Alternative Friday

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

photo by Paul Blakemore

Run Logan Run are a Bristol duo made up of Andrew Hayes on saxophone & FX, and Dan Johnson on drums & percussion, and together they play a wonderfully heavy & instrumental mix of spiritual jazz. I’ve previously described them as being placed “somewhere between Melt Yourself Down and Yussef Kamaal“, but you can make up your own mind, as they’ve just released their debut LP ‘The Delicate Balance of Terror‘, which was recorded live at London’s Total Refreshment Centre. They’re touring the UK this month in support of the release, but they’ve also taken time to face a Q&A, so read on to find more about the duo, album, off stage style… and vegetables!

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~ What’s the background to Run Logan Run & how did you first meet?
Dan: We met at a funk/soul jam session about 3-4 years ago now. We started out as a strictly improv duo, but here and there ideas came up that we really liked so we decided to start incorporating composition as well.

We’ve both been in a bunch of bands/duos in the past and still play with other projects now. We both have a history of playing in a really broad range of genres, and I believe that this is one of the key factors when it comes to our music, we’re both open to everything.

We’ve both also done lots of solo work, Andy has a solo show coming up in June, and I have a solo tape that should be out towards the end of the year.

~ What’s your usual writing style, and how did the tracks for the album come together?
Dan: We pretty much write everything together in the practice room. Occasionally one of us may bring an idea to the table but most things come through improvising together.

Most of the album was written this way about two weeks before the recording was scheduled, and the last track ‘Cleansing’ was improvised on the last day in the studio, the version on the album is the first and only take of the track.

 

 

~ What did you find most challenging about making the album?

Dan: For me the biggest challenge was the combination of brand new material and only 3 days to record. The songs were so new, I didn’t feel like I was very good at playing them at the time, plus not having much studio time meant that I had to make some quick decisions re: composition/drum parts.

Andrew: I was super excited to be working with the guys at Total Refreshment Centre so I guess the the most challenging thing for me was to stay calm enough to get in the right headspace to play!

~ You’re touring the UK at the moment, so how would you best describe your live performances to someone who’s yet to see you?

Dan: The live show is where it’s at for me, the album is killer but it represents a time in space, it is what is is…the live shows are always evolving…the live shows are now, the album is then.

~ If you could add a third musician for a day, who would it be?

Dan: I think Keiji Haino or Suzanne Ciani would have cool ideas.

Andrew: Bon Iver because his voice is DEEP

~ Which spiritual/crossover jazz or heavier instrumental albums have influenced your sound?

Colin Stetson ‘New History Warfare Vol. 1, 2 & 3’
Pharaoh Sanders ‘Tauhid’, ’Journey to the One’
Alice Coltrane ’World Galaxy’
Sonic Youth ‘Evol’
Can ‘Ege Bamyasi’
Lightning Bolt ‘Wonderful Rainbow’
Boris ‘Akuma No Uta’
Pauline Oliveros ‘Deep Listening’
Fire with Oren Ambarchi ‘In the Mouth – A Hand’

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

Andrew:
Black Pus
Nik Bartsch
Benjamin Clementine
Dan:
Julianna Barwick
BORIS
Ata Kak

~ Are there any other new bands or musicians local to you in Bristol, or wider south west area, that you recommend we check out?
Yes…
Hysterical Injury
Kuro
The Brackish
Yama Warashi
Greg Cordez
Modulus III
Mermaid Chunky
Harrga
Jesuits
Thought Forms
Harpoon
Bloom Collective

~ What’s the most impressive thing either of you can cook?

Dan: I’m just happy that I like to eat vegetables now!

Andrew: I used to cook quite good but my girlfriend has ruined me. She spoils me rotten with amazing food all the time.

~ Your music is instrumental, however what song / guilty pleasure would you sing at a karaoke?

Andrew – Fleetwood Mac ‘Go Your Own Way’.

Dan – Ariel Pink ‘Feels Like Heaven’ it’s not a guilty pleasure, I just love it.

~ Which other double act best resembles the two of you (off stage)?

Dan: First one I thought of was Scooby & Shaggy, it made us laugh.

photo by Jonathan Willoughby

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Phoenix is a 23-year old songwriter and singer from Watford, who is making some wonderfully soulful & emotive pop music, as evidenced in her debut 5-track EP, Out of the Ashes. With unique vocals that have been compared to Amy Winehouse, and personal lyrics, she seems destined for a much wider audience.

