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SXSW 2016: Huw Stephens and PRS for Music’s showcase at Latitude 30 (Tuesday night, part 1) – 15th March 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 29th March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Invariably, I always end up at Latitude 30, the home of the British Music Embassy, every Tuesday night when I go to Austin for SXSW. SXSW 2016 was no exception, and as has been true the last 4 years I’ve attended, there was a stellar line-up organised by BBC Radio 1’s own Huw Stephens. The showcase was also being sponsored by PRS for Music, the society of songwriters, composers and music publishers and the people who make sure these creatives get paid when their music licenced through PRS is used and their music is protected.

The evening began with a bang, thanks to Kent’s own Get Inuit. Not to be confused with Eskimos or any sort of native tribe from a colder clime, the group hailing from the town of Sittingbourne provided a nice kick in the arse via their brash, self-described ‘dirty-pop’. Bespectacled frontman Jamie Glass has an unusual voice for a hard rocking band – it’s a little whiny, but that’s what makes it charming! If you’re questioning this, read my review of their single ‘Dress of Bubblewrap’, which explains the pop part of their music.

Get Inuit Huw Stephens PRS for Music Tuesday

The result: after hearing a few quiet bars from him on a song like ‘I Am the Hot Air’, you’re in for a total surprise if you’re expecting instrumental backing of the twee variety, as the song gets right in your face and . With its guitars that go from squealing to heavy, ‘Pro Procrastinator’ is another clear example that these lads know how to rock. A debut album is currently in the works thanks to a grant from the PRS for Music Foundation, and I can’t wait to hear it.

From the South East of England, the programming then headed north…west and to Belfast and a different kind of in-your-face performance by Girls Names, who I met in 2013. I should probably point out at this juncture that it was around 32 C during the day on Tuesday, so Girls Name should probably be commended off the bat for sticking to their aesthetic (in their case, leather jackets and jeans) and not compromising because of the temperature.

Girls Names Huw Stephens PRS for Music Tuesday

The post-punk group specialise in creating a massive wall of sound, generated by crashing guitars and a heavy rhythm section, and it’s usually so loud and enveloping, wherever in the world you happen to be, you’re left somewhat in awe (and with some disappointment) that the building you’re stood in hasn’t actually taken off the ground yet. Their latest album ‘Arms Around a Vision’ was released on Tough Love in October and in case you haven’t picked it up yet, do, and listen to it in the dark in your bedroom, letting the instrumentation swirl around in your head along with Cathal Cully’s shadowy, existential lyrics.

The third slot of Tuesday night at Latitude 30 last year was occupied by critically lauded political artist Kate Tempest. And for the second year running, another young hopeful not afraid to speak his mind was included on Stephens’ bill. Hertfordshire teen Declan McKenna, only at the tender age of 17, is already signed to Columbia Records and that should tell you something. Making waves with his politically potent single ‘Brazil’ that criticised FIFA, offering a critical view of the international football organisation in the midst of scandal, he’s already proven he’s got talent that’s head and shoulders above and a social conscience well beyond the reach of conventional young pop stars these days. (Watch the video as part of my pre-SXSW Bands to Watch that posted in February here.) I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised when the young McKenna took to the stage looking like he just got out of gym class, in a t-shirt and a pair of Lonsdale shorts.

Declan McKenna Huw Stephens PRS for Music Tuesday

With a table full of equipment and pedals aplenty, he made quick work of recording vocals and guitar lines live, in a way I’ve only seen Badly Drawn Boy do in concert (though Carrie’s explained to me that Ed Sheeran does this as well). Playing in front of a massive crowd in America might have fazed the most seasoned of UK singer/songwriters, yet McKenna was the epitome of poise, as he played through the organ-led single ‘Paracetamol’ and ended with the audience favourite ‘Brazil’. He might not have too many recordings to his name – yet – but given the amount of shouting and screaming there was for ‘Brazil’, I think we can expect him to do very well over here.

London’s Oscar (surname Scheller), who I’d had the pleasure of chatting with just hours before outside a radio promo spot he did at Buffalo Billiards, was up next. I was slightly disappointed that he changed out of his colourful Disney shirt he was wearing earlier. But he represented dear old blighty well in a Union Jack jumper, making no mistake either the country of his own origin or the focus of the night’s showcase.

Oscar Huw Stephens PRS for Music Tuesday

The brightness of his music shone through, though, so it was all okay. While ‘Sometimes’ is the height of fun, infectious guitar pop with a buzzy synth, ‘Breaking My Phone’ is more scuzzy, allowing for the grinding of louder guitars and a feeling of letting go and going with the flow of a fun night out at a show with your friends. This show curated by Huw Stephens was a great official start to my week of showcases at SXSW, but I was soon off to see another four bands up Red River Street.

