Liverpool Sound City Music Festival 2009

Liverpool Sound City Music Festival 2009

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Liverpool’s Sound City Festival, still only in its second year is already being talked about as a possible future rival to Austin’s SXSW.  This year the city played host to over 400 artists performing in more than 30 venues across the city.  My mission was simple, to bend space and time and attend every show…..well not really. But I did manage to get to a few.…

One of the problems of a festival such as this is the logistics, it can be frustrating working out your itinerary only to discover in a moment of head slapping “D’oh” style clarity that two bands you really want to see clash. Couple that with the headache of a gig finishing within minutes of another starting on the other side of the city and it means you really need to be a highly organised, well oiled machine, and I was erm… certainly “well oiled” …One idea floated over a beer or eight involved looking into the feasibility of commissioning a convoy of rickshaws manned by a team of highly trained midgets, replete with Beatles masks to ferry gig-goers between venues, other brainwaves included the introduction of a flotilla of amphibious yellow submarines or the offer of  free piggyback rides  provided by members of  ever  freindly Zutons!  Funnily enough my Sound City experience began when I inadvertently bumped into Abbi Harding and ended with me staggering down Parr Street singing “Sinful” and “The Story of the Blues” with Pete Wylie…but without further ado let us proceed to the musical highlights of Sound City 2009.


The first live music experience at this year’s fest came courtesy of an ear shredding sonic cacophony courtesy of New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus in Liverpool’s Barfly. Imagine The Clash colliding with Nirvana at a chainsaw expo (which is not necessarily a bad thing.) The band seem to be having quite a time in England, from being mistaken for hobos by doormen at a venue in Brighton, to sleeping on fans couches and floors around the UK. However such experiences are merely part of the rich tapestry of glamour and luxury that makes being part of a rock n roll band such a draw! At tonight’s gig none of the bands songs quite manage to catch the imagination like the noisy thrashing splendiferous roar of  their self titled single, (called, surprisingly, “Titus Andronicus”), but there’s much to admire in a set that  certainly matches energy levels with  volume ….After the performance  I  weave my way from the venue, ears still bleeding from the ferocity of the guitars and decide against seeing another loud American, in this case Hollywood actress turned rock babe,  Juliette Lewis (whom I had spotted earlier procuring what appeared to be huge feathers in the city centre, doubtless to make some sort of  rudimentary “tickling stick” in tribute to tombstone toothed  Liverpool “comedian”, Ken Dodd.)  Instead I  wander  into the nearby  Zanzibar Club to catch  Scottish singer songwriter Tommy Reilly, who I am told, is to release his Bernard Butler produced  debut album  in the none too distant future. Tommy provides a nice mix of acoustic pop with bluesy folk undertones and seems a likeable young fellow; in fact this was probably just what the doctor ordered after having my senses battered like erm… a horseshoe on um…the anvil of rock by er…the mighty sonic hammer of Andronicus.

However before the set concludes I overhear a conversation that makes the blood freeze in my veins. There  appears to be a  suggestion that  Mr Reilly is oft  inclined to slip “a really good cover” of  The Killers tuneless “dad-rock” dirge  “Mr Brightside” into his set, this instantly invokes my fight or flight response . I recoil at the mention of these trite Vegas show-band dandies and decide discretion is the better part of valour. In short I flee the premises like a modern day Kevin McCarthy à laInvasion of the Body Snatchers wailing Look, you fools, you’re in danger! Can’t you see?! They’re after you! They’re after all of us! Our wives, our children, everyone! THEY’RE HERE, ALREADY! YOU’RE NEXT! “…. Still it was a nice set.


My next port of call is the Korova, Liverpool’s coolest bar/venue to see Fight Like Apes, who are possibly best described as “deliciously deranged” and they give the performance of the night. MayKay and the boys crash through a blistering set from their excellent Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion album. Despite singing along I’m still left none the wiser to what song’s such as “I’m Beginning To Think You Prefer Beverley Hills 90210 To Me”Lumpy Dough or “Lend Me Your Face are about, (then again who says they have to be about anything)….But the live experience proves to be a gloriously bonkers affair and hugely enjoyable as a result.  It concludes with MayKay being carried shoulder high through a delighted crowd …

The gig’s over and suddenly the room is spinning. …. I awake the next morning with a strange sense of disquiet, a sore head, and rather disturbingly I seem to be missing my understrides ( Tom Jones hadn’t made an impromptu appearance had he ? ) plus I have absolutely no recollection of how I’d arrived home …..Filled with post alcohol self loathing and disgust I take solace in the fact that I’m neither Jeremy Kylie nor David Cameron and this thought alone is enough to coax a smile back on my face. After the hair of the dog it’s time to “Ferry Cross the Mersey” to catch more live bands.


My return to Soundcity kicks off with set by a band we have featured in recent weeks   Levelload  (interview here) , in Liverpool’s “Bumper”, a venue that to be honest, I’ve never exactly seen packed to the rafters and with so many other  bands on around the city  tonight’s no exception. However Levelload give a fine performance which features superb guitar work and plenty of attitude. The set includes goodies such as “HND in RNR”, “Yellow Fever” and ace new single “I’ve Been Thinking.”


