Thursday, 17 November 2011

Interview: We Are The Ocean

We Are The Ocean are the latest British band about to try and conquer the  USA. Before they want on stage to support The Blackout at Portsmouth Pyramids, we had a chat about their secret plans for Slam Dunk Festival, why they don't scream so much any more, and the British music scene they are (temporarily) leaving behind...

How are you finding touring with The Blackout and Canterbury?

Jack Spence (bass): We’ve managed to hit Hull, Lincoln and Edinburgh. We’ve never been to Lincoln before and Edinburgh we went to ages ago. But it’s good to do some venues that aren’t just London, Manchester, Birmingham.
Alfie Scully (guitar): You can really tell the people coming to show appreciate the package.
Jack: Lincoln last night was probably the best crowd. They’re thirsty for it because they don’t get that many shows. Whereas in London they’ve probably got another show to go to the next day.
Alfie: Also there’s been no tour awkwardness, no getting to know each other because we’ve all toured with the bands before.
Jack: It’s a reunion tour!

You’re all British bands on this tour, but are there any other British acts you admire at the moment?

Alfie and Jack in unison: Loads!
Alfie: Deaf Havana, TwinAtlantic, Straight Lines, who are a really good Welsh band.
Jack: There are loads of bands from Wales. They’re lucky, they have the cream of the musical crop. Canterbury are one of my favourite bands . The UK scene is really thriving at the minute. You’ve got You Me At Six at the top, who are making it more accessible and helping everybody out.
Alfie: It’s a very close knit community.

You’ve toured with a lot of bands, who has been your favourite?

Jack: There are different ways to answer this. I think the band we liked the most and listened to the most were Thrice and Underoath. They were tours when every night, you want to watch the bands.
Alfie: There’s those tours and then there’s the tours where you havnt necessarily first heard of the band but then you meet them and it’s mindblowing. They turn out to be really nice guys and you stay friends with them.
Jack: Then there’s the ones where you just get along with the bands so well. Like a year ago, we did a tour with Mayday Parade and they were just the nicest guys. So there are different reasons but weve been really lucky with every tour we’ve had. There’s no band we havn’t got on with.

You’ve also played a lot of festivals, which has been the most memorable?

Alfie: Reading Festival 2011. Brilliant festival.
Jack: It’s the biggest thing we’d done
Alfie: It was a good head-turner, that we were going to open the main stage.
Jack: Our second album was out, we’d had a great tour and so that was just the cherry on the cake, right at the end of festival season.

You’ve become regulars at Slam Dunk Festival now, will you be back next year?

Alfie: Ooh I don’t know, they’ve had us for every one so far. I think now, if they we’re to not put us on, we’d take it personally.
Jack: I think we should do a secret set. Beacsue if we’re announced everyone will be like ‘ah they’re playing again?’ But I kind of want to see how many times we can do it now. Every year we climb up the bill slowly so if we keep doing maybe we’ll headline the main stage and we can say ‘right that’s it, never again!’
Alfie: Even if we don’t play next year we should just demand that our music videos are played throughout the sit.
Jack: There has to be a We Are The Ocean presence, whether you love us or hate us.

You have just signed with Side One DummyRecords in the US, so what are your 
plans for conquering America?

Alfie: Well we can’t just go over and start dictating. We need to make friends first and lure them in.
Jack: We’ll use out Brit charm and accents. We just want to get over there now. We we’re supposed to go over there in December (supporting Dance Gavin Dance), but that’s been cancelled.
Alfie: But the album is on iTunes over there at the moment and the physical release will be at the beginning of next year.
Jack: We want to branch out and take this album over there and see how it goes. And the way to do that is touring. But America is so much bigger than the UK so it’s impossible to hit everywhere.
Alfie: It will be like starting again, it’ll be wicked.
Jack: Exactly, in a little cheap van just trotting along the highway until they’re sick of us.

You’ve been to America before though right?

Jack: We recorded our debut album in Baltimore and then we went to New Jersey and did BamboozleFestival. We didn’t get paid and we weren’t announced because we didn’t have the right visas to get paid. So it was just a little favour for our manager while we were out there.
Alfie: It was all a very ‘under the table’ type thing. It was a really good experience though we got a surprisingly good reaction considering nobody knew who we were or what time we were playing.

The album ‘Go Now & Live’ has been out for a while now. Are you pleased with the reaction it has received?

Jack: The whole campaign leading up to know has been more than we expected. The reviews were good, the old fans liked it and new fans came.
Alfie: It was ‘the difficult second album’. And you’re always going to have you naysayers but a lot of the feedback online and at shows has been good stuff.
Jack: It’s always hard because nobody wants to rehash the same album but at the same time you don’t want to do a new albums and all your old fans don’t like it. So we had to find a sound we were happy with but it was still the band.
Alfie: We always had that worry that people weren’t gonna get it. But we like it so we don’t care!

There’s a bit less screaming from Dan (joint lead vocals) on the new album compared to your debut ‘Cutting Our Teeth’, was that a conscious decision?

Jack: It wasn’t like we sat down and said ‘no more screaming!’
Alfie: No and if you watch the live set you’ll still see Dan going crazy with pure aggression and energy. We wanted to keep but harness the albility and use it as a musical dynamic and have more melody in the songs.
Jack: I think Dan wants to challenge his own voice as well.
Alfie: We just wanted to raise the bar with the second album and try something new.

