sex as a foreign language

awkward aural adventures

Josh Weller/ James Yuill – Twisted Licks @ the Macbeth

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It’s fucking freezing on the roof patio of the Macbeth as the February night begins to creep in across east London. Josh Weller is in overdrive, lovingly crafting rolled up cigarettes and holding court on his plans for the upcoming year, doing his best impression of the end product of a lustful tryst between Woody Allen, Bob Dylan and Yahoo Serious. Cutting a singular figure in shrink-wrapped, science club chic, topped off with serious glasses and far more serious hair, Josh is here tonight as part of the cooler than fuck Twisted Licks nights series that holds residence at the Macbeth. He’s been paired with one man electrofolk orchestra and Moshi Moshi star, James Yuill. As Josh holds court James is firing through soundcheck providing snippets of the blissful house laden electro folk that will have an overflowing Macbeth reverberating in exquisite bliss come midnight.

It’s a strange time in music. The battle for the digital soul is still waging, iTunes has announced as i meet James that it will be removing it’s DRM technology so you can now share music you get through iTunes with your friends. It’s just the latest shift in the reactionary reshaping of the music industry. Collecting his thoughts on the way music is heading and whether, as an artist the internet has helped, excited, hindered, or frustrated him, Josh notes, ‘I think, in regards to the country in recession…I was talking to someone earlier today actually and I was saying that as a musician…like he’s a gasman and was saying that it makes no difference to him, people still need their boilers fixed and he’s making more money than ever…he’s so rich he GAVE me £20…’ He says laughing at the notion anyone could currently have spare cash. ‘Yeah, and he was saying that it’s the same with music isn’t it? As peoples ears will always look for stuff. So if anything, more than ever, now they’re broke people will be sitting at home, sharing and wanting to find new music, seeking out new bands and records. I think in a way music has been spoiled for the last few years in regards to people buying records and… well maybe not spoiled, you know, just now you could go onto MySpace, or you could hear something on the radio, or someone could tell you about something and within 10 minutes you could know everything about that person, and in that way that’s really cool and if that’s just going to get bigger then I can’t really see that being a problem. iTunes is just, well Apple market themselves as being everyones friend don’t they? I was reading this the other day that Microsoft made a loss of 50% in the last quarter and itunes made a profit of something like $1.1billion and ipod sales are higher than they’ve ever been. It’s weird, it means that people still want to listen to songs, and in a round about way it makes perfect sense because you know, everybody always wants to listen to music but when there’s lots of money about and disposable income around and people can spend all their time away from home it’s different. That’s one thing I’ve noticed is that maybe more people are online, I mean especially on MySpace I’m just getting a lot more messages from people. So it seems that it’s getting better for being a small artist.’ Interjecting that the internet is heralded as the liberator of artists like Weller Josh adds, ‘Yea, I mean I hope so. There’s always an argument that whatever way people kind of make things readily available or free there’s always going to be some sort of money making scheme behind that, where people try to cash in on it. But yeah, I think it’s cool. I quite like being in this position at the moment.’

The position that Josh finds himself in is one as an unsigned artist who has released a series of low key singles, including his delectable duet with Paloma Faith, and has illustrious ambitions for 2009. ‘We’ve just finished an EP that’s going to come out in April/May, it’s probably going to be called ‘The Push EP’ because the single’s going to be a song called ‘Push’ , so that’s going to come out towards the end of April/May I hope and then in the summer just tour and festivals and then at the end of the year the plan is to go to Seattle to make an album.’ This desire has led Weller to spend time researching producers for the project. ‘Well, you’ve just kind of hit it, for the last 4 months of my life it’s just been me working with numerous different producers. I’ve been working with Ryan Hadlock who did the Gossip’s album and has done my friends Soko’s album… which is like 35 songs, it’s ridiculous. So yea, and another guy called Ian who we’ve done a couple of songs with for an EP and the guy who did Depeche Mode, and a guy called Ant who did MIA, I’m forgetting someone…but, yea so it’s like trying on shoes, you just have to find the one that fits.’

