Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Album Review: D.R.U.G.S. - Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows

Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows’ debut is a truly attention seeking album. Right from the spine tingling opening of ‘If You Think This Song Is About You, It Probably Is’ to the chugging riffs of closing track ‘My Swagger Has A First Name’, the American super group will have you hooked.

Just when you think you’re settling into a regular post-hardcore record, Craig Owens formerly of Chiodos, Aaron Stern of Matchbook Romance, Nick Martin of Undermined, Matt Good of From First To Last and Adam Russell of Story of the Year, push you right off your chair.

Not only is D.R.U.G.S. scattered with rousing chants and scathing lyrics it also features the odd bizarre and down-right eerie moments. A snippet of classical music pops up from nowhere during ‘My Swagger Has A First Name’ and ‘The Hangman’ appears to begin with a bizarre remix of chanting monks. The track titles, such as ‘Mr Owl Ate My Metal Worm’ and ‘Laminated E.T. Animal’, are also a little baffling. And just when you think things can’t get anymore weird, they throw a prank call message on the end.

But don’t think this album is all one big joke. The pounding ‘The Only Thing You Talk About’ and the soaring anthem that is ‘I’m Here To Take The Sky’ are classics in the making. Sharp production, five experienced men and just the right amount of crazy is a recipe for a sensational new super group.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Interview: The Xcerts

The Xcerts decided that the Bournemouth leg of the Rock Sound Exposure Tour was the perfect opportunity to discuss cross-dressing and a Bob Dylan tribute act…

What have you got planned for the next few weeks on the Rock Sound Exposure Tour?
Murray (vocals/guitar): I was thinking about wearing a dress for a show or two. But I haven’t given it much thought about what I should wear. A lacy number? Or a gown?
Jordan (bass): When you do the same thing every night, you wanna mix it up. Do something different. All this rocking out, I thought about maybe for one of the shows just not rocking. Something a bit different. So I tried not rocking but it didn’t work, as it happens. But I tried something new.

Have you ever played Bournemouth before?
Murray: Yea we’ve played here twice. The first time was actually with our original line up a couple of years ago. And we played a club NME show and we thought it was the biggest deal.
Jordan: And it totally wasn’t
Murray: It sucked
Jordan: And then we played iBar once before as well. And that sucked. There was nobody here. And apparently it sounded a lot better in the toilet than it did out front. So anybody that was taking a whizz that night was loving it. But you couldn’t watch because it just sounded awful.

How would you describe your sound to people who have never heard of The Xcerts before?
Murray: Distorted pop. I guess its rock music. But we like our pop music as well.

Who would you say are your influences?
Murray: Weezer.
Tom (drums): Weezer.
Jordan: I guess I’m gonna say Weezer for a third time.
Murray: Weezer and Elliott Smith. I think that’s it. Perfect combination

What’s the story behind the name of the band?
Murray: Nothing
Jordan: 14 year old kids trying to sound cool. We never really got around to changing it.

What do you do when you’re not writing or performing?
Murray: Tom works.
Tom: Yea, I occasionally work at a video shop.
Jordan: No brand names.
Murray: Blockbuster.
Jordan: Ah
Murray: It’s the only one though!
Tom: It could have been some cool independent one.
Murray: They’re all dead.
Tom: I’m a corporate whore now. Thanks.
Murray: I’m in another studio based group. So I’m busy making an album right now with them.
Tom: And Jordan goes to open mics and makes noises under the guise of ‘The Troubadour’.
Jordan: Yea that’s my other character. Sort of a Dylan-esque folky poet. I talk really nasal. It doesn’t pay really well but I’ve got a really loyal fan. This guy that comes to every open mic, he’s great. Hi Steve!

What have you got planned for the rest of 2011?
Murray: We’re touring again in April. Hopefully a few festivals but because we’re a smaller band we kind of have to wait until the start of summer to find out where we’re actually going. Then hopefully we’ll go to Europe and tour there some more, and the States, hopefully. And then onto album number three. Or maybe we’ll just do a ‘Troubadour’ record.
Jordan: That would be ideal for me. I’ve been trying to launch this side of me for ages so to jump on the back of The Xcerts would be amazing. Maybe I could open for some tours. I see really bright things for ‘The Troubadour’ in the future.

