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SXSW 2017: A relaxing Saturday afternoon at El Sapo with Music for Listeners – 18th March 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 19th April 2017 at 4:00 pm
 

The Saturday afternoon of SXSW 2017 was brimming with sunshine and cool breeze, a perfect cocktail for outdoor activity. I took the opportunity to break away from the buzz of downtown Austin and head to local favourite burger joint El Sapo for the final day of the Music for Listeners showcases, hosted by our friends Michael Thomas and Orlando Torres. As usual, they had a great list of artists scheduled to play, including bands from the UK and around the world.

"SWIM

The first act on Saturday’s lineup was also the first ever Greek band to play on the Music for Listeners showcase, electronic trio Someone Who Isn’t Me. This all-female trio caught my attention instantly with their sleek combination of vocals, synths, and guitar sounds, melded into a fascinating art-pop aesthetic. I caught the three band members, Marilena Orfanou, Maria Hatzakou and Gina Dimakopoulou, after their set for a quick interview, where I learned more about the band’s unique origins and their post-SXSW plans. Take a listen to their dramatic instrumental track ‘Never Find It’ just below.

"JOB

Northern Irish alt-rocker Jealous of the Birds played a spirited full band set at El Sapo on the Saturday, including popular songs from her debut album ‘Palma Violets’ as well as a nifty cover of Foster the People’s 2011 megahit ‘Pumped Up Kicks’. TGTF covered Jealous of the Birds briefly at SXSW 2016 and more extensively at SXSW 2017; you can read all our past writing on her right back here.

"Be

I didn’t know what to expect from Scottish alt-pop trio Be Charlotte, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard on Saturday afternoon. Their teenaged frontwoman Charlotte Brimner might look cutesy on first glance, but her soft vocals are cut with hard-edged synth arrangements and precise dance rhythms. Amazingly, despite her relative youth, this wasn’t Brimner’s first time at SXSW; she took part in an Interactive panel session called ‘Making Music Physical Again’ back in 2015. Be Charlotte’s intensely groovy human analogy ’Machines that Breathe’ was a highlight of the afternoon.

"COF

Welsh band Chain of Flowers took a bit of a moody turn as we moved into late afternoon, but perhaps that’s to be expected from a band who shares its name with a song by The Cure. The similarity doesn’t end with the moniker, though Chain of Flowers have a murkier, thicker-textured darkness to their sonic quality, and frontman Josh Smith’s vocals convey more raw torture than sullen detachment. The band played a mix of new songs and tracks from their 2015 self-titled debut album, and it seems apropros, given their massive and heavy sound, that one of their newer tracks is titled ‘The Wall’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/SJL4sORTW9E[/youtube]

Mary had seen Chain of Flowers Thursday afternoon at the British Music Embassy as part of a rock showcase there, but they were new to me, so I stopped their guitarist, Ross Jones, for a quick chat after the set. He told me that the band are currently promoting the re-pressed version of their debut album, after a less-than-satisfactory record label experience with its original release. However, he emphasised that they do have new material ready and waiting, with a potential single release this spring and a full LP to follow. In the meantime, Chain of Flowers are scheduled to play a run of live dates in England starting next week. (You can find the details here.)

"Catholic

While I was talking with Jones, the growing crowd at El Sapo congregated in front of the stage area for Scottish rock band Catholic Action. Formed as a spin-off of sorts from SXSW 2014 showcasing band Casual Sex, Catholic Action have quickly come into their own with singles ‘L.U.V.’ and ‘Rita Ora’. Their pop-tinged brand of rock was much more immediately accessible than Chain of Flowers’ wall of sound, and they quickly had punters’ feet tapping and heads bopping along to songs like their latest single ‘Doing Well’. Mary caught the group twice Friday night, first at the Glasgow Buckaroo at the Mohawk, then at the British Music Embassy at the BBC Introducing showcase.

