Live Review ::: John Carroll + Ross GB @ Loopy, Hangzhou (Thursday 31st May)

JC TOUR,jpgFirst up we have a performer we’ve never come across. We’re glad we stumbled upon him tonight. Originally from the US and now living in Shanghai, Ross GB kicks off the evening’s musical proceedings. Armed with guitar, pedals and a good voice to boot we’re treated to a set of songs catchy enough to leave us wanting more. Ross GB’s influences are not immediately obvious. So we’d assume they must be wide-ranging. An interesting artist. Find him on Bandcamp here.

Given the fact he’s been traveling all around China on the weekends and this is his final spring tour date you’d be forgiven for assuming John Carroll would be a little worn out from the road. But he emerges seeming as energized as ever, a lean, mean songwriting machine. Opening with ‘Gravedigger’, it’s immediately obvious the constant gigging has made him very much on top of his game – those arms and fingers fully whipped into shape. The voice is slightly on the hoarse side and whether that’s the result of singing his heart out show after show or the air pollution is anyone’s guess. But a bit of a rasp can often add more than it takes away and with tracks such as ‘Ambushed From All Sides’ and ‘Thin Air’ this is definitely true. Also benefiting from a bit of grit tonight are ‘If You Know How’ and ‘Snare Traps’. Whilst golden oldies such as ‘Don’t Shield Your Eyes’ and some interesting cover versions in the form of ‘Ask’ (The Smiths) and ‘Never Talking To You’ (Husker Du) are extremely pleasing on the ears, when Carroll drops down a notch for some tender moments with the songs ‘Migrant Bird’ and ‘Great White Shark’ the natural talent really stands out – songsmithery at its finest.

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Whilst Carroll’s most recent album ‘Aviation’ forms a marked contrast to what preceded it in the form of ‘Cenotaph Tapes’, in that it is arguably a lot more expansive and experimental in its layering of different textures and sounds, this evening we are reminded that at its core it’s still all about the songs, as it should be. In essence, it’s striking how well this material works with just vocal and a guitar, once everything else is stripped away. Let’s hope it’s not too long until we have a new EP or album and that we see both of tonight’s artists playing live in Hangzhou again before too long. In the meantime, purchase some music here.

 

Photos by Noora.

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Beat The Babble ::: Album Review

In an age where everything in the charts is so smoothly processed and engineered it can sound like most music has had near all trace of human removed. ‘Beat The Babble’ by Alex Dingley makes a refreshing change.

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The short bass scale, the last note of which is left to hang, on opener ‘After the Laughter’ creates a startling juxtaposition with the instrumentation surrounding it. The impression is immediately created this is an artist not uncomfortable with going against the grain.

By the second track ‘Between the Sheets’ the absence of a big drum sound creates a lot of space that allows a rudimentary piano line to shine and is strangely emotive. It’s over just as you’re hooked – a neat trick. No monotony here.

Back to the distinctive bass with ‘Butterfly Corpses’. There’s a notable crackle on my right speaker from the guitar. A delightful little lofi touch, intended or otherwise. Hailing as Dingley does from the same part of the world as Cate Le Bon, I wouldn’t go so far as to state her influence is very obviously felt on this LP as perhaps these are artists who have more influenced each other. But there’s undoubtedly certain similarities regarding the overall sound.

‘I Don’t Ever’ has an addictive vocal melody line that will worm its way into your head. Whilst there’s something magical and quintessentially Welsh about the vibe of this track, and indeed the album in general, it’s also conjuring up a hint of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah which is never a bad thing in my view.

‘Lovely Life to Leave’ is a more melancholy track, as the title might suggest. It’s actually a song you could imagine a big hitting artist covering. But it’s best not to. Better to relish it as it is – natural and rough around the edges. The drums are nicely understated and add to the endearing nature of the whole tune.

‘Not Alone in the Dark’ might be a song you’re familiar with if you’ve checked out Dingley’s music videos. I think we can safely surmise at this juncture that Beat The Babble definitely has its own bass sound which intermittently appears to help characterize this record. The net result is a little bit Television. Again, never a sin.

