Second chances, Leefest and Pengilly’s on film

I’m currently sat in my room listening to loads of bands from tomorrow’s Leefest lineup getting far more excited than is good for my little, beating heart

I’m hoping to cover the festival for my next podcast, having invited lineup curator Rich Legate to join me on my last episode, which you can listen to and download right now by clicking on the handy soundcloud module below…

It’s been a difficult week for everyone, I’m well aware. Seeing people’s tweets, messages and general social networking statuses have been heartbreaking – but I’ve also found equal emotion in the incredible images of crowds holding their brooms aloft and grouping together to clean up and erase the damage. For some this will be impossible and all we can do is try to support them. I’m lucky to have amazing friends who have all been Tweeting and texting to see if I’m fine – thank you! I hope you are all safe too, and will remain so.

As we reach the weekend, London is starting to breathe again. My sigh of relief will come this weekend at Leefest, as I try to brave working the press area of a festival again (it’s been a while!) Again, I’m lucky to have been given my own ‘second chance’ by Dave, Rich and all the Leefest crew, who’ve been immensely supportive and accommodating of me and my very new, admittedly green podcast.

I received a brilliant email from Ric of Leeds/London band Pengilly’s today, to say that the long-awaited video for the band’s single Toby’s Hill is ready for your visual and aural consumption. And my word, was it worth the wait.

PENGILLY’S “TOBY’S HILL” MUSIC VIDEO from BROWN BREAD FILMS on Vimeo.

Live, the band are a sight and sound to behold so make it a staple of your future new music agenda to check them out live sometime soon. In fact, why not this Saturday at Leefest? You can still get tickets for the two day festival (which starts tomorrow). You can either get a weekend ticket, which includes two nights of camping, or a day ticket. It’s a non-profit festival and money will be partly reinvested in next year’s event and also donated to local charity, KidsCo. So many ‘small’ festivals have fallen by the wayside this year – through the dogged determination of its young team of organisers, Leefest has resisted throwing in the towel and is on the eve of greatness. I can’t bloody wait.

Hopefully I’ll see you at Leefest tomorrow, if not, I’ll be bringing an update soon!

Ones to watch

There are currently three artists I simply can’t stop listening to – and who I think you sorely need to ‘Soundcloud’ out…

The first of these artists is Kal Lavelle.

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.

Finger crossed I get them on a Get Frank podcast in the near future!

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 frankiepromotes@gmail.com 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)

Must-hear viewing

“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.

Next, here’s lovely songwriter Martin Longstaff, performing live for Amazing Radio as The Lake Poets. This was recorded exclusively for the station at Newcastle’s Blank Studios. I wrote an article recently predicting big things for The Lake Poets in 2011, and Martin will be a guest on my Amazing Folk Roots Show this Sunday from 7pm.

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?

An open letter to BBC Introducing

Please note that the following is strictly of my own opinion, and not that of my employer, the Amazing Media Group (AMG).

Dear BBC,

I produce and present for Amazing Radio, a DAB digital radio station that only plays new and emerging music. Should this make us rivals? No, of course not. We want the same things… possibly.

I’ve become doubtful recently as BBC Introducing focuses on flashy ‘Masterclass’ and ‘In New Music We Trust’ events. These are valuable for artists supported by the Introducing brand, but it seems that sometimes this focus to publicly celebrate ‘the next big thing’ can forget the smaller artists recently being discovered by local BBC Introducing programmes.

Local BBC Introducing shows have to be commissioned by the Managing Editor of the regional centre and I understand this. There are different budgets, schedules to fit the shows into – which explains why some shows are just an hour, some three and others expand outside of the show with regional tours. What I don’t understand is why the BBC cannot invest a mere smidgeon of time in publishing the playlists from each show. It’s incredible that you cannot find programme information for the regional shows.

This might seem like a petty quibble, but I promise you it’s not. What do new, emerging and unsigned artists need most of all? Gigs! You can’t build a fan base (and test their dedication) without building up a loyal following that will support you and your music if you begin releasing. A label will be unlikely to sign a band without a considerable following. Public faith should not be underestimated. Promoters will be looking to BBC Introducing to provide new acts for local gigs – or at least they could be, if the BBC decided to do the simple thing of archiving a list of played acts (with links) from each show.

