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SXSW 2017: Saturday night’s fond farewell to SXSW at the British Music Embassy – 18th March 2017

 
By on Monday, 24th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

In contrast to the rest of the hectic week, the Saturday night of SXSW 2017 was a fairly relaxed one, at least for my weary feet. According to my smartwatch, I had logged over 87,000 steps and almost 45 miles of walking distance over the course of the week, and I was happy to be staying in one place for the evening. Even happier because that place happened to be the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, which hosted the BBC Music / UK Department of International Trade showcase. Mary’s additional thoughts on this showcase are back here.

Anna Meredith internal

The first performer of Saturday night was Scottish art-pop composer Anna Meredith. She and her rather unusual band (comprising cello, electric guitar, tuba and drums along with Meredith herself on synthesiser, clarinet, xylophone and vocals) made a truly joyful noise on stage, starting the showcase on an incredible high. Meredith has carved herself a unique niche on the classicial-popular music continuum in Britain, and the presence of NPR’s Bob Boilen at Latitude 30 on the night may well indicate that Meredith’s star is on the rise here in America as well. NPR recently featured ‘Dowager’, from Meredith’s 2016 debut LP ‘Varmints’, on All Songs TV.

Alice Jemima internal

Singer/songwriter Alice Jemima created a very different mood in her set, one with significantly fewer bells and whistles. Jemima’s stage presence was reserved, but in a flirty kind of way, and the same could be said of her songs. They catch your attention in a subtle way, with clever lyrics, trippy electro-dance rhythms and Jemima’s softly soothing voice. ‘Cocoa Liquor’, from her recent self-titled debut album, was one of the standout tracks on her set; you can find out more about the song in my post-performance interview with Jemima.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/Xp0Dnsgocf0[/youtube]

Aquilo internal

While I was outside chatting with Ms. Jemima, Lancashire pop duo Aquilo were taking the stage inside Latitude 30. By the time our short interview was complete, the venue had filled to capacity, and we had some difficulty getting back inside. We arrived back to find that Aquilo’s soulful pop sound, defined by Tom Higham’s falsetto vocals and Ben Fletcher’s deft keyboard playing, had quickly set the entire room swooning and swaying.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/Rh__vTd7CoY[/youtube]

SuperGlu

I’m not a big fan of so-called slacker rock, but Manningtree four-piece SuperGlu brought an unexpected and infectious energy to the genre in their live set Saturday evening at the British Music Embassy. Bold, colorful, and never too serious, this band is just flat out fun to watch. Take a listen to their anything-but-sleepy latest track ‘Dreams’ just below.

Sundara Karma Oscar internal

The midnight slot on the Saturday night showcase was occupied by Reading alt-rockers Sundara Karma. Frontman Oscar “Lulu” Pollock gave us a bit more banter between songs on this night than he had at Stubb’s the night before, and the injection of character was quite welcome. He’s a curious persona, is Lulu, elusive in some ways but nevertheless engaging. His three bandmates didn’t do much speaking, but it quickly became clear that they didn’t need to. Their slick, seemingly effortless playing style is almost unintentionally flashy, yet visually and sonically mesmerizing. [Check out Carrie’s interview with Pollock and drummer Haydn Evans in Austin through here. – Ed.]

[youtube]https://youtu.be/zaevPi1nEFA[/youtube]

LIFE internal

BBC 6 Music presenter Steve Lamacq did his final duty for the evening, introducing the last band on the bill, Hull punk rockers LIFE. He was clearly excited to see them play, even rubbing his hands together in delight at one point after he stepped offstage and before he joined in the moshing. Once the band started, it was easy to understand Lamacq’s eagerness. This band is unapologetic, unalloyed punk, with none of the qualifiers (folk punk, post-punk) we so often see in this genre-bending era. Lead vocalist Mez Green really played up that rebel quality for the gathering of cameras at the front of the stage, but it felt authentic to their in-your-face, devil-may-care sound. The photo above was taken just before Green descended from the stage and mounted the bar, prowling its length like a predatory cat and sending his audience into a fit of wild, ecstatic dancing to close out the final night at the British Music Embassy.

