Magic, Moonlight And Mystery – Bird Interview

Bird - Photo By Jennifer Pelligrini

Bird are one of the  most exciting new bands to emerge from Liverpool in recent years, this is not merely our opinion, we can back it up with Dr. Brian Cox style science using Euler-Lagrange field equations, but nobody would understand so just take our word for it, Ok ?  We’ve often bemoaned the fact that Liverpool has, over certain periods of time been littered with lamentable sub-Beatles wannabes giving the local music scene all the sparkle of  a bedraggled, faded piece of tinsel languishing on the bare branches of a long since dead Christmas tree. Respect your musical heritage of course, but don’t allow it to imprison you! Bird however are not trapped on the eternal  Merseybeat merry-go-round and add a certain unique esoteric flavour to proceedings.  Bird is essentially  the musical conduit  through which 23 year old singer songwriter Adéle Emmas presents her songs to the world, a young lady whose  ethereal, haunting vocals conjure up the missing link between the Cocteau Twins and Laura Marling. They have already released one EP – “Phantoms” through Jack To Phono Records  to much acclaim and are currently working on the follow up.

Adele’s songs are all about magic and mystery, light and shade,  a place where a beguiling miasma of seductive danger pervades in a world in which nothing is quite as it seems. The dark  somewhat eerie celestial soundscape conjured up by the fine musicians she’s brought together provides the  perfect backdrop, allowing her haunting vocals and dramatic, imaginative lyrics to weave their subtle magic.  When we first heard Bird we described them as “an eerie folktronic Portishead wandering through laughing Lenny Cohen’s nightmares as depicted by René Magritte, “ but it can be a tad  trite attempting to sum up a bands sound in a sentence or snappy soundbite and doesn’t really tell the whole story. And so when we discovered we were almost neighbours with Adele we met her in a small magical village at an enchanted  coffee bar, near the rainbows end on the dark side of the River Mersey for a chat, just before Christmas, to delve deeper into her mysterious world.

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VP: When did you first decide to start making music?

ADELE: It was around the time of my 21st, I was at a party and hadn’t really been doing much and I’d always absolutely loved music and always written music. I just thought, maybe now was the time to really pursue it. So I saved up for a four track recorder and did homemade demos produced them all myself and put them on joinmyband.com. Which is where I came across the character known as Mick Dolan and from their everything kind of fell into place, Lexie the drummer was always a friend of mind; Keith was a friend of Mick and it all came together. It didn’t take long until we were gigging and got a little buzz going. We’re just recording a new EP at the moment, but it feels weird not playing live but we want to get these songs recorded and so have to take a bit of time out.

VP: Have you got a lot of songs written? An albums worth?

ADELE : Yeah all in all I’ve got like, seventeen or  eighteen solid songs that I have 100% faith in, with this next EP I’m hoping it will open a lot of doors for us, one of the songs “My Love Sleeps With Lions” will probably be the lead track and might be described as slightly more mainstream than our previous work in the sense that it’s quite a catchy song.

 

VP:  Instead of asking you who your influences are I’ll say what I hear and see if you agree.  I may sound like a musical Jilly Goulden but I’m hearing a touch of Kate Bush, a hint of the Cocteau Twins, and even a bit of Juanita from Howling Bells.

 

ADELE :  A couple people have said Howling Bells actually, but I’m a massive Cocteau Twins fans, I love Elizabeth Fraser and I love This Mortal Coil who are one of my favourite bands.  It’s so spooky and ethereal which is what I’m all about really, certainly when it comes to music, art and books. I guess it’s my way of getting away from reality. I’ve got my mum to thank for a lot of my musical taste and as a kid I read a lot of Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and love Edward Gorey’s illustrations which are really dark. In fact recently my mum found poems I’d written when I was about eleven which had lines in it like “the echo of the spheres” and I was like “I didn’t write that when I was eleven did I”…. So I guess I’ve always been a bit  like that [laughs.]

