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Russell Hope

LIVE: The Headhunters
@ Band on the Wall

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE

Only should the word ‘legend’ be used when absolutely necessary! For example, I knocked on my neighbour’s door yesterday to see if everything was alright after his wife had a baby a few days before and he said “All is good except the boilers packed in!”, a quick inspection showed that it was just the batteries for the thermostat. Fast forward 10 minutes… “You Legend!”. His house warmed up, I rolled my eyes and there’s another overused moment of ‘Legend’! The Headhunters, however, sit very comfortably on the pedestal of legendary musicians. Known for multi-instrumental wizardry and being the foundations to Herbie Hancock’s career. They’re in town and bringing the funk, jazz, percussion, and all-around magic.

Ably supporting tonight are, Porij, they’re from Manchester and well worth keeping an eye on, a young setup of 4, Bass, Guitar, vocals, drums and synths (some doubling up going on). “We’re so glad we’re doing this, this band are full of our favourite musicians…we’re so lucky”, a band at the start of the career being championed by the promoters of one coming towards (hopefully plenty of years left yet!) the end of theirs. They have a sound of Thundercat; funky, bass-driven jazz. Their last song ‘Sunshine Blinds me for a while’ comes out in January and it’s their first single… I asked if they had any copies! “We’re from Manchester, we love you guys”, they announce as they hug together at the end of the gig. Well done Porij! Onwards and upwards.

I often take notes on my phone ready to tell you good people all about the gig and tonight my battery nearly ran out shazaming the soundtrack between the bands, the DJ was firmly ‘on the pulse’, I bought Harvey Sutherland, Amethyst as soon as it was played, Piccadilly Records had it in stock so why not!

The Headhunters are: Mike Clark (Drums), Bill Summers (percussion), Big Chief aka Donald Harrison (Saxophone), and Jerry Z (Keys and Bass synth, at the same time!) “Don’t worry about those CDs”, Mike Clark takes the early role as spokesman for the band. Gently pushing, the merchandise in a tongue in cheek way, “These are a limited run… for Europe only… I’ve bought 10 myself, they’ll be worth a fortune!” Of course, we all know the first rule of gig club, and yes I bought the CD and Bill Summers signed it for me too.

After reminding the funk reveling audience of the merch available Mike pops off a few taps on the drums, then stands up and goes to walk away from the drums, “Hope you enjoyed the show!” These guys are funny and full of life on the road, Big Chief has a constant smile on his face and Bill Summers, firmly behind the Congos is Mike’s best audience… I guess if you’re this level of legendary status you can get away with any banter and enjoy it as you go! “It’s freezing”, says Bill, “Welcome to Manchester” shouts out one of the audience.

 

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Next level incredible. Top 5 gigs ever. #theheadhunters #funk #jazz #livemusic

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Big Chief is there for Sax freestyle Jazz, after each skit he walks to the side of the stage and takes to his seat, waiting for his colleagues to open up the next slot, mainly topping and tailing percussion and keys sections. The keys are immaculate, Jerry making the synths talk at some point, I turn to my mate, an accomplished musician and ask him “how is he doing that?”, with a puzzled look, he shrugs and continues to look in amazement. Bear in mind this musical genius in playing bass synth at the same time!

“Are we moving in the right direction?” Mike checks in with the audience. Of course, we are we’re all in on this. “This one’s called ‘Actual Proof'” says Bill, to a resounding “YES!” from one of the audience as if he’s won the jackpot in the lottery. Music, jazz, funk, and beats are everyone’s currency in Band On The Wall tonight and all the numbers have come up. “This next one is written for Sly Stone the famous funkster from San Fransisco”, this is a real journey through musical history, songs written for others and well-known tracks performed by The Headhunters themselves, including Herbie Hancock.

“Don’t forget about the CDs!” we’re constantly reminded to full amusement through the set by Mike Clark, it’s his punchline and it’s making him and Bill Summers constantly laugh. In between the humor and banter, we are treated to some of the best, if not the best percussionists and innovation in music I have ever seen. Bill Summers, teases in the audience with some African influenced ‘call and response’, “Oooooh my anatomy” is the mantra with his beat to the chest… and I’m conscious that is lost in translation in a blog and Bill seems pleased with the result, “we’re going on tour with that” and I’d like to dedicate that to that young person there. “These guys are our future!” he invites a group of youngsters up on stage (around 12-13 years of age), coupled with the championing of the support “And what about Porij?! Those guys are awesome!” Bill continues to applaud and goes straight into the next track.

