Screen Test – Projectionists Interview

Projectionists VPME -Rebecca Stephens Interview 2011

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

So let’s recap !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

VP: So 2012 will be full steam ahead writing ?

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

VP:  And are you still singing with Jesca Hoop ?

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

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

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

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

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

VP: Any pre-gig rituals ?

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

 

 

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On Tour With Dum Dum Girls.

Dum Dum Girls Live  -Photo - Andy Von Pip - Fac251 Manchester

Ok  I will accept that the title of this post might be construed as a tad misleading and has perhaps strayed over into the more  deluded realms  of ‘optimistic,’ “on tour ,with Dum Dum Girls? ” Well one can dream.  For clarity what I actually mean is I caught them twice in as many days on the UK leg of their European tour,  first at FAC251 in Manchester, then  just over the Welsh border at Central Station in Wrexham. Two places whose musical heritage couldn’t be more antithetical, Manchester of course  has a fabulous musical legacy, giving the world The Smiths, Joy Division, The Stone Roses, The Fall, The Buzzcocks and New Order amongst others whilst Wrexham has  gifted us  erm, K-Klass….

Dum Dum Girls -Jules- Von Pip - Wrexham Central Station

Having caught Dum Dum Girls on a number of occasions over the past couple of years both performances demonstrated just how far they’ve evolved from what was essentially Dee Dee’s lofi bedroom project, into a fully fledged kiss-ass band of some distinction.  Sonically they have improved beyond measure expanding their musical palette whilst  still remaining faithful to their garagey roots, mixing 60’s girl group harmonies with the Ramones trademark head down full on speedball punk/pop fizz.  It goes without saying the band look stunning, hell, this is what a band SHOULD look like, all heartbreak n’ leathers and Dee Dee wearing her trademark “iconic look-in the making” stripped tights.  They rattle through songs from this year’s “He Gets Me High EP”, which in many ways acted as the bridge between their lo-fi debut album “I Will Be” to their second album “Only In Dreams.”  As with most groups the live sound is rawer and more jagged, lacking some of the studio polish and this fits in perfectly with the bands image and reputation, with guitarist Jules fusing a potent mixture of Johnny Marr ‘s chiming jangle, allied to twisted Mary Chain style guitar pedal distortion. Dee Dee’s vocals are pretty much bang on and she seems much more assured than on previous occasions, possibly the raw emotionally honesty of the songs allowing her to really let go, freeing her from the shyness which many have on occasion been misinterpreted as cool indifference. True, that during both gigs there is very little in the way of banter, but hey, if you want wise cracks go see a comedian; Dee Dee gives enough of herself musically, expressed through beautiful poignant poetic lyrics allied to the sort  perfect pop songs that exist “Only In Dreams” for many songwriters. The sort of songs written from the heart and  infused with a genuine emotion that  you simply can’t fake.   If that isn’t enough for you, why not fuck off to a corporate arena communal wank-a- long and listen to songs born at a record label focus group, for this is very much the real deal.

Dee Dee Dum Dum Girls -Photo By Andy Von Pip- Manchester.

Veronica Falls provided  support and played two sparkling sets which encompassed the majority of their superb debut album plus a couple of new tunes. Frenetically strummed guitars and melancholy appear to be Veronica Falls trade mark and they fuse classic pop,  a touch of 60’s doo-wop with late 80’s guitar jangle to concoct an intoxicating musical cocktail. I really hope this band become more widely known because the more I play this album the more I love it.  Great band and great performances.

A quick mention most be given to Retriever who were the first band on the bill at Manchester and Novelle in Wrexham. Newcastle’s  Retriever were  an  astonishing full on sonic ear shredding assault with driving beats, searing guitars, thundering bass all drawn together by  lead singer Jackie Miller’s strident, powerful vocals.  Novelle took the opening slot in Wrexham and performed a set shot through with frail melodies swimming under a wash of woozy shoegazy feedback . All in all a pretty perfect damn near perfect gig experience.

