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Interview: Mikel Jollett and Daren Taylor of the Airborne Toxic Event

 
By on Tuesday, 15th March 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

In the games room somewhere in London’s Heaven, the Airborne Toxic Event’s frontman Mikel Jollett and drummer Daren Taylor join me before their much anticipated live return to the UK.

“We woke up in Hamburg, flew over here and made it to the venue. We’ve got the show and then we’re back on a plane to Europe,” says Jollett, a half smile on his face. “I feel lucky to be doing this. We’re partway through a kind of six country residency at the moment, the travel’s been rough, but I do feel lucky to be here.” Indeed, three weeks into a 6-week residency tour, the band have certainly thrown themselves onto the road pre-album. Even without the release of ‘All at Once’ (out the 25th of April), they’ve noticed the fans knowing the words to new tracks. “Germany feels like the UK did 2 years ago. In Hamburg 2 nights ago, they knew the words to ‘Changing’. It was kind of strange,” Jollet tells me in a strange German accent. “Oh these buckets of rain,” sings Daren.

When a band like touring this much, it’s no surprise the crowds keep coming. From playing to 30 people to selling out Shepherds Bush in the space of 4 months or so, their first album launched them to cult heroes in the UK. Back home in Los Angeles, the same thing happened. Live album ‘All I Ever Wanted’ was recorded at the Walt Disney Hall to over 2,000 fans. “It was sort of stupid. We were asked to do this insane show, so we wanted to put together the biggest thing we could. It was literally us running around getting everything together. We didn’t have a production team or anything. Then this documentary team approached us so we got to have it all filmed,” Mikel recalls. “It was nice to have something like that to look back upon instead of just having the record out,” adds Daren. “Yeah, but it felt a bit silly to do it so early on as far as how many records we’ve had, but it was such a great night to have had.”

Where to go from here then? After playing with two symphony orchestras in the past, they want to be able to play with a full orchestra should anything huge be possible. It’s not the easiest thing to put together though. “It’s a bit like riding a 50 foot wave really. You’re being carried and there’s no way off so you just have to ride it out. It’s really cool to be able to do it though, especially when you notice something you hadn’t heard before,” says Daren. “Yeah, like when you’re playing something, and you’re like, oh wow, that’s a nice bit in the flutes, or something like that.” Possible locations? Madison Square, the Rose Bowl? “We could do it over here at the O2 or somewhere. I don’t know if the size of the venue is a good indication though, I want to see people get wrapped up in the songs and themes like we do.”

There’s definitely a progression through ‘All at Once’. Just like their eponymous debut, it has its themes and main ideas. Jollett’s writing style lends itself to short stories with an almost sonnet like style and after spending a year between writing and recording, they’re glad to be playing the songs to audiences. “It’s refreshing as shit,” states Daren. “To be able to play these new songs is pretty exciting.”

At this point, I should tell you something. The Airborne Toxic Event do not believe in genre, so if this bit gets confusing and list like, that’s why.

‘All at Once’ as a phrase, isn’t, as I originally thought, about how the band went from obscurity to huge shows in half a year. Thank God for that! This is not a record about the pains of the road or any of that junk that unravels a lot of promising bands on their second album. No, this album’s about scenarios that change your life. “You go through life thinking everything’s a kind of evolution, but I think it’s more based around all these major events in your life. You go into somewhere as one person, then something happens and you’re not the person you were five minutes before,” explains Mikel. “Everything changes really quickly and the tracks try to deal with that. When you write a record, you can cut deep or wide. We actually want to do both.”

The band are clearly proud of what they’ve made, but they’re reluctant to state what kind of record it is. “Well, it’s got a foot in a lot of places from folk to classical, as well as rock and roll and electronic. We’re just musicians who follow our instincts. Like, my iPod can go from Johnny Cash to the Knife, Bloc Party, Fleetwood Mac and Sleigh Bells,” says Mikel.  The band don’t really seem to adhere to the labels set about them. They don’t sit down and discuss how something should define their guitar sound or drum pattern. They use their diversity as a factor to arrange their music just to be as good as they can. “The idea that you have to stick to one genre is really dated. Even people who say that hate something will make an exception, because it’s fucking music! It’s rhythm and melody!” Jollett exclaims. They do agree on one thing though. “…but modern country is just shit in a bag.”

‘All at Once’, the second album from the Airborne Toxic Event, is out on the 25 April in the UK. Lead single ‘Changing’ is out now (review on TGTF here). The band goes on tour in the UK in April. Below is the ‘Bombastic’ video performance of ‘All for a Woman’, a track on the new album.

