Oxford’s Glass Animals are riding high these days. In late April, the band appeared on Steve Lamacq’s 6music drive time programme as one of Lammo’s New Favourite Bands, and their first-ever headline show in New York City in mid-May was already completely sold out by the time I’d gotten a chance to sit down with longtime friends and band members Dave Bayley and Joe Seaward on the Saturday afternoon of Liverpool Sound City 2014.
The band had just soundchecked at the Kazimier ahead of what would be a rammed venue for their appearance. Naturally, a question about “those peanut butter vibes” came up, as did Carrie’s superlative about the band’s music having a delightfully amorous effect, whether real, imagined and/or intentional; their experience at this year’s SXSW; and their amazing cover of Kanye West’s ‘Love Lockdown’ that was recorded while the band was in Australia.
Listen to the interview below. Under the interview, you can also stream ‘Pools’, Glass Animals’ next single. Their album ‘Zaba’ drops on 9th of June on Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone label.
Many thanks to Dave and Joe for being so lovely and Becky and Matt for helping sort this chat out for me.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 8th May 2014 at 11:00 am
Sometimes I just get a really good gut feeling about a band. Our friends at Generator put on a showcase at this year’s Liverpool Sound City and one of the bands that captured my attention when I was going through all the Soundcloud and video links on the festival Web site were a band called Boy Jumps Ship from Newcastle.
Having already toured with the likes of some of John’s favourite relatively recent discoveries Arcane Roots and Marmozets, it’s only a matter of time before this Geordie band makes a big splash on the hard rock circuit. In the backstage dungeon below Mello Mello, I chatted with the boys about being working class, how Boy Jumps Ship formed from the smouldering remains of other now defunct bands, their new exciting development in Europe and more.
Thanks so much to the band for sitting down for a nearly 20-minute interview; it’s one of the best ones I’ve ever done, for sure. We got on so well, I went to cheer them on the next day at the John Peel World Cup at Chavasse Park, where they played five-a-side footy. Below the interview, I’ve embedded the video for ‘Better Days’, one of their more recent promo videos, in which the foursome get down and dirty, literally and sonically.
Live at Leeds has 24 venues, each with an average of 12 slots during the day. If my maths is correct, and assuming one has a Star Trek-style transporting machine which enables instant travel between one venue and the next, that means there are 24 ^ 12, or 36,500,000,000,000,000 different ways to schedule one’s day. Clearly a task that even the most musically-informed maths whiz would find a challenge. Thankfully, the lovely people at DIY had come up with such a tasteful and diverse lineup for their Brudenell Social Club residency, that such venue-hopping became almost entirely unnecessary.
TGTF’s day began with a very pleasant walk in beaming sunshine to the Faversham on the edge of the Leeds University campus, in a quest to kick everything off with a native Leeds band. Marsicans have got riffs and jangles and lovely Yorkshire-accented vocals, hooks you could hang a greatcoat on, all mixed together to generate the musical equivalent of an enormous grin on a summer’s day. They’ve got a single out, ‘Terrapin’, which is generously available for free, which is matched in jollity only by their previous release ‘Chivalry’, whose enormous singalong chorus is, if anything, an even more diligent earworm.
The walk from the Faversham to the Brudenell Social Club is a stage-setting experience in itself. The settled sandstone calmness of campus life gives way to tired yet still noble multi-storey brick terraces. Many residents sit on their front porches, smoking whilst taking in the sun. A 19th-century school has been demolished, leaving only rubble and temporary fencing as a bleak reminder of its proud history. Perhaps it’s the wrought-iron shutters across front doors and windows, or the scattering of dog-eared independent supermarkets, minicab firms and backstreet garages, which all conspire to create a distinctive atmosphere of, if not menace necessarily, then lives lived in complete indifference to the shiny artifice of Leeds’ city centre, lives in which concerns about protecting oneself from crime, or of how to pay the electricity bill, take higher precedence than another new shopping centre, or indeed the niceties of contemporary independent music.
Those few souls living in Burley or Woodhouse who are indeed partial to decent live music every night of the week are fortunate, because that is precisely what the Brudenell provides. The place is as aesthetically unattractive as venues get: architecturally lumpen, with a circular auditorium which does nothing for the acoustics. The interior bears the hallmarks of many an enthusiastic amateur DIYer. How appropriate for today’s residency. The PA in the main room is deafening – always bring ear plugs. But there’s no doubt that it’s also a deeply funky place, imbued with a century’s history of bacchanalia, repurposed as a live venue despite its physical shortcomings with more respect than any number of cookie-cutter chain pubs have for their former banking halls.
