Alternative Friday

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

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, 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!

E’spaniel are a jangly synth pop trio from the north east of England, comprising of Christianne (above left) on vocals & guitar, Karen (middle) on bass, and Leon (right) on vocals, guitar, drum machine & keys. They first came to my attention thanks to the infectious brilliance of their track Talking Shop, which opened up the April Mixtape. They’ve just released their debut album, Entra Solo, which came out on July 2nd, and now face a Q&A, so read on to find out more about the band, the record, plus nappies and a superpower solution to help with parking issues!

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~ Where are you right now, and what can you see?

Christianne: I’m at work, and I can see a tree outside my window, a bunch of people at desks in a large open plan office, and decorations out for the World Cup.

Karen: On a bus going to work. I can see a bookies to the right and a new Aldi being built to the left.

Leon: Sitting at home, in front of the laptop, Iran v Spain, 0-0 – half time whistle blows as I’m writing this sentence.

~ What’s the musical background to the three of you, and how did you get together?
We’ve known each other for years and played together in local bands before, but started E’spaniel to create something fresh and new with more of an electronic feel. We’ve also played in lots of other local bands independently as well. We ended up as a three piece through playing with quite a few drummers over the years, and we decided to use a drum machine with pre-recorded synth just to keep us playing in a band together.

~ How long has it taken to write, record, and put the album together?
It was recorded in Blank Studios in Heaton, Newcastle by Sam Grant, and was mixed and produced by Steve Whitfield in Leeds, who has done lots of work with The Cure, one of our favourite bands. It’s taken a few years to create – we’ve lost track of dates, perhaps intentionally. The process has been lengthened with one of us having to write and programme the drums and synth.

 

 

~ What proved to be the biggest challenge when making the album?
Getting to grips with the technology (drum machine, software and the laptop) to ensure that we could recreate what we did on the album in a live setting, and learning as we went. For example, we didn’t realise that we needed to use an audio interface to play the music live with. It’s been trial and error really. We nearly purchased an eight track portable studio thing which would have been a disaster in the making.

~ What’s the one album from your youth you couldn’t live without?
Christianne: Sugar – Copper Blue
Karen: The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
Leon: The Velvet Underground – LIve 1969 Volume 1

~ If you had the choice, which famous person would you love to get to drive the E’spaniel tour bus, and why?
Christianne: Well, my pick would be the Hound from the Game of Thrones (Rory McCann). I’ve read that he can play several instruments, including the drums, so would be handy if the drum machine broke down. He’s a funny guy too, so would keep us entertained, and have you seen the size of him – he could carry all of our equipment and no one would give us the old ‘well I only made £10 on the door, so here’s £2.50 towards your petrol’ ever again. My other choices would be either Peter Kay, or Steve Pemberton or Reece Shearsmith from the League of Gentlemen – I don’t think they would be as effective in the carrying gear or extracting petrol money stakes, but they would give us some good laughs and chit chat which would help the time pass.

Karen: Chris Packham because he’s got impeccable wildlife knowledge, good music taste, and a fine collection of threads. He could make those long journeys really wild.

Leon: Definitely Karl Pilkington because he would make long journeys fly over and you would get free ‘life’ advice. He’s a genius, and could also contribute to stage sets and song arrangements I reckon. Wouldn’t carry equipment though, he’d make a rubbish excuse to get out of it.

 

 

~ Are there any other new bands or musicians in the North East that you recommend we check out?

Yes… Outside your House and (shameless plug for Karen’s other band) The Artisans.

~ If the three of you were asked to curate a festival stage, what six bands/artists would you invite to perform?
New Order
The Bangles
British Sea Power
Belle and Sebastian
My Bloody Valentine
Pixies

~ Which of you would win the award for the least ‘rock musician’ thing you’ve done this week?

Christianne: I think I would, (and Leon?) for changing nappies.

Leon: Yeah, changing nappies alongside cleaning up cat vomit.

~ If you could each have a superpower for a day, what would it be?

Christianne: Mine would be to stop time, so I could get all the things I needed to get done, write some songs, watch a film, and still have a bit of time left over to catch up on sleep.

Karen: A mind reader, well it would be interesting wouldn’t it?

Leon: I would choose the good old ability to fly. I absolutely hate sitting in traffic on the way (and coming back) from work so if I could fly I’d get there in 5 minutes. No parking issues either.

~ What do you have planned for the second half of 2018?
Promoting the album, continuing work on the next set of songs, and hopefully some touring.

It’s not just an eclectix mixtape this month, but a global one too, as we travel from Leeds to LA, the Welsh valleys to the Russian Federation, and further. Along the way we take in everything from sunshine inspired indie to electro pop, and groovy rock to a cinematic slow burner. Enjoy…

 


Marsicans – Pop-Ups (Sunny at the Weekend)
Needshes – Time To See
The Cheap Thrills – Accident Prone
Tempesst – A Little Bit of Trouble
Phil Simmonds – Drive
E’spaniel – Lucky Strike
Shyer – Compliments
The Pitchforks – Waste of a Day
Joseph Hammill – Infant Hercules
True Adventures – Brasil

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Samuel Jack is a London born singer, who spent a few teenage years in Johannesburg, but is now back in the UK, and is based in Dorset. He makes soulful piano-led pop with the most powerful of vocals, as first highlighted when his debut EP came out in 2016, led by the wonderfully gospel influenced title track Let It All Out.

 

 

Since then he’s been picked to open the legendary Avalon Stage at Glastonbury, as well as to spend time writing even stronger and more emotive songs, with soul, blues, and even Mowtown influences. He took another step forward when he kicked off 2018 with Kill All The Lights, which is a truly commanding three and a half minutes of music, and has an engaging video to accompany it.

 

 

He’s now brought his recent singles together, added a few new tracks to the mix, and released his latest EP, Fire and Ice, a 5-track offering that surely provides enough evidence that this is a songwriter, vocalist, and musician who is heading towards great things. One to watch…
 

From Warwick to Falmouth, via San Francisco, Winnipeg, and Watford! The latest mixtape doesn’t just travel far and wide but it also takes in numerous musical flavours, so dig in and sample some alternative & indie rock, jazz funk, cinematic art-pop, shoegaze, afro hip-hop, and more. Enjoy…

 


River Purple – Serpentine
Yes We Mystic – Felsenmeer
The Helters – Salt
The Howl & the Hum – Murder
Africali – Daughters Of The Sun, Mothers of the Brave
The Wired – Stay Here
Georgia & The Vintage Youth – Glory
Phoenix O’Neill – I Need U
Polar States – Roads
L I P S – Apartment

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…

 

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