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Album Review: Story Books – From Post to Post EP

 
By on Tuesday, 11th March 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

We at TGTF have spent the last several months preparing for SXSW 2014, but before Mary and I get truly stuck into the festival starting today, we thought it a good idea to look back at Story Books, the Kentish quintet who made such a great impression on our intrepid editor at last year’s SXSW Festival. Story Books are set to hit the road in just a couple of weeks for a headline tour in support of their latest EP, ‘From Post to Post’, due for release on the 17th of March on Communion Records. The tour is slated to be a fairly short one, with only seven dates scheduled. The EP is likewise brief, but in the nature of a good live gig, it saves its best bits for the end.

As with their debut EP ‘Too Much A Hunter’ (reviewed by Cheryl here), the band self-recorded ‘From Post to Post’ before handing it off for mixing by Scottish producer Tony Doogan. Because I love finding connections among all the different bands and artists I listen to, I have to note that Doogan also produced ‘New Gods’, the latest album by Withered Hand, which I reviewed here. But the overall sound of the Story Books EP couldn’t be more different from the warmth and almost uncomfortable intimacy of ‘New Gods’.

Story Books’ lead singer Kris Harris has a smooth, emotionally detached vocal delivery that sounds a tiny bit like Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink, and while Story Books lean more synth pop than folk, the similarity between the two bands doesn’t entirely end there. ‘From Post to Post’ has an at-arms-length sense of distance, an almost wistful feeling of looking back at a set of events after some time has passed, much like NATW’s ‘Heart of Nowhere’, yet another connection!.

Opening track ‘Floating Arks’ is both atmospheric and illustrative, the tripping drum rhythm and lilting keyboard melody perfectly symbolizing the lyric in the chorus, “I dreamt of floating arks and playing host to fugitives / I dreamt of running empty, this is how we choose to live”. The next track, ‘Damage’, continues the theme of reflection with the singularly painful lyric, “I felt the sting of regret every time I looked ahead.”

The final track on the EP is the evocative ‘White Maid’, whose expansive dramatic escalation is achieved by slowly layering instruments and sonic effects under the muted vocal lines. The keyboard melody in the lengthy bridge is particularly haunting as the electronic effects kick in and build almost to the point of white noise. The dynamic level backs off for the introspective third verse, which completes its rumination on the past with the lines: “perfection in vain / now I’m reckless and changed / you turned sober and wise / ‘cos you paused in the night / watched me make all the same mistakes you made”.

7.5/10

Story Books will celebrate the launch of ‘From Post To Post’ at their London show on the 25th of March. More details on that gig and the rest of the March tour can be found here. Stream ‘Floating Arks’ below for a quick glimpse into Story Books’ sonic atmosphere.

 

Story Books / March 2014 English Tour

 
By on Thursday, 19th December 2013 at 9:30 am
 

Kent five-piece Story Books, a favourite of TGTF from SXSW 2013, have just announced a headline tour for March 2014. Their self-produced second EP ‘From Post to Post’ will be released on 17th March via Communion Records. (Listen to a stream of the haunting single ‘White Maid’ below the tour date listing.) Tickets for the following dates go on sale this Friday the 20th of December.

Wednesday 19th March 2014 – Oxford Art Bar
Thursday 20th March 2014 – Brighton Hope
Friday 21st March 2014 – Chester Compass
Sunday 23rd March 2014 – Bristol Louisiana
Tuesday 25th March 2014 – London Borderline
Wednesday 26th March 2014 – Birmingham Hare & Hounds
Thursday 27th March 2014 – Manchester Castle

 

Tramlines 2013: The Bands Speak

 
By on Wednesday, 24th July 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Not counting the varying levels of success in 2006 to 2008 at a Baltimore racetrack and since 2009 when Richard Branson brought in the Virgin Mobile FreeFest to Merriweather Post Pavilion (the venue, not the Animal Collective album), Washington DC doesn’t have a major music festival. And the FreeFest doesn’t even attempt to cater to people who might not be mainstream music listeners, such as myself. I wouldn’t drive anywhere to go see the Black Keys or Jack White, just two examples of previous FreeFest headliners. Most other American festivals suffer from the same problem. They focus on getting huge names that the MTV watching public would enjoy. Coachella and Lollapalooza, anyone? Despite John and Martin’s urging that I need to do one at least once, I don’t think I could survive the massive camping festivals, so city festivals, with their many venues dotted across one given place while also allowing me to sleep in a real bed for the night, are very appealing to me.