VP:  What do you make of the Liverpool scene, for years I found it rather dull, recycling the La’s and Cast endlessly left me a bit cold to be honest?

ADELE: Yeah, I guess that’s the Liverpool stereotype and to be honest I haven’t found too much which has made me go “wow” because for years it really has been The La’s and The Beatles sort of thing. I’ve always been a big fan of Echo and The Bunnymen and of the  newer bands I really  like Stealing Sheep. But I suppose all cities suffer from that sort of thing to a degree. Manchester will always get The Stone Roses, it just kind of sticks and I guess it’s what people are brought up with.  With Bird we wanted to do something completely different.

 

VP: Well the Phantoms EP proved you certainly could do that, incidentally where was the “Phantoms” video filmed?

 

ADELE: Some if it was filmed in Birkenhead Park, [laughs] one day we were filming and I’m wearing this long flowly black dress all eyelashes giving it the mystical vibe and there where all these scallies with their cider walking past going “ey love, what are you doin’ there like?”  Some of it was filmed in the house where I rent a room which is huge and has a basement that is definitely haunted, and some in a forest in Liverpool which my guitarist Keith suggested. It was amazing, all twisted roots and branches which fitted the atmosphere perfectly! Our friend Sam Winstone filmed it which cost us literally nothing, we were trying for a spooky kind of Lynchian vibe and it turned out pretty well for a first video with no budget!

 

VP: And you held your EP launch at the new Eric’s recently? How did that go ?

 

ADELE: It was just amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever had a gig as good as that before!  We’d had a lot of stress due to changing our managers just before the EP launch and before we went on stage I felt really sick! Dunno if it was nerves or a bug , there where loads of people there, but as soon as I got on stage I felt fine!  It was quite a magical night, there was so much love in the room and it was just a great way to launch the EP !  The sound in there is fantastic; we had David Barnacle, The Edwardian Picnic and The Fifth Movement on too. It was the Edwardian Picnics first gig and they were brilliant! They had everyone up and dancing and there must be about 20 of them in the band [laughs] . But yeah it was a great night and all my family were there. Amazing night!

 

VP: You mentioned your mums influence, is she supportive of your musical aspirations?

 

ADELE:  Totally, she’s great! I think a lot of parents push their kids down the academic route, but she’s always encouraged the creative side of things. She’s always said you’re a good writer so you have to do this!

 

VP: So what do you think about the X-factorisiation of pop culture? Something that seems to promote the mantra that success is attainable with  no creativity at all ?

 

ADELE: [Groans] It is the biggest load of crap ever! It’s just shit!  In my opinion it’s giving the message to kids that can be successful by dressing like they tell you to dress,  singing songs the tell you to sing, become exactly what they want you to be. It’s just teaching kids not to be creative, not to write your own songs, not to pick up a guitar and it’s bringing them up on utterly shit music too!  I’m not saying that all the people who go on haven’t got talent, but I just don’t agree with what it stands for! All the gimmicks and the money they must spend on sets to distract you  and when you get a genuine talent like Kate Bush who can just sit there with just a piano and sing “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” or Leonard Cohen doing “Suzanne” with his acoustic guitar and that’s all you need! Well, it just sends shivers down your spine!  I mean can you imagine if someone like Kate Bush had of gone on a show like that, they’d be like, “you’re weird love, you have no future in music !”

 

VP: So Kate’s a big inspiration too ?

 

ADELE: I love her! So much so that me and my mum will listen to her albums  and be like “I wonder what her house is like”  [laughs] She’s s massive inspiration and has to be admired for  just doing her own thing!  Her latest album’s amazing too, have you heard it ? Only Kate Bush could write a song about having sex with a snowman! [laughs] She’s just so imaginative and she’s still got it after all these years!  

 

VP: So back to Bird, if we meet in a year’s time what would you like to have achieved?

 

ADELE: Ooooh,  well, I’d like us to get more widely known, more recognition. Maybe get more radio play like on Steve Lamacq , Tom Robinson, Cerys Matthews, that sort of thing. Just to be recognised as a good artist and band and get more recognition nationally. And hopefully be in a position to record an album and of course  I wouldn’t say no to Jools Holland [laughs].

