Alternative Friday

Spreading the word about great new music

GeraintRhysQnA3

I will always argue that music should make people think, but I also want them to dance too.

Take a mix of reggae, folk, rock and pop influences, and infuse them with the politically aware lyrics of people like Morrissey, Frank Turner, and Joe Strummer, and you have Geraint Rhys from South Wales. I’ve already featured him for Fresh on the Net, while he was here last year in New Tunes #34. He’s just released an excellent debut album, with his band The Lost Generation, called All That Is Left Is Us, so read on to find out more about the album, as well as to uncover what butternut squash, a lobotomy, and mind reading have to do with rock ‘n’ roll?!

Website | iTunes | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

~ Where are you right now, and what can you see?
I’m at my desk doing ‘work’, and from the headlines in the tabloids what I can see is the supposed coming of the apocalypse fuelled by immigrants, refugees, benefit cheats and bacon sandwiches.


~ What’s the best advice you’ve received about making music?

At the moment there are many people like myself who are DIY musicians doing everything from writing their own music, to creating their own websites, doing their own marketing, promotion, getting gigs etc so I feel like I’m learning new stuff everyday and picking up advice from people all the of time.

One of my friends told me to be patient with everything you do and I think that is advice I often forget. There are many steps to self-releasing your own music and it’s very easy to want to try and get everything done as soon as you can so others can hear it. But by rushing things you inevitably make mistakes. Make sure you do things right and how you want them, even if it takes a bit more time.

~ What did you found most challenging about making the debut album?
As this is my first musical project, everything was a challenge but also a great opportunity to learn how to do and not to do things. When I moved back to Wales after living in Edinburgh for a while I had these songs which I had written which I wanted to turn into an album, but had never stepped foot in a studio or played my music with other musicians before.

So I really had to start from scratch. Writing the songs is the easiest part and the most pleasurable. Plus the world is such a fucked up but yet beautiful place to live in there’s inspiration on every street corner.

It’s the practicalities which I find are the most challenging. First I had to find a studio and musicians. I luckily found a place in Newport called Junkyard Studios and met up with a great musician and drummer called Steve Eyers who was really supportive and played a lot of the instruments on the album.

Musically the most challenging part as a solo artist is translating exactly what’s in your head to other people. What I have learnt however is that although you must take on other people’s opinions, at the end of the day you have to go with your gut and just do what feels right with you.

Logistically, the most challenging part is then finding the right people to help you make your vision a reality. One of my friends Luke Slade is a great graphic designer who designed all the album artwork and these things are also really important to get organized. When you surround yourself with other creative people good things will come of it.

The whole of this debut album has taken me two years which is a long time. But now I have a band in place and I know a bit more about how the process of being in a studio works as well as all the other intricacies that go into making your own CD, the next album will take nowhere near as long. I’ve already written 2/3’s of it and I’m already really excited about it.

~ Your videos are both simple yet highly polished and very watchable. Who came up with the concepts for them, and do you find performing for camera as easy as being on stage?

I have been working with a great South Wales director called Simon Bartlett and it’s always fun when we get together and make the videos. I will usually go to him with an idea and we will sit down and chat for a few months about what we want to do and how we want to do it and then we just get out there and do it.

It’s a really exciting process because we don’t have any budget and just rely on the visions we have in our heads and the good will of our friends and the great actors we have so far had the pleasure of working with.

For me, lyrics are really important in my music and in both the videos for ‘Think Again’ and ‘Take Your Time’, conveying this has really been a priority and a challenge. For our next video for the song ‘The Lost Generation’ we are moving away from showing the lyrics but still want the meaning of the song to be central to the whole experience. Music videos I think need to aesthetically compliment a song and as you can tell by the title, this next one is going to get more political.

Luckily I won’t be in it much as I find it very awkward to be in front of camera.

 

~ Which famous song by another artist would you love to have written yourself?
Currently I can’t get the song Johnny and Mary by Robert Palmer out of my head. I love the lyrics and simplicity of the song but it manages to conjure up a lot of atmosphere. I don’t understand how the same man wrote Addicted to Love.

