Rock City Sixteen-review

“Lunettes Noires Pour Nuits Blanches” By Rock City Sixteen”

Havana Guns are no more!! But despair not as they have re-emerged with a new name and a sound that’s darker in tone to material released under their former appellative. Rock City Sixteen’s debut single may sound slightly more stripped down, with vocals not quite as upfront, and hooks maybe not quite as obvious, but yet again Zoë, Philippe, Linda and the gang come up with another edgy pop classic. “Lunettes Noires Pour Nuits Blanches” has the cool of the Raveonettes, the swagger of the Mary Chain, and the throbbing bass lines of New Order. It’s a hypnotic, pounding slice of pop noir, that as ever, makes you want to don a leather jacket, black shades and tear along the freeway, into the night, whilst at the same time receiving a spot of illicit felatio …Ahem! … The flip side “Antarctica” is another incredibly good track which has Zoë’s cool crystal cut vocals underpinned by a driving, relentless guitar riff that the Mary Chain would be justifiably proud of. The singles stark black and white art work is, as with previous releases under the Havana Guns moniker, stylish, cinematic, and cooler than Marlon Brando in an ice cream parlour in Antarctica discussing the weather with Martin Scorsese in a snow storm, it apltly reflects a band who posses the sort of natural bŏn tŏn other bands can only dream of.

This lot, have always been as cool as f**k, yes, they may have changed their name, but not their attitude, and they continue to produce classy, sexy, stylish pop, of the sort that really should see them, at least in any civilised society, feted as the saviours of popular culture. Alas in the UK folk seem to find the 21st centuries answer to Larry Grayson, Graham Norton , “subversive,” Mr Neatbeards “Deal Or no Deal” a “white knuckle ride “ and derive furtive cheap thrills from Katy Perry’s schlock about kissing girls. Lets be honest here, Ms Perry’s drivel is about as shocking and erotic as Nicholas Parsons attempting a centre parting… on a Sunday…in Shropshire. All is not lost however, as Rock City Sixteen offer us all a shot at redemption and provide us with hope, and hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies…

…..So stop watching “X Factor” and buy something real !

“Lunettes Noires Pour Nuits Blanches”/ Antarctica ” By Rock City Sixteen is released on Monday 8th September by Cigarette Music.

Rock City Sixteen on myspace

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New Logo By Mister Lion

The VPME

We have a fantastic new logo for the VPME, designed by illustrator and all round genius Mark Standbrook (aka Mister Lion), a man who made Mr Von Pips drunken vision a reality and which you can see in all it’s glory at  our new web page and portal to the VPME here

For those who are a little short sighted there’s a hi-res version below see how many guests in the carriages you can identify. For more of Mister Lions wonderful work just direct your mouse here

Hi Res version click thumbnail 

By Any Other Name -Rose Elinor Dougall Interview

“Another Version Of Pop Song” By Rose Elinor Dougall

“I Know We’ll Never” By Rose Elinor Dougall

“DON’T CALL ME ROSAY”………..

To lose one pipette may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness, but to lose all three? Oh my! When the news came filtering through that the artist formerly known as Rosay Pipette had left Brighton’s retro-pop outfit, the Pipettes, the initial reaction of shock was quickly replaced by “what the devil’s going on ?” Was it that old chestnut “musical differences?” Was it the “let’s try and crack America” conundrum, a land so vast that endless hours on a tour bus can send many bands totally stark, raving mad and help nurture unhealthy desires to kill fellow band mates (which does nothing for morale, but on the bright side, there’ll certainly be more leg-room on the tour bus.) Had the deranged fan, whose gargantuan tongue made Jamie Oliver’s look like it fitted snugly within the confines of his mouth and who apparently licked and slobbered all over Rose’s arm at a U.S in-store signing, convinced her that life as a Pipette was just too darn risky? Was there a massive big kick-off, with noses, hair and ears being pulled as well as shapes?  … Who knows?

Maybe, and I know this is quite absurd, but after about 4/5 years, Rose may have fancied a new challenge? I prefer the “cat fight” version myself, I mean we shouldn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story eh? 😉  As a songwriter and performer there’s probably only so much you can contribute to a band that relies on a specific “formula”, and writing for and within a specific framework must surely get a little constrictive? After being responsible for some of the Pipettes best moments (Dirty Mind, Judy, I Love You, Sex, Magician Man and Your Love For Me ) Rose it seemed, felt she’d gone as far as she could within the confines of The Pipettes, and decided it was time to test the water as a solo artist. Shortly  after the decidedly odd “official announcement” that she and Riot Becki were  Pips no more, a myspace page appeared, through which Rose has released a number of lo-fi “bedroom demos” under her full name Rose Elinor Dougall. These gave an indication of the sort of direction Rose is looking to take, and it ain’t the “uber pop” route. The songs have a hazy, languid, ethereal feel (reminiscent of Au Revior Simone, perhaps?) with Rose’s vocals floating dreamily over a sparse, minimal backdrop of keyboards and the occasional acoustic guitar (and not a “honking horn” in sight!)

