VPME Track Of The Day “Carver’s Kicks” by Straylings.

Straylings Von Pip Musical Express

Now this is fantastic. “Carver’s Kicks” by Straylings is an epic, dark, portentous sounding slice of widescreen drama.  Consisting of Bahraini/Austrian songwriter Dana Zeera and London born guitarist Oliver Drake Straylings have already received high praise for their debut Ep  released last June . On this track the sound recalls the cinematic Alt/Goth country which made the Howling Bells debut album such a critical hit and marks out the 5th March as a significant date in your musical diary.  Why ? Well that’s the date Straylings debut album   “Entertainment On Foreign Ground”   is released via Deadpan records

They  also play their first date of 2012 this Saturday at Camden Barfly.


THE VPME AWARDS 2011- (Including Top 20 Podcast)


It’s almost the season to be jolly, but just before the holiday season we are in the midst of “the list.”  Yes music mags/zines and blogs are full of endless lists, lists about the best albums, best gigs, best songs, lists about lists. It could leave you feeling quite listless and we can’t have that, so , here’s our list, we’ve even checked it twice!  Yup it’s that vertigo inducing  career high that results in being presented with a special VPME trophy ( known colloquially as a “Pipster” )  we therefore present the music that touched, inspired and kept us sane during a bumpy 2011……



You can listen to the Album of the year podcast below whilst you read along 😉  ( or on Mixcloud)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

       1. Sarabeth Tucek – “Get Well Soon”

Sarabeth Tucek With Her Magnificent Album Of The Year Trophy - The Von Pip Musical Express

Sarabeth and her "Pipster" award !

When we first heard the title track from Sarabeth’s second album our reaction was thus . . . “There are occasions in life when you come across a song of such exquisite beauty that it literally stops you dead in your tracks. One that has the power to effect you so profoundly that it makes your heart ache whilst simultaneously gives cause for your ears to quiver with joy.”  And so the album had quite something to live up to, but happily it surpassed expectations.  Of the album we wrote “‘Get Well Soon’ chimes and resonates with sincerity and beauty, it crackles with genuine emotion and ultimately turns the pain of loss into something incredibly poignant and life affirming. What starts out as a lament to her late father becomes a celebration of remembrance in terms of, not only her relationship with her Dad, but also in how she survived grief and emerged from the darkness. Quite why it’s been ignored by  much  of printed musical press in their albums on the year lists is a mystery. Or is it ? Much of them sadly are more concerned with short term hipsterism rather than long term talent.  You can read the full review and interview with Sarabeth HERE

      2. Dum Dum Girls – “Only In Dreams”

“Whereas Dum Dum Girls debut album,  ‘I Will Be’ was essentially the one woman  project of songwriter and front lady Dee Dee Penny (real name Kristen Gundred) ‘Only In Dreams’ sees Dum Dum Girls flourish into a formidable, fully formed, holistic musical entity.  At the risk of being accused of indulging in hyperbole it’s my opinion that in any right thinking society this album should be regarded as a genuine slice of  pop genius and as such ought to be mentioned in the same breath as canonised classics such as ‘Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes,’  Blondie’s ‘Parallel Lines’ or The Ramones ‘Leave Home.’ With Richard Gottehrer and Raveonette, Sune Rose Wagner on production duties, the album demonstrates just what an amazingly gifted songwriter Dee Dee is. This is not empty vacuous, throw away pop, for the twist is that beneath the often blissful melodies you’ll discover dark lyrics full of poetic candour imbued with genuine emotional depth and intelligence that is both profoundly beautiful and extremely moving.” Read the rest of the review and interview with Dee Dee HERE.

3.       The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar.

We wrote “Amongst the fury, the power and the often giddy pace of the album, The Joy Formidable manage to stir something deep inside you, connecting  an emotional level, filling you with a sense of euphoria and ultimately  leaving you to ponder just what is it about  such a magnificent noise that is so incredibly moving and life affirming ?  It’s also an album that in time may well be cited as an inspiration for many future bands, because it really is that good. Just weeks into 2011 The Joy Formidable have already thrown down the gauntlet in the album of the year stakes.   On the sublime ‘A Heavy Abacus’ Ritzy sings ‘ Happiness, it won’t last long’ well maybe not, but goodness while it does last, the joy is truly formidable.”   Original Review here

 4.       Veronica  Falls –Veronica Falls

We wrote  Their eponymous debut album, called somewhat surprisingly, ‘Veronica Falls’ is  raw, edgy, melodious and mysterious. “Found Love In A Grave Yard” is, excuse the pun, a killer tune and has been rattling its ghostly chains about the internet for some time. It’s a perfect album opener, laying the ground work for some dark sparkling indie pop nuggets such as “Right Side Of My Brain”, “Misery” “Stephen” and “Come On Over” whilst “The Fountain” vocally conjures up  Lush’s Miki Berenyi [Hurrah!] Given some of  slightly macabre subject matter,  graveyards, loss,death and everybodys  favourite one way destination  “Beachy Head” you may think this could be an earnest, po-faced hipster ride through angst and existentialism. You would of course be very much mistaken. Veronica Falls’ sunny pop shimmer belies the dark lyrical thematics, which you sense are sung with a knowing wink and a sense of mischievous fun.”

