Brighton Rocks # 33 : Nick Hudson / The Academy of Sun

Who are the your favourite local bands?
Hmmm. Spleen, Fragile Creatures, Collect Call, Twenty One Crows.

What’s the best venue?
Damn I miss The Hanbury Ballroom. I’d say The Hope, with a stentorian shout-out to Leon,
who’s engineering is peerless. Otherwise, The Old Market, for the diversity of its programming.

What’s the best rehearsal space / studio?
We’ve started using Botega to rehearse in, and they’re awesome. I just really hope they survive the economic devastation of the pandemic. As for recording studios, we lived in Church Road Studio for two years while we were making The Quiet Earth, and it’s fair to say Julian and Paul are truly excellent humans and engineers. Adaptable, ingenious and inventive. Also Audiobeach, where I made a collaborative record with Oli Spleen. Forbes, Rocco and Old Clunky are a triumvirate to be reckoned with.

What’s the best club?
I don’t really go clubbing, Though we did play The Volks last November, which was beautiful
chaos. Sad to see Legends close, not because it was a great club per se, but because of the late night potential for preposterous hijinks. And for their insane lasers in the basement club.

What’s the best record shop?
I love, and have always loved Wax Factor. It’s browse-to-revelation ratio is particularly strong
and I frequently spend time in there just ranting with proprietor Mark. Will always miss
Rounder. And Monkey Music. Sigh.

Where’s the best places to eat?
Mange Tout and its sister restaurant Plateau are consistently excellent. Bincho Yakitori and
Ephesus on Preston Street are to die for. Riddle And Fins are still great and I’m still in pursuit
of lockdown lobster. The Setting Sun offers an incredible menu, and I’d say the same even if
my brother weren’t the head chef. Famous Szechuan on Queens Road is my favourite oriental restaurant in town. With an unassuming exterior, their menu and service are at once world-beating and homely.

What’s the best pub?
The Hand In Hand, Kemptown. It’s been my living room for over ten years. It functions as a
rustic bar, a psych ward, a hedonist’s miniature playground, a storyteller’s lounge, a tiny venue, a brewery, a community, a Fellini-esque speakeasy and a last refuge of the hangdog and esoteric. Jen is a local legend and deserves colossal applause. Their beer hatch during the lockdown is a wonderful thing.

Who’s your favourite Brighton celebrity?
Well, it’s always nice to know Nick Cave is in our realm, scratching out his red hand files from deepest Kemptown. We once had a natter about songwriting at a parking metre and he was a true gentleman.

What’s the best thing about Brighton?
It’s a weirdly malleable place. You can kinda forge your own version of it, within reason. It’s
small enough to be walkable and easily-escaped (and the downs, and the rock pools beyond the marina have proven cherished boltholes during lockdown) and big enough to sustain a degree of momentum and identity of its own. I also have a kinda authorial fascination with the way various disparate demographics intersect to form its strange socio-cultural ecosystem. Like, the gangsters, the lunatic chefs, the musicians, the queer community, the old level-heads in their KLF threads, the curious paradox that is Tory queens, the bar poets, the Soho exiles, the sprinklings of Crowleyana.

When was the last time you had any Brighton Rock?
I’ve never had it! Though a friend was telling me about Sellafield rock actually. Which reminds me of the time an old friend walked into The Hand In Hand using an unirradiated nuclear cooling rod as a didgeridoo.

The Quiet Earth by The Academy of Sun is out on Friday 19th June and can be ordered from Bandcamp

In the pub with Pete Wiggs and David Best

Saint Etienne and Fujiya & Miyagi have both had new albums out this year, so it’s only right that we put together a feature for both bands. We did a proper interview with David Best around the release of EP2 last year though, and we did something fairly extensive with Pete Wiggs when Words and Music came out, so this time round we thought we’d try a different approach. What if we went to the pub and just had a chat? No more boring interview questions that they’ve been asked a thousand times already, and more of an insight into what they’re really like coming out through the topics that came up naturally. So a couple of weeks ago we sat down in The Urchin to chew the cud about being big in China, getting trick-or-treated by Gomez, rotting whales, Twin Peaks, Columbo, Bowie, Aphex Twin and gout:

IMG_0766eesOn Festivals:
David Best: We’ve just played Glastonbury
Pete Wiggs: We played last year – It was raining.
DB: It’s the first one I’ve been to where it wasn’t raining. In a few weeks we’re playing a Festival at the bottom of Mount Etna, alongside Air, which is quite nice, then another one the week after. Then we’re playing Liverpool Psych Fest, which I’ve never been to. The line up is nuts so I’m quite excited about that.
PW: We’re doing Port Eliot Festival, down in Cornwall. I’ve been going to it the last few years. The first couple of times I took the wife and kids, because I heard it’s a good family one, then last year I couldn’t make it and the wife took the kids without me because she liked it so much! We’re playing this year and we’re all going again. It’s really nice. We’re doing Green Man as well, I’ve not been to that before.
DB: We’re hopefully going to China in the New Year. This Chinese band wanted us to do a remix, and they’re really good – kind of post punk. I suggested doing a swap and it’s snowballed from there. I wanna be big in China! There’s a label based there who are interested in reissuing our stuff. I love going to places I’ve never been to, and I love the idea of going to China. Continue reading

Sea Bed Interview

We’re big fans of Sea Bed here at Brighton Music Blog, and when we heard that they had a new single we thought that would be a good time to catch up with them. As with most things on the blog at the moment we’re not quite as up to speed as we’d like – the single was released as a digital download at the end of October – but we dropped them a line anyway…

Hi Sea Bed, how are you?