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Dum Dum Girls Only In Dreams Competition

dumdumgirls Competition

Well we’ve raved over Dum Dum Girls second album ‘Only In Dreams’ describing it asa genuine slice of  pop genius and as such ought to be mentioned in the same breath as canonised classics such as ‘Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes,’  Blondie’sParallel Lines’ or The RamonesLeave Home.’  You can read the full review and an in depth interview with Dum Dum Girl Dee Dee HERE.  And if you haven’t heard the album yet, here’s your chance to win a free copy, simply tell answer the following question

Q.  Which US band does Dee Dee’s other half play in ?

You can email your answers to vonpip@yahoo.co.uk , just mark in the email header DUM DUM GIRLS COMPETITION. Winner will be announced in comments section here on 10/11/2011.

The girls are due to hit the UK very soon, playing the following dates.

13-Nov            Manchester        FAC251    Tickets

14-Nov            Newcastle          Cluny        Tickets

15-Nov            Leeds                 Brudenell   Tickets

16-Nov            Wrexham           Central Station   Tickets

17-Nov            London               ULU                   Tickets

Totally Wired – The Whip Interview/Album Review

The Whip - Wired Together - Interview VPME - 2011

‘Riot’ By The Whip.

Manchester has long been a fertile breeding ground for electronic music, be it the nihilistic, heart wrenching poetry of Joy Division, set against the backdrop of a bleak, grey  post-industrial Manchester through to the pill popping hedonistic indie dance crossover championed by the likes of New Order and ACR .

Such a legacy could prove to be something of a burden to lesser bands than The Whip, who also hail from greater Manchester, a fact some critics have used in an attempt to pigeon hole and define them. However The Whip could care less about narrow-minded assumptions and ill fitting labels and instead approach their music with the kind of infectious alacrity that is difficult to resist. In truth they produce a fusion of intoxicating indie, dance and electronica that owes as much to Daft Punk and Cabaret Voltaire as it does to New Order or the Hacienda sound.

Their debut album, 2008’s ‘X Marks Destination,’ received high praise from many quarters and the band hit the festival circuit gathering rave reviews from punters and critics alike. Three years on and the Whip return with a new album entitled ‘Wired Together’ which picks up where their debut album left off.  They continue to mix pounding rhythms, surging dance floor beats and sleazy electro keyboards but on this occasion their music has noticeably less of the driving indie guitar riffs as the band and producer Jagz Kooner (Primal Scream, Massive Attack, Ladytron, Kasabian)  pursue an electronic centric agenda. This time around The Whip’s songs embrace a more celebratory tone whilst still remaining true to their original ethos.  And of course there is still a sinister underbelly prevalent in many of their tunes, the dystopian floor filler and strangely prescient ‘Riot’ is a full of edgy futuristic paranoia and pent up energy, ‘Keep Or Delete’ resolutely stomps about the dance floor like an army of marauding and ever so slightly horny Cyberman. ‘Metal Law’ captures the essence of Cabaret Voltaire circa their ‘Groovy Laid Back And Nasty’ phase to a tee, whilst blissed out album closer ‘Slow Down’ encapsulates the post rave euphoria come down perfectly. ‘Wired Together’ is indeed a bold step forward, both lyrically and sonically producing a more polished expansive sound but one  that still retains the spirit of the band’s debut. Danceable, credible and hugely enjoyable they once again manage to whip up a storm.

8/10

And we sat down for tea and biscuits with The Whip’s front man Bruce Carter to talk about the album and ascertain exactly what the band had been up to these past three years 😉

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VP: Hello, it’s been a few years since your much praised debut,  and you’re about to release the follow up, ‘Wired Together’ . You’ve obviously been busy gigging and going down a storm on the festival circuit and travelling the world but did you plan to have such a gap between releases.

BRUCE: It used to be a pet hate of mine to see bands take ages between albums. I could just picture them sat about watching Jeremy Kyle and DVD’s all day when they could be releasing new music but now I can sympathize! We’ve been non stop since the first album came out at different times over the world which we toured relentlessly. We would get back from 5 weeks in America and then go around Europe for month before a Japanese trip. It’s all amazing fun and we recorded most of the demo’s for the new album on the road. On the bus, in dressing rooms or hotel rooms on days off. We had to draw the line and stop touring to get on with the new record, we tried out lots of different producers which took time and we worked on the demo’s back in Manchester in between.


