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Is Breaking Up Your Band Hard to Do? Three Case Studies from Summer 2013

 
By on Thursday, 1st August 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Whether it has been caused by the economic climate, disillusionment in the goal of making it big or just band members getting tetchy with each other, there is no denying that the sheer number of bands that have been breaking up recently has been staggering. It’s been especially hard to swallow when I see the band that’s disbanding is one of the kind of indie bands we tend to champion here TGTF and we’ve supported over the years.

Just in the last 10 days we’ve been given the sobering notice that Stockton-on-Tees’ Chapman Family, LA band The Henry Clay People and The Good Natured, the electro three-piece fronted by Sarah McIntosh, have all folded. And don’t go blaming the recent summer heat wave causing delirium on this phenomenon. These bands, along with several others that disbanded since I took over as Editor-in-Chief of TGTF in summer 2010, made me wonder what is it that is going so wrong in the music industry for these terrible things to happen.

Perhaps it is naiveté having never actually been in a band. But I would think the actual breaking up of an entity, a friendship unit that means so much to you, something you’ve put all your blood, sweat and tears into for years and years, would be psychologically hurtful. And we’re not even talking about the emotional toll the actual breakup has on the fans of the band. After reading the tearful reactions of several of my mates on social media about the bands I have mentioned, I thought I would take a closer look at each of those bands to try and make sense of it all.

The Chapman Family (pictured at top)

I’m going to start with the recent band break-up that has been the most difficult to fathom for me. After many friends’ urgings and Martin’s glowing account of them live in Newcastle I finally got to see the Chapman Family at Leaf Cafe in Liverpool during the second night of this year’s Sound City. What a strange place to see a gig; as I snapped away on my camera, I was stood near the stage with no-one around me and loads of people behind me sat at cafe tables. But the charisma of frontman Kingsley Chapman and the overall tightness of the band’s sound left me nearly speechless. Just brilliant.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3gqTtzL4cg[/youtube]

Earlier this month, Kingsley had pimped out his keyboard stand for their Stockton Weekender performance, festooning the legs with what I considered gorgeous fake flowers from a pound shop. It didn’t occur to me until after they’d announced their breakup that maybe the colours chosen – mostly ghostly, funereal white – might have been a sign. I’ve talked to several friends of mine involved in the business and we’ve come to the agreement that the band had soldiered on from 2006 to 2013 – 7 years, which is a really long time in band years these days – and maybe they’d just gotten to the point where the dream had died and they had become disenchanted by not being able to go further, to play for bigger crowds, to go beyond the confines they’d already stretched. I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure why they broke up, but I’m sad nevertheless.

To our fans and friends,

We’re really sorry to announce that The Chapman Family is coming to an end.

The gig at the Georgian Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees this Friday night will be our last.

We would like to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for the support you’ve given us over the years since our very first gig at the Kubar in 2006 to the very moment you’re reading this now. You’re all amazing and it’s been an honour and a pleasure to play for you. You’ve given us memories that we will treasure forever and we hope in some small way that the records we’ve made for you – from the pink DIY effort of “You Are Not Me” in 2007 to the purple vinyl of “This One’s For Love” last month via the album “Burn Your Town” and the EP “Cruel Britannia” – will provide you with pleasurable diversions throughout your lives for years to come.

We were the first completely unsigned band to feature on an NME tour as well as top the MySpace charts on MTV. By hook or crook we managed to play to audiences in Japan, America, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria as well as more towns and cities than we can possibly remember in the UK. We’d like to thank everyone that we’ve ever worked with, every promoter that’s ever put us on, every soundman that has asked us to turn up and not down, every blog that has interviewed us, every DJ that’s played our songs, every magazine or newspaper that’s taken an interest and every one of you who’s ever had their heads turned slightly or their eardrums blown by a bunch of Teessiders trying their very best to be the most exciting rock band they can possibly be.

You have given us the most exciting years of our lives.

