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SXSW 2015 Interview: Demi Louise

 
By on Thursday, 2nd April 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

There are some things about the music business that I still struggle with in my mind. Consider, for instance, the circumstances surrounding my last interviewee during the crazy week in Austin that was SXSW 2015. Twenty-something Demi Louise is a singer/songwriter from Melbourne, Australia who has gone and already showcased at one of the most important emerging music festivals to TGTF, Liverpool Sound City in 2014. Yet despite all the travel and performances she has already clocked up at such a tender age, this talented young lady is still not signed yet. What, why, how is that even possible?

Demi had a packed week of performances in Austin, with her last two taking place in front of a packed house at B.D. Riley’s as part of Sounds Australia’s Saturday daytime acoustic showcase called Sound Gallery. Due to a schedule conflict, I was unable to make that earlier show but thankfully, Demi was scheduled to perform one last acoustic set at the Hyatt Regency Austin just south of the river, the same hotel with a dock from where Carrie and I got on the St. Patrick’s Day Brunch on a Boat with the folks from Creative Belfast and Invest Northern Ireland on Tuesday morning. New fans of hers from several different countries came to see her play this last show, including the very young daughters of some festival-goers, who Demi talked to after her set by kneeling down next to and taking photos with them. Awww. She’s a real woman of the people.

In my interview with Demi, she tells me her hometown of Melbourne and how sad she is that it’s the end of her SXSW adventure, as it’s one of many music showcasing events she’s done in the last year and a half. We also chat about her song ‘Ruins’, which was inspired by medical diagnoses within her own family, and her winning a major pop songwriting award back in Oz. (Again, how is this woman not signed yet???) Listen to the whole interview below.

Read all our past coverage on Demi Louise on TGTF here.

 

SXSW 2015: Dine Alone Records and Music from Ireland showcases – 18th March 2015

 
By on Thursday, 2nd April 2015 at 10:00 am
 

Wednesday night I made my way down to the Bungalow on Rainey Street for the Dine Alone Records 10th anniversary showcase, which was scheduled to feature two bands I’d previously covered for TGTF, The Dodos and Broncho, as well as Lieutenant, the new side project of Foo Fighters bassist Nate Mendel. I arrived at the Bungalow early enough to work out the logistics of my interview with The Dodos before heading out to the backyard stage area to catch the night’s opening act, Josh Haden’s jazz-tinged alt-rock band Spain.

I wasn’t familiar with Josh Haden or Spain before I saw them at the Bungalow, but a quick internet search reveals that their smooth, soulful sound is at least partially the result of Haden’s background in jazz; he is the son of well-known jazz bassist Charlie Haden. Josh Haden originally formed Spain in the early 1990s and revitalized it with new members in 2007. The band’s latest LP, ‘Sargent Place’ was released on Dine Alone back in November, and their set at the Dine Alone showcase included a fine performance of its lead single ‘The Fighter’, which you can stream below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/pPwjSmCq608[/youtube]

Vancouver indie pop band Yukon Blonde quickly changed the pace of the evening after Spain’s laid-back set. Their dance-friendly synth and guitar sounds drew a captivated audience under the tents at the Bungalow, almost making us forget that we were still in the middle of the week with their hook-heavy new single ‘Saturday Night’. Just after SXSW, Yukon Blonde hit the road in America and Canada for an opening slot with their Dine Alone labelmates Lieutenant; those shows continue into April.

Yukon Blonde’s energetic set paved the way for San Francisco-based duo The Dodos to take the stage. They clearly had a fair few fans in attendance at SXSW 2015, as the crowd packed in noticeably tighter during their brief soundcheck. After reviewing their latest LP ‘Individ’ and their show at Tucson’s Club Congress in February, I had already come to the conclusion that The Dodos are just one of those bands that you have to see live to get the full effect of their music.

