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Interview: Brandon Thorn and Jordy Fujiwara of sourced.fm

 
By on Tuesday, 1st July 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Besides being known as *the* hotbed for new band discovery, Austin during SXSW has the added massive benefit of the sheer fact that tonnes and tonnes of great musical minds are all in one place for a week. It was at this year’s event that I was introduced to the concept and the very new company based in Toronto that goes by the name sourced.fm. It was pitched to me as a forward-thinking version of the often cringe-worthy band Web site bulletin boards I frequented in the early days of the internet, but with some major differences, including its focus on the importance of local music communities and direct artist to fan interaction in a better way than we’ve seen with other sites. As I was keen to learn more about the company, founder Brandon Thorn and co-founder Jordy Fujiwara were very kind to answer some of my burning questions about what they do and what they hope to achieve with sourced.fm.

Tell us a bit about yourself/yourselves. What is/are your role/roles in sourced.fm?
Jordy: I’m originally from the east coast of Canada – Halifax, Nova Scotia. My background is social psychology and business. As a startup, everyone takes on every role, but my business cards say “co-founder, marketing”.
Brandon: I’m a developer and lifetime music lover. I’ve been developing sourced.fm over the past few years, starting as a hobby project and turning into a lot more. I’ve been mostly focussed on development, but part of the appeal has always been the excuse to go to shows more so now that we’re running I’ll be switching to the fun part.

What are the core philosophies and values of sourced.fm?
Jordy: The core belief is that success in music starts with a local community. We also believe that a community with a purpose is literally one of the most powerful things in society (see: society).

So how did the idea of sourced.fm come about? What was the impetus to start your own company?
Brandon: sourced.fm has never really felt like a company, more like a mission. It started a few years ago when I started to reflect on my time in the local Belleville scene. I was always struck by how one band in particular who had a ton of local support couldn’t make it turn into more outside the city. It never really made sense to me, so I started to think about how artists grow and how people interact within the community to try to reimagine how we make and support music. The result is sourced.fm, both the released and unreleased parts.

Did you find yourselves / what made you disillusioned to what you saw in other online music communities? How does sourced.fm address / hope to address those issues?
Jordy: For me, it’s not so much disillusionment as it is…seeing untapped potential. There are all sorts of awesome little music communities online but they’re just kind of there for the sake of being there. The only thing sustaining them is the collective interest of the people that use them, which is fine! But if you add some direction and purpose to that environment? Magic.
Brandon: For me, it’s much the same. I’ve seen how amazingly supportive local music communities can be, and I’ve seen how supportive great online communities can be, like Reddit for example. We want to blur those lines with the purpose of helping local artists and the communities they come from.

How will / does sourced.fm cater to local music communities and how is it different from other social media sites we see out on the internet now? If someone joins your Web site today, what kind of things can they do? How can they get involved?
Jordy: Many social media sites either have no forum or add one as an afterthought or feedback system. At sourced, the discussion is the core and all the other features exist to support it.
Brandon: Anyone who’s familiar with local music forums has probably seen some of the powerful ways they can be used to keep the scene connected and alive. Most things a scene needs, like booking, live reviews, a way to share and talk about what’s going on, etc., can be done through a discussion forum because conversations are how they’re all handled offline too. We have a number of additional features we’ll be periodically releasing that offers more formalized solutions for some of those needs, but the most important part is the people and the community so we want to focus on building that first. [An up-to-date “what can I do here?” / “what will I be able to do here?” list exists here.]

In what important ways is sourced.fm different from other music Web sites that seek to draw in fan and artist engagement? What do you hope will draw music fans to join?
Jordy: Being obsessed with community, another thing that sets us apart is that we’re allowing the userbase to take an active part in the actual construction of the site. There are progress bars and transparent updates that people can provide immediate feedback on – it’s not an afterthought system – it IS part of the system. This way, sourced becomes what the music industry needs it to be versus being limited to what the founders envision.

