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WIN / Weekend and camping tickets to LeeFest 2017

 
By on Thursday, 6th July 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Camping festivals are pretty ubiquitous in England, and we’re not too far off now from one of our favourites. LeeFest 2017 (also known as the second installment of Leefest Presents the Neverland) is about a month off now on the summer event calendar, and the lineup this year is pretty smashing. The headliners reflect the strength of homegrown talent driven by social consciousness: Jake Bugg, Kate Tempest and Radio 1 personality Annie Mac will be gracing the main stage. You can read Steven’s past full feature on the event through here.

One better, the folks of LeeFest have given us a pair of weekend camping tickets (plus parking!) to enjoy the festival on them and us. Something for free? I’m sure you’re interested in entering our contest now, and we can’t have made it any easier. Just follow these steps:

1. Provide your full name and your email address. We’ll use these to contact you if you win.
2. We’ll need your postal address too, as the tickets are hard copy and we’ll need to post them to you if you are the lucky winner.
3. Then correctly answer this question: Of the choices we give you, which is a headliner at this year’s LeeFest?

We’ll go through all the correct entries and choose one winner at random. Please note: you must be a UK resident to enter, and all duplicate entries will be discarded. If you’d rather not chance it, you still have time to buy tickets through the LeeFest 2018 official Web site.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9lOBY6AwBM[/youtube]

This contest is now closed. The winner will be contacted soon.

 

Preview: LeeFest 2017

 
By on Thursday, 22nd June 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Of all the smaller festivals that have popped up over recent years, LeeFest (10-12 August in Edenbridge, Kent) is perhaps the best one. Somewhat a mini-Glastonbury-style festival, ‘The Neverland’ as it’s become known, is a place where fun and imagination are encouraged to run wild. Three separate sections are dedicated to different aspects of the lineup, with Skull Ridge being my personal favourite, where the pirates (yes, pirates!) roam free to the sound of punk, rock, grunge and grime. Last year’s lineup, including the surprise Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes set, was filled with some of the loudest and heaviest new acts around.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9XwFecNXyU[/youtube]

For those of you who aren’t into the same flavours of music as I, fear not: the full lineup for this year’s LeeFest has some great names from all across the spectrum. Topping the bill this year are two voices who will convey their outlook on current society with their own individual brand of lyrical poetry. Jake Bugg and Kate Tempest, one of the UK’s youngest and brightest songwriters and one of the UK’s most prominent spoken word poets, respectively. With them both at LeeFest, you can’t help but feel like things could get a little bit magical.

Slightly, ok, very away from that spectrum are Wild Beasts, who last year released ‘Boy King’, one of the funkiest and sleaziest – in a good way – honest! – albums we’ve ever heard. It’s amazing, and so are they, and this will be the perfect environment to see them live. LeeFest is a place that prides itself on being a real-life Neverland. You’ve already heard about Skull Ridge and its pirates, but there’s also The Neverwoods aka the main arena, where the Bangarang stage (YES) and Tootles Circus stage take pride of place. Completing the festival’s trio of sections is Mermaid’s Lagoon, or the dance arena, which includes hot tubs. That’s right. Hot tubs.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTvrv30b7C0[/youtube]

Steering away from hot tubs and mermaids of LeeFest, looking in on the lineup once more and the brightest names in UK music at the moment, and all stand out. Representing indie pop is Fickle Friends who never fail to compose a banger: latest track ‘Glue’ is a testament to this. For rock, Milk Teeth more than hold their own. The foursome are prepping to release a new EP in the coming months and with the incredible work that was their debut, ‘Vile Child’ in 2016, the future is bright for the Gloucestershire-based band. While Jake Bugg may be a well-known name in the songwriting world, a new up-and-comer is Tom Grennan. Against his soulful and often crushing tracks that radiate honesty, his sharply contrasting persona filled with confidence and swagger works incredibly well. You’ll have to catch him live to see what I mean.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMkIIvc-8J0[/youtube]

LeeFest is often likened to being a small, more accessible version of Glastonbury, and all of these claims are accurate. Seeing is believing, so get your tickets quick because the last bunch are on sale and these won’t hang around long. You can still get tier two day tickets, but full weekend tickets are now only available on the final tier. Go here to see all available ticket options at the moment.

