Nothing Can Stop Nicky Palermo And Co.

It’s been a whole four years since the beloved ear-shattering guitar quartet from Philadelphia last came to our shores. Priding themselves as being one of the first bands in the US to do a full nationwide tour since the pandemic hit two years ago, they’ve finally been able blast out hit after hit from their latest record The Great Dismal with sold-out shows across the world. Whilst the lineup has fluctuated over the last 10 years or so, leader Dominic Palermo couldn’t have a better group of people to join him on the road, with Christina Michelle (Gouge Away) on bass and Benny Meed (Dead Swans) on drums. Ahead of their Brighton show at Green Door Store, I was lucky enough to speak to Nicky and lead guitarist Doyle Martin of Cloakroom about their return to the UK and the context behind that sample on ‘Say Less’.

Your first EP Downward Years To Come came out 10 years ago, how does it feel looking back on it?

Nicky: That’s a long time to remember! But yeah, we did that record with Kyle Johnson. So the lineup was a lot different. We didn’t really quite comprehend what we were doing, not that we do now either. But yeah, it felt young. Things felt more like a band, as recording Sons and Lovers still felt like the demo that got put together by us. Downward kinda felt the same, except that, got put on vinyl. It was also kind of the first time that I felt like we were starting to see what our sound might be. As far as like, where we’re at now it’s like a whole different planet!

(At this point in the interview, Doyle asks my girlfriend for a ‘tiny cigarette’ which we call rollies in the UK. I watch as he constructs it together and doesn’t even need to lick the paper to fold it.)

On The Great Dismal it felt like you took a more ‘cinematic’ approach to songwriting. Would you say that’s a fair statement to make?

Nicky: I mentioned Sound Of Metal in a previous interview, but I also watched a lot of movies by Yorgos Lanthimos and Akira Kurosawa during quarantine, so it coincided with us demoing the album. I think I watched a movie or two a day during that first year so yeah, I watched good shit, some bullshit, I downloaded the Criterion app at one point, which was cool because I would never usually have the time to sit down and appreciate shit like that. So yeah, it was definitely an art-filled time when we wrote the record.

I wanted to know more about why you chose that sample of a woman talking about shopping at a mall as a form of exercise for the song Say Less, what’s the context there?

Nicky: That song is about people speaking to you too much. Like whether it’s just on some like, punishing shit. Or if it’s like, someone just trying to like, talk your ear off. Or if it’s like some coke head shit, like, it’s kind of like a mixture of all that. So the video that we use is like, it’s like this pretty unused video of this lady that’s like, looks like she’s on a bunch of amphetamines at the mall. And she talks about working out at the mall through shopping. So it was it seemed like a good my friend sent it to us when we were in the studio and I just was like, “I’m gonna sample this”.

Doyle: Not a lot of views on it either before we used it!

You recently posted some photos of yourself with Full Of Hell, what can we look forward to hearing from both of you?

Nicky: They’re very close friends of mine, but aside from a live stream set and being on a few bills we’ve kept what we have planned for Roadburn Festival pretty quiet. So hopefully one day we’ll get to record something together unless it’s a complete disaster of course. It’s just gonna be me and Doyle but even then it’s always hard trying to get everyone to rehearse together. We’ll see how it goes.

Despite all the bad luck you’ve had over the years, do you feel like there are people out there that get the wrong impression about you? Do you still get accused of being a ‘tough guy’ band?

Doyle: I mean, we are a tough guy band dude, hahaha.

Nicky: It’s awful, we still get that from certain people online and in person. I think it’s just people don’t know how to handle someone that’s as open and honest as we are and things like that. And, you know, we don’t really follow the same guidelines and rules that everyone does. So like, we kind of alienate ourselves in that way. And the easiest way to misinterpret someone that’s put themselves in a different spot is the kind of like give them something that they don’t understand whether it’s like a being called a bully or like, whatever it is, that’s how they deal with not being able to understand that we just want to do things the way we do things.

What do you love most about touring the UK?

Nicky: Mostly just getting to see our friends that we don’t get to see face to face very often. We don’t have the same lifelong connections in mainland Europe so we consider y’all to be our real friends. Ben who’s filling in on drums is someone I’ve known for over 10 years, for example. We had fucking breakfast at his parents’ house in Worthing this morning with beans mushrooms and eggs, shit ruled. No matter how many times I come over here you guys still sound funny to me, I can’t get enough of it! I also just love being in Brighton in general, it’s for sure one of my favorite places to visit.

Photo by Cam Smith

I know it’s probably a question you get sick of hearing about but is Horror Show done for good?

Nicky: Short answer, no. I don’t have the energy for it and the people that were involved with that like I owe them a fair bit of respect to just like not bother with it anymore. Every once in a while we would hit a show or something like that and I didn’t feel like it was disrespectful to Joshua who passed away or anything but… I’ve had the thought of like recording again, maybe a third final little EP but it just seems doesn’t seem right. Plus, the people that are coming back around, bringing their old band back and trying to do it again like they just end up embarrassing themselves most of the time and I don’t want to accidentally do that to myself. I’ve managed to make it this long without like not completely embarrassing myself.

Right, so my follow-up question to that is…will there be any more Death Of Lovers material in the future?

Nicky: I’ll probably do something again, like that. The thing with that was, I think that there’s a medium which existed for why I did that band was because, at the time, the lineup was a little bit more fluid as far as writing and stuff. But now that like, it’s back to like a band again new people. And there’s absolutely room for change. I think that like I can probably appease what I want to get out of Death Of Lovers with Nothing. In some sense, I would expect big changes because I’m not going to make the same record again. Maybe that’s when I’ll embarrass myself along for the ride!

Finally, when can we expect a new record from Nothing?

Nicky: I don’t think we can release records at the same pace that we did before the pandemic, but also it feels like there’s way less pressure now to do so. The Great Dismal felt like an amazing way to end being in this band for a decade, almost like closing the final chapter of a book. I got what I wanted out of an album during a fucked up time and now I’m hitting up shows with these guys and it’s sick.

Doyle: I think next year we might start writing again but for now we’re just chilling. I mean, when I joined the band you guys already had a bunch of demos ready to go.

Nicky: Yeah I want to feel less pressure on my shoulders, we’ll start up again when the time feels right. It will be good to write a record with Doyle and do it that way.

Doyle: Are you gonna tell people I did that? That I housed Nicky’s pint?

Nothing will play the Sunday of Outbreak Festival in Manchester on 26th June. Get tickets here.

Greet Death on exploding ice cream machines and being called ‘Target music’.

Photo by David Beuthin

Middle school friends Sam Boyhtari (bassist) and Logan Gaval (guitarist) have been making music together since their early teens, with Greet Death being a long-term passion project accumulated from previous experiences growing up in Flint, Michigan. Established in 2011, the profound success of their slow-burning studio releases Dixieland and New Hell and signing with veteran hardcore label Deathwish, Greet Death make a brand of quiet-loud shoegaze at a slow tempo and sad thoughts that keep you up at night.

With the addition of fellow Michigan rockers, Jimmy Versluis on drums and Jackie Kalmink on bass, we sat down on Zoom to discuss what makes them all tick, and diving deeper into their latest single releases.

