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Liverpool Sound City 2014: Day 1 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 13th May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

The first half / part 1 of my Thursday Sound City roundup is here. For all my Sound City 2014 coverage from Liverpool, use this link; for all my photos from Sound City 2014, head this way.

More Than Conquerors @ Kazimier Gardens
After having more than my fill of Hot Soles in Liverpool, for the second half of my Thursday at Liverpool Sound City 2014, I was back out to Kazimier Gardens for More Than Conquerers, which reminded me that John really needs to come out with me next year for Sound City. After a while, harder rock starts to bleed together in my mind and while this band from Belfast were certainly fun to watch, I couldn’t distinguish them from the many others of their sound level and calibre I’d seen at SXSW. They’ve got long hair and beards, which is to their favour to collect hipster fans, so I’ve been told by music fans from Liverpool to London. The word on the street is that this band is destined for big things – and soon – so my advice is to listen to them yourself and draw your own conclusions.

The Amazing Snakeheads @ Screendelica at the Black-E
A huge programming mistake for Sound City this year was not putting the Screendelica stage not at the thick of things on Seel Street like last year. In 2013, the TGTF team enjoyed Arcane Roots and Future of the Left both tear it up in the wee hours of the morning at the venue behind the Arts Academy. (One of the musicians was seen hanging precariously from a light fixture. You had to have been there.) Instead, this year Screendelica was inexplicably moved to practically the arse end of nowhere, all the way out in Chinatown at the Black-E. The venue itself isn’t bad – I enjoyed the Hummingbirds and the Thespians there last year – but the distance no doubt led to less people venturing out to see the bands playing there. The Anglican Cathedral, which is even more east of the city centre than the Black-E, doesn’t suffer similar problems, as it is host to the headline shows of the festival, which this year starred Clean Bandit, Strokes alum Albert Hammond, Jr. and our Irish friends Kodaline, and therefore are enough of a draw to encourage punters to walk that distance.

Glaswegians The Amazing Snakeheads, whose debut album ‘Amphetamine Ballads’ released in mid-April is already causing a huge stir at the moment, should have been able to command their audience and incite a riot. Singer Dale Barclay, dressed in a decidedly not rock ‘n’ roll crushed velvet shirt, growled and gutturally screamed into his mike between banging chords on his guitar, admirably got a small but good group of moshers going. But the too large space that felt like an empty school gymnasium for a school dance and just wasn’t the right kind of venue for them. I feel like if they’d played somewhere smaller and darker like the Zanzibar, the vibes and energy level would have worked in their favour.

Travis is a Tourist @ Korova
I am a woman who keeps the promises she makes to friends, and earlier the eponymous Travis of Travis is a Tourist had asked me if I would come to see him and his band play at Korova. I told him if I could make it back early enough from the Black-E, I would have a look in. Boy, am I glad I did. Carrie and I had seen them play at Latitude 30 at the British Music Embassy on the Tuesday afternoon of SXSW, when the Austin sunshine still shone outside, after which time Carrie nabbed Travis for this interview. Completely different vibe seeing them in the very intimate Korova, where it felt the small stage could barely contain the liveliness of Travis is a Tourist’s live performance. I now wonder if unconsciously or not are more nervous playing at SXSW than at other festivals, because while their Austin gig seemed a wee bit tentative, there was no such anxiety on display in Liverpool. It probably also helped that their best buds More Than Conquerors were there to cheer them on too as they had done earlier at Kazimier Gardens. Yay for best friends! If you can’t count on friends for support, who can you count on?

Traams @ Shipping Forecast
The one good thing about me coming out to blighty for music festivals in England is I can catch up on any bands I might have missed at SXSW. I’d still not seen Chichester’s Traams, have already proved their mettle to regional festival crowds for years, and due to schedule conflicts, I had to give them a pass in Austin. The downstairs stage at the Shipping Forecast on Slater Street, another claustrophobic venue, seemed tailor made for the South East group to feed off of their fans’ excitement. Their bassist, who had been throwing shapes all night even while he was playing his guitar, was so caught up in the moment, he and his bass made their way off the stage to the delight of the punters. I imagine Traams are a better live prospect than on record, as the singer/guitarist’ s gravelly voice is less exciting than the get up and dance atmosphere they create live in concert.

