The Other Ones ::: Interview

The Other Ones are a London based band on the Reckless Yes label featuring Steph (Vocals), Vicky (Bass), Francis (Drums) and Nick (Guitar). We lucked out and managed to reel Steph and Vicky in for an online chunter.

TSOFDs: Steph and Vicky, thanks so much for talking to us. First of all, congratulations on the new record – are you happy with how it’s been received?

Vicky: Thanks for having us! We are over the moon with how the album has been received. It’s been a long time in the works and we’re honestly just thrilled that in the midst of the SHITSHOW that has been the last 15 odd months we were able to get our music out and heard!!

Steph: Thank you! Yeah it’s been a long time coming with the album, we worked on it whenever we possibly could so it’s so nice that it’s finally out there. It seems to be going down alright! Cannot wait until we get to play a gig so we can finally perform the crap out of the album.

TSOFDs: I’ve listened to the LP on Bandcamp but sadly I’ve not had the pleasure of a live show. There’s some wonderful production flourishes on there but underpinning it all is the sound of a really formidable live band I’m sensing. Not being able to gig at the moment must be a real downer – how are you coping with that and London pandemic life in general?

Vicky: Honestly I’ve found one of the hardest things about lockdown has been not being able to rehearse or play gigs. With not rehearsing you miss not just the playing but the general fun we always have at rehearsals. Not being able to play gigs SUCKS, I always take pride in our live shows and that people tend to have a good time at our gigs so not being able to do that is so frustrating. General pandemic wise? I’ve never watched so much TV in my life. For someone who is notoriously antisocial, I can’t wait to go to a bloody club (and then go home after 10 minutes because my feet hurt and the music is too loud).

Steph: I miss performing SO BAD. It’s driving me crazy not being able to unleash on a stage. I’ve always said I feel like I’d go mad without this band. Not being able to perform just sucks. I feel like work is my whole life at the moment… which it kinda is. I just miss sitting in a pub garden, or round a mate’s house drinking wine watching shit telly. Lockdown didn’t change much for me as I work as a dental nurse so I’ve been working throughout, it just sucks not being able to do anything else! The tube’s been a-lot nicer though.

TSOFDs: Silver lining! One for Steph. You have a really clear and relatable vocal style. Who would you cite as key influences on your approach to singing?

Steph: Hmm that’s quite a question. There’s no secret that I love good old emo bands like My Chemical Romance and The Used. I love being able to really give emotion through singing, and be able to outlet what I’m feeling through those means. I dunno if I’m describing that right haha. When I was younger I actually trained to sing opera but that was a long time ago! I’m also quite the musical theatre nerd and did up to Grade 8 so that probably has a huge influence. I usually like distinct voices like Kate Bush, Cher and Bowie – someone who really tells a story through their style of music.

TSOFDs: And how are the songs conceived? Is it very democratic or is there someone you’d say is the driving force in the group?

Vicky: The songs come together usually by either, Nick plinking about on guitar and me thinking of some words, or me thinking of a phrase or an idea and then Nick finding a melody underneath it. Once that’s done we’ll wrangle some words together, get a draft to the band, Frannie will find his groove and we’ll make sure the tone is comfortable for Steph to sing in. Then thrash it about, maybe change keys and we’re good to go! There isn’t a set “person” who dictates the songs, if anyone has an idea we’ll see how it works in a band dynamic.

Steph: What Vicky said. I’m usually doing a lot of humming or “la la la-ing” to make a melody/learn one. It’s really become a group process now we’ve been together a while. Or it’s a song I wrote for my GCSE music exam – made better by the rest of the group!

TSOFDs: Thanks for letting us in! One for Vicky. What or who inspired you to play bass?

Vicky: Aha. Well. I sort of fell into playing bass. I tried playing guitar but couldn’t understand how a chord was on the strings and it just makes my brain hurt. So Nick suggested I play bass and next thing I knew we were having rehearsals and putting on gigs. I’ve come to appreciate some great bass players and musicians this way though, I never set out to be like a particular artist so it’s evolved quite naturally. Kim Gordon and Kim Deal are the ultimate bass heroes though. I should change my name to Kim.

TSOFDs: Bass is so much fun to play and you gotta love the two Kims. Your album is really well put together. Great musicianship and arrangements, and top production. Your recorded sound is really evolving. Did recording the album come easily? Was there someone who took a lead producing or was it more collaborative than that?

Vicky: Thanks! Big shout out to Matt Hill and Jack Longman for the sound. Recording is so much fun, luckily we all have a mutual understanding of what’s required when we record and how we want things to sound so we’re pretty good at communicating that to Matt Hill (3sixty studios) in the studio and he adjusts to what we need. None of us take a lead in the production, except if someone has got a particular song that has a style for them, it’s all very democratic and laid back. For me I knew roughly how I wanted ‘Glittering Splinters’ to sound so I was more than happy to tell Nick to keep playing certain bits and adding in fills, etc, but there is no dictation on how things should sound. Still wasn’t allowed to smash a glass at the end of the track though.

TSOFDs: Gutted.

Steph: What she said. We are so lucky to know some great people in music. Matt Hill and Jack Longman just seem to know exactly what we are after. We have such a great time in the studio too that it just makes the whole process such an amazing one. Until Vicky just tells you “that was shit do it again” after a few wines. She’s usually spot on though, we can do it better and she eggs that on.

TSOFDs: There you are readers, it sounds like a band having fun and it was a band having fun. London seems something of a double edged sword for musos. One of the best places to be for music but an extremely challenging place to survive, now more than ever. What are the day jobs that help you keep the wolf from the door?

Vicky: London is a bloody hydra as far as I’m concerned. So many heads to try to keep up with. I’m a civil servant so very far removed from the band identity! I also write for Kiss n Make Up Presents website which is a great creative outlet as I get to interview very cool bands.

TSOFDs: Excellent.

Steph: I’m a dental nurse in East London. I look in people’s mouths for a living – such fun during a pandemic. The PPE is just mental and the sweat is unreal. I do often sing while I’m in the surgery though which actually goes down quite well with the patients!

TSOFDs: That’s a fun image – thanks haha. I’ve heard your label has an interesting model to encourage sales in this age of streaming. Can you tell our readers more about that?

Vicky: Reckless Yes has come up with a great angle for encouraging sales. Essentially you become a member of RY in which you get sent vinyls, releases, etc and news about the RY bands and any cool stuff to look out for. It’s a great way of encouraging people to keep buying music instead of just streaming and it’s a fab way to find new bands. The RY group is fantastic too, all the bands are really friendly and supportive of each other.

Steph: What Vicky said! RY have been so welcoming to us and really have a-lot to offer. Being a member gets you loads of cool stuff, and an introduction to some amazing bands you may not have heard of yet. It’s a win-win situation – they save their members money while being fair to the bands so no one misses out.

TSOFDs: Brilliant concept.

TSOFDs: There are some rather iconic London venues. Dublin Castle. Hope and Anchor. Do you have a favorite place to play you’re itching to get back onstage at?

Vicky: The Victoria in Dalston. Hands down some of our favourite gigs have been there. The Biddle Bros is also excellent and I’m sure last time there was a dog there which is an instant boon. More venues should have puppers.

TSOFDs: Ha brings to mind a solo acoustic gig I played many years ago to an empty pub in Huddersfield where all I could hear was the sound of a dog lapping at a metal water bowl really loudly. Any other places?

Steph: Oh I love The Victoria. They have a cool green room too. The stage is a bit high though so jumping down can cause problems when I’ve gotta get back up. The Dublin Castle has a special place in my heart as that was the first place I ever played with The Other Ones! I just can’t wait to be back in venues watching bands and performing.

TSOFDs: I played there years back and Amy Winehouse was in the bar one night, not that I was sober enough to notice, sadly. Dang. What other act close to your hearts do you think our readers should be checking out? Perhaps a band or artist from your local music scene that deserves more attention?

Vicky: Any local band needs some lovin’ just now! I’m going to put forward Fightmilk because they are supremely talented and 100% worth checking out.

