THE COMMON VIEW – Artist Spotlight & Review

The Common View (2)

I continue to be amazed at the sheer volume of musical talent that exists today, with so many really fine musicians and bands making outstanding music. A recent find is a young four-piece from Leeds, England who call themselves The Common View. I liked their music at first listen, and as I learned about their social and political views and willingness to be outspoken advocates for social justice, being an unapologetic progressive liberal myself, I’ve also come to admire them and am proud to feature them on my blog today.

The band was formed in 2018 by three University of Leeds students with a shared love of music: Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar) and Jacob Lindsay (drums, vocals). Bassist Joe Sykes joined a bit later, filling out the band’s sound and completing their lineup.  Their indelible and dynamic style of alternative rock is influenced by indie pop-rock, post-punk revival and Rockabilly.

They released their self-titled debut EP The Common View, Vol. 1 in December 2018, featuring three outstanding tracks. The guys recorded, mixed and mastered the EP themselves, and I must say that the production values are first-rate, sounding very professional for a debut effort. They also have a terrific little blog on the website musicglue, where they share news about themselves, their music and coming events, so do check it out here. Dom has quite the sense of humour (I thought I’d be cheeky and use the British spelling), and provides entertaining insight into the creation and meaning of the songs, some of which I’ll quote below.

The first track, “I Can’t Get Your Face Out of My Mind” is a delightfully sultry affair, with pulsating riffs of swirling guitars, throbbing bass and snappy drums delivering moody vibes and a captivating melody. Dom describes the song’s genesis: “My memory is somewhat comparable to a goldfish, but if I recall correctly, the song started off with a vaguely similar chord progression and a completely different strumming pattern. It was admittedly a bit of a mess, but I distinctly remember the moment it all came together; For some unknown reason I started to try a bit of a Ska rhythm, akin to something The Specials would use in their hits, and it started to sound really good! After that, the rest of the song started to fall into place and we worked on the progression and the voicings (which usually consists of Jacob’s best whale impression to the sound of the song), with the solo and actual wording being sorted much later on.”

I confidently state that it all came together quite nicely. The tight instrumentation is a clear indication of this band’s impressive musicianship, and I really like Jacob’s sultry, yet heartfelt vocals that convey a sense of sad resignation as he laments to someone who broke his heart: “Oh, if you’re feeling low, don’t come running. I’m moving on now, you can’t keep me down. Got my head spinning round. Your words are poison. You’re killing all the boys, and I’m intoxicated, Hear me out. And you led me on, said I was the only one for you. But you were lying through your teeth. How could you do that to me.

The socially relevant “Ignorance” greets our eardrums with a rousing mix of jangly and fuzzy guitars, accompanied by a frantic punk-rock beat that makes for a exhilarating listen. About the track, Dom explains: “At the risk of sounding like a dickhead, I am actually quite proud to say I wrote the lyrics to ‘Ignorance’, even if it was at 3 am in a disgustingly dirty kitchen in student halls (This will become a trend). They draw from the general idea that there are so many things in the world that seem so obviously wrong (whether it be Global Warming, genocides, racism or terrorism to name a few) that to anyone who ignores, pretends or simply doesn’t understand the fundamental basics is so glaringly ignorant, I’ll never understand them. Ignorance may well be bliss, but we really should be better than this!

On “The Hollow“, Jose and Dom deliver a languid, soulful groove, with shimmery riffs of chiming guitar that are drop-dead fucking gorgeous! And if all that beauty wasn’t enough, Jacob and Dom’s vocal harmonies are positively sublime. Dom discusses their creative genius behind the song’s captivating melody: “‘The Hollow’, despite being the slower track of the EP, will always hold a special place in my heart. It came about as we were recording our music in Jose’s apartment in Manchester and were looking for another song to go on the EP. Jose and I picked up our guitars and were messing about with a few ideas and eventually one of us (I think it was me) started to use the 7th chords which sounded a little jazzy, and Jose immediately picked up on it. We worked together to form the verse, then he started to add a little bit of lead to it and Jacob worked his magic, moaning like a buffalo in the plains of the wild west in tune to the music, to find some voicings that worked, and then altering some of Jose’s proposed lyrics to fit the tune. Then all of a sudden we had it – a completed song, from start to finish, composed by all of us together, in the space of about 20 minutes. Then, in about half an hour we had it all recorded and had to rush to the coach station to head back home to Leeds. It truly was ‘made in the studio’!”

Shortly after the release of their EP, they dropped a provocative new single “Fuck Them“, where they call out the failure of British society and the government to adequately address the chronic issues of health care, poverty and homelessness: “We are sick of the way the NHS is so poorly funded and mismanaged. We are sick of the rising levels of homelessness and the complete neglect to do anything about it. We are sick of the glorification of food banks as a solution rather than proof of failing policy. We can’t change the government, but we can let them know that we don’t want them!” 

Musically, the track has an exuberant tempo that belies the scathing lyrics, with roiling riffs of jangly and gnarly guitars, sparkling synths, bouncy drumbeats and an abundance of crashing cymbals. Jacob coldly sings: “Everyone is in despair. Hard to find someone who cares. People dying in their beds, cause there’s no money for their meds. We’ve got to work and do it right. But all you ever do is fight. / We don’t, we don’t want you. We don’t, we don’t need you. We don’t, we don’t believe you. We don’t, we don’t need you here.”

This brilliant song was expertly mixed and mastered by Alexander Elegger, a young audio engineer and producer from Tula, Russia who began working in sound engineering at the tender age of 14! And the photo used for the video is by Matt Collamer for Unsplash, and was published on February 12, 2018.