I first saw her live a few years ago, when she had accomplices on acoustic guitar and percussion, and the strength of her compositions and vocals were always impressive. She has now put a full band together, as seen from left to right above, with Alex Joiner (keys), Oscar Blanchard-O’Neill (bass & cousin), Phoenix O’Neill (vocals), Jack Bazzani (drums), & Nathan McDonough (guitar), and together they’ve started to turn the studio tracks into a strong live performance.

 

The EP itself was recorded and mixed in France and the U.S. with the help of James Sanger (Keane, Dido, Brian Eno) and Paul Kilmister (Lemmy Jr), and was released at the end of April. All five songs take you on both an emotive and danceable journey, with my highlights being the infectious I Need You and Alien, and it ends on a stunning high with the more mellow I Feel It. Definitely one to watch…

 

Somerset 4-piece October Drift have been featured here a few times already, most notably when they took part in a Q & A back in 2016. They’ve since continued the hard work of touring virtually non-stop, and their impressive live shows (which I can vouch for) were rewarded with a support slot on the Editors UK & European tours over the past couple of months. They haven’t forgotten the studio work though, with the powerful yet melodic post-punk All Broken Down being released this month, while it gets a Showreel entry because the video – filmed & directed by Steve Glashier – captures the mood of the track, the personality of the band, and intense performance of frontman Kiran Roy, just perfectly.

There’s only one way…

 

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There’s usually a diverse feel to these mixtapes but this month it possibly cover more ground than usual, as is flies around between alt rock & indie, electro pop, acoustic storytelling, soul, and folk. I love all ten, but do spread the word about your favs…

 


Heavy Rapids – Crying Shame
The Creases – Is It Love
Lewis Bootle – Flowers
Saltwater Sun – The Wire
OMYO – Poster
Samuel Jack – Witness
The Cheap Thrills – Codependence
The Homegrown – Summersong
Lazyrevs – Cold Feet
Rich Aucoin – The Dream

 

Inspired by a 70’s groove, The Expansions are an instrumental jazz funk quartet from London, featuring Dave Koor on keys, James O’Keefe on guitar, Jonny Drop on drums, and Matt Summerfield on bass. They’ve just released their stunning debut LP, Murmuration, on Albert’s Favourites, a studio & label co-founded by Dave Koor (among others, incl Jonny), who multi-tasks by working as a producer and DJ too. So read on as Dave takes us on a tour of the band, album, insane gardening… and being James!

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~ What’s the background to The Expansions?
I met Matt first, through mutual friends. He was playing in a band that one of my mates was playing in, and then their guitarist left and James joined. At the same time, I’d met Jonny through a night I was promoting at Plan B in Brixton. Matt and James’ band stopped gigging, and Jonny and I were looking for something to do after leaving a band we were with. It all kinda just fell together.

~ The 6 tracks on the album all have their own personality, so how did they come together?
There was only one track from the album that wasn’t composed with the four of us in a room. Dragonfly was something James and I worked on one day at mine – and only the rough keys and bass parts at that. Everything else was written with the four of us in a room at the same time. We love writing that way, it gives the track a chance to evolve with us all together, rather than away from the group. We work best like that, fusing sections and textures together as much as we can.

~ What proved to be the biggest challenge when writing & recording Murmuration?
The biggest challenge was definitely getting takes that we were all happy with. We chose to record it all together in single takes, as that’s what we’re most comfortable with. But we’re human, and mistakes are made! We needed the vibiest recordings we could get, and if a take has a couple of mistakes in it then so be it…

 

 

~ You & Jonny helped set up the Albert’s Favourites label a few years ago, so what led to you taking the plunge?
We had been talking about setting up a label for a while, and it just seemed right. Adam Scrimshire and I had also been talking about it, so the three of us got together and here we are. Our ethos is definitely to release music we love, but it needs to excite us. It has to push buttons, really give us goosebumps. Like the first time we heard Hector Plimmer’s material, Adam and I were at Sounds of the Universe and we just looked at each other and knew… We’re all in tune with each other musically and that’s really important, but each of us has our own personality and take on it that we can bring to the table.

~ When did James & Matt first pick up a guitars, and who were their heroes when they started?
Matt first started playing aged 10 and was taught by his dad, who also happens to be an incredible guitarist. At home Matt’s family would listen to rock, with players like Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) and Billy Sheehan. Soon after, groups like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers started to be popular, so Flea played a massive part in his sound, and that lead him in to funk music, bands like Lettuce and players like Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten.

