Thursday, 27 May 2010

Jaguar Love - Hologram Jams

I was pretty distraught when Blood Brothers decided to part, granted their latest record, 'Young Machetes' didn't quite reach the same heights that I enjoyed within the edgy brilliance of 'Crimes' but as a fan, I still felt that sonically, they still had sounds to explore. Jaguar Love, comprising of two members of Blood Brothers, vocalist Johnny Whitney and guitarist Cody Votolato, explore these sounds on their latest record, the second to be released by Jaguar Love and first for new label Fat Possom Records, 'Hologram Jams'.

Jaguar Love and this album are a strange being, Whitney's vocals haven't moved on since his former band and his screechy vocals often bring you back around to reminiscing about Blood Brothers, especially when his trademark screaming comes into the fold, you can't help but wish the deeper vocals of Jordan Billie were around to balance the whine of Whitney like they did previous. Vocals aside, the comparisons with Blood Brothers generally end as Jaguar Love musically approach you from a dance synth direction rather than an alt-punk one. Most notable is the use of drum programming rather than a drummer, often this can lead bands into dangerous places creating over complex loops to compensate for a lack of members but Jaguar Love are extremely reigned in when it comes to percussion and the drums are the driving force on this record, simply making it impossible to not tap your foot along to the album, regardless of whether you like it or not. Guitars are still there but the in your face style of Blood Brothers has been replaced with a subtle approach with guitars often just there to offer something extra to the sickly sweet sound of synthesisers. Lyrically is where I feel Jaguar Love really let me down though, while Whitney once inspired me with his lyrical ideals, I now feel sick to the stomach to hear him sing the line "Everything is rad, everything is awesome, drive a tank through your head that's awesome", a far cry from his Blood Brothers days and while it suits the tone of the music, lyrically it comes across as uninspired and childish.

'Hologram Jams' isn't as I expected, Jaguar Love aren't what I expected, the poppy dance sound of a good alternative punk band stripped of their individuality and shoved into the modern music scene armed with everything needed to be deemed cool. We want Blood Brothers back.

2 / 5

Jaguar Love Myspace

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Alt Track Interview

The best part about independent bands for myself, is watching them grow both in performance and also musically. From the moment I heard Alt Track I knew that they had something that could go somewhere. I caught up with Micky shortly after their first UK tour to ask him about the tour, their future European dates, their debut album and his thoughts on politics currently.

Please tell everyone reading who you are and how you came to be...

Hey, I'm Micky and I play in a band called Alt Track with my band mate, Pete. We write political dance music and have been gigging together for three years now. We met after our previous bands disbanded and after a few weeks of jamming and an impromptu gig, we made it come together in the end and here we are!

Pete and yourself seem to have a very different taste in music with you stating influence in more the folk/trip-hop and post-rock field, while Pete on the other hand seems to venture on the heavier side but with touches of hip-hop. How do you feel that eclectic combination of influences works for Alt Track and has it ever caused problems?

If you were to go back two years ago when we first started playing, we were writing pretty dull post-rock, ambient, instrumental, electronica kind of stuff because that's what I was into back then. Since then we've both shared bands and influences with one another and alot of Petes taste in dance music, hip-hop and punk has rubbed off on me. Now we've really started pushing into that heavier direction, but we still try and bring in the elements of melodic post-rock and trip-hop. Having an open mind to one anothers tastes and music in general is really a positive thing for us, while conflicts do still sometimes happen when we're tugging the music in a different direction, it does always seem to work.

What is the routine within the band in terms of songwriting. Is it all down to one of you or both of you?

We both write and on the album, I'd say it's totally fifty fifty as far as content goes. Some songs feature one persons ideas more heavily whilst others are a complete split down the middle.

One of the positive things about working electronically means that you don't need a full band to write and jam through new material, so when we write on our own we can pretty much record and demo a song and then bring it to the table. Most of the time Pete will progam something, some beats or a bass loop and then at practice we'll play it together. I might bring a piano melody into the picture, maybe a lyric or two and we'll spend a long time structuring it. Sometimes I wish we could play more with real instruments though, just to get a better feel for the songs and do more subtle things but programming seems to still work best for us.

You said about wishing there were live instruments more readily available, has there ever been a discussion in moving towards more of a band dynamic?

That's something we're always being asked actually! We've discussed it alot aswell. The short answer is no. We both feel we've got something unique in our creative dynamic as a duo. I know there is nobody I can write music like thiswith other than Pete, and onstage people say that our personalities come across clearly.

On the next album we are planning to feature more acoustic instruments though, and some guest vocalists and musicians but I don't think we'll ever be looking for official members, it's just too handy being able to fit us and all our gear into a Renault Clio!

