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Interview

lady bird band

IN CONVERSATION WITH: Lady Bird

Lady Bird are one of the most exciting upcoming punk bands in the UK right now; signed to Girl Fight Records, the new label from Slaves duo Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent. Lady Bird have a lot in common with Slaves; both bands are from the apparent-recently vibrant Kent scene and both make the same brand of witty, unapologetic punk-rock. The band are currently in the midst of their debut headline tour – which is impressively very close to completely selling out – and will feature support from Witch Fever, Guru and Arxx (and you should totally nab the last tickets, here).

With the release of new single ‘Love‘, we caught up with Lady Bird‘s guitarist Alex to talk about the guys’ bright future, the most interesting places they crashed on tour and the bands you need to keep your eyes on.

You recently finished your UK tour with Slaves, how was that for you and what was the best night of the tour?

The tour with Slaves was an incredible moment in our lives. To be invited to join them on those shows was a real honour and the people we got to play to was like nothing we’d experienced before. In terms of picking a favourite show, that isn’t easy! Glasgow Barrowland was off the charts. Manchester Academy, of course, was insane. There were many beautiful cities and experiences to choose a favourite!

We saw you playing at the YES basement during Neighbourhood last year – a big step up to now, playing sold-out arenas within only a month. Did the size of the audience knock you guys back at all? Any nerves?

I think the size of the crowds did take us back at the beginning. We stepped out on the first night in Newcastle expecting the room to be half empty and it was rammed! Having that many people be in the same room and be listening to our music is a real force of nature. We took that energy and it helps us push our performances each night, challenge ourselves. But I’m terms of nerves, for me, it’s more just the adrenaline that’s pumping round my body that I haven’t got on stage yet to use up!

We noticed that when you’re touring you often turn to Twitter looking for fans to put you up for the night. Have you got any interesting stories from those experiences?

Whilst on tour, we met some amazing people and made new friends along the way – we can’t thank the people that put us up last minute enough! Everyone was always so kind. We stayed with a lady in Glasgow called Hannah who had a kitten (and kittens are a deal-breaker for sure!). Such a nice thing to come home to after a gig!

You’re currently on your first headline tour, is there one night that you’re looking forward to more than any others? Will you be travelling to any new places?

Yes! We’re incredibly excited to be out doing our own string of dates – it’s been a dream of mine since I was a teenager! I can’t say I’m looking forward to certain dates more than others, but just the whole experience, really! We’re getting to visit some cities we’ve already been to before and it’s a nice return to continue your relationship with the place. (Soup kitchen is gonna go off!!!!)

What can we expect from the tour?

You can expect 3 blokes making some noise while trying to make sense of the world around them. New music, old music, sweat, fun, laughter and everything else in between.

How has it been for you, being recently signed to Slaves’ own record label ‘Girl Fight’? Do you get to work quite closely with the band when writing new songs?

Our songwriting process is very much ours and I don’t think the boys would ever want to step on our toes when it comes to that. But they encourage us in our creative endeavours and push us to create the best that we can. They’ve given us a great platform from which to work from and it’s up to us to continue that endeavour. It’d be fun to write some songs together one day, though!

 

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Boys done good ❤️ @thisisladybird

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Your songs tend to tell an interesting narrative, whats the general method behind writing? Does anyone take the lead? Where do you normally find inspiration?

I don’t think there is a set way a band can write a song – getting stuck in a method can be restrictive so it’s good not to be regimented. We’ve all got ideas and thoughts and Sam has the incredible knack of being able to sum it all up in poetry. The music just comes and you have let that flow so that it’s natural. Inspiration is around us all the time. The only thing we can talk about with certainty is our own lives, and our own experiences, so that’s a great starting point to getting out what we want to say.

What about new music? We know you’ve recently released ‘Love’…

Off the back of the tour with Slaves, we’ve been turning our minds to being back in the studio writing and recording and it’s been fruitful and enjoyable. It’s where it all starts for a band ya know? Writing songs. It’s an innocent stage as it’s the inception of an idea. Not yet touched by the world. Not yet reacted. So it’s definitely an exciting period to be in.

What else is coming up for Lady Bird during 2019?

Well, there will plenty more shows and new music. Plenty more writing and recording. We’re looking forward to going to Europe for the first time as a band, connecting with people on the continent and just continuing to experience life as much as we can while sharing that with the people around us.

What do you guys get up to when you’re not playing/ writing/ recording music? Any other hobbies, or other burgeoning talents amongst yourselves?

I think for all 3 of us, music really is our only hobby. It’s what we love doing so it’s what we do most of the time – being able to do it in Lady Bird all the time is a blessing.

Who else should we be listening to?

You should be listening to Willie J Healey. His 666 Kill EP is amazing. New Gorillaz album The Now Now and the new The Good, The Bad and The Queen album Merrie Land are works of art. Big up Damon Albarn in general. Radio Ethiopia by Patti Smith is on a lot for me at the moment too. Also, check a cracking band from Brighton called Guru and their new single ‘Consumer Helpline.

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: Empress Of

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER

Lorely Rodriguez AKA Empress Of is fiercely fighting-the-good-fight. With lyrics delivered with her LA twang that wraps around millennial vocals – see “don’t be pissy with me” and “I don’t even smoke weed / it gives me anxiety” – Empress Of may have the ingredients for your run-of-the-mill pop songstress but she’s working with a different recipe to the norm.

Of course, releasing an LP infused with an R’n’B basis (her debut album Me) wasn’t a rarity in 2015 but Rodriguez stepped it up a level with the catchy electronica influxes throughout and a tracklist that smacks the stereotype of a dismissive female off its feet. From Kitty Kat to Need MyselfMe is rife with angsty feminine empowerment and, you’re invested in every word. These cries for self-love and fighting back are expanded on with the feat that the album was all, entirely self-produced. In comparison, 2018’s sophomore record, Us, sees her work alongside the likes of Dev Hynes, duo DJDS (Kanye West, Khalid, Kacy Hill), Cole M.G.N. (Ariel Pink, Christine and the Queens). It’s a collaborative piece that offers less of an internal monologue but more of a discussion on about mutual relationships.