This year I decided to pay more attention to a local UK city festival that has been going on for a couple years and seem to be doing it right: while they bring in big names to headline the main stages, there is a whole wealth of bands, big and small, playing traditional venues to the town cathedral. I am, of course, speaking of Sheffield’s Tramlines, which I had understood from the get-go had been an idea borne by local Sheffielders such as Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders, Jon McClure of Reverend and the Makers and Toddla T.

Even the name of the festival, inspired by the friendly-looking tram transit network I admired when visiting the city in the spring, seems to indicate the pride the festival organisers have just by being from the city and wanting it to remain something very special to the people that live there, yet all the while being entirely welcoming to those who choose to come into town to enjoy it with them. It’s hard not to have your heart warmed when you hear things such as Festival Director Sarah Nulty talking about this year’s event, “A huge thank you to everyone who attended and made it a truly wonderful event. The fantastic weather on Friday set everyone in a great mood which lasted across the site all weekend. Musically it was a great year for Tramlines with so many talented artists on the bill. Through Tramlines we get to showcase exactly what Sheffield has to offer and we’re very proud of it.”

John and I have been in discussion that next year we might just join forces and go finally, having looked jealously as this year’s line-up and whinged that we weren’t there. Who was there were the bands, of course. We’ve asked several of them to weigh on their Tramlines 2013 experience, so here we go…

Andrew Parry, keyboardist, Story Books:
Tramlines 2013 was our first band trip to Sheffield, and what a pleasant one it was. Tramlines is one of those inner city festivals that takes over an area of a city, encouraging sprawling crowds on streets and music coming out of its ear holes. Situated a few yards away from the aforementioned tramlines, our venue of battle was The Bowery, a cosy bar with a stage the precise dimensions to squeeze us and our gear on. This made for a real fun set. Nice and close in, we forgot any inhibitions and had a ruddy good time. The crowd were attentive and appreciative, with many a complimentary post-gig word. Which is all you can ask for isn’t it? That, and chips and gravy. And ‘scraps’. We’ll be back, Sheffield. Cheers.

Fran O’Hanlon, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Ajimal:
The cathedral might have been the most beautiful construction site I’ve ever played! Unfortunately, the body of the cathedral is being renovated, but the sound was pretty incredible none the less, such a beautiful and massive space. There was a bigger crowd there for me than I expected, which was lovely to come out to, and really attentive – those kind of venues always seem to inspire pin drop silence.

It was nice to wander round and get a sense of everything going on in Sheffield at Tramlines. I also managed to catch Dutch Uncles who I’d been meaning to see since their last album came out. Brilliant band.

James Leesley, vocalist and guitarist, High Hazels (read my Bands to Watch on them here):
To collectively summarise the weekend in two words, hectically pleasant would probably be accurate. Saturday was a day where we had three shows to play, the first being inside the Sheffield Cathedral. I think we were all particularly excited about playing in the cathedral, it’s quite a rare place to play and sonically speaking, it has a natural sound that we strive for within a lot of our music. The gig surpassed all our expectations and went really well – the audience sounded like they enjoyed it which is always a good sign. Along with the Cathedral, we played at Weston Park and later at Shakespeare’s, which was our highlight. There was a great atmosphere and it was a fitting ending to a very good day.

Sunday, we were on at The Bowery in the afternoon which was another full house and a great show. It was a good way to draw the curtains on our playing for the weekend and we were all really pleased with the response and quite humbled by the way we were received.The rest of the day was the first real chance we had to catch some of the other bands and join the traffic of the festival, which is always nice.

We thoroughly enjoyed it and are looking forward to next year.

Eddie Dullaway, guitarist, Van Susans:
After a 4-hour drive and two festival gigs in Kent on Saturday, we arrived in Sheffield’s Weston Park for the first of two performances. As we were setting up there was an apparent air of anticipation. A crowd, not on their feet, but sitting waiting for the next eargasm. We made for a musical fixation, drawing in with technical interludes and catchy hooks; our set time was halved but it kept us short and sweet and the crowd eager for more!