Steph: Panic Pocket – 4eva & always. I’m in love with their music as it’s just totally relatable and I find myself singing ‘The Boss’ on a daily basis.

TSOFDs: They shall be sought out. Thanks so much for your time both. We hope you’re back rehearsing and gigging before too long. Take care.

‘And In the End…’

Forgive me for sounding like an old fart but, when I was young, music was a lot more tribal. I remember running for the school bus one morning and, on arriving just in the nick of time and too breathless to think of a suitably scathing retort, a girl in the village remarked, “You’re not a mosher anymore.” I’d had a haircut so the stunted logic was I’d switched my musical allegiances and was now considered a “trendy”.

If I could teleport back to that time with a pirated cassette copy of ‘And In the End…’ then I presume the aforementioned girl’s head would simply melt just a few tracks in, such is the giant, swirling, delightful assortment of superficially unlikely musical bedfellows.

But that is the joy of the times we’re living through, the music consumer of today will switch from genre to genre without even thinking about it, let alone questioning it. That at least smacks of progress right? What also makes this a wonderful time for music consumers, is how much music is readily available for a negligible amount of dosh via streaming services.

It comes at a cost for songwriters and musicians however because the royalties are negligible as well. This makes a charity such as Help Musicians more important than ever. Particularly in a pandemic world where gigging has ground to a halt.

Help Musicians is an independent UK charity for professional musicians of all genres, from starting out through to retirement. They help at times of crisis, but also at times of opportunity, giving people the extra support they need at a crucial stage.

This compilation is a great way to support the above charity and it contains a brilliant and varied amount of music that is sure to pose no interruption to the typical music fanatic’s broad audio diet. At 81 tracks long this is not a compilation you’re going to necessarily be getting through in one sitting. And there’s so much to digest it will surely prove a gift that keeps on giving in the form of repeat listens.

I could wax lyrical about particular acts included but that would mean omitting all the other equally brilliant ones. So instead let’s heap praise on music journalist Simon Tucker for bringing all these artists together for such a top cause. The successful execution of this project is testament to the high regard he must be held in for so many musos to get involved. 

All there is to add is at this price this is a veritable bargain, considering the monthly fee of a streaming service.

Ram it in your earholes.       

Blokeacola ::: Keeley

Blokeacola: Hey Keeley, nice to have a chance to chunter away at you, be it via the ‘net. How’s pandemic life treating you?

Keeley: Greetings Blokeacola! Pandemic strife you mean?! It’s been a strange amalgamation of stress and serenity for me personally. Since March 2020 I’ve adopted a very determined, focused approach to self-isolating. I became so grimly committed to avoiding catching COVID that I’ve spent almost the entirety of the past 11 months indoors alone, with generally only one outing per week to buy provisions. I also find reality outdoors in the wake of COVID so disturbing and alienating that I’d rather stay inside. I’m very machine like. As long as I can feast on the fuel of music near constantly, I can tolerate pretty much anything. But not being able to engage in band rehearsals since we went back into full lockdown is something I’ve found particularly frustrating, even more than not being able to play live. Since October I’ve been releasing new music, and that’s been taking up virtually all my time promoting it and managing all the band’s social media. How’ve you been coping with it?

Blokeacola: Very similar to you it appears. I’m very much OK with my own company and I’m a bit of a misanthrope to be quite honest – keeping my distance from people is fine by me haha! Obviously, as you stated though, there are aspects of the pandemic that even the most determined recluse is going to find distressing. Again, like you, I’ve been spending a lot of time immersing myself in the task of making new music and that’s a definite plus having something like that to keep yourself occupied, stimulated and self-contained. You’re from Dublin right? Tell me about the music scene there.

Keeley: Right! Well the most notable thing about the music scene in  Dublin and in Ireland generally is that it feels like every second person in the country is a musician and is either in a band, or is a solo act, or both! There is an insane amount of musicians, bands and solo acts here. The Irish music biz is actually quite conservative and entirely driven by a commercial mindset. There is a strong preference among the industry here for folk acts and acts with an Irish traditional element to receive practical and monetary support, partly I suspect because a lot of that music is polite, safe and middle-of-the-road and therefore there’s a perception that it is easier to market it. And maybe it is. Which is a bit unfortunate for someone like me, as I don’t come from that Irish folk tradition at all. And I’m not the sort of person who is willing to throw in a fiddle, wear an arran pullover and sing about the Raglan Road just to curry favour.

Blokeacola: Ha that sounds like cutting my teeth in Leeds with regards to the amount of musicians. That’s a shame they don’t do more to help the indie scene. You’d think the US, UK and Ireland would have realized by now what a valuable industry homegrown music is, both culturally and commercially. Funny to see mention of Raglan there as that’s the name of the place I grew up in, in Wales. I presume the name comes from the same aristocratic family. Speaking of growing up, how old were you when you realised you wanted to do the music thing? Was there a sudden moment of realisation or did it creep up on you?

Keeley: Very much so a sudden moment of realization. I was 14 years old when I experienced two epiphanies near simultaneously. The first was hearing the music of The Smiths which was an absolutely life-changing flash of magic for me. The second was witnessing a live TV performance by Duran Duran on MTV of their single ‘Ordinary World’, an incredible song with a scorching, soaring guitar solo. Those two moments set my controls for the heart of the song. And I’ve been starving ever since!

Blokeacola: Ha that ‘Ordinary World’ is a classic I remember well, probably from a ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ compilation or something. And funnily enough someone that’s heard my new record said it reminded him of The Smiths, probably due to my occasional impulse to croon over jangly guitars I shouldn’t wonder.

Keeley: How about you, what was your Year Zero in music? Was there one overriding flash of inspiration that prompted you to pursue this perilous path?

Blokeacola: Music and football were obsessions of mine since I can remember. My dad is a musician so that influenced me a lot I think. When I realized I was deluding myself thinking I could be a professional footballer I bafflingly opted to swap one delusion for another. Oops! I think your musical influences were key in drawing me to your Instagram actually because you have a very indie vibe, you’re not shy about celebrating the music that’s shaped you and you come across as very real and sincere on a platform that’s often lacking in that regard. How do you feel about the whole social media landscape? I find it both a blessing and a curse.

Keeley: Thanks very much. I’m really glad that’s the vibe you get off it. I’m an ardent believer in indie values, it runs rife through all I am. I absolutely share your feeling that social media is a blessing and a curse though! My biggest issue with social media is feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of it every day, every hour, every minute. I keep saying to myself, “I’m drowning in social media”. I love Insta, and Facebook, and Twitter, and WhatsApp, and Messenger, in different ways. I think they’re brilliant platforms. Genius, in their own way. But the amount of time they devour each day is something I’m struggling with. I manage all the social media for my band, I’m a very conscientious person and I’m probably somewhere on the OCD spectrum. I have a tendency to feel guilty if I don’t respond to absolutely every notification and every comment from everyone.

Blokeacola: Evil genius perhaps! I completely get that OCD thing. I definitely have that side to my personality. It really gnaws away at me if there are certain things I haven’t done in a certain way even if they probably don’t really matter in the grand scheme. I’m really trying to force myself to relax more these days. Have time away from the screen. Be more conscious of that fact it’s taking up too much of my life! But it isn’t easy at all.

Keeley: When I was a teenager, I had no friends – and I don’t mean no friends in a Morrissey way of him actually having had a dozen or so friends as a youth but him subsequently claiming to have had “no friends”! When I say I had no friends, I mean I had not one friend in the world for a period of four years from when I was 14 until I was 18, which is a period of time I consider the most formative stage of a person’s life.

Blokeacola: That sounds really hard.

Keeley: It’s something that will stay with me forever, that feeling of being completely alone and adrift from everything and everyone around me. The feeling of being a total misfit is so ingrained in me, it means that I can never quite believe so many people seem to want to communicate with me now. I always feel they must think I’m somebody else, and they’re only communicating with me by accident. But even so, I think that if someone takes the time out of their day to send me a message, or post a comment on a post, they deserve an acknowledgment and a reply.