Lastly, here’s a video of the band playing an acoustic version of their latest track, a love song called “A Perfect Bridge“. These guys are supremely talented songwriters and musicians and I’m helplessly hooked on their music. Even at their young ages, they’re already masters of their craft, and I expect we’ll be hearing even more incredible music from them in the future. There’s nothing common about The Common View, and I’m excited about following them on their musical journey.

Connect with The Common View on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / ReverbnationApple Music
Purchase on iTunes

REVOLVERS – Single Review: “True Love”

Revolvers True Love Art

Revolvers are a four piece indie band based in London who play high-energy guitar-driven melodic rock. Originally formed in 2016 at the London College of Music, the band now consists of James Thurling (guitar/lead vocals) Will Oliver (guitar/backing vocals), Steven Morrison (bass/backing vocals) and Rhys Kibble (drums).  They released their debut EP Your Indie Heroes Will Betray You in January 2018 to positive reviews, and now return with an exuberant new single “True Love” which drops today, February 20th. 

It’s a terrific, hard-hitting song that reflects the band’s trend toward a heavier rock sound. The thing that really stands out for me is the fantastic guitar work. James and Will deliver an explosion of lush, reverb-drenched jangly riffs that continue throughout the track, punctuated by a tasty little gnarly guitar solo in the bridge. Steven lays down a solid bass line while Rhys pounds his drums and crashes his cymbals like a banshee, adding tremendous impact to this exhilarating song. James has a commanding vocal style, and I really like how his strong British accent shines through when he sings.

The lyrics seem to address dual themes of the impermanence of romantic love, and how as we grow and change, we can never go back to what once was. It’s a rough thing to come to grips with, as anyone who’s moved away has experienced upon returning to a place where you used to live, or to an old flame you once loved, but for whom the feelings have faded or disappeared for at least one of the parties.

Letting go has never been so easy
You know that more than anyone
Cause I don’t believe true love ever exists
It’s a game made up by mankind

Say farewell to small town agendas
Streets and corners where you surrendered
All those days
Racing through your life without warning
Then you realize that you never belonged here
You don’t belong here

True love never makes it to midnight

The wonderful video for the song shows a man back visiting the town he grew up in, and seeing himself in various situations with old friends and girlfriends but feeling lost and out of sorts, no longer fitting in.

Catch Revolvers at this upcoming show:

ondon

Connect with Revolvers on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp

HARROLAND – Single Review: “Home”

Harroland Home

Harroland is an alternative indie-rock band from Reading, England, comprised of siblings Michael (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Kate Kennedy (keyboards, backing vocals),  Steve Tabor (lead guitar) and Sam Tranckle (drums). They’ve just released a new single “Home“, the first of a number of releases planned for 2019. They wrote and self-recorded the track on a shoe-string budget in a freezing cold converted laundry house outside Reading, and had close friend Liam Memmott do the mixing. Mastering was done by two time Grammy Award-winning analog mastering engineer Andres Mayo.

The song opens with an ominous synth chord, then expands into a darkly beautiful soundscape of shimmering keyboard synths, chiming guitars and smooth percussion. The moody piano riff is particularly sublime. Michael has a unique vocal style that’s incredibly appealing, and Kate’s lovely backing vocals harmonize beautifully with his, making for a wonderful listening experience. I found myself wanting to hear this song again and again, liking it more with every listen.

According to Michael, “‘Home’ is told from the viewpoint of someone who gained power using empty promises and feeding on other people’s hopes and dreams. The lyrics reflect the mindset of the kind of person that only wants to enrich themselves, no matter who gets hurt because of their promises. We think it’s important to question who you can and should trust, or if they’re just telling you what you want to hear, especially in the political climate we’re all in at the moment. We’ve all been burnt by people like that.”

The lyrics are extensive, but here’s a snippet of verses that drive home the song’s message from someone intent on holding onto their own power while disregarding the hopes and dreams of others (perfectly describes the vile Liar in Chief currently occupying the White House):

Flip up the table,
But it don’t move,
Now they say,
They’re threatening,
My home, your dreams,
My right to rule

So move aside,
I won’t play no part,
I’m better to be someone with no broken heart
Don’t you ever feel it’s
Best I stake my claim.

And I got my home,
and I got my ways,
and I’ll take your dreams,
In some old fashioned way

“Home” is the band’s last collaboration with drummer Sam Trackle, who is stepping down to spend more time with his family. He will be replaced by Stu Roberts, who will debut with Harroland at their March 16th show at the Rising Sun Arts Centre.

Catch Harroland at one of these upcoming shows:

Saturday, March 16       Rising Sun Arts Centre, Reading
Saturday, March 23       Hope & Anchor, Wokingham
Wednesday, March 27  Purple Turtle, Reading
Saturday, May 18           Rising Sun Arts Centre, Reading
Saturday August 10       A Different World Festival, Abbey Rugby Club, Reading

Connect with Harroland on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Home” on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

BLACK | LAKES – Single Review: “Dissident”

Black Lakes

A few posts back, I mentioned that it seemed half the artists and bands I’ve previously featured on this blog are releasing new music in 2019, and another one of them is BLACK|LAKES, a progressive alternative metal rock band that collectively hail from South Wales & Southwest England. Comprising the band are five enormously talented musicians – Will S. Preston (lead vocals), Scott Bradshaw (guitar, backing vocals), James Rowlands (guitar, backing vocals), Lee Harris (bass) and Dafydd Fuller (drums). Last October (2018), they released a monumental single “The Divide” which I reviewed, and now return with hard-hitting new single “Dissident“, which drops today.

The track opens with a brooding guitar riff accompanied by an ominous synth chord, then explodes with a barrage of chugging riffs, pummeling bass and thunderous drums. After ten seconds, everything calms down to a melodic interlude of pulsating guitars and measured percussion during the verses, only to ramp back up into a furious onslaught for the choruses, keeping us in a continual state of tension. The guitar work throughout the song is fantastic, really showcasing Scott and James’ considerable talents on their respective six-strings. Lee’s deep bass lines drive the track forward while Dafydd pounds his drums like his life depends upon it.

