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The Friday of SXSW 2014 was a busy and eventful day for me, my schedule split between the Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s during the day and the Communion Records Showcase at St. David’s Episcopal Church in the evening. It was actually in the spare moments between these two delightful events that I had a chance to sit down for a chat with Nick Mulvey before his Communion Showcase appearance.
Last summer, I reviewed Mulvey’s ‘Fever to the Form’ EP and was curious about the meaning of the title phrase. Fast forward several months to the interview at St. David’s Sanctuary, where I was able to ask him about the phrase over a surprisingly relaxed pre-gig cup of tea, as well as talking with him about the difference between the studio and stage arrangements of his songs and his increasingly high-demand touring and rehearsal schedule.
As I write this article, Mulvey has just previewed his next single, ‘Meet Me There’, which is available for preorder as well as to stream via Soundcloud.
Thanks especially to Ellie and Simon for sorting out the details of this interview.
Irish alt-folk quartet The Young Folk are one of the most captivating acts I heard at SXSW 2014, and I had to wait almost to the end of the week to finally see them play at the Full Irish Breakfast hosted by Music from Ireland. I wasn’t familiar with them before we did our preview of Irish and Northern Irish acts showcasing at SXSW, but I fell in love with two of their songs, ‘Way Down South’ and new single ‘Way Home’ as I was doing my research for that piece. Their subtle yet tender lyrics match perfectly with their fresh musical spin on the folk rock trend (think Mumford and Sons but more nimble, less ponderous). Watch the video for ‘Way Home’ below, and if you’re as enchanted as I was, pre-order it on the band’s Web site.
As you’ll hear in the interview below, The Young Folk are as genuinely friendly as they are talented. (I was even persuaded to have the above photo taken with them, despite my general aversion to posing for pictures.) They spoke readily and easily about some of their musical influences, their spring tour dates, and how they spent their time in Austin. More importantly, we discussed their exquisite new album, ‘The Little Battle’, which is due for release later this year on UK folk and world music specialty record label ARC Music..
Special thanks to Jim for his assistance with arranging this interview and for taking the photo at the top of the page.
On the Friday of SXSW 2014, I had the opportunity to see many of the Irish bands I had missed at the Music from Ireland showcase on Wednesday night at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room. One of the bands I did see on Wednesday was Dublin twin sister duo Heathers, and I was excited to see them again at the Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s, also hosted by Music from Ireland.
They were in the midst of a flurry of interviews when I caught up with them outside the venue, but they graciously took the time to give me some background information on their seamless vocal harmonies, their edgy rock musical style and their new album ‘Kingdom’, which is due for release at the beginning of April.
Heathers’ set at the Irish Breakfast was made up exclusively of songs from the hard-hitting ‘Kingdom’, most notably their YouTube hit ‘Forget Me Knots’. We’ll have more coverage of the Irish Breakfast here on TGTF, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at Heathers’ set list from the day.
Thanks to Ciaran and Brian for setting up this interview.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 27th March 2014 at 3:00 pm
After we left Latitude 30, I decided we needed a real meal before we went home for the week. (Come off it, people, that veggie burger that everyone was complaining about there was delicious! But it was probably because I was hungry, and you know how everything tastes 1,000x better when you’re hungry?) I’ve been a regular at Piranha Sushi just down the street from the venue every year I’ve come out for SXSW, so it made sense to get some good food and drink from there before we said goodbye to SXSW 2014.
Carrie ordered the one with the strawberries on top, which I have to say looked pretty good but it just wasn’t my thing. (If anyone fancies seeing what I ate while in Austin, I’ve got a whole slew of photos I can share. My love for music is the only thing that trumps my love for food and cooking. You can blame my Chinese upbringing.) Our waiter Zachary was ubercool and was so nice to us, even though we were a little tipsy from our time at the British Music Embassy earlier. Seriously though, it was Saturday afternoon, and how could I not indulge in multiples of my namesake drink, the Bloody Mary?
