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Sometimes, music just comes from out of nowhere, and bowls you over. Take Laundomat’s first single Humans for example, a wonderful tune with lots of inventive melody and a little bit of krautrock. Humans appeared around Christmas time, with no discernible press coverage and little social media, other than a bit of footage of the band playing at a low-key gig. A quick bit of googling revealed just one article on them, mentioning that there would be an album released in the new year.
It looked like this album would be released in March, but then the band announced that it would be an EP coming out. Humans disappeared from the streaming platforms and then re-appeared. Another quality tune Slow Clap followed a week or so after, and today sees the release of the full ‘Blue’ EP with the addition of my personal favourite Off. I got in touch with frontman Toby Hayes, to find out what on earth was going with this mysterious project…
What was the deal with Humans? Humans was the first track I released. Released it twice actually. I put it online late last year just to get things rolling, and then gave it a proper release in March with some press n that. Made a big difference! I think press stuff is kinda hard to gauge, but yer, not expecting too much at the moment, it's a totally new project. That said, I've had a good bunch of radio play, which has been really exciting, never really had that before.
What about the album, what happened there? These songs were written as an album, but we thought it best to release them as EPs to get things rolling as nobody knows Laundromat. Hopefully I'll still get to release it all as it was originally intended.
Photo by Caroline Lessire
The thing I love about the three tracks on this EP is that there’s so much going on. Lots of melodies working in tandem, bursts of percussion and clever little twists and turns as the songs flow. You get the impression that each song has been created, disassembled, put back together, refined and then refined again. Toby doesn’t think that he’s a perfectionist ‘just trying to get it into the ballpark really’ but he certainly makes interesting music.
'The writing process sends me nuts if I am honest. I am demoing new stuff at the moment, been at this computer since 9am chipping away at a track. Basically, I come up with a beat or a groove, and if that's feeling good then I start jamming it round coming up with other parts. Slow process, but I've found some interesting stuff happens when you let repetitive ideas like this gestate a while - like vocal rhythms that lock in with the groove really naturally. I'll get random ideas pop into my head when I am in the shower, but only if the tune has been going round in there long enough...!'
The press release that accompanied the release of the Blue EP makes for pretty interesting reading too. Lyrically the EP explores the end of the world, panic attacks in the workplace, political figures that don’t represent the people that elected them, the preciousness of friendship, binge drinking, mental health and the time Toby got ‘catfished’ - for nearly 7 years. I asked Toby to elaborate on these topics, and whether the panic attacks in the workplace were based on personal experience:
'I guess a lot of the subject matter is slightly tongue in cheek, but probably just as a means to hide a bit. Definitely a bit flippant on the topic of 'the end of the world' - again, probably more just about general anxieties and frustrations of what we as a species are doing to this place. The workplace thing is for real though, I have a very real fear of the work environment and employment in general. Not work shy in anyway, I keep myself extremely busy, but I've spent plenty of time hiding in the toilets at work over the years. Tough thing to manage that'.
Given the political angle, does Toby feel that the government’s are handling of COVID19 well? 'Ah sort of, its more about the frustration of it all really. I think this COVID19 situation is a tough one. There's certainly been mixed messages, and I'm sure that's caused untold damage. Equally, I didn't take any of it seriously at first either. But maybe that's because of the lack of clear guidance. Heck knows. Proper wild times. I wonder about the long-term effects of all this'.
Laundromat started life in China, and Toby seems to have travelled around a lot, taking in stints in Berlin, London before settling in Brighton: 'A lot of the travel I've done in the last few years was with my ex-partner. We were looking to find a home somewhere else, kinda got sick of this island so we packed up and left. We were gone almost a year I think before I came to realise just how much I needed to be here making music with my people.
We covered a lot of ground though, found some mad little places. She did a good job at settling wherever we stopped, while I was hunched over my laptop working on tunes. In the end it just made sense to come back and try again. I'm glad we did it though. Been in a bunch of bands since early 00s. Some a bit more noisy, and some really stripped back. Proud of all the projects but not sure how relevant any of them are to Laundromat. I've removed a fair bit of it from streaming services as it doesn't feel good having it floating around. Dusty skeletons. Like to think that I will always be fond of this new stuff though. Feeling good about it'.
What about the muted presence on the live circuit? We were just getting the live side of things up and running when Armageddon hit. 'Obviously, everything is cancelled now so we'll just have to start again on the front when everything goes back to normal. We had one show in November, here in Brighton at The Bee's Mouth. Was incredible. Tiny basement show, such a good vibe. Everyone was dancing. That was always the goal for this, music you can dance/nod your head to'.
When can we expect to see the other EP’s? More EPs will follow soon as possible. Wanna try keep the pace up, but obviously it's hard to tell what is best at the moment.. just feeling all this out really.