I can see the sourced.fm concept working really well in what I consider cities traditionally open to and embracing new music (your own city of Toronto; New York City and Los Angeles in America; London, Manchester and Glasgow in the UK; Sydney and Melbourne in Australia; Tokyo, Japan), but how do you see this working in smaller, possibly less accessible towns?
Jordy: The Internet eliminates a lot of the barriers that geography once imposed. Every large music centre has tendrils and tour lines that extend out into the surrounding area; your biggest fans could be from halfway around the world. sourced is designed to fit the needs of anything between three music enthusiasts operating out of Andrew, Alberta to a network of promoters based in NYC.
Brandon: To add to that, we want to help local artists to exist outside of their own city. If you don’t have local support for your genre, but say Montreal does, you can override the city for your discussion and post out to Montreal to get to know their community better. Alternatively, if your city is small or remote, using sourced.fm helps the music enthusiasts in that town stay more connected which can create more opportunities for music to get made. And then there’s always the macro aspect that helps content bubble up to the whole community regardless of where it came from if you’re not filtering for location. We’re really trying to make something that can work across the board because music is everywhere.

From the artist perspective, it’s my understanding that sourced.fm will provide a more integrated way / one stop shop for them to build their audience through your online communities, as well as do things such as crowd funding, which is the primary goal of services like Kickstarter and PledgeMusic. If you were talking one-on-one with an artist today, how would you convince that artist to join you instead of / in addition to one of your competitors? What does sourced.fm bring to the table that’s special?
Jordy: We tell them this: we will provide the exact same service as a Kickstarter as far as crowdfunding goes. You can do it on Kickstarter or Pledgemusic, and it’ll be fine, it’s a great service. Or you can do it on sourced, where there’s not only an active and passionate community, but also a constant mission to build and support that community.
Brandon: At the end of the day, sourced.fm is what you make of it. If you just need a place to crowdfund, that’s awesome, we’ll have you covered. If you just want to chat about music, or have a music blog, or keep notes about your music life, you can do all that. The features aren’t anything shiny or special on their own, the thing that’s special is that those features tie into an active and persistent community that drives the whole thing forward. We don’t want to end up with a software solution, we want a people solution.

If you could choose to work with any artist on a special campaign on sourced.fm, who would it be and why?
Jordy: We’ve always looked at Amanda Palmer as being someone who really understands the power of the crowd – not just from a funding perspective but also from a truly revolutionary communications standpoint.
Brandon: Amanda Palmer would be amazing. I’d also personally love to do something with Watsky. I’ve been a fan for a while, and his music was a big part of my listening for giant chunks of working on sourced.fm. I saw him in Toronto and he stopped part way through to talk about the importance of community and how much he appreciated the support, which he also talked about, teary-eyed, in a YouTube video from his album release. I know we’d pitch it and he’d get it, and I’d love a chance to connect him and his community for a special project.

Currently, the site allows for users in America and Canada. Are there plans to expand further afield beyond North America?
Brandon: Yes, we’d love to expand, and we really hope we can sooner rather than later. It’s more a matter of logistics than anything else. We plan on releasing crowdfunding sooner than we’d be able to connect with and seed overseas communities, and with crowdfunding comes the business side of things that has to keep everything running smoothly which borders tend to complicate. For now, we’re a very small team, so supporting the world just isn’t possible for us yet. As we have more to work with, we can do more so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to remove borders as quickly as possible.

What’s next for sourced.fm? What’s in the pipeline that your users and artists can be excited about?
Jordy: My, where to start? I’m pretty excited to enable our “Hz” system that allows people to see who or what is getting the most support from the community. Brandon?
Brandon: Once we get through releasing some of the missing core features like messaging, Hz and our social integrations, I’m looking forward to getting people using the crowdfunding service. I think once we’ve got it running, the difference a community model will make for crowdfunding is going to be clearer and knowing that we’re going to be very tangibly helping artists live their passions is the reason this whole thing started, so for me that’s exciting.

Many thanks to Brandon and Jordy for answering my questions about their exciting project.

