Album Review: Hatchie – Keepsake



When does a comeback become the status quo?

In pop and rock music the last decade has been defined by being in thrall to the 1980s. The Decade That Fashion Forgot is perhaps the last great period of originality in music, and its legacy seems to grow ever stronger; Pale Waves could write the whole soundtrack to Stranger Things and no-one would notice, Fontaines D.C. have studied new wave in detail whilst The 1975, one of the UK’s biggest bands, aren’t fussy and channel the synth pop of the entire era. Aligned with the nostalgia for the era in pop culture as a whole, the whole decade is a well of inspiration that is perhaps never going to run dry.

Hatchie seems keenly aware of this: last year’s Sugar & Spice EP was a tantalising glimpse of her summery symphonies, and now we have the full debut Keepsake, its music reflecting the weather a Brisbane native might be accustomed to, if not those of us from certain other parts of the world, so bright and shining is it.

 

Not That Kind is widescreen indie pop with a glorious sheen that could lift the most maudlin of days, lead single Without A Blush a synth driven paean to the rigours of love, as much of the album is; ‘I didn’t want to end tonight, I didn’t want to end the dream’. Love, being the most relatable subject matter, is the over-arching theme of the album, to the point that it can become repetitive, but the surrounding music or vocals cover all manner of sins.

Hatchie’s vocals are generally all multi-tracked, with an ethereal quality that befits the subject matter. The sprinkles of shoegaze that accompany her pained singing on Her Own Heart (‘stay true to your heart but don’t look back) make it a particular standout, while the Smithsian guitars that kick in for the chorus on Secret easily outweigh the frustrating vocal delivery of the verse.

The guitars are also put to good use on the strutting and joyful Unwanted Guest, giving it a propulsion that is lacking elsewhere, while the solid bass on Kiss The Stars evokes the yearning pop of The Cranberries. Similarly, the drum machine on Obsessed adds some pace to the album, the guitar majesty of New Order thrown into the mix. Album closer Keep does the same trick, but this time it’s the frenetic nature of The Cure’s Why Can’t I Be You? that is the key source material. Lastly, When I Get Old is a masterclass in drum fills.

The 1980s introduced the synthesizer and the keyboard into the charts in a big way. Ironically, being the most computerised, those instruments are arguably the most effective at reflecting human emotion, therefore it’s probably unsurprising that it’s made such a comeback. In this day and age we are all indebted to computers, yet paradoxically we crave human emotion. A vicious cycle indeed. Hatchie manages to find the balance between the two and has crafted a more than promising debt.

Ultimately good pop will out, as it has done here.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 21 Jun 2019 at 9:44am 

Photos: Blossoms, The Blinders in Stockport for Edgeley Park gig


The Blinders supporting Blossoms at Edgeley Park in Stockport, June 2019 (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

The Blinders supporting Blossoms at Edgeley Park in Stockport, June 2019 (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

Blossoms were back in Stockport last weekend for another headline gig at Edgeley Park, showering their hometown crowd in the hits which have taken their two studio albums to the top reaches of the UK charts and made gigs such as this possible. With more than able support from the likes of The Blinders, this one might just have been their greatest night so far.

The Blinders were playing one of the highest profile shows so far after the release of debut album Columbia and a visit to South By Southwest in March when they spent some time with Live4ever.

“For those that haven’t had the pleasure of entering their ‘alternate world informed by reality’, it’s a wonderfully immersive place, not only because of the political allegories which are rife throughout but because of the imagery surrounding courtyards, kingdoms and older hierarchical societies managing to find the perfect balance between whimsy and social commentary,” our feature reads. “’That’s exactly what we wanted to put across’, Heywood informs us.”

“’We can’t think of a better way to enjoy our music. We’re not here to say something or change people’s minds on matters. Unfortunately, we’re the type of band to write as a mirror rather than give any answers to anything. We just write what we see and hold a mirror up to society. It’s there if you want to see it but it doesn’t have to be. Just tap your foot if you like.’”

 

By Live4ever - Posted on 24 Jun 2019 at 5:56am 

Morrissey announces summer gig in Manchester



Morrissey

Morrissey will be back in action at the Manchester Arena next month.

 

The gig has come out of the blue to say the least, announced on True To You to take place on August 20th, with tickets on sale from this Friday and support coming from Damian Dempsey.