Will’s resonant vocals remind me a bit of Puddle of Mudd’s Wes Scantlin, starting off smooth and plaintive as he bitterly renounces someone who’s hurt and betrayed him: “Here inside this cage, this never ending maze. Watching myself waste away. The bitterness I taste. Complete intemperance. I sit and slowly count the days.” They turn raw and impassioned in the choruses when he defiantly screams that he will survive and move on: “The last words I’ll ever say. In spite of you I will not fade into a world plagued by you.

“Dissident” is a magnificent and electrifying rock song that proves Black|Lakes’ can continue to deliver the heavy and melodic progressive metal we’ve grown to love from this amazing band.

Connect with Black|Lakes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase on Spotify iTunes

WIDE EYED BOY – EP Review: “Sun Again EP”

Wide Eyed Boy Sun Again EP

Since first hearing their incredible debut single “Wolves” two years ago, I’ve been totally smitten with British band Wide Eyed Boy. I’ve featured the charismatic Liverpool foursome on this blog three times now, beginning with my review of “Wolves” almost exactly two years ago, in February 2017, then a review of their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy” that July, and an interview in May 2018, shortly after the release of their third single “Sun Again”. They’ve just dropped their first EP Sun Again EP, and it’s my pleasure to feature them for the fourth time.

Wide Eyed Boy consists of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitar, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums). They all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and quickly bonded over their shared love of music. They made the decision to release a series of singles to get their music out there and heard, and they’ve succeeded quite nicely. Since the release of “Wolves”, they’ve earned a reputation as one of Britain’s best indie bands, and have gained a large following of loyal fans.

The EP includes their three aforementioned singles, plus two new tracks. It opens with the title track “Sun Again,” an exuberant affair, with roiling riffs of Jonny and Kobi’s fuzzy guitars and bass, propelled by Tom’s furious drums and wildly crashing cymbals. Oliver has one of the most beautiful voices around today, and his smooth, clear vocals are dazzling, soaring along with the instrumentals as they build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo. About 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.”

The beautiful new video just released for “Sun Again” features actor Daniel Donskoy, and alternately shows scenes of Wide Eyed Boy performing the song, and scenes of Donskoy portraying a man who’s angry and in distress, racing his car through the English countryside, then running from the car into a field and collapsing on the ground, spent and finally feeling free.

I loved “Wolves” the moment I heard it, and made me an instant fan of this band. Everything about this phenomenal track is perfect – the haunting melody, compelling lyrics, flawless arrangement and production, propulsive drumbeat, gorgeous sweeping synths, nimble, layered guitars, and Oliver’s incredible vocals that are absolutely mesmerizing. Oliver 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.”

“Wolves” was so awesome that I didn’t think the guys could top it, but I was even more blown away by their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy“. The swirling guitars, sultry bass line, sweeping gnarly synths and Oliver’s captivating vocals are all positively 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 Oliver delivers them quite seductively, before launching into a soaring falsetto in the chorus, adding more chills to the ones already covering my body. I love this song so much it ranks #13 on my Top 100 Best Songs of 2017 (“Wolves” was #17).

Next up is “See the Light“, yet another beautiful song from this amazing band. This track is slower in tempo and more ballad-like than their other songs, with acoustic guitar, shimmery synths and gentle percussion. The song is about a relationship that’s failed past the point of return and the desire to move on. Oliver’s heartfelt falsetto vocals are sublime as he plaintively sings the poignant lyrics: “I’ve gone missing. Something’s not alright. I don’t wanna run but I’m struggling to see the light. / Can’t you see what I’ve become? Stay away from me.”

The band closes out the EP with the rousing pop/rock banger “Fire“. The radio-friendly track features a catchy melody, pulsating synths, chiming guitars and pummeling drums that all build to an exciting crescendo in the chorus. The lyrics are a plea to someone for whom the singer has strong feelings to save him with their love and support: “Fire! I’m burning now. I really need you now. Fire! Don’t let me down. Pull me from the ashes.

Sun Again is an awesome little EP with five outstanding tracks, and a testament to Wide Eyed Boy’s impressive songwriting and musicianship. I cannot wait to hear what new songs they come up with next to dazzle our eardrums.

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

THE GEAR – Single Review: “Secret That Lies Behind”

thegear28229

Liverpool is one of the most legendary centers for music on the planet, and I’ve featured a number of artists and bands from that historic city on the Mersey. My latest is the immensely talented young alternative rock band The Gear. Comprised of Callum Thompson (vocals, guitar), Ben Harper (lead guitar), Jack Crone (bass) and Ben Wall (drums), since forming in 2017 the band has been amassing a passionate fan base with their exciting, guitar-driven sound built upon the their love of blues, psychedelic, grunge and progressive rock.

They released a stunning debut single “There’s a Place” in Summer 2018, and it’s already garnered over 66,000 streams on Spotify. Today they drop their new single “Secret That Lies Behind“, and it’s fantastic! The song opens strong with a barrage of raging guitars and Ben’s thunderous drumbeats, then settles down a bit as Callum’s plaintive vocals implore to a loved one about why they’re unable to communicate with him, instead running off to find consolation in another: “Why didn’t you tell me the secret that lies behind? Where did you run to? Or did you go to a friend? I was trying to find my faith in you.”

As the track progresses, the guys employ several tempo change-ups, keeping our attention firmly in their grasp and thrilling our senses. Things reach a climax with a blistering guitar solo starting at 2:35, before calming back down to a gorgeous soundscape of chiming guitars, pulsating bass and razor-sharp percussion that continue to the end. The guys’ skilled songwriting and musicianship is impressive, and they’ve got another hit on their hands with “Secret That Lies Behind”. With two superb singles to their credit, I’m confident we’ll be hearing more great music from The Gear – soon I hope!

