Alternative Friday

because great new music doesn’t always get the exposure it deserves

The man behind Eitha Da is Wrexham musician Ben Dempsey Sawin, formerly of the cosmic garage-punk quartet Mowbird. This new project keeps him close to his roots, as Southern Fried Ruthin is a raucous 90 seconds of hook-laden garage rock, with the wonderful inclusion of a Hammond style keyboard too. The track comes from a debut album, VOMA, due out on 2nd March, and is included in this Showreel post because the video by Tommy Husband captures the fuzzy nature of the track just perfectly.

I hear you calling out for more…

 

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True Adventures, aka Norfolk based singer-songwriter Sam Leonard, first appeared here a few years ago, where he won a 2015 Award for his quite wonderful debut single, North Atlantic Ocean. He then took a break but is now back with the outstanding Down The Line, so read on to find out more about the new track, upcoming EP, his ability to talk(?), and the reason for that break!

 

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~ Where are you right now, and what can you see?
I’m at my girlfriend’s house in Norfolk, I can see a garden that has been flooded due to torrential rain! My one-year-old old daughter is ‘helping’ her Granddad with the cleaning up.

~ What’s the background to True Adventures?
I’ve been in a few bands over the years, they haven’t worked out for one reason or another. So I decided to go solo, it’s nice in one way as you get to do things your own way…but at the same time it can be a bit lonely! True Adventures is named after a British Sea Power song, I’ve never wanted to work under my own name, it’s useful to have a secret identity.

~ Where did the influences come from when you were writing the tracks for the next EP?
Sometimes you get into a rut as a songwriter, you get bored with your own process. So in order to mix things up I bought an electric guitar and started experimenting with different tunings. Most of them I borrowed from Nick Drake. I learned that in the end it still comes out sounding like you, it’s just refreshing to take a different route to get there.

~ The production quality on the single is very high, so would you say you’re a perfectionist?
I learned a while back that I’m no DIY artist. It’s great that so many people can produce such brilliant records from their bedroom or even their phone…but I’m not one of them. I was lucky enough to work with David Pye, he took Down The Line to a place I never imagined. He’s also enough of a perfectionist for both of us.

~ As evidenced in the videos to Down The Line and North Atlantic Ocean, the visual side to your work seems as important as the musical side, but aside from being a promotional tool what do the videos add?
I was finding increasingly difficult to get out and gig due to day job and family commitments, so I thought I’d try and get my music out there in another way. Turns out that working with filmmakers is great fun, my new video was a brilliant project to work on, we hired a lighthouse, found an actor on the internet. It’s just another excuse to mess about and make something interesting.

~ You’ve have had a break since the release of North Atlantic Ocean in 2015, so what have you been up to, and what are your plans for 2018?
I actually recorded a bunch of new material straight after North Atlantic Ocean but also became a father for the first time, so I was (happily) distracted for a while. It’s been a long year or so of walking round the park and listening to podcasts, I’m really happy/nervous to be releasing something again.

~ If you could collaborate with a famous musician or band, who would it be?
Seeing as I’m named after one of their songs it would have to be British Sea Power, I’d love to do something like their ‘Sea of Brass’ album, working with a traditional brass band.

~ Are there any other new bands or musicians local to you in the Norwich area that you recommend we check out?
You should definitely check out Birds of Hell, it’s like the Lion from Oz has gone rogue and bought an effects pedal.

~ If you were invited to curate a festival stage, who would you invite to perform?
St Vincent
Courtney Barnett
Big Thief
Nadine Shah
Ezra Furman

~ As mentioned above, you’ve recently become a Dad – congratulations – so how have you found parenthood so far, and how many minutes of sleep have you managed since the birth!?
It’s the most difficult and most fun thing I’ve ever done. Sleep deprivation does strange things to you!

~ Aside from music, do you have any other creative skills? (or obscure talents!)
Does talking count as a talent? I can talk my way in and out of any situation.