At the moment it’s about putting the effort in, gigging in smaller venues and going up and down the country with four smelly lads in a car ! All crammed in a car like sardines especially with the size of Mick! Ultimately I’d like to be respected as a songwriter. Hopefully the next Ep will show how we have developed as a band. With the first one we didn’t even know we were recording the songs as an EP, and when we signed to our label “Jack To Phono” he was like ‘Ok pick some songs and we’ll put on EP out.’  So with this next one there’s been a lot more planning gone into it and I’m really excited! We played a few new songs at the Eric’s gig  such as “White Horses” and “Shadows” which seem to go down really well!

 

VP:  To finish off, how would you describe your music in five words ?

 

ADELE: I always repeat the same words to the guys in the band with regard to how I want the music to sound, I always say “dark, magical, ethereal, haunting and nostalgic” But because I say this so much they’ll say “Adele, if we hear “dark” or “magical” one more time …….”

 

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And a strange thing happened when we’d concluded our interview -we chatted about cheery, uplifting subjects such as Ian Curtis’s suicide, Kurt Cobain etc, and during the course of the conversation Adele informed  us, with a faraway look in her eyes, that  she didn’t feel particularly  Christmassy this year… Within seconds as we looked out at the foreboding, cold grey December sky we noticed it had started to snow…..coincidence? ……….Or something more mysterious and magical at play ??? 😉

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

HOWLING BELLS

‘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.

8.5/10

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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

Post-Gig-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 😉

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“Holland “ by Cold Specks.

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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 !

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

Lucy Rose Interview.

Lucy Rose Von Pip MusicalExpress Interview September  2011

“Bikes” By Lucy Rose.

“Scar” By Lucy Rose.

There’s certainly been no shortage of intelligent, talented, female singer songwriters of  late.  From the egregious cauterwauling of Florence, a lady who on occasion can make Al Pachino’s worst excesses appear quite restrained and dignified, right through to the dour understated beauty of Laura Marling’s quiet introspection, the female of the species is not only deadlier than the male, they also appear to be a tad more talented too 😉

However, given the current abundance of feminine talent, how on earth do you make yourself stand out from the crowd? Do you light incense and candles and become all mystical and elfin-like perhaps? Maybe you could appear in public wearing a rump steak on your head set at a jaunty angle or why not take up an offbeat religion and drone on endlessly about Kabbalistic Karma? Or maybe, just maybe, you could keep things simple and stick to what you do best. Often the best things in life are uncomplicated and possess an uncontrived, natural purity, rather like the music of Lucy Rose.

Lucy posses a fragile yet husky smoke cracked voice and writes songs with the sort of honest straight forward sincerity that can only come from the heart (yes Cowell, that’s right, the heart, you destroyer of all things good! – Ahem. )  Filled with the eager passion and wanderlust of youth Lucy left the transcendent beauty of Warwickshire for the grimy, majestic reality of London, ostensibly to study. But she was soon beginning her musical baptism of fire, replete with scary open mic nights, busking, and encounters with local ‘characters’ on night buses, which may have been possibly more romantic to read about than actually experience. However her tenacity paid off and her undoubted talent soon began to make people take note.  She became well known at various acoustic nights and a chance meeting with Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club led to her appearing on the title track of the bands acoustic album ‘Flaws’.  Lucy has since gained an enthusiastic, dedicated; some may say besotted fan base and now regularly sells out venues weeks in advance, which is quite a rare thing for an unsigned act. Her latest single ‘Scar’ is available on itunes now.

We spoke to Lucy to discover the real person behind the talent… and it went something like this….

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 VP:  Hi Lucy so how did you become interested in music and song writing.  Did you always play and sing in school, are your parents big music fans ?

