By Jon Milton
Real gigs are back! It’s been 18 long months since we’ve been able to stand alongside each other in a crowded sweaty room watching bands get up and do their stuff, but happily those days are here again, and it feels great!
First gig back, and the headline band was Manchester’s Document, who emerged in early 2020 with their stunning debut ‘Pity’. With the release of their subsequent EP ‘A Camera Wanders at Night’ the band looked set to take the alternative music world by storm, only to find their progress halted by the pandemic. This gig, the Windmill Brixton, was the penultimate date of their first UK wide tour, and their first appearance in the capital.
Support on the night came from Loose Articles, fellow Manchester residents who certainly made their presence known with their feisty brand of punk. Brash and in your face, what the band lacked in musicianship they certainly made up for in spirit and charisma. No doubt by the time they support the Foo Fighters in February next year, they will have had time to get their set absolutely bang on.
Despite their lack of touring opportunity to date, Document are very much close to the the finished article. As we found when we interviewed the band last year the band have extensive experience of treading the boards with other artists and their level of professionalism really showed. In lead singer Alex they have a front-man with real presence on stage. At times he seemed to be lost in a trance or acting out a persona, before suddenly coming back into the room to look the audience straight in the eye and bump heads with the nodding throng.
Document are however certainly not a one-man band. Each of the other members all played their part, confidently strutting around, rocking out and providing additional focal points for the show. The band opened with the masterful ‘ The Spy Who Came In from the Cold’ and concluded with a frantic version of ‘Pity’ a fitting finale for an excellent performance. In between were a mixture of tracks from the EP and unreleased songs, providing an exciting glimpse of what’s on the horizon from the band. They perhaps need one or two more songs with the intensity of 'Pity' but no doubt they'll come in time. They also need to be playing on a bigger stage!
What we’ve been listening to…Treeboy and Arc, Autosuggestion, Deadletter, Gaylips, Spilt, Belishas, Mildred Maude, Sprints, Stuck, KEG
By Jon Milton
July ends (this year is going quick isn’t it?) with a flurry of quality tunes to usher us into the summer as sweaty gigs start to become a reality again. Was it really two years ago that I saw those fine fellows from Leeds, Treeboy and Arc play at the Shacklewell Arms? It would appear so, and they had been quiet on the new music front too until this month. We wrote of their new single ‘Role Models’ (taken from their forthcoming EP ‘Life Preserver’) in our last round up, and they’ve just released ‘Logistical Nightmare’ with the full EP to follow next week. Logistical Nightmare is another excellent track from the band - taut, angular clean post punk that sounds fresh as a daisy.
Hull four-piece Autosuggestion gave us their rather majestic first ever studio single ‘Deadpan’ at the start of this month, and today release its melancholy companion ‘A New Slow’. The band formed over a shared love of Iceage and have supported the likes of The Murder Capital (remember them?) since, with forthcoming dates planned alongside fellow post punk/goth rock flag bearers Document.
‘Monday Night Terrors’ the new single from Deadletter, sees the band inject dub and ska into their sound, with elements of Faithless and Madness in amongst their brand of post punk. It’s produced by Theo Verney and lyrically the song sees frontman Zac Lawrence recounting a horrifying bout of nightmares: ‘Monday Night Terrors is a response to a severely terrifying series of early-hours nightmares I experienced. I had three dreams within one another, like three Russian-doll polythene bags wrapped around my head. Upon my perceived awakening from each dream, further horrors occurred, to the point that when I finally awoke, I was unable to tell whether or not I truly was sentient, as the horror continued.”
Local (to me) noise terrorists Gaylips have been catching the attention of legendary J’s Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson of late, and they certainly seem to be getting better and better with each new release. Their last single ‘The Future will be Built from Spare Parts’ was a cracker and so is their latest outing ‘The Ballad of Hinksley Road’, with both tracks featuring on their forthcoming second album ‘The Last of the DVD Pirates’. ‘Ballad of…’ is an epic council house punk anthem that celebrates the streets and towns that built the band by all accounts, and as we’ve come to expect from the band, its another no-nonsense, smack you round the chops beast of a tune.