What have you got planned next?

Alfie: In December we maybe want to write some more songs and see where it can go.
Jack: And then in the new year, we want to get touring. But we don’t want to over saturate anywhere so we want to get a nice cycle of UK, Europe, America, Australia going.
Alfie: We have been touring the UK for a very long time now
Jack: It’s worked well for us, getting our name out, but we’re at the point now where we can’t do it as much anymore because people are going to get sick of us.

Are you nervous about making album number three?

Alfie: I wouldn’t say we’re nervous. I’ve found that practising and writing with the band has been the most fun it has ever been.
Jack: And because we’re starting really early this time it’s a lot more fun when there’s no stress. When it comes to we’re going to the studio in a week and we’ve only got four sings, that’s not as fun. But as we’ve already started writing it’s going to be fun, not much pressure at all. 

Interview: The Wombles

The X Factor winner has some tough competition for the Christmas Number 1 spot this year. The Wombles of Wimbledon are back and ready to take on the charts. Orinoco and his fellow Wombles took time out of their busy schedule cleaning the Common for a catch up…

What have The Wombles been up to since the 70s?
Writing material for their next studio album.  With 30 years of writing, it’ll be a cracker!

Has much changed on Wimbledon Common?
The common has hardly changed. People still drop all sorts of rubbish everywhere. We have to look out for sharps and stuff but there is still the odd copy of The Times, and er...the Beano.

You achieved a lot in the 70s, what was your most memorable experience?
While we were recording a video piece for “Wombling Merry Christmas” for The Cilla Black Show, half way up a snowy Scottish mountain, the only wild herd of reindeer in Britain appeared from nowhere, walked through the shot and we never saw them again. That was quite memorable!

Who are your musical influences?
Jimi Hendrix, George Formby, Mantovani and Freddie and The Dreamers.

The Wombles were the interval act at the 1974 Eurovision SongContest, have you ever thought about entering as the UK’s act?
No, we don’t want to end up looking, er, ridiculous, and have to wear silly costumes.

You performed at Glastonbury this summer, how was that?
It was great. First time we’ve ever had a go at a one hour totally live gig. The crowd were brilliant. Not one person left their free Womble mask on the ground, - they all took them home!

What did you get up to at the festival?

We had to go in, do the gig, then get out, for transport and practical reasons so we couldn’t stay and see Beyonce. But she didn’t come to see us, so we don’t feel too badly about it. We did pull a bigger audience on the No 3 stage than they had that afternoon on the no 1 (Pyramid) stage. That was quite good to be told afterwards!

Did you meet any other famous people there? Did you get star-struck by anyone?
People get star struck by us, actually. KT Tunstall for example absolutely worships Orinoco. She went all tongue-tied when she saw him. And we get star struck by each other. Orinoco can’t believe he gets to be on stage with Wellington, and Madame Cholet is very impressed with Bungo as, like her hero drummer of all time.

Did you help with the clean up operation after the festival?
As we had to leave early, no, sadly. But I think Mr Eavis had it all under control. Would have loved to help, but Madame Cholet had to wash her hair.

Did you help clean up after the UK Riots
 this summer?
Two of us did dress up as humans and go down to shift a load of Earth in an inner city garden, so we did a bit.

You’re going head-to-head with The X Factor winner for Christmas Number 1 this year, are you fans of the show?
No, not really. It’s kind of unrecyclable rubbish, isn’t it!  Only kidding. We love you Simon!

Are you fans of Simon Cowell then?
Mike Batt is a pal of his so we have to say nice things...

What would The Wombles like from Santa this Christmas?
A hit single, and World Peace.

Interview: You Me At Six

You Me At Six frontman Josh Franceschi talks about the struggles the band faced with their new album and his brutally honest view of the music industry and fellow artists…

Sinners Never Sleep got to number three in the album charts, are you secretly a little bit bitter that Adele and James Morrison beat you?

Not really because ultimately we had the midweek number one which, within the industry, is the one that everyone looks at. Literally our manager was getting phone calls and emails from everyone saying ‘who are You Me At Six and why are they ahead of James Morrison and Adele?’ So that was really cool and what I really liked was Zane Lowe at Radio 1 and Kerrang! Radio and everyone from the rock world was really getting behind it and saying ‘lets keep a British rock band up there in the charts’. And to be honest, had we come behind someone like Ke$ha or some other pop shit, then we’d have been beaten to the post by nothing special at all. But you’re talking about two world class household names, James Morrison and Adele. If you’re gonna lose out to anyone it’s got to be someone of that stature.

You went to LA to record the new album with Garth Richardson, how was that experience?

We recorded at Sunset Sound and the Sound Factory as well. It’s a very weird experience living in LA. We lived there for just over two and a half months and we all got apartments. It was really cool because although we made a few friends we quickly discovered that LA is the kind of place where everybody wants to be famous. And so as soon as a few people found out that we were in a band, we had people who would just show up at our apartments, that we’d met once at a bar, and be like (in a bad American accent) ‘lets hang out and go get coffee!’. And I was just like ‘look I don’t really like you mate, fuck off’. But what was cool was that we just spent a lot of time with each other so in terms of our band regrouping and enjoying each others company that was really cool. 

You then got John Mitchell & Matt O’Grady to finish off the record, what sparked that decision?

