‘No More Tears’ – Nicole Atkins Interview/ Mondo Amore Album Review.

Nicole Atkins - The VPME - Interview 2011Original Photos: Lucia Holm.

‘Cry, Cry, Cry‘ – Nicole Atkins.

Nicole Atkins returns with a new album, ‘Mondo Amore,’ the follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2007 début ‘Neptune City. Whereas her  first album was full of nostalgic, warm affection for her home town, ‘Mondo Amore’ is much more  rooted in  emotional turmoil  than time or place, or as Nicole puts it ‘a record about heartache and finding a way out of that. It’s songs for people to f*ck and fight to.” Well given the choice we’d take the former over the latter any day, we are lovers not fighters,  but when you’ve listened to the album and understand the seismic shifts that Atkins was experiencing personally you’ll know exactly where she’s coming from. It’s deeply personal album written at a time which Nicole describes as ‘dark – writing these songs were my way of trying to work out what was happening.  I was breaking up with my boyfriend, my original band, and my label, all at the same time!’

As you might expect it’s much rawer than ‘Neptune City’ both in terms of its lyrics and musical style. The tone is set for the album with the atmospheric and rather eerie  ‘Vultures’ as Atkins broody, sultry vocals warn  “Careful where you walk/Remain in the light/Watch where death resides/It’ll find you from all sides.”. ‘Cry Cry Cry’ is in a similar vein to songs on ‘Neptune City’ with it’s killer Motown chorus, in fact it’s only when we get to track four ‘You Come To Me’ that Atkins new, more volatile sound comes to the fore, as her band, who she describes as “the best line-up I’ve ever played with,” rock out, as they say.   ‘My Baby Don’t Lie’ has a bluesy almost Zepplinesque quality to it whilst ‘This Is For Love’ sees her back in euphonious Phil Spector Pop Noir territory.  Atkins has the sort of voice that you could happily listen to if she were to simply croon the contents of the  phone directory, she was clearly born to sing and ‘Mondo Amore’ showcases her spectacular pipes to maximum effect, no more so than on the epic closing track ‘ The Tower’ .  It’s an album you feel would take an a whole new dimension in a live setting too, and if you were a fan of ‘Neptune City’ you’ll find much to enjoy and admire on ‘Mondo Amore’ . If you don’t, well, I’m afraid you’re possibly a bit of a dickhead.

Album rating: 8/10

We had a chat to Nicole about the album, and the huge personal changes that informed the making of her new album.

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VP: Hi Nicole, last time we spoke, you’d finally prised your hand from David Letterman’s vice like grip, appeared over here on Jools Holland and released Neptune City . Now you’re back with a new album, a new band, a new label, a new lease of life….so what happened in between…?

NICOLE: Oh good lord, well to keep it short… I started writing this record, fought a ton over creative choices with my label, split with my label. Fought a lot with my now ex boyfriend, got rid of the boyfriend and the apartment. Grew musically disconnected with my old band, got a new band. During all this, I got together with my friend and producer Phil Palazzolo and started making ‘Mondo Amore.’ I moved back to Brooklyn, got inspired, got back into living, making things, finished the record and got a new home for it on ‘Razor and Tie.’ And now I’m touring like a maniac.

VP: So whereas Neptune City was a reflective, somewhat tender homage to your home town,’ Mondo Amour’ seems to be much more feisty, not angry or bitter, but there’s certainly an emotional rawness and honesty…it’s been described in some quarters as a break up album.  Was it difficult to write or did the emotions involved make it easier to express how you felt?

NICOLE:  Some of it was difficult to write because even though I was really confused as to where my life was headed I didn’t want to come off as bitter. I didn’t want to throw any cheap shots. Making this record in a way helped me to articulate my feelings on situations and about myself and helped me to feel more adult and caring on a lot of the situations. Now I still have no idea where my life is headed, but I love that fact.

VP: Is ‘Mondo Amore’ more ‘YOU’ . I mean it rocks, and I do wonder if on a big label (as with Neptune City ) they’d push you toward a more pop, commercial vibe. You know, the  old ‘OK, let’s lose the guitar solo there and try some strings’ sort of thing ?

NICOLE:   This album is a million percent me. No meddling from any suits.

VP: And what was the reason you moved from Asbury Park to Brooklyn, was it to make a fresh start, put the past behind you and look forward?

NICOLE: Exactly. I needed to spread out a little in an area that was alive. Not to say Asbury isn’t alive, but you know man, it’s tiny.



VP: I really enjoyed those mini Gothic trailers you made for the album, how did they come about and what the devil was  going on ???

NICOLE:  I made these with my good friends Lucia Holm and Mandy Bisesti. They are brilliant photographers and we talked about making teaser videos to accompany the songs that had the feel of a devil at the crossroads thing meets 70’s B- horror like “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, and elements of the occult. We wanted them to convey the mystery of a giant personal shift.



