Luo and IYES at the Prince Albert 30/1/13

We haven’t even reached the end of January yet, but 2013 is already looking like a great year for new musical discoveries from Brighton. There’s two bands who I hadn’t heard before this year who are already shaping up to be firm favourites – to find two bands in what’s normally quite a fallow month is good, but to find them both on the same bill at a gig was irresistible.

Luo

Luo

One of the great things about Sea Monsters was that you got to see so many bands in such a short space of time. This meant reduced turnaround times between them, and shared setups, which meant an element of compromise with the sound. That’s not to say that the sound was bad, more that it could probably have been improved if each band had the time and opportunity to set things up exactly as they’d want. Luo impressed us when they opened at last Saturday’s One Inch Badge vs One Inch Badge – they obviously impressed OIB too, who’ve put them on again so soon after the festival. The sound last night seemed bigger and more brutal – the soporific melodic washes of guitars were still there but caught you unawares by growing like post-rock monsters. Some later songs toyed with time signatures reminiscent of Physic House Band’s modern take on jazz. The beats, which kick off once you’re lulled into a false sense of security, seemed more brutal. In short, Luo confirmed the conclusion we came to at Sea Monsters that they were definitely a band to keep an eye on this year.

IYES

IYES

Anyone who’s anyone is talking about IYES and Lighthouse – their demo which has appeared online to huge acclaim. Give it a quick Google and you’ll see over 11,000 results. Most of those pages don’t give you much more than a link to Soundcloud though, and some gushing words about how Lighthouse reminds the writer about the XX but better. Some of them mention that the band are from Brighton, and some mention the IYES are a two piece, made up of Czech singer Melis Soyaslanova and singer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Christopher. Onstage last night they were joined by an additional guitarist to help create their shimmering widescreen pop vision, leaving the duo to focus on the song side of their tracks. Despite their Facebook page only being created in February of last year, IYES look and sound like a fully fledged band. Behind his laptop and with a guitar strapped to him, Josh looks like a re-boot of an eighties pop star, somewhere between one of the Goss brothers from Bros and Chris Lowe from Pet Shop Boys. Melis took the simpler option of a leather jacket over a dress but still looked every bit the pop star. Already the band have plenty of material for a solid half hour set, drawn from the spectrum that ranges from alternative ethereal alt-pop to chart friendly synth pop which if things continue on their current trajectory will have IYES uniting the underground and mainstream before the year’s up. Melis’ vocals complemented the sound perfectly, carrying the melody or dropping to barely a whisper. The big surprise was the power, strength and control of Josh’s voice which only came out at some of the more epic moments. It was good to see it used subtly at the right times. There were a few gremlins at the beginning of the set which led to a false start, but nothing unforgivable and they soon got going again. The gremlins came back just before the final track leaving the laptop silent, so for a finale we were treated to an acoustic version of Lighthouse which sounded just as strong as the original – a testament to the band’s fine songwriting talent.

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Weekend Gig Picks

Here’s our regular pick of where to go and get your fill of local music this weekend.

posteralberTonight we recommend heading to The Brunswick to see some members of bands playing solo sets. Hannah from Moulettes is supporting Sam Walker from The Muel, and door tax is a fiver. If Hove seems a long way away (which it does sometimes), then there’s also Flash Bang Band at the Prince Albert, which is only four pound entrance. Support comes from Lion Bark and The Vinyls.

Our Friday night choice is Transformer, who are playing at the Blind Tiger and is free to get in! Saturday night’s pick is this week’s Brighton Rocks at Sticky Mikes with Running Dogs, The Chances, High Tyde, Clipper and Harting, and will set you back four pounds.

New British Sea Power album – Machinerie​s of Joy

British Sea Power have announced details of their new album, Machineries of Joy. It’s out on 1st April, on Rough Trade. The first 500 people to order the album from the band’s website also get a limited edition bonus cd too.

The band have also announced a whole bunch of tour dates which we aren’t going to include because a) there’s no Brighton date*, and b) that would be lazy churnalism – that’s why we also haven’t included the deliberately provocative quote about the lyrics that seems to have been included every other article we’ve seen about the album.

What those articles haven’t mentioned (probably because it’s not in the press release) is that the title track previously featured on one of the exclusive EPs that they sold at last year’s gigs. Here’s a live taste of it that we found on YouTube:

*weren’t we spoiled enough with all the Krankenhaus gigs last year?

Kovak – Radiate

Kovak are back with another new single. Radiate comes out on 11th February, but you can watch the video for it now. It’s another slice of classic disco pop, hot on the heels of recent singles Killer Boots (which got playlisted on Radio 2 – not bad for an unsigned band) and Living The Dream. The band were holed up in a studio in Spain at the end of last year to record their album, which is due to hit the shops this spring.

