Friday, 25 March 2011

Funeral For A Friend's career has now spanned ten years, with the band gaining more and more credability from media and becoming fan favourites. 'Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation' brought them into the spotlight, while its follow up 'Hours' was an assured and matured release that not only kept them there but cemented them as one of the more important UK bands of our time. Their third album 'Tales Don't Tell Themselves' showed the world that the band weren't just one trick ponies, with every song a potential radio hit, whilst fourth album 'Memory and Humanity' showed old fans that the band hadn't lost their edge.
Members have come and gone of late and the band find themselves on the brink of new release, their fifth album, 'Welcome Home Armageddon'. I met up with Gavin Burrough of the band to discuss their plans for the album and what motivates the Welsh five piece to continue making music after ten long years in the industry.

As a band, you have been together a long time, what motivates you to continue making music, especially considering the way the industry is going?
This is pretty much all I have ever wanted to do so the alternative of doing something else doesn’t really exist. We still have the same enthusiasm towards music as we did 10 years ago, trends come and go but FFAF are here to stay! There is such a positive vibe in camp FFAF at the moment, we are really proud of Welcome home Armageddon.

In more recent times, you have lost not one but now two of what seemed to be important band members, how do you feel this as affected the band dynamic and the music you have continued to create, and what do you feel your new members bring to the band?
If anything, the dynamic has been strengthened. The majority of the previous material was written by Kris, Matt, and Ryan. Having the two new guys in the band has added yet more depth as we all contribute to the writing process.

You last released The Young And The Defenceless to fans who pledged themselves to you through, what was the thought process behind this, was it a way of rewarding die-hard fans, or a way of testing the waters with a new music marketing scheme?
A bit of both really. We are always looking at new and innovative ways of presenting ourselves and our music. We were approached by the Pledge team and it seemed quite different to the normal avenue of releasing the CD online or in shops. Pledge offers a unique experience in which fans can really interact with the band and feel part of the recording process.

New album, Welcome Home Armageddon, will be hitting shelves before we know it, what can Funeral For A Friend and general music fans expect from this release, and why did you decide to once again work with the same team that helped you to release your debut album?
It’s a return to the heavier side of things. We really wanted to bring the aggression and raw energy back to the band that was perhaps missing from the last 2 releases. It’s like a punch to the face followed by a kiss to the cheek.

Your rise in the industry has been nothing short of breath taking, when you recorded your first EP did you expect to be as popular as you have become, and how do you feel you have grown with such success? Has it impacted on the music you have created - making it somewhat more mainstream?
I suppose we never really predicted the success we were going to achieve, it has been above and beyond. We have always tried to stick to our guns and explore directions that we wanted to.

Having seen you live several times, I can easily say you are fantastic in a live setting, how do you prepare to play live and do you feel that being a good live act is something that has to be practiced continuously?
We normally practice the week going into a tour. We are pretty democratic with the setlist. We hammer it out between us to come up with what songs, the order they are played and the links between them. It’s important for us to be prepared going into a tour but we don’t overdo it. I know some bands who practice all the time. That doesn’t really work for us.

The release of your new album will no doubt spawn a relentless tour not only around the UK but in Europe also. Previously you have played Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation in its entirety, with the latest tours will you be offering anymore surprises?
We have put together a beast of a set so expect some old classics and some new gems!

You can catch Funeral For A Friend on their UK tour now, for details visit

Friday, 11 March 2011

Noah and the Whale - Last Night on Earth

Noah and the Whale's break through album, the sombre and down-beat folk of 'The First Days of Spring' catalogued the break-up of vocalist Charlie Fink and former band member Laura Marling, and it was the fragile honesty on this record, both in sadness and hope, that not only helped me when I was going through a similar situation, but also found its way into the hearts of fans and media alike.

