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Air Cav have long been fêted by Manchester’s in-the-know commentators as one to watch. Yet despite plugging away since 2006, it was only at the tail-end of last year that the world finally got to hear the assertive beauty of long-awaited debut album ‘Don’t Look Indoors’. A clever blend of shoegaze, folk stylings courtesy of Sophie Nield’s pretty violin work, and never far away from the raucousness of punk, Air Cav are quite a unique proposition on record. TGTF caught up with them in advance of the penultimate date of their short national tour, to chat about the gestation of their album, the state of the Manchester scene, and being the musical equivalent of the city of Hull.
So how come it’s taken Air Cav so long since their first single in 2008 to visit Newcastle? Drummer Allan Gaskin takes up the story: “First of all, we took the time to perfect the live show, and learnt how to convert the songs so that they sounded good on record. We self-funded the album by begging, borrowing and stealing studio time. It’s been a long process, but we’re happy with the results, and the album has had a great critical reception. We’ve visited places on this tour that we’ve never seen, zig-zagging up and down the country, and it’s all been very positive.”
Talk turns to the state of the music scene of their native Manchester. Singer and guitarist Chris Nield opines, “Manchester’s all well and good but it’s not the be all and end all. We go down differently in different towns. Even though it’s your home crowd, Manchester can be a hard crowd. I’d rather play places like Oxford last night where the room was packed, than Manchester where it can be arms folded, chins being stroked, trying to impress people.”
Violinist Sophie Parkes concurs: “Manchester can be very trend-conscious. There’s loads of unsigned bands, which sounds really vibrant, but in reality, things can be spread quite thinly and it’s difficult to find like-minded bands to get momentum going.” Chris: “We’ve enjoyed playing with like-minded bands outside Manchester. It freshens you up.”
The obsession with bands reforming to make a quick buck is clearly something Allan takes issue with. “There’s loads of old bands reforming: The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, New Order, Inspiral Carpets… they were even going to wheel out 808 State!”
Oisín (bass): “It’s come at a bad time, just when the scene was moving away from its stereotypical heritage, for years there were new bands trying to copy the old ones, and with these bands reforming it’s happening all over again!”
Chris expands: “If you’ve not got any hype behind you, Manchester’s not interested – it’s as if it needs to be told what to like by a handful of promoters, tastemakers in a way, one or two who really call the shots when it comes to so-called trendy Manchester gigs. If you’re not in with them, then it’s difficult. The “Manchester mafia” phrase gets used quite a lot – but we’re not criticising it too much because we’ve played some of those gigs – we’re in it!”
Sophie: “There are a lot of venues now, which can mean that standards slip because there are a lot of bills to be filled with lots of bands. But it’s not all gloom: we’ve had plenty of support from people like BBC Introducing; we’ve lots to thank them for.”
Well, that’s the music scene on the ground in Manchester put to rights. So how have the band found the rest of the country on this tour? Sophie: “Our favourite city? I enjoyed Oxford, which is my hometown, and Hull was a surprise: we thought it was going to be dead, but we had a great reception, we were signing CDs – I could get used to that! Maybe it’s because Hull’s always been a very independent place and we’ve always been a very independent band – you could call us the Hull of bands!”
And what does the future hold for Air Cav?
Chris wraps things up: “We need to maximise our momentum! We’ll be clever about where we play, and not so long making the second album. We’re flying the flag for DIY, self-release, self touring, which is a great ethos. We’re not waiting for anyone else to do it for us – do it yourself!”
And with that, I leave the band to an all-important pre-gig conflab. Newcastle’s The Watchers are in support; straight out of an early ’70s West Coast acid-drowned summer festival, complete with hazy reverb, distorted vocals, and slow-burning epics that drown in a sea of droning guitar and then come up screaming for air. Yet there are songs buried deep in the bowels of these jams; the band are not just one-trick noiseniks. Watch the Watchers.