Amidst an apparent lack of record company interest and various health problems which had affected tours around the world during his ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business‘ period, Morrissey had appeared to signal his intention to retire on the same website following a gig at the Eventim Apollo in September last year, writing there was, ‘no way that we can generate any interest from record labels in the United Kingdom’.

“There is absolutely no way that we can generate any interest from record labels in the United Kingdom, therefore the imminent two nights at Hammersmith are likely to be our final ever UK shows,” he continued.

By Live4ever - Posted on 05 Jul 2016 at 2:16pm 

Aurora, The Divine Comedy, Dinosaur Pile-Up lead UK Record Store Chart


Aurora performing at the Bristol Trinity in October 2016. (Photo: Jessica Bartolini for Live4ever)

Aurora performing at the Bristol Trinity (Photo: Jessica Bartolini for Live4ever)

Aurora, The Divine Comedy and Dinosaur Pile-Up have the highest new entries on this week’s UK Record Store Chart.

 

Last week’s number one – Further by Richard Hawley – and another new entry from Neil Young complete the Top 5, while Vampire Weekend climb to #12 with Father Of The Bride.

It was in 2012 when the Official Charts Company began acknowledging the comeback of vinyl which first started over a decade ago with Record Store Day by publishing a weekly Record Store Chart compiled from the best selling albums at 100 of Britain’s leading independent music shops.

UK Record Store Chart, Top 20:

1 – (new) Aurora – A Different Kind Of Human Step 2
2 – (new) The Divine Comedy – Office Politics
3 – (new) Dinosaur Pile-Up – Celebrity Mansions
4 – Richard Hawley – Further
5 – (new) Neil Young & Stray Gators – Tuscaloosa
6 – (new) Beatenberg – 12 Views Of Beatenberg
7 – (new) Bob Dylan – The Rolling Thunder Revue
8 – Pink Floyd – The Division Bell
9 – (new) Vanishing Twin – The Age Of Immunology
10 – (new) Peter Perrett – Humanworld
11 – (new) Wovoka Gentle – Start Clanging Cymbals
12 – Vampire Weekend – Father Of The Bride
13 – The National – I Am Easy To Find
14 – Amyl & The Sniffers – Amyl & The Sniffers
15 – Lewis Capaldi – Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent
16 – Pip Blom – Boat
17 – Rory Gallagher – Blues
18 – (new) Santana – Africa Speaks
19 – (new) Jamie Cullum – Taller
20 – Yonaka – Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow

By Live4ever - Posted on 15 Jun 2019 at 6:08am 

 

Album Review: Richard Hawley – Further


Now a relatively successful solo artist, Richard Hawley has had a lengthy career and is the definition of a cult hero.

But rather than peak early with a breakthrough hit or band, he simply and quietly goes about his business whilst going from strength to strength. As a member of the short-lived but never forgotten Longpigs in the 1990s, he briefly touched the top 40 then went to the top via All Saints’ cover of Under The Bridge (he recreated the famous guitar).

The King Of Sheffield has often been praised by Arctic Monkeys and was a semi-regular member of Pulp, but can claim none of the success of either. Further is his eighth studio album and, with all of the previous seven having been named after Sheffield icons or landmarks, offers insight into where his head is at.

 

The naming choices were at risk of becoming a gimmick, but Further adopts the same principle. Lyrically, the album is about ploughing forward and reaching out whilst at the same time looking into the distance, daydreaming.
Opener Off My Mind is a straight forward thrash, clocking in at under three minutes its immediacy sets the precedent for the album, no other songs lasting over four. Some of his previous laments, beautiful though they were, had a tendency to outstay their welcome and so the succinct approach suits him. It’s also a great rock and roll single, complete with squawking solo. Alone follows suit with a simplistic yet sweeping chord sequence. The strings soak the song in a melodrama which befits the title.

The album is roughly divided between guitar heavy blasts and the more sombre, intimate slices of observations that have long been the touchstone of Hawley’s career; My Little Treasures is based on conversations with friends of his father following his death some years ago. For whatever reason, perhaps because of the emotions attached to it, the song has been gestating for 12 years, and the wait has been worthwhile. It manages the rare feat of making the listener nostalgic on first listen.

The title-track is jaunty and romantic, while the elegant music hall of Emilina Says is this album’s mandatory kitchen sink tale. Elsewhere, Not Lonely might be the most fragile thing he’s ever done. On the other side of the coin, he’s evoking Britpop and garage on the rockier numbers. Is There A Pill is grandstanding, with a chorus very similar to Lennon’s Just Like Starting Over. Gallay Girl is unchallenging, but speaks to the soul not the heart, and Time Is has the scale and propulsion of Oasis. It’s much more straight-forward than the psychedelic envelope pushing he embraced on 2012’s Standing At The Sky’s Edge, but no less powerful.

