Now Playing: Ela Minus – 'megapunk'

Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Photo by Teddy Fitzhugh

Colombia-born and Brooklyn-based musician Ela Minus last month unleashed her second single via Domino with ‘megapunk’. The track follows the footsteps of her first single via the label ‘they told us it was hard, but they were wrong’.

Her most recent single ‘megapunk’ is a surging and lifting number inspiring listeners to seek change in a depleting world. Though Ela Minus wrote the song last year, it’s as relevant as ever. Her words are powerful, especially lyrics such as, "you don’t want to understand // you’re choosing to lead us apart // but against all odds // you still won’t make us stop."

She said on the new single, “When I wrote this song last year, I was worried it would lose context if not released immediately. I could not have been more wrong. This is the perfect time to put this out. We have to keep going. Ánimo y fuerza.”

Check out ‘megapunk’ by Ela Minus below. 

Written by Kristy Smolcic 

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Now Playing: Walt Disco – 'Hey Boy (You’re One Of Us)'

Thursday, July 30, 2020
Photo by Marilena Vlachopoulou

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Glasgow-based band Walt Disco, and once again, they’ve come through with yet another impressive single, this time with ‘Hey Boy (You’re One Of Us)’. The track is also set to appear on their much-anticipated EP Young Hard and Handsome, due to be released on September 30th via Blood Records. 

According to James from Walt Disco, they wrote the anthemic song about embracing femininity. James said, “We wrote this song around a hypothetical situation about teaching a man to come to terms with his feminine side and that it wouldn’t devalue the parts of him that are male, but would make him feel more free and help his relationships with others. We obviously had a lot of fun writing it and sometimes the lyrics get a bit kinky, but such is life.”

Before it’s time to devour the EP in all its glory, check out ‘Hey Boy (You’re One Of Us)’ by Walt Disco below. 

Written by Amy Smolcic 

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Now Playing: indigoworld – ‘hourglass’

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Singer-songwriter/producer Hunjiya and producer Justin Trout join forces with their exciting new project indigoworld — they’ve also shared their first-ever single as a duo with ‘hourglass’. 

The lush single is the first to be released from their forthcoming EP Fold and was inspired by the experiences of Hunjiya and an unhealthy relationship that she was in. In the track’s lyrics, she draws upon the depiction of an hourglass and how this can resemble a relationship where two people are seeking fulfilment with one person trying to get more time out of the hourglass. On the track, Hunjiya sings, “You’ve done this to yourself again, pouring more sand in the hourglass.”

indigoworld’s debut EP is based on the experiences that Hunjiya sings about on ‘hourglass’, with each song is set to reflect on different periods of progress through varied production. The EP is also set to be formatted chronically, with the four tracks showcasing how Hunjiya has found peace. 

Listen to 'hourglass' by indigoworld below. 

Written by Amy Smolcic

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Now Playing: Pynch – ‘Somebody Else’

Photo by Holly Whitaker

London quartet Pynch recently shared their second single ‘Somebody Else’, following in the footsteps of their impressive debut track ‘Disco Lights’, which was released in 2019. 

Pynch’s reflective new track was written by Spencer Enock from the band during lockdown — he wrote the song in response to changes he was going through as a result of the pandemic. He said, “I wrote and recorded the song over a couple of days in April after losing my job and going back home to live with my parents during the pandemic.”

Also adding, “The song is sort of a mediation and reflection on that and me figuring out what’s going on in my life. I wanted the video to be a document of this time as well and what it’s been like coming back home. I saw an advert on Facebook marketplace for a ‘lockdown bike,’ which was £20 and made up of loads of random parts, so a lot of the video is me riding around Thanet on it like a 14-year-old.”

Get acquainted with Pynch and their mesmerising new single ‘Somebody Else’ below. 

Written by Kristy Smolcic

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Feature: The Ingredients of Smash Hits, Vol. 1 with Lynks Afrikka

Monday, July 20, 2020
Photo: @tilly_pearson_ph

Soaring queer icon Lynks Afrikka (the drag persona of Bristol's Elliot Brett) first caught our attention after sharing ’Str8 Acting’ last year, since then, we’ve been absolutely hooked — anyone who describes their art as “deodorant deity, antiperspirant perfection” is a winner in our eyes. 

During the initial stages of the pandemic, Lynks kept spirits up with engaging and energetic live stream shows on Youtube — backed by a £9 green screen from Amazon, the shows became a weekly favourite of ours. During this time, Lynks shared ‘Pandemic!’, which reigns supreme as the best pandemic-themed song to be released. There was also the very London ‘Arts & London’, which is full of humorous satirical takes.

Continuing the momentum, Lynks has unleashed Smash Hits, Vol. 1 into the world, which features six (including ‘Pandemic!’ as a bonus track) addictive earworms. Though there are some clear comedic moments throughout the lyrics, the tracks also capture the mundanity of growing up and the perils of adulthood. There's ‘How to Be Successful’, which takes listeners through the milestones they're often pushed to pursue by society. ‘Rise + Shine’ reflects on morning dread, reminding us the importance of getting 8 hours of sleep. The EP is also home to much-loved previous offerings such as ’Str8 Acting’ and ‘I Don’t Know What I Want’. Smash Hits, Vol. 1 gives listeners everything they could possibly want with a shiny bow on top. 

To celebrate the release of Smash Hits, Vol. 1, Lynks Afrikka took some time to walk us through the story behind each track and the apps that represent them the most. 

Dating apps play a weirdly large part in the EP. Well, maybe not that weird when you consider I was spending ~2-3 hours per day on them at the height of my obsession… Dark times, guys.

