Thursday, 28 April 2011

A sponger and a rusty spanner

Those refusing to bow down the ridiculous hype and hysteria surrounding the marriage of William Windsor to Kate Middleton tomorrow would do well to look at the following two documents: firstly, an excellent article on why the very idea of a Royal Family with its inherent privilege and general fairytale nonsense, gives lie to the commonly-held idea that we actually live in a democracy.

Secondly, CAMRA in Nottingham has, wonderfully, produced a list of pubs that won’t be displaying any of the garish pageantry surrounding this pompous procession.

Lastly, if you want to see that nothing much changes, then have a read of an interview I did with a deeply confused Billy Bragg back in 2001, around the time of Elizabeth Windsor’s golden jubilee. Makes you wonder why some lefties in music think he’s some kind of king of enlightenment, really.

For a living, breathing, democratic republic eh, comrades? See you on the other side.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Dream pop

If this is the last ever Indietracks in July, then no-one could complain about it going out with The Best Festival Line-up ever.

If, like me, you've spent the last month listening to the Help Stamp Out Loneliness album on repeat, then you'll be delighted that they're playing. Add in Milky Wimpshake, Amor de Dias, The Whatevers, Horowitz, Frankie Machine, Haiku Salut, Peru, Graeme Elston, Moustache of Insanity and Mat Patalano from Specific Heats and it promises to be an even more special weekend than usual.

There are just two weeks left to pick up tickets at cheaper early bird prices.

Weekend tickets are currently available at discount price of £60, and day tickets are available for £32.50. This price is available until Friday 6 May. After this date, weekend tickets will be £65 and day tickets £35. Tickets for children aged 5-14 are £6 for a day ticket and £10 for the weekend. Under-5s get in free.

Tickets are available by calling the railway direct on 01773 747 674 or by clicking here.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Math and Physics Club vs Very Truly Yours

To celebrate the fact that Math and Physics Club and Very Truly Yours are playing a show or me in Nottingham, and then the VERY NEXT DAY it's the start of Indietracks, I thought I'd do a short interview with Charles and Lisle from the bands. There's some sad news hidden in here. Don't say I didn't warn you...

So are you guys fans of each other's bands?
Lisle: Yes, actually! I remember being sold on the group after hearing "Weekends Away" on the Matinée website, way back when the very first EP came out. Shortly there after I think I put that very song on a mix-tape for Kristine, which got her started.
Charles: Definitely! I remember coming across an article about their trip from Chicago to the NYC Popfest a couple years ago and feeling an instant kinship with them.

Have you ever played together before?

Lisle: No, but we're excited. We've had a lot of fortunate opportunities in Very Truly Yours to play with some bands that we've long admired...and certainly this is among those. I'm not sure how we got to be so lucky as to be a part of this lovely indie-pop scene, but we're delighted to be here. It's quite surreal.

Charles: I always figured we’d look them up if we ever played in Chicago. Who knew we’d end up in the UK together first?

Do you feel some kind of affinity being from such a huge country, and yet being bound by a similar kind of pop music?

Lisle: We've had really great times in the past playing and hanging out with other US-based pop bands from around the country like Afternoon Naps, One Happy Island, and The Tartans. The similar music we make seems to be informed by similar interests (music and otherwise), so there's always lots to talk about. So Charles: do *crickets*
Charles: Yeah, it always feels refreshing to play with other bands that get where you’re coming from. For such a large country, I think there are remarkably few bands here that we really identify with musically. We gotta stick together!

How did you both hear that you were playing Indietracks? What was the process?
Lisle: Kristine actually set everything up for us by using some manner of magic. She was the one that told me we were selected. She was quite giddy at the time and couldn't stop laughing! I know we went through the official "submission process" so that might have been an ingredient in the magic.
Charles: We’ve actually been working up to this trip for a couple years now. We can see the end in sight for the band, and playing in the UK has always been on our list of goals. Last year we had a chance meeting with Stuart Mackay, one of the festival organizers, at the San Francisco Popfest and he asked if we’ve thought of coming to the UK. I was like, “Yeah, in fact, we’re hoping to come over next summer and see if we can get on at Indietracks.” Mind you, I had no idea who he was at the time, so it was one of those rare moments of perfect timing. Of course keeping it quiet for so long nearly killed me.   

Is this your first time playing in the UK?

Lisle: As Very Truly Yours, yes this is our first time out of the USA. Although, technically, I lived in Harrow for a semester back in 2003, and once did a solo Fireflies show at my school's on-campus bar where there was an "acoustic night" of some frequency. I had struck up a friendship with Emma-Lee Moss (aka Emmy the Great) after seeing her play there in a Moldy Peaches-esque duo and she was kind enough to get me in touch with the organizers. Now she's quite famous it seems!

That diversion aside, the band has actually been quite impressed with how organised and simple everything has been as far as getting shows lined up. Booking in the US is much more difficult, time consuming and guilt-laden. Charles here really pointed us in all the right directions, so thanks for that!
Charles: Happy to help! I have to agree with Lisle. It took me about a week to line up a run of shows in the UK. That would never happen in the US. There’s such a great network of promoters to work with over there. This will be our first, and likely only, trip to the UK, so let us know if you have requests!

What are you looking forward to most?
Lisle: Probably the camaraderie: seeing old friends and meeting new ones. *high five!* It's quite rare for such a scattered group to all be together in one spot..and this particular spot looks like it's going to be quite a picture-esque one. On a personal note, I'm going to be bringing back whatever the legal limit is of Haribo Star Mix. Kids: it's the single greatest way you can rot your teeth.
Charles: Some of my favorite moments with the band have been traveling together on the rare occasions we leave Seattle. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with my bandmates and seeing the countryside. I’ve never been to the UK. I’ll be nervous about playing the actual shows, but I love getting to see and meet the other bands, and talk with fans. Most of all, I’m looking forward to parking myself on the lawn at Indietracks and soaking it all in for a few days. It will be a rare treat. Oh, and our guitar player James is going to introduce me to proper fish and chips! 