‘If I Asked You to Dance’ begins with a zany rhythm and a cutesy little lyric. The ‘ahs’ remind me of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ or is that just me? This is a lovely little number and the sparseness of the arrangement really elevates how it registers emotionally.

This record is less than half an hour long and the minutes are flying by. You may already be thinking about hitting play again when ‘She Just Came By To Say Hello’ makes its presence felt. This is the biggest sounding track so far. The organ really gives it a different kind of feel before some wacky noodling kicks in. Just as you’re thinking Dingley is going for something more conventional sounding we’re reminded of the playful attitude that permeates his work. The track completely changes direction and it all gets rather jaunty. Brilliant.

We’re back to the chunky bass that underpins this whole album experience with ‘One Good Idea’. Again Dingley serves up a joyfully bonkers diversion before returning to the basic song structure and the track’s over before two and a half minutes is up. It might be worth nothing at this point that the previous song is in fact the only number that comes in over three minutes.

‘In The End’, and the nature of the song before it, neatly encapsulates the essence of this record. It swings like a pendulum back and forth from playful angular patterns to the type of emotional sincerity that can’t help but pull at the most curmudgeonly listener’s heart strings. It’s wonderful to hear something that completely sidesteps the often unquestioned wisdom concerning modern production and provides at times an almost bare bones feel. If you’re a fan of anything from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci to Cate Le Bon we’d predict you’ll get a lot out of this album. If you wait until June 15th there’ll be a new physical release to get your hands on. Treat yourself.

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Alex Dingley ::: Interview

2015-12-18 13.12.32TSOFDs: Hi Alex. This album you’re promoting, ‘Beat The Babble’, actually first came out in 2016. Why the re-release?

AD: Hi TSOFDs! Personally, I’d describe it as a ‘UK physical release’, rather then a ‘re-release’, but the global availability of music through the scattergun lens of the internet has blurred the lines there slightly! Beat the Babble originally came out in the USA on Tim Presley’s Birth Records.  It felt amazing to have a record out in the States but, as it so often does, reality came along and kicked the doors in! Promoters were telling us that they couldn’t push the record in America, and we were trying to sell vinyl in the UK as a (horribly expensive) US import. It took a while to find a home for the record this side of the Atlantic, but eventually we found a safe berth with Libertino Records.

TSOFDs: Gotcha. You worked with Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley on this record. Can you tell us about the kind of input they had? How did it change the way you work or your overall sound?

AD: Ah, it was just huge. I asked Cate to produce the record for me and the first influence she had was to change my mentality of what could be achieved. I was toying with the idea of recording on a 4-track in a New York basement, or renting a house in Alaska, or making field recordings driving a caravan across America. Anything to make it an adventure.

Getting out of my comfort zone was the one thing I really cared about. I was also self-financing the recording, so a BIG question was what I could afford to do. She convinced me to book a proper studio, and showed me that there’s funding for the arts out there that you can apply for if you need to make these things happen and believe in them enough to go through all of the paperwork. In the meantime, she and Tim had released the first Drinks record,  ‘Hermits on Holiday’, which was one of my favourite LPs of that year, so when she offered to bring Tim along to co-produce it was like being asked to make a record with your favourite band. When does that ever happen?!

The songs on Beat The Babble were mine, but in terms of recording ‘tracks’, we worked collaboratively, democratically, and tried to take creatively bold decisions. I left them to their own devices as far as they would let me and the sessions rolled forward under their own momentum. It was a dream of a record to make. Cate brings  a wonderful poise and otherworldly aesthetic to everything she does. All her work is under the surface, whilst Tim bubbles and swings like an untethered hosepipe. They combine wonderfully.

Samur Khouja also deserves a lot of credit for the sound. He engineered the session and mixed the tracks in real time, which adds to the record’s intimacy. My wife Swci Delic made the cover art in the next room as she listened to us record. Everything was self-contained, and every creative decision influenced the next one. It was an album made on gut instinct. It’s like a photograph of that time for me. I’m very fond of it.