Towards the end Big Chief jumps on the mike, leaving his saxophone to one side for some New Orleans vocals and it is spectacular! They are truly talented, expert musicians and in the introductions, by Mike Clark and Bill Summers (Original The Headhunters), we realise they also appreciate their individual capabilities “Jerry Z, 2 for 1 special bass and keyboard at the same time!” huge applause erupts and acknowledging each of the members. There is so much happening on stage, largely the variety of percussion from Bill Summers, ranging from playing beer bottle ‘flute’ to ‘African’ percussion and plenty of cowbells. It was mesmerising.

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LIVE: The Slow Readers Club @ O2 Apollo Manchester

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE

“Readers! Readers! Readers! Readers!” rings around the packed out O2 Apollo Manchester tonight and it’s the first time I’ve seen a crowd from the front right to the back seriously up for this gig! The Slow Readers Club have been grafting for the last 7 years or so building a solid fanbase, knocking put some epic tunes and at the same time all holding down a day job, paying their mortgages and raising their families! There’s always time to follow a dream and after having the privilege of interviewing Aaron and Kurt (the brothers in the band, vocals, and guitar/vocals respectively), earlier in the year, they certainly deserve what happens next. What we do know is they’ve handed in their notice, cause they’ve accepted a job as a full-time rock band and their last day at the office is this Friday 21st December… if they’ve achieved what they’ve achieved so far ‘part-time’ I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

A couple of hours before the gig I bumped into a mate – “what you up to this weekend Russ?… I’m off to see The Slow Readers Club tonight at the Apollo” his face said it all, he’s into music and he knew of the gig even though he wasn’t going and hasn’t even heard a track by the band, “aaah I’m well jel, mate! They’re supposed to ace mate not seen em yet but have a goodun!”. They have new fans to convert/convince/entertain and to the existing fans on Aaron’s own admission on behalf of the band, “We finished work on 21st Dec… we’re taking it around Europe and the rest of the UK… we’ve been doing it around our day jobs up til now… we couldn’t have done it without you lot buying records and T-shirts! Thanks” the appreciation is fully heartfelt and the crowd are right behind them, a way of showing appreciation the band launch straight into a flawless version of ‘Forever in your debt’ with the strong lyrics of togetherness which tonight joins the crowd and the band in a firm collective, “say that you love me , all that we go through for now and forever I hold you”. These songs are full of emotion and create a strong connection to the listener, and having met Aaron and Kurt, they definitely extend their hugs to their fans, high fives and holds are happening throughout the gig where Aaron jumps from the stage to the front row of dedicated fans.

The two support acts, Liines and PINS show their appreciation of the Slow Readers Club and are both at the start of their journey, equally they are supported by the Scruff of the Neck, DHP and as The Slow Readers Club have benefitted from having them in their corner I’m sure they will too. The list of acts coming from these A&R stalwarts and music junkies is endless all of which have featured on the pages over the recent years.

How do you enter a gig which is clearly an appreciation to a hometown crowd that has sorted them out to follow their dreams? With ‘Donna Summer I Feel Love’ that’s how. It’s amazing the power music can have the crowd respond and I’m transported to 1 am at Bluedot Saturday earlier this year where UNKLE played the very same track. Goosebumps.

The tracks include, ‘Lunatic’, with the crowd building, towers around the Apollo with their arms, Supernatural, a personal favourite of mine, ‘Sirens’ with united vocals between Aaron and his couple of thousand backing singers. The chants of “Readers!…” and singing along to Sirens brings an amazing unity to the crowd the kind you would hold at any large crowd event. A commonality and everyone is there to enjoy. A perfect justification for the band all having jacked in their day jobs to further what they have already achieved and they have a strong following already. It never used to be this way round but they’ve proved they can deliver and have committed to it. It must be bizarre knowing you’ve got all these songs rolling around in your head and working every day to pay your way in life, can that be the reason for lyrics such as “wish I could start again”, we don’t have a second chance, grab life and “live it like you love it” (tip of the cap to the Charlatans another sold-out Apollo gig in ’95 I have fond memories of). “Is it anyone’s first time here? Welcome along” Aaron brings in the new fans and existing, a sense that it’s the start of a journey for those two parties, the band, and the newcomers, ”hope you enjoy it!”

“We’ve got two more for you and this one’s ‘I Saw A Ghost’” this is after Kurt has taken to the mic on ‘Lost Boys’, ironically “this boy has no future leading him in there”, they’ve crafted their own future and it’s on to the new chapter. I haven’t seen a crowd at the Apollo this into the music for a long time! It’s like a sending off for their favourite band to take on Europe! The final song makes the gig and the whole audience are singing along (I’ve still got it ringing through my head now, what a mantra). “Have a good Christmas – this one’s called On the TV”, The Slow Readers Club end the night with an arm in arm bow front stage. Have a good Christmas yourselves lads, you’ve deserved it.