And who would headline the three days of your dream Indietracks?

Lisle: I'll be somewhat realistic: Field Mice/Trembling Blue Stars, Legends/Acid House Kings/Club 8, and maybe some kind of J-Pop showcase culminating with Shonen Knife? Kristine also has been gunning for an Aislers Set reunion for several years now, so it'd be nice to see that happen.
Charles: Oooh, Aislers Set, yes! I’d also love to see Jens Lekman and Teenage Fanclub. I’m actually still holding out hope for a late Acid House Kings announcement for this year.

What British stereotype are you going to lie about to your friends when you get back?
Lisle: "I keep adding superfluous u's to all of my words now, and I've stopped using "z" altogether!"

Charles: I’m looking forward to introducing all my friends to cool British slang like “what-ho” and “spiffing.”

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Amor de Días

As I'm sure you know by now, Amor de Días is the new band of Lupe from Pipas an Alisdair MacLean from The Clientele. 'Street of the Love of Days', their debut album, will be released in the UK on 17 May on Porcini Records and as a digital download. 

However, if you can't wait that long, here's a sneak preview of one of the tracks from that album - Bunhill Fields. It's typically gorgeous.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Indietracks TT race

The next load of bands fo Indietracks have been announced. For the list-writers amongst you, they are: Edwyn Collins, Suburban Kids with Biblical Names, Jonny, Butcher Boy, Withered Hand, Pocketbooks, Ringo Deathstarr, Chris T-T, A Little Orchestra, Dignan Porch, The Bumblebees and Papa Topo.

The one that catches my eye in that little lot is Christ TT, whose '253' album I had a hige crush on around a decade ago. He seems to have been around forever, never really fitting into any scene, but I rememeber being taken with that album to a huge degree, then sort of dumping him for no reason at all. Ah, the folly of the late twenty-something.

TT even played a gig I put on; an anti-Jubilee gig with The Regulars in 2000, and another one with The Lollies and The Fairy Traders around the same time. All of that seems a lifetime ago now, and it'll be interesting to hear how he's moved on. I suppose I could always buy one of his new records, but that requires effort.

Tickets for Indietracks are available by calling 01773 747 674 or by clicking here.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Help Stamp Out Loneliness - Help Stamp Out Loneliness (WIAIWYA/Papillions Noir)

There are bands that have been around for a while and you never really get into. There are bands that you love immediately. And then there are bands that seem to have been around for ages, but you’ve never really be bothered to give them a chance, because you’re too lazy. Help Stamp Out Loneliness fall into the latter category, and they have made a fool of me.

This, their debut album, is right up there with the upcoming Comet Gain one for me. When you get to your late thirties there aren’t many records that make you want to get up off your knees, stick some clothes on, and go out and find out what the city holds at night – but this one day. It’s a sultry little tease all right; sometimes innocent, charming, sexy, dangerous, lush and dark. But always, at is very heart, lies a perfect pop song.

When I was growing up I always wanted to live in Manchester, for the usual reasons, really, but HSOL make me want to get back up there immediately with songs like ‘Cottonopolis + Promise’, a loveletter to their adopted hometown. It sounds like Nico singing a Camera Obscura song, and it’s the best opening track I’ve heard on an album for years.

If you’ve seen HSOL then you’ll know that Dianne Lucille is a quite brilliantly terrifying front for the band. They might want twinkle and tinkle their pop hearts out behind her, but Lucille puts HSOL just the right side of dangerous. She looks like she’d cover you in glitter then kick your head in. Then sing something glorious like ‘Record Shop’ to you. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing.

And that sort of thing runs through this record like a gold thread. ‘The Ghost With the Hammer in His Hand’ starts off with a slash of summery synths, but Lucille’s plaintive vocal gives a darker edge that turns what would already be a pleasant song into something approaching pop violence. It’s thrilling, really.

HSOL save the best ‘til last, though. ‘Split Infinitives’ is seven minutes of bliss, starting with dinky keyboard riffs until a big bastard guitar comes in to lift you off your feet. From then on it’s like you’re flying with this amazing pop song pouring into your ears. And this time Lucile’s vocals make an impassioned stab at optimism. It’s the perfect way to end a perfect album, really.

If you’re lucky, HSOL will be playing you very soon. In the meantime you can catch them at The Chameleon in Nottingham on 7th May, and at the Oddbox weekender at the Victoria, Dalston in London on 8th May. Don’t miss out, please.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Loneliness stamped out

There are certain songs that define a time in certain time in your life. I can think of hundreds of examples from my thirty-seven years on earth, but I won't bore you with all that. Instead I will be tiresome about just how much 'Record Shop' by Help Stamp Out Loneliness means to me at the moment.

Funnily enough, WIAIWYA have just released this song as a free download single. And you should do thatv downloading thing immediately. 'Record Shop' has been the song of my life just lately; forever on repeat on ye olde em pee free player, as I walk hither and thither through dark mornings and even darker days, towards a few darks nights. I'm being dramatic for effect.

It's a romper stomper of a song; blustering pop with a sad twinge, and, just when I've felt listening to some stuff that hasn't seemingly been recorded in a shed with a dusty dog twiddling the knobs (so to speak), then 'Record Shop' sounds lush, warming, and like it could probably be your best friend in the entire world for a few weeks. Which it has. It's these sort of things you never really forget, isn't it?