 

Interview: Fearless Vampire Killers at Camden Rocks 2014

 
By on Friday, 27th June 2014 at 11:00 am
 

With an acoustic gig down and a full blown electric fandango to follow, TGTF seized the opportunity to crack open a cold one (and, not the beer-y kind…) with horror punk five-piece Fearless Vampire Killers at Camden Rocks 2014. The bumpkins from Beccles turned bombastic ball busters with extra bite gave the low down on Katy Perry, festival fun times and inter band rivalry in the shires.

The theme of today is rock music. How important do you believe events like this are to the genre as a whole?
Kier Kemp (KK): Well, I guess I would have to say very important! Specific rock festivals are always important because it’s a genre that gets a lot of bad press, in the sense that everybody is always going on about dying all the time. “Oh, rock’s dead”! That guitar music’s dead, but it never is and just lives on. There are always people that don’t want to listen to fucking Katy Perry… Even though I love Katy Perry, actually. That was a bad example! But, [people who] don’t want to listen to something else rubbish. It is important to have something billed as rock. It’s like: “rock music together, man!”
Cyrus Barrone (CB): This festival is particularly good because it’s got the whole street. So many venues and so many different things going on. You can basically stumble into someone you haven’t known before. You hear something outside, like when we were playing earlier with all the windows open so everybody could hear it. It means that, even if you’re not at the festival, you’re still hearing that rock music’s alive and well in Camden. If I hear a snippet of something, I’ll think “I’ll need to check that out” – that’s the appeal of these types of festival.

How does it feel to be playing in Camden, with such a unique rock music heritage? Do you feed off that a little bit?
KK: It’s pretty cool. We live down the road so it’s not quite as exciting for us…
CB: We’re seasoned!
Laurence Beveridge (LB): We used to play here every month. We had our own club night at a place called Tommy Flynn’s. We played it every month and at the first three there weren’t people there.
KK: They charged 50p to get in. We didn’t want to make money, they just wanted people to come.
Drew Woolnough (DW): We used to flyer around Camden market. Well, not flyers but wax sealed envelopes inviting people to come to the gigs. It didn’t make any difference, but it looked fucking cool.
LB: Every band in London has played a million shit gigs in Camden – write that down!
DW: But, there’ll always be a gleaming gold one, like when we played The Underworld.
LB: Some our best gigs have been in Camden. The Barfly – we sold that out. The Underworld. Where else have we played?
CB: Purple Turtle!
KK: Camden is a place of highs and lows. It’s got that stigma.
LB: We used to be here every night, just trying to meet new people and bands.

What’s your favourite Camden venue?
KK: Of the bigger ones, Roundhouse is an amazing venue. The smaller ones, Barfly, now. It used to be shite but they put a new system in and it sounds good, so Barfly’s good now. That’s where we met our sound technician, actually.

What is it that makes a good Camden venue?
KK: Dirty!
DW: It’s got to be grimy but also sound good. Sometimes you have grimy and run down, which is not good… But, then you’ve got grimy and it’s meant to be grimy. When you walk into The Underworld, you feel this stench – a wave of sweat comes over you, but you don’t mind because you know you’re going to have a good night. We don’t mind smelling of shit. It’s all about the vibes!

Urban festivals, or fun in a field?
KK: I’ve never been a massive purveyor of festivals, just because I’m a pansy and I don’t like being dirty. So, the only way I can survive is trying to be drunk the whole time, so I don’t realise I’m disgusting and horrible.
LB: I think the best festival to play and be at – definitely to play – is Takedown Festival, because it’s fucking brilliant! They just give you loads of booze, and – there’s booze everywhere. You can go anywhere with your booze. It’s all within the university, and it’s so easy to get to. There’s like five stages within three minutes’ walking distance. It’s just a walk through to another room. Just so easy, so relaxed.
CB: You feel so connected. You feel like you really get to talk to everyone. You get to meet all your friends, and talk to new bands.
LB: With most festivals, there’s always the fear of being run over. At a field festival, if you fall over then you just get a bit muddy. If you fall over here, you might get run over by a bus! I did once get run over at Glastonbury. I just wasn’t paying attention. There’s this one road that they’d kind of sectioned off – “This is where cars go”. I didn’t know this, and got run over. I say ‘run over’, he kind of nudged me out the way.
CB: But, you’ve never been run over at Camden Rocks…

