ is firmly rooted in the darkest place”. Mournful strings and otherworldly echoes suggest a foreboding, a descent into darkness before light. In ‘Worthless Words’, Chaplin wanted to document a 3-day binge in January 2015, after which he resolved to turn around his life and fight. The title represents an addict’s repeated apologies eventually become accepted by loved ones as empty promises, and his singing at the start is calm, yet clearly regretful. Chaplin notes the lyric “a soft sweet whisper says, ‘careful where you tread’” makes him think of his young daughter and what she might have said to him before the point of no return.
Returning from the brink can’t have been easy, but this album also provides a way for Chaplin to thank the family and friends who supported him on his journey back. In the melancholic, gentle ‘Hold On to Our Love’, he offers a hand and an olive branch to his long-suffering wife who thought she was going to lose him to addiction. The calm before the storm, the momentous ‘Bring the Rain’ sees Chaplin yelling into the dark sky, determined he’s up for the challenge. On ‘See It So Clear’, he’s joined with a choir to add further oomph and bombast to this resolve.
What might strike as most surprising is that the most overt, upbeat pop songs on ‘The Wave’ seem out of place and seem unnecessary. It isn’t because of their positivity, a feeling that runs through the entire album, but on other songs with slower tempos and more weight. You get the feeling Chaplin was trying too hard to be commercial, to have to write songs that Radio 2 would be willing to play. There’s nothing wrong per se with first single ‘Quicksand’, but it’s definitely not the album’s finest hour. With indelicate, irksome lyrics like “you get up and suck it up / you keep rolling along”, it feels awkward that Tom Chaplin’s beautiful voice has been reduced to singing a song like this. An injection of staccatoing synths into the chorus of ‘The River’, too, jars the listener out of what was a sweepingly gorgeous tune.
As a reminder of just how powerful Chaplin’s expressive voice is, ‘The Wave’ is just about perfect. While some questionable moments prevent it from being entirely beyond reproach, the showcasing of his voice alongside his personal journey back from addiction is priceless. Above all, ‘The Wave’ will encourage the conversations about mental illness that need to happen. And that can only be a good thing.
‘The Wave’, Tom Chaplin’s highly anticipated debut album and his first album without Keane, will be out this Friday, the 14th of October on Island Records. Watch the trailer for the album below. He’ll be on tour starting next week in the UK to promote the new LP; all the dates are listed here. Our growing archive on Tom Chaplin’s solo doings here on TGTF, including my interview with the man last week, can be found through this link.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 12th October 2016 at 11:00 am
Missed part 1 of my interview with Tom Chaplin? No worries, catch up on the previous half of it through here.
Tom Chaplin’s first foray into the industry as a solo artist has been a long time coming. His initial desire to write on his own was the impetus for Keane to announce their hiatus after the release of their 2012 album ‘Strangeland’. “I have a little studio in my garden at home and sort of locked myself in there. But I very quickly ran into a creative brick wall, I think, because as you say, it’s like finding a voice, isn’t it? The songs I was writing about at that point were very observational, they were about other people, other relationships. They were looking outward as opposed to inwards, which is how I ended up. That’s the story of the record now, a very much inward looking record. Yeah, it was a kind of mixture of different songs that didn’t feel particularly cohesive, as I say they were observational, and no wonder that I hit a brick wall creatively.
“Obviously my problems with drugs completely really took over my life and I stopped being creative altogether. I discovered so much about myself and who I am that I looked in such kind of minute detail at my actions and my characteristics and what makes me who I am as a human being, as well as how I developed as a person. I’d kind of almost completely lost touch with being a real human being. All I was obsessed about was getting wasted, and that’s not really a life. That’s the absence of life in a way, sort of living for a drug. It’s about as far away from the essence of being a human being as you can get. So yes, rediscovering or the discovery into who I am as a person was a painful, but at times a really interesting adventure into my inner world. As that inner voice took shape, then the songs flowed out of me. Becoming a kind of authentic individual was very, very important in finding a voice for making this record.”
Tom Chaplin performing with Keane at SXSW 2012
I asked Tom if it was difficult, either literally or figuratively, to find his voice writing ‘The Wave’, either from being the frontman of Keane or coming back from addiction. “One of the main drives in making this record was that up until now, there’s been an undiscovered part of myself that I haven’t expressed as a singer. It’s [‘The Wave’] unveiling the inner voice, behind the outer voice that everyone’s been hearing for a very long time. With Keane songs, I was always interpreting someone else’s world and someone else’s feelings. Obviously, while Tim [Rice-Oxley, Chaplin’s bandmate and primary songwriter of Keane] all the time wrote with me in mind in terms of singing it, nevertheless they were always going to be his personal view and perspective on the world and his experience with life. It feels very difficult to compare the two.”
