Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Festival Review: KAZOOPA, Leeds ~ 26.11.16

Festivals are generally associated with the Summer months, but Leeds' brand new inner city music festival Kazoopa came to us for the first time on a blustery November day, to break the mold and act as one last hurrah before we wave goodbye to 2016. With Double Denim Lives' Mick Dolman and Chantel Littlewood at the helm, a line up boasting over 50 of the best up and coming bands from across the country, and a handful of Leeds' best and most intimate music venues involved... it was always going to be a roaring success.

Not only did it end up being one of the best days I've ever had, it was also an opportunity to catch up and spend time with some of the best people I know; festivals always create a real sense of togetherness as people celebrate a mutual love of all things music, but I can safely say that I've met so many lifelong friends through attending gigs in and around the Leeds area and it was great to see so many of them out in force at Kazoopa.

Local lads LUNABLIND opened the Oporto stage, and were my first band of the day. Having seen them live a number of times this year, they impress me more and more each time. You can always rely on these guys to give a spirited and euphonious performace, packed full of melodic and charming indie-pop tracks that are surefire future hits.

Opening the main stage over at Headrow House were York based quartet Faux Pas, who for such a young band, perform with a real confidence and complete fluency. Frontman Ru Cowl's vocals are clangorously gritty and instrumentally, everything is nigh pitch perfect. I'm quite sure that in the years to come as they grow and develop with time and experience, they'll become a serious force to be reckoned with.

Faux Pas
Though I unfortunately didn't see their full set I couldn't not mention Mint, who over the course of the Summer have made me fall completely and utterly in love with their mellifluous and exceedingly charming blend of delightful pop-rock. The festival environment suits them perfectly, and Verve Bar was at capacity before they even begun to play. This is an act who are 100% destined for the big time, and it's always a real pleasure to watch them play.

For me, one of the most prolific musical discoveries of the year has undoubtedly been Paves who once again performed with such authentic and stunning vehemence, the likes of which I don't think I've ever seen before. Their suspenseful bluesy rock sound is effortlessly smooth, and I always find myself completely lost in their music. Perhaps the only negative here is that they weren't playing to a much bigger audience, for this is a band who so deserve to be heard; saying that, this performance was every inch as vibrant and atmospheric, and with just as much stage presence and vigour as if they were playing to a sold out Wembley Stadium.

I've been a fan of Tusk and their extraordinary psyche-rock sound since day one; with a fiery and tenacious execution of instrumentation, backed up by vivace and silky smooth vocals, they're an extremely impressive live band. The highlight for me is always their eclectic and infectious debut release 'I'm So Vanilla', but I think this is but the tip of the iceberg as far as they're concerned. Tusk are an exciting and underrated young band with a great deal of talent and potential. Definitely one to be watched.

It's difficult to know where to begin when talking about Cabezudos; back in October, I unexpectedly saw them live for the first time and since then they've become somewhat embedded in my heart and soul. To go from raving about them almost constantly to Mick and Chantel, to seeing them perform to a packed-to-the-rafters Verve Bar at Kazoopa was an incredibly proud moment. As always, they gave their all, and their usual creative flair and obvious passion and zest for music shone through. Their opening track, which is as of yet unnamed and known simply as 'N.O.S.E' is, for me, the strongest in their set; it's edgy, anthemic and feisty... undoubtedly the best possible introduction for the audience, many of whom were experiencing their music for the very first time. Though the Verve stage is small, they most definitely made good use of it, spending the majority of their set thrashing about as if their lives depended on it. Particular mention must go to frontman Jack Hughes, who performs with such theatricality and velocity that it's impossible not to be transfixed. Cabezudos are an authentic and truly debonair act, full of zeal and drive and with an apt ability to create music which is so unexampled and expressive that they cannot possibly be tied to any one genre... and it is that unique and endearing individuality that makes them so very special.

The Barmines, as always, brought the noise at Kazoopa; it was a triumphant return to Headrow House for the band, after having enjoyed two successful headline shows there earlier in the year. Their live performances are always delightfully raucous and their substancial and loyal fanbase, who were once again out in force, always add to the already electric atmosphere. Tracks such as 'These Days & Nights', 'Skys The Limit' and most recent release 'Reliance' have been catapulted to all but legendary status, with almost every member of the crowd singing every single word the entire time... THAT'S how brilliant and influential this band are. I've seen them live more than any other band this year, and they still manage to blow me away each time.

The Barmines
When writing a festival preview, I chose Kassassin Street as my top pick for Kazoopa 2016... and suffice to say, they did not disappoint. They're almost hypnotic to watch and put on a resolute and electrifying show, to say the least. Frontman Rowan Bastable is mesmerizing to watch, and his dulcet vocals are nothing short of stunning. Their set is quite varied, and whilst 'Talk In Riddles' and new single 'Do Or Die' are fast paced and a real full-bodied impetus... at the other end of the spectrum is the somewhat haunting 'Love With No Borders', which was the standout moment for me.

Kassassin Street
I'd been looking forward to seeing headliners Young Kato for the first time, as I've had their album on repeat for quite some time now. I was introduced to them by way of one of their most well known tracks, 'Drink, Dance, Play' and so it was a joy to finally see that performed live. There's something extraordinarily atmospheric and absorbing about their composure on stage, and both musically and in term of lyrics there are impressive levels of intensity and profundity.

Young Kato
I think Kazoopa left us all wanting more; it was the perfect culmination to an astoundingly brilliant year of music, and a day I'm sure none of us will be forgetting anytime soon. All I can say is roll on Kazoopa 2017, so we can do it all again!

The heroes of Kazoopa... three cheers for Mick & Chantel!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

An Interview With PAVES ~ 19.11.16

There's something inexplicably enchanting about Paves; I think that perhaps they have to be seen to be believed, but from their spellblinding and unexampled bluesy-rock sound to their mesmerizing live performances... one thing's for certain, once you do see them, they're impossible to forget. The band is made up of frontman/guitarist Luke Shield, lead guitarist Mike Whitaker, drummer Tom Triggs and bassist Perry Read. They've been playing together for a while now, under a couple of different names (they were formerly known as Thieves, and then as Smokey Taboo) before they began their journey as Paves back in 2015. They've been extremely busy since then, with tour dates up and down the country as well as appearances at a number of high profile festivals over the course of the Summer (Reading & Leeds, Y Not and Isle Of Wight to name but a few), and they're just about to embark on a string of live dates supporting Starsailor.

This year also saw the release of a brand new track, in the form of the sizzling 'Take Me While I'm Here' and with plans for an EP release in early 2017, things look set to get even bigger for this London based quartet. I was able to catch up with the band when they came to Sheffield recently to play at Plug for AMP Live... a real honour, as they are undoubtedly one of the most exciting and promising new acts in the country at the moment.

