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(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #331: Pale Seas

 
By on Friday, 23rd January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Hollie Fernando

Southampton dream pop quartet Pale Seas formed in 2011, when frontman Jacob Scott was inspired to drop out of university and follow his songwriting muse. Their first studio endeavour resulted in a single, ‘Something or Nothing’, which was released in March 2012 and received radio attention from BBC Introducing later that year. On the strength of that single, the band played their first headline tour as well as landing support slots with The War on Drugs, Beach Fossils, The Lemonheads, and TGTF favourites Stornoway.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/39537713[/vimeo]

They quickly recorded a follow up, the double A-side single ‘Bodies / My Own Mind’ with producer Paul Butler (The Bees, Devendra Banhart, Michael Kiwanuka), who contributed a tapestry of “thick, luscious soundscapes” to fortify the wistful melancholia of Scott’s songs. The single was released in September 2012 with the assistance of Communion Records, and ‘Bodies’ kickstarted Pale Seas’ ascent, garnering over one million online plays.

In their brief history, the band have already faced a couple of lineup changes, including the departure of Scott’s former girlfriend and backing vocalist Zealah Isabella Anstey and the addition of drummer Will Hilliard. Having apparently settled in their current incarnation (Scott on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Graham Poole on lead guitar, Matthew Bishop on bass and Hilliard on drums), the band recorded their first EP ‘Places to Haunt’ with Butler once again at the production helm and Poole and Bishop collaborating on the songwriting. The EP, which features guest vocals by Alessi’s Ark, was released in August 2014 via Native Pop and includes the following track ‘Evil is Always One Step Behind’.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/98539035[/vimeo]

After spending the better part of the last 4 years establishing themselves as a band and cementing the direction of their sound, Pale Seas are poised to make a mark on the indie music scene in 2015. Their scheduled trip to SXSW 2015 in Austin in March is their only announced live appearance since their UK tour in October of last year, but I predict that we’ll see more of them, either on stage or in the form of their anticipated debut album. Just below, you can watch the video for ‘Blood Return’, which is taken from that effort.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/90123678[/vimeo]

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #330: Modestep

 
By on Thursday, 22nd January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Modestep are a tricky band to categorise, because they alternate between several different musical styles – dubsteb, grime, drum ‘n’ bass, heavy metal, and even straight pop – often within the same song. And while such stylistic confusion is one reason why it’s this writer’s sober wish never to hear their music again, there are no doubt plenty of listeners out there for whom Modestep’s magpie tendencies perfectly suit their iPhone-generation attention spans.

Their debut album ‘Evolution Theory’ runs to an ambitious 25 tracks on the deluxe edition; padded with various remixes and bonus tracks, that’s almost 2 hours of Modestep. Surely not even the most ardent fan could feel short-changed for quantity. It kicks off with the overwrought ‘Show Me a Sign’, dedicated to “the ones who care”; said dedication can apparently be demonstrated, not by perhaps helping an old lady across the street, or even sharing ones Polo mints with the office, but by holding a lighter in the air, an act of little practical use. Modestep throw the kitchen sink at their opening gambit – brostep, faux drum ‘n’ bass, and finally heavy metal riffing – conspiring to make a right old racket.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=je8UCmQ45h4[/youtube]

The title track is a bit more interesting: four rappers talk about which music has influenced them, namedropping profusely (Wiley, Dizzee), although it all inevitably descends into metal-step carnage towards the end. Similarly, ‘Praying For Silence’ has potential: it’s introduced by a news report on the 2011 London riots, and one would be forgiven for looking forward to a musing on that divisive episode from people closer in age and outlook to the rioters than your average man on the street. Sadly, there’s little social commentary, and the central refrain, “we’re praying for silence / now we’re burning with violence,” makes little sense. The rest is simply recycled brostep filler. An opportunity missed.

As an aside, what is the actual point of dubstep in 2015? Fair enough, when it was first invented, nigh on 20 years ago, it sounded edgy and novel, a break from the ubiquitous four-to-the-floor house scene, and probably heralded a move away from ecstasy to a novel plethora of barely-legal acronymic nightclub intoxicants. But now, with the advent of U.S. brostep and the ensuing mass cultural appropriation, the edge has gone and all we’re left with is the sound. Which, unfortunately for the genre, consists of deeply unpleasant bleugh, skweeeeek and wawawa noises. In other words, nothing to hum.