WE LOVE YOU ALL

The Good Natured

The talent of Sarah McIntosh, I’m happy to say, was something I can credit TGTF (in its form before I joined up with the site) for getting me keen on. From her humble beginnings as an amateur synth player, rescuing a vintage(y) Casio from her gran’s rubbish heap prior to 2008 and then setting herself the goal of, as her PR described it, “to document ‘the make outs, break ups, make outs and make ups’” of life. There was something truly amazing how professional her music as The Good Natured sounded even in 2009 before she’d been signed; listen to ‘Warriors’ below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io4x7OqbmwE[/youtube]

Then in early 2011 came the news that she’d been signed to Parlophone, aka the branch of EMI that is most famous for producing the Beatles, and with brother Hamish on bass and mate George Hinton on drums, it seemed that McIntosh has been rewarded for her innovation and all her previous hard work. The first single they released with their new label behind them was ‘Skeleton’, which admittedly caused me some shock, as it was obvious Parlophone was trying to sex up Sarah’s image in the video, which was as far from sexual as possible to begin with. At least she kept her clothes on for the video; I had this image of her putting her foot down in a meeting and saying, “I’m not taking my clothes off. I’m not Britney Spears!”

Then came the news last Thursday that the band were calling it quits because they were unable to retrieve the master tapes to their debut album from their label. (If this sounds all too familiar, it’s because it happened in 2010 to a band us here at TGTF love, Little Comets. Frontman Robert Coles explained what happened in this interview with me in early 2011. We are so pleased they went on and did well for themselves without losing their artistic credibility or integrity.) I guess folding was the only reasonable option left on the table for the Good Natured. To add insult to injury, the band also posted a photo of a sign announcing American popster Katy Perry‘s new album to be released in October, called ‘Prism’, which incidentally was going to be the name of the Good Natured’s debut album. While it’s the end of the road for this incarnation of the band, they Tweeted on Monday that they expected to come out with new music in the future and “Life has a really funny way of telling you everything happens for a reason.” Which is an incredibly adult outlook. I’m not sure I would have had the same feelings; I probably would have been throwing a tantrum. Read the full letter to fans from 25 July from the Good Natured below.

Hello to all you amazing people. Sorry we’ve been so quiet in the TGN camp lately. We’ve had a lot going on and we didn’t want to update you until we had our facts straight. We didn’t want to give you information that wasn’t true when we didn’t understand the situation ourselves. A few months ago we were dropped from our record label. Our album has been shelved. Over this time we have been trying to get our masters back so that we can release Prism, however, it has not been possible.

To say we are devastated is an understatement. Believe us when we say we have tried everything possible to get our album to you. Sometimes life gives you lemons and you gotta make lemonade. When one door closes another opens.
You have to pick yourself up, be bigger, be stronger. For The Good Natured it is the end of the road, but it’s safe to say there is something better around the corner.

Our last gig will be at Secret Garden Party in Eddy Temple Morris Temple Of Boom. We’d love it if you came down to celebrate what fun we have had. We love every single one of you and thank you for your support along the way. It means everything to us. We will see you soon. All our love as always, Sarah, Hamish and George.

The Henry Clay People

The first gig I ever covered as a music blogger was on the 12th of March 2009, a headline show by the Airborne Toxic Event at DC’s Black Cat and featuring their good friends the Henry Clay People as support. Last Wednesday, the Henry Clay People left the following message on their Facebook:

Hello friendos-

The Henry Clays play August 17th at Echo Park Rising music fest. It’s free. We’ll be playing in the early evening…

In the past, we have been sort of doomsdayish with our “this could be it for the band” insinuations. Yet here we are.

This one may be different. This may actually be “it” for the following exciting reasons:

Eric is now a proud papa bear and one test away from being a legit architect.
Andy is going back to school.
Joey is moving to the east coast to go back to school.
Harris is currently touring the country/world with other rock and roll bands.
Noah has a rad new band called The Pretty Flowers.

If the August 17th show sucks, then we will probably have to do another to redeem ourselves, but it might not be until 2020: Thirty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives.

It’s been fun. We miss you. We miss playing. It’s kinda sad and happy at same time. Let’s make this one special.

Love,

The Henry Clay People

Of all the breakups in this feature, this one was the least bittersweet because they offered a final show for their fans and the explanation given for the end of the band was clear cut. Based on the letter above, we can surmise that each of their band members came to the conclusion that this band thing was over and it was high time to be a Grown-Up, however hard (or easy) coming to that realisation may have been.

While having families, children and the scariest thing to musicians, the respectable job, doesn’t always sound the death knell for a rock band, it’s really the easiest and least painful reason for breaking up a band because it’s not entirely unexpected. While Henry Clay People fans may not be quickly consoled by the harsh reality of Real Life, the news is however well tempered now that we know that every single person in the band is going forward, doing his own thing and they’re entirely okay with it.