You can read my coverage on it last year, including chats with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Everything Everything and Oscar, through here.

 

LeeFest Presents: The Neverland 2016 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 5th August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

When you think of Neverland, you consider the following synonymous: timelessness, youthful vigour and a certain transcendence. In the middle of a forest in Kent, near Edenbridge, Neverland became a reality through the help of Lee and his homegrown festival Leefest 2016. Though the weather was not quite ideal upon first landing, it was far from an issue. The moment you wandered into the main arena, it was clear the only thing that would stop a good time being had would be those adult thoughts that should’ve been, at this point, relegated to the outside world. Neverland’s sole purpose over these 3 days was to be a vehicle for your removal from society and instead to provide you a good time.

Split into three main sections, The Neverwoods (main arena), Mermaids Lagoon (rave central) and Skull Ridge (rock city), you were never far from some form of entertainment. The introductory day, Thursday, saw the smallest of the lineup but definitely the strongest. With only Tootles Circus, your average festival tent, operating as a stage, all four acts were nice and accessible. Peluche and Loyle Carner eased the gaining crowd in, but it was the main attractions of Everything Everything and Ghostpoet (pictured at top) who garnered in the big numbers. With Everything Everything, they perfectly stoked the crowd’s fire and brought their unique blend of rapturous choruses and genre bending music. Conversely, Ghostpoet gave the tent a dark atmosphere with his blend of hip-hop-cum-rock-assault.

Friday brought forth the first full day affair, with Peluche once again kicking proceedings off, but this time on the main stage, aka the ‘Bangerang’ stage. The overall setup of the main arena was easily navigated but with the two stages being centrally located, sound spill was inevitable. Fortunately this didn’t happen frequently, though it’s a dangerous game to play. Highlights from the second day included Corey Fox-Fardell and his brand of songwriter electro melding, which was a particularly pleasant listen whilst grazing in front of the Bangerang stage. Little Simz proved why she is one to watch in the UK hip-hop game, leading the enthusiastic crowd through numerous chants as she dominated the beats surrounding her. In a similar fashion, Roots Manuva brought domineering and commanding beats that just reinforced the entire notion behind LeeFest: you can be who you want, and listen to what you want, as long as you have a good time. Rockers, hip-hoppers and the like were all moving and shaking to the sounds that flowed from the Bangerang stage.

Current London-based pop troubadour Oscar provided his blend of melodic darling instrumentation and baritone vocals. One thing’s for sure, you can’t not have a good time at an Oscar show, no matter the crowd size or venue. Dinosaur Pile-Up sat on top of the kingdom of chaos and noise after a headlining set at the Hook Rock stage in the Skull Ridge. It’s was a venue reminiscent of small clubs, where the noise cascades from all orifices and you’re able to lose yourself in the darkness amongst your other perspiring peers. Barrelling through their grunge/punk hybrid hits, the volume was overbearing at the front. We recommend you watch from a safe distance if you’re stupid enough to forget ear protection (a particular note to self).

The final day started off in stereotypical British style, with grey clouds and intermittent rain, but this didn’t affect the atmosphere. Hannah Lou Clark was a particular highlight: sans band, she used both her pure talents and an iPod to create a wonderfully relaxed and charming environment. Everybody’s favourite indie twosome We Are Scientists provided a particularly raucous set that included singer Keith Murray venturing deep into the crowd during ‘Textbook’, where he proceeded to enlist the help of a particularly fluorescent orange Poseidon who was amongst the crowd. Following these shenanigans was current electro-indie darling Shura, having released her debut album ‘Nothing’s Real’ in July. Delivering a captivating set that never failed to both strike you emotively and melodically, the biggest draw of Shura live is the fact she is clearly there because of the sheer love and devotion for her art. She knows what she likes to dance to and fortunately, we do too.

Originally announced to take place on the Thursday, after a mishap with the programs and the cat being let out of the bag early, the not-so-secret secret set from Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes Saturday evening was the perfect climax to this weekend of escapism and release. The pure fury that comes with any Frank Carter show is cathartic enough to make sure you leave with a weightlessness, one that can only be achieved by taking part in both a circle pit and storming the stage, two things this fortunate writer was seen doing.