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

 

Live Review: NME Big Gig Featuring Foo Fighters, Cee Lo Green, Band of Horses and No Age @ London Wembley Arena – 25th February 2011

 
By on Tuesday, 1st March 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Words by John Fernandez

This NME Big Gig at London’s Wembley Arena may have been billed as a concert headlined by Foo Fighters (pictured above) and supported by Cee Lo Green, Band of Horses and No Age, but that night it was all about Dave Grohl. Godlike Genius Dave Grohl. Only 2 days after Grohl received his award at the NME Awards he was back doing what he does best, rocking arenas with choruses the size of skyscrapers and riffs galore.

The night was opened by Los Angeles trio No Age. Sadly, the less said about this band the better. It was hard that evening to see the appeal of this band; maybe it was the fact that the sound wasn’t great for the first band of the evening, but the crowd (myself included) failed to find any connection with the indie newcomers. For a lot of their relatively short set it was hard to distinguish why there was any need for a third member of the band, as the synths were inaudible over the incessant drums and screeching guitar. However, they are a young band and are relatively impressive on record, so maybe with time their sound may mature. Sadly though, it was just not their night.

Following on from No Age were Seattle 5-piece Band of Horses, a band who, despite being in an unfamiliar arena setting, managed to deliver a fantastic set. With tunes like ‘The Great Salt Lake’ and ‘The Funeral’, Band of Horses definitely proved there were big things to come from them in the future.

The task of truly warming up for Foo Fighters came down to one man, Cee Lo Green. Coming on to a spoken intro from his album ‘The Ladykiller’ (reviewed on TGTF here), Cee Lo immediately owned the arena; all eyes were on him and he knew it. He had noticeably ‘rocked up’ for this gigs coming onstage in a Ramones t-Shirt and leather jacket. After the intro, he burst into a short set which included Gnarls Barkley hits ‘Crazy’ and ‘Smiley Faces’. Set closer ‘F**k You’ was given a rock edge for the night’s performance as it was played to the riff of the Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’.

It was 9 o’clock by the time that the thunderous roar of ‘Burning Bridges’ off the Foo’s forthcoming, yet-unreleased record ‘Wasting Light’ tore through Wembley Arena. Starting with a new song, let alone an unreleased song that people have only heard 30 seconds of, was a bold move. But such is the adoration held towards the ex-Nirvana sticks-man that nobody seemed to care. And who can blame them? The man oozes charm and confidence even when he is screaming behind a microphone.

Four new songs from the new LP were given their first arena outing that evening, including first single ‘Rope’ (reviewed by Luke last week), Valentine’s Day teaser ‘White Limo’ (video here) and arguably the catchiest of the four, ‘These Days’. All 4 songs were met with adoration from the crowd, but as you would expect from a band that could easily release two greatest hits albums, it was the older songs that got better reception. ‘All My Life’ and set closer ‘Best of You’ arguably evoked the best crowd reaction as expected. But for me, the highlight of the night had to be first ever Foo single ‘This is a Call’. That said, throughout the gig there were numerous high points, one being a change over in the reigns with drummer Taylor Hawkins taking over lead vocal duties for ‘Cold Day in the sun’.

By the end of the gig, it was easy to tell it wasn’t just the crowd that was loving this. No, the smile on Dave Grohl’s face showed enough that he is back doing what he loves. Playing big tunes to a lot of people with his band. Summer festivals and their July gigs at Milton Keynes await.

 

Series 2 of MTV’s Gonzo to Premiere Friday Night (25 February)

 
By on Thursday, 24th February 2011 at 11:00 am
 

Following on from the success of the first series, Alexa Chung returns tomorrow night as the host of series 2 of MTV’s Gonzo. Alexa has called this show “her dream job”, and who wouldn’t, really? On each episode, she’ll be revealing her ‘Top 3’ things rocking her world that week – anything from brand new bands, gadgets, books, films, whatever cool stuff that’s on her mind. And every week she gets to meet a load of exciting music and popular culture personalities and gets to ask them the kinds of questions you won’t ever hear on any other chat shows. Of course, the success of Gonzo rests in your hands, as a centrepiece of these unusual q&a sessions is the Gonzola, a tombula filled full of questions from people like you. These personalities also get to weigh in and stump for their favourite new and emerging talent; for example, in the last series Bloc Party frontman-gone-solo Kele did just that.

But wait. A music show wouldn’t be a music show with live performances, and Gonzo will continue to showcase up and coming talent performing stripped down, acoustic versions. In addition to these exclusive to Gonzo performances, a Video of the Week, plucked straight from the MTV playlist, as well as a Director’s Cut feature allowing bands to walk us through their latest visual creations will be on every episode of Gonzo.

