The other day I finally got my act together and hot-footed it over to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire to see Slow Club play their biggest ever headline gig.
Not only was it a massive deal for the Sheffield two-piece, but it was also a dream come true for my podcast interviewee this month, Tom of Tom Williams and the Boat.
I first met Tom whilst working as a BBC Blast reporter in Kent, and have seen them perform in tiny local venues and bigger platforms such as the Avalon stage at Glastonbury. In the podcast, Tom chats to me about what the gig means to him and the band, the success of their debut album Too Slow and what to expect from the imminent follow-up.
Also featured on this month’s podcast are haunting new duo The Kindling, Bird, one of Liverpool’s most exciting songwriters, experimental acoustic artist Daughter, Get Frank favourite Oaken Lee and former Amazing Folk Roots act Urusen. There’s also a spot for vibrant ska-band By the Rivers, who are soon to embark on a UK tour in support of The Specials.
I’m so incredibly grateful to Rich, Dave and all the guys at Leefest for making me feel so welcome. It’s the most fun I’ve had at a festival in a long time and, despite going on my own, I was kept company by some amazing people.
For this extended edition of the Get Frank podcast, I hit the press area of non-profit festival Leefest to chat to some of the emerging acts gracing the stage over the weekend.
Highlights from the festival include; Professor Penguin’s performance of ‘Pirate’, Sneaking a peek at The Stanley Blacks as they recorded an exclusive performance of ‘Caroline’ for Leefest TV, Jose’s entire performance (particularly her introduction to her track ‘Man on Wire’ and her exquisite phrasing), Loose Talk Costs Lives’ shirts, Pengilly’s bottle of ‘adult lemonade’ and the night that followed, Public Service Broadcasting’s on-stage telly and the guys from Fraser, just well… being the guys from Fraser! Finally, thanks to Zanna for the lift to the station!
The two day event, which takes place on the 12th and 13th August on a farm in Bromley, South London, raises money for charity KidsCo and is a brilliant way of making new music accessible to the masses – whilst attracting big name talent that usually would give Kent amiss. Plus, at just £55 for the full event (including camping), I think you’ll agree that it’s a bit of a bargain!
Leefest - see you down the front?
For this podcast, rather than feature one interviewee, I took on a co host in the form of the lovely Rich Legate. He’s a former LSR FM station manager and is in charge of booking artists for the festival – no mean feat considering that much of the festival has been organised on next to no money (money that included savings of some of the young organisers).
A unique element of this festival is that it mixes new and emerging artists with big name headliners and attempts to treat all as one. At the festival you’ll be able to see up and coming acts gracing the main stage as well as the smaller tents usually reserved for the newbies. It’s brilliant experience for the musicians and great for us smug, ‘musically-interested’ types who want to see the ‘Next Big Thing’ play in a potentially muddy field in Kent five years before they play in an almost certainly muddy field in Somerset…
I first met Kal way back in my first year of study at the University of Birmingham. I caught the end of her amazing solo performance on the acoustic stage at Prichattsbury 2008 and pestered her for an interview on my meagre £20 dictaphone. Undeterred by my crappy equipment, Kal was more than happy to chat about her music.
Later that summer, covering Lounge on the Farm for BBC Kent, I heard my name called out by an Irish accent; Kal was playing the festival! We caught up and Kal dedicated her song, Disaster to me. To repay the favour, when I was called upon to co-host Myspace Mars Planets Radio with Alex Zane a month or so later, Disaster was the Myspace track I decided to play.
Roll on nearly three years later and I discovered that Kal was to support an Amazing Radio interviewee, Emily and the Woods, at a gig in Newcastle. Once again Kal dedicated Disaster to me, and as I watched her play I realised how far we’ve both come – Kal is steadily racking up a following during support gigs for Atlantic Records artist Ed Sheeran and has even recorded sessions for the likes of phenomenally successful youth broadcaster SBTV (who recently appeared fly-on-the-wall Channel 4 documentary that I provided the site support for).
