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

Goat Girl – On All Fours Album Review

Rough Trade Records – 2021

South London post rockers Goat Girl return with the follow up to 2018’s debut release Goat Girl, an album that was tinged in grunge and disdain. A lineup change with new bassist Holly Hole joining to replace Naima Jelly, a burn injury that cancelled a tour and a global pandemic in between, there’s certainly been many hurdles to getting this album released. With production being helmed by Speedy Wundergound’s own Dan Carey they have expanded their sound into new territories incorporating elements of synth-pop, jazz and soft-rock delivering a gratifying and woozy sophomore outing.

The band have never been ones to shy away from political messaging and throughout this album they continue to challenge the burdens of capitalism, casual racism in the media and climate change. Opener “Pest” cleverly flips around the phrase of “Beast from the east”, realising that this way of phrasing suggests that these extreme weathers are a result of the eastern hemispheres industrial revolutions, where in reality we are the ones that started the chain of pollution. “Pest from the west, drums on his chest” sings lead singer Lottie Cream in her deadpan style. Backed by a symphony of encapsulating rising guitar lines and bubbling synthesisers, the sound is easy on the ears whilst simultaneously impossibly menacing.

Although this album was written before any notion of a pandemic began and the fallout from it there are themes that resonate with a collective more wider than they might have originally thought. Lead single “Sad Cowboy” may seem upbeat through its use of club based synths and driving groove but lyrically the band speak on notions of feeling isolated from society, due to the often felt naivety of the many to some of the failings of homelessness, austerity and gentrification. And this contrast is cleverly woven into the lyrics. “Where colours play in the sky again, Through the windowpane, night time dissipates” where Cream is singing about these dreamlike surroundings that contrast her state of mind in the chorus where she sings “Slippin’ my hold, It comes and it goes, The feeling we’re told, Isn’t so”. Conveying the feeling of becoming detached from a world that is a much crueler place than is casually perceived.

But away from the socially commentary the band displays an incredible amount of rawness in their detailing of their own struggles with mental health. From the breezy but moving “Anxiety Feels” that details L.E.D’s struggle with anxiety and isolation and the choice between whether to involve medication. “I don’t wanna be on those pills, heard they make you numb, find another way to get my fill” she declares as the track opens. But it’s only when the chorus melodies and harmonies kick in that the true weight of this songs is felt, it may only be simple declarations of “finding it hard” but you can hear the unconcealed emotion oozing out. And one of the highlights of this album comes in the form of “Closing In” both lyrically and sonically. The simple melancholic synth melody of the verse create a truly ominous sense of unease that perfectly captures the tenderness that Cream is writing about. But she depicts her illness as an entity that comes and goes through the clever lyricisim of “I feel the ghost, she slipped through my bones, pushing around and allowed to expose”.

Compared to the gritty and grinding sound of their debut album, there’s a certain amount of dreaminess and psychedelia washed over this album. The guitars are cleaner, the mix is smoother and the grooves are looser. But in this new formed freeness the band revere in their collective sound, allowing each movement to become funkier and more expansive than ever. The likes of which are found all over the descending groove of “Badibaba” which also introduces the new injection of jazz elements into the bands sound through the off beat vocal melodies and slinky bass lines. And on “P.T.S.Tea”, that tells the story of how drummer Rosy Jones was scolded with hot tea on a ferry by a man who didn’t even acknowledge the event, the song may open with an upbeat synth-pop intro but it slowly descends into a jazzy and psychedelic soundscape that feels like your swimming in the discontent that the band creates with their swirling vocals.

That’s not to say however there aren’t moments that get lost in the looseness and the gritty feel of the first album is missing. “Jazz (In The Supermarket)” showcases the bands talent to build on different movements from an instrumental perspective, but with its early placement in the tracklisting and four and a half minute run time it slows down the flow of the album without adding too much that can’t be found later on sonically. And the blissful swaying jazz verses of the first half of “A-Men” become somewhat overshadowed by the drawn out second half that take just a bit too long to reach their conclusion.