While we’re talking about noise, you’d be well advised to check out ‘Sex Tape’, the new single from Spilt. I’ve only come across the band recently, but it turns out that after being dormant for a couple of years they’re back now with some of their heaviest tunes, of which this is the first to be released. Sex Tape has attitude and swagger and it rocks.
Last month saw Belishas digitally release the first instalment of their forthcoming physical single (due out next month) ‘Whispers’, a truly life affirming blast of summer. They’ve followed this up today with the more downbeat and reflective but still thoroughly enjoyable ‘Brother’, which has a few hints of the stereophonics about it. If you’re based down Bristol way, make sure you go and see them play with their mates workfriends on the 4th August at the Louisiana. That should be a cracking gig.
If mesmeric psych rock is more your bag, check out ‘Trevena’ the new single from Mildred Maude. It’s the band’s first release on Sonic Cathedral, ten minutes of absolutely heavenly repetition that builds slowly into a wonderful wall of sound.
Three songs that came out last Friday but are well worthy of your attention are the new tracks by Sprints, Stuck and KEG. The Sprints ‘How Does The Story Go?’ follows on from their brilliant Manifesto EP that came out earlier this year, KEG’s ‘Heyshaw’ is a sweet debut single. I have little information on the Stuck tune, but I like it!
What We've Been Listening To This Week...Lazarus Kane, Yammerer, Autosuggestion, Dribbler, Feet, Treeboy and Arc, The Goa Express, Pip Blom, Cowgirl, Beige Banquet
By Jon Milton
New music seems to be coming on a feast and famine basis at the moment. One week the odd tune or two sneaks through and then there’s a whole bundle to feast on.
Highlights from the first couple of weeks of July / end of June have been new tunes from Lazarus Kane, Yammerer, Autosuggestion and Dribbler, and that’s pretty much it. This week alone though there’s been some crackers from Feet, Treeboy and Arc, The Goa Express, Pip Blom, Cowgirl and Beige Banquet.
Releasing your first single on the fashionable Speedy Wunderground was always going to invite attention, but I have to say I’d not been particularly impressed with Lazarus Kane prior to their latest single coming out. 'Milk at My Door' is a great tune however, with a real 80s (in a good way) danceable vibe about it and in similar territory to the last couple of singles from Home Counties.
Autosuggestion released their debut EP last year, raw and rough round the edges but with a lot of promise, and this month they’ve released their first studio based single ‘Deadpan’. Sitting somewhere between eighties Goth and Post Punk it’s a mighty impressive track that reminds me of the Death Cult/Cult and Siouxsie.
Dribbler also released their hugely enjoyable debut EP last year, and the little-known band from Jersey (Channel Islands) have a debut album on the way, with the first fruit from it new single ‘Biglife!’. Biglife! is another piece of energetic garage rock / surf punk and very good it is too.
Defying all conventions as usual, Yammerer’s new single ‘Tell Me What The Ancient Astronaut Theorists Believe’ starts like it should be at the end of a song rather than the beginning, with vocal straight in a after a second and the manic squalling guitars relentlessly pummelling the senses. Gloriously unhinged of course, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
On to this week. It’s been far too long since Treeboy and Arc last had music out, just after 2 years ago in fact when Speedy Wunderground (them again) released their ‘Concept’. Since then, members of the band have helped Yard Act become a thing, but they’re back now with new single ‘Role Models’ and an EP ‘Life Preserver' due to follow in early August. TFFT I say. Role Models is another excellent tune, quality post punk with a more than a hint of refinement.
Also, from the class of 2019 and back with a bang are Feet and Pip Blom. I really had no idea which way Feet would go after their debut album came out. Would their addictive brand of indie pop turn into more commercially minded indie pap, or would they go back to their roots and concentrate on writing more no-nonsense bangers like ‘Petty Thieving’? Fortunately, it seems they’ve opted for the latter, from the sounds of new single 'Busy Waiting' and its predecessors 'Peace and Quiet' and 'Library'.
Busy Waiting starts with a rumbling bass and a vocal that initially sounds like Robert Palmer’s ‘Bad Case of Loving You’ or something that I can't quite put my finger on. Feet have this habit of writing great tunes that sound like something else but without getting too derivative, and this is certainly the case on this tune. And I bet it rocks when they play it live.