In terms of songwriting, do you and Sam have a Blink 182 Tom and Mark situation going on where you have songs specifically catered or is it more of a collaborative effort?

Logan: That’s pretty much it. Tom and Mark thing, I think, me and Sam always thought that it was cool that when you listen to a Blink 182 record, there are Tom songs and then there are Mark songs, but then there are also songs where they clearly collaborate, you know, so we pretty much just dropped that from Blink 182 Or, as you say, blink one eight two which I thought was really cool. What do you think of Blink one eight two, are they your Beatles?

I’ve got mixed feelings. The self-titled album, in particular, holds a lot of nostalgic value for me. When I was 11, I was given the Greatest Hits CD which got me really into drums, I never got to see them in their heyday, but I did see that reunion show that you mentioned, in 2009, So before Matt Skiba joined.

Logan: Yeah same, we saw them on the reunion tour, but it was before they put out all that new stuff. So they just played the hits and it was awesome.

So aside from Blink, what made you interested in guitar music and more specifically this genre of slowcore guitar music?

Logan: I’m honestly not sure. There’s a super old photo of me as a child playing an inflatable guitar. And then after that, my parents bought me a toy classical guitar, but I’m not really sure why. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that everyone in the band is around about the same age. When we were growing up, it was still very cool to play guitar, in movies and TV, skateboarding or becoming an artist in general. Those are the coolest things that you could do. I’ve always gravitated toward the guitar specifically. A lot of my earliest obsessions were guitar rock bands such as Nirvana and Guns and Roses, Ramones, and Good Charlotte. I’m not sure how exactly that correlates to the music that we play now, but I’ve always been pretty about guitar music. Jim can speak now and probably say something smarter.

Jim: I grew up on a lot of pop music and the music from my parents. So, as far as guitar music, I was really blown away by “Good Times Bad Times”. That was a big song. So it was from the Led Zeppelin two disk- this fucking thing they reissued five times, I had that. I remember being blown away by that kind of guitar. Black Sabbath was a big one. My parents totally let me listen to whatever and showed me whatever so that was neat for music. For the guitar music that’s more adjacent to what we do, I think probably getting into thrash in middle school is- I know that everybody in this band, at one point or another was obsessed with Metallica. Maybe not for Jackie though!

Jackie: I grew up on similar classic rock stuff as Jim. I was a huge Boston fan. I think that was my favourite band for my eighth-grade year or something. So I always kinda liked that poppy rock, sort of sound. I feel that being in this band is really cool because it’s a mix of more accessible songwriting. To play the music itself, It’s really cathartic because you just load a bunch of fuzz on.

Logan: That’s honestly a very good answer, Jackie, thank you for saying that. I don’t know if many people have picked up on this and I know aesthetically we come across as shoegaze or slow indie rock, but honestly, we’re mostly inspired by classic rock chops, even down the equipment we bring to concerts. We use a lot of super loud tube amps and pedals that aren’t really necessary with today’s PA systems. When I’m onstage I just feel I’m on some kinda School of Rock shit you know?

Advertisements

I love that! Jackie, how did you end up joining Greet Death?

Jackie: So Jim and I are still currently in a band called The Fever Haze and we’ve known Logan and Sam since before Greet Death. We went on tour together and yeah eventually we just naturally thought it would be cool to join.

Logan: We scalped Jim and Jackie because no one else wanted to be around us. In a way, The Fever Haze is minor league Greet Death. We drafted them, made them sign a contract and now they can’t leave.

How did you end up getting signed to Deathwish? I’ve not seen many bands from your scene be on their roster, to be honest.

Logan: I can’t remember if it was Jacob Bannon or someone else’s podcast, but Jasta from Hatebreed saw that we had recently signed to them and said “Oh fuck yeah, this shit could be played at Target!” I don’t know how much of a compliment that was intended to be but whatever. I’m aware the label has a very passionate audience but for whatever reason, they picked up our first record Dixieland and put it on their website. I think we were selected by a few staff members in their playlist picks over the years. I believe that was mostly this person, Mark Connolly that used to work at Deathwish. So I don’t know, I don’t know how much responsibility he had for us getting signed, but I have a feeling that it was 99% him. And he’s also now our manager.

I think another thing I read said that at the time we were selected, Jacob Bannon was really sad. So even though Greet Death has that sort of pop, rock feel I think lyrically, it’s still driven by the same emotions. I feel like it’s coming from a place in common with a lot of heavier music. And certainly, like, some of the textures with the guitars are reminiscent of metalcore or whatever you’d call that. To be honest, I don’t know, I think we still stand out on their roster, but I like that because a lot of our work isn’t typical of a heavy band. I feel like it works, even though it is kind of weird. I’d rather stand out in that way on the label than just be on like, you know, ‘we’re on the shoegaze label is like one of 100 different bands with reverb pedals’ or whatever.

One of my favorite facts about your band is that the title for New Hell came from an exploding ice cream machine at Logan’s work rather than something necessarily deep and profound.

Logan: Yeah, we love transforming the mundane into depressed, that glorious arc. That’s the connection that people need, like, take some boring shit and make it very sad. That’s what the people want. So that’s awesome. And as you mentioned that fact about Dairy Queen. So the general theme is; you think things are bad, and then they just keep getting so much worse. That’s the basic theme of that album, especially in shitty fast-food jobs.

What has it been like to record and write the new material during the pandemic?

Jim: I’ve recorded with Jackie more than anybody. So getting to lay down a lot of what we’ve put out so far with her has been like second nature. And so basically, recording new songs, new material. With Jackie, as she’s joining the band, it felt very, very seamless. The studio we recorded is great because it’s a cool place to hang out. You can just, fuck around and watch Bar Rescue and Trailer Park Boys or play Mario Golf or whatever. And maybe you’ll get to recording something, but at least you’re together. So that was that’s the only difference I guess it’s just that it was just even more comfortable for me to record with the new material.

Jackie: So since the pandemic has happened, I feel like I’m kind of a studio rat now. And it feels like having the band in there with me is a really fun way to kind of put stuff together without it all being completely set in stone.

Logan: Originally Sam and I would write a song and hash it out on the road, but obviously this time around, there weren’t really shows when we were developing our new material. A lot of those ideas were pitched and developed in the studio rather than months in advance. So I think for example ‘I Hate Everything’, the final recording is the third or fourth time we had played that song, having learned it just an hour or so beforehand. I definitely think I’ve always appreciated live recordings. I think it’s really easy to just keep revising and making revision after revision as weeks and weeks go on when you’re trying to make some sort of solid recording. I texted Sam, earlier in the pandemic, and I just told him that we should try to come up with some songs just to see what would happen if we tried to record them as quickly as possible.

