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LIVE: Sleaford Mods @ Manchester O2 Academy

WORDS BY NATHAN BAILEY         PHOTO BY VISION HAUS MUSIC

A rather well dressed Parisian man once told me that he liked Sleaford Mods because they talk about real life. It is anyone’s guess what Messrs Fearn and Williamson would have to say about reflecting life in the city of light. However its probably a safe bet that, like most things they do, it would be worth listening to. Last weekend at the O2 Academy they certainly were.

Before the Mods took to the stage however, we are treated to post-punk pontiffs LIINES who have been supporting them on this tour, how nice of them. I first saw LIINES in the wonderful Ferret in Preston. Rather amazingly, if memory serves, they were on first in the little gem of a pub. They absolutely battered it in the Ferret and the big step-up in size here did not seem to daunt them one bit.

They were perfectly at home on the O2 Academy stage, fringes all to the left saluting the flag, dressed in funeral black. I’m not sure who’s funeral it was but judging by LIINES performance they must have had a keen ear for hell for leather drum beats and riffs that make you want to do that half jump thing when you’re on your tiptoes at gigs. You know the one.

Angry and sophisticated, their set is a fitting birthday present to singer Zoe McVeigh’s dad, how sweet. A highlight of their set was the last song on the night: Never There. It’s got this strange tough-but-catchy quality to it, like a big concrete net. The whole of last years debut Stop-Start is, in fact, a big concrete net. Go and throw yourself in.

And so it was. There we were. Full speed ahead for the Sleaford Mods. They are the best double act since Torvill and Dean and you know what, they have got better moves too. Andrew Fearn trots on stage wide-grinned with the oversized backpack of a graffiti vandal and his now, surely certified ICONIC baseball cap. We couldn’t spot the Guinness officials but Andrew waves his way through the quickest soundcheck of all time as he plucks his computer out of his bag and (presumably) crosses off all them annoying McAfee ‘EXPIRED!’ warnings. He briefly disappears only to return with Jason and off they go galivanting through Into The Payzone, Subtraction and Flipside, all from their fantastic latest offering Eton Alive. 

Williamson is immense through all of this. He can-cans about like Liza Minelli’s edgier brother, leans out over his microphone stand like Raw Power-era Iggy Pop, and dances gracefully like a young Brazilian Ronaldo’s harder twin, bearing down on the defence.

It’s easy to forget when listening to the serious subject matters and snarly interviews what a laugh Sleaford Mods are. But that is the point of them. They are a band of contradictions. Their set contains genuine Saturday night spinners like BHS and Tied up in Notts as well as swear-hinged toasts to kebabs. Sleaford Mods openly bear disdain for music with a ‘social conscience’ whilst having a go at it themselves. Don’t like punk but they have a go at it themselves. They have a go at themselves.

 

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Cheer up @sleaford_mods, you played a frigging blinder last night #manchester #workingclasselectronics

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Their songs are lacing social satires and personal tales of addiction healing at once and then neither. Sleaford Mods seem to have that intangible quality of a band you can’t ignore but make it look as though they couldn’t ‘give a monkeys’ if they did. They scream for your attention as sneer mongers and then pat you on the back for giving to charity. They claim they’re influenced by the Pet Shop Boys! They’ve got your head in a vice and they’re not letting go. If you’re feeling tense then fear not as one look at Andrew, seemingly the happiest man alive, will put you at ease. Good Cop Bad Cop anyone?

The set was an absolute stormer, a great selection of the newer tunes and a healthy dose of the classics. What a joyous world we live in where there is classic Sleaford Mods. This review could have gone on and on happily but Sleaford Mods reminded us that ‘it’s just new music magazines lying to us’, so like Jason we will leave you as he left us pirouetting proudly off the stage like Nijinsky. Go and have a McFlurry.

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LIVE: The Paper Kites @ Manchester Academy

WORDS BY: MELISSA KAPLAN  PHOTOS BY: FELICITY DELL

What began as a harmonic duo-writing song team, Australian natives The Paper Kites have grown into a harmonic international band. They embarked on a tour, stopping by Manchester to a sold out crowd.