And then it’s Air Cav’s debut Newcastle performance. As on record, admirably noisy, delicately ambient, vigourously punky. Chris Nield is Brian Molko and Jarvis Cocker‘s lovechild, his mixture of avuncular Northern chap and piercing, assertive vocals dominate the performance. But this is a band greater than its parts; the rhythm section are tight yet complex, and Sophie Parkes’ violin is one moment an Irish-pub fiddle riff in the middle of ‘A Call to Arms’, the next it provides washes of colour over the more ambient moments in the set; not for nothing do the band claim inspiration from the shoegaze movement. (But doesn’t everyone, these days?)
This is a great set from a band very much hitting their stride. If there’s any criticism it’s not in the delivery. Where is the three-minute punk rollock to go with the more thoughtful, drawn-out material? Where is the power chorus that comes in before a minute is up? The band are clearly capable of invoking a variety of atmospheres – if they add the power single to their repertoire, or simply allow an editor to snip one or two of their current pieces into shape, they would be better placed for world domination. And the freedom of the city of Hull would be one step closer.
More of Martin’s high-res photos can be viewed on his Flickr.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 30th March 2012 at 1:00 pm
Polarsets are another great band from the North East that’s making waves in the indie blogosphere. They were one of my 10 new bands to watch at SXSW and I did catch them play the British Music Embassy’s Northern Day at Latitude 30 on Saturday 17 March. But the day before, I was able to corner drummer James Rudd and keyboardist / synthesist Mike Smith for a chat in Irish pub B.D. Riley’s on Sixth Street. (Singer Rob Howe was unable to participate, as he had misplaced his ID and well, we met in a pub!)
I wanted to ask them some questions, like how they manage to sound tropical even though they’re from the ‘cold’ North, about their relationship with Neon Gold Records, and how they were enjoying themselves in Austin. Watch it below. [Editor's note: our original shooting location of Buffalo Billiards across the street was thwarted because the place doesn't open until 12 noon. I thought with the Irish breakfast promotion, people would be eating and chatting and that would be it, but suddenly a band started up at half past 11. The best laid plans...]
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 29th March 2012 at 11:00 am
In the wake of the magnificence that is their new album ‘Aabenbaringen over aaskammen’ that I reviewed in January, we sent some questions over to singer / synthesiser man Ketil Kinden Endresen of Casiokids to answer. Read on to find out about how the album was recorded and their theme of a magical rainforest explorer, how the real London Zoo disappointed him, and his personal apology to the people of Cambridge…
I read on the press release for ‘Aabenbaringen over aaskammen’ that you recorded the new album in an abattoir converted into a studio. Sounds a bit gruesome. Was it? Was there ever a feeling of unsettledness? How do you feel your surroundings affected, either positively or negatively, the recording?
Howls, grunts, squeals and barks from animal ghosts are indeed very scary. It keeps us on a healthy edge during the recording process.
When you guys were advertising for your Manchester Deaf Institute on Twitter, you mentioned Manchester had something to do with the writing of the chorus of “Aldri ska me ha det gøy’ and you Tweeted me a photo of a van being towed away. What’s the story behind this?
“Aldri ska me ha det gøy”= “We’re never ever going to have any fun”. It was a song we wrote there in 2009 after our van broke down on the way. Never fun.
The timing for ‘Olympiske leker’ and ‘London Zoo’ couldn’t have been better with the London Olympics this summer. Was this just a coincindence / happy accident? Any word if Norway will have you playing and representing them at the opening ceremony?
The idea for the Olympic theme came from the synth line, which I thought sounded so triumphant. It felt like the obvious way to go, and I’ve always wanted to have an Olympic-themed song. I discovered something the opposite of wonderful on my visit to London Zoo though, where a bunch of up-to-no-good geezers were making fun and throwing things at the gorillas, calling them names.
At least in English language terms, ‘Dr. Tarzan Monsoon’ has the most overtly jungle / tropical theme to date. What was the inspiration(s) behind this track, complete with animals squawking?
The backdrop for the themes and moods of the album is the story of explorer Dr. Tarzan Monsoon discovering a magical rainforest. We had to have a theme tune for him, so during this song I imagine him taking the first steps off his plane and walking into the unknown.
