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Bands to Watch #409: KAWALA

 
By on Friday, 6th July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo of KAWALA by Aron Klein; words by Lily Cresswell

Five-piece London band KAWALA are a relatively new addition to the alternative-pop music scene, making their debut with single ‘Small Death’. Contrary to popular belief, the name does not appear to be a reference to the cane flute commonly used in Arabic music, though its addition would be rather interesting to the band’s sound. The fresh new group consists of Jim Higson (vocals), Daniel McCarthy (guitar, backing vocals), Ben Batten (drums), Reeve Coulson (bass guitar) and Dan Lee (guitar).

The most striking thing about this single ‘Small Death’ is the variety of sounds and moods that are all entwined within this one song. There are soft and acoustic undertones, enhanced by vocal harmonies that weave in and out of each other seamlessly, but yet there is also a hint of a typical indie upbeat vibe signified by the bright, staccatoing guitars. Throughout ‘Small Death’, Higson touches upon topics of melancholy, self-discovery and love through cryptic lyrics that add a poetic beauty to the song like, “Hold me here / wash away / take me from day to day / and do I care or will I cave?” The lyrics touch upon death in both literal and figurative ways – “This could be my last breath (why am I supposed to care?)” – takes the single to a deeper place. ‘Small Death’ successfully hit a sweet spot of mellow liveliness, piling the pressure on the group for their then forthcoming EP.

Despite the high standards of the first single, debut EP ‘D.I.L.Y.D’ meets them and goes beyond, foreshadowing exciting things to come from KAWALA. The EP consists of four tracks, the aforementioned ‘Small Death’, ‘Do It Like You Do’, ‘Funky’ and ‘Mighty River’, each showcasing the diverse sounds of the band. The electricity of the EP has already been picked up by Spotify, who have been giving the band substantial amounts of support and have included tracks from it on several nationwide playlists. The band have also sold out numerous headline shows and played festivals such as Dot to Dot Festival and The Great Escape. This early success is due to continue with more gigs and festivals in the pipeline, perhaps most notably their headline show last night at the BBC’s Radio 1 Introducing show at London Lexington alongside supports Apre and Zuzu.

Despite being a pretty new group, they’ve already released a series of visuals to captivate fans and welcome them to their world. Alongside the EP, Kawala have released an official music video for the spelled-out EP title track ‘Do It Like You Do’. The video is simple but poignant, showing all sorts of people from different walks of life, perhaps a nod to the sort of audience you can expect from a band with such accessible music. They’ve also released a tour video to accompany the single ‘Funky’, titled ‘A KAWALA Story’. Although it’s easy to hear this in their music, the personality of each band member shines through and shows us the fun and energy they put into each tune. If their live shows this year, including the aforementioned show at the Lexington and appearances at RIZE festival in London next month and Manchester’s Neighbourhood Festival in October, live up to KAWALA’s growing hype, their future is very bright indeed.

For more information on dates and how to get tickets, visit KAWALA’s official Facebook page. The EP ‘D.I.L.Y.D’ is now out on Mahogany Records, the new venture between Mahogany Sessions and Marathon Artists.

 

Video of the Moment #2864: Menace Beach

 
By on Thursday, 5th July 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

It’s been a spell since we’ve written about Menace Beach. The Leeds duo released their last album ‘Lemon Memory’ (review here) over a year and a half ago. Yes, really. They’ve now announced the follow-up: ‘Black Rainbow Sound’ will drop on the 31st of August on Memphis Industries, and they’re previewing the LP with a new promo video for the title track and lead single. The song itself features guest vocals from Brix Smith and a driving psych beat, while the monochromatic music video is delightfully weird, utilising arty cutouts of newspapers, insects and skulls and recalling Monty Python animations. Watch the video for ‘Black Rainbow Sound’ below. For all of TGTF’s past coverage on Menace Beach, go here.

 

Bands to Watch #408: Declan Welsh and the Decadent West

 
By on Thursday, 5th July 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Confidence and charisma, if you are born with them, are two things that come in handy if you want to be a public figure. How you choose to use them, well, ladies and gents, that’s another story. East Kilbride’s Declan Welsh decided to use his gifts to write political poetry and songs and taking things one step further – and I guess as you do in a satellite town of Glasgow – formed a band with his hometown mates. The alliteratively named Declan Welsh and the Decadent West, one of top tips for this year’s May city festival season, appeared in May at The Great Escape 2018, where I was able to see the Scots in action at the Green Door Store Friday night, whipping the punters into a frenzy. No wonder this band has already become a hot commodity on the Glasgow live circuit.

Early on, it became clear to bloggers’ ears that Welsh would not shy from controversy and that he marched to the beat of a different drummer. A socialist drummer, you might say. Not afraid to get on his proverbial soapbox to deliver the searing ‘Nazi Boys’, he subsequently had to defend the Neelam Khan Vela-directed video with “We created two minutes and 20 second long piece of art, with a director whose main aim was to provoke a response.” Prior to showcasing in Brighton, they self-released their debut EP ‘All My Dreams Are Dull’, which featured several exemplary, jarring tracks demonstrating Welsh’s wit and desire to write about topics not usually talked about in polite company or merely all too often swept under the rug. ‘No Pasaran’, like ‘Nazi Boys’ before it, serves up another reminder to fight oppression at all costs. ‘Do What You Want’ promotes celebrates gender fluidity, which Welsh explained at the set I saw at the Great Escape as a call for more understanding and acceptance with the ultimate goal of love winning out.

