Going For Gold- Dan Smith Interview

“Words Are Words” By Dan Smith

Comparisons have always been a popular device when trying to convey meaning and  help the reader understand how the author feels about a particular subject. Shakespeare ironically wrote “comparisons are odorous” but was himself, of course, a master of the art.  When writing about music, comparison is  always a handy tool and is often  deployed in a frenzy of carefree abandon and spiteful glee  in order to familiarise the reader with a new artist or song . For example  comments such as  “If pop music’s death rattle is ever recorded, I have no doubt  it would be packaged and labeled simply “Robbie Williams- “Rudebox” ” or   “U2’s  latest, lamentable offering would surely have induced in Van Gogh, an overwhelming  desire to hack  his  remaining ear off,  in an act of mercy to spare his senses from further punishment” or even “This is what it would sound like if Beth Ditto found herself  trapped inside a telephone box with a hyperactive kangaroo called Mister Roy ”, would all give the reader an insight into how the reviewer felt. Comparisons are also used to contrast  a new artist with something familiar, giving the reader a reference point from the past.  eg/  “ imagine Debbie Harry in her prime, covered in sugar, wrestling with The Go-Go’s in a vat of honey, yes it’s that sweet”, and I’m certainly not one to buck the trend.

So when I tell you that new artist Dan Smith, sounds like the lovechild of  Ben Folds and Tori Amos or that if Reina Spektor had a brother, who went to University  in Leeds and maybe briefly dated Kate Nash, then  Dan Smith would be that brother, you might get a sense of what Dan Smith is about.  “Folds-ian” keyboards and strings punctuate Dan’s songs, as his vocals seem to effortlessly hit a startling array of notes, add to the mix  a collection of contemporary tales from the urban prairie,  a dash of wry, observational wit and you could say there is indeed musical  “Alchemy” at play here . It certainly seems that Dan has a bright future, having won the Leeds’ Bright Young Things competition in  in 2007. Since then he’s toured  London and the UK, supporting the likes of Kid Harpoon, Frank Turner and VV Brown, alternating between impressive solo shows and full band extravaganzas incorporating drums, bass and strings.  2009 could well see  Dan being the man, and we had a chat about the issues facing the music bizz, and his own hopes and ambitions for the coming year .

VP: Was music something you’d be involved in from a young age, or was it something that developed as a teenager?

DAN: At my junior school I was the biggest music geek. I was in all the choirs and orchestras and little music groups and musicals that I could get my hands on. Then I grew up a bit and moved schools, and unsurprisingly suddenly found it all really embarrassing, so I almost completely stopped playing and practicing. I wish I’d been able to strike some kind of balance, but apparently I didn’t understand what moderation was. Anyway, I started messing around playing other people’s songs and then writing my own when I was about 15. Man, that was a long answer.

VP:  What sort of bands/ artists do you admire (past and present?)

DAN: I love people who experiment with their sounds, obvious people likes The Beatles and Bowie – who can sound totally different from album to album and even song to song. And I love that I get to hear all of their work and how they developed and changed. Although I guess it would have been really cool to have been born a few decades earlier and see them develop over the years. Now days I admire people who are able to just make the music they want to, write intelligent lyrics and pop songs that are both innovative and accessible. I love Antony and The Johnsons and
Regina Spektor who are both individual and diverse at the same time. I’d love to be like them.

VP: Your single “Alchemy/Words Are Words” is released on (2/02/2009), what are the ideas behind the songs?

DAN: Words are Words” is an irreverent song about taking stuff less seriously, but it also gave me the chance to record a proper strings part. Man it is a bit cringe-worthy trying to define my songs.  “Alchemy” is a kind of “f*ck you” to people who think that you need to write totally conventional pop songs to be heard. But it is also a song that moves on and develops and is very different at the end to how it was at the beginning – I love songs that go off in directions you aren’t expecting. I decided to release a double A-side because I couldn’t choose which song to release. I find it really hard picking a song to put out there which is going to represent me and which people are going to assume I think is my best song. So I’m looking forward to putting out an EP to give a broader impression of my music.

VP: Some songwriters write about love, about politics, about their inner turmoil and some even write songs about ladies “booties”!! Would you say there’s an underlying theme to your song writing?

DAN: My songs are mainly stories based on things I’ve heard or ideas I’ve had.

VP: Will you be undertaking tour/gigs on the back of the release?

DAN:
Yeah, I’m going on tour at the end of February and beginning of  March,  all over the UK. I’m so excited because it is my first tour and it’ll be  awesome getting to know some venues around the country.

VP: A lot of performers get nervous before going on stage? Do you have any strange pre-gig rituals?

DAN:
I get absolutely terrified before gigs. For my first few gigs ever, I was an absolute babbling wreck. So I went through a phase of drinking loads beforehand, which was a terrible idea, so those gigs went really  badly seeing as I couldn’t coordinate playing the piano and the loop pedal and all that percussion stuff. It was horrific. Anyway, I don’t  think I have any rituals these days, but I definitely don’t get drunk before gigs, I just try to distract myself and not think about it and eat or something.