Continuing with the tropical line of questioning, Norway (and the whole of Scandinavia) isn’t particularly famous for tropical temperatures. In the beginning of Casiokids and through to today, your music always seems to have a dancey, carnival type quality. Are you channeling favourite artists, places you’ve visited, etc.?
I like that you say “carnival”, as that is on my short-list of songs to make. A carnival song. Yes, I like it. Do we channel things we hear/see/eat? Sure, I guess we all do to some extent, channel everything we like and produce a combination of that. Did you know the top searched for word on Wikipedia is “Wikipedia”? And that the most popular password to use is “password”? I guess what I’m trying to say is, we channel things, but we also try to make them our own, not only spit out what comes up in front of us, if we would have done so all our songs would have been about rain, and that’s not what we like, though it is in front of people who live in Bergen over 200 days a year.
On this album, there is a song I’d class as a “ballad” – ‘Elefantenes hemmelige gravplass’. Does it really translate to “elephant secret cemetery”? It also feels very ’80s to me. How would you describe it? How did it come about?
Yes, the Elephants’ Secret Graveyard, inspired by that legend of the mystical place elephants go to alone when they know they’re getting close to the end. Dr Tarzan Monsoon stumbles upon this place, which again triggers thoughts about his own mortality.
Who is in control of the van stereo when you are on tour? And what kind of music gets played? What bands/songs are getting Casiokids’ blood pumping these days?
Ive made some mixes that are up on our Soundcloud. Here’s the latest, check it out.
Which was the most surprising date on this past UK tour and why?
That would have to be Cambridge. Can’t believe we haven’t played there before. A quick look at our touring history at Casiokids.com and I can see we’ve played 103 concerts in the UK since our first show there, in Brighton 2008. Cambridge has the 57th largest UK settlement by population, so statistically we should have played there already (1.5 times). I can only apologize that we have not gotten our figures right here.
Where next and which festivals this summer are you guys taking ‘Aabenbaringen over aaskammen’ to this year?
Here are the ones that have been announced so far:
04.05.12 Denmark, Aarhus, Spot festival
15.06.12 France, Toulon, Rockorama
30.06.12 UK, Gloucestershire, Winterwell festival
21.07.12 Norway, Nordfjoreid, Malakoff Festival
03.08.12 UK, Standon, Standon Calling
What would you/Casiokids like to do in 2012 that you’ve never done before?
We would very much like to tour in a boat.
Many thanks to Ketil for answering our questions and Kate for sorting this interview out for us. Watch the new video for ‘Kaskaden’, their new single out next week. It’s another track from the amazing ‘Aabenbaringen over aaskammen’(review here).
This is part 2 of Luke’s interview with two of the guys from Mallory Knox. Missed part 1? No worries, head this way.
Would you say your new album is more mature than ‘Pilots’?
Sam: It’s hard to say, I don’t want to say we’re heavier, I don’t want to say we’re softer, I don’t want to say we’re catchier, I just think we’ve got better as song writers and we’ve understood what we want to more than when we wrote ‘Pilot’. With ‘Pilot’ we were like, “Right we’re a new band let’s write some songs”, then we started to think we had to make ‘Pilot’ songs again, but then it was like, “fuck this, let’s just do it again and write what we want”.
Who do you think are your new influences? Who’s changed things for you?
Mikey: What we’ve always been really happy about with Mallory is that we all really enjoy different music so different influences are brought into different things. Dave (drums) is into his heavier music and he’ll bring that into his drums, whereas Sam and myself are into lighter music as well as pop-punk and things like that.
Sam: I love Thrice. Their last album ‘Major Minor’ was definitely one. We’ve always loved Alexisonfire, they were a huge influence on ‘Pilot’. Mumford & Sons, Death Cab For Cutie but then I like Dillinger Escape Plan, we’re literally hitting everything.
Mikey: But then you’ll go round James’ (guitar) house and he’ll be dancing in his boxers to Katy Perry.
You’ve received a lot of buzz from the mainstream music press, has it felt like you had to live up to it?
Sam: It’s so weird. When we were 16/17 we would have killed to get in those sort of magazines, but now that we’ve done it we want more. We’re never satisfied. As much as we think ‘Great, people like us and the magazines like what we’re doing’, we’re always striving for a bit more.
