Monday, 28 March 2016

Bis + The Yummy Fur - King Tut's Wah Wah Hut

I've been a massive fan of Bis since I was 15, and last week I finally got to see them live, in their hometown of Glasgow no less. Tonight is the first of the few shows the band have scheduled for this year, and there's a definite buzz of excitement throughout the venue.

The Yummy Fur open the night with a rare appearance, coming on stage to an already-packed room. Like Bis, The Yummy Fur have never quite got the recognition they deserve, and I'll never understand why. Every song they play gets a great reaction, with my personal favourites being Roxy Girls and Policeman.

Next, it's time for Bis. Tonight's set list is made up mostly of the bands early material, making for a bouncy, high-energy night, starting with School Disco. The songs all sound, if it's possible, even better live, and the new song they slip in fits perfectly with the rest of their material; Sci-Fi Steven might have joked about some of their "Teen-C" lyrics being "timeless", but sound-wise, that actually rings true.

Monstarr sees Manda Rin stepping away from the keyboards and picking up a megaphone to rant about the media's obsession with image, a theme which is just as, if not more, relevant than when the song was first released.

All three of the members look so happy to be performing, and keep thanking everyone for coming throughout their set.

The band return to the stage to play their forthcoming Record Store Day release Boredom Could Be Good For You, followed by Eurodisco. I feel like I'm in the minority of Bis fans here, but I've never been that keen on Eurodisco - played live though, I loved it!

It's clear that Bis still have so much to offer, I'm hoping the new songs mean a new album, or at least an EP, might be in the works. I can't wait to see them again at Manchester in May - do yourself a favour and snap up a ticket while you still can!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Interview: The Subways

Formed in 2000, The Subways got their break by winning Glastonbury's Unsigned Band competition and landing a slot at the festival. From there, they've gained a reputation as one of the best live bands in the UK scene right now and have currently released four albums.

The band have always worked at being as completely involved in every aspect of their career as possible, starting from tirelessly producing their own demos in the early days, so it's no surprise that these days the they are embracing fan-funding platform PledgeMusic; their latest album was funded that way, and their current campaign is to fund a North American tour. 

Drummer Josh Morgan was kind enough to answer a few questions for this blog, check out what he had to say below!
You guys formed when you were all in your teens. How long have you each been interested in making music?
Billy reached for a guitar for the first time having heard Supersonic by Oasis during his early teens. He had always been a fan of popular music such as Blur, Oasis and Nirvana, and developed a taste for song writing early on. I believe he was always destined to do something within the arts. 
Charlotte had been classically trained on piano, and I'm sure on a wind instrument too. They were dating at a young age so Billy encouraged her to learn bass to join the band. 
And I just followed suit for a bit of fun.

Were you involved in any bands before The Subways?
No, The Subways has been our only project. We developed ourselves for The Subways and not the other way around.

Musically, who would you say your biggest influences are?
A wide range of bands. I'd say Nirvana/Oasis/ACDC for the guitar sounds. Motown/Fleetwood Mac/The Vines for the vocal melodies. Muse/Garbage for the Bass sound. And The White Stripes/The Von Bondies for drums.

You've funded your last two albums through PledgeMusic, and are now funding your North American tour the same way. Do you think fan-funding platforms like PledgeMusic give bands more freedom?
It gives us an opportunity to tour areas we can't afford and not bankrupt ourselves doing so. There's no doubt that the state of the industry forces bands to be creative with the way they finance things and this is one of the genius ways to keep music moving. We couldn't ignore the pleads from our American fans any longer and this was the best solution. My suggestion of selling Billy's body to finance the tour was quickly shunted down.

When it came to your most recent album, you decided to record/produce etc the whole thing yourselves. What led to that decision?
We felt that we had learned enough from Ian Broudie, Butch Vig and Stephen Street to be able to attempt it ourselves. Each of them had taught us a tremendous amount about our instruments and sound. Billy worked his arse off and began to find his rhythm during the process. It was really fun.