And finally, what about the future - If you could plan out a perfect career for Laundromat, what would happen in the first three years? Haha big question! I think more than anything I would love to play a stack of live shows. It's been years since I have felt confident going on stage with a band. Just wanna get busy with this really, travel a bunch. Still not been to the States, that’s a big time goal of mine. Would love to play Japan too. Just the usual stuff. There's a few people I would like to collaborate with, that kinda thing. But mainly just play. I've spent so bloody long sitting at my desk with headphones on. Desperate to take this out into the wild..!
The Blue EP is released today on Brace Yourself Records. You can listen of the entire EP here.
Covid19 and the containment strategies that have rightfully been introduced to combat its spread, have hit the music industry like a tidal wave. Major festivals like Glastonbury, Wide Awake and All Points East have been cancelled, hundreds of gigs postponed, venues temporarily closed and major music events like SXSW shelved, resulting in many losing their jobs. The cancellation/postponement of sporting events, often an active channel for music artists to gain exposure, has also been a major blow for emerging musical talent.
What does this mean for those bands that are just at the beginning of their careers? On the eve of the release of their third single ‘Badlands’, we asked Adam Young, singer/guitarist in the Howlers to quantify how Covid19 has impacted their burgeoning career and find out what can be done to keep what was a buoyant music scene alive.
The Howlers released their debut single ‘La Dolce Vita’ just under a year ago, with the single gaining widespread exposure in established music press such as Clash Magazine, Line of Best Fit and Gigslutz as well as across several blogs and zines, including this one. The single also got 12 weeks of airplay on Jack Saunders Next Wave show on Radio 1, Radio X and BBC Introducing. Their second single Matador followed in November and gained broader exposure via Soccer AM, BT Goals of the week, this weeks Rugby, World Darts Championship, British Airways Inflight Playlist, and was even played during the Champions League Semi Final and Europa League Final.
Under normal circumstances, the band would naturally be expecting Badlands to further springboard their career but have had to come to terms with the impacts of social distancing and the lockdown: ‘Because of the current Covid 19 outbreak, overnight a third of campaign was sunk and another third became uncertain. We are self-releasing and funding this record, but our publisher has been great the whole way through the campaign so far. Unfortunately, all the sync we would usually get has gone out the window, so we’ve had to find other ways to fill the gap that has been left’.
Despite this all Adam remains upbeat; ‘In all honesty, because we are very switched on as a band and we are lucky enough to have a good team around us we’ve managed to soften the blow to us as a band in recent weeks, but it has still had a huge effect on us. We had to postpone our April tour which had shows already sold out or almost sold out so that was a real kick in the teeth. The silver lining is that we upgraded them and were able to reschedule them for a tour in September. We’ve been really fortunate as a band to have support from major radio from day 1, and press such as Clash, and Badlands is already lined up for airplay on Radio 1 which makes all 3 of our releases to debut on the station within 10 months which is incredible for an unsigned band’.
There are however other broader pressures that face the band; ‘Our main income comes from our day jobs which is mainly in service-industry roles, so we’ve had to struggle with that, and right at a time we were committed to this upcoming single, so it’s been a real struggle. Charities like Help Musicians have really helped us though, so we’ve got to give them a big thank you’.
With the live circuit shut off and event coverage eliminated, another channel available to artists to gain exposure is radio. Radio has historically been very supportive of the emerging music scene, but could it do anymore in the current circumstances? Radio has always been kind to us, and we’ve always shown our appreciation and love for the people that have got behind us from Day 1. I don’t think radio can do much more than they are, maybe offering up more live sessions to bands but that’s about it. They’re on tight schedules and there’s a lot of unspoken rules on what makes a track ‘radio worthy’, but Jack Saunders has always fought our corner, John Kennedy as well, even Lammo and Cheryl Waters got behind us recently which was really cool to see. Radio and presenters are actually some of the nicest people in the industry.
There also clearly a great opportunity for the Music Press to support. But what about us, the normal people that consume the music, can we help? It’s a funny old world - people don’t release the power they have as a consumer. Following a bands Spotify, pre-saving and saving their tracks, or adding them to a playlist of yours goes miles. It’s the equivalent of going down to HMV and buying all the copies of the shelf - not financially of course but the principle is the same. The music world is run by computers and tech heads on Mac books – it’s all about streams, likes, saves whatever it may be. The algorithms don’t pick up on it otherwise. You know you could release Live forever or Hey Jude now, but if only 1 or 2 people liked it and saved it, it’s almost as if that track never existed. That’s the power consumers have.
While we all pray for the pandemic to be controlled, it’s unlikely that this will happen quickly and the long terms impact of COVID19 on the music industry are largely unknown at this stage. As you can see by Adam’s comments, there is however a lot of opportunity to make a difference and try to keep the industry alive, whether you work in radio, the music press, or are simply a consumer like me.
