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Photos by editor Mary Chang
When I arrived in Austin on the Sunday prior to the start of the SXSW 2014, I was already gleefully anticipating the Creative Belfast showcase at the British Music Embassy on the Monday night. Though the Music portion of SXSW didn’t officially begin until Tuesday, the Northern Irish event was a sort of transition show that included music as well as Film and Interactive components from the week before. The names and faces of the non-musicians were mostly unfamiliar to me, but the lovely sound of Northern Irish accents filling the room kept a smile on my face throughout the evening.
If you’ve read my past writing, you’ll know that some of my favorite musicians are from Northern Ireland, and a few of them were on hand for the event at Latitude 30, the downtown Austin club that was overtaken by the British Music Embassy for the week. The master of ceremonies for the evening was none other than BBC Radio 1 presenter Phil Taggart, and on the docket were Belfast-based acts UNKNWN, Wonder Villains, and Rams’ Pocket Radio. Unfortunately, Mary and I missed UNKNWN’s set, but don’t fret, because he became known to us later in the week. We were lucky enough to see and interview both of the other acts; click here for Wonder Villains and here for Rams’ Pocket Radio.
The exuberant Wonder Villains played a bright and lively set to match their attire for the evening, despite the rain coming down outside. Their newest single, ‘Marshall’, was an instant hit; in fact it was featured on the PA system at the British Music Embassy throughout the week. But it was an older tune, ‘Zola,’ that really got the crowd moving, especially after lead singer Eimear Coyle’s explanation that it was inspired by Italian footballer Gianfranco Zola. The band’s upbeat tunes can probably be best described as pure fun, and their colorful outfits were equally fun to photograph.
Decidedly more difficult to photograph was Rams’ Pocket Radio, whose emphatic stage movements were tricky to catch on camera. His darker and more dramatic sound was enhanced by the full complement of talented Northern Irish musicians he brought with him to Austin: Sabrina Rodgers on violin, Thomas Camblin on drums, Adam Booth on bass, and Travis Gilbert on guitar. (Stay tuned for a feature on Gilbert’s band, Travis is a Tourist, in the Tuesday recap.) Rams’ Pocket Radio’s set list was comprised of several tracks from his album, ‘Béton’, most notably the eponymous and inevitable ‘Dieter Rams Has Got The Pocket Radios’ and new single ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’.
After some quick chat in the rain outside Latitude 30, Mary and I headed off to the Clive Bar to see Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable. You can read Mary’s recap of Monday’s events, including that gig, by clicking here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th March 2014 at 1:00 pm
This being my third SXSW, you have thought I’d have learned to appropriately pace myself. I did admirably well and it helped immensely that our Carrie was with me this time so I wasn’t being a complete mental case running from showcase to showcase. But writing this now a week after all the madness began, my body is still showing signs of wear and tear from everything that went on in Austin. I am happy to report that no major injuries were sustained, though one night Carrie’s skirted rear almost got impaled by a branch while we were walking around in the dark, and one morning walking into town, I almost lost a foot in an open manhole… Yes, we had a trying week. But we survived!
It was Carrie’s first SXSW so I helped her get her bearings around 6th Street and pointed out some major landmarks for navigation purposes. (TGTF pro tip #1: for your first SXSW, arrive at least a day early so you can get the lay of the land and can do some planning.) Then we settled in to a pint at B.D. Riley’s (mine was a Crispin’s, Carrie’s was a Smithwick’s), where we caught our first act of the festival, Josh Luckenbach, who was playing as part of an open mike night at the Irish pub I love so much. Probably most notable from his set was his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Badlands’, which at first I didn’t recognise as a Boss cover. It was an interesting choice, as it’s not really what comes to mind when you think of Bruce, but it was Luckenbach by himself, so he needed a track that worked on that level. Fancying himself like a young Bob Dylan with a free hand harmonica, he was a good act to ease into all that Austin had to offer us.
Monday has now become the traditional night that the Northern Irish get together at the British Music Embassy, and I invite you to come this way to read Carrie’s thoughts of the night. It’s always a wonderful thing for me to be able to say my hellos and how dos to my mates from the Emerald Isle and to be surrounded by so many lovely people. We watched the delightfully poppy Wonder Villains (spying a Dublin Vicar Street sticker on the front of lead singer Eimear Coyle’s bass) and the powerfully energetic Rams’ Pocket Radio tear it up on Latitude 30′s stage. Afterwards, Carrie chatted with both acts (here and here, respectively) and it was a lucky thing too that we were rained on when were outside doing the interviews, as our next stop was down on Davis Street, and it was during that walk that the water fell from the sky and we were two very soggy TGTFers by the time we reached Clive Bar. (TGTF pro tip #2: bring a rain hat, poncho or small umbrella with you. Preferably all three. I am so thankful I had a rain hat, as we had the misfortune of being stood under not one, but two awnings at Clive Bar once we arrived.)