Much to the delight of the crowd, The Paper Kites performed live harmonies as they can also be heard on the recorded tracks as all 5 members add a different component to the vocals. While the band is promoting their new album On the Corner Where You Live (and On The Train Ride Home also released in 2018), the room really came alive when the band returned to form on the more acoustic and harmonic tracks.

The audience experience was elevated when the band requested the lights be turned off. The room went silent along with the heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Arms, “What can I give that is all for you? These arms are all I have. But I’ll hold you like I do love you.” There were a few moments you could see small amounts of tears in the eyes and streaming down faces in the crowd – a rarity in modern music.

When surveying the room, the most common theme was the feeling of comfort. The band poured their emotion our right into the audience from the first guitar strum and held on tight throughout the performance. The emotion shared wasn’t from fandom, but rather just the intensity of the melodies and lyrics hitting home.

During the encore the band returned to a similar form with one guitar and 5 vocals. They sang a cover of a traditional Irish folk song, with 3 different band members taking the lead on various verses of the song. The room sang along on the chorus, filling the space with the ambience of warm harmonies.

If you have not yet heard of this Aussie group, give them a listen. My personal recommendations being Bloom, Arms, and Paint. Let The Paper Kites 3 million plus monthly listener-ship on Spotify be validity of this modern band’s rad sound.

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LIVE: Jungle @ Manchester Academy

WORDS: DALE BURGESS     PHOTOS: MOJO JOJO

When stripped down to the bare bones, Jungle is a duo made up of musicians and long-time friends Tom MacFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson. Shift them from the studio to the stage to witness a whole new beast take shape in the form of a seven-piece backing band, who join the Jungle-ites to deliver the pioneering new wave-fusion they’re adored for.

It’s been quite the ride for Jungle since they arrived on the scene six years ago. From their debut gig at humble Manchester venue Roadhouse (RIP), to signing for XL Recordings, releasing their Mercury Prize-nominated debut album and performing on Jimmy Kimmel in the July of 2014 – the boys from West London left shadows in their wake as they shot through the stratosphere of the music industry in their first year. After 4 years of touring, DJing and not only crafting new music but an evolved sound too; Jungle returned in the foregone September with second studio album For Ever.

Nu-disco, neo-soul, modern-funk, eclectic-pop? Try all you want to pigeon hole them, but Jungle’s style is truly avant-garde; instilling positive emotion and jubilation from the moment it’s devoured. Flowing movement and groove radiate from both their audio and visual productions, generating live performances brimming with energy and ecstatic atmosphere. The intricate layers that characterise Tom and Josh’s music are reflected in the live structure – as the Manchester Academy stage resembled a jumble sale of weird and wonderful instruments. From the conventional bass guitars, drum pads and synthesizers to the extravagant spiral shaped symbol and bongo set-up; a playground of musical tools were at the disposal of the eager members of the band to fill their boots with.

Back in the city where live performance began for them, Jungle sauntered out on stage at 9 pm to the sound of ‘Smoking Pixels’ – a drawn-back interlude track from their first album with a guitar and whistle resembling a wild-west vibe. It felt like the band had just waltzed into a packed saloon to the ecstasy of the punters inside. Their trademark ‘Jungle’ typeface glowed up behind the band, as the show lifted off with the opener, Smile – a song packed with rumbling rhythm that also plays the role of track number one on For Ever.

What followed was a beautiful collision of old and new, performed in harmony alongside one another. It was by no means a new album showcase sprinkled with a few classics, but instead a free for all of their outputs as a unified piece of art. The live blending of tracks into one another executed throughout the set epitomised this.

Jungle simply aren’t Jungle without the backing singers, who don’t really stand at the back at all. Their soul-kissed vocals surrounded the music like a technicolour dream coat, with their charismatic energy pushing the already-fizzing vibe up an extra notch. Echoing siren-samples beamed out as the show entered its latter stages, with the crowd witnessing a more experimental approach to some of the classics they know and love. Namely Drops – an ambient anthem from the first album which transformed into an epic breakdown, taking the first-timers in the crowd by complete surprise.

