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He’s best friends with Scrubs’ Zach Braff, he’s been compared to American songwriting legend Paul Simon on more than one occasion, his songs have been on every TV show going and he has a new album out at the moment. Who are we talking about? Joshua Radin, of course.
Radin’s career has been an interesting one; it’s been half a decade since he released his debut ‘We Were Here’ and regrettably, his stateside success hasn’t really translated in the UK. When asked how he hoped his new offering will fare across the pond he simply said, “I have no idea but I’ll hope they’ll like it! This is a slightly different album to the one I’ve released in the USA. It’s got a song I didn’t release over there, which is actually the single ‘I Missed You’.”
You can tell why his music appeals to so many in the States: singer/songwriters like him are in high demand. Radin, though, has the edge, in the fact that he actually is extremely talented. The album peaked at number 3 in the US folk charts but Joshua said that he didn’t really bother with all of that: “I don’t really pay too much attention to that sort of thing, I just keep my head down and focussed on the creative part and let the business people, well, get on with the business part.”
It’s easy to see then that he values his work above all else and while he isn’t too interested in charts, he did admit, “if you focus at all on the business side of it, like how many records you sell or what chart position you get, then it can go bad. I mean, it’s a great sense of accomplishment if your work does chart high but if not and you focus on it too much, you can end up feeling like a failure. I suppose you have to take one with the other. The thing with reviews and all those kinds of things, if you believe the good ones you have to consider the bad ones, so well I just try and stay out of it.”
His new single ‘I Missed you’ has already been out for a while and has even entered the top 40. When I asked what the song was about, it really could only be one thing. “There was a girl at home before I left for a tour, which is always the case on a tour, and I always end up meeting some girl 2 or 3 days before I leave. So I tried to write a pop song, because I thought maybe if I write a pop song it’ll end up on the radio and she might hear it, so maybe it would be like a cooler love letter?” That’s how down to earth a man he is though, he doesn’t hide behind smokescreens; he is honest and touching in his words. He wanted to send a message out so he wrote a song, it’s as simple as that.
It’s something of a cliché to denigrate the musical abilities of drummers, stretching back to the old “Is Ringo the best drummer in the world? He not even the best drummer in the Beatles!” joke, and probably far further than that. The drummer is more often than not the most wacky and unhinged member of their respective bands, the zenith of such virtues being the crazed and ultimately self-destructive antics of Keith Moon, who did very little to inhibit the stereotype of drummers as party fiends – out on the town while their peers are back in the hotel room, writing the next album.
One slightly less explored facet of the drummer’s mindset is that of frustrated musician: while their bandmates are debating chord sequences, melody lines, and harmony, they’re stuck behind the kit, with no notes to play. Dave Hyde, Futureheads’ sticksman, has clearly outgrown life behind the kit and is taking advantage of a break in the Futureheads’ output to put together a project of his own. Teaming up with Neil “Beast” Bassett, formerly of defunct Sunderland band the Golden Virgins and now running his own studio, Hyde & Beast last week released their debut album, ‘Slow Down’, and played a handful of launch gigs.
They make a slightly odd couple, the younger, slighter, more provocative Hyde in contrast to the tall, greying, bearded, more considered Bassett. But as will become clear, the partnership works well. TGTF caught up with them over a beer at the Cluny 2, their almost-homecoming gig, in Newcastle rather than their hometown of Sunderland. So chaps, given Dave already has a band, and Neil is busy with his studio, how did this all start?
Dave Hyde: We’ve known each other as buddies for twelve years or so, and when the ’Heads decided to take some time off, I was bored and decided to record a couple of songs I’d had for a while.
Neil “Beast” Bassett: Dave came into the studio just to record two of his songs, and that was going to be it, but we liked them, and Dave kept coming back. It’s a nice hideout, you can escape from the world in there, and I think Dave wanted to hide from the world for a bit.
Dave: I wanted to start paying rent!
Neil: So after Dave put down his first two songs, I got involved a bit more, in production and lyric writing, and it just grew from there. There was never an intentional plan to start a band, that only came about when we had about nine songs, and we thought, “Wait a minute, that’s almost an album!” But I think even then, we were just going to do an album for ourselves really, we never thought anyone else would be interested in it. But some people at the Futureheads’ management heard it and they spurred us on a little bit and said, this is actually good!
