In the latest Bands In Lockdown interview, Jon Milton spoke with Andy Buss of Egyptian Blue, who have recently released their 'Body of Itch' EP.
Firstly, how are you? How are the rest of the band as well?
Not too bad thanks. I think they’re good, it’s been a while since I’ve seen everyone. Just longing for the day we can get back in the rehearsal room.
Do you have a daily routine, are you learning anything new as everyone else seems to be?
I’m not sure about routines, they seem pretty shot at the moment, but I’ve spent quite a lot of time exploring the beauty of the countryside around Brighton. I never knew it was there, so it’s nice to be able to discover some new places. I find a lot of inspiration in distant city views, so i'm feeling blessed to broaden the horizons.
Are you seeing this lockdown as a time to be creative? And has it changed the way you view the industry?
I mean, creativity can’t be forced, it comes when it comes. I rely on hearing conversations for a lot of lyrical inspiration and obviously, that door has been shut recently. So, I guess channelling the music and the words through intense detachment and solitude has opened another door. We’ve all been working on ideas, pinging them back and forth, but nothing can be set in stone until we’re together.
As a band are you doing anything for the fans? A lot of online gigs and Q&As seem to be the norm for a lot of bands, how easy or difficult is that for you as a group?
There’s been a lot of talk between us about staying engaged with fans. We’re staying in touch where we can and trying to figure out what we can do live. Most of our equipment was stored at our practice space, so it’s been tricky to do online gigging. Once the lockdown is lifted and we can be in each others houses and rehearse, then for sure we’ll be looking at what we can do.
With the lockdown being extended, how does that affect your plans?
We’ve missed out on tours and festivals, both in the UK and overseas since lockdown, and I think unfortunately that's going to continue over the summer. A couple of us have been forced to move house at this time, which is proving quite stressful with lockdown extended. Although, once things are slightly lifted, we’ll have the leeway to complete our first significant body of work.
As a fan I know how much I miss going to gigs, for the music and for the social aspect, is this something that you miss as well?
Amen. Miss them more than anything. Just hoping there will be some way the process of getting back there can be quickened. Gigging and being on tour is such great escapism from the harsh realities of our fucked up world.
How important are your fans at this time, I know and I speak from experience, a lot of merch is being purchased to help bands, so are they an important aspect of getting through this?
They are pivotal for most bands financially. They are important to us of course on many levels, but after our merch was left in Dublin pre-lockdown we haven’t been able to restock - so that’s an extra sacrifice on income we’ve had to make. We're thankful to fans who have brought tickets for our shows, with our tour now rearranged for late September into October.
Despite horrors of this pandemic, the lockdown seems to have a created a lot of really positive community action, and for once social media is being used mainly in a positive manner – Do you want life to return to normal once this is over, or would you like people to be using this time to evaluate their lives and start be part of communities and positive social change?
Positive social change can never be knocked, so of course continuing that is vital. However, I think there’s a lot of unfinished business in the world, and social media, which i’m not usually an advocate for, can be a pretty toxic agent. Life before was not normal and won’t be after this. There needs to be change in many manners and that needs to be in reality and not online. Positive social change can’t only exist in an artificial world.
Body of Itch is out now on Yala Records.
What We've Been Listening To This Week...IDLES, Cross Wires, The Palpitations, Dois Padres, Springfield Elementary, The Happy Soul
By Jon Milton and Mark Glenister
Never has the phrase ‘Right time, right place’ seemed more apt than with the release of the new IDLES single ‘Grounds’. It’s the second track to be lifted of the recently announced new album ‘Ultra Mono’ (released 25th September) and if the rest of the album is like this, then the wait will definitely be worth it. IDLES once again prove that it’s not just about raising your voice, being part of a growing community, but it’s also about educating yourself and understanding the issues around this and other subjects. Brutally honest lyrics hit you at every turn on this track, its raw, its visceral and its relentless - it’s the sound of a band that are becoming the voice of a not just a generation, but a large cross section of humanity. It’s our single of the week (and possibly the month) and you can read more about it in our full review here.
Cross Wires released a new single ‘Swans’ this week, taken from their debut album ‘A Life Extinct’ which we reviewed back in October. It’s backed by the spritely and very fresh sounding Tab Clear which is also a great tune, and reminds us the Jam from their early days. Listen to it here.
You may not think of Bedfordshire as being a hot bed of musical talent, but there certainly seems to be an emerging scene over this way. We profiled The Palpitations’ debut EP ‘Feed the Poor, Eat the Rich’ on the blog on Friday which you can read about here and also out the same day was ‘Know Better’ by fellow Lutonians Dois Padres. The band take their inspiration from the likes of Thee Oh Sees, The White Stripes, The Black Keys and Queens of the Stone Age and ‘Know Better’ is a perky little psych/garage rock blighter with a tasty riff and plenty of energy. Its taken from their third album ‘Swamp Jams’ and you can listen to it here.