Interview: Dinosaur Pile-Up

When the Rock Sound Exposure Tour stopped off at iBar in Bournemouth, I chatted to Leeds based trio Dinosaur Pile-Up. It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to hopscotch…

The Rock Sound Exposure Tour has just kicked off, how did the first night go?
Harry (bass): It was ace.
Matt (vocals/guitar): It was really good fun. We know Japanese Voyeurs and The Xcerts from before but it feels like this tour is a really good chance for us to reconnect. Everyone was a bit nervous and everyone got on really well and we ended up crashing with Murray from The Xcerts and hanging out so it was good.

Have you got anything special lined up for the rest of the tour?
Mike (drums): Every gig is special!
Harry: We’re less concerned on this tour to necessarily play exactly what’s on our record. We’re doing some new stuff and some old stuff and trying to mix it up a bit and have fun. And also because we’ve gone into the tour not knowing if we’re going to open up shows or headline shows, we have to be punchy and good. We feel like we’ve got a bit more to prove. There’s gonna be a bunch of people out there who have come to see The Xcerts or Japanese Voyeurs and we wanna be like ‘yea we’re good aswell!’

What do you guys get up to when you’re not making music?
Harry: Skateboarding
Mike: I was road surfing earlier
Harry: Hopscotch. We’re pretty into urban hopscotch at the minute.
Mike: All you need is a piece of chalk and something to throw and you’re away.
Matt: Between us and The Xcerts, we’re starting that as our full time road hobby.
Maybe you could introduce it into the Olympics?
Harry: I like to think it’s too gnarly for the Olympics. A bit too extreme.

For people who haven’t heard of Dinosaur Pile-Up before, how would you describe your music?
Harry: Probably equal rock and pop. But not in a Nickelback way. Actually, we probably do sound a bit like Nickelback. But cool, because we don’t sell so many records. Thus we’re cooler.
Matt: It’s quite heavy and ‘poppy’ at the same time. Because I guess there is an equal mix of what we listen to in there. There’s pop and really old pop and heavy metal.
Mike: Think ‘if Mika met Black Flag’.
Matt: Ooooh! Mind blown!
Harry: Face melted!

You’ve been compared to some pretty big names, such as Foo Fighters and Weezer, is that a little daunting?
Matt: Not at all. They’re all rad bands and we’ve all listened to them so it’s not daunting, it’s complimentary. But I guess a big thing for us is for people to be able to see past that.

What does the future hold for Dinosaur Pile-Up?
Mike: We’ve got some festivals coming up.
Matt: But we don’t know which ones. We’re going to South By Southwest in North America. Then we’re going to do a few gigs in Mexico
Mike: And riding an open top bus and playing!
Harry: Then in April we’ll be touring in England again
Matt: We’re also going to do some recordings of some sort.
Harry: The single ‘My Rock N Roll’ comes out in March.
Matt: But that’s a secret.
Harry: Oh, is it?
Matt: No.
Mike: And we’ve got some love making with The Xcerts slotted in there somewhere as well. Making some DPU/Xcerts babies.

Interview: Japanese Voyeurs

On the Bournemouth date of the Rock Sound Exposure Tour, London rockers, Japanese Voyeurs, talk female genitalia and pervy photography...but not at the same time.

You have just embarked on the Rock Sound Exposure Tour, how did the first show in Bedford go?
Romily (vocals/guitar): It was good. There were a lot of people there. People seemed to be getting into it which was fun. Because you never really know. Some people, how they enjoy a show is just to stand there and watch. Which is cool but it’s always fun for us when people jump around a bit.

You are touring with Dinosaur Pile-Up and The Xcerts, have you ever met them before?
Steve (drums): I used to be in Dinosaur Pile-Up. Matt is one of my best friends so it’s nice to be back out with him. But Dinosaur Pile-Up and Japanese Voyeurs toured together a little while ago.
Johnny (guitar): We’ve done a couple of gigs with The Xcerts. So everyone kind of knows each other anyway.

What have you got planned for your sets in the next few weeks?
Romily: We’re not really into any stage dramatics. We just try to rehearse as much as we can so that we play as well as we can. We don’t really plan anything. I always think if you go and see a good band, the music should be enough.