Sivu @ Leaf Café
While I was in Austin this year, I had serious reservations on whether I would make the trip across the pond for any festivals at all. My heart was not in the right place, I’d had numerous problems securing accommodation that wouldn’t bankrupt me and it looked unlikely that I’d have John and Martin with me in Liverpool and festivals are always more fun to work at when you’ve got mates with you. The odds seemed stacked against me.

The clincher ended up being Sivu convincing me on the Friday of SXSW after I’d chatted with him in the atrium of the Omni and seeing him at the Mohawk that I needed to come see him with his full live band in England, as he had only been able to bring out one of his merry touring band, guitarist Lucy Parnell, with him to Texas. I am sure it sounds strange reading that I was going to a tea shop to see a band play. However, remember that I was going to see an English band there and really, I cannot think of a more civilised way to prepare for going to see your friends gig than having a pot of tea. It sure feels better waking up without a hangover the next day. Gigs in tea shops never happen in America, but I can certainly dream.

Last year, I’d gone to Leaf to see the Chapman Family play at what would be one of their last festival appearances before they broke up in June 2013. That time, all the café tables were still in position, which made for a very strange setup I’m sure for Kingsley Chapman to have only mildly interested café customers staring back at him. The earlier Amazing Snakeheads performance at the Black-E proved to be a stark contrast to Sivu’s set time of midnight. On Bold Street and far away from the larger Duke Street Garage and Nation made for a smaller group of punters assembled, but who were there were a captive audience, and as he’d promised, the immense sound of the Sivu full band setup filled the space beautifully.

I struggle to describe the Sivu sound, as James Page’s voice can run into the falsetto range, so I can see sigur ros / Jonsi fans taking to him, but personally, it’s the surprise in the richness of the sum of the parts, some played, some synthesised, that is Sivu’s greatest triumph. The sweetly delivered lines of ‘Can’t Stop Now’ seem in direct odds with the almost dance rhythms of the songs, whereas in earlier Sivu composition ‘Better Man Than He’ is much darker. How to describe ‘Bodies’? “Each song has its place.” And ‘Bodies’, like all of Sivu’s songs, has a wonderful place in this life. The Sivu full band experience capped off a first night of amazing music.

Stay tuned for more Liverpool Sound City 2014 coverage coming soon on TGTF.

 

Liverpool Sound City 2014: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 12th May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

For all my photos from Sound City 2014, head this way; for all my Sound City 2014 coverage from Liverpool, use this link.

This year, I covered Liverpool Sound City alone without John or Martin, so I felt the full pressure of reviewing pop, dance, rock and everything in between all by my lonesome. I think as a music writer, you always go into a music festival having these delusions of grandeur that you’re going to be Superman and will actually see every single band, every single act you’ve got on your colour-coded schedule. When it comes to multi-day festivals, I think the stress is compounded because you’ve got to be ‘on’ for more than 1 day and inevitably, your relative freshness (and I’m not just referring to the state of your clothes, but of your mental state as well) starts to go progressively downhill as the event wears on.

Thursday night was my most productive night, and I’m guessing this was the case because the day before, hopes were high for a far too long awaited Premier League cup win as I’d visited Anfield on a sunny day, and it just doesn’t get much better than that for a Liverpool fan. After a couple of conference sessions, including a truly informative q&a with Michael Kiwanuka and his manager Rob Swerdlow and a less interesting one with interviewer John Robb trying to engage Gruff Rhys and his John Evans character puppet of now ‘American Interior’ fame, I was raring to go see all the bands on my list.

Prides @ Nation
I’m not sure which Sound City bod’s bright idea it was to put a rave-inducing band like Prides on at 7 PM at the cavernous Nation, but whoever it was, I don’t think they understand how dance music works. Prides, whose fun, New Wave-y dance pop, would have worked much better in front of more people and much later in the night. It seemed so strange to see their three band members on a massive stage, but if my feelers are correct, they’ll play festivals like this and pack them in soon enough. Still, they broke out an impressive set in this brand new for Sound City venue that included upcoming single ‘Messiah’ check to see if current or future and irrepressible past single ‘The Seeds You Sow’. Funny how hearing ‘Let It Go’ in this setting reminded me of Savoir Adore’s ‘Sea of Gold’, as I’d not previously associated the two bands’ sounds like that before.