Rocket Fuel Inc., “the only programmatic media buying platform” out of Redwood City, California, were hosting a special interactive party there dubbed the Rocket Fuel Launch Pad. (How very Jetsons.) After you’ve been a music writer for a while, you develop good connections, which came in handy so I could get on the guest list for the party. We were let into the rammed venue just in time for Carrie to have her first experience with the Joy Formidable, so I felt proud to have facilitated that. The Welsh rockers have been with me nearly as long as I’ve been writing, and I’ve been so proud of how far my friends have come since I saw them play to about 30 people at Black Cat Backstage in November 2010. Normally I’d try and make my way to the front to take photos, but this night, I decided it was better to hang back and being the shorty I am, we were stood up on a wood staircase so I could just make out Ritzy Bryan and Rhydian Dafydd’s heads and the flying hair of drummer Matt Thomas.
What was more important to me was hearing them. Since releasing ‘The Big Roar’ in 2011 and ‘Wolf’s Law’ last year, the band’s star has done nothing but continue to rise, especially here in America. They came out swinging straight out the gate with ‘This Ladder is Ours’ and it’s something so amazing when you’re surrounded by fans of the same band, you’re all jumping up and down in excitement, and you’re all shouting the lyrics a song back at them. At the top of your lungs, I might add. (I was already getting the “you’re already hoarse!” comments by the time we rolled back into downtown on Tuesday morning. Oops.) That’s exactly what happened. This gig was probably the best thing that ever happened to the guy behind me. He kept going “oh my god!” and “this is my favourite song!” and that’s exactly what as a music editor you want to hear at a gig.
Being at this Joy Formidable show was also very special in that Ritzy announced it would be their last gig for quite some time, as they have plans to disappear to the studio to work out their third album. I got my riot grrl kicks from headbanging to ‘Cholla’, ‘Cradle’ and ‘Austere’, as you do. But I also wholly appreciated the beauty of ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie’ (“Can you see that I’m good?”) and my all-time Joy Formidable favourite ‘The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade’ “the greatest light, the greatest shade / it means that I can be happy for you, happy for you, happy for you”); I had no way of knowing that they both would be prescient to what was up ahead in the days to come.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th March 2014 at 11:00 am
Last week when TGTF were in Austin for SXSW, I caught up with Glaswegian pop / dance band Prides (Stewart Brock on keys and lead vox; Callum Wiseman on guitar, keys and backing vocals; and Lewis Gardner on drums) after their rousing set as part of the Tuesday night programming the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 that was curated by none other than Radio 1′s beloved Welsh teddy bear Huw Stephens. They chat to me about their New Wave, “strong ’80s influence”, the era of Biffy imitators in Glasgow and where we should all go to see gigs at in their hometown. There is much more of course. Listen to the interview in full below.
If you live in America, they will be touring the East Coast with RAC through to the end of March; see all the dates here.
Cheers guys and thank you to Ally for this lovely interview. Best wishes for the rest of your American tour!
If you’re keeping up with our SXSW 2014 coverage, you’ll already know that Mary and I attended the Creative Belfast event at the British Music Embassy on Monday night. In addition to chatting with the adorable Wonder Villains, I had the chance to interview Rams’ Pocket Radio, aka Peter McCauley, after his set. We talked about his plans for his time in Austin, his new single ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ and his intellectual music style.
Thanks to Jimmy for setting up this interview.
In my first SXSW 2014 interview, I caught up with Northern Irish indie pop band Wonder Villains at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 Monday night. The evening’s Creative Belfast event was hosted by none other than Radio 1 DJ Phil Taggart, and the music lineup included Rams’ Pocket Radio and Unknown in addition to the exuberant Wonder Villains. Band members Ryan McGroarty, Eimar Coyle, Kieran Coyle and Cheylene Murphy were positively bubbling with excitement as they got ready to take the stage, as you can hear below.
Wonder Villains’ set included both ‘Blonde’ and ‘Debbie’, the latter of which they dedicated to Blondie singer Debbie Harry after hearing a rumour that Blondie would be in town for SXSW. New single ‘Marshall’ and fan favorite ‘Zola’ were also highlights of the show.
Many thanks to Jimmy for setting up this interview.
Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2014 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite band is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the band’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.
This installment of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2014 explores the contingent of SXSW 2014 showcasing bands from Ireland and Northern Ireland. These acts range from traditional folk to pure electronic, with a healthy dose of plain old pop and rock falling somewhere in between.
Cian Nugent is listed on the SXSW 2014 schedule as being in the “avant/experimental” category. His expansive, virtuosic solo electric guitar compositions are backed by traditional rock instruments, including electric bass and drums, as well as more orchestral bowed strings, woodwinds, and brass. His latest LP ‘Born With the Caul’, released in November 2013, is his first recording with a fully dedicated band. Cian Nugent and The Cosmos are currently touring in America leading up to SXSW.