Pip Blom returned last month with the wonderful ‘Keep it Together’ and they’ve followed it up this week with another single, ‘It Should Have Been Fun’. It Should Have Been Fun is more laid back, albeit with one of those big choruses that we’ve come to expect from them. Their second album is out in October, and from the sounds of these two tracks should be a great follow up to Boat.
Other highlights this week are the Goa Express’s fast and furious new single ‘Overpass’, Cowgirl’s Lemonheads-esque ‘Figure it out’ and Beige Banquets’ manic ‘Awake’. Check them out below.
With Jon Milton
Sheffield's workfriends emerged last year at the start of lockdown with their excellent single 'Man On The Run' and then promptly disappeared for the rest of the year. Before you could say the words 'one off wonder' though, they appeared again in February of this year with another belter in 'Sick And Tired' and then to top it all, released 'Stunt Doubles' last month, an absolute TUNE.
Despite their relatively subdued online presence (no major publication coverage as yet), we're not the only ones to have noticed them however, with Radio 1 and Radio 6 also getting in on the act. Given that it can only be a matter of time before the rest of the world wakes up to their talent, I thought I'd put a few questions to them and find out more about this mysterious band!
How did you meet?
We all met at the University of Sheffield and were brought closer together by very similar music tastes. The band started off as a bit of fun as each member of the group crammed into J. Hope’s halls of residence room to jam. This led to the creation of various threadbare tracks and demos, one of which would eventually become the band’s debut single ‘Man On The Run.’
Once we had all decided to live together in a shared house we were approached by a friend who had been asked if he knew any local bands that would be able to play a gig in a local venue in a week’s time. He told us that he had put us forward and asked if were able to do it. At that point we had to get our act together and become a real band in the space of a week by quickly practicing and writing new songs to fill out the setlist. The gig got a great reception and we were asked to do more gigs in Sheffield and York, all the while we were working on and recording new songs in our living room.
The reasoning behind the name ‘workfriends’ is now a bit of a mystery; some of us think that we chose it simply because it’s easy to say and remember, but some of us think that we chose it because we wanted to take something that most people encounter everyday and transform it so that every time people met or thought about their real life work friends they would subliminally think about us too. This way we would stay in the heads of people constantly.
Who is in the band?
The band is currently comprised of Sheriff Baker (drums), J. Hope (bass), T.Carroll (guitar/vocals), J.K. Henderson (general percussion) and Earl Gray (vocals.)
Who does all the songwriting?
The songwriting itself is a collective effort that complements each other's parts. For example. T.Carroll’s guitar work would not be complete without Earl Gray’s lyricism in the same way that J.Hope’s basslines are illuminated by Sheriff Baker’s drumming. In terms of the songwriting process, our music is patched together through various melodies and lyrics. Rather than sitting down and working out ‘verse, chorus etc’ many of the songs stem from a single guitar line that is developed as the song progresses. The vocals are usually added after the music is completed. We’ll usually sit down and work through lyrical ideas, so in that sense the songs are crafted with a lot of consideration. Throughout our music we always try to do the unexpected; each workfriends single is created with the aim of distorting and experimenting with the pop format. We love it when a song forces its listener to stay engaged by changing drastically over the course of its runtime and constantly surprising them.
Stunt Doubles is about ‘the paranoia of a man who has spent too much time alone with his spiralling thoughts,’ what was the inspiration for this, was it based on direct/indirect personal experience?
When writing ‘Stunt Doubles’ we wanted to filter the idea of a perfect pop song through a motorik groove. We wanted to write a song that contained no wasted space and relentlessly pushes forward with new ideas being introduced every second. Lyrically, the song itself was inspired by a late-night conversation we had about the unsung heroes of Hollywood. We were all obsessed by the strange and liminal position that the Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise doppelgangers of the world occupy. We then thought about a situation in which the stunt double became sick of their anonymous, unacknowledged existence and decided to start taking over the life of the very person they are meant to be filling in for. We decided to write the song from the perspective of the person who (whether real or imagined) believed they were being infiltrated.
