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(SXSW 2019 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #414: Glass Caves

 
By on Thursday, 14th February 2019 at 12:00 pm
 

Part of the metropolitan area of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, Pontefract is a town that has been around for a long time. I mean, a really long time: try AD 1086 or thereabouts. The town’s name comes from the Latin for ‘broken bridge’. The band from Pontefract I introduce you to today are sure to want to build bridges with their American cousins instead while they’re in Austin for SXSW next month. Glass Caves began humbly, initially trying their luck with street busking to see if they could make enough money to survive post-uni. As money came in slowly but steadily from interested passersby drawn in by their catchy pop-tinged rock, then came the requests for CDs. For a band without a label, the only option was to burn the CDs themselves in the middle of the night and at their own expense. Earlier material like the title track of their 2014 debut album, ‘Alive’, bears favourable comparison to stadium rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen.

Other unsigned bands have relied on social media and various music platforms to spread the word on their music, but this was not the route Glass Caves wanted to take. The Yorkshire group made the decision to do things more organically, pounding the pavement, developing relationships with music fans and independent music venue staff through precious face time and not through the less personable approaches through a computer or mobile phone screen. It’s paid off: what unsigned band do you know of who’s headlined a Club NME show at London Koko? As of late, their sound has evolved to become more keyboard-driven, sounding more like fellow Northerners Blossoms. Have a watch and listen to ‘Bad Liar’ below and see what you think. Quite a few bands from Britain have used their SXSW shout as a springboard to bigger things. With Glass Caves, just you wait.

 

(SXSW 2019 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #413: Elder Island

 
By on Tuesday, 12th February 2019 at 12:00 pm
 

When I first started blogging 10 years ago, bands with the word ‘bear’ in their name was a thing. Now it seems that the buzz word is ‘island’. (See my review last week of Low Island’s ‘In Person’.) The word ‘island’ conjures up individuality, but at the expense of isolation. Elder Island, named after a real place in Canada, are an electronic-driven trio who prove that isolation used as a means for indie bands to carefully create their art can be successful. The like-minded friends who were all studying art in Bristol have been steadily moving forward with their experimental music side gig over the last 6 years. 2019 is set to be Elder Island’s year, their time in the limelight, and congratulations are in order, and not just for their all-important shout to SXSW 2019. Last Friday, they self-released their debut album ‘The Omnitone Collection’.

They showed early promise on ‘Golden’, appearing on their 2016 ‘Seeds in Sand’ EP. You can understand the track’s origin, used as a transitional, loose point in our set where we could just let go a little”, as you get caught up in its beguiling vibrations. Katy Sargent’s vocals, stretched and echoey, act more like another electronic part layered on top of synthesisers. From the new LP, the first taster revealed to the wild was the rhythmically-mesmerising ‘Don’t Lose’. On it, their ability to pen a catchy tune is written all over it, and Sargent’s vocals have less effects put on it than on the EP, which make them more human. The accompanying promo video is a playful visual of how deft they are in transforming what could be techie electronic elements into parts totally accessible once incorporated into a pop song. Electronics aren’t just for nerds who that love them. These days, those who can use them in tandem with good songwriting are in good position indeed.

 

(SXSW 2019 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #412: Breathe Panel

 
By on Thursday, 7th February 2019 at 12:00 pm
 

I’ve admitted publicly more than a few times here on TGTF that shoegazer slacker rock isn’t my cup of tea. I can appreciate that some find it the music and disaffected vocals great to chill out to, while other gear heads actually like the mechanics behind creating that oozy woozy, lazy sound. I don’t know why it’s taken me so many years to come to this conclusion: As an East Coast American with a Type A, neurotic, impatient personality, the sounds of guitar notes that aren’t played quite that precisely are probably what set me off. I think I could be making major strides here, as when I was going through the bands who were given a shout to SXSW 2019, I actually liked a band from this subgenre of rock! Ladies and gents, I bring you Breathe Panel.

The band use Brighton as their home base, so while their signing to local legendary FatCat Records isn’t entirely unexpected, it is worth applauding since there are so many fledgling artists there. Taking their location into account – being never too far from the soothing sounds of the lapping waves and evocative days and nights by the beach – their choice of swirling guitars and vocals oh so diaphanous that you couldn’t stick a pin in them make total sense. So do their noted influences of American bands Real Estate and Deerhunter, as well as their choice of producer for their debut album, MJ of Hookworms. On said album released last summer, they do their genre contemporaries proud, balancing upbeat, more agile numbers (‘On My Way’, ‘Sunrise / Sunshine’) with slower-moving ones (‘Hue’, ‘Red Wine Glass’). In that way, they’ve proven the name of their band is appropriate: panels are known to be solid and reliable, while ‘breathe’ describes the dreamy nature of their music well. Under the mood lighting found in many venues in Austin come nightfall, there’s sure to be those mesmerised by them.

 

(SXSW 2019 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #411: APRE

 
By on Tuesday, 5th February 2019 at 12:00 pm
 

In case you somehow missed the meteoric rise of Brighton’s Royal Blood and Tunbridge Wells’ Slaves, musical duos have proven you can make it in the UK music world without having what we used to consider a necessary full band. Ahead of their scheduled appearance Austin, I’d like you to meet another talented pair, APRE. Legend has it that Charlie Brown (yes, really) and Jules Konieczny first met durng a chance meeting at Ealing Chess Club. You’ll have to wait until I meet them one day for us to find out who’s head is better in the game. Maybe they’ll teach me?

My first impression of their sound was how similar it is to another London duo we introduced you all to last year, Kawala. I’m not the only one to have noticed this sameness: late last year, the two acts were tapped for the Hopscotch tour powered by Utilita, an extension of Radio 1’s Jack Saunders’ club night. A feather in APRE’s cap that I don’t think Kawala have managed is to have a #1 single on Hype Machine. This fateful event occurred in spring 2018, and the song that got them there was ‘All Yours’, which also appeared on their later EP ‘The Movement of Time’. A jaunty guitar line plays over a smooth backdrop of keyboards on ‘All Yours’, and the syncopated vocals live in that sweet spot between pop and hip-hop. The vocals are echoey, too, and along with its accompanying video that must have been shot from high up by a drone. The overall effect brings you to the lazy days of summer. And who doesn’t love that in the middle of winter as I write this?

A more pronounced r&b edge has been introduced in their latest single, ‘Backstreet’. With an insistent tropical beat making the song super catchy, this sure ain’t your momma’s Backstreet Boys. This is also where APRE diverge from Kawala. The falsetto vocals and r&b groove are reminiscent of that of Jungle’s, but how the keyboards are employed here will remind you of the feel good moments of Hurts. Ultimately, APRE are the kind of act you’d expect to find in 2019, having taken the best bits from those who came before and having seen what works in today’s pop and what doesn’t. While their red jackets and sunglasses may get them confused for Nancy Pelosi in Austin, I reckon as soon as their music begins, any potential mix-up should soon fade away.

 

Bands to Watch #410: Cloth

 
By on Friday, 7th December 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo of Cloth by Erin NicCoinnich

I’ve just returned from a much needed holiday in Glasgow, which included a stop on the very last day of the most excellent Rip It Up exhibition in Edinburgh that celebrated the musicians from north of the border who have gone on to make a great big noise not just in Britain but well beyond Scotland’s physical borders. I have come back with my ears filled with new music and high hopes for the artists from Caledonia in 2019. One of these great new hopes are Cloth, a trio based in the cultural capital. What they’re doing and how they’re doing it represent for me how music-making in Glasgow is being transformed as of late.

The initial part of their story sounds similar enough to many a story in this business, no matter where in the UK. Twins Rachael and Paul Swinton attended Stow College in Glasgow with future bandmate and drummer Clare Gallacher. As children, the siblings Swinton were given Epiphone guitars at age 10 and soon found their way to picking out the chords to Deep Purple. While their ‘origin date’ on their record label’s Web site lists 2016 as their formation date, I’m sure there were attempts, false starts and noodlings around with ideas for a sound. For such a young band, they’ve had incredible luck to have already worked with the likes of Derek O’Neill (guitarist for King Creosote) and done recording at Paul Savage’s famed Chem19 studio, where so many of our favourite great Scottish records have been made.

Two Mondays ago, on the 26th of November (my birthday, no less), they were in session with Vic Galloway as the BBC Radio Scotland Introducing band of the moment. Knowing their primary musical touchstones – Cocteau Twins, Baltimore’s Beach House and the xx – handily explains their minimalist dream pop sound. Live, both Rachael and Paul play guitar; the noticeable lack of a bass guitar onstage isn’t apparent when listening to them on recording. ‘Old Bear’, their newest single that dropped last Friday, features Rachael Swinton’s ethereal lead vocal accompanied by a satisfyingly syncopated rhythmic backing that you can easily bop your head to. My vote for their best song so far is ‘Tripp’, its overall effect managing to burn a sultry figure even through the shadowy minimalism. This is considered, beautiful pop that just happens to be driven by guitars. Their sound is so far and away from the American and British slacker rock scenes I’ve never related to, sharing more kinship with the stories and emotions of folk but through a pop filter. You can watch all of the live clips from the session, including a cover of Tame Impala’s ‘Disciples’, through this link to the BBC Radio Scotland Web site.

