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Interview: TENDER

By on Thursday, 21st September 2017 at 11:00 am

Have you heard about TENDER, the electronic duo from North London? In case they haven’t made it to your radar yet, here are the basics. Singer/songwriter James Cullen begins the sketch, if you will, of a new TENDER song and hashes out the skeleton from which he and Dan Cobb work from. Dan then refines the production and arrangement, moulding each song into a finished product.

At the start of this month, they released their debut album ‘Modern Addiction’ on Partisan Records. As noted in my review of it, the electronic duo’s first big impression on the general public is “admirable work”. They are currently in North America on a tour to support their new release, having already been on the West Coast of our continent before heading east and playing tonight at Beat Kitchen in Chicago. James and Dan were nice enough to do this interview with me from the road.

Originally from the south coast of England between the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth, it was 3 years ago that TENDER made their way to the big smoke. Both had spent time in guitar bands before, so I asked James if it was difficult to move into electronic from their previous projects. “I think the translation was fairly smooth and organic. With guitars and writing, you’re always trying to make the instrument sound different and new, so stepping over to synthesisers and electronic music was just a progression of that… I think it was just a new avenue for us to express ourselves. The sounds and methods feel new and exciting for us. I really enjoy finding interesting samples that I can cut into the song or make and instrument out of then allow that to dictate the way the rest of the song is written.” It sounds like, too, that their musical influences reflect an affinity for both rock and electronic: “We’ve always been influenced by bands like Air, Tame Impala, Justice, the National, The War on Drugs, plus many more.”

We turn our attention to ‘Modern Addiction’, which felt to me like TENDER were striving for a minimalist approach, reminiscent somewhat to what we first heard from the xx. I was curious about their approach to songcraft. James replied, “Yeah, for sure, that’s the approach we took. When we first started TENDER, we really wanted to craft songs that used just the right amount of instrumentation and layering without overdoing it. As time has progressed, this has changed slightly, but we still very much feel our songs have the room to breathe like they did in the beginning. Using organic bass and drums with some light synths and samples as embellishment, we can allow the vocal to work as an instrument and have the space [it needs].”

TENDER in LA from FB
TENDER and their touring band last week in Los Angeles (from Facebook)

Another interesting thing to note about ‘Modern Addiction’ is while there are clearly songs about various stages in a painful romantic breakup James went through –smartly taking the emotions and focussing them in a constructive and creative direction, I might add – they explore the decidedly more clinical topic of consumerism in their single ‘Machine’. The latter isn’t a common subject in pop music, so I asked James how the two tied together. “We feel the subjects go hand in hand, in the sense that a lot of the songs are love songs. Modern love and relationships are often dictated by technology and the ease of communication, which of course is a good thing, but I feel can lead to throw away relationships and the need for constant approval.” All good points.

As you listen to ‘Modern Addiction’, it’s impossible to escape the deep, often raw emotions in Cullen’s lyrics. Does putting his deepest, darkest thoughts on display keep him awake at night? “I can’t be entirely comfortable”, he admits. “It’s hard to listen back to for me sometimes and feels too personal, but at the same time when writing it, [it] just came out. The process of writing about it is a release and came naturally at the time. Being able to do so also allows me to look back at a moment in my life and remember how I felt.”

While some electronic music can be too cerebral to the masses, ultimately, James and Dan have a simpler message they want to relay to those listening to their new record. Dan says, “Don’t overthink things. The music is about wanting to create an atmosphere that facilitates connections. We want people to feel primitive about the album. Basic instincts of lust and dance are what we’re looking to evoke in people. The lyrics are open to interpretation in many ways for people to fit them around their own world.”

Speaking about their current North American tour, their very first, James is terribly excited. “We love playing the music live and being able to show people a different side of the band. Being able to travel to such great places and meet fantastic new people is one of the biggest motivations for being in music. America is such a diverse place we just can’t wait to see as much of it as possible.” After playing Chicago tonight, TENDER will cross the border once again for a one-off show in Toronto before returning to America for stops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. To get a taste of what they’re like live, check out their live performance filmed at Low Four Studios at the old Granada Studios in Manchester on the day of the release of ‘Modern Addiction’.


Interview: Anthony Touma

By on Monday, 7th August 2017 at 11:00 am

At just 7 years old, Anthony Touma told his mother he wanted to be a music artist when he grew up. “She told me I’d grow out of it when I’m older,” he explained. “I never did.” The Lebanese-French singer/songwriter’s big break came in 2013, when he appeared on the second season of The Voice France. “I sent a video online not expecting an answer. I was living in Lebanon and the show was being produced and filmed in Paris. I got a call a month later, and I took the first plane to Paris to audition.”