LUCY: My parents have never really been that into music but they wanted me and my sisters to play an instrument at school. I started with the clarinet (classic choice) and then played in orchestra and moved onto the drum-kit. I definitely liked to play music at school but it was only when I bought my first guitar that I started to write songs.. I took the train to and from school and walked past a little guitar shop called ‘Warwick Guitars’ every morning and went in a few times until the old man in the shop persuaded me to buy a guitar. And the rest is history. 

VP:   Can you remember the very first song you wrote?


LUCY: Yeah, I remember it well. I wrote a lot of little bits in my bedroom but didn’t play it to anyone. But I kind of only realised I’d written a song was when I was downstairs and my sister was humming the melody of it. It was a very silly song though. 

VP: You moved from Warwickshire to London was this primarily to peruse music or were there other factors..?

LUCY: I didn’t particularly want to go to University at this point. I had a place at UCL but I was desperate to move to London and start playing music. I’d been wanting to do music properly for a couple of years now so when I reached 18 London just seemed like the perfect place to go. 

VP:   And you performed at open mics nights initially, any ones stand out not as being particularly intimidating affairs?

LUCY: My very first open mic I played at was booked by eARmusic by a man called Joel who is now my tour manager / sound man and also my boss. I started working for eARmusic, which was just Me, Joel, Simba and Olly who became really good friends and all helped me find my feet in London. But an open mic that stands out to me is probably at Monkey Chews. I used to play a lot of gigs there and miss the venue a lot. 

VP: How did you become good chums with Bombay Bicycle Club ?

LUCY: I knew of Bombay’s music and thought it was really good so when I saw that they were gonna be playing a gig down the road from me I went and just got chatting to them afterwards. Jack did a remix of one of my songs and then the band invited me to come and sing a few songs with them at acoustic shows. Then it just progressed from there, they asked me to sing on a song on the second album and now on the third so I’m touring with them and absolutely loving it. 

VP:   Have you enough songs that you’d be happy to  record for an album and when might that be forthcoming?

LUCY: Yeah, by now I think I’m gonna have to cut a few songs, which I know is never gonna please everyone, but I have too many. I’m just excited about starting to record them all now. 

VP:  What have been your highlights since you started singing and recording?

LUCY: Finding the people I’m playing music with now. They are all friends of mine and it makes playing and rehearsing so much fun. I’ve been playing solo for so many years now I’m so pleased that I’ve got these great musicians/friends wanting to play music with me. It makes a big difference. 

VP:  Which artists you say influenced your music and what is it about them you admire?

LUCY: I find this question really difficult because I listen to the broadest variety of music, so it’s hard to know which songs/artists have influenced my music. Of course I admire Joni Mitchell. I watched a 2 hour documentary on her a few years ago which was incredible. Her story is truly amazing. 

VP:   Now , what’s this I hear about you having your own brand of Tea?  How did that come about?

LUCY: Well…. I do love tea a lot, so much so that I decided to get a tattoo of a tea-cup on my wrist (my mum wasn’t happy!) And whenever anyone came over to my house I’d make tea but put one Earl Grey teabag in and one English Breakfast and I called it Builder Grey (genius I know). And then I was chatting to my management about it and we had nothing to sell at gigs at all, which was frustrating people so we decided to make this brand of tea and sell it. 

VP:  Pre gig rituals/Superstitions …do you have any? Now you’re playing to bigger audiences do you still get nervous prior to a gig ?

LUCY: I get nervous so bad before every gig. I honestly do think… ‘ why am I doing this to myself ‘ but a little whiskey and a group hug always helps. 

VP:    Five words to describe your music…….   ? 

 

LUCY: Cinematic, acoustic, not-acoustic, simple, caring.

 

Links

Official Site

Facebook

Large Images/ Wallpaper

Videos.

Sarabeth Tucek And Bird – Live St Brides Church Liverpool.

Sarabeth Tucek And Luther Russell in Liverpool Septmber 2011.

Luther Russell & Sarabeth Tucek in Liverpool September 2011.