Now that you've experienced both, do you prefer the DIY approach to doing things?
Definitely DIY. Not only is it financially viable, but watching Billy lose his mind over something like floor tom phasing is just too funny.
I've interviewed a few bands about their experiences of sexism within the music industry, and I was wondering if this has ever been a problem for you as a band (ie not being taken seriously for having a female member, Charlotte being treated differently than Billy and Josh etc)?
Billy is a huge feminist, and sexism has been an issue for us. One example from the top of my head is when a man from a record label exclaimed to us that women should not be in rock. Very mindless and stupid and it has an vindictive affect on us. It's shocking for us to see any form of discrimination and we are all willing to fight for equality. I think lack of education may be a factor behind discrimination, and certainly intelligence. It's extremely archaic.

Once again, this years festival line-ups are shaping up to feature very few women on their stages. What are your thoughts on that?
It's strange. If it's a conscious decision for promoters/agents to ignore or underestimate bands with females in then it's ridiculous because we are missing out on some amazing artists. I saw a band recently that astounded me called Tiger Bells. I was really impressed with a natural knack of songwriting ability within the group and their performance was phenomenal. The band after them was 4 good looking lads dressed in black with not a decent song to their name. Tiger Bells have been overlooked and Wanna Wanna is the best song I've heard in years.

You've played at quite a few festivals yourselves, do you have a favourite festival to play?
Most festivals on mainland Europe are exceptional. My favourite must be Hurricane/Southside due to the atmosphere. In the UK, the smaller, the better. 2000 Trees is one of the best.

A lot of bands seem to get tired of playing the "hits", particularly ones from earlier in their career. Do you ever feel that way about the likes of Oh Yeah and Rock and Roll Queen, or do those songs still seem as much to you as they did back then?
No, we love playing these songs. They are really fun and still feel fresh when we play them. Some of my favourite songs to play are from the first album.
Do you have a favourite song to play live?
A song of our new record called We Get Around gives me such a buzz that I feel urged to trash my kit from adrenaline. Unfortunately it was the fifth or sixth song on the set list on the last tour so I would have to reconstruct the kit.

And finally, is there anything else you'd like to add?
We are just so damn exited to be going back to America. Thank you to all the people participating on Pledge especially, as we have been able to finance this tour and come meet you all. I hope we all have a great time together!

Thank you Josh for doing this interview! Check out The Subways' current Pledge campaign here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Grimes + HANA - Manchester Academy 3

taken from HANA's tumblr
HANA is the opening act on Grimes' current Acid Reign tour and, as she takes to the stage of the already packed Academy, it quickly becomes clear that she's a perfect choice to fill that slot. While HANA's music is certainly in the same vein as Grimes', she's managed to take a similar set-up and make it very much her own. Thick beats and dreamy synths provide a beautiful backdrop for HANA's impressive vocals and unwavering confidence; she ends her set having definitely made an impact on the majority of the crowd.
taken from Grimes' Facebook page
After the ever-agonising wait that comes after the support act leaves the stage, Art Angel's atmospheric opener Laughing and Not Being Normal starts to play, and the crowd start screaming at full volume before Grimes has even set foot on stage - so you can imagine the reaction as she walked on and started playing Genesis, shouting the opening line along with her at top volume.

Backed by two dancers, Alison and Linda, Grimes is also joined by HANA who, depending on the song, contributes drums, guitar, backing vocals and/or just general awesome sparkliness.

Before going into Scream, Grimes explained that, unlike the tracks featured vocalist Aristophanes, she can't speak Mandarin, before going on to rap the verses herself in Russian. Her vocals switch from random metal-esque growls to soaring, high notes that, from a lesser vocalist, could easily have got lost in the complex mix of sounds.

Venus Fly was particularly electrifying to hear live, its booming bass line backed by laser fingers and strobe lighting.

Grimes' confidence in performing is in stark contrast to the nervous energy she exudes between songs, looking both grateful for and visibly uncomfortable of the cheers and applause she receives all night (which, of course, only makes people want to cheer for her more!).