Read the interview and review HERE  

 5.       Pete And Pirates  “One Thousand Pictures”

The hope and romantic idealism that permeated ‘Little Death’ is replaced by the sort of cynicism that comes from experience and the jangle pop is replaced by a much more rounded rockier sound. Ok so they haven’t done the whole Arctic ‘This is what Led Zeppelin would sound like fronted by George Formby Monkeys rock thing but there are some fantastically meaty guitar riffs in evidence. However Pete And The Pirates are an eclectic bunch and don’t really conform to one particular template instead they take us on an intriguing musical journey through indie, rock and even shades of Donna Summer (on ‘Winter.’)  As ever it’s the quality of the songs that ultimately ensure that the band build on the success of their debut and ‘One Thousand Pictures’ is definite progression forward.  Underneath the jaunty veneer of many of the songs you may find something rather darker lurking and it’s this juxtaposition along with fabulous melodies that once again makes Pete And The Pirates stand out from their peers”  Read the interview and review HERE

6.  Half Man Half Biscuit – “90 Bisodol (Crimond)

Wirral’s own poet laureate Nigel Blackwell and gang return with a mix of Shakespeare meets Edward Lear I mean where else  can find songs about Gok Wan, D.I.Y. Geezer Tommy Walsh, Indie bands appearing on the Sky soccer sofa, despite knowing nothing about football ( But then, disastrously/They ask him casually/“You come from Leigh-On-Sea,/Do you ever get to Roots Hall?”/Which to him means fuck all”  Or  actress Lynette McMorrough ( Glenda Brownlow in “Crossroads” ) trying to recreate her  “King’s Oak” glory days via the medium of  dolls and dolls houses with her ultimate intention being to replace her own doll’s plastic with tofu ! Surreal genius.

7. Emmy The Great – “Virtue” –

If ‘First Love’ proved that Emmy ‘s rough demo’s and EP’s scrubbed up rather well, then ‘Virtue’ sees her music in full make up wearing killer heels and stepping out onto the red carpet. Review and interview HERE

8. Black Lips – “Arabia Mountain”

The  frenetic, sometimes ramshackle sound really hits the mark on this album, as they are reined in by none other than producer Mark Ronson. Having not been what you’d call  a fan of Ronson’s rather ostentatious production style in the past  this is something of  a revelation! Ronson  subtly puts a bit a spit and shine on the bands sound whilst still retaining the bands garagey Stones meets the Ramones vibe and  in doing so helps Black Lips produce their  most consistent album to date.

9. Beirut – “The Rip Tide”

Zach Condon returns with possibly his most uplifting album to date. His talent as a songwriter is in full bloom and the timbre of his melodious voice possesses a huge emotional punch.  After some experimentation in the past “The Rip Tide” sounds like an artist really finding  his feet having gained the confidence to  finally  reveal the contents of  his heart. A thing of poignant graceful beauty.

10. The Bookhouse Boys – “Tales To Tell”

Darker than Nick Cave’s hair dye and more full-some than this magnificent ‘tache The Bookhouse Boys returned to  prove that their superb debut album was no fluke as they continue to produce sinister surf rock combined with goth mariachi which is epic, sexy, sleazy and sinister in equal measure.

The Rest.

11. Ladytron – “Gravity The Seducer”

12. Slow Club – “Paradise”

13. Love Inks – “ESP”

14. Wye Oak – Civilian

15. Lykee Li – “Wounded Rhymes”

16. Zola Jesus – “Conatus”

17. Sarah Nixey – ” Brave Tin Soldiers”

18. Howling Bells – “The Loudest Engine”

19. Help Stamp Out Loneliness – Help Stamp Out Loneliness

20. Prince Edward Island – “This Day Is A Good Enough Day”

21. Kate Bush – “50 Words For Snow”

22. The Indelicates – “David Koresh Superstar”

23. Laura Marling – “A Creature I Don’t Know”

24. Little Comets – “In Search Of The Elusive Little Comets”

25. PJ Harvey – “Let England Shake”

26. The Whip – X Marks The Destination.

27. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

28. Cults – Cults

29. Summer Camp – Welcome To Condale.

30. Austra – Feel It Break.


Song Of The Year.

This year we decided to pick the song  which we had played most on Last FM,  because that would surely be our best loved song right ? Right ! It also proved to the doubters that we hadn’t secretly been listening to the execrable Cher Lloyd! The Good Natured were  far and away our most played artist in 2011 and  their dark electro pop masterpiece “Wolves” had more plays than Dawn French has chocolate bars.  And because they were our tip for greatness in 2011, we’ll conclude the year with an interview with Sarah and the chaps (coming soon)  and of course continue to keep our eyes and ears out for them in 2012 when their debut album is set to drop!

The VPME SONG OF THE YEAR 2011 The Good Natured - Wolves

Hamish, Sarah and George are delighted with their magnificent trophy!!


Video Of The Year.

We don’t really like Lady Ga-Ga style big budget videos, we prefer ones which are filmed on a budget and use imagination rather than cold hard dollars so  Beirut’s “Santa Fe” ticked all the right boxes, a simple video with a few twists, dark humour  and a story-line that keeps you watching.

VPME VIDEO OF THE YEAR 2011 - Santa Fe By Beirut

Video Of The Year

1.Santa Fe By Beirut

2. Paper Forest By Emmy The Great.

Simple, yet strangely moving, even if we haven’t got a baldy what its about.

3. Mirage By Ladytron.

Because Helen looks great, there are stone circles, fires, sinister druidy types  and it’s all a bit Wicker Man meets Rosemary’s Baby. Which is good

4. Phantoms By Bird

Spooky!!  Les Diaboliques meets the Ring meets The Blair Witch Project meets  Little Red Riding Hood directed by David Lynch ( well no but it has that vibe)

5. United By Pete And The Pirates

Because we love cats and this fan provided footage left us feline fine. 😉



The Jesus And Mary Chain Re-issues

Need you ask ? The Smiths remasters were excellent but the re-issuse of all The Jesus & Mary Chain’s studio albums, replete with rarities, outtakes and DVD’s was quite wonderful. To add to our joy we were even mentioned on the sleeve notes for “Psychocandy” and “Darklands” , which being massive Mary Chain fans was even more thrilling than waking up to find a stocking clad Charlize Theron in our bed.

“Best Newcomers ( With Attitude)”


Cat and Mary From Pris abuse their "Pipster"

They tottered about upsetting  the new breed of seemingly critic proof musical deities, having had pops at Jessie J, Everything Everything, Chris Martin, Noah and The Whale, Ellie Goulding, The Vaccines  and Spector to name but a few  and have put a bit of attitude back into a sometimes very bland conservative conformist pop scene. They also write pretty snappy new wave pop tunes too.( Interview HERE)

Most overrated Album of this year or indeed any …. 

Yup it’s The Horrors (again)

Cunts of the year?