VP: What’s the big difference now with being on a smaller label as opposed to a big label? For example is having to think creatively and do things differently much more satisfying, gathering a group of people around you who you trust rather than maybe being surrounded by bean counters who are more interested in profit than the artistic side of music?

NICOLE: The creative control is the best part of being on an indie label. I rediscovered the joy of why I do what I do. However, the budgets are significantly smaller. hahah.

VP : The cover of Mondo Amore? What’s the idea behind it and who came up with the concept?

NICOLE: I came up with the idea of having my good friend Senior Crowell on the cover one morning when I was over-sleeping. I wanted the image to be a mix of tough and tender. It was shot by Danny Clinch. I wanted the image to make people come up with their own thoughts about what is really going on.

VP: Senior [ on the cover] has a few interesting tattoo there. Tattoos of course were popularised by sailors and being a lady who seems to be inspired by all things nautical ( The Sea, The Black Sea, Neptune City etc) have you got any tattoos yourself?

NICOLE: I do not have any tattoos.

VP: Strangely I have one of Popeye, but moving along , are you planning on another visit to the UK this year? Maybe play some gigs.

NICOLE:  I am! I can’t wait to go back. We’re just figuring out all the logistics now. The UK is one of my hands down favourite places to play.

VP: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

NICOLE:  Let it go.

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Links.

Official Site

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Songs To Learn And Sing – Pris -‘Icon On A Motorbike’

PRIS - Icon On A Motorbike - The Von Pip Musical Express
‘Icon On A Motorbike’ By Pris.

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After featuring Pris a few weeks back (here) we’ve decided we can’t get enough of them  and our addiction must be fed. In fact waiting for their début single  makes the eternal suffering of Tantalus seem like a bit of a walk in the park really and going cold turkey isn’t an option. Thankfully help is at hand and  Pris have taken pity on our plight and agreed to ease our torment by kindly allowing us to stream another of their songs , ‘Icon On A Motorbike.’ It’s certainly  got that leader of the pack type vibe,  all leather, stiletto heels and motorcycle chains (and that’s just their drummer 🙂 )   Singer Cat  explained what and who the track is all about –   ‘ I had ‘The Wild One‘  in mind for  this song.  To me that represents the epitome of sex and male beauty, strong and gorgeous and it’s a semi love/lust song. Haha, so no Von Pip, it’s  not a homage to Barry Sheen…’

You can listen to more from Pris on their facebook band page ( because let’s face it My space is so 2008).

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Dayglo Warrior – Poly Styrene Interview and Review

Poly Styrene  Interview 2011 the Von Pip Musical Express

‘White Gold’ By Poly Styrene.

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I missed the original Punk explosion, I was aware of it, aware my parents hated it with a passion and that Punks generally looked like futuristic urban warriors and had  upset that nice Mr Grundy fellow on TV. But this was mere background noise to my childhood, I had weightier things on my mind such as recovering from the trauma of discovering that the square jawed poster boy of male heterosexuality, Action Man, actually had no penis. Punk may not have changed the world, but as I grew up its legacy certainly changed my world. I loved much of the music but also embraced some of the more positive doctrines that emerged from it’s ashes. The questioning of authority and ‘societal truisms’, the fact that females in bands were not portrayed as empty vessels but were strong assertive and sometimes a little scary, and of course the D.I.Y ethic that anybody could form a band.  Punk is often cited as producing more female musicians/singers than any other musical genre and it certainly created it’s fair share of memorable icons, Siouxsie, Pauline Murray, Debbie Harry,  The Slits and of course X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene.

X Ray Spex were a strange band in many ways, possibly the first truly new wave band to emerge from the movement and what stood out a country mile was the intelligence of their lyrics and choice of subject matter.  Whilst the Pistols inspired many and had created thrilling, entertaining but ultimately some may say, futile chaos for it’s own sake, X-Ray Spex were predicting the future and providing incisive critiques on many of the topics that still trouble us today, control by consumerism, environmentalism, and the pressure to conform. Their album ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ is regarded by many as a punk classic and one which I still play loudly and often to this day, so when I heard Poly Styrene was set to release a new album I was simultaneously excited yet also slightly apprehensive.  You always worry when an iconic band or singer releases new material that it may somehow tarnish their legacy.

After listening to Poly’s latest album ‘Generation Indigo’ such fears are quickly allayed, and really given her track record maybe it should be no surprise that Poly captures the Zeitgeist perfectly producing an album very much rooted in the here and now. She wisely chooses not to revisit her punk root in terms of her vocal performance and instead delivers a vibrant contemporary album that mixes wit, idealism and wisdom as she turns her x-ray focus on a myriad of topical themes, including ethical footwear, consumerism, social networking and the Iraq War.  Musically at times it could be Debbie Harry fronting New Young Pony Club, although the very fact that it encompasses such an eclectic range of styles, including dub, electro and pure power pop makes  rather difficult to nail down with such blithe comparisons.  On knob twiddling  duty is Killing Joke’s ex bassist Youth who  proves that when it comes to masterful polished production, Mark Ronson’s got a lot to learn, as he finds the perfect balance, between subtlety and slickness.