Staying in the world of garage/psych rock, and also out on Friday was the new single by Springfield Elementary, which we featured here. Doctor, Doctor is a wicked tune, sassy, head nodding garage/psych rock with a cool wig-out breakdown in the middle, written about the struggles of living with anxiety, which so they tell us in our interview, has been exacerbated in lockdown by the fact that they’re skint and B&M have run out of face masks. The band have also made a lockdown-based video to accompany the tune, which you can click on via the feature.
Talking about quirky videos, check out the one for Parasite the new single by Manchester’s The Happy Soul, who just so happen to be friends of Springfield Elementary. The band are big fans of Ed Harcourt who we featured on the blog last month, as well as Brian Wilson whose arrangements have most definitely influenced their four part harmonies. On the evidence of this single I’d also add the Divine Comedy into that mix of influences too. Parasite is what you’d want a proper pop song to sound like, clever lyrics, a dead catchy chorus, and incredibly charming.
By Jon Milton
In our first interview of this series, I spoke with Oli Burslem of Yak, who first bought the band Modern Nature to my attention through a series of posts about their single 'Footsteps' on his social media account last year.
Having heard 'Footsteps', I listened to, and fell in love with, the band's debut album 'How to Live' and have followed them ever since. Their second album 'Annual' was released a couple of weeks ago and is, like its predecessor, a thing of beauty with its seven songs capturing various moods and emotions across the four seasons of the year.
Modern Nature main man Jack Cooper originally emerged from the indie rock scene with Mazes and Ultimate Painting, and his latest project embraces folk, jazz, krautrock, indie and more. I caught up with him just before the album launched to talk through the role that music has played in his life.
How did you first get into music, and what were your early influences?
I don't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated by music. I wake up everyday thinking about it.
How did you get into playing / writing music yourself?
I'd briefly had classical guitar lessons when I was about 10 but I think the thing that sparked me picking up the guitar again was watching the Isle Of Wight documentary with my Dad when I was 13... specifically Jimi Hendrix. He got the guitar out of the loft for me the next day and I took it from there. When I was 17 I bought myself a Tascam 4-track inspired by a lot of the American music I was listening to at the time.
What was the first gig you went to?
I think it was the Levellers in Blackpool... technically Chumbawumba, as they were supporting. This is before their hit but I didn't have a clue who either band was.
What was the first record you bought?
The first album I bought with my own money was Michael Jackson's Bad and then 'With The Beatles'.
How have you discovered and explored different genres of music?
I don't know... following trails from other music. I was a obsessed with The Stone Roses as a 13 year old and found out about Public Enemy through them, Isaac Hayes, 13th Floor Elevators. From Jimi Hendrix, it's just a short step to Bitches Brew and then that whole world is there.
Do you go through phases of listening to different music genres, or just dip in and out?
Yeah I very much have phases and obsessions. At the moment I've been listening to a lot of British jazz and folk from the very late sixties/early seventies. Not a specific group or genre, but I seem to be after a particular feel and tone.
How have different artists/genres of music influenced the way that you play and write your own music
In infinite ways... it's impossible to calculate ha.
Do you have any pin ups or artists you consider to be musical icons? Who are they?
Hundreds... Miles Davis, Mark Hollis, Bill Orcutt, Nick Drake, Don Cherry
Have you modelled yourself on any of your heroes, in the way you perform live, or play an instrument, or sing?
I mean... probably! I remember my guitar playing seemed to change quite a lot after I started listening to Asa Osborne from Lungfish
Is there one song by another artist that you’d wished you’d written, and if so what is it and why?
Organ Harvest by Lungfish... It's perfect
You can listen to/buy 'Annual' and 'Footsteps' here
By Jon Milton
Links to music / features in blue
Manchester, like many UK cities seems to be brimming with musical talent these days. In recent weeks we’ve featured the likes of Document, Alex Rave and the Sceptical and Dream English Kid as well as highlighting a brilliant compilation of bands from the city by Joint Effort, and that’s only scratching the surface.
The latest band to grab our attention is Springfield Elementary, who appear on that Owed Summer compilation and release their new single Doctor, Doctor today. Doctor, Doctor is a wicked tune, sassy, head nodding garage/psych rock with a cool wig-out breakdown in the middle, written about the struggles of living with anxiety.
The band is made up by Billy Goodwin (Vocals/Guitar), Brad Lewis (Lead Guitar), Liam Moffat (Bass) and Chris Tomkinson (Drums) and take their influences from psychier sounding groups like The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Growlers and The Happy Mondays, as well as heavier bands like The White Stripes and The Dead Kennedys which have all helped to define their musical style. Contrary to what you might think, neither of the band are particular Simpsons ultras although they all grew up watching the programme, and the name was simply suggested by Billy, liked by the band and so it stuck.
