VPME – Track Of The Day – Sheen – “One Step.”

Sheen on The VPME Track of the day

Unlike London based blogs we sometimes feel a tad left out up here in the frozen north, consoled only by our warm beer, pies, our amusing flat cap collection and our prize winning whippets.  If we had a pound for every time a manager, record label or PR company asked us if we’d like to “pop down” to Water Rats or Koko that very evening to see the latest bright young things we’d have, oooh,  about  £76.00. The point we are clumsily trying to make is that although the net has shrunk the world, it’s still very difficult to keep up with the huge number of bands based in our illustrious capital. And sometimes a band comes along who are so bloody good we think “why on  earth haven’t we heard them before?”  Sheen are one such band, in fact their music is so up our street we really should be neighbours!

The sound they produce is profoundly beautiful, wonderfully atmospheric and like their collective name,(and unlike Charlie) shimmers with a glittering mournful elegance.

Formed little more than a year ago at the University of Westminster, Sheen have an ear for sparkling somber beauty and are influenced by the likes of The Smiths, The Cure, My Bloody Valentine,(the) Pixies and A Place to Bury Strangers. The band hail from all corners of the UK with the exception of Swedish chanteuse Aneta. In February the band plan to hit the studio to record new material and we’ll will certainly keeping our ears on high alert in anticipation of the results

Actually we are lovin’ Sheen so much, we say fuck convention –  here’s another track.

Sheen on Facebook

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Songs To Learn And Sing – Dead Social Club, Sarah Williams White, Richard Earls And French Wives.

Dead Social Club.

Dead Social Club

 Dead Social Club are  six-piece electronic indie band formed in South London in 2009. There’s certainly a vaugue hint of a less doom laden Depeche Mode in the vocal delivery  combined with  a dash of  80’s post punk, yet they manage to make it sound fresh and vital with big chourus’s that stay on the right side of  epic without ever sounding over blown.  Their latest single “Stockholm” (below) is available as a pay what you like free download ( just click on the “Buy” button On the Soundcloud player)

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Sarah Williams White.

Sarah Williams White

Had we had decided to lengthen our list of “Ones To Listen Out For” in 2012, we would have been remiss not to include Sarah Williams White or SWW to her friends.

Sarah’s a South London solo artist & producer and recently released ‘Hide The Cracks‘ which picked up support  from the likes of Huw StephensTom Robinson and was  playlisted on Amazing Radio reaching  no.5 on the Amazing Charts.

Below is a remix from  dubstepper Phaeleh , ahead  of a new release due in March 2012 . Sarah has also co-written on Dan Le Sac‘s new LP which is  due in May.

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Richard Earls

Describe your music Richard ? 

” Well …. everyone in the club that night had a story to tell; the young woman doing shots at the bar, the middle-aged man crying into his beer,the boy on the edge of the dancefloor, the devil and the holy trinity over in the corner …..the rest is in my bio..” 

Which reads thus :

In the late 70s and early 80s, it was the 100 Club, the Marquee, the WAG Club, Ronnie Scott’s and Dingwalls, then Paul Murphy’s Paladin Label; CBS Get Wise; Capital and the BBC, memorably opening an episode of City Lights for Charlie Gillet with a blast of harmonica into the ether and his first demo appearing on the same presenter’s Radio London programme Honky Tonk when he was still at school.

Playing again after 21 years living in central France, he can now be heard shouting the odds and blowing blues harp in juke joints and dives from Bordeaux to London.”

So make of that what you will 😉 .. Richard  could be a  more eloquent, grown up and infinitely less annoying  Mike Skinner meets a pan european  John Cooper Clarke infused with the blues or perhaps The Indelicates long lost uncle armed with a harmonica. Decide for yourselves, below … 🙂

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French Wives.

And from Richard in  Poitou-Charentes, France we present ………….. French Wives. Who are actually from Scotland, they may not be married and we’re pretty sure they aren’t all female either!  One of the joys of organising the “Blog Sound Of 2012″ list was that we discovered a number of  bands our blogging peers had been waxing lyrical about during the course of 2012.   Of course we can’t pretend we liked all their recommendations, but of the artists  we hadn’t really listened to before French Wives ( and Houdini Dax)  really stood out.

And as if to break the parsimonious Scottish stereotype … here’s a free track from them…:)

The Final Interview Of 2011 – With The Good Natured

THE GOOD NATURED Live In Manchester

We thought it would be a rather fitting end to the year to wax lyrical once more about the band we tipped to do well in 2011. Yup, it’s Sarah, Hamish and George, known collectively as The Good Natured!  We’ve followed them throughout the year, (and well before to be honest) with regular updates and have been delighted to see them really develop into something very special indeed.

Before a recent headline show in Manchester we caught up with Sarah and the boys to reflect on just how 2011 has panned out for them.  They’ve had quite a year, record deals, SXSW and Glastonbury appearances as well as broken bones, we of course take full credit for none of this because it’s pretty obvious to anybody but a drooling simpleton with cauliflowers for ears and a lump of coal for a heart that Sarah is an wonderful song writing talent blessed with an outstanding, distinctive voice who, with the input of George and Hamish has taken what was essentially a solo project to the next level. And so despite pre gig nerves, they helped me through the interview 😉 ( ho,ho) as we looked back on 2011 and forward towards 2012

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VP:  Hello! , I thought it’d be nice to end the year by having a chat with you guys and reflecting what sort of year this has been for you, the highs the lows. etc.