At it’s heart ‘Generation Indigo’ is an album full of warmth, wit, fun, spirituality and hope. All attributes which we hope will see Poly triumph over her biggest battle yet after being recently diagnosed with cancer.

Album rating 8/10

Poly found time to answer our questions ahead of the album release, which she has said has been a hugely positive factor in helping her come to terms with her current situation.

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VP: Before we discuss the album – how are you? You recently announced you’d been diagnosed with cancer which must obviously be a terrible shock.  When I mentioned we’d be speaking with I was asked to pass on good wishes and the hope that the treatments are going well.

POLY : Thank you.  I’m trying to stay positive and doing my best to battle it.

VP:  You’ve said that your new album ‘Generation Indigo’ has been a ‘very positive force’ in your battle.  How did this album come about, were you approached, were the songs already written?

POLY : I’d basically demoed a track called ‘Code Pink Dub’ and when my present label Future Noise Music heard it, they asked if I wanted to do an album.  This particular track had been written at the time of the war in Iraq, but a lot of the tracks were written after, some after the Roundhouse show in 2008.

VP: I was quite excited to hear Youth was producing the album and upon hearing it I haven’t been disappointed, it’s what you might call a triumphant return.  A lot of musicians talk of producers pushing them and helping them ‘find that extra yard’ ,  What was Youth like to work with ?

POLY : It was definitely a pleasant experience working with Youth.  I went in with the lyrics and the top line melodies and Youth added his musical input.  I had never worked with another producer as I’d produced all my previous work myself.  I enjoyed working with him, so it was a good collaboration.

VP:  The album deals with a lot of contemporary themes, ‘Virtual Boyfriend’  for example is a critique on how modern technology  has affected our own interactions.  What’s your overall view of technology both in everyday life and also how it’s changed things for musicians?

POLY : I think that the internet or social networking sites probably make a safer place for girls to date, but we have to be careful not to lose too much human contact in relationships, a hug is essential and I don’t think ending a relationship by text or on email is cool.

On world and political matters, there is obviously a wealth of information on the internet and as we’ve recently seen in Egypt, peaceful movements or change of power can happen through the internet.

For musicians, the internet has made them less dependent on the majors and the old models, but at the same time, I think they need to do more as there is so much more to cover.

VP: When Punk first exploded onto the scene, it certainly had the effect of washing away a lot of the excesses of millionaire prog rockers, and in a sense democratised music  with it’s anybody can form a band DIY ethic ?  What was it that first attracted you to the scene?

POLY : Exactly that, that you could just get up there and play music, is what really attracted me to the scene.

VP: Punk also is widely regarded as the genre that levelled the playing field  for women and allowed them an equal footing with men. People like yourself  Siouxsie, Pauline Murray, The Slits,  weren’t presented as sex symbols but as  woman who were empowered by Punk. When you see today’s highly sexualised performers does it seem like Punk actually didn’t change very much at all, and that the old order was quickly re-established?

POLY : Definitely the performers are very highly sexualised now. Punk came along and was more about what you do and not selling yourself as a sex object, although it does seem that not a lot has changed and beauty and sexuality is seen very prominently in the music industry.

VP: Now you seem to be a icon for young women, Beth Ditto, Kathleen Hanna, Kim Gordon and Karen O have all held you up as an inspiration. What advice would you give to any female musicians going into ‘the business?’

POLY : Just try and be true to yourself, and think about the content of your musical output.  Although it isn’t always easy to get inspiration, content is important.

VP: You’ve said in the past that, for you at least punk was destructive, in what sense did you mean?

POLY : It just had some dark energy surrounding it, especially when girls were on dog leads, with their boyfriends pulling them on the leads, that’s what I meant re some negativity…dark energy around it and also the fact that there was no future, the philosophy of it was that there was no light at the end of the tunnel.  A bit doom and gloom.

VP: As we’ve mentioned ‘Indigo Generation’  is very much rooted in the here and now, given the recent global economic meltdown, and your own previous wishes to find an alternative lifestyle, do you think we have missed an opportunity to do something radically different – It seems like it’s business as usual for the banks once again.

POLY : Banks will always be in business, some of them can be quite charitable as well.  I know for a fact that my friend presented something to Barclays and they didn’t want any publicity and it was for feeding children in India.  We have to remember that banks are there to serve the community, and its fine for people to make money provided they put something back.

VP:  If you could sum up the album in five words – what would they be?


POLY : Fun, upbeat, love, joy, provocative.