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TSOFDs: Do you feel like recording in such a wildly different location as California made the record sound markedly different to how it would have sounded if you’d recorded it in Wales with the same people? How much can a change of environment affect what happens?

AD: Absolutely! Environment has a massive effect, and if it doesn’t then you’re making a record based on what you’ve remembered, or what you’ve practiced, or what you think it should be like. That’s a photocopy of a record. It’s taxidermy. What’s the point in that? You need to be switched on, and be in the now, and your surroundings MUST seep into the recordings. Of course, the effect for us was more pronounced as we were writing the album rather then just recording it. California focused me in a way that I’d have struggled to have achieved in Wales, where you’re always a phone call or text message away from sinking back into a feedback loop of domestic responsibility. Out there I could be selfish. It was exciting!

TSOFDs: We’d love to hear more about where you come from in Wales. What was it like growing up in terms of access to music, playing gigs, meeting other people into the same kind of thing as you?

AD: I come from a village called Llansteffan, which is just outside Carmarthen. Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse is just across the Tâf from us, and Fern Hill is just up the road. It’s the sort of place that gets left to its own devices, and where you make your own entertainment. Touring bands never really played anywhere near us, but there was a strong Welsh language music scene, and lots of people who threw themselves into music with passion and idealism. Gigs were really wild and chaotic, and quite drunken!

Gorkies went to school in town.  When I started school, they had just left to represent West Wales at Britpop. They inspired a lot of people and left field bands were springing up everywhere, so it didn’t feel hard to meet like-minded people. It was a really exciting time and place to be growing up.

TSOFDs: Sounds an absolutely magical place. You mention how inspiring Gorkies were – it’d be great if you could tell us about how you write and perhaps inspire some of our readers. Do you find songs come easily to you or is it quite a painful process? How does a song tend to start – with a lyric or a melody?

AD: It’s only a painful process if I have a deadline. If I HAVE to write something then it’s like pulling teeth to me. I try to avoid this by always having something on the boil. It’s quite hard to describe my process, as it’s something I don’t really want to understand myself. It usually starts as a stream of consciousnesses (or subconsciousness), nothing, nothing, nothing, then a hook, or a melody will jump out and demand to have more attention lavished upon it.

I’ll try to give it some kind of ‘form’ then I’ll add it to my pile of half finished songs and ignore it. I hate finishing songs. I enjoy the sense of potential that a song has until it’s finished.

Once I have a recording session booked, I’ll arrange all of these half finished snippets around me and try to piece them together into songs. Nothing is finished at this point, so the possibilities are still endless – which is exciting! There’s a lot of ripping up and starting again. Sometimes nothing will survive. Sometimes a snatch of melody will jump to a different song entirely. Sometimes three songs will become one, sometimes one song will split into two. The lyrics are usually finished five minutes before the vocals are recorded. Et voilà! Easy?

TSOFDs: Haha. Fascinating. You’re obviously promoted as a solo artist but how much of what the listener hears on your records is you? Do you play all of the instruments or are there times when you seek out different people who you know can offer something different?

AD: I was in a band for years, where you fight for input, and lose more battles then you win, so when I went solo I had this greed to do everything. I was THAT kid, in THAT sweet shop!

Since those early days I’ve swung back the other way. Music at its heart is about people, and for that reason you need to open yourself up and trust people, and let them in. The trick obviously, is to find the right people…

In regards to Beat The Babble, I’m at the centre of it, but there’s so much more going on than just me. Cate and Tim found the holes in the songs and plugged them, and much of how they did so is a mystery to me, which I love! That’s the beauty of human collaboration at its purest level. There’s real magic in it.

2015-12-14 10.52.37TSOFDs: What about outside your immediate circle of collaborators? Can you pinpoint any artists that have had a specific influence on the way you sound?