“”The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”

And that’s 2011, coming soon will be the artists we hope will do well in  2012.

See you on the other side and have a fucking EXCELLENT Christmas however you chose to celebrate it ( Jack Daniels , The Pogues and Phil Spector works for me ! )   … All the very best , AVP xx

Songs To Learn And Sing – School Of Seven Bells And The Good Natured

Oh my, we are currently caught up in the tinselly  vortex of the festive season, what with Christmas shopping festive podcasts, Six music appearances 😉 & interviews with pop star types we are sure to be fit for nothing come the big day.. But there’s just time to bring you the following musical snippets.


School Of Seven Bells Pic By JUSTIN_HOLLAR_

School Of Seven Bells Free Download

School Of Seven Bells return in 2012 with their third album, Ghostory, out on February 28 via Vagrant Records/Ghostly International and are giving a away a track from the album simply entitled “The Night” free.


The Good Natured- Free Download and New Video.

The Good Natured return with a free download (get it here) taken from their debut album which is due to drop in April 2012. There’s also a rather ‘stalkerish’ video to go with it. There’ll be an interview with Sarah and the boys very soon, where we presented them with THIS…

The Video


The Wedding Present

David Gedge and his Wedding Present are playing three gigs to mark the end of 2011 at

29 December: Glasgow Garage

30 December: Leeds O2 Academy

31 December: London Camden Dingwalls

They’ll also be releasing a new album in 2012, embarking on a US and European tour which will include their new album, plus playing their classic “Seamonsters” in its entirety.


And finally I’ll be on 6 music on Tom Robinson‘s Now Playing show on 9/12/2011 between 7-9 , so tune in if your in. You can follow the show and me using the twitter hash tag #blog6music

Ciao !

Howling Bells ‘The Loudest Engine’ Special – Album,Gig and Interview.


‘The Loudest Engine ‘Special.

Juanita Stein-Howling Bells - The Von Pip Musical Express.

“Baby Blue” By Howling Bells.

The Album –“The Loudest Engine.”

The problem with producing a flawless debut album widely regarded by many as a genuine classic, is that there will always be those who demand that subsequent albums endlessly repeat variations on the same theme.  To adopt such a narrow-minded viewpoint means refusing to accept that for artists, exploring different musical directions is all part of the creative process.  This appears to be the reaction Australia’s finest musical exports, Howling Bells have garnered from certain areas of  an increasingly capricious musical press and as such may be forgiven for believing that producing such an immaculate debut has become something of a double-edged sword.  Their sophomore album ‘Radio Wars received a decidedly unenthusiastic critical reception with many reviewers appearing disappointed that the band hadn’t rigidly adhered to the musical template set down on album number one.

However it’s highly unlikely that a selection of ill conceived, luke-warm reviews would have changed ‘the Bells’ approach when it came to writing and recording their third album.  If you exist only to seek the approval of others than invariably you will lose your way as an artist.  Singer Juanita Stein describes the band’s latest album ‘The Loudest Engine’  as “a modern psychedelic record more folk and rock than our last two albums” which “will change people’s perspectives of the band.”   The album is a seductive, edgy and at times downright explosive affair, and sees the band come out with all guns blazing assisted by  Mark Stoermer (of The Killers) on production duties. ‘The Loudest Engine’ defiantly has a trippier vibe in comparison to  the post apocalyptic sound of “Radio Wars” or the sinister, claustrophobic goth-country of their debut, but rest assured the band haven’t been ingesting huge quantities of acid and communing with animal spirit guides whilst recording the album in the Nevada desert.  Whilst it’s an album that rocks it’s not what you’d call an out-and-out rock album, and despite some mightily impressive guitar jams it still retains that magical, ethereal quality that make Howling Bells such an intriguing and beguiling proposition. They inhabit a world were innocence and wonder are seemingly stalked by an unseen, intangible darkness.   Songs such as  “Into The Sky,”Don’t Run,” “Sioux,” “The Faith” and “Baby Blue” all serve notice that you write Howling Bells off at your peril on an album that delivers from start to finish and plays to the bands many strengths.  Juanita’s vocals veer between coquettish seduction and strident imperiousness whilst the band demonstrate just what a formidable musical unit they have become, deftly mixing light and shade with subtlety and raw power.  A great album from a wonderful band who I hope continue to make the music THEY want to make for many years to come.



The Gig.

Juanita And Joel Stein - Howling Bells - The Von Pip Musical Express

Manchester’s Academy 3 plays host to the last gig of Howling Bells mini tour to promote ‘The Loudest Engine’ and finds the band on spectacular form.  Juanita is almost impish as she somewhat coyly charms the audience and the natural camaraderie that is apparent between the band members combined with the obvious love displayed for their craft immediately translates to an enthusiastic audience. Tonight’s set list, somewhat surprisingly, contains only one song from the ‘Radio Wars’ album, the epic Orwellian ‘Cities Burning Down’ as the band instead decide to weave some choice cuts from their debut album with new material.  Live, the slow burning folk rock, torch song “Sioux” takes on mystical quality with Juanita transforming herself into some sort of ethereal high priestess, whilst the album’s title track sees Joel wigging out with some incredible guitar licks. In many ways ‘The Loudest Engine’ makes perfect sense live, giving the band plenty of scope to ‘rock out.’  The evenings entertainment is drawn to a fitting conclusion  with an encore that  includes a thunderous version of  the classic ‘Low Happening,’ and new song ‘Live On’  as once again Howling Bells  demonstrate just why they are still one of the best live acts around. Long may they continue to chime!

 Howling Bells - The Von Pip Musical Express


Howling Bells Set-list Manchester 20/09/2011

A quick word about opening act Cold Specks, the conduit through which Canadian singer songwriter Al  Spx performs. With a voice imbued with more soul than New Orleans , Al mesmerised the audience and by the end of the set had them shouting for more, which is quite a rare thing for a support band.  Ones to watch for sure 😉

 The Von Pip Musical Express

“Holland “ by Cold Specks.

Photo slide show

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Or check out the gallery HERE.

The Interview.

