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Interview: Robert Stevenson and Spencer Walker of A Silent Film (Part 2)

By on Wednesday, 1st August 2012 at 11:00 am

We pick up Cheryl’s in-person interview with Robert and Spencer of A Silent Film in Annapolis, Maryland, while they are in a discussion of the band’s video to appear on, oh, the most famous music television station in America…

Part 1 of the interview is here.

Did winning mtvU’s ‘The Freshman’ video of the week contest (for ‘Danny Dakota & the Wishing Well’) surprise you? Or did you have faith in your fans?
Spencer: I just have complete faith in the fans, especially when it comes to stuff like that. Everyone was so on it. The first day we were like ‘I wonder if we are going to have to sit and help this out’. And then by day two it was like ‘I think they’ve probably got this under control’. I think we sent out one message to everyone and suddenly we had 70% of the votes.
Robert: We are so grateful. We’re very lucky with our fans.
Spencer: And we had a lot of fun making that video, so it’s fun that it’s going to get played.

So I want to know, was the wishing well always the Grand Canyon or was that the director’s vision?
Spencer: We were really keen to do a video that reflected that area where we spent so much time making the album. So we wanted to do an Arizona video. The director was really enamoured with the shots of the Grand Canyon that he got and he said, “I’m using these, I don’t care what you say, whatever happens, I’m putting in the Grand Canyon shots”.


So what’s with the ampersand thing, do you have a frustrated graphic designer in your midst? There’s an ampersand in the title of your album and your first single.
Robert: Oh really? Good point, I hadn’t really noticed.
Spencer: I guess it makes it harder to write, I hadn’t thought about that.
It makes it hard to put into your computer because it’s a character. [I concur, it does terrible things to to the backend of WordPress. – Ed.]
Robert: Well I don’t know about you, but I ampersand all day long. But really, that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I don’t worry about these things, it just looks pretty! Where does it come from, is it in every language, or is it specific to English? Now I’m going to have to research that.

Living in Arizona, lots of creepy crawlies there. Did you name your house scorpions, did you stomp on them or shoo them out the door?

Spencer: You can’t stomp on them because it’ll go through your shoe. So you basically have to capture them. We had a system of glasses, and sliding a thing under. And then they sit somewhere for a few days until they die.
Robert: But they don’t really sit, they bang against the glass, and they’ll sneak you, they move so fast and they scuttle.
Spencer: We had one that played dead for 24 hours and we almost took the glass off and it started attacking.
Robert: We had Bark Scorpions and they are the only ones that can climb.
Spencer: And use the internet to find out our weaknesses. They kept deleting stuff we’d recorded, you’d wake up and there’s be a scorpion on the laptop and then it’d scuttle away off the keyboard. So yeah, we had scorps, we had rattlesnakes, we had everything. We saw a javelina, we chased a javelina. They’re little angry pigs with big teeth. The only thing they do is knock over garbage cans.
Robert: But the locals are terrified of them, and we made fun of that. They hunt in packs, and apparently very territorial, but I still can’t see how even a pack of small pigs is frightening.
Spencer: The adults are this big (indicates about two feet) and have some serious teeth. But the babies look like micropigs.
Robert: But, apparently, this is what the locals tell us, they are part of the rodent family. So, as giant rats…….
Spencer: No, no, no. I had such as issue with that, it’s just a lie. I took some locals on because I researched it and they have hooves. And actually, the closest thing to them is the hippo family. So all the locals think it’s a rodent, but it’s not rodents have claws and they have hooves. So they are a pig/hippo crossover, but way smaller and ugly!

I hadn’t ever heard of a javelina, it sounds like it could have been a lovely instrument.
Spencer: The javelin? Yes, I’m a very accomplished javelina player, just touring the world, me and my javelina.

I see I am very lucky in that I get to see you play again next week with Civil Twilight – which was the line-up when I saw you for the very first time. How did that come about?
Spencer: We’ve been trying to get that together for about….well, pretty much since we finished that tour. We just had a lot of fun on that tour, it worked really well. It’s just a complete love in, we love each other very much. We also have the same agent, so it’s not the hardest thing to put it together, but the dates have been wrong, wrong, wrong. And then finally two days happened, and yup, we took them.

I am going to end our interview with some ‘tattletale’ questions….