They say a pessimist is never disappointed and with this in mind I set off across town again, to the Academy 2 in order to catch an artist who, at this moment in time, is just as famous for a certain four letter word as she is for her music. The four letter word in question is “hype”, the artist, Little Boots (nee Victoria Hesketh).  Don’t get me wrong LB has some decent pop songs but her record label’s PR machine has whipped up a crescendo of hysteria which quite frankly, has reached ludicrous new levels of overstatement. Will she live up to the hype or crumble under the pressure of being given the preposterous title “the future of pop?” To be fair nobody can live up to that sort of hyperbole, but judging by the heaving swarm gathered here tonight, the PR machine has certainly garnered Miss Boots an army of loyal fans. Not bad for an artist who aside from a couple of limited promo offerings has yet to release a single, proper. Proof that hype maybe evil but it works on a short term basis at least.

Ted Striker Sweats!

Little Boots takes to the stage wearing, not little boots at all but high heels, complimented by a rather sexy, rather tiny, black dress, and in no time at all she has the assembled throng of adoring fans in the palm of her hand.  The place is rammed, the heat is stifling, and I start to resemble Ted Striker preparing for an emergency landing in Airplane. But guess what? Little Boots gives an exceptionally entertaining performance. If this is “pop” then call me the weasel, because Miss Boots really does engage with her audience, employs sharp, witty banter and doesn’t come across as some sort of big label puppet but a nice girl who really enjoys what she does.  And let’s face it if your handed a big opportunity by a record label you’d take it… wouldn’t you?  It’s a polished set and the highlights are predictably her best known songs, the hypnotic  Blondie meets Goldfrapp electro monster, “Stuck On Repeat” and  the disco-pop-tastic “Meddle”. Does the other material from her debut album “Hands” (released in June) cut the mustard? Will it help give Little Boots the legs to march to the top of the charts? Difficult to tell on first listen here, but there appears to be quite a few songs which definitely have the  potential to lodge themselves in the nations consciousness, not so sure if the slightly flaccid debut single “ New In Town” is  one of them but hey, what do I know?

What her performance at  Sound City emphatically proves is that she can certainly cut it live and has the ability to appeal to a wide cross section of music lovers if tonight’s eclectic looking crowd is anything to go by.  Let’s hope the record label ease up on the hype and give Victoria time to grow eh …of course they won’t, for they have been carefully grooming her to be launched as  England’s answer to  Lady Ga-Ga, ( although master of exploitation Simon Cowell would have you believe we already have one the shape of  Susan Boyle)


I leave the stifling confines of Liverpool Academy, and am embraced by the cool night air but alas a sprint across the city centre to Liverpool’s Korova is required to catch a band I’ve wanted to see for an age. I arrive ruddy faced, dishevelled  and sweaty and grab a quick pint which I somehow manage to empty all over my  T-shirt,( all I need now, I  reflect,  is to loose a front tooth and nibble on an ear of corn!)When God was giving out cool I obviously overslept!  Ironic really as I am about to see a band who are the epitome of glacial sophistication.  Ipso Facto produce what could be described as brooding dark pop noir; they are a band whom we have long predicated will cast their formidable shadow over the pop landscape in the very near future. The NME (who make Jilly Goolden’s description of wine seem almost sane) have helpfully described Ipso Facto as “monochrome psychedelia”, which may be very clever but actually means bugger all. “So what’s that new band like Dave?”… “Well in essence it’s monochrome psychedelia in its purest form”…Erm Ok thanks for clearing that one up.

Samantha Valentine

Ipso Facto’s stylish, vampish image would have reduced me to a quivering wreck as a lad. I probably would have followed them from gig to gig in slavish adoration and eventually they would have thought “oh dear, it’s that northern yokel again with features that seem to have been hewn from a particularly unattractive, malformed potato.” But of course I’m far too old for that sort of shallow hero worshiping nonsense, I’m here for the music, Ipso Facto may indeed look great, but they also write tunes of dark brooding brilliance. On stage singer and guitarist Rosalie Cunningham is an impressive, sultry presence, who one imagines, can reduce a chap to dust with a menacing stare, or a disapproving arch of her eyebrow, as her rich, dark vocals and atmospheric guitar work reverberates around this intimate basement venue.  Bassist Samantha Valentine’s inability to remain vertical for more than a few minute at a time is certainly eye catching as she laconically lounges against walls in between prowling the stage with the feline grace of a catwalk model whilst wearing what appears to be  little more than spandex and underwear.  One imagines that if there was an award for being the coolest bassist in music, Samantha would be winning it hands down. Drummer Victoria Smith keeps time with military precision and even cracks a smile or two, as the band produce a set that is draped in dark, glittering beauty, “Harmonise”Six And Three Quarters” “Queen Sophia’ and “You Don’t Own Me” all wow the crowd, who cant help but join in with the lyrically profound 😉 chorus on  the head banging “Balderdash”. If Andrew Eldritch and Siouxsie Sioux had produced triplets, they wouldn’t have been half as good as this band and that’s a Facto!  Definitely my highlight of Sound City and a band I really hope do well.

