Podcasting, pop, politics and punk: Live4ever chats with Don Letts


Don Letts is a busy man. Filmmaker, DJ and host of a BBC 6Music Show, the spectacularly dreadlocked veteran began curating his Turtle Bay podcasts in 2017, each one a uniquely themed look at Reggae, the Jamaican music exported to the world which has been the soundtrack to a life spent as a first-generation black British citizen during a time of huge social change.

The 63-year-old first introduced punk to reggae and vice versa as a DJ at the infamous Soho venue The Roxy in 1976, and went on to be a member of the ahead-of-their-time outfit Big Audio Dynamite with former Clash man and long-standing friend Mick Jones, but today he’s in the midst of having his boiler repaired. It’s a slice of the mundane which, for the next half-an-hour or so, is pushed to the back of a conversation that spans podcasting, pop, politics and punk as well as his role as an innovator and role model which growing up he admits he never had.

“It’s a hustle,” explains the effusive Londoner, “but it’s a creative hustle!”

You’ve just released your latest Turtle Bay podcast. For those people who haven’t heard one of them, what’s the idea?

When I was first invited to do them I said I wanted to have a different approach to a ‘normal’ podcast. I didn’t want to have a situation where people were just talking for an hour, so they’re not dialogue-based, they’re more like music documentaries, or mixtapes, which is something I used to do back in the late-seventies for people like The Clash, the Pistols and even Patti Smith.

There’s something totally refreshing about them being so music-led.

For me, any excuse to turn people onto new sounds. I give a bit more context and information obviously – this isn’t just a playlist – but as they’re just an hour long, there’s only so much background you can talk about. They’re built to last though, not to be disposable and, unlike some other podcasts, they’re meant to be something people can go back to time and time again.

Do you have a specific audience in mind when you’re putting them together?

Yeah…me! I don’t want that to sound selfish because it’s not, but I’ve found that doing it like that is the only way I can operate. It’s just like my radio show, I hand pick the songs and don’t play a tune I don’t like. If that resonates with 75% of the listeners, winner. Ultimately, it’s about taste – luckily, I got some!

What do you want people to take away from them?

I’d like to encourage them to dig further. It may be that there’s lots of the material they’ll be familiar with, but if they’re new to the genre I’ve tried to explore lots of different aspects, and then from that point it’s up to them to pick up the ball and run with it.

The last episode for instance focused on covers, with versioning of acts like The Beatles, Joy Division and even Nirvana.

I think what I was trying to show with those selections is that Jamaicans don’t live in a bubble; they’ve been listening to things from around the world since the early sixties – there’s even Bob Marley on there doing What’s New Pussycat.

And this wasn’t just a one-way thing.

No. The sonic experiments being created in Jamaica then are now part of the fabric of popular music. That’s testament to the cultural exchange that took place between Jamaica and the world.

How about now? What’s the state of British reggae in 2019?

For me, there are a lot of artists taking it into the future, people The Skints, Hollie Cook or Gentleman’s Dub Club, but as I said before, the influence of Jamaican music extends far beyond specifics – just consider Massive Attack for instance, who’re heavily influenced by the whole sound system culture. The same is true of the UK Grime scene now: a lot of MC’s will have parents or older siblings who were into the vibes created by bass culture and sound systems.

More broadly than that, most of the content played on commercial radio can have its roots traced back to aspects of Afro-Caribbean music in some way.

It’s all a testament to Jamaica’s gift to the world: bass! I don’t have a scientific answer why, but bass seems to connect people to each other and internally connects us to the planet. I always thought that if the earth was going to make a sound, it would be bass.

We also had a look at one of your DJ sets recently and the audience seems to be very young and cosmopolitan. Is reggae’s cross generational appeal to you a surprise?

Not at all. I’ve seen it grow from Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop into something truly global. This sound system culture can be found almost everywhere and I get to travel the world meeting dub heads and bass warriors from Poland and Russia to South America – we’re talking about a phenomenon, unfortunately it’s just not on MTV.

There are a lot of genres not served very well by MTV…

If you didn’t know and based on lack of presence in that medium, you’d assume that bass culture was a niche thing. It’s anything other than that.

Given its exposure and its history, particularly in the late 20th century, do you feel that reggae and music more fundamentally still has a role to play politically?