We’ve swooned, been moved and waxed lyrical with regard to Sarabeth Tucek and her beautiful album ‘Get Well Soon’ a number of times on this here blog. In fact such has been our admiration for her work that we may soon have to invent new superlatives in order to attempt to aptly convey the high esteem in which we hold her in.   Given the aforementioned two sentences you can doubtless appreciate the giddy rush of excitement we experienced when news reached us of her intention to perform in our home town of Liverpool.  As ever she produced a spellbinding show in a celestial setting which complimented her beautiful, warm, emotive voice. As a live performer  Sarabeth may be economical with her between song banter, and let’s face it given her albums subject matter she’s hardly likely to be cracking quips left right and centre but what she does give the audience is a performance of honest, unreserved emotion. One that is both moving and uplifting and a million miles removed from the asinine caterwauling of those bafflingly popular female artists that major record labels seem to churn out with depressing regularity. This was  indeed a  performance without artifice or pretension, this was for real, this is what being broken and reborn sounds like and it’s a thing of rare and precious beauty.

The gig took place in the wonderfully atmospheric setting of the neo classical gem that is  St Brides  Church, snugly nestled  between Liverpool’s  Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals and was organised by local promoters Harvest Sun, who are  fast establishing a reputation for curating fabulous gigs in unusual locations . Sarabeth aided by her engaging and wonderfully hirsute album producer and guitarist Luther Russell, played the majority of the ‘Get Well Soon’ album with the minimum of fuss.   As an album it is essentially an anatomy of bereavement and despite the subject matter and darkness that inspired its creation it takes the listener on a genuinely inspirational and life affirming journey. Hearing it in such an intimate setting made the depth of emotion involved in writing the album veberate around the venue and make a direct connection with the audience as Sarabeth conveyed despair, hope and redemption with a subtle elegance and dignity that very few songwriters can manage without resorting to clichés and histrionics. She really is a genuine artist and true talent and we love her. And so should you.  So there.

“Wooden” By Sarabeth Tucek.

Bird, Liverpool

Keith, Adéle and Mick from Bird.

Also on the bill were one of Liverpool’s most exciting new bands, Bird. Fronted by songwriter Adéle Emmas her ethereal, haunting vocals conjure up the missing link between the Cocteau Twins and Laura Marling, with an added dash of Hope Sandoval and Juanita Stein.  When we first discovered Bird we described them as “an eerie folktronic Portishead wandering through laughing Lenny Cohen’s nightmares as depicted by René Magritte.”  Which is of course fabulous but live and playing a stripped down acoustic set, you get to  appreciate just how good  Bird really are.  Adéle’s voice is bewitching and mesmeric and casts a spell on an attentive and appreciative audience drawing them into a  magical, slightly outré world of darkness and light.  On this evidence Bird have got the talent and presence to make a huge impact in the coming year, with their beguiling  mix of dark haunting melodies, otherworldly vocals and a singer with real star quality.

“Phantoms” By Bird.

Sarabeth Tucek and VP

Sarabeth meets a familiar face in Liverpool.

‘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.

8/10

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

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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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Links

Official Site.
Facebook.
Twitter.


MySpace.
Album

Large Image.

Video

The ‘Talk When Artists Terminate Songs’ Campaign-The Curse Of Talking At Gigs

The T.W.A.T.S. Campaign . Aka  Shut the Fuck Up!

(Click image for MASSIVE hi-res  version to print off and take to gigs 😉 )

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If you’re a regular gig goer I’m sure you’ve  noticed, over the last few years, the increasing  number of annoying,  imbecilic dullards in attendance  who decide to strike up a conversation at the exact point an artist/band begin their set.  I mean really, if you want to be a Facebook  staus update made flesh or have a good old chin wag why not stand at the back of the venue?  Or better still, do us all a fucking favour and stay at home where you can regale  all five of your twitter followers with the enthralling  minutiae of your tedious little life.  It’s incredibly rude, disrespectful and generally pisses everybody off . It’s not just puce faced, oak headed, knuckle dragging males that are to blame, pissed up females are just as guilty with their shrill giggling , group hugging and incessant high-fiving. At a Mary Chain gig this wouldn’t  be a problem (although in his youth Jim Reid may well have wrapped his mic stand around your neck)

Dealing With Hecklers Jesus And Mary Chain Style!

