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Archive for June 2008

Art Brut – Fermain Tavern, Guernsey

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This is important!

Reading Festival, TOTPsNME, TOTPs…Glastonbury Festival, TOTPs…Guernsey Festival…WTF?!

It would be perfectly understandable for serial popsters Art Brut to wonder where the hell they are, flailing with gleeful abandon on and off the edge of a small beersweat-encrusted stage somewhere within the dark heart of this strange island where fate, brandy and a man named Jim Rhesus have ensnared them. But Eddie Argos and Art Brut know exactly where they are. Delivering rabble rousing banter and incorporating local knowledge with such aplomb that they delight the assembled and smash all pretence of pretentious art wave scenester frauds. Oh, and did I tell you their secret? Art Brut are a dirty fucking rock band!

First up, though…and The Night Society. A bombastic, indie rough cut diamond. Songs of loss, regret, revenge and despair delivered with such ferocity and honesty you can’t help but watch waiting for the impact. Brett’s drumming is cataclysmic, Dre pulsates like Jello Biafra possessing Frank Black, spitting bile and sarcastic lament, whilst Krissie’s harmonies add the sugar pill of poise and grace that keeps the whole train clinging to the tracks. Loud and boisterous, tender and violent, in love and enraged, this is the best break up sex you never had.

Next up we have the sonic bombast of Guernsey hardcore band Limefire. The best hardcore, from Minor Threat to Sick Of It All, is defined by the times and places it inhabits, at once universal but also incredibly localised. Limefire speak about issues and places they’ve lived through. Songs like ‘Scene Queen’ and ‘Shambles’ detail events affecting the band and the Guernsey music scene.

Right now, though, half of Limefire are dying. They have the lurgee and no amount of fruit-based energy drinks can save them. But any doubts that this may be a restrained performance lie in tatters on the floor as the closing chords of opener ‘Shambles’ ring out across the Tavern, and for the next 20 minutes Limefire blitzkrieg their way from a shambles to a borstal breakout.

Later I find them discussing the merits of cheap Korean guitars and Pantera with Art Brut’s Ian Catskilkin. I digress.

Famous on distant shores for employing the same session vocalist as Electric Six, Thee Jenerators (featuring Mark Le Gallez of mod figureheads The Risk) are veritable gods on home soil. They have of late undergone a metamorphosis, additional sax bringing old songs kicking and screaming into a new era. Resplendent in red and black, Thee Jenerators fire through songs like ‘Fight The Power’ and ‘Burn The House Down’ with vitriol and menace.

The sax fills out the sound, adding a new maturity that elevates and pushes the band forward. All the boxes are checked, Le Gallez’s jack in the box dance manoeuvres and staccato vocals backed up with Ozzy’s pounding drums, flanked by Matt’s buzzsaw guitars and Lynchys statuesque bass. Familiarity can often breed stagnation and boredom, but tonight nothing seems taken for granted and each familiar chorus and fuzz-laden riff seems shiny and new.

Onward then to the raucous climax. Edie Argos has been swapping albums for brandy and coke at the bar, current exchange rate apparently equating to 15 Euros, and these actions appear to have him suitable lubricated to lead us through 45 minutes of brash agit pop steeped in art school suss and Stooges-like bravado.

This isn’t really a gig, more like having a few friends round to leave cigarette burns on your carpet before the police get called in. Kicking off each song with “Are you ready Art Brut? GO!”, these songs unfold like a gloriously drunk Jackanory. Episodic snapshots unfurling like a slow developing Polaroid, eventually revealing the heart behind the sloganeering veneer. ‘My Little Brother’, ‘Bad Weekend’, ‘Emily Kane’, all sharp, witty and infectious. Argos discarding the small stage and choosing instead to lead the party, flailing amongst the sweat heavy throng, exotic in Hawaiian shirt and officer class ‘tache, instructing Chris Chinchilla, Ian Catskilkin, Fredie Feedback and Mikey B along each new avenue.

“Art Brut break it down!”

“Art Brut pick it up!”

‘The Fall for beginners’ tag instantly discarded to the ‘journalism for slackers’ pile. The Fall were never fun, were they? Dirty, English and whole enough to belie the albatross one-hit-wonderisms paraded about in the wake of ‘Formed A Band’, Art Brut tonight are intimate and illuminating.

Argos inflames local rivalries by declaring that Guernsey is wonderful but Jersey is shit, “They have the wrong colour cows! Fuck Bergerac, who the fuck is Charlie Hungerford?”

Participation is the name of the game and Jim Rhesus joins Art Brut to perform backing vocals on ‘Moving To LA’, reprising a role he assumed on the acoustic version to be found on the New Cross unplugged album. Art Brut may be defined by Argos’ Pulp-ish observations and vocal delivery, neither spoken, nor sung, but behind him are a band made up of variously, a ska fanatic, a grunge fan, a Pantera aficionado and a drummer who allegedly only consumes Weezer. Thrashing out genre-baiting sound blasts, dovetailing between pre-burnout Blur and straight up punk rock riffs, tonight Art Brut win.