Kal’s seminal number Disaster will always remain one of my favourite songs, not only for the memories it holds for me but because it perfectly encapsulates the gut-wrenching feelings of a relationship breaking down. No matter how many times Kal performs the song, it never looses its power – something wonderfully demonstrated by the album recording. (Trust me, the accapella moment towards the end of the song is simply stunning.) However, the song I think you should hear first from Kal’s repetoire is Downstairs, a track that introduces you to Kal’s signature mixture of pure longing, sadness and sexual tension.
The second act, Oaken Lee, is another act I have a personal connection with.The musical maestro behind Oaken Lee is Jake Flowers, someone I first saw perform at Birmingham’s Artsfest 2008.
I remember thinking how different Jake was from the other acts playing the Kerrang! stage, with his woolly pullover and acoustic guitar.
In my last year at Uni I got a call from someone seeking music for a charity event at Selly Oak’s Urban Village. I couldn’t get a full band together, but managed to convince my friend and guitarist James to come and play. Jake and his two bandmates were also playing and I remember thanking my lucky stars that James and his friends had convinced me to stay for the performance – it was captivating.
I feel rather honoured that Jake has had the good grace to keep in touch since I left Birmingham, and I jumped with joy went he sent me a copy of his new EP. The sound is ever so slightly lighter than his older recordings, with the occasional sample (in the style of ‘Pop Folk army’ Tunng’s thirties-style orators) and less amplified/electric instruments. It’s perfect for those wistful Summer moments and certainly requires sharing with a friend. (See, that’s how I think of you all now!) The Americana Acoustic numbers feature bass from Jake’s long-time friend and musical contributor, but feature less drums than on older releases, presumably free-ing up Jake to tour independently whilst still staying true to his on-record sound. He also experiments more lavish backing vocals, and revels in the quiet pauses he has total command over.
To see how Jake’s sound has developed, check out the original/Oaken Lee recording of One Summer Gone, one of my favourite tracks from the songwriter. The new version is less lo-fi, with more reliance on acoustic guitar and less on bluesy electric guitars/offbeat drums. The Oaken Lee rendition takes its time and allows one to ponder the terrific lyrics and reflect upon the idea that ‘this world was ours’.
The third and final artist is another who has changed his musical alias of late – and yes, I also have longer-term connections with him, this time being that my band Get Frank supported him as both a two-piece and six-piece back in Birmingham when he performed as Dan Smith.
Dan is now enjoying success as Bastille, with two of his anthemic, sequenced, synth-heavy numbers being featured in E4′s addictive reality series, Made in Chelsea. He commands the synth sounds like no other, making them sound fresh, modern and as foward-thinking as pop songs can be.
Unlike many other ‘artists bearing synths’, Dan’s voice is dexterous and warm. In his former pop life, he could justifiably be described as a male Regina Spektor, with flexible vocals and amazing piano lines. Any former fans fearing Dan’s transition to the programmable side have nothing to fear – Dan’s addition of more keyboards is a journey of progression rather than cynical cashing in. His work remains unique and relevant – and I ruddy love it.
I was really excited to interview Jon from The Union Choir as I’ve had the privilege of rehearsing and performing with the band. It’s one of those insights that not many interviewers are lucky to have, so I hope I made the most of the opportunity in the interview!
Hanging out with Jon from The Union Choir
The podcast is quite mellow this time, and I look back after recording it and wonder where all the female artists went – something I shall rectify in the next episode I’m sure. There are, however, some fantastic bands in this episode, and they stretch from the North East through to Southampton so hopefully I’m spreading out my regions a bit!
So who have I got on the podcast this time? Well I kick things off with one of those artists you’ll never forget seeing live; solo medical student Fran O’Hanlon, aka Ajimal. He’s the songwriter that, together with Martin Longstaff (The Lake Poets), is never omitted from debates on Newcastle’s best bands. Continuing the Newcastle trend, I couldn’t resist popping a top track by the North East’s most entertaining and witty act, Brilliant Mind.