We had every intention of going home after our bellies were full. But after a fortuitous accidental run-in with more friends from the AU Review and the reappearance of our Canadian friend Jordy, who insisted we should join him at the Hype Hotel with the promise of the famous free drinks and free tacos, we relented. I argued with myself in my head, when else am I going to see Gary Numan? He ain’t coming to DC anytime soon! Actually, we didn’t need as much arm twisting as I make it sound. Edinburgh’s Meursault, who had rocked our world at the British Music Embassy just hours prior, were playing again right before Numan, so we could make it a two-fer.
Following minimal queueing, we got inside and I was surprised how much smaller the Hype Hotel was this year compared to previous years; the location moves every year. Last year when I saw then unknowns Kodaline and the Specials there on the Thursday night in 2013, the space seemed ridiculously cavernous and empty when I arrived, #2 in the queue to get in. To be honest, this time I was little crestfallen in the lack of overall grandeur. It also didn’t help that by the time I’d gotten the munchies and wanted a free taco, they’d closed up shop.
The first band on at the Hype Hotel Saturday night was Caught a Ghost, a project of LA songwriter and producer Jesse Nolan. His Twitter describes the music as ” vintage soul with modern electronic influences”, and I would agree wholeheartedly. Songs like ‘No Sugar in My Coffee’ show off Nolan’s soulful, jazzy tendencies, evident in the vocal stylings and the bass-y grooves. If the song sounds familiar, it’s because it was used in season 4 of Boardwalk Empire, probably for its sleazy slinkiness. As a full band, they’re pretty cool to watch and enjoy.
Next up as promised were Meursault. I was so pleased for them that by then – 9 PM – there was a sizable and highly receptive American crowd just waiting to hear then do their best (er, or worse, depending on which side of rock you’re on lingo-wise). What an exciting thing it must have been for them to play on such a massive stage and in front of so many more people who didn’t know who they were, and it was their chance to shine. I was excited for them too because the Hype Hotel was so much larger than Latitude 30 and the sound system at the E. 7th Street venue made them sound huge. Contrast that with the show Cheryl and I saw in Baltimore on Sunday night, and I think I’ve gotten the full Meursault live experience over a 9-day period. I’m a lucky girl.
Then came 10 o’clock. Time for Gary Numan. Gary Numan is not Carrie’s kind of music at all. So I give her a lot of credit for hanging in there for the first three songs before she bailed, patiently waiting outside for the set to finish and for me to come out. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to his new material; he is, of course, most famous for ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric’, his hits of yesteryear. But what was more amazing to me was how huge the sound was from his evolution into an industrial rock god in the late ’90s, following on from his mastery of being a commercially viable electronic artist with those aforementioned hit singles, at least for a time in his early career. (I apologise for the poor quality of the below photo, but I wanted to show you just how excited I was and how grateful I was to the Hype Machine to put him on the Saturday night bill.)
The ‘Splinter’ LP, released last year, continues Numan’s commitment to uncompromising industrial, goth-y rock. ‘Love Hurt Bleed’ sounds more Nine Inch Nails than Nine Inch Nails does, if that makes any sense. But in the same set, ‘Cars’, despite all its layers making it sound so much more complicated than in its original form, easily proved why the song has endured in the collective hearts and minds of us synth heads. It’s just that good, as is Numan. At age 56, the man is still wearing eyeliner, has a shock of punky hair on his head, can rock out on a guitar like nobody’s business and wail on the microphone too.
For me, it had been an extremely emotional week, meeting up and spending time with the dear people in my life I don’t often see, while also finally meeting others who I had known for a while online but this being the first time I got to meet them in person. Saturday night was the culmination of a marathon I and all of us at TGTF had been running since the first band announcement was made in November, and now it was over. So this was the show where I truly let my hair down, allowing it to fly as I just gave myself over to the music.