SARAH :  Hi Pippy ! Well, at the start of the year we were offered a record deal on my birthday in January which was an amazing birthday present! Since then things have been really busy. We officially signed in March and almost immediately went out to SXSW to play a few shows where we had the best week ever. Then when we arrived back in April we did a few shows supporting The Wombats around Europe. Then in May,  I met you and broke my foot in Liverpool [laughs]

We didn’t do too many gigs this year because of my foot but we did manage to get to Glastonbury, which was great fun in the mud with my cast on!  We’ve also just arrived back from touring with “Oh Land,” we did France, Germany, Scandinavia, and did a few headline shows in Germany which were great due to us having a little sync in a German shoe advert and got to number 79 in the German charts! Now we’re just doing a little run of shows back over here before Christmas. Really most of the year has been mainly about writing in preparation for the album, I’ve been out to Sweden a few times and wrote half the album out there and the rest in London, I’ll do a little bit more writing over Christmas and then the albums pretty much done and should be out in April.  So yeah it’s been a really intense, whirlwind of a year.

VP: Do you have an album title and who’s producing?

SARAH:  Erm, not yet we haven’t decided on a title yet!  Patrick Berger has produced half the album in Stockholm and most of the rest is with Liam Howe (The Whip, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Emmy the Great, Marina And The Diamonds) who’s wicked, so it’s a very exciting time!

VP: So I take it The Good Natured is a full time concern now, there are no part time jobs going on.

SARAH: Yeah, its full time, we really want to give it our all.

GEORGE: Yeah we really wanna smash it !

VP: So what’s been the biggest advantage you’ve noticed being “signed” as opposed to self releasing as you have in the past?

SARAH: I think just having the support and freedom to spend time writing without worrying about other things. I think in a way we were fortunate that it took us a while to get signed, like four years, which was disheartening at the time, when there’s loads of A&R at a gig and nothing happens! But looking back at it, I suppose it was a blessing in disguise as we had four years to mould and hone our sound, which got us signed and they love what we do and have been so supportive. All the ideas we have we can kind of make happen now so it’s amazing.

VP: So what about the band dynamics, there’s the brother [Hamish] and sister [Sarah] and then there’s George, do you ever have to step in as peacemaker George? Any sibling disputes?

GEORGE: No, they’re fine; Honestly,  I can trust them on their own [laughs]

SARAH:  [laughs] We used to fight when we were younger….

HAMISH:  Definitely when we were younger but we’ve grown up a bit now…

SARAH:  We’ve been asked this a few times and we always sound boring but we really are all the best of friends.  And we’ve spent so much time together this year touring that we all know when to give each other space, so it’s all good and we haven’t had any fights yet.

VP: And you’ve recently released a free download from the forthcoming album, a track entitled ‘Video Voyeur’ – Would it be fair to say the songs a bit, erm, “stalkerish”;)

SARAH:  [laughs] Yeah definitely, it’s all about spying on people so yeah, it’s got big stalker vibes!  We just wanted to give that away because we haven’t released anything in a while due to being so  busy song writing,  but we  wanted to let people know the album is coming and hopefully build up the anticipation and get people excited about it !

VP: Have you finalised the album track list yet, is it difficult to narrow it down?

SARAH:  I don’t think it will be, we’ve got loads of songs and obviously they won’t all be on it, but we will use them as B-Sides etc I think. It’s defiantly better to have a lot to more to choose from then less!  “Skeleton” and “Wolves” will be on there in their current state,  “Your Body Is A Machine” and “Be My Animal” are being re-recorded, but other than that it’s all new stuff.

VP: As you’ve mentioned you’ve travelled quite extensively, you’ve spent a fair bit of time in Sweden, loved SXSW, but what’s been your favourite place to gig so far?

GEORGE, SARAH, HAMISH : Definitely Germany!!

HAMSH : Hamburg was amazing.

SARAH:  It was ! We had an amazing show at The Prinzen Bar in Hamburg were we sold loads of tickets and we’ve never had a show that’s been that busy!

GEORGE : [laughs] That sounds great doesn’t it ‘we’ve never had a busy show!!’ hahaha!

SARAH: [laughs] Well I meant we haven’t had that sense before that everybody’s there to see us , you know ? And everybody was there singing along, they knew all the words which is an amazing feeling!  Everywhere’s been wicked but yes, Germany really did stand out.

VP: So before you became “The Good Natured” and followed the path that hopefully leads to musical nirvana… what did you all want to do?

SARAH:  I met George at Uni and we both dropped out to pursue music as things were getting so busy. I didn’t have a plan, I just really wanted to do this and can’t imagine doing anything else.

GEORGE:  I just want to play drums….. as long as I can play drums in a band [cue collective laughter]  … I’m not just saying I’m doing this just for that! I mean I like this a lot obviously….