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Links

http://www.poly-styrene.com/

http://www.facebook.com/polystyrenemusic

http://twitter.com/poly_styrene

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Songs To Learn And Sing – Eiscafe.

Eiscafe THE VPME

‘Quitting You Is Harder Than Candy’ By Eicafe (featuring Liz Enthusiasm.)

‘Slag To Love’ By Eiscafe(featuring David Barnett)

What do you do if you have 100’s of demos? Record them all and release an album every few weeks? Maybe release a single a week? Aug Stone tells us the inspiration behind his latest musical project EISCAFE and talks us through two of his collaborations (which can be downloaded above via Corporate Records on a free or  pay what you like basis)

AUG : The idea for Eiscafe came on December 20th, 2010 after I’d been going through all the musical ideas I’ve accumulated and jokingly posted on Facebook “Aug Stone is looking at his near 100 demos and thinking 10 albums in 2011?” Simon Drowner ( from Johnny Cola & The A Grades) suggested that I release a single a week.  I really liked the idea and a number of people offered to collaborate with lyrics and vocals, because these were all instrumental pieces. I’m still way behind but I’m really pleased with the songs so far, so however many it ends up being, I’m just glad some great music is getting made.  If anyone wants to try collaborating on a song, just get in touch.

“Quitting You Is Harder Than Candy” came about because this whole idea was suggested less than 2 weeks before the New Year. I sent a few demos out for people to write lyrics to and flew to the States for the holidays. On the plane to JFK I started getting more and more excited about the project. But I needed a song for the first week of January and it was highly unlikely anyone would’ve written one in the next few days. And suddenly I remembered this very Mary Chain song I had written in 2003 called “Quitting You Is Harder Than Candy” which I had always meant to record as a duet with Liz Enthusiasm from Freezepop but we had never gotten around to it.  The title was actually stolen from my friend Vanessa’s livejournal as it just seemed like such a great pop title.  I could only remember about half the lyrics so when I got to my parents’ house, I began rifling through the 3 fireproof safes where I keep all my old writing and master tapes. I’m terrified something will happen to them ; )  I found the lyrics and emailed Sean and Liz from Freezepop to see if they’d be interested in doing it.  (I used to play in Lifestyle with Sean, there’s 2 free albums up here, after I left the band, but they’re ace, I highly recommend listening to them (HERE) I had no way to record anything but Sean has a nice studio and is a recording wizz.  He’s also incredibly fast too as I was to discover!  We did the majority of it in an hour and a half as I was racing to get my parents’ car home from Boston before a blizzard hit, I made it just in time and we got 15 inches of snow that night.

Then there was a bit of a lull with people getting back to me with lyrics until one Friday, I was having quite a miserable day and David Barnett sent me over “Slag To Love” Which totally turned my day around!  I listened to it 10 times in a row and was really excited about it.  I had just sent him that riff and the chords and he came back with these brilliant lyrics and a very catchy tune.  And I had been there the night a friend of mine introduced him to the lady in question, so I knew and was there for the whole story that’s going on in the lyrics!”

Tales From The Darkside – Islington Boys Club Interview.

Islington Boys Club Interview 2001 - Von Pip Musical Express

‘Plastic 16’ By Islington Boy’s Club.

Islington Boys Club?  Maybe the name conjures up memories of the iconic photos of Salford Lads Club used on The Smiths ‘The Queen Is Dead album? Which let’s face it is the more likely scenario than you being an actual attendee of the original Islington Boys Club. In this case however, Islington Boys Club is a four-piece band, based somewhat surprisingly, in Islington, London  consisting of Andy Lovelee (vocals/synth), Daniel Silvester Taylor-Lind (guitar), Drew J. Kennedy (bass) and Ed Pearson (drums). If you’re expecting a southern take on jangling guitars and doleful, poetic crooning you’d be somewhat wide of the mark.  The band are one of our tips for 2011 and produce a blend of glittering, dark, glam, goth-pop.  I’d previously characterised them as sounding like the sort of musical hybrid that might emerge should Bauhaus, Siouxsie and Bowie become trapped in Andre Delambre’s matter transporter.

Lead singer Andy Lovlee is acquiring quite reputation for his live performances, being described as something akin to a force of nature,  according to Ed, the band’s drummer he was rather a special acquisition, ‘we were the first band he tried out for when first arriving in London having been introduced by his sister who told us about him before he moved over from overseas’. With brooding vocals somewhere between Pete Murphy and Brian Moloko, combined with the physicality of a young Iggy Pop and the dress sense of Nicky Wire, he makes for a mesmeric front man. Mix that with thunderous tribal drumming and layered swirling guitars and Islington Boys Club have a sound and sense of doomed glamour that makes them stand out from the bland indie by numbers brigade.

Drew, the bands bass player gave us the low down on all things IBC.

