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SXSW 2015 Interview: Gengahr

 
By on Monday, 30th March 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Just ahead of the Transgressive Records 10th anniversary showcase at Buffalo Billiards on the 17th of March, I had the chance to sit down with Felix Bushe, Danny Ward and John Victor of London’s up-and-coming guitar rock band Gengahr. Bass player Hugh Schulte was unfortunately unable to make the trip to Austin due to visa issues, but the band had luckily been able to find a replacement bassist for their SXSW shows. We had to keep our interview short after having some difficulty finding each other in the multilevel venue, but the three on-hand members of Gengahr had time to give me a quick overview of their music, including their current releases in America and the UK, as well as their plans for more touring in the UK and Europe after SXSW 2015 and a full album release expected in Britain this summer.

Bushe, Ward and Victor all seemed very much at ease with both the interview and their upcoming set, despite the general chaos of the evening and the challenge of playing with an unfamiliar bassist. Their comfort level might have to do with the fact that they have quite a long history with each other, though only three short years playing together as a band. As it turned out, the band members’ relaxed, soft-spoken demeanor in the interview streaming below was a good indication of the subtle yet edgy songs I would hear in Gengahr’s stage set later in the evening. Their introspective, atmospheric style was a stark contrast to Spring King and Songhoy Blues, who played immediately before and after Gengahr on the night’s line up. If you haven’t already seen it, you can read my full review of the Transgressive Records showcase, including Gengahr’s performance, right here.

Thanks again to Brid for arranging this interview.

 

SXSW 2015 Interview: Rival Consoles

 
By on Monday, 30th March 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Paris Hilton aside, it’s pretty much a given that all electronic musicians and producers, based solely on the amount of equipment and software they must familiarise themselves with and become technological adepts with, are technical geeks. Yet one of the wonderful, unexpected awakenings I had this time round in Austin for SXSW 2015 was meeting and getting a chance to chew the fat with three great thinkers in the electronic world. I had a great chat outside the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 Saturday afternoon with Erased Tapes artist Ryan L. West, who records and produces under the name Rival Consoles, and we chatted about his music, as well as the state of electronic music and where it’s going.

Is the recorded form of electronic music stale? Ryan seems to think so, agreeing with Barcelona musician / producer beGun that it’s super important for an electronic artist to make a bold statement when performing live and giving the audience more than what can be found online and bought as mp3s and albums. He also tells me about how he hates the term “EDM” and we discuss the lack of women not only as punters at electronic artists’ gigs but also the lack of women in the genre; coincidentally, our conversation predated this Pitchfork op-ed on the same topic Ryan posted on his Facebook by 2 days.

Not all of our chat was contentious. Ryan explains how he tried to turn on its head the usual “crass and crude” nature of electronic music as a medium in his EP released last year, ‘Sonne’, in in which he strove to bring not just colour but lightness and brightness to his music. He also tells me about his dynamic stage projection and light show he showed off at the Blackjack London / Association of Independent Music (AIM) evening Friday night at the British Music Embassy, which turns out to be at the mercy of whoever’s hands he wants to leave it with on the evening. Interesting? Without a doubt, yes. Listen to the whole conversation below.

Read my preview of his SXSW appearances in my Bands to Watch piece here.

 

SXSW 2015: Transgressive Records showcase – 17th March 2015

 
By on Monday, 30th March 2015 at 10:00 am
 

On the first official night of the SXSW 2015 Music festival, I attended the Transgressive Records 10th anniversary showcase at Buffalo Billiards in downtown Austin. I had never been inside Buffalo Billiards before, after a failed attempt to get in for a show during last year’s festival, and I didn’t realize how large the venue was. It has a downstairs bar area, the main stage area upstairs, and a mid-level landing between the two. It was nice not being rammed into a tiny club for what was sure to be a popular show with Spring King, Gengahr, Songhoy Blues and Dry the River on the scheduled lineup.

However, the spaciousness of the venue did present a slight problem for me as I attempted to meet up with members of Gengahr and Dry the River for interviews we had previously scheduled via e-mail and text. As we had never met in person, it proved a bit tricky for us all to actually find one another in the club and then find a quiet place to sit down for a chat. In the end, both interviews were accomplished between stage sets, and I was able to listen to all four bands as well. But the interview meet-ups turned out to be the least of what would be a series of technical difficulties surrounding my experience at the Transgressive Records showcase.

First on the docket for the show was Manchester garage rock quartet Spring King, whose lead singer Tarek Musa is also their drummer, so I’m not sure if it’s entirely appropriate to refer to him as the band’s frontman. I’m even less sure about the phrase “garage rock” after reading on the Transgressive Records Web site that the band’s first EP ‘Demons’ was recorded not in a garage, but in a converted bathroom. While Spring King definitely have a grungy, lo-fi quality to their sound, they also have a strong sense of propulsive momentum and energy.