Kill V Maim ends the night in a sublime mix of pounding beats, lasers and some of the best pop music you're ever likely to hear. The whole set was like a weekend trip to a magical-neon-fairy-city, and over much too fast, and proved that Grimes is one of the most exciting performers around at the moment.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Wolf Alice + Swim Deep + Bloody Knees - The Arts Club, Liverpool

Bloody Knees are four guys from Cambridge, who play a fuzzy punky brand of grunge, deliciously 90's inspired. I loved them instantly, and everyone else in the already-packed venue seemed to as well. They were a perfect band to start the night off with, and I have no doubt that they could easily fill a headline slot. 
Next up were Swim Deep. I have to be honest, I'm not really that into them - sorry! I do believe in giving fair reviews however; they were great live, and I can definitely see why people like them. If I can watch a set from a band that I'm not really into without being bored, then that's a definite thumbs up from me.
The room is more than full now, and I feel bad for anyone who decided to show up just in time for Wolf Alice's set, as they'd barely be able to fit through the doors. The band were voted Best Live Band at last month's NME Awards, and just a few chords into their set, it's hard to argue with; they've toured almost non-stop since their 2013 single Fluffy, and they play with the confidence and precision normally associated with many more years of experience.
The band take to the stage and, after a short instrumental intro, went straight into You're A Germ, with everyone instantly jumping up and down, and shouting out the lyrics. This led into a setlist consisting of almost every track from My Love Is Cool, interspersed with highlights from their Blush and Creature Songs EP's, with the crowd's energy remaining at peak level all the way through.
Ellie Roswell's vocals are flawless as she goes from the chaotic screams of You're A Germ and Fluffy, to the delicate soaring vocals of Turn To Dust and Silk. The layered sounds of their recordings translate perfectly on stage, and are definitely enhanced by the band's energy.

They ended their set with a three-song encore, finishing with Giant Peach. As soon as they left the stage, all I could think was I want to see them againI feel lucky to have seen them in such a small venue as, judging by how quickly this tour sold out, they could easily be filling bigger rooms next time around.

My Picks for Record Store Day

This year's Record Store Day is nearly here, and the exclusive releases were announced yesterday. Here are some of the record's I think are worth checking out:

Best Coast - s/t
Featuring two new tracks, Fear of My Identity and Who Have I Become, this release also features frontwoman Bethan Cosentino's dad, Ricky Cosentino, on drums.

Bis/Big Zero - Borderom Could Be Good For You/Tear It Up And Start Again
A split-7 inch from Bis, who will soon be playing a handful of UK dates, and Big Zero, who are supporting the band on their Manchester and Reading shows. Boredom Could Be Good For You is a new track from Bis, only heard live so far, and provides an exciting taster of their forthcoming new album. Big Zero meanwhile are fantastically-Devo-influenced on their track Tear It Up and Start Again, and I'm looking forward to seeing them support Bis in Manchester after checking them out!

Jack Off Jill - Clear Hearts Grey Flowers
Released on a clear vinyl and, yes, a grey vinyl!

Jack Off Jill - Sexless Demons and Scars
The band's first full-length, on vinyl for the first time - and it's red!

Lush - Origami
This limited LP boxset coincides with Lush's first live shows in almost 20 years, and includes all five of their albums, with each one on a different colour vinyl.

PINS - Trouble
The Manchester five-piece will be releasing new track Trouble on a limited-edition red vinyl.

The Runaways - Right Now/Black Leather
This rare release is being made available again, on a translucent red vinyl.

The Wedding Present - The Hit Parade
This release collects all of the band's singles, and their b-sides, from 1987 on to one album.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Happy International Women's Day!

For International Women's Day, I've decided to do a post celebrating some of the women who have particularly inspired me over the last year (and hopefully, I'll still be blogging next year and can do the same thing again!).

1. Carrie Brownstein
I was lucky enough to see Carrie Brownstein twice last year - once with Sleater-Kinney, who were every bit as amazing live as I dreamt they'd be, and then again, as part of her book tour. I've loved Sleater-Kinney for years, and consider all three members to be among my favourite musicians, so to finally see them play live was such a great experience.
Carrie also released her memoir late last year, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, and after reading it, I admire her even more. I'd definitely recommend reading it.