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ALBUM RELEASE: Parcels – ‘Parcels’

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE     PHOTO BY JEAN F R RACLET

Let me introduce you to my new favourite band. You may have heard of them, they’re called Parcels. No ‘the’, plural and they’re electro epic! hey come from Australia, now live in Berlin and boast a collaboration with Daft Punk in 2017 with the beautiful, ‘Outside’. Now if Daft Punk endorsing you isn’t enough, to get you noticed, they’ve only gone and smashed out a minter of an album in Parcels (self-titled), the cover is fresh out of personified pop-art take on mile high club, complete with pristine pastel colours, perfect fringes and a secured case of the good stuff.

No holding back and right from the start ‘Comedown’ brings heavy kick beats and guitar that must’ve been noticed by our French Electro, heroes as it’s right up their rue de gare! ‘Everyroad’ has a narrative bringing the electro-funk on repeat and a curious description of surroundings and tranquil depth of what it is soundtracking and builds to a full on banger, oozing heavy synths and bass which would have any huge PA wanting more everytime. MCR Live popped along to their recent Manchester gig and I’ll be keeping my eyes to the ground and my ears peeled to sniff their next tour out, and they must be dropping some sets over summer festival season next year (Bluedot if you haven’t approached them yet, they’ll be just right where Crazy P was last year!)

When the funk, kick and electro cruises to halfway through the 12 track album ‘Yourfault’ gives a relaxed, waves lapping the shore, beach groove, with a Xylo-snare-janglechord-break portmanteaux of ‘Xychordbeach’. It’s more than just kick, xylophone, and Nile Rodgers-esque guitar, the vocals are enchanting and ‘closetowhy’ brings that in with some dreamy Hammond/synth halfway through too, close to why? Close to LCD Soundsystem more like! Along with LCD and Daft Punk obvious references, there are vocal smatterings of the Wilsons in there and I’m sure Parcels would have the Beach Boys as one of their influencers, after all, ‘Bemyself’ is fresh out of the ‘Pet Sounds’ outtakes.

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LIVE: Baxter Dury @ O2 Ritz | 08.11.18

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE        PHOTO BY LEE RAMSEY

“You’ve gotta check out Baxter Dury live, he’s something else” this comes from a mate who’s into his live music and saw Drury perform earlier this year at Gorilla. When Rough Trade got in touch with the team at MCR Live and asked us to put our take on Baxter’s gig at the O2 Ritz, my hand shot up faster than Baxter’s Pendolino from Chiswick.

The recent collaboration between Baxter Dury, Etienne De Crécy and Delilah Holliday – BED – is something completely new. Baxter’s moody autobiographical take on the world around him is addictive, endearing, punchy and I wanted to see it live, along with beats of the classic De Crécy and sultry vocals of Holliday: it’s a perfect collaboration.

Who’s supporting tonight? Alexis Taylor, Hot Chip’s techno wizard and multi-instrumentalist. There’s plenty of time to soak up his mastery with his 3-piece band. Donning a pearly king cap and a matching denim work suit, ochre/mustard in colourway, he knocks out 45 minutes of his own stuff and throws in “a cover of a Hot Chip song”. Playing keys/synth and guitar at the same time, (keys riff straight into chords) he’s ably supported by drums and bass making him a great support for the main act.

Enter the band with Baxter Dury. Flanking the main ‘salamander’ for the night, the ‘sausage men’, are two of Baxter’s angels, rocking glitter, sequins and white, stood front of stage left and right, commanding keys, synths and beautiful vocals. Set behind them is the lead and back-line of rhythm and bass, whilst front and centre awaiting the ‘shadow licker’ a double stack of keys and synths and the all-important mic which is about to channel Baxter’s spitting rhymes.

Enter Baxter, beckoning the crowd for more applause, his confidence and bare-faced arrogance is drawing us in further. “I’m funnier when I don’t speak” he laughs later in the set. He’s right, he’s a true showman and moves from body popping, kung fu mime-artistry, coat flashes, 1000 yard stares, air violin and every move is entertaining his theatrical manner. On the mic, he jumps from caressing the mic stand to channelling aggression and sometimes frustration at not being able to convey what’s going on in his mind, and using his tie to stop him from ripping off someone’s head from the front row. When singing or spoken word, his cockney rhymes come through strong and has similarities on the mic with John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) and of course his Dad, Ian Dury. His music debut was at five years old on the front cover of his Dad’s record ‘New Boots and Panties’. Tonight he’s stand alone and in the audience we did notice there were some original members of The Blockheads, still rocking the look and not hiding the grey hairs.