The BBC Birmingham Introducing website is a good example of what regional BBC Introducing sites should be starting with. The site used to house a comprehensive A-Z of local acts, but I can no longer locate it. There are, however, local artist news articles which is welcome relief from my fears that BBC Online is completely failing to provide us with the information that we pay our licence fees for.

At Amazing Radio our music programming policy is that we only play artists who have uploaded their tracks to amazingtunes.com. This means that our listeners can easily find what they hear on the radio, either by searching for the artists that they’ve heard us talk about on the radio, or by clicking on the hyper linked playlists that we provide on our show pages. We’re also on hand to answer any questions that site users or listeners may have. I occasionally receive emails that ask me about a song or artist, and I’m always happy to answer them,
(complete with a link to the artist’s profile page). Artists can write what they like on their profile pages too, so if they want to direct users to a Band Camp or Facebook fan page, we don’t mind at all!

So BBC, what would I like you do do? Well I’d like to see more effort put into the regional BBC Introducing sites – some shows don’t even have them – and I’d like to see published playlists for each show. Surely it can’t be that hard can it?

All the best,

Frankie Ward

Amazing Movie Making

I’ve been attempting to create some video content for Amazing Radio‘s You Tube channel recently.

We’ve recently become You Tube partners which I’m really excited about (my old channel isn’t, but it was always an aim). I announced upon my arrival at Amazing Towers in June that You Tube partnership was always a plan and in the end they approached us, which was nice!

Now we just need to start getting content, and finding an audience for it! I’ve started by making a simply Q & A video with Kyle Wilkinson, who I produce every week day on The Afternoon Show.

We might do more videos like this so if you have any questions for me (as the presenter of Amazing Folk Roots), for Kyle or for any of our presenters then feel free to ask away!

An Amazing article!

An exciting thing happened this morning!

The Guardian wrote about Amazing Radio!

Getting to know the boys from emerging act Mike Fantastic
Getting to know the boys from emerging act Mike Fantastic

It’s quite a big thing for us as we’re rather ‘underground’ in our music policy (and also because we don’t advertise.) We’re a commercial station that doesn’t play ads (save for the Christmas DAB trails) and we only play new and emerging artists (who have popped their stuff over at amazingtunes.com.)

I’ve written about my job in many a post on this blog, but if you’d like to go straight to the source you can check out our website, follow us on Twitter or even join our Facebook Group and join the ‘New Music Revolution.

A terrifying musical debut!

I’m playing my first gig as ‘Member No.11’ of The Union Choir tomorrow at The Star and Shadow Cinema with Brilliant Mind, O’Messy Life and John Egdell tomorrow… and I can hardly contain my excitement.

For this isn’t any old gig… this is a Halloween special!

Wig by Smiffy's, jacket by Religion, top by H&M and faux leather trousers, £38 by Topshop

I was going to go as a convict before realising that I should probably have some kind of matching stripy hat. I’d already ordered the handcuffs for less than a pound from Amazon so I invested another pound in a bandit mask. I don’t think I’ll wear the mask over my eyes much because it covers my nose and is a bit too wide for my face! I decided to keep the handcuffs for my costume by pretending that I’m a robber that has been ‘picked up and put in a police van in cuffs, but escaped en route to the cells.’ My amazing manager Kev at Amazing Radio found the wig in a cupboard and said I could have it so I’m wearing it to ‘up the bad girl status’.

If there’s any night of the year that you can go ultra vampy with deep, dark lips and messy black eyes it’s Halloween so I’m preparing to go all out with my crayons!

The Union Choir are playing last and I’ll only be practicing with the some of the band for the first time on the afternoon before the gig so personally, it’s going to be nerve wracking stuff! I’ve also been known for writing and interviewing bands for the radio so to suddenly make my Newcastle stage debut in front of a lot of them will be quite terrifying.

Me and Anna, the cellist from The Union Choir will be carving a couple of pumpkins before practice tomorrow so I’ll pop some photos of them on shortly. Apparently South Shields (where many band members are based) is all out of pumpkins so we may be a few jack o’lanterns down!

