Saturday, 16 April 2011

Introducing: Dom Remi

Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of local heroes The Metropolise, Dom Remi are a new Bournemouth band on a mission.

Determined to start afresh, the alternative indie rock four-piece feel they have moved on from their previous outfit – which managed to sell out several south coast venues, including the esteemed Southampton Joiners. Guitarist Michael-James Dent said; The Metropolise was that band you’re in when you first get into music. Once you pick up a guitar after hearing some Interpol record, you form that band”.

James, and bass player Richard, are both first year Popular Music students at Bournemouth University. “We’re still young but we’ve learnt a lot more, and we know how to write songs that can affect people without being just another carbon-copy. I wouldn’t say we’ve matured though, just learnt how to channel our influences in different ways” said James.

Among these influences, Dom Remi list everything from The Stone Roses and My Bloody Valentine to hip-hop and 90s dance music, with a bit of Doves and Animal Collective thrown in. This helps to shape the group’s ‘unique sound’. James adds; “With some bands, it’s so easy to just group them into a particular genre or group of people, but with us, we try to vary what we do. We have catchy, poppier tracks, but we’ve got tracks that build on soundscapes and use our skills in sonic techniques.”

Named after Joan of Arc’s birthplace - as a result of James’ and front man Ben’s love of history as kids – Dom Remi are planning to relaunch themselves with a free download of their single ‘Midnight’ which will be available on 8th May. The track is full of soaring hooks and teenage angst layered on top of an atmospheric soundscape that can be legitimately described as ‘groovy’. That may sound odd, but it works.

A launch show at Champions, Bournemouth on 14th May with Kinnie The Explorer will be followed by the release of the band’s debut self-titled EP on 6th June via This Scene Isn’t Dead. When asked to describe the EP in three words, James’ responded “nice and loud”.

“We’ve got a load of shows booked in June, including stops in London and Southampton” said James, “and we’re recording more singles this year, so over the summer and winter you can expect to see a lot more releases from us.”

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Interview: The Blackout

Merthyr Tydfil’s finest, The Blackout, have been touring the UK and stopped off in Bournemouth – apparently their favourite of the ‘mouths’ so far – to play a sell out show at The Old Fire Station. I spoke to co-front man Gavin about their busy year, the role McFly played in the creation of their new album ‘Hope’ and his love of pop music. Just don’t mention Justin Bieber!
How has the UK tour been going?

It’s flown by. It’s been one of the best tours we’ve ever done. We’ve never done a headline tour with so many sold out shows before. The kids have been crazy as well on this tour. Manchester and London might have been my favourite shows we’ve ever done.

Do you still get surprised when you see the fans queuing outside from 9am?

It’s crazy! I was talking to someone outside saying they’d been here since 5am! We didn’t leave London ‘til 4am! They said they just wanted to see us. You’ll see us; just don’t turn up at five in the morning because we’re not even here! But I love the fact that they’re that excited about the show. In Manchester the other day we had so many people waiting outside all day in the sunshine and then they came in and we had eight people pass out. They were so dehydrated and they hadn’t been eating or sleeping. So I fear for some of them, especially when they say they’re camping out that night. Please don’t sleep on the streets guys!

What do you need to survive on tour these days?

I just need a toilet bag and a fresh pair of pants. That’s all you need. Although you don’t even need pants because you can always buy pants. Anything to keep yourself clean, that’s all you need. A laptop is always useful too actually. I was going to say to wile away the days, but everyday we’ve been doing interviews so that’s been keeping us sane. Otherwise we’re just sat in the dressing room on a laptop refreshing Twitter.

How has it been touring with Hyro Da Hero and The Swellers?

Really good. We were fans of Hyro and The Swellers anyway. Sean introduced us to Hyro, he said we needed to check out his mix tapes. And Bob caught The Swellers with Young Guns and said we needed to check them out. So when it came to asking people over, they were in the pot. And the tour has been amazing; it’s so laid back for some reason. There’s no egos involved, no competition. It’s just one big gay friend party. I was saying to the bassist from The Swellers last night that it’s mad how well we’ve just managed to click with everyone. It’s one of those tours where everyone has got the same sense of humour, we watch the same movies, listen to the same music so it’s just all clicked and it’ll be sad to see them go.

What made you decide to collaborate with Hyro on ‘Higher & Higher’?

