Monday, 31 October 2011

Every local music scene has hundreds of musical acts plugging away to try and break it out nationally. Few, if any though, demand for you to almost will them out of the country because you know they are that good. I caught up with Andrew Bate, a fantastic singer-songwriter from Cornwall, on the release of his latest EP Fainting In Coils to ask him about the new music and just how does it really feel to be compared to an iconic figure such as Jeff Buckley.

Hello Andrew, Your new EP Fainting In Coils is out soon. Can you tell us about the record, what the title means, how you came about creating it and when it will be released?
“Fainting in Coils” is a line in a great piece of fiction which I won’t tell you because I don’t want it to influence people’s take on the record. It was originally pitched by Paul Reeve in response to one of the songs that made reference to the book. The song didn’t make it onto the record but the title just stuck around, I liked the shape of it, the way it sounded and the way it looked and the images that it brought up in my mind. It’s better than “Nightmare at the Opera” anyway.

You recorded at the legendary Sawmills with Paul Reeve of Muse fame. How do you feel that helped you to create the sound that you wanted on this record?
I remember being about 13 and my Dad and I were sat in the car and he put on a CD that he’d bought which was Muse’s single for “Unintended” which Paul produced and I remember thinking that it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. My favourite thing about Paul’s work is the fact that somehow he injects an undercurrent into everything he does, he makes it sound like it’s alive! It’s quite weird working with the man who essentially formed your musical tastes, everything he does was just right for what I’d imagined. I’d think of something and he’d have already made a note of it. He helped me realise my ideas for the songs and how to put them together more effectively. And the man is an octopus, he managed to find a time to be engineer, producer, mixer and still managed to talk to each of us privately and discreetly and give us notes on how to enhance our performances without being in any way intrusive. I may have written the record but Paul brought it to life.

You now have a backing band, whereas before you often played solo. What was the decision behind this and did that have a bearing on the songs on the record?

The songs have always been written with these musical arrangements in mind, I’ve just been too stubborn or controlling to put a band together to showcase them in such a way. I get frustrated when I deal with others in that way, it’s hard to stay consistent, by the time of my second band gig I was on my second drummer and bass player. So in the past performing solo has more been an act of convenience, I never intentionally set out to become a “solo singer songwriter” it’s just one of those things. I love working with The Lost. One of the reasons I think I enjoy the recording process so much is fact that you can take your time and experiment with things, you don’t have to be over rehearsed. We had two recording blocks for the record, the first we were really well rehearsed for and somehow it took a long time. The second block, the band and I were separated so we had no rehearsal time and were going into record songs we’d never played together, but it was all finished so much quicker. The first song we recorded in that second batch, we’d never played together before and we were recording it live, we got it in about three takes.

Having heard the EP, it feels quite eclectic, Lay Me Down comes across as a grandiose rock number, Deliverance has a theatrical element to it while Fire Rose and Ghosts are stripped bare orchestral numbers. How did you choose the tracks to go onto the record?
That’s just the display of a restless brain, I mean who would ever want to settle down with just one style of music forever? It’s not like a marriage you’re not bound to it forever, and if you want to be you’re a moron. If you’re not constantly trying your hand to work out different styles, then you are taking up too much room in this trade. When Paul and I first started talking about working together I sent him some demos of a concept record I was writing. He said it would be a good idea but thought it would be good to record a few specific songs at first to showcase the range of my writing to get people interested and would possibly give us some funding for a full record. There were songs that we recorded that I didn’t want to have on the EP just because they didn’t sit well with the others and I was very adamant that even if we were showcasing different styles, I wanted all the pieces to sound like they were of the same bloodline. To showcase that we could be a sound without being a genre.

All of your press compared you to Jeff Buckley. Do you find this comparison disheartening in anyway and do feel your new material will help to quash any comparisons?
I’m not sure what those comparisons are for. If they’re for flattery that’s fine to a point but if it’s for the public to get an idea of you it starts to be damaging as people come to your shows thinking you’ll be one thing and when you end up not being what people think, there’s a violent backlash. I know that I for one have been on the receiving end of that backlash and it’s pretty unpleasant when you’re trying to carve out your own place as a writer. If anything I think the record owes more to PJ Harvey than to Buckley, but I’m not a woman so the press don’t see it that way. There is a certain standard by which most press seems to reference what they see. Does my music sound like Buckley’s? No. Am I a solo performer? Yes. There is a common ground that someone like Buckley and I tread on which is picked up on a lot and even though I am a huge admirer of the man, I don’t see any similarities between us other than superficial ones. Maybe I just look like the kind of person who’ll die young I don’t know.

The industry is a strange place these days, so what are your plans for this release, do you have a label for it or will you be distributing it independently and what formats will it be available in?

You say industry like there is one. The stage we’re at now it’s going out independently which is kind of ideal for what we want to do. My wife is working on the artwork for the record and she’s really come up with a special and innovative design which hopefully should make for a rather stand out physical copy. We’ve got a kind of cottage industry going in putting all that together which feels like the best way to be when you’re an independent. And I like physical releases, I’m not big with the Ipod generation as there seems to be a pick and choose type scenario going on and nobody is listening to albums, complete albums in the order and pacing that artists and producers work really hard on putting together. If you put your ipod on shuffle around me I’ll choke you.