I mentioned the economy at the start of this piece. There is no denying that making enough money as a musician in order to survive without another source of income has become more and more difficult, thanks to music piracy and the online streaming services like the one that Thom Yorke has recently and famously hit out at giving out paltry payouts to bands. If you don’t believe me, check out the graphs posted in this Atlantic article. The American half of TGTF’s writership often get into long discussions about how touring (and to a lesser extent, selling merch at the shows) is the only real way musicians can survive if they’re not being backed by a major label.

If the economy is in any part, whether small or large, affecting the number and increased frequency of bands breaking up, then unfortunately I see this as a sort of unintended natural selection process in the current music climate and it will continue. It’s not a trend I like seeing and if you agree with me, go out there and give your support to your favourite bands. Buy their albums, buy tickets to see them live. In the song ‘Rubber Ring’ by the Smiths, Morrissey sings, “don’t forget the songs that made you cry / and the songs that saved your life”. For many of us, rock bands aren’t peripheral items in our lives. They mean something to us. They become so important to our way of life, they become part of our family. So if for some reason the time comes for them to break up, at least you can say that you were there for them. Just like they were there for you.

 

Liverpool Sound City 2013: Mary’s Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 15th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

Sound City 2013, day 2, began with me waking up to the strains of a Reverend and the Makers‘ YouTube playlist blaring out of John’s iPad. Mission accomplished from the previous night, I’d say. We headed into the convention portion of the festival and my first stop was a radio pluggers’ panel with heavyweights of the radio industry, including 6music’s Chris Hawkins, Radio2’s Janice Long, and 6music producer Julie Cullen. As a regular BBC Radio music listener, it was really interesting to hear the presenters and producers’ takes on why radio is still so strong in Britain.

Janice Long said, “people love the intimacy of radio…[the fact that] they’re being offered something”, and I agree. Getting to know your presenters, I find, is especially important on whether or not I trust or would listen to that person’s recommendations. While by no means do I enjoy every single band that Lammo has trotted out on his New Favourite Band weekly feature, or in the same respect Huw Stephens on his specialist show, there are so many bands I never would have of heard of if either hadn’t played them on their shows. It was also heartening to hear that the panelists all welcome hearing demos from bands, just asking that the CDRs be labelled clearly and properly with the band name and song title, or even better, be provided a Soundcloud downloadable link that can be shared and spread between colleagues, should the song take their fancy and they want to actually play it on radio. I also had a chat with Chris Hawkins and that feature on TGTF is forthcoming soon.

After having some food and drink at a very cool, nonalcoholic cafe called the Brink, it was time to split up again, and then I was off to see Vasco da Gama, named after the Portuguese explorer who circumnavigated around the tip of Africa, not to be confused with the strange typo on the programme of Vasco da Gamma, as if they had some Greek relations. They play a wonky, punky, art rock kind of style that is not all unlike their fellow DIY Liverpudlians Hot Club de Paris, who’ve gone quiet. Vasco benefitted from the delay of the start of Taiwanese band Echo, who were having trouble with their soundcheck just across the way at the Garage. Watch a bit of their performance below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6EiPIrDbfs[/youtube]

The singer of Taiwan’s Echo certainly wins, hands down, the longest note held during this year’s Sound City. Check out the video below. When you’re an unknown band to the city you’re in, you’ve got to really bring it, and Echo’s singer jumped onto the barrier and into the sparse crowd and just let loose this amazing scream. Even if you don’t understand Chinese, there is no denying that the band sound great instrumentally and have a good command of melody, as you will see in the video. Now if they could just record one song in English language…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATPXDaDGH4E[/youtube]

Funnily enough, next John and I ended up at the same place, with John not even knowing I was in the same room. In a true example of regional representation, a selection of Norwich bands appeared at Sound Food and Drink, a cafe that oddly did not vacate its tables and move them in time for the evening’s performances. Bad form. Or maybe they just wanted to discourage people from cramming themselves in there. The premise of Wooden Arms was promising: a band made of mostly classical string instrument-playing members, singing in multi-part harmony. Unfortunately, live they translated to something far more boring than I would have guessed.