AD: I learnt how to play guitar from a ‘Definitely Maybe’ tab book. I’ve spent all the years since trying to unlearn those guitar shapes and string bends, but there’s some powerful muscle memory there! I can still hear Definitely Maybe in everything I do, even if nobody else can.

When I was younger, music was all about trying to sound like the bands you loved. Now, the opposite is true for me. If I feel myself going too close to something I admire then I back away from it. I just love songs, and melodies, and lyrics, and rhythms and the craft and puzzle of putting them all together, and giving them that spark of life. I admire anyone who finds new ground to tread, lyrically or musically, or who treads the old ground so well that it sounds new.

TSOFDs: You are one of a number of interesting artists to emerge from Wales in recent years. We’ve mentioned Cate Le Bon obviously but Gwenno also springs to mind. Is there anyone back in Carmarthenshire you’d urge our readers to take note of that perhaps hasn’t received the credit their work warrants?

AD: Thank you. You can come again! You should look out for Accü. Like Cate and Gwenno, she radiates creativity, and does so in her own intelligent and idiosyncratic way.

TSOFDs: Thanks for the tip! What’s on the horizon in terms of gigs – where can people see/hear you perform songs from Beat The Babble?

AD: We’re launching the record at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff on June 16th. Gruff at Libertino Records is then looking at putting together a run of gigs as part of a label package tour. There’ll be more information via the label’s website as it comes through so watch this space as they say!

TSOFDs: Excellent. Look out for that UK gig goers and if anyone fancies writing a review and sending it our way we’d be happy to consider publishing it. What about after that? We’d imagine since the initial release in 2016 that you’ve been working on a fair bit of newer material since then – any plans to hit us with a quick follow-up?

AD: As I write this I’m sat atop a huge pile of half finished songs, scribbled lyrics and ideas waiting to be resolved! It’s a huge jigsaw and there’s no picture on the box. It could be anything. I want to get into the studio later in the year to sort it all out!

TSOFDs: Ace. Please keep us posted on any future releases. And thanks so much for giving us such a big chunk of your time for this interview. It’s been very illuminating. We’re really buzzing to have stumbled upon this record as we missed it the first time round – best of luck with it all.

AD: Ah thank you! That’s very kind of you! I’m very glad you found it!

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Find out more about Alex Dingley and ‘Beat The Babble’ here.

 

 

 

Junks ::: Interview

We’ve interviewed David from Junks after a festival before. Rewind to Hangzhou’s Xihu Festival in 2016 and you’ll find the lead singer and songwriter of the band, also known as Ectoplazm in his capacity as an increasingly sought after DJ, was already something of a seasoned pro when it came to the B I G gig circuit. We were keen to assess how much the festival landscape has changed in China, what Junks have been up to and what’s on the horizon for the group…

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TSOFDs: You’ve done your fair share of festivals over the years, both in the UK and in China in various different bands. Does any particular festival stand out in terms of being a favorite? How does Strawberry Festival rate – one of the best you’ve played? Are Chinese festivals as fun as UK ones?

DK: Last year Junks played at Yo! Sissy Festival in Berlin, which is an LGBTQ festival and memorable for the amount of crazily dressed people, variety of acts and decidedly not-your-average-festival-vibe. Plus, it was the first time that Junks had played outside of China. Overall, I suppose playing a packed John Peel Tent at Glastonbury Festival (with one of my previous bands, Tiny Dancers) has to rank as a highlight, but I’d definitely say that Strawberry Festival is up there too, as Chinese festivals and the crowds are really fun and responsive to our music.

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TSOFDs: If we’re going to do favorite festival we might as well ask you about your worst festival experience – any instances where you’ve been spiked with mescaline and locked inside a portaloo with nothing but wellies on?

DK: At Leeds Festival in 1999 my friends and I (we were punters, not performers) got mugged by a bunch of hammer-wielding scallies who forced us to sing Oasis’ ‘Sunday Morning Call’ before robbing us. So we were humiliated and burgled – which kind of sucks! I would have much preferred to have sung ‘Slide Away’ or ‘Bonehead’s Bank Holiday’ too…

TSOFDs: Nasty! Tell us about which acts you saw at Strawberry which blew your mind. If you’re going to pick a relatively well known Western act it would also be great if you could tell us about a hot new China-based band you saw at the festival we should keep our eyes/ears on.