I know you've been playing together for a while now, under a couple of different names before you settled on Paves... but where did it all begin, and how did you first meet?
Luke: I first met Mike at university, we went to Queen Mary in the East of London. He did physics, I did English Literature, but we had common friends. We'd played a few times before and it didn't really work because we were both into different kinds of music. Then everyone went away for the Summer... my parents live in France and he just wants to live in London, so it ended up being just us two and we just started playing together. I think as you share something you gradually get closer to what you're trying to get at.
Mike: We found a middle ground... I was always trying to make it heavy, Luke was always trying to make it soft!
Luke: Nobody was giving something up, it wasn't like 'I'll give up this, if we can have this,' it was more like trying to make something together that works with both attributes that we've got. It was a very positive thing. I met Tom in the Camden Head having a drink... as you do! He was playing in a more acoustic band... I gave him my number and told him if he wanted something a bit more punky to give me a ring. About 3 weeks later I got a little text, and we had a little jam. We went a bit quiet for a bit, then got Perry involved. Slightly long winded, but very lucky actually!
Perry: I was asked to join by Mikes' old guitar teacher. I'd just dropped out of uni, and so had a very free schedule. Then this band came up and I thought 'yeah, I'll do that,' and here I am today!

What did you grow up listening to, and do you feel it's influenced you in your own musical endeavours?
Perry: We all listen to a lot of different stuff, and I think that comes through in our music.
Mike: If we all listened to Oasis, we'd sound like Oasis... but we have lots of different influences. I grew up listening to a lot of guitar based things and beyond, but the moment I heard Guns N' Roses... I wanted to play guitar like that.
Luke: We all have very different backgrounds too in terms of where we were brought up and what our parents listened to which has a massive effect on a young person. But we've always shared music a lot... we've got a group chat, so if someone finds something cool we'll tend to share it even if we think it won't be the others' cup of tea, it's interesting music and it's educational to our purposes. The thing that really made me want to make music was Graceland by Paul Simon. I know people have qualms with it, but I think it's genius.
Tom: I think for me it was the Chili Peppers... well Chad Smiths' drumming.
Perry: I think I'd agree with Chili's as well.

In terms of starting out and realising you wanted to persue a career in music, were you self taught with the instruments that you all play?
Perry: I'm self taught. I had like two bass lessons and just didn't get it... it just didn't work.
Mike: I taught myself most of it, and then had a few lessons with the guy who knew Perry... but that usually ended up with us just chatting and jamming, I didn't really learn in a scholarly way.
Luke: I got my guitar when I was like 17, but I'd played French horn before... I did really well actually! I passed Grade 8, I was in orchestras and stuff. That gave me a bit of an insight into how music worked and made me understand it.

You've got an incredibly recognisable sound and image... did you know starting out exactly what kind of band you wanted to become, or do you think that's something that's changed with time and experience?
Tom: It's definitely changed... I think developed is the right word for it!
Luke: We grew as a band as we got to know eachother. We just played music that we enjoyed. Probably about 5 months ago there was a slight click where we understood that we wanted to do something a bit more modern, and we understood how we'd gotten from what we started off doing.
Mike: I think we started out trying to imitate our influences and we slowly started to do our own thing.
Luke: We've got a sound now that's more particular to us, as opposed to just reciprocating stuff that we've heard already.

Are there any new bands/artists that you've come across or played with this year that you've been impressed by?
Mike: Bang Bang Romeo are always good. Jackals Rose used to be but they are no more. Fronteers, Blinders... any band that plays with This Feeling, really. Broken Witt Rebels, The Wholls... there's so many.
Perry: Hello Operator, The Shimmer Band, Hidden Charms... Miracle Glass Company who we saw in Glasgow, they were amazing.
Luke: I like Cupids.

You've had an incredibly busy festival season... has there been one in particular that's been your favourite? If so, why?
Tom: Isle Of Wight festival, I think.
Luke: That was our first actual big festival together so we decided to not take anyone and just the four of us go... it was quite a special experience. The organisation and everything was so smooth, and it was nice weather!

What other hobbies and interests do you all have outside of music?
Perry: I quite like fishing.
Tom: I snowboard.
Mike: I like motorsports, car racing and stuff like that.
Luke: I like going for long walks... and little walks! But I write songs while I'm walking!

Is there anything that you've done so far- whether that's a particular piece of music, a certain show you've played or perhaps something else entirely- that you're especially proud of?
Luke: I'm dead proud of the new songs that I've written and that we're playing at the moment. I'm really happy because I think they're getting to a higher level. I think people tend to think someones either a good songwriter or they're not, but I can really tell that over the last two or three years that the songs are getting better and I can tell that we're interpreting them better as a band. So I'm dead proud of that and of the performances that we're giving, because we're working hard and we're playing better. We're practising a lot and you can tell... and that really makes you proud.
Mike: I'm quite happy that we've got as far as we have without any kind of external help, like management, agents and stuff like that. Most of the bands we play with have a decent manager or agent but we somehow do it all ourselves and wing it!
Luke: I don't think we wing it... we work hard. We've turned stuff down, because it wasn't our thing. We can do what we're doing by ourselves... it takes a lot of work but at least we've got full control of the situation It does take a lot... organising gigs and making it cost effective. It's hard, but if you want to do your own thing and make it exactly how you want it, then you have to do that.

What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you as a band since starting out?
Luke: I think the main learning curve is just being nice to people and enjoying it. Sometimes you think you haven't played a good set and you're a bit grumpy... so it's about learning that you've still played a set, you probably didn't do that badly, and just to have a good night! Next month we're supporting Starsailor and that's going to be a big learning curve because they'll be the biggest gigs we've ever played.

Is the songwriting process a collaborative effort or is there a primary songwriter?
Mike: Luke would be the primary songwriter.
Luke: I'll write the songs and then I'll take them to the band and share them and they'll come in with ideas. When it's written acoustically, it's not really the song because it's a band thing... they bring in their expertise and prowess! We'll jam it out... sometimes I'll have an idea for a hook, sometimes Mike will have an idea for what I should do guitar wise, because he's a better guitarist than me... sometimes! No, no... he's better than me. So that's how it works!

Finally, I know you have an EP coming in 2017... what can you tell us about that at the moment?
Luke: We've just got some mixes back.
Mike: It sounds really good, it's a lot more fresh than what we have at the moment.
Perry: I'm excited for people to hear it. We've got this EP's worth of songs to come out, and there's already another lot ready to come.
Luke: There's already another 2 EP's written, basically. There's particular themes that bind the songs together. I won't say what they are! Each song is easy enough to interpret on it's own but there is a theme that brings them all together, which is a good thing because it makes it more of a full project as opposed to just whacking four songs out and putting them on an EP.
Mike: It's coming in February. It's actually coming out through This Feeling.

We ended on a fruity photograph!

Check out the music video for 'Take Me While I'm Here':

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Single Review: Do Or Die ~ KASSASSIN STREET

Kassassin Street are the psyche-rock quintet (made up of Rowan Bastable, Nathan Hill, Ryan Hill, Andy Hurst and Tom Wells) who are currently making waves far outside of the coastal city of Portsmouth from which they hail. Their extraordinarily mesmerising and unique sound becomes implanted in your brain the second you hear it, and they've become known for their explosive live performances.

New single "Do Or Die" is the perfect culmination to a triumphant year of touring and festival appearances for the band; it's fast paced, hard-hitting and enigmatic to boot. The track is somewhat heavier than anything they've come out with to date, but it works. All in all, it's an intoxicating and extremely creative blend of electro-pop and rock, and an exciting teaser of what's to come when the band release their new EP next year.

You can purchase 'Do Or Die' via iTunes here. The band have a string of UK tour dates coming up before the end of 2016, starting with a sold out hometown show at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth tomorrow evening. They're playing the Headrow House stage at Kazoopa Festival in Leeds on Saturday 26th November, followed up by dates in Brighton, Liverpool, Southampton, Derby and Manchester. Catch them while you can, because they won't be frequenting such intimate venues for long.

Monday, 21 November 2016

An Interview With POLKADODGE ~ 12.11.16

After being off the radar for quite some time, Sheffield based quartet Polkadodge (frontman John Burton, drummer Paul Robertson, guitarist Martin Greening and bassist Jack Galvin) are back, and they're better than ever before; not only do they have a brand new bassist in the form of Jack, but they've returned too with a boatload of fresh indie-pop anthems, proving that some time away from the scene has benefited them in a big way. Whilst their new music is recognisably the Polkadodge that everyone knows and fell in love with, it's definitely taken on a much more serious and mature twist with more recent releases such as the stellar and stylish 'All In My Head', and the extraordinary 'Heat Of The Night'.

The band have enjoyed a string of successful tour dates so far this year, including a comeback headline show at Sheffields' The Leadmill back in July, and a more recent support slot in Preston with musics' brand new Kings of controversial, Cabbage. I managed to catch up with them prior to their gig in Harworth for Gingerbeard Promotions...

You've been playing together for quite some time now in one shape or form- but how did you all meet, and how did it all begin?
John: We met at school when we were about 16. Martin was in the year above me and he didn't really like me. We both played guitar and I think at the time, I was a little bit better than him.
Martin: Hang on, this is why we didn't get on! I thought I was the best in school, I really wasn't. He came along and he was playing all the songs I really wanted to learn.
John: Ben, his friend, bought me in and said 'have a jam with this guy.' I got muscled in, then we became friends, and then loads of people joined and left... they're gone now, they're doing teaching and all sorts! Then we met Paul when we went to uni. We'd tried a few drummers, but he just clicked. When our old bassist left, we found Jack who we'd known for a while but had seemed quite busy with his job. He's managed to slot in.
Martin: It was hard to find a bass player, but he's come along and has lifted our spirits a bit... and he had long hair!

Jack- how did you find yourself an honourary member of Polkadodge? Did you know the guys before?
Jack: I sort of knew Paul, he sometimes comes into where I work and he said they were looking for a bass player. I sort of knew John... wasn't that keen on him, but I did join the band and now we're friends. Didn't really know Martin.

What did you all grow up listening to and do you feel it's influenced you musically?
Jack: I grew up listening to Oasis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Stuff like that. John absolutely hates the fact that people listen to these bands! But that's what I grew up listening to, and I still like it.
John: I liked lots of pop/punk like Green Day. Then I went on to listening to The Killers, synth pop arena rock- I've not changed that much... the U2's, and The Killers!
Paul: I was a bit of a weird one. I loved Bruce Springsteen, he was like my idol. Then I started listening to stuff like The Strokes.
Martin: I was basically a typical indie kid growing up. Bit like Jack, I liked a lot of Oasis, a lot of Blur and all that. I like The Beatles as well... got a problem with that, John?

'All In My Head' was your big comeback single- what's the story behind that one, both in terms of influence and the creative process of bringing it together?
John: When we had the old bassist, we took the chorus from another track. Paul was in the flat one night and he was sort of singing it, and we thought actually, that songs' just one key higher.
Paul: We had the verse for ages, we just couldn't write a chorus... so we moulded two songs together. We'd spent ages trying to write the chorus, and then it ended up that we'd actually written it three months before!
John: We took that chorus down to key, and it just slotted into that one.
Martin: The guitars in it are interesting and something we haven't done before. When you get excited for guitar stuff like that, you know something good is bubbling up.
John: It was all from a live recording that was just lost on our phones somewhere, and then Paul was just singing it and we realised it was good. But yeah, it's come out alright. It does take a while writing songs though, for us anyway. We chuck a lot away, so hopefully the ones we do put out are good!

I think that in contrast with your older material, the new music is very different, perhaps somewhat more mature... was that change deliberate or something that just came naturally?
John: My mum said that today! I don't know if it's just that we're older.
Martin: The standard of what we keep is a lot higher now. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure if we are going to put out a song or play it live, we want to be sure that it's good. Before, I think if we scraped a song together we just thought it'd do and we didn't really work on it that much. We work a lot harder now I think on perfecting the songs.
John: Often, we'll write one and then we'll play it... I think you only know if it's good when you've played it live. That's the best way to test them, and you just get a nice feeling when you know it's a good one.

You've been touring a lot lately- is there anywhere that you always look forward to playing, and in turn anywhere that you'd particularly like to play but haven't had the chance to yet? That could be a city, or perhaps a particular venue...
Paul: We want to do Liverpool.
John: Yeah, Liverpool would be nice. It's really weird because some gigs that you build up as being amazing on paper just don't really turn out that way, for whatever reason. You can even have rammed gigs and it just doesn't really connect or feel that great. Weirdly, ones like this are usually really good, dead random ones.
Jack: When we played Huddersfield, I think we all turned up feeling a little bit unsure and it turned out to be one of my best gigs.
John: I think sometimes with the smaller towns there's less variety for people to go to, so when bands come around they sometimes think it's something a bit different and turn up.
Jack: Preston as well, that was a great gig.

Preston was with Cabbage, wasn't it? That must have been quite an interesting experience?
Paul: Busy!
John: It was very busy, but it felt a bit weird. Weird crowd, they were very standoffish.
Martin: They were alright, we're just a new band that they hadn't heard of before. There were quite a lot of older people there.
Jack: It took a little bit more to win them over, I think.

There's obviously an incredibly vivid music scene around this area at the moment... Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster... what other up and coming bands have you seen or played with recently and been particularly impressed by?
Paul: I really like Sundara Karma at the moment, I know they're signed but they're still up and coming. Kashmere, the band that we played with in Preston were really good and they're really nice guys.
Jack: There was a band from York that I saw about a month ago called Faux Pas, and they were really good. I like Adelphi too.
Martin: We've played with everyone! When it comes to the bands in South Yorkshire, we've all played with eachother at some point. We've all seen eachother grow and break up and stuff.
John: We all like Conor Houston, he's good. Good time guy! He's very funny, you get a bit of a comedian with him as well. U2, I think some people may have heard of them?
Martin: There's a lot of people that like U2 but daren't admit it, similar to the Coldplay thing. There's a stigma attached to it, and you're basically going to get bullied for it.