For any heteros out there who aren’t versed in Grindr lingo, I must come clean: I didn’t come up with the term ‘Str8 Acting’. It is, in fact, a common phrase some gay people use in their bios on such apps. For example, someone may write ‘Str8 acting looking for the same’ meaning they are looking for a ‘typically masculine’ man to have some aggressive, bro-ish, no-homo anal with. I wish I could say there was a degree of irony to this, but sadly there is not.

When writing ‘Str8 Acting’ I wanted to dismantle what that term really means. Queer people are as variable, brilliant and flawed as straight people, and yet we’re brainwashed to see our identity as a one-dimensional stereotype. So it’s no wonder we want to distance ourselves from it. But when you look at the straight world through the same warped lens that society makes us gay people look at ourselves through, it looks just as undesirable. So then; “why the fuck should I ever want to be ‘Str8 Acting’?”

Like practically everyone else who graduated uni this summer, I spent my Autumn chaotically sending out my CV to any grad job that would take it. None of them did. I think I sent out more than 100 applications and only got one rejection. The rest didn’t reply. This, coupled with the social-comedown going from three years of uni to living in the attic of my parents house again, led to a pretty negative vibe. Thank God I had Lynks to pour all my interest in to.

I wrote ‘How to Be Successful’ around this time as a reminder to not get too obsessed with ‘the ladder’; school, job, marriage, children, death. I’ve heard it said that queer people don’t have to conform to this life structure. If anything though, I think I used to feel more pressure to fulfil it, if only to buck that expectation and prove my normality. Writing this song helped me get over that.

A big revelation of my 20s has been the importance of waking up quickly. I believe the speed with which you get out of bed informs your mood for the whole rest of the day. I have no evidence for this, just a hunch.

My alarm has, for about a year now, been titled “GET OUT OF BED”. One day when this was proving to be a particularly difficult task, I had the idea to write my train of thought into a song. This ended up being ‘Rise + Shine’, which is lowkey my favourite song off the EP. Not the best, but my favourite. I feel like it perfectly captures that lesson of ‘get the fuck up and you won’t regret it’.

‘Desperate and Lovely, in Desperate Need of Love’ is about trying to write a Tinder profile after a breakup. Writing these profiles is such a mindfuck. It’s a constant push and pull between being interesting or inoffensive, honest or appealing, self-aware or confident. 

The song begins by listing the most generic, cookie-cutter, bullshit Tinder-isms I could think of (“I’m into dogs/And coffee/And drinking gin and tonics”). It then switches to an overly self-aware arrogance (“I’m sure you’ll like me/My friends all like me/My parents all like me”) and then finally an outpour of pure, ugly honesty (“I still think about my ex every time I masturbate/I have got no plans for after I graduate”). 

It’s something that I think happens a lot in relationships, but is particularly easy on dating apps; creating a perfect version of yourself while covering up your ugly parts, only for them to spill out twice as hard somewhere down the line.

Just Eat
‘I Dont Know What I Want’ was born from ordering Chinese food off of Just Eat with my mates. I had been scrolling through the endless menu for what felt like hours when I started absentmindedly singing what would become the song’s chorus to myself. I got up, went to the bathroom and recorded the foundation of entire song in my phone’s voice notes within about 5 minutes. The next day I produced the whole thing. Considering it’s a song about indecisiveness and choice paralysis, it was probably the most efficient, kinetic songwriting I’ve ever managed! Thanks Just Eat.

Stream Smash Hits, Vol. 1 by Lynks Afrikka below:

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Feature: The Anatomy of 'Rodney' with CMAT

Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Photo by Sarah Doyle

Irish artist CMAT late last month unleashed her second single ‘Rodney’. The catchy number is about dealing with someone who has little respect for you. Along with sharing the track, CMAT has also revealed a quirky self-made video to accompany it. She recently took some time out to walk us through how ‘Rodney’ came to life. 

The story behind 'Rodney is… I was having one of those times where the guy I was going out with hated my guts. Had no respect for me at all and I was obsessed with him. Then I was getting really into Rodney Dangerfield stand-up bits from the 70s where his catchphrase was like ‘Eyyyy I get no respect! No respect at all I tell ya!’ So I was like, same babes.

My favourite lyric is... ‘I wrote my best jokes for you / I did my best gags til my face turned blue’

I think that might be the grossest and most subtle dick-related double entendre I have ever woven into one of my songs (so far). My family listen to my music so I was like ok, I gotta be stealthy about this. Most people still haven’t picked up on it and that makes me feel very smug, to be honest. 

It was made… In Brooklyn last year with my producer Oli Deakin. The studio was in the Polish district of Brooklyn and I ate my body weight in Pierogi by the end of the session. Those things are unreal, I think about that particular deli like once a week.

My main inspiration was… I recorded the original voice note demo for this song by slamming my fist off my mam’s breakfast bar to make the beat and then just singing over it. We sampled it into the final track, you can still hear all the plates and dishes rattling in the intro! So the main inspiration was basically to try and get the whole song to sound as if it was a conversation taking place in a kitchen. The best conversations always do! 

It sounds best when… Shoving fistfuls of pierogi into your gob the morning after a pretty bad night out.

Check out 'Rodney' by CMAT below:

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Now Watching: Jonathan Bree – ‘Heavenly Vision’

Monday, July 13, 2020

Photo by Adam Custins

With the release of his forthcoming full-length album finally arriving this week, Jonathan Bree has revealed his fifth single off of the record with ‘Heavenly Vision’. The new single will be joining previous offerings such as ‘Cover Your Eyes’, ‘Waiting On The Moment’, ‘Kiss My Lips’ and ‘In The Sunshine’ on After The Curtains Close.