Sea Monsters Day Seven – One Inch Badge vs Bizarro World

So, that was Sea Monsters for another year. Last night was the closing night of the festival, and was hosted by Bizarro World, a Brighton night where bands play a whole set of songs covering one band. Previous Bizarro World nights have been held upstairs at Fitzherberts, and been absolutely packed out. As well as playing the songs of another band, the acts have also dressed like like the band they’re covering.

Son Belly as James Brown

I arrived midway through Son Belly‘s set, taking on the persona of James Brown. He was wearing a purple velvet jacket, but there was no evidence whatsoever of The Funk – This was dirty garage rock’n’roll. I just about made out some of the vocals from Sex Machine amongst the clattering guitars, and Son Belly’s set was more about rocking out than honouring the Godfather of Soul.

Wytches

The Wytches took Marilyn Manson, and they also rocked hard. There wasn’t much of an effort made in the outfits – I would have hoped for gothic costumes, or maybe some freaky contact lenses. As for how faithful the songs were to the originals, I have no idea – I couldn’t name a Marilyn Manson song if you pressed me.

Sea Bastard

One of the things I love about ZZ Top is that all the members of the band have beards, except for the drummer, whose name is Frank Beard. Sea Bastard didn’t come as ZZ Top though, they came as Motorhead. They all wore Motorhead T shirts except their bassist who displayed truly heroic dedication to the cause and grew some Lemmy style sideburns. Respect. Sea Bastard turned Motorhead’s greasy rock’n’roll into heavy doom-rock. Headbanging took place on and off stage, and there was a lot of hair flying about all the way through to set-closer Ace of Spades, the track they couldn’t not play.

AKDK

In a night filled with rock music and with a name like theirs, there’s no way that AK/DK would be anything other than AC/DC. With one member rolling his t-shirt sleeves up to the shoulder in an 80s Australian fashion and the other in a faux-school uniform, and both with terrible wigs and school caps, the stage was set. To assume that the headliners would be rolling out heavy guitar riffs like the other bands would have been a mistake though – AK/DK are all about the synths and the drums. Their take on rock classics was to put them through a filter of looping krautrock, with riffs played as distorted squelchy sequenced keyboard lines, although that’s not to say they didn’t rock as hard or as energetically as the earlier acts. AK/DK did so with a huge dose of fun though, and with smiles on their faces throughout. My previous experience of Bizarro World had been that it wasn’t taking thing that seriously, and AK/DK made sure that was carrying on.

 

Interview with The Self Help Group

Mark Bruce is songwriter and leader of Brighton’s new folk-rock maestros The Self Help Group whose fabulous new album is being released on the Union Music Store label next month. Jon Southcoasting met up with Mark and asked him to tell us more about the band.

Needles video screenshot

Who are The Self Help Group?

The Self Help Group are, Me, I sing and play the guitar. Clara Wood-Keeley and Sarah Natalie Wood are the good looking side of the band. They are sisters and grew up in Plumpton I believe. Paddy Keely plays guitar and banjo and hails from Selsey. Ian Bliszczak plays bass and spent his idle youth with myself in Peterborough. We have recently been joined on drums by Jamie Fewings who is from Yeovil.
How did you get started?
I had been musically moribund for years since my youthful days in a shoegaze band. When my wife and I bought a flat, I utilised the loft space as a studio, and started writing songs again. Mostly for my own amusement. Friends encouraged me, I started toying with the idea of getting a band together. With the help of some (brave) friends I managed to start The Self Help Group.
There have been numerous changes to the line up before this one, the biggest change being the acquisition of the girls . They started singing and harmonising together at 11 years old in a band called Skyline. Then sang in 10 piece jazz/funk band, followed by their own writing project ‘Tamashi’. All involved close harmonies which fitted perfectly with the sound we’d been aiming for with this band.
How did the link up with Union happen?
Jamie and Stevie invited us to do an in store performance for them at their shop in Lewes. The idea of recording an album for them started forming not long after and became a firm plan after a gig at the Green Door Store back in Jan ’12. 
We started recording in March and the album was finished in October. The album was recorded for the most part in Jamie (Freeman)’s little studio just outside Lewes. Jamie recorded and produced the album. He was definitely a member of the band and had a massive input and influence on making the album as good as (I hope) it is.
The album has a very lush sound. Who writes the songs?
The album is quite BIG at points isn’t it? There is a lot going on. I write the songs. Some come to the table fully formed, but, as time goes on we are fleshing out sketched ideas in rehearsal much more.
The songs are all written in the same way. I will usually come up with a melody while playing guitar. There is a folder on my computer full of odd news items I’ve found and I  have a look in there and try to see which story fits the feel of the music. Then I pick at  the story and write the lyrics. 
Some of the timings of the melodies definitely have a slight funk timing to them but you would never get that from the music unless you were trying to play the parts I think. I’ve never really known what I was doing as a songwriter and had no formal training in music. As a result, the songs are all very simple and there is still a big part of me that is secretly afraid that someone is going to find me out!
There’s a song on the album called the 5th man on the moon. Who’s he? And who is Big Nose George?
The 5th man on the moon was a guy called Alan Shepherd. I read a letter that he wrote to his parents the day before he enrolled in the space program and it interested me. The man inside the space suit. It must have been pretty hairy stuff going into space back then. 
Big Nose George, the song, is older than the band. I wrote it in about 10 mins after spending about 4 hours recording a load of old tosh. He was a wild west criminal called Big Nose George Parrot. Long story short, he was eventual caught and hung. The governor of the county at the time ordered that he be sent to the local tannery, where his skin was made into a pair of shoes which the governor wore for special occasions.
Who are your influences? 
I’m always unsure who our real influences are. I don’t listen to as much music as I used to. I’m too busy chasing a 2 year old around the house and then recovering. Most of the bands that get mentioned in connection with our sound, I know little about. I guess that’s a good thing. 
I was a massive fan of The Smiths in my teens, then the whole shoegaze scene. Funk and soul music played a big part in my late 20’s. Now I listen to more mellow, acoustic stuff. 
I hope I’ve absorbed a little bit of all those things.
I also really love the latest Tallest Man On Earth album. The songwriting is so strong. One man and a guitar. I’m usually drawn to a much bigger sound, but that album is amazing.  I can barely make out a bloody word he’s singing though. And I know t