I discussed that opinion briefly with band members Meric Long and Logan Kroeber in my interview with them before their set, but their spectacular performance on the night did more to solidify my estimation than any of their commentary. Knowing that The Dodos create a huge sound between the two of them, I started their set with earplugs firmly in place, but the sound quality and the crisp energy of their performance was so amazing that I ended up removing them just so that I could take it all in. The dance moves featured in The Dodos’ video for ‘Competition’ didn’t make it onto the stage here, but there was plenty of enthusiastic dancing in the crowd when Long and Kroeber played the song.

The Dodos at Dine Alone showcase SXSW 2015

Unfortunately, the crowd at the Bungalow thinned conspicuously after The Dodos finished, leaving only a sparse few fans to watch Lieutenant. Because the live iteration of Lieutenant features Foo Fighters bass player Nate Mendel and Snow Patrol bass player Paul Wilson (both on guitar, ironically enough), I had expected them to draw a larger audience. Lieutenant’s recent album release ‘If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going to Eat for a Week’ is probably best described as understated, and as it turns out, Mendel is an understated frontman in live performance as well. Wilson’s more animated guitar solos, while not exactly flashy, were the highlight of the band’s set at the Bungalow. I suspect that the members of Lieutenant will grow progressively more comfortable in their newly adopted roles as they continue their current American tour with Yukon Blonde.

Nate Mendel at Dine Alone showcase SXSW 2015           Paul Wilson at Dine Alone showcase SXSW 2015

My energy lagged a bit after Lieutenant’s set, and I decided a walk might be in order to help me get a second wind. I left the Bungalow and headed back to 6th Street to see Dine Alone alumnus James Vincent McMorrow, whose first self-titled EP was released in the US on Dine Alone back in 2010.  McMorrow was appearing on the Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, which was already packed to the gills for his set when I arrived. (In fact, it was so crowded that I never met up with Mary, who also made the Music From Ireland show part of her Wednesday night lineup.) Though the Gibson Room audience were clearly enamored with the soulful melancholia of McMorrow’s ‘Post Tropical’ tracks, I found his falsetto to be unintelligible and a bit whiny, much in the vein of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, whose sound I have never been particularly fond of. In spite of that, McMorrow’s stage presence was shyly endearing and he did pique my interest by testing a couple of new tracks, which he said weren’t yet fully worked out, but which held their own here in acoustic performance.

Walking On Cars at Music From Ireland SXSW 2015

Once again, the audience almost completely vanished after McMorrow’s set, leaving Irish pop band Walking on Cars to play in a nearly empty room to close out the night. It was a pity too, because Walking on Cars play the kind of energetic pop music that could find itself comfortably situated on top 40 radio, given enough of an audience. Indeed, the band broke up their wee-hours-of-the-morning set with a mashup of pop tunes that included 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Lego House’, and James Bay’s current hit ‘Hold Back the River’, along with a surprisingly effective cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’.

Their own recent single ‘Always Be With You’, featured in our SXSW preview of artists from Ireland and Northern Ireland, closed the night on a strong note, even if only a handful of punters were still around to hear it. Keep an eye on TGTF for coverage of Walking on Cars at the full Irish breakfast appearing on TGTF soon.

 

SXSW 2015: Blackjack London and Association of Independent Music showcase at Latitude 30 (Friday night part 2) – 20th March 2015

 
By on Wednesday, 1st April 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

The first half of my Friday evening at SXSW 2015 is here.

That somewhere else was back at Latitude 30 for the British Music Embassy’s Friday night sponsored by Blackjack London and the Association of Independent Music (AIM). I arrived just in time to see the second half of Only Real‘s set, which was clearly already causing havoc. Good havoc, I’m quick to point out. It was still raining outside, but as soon as I’d put down my brolly to take my camera out, an Only Real reveler grabbed it and was sashaying down the front like out of a scene from Singing in the Rain, before he grabbed my hand, twirling me around a couple times. I burst out laughing. This turned out to be one of the most surprisingly fun sets I watched all week. Listen to ‘Yesterdays’ off his new debut album ‘Jerk at the End of the Line’ released this week, and just go with it. You’ll thank me later.