Howling Bells Brendan-Picchio--Answers-The-Big-Questions--The-Von-Pip-Musical-Express

Brendan Picchio wrestles with 'the big questions'

Prior to The Manchester gig, we went backstage and had a chat with Brendan Picchio, the Howling Bells bassist about the album, stadium gigs, the kindness of Chris Martin, Juanita’s impromptu Alice Cooper impression and life on the road.

VP:  Would you say the intention behind the new album was to do something very different from Radio Wars, to take another musical leap so to speak?  

BRENDAN: I guess you’d hope every album is a progression of sorts.   It was a long writing process  for ‘The Loudest Engine’ a lot of it done on the road, but rather than progress or move forward I think the predominant feeling was to make a  record that was true and honest and from the heart. After all there are only 12 notes on the music spectrum,  there have been thousands of bands from The Beatles through to the present day, and maybe there’s a feeling that everything’s been kind of done before.  I think we accomplished what we set out to achieve, at the time we were all in a very good head space, very happy, positive and emotionally connected as a band.

VP:  As a band you seem to straddle genres and I think the critics find it hard to pigeonhole you, but you’ve always managed to produce music that has a slight darkness imbued within… Juanita said this record sounds 70’s tinged and psychedelic which happened almost accidentally?

BRENDAN:  Yeah I think some of tension, musically speaking comes from Joel’s guitar playing which has certain intensity to it.  With regard to the album Juanita’s right to a degree, in terms of this album technically speaking we went for a kaleidoscope kind of sound, but it also has a raw airy feel to it. We were very inspired by The Doors documentary we’d watched just before going into the studio. I remember before recording Joel sent an email saying ‘No way am I doing this album unless we record it to tape’ and everyone’s like ‘get the fuck out of here, everything’s on digital these days’. Then the next day Mark [Stoermer–producer] said ‘Hey guys I’ve found a tape machine!’ And that was it!  We went old school and recorded to tape, we did like maybe four takes, listened, picked one, overdubs, done!  It was basically the band in the room playing takes which was really a lot of fun.

VP:  Your debut album was quite rightly universally praised, did this lead to any kind of pressure when making subsequent albums, a weight of expectation perhaps?

BRENDAN:  I didn’t feel any pressure personally as I tend not to think that way but I think maybe some of the guys in the band may have done.  Mind you when we get in the studio it’s just four people trying to make a record to the best of our ability. We generally don’t read reviews as it’s just an opinion, I mean hell, I don’t even trust my own opinion sometimes [laughs]. All I can say is we put our hearts and soul into what we do, and if someone doesn’t like out heart and soul – well…. fuck ‘em !  [laughs]. If you try to concoct some sort of idea of what people are expecting of you it’s never gonna be true and honest. It’s like being with your wife or girlfriend and trying to figure out what she wants you to say rather than what you genuinely feel.

VP: So how did Mark Stoermer from the Killers get involved in producing the album?

BRENDAN:  He’s a genuinely lovely guy; he’s here tonight, I’ll introduce you, we’ve toured with them a few times already and they are very quiet guys. Mark actually seemed initially to be the most serious. In fact the first impression you get is maybe he doesn’t want to talk to anyone, he wants to be left alone or he’s upset about something and you best stay away.  It’s strange how things happen but it turned out that Mark was the guy we got on with the best. It was funny because when we flew over to Vegas to meet Mark our flight was seriously delayed and we didn’t get in till midnight. Mark had been waiting for us at the airport arranging stuff for us, since like 10 AM !  I mean this guy could get anyone to do this for him, but there he was getting his hands dirty and doing it himself. When we arrived he was all smiles, hugging us, cracking jokes and we were like ‘Who the fuck is this guy!”  [laughs]  It was there where we really forged our relationship. He’s a fantastic human being and I loved his style of working, it was very free and natural, lots of jams happened, it was a real pleasure.

VP:  On the title track, ‘The Loudest Engine’ it took me a while  to extract the meaning from the lyrics but apparently it’s a kind of homage or love-hate song about your relationship with your tour bus! ?

BRENDAN:  We all do that too! Try and work out what the lyrics are all about [laughs] But yes it was written by Juanita about a particular bus we were on. She’s trying to describe what it means to a band on the road, kind of like the mother ship, you respect it but also resent the time you have to spend on it.

VP: So do  you find yourself going ‘stir crazy’ at times on the tour bus ?

BRENDAN: Well we haven’t toured for two years so we have crammed in all that energy and horseplay into the last five days!  It’s been nauseating 😉  You can’t move without somebody grabbing your nether regions!  But there’s a limit and we kinda know how far we can push each other!

VP : Just before the tour you did a great session for Marc Riley on the BBC, which really wet my appetite for seeing you live again.

BRENDAN: Yeah, we’ve done a few before, but he’s a really great guy, so funny, and he certainly knows his stuff. It was a lot of fun!

VP: Fun!? . . . FUN !?  But I thought the press had pinned you guys down as ‘Alt-Goth-country- doom merchants!

BRENDAN: Ha! There’s nothing gothic about us, except maybe the debut album cover, people just love labels!

VP: Ok so prior to the album’s release you went down the “Pledge” music route and released a digital EP, what was the thinking behind that?

BRENDAN: Really we felt that as we had been away so long we wanted to reconnect with our audience, I don’t really like to use the term ‘fans.’ I mean when we played London there were about fifteen people down at the front who were at our very first gig and have stuck by us. We thought this would be a nice way to involve people without going down the traditional route of through a label and would give us a chance to have some fun.

VP: So the internet/digital age is in many ways a bitter sweet pill for bands? Great to communicate with your fans but not great for sales?

BRENDAN: It can be hard for bands, yeah, because nobody is really making that much money, so you always have to think ways of doing things. With the Pledge campaign the fans were very generous and it all went back into the band fund and enabled us to fund this tour. I mean it’s not like we pocketed it and went down the pub!  So yeah it is getting harder definitely but at the end of the day we do this for the pure love of it. Love it, or get the fuck out, that’s the choice!  Every album and tour we somehow manage to do it and I certainly hope we continue pulling cards out of our sleeves to carry on doing this because we just want to make music.