I’m gonna blame Will Smith. We were doing vocals for ‘Higher & Higher’ in London and it was just going to be that riff in the middle eight. Then for a laugh, Sean rapped ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ over it. Jason Perry, our producer, was like ‘Do that!’ and we said ‘We can’t do that Jase, that’s the rap from Fresh Prince of Bel Air’. And he said ‘We’ll give Will Smith some PR, it’ll be fine!’ But, nah, we couldn’t do that. So then he said that we should come up with a rap. But we’re not good at that, we wouldn’t know where to start. But Hyro was already booked for the tour and Sean was pretty friendly with his manager and Hyro himself so we thought, well why don’t we just ask him? On Hyro’s mixtapes, because he didn’t have a big budget or anything, he’d just take rock songs and cut them up and rap over them. He did things to ‘New Noise’ by Refused and stuff by Weezer and Killswitch Engage so he loves rock and metal anyway. So it seemed like the perfect fit for that middle eight. He sent over his first draft we loved it. Some people at first were like ‘I don’t know about this’ because they’re just closed minded idiots. But if you listen to it a bit more you’ll realise that its genius. Not our bits, Hyro’s bits. And everyone has been saying we’ve only done this now because Hayley Williams did the B.O.B. track and You Me At Six did their track with Chiddy. But I just said, ‘Have you ever listened to Run DMC’s ‘Walk This Way’ with Aerosmith? Have you listened to ‘Bring The Noise’?’ It’s been going on for ages, that rap metal mash up. I think it works well. 2001 proved that with Limp Bizkit and other bands of that type that are just huge. People like a bouncy riff and fast lyrics.

How did the recording process go for ‘Hope’?

It took about a month. We started November 1st and ended on November 26th. It was three days in AIR Studios in London to do drums, a week in Banbury in Angelic Studios which is owned by the ex-keyboardist of Jamiroquai. That’s an awesome studio, its where they recorded Band Aid and stuff. Then we did vocals in a little box in the ground in Highbury Corner with no windows for about a week and a half. But it was cool because when we do vocals it’s just me, Jason and Sean. And when we get together it doesn’t seem like work, it doesn’t seem like were recording. I think that’s what Jason does best, he makes you think that you’re not recording an album and you’re just sitting there singing. He relaxes you into an amazing place where he can get the best out of you.

Was it a bit daunting recording the fourth album then?

We didn’t feel any pressure at all actually. I don’t think that was through arrogance, it was more through ignorance. We were all sat in my garage, which I’ve done up a bit so we could all jam in there, so we were in our own little world really. Just writing songs for us. It was only when we came to release it that we thought, what if people don’t like it? But we think it’s the best that we’ve ever done, Jason Perry thought it was the best stuff we’ve ever done too. All the people around us, obviously it’s their job to tell us it’s the best thing we’ve done, but Jason will tell us if something is not quite strong enough. He was pleased with the album so we had a bit of confidence going into the release, but we’ve had an amazing response. You always get the hardcore fans who were there from day one who say it’s not as good as your split EP you released with Sevendust on the back of a pigeon that only five people own. But with this record, people that have been with us forever, as well as people who have never really been into us, are digging the new record. So we must have done something right, or paid the right people.

You and Sean both do vocals on your songs, are there ever any fights over who gets to sing which bit?

It’s usually quite straight-forward. We both come into the process with our own lyrics and then we put that into the melting pot. Sean may have an entire song done and then I’ll just change a few bits, and vice versa. But I think we’re at the point now where we can critique each other’s work. And the same with Jason. One of the songs on the new record, I think it was The Last Goodbye, he said that the lyrics were a bit cheesy. So I reworked them and after listening back to it I realised he was right on that one. So you’ve got to take all these criticisms as opposed to thinking ‘No, I’m right’. Which I think is the cool thing about our band, because everyone comes in with ideas and we all take it on board.

You’ve done quite a few covers in the past and there are some on the deluxe version of ‘Hope’, but are there any songs that you would never consider covering?

Oooh I don’t know. Which songs do I really despise? The thing is, you could take something by Justin Bieber and probably make it a good song. They probably are good songs; it’s just that Justin Bieber’s head is obnoxious. I just want to smack him. What a little brat. But there are probably some songs we could never do. I would never want to cover a Queen song for example, because I don’t think we could do it justice. So I think it’s more for that reason than that I don’t like the song. I have too much respect for some songs to go anywhere near them, even on karaoke.

And are there any songs that you would secretly love to cover?

