Alternative Friday

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

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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Last week my five featured artists as ‘Tipper of the Week‘ for The Tipping Point were limited to UK musicians only, but there are plenty more impressive acts from further afield, so here’s five emerging global talents to accompany the original article. They take us from Sweden to Hong Kong, via the US, South Korea, and Ireland. Enjoy…

 

HONEYMILK
Led by Marcus Admund and Nikki Nyberg, Stockholm band Honeymilk create a feel-good and melodic mix of indie, garage, and surf sounds, taking influences ranging from 60s California to 90’s Manchester. They’ve then added a layer of sublime Scandipop to the mix. January saw them release their album I Want You To Be Very Happy, led by the impressive The Nothing New, while Coming Home highlights their laid back shoegaze side, however I’m highlighting Havslåten as it collects the best of their melody, vocals, lyrics, guitars and percussion, all in one. An outstanding indie-pop earworm!

Spotify | Twitter | Facebook | Birds Records

 

BLOOD WINE OR HONEY
You wouldn’t immediately associate a tribal afrobeat and psychedelic-jazz band with Hong Kong, however, “surrounded by the scent of dried fish, the throb of heavy machinery, and the torrid humidity and heat of the South China Sea” that’s exactly where this trio of multi-instrumentalists have created their exotic sound. Their debut EP Anxious Party People came out last April, & is an avant-garde mix of rhythmic brass, electronica and percussion, and was followed up in November by the contagious & dance friendly Loosefoot. Blood Wine or Honey make for one hot Afro jazz party!

Bandcamp | Spotify | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook

 

SAY SUE ME
We’ve another surf inspired band with this 4-piece from Busan, South Korea, who mix indie-rock with breezy jangle pop to create some incredibly catchy songs. Their 2017 EP Semin showcased their talent, with the lead track My Problem a dream laden gem full of jangly guitars, while their new track, Old Town, is a perfect example of the quality of their songwriting, as it captures an hypnotic shoegaze guitar melody, drumming that sets the pace, and the delightful vocals of Sumi Choi. It comes from their upcoming album Where We Were Together, due in April. It can’t come soon enough.

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THE ACADEMIC
From the rural town of Mullingar in Ireland, The Academic are an indie rock band made up of 4 friends who met at secondary school. They hit the jackpot very early with the release of the brilliant Mixtape 2003 a couple of years ago (which we featured here), and they’ve since gone from strength to strength. Their debut album Tales from the Backseat came out in January, which continued to highlight their knack of writing hook driven and energetic indie rock tracks, with singalong lyrics telling stories of teenage life growing up in a small town. Every track could be a single!

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ABHI THE NOMAD
Indian born Abhi the Nomad is well travelled, but has settled in Thousand Oaks, California. The varied chapters of his journey to date, which include Beijing and Fiji, have certainly influenced his warm sound and wonderfully rhymed lyrics, and produced outstanding results as evidenced by his album Marbled, which came out in February. It’s an infectious blend of numerous hip-hop and alternative flavours, from the dancefloor killer Headcase and the funky Dogs, to the more electronica infused title track, and the summer pop gem Somebody to Love (which we previously highlighted here). An outstanding array of words & tunes!

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Last week I was ‘Tipper of the Week‘ at The Tipping Point, and below are the five impressive acts I featured. It was limited to UK artists though, so I’ve added another post with five Global Tips! So dive in, investigate all ten, and spread the word about your favs…

 

SAN BLAS
Named after an archipelago on the northern side of Panama, San Blas are actually a 4-piece from London and Hertfordshire, who have created a superb sound that can best be described as ukulele rock. There are, however, many more layers to their song writing and sound when you listen to all six tracks on their debut EP; Draw, Win, or Lose. The alt-rock opener Morgan highlights the vibrant side of the EP, while a horn propelled finale in the slow building Drive, and Spanish guitar flourishes in the epic Kiss from Argentina, show a different side to the band. An outstanding debut!

Official | Bandcamp | SoundcloudSpotify | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

 

KEIR
Bristol singer Keir is a mysterious one, as there’s little information about him online, however don’t let that put you off listening to his highly impressive early work. His unique style of dramatic pop mixes soulful sounds with alternative and RnB flavours, and takes influences from the likes of David Bowie and Patti Smith. He then adds his own personality to create a wonderful musical experience, which all comes together in his remarkable live shows as I witnessed at Glastonbury 2017, where his presence on stage really demands your attention. One to watch!

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PENYA
London Afro-Latin collective Penya bring together an incredible mix of percussion, horns, guitar, and electronica sounds by way of four highly talented and well-travelled musicians. Search It Out comes from their recently released debut LP, Super Liminal, which is a wonderful mix of rhythmic beats over layered percussion, to create an emotive, almost hypnotic vibe. Seeing these tracks performed live is also an impressive experience, which in a smaller venue resembles a private party rather than a public gig. I challenge you not to dance!

Penya Official | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Spotify | Twitter | Facebook

 

SEA GIRLS
Are indie guitar bands struggling to be heard at the moment? At times it feels that way as other genres stake their claim, but there are still numerous new acts who can write a proper tune, none other than Sea Girls, who hail from various part of the English countryside. With catchy choruses, terrific riffs, and excellent drumming as the heartbeat of their tracks, they hook you in quickly. They’ve kicked off 2018 with another cracker in Heavenly War, but Lost is the ideal way to begin your journey with this 4-piece. When straight up indie is done this well it’s infectious.

Bandcamp | Spotify | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook

 

KOKOROKO
London 8-piece collective Kokoroko (meaning ‘be strong’ in the language of the Urhobo people in southern Nigeria) are inspired by the music from that West African region, however Abusey Junction doesn’t just take Afrobeat flavours, but it also adds jazz and blues to create quite an exotic journey. Opening and closing with the mellow guitar work of the track’s writer Oscar Jerome, it evolves with the addition of an impressive horn section, keyboards, and percussion, using amongst others a shekere (a West African gourd & bead shaker). A stunning and emotional seven minutes of music.

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There isn’t just an eclectic mix of new music in this month’s mixtape but it’s a global selection too, as we travel to South Korea, Canada, Hong Kong, the US, and Australia, as well as various corners of the UK. So dig in and check out some impressive indie, surf, rock, hip-hop, and grumpy electro pop! Enjoy…

 


Say Sue Me – Old Town
Hurst – Rattle Kids
Abhi The Nomad – Headcase
Samuel Jack – Kill All The Lights
Roe – Wasted.Patient.Thinking.
San Blas – Yellow Grey
Blood Wine or Honey – Loosefoot
Danielle Duval – Whenever You Want It
Swine Tax – Feels Like
Katalina Kicks – Waterfall

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