And so the night draws to a conclusion with some inevitable after show madness in Liverpool’s famous Parr Street studios  where we meet up with Pete Wylie and co. The atmosphere here is one of drunken bon’homie and the clientele includes musicians, actors, scenesters in obligatory twatty little hats, plus a smattering of folk who, if the size of their testicles was in direct proportion to the size of their egos, would have great difficulty walking. But here I must draw a veil over proceedings as what happens on tour stays on tour (possibly, due, in no small part to the fact that people often can’t remember what the f**k actually did happen! 😉 )

Sound City has been a blast and is without doubt a festival that’s growing in stature. Maybe the organisers need to employ a little more joined up thinking, possibly add a few more outdoor gigs and stages, but that will surely come in time. There’s a definite buzz around the city when the festival’s on and music seems to be everywhere. And it’s not just for the trendy fashionistas in their skinny jeans and amusing headwear, it really is for everybody to enjoy and get involved in.  With Liverpool now able to boast some of the best conferencing facilities outside of London it appears that this is a Festival that is destined to get bigger and bigger. Hey, maybe next year “Mersey Rail” might even decide to undertake “structural works” at a time that doesn’t coincide with a major music festival.

And so this years Sound City concludes with a dynamic new take on Liverpool’s musical heritage. It sees Ringo Starr feted as a god whilst being carried shoulder high around the city centre before performing an energetic drum and bass version of his existential masterpiece “Octopus’s Garden”. This is followed by a moving recital of  Thomas The Tank Engine’s”  finest moments, personally selected by Ringo and set to an Acid Jazz soundtrack especially commissioned by Phil Redmond and performed by  the cast of Brookside … Erm my mistake, bad acid ..Or something…… Sound City was actually wrapped up with a gig headlined by the Zutons and Sound Of Guns in one of the countries most impressive buildings, Liverpool’s majestic neo-classical, St Georges Hall and was by all accounts a triumph.  Me? Alas I was too busy recovering from the night before – sinful eh?  ………… Roll on 2010!

All Photos & Videos by Andy VP & JK.

Big love to Amy Woodhouse From Creative Cultures

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Here’s…Jonny!! Jonny Cola And The A Grades Interview

“Shooting Up” By Jonny Cola & The A-Grades

Free Exclusive Downloads here -Right Click Save as (Shooting Up & Disappearing Act Hellbent & Leather Remix)

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Jonny Cola & The A-Grades have been making waves in London since late summer 2008. They have performed live sessions for Resonance FM and Earwax Radio, played high profile club nights and SE5 dives, self-released one single with lo-fi accompanying video, made jaws drop and grown men weep. Crucially, they have remembered to write some tunes.

“Disappearing Act” is their second single, a tasty three-and-a-half minute slice of dirty disco pop, complete with killer chorus, key change and calypso middle eight. You can’t say fairer than that. Expect it to be making people fall over on sticky dancefloors all summer long.

The single is available in two different download packages. The first, available via iTunes and the usual digital stores, features “Disappearing Act” itself accompanied by remixes from Hunterheck – aka Hamish from Scottish electronic maestros Swimmer One – and The Soft Close-Ups. The former essentially transforms the song into an ultra-summery, borderline Balearic stomper. Meanwhile, The Soft Close-Ups take our heroes on a thrilling eight-bit dub adventure. We predict an eight-bit dub explosion in six months’ time.

Meanwhile, the second set of downloads – a CD2 for the postmodern age, if you like – is available to download for free here. Rather than “Disappearing Act”, what you get is the song which was originally intended to be its double A-side, “Shooting Up” – a skewed Motown-tinged pop classic, co-written with David of The Soft Close-Ups (and formerly the singer in Luxembourg) – and yet another remix of “Disappearing Act”, a spiky electro reimagining by Shoreditch’s Hellbent & Leather.

Both “Disappearing Act” and “Shooting Up” are taken from The Yellow Mini, a short album released next week (June 1st) via the obscure BBA Highland label, with distribution from the less obscure Cargo Records (which means you can actually buy it in shops and stuff). The format should not be seen as indicating a lack of ambition – quite the opposite. It’s just that sometimes you can get things across more clearly in 23 minutes.

Jonny Cola & The A-Grades are determined to make a drama out of a crisis.

Here’s what Jonny Cola (vocals), Mauro Venegas (guitars), Aurora Sommer (bass) and Nicholas Bukowski (drums) had to say when confronted with a searching set of questions…

VP: Tell us how the band came into being, how you all got together…

JC: We met in a dense and frustrated crowd at Victoria Station, metaphorically speaking. Rather than queue up for a ticket from the sole working machine on the vague assumption that a train might actually be departing anytime soon, we saw our chance and hot-footed it crosstown to craft songs to live, love and die to. One day, we aim to return and commandeer the tannoy system. That’s our story anyway, and we’re sticking to it.

VP:  What’s in a name? Where did Jonny Cola come from?

JC: I used to record electropop, before it came back into fashion, under the moniker of Charly Bubbles. Jonny Cola is his older, slightly more jaded brother. The A-Grades are essentially my dream team, my fantasy band made flesh. Which is nice.

VP: How difficult is it for a band to get their music “out there” these days?

JC: It’s incredibly easy, but getting anyone to listen, or to take you seriously, is another matter. If you’re not desperately postmodern, providing a quick fix of disposable novelty, it’s hard to register in people’s minds in the gaps between Facebook messages and videos of amusing cats.

NB: Yeah, it’s not specifically difficult at all anymore. It’s all measured on your expectations of what you think should happen with it. You can create it, fund it, then make it appear somewhere for people to buy, but ultimately it can disappear just as quickly without radio play or major label funding. Even if it’s great. People’s attention spans can also be quite brief unless the idea that something is brilliant is consistently cemented into their minds with some insistent marketing scheme. I do like the amusing cats though.