‘Time’ stands out like a black sheep – it’s a straight-ahead stadium ballad, with Hammond organ, piano, and real, heavily-reverbed drums. A jarring interlude in what is otherwise a dance album. And ‘Burn’ actually a pretty decent track, due to the contribution of a proper grime crew, Newham Generals, who actually have something decent to say, and say it well. But, yet again, the track is built around a bland platitude, in this case “can you feel the fire?”. Yes I can, and it’s in my ears. By this point, the album’s only halfway over. If you can stand to listen to the rest you’re a braver soul than I.

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

Let’s give Modestep the benefit of the doubt. Young listeners trying to work out exactly which genre floats their boat might listen to this and discover a previously unknown appreciation for drum ‘n’ bass, for instance, and end up seeking out some Roni Size and Goldie records. But whichever genre Modestep visit, and there are many, one can nominate a band that specialise in it… and do it better. If they chose one niche, and stuck to it, they might be more successful.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #329: B.Traits

 
By on Wednesday, 21st January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Brianna Price, who is better known by her stage name B.Traits, is a DJ, record producer and radio presenter from Nelson, British Columbia, Canada.

At 18 years old, B.Traits made a name for herself at drum & bass club nights across Canada, having been taught to DJ by a friend. This led to regular bookings throughout North American and Europe. During her travels, she met Shy FX (best known for his re-edit of DJ Fresh’s ‘Gold Dust’), who signed B.Traits to his Digital Soundboy label in 2007, making her the first female artist on his roster.

Nevertheless, we had to wait 5 years for the release of the Canadian’s debut single ‘Fever’, which featured vocals from Elisabeth Troy, who recently featured on Clean Bandit’s cover of the house classic ‘Show Me Love’. ‘Fever’ charted at #36 in the Official UK Charts to give B.Traits her first top 40 UK single.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bkzMCGJboY[/youtube]

In April 2012, B.Traits hosted the “In New DJs We Trust” show on BBC Radio 1, appearing as part of a 4-week rotation. She later secured her own weekly slot as part of the Friday night line-up, broadcasting underground dance music to wee hour ravers from 1 to 4 AM. Her work for the radio station was recognised when the 28-year-old Canadian was nominated for Best DJ at the 2014 Bass Music Awards.

Most recently, B.Traits turned her efforts to television presenting, as she fronted a BBC Three documentary entitled “How Safe Are My Drugs?” The programme, which was broadcast in December 2014, explored the reasons why drug-related deaths in the UK had suddenly increased, and how much of that was down to the rapid growth of legal highs.

Looking ahead to later this year, B.Traits has more singles and a debut album in the pipeline. She is also appearing at a number of music festivals throughout the year, including SXSW 2015 in Austin.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #328: Reuben Hollebon

 
By on Tuesday, 20th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

If you’re interested in experimental folk, Norfolk’s Reuben Hollebon might be an artist to keep an eye (or an ear) out for in the coming year. Hollebon came across our radar at TGTF when he was announced as part of the lineup for SXSW 2015, and a quick Internet search revealed that he is working on a full-length album, also expected for release this year.

Hollebon’s first EP ‘Clutch’ was released on Akira Records in December 2012. Combining tremulous, echoing vocals with stark, often discordant instrumental parts, the seven tracks on the EP are instantly reminiscent of Bon Iver. Standout track ‘Skin Addict’ features a minimal arrangement of piano, percussion and ethereal layered vocals along with equally minimal, bluntly emotional lyrics, including the relentlessly repeated chorus “get out of my head, get out of my bed / get out of my mind, give me back my time / get out of my skin, my blood needs thinning”. Hollebon shows a deeper, more soulful side on ‘Home’, where the solidly grounded bass line and more traditional acoustic guitar melody contrast his pervasive and unique falsetto vocal style.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/V4DW7w2ZJQM[/youtube]

In August 2013, Hollebon released his latest single ‘Faces’, which continues in the same gracefully refined yet slightly bizarre musical vein. Hollebon’s vocal effects here remind me of Eddie Vedder, not in the actual vocal sound but in their ability to convey the idea and emotion of a person balancing just on the edge of sanity. The video for ‘Faces’, directed by Emma Rozanski, visually captures the anxious tension of the percussion-driven musical arrangement.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/FuzQxuA2sGc[/youtube]

The end of 2013 saw Hollebon playing live shows and sharing stages with TGTF favorites Cocos Lovers and Nathaniel Rateliff, among others. In February 2014, he was invited to play a solo show for Sofar Sounds in London, where he recorded the exquisitely haunting performance of ‘Fields for Fields’ featured below. A glance through Hollebon’s Facebook page reveals that he and his bandmates Jacob Hollebon and Jake Wheeler spent much of 2014 in the recording studio, interspersing their studio time with a few one-off live shows. Their scheduled appearance at SXSW this March will likely provide a sneak peek at what to expect from Hollebon’s anticipated album release later in the year. In the meantime, you can stream Reuben Hollebon’s currently released songs on his Bandcamp page.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/DlDWYQ1l_1g[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #327: The Lonely Wild

