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Live Review: Life in Film with Broke Royals at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington, DC – 25th August 2015

 
By on Thursday, 27th August 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Back in the spring of this year, London band Life in Film accompanied The Wombats on their most recent North American tour campaign. I’d thought for months and discussed with their frontman Samuel Fry when I interviewed him prior going out to England that I’d missed the opportunity of seeing the foursome play in my hometown at the 9:30 Club, but I learned Tuesday night that Life in Film had to pull out of their expected 9:30 Club date with the Liverpool band, so I ended up not missing it after all. Instead, on a surprisingly pleasant August evening, I saw them headline the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel in Northeast, playing songs from their debut album ‘Here It Comes’ and some newer ones including ‘My Mate’s Car’ that Fry said they wrote in the interim time since missing DC the first time. Having followed the band for the better part of 6 years, I was excited to see them gig to say the least!

Broke Royals at Rock 'n' Roll Hotel August 2015

You’d think I’d be more used to seeing large groups of friends and family showing up to see a local band play, but actually it’s not been my experience. Broke Royals are native to DC and their relatives and friends came out in full force, some of them sporting crowns to go along with the royal theme, clapping and cheering all the way. That’s the way it should be, folks: support means so much to a struggling band. Live, band members Philip Basnight (lead vocals / guitar) and Colin Cross (drums) are joined live by friends on lead guitar and bass. I had to admit I groaned slightly when I saw the appearance of a Macbook next to Cross, but I guess they don’t have the means to get another percussionist or a synth player. Would be worth the expense if they make it to the big leagues, though.

Broke Royals at Rock 'n' Roll Hotel August 2015

There’s no way you could accuse Broke Royals of having songs that all sound the same. This, however, could be a real problem when they shop for a record deal. ‘Hold On’, which Basnight said was for a friend, has an r&b flavour matching well with his winsome smile and all his charm of an aspiring boyband member, while on the almost too sweet ‘So Much to Learn’, his request for the audience for a call and response reaction plays right in boyband territory; his ditching of his guitar to dance on ‘Kill the Camera’ seems to agree with all of this. The easy, breezy pop of ‘About Time’ conjures up for me seeing Jack Johnson out in the sun Sunday afternoon at Roskilde 2010. Confusingly, ‘Trap’ has a harder, almost all enveloping rock sound owing to their excellent live lead guitarist, and they closed the set with ‘Hum’, another anthemic rock number. Will the real Broke Royals please stand up? I’d recommend they choose one direction, even if it is a general one, and stick to it.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGks5oDrqho[/youtube]

Okay, so I’m seriously confused about what has happened with Life in Film’s debut album. I’m no stranger to tracklistings rearranging when a UK album comes over stateside. Two Door Cinema Club’s debut album ‘Tourist History’ comes to mind. But for the actual list of songs to change significantly? I bought the American version of ‘Here It Comes’ at the show Tuesday, which only has a few songs in common with the UK version I reviewed in April. Funnily enough, the opening track of the American version is ‘It’s What Happen Next That Matters Most’ was their set opener and sounded vaguely Two Door with its melodic guitar. Disappointing for me who is familiar with the UK tracklisting, they chose to omit three of their oldest songs that appeared on the UK version (‘The Idiot’, ‘Carla’, ‘Needles and Pins’) that I was counting on hearing. Speaking to bassist Dom Sennett after the show, it sounds like they’ve closed the book on that era and we might never hear those songs live again.

Life in Film at Rock 'n' Roll Hotel August 2015

That said, there was plenty in their set to be pleased about. ‘Get Closer’, which I imagine will be their signature tune, got everyone jumping and dancing, with its footloose and fancy free feeling, the audience joining in on the repeated shouts of “get closer!” Guitarist Ed Ibbotson’s fancy guitar picking on ‘Anna, Please Don’t Go’ was peerless, allowing Fry to go for a more introspective and softer tone, and the punters responded in going silent so the beauty of the song could shine. Smiling widely after, Fry remarked that we had been the quietest crowd yet for this song on this tour and he appreciated the respect.

Life in Film at Rock 'n' Roll Hotel August 2015

The shuffly bits of ‘Forest Fire’ made more sense to me live than they did on record, suggesting a less pop direction might be where Life in Film could be going in the future. Further, they ended with a barnstormer that I didn’t expect: a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye’ that concluded with an unbridled display of loudness and energy. It capped off a lively evening of guitar-driven pop and judging from the cheering – not to mention the shots of whisky that made their way to the stage – Life in Film will return to Washington soon and to a captive audience.