So I was off again and to the east to the East Village Arts Club, where the bouncer inconveniently directed me to the wrong place for Manchester’s NO CEREMONY///. Like fellow Mancunians WU LYF, NO CEREMONY/// have tried to maintain a mysterious vibe about themselves, with overly dark, goth-y videos that show no hint of what the band actually look like. So I just assumed the band must be two blokes with oodles of synthesisers. Not exactly. The band live is fronted by a bass-toting woman and while there are two men with synths in front of them, one of them does play guitar. As I did suspect, there isn’t a

It was a bit of a hike from where I was to the Black-E, with 3 nights being curated by local Liverpool-centric football, music and culture Web site the Anfield Wrap and featuring only Merseyside-based bands. But being an Liverpool FC fan, I knew I just had to be there at some point in the weekend. I was not disappointed with the Thespians, with a lead singer that looks eerily like Carl Barat. The band even wear black leather jackets and sound at times very Libertines-esque, including abruptly ending some of their songs in that sort of punky, ‘up yours’ kind of way. They explained that their album had already been put out in Japan and all physical copies had been snapped by the record-buying public over there. If that is truly the case, then we should all probably get on this bandwagon now before it turns into a steamroller.

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

Then it was back west and into the centre of the clubbing life for the Chapman Family at Leaf Cafe. I have a couple friends who are massive fans of theirs, so colour me curious, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. They can be depressing topic-wise, but the sheer power of their live performance, not to mention the incredible magnetism of their frontman Kingsley Chapman, make their live set a sight to behold. A hipster couple who quickly took their places right in front of the stage threw their band tote bags under the stage and proceeded to mosh (is that the right word?) to every Chapman Family song, arms and legs flailing in every which way. At some point I was sure one of them would slip and fall but it didn’t happen, they were just so excited to be there.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3gqTtzL4cg[/youtube]

And then it was back to Wolstenholme Square, where I thought I had arrived just in time for Marple’s Dutch Uncles. Cripes. I am very careful about making sure I don’t have clashes in schedule, so I am positive they must have moved up the Duncles’ set by an hour because when I arrived, Unknown Mortal Orchestra was setting up. To say I was upset by the turn of events, especially after loving the new album ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’, is putting it mildly. I was on the verge of tears. But, when in Liverpool, you carry on. I didn’t feel like running to another venue, so I just hung tight at the Arts Academy for the one major band I definitely wanted to see there, Dutch Uncles’ mates Everything Everything.

When you’re thousands of miles away from home, I don’t care who you are, it is an important and touching moment when a band you have supported and followed for a long time acknowledges your presence. Everything Everything’s bassist Jeremy Pritchard, who has always been extremely kind and nice to me every time I have had the pleasure to meet him, only waved to me down in the pit, but it truly meant the world to me. Prior to this, I had only seen them live once, and in an acoustic setting for a charity show 2 days after my birthday in 2011, so I was raring to go to see them play with their full setup. While I still think new album ‘Arc’ is not as strong as ‘Man Alive’, there were plenty of punters willing to disagree with me at the Arts Academy. I thought it was quite strange that they didn’t play ‘MY KZ, UR BF’, but perhaps they are trying to wean themselves away from their past? Possibly. With singles like ‘Kemosabe’ and ‘Cough Cough’, they can afford to do that.

The TGTF crew ended up, rather accidentally, together at Screenadelica at the end of the night, and you can read John’s descriptions of Arcane Roots and Future of the Left in his day 2 roundup. While we were waiting between sets, Duologue, who I recognised from seeing them in a beer garden at this year’s SXSW, bounded out from backstage at the Arts Academy and into Screendelica, the venue directly in the back of it. This Twitter exchange ensued. And yes, Tim, I will touch your face the next time I’m in your proximity!

 

The Chapman Family / February and March 2013 UK Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 22nd January 2013 at 9:30 am
 

The Chapman Family head out on a UK tour in early February. Catch them on the dates below.

