WIDE EYED BOY – Artist Spotlight & Interview

Wide Eyed Boy

Liverpool foursome Wide Eyed Boy burst onto the local music scene in early 2017 with their gorgeous debut single “Wolves,” quickly making a name for themselves throughout the UK and beyond – even here in the Coachella Valley of Southern California where yours truly resides. They followed up in July with another magnificent single “Loving You is So Easy.” I loved both songs so much I featured them on this blog, and both reached #1 on my Weekly Top 20. “Wolves” ended up at #17 and “Loving You is So Easy” at #13 on my 100 Best Songs of 2017.

Wide Eyed Boy is comprised of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitars, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums). In March, they dropped their third single “Sun Again,” another stellar track that provides further proof they’re a band of exceptional songwriting talent and musicianship. The exuberant track opens strong with roiling riffs of fuzzy guitars, propelled by Tom’s hammering drums and a cascade of crashing cymbals. Oliver’s smooth, clear vocals are dazzling as always, soaring along with the instrumentals as they build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo. Regarding the song, the band states: “It’s about escape. Breaking out of that vicious cycle of mundane life and getting back that sense of freedom to go do whatever the hell you want.”

I’d like to say that I ‘sat down with’ the band for a conversation – which I would absolutely love to do! – but, given the fact we’re 6,000 miles apart, we conducted our interview over the internet. Fortunately, all four band members took time to respond to my questions.

EML: Hello guys, I’m honored to have the opportunity to interview you! As you know, I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I first heard “Wolves.” I think you’re one of the best indie bands in the UK, if not the world! I already know a bit about you – that you all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), became friends and eventually formed a band. Also, you went to Budapest, Hungary in 2016 to write songs. What prompted you to decide to go to Budapest? Did you feel you’d have more inspiration for your songwriting there, rather than in Liverpool, and if so, why?

Jonny:  Thanks for having us! Yeah that’s how it all started. We’ve written a lot of music in Liverpool so Budapest was an opportunity to go somewhere completely different, have some fun, get sunstroke and gain some inspiration from a new environment. As Oli’s family are originally from Hungary they still have a house  in the country which is what gave us the chance to go over and make some noise for a couple of weeks.

EML: Is your songwriting a collaborative process that each of you take a roughly equal part in? Or do certain band members take greater responsibility for writing lyrics and/or music?

Kobi:  Our songwriting is definitely a collaborative process! Most of the time Jonny, Tom and I will have more of an influence on the music/arrangement side of things and Oli writes the main melodies and harmony and lays down the bare bones of lyrics. But the cool thing is, at the end of it, we sit down and go through all the ideas Oli has and we finish the lyrics off together to get some sort of finalised song. Collaboration is the only way to make music great!

EML: I don’t know your ages, but you all exhibit a real maturity in your songwriting, both in terms of compelling lyrics and your gorgeous melodies, not to mention your amazing musicianship. Were any of you active musicians or play in other bands prior to attending LIPA?

Tom: We all played in bands before we went to LIPA. It’s what we loved to do, I started my first band back at school. I remember we got all of our mates to come down to the local pub and we played a gig, I think we only had two songs so the rest we just played covers. So yeah we all played loads of music before WIDE EYED BOY I’m sure if you asked we still all remember our first gig but that’s another question.

EML: Oliver, you have an incredible voice, which I’m guessing is a natural gift to a large degree. Did you have formal vocal training while growing up or at LIPA?

Ollie: Thank you for the compliment. I had one to one singing lessons at LIPA and I also had training in Germany years ago. Obviously it did always come natural to me and I started singing professionally at the age of 10 but after my voice broke I felt like I needed to relearn how to use my voice properly.

EML: Your songs are really magnificent, with expansive instrumentation and arrangements that transcend mere pop and rock. What and/or who are some of the influences for your sound and songwriting?

Tom: In WIDE EYED BOY we are each influenced by so many different bands but its good really as it means when we’re travelling we have loads of different tunes on in the car. We all agree on Oasis and RHCP, but coming from a city like Liverpool there are so many bands that we’ve been watching for years like Clean Cut Kid and The Wombats. We’ve also been lucky to go on tour with Feeder and The Rifles and we learnt loads from them. There’s too many to list really.

