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


‘The Loudest Engine ‘Special.

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

“Baby Blue” By Howling Bells.

The Album –“The Loudest Engine.”

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

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



The Gig.

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

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

 Howling Bells - The Von Pip Musical Express


Howling Bells Set-list Manchester 20/09/2011

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

 The Von Pip Musical Express

“Holland “ by Cold Specks.

Photo slide show

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The Interview.

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

Brendan Picchio wrestles with 'the big questions'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy The new Album here

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


Songs To Learn and Sing – Beth Jeans Houghton, Beau And The Arrows, Wye Oak and The Finger.

Featuring  Beth Jeans Houghton, Beau And The Arrows, Wye Oak and The Finger.



Beth Jeans Houghton Free Download

Beth Jeans Houghton returns  and releases the track ‘Dodecahedron’ as free download to whet your appetite for her forthcoming debut album, set to land in August.  After  earning rave reviews for her  ‘Hot Toast Ep’  , single “Golden/NightSwimmer”  and her live performances she all but disappeared, due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’.  So what exactly is the new song all about ?  “The night before I wrote it I had a dream that consisted of me running up to strangers in the street and asking them what a dodecahedron was, but no one knew,” says Beth. “I later found out that the ancient Greeks believed the Dodecahedron is a symbol of the universe and represents an idealized form of divine thought. Take from that what you will.”

 ‘Dodecahedron’ By Beth Jeans Hougton.



Beau and The Arrows started as a music project by Singer/Songwriter Beau Carter. He was joined by his collabortaor in chief singer Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley, and the band has since expanded to include  Guitarist Layla Dudley and Drummer Jaimin Allen. Their debut album “Future Kicks” is preceeded by their third single “ Levy.” In an age where there seems to be a deluge of stage school wankery and jazz handed wannabes are everywhere it’s nice to hear from a band who seem to posses a bit of attitude and erm, spunk.

“Levy” By Beau And The Arrows.

Oh go on, have another ;).

“o.7.9.3.” By Beau And The Arrows.



Wye Oak Offer a Free download of Holy Holy

Wye Oaks album  ‘Civilian’  looks set to be one of the albums of 2011, and their  latest single ‘Holy Holy’ is being made available for FREE.  They are also supporting The National as well as embarking on their own European headline tour .

‘Holy, Holy’ By Wye Oak.



The Finger - 'Die Superhero Die'

 If you read the headline “Greece Give Europe The Finger” you may be forgiven for thinking this may relate to the financial crisis currently spreading across the Euro Zone. But you’d be wrong, The Finger are in fact a band from Thessaloniki who deliver punchy, melodic indie rock and prove there’s far more going on in Greece than George Michael wanna-be’s and Demis Roussos impersonators. The band are currently working on their debut album, in the meantime you can grab a rather marvellous song for free below. ( Imagine how big it would be if they changed the title to ‘Die , Die News International?‘) Greece is the word…

Die, Die Superhero! ”  By The Finger.

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

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

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


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

Dealing With Hecklers Jesus And Mary Chain Style!

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

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

Maybe this is the way to deal with it ?

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

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


Here are some more discussions on the subject

Stop Talking At Gigs Facebook Group

Great article on the 405

Drowned In Sound Discussion

In The Telegraph

Excellent piece from Breaking More Waves from 2009

Songs To Learn And Sing – Two Wounded Birds – ‘All We Wanna Do’

Two Wounded Birds VPME

‘All We Wanna Do’ – Two Wounded Birds.

No pissing about here with epic guitar solos, show off drum centerpieces or dreary slap bass funkathons. Instead Two Wounded Birds just get the fuck on with it, ‘ All We Wanna Do’ clocks in at just over 1 minute and 50 seconds in and that time manages to have more fun than most prog rockers have over an entire career.  A perfect summer song .. It’s a double A side backed with Midnight Wave, which comes out on Monday 18 April on limited edition 7” vinyl and digital download on Moshi Moshi.  Two Wounded Birds formed in 2008, and are originally from the seaside town of Margate.


Songs To Learn And Sing – Katie Goes To Tokyo-A Long Way From Anywhere

Did you know that Sweden is the world’s third biggest exporter of popular music ?  The Swedes seem to have a knack for producing sweet, melodic pop with a slight melancholic edge, as a quick listen to Katie Goes To Tokyo will confirm. KGTT is  Kathrine Bergström, a Swedish singer/songwriter who has been in bands since she was 16, notably  Backfish and The Wilson Hospital. Last year  she released her second album My Naked Heart, this year she goes not to Tokyo, but to  Canada to play at their Music Week festival, which is certainly a long way from Sweden. In fact you could say it’s a long way from anywhere, unless of course you live there. Or near it. Ahem,  anyway that’s my rather cumbersome way of introducing Katie Goes To Tokyo’s  song ‘ A Long Way From Anywhere,’ which you can listen to below.