Touma reached the semifinals of the show, which was ultimately won by Yoann Fréget. Despite not winning, Touma was grateful for the opportunity: “The show changed my life. That’s how most people who know me today were introduced to my voice. I had no idea how mentally and physically challenging such a show is. It was an experience full of ups and downs, but I would say that in general, it was a life changing experience.” Touma’s appearance on The Voice France opened many doors for the singer/songwriter, including a collaboration with Enrique Iglesias on the French remix of ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’.

“Since Enrique and I were signed to the same record label back then but in different territories, my name was suggested during Enrique’s search for the right artist to collaborate with,” Touma explained. “I wrote some new French lyrics to the track and composed an additional bridge to replace the rapping part that was initially there, sung by Pitbull. Enrique and his team liked what I did. The next thing I know, we’re in Miami recording the track!” He added, “Enrique is one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve met, and he made the whole thing feel very simple and enjoyable. Collaborating with Enrique was a childhood dream come true, to be honest.”

Fast-forward to 2017, and the 25-year-old has made his international debut with the release of ‘Walk Away’, a pop/r&b track that combines Touma’s soulful voice with touching lyrics. Speaking about his latest single, Touma said, “This track is one of the tracks that speaks to me most. It tells my story and it just makes me feel good when I listen to it. On my journey to where I am today, I had a lot of people not believing in me. As time went by and as I moved forward and improved, these same people started noticing my success and came back to me acting friendly, supportive and showing ‘fake love’ as Drake would say. They inspired me to write this song.” He added, “I felt a lot of people would relate, it also reminded me of relationships where your ex who left you suddenly gains interest again because you’ve ‘gotten prettier’ or more successful, etc.”

The single is the first to be taken from Touma’s upcoming album, which will be the first the singer/songwriter has recorded in English. “I’ll be releasing lots of new songs and, hopefully, I’ll be taking it to as many places around the world as possible.” Anthony Touma’s single ‘Walk Away’ is out now on Universal Music MENA.



SXSW 2017 Interview: Alice Jemima

By on Thursday, 30th March 2017 at 1:00 pm

My final interview of the SXSW 2017 music festival was on Saturday night outside the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30. By this point in the week, I think everyone, myself included, was showing signs of weariness, but Exeter electropop singer Alice Jemima was nonetheless game for a quick chat outside the venue after her set on the BBC Music Presents / Department for International Trade showcase.

Jemima’s onstage style was singularly understated, perhaps even a tiny bit coy, as she sang through songs from her new self-titled LP, released just before SXSW on the 3rd of March via Sunday Best. The album includes her early singles ‘Dodged a Bullet’ and ‘Electric’, as well as a couple of older tunes that originally made the rounds as part of her previous ‘Liquorice’ EP. The new album also features Jemima’s Internet-sensational cover of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ and her subtly sensual current single ‘When You Dance’, which you can hear just below.


In addition to the tracks mentioned above, one of the standout songs in Jemima’s live set list was one called ‘Cocoa Liquor’. In spite of its light, almost tropical-sounding musical backdrop, Jemima alluded in our interview to the song’s darker lyrical side, which was inspired by her preferred choice of reading material. Take a listen to the interview stream at the bottom of the page below to find out more about ‘Cocoa Liquor’, and to hear what might be up next for Jemima after SXSW.

Keep an eye on TGTF for more coverage of Alice Jemima in our full review of the Saturday night BBC Music showcase, which will post in the coming days. In the meantime, you can have a look back at our previous coverage, which is collected right back here.

Special thanks to Sally and Edd who helped to coordinate this interview.


SXSW 2017 Interview: Someone Who Isn’t Me

By on Thursday, 30th March 2017 at 11:00 am

If you’ve been a regular reader of TGTF in the past few months, you’ll know already that we’ve recently broadened our focus to include more international bands, as well as making an effort to highlight outstanding female-centric bands. Here, in the spirit of new music discovery, we’d like to introduce you to a band that fits into both categories, Greek electronic music trio Someone Who Isn’t Me. Their set at the Music for Listeners day party at El Sapo on the Saturday afternoon of SXSW 2017 comprised both purely instrumental tracks and songs with vocals, and I was intrigued by their deliberately artful, vaguely cinematic aesthetic.

As band members Marilena Orfanou (aka Lou, keyboards and vocals), Maria Hatzakou (drums) and Gina Dimakopoulou (guitars) explained to me in the interview clip at the bottom of the page, Someone Who Isn’t Me is a music project in its very early stages. The band initially evolved from a composition project when its members were commissioned to write music for the Greek film ‘Chevalier’, which was named Best Film at the London Film Festival in 2015. Though their music didn’t ultimately make it into the film, Orfanou, Hatzakou, and Dimakopoulou felt that they had done quality work and decided to officially form Someone Who Isn’t Me in order to play their music live and release it to the public.