VP: You’ve seen the other side of music too, the huge tours alongside The Killers and Coldplay. How does that compare to the more intimate shows. Is it nerve wracking playing to stadium sized crowds?

BRENDAN: Luckily I don’t really get nervous; walking out in front of 15 people or 50,000 people is all the same to me. Obviously you feel more distant from the crowd due to the scale; mind you I’m always interested in other bands fans reaction to us because I believe we are a good enough band to merit people’s attention. Y’know with Juanita’s voice and the way we craft the music around it, I think it’s interesting.  But really the big tours you have to take them with a pinch of salt, and personally you reach a point when the money runs out!  Let me take you through a day on a big tour:

A limo picks us up from the apartment then drives us to an air force base; you walk through security feeling like you own the joint. These flights are amazing you can do what you like really, then you land 45 minutes later where a motorcade with police outriders picks you up takes you through security to the stadium. You then eat some good food and play a show in front of 50,000 people. You fly back ……and then realise. . . . you can’t afford a cab and have to walk back to your girlfriends place! [laughs] That certainly gives you perspective, but you get to have these incredible experiences. I wouldn’t trade my band’s history and experiences for a billion dollars.

VP: Isn’t it tempting to do a bit of mad partying on tour?

BRENDAN: We used to at first, but jeez we’re getting on, we’re in our thirties now ! These days we’re pretty clean living and probably bigger foodies than drinkers. Maybe if you were on the same level as your Coldplays you might take advantage ( not that they do) , but at our level you have to be on your toes and you don’t want to let people down. I mean every time you suck live might lose you some fans and then other people in your team have to take up the slack, I think we have too much respect for what we do to let each other down. Buy hey we still get to meet crazy people and have amazing experiences!

VP: Talking of Coldplay what was that tour like, I know other Howling Bells fans that aren’t really keen on them, but it must have been a great opportunity to get your music out to an even bigger audience?

BRENDAN: Well from our point of view we were really happy and fortunate to get the chance to be involved in such a huge production, and y’know what? They are genuinely, honestly really nice guys, seriously! Like when Juanita broke her guitar on tour and the next day a brand new one arrived wrapped with a big bow, we were like ‘Fuck! A new guitar!”  But this is how they roll. They are lovely to all their crew, seriously great guys, and they work fucking hard. So y’know you really have to respect them for that!

VP: Finally Brendan, off the top of your head, what would you say is your most memorable band moment?

BRENDAN: Jeez man, this is a tough one, so many…arrrgh…. OK I think maybe when we sold out our first headline London show at ICA and we were like ‘holy crap, we sold it out ! And I remember there was no air conditioning and my shirt was stuck to me after the gig and had to be literally peeled off my back! Juanita came off stage looking like Alice Cooper as her makeup had run down her face and her hair was plastered to her forehead!

Everybody looked disgusting, but we were on such a high, which may have been in some part due to a lack of salts and dehydration induced euphoria! We nearly died that night it was so hot but it was a great gig !

Buy The new Album here

Berndan and Juanita -Howling Bells Live - The Von Pip Musical Express

Virtual Reality -Emmy The Great Interview/Review

Emmy The Great Interview 2011 The Von Pip Musical Express.“A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep” By Emmy The Great.

It wasn’t quite love at first listen with regard to  Emmy The Great’s debut album ‘First Love’, purely because we’d become smitten with Emmy’s oeuvre long before her debut.  She was probably one of the first artists  we’d discovered via myspace (remember that kids? Back in the day before Murdoch’s money poisoned the well rendering it completely unusable?) We were drawn to her wit, her natural melody, her poetic lyricism and her idiosyncratic musings. So in a sense, it was love at second listen in relation to ‘First Love’,  an album we also bestowed our much coveted album of the year award upon in 2009.

If ‘First Love’ proved that Emmy ‘s rough demo’s and EP’s scrubbed up rather well, then ‘Virtue’ sees her music in full make up wearing killer heels and stepping out onto the red carpet. It’s an album of such delicate heartbreaking beauty that it would leave only the stoniest of hearts unmoved. Informed by some life changing experiences, it demonstrates a keenness of mind and a hugeness of spirit that is sadly lacking in a lot of big label music these days.

The albums starts slowly with ‘Dinosaur Sex’  a song which  is possibly bleaker than catching Morrissey’s  worbegone visage refelcted in a coffin plate.  But after this  rather disquieting  opener the album really finds its feet and demonstrates that  Emmy has taken her  song writing and melodies to a whole new level. Gone is the naive whimsy of some of her early work, and the occasional self conscious pop culture references, replaced by somebody finding a new perspective, taking risks and not being afraid to express their most intimate thoughts.  ‘Virtue’ is  informed by the spectre of lost love and contains the sort of erudite  lyrical observations that elude most songwriters.  She shows that  just one of her softly sung couplets contains more wit wisdom and insight into the human condition than a thousand overwrought yodels from the likes of self proclaimed ‘people’s poet’ James Allan.  Subtlety is so often overlooked in favour of bombast in a lot of modern day music and so we should cherish somebody who’s intelligent song writing deftly holds a mirror up to our own hopes and dreams as she makes an album that is deeply personal and yet universal.  The album closes with ‘Trellick Tower, a building that many perceive as a brutal architectural scar on west London’s skyline which in this  instance  becomes emblematic of emotional scarring, it’s also probably  Emmy’s most personal song to date. The building acts as a kind of austere  memorial to a relationship, to a love lost,  an implacable spectator that casts a mighty shadow and still prevails when life has moved on. It’s a tale of heartbreak, acceptance, and is a tender goodbye….

So is ‘Virtue’  better than ‘First Love?’  We think so . Is it a contender for album of the year? It will surely be there or there abouts , and does it prove Emma lives up to her nom de plume? Definitely.

Album rating 9.5/10

We had a chat with Emma about the album, weddings and the life changing events which helped ‘Virtue’ take shape.



VP:   Hi Emma, congrats on the new album which is fantastic.  What made you go down the Pledge music route and how did the experience work for you? Any bizarre pledges to fulfil?