It’s very hard to get a good connection with somebody, especially when you’re recording, and we’ve had that connection and vibe with them for the last four years.  We were excited to work with Garth Richardson but there was a part of me that was like ‘I don’t know if I want to, I think I want to keep working with Matt and John’. When we got back from America and sat with the album for a few days we were like ‘this is shit’. They don’t get it, they don’t get what we’re trying to do. So I called up John, when both of their studios were fully booked with bands, and I was like ‘look, you know I wouldn’t ask this of you if I didn’t think it was absolutely necessary to salvage our album’. I’m not happy that we dicked over other bands, but they told all of them that we needed two weeks to do our thing and they dropped everything. And when you’ve got someone that cares about you that much, it really shows in their work. We also learnt a few things because we sat with them and did it. They’re both some of the most talented people I know, they’re like the sixth and seventh members of You Me At Six. So I think we learnt our lesson and next time we’re just going to go to America or somewhere but record it with them because it’s just such a better vibe. But that’s not me shit-talking Garth, because Garth is a legend…but he’s no Matt O’Grady.

Oli Sykes (from Bring Me The Horizon) and Winston McCall (from Parkway Drive) feature on the album, how did that come about?

A lot of our friends are in hardcore bands. I don’t really connect with people in some of the softer, poppier bands, especially American bands because they’re all just fake, horrible people. All they care about is what they can get out of you. The first year we did Warped Tour, literally every day there was somebody with their head up our arse just trying to get on our UK tour. But then you’ll meet a band like Parkway Drive who are like the Australian version of us and again, it’s the same with Matt and John, it’s the same with all of our friends, when you meet people it shouldn’t matter from what walk of life they are. And I’ve always wanted to do something with Oli because I did ‘Fuck’ on their album and he’s always said he really want to return the favour. Then when we wrote ‘Bite My Tongue’ and the middle eight needed something that was going to make everyone realise just how pissed off this song is meant to be. Oli was in LA at the time and so he came down to the studio. And then with Winston, we had the song called ‘Time Is Money’ and at first the middle eight was completely different but it was shit. It sucked big time. He was on tour in England at the time so I did some guide vocals for him and he went from Cardiff to John Mitchell’s house in Reading for an hour, recorded it and then went back to Cardiff and literally as he arrived back at the venue went straight on stage. I don’t know many people that we’ve met in our career or any sugary pop American band that would have dropped everything to come and help out their mates. I think we’ve got quite a few similar fans as well. 

A lot of people have been saying that your new album is more mature and a lot more honest. Do you think that’s true?

I think that’s what we wanted to do. We got to a point at the end of the Hold Me Down cycle, where I wanted to end it with ‘Fireworks’ as a single because I think that could have taken our band to a slightly different audience. But our label were adamant that we had to at least try and do this collaboration with Chiddy Band. I don’t necessarily regret it because Chiddy is a good dude and actually I think ‘Rescue Me’ is a cool song that got us some attention from different worlds that we probably wouldn’t have been involved in otherwise. But I think a lot of people saw through what we were trying to do with ‘Rescue Me’. At that moment in time the charts were full of singers and rappers collaborating. So then we thought we just need to be ourselves and people will either love us for it or hate us for it. So nothing was deliberate and I think when you go for a straight up honest record they’re your best. And that is why I think Sinners Never Sleep is our best album to date. We have fans out there that were going to love it regardless, even if it was the shittest thing we’d put out they would still say they loved it because they‘ve got that attachment to us. And there were always going to be people who pick it up and think ‘nah, I’m not into this’ but then a few weeks later they’d find something within the songs that they could enjoy. Then there’s people who like Horizon or Parkway and even people who like Snow Patrol or Coldplay who realise that we’ve got songs that sound in that vein and discover that they like our band. And when you’ve got those three things together it’s a pretty cool position to be in. And I’m really happy with it so I don’t really care if anyone else likes it or not.

You’ve had a few disagreements with your label Virgin Records over this album, and ‘Time Is Money’ is about that, is everything sorted out now?

Our label are the best label we could ask for. That song is about our label, it’s about our management but in general it’s just about the music industry. There’s so many dickheads. I got to the point where I was like at the end of the day, you’re not the people who have to go out and represent this, we are, and so we have to believe in it completely. So I put a few people straight, we fired a few people. I went up to somebody who is involved in our international side and asked them what their favourite You Me At Six song was, and I don’t mean any of the singles. They couldn’t even tell me a song title. So I said ‘please, no longer have anything to do with our band, we’ll find someone else’. Bands can just become products and that was something that I just felt needed to be put to rest. And as soon as we came to the label with really clear ideas, like the album artwork was all our idea, they really helped capture that because we made everyone feel like part of the family.

You’re heading off to America for a headline tour next year, are you getting a bigger fan base out there now?

When we did Warped Tour, it was nuts. Especially on the East Coast, we did really well. Texas and other places weren’t as flattering. But I think with America, and I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way but it really is just all about touring. If you put yourself in front of them, there’s a chance you’re going to be successful there. If you look at Asking Alexandria for example, they did nothing over here but then did 18 months of solid touring in America and they now do 3000 capacity venues. And they’re not exactly the best band in the world, they’re not the worst band by any means and I love them, they’re good dudes, but I feel like if You Me At Six could do what we’ve done in England and just tour places, because that’s how we got to where we are in England, we could do well over there. I also feel like we have the advantage of the fact that we’re English, for some reason Americans are into that. 