 

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Absolutely fantastic. Jungle ladies & gentleman. #jungle #manchesteracademy

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Throughout the show Tom and Josh often chopped and changed instruments between one another with appreciative grins as they did so, demonstrating the Jungle originators to be as flexible as their music suggests. This love and cohesion binding each band member together curated a mood on stage that played off into the crowd immensely.

At the risk of sounding like a spoilt child in a sweet shop, Cosurmyne and Mama Oh No were absent from the setlist – two tracks that separated the second album from the first in regards of individuality and imaginative production. Not all tracks can make the cut and the band more than compensated for this by treating the crowd to exquisite performances of album favourites Casio and Beat 54 (All Good Now). Classic 2014 single Time rounded off proceedings – an electric end to another stunning Jungle show. Out of the country? Jungle take their tour worldwide before their annual festival circuit this summer, so get on board!

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LIVE: Slaves @ Manchester Academy

WORDS BY DARYL GORMAN       PHOTOS BY ZACK HOUGH

Coming off from the highs of releasing their third studio album ‘Acts of Fear and Love’, with several sold-out dates for the UK tour, Slaves are an unstoppable force. Needless to say, this was definitely one gig that we did not want to miss out on. Made even better by having the legendary duo joined by the enigmatic punk trio and good friends, Lady Bird. They also happen to be signed to Slaves’ own label Girl Fight Records.

 

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last night was mad what a gig what a band

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Arriving at the venue, we settled on the balcony overlooking the sold-out Manchester Academy, just in time to hear the feel-good punk banger, ‘Spoons’ from the support act. The crowd were living for them. It’s safe to say that Lady Bird gained a few hundred more fans that night. If you are one of them, you’re in luck, they’re headlining their first ever tour in April, playing at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester (you can catch me there, right at the front. I will NOT be missing any of that set).

Have you ever wondered how quickly a crowd can go from moshing to high energy bouncy punk stylings to singing along word-for-word to ‘Wannabe’? I have, and now know it’s approximately 5 seconds. Other highlights from the intermission include watching the packed-out crowds perfectly dancing along to ‘Cha-Cha Slide’, I for one, have never seen anything quite like it.

There’s not many bands who perfectly entrance a sold out venue quite the way that Slaves do, which is even more magical when you remember that there are only two of them. Yet, every single person in the sold-out venue is fully mystified by them, singing along to every word. Walking onto the stage to the Smash? 1991 hit ‘We Like to Party! (The Vengabus)’, the Kentish duo (don’t tell them they’re from London…) then proceeded to shut down the Manchester Academy with their cover of Skepta’s 2016 hit ‘Shutdown’. They have full control over everyone watching them, which is about as incredible as any gig gets.

Playing a myriad of songs from their albums, perfectly portraying their British punk roots mixed in with some of their well-known bluesy garage riffs. Half way through their set comes ‘Cheer Up London’ from their debut album ‘Are You Satisfied?’ Enthusiatically introduced by Isaac as he reminds the crowd that “We aren’t from fucking London, we’re from the garden of England, and proudly so”. In that moment, everyone is from the Kent. They close their set with the massive banger ‘The Hunter’. They may only be a two piece band, but by the end of the gig, we are all slaves.

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LIVE: HINDS @ Manchester Academy

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER       PHOTOS BY MANC WANDERER

They’re the Spanish senoritas spear heading the revolution of rock music; HINDS are head and shoulders above the rest, bringing an element of playfulness to a music scene that is fast sinking into gloominess. When thrown with this moniker that they’re “the happiest band in the world”, the humble four-piece proclaim their adoration for their fans, who spur on their positive attitude. It’s low-fi indie with a nod to the 60s girl-group revolution and there’s no signs of their spirits being dampened any time soon.