Once again, Bree’s poetic and nostalgic words are on full display, with ‘Heavenly Vision’ home to tender words such as, “Strolling the warm and restless night / It was the summer / And you were fun, and you were mine / Midnight, on the field, at the school / Stargazing (such a heavenly vision) / Astronomy (such a heavenly vision) / On your knees (such a heavenly vision).”

Accompanying the track are lively self-directed visuals depicting Bree hanging out with his four-legged friend and walking hand-in-hand in a conservatory with his date.

Watch ‘Heavenly Vision’ by Jonathan Bree below.

Written by Kristy Smolcic

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Now Playing: Halloweens – ‘Divinity Pools’

Friday, July 10, 2020
Photo by Finn Constantine

Halloweens, the project by Justin Young and Timothy Lanham of The Vaccines, earlier this month shared their brand new single ‘Divinity Pools’. The track is set to appear on their forthcoming EP Maserati Anxiety Designed, due for release on 21st August. The EP follows the release of their debut album Morning Kiss At The Acropolis earlier in 2020. 

According to Young, ‘Divinity Pools’ was the last song that they wrote together before Lanham returned to Australia and has been left stranded ever since. 

Young also adds on the single, “I love how superlative and extreme love can feel, even with everything else going on in the world, and I think this song is the perfect ode to how hyperbolic it should and could be. The arrangement feels really kinetic and awkward too and I think that’s really fitting for the lead track on an EP called ‘Maserati Anxiety Designed’. What we’d all do to be bathing in anything other than nostalgia right now, huh?”

Check out Halloweens' brand new single ‘Divinity Pools’ below. 

Written by Amy Smolcic 

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EP Review: Oracle Sisters – Paris I

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Photo by Alina Chérubin

In the lead up to the release of their highly sought-after debut EP Paris I, Oracle Sisters, featuring Lewis Lazar, Christopher Willatt and Julia Johansen, have unleashed a consistently impressive stream of singles — each inviting listeners to escape the tedious and unimaginative nature of life as we know it.

Paris I, shared via New York label 22TWENTY, is the first of two EPs — with the second, titled Paris II, set to be unveiled later this year. The titles for both EPs were inspired by photographs from the Paris World Fair of 1900.

Part of the magic behind the Paris-based trio and the sounds that they conjure up is the creative sources outside of music that inspires them — whether it’s photography, art, cinema, philosophy, or whatever else they find themselves drawn too. They know how to take in the world around them and turn it into something truly special. When you press play on an Oracle Sisters song, you can feel these various influences deeply. 

Paris I is home to familiar numbers such as the EP’s opener ‘Asc. Scorpio’. Inspired by a scorpion that nipped Lazar in Jamaica, which was also smuggled back into Paris, ‘Asc. Scorpio’ sets the scene for the tracks that follow.  Next, we’re reintroduced to ‘Most of All’, which was released a few months ago. The enchanting track was created as a challenge by Lazar and Willatt to make a song that would be fit for the great Dolly Parton. Overflowing with warmth, it’s easy to be left enthralled by the soothing harmonies and their lush guitars. On new track ‘The Vibes’, they fuse their signature dreamy sound with underlying tropical grooves and it’s exquisite. 

The EP moves into ‘Nightingale’, which is led by the tender vocals of Johansen. Ending with waves delicately making their way to the shore, ‘Nightingale’ is the perfect interlude into ‘High Moon’, also led by Johansen’s vocals. Paris I closes with their new single ‘Honest Man’. Drawing upon the falsetto harmonies of the Bee Gees, ‘Honest Man’ explores the sweeping story of chasing your muse from the shores of Greece to the desert plains of Arizona. 

With their first EP, Oracle Sisters presents a cohesive and mesmerising collection of six tracks that encourages listeners to pause and let their imaginations run wild. 

Written by Amy Smolcic

Listen to Paris I by Oracle Sisters below:

Check out the lyric video for 'Honest Man' here:

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Now Playing: Girl Friday – ‘This Is Not The Indie Rock I Signed Up For’

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Photo by Al Kalyk

With the release of their much-anticipated debut album Androgynous Mary due for release in just over a month, LA band Girl Friday has shared another sneak preview of what’s to come with their brand new single ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’. Released via Hardly Art, the track follows in the footsteps of their previous offering ‘Amber's Knees: A Matter of Concern’.

The video for the stirring and reflective number was directed by the band during quarantine and features candid footage from their time on the road during supporting tours with The Beths and Marika Hackman.

According to Girl Friday, ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’ was inspired by challenging times and the importance of community. They said, “The song was born out of a years and years long mental crisis in which daily life felt like being twisted around in an endless carousel spinning at 100mph. In the moments of wicked darkness and what felt like hell, real love and community was presented to us on a plate — ready to be eaten.”

Also adding, “We are extremely grateful to have received that. Sometimes, you are too stuck to see what’s in front of you. Sometimes, you don’t understand it. And sometimes, when you do take hold of it, it’s the biggest and most powerful feeling in the world. To feel held. To feel like even if you fall to the ground, someone will be there to wipe your face, to sew up the holes in your pants, to pick you up again.”

Check out ‘This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For’ by Girl Friday below.

Written by Amy Smolcic 

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Now Playing: Home Counties – ‘Dad Bod’

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Up-and-coming Bristol-based band Home Counties have this week unveiled their catchy brand new single ‘Dad Bod’. The track, which was shared via UK label Alcopop! Records, follows in the footsteps of their impressive debut single ‘Redevelopment’. Both singles are a preview of their upcoming debut EP Redevelopment, due for release on September 4th. 