EML:  I already love your latest single “Sun Again,” which you formally released on March 9th, but I saw a video of you performing an acoustic version of it a year ago on Liverpool Noise. I’m assuming it’s one of the many songs you wrote while in Budapest. I’m curious as to why you are periodically releasing singles, rather than an EP or album, given that you’ve already written enough songs for a full album? And when do you plan on releasing a full album?

Jonny: Thank you very much, Sun Again was actually one of the first songs we wrote as a band and was an idea around for a while that we’re really glad we finished and recorded. We’re still a really new band so releasing singles just made a lot of sense to us at this point although there’s no doubt bigger bodies of work will be coming sometime soon.

EML: Despite releasing only a few singles, you’ve managed to quickly build quite a large following, which has to be incredibly gratifying. Has your seemingly overnight success been a surprise, and do you feel any pressure to keep upping your game?

Ollie: It truly feels amazing when the crowd sings along to our songs because it shows that we actually managed to reach people. I wouldn’t personally call it an overnight success because if you are so closely involved in a project you don’t even realise how it’s growing. However, we do obviously notice the positive resonance and all we can do is to try our best, and release music we are very proud of.

EML:  I see this question asked by a lot of interviewers, but I’m gonna ask it anyway LOL. In addition to what we’ve already discussed, are there any other things about you or your music I neglected to ask that you’d like your fans to know?

Kobi: Haha, if you’re wondering if we have any new songs coming soon…we have LOTS of new material we have been working on…that’s all I can say at the moment but they’re very exciting, not going to spoil anything (I’m terrible at secrets).

Here’s a fun fact, our band name Wide Eyed Boy is actually someone…a human in this world (alive)…I’ll let people figure it out!

Have a listen to their songs and I’m confident you’ll agree that they’re pretty amazing.

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

THE HIGH RIP – Single Review: “Wasted”

The High Rip is a four-piece indie band from Liverpool, UK who play a deliriously infectious mix of alternative rock and post punk that just makes you feel good. And can’t we use some more of that right now! They also have a wry sense of humor – always a big plus for me. They state in their bio “The most notorious Liverpool gang of the 1890’s was The High Rip. Fast forward 120 years and it would seem little has changed.” Making up this current crew of Liverpool gang members are Ivan on lead vocals, Graham on guitar, Paul on bass and vocals, and Jo on drums.

They’ve released several excellent songs over the past year (I’m especially fond of “Best Holiday” and the T.Rex-ish “System Doesn’t Work”), and just dropped a terrific new single called “Wasted.” The rousing track has an upbeat 80s new wave vibe that reminds me of some of the great songs from The Cure and A Flock of Seagulls, two of my favorite bands from that era. The most arresting element for me is Graham’s exuberant jangly guitar riff that continues throughout the track, as well as some tasty little flourishes of distortion later on. Ivan’s lusty vocals are wonderful, as are Paul’s driving bass line and Jo’s masterful drums pounding out the irresistible beat. It’s a fantastic song that had me hitting replay, and so will you, my kind readers.

Despite the track’s upbeat vibe, its serious lyrics seem to speak of an approaching soul-crushing technocratic and authoritarian state, sort of like the one envisioned in 1984 (and which we’re sadly beginning to see glimpses of today):

And in the future, there will be no understanding
Just a series of rules to obey
And in the future there will be no together
No tomorrow, no today
Waste what you like, waste another lifetime
Wherever you stand you are in the way

And now this feels like, feels just like I always knew it would feel
Like the way that I was told
And in the future, there will be no happy ending
No way of coming in out of the cold
So waste what you like, waste another lifetime
Wherever you stand, you are in the way

Connect with The High Rip:  Facebook / Twitter
Stream their music on Soundcloud

THEY CALLED HIM ZONE – Single Review: “Death Drive/I Like Noise”

Death Drive Art

I’ve been revisiting a number of artists that I previously featured on this blog, and my latest is the Bradford, UK dark wave/psychedelic/electro-pop band They Called Him Zone. Formed in early 2016, they quickly released their debut EP Miami, then followed up with a stellar mini-album Crow Swan Wolf in February 2017, which I reviewed. Now they return with a double single “Death Drive / I Like Noise,” released today, the 25th of August, through their label Ambicon Records.