As the evening derails into a stage invasion that leaves Jim Rhesus joining the band for an AC/DC-style blow-out you start to think, tonight Guernsey, next week German Rolling Stone…surely that Top Of The Pops date is only a phone call away?


Written by Jonathan

June 30, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Live, Reviews

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Funeral For A Friend

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Interview with Gareth Davies (Bass)

Into Oblivion….or Cornwall at least! Funeral For A Friend throw the best wake in town to unleash their career defining opus ‘Tales Don’t Tell Themselves“.

They say that the miles of any mans life can be measured in his eyes, and anyone watching Funeral For A Friend closely as they take to the road once again in support of their triumphant new long player Tales Dont Tell Themselves will notice that far from being the adolescent upstarts of old they carry a new found wisdom in their eyes.

Its safe to say there have been some dramatic changes in the world of Funeral For A Friend, marriage, children and the swift onset of adultism have all entered the fray, and with the release of the “difficult” third album they have ushered in phrases such as concept album, scrapped initial recordings and time out for life. Tales is a far cry from the jagged, caustic attack of Seven Ways To Scream Your Name that catapulted the band to Kerrang magazine cover status seemingly overnight, and since their sophomore album Hours was released in 2005 Funeral For A Friend have been busy slowly morphing into a euro metal Leviathan, a beast fuelled by a long lineage of classic Euro Metal, their own love of Maiden and Priest and the dynamics of modern artists such as Trivium.

They no longer ply their trade in foot to the floor screamo, now they carve panoramic, emotive, but not emo, music that will resonate as much with those screaming every word crushed against the barrier as those parents high in the stalls clutching their Genesis and Yes albums. No doubt it will elicit copies of Juneau being burnt in bedrooms across the country by true fans, but one listen to opening single Into Oblivion tells you that hundreds of thousands more will fall in love with this album in a life defining way.

Today genial bass master Gareth Davies is holed up in a London hotel room, to make matters interesting its not the hotel room anyone thinks hes in, but once tracked down hes more than happy to offer a few insights into life inside one of largest UK bands as they set sail promoting what could be their defining work.

It hasn’t been an easy process though; the bands initial attempts at recording didnt fire the imagination. “We demo’d a lot of songs but it was really Funeral by numbers. It felt like we weren’t pushing ourselves,” Davies notes of the original attempts at carving out a follow up. After initially fruitless sessions the band reconvened with renewed vigour and direction as Tales took shape under the guise of a concept album. “We werent influenced by anyone as far as doing a concept album,” professes Davies when quizzed about the likes of Mastodon and the recent resurgence in concept records. “Really, it just all started to fit. Into Oblivion (Reunion) for example was the first time that we really knew we had an opening track for a record.”

Its a highly ambitious album, and whereas ambition may make some look pretty ugly, Funeral For A Friend have managed to make this sound like a fulfilment. Tales may be a nail in the coffin of the battle between punk/emo and pop/metal that has been at the heart of FFAF since Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation, but on repeated listens this is a band stretching its not inconsiderable muscle. Its a very similar situation to Idlewild, a band who took the vibrancy and anger of youth and spat it out the length and breadth of the country before slowly morphing into the UKs REM for the new millennium. Musical trajectory is not the only similarity. Both bands have taken dramatic and deliberate steps to keep in touch with their fans, from video tour diaries and studio blogs to playing shows that would have seemed small long before they were signed, let alone after theyve been selling out Brixton Academy and Rock City.

It was in this spirit that fresh of a support tour with My Chemical Romance the band played three intimate shows in Cornwall, in such rock tour staple locations as Penzance and St Ives. Needless to say the shows were insane. “They were incredible. I mean they really were in the middle of nowhere, and it was a real Kodak moment. Looking across and seeing Kris and Darren crashing into things and throwing up behind amps. The Heat was incredibleit was crazy, a real Kodak moment,” enthuses Davies, clearly enamoured by the chance to get up close and personal with some rabid fans. How did the fans take to the new songs? “Really well, its great that we got a chance like this to warm up for our main tour though.”

It efforts like this that highlights the bands mindset, “we’re really just some working class boys“, insists Davies, and its certainly a notion thats hard to dispel. When asked about the rest of the year he notes, “well were off to America which is really exciting“. Are there any differences between the UK and US fans? “Well no ones heard of us if the States! I think they have so much choice out there and so many great bands that were just really grateful for anything. I mean that people buy our record or come out to our shows amongst everything else going on out there is amazing by itself.” A response which is typical of the self-deprecating demeanour displayed by Davies throughout our conversation. Its an attitude that will serve him well in the coming months as FFAF tour first the UK and then the States on the world famous Warped tour, as in Tales they have a career defining album that should catapult them into the hearts of every single witness to their upcoming road trip.

Written by Jonathan

June 29, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Siobhan Donaghy

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This article originally appeared on

The luscious lady herself.

