Wednesday, 26 February 2014

#253: Puppet Rebellion - Guillver's, Manchester - 22/02/2014

Live Review

Puppet Rebellion

Gulliver's, Manchester

February 22 2014

Photos: Trust A Fox Photography

No matter what your musical persuasion, Manchester's music scene has always been an inexorable tour de force rivalled perhaps only by our country's capital. From pop to punk, hip-hop to indie, the bands which hail from the rainy city, signed or otherwise, offer Manc music fans a multiplicity of gigs and events on any given night across the city. Tonight for example sees acts like Prince, homegrown heroes Sonic Boom Six and Rudimental all vying for your attention at one venue or another. Opting for a smaller, though no less rowdy affair, we head down to Gullivers, a ramshackle spit'n'sawdust establishment in the city's Northern Quarter.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

#252: Catching Up With...Holy Esque

With only a handful of releases behind them, it seems that Glasgwegian four-piece Holy Esque have struck it lucky. Their self-titled debut EP and subsequent follow-up singles have earned them friends in high places, with the likes of Huw Stephens and 'Q' backing the band for big things. Not only that, but the last two years has seen the band's prominence rise overseas, with notable slots at SXSW and a support slot with The Raveonettes affording the band greater audiences both across the Atlantic, and on the continent. Formed in 2011 at the Glasgow School of Art, Holy Esque have built a solid reputation as one of the most exciting bands to emerge from the independent scene. After spending 2013 performing everywhere from The Great Escape, CMJ, Berlin Music Week and South by Southwest, as well as a guest slot on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury, Holy Esque play London's Shacklewell Arms on March 7 as a warm-up to their return to Austin, Texas for this year's SXSW Festival.

So, with that, and having just released their latest single 'Silences' on February 10, we thought now would be a good time to catch up with frontman Pat Hynes before duty drags him away again.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

#251: Delamere - Do You Want Me? (single review)


Do You Want Me?

March 8th 2014 (Scruff of the Neck)


There was absolutely no way that the emotionally fraught, transatlantic indie of Stoke's Delamere was going to remain unsigned for very long. Having recently been snapped up by Manchester's Scruff of the Neck Records, it seems that the band have finally got the break they're been deserving. A steady stream of self-releases online whet the appetite of those of us already in the know, allowing the band to garner a loyal following in little over 12 months whilst gracing the stages of some of the North West's most popular venues. Now with a label behind them, Delamere look set to truly make a name for themselves.

The band's latest single 'Do You Want Me?' is their first with label backing and the difference between this and their self-releases is noticeable immediately. Not only is the production tangibly better (not to detract from their previous efforts, in which it improved with every track) but there's a more realised confidence in the their songwriting along with an evident maturity from past demos. Beginning with an intro somewhat akin to Death Cab For Cutie, 'Do You Want Me?' soon finds itself progressing in to a frenetic and atmospheric track that's lavishly draped with the fraught and tangible emotion synonymous with the band, whilst a change in tempo two thirds through gives way to a wonderfully melodic breakdown that smacks of American indie. It's a fantastic way to mark their first official release, and one that inspires nothing but confidence in their future output.

In the current climate of mediocre indie 'lad' bands, Delamere are bringing something far more intuitive to the fore. Dismissing the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll mantra purported by so many of today's NME hopefuls, the band are a bubble of fresh air in a sea of stagnation. Their intelligent and thought-out lyrics offer something far deeper than the torrent of traditional indie on offer in both Manchester and Birmingham, either side of their home-town, as such, this cements Delamere as something truly special. If 'Do You Want Me?' wasn't asked in rhetoric, the resounding answer woSuld be “yes, the music industry needs you”. Bold, ambitious and utterly heartfelt, it's this kind of honesty and candour that sets the band apart from their contemporaries in a huge way.


Scruff of the Neck Records

Friday, 14 February 2014

#250: Ninetails - Quiet Confidence (EP review)


Quiet Confidence

March 10  2014 (Pond Life)


Liverpool's Ninetails aren't a band whose sound is easy to pin down; their unusual amalgamations of ambience and art pop sees a whole host of atypical instrumentation brought to the fore, distinguishing the band from any of their contemporaries, almost immediately. Their debut release, 2012's 'Slept and Did Not Sleep', earned the band considerable critical acclaim and now it seems  they look set to build on their reputation with 'Quiet Confidence', their second EP.

