Monday, 1 October 2012

Tall Ships - Everything Touching

Two EP releases and countless tours have seen Tall Ships reach the point where they almost HAD to record a full length album. EP’s are one thing, impressing people with fifteen minutes of music, but a full length, keeping people’s attention for forty minutes and beyond is a big task for any band regardless of their previous output. The fruit of their labour, Everything Touching, is out on October 8th but having been less than impressed with the singles it’s spawned so far, will it reach the height of success that Tall Ships have achieved from their EP releases or will the band be destined to disappear beyond the first big hurdle?

The singles that I was so hard on, T=0 and especially latest track Gallop fit perfectly on this record. That isn’t to say that the rest of the album is as poor as I initially thought the singles were, but more that when put in a single context, they sounded like a huge departure from the bands previous math-pop-indie sound. Here their almost rock anthem sensibilities work as highs alongside what you would expect from Tall Ships given their career so far. The rousing Gallop, a single that is already having heavy radio play is a clear attempt at a festival favourite. It’s upbeat, drum heavy and loud but in true Tall Ships fashion if you pull beneath the surface you’ll find that it is perhaps one of the more contemplative tracks lyrically on the album about the process of coping with getting old. It is this depth to the band that makes them, to me at least, one of the most interesting acts to pop up in the UK recently. Tracks like Idolatry, Books and Ode To Ancestors each have their own take on what we consider to be the quintessential Tall Ships sound; soft sections, often orchestrated and with breathy vocals leaping into bright effect heavy guitar noise. Books itself, despite being an old track, sounds renewed, grandiosely backed with a big overblown orchestra that anywhere else on this album would sound over the top, yet here it makes Books one of the songs to listen out for. Then there are tracks like Oscar with its jaunty bass guitar packed indie melody which will no doubt help the band establish themselves with the NME faithful.

Fifteen minutes of listening to a Tall Ships EP and I was hooked, the concern here was always whether they could drag that out over a forty minute album and the answer is yes. There isn’t one point during Everything Touching that I’m thinking “when will this end?” nor are there any fillers that deserve to be skipped. Don’t let this mislead you though, this album isn’t perfect, this isn’t going to be that debut that is so impossible to surpass that it breaks a band. There are sections of this album where you can truly say that the band have hit something brilliant but these are often dispersed with these typical indie NME moments that the band have picked up as they’ve obviously tried to become more immediate. However with songs as crowd friendly as Gallop entwined with the songs us old fans know and love, you know that Tall Ships are only going to get that little bit more popular and hopefully with that they are will only get better. For now Everything Touching is a fantastic listen, and a great place to start on what will hopefully be a glittering career.

4 / 5

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tall Ships

Foals MK II, math-indie, art-indie, I’ve heard the band called a lot of things from friends and press alike but ultimately, on the back of two very competent EP’s, Tall Ships have been heralded an early success. What started as a hectic rush to play a friend’s house party has become an increasingly flourishing career but Tall Ships as of yet don’t seem to have forgotten the early days of playing through crap gear. I caught up with them as they had just been confirmed for Reading festival and had released the track listing for debut album Everything Touching to discuss their music careers so far. What I found was a band who despite their growing popularity were not only professional but also incredibly humble, often a rarity when talking with those in the music business. Over the course of the interview we discussed the new direction of the band, talking about their debut album in-depth and I feel in doing so, I was given an honest account of how the band feel about their musical journey thus far and I admire them more so for it.
 Hello, hope you are doing well.
Ric: Hey. Very well thanks!

October sees the release of your debut album, Everything Touching. With such success on the basis of your Ep's was there any pressure in writing the full length and did you approach the writing and recording of the album differently to how you have recorded your EP's in the past?
Ric: I think pressure is probably the wrong word really. It made it easier knowing that we were going in to the studio and recording something that people were actually excited for and wanting to hear. It was a good place to start at when writing a record. I feel it gave us a sense of confidence and purpose in what we were making and the resulting album reflects this.

In terms of the recording process, it definitely differed from our first 2 EPs. To start with it was the first time we had ever worked in a proper recording studio and this had a huge impact on the way the record sounds. We had a lot more time to play with so we were able to really explore the songs and allow them to arrive at their finalised states freely rather than rushing them, so from a technical point of view the songs sound much richer and fuller.

With regards to the writing process we really wanted to try and write more immediate and consistent songs. With the first two EPs we always felt they were a little all over the place. Within songs we would have three different parts, which loosely fitted together, and then those songs themselves would each differ hugely from the other songs on the EPs they sat next to. With Everything Touching we knew what kind of album we wanted to make and the record as a whole is much more cohesive as a result.