SARAH: We all love it and are lucky enough to be able to do it full time so we couldn’t really ask for anything more, it’s amazing. Hamish is really good at Maths and stuff…

HAMISH: Yeah if the music side hadn’t of really taken off I probably would have looked at Architecture or Graphic Design. I did my A ‘levels this year so it was a relief to get them done not have to do anymore study and concentrate on the band!

VP: And were all your parents very supportive?

HAMISH: Very much so yes, when we were first starting off our mum used to drive us around to all the gigs, to be honest we probably couldn’t have done it without them to begin with!

SARAH:  Definitely! They were so supportive from day one and when we dropped out of Uni, both our parents were totally behind us. Without their support I don’t think we would have got signed, I wouldn’t have had time to do all my writing and hold down a job or study.  So yeah a blessing!

VP: And 2012 will be all about the album.

SARAH: Definitely, we can’t wait for people to hear it!

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Links

Official Site

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Ones To Listen Out For In 2012

15 to Listen Out For  in 2012 ?

The VPME Tips For 2012

We’ve mentioned in the past that this tipping malarkey can often arrive deep fried and positively dripping in narcissism, garnished with a large sprinkling of ego- “hey look at me I’m a pop precognitive, I can predict the muthafucking future. And it would be easy to look at The BBC’s “Sound Of” list and slavishly copy much of that, throw in a few left field buzz bands, sit back and watch your big massive fucking fat head expand because acts with big label backing are invariably and often tragically the ones that tend to do well. Big labels know that best way to predict the future is to invent it and spend a lot of time, energy and cashola in doing just that this time of year.  Doubtless there are a number of artists on the Beebs list already being lined up by their labels for appearances on Jools Holland and there’s nowt wrong with that, not all record labels are intrinsically evil 😉 , still, I think there’s room for some unsigned bands on JH.

That being said  let’s try not to get involved in the “tipping politics” instead let’s just look at it from the view that here are a group of artists we’d love it do well in 2012, quite simply because we feel they have much to offer and will hopefully make some interesting music in the coming 12 months.  They may not be brand spanking new or wilfully obscure, but we love em !   You can also check out the BBC’s own Sound of 2012  and The Bloggers Alternative here which we helped organise.

Last year we tipped The Good Natured and Islington Boys Club as ones to watch, and we’ll continue to do so this year because we think they both have a huge amount to offer.  We also hope Let’s Buy Happiness get more attention this year as they are also another band who deserve greater recognition in 2012.  Anyway without further waffle as I’m sure all your brains are addled by festive spirit coupled with that gnawing anxiety and uneasy sense of guilt induced by flashbacks from your shameful antics at the office Xmas party,  here are our musical hopes for 2012.

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1.Two Wounded Birds

Two Wounded Birds Pic By Andy Von Pip

Margate based four piece have been criminally overlooked by the printed music press in the past possibly due to the fact that they aren’t  A/ London hipsters and B/ have more song writing talent in their little fingers than your average NME hyped band will ever possess . Their debut album is set to arrive in the New Year and looks set to build on the huge promise of recent singles and 2010’s “Keep Dreaming Baby” EP. If you ever loved The Beach Boys, The Ramones, David Lynch, if you know your pop history than as sure as night follows day, you will love Two Wounded Birds.  Interview Here

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2.Tashaki Miyaki

We first heard this lot on  6 musics “NowPlaying” show of which we have been proud to have been a part of in 2011 and immediately fell in love with them. They have never appeared in the Karate Kid and  are in fact a Californian collective who specialise in impeccable reverb soaked dream pop of the highest order. They’ve already been described as sounding like a female Jesus And Mary Chain (hang on wasn’t that Sister Vanilla ?) and that’s certainly a description that should pique anybody’s interest. We are very, very excited to hear what they come up with next!

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3. Rae Morris.

rae-Morris-VPME-Ones-to-Watch

Our Mancunian gig going chums first altered us to Ms Morris, insisting we really should catch her live, to be truthful we haven’t quite managed that yet but as soon as we heard her songs and her voice it was like fireworks going off in our head. A brilliant prodigious talent, ignore the blithe comparisons with other female songwriters (they are generally wider of the mark than a Chris Waddle penalty) and just sit back and allow yourselves to be swept away by the beauty of her voice and the poetry of her lyrics.

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4. exlovers

There’s a kind of bruised poetic nobility about exlovers music, bittersweet, heartfelt, honest and eloquent. They produce songs which give hope and inspiration to the lovelorn and the lost, and although their world view may suggest they have experienced their fair share of heartbreak and emotional turmoil, exlovers are not devoid of optimism, for within their shimmering melodies there is the hope of brighter days ahead. A debut album is set for release in the New Year, which we are sure will reward the band with more exposure and a bigger fanbase.

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5. Trailer Trash Tracys

Another band who seem to have been around longer than they have* (*comment sponsored by Edward Lear)  who are set to release their debut album “Ester” on 9th January 2012, which will hopefully make a sizable, ethereal dent on the musical landscape. Everything we have heard so far by this band has been excellent, if melancholic, gauzy dream pop is your bag then the TTT’s may well set your loins aflame.