VP: What else is planned for 2009?

DAN:
A bunch more recording which should be fun. I want to write loads more songs, and I’m also going to release an E.P. quite soon after the singles and do a couple of tours and hopefully some festivals.

VP: Although many people are very open minded about musical styles and genres these days, is there one style that you just don’t “get”, and that has you scurrying towards the radio to switch channels?

DAN: I think the only thing I can’t get into is screamo and metal. And europop. Eugh. I hate it when people say stuff like “oh, that’s just not music – how can you like it”, but to be honest those genres would both make me scurry toward the radio and throw it out the window and then throw something else out on top of it.

VP: In terms of music is the internet more of a help than a hindrance? Is “Filesharing” the work of Lucifer or is it just music fans sharing their enthusiasm and spreading the word?

DAN:
I love using the internet to listen to other people’s music so I’m not really one to talk. Obviously we are so many years away from huddling round a record player listening to a long awaited LP with our friends. That would have been fun to experience, but there is something very cool about someone recommending something to you and you being able to go off and listen to it straight away. I’d like to think that generally people will buy something if they really like it but I’m probably being desperately naïve and optimistic.  Hmm, I don’t really know what I  think, because I do think it is sad that lots of people don’t give a shit about whole albums. I’m not really in a position to be making any money from sales yet so it doesn’t really affect me. I’m sure if it ever does I’ll be annoyingly opinionated about it like Metallica when they  took down Napster.

VP: What would you say is your most annoying habit?

DAN: Probably self-deprecation and nervousness. They make me socially paralysed and get really boring after about 5  minutes.

VP:  Five words to describe your present mood?

DAN: Nervous, nervous, nervous, nervous, nervous

Links

On Myspace

Wallpaper

Video

“(Ir)revernce” By Dan Smith

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Dogwood Investigates..The Trouble With Prog Rock

Hello Dogwood here

Settle Down

When I were a young buck, strutting my C&A suit down Preston Precinct sidestepping the suedeheads, bootboys and northern soul patrol, I would sometimes stumble upon another sect.  This lot went round in Army surplus great coats, flared jeans and turtle neck sweaters.  They would be reading Carlos Castaneda or Tolkien and under their arm would be a selection of long-players bearing bewildering names such as Hatfield and The North, Blodwyn Pig, Barclay James Harvest and Argent.

Such lethargy, mumbled vowels and body odour I had never come across and when they did occasion themselves to speak they would introduce themselves as ‘Gandalf’ or ‘Elfrud Orcslayer of Blackburn’ who was really Kevin Burns from down my street.

This was Prog Rock and during the dark ages of the early to mid seventies, a bunch of middle class university educated goons single-handedly attempted to rip music away from the grubby working class hands where it belongs and take it to some country pile owned by Lord and Lady Daddy and Mummy.  Never before had the country faced such a class threat and it was down to me, Dogwood, to sound the clarion call to storm the Bastille of Uriah Heep, dismantle the outer defences of Can, lay siege to the battlements of Yes and finally slay the imp known as Wakeman.  I am the destroyer of Prog Rock and I accept your muted admiration.

Now I’m getting a little carried away with myself so let’s start at the beginning.  Like many an innocent I was enchanted by ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ by Greg Lake.  Now, there was a time when I actually DID believe in Father Christmas but that’s when I were a lad and would get a Lonnie Donnigan 78 in my stocking along with an oxo cube, some fishing line and a cobnut.  When I bought said Greg Lake record I was beyond believing but I liked the tune and spent many an evening making out with my Norwegian girlfriend at the time – Agnes – as it played.  Like many other innocent fools I then made a mental leap – if I like this effort by Greg Lake then maybe I would like the efforts of Emerson Lake and Palmer or ELP as my fellow radio jock at Dark Satanic Mills (a seventies Lancastrian community radio station) Fido Lomax would enthuse.  Well I went and bought an ELP LP and at the end of it all I was a brooding mass of Anglo-Saxon vengeance hell-bent on taking an invasion force and sailing the Topographic Ocean to assault the heartland of what was known as ‘Prog Rock’.

It’s easy now to get confused and wonder why such harmless noodlings would be enough to illicit such rage within me when there were other wordly problems such as the Oil Crisis, the 7 Day Week and Sir Robert Charlton’s troubled tenure as player-manager of my beloved Preston North End.  One of my friends Sandra-Joyce who tends towards the more hippy side of the spectrum would doubtless find nothing more wonderful than the prospect of stumbling in a Forest clearing, discovering a secret Jethro Tull gig and then throwing off her clothes in the frenzy of a Prog Rock ‘happening’.  That was the seventies, you could hardly fail to walk head-first into a bunch of would be Druids doing the ‘Bump’ to Pink Floyd in the middle of the local woods whilst out on a Sunday Ramble.