Though Mary and I left Latitude 30 on a euphoric high, chatting and laughing about the great bands we’d heard, I couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of sadness at leaving it all behind for another year. The British Music Embassy has played host to some of the best up-and-coming artists and certainly some the most exciting showcases in my SXSW experience; this year was no exception. So, rather than goodbye, I said a silent “au revoir” to the venue, to the people inside, to the artists who graced the stage, and to SXSW for another year.

 

SXSW 2017: living it up at the British Music Embassy, and Mary’s goodbye to Austin (Saturday night, part 2) – 18th March 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 5th April 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

It’s the “best American champion of British music” part of Mary Chang that always pulls me back to the British Music Embassy at the end of every night during SXSW. But then Saturday evening comes, and the final visit to Latitude 30 turns bittersweet. It’s where my friends from Britain – the new ones made here, and the old stalwarts I’ve known for years – and I say our final goodbyes. We order our last drinks in Austin and share our last tearful hugs and the wish that we’ll meet again next year in the same exact place or hopefully sooner, and with loads more success under our belts too.

No-one ever says it out loud, but it is understood that some bands will leave Austin with new business deals, the luckiest signing to labels. Others will go on to similar deals after they get back home, off the back of having showcased at the biggest music festival in the world. And yet others will either stay at the level they’ve already achieved in their home country or region, or otherwise fade into obscurity altogether, never to be heard from again. I say this not with cynicism about the industry, but with the egregious disappointment I feel when a band I’m crazy about doesn’t achieve the heights I thought they would reach. It has become my personal challenge to do as much as I can with what gift I have been given: the written word to tell the stories of music and the people behind it. Some people might say I take SXSW way too seriously, but for these bands, these musicians, these singers, this is their life. And I feel incredibly honoured to be taking part in their stories.

Having gotten my Scandi pop fix satisfied, my intention was to join Carrie at the British Music Embassy so we could enjoy the rest of the bands on the UK Department of International Trade showcase together. This was the first year that I can recall Latitude 30 letting people who didn’t have a wristband or badge pay a cover charge to get access to the venue. As a result, there were three queues outside the venue: one for badges, one for wristbands and one for those who paid the cover.

I get that the people who paid the cover really wanted to get in, and rightly so: the British Music Embassy is rammed every year on Saturday night, and it’s always a stellar line-up. It’s to the credit of the bookers that the bill on the last night is always amazing, but it’s definitely a victim of its own success. Two years ago at midnight on Saturday, I was stuck outside in the queue with Huw Stephens and Kate Tempest and her entourage, and eventually Huw gave up and left. So how fair is it to charge people in an additional queue when you have no idea whether they’ll even get into the venue? To add even more incredulity to the situation, Carrie had interviewed showcasing artist Alice Jemima outside the venue after her set. Alice wanted to do the right thing and go back in through the front door, and staff wouldn’t let either of them through. Hey, you guys did see her onstage earlier, right? Sorry, rant over.

I eventually got in and rejoined Carrie inside for her first taste of Aquilo live. Along with two others of the four remaining bands left on the evening’s showcase, I had seen them earlier in the week, so I’ll keep my comments here brief. In Aquilo’s case, the two shows I’d seen them at previously – the KCRW showcase at Elysium Wednesday night and the Get Buzzzed showcase at the Brew Exchange midday Friday – eased them into their much higher profile appearance at the British Music Embassy. For the bands who are chosen to perform there Saturday night, it’s practically the biggest coup ever. It would be completely understandable for nerves to show.

Tom Higman of Aquilo, UK Department of International Trade showcase, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Saturday 18 March 2017

However, whether it had to do with the length of time Tom Higman and Ben Fletcher have been in bands separately or together in Aquilo or not, onstage they were the model of aplomb, winning over a new crowd with their brand of emotional, soulful pop tailor made for mainstream radio. I couldn’t have been prouder of them. You can practically hear their future fans screaming and squealing.

I was keen on finding out what Carrie thought of SuperGlu, who had already wowed audiences in Austin twice, Monday night at the DIY / Ticketweb showcase here, followed by Tuesday night at the Killing Moon / ReverbNation showcase at Scratchouse. As I expected, their carefree, fun rock songs that were more pop than slacker were just the ticket for the last few hours left to punters at SXSW 2017.