Ten minutes is all that TGTF gets of Bearfoot Beware, and it’s enough to determine that this self-confessed mathy three-piece can do tunes, funk, and boot-stamping riffs in equal measure and to an equally high standard. Imagine if Red Hot Chili Peppers were still good and decided to mix their loose funk with complex, bordering on atonal, guitar work, replete with diminished fifths, and theme their songs equally unconventionally. ‘My Love is a Seagull’ is a prime example: there’s two or three intense guitar themes, a bizarre hula drum interlude with all manner of swirling guitar effects; the final minute of instrumental call-and-response has bassist Ric Vowden bouncing and throwing shapes – as do, if they have any soul at all, the audience.
The biggest crowd of the afternoon is drawn for Parisian trio We Were Evergreen (pictured at top). And theirs is the trickiest set to describe. Imagine Manet’s A Bar At The Folie Bergère, then further imagine the late-19th century beat combo which might supply the background music: at once providing beautiful harmonies, a touch of twee sweetness, yet bathing in a decadent groove that is both inspired by and further encourages their city in its bohemian, bourgeois excess. Then bring those minstrels into the present day, equip them with looping pedals, synths, and a ukulele, and you are getting close to We Were Evergreen’s sound.
There’s a touch of Röyksopp in the way Michael Liot’s gentle delivery combines with the electronic beats and toy-like synth melodies, and in the rhythms that gently build to a danceable crescendo. But the songs don’t descend into by-numbers euphoricism: there’s solid songwriting chops on display. ‘False Start’ has a rock-solid chorus, complex, almost obscurantist lyrics, and a surfeit of beeps and bleeps to keep the most ardent electronica fan happy. Their debut album ‘Towards’ was essentially released at this gig – it’s officially out on the Monday hence but copies are on sale here – on the evidence of this performance it’s shaping up to be one of 2014’s essential purchases.
Coasts breeze onstage in a whirlwind of white denim, Doc Martens and wild-eyed charisma. In case one was in any doubt, they’ve brought a palm tree to reinforce their self-confessed trop-pop credentials. But that’s only half the story. With their big melodies and shape-throwing frontman they’re bidding for the affections of Hollyoaks viewers, The 1975 devotees, and any girl who cares to wear denim hotpants in the spring. Musically there’s nothing new about the sound – Fenech-Soler have been doing this Balearic-indie for years – but fair play for trying to breathe new life into this dance-related genre, even if it means that despite five members they still rely heavily on backing tracks to reinforce the dancefloor-friendly beats, one of which inevitably goes catastrophically wrong mid-song.
‘Rush of Blood’ relies on familiar saccharine tropes – “you took the beat in my heart / the words in my mouth / kept me out of the dark / you put the taste on my tongue / the life in my soul / give me air for my lungs”. Smitten, isn’t he? Their live performance reflects these motifs, the drama dialled up to 11 from beginning to end. The faux-sincere intensity does, frankly, wear a little thin after a while, with little in the way of dynamics to maintain interest across the whole set. Much like a takeaway burger, one’s hunger is quickly satiated by the carefully-engineered sensory button-pushing, but when it’s over all that’s left is a guilty, greasy aftertaste.
If Coasts are the class jocks, then Jarbird are the shy, retiring, bookish geeks quietly planning world domination from their perfectly-ordered desks right at the front of the class. In utter contrast to what’s gone before, they deliver fragile four-part harmonies and delicate instrumentation – live electronic drums vie with synth and the most skeletal of Stratocaster work – to create something quite unique and of a compelling, delicate beauty. Recent single ‘More Bad Celebrity Poetry’ evokes a deep sense of yearning melancholy, whilst somehow still remaining optimistic and uplifting – an impressive feat of composition. Clearly still a young band, they have an endearing humility to their presentation that comes as a refreshing change to those who clearly yearn for nothing less than to make themselves enormous in the music business. Jarbird, precisely because they let the music speak for itself, deserve to do very well indeed.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Martin’s riveting account of Live at Leeds 2014.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 7th May 2014 at 11:00 am
The Inkhearts are a band of students from Skelmersdale, which was previously only known to me as the town where Stuart Maconie was a English lit college lecturer before he started working full time for the NME. According to the quartet, the town also has the largest number of roundabouts in the whole country. Who da thunk?