The doors for the gig open tomorrow at 7.30pm so I hope to see you there! And don’t forget to leave a comment telling me what you’re dressing up as!

Transmission: Who to see and what to wear?

On Saturday I finally felt brave enough to wear the trousers displayed in this previous post.

It was a trip to see the wonderful Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. I figured that most people would be watching the film rather than noticing me, thus meaning I could go about my high waisted business without a red face.

Jacket by Religion, tee by H&M, bag from charity shop, shoes by Primark and trousers from Zara

All of the items in the above photo are from past seasons – in fact aside from the trousers, the other items are over a year old. (Although the bag is of an unknown age, as I got it second hand a few weeks ago.)

Please forgive my messy room by the way! When this room was taken my wardrobe still lacked a rail, and currently I lack a lightshade so the low attic ceiling doesn’t spread light too easily. I also need a real camera and tripod!

My next dilemma is to decide what to wear to Saturday’s Transmission gigs.

Gig one

The first gig takes place at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum and features some local acts that I really love including Polarsets, Vinyl Jacket and Ajimal. The only problem is that it takes place from 12 – 5pm! I’ve seen Polarsets play a couple of times and they’re reliably fantastic – credible electro pop tunes with above average lyrics from lead vocalist Rob.

Vinyl Jacket are practically ‘friends’ of the show I produce for Amazing Radio, but I’ve never actually seen them on stage or met them in person so I’m going to get a bit nervous about saying ‘hi!’ They’ve got some intricate, indie pop gems in their set so I expect to be pleased!

I’m not sure if Ajimal will be a solo set from Fran, the keyboard player, or a gig with all three Ajimal members. I booked Fran to play a solo set for Amazing Radio but when he brought his two fellow band members with him I got a bit of a shock! The other members Ivan and Stefan are lovely – Ivan brings an electro influence and crazy hair, whilst Stefan brings a classic ‘folk’ voice and a fiddle. I’m hoping they’ve got a full set together as I think Fran’s wants the Ajimal audience to recognise that the music he’s currently playing is destined for group performance. At the moment it’s easy to think otherwise due to the intimate solo performances a handful of us have been honoured to witness (Fran on his own is something to behold.)

The following video is from the day I recorded the Amazing Radio session with Ajimal. If you don’t want to hear me gabbling with the guys, skip about 6 minutes in to hear a fabulous stripped back performance of their song When We Were Children. It’s very special indeed.

Gig two!

The second gig, at Newcastle’s The Other Rooms takes place from 7.30 onwards and features Brilliant Mind, Waiting for Winter and The Union Choir.

I absolutely ADORE Brilliant Mind. They’re punchy, witty and never fail to pop a smile on my face. I’ve briefly written about them before and really should devote a whole blog to their pop future. (Maybe I should call it The future’s bright… the future’s Brilliant???)

I’ve seen Waiting for Winter once before at the Cluny 2 and found them really interesting so I’m looking forward to seeing them in what has been described to me as an ‘intimate environment.’ I’ve heard that they’re also mad busy with recording over the weekend so this gig will probably feel like a studio break for them.

I’ve not seen The Union Choir before (to my knowledge anyway) and I’ve not heard much of Nadine Shah but I’m interested in both, particularly the latter as I’ve not seen many female fronted acts thus far in Newcastle. The few that do come to mind include the prolific Let’s Buy Happiness, Brilliant Mind Keyboardist Kate Edward’s project Agerskow and also rock outfit Retriever.

Hopefully I’ll be amongst them in the not too distant future…

So, onto the hard part! What to wear…?

Now I could go home between gigs for some food and a change, but I don’t want to appear high maintenance. However, on the other hand I am intending to publish this and people will now be aware that I am thinking about outfits! (I’m lacking things to do everyone, honest!)

Here’s what I was thinking for the second, evening gig.

Dress from sale by Zara
Boots by Peacocks (this season), headband by H&M
Jacket by Religion at Topshop
Jacket by Religion at Topshop, 'Love' necklace by Accessorize

(Notice that the clothes are gone due to drawers/wardrobe being fixed… hurrah!)