SiriusXM favourites Sundara Karma took over on stage next. Carrie knows more about them than I do, having reviewed their debut for RCA / Chess Club, ‘Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect’, when it was released back in January. Young musicians who write and perform pop music often get a bad rap about being lightweights and sellouts. While for sure there are many manufactured pop bands and singers, or at least a lot acts whose label pays off some hitmaker to write a bunch of songs, the Reading group are an exception to the rule.

Oscar Pollock of Sundara Karma, UK Department of International Trade showcase, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Saturday 18 March 2017

As enjoyable as single ‘She Said’ is, a closer examination of the lyrics shows that singer Oscar Pollock and his band have thought about what it means to be young on a philosophical level. Certainly more than any other 20-year olds you know. This is exactly the kind of band we need to nurture and support going forward to keep not only music alive, but to inspire the next generations of musicians that it’s possible to be thoughtful in your artistry and make a statement, while still becoming a success.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRORIKvOR4Y[/youtube]

Steve Lamacq, UK Department of International Trade showcase, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Saturday 18 March 2017

The “Special Guest”, to be introduced by none other than Steve Lamacq to close out the evening, was not a well-kept secret. For sure, LIFE were my favourite closing act of the last 6 years that I’ve been going out to SXSW, which says a lot. It also seems almost too appropriate that LIFE were chosen for this coveted spot, as now more than ever is the existence of each and every one of us and the things we love are being threatened. As the world grows more me-centric and selfish, those without will fall through the cracks, but who will speak for them? As their Bandcamp biography reads, this is a band who make “Irresistible dark pop that holds a dirty mirror up to modern life”. No-one ever said life was easy, or perfect or pretty for that matter, right?

Mez Green of LIFE, UK Department of International Trade showcase, British Music Embassy, Latitude 30, Saturday 18 March 2017

LIFE had already shown Thursday afternoon at the British Music Embassy that they weren’t afraid to pull a few punches and point a few fingers at the crooked establishment, all the while rough and ready. Frontman Mez Green dressed for the occasion in a Don’t Mess With Texas t-shirt, suggestive of what laid ahead for us. The band took it up another notch Saturday night, Green clambering on the bar to deliver his vitriolic barbs while his brother Mick Sanders jumped into the crowd with his red Stratocaster. While they might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they were the final loud, sweaty, uncompromising parting blow the British Music Embassy would deliver to Austin, and I wouldn’t have wanted to end my SXSW 2017 any other way.

Now to rest up the next 6 months before the preparing for the next carnival of crazy in 2018. Good night, Austin, and all you sweet princes and princesses. See you next year!

 

SXSW 2017: the Killing Moon / ReverbNation / Metro showcase (part 2) and BBC Radio 1 / PRS for Music / PPL showcase – 14th March 2017

 
By on Tuesday, 28th March 2017 at 5:00 pm
 

Upon my return to Scratchouse for the second half of the evening, I was pleased to see that Manningtree’s SuperGlu were proving their reception Monday night at the British Music Embassy wasn’t sheer dumb luck. (And if you missed the first half of my Tuesday evening, you can read it back here.) While the room at the indoor stage was certainly smaller than that of Latitude 30, SuperGlu proved they could draw a big, not to mention animated and engaged crowd without the promotional muscle of the BME.

Interestingly and somewhat headscratchingly, Killing Moon, ReverbNation and London newspaper Metro chose to put the quieter acts for their Tuesday night showcase on the backyard stage at Scratchouse. I guess they thought people who would coming out to the backyard would want to sit on the benches? Folk rocker Reuben Bidez is originally from Atlanta, but a relocation to Nashville appears to have done him good, according to American Songwriter. TGTF readers know this kind of music isn’t my bailiwick but rather up Carrie’s alley, so we’ll be sure to keep an eye on Bidez’s progress in his new locale going forward.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9eFQzHG2tg[/youtube]

As part of our TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017 previewing acts from the South of England, Steven described Guildford’s Annabel Allum as a free spirit, one who “refuses to be pigeonholed or adhering to any kind of fad.” While I was keen on seeing Allum live, as it happens all too often at SXSW, it’s difficult to focus on a single musician when so much stuff is going on around you, in the venues nearby and with the buzz of chatter of punters who aren’t paying attention to who’s on stage. Under the eerie glow of lights on the backyard stage and wearing a flowy blouse, I got the feeling like Mt. Wolf earlier in the evening that a conventional club atmosphere (or even a coffee shop?) would have done Allum more favours.