EMMA : Thanks Andy! I went down the Pledge route for a number of reasons. I didn’t feel like I had to demo the songs to record them for the album, and in order to get label funding before we recorded it, I’d have had to. As well as that, you probably know that I was in the middle of some gnarly personal stuff, and the idea of interacting with strangers and possibly expanding my uses as a musician with things like workshops was incredibly attractive.  Anything to get me away from my house and my own thoughts.  I’m really glad I did it. I met some amazing people. I can’t think of anything bizarre right now but there were definitely unique experiences, like meeting some of the people I now consider friends.

VP:   As you know I loved ‘First Love’ but ‘Virtue’ sounds like a much more confident and mature body of work. Without prying I know you had quite a turbulent time personally whilst writing the album, did that provide a seismic shift in terms of the tone of the album?

EMMA : I think I was already heading towards new pastures sonically, but in terms of the personal tone of the record – I didn’t realise it was going to be like that until the second half of the writing, after my wedding got cancelled. If you had told me in March that I’d spend the summer living with my parents and researching theology, I’d have been shocked, but a month later, that’s what happened, and the album became what it is.

VP: The pop culture references from the first album have all but disappeared, ( 24, M.I.A. etc) was this a conscious decision ?

EMMA : There are still references in this record. Maybe they’re less pop culture and more myth and literature, but those things are closely related. There’s Cassandra in Cassandra, and the last verse of that is based on the poster for the original film of Lolita, and there’s Rapunzel in Trellick Tower, there’s Trellick Tower…there are a couple songs based on the Sylvia Plath quote ‘Character is fate’, and Paper Forest is lifted from the last line of a Patti Smith song, which is lifted from the Bible. So there are still pop culture references, they’re just less direct.

VP: I guess  ‘Trellick Tower’ is your most personal song to date but  what’s the actual significance of the building in terms of the song ? (Apparently it ‘s also the inspiration for High Rise By JG Ballard so you’re in good company!)

EMMA : I lived really close to Trellick Tower when I was engaged and it was something i talked about with my ex a lot. When he did his thing I was there alone and the Tower took on extra significance, like it linked me with him, or with our past. Then as I got over what happened, it became something that was mine. I was the one who was still there; I was the one who still had a relationship with the building etc. I still use it as my personal sat nav replacement when I’m driving in London and need to get home.   I’ve been recommended High Rise by a few people now and I’m definitely going to read it.

VP:  How’s your relationship with religion these days?

EMMA : It’s funny, because I always thought I’d be really angry at Christianity after this, but I can’t be. When I went soul searching, I discovered such lovely branches of Christians – liberal ones, who actively fight for gay and female clergy – that I can’t possibly be mad at the entire religion. But there are certain types of Christianity that I came across that shocked me. It tends to do with taking the Bible literally and patriarchy/ moral conservatism/ science denial. To my mind there’s rational religion and irrational religion, and rational religion is something I have lots of time for.

VP: Ha the way you go about song writing changed over the years? For example do you sit down and think, I will write till 1.30 , clock off for lunch and then come back and write till five ? Or is it a case of writing as and when you feel inspired?

EMMA : I need routine. I take notes when I’m inspired but I don’t put it all together until I sit down to work. And then, yeah, it’s a case of starting at 11, taking lunch, finishing at 5 etc. It’s not like that’s the only time I come up with ideas, but that’s the time I know I’ll have something solid finished, and that gives me licence not to be thinking of songs when I’m doing other things.

VP:   You said that with “Virtue,” it’s the first album that you really wanted people to hear?  Could you explain that statement? Is it a question of being more confident in your song writing?

EMMA : I think just being more confident overall. Now that this album is out and I feel like I’ve got a body of work behind me, I don’t mind people hearing First Love either. I was always so insecure that people wouldn’t think that I could move forward, now if people hear the first, and know what the second sounds like, I feel like they’ll believe me that I can do something interesting for the third as well.

VP:  And you’ve just played Glastonbury, how was the festival for you ?  And how did you come to be involved in Water Aid?

EMMA :  I wrote to Water Aid before my first album I think. Not as a musician, just as a supporter. But as it happened Joe and Mel from Water Aid had been to one of my gigs (maybe just Joe?) and they asked me to come down. We were all going to Glastonbury that year so I said I’d spend my free time campaigning. I’ve campaigned for them every summer now. I really love them, as a charity and as people.

VP:  I gather from your recent comments that you were a big fan of the Royal Wedding? Let’s face it , it really did unify the nation and make us all forget about public sector cuts and old Etonians lording it over the serfs didn’t it ….erm …nope…

EMMA : The thing I heard most over that period was, “What’s wrong with a bit of escapism?” But the reason we all felt the need for escapism was because the establishment had let us down (repeatedly) and we were watching things like libraries and the arts crumbling around us. In this instance, you’ll have to explain how paying out of our taxes for a couple of already wealthy people to tie to the knot in incredibly regressive circumstances, in the company of a crowd so right wing that ex-PRIME MINISTERS were considered not posh enough to attend, counts as an effective form of escapism?

And I don’t know Kate Middleton, so I don’t know if the focus of the press coverage was reflective of a pathological interest in fashion on her part – but seriously – could there have been just the tiniest story that wasn’t about the make of the her boots and the gloss of her hair?

VP:  And you and Tim [ Wheeler] have recorded a Christmas album ?? What can you tell us about that?  Are they originals? Covers ? What’s the deal ?

EMMA : They’re mostly puns. We got snowed in over Christmas 2010 – like literally snowed in – and ended up missing four flights between us and so we wrote the songs (or at least the titles) for the Christmas record. There’s only one cover and it’s a full album.

VP: Finally five tips that would help us all become more ‘virtuous’

EMMA : Don’t stray from the path/ Appearances can be deceiving/ Keep your promises/ Do the right thing/ Follow your heart (full version of my guide to virtuosity can be found here: http://emmythegreat.com/details.aspx?id=18.63.Keep-Your-Virtue-A-Handy-Guide)


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Fuzzy Logic – Milk Maid Interview /Review.