 

"Juanita

The afternoon was slowly fading into evening by this point, and I decided to stay at El Sapo to see one final artist, Australian singer/songwriter Juanita Stein. Stein is already well known as the lead singer for London-based indie rock band Howling Bells, and she did play one song from that part of her repertoire, along with covers from Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison that give some indication of her solo style. Indeed, her recent single ‘Shimmering’ has more than a hint of Orbison’s dark bluesy-rock vibe, though she didn’t play enough of her solo tracks for me to get a good idea. Stein’s solo album ‘America’ is due out later this year, so if you’re curious, be on the lookout. Juanita Stein also performed as part of Sounds Australia’s Sound Gallery I Tuesday afternoon at B.D. Riley’s; read Mary’s review of her performance through here.

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

The stellar lineup of acts at the Music for Listeners day parties are always a treat, especially for those of us who love UK artists, and this year was no exception. Special thanks to Michael, Orlando and everyone at El Sapo. We hope to see you again next year!

 

Chain of Flowers / April and May 2017 English Tour

 
By on Monday, 3rd April 2017 at 9:00 am
 

Following their second visit to America and appearances at SXSW 2017 in mid-March, Cardiff post-punks Chain of Flowers are set to tour England in late April. Being the good Welsh ambassador that he is, the legend that is Huw Stephens interviewed several of the Welsh acts in Austin during the week of SXSW including Chain of Flowers.You can listen to the broadcast for the next 2 weeks on Radio Wales through here. During his chat with frontman Josh Smith on Thursday at the British Music Embassy, they discuss the slight incongruity that this tour only includes English dates. No matter; I reckon they’ll be back playing shows on American shores soon enough. Tickets to the following shows are on sale now. My review of their Thursday afternoon show can be read here; Carrie also caught them at the Music for Listeners afternon showcase at El Sapo, so her review of that is forthcoming. For more on Chain of Flowers on TGTF, follow this link.

Monday 24th April 2017 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Tuesday 25th April 2017 – Manchester Castle
Wednesday 26th April 2017 – Birmingham Hare and Hounds 2
Friday 28th April 2017 – Bristol Louisiana
Saturday 29th April 2017 – Southampton Joiners
Sunday 30th April 2017 – Brighton Hope and Ruin
Monday 1st May 2017 – London Camden Lock Tavern (free show)

 

SXSW 2017: rock in its many wonderful forms at the British Music Embassy Thursday afternoon – 16th March 2017

 
By on Friday, 31st March 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

I go through usually unexplainable cycles of change in my musical tastes. However, the impetus for the latest change, while really only reaffirming my long-held admiration for hard rock, has no doubt been the drastic political upheavals that have befallen Britain and America in the last 9 months. The vote in favour of Brexit and the election of Trump have made me feel we’re getting ever closer to the end of days. But rock, in its headbangingly perfect way, has provided a constructive, much needed outlet in which to vent my frustration and anger. At times, rock has provided temporary respite, a brief means of escape when things feel too soul crushing.

I don’t often get the opportunity to stay for an entire showcase at SXSW, but I made time in my schedule for Thursday afternoon at the British Music Embassy at SXSW 2017. Last year, Northern Powerhouse took over Latitude 30 with all Northern line-up of hard-rocking bands. The first band on this Thursday performed on that very showcase, though I missed them then because I was interviewing Craig Johnson of fellow Leeds group Autobahn outside.


Fizzy Blood, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

Now I was finally getting a chance to hear Fizzy Blood‘s ear-splitting, yet oddly melodic brand of in-your-face rock. Dressed like he was going to a Hawaiian luau, frontman Benji Inkley screamed into his microphone like it was no big deal. He told jokes in between their songs and sounded like a good friend of mine from Wakefield. Together with the unrelentingly booming instrumentation behind him, their set was blistering, yet oddly comforting. Somehow, I don’t think Carrie would have agreed with me, ha.


The Sandinistas, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

If I thought I would get a chance to catch my breath, I had another thing coming. Which was fine by me! Next up were the Sandinistas, from Tredegar, Wales. I had a good feeling from the answers their lead singer / guitarist Dan Hagerty gave to our SXSW 2017-flavoured Quickfire Questions that we were on the same wavelength. I wasn’t wrong; you can listen to my chat with him here. But back to their performance. Like Fizzy Blood before them, they were a good, stark reminder that despite the seeming need for pop bands to throw a synthesiser into the mix, all you really need sometimes are the basic band setup (a lead singer, guitars and drums) and well-written songs. Interestingly, they sound less like the Clash (look again at their band’s name, if you missed it) and more like The Libertines.