Just to stick with the ‘rock’ theme; what inspired you to start making rock music in the first place?
KK: Something random, I guess. It’s kind of what you grow up with to a degree, isn’t it? My Mum was into the old punk stuff. She was a punk back when she was a kid and I just grew up on what they listened to. Then, I guess you just get naturally drawn to that kind of subculture, in a way, because if you’re not – and I hate to say mainstream – but, if you don’t fit in as a person, you often turn to things that also aren’t mainstream.
LB: At the time we were growing up, rock music was really popular. It was in every film – every thing. ‘American Pie’ had this punk rock soundtrack. ‘School of Rock’ had just come out. Everything was very rock orientated.
KK: We had pop punk, and then nu metal, and then emo all within the early years of our youth.
LB: Even hardcore was part of our youth.
CB: You get these massive albums like ‘American Idiot’ and ‘The Black Parade’; even The Killers. They were rock. Everyone had a bit of rock in them.
LB: This is what you did. If you didn’t play football, you were in a band. In our town, Beccles, there was a population of like 6,000. It’s not a big population and there were like fucking 20 bands – and we were all trying to get the same gigs. Even we were in rival bands. Half of the band… they’re two different bands.
CB: We’ve formed an uneasy alliance now…

So, there’s still some general suspicion?
CB: Oh yeah…
LB: Massive suspicion!

 

Interview: Ben Marvin and J Hurley of Hacktivist at Camden Rocks 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 11th June 2014 at 11:00 am
 

With a name like Hacktivist, an interview with some kind of 21st century incarnation of HAL 9000 would have sufficed. Instead, vocalists Ben Marvin and J Hurley spurn the monotone passive aggression to offer a colourful account of their rise to prominence, their unique rap/metal crossover style and and their love for the borough that is the heartland for London’s alternative scene at this year’s Camden Rocks festival.

So, obviously the theme of today is rock music. How important do you believe events like this are to the genre as a whole?
Ben Marvin: Very important, man! It brings everyone together – a lot of bands that have done festivals and tours together all getting to mingle. It’s good for the fans because they get to split and choose who to see and at what venue and stuff. But, yeah, really cool.

How does it feel to be playing in Camden, with such a unique rock music heritage? Do you feed off that a little bit?
J Hurley: I love coming to Camden and playing music. Every time. Obviously it’s the heart of music for London. I’ve always enjoyed playing here. The crowd’s always crazy – everyone’s always crazy! Every time we play it’s always energetic and just… crazy!
BM: It’s always a good vide in Camden. Good Chinese too.

What’s your favourite Camden venue?
JH: Underworld. But, I went to see Yelawolf at The Electric Ballroom, and that was awesome.

What is it about the Underworld that keeps drawing you back?
JH: It’s nice and dark and dingy and low…
BM: It’s a grimy venue, but it’s a big grimy venue. So, it’s the best of both worlds. Your on top of the crowd; it’s really intimate, small stage. There’s a lot of injuries take place. Ticks all the boxes.

Urban festivals, or fun in a field?
BM: I say both. Both have their qualities. I think we’re yet to play a festival or gig that we haven’t enjoyed. There’s pros to playing urban festivals. We played a lot of festivals last year where the bill’s were all over the place with the artists that were playing. So, we love doing shit like that. But, at the same time we’ve played stuff like Fieldview, which was kind of like a hippy fest so we were really out of place there. And, that was a proper ‘sit down on the grass’ kind of thing – and even that fucking went off. So, I think all festivals are good.

