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(Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City TGTF stage 2012 flavoured!) Interview: Dan Armstrong of Clock Opera

 
By on Friday, 11th May 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Clock Opera will be appearing as part of the programming for the TGTF stage at the Liverpool Academy of Arts on Friday 18 May, playing at 20.30, as well as performing at Brighton Dome tonight (Friday 11 May) at the Great Escape at 20.30. I got together a bunch of questions for the band, including asking the band how the band formed, how SXSW this year went for them (including an unfortunate run-in with an oil painting), about all those unusual percussion bits they use live and much. Also, I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask about Guy’s beard. Read on.

Tell us who each of you are and what instruments(s) you play.
Guy Connelly – Vocals, guitars, plethora of bizarre objects sampled
Andy West – Bass, guitars
Che Albrighton – Drums, glockenspiel
Dan Armstrong – Piano, vocals. I’m answering these questions, as Guy is busy remixing…may the rest of the band forgive me.

How did you guys find each other? School, mutual mates, etc.?
Guy started Clock Opera in his own warped mind. He’d already formed a close bond with his laptop (thanks to previous bands/production) and the two of them decided to take their relationship to the next level. Shortly afterwards, other humans were invited to join in the form of Andy West (bass/guitars/looks) and Che Albrighton (rampant rhythm/height). Andy and Guy had been part of the obligatory Shoreditch-warehouse-living scene and Che was in a band with Andy at that time. The two were handpicked for the bracketed reasons. I was subsequently brought in to complete the quadrangle (keys/vocals/availability).

Who came up with the wild name “Clock Opera”, and what does it mean to you now? Does it indicate a love of Thomas Cook timetables or Italian arias?
I’ve known Guy mention in interviews a piece of music once written as a symphony for clocks. Apparently it was never performed but he liked the idea. I’m not convinced the symphony story is true though. I have a feeling Guy dreamed all that. Anyway, to me it’s Clock Opera because of the infinite ticking rhythms and because we like to sing grandiose and emotive melodies.

Some of my blogging compadres have compared your sound to Friendly Fires, the first band I chased around the world as a blogger. Do you agree or contest this comparison? Explain.

I haven’t personally seen our style liked to Friendly Fires but I’d be happy enough with that. Our music is in many ways different to theirs but the attention and passion they put into their live performances is something I would tentatively compare with us. Plus we like euphoria, driving rhythms and hitting objects too.

Going along with that, if you had to explain to someone what you sounded like in 10 words or less, which words would you choose to describe yourselves?
I’ve never been able to answer this question. Many have tried. Music is music. It’s better to listen to it than describe.

Before I heard your music, the buzz around you seemed to be a product of all the remixing you’ve done of other people’s tracks (for example, a pretty high profile one was of Metronomy’s ‘The Bay’). Who in your band are the remix princes? How did you get into remixing, have you always been naturally drawn towards fiddling around with other people’s songs and making them your own?

All the remixes are done by Guy, the remix prince. I’m pretty sure he started by doing one for Marina and the Diamonds (free download of the ‘I Am Not a Robot’ remix below), which people went mad for. Mr. Connelly’s production techniques are definitely suited to the process; he chops everything up into tiny pieces and makes something completely new from it. The Metronomy [one] (stream it below) was high profile, so too his Feist creation (free download of the ‘How Come You Never Go’ remix below too). I still point people towards two others which I love….one for the Drums and another for The Phenomenal Handclap Band. Both are great tracks in my opinion.

Marina and the Diamonds – ‘I Am Not a Robot’ (Clock Opera remix)

Metronomy – ‘The Bay’ (Clock Opera remix)

Feist – ‘How Come You Never Go’ (Clock Opera remix)

How does your remix work come about? Do you hear something and say to yourself, “I really want to put my stamp on that one!” Or has it been more of a word of mouth thing, like “those Clock Opera blokes really know what they’re doing, let’s ask them to remix our single”?
The latter. People ask him. Plead. Beg. Demand. It would be pretty difficult to just remix whoever you choose using Guy’s methods because you need the stems of a track to do it…each part in a separate file. Without them it’s hard to do much more than just add a beat and other sounds….whereas Guy wants parts he can break down into tiny fragments.