Only Real at Blackjack London AIM showcase at SXSW 2015

After the set, I asked one of the photographers, “is everyone in here drunk or stoned?” She said quite possibly both. Either way, it doesn’t matter: what came across was how well Niall Galvin’s unique hybrid of hip hop style lyrics about more carefree days and the washy, psychedelic guitars and accompanying instrumentation was going over with the Embassy crowd. I had been extremely sceptical when Martin first wrote about him in 2013, figuring this guy from South London couldn’t be really this weird and this happy-go-lucky. It must be an act…

Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. After he kindly paused for photos and chats with a whole slew of new fans he gained this night, I chatted with him briefly to set up a full interview on Saturday afternoon, and he is just about one of the loveliest musicians I’ve ever met: genuine, kind-hearted, positive and yes, real. We need more positive people like him not just in this business, but the whole world. Keep doing what you do, man.

East London grime artist Ghetts had to sadly cancel his appearance on this night, replaced by Stockport’s Blossoms, who played here Wednesday night as part of the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation showcase. They explained to me after that they’d be asked to stand in for Ghetts and were more than happy to get another SXSW gig under their belts. Watching the young band from greater Manchester a second time was nice, as I got to introduce their music as brand new to a girl who became a new fan. Always happy to facilitate!

Blossoms at Blackjack London AIM showcase at SXSW 2015

As the notes of the scorching ‘Blow’, the band’s first-ever single that was released in 2014, fed into my mind a second time, I sensed something very special. Whiffs of brilliance reminiscent of great ’60s psychedelic bands, along with the pop sensibility of their local legends Oasis in the choruses, are what make this band great. If they can keep this level of melody and songwriting up, their debut album is sure to be a hit.

Following Blossoms were Boxed In, an electro rock/pop band led by keyboardist / synth-playing Oli Bayston. I missed seeing him open for fellow Moshi Moshi labelmates Teleman on their UK tour in October. As his set unfolded, I was getting a distinct, eerie feeling of deja vu, like I’d known this music in another life. But I’d never seen them play before. How could this be possible? Hmm…

Boxed In at Blackjack London AIM showcase at SXSW 2015

When they trotted out ‘Mystery’, everything clicked and I had a eureka moment: the single has been played on 6music a lot as of late, so I knew all the words. Since I was a singer in my former life, I have the tendency to sing along – loudly – when I know the lyrics to a song, and when Bayston noticed this, he broke out a wide grin. I imagine he was thinking, “wow, an American knows my music!” The dancey vibe afforded by Only Real continued on into the Boxed In set, with Bayston’s band soundtracking an all out dance party to usher in the small hours of Saturday morning in Austin in British disco style with the driving rhythms of tracks like ‘Foot of the Hill’.

The electronic aspect of Boxed In served as a nice segue into the more intellectual style of electronic musician/producer Rival Consoles, who I’d seen play in the much smaller Plush Thursday night. The most intriguing difference in Ryan L. West’s show Friday night at Latitude 30 compared to the one at Plush: the backdrop was a dynamically generated visual show determined entirely by the user he set the task to, West explained to me in our chat Saturday. That means every single night, you’re going to get a completely different visual experience. How’s that for unexpected art?

Rival Consoles at Blackjack London AIM showcase at SXSW 2015

There is probably no greatest place for a British musical artist to play at during SXSW than Latitude 30, and West was completely caught up in the moment as he crafted his music for the evening. That’s one thing about electronic music I love: it can, conceivably, go on forever, morphing and evolving, with different pieces of equipment being called in play or put aside, depending the maker’s mood. With a stagehand telling West he only had a minute left to play, he ended his set on a buzzy high note.