We met Jagz Kooner who went on to produce the album at the start of last year and after working with him for a couple of days we knew he was the right guy for the job. He came up to manchester for a couple of months with us in a rehearsal room working on the demo’s, once we had the live bass, drums and guitar stuff worked out we moved down to London for most of last year. We recorded the live instruments with Mark Ralph at Club Ralph and then went to Jagz’s show box sizd studio and worked on synths and vocal for ages!!!  It’s taken a while as we wanted to see what would happen if we really pushed ourselves to make it as good as possible.


I guess that’s the shortest way of summing up what we’ve been up to!  I’m just so happy to have it finished and can’t wait to get it out and get on with the next one. We’ve got so many songs sat about that are ready to go.

VP: What would you say is the biggest difference between ‘X Marks Destination’  and ‘Wired Together’? Did you feel more pressure writing and recording this album?

BRUCE:  I think because we took out time ironing out everything we didn’t feel the pressure while making the record. I was pushed to get the vocals as good as possible on this record, I remember to get the right vibe on a song called ‘Riot’ I was literally beaten up while I was singing the vocal takes. You can hear me taking a few blows for the team if you listen carefully. The main difference between the albums was that the 1st album changed very little from the demo’s as we were in the studio with Jim Abyss for about a month as opposed to a year with this one.

VP: You’ve put half the album on line giving people the chance to listen before it arrives in September, was part of the thinking behind this giving people the chance to hear them before you tour?

BRUCE: We’re just so eager to let people hear the new music that this seemed like the best way of doing it. It’s been nice to see a people singing along to the new bits at shows we’ve played recently.  We’ve played quite a few of the songs live for a while and the response has been wicked with people jumping around and going crazy at the right bits.

VP: You’ve also been involved in remixing other people’s songs, which have been the ones you’ve enjoyed?  And how does it work, do they approach you or vice versa ?

BRUCE: We love remixing peoples songs, mostly you get approached or sometimes you do a mutual remix swap with someone. I like the Black Ghosts remix that we did and we played it live for a couple of years, the crowd reaction was always wicked.

VP: I’ve also been checking out some of your mix tapes available on your site some tunes on there that might surprise people The Pointer Sisters to Earth Wind and Fire to Fleetwood Mac.  Do you think music fans generally these days are less genre-centric?  That there’s less indie (or indeed pop) snobbery prevalent?

BRUCE: That’s totally the case, it’s so much healthier to listen to a variety of music rather than just one strict genre and there is so much good music out there. We listen to lots of different stuff, it’s good to be open minded about everything in life. I love indie as much as the next person but there is so many different tasty nibbles at the musical buffet.

VP: What was the idea behind the art work for ‘Wired Together’  and who’s responsible for it?

BRUCE: I’d had a picture from the 70’s Italian horror film ‘Suspiria’ on my phone for ages. It’s a beautiful still of the ornamental peacock from near the end of the film, I guess the image spoke to me while we we’re working on the album demo’s. We put the image in the hands of a Manchester based artist, Enge and after some serious talking he developed it in to the beast we have on the sleeve. It’s amazing to look at really close up on the poster, the detail is bonkers, it goes on and on.

VP: As previously mentioned you’ve played around the world, what have been your most bizarre tour experiences?

BRUCE: It’s amazing to be able to visit some of the places we get to. Our first trip to Japan was pretty amazing as it was the first time that we had travelled so far to play music. At the time we didn’t have an album out and everyone knew who we we’re which is a bonkers feeling.
We do get up to some crazy partying stuff on tour and you meet people that you share really amazing nights with only to know that you’ll probably never get to see them again. We had an amazing night camping in Joshua Tree park on our last USA tour, I’ve never seen so many stars.

VP: If you had an unlimited budget what would you add to your live shows?

BRUCE: That is my favourite question in the world, we’d love to add visuals and all sorts of lasers at some stage. I love the feeling of playing music engulfed in smoke with strobes around my feet; it’s a wild feeling to see how far you can take yourself before you have an epileptic fit. In all seriousness if the lighting guy asks us what vibe to go for the one word we give is “epileptic”.

VP: Desert Island disc time,  if  you could take only one piece of music to your desert island, what would that be ?

BRUCE: I guess something with melody and vocals but nice electronic vibes too, KRAFTWERK MAN MACHINE covers a lot of bases for me!

