Young Circles Interview

Photo by Alex Vanderkooy

Some bands, even in their most embryonic stages, have a touch of something special about them. Florida trio Young Circles have barely taken their first breath but have already managed to craft a debut EP of such bold confidence that they fall firmly in to that category. Certainly several years of plying their trade in various psychedelic and garage punk bands has helped to strengthen their unit, but it’s a new found stylistic transgression which is now most striking. Across it’s five tracks Bones ebbs and flows seamlessly across sonic palettes, from blistering garage rock to hazy dream-pop, sparse Americana and even peripheral flashes of hauntology or trip-hop.  Really, by all accounts, it ought to be a mess but this is one of those arguably too rare instances in which a blatant eclecticism has spurred a band on to create something far greater than the sum of it’s parts, rather than inhibit them. I spoke briefly with drummer Jeff Rose about the genesis of the EP amongst all the other usual stuff.

So Young Circles is a fairly new project, how long have you been together under this name for?

Young Circles has only been official for about a month now.

From what I understand you have been in other bands together though (most notably under the names Blond Fuzz & StoneFox), why the fresh start?

We just felt like it was time to move in a more forward-thinking direction, and to challenge ourselves a little more.

Talvihorros Interview

Talvihorros is the moniker of Ben Chatwin, a London based composer making predominantly guitar based music which spills over in to various genres. His releases explore the crossover points between ambient, modern classical, drone and folk whilst maintaining a consistently recognisable aesthetic to his work over his relatively short career to date. Originally coming to attention with the release of his debut album Some Ambulance on the now defunct Electronica label Benbecula in 2009, that was a stirring hypnotic collection of tracks which incorporated elements of many of those styles into a quietly ambtious yet intimate record. This was followed up last year with the stunning Music In Four Movements released through Hibernate, an altogether more sombre and overtly epic affair which revels in long dissonant swelling drones entwined with more folk influenced guitar parts to form a fascinating intersection between what would generally be percieved as traditional and digital sounds. With a selection of releases further exploring these ideas scheduled for the upcoming year I took the chance to speak with Ben a little bit about what makes him tick.

When did you first start playing/writing music?

I learnt to play the guitar when I was about 15 or 16 and straight away found it much more enjoyable coming up with my own tunes than playing other peoples music. I played in bands throughout my teenage years where I mostly wrote the music and in my early 20’s started using computers and got interested in electronic equipment and production. It took a few years of recording my own music and learning the technical side of things before I developed my own identity as a composer.

Conquering Animal Sound Interview

Photo by Heidi Kuisma

For a band with only a couple of limited singles and an online mixtape under their belts Edinburgh duo Conquering Animal Sound are entering 2011 with a fair bit of attention coming their way. Warranted it is too, so with their debut album Kammerspiel due out on February 7th I got both Anneke and James to answer me a few questions about all things Conquering Animal Sound-y.

How did you meet and start writing together?

Anneke: I would like to say that we met as children, in the sandpit, discussing our mutual admiration for Stephan Bodzin but this is not true; we met at university where we both studied ‘popular music’, which is of course different from ‘unpopular music’.

Where did the name Conquering Animal Sound come from?

Anneke: Conquering Lion Sound were a rather unknown dub soundsystem group from the 80s. We once came across a picture of them and were rather enamoured with the various chaps who made up the group, so the name is some sort of homage to them. Still unsure as to whether or not our music does in fact resemble that of conquering animals.

Small Town Boredom Interview

Any regular readers might well be getting tired of me going on about them by now but if you aren’t aware then Small Town Boredom are an aptly named duo from Paisley consisting of Fraser McGowan and Colin Morrison. Their debut album Autumn Might Have Hope, released through Trome Records in 2008, is a perfectly languid encapsulation of the frustrations of both small town life and small town mentality. There’s a sense of hopelessness which permeates the low key compositions, sculpted mainly out of acoustic instrumentation and the odd swell of subtle electronics and field recordings. The key ingredient though is the vocals, which exude the kind of lethargy of broken dreams. The songs are hushed and intimate, like whisperings of thoughts which you’d try not to dwell on for too long and never quite break to the front of your mind. The lyrics are delivered with such blunt honesty though that it’s impossible not to confront the issues dealt with, particulalrly given the relative sparsity of the production. They recently released their second album Notes From The Infirmary (review here) which whilst it maintained these core elements it also strikes out with a little bit more hope and positive energy. I got Fraser to answer me a few questions about the new album amongst other things.

