My Harkive – 9th July 2013

I start at 8:00 when my alarm forces me awake and I immediately turn on the radio.

I won’t lie – this is almost permanently tuned to Radio 1, although the track (that even Nick Grimshaw comments as sounding like a ‘rubbish Cotton Eye Joe’) makes me wince (I later find out that this is called Ring A Ling by Sneakbo. This morning it’s mostly chat though – I’m an out and proud Grimshaw fan so this is fine by me. Plus, I’m 24 so I’m still within the Radio 1 target audience. (I know you’re judging me!)

As I head out the door to the district line, I have a listen to a mix of a song I’m working on on my iPod. It might sound odd to some, but I find it useful to listen to my own music (sometimes I find it quite hard) on various devices so I can see if the listening experience changes – for example, my macbook speakers are pretty poor so an iPod is far more preferable. The track in question is called Twelve Feet Under and I’ve put it on Soundcloud and shared it with friends to try and get their thoughts:

Often I listen to a podcast or something from the BBC Radio Comedy output on the tube to work – this morning it’s The Show What You Wrote, which is being podcasted as the BBC Comedy of the Week. However, as it finishes before I arrive, I pop my iPod on song shuffle and on comes the Sufjan Stevens song John Wayne Gacey Jnr.

Later, at my desk, I notice a blog post on Twitter about The Rumble Strips by This is Fake DIY. It includes a Youtube video of their song Alarm Clock, so I give that a listen. I was never a big fan so I listen more out of curiosity than nostalgia. It’s ok, but I prefer the upbeat (but slightly similar) sounds of the dearly departed Larrikin Love.

After lunch I have a major hayfever attack and run out to Boots to get some eyedrops. Trying to take my mind of my swelling, itchy eyes, I take my iPod with me. As before, it’s still on shuffle. The tracks it treats me to are Magic Touch by Golden Silvers, Four Kicks by the Kings of Leon, Night Terror by Laura Marling and Live Wire by Fyfe Dangerfield. I do have some current stuff on my iPod, including Bastille, Lianne La Havas, Bastille, Daughter and Kate Nash’s underrated third LP, Girl Talk – oh and Yeezus by Kanye West, but I also have plenty of older stuff I can’t imagine not taking on the go with me.

After work I hop tubes between Great Portland Street and Angel. My iPod is still in an eclectic mood and plays A New Found Land from Villagers’ (brilliant) second album Awayland, The Look of Love (Nina Simone version), Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) by Florence & the Machine, The View from the Afternoon from The Arctic Monkeys (who I have never stopped loving in the past nine years), Isobel by Bjork and She’s Lost Control by Joy Division. Naturally the latter sets me perfectly in the mood to see comedians John Robbins and Joe Lycett test out their Edinburgh shows… or maybe not.

Post comedy, it’s back to dashing between underground lines. Impressively I manage Angel to Bromley-by-Bow in three different lines and four songs… although I do chat to my friend Doug from Angel to Bank so technically I only listen to my iPod for the second two lines. These songs are Landfill from Daughter’s Wild Youth EP, Old Stone by Laura Marling, New by No Doubt and, rather perfectly, With You Now by my friend Jake Flowers’ band Oaken Lee. I say perfectly because I’ve just received a message from Jake about Twelve Feet Under.

Don’t forget, you can still submit your listening habits from the 9th July over at Harkive.org now!

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Disappointed in Me: the video!

I wrote Disappointed in Me back when I was in my second year of uni.

I guess I don’t really need to tell the story behind it as it’s pretty much all in the song (yes, ‘relationship upgrade’ were the words actually said to me, along with ‘well I’m very disappointed in you’).

So why record it now? Well, I might have written it when I was 19, but the situation isn’t uncommon for many women I know. Also, it’s ruddy good fun to play and my friend Reece was looking for something colourful to make a video around.

So here it is, Disappointed in Me on YouTube! (And for those who you who have asked me, it’s an excuse to see the ‘Get Flat’ too.)