Dave: When we showed friends some of the songs, they thought it was good, and we were liking it ourselves, because we were making it, and listening to it a lot…
Neil: Everything I’ve ever done musically in the past I think is good – you wouldn’t do it otherwise. Whatever you’re doing at the time, if you finish it, must be good enough for you to finish. So it’s hard to figure out whether stuff actually is good. So it was when other people started to say it was good, we were like, “Really?”
Dave: It egged us on a bit, gave us that boost of confidence that we needed, without really asking for it.
Sounds like a nicely organic approach to songwriting.
Dave: A track a day without really any ideas at the start of the day, and at the end of the day we’d have a tune.
Neil: It almost feels like the songs wrote themselves. We didn’t know what we had at the start of the day, the next nine hours are a bit of a blur, because it’s a bit of a weird studio, it’s dark in there, you can go a bit crazy and a bit cabin feverish. Then there always seemed to be a moment at the end of the day where almost a light came on, and you listen back to it and say, “Wow! There’s a song! Where did that come from?”
Dave: Very organic. Very green!
How’s it translating live?
Dave: It’s different, I think it’s a little heavier than the album, only because we don’t want to make people go to sleep, we want people to dance every now and again.
Neil: It was odd when we first started rehearsing, because anything that we’ve both done in the past has been played as a band first, so when it comes to playing live, it’s easy, because you’ve already played them live, just not in front of people. Whereas here, Dave played 90% of the stuff on the album, and it was all thrown together, so we were like, “How did we do that?” But we worked it out.
Dave: The difficult thing was for me and him to remember what we’d played.
Neil: When we were recording, Dave would say, “I want to put a guitar on here, how about this?” and play some chord or other, and we’d record it, so lots of parts have literally been played once. So when it came to playing live, we had to pull up the session tracks on the computer and then listen though to work it out.
Dave: And when we heard it, half the time we were like, “What actually is that?”
There’s a lot of unusual sounds on the album.
Neil: There’s all sorts on there, like the sound of a balloon with a kazoo in being let down. A lot of the stuff we’d take normal sounds and pitch shift it down a couple of octaves. I tended to name things in an onomatopoeic way, so there’s something on there called “vibro-cymbal” with this whump-whump sound, and we had to try and figure out how we’d made that sound. And why it was even on there! I think there were studio pixies – we’d stop and lock up the studio, and they’d come out with some LSD and have a little pixie party and record vibro-cymbals over our songs without us there!
Were the Beatles and T. Rex stylings deliberate?
Dave: The sounds are deliberate, but we didn’t say beforehand, let’s make this sound like the Beatles.
Neil: That’s the sort of music we like to listen to, so it was fun for me to try and reproduce those sounds. There’s a little bass solo on Louis’ Lullaby, that we put in because we loved the bass sound so much. We put a drum head up against the bass amp, then we miked up the drum, which gave a slightly discordant, ‘Pet Sounds’ feel to the bass. We cleared a space in the song just for that sound because you can’t hear how beautiful it sounds with everything else on there. The sound of T. Rex guitars are a specific amp, and pedals, and guitar, which we didn’t have. So we tried different things, and ended up with a Hamptone valve pre-amp, hand-built in America, and it’s just got one big tank-like dial, that the more you turn it up the dirtier it gets. It’s a combination of that, and Dave’s £10 Woolworths guitar that he uses.
Dave: It’s a Japanese Audition guitar, which is a bag of shit, but it works!
What do you think about the North-East scene? It was a blow that the Ignition festival got cancelled.
Dave: We didn’t think it was going to happen, to be honest. It was a festival that got too ambitious, too soon.
Neil: The Futureheads run Split festival in Sunderland, which started off about 5,000 people and is growing very slowly. There’s too many festivals, people can’t afford to go to a festival every weekend.
Dave: We’ve got high hopes about Split, but it’s not a huge festival, we’re trying to cater for 5,000 or 6,000 people, instead of growing too quickly.