Having heard the pre-release stream, it sounds like an evolution from the dreamy indie of previous EP's and into rockier territory. What influenced the album and how would you describe it yourselves? 
Ric: We’ve always felt like our EPs didn’t really represent us properly as a band. Live, the songs were always much heavier and intense than the recorded versions. With the album, we wanted to try and capture more of our live sound, as this is closer to what we’re about as a band. We’re actually quite surprised with how much heavier it turned out to be. I do feel it’s much more melodic and accessible compared to the previous EPs as well though.

Gallop is one of the lead singles from the album. Why did you choose this song to showcase the album?
Ric: When we initially recorded and finished Everything Touching it was 9 tracks long and Gallop wasn’t on there. After a few discussions with our managers they felt that we should record one more song, which we could release as a 3rd single. So we basically set about writing a ‘single’, which was something, we’d never even really thought about before when writing songs. We really thought about what makes a good single and as result aimed to create an upbeat, catchy song.

Ironically though, I feel lyrically it’s the most downbeat and depressing track on the album, which makes it a slightly funny choice for a single. I think it represents the album well though and when taken out of the context of the album, it works as a stand-alone track.

Everything Touching contains two older tracks, Ode To Ancestors and Books. Why did you include these songs rather than others to put on the release?
Ric: They were two songs that we felt we could develop and change into the songs they were meant to be. With our other songs we felt like that we couldn’t really re-record them, they’d be exactly the same but slightly more polished in production. It would have been boring for us to do that and as well they didn’t fit within the conceptual content of the album.

How did you approach rewriting those two particular tracks?
Ric: Ode was pretty straightforward, we just wanted to change the slightly shit keyboard pre-set we used to layer the vocals over. The struggle was to come with something interesting to replace it. After experimenting with a xylophone with Jamie Field we came up with the multi layered Reich-esc arpeggio which is infinitely more interesting and soulful than the shitty pre-set we’d used previously.

We wrote Book such a long time ago, and now we’re a completely different band. We’ve always wanted to experiment with a slight orchestral sound and this song lent itself perfectly to it. It’s pretty grand and over the top now, but we feel that is the perfect backdrop for the lyrics and the book that inspired it. It’s a song we cannot wait to perform live, and hopefully one day with an orchestra.

Everything Touching is available for pre-order in many different formats and bundles. Can you tell us why you are releasing the album in so many ways, and what a fan will get for their money?
Ric: Artwork has always been a huge part of every release we’ve done as a band. We work very closely with our good friend Harriet Bridgwater who has made everything we’ve ever done. In many ways she’s a kind of fourth member and her artwork definitely influences the songs and our band as a whole. Music lends itself to visual accompaniment so well that it’s such a shame when you see bad artwork that just doesn’t work with the music.

Within this digital age where people can just download or stream your songs for free, I think it is more important to create a physical package that people want to physically own. So we hope by putting this effort into our merchandise that it will stimulate people to want to buy it.

Simply put, without people buying our records we physically couldn’t afford to exist as a band. We don’t have a major label pumping money into us, so all our profits that we make by selling merchandise enable us to function as a band. Hopefully it can be seen as a symbiotic relationship between our fans and us. We create things worth having, and they give us the much needed money that helps us keep on playing.

You've spent a summer in the midst of the festival season. It's such a huge change in terms of volume from a small club gig, how do you prepare playing a large stage to vast amounts of people?
Ric: We don’t really change our approach at all. We always aim to go out and play the best show we can. We really enjoy (if it all goes well…) the pressure of playing to loads of people. As a band we aspire to play main stages and become a big band so naturally we like playing the larger slots.

That being said though, a really tiny sweaty club show can be just as immense.

Since your first gig, playing a house party in Falmouth, how do you think you've improved performance wise? Has the ethos to your performances changed at all as the band have become more successful?
Ric: When we first started playing we were an instrumental band playing really scrappy fast songs through shit gear, now our gear is slightly less shit so it sounds better. Live we use lots of loops which can make things pretty complicated, so we’ve had loads of issues with timing and trying to stay in time. It used to be 50/50 whether we’d hold it all together which was pretty funny but definitely not a good ratio if you want to be a good live band. We had a bit of an epiphany though, thanks to our tech wizard sound guy Matt Grimble, who helped us create a new set up using Ableton. So now we’ve been able to tighten up and start really doing exciting things with looping vocals, synths etc as well as allowing us to tighten up to the point where we don’t fuck up that much anymore.