A Long Way From Anywhere’  By Katie Goes To Tokyo

Deep One Perfect Morning – James Vincent McMorrow Interview and Review

James Vincent McMorrow - Interview

‘The Sparrow And The Wolf‘  By James Vincent McMorrow.

If I Had A Boat’ By James Vincent McMorrow.

These days it appears to be de rigueur for singer songwriters to seek isolation in a remote location in order to feed their artistic muse. It worked for Bon Ivor and indeed it seems to have worked wonders for Irish singer songwriter James Vincent McMorrow who locked himself away for six months in a isolated house by the Irish Sea.  The resultant album “Early In The Morning” showcases James gentle, airy soulful vocals combined with dark poetic lyrics, it’s  a multi layered, atmospheric master class in gentle, lilting folk-pop which centers around ‘the darker, less spoken about aspects of life, solitude and disillusionment.’

You’d be hard pressed to find any trace of the hardcore punk influences James listened to in his youth on ‘Early In The Morning.’ This is dreamy folk pop replete with haunting falsetto vocals which at times seem as fragile as the beating of butterfly’s wing on a summer’s breeze, and at their peak can make the Beach Boys sound like Paul Robeson. His floating wistful music certainly has more in common with Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens, Jeff Buckley and even on occasion, Antony Hegarty than A System Of A Down.  It’s an album full or warm, evocative songs, a kind of rustic folk music that seems to flit back and forth through time and has a genuinely authentic American feel to it.

James also has a damn fine beard, a wistful look in his eyes and can often be found staring into middle distance as if pondering the imponderable  as all great poetic singer songwriters are want to do.  Furthermore he also comes across as the type your chap your parents would approve of if your sister brought him home.    Having already scored a number one over in his native Ireland and gained an enthusiastic fan base in the U.S.  James looks set to charm the UK in the coming months and has already benefited from support from the likes of Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens.

Album rating : 8/10

We coaxed James from his hermits cave ( 😉 ) for a chat with regard to his musical journey thus far.


VP: James, you originally started music playing the drums, how did the process evolve from beating the skins to becoming a singer songwriter?

JAMES : Slowly over time, I took up drums because i wanted to be a part of music, but I liked the idea of existing in the background somewhere. I grew  frustrated being in bands when I started college, I wanted to play and learn all the time, the people I was trying to play with seemed to care more about saying they were in a band. That’s when I decided to learn other instruments like the piano and guitar for myself, and also when I started singing. Once you start learning about songwriting you seek out the best songwriters you can find, and that’s what lead me to folk music, to bands like the National, Arcade Fire,Band of Horses, Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom. When I look at it over the years it seems like a completely logical evolution, but then I’ve been living it so it really should make perfect sense to only me!

VP:  You recorded your album in an isolated location, playing pretty much all the instruments yourself. Do you work better alone without anybody diluting your ideas and would it be fair to say you enjoy your own company?

JAMES : I’d  say I enjoy my own company up to a certain point,  but what I do like is making music in isolation, playing all the instruments, having to generate all of the ideas yourself, it means that the music takes on a sense and sound that is 100% yours. I’ve tried to make music with others before and it never worked out, but maybe now that I’ve learnt how I work best I could find a way of working with others without compromising on my ideas. Maybe!

VP:  Is it true that you recorded the entire album with just one microphone? Did you ever have any moments when you thought it wasn’t ever going to come together?

JAMES :  Yeah it was just 1 mic, an AKG 414, I think there’s some sort of magic in it, I’ve no idea how it managed to record all those instruments on it’s own! Making music day in day out over the space of 6 months, you’re going to have days where you just think what you’re doing is completely futile and pointless, and that you’ll never get to the end of it. I just learnt to be patient, if something wasn’t working, I’d move on to something else. That was how I made it work, for the first 4 months I worked on all the songs at the same time, only in the last 2 did I start finishing things, that’s what kept me focused and moving forward.

VP:  You’ve previously said that ‘The Old Dark Machine’ kind of encapsulates the album.  You’ve also had the Bon Ivor type comparisons due to working alone, but what would you say are the main themes of the album?

