New Let’s Buy Happiness single alert!

I’ve been waiting for Newcastle’s Let’s Buy Happiness to release their debut LP for about  two years now.

However, I think us fans have done our time now and so do the band, if the online debut of the album’s first single is anything to go by.

Here it is – Run.

I’ve heard this live a few times and it’s always gorgeous, but they’ve clearly made the most of being in a studio. Give it a play and feel those sublime waves of guitar ambience and vocals wash over you… and, when you think it couldn’t get any better, four minutes in a divine build in the music, with extra crunch from the guitar takes things even further.


Making music

Inspired by a chat with my songwriting friend Elena Dana, I decided to actually put a new demo online on Sunday.

I probably should have written this song a while ago, but it kind of came lyrically/melodically and then I had to be bothered to actually get my guitar and work out the chords (which as always, aren’t complex, so I have no excuse…) and structure it.

I’ve played two open mic slots in London so far and I have to seek out more and be proactive, but I get so scared about approaching people so only have myself to blame. I always say I want to have a band – which is totally true – but equally, I shouldn’t just lay down my guitar and refuse to play it until I do. If I do.

So, if anyone knows of nights I could play, get in touch.

Here’s the new song, 12 Feet Under.

This set of demos kind of reflects the more recent sound. So Far Away was written when I was 20… it’s a bit scary to think that that was nearly four years ago! Escapology was the only song I wrote while in Newcastle, while Hard Candy is a product of the time I lived in Willesden Green in an odd living arrangement that made me decide it was time to aspire seriously for my own place.

Now firmly settled in the Get Flat, I have no excuse not to write, and so I finally wrote the song I needed to write about some of the things that happened in 2010/11. I kind of wish I could do it semi-acapella with accompaniment from one of those rhythmic cup players you see on YouTube.

12 Feet Under
I’m on a train
I’m gonna give my body to the Tyne and hope my soul
takes flight
‘Cos I’ve got plans to be getting on with

And oh
You laundered marbles ’til you lost control
Now they’re coming back to trip you, trip you
Resting on your laurels ’til the branches snapped
And the tree on the ground
How it felled you

They’ll have to bury me 12 feet under
For your six feet on top
cos I am
Taking you with me I am
taking you with me
When my neck’s for that drop

And your mother should have warned you to be superstitious
For you’ll be crying out
For her arms
When I’m gone.

Here’s a song from Elena Dana – I used to play this on my Amazing Radio folk show back in the day…

This was released today…

…it’s the latest single from Newcastle’s Let’s Buy Happiness, Works Better On Paper

Having had a slight makeover since I first heard the track (it used to be a tad faster with less of the ambience heard on this recording), it’s a lovely example of how strong the band’s original material is (as well as great new tracks Dumb Girls and Crooks), plus a welcome return to the tantalisingly slow, drawn out, spectral sounds of Six Wolves’ B-side Wood Rings and classic track Devil Show.

It’s out now and it’s only 79 pence. Find out more here.

Brighton’s Got Talent

For all you lucky so-and-so’s heading down to Brighton this weekend for the Great Escape Festival, you’re going to have a mind-blowing weekend.

When I think about it, it’s not luck really, it’s that you had the good sense to book your tickets, sort somewhere to kip and are probably quaking with excitement right now!

As usual, Generator will be hosting an event, and it’s all the more exciting to see hotly-tipped lady Lulu James on the bill. She’s been featured in the Metro with her debut release, the Rope Mirage EP and has received acclaim for her magnetic performances.

What’s brilliant about James is that she kickstarted her blossoming music career on one of Generator’s free UMT courses (they’re brilliant – I briefly wrote about my experience on the course here), after meeting her collaborator Domzilla. After listening to the haunting, dub-tinged stunner, Rope Mirage, something tells me the latter has a similarly bright future ahead.

Find out more about the rest of the lineup here. It’s fair to say that regular readers will be aware of my love for Vinyl Jacket and I’ve previously sung backing vocals for Martin Longstaff (aka The Lake Poets) and will always be a devoted fan.

Other bands I’d give my shoe collection up to go and see:

Beth Jeans Houghton & the Hooves of Destiny – Her debut album was well worth the ridiculously long wait

Bastille – Dan Smith and Co will be the sound of the late Summer. Their single Overjoyed is out now on Virgin Records. Invest your ears now, and feel smug once they hit the mainstream

Gemma Hayes – Will be the first lady of folk at this year’s festival. Going to be a classy gig

Man Like Me – Energetic, crazy, brilliant. The only thing predictable about this gig is that it won’t be boring. Dance your socks off and get down with the trombones

Willy Mason – So much more than ‘that bloke who sung about oxygen’

We Were Promised Jetpacks – Just because.

Are you heading down? Who are you going to see?

