Track Of The Day – “Hide” By Access Royale.

Access Royale are an eclectic indie rock band hailing from Washington DC.  With influences which include Classic rock, hip hop and Radiohead the band discovered each other when the cosmos collided via Craigslist in early 2011, and pretty soon after were all hotfooting it to L.A. to film the video for their single “Hide.”

“Hide” is essentially about achieving balance between the things you have to do and things you love to do, the overriding message being- try not to let life get in the way of LIVING ! So  uplifting it might even cheer Sir Fred Goodwin up!

Free Download of “Hide” below

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Screen Test – Projectionists Interview

Projectionists VPME -Rebecca Stephens Interview 2011

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“I certainly don’t think Thatcher is a feminist icon, she had no interest in social equality” so says Rebecca Stephens after we’ve conluded our interview and we can’t help but think “Ahh, how we’ve missed you Becki!”

So let’s recap !

Brighton’s polka dot 60’s uber girl-group revisionists  The Pipettes were undoubtedly  great fun but one always suspected they had a time limited  appeal and that creatively certain members of the group may have had more offer then forever playing the role of polka-dotted pop princesses.   Certainly  after a fabulously, frivolously, frisky debut album the band did seem to lose their way and when Rebecca Stephens, arguably the Pipette whose pop personae as “Riotbecki”  infused the group with much of its personality and spirit, quit the band many of their fans followed suit.

But the good news is she’s back,  relocated to Manchester and has a new band, Projectionists formed with her friend and multi instrumentalist Peter Marshall.  Between them Pete and Becki have recruited  a team of musicians with an enviable musical pedigree for as well as including an ex-Pipette they take in musicians from Alfie, The Earlies, Liam Frost, The Slowdown Family and Star Crossed Lovers.

Projectionists music certainly won’t disappoint Rebecca’s former fans, it still gives a nod to the infectious melodies of her former groups output but it’s a far more sophisticated musical cocktail, the sort of great indie pop that remembers the basics – if you don’t have a tune you don’t really have a song  and this is beautifully crafted, thoughtful, elegant  pop.  Stephens’ lyrics are a combination of beautiful desolation and raw honesty and whilst being introspective and confessional they never come across as self-absorbed, egocentric kvetching!  Yes they may be wistfully melancholic, but they are also full of hope. Fuck knows we could all do with some of that when we imagine David Cameron knotting his tie in the morning before setting off to implement the latest round of savage cuts( which sadly doesn’t include his own throat 😉 )

We caught up with Becki ahead of the bands EP launch and chatted about the band, her move to Manchester and also her work as singer with the ever innovative Jecsa Hoop.

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VP: Hello Becki, it’s been a while since you left the Pipettes, you had a brief joint musical project as Electric Blue and then  it all went rather quiet until we  hear news you’d upped sticks and relocated to Manchester. Was that a purely musical decision, or did you feel like you needed to get away from Brighton  for fear of forever being typecast as “Riot Becki” From the Pipettes

REBECCA:  Well the fact that I’d started writing music with Peter who was based in Manchester was obviously a massive factor, but yeah I was finding it difficult to get musicians together to work with in Brighton. I was also working as a band booker and job prospects in the area weren’t exactly great . It was one of those ‘if I don’t change now I might be stuck doing the same thing until I’m forty moments” and so I decided to radically shake things up ! Manchester was a city I’d always loved playing with the Pipettes it seemed to have a great music scene, like Brighton but bigger, and so here I am!

VP: How did the band get together and how did you decide on the kind of musical style you wanted to go for, given you all sort of come from different musical backgrounds?

REBECCA: Well that’s Pete again, he seems to know everybody, the master networker [laughs] The initial songs were my original demos arranged by Pete and then Christian brought his Moog on to that and rearranged some of the songs, as did Sam with his bass playing. Sam’s ear is amazing and he was able to pinpoint things which he thought didn’t quite work. Paul’s a great producer and he was able to draw it all together, Christian and I were maybe leaning towards a more retro sixties sound and Paul cleaned it all up a bit. So yeah it happened organically, everybody’s really good at what they do, so we’ve never had to turn around and say like, “thats bloody shit, take it off” [laughs] When it came down to the songs, everybody liked them so it was just a case of polishing and expanding them really.

VP: And your debut EP’s been released, so exciting times, I think you mentioned to me that you’re adding another two tracks taking it to six.. A maxi-EP so to speak!

REBECCA: Yeah very exciting , it’s been a long time coming we’re playing at the Castle in Manchester which is a lovely little venue so really we can’t wait . The extra two tracks were a late development really, but we decided in order to concentrate on completely new material, and start working hopefully towards an album, we’d put out everything we’ve done up to this  point, so yeah, it is like a mini album!

VP: So these two additional tracks are basically the first songs that you wrote on your own, post-Pips ?