Who’s the hardest to get out of bed in the morning?
Both: Ali
Who buys silly tchotchkes on the road?
Robert: What are tchotchkes?
Silly knickknacks at gift shops.
Spencer: I have an obsession with fridge magnets, so that would be me.
Who always has the camera out?
Spencer: Him! He’s Mr. Instagram.
Robert: Yes, at the moment I am really loving Instagram.
Who snores?
Both: Ali! Even he’d say so.
Who wilts the fastest in our summer heat?
Spencer: Well definitely not you, you wear a leather jacket in Palm Springs when it’s 115 degrees. Uhm……..Ali.
So now we just default to Ali? OK, who always drinks the last beer?
Robert: Ali.
Who’s the best cook?
Spencer: I would say me and Ali would say himself.
What’s your dish?
Spencer: I’ve got a number of things you’d probably be quite interested in. My most recent one was a really nice spring, very light, vegetarian lasagna with asparagus.
Who was most freaked out by the rattlesnakes and scorpions?
Both: Ali! Hands down, absolutely terrified.

So despite abusing their bass player Ali Hussein during the last part of the interview, Spencer and Robert were simply lovely and I can’t wait to talk to them again some time. A review of the gig they played that night will follow shortly. They promised to return to the UK to play a proper tour in early 2013 when their sophomore disc ‘Sand & Snow’ is released, so keep your eyes peeled for dates.

Many thanks to Joel for sorting this interview for us, and of course Robert and Spencer who sat down with Cheryl for this 2-part piece. Best wishes, fellas!


Live Gig Video: Arctic Monkeys cover the Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

By on Tuesday, 31st July 2012 at 4:00 pm

In his quiff and tough guy leather garb, Alex Turner led his Arctic Monkeys through a performance of their ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor’, followed by a cover of the Beatles‘ ‘Come Together’ at the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony in London last Friday night. Some nice Monkeys French fans posted the cover on Vimeo, so you can watch that below. A recorded version of ‘Come Together’ by the Arctic Monkeys is available as part of ‘Isles of Wonder: Music for the Opening Ceremony’, an Olympics 2012-themed compilation, now out on Decca.

Earlier today, we posted video of Two Door Cinema Club‘s Alex Trimble performing the song ‘Caliban’s Dream’ during the cauldron lighting.

Update 12 August 2012: since the IOC has gotten any video remotely related to the Olympics removed from the usual video channels, I’ve replaced it with the audio stream of the studio version and a cool looking photo of Alex Turner. Gotta make do with what you can, yeah?



Interview: Robert Stevenson and Spencer Walker of A Silent Film (Part 1)

By on Tuesday, 31st July 2012 at 11:00 am

Before their show at Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland, Robert Stevenson and Spencer Walker from Oxford band A Silent Film sat down with Cheryl to talk about success in America, getting back to England to play and scary wild pigs.

You have made a big splash over here, but that’s not the usual MO for a British band. Usually you make it big at home and then you come and try to ‘crack America’, why do you think it happened the other way here?

Spencer: I think there’s no template for how these things work and I think it wasn’t part of the grand master plan, it was something that happened, kind of one thing lead to another. I think that’s the way a lot of this stuff works.
Robert: You should SEE our grand master plan, though!
Spencer: We’ve got an AMAZING grand master plan!
Robert: If we pull that off….
Spencer: I don’t think the world is ready for our grand master plan! But yes, one thing led to another and we found ourselves here and ‘You Will Leave a Mark’ did enough on the radio to allow us to come out here. And then we made the decision to do as much as we could while it was fun over here and see where it led. We didn’t set out to ‘crack America’. I don’t know if that worked in our favor, because we didn’t have that pressure coming on us from a label. We expected nothing, so the fact that things were happening, it built and built quite naturally, organically. I think that going between England and America, it goes both ways. We are fans of a lot of American bands who really hit it big time in England before – the Killers, White Stripes, the Strokes, Kings of Leon. It was all around the same time, they blew up in England and then went back to America. And now they’re all massive global bands. But I feel like they needed England maybe as much as we need America.

The other thing you are doing that’s bucking the trend is summer means festival season and you’re not doing festival season over there, you are here. So, do you like being here, or do you miss the mud?
Robert: (laughter) I don’t miss the mud!
Spencer: We played some festivals over here and the load-ins are so amazing. They’re like car parks and there’s tarmac and it’s hot.
Robert: And you can park the van somewhere in the vicinity of the stage to put the equipment on the stage. Yeah, we played Glastonbury once and it was…..
Spencer: …muddy. I’ve seen pictures of festivals this year where it’s just……like Isle of Wight, just horrid.

Oxford’s got this amazing vibrant music community. Stornoway, Richard Walters, who I was hoping would come and support you here like he did in London at the Barfly gig…
Robert: Oh, we talked about this. He’s coming across to do a bunch of shows in October, we are hoping that we’ll be near him as well so we can grab him for a few shows.

The spectre of Oxford music, did that influence you at all, Radiohead, Supergrass?
Spencer: Oh yeah.
Robert: Just growing up in that town, there’s a road called Cowley Road, where it’s just the hub of Oxford music. Straight out of school we were on that road just living and breathing it and all the bands come from there and come back to there. It’s a really, really good space to come from. It’s very creative.