Our second show was at The Forum at 10.30 PM so with a little time to spare we engaged ourselves in frisbee, interviews, football, eating and more interviews. It was also Olly’s birthday, so a small amount of alcohol was consumed! The second show came bringing much of the crowd from the first into The Forum for an acoustic show which equally entertained the listeners. Overall, it was a brief, hectic but energetic day. We left Sheffield at around 12 AM to return to base (Bromley, Kent) and arrived home at 4.30 AM just in time to see the sunrise.

Ben Duffy, vocalist, Fenech-Soler:
Sheffield, for me, felt like it all clicked from a live perspective. It takes some shows and some experiences to fully get to grips with new material, especially the way we make our music. On the first record we had hundreds of shows testing things out but Tramlines felt like we were fully comfortable. We hadn’t actually slept in few days as we’d come straight from Switzerland so that just added to the mental state on stage. It’s nice getting totally lost in a performance. It’s also always hard at festivals playing songs that no one knows but the reaction has really made the last 12 months worth it. We’re just looking forward to releasing ‘Rituals’ (their second album out on the 2nd of September) now.

Dave Fendick, multi-instrumentalist, Fossil Collective:
Tramlines was pretty cool. We love playing in Sheffield, and it’s always good to be so close to home (as we can sleep in our own beds!) Although the weather forecast predicted rain, it held out and it was nice to arrive and see everyone lounging about, drinking beer and soaking up the vibe.

Playing on a bandstand instead of a normal stage was a nice touch. It made a change from the normal festival stages that we play. The crowd were very receptive too. (The cheap beer helped!) It was a nice family vibe, with lots of little stalls selling a variety of food and drink. We stayed on for a bit after the gig, talking to various people who’d seen us by chance and who were very glad that they did.

We left having made some new friends, and hoping that we get another invitation next year.

Tom Sanders, vocalist and guitarist, Teleman:
We played in the afternoon on Sunday, the weather was calm and temperate and everything seemed nice and relaxed. I don’t think many people knew our songs, or who we were, but that didn’t seem to stop people from enjoying it. I always think these kinds of festivals are about just wandering round and discovering new music anyway. Some of the best shows I’ve seen have been entirely by accident. Sheffield seemed a perfect setting for the festival and I can only see it going from strength to strength!

Bridie Jackson, vocalist and piano and guitar player, Bridie Jackson and the Arbour:
We played two gigs at Tramlines on Sunday, starting off with The Folk Forest, where we enjoyed some great music and our first Pimm’s of the season! The atmosphere was fantastic and the audience were great – we even managed to get them to join in with our rather whimsical Justin Timberlake cover.

Our second gig was at The Riverside, which boasted the highest ratio of cellos on one stage that we have ever seen! All the music was excellent, but particular highlights were The Early Cartographers, The Pocket Satellites and Joe Banfi. Again, the crowd were great and fun was had by all.

Matthew Whitehouse, vocalist and guitarist, The Heartbreaks:
Arrived in Sheffield at about 8 PM. Sat in the van outside the Harley mixing vodka and tonic in the bottle until Russ and Tom from the Crookes walked past and Russ gave us some promotional Red Bull cups. Tom was eating a margarita pizza. Saw the singer from Grammatics (who we went on our first UK tour with) and met the singer from Komokino, who our tour manager Mark used to drum for. Charlie Bone was there too. At about 5 past 10, we walked out to Sharpe’s ending theme as sung by Rifleman Daniel Hagman and played seven songs, including ‘Polly’ for the first time since February. Joe did a nice new drum bit at the end. Dedicated a song to Richard Sharpe and no one laughed. Ate an entire packet of custard creams.

Tom Dakin, guitarist, The Crookes (photograph below from the stage by drummer Russell Bates):
Tramlines is comfortably the highlight of the musical year in Sheffield, and will always have a place in our hearts. We’ve played at every year of the festival and it has been thrilling seeing it grow from its smaller roots into the city-wide, all encompassing event it now is. Every day on our route to our practice room in town we cross the green where the main stage is (Devonshire Green) during the festival, and it’s hard to believe it’s the same place when we’re stood onstage looking out at all the people.

This year has been particularly special for Sheffield music, which really is the lifeblood of our city. Bands such as Hey Sholay, Seize the Chair and High Hazels are just a few of the brilliant new wave of Sheffielders breaking through, and 65daysofstatic created a stunning combination of three-dimensional music and visual effects which left us wondering if our minds would ever be the same again as we wandered in a daze from their installation at the Millennium Galleries.