Sugarbabes? Who the hell are they? Siobhan Donaghy talks about McDonalds and scary gothic statues in rural France.

Hey, at least I left before they did their McDonalds commercial” yelps Siobhan Donaghy, referring of course to her apprenticeship in pop darlings Sugarbabes. It would be fair to assume that any artist attempting to ‘go serious’ after being in one of Britain’s most recognisable sugar coated pop bands since S Club 7 is always going to have a bit of a mountain to climb with the modern music press. Not that you could tell that from the infectious way in which Siobhan Donaghy is bouncing off the walls prior to the release of her dazzling sophomore album ‘Ghosts’.

It hasn’t been an easy ride mind. Following her flight from the wild pop fantasy of the Sugarbabes Siobhan set about recording and releasing her debut solo album, 2003s ‘Revolution In me’. Despite the album being well received it came at a transitional time for London Records. So at 19 she found herself homeless and desperate to get her record heard. Not that any lingering scars are evident today. “I can’t say enough about London Records, really they are responsible for me being here, they stood by me when I left the Sugarbabes.” Couple this with a broken heart and its no surprise that Siobhan found herself on an extended holiday. A trawl around her website quickly highlights the influence of this period with a list of her favourite cities and books reflecting a period of travel and reading. Its not unusual for someone in their late teens to go through a period of soul searching, discovering new music and literature, to not experience a wanderlust at the end of teenagerdom would seem more shocking. Yet not many of us can claim to have been woken from our travelling daze by a phone call from a top flight producer such as James Sanger (Dido, U2, Keane, Brian Eno), but that’s exactly what happened to Siobhan. “It was just crazy, a bolt from the blue, and it’s been incredible. James is like this eccentric genius.”

So it came to be that Siobhan embarked on the journey that led to the heart of rural France where Sanger set about pushing Siobhan further than she had previously imagined. “He would just play me all these records, Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Brian Eno” states Siobhan recalling a kind of classic eccentric pop cramming session. “I wanted the record to be a lot more emotive, to explore some new sounds and James used to open that up to me. I just think he’s this brilliant, eccentric genius.” Not that the transition was all sugar and spice. “We were staying in this old farmhouse and I was staying in a wing on my own and it had all these gothicy decorations…I had to wait until we knew each other but as soon as we did I was like “James, get these out of my room!!”.”

The resulting album ‘Ghosts’ is a work of evocative maturity and quintessentially eccentric British pop in the best traditions of the aforementioned Kate Bush et al. Whilst those who are close to Siobhan may have seen this coming for the general populous it really is an album out of left field. It’s a dramatic record that showcases the full range of Siobhan new pop sous, exploiting grand techniques to produce ethereal, beautiful soundscapes. It’s something that has the relationship between Siobhan and Sanger at its heart. “He allowed me a lot of freedom, and we come from completely different camps. I mean, like on the old record I used to read things like New Scientist and write songs based on articles I’d read like how the male chromosome was disappearing, I wouldn’t get away with that with James around.” This chalk and cheese dynamic certainly seems to have spurred Siobhan on to producing such a dynamic record.

Newly signed to Parlaphone, “a dream” she notes, Siobhan it would seem now has the world at her feet. Asked about who she’s currently excited about she raves about Damon Albarn, “who by the way I think is the best songwriter we have in this country right now” and Patrick Wolf, “who’s doing a remix for me”. Perhaps most intriguing of all is the possibility of working with her new found loves the Cocteau Twins in the future. Asked if she has a collaborative nature she says, “I could definitely see myself in a band again, if I got to write and it was a collaboration, sure.”

Of course there will still be doubters, those who see Siobhan as she was at 14, twirling around on the video to ‘Overload’ with her fellow saccharine babes, but that is a world away now and given the opportunities and support she deserves ‘Ghosts’ hints at the beginnings of an artist who could easily become one of the most important female solo pop artists in Britain.

Written by Jonathan

June 29, 2008 at 5:30 pm


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This interview originally appeared on

Interview with Tony Hajjar

This is madness. This is Sparta!

No doubt Frank Miller is unaware of Sparta the band, but there are clear parallels to be drawn between the sheer bloody mindedness of the Spartans depicted in his new movie 300 and those members of At The Drive In who were ‘left behind’ when the focal pair of Cedric and Omar left to form Mars Volta.
Widely and wrongly dismissed as a novelty backing band trading on the posthumous frenzy surrounding ATD-I, Sparta have been battling with ghosts through two albums since the release of their debut EP Austere in 2002. Tailing off the back of their last record, the much lauded, Porcelain in 2004 things had begun to look pretty bleak for Sparta.
Skip forward to 2007 and the band are preparing for the release of their latest album Threes. With a new label, an evocative short film detailing elements of Hajjar’s family history and a new line up the band have stripped themselves back to basics, hiding out in an Austin warehouse to create what should be the album to severe all remaining ties to their past. In a lot of senses the moody atmospherics, punctuated by soaring moments is a break out album for Sparta. Tony Hajjar certainly agrees.