Monday, 10 February 2014

#248: Puppet Rebellion - No Means Yes (EP review)

Puppet Rebellion

No Means Yes

February 25 2014 (self-release)


They've been a band for barely a year, yet Manchester's Puppet Rebellion are already making waves both in their city and further afield, thanks in no small part to the depth of their musical prowes and intelligent lyricism. Last year's 'Chemical Friends' EP caused something of a buzz amongst bloggers and fans alike, with the eponymous track even featuring during half time at Old Trafford. With such lofty praise being heaped on the band almost from the word go, it was a worry that any further releases might well not live up to the expectations set out by their first. Fortunately, such worries are quickly done away with, as the band's second EP, 'No Means Yes', not only builds on the foundations laid last year, but exceeds the expectations set at the same time.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

#245: King Blood - I've Got My Kicks So I Don't Feel

King Blood

I've Got My Kicks So I Don't Feel

February 7 2014 (self-release)


When I first reviewed King Blood's self-titled debut EP last year, the first thing I noticed about the duo was how little they seemed to need a bassist; their music, a lo-fi blend of psychedelia and surf-rock, just didn't seem to warrant the inclusion of one, and why should it? Fast forward six months, however, and with their second EP 'I've Got My Kicks So I Don't Feel', Aaron Powell and Robbie Day are no longer the enigmatic two piece they were. Instead they've enlisted the talents of Sam Hollis on bass, in a bid to really flesh this second record out.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

#244: Catching Up With...Patterns (U&I Music Magazine - February Issue)

The first thing one immediately notices about Patterns, is how inherently, un-Manchester their sound actually is. Paradoxically however, that in itself seems to be becoming something very much Manchester over the last twelve months, with fellow Mancunians PINS and Letters to Fiesta relishing in their own respective autonomy. And with such contemporaries releasing their albums last year, Patterns could have quite easily rushed to join the foray. Instead the band held off a while, refining their tracks and eventually releasing debut album Waking Lines early last month, in a move that has obviously benefited both record and band alike.

Filled with rich, icy textures, vocal ambiguity and soaring dream-pop soundscapes. The music the band are making isn't easy to pin down; drawing influence from the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain, right down to more contemporary acts such as Titanics, their effortless blending of shoe-gaze, chill-wave and dream-pop (and any other hyphenated label one would care to give them) is a brilliant example of the kind of musical diversity that Manchester has to offer. Not only that, but it also provides more than enough moments of accessible indie-pop, affording the band a level of commercial appeal that will undoubtedly work in their favour when it comes to radio play.

However, whilst tracks like the previously released 'Blood' definitely lend towards a commercialness about the band, their live performances are anything but. Complete with tape-recorded, psychedelic film loops, it seems listening to the album alone is only half the experience that Waking Lines offers, the band eager to provide a full sensory overload to accompany the dream-like aesthetics of their music. Also, whilst Waking Lines has not only brought Patterns back in to the fore again, it's also allowed them a certain level of financial freedom, most recently securing funding from the Art Council in order to organise an orchestral show in a Church in Salford.

Whilst their certainly a band full of all the ambition, energy and drive of youth, they also come across as somewhat more reserved than their contemporaries; there's an intelligence behind their song-writing which, when coupled with their visceral live performances, belies their relatively young age and cements Patterns not only as one of the most exciting Manc luminaries of recent years, but also as one of the most promising young bands around at the moment, period.

U&I: Hi guys, thanks for taking the time out to have a chat with us. First of all, you've recently released your debut album Waking Lines on the 6th of January and we already know that many bloggers and journalists, myself included, have been singing it's praises, but how has been received by the wider public?

P: We've been really excited to see the response from people across the world. When you've spent so much time in isolation creating an album its a strange feeling to have people listening to it and interacting with it. We get a lot of stuff coming through Facebook and twitter but it only became real when we played our launch show in London and had so many people telling us how much the album meant to them.

U&I: What was the best part of the recording process, any particular favourite tracks that came together really easily, or conversely, were there any songs which caused disagreements or problems in the studio?

P: The album was recorded in a slightly unconventional way in that we did the drums in a proper studio but then everything else was home recorded; so part of the joy of the whole process was being able to take a lot of time on all the elements. The title track "Waking Lines" is a good example of that because we took a very long time to put together all the elements but it eventually produced one of the more interesting pieces on the record.