You say there’s ‘no rest for the wicked’? With a 26-date UK and EU tour ahead of them, we’ll take that as the modern-day slang definition of the word. Joining HINDS on tour for the long haul are Cambridge graduates, now London based Sports Team with their unapologetically British sound that reverberates choruses that pack a punch, accompanied by a live performance that’s fast becoming folklore.

As a six-piece, they fill the stage with hardly any space left over, the audience set for a spectacle of a show. Composed whilst they attended the Russell Group University, there’s is a high octane set, concocted with the need to present something new to the student groups they were involved in. It’s fitting then that Manchester Academy was cast as the setting for the performance; on Manchester’s busy Oxford Road, it’s ‘student central’, fully equipped with a plethora of cheap pints and DIY music venues in amongst halls and lecture theatres.

Sports Team

Matching their environment in a chameleon like manner, Sports Team set about in their comradery with witty charisma; sure of themselves in an early Stone Roses style approach but with a charming edge. They’re a band that have risen quickly through the ranks, which transpires through their reception – the audience are clearly eager to catch the band in the limelight.

Their recent hit ‘Kutcher’ uses Hollywood protege Ashton Kutcher as a metaphor for entangled relationships, whilst ‘Margate’ tip-toes the lines of “millennial praise”, saluting a heady great British Summer where you lose yourself to youth. Whilst the majority of Sports Team remain relatively stationary – besides the odd jovial nod and quip to one another – lead singer Alex Rice catapults himself across the stage, limbs thrust about, his voice and movements boldly running alongside one another.

 

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@hindsband at Manchester Academy. . . . . . . . . . . . #shotoniphone #manchester #gig #livemusic #indie #photography

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There’s a stab in the dark when in he asks an audience member where they’re from and with the answer ‘Halifax’ he wears a Gallagher-esque mask and jokes that The Orielles (from Halifax) are “doing alright but the drummer has room for improvement”. If you didn’t know their circles you’d perhaps mark this as arrogant, but in a flippant, aforementioned Oasis brothers manner. In fact, the two bands are allies; fond fans of one another’s work.

So often nowadays female bands are slotted into ‘girl group’ as a genre but of course it isn’t, it’s by default just a gender. With HINDS it’s no different, they’re unique, they’re unashamedly garage rock, they’re your friends, they’re on your wavelength, they’ll have a can with you, they’ll blister in the Summer sun, they’ll laugh at themselves. They’re “HINDS as f**k”. Originally a duo named Deers in 2014, before a legal dispute and a re-grouping brought them to be the HINDS quartet, it’s been a triumphant climb. Featuring two albums which have both met critical acclaim, they’ve toured the world multiple times now, perfecting the art of season-long tours year in and year out.

Hinds

Joyous and positive in their attitude, the room at Manchester Academy lifts. Though no spirits were dampened, it’s as though HINDS take you to a vivid new level – all worries are dispelled and you’re in the moment. We’re taken on a trip through both albums, with a splash of whats to come with recent release ‘British Mind’ that pays testament to the time they’ve spent over here, speaking of the British love for the sun and the glory days of the British Summer.

Laying into their previous records, it’s difficult to spot a track that isn’t completely lip-synced by the audience. From verses pointing the finger at a deceptively messy breakup in ‘Easy’ to tales of feeling lost after a one-night-stand in ‘The Club’, if you listen there’s a juxtaposition between the lyrics and their positive attitude. It’s one of strength though; an earnest testimony to what situations we all at some point face but pass through the other side with an enlightened outlook.

Hinds

‘Tester’, off the second album, ‘I Don’t Run’ is introduced with the announcement that guitarist Ana Perrote is engaged and lead singer Carlotta has quit smoking, mentioning that they’re happy but that this particular song is about a time when you’re unanimously unhappy. “This is about being cheated on” they mention and as the song goes on there are knowing looks about the audience and movement erupts more than it had to any other off their set list, merrily moving along to “Should I’ve known before you were also banging her?”