VP:  Five words to sum up ‘Wired Together’

BRUCE : Heavy, Hypnotic, floaty magic disco.

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Songs To Learn And Sing – Ladytron, Prince Edward Island, Howling Bells, No Ceremony,The Icarus Line.

Today we feature Ladytron, Prince Edward Island, Howling Bells, No Ceremony and The Icarus Line.

Ladytron.

Ladytron - Gravity The Seducer,’  Album art

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Let us be clear so there is no misunderstanding, I love Ladytron, their icy, hauntingly sinister goth electronica continues to fill my heart with unbridled joy. Their latest offering “Mirage” which appears on their forthcoming album,’ Gravity The Seducer,’ has reaffirmed and indeed justified my infatuation… It’s  in stores September 12 (UK) / September 13 (US).

‘Mirage’ By Ladytron.

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Prince Edward Island.

Prince Edward Island

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND release their long awaited debut album ‘This Day Is A good Enough Daythrough Crocfingers Record on Monday the 29th August.  Brutal, dark scottish wit, melancholy and regret, all viewed through a fug of ciggies and beer ( or so it seems) make this an album that never fails to engage the listener. If  Belle and Sebastian had met The Band Of Holy Joy at Rehab and  decided to make an album it may sound something like this.

‘Sex in the Morning (I’m Coughing, You’re Moaning)’ By Prince Edward Island.

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Howling Bells.

Howling Bells

Having more than made up for Jason Donavan and Stefan Denis, Sydney’s finest, Howling Bells release a new video, the title track from their upcoming new album The Loudest Engine, which is released September 12th 2011 and you can pre-order your copy now from www.howlingbellsmusic.com

 

HOWLING BELLS LIVE in 2011

Weds  14th SEPTEMBER PORTSMOUTH, WEDGEWOOD ROOMS

Thurs 15th LONDON, ELECTRIC BALLROOM

Fri 16th  SHEFFIELD, PLUG

Sun 18th LEEDS, COCKPIT

Mon 19th GLASGOW, ORAN MOR

Tues 20th  MANCHESTER, ACADEMY 3

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No Ceremony – Hurt Love.

It’s becoming quite the thing to release a piece of music without letting on who you are. So maybe No Ceremony should change their name to No Info because  all we know about ‘the band’ is that they come from Manchester and on the evidence of ‘Hurt Love’ they do a rather fetching line in ambient haunting choral electronica. I’d provide a link to their website, but there’s not much point as there’s probably more info here than there.

” Hurt Love” By No Ceremony

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The Icarus Line.

The Icarus Line

The Icarus Line return with a new album entitled ‘Wildlife’  which is apparently inspired by fleeing “Desperation, Drugs and Record Industry scum”

King Baby – Icarus Line

Now I’ve never been much of a one for copying and pasting press releases, but Joe Cardamone’s statement with regard to  The Icarus Line’s album pretty much demands your attention!

“Wildlife presents the newest chapter in a bizarre saga of sonic ambition and utterly stubborn will. A rock n’ roll nuke followed by a couple months of radiated fallout. This record did not just make itself and get into your hands by accident today, it was written, produced and recorded under the constant threat of extinction. As we all know the bills keep coming long after the money is gone. It is another document from a distant corner of Los Angeles that believes in Rock N’ Roll music as art and religion. This collection of songs is finer than the last and those before that. We, The Icarus Line may never get to make a record again and so every record has been made as if it’s the very last one. That’s how this music is supposed to feel though isn’t it? Like a fight to survive in a musical landscape dominated by frat boys in ships clothing. If you love Iggy, If you miss Roxy Music, if you feel Funkadelic, if you need a flash of danger in your life, if you want a little lust around, if you love Rock N’ Roll music that is actually made by motivated f**k ups who had no other choice, then this is for you.

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Sarabeth Tucek – Live @ Band On The Wall, Manchester 09/05/2011.