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VP:   So would it be safe to assume you are all from Islington then?

DREW:  Ha-Ha, well, we have all lived in Islington at some point. Dan’s actually originally from Sweden, arriving in London via Devon, Ed and I are from Reading and Andy? Well he’s a bit of an enigma. We do all live around Islington and rehearse in an old church which actually used to be home to The Islington Boys Club. There’s still a plaque up there now.  We did have lots of other band names on our list, but this seemed to fit so we adopted it!

VP: You’ve already released a double A-side ‘Plastic 16’/’Pristine’, what will you be recording next ?

DREW:  Next single is ‘Misfit Sugar’ is due for release around April. Over Christmas we holed up and recorded about 20 hours of demos, we then started to work out list for a mini-album/EP, hopefully available about June. One of the bands we love and you’ve also written about a lot is, The Joy Formidable.  I like the way they released their mini album [A Balloon Called Moaning] I felt that was a really powerful statement of intent. And they built up their fan-base by earning a reputation as a great live band. They took their time and did it the right way. That’s the path we’d like to take really.

VP: Will it be self released?

DREW: Not sure yet, we are talking to labels, but there’s a lot to be said for self releasing, both have their merits and down sides. We’ll have to see what feels right!

VP: Andy’s getting a name for himself as an energetic and enigmatic front man, being compared to the likes of a young Bowie/Iggy type front man.

DREW: Yeah, he’s certainly entertaining as front men go; he expends so much energy and really gets into it. We all really go for it live, that’s what it’s all about and we really enjoy it.

VP: Musically are you all on the same page with never a crossed word?

DREW:  To be honest we all come from very different musical backgrounds. Dan likes rock and 60’s stuff, Ed’s into his guitar music and American Indie, Andy loves pop and listens to a lot of current stuff, and I’m into electro and dance! In fact my top five albums of last year were all electro/dance.

VP: And do you all have an input in terms of song writing?

DREW: Yeah, we tend to work best by throwing ideas in and jamming on them. Andy comes up with most of the lyrics and we hammer them together!

VP: Best experience so far?

DREW:  Has to be our mini tour of Italy that was amazing, Rome Florence, Bologna, Genoa and we got a great reaction too. So we’ll be back there in August hopefully.

VP : You shot a couple of videos for your last single, given the advances in technology it must be easy to get a decent video together?

DREW: The first one for ‘Plastic 16’ was done by our friend Clare who does a lot of visual art and she mashed up some you tube clips for us. ‘Pristine’ was shot in Devon by Dave Richardson who is an amazing music photographer based in London. So yes you don’t need a huge budget and we’ve been very pleased with the results.

VP:  And 2011, what will that bring???

DREW: Well at present it’s the single and then working towards the EP. We’ve just toured with Ulterior which was great and we are also remixing one of their songs.  So every-things geared up towards June, then hit the festivals and keeps on gigging. Exciting times!

LINKS

http://www.facebook.com/islingtonboysclub

http://www.myspace.com/islingtonboysclub

http://islingtonboysclub.blogspot.com/

http://twitter.com/islingtonboys

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‘Pristine’ – Islington Boys Club.

‘Plastic 16’ – Islington Boys Club.

Machine Gun Etiquette – Pris Interview.

Pris - Cat Gordon interview The VPME 2011

‘True Romance’ By Pris.

‘Breaking Hearts And Giving Up‘ By Pris.

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Are you fed up with earnest young men sporting de rigueur beards, singing about the burden of being rich and misunderstood? Maybe you’re sick to the back teeth of  the seemingly infinite procession of quirky Brit schooled, incense burning, floaty robed, ‘mystical’ ladies who sing about the square root of fuck all?  Or quite possibly you have had your fill of homoerotic, metro-sexual boy bands and vapid overproduced, auto tuned girl bands? Does it feel like punk never happened, that the D.I.Y, don’t give a fuck ethic has all but disappeared as the musical landscape has been taken over by trainee accountants on a gap year who produce the aural equivalent of magnolia paint? Where’s the colour, where’s the attitude, where the fuck are the characters?

Well say hello to your new favourite snot pop,post punk pop princesses, Pris.  Tottering about on heels as high as their hem lines and displaying more attitude than the combined pupil populace who attend gargantuan tongued, culinary philanthropist Jamie Oliver’s Dream School, Pris are about to kick some life back into planet pop, or at least have some fun trying. With their stilettos’ sharpened and readied  to burst a few fragile egos, they  may not be the sort of girls your average designer nu-folker’s aristocratic family would approve of, but we at the VPME love them ( there is a male drummer by the way, but he’s hidden away rather like Bertha Rochester in Jane Eyre. Well they do say all drummers are mad 🙂 )  Pris don’t suffer fools, shoot from the hip and waste no time explaining exactly what is wrong with the current pop scene. In doing so they also cleverly manage to make one of their heroes,The  Manic Street Preachers’ Nicky Wire, sound positively diplomatic.