Richard Hawley’s oak voice is the perfect accompaniment to those red wine fuelled nights of contemplation, his dexterity on guitar a perfect balance of breaking your heart, then giving you a hug and singing at the sky with you. Now nearly twenty years into his solo career, and still without a ‘hit’ to speak of (Tonight The Streets Are Ours would be his only single to come close), Hawley is rightly lauded amongst those in the know, easily able to sell out large venues and with A-list status on BBC 6Music.

On the basis of this, his well-most rounded album, that status will only be reinforced.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 30 May 2019 at 8:40am 

Live Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Heaton Park, Manchester


Noel Gallagher at the Leeds First Direct Arena during the Stranded On The Earth world tour (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

Lest we forget Big Brother.

During the past week it’s been something of a bonanza for those of a Gallagher persuasion. To recap, last week Noel released the main B-side of his forthcoming EP; within a matter of minutes Liam had stolen his thunder by unveiling a snippet of his own forthcoming single. Then the campaign for Liam’s second solo album began in earnest with an intimate gig, interviews aplenty and the required PR for a new documentary entitled As It Was.

Knowing what we know of Liam, it’s unlikely to be coincidental that all this took place in the week of his older brother’s biggest ever solo gig. Yet you wouldn’t know it: Noel continues to rise above with no acknowledgment tonight (June 7th).

There is enough to be going on with, not least of all the weather. The whole of the UK is feeling the effects of this sodden Friday, and it’s far from ideal for a big gig such as this.

 

That said, it is Manchester and the music of main support act Doves works well in this environment. Their music carries with it a bleak and industrial quality which fits the mood, but it’s a bit of a slow start. Snowden and Firesuite open the set and, as elegant as they are, lack the required power to grab attention. Fortunately, the stomping Black And White Town follows and lifts the crowd, the Motown beat getting the bodies dancing.

The hiatus hasn’t done them any harm, and the trio are clearly very comfortable working together again. Their best album, 2002’s The Last Broadcast, is most utilised for the set and from the moment Pounding is delivered midway the bar is raised. Caught By The River could keep rising forever, Last Broadcast is a winding, dramatic symphony and their dance roots are on full display for There Goes The Fear, but the highlight of the set is first album cut The Cedar Room, which is bruising but beautiful. Cockles warmed.

Still theoretically daylight but basically dark because of the weather, the stage is alight for the thunderous Fort Knox. The High Flying Birds currently number seven bodies, and all contribute to the cacophony of the opener. Ysee is a truly impressive singer, and nowhere is she better utilised than on the controversial track from 2017’s Who Built The Moon?, her vocals resonating across the field. The first half of the album makes up the first five songs of the set, and while the album wasn’t to everyone’s taste there’s no denying the tracks work really well live. The glam ride of Holy Mountain is now a favourite, and the band is stretched to the limits by the variation of Keep On Reaching and It’s A Beautiful World for different reasons; the former never stays still while the latter is a lesson of musical restraint. Elsewhere, new single Black Star Dancing slots into the set well, the bassline (‘borrowed’ from Bowie’s Fashion) sounding colossal in the open air.

After a testing opening for the parka monkeys, the band slip into more familiar territory. Talk Tonight, Little By Little and The Masterplan give 30,000 sets of lungs a good warm-up for Stop Crying Your Heart Out, the main set closer. At the time of release it was a perfect representation of where Oasis were in 2002; a number two single but a by-the-numbers flag bearer. Noel’s revaluation of the song reminds us that few of his peers have his knack for creating a chorus, the crowd likely heard from Manchester city centre four miles away. Likewise for the sublime Dead In The Water, surely one of the best things he’s done this century and proof that, even with the best production in the world, it always comes back to Gallagher’s songwriting.

The High Flying Birds were always meant to be an evolving collective (evidenced by Scissor Queen Charlotte Marionneau having to temporarily step away from the tour in the days leading up to the gig), but Gallagher will do well to better the current line-up. Mike Rowe, Chris Sharrock and Gem Archer all bring their Oasis experience to the table, but should never be taken for granted. In particular, Archer’s solos on both Little By Little and The Masterplan transcend the rest of the song. Equally, Jess Greenfield on keys and backing vocals adds a lightness of touch and a specific groove, and Zuton Russ Pritchard does everything that is asked of him on bass and is the tent pole around which everything else revolves.