Blokeacola: I wonder if for many creative types, because rejection is just such a massive part of what we do, there’s a tendency to always want to reply to people because you know what a punch in the gut it can be to feel ignored when you’ve put so much into something. For some people it probably hardens them but for others maybe it makes them more empathetic. I hope you get at least some time away from the screen!

Keeley: My one extravagance in life, if you can call it that, is taking some time out each day to practice my guitar parts, because I’m desperate to try to be a better musician and to respect my craft as much as possible.

Blokeacola: Yeah that’s what we’re supposed to be doing after all eh? It’s weirdly easy to forget that. I haven’t done much music for months but I knew that was going to happen once the new baby was born. I was resigned to it. Promo is kind of easier to get on with right now.

Keeley: You to me are a miracle man, it seems to me that you have ten times more on your plate than I have, and yet to my mind you get at least as much done as I do! What’s your secret?!

Blokeacola: Ha well in terms of the music I guess I’ve been doing this long enough that, for now at least, it comes very easily and quickly, not that I want to curse it. The surprising thing about family life with two youngsters is it improved my productivity because it made me learn to plan things better and use the little time I get as wisely as possible. I don’t over-think because I don’t have time to, I just get on with it and get it done. In terms of the social media stuff, well, I treat it more like a creative outlet and that makes it more fun and less of a chore. I got all my latest tunes recorded before my daughter was born though, which was definitely the right move it must be said! Latest tunes. We should talk about those eh? This is a special Bandcamp Friday chitchat after all. Tell me about your new song if you’d be so kind.

Keeley: Ta for asking. The new single is called ‘You Never Made It That Far’. It’s about Inga Maria Hauser, a German tourist, student, artist and musician who was murdered in Northern Ireland in 1988 in a case that’s as unique as it is notorious, and still unsolved. Inga is the subject of everything I write. From the moment I first read about her exactly five years ago now, her cause became a burning obsession for me. Since that day I haven’t written a song about anyone or anything else.

Blokeacola: Wow! That’s a really fascinating way to write.

Keeley: I consider myself a concept artist and my purpose is to give Inga a voice, be it with my songs, with the book I’ve been writing about her and her case, with the public campaign I’ve been involved in over the last five years, and with the blog (The Keeley Chronicles) that I founded back in 2016. To my astonishment, it went viral on the day I published Part 1 and has a large following worldwide. On ‘You Never Made It That Far’, I sang and played guitar and my producer Alan played keyboards and beats. Alan and I have been painstakingly piecing together the debut Keeley album since Summer 2019.

Blokeacola: I can’t wait to hear the full record.

Keeley: How about your track?

Blokeacola: The track I’m releasing is called ‘Laser Beans’. The title comes from the LP ‘Trout Mask Replica’ by Captain Beefheart, which has these funny conversation bits between some of the songs. When the bass player Rockette Morton is asked what does he run on, he answers. “Beans. I run on Laser Beans” or something like that haha. It’s a bit of a nod to my youth when I totally rinsed that album.

Keeley: Do you have a set process for writing songs and recording them?

Blokeacola: Generally speaking I start with a beat and then use that to vaguely map out the song length. Then, as the mood takes me I’ll add either guitar, bass or synth. This will hopefully inspire a vocal melody and then I’ll be able to start to suss how exactly the song will start, progress and finish. From there I finalize the parts in whatever order I feel like. For the words I’m increasingly reaching for a lyric bank that I’m always adding to in my daily life. Imposing a set structure helps me get to where I want to go quicker without getting lost, much as writing in character probably helps you get your songs out I’m guessing. That first tune you released this year ‘The Glitter and the Glue’ is seriously catchy. It’s got a really great rolling, repeating guitar riff and vocal hook. Seriously sharp songwriting.

Keeley: Thank you. The funny thing about that track is that for the longest time it was the black sheep of the album sessions. It was the one track I felt certain wasn’t going to be on the album and one that I had no intention whatsoever of releasing as a single! I wrote it not long after my last band Session Motts spectacularly imploded. I recorded a demo of it one day in 2018 and then, dissatisfied with that, put it to one side.

Blokeacola: So why did it suddenly make a reappearance?

Keeley: During the album sessions I felt I should record it properly as it’s a song about Inga. I thought maybe I could give it to someone as a compilation track, you know like one of those songs that bands give away to some rare fanzine or charity release? I couldn’t find anyone to give it to but once I started releasing singles under my own name I felt it was important to give people value for money in providing them with a B-side of hopefully equal merit to the A-side like many of my heroes often did, from The Beatles and The Jam to The Smiths and Suede. Alan turned in a brilliant mix that raised the quality of it so much, I suggested a few adjustments and he then turned in another mix that was even better. That deliciously dumb riff I tossed off when Alan suggested I fill a gap in the track. It’s since become the central hook in the song. I love how that can happen! Have you had any instances of something like that happening with your music?

Blokeacola: Not off the top of my head. I think that’s probably a deficiency of working completely alone – sometimes you miss out on opportunities to see or hear things in a different way – well played Alan! Seeing as we’re in that ballpark, let’s talk guitars. Yeehaw! I play a Fender Stratocaster which I’ve had since I was 14 or something. How about you? What are you packing, Gunslinger?

Keeley: Nice! I play an Italia Mondial, a rare and unusual guitar that is the subject of one of the two questions I get asked most often. People are always intrigued about it whenever they see it.

Blokeacola: It is indeed a beautiful looking instrument. Ah – music gear. I am currently trying to do a year off the booze. I’ve promised myself a new synthesizer as a reward. If you could buy anything right now what would it be?

Keeley: Oooh, what a good question! There are two things:

1. My own flat. I recently survived an attempt from my landlord to evict me. I’ve had to move 28 times in my life so far and have been homeless several times. This time was a near miss but it would be lovely to live somewhere that no money-minded mogul can force me out of.

2. A bath. When I was a child, everyone had a bath. Even at my family’s most poverty-stricken point, we had one. Now, no one I know has one. I believe this is indicative of how we’ve gone backwards as a society over the last few decades. In 1969 for instance, we put a man on the moon. Now, people can’t even walk down the road. So much for the ‘modern’ world! If I had a bath, I would spend every evening lying and luxuriating in it, listening to music. The dream’s dream, to quote Television!

Blokeacola: I completely get how you feel. I’m so sick of moving. We’ve finally managed to get our own home and we’ll be moving in around the time the lease finishes on our current place. I can’t wait. And guess what… We’ve got a bath! No way we were going to not have one. Well, I suppose I’d best wrap this up and deal with my wailing daughter. I may well give her a bath! It’s been great waffling away with you Keeley, best of luck with the new release and a tip of the hat to TSOFDs for providing the platform. This has been fun!

Keeley: Thanks to TSOFDs, and thanks to you! I’ve loved chatting with you, and getting to explore the unique psych pop paradise of Blokeacola since we found one another in the wilderness of weirdness that is the virtual world.

Blokeacola: Haha the feeling’s mutual. Take care of yourself.

TJ Roberts ::: Interview

TSOFDs: Hey, thanks for giving us your time. We’ve read of your love for Big Star. That influence comes through in a cool way on your new record, for example the riffing on ‘Passed out on a Hollywood Star’ and ‘Boy Without a Band’. Tell us some more about what Big Star means to you.

TJ: I probably wouldn’t be writing the music I do, without them to be honest. Around about 2014 I watched their documentary ‘Nothing Can Hurt Me’ and it completely rejuvenated my love for songs. Before that I’d been writing mostly instrumental, library style music for web media and short films. Although I spent my teens obsessed with The Beatles, Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley it was almost as if I had been resigned to the fact that songwriting wasn’t worth pursuing, because the best had come and gone. But then hearing this band, whose music immediately resonated with me and who were seemingly forgotten by the majority of people really made me re-evaluate my thinking. It made me realise that the possibilities are endless, even if you are just stuck with an acoustic guitar and your own voice. There is so much music out there and all of it is unique in its own way.  I stopped worrying so much about reinventing the wheel and focused on just expressing myself. Without Big Star I’m not sure I would have had that realization.

