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(SXSW 2019 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #417: The Snuts

 
By on Tuesday, 5th March 2019 at 12:00 pm
 

The historic Scottish county of West Lothian occupies an enviable, green location between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Like Irish band The Academic in Mullingar, The Snuts are from Whitburn, a small town far enough away to not be influenced directly or too much by the scenes of their countries’ bigger cities. On a previous iteration of their Twitter profile, they proudly proclaimed, “So far removed from big city music. Songs for you, about you.” Sounds about right for a plucky young group whose primary professional goal has been to write good songs, and songs that connect directly to their fans’ hearts.

When (not if) they succeed, they will be following in the footsteps of fellow musician from Whitburn Lewis Capaldi, who they played with quite a bit when they were younger, later supporting the BBC Sound of 2018 nominee at Glasgow’s venerated King Tut’s. ‘Glasgow’ turns out to be the name of their debut single; the song itself isn’t a love letter to Glesga itself but rather appears to be a celebration of the way a girl pronounces the city’s name, meaning universal application and appeal. In a land where the rivalry between Scotland’s biggest cities can affect band loyalty, especially in the early days, the fact that the Snuts can play this song and elicit the kind of response in Edinburgh as you see below is pretty amazing.

At the start of 2018, they released ‘The Matador’ EP. The title track features jangly guitars and Jack Cochrane’s cocksure, swaggery vocals. In sharp contrast, ‘Summertime’ shows off The Snuts’ ability to slow things down and head straight into stadium anthem territory, Cochrane’s voice reaching heights of Bono’s early U2 years. Recent single ‘Manhattan Project’ doesn’t go down as massively as a nuclear bomb, but it takes the imagery of fighter jets and the bombers that chase them as a metaphor for waiting patiently for a girl to return. A clever concept. Do these four friends have what it takes to be Britain’s Next Big Guitar Band? I think so. You can read my previous preview of them ahead of Live at Leeds last year through here. Check them out appearing at 9 PM at the Good Karma Club showcase being put on by Abbie McCarthy of BBC Radio 1 and BBC Introducing, Thursday night, the 14th of March, at SXSW 2019.

 

(SXSW 2019 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #416: Seazoo

 
By on Thursday, 28th February 2019 at 12:00 pm
 

Yes, Wales may be a small country, but it has produced some massive, internationally-known bands: Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics, Los Campesinos!, The Joy Formidable, Catfish and the Bottlemen. Like Van McCann and co., the band I want to bring to your attention today are also from North Wales. Conveniently, Seazoo hail from Wrexham, which most British UK industry people know as the city that hosts the annual Focus Wales music festival in May. At first glance at their name, they sound like a surf rock band. While I was doing my usual listen-through of the UK bands given a shout to SXSW this year, I was surprised to hear that in fact, Seazoo are much more of a pop band than I ever would have guessed. They are a guitar-driven band, yes, but two major parts of their music make them much more endearing than most.

2018 saw the self-described “psych indie pop” group self-release their debut album ‘Trunks’. Appearing far less threatening than the Rolling Stones’ big red mouth and tongue, mouths flashing blinding-white smiles repeat on the album cover. The smiles are a good harbinger of what’s inside: feel good guitars and instrumentation accompanied by wry lyrics. They’ve named Grandaddy as one of their influences, and I can clearly hear that. The winsome vocal delivery of Ben Trow also has that wonderfully wistful, disarming quality associated with the twinkling tunes of Scottish pop architect Stuart Murdoch and his band Belle and Sebastian. Listen to ‘St Hilary Says’ to see – and hear – what I mean. Seazoo will be the opening band at the Focus Wales showcase Wednesday night at 7:45 PM at Swan Dive (indoor stage) at SXSW 2019. I’ll be there: I don’t know any Welsh (except for ‘diolch’) so I’m hoping I learn some through osmosis.

 

Single Review: Low Island – In Person

 
By on Wednesday, 6th February 2019 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo of Low Island by Dan Kendall

In the South of England, the lofty spires of University of Oxford loom above a city that consistently punches above its weight in the production of quality bands. You know them: Radiohead, Swervedriver, Foals, Stornoway, Glass Animals. Are Low Island next? They have named themselves after the geological term for a land mass surrounded by water but of the most unusual origin. You see, a low island is formed not from the activity of volcanoes (think Hawaii, Indonesia, etc.) but instead from the dirt and rocks that build up on top of a coral reef.

The band’s moniker is quite on the humble foundations on which they began: Jamie Jay and Carlos Posada used to DJ in Leeds back in the day and they’ve taken their first-hand knowledge of how to get people on the dance floor to influence their electronic-driven dance pop. The childhood friends’ music follows in the great tradition of Friendly Fires and Holy Ghost! and has been already been compared to the xx and Caribou. Last week, Low Island released their latest single, ‘In Person’, and it’s super.