It would be nice for Sunderland to get one over Newcastle by having a festival that actually works!
Dave: Sunderland’s a vibrant place for music at the minute.
Neil: Newcastle as a city is very metropolitan. I like coming here for a night out, but I think because Sunderland isn’t so metropolitan, and it doesn’t have the good record shops, or the bars, or the venues, the people that are in bands aren’t following the current hot new thing. By the time bands get to hear the hot new thing, it was recorded a year ago, and the record industry are already onto something new. But because bands in Sunderland aren’t following that, they don’t know what’s fashionable, people just do their own thing. When the Futureheads came out, there wasn’t anybody else that had a sound like that, same with Field Music, same with Frankie and the Heartstrings, with their ’50s element, there was no-one doing that. And I think it comes across – people just do their own thing.
Dave: People are bored shitless in Sunderland it seems! So being in a band is the only thing to do. That and going to Nando’s.
Neil: I like the idea that your surroundings somehow subconsciously influence your sound. I like the story of this punky hardcore band from Northumberland, China Drum – they played about 1,000 miles an hour, their songs were so fast. And in an interview they were asked why the songs were so fast, and it turns out they used to rehearse in a pig barn on someone’s farm, which didn’t have any heating, and the only way to stay warm was to play fast songs! And my studio’s very warm, so we play very slowly!
Thanks to Natasha for her help in setting this interview up for us.
By Luke Morton
on Tuesday, 23rd August 2011 at 12:00 pm
Prior to her haunting set at this year’s Field Day, I spoke to Nika Danilova, aka Zola Jesus, about her upcoming album, current tour and more.
You’re only 22, is it weird that you’re performing your music all across the world?
I think I’m starting to lose time. I get nervous that time’s slipping from me so the earlier I get started the better. This is not even the beginning.
You were performing opera at a young age, do you think that training as influenced your music as a whole?
I think it definitely changed the way I sing, which I can’t take back now. Maybe in a sense I think everything has indirectly influenced my music because of who I am and where I came from.
You say where you came from affects your music?
It made me a different person.
Your new album – ‘Conatus’ – is coming out next month, what can we expect?
A lot of different things. Of course it’s still going to sound like ‘Stridulum’ in a sense because it’s me, but I’ve really tried to do almost the opposite of ‘Stridulum’. It’s like an inversion of my style before, just because I felt like I needed to challenge what I was doing and making in order to grow as an artist and as a musician. You can expect some changes in the sonic quality, the production, the instruments and everything.
What were the main influences of the new album?
Probably, again indirectly, things like 808 State and Aphex Twin I’ve been listening to a lot of, but you probably can’t notice that on the record. I was more influenced by doing things that I didn’t have the skill to do, so I had to learn new things and had to kind of push through a lot of setbacks.
Quite an emotional album then?
It was very emotional. I think lyrically it’s different because it’s much more personal and the record, in a way, documents my process of trying to be better and trying to grow as a human being and as a performer and of course you’re going to do through a lot of catharsis doing that.
A word that comes up a lot when describing Zola Jesus is “dark”; do you think that’s justified?
It’s a little bit of a dichotomy because I do think about things in a way that’s more misanthropic or more nihilistic, but as a person I try to work through those things in a way that’s optimistic. It’s like having a mental disorder and trying to overcome it, which is exactly what it is. So I try to be positive about it and who I am as a person is the opposite of dark – extremely open and communicative.
When you’re performing on stage you almost look like you’re in a trance, would you say there’s a different ‘you’ on stage as to off it?
The me on stage is basically me trying to not throw up while I’m on stage. The more I can forget there’s people in front of me the better off I am and so in doing that I need to completely turn off and do something that is way more intrinsic and kind of close my eyes. Maybe that’s what makes it in one way more theatrical or visual is because of movement, I’m a very rhythmic person. At the same time I think it’s important to give people something that is very raw and very emotional – not just stand up there and play your instrument because that’s your chance to present that record in its live form. For me my music is very physical.
As well as playing Field Day today, you played Big Chill yesterday. How was that?
It was good, people were very chill, which I guess I should have expected more. People seemed to enjoy it but it’s a weird atmosphere playing at three o’clock in the daytime – very sunny, very warm and everyone’s having a picnic in front of you. But it was great.
