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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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hans zimmer Live

LIVE: The World of Hans Zimmer @ Manchester Arena

WORDS BY LUKE LIDDLE  PHOTOS BY MANC WANDERER

35 years and over 150 films into his career, iconic German composer Hans Zimmer has curated a live symphonic retrospective of his vast body of work, which reached UK shores this week. Despite the fact that Zimmer himself is not a physical part of this tour, Manchester Arena, in its seated configuration is very close to being sold out, with a crowd from across the age spectrum coming to bask in some of the greatest ever celluloid soundtracks.

hans zimmer

As opposed to previous Zimmer-related tours, where individual songs from his films were performed, the pieces played this evening are mini-suites, starting with the themes from The Dark Knight and King Arthur. Zimmer himself appears in pre-recorded videos with a few of his film collaborators, including Ron Howard, who introduces selections from Rush and The Da Vinci Code. The latter is a sprawling mishmash of Zimmer’s ‘scrapbook’, his original ideas for the score, not all of which made it to the actual film. It twists and turns, by far the longest piece played throughout the night and somewhat overstaying its welcome.

After a 20 minute intermission, the mood changes significantly, with a joyous romp through some of the animated films that Zimmer has contributed to, from Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda to The Lion King, the latter proceeded by a video introduction featuring Lebo M, who provided the iconic chant at the start of the film. The feel-good factor is continued with excerpts from rom-com The Holiday, which takes on an almost rock flavour. The set then builds to a dramatic denouement, with Gladiator and Inception. Gladiator features the stunning vocals of Lisa Gerrard, the Australian artist who co-wrote some of the films’ work with Zimmer. The arena rises to its feet for an ovation, prompting a somewhat inevitable, yet thrilling, an encore of Pirates of the Caribbean.

‘The World of Hans Zimmer’ is a success as a production, a potent reminder of Zimmer’s vast influence across the world of film and music and a testament to the magic that he and his collaborators have created across the decades.

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hotel lux

ULTIMATE PLAYLIST: Hotel Lux

Originally hailing from Portsmouth, five-piece Hotel Lux moved to London to fully enhance their garage/punk rock sound. Sounding like a mix between Cabbage and Shame, Hotel Lux take influence from the world around them, to paint pictures of dark, deteriorated people and landscapes. They also cite the film works of Shane Meadows as a major influence, who’s best know for This Is England, which is one of the reasons why Hotel Lux sound so quintessentially British.

Hotel Lux aren’t your typical punk band in terms of aggression, they don’t throw themselves around and completely lose control. Instead, they vent their frustrations through the brooding, intimidating atmosphere they express at their live shows. Take the song, Berlin Wall for example, a track which uses sinister whistles and funeral-esque keyboard parts to create an atmosphere of the macabre. Front-man Lewis Duffin sounds as morose as the most foreboding of undertakers.

Hotel Lux have just released their latest single, English Disease and it’s another corker. In celebration, we recently asked the band to pick out one track each from a new band they like, and one old /classic tour bus favourite:

 

 

Lewis Duffin (Vocals)

Fountain of Good Fortune – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

100% one of my favourite bands at the minute. Beautiful, beautiful melodies

Up the Junction – Squeeze

All-time classic. The amount of times we’ve tried ripping this tune off in our recent writing sessions is silly.

Cam Sims (Bass)

Cruelty – Disgraced

This tune scratches every punk itch for me. With only one track out i’m really looking forward to seeing what this lot get up to in the future.

The Impressions – We Must Be In Love

It’s impossible to feel sad when listening to this track. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work.

Sam Coburn (Guitar & Keys)

Idles – I’m Scum

One of the few bands doing it right at the moment. good melodies, excellent lyrics.

Meet Me in the City – Junior Kimbrough

Cigarette stained riffs. GOAT.

Jake Sewell (Guitar)

Nineteen Seventeen – The Good, The Bad & The Queen

The members are all from different musical backgrounds, I think that’s what makes everything they release so interesting. Tony Allen’s drumming is especially good on this.

I’m Gonna Leave You – Nina Simone

There isn’t a dull moment in this track, it’s rapid from start to finish. You can almost hear her gasping for air by the end of each verse.

Craig MacVicar (Drums)

Squid – The Dial

By far my favourite live band at the moment. Looking forward to more releases from these guys.