How would you describe the music of Japanese Voyeurs?
Tom (bass): Loud rock music?
Romily: I think it’s easier to talk about the bands that we love. We sort of formed out of a love of bands like Melvins and Jesus Lizard. I think that always plays a part in the music that you decide to write. Otherwise, all those other crazy subgenres get a bit much really. Like alt-rock…box… number 3, I dunno.

Who else do you list among your influences?
Steve: Between us there is a big range of musical influences. Those are the ones that connect us all. But my first favourite band was Iron Maiden. I’m really into tech metal. But I also like classical music and a bit of dubstep now and then.
Romily: Ha!
Steve: Yea! I love it!
Romily: Yea there’s some stuff that sort of unites us and that’s the stuff I guess most influences the core of what we do. But then it’s always good to have other weird references coming in from the tech side of things that Steve loves. It adds another side to it.

Having a front woman, you are inevitably going to be compared to the likes of Paramore and Evanescence. Does this bother you?
Romily: I just have absolutely nothing to say about that. I just think if journalists love writing about music then surely they should be able to look further than what genitalia I have.

Who are your favourite women in music at the moment?
Romily: I love Lori S, who sings and plays guitar in Acid King. They’ve been around since the 90s. And she is like phenomenal guitar player. I love PJ Harvey, she’s a cool lady. I just read Patti Smith’s book. There might not be that many front women but there are girls in Earth and Electric Wizard. So they’re about.

What do you do when you’re not touring or writing music?
Rich (keyboards): Tom’s a video blogger on YouTube!
Tom: I don’t wanna talk about that.
Steve: I’ve got a daughter so I spend most of my time looking after her.
Romily: I read a lot. I love to read and write. Those are basic human skills which I partake in. I love pedals as well. So I’m always geeking about with that sort of thing. I think the thing is when you do something you love you sort of end up doing it all the time, even if you’re not actually doing it. I think everyone sits around and plays a lot even when we’re not all together.

Where did the name Japanese Voyeurs come from?
Romily: It comes from a series of photographs taken by a Japanese photographer in the 70s. And he found himself alone in a park one night and stumbled upon, as the story goes, all these couples having sex. So he decided to start taking pictures of these people. And he was one of the first photographers to use infrared film for art. It’s just really interesting in terms of what it says about human nature and that primal desire to look at the things which you probably shouldn’t look at and to do the things you probably shouldn’t do. And that sort of goes with a lot of the lyrical themes so we just thought it was a good fit.

Have you got any plans for the rest of the year?
Rich: Touring mostly
Johnny: And doing as many festivals as we can. We’ve got our first gigs abroad in March. Two gigs in Germany. We’re playing Ireland too, so we get to go on a ferry!
Romily: Obviously once the album comes out we’ll be in as many places as possible.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Live Review: Rock Sound Exposure Tour @ Bournemouth iBar

All good things come in threes. three Toy Story films, three musketeers, three Jonas Brothers…ok maybe not. But in the case of the Rock Sound Exposure Tour, three really is the magic number. Rock Sound magazine has picked three of the best bands from across the UK at the moment, and it seems that even the venue roof couldn’t contain its excitement that they were stopping off in Bournemouth. You see, the event was supposed to be held at Champions, but due to a minor roof collapse a last minute relocation to iBar was arranged. And you can’t get more intimate than iBar.

Before the main acts, local band The Blackwater Caravan have been given the task of warming up the crowd. The three lads give a decent performance but seem to be trying too hard to give off an indifferent and sulky vibe. They appear to have just stepped out of their parent’s garage and onto the stage and, whether it’s just nerves or a desperate attempt to appear ‘cool’, the crowd don’t seem convinced.

An entirely different reaction meets Japanese Voyeurs however, as the London five-piece launch into their uniquely hypnotic blend of grunge and metal. Unfortunately due to a few technical issues, front woman Romily Alice’s vocals are inaudible at times. But when she can be heard the crowd are treated to her truly mesmerizing voice. Think a 12-year-old girl trapped in an angry eye-liner clad woman’s body and you wouldn’t be far off. And boy, can that girl head bang. Hauntingly hypnotic, their slightly schizophrenic rock is weird, but in a good way.