Sticking with the ‘rock’ theme; what inspired you to start making rock music in the first place?
JH: For me, my brother kept coming home with loads of drum n bass/rave tapes. It wasn’t even called drum n bass then! It was just ‘rave’ music to me. And, then I used to listen to the tapes and sing along to them, and then one day I just thought I might as well make my own lyrics. Rather than singing their stuff, I’ll just write my own. That was when I was young. I was probably about 14-15 when that started happening, and then when I got to 16 I thought “Right, I’m going to write lyrics now”. From then, that was it.

So, lyrically, who are your main influences?
JH: I’ve got a log of influences, like Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Pharrell Williams, P Money, I like Eminem
BM: Obviously, J’s not from the rock scene. I kind of wheeled him in a few years back, and ever since then I’ve been getting him in to metal. Then, about a year later, that’s when we started Hacktivist. I’ve been in metal (there or thereabouts) bands since I was 14, so me and J I guess got in to the music scene at the same time but from different angles. I mean, I’ve always been involved in the rock scene, so we kind of met in the middle and created Hacktivist.

How’s the reception been to your unique brand of crossover?
JH: They’re loving it. The reception’s been amazing – the reception’s been better than I thought. Every gig’s been like “woah!” – people singing along. Even when we went to Russia, there were people singing along to every single word of the lyrics. I just thought “wow!”, it blew me away, man.
BM: We’re definitely a ‘love or hate’ band. I think when we started, there was a lot of controversy about what we were doing for some reason; because we don’t fit in to a certain category or whatever. We never tried to be a certain thing anyway. It was just an experiment. We never realised we would even be a band. I think, over the course of time, even the haters are slowly moving over because – a lot of people who hear us, don’t like us. They come and see us live, and they come and speak to us and are like: “I never really got you guys, but now I get it”. It takes a while. I mean, I was the same when I was a kid and first heard Slipknot, I was like: “What the fuck is this shit?” – this is when I first started getting into the rock music and stuff. And, you know what, I listened to the album 2 or 3 times on loop and something just clicked. From then I was into heavy music. I can understand why people would automatically take a dislike to us, but overall I think the reception’s been way better than we could have ever dreamed of, man. It’s just going up and up!

Stay tuned for more of Ben’s coverage of Camden Rocks coming soon.

 

Interview: Olly Burden of Hounds at Camden Rocks 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 10th June 2014 at 11:00 am
 

B-movie mad scientists Hounds – a motley troupe of up-and-coming electro punk rockers – were delighted to occupy their slot at The Underworld for Camden Rocks 2014. Having escaped the ecological entanglement of their countryside roots, TGTF’s own Ben Parkinson managed to grab 5 minutes with lead singer Olly Burden to muse on the day and its impact on the scene at large. Here’s what he had to say:

The theme of today is rock music. How important do you believe events like this are to the genre as a whole?
I think, very important really. As we were driving into here today, as we were loading our gear in, the whole of Camden had been taken over completely by bands. Everywhere you look there’s splitter vans and transit band pulling up. I’m really impressed, to be honest, as to what Chris [McCormac, the event organiser] has done. I’m really impressed, man, he’s done a great job and it provides the opportunity for a lot of people to get some publicity – to get their name out there. And, he’s sold it out, which is amazing. I think it can only be good for the rock scene as a whole. This IS the British rock scene – the capital – and everyone’s come here to play and show what they’ve got. So, respect.

How does it feel to be playing in Camden, with such a unique rock music heritage? Do you feed off that a little bit?
We love playing Camden. We’re not a London band. We come from a tiny village out in the middle of nowhere. So, for us to be included in this type of thing is always a big deal. Even though we come up here and play a lot, it’s still a big deal because there was nothing to do where we came from apart from cause trouble and start fires and stuff like that. So, we use to look at this sort of thing and think, you know, “one day we’ll be included in something like that”. For us, now, to get the invite to play something like this, it’s like a sense of achievement. It felt like something that we would never be able to do because there was nothing going on and we didn’t feel like part of a scene where we came from. We had to work hard to get here. We love it. To be included in this today is great.