The encore is a hat-trick of Oasis classics, Whatever, Half The World Away and Don’t Look Back In Anger, and by this point the band are accompanying the audience rather than vice versa. In a rare moment of interaction, Noel encourages a round of applause, not for the players but for the crowd. All You Need Is Love closes out the set and everyone heads off into the night, singing.

The excitement of the Oasis gigs was in part down to not knowing which band would turn up, whereas the High Flying Birds are much more consistent and are soaring at present.

That reunion just gets further and further away.

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 10 Jun 2019 at 8:13am 

Album Review: The National – I Am Easy To Find



When, last autumn, the perennially glum slowcore outfit Low announced the release of their twelfth long player Double Negative it didn’t feel like much of an event; simmering for more than 25 years, Alan Sparhawk’s canon had mostly been one to respect but not necessarily admire.

Its arrival heralded something quite different though; phased into despair by fake news and profoundly cathartic emotions, the Minnesotans built for themselves a revelatory new perspective, beckoning in swathes of distortion and processing which against the odds created a neo-classic. The National don’t have the sort of cult-only appeal required to just shred the past like that; their history is one in which, through being a shoulder to lean on over the last two decades, their warm but austere indie rock has become – in what counts for such in 2019 – mainstream.

But the times they are a changing. Their eighth album, I Am Easy to Find, keys into some of the prevailing winds of music making, collaborations and co-singing glued together with bursts of electronic noise, an approach which refocuses attention away from singer Matt Beringer’s often mournful tones.

 

It’s also accompanied by a short film directed by Mike Mills, a symbiosis which he describes as ‘hostile siblings that love to steal from each other’. Of course, such diversions are the prerogative of a band who’ve outlasted most of their Brooklynite kin to seek a different outcome, and on the opening track You Had Your Soul With You and later via Hairpin Turns it’s left to unfamiliar textures to fill the void their normally understated poise expands into.

Berninger appears on occasion to be deliberately avoiding the spotlight; former Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey leads confidently during her frequent appearances while Sharon Van Etten and Lisa Hannigan shoulder the responsibility on The Pull of You’s theatrics, one of the rare moments during which a pristinely running guitar seeks to pull matters back into more recognisable shapes.

At over an hour and with sixteen songs – brief instrumentals Her Father in The Pool and Underwater included – the overriding impression is of an installation in the process of being brought to life, the impressive sweep alone making it by far The National’s most ambitious project to date. To even attempt this requires courage enough to disenfranchise and sometimes fail – the funereally paced Not In Kansas lands right on the cusp of garbled self-indulgence – and the confidence to reinterpret fiercely, with the likes of Hey Rosey and Dust Swirls In Strange Light coming from a distant and alien sonic universe.

I Am Easy to Find is a title that begs analysis, a task The National’s serious and mindful fans will doubtless take on with particular relish. Literally, it’s the reassuring cry of a gentle friend when in need but scratch the surface and the listener is left with questions: how much of this relationship is real, and how much is imagined? What cherished notions of the past can still be relied upon? Maybe, as it turns out, we never knew them at all and this radicalism is a glimpse behind the curtain as the last threads of 20th century rock are consigned to memory.

It seems even the most familiar snakes can shed their skin.

(Andy Peterson)

By Live4ever - Posted on 27 May 2019 at 7:30am 

Live4ever Presents at SXSW 2019: Gallops


Gallops with Live4ever @ SXSW 2019 (Paul Bachmann / Live4ever)

To be an act of pure instrumentation requires control and consideration. Gallops are a case in point; they have been in action since 2007 and quickly found success via breakthrough single Crutches. Since then it’s been a tumultuous ride, and the band now operating under the name are a different proposition personnel-wise to the one which started this journey. But whilst every step has been laden with difficulties, a devotion to their craft has always been their guiding principle.

 

You’re all from Wales, were you friends?

Mark: We’re all from the same town (Wrexham) but it’s the type of town that’s really small. It’s small enough that anyone who’s a musician will end up bumping into each other at some point and that’s how we got to know each other, through mutual music friends. Gallops actually started with a band member who’s not in the band any more, obviously. We started out as not even a band really, just a bedroom project messing around on a laptop. This got picked up fairly quickly; we got a BBC Introducing play within three months of doing so. So we thought we’d do something with it. This is when we got Brad and another lad who used to play drums for us.

