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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 22nd June 2012 at 11:00 am
Interview by Larry Heath of www.theaureview.com
Reproduced by permission
Having the opportunity to catch them several times live at Liverpool Sound City, Larry managed to grab the members of Liverpool outfit The Hummingbirds (not to be confused with the 80s Sydney band of the same name) to talk about their shows, performing for the Queen, The Beatles, their music and much more…
Let’s talk about what you’ve been up to the last couple of days. You were saying you had never busked before and you busked for the Queen!
Yeah, so it’s a good start to busk for the Queen. We didn’t know it was busking until an hour before, we thought it was going to be a full stage with amps and lights and we got a call just saying it’s completely acoustic, just take your guitars and just play. We always talked about busking though, we thought it’d be a cool thing to do with harmonies and acoustic guitars, we’re good live, it’s not like we’re a studio band. We couldn’t cancel, we couldn’t cancel on the Queen so we just decided to do it, and we’ve been busking all weekend basically.
Well you played the opening party a month ago and at the industry party Wednesday night, so you definitely are sort of ambassadors, official or otherwise!
It’s a big festival, so it’s great that they actually picked us to do the opening party in London and the party in Liverpool. The roof-top show today was a one-off so that was brilliant.
Read the rest of Larry’s interview with the Liverpudlian band here: www.theaureview.com/interviews/liverpool-sound-city-the-hummingbirds-liverpool
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 13th June 2012 at 4:00 pm
Mystery Jets played a packed Academy of Arts on the Thursday night of this year’s Liverpool Sound City. Here are two of the sons they performed: ‘Show Me the Light’, from 2010’s ‘Serotonin’, and an old favourite, ‘Behind the Bunhouse’, which they used to close out their set. Enjoy both below.
You can read about this performance, along with the others I caught on the first night of the festival, here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 11th June 2012 at 2:00 pm
If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t really paying that close attention to the sessions I attended on the Friday of this year’s Liverpool Sound City. My mind, running a mile a minute, was worried about the stage we were running that night at the Academy of Arts. The day before, I’d really enjoyed the sessions and had a completely unplanned introduction to John Robb by a mutual friend that I somehow eked by without revealing that I was completely unnerved talking to one of the Northwest’s most enduring and well-known musician/journalists. However, during a particularly boring afternoon on Friday in which some major label folks showed the big companies don’t know how much is discovered, really, I was relieved to get a text from John saying he’d arrived. John ran our stage at Brighton Coalition at the Great Escape with his girlfriend last year, so he is more qualified than the rest of us to see that a TGTF stage runs smoothly. After a comedic meetup – John is way taller than me, so much that he completely walked passed me and I had to yell “John!” – we went to go have dinner in a pub and discussed our plan of attack for the evening before heading out to the Academy of Arts at 5.
It’s a good thing we got there early, as the production team had posted our banner in the wrong place, far, far away from our table. Enter giant John, who quickly moved it with the help of Tyler, the chap who was running all the logistics of the stage for us that night. It was a little nerve-wracking to make sure we had all the merchandise we were going to give away, but we got everything in time: 5 signed copies of Clock Opera’s new album ‘Ways to Forget’, a extra-large Temper Trap shirt (John convinced me that it was better to offer up a big one in case a bloke won it, or a girl could use it as a nightie) and a signed ‘Need Your Love’ vinyl single that even our friend Larry of The AU Review coveted. John pretty much manned the table himself (and swimmingly so), as I went to photograph the bands, take notes and do something I tried to psych myself up for, but was so nervous about: speaking on a mike to get people over to our table for the contests. I had envisioned standing on the stage as I’d seen people at Roskilde do for the smaller stages there, but for logistic and safety reasons, they said I had to do it from the mixing desk. Hearing my voice – and loud – was so scary! And probably I’m guessing all the locals were thinking, “what is an American doing, talking on the PA?” But the contests went well, and everyone who won went away very happy, so that’s all that’s important.
Let’s get to the bands. So first up was Dear Prudence from Brighton. Their debut single, ‘Valentine’, just came out in early May, so this was a good first ‘big’ show for them, one of their first outside of their hometown. I really like how they sound and they’re a synthy, electro rock band (right up my alley!) so they were the perfect support band for our stage. I’m going to keep an eye on them. You can watch the official video for ‘Valentine’ below; it’s got a great beat and it had me dancing.
After an intermission, it was time for Clock Opera. I thought it very sweet that Guy Connelly recognised and say hello to me before they went backstage to situate their gear. A punter named Paul declared on Twitter, “WOW!! Think @clockopera may have just taken the best band award @SoundCity with that! #Incredible #SoundCity12”. Good observation.