Your songs sound like you have a lot of fun recording them, is that the case? If so, is it because you’re able to record in your house?
I think one of the biggest perks is being able to record at home. Doing it DIY means you have total creative control over what you are recording, which also gives you more time to add or fine-tune anything within the song. The worst thing about studio recording is perhaps spending ‘X’ amount of money on a finished article you’re not at all happy with; this is completely the opposite when doing it in your room. This lack of pressure makes it a really fun thing to do but it also forces you to think outside the box; we’ve had many a night where we’ve stayed up through the early hours tinkering with a song and finding makeshift, homemade methods to create new sounds and textures.
You’ve had airplay on Radio 1 and Radio 6, how pleased have you been generally with the reception you’ve had for your singles so far?
The reception has been really exciting for us. Receiving positive comments from esteemed DJs like Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson was something that we never expected and are really grateful for. But something that has been even more unexpected for us has been the streams and feedback we’ve received from people all over the world. Only anticipating reception from friends and family made responses from places like Japan and Australia all the more surreal. It’ll be great to get back to playing our songs live as well, as we haven’t played a gig since before the release of our first single ‘Man on the Run’ over a year ago.
What are your main musical influences? The Velvet Underground, Neu! and DEVO seem to be up there, although your playlists are pretty eclectic!
We’re definitely influenced by the groups you mentioned, as I’m sure many bands are. I think as we continue to make new music, we’re trying to incorporate more of the stranger sounds that we’re interested in, which is hopefully evident from each new single we release. As the playlists we’ve made show, we all have a varied taste in music, even if we share a similar taste for punky songs with a driving rhythm. Living together has helped us share new music
with one another that maybe we wouldn’t have found otherwise. Of course, ‘Stunt Doubles’ would not sound the way it does without The Velvet Underground or The Fall, but maybe the same could be said if we hadn’t spent all year listening to Dean Blunt, Bjork and Yoko Ono as well (even if their influence may not be immediately apparent).
Three fantastic singles to date, what’s next for the band?
Thanks Jon, that’s really appreciated! As we’ve said, we can’t wait to get these songs (and some new ones too) in front of a crowd. We’re planning a busy few months in terms of gigging.
We have a show already announced supporting our good friends The Belishas at the Louisiana in Bristol and some really exciting opportunities to announce very soon. We’ve also been working hard on new material and have made a video for Stunt Doubles that we’re extremely proud of considering we’ve done it all ourselves!
There’s a lot more to come from workfriends.
By Jon Milton
Its been just over a year since Kitchen Practice Records launched their first record ‘Let it Bleeds’ an impish collection of covers of different songs with that name, and to mark the occasion the label has released its first full length compilation showcasing its portfolio of artists.
Into Practice features music, sound art, poetry, and prose from 10 artists on the label, all curated by ‘mysterious narrator’ Twix Applegate. The 19 songs (including interludes) perfectly encapsulate the labels’ trademark eclecticism and mischievous nature. There’s the twisted folk music of Spider Noises who kick off proceedings with ‘Year in Amber’; Frank Lloyd Wleft’s ‘See Where you Land’ and No Country for Thin Men’s 'The Ballad of a Thousand Men Screaming’ which could have come straight from the C86 era such is the nature of their ramshackle indie; and the charming Watch Paint Dry and Friends of the Monday Table who bring along ambient electronica reminiscent of Boards of Canada and Ulrich Schnauss.
Listened to as one Into Practice feels a bit like an unnerving dream sequence in Twin Peaks; In between the more conventional music, Tsitra Park’s ‘Cookie Montage’ and 'Ad Content’ layer unsettling voices that disorient the listener and Will Ormsby’s ‘Playlist’ and Frank Lloyd Wleft’s ‘The Gilesgate Monologues’ poems regale the trials and tribulations of millennial / student life, with Uber, Amazon and Fantasy Football frequently coming to the surface.
Although comprised of seemingly disparate parts, Into Practice has clearly been designed to be listened to as one, which makes for a rewarding listen. As a compilation its unconventional, inventive and a little bit surreal, all of which makes Kitchen Practice Records an oddity well worth keeping an eye on.
You can listen / buy the CD / download Into Practice at: