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Video of the Moment #1828: Amason

 
By on Thursday, 18th June 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

Swedish supergroup Amason, who I had the pleasure to see live at SXSW 2015 in the early Friday afternoon at FLOODFest, released their debut album ‘Sky City’ back in January. This week, Amason have got a new promo video for album track ‘Kelly’, which gets a futuristic – and violent – treatment. I guess what they’re trying to say is watching telly kills your brain, but are exploding heads really necessary to get that across? Have a watch for yourself below.

All past coverage of Amason on TGTF is this way.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3V4LZQsNmw[/youtube]

 

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: Nils Törnqvist and Petter Winnberg of Amason

 
By on Wednesday, 25th March 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

One of the biggest challenges for a music editor is fitting in every artist and band you want to see somewhere in your week in Austin during SXSW. Some misses are unavoidable and you can’t fret too much about it, and with other acts, sometimes it’s just not in the cards to catch others. Swedish supergroup Amason, who I had tipped at a SXSW 2015 Bands to Watch back in February, had a full week of gigs planned and yet the only way I found to squeeze them into my schedule was to depart Friday morning after eating at the full Irish breakfast early (Carrie’s review of that afternoon at B.D. Riley’s forthcoming) and running over to the Sweden showcase taking place early at FLOODfest, presented by Lyve at Cedar Street Courtyard, where Amason was one of three Swedish bands on the early bill.

I totally made the right decision. Despite storm clouds looming above us, Amason banged out an absolutely brilliant set practically right before the skies opened and poured heavy rain on and off on us all day and evening. ‘Duvan’, with Amanda Bergman’s smoky vocals that most everyone is comparing to the young Stevie Nicks of the pre-Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham/Nicks era, nearly brought tears to my eyes with its beauty. The driving rhythm of ‘Älgen’ proved irresistible to the FLOODfest goers who just happened to arrive early and got a special treat from a band they’d previously never heard of, and I was more than happy to put the new fans straight on the correct spelling of the band’s name.

After their set, I was whisked upstairs to the VIP bar where I awaited to meet up with Nils Törnqvist (drums and percussion) and Petter Winnberg (bass) to chat about their time in Austin and their debut album ‘Sky City’, which has already received kudos stateside from NPR. Listen to my interview with the pair below.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #88: Amanda Bergman of Amason

 
By on Wednesday, 4th March 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Not long now before SXSW 2015! But just as we did for SXSW 2014 last year, we’ll be running a special version of the TGTF Quickfire Questions, served up SXSW style with an extra couple of questions to get inside bands’ and artists’ heads so they’ll tell us what they really think of the event.

Number 9, number 9, number 9… (You heard that sounding like on the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, yeah?) Number 9 on our SXSW 2015-flavoured Quickfire Questions hit parade is Swedish supergroup Amason‘s frontwoman Amanda Bergman, who is a solo musician in her own right. Amanda gives her take on what SXSW must look like to aliens, while also telling us if it hadn’t been for music, why you might be bringing your moose round to see her. Your interest is sufficiently piqued now, isn’t it? Read on…

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
Simply to play as many shows as possible, humbly hoping that most of them will be good ones!

Of the bands who have already been announced, do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
To be fully honest I haven’t really looked in to this matter yet… Also, I like being spontaneous with concerts. I do not necessarily like to listen to my favorite music live as much as I can enjoy any type of show simply as a part of a good day. So I’ll just go to as many shows as I stumble upon, I suppose!

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
I always bring dried raspberry leaves which might seem odd when I think about it. But it’s very useful on tour. Other than that – nothing unusual. Normally it’s just a tangle of bad decision making, my bags.

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
That would be whiskey, always.

What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
I’ve heard a lot about the festival! I’m sure it will be super fun and I’m excited to go there, for sure. I’m guessing it’ll be somewhat chaotic but I suppose that’s just natural when you throw that many people in to one city for that much beer and music. It’d probably look stupid to aliens.

Now on to our usual list of Quickfire Questions:

What song is your earliest musical memory?
‘Unchained Melody’ by The Righteous Brothers.

What was your favourite song as a child?
Probably ‘Unchained Melody’ by The Righteous Brothers…

What song makes you laugh?
‘Time To Bum Again’ by Waylon Jennings.

What song makes you cry?
The later version of ‘Both Sides Now’ by Joni Mitchell.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKQSlH-LLTQ[/youtube]

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
‘Spirit On The Water’ by Bob Dylan.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
I’m realizing I don’t have a song for that.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Rosanna’ by Toto.

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

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
I like Richard Bach for books and Bob Dylan for lyrics.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I’d be a veterinarian of some sort. I’d be specialized in horses and cows and moose.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
‘Apollo’ – Brian Eno, no doubt.

Thanks very much to Amanda for answering our questions and also to Carina, who helped sort this out for us.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #342: Amason

 
By on Wednesday, 25th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Just last week, it was revealed Scarlett Johansson has launched a supergroup. Oh, the horror. Here at TGTF, we’re more interested in supergroups that have actual musical merit. The Dead Weather, Divine Fits, bands of that ilk. The latest supergroup to appear on our radar this time is from Sweden. No-one is quite sure how Miike Snow alum Pontus Winnberg came up with the name one day – Amason happens to also be the name of a highly popular ‘60s-era make of Volvo – but it’s now the name of one of the most promising music collectives to come out of Scandinivia in recent memory.

The band comprises Winnberg (piano), his brother Petter (bass / vocals), Petter’s childhood friend and frequent collaborator Nils Tornqvist (drums), Gustav Ejstes of rock band Dungen (organ / guitar / vocals) and Idiot Wind singer/songwriter Amanda Bergman (synths / vocals). As one would expect with musicians who love their craft, the sum of the five musicians’ disparate influences and experiences is greater than its parts, strongly indicative of the strength of the Scandinavian music community, happy to share their talents and souls in the pursuit of creating amazing music.

Not only did the quintet gel the first time they booked time together in the studio, live they also made a massive impression on industry bods at CMJ 2014, with NPR’s Bob Boilen noting them one of his top 10 discoveries from the annual emerging music event last year in New York City. Unsurprisingly, the band’s debut album ‘Sky City’ released at the end of January was granted a First Listen feature on NPR. Translation: they have a good chance of making it very big here in the States, and they will no doubt have good, if not claustrophobic crowds going to see them at SXSW 2015 next month.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z6TadBdrME[/youtube]

The first two singles Amason released, in 2014, both appear at the beginning of ‘Sky City’. Opening track ‘Älgen’ has an irresistible driving rhythm that should be amazing to watch performed live with its layered synths and effects; they’re situated well during the current era of the anthemic synth-driven band as it shows no sign of waning. This is swiftly followed by ‘Duvan’ (“The Dove”), with arresting vocals from Bergman compared favourably by some reviewers to the smokiest from early Stevie Nicks, while the backing instrumentation envelopes you with its smooth, lounge-y feel perfect for the nighttime. Which is when I imagine Amason will shine the brightest in Austin: under the cover of darkness, where they can surprise and wow punters looking for something different to hit the spot.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2lt-wzlx0g[/youtube]

 
 
 

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