It’s clear that the record, and Lorely’s method of creating it, cultivated from her peers and her relationships with them. When we catch her, she’s in Cologne, having played Amsterdam the night before at 12:30 am. Images enter the mind of fluoro-brightened rooms and revelers lip-syncing her high-octane hit track Woman Is A Word – as featured on another female-fronted plotline, the recently aired Killing Eve. She speaks of her relationship with Dev Hynes – who produced Everything To Me, the first track on Us – as “friends first and then collaborators”, with the singer recruiting him particularly because she penned When I’m With Him about their friendship. Yes, yet another stereotypical barrier is broken down, this time in the form of a song about platonic relationships.

Her reign began when ‘Empress’ was brought up on a tarot card that a friend pulled out for. “I related to it so much, the mothering, strong, feminine energy of it. There are so many parts of me. The anxious side, the insecure side but I feel so empowered by my own music and I wanted to show that to people.” What really translates is that she’s by no means calling herself the Messiah though – “I can’t be that person…” Instead, she wants to embody a character that raises others up, be that showcasing her friends’ talents through collaboration or sanctioning positivity into the minds of her audience.

Empress Of isn’t just about empowering women. A feminist through and through, equality is the name of the game, as best transcribed by the recent Perfume Genius cover of the aforementioned Us track When I’m With Him. “I love that he sang the song from his perspective. It’s just beautiful.” Lorely mentions how her version of the track is from the point of view of a heterosexual woman and Perfume Genius takes it and eloquently ties it in, from his own point of view.

As we continue, the talk turns to social media as Lorely reveals that she no longer uses Mark Zuckerberg’s behemoth – Facebook. “Everyone’s constantly resharing political stories and views. I’ve seen friends go down spirals about ‘fake news’ and other political garbage.” Being from LA she is of course mostly aware of North American news and media but, we’re not too different over this side of the Atlantic. Globally, Facebook and generally all social media platforms have morphed from ‘hey look at my holiday snaps’ into a full-blown news site with twenty-four hour, twenty-four-seven, updated every microsecond. “I find it important to stay in touch with what’s happening in the world but I don’t want to be clouded by it.” A valid point of view amongst a society where ‘procrastination’ is a regular in our vocabulary.

The next two months sees Lorely take to writing once more, so perhaps You is in the pipeline? Two particular characters that always catch her attention are Mariah Carey and French new wave artist, Lizzy Mercier Descloux. “Before every show, I look at these two photographs and, it makes me feel like, they’re watching over me.” Let’s hope that these two iconic acts only continue to watch over this LA protégé.

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Ibibio Sound Machine Interview

IN CONVERSATION WITH: Ibibio Sound Machine

WORDS + PHOTO – JAMES WARD

My interview with Ibibio Sound Machine did not start well. Within less than a minute of sitting down with Eno Williams, I’d fumbled the word “Ibibio” and was questioning my worth as a journalist who can’t even say the name of the band he’s interviewing. Having corrected my mistake and Eno having graciously accepted my apology we began the interview proper.

Ibibio Sound Machine are a unique band. They play a blend of West African and electronic music that has found a mainstream audience. This year they are playing Live at Leeds, All Points East and Handmade Festivals (amongst others) where the typical punter is less likely to have had a wide exposure to the modern forms of Highlife they play then if they were playing at a jazz or “world music” focused festival. I started by asking Eno what artists people who discover Ibibio’s music at a festival should investigate to get to know their sound a little better…

“Well there are people like Oumou Sangare, Fatoumata Diawara, Angelique Kidjo, there are so many of these African artists who are in the style of music that we do. What we’re trying to do is bring that with a mixture of funk and electronic stuff as well.”

Today, Ibibio Sound Machine are part of a larger movement of West African music present within the UK but this wasn’t the case when they started out. Around the release of their second album, Eno spoke of how Ibibio’s appearance on Jools Holland had felt like a moment of acceptance from the UK music establishment. As the band looks to find their way out of the 6 Music bubble, one wonders what factors contributed to this mainstream acceptance.

“I think to be honest that it’s to do with the sound, the vibe, the electronic, the high-life. The fact that the music itself is quite positive, quite high energy, high octane and there’s a vibrancy to it. It feels like in the times that we live in that sometimes there’s a bleakness or a shadow over people and people just want something to lift them up to take them to a different space and just escape from the norm and the everyday bleakness. I think that’s why I guess that it’s being accepted, it’s kind of a different sound and people like something different… and people like to dance! That’s what we’ve realized, the set is like a work out session so I’m really sorry if I get people dancing too much and sweating.”

We turn our attention to the new album at which point Eno jumps in enthusiastically.

“22nd of March, one week today, the album comes out. There’s a lot of influences in that we kind of joined influences from our highlife and electronic genres. We’ve been trying to make it very much a live album as well. We’ve been playing quite a lot of gigs in the last few years and found that it felt very organic to get all of us in the room and create something that was reminiscent of that.

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE INTERVIEW

The title is called ‘Doko Mien’ which means “Tell Me”, which has two sides to it: one side asking the universe “tell me/direct me what to do” and then there’s the flipside – the commentary on women often being told what to do. So, it’s about speaking up and having a voice and being able to express your opinions. For example, in the creative process of writing that particular song we got into a bit of an argument. I was trying to do one thing and Max the producer going “oh well I think we should do it this way!” and I’m like “yeah yeah yeah, I know your way is the right way so just tell me what to do and I’ll do it… but you need to hear my voice!’”

Ibibio Sound Machine albums are themed, the first (self-titled) was an opportunity for Eno to share old Ibibio stories in a musical setting. The second Uyai or “Beauty” has a much stronger focus on female empowerment which the new album continues.

“Doko Mien continues that empowering ideal with more of a live connection, and more focus on the ebb and flow of life more generally, whilst still touching on culture, storytelling and the things that make our sound “good”. We’ve tried to include English lyrics this time to include the listener, to get them into the backdrop of what I’m singing about.