I had been sad for the needless deaths of innocent music fans at the Mohawk Wednesday night, and I had been sad because I received signs over the weeks before arriving and while I was in Austin that certain things in my life had reached an end. But after several important conversations on Saturday, I became optimistic that my music career had only just begun, like the feeling you get when you open a brand new book for the first time and you run your fingers down the first page, anxiously awaiting for what is yet to come. I’m a little scared but also raring to go into this next phase of my life. Gary Numan looked over at me a couple times and smiled; I doubt he realised he was witnessing a transformation.
I gave Jordy a final hug and when I finally emerged into the night to meet up with Carrie, I found her grinning from ear to ear as we were leaving. She said we definitely had to do this again next year. Shall we? I think yes. Until then…goodnight, dear Austin.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 27th March 2014 at 2:00 pm
When we woke up on Saturday, we were greeted by rain. Not just rain. Very heavy rain. So heavy initially that I considered going back to bed. But it was our last day in Austin and I intended to make the most of it. While it was a wee dreary walking around with an umbrella after so many days of carefree strolls in the Texan sunshine, when life hands you lemons, you have to make lemonade, am I right?
Carrie went to find coffee (if you’re reading all our posts, are you sensing a theme here?) and was to meet me later, having a leisurely early afternoon, while I went off in search of the London act I didn’t think I’d be able to see all week but somehow the organisational gods smiled down on me and suddenly I found I could. St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival is an annual music event in Auckland, New Zealand, and at this year’s SXSW, they hosted an afternoon showcase covering both stages of Holy Mountain out on 7th Street.
I arrived too early for who I was there for, so I walked between the stages to see if my ears perked up to anything I heard. In the backyard stage when I arrived were Brisbane rockers The Creases, who have that Beach Boys-ey, Best Coast-esque sunny surf pop sound nailed down all right. Not my thing at all but certainly enjoyable enough under a tent that was keeping us dry from the elements. Far more impressive to me was the guitar singer Jarrod Mahon was playing, in a shape that defies description. Maybe ‘The Preposterous Pentagon’?
After the Creases finished, I almost got impaled by one of Bo Ningen‘s guitars (that would have been awful) and quickly went back to the indoor stage to find a very tattooed, not at all huggable one man band Kirin J. Callinan, who according to this FasterLouder article was one of the big Aussie success stories of SXSW 2014. There was nothing about his performance that screamed ‘trailblazer’ to me, but I suppose for you ladies (and certain men) who enjoy a shirtless man with tattoos performing on a guitar and screaming into a microphone, you should probably get on this bandwagon ASAP.
By this time, you’re probably wondering what the heck I was doing at Holy Mountain in the first place. I’m glad you asked! Tourist, aka London musician and producer Will Phelps, was due on shortly after 1 PM. I actually saw him skulking around outside the venue beforehand. It must be really hard to psych yourself for an afternoon of DJaying when you really want to be playing your music in a dark club late at night, but Phelps took it in stride, even taking a joyful stab at the weather:
I’m not sure how best to describe the Tourist set to you. It was way too short – it seemed like less than 20 minutes – and Phelps doesn’t sing, so when you’re watching him perform, it’s him attacking a wide array of synthesisers, sequencers and other electronic gizmos, while he’s bopping his body around, clearly caught up in the music. Dance without words is hard to explain to other people, because you have to *be* there experiencing to really ‘get’ it, to have the music pulsing through your veins.
“I tried but I could not find a way
Looking back all I did was look away
Next time is the best time we all know
But if there is no next time where to go”
-’Re-make / Re-model’, Roxy Music
Carrie and I had decided the night before that we were going finish up at the afternoon session of the British Music Embassy, where I had made plans to meet Steve Lamacq and have a meeting of the minds there (about bands of course). The very funny thing about Latitude 30 is that no matter who you know or have met during the week and is/are British, inevitably you will run into him/her/them at the venue at some point, because it’s like Latitude 30 has a beacon only Brits can hear and they are drawn in, usually multiple times during the week, to the place.
For me, going back to the British Music Embassy would bookend a mental week of seeing bands old and new as well as seeing old friends while making new ones. I didn’t want to miss the chance of saying goodbye and best wishes to any of my friends before I left Austin. We arrived in time to order a round of drinks (it was our last day, after all) and get positioned for Meursault, a trio from Edinburgh.