Gorillaz – 19-2000

I think I first heard this on Fifa 02 back in the day and I’ve still got it on repeat. The Soulchild remix isn’t too bad either.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

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LIVE: Ist Ist @ Gorilla

WORDS BY: NATHAN BAILEY      PHOTO BY: TRUST A FOX

One of them New fangled musical troops Ist Ist filled Gorilla on Saturday night on the penultimate leg of their spring tour. Like the daffodils they have been sprouting up across the country this past month, basking in the light of their latest EP Everything is Different Now. They also had some ‘Special Guests’, popular lads that they are.

Pick of the special guests’ bunch were Salfordians Red Light Effect, who were great value on the night. They had Corby trouser press crisp adult songwriting on offer, reminiscent of a pre-Daily Mail era Morrissey yet lathered in that gigantic expression pedal guitar sound you all know and love. Singer Ian Scott certainly cut a charismatic figure as he hollered above the snowdrifts of guitar delay, and with the aid of a mysterious box stuck halfway up the mic stand sounds an awful lot like some wonderful northern bird of paradise calling for a mate. Red Light Effect also wear great shoes! What’s not to like.

Now, let’s just say it. Ist Ist are a MOOD. They have the potential to unite unhappy teenagers and their “young in the eighties” parents in a way not seen since Rick Rolling appeared and the overwhelming verdict of a death penalty for Astley reached across the generational divide.

They begin their set brooding through Preachers Warning and I’m Not Here. Gorilla is tense. Tantalisingly so. The whole place is threatening to boil over, like a derby day nil-nil with blue touch paper teasing flame. Anti-guitar solos tinker with the central heating controls and it’s getting warmer as the band bring out one of their superior early numbers Silence. There is a solid tradition of artists sculpting into their work the dichotomy of sound and silence, Kierkegaard through John Cage via Paul Simon. You can add Ist Ist’s take to that list, it is a banger. Certainly more so than Kierkegaard ever was.

 

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Post-show, Sheffield… • 📸 – @malwhichelow

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For this EP Ist Ist added multi-instrumentalist Mat Peters to their ranks. whilst this tipped their new songs on a slightly different trajectory with keys heavy tracks like Jennifer’s Lips it has also given a symphonic slant to some of their older material which is most welcome. If this isn’t enough for you, he also happens to be a really nice guy, so there, have that.

At the core of the bands sound on the old stuff and the new is Adam Houghton’s wonderful voice. In the darker number’s such as the aptly named Black, Houghton gets positively subterranean. Such tones must be heard down in the ninth circle of Dante’s low register, along with Nick Cave, Mr Curtis and that bloke out of The National.

Of course, despite all the brooding that exudes from a lot of Ist Ist’s more melancholic work, a maudlin nil-nil this is not. They offer up surprisingly catchy stripped back little number I want to disappear. This is followed swiftly after by a wondrous end to the set where they kindly smash up all that tension lest anyone have to split a taxi home with it. Renditions of Nights arm and Diversion kick all this to pieces, along with any lingering eagerness from the audience to compare Ist Ist wearily to a certain Manchester band from days yonder. Thumping through these tunes you would say they were more reminiscent of The Editors at the 2005 Munich best. That’s a bloody good compliment in case you were wondering.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

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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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Disko Never Dies – Remembering The Fall

WORDS BY FERGAL KINNEY      POSTER BY ERIN CAINE

When Mark E Smith died in January 2018, nights playing only The Fall seemed to spring up everywhere – well, London and Hebden Bridge – but surprisingly, not Manchester. Deciding this was not on, myself and Daniel Cooke, of Let’s Make This Precious, got in touch with the Star & Garter with a view of putting on a one-off Fall club night; strictly all The Fall, all night. Onlookers praised the talents of Smith and saluted his memory, late into the night.

The evening went off without a hitch so, it felt only right to do it once more, this time on Saturday 23rd March 2019 – one year on from the previous display of memorial affection for the Fall singer. Entry is £5 per person, with the night running from 11 pm ’til 3 am. Want to know more? You can RSVP to the event right HERE.

There’s room for this to become an annual celebration. Taking a look back at his career here are some tracks that we’ll be playing on the night that speak to a unique artist that remains peerless from his generation.

Rock n Roll isn’t even music really. It’s a mistreating of instruments to get feelings over

The Fall would have happened regardless of punk – the young Mark E Smith was already chaining Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground, CAN etc – but the ’76 moment provided an open door for Smith to sneak through and an infrastructure on which to launch. 