~ What’s the best gig you’ve been to?
I just saw Manic Street Preachers play the whole of the Holy Bible in Cardiff Castle which was pretty special as that album has been so influential on my music and my life in general. Another quite special gig I was lucky to see was Daft Punk in 2007 under the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, both visually and sonically it was pretty amazing.

Sometimes however I find the best gigs are those where you are blown away by an amazing support act who you have never heard of. I went to see the guitarist Kaki King in Manchester a few years back and her support was Anna Calvi. I was mesmerized for the whole performance and couldn’t take my eyes off of her, it was so powerful. She later went on to be nominated for two mercury prizes so I was lucky I guess to see her at the beginning.

~ If you could curate a festival stage, what five bands/artists would you invite to perform?
1) David Byrne & St Vincent (I loved the Brass album they did together ‘Love This Giant’ and was gutted to not see them perform it live)
2) John Cale (Either performing the whole of Paris 1919 with a full orchestra or to see him play through the whole of ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ just himself and a Viola)
3) Jimmy Eat World (Their album clarity is one of my favourite albums. It would however take a lot for me to not get on stage and steal the mic and try wail my way through their whole set)
4) Chromeo (Because they would simply make everyone dance)
5) One Direction (Although I couldn’t name you any of their songs I would have them on stage because they will a) make me a lot of money and b) I would love to see the faces (and tears) of their fans having to sit through an angry John Cale performing ‘Venus in Furs’. They might even have a revelation moment and realise what good music is.

~ Are there any other new bands or musicians from the Swansea / South Wales area you that you recommend we check out?
There’s a good scene in South Wales at the moment. Someone I really like is a songwriter called Kizzy Crawford. I am lucky enough to have her as my support act for my album launch and recommend people check her out. She has a great voice and is creating some really innovative stuff.


~ What are your musical Guilty Pleasures? Don’t panic, no one will read this!

Kanye West. He is clearly bit of an anus but he has made some pretty good music and really innovative and lyrically interesting albums. Also Whitney Houston’s song ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ does exactly what the title says, it makes me want to dance.

~ Do you have any hidden talents you’d like to reveal to the world?
I can read the minds of animals.

~ What’s the least ‘rock thing’ you’ve done in the last week?
I cooked a butternut squash thai green curry. It tasted acceptable.

~ What would it take for you to do Eurovision?
Probably a lobotomy immediately after the experience so I can forget what just happened.

The tracks in this latest mixtape vary from the noisy to the mellow, and include some cosmic gospel and good old indie. All of them, however, contain melodies that should grab you by the short and curlies. Enjoy…


Tall Ships – Will To Life
Short Skirts – Far Side of Mexico
Ross Trigwell – Fear is Blind
The Bloom – How It Starts
Vienna Ditto – Long Way Down
Josh Newell-Brown – Shine
Foggy City Orphan – Rocket
EofE – Wake up
Scarlett Parade – Hold On
Poor Things – No Way José

Musician.
London.

Is that it??

When I write new music articles I try to avoid making them the length of War & Peace [hallelujah! Ed], and instead I leave the music to do most of the talking, both here and in my Fresh on the Net posts. I do like to research the artists though, to both learn more about them, as well as to hear additional tracks.

It’s therefore hugely frustrating when I can find barely any information about them… nothing… zilch… yet surely they want both reviewers and new fans to know something beyond just the music, and to engage and inform them, don’t they?

 

So when artist pages, whether on their own site, Soundcloud profile, Facebook ‘About’ page, or even Twitter profile, have little more than links to other sites and pages which have an identical absence of information, I just want to scream [very similar to your singing then, Ed]! They’ve made a great record, and myself and other writers/bloggers love it, but we’d like to know more about them than just the fact they’re from “London”, or noting a link to their Soundcloud page which has an identical (lack of) ‘profile’. Here are some examples of sadly wasted opportunities to add even a snippet of information to reviewers, and also further inspire their listeners…

BandBiog2

BandBiog1

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Now don’t get me wrong. Myself and other visitors don’t need the drummer’s inside leg measurement, but the amount of times I’ve either written or read a review that has included the phrase “I’d like to tell you something about the artist, but…” is far more regular than it should be!