The Kill Van Kulls @ Heebie Jeebies (did not appear) / Kaves @ Heebie Jeebies
The Kill van Kulls must have pulled out of Sound City last minute, as when I arrived at the subterranean Heebie Jeebies with its low archways (so low that even I, an already short woman, had to duck to not hit my head on the ceiling bricks), I counted the number of band members (too many), noticed the complete lack of synthesiser and guessed Gareth Bartlett of the Manchester band would not be wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses, looking like he’d stepped off the set of Miami Vice. The sunnies should have been a dead giveaway – they were more Ric Ocasek and Cars with the good time rock sound of Springsteen, but nothing terribly original. Disappointed, I cut my losses and walked next door to find something else to listen to.

Patients @ Brooklyn Mixer
Americans: if you really want something to do your head in while you’re in Liverpool, visit the Brooklyn Mixer, a bar that I guess has modeled itself off great watering holes of that NYC neighbourhood and has New York subway-styled signs telling you where to go. It’s the last thing I want to see in Liverpool when I’m visiting. Nevertheless, the parqueted wood flooring on the second level where they hosted bands all weekend was a nice space. Patients were exactly how you’d imagine a Korean Ramones tribute band to sound. However, since when did a rock band have a keyboardist, yet no guitarist? Rather disappointingly, they weren’t dressed as colourfully as their press photos on their Facebook, which would have added another unique layer to their presence.

Youth Man @ Factory
Earlier in the day, I’d been advised incorrectly to pick up my press pass at the Hilton delegates hotel and to traipse back up to Seel Street to retrieve my accreditation. At least I then knew where the Factory venue was. Oddly set up with a beer garden that wasn’t at all conducive to watching the band performing on its indoor stage, I could see it working for a band like Brummie trio Youth Man, with elements of punk and thrash, as if thrown into a blender with Bloc Party, as singer and guitarist Kaila Whyte brought along the riot grrrl vibes. Grab your free copy of their EP ‘Bad Weather’ from their Bandcamp.

PØRTS @ Kazimier Gardens
The outdoor venue John likened to stepping inside any scene in the Shire of The Lord of the Rings, Kazimier Gardens played host to several great showcases during Sound City, including Generator NI’s on Thursday night. After saying my hellos to our mates from the original mother ship Generator based in Newcastle, I blew Carrie’s mind when I messaged her I was stood down the front for Derry’s PØRTS when I told her I was stood next to Travis is a Tourist, who we’d met and she had interviewed in Austin during SXSW 2014. Even more mind-blowing I think was Travis’ own reaction to see me stood there, unable to believe I’d come all the way over from America for Sound City. But back to PØRTS, who were formerly known as Little Bear. I am not sure what their singer/bassist was doing with two iPhones, but it appeared that he was playing virtual harmonica with them? Not sure what was going on there. Think folk-y, gorgeous Fleet Foxes-ey type good stuff that has already caught the attention of the likes of 6music’s Cerys Matthews and the bods at Radio Ulster.

Marika Hackman @ East Village Arts Club Loft (did not appear) / Hot Soles @ Mello Mello
I left Kazimier Gardens early to have another crack at the top floor room of the East Village Arts Club, which by the way has one of my favourite restaurants and lounge areas in the city. Last year, I let Martin do the honours of covering Willy Moon on the loft stage when my claustrophobia, combined by the extreme heat of just too many bodies, were crammed in on the floor and I sat in the lounge with a cider. However, I was thwarted, which was quickly apparent as I walked upstairs and heard insipid elevator music playing and clearly not the gloom of Marika Hackman’s goth-folk. Many punters, made into involuntary, awkward wallflowers with drink in hand in search of someone else to see, were truly gutted about her non-appearance in Liverpool. (I would also like to note that while I was on the tour of Anfield the day before, I’d explained to a no nonsense type bald security guard at the ground I was in town for the festival. At first I was intimidated by him, until the surface cracked and it was clear he was just like us. A music fan! He said unequivocally she was the number one artist to see at Sound City. So…Marika, I think you have some serious ground to make up for with your fans in Liverpool. I hate the idea of this kindly man who works hard at Anfield every day crying into his pint because you didn’t show up.)