 

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baxter dury 🖤

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The performance is gripping and runs through a seemingly chronological take on Baxter’s career today, even a BED track slips in there, the popular ‘White Coats’ which is getting plenty of airplay at the minute, including on ‘Plastic Fantastic‘ on MCR Live. We’re now well into the gig and Baxter starts blowing kisses to the crowd, amplified through the mic, showing more under jacket flashes, “I love it in Manchester. I’m not just saying a cheesy speech y’know” he refers to the Gorilla gig as “the other day” and confesses “that’s all I am though, ain’t I – a cheesy speech over some music”. The rest of the band laugh and it’s clear they all have good camaraderie and are having a great time, Baxter stripping and throwing his jacket and tie at the roadie as he starts a play fight with ‘Leonardo’ on Bass.

‘Miami’ is a crowd (and band) favourite, whilst ‘Cocaine Man’ and ‘Prince of Tears’ are the encore, Baxter enters after the band again and starts a “Baxter! Baxter! Baxter!” chant to the beat of ‘Cocaine Man’. Just when you think it’s just a self-indulgent ego trip, he goes around the whole band getting the crowd to chant their names too for a couple of bars each. What a top show. Baxter Dury has a crowd in the palm of his hands and a band that is well placed to guide everyone through his chaotic, passionate genius. Keep spitting those words Baxter.

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LIVE: The Brian Jonestown Massacre @ The Leadmill | 22.10.18

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE         PHOTO BY MANC WANDERER

We arrive at The Leadmill at 7.20, the doors open in 10 minutes time and a few of the hardcore fans are already outside, lining up for the drug-fuelled rock ‘n’ rollers, The Brian Jonestown Massacre to wow them from their very crowded stage. Last time I saw them (which was also the first time I’d witnessed one of their famous live shows), they played for 3 hours, had a heated argument between most songs, Anton Newcombe the troubled creative genius of the band argued with the crowd and each song with the slightest error was repeated to strive for live perfection. We expect the very same entertainment tonight in Sheffield. “We’ve heard people in Leeds say you guys can’t do rock n roll. I know differently. You ARE rock n roll Sheffield!” Joel Gion steps off the tour bus followed shortly after by Anton, their swagger into The Leadmill tells the early arrivals in the queue that they’re up for this one! Time for a quick drink up the road before URF – who are supporting BJM – take to the stage.

URF are well suited to supporting The Brian Jonestown Massacre, lots of big hair, a psych rock vibe and a synth player that has centre stage with some mega dark looks and wet slicked hair. They play through their 30 minute slot with an air of excitement to be in town: “This is our first time playing Sheffield. We’re nervous as fuck!” The nerves didn’t show. Similar characteristics to BJM with pounding bass, guitar and the addition of amazing vocals. That woman can command a stage and rock the guitar at the same time. I saw them in the crowd during BJM later and they probably cant believe their luck playing alongside one of the biggest drug rock psych experts in the world, BJM. Their debut EP ‘For the Ride’ is out now, there’s a few hundred people from Sheffield looking out for that one!

They’re referred to as the biggest 60’s revival band since the 60’s and are fully authentic. BJM fronted by, Anton Newcombe have been knocking out album after album since the late 90’s, if you want an insight into where they’re from check out ‘DIG!’ on YouTube. It’s 1 hour and 46 minutes of pure BJM along side their sponsors in the music industry, A&R and their long time recording buddies The Dandy Warhols, well worth watching.

Anton swaggers to the stage, wearing a deerstalker, parka (underneath he has a white t-shirt that says ‘Eat Shit.’ in huge red letters), filming the band and then the crowd to a rapture of cheers and applause. Joel has his trademark grin on his face and his eyes ready for the performance are nearly bigger than his sideburns. Anton stands off to the side and Joel centre stage ready for percussion duties. There’s a tension to the band, those new to the BJM stand almost look nervous due to Anton’s pursuit of perfection and that shows half way through the set.”I’m driving this car and you’re in the baby seat! You dig?!” is just one of the instructions Anton comfortably dishes out. He doesn’t care, it’s his world, those along for the ride know what he’s like if they don’t like it they can move along.