Annabel Allum, Killing Moon, ReverbNation, Metro UK, Scratchouse, Tuesday 14 March 2017

Turning my attention back to the indoor stage at Scratchouse, it was time for Dine Alone Records act Mantra (stylized Måntra, as I understand it for purely legal reasons) to take the stage. Definitely more my speed. Growing up with the music of Led Zeppelin thanks to an older brother who for a time only listened to music designed pummel your eardrums and annoy parents, there will always be a part of me that wishes I could play guitar like Jimmy Page. Mantra are probably the closest these days I’m going to get to Led Zeppelin and one better, they seem to be taking the best of what England’s grand rock tradition of the last 20 years has had to offer into their sound. Namely Muse, or at least before Matt Bellamy went commercial (I haven’t forgotten you getting into bed with Twilight, Matt), too out there and sometimes just plain annoying.

Mantra, Killing Moon, ReverbNation, Metro UK, Scratchouse, Tuesday 14 March 2017

We’ve gone through an unusual period of seeing duos like Drenge, Royal Blood and Slaves prove you don’t need more than two people in a hard rock band. However, my memory goes back far enough to remember a time when rock trios like The Joy Formidable were questioned for their ability to pack in the firepower. There’s no such question in the case of Ealing’s Mantra. This is hard driving, pulse thumping rock for the headbanger, and this is the band who will renew your faith that good, hard rock can still be found in England. Check out my interview with the band in Austin through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVGqb9gJnSw[/youtube]

SYKES, Killing Moon, ReverbNation, Metro UK, Scratchouse, Tuesday 14 March 2017

Time for a quick dash back to the backyard for my final band at Scratchouse for the night, SYKES. The band is named for frontwoman Julia Sykes, lead singer and keyboardist for the band. They’ve had an interesting ride so far, having recently appeared at the traditionally hard rocking Warped tour, wowing crowds with their self-described alt-electropop. Sykes, in a Chicago-themed hoodie, was the epitome of composure, and it’s not surprising, given that their band showcased last year in Austin and weren’t suffering from SXSW virgin sensory overload. It’s just too bad that there was a bigger crowd for Sykes’ yearning voice and their buzzy, crunchy synth beats, as this is exactly the kind of band I’d expect SiriusXM’s Alt Nation to pick up on.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVHOAZ6UIAA[/youtube]

We don’t do a lot of writing about hip hop and grime on TGTF because, as I repeated quite a bit in Austin to friends, I just don’t feel comfortable about us writing about it if it’s a genre we don’t know a lot about. Dave, also known as Santan Dave, which explains his otherwise unusual Twitter handle @santandave1, was longlisted for the BBC Sound of 2017, so it was nice to see the BBC put him on the Tuesday night British Music Embassy showcase sponsored by Radio 1, PRS for Music and PPL.

Dave, Radio 1, PRS for Music, PPL showcase, British Music Embassy, Tuesday 14 March 2017

I’ve still got a lot to learn about how this genre is morphing and expanding its reach in the UK. But even without knowing much about this Streatham native, standing there in Latitude 30 as punters looked on silent and in rapt attention, you knew you were witnessing greatness. It must have been a terrifying moment for Dave to perform on such a stage and at such a young age. But he must also have felt incredible validation by the reception he received in Austin.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2H0mXC2Wbs[/youtube]

Kent punk duo Slaves are no stranger to Austin and SXSW, or to TGTF for that matter. As rightly noted by drummer and master of ceremonies Isaac Holman from the stage of Latitude 30, they performed previously and on a Radio 1 showcase in 2014. I got on the Slaves bandwagon pretty late, which was probably for the best, as I refused to be swept up by the hype and wanted to decide for myself if they were an act I wanted to follow. Suffice to say, I finally got on, not so much for their musical prowess than for the sheer fun of their music. Let’s face it: Slaves’ specialty is hard, fast, in your face tunes, whilst also being tongue in cheek. Who else would subject one of their crew to crowdsurfing in a manta ray suit for their ‘art’? And really, how smart was it of Holman it to be wearing a coonskin cap, a symbol of American frontiersman Davy Crockett and a symbol of white entitlement, during this period of unprecedented racial prejudice in our country? I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he had no idea.