Liam: Then I joined and you’d had a few rehearsals. When I joined, Gallops’ official second show was live on BBC Radio One. No pressure!

What have been the key moments in your career?

Liam: I turned 18 when Gallops was a thing. They were a massive deal in Wrexham. I can remember going to a show at Central Station and it was the first Gallops show I’d been to. I was at the front and taking in everything that was happening.

And what about the present?

Mark: We’ve become free agents of late. We’re not with our record label anymore, we’re not with our management anymore. It’s given us an opportunity to sit back and look at what we do. We’re not professionals, we’re all nine-to-fivers. It’s difficult to have the band as we have to bills to pay, but it’s also quite refreshing to do what we want, when we want, on our own terms. Nothing’s forced. We’ll all have ideas that we want to develop but it happens as and when. It just makes it feel a bit more special than having to write an album as quick as you can.

And how about the future?

Mark: We’re in the middle of writing our next set of songs and making quite good headway on that. We’ve got a plan for the release. Our idea is to record maybe fifteen tracks and then do it across three EPs, then the fourth EP being a remix of the others. Just to respond to the immediate fix that people seem to want from music at the moment.

Brad: We’ve got a few shows over the summer coming up. And there is stuff in the pipeline that we can’t announce yet…

One of the big ongoing concerns at the moment is about bands having something to say. Where do you stand on that?

Mark: It’s great that everyone’s got a different take on our music. But it literally means nothing to us in that way. There’s nothing conceptual going on. All of our track titles are usually placeholders, for example. I’m certainly not interested in lyricists who put everything on a plate for you. Art should always be cryptic.

Liam: It’s better for it subjectively to mean something, otherwise there can’t be any debate on it. If you have different opinions on what something means, that’s more interesting.

So what are you inspired by, is it emotions?

Brad: It’s the discovery of using new emotions, or sounds, in an unconventional way which will spur us on to make new music and new sounds. That’s more inspiring that sitting down and writing a song on how I’m particularly feeling. On the new records there’s more sharing and splicing, where you can upload samples or sections so you’re being inspired by someone else’s inspiration. It’s a really strange way of writing but it’s so refreshing.

To what extent you’ve talked about what happened (Gallops 1.0 dying). Have you talked about it to any outlets at all?

Brad: Not officially, and the reason being I wouldn’t want to talk about some things. It just got to a point where it wasn’t working for all of us, including the people who aren’t in the band anymore. It was just a point in our lives where we all getting on each other’s nerves. On reflection, it was announced in quite a melodramatic way. At the time we had no intention of doing it (the band) again. We’re still friends with the guys that aren’t in the band anymore, we just weren’t feeling touring together and writing music together. And when it gets like that you should stop. I don’t think it’s good for anybody, the fans included, when you get to that point.

So what happened that it sprouted again?

Brad: A couple of things happened during that point. It doesn’t matter if the band abruptly ended or faded away, there’s always going to be a hunger to be creative. I met Liam at that point and we started a band up. Liam’s brother was the drummer and we were down a drummer so Liam came in. Mark was doing his thing. Maybe the hunger slowly came back. I just remember being sat at work and the phone goes off, and it’s Mark saying ‘do you fancy having a practice?’ or something along those lines.

Once you decided you were going to proceed as three piece, all the material that’s new was written by that point?

Brad: Yeah. It usually starts with one of us doing the basic bare bones of a track then it’s taken to a room for everyone to put their touch on it from there.

You mentioned that the direction is leaning towards more electronic, but there seems to be a mini-revival in guitar music happening, at least in our world. What’s your take on that?

Brad: First of all, that’s classic us!

Mark: I’ve learnt to play the triangle for the next record! I don’t personally think about what’s going on in the music industry. I don’t really care, it doesn’t affect what I do when I’m writing a piece of music. I’m still really into guitar music, but I’ve certainly been playing guitar long enough to get stuck in a rut with it, whereas I don’t have that issue when I’m playing with electronic music.

Liam: It gets to a point in some of the ideas we have where it feels like we’re shoehorning in parts because they’re expected to be there. There isn’t really a formula as to how things are done, so at the moment we’re enjoying writing without the guitars.

Mark: We’re not throwing our guitars in the bin. I think they will be there, just not as you know it. Not a traditional guitar, they are acting more like textures.