But when you get a band like Bats  for Lashes who, let’s face it, aren’t really about sonic fury, the last  person you want standing next to you is a bassoon voiced ignoramus who’s idea of  whispering makes Brian Blessed resemble Harpo Marx.  Have we really developed such a short attention span these days? So here at the VPME we say no more! We say it stops now and have produced the above T.W.A.T.S guide . We are looking to expand it to include more gig-going no-nos and irritations which you can email us or leave a message in the comments section.

For example is it really necessary to ring up a mate as soon as Laura Marling gently strums her guitar and bellow ‘I’M AT A LAURA MARLING GIG , YES, YES , IT’S WICKED… Sorry what, I CAN’T HEAR YOU?  …WHAT? WHAT?. . . Excuse me, Laura love? Can you keep it down a minute? I’m on the phone here? ’

Maybe this is the way to deal with it ?

Of course it’s not just inane chatter that may get your goat, it might be more general advice such as ‘It’s perfectly acceptable to approach the band, post gig and ask politely if they’d pose for a photo but if you do so make sure the flash is on and that you know how to work your camera  for fuck’s sake!”  I actually witnessed one fan take numerous photos with a singer who was fast developing a rictus grin. The last straw came when said fan reviewed the last photo and commented ‘Sorry, but you don’t look very nice on that at all so I’ll take some more!!’  Exasperated, she responded politely but firmly ‘sorry, I think that’s enough now, we do have to leave soon’  to which he retorted ‘Well thanks a lot!’  – I kid you not !

 So folks what are your gig going anathemas?  I realise this is not a new battle cry and has been highlighted by blogs and zines in the past but the more we draw attention to this issue  the better.

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Here are some more discussions on the subject

Stop Talking At Gigs Facebook Group

Great article on the 405

Drowned In Sound Discussion

In The Telegraph

Excellent piece from Breaking More Waves from 2009

Songs To Learn And Sing – Birdland, Mechanical Bride, The Rialto Burns.

The Return of Birdland

Birdland  Return!!

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“Everybody’s Dreaming” – Birdland.

It seems Birdland are back!!  In the late eighties Birdland  burst on to the scene looking somewhat  like a ‘Midwitch Cuckoo’  version of the Ramones or The Stooges replete with a frenzied, amphetamine  fuelled sound. They were quickly called the next big thing by the music press,  alas timing is everything and the decision to delay their debut album meant that  they failed to take advantage of their escalating  fan base. Sadly by the time the debut album finally emerged, the press had found new media darlings and Birdland were lost amongst Britpoppers and grunge . However if you listen to songs like ‘Hollow Heart’, ‘Sugar Blood’ and ‘Sleep With Me’, you’ll find they have aged remarkably well.  If the  demo above is anything to go by it looks like this reunion could be a lot of fun….Now can I squeeze into my skinny jeans for one last hurrah???

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Mechanical Bride.

Mechanical Bride - VPME

“Colour Of Fire” By Mechanical Bride.

‘Colour Of Fire’ is available to download for free from the Mechanical Bride official site now – http://www.mechanical-bride.com. ‘Colour Of Fire’ is taken from Mechanical Bride’s debut album ‘Living With Ants’, released 6th June via Transgressive.

Mechanical Bride, AKA 25 year old songwriter and self-taught musician Lauren Doss, her work has been compared to PJ Harvey, Laura Marling and Bat For Lashes.

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The Rialto Burns.

The Rialto Burns

‘Learning To Fight’ By The Rialto Burns.

Liverpool’s The Rialto Burns release the ‘For The Asking’ EP on 13 June 2011 – an energetic 10 tracker full of cavernous, dark moments, electrical soaring highs.