The Sandinistas, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

The challenge that some bands never manage to overcome is to truly connect with their fans. The Sandinistas, however, made engaging punters look easy by not only being very funny between their songs, but also explaining with a laugh where the inspiration of their songs came from. Hagerty may be happily married but he’s going to take an ex and the village bicycle down a peg, which works well in a room of guys who have been wronged by a woman or two. And they don’t mind taking down another supposedly happily married man, our President, and his trophy wife. “She’s so shallow!” shouts Hagerty and naturally, the crowd approves. Even Hagerty’s own wife can’t escape the same treatment: if he’s to be believed, their single ‘Ready to Blow’ is about the sexual frustration he had before they got together. And so a future hit song was born.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik74yCjG7S4[/youtube]


Chain of Flowers, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

From the valley to the big city: it was on to another Welsh band, Chain of Flowers. And with their own and different approach to rock: gothy post-punk to be more precise. The Cardiff group had the added benefit of having been in America before, touring our two coasts last summer with their eponymous debut album produced by New York City’s Ben Greenberg. Joshua Smith’s vocals, melancholic in the vein of tortured Ian Curtis and Robert Smith before him, were framed by a buzzy, washy wall of sound. ‘Nail Me to Your Cross’? Admittedly, it’s not for everyone but trust me, you know if you favour this kind of brooding kind of denseness to rock out to.


LIFE, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

From Wales, we were then returned back to the North to face some East Yorkshire ‘tude head on. Quite literally. Hull punks LIFE, eager to preview their debut album ‘Popular Music’ in America, came roaring out the gate with crashing guitars and drums. I’m not fond of punk where it’s loud all the time and there’s no semblance of melody. What’s the point of making loads of noise with no purpose? Mick Sanders has solved that problem with his melodic and memorable guitar lines that skirt pop sensibility.


LIFE, British Music Embassy, Thursday 16 March 2017

But if there was any question of this band’s intentions, his brother Mez Green comes through with his biting lyrics. This is a man you wouldn’t want to cross, the sneer on his face unmistakable as he calls out Tories he’d probably chase down with a baseball bat. Try as you might, but you can’t look away. There is something improbably charismatic about him, a Brett Anderson-like presence preening and twirling onstage, deadpanning about looking for ‘Rare Boots’ in the shopping stalls of Hull but with an acid tongue reminiscent of Mark E. Smith. Something tells me Green enjoys this juxtaposition, all while the rest of the band thunders behind him. LIFE hit out at Brexit in ‘Euromillions’ and win the crowd over, drawn in by their devil may care attitude and equally unruly nature. Good thing too, as they would return to the British Music Embassy Saturday to bid this year’s SXSW adieu. Listen to my interview with Mez and Mick after this set through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbqxNJ2W6G0[/youtube]

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: Welsh artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Friday, 10th March 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Wales may be small in size, but they are a proud country never short of praise and support of their musical artists. BBC Radio 1 presenter Huw Stephens is quick to promote his countrymen and women, and I am sure he’s pleased with all five of the artists to showcase this year at SXSW 2017. The summaries of acts below were written by Rebecca Clayton and Steven Loftin. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Casi – pop / Bangor
A young singer/songwriter originally from Bangor, Wales, Casi Wyn is currently based in London. Casi grew up speaking her mother tongue of Welsh and hearing traditional music, before getting into pop music in her teens, which probably explains the melding of eerie vocals and electropop rhythms in her music. Last year, Casi released her entrancing single ‘Lion’, an ethereal and moving track that showcases Casi’s angelic vocals and her evocative song writing. Since then she’s also shared ‘Golden Age Thinking’ and this year’s ‘The Beast’ via her label Chess Club Records. (Rebecca Clayton)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=873g5wS7ltM[/youtube]