he girls are really liking The Staves at the moment. Hopefully they won’t try to replace me with another pretty girl. That would suck.
One last thing, the video for Needles is brilliant. How did that come about?
We had a lot of ideas kicking around as we were unsure what the single would be. I was determined to steer away from a stereotypical folk music video. The furthest thing from the norm seemed to be a dance video, so, that’s what we did.
Stevie Freeman (Co-owner of Union Music Store)’s sister Sian happens to be a choreographer. She offered to come up with “the moves”. It was a lot of fun shooting the video, in an old workshop in Lewes, on a cold Sunday morning. The rest is down to Jamie who slaved over an apple mac editing for weeks, bless him.
* * * * * * * * * *
The Self Help Group’s launch show on 7th February in Brighton is sold out.

The album ‘Not Waving But Drowning‘ is out on February 11th. But they are playing a free in store show at Union Music Store in Lewes on this coming Saturday at 3pm. It will also be your first chance to pick up a copy of their album too, a week and a half before its official release.

Sea Monsters Day Six – One Inch Badge vs One Inch Badge

Saturday night was One Inch Badge’s own choice of local bands. There was one change from the original line up – unfortunately Soccer 96 couldn’t make it, but we’ll get to that later. Queues were building up before the doors even opened – After a Source cover and loads of storming shows, The Physics House Band are one of Brighton’s hottest tickets at the moment.

Luo

Luo

Luo were the first band to play. They mixed glitchy electronica with lush guitars – think Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross remixed by Plaid. It wasn’t all instrumental though – they were joined onstage for a track by Jacko Hooper, who played earlier this week. It was all really lovely stuff, who I’d love to find out more about, but search engines are no help whatsoever (“Did you mean ‘Lou’?” – No Google, if I’d meant Lou, I would have typed Lou).

Squadron Leaders

Squadron Leaders

Next up were The Squadron Leaders, a surf rock three piece. I had a glance at their set list before they started, and wondered how they were going to play fifteen or twenty songs when most other bands were only playing five or six in their allocated sets. The answer was that they sped through their short songs, barely stopping for breath. The crowd loved it, but it was a little dispiriting to hear references to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack – there’s a whole genre out there beyond Dick Dale.

Ed Prosek

Ed Prosek

The extra act on the bill following Soccer 96’s cancellation was Ed Prosek, who acknowledged that an acoustic folk act didn’t quite sit  with the rest of the bands on the line up. Ed’s Californian optimism meant that he was undeterred though, and the crowd soon warmed to him and his band made up of cello, double bass and mandolin. The highlight of their set was a cover of Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound, currently featuring on a cheese advert. Obviously.

Phoria

Phoria

Phoria were on the bill at October’s Source New Music night last year, but I was a bit distracted and didn’t really pay enough attention. What I missed was ambitious, intelligent songs, aiming for somewhere between Coldplay and Radiohead. Epic stuff.

Physics House Band

Physics House Band

The stars of last night’s show were The Physics House Band though. On paper they could sound difficult – non-standard time signatures, jazz, prog… In reality, they’re a fantastic prospect. Each individual player is a virtuoso, but they aren’t just tremendous musicians individually – together you won’t find a tighter set of musicians. But it’s not all just about the musicianship, their live show is also one of the most energetic in town. Being an amazing band is about being different, and being better, and Physics House Band have that in spades.