Needless to say, as the dust settles on this year’s Tramlines, all we can do is try to shake off our hangovers and begin the countdown to next year’s festival. May there be many more.

Crookes Tramlines 2013 sm

And that’s it from the bands of Tramlines 2013. Funds and time off from work willing, we’ll be in the thick of next year’s festivities so we can experience first-hand what always sounds like one of the best UK city festivals of the summer. See you soon, Sheffield!

 

Live Gig Video: Story Books perform ‘All Those Arrows’ at T in the Park’s BBC Introducing stage

 
By on Wednesday, 17th July 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

One of our favourites from SXSW 2013, Story Books appeared last week at T in the Park on the BBC Introducing stage, and we’ve got live footage from the performance. Watch the band playing ‘All Those Arrows’ below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjAeiCGlEiM[/youtube]

 

Great Escape 2013: Mary’s Day 2 Evening Roundup

 
By on Friday, 31st May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

Every time the recurrent thought of “oh, I’m not doing the Great Escape next year, it’s too mental” comes into my mind, something amazing happens while I’m in Brighton that restores my faith about the seaside festival. True, it tends to attract more of the ‘entitled’ crowd than Liverpool Sound City does; the first afternoon this year, I was pushed to the side by two uni kids who were whinging about something instead of actually watching the band on stage. But for the sheer random things that seem to only occur in Brighton and you’re in the music business, you can’t beat TGE.

Last year I got lost one morning, only to be hilariously greeted by the sight of Zulu Winter (who I’d met at SXSW 2012 2 months earlier) literally busting out of their van on New Road. Friday night this year, on the recommendation of Ed Blow of Dirty Hit, I ordered moules and frites at the Dorset and who should call my name but Henry Walton, guitarist of the same band, in town playing in his friend’s band for the weekend. It was nice to see an old friend, but really, I was chuffed that he remembered me! If you’re wondering, Zulu Winter is working on their next album, which is great, great news! (Another moment to savour during the weekend was Jon Higgs of Everything Everything saying, “my, you’re a clever girl!” when I showed him my day job business card; his parents are biologists, which intrigued this boffin editor.) But on to Friday night…

In general, I usually don’t have to worry about badge queues at SXSW, because the majority of acts I want to catch in Austin are indie and British and usually aren’t all that well known in America yet. This night, my idea of catching Marika Hackman at the Unitarian Church and swanning in quickly and easily through the badge queue didn’t go exactly to plan. And to be honest, had I not gone up to security at the back door and asked him if there was a separate badge queue, I think everyone queuing would have just stayed in their places, oblivious that there should have been some queue hierarchy. So always ask! After my enquiry, they decided not to have badge and wristband queues; no, they decided to have 3-day versus weekend badge queues. Not terribly fair either; I can see if I were English and had to work on Thursday, there wouldn’t have been a point in me buying a 3-day wristband, is there? Anyway…

Marika Hackman Great Escape live

I got inside, only to hear the last 2 songs of Hackman’s set. Once inside the church, I realised what the problem with the place was; the room they were using was tiny! I was expecting it to be as big as the main room of St. David’s in Austin, and it’s nowhere near that. Forget the size for the moment, though. Whether it’s divine intervention or not, every concert or set I’ve seen inside a church has always been acoustically brilliant, and Hackman’s set here was no exception. Considering what I’d read previously about her love for Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac, I was surprised to see her stood with her guitar and no other accompaniment. She looked a little scared faced with so many eyes watching her. However, talent won out, as she stood resolutely to deliver one after another of her lovely songs. The applause at the end was thunderous, and she bashfully exited stage left with a huge grin on her face.

From there, I decided to check in to one of my favourite venues from last year, Sticky Mikes’s Frog Bar closer to the water. Why? There was a rock/folk double-header like no other, that’s why: Story Books, who I’d befriended at this year’s SXSW, and To Kill a King, TGTF 10 for 2013 poll alums who I’d not seen live yet. While I was waiting down the front, I met two really sweet girls on either side of me who knew of both bands, and neither were bloggers or in the business – seriously, what are the odds, right? One was from London and the other had come over from Canada. Going real international.