An interesting side note about the photo used for the single: it’s a double-image of a scene at one of my favorite places on earth, Sedona, Arizona. The photo and artwork were done by Anton Eager and Paddy Clegg.

Connect with The Gear:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify
Purchase on iTunes

BLACK BEAR KISS featuring LEO GOLDEN CHILD – Single Review: “Follow Me”

black bear kiss follow me

Black Bear Kiss is an alternative indie rock band from the West Midlands/Shropshire region of England who’ve built quite a loyal following since forming in 2016. Comprised of Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on lead guitar, Rob Jones on rhythm guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums, they released a fantastic debut single “Hooks” in April, 2018, then followed three months later with another banger “Secret Side”. (I reviewed both songs, which you can read here and here). Now they’re back with their third single “Follow Me“, which sees the band going outside their usual rock’n’roll comfort zone, adding a hip hop element in a collaboration with acclaimed Birmingham rapper and motivational speaker Leo Golden Child. And they succeed quite nicely, delivering a lively multi-dimensional track that’s fresh and fun.

The song speaks to pressures of modern day life and how we cope with constantly changing expectations, delivered by an upbeat rock groove with hip hop elements. The band’s signature bass-driven, guitar-heavy sound is on full display here. Both Chris and Leo are great vocalists, and Leo’s rap verses meld beautifully with the rock melody. Leo asks “How we sounding?” to which I emphatically answer “Awesome!”

The wonderful video is filmed in a what appears to be a hallway of an industrial/commercial building, with alternating footage of each of the five band members and Leo shown performing the song. They all clearly appear to be having fun, and their strong natural charisma shines through, with band front man Chris Leech achieving heartthrob status. Leo’s big smile at the end perfectly expresses my feelings for both song and video. I love this band!

Catch Black Bear Kiss at one of these upcoming shows:

February 2      7:00 pm    The Station, Cannuck, England
February 22    7:00 pm    Bath Uni Student Union, Bath, England
March 2           7:00 pm    Boars Head, Kidderminster, England
March 8           7:00 pm    O2 Academy, Birmingham, England
July 27            10:00 am    Shropfest 2019

Connect with Black Bear Kiss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their songs on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes cdbaby

THUNDERIAN SUMMER – EP Review: “Misdirection of Self-Control”

thunderian summer ep art

Thunderian Summer is a five-piece band from the British Midlands who play honest, guitar-driven, blues-infused rock’n’roll, the kind you love hearing at the hottest club in town on a Saturday night. They don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, but are quite serious when it comes to crafting great music. The band members are DT (Dave Thomas) on vocals, Alex on lead guitar, Tim on rhythm guitar, Nic on bass, and Pabs on drums.  When I last featured them on this blog nearly a year ago, they had just released their debut EP By The Gun (check out that review). Now they’re back with Misdirection of Self-Control, a new EP that dropped January 4th, featuring six tracks they describe as “A Story of Excess and Reflection.”

thunderian summer (2)

Getting right to down to business with the ‘excess’ part of the story, they kick things off with “Wind It Down” a ribald rock’n’roll ditty about getting it on with your hot babe. With his rough, seductive vocals, DT sounds downright lascivious as he croons the pretty explicit lyrics: “Wind it down, wind it slow, I took her out, I brought her home. She’s coming next, she’s getting wet. Wind it down, wind it slow. I took her high when I went low. Back and forth. Pretty little thing, she wants some more. / She’s my girl.”  Whew!

Things take a more serious turn with “Listen for the Shot“, a song that seems to be about coming to terms with a death of sorts – of a relationship perhaps? The guys deliver hard-driving riffs of fuzzy and jangly guitars set to fast-paced drums and deep, buzzing bass. The bluesy and deeply moving “Dark Times” recounts many tough moments in the singer’s troubled life, knowing those adversities have made him stronger, and holding onto faith that he’ll survive with enough love and support. The intricate guitar work is superb, but it’s DT’s raw, emotionally wrought vocals that are the highlight of this song, ripping at our heartstrings as he plaintively laments “They were dark times, dark times, darkest times of my life. / Shine your light on me. Your light is the only light I want to see.”

Next up is “Shake Your Sins“, a plea to someone on a downward spiral of drug abuse to change their self-destructive habits before it’s too late: “It looks like the drugs have taken their toll. Some misdirection self-control. Can’t you hear the ticking of the clock? Well don’t let it take your soul. / Your times are changing, they’re changing my friend. You better shake your sins.” Mournful jangly guitars and DT’s urgent vocals emphasize the powerful sentiments expressed in the lyrics.

Around the Sun” is an optimistic message that everything will be alright, delivered with hard-hitting, reverb-drenched jangly guitars and a high-energy rhythm section. DT passionately implores “Please hold my hand so tight. You won’t feel this pain much longer now. I know I can make it right. How much time do we have? When all is said and done, we’ve only got so many trips around the sun.” Everything builds to a crescendo of raging guitars and crashing cymbals as DT repeatedly wails “Hold my hand so damn tight!

