By Jon MIlton
Its been a while since our last interview in this series (June in Fact with Egyptian Blue since you asked), and its hard to know whether we are still classed as being in lockdown, although obviously some major restrictions still remain in place, ie gigs.
Nevertheless, these interviews do provide some great insights into how artists are managing whilst having their art stifled, and that's certainly the case with our latest subject, The Howlers, who were the last band that I saw play live on a cold February night in St Albans.
The band burst on to the scene last year with their cracking debut single 'La Dolce Vita', and followed it up with the equally impressive 'Matador' in November. The excellent 'Badlands' was scheduled for release prior to lockdown, with the band hoping to grow their fan base further through planned media coverage and gig activity, but things changed overnight for them in March, as it did for everyone else.
I spoke with front-man Adam Young about the challenges the band have faced at such a crucial time in their development, and about how they're remaining optimistic about the future.
Firstly, how are you? How are Guus and Cam?
We are all well, thank you - all things considered at least.
How has lockdown been for you?
Erm...it's been a real mixed bag of experiences and emotions I guess. On one hand we have put together the best material we have ever written together, and we have had some real positives in terms of things we have planned and who we are working with on the next lot of records. But then in the other hand we have had some real hard times to deal with, I personally lost a family member to Covid-19 - it's been rough but we have each other, and that's what matters and pulls you through.
Have you picked up any new hobbies along the way?
Well, I've been learning Piano - I managed to rob a cheap leccy piano from my brother at the start of lockdown so that's kept me sort of busy, and stopped him from learning Lewis Capaldi numbers or whatever drivel he was attempting to play,
Cam is learning Guitar which is nice, as its meant as a band our song-writing has come on leaps and bounds collaboratively, and Guus is learning how to deal with having longer hair now, takes time to learn how to use Brylcreem properly.
You’ve managed to start a management company, tell us about that?
I have indeed. One of my close friends in my hometown of Portsmouth had the idea for a while, and he sort of said over a pint one day, 'fancy helping me do this'. I had been lending him a hand in the live side of the business for a while so it was an easy sell to me, so we started Brutalist Management before lockdown, kept it a secret and then started pushing it recently.
The company was named after the old shopping centre 'The Tricorn', which was a brutalist structure in the centre of town. Portsmouth doesn't have any infrastructure really for music aside from a handful of music venues, 90% of which are not fit for purpose, and owned by pub's where the landlord just doesn't get what music needs if it is to thrive. It's just a wasteland, so from our success and experience in our band, it's meant that I've been able to offer advice and guidance to artists we are working with.
To be honest, most bands self-manage anyway for a long time so it's nothing new to me, but it's been nice to see bands in our local area and my hometown achieve. I've already put a word in with people i know from around the country we've met on tours and worked with and we have already roped in a load of managers to be part of the Brutalist Management Family. It's really exciting to see a community come together - something I've always wondered on tour - why there isn't more stuff like this!
Have you found listening to much new music or discovering different artists (old and new) during lockdown?
I haven't. I've really been getting back into Ty Segall during lock down - 'Manipulator' is a great album and Kurt Vile has some great albums to his name. I did recently pick up my old Amazing Snakeheads LP and gave that a spin. I forget how great that album is - in the early days of this band we took a lot of inspiration from Dale and co (God rest his soul) - still do to some extent, so that was nice to listen to that, plus it was my birthday a few weeks back and I got given 'Manipulator' on LP so that's been nice to play through the old Technics.
Did you find yourself writing much new stuff during lockdown?
Yes, I had to stop myself actually. I was writing so much i was forgetting the stuff I had written at the start, so I've had to go back and retrace my steps and teach my self what I wrote, which is a mental experience. Out of these songs we've got about 6 - 7 we are going to record at the end of this year but there was about 30 I wrote down, and then we locked ourselves away for 5 days right in the middle of lockdown during the London protests. That was crazy as we would drive ourselves to the lock up every day, passing protestors and mask clad people queuing everywhere, then be in our little bubble for 9 - 10 hours in a window-less box, then drive home during the protests to a chorus of sirens and all sorts - it was a strange time.
How pleased were you with Badlands’ reception?
Well we released in right at the start of lockdown so it was the most badly timed release in history, but we had no choice. We were already down the rabbit hole in terms of the campaign and it was to late to postpone it then. Overnight, two thirds of the campaign was wiped out. Our publisher was frank and said we can't do anything now as the industry is in shut down, so it took a massive hit.