Spanning just over two minutes in length, ‘Dad Bod’ is a danceable and addictive slice of post-punk. On the single, songwriter and vocalist Will Harrison said, "'Dad Bod' explores modern middle-class masculinity, with a particular focus upon the ‘progressive’ metropolitan man. The song initially takes a light-hearted standpoint listing the aesthetic traits and status symbols of modern men before moving on to address a darker side which is hidden behind the comfortability and respectfulness of a ‘Dad Bod’."

Get acquainted with Home Counties and ‘Dad Bod’ below. 

Written by Amy Smolcic 

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Feature: The Ingredients of Jazzapocalypse Vol.1 & 2 with Jazzboy

Photo by Louise Desnos 

Parisian avant-pop auteur Jazzboy last month unveiled his riveting new project Jazzapocalypse Vol.1 & 2. Featuring two coinciding EPs, the project sees him reflect on human metamorphosis over the span of two acts. He said, "In the first one, characters tell their story in the form of ‘pop songs’, while in the second one, those characters have vanished and we’re left with the soundtrack to the story they’ve just told." To celebrate the release of Jazzapocalypse Vol.1 & 2, Jazzboy recently took some time to explore the places that inspired him when working on the double-EP. 

Somewhere in Ardèche, France
This is the first place I went to, to start writing and recording stuff. It was in a very remote place in the mountains, I could hear the river flowing while I was sleeping. It was in the winter and I had to walk a few hundred meters to go take a shower (located outdoors) and I used to drink water straight from the source in the river. It was an amazing set up to write new music, but also just being there alone in the wild was an amazing experience.

My studio in my room, Paris
This is the eggshell where I recorded stuff while I was in Paris. It's a messy and dusty place with odd half-broken gear and not a lot of light. And by the way, I don't drink Powerade, this was fake blood that we prepared for a gig I think.

This is the place where we shot the video for “Xmas Will Never Happen Again”. We crashed the car on the first day of scouting. 

Creuse, France
I went to this isolated little house in the centre of France to finish the double EP. I was surrounded by abandoned houses, the place felt kind of haunted but in a good way. I also spent a lot of time just wandering around with a dog that kept on coming to see me.

Corrèze, France
We went there to shoot the Visual Novel for "Jazz & Lizzie". The girl on the picture is called Lili, and the horse is Kerami. She's the most impressive girl I've ever met, she could be some kind of dystopian warrior. She took care of us while we were riding the horse, and she showed us all the animals she owned at her place. She's a hero <3

Listen to Jazzapocalypse Vol.1 & 2 below:

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Feature: The Anatomy of 'Overkill' with Holly Humberstone

Friday, June 26, 2020

Grantham-grown artist Holly Humberstone has returned with a new single, today sharing her splendid new offering ‘Overkill’. The track is her third single and follows on from the previously released ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ and ‘Deep End’. According to Humberstone, ‘Overkill’ captures the conflicting emotions that arise in a new relationship — whether its nerves, excitement and everything in between. To celebrate the release of her new single, she recently dived into the story behind how ‘Overkill' came to life. 

I wrote ‘Overkill'… late last year with my friends Rob Milton and Ben Leftwich in London. I think 'Overkill' has to be my personal favourite track on the EP just because I remember it as such a happy day. There were a lot of feelings I had that I wanted to make sense of and put into something. 

The story behind 'Overkill'… came from something really positive I was going through late last year. I came to the session with my friends Rob and Ben and I just explained to them how I had just started seeing this guy and I was really excited about it all but was scared I was a little too invested and wasn’t sure he was on the same page. I really wanted to tell him how I felt but didn’t wanna be overkill and ruin such a good thing. Both Ben and Rob had had similar experiences and I feel like a lot of people have felt this exact thing before. I love 'Overkill' because it’s so truthful to me and I think it captures all the excitement, confusion, uncertainty and many other emotions that come with new relationships. 

My favourite lyric is… my favourite lyric in the song is probably the first line ‘A couple more tequilas, and I’ll tell you how I’m feeling’. These were actually the first lyrics of the song we got and we were just so buzzing because we knew it was the start of something really cool. We’d put it on a loop and were just getting so excited about this one killer opening line. There are some hilarious voice notes on my phone of the three of us just laughing having so much fun writing this tune. 

My main inspiration was… I think at the time I’d been listening to loads of stuff like Fleetwood Mac and HAIM. I’m really into layered vocals and basically, just as many harmonies and cool vocal sections as possible in songs, like huge Fleetwood Mac-style choruses, are so pleasing to me. I think with this tune I just wanted to create something uplifting that summed up how positive I was feeling about everything at the time. 

It sounds best when… dancing!

Listen to 'Overkill' by Holly Humberstone below.

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Now Playing: Mysie – 'Gift'

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

South London artist Mysie has today revealed her brand new single ‘Gift’. The track is her first release of 2020 and comes after sharing her beautiful debut EP Chapter 11 in 2019. ‘Gift’ sees Mysie join forces once again with long-time collaborator Duncan Pym and was released alongside its accompanying music video. 

Each time you press play on a track by Mysie, expect to be pulled into another world and ‘Gift’ is absolutely no exception. Home to her signature heartfelt vocals, you can’t help but become swept away by each word. The open and musing number is about toxic people the lengths they go to manipulate you. She said on the track, “‘Gift’ is about realising that someone in your life is puppeteering you. Saying what you want to hear in order to manipulate or oppress you. You’ve given up too much and now you need to get out.”

The video for 'Gift' was shot on an iPhone 8 by Daniele Nassisi and was directed by Mysie and Dottie Kay.

Check out Mysie’s mesmerising new single ‘Gift’ below. 