Closing out the EP is the delightful “Pretty Pants“, a new studio version of the same song that was featured as an acoustic track on their previous EP By The Gun. This version is more melodic and fully-developed, with heavier instrumentation and stronger vocals. The song samples the Counting Crows classic “Mr. Jones” – using the great lines “And we will stare at beautiful women. Are they looking at you? No girl, they must be looking at me.”  It’s a wonderful track, and a fine finish to another terrific effort from Thunderian Summer. I really enjoy their style of rock that feels genuine, without gimmicks or overreach. Their straightforward lyrics are by turns entertaining, compelling and/or moving, delivered by some of the rawest, most passionate vocals I’ve heard in a while.

thunderian summer shows

Connect with the band: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes cdbaby

OPERATION GUILLOTINE – Single Review: “No Victory”

Operation Guillotine single art

Operation Guillotine is a delightful blues rock band from Coventry, England who describe themselves as “five lovable rogues from the Midlands that just aim to bring good vibes”. And their wonderful moniker is entirely fitting, as they sonically slice the airwaves with their dynamic, hard-hitting sound. Formed in 2016, the band is fronted by vocalist Alice Clarke, and includes Rhys Scott on guitar and backing vocals, Ben Ollis on lead guitar and Ben Addison on drums and backing vocals. (Their bassist Chris Sizer just recently left the band, and will be sorely missed, but the band has a replacement lined up ready to assume the mantle of bassist.)

They’ve released a number of excellent singles, beginning with “Underneath the Lights” in 2017, and their latest is “No Victory” which dropped yesterday, 21 December. It’s a fun, hard-driving banger, with chugging riffs of gnarly guitars, pummeling drums and loads of crashing cymbals that make for an exhilarating listen. I love the little flourishes of distorted guitar that add a bit of sexual tension in the beginning. But for me, the most interesting aspect of the track are Alice’s intriguing vocals, which register in the lower octaves here than on their other songs. She exudes a raw sensuality that perfectly captures the band’s intent in the suggestive lyrics.

The song is about failing to score on a date. As Rhys explained to me: “It was written after our friend went on a tinder date that went horribly wrong and he said all the wrong things. They were both determined to do stuff but it didn’t go as planned. We tried to catch a sleazy vibe in the music as well as the lyrics.” I think they succeed quite nicely, and have a hit on their hands.

Ooh come on over, baby what you got
Give me everything I like it or not
Strip me down to my underwear
Show me everything I’ll never care

So drink it down my sister
Down my brother
Sinking in this feeling is there nothing at all
So drink it down my sister
Down my brother
Meet you at the end I will be taking you home

Drop down to your knees (repeat)

Connect with Operation Guillotine:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream or download their music on Spotify / iTunes

BRAIN APE to Release Live DVD “Brain Ape: Live at the Unicorn”

One of the joys of being a music blogger is being exposed to all kinds of music across a wide range of genres. More recently, it seems an increasing number of artists and bands are fusing together multiple influences and creating music that spans across numerous genres, rather than sticking to only one, which is making for some really unique and interesting sounds (I even heard a discussion of this the other day on my local National Public Radio station). A band who’s done this quite nicely is Brain Ape, a talented, inventive and slightly crazy London-based outfit who skillfully fuse punk, stoner rock, grunge, noise rock and shoegaze to create their unique sound they’ve dubbed “Scratch Rock.” As the band state in a recent YouTube interview: “Scratch Rock is an anti-genre. If you’re a punk band, then for your next record you’re not allowed to make a heavy metal record. It’s stupid that you’re not allowed to decide what you want to make if you’ve been labeled something. So why not label yourselves something that means nothing. And therefore, your next record could be jazz. It gives us freedom.

A self-described “Scratch Rock, spot popping, guitar smashing, headache inducing band from London, England,” Brain Ape was formed on New Year’s Day 2012 by front-man/guitarist Minky Très-vain and bassist Sol Alex Albret. They’d been friends since meeting in middle school when they both lived in Belgium. They soon released their first single “Cipramil,” and in 2014 released their debut album Dara O’. About that album, the band states they “established themselves as a group unafraid of releasing material very unsuited for mainstream radio. The record, with its lo-fi production, received no critical acclaim and went unnoticed by the world, much to the band’s delight.” Didn’t I say they were slightly crazy?

Brain Ape2
Photo by Nuri Moseinco

The band eventually added drummer Jacob Powell, and in August 2017, dropped their second album Auslander, which was released through Schlimbum Records, an independent record label started by Tres-vain and Dydy Haynes. Auslander is an ambitious work, containing 12 brilliant tracks with some of the best titles I’ve heard, and running nearly 55 minutes in length. You can read my review here. Powell eventually left the band due to other commitments, and Jamie Steenbergen joined the lineup in early 2018 as the new drummer. He quickly got up to speed learning to play the band’s repertoire of songs, as they embarked on a tour to promote Auslander, playing throughout Southern England and in Europe.

It was one of these concerts – at The Unicorn in Camden, England on the night of July 21st – that turned out to be an especially fateful show. They were opening for the band Ethyrfield, and excited to be performing at one of their favorite venues. Unbeknown to them, footage of the show was being simultaneously filmed by Galina Rin, Nuri Moseinco, and The Unicorn venue itself. Brain Ape played their set that night as they do every other, giving it their absolute all. After the show, they were approached by the promoter who told them they had footage of their performance, and it just so happened that a few videographers had filmed it too. So they obtained the footage, spliced the best pieces together to record their entire performance, and once they saw the edited version, they thought it was far too good just be used as a YouTube “throwaway.” It was then they decided to make it into an actual DVD release – “Brain Ape: Live at the Unicorn.”

Brain Ape Live at The Unicorn [Front Cover]

Brain Ape Live at The Unicorn [Back Cover]

The live video showcases the entirety of Brain Ape’s July 21, 2018 performance at The Unicorn. Both the sound and visual quality of the video are pretty outstanding, considering the footage was filmed by three different people. Furthermore, the video editing is seamless and near-perfect, and every bit as good as any other concert video I’ve seen. Brain Ape’s performance is tight and flawlessly executed, and they’re a joy to watch. Their live performances bring their songs to life, and it’s clear the guys greatly enjoy playing them for us. The physical DVD is scheduled to be released on the 13th of December, where the band will be performing a release show at The Dublin Castle in Camden. The DVD may be pre-ordered at http://www.schlimbumrecords.com/shop

Track-listing:
Information in square brackets indicate the timestamp where the relevant track can be found within the live video. Information in round brackets indicate which album the relevant track was originally released on.