For more of my photos of this showcase, visit my Flickr.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Huw Stephens with PRS for Music and British Music @ SXSW at the British Music Embassy – 15th-16th March 2016

 
By on Monday, 29th February 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy will return to Latitude 30 at 512 San Jacinto Boulevard, right by the heart of the action off 6th Street during SXSW 2016. Get ready, because the lineups are looking pretty brilliant! In this post, I’ll be previewing the talent on show from Tuesday evening through Wednesday evening. We’ll be running additional previews of the BME’s programming later this week, including another one by me on the artists of Thursday’s bill and Carrie’s own to tip the offerings all day Friday and Saturday to close out the festival.

As he has done for many years running, BBC Radio 1 specialist presenter Huw Stephens will be hosting the opening night of festivities at Latitude 30. This year, this showcase is being put on with the auspices of the UK music copyright, licensing and royalties body PRS for Music. Huw has put together an eclectic bill with no two acts in the same exact genre. Get down to the venue early to experience Kent’s self-described ‘dirty pop’ quartet Get Inuit (our past coverage of them here), who are currently working on their debut album, with help on its financing thanks to the kind backing of PRS themselves. Lo-fi post-punk will be provided by Belfast’s Girls Names (our past coverage of them here). They released their fourth album ‘Arms Around a Vision’ on Tough Love Records last autumn. The scuzz in your ears from the first two bands will be washed out by the social commentary of Hertfordshire teenager Declan McKenna, who I profiled last month in this SXSW 2016-flavoured Bands to Watch feature.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xq4-IpRAr0c[/youtube]

Pop continues on in an equally unique but slightly different way with the quirky yet lovable Oscar. He will be releasing his debut album ‘Cut and Paste’ on Wichita Recordings in May. For the next act on the bill, a head up to the North West is in order for Liverpool’s Clean Cut Kid and their bouncy, indie pop melodies and amazing harmonies. Rebecca profiled them with recent tourmates and fellow SXSW 2016 showcasing band Fickle Friends back here in January. The night will be closed out with the pomp and oomph of hip hop of South London’s Loyle Carner, using his rhymes to express his perspective on life.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GazJC5cAcIw[/youtube]

The music continues Wednesday afternoon at the British Music Embassy. Chad Valley is Oxford’s own chill wave artist Hugo Manuel when he’s not busy with his other band Jonquil or remixing the work of his mates Foals, among others. He’ll start the day’s activities with synthy goodness. He’s followed by Welsh band The People The Poet, one of BBC Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary’s favourite discoveries from last year’s festival (read our past coverage on the band here). The bill then turns its focus to Cheshire-bred singer/songwriter legend Jane Weaver. The lineup stays in the North West for former Liverpool choir boy turned pop artist Banners, who released his self-titled EP last month on Island Records (read our past coverage on him here, including Rebecca’s Bands to Watch from January). The afternoon’s programming ends with East Hampshire trio and Transgressive Records signees Blaenavon. Their in-your-face sound was recently reigned in for this recent Burberry Acoustic video for ‘Dragon’ live in Manchester.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-0APoy4rdw[/youtube]

Latitude 30 will reopen for Wednesday evening at the British Music Embassy for the previously previewed BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation night. It will begin with a touching tribute to the late Viola Beach and their manager Craig Tarry. The band from Warrington were due to open the BBC Introducing night before they who lost their lives tragically in a car accident in Sweden last month. We encourage all to attend and pay their respects to our fallen friends.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2015: BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation announce their SXSW 2015 showcase, 18th March 2015

 
By on Thursday, 22nd January 2015 at 11:00 am
 

It’s been a great running tradition that the BBC has hosted a night at massive band showcasing festival South by Southwest in successive years, and in just under 55 days, the Beeb will be making waves with yet another esteemed appearance in Austin! Taking place on the evening of Wednesday, the 18th of March, at the home of the British Music Embassy for the week, Latitude 30 on San Jacinto Boulevard, the event will no doubt give unprecedented attention to the acts chosen to perform on the night, and we here at TGTF are really pleased we’ll be in Austin for the festivities.