What’s next for You Me At Six?

We’re booked up until at least this time next year. And it sucks because I just bought Arsenal season tickets. It’s funny because Dan’s never been able to see United play and he’s a big fan so we basically booked our US headlining tour around me and Dan going to the football. Then they said we were going to start our tour January 15th and I was like ‘Arsenal are playing United on January 21st, so shall we start January 23rd yea?’ That’s the kind of band we are.

Where do you see You Me At Six in 5 years time? What’s your ultimate goal?

Well the dream was to be able to have a ten-year anniversary gig. And we’ve been around since 2006, so we’ve hit the five-year mark. Longevity is key for us. I don’t want to be big for a year, making loads of money and then selling out and having no career. We want to keep achieving stuff that ultimately seems unrealistic. We’ve got some offers though for some UK festivals next summer that are just insane, I don’t understand why we’re getting them.

Live Review: Chase & Status @ O2 Academy Bournemouth, 10/10/11

The packed out O2 Academy is moist with anticipation of tonight’s showcase of the best in UK’s urban/electo talent. Dot Rotten a London MC and producer, gives a decent yet slightly monotonous performance. Another London rapper, Labrinth, provides something a little different. Although the artist who collaborated with Tinie Tempah on his smash hit ‘Pass Out’ does look and sound remarkably like his colleague, his tracks still manage to sound fresh and original. The supurb 'Express Yourself' - which samples the track from Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm don't ya know - injects a bit of old school funk and soul into the evening and it's also refreshing to see and urban artist wielding a guitar on stage.

The audience start to get a little restless waiting for Chase & Status, but the duo are well worth the wait. They fire out hit after hit, accompanied by stunning visuals on the big screen behind them. An awe-inspiring light show  and astounding laser display help create a breathtakingly magical atmosphere, which sadly yhe mostly intoxicated  audience fail to appreciate. Although it's not really needed, MC Rage keeps the energy levels up and an appearance from Delilah on tracks 'Heartbeats' and 'Time' gives the boys a bit of eye candy. It's truely incredible just how many great songs Chase & Status have produced and although the crowd we're a little violent at times, they mostly stumbled from the venue feeling sweaty and euphoric.  

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Interview: Bowling For Soup

You may only know them for one or two songs, but believe it or not, Bowling For Soup have been going for 17 years and have released a staggering 11 albums. I spoke to frontman Jared Reddick before their show at Bournemouth's O2 Academy about life in a middle-aged 'fart joke' band. 

You guys tour a heck of a lot. Do you ever get bored of it?
I mean you get homesick, and more often these days than in the past years because we’ve all grown up a little bit and got families. But now it’s more about just touring whenever it makes sense and not trying to stay on the road for twelve months a year, which in the past is something we we’ve been known for. Bands that we’ve known for years who tour a lot think were crazy because we tour a lot. So I think that says something about our work ethic. But we still enjoy being around each other, still enjoy playing the shows and doing our thing so hopefully we can continue for quite some time.

Are there fewer parties on your now that your older?
No, in fact I think that’s why people think were nuts. We tend to turn it up a little bit. When we get away from home we go a little crazy. You never know what to expect with us!

New single ‘Turbulance’ is one of you’re more serious heartfelt songs. Do you ever get tired of being known as a silly comedy band? 
I wouldn’t say I really get tired of us being known in any way, just because it’s kind of cool that people know who we are, whether they know us as the fart joke band or whether they know us from Phineas and Ferb. But its one of those things where sometimes people hear the song ‘Turbulance’ and they’re like ‘well this is very different from Bowling For Soup’, but its really now. I mean we’ve released eleven albums and on each of the albums there’s one or two ballad type songs. But I suppose in the past those aren’t the songs that have gotten the attention so I wouldn’t say that we take offence to it or anything like that because we do sort of act the way the more funny songs are. So I think it’s fine that that’s where people’s brains are. I mean as a songwriter it gets a little bit difficult because I’d like to, and I do, write all kinds of different music but I’m kind of forever known as the beer song fart joke guy. So its nice to have songs out there and actually hear people say ‘ok, well that’s quite a departure for him as a songwriter’, that feels good.

You’ve covered Fountains Of Wayne's Stacy’s Mom as the B-side, what made you choose that song to cover?
Well quite honestly, ever since that song came out a very large part of the population of the planet think that Bowling For Soup does that song. And it’s one of those things where we’ve been playing shows for years and years and people hold up signs that say ‘Stacy’s Mom’, and we’re like ‘we’re not the ‘Stacy’s Mom’ band we’re the ‘1985’ band’. And so I think we just got to the point where it was like if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So now if you’re like ‘My favourite song by Bowling For Soup is ‘Stacy’s Mom’’ then people won’t think you’re an idiot. They’ll go ‘oh, I like that one too’ or ‘that’s a really nice cover song’. Either way, you’re fine. So I’ve basically just taken care of a large part of the population that’s been wrong for years, and I’ve made them right.

Bowling For Soup have done quite a few covers over the years, is there one that’s your particular favourite?
I still really like the ‘Summer Of 69’ cover, which was one of the first ones we ever recorded. And live we do Cheap Trick’s song ‘Surrender’, which I really like. But it’s always nice to take somebody else’s song and put your own little spin on it. Except for when we did the song ‘Ghostbusters’, they really wanted us to stick to the script. But for the most part on all the others we’ve been allowed to put our own little twist on it and that’s always good fun.