I reckon the upbeat-sounding single ‘Lull’ will probably draw in the most new fans this summer festival season. Listen a little closer, and you’ll hear Welsh’s accurate depiction of the anxiety of youth in the lyrics. He explained the single to Louder Than War last month: “‘Lull’ is about self-doubt, it’s about the futility of existence, it’s about making art, trying to leave a mark, being lazy, delusions of grandeur. It’s basically about the fact that all of us are trying hard to find meaning, and about how some of us choose making stuff as that meaning. It’s then about how making stuff is about making an impact, being remembered, but about how that pressure can be destructive and drive people who make stuff to tie how good their stuff is with how worthwhile they are. It’s a bit grim, really, which is why we tried to make the tune a bit more upbeat. I quite like that juxtaposition, somber lyrics and an upbeat melody.”

While exploiting this kind of juxtaposition to get more listeners is nothing new in popular music, it’s great that an up-and-coming band is doing more than simply make a great big noise. Hang on this link for the future, as I suspect we’ll be writing much more about Declan Welsh and the Decadent West in days to come.

 

Video of the Moment #2863: Saint Sister

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd July 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

After their appearances in past SXSWs, female Irish duo Saint Sister have announced they are readying to release their debut album. ‘Shape of Silence’ is due for a release later this year, but we don’t have firm details yet. What we do have is the single ‘Twin Peaks’ and an accompanying tour video that shows Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre and their touring bandmates on the road. The song’s ethereal folk nature plays nicely with the varied scenes the band finds themselves in in the video. Watch it below. For more on our coverage of Saint Sister on TGTF, go here.

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Buck Meek

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd July 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo: Buck Meek, far right, with his band at Luck Reunion during SXSW 2018

If you’re a regular TGTF reader, you might already be familiar with the name of singer/songwriter Buck Meek. We’ve covered Meek before in his role as part of alt-rock band Big Thief, both in live review and previous SXSW coverage. Back in March, during SXSW 2018, Meek came to Austin as a solo artist, to preview his now-released debut LP, which is simply titled ‘Buck Meek.’ I caught a very quick moment with Meek after his set at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion to ask him about the new album.

‘Buck Meek’ technically isn’t Meek’s solo debut, following on his previous EP release ‘Heart Was Beat’ from back in 2015. That EP includes the memorable track ‘Sam Bridges’, which he played in a slightly different form in the Revival Tent at Luck than what I remembered from a live performance in Phoenix with Big Thief several years ago. Discussing his set on the day, Meek agreed. “That [song] had a more country feel. I mean, we’re playing it with a slide guitar player today, who kind of mimics the [pedal] steel, and with a country drum beat and everything.”

Having only seen Meek before in the context of Big Thief’s edgy folk rock, I was curious about the more obvious country influence I heard on display in his solo work. “I think there’s influence there”, Meek says. “I grew up in Wimberly, Texas, south of Austin. I grew up listening to, surrounded by country music. So it’s always been, I think, an influence. And to be honest, this set, I catered more towards that feel.”

But many of the songs on ‘Buck Meek’, the album, defy easy classification as straighforward country songs. Musically, the record’s foundational country tone is obfuscated by elements of what Meek describes as “grunge, and punk rock, and more esoteric stuff.” Early single ‘Cannonball!’ has a distinct twang to it, most prominently in Meek’s vocal lines, but its laid-back rhythm section is unmistakabely jazz-tinged, and its electric guitar riff is pure blues rock. ‘Ruby’ is a charmingly elusive, rhythmically complex track which Meek explained to Uproxx as “the suspension in love, when time folds in on itself, when the first instant of meeting cycles through the idiosyncratic friction and ancient affection of years together, which again cycles into infancy and eager fascination — all contained within a sideways glance.”

Thematically, ‘Buck Meek’ touches on a wide array of subject matter, from platonic male friendship (‘Joe By the Book’) to a plane crash in the French Alps (‘Flight 9525’), and an intriguing cast of characters, including a widow named ‘Sue’ and a devoted canine ‘Best Friend.’ In the end, the heart of the album is revealed in final track ‘Fool Me’, a late night country bar classic, with a plaintive piano melody and Meek’s self-deprecating vocal evoking the mild yet persistent yearning of one last slow dance on an otherwise deserted dance floor.

‘Buck Meek’ was released on the 18th of May on Austin record label Keeled Scales. Buck Meek will spend the remainder of the summer on tour supporting the release of the album, including the following run of dates in the UK in August. In addition to the shows listed below, Meek will support fellow country artist Courtney Marie Andrews at the Norwich Arts Centre on the 21st of August and at Southampton’s Talking Heads on the 22nd of August. You can find a full listing of Meek’s upcoming live dates on his official Facebook. TGTF’s previous coverage of Buck Meek is collected through here.

Monday 20th August 2018 – Brighton Komedia
Thursday 23rd August 2018 – London Islington
Friday 24th August 2018 – Manchester Gullivers
Sunday 26th August 2018 – Dublin Grand Social
Monday 27th August 2018 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Tuesday 28th August 2018 – Glasgow Hug and Pint

 

Video of the Moment #2862: Talos

 
By on Monday, 2nd July 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Eoin French, aka the Cork-based singer/songwriter better known under the stage name Talos, came out of SXSW 2018 as one of the big success stories among the Irish artists who performed there. Revisit some of my coverage of him and his band in Austin through this post. It wasn’t enough for French to release his debut album ‘Wild Alee’ once. A deluxe reissue is now available, and with new material!

Naturally from the name, you know that ‘Odyssey Pt. II’ follows on from the original ‘Odyssey’ single. Director Máni Sigfússon has explained his vision for the video this way: “This quote from The Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky came to mind while I was working on the video, and it became kind of an outline: ‘Weakness is a great thing, and strength is nothing. When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible. When he dies, he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it’s tender and pliant. But when it’s dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death’s companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win.” Check out the video below. The deluxe version of ‘Wild Alee’ is now available from BMG. Catch up on all of our coverage on Talos through this link.

 
 
 

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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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