I caught up with the band prior to the single’s release and had a chat with them about the single, livin la vida lockdown and Manchester music.
Doctor Doctor, what seems to be the problem?
We’re skint, the pubs are closed, B&M bargains have ran out of face masks. Do we need to go on?
In what circumstances have you felt anxiety, and why do you think this is?
Billy: I know it’s a bit personal. Without pin pointing exact moments, I’d just say it’s a nagging voice in your head that goes through every worse case scenario and can make me shut down. It affects quite a lot of aspects of my life but over time I’ve understood that side of myself more and you learn to live with it or manage it. To answer the second part it’s just genetics and probably living in an intense environment when I was growing up.
How have your anxiety level's been affected during lockdown?
Brad: It hasn’t been easy! I’ve been loving it one week then feeling trapped and claustrophobic and climbing the walls the next. I’ve kept myself occupied becoming a full time gardener growing Tomatoes, chili pepper and delicious French climbing sunshine beans!!
Billy: I’ve been up and down at the start but I’ve started looking after my body a lot more and now my mind seems to be following.
Manchester seems to have a buzzing music scene at the moment - how do you stand out from the crowd?
Chris, Billy and Liam all look like Ron Weasley from different points in his life. Then we’ve got Brad looking like a lanky Harry Potter.
Which emerging bands should we be keeping our eyes on?
Listen to Aughra! They’re like shoegazy, atmospheric but quite heavy too. We’ve played a good few gigs with them the last year. They’re usually playing venues like The Castle and The Eagle. Keep an eye out when the gigging circuit gets going again.
5 second rule appeared on the Owed Summer compilation, how did that come about?
We were emailed by a couple, Alex and Georgia who told us about their idea of the album. All the profits were going towards the NHS and saving local venues. Both charities mean a lot to us so there was no way we could say no. The album’s available on Bandcamp (features Aughra) and Sour Grapes have made a physical release on cassette too on their Bandcamp.
Any other compilation appearances?
Yeah! Sour Grapes included our first single ‘Machine Fiend’ in their compilation cassette last year. It features, The Big Peach, The 99 Degree and fellow Manchester groups that play the same circuit as us.
What's next for the band?
Shake off the lockdown rust and get writing new songs together again. We’ve all been writing stuff at home so it will be a great moment when we can combine ideas again.
Doctor, Doctor is out now. Listen/watch here.
By Jon Milton
Imagine a world where your government sends its troops out to the front, without appropriate equipment in place, knowing that they will be ill prepared to deal with the battle, and because of this, many will die. Or a world where you are statistically more likely to get a response if you have a white, English sounding name, over an Asian name. Where, even though you play in an indie rock band that takes its inspiration from Detroit bands like Protomartyr, the people that you speak with from the industry suggest you make greater use of your ethnicity and include a bit of sitar.
Welcome to the world of the Palpitations. A band who not only make music, but also save lives and stand up for social justice. The band release their debut EP ‘Feed the Poor, Eat the Rich’ this Friday and are comprised of training doctors, whose write about their experiences of working in the medical profession.
We first covered them on this blog when they released ‘Siren’ (which is featured on the EP) in November last year. At the time, the plan was for them to spend the early part of 2020 playing live and releasing music, but of course all this changed with COVID19. Except unlike most bands who have found themselves in lockdown, the band have been on the front line, risking their lives to save those affected by the virus.
Incensed by the flagrant lack of PPE given to the NHS staff around him, bassist Nishant and his wife Meenal (also a doctor) are currently leading a legal challenge against the government's guidance on PPE which they believe has caused over a two hundred NHS staff to lose their lives.
The challenge, which at the time of writing has raised over £60,000 through crowdfunding to support its legal fees, has invariably drawn media attention, with Nishant regularly interviewed on radio and occasionally featured in the press. At the final ‘clap for carers’ members of the band and Meenal stood outside Downing Street and turned their backs on the Prime Minister, and stood in silence for 237 seconds, to mark the 237 Doctors, Nurses and Carers that have died during the pandemic. The campaign is also being filmed as part of a forthcoming documentary. It has also exposed Nishant to a world where sizzle and click-bait sells irrespective of race, but when just trying to promote your band, skin colour becomes an issue.
Feed the Poor, Eat the Rich! (the name comes from a Jean-Jacques Rousseau quote) is an EP chock full of slick indie rock, propelled by crunching bass, angular guitar and soaring vocals. The bands’ influences clearly permeate their music, and include the aforementioned Protomartyr, plus Interpol, Radiohead and Queens of the Stone Age.