After the full on pop sound that has previously accompanied Rose’s singing, it’s rather nice to get back to basics and hear songs which give her voice room to breathe and isn’t competing against other layered vocals and polished but ultimately rather OTT production. Sometimes keeping it simple is far more rewarding ( and I should know). There’s a darker tone to Rose’s songs, if the Pipettes (who lets face it, on occasion, could make Alphabeat sound like Radiohead) declared they had “no regrets” it would seem that Rose may have a few, as there’s undoubtedly an atmosphere of melancholia which pervades quite a few of the numbers, both musically and lyrically. As she’s previously stated “it would be pointless for me to leave a band and then carry on writing versions of songs I used to sing. I have an opportunity to be far more personal, for starters, and I am very keen to challenge myself.” Fair enough, but was she up to the ultimate challenge of speaking to Mr VP about the past, present and future? ………Apparently so…;)

VP:  So you decided the time was right to leave the Pipettes to concentrate on writing and performing your own songs, did you feel you’d gone as far as you could under the guise as “Rosay” Was it a case of wanting to branch out in different directions which you weren’t able to do within the remit of the “Pipette formula”

ROSE : Perhaps,I think its important to remember that I was in the band since I was 17, and within the four years a hell of a lot changed, for me personally and within the context of the group. I suppose I felt that I didn’t know what more I had to offer, which was quite a hard thing to come to terms with in many ways.. I also needed to know that i gave myself the opportunity to work in a different modes and areas.. Even if it is a complete f*cking failure I will know that I gave it my very best shot, and I felt that the beginning of this year was the right time to try and allow all of the ideas I’d had for so long come into fruition. There is an obvious structure to what the Pipettes do, and although I’m sure its evolving without me, I just felt I had personally come to the end of my time with it.

VP: Last year seemed to one of relentless touring, jetting all over the world, doing press, photoshoots etc is it difficult to adjust to “normality” when you’ve been through such an experience ?

ROSE: Admittedly last year was pretty mental and I had some really amazing experiences that I will never forget, but I don’t think any of us ever felt above our stations or anything, we were and are a pretty down to earth bunch… there was actually something really great about staying in the same place all year, and getting a job and getting in a position where I was able to focus on writing these songs. On the very rare occasions someone recognises me or brings up the band, it almost feels as though it wasn’t me, I find it all very surreal, a bizarre dream, but a pretty good one none the less….

VP: You’ve said you’ve been writing songs steadily for over a year, so can we assume there is at least albums worth? When do you hope to officially release any singles or an album even?

ROSE: I don’t know if ‘steadily’ is the right word, some months I will achieve loads, others have been less fruitful, but i have more than enough songs written, i just want to make sure that every single one is solid enough to get on the record. i would say I’m about 80-90% there, but I just want to make sure I’ve followed all of the little alleys and tributaries first. Hopefully I’ll start to record it by the end of the year, but there are plans formulating for maybe doing a little seven inch or something in the next couple of months.

VP: Would you say that you tend to write songs about personal experiences or are they rather more none specific?

ROSE: I obviously have the chance to be far more personal than I did before, and i would say that pretty much all of them are from my own experience or imaginings, but obviously influenced by observations of whats around me. Some of them are less specific than others in terms of reference point…..

VP: I’d imagine your output is going to be quite different from what we’ve previously heard, who would you say have been the major influences on your own sound?

ROSE: My approach to the song writing has been quite different to before, so it already is coming from a slightly different angle.. I’ve listened to a lot of Bridget St John, really fell in love with Hope Sandoval’s ‘Bavarian Fruit Bread’ album for a while, PJ Harvey.. I’ve always loved Broadcast, if I could get any where near the way their records sound I would be bloody chuffed… Yeah a lot of female singers, as ever, but then i got into quite a lot of more instrumentally focused music, such as The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Delius, Debussy, John Fahey…. And I listen to the radio a lot these days so all of that has seeped into the old brain I s’pose….

VP: How do you eventually envisage playing live, would you like a full band or would it be a more acoustic, minimal set up ?

ROSE: The live thing is something i have given a lot of thought to lately.. I’m hoping to play a couple of very very tiny little gigs in the next couple of months just so i don’t get completely out of the habit, and to test the songs out, and because I miss it so much, and that will probably be just me on my own..(terrifying) however I have no real desire to be a strict solo artist in that way, and I know the songs will need more to make them sound the way I want them to. I have always loved playing with other people and that exchange of ideas is one of the best things about music for me, so I’d eventually want a little group. Its not going to be a standard indie line up, but how big it gets will probably depend on how the record ends up sounding, and also the people I meet.. I will probably try and keep it below seven though, because organising that many people is a bloody military operation!

VP: Initially whilst in the Pips you were studying Art , do still you give your artistic talents a through work out, and would you maybe design your own cover art in the future.

ROSE: I left my art degree in a slight flurry of confusion and mayhem, and the nature of my course was very much about deconstructing and restructuring the ways in which you think about making work..I got to the deconstruction part but never made it to the restructuring, so I left feeling slightly unsure of myself… I really want to start painting again and have been doodling away for the last couple of years.. I would love to do my own artwork, but it the aesthetic would have to be right for the music, and if that doesn’t happen I have loads of far more talented friends who have all just graduated from art school who I’m sure would do a much better job than me!!!!

VP: What music have you been listening to in the last month?

ROSE: Apart from my own stuff (hahaha!!!), I like the Wild Beasts record, Altered Images, Lykke Li, loads of 60s psych my brother Tom brings round, my friends band Patrick Hamilton, quite like Ida Maria when she comes on the radio, ( I think she sounds like the sort of girl I would get on with although her band are a bit bland) um… we listen to loads of country in the bar I work in… got really into Big Star with my boss lately..

VP: Who’s the last band you saw live, that made you go “Wooo” ( if indeed you have ever gone “wooo”)

ROSE: I saw My Bloody Valentine the other week and if that doesn’t make you go ‘wooo’ I don’t know what will…

VP: Finally what was the last thing you watched on TV, the last thing you bought and the last thing that made you laugh (very “Smash Hits” I know)

ROSE: (Gonna sound like a ponse now..) just watched the culture show tonight, I went to the supermarket today and bought some broccoli and some tuna amongst other things, and the last thing that made me laugh was my lovely flat mate Olivia.. can’t remember what it was about but we do spend most days giggling…

Links

On Myspace

Last Fm

“Another Version Of Pop Song” is released on limited edition 7” through Scarlett records on December 8th 2008. It Can be pre-ordered here

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Hearts Of Darkness-International Jetsetters Interview