Eclectic, erudite and frenetic Josh Weller comes across like a young Woody Allen, precocious and driven with a million ideas emanating in any given sentence. Fortunately he has the songs to back up his vision and Twisted licks marked the first unveiling of a new band to see this vision though. ‘We’ve been practicing like demons so it will be interesting to see how it goes down,’ he notes, and judging from the ecstatic response from a capacity Macbeth a few hours later the hard work has more than paid off.
Compared to the frenetic diatribes Josh imparts James Yuill could come across as subdued, but this would be a misapprehension. The disarming singer-songwriter is instantly engaging as he discusses his perma touring lifestyle since releasing his debut album, ‘Turning Down Water For Air’ last october, and the upcoming release of single ‘No Suprise’. Yuill trades in the kind of deft folktronica that fuelled an entire genre of adu-teen TV as the Seth Cohens of the world dreamt of Death Cabs and prom dates. Don’t take this as dismissive hyperbole though, what James accomplishes is a set of hypnotic, effecting incantations that simply make you yearn for a life within their stories. More importantly though as a packed Macbeth will testify come witching hour, this slightly awkward looking, lanky, schoolteacher chic man can take his laptop and his guitar and make you want to dance, dance, dance!

2009 should be a year of progression for Yuill. There was universal acclaim when ‘Turning…’ hit critics’ desks, but despite this the commercial success of which he is well deserving has yet to materialise. However with a raft of touring in the pipeline, a constant flow of remixes through his majesterial blog and new singles the public should finally be catching up with the hipsters this year and latching on to one of the sweetest new songwriters to emerge in the last few years. ‘Well the album came out in January so I’ve just got back off doing a small European tour and that was fantastic,’ begins Yuill mapping out his year. ‘Then it’s going to be out in America in a couple of months as well, so I have to go over there and do some touring. It’s something that is such a big thing that we will be out there for a long time, maybe near on 2 months,’ he notes when pressed on just how you approach the ominous albatross of ‘tackling America’. ‘What’s really frustrating though is that because I am releasing the album in so many territories that I can’t release anything new over here until I’ve fulfilled all the promotional duties over there. So what I’m doing is remixing the album, half of it is going to be electronic and half of it is going to be acoustic so it will be released as 2 separate EPs around festival season and then you should see a new album around the end of the year.’ It’s a dilemma for an artist who is constantly working, ‘I definitely have enough for a new album now but it’s just something that will have to wait,’ he continues, in what will surely be joyous news for his swelling legions of fans as nights like Twisted Licks will see new songs slipping into the setlist with rising frequency.

‘I mean I write when I’m free…when you’re forcing yourself to write it never sounds good so I write in bursts when I have the time I guess, but I find I write the better songs starting on guitar first as when you start on computer it’s quite easy to loop things, so you find that everything is massively looped, whereas you can break it up with guitar and throw in an extra bar or a descending scale, whatever suits. Plus, even though I won’t always keep the guitar parts in I do like to be able to play everything on guitar,’ he concludes, before adding, ‘I think the next album will definitely have some tracks that are totally electronic but I hope that they will all have been written on guitar.’ Lyrically Yuill is a lot more abstract than Weller, but this in no way detracts from the end result. ‘I usually come up with a 4 chord progression or riff and sing whatever comes into my head and depending what it is I then usually steer the rest of the song in that direction,’ he notes. ‘You’ll find with my lyrics,’ he chuckles, ‘that they often start off not really meaning anything but then by the end get down to something quite specific. So they tend to lack direction in the beginning and then come to a specific conclusion.’

Lacking direction is not something that either Weller or Yuill suffer from as they blow the Macbeth apart later in the evening, both cementing their growing reputations and both hammering home the glaring fact that from both these young men the best is still very much yet to come.


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  1. […] musings from boston put an intriguing blog post on Josh Weller/ James Yuill – Twisted Licks @ the MacbethHere’s a quick excerpt…readily available or free there’s … take his laptop and his guitar and … come up with a 4 chord progression … ‘You’ll find with […]

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