Clock Opera have the energy and the goods – in super infectious rhythmic tunes that should get every molecule of your body dancing. If you don’t believe me, watch the video below of ‘A Piece of String’, the song Dan Armstrong pointed out to me in this pre-festival interview as the one they all break out pieces of crockery to bang on. Overall, their set was brilliant.
During the day it had been announced Niki and the Dove had cancelled their appearance due to illness, which I think led to our stage getting rammed even further, since the times of their set and the Temper Trap’s overlapped. This was fine by us, as the space kept getting more and more crowded by the minute. In another bit of hilarity, I was refused entry into the photographer’s pit because every photographer in the Northwest and their nan had already taken their places there. Thanks to Tyler’s talking-to that “it’s her stage!” I finally got in. Now, this was my seventh time seeing them, and there is no denying they’re a great live band. I’m still not sold on all the new songs yet, but it was crystal clear after just minutes into their start and after Dougy said, “hello Liverpool, you doing all right?”, it was going to be a night to remember.
From the new love anthem of ‘Need Your Love’ to the gaiety of ‘Down River’, there was something for everyone. To prove their mettle, before the encore the band played a punishing trifecta of rock: ‘Science of Fear’, ‘Resurrection’ and ‘Drum Song’, all with so much raw power and passion, and the crowd loved every minute of it. It should come as no surprise that ‘Sweet Disposition’ closed out the night, cranking up the energy way up inside the venue for a song that so many people hold dear. And then it was over. After handing out the prizes, Toby and Lorenzo briefly stopped in the venue and Lorenzo said to me with a smile, “Mary! It’s been a long time!” I had been a long time since we’d talked; we had a completely unharried chat outside the House of Blues in Boston before their show there. One of the greatest things as a blogger is to watch a band you saw promise in just keep rising in stature in the music scene. If my intuition is correct, I said it before and I’ll say it again: the Temper Trap are well on their way to conquering stadiums. I feel honoured we had them – and the wonderful Clock Opera and Dear Prudence as well – on our first-ever stage at Liverpool Sound City. We’ll be back next year, so here’s to many more! Thank you everyone for making our stage such a success.
Of the nights TGTF was not hosting a stage, Thursday night at Sound City was the most stellar. After the Taiwan reception at the Hilton, I consumed a high calorie pub dinner full of fried food (yes, I was hungry) and getting chatted up by an LFC supporter drinking wine at the bar. (Search me. What is it with Northerners, why am I always chatted up in the North?). A PR friend and I went searching for the Academy of Arts; my goal was to get to the Mystery Jets set on time. Liverpool is not a big city. Not really sure how we got lost; I’m going with “everything looks different at night” as my story.
We honestly were directed to the wrong entrance to the venue; during the early evening hours, the Screenadelica film showcase area was also playing host to bands, so we entered the building on the Screenadelica side. Suddenly my friend jerks my shoulder – while I was trying to put on my earplugs, so god only knows where the case went – and I can hear ‘Half in Love with Elizabeth’ from behind a really heavy and really dark curtain. In all my time of blogging, I’ve never gone to a gig through the backstage, either on purpose or by accident. Check that off my list, because now I can say I’ve arrived to a gig in that exact way.
To my knowledge, Mystery Jets have never played a headlining gig in Washington. So after getting shut out of Brighton Corn Exchange the previous week at the Great Escape in Brighton, no way was I missing this. I got my camera out just in time for the beginning of ‘Greatest Hits’, which in my opinion should be the next single off ‘Radlands’ (album review here) because it sounds like classic Mystery Jets. (We’ll see about that…) After I fired off quite a few shots, I decided to hang back and just absorb. Part of me couldn’t believe I was within an arm’s length of both Blaine Harrison and William Rees (drummer Kapil Trivedi was in the stage right back corner, which made photographing him difficult). And there they were.
I think I finally realised the gravity of the situation when they played ‘Serotonin’: despite my insistence to my mother, there is nothing like the feeling of being in the middle of a gig, the instrumentation vibrating across your ribs, the words coming out of the speakers and laying right in your ears. Sorry to anyone who was annoyed but ‘Serotonin’ will probably stand as one of the pivotal albums of my career and life in music, so naturally in terms of singing along, I went for it. A little disappointingly, the band didn’t seem as animated as I had expected, though musicianship-wise, they were peerless.
Surprisingly, I was never called back (or barked at, as is the case at SXSW) by security to leave, so I just stayed in the photo pit, enjoying my first-ever Mystery Jets spectacle. I know I’ll never get a completely brilliant experience like that ever again. Other new songs like title track ‘Radlands’, ‘Sister Everett’ and ‘Lost in Austin’, while they didn’t fall flat, just couldn’t stand up to the great Mystery Jets legacy that has built up over the years. I completely appreciate and respect their desire to break out of their mold and do something different, but I think ‘Radlands’ is just too left field for most long-time fans. ‘Two Doors Down’ (video below) had a huge fan response, as did ‘Serotonin’ showstopper ‘Show Me the Light’ and set closer ‘Behind the Bunhouse’ (videos to come on TGTF soon).