I had plenty of time to chill back down in the downstairs lounge with my new favourite flavour of cider – passion fruit! (yes, Rekordelig, I’d be happy to take a sponsorship from you) – before making my way to corner bar Mello Mello, whose sound was peerless all weekend and intimate nature of the rectangular box shape of the place made for what would become my favourite venue of this year’s festival. Thursday night, the venue played host to the Sheffield’s Darnell Music Factory (DMF) record label‘s Digital showcase straight from the heart of Yorkshire. My ears sensed this immediately as I entered the place: the raucous, up for it deep male voices that sound like the ringing of bells to me, were no doubt lubricated with countless pints, cheering on the band onstage.

Sheffield’s Hot Soles had been recommended to me by a friend from the Steel City. While they’re not my thing, I can see why they are a popular draw at Tramlines: the likes of Drenge and Royal Blood prove that hard rock duos can be successful, and in the case of Hot Soles, it’s not necessarily blow out your ears kind of hard rock they do but a boisterous garage sound that is probably somewhere between Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and the Jim Jones Revue. Their singer (whose name I am not sure of, nor do I know if he’s Sole Brother A or Sole Brother B – see their Facebook, I’m not kidding) is most definitely the showman: with his wireless guitar, in Chuck Berry style he crashed his way around the whole of the Mello Mello venue, including the café portion of the place, which I’m sure either terrified or bemused the customers!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Thursday coverage of Sound City, which will post tomorrow.

 

Liverpool Sound City 2014 Interview: Tommy Wright of Young Kato

 
By on Monday, 12th May 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and even if you want to pretend you don’t watch Made in Chelsea, you already know that Cheltenham six-piece Young Kato appeared on the tv programme and their fame has grown by leaps and bounds. Having written about them nearly 2 years ago in this Bands to Watch feature in the summer of 2012, I couldn’t be more chuffed for their success.

They’ve been so busy being on the road with You Me at Six and doing their own gigs and making festival appearances, singer Tommy Wright had to rush to meet me after the band just had headed west after making an afternoon appearance at Live at Leeds and had just arrived in Liverpool. Listen below as I speak with the singer of one of the hottest up and coming bands around.

Many thanks to Tommy for his time: I know time was tight in Liverpool, Tommy, and I appreciate you chatting with me. Big thanks also to Paul for sorting this interview out for me.

 

Preview: Liverpool Sound City 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 12th March 2014 at 9:00 am
 

TGTF loves the North – we love Steven Gerrard, we love The Beatles, we love Alan Shearer, we love The Stone Rosess, we bloody love things with gravy on, we even are rather partial to a parmo (it’s covered in cheese and very Northern), so of course, we love Liverpool Sound City. Which, I suppose, means if The Great Escape is the UK’s SXSW, Sound City is the North’s Great Escape. Their mantra? Championing the best breakthrough acts of the year across a variety of intimate and stirring venues, including the strikingly beautiful cathedral, which last year hosted an emotive set by Noah and the Whale, and The Kazimier Gardens, where the festival’s Korean showcase last year was an exciting centrepiece. So, who’s on the bill this year?

They’re probably sick of being known as the band with “that really cute video, which makes me feel sad, then happy, because the man’s face is a bit weird, and Fearne Cotton of the radio mentioned it a lot”. But Kodaline (pictured at top) have in the last year and a half established themselves as an extremely credible Irish alternative to your early 21st century Coldplay – perhaps with a little more sense of adventure – but in essence, the vibes are very similar. They’ll be the star attraction on Saturday the 3rd of May, without a doubt, seeing as they managed to pack a tent at Reading last year. Sound City should be a great chance to get up close and familiar with this group of future stars.