They’ve described Jessie J as ‘looking like a mental messed up Mystic Megand suggested that ‘Do it like an astrologer’ would be a far more apt song title. (Gossip Girl) Taylor Momsen is apparently ‘the most un-rock n’ roll girl you’ve ever seen- an embarrassing c_t’, and  latest indie hopefuls, the execrable Brother are quite rightly dismissed as ‘dire- is it even possible to be a crappier version of The Fratellis? They also have no time for the fey, pretentious wankery of Everything Everthing –‘Jesus Christ, we’ll actually kill ourselves if we have to listen to Everything Everything ever again.’ Whilst the feelings induced by the gurning unbearably smug visage of  X factor chump, Olly Murs, is nicely summed up as ‘having  such a punchable face- the dick.’ Oh yes this is indeed our type of band!!

However unlike me, there’s much more to Pris than nice legs and hilarious quotes, because crucially Pris possess killer pop tunes to match the attitude. ‘True Romance’ for example is a superb slice of post punk pop, reminiscent of Blondie , The Go-Go’s and Transvision Vamp at their best. ‘ Blue Tack Baby’ is bubble gum pop at it’s most disposable and indeed fun. ‘Crying After Kennedy’ shows that Pris are capable of writing songs that aren’t just about lipstick and  lashes, whilst the marvelous driving grunge pop  ‘Breaking Hearts And Giving Up’ sounds at various points like  The Long Blondes, Elastica and Kenicke. The deliciously titled ‘All That Glitters is Not Pearl Loweonce again demonstrates that Pris care not for egos or celebrity confessionals and any band that can mock the Klaxons mid song surely is deserving of  your ears? True, Pris may not be about to produce a concept album based on Arthurian legend replete with a centre piece mandolin solo, but if it’s short, sharp uplifting pop with attitude you want, Pris are here to use you and abuse you. You should be fucking grateful! 🙂

We spoke to singer Cat, and after calming her with offers a rare 90’s vinyl she agreed to answer some questions, we found her to be very much a CAPS LOCK kinda gal.

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VP: Who are Pris – and how did you all meet….?

CAT : PRIS ARE A 4 PIECE GUTTER POP HORMONAL POST PUNK BAND. IT’S A MOUTHFUL BUT WE LIKE MOUTHFULS.  WE MET THROUGH MUTUAL FRIENDS, HAD A FEW BENDERS TOGETHER, SANG A FEW COVERS TO EACH OTHER, EMAILED RANTS ABOUT THE POPSCENE WORLD AND HEY PRESTO.

VP: So you’re named after a replicant sex worker ?[From Bladerunner]  Why ? Will there come a point in your career when a possible stage entrance may  feature Pris style cartwheels  replete with Rutger Hauer look alike backing dancers?

CAT: WE WOULD LOVE DANCERS LIKE THAT FOR PRIS. MAYBE WHEN WE HEADLINE THE O2 ON 5 DATES IN THE NEAR FUTURE. BLADERUNNER IS ONE OF OUR FAVOURITE FILMS. WE LIKE PEOPLE WHO LOOK AND ACT IMMORAL, DESPICABLE, TRASHY AND CHEAP, THOUGH THIS DOESN’T INCLUDE BERLUSCONI OR GALLIANO.

VP : You recently opened at a Manic Street Preachers show, for a relatively new band that’s some achievement! Was it  a fairly nerve wracking experience? Did you get to meet and hang out with them after the gig.

CAT: WE WERE SCARED OF FALLING OVER DUE TO THE HEIGHT OF OUR HEELS AND THE SHORTNESS OF OUR DRESSES. WE ALL HUNG OUT INTO THE EARLY HOURS TAKING LARGE AMOUNTS OF COCAINE AND DRINKING TIGER BLOOD. OBVIOUSLY THAT IS A COMPLETE LIE.

VP : Cat, I’ve been told you’re a massive Manics fan and  have a shrine to Nicky Wire made from real hair, toenail clippings and biscuit crumbs  in your bedroom. Did you find it a bit disappointing for a band who sang ‘We Destroy Rock n Roll’  on ‘Motown Junk’  to appear on Strictly Come Dancing with a chinny octogenarian and that chirpy Vernon Daley lass?

CAT: THAT SHRINE WAS 10 YEARS AGO FOR CRYING OUR LOUD! THERE ARE NO IMPORTANT MUSIC SHOWS ON TELEVISIONS ANYMORE. ALL WE HAVE IS T4 ON SUNDAY MORNINGS AND JOOLS HOLLAND. AS GREAT AS THESE SHOWS ARE THEY WILL NEVER BE AS IMPORTANT AS TOP OF THE POPS FOR US.  WE LOVED TOP OF THE POPS SO MUCH THAT A PRIS VS BBC MASSACRE WAS CONTIMPLATED WHEN IT CLOSED. I WOULD OF SETTLED FOR CD:UK WITH THOSE NICE GEORDIE SHORTIES BUT THEN THAT BUGGERED OFF TOO. SO FOR PRIME TIME MUSICAL FLAUNTING I THINK DOING STRICTLY WAS AN ASTUTE CHOICE.


