Alternative Friday

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

Photo by Jasper Fell-Clark

Essex songwriter Sam Eagle has already achieved a lot for a 19-year old. His wonderfully avant-garde DIY style brings “jazzy, left field pop tunes to the indie genre”, and this has seen support from numerous heavyweights, which include BBC 6 Music and Radio X, while I’ve seen him live more than once this year and can confirm his shows are hugely enjoyable. He now faces his latest challenge with this Q&A, so read on to find out more about himself, his upcoming EP, plus tongue tricks, lumps of charcoal, and lemon lizards!

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~ You’ve shown you’re a talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist at just 19, so how long have you been playing and writing?
The first instrument I learnt was drums, and picked up guitar when I was about 9 I think, however I got bored of it very quickly for some reason and started again when I was about 15. However, I started writing songs and really getting into writing a few years ago I’d say.

~ You’ve an EP coming out in the New Year, so tell us more?
Yes, I’m aiming to have it out early February. It’s currently set to be 6 tracks, but possibly could be longer if there are songs that fit in. There’ll be a few of the singles that I put out this year on there, as they’re part of a group of songs that I’ve written that really feel like they fit together, so I felt they should all be on there. The tracks generally though have a lot of jazzy time signatures and distinct sections, which is the style that I’ve been writing in for the last year or so. However, there are a couple of simpler songs to calm it down a bit, as I try to pack in as much as I can in the other songs – so I want to make sure there’s a balance there. The tracks were mostly recorded at Tom Donovan Studio in Rowhedge, Essex – and then a couple were recorded at home.

 

~ What have you found most challenging about making the EP?
I’m not sure really. I’ve seriously enjoyed writing and recording all the tracks, and it’s certainly been the most rewarding musical thing I’ve done. But possibly the most challenging thing has been to make sure that the tracks all compliment each other and flow well. As they were all written and recorded to be singles, I’m trying to make sure the EP is cohesive as it’s own thing rather than just six songs bundled together.

~ You’re essentially a solo artist, but it’s been a treat to see you perform a few times this year with The Lemon Lizards, so how did the live band come together?
Thank you very much, I really appreciate that. Two of the members, Eddie (bass) and Ben (Drums) I met at sixth form college, so we’ve been playing for a couple of years now. Then I met Will our trombonist in January in a recording session, and he fit so well with the sound of the songs that he joined properly in April. The band got together as with a band you can just be so much more versatile and pretty much do whatever you like – as opposed to just playing solo. However, from now on we’re not playing under ‘The Lemon Lizards’ anymore, as I think it makes it confusing as to what the project actually is, as a lot of people think the band write and record all the songs together, whereas I try to work as self sufficiently as possible. The band is just the live side.

~ In recent months you’ve played live sessions on BBC Radio 6 Music for Tom Robinson, and Radio X for John Kennedy! How surreal was that?
Both were such fantastic experiences. 6Music was pretty extraordinary though. We always have it on in the kitchen, and some of the sessions I’ve heard on Tom’s show have just been insane, so to be invited in was just such an honour. Plus Kamasi Washington did a session for Giles Peterson right before our session and he’s a God on the sax, so just the thought of that alone was pretty mental. We only really learnt one of the songs the day before as well, as we all felt it was important to play it so there was a little pressure on that, but I like having a bit of pressure. Radio X was likewise incredible to be in the studio where some fantastic musicians have been – and John Kennedy is a brilliant guy and a true champion of new music. So I definitely have a lot to thank both Tom Robinson and John Kennedy for.

 

~ If you were appearing on ‘Later with Jools Holland’, which tracks from the EP would you choose to perform?
Ahhh that is just the absolute dream, so I would definitely be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it before! But I’d say 15/8 and She’s So Nice. These two, because they’re both very different and are the two tracks that I think are best to play live. Plus She’s So Nice features a ripping solo from Will on trombone, and everyone loves to get down a bone solo (I think, I don’t have proof but surely…).

~ If you could collaborate with a famous musician or band, who would it be?
I’d say Nick Hakim. He’s a huge influence on my music and just generally a dang smooth guy. Great feel, great voice, great man.

~ Are there any other new bands or musicians local to you in the Colchester & Ipswich area that you recommend we check out?
I’d have to go with our guys KYANOS from Bury St Edmunds. I’ll admit that’s not really local, but hey – they’re worth going that extra mile for. They’re smooth dudes, they’re putting out some great stuff, and they’re gonna blow up any day now.