“Inside Out (Demo)” By International Jetsetters

“My Redemption (Demo)” By International Jetsetters

The Band: International Jetsetters : Who ? An Oxford-based five piece band formed by singer and guitarist Mark Crozer and bass player Bert Audubert. They were joined by Loz Colbert (formerly of Ride and who also had been working with Mark, initially in Jim Reid’s band and more recently in the reformed Jesus and Mary Chain.) The line up was completed with the addition of Mark’s younger brother Paul as a second guitarist and local singer Fi McCall…

The Music: So what’s it sound like? Well if I were to adopt the orotund NME style of grandiloquent writing I’d be quite likely compare it to “A sonic cathedral of sound awash with understated yet explosive frailty ” or “A swelling cacophony of cosmic beauty that pulses and throbs with a raw wantonness, whilst containing such power therein, that they could, quite possibly make distant stars implode.” Or even “Such is the majestic grandeur of their tunes, one could imagine that whilst Rome burnt , Nero found mere fiddling a woefully inadequate soundtrack to view such an epoch defining spectacle. He decreed his ears needed bathing in something suitably epic, thus he popped International Jetsetters on his Romanic I-pod.(© Pomum)”

There is of course a lot of truth in my NME style musings , but let’s keep it simple eh? As Nightshift magazine  said “they’re dark and dreamy but they rock like bastards.” International Jetsetters songs certainly do contain a swaggering majesty, a sweeping epic soundscape that recalls the more melody infused elements of the “shoegaze” scene. It goes without saying that fans of the Mary Chain, Ride and My Bloody Valentine will love the juxtaposition between the thundering drumming (does anybody hit a drum harder than Loz? ) swirling guitars and Mark’s Mary Chain meets The Beatles vocals or Fi’s voice, which ranges from etherial to pure rock n’roll. These ingredients allied to a strong pop sensibility should ensure their appeal reaches a wider audience then just those who are intent on peering from beneath their lank fringes to visually ponder their foot apparel in minute detail. We  spoke to Mark, Bert and Paul to find out all about their globe trotting jet-set lifestyle….

VP: How did the idea for the band start and how did the various members meet?

BERT: The band started when Mark was offered a solo gig in April 2007, and thought it would be cool to do it as a 3-piece. He asked me if I’d be up for playing bass, and Loz if he fancied hitting the drums… and so it was! I met Mark about 5 years ago, when we both found ourselves doing some fundraising for wild (wild! they were furious) west-country hedgehogs. Strange but true!

MARK: Bert and I had been writing and recording together already for a few years but had never really considered doing anything live until that gig came up. I asked Loz to play drums as I’d been working with him in Jim Reid’s band – which as a huge Ride fan was a total thrill – and I knew he’d be perfect. I didn’t really expect Loz to say yes and I think he was quite reluctant at first but he said he’d do it and now he’s totally into it. In fact the line up wasn’t completely solid at first as we did at least one show with another friend of ours on drums when Loz was busy with something else. It wasn’t until Paul and Fi came along that the band became a proper unit. After we’d been playing as a three piece for about four months we decided, well the band was more of a dictatorship then so I decided that we should have a second guitarist and we asked Paul if he wanted to join. He’s my brother in case you don’t know. We’d been in a band or two before in the distant past.

PAUL: I met Mark at home at a very early age. We pretty much decided to be in a band together before either of us could even walk, let alone play the guitar. Mark and Bert have lived together for quite a few years now, we’re not allowed to divulge the nature of their relationship for fear of upsetting the female fan-base (like when John Lennon got married to a horse). I met Bert in a pub, he was drunk. Mark used to have pictures of Loz up on his wall in 1988, so I guess that’s where they met, I think there was one where he’d cut out a photo of himself holding a guitar and stuck it in the picture with the rest of the band. I first met Fi at a gig where she was singing our songs instead of Mark, she sang them much better so we asked if she wouldn’t mind doing it again.

MARK: Hmmm… there are elements of the truth in there somewhere.

BERT: Fi and I were introduced by a mutual friend at my local village pub last summer.

VP: What have you released so far , and what future releases are planned?

MARK: Our debut EP “Heart is Black” is due out on Planting Seeds Records on Oct 7th though it’s coming out digitally first on September 21st. We’re planning at least one more EP and then hopefully an album. It’s taken quite a long time for this thing to come out even though we recorded the basic tracks for six songs in one day many months ago. For this first EP we basically recorded what we had at the time. Now we’ve got a lot more songs as everyone’s been writing, Bert and Fi in particular have been churning out songs. It’s impossible to keep up! When we do release an album it’s likely to be pretty evenly split between us in terms of the writing. It’s going to be quite varied vocally too as we all sing. Apart from Bert that is. We only let him near a microphone when we want to summon up the hounds of hell. Think of a cross between Alice Cooper and Brian Johnson from AC/DC, only… more evil-sounding.

VP: Does the band name sum up your lifestyle? In between the music is it all James Bond type spills and thrills and the quest to find the perfect marguerita?

BERT: In a word, yes! When we’re not pretending to live mild-mannered lives at the local village pub, we don brightly-coloured lycra costumes, and fight crime in exotic locations across the globe (sometimes after one marguerita too many!)

PAUL: Absolutely, I for one am quite a jetsetter in my daily life, being a regular user of the A12. Mark also jetsets in the Kirtlington area.

MARK: It’s all about margueritas. Actually the irony is that I came up with the name International Jetsetters as a joke because at the time I hardly went anywhere apart from to the local pub and village shop.

VP: What have been the highlights of the last 3 years or so?

BERT: Doctor Who, getting a new owner at the local pub, watching Mark, Loz and Fi play with The Jesus and Mary Chain at Brixton Academy, drinking margueritas at Coachella and just being in International Jetsetters with the best musicians, and loveliest people I’ve ever had the honour of knowing…Oh, and finding a £5 note in my wallet that I thought I’d lost.