Industrial Estate is probably the only point in the Fall’s history where they sound aligned with what’s going on around them. This track was recently used at the end of Ben Wheatley’s film of the Ballard book High Rise, and was perhaps the only good thing about that film. There’s a bit of a parallel with Smith and Ballard; both lived in suburbia, writing about the weird from a non-metropolitan vantage point, and were sneered at for this.

The fact that weird fiction/horror writers like HPLovecraft, Arthur Machen and MR James are widely read now is thanks in no small part to Smith championing their work at a time when those names (especially Machen) had fallen well out of favour. Pulp horror would be a huge influence on Smith’s writing (Mark Fisher wrote brilliantly on this in his essay Memorex for the Krakens), and The Fall track, Wings, is the most successful, most thrilling embodiment of that. The song’s protagonist appears to be shot during the US Civil War, which is the trigger for him hitting a cosmic timelock darts him back to 1825 and then forward to the present, via gremlins and flabby time-traveling wings. Billy Bragg this ain’t.

The fact that The Fall burned through some sixty-six members is well-documented but is also a bit of a red herring if you’re looking for clues about the man. He was a great artist, he just looked nothing at all like our expectations of great artists. 6ft with a stoop and wearing your grandad’s slacks, he dressed like a man twenty years older than his age and cultivated an image more akin to a world-weary mafia boss than an avant-garde musician. But he was an avant-garde musician, which does mean that a lot of The Fall isn’t really aimed at the dancefloor. When it is, however, the results are thrilling. Hear the birth of LCD Soundsystem on Telephone ThingJames Murphy would even directly lift the track’s “I’m tapped” hook for the 2005 single Movement.

As Let’s Make This Precious‘ co-DJ Daniel Cooke likes to remind me, The Fall were nothing if not a great cover’s band. Victoria, There’s a Ghost in My House, White Lightening – some of the group’s definitive cuts were covers. Lost In Music is my personal favourite. Released in 1992, you can hear the influence of this track’s louche WMC disco all over Pulp’s His’n’Hers, which would come out two years later. Sensibly, Mark E Smith sat out the Britpop thing. Insensibly, he used it as an opportunity to go bankrupt.

There was a view peddled in obituaries last year that Mark E Smith declined as an artist, that the booze got to him; this is a wrong view. Imperial Wax Solvent, The Unutterable, Your Future Our Clutter – just three utterly indispensable post-millennium Fall albums, and there’s plenty more where that came from. Just listen to Dedication Not Medication, the electroclash banger from The Fall’s penultimate LP. You know that awkward moment when you go to the doctors over your chronic bedwetting, but the GP is Piers Brosnan and he’s prescribing you Curly Wurly bars? More than anything, Mark E Smith was overlooked as a surrealistic, a Manchester Magritte. And, just so you know, that bassline is about to demolish your flat.

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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.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

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LIVE: James Chance and Die Contortions @ Soup Kitchen, Manchester

WORDS BY: PATRICK PRESTON

It’s quite the ‘chance’ encounter – best to get that out of the way early – to have the no wave legend and jazz-punk curmudgeon on these shores, let alone in the stark basement of the Northern Quarter’s Soup Kitchen. Many of tonight’s gig-goers, themselves possibly survivors from the scene’s experimental ‘80s heyday, seem aware of the bill’s implausibility, as well as highly discerning – so particular is Chance and his Contortions’ smoky jazz-bar vibe that it calls for a support act that’s similarly fully-realised, which on this occasion is found in Glaswegian six-piece KAPUTT. Featuring sharp saxophone and two intertwining percussionists, it’s an intriguing set-up, which suddenly jerks into life with blocky beats and a tangle of summery guitars.

A wiry, besuited front man holds the crowd’s sway with nonsensical barking, propping up demented instrumentals with a vintage swagger; his coarse, repeated vocal stabs play off the anxious-sounding melodies, and pleasurably interlock with the skittery dual percussion. Pleasingly, the song Highlight lives up to its name, leaving tonight’s most gratifying impression with its wobbly bass line, jumpy cowbell and frantically-traded vocal parts (“Highlight”/”HIGHLIGHT!”). Long before the group’s set ends, the audience act as visibly enraptured as their wildly hopping saxophonist, finding a shared joyousness in the bouncy, yet deeply cerebral grooves.

