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/
By 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 have never been afraid to shy away from topics that make some people feel uncomfortable, like a lot of things in life these are topics that MUST be discussed, and we need to have bands like IDLES raising awareness.
Grounds is no different, but what makes it important is the events of the past few weeks, and the global reaction to the sickening death of George Floyd. The fact this track was written some time ago, and was performed at the bands gigs in December, just confirms that this is not a new thing and its taken too many unnecessary deaths to get to where we are now.
IDLES once again prove that its 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.
As the lyrics say “do you hear that thunder, that’s the sound of strength in numbers’ whether that’s a BLM march, an anti-brexit rally or even an online community talking and caring about each other, those words speak volumes and should be a rallying call at a time in our history where positive change can happen, if we stand side by side and say enough is enough.
And no lyrics in many current songs sound more defiant than “There's nothing brave and nothing useful, you scrawling your aggro shit on the walls of the cubicle. Saying my race and class ain't suitable. So I raise my pink fist and say black is beautiful”
We need change, we need to educate, we need community and we most definitely need bands like IDLES to show us the way.
Details on the single, the next single, new merch and album release, plus tickets to 3 special online gigs can be found at: https://www.idlesband.com/uk
By Ian Smith
There’s a lot going on here. This is the debut album from Spiral Galaxy, released on the ever-happening Cardinal Fuzz label. Sara Gossett and Plastic Crimewave have also invited their friends to help out, Jean-Herve and Kawabata head the list of conspirators.
This record jumps from genre to genre and never fits snugly in any. Opening track ‘Celestial Omen’ is a delicious folk-based drone, instruments coming and going, creating an altered, dreamy state. ‘Tragique Mechanique’ recalls early Kraftwerk and is more sinister, with dislocated spoken-word vocals sitting with sounds old and new.
The 14-minute ‘Machine D’ starts in a playful manner and builds as the song progresses, Eastern-tinged hooks combine with low-key, mournful melody. ‘Pendlewitches’ completes the album and is a haunting mantra, clocking in at a measly 5 minutes. And the album is over. More please.
Spiral Galaxy is released on 19th June on Cardinal Fuzz Records. To listen and find out more, go to https://cful.bandcamp.com/album/spiral-galaxy
With the lockdown still on for many of us, Mark Glenister speaks with Ashley Tubb of Sugar Horse about amongst other things, social media, songwriting, influences, and whingeing...
Firstly, how are you? How is the family?
Hi Mark. Yeah I’m alright. Just been enjoying time at home with my daughter. She’s good I think. She seems to have inherited a big chunk of my miserable prick demeanour, so it’s hard to tell.
Do you have a daily routine, are you learning anything new as everyone else seems to be?
There’s kind of a routine. Having a baby kind of means you’re forced into a meal time/play time/ sleep time routine. It’s all still pretty loose though which is nice. Before lockdown I kind of assumed I was slightly more social than I actually am….which is really saying something. I’ve kind of loved not seeing anyone for months. It’s been a welcome relief. I grew up an only child so I think I enjoy my own company quite a lot.
Are you seeing this lockdown as a time to be creative? And has it changed the way you view the industry?
I kind of set myself a challenge at the start of lockdown to see if I could write at least one thing every day. Doesn’t necessarily have to be something good, but something none-the-less. It’s worked out pretty well so far. We were aiming to put out an album next year and I feel we’ve pretty much got the bones of it now. Itching to get in a practice room and hear the other guys put their magic on the stuff I’ve written.
I don’t think it’s changed my view of the “industry” that much. I mean, I’m a cynical bastard at the best of times and I tend to see the bad in everything. That being said, there’s been some wicked ideas people have been playing with. Tim Burgess’ Listening Parties have been a big highlight. I’ve been enjoying John (from JOHN)’s Instagram live interviews as well.
Do you enjoy Social Media? You seem to use Twitter a lot
Hahahaha. Yeah Twitter is fun. I dunno, I see social media as a kind of joke. I mean, without meaning to get too fucking Adam Curtis about the whole thing, these companies want you to post and share stuff you like, so they can sell that info to advertising companies and they in turn only show you other stuff you already like. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle. Using them to communicate any kind of serious or nuanced point is usually redundant and ultimately that shit just gets sold someone like Rainmaker. Saying that, sometimes I get sucked in to arguing with someone. It’s a strange beast to deal with. I just try not to take it too seriously.
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?
When I was drinking I probably would’ve agreed with you. Used to love going to shows just to chat shit with some people. Going sober has kind of made me reassess that. Now I much prefer watching a band and having no one talk to me for the whole set. Somehow quitting booze has made me more of a miserable fuck, but hey it’s what I like. That being said, I don’t mind a chat outside before the show. I think it’s the volume I miss more than anything. Having a baby means I haven’t heard anything properly NAPALM LOUD in a few months. I really enjoy being kind of overwhelmed by sound and I really look forward to experiencing that again.
How important are fans, not just for attending gigs, but also for the merch they buy?