Slaves, Radio 1, PRS for Music, PPL showcase, British Music Embassy, Tuesday 14 March 2017

But make no mistake, they’re not animals, Slaves realise what they’re doing and while they’re all for their fans having fun during their shows, they’re also not going to be dicks about it either. Guitarist Laurie Vincent, realising that a circle pit was forming down the front at Latitude 30 in response to their aggressive music, acted quickly and helpfully to direct photographers out of the fray and to the side of the stage so their expensive cameras wouldn’t get destroyed in the melee. ‘Spit It Out’, from last year’s ‘Take Control’ out now on Virgin EMI, was a revelation live, and the crowd were completely up for their punishing show. Mission accomplished. It seems strange to think they’re still playing small clubs here in America but on the other hand, it seems fair. Even though they’re signed to a major in the UK and they’re huge in Europe, they’re having to win over new fans in a new territory, just like everyone else who tries to make a go of it over here.

 

SXSW 2017: Monday night at the DIY / Ticketweb UK showcase at Latitude 30 – 13th March 2017

 
By on Monday, 27th March 2017 at 4:00 pm
 

It’s going to take some getting used to that the Music portion of SXSW artist showcasing officially starts on Monday and not Tuesday. Carrie and I have enjoyed either showcases at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 starring Northern Irish artists or sponsored by Trackd last year the last few times we’ve been in Austin, so it was nice to mix things up a bit this year with a lineup sponsored by someone else. This night’s showcase was sponsored by UK free magazine DIY and the UK arm of Ticketweb, now part of Live Nation. I arrived just in time for SuperGlu, the Manningtree rock group who I had seen 2 years ago at the upstairs room of The Mash Tun at Norwich Saturday night during Norwich Sound and Vision 2015. I wish to point out that thank you very much, I had seen this band before nearly everyone in Austin, proclaiming back then “1) I was supposed to be in Norwich to see this band, and 2) they’re going to do very, very well.” Boom.

SuperGlu, Latitue 30, Monday 13 March 2017

I don’t consider myself an expert on alt-rock, because it’s hard to class. What is alt-rockand what isn’t? And let’s be honest, sometimes you just don’t know what will float with music fans and what won’t, which ultimately is the litmus test. During a week in Austin that saw surprise (or maybe not?) performances by world-famous American bands Jimmy Eat World, Spoon and Weezer, SuperGlu held their own against them, suggesting from the climactic last notes of ‘Diving Bell’ that it would not be long before they would be joining their ranks in popular music history.

SuperGlu, Latitude 30, Monday 13 March 2017, 2

Frontman Ben Brown wore a University of Texas-Austin t-shirt and shouted the locals’ cry for “Longhorns!” to get the crowd riled up. Not surprisingly, this went over extremely well with the already inebriated and up for it Texans, not to mention a man who argued with Brown over which was the smallest town in England, his or Manningtree. (I’m still unclear who won.) The secrets to SuperGlu’s success? Being good friends and keeping things fun, which come across in spades in their self-described ‘dork pop’ music and live performance. While this might not be at the level of the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1976, something tells me this is going to be one of those “were you there?” moments in rock. The photo below from my phone is intended to document the crazy that was happening that night. To listen in on my interview with the band in Austin, go here.

SuperGlu, Latitude 30, Monday 13 March 2017

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1H_6gImH80[/youtube]

Feeling like a letdown after SuperGlu was London-based Doe, compared frequently to Sleater-Kinney for their female-led DIY rock aesthetic. I give pink-haired lead singer and guitarist Nicola Leel massive props for her shouty loud, abrasive vocal delivery on tracks like ‘Last Ditch’, as she never once let up during their half-hour set, and the band gave it their all. The guitars were loud and scuzzy and indeed, the comparisons to classic ‘90s rock and noise pop make sense. It was just hard for me to pick out the melodies or find anything that stood out as particularly special.