~ Which TV character would you most identify yourself with?
Definitely Milhouse Van Houten

I sense it’s going to be another wonderful year of music as 2018 has kicked off with an outstanding array of new tracks, and it was was a challenge to whittle it down to these ten. So jump on board and take in a variety of sounds, from indie and alt rock, to Latin and Afrobeat, via artpop and electronica. Enjoy…

 


Giant Party – White Ink
The Howl & The Hum – Portrait I
Kyoti – Avalon
Kokoroko – Abusey Junction
Mugen – Commentary
Eitha Da – Southern Fried Ruthin
Penya – Search It Out
Red Rum Club – Calexico
The Homegrown – Some People
Adannay – Her Favourite Song

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This soul-splashed indie 4-piece from London is made up of (left ro right); Mark Hyden (guitar), Hugh Fox (drums), Tim Harrod (keys, synth, backing vox), and Allan Harrod (lead vox, guitar, keys). They released their self-titled EP in August 2017 to widespread acclaim and radio play, while the track Ambulances made our Best of 2017 Mixtape too.

 

 

They’ve now kicked of the New Year by raising the bar higher still with the release of the outstanding White Ink, which is a more energetic and meatier beast than the hypnotic and ambient electronica influenced tracks from the EP, such as Ambulances. If I call Giant Party’s contagious and 80’s influenced sound ‘indie dance’ it’s certainly accurate, but possibly does it a disservice as it barely covers the multitude of exotic layers within their music. Either way they’ve struck gold with their fusion of funky soul and indie rock, and seem set for great things in 2018!

 

 

As for their live performances – oh my giddy Aunt – I caught them a few times last year and can vouch they’re outstanding! This is not just because of the quality of the songs and musicianship, but also because their frontman, Allan, puts in the wildest of displays that makes Sam Herring (Future Islands) seem rather bashful by comparison!

Definitely ones to watch, and do catch them now… before they’re huge!

San Blas are a 4-piece ukulele rock band from London and Hertfordshire who first appeared here in 2016, and then in an Emerging artists piece, as well as to win a 2017 Award for their outstanding debut EP Draw, Win, or Lose! They now face a Q&A, so read on to find out more about the band, the EP, tropical islands, and, er… San Blasta Pasta!

 

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~ What’s the musical background to the four of you, and how did you get together?
We have all been very musical from a young age. Sam played drums and sung in his first band in high school while at the same time the two Chris’ were in rival bands playing their respective instruments; electric guitar and drums. Sam moved over from Australia 4 years ago and started the band with his cousin (Rob) who played acoustic guitar. Wanting to add drums to the lineup Sam asked Chris Smith (an old family friend) if he knew anyone, and after coming to watch an open mic show, Chris Hammond jumped on board. Naturally feeling left out, Smith literally went and bought a bass the next day, and the lineup was complete! After Rob left last year, Smith moved back onto his preferred electric guitar and our good old pal Jamie, who had been playing guitar since he was 7, decided he would pick up the bass for the first time and fill in the missing piece!

~ Where does the name San Blas come from, and why did you pick it?
Sam first started writing songs 6 years ago with a few of his friends on a trip throughout the west coast of America, and then through Central America. After 3 months of travelling and singing their way through every hostel they found, they ended up on the islands of San Blas off the coast of Panama. It was here on this tropical island, when seeing a hut being burnt down by a local tribe cos a member hadn’t paid some island tax, Sam had the idea for the concept of ‘ukulele rock’ – there was something about the juxtaposition of paradise vs human intervention that really resonated with him about western society, and the thought of combining the natural beautiful tones of the ukulele and mixing it with the harshness of british rock n’ roll seemed like it could potentially capture this idea. It wasn’t for another year when the first incarnation of the band needed a name for their first gig that naturally Sam felt it just had to be San Blas.