I grew up on music that helped you be all that you can be and wasn’t just there to sell you stuff. Music can entertain you, but it can also be a genuine tool for social change, inspiring people. There are still some people out there who understand its power to change lives, but they’re not the ones you’re gonna see on TV right now. It’s all a bit emperor’s new clothes; if you’re mediocre and you’re not saying anything, then you’re gonna get pushed to the front of the queue. A lot of music in this century’s just become a soundtrack for passive consumerism.

What about those who are making music that challenges the status quo but are being prevented from recording or performing by the authorities? Is that censorship?

You can’t silence the artist, but for me the artist has to acknowledge their responsibility. Equally though, you can’t just blame them for issues which are part of wider societal problems. Part of art is to inform, respond and react and in that context. Movements like drill for instance are as relevant as anything that’s out there.

Finally, we were really interested in a comment you made saying that ‘reggae got nothing from punk but exposure’. As someone who was right on the frontline of that twin revolution, what was the dynamic?

People like The Clash, Public Image and The Slits took reggae on board and it informed what they did. For me, it was testament to the power of culture that they and others chose to push things forward and brought people closer together, which was important then, but it’s more important now more than ever.

Culture is a continuum…

I think that there are people out there who are appreciating it and taking things forward, and some that are exploiting it, trying to monetise it. As Joe Strummer once said: ‘You always need to have your bulls**t detector finely tuned’.

Our time is up. Don’s boiler has been fixed. His thoughts are turning to a schedule that includes trips to Paris and Tokyo visiting exhibitions where the assemblage pays testimony to the positive embracing of new ideas which so obviously is his philosophy and way of approaching life. These excursions allow him to carry on soaking up new experiences and, by extension, maintain a wide perspective on his art and society.

It’s a hustle alright, but isn’t everything?

(Andy Peterson)

By Live4ever - Posted on 12 Mar 2019 at 10:00am 

Album Review: Clinic – Wheeltappers And Shunters


All hail the unheralded heroes.

Ever since The Velvet Underground, who have now taken their rightful place as one of the most influential bands of all time, there has always been those acts that operate in the shadows or the underground but have no end of plaudits from those in the know.

Love, Neu and the Buzzcocks can all lay claim to shaping British music in the sixties and seventies. The recent rebirth of Gang Of Four has led to a re-evaluation of their back catalogue. Devo are not a well-recognised name but can claim huge influence.

On this side of the year 2000, one of the early movements was to be found on Merseyside, with The Coral, The Zutons and The Dead 60s spearheading the charge for off-kilter, guitar driven, spiky scally rock. It’s a distinctive sound that is identifiable as being unique and self-contained enough to come from that corner of the North West, and to ignore Clinic as pioneers, or at least flame-bearers of that movement is to do them a huge dis-service. That they’ve been operating for 21 years from behind the curtains is a crying shame.

On this new album, their first after a sustained period of productivity (one album every two years without fail since 2000), we are once again welcomed into their weird and wonderful world. Few tracks exceed three minutes in length and manage to be both individual bursts of life that hang together to form a structured and coherent piece of work. It could easily be both concept album or Best Of collection.

 

The broad theme is of old-fashioned, family participating entertainment, references to circuses and fairs abound. Band conductor Ade Blackburn states that in serious times it’s nice to have some inoffensive fare to feast on as refuge. But like those once-halcyon days, there is a dark heart lurking beneath the surface. An air of looming menace pervades, as it always has done.

Incidentally, it’s been a good week for Wheeltappers and Shunters. For those fortunate enough not to remember it, the album is named after a long forgotten Granada TV production from the 1970s, where light entertainment favourites would perform in a fictional club environment. Think of a slightly less fictionalised version of Phoenix Nights. In a strange coincidence, the video for Noel Gallagher’s latest single centres around the show. Classic Gallagher cribbing? We’ll probably never know.

Once again, they are brimming with ideas. Laughing Cavalier is hurdy-gurdy lightweight psychedelia with Blackburn’s unique blend of earnest and grappling vocals leading us into ‘the fun of the fair’, grabbing the listener by the hand like the madcap ringmaster he was always meant to be. Complex echoes early Gorillaz, harmonica and drum machine working in spooky synchronicity, with background voices, either whispers or shouts, persisting in the lower levels of the mix. Flying Fish is more like the intense Clinic of old, the whimsy temporarily stripped  away, while Congratulations is a Hammond organ kaleidoscope of a song. Rejoice! is glam at its most insistent. The whole album has a deftness that Clinic have undoubtedly always had but rarely utilised, perhaps due to the long sabbatical.