Is there anyone in the music industry that you'd really love the chance to work with?
John: We've had our ups and downs, I think every band has probably had daft meetings with management and label companies and things. There are loads of people we'd like to work with, but it all feels quite distant at the minute. I'd love to sing with Brandon Flowers... me and B-Flower, that'd be great. To end the argument, I'd probably like to share a stage with Ronan just to see if it's that distinguishable!
Paul: I didn't want to admit to this, but we were watching his top 10 on some music channel. He looked nothing like him when he was younger, it's just now that he's old!
John: The number 1 was rubbish! We were ready for Nothing At All or Life Is A Rollercoaster. Tomorrow Never Comes was number 2 and that's not a great song. This has turned into PR for Ronan! 

Can any of you remember your first ever experience of live music?
Paul: My first gig was really late, I was like 16 or something. I went to see Metallica with my sister.
John: Mine was Steps. H came out on a big H over the audience and just sat on it.
Martin: I remember my first gig was Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I really wanted to be John Frusciante, the guitar player. He's my absolute guitar inspiration.
Jack: The first one I went to was Oasis.
John: Our first gig though... I was off to the side of the stage somewhere and Martin was playing guitar in the middle! I had my eyes closed all the way through, my voice kept jumping... but we walked off stage like 'We are IT!'

What do you all enjoy doing outside of music?
Martin: We drink a lot! We just like hanging out and not doing much!
John: We like dogs. Anywhere there's a dog, we'll crumble to the floor in a heap of excitement.
Jack: I just stay at home and sit in my pants. To be honest if we don't end up doing music, we're destined for a life of bins and boring.
Martin: Music takes up a lot of our time and when we're not banding we're working, so you don't really have much time to go horseriding. You gotta earn your money, because this doesn't pay much! We've only got jobs to keep our feet on the ground though!

What's next for Polkadodge?
John: We want to do a proper release again, like 'All In My Head'. We put two songs out because we didn't plan it very well, so we're going to plan a proper release... probably a song which is called 'Running' at the minute. Everything starts to pick up around January. What if our band at the minute is spaghetti bolognese... we're gonna cook another one, so we're getting everything out of the chopping bag. The mince is the song, the onions are the gigs. So the onions come out, the garlic comes out and people will be like 'oh, I see what you're doing there,' but... we've got just a little carrot that we're going to grate in that we're not telling you about, and we are going to dangle that carrot next year.
Jack: To sum up what he's saying, there's something happening. Also, I just want to bring this up... who puts carrot in bolognese?
Martin: Jack, we're not on about your microwave meals here mate!

The interview ended with Martin and Jack wrestling on the floor in a heated argument about food. Yes, food. Battles were fought, trousers were split... but despite this being my longest interview to date, one major question remains unanswered; does carrot have a place in the traditional spaghetti bolognese dish? I'll leave that one with you, or feel free to contact the band themselves on Twitter at: @polkadodgeband.

'All In My Head will be available via iTunes and Spotify on December 16th but for now, check out the music video below:

Friday, 18 November 2016

An Interview With MARSICANS ~ 10.11.16

Marsicans are a real jewel in the shimmering crown that is the Leeds music scene. They're talented, charismatic, and their instantly recognisable blend of charming and unique indie-pop is a real treat for the ears. The band (frontman James Newbigging, bassist Rob Brander, guitarist Oliver Jameson and drummer Matthew McHale) have been together since their high school days, and those years of experience show; their live performances are nothing short of breathtaking and in terms of chemistry, I've yet to come across a band who are so perfectly in tune with one another as they are. Their 2014 debut EP 'The Chivalry EP' was quirky, fun and packed full of feelgood tunes that leave you with a smile on your face and with the recent release of 'The Absence EP' they've taken their music in a completely new direction, resulting in a different and somewhat more mature collection of songs to add to their already impressive back catalogue.

This Summer, they were invited to play the BBC Introducing stage of the legendary Glastonbury Festival... a dream for most up and coming bands, I'm sure. The months following have seen them touring relentlessly up and down the country, thus increasing their already substancial fanbase as well as promoting their monumental new EP in the process. On the 10th of November, the band played a sold out show in the main room of Leeds' Brudenell Social Club, and I was able to talk to them beforehand and find out a little more about what Marsicans are all about...

How did you all meet? Obviously Rob, I know you weren't a Marsican right away, but did you know the guys before you joined the band?
James: Me, Cale and Oli met at school, we did GCSE music together. We decided to start a band, and here we are!
Oli: We started playing in assemblies and stuff, and then we started playing at some of our favourite venues in Leeds every other week or so... and then Rob joined in!
Rob: Essentially, the planets aligned... James and I were living together and writing together, and I just ended up being in the band.
James: It did kind of just happen, but all the best things do I guess!

Now I know this is a really generic interview question, but where did the idea for the name come from? Because I tried googling 'Marsican' and the only thing that comes up is a rare species of bear native to Italy called the Marsican Brown Bear...
Oli: That's it! You've cracked it.
James: It's the bear. We were trying to think of a band name... we were on the internet looking at animals and stuff like that. There was this bear and it said Marsican at the side of it, so we thought that was a cool word. We looked into it and there's only about 50 of these bears left.
Oli: They're just rapidly dying out...

I'm by no means downplaying your previous releases, because you know I think they're great, but 'The Absence EP'- the title track in particular- has a real maturity to it, and I feel it is incredibly different from your older material. Was that change in sound something that you'd planned, or did it just happen naturally?
James: We just grew up! It kind of was concious, but we didn't realise till after we'd done it.
Rob: The things that we write about change, and we change as people. With the Chivalry stuff, I think when the guys were writing those songs they were 17 or 18 year old kids where as we wrote The Absence EP throughout university. That whole EP centres around the notion of being away from loved ones... family, girlfriends... we all went through that, so I think that is where the maturity comes from. It's more adult-like emotions.

I'm really interested to hear more about your creative process because I don't think there's another band out there quite like you... you have a very recognisable sound and image, and I can imagine you have your own way of doing things too. Generally, do the lyrics come first or is it the music?
James: That totally differs from song to song. In general, either me or Rob will have an idea, kind of flesh it out a bit, then bring it to the group and we'll work on it together. Whether its lyrics, melody or chords... it's totally different.
Rob: 'Arms Of Another' literally started from the first lyrics 'a parisian parting of lips,' just because I liked that and I thought it was cool... so I decided to fabricate a story around that, which is the only time I've ever really written in that way. Sometimes you can just have chords that you think are cool, or some kind of melody that you'll be whistling when you're on your way somewhere. Our mobile phones seem to be the way that we capture everything. James and I will be constantly texting eachother or he'll be on a bus singing into his phone and he'll ask me what I think of it. We wrote the chorus to 'Absence' stood on the street, really drunk outside of Oporto in Leeds... James just said he had this idea, so we were there at 3am absolutely freezing and just singing it to eachother! So there's no process really, it can be whatever... but there is always one factor that inspires the rest of it, and it snowballs from there.

Has music always been a part of your life? Was it listening to certain bands and artists growing up that inspired you to want to make music, or something else entirely?
James: I did always love music, but I didn't know till I was 11 or 12 and started playing guitar that I knew I could actually do it. I watched School Of Rock and that made me want to be in a band! 
Rob: It's funny because a lot of people from our generation watched that film and then wanted to be in a band. But my mum and dads' record collection was the first music that I ever listened to. But we all bought our first embarrassing Pop CD's... I had a Five CD...
James: My first cassette was Afroman, 'Because I Got High'...
Oli: I had Dido's album... depressing album, but I loved it.
Cale: I liked 90's Dance and Trance stuff, just compilation CD's or illegally downloaded...
Rob: For me, the first time I properly knew I wanted to be in a band was when my brother started a band and I went to their first gig. Obviously you never think your siblings are that cool, and after that I was like 'Wow, look how cool he looks now.'