Whilst we tried to retain what little sense there was of seventies society by gathering round the old goggle-box to watch ‘The Brothers’, whole tribes of long-haired gadabouts were swaying in fields to the Solistic chants of the likes of Genesis.  Everywhere I looked, I saw a country in the grip of madness, at any time the Soviets might invade and what would be our response?  A slightly disinterested glance from a bunch of Sociology students hunting for Magic Mushroom while listening to Yes on their Dancettes in their Snowdonian Tepees.

No amount of Pete Murray or Gordon Honeycomb could seem to jolt a minutes worth of common sense into these bearded dolts, and the blokes weren’t much better either.  I went to a Dinner Party hosted by a friend who was big in carpet underlay in the Black Country and was surprised that his erstwhile loyalty to Ambrose Slade had been replaced by a devotion to Mike Bloody Oldfield.  We had to work our way  through our Prawn cocktail starter, a steak and crinkle cut chips  maincourse, and Arctic Roll for afters listening to some twerp saying things like ‘electric guitar – slightly distorted’ or ‘Oboe – with the reed removed’.  An evening of good food but an aural wankathon is the best way to describe that night.

Time spent trying to write odes to the Misty Mountain or Path to Gondor seemed to pre-occupy seventies musicians and we ended going back to some mythical medieval landscape where Lutes were making a comeback and codpieces mandatory wear.

Just as this plague of flaccid thinking threatened to overcome Britain, Punk Rock happened and like the Barbarians spotting a bloated Rome ripe for the taking, they set about making a corpse of Prog Rock.  The new order were harsh, Stalinist in their thinking and straight in the trouser department – but it was enough to puncture the Led Zeppelin and send it burning to the ground.

So there you are.  The trouble with Prog Rock is…it’s crap.

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Eggstra Special-Lizzyspit Interview

“Little Dan” By Lizzyspit

“Oi Cowell” have a listen to this, but beware it might confuse you; it contains something that you’re not really that well acquainted with, yes that’s right, REAL talent. Sorry Simon, but there’s nobody murdering “Hallelujah” here, or warbling the “I Will Always Love You” type standards that provide the oxygen of life for your lamentable variety show “The Crap Factor” . This is an alien concept to Simon, a man who lives in a creativity vacuum, but here we have a young lady who plays guitar and writes her own songs. Somebody who possesses an exquisite, soulful voice, full of charming innocence, uncontrived quirkiness and youthful yearning. But don’t mistake innocence for naivety, Lizzyspit is nobodies fool, she dedicates her album “Egg box”To the boys and girls who have hurt me and the boys and girls I’ve hurt”

It’s an album full of wit, melody, longing and eloquence. To describe something as “lovely” could make it sound a little twee, but Lizzy’s voice is lovely without ever being twee. It’s just Lizzy and her guitar, nothing else is required, as she sings “I don’t need a drummer to make a beat/if it’s in your heart then it’s in your feet”. And do you know what? She’s right, she doesn’t, her sweet-sounding voice carries everything, and no amount of auto-tuning Cheryl Cole’s squeaky bleat could achieve such natural melody, and produce such an intimate and rewarding listen. I must confess I love this album, it’s a real gem and Lizzyspit should be getting mentioned in the same breathe as your Mercury nominated Laura Marlings, because she has got something that Cowell and his hellish legion of the bland could never manufacture, “raw talent.”

VP: Ello Lizzy, when did you first start writing lyrics and playing the guitar?

LIZZY: Hello!! Let me see, I wrote my first song when I was 16. Up until then, I’d been having classical singing lessons, but after a good few years, felt I wanted to sing the way I wanted to sing. So, I taught myself the guitar because I wanted to be cool, and wrote some very dismal songs about boys who didn’t love me. They were awful, and there was a different one everyday. A song and a boy! Seriously though, they just lacked maturity and experience.

VP: Your lyrics seem personal so from your statement “To the boys and girls who have hurt me and the boys and girls I’ve hurt, without you my songs wouldn’t exist.”  “It’d be safe to assume many are based on real experiences?

LIZZY:
Very much so. When I’ve been hurt, or want something I can’t necessarily have, I have hundreds of words/lyrics that come spilling out. I take everything that happens to me to heart, and if I couldn’t get them out in music, I’m not sure what I’d do. I think I’d be deeply unhappy. Then again, I find it quite difficult to put happy songs together, because I worry they sound really cheesy!! It’s something i’ve been working on though, and hopefully my new material (coming soon!) will show that!

VP: Do you think people can relate to and recognise themselves in your songs?

LIZZY: I’d like to think so, a lot of people have said ‘that song is so me‘ or ‘omg, I know exactly how you feel‘ so that always makes me feel happy that I’ve managed to cause a reaction. Up until October 2007, my songs, in my personal opinion, were the type of songs that only girls could relate too. But then I went to New Zealand for a month and something inside me clicked, I came home and suddenly my songs were different. It was really REALLY weird, but something I am thankful for!! I sound weird don’t I? Anyway, now I think that anyone who experienced the things I did, will be able to find something in the music.