James was also 10 when he started playing – he started off learning classical but then discovered Hendrix! After listening to 70’s rock and blues for a while, he soon jumped on the funk and soul train and hasn’t looked back. He has been exploring Jazz guitar through some of the greats like George Benson, Grant Green and John Scofield.

~ If you were appearing on ‘Later with Jools Holland’, which track from Murmuration would you choose to perform?
For me it would have to be Ivory Mountain. Would be great to get our string player pals Jo and Chris out doing live shows (with a couple of others to make the full quartet!) and that would be a great place to do it! But I feel that track has a real London charm to it, a very British sound. I’d hope it would go down well!

 

 

~ If The Expansions could collaborate with a famous musician, who would it be?
I think we’d all like to go a little out there with someone, and I know Jonny would be into this – it’d have to be Bjork. Matt and James would probably be cool with that too. But she’s incredible. Mind bending powers. That’d be such a trip.

~ London has a vibrant music scene at the moment, so are there any other new bands or musicians you recommend we check out?
Definitely – a firm favourite of mine has to be Maisha. I’ve seen them live a few times now and they are constantly exciting. Real pure energy, very vibey. I’m also really into Elsa Hewitt, a fantastic musician and producer. She writes beautiful music! There’s so much going on, it feels very vibrant at the moment. So positive.

~ How would you best describe your DJ club nights?
I like to play music from all over the world – it’s so satisfying to be able to drop music written in Brazil in the 70s next to something written in London in 2018 and then back to Japan in the 90s. So much fun! For me it’s all about the energy that a track gives me. Building energy on the dance floor so people can’t help but dance. I love it when that energy transmits!

The other day we all DJ’d together for the first time at the incredible Brilliant Corners in London. It’s a wonderful sound system and we were able to play absolutely anything we pleased. It was a great night! The full 5 hour session is up on our Mixcloud if you want to check! Includes tunes from all of us and Adam Scrimshire too!


~ If you were invited to curate a festival stage, what artists would you invite to perform?
Jonny would be up for Jamie Lidell. Matt would really love Khruangbin to be there (as would we all!). James is really keen on Medeski, Scofield, Martin, & Wood, and I’d love to get Anderson Paak down. And all of us would love Chaka Khan and D’Angelo. That’d be great, thanks!

~ Aside from music, do any of you have any other creative skills? (or obscure talents!)
Jonny is an incredible artist (see above & below) – he does most of the design work for Albert’s in general, and does a lovely job of it. The rest of us are pretty boring really. James is an insane gardener. I mean really good. First time I saw one of his gardens I was blown away. Matt’s a pretty handy DJ, all of us play records out and about, but the amount of music we’re involved in keeps us busy enough.

~ If any of you could have a superpower for a day, what would it be?
Well James already has super-human strength so he reckons the ability to fly would be a great addition. Not having to find parking spaces in London ever again would be incredible. As for the rest of us, we’d really just all love to be James. Have you seen that guy?

album artwork by Jonny Drop

We head off on another tour of impressive new music again this month, and as always it took time to whittle the longest down to these 10 tracks, so dive in as we head from indie and alternative rock, to shoegaze, psychedelia, and a bit of ska-infused pop! Enjoy, and do spread the word about your favs…

 


E’spaniel – Talking Shop
Sea Girls – Eat Me Whole
Whyte Horses – Empty Words
October Drift – All Broken Down
Lonely Tourist – Wherever You Stand, You Are In The Way
Of Empires – Waist Up In Gold
Upbeat Sneakers – Everytime Around
Tom Mouse Smith – Born Blind
The Spook School – Keep In Touch
The Assist – All That I Need

From Ware in Hertfordshire, Lewis Bootle is a solo artist with engaging lyrics and a playful sense of fun. He’s appeared here a few times already, winning an Alternative Friday Award back in 2016, appearing in the Best of 2017 Mixtape, as well as to take part in a Q&A with his musical ‘sibling’ Gecko. He returned in the New Year with a the highly danceable Routes, and there’s now an excellent video too, shot by Harry Tarbuck & Sam MacGregor at Servo Creatives, and edited by Henry Norgrove, and because both song and video work so well together is why it gets a showreel post.

Home is where the heart is…

 

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