MARK: I agree about Doctor Who. I think that £5 was mine though… Going to New York was a fun experience and it was great playing at the Punt, a one-night local music festival in Oxford. I think the best things are still to come though. I could tell you about the lowlights if you like. Playing a very badly-promoted local music festival in a huge field to about ten people at least half of whom were so off their heads they couldn’t even stand up…

VP: How did Fi feel about making her debut public performance with the Mary Chain at Brixton in 2007 (on “Just Like Honey”)

BERT: Aaargh!!

PAUL: Great!

MARK: Um… it seems like she has opted to let us answer for her. So… perhaps somewhere between “aaargh!” and “great!”

VP: Rumour has it that Mark was instrumental in the Mary Chain re-grouping.

MARK: Well, that’s really not true at all. I was instrumental in helping Jim Reid’s solo band get together as I introduced Jim and Loz in March 2006. I’d met Loz once briefly at a gig a few weeks earlier and I thought he’d be up for it. I managed to blag my way into the band too somehow.

VP: And what’s this I hear about a phone call from Jim (Reid) in which it was thought he was going to be asking for his guitar back ?

MARK: Yeah, that was quite funny. A few days before I’d received a number of emails from various promoters saying they’d read that the Mary Chain were getting back together. At the time I was sort of Jim’s unofficial booking agent. When I called Jim to find out if there was any truth in these rumours Julie answered the phone and confirmed that it was indeed true. I was totally stunned! Two or three days later I was in London doing a solo gig and it had gone really, really badly. There were only four or five people there and I came away thinking that I was going to quit music for good. Then later on, when I was waiting for the bus home, my mobile phone rang and it was Jim. My first thought was that he wanted his Gibson guitar back that had somehow ended up getting left at my place after a recording session. But in fact he was calling to ask me if I wanted to go to Coachella with the Mary Chain. I was utterly shocked. I was on cloud nine for a long time after that phone call. So… it just goes to show that you never know what’s going to happen even when things appear to be as bleak as they can get.

VP: What sort of music do you listen to these days, any new bands that grab you?

BERT: I tend to listen to a lot of local music, and stuff my friends are doing. There’s a great music scene in Oxford, and there has been for some time. Ride, Radiohead, Supergrass, The Young Knives, all great bands, and there are lots more who could easily join them on more of a world stage. Little Fish are a brilliant local band, who have just been signed, so keep an eye out for them, and rather than list loads of music here, take a look at Nightshift magazine and Oxford Music Scene magazine online. They both put a lot into what’s happening here, so, hey, check them out, have a listen to who they recommend, and make up your own minds.

MARK: I’m a big fan of Bat For Lashes, Editors, er… Jacques Brel… As for new bands… I can’t think of any in particular that I really love. I could list a hundred that I hate but that would just be nasty. Like Bert I tend more to listen to my friends’ bands. We did a gig a few months ago in Oxford with a band called Witches who are truly great.

VP: As previously mentioned the Mary Chain have regrouped , My Bloody Valentine and the House Of Love are back, Spiritualized are around are there any other bands you’d love to see back, from that era. How about Ride ?? 😉

BERT: Glen Miller and The Inkspots, possibly together actually.

MARK: I went to see The Chameleons when they reformed briefly a few years ago and they were great. I’m very happy about that as I never got to see them when they were around in the 80s. It would be great to see Ride reform of course. Just briefly though as I wouldn’t want to lose Loz!

VP: Five things that would improve the music industry?

BERT: 1. Remove the word “industry”. 2. More cash into local venues. 3. More education in schools on all aspects of music. 4. Put Simon Cowell in a sealed cardboard box. 5. Introduce scratch and sniff CD’s.

MARK: Oh, I dunno. I try not to think about the “industry” aspect as it depresses me and makes me want to jack it all in. Scratch and sniff CDs though… that’s a good idea. But how could you market a scratch and sniff mp3?? Maybe we could do a line of scratch and sniff International Jetsetters t-shirts permeated with the sweet smell of success. Ah… that’s so cheesy.

Links

On Myspace

Planting Seeds Records

Official Site

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Video

“I Will Not( Live) ” By International Jetsetters

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NB/ Thanks To Rob Dobbs and Neil Del Parto

The Boy Most Likely To….Stickboy Interview

“Pirouette” By Stickboy.

“To Do List” By Stickboy.

Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin “A simple boy made of sticks walked out into the forest one day to discover a little wooden instrument lying on the floor… after years of practice, this small piece of wood began making the most beautiful noises…..” and so was born “Stickboy” a Mancunian who is embarking on a one man musical adventure. He’s named after a character from Tim Burton ‘s Book “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories” who  features in the short poem“ Match Girl and Stickboy.” A cautionary tale regarding a boy of sticks, who falls for his perfect match, so to speak, only to be quite literally, consumed by the flames of desire…………as you do.

Stickboy has recently self released his first full length album “Under The Sleepy Moon” and has had one of his songs used for a national TV ad campaign in the UK, promoting the best way to cook up joints..….of New Zealand lamb, as well as having a song featured in US TV show “Gossip Girl.” On top of all that he’s released a number of limited edition EP’s through Piccadilly Records which sold out within seconds (well days!) and has  gained  the influential ears of Steve Lamacq, Tom Robinson and Marc Riley from BBC radio, which he stores on his bedside table in a large jar of formaldehyde.

Initially you might be seduced by the jaunty sound of some of Stickboy’s music, but delve a little deeper and you will note the wonderfully subtle nature of his lyrics.  Lines such as “I asked you about life/Oh why must we be? /You said I waste too much time on philosophy/you took out a book and pointed at clouds/and said would you rather be here or just floating around?” and continues “So I asked you about death/ asked where do we go?/Do we fall like the rain or melt like the snow ?” Genius !.Simon Cowell can F**k right off, this is real music, not the woeful cruise ship cabaret which he smugly pimps to an increasingly accepting, anesthesised audience.