VP: Songwriting… How do you choose subject matter etc?

JC: I’m not sure that writing songs on a particular subject works very well – for me, anyway. I find it more fun to start with visual and emotional snapshots, and see where things go from there. Think of it as a psychoanalytic process, if you like, or just an evasive tactic to avoid revealing too much.

VP: What do you have planned for 2009?

JC: We’ll be recording a full-length album, for which The Yellow Mini is a mere appetiser. I also plan to teach myself to hit top C.

NB: See answer below. Once we’ve mastered this, we can find out and let you know.

VP:  And, in an ideal world, apart from your own world domination, what else would you like this year to bring?

JC: A ceasefire in the wholesale demolition of London’s West End.

AS: Time travel. Not for all though, just me. And possibly you, you and you.

NB: Lifesize models of ourselves that can play musical instruments. Like Kraftwerk. I’ve decided it could be just as much fun to watch our own gigs as it is to play them.

VP:  Who are your major musical influences?

JC: Brian Eno for invention and texture, Vince Clarke for melodic genius, Bob Stanley for pop music as total art, Kurt Cobain for desperately flailing immersion, David Shah for sharply romantic lyricism, N-Trance for “Set You Free”.

AS: Too many to mention but as far as bass players are concerned, James Jamerson and Carlos D.

MV: Mick Ronson.

NB: Mark Ronson.

VP: What’s been your weirdest experience as part of a band thus far?

JC: Our first gig – from terror to elation in 25 minutes.

AS: I am hoping it is yet to come.

VP: Who would you most like to execute for crimes against music?

JC: I can think of a few much-hyped acts of recent times who could definitely do with repaying their debt to society. I’m far too polite to say who though.

AS: I’m against the death penalty and wouldn’t wish death on anyone, not even Rod Stewart (although I have to say I am scarred for life now and am not sure I could touch a man ever again after seeing this video –

NB: I’m much less polite. The Ting Tings, The Hoosiers, Scouting For Girls and The View are all shocking. That Rod Stewart video eases the pain though.

VP:  Tell us something nobody knows about yourself…

JC: Nah, we’re alright, cheers.


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“We’re All Going To Die” By Jonny Cola & The A Grades

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Win Tickets to Secret Hockey Gig in London


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We have a pair of tickets at an as-yet-unannounced secret show by VPME faves HOCKEY at The Flower Pot in Kentish Town on Tuesday 2nd June 2009 . Closing date for the competition is  Sunday 31st May 2009 at midnight. The winner will be notified by email on Monday morning 1st June. No entry questions needed. Just drop us an email here with the subject line “Von Pip – Hockey secret show comp” please include your name and age .

Hockey release their new single “Learn to Lose” on Virgin records on 1st June 2009

“Learn To Lose” By Hockey





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The Wonder Stuff Live Livepool 16/05/2009 “The Eight Legged Groove Machine” Anniversary

“Unbearable” (Live) By The Wonderstuff

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My Original "Groovers On Manoeuvres" Ticket

Back in the late 80’s, the Indie scene had lost its sense of humour, it was full of pale, miserable tortured young poets who wore long Macintoshes and hid beneath their fey, floppy fringes in a look that seemed to combine a maudlin  Colombo with Brideshead Revisited.  Their music alas was often a joyless, pretentious exercise in existentialist morbidity, and well, a wee bit up its own arse to be honest.  Enter The Wonder Stuff, a bunch of unruly long haired lads from the Midlands who wrote snarling, witty acerbic pop songs and didn’t really give a flying “fook” what people thought. Fronted by Miles Hunt, an outspoken young fellow who appeared to have mastered John Lydon’s  maleovlant stare down to a tee  and who took  great delight in playing the press at their own game, it  seemed this was just what the doctor ordered.  At  last we had a band who weren’t “arch” art school poseurs but smiling assassins filled with  cynicism and armed with a clutch of  catchy, sarcastically witty indie pop/rock songs,  a band who were about to bring a splash of  colour to the depressingly monochrome late 80’s music scene.  After a string of singles they unleashed an irresistible debut album “The Eight Legged Groove Machine”. It was an instant classic, even the NME gave them a  9/10, and  the band undertook their  infamous  “Groovers On Manouevres” UK tour in order to promote the album.   I was there all those years ago at the dawn of time  and do you know what?  They were f**king fantastic live. It was the first of many Wonder Stuff gigs I was to attend over the years.

Fast forward to 2009, tonight’s show at Liverpool Academy is part of a string of dates to mark “The Eight Legged Groove Machine’s” 21st Anniversary. The “Stuffies”  may have lost a number of original members,( Rob “The Bass Thing” Jones sadly  died in  July 1993 and  drummer Martin Gilks  passed away in April 2006) but the line up still includes founding members Miles Hunt & Malc Treece.  The band arrive on stage without a word and immediately launch into the albums opener “Red Berry Joy Town” which is greeted with enthusiastic howls of delight from the audience who are definitely up for it and here to enjoy the  night. ” No, For The 13th Time” follows at break neck speed as does “It’s Yer Money ” as Miles sings “Forget Your Heart It’s Your Bank I Wanna Break/It’s Just Yer Money I’m after Baby”, rather fitting given the recent banking meltdown.  The set continues and the years haven’t diminished the bands energy or indeed Miles snarling sarcastic stage presence, and strewth ! Hasn’t Martin ” Fiddly” Bell aged well? I don’t remember him being that attractive during the “Hup” years.  My mistake, as I suddenly recall that Bell is still resident on Uncle Miles’ naughty step after throwing his toy’s out of the cot a number of years ago.  Happily his boots have been more than filled  by the elegant, classically trained violinist Erica Nockalls, resplendent in a glittering  gown that was golden, not green as she joins the band on stage.