1. Meanwhile    [00:00]   (Dara O’)
2. Blood Blister    [02:04]   (Auslander)
3. The Quick Brown Dog Jumps Over The Lazy Fox    [05:43]   (Auslander)
4. Respect Your Icons    [10:19]   (Auslander)
5. Give Me My P45    [13:43]   (Auslander)
6. Stop Sulking    [17:02]   (Auslander)
7. Das Krokodil Will Barfuß Sein    [21:04]   (Auslander)
8. Rig It    [23:13]   (Dara O’)

Here is a video clip from the DVD of the final song performed in their set – “Rig It,” which is the first track on Dara O’.


Interview with Brain Ape

I recently asked the band some questions to learn a bit more about their sound, creative process and love of performing, and all three happily provided some thorough and very entertaining responses. Enjoy:

EclecticMusicLover:  Hi guys. Thanks for wanting to discuss your music and new concert DVD. We’ve followed each other on social media for more than a year now, and I know a bit about you and how you formed as a band. But before we get started, I do have one question for you Minky. I love your name, and am wondering if Minky Très-vain is your actual given name, or is it your artistic name?

Minky: A bit of both, really. ‘Très-vain’ is my actual surname, but ’Minky’ has been my nickname since I first saw the light of day, so it’s almost my given name by this point. Nobody ever really calls me by the name on my birth certificate, so there’s no real point going by it.

Jamie: I didn’t even know his ‘real’ name until about six months ago.

Nuri Moseinco Photography - Minky Très-vain [Live in Luxembourg 11.18] (2)
Minky Très-vain – photo by Nuri Moseinco

EML:  You guys have a unique sound that really sets you apart from most other bands I’ve heard, partly due to your use of unorthodox melodies and song structures, but also because of your wonderful, distinctive voice Minky that sounds like no other singer. That’s a good thing, as it makes your songs instantly recognizable as Brain Ape, unlike some bands who, while putting out good music, can sound indistinguishable from a lot of other bands. Any thoughts about your uniqueness?

Minky: Sol and I have very, very similar voices when we sing, the only difference being that he impersonates Eddie Vedder, whereas I impersonate my inner turmoil. All jokes aside, whenever Sol does any backing vocals on Brain Ape material, or I’ve done backing vocals on A Twisted Carnival tracks, it’s very difficult to mix them in a way that they don’t blend in with each other to the point where we’re unsure of who’s singing what. It’s a really strange thing; when they’re soloed, they sound completely different and Sol’s quite recognisable in his own right. But for whatever reason, when we track them and lay them on top of each other they blend quite nicely.

Sol: When it comes down to “unorthodox melodies and song structures”, I think it’s because Minky and I never came from a formal music background. I’m shit. I dropped out of Music GCSE.

Minky: We get bored of ‘Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, End’. So we make our material interesting for us to play, and it just so happens that a lot of the time that means that the structure follows its own path.

Jamie: At first it did take me a while to get my head around the songs, but that’s perfectly normal when you join any new project and you’re filling in for someone else. You’ve got to do the other musician’s parts justice, but make them your own. Now all of the structures are second nature. I don’t really need to think, anymore.

Sol: We’ve kind of clicked together.

Jamie: Yeah, we’ve got good chemistry. The song structures make perfect sense now.

Minky: We never force our writing to be unorthodox. We write whatever comes naturally. It’s not as if we set out to write a tune, and we say “right, we’re going to do a verse, a chorus, and then change the key, and then upset the tempo, and then trick the listener into going somewhere completely different”. In fact some of our tunes, like ‘Give Me My P45’, have a far more conventional structure.

Sol: But even that tune switches it up slightly at the end, because as we were writing it felt right to have the outro change up the entire feel of the song.

Minky: We’re not completely against orthodoxy. But if we were to do a whole album of that, we’d get kind of bored. It would kind of feel like going from ‘Rubber Soul’ to ‘Beatles For Sale’. Not to say that dumbing down music is inherently a bad thing, because the whole reason things like the early Ramones kicked off was because the tunes were simple enough that they were relatable, but… I dunno… We don’t really think about it, in all honesty. We just kind of do what happens. And what happens we kind of stick to.

Jamie: You want to be different, but there’s a difference between wanting to be different and –

Minky: Forcing that difference.

Jamie: Yeah. “I have to create something new”. We’re not reinventing the wheel of music. We’re just taking our influences and putting them together.

Minky: We think our material sounds well-worn. We haven’t explored any new territory, I don’t think.

Jamie: The sound is kind of familiar.

Minky: We kind of feel like we’re just paying homage to sounds that came out twenty years ago, but people seem to think that it sounds…

Jamie: Fresh.

Minky: Yeah. Well we feel like we’re adding at least something to it, otherwise there’s no point in doing it. And people seem to think that we sound distinctive, which I guess is a good thing. If only we could market that, you know. We might have been millionaires by now.

Julian Newton Photography - Sol Alex Albret [Live at The Unicorn] (1)
Sol Alex Albret – photo by Julian Newton

EML:  You released your most recent album “Auslander” in August 2017. Tell me a little about your creative process for that album. Specifically, where did your inspiration come from for the creation of your songs, and how long did you spend writing and recording the album?

Sol: Recording the album, that’s the easy bit to answer. In studio time, it took us about two weeks to record. But we had to space that out because of various commitments we had.

Minky: Conflicts of calendars.

Sol: Exactly. But we were able to record it quickly because we rehearsed the material so much that we could literally go into the studio and bash it out.