FANS ARE ONLY GOOD FOR THE MONEY THEY GIVE US I jest of course. Shame to have to say that, but it will save me a few drawn out Twitter conversations. Nah it’s always very cool to have people actually like your music. Especially when you start a band as weird and obtuse as ours. I mean, I’m not saying we’re fucking Faust or anything, but you never expect people to actually like it. I’m very grateful to anyone that’s even listened to one of our songs the whole way through. There is so much music at everyone’s fingertips now and it’s kind of crazy that someone would choose to listen to you.
I know why, but can you explain just how important small music venues are to all musicians?
Small venues are the reason it’s possible for more than twelve people to hear weird little bands like ours. They’re the unappreciated backbone of the music industry. It’s where everyone starts and where most people finish. The current COVID situation is pretty dangerous for a lot of venues’ ability to survive. If you can, give ‘em something. Keep them going, ‘cause when they go they don’t come back.
How do you approach song writing? Are you a story teller or are your songs about actual events and social commentary?
I’m a metaphor guy. I’ve tried writing things pretty literally in the past, but it always comes out really on-the-nose and a huge cringe fest. Metaphors let you hide behind them a little bit and allow you to kind of dance around a subject a bit more. I’m a pretentious prick and like to stick in references and in jokes all over the place. Those are my favourite kind of lyrics, so I try and emulate that as much as I can. Most of our songs are usually just about my opinion on something. More based in emotion than telling a story or straight criticism. Don’t get me wrong, most of it comes from a pretty negative bent, but I quite like inhabiting the characters/ideologies I’m having a go at. Try and parody them through their own bile. As I said, I’m a pretentious cunt.
What bands/artists have influenced you?
That’s a big question. I have many. For the last few weeks I’ve been listening to loads of Burial, Jesu, Sumac and The Cocteau Twins. That lot have been really informing the stuff I’ve been writing. There’s nothing better than hearing a song that makes that inspiration lightbulb flick on. Other than those recent ones, I’ve got a few that never stop making me want to create: Oceansize, The Cure, The Fall, My Bloody Valentine, The Chariot, Arab Strap, Interpol….I could go on, but that would be self indulgent and probably quite dull.
If you could have written one song by someone else, what would it be and why?
There are a few songs that just stop time and speak directly to me whenever I hear them. Fucking Little Bastards by Arab Strap is a very poignant one for me. There’s a particularly dark lyrical section in the middle that will fill anyone with any kind of drinking problem with a very familiar sense of dread. The end section of an Oceansize song called Ornament/The Last Wrongs is another one that just rips me in half, every time without fail. To me it’s an ode to the limitations of existing and it makes me well up without fail every single time. I’ll pick one more just to give the illusion of some kind of pre-planned structure. The Cure’s Disintegration is obviously a fucking opus. I don’t think I can better or even nearly equal what more eloquent humans than I have written about it before, so I won’t even try. I will say though that if you haven’t listened to it before, close your curtains, think about death and turn it on as loud as humanly possible.
Imagine you are locked away for a year (not too difficult at the moment), what one album would you happily listen to during that time, and why?
That’s a pretty easy one. I’d go for Oceansize’s Everyone Into Position. They’re my favourite band and while it might not be my favourite record (although it’s pretty level pegging) it’s the most diverse musically. They manage to crowbar about eighty different genres into it, so it would still be interesting even after a year. If you could interview one person dead or alive (doesn’t have to be music related) who would it be, and why? I’m really tempted to say Mark E Smith here, but depending on who you talk to, he can either be the nicest or most horrible man who’s ever lived. Much like The Fall’s live shows. Bringing hit or miss to it’s logical conclusion. I’d be shitting it the whole time too, so I’ll steer clear of that. I’d quite like a chat with Liz Fraser from the Cocteau Twins. She’s a pretty renowned recluse, especially since the band parted ways. Her voice puts me under a spell. I am absolutely certain it’s the greatest human voice ever recorded. On second thoughts, that just sounds like I’d be a goon for the whole thing. I dunno. Jeremy Clarkson so I can just repeatedly spit at him? I’ll go with that.
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 being part of communities and positive social change?
That’s a funny question. “Do you want loads of good things to happen, or shall they just stay pretty shit like they are now?” Hahahaha I just hope everyone made the most of this time. If you’re lucky enough, as I have been, to not have anyone close effected by this thing, then it’s a big opportunity to spend time doing things you always wish you could. Whether that be doing nothing but watching films for twelve weeks, or writing an experimental opera about trout fishing. Fuck knows. Who am I to judge.
I just hope people found at least a little good in it. Just count yourself lucky you weren’t effected I guess. If you’re reading this and you were I hope it wasn’t awful. Time isn’t necessarily a healer, but it gets you used to stuff and that’s an asset in this maelstrom of a world. As for the positive social change thing, I’m not a big believer in general consensus. I have an inherit distrust in it. I am therefore quite wary of communities and am like a pathetic hermit creature who just shouts to himself about things that most people won’t think are important. Don’t listen to my ideas, for they shall drown you in darkness and self doubt. However, if you are into that kind of thing feel free to get in touch.
Cheers to Mark for the questions and thanks to everyone who managed to make it to the end. As usual I’ve managed to turn quite an uplifting interview into a massive whingefest. We started so well… Keep yourselves warm.