After all is said and done, the aforementioned sole purpose of LeeFest was achieved. With pirates and lost boys running around shooting each other with water pistols and climbing aboard the decorative dens around the stages, it was impossible to not get lost in the affair. A festival that catered to both families and those of all ages looking to simply cut loose, the promise this event holds is even grander than its current fasthon. Considering this was Leefest’s largest year yet, the sky’s the limit. And with the lead lost boy at the helm, LeeFest could very well be a major player for years to come.

 

Leefest 2016 Interview: Michael Spearman of Everything Everything

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd August 2016 at 11:00 am
 

“I guess it’s something we’ve had to learn, the learning of having to try and fill the room and when it’s an outdoor space, especially a big stage like The Other Stage [at Glastonbury], you have to sort of throw it to the back and exaggerate things a bit more”. Everything Everything drummer Michael Spearman (second anticlockwise from far right in the header photo) is currently discussing the band’s approach to playing festivals, especially after last year’s triumphant set at Worthy Farm. Spearman continues: “we’re still at that quite nice stage where we do sometimes play arenas with other bands or we play a small show, it keeps it interesting to mix it up. I think in general (singer) Jon’s always kind of adapting what he’s doing, working the space with a certain amount of charisma, which we like, [seeing] that in other bands that we see live. Watching Foals [their recent European tour mates] a lot, touring with them, they’re not stood there looking at their shoes, it’s quite an active engagement”.

Watching Everything Everything live is where you see the nature of their sound come to life. A live show filled with presence and projection, the band have no issue in staking their claim. “It doesn’t feel like we’ve trapped ourselves in to like a corner or anything. In a way, we’ve kind of made it so we can be unexpected, and people cannot necessarily know what they’re going to get from us live or on the record, but on the whole, we feel we’ve got a lot of freedom in these different areas”. This is a natural evolution for bands, especially as they release newer material. Elaborating, Spearman offers, “we’ve done three albums now and people know, for better or worse, what to expect with us a little but and I suppose that’s quite liberating in a way. We’ll also tweak the set list maybe a little bit just to make a slightly more direct engagement because some of the very small intricacies can get lost, kind of like in an arena. So I think we’ll always have our essence to us even if we play a totally different set list, we are who we are”.

Everything Everything performing live at the Low Four Studio launch in Manchester, May 2016
Everything Everything performing live at the Low Four Studio launch
in Manchester, May 2016 (watch here)

The power of Everything Everything has been strengthening since 2010’s ‘Man Alive’. Last year’s ‘Get to Heaven’ showed the band at their most unrelenting, something that Spearman agrees with. “I think the last record in particular, we didn’t want any let up until maybe the last song, and that was quite a conscious thing. The one before that (2013’s ‘Arc’) was a little bit more evenly paced, it had a bit more sort of time to it”. As their sound develops, so does the approach to give a lot more respect for those aspects that might even go unnoticed. “You know the Coen Brothers [film directors], they always talk about directing a film is totally tone management. You can’t have one scene that’s one thing and another that is too far the other way and still have a constant flow. We kind of think about that, not at first, because that’s just let’s write some songs, and then it just starts to crystallise and take some shape and you think ‘okay, we feel we want to have these songs on the record [and] not those songs’, so that we can do this with the record and that’s quite a nice feeling”.

In terms of the next natural progression to more new material, Everything Everything are already at work. with Spearman not revealing too much. “We haven’t really gotten to the lyrics yet, we’ve started writing, it’s coming quite easily, definitely easier than the last time”. Retrospectively, he remembers the process for ‘Get to Heaven’: “the first few months of the last record was a bit of a slog, and we were kind of starting to wonder what we’re doing. Then we had to sort of discard all of the songs that we had and start again, that was quite tough. This time, we kind of want to have fun with it and enjoy ourselves a bit, and so far that’s happening. We’re trying to be a bit more relaxed and easy going and, not to say the lyrics will end up like that, but in terms of the writing process, we’re trying to not put too much pressure on ourselves”.

This week also sees the band take to North America. With a sound such as theirs, Spearman describes the difficulties in translating such extremities to newer shores. “We’re quite specifically British, eccentric sounding, but I think some Americans like that. We’ve maybe made our lives a bit more difficult by being weirder than some bands, but then we wouldn’t feel like we’re not being true to ourselves. To be honest, we have a lot of work to do in America still, and we love going abroad and playing to different people, but we’re not at the same level that we are in the UK. And that’s okay, but it’s just a case of chipping away at it really.”.