Milk Maid Interview

‘Not Me‘ By Milk Maid.

We have often banged the drum with regard to the fact that you don’t neccesarily need a huge budget and fancy production techniques to produce great music.  Milk Maid’s debut album ‘Yucca’ once again adds weight to our argument. Recorded in songwriter Martin Cohen’s flat during the indefinite hiatus of Nine Black Alps, [bands never simply split-up these days]  it reveals Cohen’s keen ear for a pop hook, juxtaposed with dark lyrics and visceral guitars. It’s an album that conjures up the ghosts of early Creation record bands such as The House Of Love  and the Jesus and Mary Chain  and there will doubtless be comaprisons made to current slacker poet laurete Kurt Vile’s oeuvre.

Lovers of turd polished, vacuum packed pop will no doubt find the lo-fi nature of this album something of an aural quagmire but in many ways it’s the uncontrived insouciance  and couldn’t give a fuck slacker attitude of ‘Yucca’  that’s part of it’s easy charm.  As with any collection of songs it’s ultimately  the quality of the songwriting that an album will stand or fall by and there is no question that  ‘Yucca‘ contains a wealth of great songs.  ‘Dead Wrong’ channels the spirit of the Velvets whilst recent single, the stomping ‘Not Me’ contains echoes of The House Of Love’s anthemic ‘Christine’. ‘Girl’ could be a Slacker Springsteen and the forty five second ‘Kill Me Again’ sounds like the Mary Chain meets Jackson Browne.  Cohen can certainly pen great pop tunes and in many ways ‘Yucca’ feels like something of an experiment, of a songwriter finding his feet and indeed delighting in the freedom that the D.I.Y. ethic affords, free of big label meddeling.   For lovers of lo-fi, fuzzed up, hook laden garage pop with explosive guitar riffs ‘Yucca’ certainly delivers the goods and you sense there’s plenty more in Cohen’s arsenal, if of course he can be bothered 😉 .


We had a chat with Martin about Milk Maid and his own musical influences.



VP:For those who are new to Milk Maid’s music , who are you and how did the band get together?

MARTIN: I’m Martin.  I sing and play guitar in milk maid.  Rick Entezari plays guitar,Luke Towart plays bass and Ian Hodson drums.  We met through friends, or friends of friends or brothers of friends.  This line up has been around for about 3 weeks.


VP: Your debut album Yucca is just about to be released and was recorded in your flat?  How long did it take to get all the songs written and recorded? Was it enjoyable to be able to do it at your own pace without say a big label/suits giving you deadlines?

 MARTIN:   I recorded the drums at a practice room then recorded everything else at home one song at a time as they were written.  Even though the songs are really simple it takes me ages to write but I manage to finish recording the songs within a day and then mixing can take anywhere from an hour to a couple of days.  All in all it took about a year to write and record.  When I first started recording it was pretty much an experiment in writing so playing live or even having enough songs to fill a record couldn’t have been further from my mind.


I’m fairly good at working toward deadlines!! it just the other stuff that comes along with some labels can become distracting when you’re trying to record.

VP:  A number of tracks conjure up the sonic fuzz of bands like The Jesus And Mary Chain and the melodies of  Spector style pop. Which sort of music would you say has had an influence on your song writing?


 MARTIN : it’s really weird, I’ve never been into the Mary Chain, [ VP: GASPS!] people have mentioned them a lot though.  Most of the time I just try and write really simple songs, like nursery rhymes, very basic melodies and chords.  Big Star and Come are 2 bands that I really like at the moment.

VP:  Would you say you’re becoming a prolific songwriter?  I’m sure I’ve read that you’re already writing album number two?


MARTIN : I basically work on the law of averages so i try and write as much as possible so i never really had a cut off after finishing ‘Yucca’ which means there’s a bunch of new stuff already written….there are 5 songs that we’re intended for a split lp that never happened and there’s another pile of 6 songs…it had crossed my mind to put them together to make the next LP but they’ve both got fairly different feels to them so I’m not sure what’s going to happen.  I want to have the next album recorded out pretty soon though


VP: Lyrically beneath the rich melodies, there sometimes emerges a slightly sinister edge, was this something you particularly were keen to draw out, or did it just kind of evolve in an unplanned way as the songs took shape.?


MARTIN : I’m always drawn to the darker stuff that comes out of my mouth.  Sadness is more interesting.

VP: How did you hook up with Suffering Juke box records?


MARTIN:  I’ve know Jack Cooper for a while and he just heard some songs I’d put on myspace.  fairly simple!

VP: After being a member of Nine Black Alps rhythm section have now you become acclimatised to being at the forefront of a band, having to make decisions which maybe you took for granted in the past?  Have you been surprised by anything you’ve had to do?


MARTIN:   There’s just a shit load more to think about cos I’m managing myself too.  I like knowing what’s going on with everything and overseeing it all but there are some days where I just want to play guitar but I can’t cos I’ve got other things to sort out.  It’s not a bad thing cos it means I’m busy doing band stuff but there’s loads more organising to do which was a little surprising.

VP:  And you’re responsible for the album art work?  Does the image for the ‘ Yucca’ cover  have any special significance in the context of the album or was it a case you thinking ‘that’d make a good album cover’


MARTIN:   Afraid it’s nothing more than seeing it and liking it! It’s a photo of my grandmas head I took on holiday last year.

VP:  What’s been your weirdest gig experience, either with NBA or Milk Maid ?

MARTIN:   Any show from the tour we did with Social Distortion in America.  Major culture clash!

VP:  Do you take much notice of the current music scene?  Any new bands you’ve been particularly impressed with?

MARTIN:   I don’t really keep up.  He’s not a new one the radar but ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo by Kurt Vile is so good.  There’s a band from Bolton called the Kiss Off who I think are amazing but they don’t play that often. 


VP:   And finally…. If you could sum up ‘Yucca’ in five words….


MARTIN:   Up down up down down.






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‘Through a Glass, Darkly.” – Mechanical Bride Interview.

Mechanical Bride Interview 2011 - The Von Pip Musical Express.

‘Colour Of Fire’ By Mechanical Bride.