 

SXSW 2015: worshipping at the feet of legends (or not) at Central Presbyterian Church (Friday night part 1) – 20th March 2015

 
By on Wednesday, 1st April 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

I think everyone comes to SXSW with a list of must-see bands. Come hell or high water, you are so determined to see these acts, no one will get in your way, you will queue for hours in advance, etc. etc. etc. For me, one of my must-sees at SXSW 2015 was French/Cuban sister act Ibeyi, whose self-titled debut album released on XL in February is likely to be on my top albums of 2015 list when it comes time in December to thinking about the year in review. While I was disappointed they would be playing at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, where I’d had a near religious experience and bawled my eyes out watching Daughter perform there back in 2012, I was happy to see that Ibeyi’s official showcase would be at Central Presbyterian Church, where I’d never been.

Immediately preceding the sisters was a name that been going around my friend circles, Vancouver, Canada’s Tobias Jesso, Jr. At first, sat in my pew, I had no idea where he was as he began to speak to the audience. My pew mates explained he was behind the large grand piano centre stage. Ok. I’d been told he had a Randy Newman-esque, self-deprecatory way about him, which is neither here nor there, but I thought, okay, if it works for Randy Newman, maybe it’ll work for this kid. The week he was in Austin was also the week his debut album ‘Goon’ was released on True Panther, so the timing was ripe for him to pick up some new fans. Judging from the number of people who couldn’t find a seat in one of the pews, the buzz about him must have gotten around town. Initially, I had an open mind. One song made me think, okay, he’s a little like Billy Joel in his storytelling. But then as the song went on, I changed my mind, deciding that such a comparison was insulting to the Piano Man.

Tobias Jesso Jr. at Central Presbyterian Church at SXSW 2015

If my count was correct, he had to restart a song three different times (twice on the same song) because he couldn’t remember the lyrics. If I am to give him the benefit of the doubt to say he wasn’t used to the pressure of SXSW or to playing to this many people and maybe he got nervous and cracked, I think that’s giving him too much credit. You’re playing on the world’s biggest stage at the world’s biggest festival, a festival than thousands of bands around the world only dream of getting a shout to, and you’re not ready? It’s unprofessional and embarrassing. Even worse, I found his attempts to laugh and wheedle his way out of his shortcomings made things worse. Just get on with it. The title of his last song, ‘How Could You Babe’, pretty much sums up my impression of Jesso, Jr.: numbingly plain and boring. I hope his other shows in Austin went on with less hitches.

Ibeyi at Central Presbyterian Church at SXSW 2015

So thank goodness for twins Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz to bring some energy to the church next. The sisters may have been overwhelmed by their week in Austin and the reception they got everywhere they went, but in their case, it was entirely deserved. As expected from a sibling act, the harmonies between the sisters were tight, and straight off the bat we were treated to a brief a cappella bit that allowed their vocals to shine. Also included in the set was a never before tried rearrangement of ‘Oya’ that was peerless and of course, the super sultry ‘River’.

The church also erupted in cheers when the pair announced they were about to do a Jay Electronica cover of ‘Better in Tune with the Infinite’. It was soulful and beautiful. In between the songs, the twins were softspoken but that was part of their charm endearing themselves to the audience: these are two young women who are passionate about what they do, about continuing their family’s thread through music, yet it was evident in the almost breathless way they would speak that they are honestly blown away by how everyone has come to regard them as singers and musicians. I felt terrible leaving Ibeyi‘s set early, but I just had this gut feeling I was supposed to be somewhere else.

 

SXSW 2015: an Irish lass and breakfast, a Swedish supergroup, bands at the Aussie BBQ and some more English tweed – 20th March 2015

 
By on Wednesday, 1st April 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

My traditional start to Friday at SXSW every year is to arrive at B.D. Riley’s Irish pub in time for the full Irish breakfast and stay for the related showcase put on by Music from Ireland. The only problem in the SXSW 2015 edition: I wasn’t able to stay for the whole showcase, so you’ll have to read Carrie’s review later of the whole shebang. I was however able to partake in the actual breakfast (and I never turn down a decently cooked egg, even if it should have been sunny-side up and not scrambled, and there was no black or white pudding either ::grumble::) and get another opportunity to see the sunny and sweet pop singer/songwriter Orla Gartland play another set. After doing my part on proselytise and promote her as the sound of young Ireland (something I decided the night before at the Music from Ireland evening showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room), I had to bid my goodbyes and head out.