Last night on his evening drivetime programme on 6music, Steve Lamacq welcomed his fellow BBC presenter Huw Stephens to announce the line-up for the BBC Introducing night at SXSW 2015, partnering this year with PRS for Music Foundation, who gives their never wavering support to up and coming UK artists and their developing careers. Who will Lammo and Huw be bringing with them to the big dance in Austin in March? Here’s a rundown, in alphabetical order:

Blossoms – Stockport has the distinction of being the birthplace of Delphic and Dutch Uncles (both via Marple). But in 2015, all eyes will be back on the Greater Manchester town and five-piece Blossoms, putting on the psychedelic mantle that became cool again after the success of Temples last year. Will they surpass the Kettering group’s success in Austin in 2014? We’ll have to wait and see. One thing’s for sure, their name should not lead you to assume they’re fragile Northern flowers: check out the swaggery cool of ‘Blow’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJ5TjID7Hvg[/youtube]

Gengahr – there always seems to be contention on who will be the next great British guitar band. On the current list of hopefuls, London’s Gengahr certainly have their supporters. They aren’t the hit-you-over-the-head loud kind of obvious guitar band, preferring more thoughtful vocals and well thought out melodies that might bleed over to pop territory. Except they’re quite masterful on guitar: have a listen to ‘Powder’.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsXIEt5pG_I[/youtube]

Jack Garratt – in case you were concerned that the epic British beard would not be covered at this year’s SXSW, have a look at Jack Garratt and think again. But that’s beside the point. What’s far more important are Garratt’s piano playing and deep, soulful voice. One wonders if the Austin event could be his jumping off platform to superstardom as it was last year to Ireland’s Hozier.

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

Little Simz – it’s probably not a wise thing to ignore Islington’s Simbi Ajikawo. The rapper, who goes by the moniker Little Simz, had her debut EP ‘E.D.G.E’ exclusively premiered on Billboard last summer and has already been noticed by Jay-Z and his crew for her experimental style of rap. And just in case the music thing doesn’t work out, she has acting to fall back on as a vocation: you may remember Ajikawo as the character Meleka in a few episodes of E4’s Youngers.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCD67ve9G1c[/youtube]

SOAK – we’re not entirely sure why Derry teenager Bridie Monds-Watson goes by the stage name of SOAK. Her highly acclaimed EP in 2013 was titled ‘Sea Creatures’, so maybe she feels some kind of affinity to the sea and water? What we do know for sure: she’s got an achingly sweet voice, she recently signed to Rough Trade and her debut album for them is expected later this year. Stay tuned for more news on her in the coming months.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXL-SSnCoHo[/youtube]

Spring King – with a new promo video just uploaded to their YouTube channel 2 days before Huw Stephens’ big announcement, something tells you Manchester garage rockers Spring King are just raring to go to Austin. The aforementioned promo, for the song ‘Not Me, Not Now’, was filmed when the band were in New York City last October for the other biggie American emerging music festival CMJ. Will the prior experience playing for American audiences help them in Austin? We shall see.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBKL4AuvsAk[/youtube]

To read the official announcement from BBC Introducing, go here.

We here at TGTF will be bringing you even more preview coverage of SXSW 2015 in the coming weeks leading up to the big week in Austin in March. To catch up on any of our past reporting or if you want to keep an eye on our coverage as it continues, head this way.

 

SXSW 2014: the first half of Huw Stephens’ night at Latitude 30 – 11th March 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 19th March 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy at its Latitude 30 home has been hit (2012) and miss (2013) for me in past years of SXSW. Luckily, this year‘s line-up was made all the better by the bevy of BBC Radio presenters who flocked to Austin this year, including Phil Taggart who emceed Creative Belfast (read Carrie’s review and see my photos from Monday night here); Steve Lamacq, who made his triumphant return to SXSW after a 6-year absence, and the two that were players in Tuesday night’s programming at Latitude 30.

The cuddly Welsh teddy bear we all know as Huw Stephens has been curating a night at the British Music Embassy for I don’t know how long, but you can trust that he always chooses a good line-up. I was luckily present for the first three acts on Tuesday night. Sweet Baboo, aka fellow Welshman Stephen Black, was up first in solo form. I’m really quite glad I got to see him play with a full band in Glasgow’s King Tut’s last year, as I had a reference point in which to compare and contrast Tuesday night’s performance with. If you listen to Sweet Baboo records, the feeling you come away with is one of fragility; when Black performs live with a full band, there is fragility but also chaos. Black’s solo set felt somewhere in between those two extremes, with him being his usual self-deprecating self, cracking jokes while bemoaning his lack of band (“if you heard this one with the full band, it’d sound like Prince”). While EP title track ‘Motorhome’ and ‘Cate’s Song’ are gentle numbers that work well in solo confines, my personal favourite from 2013’s ‘Ships’, the brilliantly incisive yet poppy ‘If I Died…’ didn’t really work without a full band.