You can get the track for free from my Get Frank Soundcloud now.

I was dead lucky to have Reece Lipman make the video for me as part of his new venture, Shimmer-man Productions. I felt really anxious about being in front of the camera again after an extended period of not doing much on You Tube and also because it was someone else filming me, rather than me filming myself, so I had to just trust Reece and make like a op star. Luckily, Reece made me feel really comfortable and I sang along to my own song so many times I got used to it pretty quickly! (I couldn’t properly mime so I quietly sang.)

In other words, I’d thoroughly recommend him if you’re looking for a music video producer/director!

Tedx Bow

The other day, despite suffering a hangover from a late night Mariokart session, I headed to my new favorite cafe Muxima for the first Tedx Bow event.

The theme of the event, which featured a mixture of local speakers and Screen Ted talks, was ‘From the Heart’, and highlights included Amanda Palmer’s honest and eloquently explained ‘Art of Asking’ for funding her music (she compares it to her former vocation as a street statue performer) and Anise Bullimore’s very moving talk, ‘My body of work: an experience of cancer and art therapy’.

A few talks in, Isaak (who programmes Muxima’s upstairs space) came up to my ‘gang’ of Natalie, Elena and Andre (we’ve formed a mini singer-songwriter group and go on outings and stuff) and asked if one of us could fill a slot by playing. I didn’t really hear much of this conversation, so it was a surprise when I was pointed at… an hour later I was on stage with a borrowed guitar, playing the only three capo-free songs I still remember enough to play.

Photo by Antonio Luca www.aellephoto.com

Photo by Antonio Luca
http://www.aellephoto.com

Aside from two people who spoke all the way through my first song (someone told them to stop or leave as everyone in the room could hear every word they were saying… it was weird having just our three voices at counterpoint) everyone was silent and actually listened – it was amazing. It felt like they had more of an effect on me personally than I could ever have had on them. It’s easier to connect with the words you’ve written when you have the space to feel them; to hear yourself perform them.

Now I know this will come across as pretentious, but when you’re playing an open mic or a gig in a bar and it’s noisy and the monitors aren’t helping you like they should, it’s easy to think ‘I need to get through this!’, particularly as I’ve not performed much recently. However, the audience, speakers and audience at Tedx Bow – the community, I should say – has given me more confidence to just flippin’ do it.

I can’t wait for the next one!

BBC New Comedy Award 2012 hits Birmingham

Tonight I’m returning to Birmingham for the next heat of the BBC New Comedy Award 2012.

We’ll be at the Glee Club from 7.30pm with ten more comics looking to earn themselves a place in one of our semi-finals.

So far the standard has been ridiculously high and I’ve had great fun meeting everyone and filming the shows. Here’s the films I’ve produced so far:

I’ve got to run and catch a train very shortly, but I hope to see some of you there. We’re also heading to Cardiff, London and Brighton on our first round tour – tickets for these shows as well as tonight’s Brummie barrel o’laughs can be found here.

Find out more information about the BBC New Comedy Award here.

Stories Beat Stuff 3 UK

Tourism New Zealand are continuing their Stories Beat Stuff campaign with a brand new competition for a lucky so-and-so to win the trip of a lifetime to New Zealand with three jammy mates.

I first wrote about entering the competition earlier this year, but sadly my entry didn’t make an impact – I guess my time isn’t worth a $20k trip! Well this time the stakes are higher with a trip worth $30k. Understandably, I’m stepping things up a gear!

As with last time, there are two different packages; Culture Kaboom and City Splendour.

Culture Kaboom is catchily titled due to its focus New Zealand’s volcanic heritage. It’ll be an unforgettable experience packed with trips to hot mud pools and homage to Maori culture.

The package I’m competing for, City Splendour, is all about exploring New Zealand’s largest cities, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland; modern settlements juxtaposed next to beautiful landscapes and the native wildlife. Here’s a teaser campaign video:

If you want to have a go at entering the latest competition, it’s really simple. All you’ve got to do is submit a video or a photo of what you would trade for a trip to New Zealand – making sure it’s a real object and then share your entry round via Facebook/ Google+/ Twitter to get as many votes as possible. Obviously, it’d be lovely if you could vote for me too!