I quite like a lot of pop. Most of the big pop acts like P!nk, Katy Perry and McFly, I listen to and love. But I listen to Metallica and Every Time I Die as well. And I love taking pop songs and making them a lot heavier. A lot of bands these days, if you strip them down, are really poppy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But a lot of people think that just because they don’t have a guitar that it’s not a good song, some people are a bit close minded that way. Like McFly for example, their album Radio:Active kind of sold Jason Perry to us. He worked on that and I thought the production was amazing. Then I listened to it more and realised there were some really good songs on there. They could be chucked in a bag with All Time Low or Green Day or any of those bands. It’s just because of where they’ve come from that people think differently about them. But they’re there making music and having a good time so that’s all that matters.

You supported My Chemical Romance on their UK tour earlier this year, how was it to play such massive shows?

It was the first UK arena tour we’ve ever done and we were so excited to do it. We were on top of a mountain in Guilford having press shots done, don’t ask why we were up there, we were freezing our arses off. But that was five days before the tour and we got the phone call asking if we wanted to do it. We were like ‘Duh! Yes! Why are you even asking that question!?’ It was amazing to play those venues and the My Chem fans were so welcoming as well. Obviously not all of them knew who we were, otherwise we’d be the ones playing arenas, but there were a couple of kids who knew us. And we had a blast every night.

Have you now got the urge to do a concept album for the next record after touring with MCR?

It’s a tough one, the concept album. You can either get it brilliantly right or it’s just a bit mediocre. So I think we’re just going to stick to writing big riffs, choruses and catchy lyrics. Stick to what we know. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

You also went to Australia for Soundwave Festival in February, do you have many Aussie fans?

We went there in April last year with Lostprophets, we did a couple of their shows, but I was surprised by how many people turned up to our shows. You’d get anything from 500 to 1000 kids turning up for these festival shows. I blew my mind because we’d only been down there once. But I think the last record, ‘Best In Town’, got pushed quite well down there. It was an amazing tour to do, I can remember talking to Lags from Gallows and he said ‘If you ever get the chance to do Soundwave, just do it, because it’s just one big party for about a month.’ I think there are 660 people on that tour, band and crew. And each one of those people had to be flown from city to city. So you’d get on a plane and it would be full of tattoos and maybe one woman and a baby looking nervous. After every show there would be an after show party with a free bar and you can’t say no to a free bar can you? It’s rude. Plus we got to make some new friends and see friends we hadn’t seen for ages. That tour seemed to be full of people we toured with in 2006 and hadn’t seen since.

What else have you got planned for 2011?

I get a day off after this tour to go home and wash all my clothes. Then me and Sean go off to London to do radio, then we do a video. The we leave for Groezrock Festival in Belgium and do Monster Bash in Germany and we go out for a month with Funeral For A Friend in Europe. That’s my diary right there. And we’ve just released tickets for our October/November tour, which should be fun. It’s a bit of a step up, we’ll be doing some of the biggest venues we’ve ever done.

You’ve also climbed up the bill on main stage at Reading and Leads Festivals this summer.

Yea we were first on in 2008 so it’s taken us three years to get to second. So maybe in 2050 we’ll be headlining. But it’s just awesome to be asked back really. I’ve been going to Reading since I was 17. We’ve all been massive festival goers so it’ll be nice to go back and play main stage again. Especially that day as well. There are so many good bands on the main stage that day; I think I’m just going to sit by the side of the stage with a beer cooler all day.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Interview: Rise To Remain

When you have the son of Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickenson in your band, you’re bound to draw in the crowds. But metalcore five-piece Rise To Remain have still managed to hold their own.

The band formed in 2008 after two different acts merged. “Pat (Lundy, drums) and I we’re in a band called 12 Ton Method and Will (Homer, rhythm guitar), Austin (Dickinson, lead vocals) and Ben (Tovey, lead guitar) used to play in Halide. They were the two bands that collided and quite a few Halide songs are on the ‘Bridges Will Burn’ EP” said bassist Joe Copcutt.

Pat feels that this has helped to shape Rise To Remain’s sound. “I think everyone in the band came from separate musical backgrounds and had different upbringings as well. We definitely have a mix of everyone’s best bits. There’s always something new and fresh on the table. It does take a bit of consolidation but it’s good for the writing process.”