You’ve been together 17 years now, what has been the highlight of your career?
It’s really hard to say. I mean to be honest if you know anything about our band, we’re definitely not that band that rocketed to the top and we didn’t get recognised overnight so we’ve had a lot of experiences and had a lot of really nice things that have happened to us. A lot of highs and not really a lot of lows to be honest, which I think comes from not getting out there too fast. Because then you don’t really come down quite as fast. So for us I think there’s just too many to name. We’ve seen the world multiple times, we’ve met a lot of people and done a lot of amazing things. So to tie it down to one of them would be impossible for me.

Is there anything left to do that you havn’t done yet?
I think its just matter of taking it as it comes. Continuing to enjoy it and as it becomes less fun, maybe do it a little bit less. But right now it’s still a lot of fun and we’re all doing other things musically. As side projects come along and family things come along, it makes Bowling For Soup more exciting to come back to. So we’re just going to forge ahead and take it as it comes.

You split from Jive Records in 2009, who are you with now and how is it going?
We’re on our own label now called Que-So Records and its going great. We’re allowed to do things now that we couldn’t do in the past. 'Fishing For Woos' came out in April and it’s done great, especially considering that we did everything on our own. Were able to go into the studio and do things like ‘I’ve Never Done Anything Like This’ which is or new single Then we went in and re-did ‘The Bitch Song’ and we did the cover of ‘Stacey’s Mom’ and we can just go in and do it and release it and there’s not somebody there telling us we can’t. We’ve got a new Christmas album coming out soon and we’re re-releasing our first three albums so it’s really nice, just content-wide to have nobody blocking you. We just decide we’re going to something and we do it. That’s probably been the biggest change for us and definitely the biggest benefit.

You’ve made quite a name for yourselves in the world of TV and movie soundtracks. What has been you’re favourite project of that nature to do?
Those are all a blast. I mean anytime you’re associated with a television show or movie it’s awesome because it’s just cool to be in a whole other world but still be in your element musically. But I’ve got to say the biggest one for us, and the most fun still, is Phineas and Ferb. It’s great that we’re the theme for that and they’ve animated us in the show and we get to go and write songs with those guys all the time. Also, in the show, I play a character called Danny who sings for the band Love Handle. It’s just been a blessing for me and for the rest of the guys for sure.

Is the Bowling For Soup documentary still going ahead?
I think we will eventually do it. What happened was, it became a time thing. We split from Jive Records about the same time that we had thought about doing this and so it became more about just regrouping and getting new music out and getting back on the road than it did about doing the documentary. I think we will do it eventually, the shooting of it would only take about two days. So I think it might be something that we do next year or the year after. 

You and Erik have an acoustic side-project and have toured the UK the last couple of years. How is that going?
I mean that’s not really as much of a side-project as it is an extension of Bowling For Soup, it’s a different way to present the songs and a little bit more of an up close and personal show to present to the fans. It’s something that Erik and I have been doing for years and years in the States and just tried it a couple of years ago in the UK and it went great. It’s not something that were just excluding the other guys from, or that they feel excluded from. It’s just another thing that Bowling For Soup does. It’s enjoyable because we can play pretty much play any song. In Bowling For Soup when you have to do it as a whole band it takes a little bit of preparation at least. We’ll hopefully be back in April again. 

Was it strange to perform without the rest of the band?
No it feels natural because we’ve been doing the acoustic thing almost as long as we’ve been doing the full band thing so. Bowling For Soup has been together since 1994 and I think Erik and I started doing the acoustic thing in 1996. It’s two different things but at the same time it’s the same songs just presented in a different way. But it’s the same sort of vibe as the other shows so I think the transition works pretty well.

What’s next for Bowling For Soup?
Well after this tour my new band People On Vacation, which I’ve been doing on the side, will release our first EP. And then Erik will have a solo album come out. Probably the next thing for Bowling For Soup will be the acoustic tour in the UK in April and then the full band will kind of get back to work next summer, whether it’s some summer touring or starting to work on new material. I’m not really sure yet how that’s gonna go. Really we’ve been hitting it pretty hard since Fishing For Woos came out, so we’re gonna finish the tour, take a nap and then get together and regroup.   

Live Review: Kids In Glass Houses @ Southampton Guildhall, 8/10/11

Kids In Glass Houses have been away far too long. In fact it’s been almost a year since they played a headline show. So tonight is a chance to show exactly what they’ve been up to. But first, they have kindly laid on a feast of British talent for tonight’s crowd.

Save Your Breath throw out some joyous pop punk, simple and honest yet hugely effective. Next up is Blitz Kids who have energy by the barrel load but a set that’s as limp as lettuce. Despite having at least a pocketful of great songs – mainly on their EP ‘Scavangers’ – they decide to play their slightly less exciting tracks from debut album Vagrants & Vagabonds. Francesca are also a little bland. Their Noah And The Whale-esqe indie rock pleases the younger fans but holds nothing special, expecially compared to tonight’s main act.

Before Kids In Glass Houses appear, their set is rolled out covered in neon. But far from being a tacky nu-rave affair, as soon as KIGH take to the stage it is transformed into a stunning post-apocalyptic dystopia.  The material from the new album really comes to life with gargantuan sing-a-longs and a supurb brass section. Old songs such as ‘Give Me What I Want’ and ‘Saturday’ are also given a new lease of life with the help of a few trumpets. Tonight’s show proves that Kids In Glass Houses can take on the mainstream, although it would have nice to hear a little more of their pop-punk roots. 