If you happen to live on the American side of the pond, you can catch Everything Everything starting tomorrow night in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wednesday 3rd August 2016 – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA
Thursday 4th August 2016 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
Saturday 6th August 2016 – TIME Festival – Toronto, ON, Canada
Monday 8th August 2016 – U Street Music Hall – Washington, DC

 

Interview: Danny Todd and James Smith of exmagician (Part 2)

 
By on Monday, 23rd May 2016 at 11:00 am
 

In Part 1 of my interview with Danny Todd and James Smith of exmagician, we discussed the pair’s new album ‘Scan the Blue’, which was released in March on Bella Union.

Following the late March release of their debut LP ‘Scan the Blue’, Belfast alt-rock duo exmagician have planned a full summer of live appearances to promote the album. They recently played at Festival SOS in Murcia, Spain as well as making a stop this past weekend at The Great Escape 2016 in Brighton. Following The Great Escape, exmagician headed to continental Europe to play in Amsterdam, supporting Australian surf rockers Hockey Dad. Looking ahead to the middle of summer, the band are scheduled to play at Sheffield’s Tramlines Festival and the exclusive Tunbridge Wells festival LeeFest Presents: The Neverland in July. “We really love playing festivals,” said band member James Smith. “Certainly my favourite type of gig is a really good festival. July is a lot of festivals, the sort of smaller, boutique festivals in England, which look really good fun. We’re looking forward to them.”

Between those festival appearances and a handful of upcoming UK and Irish headline dates that are still to be announced, Smith and bandmate Danny Todd are currently working on a complete remixing of ‘Scan the Blue’. The new versions of the songs will be pared back performances of the tracks on the album, similar to the ones they recently performed in this live studio session with Cerys Matthews on BBC 6 Music.

The next official single from the album proper will be ‘Bend With the Wind’, which our own editor Mary remarked upon as a standout track, and Todd revealed plans for a new video to accompany its release. “It’s an animated video by an Irish artist called Eat the Danger. That should be coming out in the next month, maybe, or so. So we’re really excited about that track.” Asked which other songs from the album the band are eager to share, Todd continued, “I think they’re all quite different in their own way, which is what we try to do. But we’ve just come off tour, and it’s been nice to play ‘Smile to the Gallery’, because we’ve only really started playing it in the last 3 weeks. So we’re doing that one and ‘Feet Don’t Fail’, James’ one. It’s really nice to play that.”

Songs from ‘Scan the Blue’ have been receiving radio play on the American side of the pond as well as in the UK. Seattle public radio station KEXP featured the album track ‘Job Done’ as its Song of the Day back on the 17th of February, before the full album was even released. In the same blog entry, KEXP also shared the official video for ‘Place Your Bets’, which you can view just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/AARH07T5Y0U[/youtube]

Todd hinted that exmagician might be considering a run of tour dates in America to support the album, though he also remarked that the outcome of the American presidential election might preclude a visit to the United States. “If Trump’s president,” he said, “I don’t know if we’re going to come out.” Though I’ve spent some time pondering the state of the current American presidential contest myself, I hadn’t previously thought about how the election might affect tour plans for artists from abroad, and I wondered aloud about the possibility of bands boycotting America entirely, refusing to tour here. Smith sadly concurred with his bandmate on that point. “Yeah, that’s a possibility. I think a lot of people are very scared. But that’s one of the things, to get over there, because our album is out in the States, and we’d like to get over and support it and tour a bit over there.”

Keep your eye on exmagician’s official Web site and Facebook page for updates on live show announcements and festival appearances. (And if you’re in the United States, keep your fingers crossed for that American tour!) TGTF’s preview of LeeFest: The Neverland, which included a mention of exmagician, posted earlier this week; if you missed it, you can read it right back here. Our full collection of coverage on exmagician is back this way.

Special thanks to Jamie and Luke for kindly arranging this interview.