Badlands, the new single by The Howlers is out now. You can hear it and save it here
What We've Been Listening To This Week...New Releases by The Lounge Society, The Black Lagoons, JW Paris, Alex Rave and the Sceptical, Wreck and the Mards
Links to music / features in blue.
The last seven days or so have been slightly quieter on the new release front in terms of volume of new material coming out, although some excellent stuff has landed from expected and unexpected sources.
First up, the ever reliable Speedy Wunderground label have delivered the goods again with another massive tune, this time by the Lounge Society with their debut single Generation Game. Generation Game is a bit of an epic, building up at pace with a kind of 60’s/70’s freedom fighter vocal thing going on, with that line ‘What will the U.S. DO?’ properly getting stuck in your head. Marvellous.
JW Paris really caught our attention last year with their single ‘Favourite Thing’ and they’ve just released another quality tune, Royalty. Royalty has a bit of ‘Wind Cries Mary’ Hendrix feel to it, with the band adding a bit of depth to their repertoire. By all accounts there are few more tracks on the way, so hopefully this may mean an EP or more to come in 2020.
Last month we came across the Black Lagoons and their single Best Western. This week they released another new single, All Singers Have Singers For Friends. Their first EP ‘Illusions, Incoherence and Fever’ released in 2018 featured decent 5 garage rock tracks, albeit nothing particularly distinctive, but with this single and its two predecessors Best Western and The Heat the band are carving out a very interesting path for themselves. Its quirky, unconventional and very moreish. The video is a bit nuts too, with some guy doing martial arts moves in a scrap yard.
We’ve featured a couple of new releases as separate blogs this week, the first of which being the new EP ‘Satisfied’ by Norwich band Wreck. Before Wednesday we’d never heard of them, but they sent through their EP, and we were so impressed that we wrote an article about it that day. You can read about it here, and there’s links to all four tracks, which are all excellent.
We also featured Manchester based Alex Rave and the Sceptical, who released their fine debut single Itch on Friday. Itch contemplates whether the millennial generation complains because it expects everything to be so good, or is society genuinely harder to live in than it used to be? Its so refreshing to see bands explore these themes, so we thought we’d ask them to expand on these in an interview. Its also a wonderful thing when the answers to your questions are so well articulated by what seems to be a really down to earth bunch of individuals. You can read the interview here.
Another band from Manchester releasing their debut single on Friday was the Mards. The band take their inspiration from mid 2000's indie bands, such as The Kooks and Arctic Monkeys, as well as pop punk bands like Green Day and Blink 182. ‘Is it better’ comes after a year of bedroom rehearsals and playing gigs in and out of Manchester, and you can hear it here.
Next week is a big one for new releases….
Alex Rave and the Sceptical Interview - The band talk about their debut single 'Itch' and life in the lock-down
One of the many great things about the new wave of alternative artists, is their ability to shine a light on their generation’s feelings through their lyrics and their music. Take Manchester based Alex Rave and Sceptical for example, who in their debut single ‘Itch’ yearn for a time when things were much simpler than they are today.
Itch examines the world in which Alex’s Grandfather lived, working in the coal mines that surrounded Doncaster and his ability to just get on with his life without complaint. The Itch is Alex scratching his head to consider why he struggles to cope with his own reality, when outwardly life is far less demanding than that of his Grandfathers.
“Oh, why so serious? I think I’m going to need a hero grandad. See pop culture’s got me thinking it’s my God given right to be saved but maybe it’s not and maybe it never was.”
Itch is a fine debut, hardy yet anthemic post-punk with purpose. To coincide with the single’s release we spoke with the band, who consist of Alex (vocals), Joe (bass), Will (Drums), Connor (Guitar) and Josh (Guitar) to find out more about the pressures that inspired the single.
(Alex) We’re all at that weird age where you don’t really know what’s going on. Moving to Manchester opens your eyes to so many different experiences that we might not get in our own hometowns. At the same time, it’s a hell of a lot harder to survive here than it is in say Doncaster where I’m from. Leaving my teenage years and entering adulthood in a city as bustling as Manchester I believe gives you a big reality check for better and worse. But, to leave here would be a nightmare.
How many of those pressures stem from our ‘always- on’ culture and the use of digital technology?
(Alex) What I'm about to say may come across as slightly hypocritical, but I think that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have destroyed society and turned most of us into self-conscious, paranoid robots. Most of us now search for gratification via e-approval and if we don’t get it, then it makes us feel less of a person.