I caught up with Nishant prior to the EP’s release to talk about the music and how life has changed in what’s been an extraordinary six months. The band have described the subject matter of the two new tracks on the Feed the Poor, Eat the Rich! EP ‘My Carnivore’ and ‘Lights Out’ as ‘Isolation, Lust and loss during quarantine, man reduced to his most primitive form’ and ‘A young couple in quarantine and their crumbling world’ which I asked him to elaborate on:
I've always been obsessed with the idea of Prometheus. He was the Greek Titan who was bound to a rock, where every day he would be tortured by an eagle that came to peck on his liver. His intentions were noble, and he tried to advance humankind. He was punished for it. I've always been fascinated with that idea, especially with the current world context, in which it is damn hard to make change - it involves a real degree of sacrifice, a real degree of 'fuck, I'm going to get in trouble for this.' So we added a human twist to the idea of Prometheus - someone who wants to be the best man he can be, but instead of the eagle, he is tortured by the female form.
It's a masculine song in outline; the bass is meant to hurt you, and it's about submission to primal, carnal desires and admitting that as men, there's no point hiding our fallibilities. Also, Ridley Scott's film 'Prometheus' really inspired me. When I had the idea for this song, I must have watched Prometheus about 10 times in a month. I became so obsessed with it. The futuristic nihilism, harking back to our very origins. Critics hated the film, but I adored the themes and cinematography. It's an examination of what it means to be human, both in the present and the past. And that's barely even the start of my journey with My Carnivore...I really battled with the idea of calling it 'Prometheus', and the more I think about it, the more I wish I had done so - but maybe I'll save that for another song.
Lights Out was definitely conceived as an 'end of the world' song - a man and woman, sitting on a sofa, in a darkened living room, watching Hitchcock's black and white film 'The Birds'. I'll be honest and admit that I didn't quite get the film itself - but I liked the conceit and the imagery, and I always had that at the back of my mind when fleshing out the song. The song took about five years from initial riff to recording, then re-recording. Tom and I spent hours and hours on individual lyrical intonations. Brett went through a million different versions of the solos - which were all kickass, all his guitar shredding is otherworldly - and the rhythm section toiled manfully. I still wouldn't be surprised if we were to rerecord Lights Out for our eventual album. It might be the song that we never get perfect...and that's okay, because that's what we're about.
How well was Siren received after its initial release?
We still think Siren is the best thing since sliced bread, we're all tremendously proud of the work we put in. It got rave reviews by great people, but we understand that to get a leg up, you need to be signed. And to be signed, you need to have a great degree of privilege, or be very, very lucky. We're not terribly worried about a critical reception or marks out of ten though - we don't seek validation by numbers from a music reviewer. Okay, maybe we do, a little, but we do seek validation from each other in the band, and that's the most important thing for us. We all trust each other a huge amount, not just in the rehearsal room but out in the real world. If we're ever happy with a song, it's gone through a hell of a journey to get to that stage.
Given the events of the last six months, I was keen to understand how life had changed for the band. On top of COVID19, Government inadequacy, legal action, Nishant and his wife are also expecting their first child next month…
We were aiming for summer tours, and the band was pretty much consuming our entire lives. We had just completed our winter sojourn and we loved the gigs that we played in February. Everyone had such a great time, and it was such a wonderful sense of community. Together with going to gigs and rehearsing, our fun times have pretty much been put on pause along with the rest of the country.
WIth my wife now 36 weeks pregnant, we are expecting her to give birth in The High Court. It's a huge mental burden, but it's a joy to do. It's our civic duty to fight for justice and we're taking it to the nth degree.
I also wanted to find out Nishant had found working with TV and the press, and whether he saw his relationship with both as an opportunity to promote the band.
My wife likes wearing our Palpitations t-shirt when she's on TV, which is pretty relevant as it's got a nurse who's not wearing much PPE! I've never mentioned the band in the media, but I'm starting to think it's a missed opportunity of marrying social justice and music. We've been shy about it, and we probably need to be a bit louder - this pandemic has shown that PR and radio pluggers and the entire music industry is a house of cards built on privilege. There is a vacuum, a levelling of the playing field, and so we deserve our time in the sun.
How have the other members of the band (4 of you now?) been with the legal action?
Super-supportive, and I wouldn't expect anything less. Tom even joined us for both protests at Downing Street. We're all fighting the same fight on different planes.
Have the events of the last 6 months influenced some new songs?
I haven't picked up a guitar since mid-March, but Brett has been writing some pretty special stuff - look out for Brett-led songs in the next few months. I've been writing diaries about what's been happening to me and around me in the last few months, so if/when I ever get time again, I will definitely be looking back on these times as a source of inspiration.
Feed the Poor, Eat the Rich is out now. Click on the links to listen to Lights Out, My Carnivore and Siren
You can read about the legal challenge and donate at https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/nhs-ppe/