 

~ You say it has “taken over 6 years to develop a concept”, but why, and did you ever go in any other directions?
Having an idea to do something, and then trying to do it, is incredibly different, and massively time consuming! Finishing uni degrees and trying to convince people of a concept that only exists in one person’s head has meant finding the right people to get on board has taken a lot of time. This is arguably the 4th incarnation of the band and each step of the way has created new problems and challenges. Getting the right sound has been by far the biggest challenge, and the evolution of it all has been such a slow process but at the same time it has been the most rewarding part of it because we have learnt so much, and we can be proud that we have done everything independently and with genuine friends.

~ What did you find most challenging about making the EP?
Definitely capturing the ukulele sound. There was a lot of trial and error, and we even tried recording with a couple of different sound engineers in various different studios to try and find that perfect sound. We got very lucky in becoming friends with a sound engineer who is an absolute genius, and he fortunately came up with the answer and we couldn’t have been more happier with the sound of it in the end!

~ If you could play live at any venue in the UK, where would it be?
Cavern Club in Liverpool is always high on the list just because of it’s history, but I think Brixton Academy would be a pretty special day if we ever got to play there!!

~ If you were appearing on ‘Later with Jools Holland’, which track from the EP would you choose to perform?
Definitely ‘Drive‘ – that song has basically everything we could wish to showcase to someone watching us for the first time. The dynamics of the acoustic guitar and the ukulele flowing over each other, vocal harmonies, and then the addition of the electric guitar and horn section at the end would be really something special to capture live on TV. Especially with the meaning of that song being about Rob’s mum who passed away from cancer a few years ago, it would also just be such an emotionally powerful moment for our families as well.

 

~ Are there any other new bands or musicians local to you in London or Hertfordshire that you recommend we check out?
There are so many it’s actually not funny! Our favourites at the moment though are our friends Berries, and Concrete Caverns, they are both bringing proper electric guitar music back and are incredible live! Another one we got lucky to play with last year was Longy & the Gospel Trash – if you have a chance to see them live do it, Longy genuinely blew all of us away and is very unique.

~ If you could collaborate with a famous musician, who would it be?
We all have so many different influences that we have such different answers to this question! But we definitely all agree though that doing something massively epic with Hans Zimmer would be the number 1 dream!

~ What’s the most impressive thing any of you can cook?
None of us are really the best of chefs, so usually when we get together we will head to Tesco’s and get some tortellini and a bunch of those pre packed boxes of olives, sun dried tomatoes and stuffed peppers with feta – chuck them all together and you have one amazing San Blasta Pasta 😉

~ If you could each have a superpower for a day, what would it be?
Somehow we all agreed freezing time would be the best thing ever – I think working in London has something to do with that!

~ Which famous person would you love to get to drive the tour bus?
Donald trump – so we can keep him away from the button!

~ What are your plans for 2018?
We have spent so much time preparing the EP and evolving our live sound over the last year that we just want to get out and start gigging everywhere and anywhere now! Hopefully we can play some festivals and do a little UK tour this year, but then we are aiming to enter the recording studio again before the end of the year – we have already started preparing EP#2 so we really can’t wait to get back in there!

Last year was undoubtedly an outstanding one for new and emerging musicians, as highlighted in my Best of 2017 Soundcloud and Spotify playlists, but there were numerous late entries that make this first Mixtape of the New Year, covering numerous sounds from folk rock & pop to some epic ukulele & dark Belgian disco! Roll on 2018…

 


Victoria – Temperature
Frozen Nation – Come To The Ride
Lewis Bootle – Routes
San Blas – Drive
The Cairds – All Fall Down
LA River Bend – Summer Wind
Pip Hall – Ill At Ease
Violet – Feel
The King’s Parade – Night Calls
Birdyhop – On the Street Where You Live

The Evolving Tunes playlist has done exactly that during 2017, so as the year draws to a close we’ve created a selection of the best tracks to have appeared this year. It contains a wide array of genres, so dive in, enjoy, and keep an eye on the main playlist during 2018 for more talented new and emerging musicians.

 

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