TSOFDs: Thanks Big Star! Perhaps less obvious and I don’t know if these artists are of particular importance to you, but there are traces of Dogs Die in Hot Cars in the bright and bouncy production/arrangement style and, on the more tender moments, a tiny splash of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci in the vocals. If not these acts, can you tell us a little bit more about other groups that have been a key influence on your writing and recording approach?

TJ: Gorky’s are such a cultural staple in Wales, that having gone through the Welsh language education system, it would have been almost impossible to not have them seep into my music somewhere. I think Euros is really the master songwriter of Wales along with Cian Ciaran of the Super Furry Animals and so any comparison to either is a joy to my ears. I’m really influenced by our friends and comrades of the local scene. Perhaps not as obliquely in sound, but in our attitudes to playing, writing and recording. Here, it always seems about having as much fun as possible and I’ll be forever looking up at bands like Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard and Boy Azooga for inspiration in that sense I think. Other than that, I’m totally obsessed with your usual indie cowboys Wilco and David Berman.

TSOFDs: Quality artists. The overall sound of your new record is mightily impressive. How was this accomplished? Did you book into a slick recording studio and work with a well known producer or was it more of a DIY affair?

TJ: We worked with our pal and sort-of fifth member Thomas Rees (Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, Do Nothing, Panic Shack) in the studio. He’s produced both of our albums and it’s always been a really easy process, because he gets what we’re trying to make and both of us come from a really utilitarian standpoint with music. It’s very much a case of distilling the music down to its simplest form and building it back up again, never allowing for superfluous elements to creep in. The best question that Tom always asks is, “Does the song need this?” and if I don’t have an answer then we cut it. His skill extends way beyond just sonics. He’s an excellent communicator and has that sort of enigmatic aura that is perfect for the studio. 

TSOFDs: It’s a really accomplished end result. There are some great guitar solos which stand out but the overall proficiency is simply brilliant – a real top standard of musicianship. Can you tell us some more about who is playing on the record and how you met your band members?

TJ: Thanks! I’m really lucky to have super talented musicians around me in the band and I think that has made everyone want to elevate their game. The record has a slightly different line-up than the live band as we were still piecing together the band during the sessions. So, drums are covered by Tom Rees on the record, but our drummer Jasper Gaskin is a phenomenal player. He is a complete animal behind the kit and you can really hear the extent of his chops in his other band XL Life. Bass was shared by Sam Barnes (Boy Azooga) and Gav Owen who are my two favourite bass players; both with distinctive styles, but a complete dedication and instinct for supporting the song. Heather has played keys and occasionally horn for us from the start and has probably had the most to do this record with all the new piano parts which she has really made her own; that trend’s probably going to continue on LP3. We were also incredibly lucky to have Rhodri Brooks (Rhodri Brooks, Teddy Hunter, Novo Amor) join us on pedal steel for a track. Pedal steel is my favourite instrument and to have him play was absolutely incredible and a bit of a dream come true.

TSOFDs: Nice insight, thanks. One for the gear nerds. What guitar do you play and what equipment did you use to make this record? Were there any particularly nice microphones, outboard gear like vintage compressors, analog tape, amplifiers, consoles, etc that helped you achieve the end result? Or were you more making use of computer software to hone the sound?

TJ: I play a Hutchins Beachcomber Deluxe DE, which I bought a couple of years ago from Macaris of Denmark Street, London. I was told that apparently it had been played by Kevin Shields during an MBV soundcheck, which I hope is true because I have been telling everyone that story. It’s an absolute beauty of a guitar and is a complete tone monster. I run that through a relatively straight forward pedal board which includes a MXR Dyna Comp, Stone Deaf PDF 2, Big Muff and an EarthQuaker Devices Space Spiral into my Blues Jnr III. We used this setup pretty much for the whole album, only switching once to a Music Man 212 amp and an Epiphone SG for doubling a riff or two. Rat Trap studios has a lovely mix of analog and digital gear, but to be honest most of the tone is dialed on the way in. Tom uses DBX compressors, Neve and Focusrite ISA preamps, and his amazing Glensounds desk. Mic wise, we utilized a pair of Coles on a number of instruments, a JZ Vintage 67 (and absolutely amazing Neumann clone) on all the vocals and a lot of EV 635 (the King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard mic) on guitar.

TSOFDs: That answer will more than please the gadget junkies. The lyrics really hit home on these songs. Do you find words come easy or is it painful dragging them out? Are you a write the words first songwriter?

TJ: This would probably be the first project during which I felt as much ownership and pride over my lyrics as the music and I’m really glad that people have picked up on the themes. That was in part due to the fact I discovered David Berman’s Purple Mountains album during the writing process of this album and found a new lyrical muse. His ability to be so raw and honest whilst also maintaining a sense of irony and humour is so appealing to me and I think I’ve been trying to live up to him ever since. I definitely write lyrics second, but even before I start writing chords or melody I have a good idea about what topic the song will be about; so it’s somewhat in tandem. I really find I’m most successful writing lyrics once chords and melody have been established, possibly even a few lead guitar or piano lines, so I can weave the melody and especially the rhythm of the vocals around what already exists. I do something similar to what Jeff Tweedy describes in his book, which is to sing vowels and words that sound pleasing, then replacing them gradually once I’m happy with the way the vocals sound to tell the story.

TSOFDs: That Purple Mountains LP is one of our faves of recent times. You’re based in Cardiff if we’re not mistaken. Are you all from Cardiff originally? How do you find the music scene in South Wales, generally speaking? 

TJ: Jasper and Gav are both Cardiff born and bred. I was born in Newport (the next city over) and Heather was born in Shropshire. Both myself and Heather met in university in Cardiff and have lived here for nearly 7 years. The music scene in South Wales is having somewhat of a renaissance at the moment and the number of quality releases coming from quite a small place is pretty outstanding. Having been around the music scene here since about 2009, I actually think that this might be the friendliest time for the music scene right now too. There is a lot of mutual support coming from bands and labels and there is a sense that success is very much shared. It’s a really valuable asset as a musician to have the support of a community so I really can’t imagine being anywhere better right now.

TSOFDs: It’s a magical thing finding the right personnel that can sometimes be taken for granted if it happens early on in an artist’s trajectory. It’s obviously a horrid time given the pandemic. Have you managed to find any positives in the situation? Some artists talk up the pleasure of being home more and spending less time touring, more time writing, but presumably for your band it must be very frustrating with a new record out as you want to be out playing it to people?

TJ: For sure, the lack of touring has been really frustrating. We were by March 2020 getting into a real groove playing live, where a lot of the set was becoming second nature, so we could really stretch ourselves and lean into the performance. I am really excited for things to start up again and for us to come out with a whole new set, with possibly some tracks from album 3. The big positive for us was having time to complete the album relatively stress free and have the space to start our own record label. We tried to use it as a sabbatical to really develop the label and learn new things about the ins and outs of the industry.

TSOFDs: Good call. It’s really great to hear such a cohesive album statement from a new band as industry and marketing people often seem to be preaching that it’s pointless releasing albums due to people’s lack of concentration span and the fact the streaming revolution means people just listen to single songs and are playlist orientated. What’s your view on that? Personally I prefer to put on headphones and listen to an album, to immerse myself in an artist’s vision over the course of an LP and I’d hate to see that disappear.

TJ: I’m not surprised this is the case, but I’m also not particularly bothered by it either. I think too much credence is given to the opinion of marketing and brand management, because realistically they are just as ignorant to a solution for the streaming age as anyone else. Nobody really knows what’s best to do right now! Our decision to make records is of course artistically driven, but also informed by the community around us. At the moment it seems like the album format is still something worth pursuing in our musical community of indie songwriters because fans still respond to their release. If that changes, then maybe we’ll rethink and innovate. I don’t necessarily mind a change, but I would hate to see everyone migrating over to the same boring marketing tactics of bleeding singles dry with videos, remixes and alternative cuts. I want to listen and make more music, not less. 

TSOFDs: Understood. So, the record label. Tell us more. What’s in the pipeline – any new artists you’re pushing?