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6.The Jezabels.

Huge lunged soaring melodies and intense live performances are what The Jezabels are all about.  Their emo-centric tendencies may be a tad theatrical for some, but there’s no denying the power of singer Hayley Marys vocals and what a great band they are live. Their debut album has already taken their native Oz by storm and is set to have the same effect over here in the New Year. Very surprised not to see them included in the BBC’s “Sound Of List”

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7.Zulu Winter

If you have recently discovered Zulu Winter than ya- boo to you as we liked them before you did, in fact we liked them before they were even called Zulu Winter. We first featured them a few years back when they were called The Molotovs.   

At that time  it seemed they were on the cusp of making a breakthrough, yet somewhat bafflingly it never quite happened. However a name change has given the band fresh impetuous and 2012 could well be the year they make their mark.

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8.Bird.

Bird , from Liverpool

One of the most interesting bands to come out of my home town in recent years, and not a single twangy Merseybeat guitar in earshot. Bird is the brainchild Adele Emmas a young singer songwriter inspired by Kate Bush, the Cocteau Twins, and has a predilection for producing mesmerising mysterious ethereal soundscapes. Be prepared for Adele’s voice to cast a spell on you and draw you in to a world of seductive, dark magic, where nothing is quite what it seems.

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9.Lana Del Ray

There was been much written about Lana Del Ray , some complimentary and some suffused with more than a hint of  rather disturbing misogynist frat boy spite. We really don’t give a flying fuck with regard to this ‘too cool for school’ hipster backlash because the question is this  -does Ms Del Rey produce bad art, or good art ? Does it stand on its own two feet; indeed does it add value to your existence?  From what we’ve heard so far the latter defiantly applies and Ms Del Rey has it all to play for in 2012. Really we should celebrate an artist who has a unique voice and style rather than castigate her for having the audacity to sign to a record label. Save your bile for the parade of the inane overseen by Cowell the musical ringmaster for the terminally bland. Which is pretty much what we wrote for GIITV zine about the “Double-Eged Sword of being a blog sensation”

 

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10.younghusband

Euan Hinshelwood - Younghusband Live Manchester © Andy Von Pip

If you thought Euan Hinshelwood’s band would sound anything like his work with Emmy The Great your ears may have been in for a rude awakening. younghusband’s sound is influenced by lo fi indie and is infused with a gorgeous, gauzy fuzz pop shoegazy vibe which owes more to Pavement  Kraut rock and MBV than Diane Cluck. After  a couple of fine releases this year in the shape of their debut single “Carousal” and the “Crystal” Ep we look forward to hearing more from these chaps in 2012.

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11.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.  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. She also makes a nice cuppa.  Interview HERE.

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12.Alt J

The artists formerly known as Films are now called ∆.   (∆ =Alt-j on your Mac  keyboard apparently) and  seem to have derived as much attention from their name change as they have for their music, which I suppose means job done in one sense. These guys are quite difficult to pigeon hole, at times it sounds like understated folky blues rock, on other occasions like  a kind of electronic  trip-hop with a bit of anti-folk thrown in. But then again at other times it sounds bugger all like that, or indeed anything else out there at the moment, so we’ll shut up now.

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13.Projectionists.

Rebecca Stephens - The Projectionists

Projectionists are based in Manchester and feature former Pipette Rebecca Stevens on vocals and song writing duty. There may be a nod to her former girl group past in terms of harmonies, but this is much more grown up pop with lyrics that are introspective and tinged with sadness set against upbeat melodies. It’s top quality stuff, which may surprise some people but not us, their debut EP is planned for January and we’ll have more on that in the new year.

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14.Mode Moderne

Vancouver’s Mode Moderne seem to like the dark side of life and come across  rather like  The Arcade Fire meets Depeche Mode in a graveyard, which believe me is a good thing. The darkness, which makes Nick Cave seem positively sanguine is all enveloping, like black velvet, which disturbs and yet comforts. Let’s face it if upbeat pop is represented by the unholy union, nay the shrill pop abomination that is  Mike Posner and Cher Lloyd  I’ll direct my feet to the dark side of the street any day of the week!

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15.Cold Spex

We caught Cold Spex supporting Howling Bells and from the off it was glaringly apparent that  singer Al Spx  posses the sort of voice others can only dream about. Whether they quite have the songs yet is another issue, but if they are given time to grow and not given a hideous record label make over they certainly have the potential to be something very special indeed, – doom gospel with soul.

Songs To Learn And Sing – Exlovers, Emmy The Great And Tim Wheeler. Plus Scouse Gits and Action Aid.

“Starlight, Starlight” By Exlovers.

Almost time for us bloggers to start tipping who we hope will do well in 2012,  well here’s a spoiler, exlovers are definitely on our  list. They may not be new kids on the block but their debut album  ‘Moth’ is due in Spring next year and promises to be one of our (and hopefully your) major musical highlights in 2012. “Starlight, Starlight” is available as a free download (above) and hints at, rather like an elegantly flaunted stocking top,  the promise yet to come. We are excited !   With another single due early next year Exlovers will be rounding off 2011 with  a headline show at London’s XOYO on 16th December.