VP: How long did it take you to record the album “Egg box” What unusual recording process’s did you use?

LIZZY: In total, it took me about 3 months, I became a hermit and hardly saw my friends because I spent every spare hour I had sitting in my eggboxed room (sound proofing!). Looking back, I should have taken pictures, I’d made a weird dalek type booth out of egg boxes, and I thought it looked cool! I also ended up with headphone dents in my head! I used a toy xylophone for stars in the water, a shaker egg, my guitar as a drum. The whole thing is really lo-fi what you hear is what you get kidna thing.

VP: What sort of music do you listen to these days?

LIZZY: All sorts, my favourite genre is classic rock, because that’s what I grew up on thanks to the parents. But, at the moment I’m loving Elbow, they are such an incredible band, I find it weird that I’ve only just got into them, but am enjoying listening to all their older stuff.

VP: When you play live gigs do you, get nervous, do you have any pre-gig superstitions?

LIZZY: I always get nervous; I’d think something was seriously wrong if I didn’t. But as soon as I start singing, I tend to forget my nerves and just sing, the nerves kick in when I have to speak to the audience because I always crack awful jokes, but I can’t stop myself. My superstitions: I wear an Angus Young (AC/DC) badge for my gigs because he rocks. And I don’t know, it makes me think I too could rock! 🙂

VP: Talking of gigs is it just you and a guitar up there or are others involved?

LIZZY: At the moment it’s just me and my guitar, but am hoping in the future that I can do something different with other musicians, I’m going into the studio in February and working with a live band, so it’ll be great to see what I sound like with a band behind me. I can’t wait! If I do ever have my own band, I’d like to call it Lizzy and the Spits. Sounds a bit old fashioned, but I like that!

VP: What’s been your biggest thrill since getting involved in music?

LIZZY: There are two things. One: finding out I’d been played on BBC Radio 2, and two: playing to any audience. I know it sounds totally cheesy, but nothing has given me the sense of excitement and feeling of happiness that performing does. It’s really weird and I find it difficult to explain, but I just hate coming off the stage, even if people were throwing cabbages at me, I think I’d find it really hard to leave. It’s like stepping into a different world.

VP: A double A side single “Little Dan” and “Stars In The Water” is released on 23rd Feb. Can you tell us a thing or two about these songs? “Stars In The Water” quite different from the other songs on the album

LIZZY: Yes, different is the word I was hoping for. I wanted to do something that stood out as a stand alone track on the album.  It’s about one moment in your life. Well, it was about one moment in my life last summer I had as I stood by a swimming pool at night, and I could see the stars reflecting in the water, but I was also blubbering about something that had happened to me and my tears had blurred what I was seeing, so I just wrote about that one moment. Which is why it only has one verse. I have plans to write a part two one day, but I haven’t had moment that can follow it yet.

VP: What other exciting plans do you have lined for 2009?

LIZZY: I’m recording with a live band; I’m planning to do a home made tour (everything is pretty much home-made with me!) I want to learn a new instrument and I’m hoping to ditch my own label and move onto a big Indie one. Fingers crossed. I’m super excited though!

VP: What’s the first single you bought? And the first album?

LIZZY
: Errrr this is really embarrassing. Single: Hanson Mmmm Bop and album: Brotherhood by… 3T (Michael Jackson’s nephews…I was OBSESSED!!).

VP: If your press shuffle on your I-pod what are the first five songs that appear?

LIZZY:
mmmbop… not really!

1. Guns and Roses – Welcome To The Jungle
2. The Knife – Heartbeats
3. The Doors – Touch Me
4. Elbow – Don’t Mix Your Drinks
5. The Enemy – You’re Not Alone

VP: Five words to describe your music?

LIZZY:

1. Honest
2. Slightly odd
3. Lo-Fi
4. Home-made
5. Different

VP: Cheers Lizzie it’s an eggscellent album!

LIZZY: Thank you very much, glad you liked it!! 🙂 x

Links

On Myspace

Buy Album

Wallpaper

VIDEO

“Not After This” Live By Lizzyspit

Worlds Apart” Live By Lizzyspit

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Specific Heights-Soma High Interview

“End Of The Line” By Soma High.

Appearances can be deceiving, take south coast band Soma High, they look like a nice respectable bunch of lads, mums and dads would quietly nod their approval if their daughters brought them home to sleepy suburbia for a spot of tea and buns……But never judge a book by its cover, Soma High’s debut EP, “Lo Fat” is a different beast altogether, and is set to explode across the pop firmament sounding like some sort of 21st century synth thrash version of the Sex Pistols. Guitars slice through electro beats and soaring vocals create a huge wall of sound, frightening in its intensity yet utterly (butterly*) compelling. Opening track “Lo-Fat” has guitarist and vocalist Sean snarling the mantra “you can’t outsmart me, you’re a moron” with the same sort of passion and rage that John Lydon used to summon up before he became the acceptable face of  British butter* on TV.

