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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 19th July 2012 at 10:00 am
FOE‘s ‘Frankenstein’ is a previously unheard of track from Hannah Clark and guess what? It’s absolutely free from us today; listen to and download it from the Soundcloud widget below. And even better, she’s made a video to go with the track. We’re just full of surprises here at TGTF this morning, aren’t we?
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 29th May 2012 at 1:00 pm
I was back at LIFE, ready to roll to have an audience with another band we’ve written about, Hannah Clark and FOE. Maybe it was the great sunny weather, but by the time I made it back upstairs to the loft performance space of LIFE, the room was rammed. There’s this weird red glowing light in the place as well, so I felt like I was in one of the panic scenes in the film The Hunt for Red October. Since there was no way I’d get to the front for photos, I took advantage of my small size and anchored myself to the staircase, hoping for the best just to hear, since I couldn’t see.
I really like the way ‘A Handsome Stranger Called Death’ sounds on Lammo’s 6music programme, so it was disappointing to hear the loud buzzing sound of feedback coming out through the speakers, pretty much obliterating any chance of hearing the vocals clearly. I felt like leaving and then I felt a presence behind me. Something you learn in Brighton during the Great Escape: you will probably run into everyone you know from London, Manchester, etc. in the music business. I turned around to leave and head back down the stairs, and who do I see but Andy Clutterbuck, the singer of Films of Colour?
Something else I learned in Brighton: expect to be sidetracked if the weather’s nice. There’s really nothing like hanging out on the seaside with your friends, soaking up the last rays of daylight, watching the sun set. You see, in Washington, the latest the sun sets is about half past 7. In England though, it can still be daylight past 9. I had a full night of bands planned and insisted to them I needed food, so I had my first Pizza Express experience (I know, shocking) with them. We’re sitting there, waiting for the food to arrive. The Pizza Express in Brighton looks out directly onto Jubilee Square, and there were bans schedule to play all night. This is where things get a little weird.
James, Films of Colour’s drummer, squints to look in the distance, says, “that looks like the guy that’s in our music video.” Andy dismisses this: “no way, that’s impossible.” James, not to be outdone, insists it is and says he’s going to go out and say hi. It wasn’t until days later when I was at 93 Feet East on Brick Lane in London that I figured everything out. James came back and announced it really was the guy they saw in New York City who had starred in their video. We all agreed this was serendipity. Then I could hear the thudding of a bass guitar and sense the melody. Wait a minute, I said to myself. That sounds like ‘Whole Again’ by Paula and Karol, the Polish band I discovered at SXSW. Independent of me, the two bands had seen each other in New York in the days before SXSW. Six degrees of separation? Nah. Just one degree of separation: TGTF.
I hated to dash, as having a sit-down dinner was a welcome and relaxing way to spend an evening, even at Pizza Express. But I bid adieu to the Films of Colour chaps, as I had a date with the Fly. Not literally, but the magazine was putting on a show at Blind Tiger starring the untypeable alt-J and the band that is probably going to be the toast of this festival season, Django Django. After getting shut out of their Pavilion Theatre show the night before, I requested guestlist for this show and swanned in without queueing. Which was a very good idea, judging from the massive queue outside.
alt-J are not going to need my endorsement, and I have been having a hard time getting down ‘Breezeblocks’. (Sorry, the nasal vocals really get on my nerves.) There’s something about the vibe of this band that makes me unsettled. Before you start getting sore with me and think I took advantage of the system, the Fly showcase was the only place all weekend I requested guestlist for, and it was specifically to see what the fuss about alt-J was all about. Unfortunately, my experience was tainted by the fact that the entirety of Blind Tiger felt like an oven and there were far too many people inside. Where was the Brighton fire department to lodge a complaint on the exceeded occupancy?
Many of these people were very pissed and unaware they were seeing a potentially future famous band. I decided to hang out on the side, instead of trying to cram in down the front for photos, determining this was a far safer vantage point. It was, except I felt like I was getting stood on by loud, annoying people shouting at each other who really didn’t care about listening at all. For goodness sakes, if all you’re here for is drinking, leave and go somewhere else to have your conversations, so you can let some people in the queue in!
So I heard alt-J – sort of – but was handicapped by the shouty discussions around me. What I did hear confirmed my previous opinion of the band. There’s something vaguely Everlast in Joe Newman’s delivery: he’s trying to be hip hop slick, in a disaffected way, which I guess is where the Radiohead comparison comes in? Not really sure. Sorry, not impressed. But if the crazy moshers down the front are any indication, no-one’s going to be listening to my opinion anyway.