~ What’s the most impressive thing you can cook?
To be honest, my cooking’s more impressive in the sense that, it’s impressive how anyone can take such a long time to make something so awful. I dunno, I guess I’m not really fussed about food enough to learn how to cook properly. I’m also terrified of getting food poisoning so if I’m cooking meat I’ll just frazzle it until it’s a just lump of charcoal – better safe than sorry. So to answer that question, I’d genuinely say nothing.

~ Do you have any hidden or obscure skills you’d like to reveal to the world?
I can do some freaky tricks with my tongue, whether that counts as a skill I don’t really know…

~ Aside from the EP release, what are your plans for 2019?
Well I’d like to do some more ambitious, bigger shows next year, and maybe go on a tour, see how that goes. Other than music, I’d really like to make a few short films, as filmmaking is something that I’d love to get more into. But yeah, it’s been a cool year so far, so hopefully, 2019 will bring some hot stuff.

As the UK nights draw in, the warm summer vibes of some of the recent mixtapes have given way to a few more raucous guitar heavy indie and alt-rock tracks. As always though, this mixtape has also slipped in some equally impressive others, in this case some dark & alternative pop, hip-hop & rap, and ambient electro dance tunes, so enjoy, and do spread the work about your favs…

 


Model Society – Public Service
Human Resources – West Coast
Charlie Belle – Essay
Loyal – Patterns That Fall
The Recreation – Jealous Lovers
Alex Dutty – Emoji
Freeda – Go Home
The RPMs – Gotta Let Go
Shanghai Blues – Lies
Pip Hall – Mary

 

Both thought proving and uplifting! In Model Society’s own words, they are a “quintessential British sound that captures the past, but breathes new life into the social commentary & satire of today’s suburban life”, and in Public Service the 4-piece band combine all of this with perfection. Taking a 90’s Britpop alternative & indie sound, they then add lyrics that draw from the economic strains of more recent years.

It gets a Showreel piece though, because there’s an equally impressive video to it too, which doesn’t just promote the track – it could be a London Tourist Information promotion film too! Put together by the drummer, Eddie Caldwell, it absorbs you in London life, and includes some wonderful footage of the two sides of a vibrant capital city.

 

You gotta learn to read, you gotta learn to riot…

 

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Photo by Stefania Rosini

Phil Simmonds is a songwriter, producer, musical director, multi-instrumentalist, and session musician from London, who’s worked with the likes of Jessie J, Leona Lewis, and Australian singer Conrad Sewell. Having relocated to LA, he’s added to his workload by moving front and centre to create his own incredible music too! The Chronicles of Saint Arc series is the result, a cinematic, artistic, and mesmerising three-part epic of extended tracks that draws you in and never loses you… a mean feat in music. He’s already appeared in a couple of Mixtapes, however his latest challenge is to face a Q&A, so read on to find out more about the series, moving to LA, the Sultans of Swing guitar solo, and expensive coffee!

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~ Where are you right now and what can you see?
Sitting at a coffee shop in Los Feliz (LA). It’s late, I can see a lot of traffic. Nothing too crazy! – A few palm trees, a few dogs!

~ The Saint Arc series is a stunning piece of work, so where did the idea come from, and why did you choose to make the music in this concept style, rather than as a traditional album of individual songs?
Firstly, thank you! Honestly that means so much. I didn’t mean to write the “Saint Arc” series. I wrote the first song (which was In the Oak, and is technically the 3rd ‘movement’), and just carried on writing – I’ve produced a few records for people in the past, where we wrote the record and produced it in song order. I guess for me, the concept is that the next song has already been written by the song I just wrote, and I know how I want to feel after listening to the last song. It’s a long-winded process to explain but makes sense for me.

And I still can split up the songs and release them as a traditional album, I may do that later, but I want people to listen to my music how it was intended to be heard, and yes, very much to the detriment of the record’s “exposure” in the “traditional” sense. Everyone is scared of a 20 minute song.

 

 

~ How did the composition process begin, and what instruments were at the heart of the initial songwriting process given that you’re proficient on so many?
Ok, so I had just bought a piano – it was a 1908 P. A. Starck Cabinet Grand (the tallest of the uprights). It’s the piano you hear so much in Part 1 – it sounds it’s best on “Drive” for sure!!! The piano has “Starck” written on the front, and I guess “Saint Arc” was the personified version of myself in my piano! – That’s how I saw it!

Each part of the series is based around a different instrument. Part 2 features a 12-string Taylor guitar we had lying around the studio – and Part 3 is pretty much all around a Gibson 339 with a TC Helicon modulation verb pedal! – So I mainly wrote each part on those! – plus a few outliers, depending how I was feeling at the time.