Firstly then, how did Small Town Boredom start?

Originally I was looking for a drummer a band I was starting with my younger brother, he was in the same year as Colin at school. We got together for a few rehearsals late 1999 / early 2000. The only reason I remember the date is that Idlewild brought out 100 broken windows around the same time, Colin & I shared a love for them & for peeps into fairyland. It gave us a very strong common ground, the band I had started was short lived but Colin & I formed Small Town Boredom soon after. We recorded mostly improvised, instrumental stuff on 4 tracks in Colin’s garage for the first few years, just finding our feet. It was for fun more than anything; we never really had any big plans.

And The Earth Swarmed With Them… Interview

Artwork by Luke Frost

And The Earth Swarmed With Them… is a duo consisting of Mitchell Johns and Kat Stanbridge based in Sussex but with peripheral contributors internationally, and who deal in epic slabs of brooding post-metal with the occasional touch of celestial vocals. Not surprising then I guess that for their debut EP, following a split with Sleepless Dreams last year, they attracted the services of ex Jesu/Swans member Ted Parsons on the drums and had the EP mixed by Justin Broadrick. If those associations aren’t enough to let you know that they’re doing that style rather well than I’m not sure what could convince you, aside from having a listen yourself of course. Mitchell kindly answered a few of my questions about the project’s beginnings and their recent EP, which you’ll find available for streaming and free download via Hawk Moon Records at the bottom of the interview.

How did the band start?

I had a couple of songs I’d written and recorded at home which I wanted to put online to show a few people. Myspace was the best place to do that so I set that up and it just carried on from there, picking up more people along the way.

Where did the name And The Earth Swarmed With Them… come from?

It’s part of a quotation from Charles Bukowski, ‘Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them.’

I needed a name for the myspace I set up and it was the first thing that came to mind. It summed up my philosophy towards others at the time, people bore me.. so I’ll just work by myself. It’s less appropriate now that I’m working with other people but it’s there now.

To Bury A Ghost Interview

To Bury A Ghost is the new band from Jon Stolber, previously known under his acclamed solo guise The Hungry I. Adding a couple more members though and fleshing out the sound has led to the epic post-rock juggernaut which is the new EP, The Hurt Kingdom. Throughout it’s five tracks  ferocity is balanced perfectly with a far more delicate and celestial side, the murmuring gradual build-ups of the likes of Mogwai sit alongside brooding vocals more akin to Radiohead amidst a range of instruments to form a textured melancholy whole. Add to this equation the production talents of Russ Russell, who has also worked with the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Sikth and you know you’ll have also something which isn’t averse to taking a few sonic risks either. I exchanged a few e-mails with Jon to find out more about the band and the genesis of this EP.

How did the band start out?

I met Rupert Boddington (drums) when I supported his old band Black Ramps, I noticed Rupert was wearing a Mogwai t-shirt, and we chatted about our mutual love of the band, and became fans of each others musical projects. Once our bands ended we thought it might be worth pooling our resources together to see what we came up with – we recorded a demo alongside Eric Heath (El Heath/Epic 45) which got really great press from the likes of The Fly & Organ magazine so we thought it was something worth pursuing. A little while later I had the possibility of supporting Pendulum which somewhat frustratingly, due to lacking a live band I couldn’t pursue. To prevent such cases happening again Rupert and I decided to start rehearsing regular alongside Marc Bransgrove on bass after I saw him play live locally. After working on some more demos at home someone suggested I send them onto Russ Russell (Nepalm Death, Dimmu Borgir) and somehow he saw some potential in the stuff I’d done and agreed to record us.