DK: I watched a slice of Liars’ set at the Beijing location, and they were an awesome live band: full of menace, tight as a pair of Superman’s Y-Fronts and had good tunes too. Unfortunately, as is usually the case when you play a festival, I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked due to the logistics of playing two festivals in two days, but I did manage to watch parts of both 大波浪’s   and 挂在盒子上’s shows. I was really impressed by their sound, songs, image and presentation. There are some great bands in China making cool, interesting and fresh music, no doubts about it!

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TSOFDs: Festivals in the West are getting increasingly sophisticated given the range of things on offer from bespoke yurts to craft ales and a mouth watering array of foods, with plenty on offer for the vegans and vegetarians among us. How do Chinese festivals compare in this sense – have you had much of a chance to see what it’s like for the punters?

DK: This year’s Strawberry Festival was pretty sophisticated I’d say, with lots of good food options and at least cold beers (no craft ales, alas) on offer and cocktails, etc. I didn’t see any yurts or glamping options but I’m not sure that the camping thing has really latched on in China yet, has it? There were a smattering of tents but not many. I’m not sure if China will ever fully embrace the trench-like atmosphere of UK festivals in the rain – but why the hell would they want to?

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TSOFDs: Haha fair point. We’ve heard rumors there’s an official Junks release in the pipeline? Any news you want to share with us? Readers can find some great Junks tracks and videos out in Internet land already of course (click here for a unique take on a Nirvana classic) – do you even think it’s necessary to release EPs and albums these days what with the average streamer being so fickle and the increasing domination of Spotify playlists?

DK: The rumors are indeed true, and we will – at long last – actually be releasing some music in a more official capacity later this summer, through Modern Sky USA. We’ll start with a single and some remixes, plus an MV, before dropping an EP on vinyl, digital and streaming sites soon after. I still think releasing singles or albums or whatever is absolutely still a good thing, and if anything it forces producers and musicians to put a full stop after certain songs or collections of songs and to move on. Sometimes my problem is that I’m a perfectionist in some ways, so I’m hesitant to release things until everything (the sound, the distribution, the image, the promo, etc) is all exactly how it should be. I’m a bit more relaxed now however and just figure it’s better to get it out there and keep moving forward than waiting around for the stars to align. Plus, if you release something officially (whether that be with a label or by yourself) it can help you in terms of promotion and maybe even live booking as it draws attention to the band from the media and taste-makers who will maybe take you a little more seriously if you have an actual record out. And having your own vinyl is cool AF! But the opposite may just as well be true so really who knows?

TSOFDs: Salient points and well made. Thanks for putting aside the time to give us the skinny on festival life and what the future holds for Junks – hope to see you perform at another festival before too long.

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Interview ::: Say Sue Me

Say Sue Me hail from Busan, South Korea. After hearing the group via Bandcamp Daily, we were determined to reach out. So reach out we did.

Say-Sue-Me-3-smallerTSOFDs: Hi. Thanks a lot for communicating with us. We’ve read that your influences span from Dick Dale and The Beach Boys through to Pavement and Yo La Tengo, but are there any South Korean bands that have influenced you or an act on your local music scene you think our readers should check out?

SSM: In Korea, the music scene is mostly concentrated in the Hongdae area in Seoul. We’re Busan-based, so we’re far from Hongdae and its trends and energy, but from that scene we’d like to recommend Cogason. As for bands from our hometown, Busan, we’d recommend Genius. We think of these bands as our best friends.

TSOFDs: How can we resist a band called Genius? You’re currently in the UK touring. At the time of TSOFDs emailing you this you’re probably winding down after playing the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. How have you been enjoying the gigs – any British food you’re getting attached to? Been trying the local beers?