What you’re starting to hear now is this stuff that we came up with at the height of the pandemic and a lot of it’s being described as mellow or acoustic. And I think a lot of that is just me and Sam not really feeling like rocking the fuck out. In those songs, you can hear that you can hear the environment that they were created, and you know, that it’s not that we’re writing something intended to make the crowd sing along and get lighters out, It’s just made out of sticks and stones, staring at a wall in the dark. I hope people don’t think that we’re not capable of doing the fuzz-rock thing. It doesn’t feel that much different than our older stuff. I think some of the textures are a little different, but I’m also not interested in making the same record twice. There’s a piano in the studio. So Sam has been using that a lot and he’s a very good piano player.

On “Your Love Is Alcohol” you talk about getting drunk with your girlfriend whilst watching Fox News, have there been any particular moments of watching that channel that has seemed funnier or even more ridiculous when you’ve been drinking?

Logan: I would like to clarify that. It was me and my girlfriend drinking, passing a bottle of Tito’s vodka back and forth. At this time, I lived with my parents still. So I would, I would hear the Fox News broadcasts that my parents were listening. That song to me is just about how my relationship with my girlfriend has helped me live in a lot of ways. It’s certainly taken away a lot of the pain and the fear of, you know, whatever, like the things that we all deal with.

Another song I wanted to have more of an insight about was ‘Crush’ from New Hell, what was the inspiration behind it?

Logan: When I wrote that song it was mostly just like intrusive thoughts in my head late at night. Hold on let me get the lyrics up from Genius….so it’s definitely a breakup song and not having a mutual group of friends with that person….I mean other than that, I know I was listening to a load of Big Thief at the time so at least that’s where it’s at musically speaking.

Okay so, in verse one you got some basic problematic, soft boy stuff, talking about killing yourself out of spite. By the idea that if I killed myself, what I would really want is to watch everyone around me hurt. So I’m not going to do that because I don’t believe in the afterlife. Damn, this is a sad song. I don’t normally do this. In general, the song starts off with a lot of unhealthy ways of coping with heartbreak. And then the last verse is basically if I were to run into you, I’d like to think I’m in like a better place now and I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone in any way.

Speaking of which, have you caught up with Big Thief’s new material?

Logan: Dude no I actually haven’t just yet. I would say I’m much more of a fan of the group’s solo material under the name Buck Meek but it’s been on my list. As you can tell though I do fuck with that band, another great band. carrying the torch for guitar music.

Any thoughts on your upcoming tour with Infant Island next month?

Logan: I always think it’s interesting to have a tour package with an interesting juxtaposition between the bands. Cloakroom have been hugely influential to us. But I think people can only take so much of slow, heavy, quiet, loud type music, you know. And before that, we had an opportunity to tour with Deafheaven, nowadays they’re more similar to our sound than they were back in 2019. I think it’s an interesting dichotomy. It’s also just fun to tour with different kinds of bands. For some reason, it’s always ended up being heavier bands. I’m looking forward to watching Infant Island play every night. They’re very good. I’m also looking forward to not going to work. I would say, that’s like, number one.

Jim: I’m excited to go to San Diego, home of Blink 182 and I’ve never been there so I’m excited about that. There’s a few other cities that I don’t believe we’ve been to. So that’s always interesting. A lot of times, it’s kind of hurry up and wait, you don’t get a lot of time to hang around. But we typically get in the habit because we have two people that like to drive through the night to get somewhere usually in the early hours of the morning or the night before. So then you can kind of set yourself up to go around or take a nap or go to a park or something. So I’m excited for more of that just more bonding time. And yeah, I’m excited to see Infant Island every night. I think we like to tour with those bands just because we want it to eventually be Portrayal Of Guilt. So yeah, we’re just like trying to we’re just trying to work our way there.

Jackie: Yeah, I definitely am looking forward to not having to go to a day job. That’s probably my number one also, but I think what I’m really excited for is like to meet the people in Infant Island. On the last tour we did with The World Is (TWIABPAIANLATD) and Bent Knee I made some really good friends with both of those bands. I’m really excited to like meet another set of people who all become lifelong friends with because we spend too much time together.

Logan: Jackie’s doing fucking doughnuts in the parking lot by the sounds of things, that’s how stoked she is!

I’ve never done an interview where someone has looked up their own lyrics on Genius before..

Logan: When you asked me that earlier I was living in a fucking nightmare. So in an interview like confronted with my own writing I was like ‘damn it’s kind of fucked.’

Well as much as I love the shoegaze genre, sometimes the lyrics feel more like an afterthought because of all the layers so when I discovered you guys it was a great change of pace to hear something so relatable!

Logan: When I think of New Hell, I think of Sam and I before we left for the tour at Great Lakes Crossing which is an outlet mall in Michigan, buying new shoes there. And then I remember showing him the demos on my phone-it’s fun to like go back since my short term memory is really fucking terrible, but my long term is painfully clear – crystal clear visions of whatever I was going through at the time, whether it was at the mall or in my bedroom. I remember it all.

US TOUR DATES with Infant Island, buy tickets HERE:

3/24 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club *
3/25 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry *
3/26 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium *
3/27 – Des Moines, IA @ Gas Lamp (Matinee) *
3/28 – Wichita, KS @ Barleycorn’s *
3/29 – Denver, CO @ Meadowlark *
3/31 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court *
4/01 – Boise, ID @ The Olympic *
4/02 – Portland, OR @ The High Water Mark *
4/03 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile *
4/05 – Oakland, CA @ Elbo Room *
4/06 – Los Angeles, CA @ Resident *
4/07 – Costa Mesa, CA @ The Wayfarer *
4/08 – San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick *
4/09 – Phoenix, AZ @ Nile (Underground) *
4/11 – Fort Worth, TX @ Tulips *
4/12 – Austin, TX @ Spider House Ballroom *
4/13 – Houston, TX @ Eighteen Ten Ojeman *
4/14 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa *
4/15 – Mobile, AL @ Alabama Music Box *
4/16 – Atlanta, GA @ Boggs *
4/17 – Nashville, TN @ Springwater *
4/19 – Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor *
4/20 – Richmond, VA @ Richmond Music Hall *
4/21 – Washington, D.C. @ Pie Shop *
4/22 – Philadelphia, PA @ Milk Boy *
4/23 – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus *
4/24 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East / Upstairs *
4/26 – Middletown, CT @ Rednawa *
4/27 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls Funhouse *
4/28 – Columbus, OH @ Spacebar *
4/29 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle *
4/30 – Detroit, MI @ Sanctuary *

Advertisements

Powerplant are here to make your life weird

Formed by frontman Theo Zhykharyev in 2017 initially as a bedroom project, Powerplant are a five-piece synth-punk collective based in London. The last show I ended up seeing before THE EVENT was Folly Group, Legss, and Powerplant at The Old Blue Last in March 2020. Shortly afterward, they became a band of great comfort to me during several lockdowns, especially periods where it felt like they became my own soundtrack to derealisation. It’s not exactly easy to pinpoint why their sound works, but the militant midi drums coupled with angular guitar riffs alongside the piercing retro synths evident in almost all of their work is a compelling combination. Think of The Coneheads but blended with the original DOOM soundtrack and an extra sense of dread. Zhykharyev spoke to us about how they created their sound, playing in Benidorm and their upcoming Dungeons and Dragons-inspired campaign soundtrack.