So musicians, please have another look at your various profile pages, and then spend just fifteen or so minutes adding a bit more colour, which could include information such as:

~ where you’re from
~ when and how you got together
~ links to where we can stream or buy your music
~ links to and from all your other online pages… soundcloud, bandcamp, facebook, twitter, youtube etc
~ your genre and influences
~ a bit about your backstory
~ details about your debut track or EP release, or a mini discography (if suitable)
~ a flavour of the type of subjects you tend to write about
~ your live ‘flakiness’ rating*
~ upcoming live dates and venues
~ venues you’ve played live at
* the likelihood of fans sustaining a mosh pit injury at one of your gigs – useful for older gits like me!

 

Some of you may think I’m being overly fussy about finding stuff about you, but I know I’m not alone in being frustrated when information is absent, as a number of my colleagues at Fresh on the Net feel the same way. Tom Robinson even wrote some advice on the subject back in 2012.

Mind you, it could be worse… last year I caught an impressive new local band live, but when I spoke to them afterwards to find out the best interweb places to hear their music, and to find out more about them, I was told that they intentionally had NO online presence at all.

Facepalm

This month’s mixtape isn’t just another eclectic mix of great new music, but takes us on a global tour too, stopping off in Tokyo, Sydney, & LA, plus Cardiff, Liverpool, & London! Pack your suitcase and enjoy…

 


Jingo – A.D.D.
DMA’s – Feels Like 37
The Black Leaders – My Best Friend
XY&O – Low Tide
Freddie Dickson – Speculate
Hodges – All Up With You
Doc Hartley – Come On
Polar States – Vines
Darkbeat – See Them Now
Saint Motel – Ace in the Hole

The eclectic mix in this latest New Tunes post covers numerous bases, including indie pop, post-punk, and an electro ballad. I love them all, and so I hope you do too… however, which one shouldn’t you play to your nan!

Chase the Deer – Bad Date
Bad Date is the second single from Worcester 5-piece Chase the Deer, and was written “for everyone who has ever taken the risk of going on a date, only to deeply regret the decision within minutes”! It’s a wonderful piece of infectious indie pop, reminiscent of The Primitives, which presents a classic dilemma… do you find an excuse to leave or do you try to salvage something by heading for the dance floor? “Come on let’s dance, get up and dance”.
Website | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook

 

Plastique – Quake
This track will certainly hit the spot if you love hi-energy electro post-punk. Plastique are an Anglo Brazilian trio, while Quake is three minutes of attitude on an industrial scale, full of bruised lyrics and dark synth driven hooks. You should love this, but I don’t recommend you play it to your nan!
Website | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook

 

Border Scout – Hold Your Fire
This is an epic but tender electro ballad, with warm vocals, driving cinematic orchestration, and highly polished production. It’s surely a perfect song anytime of the day, but it possibly sounds best (becoming a huge earworm too) late at night. Dazzling.
Website | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook

 

True Adventures – North Atlantic Ocean
North Atlantic Ocean is the debut single from True Adventures, aka Norfolk singer-songwriter Sam Leonard, which in his own words, is “a poignantly relatable tale of ambition and love in the cold, wet face of the humdrum”. The video compliments the track quite perfectly too. Hugely impressive!
Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

We’ve created another YouTube video playlist featuring an eclectic mix of great new music, so whatever your preferences there should be something for you. Enjoy!

Click to see the first and second playlists in full, or just play them below…

(Legal disclaimer: Alternative Friday do not endorse any adverts contained within the videos, unless they’re actually quite useful)

 

 

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Described as “two of London’s best kept secrets“, guitarist/composer Justin Quinn and vocalist/songwriter Tim Dickinson, aka The Wealden, release their debut EP – Rushes – on April 20th, which contains four tracks that David’s Bowie and Bryne would be proud of, so impressive is the art-funk-pop-rock they’ve created. They’re far from newcomers to music though, as their eclectic experiences vary from rock to opera via jazz, and to performing with Jack Bruce, Hugh Cornwell, and the BBC Concert orchestra!

Read on though, as we take in the Battle of Agincourt, the concourse at St. Pancras, obnoxious gasses, secretive hidden talents… and Seb Rochford’s hair!