Before the eruption of the encore, the night is summarised by a perfectly matched cover from HINDS in the form of The Clash‘s ‘Spanish Bombs’. Unique and lighthearted but with a professional edge, HINDS and their support have found their audience but manage to lift them with verses from a quintessentially British band. “Spanish bombs, yo te quiero infinito” drifts through the room, easily picked up by attendees and traced equally as much as the lyrics of the feature act. If HINDS keep at this pace, there’s no sign of them stopping and why would they, when their devote fan-base clings to their every word.

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LIVE: Teenage Fanclub @ Manchester Academy | 05.11.18

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY

Sometimes, a gig will stick in your mind for things associated with the music. Before the gig, excitement and a sense of apprehension take over. In other words, we’d all been looking forward to it, all day. This was very much the case for Teenage Fanclub at Manchester Academy. When I arrived, there had been a mix up with the tickets. I thought I wouldn’t get in! The idea of missing the gig deflated me, utterly. All that excitement, for this? So, long story short, thanks to a very helpful attendant, I did. Relief doesn’t quite cut it.

When I got in all my anxiety vanished, as I walked into a sell-out crowd, packed in to see these stalwarts of music. A real “band’s band”, with most members holding more collective experience in the industry than other bands do together. It’s no surprise then that they were in full swing, despite only just starting their set. The audience were loving it, watching attentively. A slightly different vibe than jumping and dancing. Flawless renditions of great tracks. With enough material in their own archive of songs to fill a shelf in a music shop, they weren’t without options. It’s not just the volume though that makes Teenage Fanclub a band to see before you die. It’s the range, which is an extension of the quality, of course. Their songs are as varied as The Beatles and this makes their diversity one of their defining factors, as a group. More than that though, this is a band that love playing as a unit and have a massive amount of love for the fans they’ve accumulated over the years.

 

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Teenage Fanclub night 2 – Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain playthroughs. Farewell the Fannies! ❤️

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Just before the band go off to have a short (and well-deserved break), they announced that they’ll be back in around fifteen minutes “to play thirteen more”. They’d powered through the first half with such energy that I’d lost track of how many songs they’d played. Combining heavier tones with slower songs, the group absolutely filled the relatively small venue and made it sound like a stadium at times. They did so without the bravado of mega stars. This group is humility personified. They have every right to strut and showcase their brilliance by swaggering and reminding the crowd of certain songs. They’ve been playing to large audiences for longer than the majority of most bands have been around. They simply chose not to. They wouldn’t be them if they did.

The second half built on what the first half had achieved: a crowd mesmerised to see such an inspiring performance being displayed. More technically sublime guitar riffs from that section of the band, Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley, who deliver intricate melodies and brilliant lyrics so well, accompanied by bassist Gerard Love. With such an array of gifted songwriters the compositions of each are all heard. The songs are backed by the thumping drums of Francis Macdonald, a renowned and highly rated drummer amongst peers. Dave McGowan was also on hand to give the songs that jangly, somewhat ethereal sound that works so well.

Jumping, dancing and screaming aren’t always the way to judge a great gig. Silence can be too. This audience were stunned into quietness, soaking in the atmosphere that few bands can provide live. Excitement did get the better of some fans though, who yelled their approval, loudly. One man declared with volume and gusto that Teenage Fanclub are “Easily the best band in the world”. Perhaps his inspiration for such high praise was the gig itself (as well as his clear love for the band) and the freshness of the songs written and recorded almost three decades ago.

The whole vibe of this gig was like seeing a band just starting to get big and having fans flock to see them, because they’re so interesting and on a different level than other bands. That’s the magic they created on the night – a microcosm of what their music continues to provide. Timeless songs and am impassioned hunger for music that will never be satisfied. This was the first night of a sell-out run of three nights at Manchester Academy (part of a larger U.K. tour with many other sold-out shows), such was the demand to see them. The gigs were the only thing that sold out, though – this band never will. Their principles and attitude have never changed and as a result they set a fine example to any groups starting up now. They could certainly do well to take a lesson from this lot. They’d be learning from one of the very best.