You played Glastonbury this year... what was that experience like?
Cale: We got announced for it by BBC Introducing, which we were elated about. We found out we were playing the Sunday, and so realised we had to be sort of sensible on the Friday and Saturday and be responsible with our voices! It was nuts! We just went exploring on Friday and Saturday, got lost in lots of random places...
James: When we were in crowds and one of us was singing, we'd tell them to stop it and save their voice.  
Rob: I had white jeans which I had in a polythene bag, and literally just before we were going on stage I put them on and then took them off as soon as we came off stage!
Oli: I only had one pair of jeans and by Sunday they were really muddy, so I spent that morning baby wiping them! Then I stood on some concrete flag thing and the mud went all over my sock, so I had to change my socks last minute to the ones I'd had on the day before and ended up wearing odd socks... and I got lost on Sunday night. Lost them all!
Rob: We'd all been drinking post set, which was like 1 o'clock in the afternoon. When it got to evening time, we just turned around and Oli had gone.
Oli: We were going somewhere together and then I lost them! I spent an hour trying to find them, then took my backpack full of beer and went to the hippy area and ended up just sitting there with a bunch of hippies and fell asleep!

You've been doing a lot of touring this year... when you're on the road, is there anywhere in particular that you always look forward to playing?
Rob: London was crazy this time. We turned up and there was about 300 people there, which we did not expect nor deserve. It was one of my favourite gigs ever. So yeah, I'm not sure what's happened there but people in London think we're a good band.
Oli: We're really looking forward to playing in Scotland, because that's not somewhere we've played before.
Rob: Basingstoke is always fun, and we've got some really good friends there. They booked us for a show last year, and now every time we go down there we have a really good laugh.
James: Manchester and Sheffield are always good. To be honest, they're all pretty good! It's just fun.

I'm sure that music takes up much of your time, but what else do you like to do?
Cale: I play chess a lot.
Rob: Cale has got loads of weird hobbies! Dog walking, Xbox, skateboarding badly... I don't even know what I do when I'm not doing music. I just watch Louis Theroux documentaries and sleep, and that's literally it.
James: I have something that I've been doing, but I haven't even had time to do that recently... I've been trying to learn Japanese. We've got a pretty much entirely free December, so I'm going to get my head down! I'm trying to learn all of the characters first and go from there.
Oli: I take some photos every now and again, that's something I do when I'm with the band as well.
Rob: We like to play football at the service stations where the trucks are supposed to park! That's our group hobby!
Cale: I watched a video on how to grow a colony of ants, and how to get the Queen to lay the eggs. I haven't done it yet, but I want to...

Do you all have day jobs outside of the band?
Rob: If we didn't, then we would die of malnourishment. My day job is to look after disabled people. I've been doing that today, one of them is coming to this show and he's buzzing! So shoutout to Joe.
Oli: I work in the kitchen at Pizza Hut.
James: I work in a pub, serving pints to people. We all only do it for 2 days a week though!
Cale: Once a year, I'll do a garden. Landscaping.
Rob: You know snakes when they eat one meal and then they don't eat anything for three weeks... Cale's like that with money. He'll do one job, get a big sum of cash and just live off it.
James: We've seen his work and it's great. I recommend him.
Rob: It's expensive, so he can live off it for the year. You could remortgage your house instead! Charlie Dimmock, eat your heart out...

Christmas is just around the corner, and one of the best things about this time of year is the music. So what would the Marsicans Christmas playlist consist of?
Oli: Last Christmas is my favourite Christmas song.
James: White Christmas is mine.
Rob: I quite like that Coldplay one! Writing a Christmas song must be hard work... we're gonna do it one day, it's going to be a smash. One hit wonder! We can live off it for the rest of our lives, like landscape gardening...
Oli: It's gonna be called Landscape Gardening (Christmas). 

If you could each choose one song from your back catalogue of music so far that you're particularly proud of, what would it be and why?
James: It's gotta be Absence. It's something different for us, and it took us a while to get it how we wanted it
Oli: Yeah, Absence for me too.
Rob: I'd probably go with Absence as well. I once wrote it down on a setlist without the S so it was Abence...
Cale: I like Far Away.

Finally... what's next for Marsicans?
James: We've got a gig, then another two gigs, then we're off straight into the studio to record.
Oli: Then we will be in the Netherlands, we're going to do a little tour over there... and then we'll have a new single coming out pretty soon, next year.
Rob: Single out, then tour pretty much straight away.

It's the track the band say they're most proud of, so heres' Marsicans performance of 'Absence' from this years Glastonbury Festival. You can purchase their new EP via iTunes here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Single Review: The Way ~ CABEZUDOS

Cabezudos are the Liverpool based quartet (made up of frontman Jack Hughes, bassist Tom Maher, drummer Harry Strachan and guitarist Chris Bolton) who have had me completely under their spell since I was first introduced to their incredible music last month when they played in Leeds as part of the 360 Club. They've only been together for just over a year, but with their polished and confident sound they have the airs and graces of a band who have been doing this for decades.

New single 'The Way' is a sizzling and achingly passionate bluesy-rock number. It's engaging and captivating throughout and is one of those songs that you listen to and can't help but become completely entranced by. The lyrics are quite intense, yet beautiful at the same time; it's very much a melancholic story of frustration and longing, with Jacks' astonishingly powerful vocals creating an incredibly compelling backdrop. Instrumentally the track is atmospheric and resolute, with each member of the bands' jaw-dropping talent emanating through.

There's a real element of theatricality in everything Cabezudos do, and from their electrifying live performances to their studio recordings, they truly are a very special band with an undoubtedly big future ahead of them.

You can listen to 'The Way' via Soundcloud here:

Saturday, 12 November 2016

An Interview With WHITE ROOM ~ 05.11.16

Brighton based quintet White Room have been extremely busy of late; over the course of the year they've been steadily gathering up momentum, appearing at some of our most high profile festivals and touring relentlessly up and down the country. With an ever growing fanbase and a sound that just keeps getting bigger and better, I think it's only a matter of time before these guys are the name on everybodys' lips... and rightfully so; for such a young band they already have such a polished sound, to the point where listening to their musical catalogue to date, it's difficult to imagine how they can possibly top it. 2015 debut EP release 'Fizzy Liquid' was unwaveringly good, and was recorded with the help of none other than Paul Weller. Since then, they've come out with the psychadelic-rock tinted 'Think Too Much', and are ending 2016 on a high with the release of a brand new single. 'Stole The I.V' is due out later in the month and despite having only hit the airwaves in the last couple of weeks, it's won them acclaim from fans and media outlets alike.