TJ: We started our own label Rose Parade Recording Company this year and have a really exciting 2021 ahead of us. We have a steady stream of singles from international artists being released throughout the year via our ‘Singles Club’ as well as a number of long-form releases from some amazing artists. Our next release will be from our artist Shreddies, aka Josh Dickins (Rosehip Teahouse, Perfect Body) who has made an incredible EP of downbeat techno. That will be available to preorder via our website on the 8th of February. In August we will also be releasing the long-awaited solo album from Sam Barnes (Boy Azooga). He is Wales’ best kept secret and this album is going to blow a lot of peoples’ minds when it comes out. We are all feeling incredibly lucky to get to work with such talented musicians. 

TSOFDs: A lot to look forward to then. Can’t wait to check back in with you. Thanks for the words.

TJ Roberts’ album ‘Love, Loss & Other Useless Things’ is out now.

John Carroll ::: Interview

TSOFDs: Hey John, how’s it going? You recently put out two singles complete with videos and now there’s the brand new album these aforementioned singles feature on. You’ve been busy! This new LP is called ‘Addicted to the Flute’ – where does the title come from?

JC: Hey. I’m good thanks. So when I first came up with the main guitar riff I had been reading the news over here and found a link to the Global Times online via the Shanghaiist. In the article it read, ‘Shakespeare once wrote that rumour is like a flute. That guesswork, suspicion, and speculation are the breath that makes it sound. Those foreign forces are addicted to the flute and have turned their illusions into the truth’. It was a fairly political article, but I became fascinated on the idea of how people turn illusion into the truth – how perception, morals, and culture can be manipulated and twisted by any number of external forces for their own gain.

TSOFDs: Thanks for the insight. Seems particularly relevant to the current day. You’ve always striven to change and pursue what interests you rather than what’s deemed commercial or expected of a solo artist, refusing to just slot into that familiar bracket of ballad guy with acoustic guitar. Your mutations have occurred across a broad spectrum from lofi, to folk, to alt rock and much more besides. What can listeners expect from this latest offering?

JC: This album is stylistically more indie pop/rock I suppose, but it’s not really anything new for me as such, more of a revisitation to my younger years playing with Medic in Limerick back in the 90s, so it has a lot more of a full band sound throughout. Aesthetically, songwriting has always been my main focus, and I’m always on the hunt for a great vocal melody and a bassline to compliment it, so anyone who’s into that kind of thing might enjoy it.

TSOFDs: Sounds good to me. I’m hearing a piano influence that’s more pronounced on this record than on previous outings. Was there a conscious attempt to use this as a writing tool instead of acoustic guitar? It’s often the case that switching things up can lead to interesting new directions.

JC:  Growing up we always had a piano close by so it’s no stranger to me. Writing on it was also a fairly natural transition because The Beatles, Billy Joel and Queen were always being played at home while I was a kid, so it was always part of my sonic palette. I hadn’t recorded a piano before this though, so around October/November 2019 when I started demoing new songs I decided to play around with it. It immediately perked my ears up and I knew this was going to be part of the next project.

TSOFDs: Gotcha. You exhibit a lot of talent when it comes to the visual arts, not just music. We’ve witnessed in this in the form of everything from your gig posters, release artwork and album notes, and music videos you’ve created for your own work and that of other artists. This time round however, the album artwork was created by someone else if we’re not mistaken? What led to this decision?

JC: Yea that’s right, actually two acrylic paintings in all by a local Hangzhou artist called Shen Yu Ru are part of the album artwork. He’s been around for a while but doesn’t exhibit that often and I quite like that he doesn’t put his work online either. When we met he talked about preserving the human touch from algorithms and digitisation, which is something that struck a chord with me and I felt it had some relevance to the album title too. Very early on (before we met) I knew I wanted a handmade piece of art. I was sick of digital images, just felt horribly trapped by the flawlessness of them and really wanted to see the textures and imperfections of expressing human emotion. Around the time I saw Yu Ru’s art I had been working on a few collage ideas based on John Heartfield’s work and not really getting anywhere. I was really drawn into these images that had all the sensibilities of an uneasy mutated version of pop art but represented it through local folklore.

Whilst on the subject of collaborating to get this LP over the line, I think it’s also worth mentioning that J Douglas played a massive part in how the album turned out. I originally met him in Hangzhou back in 2015. He has always been a highly prolific musician in his band Big Lucky, and producer with his own solo projects Sentient Circuits, and his more recent synthwave music with Nightonic. I had already mixed the album but didn’t feel that it was up to scratch, and since he and I shared a love for The Beatles’ Revolver era in particular, I knew that he had the creativity and the technical ear holes to put it all together. So I asked, if I give you this can you make it better? And he did!

TSOFDs: It’s certainly a very arresting, very cool album cover and the music sounds great to match. My son is particularly enamored with the track ‘Taikonauts’. He can’t stop singing it and keeps pestering me to watch the video. When I asked him if he knew what a taikonaut is though he didn’t know. Perhaps you can explain that to our readers and tell us a little bit about what the jumping off point was for the song?

JC: Simply, a taikonaut is a Chinese astronaut. The word ‘tai kong’ comes from the Mandarin word for ‘space’. Originally, it was influenced by a song by Bill Callahan called ‘America!’ I liked that he wrote a song about just liking his country, and I was hooked by his use of exclamation marks!! I always wondered why that country has it’s name in the titles of so many films, songs, etc, while other countries don’t. Later on I found a cool website called Go- Taikonauts!, which kinda felt a bit cheerleader-y, and that basically sealed the deal.

TSOFDs: My son will like that as he’s quite the blossoming space cadet. You’re fiercely DIY when it comes to your art and I gather record the bulk of your music at home. What do you find the strengths and weaknesses are of this approach?

JC: I don’t do well in unfamiliar surroundings. It often takes me time to develop relationships with people and places before I open up. I usually make a tit of myself and say stupid things and end up regretting it, so working at home for me cuts out all of that so I can focus on the good stuff. It’s hard to always find the time and head-space because I have a young family that comes first, but I have everything I need at arm’s length whenever I need it while also keeping expenses low.

TSOFDs: I’m sure many artists can relate. Are there any tasty morsels you can give us regarding the writing and recording process for this record? I know creative types and gear nerds are always particularly interested in the nuggets we give them in terms of how songwriters approach their craft and, also, what gear or techniques they employ when it comes to getting their ideas down. It’s always fascinating to hear more about people’s creative processes – it’s inherently mysterious for people wondering how songs begin life and how they come to final fruition.

JC: I spend a lot more time writing than I do recording and tend to write in bulk during the winter months. Dec/Jan are usually my busy creative months and I’d usually pen upwards of 100-120 ideas for new songs during that period. I generally choose my favourite ten of the bunch and then develop those ideas further. I prefer instruments, pedals and amps rather than digital stuff and plugins. I’m a very practical person, and put everything I have to good use. I think it’s very important to limit your options, so I tend not to think too much about tone and colour until the fundamentals of a song are strong first. I have had the same acoustic and electric guitar since 2004. My bass I bought in Shanghai in 2009, drums i got in 2008. I use a kick ass Neumann vocal mic, and a Chinese blue Babybottle through a Tascam US-1800. A good friend lent me his Vox Mini5 guitar amp for recording this album. I love talking about writing songs. It’s my favourite topic.

TSOFDs: You’ve been applying yourself to and honing your craft since your teens. What advice would you give a teenager today that is eager to pursue the artistic life?      

JC: If you’re adamant about being an artist you need to work harder and smarter than anyone else you know, and that’s just to survive. Top priority is not being a dick to anyone. Collaborate and get involved with your community – don’t make it all about yourself. Keep your expectations low, but deliver like a demon out of hell every single time.

TSOFDs: Young artists take note! Thanks so much for your time John. If we could round things off by you giving us some artist recommendations whose music we should also be buying then that would be the icing on the proverbial cake.      

JC:  You’re very welcome. I usually purchase digital music on Bandcamp but also listen to vinyl records, and I’m currently listening to Ariel Pink, Louis Cole, Jinx Lennon, Ty Segall, Blokeacola, Powpig.

TSOFDs: Cheers for the recommends!