'Last Night on Earth' is a huge departure from 'The First Days of Spring' and shows a band that are not only prepared to take chances musically, but are also ready to divide their fans in the hope of gaining even more commercial success, mainly radio play. First lets comment on the sound, the minimal at times and orchestrated at others of the former album have been replaced by an all over more electronic influence with samples, synths and keyboards often at the forefront rather than ukelele's, guitars and violins. To add to this Fink's vocals have started to sound slightly like Bono and his lyrics have taken a new direction with him exclaming on opener 'Life is Life', "...and it feels like his new life can start, and it feels like heaven", while on first single 'L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N', Fink is happy to spell out life goes on, while stating that as long as you have heart, you'll get by, which many will know is a huge change from some of the depressing but image inspired lyrics shown on 'The First Days of Spring'. This is backed up by the sort of production that seems to be ten a penny in modern chart music, the type of production where everything has been glossed over so it is absolutely perfect but somehow, in doing this, you lose any form of emotion and this album suffers greatly because of this.

Evolution happens with bands, and I'm happy with it, I'd be more upset if a band didn't evolve but 'The First Days of Spring' summed up a snapshot of my life and for that, it was always going to be a difficult record to follow up. It isn't that 'Last Night on Earth' is bad, it will still be one of the better albums released this year, but I just don't feel it has anything to say emotionally or musically that Noah and the Whale haven't said better with previous releases.

3 / 5

Noah and the Whale Myspace
Francis Neve - Winterbury

'Winterbury' is a lo-fi minimalist indie song built on a simple guitar melody, a hip-hop drum beat, and male/female vocal interplay. Lyrically 'Winterbury' is a perfect reflection on a relationship that is slowly going down the drain with Francis Neve singing in a highly accented way on first verse "Whatever happened to us and them and all those days we spent wrapped up in your bed". The chorus moves over to guest vocalist Lucy Randell and her sweet higher pitched vocal commenting on the thoughts from the other side of the relationship singing "I don't like the way you suffer for all the things you never did". It's hardly the most complicated of songs lyrically or musically but it works because of emotion captured vocally, how we can all relate to the subject topic and because of Francis Neve's clear knowledge of how to work on a melody from the inclusion of keyboard melodies to the female vocal over-dubs towards the end of track giving it a cute pop edge, 'Winterbury' is well thought out, pleasant and quite simply, brilliant to listen to.

4 / 5

Francis Neve Myspace
Nicole Atkins - Mondo Amore

I had so much hope for Nicole Atkins' 'Mondo Amore' after seeing the front cover which to me implied a dark country sound. Opening song 'Vultures' starts slow and solumly with the brooding bass melody providing the rhythm alongside the simple kick drum melody before the vocal drenched na na's of the chorus kick in wonderfully with Nicole Atkins providing a Florence And The Machine-esque vocal performance, if only Florence had more balls and rock in her, 'Vultures' is full of attitude and a lesson to any musician as to how to start an album. 'Hotel Plaster' slows things down in a Dolly Parton country way based on a simple piano melody and Nicole Atkins warm and soulful voice which often could be confused to sound slightly like Katie Melua but in a good way. Lyrically the song tackles the usual subject of love but it is so well written that I can't use that as an excuse to dislike the song, especially when it contains the line "My pain could learn to play the violin but it might not bring you least we'd have a pretty soundtrack". Sadly aside from these two tracks, the soul sound of 'Cry Cry Cry' and the rebel rousing sound of blues number 'My Baby Don't Lie', it is all very much by the numbers, concentating too often towards the end of the album on the slower and more contemplative sound of Nicole Atkins which is a massive shame because this album is really at its best when its unashamedly foot to the pedal, all out drunken southern pub sounding and had it been more like this I would have been awarding a four rather than a two point five.