White Room are: Jacob, Jake, Josie, Hen & Tristan

The band (frontman Jake Smallwood, guitarist Jacob Newman, keys/guitarist Tristan Sava, bassist Josie McNamara & drummer Hen Sava) have been playing together since 2012, and so already have a great deal of experience in the industry. Their live shows are consistently exciting, coherent and formidable and I can safely say that my life is just that little bit better for having these guys and their incredible music in it. I was lucky enough to be able to chat with the band prior to the Leeds stop on their whirlwind UK tour in association with This Feeling...

What's the story behind White Room? How did you first come together as a band?
Jake: Me, Jacob, Tristan and Hen have been playing together since we were little 'uns. We had another bass player for a while, this guy called James, and then he left and we got Josie in about three or four months ago. Jacob, Tristan and I were at school together and Hen and Tristan are cousins. We eventually started writing songs, then just sort of built on it like that and started realising that we wanted to take it more seriously. Josie came along and everything became serious!

Josie, did you know the guys before you joined the band?
Josie: Yeah, I went to college with Jake and then became friends with the boys through him. So I've known this lot since we were about 16 or 17.
Jake: Josie and I, we worked on another project... we used to record it and stuff so we have worked together a lot musically, so when we needed a bass player it just made sense.
Josie: When they did their first gig as White Room, I supported them with my then musical project so it's all gone in a big circle!

What did you grow up listening to, and do you feel it's influenced your own musical style?
Tristan: What we listened to when we were little has definitely influenced our musical style at the moment. Our parents listened to The Beatles... my dads' first gig was The Beatles in Brighton. They listened to The Doors, Pink Floyd... so we love all the old stuff. It's a good sound we've got at the moment... at least I think so!
Jacob: When we were younger, obviously through our parents we used to listen to a lot of older stuff and then as you sort of get older and start playing in bands and stuff, you're more aware of new music and start to be influenced by that and there's a nice balance of old and new.
Jake: I listened to The Kinks back when I was younger and The Beatles obviously. They were the two big ones for me. Flaming Lips as well. One of the songs I remember a lot from my childhood was 'I Love Candy' which is an awful song but I remember once a CD got posted through the door and I picked it up, listened to it and it was that. For some reason, even though I was a little kid and I was like 'Oh I love The Kinks and I love The Beatles' that song got me more than anything! I was like 'Yes, I DO love candy!'

You've just released your new single 'Stole The I.V'... what's the story behind that one?
Jake: Last September when had our EP release, we had Martin Duffy from Primal Scream DJ'ing that night. We ended up going back to my house afterwards and had a big night... we were upstairs jamming in my room and he was sitting there playing proper Primal Scream style Damaged sort of keys on the piano and I came up with the chorus 'Sit back relax my dear...' so we've had it for ages, that little idea. That's where it originated, I guess. We shelved it for a while, and then thought 'that's a really nice hook, we should do something with that,' and then a few months ago just pulled it off the shelf and decided to make something of it. We've changed the lyrics around a little bit and came up with a proper concept for it.
Jacob: It sort of taught us to never neglect music that you've shelved. We write a lot as a band and sometimes stuff does get sidelined. But it's good to have recordings of everything, whether its on phones or demos, just to have them available really.

In terms of your creative process and bringing a song to fruition, what comes first, generally... is it the lyrics or the music? Or is it different every time?
Jacob: Definitely a mixture.
Jake: With 'In My Head', I had the lyrics and Tristan had this guitar thing and we ended up moulding it together, so sometimes it's like that. Sometimes we'll get the music down and I'll have a melody, sing random words and just add stuff to it.
Jacob: You don't want to get dragged into one set process because it becomes boring and the songs become way too similar. It's nice to have a contrast.
Tristan: Yeah, it becomes way too mechanical.

You've worked quite closely with Paul Weller in the past... how did that come about?
Jacob: It was a chance encounter actually.
Jake: My brother walked into a shop with his girlfriend and Paul Weller went up to her and said he really liked her necklace. They ended up chatting and my brother told him about us and how we'd been inspired by him, and he wanted to hear some music. We'd been recording at the time and had just recorded a little video for it, so he showed him that. He really liked the tune, and wanted to get us down to his studio so it all just went from there. I was on my way back from the coast and got a call from my brother saying 'you'll never guess what I've just sorted you out with!' I thought it'd be some interview or something, and he was like 'I've just seen Paul Weller... he liked your music and wants to work with you!'
Jacob: We didn't believe it at first!

It must have been a massive learning curve for you guys...
Jake: Massively! We went into the studio thinking we knew what we were doing, but it completely got turned on it's head. It definitely made us wake up. We were under the name of The Basis when the whole Weller thing came about and as soon as we'd done the first session with him we said 'lets get serious now, lets buckle down and really think about the tunes,' We changed the name of the band, had a look at our sound because we weren't happy with it before... it was more us when we were young kids, and we wanted to make it more mature and more how we are now.
Jacob: We went in with the idea of not necessarily doing an EP, but sort of three or four songs... it ended up with Paul and Charles, who was the producer at the time, said 'this is the song, concentrate on this... work on it, and make it sound as good as it can,' and we ended up doing that for the full three or so days.

Both in terms of live performances and your studio recordings, you have a very strong presence and come across as quite self assured, which is great. Confidence is key! Did you know starting out exactly what kind of band you wanted to be, both in terms of sound and image, or is that something that's developed and changed over time?
Jacob: No, we had no idea!
Jake: It just grows with what you listen to, what inspires you. As a band, you've got to grow and change otherwise it gets stagnant.
Tristan: That again brings Paul back into the conversation, because every album he does is completely different and we want that vibe about us as well.
Josie: We're all so young as well, we're babies! So to have a set idea of what you want your sound to be like forever is restrictive.
Jacob: Regardless of whether you're small or you're a massive band, you've got to be constantly developing.
Jake: Arctic Monkeys for example, you listen to 'AM' and in comparison to 'What People Say I Am...' it's very different. You have to progress and change and if you've got true fans, they'll grow with you and they'll go on that journey with you.

You've had a very busy and successful festival season. Do you think, as a band, there's less pressure in playing a festival set than there is your own headline show?
Jacob: They're very different. Obviously it depends on the festival, but generally you turn up and you play rather than being there the whole day and soundchecking and stuff.
Tristan: Usually with festivals, it's people that you've never met or have never seen before that turn up where as with headline shows you always see so many familiar faces.
Hen: There's always so many walk in's with festivals.

If you could collaborate with anyone- band or artist, past or present- who would you all choose and why?
Tristan: Mine would be David Gilmour because he's my absolute favourite person in the world.
Jake: John Leckie or George Martin.
Josie: David Bynre... I think that would be a wacky experience.
Jacob: We were listening to Nick Cave earlier, I think he'd be fun to have around in the studio.
Hen: Probably Jimi Hendrix. He's so much fun to play along to and there's so much room for you to do your own kind of thing with it.