Interview: Kids In Glass Houses

Before their incredible show at Southampton Guildhall, I spoke to Kids In Glass Houses frontman Aled Phillips . It also happened to be the day he was labelled the 15th Sexiest Man in Wales...

First off, how do you feel about being labelled the 15th Sexiest Man in Wales?
It’s just hilarious really. I don’t know if it’s a true representation of all the handsome men in Wales. I could name a hundred who should be above me. But it’s quite flattering. It keeps my ­­­mum happy anyway.

Which of the tracks from the new album has been your favourite to perform live on this tour?
The song that we’ve most enjoyed playing is probably ‘The Florist’. We’ve brought out a brass section on this tour which we’ve never done before and that’s one of the songs that I think comes across really well live. I think it’s a bit of a new direction for us. And a song called ‘Fire’ as well, because it’s quite different and really stripped back. Plus it has a sax solo which I have been waiting to do for years.

Kids In Glass Houses have toured with a lot of bands over the years, who has been your favourite to tour with?
It was always fun for us doing Lostprophets tours because they were a big inspiration for us when were fifteen. They were one of the bands that kind of shifted our musical direction I guess. They’ve always been like older brothers to us, they’ve always guided and advised us and been really nice like that. And on a personal level, it was huge to do shows with Stereophonics. They were the reason I got into rock music when I was like 10 or 11. We did Cardiff City Stadium with them and it was monumental. There’s also been loads like Fall Out Boy, Paramore, New Found Glory, those tours are crazy. It was just hysteria. It was weird because we were so new it was just really exciting for us.

You’ve chosen three British support acts to take on this tour with you, was that a conscious decision?
Our agent and out management asked us if we wanted to take an American band because kids over here obviously don’t have a lot opportunities to see them. But we think there are so many good bands in Britain that don’t always have a platform that they deserve. We’d much prefer to give our friends and local bands a chance because American bands are always given opportunities. We’ve been meaning to tour with Blitz Kids and we’ve been friends with Francesca for ages but never actually toured with them either. We’ve done Save Your Breath tours before but we love them so much we just thought we’d take them out again.

You played a gig at St Pancras station this summer, how was that?
It was strange but it was a really cool opportunity. It gets a bit tedious because we get asked to do so many acoustic things but that was awesome. We were literally in the main walkway and there were about 400 people there. It was about 5 or 6’oclock so there were loads of people coming through the station and there we announcements going on. We had to be a bit quiet and keep it down but it was really cool. We tried some new songs and they came off quite well.

How was the recording process for In Gold Blood?
It was really free and quite adventurous for everyone. We spent three weeks in Brussels in Belgium. We’d never recorded in that way before. We just sat in this big live room and mic’d everything up as if it was a live show or rehearsal, and the boys just kind of jammed I guess. We knew the songs but a few of them were not exactly 100% finished, not that our record label knew anything about that. Jason Perry, who produced ‘Dirt’ as well, was really keen on the idea of doing the whole thing live. We were using all the 80s keyboards and all the gear that they had there, creating all these really rich sounds. So as far as that was concerned it was really cool. But I never really enjoy doing vocals as such, I always find it a bit of a chore. But it was actually really fun and a lot more rewarding than the other albums. Its usually just a really stale way of doing it but when you get to do it live you actually feel like you’re achieving something.

How did it differ from the recording process for ‘Dirt’?
‘Dirt’ was a lot of fun but obviously we had a lot less time to do it. Even though, ironically, it took longer to finish. I think it took 9 days to record in El Paso. We just did it as we’d worked before. ‘Dirt’ was big stress, we had that nine days but then it took from August to December to get everything finished. But ‘In Gold Blood’ was wrapped up in about a month and a half, so it was a lot easier and a lot more relaxed.

You’ve been sporting a new look since the release of the new album, who’s decision was that?
That was me. Some of the boys weren’t happy because Ian is a devout Fred Perry fan and we had quite a nice little hook up with them because he wears it all the time. He’s always seen in it so they were happy to give us loads of new stuff. But then I told him ‘not anymore! You’re going to be wearing feathers and leather’. We had this apocalyptic theme so I thought we might as well just ham it up on stage as well. You can’t write a dramatic album and then pussy out and just wear t-shirts and jeans on stage. So we kind of dived in. To be fair everyone really worked to do it. It’s just that warriors kind of vibe, like Lord Of The Flies and this dystopian concept. It was fun, I still don’t know how most people feel about it but I have a laugh with it. It feels powerful!

How is your relationship with Roadrunner Records going after three albums?
We were a bit dubious to start because it was a metal label so we thought ‘what the fuck are we doing?’ But no, we’re quite a shy bunch of boys and we’re always a bit awkward with these business things. So for ‘Smart Casual’ we were just sort of sitting back and didn’t really know what was going on, but as the relationship grew they started to trust us a lot more. With ‘Dirt’ they let us shoot of to Texas and we barely heard anything. They’ve been really supportive of us and I think with the last album more so than ever they just let us do our thing. They let us wear feathers and rally around on bikes. Especially now when record labels are on their arse, they’re still supporting us. I don’t think many other labels would be as willing to let us get away with what we do.