We’ve been told that the famed Gonzo sofa has been “slightly soiled” and to ‘blame Mark Ronson” – not going to touch that one. But we will venture that pants wetting may occur when you consider the guests that have already been confirmed for this second season of Gonzo: the recently returned Foo Fighters, Jessie J, Good Charlotte, Beady Eye, My Chemical Romance and comedian Russell Howard. Quite exciting.

Catch the first ep of series 2 tomorrow night (Friday) at 7 PM on MTV Music, with a repeat at 8 PM on MTV Rocks.

 

Live Review: The Airborne Toxic Event with Morning Parade and Sissy and the Blisters at London Heaven – 10th February 2011

 
By on Tuesday, 22nd February 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster for the Airborne Toxic Event over the last two years. They’ve risen from obscurity to playing huge theatres with symphony orchestras, selling out increasingly big concerts along the way. All of this, let’s not forget, was on the back of their debut album that seems so distant now. Their second album is now finished and they’ll be out promoting that then, but tonight, the HMV Next Big Thing festival has called them to London Heaven for one of the biggest shows of the fortnight. You can’t help but think that the name of the event doesn’t quite fit the act on stage, but without anything to promote, this is a real fans’ show.

First though, come two of the brightest sparks on the English music scene. First up are Essex’s Morning Parade. With their mix of mainstream rock influences from electronic through to punk, they light up the stage with the soaring Under the Stars and new single ‘A&E’. They don’t exactly rock the place to its core, but for an act that few assembled know, they do a good job. Which is kind of interesting, comparatively that is. Sissy and the Blisters do things loud, brash and tamely angry, if you can put the two words together. Their lead singer storms around the stage like a bonafide rock star and their music isn’t far from it either. Imagine if the Horrors all suddenly got angry and wrote it all down, and you’ve got something similar to the energy of Sissy and the Blisters. The crowd may not have known either of tonight’s support acts, but with such diversity between them, everyone’s bound to be listening to one of those acts after the night’s done.

The Airborne Toxic Event tonight have nothing to gain or lose. This is the nearest to the calm before the storm they’ll probably get for quite some time when second record ‘All at Once’ is released. Not that anyone’s told them that. They’re going for it as they would every night, with passion and commitment to the brilliant live sound they’re becoming renowned for. New tracks feature heavily, but they’re subsided with their power and the crowd’s dedication to enjoying every minute. ‘All I Ever Wanted’, which features on the band’s live album of the same name, appears to have already been learnt by fans, as is new single ‘Changing’, which brings a smile to the band’s faces.

“Speaking of…little Miss Catherine…” begins the song ‘Happiness is Overrated’, but is continued by frontman Mikel Jollett joking with, “who doesn’t know that thousands of people in London are singing about her right now” before engaging in a huge singalong of “Sorry, I really lost my head…”, really demonstrating the great connection the Airborne Toxic Event share with their fans. They’re hugely appreciative of the fans that gained them such a quick and loyal following, and it really shows. ‘Sometime Around Midnight’ is, as expected, the biggest track of the evening, as the emotions around the venue tonight really sweep me away as if everyone in the room can relate to such a personal track’s soul.

All that said, it’s not a melancholy affair at all. Everyone present’s enjoying themselves, and I can spot bobbing heads and mouthed lyrics all the way to the back bar throughout (I checked). The new tracks demoed tonight don’t show a step away from the sounds of their self-titled record, but they show a maturing in both musicianship and lyric writing. Everything abouttThe Airborne Toxic Event that their followers love is still there, and now it’s even more refined, without losing its edge. Gasoline is a huge way to close the set and night closer All At Once is a real benchmark for their future. Where 2011 will take this band, I’m not sure, but at the current rate, the sky’s the limit.

 

Live Review: NME Shockwaves Tour Featuring Crystal Castles, Magnetic Man, Everything Everything and the Vaccines at Norwich UEA – 11th February 2011

 
By on Monday, 21st February 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Words by Natalie Stas

This year’s NME tour showed a refreshing move away from the guitar anthems of last years purist indie-rock, leaving avid gig-goers not knowing what to expect from the seemingly miss-matched line up. The all-encompassing mix began with surf pop from the Vaccines, followed by the energetic buzzing beats of Everything Everything, who effortlessly built the crowd for heavyweight electronic giants Magnetic Man and euphoric headliners Crystal Castles (pictured above).

Show opener the Vaccines entered the stage with subdued presence and blasted through an indeterminate set of bothersome tracks, with no particular highlights other than the slight feel-good-factor of upcoming album track ‘Blow it Up’. With a beige attitude to performance, muted dynamics and a string of endless rambling lyrics, it was clear why their sound has previously been described as ‘gap year music’. It almost seemed ironic that the Vaccines were representing new music of 2011.