Your EP, 'A Nation Is On Fire' very much owed to the likes of Muse and other grandiose bands whilst on 'Silence Is Approval', you seemed to develop all your influences to move into a genre of your own. How was that achieved, was it discussed and planned or did it naturally occur?

There was a definite point after we did the EP that we wanted to find our own sound. We both like the songs on the EP, some of them I love listening to still but it isn't what we're really about.

In terms of Silence Is Approval, it kind of just fell together. We were both writing and jamming new songs at gigs and were planning to record another EP but one day we kind of just sat down and realised we had enough new songs for an album. So we went into the studio, working with an amazing producer called Simon Mawsom, and he helped us work together alot better than we had been. We ended up writing most of the songs in a short space of time throughout the recording process, and while in hindsight it may have been rushed, it was still really natural.

Looking back, it was definitely the best time either of us have ever had recording and I guess because of the rush, we didn't really think about genres. It was only once we had finished it and listened back for the first time that we realised that we'd written something pretty different.

Both of your releases have received great comments from the music media, myself included. How do you feel as an independent, unsigned band, you can build upon this for the next release?

We have had some lucky breaks in terms of media coverage so far, especially when you take into account how bad at self promotion we are! I think the most exciting comment that we ever received was by Steve Lamacq when he played us last year on prime time Radio 1, that was amazing.

In alot of ways I think our music is taking care of itself, that's what we know how to do, but the other side of music, sending out e-mails, press packs and letters all the time in hope of getting acclaim, that's the hardest thing for us.

Actually getting ourselves out there to badger the more important people in the industry is what we need to improve on for our next release, definitely.

Lyrically, you often move into political territory. Was that always the intention with your music, do you feel that people may be turned away from your music because of this and do you feel that having political views is important in modern music, if so, why?

We always say that lyrics are based upon observations. Right now, the world is in a mess, corrupt politicians, wars, propaganda, lies and injustice. That is something we have to speak out about and music has always been and hopefully will always be, a platform for change.

We're really lucky to have the opportunity to communicate with people in this way, I don't think people are turned away by it, some people may not want to hear the bleak truth but at the same time, we try to remain positive and show that there is a possibility for change, a good change.

I don't think it is crucial to always be ranting about politics in music though, if people want to write about love, drugs, money or war that is up to them. The only thing that I think is important in music, is honesty.

With the UK political battle currently being plastered everywhere, where do you place your music in terms of encouraging young people not only to vote but to vote sensibly?

People have got to come to their own conclusions on the weight of the voting system. I don't really know well enough where I stand to be encouraging other people. I've not met anyone who's got complete, certain, steadfast faith in the way we elect governments, and I don't think anyone's ever been sure.

I think we need some radical change though, and I think a hung parliament is going to be the way to go, even if it's just a foothold on a bigger thing. Keeping the BNP out of any more seats or success is a key part to our message though, no way should those racists be allowed to stand for election.

Back to music now, have you started on a new album yet and if so, any hints on what it will sound like?

We started thinking about a new album straight away, it's there somewhere in our sights but we don't want to rush it.

The first album was exciting, simple and raw to make and I think that comes across. We really want to refine our sound on the next one, input all the details we perhaps neglected on Silence Is Approval.

I don't have too much to say on the sound of the new one yet, I think it will just be bigger, more uplifting, more guitars, more pianos, I don't really know, you'll have to wait and see!

The last few months saw you embark on your first full UK tour, how did it go and also, what do you expect from the European dates you have coming up and what can gig-goers expect from you?

The UK tour was amazing, we played some of the best gigs we've played and met some great people.

It's going to be strange gigging in Europe, I remember a few years back thinking that touring the UK, or playing outside of Bradford was an unreachable, crazy idea, but here we are doing it, and the idea of actually being able to go and play our music on the continent was impossible! We're pretty excited, the anticipation is definitely outweighing the confusion right now.

One thing people have always commented on is how much energy we have on-stage. We try and explore the whole room, not just the stage, and really perform. Every gig counts to us, no matter what the situation, crowd size or sound system. So whether you see us in Bradford or in Belgium, we'll still be giving one hundred and ten percent.

Last question, everything you have done so far has been off your own back from self recording and releasing your album to organising your own tours. Do you think this helps or hinders you and do Alt Track have any aspirations of being signed?

It would be a lie, I think, if any band said they didn't want success in the mainstream. Yeah, it would be nice one day if we had somebody who could do the grinding day-to-day job of e-mailing, photocopying and calling people but right now, I think i'd only ever want to do it ourselves. The longer we remain independent, the longer our music and any success we achieve belongs to us and I hope we'll be able to look back on this time as the important years where we did the practical and mundane things off our own backs.

On the other side of the coin, it means being skint and being abit of a hermit at home when we're not on tour, but for us, it's well worth it. We wouldn't have it any other way!

You can check out Alt Track on their Myspace by clicking here.