Here’s an interview we did earlier in the year

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Emmy The Great And Tim Wheeler Xmas Album.

Lets face it after pasty faced, unctuous, slug-man George Osborne’s latest gloomy economic  announcements we could do with something to cheer us up. So we have two suggestions, close your eyes and  picture George being dragged, cold, naked and sobbing along the south bank to be unceremoniously deposited in the Thames by an angry public, who have said “no more. ” Chortle as his shrill falsetto screams for clemency provoke nothing more than bitter but totally justified laughter and scorn from the angry mob. Ahem… or alternatively check out Emmy The Great  and Ash’s Tim Wheeler’s Christmas album ( more on this later in the week). They were apparently going to be called Sleigher at one stage , which of course would have left my love of woeful puns fully sated, anyway here’s a freebie to get you feeling a little bit festive.

Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)By Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler.

Ohhh and a video packed with festive cheesiness  in which, somewhat disturbingly, Tim manages to look 12 years old. I do hope the landlord of the hostelry in the video insisted on some form of appropriate ID, or it’s fizzy pop all the way for you young man.

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In Other news , watch out, it’s the Scouse GITS

Locally  we hear news of The GIT Awards, created by Liverpool music blog getintothis.co.uk,  aimed at celebrating and promoting Merseyside’s upcoming new musical talent. From the thriving hip hop scene to its electronica artists, from its long-established country and roots community to punk, folk and metal, the GIT Award is open to all. Peter Guy, Liverpool ECHO journalist and editor of Getintothis, says, ‘Think of it as the Scouse Mercury Prize – but, the only criteria being that it has a clear connection with Liverpool; ie: the record was made, produced or recorded by Liverpudlians. Prizes include   a day’s free recording time with a top producer, while the winners will play next year’s Liverpool Sound City and Liverpool Music Week. Vice Magazine, meanwhile, has asked Getintothis to promote an exclusive gig at their London-based bar, The Old Blue Last, featuring the winners.

On top of this, Skelmersdale film-maker Ian Gamester, who has been shortlisted for the prestigious Virgin Media Shorts film, will make the band’s video promo which will be screened at FACT’s boutique Box cinema

Liverpool Sound City, Liverpool Music Week, Cream, Creamfields, Vice Magazine, The Quietus, Liverpool Vision, ACME, It’s Liverpool, Liverpool City Council, Culture Liverpool, FACT Cinema and Art Gallery, Liverpool Museum, Probe Records, The Music Consortium, Bido Lito! Magazine, WAXXX Magazine, Sandhills Recording Studios, Elevator Studios, The Motor Museum Recording Studios, Dawsons, Resurrection, Lost Art, LIPA, Weavers Door, Bold Street Coffee, The Green Cauldron, Cains Brewery, The Bluecoat, Static Gallery, The Masque, Leaf, Sentric, CMU Daily, EVOL, Mellotone, Harvest Sun, Samizdat, Another Media, Obscenic, Mercy, Hive Collective, Jon Hillcock’s New Noise, UR BEATZ, Seven Streets and Liverpool Live. To apply send your four tracks to getintothis@gmail.com Or alternatively post to Peter Guy, The GIT Award, Liverpool Daily Post & ECHO, PO Box 48, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L693EB. Closing date: Spring 2012. Exact date TBC

We applaud anything that promotes new music as undoubtedly times have never been tougher for musicians , hindered by an assemblage of philistine  fuckwits (ie the government) that places zero value on the arts. This, despite the fast that the arts  is a huge export earner for the UK economy,  worth around £16 billion.

Add in the fact that Liverpool 08 was the most successful European Capital of Culture ever, with 15 million cultural tourists and £800 million worth of local economic benefit and you can see why the Tories policies are loathed and despised here in scouseland ( and beyond.)

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Action Aid

We are not ones to generally cut and paste PR’s but this is a worthwhile cause. In fact to set the ball rolling I’ll donate to keep Everything Everything away from a recording studio for the next five years. But jesting aside….

The charity ActionAid today launches the world’s first ever emergency music network, backed by music stars including The Wombats, Everything Everything, Chapel Club, Cancer Bats and Radio 1’s Huw Stephens. ActionAid Live is a nationwide network of bands, musicians, promoters and venues primed to spring into action and raise funds the next time a humanitarian emergency strikes in one of the world’s most vulnerable areas.

Radio 1 DJ and ActionAid ambassador Huw Stephens said: “When an emergency strikes – whether it’s an earthquake, flood or tsunami – we all want to do what we can to help. ActionAid Live brings together music fans, bands and promoters in a united effort to save lives both in those vital first few days following a disaster and in the long term.

“I’ve seen for myself the amazing work ActionAid does, and they’re one of the most inspiring charities out there – by raising money for them in an emergency, the money you raise will make the biggest difference possible.”

Bands, musicians and promoters can now sign up to ActionAid Live at www.actionaid.org.uk/live to support the humanitarian response during the next big emergency by putting on a fundraising gig – or donating money from an existing show they’re already involved with – creating a UK-wide network of events united to raise money and save lives.