This album is unlikely to win over any new fans, but then that’s extremely unlikely to be Clinic’s priority, having never been so. We must treasure bands of their ilk; those whose charms only appeal to a select few but which are harnessed and shaped to appeal to many more.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 09 May 2019 at 4:04pm 

Album Review: SOAK – Grim Town


It’s hard to escape the feeling that anyone who calls their album Grim Town in an age when you have to almost put a gun to someone’s head to make them listen to one is either incredibly brave or incredibly blasé.

This is even more jaw-dropping when you take into consideration that it’s a place that only exists in the mind of Bridie Monds-Watson, an imaginarium which eventually unfolds to be both a haven and a prison.

Being treated to the inside of anyone’s head is rarely less than awkward, but Monds-Watson has used the premise to deliberately sharpen some of the edges around her writing first heard on the critically acclaimed debut Before We Forgot How To Dream. This new starkness is rarely more potent than on Fall Asleep, Back Seat, about overhearing the conversation between her parents agreeing to divorce as a child, the words a sombre nursery rhyme for heartbroken grownups.

 

If coming to terms with that trauma is now long in the past, the singer spends much of Grim Town accepting many other things, firstly her changing relationship with a fiercely independent Londonderry home on Knock Me Off My Feet, but also with the inner workings of depression and how to escape its ugly event horizon on Get So Go Kid, its drift-laden piano and marching drums an amusement park theme staked against a delicate, piping hymn to making it out.

Even when striving so desperately to be true to yourself, a person’s life can still be defined by the actions of others and the relationships we pursue that we would do better to leave alone. Grim Town’s vacuum doesn’t exclude those people; the sombre Everybody Loves You deals with the isolation of being fossilised in your own feelings, while the doused strings and poise of Valentine Schmalentine are a token of when the final beads of loving warmth were still connecting, like hands wrapped tight around the thorns of a rose.

For somewhere so blighted, there’s a lot going on here. A teenage Monds-Watson used SOAK as an identity, a source of boldness she didn’t always feel, but this license to be someone else again reconnects to a pop self sometimes lost; Maybe’s scramble up-tempo then squared by Scrapyard, an indie dreamscape which strips away much of the rest of the album’s wistful enervation and replaces it with a rowdier sense of fulfillment.

Having felt like being stuck forever inside the walls of Grim Town with a hundred other unwilling souls, closer Nothing Looks The Same takes us away, a farewell perhaps not a goodbye but a departure all the same, one which sees our guide leaving her introspection and doubt to another day. The trip like this record is a complicated one, an assemblage of parts which at times manages to cut through its own contrivances and make you care deeply about every character wrapped up in it, but too often hope is weighed down by melancholy.

Tourist or resident? You’ll have to decide.

(Andy Peterson)

 

By Live4ever - Posted on 04 May 2019 at 5:23am 

Live Review: ‘The more it changed, the more it stayed the same’ – Live At Leeds 2019

Live At Leeds 2016 (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

For some reason this year’s Live at Leeds felt a little different. Maybe it was a bill lighter than previous ones on big names; possibly it was something to do with the weather, which was more typically northern Bank Holiday than 12 months ago. Whether this sensation was real or not, the same idea as usual still applied: get walking, get ducking into venues and get in front of some new music wherever possible.

On that note, the day opened at Hyde Park Book Club with In Your Prime, a youthful five-piece on home territory who play anthemic, hangover curing rock that brings back memories of Evanescence. In singer Ruby Cooke they have a front woman with lungs like bellows and in Handle With Care they have a song which could break them beyond they city’s confines.

There are fewer worries about profile for Paramore drummer Zac Farro, looking chic in a beret and striped t-shirt and enthusiastically fronting side project Halfnoise. A world away from the angsty heft of the mothership, his alter ego is psychedelic, soulful and, as you might expect, percussion heavy, as demonstrated ably on the likes of Scooby’s In The Back, Funny Feeling and disco stomper French Class.

 

Less minted but just as special are Cardiff’s Buzzard, Buzzard, Buzzard. Lead singer Tom’s dad used to drum for the Bay City Rollers and their retro-kitsch borrows much from T-Rex, with the swagger of Double Denim Bop leaving a bumper crowd riding their white swans in appreciation. Derbyshire-based Pattawa certainly can’t be accused of lacking a sense of humour after naming their last release London, Paris, New York, Matlock, and another thing they’ve got is the funk, especially on floor movers All The Time and Never Been Better. Also with tongues firmly planted in cheek are Dream Wife, whose self-titled debut album released last year won many friends for its punk sass and gender-conscious smartness. They announce mid-show that they’ve been writing the follow up in a Somerset barn and, as if they feel the story requires further evidence, then produce the tree stump on which bassist Bella Popadec conceptualised most of the material. Anyway, after inviting all the bad bitches down to the front they smash through a crisply energetic set which underlines their undoubted promise.