Most of the lyrics and the melodies come with the Ibibio language, as it is quite lyrical and quite rhythmic, so that comes first and then we do the translation. The English and Ibibio languages as sort of two poles apart; a word in English translated to Ibibio could be three or four phrases. Trying to make that move and that shift in English can be really tricky but we just try to keep the rhythms and the melodies flowing in tandem”

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE INTERVIEW

In May 2017 Ibibio Sound Machine played in Morocco, their first gig on the African continent. For a band whose identity is so steeped in Nigerian culture and West African music more broadly, it seems strange that they haven’t had the opportunity to play there more often.

“We’ve had a couple of invitations, but they clashed with other tours so sadly we haven’t made it yet. [We would want to] be in Nigeria of course, because that’s the Heritage of the band-name. Then maybe Ghana, maybe South Africa. We’re looking at exploring Africa in the future…

As there’s 8 of us in the band, it’s the logistics – touring around England and Europe is already a challenge! These are places where everything is already in place, but somewhere like Nigeria… it’s just the logistics of making it happen. In the near future, we really want to make it happen. I just keep thinking ‘it will happen but it has to be the right time.’”

Doko Mien is out on the 22nd of March and you can catch Ibibio Sound Machine at festivals across the UK this summer. If you want to explore their sound a little more, see the playlist below to introduce you to more West African music.

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: Cory Wong

WORDS BY: JOEL MALLEN

Funky, fun and full of cartilage, Cory Wong is fast becoming a global leading light in a renaissance of uptempo funk. A consistent collaborator with Vulfpeck (to the point where they have a full track reserved just for him as an album closer), he is making a noise with his giddy, positive vibe and bafflingly loose spider hands, somehow sounding tight and rich in musicianship. I had the honour of catching up with him over a vegan burger and sweet potato fries, just before his headline show at Gorilla.

What would be your blurb? How would you describe yourself?

I am a musician that plays music to spread joy to the world. A lot of guitar-led bands, it’s about the guitar player – it’s about “look what I can do”. For me, my guiding light is not about showing off flashy moves. If those come out, great! But my guiding light is to leave my show and listening to my records thinking “Oh wow, that was really fun”, or “oh wow, that put me in a good mood”. It might sound cheesy, but that really is a thing for me.

How does your right hand just, like, do that? Is it dislocated?

Well, I am able to have it very loose but in control – I have a very flexible wrist, and I guess I’ve just practised a lot.

Growing up in Minneapolis, you’ve mentioned how Prince was a real influence on you – did that influence your style from a very young age?

Yeah, I mean I started as a punk rock and ska kid: Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, that sort of thing. But Prince is just kinda everywhere; it’s in the water, it’s in the air, you can’t really avoid it. It’s just how it is.


Was your main source of development rooted in experiences with rhythm bands growing up, or more from discovering artists like Prince?

It’s more from discovering artistry. Even developing my own sound and style was a by-product of learning so deeply the catalogue of Prince, Pat Metheny, Earth, Wind & Fire. Learning it so intimately, and then completely abandoning it to find who I am. I had some mentors that were like “Dude, you gotta stop sounding like Prince, you’ve gotta sound like you. That’s what people wanna hear – nobody’s ever gonna be as good as Prince at being Prince, just as no-one is gonna be as good as you as being you”.

What’s your main impression of the Manchester scene and the UK scene? I know you do a lot of work with the RNCM, masterclasses and the like.

It’s fun to see that there are so many scenes, from all over the world, that have a vibrant arts culture and music business culture as well. The UK in general is such a thriving area for musicians. It’s fun to experience and see this music college that reminds me so much of my own school; it’s very global now.

Your last album The Optimist came out last August – what was your favourite moment or song to record?

My favourite one on there is 91 Maxima. It was a fun song to record, I had an idea of what I wanted to do video wise. I just had some fun little tricks I wanted to do, I didn’t think I would pull it  off, but I did! I really enjoyed Jax and Light As Anything, because I was able to pull off the palindrome, a two drummer drum-kit, a lefty and righty with one kick in the middle. That was a fun, cool thing.

What’s the next step in terms of your recorded music? Are you planning on getting more adventurous with your sound?

I have a bunch of music already recorded for my next record that I feel really good about. Some of this upcoming record is some more collaborations, which I’m really excited about: some that have already happened, some that are coming up which I can’t believe are going to happen. I don’t wanna jinx it, but there’s some big ones, some heroes of mine. I wanna continue to step out as a guitar player led ensemble, in general that’s adventurous to me as a non-shred guy.

Your music seems a very positive force, would you consider that more of a release from you and the music justifies the means, or would you consider that just your outlook on life?

I consider myself a positive person in most areas, but yes I do believe there is a bit of that feedback loop thing, it grows and grows. But I’m mainly just a positive person.

 

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#airbud

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You’re famous across the pond for your jam night in Minneapolis. How important is jamming? What would you say to any young player that is a bit tentative to get on stage?

I’d say it’s formative to them. The word “jamming” can mean a lot of different things to different people.

Because in the higher jazz circles for example, it’s viewed as more like a “cutting session”. Do you think it should be competitive?

Well I’m always out for blood, but I’m not gonna cut any heads. I’m always looking for great musicians to play with. I try to push myself and others in those situations to see how great of a moment we can get. But I think it’s a good thing for growth. The other thing is just to go and hang and be part of a scene, I think that’s the most important thing, and finding a scene that you belong in musically and personally, seeing who you align with.

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: New Luna

WORDS BY: ELEANOR FORREST

Since featuring on BBC Music’s Introducing in Manchester, it’s clear that New Luna are hitting the ground running. The last time we met they were embarking on their first tour, playing gigs in the cities around the country. Since then New Luna, comprised of Tom Deedigan, Zack Bamber, Toby Duncan and Nathan Gray, have released the first track in a line-up of monthly releases for 2019. 