After the cut: both bands’ set lists from the night. The UK version of ‘Here It Comes’ by Life in Film is available from ECC Records; the US version is available from Plus One Records. For all of TGTF’s past coverage of Life in Film, go here.

Life in Film at Rock 'n' Roll Hotel August 2015

After the cut: both bands’ set lists from the night.
Continue reading Live Review: Life in Film with Broke Royals at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington, DC – 25th August 2015

 

Quickfire Questions #95: Edward Ibbotson of Life in Film

 
By on Friday, 21st August 2015 at 11:00 am
 

London-based indie rockers Life in Film are currently touring America on their first headline tour of the country. Guitarist Edward Ibbotson took some time out from touring to answer our Quickfire Questions.

What song is your earliest musical memory?
When I was a kid we used to go visit my family up north and we only ever seemed to have these three tapes, the Beatles Red and Blue albums and Mozart’s Requiem.

Dad would put the Beatles on until the kids finally fell asleep then Mozart when he got the chance. My mum used to try and slip Phil Collins in every now and again but my dad got wise to her and put a stop to it….much to my later regret.

What was your favourite song as a child?
Phil Collins – ‘Something Happened on the Way to Heaven’. [Ed and I are clearly kindred spirits. – Ed.]

What song makes you laugh?
John Shuttleworth – ‘Two Margarines On The Go’. It’s a band favourite. It brings up all life’s big questions.

What song makes you cry?
Neil Young – ‘Philadelphia’… like a child with a grazed knee.

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…?
Chaka Demus and Pliers – ‘Tease Me’. It was Carly Hockley’s 12th birthday party. There were a lot of rewinds going on for this one. Me and Carly were dancing close, similar to Baby and Johnny in Dirty Dancing.

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

We were too young to fully understand what it all meant. For ‘Carly’, it would later turn out to mean lesbianism. For me, a deep seated love of light reggae pop.

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.)
Chaka Demus and Pliers – ‘Tease Me’. My childhood was robbed that night.

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Jonathan Richman – ‘That Summer Feeling’.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Stephen Merritt.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Phil Collins.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
John Betjeman – ‘Banana Blush’.

Thanks to Ed from Life in Film for answering our Quickfire Questions, and best of luck for the rest of the American tour!

 

Interview: Samuel Fry of Life in Film

 
By on Tuesday, 28th April 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Last week, London-based Life in Film had just started their support slot with the Wombats on their month-long tour of North America, beginning in Toronto on the 21st of April. After quite a long drive from the Great White North down to the City of Brotherly Love, I had an opportunity to chat on the phone with their frontman Samuel Fry (vocals and guitar) after they arrived ahead of a gig at Union Transfer and got a chance to do some “looking around Philadelphia, it’s really beautiful”.

It’s an exciting time for the band, as they’re gearing up to release their debut album ‘Here It Comes’ on both sides of the Atlantic in under 2 weeks at the time of this interview; Samuel describes the LP’s title as representing “a statement of it [all] coming to fruition”. I feel I also have caught Samuel at a good time, as at this point they’d only played one gig on this side of the pond at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace that he described as “an amazing show”, and everyone was in high spirits and full of energy. And also apparently full of the often maligned, indigenous to Pennsylvania meatloaf scrapple from a local diner where they’d stopped in that morning for breakfast. But rather than digress into a retelling of the band’s varied diet while out on the road here, I went straight into asking Samuel how the band got together.

“Me and the guitar player Ed [Edward Ibbotson], we went to school together. Then we both went to different universities. While at university, I met Dom [bassist Dominic Sennett] and Micky [drummer Osment] because they were at the music college I was at. We [Samuel and Edward] moved back to London after we finished, and Dom and Mick decided to move to London as well. We all got together and decided to play music together.

“But we were kind of just mucking about at first, you know? We all lived together, yeah, and we used to hang out and listen to a lot of music, really. Then we found a little practise room near where we lived, which was underneath a snooker hall. It was a dingy little dungeon, it was really nasty! But it was kind of cool because no-one else really practised there and so we could go whenever we wanted to use it , and we started to put a couple of songs together. Felt good about [them] and went from there, really.”