A handy thing about most venues for Sound City generally: the venues are pretty close together. I literally walked across a small square to get to the Red Bull Studios at the Garage, which looked like an actual garage. I caught the last third of Stealing Sheep’s set; Martin had covered them in Newcastle opening for Field Music back in February. Maybe it was the sound levels but I had come expecting a ‘folky’ sound but instead got loud and brash rock, with the brashness best physically exemplified by the drummer’s very bright and heavily sequined shirt. The harmonies were a bit lost in the mix in the songs I heard, and maybe this was the place was so big, each member was so far away from the next on the massive stage. But there’s nothing like watching a band having the time of their lives. Below is some video from the Von Pip Musical Express from their performance.
Truth be told, on this stage I was most excited to was to be up next. When I first joined up as USA Editor of TGTF, we were right in the middle of a campaign with the now defunct Radar Maker for a French label I’d never heard of. In the ensuing weeks and months, I became very familiar with the then little-known bands they were hawking around the UK circuit, bands who would soon figure significantly in my blogging career: La Roux, Two Door Cinema Club, Delphic and some touring mates of Delphic’s, electronic duo Chew Lips.
It seems almost like ‘going home’ to be talking about Kitsune because out of all the labels and people we’ve had the pleasure to work with on TGTF over the years, I am proudest of our early promotion of their bands not just because I cut my blogging teeth on Kitsune, I’m sure at the beginning, it was tough going for Gildas Loaec and his crew to break out of the Parisian scene and get his bands played elsewhere. That man has quite the ear for talent and thanks to him we’ve got many acts that I imagine will continue to thrive in the years to come.
Chew Lips’ ‘Unicorn’ in 2010 was an acclaimed album, so now we’re looking to single ‘Do You Chew?’ (video below) to be a harbinger of things to come with their next album due out later this year. I’m so used to seeing press photos of lead singer Tigs with blonde hair, I was in for a bit of a shock when she arrived onstage…brunette. She commands the stage with ease, using her deep voice; what started as a paltry and rather embarrassing showing of punters quickly grew as their set wore on, no doubt mesmerised by what was going onstage. As some friends had suggested to me previously, yes, there is something very sexual about her performance.
But hey, I’m there for the music – or maybe the riffs of James Watkins instead! – but I now understand what people have said. ‘Salt Air’, a song I immediately latched on to when we were given the green light to give the Plastician remix of it, sounded amazing, as did songs like ‘Slick’ and ‘Gold Key’. Several new songs like ‘Hurricane’, ‘Rain’, and ‘Speed’, as part of the Tigs-described “99 percent a love album”, sound brilliant live. I can’t wait to hear the whole thing when it’s finally released. Maybe this time I’ll get a chance to see Chew Lips on my side of the pond instead of waiting another 3 years for another chance!
It should come as no surprise that I would hang around for Django Django. After the Blind Tiger human oven incident at the Great Escape, I welcomed being able to see the band and being able to breathe at the same time. (Thanks Liverpool.) I was so disappointed they weren’t wearing the Planet Cheeto outfits! But unlike the unfortunate placement at the tiny Blind Tiger club in Brighton, the Garage was a huge place for them to play to, and punters eagerly filled in to hear what I predict will be the most talked about band come the end of this year’s festival season.
While the massive stage proved to be a problem for Stealing Sheep, the four chaps of Django Django bridged this distance with no problem, with singer Vincent Neff assuming a position at the back at one point to play an enormous tambourine. This is a band that doesn’t do anything on a small scale, so if you’ve had the chance to see them in a small club, (I’m not including Blind Tiger!), consider yourself lucky.
And thus concludes the Thursday night of Sound City. If you’re wondering why I ended so early (around 1 in the morning), it’s because John and I had a big day ahead of us on Friday, when we played host to a Sound City stage of our own. Stay tuned…
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 7th June 2012 at 2:00 pm
Editor’s note: This is mostly for the geeks who are interested in what goes on during the day at Liverpool Sound City, when us delegates are actually ‘working’ and networking on ways to do what we do better. Although by sheer numbers there are a lot less people attending Sound City, I found being surrounded by more students and bands a completely different atmosphere than in Brighton for the Great Escape, and in many ways, preferred these more approachable groups and sessions.