You recently played the This Feeling 10th birthday gig in London and have worked with them quite closely this year... how did you first come to be involved with them, and what's the experience of working and touring with them been like?
Jake: It was quite a while ago. We did a Brighton show with them, and Bex who runs the shows there watched our set and really liked it and got back to Mikey about us. We were meant to play a show for them up in Glasgow but that ended up falling through. But when we were up in Manchester we contacted them asking if they had any shows while we were up there, and they got us on there. It was a really good gig and went really well so it all just sort of went from there. We saw Dantevilles there, who we've ended up being really good mates with.
Jacob: They've been so good to us, it's been brilliant. They're the reason we've been getting around the country really. It's a credit to them, but bad testiment to the industry as a whole because there's not anyone else like them.
Hen: They're so good to so many bands who are just starting out. They put on so many gigs and help start their careers. They've put on so many bands that are now massive.

Finally... what's next for White Room? Can we be expecting an album anytime soon?
Jake: We are just writing, writing, writing at the moment. We've obviously got the tour going on at the moment, which finishes in Nottingham on the 25th. We want to write and demo lots of tracks, make up a big body of work... we want to play live as much as possible, and play new stuff live. The release schedule isn't decided yet but we'll probably drop another single at some point and see what happens! Nothing's set in stone but there's going to be a lot of new material coming out so that's the main thing really, we want to be writing solidly for the next...
Jacob: ...30 years! Testing our new material live is always great, it gives us this fresh perspective on what you've been working on for two weeks in the studio... sometimes you think it's amazing, but then you play it live and it's crap.
Josie: I think it's important at this stage while we haven't got any massive demands on us that we have that time to write and develop.
Hen: It's important as well to be able to write and gig at the same time, not just one or the other.
Jacob: We get asked a lot what we want to achieve with the band, what we'd be proud of, they think you'd want like three or four albums in five years' time but it's about having a body of work that you can be proud of, whether that's five, ten or thirty years down the line... however many albums or singles we have, or fanbase, that's the end goal.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Live Review: THE HUBBARDS/ APRIL/ WHITE ROOM/ THE BLACK DELTA MOVEMENT for This Feeling, Leeds ~ 05.11.16

This Feeling celebrated their tenth birthday last month, and since then the media spotlight has been very much upon them and the incredible work that Mikey Jonns and his team do for up and coming bands and artists all across the country. I don't think I've ever been to one of their gigs and come away disappointed... and it's not just the bands themselves that make these shows so very special; I've seen so many people refer to This Feeling as a 'family', and I don't think a truer statement has ever been made.

I'd been incredibly excited about this particular show for quite some time, since the line up boasted two of my absolute favourite bands. I honestly can't get enough of White Room at the moment and have seen them a few times over the course of the Summer, and since seeing April support The Sherlocks at the beginning of the year I've been dying to see them live again too.

However, the night started with a band I was completely unfamiliar with; The Hubbards are fairly local, being Leeds/Hull based so I'm quite surprised I've not at least heard of them before. I was instantly impressed by their sound, and they gave an accomplished and well executed performance considering they were playing this gig with one man down, guitarist Alex Green unfortunately being absent due to work commitments. Frontman Reuben's vocals are both strong and memorable, and instrumentally, their music is the perfect mixture of infectious indie-rock whilst having that fun, pop element to it as well. It definitely gets you in the mood and makes you want to have a bit of a dance, thus making them the perfect opening act.

The Hubbards
I've had a real soft spot for April ever since I saw them supporting The Sherlocks earlier in the year. I saw them on two dates of the tour, which was great as it meant I had time to properly acquaint myself with their music between gigs. What they do is very much reminscent of that much loved 90's Britpop era, but that said, they are far from dated; both in terms of sound and image, they're very much a charismatic and contemporary rock n roll band. Latest release 'Open Mind' is a rapturous, surging track and probably one of the strongest releases from a guitar band I've heard this year. They perform with real ease and confidence, and everything is so articulated. George Cooke, with his powerful stage presence and energy, had the crowd in the palm of his hand the entire time and is the epitome of everything a frontman should be and more.

You can always rely on White Room to give a performance that is nothing short of mindblowing. Each time I see them, I get that difficult-to-explain feeling... a mixture of awe and excitement, and that sense of being a part of something incredibly special, which in years to come will end up being a real "I was there," kind of experience. I love seeing musicians become completely enraptured by the music when they perform, and in the case of this band, it's truly mesmerising to watch. I definitely think they're stronger for having new bassist Josie; the female backing vocals really compliment frontman Jakes', and bring something a little different into the equation. They're just about to release huge new single 'Stole The I.V', a psyche-rock stroke of musical brilliance, which was definitely the standout moment of the set for me; one thing's for certain, White Room are a star on the rise, and I reckon this is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this band and what they are capable of.

White Room
The Black Delta Movement, the final act of the night, were another band who were completely new to me. They have a big, atmospheric rock sound and what I found most interesting about them was the use of not one, but two drummers in parts throughout their set. They have a great on stage chemistry as a band, and interacted well with the crowd; speaking of which, they definitely seemed to get the most positive and excitable response of the night from the audience, with people dancing at the foot of the stage and even attempting to join the band onstage at one point! I think the industry is seriously lacking in credible rock acts at the moment, and these guys are definitely one of the strongest that I've seen.

The Black Delta Movement
No matter where you are, both on and off the stage, everyone at This Feeling that you come across is friendly, enthusiastic and most importantly 100% passionate about music. It's so refreshing to see, and I always come away from their gigs with at least one new band in my life!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Album Review: Effigy ~ SCARLET.

I've always been a sucker for some killer female vocals, a'la Wolf Alice, Black Honey, INHEAVEN... but there's something seriously special about Scarlet. In their leading lady, Jessie Robinson, the band have an incredibly talented and endearing figure of female solidarity and fortitude within the music industry. Often with albums, no matter how much I love the band, it takes me one or two listens to really 'get' it, but I can safely say that my love for 'Effigy' was instantaneous. From start to finish, it's nothing short of stunning. I saw them live a few months ago when they played in Doncaster as part of Blackfest; they gave a captivating, awe inspiring performance, and the unwavering chemistry between them as a band was immediately obvious. It's those undoubtedly strong friendships that have built the foundations for this incredible debut release.

There's a real variety in sound throughout the album; I think it would be impossible to assign them to any one genre. There's the upbeat, vivacious and confident 'Your Control' at one end of the spectrum, and then the hauntingly beautiful, raw and honest 'Hold Me Under' at the other. There are guitar fuelled numbers such as 'Heavy' and my personal favourite 'Alone' which show their apt ability and huge potential as a rock act... but then tracks such as 'Nothing' and 'Heart On The Line' are perhaps a little more pop orientated. However, what brings each and every track together is the obvious strength and meaning behind them all; the lyrics show the journey that Jessie was on when she wrote these songs, and as she herself pointed out, this is the culmination to an incredibly difficult period in her life. Like a phoenix from the ashes, Scarlet have taken and created something astonishingly beautiful from trying and traumatic experiences in their lives that most people would do their best to block out completely.