Another outfit with reasons to be optimistic are local lads Marsicans, due next month to appear on the undercard to Leeds royalty the Kaiser Chiefs at Elland Road; with a finely tuned ear for pop that gives songs like Your Eyes and Suburbs a poised gloss with substance underneath, they may yet emulate their hosts. A jog of sorts then makes catching the ever-wonderful Gengahr possible, with lead singer Felix Bushe simultaneously announcing the good news of their third album and the bad news that it won’t be out until next year.

Christopher Duncan’s miserly 30-minute turn is also as enjoyable as it is truncated, the Glaswegian still celebrating the release of his third album Health and its more expansive approach with new songs from it such as Talk Talk Talk and Holiday Home, still having time though to include the operatically beautiful Say. It was also a briefer than scheduled thing from She Drew The Gun, who right up until the point that singer Louise Roach suddenly left the stage for good had been delivering their melodic agit-prop with typical fiery aplomb. We learned later that the rapid curtailment was due to a Quorn allergy brought on by a vegan sausage roll.

Whether Dublin’s The Murder Capital are carnivores or not is unknown but despite their relative lack of profile, by the time besuited, bouncer-looking singer James McGovern takes to the Brudenell Stage word of mouth alone has the main room almost full. Redolent of Joy Division, their starkly landscaped post-punk is a tar-black revelation; McGovern spends part of the night letting the band’s twin guitar attack rend atoms from each other, seemingly lost in thought.

It got late and there were a number of worthy headliners we could’ve seen to close proceedings, but instead it was back to the former subterranean petrol tank that is Hyde Park Book Club to see Bilk, gobby Chelmsford grime punks with a yard of attitude and biting two minute sonic darts like CM2 and Slob. Coming over as sort of early Green Day meets The Streets, they were all the more loveable for it.

And so, another Live at Leeds had been and gone. The more it changed, the more it stayed the same, with sore feet and ringing ears the best reminders that safe and predictable should always be someone else’s problem.

(Andy Peterson)

 

By Live4ever - Posted on 08 May 2019 at 8:53am 

Album Review: The Chemical Brothers – No Geography

There’s a revelatory sort of freedom in dancing; whether it’s an act of provocation to those around you with a feverish, f*cks-not-given abandon, subliminally making the beast with two backs right in plain sight, or by losing your identity in a pack of unified ravers, at its root remains a primal impulse which five thousand years of civilisation has failed to destroy.

When Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands were doing just that in the late 1980s the sounds which would make you contemplate these little feats of rebellion were more interlocked with counter-culture; for years you were as likely to find a sound system being rolled up into a field was the property of people who got little out of walls, or laws.

The duo have been very careful to not navigate a direct path between that era of youthful hedonism and this of increasing authoritarian control and Britain’s lemming like progress towards cultural hari-kari, but No Geography’s tracklisting does it for them. Opener Eve of Destruction reads as apocryphal as anything they’ve ever recorded, but with its thumb-snapping bass and bubbling rave samples, the then could be now, a call to get our collective asses shakin’, to flip off the man and escape his mono-belief system and mind slavery.

 

This then is a world away from 2015’s lackluster Born In The Echoes; the pair who were as responsible for the underground becoming everyone’s playground seem to be spending this record on some sort of community payback scheme, splicing down the unnecessary dimensions to their sound by making collaboration the lesser of all evils. This trimmed sense of urgency is screw tight, brooding under strobes as on The Universe Sent Me, with Free Yourself’s AI-fed exhortations cryptic. Who wants to be liberated? Why? The questions come posed by a robotic upstart voice, bred from a broken algorithm.

Amongst the rubble found sounds and old, discombobulated voices have taken up the mantle of communicating emotions; the anonymous man with the time bomb that’s gone off inside him gives the corkscrew, dream like acid rips of MAH a dystopian air, somewhere inside it there’s a riot going on.

Every wise mentor though leads their flock through what are only possibilities, even if the choices presented are stark and primal, but then offers in amongst the splinters of normality a promise just as fundamental: hope. No Geography’s title-track is salvation in its broadest, watching the dawn break terms, a pulse that owes much to the societal optimism at the dawn of the computer age, of its naïve belief that boundaries would by now be just a memory.