“A Wish Away” provokes another moshing frenzy from the audience, and “Unbearable” sees the crowd go, well… ape-shit,  for want of a better word. ” I didn’t like you very much when I met  you “snarls Miles through his teeth, eyes glittering with malicious glee  as the crowd respond in time honoured fashion with   “And now I like you even less”. As the band  seek sustenance  from their on stage drinks of choice ( bottles of  red wine) a cretinous oaf  (erm, well, me actually )  shouts “Come on Miles, play fair, lets have  “Dizzy” to which Miles responds “Did some c*nt just shout  play” Dizzy? ” As the set progresses he also gives us the background to a number of songs,  for example “Mother and I” must be one of the few songs in pop inspired by professional Scottish midget and sometime comic, Ronnie Corbett  “Look I was young, it’s not about me,  it was actually inspired by the sitcom “Sorry” ok?” explains Miles.

At times I feel I have been transported back 21 years through some sort of musically induced  worm hole… but not for long.  I soon  realise  it’s not 1988 ,  nor am I  amongst skinny, featherweight teens and  I am brought crashing back into 2009  as a  balding middle-aged mosher, weighing at least 20 stone  lands directly on my foot.  Coincidently “Poison” is just starting and as I hop about in no small amount of  agony  I hear Miles snarling the mantra “Nobody wants to get hurt, nobody wants to hurt anybody“.  Yes, yes,  but tell that to the demented sumo who seems intent on using my foot as some sort of  spring board for his “idiot  manoeuvres”.  I hobble away cursing this klutz but am soon revived as the encore includes “Groove Machine” era  B-sides including  Hunt’s tribute to the  moon faced, man-voiced,  Rick Astley AKA God’s Own Tea-Boy.  “Astley In the Noose” has always been a crowd favourite but apparently it’s not one of  Miles’ as he informs us he “F**king hates it” and has often thought of updating it to include that “vile creature, Robbie Williams”.

Another encore and the band proceed  to play some of their own personal favourites such  as “Circle Square” and   “Golden Green”  which Milo announces was ” the time when we  invented Country and Western”.  The evening draws to a close with the inevitable “Size Of A Cow”, the song that made us pop stars” sneers Miles, who really seems to be enjoying himself. Once again the crowd dance and mosh wildly  as I carefully avoid the psychotic sumo whose face I note,  has turned an alarming shade of puce and who is now leaping about once more  indulging  in more of his “moves” with all the grace and agility of an arthritic Hippopotamus with constipation. But hey, he’s having fun. We all are.

The Wonder Stuff were always a great band live and tonight’s set proved they are as good as ever, here’s to the next 21 years eh ? Now that would really be “far out.

The Original Line Up


“Astley In The Noose” By The Wonder Stuff

“Unbearable ” (Live) By The Wonder Stuff

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C’est Magnifique- The Joy Formidable Interview

“Whirring” By The Joy Formidable

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How do you like your music served?  Are you happy to let “the man” dish up  a steaming plate of turd as he cunningly convinces you his shiny, pre packaged, empty crud is actually “the soundtrack to your life™?” Or are you a little more proactive? Then again maybe you aren’t that passionate about music, perhaps it is merely something you are vaguely aware of in the background as you get on with other things. You may see nothing wrong in big label influenced radio play lists, find Chris Moyles as witty as Wilde  and consider his knowledge of pop encyclopedic ( it actually would leave plenty of room on your average postage stamp)  Hey, you may even view shows that are totally bereft of  substance such as  “Pop Idol” X-Factor” and “Britain’s Got Talent” etc as a bit of  harmless fun. In point of fact you may actually agree with Pete Waterman’s absurd assertions that S.A.W. really were Britain’s answer to  Tamla Motown ( oh per-lease!) You may also harbour a secret yet unspoken admiration for Simon Cowell’s ever expanding business empire, “he’s helping new talent- giving ‘em a foot up” you say (but of course,  he isn’t).  Each to their own, but would it be remiss of me to suggest that maybe you are more a fan of a “robust business model” rather than anything remotely approaching worthwhile artistic endeavour. You probably find Alan Sugar more iconic than Kurt Cobain, Louis Walsh more inspirational than Leonard Cohen and Richard Branson sexier than Jimi Hendrix.  If so you need not read on, for alas,  there is nothing for you here.

Right then, lets crack on, if you are indeed an active and enthusiastic music fan forever looking to expand your musical palette then you may wish to join us and experience the euphoric aural equivalent of a hand job, be swept up in a whirling vortex of energy, emotion and noise and ride into the sun on an effervescent crescendo of sound.  In short you may wish to experience the “beautiful agony” that is The Joy Formidable.