Thursday 7th February 2013 – Wakefield Hop
Friday 8th February 2013 – Hartlepool Studio
Sunday 10th February 2013 – Manchester Kraak Gallery
Monday 11th February 2013 – Hull Fruit
Tuesday 12th February 2013 – Liverpool House
Wednesday 13th February 2013 – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
Friday 15th February 2013 – Aberdare Elliot’s
Saturday 16th February 2013 – Southampton Joiners
Sunday 17th February 2013 – Margate Westcoast
Monday 18th February 2013 – Brighton Green Door Store
Tuesday 19th February 2013 – Colchester Arts Centre
Wednesday 20th February 2013 – London Surya
Friday 22th February 2013 – Birmingham Rainbow
Saturday 23th February 2013 – Leeds Cockpit 3
Sunday 24th February 2013 – Newcastle Cluny 2
Thursday 8th March 2013 – Stockton Georgian Theatre

 

MP3(s) of the Day #688: The Chapman Family

 
By on Friday, 5th October 2012 at 10:00 am
 

The track ‘Lies’ had been a mainstay of the Chapman Family‘s live shows from 2008 to 2011. An actual recording to have and hold has been next to impossible to come by, so the band are giving this version away for free. It’s rare as all hell, so all the more reason to grab this version, recorded at Green Dragon Studios in Stockton-on-Tees in early 2010, for your very own, right? I will leave you with the words the band themselves used to describe the song:

It’s about paranoia, confusion and the feeling of being able to see through the lies of people in positions of authority but not being able to do a thing about it. The noise and feedback in the music of the song was supposed to mirror the feeling of panic and terror in the lyrics. The band themselves were so passionate about the song that they wanted it to be a central focal point of their debut album. However, seemingly everyone else in the world disagreed.

The band have also made covers of Crowded House‘s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ and Kate Bush‘s ‘Army Dreamers’ free as well. You can listen to and download any or all of these tracks below.

 

Live Review: The Chapman Family at London Macbeth – 25th June 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd July 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

The room is ready and the stage is set for a night of gloomy yet powerful affection from The Chapman Family. Tonight, in London’s trendy Hoxton area, the posterboys of post-punk revival are celebrating the release of their new EP ‘Cruel Britannia’ to around 100 eager fans who have been a part of this band’s journey since day one.

Hailing from the grim north (Stockton-on-Tees to be precise), the moody five-piece have found a second home in London after receiving critical acclaim from NME and Artrocker in recent years. But tonight is about justifying that reputation and proving to fans new and old that indie music is dying on its arse and needs a long overdue shake up. Gone are the days of three chords and moaning about girls, it’s time to get gazing at those shoes and sing words of genuine emotion.

Not long after 10 PM, following a trio of acts beforehand, the Chapman Family enter the fray doused in ominous red light and dressed in black – appearance is key to the band’s aura. With little need for an introduction the post-punkers plunge into ‘Into rhe Breach’ with all the static charm of their ’80s contemporaries. Flowing briskly into ‘This English Life’ the speed is turned up a notch with the string-snapping guitars rushing to maintain the off-beat rhythm that keeps the quirky quintet simply mesmerising.

New track ‘No More Tears’ brings a healthy dose of synth-work reinforced by the ballsy punkiness beneath. Despite being inherently a gothic, anti-pop record, the closing bars verge on the new breed of anthemic hardcore with the whole band screaming “No more tears! No more lies! No more fear! No more hate!” until the feedback finally runs out. The die-hard fans who have already listened to the new EP online are more than happy to respond and stretch their larynxes to breaking point.

Ultimately it’s a night for both the band and the fans to enjoy the new EP. Although these tracks might still need tightening live, it’s this frenzied chaos that has seen The Chapman Family compared to The Horrors and S.C.U.M. The overarching garage band ethos lends itself to set-closer and distortionfest ‘Kids’. Kingsley Chapman’s Morrissey-esque vocals warble over the barrage of thrashy, string scratching that East London laps up and exerts in the form of deafening appreciation. The Chapman Family has found more members to join its clan, who wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Live Gig Video: The Chapman Family cover Morrissey’s ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’

 
By on Monday, 19th December 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Morrissey holds a special place in my heart; let’s just say the first boy that really turned my head wooed me with a CD that began with ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’. The Chapman Family have taken on the challenge of covering the song that is so linked to Morrissey and his views on ‘Englishness’ and seaside towns that are forgotten in the off season; watch the video of Kingsley performing it below. Were they successful? Let us know in the comments.

Our Northeast writer Martin traded verbal barbs with the band while on tour in Sunderland in early November; read his insightful and politically charged piece here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLUUmvibISU[/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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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