Sometimes though the act is just enough no matter how little its meaning is for anyone else; on Got To Keep On the pair slip straight through into an alternative Balearic dimension that the pealing bells, frothing, happy hour synths and delirious sense of positivity makes into a playground for smiles, proving nirvana is in you forgetting your like count for good.

That’s what dancing teaches you, if you listen hard enough and are prepared to grab the accelerant, lessons that conditioning simply can’t suffocate. The Chemical Brothers have lit the fuse. No Geography could make you land just about anywhere.

(Andy Peterson)

 

By Live4ever - Posted on 03 May 2019 at 3:42am

Album Review: Gang Of Four – Happy Now



Andy Gill will pardon you, but he’s heard it all before – meaning the gag about since he’s now the only original member of Gang Of Four post the departure of Jon King wouldn’t it be better to call the group he now fronts Gang Of One or something?

He’d probably crack a smile but move on. Even if that first line-up, which coalesced around the Leeds University art-punk scene of the late nineteen seventies were still together, it could hardly be expected for them to fossilise; whilst the last album featuring King – 2011’s Content – was closer to the discordant, charged post-punk schema for which they were renowned, stasis has never really been Gill’s thing.

A curmudgeon who’s earned the right to be so, there’s still something very energising around him. Gill, Thomas McNeice, John ‘Gaoler’ Sterry and Tobias Humble are a new incarnation as V2.0, V3.0 or whatever number you want to ascribe to it, and Happy Now positively marks a re-tooling of their sound after the halfway house which was 2015’s What Happens Next.

 

One thing that hasn’t gone is the GoF standing commitment to remaining polemicists. Happy Now contains Ivanka – My Name’s On It, a scathing commentary on the First Daughter’s exhortations to humility and hard work in building fortune and character. Hanging together over industrial/funk programming and darkly soulful harmonies, in form it’s not unlike the recent John Grant collaboration Creep Show, delivering snark via a similarly impish twist to a long-established formula.

This man/machine flip is a tone that largely dominates; Gill using his autonomy, consciously reinventing to survive and not being entombed in the past. This tougher and more contemporary Gang Of Four continue to take matters into their own hands on Alpha Male – lyrically another shot aimed at Trump – but this is a record on which actions are forced to speak louder than words, Don’t Ask Me a confluence of beats and subversion that intends to kidnap minds losing it in a club as opposed to bodies wiping teargas from their eyes.

It is possible here, given Happy Now’s synthesis leans ever more heavily towards production than live instrumentation, of falling victim to conductor syndrome, where the players are relegated in the eyes of the public into little more than puppets. This isn’t a fit here; despite an obvious lack of dependence on the guitar-bass-drums formula, the album’s contours are still clearly felt, Paper Thin sounding like it could’ve been recorded in 1983 or 2013 but without the lack of depth that solo projects by any other name usually suffer from.

Few bands have tried to pull off what Gang Of Four are attempting to do, in keeping their loyalists happy whilst at the same time essentially steering a course directly away from them. Happy Now is the record Andy Gill wanted to make, when he wanted to make it, how he wanted to make it.

Even if the idea is sometimes more inspirational than the end result, it’s proof that old dogs can make up their own tricks.

(Andy Peterson)

By Live4ever - Posted on 12 Apr 2019 at 7:27am 

Live Review: ‘This is a band who know they are going places’ – Fontaines D.C. at Bristol Thekla

Fontaines D.C. performing at South By Southwest 2019 (Sam Huddleston / Live4ever)

There’s something special about watching a band live in the week they release their new album.

They’re normally brimming with energy and crackling with confidence, safe in the knowledge that their latest masterpiece is finally finished and about to be unleashed. That can be doubly applied to debut albums, when the finishing touches have been put on songs that have been worked over, pulled apart and reconstructed for years. Throw in the fact that a lifetime ambition has been achieved, and you can see why they are pleased.

So it is with Fontaines D.C. Their album Dogrel has been met with positive reviews, justifying their ‘ones to watch’ status. Promotion has been extensive and with this, the first night of the tour, expectations are high. They are ‘hot’. The crowd knows it; it’s body-to-body in the sold-out venue, one of those nights when you have to hold your drink to your chest because there’s nowhere else for it to go.

 

The boys from Dublin (ish) have the crowd in their hands as soon as they take to the stage. A sizeable chunk of the songs on display have already been released in some way shape or form, so there are singalongs a-plenty. Chequeless Reckless kicks things into gear, its jet plane guitars whipping the anticipation up some more before Big, which follows Supersonic and I Wanna Be Adored as a perfect mission statement: ‘my childhood was small but I’m gonna be big’. Few here would doubt that prediction.