Scarlet are: Adam Cunliffe, Jessie Robinson, Conor Williams & Gianluca Rizzuto
Listen to and purchase 'Effigyhere!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Single Review: The Cunning Linguist ~ THE CHESSMEN

The Chessmen are a high energy three-piece from Leeds made up of frontman and guitarist Luke Holdsworth, bassist Ryan Walker and drummer Scott Parker. Their unique and impressive blend of ultra suave rock n roll with just a hint of guitar fuelled indie-pop have resulted in them becoming one of the most exciting up and coming bands on the live circuit at the moment.

New single 'The Cunning Linguist' is hard hitting, fast paced and completely brilliant. The quirky and intelligent choice of song title instantly grabbed my attention, and as for the track itself... it's packed full of soaring, infectious riffs, unshakeable drum beats and the instantly recognisable vocals of frontman Luke. What I love most about them is the fact that, on first listen, they could so easily be a band from the sixties; however, it they're by no means dated, and manage to remain cool and comtemporary despite their classic sound.

Photo by Jonathan Buck
You can download the track for free through their website here, where tickets for their upcoming shows can also be found. The band play the Frog & Parrot in Sheffield on November 10th, and then Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds on the 18th supporting Glass Caves. Catch them while you can.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

An Interview With MINT ~ 22.10.16

There's a real buzz surrounding Grimsby four-piece Mint (Zak Rashid, Adam Shaw, Sam Chapman & Andy Maidens) at the moment. Their monumental debut EP 'Happiness Is Heroin' has clocked up over 20,000 listens on music streaming giant Spotify, which resulted in single release 'Elise' making the UK Viral 50 chart at an amazing number 11. And Spotify aren't the only ones showering this band with attention... they're receiving radio airplay left right and centre, including from BBC Introducing. All of this success is well deserved; Mint are the epitome of the perfect guitar band, with a brilliant work ethic, heaps of talent and an endearing likeability about them to boot.

I was able to chat with three quarters of the band following their incredible set at Oxjam Festival in Leeds a couple of weeks ago. (you can read my review of that here) They're every inch as charming and fun as I'd perceived they would be.

How and when did you first come together as a band? I want to know the story behind Mint...
Zak: It was just dead easy, we met at college... all three of us were in different years. We just got talking and decided to start a band. Love at first sight! 

Starting out, did you know exactly what kind of sound and image you wanted the band to have or was that something that developed over time and with experience?
Zak: We still don't! I think we spent maybe four or five months of the period that we've been together just worrying that we're too much like this, or too much like that... and I think after a while we kind of just thought just fuck it, lets just do what we think is cool at the time. If you're interested in change, you do develop and stuff... what we were like four months or so ago is totally different to what we're like and how we think now.

What did you grow up listening to and do you feel it's influenced you in your own musical endeavours?
Zak: Freddie Mercury was one of my first guys! Him and the fella from AC/DC... Bon Scott? My taste in music growing up though... I didn't really have any standards, I just listened to anything and everything. I think because I'm the songwriter, with me if it's a good song, it's a good song.
Sam: I grew up listening to Coldplay. I never really had any influences.
Andy: I was proper into trashy rock like Nirvana... stuff like that. I'm still into it now.
Zak: I don't think you ever really disown any bands, I don't think you ever go 'oh, I don't like that anymore,' you just sort of wear it out, I think. There's some tracks I wouldn't have on my iPod but I think if it came on in a kebab shop, even if it was from the early days and I'd liked that song at one point I'd still be like 'I love this song!'

You're just setting out on tour... is there anywhere that you've had great experiences in the past and so are particularly excited to play?
Zak: LEEDS! Maybe Nottingham because it's in a record shop. Free accomodation too because my sister lives there! She doesn't know I'm staying yet! I think we've surprised ourselves with the fans and stuff, just on social media... like when we announced it and people were tagging their friends about coming to the gigs, it's great. I mean, I struggle to get my mum to listen to it, nevermind people in Corby! All of the venues are quite intimate, so I'm really looking forward to meeting and speaking to people.

How do you fill your time between shows when you're on tour?
Zak: Eat and fall over. What about you, Andy?
Andy: Just eat and not fall over...
Sam: We do our own thing and just chill out.
Zak: I listened to an interview that Catfish did and they said that they've been around the world but seen nothing because they just sit, smoke and do nothing... I think we're the absolute opposite of that. We love seeing stuff, going places and eating new foods! Except from Sam... egg and chips every day! But yeah, I think we're quite driven to do stuff. The thing is with touring, I think maybe 60% of it is playing and the other 40% is for your enjoyment.

The EP is absolutely brilliant... there's not a bad track on it, and it seems to be going down really well with everyone, fans and media outlets alike. What was the process of bringing that to fruition like and how does it feel to finally have it out there?
Zak: Yeah, I'd say it's been a long process. I think we're quite quick in the rehearsal room with writing songs. The thing is, we don't jam or anything... I'll say I've written a song, bring out some ideas and play it to the guys acoustically. We all sort of click and we'll all take it apart and build it together... it'll take us maybe two three hour rehearsals and then we've got a new song. I think because we wrote all of the songs on the EP so far apart, it's like a nice capture of the story. 'Wolves' was when we first started out, it's quite raw and punky. 'Living & Dying For' is just a pop song. I feel like 'Elise' and 'Wonderland' are the two that really show who we are.

I think it's really great when bands go out of their way to support other bands. As I've discussed with Zak before, I've seen you guys around a few times over the course of the Summer at various festivals watching and chatting to other bands. Are there any up and coming bands that you've seen that have really stuck out to you?
Zak: We've got a lot of bands that we're friends with, and it all starts for me just being an absolute fangirl! When we met Judas for the very first time, I'm pretty sure I ran up to John Clancy and was like 'YOU'RE JOHN CLANCY FROM JUDAS, OH MY GOD!' and he was like 'Yeah, you're Zak from Mint.' I was melting! We ended up being mates with them and now we're on a first name basis! Hertford on tour... we've invited Judas along as support so that'll be a really good show. When we played Party In The Pines we got there just after their set and was gutted. We had a couple of technical faults in our set... it was like everything sort of went wrong but partying with Judas proper sorted us out. You meet a lot of bands that just want to play the game and end up with a bit of 'who's better than who.' We're not really about that. We're not a band that likes to brag so it's just nice to meet other bands that don't just talk about music and we can talk about other stuff.

It's the Judas/Mint supergroup!
What's been the biggest learning curve for you as a band since you started out?
Andy: I guess learning to like other music, because I started out really narrow minded. I just listened to trashy rock, stuff like that, and now I'm listening to lots of indie-pop and things. I never would have pictured myself liking half the stuff I do now.
Zak: Other than boring music stuff, taking better care of your money. I can remember the first tour we ever did for Living & Dying For, by like the fifth day we were around a table in Northampton sharing a sausage roll. We were like five days in or something, and all out of money scrounging off this sausage roll and freezing cold! So take better care of your money, because it's expensive!

Finally... what's next for Mint?
Zak: I think the main thing is that we'll just be pushing the EP and stuff. We got onto 'The Indie List' on Spotify which was cool. So it'll just be the tour, and then Christmas! We've got a couple of things in the pipeline but we can't really say.

I'm left in no doubt that Mint are four artists with a determined, industrious love for music and performing, who most definitely look set to become the UK's next big breakthrough band. Watch this space.