Soon enough, the crowd’s eagerness becomes palpable, with masses huddling to the front of the stage to catch a glimpse of Chance’s diminutive, scowling figure. Suddenly, the world-weary Contortions are finger-snapped into a rigid post-punk beat, which supports Chance’s own strangled lounge-singer yelps, and instantly showcases the group’s skilfully layered percussion, elastic-sounding bass and a mesmerising guitar talent. Following this is the menacing, yet measured Gil Scott-Heron cover Home is Where the Hatred Is, which leads with Chance’s deftly slinking saxophone, and builds over a strutting bass foundation; at his signal, the shrill instrumentation slowly fades to just a passage of muted percussion, heightening the existing tension and forcing the crowd’s focus onto his eerie, confrontational lyrics, before slicing through the atmosphere with razor-like sax parts. The set then swerves into dissonant organ jamming – a genuine vintage Hammond, as I’m reliably informed by my companion – before settling at the darkened crawl of the provocatively-named Sax Maniac, whose relatively thin structure carefully reinforces its unsettling nature.

Chance masterfully controls his band’s flow throughout wildly expansive and more restrained sections, sometimes multiple times in the same song, yanking it back with a snarling ‘c’mon fellas.’ It’s at the point of lovelorn ballad The Days of Wine and Roses – which plays off the guitarist’s busy, effortless chords with the mournful leading sax – that my friend most feels like he’s walked into an episode of Twin Peaks, and with good reason; the song’s vintage instrumentation and tender crooning truly encapsulates the mood of an intangible bygone era, and its dedication to Chance’s wife Judy, who ‘sadly couldn’t be here tonight’, only adds to its emotive charm. Further pushing this energy is a smouldering Sinatra cover of That’s Life, which abandons all of its original triumphant melody for a disaffected and dissonant post-punk interpretation.

A broken guitar string threatens to halt the night’s simmering tension, but stands no chance against Chance’s signature track (and most well-known ‘hit’) Contort Yourself, which harks back to his explosive no wave bandleader days – its paranoid, jerky grooves elicit the greatest amount of recognition and movement from the audience, who exude a relief that the night ends with a bang, rather than a whimper.

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LIVE: Self Esteem @ YES

WORDS BY: MATTHEW PYWELL     PHOTOS BY: JOANNA BRADTKE

Due to growing frustrations and worries of a career seemingly stalling, Rebecca Taylor, formerly one half of Slow Club, left behind folk to create a pop/R&B music project. Thus, Self Esteem was born, with Rebecca releasing her debut album Compliments Please on March 1st, to critical acclaim.

They band come out and go straight in to Rollout, the stage is lit in a radiant red and so are the band in all red top/trouser combinations. Every member apart from Rebecca is wearing a t-shirt with the phrase, “believe in women” and female empowerment is a key theme throughout the set. Rollout sees Rebecca assert a dominant stage presence, she is front and centre, as they begin going through choreographed dance sections, that aren’t exactly strenuous but none the less are perfect visual aids to the grooves of the songs. It was interesting to note that when the backing singers weren’t needed, they stood perfectly still and expressionless, as if they were androids in low power mode. This suited the mix of electronic R&B on wrestling perfectly.

The longer the set went on, the more endearing Taylor became, her sense of sarcastic humour winning over the crowd by being naturally disarming. At one point saying, “this is the Self Esteem live experience, lets keep doing it I suppose”. At one point she notes that she’s been going through the set too quickly, so resorts to asking the crowd what they for tea. Out of the various answers, Risotto is the answer that strikes her as the oddest, the whole moment feeling like a off-kilter fourth wall break.

Taylor still hasn’t quite left behind all of her folk roots, the track Girl Crush sees the singers lay down finger clicks as a kind of makeshift bass line, mixed with some soaring fiddle parts in the backing track. A lot of the tracks off of Compliments Please dealt with Taylor‘s sense of identity, in both a sense of doubt and contrastingly in a sense of self-positivity. Self Esteem‘s live show focuses more on the positive aspects, in fact it is an experience of unbridled joy.

The performance of In Time is a monumental moment of bliss. Rebecca‘s vocals are completely transparent, she sings with a booming, crystal clear clarity. A singalong starts and Taylor breaks her composure occasionally to laugh in disbelief at the overwhelmingly positive reception from the crowd. “I feel like Robbie Williams“, she exclaims before starting The Best. There are further moments of disbelief and outbursts of laughter before they go off for the encore. The reciprocal joy felt between both audience and artist was quite remarkable to behold.