Beyond the cancelled shows and showcases and bad luck of losing my camera bag earlier that day, I wasn’t expecting something else. Oh dear, somehow I managed to stand right where Django Django’s guitar tech needed to be. (You don’t want to see my photos. They’re horrible.) Granted, I give him a lot of credit for wedging himself into a small space closer to the stage, in front of the aforementioned obnoxious drunks, but the guy was taller than me, so I couldn’t see much of the soon-to-be-celebrated quartet who met at Edinburgh art college. Singer Vincent Neff had similar issues with the heat as I did, at one point complaining to the audience, “it’s like a pizza oven in here, does my hair look okay?” I laughed. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to perform under those conditions, if I was so uncomfortable just standing there, watching.
Not like anyone cared. I don’t know what the crowd was like at the Pavilion Theatre but oh my, people really went for the Djangos. It was like everyone was under the liquid spell of their special ‘Firewater’. I’d not heard ‘Default’ live yet, after being denied it at another tiger-themed venue at SXSW, Easy Tiger Patio in Austin. Tonight, it was peerless. Blind Tiger may have been a hot, sweaty mess, but no-one cared. It was an all-out dance party.
That was the end of the Fly Magazine’s programming, as well as the venue’s for the night, so after the most of the punters had departed, I came outside for air. Fresh air had never felt so good in my lungs. I felt like I’d been in a war. No more bands for tonight. Even though it wasn’t even midnight, I went back to my hotel to make myself a cup of tea. Yeah, not very rock ‘n’ roll at all, right? But I had a very important gig and interview in the morning.
FOE is in for a seriously good 2012 as things look at the moment: the album ‘Bad Dream Hotline’ is set to be released on the 16th of January, and has already been well received by critics. This song is the lead single from the record, and the way it starts epitomizes the ballsy rock ‘n’ roll edge that you can come to expect from FOE’s Hannah Clark. ‘Cold Hard Rock’ is a perfect mix of Hannah’s girl next door charm and her dream inspired lyrics: “I saw my lover take another / on the cold hard rock”.
Clark’s dark poetry is inspired by her night terrors and ‘Cold Hard Rock’ capitalizes on these experiences with the slow, dark, childlike tinkling in the background, to add to the singles eeriness. The chorus has a beautiful change of pace to it and gives the song an added depth before morphing back into the androgynous beast of the slower paced verse.
It’s a truly inspired effort from one of music’s rising stars, who inexplicably missed out on the Sound of 2012 poll.
‘Cold Hard Rock’, the new single from FOE, is out today.
FOE’s Hannah Clark comes across over the phone as shy. Definitively shy. Not what I expected after listening to the guitar wails of ‘Bad Dream Hotline’. Shyness over the phone, however, cannot detract from the fact that Hannah Clark is extremely talented and can produce music which gets your legs stomping. Most sites cite her as sounding like a PJ Harvey/Nirvana mix, which makes sense seeing as she cites her two major influences as the two-time Mercury prize winner and the grunge giants.
The new album ‘Bad Dream Hotline’ done now, and Hannah had this to say about it: “Some of the songs on it are actually a couple of years old, but it’s my debut album so most of the songs were recorded in the past year. My producer has a little bedroom studio and he did half the recording there, while we did the other half of the recording in a studio called the Doghouse in Henley. The good thing about the Doghouse was that we could just move the entire, identical set up from one studio to somewhere where we could make a hell of a lot more noise late at night.”
Now noise is what FOE specialises in, a kind of huge noise reminiscent of early Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. This band, know what they like and that’s big grungy guitars skidding through a torrent of bass and when they get it right, it makes for brilliant listening. “Most of the songs are quite personal in a way; they’re inspired by how I am feeling and what’s happening at the time. I have sort of, bad dreams or night terrors and I’ve kind of combined that, so it’s a bit of a mismatch between reality and well, not reality.”
In her videos, it’s not difficult to tell that the music is inspired by a sense of the unreal, with trippy images and patterns throughout. The night terrors though, while at first being distressing, are something Hannah has turned to her advantage. “They are kind of scary, but I’ve kind of got used to them I sort of had to so I could get on with my life.”
When listening to FOE then, try and keep an ear out for that insight into her psyche. The night terrors may have been combatted and turned to her songwriting advantage now. She’s beaten herself; now the public waits, with her new record ‘Bad Dream Hotline’ out on the 16th of January on Vertigo Records.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 9th September 2011 at 12:00 pm
Hannah Clark, aka the woman behind FOE, gave her answers to the TGTF Quickfire Questions…
Read John’s review of ‘Deep Water Heart Breaker’ here.
1. What song is your earliest musical memory?
Playing Beatles covers with my dad
2. What was your favourite song as a child?
For some reason I can only remember ‘Park Life’ by Blur.
3. What song makes you laugh?
‘My Only Fascination’ – Demis Roussos.
4. What song makes you cry?
‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ – Radiohead.
5. What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
‘Exit Music (For A Film)’ – Radiohead.
6. What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
‘Senza Fine’ – Gino Paoli. Cheers me up.
7. Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
I simply cannot answer that!
8. Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
9. If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I’d probably be busking on the street.
10. If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
Anything I’d choose would probably get me sent to hell, hahaha.