Take being a band for example. The music business as a whole, has made it pretty obvious that you can look the part without really having much to sing about and people will still invest in you. Nowadays, if you are a band without social media and pictures of you looking the bee’s knee’s, it can get difficult to get any attention at all. Popular culture dictates society and you don’t get that without the use of social media. Personally, that scares me.
The band describes their music as ‘Gloomy psychedelia with a cold dash of punk’ influenced by the likes of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys. Itch is certainly grittier than Alex’s solo material, Am off and A Spark in the North. Alex explained how the addition of the band has made a difference:
(Alex) Don’t let the name deceive you, this isn’t a solo project we are very much a band who write together. This whole project started off in a bedroom with myself and Chaz (from Document). We were just recording some songs that I had been writing that were different to what I was doing with my old band at the time.
After releasing Am Off under a solo title, I thought it’d probably be best to get a band so I started recruiting. I didn’t really know what to expect at first but as luck would have it I ended up with a group of really talented people. I had an idea of what I thought it should sound like, but after we started playing together more and bouncing ideas off of each other, it evolved into something unique that appealed to all of us.
With everyone being on the same page it certainly gave me a lot of room to manoeuvre and think about how I wanted to present myself. That’s why its ‘and The Sceptical’, not because its me and them but because It seemed fitting to single myself out due to the nature of my delivery. What can I say, I love to whinge.
Ironically given the background to ‘Itch’, the band are quite stoic about life in the Lockdown, even considering what good may come from isolation.
(Alex) Yeah it's not too bad I suppose. I have literally just got back in from my first quarantine walk which was peaceful to say the least. Last week was certainly a lot easier with the sun being out. I couldn’t believe it actually. Myself, Joe, Josh and Chaz were on the balcony in vests drinking and smoking. It was brilliant! Just a shame we couldn’t go and do it in a beer garden…
(Joe) I think we're all trying to make the best of a bad situation... some days are better than others, keeping busy is undoubtedly important, but it can easily become a destructive obsession. It's a tricky one.
(Will) Business as per really, humbled to still be able to work.
(Alex) Once those restrictions get lifted, it'll probably be the closest feeling to winning a world cup that we’ll ever get. I reckon there’s definitely going to be a hangover period of about two weeks where everyone is out on the lash. And I’ll be there with you, spilling my pint and asking you for a paper and a filter. I can almost picture it now.
(Joe) The main beneficiary of this pandemic seems to be the planet, so it would be great to see a more universal attempt to protect the environment and encourage greener initiatives.
(Will) I feel everyone has been going through their own shit as of lately, I find people have been a lot shorter and ratty, and understandably so. Personally, I think the lockdown period has emphasised why we should not take anything for granted and cherish everything and everyone around us.
(Connor) Hopefully we’ll keep up some of the community spirit we’ve seen and not take for granted the little things such as the freedom to have a pint with your mates, probably a bit more hand washing going on as well.
To support the release of Itch, the band had originally planned a few gigs in Manchester and Sheffield, but invariably these have been shelved. Considering this we asked what was next for the band in 2020.
(Joe) It’s a waiting game really. All we can do is write and practice independently so that when normality eventually resumes, we're ready to seize as many opportunities as we can.
(Alex) Building the moment back up. We have loads of new material to get ready so it’s just going to be a case of getting back in the practice room and refining our set.
(Josh) Yeah it’s just going to be a case of re-organising everything then getting on with it straight away. Hopefully, we can safely deal with this virus in not too long of a time.
Itch is out now on Egerton Records. You can hear Itch here.
Links to music in blue
Some bands have just got it haven’t they? Coming all the way from the far east (Norwich), from the sounds of this EP, Wreck are one of them.
The band have just released their second EP ‘Satisfied’ and it’s a self-assured beast, full of garage rock swagger and attitude. Wreck have enlisted Tarek Musa, producer of Sheafs, Circa Waves, Spring King and others for this record and its clearly paid off, with the resulting four tracks pretty darn special.
The EP starts with Lets Ride, shimmering psychedelia with frontman Diogo Da Silva reciting poetry Jim Morrison style before the track kicks into a full-on rock and roll assault, pausing momentarily before segueing into the excellent 21st Century Girl. Musically 21st Century Girl borrows heavily from the Stooges at their prime, with a snarling vocal that sounds not unlike Oli Burslem of Yak.
Toyboy continues the aural assault, relentlessly energetic and in your face balls-out rock and roll. The EP concludes with Satisfied, a beefed up and reborn ‘No Fun’ for a new generation, apparently about the impassioned mind of the modern-day adolescent.
Put this EP up against their raw debut Dusty Knees and the transition is quite remarkable. My only complaint would be that 21st Century Girl and Satisfied both fade out rather than coming to a natural conclusion.
Satisfied is a fierce, confident statement of intent. Having heard this, I want to see them play live.
Satisfied is out now.