Even from his position in the center back of the stage, Musa engaged easily with the audience, and Spring King played a tight and enthusiastic set to start the showcase. ‘Better Man’ from the ‘Demons’ EP was particularly well-received, as was recent single ‘City’, which will be released on the band’s new EP ‘They’re Coming After You’, due out in the UK on the 20th of April. (You can watch the live video of Spring King playing ‘City’ at the BBC Introducing night Wednesday on editor Mary’s review of that showcase here.)

Spring King at Transgressive showcase 17 March 2015

Following Spring King were the heavily-hyped indie rock band Gengahr, whom I’d had the opportunity to talk with before the start of the showcase. Their soft-spoken demeanor in the interview turned out to be very much in tune with the vibe of their performance on the night, which came across as quite introverted and understated after Spring King’s lively set. Gengahr’s atmospheric psych pop might not have been the best fit for the mood of this particular room, but their set was politely received by the crowd of people filtering in and out of the stage area. The performance included three songs from ‘She’s a Witch’, Gengahr’s current American EP release (the tracks have been released as singles in the UK), including the title track seen in the video below.

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

After Gengahr finished their set, I ducked out again to talk with members of Dry the River, who were due to play last on the lineup. I came back just in time to catch Malian breakout band Songhoy Blues, who released their album ‘Music in Exile’ back in February on Transgressive. The stage area, which had seemed fairly spacious up to this point, was positively rammed with punters who were eager to see the hotly-tipped world musicians, and Songhoy Blues didn’t disappoint. They played an exuberant set for their SXSW debut, their songs blending blues rock instrumentation with traditional Malian rhythm and vocals as lead singer Aliou Toure (pictured in the header photo above) entranced the crowd with his genial smile and commanding stage presence. Take a listen to their track ‘Al Hassidi Terei’, streaming just below.

As the audience collectively took a moment to catch its breath after Songhoy Blues’ incredible performance, things began to unravel a bit for London folk-rock band Dry the River. They began their stage set up and soundcheck, only to discover just before they were about to start that something was seriously awry with the sound equipment. I never found out exactly what the problem was, but in the end Dry the River weren’t able to play their full set. They did agree to do a few tunes in unplugged fashion instead, moving from the stage onto the mid-level landing and actually starting to play before being interrupted by a Buffalo Billiards staff member who told them they couldn’t have the audience gathered there due to fire code restrictions.

They moved once again to the back corner of the main venue, their audience obediently trailing behind, and struck a position atop their large gear boxes to begin the impromptu acoustic set. While Dry the River’s folk-tinged rock and three-part vocal harmonies translate beautifully to acoustic performance, their disappointment in not being able to play a full stage set was very much evident as frontman Peter Liddle, guitarist Matthew Taylor and bassist Scott Miller somewhat reluctantly obliged us with four quick songs before heading back to the stage to help drummer Jon Warren pack up their unused gear. Before I left the venue I said a quick good-bye to Miller, whom I’d met earlier in the evening, assuring him that I would catch them later in the week when they were scheduled to play at the British Music Embassy. If you’re interested in Dry the River, be sure to check back here later this week for my Thursday night coverage, which will include that more successful performance.

Despite the evening’s difficulties, the Transgressive showcase left me with an impression of four up-and-coming bands who are clearly headed for success in the near future. We’ll almost certainly be hearing more from them here at TGTF as the summer festival season approaches, so be sure to check back with us for further release information and live dates, as well as our interviews with Gengahr and Dry the River.

 

SXSW 2015: bits of BBC Introducing, Music from Ireland and more – 18th March 2015

 
By on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 5:00 pm
 

Given our Web site’s generally UK-directed alignment, it would have been rude not to stop by the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation night at the start of Wednesday night programming. I’m not really into psych rock, but I had been pleasantly surprised seeing Kettering’s Temples live in DC 6 months after giving them a pass at their high-profile slot on the Saturday night at the British Music Embassy of SXSW 2014. So I decided I was ready to have an open mind about Blossoms, whose songs played on 6music didn’t excite me much. I was very pleased that as a live prospect, the Stockport band are much more engaging.