We take performing a lot more seriously now. We used to drink loads and just fuck about because we felt uncomfortable being on stage, but now we don’t drink beforehand as a rule. So yeah it’s more professional, we’re more confident and we’re also, maybe, just maybe, a tad more competent as musicians though that’s definitely open to debate.

You have a fifteen date UK tour to promote the album. If someone hasn't seen you live before, what can they expect from your live shows? 
A good old-fashioned rock show, and an amazing tour support in the shape of Dad Rocks! His album ‘Mount Modern’ was easily one of the best last year and aside from making incredible music he is just the best guy ever.

Thank you for your time, and good luck with the album!

Tall Ships ‘Everything Touching’ is available to pre-order now -

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Cory Tauber - Ok. Today

It only takes a few seconds in a music store to see how over saturated an art it is. Every man and his dog is picking up an instrument and singer songwriters are ten-a-penny so what, if anything, sets apart Cory Tauber and his EP, Ok. Today from the rest?

I can say without any hint of a lie that standout track The Messengers with its doo-doo-doo-woah-woah-woah vocal melody has stayed in my head for days, constantly flicking my ears and forcing me to listen again. Imagine Jack Johnson, perhaps the epitome of summer music a few years ago, mold that with Ben Howard and multiply infectiousness by a million and you might get close to what this track is about. Other tracks such as You’re My Eyes showcase Tauber as a sensitive, almost downbeat lyricist and I’m sure that deep down, there might be a poet hiding in there somewhere. Where Ok. Today excels though is in Taubers intelligence of knowing how to enhance a melody. Vocal overdubs, pianos, organs and my personal favourite, the harmonica, are all used but delicately so, enhancing each track without ever falling into the trap of over doing it.

So what’s the catch? If something sounds too good to be true it usually is, so here it is...Ok. Today is perhaps too nice. No kid will be buying this album like I did with Wu Tang Clan to piss their mum off. In fact, your mum will probably like to listen along to this with you, maybe your grandma will too. I can’t condemn anyone for being universal unless they are genuinely writing poor music and with Ok. Today that isn’t the case and if you need any proof of this, here’s some for you: Ok. Today has been on constant repeat for a week now, and I’m still not tired of it.

4 / 5

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Aaron Kent - Imminent Conversations

Being a spoken word artist myself, people keep telling me that they 'don't get it' but I'm of the impression that it's very much like general music. Just like music, if it's done well, it can truly move you to the core, and not unlike music, if it isn't done well you can come across sounding like a twelve year old who had to grudgingly write something last minute as homework for a class you hate.

Luckily for Aaron Kent and his spoken-word album, 'Imminent Conversations' he falls in the doing it well category. With his acapella hip-hop vocal delivery Kent works across a breadth of themes, from society’s misgivings to his own adolescence, often being profound and frequently comical in the process. Stand-out track 'There is a Poverty Line' highlights the bleak financial state that we find ourselves in, "I can barely afford to live, let alone afford to give" while 'A Fair and Equal Society' attacks everything from the emphasis on dieting to journalism (perhaps this is where I should hide?), "They print the news that suits their truth, a version that moves sales and not you, hash tag news to trivialize the truth, if you've got a view it's yours to tweet - or lose". Kent is at his best however, when he is at his most personal, like on track 'Intermittent Conversations', a story of a fathers adultery and the effect on the family which rings so true to me that I can't help but feel sick to my stomach.

'Imminent Conversations' is a great example of spoken word done to a high standard. I could say that it isn't for all of you but it is, there is something on here that we could all relate to if given the chance. At such a young age, with 'Imminent Conversations' Aaron Kent is demonstrating that he is a voice for the affected youth. Let him be heard.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Keaton Henson - The Lucky EP

It seems the easy thing to do these days, to pick up a guitar and play a few notes, belt a few chords out and shout a couple of words but to actually affect someone, that's the hard task. I hadn't heard Keaton Henson before I listened to The Lucky EP and I reacted in a manner that I rarely do, posting Henson's videos to all my Facebook friends and then going out to my local HMV to buy the full length album.

The Lucky EP isn't rocket science. One man and his guitar, but it's how its approached that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. From the haunting first strums on opener 'You Don't Know How Lucky You Are' and the fragile vocals of Henson that at times sounds as if they are breaking before your very ears, you wonder if it physically destroyed Henson to play these songs. Follow up track 'To Your Health' is phenomenal in equal measure with its disparate plucked guitar melody as Henson emotionally tells a forlorn love story; "Make mine a pain in the neck, here's to you, you old wreck, mine is a thorn in the side, drink up so we can both finally die" and it only gets better from there with a downbeat cover of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s track ‘Maps’.