Dott are a “shiney, harmony-driven guitar pop” band hailing from Galway. Their laid back, low-fi debut album ‘Swoon’ was released on Graveface Records in December 2013; stream it here. For a quick sampling of their sound, take a listen to ‘Love You Too’.
Heathers are Dublin twin sisters Ellie and Louise Macnamara. Their mainstream guitar pop second album, ‘Kingdom’, was released in the UK in September 2012 and nominated for that year’s Meteor Choice Music Prize for Best Irish Album. It is due for release in America on the 8th of April via SonyRED, just after the band’s appearance at SXSW. The album’s first single ‘Forget Me Knots’ has already scored over 250,000 YouTube hits.
Hozier is the stage name of County Wicklow’s Andrew Hozier-Byrne, a soulful singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose poignant single ‘Take Me To Church’ turns romantic love into a religious experience. Already receiving radio play in America, the track was nominated for the Meteor Choice Prize Song of the Year. March looks to be a busy month for Hozier, with the release of his EP, ‘From Eden,’ and his appearance at SXSW, along with his St. Patrick’s Day birthday.
Dublin rock duo Kid Karate have been compared to the likes of Jack White and The Black Keys. Their brash, bluesy brand of rock seems more sonically suited to stadiums than the small venues of SXSW, but they are sure to make their boisterous presence known in Austin next month. They have just finished recording their debut long player ‘Night Terrors’, to be released later this year. Be sure to adjust your volume settings before streaming their first single, ‘Two Times’.
Rams’ Pocket Radio is the stage moniker for Northern Irish solo artist Peter McCauley. He is categorized by SXSW organizers as pop, but based on his opening performance for Foy Vance last year (reviewed here), I’d say his keyboard-based rock is more experimental or progressive than most pop artists. Think Ben Folds without the flippancy. Despite its unwieldy title, Rams’ Pocket Radio’s eponymous tune ‘Dieter Rams Has Got The Pocket Radios’ is a surprisingly infectious earworm.
Female garage pop band September Girls are aptly named for a Big Star song once covered by The Bangles. The fuzzy guitars and vocal harmonies on ‘Heartbeats’ are a slightly scuzzier version of The Bangles’ signature sound. The single features on September Girls’ debut album,‘Cursing the Sea,’ which was released in January on Fortuna Pop! Records.
The Strypes’ official Web site describes the band as “a 4-piece rhythm and blues band hailing from Cavan, Ireland,” and their single ‘Blue Collar Jane’ clearly pinpoints their style as reminiscent of the early Beatles R&B sound. Their first EP release ‘Young, Gifted & Blue’ is a set of four homemade recordings of classic blues songs, including a cheeky version of Bo Diddley’s ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover’. ‘Blue Collar Jane’ appears on the band’s debut LP ‘Snapshot’, released in September 2013. Their latest EP release ‘4 Track Mind’ coincided with their February tour dates in the UK, which included several sold out shows.
Unknown is the professional name of Belfast music producer Chris Hanna, who began his career attempting to create his music anonymously and without hype. He started producing music in 2012 with a series of tracks titled simply ‘#001’ – ‘#010’. He currently performs with vocalist Gemma Dunleavy under the stage name of UNKNWN, but the official SXSW schedule lists him as “Unknown,” which might imply that he will be performing solo at the festival. Check out the groove of ‘#008’ below.
Indie pop wunderkinds the Wonder Villains hail from Derry, Northern Ireland and have already become major players on the Northern Irish music scene. They released two singles on No Dancing Records, ‘Ferrari’ and ‘Zola’, the latter of which was playlisted on BBC Radio 1 in February 2012. Their spunky forthcoming single ‘Marshall’ is due out on the 24th of March. After SXSW, the Wonder Villains are expected to return to the studio to finish their debut album, ‘Rocky’, which is scheduled for release in June.
Dublin punk outfit WOUNDS released their first EP ‘Dead Dead Fucking Dead’ and began work on their debut LP before guitarist James Coogan fell from a four-story balcony and spent 3 months on life support. After Coogan’s painful recovery, Wounds licked their wounds and moved forward, releasing the LP ‘Die Young’,in January 2013. Listen to the merciless thrashing of ‘Dead Dead Fucking Dead’ below.
The Young Folk, as you might have already guessed, are a folk quartet of a “certain youthful age”, according to the bio on the band’s Web site. Their brand of folk pop includes subtle and eclectic instrumentation, introspective lyrics, and lightly lilting vocals along with a relentlessly energetic performing style. Having recently signed with ARC Music UK, The Young Folk are set to release their debut album in the early part of 2014.