What are your plans of touring in support of this release?
At the moment touring is all relative to the response we get to the record. My daughter’s only just been born and I don’t want to be away from her touring unless I feel like it’s really going to make an impact. I love touring and I love playing live and as soon as we have a plan in place I will be out playing every place that’ll have me. Tom Waits goes years without touring and he seems to be doing pretty good.

And finally, when can we all expect a full-length release from you?
I’ve been speaking to Paul some more, throwing songs at him and I think we’ve got a few we would like to explore. We’ll see what ground we can make with this record, it’d be nice to be able to pay Paul something other than biscuits you know? I guess it’s all just a matter of money. You got any?

You can find out more about Andrew Bate and the release of his new ep, Fainting In Coils by visiting
Andrew Bate - Fainting In Coils

In art, comparisons can be a hideous thing. When Andrew Bate first came to the forefront of the Cornish music scene, all the local papers picked up on him as this theatrical piano driven Jeff Buckley-like artist. This sort of comparison, while flattering I'm sure (I'd be flattered at least), does take away from the talent of many artists and this comparison seemed to overshadow Andrew Bate at times and more and more he seemed to become detached from the local scene (either that, or I did) concentrating on other artistic pursuits other than just music.

Latest EP, Fainting In Coils, see’s Bate back with a backing band pushing him to audible heights that we’ve never heard from him before. Opening track ‘Deliverance’ is a slow brooding and haunting track pinned sparingly by an anthemic and tribal set of drumming while an electronic bass-line not dissimilar to one you may have heard on Gorillaz fantastic Demon Days adds an almost hip-hop feel before Bates (as we expect) Buckley-esque vocals come into the fore, more aggressive than before with almost pre-apocalyptic lyrics. ‘Lay Me Down’, possibly a personal favourite of mine from the EP, has almost a Daniel Johns from Silverchair vocal vibe from it, while musically Bate flirts with that rock but radio friendly sound, happy to do the Nirvana made popular quiet verse before erupting into a distortion and groove heavy chorus, it’s songs like this that truly get your feet tapping. After this it becomes more morose and down-beat, leading to the final track ‘Ghosts’, a beautiful classical piano led song (with the noises of children in the background) that cascades in and around your ears creating this daunting atmospheric yet at the same time utterly gorgeous instrumental of a track.

While I can understand the Buckley comparisons, especially in the rockier tracks with Bate emphasis clearly on writing songs that have this soulful funk ability of getting into the groove, Bate clearly has a slight split personality on show here able to fall into the more theatrical solemn side of music, and while it is on his rockier my Buckley-esque numbers that I prefer his sound, it is the ability to combine so many different eclectic influences that sets Bate apart from the legends that he is compared to.

4 / 5

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Evanescence - Evanescence

The multi-million success of Evanescence’s debut album Fallen came high on the crest of nu-metals mainstream popularity (with bands like Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach breaking into the UK’s top ten) and sparked a movement of female led rock/metal bands. The new Evanescence album (which is self-titled) comes many years after their sophomore release and for most is labelled a comeback release (much like Limp Bizkit’s Gold Cobra album also released this year).

First track and lead single for the album, What You Want, shows Evanescence’s sound from the outset, the usual driven distorted rock rift, stomping drum beats and dabbles of bright piano while Amy Lee’s vocals sound less orchestrated and more mainstream pop than ever with the band more eager for mainstream popularity than the grandiose style of much of Fallen which makes for those big chorus’.

Sadly for Evanescence though, this description tends to fit for every track on the rest of the album and while Fallen seemed to swoon from feelings of defiance to emotional uncertainty, it’s clear that here, Evanescence and especially Amy Lee, have nothing more left to prove (or write about). What You Want contains the lyric “Hello hello, remember me?”, many of us will be wishing we could remember the Evanescence of old rather than this dross.

2 / 5

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dry The River - Weights and Measures

Dry The River have for a long time felt like Britain’s best kept folk secret, but a busy schedule that has seen them on tour with indie favourites Bombay Bicycle Club more recently means that it won’t be too long before this truly is a thing of the past.

The latest in a long line of singles (but still no debut album release as of yet), Weights and Measures continues where Dry The River left off on previous release No Rest with a quaint and timeless organic sound that belies both their age and also their time in the business. Weights and Measures makes Dry The River sound like they have been around forever but in a good way like perhaps Bob Dylan or Neil Diamond, with a country-esque sound relying heavily on a harmonised vocal delivery as well as a beefy (almost) walking bass line and best of all, a chorus to die for with its sing-a-long lyric “I was prepared to love you” and dramatic musical pauses showing just how emphatic silence can be when used intelligently in a song.

If Dry The River continue to tour as incessantly as they are now as well as craft music as brilliant as this then it surely won’t be long until they find themselves mentioned alongside the likes of Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale, Fleet Foxes and maybe in the future, legends like Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Neil Young and Johnny Cash.

4 / 5