 
By on Monday, 19th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

At the first music festival I ever covered was a then little-known folk band from London called Mumford and Sons. I missed them because I was on a tour bus interviewing another band, but a journo’s gotta do what a journo’s gotta do. And we all know what happened to them, don’t we? I have been pondering what Mumford have been up to lately, seeing that their third album has yet to materialise after nearly a year from the time they said they’d be working on new songs. In the meantime though, I have been poring over the SXSW 2015 band list and considering who might sneak into their nu-folk while the tweedy Londoners have their backs turned. Perhaps The Lonely Wild will be just the people to do it.

Hailing now from the band-heavy and musically productive area of Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California, the Lonely Wild’s humble start was back in 2010, when lead singer and guitarist Andrew Carroll moved to the area to study music, meeting band mates Ryan Ross (multiple instruments) and Andrew Schneider (guitar) in school. After some line-up changes following the release of their 2011 debut EP ‘Dead End’, they’re now a five-piece, with the addition of multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist Jessi Williams and drummer Dave Farina.

In April 2013, they released their debut album ‘The Sun As It Comes’ on their astrologically named own label Ursa Major Recordings, which benefitted from circulation through Sony’s RED Distribution. ‘Everything You Need’ has the folk plus horns sound reminiscent of ‘Winter Winds’; ‘Keep Us Whole’ could be an outtake from Husky‘s ‘Forever So’. At seemingly the opposite side of the sound spectrum, Carroll favours a twang in his voice in the first half of the contemplative ballad ‘Buried in the Murder’. But there’s a twist: he then brings out a raspy vocal while a rock guitar squeals to usher out the track. (What? Where did Jimi Hendrix come from? I know! I was surprised about that as you were.)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVgao9HCqZg[/youtube]

It’s this combination of indie folk vs. indie rock that just might endear them to mainstream radio: their sound is not hugely edgy (thus playable to the masses), but edgy and interesting enough to be hip. extremely hilarious, judging by the Thanks to their fans, their second album (name yet to be revealed) has already passed its PledgeMusic goal. Interesting, its release date is not until April 7, 2015, some 3 weeks after SXSW 2015. Guess the Lonely Wild will be using Austin as the new LP’s training ground, and with the expectation that Communion will host a showcase or two in March, I’m looking forward to see what punters will think about them. Something else they have going for them: they’re extremely funny, going by the video they filmed to encourage fans to donate towards the making of their album (watch below).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx_MCtZ-_vg[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #326: Fatherson

 
By on Friday, 16th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by TGTF Editor-in-Chief Mary Chang at Edinburgh Potterrow, October 2014

Fatherson are Scottish, and they’re not afraid to show it. Singer Ross Leighton has a beautiful, broad Scots twang which, along with the chunky four-piece instrumentation, immediately gives the music a personality: a windswept, weatherbeaten one, evocative of grand vistas of freshwater and granite, flavoured with the tang of freshly-trampled heather. Nowhere is this effect more apparent than on ‘Hometown’, from debut LP ‘I Am An Island’. Check out the “we have it all figured out” refrain for ample proof.

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

Fatherson deliver a more straight-ahead guitar rock experience than their Celtic peers such as Admiral Fallow; while their music falls broadly into the vast folk-rock canon, there’s a great deal more rock than folk here. Which is not to say that they lack subtlety – their aforementioned ability to conjure up the musical equivalent of a burly kilted man throwing a tree trunk is testament to that, as are the vocal harmonies and the string arrangements that pop up unexpectedly from time to time – but they pack a punch when they really put their minds to it. Which is to say, most of the time. Imagine Travis with overdriven guitars, or perhaps Foo Fighters if Dave Grohl was from a Kilmarnock council estate, and you’re not far off.

2014 was the year that Fatherson moved into the big league. A UK and European tour, a spot in the King Tut’s tent at T in the Park, support from Zane Lowe: all points to a band gaining momentum. Appropriately, then, that they should be looking forward to a SXSW 2015 slot in March. Their sole celebratory homecoming show post-Austin is at the Head of Steam in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which will surely turn out to be one of those “see-them-just-before-they’re-massive” shows that the HoS is so good at. I’ll see you there.

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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