Joel has a presence on the stage as Anton’s pacifier, friend, psuedo arch enemy and beat master. He’s glued to the spot with his rhythm and occasional vocal being a clear backbone to the band as a founding member, with the rest of the band surrounding them – with 9 members on there at one point. It’s a massive sound!

 

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@thebrianjonestown in Manchester

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The songs come from ‘PISH’, ‘Anemone’, ‘Forgotten Dreams’ and each of the tracks has at least a 30 second – 2 minute setup time before the song starts, this setup is all part of Anton’s zero-tolerance of mistakes, and imperfections. “I need to make sure the reverb is right on this before we begin. I was high for the entirety of this album and I want this guitar to sound like drugs.” Anton oozes pride with his music and they’ve never held back in the amount of mind expansion over the years, “Oh yeah a bit of advice, if you’re high when recording make sure you’re sound engineer understands drugs, my sound engineer on this album was straight and trying to explain the sound to him was impossible. Someone who has never done drugs should not try and mix an album that has been recorded when high. It’s like asking a square to contemplate the shape of a pineapple.” The crowd laugh with admiration for his honesty, wit and amazement for the music, Anton strums his guitar and checks in with those on stage who all clearly understand drugs, “Does that sound like drugs to you?”

‘Anemone’ receives a huge cheer right from the first note and tambourine – it’s a favourite of mine and most of the crowd, with a few moments of crowd surfing by way of showing appreciation and it seems like each guitar hook is held slight as if to draw the crowd in even more. BJM are amazing performers, naturally delivering on their terms, there’s no perceived fakeness and they are stronger together, although Anton’s volatility has nearly left him going it alone a few times I’m sure. The band wait for Anton, are lead by Anton and also lead Anton himself. “It’s 23 past, what do you want me to do?” – this marks the end of the night particularly as the band curfew was 23 minutes ago, the rest of the band are looking at him and probably wanting to suggest what happens next, they hold back and let him do what he wants. A way into ’23 past’ the feedback continues and Anton jumps onto the drums continuing the feedback into an improvised extension with drums and synths, more reverb and further entertaining the remaining crowd. This is the second time I’ve seen them and it was twice as good as the first, I’m still playing catch up on lots of their music and looking forward to the next live The Brian Jonestown Massacre experience.

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ALBUM: LIINES – ‘Stop Start’

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE

There’s a brilliant thing about something new combined with something we’re used too. A bit like snowboarding, surfing has been around for decades and then skiing has too, bring them both together and it’s the best way to surf down a mountain! At the top of the mountain all you want are fresh lines, LIINES from Manchester are fresh, they’re made up of Zoe, Tamsin and Leila and they’re climbing a massive mountain of big sound.

‘Shallow’ sets the tone for the album with lyrics “what were you thinking” anchoring the song, plus you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Zoe. She backs up her vocals with an aggressive guitar punch enough to keep the receiver of these lyrics from having a second short. The album has a grit to it, the songs are short and punchy, leaving perfect live gig bait. It’s recorded well and each track is written to destroy a room – be sure that the crowd will help out with that. The pounding drums will have no one stood still in front of these three.

‘Stop Start’ is full of bass, smashing guitar, wailing vocals and a solid drums backline. LIINES been likened to Joy Division and I get that, their debut album is produced by the best – Paul Tipler (Elastica, Idlewild, Placebo, Stereolab) has delivered this one. ‘Be Here’ and ‘Find Something’ gives out a solid Breeders/Pixies bass and a Bernard Summer Joy Division divide. Banging tunes!

On to the B-Side and ‘Blackout’ starts with ‘Stop’ and the staple LIINES 3-chord smash which throws energy into the hallowed vocals. The lyrics are dark, something (or rather someone) has created this deep feeling. Zoe can really take it the distance: “I love a band that gives everything and a singer who feels every single word”. She’s a female Eddie Vedder and the backline of Steph Walker (bass, who was a founding member of LIINES but left the band after the album was complete, with Tamsin Middleton stepping in on bass) and Leila (drums) give a solid backing that Elastica were always famous for and Kurt Cobain would have happily been in front of. The bass of ‘Disappear’ is Hooky and Morris all over and the guitar destroys that backline fighting it off to make room for the massive vocal. It’s a goodun.

LIINES are hot off the support of Hot Snakes, Desperate Journalist, and The Slow Readers Club as well as having headlined the Radio X Showcase. Along with getting airplay and 5* reviews from all the music industry elders like Louder Than War, BBC Radio 6 and Q they’re on a tour down the back bone of the country from Manchester and Preston, down to London.