Trojan Horse Interview

Trojan Horse have been described as a 4 headed mythical beast from the depths of Manchester, and that’s about as perfect a summation of them as you’re likely to hear. They spin decidedly otherworldly slabs of epic psychedelic metal doused in ‘prog-noveau’ stylings which flicker back and forth between chaos and calm, rarely pausing to let you compute what’s going on. A band rather unlike any other around at the moment, their debut album exhibits an almost disturbingly asymmetrical and yet cohesive sound which never sacrifices melody throughout. With surprises at every turn it’s undoubtedly one of the most unique records which I’ve heard this year, especially for a debut as well. So following it’s release earlier this month I exchanged a few e-mails with vocalist Nick Duke to discuss it’s delayed production and where they take their considerable inspiration from amongst other things.

So, the album took about 3 years to complete? Was this through choice or circumstance?

Yeah, the album as it’s finally come to be has taken three and a half years. It started as a demo, and then just kind of grew from there really. We’ve been really lucky that our producer is our dad, and he and his musical partner both have a studio they share. So we’d go in, record each song as we wrote it, re-jig bits, and mix and mix and mix, and yeah, needless to say I have piles of CDR’s with mixes on that we scrapped haha. It got to the stage where we just had to say “Right, ok 16 guitar tracks is ENOUGH guitars for this song”…I could have gone for 17 but y’know, band democracy won that argument. So in a way it’s been choice, but mainly we’ve been sat on it awaiting the funds to put it out. I got sick of waiting one day and just shoved it up online, we’ll work out the details of cds and the like later on, we just want people to hear it now!!

What’s the writing process like? There’s obviously a lot of stylistically contrasting sections in most of your songs, are these always natural progressions or are they pre-mapped to an extent?

Writing is always a weird one, sometimes we’ll have a definitive idea of what we want to sound like. There are a couple of songs that I’d specifically written a guitar part like something ‘Black Russian’ and ‘..…and the lights went down’ were me trying to do Hendrix and Pink Floyd, obviously they sound NOTHING like that but that was the idea that it grew from. On the other hand, sometimes we’ll just start writing from one idea and have no plan, which is where you get songs like ‘Brazilian’, its just what sounds good and how far we can push the limits of what we consider ‘Pop music’ Can we extend a song out for 8 minutes and keep people interested? Can we throw an homage to James Brown in? Can we sing like pirates? All that and still get away with it. It’s just pushing us and people who listen to it as far as possible whilst still being catchy.

Meursault Interview

One of 2008’s sleeper hits was the debut album from Edinburgh’s Meursault, released on the label offshoot of popular blog Song By Toad it was a flagship representation of the city’s burgeoning diy scene. Particularly given it’s very limited initial release the bands distinctive mixture of lo-fi acoustics, noisy electronics and heart wrenching vocals caused quite a stir, earning a slew of rave reviews. The follow up goes some way towards perfecting that same style and should almost certainly see them reach an even wider audience, I spoke to vocalist and primary songwriter Neil Pennycook to find out more about the new album All Creatures Will Make Merry.

Given the acclaim that Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing with Tongues attracted, did you feel any kind of increased pressure with this record?

I did feel a certain pressure but not necessarily because of the first record. I’ve always been of the opinion that a songwriter should treat themselves as their own audience. All I ever try to do is write what I would want to hear. So the only real pressure was from myself and what I expected of the songs.

What would you say are the main differences between this and the first album?

It’s a lot more positive than the first. With ‘Pissing on Bonfires’ I really wasn’t in the best frame of mind. It sounds to me like a really bitter/angry record, which isn’t to say that ‘All creatures…’ doesn’t have those elements, it’s just that I feel it’s a lot more focused.

Ben Parker Interview

Though he may not be, by any means, a household name (even in the most indie of household) Ben Parker is a man whose output is regularly met with cries of adulatory terms like ‘genius’ and ‘lyrical ninja’. In his current guise as Superman Revenge Squad he has self-released three albums of wonderfully self deprecating anti-folk which perfectly captures the discontent and frustration bubbling beneath the surface of contemporary Britain. This essence is more acutely presented only by his former band Nosferatu D2 (with his brother Adam), who despite having now split up recently had their debut album ‘We’re Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise’ see a retrospective release through specifically formed new label Audi Antihero. Not surprisingly it has captured the affections of a whole slew of music lovers, with it’s bleak witty lyrics and sharp interplay of pulverising drums and frantic guitars. I caught up with Ben to hear a bit about both of these projects.