Someone Who Isn’t Me were the first ever Greek band to play the Music for Listeners showcase, and also one of only two Greek acts selected to play official showcases at SXSW 2017. The other Greek showcasing artist was pop singer/songwriter Σtella, who collaborated with Someone Who Isn’t Me on one of their standout tracks, ‘Stop and Remember’, which you can hear in the video just below.


As a newly formed ensemble from a country in economic crisis, Someone Who Isn’t Me were forced to get creative with their funding for the trip to Austin, starting a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. After their return to Greece, these resourceful musicians will begin work on a longer release to follow the 7-inch vinyl ‘Stop and Remember’ / ‘Leap of Faith’ from earlier this year. We at TGTF hope to hear more from Someone Who Isn’t Me in the near future; keep your eyes and ears here for any news we get from the Greek trio.


SXSW 2017 Interview: Conchúr White and Chris Harbinson of Silences

By on Wednesday, 29th March 2017 at 1:00 pm

Oh, what a difference a year can make! Northern Irish alt-rock band Silences made their SXSW debut last year, when their frontman Conchúr White made an impromptu solo trek to Austin, filling in for another band who had to cancel their scheduled appearance at the last minute. White was, by his own admission, a bit overwhelmed by the chaos and intensity of his initial SXSW experience, but he made a triumphant return to Austin for SXSW 2017 with his four bandmates–lead guitarist Chris Harbinson, bassist Breandán White, keyboardist Jonathan Downing, and drummer Michael Keyes–at his side and a distinct air of confidence about him.

I must admit that I had been privately rooting for Silences’ success since meeting White in Austin last year, so naturally I was over-the-moon excited to catch up with White and Harbison after their absolute stunner of a live set on a Thursday afternoon’s Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s in downtown Austin. We chatted about their experience at this year’s SXSW, including one particular challenge they faced in playing on the infamously small B.D Riley’s stage. They also brought me up to speed on the band’s plans for the immediate future and what they hope to achieve with their North American appearances in Austin and in Toronto for Canadian Music Week.


Silences have a new single release up their collective sleeve, a song they played on the Irish Breakfast showcase called ‘Red Dress’, which is due out in April. Another unreleased Silences track, ‘Before Ten’, has just recently received air play on Seattle radio station KEXP. You can take a listen to the tune for yourself in the stream at the bottom of this page, and then have a look back at TGTF’s past coverage of Silences, including White’s recent answers to our SXSW 2017 flavoured Quickfire Questions, right back here. Stay tuned to TGTF for more on Silences in my full review of the Irish breakfast, which is on the schedule to post in the coming days.



SXSW 2017 Interview: Spud Murphy of Birds of Olympus

By on Wednesday, 29th March 2017 at 11:00 am

In a slight twist to our usual procedure, I interviewed frontman John “Spud” Murphy of Irish neo-psych band Birds of Olympus before I had the chance to the band play on the Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s on the Thursday afternoon of SXSW 2017. I wasn’t as up to speed on Birds of Olympus as I probably should have been, thanks to the efforts of our own Adam McCourt, who wrote about the band in his preview of Irish artists at SXSW this year. Murphy, however, was happy to fill in the blanks in my knowledge, starting with the most basic question–what do Birds of Olympus sound like?

His description of the band intrigued me right away: “Talking Heads mixed with Ennio Morricone”. I assume that most of our readers will be at least somewhat familiar with Talking Heads, but the name of 20th/21st century classical composer Morricone might be less well-known, despite his prolific film scoring career. I’ll leave it for my later review of the Full Irish Breakfast to describe how this combination of influences unfolded in live performance, but suffice it to say that I wasn’t disappointed when I did get to hear Birds of Olympus play.

Murphy related that the five members of the band — himself, Donal Colohan (guitar), Derek Byrne (drums), Diego Joyeux (sonic treatments) and Rory Clarke (bass) — are all veteran musicians who came together as recently as October 2015 to form Birds of Olympus. Collectively, the band are so new that they currently have only one single floating around on the Internet, titled ‘Vine of the Soul’. However, Murphy shared the band’s plans for an EP release later this year, following their visit to Toronto for Canadian Music Week. If their live set from B.D. Riley’s on the day was any indication, Birds of Olympus have plenty of exciting new music on the very near horizon. In the meantime, you can get a brief sampling of their sound in the live video at the bottom of the page, courtesy of YouTube user Jonathan Flood.


Thanks to Laura for arranging this interview.


About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours 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 no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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