 REBECCA: Well one track is one of the very first songs I wrote when I left the Pipettes and the other is the first we did as The Projectionists.  I used to write all the lyrics but that’s started to change. I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been a different experience as previously in The Pipettes there were seven of us all writing songs, which kind of took the pressure off . And now The Projectionists is very much about is all coming together and collaborating, my demo making process is limited due to my own technical shortcomings [laughs].  I can only play guitar and keyboard well enough to write demos, so it’s lovely to come up with a verse, a chorus or a middle eight take it to the band and these amazing musicians start playing it and I go “that’s exactly what I wanted! “

VP: The songs on the EP have quite a melodic, upbeat vibe whereas the lyrics are wistfully melancholic…

REBECCA: [laughing] Yeah I didn’t realise that until about 6 months ago when I turned to Sam and said ‘You know what my lyrics are a bit Emo really aren’t they !” which is a bit embarrassing[laughs]

 

VP: Yeah you mentioned it’s been a long time coming and the demos have been floating about for a while now, even with all the technology we have at our fingertips and social networking is it still difficult for a band to release a physical product ?

REBECCA: You know, it’s changed so much from how I remember it four years ago. It’s totally different world , it’s far more viral, the internet plays a much bigger role now. For example with The Pipettes we played four or five gigs a week, I mean that was how we did it, building up a fan base, gigging constantly and throwing out a few limited edition 7″ releases via small independent labels. That was how it all happened and it was a slow process whereas now there’s a kind of pay to play mentality, it seems less supportive, I mean I think we’ve only been paid for one gig we’ve played. To be honest it’s a bit insulting for bands not to be given anything!  That’s one reason we’ve limited our gigs, the cost of travel etc means you’re effectively losing money. So we thought ‘sod it’ we need to concentrate on making music and getting it out there!  So that’s why it took so long we were uming and ahh’ing over the best way to go about things really! Once we decided to release an EP that was the easy bit, we realised we need to focus on writing an album, maybe releasing the odd thing on the net, but really focus on the music as opposed to live shows at the moment.

VP: So the myth that bands can sustain themselves via gigging ? Not much evidence of that unless you’re huge ?

REBECCA: Yeah, I mean at a certain level you can, bands can make their money gigging during the festival season, but I would estimate you’d have to be playing venues of 1000 plus to see any real return! It’s so expensive!  So for most new bands it’s out of the question! When the Pipettes started in 2003 it used to be the norm that the first band on the bill would get about 30 quid, the support about £50 and the main band whatever the agreed fee was. I can’t remember not getting paid for a gig back then, but now it seems completely standard, I mean you don’t even get a free fucking beer!  When I was a promoter down in Brighton I’d make sure they were at least given expenses and a drink, cos I’ve seen it from both sides. So it’s defiantly changed in a negative way toward bands.

VP: So 2012 will be full steam ahead writing ?

REBECCA: Yeah, we’ve got four songs for the album and Pete’s just got a studio in Salford so we’ve decided to go in once a week and start demoing. One of the new songs we’ll be playing at the EP launch kind of captures the direction we’ll be going in! We’d love to do some festivals but we’ll have to see if we can do it without the help of the almighty booking agent !

VP:  And are you still singing with Jesca Hoop ?

REBECCA: Yeah, she’s got her third album ( second in the UK) coming out soon and so we’ll be playing some shows as of next week, so can’t wait to get out there and do that.

VP:  So how did you end up singing with Jesca ?

REBECCA: That’s due to the master networker Pete again! She’d just moved to Manchester on the back of doing a tour with Elbow and must have thought, “What on earth am I doing in sunny California ! I’ll move to Manchester!”  This is what happens you see, Manchester just draws you in  – “My life is shit, Manchester will make it better!” [laughs] So yeah, she moved here and Pete knew her manager through Elbow and heard she was looking for musicians and singers to replace her band from California. He said why don’t you audition, but when I heard her music I was like “Are you kidding me??” I’d done three part harmonies and this was like really technical singing ! I thought I’m really not gonna get this, but I went along, did the audition, and I did get it!!( that was two years ago and another reason I moved to Manchester ) I love it, she’s really opened my eyes to singing and I feel a much stronger singer for it, a lot of the time it’s just me and her in a bus which makes a big change from travelling around with about ten people in a sweaty van!

VP:  With the Projectionists You’ve supported some pretty buzzworthy bands, what’s been your fave gig so far?

REBECCA:  Hmmm, I think maybe our first stands out the most, with I Blame Coco, because there was such a buzz and it was so busy. I really thought I was gonna shit myself for fear it would all go horribly wrong beforehand as I wasn’t used to fronting a band, but as soon as I came off stage I was like – that was amazing I want to do it again!  So that felt like a major achievement, overcoming the fear, mind you some nerves are a good thing, they give you that adrenaline to see you through.