Ok, Tony. One of the first things I wanted to ask you about was the way in which you stripped back for this record, going back to Austin and hiding out in the warehouse and being completely anonymous. Was this a result of a feeling that finally with Threes you were purely Sparta, and no longer the ‘other guys from ATD-I’ and how that fed into the record?

Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. I think what it was or us was a little bit of everything that you mentioned as to how we ended up stripping down and going into the warehouse. I mean a few months prior to going into the warehouse in October 2005, prior to going back to El Paso, we were really just a garage band. I mean before we got Keeley we were just a 3 piece with no label, without anything. We’d left Geffen, you know we decided we’d just rather be a garage band than be on Geffen records. We’d said no to a lot of money, we said these guys just aren’t doing the job and we’re not happy so lets move on. So we finally got Keeley, and we asked if he’d be in our band and he accepted. So we got to that warehouse and it felt in a weird way like stepping into our own shoes and it felt right. As for the next comment, with the ATD-I guys, you know we’ve always been that, because in the old band it went from being a five piece to a two piece but it still felt like a band to us, and when we started up this new band we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, don’t get me wrong we knew it wasn’t going to be like release the first record and everyone will get it, we knew we had a long trek ahead of us. We always did, and at the end of it we were considered like this back up band, the back up guys and we’ve achieved, not really to us but with guys in the press or fans that maybe didn’t know the band that well, that this is Sparta, this is who we are, and everybody’s finally like ok we should listen to this record and find out what that means.

Yeah, I think it’s been a long time coming because you’ve been treated fairly harshly in some circles. With ‘Threes’ there are elements of the record that are fairly down tempo, fairly moody and I was reading that when you recorded it was autumn and the weather was stormy and that you felt isolated and I was wondering how that fed into the record. For example there’s a lot of tension building and a lot of the time I found myself waiting for something to breakout, especially on tracks like ‘Unstitch Your Mouth’. So I was wondering how that isolation and the weather and the whole mood fed into this atmosphere that’s tangible throughout the record?

Well, ok, so we decided to go to El Paso so that we could have sunny weather and so that we could be the band, you know the band that would have this happy time blah blah blah, and it turned out that the time that we got to spend in El Paso was so gloomy that there was no sun…and it just turned out really funny that we had this total plan, like lets go to El Paso, no one bring any music and lets just see how the atmosphere helps us write. So it turns out to be very gloomy, then we go to Seattle, and we had heard that the weather was very good there at this point, as we were only going to be there for two weeks. Again, it turned out to be very gloomy. So when we were up there laying down the basic tracks for the drums and bass and guitars it was just really dark, and feeding into the basic tracks it was just really a dark mode. Then the next part of the recording was in Malibu, you know. Malibu!…and it turns out that its gloomy everyday that we’re there, and there was not one day that we can go to the beach because it was to overcast. So, yeah, the mood continued without our control, and that’s what it did to the record.
I mean, because over the last two records we had become, well, you know that Sparta has lows in its songs and then big crashing highs. We wanted to change that about the way we are and the way we write the songs. We wanted a lot of the songs to have more of an atmosphere around them and to not just go back and forth between loud bits and soft bits and back to loud which had kind of become our little staple. I’m not saying we created that, I’m just saying it was what we were doing. So we really wanted to go with the atmospheric stuff and to really build on that, and that’s what we did. We created a record that was really about how we were feeling at the time.

That’s interesting to hear because it really is a darker record. It’s quite oppressive in a way but it’s a more cohesive record for that reason, it really plays like an album rather than a few singles and some link songs, and there’s this great tension in the background and it really feels that there’s something intense just round the corner, I’d call it a breakout album because the songs where you let that tension go where its naturally headed, the release songs, it feels like you’ve had to work for that, and it flows perfectly like a great gig.

Well that means a lot because that’s what we meant to do with it. That’s what we wanted to achieve with everything, from what song opened up the record to the order the songs went, I mean we’ve never debated a record like this before, it was so important, and you know it was great debates, debates creating the full mode of what Sparta is now and what we’ve become, this is what we really wanted to show people. We really came into this record with the notion that this is our chance, people are finally going to give us a chance. The point is, I mean we’ve had supportive fans don’t get me wrong, and we’ve done well and were happy, but this seemed like an opportunity to spread the sound beyond just our fans.

Let’s talk about ‘Taking Back Control’, because that’s the first point on the album where you let go in a sense and it’s just head’s down riffs out full on rock.

Precisely, and it’s like when you get to that stage of the record its really no nonsense rock the whole way through. It’s funny because it was actually one of the first, first songs that that Jim given us a demo in of in January of 2005, and it went through probably around ten changes, there are so many versions of that song that it’s ridiculous, even up until the second to last day of mixing when Jim flew in and changed the chorus, I mean completely. So there’s a version of it which is called ‘Future Needs’, that has a completely different chorus! So it was one of those things for us that shows how nit picky we were being about what we were doing.