Orla Gartland at SXSW 2015

Luckily, it wasn’t raining. Yet. You know how you can usually smell and/or sense impending rain? Well, I usually can. The winds were swirling above, yet the heavier drops from the sky held out long enough for Swedish supergroup and super buzzed about band Amason to play their set at the Sweden showcase early at FLOODfest Friday at Cedar Street Courtyard. To be honest, I was relieved for them, thinking about how much equipment could be ruined, not to mention how many band members might be electrocuted, if the sky decided to open up and pour down on them in the middle of the set.

Amason at SXSW 2015

Instead, their songs – driven by determined rhythms, the strong vocals of each member of the band and their excellent musicianship – wowed the crowd at who were also enjoying the complimentary Swedish meatball buffet. You can read more about this set of Amason’s as part of my introduction to the interview I did with Nils Törnqvist (drums and percussion) and Petter Winnberg (bass) in this post from last week.

The rain turned out to be quite a damper for most of the day Friday. Because of the bad weather outside, I reckoned that most people either gave Friday at SXSW a pass, not wanting to venture out in a less than fashionable poncho, or they just stayed where they were as long as possible, which is what Carrie opted to do at B.D. Riley’s and St. David’s church later on in the night. Me? I’m not so easily satisfied and so I braved the weather to stick to my original plan of seeing an afternoon of great Aussie bands at the Aussie BBQ, which I unfortunately missed out on last year. While I think Sounds Australia did a great job being prepared for the rain, passing out free ponchos and a handy guide to the Aussie BBQ’s line-up to any punter coming into Brush Square Park, as well as continue serving their promised free loaded hot dogs that punters were grateful for, I think everyone questioned the wisdom of moving the event away from Maggie Mae’s to two outdoor venues.

SAFIA at SXSW 2015

Thankfully, as the setup at Brush Square was the same as for Sounds from Spain on Wednesday, with tents keeping most things dry. Despite the rain and the inconvenience of rain gear and errant brollies, the mood was up in the West Tent as I arrived in the middle of SAFIA‘s set. The Canberra trio – Ben Woolner, Michael Bell and Harry Sayers – are of that crowded electropop genre, but Woolner’s voice is soulful, making beat-driven, hand-clappy songs like ‘You Are the One’ and ‘Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues’ stand out. They got the crowd riled up and ready for a full day of their countrymen’s music.

I knew nothing of Clockwise before he played, so I really wasn’t sure what I was going to get. You know how Nick Cave is a beloved, legendary performer from Oz? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m pretty sure Andy Clockwise is jonesing to grab that mantle away from him. And he can do it with his stage presence. His music’s good too; at first I thought, hmm, an Australian Bruce Springsteen, this is going to be interesting… Then the sound morphed from rock into one that was more mainstream pop. Huh! Things are really interesting now!

Clockwise at SXSW 2015

Then the man jumps off the stage, hands over his guitar to a random member of the audience, faffs maniacally with the knobs of the amp, and tells her to get onstage and wail on it. She does. He then brings the drummer’s high-hat down and hands over a drumstick to another all too eager audience member, who is instructed to bang on the high-hat as hard as he can. Mayhem, I tell you, utter mayhem. Yet it was so quintessentially mental – and fun – as SXSW goes.

Well before her set, I interviewed pop singer/songwriter Lenka, who wore a poncho even inside the tent to prevent the slightest damp or drip from getting on her sundress (it worked) but who was understandably nervous about any of her and her band’s instruments getting wet in a freak accident (it appears everything was spared and in reasonably good working order). Now, I can’t be sure if the rain had anything to do with the terrible feedback that was coming up through her microphone, but during her set, Lenka decided to go unplugged, going out into the crowd to sing a song accompanied by her guitarist. When in Rome, right? It just goes to show what a professional Lenka is, not letting malfunctioning equipment ruffle her feathers one bit.