Written by Amy Smolcic 

Check out our interview with Mysie last year here

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Now Playing: Willie J Healey – ‘Fashun’

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Photo by Hollie Fernando

With the release of his much-anticipated new album Twin Heavy fast approaching on August 7th via Yala! Records, Willie J Healey has unleashed another exciting taste of what’s to come with his newly released track ‘Fashun’. Also featuring on the album will be previous singles such as ‘True Stereo’, ‘Songs For Joanna’ and ‘Why You Gotta Do It’.

Set to be track one on the album, 'Fashun' will ensure that Twin Heavy is off to a big start. The vibrant single came to life after an improvised session with producer/drummer Loren Humphreys. Healey said on the recording experience of ’Fashun’, “The session was so exciting. I was having a really good time in New York. One night a bunch of Loren's friends came down to the studio and we just started playing. It was so fun, we didn’t speak about who would play what which made it really wild and I think we got ‘Fashun’ in two takes. I’ll never forget the look in Loren’s eye while behind the kit. A wild man was driving the train and we all loved the ride.”

Before it’s time to devour Twin Heavy from beginning to end in August, be sure to dive into ‘Fashun’ below. 

Written by Kristy Smolcic 

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Feature: The Anatomy of 'Till I Meet You Again' with The Psychedelic Birthday Party

We first stumbled across The Psychedelic Birthday Party last year when he shared his moving single 'Bad Blood'. This month he is back with a new single, this time sharing 'Till I Meet You Again'. His new offering is an intimate and tender track about saying goodbye to someone who you love. He recently took some time to explore the story behind the single for us. 

I wrote 'Till I Meet You Again'…  a couple of years ago in my bedroom. It all started with some lo-fi recordings only using a Guitar-hero microphone plugged into my computer. Though the core essence of that scrappy demo pretty much stayed the same, the arrangement has changed a lot over time.  You can now hear piano, cello, ambient, drums, reverbing guitars, you name it.  It has become one of those tracks that bleed and heal with you throughout the arrangement.  Of course, I had a lot of help from musically talented friends. You definitely do not want to hear me play the cello. 

The story behind ‘Till I Meet You Again’ is … for me, about having to say goodbye to someone you love. There's something bittersweet about it. On the one hand, you’re sad about seeing them leave, on the other hand, it unveils the depths of your relationship and how much you really care about each other. 

I wrote this song with my father in mind when he was about to move to the other side of the world. It put me in a position where I needed to be transparent about how it affected me emotionally, while also be supportive of his choice. Though it broke my heart, I realised I just wanted the best for him. Which is to see him leave with a smile, knowing that his son loves him and no ocean in between would change that. 

My favourite lyric is…  

Grow your hair 
White as snow 
Love what’s left 
Where you’re from 

It was made…  We recorded most of the track in an old monastery located in the south of The Netherlands. The home studio, owned by the recording/producing team Jeroen Verstappen and Thijs Fleurkens, was to be found on the top floor looking out over trees and a flock of bored pigeons. Before you reached their front door, you had to walk up some Hogwarts-like staircase first where I frequently had to catch my breath because of my terrible physique condition. We invited each contributing musician separately so we could really focus on getting the right takes. And so you hear Roos Creemers on cello, Niels Veron on piano, Kane van der Linden on ambient, and last but certainly not least Jeroen Verstappen on drums, keys programming, ambient and effects. 

My main inspiration was… love, pain, time and healing. When I wasn’t replaying my demos over and over again, I loved (and still do) listening to Slowdive, Low, Dilly Dally, The Wytches, Big Thief, Wolf Alice and more. While writing songs I like thinking about the people I love or how cool and messy life can be. For ‘Till I Meet You’ again it was all about the passing of time and saying goodbye to my father. 

It sounds best when…  sharing a bottle of wine with a friend or lover on a starlit night.

Check out 'Till I Meet You Again' by The Psychedelic Birthday Party below.

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Feature: The Ingredients of Dining Alone with Fake Laugh

Photo by Holly Whitaker

A few months ago, Fake Laugh, the project of Kamran Khan, shared his latest LP Dining Alone, which was released via The state51 Conspiracy. His sincere and engaging offering reflects on navigating life and everything in between across the course of ten memorable tracks. The album was made in London and Berlin alongside close friend Louis Milburn. Khan took some time out to explore the various settings and places that influenced him during the process of making Dining Alone.

Regal Close House, London
Between the years of 2012 and 2015, I lived at a house in Whitechapel known as ‘Regal’. Friends of ours had lived there before and the house was occupied by a revolving selection of overlapping friendship groups for 4 years. Fake Laugh was born in this house and a couple of the songs on Dining Alone were written towards the end of my time here. The picture below was taken around Christmas 2014 I believe.

Ristorante Padre e Figlio, Berlin
Padre e Figlio was the name of the restaurant run by my older brother Jay and my father between the years of 2013 and 2018, they are pictured below around the time of its opening. When I moved back to Berlin after spending most of 2015 touring in a friend’s band, I spent a lot of time here. I worked on the bar and ate here every day. My father had bought a guitar, which was at the restaurant when I returned. The track ‘Plätze’ from Dining Alone was written sitting in the restaurant with my parents before it opened one afternoon.

Bedroom at Papa’s house, Genthiner Straße, Berlin 
My father’s apartment in Schöneberg is in the same building as the one I spent my early years in. 2016 was a strange year in a lot of ways looking back, but there were some lovely moments amongst the mess and I made some good friends. I also wrote a lot of music, including most of the primary song ideas for Dining Alone. Below is a picture taken in my bedroom at Papa’s house which I used for press for my EP, Ice

Swords Studios, London
Here’s a blurry picture of Louis Milburn, who co-produced and mixed the album. He can be seen here measuring out some distances for a drum take. His bedroom studio in Leyton was the scene for the realisation of the tracks that would end up coming together to make Dining Alone. Louis and I have been pals for years and he’s a joy to work with, we had a lot of fun working on these songs and weren’t necessarily expecting to end up with an album.