Mikey: I think we landed at a very good time. A lot of people were perhaps tired of certain genres to a degree and they wanted to listen to something a little different. I’m not saying we’re ‘out there’ by any means but we’ve always strived to play what we wanted to hear and I hope that reflects in the music and with our fans.
What will it take for you to know that you’ve ‘made it’?
Sam: We know there’s a big ladder to climb and we’ve barely got on it yet. But look at Deaf Havana, two years ago they were doing ok with the EP and now they’re on main stage at Reading, and that gives us hope. We don’t want to compete with other bands because I don’t believe in that bullshit, I’m happy for people when they do well.
Mikey: You’re always sat there when you’re a teenager and you’re looking at these bands like ‘my god, they’re seeing the world and enjoying themselves’.
Sam: I don’t think it’s ever going to get old for us. I’m a big fan of Lower Than Atlantis and Deaf Havana and when I saw them it was cool, man! Playing the same stage with them was good for us, but let’s do this again let’s keep going. But we know there’s a long way to go.
Judging by the crowd reaction today you’ve got a solid fanbase…
Mikey: We love ‘em.
Sam: The people at the front, the first 10 to 15 rows had people who knew who we were. Then as you move further back it’s people who’re probably checking us out for the first time. Even if people aren’t jumping, you can spot our lot because they’re proper going for it.
Mikey: We’ve just bumped into a kid who’s come from Germany to see us today. For us, who’ve come from a backwater town in the middle of the countryside…
Sam: We come from Cambridge, feel sorry for us. (laughs)
Mikey: For someone to take the time and put their money into coming here is humbling.
Sam: Especially today, there’s like four other bands they could’ve seen at the same time but they chose us and that’s fucking wicked. We were wondering if anyone was going to be there.
Hopefully this is your first of many festivals, what else have you got planned for the summer?
Sam: Hit The Deck festival, Crash Doubt festival which is going to be good because we’re on before Martyr Defiled.
Mikey: We’ve got a really exciting one that we’re not allowed to say unfortunately, but it’ll come out soon.
[On Monday – the day following Takedown – it was announced that Mallory Knox are playing Download festival.]
Are you going on tour again or is it just festivals?
Sam: Nothing’s confirmed but the plan is to do a tour before the album and a tour after the album. But not in the summer, it’s festival season and all that. The album’s not even been given a release date, I reckon late summertime.
Finally, if the world ends at the end of 2012, what’s the last thing you’re going to do?
Mikey: I’m going to make sure that I attend a party. There’s got to be a few hasn’t there? We’ll go to the before party, if everything’s ok then we’ll go to the after party. I’ll be wearing a crash helmet, though, and maybe some body armour.
Sam: I’ll probably just try and get that little kid on Call of Duty again.
Mikey: Revenge. We will be getting revenge.
Sam: I’ve got his gamertag, he’s fucked.
Mallory Knox will be playing a number of festivals this summer across the UK, as well as hopefully a tour before the release of their debut LP which will undoubtedly go down a storm. Visit their Facebook page for more information.
Cambridge alt-rockers Mallory Knox recently played their first ever festival show at Southampton’s Takedown Festival to a fantastic reception. I caught up with frontman Mikey Chapman and bassist Sam Douglas to find out how it went, as well as getting the low-down on their debut album and Call Of Duty.
It’s your first-ever festival show, how was it for you?
Mikey: It was just phenomenal. We’ve always been the guys in the crowd appreciating all the different bands, running around like a headless chicken making sure you see all your favourite bands. To be up on the stage instead is amazing, it gives us a sort of gratification for what we’re doing.
Was it daunting playing the main stage with some of the biggest bands in the scene?
Sam: When we saw what the lineup was for that particular stage we were a bit like ‘Fuck! We’re playing with some really fucking good bands today.’ We were a bit nervous, it’s our first festival and bit different to a normal show, so we didn’t really know what to expect. We’ve only been going a little while and wondered ‘will people know who we really are?’, then we played that and it’s one of my favourite shows we’ve ever done.