Addicted to the Flute is out now on Bandcamp.

Beeef ::: Interview

Beeef promo 2 (courtesy of Andrew Gibson)

TSOFDs: Let’s get the most annoying question out of the way first. Why the name ‘Beeef’?

Perry: It was kind of a mixture of a few different influences. The first was when we first started playing together, there was a trend of indie bands having names with no vowels, so in a way, it was kind of poking fun at that trend by adding an extra vowel. At some point in time, we were toying with the name The Burgers, but it seemed a bit too ordinary—there were probably other bands called that, so somehow the two ideas were combined and we ended up with Beeef (probably with no mind that we’d end up actually recording any music).

TSOFDs: Your output is a fab combo of sharp songwriting and killer arrangements. It’s all really neatly pulled off and you seem to squeeze every interesting possibility out of your songs without them outstaying their welcome. How do you arrive at this point – is it all mapped out by one person when the song is written or does it come from hours of jamming and individual band members adding their own ideas?

Perry: Well thank you, first off, that’s an extremely generous analysis. We’re lucky in that we all have influences that are diverse, but cohesive, so we typically have a common sound in mind, but are always pulled in different directions depending on what we’re listening to. Typically, I will put together the song’s basic structure and lyrics and then as a band we will refine it and put our own individual spins on it. Sometimes a song will go down a very different path once we all start playing it as a band, and that’s when it really gets its dimension. We often overthink things, too, which is a blessing and a curse.

TSOFDs: How does a song typically begin life before all of this? Are there topics you suddenly feel inclined to address in song or is it more the case you get a chord sequence or a melody in your head and then simply search for words you feel are the right fit?

Perry: Most of them either begin in the shower, on my bike, or in the car. Places where I can really space out and just think. Usually it’s led by some kind of hook, either a lyric of the chorus with a melody, or some sort of riff or motif, and then I’ll try to record it on a voice memo somehow and then flesh it out. Topics can be pretty broad, but often take the shape of meditations on getting older or changing or letting go of something. It’s all a bit nostalgic and sentimental in a way that’s certainly not unique in the indie rock realm, so we try to at least make it catchy so it’s not overly wrought.

TSOFDs: You formed in Boston which is a city that’s notable for a number of acts that have gone on to achieve global recognition. Are there any in particular you’d cite as major influences or as inspiration? If not, tell us about any other songwriters/bands that made you want to be a songwriter/in a band.

Perry: We’re very much shaped by the music that has come out of Massachusetts. A few of us actually started a blog here in Boston called Allston Pudding, many years ago, which in many ways brought us closer to the music we were so influenced by. Early on, I grew up right outside of Boston and was listening to bands in high school like Furvis and Drug Rug, both of whom continue to have a huge influence on our sound. Josh and Neil grew up on the North Shore and were listening to bands from up there like Piebald or Apollo Sunshine, who also have probably shaped our approach in some way. In the years since, so many other local bands have inspired us in so many ways—far too many to mention. Dan also grew up in Brooklyn, so he had an entirely different perspective coming in. That said, we’ve found a lot of common ground around the styles and sounds that we all bring to the table and listen to regularly.

TSOFDs: Please tell us about the live music scene in the city – were there any venues that have proven crucial to your development as a band? Is there anything happening to help prevent venues closing down during this challenging time?

Perry: Boston has great venues, but there are fewer and fewer every year. Great Scott and O’Brien’s are two Allston venues that have been extremely kind to Beeef over the years. Lilypad in Cambridge is another one that we’ve played regularly over the years. Unfortunately, Great Scott announced its closure this past spring, and at the time of this interview, the future of O’Brien’s is now up in the air, too. Despite an outpouring of support from folks in the city who have felt a great connection to these places over the years, they’re still succumbing to increasing rents by landlords and an abundance of red tape from the city and its permitting/licensing policies. Boston is a great place for the arts, but sometimes it does feel like it’s a city that doesn’t do enough to financially support its arts community.

TSOFDs: It’s a crazy time right now in a myriad of ways. How have you been finding this pandemic period? Was it frustrating not being able to go out and play gigs or was it good at least in the sense it offered you some extra time to work on songs?

Perry: It has been pretty sad, I’d say. Music is a great means of connection for many people, and its absence is one of the many ways that people are experiencing loss right now. We had some great gigs in the books for the spring and early summer, including one with Polaris, a band that has had a huge influence on Beeef for a really long time. We’ve definitely been writing a great deal of new stuff, but I know that especially in the early stages of the virus, I found it especially difficult to be creatively focused. That said, at some point, we’ll have a stack of new songs that we will be able to do something with.

TSOFDs: I’ve read you are a high school teacher. Whilst, rightly, there is much discussion currently how musicians are unable to make a living from music alone, perhaps the flipside is it’s potentially really rewarding to work a different job. Where do you stand on this question?

Perry: I am, and actually Neil and Josh both work in the field of education as well and Dan is employed full-time by a tech company. We have all had full-time jobs since forming the band, which we all view as a blessing, but it also by default kind of set certain limitations for the band. We’ve never really been able to go on long tours, and we sometimes have to be a bit selective about gigging. That said, not only do I personally love being a teacher, but I think not having to rely on music to make a living is a great advantage. Not only would we basically have no money, but we’d likely feel a lot more pressure and probably would have long since hit burnout. It’s a great privilege to be able to play music and still keep a full-time job, and we have great admiration for bands who are able to dedicate their lives full-time to touring and recording. The music industry these days isn’t quite designed in their favor, and bands like us who don’t rely on it financially probably aren’t doing them any favors, yet they persevere and find creative ways to make it work. But I know for me, I really love both music and teaching and wouldn’t want to give either up. Working with young people is the best, and they have undoubtedly lent inspiration to more than a few Beeef tunes.

TSOFDs: That’s a great way of looking at it. We live in an age where computers offer a lot of artists the chance to make music at home. You appear to eschew this option in favor of going into proper recording studios. Do you think other artists are potentially missing out by doing everything themselves?

Perry: We’ve had great experiences in studios, but if bands and artists have the talent and knowledge to take a DIY approach, I think that’s such a huge advantage. Josh is really well-versed in recording and mixing relative to the rest of the band, so we have actually done a fair deal of home-recording on both albums. We have also worked with a couple of really great producers, Jeremy Lee for our first record and Justin Pizzoferrato for our second album. We would recommend both of them endlessly—they’re super talented and extremely patient. But anyone who can manage to work efficiently at home, I think there’s a huge advantage there if you can get a sound that you’re pleased with.

TSOFDs: We stumbled across your video ‘Airplanes’ on Instagram and as a result felt the urge to tell people about your music. Any bands you’ve stumbled across recently you’d like to do the same for?

Perry: Oh man, too many to mention, to be honest. In terms of folks we have played with, Carinae out in Western Mass put out an excellent album last year and we’ve had the pleasure of gigging with them a handful of times. They’re one of the best live bands out there right now. Pushflowers also played a bunch of fun shows with us the past couple years and they’re really excellent. In New York, a few of the last bands we played with before the virus hit were GIFT and Petite League. We’ve had the chance to collaborate with TJ from GIFT on a couple projects, and they’re an awesome live band, and Petite League basically writes the songs that I wish I was writing. As far as other locals, Sidney Gish, Anjimile, Squirrel Flower, Kid Mountain, Water Cycle, and Squitch are all some really terrific bands we’ve had an eye on.

Beeef Promo 1 (courtesy of Andrew Gibson)

TSOFDs: Some great stuff there to check out. What’s next on the cards for Beeef? Any new material in the pipeline?

Perry: Definitely, just figuring out the best way to put it all together. We’ve experimented with recording each of our pieces from our respective places, to some trial-by-error success. It should all amount to something, either in the age of COVID or post-COVID depending on what that timeframe looks like. In the meantime, we’ve got vinyl available for our second record, Bull in the Shade, and we have a couple other interesting things that we will be releasing over the next couple of months.

TSOFDs: Thanks so much for your time Perry – looking forward to hearing what you come up with next.

Beeef Bull in the Shade

Find Beeef’s music here.