The final geographical ingredient in the mix for making this record is the seaside town of Margate. This picture from May 2018 shows my first experience of the place — we played with Girl Ray and Teleman at Moshi Moshi Records’ festival. We missed the train back and ended up staying at Stephen from the label’s house. It was a bizarre night, much like the rest of the nights I’ve had there since. Stephen has a studio called PRAH, located near the house. Some of the wonkier moments from Dining Alone, including key parts of 'Ever Imagine' and 'The Empty Party' were recorded there. Bon Appetite! 

Listen to Dining Alone by Fake Laugh:

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Now Playing: The Ninth Wave – 'I’m Only Going To Hurt You'

Friday, June 19, 2020

Photo by Nuala Swan

Glasgow-based band The Ninth Wave has revealed yet another impressive single, this time coming through with ‘I’m Only Going To Hurt You’. The track is the second to be shared from their forthcoming EP Happy Days!, which is set to be released on July 31st via Distiller Records. The single also comes after news of their AIM Independent Music Awards nomination for 'Best Independent Album' for their debut 2019 album Infancy.

The origins of ‘I’m Only Going To Hurt You’ stems back to a poem Haydn Park-Patterson wrote approximately a year ago called ‘My Severed Heart’ — with the poem forming the basis of the pre-chorus and chorus. On the track’s meaning, Park-Patterson said, “The song itself is centred around an internal conflict faced after realising the difficulties of a relationship that seemed to be damaged even before it was allowed to flourish.”

Before reaching its final form, the track experienced a few different iterations. Park-Patterson notes, “Since then it’s been dragged through different arrangements, keys and styles until we almost decided to scrap it. It wasn’t until Calum, Kyalo and Millie reimagined the backbone of the song that things fell into place. The main rhythmic elements of this song were made on Millie’s Elektron Digitakt, using field recordings of scrap bits of metal that surrounded the studio.”

Listen to The Ninth Wave’s spellbinding new single ‘I’m Only Going To Hurt You’ below.

Written by Amy Smolcic 

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Now Playing: bb sway – 'Up in the Air’

Photo by Abril Shaw

Bedroom-pop up-and-comer bb sway, which is the project of Hong Kong-born and London-based Ashley Grace, has this week unveiled her brand new single ‘Up in the Air’ (released via Practise Music). Her new track is her first since sharing her debut EP cosy last year. 

Amidst turbulent times, ‘Up in the Air’ gives you the warm hug that you need each time that you press play. On the soothing and meditative single, bb sway encourages listeners to live in the present — the world is ever-changing, and sometimes all we have control over is ourselves. 

She said, “‘Up in the Air’ is about being in a time of uncertainty: feeling unstable when we are unsure as to how the future will unfold. In times like these it’s important to be kind to ourselves, to be patient. It’s a song that encourages self-care and self-love during a time of uncertainty.”

Dive into bb sway’s captivating new single ‘Up in the Air’ below. 

Written by Amy Smolcic 

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Interview: Exploring the Creative Mind of Sinead O Brien

Thursday, June 18, 2020
Photo by Nicholas O’Donnell

Limerick-grown and London-based artist and performer Sinead O Brien is never afraid of a challenge. By day, she’s an accomplished fashion designer at Vivienne Westwood’s design house and then at night, she’s enchanting audiences with her electric and all-consuming blend of spoken word poetry and music. Along with mastering the art of fashion and music, she’s also an experienced dancer and writer.

Before the pandemic, O Brien would challenge herself by facing unfamiliar situations and living environments — including a convent, Dublin for art school, and living in a mansion with fifty others among some of the places that she has found herself living in. But now, her feet are firmly on the ground and she’s found a new sense of comfort in staying at home in London.

Though moving around is something that she still values, she doesn’t always need to be away to feel inspired — she's discovered other ways of doing this at home. “It doesn’t necessarily need to be my environment anymore. I can find it in different ways now and lockdown has really challenged me. Those same adventures and situations aren't presenting themselves, so I’ve become an indoor traveller.”

Without making her usual daily commute to and from work, she’s also found a new routine. “I’m used to getting up and rushing off. It takes me an hour and a half to get to work every morning and I’ve used that time previously for answering all of my music emails and to jot down ideas for the day. That first hour in the morning is so creative for me, so is the last hour before I sleep.”

She’s also spent more time writing during lockdown ⁠— not only lyrics but also other forms of writing too. “I’ve started writing and reading much more,” said O Brien on the last few months. “Every morning I have different notebooks. I have a dream notebook, I’ve got my work-in-progress notebooks and I’ve got my laptop with my non-fiction section open. I just top up all these up during that hour and see what comes.”

O Brien embraced many different forms of creativity when she was growing up, but creative writing wasn’t particularly something she did a lot of. When she was growing up, she was mainly drawn to the performing arts, including drama, musicals and dance. “My parents had to drive me to all these different classes and clubs many nights of the week or on the weekend.” Even now as an adult, dance classes and lessons are something that she finds stimulating.

“I still do dance classes when I’m not busy or on tour. I think seeing yourself progress and having a teacher there is kind of an important thing. I feel like as you get older, you maybe in some sense miss that authority ⁠— that figure who can mark your progress and share that back with you. It’s quite a childish thing, but I really do enjoy that aspect of class activities.”

Often, these various art forms, like dance, will subconsciously influence the music that she’s working on. “I was working on choreography with a friend for a video, just some loose choreography. When I was reading the list of instructions I had written when I got home, I suddenly recorded it. I then shared it with Julian [Hanson] and it became a track idea.”