You’ve never toured America before, do you have any plans to go out there?
It’s really difficult because it’s such a big territory to try and break. You need a lot of money and you need the support out there. Roadrunner do have the option to send us out there because we have an international deal with them but I think they’ve had such a hard run of attempts with bands from Britain. They tried doing Biffy Clyro a few years ago and despite the fact that they were in arenas over here, they were nowhere near that in America. So a band like us is a huge risk for them. You could easily spend about £50,000 and play to no one. So it’s just a waiting game.  We’d love to go over there, we just can’t really afford it at the moment. We just need something to happen, like if we have a song on the radio over there then we can go over there. If the right opportunity comes up, we’ll do it.  

Friday, 4 November 2011

Interview: Blitz Kids

Things are finally coming together for Blitz Kids and they’ve come a long way from their spooky beginning.

Under the name Rig Up Explosive, they formed on the night of Halloween in 2005. ‘That wasn’t planned but it just so happened that our first practice was on Halloween’ says frontman Joe James. ‘It was just me, Eddie (Hawks – drums), Billy (Evanson – guitar) and another guy on bass’. After a year went by, bassist Nic Montgomery and guitarist Jono Yates joined and the group decided it was time for a name change. ‘Everybody kept thinking I was saying ‘Big Duck Explosion’ or ‘Ripped Up Explosives’. Everyone used to spell our name wrong or wouldn’t be able to pronounce it so it felt like the right time to change it. Plus we were changing our musical style so it made sense’ says Joe.

The band are not afraid to admit that they were a little na├»ve when starting out. ‘Tours were fun because we didn’t really know what was going on. We just sort of rolled with it’ says Joe. ‘No one came to the shows but we thought that was what it was like for bands like us. All of five people would turn up and the promoter would be like ‘oh yea, we’re not paying you any money’ and we’d just be like ‘ok, bye!’ We just didn’t realise, but it was fun anyway.’

Blitz Kids come from Crewe & Nantwich in South Cheshie, an area where, they admit, the music scene is ‘non-existent’. ‘There’s load of bands but no one is really going for it, and they all have missive egos.’ says Billy. ‘We’re a lot different because we’re all really sound people and none of us have really got egos’ adds Jono. ‘Whereas all of these kids now who are doing it, they’re all in competition with each other. There’s no support there at all, it’s every man for himself. There’s no unity.’ In fact, Blitz Kids are probably the only ones to have made it from their hometown. ‘It’s really weird’ says Jono, ‘We’re the only band from there that ever got to this sort of level. And back home, to all these bands its like ‘oh my god!’ They think were massive and its hilarious because we’re really not.’

They may not be massive just yet but they’ve been working hard at fine tuning their sound. ‘We’ve just got better at writing songs I think, just by practising every day’ says Eddie. ‘When we first started we were put down as an experimental band when really we were only like that because we didn’t know how to write songs. It wasn’t because we wanted to be experimental. And then as time went by we just figured out how to write songs properly and make them sound a lot better. We take the bits people seem to like, which are the choruses, and do more of them and make then bigger. Then we just fill them in with some nice verses’. Joe adds; ‘We just have riffs and then stick them all together. It’s very cut and paste!’

After releasing two EPs the guys were finally ready to record their debut album 'Vagrants and Vagabonds', and according to Joe, it was a quick process. 'We went in for two days and then we were done' he exclaims. They decided to record the album 'as live', just playing through each track instead of recording the different parts and layering them together. 'The only song that took loads of attempts we didn't actually use' says Joe, who managed to do all of his vocals in just two takes. 'The most takes on the album was four, which was for 'Bye Bye Blackbird'' adds Jono. 

'Vagrants and Vagabonds' also featured guest vocals from Aled Phillips, lead singer of Kids In Glass Houses. But who approached who for the collaboration on the track 'Story'? 'Aled said 'Joe, please let me sing on that song!'' jokes the frontman. 'No, we played T In The Park the year before last and we just saw him there. At that time Kids in Glass Houses were just doing their ‘Dirt’ album which was full of key changes and was very 80s inspired. And we’d just written a song with a key change. We we’re just having a drink with him and I said ‘I’d like you to sing on a song we’ve got with a key change, I think it would be fun’. Then he said yes and it just happened.’

Now Blitz Kids are supporting Kids In Glass Houses on their UK tour. ‘It’s the best tour we’ve ever done’ says Joe. ‘The crowds have been the best, the bands have been the best and the venues have been really cool’. Today’s venue is Southampton Guildhall, and the boys have had the opportunity to get out their skateboards and explore. ‘I had a really nice frappuccino for the first time ever’ exclaims Joe. ‘And the girl behind the counter was so nice, she swapped my drink for free so I gave her guest list for tonight’s show’.

Once the UK tour is over, the band will be jetting off to LA to record with John Feldman, big time record producer and lead singer of Goldfinger. ‘It’s going to be the biggest selling album of all time ever’ jokes Joe, ‘Its going to sell 18 million copies!’ Well I guess we’ll just have to wait and see about that, but if Feldman’s work for Panic! At The Disco and The Used is anything to go by, this could just be the album to look out for in 2012. 

Interview: The Overtones

From paintbrushes to microphones, it’s been a long climb to the top for vocal harmony group The Overtones.

Despite originally hailing from all over the UK – Mark Franks is from Manchester, Mike Crawshaw from Bristol, Darren Everest from Essex and Timmy Mately from Ireland – the four lads got to know each other on the open mic scene in London seven years ago.