Samuel Fry of Life in Film, a still from Berlin Sessions, 2015
a still from Life in Film’s performance with Berlin Sessions earlier this year

I tell Samuel that from the longtime Life in Film fan’s perspective, it seems like the debut album has been a long time coming. He agrees. “Yeah, I suppose it does, it’s quite a long process. When you start off [songwriting by] doing just the odd song. You kind of record one song at a time so you can get a feel for it at first, you know? And you’re writing as you go, and you’ve just started out gigging and stuff, and that’s a bit of a process. And then you start working with different people like managers and labels, and all of those things take time. That’s the nature of a debut album, I suppose. The next album, we’d probably record it all as one…we wouldn’t go through so much demoing and kind of early development of our sound. We know where we’re at and what we want to do… So, yeah, it does feel like it’s taken time, but I’m not surprised, really.”

Famed producer Stephen Street was called into work on Life in Film’s ‘Here It Comes’, so I ask him if any or all of their band were fans of his work with the Smiths or Blur. “Very much so. We love the Smiths, and we love Blur. So when originally thought there was the possibility we might be working with him after we managed to get a demo under his nose and he listened to it, he offered to work with us on a couple of tracks, and we were really buzzing about it. It went really well and we got on with him really well, and we managed to get him to agree to do the whole album. So yeah, it was a really exciting experience, to learn from him, from a person with those kind of credentials.”

I asked further if knowing about Street’s storied work history made it harder to work with him in the studio. “I think it was a bit intimidating, initially”, Samuel admits, “because he’s worked with all these amazing musicians. But he’s used to working with so many talented people. But to be honest, as soon as you meet the guy and you chat to him, he immediately puts you at ease completely. He’s a really down to earth bloke. So very quickly, we felt very relaxed in his company, and it was a nice process to go through, basically.”

He then reveals to me he got a super special moment with a super special piece of equipment in Street’s studio: “I got to play Graham Coxon‘s guitar…well, Stephen lent to Graham Coxon [for] the first time he played the telly, a Telecaster apparently. And he let me borrow it for some of the songs. It has a really amazing sound, that Telecaster vintage sound, and I was playing Graham Coxon’s guitar…and I was really chuffed about that!”

I ask Samuel if he has a favourite song off the album. “I personally like ‘Anna’ [‘Anna Please Don’t Go’],a song Ed wrote. I think it’s got such a nice pop song kind of structure, but it’s got so much sentiment. It’s always been a favourite of mine, personally. I think as a band, we all like ‘Forest Fire’ quite a lot because for the recording process for that, we got a lot of different instruments and loaded them up, and it all fell together nicely. I think we achieved something quite atmospheric with that one.”

We touch back on the show in Toronto they played less than 48 hours previously and in a city some 750 kilometres behind them. “That first show in Toronto, the reception was brilliant”, muses Samuel. “We couldn’t have asked for more, really. Everyone’s been really friendly. So now it’s on for tonight in Philadelphia.” Many more shows and many more drives are up ahead for Life in Film during this lengthy stint supporting the Wombats around the continent, and I’m confident our audiences will take to their engaging songwriting.

Thanks very much to Samuel for chatting with me, and Anna and Jonny for helping sort out this interview.

 

Album Review: Life in Film – Here It Comes

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd April 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Life in Film Here It Comes album coverOne of the most important milestones for a young band is the release of the debut album. Although they’ve been poking round under the radar for some time now, London-based indie pop/rock band Life in Film finally see this goal come to fruition next month with the release of ‘Here It Comes’. At the helm of production duties was Stephen Street, famous for his association with the Smiths and Morrissey’s subsequent first solo album ‘Viva Hate’, as well as his long production history with Blur that includes ‘The Magic Whip’, out next week.

Life in Film’s style is one based on the rugged, lovely simplicity of the guitar band, and without fancy tricks or crutches, something that has rung true for years with the supporters of The Crookes and The Postelles. With the basic rock band-building blocks of guitars, bass and drums, an amazing song framed by a memorable melody can be written and performed. That is, if talent is present in spades, which is the case with this band.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFuwOULE2YM[/youtube]

Several tunes familiar to long-time fans such as myself appear on ‘Here It Comes’. ‘The Idiot’, with frontman Samuel Fry’s lamenting of a relationship gone bad (“love is wasted on you / and you don’t have a clue”), is a corker but counterintuitively, its peppy melody and happy guitar notes belying the tone of regret. Its unleashing on an unsuspecting, uninitiated public should be interesting. ‘Needles and Pins’, the title track of their 2012 debut EP, is another winner, driven by a jaunty, jangly guitar hook that swims and swirls around in your head and refuses to leave. Album opener ‘Alleyway’ is a much newer song, yet smartly doesn’t stray too far from this formula, except to increase the vigour with more prominent drumming from Micky Osment.