Saying that, we have continued to get BBC Radio 1 support, making it all 3 releases to debut on the station in under 10 months which is an unparalleled achievement for an unsigned band, and we have continued to get BBC 6 Music, Radio X, Clash and Louder than war coverage, so that has been great. Lammo is always in our corner as is John Kennedy, Robin Murray and the girls and guys at Louder.
Streaming-wise not so much as that was hit hard - people don't release how much the morning commute and stuff like that affect's streams, as people just stopped their normal routine over night. It was mad - everyone thought it would go the other way and pick up but how wrong were we! It's started to get back to some form of normality but it's nothing like it was.
With gigs delayed until March next year, does it feel like the pandemic has stunted the band’s progress?
100%. You need to remember, this year is a right off, so any plans we had, or opportunities coming our way, have been halted or postponed to next year, which then means next year is a right off in terms of festival and tour opportunities, as that has all been postponed with the same line ups to 2021.
It's a massive blow for a band like us on the cusp of emerging out of the breaking band phase but we will find a way! But 2 years down the pan is shit. All our September shows are being postponed to next year although London, Brighton, Manchester & Portsmouth are all strongly tipped to sell out, or on the verge of selling out so if you haven't got a ticket ... get one! We will also be releasing an EP next year accompanied by 12" vinyl and new merch etc so in some ways it has fitted together nicely, this postponing.
How much have you missed gigging?
A lot. In our first year as a band, we did 50 shows. We're still under 2 years as a band so it's been a huge change in routine. I don't miss sleeping on floors mind! We've only been releasing music for a year so it's been a mad old ride. but our March 2021 dates we've got a lot of stuff planned to make them special for everyone and us at the end of the day, we love what we do and i think that shows through on stage!
What positives can you draw from your experience of the last 4 months?
Reflection - being able to reflect on all we have done in 10 months to a year is sometimes the best thing to do!
We have always been hard on ourselves, striving to achieve and be better after each show, and that won't ever change. It's why we are often tipped as one of the best live bands around, you know that, you caught us in St Albans, and we beat ourselves up for 10 minutes after that show, but in reflection we put in a good show in a city we had never played in before (the gig had a relatively low turn out).
Lockdown has allowed us to pump the brakes and look at all we achieved and go ... right that's F***ing amazing ... but we know we can step this up another gear, and that's exactly what we've done. This band works because we have each other to pull us through and pick us up when we need it.
We are a bat shit crazy little family, but we are family, and anyone who comes down to see us is part of that. We always give everyone our time, any place any time, no matter who they are, and that I feel is something that's rare these days, so if you are reading this and want to reach out, do it, we don't bite! If you want to say hello at a show, do it, you will probably get some free merch and a beer from us (Depending on how pissed we are!).
2021 tour dates
18/03 - Manchester - Yes * Very limited tickets remaining
20/03 - London - The Lexington * 50 tickets remaining
27/03 - Brighton - The Rossi * Very limited tickets remaining
01/04 - Portsmouth - Edge of The Wedge *Over Half of Tickets gone
By Jon Milton
The hardest working men in rock and roll Oh Sees (or Osees as they are now) returned this week with the lead track from their new album ‘Protean Threat’, which is due to be released in September. ‘Dreary Nonsense’ at just over a minute and a half is a short sharp blast of everything you’ve come to expect and enjoy from John Dwyer and co, indicative of a more succinct selection of songs than the last album ‘Face Stabber’ with the longest track coming at less than 5 minutes.
Just to get us in the mood, Rough Trade in their weekly mail out said of Protean Threat ‘It’s easy to think that its yet another album from this crew but believe us when we tell you - this one’s a fucking belter’. The band also have another album ‘Metamorphosed’ planned for release later this year, comprised of tracks taken from last years ‘Face Stabber’ sessions. Listen to Dreary Nonsense here.
Garage punk with a side order of slacker rock and grunge sir? If that sounds like your bag, have a read of our review of the debut EP from Dribbler, which packs a hell of a punch over its 5 tracks. We hadn’t heard of them before until their record company sent us a message on Friday to coincide with the release, and if you’re similarly unfamiliar make sure you check them out here.
Last but not least on the singles front for this week are the new singles from The Pleasure Dome and Guru. The Pleasure Dome’s ‘This Room Is For Gold And There Is No Use For It’ actually came out at the start of the month, but better late than never. The Guru's Roses is their first this year, following on from a strong of singles in 2019. Both singles are chunky bass-driven post punkers, so naturally get our thumbs up.