At times this four track EP can feel like a car wreck of emotional instability recorded for your, well, strange enjoyment. I mean that in a good way because while you feel some sense of guilt benefitting from someone's excruciating pain this EP is nothing short of encapsulating. Keaton Henson just made it on my records of the year list.

5 / 5

The Antlers - Undersea

Expectation has an effect on a bands output. When The Antlers released small scale concept album Hospice, brilliant as it was, no-one really expected anything that was part of its charm and brilliance. Follow up album Burst Apart may not have been a soul destroying concept piece like Hospice but it still marked a heavy change for the band who found themselves at the top of many writers’ album lists of the year. Undersea, the fourth EP from The Antlers, and the first release since the increasingly popular Burst Apart has a lot to live up to then.

If you were expecting a return to the lo-fi indie sound of Hospice then be disappointed. Undersea and its four tracks; Drift Dive, Endless Ladder, Crest and Zelda are perhaps an extension of the departure from that sound already made with Burst Apart. Peter Silberman's breathy vocals are still the forefront of this bands prowess but guitars have taken a back seat often overshadowed by melancholy trumpet melodies and synthesizer sounds that seem to be the sole reason why the EP was called Underwater, as they literally make you wonder whether you've dropped your headphones in a sink full of water. Out of the four tracks Crest is probably the most accomplished with a sound that rekindles the almost jazz trip-hop ethos that Portishead achieved on debut album Dummy (and perhaps arguably never achieved again), it's the sort of melody that is just dying to be used on an advert and given the increasing popularity of the band, I'll be very surprised if it isn't.

I must admit, I'm a bit of a fan boy of The Antlers and found this release slightly disappointing. Apart from Crust and the Godfather-esque beginning notes to Zelda there doesn't seem a whole lot to force me back into re-listening to this EP. That said though, I felt the same about Burst Apart and then six months on it finally hit me and I couldn't stop listening. I only hope that the same happens again, and if it doesn't, I hope this doesn't mark itself as a pre-curser to the bands next full length.

3 / 5

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Chick Rides Artist, Flood of Red, Night Verses - White Rabbit, Plymouth 13.08.12

There’s a strange art to opening a show. Sadly, I turned up late so I wasn’t completely able to see whether Torbay’s recently reformed six piece Chick Rides Artist had this talent. In the four songs I did manage to see Chick Rides Artist conveyed a well-rehearsed emo-hardcore cross over sound that although perhaps not memorable, did its job of warming up the sadly small crowd for what was to come and showed the Devon boys as a band to watch out for in the future.

Flood of Red have been around a long, long time. Their experience on the circuit showed as the Scottish band breezed with ease through a set of songs from their 2009 debut, Leaving Everything Behind, as well as new material soon to be featured on a forthcoming EP. Mysteriously, many of the band members had their backs to the crowd for most of their set, whether this was due to stage and gear limitations or something else we will never know. Endearingly it showed the members singularing personalities, allowing for a hyperactive bass player who did everything from stumbling around to putting his bass guitar up into the ceiling, to take centre stage as the band tore through their guitar heavy, synth dip-dyed Saosin-esque emotional sound that is criminally underrated.

Nearing the end their set, Night Verses vocalist Douglas Robinson tells the crowd that tonight is only the bands twelve gig. Sure, those gigs include a big slot at this year’s Hevy Festival but that just shows how far the band have come in such a short space of time. Tonight’s set was perhaps the smallest of their shows so far but the band do not care with Robinson taking a break between songs to genuinely thank the crowd for coming. Performing songs from their free to download EP, as well as tracks not yet recorded, the band feverishly created a sound that both technically and sonically amounted to much more than just the sum of their four parts. Robinson himself span around until drenched in his own sweat, while drummer Aric Improta seemed to spend more time hyperactively jumping up off his stool than beating his drums leaving us all going The Sleeping who? I can only guess what happened next, I imagine the appreciative crowd did exactly what I did and went home to tell their friends that as of right now, for gig of the year, this is the one to beat.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Minus The Bear - Infinity Overhead

Amusing titles like "You Kill Bugs Good, Man" left in the past. Groove orientated, summery feel good songs gone. Even, the trippy guitar psych-prog sound of Planet of Ice have been replaced by the electronic tones of OMNI. So what is left for Minus The Bear to do? Well, go back to what we would expect it would seem...