You played Big Chill yesterday and you’re at Field Day today, how would you compare UK festivals to those in the U.S.?
I haven’t played that many American festivals actually, [Field Day] reminds me a lot of Pitchfork in Chicago. People here are more dressed up, I’ve noticed that they’re a lot fancier. Big Chill was the first British festival I’ve ever played, so if people are like that they’re definitely more chilled out and more relaxed.
After this run of festivals and shows has finished, what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Just touring. There’s going to be a lot of bouncing back between the US and Europe, I think I’ll be back here three more times before the year is over. Basically playing shows, doing promo and hustling.
Zola Jesus’ upcoming album ‘Conatus’ is due for release on the 26th of September. Many thanks to Kate, Natasha and Rachel for helping us sort this interview.
By CoCo Wong
on Monday, 22nd August 2011 at 12:00 pm
After S.C.U.M’s top notch performance at this year’s Field Day, I spoke briefly with singer Tom about their upcoming debut album and also the concept behind their single, ‘Amber Hands’.
Hello! First, I’d like to know about the choice of your band name – S.C.U.M. I know it stands for ‘Society For Cutting Up Men’. Having said so, you only have one female member, so why did you pick this name?
I think it was important to have a name that was not only a name but was also a visual and verbal statement; I wanted it to be almost as strong as the music. Visually it is quite a strong name, and we took the decision to leave one full stop off the end of the name just to make the name more symmetrical and enable the word to become an image. Although there are connotations to the name there is an underlying sense of humour.
I do think it has a very strong visual effect. And your debut album, ‘Again Into Eyes’, is out very soon. Can you tell us more about it?
The album was recorded in August 2010 in an isolated farm in the English countryside. The album consists of 10 tracks. Although the farm was secluded, it was 10 minutes from an army airbase that test flew Chinook helicopters so there was a constant presence. We were able to immerse ourselves in the month we spent recording and ‘Again Into Eyes’ is the outcome.
I really like the cover art and video for ‘Amber Hands’. They both seem really abstract, could you elaborate on the concept behind it?
‘Amber Hands’ was done with artist Matthew Stone I feel his own words explain it best, ‘Churning bodies dissect rhythmic windows that open onto varied states of concentrated being. A collage of limbs and interconnected consciousness, involving and depicting transcendental states, meditations and ecstatic dance, spin into contemporary motion. The body is shown and used to free the viewer from their own. Stone’s work revolves specifically around creative interactions and community, based on the idea that individual autonomy can be successfully combined with the power of collectivity.’
Many thanks to Sheryl for helping us set this up.
By CoCo Wong
on Friday, 19th August 2011 at 12:00 pm
Before Dutch Uncles’ set at Underage Festival (during which I mildly sprained my left foot), I separated the two guitarists (Pete and Sped) from the rest of the band and did an interview with them under the scorching sun, on the grass of Victoria Park. We talked about the past and the future, their third album and also their upcoming tour with Wild Beasts. Read on and be ready for the new Dutch Uncles sound…and some discussion on how hot London was the day of the festival…
Hello! I know it’s the first time you’ve ever played Underage Festival. What do you think of the concept of playing to youngsters?
Sped: It’s been something we’ve suggested for a while, I think since we went on tour with Bombay Bicycle Club, when we toured with them, they played a lot of 14+ shows, and the crowds were great. Cause a lot of young people who are fans of the band never get to see them play and you don’t get to see your true crowd, people like you (points to me) yeah. Because they don’t get to go to the venues where they’re over 18 cause of the policies. So to play this way, you can get to the younger crowd, you can see that you do appeal to all ages and your music’s going round. Underage’s something we wanted to play last year and the year before, and to be here this year is good. It’s nice to see that we’ve got a youthful following as well as an older following, given our influences in music.
Pete: And also playing to younger crowds is better. Music is not just to one age group, and a lot of the young crowds actually talk music better than older people do, because they are more friendly with each other and are more current. They actually enjoy it better. (Someone passed by and waved) Like that! It’s lovely!
Sped: How friendly is that!