What’s your favourite Camden venue?
It’s hard to say! We’ve played most of them. We tend to play The Barfly a lot, so I’d have to say The Barfly just because we feel most at home there. The dressing room is kind of like our own living room. And, if we’re not playing and we’re going to see our friends playing it’s still the same, because it’s our mates!

Urban festivals, or fun in a field?
It’s hard to say, because we’ve just played the urban festival and it was amazing. Fun in a field is always good. We come from the countryside, so maybe we feel more at home in the woods, in the dark surrounded by trees and shrubs. So, our own festival, I feel comfortable with.

Sticking with the ‘rock’ theme; what inspired you to start making rock music in the first place?
Well, my Dad was the drummer and singer in a band, so growing up I just used to listen to rock music all the time. It was what was played in my house, and I think it’s the same for anyone that ends up in a rock band. It’s the first sound you hear. Luckily for me, it was things like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple rather than some shit pop band. So, yeah, it was in my blood, even from being a little kid. And, then it’s the same for everyone else in the band. Like I say, we grew up together in a small village, and we all gravitated towards each other because we were the only people, in a place where there was nothing to do but course trouble and play football, we gravitated towards each other because of the same interest. So, we ended up in a band together, causing chaos.

We noticed during your set that there was an element of mad scientist, with everyone coming out all in white, this throbbing light and drone going off in the background. Could you tell us about the idea behind that?
We think of ourselves as, you know… We’re always experimenting, so I guess the tag mad scientist kind of fits. It feels comfortable hearing you say that. It’s like, in a sea of black, it would be quite fitting that we’re the only band swimming in the opposite direction. Looking around, I’m probably the only guy in Camden wearing white, and I’m quite happy with that. That’s where we wanna be. We’re swimming in the opposite direction to everybody else.

So… nothing to do do with purity then?
[Laughs] It’s fuck all to do with purity! Quite the opposite.

Stay tuned for more of Ben’s coverage of Camden Rocks coming soon.

 

Interview: Tom English of Maximo Park

 
By on Thursday, 22nd May 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo by new TGTF friend Francis D

Tuesday night, indie rock legends of the North East Maximo Park held court in front of a DC crowd eager to see them play in our city since their last visit almost 2 years ago. After their blinding set that left their fans cheering for more, I had the opportunity to be sat on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel’s stage next to Maximo’s drummer Tom English to chat with him about their current North American campaign to promote their most recent release, the ‘Too Much Information’ LP, the making of that album and what’s up ahead next for the band.

This was the first time they’d played this venue in Northeast Washington, so I asked Tom how he felt the show went that night. “It was excellent. Very good atmosphere. I don’t know if you came to the last show…” I inform him that sadly, I wasn’t able to, though Cheryl substituted for me on the night they played the U Street Music Hall in September 2012. “I think we improved from the last show [here], I remember thinking we could have done better last time. I think we had quite a few technical difficulties, I can’t remember what, but it was quite a hectic night in 2012. So yeah, it felt good tonight.”

By the time I’ve caught up with Tom for this interview, Maximo Park have been in the States for a week, and the DC date is gig #6 of nine on this side of the pond. He shares with me their rather circuitous travel plan in getting to our city: “yesterday was quite a long travel day. We flew via Atlanta. We didn’t have a date in the South. So it was nice that we went through an airport in the South.” Tom says they’ve never played in Atlanta (“never, one day!”), so you know the drill, Atlanta. Sort this out for their next tour.

Inevitably since an Englishman is involved in the conversation, talk shifts to the weather. During the band’s set, frontman Paul Smith told the audience that they had gone out to see the Lincoln Memorial and the weather was just about perfect for their visit. So I ask Tom if he’s enjoying the temporary warmth we’re experiencing in a very strange Washington spring that seems unable to make up its mind if it wants to be hot or not. “The weather’s been amazing! I think you’re having a heat wave, though it sounds like there is a heat wave back at home as well. But it’s a hotter heat wave here…When we were over in Portland last week, it was 33 degrees…what is that in Fahrenheit, 100 degrees? Yeah, well, we weren’t quite prepared and a few of us had to buy some shorts last minute.” (33 degrees C is about 91.5 degrees F, for those of you who really wanted to know.)