Stickboy is due to perform a live session on Marc Riley’s 6 music show in September, a month that will also see the release of his first single, a split release featuring two Stickboy songs and two songs by his enchanting friend Run Toto Run. Stickboy’s name is Craig, but he likes to be called Elmo, this is his story….

VP: So what’s the story? How did you evolve into Stickboy? Do you play all the instruments yourself?

STICKBOY: The story is simple… I started writing songs mainly because I love recording and couldn’t find enough people to record… so I just recorded myself… and over time I guess I just got better at writing. Now I love writing just as much as recording. After I had got a few songs together I played them to friends and people seemed to really like them…. so I bought some little 7″ blank CDs and put an EP out in a record shop in Manchester . They sold out really quickly and I was getting calls from labels and all sorts…. I didn’t really know what to do I put a band together and did some shows in Manchester which was really good fun. On my recordings I do play everything myself… I have tried writing with people in the past but it just doesn’t really work for me.

VP: The name comes from the Tim Burton poem “Stick Boy and Match Girl.” Are you a Burton fan? Why did the name resonate with you, did you see parallels in your own life with regard to Stickboy’s plight and his demise in the flames of lust etc?

STICKBOY : Ha-ha errmmm yeh something like that…. well I guess I just love the book and I do rather like Tim Burton, there is always a child-like feel to his films but with a more sinister undertone which I guess could also said about my music. Most of my songs on the surface sound really happy but lyrical they are usually a little darker….

VP: Where do you get your ideas for songs and how would you describe your sound?

STICKBOY: I find inspiration in many things, everyday things, emotions, simple things. If you just look properly you can notice a lot. My sound is hopefully the sound of all these things. It’s probably also a mixture of what I grew up with from folk, to 60’s pop, to rock and some country influences too.

VP: Being from Manchester, has its musical heritage been an influence on you?

STICKBOY: I get asked this a lot. I don’t think its stereotypical sound has influenced me that much. I don’t think you’d know I’m from Manchester just by listening to my music. It’s been amazing in terms of the support I have got from radio, record shops, magazines etc and the fact there is so much amazing talent in the city makes me want to try harder and harder.

VP: Did you see the recent “most musical city” arts council poll which saw Manchester come in  third behind. Liverpool and Sheffield (which also bizarrely saw Leicester, home of Showaddywaddy and Engelbert Humperdinck, 4th and London a lowly 8th!!) How did Manchester react to that?

STICKBOY: When Manchester opens the Oasis museum is 2020 then maybe we will be back up there, after all it’s all about tourism right? Actually I’m not too bothered about this poll….. I don’t think we need to compete against other cities, as long as there are still plenty of new and exciting bands out there then that’s fine by me.

VP: So you’ve self released your album “Under A Sleepy Moon.” Is it a difficult process? Or does the “net effect” make artists much less reliant on major labels?

STICKBOY: It wasn’t really difficult, expensive yes, but not difficult. I wrote and recorded the album in about 3 months, I recorded it all at home, designed the CD packaging and got it all printed nicely onto digipaks and made it available exclusively through Piccadilly records in Manchester (www.piccadillyrecords.com). The net has definitely helped, especially sites like myspace where I have a good fan base. The CD has been selling all around the world. I also have 3 albums on I-tunes that are also doing pretty well.

VP: Gigs? Any planned ? When you’re on stage is it just you or do you get chums in to assist with the live sound?

STICKBOY: Well I used to have a 4-piece band backing me when I played live and I loved it that way….. But people move on and become busy so for a while I’ve just been writing and recording and now is the time when I’m thinking of sorting out a new band. It’s quite a hard process though, not just finding people that can play well and want to play someone else’s songs but also finding people who you really get on with. I’ve been invited to do a couple of radio sessions. I’m hoping to sort a band out for one of them. It’s on Sept 4th so I best hurry up!

VP: What sort of music have you been listening to lately?

STICKBOY: I listen to a lot of music; I spend far too much money on it. Not digital music, no, no, I don’t like that. CD or vinyl for me. I like to have packaging and something I can just put in the CD player in the car. Last few albums I got Bon Iver, Fleet foxes….. I constantly have Dylan and Neil Young on the player too.

VP: You state on myspace that you’d like to be called Elmo after the Sesame Street character, but why Elmo? There is a school of thought that considers Elmo an egocentric furry ball of limelight stealing malice and that he has ruined Sesame Street , in the same way that Scrappy Do destroyed the whole ethos of “The Scooby Doo Show?” What do you have to say about that sir? ; )

STICKBOY: Hahaha! My surname is Edmondson, Craig Edmondson is boring, and Elmo Edmondson has a certain ring to it. Simple as that.

VP: Finally what fills you with rage and conversely fills you with happiness and joy?

STICKBOY: Fills me with rage? People using unnecessarily complex words for no reason other than confusion……(VP: I agree, such behavior can lead to floccinaucinihilipilification) that aside….. People expecting music to be free…. I don’t understand that….. People don’t expect paintings or the cinema to be free but they do with music. I’m not really a big fan of the I-tunes way of getting music either…. people miss out on albums because they may have heard one song on the radio and just buy that one….. It’s like buying a 100 page book and only reading 10 pages of it. I do have my songs on I-tunes but only because its one of the only cost effective ways of making my music available worldwide. And happiness? Lying on the floor with candles, good music and a loved one.

Links

On Myspace

The Lost and Lonely Singles Club Records

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Video

“Blanket For The Lonely” (original live demo) By Stickboy

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The Von Pip Eisteddfod With Bethan Elfyn

“Motorcycle Emptiness” By Manic Street Preachers.

“(Drawing)Rings Around The World” By Super Furry Animals.

As a rather unpatriotic Englishman of Celtic descent, and being geographically in very close proximately to the Welsh border, I’ve always been a bit jealous of my Welsh neighbours. Not only do they have beautiful scenery, Ivor The Engine, their own secret language (which apparently is the oldest language in Britain going back some 4,000 years,) they also have a fine musical heritage. Unlike my birthplace, which can’t (or is unwilling to) step out of the shadow of a fairly reasonable 1960’s boy band, the Welsh scene seems far more forward looking, innovative and vibrant.