The crowd waited eagerly for the upbeat indie funk of Manchester’s latest talent Everything Everything to lift spirits and ignite belief in all things NME. Fully clad in matching boiler suits, the band grabbed attention immediately with their sharp appearance, and had the harmonies to match. The crowd finally started singing along to endearing whistling of ‘Schoolin’ and danced to the popular ‘Photoshop Handsome’. But perhaps influenced by their nonsensical choice of costume, the band seemed to plough through the set in a blue-collar fashion – steady with no particular highlights, but predictably entertaining throughout.

Dubstep trio Magnetic Man were next to perform, and having spent most of last year basking in critical acclaim, the crowd were fully in expectation of something spectacular. And truly spectacular it was. Blasting straight into their set with the infamous ‘MAD’, the crowd combusted to dubstep at its most infectious. This tune will no doubt be the soundtrack to many a festival this summer. Benga, Skream, Artwork and MC Sgt. Pokes are known to produce dubstep at every end of the spectrum, and it was hard to anticipate where they would take the set after this. But the electric excitement of chart favourites ‘I Need Air’ drilled a tangible aggression into the crowd as mosh pits become frantic with the rapture. As Skream’s surreal experimental electronica took hold with the pneumatic sounds of ‘Anthemic’ and enchanting strings of ‘Flying in Tokyo’, it all seemed to make perfect sense.

The crowd clawed their air as new-retro duo Crystal Castles entered the stage. Alice Glass (despite being on crutches) adopted her awkwardly stylish posture whilst Kath remained the hooded figure in the shadows – both moods blurring into strobe-lit, perfectly crafted electronica. Glass, full of her trademark guttural rage, barked her way though through crowd favourite ‘Crimewave’ and onto a similarly elated ‘Baptism’ but peaked as the electro-clash of fizzing synths and live drum beats radiated through the hypnotic ‘Empathy’. Their fusion of euphoria and ferocity made for compelling viewing, thankfully offering everyone the raw, frenzied ending to the night they had hoped for.

 

Live Review: Kassidy with Young the Giant and Kill it Kid at Camden Barfly – 7th February 2011

 
By on Friday, 18th February 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

HMV’s Next Big Thing festival took over London’s live venues for a fortnight to showcase the best in new music. Tonight at Camden’s Barfly, three fantastic rock acts are ready to take the stage. The evening starts in high form. The White Stripes announced their split last week, however their spirit and influence lives on in multiple forms. Kill it Kid are one of the brightest sparks out of the embers of the Stripes. Heralding from Bath, England, their mix of rock, blues and musical intelligence is demonstrated by a hugely energetic set which features new single, ‘Pray on Me’ that is out in March, along with the near anthemic ‘Lord Send me an Angel’. The knowledge that they’re the opening and least famous band on stage barely dampens the mood and I wouldn’t be surprised if many left the room with Kill it Kid on their lips and eager for their second album in the coming months.

Not that that’s the only name they’ll be spouting to their friends though. Next in tonight’s proceedings are a Californian band that we at TGTF have been keeping our eye on lately.  Our recent interview with Young the Giant left us with no option but to check them out live in their limited run of London shows before they skipped over to Europe. Young the Giant’s music is full of bold colours and huge amounts of passion mixed with the relaxing sound of California’s finest rock and roll. They’ve got a growing following across the globe right now, so their first shows outside American borders are a big step onto a small stage with everything to gain, and Young the Giant are more than willing to impress. Bouncing through album tracks and some yet unreleased material, the five-piece look more than comfortable swinging the crowd into life. Highlights include ‘Apartment’ and single ‘My Body’ (watch the promo video for this below).  They’ll be returning to the UK when the weather gets warmer, so be sure to catch them then.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQYpF2pCkLI[/youtube]

The final act at tonight’s sold out show are Kassidy. With an interesting blend of folk and rock forming something that sounds like the cool uncle of recent BRIT winners Mumford and Sons with a strong feel for their acoustic rock roots. Their four part harmonies in some tracks mixed with a strong beat at all times creates an atmosphere that could fit in both tavern and sunny festival stage over a pint of cider. New track ‘I Don’t Know’ (watch the video here) went down a storm, but my highlights aren’t necessarily in each individual track. After a while, the evening sort of gets me a bit carried away and I find myself engulfed in the feeling that Kassidy give off on stage. They’re not out to prove anything, it just looks like they’re here to have a good time. ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Stray Cat’ are both hugely catchy and get great responses from the crowd, whilst the whole set seems to have a similar feel without ever getting boring. With their album out on the 21st of March and having sell out crowds on tour from their first 3 EPs alone, Kassidy are a band I hope to see multiple times through the summer, if just to relive that atmosphere they bring with them.

No one leaves the room without a new name on their lips. And whilst they may not fly off the shelves at HMV stores across the country, they all deserve to.

 
 
 

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