Beeef band photos by Andrew Gibson.

The Industrial Cult Orchestra ::: New Music

When you see a band name you really like, it really helps matters if the music is great too.

Thankfully this is the case with The Industrial Cult Orchestra whose debut track ‘As Long As It Winds You Up’ has shades of Tom Waits.

Lyrically the song takes a sideswipe at the terrifyingly vacuous times we’re living through.

The feeling the author is asking us to question how we’re influenced by what we see and hear is firmly bolstered by the animation created for the music video.

If you’re after a new act to fall in love with then we’d strongly recommend giving this tune your full attention.

It goes slightly against the grain of what’s popular right now and we appreciate originality on this blog.

To keep tabs on The Industrial Cult Orchestra you can give them a follow here and be among the first to check out their next release.

HMS Morris ::: Interview


TSOFDs: Hello HMS Morris. Thanks for conversing with us today. You’re based in Cardiff – is this your home city or did you grow up somewhere else?

HMS Morris: Hello! Yes we’re Cardiff based but Sam and I are from different parts of the country. I grew up in Carmarthenshire in a town called Llandovery, it’s a pretty picturesque town with a statue in the middle of it of a Welsh hero called Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan – the statue looks a bit like Darth Vader though. Sam was actually born in Cardiff, but when he was 3 he moved up to St Asaph in Denbighshire, North Wales, one of the smallest cities in the UK.

TSOFDs: What were your early experiences of music which set you off on this often challenging path of being musicians? Whose fault is it?

HMS Morris: I (Heledd) have never been able to escape music, it was inevitable my sister or I would follow a career in the business. My dad was my high school music teacher and was a bit of a singing child star in Wales. He’s an excellent classical singer, and also his mum, my gran, was a chapel organist – a very tough skill I never dared to try; watching her at work as a kid was pretty cool. My mum’s also very creative and has written some cracking lyrics for my dad’s compositions. Sam was a little Eisteddfod boy soprano. That’s a kind of traditional singing competition, and we have hundreds of them every year in Wales ranging from little village ones to the big National Eisteddfod. He’s been trying to earn back the cool-points ever since.

TSOFDs: Chinese cities have historically been quite limited music scene wise although it’s been getting better in recent times. How do you find Cardiff as a city for music – is there a vibrant music scene – are there particular venues/promoters/bands you get along with?

HMS Morris: We’re lucky in Cardiff to have Womanby Street, which is a short, narrow alleyway that’s home to 6 music venues. One of those is Clwb Ifor Bach, which is recognized across the UK and beyond as a classic venue – loads of touring bands bring their music here from all over the world. There’s also a lot of support available for new bands starting out; lots of promoters and venues are willing to take a chance on young bands, which means there’s always a fresh crop of talent breaking through.

TSOFDs: Your new single ‘Poetry’ has been attracting a fair bit of attention from music blogs. We normally pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve but we’ve been slow to the punch on this one! The track builds really intriguingly – what would you say the song is about or what inspired its creation?

HMS Morris: Well the song is about obsessive love and the pain of loving someone without it being reciprocated. I’m sure most people have been through this at some point in their lives! I’m going through it with Adam Driver right now. If there wasn’t a travel ban I’d be outside his house. When I first played it for Sam he just said ‘Bolero’. I guess something about the chords and melodic structure reminded him of it, so that ended up being the inspiration for Poetry’s structure.

TSOFDs: The current pandemic is a strange time for artists. Some will react better than others. Those who are extroverts and love to perform will be going stir crazy. The more introverted who perhaps prefer the writing/recording side of things may find it productive being able to simply stay home and focus on their craft. How are you finding it all currently?

HMS Morris: Well, I’ve always described myself – just like Ru Paul does! – as an introvert dressed as an extrovert. I love performing, but after a show I get intimidated by large crowds and would prefer to disappear into a hole. It is a crazy time right now but I’m really enjoying the time to reflect and write without deadlines. We’re always thinking about the next release and getting things finished but we’ve not put pressure on ourselves. I’ve also been challenging myself to write outside my genre to build up some skills, it’s fun and tricky.

TSOFDs: Sonically speaking you’ve got a really rich sound with an interesting combo of elements. How do you approach recording? Do you find you can generate the vast majority of sounds using a computer or do you like to use more traditional/analog approaches? Some artists these days prefer to do a lot of things ‘in the box’ at home then recreate this live with real players if necessary. Others like to go into a studio with a band and try to make a record sound as live as possible. It’s fascinating as a listener to try and understand how people arrive at their end point and whether they take a purely pragmatic approach to getting the sound they want or whether there’s a more rigid, guiding philosophy behind it.

HMS Morris: First of all, thanks! A rich sound is very much what we’re aiming for – and to be honest that probably takes precedence over how ‘live-sounding’ our recordings are. Sam loves staying up all night layering up sounds and working out orchestrations, that’s the bit of the whole lifestyle of being a musician that he enjoys most I think, so that has a big influence on the way we produce our music. At the same time, there are definitely pragmatic considerations too; it costs a lot to hire an orchestra and a big studio and loads of engineers, so it really makes a lot of sense to take advantage of the (frankly insane) advances in production software that have happened over the past 20 years, and do the whole job in-house.

TSOFDs: The BBC have been really supportive of your work. It seems that, for all the criticism of the licence fee, the BBC provides UK musicians with a valuable outlet for their creativity where songs are selected largely on merit as opposed to whether the artists have a lot of reach that will drive traffic, at least on a local BBC Introducing level and with DJs such as Tom Robinson. How important do you think the support of local radio has been for you?

HMS Morris: The BBC have been behind us since our first releases, we’re so grateful for that. We were part of the 2015 BBC Horizons program, which took 12 bands and mentored and promoted them for a year. They picked us up before we’d released our first album so that was a big gamble for them. Through that we got out first plays on BBC 6 music and Radio 1, and played the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury. BBC Radio Cymru, the Welsh-language BBC station, have supported us all through our career. They always play our music and encourage us to write new work – in fact we’ve just completed a ‘Session from Home’ for them. Our music is a mish-mash of genres really so it means a lot that they’ll play us even though we don’t necessarily appeal to the masses.

TSOFDs: The last record ‘Inspirational Talks’ was deservedly well received – is there another LP in the pipeline? If so, do you envisage a radically different approach or sound? It seems to us the fact there is a lot of variation in your songs, allows for a lot of flexibility in terms of the types of songs or records you can make – you avoid the risk of being put in a particular box or category. Is there anything you’re determined to do differently for example?

HMS Morris: This year so far has been about releasing singles, we’re hoping to compile them at the end of the year as a limited edition EP, maybe with a couple of totally new songs on there as well. After that I think it’ll be time to start on another LP. I love the process of putting something big together; it takes a while but it’s so satisfying when you have a collection of songs finished that you’re proud of and that make sense as a complete work. The variation in our songs definitely allows us a lot of flexibility. I don’t listen to one particular genre and I don’t believe I should have to stick to one genre when writing. I don’t think you develop as a songwriter that way, and also I’m sure it gets a bit boring!


TSOFDs: How does an HMS Morris song normally begin life?

HMS Morris: Most of the songs begin life either as a guitar riff or a synth sound on my little Akai MPK Mini Play keyboard, or a phrase of lyrics I like the sounds of. It varies; recently as we’re stuck at home the MPK Play has been the go-to instrument, it doesn’t take up space and you can use it to easily record into garage band or logic, I (Heledd) tend to build the basic structure/chords and vocals of the song to about 60 percent complete before handing over to Sam to arrange and re-interpret. I’ve learnt not to be too precious with my initial idea as things tend to change quite dramatically once it gets into Sam’s hands – it’s normally better than I’ve imagined to be fair, I’m not throwing shade.

TSOFDs: The psychedelic tag has been pinned on you – would you like to flip this around and recommend any new psych acts to us?

HMS Morris: Absolutely! We have a massive psych heritage in Wales with lots of bands working through the genre, and as Welsh speakers growing up in the 90s we both remember the moment when the Super Furry Animals’ album ‘Mwng’ (which was 100 percent Welsh language) made it to number 11 in the UK charts. In terms of new musicians carrying on that legacy, some favourites at the moment are:

Rhodri Brooks

TSOFDs: Thanks for the ace recommendations – all the best for the future.