Track two “Tell You What” sees the band hammering out a furious robotic post apocalyptic beat, imagine Franz  Ferdinand without the fey art school pretensions or a rawer,  less doom laden version of  Editors, fusing guitars and electro after watching Blade Runner on repeat.

Closing track “End Of  The Line” features Sean performing vocal aerobics, reminiscent of a younger, less narcissistic version of Matt Bellamy, as the band detonate a cannoncade of explosive beats and searing guitars, sounding like the three horsemen of a pop apocalypse. Bloc Party would love to sound like this; it’s relentless, imaginative and impossible to get out of your head, whilst it has the raw electro nu-rave energy of say, the Klaxons, but with much bigger bollocks….. But hey, never mind the bollocks, here’s Soma High (well, one third!)

VP:  Where did you all meet up ? How did the band come together?

SEAN: I met Leon through a friend whilst at school, I knew before he did that he’d make a great bassist…although I think he’d disagree!  Rob came a few years later.  For some reason I started chatting to him on myspace, don’t know why, don’t know how, but things just seemed to click when he came to the studio.

VP: How would you describe your music/ lyrics? How do you go about song writing?

SEAN: Everyone asks me this and I always give a different answer.  Some people say Indie rock, others electro rock or even new rave.  I think of us as all of the above with the heart of a punk band I know that sounds cheesy! lol).  I write about everything and everyone around me.  I usually write all songs on the piano, guitar or cubase, actually cubase is always involved! then I take them into practice and we work on them till we’re all happy.

VP: Do you all share similar tastes musically or do you think you all bring something a bit different to the mix? What are your influences?

SEAN: We all have our own personal tastes but some of the greats like The Beatles, T-Rex, Nirvana etc we always agree on.

VP: Sean, you packed in a degree course and started writing music, did your friends/family think you’d gone mad, or did they support you?

SEAN: Higher education always means dedication and I couldn’t commit to it.  I just wanted to concentrate on the band and writing music.  Some people still do not see it my way but that’s life.  It was my decision to make and I made it whether it’s right or wrong.

VP:  What did you get up to in 2008?

SEAN: 2008 was a building year, we had plenty of high profile gigs all round the country and also recorded our single and shot the video.   It was basically getting ready for 2009…it’s all about 2009.

VP:  The Lo Fat EP’s out (23/02/2009) followed by a tour, is an album in the pipeline?

SEAN: I think we’re gonna take it one step at a time and see how far this and the next single will take us.  I would love to say an album is in the pipeline though!!

VP: What have you been listening to in 08 and any tips for 2009?

SEAN: We played with Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip and we thought they were amazing same as Evil Nine…I hope they all get really big this year.

VP:  What has been your band highlights so far?

SEAN: Having 2 of the most beautiful girls in our video! Hehe.

(you’re not wrong!)

VP:   Who would be your dream touring partners?

SEAN: So many bands.  I’d like our first big support tour to be with Bloc Party, We Are Scientists or Queens Of The Stone Age.  I really like their music.

VP:  Five things you do when you’re not making music?

SEAN:  Umm… I can’t speak for everyone but I do like eating, drinking, sleeping, socializing and facebook.

Links

On Myspace

Official Site

Wallpaper

Video

“Lo Fat” By Soma High

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The Sirens Call- Catherine A.D. Interview

“Hand to the Tide (Sweet Billy Pilgrim Remix)” By Catherine A.D.

“If Kate Bush died and went to hell, she might sound like Catherine A.D. …” Now that’s a description to get your attention isn’t it?   Catherine A.D. looks and sounds like a fallen angel trapped for eternity within a snow globe fashioned by Tim Burton and her voice could well haunt your dreams in 2009.  Strangely such a talent may not have been developed fully had it not been for an accident in her first week at university, her first big break so to speak.  Unfortunately she fell down some stairs breaking her back, ribs and shattering her long held dreams of becoming a dancer. But from broken dreams and broken bones came a new direction, whilst recuperating Catherine decided to teach herself to play the piano, and not one to do things by half, she totally immersed herself in a world of literature and music, switching to study two degrees simultaneously whilst also mastering “the art of heavy drinking”

Whilst studying Catherine became an up market busker playing the piano in the lobby of the Hilton hotel and upon completing her university education she was invited to collaborate alongside Nitin Sawhney for the grand re-opening of the Royal Festival Hall in the summer of 2007.  She subsequently became one of the Emerging Artists in Residence at the Southbank Centre.  Catherine has  oft been compared to Kate Bush and Tori Amos whilst  Courtney Love characterised her voice as “‘gorgeous sick beautiful…”, which one can assume is slacker speak for “ Ruddy marvelous”. Her music and vocals  could be described as being the bridge between the gothic noir world of  Nick Cave ‘s nightmares, the sensual kookiness of Regina Spektor and the gentle siren allure of Sia “‘like pirate radio for the heartbroken’.