The making of their fifth ‘Too Much Information’ album, or at least the initial stages, involved another band we’ve also written about here quite a bit on TGTF: Peter and David Brewis, aka the geniuses behind Field Music. Recording of the LP began in the brothers’ studio in Sunderland, and Tom had nothing but compliments to pay them. “It was funny. We had worked with them before a long time ago. In fact, I used to play in their band before we all got signed, I’d played with them. But obviously they have grown in stature as artists, especially as recording artists.

“Over that time, we’d been signed and released albums as well, but we’ve always admired what they do, so we’re quite in awe of them these days, even though we’re old friends. When we made the arrangement to work with them, it was really exciting! And yeah, at first I was sort of nervous. But once we got in the studio, we realised that it was as per usual, like old mates chatting, and getting on with the work we were doing with them. The business of the recording, it was really laidback, fun. Things really flowed and we worked really quickly. And I mean, it was almost too easy!”

Tom laughs thinking back on the experience with the Brewises but looks upon it as an important moment for the band’s evolution, for which he believes their mates deserve a lot of credit for. “It was just so relaxed. And we just really enjoyed it, because we’ve always worked with professional producers in proper hired studios and quite expensive studios sometimes, and I think doing that was really a professional stepping stone for us, because it basically gave us the confidence to self-produce because we know they’ve (the Brewis brothers) been doing it all the time. They’re very uncompromising, they wouldn’t work with a producer even if they were asked to, whereas we’ve always relied on producers before now. But we’ve picked up a lot of equipment and know-how along the way while our own studio was being finished in Newcastle and so we finished the first four or five songs with Peter and David, and then we just carried on in our own place, and I guess we have them to thank for that, that we eventually, finally got around to self-producing an album and not relying on anyone else.”

I ask Tom if working without the restrictions of a an outside producer was freeing or did it actually induce more anxiety from the pressure of trying to produce something of equal or greater quality as they had in the past with outside producers. “Suddenly, we weren’t on anyone else’s clock, you know? And you can do things one thing at a time. When you work with a producer, the way it is, you have 10 or so songs and you go in, ready, and that’s it. The clock ticks, and you’ve got to get them down, one track a day. Three tracks a week, or whatever the budget demands. If you’re in your own place, you can work at your own pace, write one song, record it, stop. Write another. You don’t have to have everything prepared in a batch.”

He went on to explain just how exciting that was to them, to have this new and better way of recording. “So that meant we could experiment more, the set-up changed, all the positions of the mikes or equipment we were using. It was very liberating, both artistically and technically as well. It sounds a bit nerdy, but it opens things up because you can do what you like in your own time. You can make mistakes and you’re not all, ‘oh, we’re paying these guys by the hour, we just wasted a whole week!’ That kind of thing happens. So, yeah, this was great.”

I wondered how it felt to the band to play the new songs directly next to Maximo classics from the past, especially now that they have amassed a pretty big back catalogue from where they can choose their set lists from. I particularly enjoyed seeing the audience in Washington react positively to the new material, just as they did to the songs they know by heart. Tom says where they are right now has translated to a better live experience for the fans. “It’s great, it’s really satisfying [playing the new songs], it’s a good time, we’ve been touring this album since February, what is that, like 4 months? So it feels like the new ones are up to speed with [those], so much so that we’re comfortable playing them like the old ones, so we’re not having to concentrate as much. Because when you first start introducing new songs to the set, it’s really tiring to play a new song, and then you play an old song and it’s dead easy, because you’re not concentrating so hard. Now it’s kind of the same level, so the whole show improves. And people seem to really dig it. I think there is a lot more variety in the set now, because our sound has changed quite a lot, but it’s very nice to know it can all work together.”