On the creative writing front, O Brien recently had a piece of writing published in The London Magazine, which is the UK’s oldest literary periodical. She’s also previously had literary work published by the London Review of Books. Despite much of her writing outside of music not having a format reminiscent of traditional song lyrics, diving into these other forms, including essay writing and other non-fiction formats, has also influenced her immensely.

“I’m going quite deeply into my writing lately, treating it like a different form of writing with personal essays or non-fiction. They’re quite pure and they have no lyrical sense yet. I’m finding that really rich because I would never get the chance to go so deeply as I am right now. I think it’s feeding my music all the more, and the deeper I go into any of these different forms, it bounces back tenfold.”

It wasn’t until after O Brien finished schooling that she became drawn to writing as a form of self-expression, especially poetry — she was appealed to the way her words allowed her to speak louder than ever before. “After education is when I started to find my own voice. I didn’t feel like it was such a loud voice before when I was at school. It really came to me afterwards and maybe as a reaction to that.”

Today, poetry continues to be a contested literary form that’s either loved or loathed. O Brien notes that people shouldn't be afraid of poetry as there are no mistakes that can be made when attempting it without experience or formal education.

“You have to be brave. Don’t be afraid to speak. There are no mistakes. People can maybe be afraid of putting things out in public, but I think you can learn a lot and the connections that you will make and the conversations that you will spark up will enrich you. It’s important to just get out there and be brave, I think above all else.”

Music, another substantial creative output in her life, is a collaborative process and she works with her band, including Julian Hanson and Oscar Robertson, closely to bring her ideas, lyrics, inspiration and early arrangements to life. “It’s extremely collaborative,” says O Brien. “In the beginning, I think everybody was in their element and it takes time to find where you can overlap and how much input everyone wants and needs, or what’s the ideal balance. We’re lucky in the sense that nobody is offended in the band when there are suggestions or changes.”

Along with her band, she has frequently collaborated with Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey, who produced singles such as ‘Taking On Time’ (which was released as 7-inch single under the label in 2019), ‘Roman Ruins’, and ‘Fall With Me’. O Brien and her band instantly felt a creative connection with Carey when they first met with him. “He just got me like no one else, musically. He got the band, and he got our setup.” By lunchtime during their first meeting at his studio, they had wrapped up ‘Taking On Time’. Carey’s notable twenty-four-hour deadline for tracks works hand-in-hand with the way O Brien likes to approach music. “I’m not about perfect, I’m about catching the feeling. That’s my priority.”

After an impressive run of singles, O Brien is set to unveil her highly anticipated EP Drowning In Blessings, which was produced by Carey and will be released via Chess Club Records. The official release date of the EP is yet to be revealed, but you can expect to hear it in its entirety within the next few months.

Just like everything else she does, it’s important to not rush something that doesn’t feel ready, this includes the EP. “I never rush anything. I'm working constantly and I'm quite quick, and I've been producing a lot recently, but I never rush anything. I adhere to deadlines, but I absolutely wouldn't rush something out if it's not how I wanted it or if the quality wasn't quite right. I'm really happy to share work in progress, but a release is different. I just would never compromise it. I always want to stick to my reason for creating. There's just no point in compromising that. It's not quantity over quality. People deserve to get that valuable content as well.”

The music community has often referred to her as a ‘post-punk poet’, however, genre isn't something that she often thinks about when working on music. “It’s a description that has come from outside," she says on labels. “It's very hard to describe what you're doing yourself. I don't think it's even necessary. I'm not so keen to put descriptive adjectives on it because it feels limiting.” She will continue to approach making music without genre in mind, though the ‘post-punk’ label doesn’t overly bother her — especially when post-punk is about speaking up and making one's voice heard.

“It's a very energy-charged kind of movement that we're seeing at the moment. I think it's just people being fueled to speak up and have their voices heard like never before. I think people are feeling a sense of urgency to speak for several different reasons. Collectively, it's about coming together.”

Written by Amy Smolcic 

Listen to 'Roman Ruins' below:

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Feature: The Anatomy of 'Big Mistake' with Elizabeth Fader

Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Photo by @re._stacks

Elizabeth Fader has today followed up her mesmerising debut offering 'Encore' with yet another beautiful single, this time coming through with ‘Big Mistake’.  Her new single is an empowering anthem about taking risks and following your intuition. Along with sharing the single, she’s also unveiled the video, which was directed by Nick Mckk. To celebrate the release of her second single, Fader explores the story behind ‘Big Mistake’ for us below.

I wrote 'Big Mistake'… At Ben Edwards' studio “The Sitting Room” in Lyttelton, New Zealand. I wrote it in the studio one morning and we recorded it that night. The lyrics came to me the night before while I was taking an evening walk up The Tors mountain next to Lyttelton. It was super windy and getting dark, and I just remember feeling so free and thinking “how did I get here?”. I had been taking a lot of risks at that point in my life. Not like frivolous risks but like real deep life choices. And I just realised how at home I was in that feeling.

The story behind 'Big Mistake' is… It’s really about using the big decisions in your life as an opportunity to become the kind of person you want to be. You get to make the call about what mistakes you don’t make. What you choose not to do is a big part of who you are. Like sometimes you just have to jump in the deep end...because the mistake would be not jumping at all.

My favourite lyric is… 

I’ve been tricked, I have been loved
I’ve been the pusher and I have been shoved
Now I know it would be easier to just play it safe
Settle down with my Big Mistake

It was made… In Lyttelton, NZ with Ben and my band — Josh Spolc, Blain Cunneen and Nick Meredith. We did a lot of recording at night, I really loved recording in the dark at that point. Exploring the dark spaces in the studio physically and I suppose emotionally too. That trip made me realise how the vibe, the spirit is very integral to the recording process. You can have all the technicalities down but really, it’s the actual feeling that matters the most. Ideally, you work to get to a point where you can have it all.