SSM: Leeds is truly a beautiful city. Sadly, we couldn’t see much of it apart from what was near the venue, but what we saw felt like a quintessentially English town to us. The crowds have been packed, and it’s been beautiful to see them watching us right back. I had a meat pie in the venue and heard this was a very English food item. I couldn’t finish it, but the combination of meat and pie was fascinating. We’re sad that we haven’t had a chance to try much local beer, but I had an East London Brewing pale ale with fish and chips and that might’ve been the highlight of the tour.


TSOFDs: Haha with your love of food I think you would enjoy playing in China. Have you been to China or is China a country you can see yourself visiting to play gigs in soon?

SSM: We haven’t been to China yet! I’ve always wondered about it and wanted to go though, as it’s an Asian country but so different from Korea. I really want to play there, and if we get the chance we’d be there in a flash.

TSOFDs: Let’s make it happen! You’re quoted as stating musicians in Busan don’t play to ‘gain popularity’ but as a band that has been covered by the likes of Pitchfork, Stereogum, and now of course, reached the dizzying heights of TSOFDs, you are, arguably, increasingly popular. What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring musicians? Perhaps there’s something you know now that you wished you’d known when you first started?

SSM: Honestly, it’s still difficult to feel that we’re popular. Why? It’s been getting better gradually, but we still feel that interest about us in Korea isn’t so high. There aren’t as many people coming to the venues as we’ve seen abroad. However, media interest has been promising and I hope that as journalists keep talking about us, the buzz will grow. Sorry, but we don’t have any insightful advice. The most important thing is to start. And keep starting. Don’t get impatient. Believe in yourself and what you’re doing, and then keep doing it. That’s all we can say so far. Really though the most important thing is your health. I wish I would’ve known that earlier. We might’ve drunk a little too much for fun…. We’ve had great times, so we don’t regret anything, but it might’ve been nice to take it easy? Heh heh…

TSOFDs: No, there’s some good advice there. OK. The music. We’re loving the sound of your recordings. What can you tell us about the process?

SSM: For the new album ‘Where We Were Together’, we used a Macbook and Logic to record demos and then tracked the songs at Mushroom Recording in Seoul. Before this, we used GarageBand and our cell phones to demo the songs on ‘We’ve Sobered Up’ and the ‘Big Summer Night’ EP and then recorded right in our practice room for a naturally lo-fi sound. Our new album is the first we’ve recorded professionally and personally I think this method is better for us. We could try different instruments, set-ups, and methods we’d have never thought of on our own, so while we might’ve had prejudices before, we became more accepting of change. Here’s the biggest secret: we like having complete song structures and a definite sound in mind when we walk into the studio, but we’re open to hearing advice from our engineers. There’s nothing wrong with their input…as long as it’s useful!

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TSOFDs: If someone was spending the day in Busan tell us how they should spend their day and evening. What should they have to eat for example? Where should they visit or go to for a gig?

SSM: We have a member we’ve nicknamed Mr BB, or Mister Big Breakfast. Actually, it’s just our bassist Jaeyoung. According to him, you should start with a delicious breakfast of 복국 (pufferfish soup). It’s a great help for those who might’ve enjoyed themselves too much the night before. For lunch, he recommends a Busan signature dish, 밀면 (noodles made of wheat flour, and sweet potato and potato starch, in a meat broth). Sounds tasty, right? It’s served cold with a spicy chili paste: very refreshing and stimulating. After lunch, there’s nothing special to do, but he wants to stroll along our sanctuary, the Gwangalli beach. Listening to our music while strolling would be great. Now for dinner: Korean style BBQ with the national liquor, soju. Yum! If you’d like to enjoy some drinks afterwards, he’d take you to 백석 (Baekseok) near Busan National University. Forget a gig! This cozy bar has plenty of vinyl and you can play the songs you want to hear. It’s a wicked place though. Here, as if by magic, you’ll lose all desire to go home and, instead, just keep drinking with your lovely friends. By the way, Jaeyoung is single. Message him.