Next up is Leeds trio, Dinosaur Pile-Up who also appear to be experiencing some microphone issues. But as soon as they launch into ‘Birds & Planes’, it’s like hearing a long lost friend. Heavily influenced by Foo Fighters and Weezer, DPU are reviving 90s grunge with all its huge riffs and faultless vocals and bringing it to a basement near you. The band appear to be right at home in tonight’s dingy setting which bassist Harry Johns perfectly describes as ‘like playing Lazer Quest’. After the huge teenage anthem that is ‘My Rock N Roll’, Johns launches into the crowd, soon to be followed by front man Matt Bigland, and the pair engage in what can only be described as ‘guitar wrestling’. The fact that they almost knock half the crowd unconscious with the mic stand is irrelevant. Health and safety just ain’t rock n roll dude.

The headliners for tonight have two tough acts to follow, but The Xcerts are more than capable of this challenge. As soon as they begin to make their spectacular noise, they have the crowd firmly in their grasp. Nobody hesitates to take a stride forward on guitarist Murray’s orders, causing everyone in the room to be practically on the stage. Considering that when the Scottish three piece last played iBar there were seven people in the room, three of whom were in the band, then it’s clear the lads have already come a long way. Their set of vibrating distorted pop is scattered with sing-a-long moments that most of the crowd seem to already know, particularly for the superb ‘Slackerpop’, tonight’s true masterpiece.

It’s highly likely that tonight show left everyone present with three new favourite bands. And providing they didn’t do too much damage to their eardrums by being in such close proximity to iBar’s speakers, then hopefully they will be blasting them from their bedroom speakers for years to come.  

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Interview: Everything Everything - so good they named them twice

Rising stars Everything Everything have been travelling across the UK with The Vaccines, Magnetic Man and Crystal Castles as part of the NME Awards Tour 2011. I briefly infiltrated their weird and wonderful world at Bournemouth’s O2 Academy to talk ‘Bizarre ‘n’ B’, sand sculptures and Dave Grohl.

How has the NME Awards Tour been going so far?

Jeremy Pritchard (bass, vocals): We’re on the homeward stretch now.
Jonathan Higgs (vocals, keyboards): It’s been really good. As far as I know, they’ve all been sold out. Except for maybe tonight actually. But it probably will be later, it’s very cold so people will come here for shelter. But it’s been amazing. There have been big venues and big crowds. They’ve been up-for-it young crowds as well so they keep you on your toes. You’ve got to keep them happy.
JP: All the bands are learning from each other as well. Nobody is really doing the same thing as everybody else, everybody occupies their own area.

Have you had much chance for any fun and games with the other bands on the tour?

JP: We have played pool with most of them. We went out with Magnetic Man a couple of times. Jon was out with The Vaccines last night. We’re only ever within 40 yards of each other at any one point. We all travel in convoy.
JH: The buses are all in a line so we sleep right next to each other as well.
JP: You can’t help but exchange information in such close quarters.

Any gossip to share then?

JP: Erm well… all of The Vaccines are women it turns out. Nah not really.
JH: We can’t really think of any.
JP: Because there isn’t any.

You guys are from all over the UK - Manchester, Newcastle and Kent - so where do you consider to be home?

JP: Well the band is from Manchester and then we’re all kind of spread around the country in terms of origin. But we met there and formed there and we live there now.
JH: It’s definitely home for the band, I don’t know if its home for each of us individually. But certainly it’s our musical base.
JP: It’s home for everyone except for Alex (Robertshaw – guitar) I suppose. Alex lives in London and the rest of us are in Manchester.

Where is your favourite place to play out of the three?

JH: Manchester probably. Kent is sadly bereft of any good venues.
JP: We have played my little home town venue a few times now and that’s been great but playing in Manchester is really good for us now. When you play in London there is an inevitable sort of media spotlight. And when your label’s there and your management’s there and everyone is going ‘this is gonna be good’, even if it is good then its slightly tainted.
JH: Newcastle is sort of up and down. It hasn’t really got that many great venues. It needs some better ones.
JP: It needs some good midsized venues and a stronger musical allegiance
JH: It needs a football-music crossover at some point

The band is notoriously hard to pin to any particular genre. So if you could invent a new genre to label yourselves with, what would you call it?