VP: Any pre-gig rituals ?

REBECCA:  I might have had a little drink in the past, but now I don’t even think about it, which was one of the best things ever, realising I could go on stage and do this without any alcohol at all! I think my main ritual now is I like to get a feel for the room, maybe get in the audience for the support, take in the atmosphere, I find that so much better than just sitting backstage stewing in the juice of your own nerves!

 

 

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Songs To Learn And Sing – Bird, The Bandana Splits, Dum Dum Girls, Two Wounded Birds,Emmy The Great, Kyla La Grange, Peter Murphy And Red Kite.

Phantoms Ep” By BIRD.

Bird - Phantoms Ep - 31/10/2011 - The Von Pip Musical Express

The “Phantoms ep” is released 31st October digitally from the highly promising Liverpool based , Bird. Fronted by 22 year old songstress Adele Emmas they are influenced by the likes of laughing Lenny Cohen, Kate Bush, The Cocteau Twins, PJ Harvey. The timing is of course no coincidence as Adele explains  “We knew we wanted to put Phantoms out as our first release from day one, it’s already become our signature track live. We decided when we first recorded it that the lyrics and mood of the track leant itself perfectly to a Halloween release.”


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THE BANDANA SPLITS

Bandana Splits - Ricky Dee - The Von Pip Musical Express

 “Ricky Dee” By The Bandana Splits.

Just the right side of cutesy, freshly minted Brooklyn doo-wop retro trio The Bandana Splits release a new single that’s possible more infectious than the laughter that greets David Cameron when feigning sincerity.  As huge fans of the girl group sound The VPME gives resounding thumbs up to this incredibly catchy ditty which is kinda like the Pipettes meet the Puppini Sisters on the set of West Side Story and therefore by definition, great fun.

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‘When The Tide Creeps‘ –ELLEN AND THE ESCAPADES.

Ellen and the Escapades release a  new single ‘When The Tide Creeps In’ on October 24th through their own label, Branch Out Records. The band first rose to prominence in 2010 when they won the Q Magazine / Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition and played the BBC Introducing stages at Leeds and Reading Festivals. Their debut EP followed later that year and saw them sell out headline shows across the UK.

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‘Bedroom Eyes’  By DUM DUM GIRLS.

Not much more we can say about Dum Dum Girls new album, we gave it a perfect ten and ‘Bedroom Eyes’ is quite frankly a wonderful  example of their all round awesomeness.

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“Together For Ever”TWO WOUNDED BIRDS.

Margate’s fave surf punk power pop quartet return with yet another rollicking, fast paced gem. Yeah, yeah I know, they do take inspiration from a certain band, but that is in no way a bad thing.  In fact US music legend  Seymour Stein went as far as  declaring them the ‘best band since The Ramones’

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 ‘Paper Forest’  by EMMY THE GREAT.

A great video and  possibly our fave song off Emmys album ‘Virtue’

She even interrupted Lammo on six music to say hello to us recently!

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“Heavy Stone”KYLA LA GRANGE.

Kyla will be popping up on our next podcast, in the meantime here’s the video for her new single.

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“See-SawSway ” By PETER MURPHY .

‘See Saw Sway’ is from ‘Ninth‘  the latest album from the godfather of goth Peter Murphy and his  first solo album since the successful Bauhaus reunion tour in 2005. His voice is still full of  brooding menace and he manages to retain his dignity even when wearing what appears to be  a tea cosy on his noggin in the video below!

 

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“Call Me An Animal” By I Am In Love.

We’ve blogged about  Iam In Love a few times now, and they are set to release a free EP in November which includes a VPME fave –“ Call Me An Animal”

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RED KITE.

Red Kite -  The Von Pip Musical Express‘Montreal’ By Red Kite.

 

Not much info with regard to Red Kite and the bands official bio is interesting to say the least but tells us bugger all about them. Still, enigmatic is good.    Bio- “Once so common that Shakespeare described London as “a city of Red Kites and Crows”, the Red Kite (Milvus milvus) was persecuted and hunted to extinction throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Its reintroduction, initiated in 1989 by the RSPB and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, is now the most successful reintroduction of any bird species in Europe. In 2006 The Independent newspaper reported the first sighting of a Red Kite over London for 150 years.”

The Sound of 2011 ?

BBC The Sound Of 2011

The BBC Sound of 2011 ( or any other year)  poll is one of those things that tends to divide music fans, some see at as little more than a PR freebie for big labels to promote their ‘priority acts’ whilst others view it as a great way of highlighting artists who have been flying just below the public’s radar. The truth?  Well, nothing’s ever black and white and it’s probably a bit of both to varying degrees. Having been involved in the past the rules are clear, you simply name your favourite three new acts and your choices, along with those from other  so called ‘tastemakers’ are counted and compiled to create the final list.  Of course it would be naive to assume that labels don’t set up campaigns to coincide with this list and when somebody as well connected (in the industry) as this year’s winner Jessie J comes out on top, a certain degree of cynicism is perhaps inevitable.

.Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong- Saviours Of Indie??- erm well, no, actually

Equally worrying is the revelation from Tim Vigon (manager of  The Streets and Delphic) that “For certain artists at certain labels, missing out on something like this can hit confidence [in the artist] so hard that people at their label will literally down tools and focus on something that has made the poll, it can adversely affect chances of getting radio or press exposure because the media is traditionally quite insecure about backing something that others aren’t backing.” This however isn’t the fault of the list in the same way as a car isn’t responsible for a traffic accident, it merely shows how short sighted the music industry can be.

Maybe our own reactions to the ‘Sound Of Polls’ very much depend on whether it includes artists we approve of. Indeed, my own initial response to this year’s winner was one of initial disappointment which quickly turned to irritation after hearing ruiner of all things good, Simon Cowell, giving his Adele Huge in 2009papal blessing (video here). Wouldn’t it be refreshing for an artist to say, as Johnny Marr did to David Cameron recently, ‘ Cowell, I forbid you to like my music.’ After calming down and tweeting knee jerk reactions I eventually perused the long list in some detail and it did contain artists who were much more to my taste.  So something for everything? Possibly, but as Robin from the excellent Breaking More Waves blog pointed out it’s good to have something that promotes artists that isn’t the bloody X Factor- ‘The reason I see the Sound of List as fundamentally different to the X Factor is that the Sound of is about promoting music, whereas to a large extent X factor is about selling personality as entertainment – this is why the likes of Jedward did well on X Factor and why X factor promotes its panel of judges as much as the act’. Although maybe this year in terms of musical style Jessie J as an alternative to  X factor is a bit like having the choice between Tesco  and Tesco Direct and shows that the X Factorisation of music, in terms of producing a style that will shift units, is winning the war for hearts, minds and ears-like all good propaganda is designed to do.  There is no doubt we certainly do need other outlets through which new music is listened to and debated other than via that cretinous karaoke kakfest, and arguably the ‘Sound of Lists’, to some extent fills that particular void in popular culture.

The list has certainly come a long way since Ian Youngs, the BBC’s Entertainment & arts reporter, wrote a story back in 2002, with his top tips for the coming year “Custom was my top tip. He was a very colourful character and seemed like he was going to be a big star. Clearly, it didn’t quite happen that way.” The following year, trying to put his musical faux pas behind him, he decided to bring in the ‘experts.’  I asked him his views on the  criticism the list can sometimes attract to which he replied ‘At its heart, as you know, is a desire to showcase great new music – simple as that. I think it still does that job very well.  As for the labels’ perceived influence, it is true that labels are often keen for their artists to feature on the list. But we are very clear in our instructions that the “tastemakers” should base their choices solely on the quality of the music and clearly they’ll be more than capable of thinking for themselves. The nature of the list means an artist must have built up a certain head of steam to make it on, which usually means being signed. However that doesn’t mean those labels can manipulate what people will pick. Also, artists don’t necessarily need label backing – in the past, acts like Glasvegas, The Temper Trap, Stornoway & Devlin all made it onto the list while unsigned.

Glasvegas in 'The Broons. The VPME

“I believe most fans keep open minds about the artists on the list – experience shows that the public make up their own minds when they hear the music. If they like an artist, they buy their album and go and see them live. If they don’t, they won’t. At that point, nothing much else matters. Which is how it should be.”

Little Boots
In conclusion I feel that the sometimes negative reaction to the ‘BBC’s Sound of’ polls could in some way be addressed by a name change, because let’s face it ceremoniously informing the public via the likes of the incomprehensible, hyperactive kiwi fruit cake Zane Lowe that  ‘this is the sound of ..(insert year) it’s rad and you better believe it’ is bound to get on people’s tits! Or maybe that’s just Zane ;).  In many ways from the labels perspective it is a big PR battle to see if their act wins, but  as music fans we shouldn’t get too hung up about this, it’s one of life’s realities, money, like blood in the water, will always attract sharks and those whose motives are not as pure as that of  the idealistic music fan. After all many of the people involved in the process are genuinely passionate about  music and not ‘in league‘ with ‘big music.‘ If we discover even one new act each year then surely that’s a good thing and we should also offer thanks that their was no sign of the truly dreadful Oasis parody act, the excerable ‘ Brother’ on this years list.  But possibly we shouldn’t get too precious about it all ( and yes I’ve certainly been guilty of that) and treat it as just another tool enabling us to discover new music.  After all nobody’s forcing us to buy into anything.

Elllie Goulding Boyfriend

And from the longlist – Esben And the Witch