Rise To Remain’s debut gig was a somewhat daunting set at 2008’s Download Festival.  “I’ve never been so nervous before a show. We were all pooing it” said Joe. It took a whole month of rehearsals to make sure the band were ready for their opening slot on the third stage. “We had about 4 weeks to get tight. I was only 17 at the time so we really had to get our act together and step up a bit” said Pat. “It also taught us a lot because we saw all of our favourite bands that weekend and we were like “shit, so this is how it goes down”. So it made us just knuckle down all through 2009 and 2010 and its made for a pretty good 2011 hopefully, fingers crossed.”

Since their debut gig, the band have supported some pretty big names including Whitechapel, Hatebreed, Bullet For My Valentine, Trivium and, of course, Iron Maiden on the Indonesian leg of their world tour. “It’s funny because loads of the bands that we’ve had the privilege to tour with were our favourite bands when we were growing up. They were all a massive influence and it’s great because we get to learn a lot from touring with them” said Joe. But it was the band’s support slot for Korn on their UK tour last year that really sticks out for Pat. “Korn got us in the biggest rooms that we’ve ever played in the UK so that was a bit of an eye opener”

Rise To Remain have recently finished recording their debut full length album which is due to come out at the end of the summer. “We got to record with Colin Richardson (who has worked with Machine Head, Bullet For My Valentine and Slipknot amongst others) which was a dream come true” said Joe; “We also recorded it in Chesterfield which was really peaceful. We’re all from London and it’s a bit hectic there, so it was nice just to get in the middle of nowhere and zone out for a couple of months. We’re really proud of the outcome and we think it sounds great. We just hope everyone else does, but we’ll find out soon enough.”

Some of the new material has been aired during their stint supporting Funeral For A Friend on their UK tour, with new single ‘The Serpent’ – currently available as a free download – being used to open their set. “It’s been nice to play some of the new stuff and we’re really looking forward to playing a whole set of the new album” said Joe. Pat adds; “It’s nice to change it up a bit. We’ve been touring the EP for a long time so when we do our headline tour, getting to play the majority of the new material is gonna be great for us.”

A busy summer awaits for Rise To Remain as they will be playing various European festivals, including Download and Sonisphere in the UK, where the band are becoming regulars on the line-up. “I love festival season” said Joe; “every time it comes around we always get really excited because the weather is always nice and you get to meet up with loads of mates from different bands and stuff which is always a good laugh”. The boys are now festival experts and have some top tips for the festival going public. “Bring baby wipes, its gets messy” said Joe, while Pat believes the best advice is to pace yourself. “Just stay hydrated. If you’re at a festival and you start to feel a little woozy, it can make for a pretty shit evening. Just take an hour off drinking and have a water. You’ll blow out at about 2:30pm if there’s a heat wave at any English festival. You’ll be stuffed”

Festival season will be followed by the band’s next headline tour for which the dates are yet to be announced. Or course, the lads are pretty used to travelling the world now and list ‘company, music and a positive attitude’ amongst their tour bus essentials. “We just listen to music and Pat chugs barrels of Lucozade” said Joe.

So with a high-powered set of brutal metalcore anthems – and the DNA of a metal legend – Rise To Remain are sure to continue to climb the festival bills in 2012.  

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Introducing: The City Calls

Shiny happy south coast pop punk anyone? Then look no further than Southampton five-piece The City Calls.

Since forming in 2009, the band have already achieved quite a lot. Support slots for bands such as Futures, Twenty Twenty and The Mission District, sold out headline shows in their home-town and even a slot on the bill at 2010’s Glastonbury Festival. “To play at one of the most prestigious, famous and biggest festivals in the world was an honour and I think we all cherish a damn good memory from it” said front man Lucas.  

After releasing their debut EP ‘Dirty Tricks’ last summer, the band have already finished  recording a follow up which will be released later this year. Lucas said; “We recently finished up in the studio and we are super excited to get the final mixes and get the record out to the public. It's a big step for us. We put a lot of time, heart and practice into these songs and its sounding great.”

Writing their pop-punk anthems is a structured process for The City Calls. “Scotty (guitar/vocals) will write out chord progressions, some lead lines and a structure for the song and we'll go through it all with two guitars until we're happy with it all” said Lucas; “I'll then spend a few days listening to a demo of the song and collecting melody ideas and start writing the lyrics. Then we take to the rehearsal room and make it sound as big as possible.”

New single ‘Truth Or Dare’ is effortlessly infectious with a teenage angst fuelled chorus and plenty of sing-a-long moments. It’s also accompanied by a suitably sunny and fun-packed video. The band have a quintessential You Me At Six vibe and also list Blink 182, All Time Low and New Found Glory among their influences. However, Lucas adds; “We could get into Scotty's love for The Police and John's (drums) love for Muse.”