2. Jessicka Addams
Jessicka is someone I've admired since I discovered Jack Off Jill when I was 15. Jack Off Jill are another band I was lucky enough to see last year, and getting to finally meet Jessicka didn't disappoint at all!
Jessicka also put together a great zine called After Grrrl, featuring contributions from so many other great women, including Allison Wolfe, Molly Soda, Camille Rose Garcia and Tara McPherson.

3. The Tuts
The Tuts are one of the most exciting bands around right now, and I've seen them live twice over the last 12 months. They always put on an amazing show, and treat every fan like a friend; the fact that they hit 100% on their PledgeMusic campaign so quickly is a testament to how much they mean to people.
They are also completely DIY in everything they do, from booking shows/tours to recording, and are always so encouraging when others ask them for advice on doing their own thing.

4. Maureen Herman
I've always admire all three members of Babes in Toyland, but I can't pretend I'm not disappointed about the way Maureen was kicked out of the band. I'm so glad I was able to see them live before any of that happened, and meet them all. I admire Maureen not only as a bassist, but also for the way she handled the circumstances around her being kicked out of Babes in Toyland, and her refusal to stop talking about sexual assault.

5. Charli XCX
Charli has been using to rising popularity to speak up about sexism, particularly in the music industry. Last month, she also launched her own record label, and has already released music from her ex-bassists solo project Cuckoolander, and female-fronted band RIVRS. She also writes for other artists behind-the-scenes too, such as Icona Pop and Selena Gomez.

6. Claire Boucher
Claire Boucher aka Grimes released her self-produced new album Art Angels late last year, and it pretty much cemented her place on my list of favourite musicians/artists ever. It's some of her most creative work to-date, featuring collaborations with Janelle Monae, and also Aristophanes, a Taiwanese rapper she disocvered on SoundCloud. Not only is every song amazing, she uploaded a piece of her own artwork to accompany each one.

7. Lauren Mayberry
The CHVRCHES vocalist has never been afraid of speaking her mind - whether it's calling out sexist audience members, responding to internet trolls on 4Chan or writing about sexism for The Guardian. She is also one of the founding members of Glasgow feminist collective TYCI.

Which women have inspired you over the past year? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Clean for the Queen?

I'm so embarassed to live in a country where Clean for the Queen is a thing. An actual thing that EXISTS.

To celebrate the Queen's birthday, Toryscum have joined forces with some major retailers to rally the peasant troops to sweep the streets. Those same streets that happened to start getting dirty after council's were forced to get rid of the people who were paid to clean them; local councils have been forced to cut their budgets by up to 40 per cent over the past two years, in order to fund Tory tax breaks for those same companies who are sponsoring this campaign.
Does a more awkward photograph exist than any picture involving a Tory and a cleaning item?

So, if you're looking for a way to keep warm while waiting for your local food bank to open, why not pick up some binbags (graciously provided for free by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson)? Why not do a jaunty dance with your broom, as you help the Tories to sweep yet more public service and welfare cuts under the carpet?

 This is what patriotism looks like. Never forget.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Why I Agree With The Decision to Remove Crystal Castles from the 79 Cents Event

Two days ago, Tumblr announced details of their feminist-themed showcase, "79 Cents", at this years SXSW. Despite its heavy branding, the showcase sounded pretty cool except for one thing - Crystal Castles were not only on the line-up, they were set to headline the event.

People immediately questioned their involvment, while others seemed to think the problem was simply that Crystal Castles were the only band on the line-up to feature a male member, an assumption that is far from the truth. There are a few reasons why people were uncomfortable to see Crystal Castles on the bill, and Ethan Kath's gender was not one of them.

Alice Glass, who, along with Ethan, founded the band, announced that she was leaving Crystal Castles back in 2014, stating:
"My art and my self-expression in any form has always been an attempt towards sincerity, honesty, and empathy for others. For a multitude of reasons both professional and personal I no longer feel that this is possible within CC."
 Most of us assumed that was the end of the band but, almost a year later, Ethan released a new track called Frail, featuring a new vocalist, Edith Frances. Along with the track, Ethan released a statement in which he referred to Alice as his "former vocalist", and claiming she didn't actually appear on any of their best known songs or write any lyrics.