They are a band in the truest sense; everyone has their role and obviously takes it very seriously. Frontman Grian Chatten has the slightly withdrawn confidence of Mark E Smith, his lyrics delivered in such a matter-of-fact way that you don’t doubt it’s anything but gospel. The rest of the band either look down at their instruments or, occasionally, at the whipped up crowd. They’ve honed this sound and these songs for years and aren’t going to mess it up now. The performance is minimalist but the music is powerful. The winding and claustrophobic Hurricane Laughter could go on forever and probably has done in rehearsals. It’s simple and intense, as Chatten repeats ‘there’s no connection available’ while all is refined chaos around him.

There’s a real wisdom and maturity beyond their years. Television Screens has levels of both anxiety and righteousness that should only come from experience. The Lotts sounds musically like The Cure and is a succinct epic, given more chops live by virtue of its insistence. More familiar tracks like Boys In The Better Land and Too Real are delivered with a bravado that must come from their roots; the whole album is loosely themed around Dublin and its gentrification, and it’s not hard to surmise that they’ve played most toilet venues and haven’t always been met with positivity. Indeed, the defiance it’s given birth to is their defining feature (‘as it stands, I’m about to make a lot of money’).

This is a band who know they are going places but will be unfazed by the stop-offs.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 12 Apr 2019 at 8:27am

Track Of The Week: Little Comets – American Tuna


Little Comets @ London Dingwalls (Photo: Alberto Pezzali for Live4ever Media)

Little Comets have Live4ever’s Track Of The Week with their new single American Tuna.

 

It comes soon after The Sneeze and Alive At All with 2019 shaping up to be a busy year for the band. A video will follow next week; “We couldn’t get permission to film using the paternosta lift at Sheffield University but as we had previous form there in crashing university lectures and playing songs, we decided to risk been thrown out again and went ahead anyway,” Rob Coles has said of it.

“The only time we got stopped was when a woman from one of the offices, which were on every floor, asked us what we were doing. Micky had provided everyone with cover stories so I told her that we were filming a video so I could propose to my girlfriend.”

“She was really lovely and said it was a very romantic thing to do so she left us to get on with it.”

 

By Live4ever - Posted on 30 Mar 2019 at 7:07am 

Live4ever Interview: As Brexit looms, on their return with new music Little Comets have a timely message


Little Comets @ London Dingwalls (Photo: Alberto Pezzali for Live4ever Media)

As we talk, Brexit is no closer to being resolved; it’s such a fast moving beast that by the time you read this, things will almost certainly have significantly changed, perhaps even in a decisive manner.

The after-effects will long be felt and seem to have had a disconcerting impact on the way discourse is conducted in the UK. As ever, Robert Coles and Little Comets are keeping a keen eye on the state of the world, but have a radical solution to the problems we in the western world are currently facing. It’s called listening.

“These days, when everything is kind of apocalyptic and negative – I was watching Question Time last night and the fact that people are just shouting at each other and arguing at each other – the thing is, with the way our media is, everything has to be black and white,” he says to Live4ever during our chat this month. “Everybody has to take a side.”

“Whereas yes Brexit is an important thing, but most people in our country have a lot more in common with each other than this one dividing line that someone’s just drawn. Regardless of what you think, you should be respectful and listen to someone’s point of view.” With some justification Coles, Little Comets’ singer, co-writer and guitarist, believes we as a society need to focus on what unites us rather than what divides.

“Try and focus on the things you have in common with people and the values that people have in common. It’s easy news to have two sides of the debate and polarise it. Sometimes I have 5Live on in the car and they just seem to get people with the most extreme point of view from either side, and they just put them in the bear pit. It’s fairly reductive.”

“The World Cup was a good example: even if you don’t like football people had a common goal to unite around. The atmosphere everywhere was far more communal and people had a smile on their face. You would more readily stop and speak to people you wouldn’t normally have a five-minute chat with. That’s the other side of it. But since then the negative news-stories have just been piling up. People are like, ‘oh well, we just need to get on with it’. It’s hard, it’s complicated. How many years’ work have gone into this relationship? This is a complex thing to get right.”

Little Comets are back, and not before time. It’s been two years since the release of their last album Worhead, the second on their own Smallest Label. But the trio are doing things are bit differently this time. They recently released a single entitled The Sneeze which followed hot on the heels of M62 in 2018. “I think we really enjoyed it a few years ago, when we started releasing things on our own label and had a really productive year,” Coles continues.