When I saw you at SXSW this year, I forget which song it was, but at one point you all reached down on the floor to grab what appeared to be part of mum’s cookery set and then started banging on these pieces. Was this commandeering of kitchen supplies borne out of necessity for the live performance, or have you always been banging on pots since the recording process of ‘Ways to Forget’ (John’s review of the album here) and/or before?
The song is called ‘A Piece Of String’. People often call them pots and pans, but they’re actually extremely sophisticated commemorative tankards and ornate trays. There’s no necessity in it. We do it because we like to. I attended music and movement classes as a toddler, which makes me the crockery equivalent of Vanessa Mae. But yes, the way the samples on the album begin life is often from striking, dropping and pounding strange objects. A World War II amp case, a basketball, a hand fan, etc., etc.

What did you think of SXSW this year? Which of your performances stood out, and why?
SXSW this year was incredible. Truly. Hot, relentless, strange. The whole city is taken over by music in a way that’s hard to describe. Nothing compares. The average bar there takes 40% of its annual takings in those 2 weeks. Every day starts early and ends late. Some days we’d play three shows and for me that’s when the performances stand out. You develop a special momentum where the sweat from one show becomes the hair gel of the next. It’s liberating. Another memorable aspect for me was playing on the same bill with other quality British bands. Slow Club, Django Django, Breton, Dutch Uncles and many more….all different but all part of something (but don’t say ‘scene’).

Did you play any strange venues, and if so, where did you play and how was the reception? Compare/contrast with any weird places you’ve played in London/UK.
They’re nearly all strange venues in their own way. At one an oil painting fell on Andy mid set which isn’t exactly a standard gig scenario. The only recurring theme was a stage, an audience and us. The reception was brilliant. I’d rather not compare and contrast it with London though, because that becomes like a piece of homework and I’m not at school anymore. Unfortunately.

Did you think the largely American audience “got” what you do?
They did.

Did you see any other bands in Austin you particularly enjoyed and/or that impressed you? And if so, how so?
The British ones I’ve already mentioned. My personal favourite was Slow Club (pictured above). [Read about their appearance at the Huw Stephens showcase on 17 March here. Clock Opera also performed. – Ed.] I’d never seen them live before and their music sounds so good in that setting. As a singer of harmonies, I’ve got a lot of respect for how they do it with such energy, beauty and ease. Class, unique performers.

Bass player of Fanfarlo Justin Finch admitted on the Thursday night of SXSW at their show at Club de Ville that upon seeing one of their fans sporty a massive beard, he had beard envy. Guy has a pretty epic beard (see photo above). Any other famous beards out there he covets and/or aspires to develop one similar to?
Guy’s beard is unique. It elicits a lot of envy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Finch crumbled in awe too. Unfortunately some people think it’s all right to use that awe as fuel and just walk up and have a feel. You don’t touch people you don’t know without asking first**. But be prepared for a refusal. (**If someone starts touching you first that often means it’s ok to return the favour.)

You’ll be playing our stage at Liverpool Sound City on the Friday night. Have you played in Liverpool before? If yes, what’s the Liverpool crowd like?
When I go to a gig and enjoy it I tend to stand in silence and then applaud at the end of each song. So if you get a thousand mes at a show what you basically have is a pretty average crowd. With that in mind, I try not to judge. What I will say though is that Liverpool is without question my favourite city in England and the people are a big part of that.

“Advertise” / “plead your case” to our readers why they should come and see you play Friday at the Liverpool Academy of Arts.
Is there somewhere I can leave my dignity to collect later?

Be sure to catch Clock Opera live at the TGTF stage at the Liverpool Academy of Arts on Friday 18 May. They play at 20.30.