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Speaking of variety, I point out that ‘Too Much Information’ itself is quite a variety of songs. In November 2013, the first song from the album Maximo Park released to the wild from the then upcoming release, ‘Brain Cells’, seemed to indicate a sonic shift of the group’s sound toward dance. I describe how I was initially shocked at this change in direction, but Tom quickly dismisses this as a sudden change, saying that electronic influences had been hanging around in the background for some time. “I dunno, I think maybe the beginnings of it was on the last album. We worked with a kind of dance producer on the track ‘Hips or Lips’, with a producer named Amir Amor. He’s now in a really successful pop group in the UK (Rudimental). They’re really dancey with jungle beats. We started to use programmed beats and some more sequenced synth-types sound.

“Again, it’s kind of derived from the equipment we use. And we’ve always had an appreciation for it: we’ve been on Warp Records and we’ve listened to a lot of electronic music over the years. It’s just creeped in, and as you get older, you get more confidence to try new things out. So from your point of you, yeah, it seemed like a bit of a shock, but for us, it wasn’t such a great leap because it’s a musical language we’ve been conversant in, but not actually expressed publicly until now. And I guess we’ll continue to do that, it’s been going down really well.” He admits, “it does have its limitations. It’s harder to do live with the same dynamic. Rock songs work because it ties you down to certain tempos, and it has been a challenge to incorporate it (dance) into our style but we’ll see where it leads us.”

This summer, some of their highest profile appearances include festival turns at Germany’s Rock am Ring, T in the Park in Scotland (“we might get on telly in the UK for that”) and Split Festival in Sunderland, as well as a show in London’s Hyde Park with the Libertines and Spiritualized (“should be interesting”). But the most exciting item to Tom in the Maximo date book in the coming warmer months is “some crazy event” in Seoul, Korea, where they’ve never been. “Complete first for us. Have no idea what to expect. We’ve been out to Bangkok and Beijing before, so that was cool…It tends to be quite weird because not everyone can afford to come to the festivals there…I guess it would be some fairly snazzy, touristic event. I don’t know. Maybe not?” He says this with a hopeful smile. “Guess we’ll see when we get there! Going to new countries is always fascinating.”

I am curious how it feels to have people reacting to their music, especially if their first language is not English. The fans are singing the lyrics back them, while the band themselves are aware they might not fully understand the meaning of the songs. “It is amazing how many people speak English [all over the world]. But at the same time, we connect with people on a more musical or physical level.” So whether they’re playing in Santiago (a location name checked in new song ‘I Recognise the Night’) or on the other side of the world in Seoul as they will be this summer, the most important things to Tom and the rest of Maximo Park are how the crowd is responding to their energy and that their fans are having fun. And that’s what it’s really about, isn’t it?

After I’d stopped recording, we chatted a little while longer and I learned two very interesting things: 1) like me, Tom is a Liverpool supporter (yes!) and 2) the night I went to see David Brewis’ solo project School of Language at Manchester Deaf Institute last month, Tom was there too in the audience, with two other Maximo members in tow. That’s mental!

Many thanks to Tom for chatting with me. Big thank yous also go out to Jesse and Brian for helping arrange this interview.

 

Liverpool Sound City 2014 Interview: Tommy Wright of Young Kato

 
By on Monday, 12th May 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and even if you want to pretend you don’t watch Made in Chelsea, you already know that Cheltenham six-piece Young Kato appeared on the tv programme and their fame has grown by leaps and bounds. Having written about them nearly 2 years ago in this Bands to Watch feature in the summer of 2012, I couldn’t be more chuffed for their success.

They’ve been so busy being on the road with You Me at Six and doing their own gigs and making festival appearances, singer Tommy Wright had to rush to meet me after the band just had headed west after making an afternoon appearance at Live at Leeds and had just arrived in Liverpool. Listen below as I speak with the singer of one of the hottest up and coming bands around.

Many thanks to Tommy for his time: I know time was tight in Liverpool, Tommy, and I appreciate you chatting with me. Big thanks also to Paul for sorting this interview out for me.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music 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 idiots.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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