They Called Him Zone consists of Mik Davis (lead vocals, drones and production),  Steve Maloney (guitar, backing vocals and production), and John Bradford (keyboards and percussion). For these songs, they were joined by Cat McLaughlan who provided backing vocals. In describing their sound, sometimes the band’s own words offer the best explanation: [Our music] “combines sultry electronica with chewed-up, modulated guitars, evoking rain-drenched, neon-daubed streets, proscribed chemicals, and black-clad malcontents wearing mirror shades after dark. And it’s always dark where they come from…

They Called Him Zone 2

Both songs seem to address our darker sides. Lead track “Death Drive” evokes a shadowy netherworld of lust and danger with its hypnotic beat and harsh industrial synths. Maloney’s gritty and sometimes wailing guitars amplify the sense of foreboding, while in a rather menacing monotone, Davis sings the lyrics that seem to speak to an addiction – whether it be drugs, sex or some other obsession:

We’ve become so cold, playing out in the rain,
Waiting out for June, you make me cold sweat…
My body shakes when I’m with you, I feel no pain…
The death drive.

The equally dark video for the song was produced by Bradford-based Twenty Twenty Films, and features alternative models Zombie Cat Girl and Miss Gerrish, and method actor Mark Morris.

The B-side “I Like Noise” is a short track with a fast, repetitive beat and pulsating synths that deliver a post-punk psychedelic feel. Like the music, the lyrics are minimalist, and my guess is that they’re about numbing one’s pain by engaging in pleasurable but dangerous or taboo activities:

I like pills, I like noise, I like thrills, I like toys…
I like girls, I like boys, I like machines that make noise…
I like noise, I like, noise, I like machines, that make noise…
I tried love, I tried hate, I tried pain…

Both songs are brilliant, further demonstrating that They Called Him Zone is a cutting-edge band who pushes boundaries to create music that’s distinctive, mesmerizing and always provocative.

Connect with They Called Him Zone: Facebook / Twitter

Stream their music on  Soundcloud and purchase on Bandcamp

WIDE EYED BOY Release New Video for “Loving You Is So Easy”

Wide Eyed Boy2

Wide Eyed Boy is an exceptionally talented New Wave/Indie Pop band that’s quickly becoming one my favorites.  The Liverpool, UK based four-piece is comprised of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitars, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums).  They released a gorgeous debut single “Wolves” last March, which I reviewed, and you can read here. (It’s one of my favorite songs of 2017, reaching #1 and spending 18 weeks on my Weekly Top 20.)

The guys recently dropped their follow-up single “Loving You Is So Easy,” a track slower in tempo than “Wolves,” but every bit as beautiful. I didn’t think it possible they could come up with another song as magnificent as “Wolves,” but how foolish I was to think that, because Wide Eyed Boy have pulled it off nicely. Lush sweeping synths, Ball and Pham’s swirling guitars, Taylor’s on-point drums, and Nagy’s captivating vocals are all simply breathtaking. The song lyrics are fairly straightforward – “I don’t care the way you care. I can see it in your stare. But the way that we collide, it’s getting harder every time. Loving you is so easy. Easy when I’m down, down, down” – but Nagy delivers them quite seductively, before launching into a soaring falsetto in the chorus that raises goosebumps.

The video produced for the track is stunning. The minimalist set and subdued lighting, accentuated with background fluorescents, create the perfect mood for the sensuous track. I much prefer music videos that show the artist or band performing the song, rather than an acted-out story, unless it’s directly relevant to the lyrics. Of course, it’s always a plus when the band is charismatic, and Wide Eyed Boy has it in spades. Nagy has a magnetism that calls to mind the legendary front men Jim Morrison or Michael Hutchence.

Take a look:

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / TwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

WILDCOHEN – Single Review: “Jacksons Son”

Indie duo WildCohen make music that’s hard to categorize. The Sheffield, UK duo, comprised of producer and multi instrumentalist Jody Wildgoose and songwriter and multi instrumentalist Rob Cohen, play songs that run the gamut from new wave psychedelic to folk and pop to alternative rock, and everything in between.  Jody plays bass and sings, and Rob plays guitars and also sings. According to an interview with Local Sound Focus, both guys were in previous bands (Jody in Various Vegetables, and Rob in Marmalade Sun), and decided to record together starting about two years ago out of mutual admiration for each others’ work.