JH: We’ve come up with a couple before. We’ve had ‘Bizarre ‘n’ B’ and ‘Haunted House’.
JP: ‘Haunted House’ is particularly irrelevant.
JH: ‘Bizarre ‘n’ B’ is the best we’ve come up with. The funniest anyway.
JP: It’s not very accurate, like any tags really. People see us as an indie band and that’s fine. We call ourselves a pop band in the broadest possible sense because we’re somewhere in the cannon of popular music of the last 60 years I think.
JH: We’re in there somewhere.

What are your main influences as a band?

JP: There’s all the sort of ‘heart bands’ that you’ll never let go of from your teenage years, like The Beatles.
JH: ‘Heart bands’?
JP: That didn’t come out very well did it?
JH: Bands you love?
JP: Bands you love! Exactly. In an irrational way. Which is a good thing I think. Like Radiohead for all of us. And Michael Jackson and stuff that comes from before a time that you understood what music was or how it was made. It has a sort of magic to it.
JH: Magic music.
JP: Exaclty. So there is all those and then there is lots of other artists that we listened too whilst we were growing up. Post-rock and post-hardcore stuff, math-rock and then all the American R’n’B stuff and jazz and hip hop. We like music!
JH: But at the end of the day, it’s probably Radiohead that we’re always coming back to.
JP: And The Beatles as well.

You write and choreograph your own music videos. Where do you get your inspiration from?

JH: Well we always start with the song. We listen to it and think, visually, what would it need? What could you bring to it that’s not there, or how could you accentuate something that is there. But we’ve actually been lucky with the first two or three videos. For one of them there was certainly a very strong visual idea within the song already so it was just a question of trying to make that happen on the page. The other ones, it just really depends on what it needs. The Schoolin’ video wasn’t quite ready for the public.
JP: HA! This is a good one. We spent quite a lot of money on blowing up a sand sculpture on a beach somewhere around here actually, while we were touring in Europe.
JH: It was a sculpture of a big mammoth in the sand and we blew it up with dynamite. But they only blew its head off because they didn’t put enough dynamite in it.
JP: So they had to build it again and then blew it up more successfully. But then the results were actually incredibly boring. And I’ve never seen the video.
JH: Yea we had to make an animation for that as quickly as we could which was a bit of a close one.
JP: A guy called Nicolas made this really amazing animation for it, which is good because we quite often end up at certain places by accident and we would never normally have commissioned an animator to animate abstract images for a video. But because we ended up in the awkward corner we got a video that we would never normally have commissioned or tried to make ourselves. We’re glad to have our hand forced occasionally, all be it in an expensive way.

You were shortlisted for the BBC Sound of 2010 last year. Do you think it has helped to get your music noticed?

JH: Absolutely. We noticed it the most when we went abroad. Certainly to Europe and even further afield. We didn’t expect that. We didn’t get that with any other accolade. People might know some of our songs but they all know about the BBC list, which is amazing really. It just shows you how far it spreads and really gets your name out there. People respect the BBC a lot and so they see this list every year and track down the people on it, which is great.
JP: We couldn’t believe the clout it holds when you go abroad. We treat it with a bit of healthy cynicism in England. Sort of pretend that you’re not really please about it but then we went abroad and everyone wanted to talk about it.

The Brit Awards took place recently, have you got any favourite British acts out there at the moment?

JP: In the Brit world, not a great deal. It’s not what we involve ourselves with. But we like Take That and we like Muse a bit. We like a lot of pop music but I think it’s unlikely that we’ll ever be welcomed into that world. That’s the true unit shifting pop stars area, and we’re not like that. We’re not good looking enough. Take That are very handsome.

You are nominated for Best New Band at the NME Awards, are you excited for the ceremony?

JP: No, because we’re not going to win. We’re gonna go along and not win. Just drink the free booze and have a nice time and see some people we know and meet some people we don’t know yet. It’s a night out.

Anyone in particular that you’re looking forward to meeting?

JP: Dave Grohl maybe? I think he might be on the list of people that you can’t meet because it would just ruin it. We have a list of people that we really want to meet and a list of people that we really want to meet but can’t. And I think Dave Grohl might be on it.

You played Reading & Leeds Festival last year, have you got any more festivals lined up for this year?