…and didn’t you actually end up in three studios on one day during the mix down?

That was it, that was the day (that we did Taking Back Control). We were mixing most of the record in one studio, and one song called ‘False Start’, was being mixed in another studio and then Jim was in another studio recording the new chorus, all going on in L.A. in one day. It was a crazy day of running around.

Cool, that’s pretty intense… and did that feed into maybe a new -found sense of freedom that you felt with the new line up and label? The freedom to make changes like that where maybe in the past you’d have had deadlines to meet.

I think maybe in the past we would have given ourselves a deadline…no one else would have, but we would have given ourselves one without making changes like that, where we’d be “ok that’s it we’re done”, because we’re those kind of people that when you’re done you’re done, but this is the first time that WE as a band questioned everything. We were always nit picky, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve never questioned until the last day, and that’s the difference in what we were doing.

Reading up on the sessions it looks like they were incredibly productive, I think somewhere I read that you came out of there with 30 finished songs. Are those songs that didn’t make it to the record, are they ones that you feel will come out in some form, whether or not it’s as b-sides, or through a website or are they the sort of songs that have been put away now because elements got adapted into other songs or you feel they’re just not up to scratch?

You know I’m not really sure. Actually I recently bumped them all down from Protools to mp3 just to have them on my iPod if I ever want to listen to them and there are some that I really feel could become strong songs, and I’m sure that there are some that will come out because we were really proud of them but at that moment, at that point, where we were choosing for the record we weren’t sure what to do with them. So we didn’t want to force them. I mean they are complete songs, they sound just like demos, we recorded them as good as we can, and they have lyrics and are done to the point that if we decided that one of them was really strong we could go in and re-record it in one day and be done. So that shows how much work was done to all those other songs that people haven’t heard, and it makes us so proud because we’ve always been that band where, “ok the record needs 12 songs… we could write 15, so that’s all the b-sides”, and that’s it all the songs are gone. This is the first time ever that we seriously still have a lot of songs on our hard drive ready to go, and it’s a blessing to us, this new life and the extra energy and Keeley being there, and the extra love in the room that produced all this new music.

Speaking of Keeley, if we could go into the song writing aspect, how did his being there effect things, did you previously write as a band, or did people bring demos to the table whole?

Well we write as a band, but this was the first time, which was really cool for us, for the rest of us, was that Jim was actually bringing in demos with lyrics and melodies, and that had never been done before in Sparta. We’d always heard the melodies and lyrics in the studio on Porcelain and Wiretap Scars. So this was the first time we knew the melody and the lyrics, we knew everything before we even mentioned the studio.

That’s a pretty big step forward, but it leads to the obvious point that this year marks 10 years of you and Jim being in a band together, so what, if anything, has changed about the way you work together?

Well me and Jim in the way we work are very Yin and Yang, we’re very different personalities, and one thing that’s always been very easy for him and I has been to sit in a room and just write. Sometimes we write so fast that everybody’s just like, “WHAT are you guys doing?” It’s so funny because we can be writing and recording and we’ll be in a studio and all of a sudden four songs are done, and in the past it’s been a bit like…”what just happened?” So for the first time ever we’ve created the dynamic of really taking the time on everything, taking the time to come back to everything. I’ll give you an example. Untreatable Disease, on the actual first version of Untreatable Disease I remember we wrote it and everybody thought it was great, Keeley was like, “I really Like this song”, and I looked at Jim and I said “you know this really reminds me of one of our songs, a song called ‘Death In The Family’, off Porcelain. It had the feeling of that, and we said that, as soon as anyone mentioned a comment like that the first thing we’re going to do is change the song, immediately, no questions. So we ended up creating a song like ‘Untreatable Disease’ that still has the power that we portray in our songs, but it’s just a very different song for us, so I think that kind of mentality is how our approach has changed, we question everything now, and for the better.

Does that apply personally to your attitude to your actual drums as well, that you go back and you analyse more than you did when you were first starting out, because there are elements of ‘Threes’ that are very primal and very less-is-more from a drumming aspect.

The things is that I’ve always tried to have the mentality of write for the song, don’t be a show off just because you’ve learnt a new thing, and I’ve always though if the song requires me to go off and do a part and it just requires one snare hit, then that’s what I’ll do. So my approach to this record was to be more musical than I’ve ever been, and to not write as a drummer but to write as just another member of the band.

Cool, moving away from the actual music of Threes for a moment the album comes with the short film ‘Eme Nakia’. How did that come about and what was the process for that, why did you chose to include it with the record, and what was your personal role in the making of the film.