Did you have any family influences to go into music, do you come from musical families?
Robert: There was a lot of Meatloaf played in the car. And Bonnie Tyler. So there’s a general sort of what to avoid. Sorry Mum, sorry Dad….. No, they played me Beatles and the Beach Boys, I’m just being silly.
Spencer: My uncle had a studio in his house, not in any way a famous musician, just a guy who played everything and turned the basement of his house into a studio. So that was definitely a big influence on me and my brother when we were growing up. It’s nice to be introduced to a Hammond organ when you are young, or a double bass when you are 5. It was my dad’s brother and he is actually going to come see us play for the first time when we play Toronto in a month. Because I’m half Canadian, my dad’s family is from there. So I love playing in Toronto and it’s going to be the first show he’s been able to make. I’m actually really excited about it.

‘City That Sleeps’ came out eons ago. (All three of us say “eons” in unison.)
Robert: I knew you were going to say eons!
2008, because obviously I am talking about the UK release and ‘Sand & Snow’ doesn’t come out until next year. That’s over 4 years. Why?
Spencer: This goes back to the same thing about no grand master plan. The album came out, it did what it did, we worked it, we released it in Portugal and did a load of work there, we were starting writing for the next album and then got picked up over here. It just kept getting put back and put back. Because obviously when we decided to come and play here, it was a big commitment.

But why such a gap between the US and UK release of the album?

Spencer: And again that comes down to the simple fact if you are going to do America, as you are aware, it’s a huge country, and we didn’t want to just come over and spend a month playing America and hoping to crack it. We are way more invested over here.
Robert: We’ve already got our teeth into it, everything’s just building really naturally here. We equally didn’t want to just release the album in England and not be seen over there. And honestly we’re not on a big label, there’s nobody bankrolling it to release the album all over the world. We’re very happy doing things at our own pace and sorry people who have to wait. But we are going to come and spend a lot of time in England.

So how did the gig at the Barfly go?
Spencer: Great. It was amazing. The idea is really that you want to do justice to each place. This is our America year. But it was amazing, we hadn’t played there in so long. Early next year is when we spend time in England and Europe.

The second half of this interview, which includes a part where Cheryl asks Robert and Spencer to be ‘tattletales’ on each other, will post on TGTF tomorrow.


2000 Trees Festival 2012 Roundup: Day 2

By on Monday, 30th July 2012 at 2:00 pm

After the torrential downpour of Friday night, the camp site at 2000 Trees is awoken to the unmistakable proggy hum of Antlered Man inside The Cave. The London four-piece have been touring the UK and Europe for the past year promoting their unique blend of experimental rock ‘n roll. The touring seems to have paid off in terms of spreading the word as the tent is almost half-full at the ungodly hour of midday. Treating the hundreds of muddy revellers to the best bits of ‘Giftes 1 & 2′ including ‘Platoono of Uno’ and ‘Misruly Roo’, it’s the anti-race opus ‘Surrounded By The White Men’ that excites the senses and really gets the adrenaline pumping for the day ahead.

Over at the Main Stage the sun is emerging from the clouds, as Warwickshire rockers Sharks blast into the fitting ‘Arcane Effigies’. The smiles are out and the multiple layers of waterproof clothing are finally being stripped by the justly large crowd that is amassing for Sharks’ accessible, modern slant on ’70s punk. Comparisons to The Clash are lazy but just – front man James Mattock stands at the front of the stage, reminiscent of a 21st century Joe Strummer but with vocal leanings toward Morrissey. The anthemic ‘It All Relates’ is the first real singalong of the day with the 1000-or-so fans basking in the sun and filling their lungs with the cleansing countryside air – and stomach with Badger’s Bottom cider.

Back in The Cave it’s time for a visceral battering from London’s Bastions. It’s a very loud, very sharp blast of ear-piercing ferocity to a circle of die-hard fans and hardcore enthusiasts. The pumped up quartet throw themselves around the stage and into the crowd, whipping up a muddy frenzy inside the marquee. Rushing through ‘Visitant’, ‘With Love’ and a mind-blowing rendition of ‘Grief Beggar’, Bastions prove themselves worthy of their place mid-way through the day and as one of the best hardcore bands in Britain.

Over at the third stage, dubbed the Leaf Lounge, are a band who have played every single 2000 Trees festival since it began back in 2007. Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun have been making friends in all the right places, particularly folk rock hero Frank Turner. A favourite of anyone who has ever attended this humble Cheltenham festival, the local lads have packed out the tiny tent with many standing in the flood of mud outside. The deafening renditions of ‘New Natives’ and ‘Waitress’ from the stage and crowd alike ricochet off the inside of the tent, deafening the tightly-packed crowd and spurring on the party. A short set this late in the day, but everything you could have wanted.