Bright and early next morning (err…9 AM) I rolled out of bed and made it on time to pick up my badges from the Hilton. How nice to not have to wait for hours to get a delegates badge sorted (::cough:: SXSW ::cough::). I stepped into my first delegates session at Sound City and breathed a sigh of relief. Instead of worrying about rammed sessions at the Great Escape, these sessions were full, but not cramped. And I noticed there was definitely a higher proportion of students and young bands to self-important types, which made the whole affair far less pretentious. I sat in on a module being led by Martin Skelly of Uniform, a local Liverpool company that has been developing some interesting ways to merge paper, technology and music. You might wonder what exactly paper can do for music, since most everyone has switched over to digital downloads. Martin gave us two examples; one was an interactive calendar of gigs that one could press different dates and hear a sample of music of the band playing on that night. The other was an actual piece of paper with special inks pressed onto that when placed in a specially designed ink reader could play a track by Oxford band Jonquil. Dubbed ‘smart paper’, I was really impressed by both technologies as a means for bringing music in a physical way back to the masses, and I could tell from the looks on their faces that the students and bands listening in on the session were also pretty impressed.
After my first session, I crossed the street to pop over – admittedly way too late –to try and get a glimpse of the Queen and see the Hummingbirds again. HRH was late and people were definitely getting impatient. I figured I had little chance on grabbing an actual photo of ol’ Queenie (dressed in an orange sherbet outfit head to toe that day, if you were wondering) so I filmed some video instead.
After that flurry of excitement, it was time to grab a bagged lunch costing less than 4 quid (thanks, Tesco Express) and arrived just in time for an informal lunchtime lobby performance by Waa Wei, a Taiwanese pop star, part of a major Taiwanese contingent with the catchy name ‘Das ROCpool’. (More on them on Friday’s review.) It takes a lot of nerve to perform thousands of miles away from home, surrounded by people who speak a language you don’t completely understand and I guess being Oriental, their manager honed in on me and we chatted a bit in the mother tongue. Unusual experience that I doubt will be repeated anytime soon, but have to say it felt pretty nice.
Next, it was back in for a panel session moderated by Amazing Radio’s Shell Zenner, featuring indie label bosses. The more I hear guys like this speak, the more I’m convinced the music business is going to stay alive on the backs of people like them and not the big labels who treat their bands like numbers. Remember readers: support your favourite bands of course, but don’t forget to support your favourite indie labels, because we need them to stay in business so your favourite bands can put out albums! It hadn’t occurred to me that the Line of Best Fit came from a Death Cab for Cutie song (to be honest I’m not a fan of DCFC and just assumed it was an allusion to statistics); either way, it was cool to meet Rich Thane of Best Fit Recordings and have a meeting of the minds with another blog named after a favourite song.
At the recommendation of a new Manchester friend, I stayed around for a tech panel that I thought would not be up my alley. I thought it would go over my head, but I learned about three Web services I’d never heard of: WebDoc, which looks like a whole bunch of social media platforms combined into one but giving you the ability to put your own mark on it; Mobile Roadie, a practically DIY approach to making your own apps, and Rdio, a subscription music streaming service that has had better luck hooking major labels than Spotify has. But what turned out to be most directly handy to the TGTF vision was a chat I had afterwards with David Adams of Soundcloud, who appreciated my feedback on how our blog uses and benefits from Soundcloud so much, he offered me beta access to the Next version of Soundcloud, which if I do say so myself, looks so sleek and cool and has some very useful additions to the original make, I can’t wait until the new Soundcloud is fully realised and available to everyone.
A social media session was rammed yet wasn’t as interesting as I’d expected, so I ducked out of there and ducked into the Taiwan Panel. I don’t speak Chinese fluently, but I get by okay, and I can understand it if it’s not being spoken a mile a minute, so hearing three talks by heavyweights from the Taiwan music scene was pretty fascinating. There’s this whole world of music that we as Westerners know nothing or next to nothing about and it’s definitely a market that Western labels can tap into, while discovering homegrown talent from there. And where else at a music conference will you be served jasmine tea upon sitting down, I ask you? I hope the whole ‘Das ROCpool’ franchise returns to Sound City next year, bigger and better, and I will have more time to see and chat with all the bands they’ve brought over.
The Taiwan folks were also in charge of Day 1’s end of day party, and I hung around for a bit for free drinks (of course everyone was heading there!) and also was waiting around for the Hummingbirds for an interview, which unfortunately never materialised because they had a conflict with their soundcheck. But Day 1 had already been jammed packed with meeting so many new people and finding out about so many new things.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 6th June 2012 at 6:00 pm
Here is the new promo video for the Temper Trap‘s ‘Trembling Hands’, the second single off their second and confusingly self-titled album out now. Both album and single are out now on Infectious/PIAS. Going back to the video, it seems tailor made for the Olympics, does it not? Courage, determination, heart – it’s all here. Whether you’re an athlete or in whatever line of work you do, you need all three of these to succeed.
We were so pleased to have the Aussie band headline our stage at Liverpool Sound City this year; a full report on the festivities will follow on TGTF soon. In the meantime though, read our interview with guitarist Lorenzo here.