The idea for a movie I had during the toughest time of the band, we didn’t have a label, we were a three piece, we weren’t even sure that we were going to make another record to be honest. So I called the guys, Jim and Blaise, our manager, and said what do you think of the idea of doing a film with the next record, and I mean I’m very lucky, I play in a very supportive band. So the first thing that everybody says is “yea that’s cool”, but I knew in the end what they were thinking was “you know what we don’t even know if we’re going to make another record and we’re talking about a movie!!” So everybody asked me about what and I said I didn’t really have any idea about what, so they said ok. Then five minutes later Jim called me and says, “Man, I know if we do a film about anything it should be about you and your family.” So I said, I think that’s a really cool idea, but I don’t think I’ll ever do that, I don’t think I have the guts to do that. So after a lot of thinking, remembering that this was April 2005 at this point so I had many, many, months of down time to learn how to make a film, to meet the right people, to work on forty versions of a script, I was lucky enough to meet through my cousin Joe who was the writer and producer of the film. So we’ve shared a very similar childhood, we spent probably at least three or four days a week on the phone sharing stories to the point where it pretty much became therapy. So after months and months of prepping and getting the right people we got a budget from the label, and all this support from the band, and they said, ok go and do this film and come and show it to us when it’s done. To have that kind of support is amazing but at the same time it’s also the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. So at the end of 2005, right when Keeley was starting the guitars, I arrived in El Paso. We have this van, so we jumped in the van with the film crew from LA with all the gear and we went into El Paso and we had everything ready, we had all the actors and everything was set, and we filmed for four days. It was the longest four days of my life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You know because I needed to impress the band, I needed to impress the label, and I needed to impress my family above anyone. So when everyone saw it and gave me the big hug it was the greatest day of my life.
As for why we wanted to include it with the record, that was simply because you have to nowadays. You can’t simply make a record these days, people hardly buy records anymore, and to add a movie might get a few more people to see the movie, and to hear the record. However, when the movie was starting to take form and so was the record the movie became part of the record and all of a sudden you couldn’t have the record without the movie. So we tied everything together without realising that we were tying it together, and it became a family per se of all the stuff that we had been doing for the last two years, so that was a really cool part of the process.

They definitely work really well together with the record feeding into the film and vice versa. Sticking with the visual element for a moment could you talk us through the artwork and the portraits by Ray Wallace. It’s something a little out of the ordinary which again ties into the film and the record.

It was actually an idea that Jim had to do the portraits and at first I was a feeling a bit like, “portraits? Why?” Then we took pictures of each other in Seattle and then Ray spent two months making these huge 3×3 portraits and the way he paints is that he paints a layer and sands it down and paints a layer and sands it down, so we tied it in because we wanted to have a picture of the band, but have one in a different realm, and to have those portraits in a museum with the actual kid from the film is a complete tie in, and to me it’s the first completely thought out record, artwork and everything together that we’ve ever done. Usually we’ve left it in the artists hands and said, give us all your ideas and we’ll pick from there, and this was the was the first time that we had the whole vision and how to tie it in, and I’m really proud of the whole layout of the record.

Ok, so finally I just wanted to go back to the relationship with Anti records and ask how that came into place and also what the plans are for the future with Sparta?

Well with Anti, we knew if we went with a really big major in the UK and Europe, we new it would be very hard for Sparta to accomplish what we wanted, and for a very long time we had some bad luck and we couldn’t get anything tied down on paper which Sparta could agree or the label could agree with to work with Hollywood (US label) on. All of a sudden Anti came out of nowhere and were excited and wanted to do it, which was incredible because I love Anti. I mean one of the reasons that I play music today is Tom Waits, who is on Anti, so I get to be like a school kid and be his ‘label mate’, you know? So that’s cool, and Tricky’s been on there and there’s been a lot of very good music released there, so that’s how it worked out and they’ve done a really great job so far and I can’t wait to get over there and meet everybody that’s been so helpful in the past.

As for the future? Well one of the plans, when there is time, is to get together and pick some of the songs we were talking about earlier and really work on them and try and just see if we can do another EP or maybe even start working on the next record sooner rather than later, not to rush it out or anything, but just to have it, because we have the material. Other than that everyone’s working on solo stuff, I start in May on a second record of my solo stuff, Keeley’s just finished some solo stuff, Jim and Matt are working on their solo stuff, so there’s a lot of that going on, and we’ll probably play on each others records.

…and with that we conclude other than a brief discussion confirming that when Sparta hit the UK their patented gloom will indeed be in full effect.

Written by Jonathan

June 29, 2008 at 3:52 pm

End Of The Road Festival – Larmer Tree Gardens, Salisbury 2006

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This is how we do it in Sweden!” Somewhere in the trees up ahead, illuminated by a hundred radiating fairy lights, Emanuel Lundgren, I’m From Barcelona’s ringmaster extraordinaire, is leading an entranced throng through the secluded walks of Larmer Tree Gardens. Jubilant, the masses follow him on this journey to The Heart Of Gladness, mingling with countless musicians on the garden trail, and assembling at the base of a tree-top perch for an impromptu performance. Not just their own ‘Treehouse’, ‘We’re From Barcelona’ and ‘Chicken Pox’, but also ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ and Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer Of 69’. Voices soar, bathed in the glow of a thousand camera phones. Smiles flash, babies play melodicas and for a second you dare not breathe in, in case the spell is broken. Moments like this littered the inaugural End Of The Road Festival, a realised pipe dream eschewing the festival rigmarole in favour of fandom and garden party etiquett

Do you remember the first time?