Blossoms at BBC Introducing PRS for Music at SXSW 2015

Despite their young age (read: too young to drink in America), they’ve got a lot of swagger, and not just for appearances: musically, they’re a very tight unit. As frontmen go, Tom Odgen is a lanky, Pantene-beautiful, long-haired lad, bound to be a pinup on teenage girls’ walls in the very near future, but he also does a good job at commanding the audience. Then again, I’m a sucker for a Mancunian accent; 2 nights later, out in what seemed appropriate for boys from Manchester, sat out in the rare Austin rain, we complimented each other on our accents…

Blossoms at BBC Introducing PRS for Music at SXSW 2015

But the real expert on stage was lead guitarist Josh Dewhurst, whose axe-playing prowess was on full display on the single ‘Cut Me and I’ll Bleed’, among others. The single itself also is a primer on how to construct a radio-friendly pop song, going from a sinister, Scooby Doo-like minor key verse led by Myles Kellock’s keys to more positive chord progressions in the chorus. I had an accidental but entirely enjoyable opportunity to see the Northern lads play again Friday, when they filled in last minute for an absent Ghetts. In short, they won me over, including this possibly unusual tender moment about “the stately homes of England” in ‘Blown Rose’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LsMF5WGQ_g[/youtube]

After greeting friends from the Beeb, I was off to see Public Service Broadcasting play at LA promoter School Night!’s show at Red 7’s outdoor patio. I wasn’t about to miss my favourite tweedy chaps play a rare outdoor performance. I would have preferred better lighting – the dark reds and blues projected onto the stage seemed more appropriate for later acts to come Beat Connection and Urban Cone.

Public Service Broadcasting at School Night! at SXSW 2015

But despite the darkness, both their older songs from ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ sat well alongside newer ‘The Race for Space’ tracks. “This is a song about an airplane” ‘Spitfire’ was met with audience cheers, as was early ‘The Race for Space’ cut and uber funky number ‘Gagarin’ and 6music favourite ‘Go’. (Catch my interview with J. Willgoose, Esq. of the band here.) I was sad to leave just as ‘Everest’ began his ascent towards its climax, but I had a date with some new Irish friends.

Public Service Broadcasting at School Night! at SXSW 2015

I arrived to Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room in the midst of Meltybrains? mental set for Music from Ireland. Another group of young European lads let loose on the festival environs of Austin, but entirely different results: at one point, everyone in the band jumped off the stage to start a conga line, and their fans were more than willing to join them in the impromptu dance formation. Their thing is masks, having handed out hundreds of lovely spray-painted ones to punters at the Gibson room that night, which was quite the marketing coup. All week, I saw music fans walking around Austin with their mask attached in varying alignments on their heads. You knew immediately they’d been at the Meltybrains? show Wednesday night and had enjoyed it so much, they wanted to help promote the band. Super cool.

Meltybrains? at Music from Ireland at SXSW 2015

The band’s most recent single ‘Donegal’ demonstrates their comfort with mixing up styles and genres, with lyrics in falsetto, atmospheric electronica and compelling beats and percussion, all mixed together, and live, the energy of young Ireland comes through loud and clear through their music. At one point I mused that maybe they were alien Rastafarians.I kind of wish I had arrived earlier to witness more or all of their live set, as I knew I had other obligations Friday afternoon during the full Irish breakfast at B.D. Riley’s and this would be the only time I’d get a chance to see them gig. But of what I did witness, it became abundantly clear that they were one of the top, if not my top band discovery at SXSW 2015. Stay tuned for Carrie’s interviews with both acts at the full Irish breakfast coming soon on TGTF.

Orla Gartland at Music from Ireland at SXSW 2015

Another nomination for my sound of young Ireland is the lovely Orla Gartland, who already had her first headline tour of North America under her belt even before she arrived in Austin. Wide smiles from the lovely ginger lass and her band were the order of the day, as Gartland played a selection of super poppy, super catchy songs from her catalogue that you know will hit the spot for teenager and tweenager crowds that are already stalwarts of Kodaline and The 1975. I think her success is already assured, with upbeat, synthladen numbers like ‘Lonely People’ and ‘Souvenirs’, driven by her clear, confident voice, which were accompanied by the squeals of delight from young fans excited about every one of her songs.

I found myself at a loose end and let’s face it, there will be moments during your SXSW where you physically do not want to move anywhere, especially if you’re stuck in a mob of people and you can’t move anyway. I caught a bit of James Vincent McMorrow, whose headgear could rival James Bay’s for biggest and most annoying hat of the festival. I very rarely enjoy falsetto – it works in Meltybrains? because there is more than just the voice to lead the song – but I found myself completely underwhelmed by his singer/songwriter machinations. Funnily enough, Carrie was somewhere else in the crowd but because the place was so packed, we never ran into each other; despite her affinity for the singer/songwriter genre and her excitement in seeing McMorrow, we came to the same conclusion about his performance.

I returned to Latitude 30 for the final act of the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation show, Spring King. If there was something that certainly was not lacking this year at SXSW, it was loud rock music, played fast and raucously. While what they offer is not earth-shattering (watch the BBC filmed video of ‘City’ from this set below), hey have the kind of ethos that the Vaccines had on their first two albums, before they went pop with this year’s single ‘Handsome’. Which one of these up and coming bands are ready to take over the Vaccines’ mantle in that part of the music scene is anyone’s guess, but for sure, Spring King is one option.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVgtVq8HuT4[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2015: St. Patrick’s Day Brunch on a Boat with Generator NI – 17th March 2015

 
By on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

At the close of the Creative Belfast showcase on Monday night, editor Mary and I were invited to attend a special St. Patrick’s Day Brunch on a Boat, sponsored by Generator NI and Invest Northern Ireland. The boat launched from the Hyatt Regency Austin boat dock and floated down the Colorado River for a couple of idyllic hours on Tuesday morning, while we were treated to muffins, mimosas and intimate, scaled back performances by several of the showcasing bands from the previous evening.