VP : Damn you with your well thought out answers ! Ok so what have you got planned, band wise in the coming year ?  You of course realise ‘True Romance’ has to be a single at some point?

CAT: WE’RE GOING INTO THE STUDIO IN THE NEXT WEEK OR SO TO RECORD OUR DEBUT SINGLE. WE STILL HAVEN’T DECIDED WHAT SONG BECAUSE WE HAVE TOO MANY GOOD ONES-WE’RE SURE MUMFORD AND SONS DIDN’T HAVE THIS PROBLEM.

VP : So what do you reckon about the current state of the music scene ? Too much earnest nu-folk,  too many shite manufactured pop stars?  What would you change if you had the power?  The beheading of Simon Cowell, BBC radio announcing a ban on Brit school kids ?

CAT: THE MUSIC SCENE IS A STATE , A COMPLETE MESS, FULL OF FLITHY RICH FUCKERS ON FIDDLES, UNSIGHTLY POPSTARS WITH GUITARS, UNDERWEAR SHOWING EMOS WITH ASYMMETRIC HAIRSTYLES, AND SIMON COWELL IS NOT TO BLAME FOR ANY OF THIS. WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD ONES GONE? IT NEEDS A PRIS MAKEOVER PRONTO.

VP:  Who would you say are the most iconic musicians’ past/present, ones who broke the mould and did something a little different. Gary Barlow is obviously a given.

CAT: COURTNEY LOVE FOR HER BABYDOLL DRESSES AND HER GORGEOUS SCREEHCING AND INSANELY GOOD LYRICS. IAN CURTIS FOR BEING YOUNG, NORTHERN, BEAUTIFUL AND HEARTBREAKING

VP: And as a tribute to your song ‘Blue-Tack Baby, who did you first have a teen crush on….

CAT: MUSIC AND COOLEST WISE PAUL SIMONON THE CLASH BASSIST. MY GOD, I STILL DO, I THINK (AND STILL WOULD) NON MUSIC WISE SHAWN MICHAELS FROM WWF WRESTLING. DOH.

VP: I think everybody should follow you on twitter for your chuckle inducing tweets’    So   who’s been pissing you off this week?

CAT: LILY ALLEN AND HER BULIMIA, WHO CARES? EVERY ONE FUCKING WOMEN/GIRL/TEENAGER  I KNOW HAS HAD AN EATING DISORDER, YET SHE ADMITS IT ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, THAT IN ITSELF FUCKS ME OFF.

VP: As mentioned you’ve already opened for the Manics, what would top that ? What would be the ultimate musical zenith for Pris.

CAT: A CLOTHING RANGE AND CHRISTIAN BALE AS OUR NUMBER ONE GROUPIE

VP: Five things you plan to do this week ?

CAT: EAT, SLEEP, FUCK, DRINK, SMOKE.

Pris - The VPME Interview 2011

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‘Blue Tack Baby’ By Pris.


‘State Of Grace’ – Wye Oak Interview And ‘Civilian’ Album Review

Wye Oak Interview 2011-The Von Pip Musical Express

‘Civilian’ By Wye Oak.

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Baltimore duo Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack collectively known as Wye Oak are back with a stunning new album, ‘Civilian.’ It’s their third long player and is without doubt the sound of a band really coming of age. The duo’s previous offerings ‘If Children ‘and ‘The Knot were both critically well received and whilst showcasing the huge talent and potential the band undoubtedly have , both barely caused a ripple on this side of the pond. With the release of ‘Civilian’ all that has changed, Wye Oak have produced a superb album that manages to sound epic yet understated, mournful yet incredibly uplifting.  Such contradictory statements make perfect sense when you consider the songs are, as Jenn explains, about ‘aloneness (the positive kind), loneliness (the horrible kind), moving on, and letting go (of people, places, and things.)” Soft spectral vocals weave around a dreamy wall of sound conjuring up the ghosts of Fraser and Guthrie, a gently strummed guitar suddenly bursts into life with a virtuoso display of guitar shredding, splashes of pulsing electronic samples mix with choral harmonies and all these elements combine perfectly to slowly draw in and seduce the listener.

Mixing noise with calm, Wye Oak’s songs often flare and explode like fireworks illuminating a hidden landscape to reveal fleeting glimpses of beauty. Their decision to relinquish control of production duties by bringing in mixing engineer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Shearwater) has paid dividends, a fact not lost on Andy  – ‘ JC definitely pushed us into some exciting and sometimes scary new territory, but it gave us a chance to step back and see the big picture, whereas on previous recordings we got embroiled in the technical details.”