Chain of Flowers – post-punk / Cardiff
A surprisingly great modern take on post-punk. Choruses thick with reverb and longing lyrics, Chain of Flowers are definitely a band worth a listen. They recently released their self-titled debut LP that should go straight on your list of must listens. I mean, come on, they’re named after a The Cure song, right? (Steven Loftin)

Dan Bettridge – singer/songwriter / Ogmore-by-Sea
With a voice older than his years, Dan Bettridge is the soulful folk singer from the small village of Ogmore-by-Sea in Wales. Bettridge, who has been playing guitar from an early age, first appeared on the scene in 2013 when he released the EP ‘Hunter’s Heart’. He is currently working on his debut album. He rereleased his single ‘Rosie Darling’ last year, a gentle, country sounding number, and ‘Third Eye Blind’ back in 2015, a bluesy, soulful track that transports you out of your own skin and onto the neon-lit streets that Bettridge sings about. (Rebecca Clayton) [We’ve been informed that sadly, Dan Bettridge will not be joining us in Austin. – Ed.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UYER_GK6bc[/youtube]

Meilyr Jones singer/songwriter / Aberystwyth
Exactly what Jarvis Cocker and Morrissey’s love child would sound like, and this isn’t a bad thing believe it or not. The optimism of a young Cocker, with the yearning howl of an in-his-prime Moz. Lyrical structure that puts most novelists to shame, ‘How To Recognise Art’ is, well, a work of art. He also won the Welsh Music Prize in 2016, if that tempts you further. (Steven Loftin)

The Sandinistas – punk / Tredegar
A Welsh band named after a Clash album? Count us in. Having only released their debut single last year, The Sandinistas are gaining some serious momentum already. When you listen to the adrenaline-inducing riot of their single aptly titled ‘Ready To Blow’, you can see why. Get on this band. Now. [They’ve also already been championed by Fred Perry, who have been rarely wrong in spotting potential. – Ed.] (Steven Loftin)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik74yCjG7S4[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #120: Joshua Smith of Chain of Flowers

 
By on Tuesday, 7th March 2017 at 1:00 pm
 

As this year’s SXSW Music Festival rapidly approaches and our preview coverage kicks into high gear, we’re once again excited to bring you showcasing artists’ answers to a special SXSW 2017 flavoured set of Quickfire Questions. Today we’re bringing you answers from the mouth of vocalist Joshua Smith of Welsh post-punks Chain of Flowers, who released their debut album 2 years ago. Now it’s their turn to make a go of it in Austin, having already toured up and down the East and West Coasts of our country last summer. Read on for Joshua’s answers…

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Dense, delicate, ethereal.

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
Surviving.

Of the bands who have already been announced (on the band announcement lists), do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
Kano, Ghetts and Modern English.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find weird or unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
Dunkies. [Believe it or not, he’s not the first musician to tell me this… – Ed.]

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Holsten Pils, otherwise a gin + tonic..

What was your favourite album from 2016?
Travis Scott – ‘Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight’.

Will this be the first time you’ve played to American audiences? What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
No – we toured the East/West Coast last summer and loved it so much that we’re back. Just looking forward to playing as much as possible.

Now on to our usual list of Quickfire Questions:

What song is your earliest musical memory?
Nirvana – ‘Come as You Are’.

What was your favourite song as a child?
The Beatles – ‘I Am the Walrus’.

What song makes you laugh?
Green Jelly – ‘Three Little Pigs’. It’s so shit.

What song makes you cry?
Lou Reed – ‘Perfect Day’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euHai0qfE4s[/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.)
Sweet Female Attitude – ‘Flowers’.

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.)
H100s – ‘Panic Attack’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euHai0qfE4s[/youtube]

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
La Monte Young – ‘Well Tuned Piano’.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Henry Miller.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Probably work in the chippy with Sharon Brekkie.

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.)
Ministry of Sound – ‘Anthems Trance’.

Cheers Joshua for answering our Quickfire Questions ahead of going out to Austin, and thanks to Max for helping facilitate this feature. Chain of Flowers are scheduled to perform Wednesday 15 March at 8:45 PM at Sidewinder inside, as well as Thursday afternoon, the 16th of March, at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30.

 
 
 

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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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