What was your life like between the release of your albums Dogs See Ghosts and People In The Sun?

Simpler times! I was doing my film BA and getting into cool new music and doing PP stuff half ironically for my own pleasure. But I guess over the years I kinda figured I want to do music more rather than film, you could probably tell with the growing effort in each project. But besides, in those two years, I want to say I met people that are my true friends to this day and very important occurrences happened in my life that I hold dearly that I guess opened my eyes to what existence really is or could be and what people are like?

Meline Gharibly
Advertisements

I’ve noticed over the past few years how many different types of bills you’ve ended up on. What is the connection between Powerplant and the wider London hardcore scene?

Lloyd, who drums the drum, played/plays in many hc bands and we got onto many bills through that I suppose. But it’s probably mostly through friends putting on gigs and people wanting to have fun – I don’t remember! Lloyd being such a fast violent drummer definitely helps too! I think we are way less clean live, so it works.

What equipment do you use to deliver the dungeon synth sound?

It’s all MIDI! Well, like 85% or something. Which was very fun to work with, I used to be anti-MIDI and anything that’s not an audio recording in Logic. All this choice is fun but it will be the death of me. Plugin wise, I used Roland Sound Canvas that I heard in Daggerfall. It’s just a perfect early cheap midi that sounds amazing with a wobble, and another big plugin was Arturia’s DX7. Good sounds there. Harland Steed (President Evil, SMTB) did tape reruns at CORPUS and that made it not flat and computer sounding. It rocks!!!

I’ve noticed that a lot of your music has a sense of unknown nostalgia. Did you have any specific influences from your childhood that inspire your music?

I listened to 50 Cent when I was a kid, so at the moment probably I want to say no haha. But who knows what the future shall bring – let’s find out.

How was your recent show abroad in Benidorm?

It was a great time – it was a crazy time! Lots of good people there – good sound on stage! First time in Europe for me in a long time and half the city is like little England with every other place called ‘The Bulldog’ or ‘Churchill’. There was a 1 euro pizza slice place and a strip with sketchy sex shows. We swam and walked around – it was really good! Thank you Paloma!

Meline Gharibly

Tell us about this upcoming album and role-playing adventure module?

I kinda properly got into ‘Dungeon Synth Archives’ on YT in late 2020 and got super into it. I tried making some songs – it kinda happened and I just thought it would be an odd/funny thing to commit to. It was supposed to be like a one-two instrument thing originally and seemed like a good contrast with punk PP stuff I was working on that was all too many tracks. However, as time went on and got more serious I got about this I ended up complicating it more etc. ‘Stump Soup’ is looking to be 18 tracks and just under an hour. I think in the end it’s somewhere in between DS and comfy synth, so egg synth of comfy synth I dunno.

I don’t remember exactly where the idea to make an adventure module came from – maybe Cam suggested it, just like the whole DS album thing, but I’m not sure! I named the second track Herziegger’s Mansion after a homebrew DnD campaign I wrote, so maybe that went someplace afterward. In my head, it works very well as there isn’t much context to songs besides the track name, and the campaign is there to attach a personal story/relationship to songs, should be fun! I always wanted to print some stuff and keep it silly, so I’m excited about it all! My good friend and DM Tom Terry is doing most of the writing. I Gotta do it. But I guess throughout the whole thing main inspiration to actually do it all was the SFDD album and the quote/review from the Bandcamp release. It’s just perfect, it’s everything. And doing the whole instrumental album thing kinda makes sense because there was an instrumental skit on almost every release.

I saw that Powerplant was mentioned on /mu/ thread the other day, how did that make you feel?

It made me smile. The weirder the community the better, and I guess that’s just as odd as it gets. And if people are mentioning stuff on there I guess it’s somewhat really working. Used to get DS charts from /mu/ last year. 

Finally, what do you hope to do with Powerplant in 2022?

Man, at this point I just want something to do, I just want to have fun.

Pixie GF is out now, listen below!

Advertisements

Chubby and the Gang-The Bullingdon-Oxford-25/11/2021 Live Review

Photo by Owen Harvey @ Rolling Stone

Despite being a group made up of various beloved UK Hardcore bands, West London’s Chubby and the Gang share more in common with 80’s punk rock bands like The Ramones and Peter And The Test Tube Babies. Coupled with their authentic sense of a strong working-class ethos and emphasis on anthemic songwriting rather than throwdown music, they have been a breath of fresh air in a scene that can feel one-note at times. I had seen their name around various DIY show posters online and only finally got to appreciate them during the first lockdown. Formed a few months just before COVID hit, Chubby had accomplished their first US tour and released a full-length record Speed Kills produced by Jonah Falco of Fucked Up.

After being teased with normality throughout 2020, it was announced that they’d signed to Partisan Records, escalating their success to wider audiences without any need to compromise. Their second record The Mutts Nuts saw the band progress into a much more diverse sounding band yet retaining their harder-hitting moments. When the poster for their Winter 2021 tour was announced I couldn’t believe how many different venues they were hitting up over such a long period of time. The fact that a punk show was happening in Oxford given how scarce shows, in general, are in this neck of the woods, I grabbed a ticket instantly.

Oxfordshire locals Basic Dicks set off the show with unbridled chaos. Their brand of lo-fi scrappy hardcore mixed with blunt vocal delivery changed the atmosphere of The Bullingdon from a pensive, freezing Thursday night bar into a room of transfixed punks, appreciative of every note strung out. The mantra “Life gave me lemons and I fucking hate lemonade” from Frown, sounded even more visceral and pissed off in a live setting, as well as being highly relatable.

Fuzzbrain Studio’s house band Micromoon followed shortly after. They delivered euphoric shoegaze made by hardcore kids that I could happily shove my head into an amp to because of their thick layers of unforgiving dissonance. I have a soft affinity for bands where the frontperson is also their drummer. Ben Spence’s sinister but reserved vocals contrasting his intense, technically impressive drum fills added another level of hypnotic enjoyment to their set. Think of modern gaze bands like Nothing and Cloakroom, but with a twist of deadpan, bleak disposition that only UK bands know how to do best.

Having watched a fair few videos online over the last few months, admittedly it felt jarring seeing Chubby and the Gang play with a barrier on stage, right after supporting Amyl & The Sniffers at Electric Ballroom in London. Swapping the usual never-ending stage dives and mics shoved down gob’s vibe for a more contemporary rock and or roll one, Charlie Manning and co waste absolutely no time fucking about. Zooming through cuts like ‘Coming Up Tough’ and ‘Lightning Don’t Strike Twice’, you can’t help but grin like a moron at their satisfying riffs and gang vocal chants, feeling like you’re part of something more than just the joyfully pissed off appeal of punk rock.

There’s simply no time for painfully obvious speeches about how shit the world is for anyone who isn’t a rich white straight tory, just hit after hit with an audience basking in their glory without having to lift a finger in response. That isn’t a slight on the audience either, as the focus on Chubby raw delivery rather than trying to look cool snapped in a zine 6 months from now was something I did not expect to see or find a nice change of pace. There was an overwhelming sense of optimism and pride in their performance that surpasses dull labels like ‘pub rock’, especially when you can tell they absolutely practice what they preach. The subtle influence of doo-wop and blues amongst their unrelenting momentum works immaculately, adding a distinctive touch to their balls to the wall repertoire.