JP: They’re starting to come through now but we can’t really say anything about it yet.
JH: But we will be playing lots and lots of festivals in the sunshine across Europe and the UK.

And have you got any other plans for 2011?

JH: We’re going to Europe almost immediately and then we’re working on new material. And we’re probably going to do some surprise things later in the year that we’re not allowed to say. But our focus is on new material.
JP: …and more touring and festivals. So we’re going to be doing both of those things at once. Which is always a challenge.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Live Review: An electric and eclectic evening at the NME Awards Tour 2011

The indie kids gather with their thick rimmed lenseless glasses and perfectly quaffed hair. The middle aged men showing an interest in ‘what the kids are listening to these days’ sip their pints by the bar. The teenage girls weld their lips to the face of the nearest boy, never coming up for air. It’s time for the Bournemouth leg of the NME Awards Tour 2011.

To kick off the night, The Vaccines supply some standard indie that gets the crowd bouncing. Their set is distinctly lacking in originality and interaction with the crowd. Front man Justin Young also appears to have come dressed as a maths teacher and belts out tunes that are about as interesting as algebra homework. Although they appear to have saved the best songs for last, it is still a rather disappointing start to the evening.

Jump suit clad Everything Everything really get things started with a spellbinding set in glorious technicolour. The band, who come from all over the UK, jokingly label their sound as ‘Bizzare n’ B’, combining glorious synth, haunting melodies and ludicrous lyrics to form music like no other. Closing the set with the superb ‘Photoshop Handsome’, the lads prove just why they deserved their Best New Band nomination.

There is a sudden dramatic shift as the second half of the night begins. The timid or older members of the crowd take a couple of steps back as Magnetic Man, consisting of producers and DJ’s Benga, Skream and Artwork, launch into some filthy dubstep. The entire room vibrates from the floor upwards as the humungous breakdowns take control of the O2 Academy and things start to get seriously sweaty just in time for headline act, Crystal Castles.

With Alice on crutches because of a broken ankle, her performance is much more subdued than usual, but the same cannot be said for the music. The Canadian electro duo take dance music to a whole new level with perfectly crafted tracks that pulse though every cell in your body. Towards the end of the set it becomes difficult to remember just how then evening started and, after a stomping encore, Alice leaves the stage not only clutching a bottle of whisky, but also the admiration of the crowd.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Click For Free Download

Pasta for dinner every day, only using one sheet of toilet paper at a time, wearing three hoddies at once to save you having to put the heating on. We all know that budget is tight. So when bands offer us music for the price of a glass of tap water – that’s ‘free’ for those of you who only drink the stronger stuff – it’s time to rejoice!

The free download offer is becoming increasingly common of late, particularly with those up-and-coming bands. Many simply require you to give them your email address or ‘Like’ their Facebook page in return for a track, but of course you can always send the emails to your junk mail folder or unfriend them once you’ve bagged the freebies. Best of all, it’s legal. So no guilty conscious.

Here are some recent gems you can get your hands on for nothing…

These Welsh rockers are in fact, not exactly an up-and-coming band, with five successful albums and some pretty impressive festival slots under their belts. Nevertheless, they have still decided to give the fans this track, taken from their next album 'Welcome Home Armageddon' which is due for release on March 14th.

Here is another generous Welsh wonder. These six lads from Merthyr Tydfil deliver stomping hardcore anthems, and this one is absolutely free. Their live shows are always fantastic too, filled with tremendous energy and lots of comedy banter between the two front men, Gavin Butler and Sean Smith. 

Grunge punk band Lower Than Atlantis’ debut album ‘Far Q’ has received great reviews for its angst and lyrical genius. But the band also decided to release an EP of cover songs, and give it away for free. The EP includes their own take on classics such as The Police's 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', Foo Fighter's 'Everlong’ and Paramore's 'That's What You Get'.

Opinionated ska punk band, The King Blues, have released an anthem for all those student protesters and government haters out there, and the message is pretty clear. Definitely ‘throw your fist in the air and kick a bin’ music.  

The lovely lads in Canterbury are probably the most generous of all. They made their entire debut album available for free online. Every song on the record is brilliantly catchy and the band have achieved huge success from it. Support slots with the likes of You Me At Six have proved that.