In honour of one of the gigs I attended in June, I bring you a track from Pengilly’s, having had the pleasure of seeing the band in question play a strong set at The Lexington. In support of my interview with Jon, I also play two of the acts that played on the same bill as The Union Choir at Camden’s Dublin Castle; Southampton’s Doyle and the Fourfathers and guitar-tapping maestro Daryl Kellie.
If you’d like to be on the next podcast, please drop me a line by emailing email@example.com or tweeting @getfrank.
I may no longer be working for Amazing Radio, but I want to continue to support new and emerging artists, and I thought that producing and presenting my own podcast would be a good way of doing it.
I’m intending to produce a 30-40 minute episode every 2-4 weeks (depending on the response to the pilot episode). The idea of the podcast is that it will feature a mixture of acts that I have seen live (or am planning to) and will centre around a featured artist who will guest on the show by way of an interview.
The first episode features Wylam five-piece Vinyl Jacket who are currently promoting debut single Painting Stations. The single, which has been released by new Newcastle-based label The Calico Print, has found a home on many a radio station, including BBC Radio 1, BBC 6 Music and Amazing Radio, and should see the boys recruiting a strong fan base. The guys make fantastic interviewees, and I really couldn’t think of a band I’d rather have helping me out on my first episode.
The real challenge I’m currently struggling with is the editing process. This isn’t because I’m inexperienced in using sound editing software, but because I don’t have a professional program intended for the task on my computer. (I miss Adobe Audition greatly!) Currently I’m editing interviews and preparing song extras (with fades/transitions) in Audacity, loading into iTunes and multi-tracking it all together in Garage Band. For the links themselves I’m recording with a Zoom H2 microphone straight into Garage Band. When I was editing the pilot I kept having to rerecord ins and outs because, unbeknownst to me, the clips kept cropping. Once I’m safely back in employment I’ll save up and invest in a copy of Logic Express, and then I can think more about audio imaging and the concept of the podcast itself.
If you have any comments, questions or would like to be featured on the next Get Frank podcast then drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about the podcast and how to subscribe here.
“Must-hear you say? But these are videos I see below…”
Yes that is indeed correct, but they’re music videos so I hope you watch them to hear them… if that makes sense? Basically they’re videos that if you haven’t seen, you should, and if you have I heartily salute you with my well-bitten fingernails.
Firstly I present to you the wonderful Leeds-based solo artist James Owen Fender. I truly love this artist: Awesome voice, sensational tunes. Also check out his video for former single The Cloud.
Now I’ve been meaning to post this next video for far too long. It’s Newcastle four piece Grandfather Birds recording in The Amazing Sessions for Amazing Radio. This video was created by the lovely Paul Alton, who often attends local gigs armed with a video camera. (The song’s pretty sensational too).
I wasn’t too big a fan of previous effort Ungrateful, but I have a huge soft spot for this number, Hunger, by Wichita label act Frankie & the Heartstrings. It’s a fantastic video starring Robert Popper of BBC comedy Look Around You and features a particularly fine performance from keyboardist/guitarist/all-round-legend Mick Ross.
Finally I’m not sure if this is an official video. but we’re loving Kyla La Grange at Amazing Towers right now. Her voice might be too sugary for some, but this song, Walk Through Walls, is epic.
So what do you think? Any new acts I should check out?
… the first of the new recordings from Newcastle based four piece Holy Mammoth arrived!
And suddenly my day became very good indeed!
The occasionally lovely* boys from Holy Mammoth sent me over their new track Years complete with embedded artwork of the boys (it’s a individual portraits of all of them, which is a rather unexpected coup).
It’s not just because I’m lazy and hankering for my duvet, but also because I want you to make up your own mind about the track that I won’t say much about it, other than YOU NEED IT. Luckily YOU CAN GET ITby emailing email@example.com (useful that).
I think I’m particularly enamoured with the track because I listening to it virtually on repeat whilst kneading the dough that was to become the loaf of olive bread pictured below. (I couldn’t actually change the song because I had sticky, doughy hands but I think it’s testament to the track that I fisted, slapped and banged my prospective bun in time to Mark Atwill’s drums without tiring of the bright, well worked guitars and enigmatic vocals).