Anyway, I’m sure you’re not wondering about their town’s traffic woes. The youngsters performed as the Label Recordings’ showcase at this year’s Liverpool Sound City, after which I nabbed them for this interview about their relationship with the people who put on the showcase, where they got their band name and what it’s like to get airplay across the whole country. There were so many people watching them, I had to pull the press card (literally) in order to be let into the outdoor Kazimier Gardens venue.
Many thanks for the band to chatting with me after. Below the interview, you can watch the promo video for their current single ‘Keeping Up’.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 6th May 2014 at 11:00 am
Last Friday at this year’s edition of Liverpool Sound City, I met up with Dundee lads Model Aeroplanes who stopped in town to do a show at the club Heebie Jeebies that night. Listen below to my chat with Ben Buist (bass), Grant Irvine (lead guitar), Kieran Smith (drums) and Rory Fleming-Stewart (lead vocals, guitar) as we talk about growing up in Dundee, the industry around them, their latest single ‘Electricity’ (stream it under the interview) and what’s up next for them (turns out I caught them right before they filmed their first-ever music video!).
Thanks very much to the band for their time, and Paul for setting this interview out in Liverpool for me.
Live at Leeds is one of the most intense examples of one of the most intense of gig-going events: the one-dayer. Leeds boasts more than its fair share of fine venues, and Live at Leeds brings them together under one banner for 12 hours of fine new music. Your brave correspondent has attempted to listen to every one of the over 200 artists on offer – and failed. Therefore here’s a list of what stands out as a possible way to negotiate the myriad of combinations.
The Brudenell Social Club has a strong offer all day. We Were Evergreen (3 pm) trade in Parisian twee-pop blended with indie tunes: a fine, summery start. And after that, because the Brudenell has two stages, it’s one band after the other, every half hour. No time to even visit the bar. Dive In are from Glastonbury and offer chiming melodies and a voice uncannily similar to Brian Molko, if he was full of happy pills. Coasts have the nerve to call their latest single ‘A Rush Of Blood’ – and although there is a touch of Coldplay in some of their soaring choruses, they’re unlikely to be confused with the London behemoth: there’s a nice discordant solo in ‘Stay’, and ‘Wallow’ is almost like Bastille with big guitars. A mixed bag then, but certainly one worth assessing live.
Jarbird bring some admirably minimalist electronica overlaid with a lot of twisted, vocodered singing. And with a song called ‘More Bad Celebrity Poetry’ betraying a humourous cynicism, what’s not to like? Happyness, despite being from London, bring sunshine-on-a-string Americana – ‘It’s on You’ properly chugs like the Lemonheads, chock full of classic melodies and a college-rock slacker sensibility; ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’ is a slow-burner, with a lazy bassline sketching out a groove and slurred vocals about drawing letters on one’s person. As you do. Woman’s Hour are a bit like a cross between Wild Beasts and The xx – which gives them a lot to live up to. They sound capable of it. With their debut album coming in July, now is a great time to check them out.
From smooth electropop to guitars – both Creases and Primitive Parts supply lo-fi riffing and retro rock ‘n’ roll beats. Primitive Parts clearly have one or two Graham Coxon records in their collection. Onwards: I can’t stop playing ‘Hiroshima’, a fine example of orchestral pop from Norway’s Highasakite. Ingrid Helene Håvik’s vocals are stunning, framed beautifully by the delicate instrumentation.
The 8 pm hour provides a dilemma – whether to make the 10-minute walk to The Packhorse to catch TGTF favourites The Orielles; perhaps a taxi ride to the Belgrave Music Hall to see the suave chamber delights of New York’s San Fermin, coming over all Tindersticks and Hem; or to stay at the Brudenell for an increasingly noisy night, kicking off with Montreal’s hard-riffing duo Solids. Indeed, the picture of where to be and what to hear becomes increasingly distant and hazy as the night draws in. Several hotly-tipped acts will have already been missed: Courtney Barnett, Flyte, Arthur Beatrice, and the headliners are either heavy-ish (Pulled Apart By Horses, Catfish And The Bottlemen (pictured at top), The Hold Steady), or poppy-ish (Clean Bandit, King Charles). Leeds’ very own I Like Trains set up a homecoming gig at Leeds Town Hall, celebrating 10 years in the biz.
In short, there’s something for everyone, and nobody can see everything, so it’s probably best to go with the flow and not worry too much about it. Or just spend all day at the Brudenell. See you there…