And just like that, the show was over. I wasn’t quite sure how well their headline tour would go down in places where eclectic shows are less frequent, but the response tonight from everyone around me made me feel like I’d watched something dear to me. Somehow they managed to find that sweet balance between invigoration and comfort. I’ve never felt cool enough to be part of hardcore despite having gone to said shows for almost 10+ years at this point, I don’t know where they will be this time next year but I do know that at this moment, Chubby and the Gang fucking rule, ok?

Advertisements

Sun Spot Release New Video ‘n-Body’

Photo by Harry Steel

Bristolian dream-pop duo Sun Spot share terrifying visions of life turned upside down in a new video for “n-Body” directed by Harry Steel.

Formed in 2018, the group returned this year with their latest foray into dark and
experimental indietronica in the form of a new EP; Clipping, released via Rosecoloured Records on the 3rd of September.

Filmed in Bristol’s Upside Down House, the video is a stylish visualization of the new single thanks to director Harry Steel (Haunted Mattress, Muskets, Heriot) and long-time collaborator and A/V wizard Jack Sargent (Sargeshoots, Adoring).

When asked about the ‘n-Body’ video frontman Will said:“We had the best time making this happen! We love working with Harry Steel and we’ve been lucky enough to have him provide several visuals for ‘Clipping’ so it felt like he really understood what we and the record are all about. Himself and Sarge (Sargeshoots) were a literal dream team and that, with an actual upside-down house to run wild in made for a very good and very weird time. I don’t know what to tell you -everything’s upside down!”

Check out the music video below!

Advertisements

Taylor Madison on finding his feet with Webbed Wing

The Philadelphia group’s frontman talks to us about their upcoming sophomore album What’s So Fucking Funny?, Superheaven’s return to touring and why the term grunge dosen’t apply to the music he makes anymore.

How has life been for you since dropping the Webbed Wing demo in 2017 and the singles you’ve released this year?

I can’t really speak for life in general, because that’s always kind of all over the place. But as far as the band goes, it’s been sort of frustrating, honestly. I mean, that demo came out at the very tail end of 2017. And now, 4 entire years later, we have recorded a split, and 2 entire LPs. And in that time, we have probably barely played 10 shows, and only now does it seem like anybody is catching on that the band exists. And the pandemic didn’t help, but that fucked everybody over, so I’m not upset about that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m entitled to anything. I just feel like it’s odd to be that active, but nothing really happens. I’m not sure if people assume it’s just a fun little project or what, but I’m trying to tour and shit if we can.

In your touring career, have there been any venues that spark significant memories for you, both positive and negative?

Yes, absolutely. I won’t even try to go down the list, because it would be silly to type all of that. But some things that stick out – microphones that shock your lips, but the sound guy does nothing to try and remedy the issue. That happens all the time, and it sucks so bad. Whenever a venue doesn’t have at least a room for bands to safely keep their backpacks/laptops/etc. I can live without a green room (although that sucks too, if I’m being honest). Like cmon man, you don’t have a spot where I can put my few possessions for 3 hours, without fear of them getting stolen or something? But it’s not all bad, obviously. I love showing up to a venue and they have a good stage, or sound system. And if the sound guy isn’t a total pussy, that’s a plus too.

Who was your favourite person to interview when the Strange Nerve podcast was still active?

I’m not sure that I have a single favourite, but some of my favuorites were Alex G, Logan Pierce, my dad, Colin Young and Alec Faber (these were probably the most fun ones to do), Evange Livanos (Superheaven’s manager). But they were all cool in their own way. I miss podcasting a lot, and I’m actually working on a new one that should be out sort of soon.

What’s the one misconception people have about you and your music?

Hard to narrow it down to just one. I think from a distance, I can come off very cold, and maybe even dismissive or mean. And I absolutely can be those things if I’m caught at a bad time, or if someone puts off a vibe that I don’t like. But I like to think I am genuinely a nice and caring person. I’m just not a very social person, so many of my interactions with people that don’t know me can come off a way that I don’t intend. And sometimes, I do intend it because I just don’t want to speak to certain people. As far as the music goes, I think way too many people assume that I am constantly going for some like grunge rock shit, or trying to be like THE 90’s throwback guy. But I swear to god, that has never been my intention, and I resent the assumption to this day. I think Superheaven getting slapped with the “grunge” label hurt us more than a lot of people might assume. Which is fine. I can understand why people would call us that at first. But like, that’s all they ever called us, and I think we were more than that. And we never leaned into the grunge thing. If anything, we actively tried to get away from it. And now, when I’m writing stuff with webbed wing, that I would never consider to be “grunge-y” and people immediately call it that, it drives me fucking insane. In the end, people can call it whatever they want, and I’m gonna live my life. But when I see the word, it does bother me a little bit.

Advertisements

Aside from the name change, do you feel like there is much of a difference between the music you released under Daylight and Superheaven?

Nah, not really. At least nothing beyond just normal songwriting progression. I think we got better and better as a band, but the name never dictated our style or the way we operated. If anything, people’s reaction to the name change made me really resent the people that liked our band. And you can probably tell at this point that I resented a lot about being in the band at that time haha.

What thought process came behind deciding to reunite for shows next year?

Ok, so this is kind of a weird thing to me. I’ve talked about this before, but our band literally never broke up. And we never said we were breaking up. We simply said we weren’t going to tour anymore, and everyone took that as us saying “we’re done as a band.” And I can sort of understand how someone might deduce that from us not touring anymore, BUT we have played multiple shows since then. Like at least one shows a year since our last tour in 2016. So we’re not really reuniting at all. Just playing some shows. And we will certainly play more shows in the future. Not a lot, but definitely some. Unless one of us dies or just refuses to take part. I would actually love to play like 3-5 Superheaven shows a year. Any less than that kinda feels annoying to me. Mostly because I am an idiot and completely forget the songs after not playing them for a year. So every time we have to play a show, I have to relearn everything. Total pain in the ass. But the shows will be cool, and I’m excited that people seem to be excited.

How long have you and Jake Clarke been making music together?

Since 2008, I think. Since I was like 20 and he was probably like 16 or something. It’s pretty crazy, because we had some rocky times during the years that Superheaven was touring a lot, and now we are very close. We have a great dynamic because he is very bubbly and pleasant, and I am a grumpy old fuck with very little patience for anything. But I absolutely love him. He really feels like my little brother, and I cherish our friendship all of these years later.

For the most part your lyrics have been incredibly bleak and hard-hitting. Are they written from first-hand experiences of MH struggles or do you tend to write about other people?