My main inspiration was… I was listening to a lot of Wolf Alice, Sparklehorse, Bowie, Perfume Genius, Blake Mills. I suppose this song is a record of the heavy moment in my songwriting trajectory. Like the medieval period.

It sounds best when… Turned up loud when you’re in the mood for something rawkus and maybe need a little motivation to get something hard done.

Check out 'Big Mistake' by Elizabeth Fader:

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Now Playing: Manna – 'Sundress’

Monday, June 15, 2020
Photo by Harmony-Angel Cummings

London-based singer-songwriter and model Manna late last month unleashed her dazzling debut single ’Sundress’. Along with music, Manna McLeod has an extensive background in fashion, including appearing in editorials and campaigns for the likes of Elle and Body Shop.

The smooth offering blends 90s-inspired R&B sounds and jazzy undertones with her warm and soothing vocals. According to Manna, the track is an ode to intimacy and sexuality. She said, “The song is really about being able to express your sexuality and affection. I want other people to know, that you can flaunt in front of your partner. They should be really into you.”

Also adding, “When I wrote ‘Sundress’ I was visualising my life with my husband in a beautiful home, we’re both working from home on a Friday. my music is very much about love, intimacy and sex — that’s because it’s personal, it’s so powerful. A good song that you can slow whine to has the capacity to make my day so bright and that’s what I love to share with the world.”

Get acquainted with Manna and her debut single ‘Sundress’ below.

Written by Amy Smolcic

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Interview: Jay Watson Talks GUM and His New-found Confidence

Friday, June 12, 2020
Photo by Sam Kristofski

It’s a fact, there’s no stopping Jay Watson. Constantly in-between projects, he wears many hats as a multi-instrumentalist, producer, songwriter and vocalist. Even in the lead-up to the release of his impressive fifth studio album Out In The World under the moniker GUM, Watson has been busy working on POND’s next album.

Before the world was hit by the pandemic, Watson was amidst touring America. He’s now been at home for approximately two months. Being back in Fremantle has meant that he’s been able to spend more time with his newborn son as well as work on various recording projects. Though touring is indefinitely on hold, working in his home studio in Fremantle is something that brings Watson solace.

Working in his studio gives Watson the creative freedom to experiment with whatever he’s working on. “I just like being in my own world creatively, and I'm super passionate about recording, and recording gear, and the process of making music. I lock myself in a room for half a day, and just play with all the toys I've got. It's quite a childlike joy for me. It's the same thing I've been doing since I was 14.”

“I'm just obsessed with music and recording. I get a bit depressed if I haven't actively listened to stuff for a couple of days, and I'm always trying to find some song, even if that's an old song that I've never heard before that blows my mind, because after this long, after this many years, and just digging and discovering music, you start to think that you might have heard all the cool things. But there's no way that I have.”

Over the years, he’s also become accustomed to working on music in-between touring. Even when he’s on the road, he’s working on music constantly, but never for big portions of time. “I never really have big chunks of time to do stuff. If I have a day off here and there, I’ll do a few hours. I’ll often record heaps of stuff at home and then when I go on tour, I’ll mix it in the bus or on a plane.”

When mixing, he often finds himself making alterations — and at times for his new record, Watson found himself working on all ten tracks at once. “I won't commit to finishing the mixing. I think for me, the mixing of it, and the recording of it, go hand in hand. As I'm mixing it, I'll be like, "Oh, I might add a harmony in there. I might queue another drum part in there," or something like that. So when all the songs are pretty close to being done, that's when I start bouncing off mixes, and finalising bits of recording, and change lyrics last minute and things like that.”

He finished recording Out In The World approximately two years ago but it took a while to have it mixed and mastered. Though he admits that he sometimes feels a little impatient waiting to release GUM material, it’s something he isn’t too worried about.

“I think as the records have gotten better and I’m more proud of them, it doesn’t matter having to wait. It used to take so long that by the time the album came out, I didn’t really like it very much, but I’m still quite proud of this album this time around.”

Across Out In The World, he draws upon his fascination with how other humans live. Thematically, Watson prefers not to limit his songs to an overarching theme — he’s not opposed to other artists who do that, he’s just found that he rather write songs that are much more abstract, therefore encouraging listeners to draw their own meaning from his words.

“I like things that are a bit more abstract. I like things to have a point but I also like when you can generate your own meaning or even multiple meanings out of things, rather than being bludgeoned over the face with a single theme. I mean, there’s a lot of people who are exactly the opposite, they like really clear points to the song existing. I like things being a bit more cloudy, but in an interesting way, that’s just me though.”

The main thing Watson says that he’s taken away from his experience of working on his new record is to feel more confident about what he’s created — it might have taken numerous years and a series of albums, but he admits that he finally feels like he’s at a point where he's much more assured about the music that he’s releasing under GUM. “I guess it's about learning to trust your own instincts, and your own taste, and realising that if you like it, then that's all that matters. But that frame of mind is easier said than done.”

“I think I’ve learned to have a bit more confidence in myself and my voice and the way I write songs. It’s taken four or five albums to believe I’m any good at it. And with that new-found confidence, I can try a few different things that I would have never done, for example making the vocals easier to hear or just different styles of music. I think what is really exciting for me is having the confidence to try things that are outside of my comfort zone.”

When listeners embark on their listening journey of Out In The World he hopes they can enjoy it, even if it’s only part of the record. “They don’t even have to like the whole thing,” says Watson. “Honestly, I’m stoked if people like one song off of the record and keep replaying it. That’s enough for me.”

Written by Amy Smolcic

Listen to Out In The World below:

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