The Next Few Weeks In Music…

It’s come to my attention that the next two weeks are going to be rather treat-packed for live music lovers in London.

On Wednesday 8th February Tom Williams & the Boat play the Jazz Cafe in Camden.

Although Tom & co are supporting their next release with the help of Pledge Music, Moshi Moshi have been providing solid support for the band of late, providing them with a juicy support slot alongside Sweet Baboo and Spector at Slow Club’s recent Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig. With a new album on the horizon and a brooding, upbeat single, My Bones, receiving regular airplay on BBC 6 Music, it’s a gig I’m especially looking forward to.

Joining the band on the lineup are Two Wounded Birds, Fiction and Becoming Real. Don’t miss it.

On February 14th Vinyl Jacket have been invited to play Huw Stephens Presents at The Social, Marylebone.

I left Newcastle less than a week before Huw Stephen’s curated an epic lineup featuring Let’s Buy Happiness and Grandfather Birds (I was SERIOUSLY gutted to miss it), so I’m properly chuffed to get to go to one of his nights at last. Worried about spending the commonly dreaded V-Day with a partner in the fear of typical cheesy activities? Surely a gig is the only way to go… As for single little me, I’m going to dress up for me and the music. In Vinyl Jacket’s case, judging by brilliant new single Red Light, this should involve a Hawaiian shirt with a neon flower print.

For the official event page head here. Other bands on the bill include Man Without Country and St. Spirit.

On Monday 20th February I’ll be heading to the Bull & Gate for the first time this year to see Fran O’Hanlon take to the stage as Ajimal.

Fran’s been working with Mick Ross of Frankie & the Heartstrings on a new EP, Childhood. The first single release from it, A Footnote to Love (part one) has just been made available on Bandcamp and is being released by the Heartstring’s Pop Sex Ltd imprint.

Mr Ross is known for his ability to bring the best out of the acts he works with, be it Waiting for Winter or Let’s Buy Happiness so I’ll be waiting for the rest of the recordings with a haughty impatience… or at least heightened anticipation anyway.

I’ve seen Fran play many times, in multiple environments. From the darkness of the Cluny 2, to the intimacy of Osbourne Valley’s Blank Studios. He’s always mesmerising. The elevated, occasionally stuffy, always sticky Bull & Gate venue will be a new challenge. I wonder if it’ll be just Fran and his guitar and keys or if he’ll be trying to bring others again like he did in the above performance for the Roundhouse Rising festival. The Bull & Gate is a venue that I’ve seen work for some bands (Shields and Holy Mammoth worked the stage like pros, but their supports didn’t necessarily fare so well), but as a solo artist Fran will need to stun the room into silence for everyone to appreciate his delicate material. But I’m not worried. It’s what Fran does best.

As always, share your gig tips with me on Twitter!

The Latest from The Union Choir

The Union Choir have just released the video for Your Melodica, one side of the AA release on the 28th January (the other is set-favourite Lavender).

Like debut single Eleanor (which I have a tiny cameo on), it’s being released by Cottage Industries.

Here’s the video. Predictably, it’s lush. I want a knitted version of Jon.

The Union Choir Your Melodica from David Wala on Vimeo.

I’d like to write a review and that, but I’d be totally and utterly biased, (can you blame me?). However, I will say that the first time I heard this was on my last night as a Newcastle resident, the evening of the Royal Wedding. The band played an acoustic version of the track and it felt like the perfect way to end my time in the North. In true ‘me’ style I turned up in the midst of genius Nev Clay’s set (who paused his song and gave commentary) and saw out the evening with the band and a few pints in the Head of Steam. The first time I saw Nev was my first outing ‘with the band’ so it all felt… ‘right’, but also made me not want to leave!

I’m hoping that The Union Choir ‘do a Let’s Buy Happiness‘ and publish a lovely lyric book packed with Jon-Melvin-anecdotes…

Pre-order your copy here.

The Get Frank Podcast #3

It’s podcast time, and this month it’s ‘The One With… The Union Choir

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!

Frankie Ward and Jon Melvin
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 or tweeting @getfrank.

Head over to Podomatic to have a listen to the podcast now – and be sure to leave me a comment here (if you have one)

Easy on the eye

Today I left Newcastle and arrived back at my mum’s house in Maidstone before I start my new job on Tuesday.

A wave of nostalgia hit me not long after arriving back in my old Kent bedroom when I noticed that the long-awaited music video for Grandfather Birds‘ single Higher Bridges had been released online. (Regular readers of this blog may recognise the frontman as my Tynemouth tour guide/occasional kitchen helper, Matt).

Guitarist Stu told me that the single, which comes out at the beginning of May, was recorded under the bridges of Newcastle after a suggestion from Little Comets member Micky Coles (who also produced the single). According to Stu the single was “mainly just an experiment in the dead of night, rubbing the landlord of [Ouseburne Valley pub] The Ship up the wrong way!