The Zara dress is a little too big but it was such an interesting lace that I couldn’t resist. (Plus it was on sale, of course!) Lace is still ‘in’ this season, so I shouldn’t risk looking ‘dated’. Although aviator jackets are the ‘must have’ jacket of the season, a little bit of leather always goes a long way (or in my case, pleather.)

I gather that I might not be able to get away with this during the daytime, but I haven’t thought about what I could wear during the day. I know that people will be reading this (particularly those who’ve stumbled upon this on Facebook rather than the original post) will be wondering why I’m fussed, but I think it’s because I want to feel different to how I do at work. At work pretty much anything goes, so I want to separate myself physically from ‘work mode.’ I also want to feel nice!

So, time will tell if I brave the outfit on Saturday night, but if you’re at the gig and see me be sure to say ‘hi!’

On the radio

I’ve moved to Newcastle to work full time as a producer/presenter/webbysocialmediapersonthing for Amazing Radio and I need ‘real people’ to help make my show sound fabulous.

So how can you do this? Well, in a number of ways…

Get your music onto amazingtunes.com

I know many an unsigned/independent band, particularly from Birmingham but I’ve always been a tad tentative about begging them to get their stuff onto amazingtunes.com. Therefore, consider this post asking. All of the acts that we play on Amazing Radio have profiles on amazingtunes.com, an ‘ethical’ music site where artists can upload their tracks for streaming, downloading or selling. If an act wants to sell their music it costs 79p per track and the act keeps 70% of this figure (about 52p.) This is far more than your average distribution/online marketplace (i.e iTunes) and cuts out the costly middleman. So far we’ve had some fantastic Brum-based acts on air including Tantrums, Tom Peel and OST – but I want to hear more!!!

Pick your own playlist

It’s easy… and wierdly addictive! If you create a profile on amazingtunes.com you can make playlists to your heart’s content. One of the features of The Afternoon Show is a user generated feature called The Four Tops. The idea is that you create a four track playlist, think of some reasons why it’s awesome… and then we play it! All you need to do is email it to me, and I’ll give it a good listen.

Prove your rock and roll credentials

We’ve got an awesome Operations Manager at Amazing Towers (HQ) called Kevin Read. He’s basically been to rock central and back. Every wednesday on The Afternoon Show we pit a competitor against the K-Train and see if they’ve got an edgier tale – essentially whether they can out hardcore Kev. If you think you’re up for the challenge get in touch! (It’s definitely my favourite feature of the week.)

Big up your music scene

We like to celebrate musical centres of excellence at Amazing Radio, and I can certainly think of a few musical regions I’m hugely impressed with, including Glasgow, Bristol and Birmingham. The Newcastle scene itself is incredible (more about that another time!) If you think your region deserves a week of celebration on the airwaves, let me know why.

Find an unsigned act to love

I have to admit, there’s an irresistable feeling of smugness that I get when I find a new act that not everyone knows about yet – I feel even better when I spread said act on and other people agree. We’ve got a feature on The Afternoon Show that aims to fill your weekly smug-new-music-quota called Matchmaker. All you need to do is tell me three acts you love (old or current) and our ‘matchmakers’ will find you an act from the amazingtunes.com ranks to love. The musical boffs at Amazing Towers absolutely love to compete to see who can find the best pick – so start sharing!

Promote yourself!

Got a blog? We want to celebrate music bloggers and sites by featuring a new Website of the Week every Monday. The winners will also have a special post on the site dedicated to them – it’s all about helping those who help new music. If I do have readers, they’re probably bloggers – so there’s no excuse not to get in touch!

Share your words, not just your music

I present the Amazing Folk Roots Show every Sunday at 7pm and Wednesdays at 6pm (as well as producing The Afternoon Show every weekday from 3 – 6pm), and we’re always looking for poets to send us their words and recordings, so let me know if you’d like to hear your work on Amazing Radio.

So…

Here endeth the shameless self promotion post, but I’ll hopefully return to more regular updates soon. I’m going to find a band and maybe start reviewing again, I’ve not quite decided yet. My first task is to find somewhere to live for September! I moved up to start working at Amazing before I graduated so I’m confined to a suitcase and am living without proper internet at the moment. Newcastle is fantastic, but I miss everyone back in Birmingham and Kent very much.

Don’t forget to get in touch! Email frankie.ward@amazing-media.com