I would say 99% of it is personal stuff about me, and my own experience. But every now and then I like to mix it up and write about someone else, or from someone else’s perspective. And that usually comes out of me feeling like I write from my own perspective too much, and then I get kind of embarrassed, like “who wants to hear what I think all the time?” But yeah, I know everyone talks about their mental health now, which I think is mostly a great thing. At the risk of sounding corny, I think expressing my mental health struggles through songs is a lot easier than just saying them out loud for me. But I do also have a great time writing about other people. Writing from other peoples’ perspectives is so fun, but kinda scary because not everyone is smart enough to understand that everything you write isn’t going to be through your own eyes, or from your own experiences. For example, there’s a song on the new webbed wing record that is from the perspective of a school shooter. I am already anticipating a lot of people taking issue with that. And I’m ok with that, because that song fucking rules and I’m proud of how it came out.

What are your future plans with Webbed Wing and the Superheaven reunion shows?

Superheaven will always be a huge question mark, and I kind of like that. There’s no pressure to do anything, and it can just be fun. I truly love the 3 other guys in the band and I hope I can play music with them in some form for the rest of my life. Even if it’s just here and there. As far as webbed wing goes, that’s my baby. That feels more like my passion, and my purest way to express myself (for lack of a better way of putting it). I would love to tour with webbed wing, and just keep writing and recording music. Even though it hasn’t exactly “taken off” the way I’d like it to, it has been very fulfilling.

What’s So Fucking Funny? is out November 5th. You can pre-order the album here.

Superheaven will play the following UK shows in June 2022:

22nd-New Cross Inn, London

24th- Outbreak Festival, Manchester

Advertisements

This Is Out Of Love’s World (and we’re all invited!)

Photo by Ashley Bea Photography

Formed from the ashes of bleak hardcore band Canvas, guitarist Daniel Marsh, vocalist Ricky Clarke and bassist Jack Rogers decided to start a new project-with the sole purpose of having as much fun as possible. This is reflected in their eclectic mix of 90’s skate punk, alt rock and grunge, with copious amounts of sugar and caffeine. Music made by hardcore kids always seems to hit harder, and Out Of Love are no exception to that theory.

Cut to early 2020, after releasing the music video for S.L.U.M.P, Out Of Love were set to play their first hometown show until COVID set back everything they had worked so hard for. 

Thankfully their time off the road was well spent, releasing two EP’s over the various lockdown periods, signing to Venn Records and gaining a significant amount of traction in a scene that desperately needed reviving. On a gloomy Wednesday afternoon, I sat down with Rogers- now fronting Out Of Love, over Zoom. It’s two days before the band’s debut sold out show in Milton Keynes and the anticipation is nail biting.

Hey Jack! How did you get involved in music in the first place?

I was exposed to like punk rock and hardcore from a very young age because I had cooler cousins that were older than me. They would just give me a box loads of CDs like Slipknot, Green Day, The Offspring. Whatever you could think of that was big in the 90’s they would chuck at me. I loved Slipknot. Then I found Dookie by Green Day. Burnout was the first track and like a light bulb went off in my head. And I was just like “Yeah this is cool, catchy poppy music”, but has an edge that I’d never experienced before. They were my gateway into these coasts of the West Coast, hardcore and punk scene and all the East Bay bands, like Descendents and NOFX, all that kinds of stuff. So I got really into that, which then obviously led to like discovering more of the hardcore kind of bands in that world. And yeah, I just started going to shows I saw, like, I saw my first concert was Green Day when they did in Milton Keynes in 2005 for the Bullet In A Bible live DVD.

I was also in some terrible cover bands in secondary school, covering Nirvana and shit. Then we formed Canvas, which we did really well with for five years. Sadly we weren’t around long and then that broke up, and then I was lucky enough to kind of join Acres and do some fill in for them and tour. Out Of Love was kind of born through just boredom with me and Dan really, he was someone that I’ve always written songs with.

Tell me about your first single “S.L.U.M.P” and where the lyrics came from?

“S.L.U.M.P” was just born out of frustration, again, really it was kind of a very , coming of age thing where in 2019 everyone around me was changing. I felt I was still in the same position I was when I was 18. I had this constant feeling of anger and jealousy, I don’t really know of where it came from. I kind of just felt like I was stuck in this, for lack of a better word, slump where I was trying my hardest to do things. Nothing was really working out. Everyone else around me was kind of growing up achieving these little milestones and I was stuck at home doing fuck all. So it’s about that really!

Does your band name refer to a relationship breakup, or doing something for someone else out of love?

It’s both, that’s what I love about it! We all consider this to be a passion project and we’re doing everything literally out of love for ourselves and the music we wanna write. Initially, it was just in the lyric of the song “S.L.U.M.P.”, we had the song before we had the band name. And then I got the band name while we were looking through the lyrics, we didn’t know what to call and I was like, Well, ‘Out Of Love’ fits perfectly. Naming your band is the hardest part when you start a new project, every band name is taken out of context and it sucks. So it’s totally fine. You can call your band whatever you want.

How the fuck are all of you so happy right now?

We’re just delusional, haha.  I think lyrically I wouldn’t necessarily say that our music is that positive. All of it has an undertone or a mystique of pessimism and self doubt, but I think because it’s kind of sugar coated immediately with poppy riffs. In that sense it doesn’t have as much of a hard hit as if we were still writing angsty hardcore music. 

How did you manage to record three EP’s without having played a single show?

It was the main thing that kept us all sane I think. If there was no creative output for us, and there was no abandon nothing to do, we’d all be in a completely different situation, we’d be kind of losing our minds, but the last year and a half, because there was nothing else to focus on, apart from writing music and recording music, we could just like, get our heads down and kind of still stay clear of all the noise and just focus on being creative.

Advertisements

What was it like performing at House Of Vans earlier this year?

I was really, really nervous. I think the rest I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, I’m pretty sure we were all shitting ourselves. Because I’ve always said like, I never really wanted to do a live session in any band I was in just because I know how bad most of them sound. But we’re really happy that the guys at Vans invited us down and we were stoked with the outcome. It was a great day. Everyone was super, super nice and supportive and we made some really good friends. Overall it was a great experience! I’m so glad we got to do it, even if it definitely felt like diving into the deep end.

All the songs are very short at the moment, what’s up with that?

I think we’re just really lazy. Nah I’m kidding! The only rule in this band is to have fun. If it feels right, do it and we never want to force anything into a song, If it’s not supposed to be there. If we write a song, and it’s a minute long, and it sounds great, it’ll be a minute longer if we write a song, and it’s 14 minutes long, and it sounds great. In the future some songs may be 14 minutes long as there’s no real rules, but at the moment we’re just hammering out, on average, two and a half minute tracks, and I think it keeps the listeners and me as well, because I’ve got such a short attention span. It kind of keeps me excited and engaged because anything after about three minutes, I kind of just switch the fuck off. I’d rather just listen to something short and sharp and then you face rather than kind of long doubt. And there’s those parts that I call that kind of give them everything they want and you’re trying to squeeze all of the energy into such a short space of time. I think it’s more important than loaning it out and, and boring people, especially with kind of music but yeah, the way I like catchy punky songs to be to be short, sharp and memorable.

I feel that, I love Self Defence Family but sometimes it feels like the songs just meander aimlessly. I also find it weird that Drug Church end up touring with so many tumblr friendly pop punk bands but maybe that’s just me!