The ‘Poetry’ single is available across all major streaming platforms, wherever you get your music. To investigate HMS Morris further, check out their Bandcamp.

Mirrors ::: New Music

Mirrors (4)

We first stumbled across Mirrors in November 2017 when we heard their awesome EP ‘Separate Reality’. It was exciting to discover modern psych rock of such immense quality was being conceived of just up the high speed rail track, in nearby Shanghai.

Now, as part of the excellent Beijing-based Ruby Eyes roster, Mirrors are back with new single ‘Within An Endless Dream’, and are sounding no less energized for it. 

As for the music video? Trippy as hell with added cats. What’s not to like, Internet?

Due to the coronavirus, Mirrors have had to postpone their upcoming New Zealand tour. But whilst China is locked down in an attempt to contain this dreaded lurgy, we can still help Chinese acts by spreading their music far and wide.

If you want to listen to yet more rad music Ruby Eyes has to offer, then check out this rather fine Spotify playlist.

Over and out.


Follow Ruby Eyes Records on Facebook here.

People Taking Pictures ::: Interview

Luke Parish is part of the formidable Perth-based outfit The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. After hearing the debut release ‘Informative Noise’, from his solo project People Taking Pictures, we were keen to have a chat.

Image result for People Taking Pictures Informative Noise

TSOFDs: Hey Luke, thanks for chatting. So, first of all, why the need for a different psychedelic project?

LP: My taste in music has always been so broad that I kind of wanted something different that could go between genres more and have no limitations. PPC has always been Jack’s (McEwan) primary focus and so I suppose I wanted a secondary outlet that I could write songs for and take what I’ve learned from PPC. There’s also something different about working completely solo as you kind of force yourself to be critical of everything without the input of anyone else, so for me the focus on the project was pretty clear with what I wanted to achieve.

TSOFDs: A lot has been made of the great psych music coming out of Australia, just in Perth alone. Rather than rehash the same old questions regarding why there’s such a strong general scene, I’d prefer to ask you what personally turned you on to making psychedelic music – was it early formative experiences, parents playing music from the 60s and 70s, etc? Or did you go to a gig and a psych band just happened to blow your mind?

LP: I think when PPC first started there was definitely an abundance of psychedelic-esque projects happening in Perth so it was inevitable that we would be heavily influenced. When I first finished high school I was going to watch Tame Impala and Pond do their album launch shows and it was so exiting to see such great music at that point in my life. I grew up with a diverse taste in music too that could be deemed psychedelic. My parents listened to a lot of world music, jazz, lounge and trip hop stuff so I was already primed to get further into psychedelic music. Bands like Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Allman Brothers Band, Steely Dan and John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers were some CDs I had as a kid I loved.

TSOFDs: Reading about your new album it’s striking that you’ve been dipping into music by the likes of Massive Attack and Stereolab. Can you tell us more about what your favorite records are by these two and, just out of interest, ever listen to much Broadcast?

LP: It’s interesting you say that because Broadcast were a massive influence on me particularly towards the end of making the record. When I was touring a lot, my go to albums were Haha Sound and The Noise Made by People, I absolutely loved the production on these records. Another artist I failed to mention was Boards of Canada, I had Geogaddi on repeat too for long car trips. As for Massive Attack probably Mezzanine and some tracks from Blue Lines. I watched Stereolab for the first time last year and it was incredible, my favorite record of theirs is Dots and Loops.

TSOFDs: Hip hop, jazz and soul are also cited as significant influences on this new album – there seems to be a lot which has been thrown into the melting pot. Are there any particular artists you’d recommend our readers listen to within these genres?

LP: I’ll make a small list haha. Badbadnotgood, 30/70, Kamaal Williams, Milo, Jeff Parker, Hiatus Kaiyote, Menahan Street Band, Joe Henderson, Jack Wilkins, Karriem Riggins, Alfa Mist, Django Reinhardt.

TSOFDs: That’s some great listening to be going on with. Let’s discuss writing/recording. With the ‘Crumpets it seems one person records a basic demo starting with guitar, and you build from there, swapping out the computer drums for real ones, and so forth. That seems like a great idea for keeping the original vibe of the track. For this record did you approach it in a similar way – write/record on guitar then replace stuff – or was it more a throw different elements at a blank canvas and see what sticks? Did you have a clear picture of where you were heading or was it a case of just writing and recording and seeing what happened?

LP: This project kind of started as two different projects. I had a lo fi beat tape I was making and then another project with vocals, guitars and other bits and pieces. Rather than do two separate things I decided to actually merge the two and it just kind of worked mashing it together. Nothing was recorded in any particular order, some started from drum breaks I had recorded months before, others started with samples that were then replaced by different live instruments and parts. It was kind of this mad scramble that was eventually polished into resembling an album. I always wanted it to flow though from start to finish, as I love the way albums join songs together and can be listened in one hit. The Avalanches do this really well and take you on a journey without stopping.

TSOFDs: At its worst it could be argued psych music is long wig outs that don’t really go anywhere. The notable thing about Crumpets’ output, and now your new record, is it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Even though Informative Noise is something of a sprawling, disjointed journey, with many odd and intriguing little juxtapositions, you keep things moving along perfectly. Is there a conscious choice to do this that requires a lot of self-editing or have you honed the knack over time so it just comes naturally when you’re composing?

LP: The modern take on psychedelic is quite broad but I also think there’s less and less jam bands because people’s attention spans are shorter and you want a direct injection of an idea that doesn’t drag out. I think this is the way the genre has kind of moved forward into the future. With the production of Informative Noise it relates back to that idea of creating an album rather than a compilation of singles, the album is always at the forefront as being one single piece. By subconsciously having that at the back of your mind, you’re always going to make something that flows well regardless of how much things change song to song.

TSOFDs: As a listening experience there’s a great combo of modern and more retro components going on throughout the LP. Can you spill more beans on the nuts and bolts of how you put this record together or do you prefer to guard your secrets?

LP: The album is mostly real instrumentation, there is kind of a layering thing going on with most tracks, where I will do percussive elements electronically but record traditionally using a drum kit. I always like to use analog equipment before it hits the computer. Then the mixing and editing is done digitally hence some of the more modern effects on tracks.

TSOFDs: Thanks for the insight. You released this record under your own label. Could you ever be tempted to sign for a major?

LP: I don’t think it’s worth signing with any majors as streaming can be a great source of revenue for independent artists and owning the rights to your music is always a plus down the line even though you might not feel like you’re earning much now.

TSOFDs: Is your label looking for other psych acts to release records by or is it just for you and the ‘Crumpets? Should any of our muso readers be sending you demos?

LP: We always love receiving people’s music because it’s exciting to hear what’s going on around the world. I suppose for us, our touring schedule has been so mad that it’s been hard to go beyond our own inner circle of people for now so the label has not expanded yet as such.

TSOFDs: Any plans to visit China in the near future?

LP: We would love to come to China and I have heard it mentioned so hopefully this year! (no promises).

TSOFDs: We’ll keep our fingers crossed. Things are pretty bleak out there in the world right now, particularly in Australia regarding the bushfires. Have you been impacted by it? What’s the best thing for someone to do if they’re reading this and want to support those affected?

LP: Where we are on the west coast is hardly affected compared to Victoria and New South Wales. The country is really shook up at the moment and there is definitely a backlash towards our current political climate and their lack of action towards climate change. Australia is one of the hottest climates in the world and this is clear evidence of a huge shift. The best thing anyone can do from overseas is donate to fire relief. There is a good list here if you’re unsure. The amount of support though, particularly from people in the arts here, has been amazing. Nearly every band or artist in Australia has done something towards the cause and it’s been so incredible to see.

TSOFDs: That’s at least a positive note to end on. Thanks so much for your time Luke. Best wishes to you, your fellow Crumpets and all our readers for the Year of the Rat.


Informative Noise is out now on What Reality? Records.