Through the ages there have always been Welsh folk willing to burst into song at the drop of a hat, however, as lovely as it was to hear Tom Jones singing about the “Green Green Grass Of Home,” it wasn’t until the 1990’s that a definite Welsh identity came to the fore. The emergence of bands such as The Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, Catatonia, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, et all, were hugely influential, gaining fans and critical acclaim in equal measure, whilst inspiring a phalanx of Welsh musicians. Bands/artists such as Feeder, The Victorian English Gentleman’s Club, Bullet For My Valentine, The Hot Puppies The Automatic, Euros Child, Funeral For A Friend, Los Campesinos, Duffy, Spencer McGarry and The School are just a small selection of Welsh musical talent, who demonstrate the exciting and diverse nature of new music that continues to pour forth from the “land of song.”

In England there have, of course, always been rather dubious jokes with regard to Welshness, whether it be about nervous sheep, big eared farm boys or aptly named emos called Liv Fast and Dai Young. But why? Do we somehow feel threatened or do we recognise on some level that in the “world irritation league” we are second only to America ? . Personally I think the answer is much more simplistic, one word, “caravans.” This attitude has been forged by our experiences whilst on holiday at Welsh caravan sites. We discovered, that as an English person, if you walk into the local camp shop, the staff, who were previously deep in conversation using the medium of English will stop dead, look you up and down and revert to their native tongue. As they proceed with their tête-à-tête in Welsh, they will occasionally glance at you, guffaw, and eventually (when they are quite ready) turn to you half- smirking and say “Can I help you sir?” This experience can lead to a strange sense of disquiet, and have you furtively checking your flies, which, if not done with a deft hand and a lightness of touch can lead to more humiliation in the shape of a visit from the local heddlu (the police, to me and you.) “Have you been scaring the ladies with your John Thomas boyo ?

Of course (most of ) the previous examples are absurd stereotypes and I therefore resolved to get to the bottom of all things Welsh, and discover what makes the home of Hannibal Lector, dragons, Dylan Thomas, leeks and erm.. Neil Kinnock, tick. During this investigation, I decided to ask questions that would cut through the fatty tissue of irrelevance and frippery and get straight to the heart of the matter ; Why are the valleys awash with talent and close harmony choirs? Why was the Charlotte Church show ever commissioned? Was Max Boyce ever really funny? Has Aled Jones’ voice broken yet? Why didn’t my music teacher look like Katherine Jenkins ? And Owain Glyndŵr ; Just what was his problem ? Well who better to start off with than Radio 1’s Bethan Eflyn , whose has been championing bands from Wales for many a year, a bit like John Peels Welsh sister .. I quizzed her about  all things Welsh, past and present and hoped she wouldn’t randomly start laughing, break into the tongue of her forefathers and thus invoke those strange feelings of disquiet once more….

VP: What is it about Wales that seems to constantly produce innovative and exciting music?

BETH: The constant in-breeding has produced lots of odd people! Ha, no, I like to think that we’re a creative, artistic Nation. Some of the earliest British poetry on manuscript is Welsh dating back to the 6th Century, and the Bards are still lauded today, whether in Pop or in literature. Also the landscape truly is exceptionally inspirational, dynamic, dangerous and unruly – reflecting how we feel as a Nation. When you grow up with such sights, how can you not think of the bigger picture and aim for the stars, rather than wallow in the gutter?

VP: When did you first get bitten by the musical bug ?

BETH: I grew up in a small market town called Newtown in Mid-Wales, and like all young girls, I loved my pop, and my early records were all Top of the Pops influenced purchases from my local Woolworths (A-ha, Bros, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Shakin Stevens, Kylie etc etc 80s heaven!). At 17 I did some travelling, working in a hotel in France over the summer of my 6th form years, there I met some punks from Northern Ireland, and overnight became a teenage nightmare! Suddenly I was blasting Hole, Babes in Toyland, Sex Pistols, the Smiths and Manic Street Preachers from my sulky bedroom.

VP: How did you get involved with BBC radio?

BETH: After my degree I trained as a journalist at Cardiff Uni, and my first job was with BBC Radio Cymru in Bangor, North Wales. I was responsible for lots of programmes, magazine shows, news, politics, but I soon naturally gravitated towards the evenings where music seems to have more of a priority. During my time here I worked on a Concert to Save Snowdon and this is where I met some of the Radio One team who developed the idea of a Welsh show as part of Radio One. Needless to say I started harrasing them on a regular basis.

VP: You’re renown for your championing of new bands from Wales (and beyond), what of the current crop of new and exciting bands? Who would you recommend ?

BETH: Agh! Every day there’ll be a new band on my mind. Today, I’m listening to intelligent rock from Tiger Please Also, I can’t believe how much I love love love I Am Austin, that I heard for the first time last week, And as I’m the middle of Eisteddfod week while I write this, I’ve also been enjoying a few new Welsh language bands, Yucatan (heavily influenced by Sigor Ros), Cyrion (new spicy electronica), and Jen Jeniro (laid back vibe with a distinct early SFA overtones). The Cardiff bands scene has also been pretty exciting over the last year with names like The Muscle Club, Kutosis, Hemme Fatal, The School, Little My and Truckers of Husk doing great things. Like I said, argh, the list is endless!

VP: What are your favourite five albums of all time and why ?

BETH: Manic Street Preachers Generation Terrorists (representing my teenage rebellion years) Joni Mitchell Blue (for when I’m feeling blue) Teenage Fanclub Bandwagonesque (I love the melodies and the grungey guitars) Gorkys Zygotic Mynci Patio (genius songs and the start of a long love affair with the prolific Euros Childs and gang) Gram Parsons Grevious Angel (for the harmonies with Emmy Lou, my introduction to Country, a cool dude, a mad story and rock and roll at its best)

VP: Who would you say have been the most influential Welsh artists of say the last ten years?