TSOFDs: Haha great answers. Thanks so much for your time and have an amazing adventure regarding the rest of your European tour. Eat some croissants for us in Paris.

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Interview ::: Yuck

We’re ecstatic to be able to give you a Q&A with Max Bloom from Yuck.

Let’s get to it.

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TSOFDs: Thanks for conversing with us. It’s been a little while now since your last album (Stranger Things, 2016) so, first of all, any news regarding a new release?

MB: No problem! To be honest we’re not really thinking about making new music right now, we’ve been touring and releasing records for a long time so we’re taking a little break from that. We’re all still making music though.

TSOFDs: When I saw you were playing dates in China I began re-listening to your 2011 debut (Yuck, 2011). They were hazy days but I obviously played that record a lot when it first came out as it immediately felt really familiar to me. A lot has happened to me since that album was released. How have things changed for your band since you first broke through and what has stayed the same?

MB: It’s hard to say what’s changed because I don’t really remember much about that time, but I think when any band writes their debut record it’s a very different experience to writing their second or third. When you’re doing your first record, you’re not thinking about things like labels, releases or your audience, you’re just thinking about the music itself. So in a way, the first record is the most ‘pure’ version you’ll ever hear of a band. Our second and third records are more self-aware in a way, but sometimes that’s interesting to hear within the context of a band’s career.

TSOFDs: Do you still remember that material and those earlier times fondly and will we hear any of the older material when you play in China?

MB: We always play a few of the older songs, just because I think it would be a shame not to. I always hate seeing a band when they only play their new stuff. I remember a lot about those early days, some things negative and some things positive, all of it incredible.


TSOFDs: I was originally drawn to your band because you seemed to dig exactly the same kind of music I was into in my teens and still revisit regularly. Perhaps some people reading this, particularly those based in China, might not make the same connections because they won’t have grown up listening to the same bands necessarily. Can you tell our readers some of your key influences and which albums by those bands they should check out?

MB: When we made the first album, I was in the process of discovering a few bands that changed my life. One of the bands that sticks out is Sleater-Kinney. I remember watching a show on MTV2 called 120 minutes (it’s not on air anymore) where they used to play all the videos that were too old or unpopular to play during the day. A song called ‘Get Up’ came on, and I was blown away. After that I bought The Hot Rock, and I still listen to that record today. Another of those bands was Sonic Youth, and then there was also Dinosaur Jr., Superchunk, Built To Spill, Wilco, Grandaddy, Super Furry Animals, Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo… etc.

TSOFDs: What has made you decide to tour China at this precise moment in time? Have you played in China before and if so, how was it? What do you know about Hangzhou?

MB: We’ve been lucky enough to play in China a few times. We weren’t exactly looking to book any shows – I was recording a Japanese band called Luby Sparks at the end of last year, and they said they had a promoter friend in China who wanted to talk to us about playing there, and then one thing lead to another and here we are. But China has always been very accepting of our music so we would never refuse an opportunity to play there. We’ve never played in Hangzhou before so I’m looking forward to it.


TSOFDs: I have read that you have often recorded at home rather than going the traditional studio route. What are the reasons for that?

MB: There are a few reasons, mainly time and money. When you’re recording in a studio, it’s quite difficult to be creative knowing that your time is limited, and also that you’re paying for every second you’re there. We’ve always recorded our demos at home and we’ve always preferred how they sounded compared to a studio recording, so it doesn’t really make much sense for us to go into a studio.

TSOFDs: How does a Yuck song normally start life? Is it a case of sitting strumming a guitar and a melody suddenly appears and then the words come or are lyrics the starting point? Perhaps you prefer to jam musical ideas collectively to begin with?

MB: Usually a song starts with me, I’ll record a demo version and then send it to everyone and we’ll try it out in a rehearsal. There isn’t a set way of how a song comes to life. Sometimes I’ll be walking and I’ll start singing a vocal melody with lyrics, and then I’ll write chords to that; sometimes I’ll come up with some chords and make a vocal melody over that; sometimes I’ll make a drum beat and write everything to that. It’s different every time. I think it’s better to not be restricted in how you write music.