BBC Sound of 2014’s Jungle should be an interesting concept on the Saturday: interesting and a bit peculiar for the fact they aren’t particularly partial to people seeing them on stage, so they usually perform behind a shroud of mist. Barring the shyness, they’re an experimental duo called T and J and their music has mainly been promoted through the extreme viral draw of their first two videos. With the prospect of a live show, the mystery makes them surely an unmissable prospect. Or perhaps a very missable prospect? Who the fuck knows? Just grab a picture if you do…

Stoner-rockers Drenge are performing on the Friday and look an attention-grabbing prospect for mid-festival viewing. They grabbed a lot of hype, perhaps not ‘Vintage Trouble’ levels when they appeared on Jools Holland last year; it was obvious their energy, combined with their raw, rugged riffs would win them some admirers. This is the kind of festival a band like Drenge are made for, and in a close-up and personal venue, expect this double act to incite some carnage.

Last year Findlay grabbed the attention of our very own Martin Sharman and fought her way to the top of our 10 for 2014 poll; now she’s back on the Friday of Sound City. Empowered women of the world, get ready to meet your new champion. Raw, unrelenting and with a siren-like voice that’ll have any warm blooded male ensnared, she is a welcome addition to the line-up.

That’s just a small cross-section of what will be a freaking ace 3 days of new music and if I didn’t whet your appetite yet, you can also look forward to a bit of London based four-piece LSA, dirty rockers Lola Colt or indie-electro-pop trio We Were Evergreen. Liverpool Sound City 2014 has something for everyone and is easily the best route to go down, if you want to spend your 2015 telling your mates: “I was there when they were playing to 50 people in a bar in Liverpool – I was there first”.

For much more about Liverpool Sound City including how to book delegate or punter tickets, visit their official Web site.

 

(Urban 2014 festivals flavoured!) Bands to Watch: Circa Waves, Courtney Barnett, Darlia, Dolomite Minor, Marika Hackman

 
By on Tuesday, 4th February 2014 at 11:00 am
 

As if to celebrate a communal emergence from a very Dry January, this week three of TGTF’s favourite city-based festivals revealed great chunks of lineup. Live at Leeds and Liverpool Sound City take place on the same May bank holiday weekend, although Leeds is really only a one-dayer, whereas Liverpool treats its weary punters to the full 3-day marathon. And southerners don’t miss out either, as a week later the entire PR population of London decamps their beards and designer handbags to Brighton’s The Great Escape. For some, it’s a holiday, for others, well, they’ll need a holiday afterwards. [Having done both Sound City and Great Escape back to back 2 years in a row, I concur with the latter. – Ed.]

Like the artists themselves, for instance. There’s only so many buzz bands to go round of course, but at the time of writing already five hardy acts are lined up to play at all three events. Here we take a quick look at each and try to determine exactly why they’ve been picked to play three big shows in a week.

Liverpool’s Circa Waves (pictured at top) may well have heard the odd Libertines album in their time (and there were one or two odd ones!): the frantically strummed guitars and the big, melodic choruses have just the right amount of familiarity for them to sound like old friends already; the addition of a pronounced Liverpudlian twang in the vocal delivery of ‘Get Away’ adds a welcome point of differentiation from the seminal Londoners. Similarly, ‘Good For Me’ carries more than a hint of The Strokes’ ‘Last Nite’, although forsaking the latter’s bone-dry retro production for a wider, more modern sound. The big question is, are they more than the sum of their parts, or simply destined to follow paths that others first trod over a decade ago? No doubt their live show will provide the answer.

The we come to Melburnian slacker chick Courtney Barnett, famed for her Dylan-esquely-meandering autobiographical ditties. ‘Avant Gardener’, in its baggy groove and surreal, stream-of-consciousness take on a medical emergency, sounds nothing less than if Shaun Ryder had happened to be an Australian woman and was produced by Beck. Stranger things have happened. But there’s more than just a swaying rhythm and a clever turn of phrase to this antipodean artisan: her debut collection ‘A Sea Of Split Peas’ displays an enviable depth and maturity: being no stranger to a 5-minute epic, something like ‘Anonymous Club’ showcases Barnett’s ability to turn down the tempo and bring out a more circumspect, even sombre, mood, all led by her gently vulnerable voice. Truly a talent deserving of a wider audience – and these three gigs will provide that.