Next up were London’s next great hope for alt-rock, Wolf Alice. In her Doc Martens and sparkly tights, Ellie Rowsell held court, guitar in hand in front of an all too excited crowd at the British Music Embassy. I don’t know if I was just surrounded by Brits who had come over to cheer on Wolf Alice or these were new converts, but the screams were deafening. This seemed to be the week I would be taking the unpopular opinion, which included my stance on Wolf Alice: it seems to me that Rowsell’s ‘sweet’ voice is at odds with the harder edge of their band’s songs and would be more appropriate for the folk genre in which she started, and on songs like ‘She’, she seems to be stretching the Justine Frischmann and Courtney Love comparisons. But I’m thinking their fortunes have already been made. I mean, just think about it: the only other female-fronted massive rock band is Paramore, and they’re American. Maybe it’s time for a British rocker girl to take away Hayley’s sceptre?

I had no idea my world was about to be rocked by the third band on the line-up, Prides. I had already been impressed by early MGMT-sounding ‘Out of the Blue’ and more recent ‘The Seeds You Sow’. But I was not prepared for the synth / guitar / percussion powerhouse that was in front of my eyes. It should have come as no surprise that this New Wave lover once dubbed years ago as “the sucker for the synth” by Steve Lamacq himself absolutely fell in love with these Glaswegians. Just WOW.

The coloured lighting in Latitude 30 complemented the band’s sound as well, fitting the carnival / party / happy atmosphere their music created. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next. It was great to chat with them after, as they were clearly running on the adrenaline of playing a packed venue and having such a great reception in a town that they’d never played in before. (Listen to my interview with the band here.)

But it was still quite early in the evening. It was time to me to jet off to another venue a few blocks away.

 

SXSW 2014 Interview: Prides

 
By on Tuesday, 18th March 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Last week when TGTF were in Austin for SXSW, I caught up with Glaswegian pop / dance band Prides (Stewart Brock on keys and lead vox; Callum Wiseman on guitar, keys and backing vocals; and Lewis Gardner on drums) after their rousing set as part of the Tuesday night programming the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 that was curated by none other than Radio 1’s beloved Welsh teddy bear Huw Stephens. They chat to me about their New Wave, “strong ’80s influence”, the era of Biffy imitators in Glasgow and where we should all go to see gigs at in their hometown. There is much more of course. Listen to the interview in full below.

If you live in America, they will be touring the East Coast with RAC through to the end of March; see all the dates here.

Cheers guys and thank you to Ally for this lovely interview. Best wishes for the rest of your American tour!

 

Interview: Huw Stephens at Propaganda Lincoln

 
By on Wednesday, 23rd January 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Photo above of Huw Stephens holding court at SXSW 2012‘s UK Trade and Investment showcase at Latitude 30 – 17th March 2012

After our lengthy discussions about the BBC Sound of 2013 acts, it only seems right that TGTF spoke to one of Radio 1’s big hitters to find out who they ‘really’ thought was going to make musical inroads this year. Luckily for me, one of those just happened to pitch up on my doorstep, if only briefly. Huw Stephens, the youngest DJ to ever have had a slot on Radio 1 at the time, popped into Propaganda Lincoln at The Engine Shed last Saturday night (the 19th of January).

So we know what he tells the airwaves what he enjoys, but what would he tell me? “There’s a band called The 1975 [who we’ve written quite a lot about! – Ed.] that I really rate very highly who didn’t make the Sound of 2013 list, and there’s a band called Bastille [who popped up at #2 on the TGTF 10 for 2013 poll – Ed.] around at the moment that should do quite well.”

Being tipped by a Radio 1 DJ, though, can often be enough to properly make it in the big bad world of modern music. But Huw argues that while being on the BBC Sound of… list mat be a good start, it depends on a variety of factors whether you can hit it big.

“It depends on how commercial they can sound and if they are going to end up scaring people away by doing that. There are some bands on the Sound of… list who might find it difficult to sell records, but who are really good. But I am really enjoying at the moment The 1975 and they aren’t on the list. I also just bought an album by a guy called Matthew E. White, which is something I am really enjoying at the moment. He’s kind of a very soulful guy from America and he’s made a really good record.”

While Huw may spend a lot of his time scouting out and championing new music, sets like the one he played at Lincoln’s Propaganda aren’t really the place for the new tunes.

“Well, at nights like Propaganda, you’ve got the fact that it’s Saturday night, people want to have a good time. I’ve tried playing some of the new stuff before and it doesn’t always go down well. It’s great on the radio playing the more innovative new stuff, and it’s great at live gigs if that’s what you’re going for. But Propaganda is famed for like the big indie hits so I try and keep it to that.
“Obviously a few bands do make it into the playlist.”

So with Huw aiming to take the crowd by storm in Lincoln, I popped the question, what’s his biggest Propaganda banger?

“I always play ‘Song 2’ by Blur, and ‘Fat Lip’ by Sum 41 always makes an appearance along the line.

 
 
 

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