Doe, Latitude 30, Monday 13 March 2017

From Doe, Croydon’s Jamie Isaac was a breath of fresh air, cutting through the fuzz with a dramatically different point of view. Some have compared him to wildly popular piano-player, production head and fellow Londoner James Blake, but that’s just lazy journalism. Isaac’s silky smooth tones envelop you like nothing else, grabbing you just as much as the darkly beautiful notes of his jazz-infused piano lines. To be fair, his music is less obvious, requiring more commitment by the listener to truly ‘get’ where he was going with his electronic leanings, and I sensed that people who had been there since SuperGlu’s set were less than enthralled. Give his ‘Couch Baby (Revisited)’ album (which includes ‘Find the Words’) a spin on your favourite streaming service to check him out.

Jamie Isaac, Latitude 30, Monday 13 March 2017

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

I had expected Blaenavon to come next in the lineup, but I was surprised when a woman came onstage. Hrm, I thought, they don’t have a girl in their band, do they? For the record, they don’t. Manchester’s False Advertising, led by Jen Hingley, filled in for the Liphook, East Hampshire natives who weren’t able to get out to Austin that early in the week. Their loss was False Advertising’s gain: the incredible opportunity to showcase the first official night of SXSW Music at the British Music Embassy.

False Advertising, Latitude 30, Monday 13 March 2017

The energy in the ratcheted back up as they pounded out ‘Wasted Away’ and ‘Scars’ as highlights. They’ve got an interesting dynamic in that drummer Chris Warr also sings, and he and Hingley swapped instruments and positions like it was no big deal. The other obvious comment about False Advertising is that they have a lot of hair. It’s a good thing none of them needed to look down at their guitars, because they wouldn’t have seen the strings anyway. Carrie joined me shortly after False Advertising started, and I’ll let her fill you in on Muncie Girls’ closing set of the night.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-HP2sg0vaU[/youtube]

 

SXSW 2017 Interview: SuperGlu

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd March 2017 at 1:00 pm
 

Anyone who’s ever been to SXSW knows you have to be prepared for anything and everything. It’s true for musicians, surely, but also for us journalists too. Two years ago, I was promised by a journalist from Louisiana that I’d get equal billing on an interview I helped record for him; needless to say, the credit didn’t appear when the video went online, leaving a bad taste in my mouth. (The interviewee in question is now a good friend of mine, and Mr. Louisiana is nowhere to be found…) I didn’t think I’d ever have to tag team on another interview again but last week in Austin for SXSW 2017, a blogger (or a super fan even, possibly?) asked me to tag team on an interview with Manningtree rockers SuperGlu (no “e”), and here are the results. Unhelpfully, the mystery man never introduced himself or his outlet, so I honestly can’t credit him until he surfaces.

SuperGlu and I have a funny history, in that I found out about the band via one of their band members’ former partners a good 2 years ago before they came out here to America for their first-ever shows. The details are not so important now (you can read more back here) but it just goes to show that word of mouth indeed helps us journalists find out about good bands to check out and listen to. Further, the hundreds of new fans they played to and made in Austin can’t be wrong, can they? While they’ve grown by leaps and bounds no doubt with all the blood, sweat and tears they’ve shed in their pursuit of writing, recording, and performing to get even better (and frontman Ben Brown had to make a joke out of my starting question in this interview!), at the end of the day, it’s a group of four pals who enjoy being together and making music together, and if their music connects with people across an ocean, then something right is going right in this world. Listen to the interview by me and this other mystery blogger below. For more coveage on SuperGlu – and I assume we’ll have plenty more soon – go here. Special thanks to their manager John for snapping the photo of us below for posterity. Go Longhorns! (It’s an in-joke.)

editor Mary with SuperGlu at SXSW 2017

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: Midlands and East of England artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Thursday, 2nd March 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Tourists visiting the UK often overlook the Midlands and the East of England. They would rather visit London and other more ‘famous’ big cities in the country. Unfortunately and unfairly, the same kind of phenomenon happens when it comes to journalists looking for and tipping bands. They’d rather focus on London, Manchester and Glasgow: you know, the places where everywhere you turn, you find a new unsigned artist chomping at the bit for a chance. While it’s true that bands in the UK tend to gravitate towards and relocate to London to try to make a proper go of it, there’s something to be said about refusing to follow the pack, hanging tough in your hometown and being proud of where you’re from.