Website | iTunes EP | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | Justin Quinn | Tim Dickinson

 

~ You both have a rich musical background, but how long have you known each other, and what made you decide to come together late last year as The Wealden?
JQ (Justin Quinn): We met for the first time in 2007 when we were both living near each other in west London. Tim knew my playing from an album I made in 2005 called “Before I Forget” with Bakehouse, and as soon as I heard his solo record “A little bit of Darkness” I became an instant fan. We fooled around with different ideas for a few years, just on and off, in between our own gigs. I played lap-steel in Tim’s band The Silverlining which was an acoustic folk kind of thing and he guested with The Teak Project which was my main project at that time.

The idea for The Wealden came about after I did a gig with Jack Bruce. I hadn’t played that kind of music for so long; you know, “rocking-out”, playing “Sunshine of Your Love” at Birmingham Town hall, it was just so much fun, it reminded me why I started playing the guitar in the first place and was the motivation to start thinking about forming a band… It was a given for me that Tim would be the “front man” but it just took a while to find the right bass player and drummer…

TD (Tim Dickinson): Any opportunity to work with Justin is one worth seizing upon. There’s no definitive statement to be made, just innumerable, exciting possibilities.

~ I recently (on Fresh on the Net) described your sound as “alternafunk”, but how would you best describe your music, and what would you say are the main influences on your sound?
JQ: I usually say it’s “alternative rock”, but I like “alternafunk” I’d love it if it was something different to everyone.
I can’t remember the exact quote but Stravinsky said something about limitations being a creative gift and I sort-of feel like the process of creating “the sound of The Wealden” was about imposing limitations on what we were doing. Or to think of it another way, we decided what it wasn’t going to sound like and then worked with whatever was left over. Once we stripped away a lot of musical interference then it all felt pretty natural. I think we ended up unconsciously drawing inspiration from music we loved as teenagers. There’s definitely some Police, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Cream, Bowie, in the mix and then some more contemporary influences like Phoenix & Everything Everything. What else have I missed Tim?

TD: You’ve missed out Radiohead, but we’ll bring you round eventually…

 

 

~ When you wrote the songs on the EP, was it an organised occasion where you sat down and decided to write a song or two, or was it more a case of being inspired or moved by something, and then getting the feelings onto paper and as a song as quickly as possible?
JQ: They mostly started out as sketches of mine, some of them more fully formed than others. I took them along to a couple of rehearsals near the village of Weald in Kent (hence the name) and we basically fleshed out the arrangements together with drummer Brad Webb & bassist Chris Hill. Tim would improvise words and melodies which he would then go away and develop. We recorded everything so we could afford to just have fun, and then just decide later what worked and what didn’t… Some of the musical ideas were off-cuts from previous projects of mine but as soon as Tim got his hands on them they took on a whole new life.

We both tend to record ideas on our phones wherever we are, so we end up with lots of small ideas for songs which we then play to each other.

~ What did you find most challenging about making the debut EP and album?
JQ: The challenges have come in phases. The writing and playing were the easy bits, but trying to be the recording engineer, producer, label manager, and coffee-boy all at the same time is enough to drive you crazy. Scheduling has probably been the single most challenging part. Ha! It sounds silly but just finding the time to finish it has been an unbelievable feat… Tim and I are always working flat-out and Brad & Chris who were integral to this first set of songs were on tour all the time, so I still can’t believe that we got anything finished.

TD: Hats off to Justin here, who is the turbine of the whole endeavour. I find any extra-musical aspect of the process immensely frustrating and almost counter-creative, so Justin has to be extremely patient with me, or just ignore me entirely!

 

~ Without realising it until recently, I believe I’ve seen Justin play live twice, as part of Tom Hickox’s band. The first occasion was at the 2,500 capacity Troxy (supporting Richard Hawley), while the second was on the concourse at St. Pancras train station in London! How did you get to work and perform with Tom Hickox, and what are your memories of performing in two such varied venues?

JQ: The gig with Tom came about through Brad & Chris. (again). I did a last minute gig with Brad’s sisters (The Webb Sisters) which involved lots of instruments, banjo, lap-steel etc, and I think that’s what got me the gig with Tom.