This album takes a look at the world, both retrospectively and introspectively and tries to understand and question our ways of life whilst seeking for change in both aspects. Sonically Goat Girl may be leaning towards a more woozier sound than their debut, but the songwriting and undying drive to seek and inspire a better world is still as potent as ever.

Goat Girl unveil the magic behind their mystifying second album: “We just jam it out. Jam sandwich”

Photo by Holly Whitaker

Hailing from South London, a part of the Windmill Brixton generation, a venue that has been the catalyst for so many big names of modern indie such as Shame, Sorry and Tiña. Goat Girl have spent the last few years establishing themselves as one of the most talked about and exciting post-punk, indie and every other label they can be put under bands. Their debut album Goat Girl was nominated for the Mercury Prize back in 2018, a sign of true artistic brilliance in itself.

This Friday they release their long anticipated sophomore album On All Fours. An album that focuses on the tribulations of the modern day, from climate change to racism in the media to entitled men. But whilst the album takes on the world, the band gives you an insight to their own world through an unbridled amount of intimacy of personal stories of struggles with mental health and the emotive weight that isolation can have on someone. Without knowing it Goat Girl created one of the most 2020 albums possible before the year had really began.

Their sound has also evolved to take on a more smooth, jazzy and vibrantly expansive feel. Synthesisers at their helm, there’s a new found collaborative and groove fuelled tint to the bands sound, whilst still retaining that signature flair of moodiness. Thanks in part to new bassist Holly Hole who introduced the band to her Minilogue synth and to Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey, the synth wizard himself, who let the band take residence inside his lair of bubbling and explosive synthesisers. We spoke to the band to give us the lowdown on the ingredients that they brewed together to make their mystifying second album.

What does the title ‘On All Fours’ mean or represent? 
L.E.D: It means a lot of things…and it can mean anything you like. But to me, there’s a strong connotation of animalism. It explores the way in which we’re humans, and therefore disparate from the natural world, and on the other hand, we are also so undeniably a part of the natural world – for all of its beauty, glory and gore. 

Opener “Pest” is about the casual racism that is used within the media as well as the “powers that be” controlling our lives on a daily basis. Were there any particular moments that inspired this song?

 L.E.D: Lottie wrote that song when she read a headline that labelled a storm the ‘beast from the east’. It’s about the propaganda that we in the west are fed, in order for us to believe that environmental issues are a ‘foriegn’ thing, with foreign roots, rather than addressing the fact that the west has a lot to answer for in terms of the climate crisis, as well as humanitarian struggles.

One theme that is consistent throughout the album is self worth and finding ways to deal with issues of mental health and anxieties. What’s the importance to you about talking openly about your mental health in songs?

L.E.D: For ‘tough’ topics like mental health to be buried, sensored and avoided only makes things worse. Everyone struggles, because we are human, but if only we shared our struggles, rather than burying it, and never asking for help, we might be able to heal a bit better from trauma, stress, depression, you name it. I think one of the best things that we can do for others and ourselves is to talk openly about how we feel because through communication comes understanding, empathy, and love. People love helping each other, and you’re never alone, but we have to be reminded of this!

In the writing process for “Jazz ( In The Supermarket” you all switched instruments and for “A-Men” the theme is about coming out of your comfort zone. In doing this do you feel it unlocked part of your creativity as a band and songwriters that you wouldn’t have otherwise? 

L.E.D: Definitely. I think we all became a bit complacent with our usual instruments – feeling like we didn’t know how to play anything that sounded fresh and exciting, so having a break from the usual instruments and switching round definitely helped get that fresh feeling, as well as get excited again about our original instruments.  

What was it like working with Dan Carey as producer? And what did he help bring to the album?