Here’s my video entry:

I decided to trade the something from one of one of my most unforgettable experiences for a new one; my costume from the Olympics Opening Ceremony 2012 for a trip to the other side of the world. I rehearsed for four months, giving up 200 hours for free, so hopefully I can trade in this for the experience of a lifetime! I’m desperate to get out of the country for the first time in over six years and really start to discover the world – with its laid back nature, reputation for extreme activities such as bungee jumping and its beautiful, unexplored environment, I can’t think of a better place to start…

To get involved, visit the Stories Beat Stuff Facebook Page. You don’t even have to trade to have a chance of make it to the other side of the world as a second prize of two flights to NZ will be awarded at random to one of the people who voted for the entries. It really couldn’t be easier.

This is a sponsored post, but don’t worry – if I don’t like it, I won’t write about it!

Stories Beat Stuff UK

Even though I’ve not had a telly, it’s been hard for me to miss the recent vibrant campaigns from Tourism New Zealand.

Arguably, New Zealand is one of those dream destinations – a place that most would go to, but most would also see as beyond their reach or means. Tourism New Zealand often run competitions on their Facebook page – a recent one asking users to ‘match the emotion’ to a series of images from the country. Needless to say, I hit the ‘like’ button before you could say ‘Lord of the Rings’.

The latest campaign from Tourism New Zealand requires a bit more effort than the aforementioned example. Stories Beat Stuff is a competition that requires would-be adventurers to submit an image or video depicting what they’d trade for a trip of a lifetime in New Zealand. (See the rather enthusiastic example below for inspiration!) It’s all about the memories and the tales you’ll be able to tell into your old age.

Up for grabs are two experiences; Summer Rhythm will see a lucky winner and their friend/lover/relative (the choice is entirely theirs!) whisked over to NZ for two weeks. There, they’ll road trip it across the coast line and end things at the three-day Rhythm and Vines festival – and because it’s the other side of the world, it’ll be summer too – so you can camp without fear of chilling your toes off! The other experiences is being touted as ‘Beaches and Boats’, a luxury, sand and sun soaked January break packed with opportunities to sunbathe, swim with dolphins and party ’til dawn.

For more details about the competition, click here.

Having not had a holiday for over five years now, I’m intending on going all-out on the campaign trail to win the Summer Rhythm package. I had a big, long think about what I would trade – and what is most precious to me (shoes, guitar, computer and my recent discount IKEA sofa all came to mind!). Eventually I made the following video:

Basically one of the reasons I’ve not been on holiday is, aside from a financial issue, a big time thing. I’ve moved around the country, worked in three different offices in the last year and had more housemates than I can name (probably). I guess I’ve had work-related blinkers on, seeing it as a necessary route to survival and have hardly had time for anything – or anyone. The opportunity to spend two incredible weeks, packing more adventure than ever before, is hard to resist! The fact I’d get to spend it with a friend makes it even more special.

So that’s what I’d give… my time!

Ok, ok! I know what you’re thinking – you’d give your time for the holiday! You’d work… on the holiday? Well potentially, yes. I could be an ambassador for Britain or Tourism New Zealand, representing the Tourism New Zealand website  (which is a-may-zing by the way… check out the flickbook-style podcards as you scroll down the page). I’d also give up my time over here, working for charity or doing as requested – I’ll even put it in the hands of people who comment on my video entry, or Twitter or even this blog post.

The competition is open now and closes on the 31st – but don’t worry, the campaign will be running for the next 12 months and they’ll be plenty more opportunities to win over on the Tourism New Zealand Facebook page.

So will you be entering? Or have you got an idea for what I should give up my time to do? Let me know, as always, below…

This is a Sponsored Post – but don’t worry, if I don’t like it, I won’t write about it!

Viral video by ebuzzing

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!

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).

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?