Switching attention to albums, we’ve been listening A LOT to the new album by White Manna which comes out at the end of the month on Cardinal Fuzz / Centripetal Force. The album fuses psych rock, electronica, krautrock, psychedelic jazz and it’s a wonderful journey from start to finish. You can read about it and listen to one of the tracks here.
By Jon Milton
Garage punk with a side order of slacker rock and grunge sir? Don’t mind if I do!
I’d never heard of the wonderfully named Dribbler until their equally well titled record company Ugly Twin Records got in touch this weekend, but they could be my new favourite band, for today at least. Dribbler formed in late 2019 in Jersey (the Channel Islands) and have wasted on time in getting their music out, releasing the lead track from this EP ‘Beachside’ in April.
The band consist of Adam Bouteloup (vocals/guitar), Ryan Bournouf (Bass) and Ben Pearce (Drums) and this self-titled EP is ‘a collection of five songs that candidly cover everything from societal expectations of success, to the ups and downs of small town living. All against a backdrop of emotive, sunny power-chords and riffs that’ll have you reaching for the cans’. It's pretty damn fine too.
The EP starts at furious pace with its two lead singles, the aforementioned ‘Beachside’ and ‘Champagne on a Beer Budget’ out in April and May of this year respectively. Both are full throttle, thrashy onslaughts, with Beachside in the mode of early Damned / Ramones and Champagne like Nirvana meets Weezer. Sensibly, next track Half Cut kicks in at a more measured pace, continuing the grunge/slacker vibe, and as it comes out of that meltdown in the middle and starts to speed up you may have to stop yourself from head banging.
The Morbs brings more energy, feedback and riffs and Doom finishes us off, like a souped up LA Woman played by the Stooges. These last three tracks importantly add a bit of depth to the EP, and it’s always refreshing to hear a Big Muff applied with such affection and accompanied with appropriate levels of feedback.
The band sound like they’ll be a right handful live, judging by their pre-lockdown performance at one of Creation Records’ Alan McGee’s DJ / Spoken word nights.
Listening to this EP you can certainly imagine yourself in the mosh pit, getting beer spilled all over you with a sweaty armpit in your face, but with a massive grin on your face. Let’s hope those days aren’t too much further away.
Listen/Buy the full EP at https://dribblertheband.bandcamp.com/
By Jon Milton
Russia's finest export Gnoomes have been producing wonderful music on Rocket Recordings since 2015, and will hopefully be bringing us their fourth album in 2021.
Given their musical diversity, which incorporates krautrock, shoegaze, electronica, indie rock and more, they seemed an ideal choice to approach to find out more about the artists that have influenced them to make the music that they do. I spoke with Sasha from the band, who spoke about growing up in the USSR, being blown away by the Aphex Twin and more...
Photo: Alisa Calypso
How did you first get into music/what were your early influences?
All 4 of us started our music way as kids. Since childhood we realized that there is something behind this world which doesn’t need an explanation, yet it could be explored non-verbally. Obviously, in the post-soviet space there were not so many things going on. Luckily some of our parents owned a few cool LP’s, for example the early Beatles stuff. 'Obla-di-obla-da' was a huge dance hit in the USSR. We have a VHS footage where 1 year old Masha is dancing to this song. Pasha’s dad was more into the Russian rock (weird mixture of poetry and poor music arrangements). Pasha recalls the moment when his dad was smoking a cig in their wooden house in the village and crying over the Scorpions ballad. All of it had a great impact on our minds for sure.
How did you get into playing / writing music yourself?
Again thanks to our families, music has been a big part of our lives. So we spent our early days reflecting and imitating the outer world. Then in the 2000’s comes the Internet and suddenly we get a massive source of digging into. And at some point when you’re starting to consume too much content, you need to release from it somehow. We found out that the main solution is to make music by your own. We were around 15-17 years old at that time.
What was the first gig you went to?
Can’t remember the first gigs we’d been to, but one of the highlights in our lives was the Aphex Twin show at the Field Day. We were absolutely destroyed by the visual and audial level of the live performance. That was our proper 'first' gig could be said.
What was the first record you bought?
My first LP that I got was the first 'The Police' album. It was my entry to the 'new wave scene' and I started to dig into history of music more specifically.
How have you discovered and explored different genres of music?