Mikey: We’re always really keen for new people to hear us, something like this is the perfect opportunity. Someone will come out to see Don Broco or Deaf Havana and hopefully they’ll catch us.
Who are you going to try and catch today?
Sam: There’s so many. I’m really looking forward to seeing Skindred, I’ve got to be honest. We’ve got a lot of friends that we want to watch as well, I want to see Polar. because they’ve got the new album coming out, Feed the Rhino blow me away every time, but I’m a big fan of Deaf Havana as well and Don Broco. There’s so many bands, this festival is so good. Every single band is doing well in their own right and the lineup on every stage is good.
Mikey: Even if we weren’t playing I think we’d have come down to this one because there’s a lot of friends playing it and a load of really good bands as well.
You’re named after Juliette Lewis’ character in ‘Natural Born Killers’ who shot Robert Downey Jr.’s character repeatedly…
Mikey: She did enjoy that, didn’t she? She’s a little bit twisted… we’re not that twisted. We definitely don’t shoot people. On record. (laughs)
Sam: We couldn’t think of a name and we didn’t want to give it a name where you could be like ‘oh that band’s quite clearly pop-punk, or that band’s quite clearly heavy metal’, and then Joe (guitarist) came up with the idea of calling it a person’s name, and it was Mallory Knox or Dorian Gray. But then they brought that film out, ‘Dorian Gray’, so Mallory Knox it is. I’d never seen the film, if I’d known I’d have been like ‘We’re named after a murderer, man…fuck’.
Mikey: It’s quite interesting though because with Micky and Mallory Knox they have a strong relationship, they’re very much ‘in’ love, you know? But they’re so dark at the same time so it’s quite an amazing comparison, so I think we did well there.
Have you ever wanted to shoot somebody repeatedly?
Mikey: On the record, no.
Sam: On Call of Duty there was this little kid about 10 years old who kept shooting me then calling me names and stuff… no that sounds bad, like I want to shoot a ten year old (laughs). It was only on Call pf Duty I promise. He stopped me going Prestige! Down the headset he was like (high pitched) “rah rah rah rah”, I was like, “Oh my god, I’m getting mugged off by a 10 year old”. I never did get him back.
You’ve got your debut album coming out soon, can you tell us a bit about it?
Mikey: It’s been a long time coming. We finished ‘Pilot’ before we came out, so for us it’s been a year and a half in the running now.
Sam: We finished writing ‘Pilot’ in January 2010, then that came out on Wolf At Your Door last summer, so it was like a year and half ’til that came out properly. So we’ve been writing for about two and a half years, we went through some crap and it was hard to get back into it. We’d left it a year to try and write stuff, and we were writing stuff that wasn’t really what we wanted to do. But then it just clicked. We wrote one song and it’s just come from there. It’s sound is still like ‘Pilot’ but I think we’ve progressed and become better song writers. If people liked ‘Pilot’ they’re gonna like this as well.
Mikey: We’ve had a lot of new influences and new inspirations, not just musically, but in terms of the way we’re thinking. We just got older. It’s only like a year and a half but people grow up pretty quickly.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview to be posted next week!
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 23rd March 2012 at 1:15 pm
One of the bands that I was absolutely dying to see at SXSW this year was Northern Irish band General Fiasco. We’ve written quite a bit about them here on TGTF and I’ve always loved their videos, but had I ever seen them live? Nope. So last Wednesday (14 March) I was treated to a double dose of GF, first with an interview in the lovely Austin sunshine, and then that night at the Northern Irish showcase, where they played alongside Derry’s Wonder Villains and #7 on our 10 for 2012 poll Cashier No. 9 (review coming soon; in the meantime read Cheryl’s 10 for 2012 profile on them here, my Bands to Watch feature on them here).
To expedite the posting of our interviews and to avoid lag times in transcription, we filmed video chats with the bands we met. Special thanks to Ed Blow for manning the camera on this one (I feel terrible as he’d never done it before and had a hand sprain afterwards); cheers for taking one for the team, mate! And if you’re wondering what that squawking was, there was a bird sitting in the tree directly above the band, and evidently he wanted in on the action – a bit of Austin wildlife flavour, if you will.