TSOFDs: What kind of music are you all currently listening to? Is Yuck’s music a fair indication of what still dominates your own record collections or are there some artists in there that might surprise us?

MB: I always like to try to expand my musical horizon, but I always come back to the same records. Right now I’m really enjoying Car Seat Headrest’s new record, and there is an incredible new band in London right now called Heavy Heart, they sound a lot like Cocteau Twins, Jeff Buckley, Beach House, stuff like that. I’m also listening to a lot of Outkast at the moment.

TSOFDs: Your band originated in London. What’s life like in the UK’s capital presently for musicians? I gather it’s getting pretty hard for new bands to survive what with the cost of living and I’ve heard stories of musicians being resigned to spending their nights sleeping on friends’ couches. If musicians can’t even afford a place to live what does that say about a city? What are the positives and negatives of being a musician in London?

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MB: London isn’t the easiest place to be if you’re doing anything creative. Not only is the rent and cost of living incredibly high, but people’s attitude towards someone doing anything creative isn’t great. However the music scene in London is always thriving, because people’s creativity and will power to rise above the cards they’ve been dealt will always outweigh any negativity or adversity they face.

TSOFDs: These are challenging times for the UK in general, with an unpopular government and a nation divided over leaving the EU. What’s it like on the ground? Do you get the sense there’s a new generation of bands that are becoming more politicized? Are you hopeful for the future?

MB: I haven’t really noticed many bands making political music as such, but I’ve just noticed bands getting more creative in how they get noticed. One of the best bands in London right now is called Milk Disco – they curate their own parties every month and have amazing new bands play, it’s turned into a really amazing establishment and a great way to discover new artists. London will always be the cultural epicenter of Europe – no matter how hard the government or anyone tries, you can’t eradicate decades of musical history. Music and art in general is ingrained into the city – it’s easy to take that for granted, but it will always be there.

TSOFDs: Thanks for your time – very much looking forward to seeing you live in Hangzhou on April 15th.

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Quarterly Release Roundup 1 ::: 2018

Here are our picks for the first quarter of 2018. GO!

First up, Mudhoney with ‘LIE’. Yeah. I know. MUDHONEY. One of the most influential acts of modern times. Well modern times if you’re our age and obsessed with GRUNGE. They still sound as vital as ever. Give it a blast.

Next it’s Tune-Yards, ‘I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life’. To be honest this isn’t up with there with our favorites by Garbus but still beats the pants off most releases so we wanted to include it.

Young Fathers’ ‘Cocoa Sugar’ seems to be popular. We didn’t get it when we first dipped into it. Whilst for us the tracks don’t prove that all enticing standing alone, as an album it really flies.

They Might Be Giants, ‘I Like Fun’. Another now legendary band still kicking ass. Check out the title track here and try your hardest not to be enthused.

A candidate for most beautiful sounding album of the year already? Nils Frahm’s ‘All Melody’.

Ty Segall with ‘Freedom’s Goblin’ – he’s not showing any signs of slowing down is he?

MGMT are back and this album is funny as f**k but don’t let it detract from the music. Put ‘Little Dark Age’ on your to do list.

Car Seat Headrest with ‘Twin Fantasy (Face to Face). Another irresistible release. Even if it is a reworking/re-recording.

David Byrne’s ‘American Utopia’ got a little bit of stick from some critics but we think it’s a solid release. Give it a go.

The Voidz ‘Virtue’ is another record that’s been rubbing some reviewers up the wrong way. To us it seems like it’s becoming a crime these days to actually make music that tries to get out of a comfort zone. And this LP is actually a lot more listenable than I expected. Make your own minds up.

Jack White’s ‘Boarding House Reach’ is another apparently divisive record. But it’s Jack White so we suggest you check it out because it’s Jack White. Did we mention it’s Jack White?

 

What did we miss?

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