The public will  soon be able to experience the Catherine AD effect with the release of her debut EP  ‘Carry Your Heart’ and they too will be  lost in  this sweet, euphonious voice, as she relates tales of heartbreak and despair, which paradoxically instill  hope, because you know that somebody else has  also experienced her own  “dark night of the soul.”  Catherine A.D. has been there and now she’s sending out “satellites out to every girl who might be dying a slow death in Suburbia, nowheresville,” Her pain is our  gain; she knows how we feel, because she feels it too. She is far more than  merely young loves undertaker however,  for within the heartbreak there lies hope, and through the darkness, glitters a heart that is full of desire, empathy and passion.

As well as the  epic title track, the EP also features a one (wo)man-band re-working of The Magnetic Fields track ‘The Book of Love’ which once again showcases her fabulous voice. The  “Carry Your Heart EPis released on February 16th 2009 as a limited edition of 500 ribbon-wrapped packages,  the artwork also includes a guide to making an origami dove. ‘Japanese custom says that you need to fold 1000 paper cranes and then you have a wish granted’ she says, ‘ so with the EP I should be halfway to a wish… or something! ‘says Catherine……….Surely the other half of anybody’s wish would be an interview with  the VPME? No?

VP:  Ok,  let’s hit the ground running with a barrage of questions !You’re described as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, which instruments do you play,  you took  took up music after a serious accident,  what happened and was music something you’d always been interested in?

CATHERINE: The guitar and piano are my main songwriting instruments but I have been known to be drunk in charge of a lapsteel, banjo, accordion, melodica, drumkit…. I am officially only qualified to play the flute but have since forgotten everything I ever learnt about music theory although my right ear seems to remember something about triads sometimes… I’ve always played music, even before the accident I was playing in youth orchestras and singing harmony in stairwells. Sometimes fate intervenes to  redirect your dreams though and I had to abandon Swan Lake for the Pixies but it wasn’t so much a change of route as redirecting the same energies into something that was already a huge part of my life. I have nicer looking feet because of it. This is no bad thing.

VP: Your voice has been likened to “a lake of black honey” and ‘a gothic mermaid version of the grim reaper ‘, do you feel in terms of your song writing, you like to explore the slightly  darker side of life ?

CATHERINE: I think that has been what came naturally in my first impulses to write songs but, like life itself, not all my songs are doom and gloom. I think I was just going through a particularly dark period when i began exploring songwriting and I am always drawn to the extremes but I’m just as attracted to writing things that are really anthemic and pull you through the darker times.

VP: There have also been comparisons to the likes of  Kate Bush and Tori Amos, who would you say your major influences are?

CATHERINE: I do, of course, have huge admiration for Kate Bush and I would like to think that I share alot of her ambitiousness in terms of arrangements and a theatrical approach to song but my major influences are probably more Nick Cave and the Carpenters. That pretty much sums up the contradictions in my sound! I also listen to a lot of Roxy Music and Fleetwood Mac looking for the key to the perfect song. I’ll let you know if I find it.

VP: You’re due to release your debut EP, produced by Bernard Butler, and are working on an album , how has that been progressing and when might the debut album surface ?

CATHERINE: The lead track on the EP is actually a Liam Howe production! (with the rest of the EP recorded by myself in my bedroom) but, yes, I am currently recording some tracks with Bernard for the album that will be emerging sometime this year…  It’s all going very well thank you, apart from this week when the pipes froze overnight and we had no water or heating in the whole studio. It was -8 outside but I managed to fix it. In fact, I am sure in fact that Bernard just keeps me around for my plumbing skills…

VP: Do you prefer playing live as opposed to studio work? Any upcoming live shows?

CATHERINE: I think the two are very different experiences. I love losing myself in a live context although when you’re playing two instruments this can sometimes be hard because you have to remember to play and where you are. The studio means you can explore things that you could never do without growing additional hands and feet, which i adore. I am a huge plug-in geek. You could probably just lock me in the studio for a month with food and water and I’d be in my element. The next live project I’m doing involves arranging two songs from scratch for a full orchestra  and gospel choir and playing them live at the Royal Festival Hall  in front of 2000 people. I am clearly in need of a hobby…

VP: What’s this I hear about being banned from The Trash Club?

CATHERINE: Erm, yes. All I will say is that it involved a staircase, some bad vodka, and a bad right hook.

VP: Aside from music, what are your major passions?

CATHERINE:I’m pretty much a one track/4-track mind girl. Although I do love cinema as well (Lynch mostly) but it’s usually to do with the musical experience as well. I’m a marathon book reader too but mostly to steal ideas/lines/styles for songs. Basically I have no life!

VP:  Was 2008 a good year for music? Did anybody grab your attention?

CATHERINE:I was still listening to Panda Bear’s Person Pitch for the whole of 2008, although I did love the Cut Copy record and Nick Cave’s latest which I play on repeat.

VP:Tell us something about yourself that nobody knows?

CATHERINE: My  ringtone is ‘Breaking Glass’ by David Bowie

VP: What was the first pop single you ever bought?