If you spend your nights lying awake trying to decide which flavour of rock you like better – the big, heavy, riffy version with screamed vocals, or the more jangly, melodic stuff with at least vaguely recognisable lyrics, then I’m pleased to say you can sleep easier from now on – Darlia from Blackpool have locked both styles in a negotiating room, not letting them emerge until they agreed on some sort of uneasy musical truce. Despite its portentous title, ‘Napalm’ even goes a bit garage-rock in the middle eight, before the Metal Zone pedal is stamped on again and the riffage re-emerges. It’s doubtful that this is a tribute to Napalm Death, who in comparison make this lot sound like a nursery singalong, but it powers along nicely in its own punk-pop-metal way. There are hints of Green Day here, although Darlia come nowhere close to knocking out the sort of world-class melodies that Billie Joe and Co lose down the back of the sofa. Indeed, on occasion, such as on recent single ‘Queen Of Hearts’ from the Knock Knock EP, the light/heavy contrasts don’t sit easily together at all. Much as there’s no demand for a lemon meringue pork pie, I wonder whether metalheads might dismiss Darlia as too lightweight to admit to liking, whilst the riffs might scare off the mainstream audience that bought so many copies of ‘American Idiot’. Time will tell.

Dolomite Minor also do heavy, but theirs is the weight of a fuzzbox, lashings of spring reverb, a repetitive, loping groove, and handfuls of late-60s/early-70s proto-hard rock attitude. There’s a touch of psychedelia too, but they don’t venture far enough away from their riffs to really earn the epithet. And what they carry in musical weight they absolutely drop down the toilet in terms of lyrical sophistication. From ‘Let Me Go’: “The sun goes up / the sun comes down / everyone goes out on the town”, and ‘Microphone’: “Go get her a microphone / all she needs is a gramophone”. There’s a lot of “Spoon on the Moon in June” going on here. With a tune. To be fair to them, fancy-pants lyrics are not the point here: a fey singer-songwriter might have a bunch of clever words, but do they have an industrial revolution guitar riff and drums than could kill a pigeon? No. They’re from Southampton, and so are Band Of Skulls, and they play a Gretsch guitar, and so do Band Of Skulls, which are of course just a couple of big coincidences and in no way has one influenced the other. No sirree. Nevertheless, as the latest in a long line of two-piece teenage riffmeisters, nobody could accuse Dolomite Minor of poor timing. There must be a lot of unemployed bassists out there.

And so we come to Marika Hackman, who has featured in TGTF a number of times before; the Brighton-based singer-songwriter and sometime model knocks out pieces of delicate fragility and open-hearted honesty, sometimes bordering on gruesome realmusik (see ‘Cannibal’ from 2013’s ‘That Iron Taste’ mini-album). Mary caught the end of her very popular show at The Great Escape last year, a very sparse affair with Hackman accompanied by just her acoustic guitar. Let’s hope she’s expanded her live palette somewhat this year: a good part of the joy held within her recorded material are the entirely self-played arrangements – ramshackle at times – that add depth and groove to the idiosyncratic song structures.

There we have it – five artists “doing the triple” of urban festivals this May. There will be more lineup announcements between now and then, and if any more acts end up playing all three festivals, we’ll feature those too – but what more incentive could you need?

 

Liverpool Sound City 2013 Interview: Chris Hawkins (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 29th May 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Didn’t catch the first part of my interview in Liverpool with 6music’s Chris Hawkins? No worries, you can read it here.

6music’s Chris Hawkins is quick to give thanks to the many people who listen to his 6music show online: “We have a strong and I’m very happy to say very loyal online audience. From Australia and the States too. That’s quite cool, it adds another dimension to the programme.” I explain that if there was a way I could get 6music on my car radio, I would, but for now, I’m limited to listening to the station on my computer, to which he laughs.

He understands this. “Oh, the messages we get all the time from American listeners, ‘thank god for 6music because we have nothing like that here, everything here is Clear Channel owned and samey’. I feel very lucky to work at 6music, sometimes I have to pinch myself and think, ‘I can’t believe I’m working at the radio station that I would choose to listen to’. You know, it’s a great privilege, and it’s as great to work there as you would hope or expect it to be, which I don’t think is always the case. But behind the scenes, it’s as good as it is with what you hear out of those speakers. And as I say, the online audience adds that weird dimension of a morning programme, because of course it’s often nighttime for some, or the middle of the night for people who can’t sleep, or it’s drivetime in Hong Kong, for example. That turns it (the show) absolutely on its head!”