Catch them at:
18th Oct  – Night and Day (Manchester)
17th Nov – The Ferret (Preston)
18th Nov – The Lexington (London – supporting Bis)
14th Dec – O2 Apollo (Manchester supporting Slow Readers Club)

‘Stop Start’ is out now on CD digipak, LP white vinyl and at http://Liines.bandcamp.com. Thanks to Reckless Yes for this record.

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EP: Sisteray – ‘Sisteray Said’

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE

It’s been a while since a band has been a London band, were Blur London? The Clash were. Hard-Fi tried to be. Sisteray are London and they want everyone to know. Their newest release, EP ‘Sisteray Said’ is the last serving from punks finest fledglings.

Pure melodic power punk through and through – particularly in track ‘Wannabes’ – this new offering is powdered mosh pit, just add sweat! The band have been linked to 90’s punk and indie with a swagger which Oasis made so clear on their rise. Combined with a punk backed by tribal floor toms and bass which is reminiscent of the Green Day ‘Dookie’ era.

Further down the track-listing, ‘Rumour Mill’ has all these traits and more; moody and preaching a future we don’t know of yet. If you like Reverend And The Makers and are all about that punk swagger, you’ll love this one. ‘Algorithm Prison’ is a every inch an aggressive nod to a broken social scene, all about the likes of Facebook and other social media capitalist movements. Step aside Zuckerberg because Sisteray are ready to fill cover any qualms about the social media movement! The punchy chords of the title track ‘Sisteray Said’ gives a tour of London and the Sisteray angle on the scene down there. This could quite easily replace ‘My Generation’ in THAT House Party scene on Quadraphenia. A soundtrack to a regional scene and a new generation of punks, giving the finger to what is right and what is wrong… because they said so!

The band are earning their stripes on the live circuit too with plenty of recommendations from the punk hardcore including John Robb and the Louder Than War crew.

The band are on a national tour. If they’re playing your town get out for it, they won’t be playing these small venues for long now!

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: The Slow Readers Club

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE

Manchester is famous for bearing fruit to some excellent bands over the years with consistent yield and constant motivation to encourage and strive for better. Over recent years The Slow Readers Club have been making impressions far and wide with strong performances and collaborations a plenty. We were invited to chat to Aaron and Kurt from the band and jumped at the chance. Vocals, keys and guitar respectively, the two brothers and the rest of the band are touring the recently released ‘Build a Tower’ and are due to release an eagerly awaiting acoustic album this week (14th September).

Clearly excited about the release of the EP ‘For All Here To Observe, Aaron explains the story behind it: “We’ve done a few radio sessions and acoustic stuff, as well as supporting James at Albert Hall at the end of last year. We figured we’d just get it recorded.”

The tracklist spans all three of their studio albums – “it allowed us to explore our sound more” – and there’s a feeling of the band wanting to deliver more to the fans and constantly wanting to challenge themselves. Kurt explained a bit more around the actual recording: “when we’ve done radio sessions before, me and Aaron normally turn up with an acoustic guitar and now and then we’ve had Jim on acoustic bass so we decided to mic up the drums and use brushes. It really gave the whole thing a different texture.” Aaron talked about Chris Croft who’s behind some of the bands iconic videos being with them in the studio filming as they recorded “it was stripped back and nice to see, the fans have been loving it so we’ll be doing more of it”.

 

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@theslowreadersclub main stage at @kendalcalling ✨🎪

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Keen to be out on the road promoting the releases of ‘Build a Tower’ and ‘For All Here To Observe’, The Slow Readers Club are off to Germany then Italy with two festivals in their slightly more extended summer than the British summer time: “it really gives us a wider audience and we’re hoping to do more of Europe next year too”. Featuring on the bill twice in as many years at the fast-growing UK festival Kendal Calling, they have felt the benefit of the growing fanbase “when we played this year (at Kendal Calling) we saw ticket sales go up a couple of hundred for the Manchester Apollo gig! That’s what it’s all about” The pair laugh triumphantly about the success they’ve had and know that it’s taken a lot of graft to get there. From early gigs playing to a handful of people at out of town venues to selling out Albert Hall last year and progressing to the fantastic, iconic and 80 year old Apollo this year (celebrated just a couple of weeks ago). The Apollo is on every bands’ wishlist as a venue to play – “We’ve only got 56 tickets left!” Aaron reports on the ticket sales. That’s fast progress but it comes with very little surprise for a rapidly growing music act. Keep knocking out those tunes and they’ll be taking the sound even further.