Holy Mammoth... a good band to make bread to
If you ask the band nicely enough, I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to send you over singer/guitarist Andrew Davey’s lyrics too. There’s a couple of songs in the Mammoth songbook that seemingly deliberate origins and indentity (such as personal favourite Suggester) and this is one of them. It makes a refreshing change to hear a song that can say what it wants to say with little words and a lot of musicality. I like it very much.
It seems that Holy Mammoth have also found themselves a ‘tribute act’ in the form of surreal kidnap victims Hurly Mammith. I’m not sure if this band is incredibly ugly or simply not human, but the above video suggests that wicked scientists have thrown Holy Mammoth, Fang Island and an Asda carrier bag into a blender and come out with something miraculous sounding (rather like I ‘threw together’ the following berlotti bean chilli at the weekend).
Berlotti bean chilli (it took it three point five billion years...)
So anyway, enough about my culinary achievements… you should really send that email now. (Then you should tell the world/tweet/facebook/blog about it, because it’s free and all that.)
*Will be lovely on a full time basis once they make me soup. Or cheesecake. I’m not particularly fussed either way.
Hello darlings, Frankie Ward here having a relaxing night in!
Although do bare in mind that relaxing for me tends to mean writing for you! (Aren’t you the lucky ones?)
Ahem! Forgive my seemingly arrogant words – I’m just in a jolly mood. My laugh has got a lot louder recently (I think it must be my new beanbag!)
So you’re reading this because of the gig I went to yesterday? Or because you’d like a sneaky peek at me attempting to take pictures of myself?
If you’re looking for the former, then you’re in luck! Last night I popped down to the Cluny 2 to see American happy rockers Fang Island play alongside local acts Holy Mammoth and Cult Image.
I’d seen Cult Image play a mere matter of days before this gig so I knew to expect Joy Division-esque post punk songs of insightful words and intricate guitar melodies. Once again, I was not disappointed. The band were reliably on form, with the venue providing better acoustics for singer Sean’s voice over Newcastle’s Discovery Museum (the site of their last live appearance.) I especially like Sean’s voice. It’s deep and edgy, but doesn’t lack warmth (despite the dark stylings of his songs.)
At Generator‘s NEw Wave Transmission event one panelist remarked that the band needed to write their own ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. Now I could imagine that the band would work with some keys (adding some brighter tones to the guitar/bass/drums/lone vocals mix) but surely that would be too derivative of the band’s clear influences. It might be controversial to say, but maybe the restrained occasional backing vocals and even a melodica part might make things really stand out… (I say melodica because Gorillaz used it to such effect on Clint Eastwood, and I wonder if it’s potential for creepy tones could work for the band’s music.)
At the same time, I don’t really want you to change Cult Image, because I really like you!
Before the gig kicked off I chatted to some of the guys from second act Holy Mammoth. They briefly mentioned concern about how their soundcheck went, but any issues were clearly resolved by the time the band took to the stage. Holy Mammoth are one of those bands who grow with every performance. There’s a sense of unity between band members that can be rare on the live circuit and it makes for compelling viewing.
And that’s before you get to the songs!
One of the things I really appreciated about last night’s gig was that for once, singer Andy’s vocals were clearly distinguishable above the well mixed instruments. Perhaps it’s because I know and appreciate the songs, but I can now seemingly nod every kick drum inflection, wiggle my fingers along to the guitar hooks and nod my head to the driving bass lines of set favourites such as Suggester and Weathered.
The band had to cut things off a disappointingly two songs early (I estimate) due to technical issues with a guitar, but it was a sterling performance all the same. If it weren’t for the burgeoning desire to see Brooklyn’s Fang Island, I could happily have watched the Mammoth boys for a lot longer.
Fang Island hit the stage complete with flamboyant outfits (colourful, oversized hoodies), cleverly coordinated, contrapuntal guitar melodies and an absolute lust for life on the stage. Infectious, joyful and spontaneous, the five piece were an absolute,(exhausting), delight to watch. They don’t call them ‘explosive happiness’ without reason!