ActionAid Live launches on 22 November as part of the charity’s wider emergency fundraising network, called the Global Emergencies Team. This is a way for every individual – whether they’re in a band or not – to get involved in an emergency response: hundreds of people around the country all set to fundraise, whether in their workplace or local community. To find out more about the wider emergency network, visit www.actionaid.org.uk/team.

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They Aint Heavy – Elephant Interview.

Elephant_theVonPipMusicalExpress

“Assembly” By Elephant.

Free Download over at Bandcamp!

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Memphis Industries are a record label I’ve admired for some time , a label that manages to pluck pearls from the raging sea of musical inanity and provide shelter and artistic succor  to a diverse mix of interesting artists ranging from the likes of Tokyo Police Club, The Pipettes, Frankie Rose and The Outs, Theoretical Girl, The Go Team right through to Dutch Uncles. One of their newest additions is electronic duo Elephant, consisting of Christian from Bristol and Amelia who is described as French-by-way-of-Pontefract (I think that sat nav may need fixing) and they certainly don’t disappoint.

They have just released their debut EP in the wake of a couple of well received 7”s which serves to consolidate the view that Elephant are a genuinely talented and beguiling proposition and really should be, in a sane world,  mentioned by many of the ubiquitous year end ‘ones to watch lists”  that bloggers and zines will soon be unleashing. Sounding  rather like a softer more emotionally connected Dubstar, or possibly a more carnal St Etienne the EP boasts a level of sophistication and lightness of touch that is a rare in a pop world that  thrives on “in your face” bombastic production, death by  Vocoder and OTT showboating. Elephant’s minimalist approach produces music that is full of languid, sensual beauty and haunting elegance proving that less is so often much, much more.

And Amelia not only posses one of those pure, crystalline voices to die for, she also has an uncommon talent in that she can keep singing whilst enjoying a full on snog with Christian as showcased on their previous video for ‘Allure’ (see below.)

So we grabbed the bull by the horns, or if you prefer, the Elephant by the tusks and chatted to the duo.

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VP:  Tell us some more about Elephant, who you are, what inspires you and what your hopes and dreams are?

Amelia: I’m Amelia Rivas my main hope is to clear my student debt. But my biggest dream is to be able to buy a huge house by the sea that I can have all my favourite people living in, where it is just footsteps away to catch my own squid. I will be the head chef of the house, and Jamie Oliver will be my assistant

Christian: I always thought the method behind making music was to be able to create the idealistic genre and sound that combined all sources of inspirations and emotions. I guess it’s almost like painting, a documentation of what I am getting my kicks off. My hope is to create a record that has longevity. My favourite records are those ones you didn’t grasp in the first few spins, but unravelled after persistence (Portishead, Dummy).

VP:  When you met did how long before you started talking music and how did the decision to create ‘Elephant’ come to pass?

Christian: Both of us have always been creating in one way or another, when we met we just needed some way to capture the sparks that were setting the bar on fire, and I guess Elephant was the medium we chose to express that emotion. Elephant seems almost like a very personal diary that is being thrown out for everyone to read.

Amelia: As soon as I met Christian, we agreed to meet up and make music, Elephant was immediately born. We had the same musical influences and work together so easily it was remarkable.

VP:  .Musically it would be fair to say it’s haunting, evocative somewhat ethereal, did you plan to make music that had this sort of vibe or did it happen ‘organically’ ( as they say these days?)

Christian: Everything we do happens organically. We start with a thought and build it up until it translates physically. Most of our songs are about escapism, realised through Amelia’s dreams. She sleeps with her notebook under her pillow these days.

Amelia:  Yes my lyrics are usually about my dreams. I have the most ridiculous, vivid, terrifying dreams so I think this most probably transpires into the music. This was never intentional; I wish my dreams would stop, especially when I wake up thinking my teeth have fallen out.

I think the music became quite eerie as a result of us having extremely long writing sessions. Our songs are usually made in the early hours of the morning, when the bad people of the world are just coming home.

VP: Your debut  EP Assembly contains four beautiful synth pop gems , are these an indication of what we can expect  on the album, which I’m believe you’re going to France soon to finish ?

Christian: We have a very strong idea of what the album is going to be, but it is very far away from any sort of written thing yet. We have hundred of sounds, concepts ideas and memories that need to be collated together. We’ve started writing the second album before the first, and now we need to go back and reassess. It’s a funny way of working.

Amelia: The album is a hurricane of new influences. We are really excited about the progress of it. Lots of 80’s synth solos with children’s screaming all over it. We are really hoping to be able to escape to France, I want to leave London and bury my head in a pile of cheese and pop music.

VP: Does Elephant still just consist of the two of you or have you expanded?

Christian: Just me and Amelia. We have other players and contributors, but we are a duo at heart

Amelia: The two of us still write the music, but live we have a new keyboard player Colin. He is tall and Swedish.

VP: You’re signed with Memphis Industries, how did that come about?

Christian: Memphis are like a family to us. They told us that they missed nurturing a London based band, as they had been dealing with a lot of American acts and I guess we fitted the bill.

Amelia: I knew Memphis from my last band UltCult. When I started Elephant I emailed Ollie our first demo, and foolishly he liked it. They are great; they get me really drunk for free.