Pete: People talk about music better when they’re younger and are more confident. If you make a good impression when they are younger, it lasts a life time. So it’s very good.
To clear some mysteries that float around, I wonder which album would you consider as your ‘first proper album’? ‘Cadenza’ (Mary’s review here) or ‘Dutch Uncles’ (the German album)?
Sped: Our first album is our self-titled album, ‘Dutch Uncles’. It was recorded and released on a German label. It was kind of imported into the UK and we didn’t tour that much. We toured more in Germany than we did in the UK, obviously, with it be released over there. But that is our first album, we have no shame in it and we could probably listen to it, and we do listen to it and think of it as a good album! We had those songs at the time, we were proud enough of them at the time to record them, the same as any other band would have been. It was a stepping stone in the right direction to record and release ‘Cadenza’, which we’re also very proud of. But yeah, our first English album is ‘Cadenza’. We’re on our third album now, so our first album is ‘Dutch Uncles’, self-titled.
Pete: We worked too hard on it not to be an album, you know.
Sped: It was our first release.
Pete: We don’t want to sweep it under the carpet, that’s our first album. And our second album, ‘Cadenza’. Third album, no title, as of yet.
Okay. If you had to choose a ‘Dutch Uncles anthem’, would you pick ‘Cadenza’ or ‘Face In’? They are quite different to one another, but yet very significant in their own rights!
Pete: They’re each to their own really, those songs. ‘Face In’ is catchier in a more pop sense, but the groove is not there, which ‘Cadenza’ has. ‘Cadenza’ is an f-ed up Talking Heads type thing. It sounds a bit like Happy Mondays, which has a Manchester vibe to it. Whereas ‘Face In’ has a big chorus, which is meant it stays as long in our set that has been a pinnacle of our set for a long time, and that song’s not gonna go anywhere, anytime soon.
Sped: ‘Face In’ was the first single which we constructed our own video and recorded it, put it out on YouTube, and it was very well-received given where we were at the time. Often when we play live, if we play to a crowd of people that they were there to see us, when we cut into ‘Face In’, it gets a big big cheer. People know it straight away, it’s instant. I think it is, and probably will remain to be, a sort of classic within our content of songs. But ‘Cadenza’ has more of the groove with the percussion and everything. I’d say ‘Face In’ is our anthem. It’s not much of an anthem, but it’s our anthem.
Pete: It’s on the same par as ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’.
Sped: It’s our ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’.
Fair enough. I’ve seen pictures of you being in the studio, recording. Can you give us a sneak peak of what’s the new material like?
Sped: [sings] La la la la…. The new material is , I thought, given the fact that we released this album, ‘Cadenza’, in April /May. This new album would sound more similar to ‘Cadenza’ than ‘Cadenza’ sounding like ‘Dutch Uncles’, the first album. However, already (we have) sort of six to eight demos in, just basic basic demos. It sounds fresh again. I’m proud of that, I think we’re the type of band that can keep progressing in the right areas and make our songs ‘you know it’s Dutch Uncles!’, but they don’t sound the same. It’s inventive, we like to be creative. And already there’s a lot of fresh stuff in there which sounds like nothing we’ve done before. Even though we’re sort of touching on like 25 songs now the public have heard, I don’t think there will be a song on the third album that will sound like a song on the first or the second album.
Pete: New songs are coming along well. We’re experimenting with different actual instruments. We’re gonna get more involved with percussion instruments, like xylophones and vibraphones. Duncan, especially, he really enjoys playing the mallet instruments.
Sped: He’s very good at it!
Pete: The true percussion (instruments), because he’s a drummer at heart.
Pete: And he can play drums on a piano! That basically is what a true percussion is! So it has the flow of a drummer, but on a marimba. He enjoys it, which is really really good. The songs are taking a different form, we get bored easily with our sound, therefore we have to step into new territories. And we are stepping into a new territory. Custom made pedals and all that. Same producer as ‘Cadenza’, but he’s got more to work with this time. He’s here from day one and the songs are sounding good. Brendan Williams and Phil Bulleyment, producers of ‘Cadenza’, they’re there from the start, from the gun. They get to work with the songs more intimately than the last time round. So they can mould the songs and everything. Which has an impact straight away. My lord, that sun is hot! (all laugh)
Pete: It’s hot in here! Sadly we’re not playing any new songs today. (We’re) still a while off, so lots more tweaking and stuff. Expect new ones within the coming months, and they’re gonna be f-r-e-s-h! H-o-t!