Hailing from the glamorously named town of Mold in North Wales, the Joy Formidable is  comprised of Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas. Their recent  mini album “A Balloon Called Moaning” delivers the sort of epic guitar pop fused with pulsating waves of noise that calls to mind  the good bits from My Bloody Valentine’s much vaunted “opus”  “Loveless”. In addition it also boasts the sort of ethereal vocal harmonies reminiscent of “Spooky” era Lush.  It’s urgent, thrusting pop music that boldly fuses noise and melody to produce stunning results.  If endorphins could make music and decided to  form a band  that band would be The Joy Formidable.

In order to experience the full on “Joy Formidable effect” it is imperative that you catch them live.  They produce a mind blowing sonic attack of raw emotion and energy and in Ritzy have as compelling a front person as I’ve seen in a long time. Off stage she is polite, friendly, demure, but on stage there is a remarkable transformation as she smashes her guitar around stage with the sort of carefree abandon that would give your average Health and Safety Officer a nervous breakdown. It’s on  stage that the band of three really do become a force of nature with a set that is brutally brilliant and leaves you utterly exhausted just watching the sheer energy expended on stage.  Its quite ridiculous that this marvellous band is as yet unsigned, a situation that will surely be remedied in the very near future…(come on 4AD, this is your kind of band) Ahead of a headlining UK tour we spoke to Ritzy about the band, the music, and that um..…video !

VP:  How did The Joy Formidable get together, had you all previously played in bands before?

RITZY: The Joy Formidable started about a year and a half ago when Rhydian and I began writing together in North Wales. We’d played in a band before, but this signalled the first proper collaboration. We just locked ourselves away and the writing came very easily, we were excited by the connection and the voice that was appearing. Then it was a matter of shaping it in a live sense; first with Justin and now with Matt, who is an exceptional drummer and the dynamic has just grown and grown.

VP:  The band name rather aptly manages to sum up the experience of listening to your music, how did you come up with your collective moniker?

RITZY: It came very naturally once we’d written a large amount of material. We didn’t sit down and think how to surmise our work; but when you’re so involved in making something – your conversations, dreams, imagination they all become obsessed by what you’re creating and a name is one of the fruits of that preoccupation.

VP: Talking of names what does your album title “A Balloon Called Moaning” actually mean?

RITZY: I think for us it had many levels of intent, some personal, some playful.  I’m not one for attaching a blanket meaning to things; not songs, not drawings, not lyrics… you know when something has a value, when it moves you, that’s what’s exciting, not summing it up as an absolute.

VP:  I have to ask, but that video for “Austere”? Banned by you tube? What, erm, ahem.., is actually going on there then? What was the idea behind the video?

RITZY: The unofficial video to Austere was made by a fan and we thought it was a brilliant visual. There was no rational to it being banned from YouTube, it’s all about what you don’t see. We get a lot of videos through from fans, some are more surreal than others.

VP:  After seeing you live for the first time recently, which was pretty awesome,( leaving me unable to speak coherently) it appeared that  you really seem to put everything into your performance , do you get pre show nerves, and does expending such energy leave you exhausted after a show?

RITZY: No we thrive on the live side of being in a band. I very rarely get nervous; and maybe if we were doing Springsteen-esque length sets, some exhaustion would set in… but we’ll have to get training towards that!

VP: You’ve recently been on tour with Howling Bells and it seemed an excellent combination, did you enjoy the tour? What were your highlights?

RITZY: It was a great bill and on a personal level we had a great time with both bands; Chew Lips and Howling Bells. In terms of highlights, I couldn’t single out any particular night when it comes to performing; they’re always different and unique in their own way. I guess Manchester was a homecoming gig for us, and we put on an afterparty  for friends and family and opened it up to anyone who was at the show. It was a great night, a bit disorderly but then the best ones usually are.

VP: Back to your ace debut album, was it entirely self released and what was the thinking behind initially offering it for a free download via the NME’s site?

RITZY: The album originally came out on a fantastic label called Pure Groove, but now it’s self released and available from us. It’s still being offered as a free download from our myspace, we’re well aware that people invest in different ways and we wanted to cater for that. “A Balloon Called Moaning” isn’t really our debut album either; it was always more of a snapshot of work to date. We’re incredibly proud of the release, but the 1st album is coming together now, we’re very excited.

VP:  There’s always a tendency when describing music to try and pigeon hole it via some genre or other. Some terms I’ve heard bandied about to describe your music are “Nugaze” and a “Wall of sound”. What sort of music do you think has influenced your output thus far?

RITZY: The obsession of pigeonholing! As a band our musical influences are very eclectic, and that gives texture to the songs that we write. I grew up on a stable diet of Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Springsteen, Dylan, and Neil Young to name just a few, all amazing song smiths. But we’re influenced by more than just music as well. The power of being a good artist is to never restrict yourself.

VP: What have been the highlights of your time together thus far?

RITZY: I couldn’t choose.  The dynamic of this band is based on having a very close, personal relationship and that extends to the people that work with us. When you have that level of intensity, the simplest of experiences can feel special and significant.

VP: What plans do you have for 2009, more touring? Festivals? Any more releases in mind?

RITZY: We’re touring in May/June; our first headline tour and festivals are being confirmed now. We’ll be recording the album in the intervals and we have another more unusual release brewing

VP:  Any favourite albums of the year so far?