Lenka at SXSW 2015

As promised by her answers to our SXSW 2015-flavoured Quickfire Questions, her stage setup showed off her keen crafting skills, with clouds and rain being represented on artwork hanging from Macbooks and even her own keytar. While recent single ‘Blue Skies’ didn’t manage to bring out their promised nice weather and at times you could hear thundering from above, it was still great watching Lenka do her thing to a crowd of appreciative fans. I’m looking forward to hearing her upcoming album ‘The Bright Side’, due out this summer.

Sydney’s Mansionair were up next on the West Tent bill. Prior to coming out to Austin, I’d heard several of their songs on YouTube, notably the title track to their 2014 EP ‘Hold Me Down’, and enjoyed what I heard. The combination of haunting, yet minimalist synth notes, guitar and percussion, effective production, and a warbling vocal is one that is not soon forgotten, and the same could be said for their whole set Friday afternoon.

Mansionair at SXSW 2015

Even before seeing them live, I had a feeling of complete validation mid-week in Austin when I’d seen on my Twitter feed that during their time here, they’d been signed to Glassnote Records, aka the NYC indie but not really indie record label that launched the mega careers of Two Door Cinema Club and Mumford and Sons in the States. Hold tight, Mansionair, your lives are about to get very crazy very soon.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KslY_vf_V24[/youtube]

I had an interview date in a little while with Public Service Broadcasting, so I thought I’d duck into their set closing out the Friday afternoon programming at the British Music Embassy. Heh. What I expected: a well-attended but not packed out affair full of Anglophiles like myself. What it was like, actually: a totally rammed venue where the audience was even more enthusiastic for the quirky history boffin duo than the night before, which was to my utter surprise, especially for an afternoon showcase. The amount of cheering for ‘Spitfire’, wow! Perhaps we Americans don’t know how to do tea properly, but at least we recognise – and appreciate, often loudly when it’s warranted – our British cousins and their talent.

Public Service Broadcasting Friday afternoon at British Music Embassy at SXSW 2015

 

SXSW 2015 Interview: Scott Miller and Jon Warren of Dry the River

 
By on Wednesday, 1st April 2015 at 11:00 am
 

I spent the Tuesday night of SXSW 2015 at Buffalo Billiards, where Transgressive Records held its 10th Anniversary showcase, featuring among several other bands London folk-rock quartet Dry the River. In the middle of the showcase, between sets by Gengahr and Songhoy Blues, I was able to sit down for a chat with the rhythm section of Dry the River, which comprises bassist Scott Miller and drummer Jon Warren, who previously answered Mary’s Quickfire Questions back in February. (Read their answers here.) I had been told by Dry The River’s manager that Miller and Warren were the “outspoken” members of the band, and his assessment proved to be true in the course of our lively conversation, which is streaming below.

The band were in town for their third SXSW Music Festival, and both Miller and Warren professed a love for Austin as well as an affinity for road-tripping through America while on tour. Dry the River are currently in the middle of a massive touring cycle for their second album ‘Alarms of the Heart’, which will include live dates in Europe as well as a scheduled appearance at Live at Leeds 2015 in May.

During the course of our interview, I asked Miller and Warren about Dry the River’s schedule of shows during SXSW, and they mentioned that they had both full band shows and smaller acoustic sessions lined up for the week. In a rather unfortunate coincidence, I expressed my interest in hearing them play an acoustic set, which is what ended up happening on the night of the Transgressive show when problems with the sound equipment forced them to switch from their full band set up to an impromptu unplugged session. But Dry the River bravely soldiered on, and I was able to hear them play a full set later in the week at the British Music Embassy; watch TGTF for my Thursday night recap, which will include that show. You can read my review of the Tuesday night Transgressive Records showcase right here.

Thanks again to Chris for arranging this interview.

 
 
 

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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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