So today’s edition of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017 will introduce you to a healthy baker’s dozen of acts from the Midlands and the East of England who will have their time in the spotlight next month in Austin. Except where noted, the summaries below were written by our Northern Irish correspondent Adam McCourt. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

The Midlands

BURNS – electronic / DJ / Los Angeles via Stafford
He used to call Stafford his ‘hood. But highly sought producer, DJ and electronic musician in his own right Matthew James Burns now calls Los Angeles home. It’s no wonder that his eclectic nature blending elements of pop, dance and hip-hop has drawn loads of attention, admirers and potential collaborators, but SXSW 2017 will be his moment to shine on his own. FFO: deadmau5, Kaskade (Mary Chang)

Charlie Cunningham – singer/songwriter / Bedfordshire
Charlie Cunningham lived in Spain for 2 years and has uniquely incorporated the flamenco influences that inspired him abroad into his playing, songwriting and overall sound on his music recent music. This seems to be the thing many people like about the Bedfordshire artist’s music. Following a series of EPs in successive years (‘Outside Things’ in 2014, ‘Breather’ in 2015, ’Heights’ in 2016), his debut album ‘Lines’ is out now. FFO: Bombay Bicycle Club, Chet Faker

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCYHNfMa2uI[/youtube]

HECK – punk / Nottingham
Straight from Nottingham, HECK have been consistent in truly bringing the noise amongst the twiddly, light-hearted, slightly emo math scene since 2009. Formerly known to the math-rock community as Baby Godzilla, Johnny Hall (vocals/rhythm guitar), Matt Reynolds (vocals/lead guitar), Paul Shelley (backing vocals/bass), Tom Marsh (Drums) now perform as HECK. Rest assured, the name change is the only thing that’s changed about them. It took a while, but the band released their debut album under the name HECK ‘Instructions’ last March 2016. FFO: Dillinger Escape Plan, The Fall of Troy, Sikth

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykC0MQNgyM0[/youtube]

Jacob Banks – r&b / Birmingham
R&b artist Jacob Banks incredibly shot to success during his time as an unsigned artist. He was the first-ever unsigned artist to appear on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge and won the 2012 MOBO UnSung regional competition in his hometown of Birmingham. He has accomplished a whole host of successes in such a short career: a support slot for Emilie Sande on her 2013 UK tour, the second release ‘Worthy’, from his debut EP ‘The Monologue’, featured on hit American TV show ‘Suits’, and as was championed by Zane Lowe. Banks released his debut album ‘The Paradox’ in July 2015 and signed a major label deal to Interscope Records last year. FFO: Naughty Boy, Sam Smith, Emelie Sande, Rag’n’Bone Man

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoIaOKg4Otw[/youtube]

Safone – grime / Birmingham
London might get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to rappers, and yes. there might be less of a critical mass of hip-hop and grime artists in the Midlands. However, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and a talented StayFresh crew that spans this part of England has ensured “as a means of releasing and uniting grime music in the area.” One of their own, SafOne (two syllables, please), was picked up by South London rapper P Money for a collaboration on the track ‘Roll Up’, though it’s easy to see in the video below who the true star is. FFO: Giggs, Skepta (Mary Chang)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAI94SzvWow[/youtube]

Temples – psych rock / Kettering
The biggest name in this edition of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017 – at least in terms of Facebook likes – is psychedelic four-piece Temples. Since their formation in 2012, the band have released one studio album, ‘Sun Structures’ in February 2014, which charted at number 7 in the UK. Following its success, they then released a remix album in November the same year, ‘Sun Restructured’. They have continued to grow by touring as both headliners and support acts and tomorrow, they release their sophomore album. FFO: The Beatles, Tame Impala