“We did three EPs and an album in the space of twelve months. It was nice to be constantly busy, and the good thing about having things like Spotify is that you can upload things straight away without necessarily playing the game of a release schedule. You can be quite fluid with it and that suits us. With our family situation we don’t tend to tour for 12 months and then be in the studio for 12 months. It’s a lot more piecemeal. The idea of uploading things as and when we finish them, and then putting them together for a physical release…I think that’s a pattern we’ll use over the next couple of years.”

Does this signify that the boys are giving up the ghost and turning their back on the traditional album format, which has apparently been dead for some time? “In terms of an album, because the songs are written in a similar timeframe and in a similar part of our lives that’s what gives our group of songs an identity and is the glue that keeps them together,” Coles says. “As long as we stick within time periods they’ll be quite cogent anyway. We will be doing the singles, but I still love the idea of producing something that people can hold and read. We do the artwork as well and I love that part of the process, decorating the cake. So we’ll still do that periodically because I think the songs will work together in an album format, simply because they’ve been done in a similar time. I think that’s what gives each of our albums a distinct sound rather than a conscious ‘this is the sound of this album’.”

As artists and musicians, Little Comets try not to stick to a regular style, format or cause, rather letting the process take its own natural journey. Yet sometimes it’s impossible to avoid the world around them. At the moment whichever newspaper headline you read, whichever television channel you watch, whichever social media platform you use, we seem to be at peak argument. Like there’s no escape. The Sneeze was an attempt to distance themselves and the listener from it. “The Sneeze was quite cathartic; the way things have been going the last couple of years, things seem to be heading in quite an ominous direction,” Coles believes.

“That’s what The Sneeze is about. On the front you can see a man-made disaster which could spell catastrophe just around the corner. It was nice to write about that. The video is quite intense so when we finished the process of the song and the mixing we were happy that it was out of us. When we did the video in Sheffield it was just around the time they were doing the real serious debate around the Brexit deal. We were listening to it all on the way home. It was almost purposely designed to turn yourself off from the process. I just felt so over-saturated with it so I just took no notice for two or three weeks. It’s dangerous because if you do turn off you’re just letting it wash over you, but I just think sometimes you need to do that.”

As hard as it is to believe right now, there is a future beyond March 29th, or even the end of June. The boys have big plans for the year. “We’ve got quite a bit coming up this year. We’ve got a bridging song which is quite a chilled out acoustic number coming out, then the one that sounds most like a single (American Tuna) coming last. That’ll be the start of April and then after that we’ve got a tour announcement, and we’ve done something a bit cheeky with the first album that’s kind of under wraps. Then the album at the end of the year. The next song is completely different from The Sneeze, it’s a lot more positive and upbeat. It’s a nice contrast really.”

And presumably there will be a tour to follow? “We normally do about 10-12 dates, but this one’s going to be a bit longer. We’re looking to do a few dates in Ireland which will be good because we haven’t been over for a few years now. We’d like to book some American dates as well. If you look at where people are when they listen to music, a lot of top cities on Spotify data are actually in the US so it would be a shame not to do a few dates over there. But again, it’s got to make sense as we don’t have a label to fund the shortfall.”

“It has its upsides but that’s certainly a downside, in terms of getting to a new territory because you just can’t afford to make a £50,000 loss on the tour. It’s just not happening. We’d try and consolidate it into two or three weeks. It wouldn’t be a ‘let’s go and try and break America’ 12 months. It’d really be making sure we’d get something tangible from it.”

For their first two albums, Little Comets were signed to Dirty Hit, home to The 1975, Wolf Alice and Pale Waves among others. One of the founders of the label was former footballer Ugo Ehiogu, who sadly died in 2017. Rob worked with Ehiogu as the label was forming and has positive memories. “It was really sad,” he tells Live4ever. “It was just after we’d left Columbia; I had an email from a guy called Jamie Oborne who manages The 1975. At the time he was setting up this new label and he said, ‘I’ve got a couple of other investors, one of whom is Ugo Ehiogu’. He said that he’d not necessarily made a lot of money from traditional investments, so he wanted to do something where he could have a bit of fun with it, and one passion he had was music.”