CATHERINE: “Confide in Me” by Kylie

VP: The five things that will make you happy in 2009 are:

CATHERINE:

gluten free walnut cookies
more unnecessary red shoes
meeting Jonathan Ross
meeting Brian Eno
dancing like a lunatic at Coachella

Links

On Myspace

Official site

Buy The “Carry Your Heart EP ”

Wallpapers

 

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Through The Static.. – Howling Bells Interview

“Into The Chaos” By Howling Bells

One of our very favourite bands Howling Bells are back to kick off 2009 in fine style. Their appeal seems to be universal, and their haunting, beautiful music really does have a profound effect on people, for example one female friend said “the visceral guitars and sultry vocals  make you wanna just dress up in red silk and rub up against the nearest body.…” (phew!)  Their eponymous debut album is quite rightly regarded by many as a genuine classic, and the band look set to have further praise heaped upon them with the release of their second album “Radio Wars”.  Again the band seem to have hit the creative jackpot as they expand their rich musical palette whilst still retain that remarkable flair for producing dramatically, dark, atmospheric soundscapes. Juanita’s incredible voice remains the focal point, seductively coiling itself around each song, teasing, taunting and mesmerising the listener.

In comparison to its predecessor it could be said that “Radio Wars” has a more rounded, futuristic edge in which synths and guitars swirl around each other to dazzling effect (full review here). Produced by Dan Grech-Marguerat, who has engineered records by Radiohead, Air and Sir Paul McCartney alongside Nigel Godrich (Joel: “He worked, like, 16 hours a day, and challenged us a lot”), the band have also adopted a different approach to songwriting this time around.  Drummer Glenn explains “Most of this was written on laptops separately between the four of us,”It’s a really democratic process, ” says Junaita “as opposed to the first record, this one was a purely collaborative effort, I mean everybody’s written this record.” Joel agrees that varying their approach as a band is important   “We try new things every time really. In my mind that’s what it comes down to. Every album we just wanna try something new I guess, it sounds so f*cking clichéd, but it’s true…”

And where did the title “Radio Wars” come from?  “We demoed a lot of the album down at this place in Melbourne, and the radio kept on freaking out and changing stations all the time” reveals Juanita  “You’d put it on one radio station and it’ll start flicking to another one – we’d just get in the car and be like, “Let’s play radio wars.” It started like that, but then we started writing a track –called ‘Radio Wars Theme’ – and that concept of changing stations formed the lyrics. But it came to mean more than that. The radio takes on a technological perspective.”It turned into a digital revolution thing,” Glenn continues, “That unveiled itself over time to us.”

“Radio Wars
” should ensure the band gain a new army of fans, so would the band be happy if they did indeed  became a big, big band?  Juanita: “F*ck yeah! On the first record we might have made songs that are sort of subtle and dusty but that didn’t mean that we weren’t bursting at the seams with intent and desire and ambition.”
Joel: “People in bands who don’t want that are stupid. That’s like saying, ‘Oh Obama, you wanna be president of the United States ?’ and him going, ‘Yeah, but I only wanna talk to three people.’ If you wanna be president, you wanna get through to as many people as you can. I feel like that’s what we wanna do as a band.”

2009 looks like being a massive year for Howling Bells and we spoke in a little more detail to Juanita about the pressures of following up  a big critical success and their plans for the forthcoming year.

VP:  So your  second album album “Radio Wars” is about to be released.  Is it difficult for a band to follow up such a critically acclaimed debut, or do you have to put thoughts like that out of your head, and just write songs as you have always done? Have you done anything differently this time around?

JUANITA: There’s a definite awareness I suppose in following up any significant piece of work for an artist. You’ve created a platform so to speak and whether we could have easily continued in the same vein, but it was really important for us to move and progress beyond that. We experimented with different styles of writing/recording/lyrical content/production etc….

VP:Your songs have a sweeping cinematic feel, what sort of influences do you draw upon when writing songs, and as a band how does the songwriting process work?

JUANITA: For this record the song writing process was incredibly united, we all came together from a very similar place and so it was a very inspiring time for us all to collaborate musically. Influences come from far and wide, high and low, soft and sharp. There’s no way to pin point where your inspiration comes from!

VP: I assume 2008 has been taken up with recording the new album, has it been an enjoyable year? What have been your highlights?

JUANITA: It’s been equally intense and joyous an experience. Highlights for me were taking the new songs to the stage for the few live shows we did this year. Watching them come to life in front of an audience was intensely satisfying!

VP:  2009 will see you tour the album, and as mentioned, it must be very gratifying to get an instant reaction to new songs ?

JUANITA: It’s one of my favourite parts of being in a band, performing the tracks in front of an excited audience. This will def be a year of intense touring I imagine, we hope to explore some new stage set-up’s production/sound wise…….should be fun!

VP: Have you had a chance to listen to much music during 08? Any favourite albums or new bands that have caught your ears?

JUANITA: I like The Joy Formidable and  Stricken   City , both young bands outta the  UK . Tame Impala from  Australia  are really great, kinda psychedelic inspired 70’s rock. Caribous new album, Lykke Li and Tinariwen.