U&I: Being from Manchester there's obviously a certain stereotype people feel you need to live up to; something you completely try to distance yourself from on your website. What do you think it is about the city that make people envision artists in a certain way, or even make bands act in a certain way?

P: Well I think there are quite strong cultural associations around the Manchester music scene that colour peoples expectations of you as an artists. This often means journalists try to place you within the broader narrative of the musical history here. Certainly when we started playing there were a lot of bands who felt the need to embody the lad rock or "Madchester" aesthetic but I definitely don't think that's the case any more.

U&I: On the other hand, whilst people seem to try and leave up to some kind of stereotype, Manchester's also home to a multiplicity of bands from varying genres and backgrounds. What do you think it is about the city that makes it so diverse?

P: Yeah I think the reality of the scene is much more diverse and interesting now. There are so many distinct groups within the city making really interesting and different music. I think in that sense there is a positive side to the musical heritage because people associate the city with music and want to come here to form bands, put on club-nights, and open venues; its a musical city.

U&I: In a previous interview, Ciaran revealed he felt there was a “sense...within the music industry you are only ever taken seriously when you have an album...”. Since the release of Waking Lines, do you feel you've started to be taken a bit more seriously as a band, or is it still early days yet?

P: We've certainly felt things shift. When you only have a few singles out its very difficult for people to have a sense of who you are as a band or if you're even good enough to make an entire album of music. So now that our album is out we're really happy that people are responding so well to what we've created.

U&I: Manchester is a city full of different venues, from a completely vacuous arena to 50 people dive bars. What are some of your favourites either to gig yourselves or see a gig at?

P: The Deaf Institute has always been one of our favourite every day venues to both see bands as well as play ourselves. The best gig we've played in Manchester has got to be in the John Rylands library which is this amazing old Gothic building in the centre of town. We're one of only a handful of bands to have ever been allowed to play there and it was an incredible experience

U&I: Similarly, you must have heard about the sceptical future of the Night & Day venue due to a single noise complaint. What are your views on that, and do you think it will signify the start of a trend within the city, in which established venues are subject to stricter noise laws, despite their cultural significance?

P: I think there are serious questions here about how we conceive of the purpose of our city centers. You see this kind of problem happen in London a lot when an area becomes trendy because of genuinely interesting cultural development but then its over run by yuppies who just want to be buy flats there while not actually being part of the community. The quintessential Manchester example of this is the Hacienda which was far more lucrative as apartments than it was as a venue. We can't have the cultural value of our city centres eroded by the demands of property owners and the local councils who support them. The response to this issue has been great though so I don't think the city will take this lying down.

U&I: You've just announced a one-off gig in St Philips Church, Salford, complete with 30 piece orchestra. How did that come about and what can we expect from the gig?

P: A gig with a choir was something we've always wanted to do as choral music has always been an influence on us, but the costs and complexity of it meant we had to wait. It was only after getting funding from the Arts Council that we knew the whole thing would be possible. We're in the middle of quite a big rehearsal schedule at the moment with the choir, so its all really exciting that its happening. We've also got two great supports with Beaty Heart and U.V. so we can't wait to play.

U&I: You've seemingly made somewhat of a name for yourselves with your live shows, most notably for their visual accompaniments, how did these come about, and can we expect them to become more ambitious in the future?

P: Creating a complete live experience has always been really important to us. We do a lot of experimentation with video footage and when the venue is right we can go crazy with the kind of projections we do. As we tour this record we have some big plans for how we're going to evolve the live experience.

U&I: There's currently a whole host of bands from Manchester making a name for themselves, MONEY, PINS, yourselves. Most of which have a pretty different sound from your typical Manc lad band, why do you think this is?

P: Manc lad bands don't really exist anymore which is a great thing. One of our biggest problems with guitar music is its consistent association with a certain idea of masculine identity. Not only does this exclude women from legitimately being allowed to make "guitar music" but it artistically limits you to certain types of "austere "strong" and "ladish" male expression. Our music, as well as that of Money and Pins, doesn't feel reductive in that sense.

U&I: Finally, is there anything you'd like to announce to our readers? Tour news? Your next single? Or any parting words of wisdom you'd like to leave us with?

P: We'll be doing a tour across the UK from March 14th which we're really looking forward to. Also our next single from the album is "Street fires" which will be out soon.

U&I: Thanks guys, it's been a pleasure.

This interview was originally conducted for U&I Music Magazine's February issue. Click here to check it out.