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

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LIVE: Parcels @ Manchester Academy | 05.11.18

WORDS BY GEORGE LINCOLN        PHOTO BY JEAN RACLET

The infectious funk and stunning harmonies of Aussie-via-Berlin band, Parcels, conjures up sounds of peak period Chic, while hitting notes as though The Beach Boys have turned their hand to electronic-disco. It’s no wonder then, that their genre crossing sound managed to grab the attention of legendary DJ and production duo Daft Punk at one of their energetic live performances, which shortly after accelerated the band to stardom following their stylish single ‘Overnight’.

Arriving in Manchester off the back of a highly anticipated and raved about debut album, the ambitious five-piece set out to win the hearts of listeners with their slick grooves and seductive melodies that fill the room and force people to dance. From initially taking to the stage through an immense and thoroughly planned light show, the band begins with the album opener ‘Comedown’, where the distinctive arrangement of guitar and keys is greeted to a roar of approval and recognition from the welcoming crowd.

Gliding through their polished live set with admirable showmanship, Parcels provide timeless music that fills the Academy with a sense of joyful optimism; singing relatable lyrics and locking into the groove with ease. ‘Lightenup’ especially, where the bands collective sound really comes together and urges listeners to sing along; ‘’time to lighten up?’’. Other highlights came in the form of funk infused ‘Tieduprightnow’, which releases a rippling bass-line that hints at Vulfpeck, and the slower synth heavy track ‘Withorwithout’.

 

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Lightenup

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While the bright funk and disco grooves lift the audience to create an atmosphere that Parcels must be ever so used to, the slower tracks truly allow the exceptional vocals to ring throughout the venue. The well worked cover of Paul McCartney’s track ‘Every Night’, or Parcels’ ‘Bemyself’, brake down the set, captivate the crowd, and leave listeners in awe of the vocal range apparent from every member of the band. A well-rehearsed performance from a hotly-anticipated young group of musicians, proving they have the style, creativity and go-forward to really shine.

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

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IN CONVERSATION WITH: Yassassin

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER        PHOTOS BY MANC WANDERER

London’s own, having arrived from different points of the globe, Yassassin are a force to be reckoned with in their own right. The women of the moment with a stand-out name that catches the attention of any avid listener, the five-piece present a strong image but don’t want to be slotted into the typical “girl-band” slot.

We last caught the group at The White Hotel as part of Interior Presents‘ All-Dayer with outfits that conjur up that Vivienne Westwood/punk-era and an electric, raw sound – they’re image does all but leave your mind. So of naturally we jumped at the chance for a chat about where they’re headed. This year Yassassin were requested to tour with The Strokes legend Albert Hammond Jr, across his selection of UK shows which climaxed in a reputable Paris performance – quite the opportunity for a band that “grew up listening to The Strokes“.

Lucky enough to have been in the same circles in London, the group – which consists of Anna, Joanna, Moa, Nathalia and Stephanie – met in 2016 and with a couple of lineup changes along the way have become the fully-formed Yassassin. Their name obviously follows suit after the classic David Bowie song but are they nostalgic mega-fans of the Starman or is there another reason for the name choice? “Well it (the day of the name choice) happened to be the day that Bowie died and Yassassin means ‘Long Live’ so it worked” mention the group with a clear admiration for such an iconic transcendent musician.

Each step they take together is a completely natural, organic process that combines each member of the band, from drums to bass. As is with their brooding new track ‘Wreckless’: “Moa wrote the verse and I wrote the chorus, we lived together so we put them together and took it to the band” says Anna whilst Stephanie mentions that they generally demo tracks by themselves then bring them to practice and “slot each part into place”.

Recently, the group were involved in a project with the teams at Flying Vinyl and Girls Against to produce a compilation record of female artists, featuring the likes of Courtney Barnett, Dream Wife and Hinds. For starters, Yassassin highlight that of course – there shouldn’t be a need for these groups that raise awareness of sexual harassment/assault at gigs and within the music community. “Any message like that, we’re always onboard with. We’re fortunate enough that in what we do, it gets a message across in a creative way.” A strong sense of sexuality and equality are gladly a main theme for works by Yassassin.