VP: How do you rate 2011 for new music?  Good bad or meh . What have been your favourites?

Christian: Autumn has been amazing for releases, some of my favourites have been Active Child, Real Estate, Tom Waits, Twin Sister, Sleep Over, Future Islands. I think there is so much rivalry and competition now it just makes me even more ambitious to make an innovative record next year.

Amelia: I am not great explorer of new music. I don’t know how people go about finding it. I keep going back to golden oldie tracks, Earth Wind and Fire are my favourite at the minute. However, I do like a band called ‘Friends’. My mate played the track ‘I’m His Girl’ to me last night and I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since.

VP: I always assume that people who are purveyors of electronica live a dazzlingly  futuristic existence serviced by a butler robot in a world  filled with all manner of amazing gadgets. I may of course be wrong, but what are your fave gadgets, musical or otherwise and what hasn’t been invented that would improve life immeasurably?? …..

Amelia: I am not good with technology. I have been a loyal Nokia owner all my life, it’s about all the technology I can handle. If I could acquire any musical instrument it would be a golden keytar, I haven’t persuaded the label to buy me one yet. 

Christian: I think the iPad is bullshit, well that’s my starting ground. I don’t believe in new technology or gadgets being that exciting, it’s reinventing old technologies that inspire me, and giving them a modernist twist. Of course the slow induction of cheaper home recording products has really influenced the music industry. Our advance with Memphis for the album was upgrading my home recording set up. I think that’s the way the industry is moving: independence.

VP:  How do you enjoy music, do you download , stream, prefer the physical aesthetic or is it a mixture of all.  How do you see the delivery of music evolving in the future? 

Amelia: I think live music has become the most important element of music. It is the only way artists can get any money, everyone is downloading left, right and centre (including me)

VP: Finally five words to describe Elephant would be……

Christian: Hypnotic, Fragile, Haunting, Dreamscape, Uplifting

Amelia: funky, tragic, bewildered, awesome, drunk.

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Links

Bandcamp

Myspace

Facebook

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Dark Romance – The Jezabels Interview.

The Jezabels Interview Von Pip Express

“Endless Summer” By The Jezabels.

“Disco Biscuit Love” By The Jezabels.

Australian quartet The Jezabels are a band who readily admit they “love a bit of drama” and you half suspect that they could transform something as mundane as strolling to procure the Sunday morning newspaper into a soaring epic, angst ridden song about heartache, lost love, separation and redemption.  We’ve previously described them as  a band on the cusp of greatness in a  panel piece for Music Week  (HERE) and confidently expect them to be massive in 2012. However to really appreciate just how huge they sound, we’d suggest you catch them live at your earliest convenience as that’s where the band blow their audiences’ proverbial socks off.  The focal point is Hayley Mary’s astonishing voice (cue headlines such as “Hail Mary etc etc ”) which swoops and soars through an impressive array of vocal gymnastics whilst wringing pure emotion from every syllable. However unlike that other barrage balloon lunged chanteuse Florence Welch, she doesn’t resort to histrionic caterwauling or contrived mystical incense and candles new age wankery.

She can sound as dark and dramatic as Kate Bush in full on Brontë-esque gothic mode and as tender yet tough as Chrissie Hynde  with an added emo pop/rock sensibility that should guarantee airplay and mainstream success. Despite such comparisons there’s a unique quality to Hayley’s voice, when you hear her you know exactly who it is and let’s face it that’s not something you could say of the identikit reality show singers and sexless robotic RnB dry humpers that are dropped from betwixt the pallid buttocks of the big labels with depressing regularity.

However if it’s Hayley’s vocals that draw your enormous flapping moth like ears to the Jezabel flame you’ll soon discover that the band are also as tight Kylie’s hot pants replete with ominous thundering drums that sound like the presage to a great storm,( I’m not sure if Nik utilises the  traditional drumstick or  borrows a couple of ‘Thor’s Hammers,’ 😉 )  Heather’s expansive keyboard flourishes and Sam Lockwood’s immense guitar licks. They are indeed a formidable sonic unit and Hayley admits that despite their different musical backgrounds, unity is strength.

“Nik[drums] is obsessed with metal. He’s a perpetual ball of rhythm. Heather is a classical pianist who has the advantage of not really knowing the rules of rock. Sam is the earthing element. He likes organic country-folk so he balances that theatrical, over- the-top, almost ’80s thing we have…”

Their debut album, ‘Prisoner’ went straight in at No 2 in the Australian iTunes chart only being kept off the No1 spot by the seemingly immovable object that is Adele  and were also the only multiple winners at Australia’s recent Independent Music Awards in Melbourne.

The band return to the UK for a one-off show on at Heaven, London on Tuesday 29th November (For tickets visit: http://www.livenation.co.uk/artist/the-jezabels-tickets_) ahead of their UK album release in the New Year.  We spoke to keyboard player Heather Shannon about, amongst other things, the prospect of ‘going global.’

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VP: Hello!  Your debut album was gone to the top of the charts in Australia, you regularly sell sold out shows, and now you’re getting recognition around the world.  Have you come to terms with the fact that the Jezabels are now being recognised and appreciated globally?