“We did have a couple of police cars drive past as we were recording my guitar parts under the High Level Bridge [in Newcastle] and we basically hit the dirt and hid. The last session we did was under the bridge next to the railway station and people came out of the Northern Rail Offices to see what we were doing, telling us to come and ‘do it during the day’ as they were all ‘really bored’!”

The music video for Higher Bridges was masterminded by Stu and local camera man Paul Alton, who has recently demonstrated his philantropic side by organising a series of gigs to raise funds for the Red Cross’ Japanese Tsunami appeal. Continuing the trend created during the recording of the single itself, the video was filmed in the ‘dead of night’ and showcases some of the locations where the band recorded the track.

Grandfather Birds are going on a Northern tour to promote the single after a launch gig with Let’s Buy Happiness and Baskin’s Wish on the 3rd of May at the Bridge Hotel in Newcastle. You can find out a full list of dates by heading to their website and clicking on the handy ‘gigs’ link.

Two and a half weeks

Any of you that follow my You Tube channel will be aware that I’ve made a video account of my time without employment.

I wanted to do this as a record for other people who, like me, have been made unexpectedly unemployed and have no idea how the system works. In some ways it was a difficult process and there were phone calls and meltdowns that I caught on camera but decided to keep out of the final edits. In the end the result was a simple vlog.

I probably come across and stubborn and ignorant in some videos, but I honestly did not know how the system worked for jobseekers. At the entrance to the job centre there’s a big banner that tells you that the idea of the place is to ‘find you the work you want’ but in actual fact they just want you in work. This is an understandable desire, but possibly one of the reasons people stick to signing on. If they are forced into a job that they don’t want and therefore have no time, help or resources to find their ideal vocation, they’re going to be even more adverse to steady employment.

Earlier this month I made the final of a competition held by Primula Cheese and Capital FM North East. The idea was to create a recipe for four on a budget using a variety of Primula cheese. I went for the simple, yummy bean enchiladas recipe I once made for my former Amazing Radio show. I knew I wouldn’t win the £1,000 prize but it was a fantastic day out that really made me feel ‘normal’ again. They even made a film of the event which is hilarious as I couldn’t stop laughing before they announced the winner. Priceless.

Ready Steady Squeeze Final from Adam Troup on Vimeo.

Another thing that kept me occupied over the last two weeks was the wonderful UMT: Play course, run by North East music agency Generator. I met two fantastic girls, Mary and Harriet, and together we formed ‘Mary Sends Out Warning’ and wrote three songs for a performance to friends and family in a mere four days. We also recorded our mini masterpieces and hopefully I’ll be able to share those with you soon!

Here are some pictures from the ‘Big Day’ as taken by the wonderful Jazzy Lemon (who I shall miss very much when I head South).

The beauty buzz

Recently I applied to trial the Burt’s Bees line of radiance enhancing skincare products.

I didn’t get picked – that honour went to stunning 26-year old model Rebecca Pearson (who appears to be vlogging on her work-related travels!) – but the company were kind enough to send me some treats anyway!

The Overnight Bee-uty Bag!

I’ve already got a larger tin of the lemony cuticle cream (which I, quite literally, always keep to hand). I’m addicted to anything that smells lemony and I’m also a fan of coconut and honey so this stuff is ‘the bees knees’ for me (apologies for the terrible puns!)

As the products are mostly little sample sizes I doubt that the peach kernel scrub, honey and milk body lotion or coconut foot cream will last too long, particularly as my body has taken to them rather quickly and I’m a huge fan of all the scents. The scrub left my face a little red for a few minutes but I could see a glow instantly that pleasingly lasted until the next morning without looking oily (something that might be down to the inclusion of willowbark amongst the ingredients). The honey and milk body lotion absorbs easily, scents the skin and moisturises for ages, with my only complaint being that I now need more! I’m also glad of the foot cream, which actually smells more of peppermint than coconut. I popped it on my feet after grappling with the hills of Lipton Spout at the weekend.

Beauty the natural way!

I’ve always wanted to invest in a Burt’s Bees lip balm so I was delighted that this kit provided me with two. I’m currently using the Replenishing Lip Balm (purple lid) which features pomegranate oil and as expected, smells lush. I shall save the classic version for another day, but I’m sure I’ll break into it soon – I get far too excited about lip balm!

All in all, I’d say I’m rather impressed by the Burt’s Bees range of products. I’m definitely going to check out more of their stuff – I’m currently on the look out for some new hand cream to use alongside the cuticle butter (which I use as a multi-tasker on rough patches such as my elbows.) I’m also going to pop into Fenwick in Newcastle to seek out some more of the honey and milk scented body lotion as I’m officially declaring myself a convert!

Any natural beauty product suggestions for me? Leave them in a comment below…