Minky: We rehearsed incessantly. Every track, except ‘Blood Blister’, was either caught in one or two takes. In fact there were tracks that surprised us because we thought we were going to have to really work on them. ‘P45’ was one of those. We got that down in one take. ‘Blood Blister’ was the only one that, for whatever reason, we had to do eight or nine takes of. We just had a day in the studio where we got very frustrated and felt like we weren’t delivering. But then when listening back days later we ended up using take three or four, so it ended up not being that big of a deal and wasn’t that catastrophic. We just weren’t feeling it on the day of recording.

Sol: The feel of that song had to be done right.

Minky: But it wouldn’t be on the record if we’d felt like we hadn’t delivered the take that we actually wanted to etch into a CD.

Sol: The writing however… Minky writes the material at first, and then my process comes in a little bit later. It takes us a long time to write material that we want to put out.

Minky: We took a step back after our first album because we didn’t want to write the same record twice. So I went on to produce Sol’s record with his band A Twisted Carnival, which was a nice change of pace and kept things interesting for us. There were some strong similarities between that album and the first Brain Ape record, but it was different enough that we felt like we were still moving forwards rather than regressing. And then the year after that, I ended up doing an album with a duo I’m in called the oRaNGUtaNZ which was a complete change of scenery. It leans a lot closer to electronic music, which was really good fun to write. And at the same time I was also working on my sister’s first EP, which blends all sorts of genres. So by the time I’d started writing new Brain Ape material, I’d done so much different work that I felt comfortable that the material wasn’t just going to be a rehash of ‘Dara O’’. During that time, Sol had been travelling around the world and when he came back to England I was ready to show him what I’d come up with. So he moved in with me, and once you’re living under the same roof it’s a very easy and natural process to write music together. So we did that for about a year, and then we turned our attention to finding the right drummer for the job. Luckily for us it was around about that time that we were introduced to Jacob Powell. Once he’d joined the process it took maybe a further six months to just go over it again and again, which we did over one long summer in 2016. After that, we went up to Scotland and we recorded the album. There’s a ‘documentary’ about that bit, which you can watch here on YouTube.

EML:  I read in another interview you did with Teri Morris for her Music Matters blog that you guys have spent a good deal of this past year touring around Southern England and in Europe. I know that touring is important for bands to get their music heard and try to connect with fans, but it can also be a stressful experience. How was it for you guys? And did the connection with and reaction from fans make it worth your while?

Sol: Fuck yes.

Minky: I don’t think we’d be doing it again if it wasn’t worth our while. We’ve just been back out to Europe for the third time this year, which was hugely successful. A good friend of ours runs a booking agency out there called UphillBookings, so if you’re looking to play Europe hit him up. Nice bloke, treats bands well.

Sol: The connections and reactions from the fans this past year… For me at least I love just getting on stage and playing loud music, and having people enjoy that is one of the best experiences.

Jamie: You can play music for yourself, but it’s more important to do it for other people.

Sol: It adds a new level to it.

Jamie: Obviously, it’s good fun for us. We have good laughs going out on the road, but performing and sharing the music is the most important bit. People connect to that, and they enjoy the tunes. It’s great for us to see new places too, and that’s all part of the fun and games for us. But we wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for the people who enjoy our music.

Minky: It’s unanimous in this band that music did so much for us when we were growing up. It’s really, really lovely to be able to offer that same service to other kids.

Jamie: We’ll never know the true effect, really.

Minky: I’m going to repeat myself between interviews here, but it’s not just kids either. It’s people of all ages, and if we can help anybody through tough parts of life… I’m not going to go into specifics, but in this band we’ve had a rough couple of weeks and playing music has helped us through it. So if we can help other people through rough times then it’s worth it.

EML:  In addition to seeing and hearing you play your songs live, the thing I like most about your performance on the DVD is how you guys really get into your ‘zone’ and seem to have fun, not to mention your on-stage charisma. Do you find you get more energized performing your songs on stage as opposed to in a studio setting?

Sol: I like to try and make a studio setting feel like an on-stage performance. It helps translate the studio work to a live environment later on.

Minky: When we recorded our first album, I refused to let anybody sit down while they were tracking. You can hear the difference, especially with vocals, when someone’s going through the motions without particularly paying attention to it, compared to when they’re completely committing to what they’re doing. Posture changes how you play. We weren’t quite like that on ‘Auslander’, though, because we approached that album very differently than we did ‘Dara O’’. For our first record, we’d written it and rehearsed it and then went into the studio and only did one take for virtually everything. We had an ethos of “even if you make a mistake, that’s what happened at that point in time”. We treated that album almost like a photograph. It was supposed to be very spontaneous, regardless of ugly faults and flaws. But we didn’t have that approach at all for ‘Auslander’. We wanted to capture exactly what we thought we were about. Rather than take a picture of the band, we wanted to paint a painting. Which is why some of the song titles and lyrics reflect that.

Sol: To be more specific to your question, though, while we make both environments similar I definitely get more energised performing on stage. It’s a blast. You get feedback from an actual audience, and you get feedback from your fellow musicians. I’ll look over and I’ll see Minky going crazy and that makes me lose it, too. Then I’ll look over at Jamie and he’s not even looking at anything in particular because he’s lost in the music. It’s great.

Minky: When you’re playing with what the crowd are giving you, it makes a huge difference. It doesn’t matter if it’s thirty people or thirty-thousand people. Having someone lose themselves in the music, the moment, owning that. It’s fantastic. Life’s too short not to. You’ve got to never let that go, because you’ve only got one shot.

Sol: Do not miss your chance.

Minky: Spaghetti.

Jamie: But I think we’ve got good chemistry. Even in the rehearsal studio, we bounce off each other. That’s just what we do. It comes from playing together a lot, and rehearsing a bunch. There’re little things that Minky will do live that Sol and I have to deal with –

Sol: But we keep eye-contact and it works.