Yeah I still don’t know why, I’m sure that probably kills Patrick (Kindlon) a little bit inside…

Tell me about Dog Daze? On my first listen I thought it was a more wholesome version of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ by Iggy and The Stooges.

I was walking my dog one day and had the chorus/melody stuck in my head and was convinced that someone else wrote it. As soon as I got home I tried searching for it and luckily as far as I’m aware it was something original my brain made! That’s actually one of my biggest fears, writing a song, putting it out and then being like, “Oh my god, that sounds just like that’s like I had no idea”. 

Initially I wrote it about loving someone the way you love an animal and how unconditional it is. You love them who they are and not like what they do or who they hang out with or whatever. Then after writing the lyrics I was like “No, this actually sounds like I want to be like some sort of submissive person in a dominatrix kind of relationship”. I sent it to the guys and half of them were like, “Oh, this is really good”. And the other half were like “You’re fucking sick”.

So yeah, it’s been the funnest song to write, even the way we recorded it. In the last session, we put bongos in there and other percussion pieces. It was definitely fun to just mess around even the way the rhythm flows and stuff is completely different to what we’ve done. I’m really happy with how it turned out. I really, really like it.

What’s the deal with this third EP? You’ve released Sniffin Glue from it so far…

So it’s one of four tracks we recorded with Sam Bloor at Lower Lane Studios in Stoke On Trent last summer. We just decided “Fuck it, we’ll just go out there and record some songs again and see what happens”. So we just took a bunch of ideas and ran it off with my friend. We see him as like a sixth member of the band, we’ll run everything by him and he’ll be like, “This is shit, this is good”. He really kicks our butts into gear and makes us better musicians. So I can’t see us recording with anyone else right now. I can’t stress this enough like, he’s THE dude.

Has there been any clashes of opinions over songs so far?

I like to think we’re all on the same page. Really. It’s kind of again, the one where we have in the band is that if everyone’s enjoying it and it’s fun for everyone and it feels good for everyone, we’re going to do it. If it doesn’t feel good for one person. We’re not going to do it.  So it’s really important that we all need to be behind what we’re doing. Whether that’s like the bands we play with, or the music we record or the merchant puts out, like everyone needs to be 100% behind it. Otherwise, it’s just not what we want to do. 

Finally, what are you hoping to achieve out of these live shows?

I just want everyone to be included and just lose themselves for a minute and just forget about the bullshit that’s happening in their life. Just like a big just one big kind of A happy space where everyone can express themselves. We’re also happy to be playing shows with people we genuinely love. That dosen’t mean that support should be pigeonholed into bands that sound a bit like yours to fit a bill. One day we might have an acoustic opener or a rapper, who knows? I think there’s nothing worse than going and see one of your favourite bands and the support is just like a bad version of that headline.

Honestly, launching Out Of Love just before pandemic wasn’t ideal, so we’re happy to play anywhere. I couldn’t care less where it is or how many people are there. I just want to play shows now and we’re all really, really ready. Just try it out and see what happens I guess. Everyone is welcome no matter who you are, where you come from or what you believe in. Just don’t be a dick!

Sniffin Glue single is out now via Venn Records, listen here.

Advertisements

I Feel Fine release debut LP ‘The Cold In Every Shelter’

Brighton post-hardcore quartet I Feel Fine released their ten track album The Cold In Every Shelter via London based label Venn Records,. The group shared videos of their two previous singles from the LP, Selfsame and Elemenohpea earlier this year building up to their release. Formed in 2018, I Feel Fine brought guitarist Jack Holland of math-rock band The Yacht Club in 2019, strengthening their tantalising gang vocals and further layers of melancholic guitar riffs.

Here’s what Venn Records had to say about The Cold In Every Shelter

Building on the strong foundations set by their debut EP, I Feel Fine continue to deliver the nostalgically influenced alt-rock sound they tastefully pay homage to (think Crash of Rhinos, The Appleseed Cast, Algernon Cadwallader) while looking towards new and fresh textures, adding post-rock dynamics, subtle orchestral swirls and some alt-country inflections. Tying this together with super tight and muscular performances, there is no denying the sky-scraping ambition that this record exudes, whilst retaining the high energy and ultimately joyful euphoria of their live shows.

Leading the record’s sonic journey are these grandiose, heart-on-sleeve emo-punk melodies that are backed up by the painstaking honesty of guitarist Nathan Tompkins’ lyrics. But it’s how Nathan shares his vulnerabilities with the rest of his band mates to sing in unison that gives I Feel Fine this overwhelming sense of unity and brotherhood. Often harmonising and sometimes screamed, there is so much catharsis bubbling within these songs as we see the quartet morph together as one unit.

Watch the music video for the latest single Elemenohpea below!

The Cold In Every Shelter Tracklisting

  1. Something New to Worry About

2.Elemenohpea

3.Million(Keeping House I)

4. The Ladder View

5. Selfsame

6. SailMaker

7. Keeping House II)

8.Where the Clouds End

9.Fold

Advertisements

Crywank release surprise LP ‘Just Popping In To Say Hi’

Photo by Crywank

Beloved Anti-folk outfit Crywank were set to play a farewell tour across the world before the COVID 19 pandemic and chose to push this back until it was safe to do so. On the 21st of August, frontperson Jay Clayton announced that a new album of material called ‘Just Popping In To Say Hi’ would be released following a house fire at their flat in Canada.

Speaking about the EP, Clayton said:

On the 23rd of August 2021 there was a house fire at my flat with my partner which left us and our neighbours displaced, my partner out of work and my foot all gross and burnt up. We don’t know how the fire started and just woke up to a blaze on our deck. Despite writing an entire album about the break-up of Crywank, and doing a farewell world tour (that was postponed half way through due to the global pandemic) I wanted to make some good out of bad and get some much needed creative release so decided to record an ep. I booked in studio time with my friend Colm Hinds four days later and quickly realised I had much more to say. We recorded what became this album within that one session. Rather than rush release to try and raise funds for me and my neighbours like I had initially planned, I booked in two more days the following week and with the help of friends added instrumentation to the songs as I felt they deserved more time. I’d been trying to write love songs for my new project ‘Lovewank’ but as you’ll probably be able to tell by this albums lyrics this couldn’t really be anything other than Crywank. With the permission of Dan to continue the project without him whilst we are living in different countries (I am currently living in Ontario) this album ‘Just Popping In To Say Hi’ is the first solo Crywank release since 2012.

These songs are largely focused on themes of lost and distant friendships, your place within the narratives of others lives, the fog of memory and the mental limitations of self-image (apart from the last track which is a diss track about a fictional band called Ultra Bono). I was proud to know when to stop, but what lingered after a closed book has manifested. There where too many pages so the book keeps bursting open. I hope you find some enjoyment or solace in what me and my friends have created over this bizarre couple of weeks.

This album is being prereleased at £3 but anything more you can give is so helpful. Profits from the first week are going towards paying the expenses of recording, paying musicians who played on it and going towards everyone living on the third floor where the fire occurred. After a week as with all Crywank albums it will be properly released on streaming platforms and go down to name your price.