Through times the approaches of discovering new music change, but the core is the links/mentions that lead you to another piece of music or art in general. For example I read a book about 4AD’s history. Suddenly those names pop up right before my eyes and I’m really curious: why haven’t I listened to this earlier?
Another way of finding new music is through digital platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, etc. NTS’s been a really helpful tool for me and Masha to find new stuff during the lockdown.
Photo: Alisa Calypso
Do you go through phases of listening to different music genres, or just dip in and out?
It’s different all the time. When I was in university I preferred listening to music, like not 1 particular album, but the whole discography of an artist in the chronological order. Sometimes it got really boring but I kept on insisting, making myself dip in as you said. Now I’m not so harsh to myself. It doesn’t make a huge difference to me what to listen to at this moment. Spontaneity is my driving force. For example I could be happy to watch a crappy TV show or to listen to a really cheesy and disgusting Russian pop and it makes me inspired.
How have different artists/genres of music influenced the way that you play and write your own music?
I guess there are different stages of influencing. First of all, as I mentioned earlier you just copy without thinking. Secondly, you copy with thinking. Thirdly, if things go well you don’t copy at all, at least you’re now aware of it. I’m always fascinated with the production side of a record. I’m trying to listen not only the seen content, but to hear the circumstances behind making an album. Speaking of huge music influences, there is a couple of things which changed my life completely when I heard them: electronic reverbs from Selected Ambient Works, Klaus Dinger’s motorik, King Tubby’s echoes, Kevin Shield’s glide-swelling distorted guitar. These are the pillars and foundation of my music work.
Do you have any pin ups or artists you consider to be musical icons? Who are they?
As a kid I didn’t have a poster of any musician/band. So I never thought of music artists in terms of being icons. What I mostly appreciate in true art, that there should be emotions and personal history. For example you hear the Arthur Russel’s voice and you don’t have to analyze the lyrics, you’re just completely blown away. I don’t know how I came across with the Nick Drake’s records in high school, but hearing his weird guitar tunings with his saddened voice made me revalue my ways of perception.
Have you modelled yourself on any of your heroes, in the way you perform live, or play an instrument, or sing?
There was a moment in my life, which I consider to be a 'face-palm' moment and don’t like to remember it much... Around 10 years ago I had a band where I was trying to copy the Thom Yorke’s manner of moving on the stage like hysterical dancing. Now when I revisit the footage of one of the gigs, I feel: 'OMG, that’s awful'. I’ve never tried to model on anyone since that time.
Is there one song by another artist that you’d wished you’d written, and if so what is it and why?
This is one of the main reasons why we make remixes. Sometimes if we love a song we can contact an artist and ask for the stems. This is a great opportunity to pay some respect, but also to connect to the song’s world and luckily to expand it. Frankly speaking, I often bite my fingers when I accidentally hear something really good. Oh boy, you’d better don’t look at my hands!
By Jon Milton
‘Not a concept album per se’ says the press release accompanying Arc, the latest album from White Manna, but one that ‘sees the band exploring new directions that are more meditative in nature’. And an exploration it certainly is, taking in psychedelic jazz, krautrock, space rock, psych-rock, electronica and experimental psychedelia along the way, to wonderful effect.
A journey from start to finish, Arc delivers a masterclass in tripped out noise over its nine tracks, segueing immersive, expansive tracks with short interludes to create a pretty darn special listening experience.
It helps of course that the album subtly borrows elements from so many excellent influences along the way. Opener ‘Arc’ momentarily begins as though recreating Terry Riley’s classic ‘A Rainbow in the Curved Air’ before asserting itself into a swirling space rock / krautrock juggernaut with delicate flecks of trumpet a la ‘On the Corner’ era Miles Davis.
The elements of jazz really lift the music throughout, combining with seventies electronica on Mythic Salon, dystopian space rock on Pilgrims Progress and experimental psych on the heady Surfer Moron and its continuation track Sailing Stones, which fade outs the album. The short interludes Pollen Ball, Painted Cakes and Soft Apocalypse could easily be jams with Boards of Canada, and Zosser, the only vocal led track on the album powerfully channels ‘Arc Lite’ period Loop.
Arc is released at the end of August on Cardinal Fuzz in conjunction with Centripetal Force for North America, and is available on cream vinyl + digital here. You can listen to Mythic Salon and Zosser via the same link to give yourself a flavour, although the album is obviously designed to be consumed in one rather than via isolated tracks. It’s a great ride.