L.E.D: He bought so much! We worked closely with him doing pre-production; using his MPC drum machine which was programmed in time, and included some time changes within some songs. This made it feel more natural for rosy to drum along to (rather than a metronome), and therefore made the album sit in a more electronic world than our first album, without too much sonic rigidity. Dan’s studio is like a dream come true – a world of tangled wires, synths, drum machines, amazing vintage guitars and boutique amps just waiting for you to mess around with and find stuff you like. There’s very much a sense of exploration rather than domination with Dan’s production style. He’s happy to suggest things (and he’s usually right), but he allows everyone to make their own choices with moulding the live sound they want to capture. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/CJ84cemnuSU/

The album features a lot more synthesisers than your debut, what was it about these sounds that drew you towards them? 

L.E.D: When Holly joined the band, she introduced us to the minilogue synth (Kylie). This was like an exciting new toy to us guitar heads that were used to having our heads in our pedal boards, amps, and midi keyboards. Rosy is a hidden gem when it comes to keys as well. The interludes on the first album were based around piano songs that Rosy wrote. We all love electronic music, and our home demos often sit more in the electronic world because we’re using Logic to record them, so it was natural for this to shine through in the album. Lottie uses synths loads in her own music too. I (Ellie) got a Yamaha CS Reface which is a really great first synth for a guitarist because there’s no presets, so it’s more like using a pedal board in a way, and experimenting with the knobs til you find something you like. I used to think you have to have this in-depth technical electronic knowledge to play synth, but that’s just not the case. 

The vocals in “Jazz ( In The Supermarket)” were inspired by Bulgarian folk choir, what other inspirations did you have for the sound of this album? 

I (ellie) was particularly inspired by the current UK jazz scene in my guitar playing. I got bored of the standard indie guitar chords. There’s so much great stuff out there at the moment – from Alfa Mist, Demae, Ego Ella May, Yazmin Lacey, to name a few. There’s also a big cross over of jazz in india right now, which is one of my favourite sounds – that kind of loungey/ psych soul, with bands like Crumb, Sault, Holy Hive, and Alice Pheobe-Lou, and KerenDun. Then there’s a load of electronic stuff that I was influenced by like Steve Spacek, Shigeto, Sneaks, keyah/blu and Channel Tres; I see these artists as exerting a kind of dark euphoria, with a gothic undertones, which I relate to and seek to craft myself.

How as a band do you draw together to get each others unique influence to create such a vibrant sound?

 We just jam it out. Jam sandwich 

The Windmill in Brixton has played an important part in becoming who you are as a band today. What does this venue mean to you and as part of the independent scene as a whole?

L.E.D: I’d say it’s our musical home, for sure. We were kind of born there (as a band) if you like, and spent our formative years there. There’s a certain atmosphere with The Windmill that makes you feel welcome and able to be yourself and express yourself freely. This is something that I’ve seldom found elsewhere in London venues. 

Goat Girl announce new album ‘On All Fours’

Photo by Holly Whittaker

Goat Girl have announced a new album On All Fours set to be released on the 29th of January 2021. The album is the follow up to 2017’s debut Goat Girl and was produced by Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey in early 2020. The 4 piece have also released a new single ‘Sad Cowboy’ and accompanying music video.

A statement on Rough Trade said this about the new album: “This new record sees the band veer away from the confrontational lyricism of their debut and indicates Goat Girl’s maturing perspectives in discussing the world’s injustices and social prejudices, using the music to explore global, humanitarian, environmental and mindful well being. Goat Girl’s frequent use of sci-fi synthesisers, off-beat chord progressions, analogue drum machines, diverse vocal styles and distinct, gritty guitars fuse a musical language that expresses both former characteristics and newer developments of the band’s sound and vision On All Fours“.

‘On All Fours’ Tracklisting:
1. Pest
2. Badibaba
3. Jazz (In The Supermarket)
4. Once Again
5. P.T.S.Tea
6. Sad Cowboy
7. The Crack
8. Closing In
9. Anxiety Feels
10. They Bite On You
11. Bang
12. Where Do We Go?
13. A-Men

Watch the video for ‘Sad Cowboy’ below.