The first artist to perform on the brunch lineup was Hannah McPhillimy, who is the keyboard player for Belfast pop band GO WOLF, but who is also a talented singer-songwriter in her own right. She performed a brief set of her own tracks, showing her versatility by switching from the ukulele to the keyboard for her accompaniment. I was enchanted by the sweetness of McPhillimy’s voice and by the very different songwriting style in her solo work compared to that of GO WOLF, so I was well pleased when she agreed to an interview with me at the end of the boat ride. (You can take a listen to her interview here, if you haven’t already.)

Hannah McPhillimy at St. Patrick's Day Brunch 17 March 2015

McPhillimy was assisted by her GO WOLF colleague Scott Jamison during part of her solo set, and at the end of her performance, the full band came up to take their turn on the stage. The vivid synth pop we had heard from GO WOLF at the British Music Embassy the night before mellowed easily in this quieter setting, matching the cordially relaxed mood on the small open air boat.

GO WOLF at St. Patrick's Day Brunch 17 March 2015

Perhaps the most breathtaking performance of the morning was by alt-rock quartet More Than Conquerors, who in a rather unexpected stylistic transformation, appeared here as an acoustic trio. Kris Platt’s strident vocals, which cut so well through the band’s full electric sound at Latitude 30 the previous night, were softened and delicately harmonised by drummer Jamie Neish and guitarist Danny Ball, while bassist Danny Morton looked on from the small back deck of the boat. I was surprised, to say the least, to hear this band sound so lovely in an acoustic setting, but the sensitive performance of ‘The Great Deceiver’ we heard here is evidently a mainstay in the band’s live repertoire, though it hasn’t appeared on any of their recorded releases to date.

More Than Conquerors at St. Patrick's Day Brunch 17 March 2015

The final act on the brunch’s music lineup was a somewhat more predictable choice, folk duo The Lost Brothers. Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech were clearly in their element playing to a small room of quiet listeners, performing from a seated position and tapping their toes in unison with one another as they sang. They took the opportunity to show off their seamless vocal harmonies with a lovely performance of ‘Under the Turquoise Sky’ and closed the curtain on the morning’s festivities with a charming cover of ‘Moon River’ as the boat headed back into the dock.

The Lost Brothers at St. Patrick's Day Brunch 17 March 2015

Special thanks to Mark from Generator NI for inviting us along on the Tuesday morning river cruise. Stay tuned to TGTF in the coming days for coverage of another river-related event from later in the SXSW 2015 week.

 

SXSW 2015: Tyla Campbell and Pete Mills of The People the Poet

 
By on Friday, 27th March 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

I can’t even imagine the daunting feeling, all the apprehension young artists must feel when they have gotten word that they’ve gotten a shout to SXSW and the next step is actually coming over and playing shows on the world’s biggest stage in Austin. This is what I’m envisioning must have been in the minds of all the members of The People the Poet from South Wales, who played two shows in Austin during the week, opening both the first night of programming at the British Music Embassy to usher in the music festival and the Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales night, then the start of the British Music Embassy programming on Saturday afternoon. In both cases, the band left SXSW 2015 punters in awe with their combination of emotionally charged lyrics and powerhouse instrumentation. From the second they got offstage Tuesday night, Austin was all abuzz over this young Welsh band who had clearly made their mark on the event in Texas.

They were a bit difficult to pin down but after their Saturday afternoon show, I was able to nab Tyla Campbell (guitarist and resident band social media maven) and Pete Mills (bass guitar) for an interview about their time out in Texas, including visiting a shooting range in Houston, then seeing this famous rodeo that Willie Nelson played in Austin; we here at TGTF have no idea about it, but I guess we’ll have to investigate next time we’re in town, especially since the organisers advertise children riding sheep. Tyla and Pete also tell me about their varied band influences, how their self-released album ‘The Narrator’, with stories entirely sourced from fans came about, and the importance of those fans.

One of the more famous punters at their Tuesday night show was Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary, who was so taken by their sound that he had them in for a live session to perform ‘People’, which is the Lynyrd Skynryd-flavoured track I was telling them about! You can have a listen and watch to the session of the song below under the interview. (So wait a minute, I beat Dermot O’Leary tipping a band before him as well as Lammo? ::smug::)

For more information on The People the Poet, visit their Facebook or check out our past articles on them.

 
 
 

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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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