How do you feel about the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Nosferatu D2 album so far?

It’s really nice. I wish there was more of it when the band was still going though!

The album has been out for a few months now, a lot of people just discovering you guys will be wondering why it came to an end?

It just reached a point where we were both not enjoying it as much. And we always said that as soon as we stop enjoying it we should call it a day. And I think I brought in a new song called Idiot Food to play and Adam didn’t like it too much so I created Superman Revenge Squad to play it instead. We played the gig with Los Campesinos! Which I think we thought would be really good as it was a bigger gig than we were used to. And it was okay, but we really didn’t enjoy it that much. Then we started getting offered a load of gigs after that, and we talked to each other about it and thought “what’s the point?“ and decided to call it a day.

Cats and Cats and Cats Interview

On the back of their just finished UK tour and with a brand new AA single Oh Boy released on October 19th I caught a few words with Cats and Cats and Cats to find out a bit more about the single as well as their forthcoming debut album.

For anyone who doesn’t know could you bring us up to date on the beginnings of the band, how did you first together?

The band was first mentioned in a smoky bar in Staines’ Latin quarter (most dangerous place in rural Surrey) in 2005 when Tom “Shady” Baker and Ben “The Ben” George were accosted by a man known only as The Mexican*. The room fell silent as the bare chested giant reached for his pocket, a gasp sounded from the mostly introspective crowd, but to their surprise he pulled out a pair of maracas and asked in a posh Kentish accent “Will you do the honour of joining me in a musical showdown?” Well, how could they resist? A year to the day later the trio woke up in a Tequila filled haze on the floor of a pet shop, the shop owner was stuck in a loop and repeating the words “cats” and “and” forever. Eve “club mate” Morrison was trying to buy a new chameleon but couldn’t get the shop keeper to tell her where they were. Jamie “crescendo” Stafford butted in with the words “what’s going on?”

Metavari Interview

It’s become a bit of a tired beast, post rock. A generation of bands across the globe have made it so, adhering strictly to the basic formula and constantly churning a load of hollow vacuous nonsense. Just lifting a few Explosions in the Sky guitar lines, warbling it over it in their best Jonsi impression and chucking in a superfluous Godspeed like field recording for good measure, this does not a good post rock band make. People have become rightly disillusioned by the tag. Lurking around in the dusty corners of the genre though, generally only visited by the diehard obsessives or the confused new comer, there are a handful of bands pushing that formula in to exciting new territory. Toying with dynamics and methods to breathe new life in to those weary legs, creating something more akin to the original ethos of post rock; bands like Balmorhea, Efterklang, And So I Watch You From Afar and Metavari.

Metavari are a three piece act from Indiana who have recently released their debut album Be One Of Us And Hear No Noise, a fantastic album which mixes traditional sounding instrumentation with a heady mix of electronic overdubs and vocal sampling, and managing to create some pretty exciting new post rock in the process. I decided to ask them some questions, about some things.

Debutant Interview

Debutant is a one man dream pop band based in Edinburgh. What does a one man dream pop band sound like? Well, Debutant fuses the blissful atmospherics of ambient and drone music with escalating post rock structures, drawing similarities with artists such as Stars of the Lid and Mono. The inclusion of echoing dreamlike vocals though, which recall Arab Strap at their most salacious, makes this a bit more of a distinctive sound than one might expect given those comparisons. Currently recording his debut album, I hit Debutant with a few questions about his career to date and how he reached this current incarnation.

How long have you been writing/performing as Debutant for? 

Essentially, I wrote my first Debutant song at the tail end of 2007 and my first public performance was in March 2008. I never actually intended to make Debutant a live act, as I just had these ideas in my head and fancied writing them and laying down some rough demos, but people seemed to like the songs and gig offers started coming my way and the more shows I played, the more I realised I enjoyed performing them live.