How I understand it, they’re perfectionists like myself, not wanting to put out any substandard product, preferring to put in plenty of time and effort into making something they would be proud to stick their names on. To date, they have only released a handful of singles and through a record label with an ethos that seems it could only come from Glasgow. This past May, the band were snatched up by Last Night From Glasgow (LNFG), a DIY, non for profit record label “managed by volunteers who will neither draw a salary, nor take a share of the profits” that “provide[s] a viable alternative for both recording artists and consumers.” (You can read more about the label through this article at Creative Scotland.) Given the difficulty and shadiness of the music industry, a clearly defined path for artists to release music can only be a good thing, especially if fans can put money in to help them and get rewarded for their financial support.

Cloth are expected to be working on their debut album on LNFG next year, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing it when it’s released to the wild. Tonight, Friday, the 7th of December, they will perform as the primary support act to fellow Scot C Duncan at Glasgow Mono.

 

Bands to Watch #409: KAWALA

 
By on Friday, 6th July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo of KAWALA by Aron Klein; words by Lily Cresswell

Five-piece London band KAWALA are a relatively new addition to the alternative-pop music scene, making their debut with single ‘Small Death’. Contrary to popular belief, the name does not appear to be a reference to the cane flute commonly used in Arabic music, though its addition would be rather interesting to the band’s sound. The fresh new group consists of Jim Higson (vocals), Daniel McCarthy (guitar, backing vocals), Ben Batten (drums), Reeve Coulson (bass guitar) and Dan Lee (guitar).

The most striking thing about this single ‘Small Death’ is the variety of sounds and moods that are all entwined within this one song. There are soft and acoustic undertones, enhanced by vocal harmonies that weave in and out of each other seamlessly, but yet there is also a hint of a typical indie upbeat vibe signified by the bright, staccatoing guitars. Throughout ‘Small Death’, Higson touches upon topics of melancholy, self-discovery and love through cryptic lyrics that add a poetic beauty to the song like, “Hold me here / wash away / take me from day to day / and do I care or will I cave?” The lyrics touch upon death in both literal and figurative ways – “This could be my last breath (why am I supposed to care?)” – takes the single to a deeper place. ‘Small Death’ successfully hit a sweet spot of mellow liveliness, piling the pressure on the group for their then forthcoming EP.

Despite the high standards of the first single, debut EP ‘D.I.L.Y.D’ meets them and goes beyond, foreshadowing exciting things to come from KAWALA. The EP consists of four tracks, the aforementioned ‘Small Death’, ‘Do It Like You Do’, ‘Funky’ and ‘Mighty River’, each showcasing the diverse sounds of the band. The electricity of the EP has already been picked up by Spotify, who have been giving the band substantial amounts of support and have included tracks from it on several nationwide playlists. The band have also sold out numerous headline shows and played festivals such as Dot to Dot Festival and The Great Escape. This early success is due to continue with more gigs and festivals in the pipeline, perhaps most notably their headline show last night at the BBC’s Radio 1 Introducing show at London Lexington alongside supports Apre and Zuzu.

Despite being a pretty new group, they’ve already released a series of visuals to captivate fans and welcome them to their world. Alongside the EP, Kawala have released an official music video for the spelled-out EP title track ‘Do It Like You Do’. The video is simple but poignant, showing all sorts of people from different walks of life, perhaps a nod to the sort of audience you can expect from a band with such accessible music. They’ve also released a tour video to accompany the single ‘Funky’, titled ‘A KAWALA Story’. Although it’s easy to hear this in their music, the personality of each band member shines through and shows us the fun and energy they put into each tune. If their live shows this year, including the aforementioned show at the Lexington and appearances at RIZE festival in London next month and Manchester’s Neighbourhood Festival in October, live up to KAWALA’s growing hype, their future is very bright indeed.

For more information on dates and how to get tickets, visit KAWALA’s official Facebook page. The EP ‘D.I.L.Y.D’ is now out on Mahogany Records, the new venture between Mahogany Sessions and Marathon Artists.

 
 
 

About Us

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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