~ What proved to be the biggest challenge when making the series?
I think just staying sane – the writing is dark at times, and I for sure lived what I wrote about, as I was writing – and not allowing anyone or anything to influence me. Saint Arc at the end of the day was for me, for processing my experiences – I’m really happy people are responding to it though. I have an album that I really need to make that’s a bit more for the masses, which I’ll be doing in London at some point in the near future at Kore Studios in west London.

~ You live in LA now, but what led to the move?
I’ve always wanted to live here, there’s a cool undercurrent of excitement in this city. It’s also the most competitive city, which has its pros and cons. I also moved out to be Musical director for an artist called Conrad Sewell – I’ve been producing out here and touring with other artists for years, but Conrad gave me the opportunity to make the solid jump and stop commuting.

~ What’s the best part about living in LA, and what do you miss most about London?
I have a great group of people around me! Creatively just incredible too! – But that being said, that’s what I miss about London too! I don’t think it matters too much where I live, as long as the people around me are just good people and I have that musical kick and drive around me. For now, that’s LA – I do think I’ll be living in London again at some point though. I miss the seasons!!

~ Is there a musical instrument you can’t play that you’d love to learn?
Drums – for sure.

 

 

~ Are there any other new bands or musicians local to you in LA that you recommend we check out?
Talker – I produced her song that’s coming out soon called “Passive” – But she’s released her debut song called “Collateral Damage” worth checking out – could be up your street!! [it is, thanks]

~ What’s your earliest musical memory?
Ahh! I don’t know! Playing guitar at home when I was 10, trying to learn the “Sultans of Swing” guitar solo from a tab book when I’d just got my first guitar!

~ Who are your musical Guilty Pleasures?
Anything nostalgic for me rather than ‘guilty pleasure’! So – Paul Simon, Sting (solo & The Police), I’ve been listening to “Solid Air” by John Martyn a lot this week – but that’s not guilty!

~ Aside from music, do you have any other creative skills?
Not really!! I just get stuck on the music stuff!! – I occasionally skate some of the parks out in LA, but haven’t done it in a while.

~ What’s the least ‘rock musician’ thing you’ve done in the past week?
My week’s been pretty standard. I went to a private screening for the new Ed Sheeran film that comes out in a few weeks for the Producers Guild, Not very rock and roll, but fun! Great film.

So that, or just endless meetings drinking way too expensive coffee.

We return from our summer break spoilt for choice where this Mixtape is concerned, as it took quite some time to reduce the longlist down to these ten gems. So press play, and feast yourself on the usual array of assorted sounds, which this time include some alt rock, jangle pop, & indie dance, as well as a bit of soulful drum ‘n’ bass! Enjoy…

 


Hana Vu – Shallow
Holy Pinto – Very Adult
Giant Party – Red Button
Henry Nowhere – Problems of the Heart
Leslie Lewis-Walker – While You Sleep
Phil Simmonds – Faithless
Only The Poets – Even Hell
Bryde – Fast Awake
Blue River – The Life
talker – Collateral Damage

The Fresh on the Net school year has come to an end again, and we’re now on our summer break, however I’ve been through my little black book for the past 11 months and, as always, there’s been a huge array of excellent music submitted to us during that time.

So, from the 5,000 – 6,000 tracks I’ve personally heard, I’ve created a playlist with 10 of my favourites for your enjoyment. The bar is therefore very high, so press play, and take in some alt rock & indie, troubadour storytelling, surf pop, post-punk, and more. Enjoy…

 


Howl & the Hum – Murder
Himalayas – Sigh on a Hurricane
Honeymilk – Havslaten
Lewis Bootle – Routes
October Drift – All Broken Down
The Cheap Thrills – Codependence
San Blas – Drive
River Purple – Ready to Fall
NeedShes – Time To See
Lloyd Llewellyn – Long Way Down

photo by Olivia White

 

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Over the past year or so, York based 4-piece The Howl & the Hum have been crafting some truly memorable music, which combines dark hypnotic rock with some raucous and addictive melodies, as well as witty wordplay. They first appeared here back in the February Mixtape when I came across the superb Portrait I.

 

 

That put them on my radar, however it was the subsequent release of the slow building alt rock epic Murder that really blew me away. I first heard the track when they uploaded it to Fresh on the Net in May, where after a few listen it was stuck in my head, became my main pick of the week as moderator, and where it went on to triumph in the voting! Never have bus stops, pyjamas, & Tesco value lager made such an impact!

 

 

They get an Emerging… piece however, in part because I’ve finally seen how they bring all these songs together when playing live, and it was a mesmerising performance, full of energy, and a powerful stage presence led by singer and guitarist Sam Griffiths. It was so good that at the end I wanted then to start all over again. Ones to watch!

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