Sub-headlining the Main Stage are a band that 2000 Trees have been trying to book since the beginning. Pioneering post-hardcore outfit Hundred Reasons might not have released a new LP since 2007, but that doesn’t matter. This evening they’re bringing their breakthrough opus ‘Ideas Above Our Station’ to a packed Main Stage that has turned into a swamp over the weekend. Entering the fray to rapturous applause, the Aldershot mob dive into ‘Kill Your Own’ and ‘No Way Back’ with pure energy and the genuine feeling they’re happy to be back. However, the intensity fades away all too quickly as the former chart-bothering quartet slip into the motions and appear to lose the initial drive and passion. Of course the big hits still hit hard and ‘If I Could’ proves a particular highlight with 2000 20-somethings recalling their angst-ridden youth for a few minutes of delightful shouting. As the last note of ‘Avalanche’ rings out the crowd disperses with the odd mutter and moan, after years of waiting it finally happened – but it was meant to be so much more.

Closing the -da2y extravaganza of British musical beauty are the Welsh noiseniks Future of the Left (pictured at top). Their amalgamation of post-hardcore, noise and ballsy rock ‘n roll is heartstoppingly loud and charged with unadulterated rage that drowns the mud-caked onlookers. Opening on the powerful ‘Arming Eritrea’, Andy Falkous’ unmistakable yelling echoes inside The Cave, forcing its way out into the night. Following on in quick succession with ‘Small Bones Small Bodies’ and ‘Sheena is a T-Shirt Salesman’, the fists of fury are getting their nightly work-out in the ever-growing mosh pit.

Falkous is on top form with his irreverent humour and dry wit receiving a wholesome airing, making full use of the C word from start to finish and not giving the smallest of fucks what anyone thinks. Throwing in a couple of Mclusky numbers makes for a unique setlist that risks losing attention from fairweather fans, but ‘Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop’ (tonight dedicated to Andre the Giant) comprises of everything Future Of The Left represent – it’s chaotic, funny, stilted yet perfectly structured. Closing on ‘Lapsed Catholics’ the dazed crowd stagger back to their tents in the pitch darkness of Upcote Farm with bleeding ears and rattled bones. The Cardiff collective prove themselves worthy of a headline set with a Main Stage quality performance. If they return for 2013, it can definitely be bigger and better…and louder.


(2000 Trees Festival 2012 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #250: Maybeshewill

By on Friday, 27th July 2012 at 1:00 pm

Having stormed two stages at the Cheltenham festival the other week, once on the main stage and once on the second stage, The Cave, Maybeshewill are most certainly a band on the forefront of music’s attention. Whilst the UK post-rock scene is arguably led by the very band that headlined, 65DaysOfStatic’s more electronic influence may leave a gap in between And So I Watch You From Afar and Mogwai for the Leicester group.

They’re hardly a new act, with their third record ‘I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone’ released mid-way through 2011 possibly being their most definitive record to date. But to many ears, even at a festival like 2000 Trees which models itself on independent new music, Maybeshewill are still a relatively fresh band.  This lack of public knowledge about them, however, shouldn’t lessen your opinion as most of their aesthetic is DIY through their own company Robot Needs Home. If you need more convincing, check out the reviews from their most recent album. They speak for themselves.

Having toured relatively relentlessly for the last year, the band are due to set out on one last UK tour in October before vanishing under the UK radar for a while so be sure to catch them there. We’ll tell you about the dates when they become available. Until then, enjoy ‘Red Paper Lanterns’ below.



Live Gig Videos: Two Door Cinema Club play acoustic version of ‘Sleep Alone’ and more for Danish station 3FM

By on Thursday, 26th July 2012 at 4:00 pm

I think it’s safe to say that with Two Door Cinema Club‘s second album ‘Beacon’ out in September, we can expect to see lots of Two Door-shaped exclusives leading up to the new release. I don’t know about you, but the sight of a woman and her knickers peeking out of a hole in the ceiling is a bit much, yes? Hopefully, we will be able to chat with the guys at some point to get the scoop on the album art and of course, to talk about the new material. Gosh we’re excited!

Yesterday the band Tweeted that they’d been in to see the folks at 3FM, a radio station in Holland, to perform an acoustic version of new track ‘Sleep Alone’. But when I got to the landing page for the video, I noticed the station had also recorded Two Door playing ‘Undercover Martyn’ and ‘What You Know’, so I thought I’d embed all of them here to keep your Thursday afternoon going. Enjoy them below.


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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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