 

(Alternative Escape and Liverpool Sound City flavoured!) Video of the Moment #791: Stealing Sheep

 
By on Thursday, 10th May 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

Stealing Sheep‘s new charming DIY video below is for ‘Shut Eye’, a single taken from their forthcoming debut album ” to be released in August in Heavenly Recordings. The single will be released on the 28th of May in 7″ and digital formats and will be backed with exclusive track ‘We Like The Dark’.

The trio will be performing at the free Something Nothing and Republic of Music showcase at Marwood Coffee House this Saturday (12 May; read more about it here), as well as in their hometown of Liverpool at Sound City from 21.00-21.30 on Thursday the 17th of May at the Red Bull Studios Live at the Garage. For a taste of their live performance, read Martin’s write-up of their support slot for Field Music back in February here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeUEUT2NtG0[/youtube]

 

(Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City TGTF stage 2012 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #29: Dan Armstrong of Clock Opera

 
By on Thursday, 10th May 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Clock Opera will be busy the next two Fridays, playing Brighton Dome at the Great Escape this Friday (11 May) at 20.30, then playing the TGTF stage at the Liverpool Academy of Arts on Friday 18 May, where they will go on at 20.30. We asked Dan Armstrong, sticksman for Clock Opera, to answer our Quickfire Questions. His answers follow.

1. What song is your earliest musical memory?
The theme tune to the original Moomins. It’s beautiful. If you search for it, all you’ll find are later, inferior pieces. But here it is, starting annoyingly in the middle but still right enough to reach into my earliest synaptic pathways.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyTHKu8QUz0[/youtube]

2. What was your favourite song as a child?
‘Say A Little Prayer’ – Aretha Franklin. It’s still right up there for me.

3. What song makes you laugh?
‘Jenny’ – Flight of the Conchords (live). There’s also a song in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace episode ‘Skipper The Eye Child’ which is hard to beat.

4. What song makes you cry?
Too many. It’s a form of emotional self-medication.

5. 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.)

‘No. 41’ – Dave Matthews Band. They’re not respected much in England but for me as a writer, a singer, a performer, a man and as a band they are phenomenal.

6. 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.)
When I was at secondary school a boy in the year below died when he fell onto a greenhouse while retrieving a football. It was a shocking tragedy. He was extremely charismatic and popular and the whole school was devastated. For some reason I was imprinted by Annie Lennox’s ‘No More I love Yous’ and ‘Just Another Day’ by John Secada which I assume were both being played on the radio at the time. If I ever hear them now, I only think of him.

7. Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Always On My Mind’ (Johnny Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson…whoever they were). Or ‘Lover You Should’ve Come Over’ – Jeff Buckley.

8. Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Terence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson, Alan Watts. They were all thinkers as much as writers but each one was super human. No time spent listening to their words is wasted. Milan Kundera is my favourite novelist. Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan.

9. If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
No idea.

10. If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
One album in heaven is a hell.

 

(Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City 2012 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #243: Django Django

 
By on Wednesday, 9th May 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

You’re probably wondering why it’s taken us so long to cover Django Django officially. I already had an inkling they were going to be a big deal after their self-titled debut album came out at the end of January, following on the strength of the very poppy and very infectious ‘Default’. However, it wasn’t until I caught them at the Vic Galloway-curated SMIA night at Easy Tiger Patio on the Wednesday of this year’s SXSW that I felt had a better informed opinion of the band. Now that I have that, I feel comfortable talking about them with some level of authority. That and I figured it wasn’t worth fighting with everyone else over the last 3 months, every other outlet that was anointing them just solely based on ‘Default’ that they were the best thing since sliced bread. So here goes…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDjpOrlfh0Y[/youtube]

The basics: they met at art college in Edinburgh but didn’t actually get together until later, and in London; they’re not named after Django Reinhardt but ‘Son of Django’, a rave record that caught the attention of singer Vincent Neff, who turned his back on a probably lucrative and successful architecture career; Neff is from Northern Ireland (Templegrove, Derry to be exact), a tidbit gleaned out of an interview he did with RTE 2fm’s Jenny Huston at SXSW; ginger drummer David Maclean acts as their producer. Got all that?