To the avid fan, music will always be something more than merely the soundtrack to doing the dishes.   To suggest   ‘it’s just a song’ is similar to suggesting to the devoted football fan ‘it’s just a game.’  Music can conjure many emotions, joy, sadness, nostalgia,  it can inspire,  it can calm and it take you away from the mundanity of the 9 to 5.

Mechanical Bride, AKA 25 year old songwriter Lauren Doss’s music may not exactly have you throwing  wild shapes on the dance floor , but it will certainly sooth your soul and transport you into a fantastical world populated by strangely ambiguous characters whose motivations are never entirely distinct.   Her debut album ‘Living With Ants’  is possibly best listened to alone in a sun dappled forest, far, far away from the hurly burly of city life.  It is what one might describe as ‘on the relaxed side of ‘chilled’ but there is always a slight hint of implied menace beneath the seemingly innocent pastoral tales.

Whereas some artists may scream ‘LOOK AT ME, I’M  SO ESOTERCIC’  whilst jauntily wearing a piece of rump steak on their head (and little else,)  Mechanical Bride’s  debut album is played with a straight bat, there is none of the affected girlish kookiness of Regina Spektor or the tiresome pseudomystical  babbling of Bjork.  It’s just Lauren’s voice and a piano for the most part. ‘Living With Ants’ is sparse and stripped back with the occasional flare of  a cello, a trumpet and  flute, but it is Lauren’s soft seductive voice that really carries the album and serves notice that here is a young performer blessed with astounding talent who is able to convey a whole range of emotions without the need for artifice or gimmicks.

Living With Ants’ is a surreal, occasionally dark but ultimately uplifting album,  Tori Amos, Bat For Lashes and even Clannad may all be occasional points of reference as you journey through the dreamlike bucolic world of Mechanical Bride.  It’s an album that requires a degree of input from the listener as it could, should you not give it the attention it deserves, wash over you. But like many things in life, if you put in the time and effort you will certainly reap the rewards. You get the feeling that ‘Living With Ants’ is merely the tip of the Mechanical Bride iceberg and that Lauren’s talent will continue to blossom and  bloom for many years to come.


We spoke to Lauren about the album, musical comparisons and prog rock….


VP: Hello, so your full debut is just about to be released, has it felt like something of an epic journey to get to this point? 

LAUREN : Yes it’s taken a few years to get this one out and the material stretches even further back, so it’s a good feeling it’s here.

VP:   So would you describe ‘Living With Ants’ as a concept album , what are the themes and ideas behind it .


LAUREN : I wouldn’t, but there are concepts in the songs. There are individual stories and characters and scenery, and there seemed to be a common thread that popped up regularly, which was the idea of overcoming things.


VP:  And ‘Mechanical Bride’ seems to be a character central amongst an array of colourful and somewhat off kilter characters?


LAUREN : Mechanical Bride was something I chose, when I found the term used as a reference to a person and the record player and female voice that came from it. The imagery was striking; I liked the idea of musical companionship. It’s nice to have a music title for my project, gives you a little more room to move, and creatively and musically it can change and not define me so personally.

VP:  You previously sang in Larrikin Love, but how did you first become involved in music, was it something you’d always wanted to do?

LAUREN : I have always had a strong musical connection, within my family there is a lot of music and I had a lot of musical friends as a teenager, Ed Larrikin was one of them, we’d put on gigs and started bands and were among a lot of talented people that started to do exciting things. I went to study Music and visual art as a degree and started Mechanical Bride then too.


VP: Does it bother you that you get the inevitable comparisons, women with a reflective style of song writing often get compared to Laura Marling, if the music is a little more jaunty it’s Kate Nash ?  Almost as if nothing ever existed before these artists!  Have you heard any funny comparisons or descriptions of your work?


LAUREN : No it doesn’t bother me too much, we’re young women that play a guitar and write and sing, but it’s pretty lazy comparisons really, I like Laura Marling, but we’re quite different.  Not had any funny comparisons that I know of, hopefully I’ll get some!

VP: Who were your musical heroes as a teenager and have they changed as you’ve got older?


LAUREN : I’ve gathered more and more heroes as I’ve got older and am still gathering. When I was a teenager I loved PJ Harvey, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, they were very important figures in what got me into making music and singing.

VP: Your mum is described as a former professional singer who performed with bands all over the world during the 1970s and early 80s?   Is your family supportive of your musical ambitions?   

LAUREN : My mother is very supportive of me and my ambitions be it music or whatever, I am very lucky. She’s had experience in industry, she understands the drive.


VP: Obviously the internet has changed the world and how we consume information but how important is the internet and modern technology to musicians?

LAUREN : It seems quite a double-edged sword. It’s been so massively important in opening up opportunity to musicians and linking what was formerly impossible, to possible, in the sense of being able to create and publicise music to an incredible audience. Myspace played a huge part in launching my music for example. But it seems to also have created such a culture of immediacy and disposable media. We have everything at our finger tips, that’s harder to get investment for a durational period. The whole downloading for free with media is crazy, people are stealing other’s work, I heard someone say once I don’t know any occupation where you work for free, why should you give your work away? When you’re just starting out, it makes it so hard to make a living. At the same time the internet is indispensable in so many ways. It’s definitely a beast to be wrestled with and I think now a few people are starting to get a handle on how to use it properly with regards to music.

VP: You covered Rhianna’s “Umbrella “ and turned it into something  rather eerie and poignant , maybe in the same way Scala & Kolacny Brothers have recently done to the KOL’s ‘Use Somebody’ . Do you find that if you’re going to do a cover it’s much more interesting to maybe try and bring out something that maybe even the original artist didn’t know was there.  Are the any other songs you’d like to give the Mechanical Bride treatment to ?

LAUREN : I think it’s a lot more interesting if you cover a song, to make it different. Sometimes it does bring out a feature of a song that you don’t notice in the original. There is a song I’m trying to cover at the moment, belongs to a prog-rock band, but I’m keeping it a secret!


VP:  And finally five worlds to sum up ‘Living With Ants?’

LAUREN : It’s not literally about ants.



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