They decided to form a unique band, but it wasn’t until Australian born Lachie Chapman joined that it all fell into place. “We weren’t actually looking for a bass but Timmy met Lachie doing a promo job and had a bit of a brainwave that he’d be amazing in our group. He was the icing on the cake for the sound we were trying to create” says Mark.

But the group had trouble juggling their day jobs and the band. Mark was a professional dancer, Mike worked as a model and Darren, Timmy and Lachie were all actors. But being self-employed made it hard for the guys to make ends meet and so they we’re forced to do promo and bar work on the side. Working day and night obviously made it tricky for the band to all be in the same place at the same time to rehearse, but a clever business idea soon changed all that.

“Darren and Mike had got a bit of painting and decorating experience and so thought it would be a good idea to all get together and do a few painting jobs. It worked out great because we could rehearse and get paid at the same time. Although I’m not the best painter in the world, so I just made cups of tea” says Mark.

But little did they know, their new aliases would lead to a surprising big break. “One day we were decorating a place just off Oxford Circus and we were rehearsing for a gig that we had that weekend” recalls Mark. “Then a talent scout from WarnerMusic walked past. We didn’t know who she was at the time but she came up and asked us what were up to and it kind of went from there really.”

After debut album ‘Good Ol’ Fashioned Love’ was released last year, the boys ventured off on tour with 90’s pop sensation Peter Andre. “It’s funny to us because we didn’t think it was our typical audience. We’d not long released our album and to be honest when we were recording it we knew that we were really passionate about what we were doing but we weren’t entirely sure what our demographic would be” says Mark. “We possibly thought it would be the older generation who were around the first time all these classic songs were about. But what we found on the Peter Andre tour was that we got a load of really young fans following us that just really appreciated a good song.”

Mark also believes that the younger generation are getting back into old fashioned music. “I mean in the charts at the moment there’s lots of vintage sounding music, you’ve got Paloma Faith, Plan B, even Olly Murs and all those kinds of artists, their songs do have a vintage feel” he explains.

Although the band are a fan of all things vintage, they are trying to keep up to date for their more technologically advanced fans too. They recently released an iPhone app of games themed around their single 'Gambling Man’. “We’d had quite a good response to ‘Gambling Man’ so I think we just thought it would be fun to run something alongside that. It’s just a bit of fun really and also we have a lot of really dedicated fans that follow us on Twitter and Facebook, so we wanted to give them something to take home and hopefully enjoy.”

That fan base soon grew even bigger and so did the success of their album. Selling over 350,000 copies it became the 2nd biggest selling debut album from a UK group in 2011. And to celebrate, they have released a Platinum Edition of the record with six brand new tracks, one of which is a cover of Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’. The band are big fans of the award winning singer-songwriter and count her as one of their influences.

“She’s definitely proved that you don’t need a load of wizardry and technology to produce a song. She did a performance at the Brits recently where it was just her and a piano and she sang ‘Someone Like You’. I think everyone watching it had goosebumps. We are trying to bring that sort of old school vocal harmony element to music, while giving it a contemporary twist as well. So it’s good to see that there’s artists that are still shining that have great vocal ability” says Mark.

October saw the band set off on their second UK tour of the year that included a stop off at Bournemouth’s Pavilion Theatre and a sold out show at the London Palladium. However, Mark insists that touring in ‘The Overtonesmobile’ isn’t as glamorous as you might think. “Well there’s five lads together so you can imagine what that’s like. We have a little DVD player on the van which is quite cool. We always have a bit of a squabble over what we’re going to watch. Normally it’s a bit of Family Guy” says Mark. “It’s not very rock’n’roll our lifestyle. Our rider when we’re touring consists of lemon, honey and ginger and a bowl of fruit. I usually put in an order for a bit of Jack Daniels for after the show though.”

Rather than being ‘rock’n’roll’, Mark prefers to think of The Overtones as ‘slick, stylish and feel-good’. And if those album sales are anything to go by, it looks like the public are feeling pretty good about them too. 

Live Review: Black Veil Brides @ Southampton University, 6/10/11

Standing outside Southampton University tonight, you’d be forgiven for thinking its Halloween, or at least a freshers fancy dress party, But no, Black Veil Brides have rolled into town, bringing with them an army of teens dressed in the deepest shade of black and smothered in eyeliner.

My Passion fit the bill perfectly, with their quaffed hair and coordinated outfits. They appear to fall somewhere between a mediocre 90s boy band and a monotonous electro metal outfit. However, the tweens in the crowd go mad for it, roaring as frontman Laurence Rene climbs the speakers as though no one has ever done it before. 

Yashin scream a bit of fresh air into proceedings with the unusual vocal duo of American Harry Radford and Glaswegian Kevin Miles. The two accents sound surprisingly refreshing together and the band fire out some decent gimmick-free post-hardcore. 

Black Veil Brides' predictably dramatic entrance is met with screams that could pop ear drums. They look and sound like a Kiss tribute band, yet do not play any Kiss songs. So what's the point?  Well, I guess it's all just a bit of fun. Cheesy speeches about 'being yourself' and getting the crowd to scream profanities and raise their middle fingers in unison clearly excited the young fans. It may not be the best music in the world, by any means, but if you enjoy a bit of a Hollywood spectacle then Black Veil Brides certainly deliver.