To read what we’ve written on Temples in the past here at TGTF, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6zdVaAe0OE[/youtube]

VITAL – hip-hop / Wolverhampton
VITAL is a rapper cut from a different cloth. Beyond what he does with this words and music, he’s also a family man and a motivational speaker, taking from his Wolverhampton and Jamaican roots for inspiration. Outside of the accolades he’s received for his music and videos and support from BBC Radio 1 and 1xtra, his approach in upholding family morals and doing what’s right – considered unusual in his genre – has led to him being recognised as a business owner and entrepreneur.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0c-dRskBo8[/youtube]

East of England

Airways – rock / Peterborough
Airways are a recently formed indie rock band, based in Peterborough. Despite the band’s short career, they have made huge strides in the UK scene, most of which came off the back of their second single ‘One Foot’ released in July 2016. It was named BBC introducing Track of the Week by BBC Radio 1 in August 2016 and gained them a slot on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds. FFO: Royal Blood, Foals, Nothing But Thieves

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9x-mVZ7vBgk[/youtube]

Let’s Eat Grandma – experimental / pop / Norwich
Teenage best friends and Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth are two girls who refuse to keep their music in a box. ANY box. Their weird and wonderful music takes from pop, rock, hip-hop and experimental, melding into something you’ve never ever heard before. They signed to Transgressive Records and released their beguilingly unique ‘I, Gemini’ debut album last summer. While they’re so young that they won’t be able to tuck into pints in Austin, they’re sure to be one of the most intriguing acts to catch at SXSW 2017. FFO: Kate Bush, St. Vincent (Mary Chang)

To read more of TGTF’s past coverage on Let’s Eat Grandma, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QegNRZ63WmM[/youtube]

Mary Epworth – singer/songwriter / Norwich
Mary Epworth (pictured at top) [yes, she’s producer Paul’s sister – Ed.] meticulously blends what she claims to be West Coast psychedelia with gospel and dream pop to create quite a unique a style of music. Her debut album ‘Dream Life’ was released in June 2012 via her own label Hand of Glory. Supporting the LP, Epworth played sold out shows and a string of festivals throughout the UK. After garnering so much attention from fans and the likes of BBC Radio 1 and 6 Music and Q in the UK, it finally got a North American release in 2015, so her appearance in Austin for SXSW couldn’t come soon enough. FFO: Bright Eyes, Let’s Eat Grandma, Elbow, Florence and the Machine

To read past coverage on Mary Epworth on TGTF, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=722dDnXtkgA[/youtube]

Mullally – pop / soul / Great Yarmouth
Filled with life and love, Mullally crafts pop songs that are soulful and have a big heart. A voice that perfectly encapsulates the soul it needs to, he projects and encourages sing along through catchy and memorable lyrics. Maybe not as poppy as you might think, there’s a dark edge to the music, but the pop bones are certainly holding it all together. FFO: Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith (Steven Loftin)

Superglu – rock / Manningtree
“An abstract painter, a disco dancing sociologist, a bloke who lives on a houseboat and a guitarist form a band,” is what the opening line of Superglu’s bio reads on Facebook. It sounds like the start of a joke but to be clear, this garage pop outfit from Manningtree are not joking around. In just 2 years, their ‘laser precise, punk pop workouts’ have received attention from BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and Radio X’s John Kennedy, performed at Latitude festival, twice and headlined the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds. FFO: Baby Strange, Spring King

To read our past coverage on Superglu here on TGTF, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1H_6gImH80[/youtube]

Ten Tonnes – singer/songwriter / Hertford
Younger brother of superstar George Ezra, Ethan Barnett aka Ten Tonnes is a singer/songwriter with the draw of a full band. A sound that is reminiscent of ‘90s Britrock, Barnett crafts heartfelt songs with powerhouse choruses you’ll soon be singing along to. The ‘Lucy’ EP is out now and ready for you to fall in love with. FFO: Bombay Bicycle Club, Catfish and the Bottlemen (Steven Loftin)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNZK0BiPMfg[/youtube]

Editor Mary Chang contributed to this report.

 
 
 

About Us

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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