Titled Red the track incorporates a rawness to their music, demonstrating their musical evolution. Created a few years ago, the track was only played at live shows. Tom Deedigan who wrote the track stated, “It’s about two or three years old. I wrote the basics of the song and brought it to the band and they liked it a lot and a lot of our friends feel its one of their favourites. The sound is a little bit like, I don’t want to say grunge-y, but somewhere towards that.”

New Luna – Knew Too [live at HQ Studio]

New Luna perform Knew Too in a live acoustic session at HQ Recording Studio, Strangeways, Manchester, featuring Rachel Horton-Kitchlew on harp.Video produced by Conor Deedigan at Source Material MediaTickets on sale now: New Luna live at Gullivers, Manchester 01/03/19

Posted by New Luna on Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Production is something the band have focused on recently, as well as their online presence and communicating with their ever-growing fan base that the tour cultivated.

ZB: “We spent the last year trying control our own production with Tommy doing an internship that helped with the technical side and now we’ve been more and more involved in it to the point where, having just released our new track Red, we’ve done it ourselves and we want to do that going forward as well.”

TD: “We’ve even started printing our own T-shirts, it’s quite cool we’re getting back into it again and spent a lot of time getting good at recording and that sort of stuff.”

Touring was one of the things that allowed New Luna to see the fans in person, and amongst the many memorable moments, the fans were what stood out to the band and not just because they liked the T-shirts.

Nathan Gray: “I think the people make it more than anything, more than the venue. Those places that we went to were really friendly and open. They’re always like ‘come down!’ or ‘we’ll get you headlining the next show’ they’re just really nice people.”

When they’re not touring or rehearsing you can usually find New Luna at their usual haunt, Gullivers in the Northern Quarter. 

TD: “I don’t think I’ve ever played a gig there that was bad. Anytime I see a gig there, they’re always really good.” 

ZB: “It’s in the perfect place and the right size for us at the moment, obviously you want a room to be full but you also want it to feel like it’s a gathering. We just happened to have played a lot of shows where we felt like we played really well.”  

TD: “It’s our home turf.”

For 2019 you can expect the release of a huge catalogue of new music that the band have been working on.

ZB: “We’re at a point now where we’re still writing a lot because we have two songwriters in the band but we’re moving faster than our recordings can keep up.” 

TD: “We kind of want to chuck them all out now.”

To keep updated follow them on Facebook:

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: Maggie Rogers

WORDS BY EMMA LANGFORD     PHOTOS BY MANC WANDERER

It is tempting to imagine how Maggie Rogers’ career would have rolled out, had she not found viral fame from Pharrell’s patronage. This student at the Clive Davis Institute had just started incorporating electronica into her folky songwriting when the visiting producer poured lavish praise on her class project, “Alaska.”

It is ironic that a song about a recent personal reclamation (“And I walked off you/And I walked off an old me”) led to a renewed loss of control in Rogers’ life, one that she has likened to a violation, or, in the naturalistic songwriting she prefers, a bout of freak weather. Now in the twisting and turning world of her career, Rogers is meeting the demand for her. Sold out shows popping up all over the globe and a social following that skyrockets on the daily, there’s no stopping her. Luckily for you though, we managed to catch her for a few minutes…

Are you excited for your show?

Yes, I’m super excited. These are the first shows I’m gonna play with my album out and so it’s cool cause it is the first time the audience has the chance to know the words like I’ve been touring for the past two and a half years it feels like I’m throwing a party now.

What’s been your favourite show on the tour so far?

Every night seems to just get better and better but we did get to play Dublin on a Friday night which is just pretty awesome. I was playing my song ‘Falling Water’ and for anyone who doesn’t know this song it is kinda like an intense emotional ballad and some girl got on her friend’s shoulders and took her top off it was proper rock n roll nothing that I’d expect to see.

When did you first realise that you were gonna become a musician?

I think that’s something you decide for yourself. I started writing songs when I was 13/14 but I think I decided I really wanted to be a musician when I was 17.

Which artists did you listen to when you were growing up?

When I was really young I listened to a lot of classical music as my first instrument was the harp. So I listened to lots of Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi. In high school, I got into listening to mid-2000s Indie music Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend and then I discovered Nick Drake and The Talking Heads.

How would you describe your musical development as you are known for your original sound of folk infused with electronic influences?

It has always been about my own experimentation with production cause I feel like I’ve been writing songs the same way since I was thirteen. It’s just like really narrative and me just in my bedroom trying to understand the world and trying to produce them in ways that keep me creatively challenged. So at first it was folk music then I played in a few rock bands and then I was playing bass in a Punk band for a while and did some DJ stuff. On my EP I did some folk – electronic hybrid but now it feels good cause      I feel like I’ve come round to something that feels more true to my background. It’s really nice to have these real instruments back in the mix.

Would you say dance influences your music?

I don’t think so it is just something I do really naturally. I’ve always loved to move and if you don’t move when listening to music I think you’re subconsciously holding yourself back. My favourite type of music is kinda like dancing while crying it is something you can move to and feel to and I think that is what I’m always trying to do with my music. I think in doing that you can give people different ways in.

What would you say ‘Heard It In The Past Life’ is about and why did you decide to call it that?

I had the title before I had anything else. It is mainly about the last two years of my life where I graduated from college and had this transition. Basically, my private life became very public and I became a professional musician straight out of college and there is just a lot of change. When that change happens different people have different ways of dealing with it or explaining it and my way has always just been writing music.

 

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girls to the front . . 📷 @mlownsphotography

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How would you describe your process of making music as a songwriter and as a producer?

It depends what I am creating on if it is on my guitar. Back In My Body happened that way I wrote it on guitar in my childhood bedroom in Maryland then went to the studio that I had in my parent’s barn and sorta decided what I wanted the sonic architecture to look like. But sometimes like ‘Falling Water’ I’ll just start making a beat or making a track on my computer and then write on top of it so it can happen in a couple of different ways but I think no matter what I always go back to guitar and piano where I really check on the structure of the song because the song is the most important thing.

What’s your favourite song on your new album?