Sarabeth Tucek Live Review -Band On the Wall, Manchester 2011

If you’ve visited this blog before you’ll  no doubt be aware of our  love for  Sarabeth Tucek and we have certainly not hid our  admiration for her stunning sophomore album ‘Get Well Soon.’  She certainly didn’t disappoint in the live setting playing a short but achingly beautiful set in Manchester as part of her UK tour (on this occasion supporting energetic folk pop collective The Leisure Society.) This was the first time I’d visited Manchester’s  ‘Band On The Wall’ venue run by the not for profit charity Inner City Music and it provided the perfect setting for an intimate and profoundly affecting performance from Ms Tucek.   A word of warning though, should you wish to partake in a pre-gig pint , a couple of pubs in the vicinity seemed to be populated by local ‘characters’ who where unquestionably a few French fries short of a happy meal. On the plus side they would certainly provide ample source material for the writers of ‘A League Of Gentlemen’  should they ever wish to revive the series.

Sarabeth Tucek Live Review Manchester 2011

With her partner in crime Luther Russell,  Sarabeth performed a stripped down set consisting  primarily of songs  from her ‘Get Well Soon ’ album.   It must be a slightly strange experience singing such personal songs to a crowd of strangers but Sarabeth delivered them with elegance, eloquence and her hauntingly beautiful voice had the audience mesmerised from the first note.   ‘Get Well Soon’ is an album inspired by the loss of her father and  she communicates her confusion, pain and vulnerability in the face of bereavement with such dignity that you can only listen in hushed silence and feel nothing but respect for her honesty and integrity. Like all genuinely great artists Sarabeth can take an intensely personal experience and articulate it in such a way that makes it universal. This is not contrived, self indulgent navel gazing; this is raw emotion of genuine sincerity and beauty and as such is intensely moving. To take a traumatic life changing event and transform it into something so positive, inspiring and timeless  is a testament not only to her undoubted talent as a songwriter and musician but also her strength as a person.   Seriously, why she isn’t absolutely huge both here and back home in the States is beyond me.   If her songs and voice don’t stir some emotions within you I can only assume you have ice in your veins, have a seriously defective empathy gene or are George Osborne .

 It was a pleasure to meet Sarabeth and Luther after the gig and find them to be warm and witty with a wonderfully dry and dare I say, very English sense of humour.   I really could not think of a better way to spend a Monday evening. Catch her while you can, she really is such a talent,  you will not be disappointed.

Sarabeth Tucek And Luther Russell backstage

Sarabeth Tucek/  Von Pip

Sarabeth In Von Pip Mode !!

Her Uk tour continues ….
May 13 . ULU . London (with Engineers).

May 14 . Truck Store . Oxford.
May 15 . Buffalo Bar . Cardiff.
May 16 . Café Oto . London (with This Is The Kit).
May 17 . The Puzzle Hall Inn . West Yorkshire.
May 18 . Prince Albert . Brighton (with David Thomas Broughton).

May 19 . The Slaughtered Lamb . London.
May 21 . Wood Festival . Oxfordshire.

Tears, Fears and Beers – Help Stamp Out Loneliness Interview.

Help Stamp Out Loneliness - The VPME - Interview - 2011‘Record Store‘ By Help Stamp Out Loneliness.

Help Stamp Out Loneliness formed when  indie popsters ‘Language Of Flowers’ disbanded in 2007 after  Bentley Cooke (guitar) and Colm McCrory (bass) decided enough was enough and maybe it was finally time to seek the more settled life on civvy street. Being stoic chaps they didn’t seek rehab or counselling, no, they simply went cold turkey turning their back on the C86 lifestyle and settled into mainstream ‘normality’… or so it seemed. For despite integrating themselves into polite society the allure of indie pop was proving a difficult beast to resist and whilst they were indulging in the odd Pimms or two and lunching in La Tasca they craved pear cider and festival mud. The thought of wearing a suit  symbolised  a  strait-jacket, a tie represented a  noose,  and they would suddenly awaken bolt upright in the dead of night with  new ideas for songs-  Something had to give,  and before long, like an indie Jake and Elwood Blues, they resolved to put a band back together. They recruited Ben Ambridge on drums, Louise Winfield on organ, pianist Kath McMahon, not surprisingly on  piano and when the final piece in HSOL jigsaw arrived  in the sophisticated form of  Nico-esque singer D.Lucille Campbell, a new band with a symmetrical gender ratio was born.