Another newer song and ‘Here It Comes’ standout ‘Get Closer’ starts sweetly enough with xylophone and oohs. But the track has a melody that never stays very long in one place, so as you’re trying to keep up with the band and shout along with them, “get closer! Get closer! Get closer!”, it feels like you’re in the middle of a cardiovascular workout. An enjoyable one at that, in which the boy next door apologises to the girl he loves, “I’m sorry that it’s not quite how you thought this would be / it’s always the fucking same, always the same / come round, I’d really like to see you / we could watch the television, you could cook a pizza”; not exactly Shakespeare, I know, but endearing nonetheless. And this the song that got them called the British Vampire Weekend? Can someone please explain this? I’m lost.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SA6-xLuRpjY[/youtube]

While there are high energy, fun moments on the record, there are also slower ballads to provide some welcome emotional shade. With its complex guitar pickings by lefty Edward Ibbotson against a gorgeous string section, ‘Anna, Please Don’t Go’ is a rare beauty as Fry plaintively sighs, “Anna, please don’t go, your heart’s in the right place / don’t be fooled by pain, it comes but it goes away”. The strings make another welcome appearance on the tambourine-tinged ‘Forest Fire’. Another slower tempo highlight is ‘Carla’, which I first became aware of after watching a Watch Listen Tell session the band did in Stoke Newington Cemetery in 2009 (yes, 2009, you read that right). The album version showcases the band members’ harmonies and the lovely guitars, with the overall sound as rich as its lyrical content.

I find it somewhat ironic that while title track ‘Here It Comes’ has a definite good time Charlie feel and has the makings of a summer festival anthem, its YOLO / carpe diem sentiment and yelps for “fun fun fun!” feels forced with this group. As much as I enjoy bands getting away from the topics of love and ending relationships, a band like Life in Film who are so good at writing such songs and making them memorable should refrain from fixing it if it ain’t broke.

8.5/10

Life in Film’s debut album ‘Here It Comes’ will be released on the 4th of May on ECC Records. They are currently on tour in North America supporting Liverpool’s the Wombats. For previous TGTF coverage on Life on Film, head here.

 

Live Gig Videos: Life in Film play acoustic versions of ‘Get Closer’, ‘Alleyway’ and ‘The Idiot’ for Berlin Sessions

 
By on Thursday, 16th April 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

I get this incredibly happy feeling when I see a UK band I’ve been following for a long time finally get the attention they deserve on this side of the pond. London-based Life in Film have been soldiering on for the last few years, having caught the eye of those fashion hounds at Burberry as early as 2010, leading me to write this Bands to Watch on them the following year. Well, ladies and gents, I am here to tell you graft does pay off, as Life in Film are now gearing up for the release of their Stephen Street-produced debut album ‘Here It Comes’ the 4th of May on ECC Records (the American release follows on the 5th on +1 Records). Now everyone – I’m telling you everyone, from Consequence of Sound to Teen Vogue, from Nylon to Pigeons and Planes – want to talk to them, and I just want to say…well, I was tipping this band way before all of you!

Ahead of the album’s release, Germany-based Berlin Sessions had the foresight to videotape the band playing these stripped back acoustic versions of ‘Get Better’, ‘Alleyway’ and ‘The Idiot’, which all appear on ‘Here It Comes’. If you happen to live in North America, you can catch them as the main support for Liverpool’s Wombats on their tour of our continent starting next Tuesday in Toronto. I’d recommend you catch them now while you still can. Catch all our past coverage on Life in Film here.

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

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpmJNgua0sc[/youtube]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFuwOULE2YM[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1095: Life in Film

 
By on Thursday, 17th January 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

Jangly rock purveyors Life in Film have released the video for their debut single, ‘Cold Wire’, on their new label Sony. I am so chuffed for them getting this deal!

The song will be released as a single on the 18th of February. It’s in the ‘a day in the life’ style, which fits these down to earth chaps perfectly. Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ru_M-WJYyUU[/youtube]

 
 
 

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