BETH: Tom, Shirl, Shakey, Manics, etc are all there saying its possible to go from a local boy to live your dreams but I’d say the stand out band for me are the Super Furry Animals. They’ve inspired generations with their amazing ideas, songs, baffling and incredible live productions and now Gruff Rhys in Neon Neon is still doing it. I don’t know how that man copes with his own head. They’ve been a one band punk rock revolution!

VP:  What have been your favourite sessions performed on your Radio shows over the years?

BETH: So many memories, its always the stripped down and personal sessions that stay in mind. Gosh, this answer would take me forever! My first session of BBC Introducing with Attack and Defend was brilliant and exciting, as we had the run of the BBC at Midnight for the first time and I love the band, also, I loved the Funeral for A Friend acoustic back in 2004 in our Studio 3, with a small audience of comp winners – they were really freaked by the intimacy and the tension and Matt’s personality made it special. Or the Christmas barn show we did in North Wales with the Pippettes and Zabrinsky, with a roaring log fire in the middle of the huge hall – gorgeous! I’m also, proud of the fact that we’ve been there championing music of all kinds of genres from Lostprophets to Moldy Peaches! No boundaries!

VP: Have you been to any music festivals this year , who has impressed you?

BETH: I’ve been to more than I expected. Sonar in Barcelona was incredible with Soulwax playing live dance for an hour with a live band – it was bonkers. At Latitude, I enjoyed a.P.A.t.T. At Goodtimes festival in Wrexham it was all about James Yuill and I have Underage, Greenman, Reading and maybe Bestival still to come.

VP: Playlists? Is there a better way?

BETH: Too much power in a few hands. Even if part of the playlist were chosen by the public, there’s no guarantee that it would change anything. Lets face it, people who like music are in the minority, for most music is just a fun thing in the background that they sing along to occasionally, and dance to at weekends.

VP: The Vinyl Vendettas whats all that about then?

BETH: Its a fun pass time that’s become a bit of a monster. A gang of my friends, who all do wicked jobs in the music industry, started Djing together, and now we have a residency at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff on Saturday nights, and play at loads of festivals. We DJ all kinds of music, and from any genre, but you’ll likely hear rock n roll from the 50s next to Foals next to some cheesy 80s number. We sometimes dress up if we feel like it, and always always cause a stir! (www.myspace.com/thevinylvendettas or facebook group: The Vinyl Vendettas Saturday Night Dance Off). VP: Five welsh words to sum up how you feel about music? BETH: Curiad. Cariad. Calon Popeth. Antur. The Beat. Love. The Heart of Everything. Adventure.

Bethan Elfyn presents “BBC Introducing ” on Radio 1 Wales.

Beth on Myspace

Musings On Wales and Welshness

When we were selling out the Millennium Stadium – we didn’t enjoy it like we should have. We asked, “If we’re this popular, does that mean we’re shit?” Something in the Welsh psyche rejects success: there’s a self-destructive streak. The place is littered with people like us.
Nicky Wire (Manics)

“The Welsh are all actors. It’s only the bad ones who become professional.
Richard Burton

“I would like to go back to Wales. I’m obsessed with my childhood and at least three times a week dream I am back there”
Anthony Hopkins

“Wales is the land of my fathers. And my fathers can have it.”
Dylan Thomas

“I always feel a bit guilty when Catherine Zeta Jones talks to me and I can’t converse with her in Welsh.
Tom Jones

Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name BZJXXLLWCP is pronounced Jackson.”
Mark Twain

“Why ask me , I’m not Welsh?”
Matthew Horne (Gavin & Stacey)

My name it is Dai Young/I’m the king of Welsh Goth/The village I come from, is near Abersoch. I was brought up on Bauhaus/And black bedroom walls/And I had my first snakebite/When I was in halls.”
Nigel Blackwell (“With Goth On Our Side”)

And Finally former Welsh international football captain, Ian Rush, proves the density of a footballers head , cares not a jot for nationality, it’s universal ;

“Moving from Wales to Italy is like moving to a different country.

“Patio Song” By Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci

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Matinée Idols…Northern Portrait Interview

“Crazy” By Northern Portrait.

“I Give You Two Seconds Entertain Me” By Northern Portrait.

When you think of Denmark what would immediately spring to mind? Vikings? Hamlet? Hans Christian Anderson, perhaps? Peter Schmeichel ? Helena Christenson? Maybe Scooby Doo? Feeling hungry? Well how about some bacon and pickled herring, or some blinis, followed by “quail in coffins” and a nice tray of Danish pastries all washed down with a flagon of Carlsberg Lager. After a feast to rival Babette’s , it’s time for some entertainment, in musical terms Denmark to its eternal credit has produced the Raveonettes, surely one of the finest bands ever to emerge from Scandinavia. There is however a flip side, and for those who wouldn’t recognise a good tune if it beat you over he head with a shovel, fear not Denmark has catered for you too, in the form of Alphabeat and Aqua. Two bands who will surely one day stand trial in Nuremberg charged with crimes against music.  But what of the place itself? Well, Denmark was recently found to be “the happiest place in the world” (I can’t help but think that this could be possibly due to the fact that Aqua’s infuriating hit “Barbie Girl” drove the Danes completely ga-ga some years ago) It also ranks as the second most peaceful country in the world, after Iceland (with added bonus of no Bjork)and the nations capital Copenhagen, was ranked the most “liveable city in the world.” Possibly not, you may think, the sort of fertile breeding ground for soulful Morrissey fans to gather and try and make sense of the world through the medium of music…Or is it?