When asked what their favourite festival is, they fondly talk of the performances at Kendall Calling and Festival No.6, including the performance with Joe Duddell, “we rehearsed in the morning, did a full band set at Tim Peaks and then on to the Town Hall later in the day to do a 6 piece set. We were picked by Joe Duddell and he’s worked with New Order, James, the Charlatans, all sorts of people.”

 

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S L O W R E A D E R S C L U B. #SlowReadersClub #Readers #TheWelly

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Here’s two guys who clearly love the music they’re working on – and not just making it – Aaron speaks of him and Jim (bassist) having stuck around for Arcade Fire at Isle of Wight Festival and how they’re into what the Charlatans are doing and how supportive they’ve been to The Slow Readers Club journey. We chatted further about the physical music formats of tapes, records and even the recent mash up which saw them involved with Tim Burgess of Bands F.C. where in a Top Trumps, meets Panini, meets NME style the Teams Logos have been reimagined as a link to famous bands. “We’re all reds!” the duo mention, chatting around the Stone Roses link on Bands F.C. to Manchester United “The Daft Punk, Paris St Germain ones good too” quips Aaron.

The celebration of physical music, reaching number 4 in the vinyl chart and number 1 in the cassette chart is important to how the band connect with their fans “for me as a kid (a record) was an expression of who I was” knods Aaron, with a trim tip of the cap to musics physical formats. Vinyl has always been a big part of my life and I used the example of Nirvanas ‘Unplugged’ album released after their show on white vinyl, which I bought straight away. “That’s the pinnacle of “unplugged” when you’re recording a live acoustic album! With Nirvana you hear a lot of their influences and their version of David Bowie‘s ‘Man Who Sold The World’ was actually almost better than Bowie’s”.

Top lads and a band proudly from Manchester, about to play their biggest home coming gig to date at the Apollo this year, one not to be missed, get onto the tickets before they sell out completely!

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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UMO Sex & Love

ALBUM REVIEW: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food

Following on from the last opus ‘Multi-Love’, multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson and his band of unknown mortals have assembled the orchestra again to soundtrack ‘ Sex & Food ‘, the 4th album from the modern-psychedelic band. With the previous album from Unknown Mortal Orchestra ‘Multi-Love’ centring around a theme of a dysfunctional love triangle (is there any history of truly functional love triangles?), ‘Sex & Food maintains a similar theme with some culinary inspiration along the way. Having seen UMO at Manchester Ritz on the ‘Multi-Love’ tour, I can confirm that they can kick this beat live just as well as they can in a production studio surrounds.

UMO Sex & Food

Whilst I’m a big fan of Multi-Love and the previous LP ‘II’, I’m open to loving this new release and hope that with it brings a new high for the band. Without further ado, here’s the Sex & Food album run-through:

Track by Track

A God Called Hubris – Introducing the album with a short instrumental, welcome to Sex & Food.

Major League Chemicals – This first full-length track on the album has the gritty, unpolished garage-rock sound UMO have been known for over the years.

Ministry of Alienation – UMO have an ability to bash out hard-hitting, gritty sounding productions and soft heart-felt soul in equal measures – Ministry of Alienation has soulful guitars and dreamy vocals to boot.

Hunnybee – A string ensemble brings in more soulful bass & disco funk, ladened with a certain Chic and Grandmaster Flash vibe accompanied by those signature UMO hushed vocals.

Chronos Feasts on His Children – UMO like to have interludes in their albums and Chronos is Sex & Food’s addition, lasting for almost two minutes. Is it an idea that was great as a stand-alone piece? Or just helping to progress the album as was intended? Either way, it sits in the middle of the album and is the calm before the exploding second half.

American Guilt – The first single from Sex & Food, American Guilt personifies the gritty punch of the experimental band, with a catchy chorus and looping verse. A perfect first single, this one has been hitting the airwaves aplenty. American Guilt sees UMO more mainstream than in previous releases, following on from Multi-Love bringing out the band’s notoriety for kicking out the jams at the right time.

The Internet of Love (That Way) -The seventh track on the album is another smooth vibe, and a greedy platter with all of the instruments you can imagine – in fact, probably the only way to follow up after the stonking American Guilt. “FIle under Sex or Food, Ruban? We’ll file under both”

Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays – Keys and drums lead this beauty out, bringing an excellent kick to the track. With more of the trademark UMO hushed vocals, this one is going into my next set. ‘Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays’ Balearic and almost 70’s disco beats have an untouched garage-grit with jangly guitars all at the same time. The title is UMO contribution to a summarisation of the state of the world… (maybe we should collide our food with sex and then everything will be tickety-boo!?)