I’d now like to dispel the ‘psychedelic’ label. While there’s a definite detached air of cool pervading their music, I think ‘psychedelic’ is a too simple genre for Django Django. The psychedelic age back in the ’60s is probably best remembered for stoned hippies, smelling of hash and going round with their flower power, and the music of the times, which seemed to be made by slightly better looking, better dressed musicians who were also under the influence. What seems to be forgotten is that even with the drug haze that hung in the air, there were some really lovely harmonies that came out of the period, typified best by bands like the Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, and later on the Eagles. The harmonies on ‘Django Django’ make this album transcend any other pop album; there’s a richness just on the vocals alone that have few real competitors in the music market today.

But it’s not just the harmonies that shine on this fine debut. The music, which is rhythmic and wholly engaging at times, mesmerising and beguiling at others, sometimes fights with the vocals for centre stage on this album. In other cases, I’d say this is not a good situation of the two halves of a song being at odds with each other. But instead, Django Django plays the lyrics off the music and vice versa, creating a mini-world with each song. Take for example, ‘Storm’ (video below), their latest single that was on this past Monday. Yes, it’s psychedelic looking with its bright colours and unfocused images, but forget that for a moment.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny67ABAGKh4[/youtube]

Listen to the beginning rhythms right from the start. Hypnotising. There’s a verse that goes “you are made / of complex sums / I’m counting all my fingers now I’m down to my thumbs” – it’s witty in the droll funny way Morrissey did it with the Smiths, but Django Django have the benefit of an even more earworm-y melody. ‘Waveforms’ follows a similar rhythmic path, though the vocals lift off from the ground to reach the heavens, with admittedly a trippy lyric of “and you wanna know why / all the rivers run dry / when I see you again / I see the look in your eyes…”, before heading back into percussion land, bouncing in such a way you’d have to be dead not to bop your head around and chair dance. Incredible, memorable pop. Good stuff.

What I hope you take from this piece that Django Django is far, far more than just ‘Default’. You’d be doing yourself a grave disservice if you didn’t check our their debut album, which is guaranteed to be an album everyone will be talking about in years in come, as well as appearing on top albums of 2012 lists. They’re not just psychedelic. They’re timeless.

Catch Django Django at the Great Escape on Thursday 10 May at the Pavilion Theatre at 23.45 and Friday 11 May at 22.15 at Blind Tiger as part of the Fly Magazine showcase. They will also appear at the Red Bull Studios Live at the Garage at Liverpool Sound City on Thursday 17 May at 23.30.

 

(Great Escape 2012 flavoured!) MP3(s) of the Day #537: EMA

 
By on Wednesday, 9th May 2012 at 10:00 am
 

Erika M. Anderson (aka EMA) has created a free mixtape called ‘Hanging Out With Sarah – In Praise of Extremities’, named for their good friend Sarah who acts temporary guitarist, and is offering up free in the midst of EMA’s short English tour this month starting tonight in Leeds; tour dates are listed below. EMA also appears at the Great Escape on Saturday 12 May, playing the Uncut showcase at the Pavilion Theatre at 23.45. Listen to and download the mixtape below.

Wednesday 9th May 2012 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Thursday 10th May 2012 – Nottingham Bodega
Friday 11th May 2012 – Manchester Soup Kitchen
Saturday 12th May 2012 – Brighton Pavilion Theatre (Uncut stage at the Great Escape Festival)
Tuesday 15th May 2012 – London Scala

 

(Great Escape 2012 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #789: Maximo Park

 
By on Tuesday, 8th May 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

Maximo Park have released the video for forthcoming single ‘Hips and Lips’, which looks into the crazy (and hilarious) world of a Maximo uberfan. Both this single and the new album ‘The National Health’ will be released on the 11th of June on V2 / Cooperative Music.

Thoughts about the title track of the LP are here. Maximo Park headlines this Thursday night (10 May) at the Great Escape, playing the Brighton Dome sponsored by NME at 22.00.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d910sRZgs0[/youtube]

 
 
 

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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.

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