Well one such band is Northern Portrait, a group who create songs full of spine tingling heartache and desolate beauty such as “ The Operation Worked But The Patient Died” “I Give You Two Seconds to Entertain Me,” and “ A Quiet Night In Copenhagen.” One listen to these chaps should convince you that misery hasn’t sounded this good since The Smiths held sway.. Many bands have been influenced by Morrissey and Marr, some have self consciously tried to replicate them, there have been many pretenders to the throne but Northern Portrait have issued a bold statement of intent with their wonderful debut EP “The Fallen Aristocracy” which bears all the hallmarks of a band destined for great things. Judging by the reaction on various music forums (or fora) the often notoriously hard to please fans of Morrissey and The Smiths appear to have given Northern Portrait their wholehearted seal of approval and the band have still yet  to make their live debut ! We took a “reel around the fountain” with the band’s singer and songwriter Stefan Larsen to find out more…

VP: How did Northern Portrait come together?

STEFAN: The band was formed when the three of us decided to record ‘Crazy’ the lead track from our first output called ‘The Fallen Aristocracy EP’. Michael (who’s the drummer) and I have played in bands together since we were children and Rune is a close friend, so for us to start a new band together, dedicated to record what we are calling sophisticated guitar pop, seemed quite natural.

VP:  It would be fair to say you’ve been influenced by Morrissey and The Smiths, what other music has left an impression on you on you?

STEFAN: Many things have left an impression over the years: Being the main songwriter I must say that the whole period of what is known as Britpop was jolly inspiring. My favourites are Pulp and the first couple of Suede records, but many other groups made absolutely splendid music back then. Since we joined Matinée Recordings and people started writing blog entries and comments about our music, I’ve discovered many groups that I didn’t know the existence of, like The Sundays, Trash Can Sinatras, etc. and the whole catalogue of Sarah Records, which I now see as the tastiest buffet from which I can pick (or steal, if you like) the ideas I find most suitable for our band. I’m really into the other Matinée bands as well and I think that is gonna be quite audible on our debut album. Also, as a singer, there are some of the great voices I need to mention, because I view many of them as great influences on the music I write; Frank Sinatra, Chris Isaak and Scott Walker are probably the most important.

VP:  One of my favourite bands, The Raveonettes are from Copenhagen, what’s the music scene like there, is it influenced by the UK scene in anyway or does the American scene hold sway with music fans ? (Or neither!)

STEFAN: Well, actually I must admit that I am joyfully unaware of most of what’s going on here in Denmark, because most of the notes I occasionally hear coming from the radio sound completely horrible to me. For some reason and with only a few exceptions the Danish equivalent to the BBC keeps cherishing the most awful music imaginable. There are of course glimpses of light through those dark clouds being spread by useless radio DJs; though you probably don’t know him, I really like Jens Unmack whom I have to mention. He sings in Danish. Apart from him, it’s been ages since I bought an album by a Danish artist. Therefore I cannot really say whether the music scene is more inspired by the British or the American – I simply don’t know. For good Scandinavian music you should take a listen to the bands from Gothenburg; our labelmates The Electric Pop Group, Shelflife group Days, and unsigned Tell Us About The Moon are astonishing.

VP: What have you released so far?

STEFAN: We’ve released two Eps ‘The Fallen Aristocracy EP’ and ‘Napoleon Sweetheart EP’, and are currently working on what is to become our debut album. Then we’ve made a contribution to a cover version project called Rewind, so if you count that as a release, we’ve also released a cover version of Cliff Richard’s ‘Some People’.

VP: Did you say “Cliff? ” Why Cliff ??? (No not Wyclef! 😉 )

STEFAN: The reason why we chose to record the Cliff Richard track is that the contribution had to be an 80s song, and that we didn’t want to do anything by our own main sources of inspiration. ‘Some People’ seemed like a good choice for us because the song in it’s original form is so awfully dull with absolutely nothing happening musically except layers of keyboards, the lyrics are quite neutral and the melody line is really simple and very fine indeed, I think. And then, of course, it isn’t the most obvious choice of song which I think is good. Sometimes I think it’s nice to be surprised by the unexpected, and I hope people feel the same about our version of ‘Some People’.

“Some People” By Northern Portrait

VP:  Any plans to tour in the UK in any capacity yet?

STEFAN: We’ve had unbelievably big problems finding some extra musicians for live purposes. And we have therefore not yet been able to make any live commitments, which is really sad, because the few rehearsals we’ve had so far have been really promising, I believe. We would of course love to tour the whole world, and have received invitations to play many in different countries, some of them quite exotic and all of them very exciting. We just have to find the right people to do it with. We could of course include some pre-recorded tracks and play just the three of us, but we really want it to be all-live.

VP:  As mentioned you are huge fans of Morrissey, what is it about Mozza that still inspires such devotion and loyalty?

STEFAN: I think he’s maintained an incredibly high standard through the years. With only very few exceptions all his songs, The Smiths and solo, have something beautiful to offer. Also, his concerts are really an experience above the ordinary. Quite a good mixture, I suppose.

VP: What are your plans for the coming year?

STEFAN: Release more records, and start playing live (please). We also have plans to do some videos.

VP: What are the three greatest albums ever released? (And why? )

STEFAN:Impossible to reduce my greatest albums list to only three, but these three are some of my favourites; Different Class (by Pulp), Songs For Swinging Lovers (by Frank Sinatra) and Hatful of Hollow (by The Smiths)

VP:  What would you say has been Denmark’s biggest contribution to the world to date?

STEFAN:There’s a Danish soda called Tuborg Squash that I’m completely sure would become a worldwide success, beating Coca-Cola any day, if somebody would buy the export rights and start selling it all over the world, but since that is only a latent contribution to the world, I’ll go for something as abstract as Danish furniture design.

VP: Sum up your music in five words (English and Danish)

STEFAN:1 Sophisticated 2 guitar 3 based 4 indie 5 pop

1 Sofistikeret 2/3 guitarbaseret 4indie 5pop

“The Operation Worked But The Patient Died” By Northern Portrait

Links

On Myspace

On Matinée Records Site

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