I had heard of Meursault and maybe two songs of theirs, so going into their performance pretty much uneducated about them, I was surprised when I was faced by their fabulous aural assault on our ears, led by singer/songwriter Neil Pennycook. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a Scotsman be witty with his banter between songs in which where he’s practically ripping your ears off with a scream of emotion. This kind of harder rock is more John and Cheryl’s domain, but Meursault’s two performances on Saturday came to be defining moments of my SXSW 2014: Carrie and I were so impressed with their set, we changed our plans entirely to have an early night and swung by the Hype Hotel that night to see them again for the second time in 7 hours. I still don’t understand how another blogger could have confused their sound and called it alt-folk. That one definitely needs his (her?) ears checked. Emotionally raw vocals, raucous guitar, accompanying bass to feed the raucous sound, and driving rhythm on drums? Meursault ticks off all the boxes.
Carrie had seen Glass Animals on Tuesday at the Haven for the Harvest Records showcase Tuesday night, but I hadn’t up to that point. On paper, Glass Animals’ formula of pop and r&b with synths seemed to be right up my alley, while entirely not Carrie’s bag at all. Sadly though, I wasn’t impressed with them live. As Carrie was busy getting pregnant to ‘Black Mambo’ and ‘Gooey’, I had to wonder if my countless hours of listening to exemplary electronic music had jaded me, because their set was very much to me a “I’ve already heard that before, nothing new to see here” kind of disappointment.
Thankfully, I had the next band to look forward to, and look forward I did, as singer George Waite tuned up his bass. The Crookes, whose shows either in the UK or here in America I’ve covered on TGTF, were about to restore my sanity. It’s quite funny being in Austin with other American Crookes fans, of which there weren’t that many for SXSW 2013. However, word had clearly spread about the Sheffield band, as Latitude 30 was rammed for their 3:50 PM set.
As they played, the front section of friends new and old turned into one of the most fun dance parties I’d had in a long time, as we kicked up our heels to the infinitely rough on the edges single ‘Play Dumb’ and the driving ‘Before the Night Falls’, both of which figure on the band’s third album ‘Soapbox’ out in April on Fierce Panda. (My review of the album can be read here; it’s fantastic.) This display of unfettered dancing did not go unnoticed by Steve Lamacq, who commented on one of his first 6music programmes after returning from Austin that he felt it quite heartwarming that there were so many of us who were singing along to the Crookes because we knew all the words to ‘Afterglow’. We don’t dance alone, indeed.
“The night is still young, but the story’s so old.” The first part was most definitely true at 5 in the afternoon, but as you will read soon, my SXSW story wasn’t over just yet…
Mary and I arrived in downtown Austin late on the Thursday night of SXSW 2014, after we attended a special Sofar Sounds show earlier in the evening. Once we were back in the now-familiar downtown area, we split up, Mary rushing to see Longfellow at the British Music Embassy, while I headed off to try to catch The Strypes at Swan Dive before my tentatively-scheduled interview with CYMBALS.
Like everyone at SXSW, CYMBALS were on kind of a crazy schedule, and it took a flurry of texts and e-mails to arrange the final meet up for the interview. In the end, I only managed to catch a few minutes of The Strypes before I diverted to Cheer Up Charlie’s to chat with CYMBALS before their late night show. Cheer Up Charlie’s is another dual-stage venue with bands playing both inside and outside, but I managed to find a fairly quiet place to talk with the CYMBALS’ rhythm section, bassist Luke Carson and drummer Neil Gillespie, about their recent album ‘The Age of Fracture’, their busy touring schedule and some of the other bands they had the chance to see during their time in Austin.
Thanks to Daniel and CYMBALS singer/guitarist Jack Cleverly for sorting the details of this interview.
CYMBALS bassist Luke Carson
CYMBALS drummer Neil Gillespie
CYMBALS keyboardist Dan Simons