Taylor comes back, almost in tears and says, “is this what getting married feels like?”, the first track in the encore is Favourite Problem, which has a gloriously anthemic chorus, especially with the triple threat of the vocalists in full swing. The highlight of the night was the final song, I’m Shy, which was performed in the middle of the crowd acoustically. It was a truly special moment to end a special night, a real focus on mesmeric vocal highs that brought the room to a standstill. The band members form a makeshift conga line and leave the room. It was a stunning set that gathered more and more joyous momentum the longer it went on, it was a shame that they had to end their set.

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ULTIMATE PLAYLIST: The Vanity Project

Flora Jackson and Rob Paterson are the duo that makeup one of Manchester’s most-promising, and incredibly unique bands, The Vanity Project. With an emphasis on performance, the duo sit somewhere between pop clowns and cabaret cult leaders – if you can imagine such a thing. Using infectious pop hooks and drawing you in with tales of hallucinogenic soft drinks and fascistic seaside towns, we can’t wait for the two-piece to join us at Band on The Wall for our latest Free Vibes takeovers.

But what can you expect? The Vanity Project have not only been championed by the one and only Marc Riley on his 6Music show, but Everything Everything frontman Johnathan is also a big fan, citing that ”they put on a great show’. And of their set? It promises to be a live performance full of monologues, costumes and the occasional dance routine. If they’re good enough for Johnathan & Marc, we cannot wait to see what they’ll bring to the night.

Joining them on the bill, the two-piece will be wonky-psychedelic Springfield Elementary, Garage-punksters Chupa Cabra and the mysterious weird-funk of guano on Thursday 25th April at Band On The Wall. Our last Free Vibes SOLD OUT the 600 capacity venue, so make sure you RSVP now!

Before then, and to give you more of an idea of what you can expect from The Vanity Project, we asked Rob & Flora to pick out 10 tracks which best describe them… see you there!

I NI SOGOMA – Dinosaur Feathers

Dinosaur Feathers are a New York band we discovered a year or so back, and the way they balance strange off-kilter rhythms with catchy melodies is something that we’ve often tried to emulate, to variable success.

HAPSBURG LIPPP – Everything Everything

EvEv are definitely who we started off as, and it’s still difficult for us to shake the desire to break into a Jonathan Higgs falsetto at any given opportunity. He name-dropped us once in an interview with a Cumbrian local newspaper. True story.

THAT’S REALLY SUPER SUPERGIRL – XTC

If we started off as an EvEv tribute band we’re metamorphosing into an XTC one. Rob and I fell in love with Skylarking a couple of years ago and both that record and English Settlement have massively influences our writing styles.

BABOO – Pixx

Pixx‘s record The Age of Anxiety was one of the most underrated releases of the past couple of years, and the willingness to experiment with weird sonic pallets while still always remaining pop is something we try to replicate.

Radio Silence – Thomas Dolby

Thomas Dolby‘s been a musical touchstone for both of us for ages, and although in general, he’s a lot synth-ier than us, this track, in particular, fits our vibe pretty well.

Oily water – Blur

Blur‘s a weird band to cite as an influence because it could really mean anything. Are you a straight Britpop band? A Kinks-a-like? Heroin addicts? Do you just know Song 2? We went for this angular oddball cut from Modern Life Is Rubbish.

The City – Dismemberment Plan

The Dismemberment Plan changed a lot of my perception of chords; they love 7ths and open strings and taking one shape and moving it up and down the fretboard for eerie effects. One of our songs was even just called “D-Plan” until we eventually found a name for it.

NO PLACE – Ezra Furman

Transangelic Exodus was Rob‘s favourite album last year (my favourite, Daphne and Celeste Save the World, is maybe not appropriate for this playlist). This track has a brilliant atmosphere to it, but the real reason we picked it is we’ve just launched our night called No Place, so think of this as its unofficial theme song (tho, cough cough, we came up with the name way before, ahem ahem)

THINGS IT WOULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL TO KNOW BEFORE THE REVOLUTION –  Father John Misty

We’re both big FJM fans and though musically we walk different paths, the defeatist humour he uses in his lyrics is a strong influence on ours (though I like to think we’re at least slightly more optimistic…)

HEY LIFE- TUNE-YARDS

Finishing off the playlist comes Tune-Yards, who along with Owen Pallett taught us that you can do things with a loop pedal that isn’t just, well, loop pedal music. And by melding frantic but catchy melodies with weird rhythms, we’re right back where we started…

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