HEATHER :  It is quite hard to comes to terms with. The more we travel though, the more you get used to it. We are so lucky to be able to play our music almost anywhere in the world….The internet is a wonderful thing. I don’t think you could have done what we have done in such a short amount of time 10-15 years ago.

VP: .I first saw you live during Liverpool’s Soundcity  at the Aussie showcase BBQ, and within minutes everybody was transfixed- a kind of  collective “wow” moment.  As a band are you aware of the kind of effect you can have on an audience? Which live shows have really stood out for you this year?

HEATHER :  I think you definitely know when you have had a magical show. It’s something that you can feel in the room. Although, in bigger venues it is harder to discern how the show is going as you are so far away from the audience. In those circumstances you just have to put your head down and enjoy it, and hope that everyone else is too. We are just coming to the end of our Australian tour and it has been the biggest one we have done. I think coming from Sydney, playing at the Enmore Theatre there meant a lot to us.

VP: You’re  touring the US and Canada with just one UK at London’s Heaven on 29th November- Will you be back in the UK in the year on the back of the album release over here ?

HEATHER :  Yes we will be back over there to tour hopefully early next year. We are going to spend a lot of time over there!! Very exciting….

VP:  You’ve said previously that since you came together as a band you’ve spent a lot of time reconciling your musical differences – Does this musical tension add to the drama of the music The Jezabels produce? Because let’s face it is pretty dramatic.

HEATHER :   Yes, I guess it does subconsciously. We have to be able to satisfy each and every one of us creatively, so sometimes things get over the top….but individually we are quite dramatic people. We like to be entertained and affected emotionally, so we endeavour to produce that effect ourselves in our audiences.

VP:  Is it difficult , as you’ve done in 2011, to get used to playing smaller venues in Europe after playing the bigger ones back in Oz? What’s been the strangest small gig you’ve ever played?

HEATHER :  It has been a little difficult. It’s also a nice experience though, because its more intimate. It’s kind of sad when the intimate shows turn into great big performances, exciting, but also a little sad. A connection with the audience is felt more keenly in smaller rooms. I think one of the weirdest was when we were starting out in Australia we played in the corner of an Irish pub to about seven people. That was pretty funny.

VP: With regard to ‘Prisoner’ , I heard  that you had some pretty tight time constraints and that your producer  Lachlan Mitchell would love you to go full on  ‘black metal’  🙂  Was the recording process enjoyable, stressful, both?

HEATHER :  It was both. I think time constraints are good in a way, because it forces you to make decisions and not over think. Although, it does create high levels of stress. Lachlan has a band called Nazxul which is a black metal band. I think his black metal influences rubbed off on us in some ways, especially when we were recording and writing tracks such as ‘Nobody Nowhere’ and ‘Prisoner’

VP: What’s the album cover all about?  🙂

HEATHER :  We had previously released a trilogy of ep’s and Chris Doyle – the man responsible for the beautiful artwork – created three different portraits for the covers. We wanted to try something quite different for the album artwork so we went for the slightly disrupted in some way landscape pictures. I think this suited the wider and more diverse feeling of our new music. The Australian landscape is so diverse that we felt it important to identify our music with it.

VP:  Song writing?  All bands/artists work differently so how about The Jezabels? Do you all write songs separately and then present them to be fleshed out as a band?

HEATHER :  We all write the songs all together from the start basically. There is a lot of back and forth-ing between the four of us. If someone is stuck on an idea, then someone else is there to offer up something new. At first it was a very slow process for us. But as time has gone on, we have become better and more efficient at it. It seems as though the basis of the song comes first – structure, harmony, melody, rhythmic ideas etc, and then Hayley will write the lyrics much later. The lyrics along with the tonal qualities of the music seem to be the uniting element in the songs.

VP:  Has the whole social media/networking scene been a huge help to the band, . Is the ripple effect of the net somewhat overstated or has it been a major factor in getting your music out into the world?

HEATHER :  I don’ think it has been overstated. Is there any other way to get stuff out there to unknown places so quickly??? It has had a huge effect on out touring. We have been able to sell out shows all over the world because of it. (Thanks Danny Macaskill!) Things like Facebook and our band email account are really valuable to us too. We stay very much in touch with our fans.

VP: The best and worst things about touring are….?

HEATHER :  -Worst – lack of sleep

 Best – too many to really say……the travelling in general, writing, meeting people…..

VP:  We, along with others have been predicting huge success for you in the UK for a while now, and 2012 should see it happen…sooo – if we spoke in a year’s time what would you have liked to have achieved musically?

HEATHER :  Hmmmmm……musically….. I will like to have learnt all our new songs off the album and be able to play them REALLY WELL!!! Hahaha…and hopefully have some new material brewing. I hope we can satisfy UK crowds and make them feel good when they watch us play.

VP:  Five words to describe ‘Prisoner’

HEATHER :  I always feel like a wanker when I have to describe our music, but I’ll try…..this is what it sounds like to me – exciting, disruptive, emotional, genuine, dark.

Links

Official Site

Facebook

Twitter

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