VP: Obviously the musical landscape has changed significantly during the “noughties”, how important is the internet now for bands. Do you think social networking/ Myspace hits etc  will one day replace the importance of say, radio airplay in terms of helping bands “break”?

JUANITA:I think it already has, I don’t have many friends that buy cd’s at the store, or even listen to the radio as opposed to say,  their own i-pod mixes in the car…….Its a brave new technological world for sure. The only way to move forward is to embrace it whole heartedly.

VP: What’s the  logistical situation, are you still primarily based in the  UK  ?

JUANITA: We’re all based in London, where we’ve been involved in a steady love affair with the city……it’s been a passionate relationship thus far, full of ups and downs….but thankfully, more so ups!

VP:  In your time together as a band , what would you say have been your most memorable experiences ?

JUANITA: Starting in a 6 seater van touring around Britain through the depths of winter, stealing sandwiches from truck stops, selling out our first few shows, getting a wonderful response from media and audiences alike…recording, writing on/off the rd, seeing some our favourite bands together, meeting some fabulous folk and so on and so forth!

VP:  And your oddest experience

JUANITA: All of the previous (apart from the meeting cool people bit)

VP:  Give us five words which will give your fans an idea of what to expect from  “Radio Wars”

JUANITA: Strength/colour/unity/progression and optimism:)

VP: Thanks Juanita , and make sure you play Liverpool on the upcoming tour!

JUANITA:” Will do! ”

Original Photo By Crazybobbles

Links

Myspace

Official Site (FREE Download if you sign up to mailing list)

Buy “Radio Wars”

Buy the new single (click pic)

Upcoming Tour 2009 (Yay Liverpool!!)

Wallpapers (Click Pics For Larger Version)

Original Live Photos (above) By Crazybobbles

Videos

Broken Bones” By Howling Bells

“Low Happening” By Howling Bells

“Blessed Night” By Howling Bells

“Into The Chaos” By Howling Bells (Live Leeds 2008  )

Live Review Here

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Seinking Ships Featuring Miki Berenyi

When the news surfaced that Lush’s Miki Berenyi was guesting on Eric Matthews and Christopher Seinks project, “Seinking Ships”, there was much rejoicing in the VPME office. Since Lush split Miki’s appearances have been few and far between, partly due to her disillusionment with the record industry ( Miki: “I’m like Les McQueen in The League of Gentlemen – always handing out my old records and warning my workmates about the pitfalls of the music industry – “It’s a shit business” – that’s my catchphrase”) and also due to the demands of work and family.

So what drew Miki to this project ?  “ Eric just asked me, I really liked his stuff in a funny way it reminded me of Emma’s songs. I know they’re completely different really, but there’s something in the weird harmonies and the slight jazziness—and they’re really bloody hard to sing!”

The album “Museum Quality Capture” has been  recorded and is “in the lab” and will hopefully be released in 2009, in the meantime Eric Matthews has  allowed us to post an exclusive  album track  featuring Miki and also shares his ideas behind the song.

“We Will Drink Wine” By Seinking Ships (Ft. Miki Berenyi)

ERIC MATTHEWS : This is a beautiful song that I wrote with Christopher for Miki to sing.   I wrote a little story about lovers who live in separate places and are making plans be together for the first time-  that thing about the anticipatory fantasy that can build up in a mind (or minds) of would-be lovers before touching for the first time.   For me it was a strangely creative romantic moment where I really tried to put myself in that situation. I thought it was something that Miki could connect with and I think she did.   And sure enough, we talked about it and she sang it like a beautiful broken bird, just what was needed!  When I was writing the vocal parts, and the lyrics, I realized that something was happening where it actually began to feel like I was writing a love letter from me to Miki.  Not because I have some deep romantic feelings for her, no.  She and I have never met.   Instead, it was this act of creating something so special, that I was going to hand to a wonderful girl like her, a song that I felt so very close to, and moved by.   That starts to sound creepy but really, those notes, and those words created a real mood where I would like to believe that the more sensitive listeners would hear this song and really begin to feel the yearning of the singer, if not also the writer.

and MIKI says :

“I remember the first time Moose and I were sat listening to Eric’s demo of the song with a lyric sheet and Moose raised an eyebrow at me and laughed, “ Does this bloke think he’s going to get his leg over?” And I plucked another grey hair from my fringe, grabbed two handfuls of belly gut and croaked through the fag hanging off my lip, “well, he’s in for a bloody shock if that’s what he’s after!”

Yeah, it is a nice song. High. I remember there were some very high bits.

Please note: I am totally rubbish at talking about music unless I put my English Lit BA head on and I’m currently in the middle of filling out my tax return so that’s not going to happen.”

Wallpaper

Links

Seinking Ships ( with more tracks featuring Miki)

Interview with Eric Miki and Chris

Eric Matthews

We Miss Miki

Lush

Light From A Dead Star

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