It depends on what kinda mood you’re in. I don’t know if I have an answer to that honestly. Falling Water is the song that took the longest but that’s not always a sheer sign. It really taught me to edit in a new way that I hadn’t before and musically I am probably the proudest of it but lyrically I really love Past Life and from a production standpoint I’m really proud of Overnight. If I wanna dance Say It is probably my favourite. I spent a lot of time with the track listing, thinking about the way I wanted the songs to run into each other. I really love the way the record flows.

What made you want to write Alaska? What headspace were you in at that point?

Alaska was the first song I wrote two years after writer’s block and the last thing I had done when I stopped writing was to go on a hiking trip to Alaska the song isn’t really about the place as much as I was processing the things as I was walking in the place.

How was your experience performing on Saturday Night Live?

It was insane. I just walked in and started crying like I was just really overwhelmed that that was even happening. Even you asking me that question I guess I still can’t believe that even happened. I feel like it is in the realm of dreams you don’t say out loud. It is just like crazy. I grew up watching this TV show and I never thought it was a possibility that I could be on it one day. It was really an honour to be a part of that.

Who are your favourite up and coming artists?

I really love Rosalía and Phoebe Bridgers and this band Big Thief the lead singer in that band Adrianne Linker is one of my favourite songwriters. Phoebe is a friend of mine… I don’t know Rosalía but I think her music is amazing.

Are there any artists that you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

I really love James Blake and am constantly drawn in by his production. I’m a giant Brockhampton fan and would love to work with them but I don’t know if they are open to that cause I know they’re such a collective and I have so much admiration for that. I don’t know maybe Dolly Parton if I’m really dreaming I think that’d be cool.

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: Songhoy Blues

WORDS BY SOPHIE BILLINGTON

Songhoy Blues is a four-piece band from Mali in Africa. Three members hail from the north of the country. One of them is from Bamako in the south where the band met. I met Songhoy Blues in their dressing room at Band on the Wall. They were due to play there that evening. All but one of the men wore hats. Not one of them seemed remotely interested in making a pizza order. One voice was exasperated, ‘I know nothing about pizza!’. Briefly introducing his group, lead singer Aliou Touré named Garba Touré as the guitar player, Oumar Touré as the bass player and Nathanael Dembélé as the drummer. Because he was ‘more chatty’, he was to speak with me the most.

Aliou started off describing the chance beginnings of his now world-famous group. ‘We met in June 2012 at the worst moment of the political situation in Mali’. This was the moment at which the militant Islamist group Ansar Dine took over the north of the country. Aliou explained that music was banned in the three biggest cities in the area emphasising that ‘nearly half of the country wasn’t allowed to play music’. All of the musicians in the north were exiled to the country’s southern capital where Aliou, Garba, Oumar and Nathanael came together.

Describing Bamako as a ‘party-town’ he explained, ‘we went to see a band play one day at a club called Domino and this is where we all met’. Though two of the men were from Gao and he was from Timbuktu, he described a certain nostalgia: ‘if you’re all from the same place and you meet somewhere else, you’re definitely gonna speak about it’. They became friends and started jamming together. It wasn’t long before their first live performance took place at Aliou’s cousin’s wedding, ‘I told her, “I don’t have a band right now but I have a few friends, I can get a mercenary band together’. It was at this wedding that the band clicked into place: ‘The wedding was like a [normal] jam session for us but the crowd really had fun and it was really interesting’. The four men decided to rehearse every day and put their own setlist together, ‘we thought, “how about we put out an album one day?”’.

 

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Yeahhh! @songhoyblues banginnnn

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The band has gone further than to reach their goal of putting out an album. They have put out two, the latter featuring the likes of US superstar Iggy Pop and UK grime artist Elf Kid. However, not one of the quartet has lost sight of issues at home. They told me how they often use their performances to encourage support for refugees between songs.  ‘We got parents and friends from our home town that are still living in refugee camps around the border of Mali, so we kind of feel concerned about that situation. As artists, we have to talk about it’.

On the topic of how it felt to go from political exile to widespread recognition in the West, Aliou stressed the extreme change that it literally involved.  Using the climate as a metaphor for the experience he commented, ‘The feeling is like when you take something from the microwave and put it in the freezer. Can you imagine someone from Mali used to 30 degrees to 40-degree heat coming to negative 0 in London in December?’ He even remembered the date, ‘8th of December 2013 was our first time here, and that was a huge change for us. It was the starting block for everything. Right then [at that moment] we looked at each other and agreed to keep doing what we were doing’.

So what did the band think brought them here? ‘Music, it’s the music. In one word right there it’s the music’. An angry passion shot through his next sentence, ‘I don’t think I could ever be in London if I wasn’t a musician,’ pointing at his bandmates he continued, ‘He, never. And he, never! It’s like destiny to be a musician and to go and be in Europe and be touring and talking to journalists and media and stuff. We are lucky actually’.

Although Songhoy Blue combines so many different genres in their music, they describe their music as ‘African groove’. Garba commented, ‘We’re from Africa, and we always listen and try to give a flavour of our traditional music. We are part of a technological generation though, and we try to add more energy to this traditional music’. Aliou, chatty as ever, continued,  ‘Simple answer, it’s African music, Malian music that’s it’. He elaborated that six or seven African countries border on Mali, adding that ‘Algeria in the north is an Arabic country, [and has a completely] different culture to Dakhar in the south or the Ivory coast for instance. Even within Mali, there are 13 languages, tribes and types of music so you definitely find rock, blues, reggae, whatever else living in these types of music. We link all of that music together. We link them from the south in Bambara, to Dogon in the middle and Songhoy up there on the desert. So when you put all of those flavours together you get something like Songhoy Blues out’.

Countless reviews have spoken of the band’s energy on stage. Nathanael Dembélé spoke out for the first time, ‘We live in Mali, if we come from Mali in the north, the north doesn’t save [its people who are] living in fear, it is hard for us to enjoy [ourselves] and [be full of] love on stage. We need to be very ener[getic] very powerful in our message and that[’s] the kind of feel we have.’ The band-member continued on in order to explain the rebellious nature of their infamous energy. ‘We can just enjoy [ouselves] and play love music because we didn’t [come] from love… [This is] sedition from the heart, sedition [found in] rock and roll, the blues, the reggae [and the sedition found in] hip hop’.