Brad: We don’t really care what instrument it is, as long as it sounds cool.

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By Live4ever - Posted on 23 May 2019 at 7:59am

Vampire Weekend premiere video for Father Of The Bride track This Life


Vampire Weekend (Photo: Paul Bachmann for Live4ever Media)

Ezra Koenig was a busy man during the build-up to Father Of The Bride’s release, and now Vampire Weekend‘s new album is out he’s wasted no time in premiering a video for This Life.

 

After an appearance at the Hangout Music Festival last week, the first round of North American touring behind Father Of The Bride is due to start at RBC Echo Beach in Toronto June 5th. “As trivial as it now seems, the contrast in image between mid-noughties British bands and their American counterparts couldn’t have been starker,” our album review begins.

“Whilst in the UK for the main part the look was leisure casual scruff, Vampire Weekend’s preppy neatness made them the outfit you could bring home to your parents.”

“The same confident message permeated their music, the sort of know-it-all montage of hip regalia which spoke to well curated record collections and luck meeting opportunity. Over a decade later however, most of their contemporaries – friend and foe – are little more than a memory, and Ezra Koenig’s role as captain of his ship has become ever more pronounced.”

By Live4ever - Posted on 21 May 2019 at 6:56am 

‘The pressure to be the voice of the people’: The Blinders with Live4ever at SXSW 2019

The Blinders with Live4ever @ SXSW 2019 (Paul Bachmann / Live4ever)

The pressure put on bands to represent the voice of the people – be it a specific generation, class or political inclination – is a curious one.

Few other creative types have such responsibility placed upon their shoulders, largely due to the unique passion and life-changing effect that only music can have. But spare a thought for those handling the pressure. Such is the absolute world that we now live in, to walk that tightrope is a thankless task.

“If you’re talking about politics it gives you a reason to be shut down,” ponders The Blinders’ Charlie McGough when talking to Live4ever at South By Southwest 2019. “If you’re just a band talking about your Friday night, what is there to criticise? If you then do or say something that might be politically incorrect, or make money from those reasons, then that’s a reason to disqualify anything of the band.”

Expecting sympathy for a trio of young men (Thomas Heywood, guitar and vocals; McGough on bass and Matt Neale on drums) who are living not only their dream but countess other peoples’ too may be optimistic, but some empathy should be applied. It’s not an original observation, but musicians earn a pittance of what they once did and yet because of social media are scrutinised more than ever: At the tail end of 2018 one of the band’s songs, the mighty Brave New World, was used on an advert for leading betting organisation William Hill.

Barbs were slung in their direction, of ‘selling out’ or being insincere. It did seem curious, an usual misstep in what had otherwise been a faultlessly principled journey. Debut album Columbia was met with acclaim, stocked to the gills with parallels of western culture viewed through a dystopian prism or righteous fury. To fall so quickly and controversially into the trap of capitalism seemed beneath them.

‘That nearly split up the band actually,” Heywood explains.

 

‘This was an argument we discussed for a very long time. We knew we would get flak for it, there was no question about that. The way we got around it was to preach to the converted. We saw Cabbage go on Soccer AM. That’s on Sky, everything that they talk against. Yet they wore the Justice For The 96 shirts. It’s something that nearly broke up the band and is one of those…The idea was to put the song out there to as many people as possible, and that was the only thing that could justify that. If it is justifiable.”

“We live in a capitalist society don’t we? That’s the nature of it,” McGough continues. “We sell t-shirts, we make profits on t-shirts but then you’ve got to make a profit to survive. The advert thing, it goes to pay off a debt with the record label that needs paying off.”

Context and compromise are key. In an ideal world, The Blinders wouldn’t have been in a position which could be perceived as selling out. Rock stars, like the rest of us, have to make ends meet. But the alternative would be for the band to cease functioning. Too heavy a price to pay for all of us. Not least for the band themselves, three childhood friends who have been playing music for as long as they can remember. It’s the familiar but heart-warming tale that Heywood regales us with; “We were all into similar music and we were the only ones that really played instruments. We went to secondary school together and we magnetised naturally through playing instruments, and the love and passion we shared for mutual bands.”

The trio are now based in Manchester but hail originally from Doncaster, a collection of villages in Yorkshire that, it’s probably fair to say, are not particularly renowned for rock heritage. The musical DNA of Doncaster is more based around an older tradition, explains Heywood. “My father was a brass band musician and so was my mother, so they were musicians in their own right, but they never forced me to go down the brass route! That’s the kind of thing that was in Doncaster. It’s in the blood, if you like.”