 

Interview: Danny Todd and James Smith of exmagician (Part 1)

 
By on Friday, 20th May 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

Last week, Belfast alt-rock duo exmagician took time for a quick interview with TGTF ahead of their scheduled appearance at LeeFest Presents: The Neverland at the end of July. exmagician are still rather new on the UK music scene, at least in their current context, but bandmates Danny Todd and James Smith have some relevant past experience to draw upon in getting their new project started.

Todd and Smith were formerly members of one of Northern Ireland’s most buzzed-about bands, Cashier No. 9, who hit the #7 spot on our 10 for 2012 countdown back in December 2011. I happened to see Cashier No. 9 myself way back in 2010 at Northern Ireland’s Ward Park, where they played support for Snow Patrol, although it might be somewhat more accurate to say that Snow Patrol supported them. The ‘Chasing Cars’ hitmakers hosted a long list of bands for a one-day mini-festival in Bangor that year, including Cashier No. 9 and fellow Irish acts General Fiasco and Lisa Hannigan, providing an ideal venue in what would turn out to be the largest concert in Northern Irish history.

Cashier No. 9 have since dissolved as a band, with Smith and Todd citing both personal and artistic differences for the split. But the pair were “still feeling creative”, as Todd explained it, and so they decided to continue making music under a new name, with a slightly different sound to accompany the exmagician moniker. Smith describes exmagician’s work as “maybe a bit heavier, a bit darker, a bit more rough around the edges, not as shiny and sort of West Coast pop as Cashier was.”

Todd and Smith seem to have a congenial working relationship, each “chipping in” on the other’s songwriting and providing reciprocal editorial input as they worked on their debut album ‘Scan the Blue’, which was released back in March on Bella Union Records. They share the philosophy that “The song is king”, as Smith wrote in the liner notes for the album. He elaborated in our interview, “The song has to be amazing, in our own heads, before we start messing around with everything. So yeah, there’s a lot of work goes into that, before anything else happens.”

According to Smith, the pair took a very hands-on approach to recording and producing the new album as well. “We do a lot of the writing, and even a lot of the pre-production at home, in our own home studios, so a lot of it was prepared at home and brought into the studio to add to and to fix up. We knew we had enough skills of our own to kind of do it, maybe not do the whole thing on our own, which is why we got Rocky in. But it was a kind of effort to put things all on ourselves a bit more.”

Their co-producer on ‘Scan the Blue’ was Rocky O’Reilly, who has worked in the past with Northern Irish acts including And So I Watch You From Afar, General Fiasco, and Wonder Villains. Smith describes their relationship with O’Reilly as collaborative: “He knew that we had a lot of our own ideas and he would just be kind of the facilitator. That’s not to say that he didn’t have a lot of input. But he just kind of let us mess around a lot in the studio and try out all our own kind of silly ideas, and some of them worked and some of them didn’t. But he was the one who kind of made it all cohesive and brought it all together.”

exmagician have just finished touring the new album in the UK and are gearing up for performances on the summer festival circuit. They talked rather extensively in our interview about the challenges of playing the new songs live. “These songs were recorded first, and then we figured out how to play them live afterwards, which is always a bit of a struggle,” said Todd. “There’s so much going on in them, and we feel so attached to those recordings that we want to replicate them live as well. I think we do justice to it at the moment, which is great.”

Though he and Todd are the core members of exmagician, Smith clarified that “when we perform live, we’re still performing as a four-piece band. We have a bass player and a drummer. I think people get the misconception that we are just this kind of duo that plays, but no, we need a full band to kind of create the sound that we want and re-create the sound of the album, obviously.” Some of the songs on the album presented a difficult task in that regard, particularly title track ‘Scan the Blue’. Though it’s Smith’s professed favourite track, the band aren’t currently performing it on live set lists. “We’d probably need about 20 keyboard players to pull that off live,” Todd said. “We’ll probably do a version of it [eventually], but at the moment we just need to figure things out and make it sound good live before we play it, you know?”

As a sneak peek at Part 2 of our interview, have a listen below to exmagician’s remixed version of another track from ‘Scan the Blue’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/Wc3dnVdXBes[/youtube]

Stay tuned to TGTF for Part 2 of our interview with exmagician, which will post next week. In the meantime, have a look back at our preview of LeeFest Presents: The Neverland right back here and catch up on our previous coverage of exmagician back this way.

 
 
 

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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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