 

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@songhoyblues – @bandonthewall

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Aliou joined his band member’s passion. He described how coming to fame fanned the flames of resistance in the minds of his group and offered an apt metaphor: ‘[It’s] like when you take someone out of jail. It exposes something that blows his mind. He’s definitely going to enjoy the liberty, the new life. [We’ve spent] more than twenty years of our lives in one of the poorest countries in the world with everything missing, liberty, everything, with war, and when you see yourself…  living your dream, [you can only be] happy and energetic. [But there’s] also the anger, to take that out of ourselves, expression, cos we kind of wish people could understand what we’re talking about but we can’t, so… we share that energy with people. They always take that away from seeing us play’.

On the subject of what the band felt was amiss from their life of fame, Garba Touré spoke: ‘We miss that moment, our time in north Mali.  We miss our family.’ Waving a bag of peanuts the guitar player continued, ‘Mali is not like this, these “nuts” kinds of things. I never got myself food in Mali that is like what we eat here’. Home comforts meant a lot it seemed.  Aliou’s face became pensive as he contributed, ‘Your hometown is unlike anywhere else. It’s where you feel better.’ Perhaps it was the humanity of this statement that brought tragedy to what followed: ‘but right now [instead of our home in the north], we live in the south of Mali ‘cos we have no choice you know. There is no embassy in the north, everything is in the south, the airport, visas, everything is in the [southern] capital’.

This led to a discussion of Songhoy Blues’ latest album. ‘The name comes from our journey you know, it comes from our music in exile. If you knew the whole story, the reality of Mali, you would understand why we decided to call this album Resistance’. It became clear to me that the lives of the band members were entangled in the politics of their home country. ‘They say that the north was occupied by jihadist guys, so we say to people to be resistant. You should never be scared of bad people because if you come together, one day you will fight them. The name ‘Resistance’ is meant to imply that when we fight, we will win’.

‘When the whole situation [in Mali] started, the musicians were the people who took on the most pain. When the people in a place understand that there is no security there, nobody is going to play music. So how do those musicians get to live, get to eat? They have families and kids, they’re just people’ ‘Music is really powerful. Extremists tried to forbid it because they know that. Music is a way of communicating important information, and everyone can hear it so quickly’. It struck me that what Songhoy Blues tried to communicate in their performances was a picture of hope. When I finally saw them on stage that night at Band on the Wall, that picture is what impressed me.

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: whenyoung @ The Deaf Institute

WORDS BY MATTHEW PYWELL

Irish trio whenyoung have come a long way since their debut single back in 2017. Just over a year later, the band have released their first EP – Given Up – and 2019 will see the release of their debut album. I recently caught up with the band ahead of their show at The Deaf Institute, to feed my curiosity about the intriguing indie pop/rock group.

Initially hailing from Limerick, the band members Aoife Power (vocals/bass), Niall Burns (guitar) and Andrew Flood (drums) bonded over their mutual passion for music and art. However, the formation of the band didn’t start until they moved over to London. I wondered whether the contrast between Limerick and London was a culture shock for the band, “It was in the sense that the city we’re from is really small and coming to London, you forget that you don’t have to say ‘hi’ to everyone on the street, and actually you probably shouldn’t because they’ll think you’re really weird” Aoife replied. “Where we’re from, if you’re walking down the road and there aren’t many people on it, you’d probably salute the person”. Moving to London gave the group a chance for a fresh start, “it felt like a holiday for a long time”, Niall revealed.

When asked about the benefits of immersing yourself in different cultures, the band are all in agreement about its importance and see London as a hub for multiculturalism, “It’s amazing to experience different cultures within one place, you can go to an area of London, walk down to an area with Turkish shops, there’ll be Ethiopian restaurants, and you can just soak that up” said Niall.

 

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❤️💙💛 pretty pure 💛💙❤️

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One of the most famous people to come out of Limerick was Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, who tragically passed away last year, whenyoung were performing at Shane McGowan’s birthday on the day she passed, “it was such a weird night, all these Irish artists were brought together and we got the news just before we were going on stage”. This was part of the reason why whenyoung released their own cover of The Cranberries song Dreams, a poignant rendition with an obvious sense of respect and gratitude towards the original.

A marker of just how far the band have come since moving over to London, is the fact that they were asked to perform at the Barbican recently, to celebrate Irish artists making a name for themselves in the UK. “we were quite surprised when we were asked to do that, because a lot of the musicians were of high esteem, in the Irish traditional scene, which we wouldn’t necessarily feel that close to, the talent on the stage was amazing”, Niall told me. A huge passion of the band is their interest in fashion, not high-street fashion but finding outfits that make them stand out in the crowd, usually sourced from charity shops. As they took to the stage at The Deaf Institute, they certainly look the part, Aoife illuminated under a spotlight, contrasting her black blazer and trouser combination. Niall has chosen the same blazer/trouser combination but in a startling bright yellow, while Andrew heads towards the drums in a bright orange boiler suit.

One of the first songs played is Pretty Pure, a track which encapsulates the nature of a lot of whenyoung‘s discography, in that there’s a veiled disguise of joy over melancholy lyrics. “Don’t think I’m human anymore”, reverberates around The Deaf Institute on the track’s chorus. One of the night’s highlights is Heaven On Earth, a track which is pessimistic in nature but through its soaring hooks, manages to add dynamism to the live set.

Their latest single release, Never Let Go is all about remembering that there’s hope, even within the most trying of times. “I think with a lot of our songs, they’re about quite sad things but we always try to bring hope to the subject and in a way they’re all personal affirmations and we want them to connect with other people. The best books and songs are the ones that stick with you, the ones that have moved you and made you feel inspired” Aoife told me.