2.5 / 5

Nicole Atkins Myspace
Jud Vandy - Children Lost In Fantasy Part Two

Jud Vandy, a talented musician from Cornwall could easily be seen as the musical version of Marmite, I myself could happily see why someone wouldn't understand his musical exploits while at the same time I could happily nod my head towards anyone who called him a genius. His first album 'Children Lost In Fantasy Part One' wowed me into acclaim from the first moment I heard it, but follow up 'Children Lost In Fantasy Part Two' has taken many weeks of continuous listens just for me to write a review that I feel does both me and the album justice.

Opening track 'Through Walls' starts brilliantly with a dark daunting guitar melody before moving into avant indie guitar territory that we may have come to expect from Minus The Bear which creates the fast paced vocal tempo for the verse encouraging you lyrically to break free of your restraints before the slow, mysterious and haunting feel of the chorus, 'Through Walls' works the pop song structure brilliantly keeping you on your toes with clever changes in tempo's and a flux of ideas. Other stand out track 'A Heaven Spared' is built around a screeching and almost unlistenable distorted guitar tone made tolerable by guitar hooks and an electronic sound driven by programmed drumming while Jud Vandy's vocals resemble that of Kele from Bloc Party. 'Rendition' begins with some glorious lead guitar work that instantly makes it like-able in my ears and sets it apart from most tracks on the record by forcing its way into my skull and staying there, forcing me to want to listen to it, if there is one track that I would use to attempt to get people to buy this record then 'Rendition' would be that, I just can't describe my feelings towards how fantastic this track is. 'Scarecrow' almost made it onto my list of tracks that really shouldn't have made it onto the album but the song, sounding like an out of tune The Beatles on acid has some really nice touches on it, especially the vocal over-dubs towards the middle of the track making it well worth a listen.

The problem with 'Children Lost In Fantasy Part Two' ultimately is that there are too many songs on the record. It is quantity over quality to a degree and some tracks feel like they don't belong on the record and their inclusion stops the album from flowing progressively. 'Arrival' is a pointless thirty second interval that just doesn't work, 'Misery Of The Dull Opportuniy' has this distorted almost punk feel to it that while is great, especially lyrically, it just doesn't sit well with the dark, twisted electronic sound of the rest of the record, while final track 'The Saint' is a lo-fi minimal guitar and vocals track that doesn't click with the production of the rest of the album (which is fantastic by the way) and once again, doesn't sit well with the musical direction of the album, and these are three of maybe five or six examples I could have mentioned which would have brought the album to a twelve or thirteen track release which would have made reviewing this album at least, a less daunting experience.

The talent of Jud Vandy is clear to hear, who beside the odd few guest appearances by local musicians, wrote and recorded this record all by himself but sometimes I wish that rather than being hugely original, he would take the more mainstream elements of his music and mix them with some of the nicer touches on this record to create a huge product that is listenable on a larger scale rather than just from a niche audience. 'Children Lost In Fantasy Part Two' is definitely worth a listen if you are into the darker side of guitar or electronic music.

3.5 / 5

Jud Vandy Myspace

Friday, 4 March 2011

A Genuine Freakshow - Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness

After a fairly successful few years releasing singles, EP's and touring across the UK almost constantly it seemed, A Genuine Freakshow finally released their debut album 'Oftentimes' late last year on their own record label. 'Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness' is the second single from the band that media moguls have described as a thrilling mixture of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Sigur Rós.

Since the demise of the brilliantly under-rated Youthmovies many of us have been searching for their replacement and it looks like they are here gloriously. 'Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness' is immediate, bright and hopeful, working on the vocal interplay between vocalist Timothy Sutcliffe and guest vocalist Hatty Taylor to create a stop-start verse underpinned by some clever brass instrumentation before the guitar and drum driven chorus that sees the vocalists working together to create a wonderfully sickly sweet chorus that will have you eating out of the palm of its hand until you spend the rest of the evening throwing your guts up.

'Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness' is hardly groundbreaking, but its little touches are original and inspiring all the same, and to see such mature and intelligent song writing from a band so early in their music careers shows that Britain might just have a bright musical future after all.

4 / 5

A Genuine Freakshow Official Website