In the lead-up to the release of Minus The Bear's forthcoming album, Infinity Overhead, guitarist/vocalist Jake Snider said that Minus The Bear were officially back. Infinity Overhead may not have the long movie inspired titles that Highly Refined Pirates possessed but it shares the same emphasis. A million miles from last release, the highly disappointing OMNI, Infinity Overhead is closer to home when put beside Menos El Oso. Guitar driven, songs like Listing are absolutely drenched to the bone in gloriously sweet melodies that sweep you off your feet while lead single Lonely Gun shows that Minus The Bear haven't lost their touch in writing something that is both progressive and poppy, proving that even on their fifth album they have the ability to create unpredictable music. The stand-out track though is a slow one, Heaven is a Ghost Town. It is neither progressive, nor poppy and yet is a standalone reason why five albums on, if someone mentions Minus The Bear, I am instantly paying attention. Truly showing the vast improvement in vocals Snider has made since the bands early days, simple guitar chords are enhanced by deliciously low key electronics bringing out Sniders almost anti-religious lyrics.

Here's the big spin right here. OMNI wasn't good. At the point of hearing it I was lost as a Minus The Bear fan. Infinity Overhead isn't just a great return to form; it's possibly one of the albums of the year and shows that if there's any justice in the music industry Minus The Bear will stick around for a bit longer.

4 / 5

Infinity Overhead is available from August 28th.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Minus The Bear Interview

Progressing as a band is one of the toughest parts about being a band. On the one hand your fans always hold that nostalgic memory of a certain album close to their heart and don't ever want you to change your style, while on the other if you tried copying that album every two years eventually your fans would grow bored.

In Menos El Oso, Minus The Bear created an album that for myself, and many of my friends may I add, was perfect. Bypass Planet of Ice, a more prog Minus The Bear and you find yourself at OMNI. Here Minus The Bear firmly dipped their toes into electronic water, so firmly in fact that they did some form of shock dance in the middle of the ocean and sadly I must say, left myself and many other fans lost and stranded from what the band were trying to achieve.

September marks the release of Infinity Overhead, Minus The Bear's first album since the 'risky' OMNI and I caught up with bassist Cory Murchy to discuss the new album, how it pits up against previous work and whether OMNI was just one big mistake.

It feels like forever since you’ve released an album, welcome back!

Thanks, a lot has happened in the years since OMNI. We are excited!

It’s been said that Infinity Overhead is a return to the Minus The Bear we know. How do you feel about your previous full-length, OMNI, do you feel that for the fans it was a step too far?

We will always be proud of OMNI. As artists you always want to learn something with each new project and push yourselves in new ways. OMNI was really important in that regard. We gained a lot of new fans and probably lost a few in the process but we don't expect everyone to keep up.

What can fans actually expect from Infinity Overhead in terms of sound?


It's a great sounding album. Matt Bayles did a great job capturing what and who we are. It helps that he was/is "one of us".

You’ve released Lonely Gun to the public. It sounds like it’s treading the border of the groove orientated feel of Menos el Oso whilst maintaining the progressive elements of Planet of Ice. Is Lonely Gun a precursor to how the rest of the album will sound, and why did you choose to release Lonely Gun before any of the other album tracks?

I think you just helped define a genre that actually fits Minus The Bear - "PROGROOVE"!

It's what we've always done, really. To me Lonely Gun fits perfectly in our catalogue. None of the other songs sound like it but it fits in just perfectly in the track listing. You'll see...

Infinity Overhead is your fifth album as a band. Did you approach the song writing and recording for the album any differently than you have on previous albums?

Basically it was the same as in the past. Dave and Erin will bang out a skeleton then the rest of us flesh it out.

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and by working together the five of us manage to put together something we are proud of. It’s worked pretty well for us so far.

It is being released on one of my favourite record labels, Big Scary Monsters. Why the record label change, and what do you think that Big Scary Monsters will offer you that labels in the past perhaps haven’t?

Big Scary Monsters seemed like a perfect fit. We look forward to working with them and it seems like folks have been very receptive to our pairing, which is a good sign so far!

Eleven years after forming did you expect to still be making music now, how does it feel to still be making records and playing live?

I'm not sure if any of us looked this far in the future, but it feels pretty satisfying to still be here doing what we love. We've watched a lot of "hype" bands fizzle out within a year or two while we keep our heads down and grind it out. Each tour we go out on is better than the last and it's a testament to the hard work and dedication the five of us have invested in Minus The Bear. Who knows what the next eleven years have in store, but I can guarantee we will be doing it on our own terms.

What are your plans around touring the new album, will you be playing in the UK at all in the near future?


We have these few shows in the UK in August and then hope to come back sometime in 2013.

Thank you for your time, good luck with the release!


We'll see you at the show and probably run into you in the nearest pub!

Minus The Bear’s ‘Infinity Overhead’ is available for pre-order through Big Scary Monsters now.

You can catch the band live in the UK at Heaven in London on the 17th of August -