Minky: I must give you guys credit, to be fair, because I can sometimes be quite predictably unpredictable –

Jamie: We know.

Sol: Yes, we do.

Minky: But you guys keep the foundations rock solid. I couldn’t do it without you. It would just all fall apart.

Nuri Moseinco Photography - Jamie Steenbergen [Live in Luxembourg 11.18] (3)
Jamie Steenbergen – photo by Nuri Moseinco

EML:  Are there any challenges in getting your songs to sound their best when played live?

Jamie: Getting a good sound-man.

Sol: People shutting down our show for being too loud. It’s tough to get our songs sounding their best when people are turning down our music.

Minky: I’m enjoying playing stuff from the first album at the moment because we’re having to reappropriate four-piece material into a three-piece setting, so I’m having to take what two guitarists had written and make some sort of hybrid out of it. To me, it’s new and almost like rewriting material. Our first album turns five years old next year, so we’re so far removed from who we were as people when we wrote it that I’m really enjoying revisiting and rearranging stuff so that it’s still contextually relevant for us as musicians. But it’s a bit of a struggle sometimes. Some of the tracks from the first album, we still haven’t worked out how to do with our current line-up. But the more we get to play with Jamie, the easier that’ll become. The setlist that we’re taking on the road at the moment –

Jamie: Is a mystery.

Sol: Wrapped in an enigma.

Minky: But we’re playing quite a few old tunes which we haven’t visited for years. We’re opening our sets with one of them and it’s been a lovely surprise to breathe new life into that track. A track that means a lot to us, as well.

Jamie: Having a decent drum kit helps me play live, too. And it also helps to hear myself. The hilarious thing at The Unicorn was that you guys came up to me after the show and were like “That was sick”, and it was but I couldn’t really hear during the show. It wasn’t the ideal sound for me. I was struggling to hear during the show. When that happens you kind of just pretend like you can hear the band. You just go for it, but it’s tough sometimes. Sound at a venue plays a big factor as to how a show goes.

Minky: Gear surviving tours is also a huge challenge.

Jamie: Especially when you smash guitars.

Sol: That is a challenge. Keeping gear intact is very difficult for some.

Jamie: Especially if you’re a Mustang.

Sol: Those things are so fragile. You have to be very careful.

Jamie: Expensive as well.

Sol: Very.

Minky: I feel like this has turned into something quite focused in my direction. And to be fair to me, there’s stuff I can’t help breaking as well. Like my bloody gate pedal not working anymore, so now I have to play slightly differently in order to –

Jamie: Guitar straps?

Minky: Yeah, okay. Fine. My gear breaks… But regardless, I think if you watch the DVD it’s clear that we wouldn’t get up on stage if we didn’t feel like we were translating our studio material properly. When you watch the show on that shiny purple disc, you’ll see that the material sounds very close to how it sounded on record. In fact we played ‘Blood Blister’ as the second track during the set, and during the credits at the end of the DVD I think ‘Blood Blister’ was used as well. Yes they sound different obviously, because one’s a studio recording and the other is from a live environment, but it’s so close that it made me quite happy the first time I saw it. I think it just highlights how well the songs translate from recording to stage.

EML:  What dream band would you most like to open for or tour with?

Jamie: Queens of the Stone Age.

Sol: Foo Fighters.

Minky: You guys are shooting pretty high.

Sol: Massively.

Jamie: I would have loved to open for Soundgarden.

Sol: I love the old, golden grunge scene.

Jamie: Same.

Sol: But there’s a revival coming around that I’m loving, too. Mantra are great for example.

Minky: Yeah, I’d love to go on tour with mates of ours like Mantra. Or Sundrifter. They’re a band from Massachusetts and they’re fucking sick. I’d love to play with them.

Jamie: Black Stone Cherry. They’re pretty sweet.

Minky: You wanna tour with Black Stone Cherry? Again, you’re shooting pretty high.

Jamie: Yeah, mate. Why not?

Sol: We do have dreams to go on tour with the big bands of our generation, but that’s not to discount any of the smaller bands that we’re at the same level with.

Minky: There’s quite a few good bands around at the moment.

Sol: There’s a Belgian band called Raketkanon, for instance, who are awesome.

Minky: Going on tour with Raketkanon would be wicked. On a complete tangent, I caught a really good band the other day called Mice on Mars. They’re from Britain and they’re cracking. I don’t think we could ever share the stage just because we’re very different types of music, unless it was a festival setting or something, but they’re a great band. I really enjoyed their set. Fiende Fatale are another one. If you get a chance to catch them, they’re quite good.

EML:  Are you now working on new music for a possible future album? And are you contemplating any directional or stylistic changes for your music or sound?

Sol: As we’ve said in every single interview, there’s stuff bubbling but we’re not at the stage where we can start talking about it.

Minky: “We’re keeping the top on the pot”.

Sol: We’re keeping the top of the pops.

Jamie: Top of the pops brewing.

Sol: We’re still touring with our previous album.

Minky: There’s no point making any false promises. We’re not going to be ready to tell people until we think the material is ready.

Jamie: It doesn’t really happen until you have something worth having.

Minky: No matter what we do, though, it’s not going to sound like ‘Auslander’ because we’ve done that already and we don’t want to do the same thing twice. It won’t sound like the first album, either. It’s going to sound like its own thing.

Jamie: It’s going to be different.

Sol: Stay in the present. The future’s for another day.

EML:  Anything else you’d like your fans and followers to know that I’ve neglected to ask?

Jamie: We now have badges and stickers. Put a sticker on your skateboard, kids.

Minky: Fucking sick nosegrab, dude.

Sol: In all seriousness, thanks for your time and we hope you enjoyed the DVD.

EML: Thank you Minky, Sol and Jamie, and I surely did!

Minky: Cheers, Jeff.

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