In addition to the release of Never Let Go, the band also released a run of t-shirts to help raise money for Mind charity. “We contacted them because we wanted to support a mental health charity because we’d lost a best friend to suicide”. The song has whenyoung‘s most uplifting hook, it achieves the desired effect of bringing hope, the kind of track I’d want to hear just as I was finishing a marathon. The set is slowed down for Sleeper, the backing track is simplified and this gives a sense of introversion to Aoife’s vocals, adding an extra air of vulnerability to her performance.

They then go on to play The Others, a song which was written about the Grenfell Tower fire and probably the band’s most far-reaching and socially conscious track to date, it pays a closer homage to one of their biggest influences, The Clash. I’d be interested to see whenyoung write more politically engaged songs. The set finishes with Given Up and the difference it holds to the recorded material is that the verses feel darker, and moodier than ever, while the chorus is more euphoric a suitable ending. I asked the band how they wanted people to feel after their live show and Andrew replied with, “we want people to feel a sense of euphoria or to be crying while laughing”. That bittersweet sensation is definitely felt and their fans definitely feel a connection to the themes of the various tracks.

A couple of new songs were debuted as well including Future and In My Dreams, the former seemingly encapsulating that overlapping sense of optimism that whenyoung seem to be imprinting within their brand of indie-pop. The band are all set to release their debut album this year and I recommend you keep your eyes peeled for its release!

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: Pip Blom

WORDS BY EVIE GARNER

I met Pip Blom and the band in Hebden Bridge Trades Club bar just after their soundcheck. Admittedly slightly nervous to be interviewing them but completely put at ease with “Oh would you like a drink?” offered by Gini, the drummer. Feeling welcome, it was clear that this band are laid-back and easy to be with.

Although this is Pip’s project, it’s clear that this is a team – listening to one another attentively and respectfully challenging one another’s points of view. On stage, that friendship is present; they wind each other up and laugh as if they’re sharing private jokes. The music itself is high-energy and fun-spirited with pithy lyrics and punchy melodies. The gig is sold out, but it doesn’t seem to faze any of them.

Darek, the bassist, tinkers with the piano in the corner whilst Tender – Pip’s brother – and guitarist tests my microphone levels and Gini gets the beers out of the fridge.  

“Sorry we’re a bit all over the place” apologises Pip.

So, you guys are from The Netherlands, what is the music scene like there?

Tender (guitar): Better than ever! There hasn’t been such a time where there’s a lot of cool bands coming from the Netherlands as ever now. It’s not as big as the UK, though, obviously.

Gini: There seems to be more of a fuss around music in the UK.

Pip: The music industry isn’t as much in our genes as it is for bands in the UK, at least that’s what we feel. There are lots of bands in the Netherlands trying to do shows outside of the Netherlands because it’s so small you tend to be done quite easily. Often it’s really hard to get to the bigger ones because there’s a gap in the middle, you’re kind of stuck doing the same round over and over again.

Derak (bass): It’s difficult though because it feels like you have to start over in every country.

What bands from the Netherlands should we be listening to?

Pip: Canshaker Pi, I would say, Personal Trainer, The Homesick, there’s loads! You should know Canshaker Pi, hopefully, we’ll bring them on tour with us to Manchester and show them to you.

Are there any bands in the UK you’re influenced by at the moment?

Pip: Micachu & The Shapes are my biggest influence.

T: We like Blur, Oasis(Everyone laughs – this seems to be a sore subject.) But that’s not much of an influence for us.

P: Because we’re touring in the UK we get to see lots of bands who are starting off as well. So, they might not have been an influence years ago, but I probably pick some stuff up now. I really like Squid, for example.

Gigi: We’ve been listening to the band that are supporting tonight a lot. (Working Men’s Club) have only got one song out so we’re really excited to hear them tonight. We’ve got a playlist – each one of us puts in 100 songs and everyone can repeat x5 songs each. So, I put working men’s club in five times. Tender has put them in twice. That’s definitely the most repeated song on the playlist – the bass and the guitar are great in that song.

 

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Pip Blom, The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, 2.2.19 @pipblom @the_trades #pipblom #ivw @ivw_uk

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It’s Independent Venue Week, what’s it like playing in these small towns like Hebden Bridge?

Pip: Amazing, it’s not that the audience are different, it’s just that we don’t get to play these towns a lot. We were playing in St Albans and there was a big list of bands and they were all tribute bands. So, I can imagine something like Independent Venue Week is so much fun for people who want to see newer bands as well, and it’s that kind of energy that you really feel. People travel and make an effort to come to gigs because they have to, to see anything other than a tribute band (laughs). It’s also really fun to see lots of different places because otherwise, you’re stuck doing the same crowds – it’s fun to switch things up.

Why have you chosen to sing in English?

Pip: I find it really uncomfortable to sing in Dutch.

Gini: I think 95% of the music all of us listen to is actually English, so it makes a lot of sense.

T: If you sing in Dutch, you’re kind of limiting yourself because it’s quite difficult to do well in the UK if you sing in Dutch.

P: My dream is to play Glastonbury – I don’t know how possible that would be if we sang in Dutch! I (also) don’t like the sound of the Dutch language – I don’t think it sounds nice.

D: I completely disagree, I think Dutch is beautiful. It’s really direct so when you sing in dutch, for me, it’s very close, the lyrics are closer. But if I hear English music, sometimes I can’t hear the words, even English people can’t hear the words.

Pip: For me, I find the melody is the main focus. I don’t mind if people don’t hear my music because I find the melody more personal.

How does singing in English effect your process?

P: I always use Rhymezone and Google Translate. I don’t feel limited because I have the internet. I think I could even write songs in French, it’s not that difficult (laughs).

I heard your Dad supported you recently. How did that come about?

Pip: Yesterday! It started because our dad is in a band called Eton Crop and John Peel really liked them, so they did 5 John Peel sessions and they stayed over at his house often – they really got on. When John passed away, we still went to see Sheila every year, last year she said, “wouldn’t it be so much fun to do a show with both bands at the John Peel centre?” so that’s what happened. It’s an independent venue as well, (so) it fits in perfectly.

Does your Dad have any influence on your music? Do you run it past him?