There is so much to admire here, from the musicianship, to Jenn’s distinctive haunting vocal style, to the unconventional, yet utterly mesmerising structure of the songs. ‘Civilian’ is an album that balances subtly with power,  and creates a sound that may hint at certain influences but is never defined or constrained by them. Wye Oak have created a sound that is uniquely their own, it’s a sound that shimmers, soothes and also challenges the listener’s expectations- as all great music should.

Album Rating 8.5/10.

Jenn had a chinwag with us about writing and  recording the album as well as  playing their first headline shows in the UK.

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VP:   Hello!  You’ve just released your latest album ‘Civilian’ here in the UK.  People often describe albums as  – the tricky second album or the difficult third. Are these media myths –  Did you find writing and recording it any more difficult than your debut?

JENN: I actually felt better prepared to make this newest record than any of the past ones. In my mind, the first two records were “growing” records for us. We started this band when we were so young and inexperienced, and for the past few years we’ve really just been learning–how to feel comfortable with our live setup, how to record, how to be confident songwriters and effective arrangers. There were certainly moments of fear and self-doubt throughout the recording process, but I don’t imagine those feelings will ever go away. In most ways, I felt more comfortable and confident making “Civilian” than anything we’ve made in the past.

VP:  You normally look after the production yourselves but I believe this time around you brought in John Congleton on this album? What made you look to bring somebody else in ?

JENN: One of the most important things we’ve learned is how to recognize our own strengths and weaknesses, and allow others to use their strengths to help us fully realize our ideas. John is an incredibly gifted engineer and producer, and he was able to achieve things with the mix of the record that we ourselves would have been unable to execute.

VP: The central themes running through the album relate to religion, divinity, (whatever that may mean to people?)  Would you say you were more spiritual rather than overtly religious people ?

JENN: There are certainly some religious references and spiritual overtones in some of my songs, but I definitely feel that they’re based in ideas far more human than divine. I would describe myself as a confused, awed, open-minded agnostic.

VP:  Do you come up with lyrics and then build melodies around it or vice versa? How does the process normally work?

JENN: It’s different for every song. I try to faithfully document all of my lyrical and melodic ideas separately (usually using the notebook and voice recording functions on my iphone. The future is here and it’s awesome.) When I get some spare time, I can sit down and compare notes, figure out which musical ideas might fit with my lyrical ones. Every once and a while a complete song just takes shape inside of my head, but that sort of thing is special and rare.

VP: You’ve recently played your first headline show in the UK , was it all that you expected and hoped for ?

JENN: Headlining is always very fun and special for us, it’s great after weeks of support shows to stretch out, play some new things, and perform in front of an audience that’s there to see us specifically. We had a blast, can’t wait to come back.

VP: ‘Civilian’ has certainly generated more media interest in Wye Oak in the UK than previous albums, do you think this is the album that really does show you reaching a creative peak ?

JENN: I definitely think it’s our best record to date, and I’m glad that it’s getting more attention than the others. I’m proud of it, and I think we’re a much more comfortable and assured band after a few years of touring and recording. It makes sense all of our work thus far has brought us to this point.

VP: You’re both from Baltimore, would you say the creative scene there is very supportive for musicians?

JENN: I couldn’t feel any luckier to live in Baltimore right now. The quality and quantity of the music and art that’s being produced in our city at the moment is jaw-dropping. I’m constantly overwhelmed by it all. Better yet, in addition to being  an inspiring and exciting place, its also a very comfortable and supportive feeling scene. It feels far less competitive than a lot of places; people here are genuinely excited to work with one another.

VP: You’ve both played music from an early age through school/college, some people let this tail off as they pursue other qualifications/careers, what was it that made you both want to form a band?

JENN: I’ve always known that music has been the one thing in my life that I love most, am consistently drawn to produce, and it’s pretty much what I’m best at. There never really was much of a “Plan B” for me.

VP: What have been your most memorable moments as a band thus far?

JENN: Finding out that Merge Records wanted to work with us was a big one, as was our recent signing with the amazing City Slang label in the EU. I don’t know…there aren’t as many standout moments as much as a general sense of awe and amazement that we’ve been given the opportunity to do this, and meet and perform with so many wonderful and gifted artists along the way.

VP: I’ve read in the past that you’re not keen on labeling your music. What’s been the most bizarre or annoying you’ve read about your music?

JENN: I get confused when people call us an “acoustic-folk duo”. I haven’t played an acoustic guitar in front of an audience since I was fifteen years old.

VP: What’s the plan for 2011 ?

JENN: Live well, tour often, make new songs, don’t go insane.

VP: Five words to sum up your week?

JENN: Ecstatically happy to be home.

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Civilization (Acosutic) By Wye Oak