WildCohen-Photo-by-Carl-Rose-696x462

Their debut album BloochyKoo, released through indie label Spoonjuice Records, features twelve eclectic tracks, and “Jacksons Son” is the first single. The song is a bouncy psychedelic romp that immediately forces the head to bob and hips to sway. Razor sharp synths, accompanied by crisp jangly guitars and crashing cymbals, move along a humming bass line. Gritty distorted vocals and a tumultuous mix of airy and chaotic choruses add to the track’s otherworldly vibe.

The fantastic video features an artful phantasmagoria of colorful psychedelic images of planets interwoven with Jody and Rob performing the song. Check it out:

Follow WildCohen:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon /  Bandcamp

Single Review: LITTLE TRIGGERS – “Silly Cigarettes”

Liverpool-based indie rock band Little Triggers is on an upward trajectory of late. Following up on their exuberant punk romp “When the Lights Are Going Out,” they’ve recently dropped a terrific new single “Silly Cigarettes.”  The delightful but emotionally wrenching song further cements the quartet’s status as one of Liverpool’s most exciting bands.

Little Triggers is Thomas Hamilton-Hughes (lead guitar & vocals), Chris Carragher (bass), Sam Gallacher (drums) and James Crawford (keyboards, backing vocals).  Their music is a happy mix of garage rock, punk and new wave influences, giving it a retro, yet freshly current sound that’s candy for the eardrums.

Little Triggers

Photo by John Latham Photography

Silly Cigarettes” opens with a strummed guitar solo and Hamilton-Hughes’ melancholy vocals expressing the heartache of knowing his girlfriend is cheating on him: “Everybody knows, you’re wearing last night’s clothes, and that you’re probably acting up again. And I know where you’ve been, no you thought I hadn’t seen you’d been ’round again.” The intensity of the music rises as the song progresses, with lots of cymbal-heavy percussion, thumping keyboards and jangly guitars. Hamilton-Hughes’ vocals become more emotionally wrought as he sings the chorus: “Cause I’ve heard everyone is taking off your party dress, while I’m sad on the outside smoking silly cigarettes. Oh don’t you know?”   The guitar solo in the bridge is wonderful, and the powerful backing vocals in the chorus call to mind those of a classic ELO song.

Have a listen to this great tune:

Here’s a video of a great acoustic version of the song that’s less intense, but still emotionally poignant.

Connect with Little Triggers: Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes

Song Review: WIDE EYED BOY – “Wolves”

I know that I keep featuring artists and bands from the UK on this blog, but there are just so many good ones making great music that I can’t help myself. Another recent discovery is Wide Eyed Boy, a four-man New Wave/Indie-pop collective based in Liverpool, a city rich in music history and influence. They’ve released a stunning new single “Wolves” in advance of their self-titled debut EP due for release this Spring.

wide-eyed-boy

Wide Eyed Boy consists of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitars) and Tom Taylor (Drums). They all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (which was founded by Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty), and bonded over a shared love of music. They headed to Budapest, Hungary in 2016 to write songs for their album and returned to Liverpool to record it with the help of producer Rich Turvey.

“Wolves” is one of those songs that make you stand up and take notice the moment you first hear it. Everything about it is perfect – the melody, lyrics, arrangement, production, instrumentals and vocals. Musically, the song has an exuberant, hard-driving drumbeat, gorgeous sweeping synths and nimble multi-layered guitars. Nagy has an incredible voice, and his soaring vocals are absolutely mesmerizing, adding a haunting beauty to this exceptional track. I loved it at first listen, and kept hitting replay.

Nagy stated the song ‘is about letting people in that are bad for you.’ He passionately sings “Why can’t I leave it all behind? Why can’t I save myself this time? I fall just a little bit, don’t wanna be a part of it. Wolves are the only friends I know.

The beautiful video contains frenetic scenes of urban life, filmed in and around Manhattan.

Wide Eyed Boy have set the bar quite high with “Wolves,” and if their other songs are even half as good, our ears are in for a real treat when they release their EP. I for one can’t wait to hear it! Support these guys by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Stream “Wolves” on Soundcloud.