I have to confess that I asked a friend of mine to cover the guitar duties on that Troxy gig as I had a gig somewhere else, (sorry to disappoint) but I did virtually all Tom’s gigs in 2013/14 which included some big ones like Graves Park in Sheffield & Somerset House in London, both big outdoor gigs opening for Hawley…

We played so many different kinds of venues… I’ve done a few of those strange “public-space” gigs like St Pancras station over the years, once I played with some musicians from the LPO in Elephant & Castle shopping centre! It’s always very odd, musically you try to give the same quality of performance that you would in an intimate club but all around are people coming and going, some stop and stare and you have no idea if they are into the music or if you’d be better of performing circus tricks. Sometimes the first slot on the main stage of a festival can feel very similar, you may be playing to more than 3000 people but you don’t know if they are listening or just on their way to the beer tent.

Tom and I also played a few nice dates supporting Mathew E. White, my favourites were always the small ones where you knew that people were really listening… Tom’s music has a lot of nuance to it, so it only works when people pay attention.

~ Tim’s musical background and CV is highly eclectic, but do you have a musical environment that you feel most comfortable with, and do you have any interesting stories of your time with any of the well-known musicians you have performed with?
TD: I feel most comfortable working shoulder-to-shoulder with others, collaborating and being part of an ensemble. No real interest in being a “soloist” or guest artist… which reminds me of a time I was engaged to be just that, along with an ex-Strangler, who saw fit to pollute the green room with an obnoxious pre-show dump before he and the rest of the line-up went out on stage, leaving me to breathe shallowly and contemplate far far better places and far far greater things I could’ve been doing!

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~ What do you both do to relax away from music?
JQ: My main escape from music usually involves some kind of elaborate “make-believe” games with my kids…
TD: I don’t ever feel very far away from music, actually, but I like a good superhero yarn if I want to escape for a little while. I often use one genre of music or music-making to escape from another.

~ Are there any other artists from London or Kent you recommend we check out?
JQ: I have to confess that I’m a little out of touch, except for projects by friends of mine, such as Arch Birds… aka Brad Webb & Chris Hill (again), while I’ve worked a little with a singer-songwriter called Dan Clews who’s worth checking out if you can catch one of his solo gigs. I’m also a big fan of Olivia Chaney who has a new album coming out soon.

~ Given your wide-ranging musical experiences, where have been the most impressive and enjoyable venues you have performed live in?
JQ: The Royal Albert Hall has to be the most impressive for me, I’ve played there a couple of times and the view of the auditorium from the stage is just amazing… At the opposite end of the spectrum the 55bar in New York was really great fun to play, the vibe is fantastic and it’s so small that the audience have to walk through the band to use the toilets…
TD: The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is a phenomenal hall.

 

~ If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
JQ: Blimey, that’s a big question… can you ask me again in 6 months time?
We are on the brink of trying to launch The Wealden on a shoestring budget with no manager, no label & no publisher…
I feel like any minute now Kenneth Branagh should jump out and deliver his famous Battle of Agincourt speech to the troops from Shakespeares Henry V… (one of the few things I can remember from GCSE English)

 

It’s a call to battle… as if we alone are taking on the whole industry, trying to break through all the noise and compete with the huge marketing budgets of the major labels. Of course we aren’t alone, for better or worse there are thousands of bands and artists trying to do the same thing all at the same time. I’d like to believe that it’s possible for quality music to trump big marketing budgets, but hey, let’s wait and see if Tim & I survive the frontline.

~ If you could curate a festival stage, what six artists would you invite to perform?

JQ: Only six, jeez that’s cruel! I could think of 60… how’s about Punch Brothers, Vicente Amigo, John Taylor.
TD: Ha! I’d curate a jazz tent, for sure. Maybe all guitar players! Maybe I’d try and get the three surviving members of Paul Bley’s Quartet (John Surman, Bill Frisell, and Bley) together. Maybe I’d just have an ECM love-in.

~ Do either of you have any hidden talents?
JQ: No
TD: No!

~ What song would you sing at a karaoke if no one you knew was watching?
JQ: Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
TD: I could make something up, but the honest answer is My Way, I’m afraid.

~ Whose hair would you like to have for just one day?
JQ: Seb Rochford (Polar Bear, below)
TD: Wait, what? On my head? In a drawer? In a locket? Nobody’s hair!

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