“So he came to a few gigs and we played football with him a couple of times. He was just a really lovely bloke. We hadn’t been working with Dirty for a few years, and I think he was taking a bit of a backseat because he hadn’t been coaching at Tottenham for that long. He was almost deciding what his next step was going to be, so it was a real shock. Such a shame, because not only was he a nice bloke but he seemed to be doing really well with his coaching career and he was obviously highly respected.”

Tellingly, the recollection brings to the forefront a key insight into Rob’s mindset, and a valuable lesson for us all: “Whenever anything like that happens you just try and relate it to your own life. You’ve just got to have fun with it really. Make positive decisions all the time.”

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 22 Mar 2019 at 9:26am 

Live4ever Presents: Dirty Laces


Rachel Brown

 

Who?

Charlie Jordan (Vocals)
Luke Dec ( Guitar)
Jacob Simpson (Guitar)
Tom Edwards (Bass)
Luke O’Reilly (Drums)

Where?

We’re all from around the Manchester / Oldham area, we rehearse in Chadderton.

Why?

Our influences vary between member, but I’d say the main drive behind our sound is influences from the 60’s and 70’s powerhouse bands like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but we definitely take a lot from the whole energy and principals of proto-punk bands like The Stooges and Mc5, and the intensity and raw energy that they brought live. But we’re not completely backwards looking when it comes to influences and the sound we’re trying to achieve, I’d say it’s important to pay respect to the great pioneers of Rock ‘n’ Roll whilst making material that sounds fresh and different.

How?

The band formed in 2017 when we were all currently just out of bands and looking for a new project to work on. We’d all by coincidence been in bands together previously at one point or another but they hadn’t really worked out, which tends to be the case on the local music scene as there are only so many like-minded musicians in one area. But Jacob and Luke were looking to find members and I knew Charlie from a recent band so we had the four of us and just were seeking out a drummer. We eventually ended up with Luke O’Reilly who is the final piece of the band completing our line-up.

Past?

We all work or are in uni currently, which is usually the challenging but necessary part of being in a up and coming band which requires vast amounts of time and funding to get going, but things are on the rise and we’re all driven to achieve the same goal and things are looking bright.

Present?

I think we’re starting to get on the path of having our own original sound which is mainly composed of catchy melodies and enticing guitar hooks with a driving rhythm section. We want people to come to our shows and have a good time, so we like to create high energy music people can dance to as the live show is such an imperative part of being a new band on the circuit. We want people to come back to our shows and bring more and more people every time.

Future?

We’re just constantly looking to get booked on bigger and better shows and festivals to mingle with our peers that have inspired us and play to larger audiences. But I think our main ambition overall is it to create new music and put on live shows that people are drawn into, as a band we feed off the energy of the audience so we just want to keep pushing that as it’s ultimately our fanbase that will lead us to success and help us rise.

Did you know?

We’ve had so many strange encounters it’s hard to narrow it down to one event. I definitely think having a Scottish pensioner force his way into the backstage area at one of our earlier gigs to eventually become our roadie and Derek Ryder that we can’t function without has been a great tale for the band. If you see Tommy at our gigs, say hello as he’s one of the nicest blokes you’ll meet.

What’s next?

We have a new record coming out in March, Moving Pictures, which is going out on a 7” that we can’t wait for people to get their hands on. We’re doing a headline show at the Night And Day Cafe to tie in with that along with a five-night tour of the south coast so March is a very busy month for us. We’ve also just announced we’re playing Kendal Calling this year along with Sound City Liverpool and Cotton Clouds, and we have recently supported Peter Doherty.

We’ve also made the final of the Northern Exposure Inmusic Festival competition which is at the Cavern Club on 26th March, the winner gets a slot at the Inmusic Festival in Zagreb. We do have some stiff competition in that one though. So it’s looking up for us, we have plenty in the pipeline with loads of stuff still to be announced.

Live4ever:

Manchester’s finest rock and roll risers have solidified a reputation by producing some of the best, and loudest, live shows. Their recordings are as compulsive as their gigs, something which Moving Pictures, the band’s latest offering, serves to demonstrate. While Dirty Laces pay their respects to bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, they apply the vibe of those bands in fresh, forward- thinking ways, and Moving Pictures delivers on several fronts.

By combining rock-solid rhythms, hooks, a tight chorus and sharp vocals, it produces qualities conventionally deemed much harder to achieve, and the single works its ambitious wonders throughout. It sounds cool and easy, but the band have been digging deep to achieve this one and what’s delivered is a big, well-executed sound; full of rock and roll magic from a young band that clearly have loads more to give.

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By Live4ever - Posted on 11 Mar 2019 at 9:26am 

 

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