The End Of The Road festival came into being when two people called Simon and Sophia disregarded the usual lethargy that kicks in following that perennial conversation “…well, why don’t we run a festival of our own?” and, inspired by the Green Man Festival, turned their own dream into a reality. It reminds me of the sort of intimate affair friends of mine threw in back gardens, whereupon the arrival of a burger van sent parents running from the house screaming ‘How many people?!’ It takes a few hours to overcome the hypnotic mystery of the site, surroundings that carve romantic fjords into the surface of your heart. Yet by the close of the weekend, the walkways illuminated by fairy lights, the pianos abandoned in their own garden, the roaming peacocks and the assorted alcoves all seem like a natural accompaniment to the haunting and curious sonics that confront you at every turn.

So it’s no surprise to discover a randomly placed tent named ‘The Living Room’ featuring beat up old couches, intense chess sessions and a deliriously kitsch turntable and assorted records. Nor is it a surprise to observe heated debate between artists and ticket holders in the cue for the delectable organic pies stand. So blurred are the lines between performers and audience that it seems that to have to actually interrupt conversations, get up on stage and perform is a matter of vague embarrassment. In the tent on Saturday afternoon and The Boy Least Likely To are handing out balloons and generally ploughing through their shouty, clappy dance-like-the-floor-is-on-fire bombast resembling kids high on Slush Puppies ram-raiding the local school music rooms. It’s harmonised alt-nursery cocooned in frosting and blown clean out the doors, and as the chimes of ‘Be Gentle With Me’ snake up your spine, it’s like the best party ever is kicking off. And at the more raucous end of the spectrum, Brakes (currently labouring under the extended moniker Brakes, Brakes, Brakes, proving three titles are better than one) provide a perfect catalyst as the night draws in, spitting candid pop politic out into the dusk in double time.

The discovery of the exotic hot cider from Glastonbury’s infamous Somerset Cider bus – not to mention our wise acceptance of the barmaid’s advice to supercharge it with brandy – would have been a perfectly rational explanation for why it appears the undergrowth is animating and walking about in front of me. Another, more in keeping with programmed events would be the arrival onstage of British Sea Power. I’ve never had the pleasure before, but I’ve been captivated by shimmering crescendos and heart driven aural riots on record, and I’ve met a fair few people whose relationship with BSP is near devotional. So, as they appear, skulking through reams of smoke, silhouetted in stark faux-military regalia and swathed in freshly harvested bows they create a theatrical suspense that builds right up until the opening chords and leaves you thinking “thisisgoingtobefuckingfantasticright?”. Which is precisely when it starts going downhill. There is nothing I don’t like about this band and its credentials, but as angular rhythms and Yan’s rasping vocals fly past it all seems a little too glossed and a little too forced. Perhaps it’s the cider. Perhaps it’s the objectionable way the baying crowd have denuded several nearby trees to pay homage. But for all their visual splendour tonight, British Sea Power seem on the decline.

Onward to the Big Top then, which to enter is to step through the looking glass into the alternate reality of Simple Kid’s magic kingdom. Welding whimsical folk to dirty fuzz loops and scattershot beats, Ciaran Mcfeely stands centre-stage, the tip of the iceberg of noise that rises behind him. Like a wily apothecary he blends and mixes, creating a spellbinding tonic that burns like a bonfire inside your ears. After which it’s back to the main garden where Badly Drawn Boy virtually bounds onto stage and, after profusely thanking festival organisers Simon and Sofia (and begging for a repeat booking next year) launches into new track ‘Born in the UK’. Lacking the chest beating bravado of its US counterpart, it sparkles instantly – a mini history of modern Britain, a nostalgic ode laced with all the questioning derision of Springsteen. After that we get a milieu of new material mixed in with ‘the hits’ and it’s the perfect way to mark the end of Saturday night. It often seems that Badly Drawn Boy is passed over as passé, or dismissed as a soundtrack novelty, but on his day, he’s one of the best British songwriters around.

We are blessed to have Tilly and The Wall in front of us as they slink onto stage, all tattoos, taps and shit-eating grins. Lighting up snapshots from the dark side of YouTube youth and covering them in tinsel and neon-bathed filth, Tilly make you want to get drunk and scream at the top of your voice until your throat strips raw. By the time they launch into ‘Nights of the Living Dead’ from 2004’s Wild Like Children everyone is on the brink and just waiting… waiting… and there’s nothing but smiles as we all go over.