Pip: Yes, my Mum and my Dad both do. He’s not very vocal like I don’t think he’d say if he were to change something. (Once) he had these headphones on and the music was so loud, and I could hear my own voice so then I was like “oh he likes the song, that’s nice”.

What is your experience of being a frontwoman?

Pip: I mean, I can’t really tell because I’ve never been a boy so I don’t really know if there’s a difference. Sometimes there’s a weird thing you get with sound guys where they ask the guys everything – it happened today actually.

T: Apart from that, it seems like it’s a good era to be a female.

G: Maybe it’s even helping us more than it is working against us.

P: I think so but stupidly, I don’t want that. They’ve got this new idea that by 2020 they want all festival line-ups to be 50/50 female and male. I think it’s a good idea, but if someone was to tell me that I was chosen to play the Great Escape because I’m a female I would hate that. I don’t want merit for gender, I want it for the music.

What are your hopes for the band in 2019?

T: Glastonbury, Japan!

P: Big dreams! We’d love to play End Of The Road festival – I’m hoping we can play this time. We’re going to go and play in America too!

T: We have so many cool things lined up.

D: New songs, second album?

T: We haven’t released our first album yet man

G: you can record on your own (album), in your bunk bed, in Dutch!

Daddy Issues is out now and Pip Blom’s debut album is out in May.

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john paul white

IN CONVERSATION WITH: John Paul White

WORDS: MELISSA KAPLAN

John Paul White is an American singer-songwriter hailing from Alabama. He was ½ of the Grammy Award-winning folk duo The Civil Wars, exposing him to a wide array of fans reaching listeners of indie rock, folk, Americana and more.

John embarked on a mini Ireland/UK tour throughout the last week of January and played a sold-out crowd at The Night & Day Cafe in Manchester on January 28th. This tour leads up to a new album release for White titled The Hurting Kind, which is due out on April 12, 2019. The album takes influence from artists such as Chet Atkins, Patsy Cline, and Jim Reeves and more.

We sat down for a chat with John in the green room of Night & Day for a look into the family man’s passion for music and inspiration for his upcoming album.

Tell us about your new single “The Long Way Home?”

John Paul White: “It’s really about my love/hate relationship with doing this for a living. As glamorous as this may look – it’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. So, there are things I used to enjoy that I don’t necessarily anymore. I love my bed, I love being with my kids when they have dance recitals and things like that. My kids know this, and when I wrote this song and played it for them, I didn’t expect them to cry, and they did! Not going to lie, I was really proud of that, so it instantly jumped to the top of my list of songs for this new record.”

What do you like about touring in the UK?

John Paul White: “The people really appreciate music and respect artists and art and it’s palpable and it shows. In after shows when you talk to people, they’re very appreciative that you’re here in the first place, because they know it’s not cheap to do that and takes a lot of time out of your year. They’re also just very appreciative of artists in general – and we have egos! It goes a long way that people care that you’re working hard at what you do. That helps you get through the rough patches along the way.”

Do you have a favourite gig moment for a show you’ve attended?

John Paul White: “You know, it might surprise you, but I have not gone to lots of concerts. I didn’t really grow up that way. My parents weren’t keen on me going to shows, so I’d usually have to sneak out to go see them, but live performances were never as euphoric for me as they seemed to be for my friends. I’m really jealous of that. As a performer, I think I just have a really hard time letting go and disconnecting and just immersing myself in a show. I’m constantly thinking: what kind of guitar is that? Or man, he’s taking a long time in between songs. Things like that, I can’t turn it off.”

Too analytical with it?

John Paul White: “Yeah – I can say though, Randy Newman, I saw him at a place called the Lyric in Birmingham (AL), a gorgeous theatre there, that was definitely a show that my mouth was open the whole time. And, Kris Kristofferson at the Ryman. Those are probably the two that I didn’t want them to end – and I usually want them to end. I don’t know why I’m that way, after about four or five songs, I’m like – yeah, I’m good, I got it. And I’m jealous of folks that don’t have that experience. I go to shows with my 16-year-old now, and I see shows through his eyes and it’s a lot more fun. I’m able to leave some of that at the door.”

Is there anything you would like to plug with your record label [Single Lock Records]?

John Paul White: “Yesss! I’ve got a new record coming out [Under Single Lock Records] on April the 12th called “The Hurting Kind”. It’s 10 songs deep, and I wrote it partially with my country music songwriting heroes. I’d say 70% of the record is just me, but there are 3 tracks on there with people like Bill Anderson and Bobby Braddock, that are not household names per ce, but wrote a lot of songs that everybody knows. I really wanted to reach out to those guys and try my luck at writing a country song with the people that made me want to do it for a living. It went wonderfully and I’m really proud of this record, as all artists are proud of their new record. As you do this for a while, you’re constantly looking for angles and things that keep it relevant in your own eyes. Something like what do I want to say now? Well, what do I want to say now?

I felt like with this record it was kind of the first time that I, as a solo artist, could say whatever I wanted to say. Cause, my first solo record I had 12 years of material I could dig through and just find all the best songs. And then, with The Civil Wars, everything was collaborative, so that’s two people. So, with “Beulah” [JPW’s 2016 Record], which came out a couple years ago, that fell out like in a week and a half. There was no thinking about it. It was just like “blehhhh” and there was the record. So this was the first record that I can honestly say – I sat down and said, alright, what do you want to say? What do you want it to sound like? Who are you? And it was like a couch session for me, and I’m really proud of what I came up with. And I really feel like I’m scratching the surface for what could come after that.”

john paul white

Well, we hope to see a lot more from you! (And if you come back to Manchester or the UK in general, please let us know!)

John Paul White: “I hope you do too! I’m sure I will and I will let you know.”

It was truly a pleasure speaking with John Paul White. The over-packed room was so silent during the acoustic set, you could hear the glass bottles rustle on the floor. Not only were the vocals and guitar playing exceptional, but White also interrupted his own set to make sure an audience member was not overheating and cheekily sang his most played Spotify track ‘Hate the Way You Love Me’ to an audience member with piercing eye contact. Thanks for the excellent show JPW – Manchester will welcome you back with open arms!

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