On May the ninth in the year of our lord 2011, Help Stamp Loneliness are finally set to  release their debut album, a beautiful bitter-sweet, collection of  shimmering songs, aching melancholy and intelligent literate modern-day poetry set against jangling guitars and giddy keyboard swirls . Such is the uplifting nature of many of the melodies you may initially be oblivious to the darker lyrical content which only truly reveals itself after repeated listens. The album contains themes ranging from obsessive pop star stalkers (inspired by The King Of Comedy) ,  the dying embers of doomed relationships, beer gardens and   alfresco sex,  all presented within a lovely whirling fuzzed up, kraut-pop, lounge- gaze shell.  Think Camera Obscura meets St Etienne meets the Wedding Present at the Star and Garter, with a dash of Belle & Sebastian.

Album Rating 8.5/10

We had a chat with Bentley and D.Lucille about the new album, the indie life and um,  David Gest!

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VP:  Hello! So in time honoured fashion tell us about the bands inception.   I believe the ‘Star and Garter’ played a significant role?

BENTLEY: Colm (bass) and I (guitar) were in Language of Flowers together and when that finished we put up adverts on the Manchester Gumtree for people to join us. Ben (drums) joined first; he then brought along his girlfriend Louise (organ) who subsequently brought in her friend Katherine (piano).  We auditioned about 30 singers before we finally found D.

D. LUCILLE: I had fantasised about being in a band for a while so I advertised myself on Gumtree and received a message from Bentley via MySpace asking to meet up with me.  We got together in this tiny Cuban bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.  Bentley was stood propping up the bar with his oversized cowboy boots and a Hawaiian shirt, I thought, I can take this guy on!

BENTLEY: As for the significance of the S&G … I’d been going to their ‘Smile’ club night since I was 15/16.  Nobody can doubt the influence it’s had on Manchester’s indie community – it needs a blue plaque – although Derm (the owner) would be the first person to rip it down.   I remember I had to put my mam’s mascara on my bum-fluff sideburns to get past Derm and Andy (the S&G bouncer).

VP:  And the band name? What made you go for that? Stonewall Jackson? Nancy Sinatra?

BENTLEY: Colm’s a big fan of Nancy Sinatra and he was thinking of starting a night in London with Tara from Language of Flowers but I convinced him it would be a better name for a band.  Some girl I met on a train down to London the other day told me she thought we sounded like Emo-Rockers.  I can kind of see her point

VP: You’ve been around a while and your debut album is imminent (9th May) How did it work for you? Did you have a lot of studio time, or was it recorded quickly. Did you have any trouble deciding which tracks would go on the album?

BENTLEY: We’ve been around for almost 4 years – we started in early 2007 – D. Lucille joined us about a year after that and that’s when we started really writing and gigging.  Most of the album is recorded in my box bedroom, Ben and Louise’s front room and assorted warehouses in and around the city centre.  We’re a pretty tight arsed bunch so we just decided we’d record it ourselves and get Woodie Taylor (Comet Gain) to produce it.

D. LUCILLE:  We had to experiment in different places to find out what worked for us and found that Bentley’s box worked best. With ginger pussies and a honky tonk piano at hand to stroke, who could ask for more?

BENTLEY: My box is the best and don’t forget it!  As for the tracks we devised an experiment where we all wrote which songs should go on the album and in which order – when we revealed our choices to each other everyone’s list was the same – there were never any arguments about the track listing.  There were arguments about everything else … but not the track listing.

VP: You certainly have some interesting song titles and inspirations ‘Torvill And Dean’ for example and more recently a song referencing welsh boxer  Jimmy Wilde ‘The Ghost With The Hammer in His Hand’, would it be fair to say your lyrics are somewhat darker than the pop harmonies would suggest?

BENTLEY: Thank you.  Every song on the album is bittersweet – it may begin innocent and naïve but it’ll soon turn the wrong way down a one way street.  I like a twist in the plots of films so why not have one in songs too?  I’m not sure what D. Lucille thinks of all this but I feel it’s much easier inherit a character to tell your stories.  Pop music works on two levels – melody and content.  Just because a song has a catchy hook doesn’t necessarily mean it should have mundane lyrics.

VP:  So  is D.Lucille  really friendly with David Gest? Will he be coming along to The Deaf Institute anytime soon?