A topic that came up during the radio plugging session was how 6music was successfully saved from the BBC’s axe not just by the presenters’ own intervention but the actions of their loyal listeners. I asked Chris from his perspective what it felt like when all of this was going down. “There’s sort of a point of mixed emotions, because the threat to the radio station was a threat to something that I and my colleagues that worked at 6music loved. Everyone that works at 6music is incredibly, ridiculously passionate about the radio station. So that first and foremost was the priority, to work with the listeners as much as possible to save this amazing radio station.

“But then of course it’s your livelihood as well, another important factor, with your family and living. It was an incredibly hard and dark time. But then this amazing listener reaction, revolt and rebellion, it’s like a fairy tale. And the ending, well, it has been a fairy-tale ending. Two years down the line, and audience figures are fantastic, I think the station sounds better than it ever has done, and it’s got great health for the future.”

Chris believes there is a huge consequence on bands specifically of having 6music’s operations no longer solely based around London: “Now that 40% of the station (programmes) is done outside of London, I think it’s a really positive message that the BBC is sending out, that there’s a world outside of London, there are gigs outside of London, that bands don’t need to move to London to get noticed or get heard. When you physically know that a radio station like 6music has a Manchester base, psychologically for anyone who isn’t trying to forge a music career in London, psychogically it’s great to know that there are producers and DJs based in the North West. I think it’s fantastic.”

I go back to his picks from the earlier session for the acts he believes will be the Next Big Thing. New York punks Parquet Courts, who had an astonishing hype build up around them from this year’s SXSW, are one of them. “Parquet Courts, they are just ridiculous, they do all the things that I said earlier (in the session) not to do. They don’t have a Twitter, you can’t find anything about them on Facebook.” I surmise that maybe it’s part and parcel of wanting to be mysterious, which works for some bands but not all of them. “But there’s a fine line between wanting to be mysterious…they (Parquet Courts) provide just enough information, cleverly on a very DIY Web site, on one page, everything you need to know.

“I absolutely adore Chasing Grace. They’re an amazing duo from London…Hertfordshire. They are an indie, almost rooted in folk band, but they also have this kind of dubstep link that’s getting them airplay on 1Xtra and will get on Radio1 as time goes on. They’ve got a record deal with Island now, they’re young guys, really young, really smart, and what they’re doing is painfully of the now. It’s what could be the next big thing. I think they’re fantastic… It’s brilliantly produced, and brilliantly polished, and the buildup has been just right for them, so they’re just starting to make their way. Very soon everyone will know about them.

“There is also a band signed to Mumford and Sons‘ label Communion, they’re called Bear’s Den.” I stop for a moment and smile, explaining to Chris that I’d met the band’s producer, Kris Harris, lead singer of Isle of Sheppey band Story Books, at this year’s SXSW. When I explain that Story Books were one of my highlights of SXSW and he should have a listen to them, he lights up with the mention of such a connection. “I will do (check them out), I love links like that! Communion seems such a tight-knit community. Bear’s Den, I love them, I look forward to hearing much more from them. I think there’s a lot more to come.” Another pick from Chris is Chelmsford’s Wild Combination, “who are electro, very different from that kind of (folk) sound…punchy, sharp, hard in places, but very, very catchy. I would search them out, if you’re vaguely into anything synth-y and electro-ey.”

And there you have it: a couple of bands recommended personally by the Hawk for you to check out. Really, there wouldn’t have been a better way to end this interview. In the radio plugging session earlier that day that Chris was a panelist on, there was much talk about how bands still can get airplay on radio stations like 6music if they submit demos – either as CDRs clearly labelled with the band and track names or emailed as downloadable links with all the information a presenter might need – and catch the eyes and ears of one of their presenters. It’s not just wishful thinking that happens inside the minds of bands. It does happen. Chris, along with a whole army of presenters across Britain, are dedicated to finding the best new music and making sure it will be heard. I for one will always be indebted to Chris and 6music for changing my life, and I hope his and their mission will continue for generations to come and benefit from.

I’d like to thank Chris very much for his time in Liverpool so we could sort this interview. Cheers!

 
 
 

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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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