Other fragments pass by during the impossible task of trying to capture everything on offer. Stuffy And The Fuses threaten to bring down the intimate Bimble Inn teepee as they flay flesh on fretboard in one gigantic power pop dirty bomb. Jim Noir invites knowing looks and lo-fi dance moves, whilst Richard Hawley warms the assembled throng with his thick, lugubrious tones… and Ryan Adams And The Cardinals? Well they are a funny beast. It should be noted straight away that the first half of this moniker is completely misleading, as anyone seeking renditions of Adam’s pre-Cardinals solo work will be left sorely wanting. It’s also a much more traditional band than anything Adam’s has produced before. Clearly lubricated, and fresh from an visit to Stonehenge, Adams seems to be transforming into Jerry Garcia, leading the Cardinals as they shamble through jam-band workouts and loosely structured songs fresh from sound-check. “We wrote this two days ago”, Adams announces, before his bassist pulls him up, begging to be walked through the chord changes. “Hell, I don’t know half this stuff,” Adams retorts, before they launch into one in a series of new tracks that despite all the frayed ends and false starts are pulled together by the power of the voice that drives them, slicing the night like a diamond drill, rough and forceful.

End Of The Road has been a rampant success, the perfect marriage of music and conscience. The problem now is not whether or not it will be possible to carry on, but just how to maintain the corporate-free enchantment so integral to the experience. Slipping along congested A-roads headlong into Monday morning it’s easy to lose heart. In ten years, this could be just another brand-spattered corporate hoarding. But Lord, I hope not

Written by Jonathan

June 29, 2008 at 3:38 pm

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TV On The Radio

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La Route Du Rock, St Malo, France

Man that was exciting, I feared for my life – flashed right in front of my eyes,” pants Tunde Adebimpe, recalling his purpose post stage invasion. “Gotta meet more people, gotta see more places.” And with that he ignites afresh across the still St Malo night, Adebimpe a kinetic, shapeshifting shaman dropping molten verse atop TV On The Radio’s pre-apocalyptic affirmation broadcasts.

Eons earlier they shivered onto stage, muffled and reticent as shadows, weary yet raging from pursuing instruments across French airports. With Return To Cookie Mountain inviting frenzied acclaim from all quarters they conj our question upon question when sparking into action. How many have you flocked to see, how many proclamations have rung hollow around the deluded grandeur of each band shrouded in the last vestiges of the Emporers’ new clothes? Yet through the beatbox overtures and headstock chimes, over liberation and despair, as David Sitek scores razors along hearts and fretboard fault lines it is clear that for all false dawns recompense has arrived.

Written by Jonathan

June 29, 2008 at 2:55 am

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Mondegreens EP

Everything else suddenly ceases to register. Honeycomb guitar peaks dawn on the horizon, whipped sharply into screaming focus under deluge after deluge of driven bass and syncopated, feral drums. Every moment in every song building, building until finally delivered in a glorious maelstrom before serving you up, saturated, to a forgiving shoreline, woken by gentle melody lapping at your face.
To say Ctrlaltdelete are destined for great things seems redundant. The ‘Mondegreens’ EP passed somewhat under the radar, but it contained rough diamonds that should have graced any self-respecting music puublication.
Formed under the dawn of the new millennium, Ctrlaltdelete operate around the nucleus of Ben Maxwell and Laura Harrison. Though the Carlisle-based trio found themselves struggling through two previous drummers, founding member Chris Hewitt and, for the devotional ‘Mondegreens’ sessions, Simon Papaleo, the band have settled…
Scandinavian sticksman Robert Holmkvist to solidify them for the future, as they move towards the recording and release of their debut full length album. A future that has already found them making big waves in early 2006 picking up rave press and a kkkk review in Kerrang.
Ctrlaltdelete operate in that most unremitting of arenas, that of the instrumental band. Wringing emotive landscapes from their triumvirate limbs they can take you from morphine laced ethereal melody to fist to the face clarity in a heartbeat.
Songs such as ‘Patter, Chance And Menace’ and ‘Each Of These Innocents On The Streets Is Engulfed By A Terror Of Their Own Ordinariness’, both from the aforementioned EP, leapt forward from the debut ‘Epone’ cauterising the loose fibres and forging a cohesive whole that injects a collective pulse to every song.
The overriding factor in Ctrlaltdelete’s music is the passion that infects every moment, every note seems wrung from their instruments
as if their very lives depended on it. Taking experimental pointers from Sonic Youth through Scratch Acid and underpinning it with punk heart ballistics and timeless structure, they escape their surroundings and sidestep the consuming banality and self-inflicted melancholy of many similar bands.
In a genre where artists are easily sidelined to become outcast musical pariahs, Ctrlaltdelete make music to stand shoulder to shoulder with heavyweights such as Mogwai and Sigur Rós, truly earning a peerage amongst such names.
Signed to Motivesounds, whose ever-impressive roster keep churning out exquisite records, Ctrlaltdelete are making all the right noises with 2006’s debut full-length, this is the time to get on board with one of Britain’s most innovative, intense and exciting bands as they embark on an ascendance that with any justice will find them at the zenith of modern music. Quite simply, they are stunning.

Written by Jonathan

June 29, 2008 at 1:40 am

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