Fans of the video blog, the band have several tour and studio diaries on YouTube, allowing the fans to see what they are getting up to. “When we’re not making music, we're normally out there letting people know about the band, working on other things that help the band grow: Merchandise, Promotion, Partying” said Lucas.

The band start touring the UK on April 15th so if you’re partial to a bit of energetic pop-punk - as well as colourful hoodies and the sweepy fringe - then look out for them in town near you.

The City Calls - Truth Or Dare from iammightyrecords on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Introducing: City Reign

It’s refreshing to find a truly humble and hard-working British band on the scene today, but Manchester four-piece City Reign tick all the boxes.

City Reign first began to blossom four and a half years ago when Chris Bull (Vocals/Guitar) and Michael Grice (Guitar) met at a Ryan Adams gig. “We'd both recently moved to Manchester from London and got chatting at this gig and realised we had quite a lot of shared influences. We started to write songs together and played in a band for a couple of years which ended up breaking up” said Chris.

Then two years ago they met Michael Glaze (Bass) and Sam Jones (Drums) and have been playing together under the name City Reign – inspired by Adams’ song ‘City Rain, City Streets’ - ever since. Mike Grice says “In the previous band we were maybe trying to write songs to fit a style of that moment but now we've started to write some new material and finally started to develop our own sound that seemed quite natural to us”.

City Reign’s sound has been difficult to pin down for some. “We've been described as a lot of things, from indie, to grunge, even country influences. I guess that's just a reflection of all the kinds of music we like” said Chris. “We have an energetic sound but we'd like to think the melodies are pretty strong too.”

The lads are fans of bands such as Idlewild, Doves and The National. Chris admits “They don't really sound like each other but I guess they all have found their own sound with a certain subtlety that I think is what we love about them”.

But City Reign have not stopped at creating music. The band have also established their own independent label, Car Boot Records. “We decided to set up the label because we wanted to start releasing material so people could actually hear us. We wanted to try and reach a broader range of people than just the few people we knew, who could sometimes be persuaded and bullied into coming to see us live. With the internet and people like AWAL it's possible to release music and have it reach all sorts of people” said Chris.

And all the hard work has paid off as the lads now have fans from as far afield as the States, Canada, Europe and even Japan. A little closer to home, BBC Radio DJ Steve Lamacq has also heralded City Reign, listing them as one of his ‘bands to look out for’ on his ‘In The City’ show. “That was pretty amazing to be honest. Steve is such an influential figure in the modern music scene so for someone like that to support us like that was great. Since he played our first single and then featured us on his show we've been shamelessly using his name to get more people to listen to us! It's definitely been a massive factor in whatever small success we've had so far.”

The band are so humble that they prefer not to feature in their own music videos, instead opting to play their music alongside old movie footage. “We just felt that while we're trying to get people to listen to our music it would be best to stay out of the videos” said Chris. “We didn't want a standard video, which would've been really bad as we wouldn't know what we were doing. It's been good for people to hear our music first before they realise what idiots we actually are.”

The video for new single ‘Daybreak’ for example, has a spaghetti Western theme which came about after the band watched Blazing Saddles. “Thankfully the American archive had an abundance of old Cowboy and Indian films” said Mike, “the running horses just seem to fit the pounding nature of the drums”.

‘Daybreak’ is the band’s third single and will be released on 9th May as part of an EP recorded with Grammy nominated producer Dan Parry. The track has been a fan favourite at their live shows and its original recording was the title track of the band’s early demo. ‘Daybreak’ has echoes of fellow Mancunians Oasis, yet with a more atmospheric grunge sound. Raw vocals give it that unique British feel while the subtly progressive drums build up to something even bigger.

Chris said “It’s probably the song we’ve been most proud of. We always enjoy playing it live, as it has that typically youthful conflict between despair and restless hopefulness. The harmonies in the outro really capture that feeling that there’s always something else to reach for, even when you don’t know exactly what it is.”

However, the band don’t want to stop at an EP. “We have the track listing for the album we want to record written up on our dingy practice room door. We would love to be able to record it in the next year” said Chris, “We think we have enough songs to make one that we'd be really proud of.” Mike adds; “The only problem we have after that is thinking of a name for it, as the current ideas being banded about are horrendous!”