An aptitude for music is a start, but harnessing the sound takes time. Long hours are required in the practice room, but whilst in that grind it’s hard to see past the next rehearsal. Eventually, a leap of faith is required. The Blinders were lucky enough to have a helping hand.‘The bar where we used to play in Doncaster, we played there for our second or third gig I think it was,” McGough explains. ‘The guys who ran the bar stopped and watched us, and we’re now good friends with them. That felt like a good moment because it got us other shows. That was a catalyst at that early stage. They were the cool guys in town and to have their approval…”

All the band are in their twenties, but they are fast learners. The price of being in a larger, more culturally astute environment is that the competition is of a higher standard. This is especially true with a city like Manchester. From the Buzzcocks to Everything Everything, the Cottonopolis has always had a relevant stake in alternative music, ergo it would be easy to drown in the creativity. “You have to actively do something to stand out from the crowd,” argues Heywood. “We very quickly realised that we did have something to say. Whether or not we knew how we wanted to say it was a different matter. I think we’re still finding that out.”

For those that haven’t had the pleasure of entering their ‘alternate world informed by reality’, it’s a wonderfully immersive place, not only because of the political allegories which are rife throughout but because of the imagery surrounding courtyards, kingdoms and older hierarchical societies managing to find the perfect balance between whimsy and social commentary. “That’s exactly what we wanted to put across”, Heywood informs us.

“We can’t think of a better way to enjoy our music. We’re not here to say something or change people’s minds on matters. Unfortunately, we’re the type of band to write as a mirror rather than give any answers to anything. We just write what we see and hold a mirror up to society. It’s there if you want to see it but it doesn’t have to be. Just tap your foot if you like.”

The Blinders with Live4ever @ SXSW 2019 (Paul Bachmann / Live4ever)

So on to the future. It’s an old cliché that bands have twenty years to write their debut and a year to write their sophomore. Is a return trip to Columbia a possibility, or are we sailing for alternative shores? We’ll have to wait to find out.

“We’re always working on new material. We’ve really sunk our teeth into writing and creating music now we’ve been in the studio. We’ve seen what we have at our fingertips and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t push the boundaries. We’ve got about a dozen songs written over the last six months, give or take. We want to write double that by the summer.”

“We have sort of realised that we want to create as opposed to perform. So we’re focusing on a lot of new material and ways to try and take whatever we’ve got going on as far as we can as fast as we can. We have no intention of dabbling around the same sound – because we’ve been given the platform to do whatever we want, basically, we’re going to do that. That’s just how it feels with the future.”

Frustratingly cryptic but understandable. The Blinders have worked very hard so far, with attention paid to all elements of their output, be it the theatricality of their live shows (Heywood doubles as Johnny Dream onstage) to the over-riding themes mentioned on their album. Art should not be rushed, especially principled art. However, demonstrating you have some form of social conscience arms your critics, as the furore over the William Hill advert proved. The issue clearly still rankles with the band, if only because they resent being confronted with the dilemma in the first place. McGough elaborates:

“Although that sits uncomfortably with you, what do you do? What is the answer? Arctic Monkeys might get criticised for not saying enough, but that’s OK because they’re making money so they don’t have a voice, basically. Then Bono stands in front of 90,000 people and makes however much from the Zoo TV tour but then gets criticised. So where is the balance?”

“They all do it. Bruce Springsteen is outspoken and one of the richest men in the country. U2 are invalidated because they don’t pay their tax in Ireland. That’s fair enough; criticise a band for letting their music be on a betting advert. Choose to listen to that band or not then. But you’ve got to understand that money has to be made somewhere. I don’t know whether that’s a valid point or not.”

The issue has clearly strengthened the band’s resolve and made them arguably even stronger and closer. This is a band who thrive on conversation and debate. “I think in this day and age it’s a very private world we live in, as well as very open. I don’t think we’ll ever get people coming and discussing open politics. But if, as a consequence of listening to our music or coming to one of our shows, that triggers something in their minds…” Heywood makes no bones about their stance, whatever Joe Public thinks.

“We have no intention of shoving this down people’s throats. It’s just what we’re writing about and what feels natural to us. If people get behind it then they get behind it.”

“Isn’t that what all music is, really?”

(Richard Bowes)

By Live4ever - Posted on 16 May 2019 at 8:16am

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