The album is only currently available on Bandcamp but as stated will be on other streaming platforms at a later date. You can listen to a track from it here:

‘Just Popping In To Say Hi’ Tracklisting

  1. Hey Dan how are u miss u
  2. Trying To Pass Off Merge Games As A Form Of Meditation
  3. Thinking About A Potentially Awkward Interaction With An Old Friend (feat. COMMUTED)
  4. On My Mind by Kylie V by Crywank
  5. One Hundred Million Years Ago A Hero Crossed The Land
  6. Memories Elephant
  7. Chainmail
  8. Cool Knife Bro (feat. Guard Petal)
  9. I Am A Rockstar Who Is Really Cool And Sexy
  10. Crumpledbigskin
  11. Commodified Dissent As An Act Of Resistance (or The Many Disappointments Of The Fictional Band Known As Ultra Bono)

Wide Awake Festival, Brockwell Park -3/9/21 -Live Review

Photo by Max Styles

I’ve been to a fair few open air festivals in London before, some great and others not so much. Brockwell Park is a gorgeous location for a comeback day gig, situated just outside of Brixton station and brimming with lush vegetation. The lineup for Wide Awake was announced pre COVID back in 2019 when all we had to worry about was the tories getting back into power. Despite the bill being fairly different to the one initially announced, having The Windmill represent the main stage was a welcomed addition as well as being fairly surreal given how tiny that venue is. At this point however, I think it’s hard to be fussy when we’ll take anything over spending another 18 months watching Netflix, wanking and drinking ourselves to oblivion in our rooms.

Arguably the biggest guitar band in the country as of 2021, IDLES opened the main stage to a hungry audience, as push pits and bodies galore bopped to the likes of “Heel/Heal”, “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” and “Model Village’. The latter of which vocalist Joe Talbot had to explain what the song was about as apparently certain nerds online couldn’t seem to understand. As a band who’ve faced backlash for not being working class enough or apparently ‘appropriate’ punk culture, none of those factors mattered here as a wholesome lunchtime mosh was had by all. The brief Oasis cover was a tad cringey but that’s just my bias for hating anything to do with that band. Thankfully they redeemed themselves by closing on “Rottweiler”.

The plan was to see Porridge Radio afterwards, but finding the stage proved to be too cumbersome, it was bloody boiling, and we’d already missed half their set wandering around, so we opted to stay where we were. 

As my editor (James) pointed out, having IDLES on early as they drove down the M4 to headline in their hometown meant that it allowed other adjacent bands in their scene to have a bigger audience than usual. That being said, Brighton’s Squid’s were polarising to say the least. I’m usually a big fan of bands that have their drummer be the foreperson of a band, with Ollie Judge’s cynical observations and shrieks filling out the field coupled by Squid’s craft of song build ups. However, with only “Peel Street” and “Narrator” showcased from their latest album, along with even more new material sandwiched in between their older hits, a fair few audience members walked away midway through their set, and those who stayed were not quite sure what to make of things. 

Heading over to the So Young tent, a sizeable audience clambers in for Preston via London’s White Flowers. A dreamy three piece with tunes reminiscent of early Beach House, with gorgeous textures and floaty vocals. A sea of dads and Goldsmiths University types reacted well to the hazy instrumentation, albeit with some odd headbanging. James said his ears hurt because the bass drum was inexplicably the loudest thing on stage during their set. In his defence, he was being very brave about it. 

Back over to the Windmill main stage again, PVA’s glistening electronic musings make a nice break from the death by post punk mission that seems to be on Wide Awake’s agenda for today. Exploding one moment into a cacophony of noise to a gentle lul in the next, the dance group’s use of layers create a vibe that brings out the natural hit serotonin in the middle of the day we’d all been craving. 

Photo by Max Styles

Given the Sonic Youth comparisons made about Dry Cleaning, I was stoked to finally check them out, however we opted to go see Goat Girl on the mainstage instead as meeting up later may have been a bit difficult. There’s only so many times you can say ‘I’m by this tent’ and lose your mates entirely so it wouldn’t have been worth it. The South London ensemble, along with an extra violinist were unexpectedly drowned out by the quiet mix on stage, and crowds of people talking loudly to their mates over some of the slower jams ruined the atmosphere for me. It goes to show that some artists aren’t as effective on outdoor stages as they are in packed tents, and unfortunately this was absolutely the case here.

A nice surprise came from art punk weirdos Snapped Ankles, strutting their stuff at the Moth Club tent and bringing the weird vibes to us in the afternoon. You can’t quite put your finger on why they’re so enjoyable to watch, but their woodland aesthetic, blistering keyboards and genre blending madness makes them hard to not absolutely lose your shit to. If those watching Goat Girl looked too cool to be there or give a shit about any of the bands, the audience for Snapped Ankles is the complete opposite of that, with fans shamelessly throwing their mates across the tent, dragging strangers into the fold too.

With the sun gradually going down, Black Country, New Road treat us once again with the crowd warming playfulness of “Instrumental”, as a sea of gun fingers and men in bucket hats on shoulders dance their backs off. For every delicate introspective moment from newer cuts like “Goodwill Hunting” and “The Place Where He Inserted The Knife”, a sea of bodies bounce in unison for “Opus.” It’s surreal to witness a band who once could barely fit on the same stage together have such a visceral reaction from the crowd. 

Earlier that week, Black Midi announced that a string of shows had to be cancelled due to frontman Geordie Greep’s doctor advising him not to play following a throat infection. It was a nice surprise to see that not only did BM commit to their Brockwell Park set, but Greep was still as unhinged and bombastic as ever. He even managed to fit in a play scuffle on stage whilst bassist Cameron Pitcon seduced us with “Still” a country flavoured ditty on banjo. With some assistance from BCNR, the post punk giants combined forces together to deliver a truly memorable performance, never being able to sit still for too long before overloading our senses. Artists that are this unconventional and eccentric never usually achieve this level of success past a niche audience, but with both groups being nominated for Mercury prizes and playing bigger venues with each year, it seems like nothing can stop these incredibly talented people with so much potential.

If anyone deserves the first prize medal for today however, it was always going to be Shame. Frontman Charlie Steen points out that all the members had been going to Brockwell Park since they were kids, I can only imagine how euphoric it must have felt for them to headline a festival in their childhood playing fields, 10 years later despite the world still undergoing a pandemic. Tracks like “6/1” and “Nigel Hitter” are played ever so slightly faster than their recorded counterparts, but that tempo change makes all the difference. Drummer Charlie Forbes channels Steven Morris with his extremely tight drum fills, never missing a beat and adding an extra layer of ferocity into the fold. Steen has the crowd at his mercy, as circle pits and crowd surfers galore amalgamate into a whirlwind of chaotic energy. Blending newer tracks from Drunk Tank Pink with older cuts from Songs Of Praise, the moodiness of their stage presence was balanced with pure aggression. Ending on the cinematic turned cacophonic “Station Wagon”, the existential nature of the final lyrics “Won’t someone please bring me that cloud, move that cloud, join us on planet Cluj” encapsulate a true sense of unity that Wide Awake managed to accomplish today. 

Photos by Tia Bryant / Max Styles / James Pearson