RITZY: I’m enjoying the Silversun Pickups album…fabulous live band, we did 2 London dates with them last month and they completely wooed me.

VP: Give us a band motto in five words?

RITZY: I’ll stretch it to six…. Dyfal donc ar dur y garreg


On Myspace

Official site

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“The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade” By the Joy Formidable

“Austere” ( official video) By The Joy Formidable

“Whirring” By The Joy Formidable

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Mums The Word – Mumford And Sons Interview

“The Cave” By Mumford & Sons

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Mumford and Sons are Ted Dwane,Country Winston, Marcus Johnstone and Ben Lovett


When a band is described as “the sorrowful sound of old men” it hardly gets your pulse racing and sends you spiralling into a giddy whirl of anticipation does it ?  You may be forgiven for thinking that the statement above is in fact the tagline for The Last Of The Summer Wine – The Musical, which like the  lamentable TV show would doubtless be, a largely chuckle  free zone.

Brows may be further furrowed when the band in question employ a collective appellation that sounds more like a local undertakers than a life affirming musical ensemble.  But as the saying goes,  one  should never judge a book by its binding  and that is of course  why you have to actually open a book and carefully weigh what’s written therein,  rest assured once you hear Mumford & Sons music any reservations or preconecptions you may have had with regard to their  name will be quickly dispelled.

Often mentioned in the same breath as London’s new folk scene Mumford & Sons produce an intoxicating musical cocktail that is timeless, thoughtful and is of such quality that one cannot help being left with the impression that surely  the band have been honing their craft since Jesus was a lad?   It therefore  may come as  a surprise to learn that Mumford and Sons only formed in late 2007 and are all still in their early twenties!

So do they really view the world through the eyes of sorrowful old men ? Have they, by some cruel and freakish twist of fate, bypassed the joyous optimism of youth to sing embittered laments of all that they have suffered, all they have loved and lost  ? Of course not !  “Sorrowful” is hardly a word that readily springs to mind when describing the bands output, heartfelt emotive”  and “euphoric somehow seem a much better fit.  Since the bands debut Ep “Lend Me Your Eyes” they have gone  from strength to strength as they continue to produce a wonderful concoction of indie folk with majestic pop undertones that remains intelligent, thoughtful and uplifting.

When a band arrive this fully formed you can’t help but wonder what Faustian pacts have been drawn up in the dark of night and ponder whether William Hjortsberg’s novel  “Falling Angel” has in fact become a reality ! Is Marcus really a modern day version of  Johnny Favourite??? We spoke to Mumford’s  Ben  Lovett to find out more and hoped  Louis Cyphre didn’t make an impromptu appearance to claim what is rightfully his 😉

VP:  We’ll start with a traditional opening question…. what prompted you to form Mumford and Sons and how did you all get together?

Ben: Back in 2007, we were hanging out at place called The Bosun’s Locker where Country was hosting and promoting nights. Marcus, who I’d been playing music with since we were kids, was playing some of his early songs on guitar accompanied by whoever would be up for wigging out or singing. Country and I did this more regularly and then Ted joined on bass and we solidified ourselves as a four piece.

VP:  Your third Single/Ep “The Cave and the Open Sea” is due to be released on April 6th on Chess Club Records. Can you tell us a little bit about the song/s?

Ben: “The Cave and the Open Sea” consists rather confusingly of a song called “The Cave” and “But My Heart Told My Head” (aka “No, Not Up For It“). They’re the first recordings we’ve released from a professional studio and so have branched out a bit, sonically. Lyrically, they’re about quite different experiences, one of Marcus’s and one of Country’s. Both kind of personal but I suppose ultimately the world would be a better place if everyone was a little more honest, considerate and self-aware.

VP: Is an album in the offing, a big label deal, swimming pools, movie stars .. etc?

Ben: That’s right. Everything you’ve heard about the country falling into recession, the music industry suffering from illegal downloads etc is all lies. We’ve acquired a swimming pool and a movie star each. Ummmm, Not really… We have, however, been recording the debut album for the past 4 weeks and are in the final days of recording. Hoping to share it by the end of the summer. We’ve still got a lot to do on it!

VP: Your music and lyrics have been described as “preternaturally wise” and the “sorrowful sound of old men contemplating their lost youth”, do you find you attract a wide range of age groups to your gigs?

Ben: I suppose we do. I find the age thing varies depending on where we are. We did a large UK tour at the beginning of the year, and noticed the crowds kind of got younger the further South we went. I don’t know what that means. And I also hope that our music isn’t received as “the sorrowful sound of old men” by too many people! There’s a lot to be happy and hopeful about, we are aware of that…

VP: What’s been your most amazing collective experience since the band formed?

Ben: We have had many great moments over the past year. They’re all amazing for different reasons, not wanting to be vague, but they really have been. We love to tour, and have shared many experiences – from leaning against gale force winds in Ullapool in Scotland looking over Loch Broom to sitting on Brooklyn Bridge in New York at four in the morning – and we also love sharing these times with friends we’ve met along the way. Like on the last tour, which we’ve since named the snowball tour, we got to play with some very dear friends (Pete Roe, Peggy Sue, Alessi’s Ark and Sons of Noel & Adrian) for different legs of the tour.

VP:  Which musicians do you most admire and why?