“Our sound is constantly progressing, it’s constantly changing” mentions Mao of their inherent lifeline that they aspire to be ‘ungenre-able’. “We’re always experimenting with new things so it’s different, we don’t want to be tied down to an specific genre. But like any act there are stereotypes and genres thrust upon the group by way of they-sound-like tit-bits inputted by their fans: “people say we’re alternative, post-punk, riot grrl, girl band – all these labels.” As a band, their ideology and ethos is that Yassassin are Yassassin – no labels.

When asked to support Albert Hammond Jr, Yassassin were already set to head out on their own tour under their own moniker but due to financial reasons, the band couldn’t do both. But never fear, we’re assured that the dream team aren’t disappearing any time soon and have upcoming dates at Sŵn Festival, Dials FestivalSimple Things Festival and a slot at 2019’s Rockaway Beach Festival.

The group touch on their aspirations, to be able to financially sustain themselves in the creative industry. “It’s impossible in London, everybody’s got to work and it’s draining when you want to say, write some music” – as we’re speaking the group start to laugh as Natahlia points out that in the background, in the midst of his Manchester Academy sound-check, Albert Hammond Jr is trialling his hit record ‘It’s Hard To Live In The City’ – how fitting. With their strength and unity behind them it’s achievable for them to get where they want to be and we back them every step of the way.

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Songhoy Blues

Gig Review: Songhoy Blues @ Manchester Academy

How do you bottle verve and energy to pass it on to others? If you want a well-educated opinion then ask Malian four-piece group Songhoy Blues. It is impossible to resist the power and positive vibes that exude from the band onstage and they consider it one of the most important components of what they do, combined with an essential message – “Don’t let anyone tell you what to do or where to go in your life “. More on the significance of this message later.

Arriving to the powerful sounds of James Brown ‘The Boss‘, from the moment they step on stage Songhoy Blues instantly throw the gauntlet out to the crowd to join them in the musical celebration and frankly it’s non-negotiable. A tide consisting of throbbing baselines, intricate West African guitar, polyrhythmic drum beats washes over the crowd and at the centre of it all Aliou Toure – a man who fronts a band but performs like it is the greatest moment of his life every time he takes that stage. To say he is eye-catching and inspires a visceral response does his incredible energy a disservice.

To think this band were 3 months and 60 gigs into this particular leg of the tour and to see them eat up ‘Sahara’ announcing with bountiful energy “Let’s go to the desert!” is a true wonder to behold. This humble energy and positivity is also the perfect indicator of the quintuplet’s connection and respect for the people who support them and of whom have allowed the band to educate the world via music about Northern Mali and the plight of its creatives. Whilst Aliou whirls around the stage in unison with the intense beat, Nathanael Dembele, Garba and Oumar Toure create a musical trance inducing brew that everyone in the room partakes of. Looking around, you’d be shocked to see anyone not transported into Songhoy Blues’ world.

In the space of two albums, Songhoy have built a reputation for being impossible to pigeonhole and looking at the crowd they have an incredibly broad reach. All ages and types of people uncontrollably dance and smile as ‘Bamako’ blasts the room with sunshine and irresistible vigour. The vibrancy and palate of their music means that within the first few songs we have heard a culmination of funk, rock and roll, traditional Malian rhythms and blues delivered with a sparkle that makes me and everyone around my person’s mouth “wow” after each song ends. This continues until the very last note of the night and the raucous response from the crowd.

Songhoy Blues

It’s hard not to be a confirmed musical fundamentalist after watching four people tied inextricably to the music (and going back to my message at the start of this review), four musicians who truly embody the fight for artistic freedom and repression currently being fought in Mali and elsewhere in the world and you could not find more incredible ambassadors for the adage ‘Music is life’.

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