Pete and Sped: H-o-t, h-o-t! They’re too hot! Too hot!
(laugh) Well okay, after summer, you’re all going on tour with Wild Beasts! Congrats. I wonder how did that come by?
Pete and Sped: (Still going on about the weather) It’s too hot!
Sped: When ‘Smother’ came out, we all got it on the first day, coincidentally, and said ‘it’s f-king really good’ and tweeted about it. I looked at the trends of Wild Beasts on Twitter and our tweet was the top tweet, it was the most well-received. We went on tour with a band called Sky Larkin, and Katie, their singer, is a Wild Beasts session player. Our booking agent submitted us and they gave us two English dates with them – Cambridge and Brighton. And also the European tour. That’s going to be f-king mint. I hear that Wild Beasts’ Tom is a fan of ‘Cadenza’. I hope the rest of them are. We’re big fans of theirs, we have been for a while. So I think that tour’s perfect for us, very fitting for them and should be really good to get out and play into cities in Europe and places we’ve never been before, and get our music out there as well. It’s gonna be good!
Pete: It’s a good tour to get on. And I’m a geographer, I want to go around these places I’ve never been. So go on another tour with an amazing band, with friends, you can’t really get much better than that!
Many thanks to Dan and Paul for helping us set this interview up.
By CoCo Wong
on Wednesday, 17th August 2011 at 12:00 pm
Not long after Crystal Fighters’ set at Underage Festival, I was able to speak briefly with Sebastian and Graham from the band. Graham was munching on a cheeseburger at the time we spoke, hence the little amount of speech he made. We focused on the ‘cover up’ concept, and read on to find out about their new material and Spanish relations.
Hi! Welcome to Underage Festival! How did you like the underage crowd?
Sebastian: It was incredible actually, it was very nice to play to this age group of people in this kind of scenario. It was wicked, they really went for it, enjoyed the show we hope. Well, they seemed to.
Graham: It was fun, haha.
One thing I find really confusing is that – two of you are actually English, why the Spanish ‘cover up’?
Sebastian: That’s true, we use the art and the general vibe from Spain because the band kinda started by a girl whose grandfather was Spanish. Because it’s part of the sub-artistic idea behind the band, we think it’s interesting, we think it looks good. It’s not ‘cover up’ per say, but I like the word. Identity is a big issue in rock music throughout time and the people thought the Rolling Stones were American and the Blue Skies couldn’t work out why they were singing blues in this way. It’s been going on in pop and rock music throughout time. We feel we’re just expanding on that idea.
I must say your Spanish accent’s really good.
Sebastian: Hahah thanks!
As a foreign traveller in London, I must admit I really enjoy listening to ‘I Love London’ while in London. My local friends have told me that there’s not much fun around Watford Junction, are you begging to differ the general views?
Sebastian: I think there’s a lot of fun in that song but it’s so ironic as well. We do love London, definitely and it feels like that in the song. But then we reference strange places, strange ideas like ‘friends’ party’, kind of nonsensical love of London. You know, maybe that’s how some foreigners see London when they come here, they’re like “I love it!” I don’t know why sometimes cause there are a lot of annoying stuff, and it takes ages to get everywhere, whatever. But there’s lots of love. So we try to sum that spirit up when we wrote that song.
I really liked the Spanish take of ‘Xtatic Truth’, are you planning to do that with your other songs in the future?
Sebastian: I think we probably won’t record different versions of the old songs, but we’re writing our second album at the moment, there might be some Spanish things on it, but we wouldn’t like to tell you exactly what they’re gonna be.
Ha, okay, so what’s the direction or sound of the new material then?
Graham: It’s difficult to put your finger exactly on it, but I think like any band, we learnt a lot from the first album, and it will be a natural progression plus some sort of spin of that you’re not aware of.
Sebastian: So another ‘cover up’ maybe!