JAMES:  I don’t know if the album necessarily has a theme, the year that preceded it was a pretty turbulent time for me, a lot of upheaval and change, some long days and nights spent thinking about the kind of music that I truly wanted to make. I guess I carried all of that with me into the album, in the playing, in the lyrics, but definitely not in a conscious way, I couldn’t read you a lyric from the album and tell you what it’s about, but it’s certainly all in there somewhere.

VP: It’s said during your youth that you were a fan of music with a punkier edge ?  What sort of stuff did you listen to in those days, and when did you begin to move your own music in a different direction?

JAMES:  When I was in school I listened to bands like at the drive in, refused, system of a down. A lot gets made of this, which kind of surprises me really, when we’re kids we all listen to a lot of music that we think we are going to be listening to forever, and we’re so sure that all other types of music are a waste of time. I played drums along to those records, I still love them to this day, but at the time I wasn’t writing songs, I was just learning and playing, by the time I even thought about attempting to write a song I’d discovered music like Donny Hathaway, CSNY, the National, and all of that shaped me as a writer.

VP:  I’m not sure how these things work, but you get a publishing deal, and later some of your music is used on big US TV shows such as Greys Anatomy. What happens? Do the TV company approach you or the label?

JAMES:  I’m not too well versed in how it all goes, with me I was incredibly fortunate, they asked to put one of my songs in a TV show before it had even been properly mixed and mastered, was just a friend in the US who played the unfinished record for a friend of his who worked on a big show. That money paid for the album being finished and put out, it was such a blessing to get it, and then I guess a few more of those things came in through my publisher and the label. The TV sync stuff is a pretty unknown world to me, I’m just grateful for it when it happens, it’s getting your music into the homes of millions of people in one fail swoop, it really gave my album some early life when I didn’t have any money and no one knew who I was.

VP:  What’s been your most amazing moment as an artist so far?

JAMES:  There’s been a lot over the last 12 months; it’s hard to pick out one single highlight. The first time I sold out a Dublin show, playing to a packed crowd at the Electric Picnic, having my album licensed to amazing people in the US, Canada and Europe, just a few of the ridiculous things that have happened to me since this all began.

VP: What do you have lined up for 2011?

JAMES: A lot of travelling and playing. The album has been out in the US for about 2 weeks, so the hard work there really starts now, and it comes out in Europe in a couple of weeks, so I’m expecting I’ll have to be 2 places at once from now until the end of the year at least! Also I’m trying to write as much as I can in my free time, just taking my time with the songs and allowing them to present themselves slowly. I’ve never really written songs as I’ve toured before, it’s a different energy and dynamic, I’m excited to see what it brings.

VP:   If there’s one song you’d wish you’d written what would it be and why?

JAMES:  ‘Hope There’s Someone’ by Antony Hegarty, or ‘I Love You More Than You Will Ever Know’ by Donny Hathaway, the 2 most complete and perfect songs as far as I’m concerned.

VP:  Five words to describe what music means to you?

JAMES:  Just three -it means everything….


Official Site



Click For Large Image


James Vincent McMorrow – ‘This Old Dark Machine.’

Songs To Learn And Sing – Slow Down Tallahassee – ‘Knees As Sweet As These.’

Slow Down Tallahassee

‘Knees As Sweet As These‘ By Slow Down Tallahassee.

Today’s song is tinged with more than a little sadness, regrettably Sheffield’s Slow Down Tallahassee, haven’t so much slowed down as stopped.  Their second album ‘Curly- Cuh’ , which arrives some three years after their much lauded début, is sadly the final stop on their musical journey. Once again they demonstrate their uncanny ability to wrap dark, frank lyrics in a sweet, infectious pop confection. It’s an album that deals with sticky fingered love, kitchen sink heartbreak, missed opportunities and ultimately death.

Nicola from the band describes ‘ Curly Cuh ‘ as “Lyrically it’s our death album; it makes a kind of artistic sense to us that it is released posthumously.” We shall be sad to see them go, after all they were one of the very first band’s we blogged about way back in 2007 (HERE), but we wish them well.  As they fade into ‘The Beautiful Light’ they bequeath us an album full of eloquent lyrics combined with  bitter sweet musical kisses, heavy with the scent of  impending doom and suffused with  a vague  sense that things are slowly falling apart. And as a musical epitaph I’d say it’s pretty damn perfect.  (Album rating 8/10)

Sounds like?  : A sugar coated cyanide pill.