Story Books Sticky Mikes Great Escape live

Both bands have a lot of band members so the question was, how was eveyrone going to fit on the stage? The space restriction did affect Story Books’ Kris Harris and his ability to truly rock out the way he likes to when he’s wailing, but considering what space he was given, he did an admirable job with his moves on tunes like ‘Glory and Growth’. I think ‘Too Much Like a Hunter’ EP opening track ‘Simple Kids’ is ranking up there with my favourite anthemic songs of 2013 and will become a classic; it’s got such a memorable chorus and a driving rhythm throughout, just so mesmerising.

To Kill a King Sticky Mikes Great Escape live

If you’re a To Kill a King fan and don’t fancy Bastille (me) or you waited too long to buy your top-up tickets to the Brighton Dome show Saturday starring both to them (my new friends from London and Canada), then the only option left was to see To Kill a King alone at Sticky Mike’s on Friday. I’m really quite glad I chose this show over several others, and I’ll tell you why: even though they’re not entirely folk, TKAK put on one of the most memorable sets of my TGE experience this year, feeling like the cross between a hoedown and a house party. You wouldn’t expect a band that puts out an album called ‘Cannibals With Cutlery’ to be so amiable and non-aggro, but Ralph Pelleymounter and crew quickly got the crowd behind them with their winsome brand of rocking out folk.

The main complaint I have about Sticky Mike’s basement –besides the low, claustrophobic ceiling and stupidly placed beams always in your sightlines – is that there is no way in hell you’re getting a mobile phone signal down there. So if you’re going to meet somewhere there, you better get your communications sorted and plans made before you descend. I was supposed to meet several people there, but couldn’t find any of them. I did however run into the brilliant Louise Minter of AMP Publicity, who recognised me from last year and gave me a free-t-shirt; how nice is that? And with that, I went home. Yeah, I know, going home before midnight on Friday night at the Great Escape is a bit of a copout, isn’t it? Sometimes exhaustion wins out, though. And trust me, resting up for my Saturday was entirely worth it!

 

Album Review: Story Books – Too Much a Hunter EP

 
By on Tuesday, 30th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Story Books Too Much a Hunter coverFinding their footing with last summer’s single ‘Peregrine’ on BBC Introducing, Story Books follows up with their new EP ‘Too Much a Hunter’, out this week on Communion. Tipped in January in Mary’s TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013, Mary wondered out loud, “Not really sure why they’re not more popular or, frankly, why we haven’t heard of them yet”. Kristofer Harris, Robert Wilks, Joseph Whitnell, Andrew Parry and Jack Tarrant however, did make a splash at this year’s SXSW in Austin playing the Communion showcase and more. We got to catch up with them in Austin too. The now released EP is set to show them in a proper light ready to take the stage.

The EP opens with ‘Simple Kids’ and a sound ever so slightly reminiscent of South Africa’s Civil Twilight, profound and evocative almost like the beginning of a really good movie. The deep piano chords characterize the tune and it crashes in a glorious wrap up with ‘stay close to your troubles don’t let them interfere/with your sense of wonder until it disappears.’ ‘Knot’ ups their game a bit with strummy guitars and a driving beat. It’s also a little more biting in its view of life: “Oh Lord, she chose / she chose the crooked path / from the start she’d never be pure enough / she could be cold as a cave / cold as a cave should be”. Meanwhile, ‘Glory and Growth’ shows off some acoustic guitar skills over an eerie palette of piano and slight distortion. Harris’ voice caresses the lyrics and teases out a story. He is quite hypnotic to listen to. ‘All Those Arrows’ winds up the album with a crashing build showing just a hint of just how good this band will be live.

Supporting such TGTF familiars as Grouplove, Kyla La Grange and most recently King Charles, Story Books is poised to make a splash in the indie alt-folk arena. Catch them at the Great Escape in Brighton 16-18 May. Editor Mary and festival liaison John Fernandez will both be there to greet you (and them) with a hearty hello.

7.5/10

The debut EP from Story Books, called ‘Too Much a Hunter’, is out now on Communion Records. Watch the promo video for ‘Simple Kids’ below. Mary interviewed three of the band at SXSW 2013 last month, and you can listen to the interview here; you can also read her reviews of their live show from the Wednesday and Saturday of SXSW 2013.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKzMJYwiNiE[/youtube]

 
 
 

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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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