Alice responded to him on Twitter, calling Ethan's statements manipulative; Ethan late removed the majority of his statement from his SoundCloud page. Since then though, he has also made various Facebook posts trying to retcon his own band's origin - referring to pre-Alice songs, which pretty much contradicts anything that had been said about the band previously.

To accompany here first solo release, Stillbirth, Alice also released a lengthy statement explaining how the song was inspired by an abusive relationship:
"The clarity I've gained since getting out of that situation has opened up my life in a way that I didn't imagine was possible. Although some of the pain and anger still lingers, my life finally feels as though it has value and meaning. I speak out now hoping that I can encourage other young women and young men to affirm their value within their relationships or get out. Abuse isn't always obvious and it doesn't have to involve black eyes, blood and broken bones. Emotional and psychological abuse can be just as damaging, and it is extremely difficult to remove yourself from. Those that have known me thoughout my career might be surprised that someone who publicly gave the impression of being fearless and seemed as though they didn't take shit from anyone could find themselves being severely mistreated and manipulated by someone they were close to. This person nearly stripped me of myself. And for years I felt as though they were waiting for my life to end."
All of the money made from the song went to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). While Alice has never specified that this statement was referring to Ethan, it's telling that, especially given the comments Ethan made after Alice quit the band, that her first solo release refers to the negative effect someone had on her life. That, and the way Ethan went about replacing Alice in a way that implied both her and Edith are merely the puppets that front the music, are what led to many questioning their inclusion at this event; no one is saying that Crystal Castles should not be allowed to perform, just not at this, specifically feminist-focused, event. Even if Ethan isn't the inspiration behind Stillbirth, he has still gone out of his way to tell people that Crystal Castles' music is all about him, so as far as showcasing female talent, that doesn't sit well either; that's why, even if you ignore the abuse speculation, I have to agree with the decision to remove them from the bill.

Alice was asked for her thoughts, and said the following to The Verge:
"As someone who knew Ethan Kath on a personal and professional level, it is my opinion that he is not an appropriate artist to be performing at a feminism-centric event."
Crystal Castles have now been dropped from the line-up. Other bands currently on the line-up are Jhene Aiko, Tacocat, Little Simz and Empress Of.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Charli XCX - Vroom Vroom

Three days after announcing her new record label to the world, Charli released a new EP, titled Vroom Vroom.

With each new release, Charli shows that, with her huge range of influences, she isn't afraid to sharply change direction; there's no "old Charli" or "new Charli" sound, it all exists at the same time, regardless of any potential commercial appeal. I love that Charli is able to switch between styles and never seem anything less than authentic.

Paradise is definitely the most rave-ready track on the EP. Featuring Hannah Diamond, the track switches between harmonised vocals, backed by a piano, to full on drum machines and blippy noises. It sounds like it's been plucked straight from a 90's dance party, and I mean that in the best way.

Trophy, with its Pulp Fiction sample, perfectly bridges the gap between Charli's early mix-tape releases (eg Super Ultra) and where she is now, while Secret is definitely my favourite track. It's darkly intimate, at times sounding almost industrial. 

Overall, this is an exciting and addictive release. I can't wait to see where Charli goes with her third album!
Another glorious and emotional SOPHIE-produced jam from London’s Charli XCX — she calls “Paradise” her most rave-inspired track to date — taken from her forthcoming Vroom Vroom EP on her own label, and featuring PC Music queen Hannah Diamond.

Read More: Charli XCX debuts new track “Paradise” feat. Hannah Diamond |
Another glorious and emotional SOPHIE-produced jam from London’s Charli XCX — she calls “Paradise” her most rave-inspired track to date — taken from her forthcoming Vroom Vroom EP on her own label, and featuring PC Music queen Hannah Diamond.

Read More: Charli XCX debuts new track “Paradise” feat. Hannah Diamond |