The tune begins with 3 seconds of a sci-fi arc of sound, followed by a sexy, swaggery drum beat. Posada’s voice, as well as a bouncy synth line, come in to provide additional catchiness. It’s the kind of song with so many things going on at the same time, you know it would be amazing to watch live. That is, if you can stand still long enough not to groove along with them; I don’t think I could hold myself back. Lyrically, ‘In Person’ takes on the paradox of social media:. Despite our theoretical ability to keep in touch with each and every one of our friends on a multitude of platforms, and from a piece of metal in the palm of your hand to boot, keeping in touch as we get older doesn’t seem to get any easier. Technology has wreaked havoc on our ability to communicate and interact with each other. What’s the take home message? I think Low Island just want us to dance. I won’t argue with them. Check them out on their UK tour in March and April.

 

Single Review: Drenge – Bonfire of the City Boys

 
By on Tuesday, 11th December 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Gareth O’Malley

It’s been a while since Derbyshire-based trio Drenge have graced our ears with new material, but they have plenty to come. The band broke their silence at the start of the year with a tour announcement, their first since wrapping up their commitments for sophomore album ‘Undertow’. Their comeback ‘Autonomy’ EP was released in October, with the title track set to appear on their forthcoming third album ‘Strange Creatures’ due next February, along with their latest LP offering ‘Bonfire of the City Boys’.

On the violent, snarling beast of a track, Drenge sound considerably heavier than most will remember them. Rob Graham’s stuttering bassline guides the track through its first verse as lead singer Eoin Loveless’s rapid-fire, spoken word delivery takes centre stage. A palpable sense of tension hanging in the air as he speeds through two chaotic verses: “There are millions of people out there: fucking, fighting, eating and sleeping / And we are not one of them, oh no / We are the fly in the ointment / The hair in the food / The snag, the catch, the conundrum.”

The first verse gives way to a juddering guitar riff that helps to alleviate the tension for a brief moment, before returning in full force after the song builds to a shout-along chorus defined by its searing intensity. Its 4 minutes seem to pass in a flash, the trio indulging themselves in noise rock and offering us a red-hot taster of the new record. ‘Bonfire of the City Boys’ should do a lot to alter people’s perceptions of the band; far from the middle-of-the-road indie rock of their contemporaries, the trio have set their sights on making a real statement and aren’t pulling their punches. Hopefully the new album will be a similarly ferocious affair.

8/10

‘Strange Creatures’ will be released on the 22nd of February 2019 on Infectious Music. A UK tour in March and April will follow the album release. More on Drenge here on TGTF is available through here.

 

Bands to Watch #410: Cloth

 
By on Friday, 7th December 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo of Cloth by Erin NicCoinnich

I’ve just returned from a much needed holiday in Glasgow, which included a stop on the very last day of the most excellent Rip It Up exhibition in Edinburgh that celebrated the musicians from north of the border who have gone on to make a great big noise not just in Britain but well beyond Scotland’s physical borders. I have come back with my ears filled with new music and high hopes for the artists from Caledonia in 2019. One of these great new hopes are Cloth, a trio based in the cultural capital. What they’re doing and how they’re doing it represent for me how music-making in Glasgow is being transformed as of late.

The initial part of their story sounds similar enough to many a story in this business, no matter where in the UK. Twins Rachael and Paul Swinton attended Stow College in Glasgow with future bandmate and drummer Clare Gallacher. As children, the siblings Swinton were given Epiphone guitars at age 10 and soon found their way to picking out the chords to Deep Purple. While their ‘origin date’ on their record label’s Web site lists 2016 as their formation date, I’m sure there were attempts, false starts and noodlings around with ideas for a sound. For such a young band, they’ve had incredible luck to have already worked with the likes of Derek O’Neill (guitarist for King Creosote) and done recording at Paul Savage’s famed Chem19 studio, where so many of our favourite great Scottish records have been made.

Two Mondays ago, on the 26th of November (my birthday, no less), they were in session with Vic Galloway as the BBC Radio Scotland Introducing band of the moment. Knowing their primary musical touchstones – Cocteau Twins, Baltimore’s Beach House and the xx – handily explains their minimalist dream pop sound. Live, both Rachael and Paul play guitar; the noticeable lack of a bass guitar onstage isn’t apparent when listening to them on recording. ‘Old Bear’, their newest single that dropped last Friday, features Rachael Swinton’s ethereal lead vocal accompanied by a satisfyingly syncopated rhythmic backing that you can easily bop your head to. My vote for their best song so far is ‘Tripp’, its overall effect managing to burn a sultry figure even through the shadowy minimalism. This is considered, beautiful pop that just happens to be driven by guitars. Their sound is so far and away from the American and British slacker rock scenes I’ve never related to, sharing more kinship with the stories and emotions of folk but through a pop filter. You can watch all of the live clips from the session, including a cover of Tame Impala’s ‘Disciples’, through this link to the BBC Radio Scotland Web site.