BENTLEY: No, a hack from the Manchester Evening News made that up.  D. was just doing some performance with Gest in London and this ‘journalist’ decided to run with it and invented some story about them going out for dinner to fulfill his copy targets.

D. LUCILLE: I serenaded David Gest in St John’s Wood.  He grinned and shimmied whilst clicking his fingers. I think he liked it.

BENTLEY: See what I have to deal with?  The entire piece was a complete and utter fabrication.

VP: What sort of music influenced you growing up?

BENTLEY: I was always fascinated by female pop singers in the 80s. I still listen to Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Bananarama and Kim Wilde a hell of a lot and obviously it was hard to ignore the Stone Roses when you grew up in Manchester.  In the early 90s I got into 4AD, Sub Pop and Too Pure and heard the likes of the Afghan Whigs, Belly and Stereolab … they really shape the way I put songs together.  When I met Colm he played me Colourbox and St Etienne and from there I fell in love with AR Kane.  The rest of the band’s influences aren’t as apparent on the album as mine and D. Lucille’s but – yeah – we all know our records.

D. LUCILLE:  I listened to Adam Ant, Bowie, The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Siouxsie, Kate Bush and had a bit of a fascination with Robert Palmer during puberty.  Early Suede saved me during the difficult times.  My taste has developed slightly; my love of Marmite voices has me listening to John Grant, Vashti Bunyan, CocoRosie, Diamanda Galas, Tim Buckley and Wild Nothing.  I adore The Associates, Moondog, Magazine, The Magnetic Fields, Beach House and Amanda Palmer.

BENTLEY: Don’t forget Cock Robin.

VP: Since forming Help Stamp Out Loneliness what have been your highlights thus far?

BENTLEY: I really enjoyed playing at London ‘PopFest’ a month or so ago – we’re just pretty lucky to be involved in a huge gang of like minded musicians, writers, labels, kitten kuddling kunts, etc.  Like SHRAG I’m not always sure how snugly HSOL fit into the indie-pop community but I still love it.  They’re our family now.

D. LUCILLE: For me Hamburg’s ‘Hit the North’ and London’s ‘Popfest’ topped all of the mind blowing moments so far.  I think we’ve almost persuaded the KKK at last.

VP: You are one of a growing army of bands who have stated you rarely use Myspace these days, where did all go wrong ? What’s your ‘social network’ poison (if any) these days ?

BENTLEY: Whoever redesigned MySpace needs to be given fifty lashes and called a “rotter”.  It’s impenetrable.  I couldn’t even work out how to find our band emails or update anything.  The only good thing about it is that Murdoch (who bought Myspace in 2005) is left looking like a spare prick at a wedding.

D. LUCILLE:  I think the rotter should be given fifty eyelashes and asked to stick them all on at once. Work than one out Murdoch!

VP: What have you got planned for the rest of 2011?

BENTLEY: Louise and I have started a new band called Lager & Lime (coz I like a drink and she’s a sour faced cow) and we’ll be putting out our debut single in the summer.  My wife’s having a baby so I’ll be lying low for a while after the album is launched.  Hopefully we’ll get some good gigs towards the end of the year and head over to America and Europe.  It all depends on how bad the reviews are.

D. LUCILLE: Oh let’s tempt fate.  I foresee the album doing well, live performances far and wide, smiling & confused faces, maybe a video. I have performances with Memoire and my band M coming up too and will hopefully be writing and recording too.

VP:  So…….  is it possible to maintain the indie lifestyle as you get older…. And keep your dignity?

BENTLEY: I wouldn’t class our lifestyles as being particularly indie but you are dead right – whatever dignity you have left automatically deserts you when you make that decision to get on stage.  As for the age factor – I’ll let you know when I reach 29.  Obviously I can’t speak for Colm who’s looking more and more like D. Lucille’s ‘mate’ David Gest every day.

D. LUCILLE: Here, here! I am looking more and more like Peter Pan each day!

VP:   A five word band motto……

BENTLEY: “Can We Borrow Your Equipment?” – it’s more of a plea than a motto.

D. LUCILLE: “Which part don’t you understand?”

BENTLEY: Actually – I prefer yours D.

Links

Facebook.

www.wiaiwya.com

www.brokenheartfoundation.org.uk/papillonsnoirs

Large Image/ Wallpaper.

Video.