Chaplin begins a UK tour next week, playing far smaller venues that us Keane fans have been accustomed to seeing their heroes on in recent memory. “I feel like these songs are telling a direct story, very personal story. I’m inclined to think that there won’t be as much a posturing rock show as it would have been with Keane in a way. I think it’ll be much more about focusing on telling the story. I’m sure it’ll suit the small venues really well, in that sense of getting a really intimate story, with everyone being close up. I’m really excited to play these songs in that context.”
A brand new experience for Chaplin, one he grabbed onto with both hands, was putting together a live band for this upcoming tour. “I spent the summer assembling these new musicians around me. That itself has been very, very interesting. Obviously with Keane, our roles were defined very early on and have remained more or less the same for many years. To work with new people, and the album is obviously quite textured and layered and requires lots of different instruments, so figuring out that puzzle has been really fun, actually. Watching how other musicians interpret the songs and how they their parts, and being part of something so brand new for me as a musician has been really cool. So I’m really looking forward to see it working out onstage.
“I’m very excited and I really hope that the story of the record and the sense of going from this very dark place towards finding some sort of sense of resolution is something that is manifested in the live show as well. We will see!” I’d gotten the impression that as the primary songwriter in Keane, Rice-Oxley called the shots. So hearing how creatively inspired Tom became in putting together his own band and how excited he is about having full artistic control suggests to me this is the start of a wonderful new chapter in the career of Tom Chaplin the artist. There is no mistaking his laughter and genuine happiness on the other end of our conversation, from a man who has thankfully found peace from his demons through continuing treatment and is now “rooted in an authentic and real life”.
I want to ask him about what ‘The Wave’ has become to mean to him. Tom says, “As soon as I wrote it [the song], it always felt like it was going to be the finale [for the album]. It’s a song about finding a sense of resolution, I think the thing for me was that I always felt like I was in sort of opposition to life, always wanting to change how I feel. For example, for when I felt pain or sadness, it was about ‘how do I stop myself from feeling like this?’ And my go-to method was to take drugs. If I felt happy, and actually, this was a common problem for me, if I felt happy and elated and high, and good things were happening, I wanted to extend that. So I thought, ‘how do I keep this going?’ So I’d get good news, and my wife would say to me, ‘I’m worried for you because things are going well’. Seems kind of paradoxical, but truth was, I would then see that as a green light to again go out and take drugs and feel like I deserved a good time.
“[There was] the sense that I was always trying to control how I felt, and I think ‘The Wave’ is a song about developing a sense of going through life with good grace. You are going to experience ups and downs, and you cannot control that stuff, it’s what life visits upon you. I feel like I’ve learnt to acknowledge that stuff. If I feel down, that’s just the way it goes. And if I feel good, then [I’ll] enjoy it, but it’s not going to last forever. The song is really about looking back and acknowledging that stuff and using that as an ethos going forwards. It feels like a great note to end the record on, as that’s sort of my mantra for my life as it stands. And you know, by extension, it seems like a good way of describing the process and the place where the record has taken me to.”
As far as Chaplin has come in this journey, he recognises he’s still a work in progress. “I do still need to force myself a little bit to go spend time with friends, or go on family holidays or get off my backside and play golf, or play football, or whatever it is. But I am aware now that as soon as I do those things, they bring me a real sense of fulfillment and happiness. You know, at the end of the day I suppose, that’s what we’re all looking for from life, it’s what makes it bearable. So those are the vital things that I am now fiercely protective of.”
The days are brighter for Tom Chaplin now, and it’s heartwarming to hear he’s reached a place of more peace, epitomised best by the lyrics “time will sweep these things away / and I’ll be carried by the wave”. Beyond the joy he brought to so many as a member of Keane, that he’s chosen to use the harrowing life experiences he’s been through and put them into song to help others will be an even bigger feat.
Tom Chaplin’s debut album ‘The Wave’ will be released this Friday, the 14th of October, on Island Records. My review of the LP will post today at noon. Chaplin has a series of intimate UK gigs lined up for this month, starting on the 22nd of October at the beautiful St. George’s Church in Brighton, one of the most unique venues used during The Great Escape festival. All dates are now sold out at the time of this writing. The UK dates are followed by a series of larger shows in Belgium and Holland; for a full listing of all his live dates announced so far for this year, visit his official Web site.
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