How I understand it, they’re perfectionists like myself, not wanting to put out any substandard product, preferring to put in plenty of time and effort into making something they would be proud to stick their names on. To date, they have only released a handful of singles and through a record label with an ethos that seems it could only come from Glasgow. This past May, the band were snatched up by Last Night From Glasgow (LNFG), a DIY, non for profit record label “managed by volunteers who will neither draw a salary, nor take a share of the profits” that “provide[s] a viable alternative for both recording artists and consumers.” (You can read more about the label through this article at Creative Scotland.) Given the difficulty and shadiness of the music industry, a clearly defined path for artists to release music can only be a good thing, especially if fans can put money in to help them and get rewarded for their financial support.

Cloth are expected to be working on their debut album on LNFG next year, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing it when it’s released to the wild. Tonight, Friday, the 7th of December, they will perform as the primary support act to fellow Scot C Duncan at Glasgow Mono.

 

Live Review: The Twilight Sad at U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC – 3rd November 2018

 
By on Wednesday, 7th November 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

The closer we march to Christmas, the quicker the nights fall. On one of these chilly nights, The Twilight Sad descended on the Nation’s Capital to close out their 3-week North American tour with a bang. Despite the chill in the air outside, the basement venue U Street Music Hall played host to a sweaty mass of people eager to catch the Scottish post-punks before they returned home.

At first, I thought it was a strange thing to tour over here so far in advance of the release of their next album, which isn’t expected until early 2019. However, as the set progressed, standing among so many fans and their fervour, the thought evaporated. They were out here because of fan demand; their fanbase has undoubtedly increased since Robert Smith’s personal endorsement of the band and the Cure taking the band on tour with them. Frontman James Graham cracked a joke about us having nothing better to do on a Saturday night than see them but that they were awfully glad we turned up. Laughter ensued.

Since 2007 debut LP ‘Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters’, The Twilight Sad’s sound has morphed and evolved a few times, and the stage setup reflected this. A Macbook and two keyboards would have been unheard of at Twilight Sad shows a decade ago. With a massive back catalogue of tracks across four albums and a host of singles and EPs, there was plenty of material to choose from for their final set on this tour. The evening began with ‘There’s a Girl in the Corner’, its sombre tones opening ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave’, which was met with pretty much universal acclaim when unveiled in 2014.

The Twilight Sad 2018 3

Throughout the set, the band’s trademark distorted guitars and Graham’s cutting, emotional lyrics delivered in his unmistakable Scottish brogue. At times, he looked like a man possessed, spinning like a whirling dervish or even punching himself in the head or chest, all the while the band banged out the hard-hitting tunes. For the long-time fans, older gems like ‘The Wrong Car’ and ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ that closed the set with a deafening crescendo recalled the days when The Twilight Sad were a best-kept secret. In contrast, newer songs including single ‘I/m Not Here [missing face]’ and ‘Videograms’, whose glittery synths have been likened to that of The Cure’s, suggest the ushering in of a new era for the Scots, during which their music proves more accessible, is imminent. In the crowd, heads bopped, limbs flailed and words were sung along to.

Scottish indie music fans in the room Saturday night were waiting, quite possibly bracing themselves, too, for a particularly heart-wrenching moment that the band have repeated in their live shows over the last 6 months. Since his sad, untimely death by suicide in May, Scott Hutchison’s passing has been an apparition in our lives, a regular reminder of the fragility of humanity and the need for all of us to talk more, listen more and support our mates through difficult times. By playing ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ every night, The Twilight Sad pay tribute to their close friend Hutchison, a song true to form for so many of the songs he wrote, expressing the kinds of things adult men have been told not to say aloud or to others. Graham explained that they needed to move up the song’s placement in the set “for themselves”, presumedly so they could get past it the emotions and get back to the business of playing for us. In the audience, glasses were raised and tears were wiped away.

When it came time to say goodnight, Graham thanked the crowd again for coming to the show and that for sure, they’d be back in Washington in due time. And really, why would they stay away with a turnout like this? Stay tuned for The Twilight Sad’s fifth studio album ‘It Won/t Be Like This All the Time’, which is expected to drop on the 18th of January 2019 on Rock Action Records.

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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