This Doomsday – Multi-vocals deliver a verse full of Haiku bounce, with a laziness to the vocals giving an apt (considering the title) dark beauty with smooth synths and pizzicato guitar aplenty. <reader reaches for thesaurus and finds that means finger-plucking, jargon busting>. This one stands out, for sure.

How Many Zeros – Drums, Synths and soft vocals with the bass coming in strong after the 30 sec intro, Thundercat would happily jump on this one. Just saying – (in the hope that he’s on a shared festival line-up at some point this year and offers up his services.)

Not in Love We’re Just High – Backed by a solid Rhodes bassline and a gentle vocal that helps us through – that is, until the drums kick in and bring a second dimension to conclude the prominent beat. Not In Love We’re Just High is the latest single taken from Sex & Food and it sounds GREAT.

If You’re Going to Break Yourself – A soft conclusion to a highly varied album with a unique sound, and another strong offering from the lads from down under. ‘If you’re going to break yourself, you can’t break me’ – mantra!

With Rhodes, synths, HC-TT, sax, vocals, guitar, bass, violins, piano, drums, sitar and drones mashed together in some sex-inspired food smorgasbord, Sex & Food is a feast of an album. Bring on the live events!

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django

REVIEW: Django Django @ The O2 Ritz

The Ritz played as the backdrop the Manchester stop off on the Marble Skies your for Django Django, ably supported by Man of Moon and Self Esteem.

A two-piece heavy bass, drums, and loops & plenty of Cow Bell – a highlight for me being the big synth loops on the last song which sounded bangin’. After buying their CD at the end of the gig (a nice cover of Django’s Waveforms) and upon a quick chat with the band, I found out that they are in fact Scots & Django fans too! I can imagine Man of Moon going down well at many a festival line-up – the band have a good live sound, so bassy in fact that the Ritz dance-floor sprung with vibration and bounce. It’s a shame they were on early as the crowd wasn’t all in by then. Support act life.

It’s the first night of the Marble Skies tour, Self Esteem blares out in all directions as the main support literally march on stage to a blistering bass, drum & vocals. As a band, they sound and look great from the offset. Becca Taylor of Slow Club stands in the middle of the group, all in red and flanked by the rest of the band all in black all with t-shirts saying ‘squirt isn’t pee’ (help me out here readers!). Vocals in a three-part harmony sound excellent and the tribal drums keep it rolling. The band have a bounce and sway which is nearly choreographed in parts yet somewhat naturally rhythmic at the same time. And then a slow ‘floss’ starts –  choreographed and works a treat!

Halfway through theatricals hit the stage – the band turn into Mannequins to check their phones whilst the drummer smashes the beats out of the skins. “This is Self Esteem and we’re gonna do a quiet one now” what follows is a perfect 3 part harmony acapella. Mesmerising. Becca grabs a guitar. And the show continues, finger clicks and claps are the hold steady percussion. They’ve got The Ritz in a trance. And the hip snap happy choreography is in perfect beat to the tunes. They played about 6 songs and said good night. (Becca is back on stage with the Django’s in a little while too.)

Next up the main show – Django Django. Beach Boys kick off the Pre-gig playlist. I’ve always liked how The Beach Boys have influenced the band taking a lot of songwriting and consistently perfect harmonies. The band come on in Cali-friendly pastel and white jeans. “Take us as we are..” Manchester are here for Django Django and they’re gonna bring the sound.

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Aside from the one time I caught them at End of the Road Festival ‘10 this is the first time for me seeing the Django’s at their headline show in Manchester “We love Manchester!..” Together, they sound flawless. The band are so tight and –  credit to the sound engineers – you can hear everything. Every drum beat. Bass note. Every key and harmonium.

Django Django have three large albums in the bag and – with that – an impressive discography. We were saying on the way to the gig that although each album has delivered in its own right, the band have now formed their own sound; Django Django have evolved into a fantastic live band with a long set of different, quality tunes.

One thing to note about Django Django is the regular moving and swapping of instruments throughout the set, floor Tom to the front. Pounding. Guitar for bass and synths… and, like their openers, plenty of Cow Bell. At one point All three of the front section amalgamate around the synths, repeating for the encore.

The setlist is full of bangers and the crowd lap every single bit up. 

Marble Skies, Tic tac toe, First light, Surface to air (and half-way through a rendition of Rapture, Blondie), Waveforms, In your beat, Champagne, Sundials, Default – and the set-list continues… Proper bouncing they loved it and so did the crowd. Two more EP’s for the racks and a top night. Good work Djangos with a band of merry multi-instrumentalists.

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