Ben: Musicians who just do what they do and don’t try to be anything else. Whether or not what they do is successful commercially, they are the real winners in the end. And often write better music because of it.

VP: Is there any one style of music that sets your teeth on edge?

Ben: Is teeth on edge a bad thing?! I think we’ve all got different things that perhaps we wouldn’t enjoy but collectively we’re pretty open minded. I’m not a massive fan of “screamo” as a general style of music. But I do respect it and understand that it’s real and expressive. In the words of Beans on Toast “Celebrate or ignore” as opposed to “Celebrate or lament”.

VP:  Any musical tips for big things in 2009?

Ben: The Temper Trap who have just moved over to London from Australia are fantastic. We played a show with them in New York and then caught a show of theirs at SXSW and both times were pretty blown away. Cherbourg are also fantastic and 2009 should be a breaking year for them as they release their second EP.

VP: A dilemma, Bono rings you; he wants to do a duet with you. Simon Cowell wants to oversee the project. Do you …
A/ Ignore the little fella and hope he goes away
B/ Say thanks but you’d rather eat your own kidneys
C/ Graciously accept calculating there’s no such thing as bad publicity

Ben: Option D/. Accept that there is such a thing as bad publicity but can’t resist the prospect of Simon Cowell trying to constructively criticize Bono.

VP:  Five words to describe your sound?

Ben: Who can ever do that?


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“But My heart Told My  Head” ( Live – IC, London) By  Mumford & Sons”

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Morrissey Live – Liverpool Empire 10/05/2009

“All You Need Is Me ” By Morrissey

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Morrissey has had many roles thrust upon him by the music press, by accident or indeed design,  the poet, the plagiarist, the lonely misunderstood genius,  the patriot, the racist,(sic)  even the soapstar ,  and now in the autumn of his musical career could it be that he is  entering what some would describe as  the “Vegas years ? ” I approached Morrissey’s Liverpool  gig with some trepidation, could he still “say something to me about my life”? There was also the matter of the venue, I mean Liverpool Empire looks about as comfortable at being a rock n roll venue as a Geography teacher “cutting some rug” at the sixth form discothèque! It’s far more Celine than Dion  and invariably generates all the atmosphere of  Moonbase Alpha.  Then of course there’s the great man himself , would time spent hanging out with celeb chums such as Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have dulled his edge, can somebody enjoying the celebrity high life really have much reason to be so miserable and angst ridden?  Indeed is it not a little unedifying for a man  who will be 50 in a matter of days to still be so deeply troubled by such teenage insecurity and self doubt ? Surely he should  do  the sensible dignified  thing at his age,  buy a big flash car, wear a white suit and attempt some jiggery pokery with somebody 20 years younger ? Another thought that fleetingly danced across my consciousness was  maybe Mozza needed to venture beyond the perimeter of his walled châteaux and reconnect with real “kitchen sink” people once more?

It’s  difficult to ascertain if any, other than the crapness of the venue,  of these  vague concerns  were justified on tonight’s showing and to many in the audience   ( which  included a “British Sea Power” T-shirted Marc Riley, ex Everton hard man Barry Horne  and Liverpool midfield maestro Xabi Alonso ) it  mattered not  one jot as Morrissey certainly engenders a fierce loyalty in his fans which can  on occasion,  veer towards the “fruitcake” side of fandom .  In reality  it was a  solid set  rather than an inspirational one, never quite scaling  the dizzy heights, but circumstances  such as  illness  the fact that it was a Sunday and did I mention the venue was crap ,  really did play a part. “Such a wonderful building, but absolutely no atmosphere,” bemoaned Mozza ,  “How does the mayor cope?” Combining songs from  his new album “Years Of  Refusal” with Smiths classics such as “This Charming Man” “Ask” and “How Soon Is Now” Morrissey gave a  fairly flawless vocal performance, impressive, given that in between songs he made constant references to “antibiotics” and at the time of writing it transpires his Royal Albert Hall show has been cancelled ( 11/05/09) as doctors have advised him to rest.  That would certainly explain why he did seem a little out of sorts and gave a performance that was perfunctory more than passion fuelled.  But one could also argue that  the mix of material performed tonight did not,  happy bedfellows make . True, there are many who would argue deep into the night  with regard to what would make the prefect Morrissey set list,  but there’ s also a danger of songs falling flat on their arse when juxtaposing classics such as “Girlfriend In A Coma” next to the more oridnary tracks from some a Mozza’s recent solo efforts.

Morrissey is possibly ultimate pop stylist of his generation and at his best still produces flashes of  sardonic wit , tongue in cheek humour and still retains  an innate  flair for the melodramatic, but alas this show had a strangely flat ambiance and one felt he may have preferred to have been  tucked up in bed with a nice cup of  Horlicks, a few  paracetemol and  a Rita Tushingham DVD.  He does still have ability  to connect with the “misunderstood” , and judging by his audience  maybe there’s not that much difference between teen angst and mid life crisis these days, after all,  there’s little doubt the generation gap has  receded immeasurably  in the last 20 years.   As I left the venue  I noticed one Morrissey die hard had the word (and song title)  “Disappointed” tattooed across the back of his neck ….and maybe that kind of summed up the evening….. To quote the great man “All You Need Is Me” , well quite, but a decent venue  would also help too.

Verdict:  He’s still got it …it was good …..without ever really taking off

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