Busy, tired and looking forward to the new year now. We have a new live rig that we’ve been putting together the last few weeks and inbetween all of that have loads of exciting gigs to rehearse for and of course… Keep writing!

Back at the end of July you announced a new single which has only just got released. What can you tell us about it?

So the single Akira is a techno pop song we finished up earlier this year and released through indie label Four Thieves. It’s kind of our first real statement as Sea Bed emphasising our love for both the underground and more mainstream artists of the last few decades, but still carrying over an air of mystery as to what we will do next release wise. We have known each other for a while now and both writing and performing with very clear intentions compared to previous projects we were in has allowed our creative freedom to flow and make something we feel is unique on record and on stage.

akira-dvd-cover-artIs the song anything to do with the 80s manga film of the same name?

The lyrical content is about awakening and what road you choose to take with the important decisions in your life. With that in mind, there are strong parallels to the film. Realising that you have the power within you to positively alter your destiny is what the song was originally written around and in the manga, Tetsuo (the antagonist of the film for those who don’t know) has supernatural powers awakened in him but uses them for destruction and revenge.

The 12″ of the single sold out weeks before the release date. You must have been pretty chuffed with that?

Absolutely, It’s amazing to have support from a label like Four Thieves who believe in what you’re doing enough to get the music out there in whatever format possible. Most importantly it’s people like yourself who go out of their way to support and listen to new music that keeps the whole thing alive.

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You always have great visuals at your shows, and the band photography that you’ve had done is really strong. How important is the visual side of things for you?

100%! We take it as seriously as the music and try to have a hand in everything we do so that it doesn’t lose sight of what Sea Bed is about. We have found in the past Very quickly other people can steer your image down some very unimaginative routes. I think artists had a larger window of time pre and early internet age to really craft their identity visually and sound wise but now every minute detail that is posted can be clawed back through time by search engines so we have to be completely satisfied with whatever art forms we release under Sea Bed.

Talking of live shows, I see you’ve got a date in Shoreditch in for January. Are there any more Brighton dates lined up?

Yes that’s for the Ibiza Rocks festival, their equivalent of BBC introducing which is amazing! Brighton will see us playing the Green Door Store on the 19th November and Patterns on December 10th, hopefully beta testing our new chunky live setup.

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When you posted on Facebook about the new single coming out you hinted about an exciting new release coming in 2016. Is there any more that you can tell us?

Without giving away too too much it will be another vinyl and digital release through Four Thieves only we are doing a full EP with them! So all new tracks, a big remix for the A side and video to accompany it which will be early 2016 when everyone has recovered from the post Christmas and New Years hangovers.

You DJed last week at the launch party for Via Tirana’s new single. Are there any other local bands you think we should be listening to?

That was a great night, ended the party with a track by Clouds called Chained To A Dead Camel which for most of the people left in there made them lose their shit!

There are some really sick electronic acts around Brighton at the moment. We are vibing Troves, INWARDS, Karl Toon, Foreign Skin, Mount Bank and in the more traditional band world there is a mental new Soul act called Bathcat and the guys in Big Society. That and all the usual suspects like Demob Happy and our good mates in Black Honey which most people are raving about at the mo. Brighton’s got a good thing going on.

Clowwns / The Artful Execution of Macho Bimbo – The Interview

Clowwns have just released their album The Artful Execution of Macho Bimbo on Bleeding Hearts Recordings, and are holding the launch party this Friday at Latest Music Bar (a fiver to get in, support from Prince Vaseline). We dropped Brighton’s premier post punk / new wave quartet a line to find out about everything that’s gone on to get the album out there, and the missing lost cover version which didn’t make the final cut.

10291074_1594617410786678_4242904466216935550_n Continue reading

GAPS interview

Brighton Music Blog favourites GAPS have got a new four track collaborative release with multi award winning British-Japanese producer Maya Jane Coles. It’s some of the most exciting new music to come out of Brighton recently, and just the excuse we needed to catch up with the Rachel and Ed over a coffee:

GAPS

GAPS

Brighton Music Blog: So, you’ve got a new release out. Is it a single or an EP?

Rachel: It’s an EP.

Ed: <Puzzled look>

BMB: You don’t seem sure about that Ed?

E & R: <laughter>

E: I was wondering myself which it was! Yeah. It’s an EP.

BMB: How did the collaboration with Maya Jane Coles happen?

R: It’s sort of a long story but basically I met her years ago in Brighton at a party at my house and she was really sweet. She said she was a DJ, and we chatted about music and then that was that. Then a few years back before we’d even formed GAPS I saw her headlining a festival – it was so nice to see that someone you met randomly has done really well – so I sent her a message on Facebook and got back in touch. When we had our first single I cockily sent it to her to see if she’d be interested in doing a remix. There’s not that many people that I thought would be good for our sound, but she was always someone I’ve always had in mind. It was a bit out of our ballpark with us being totally unknown but she was really sweet and liked what we were doing but was too busy at the time, but was keen to hear more about GAPS and was interested to see if I wanted to do some vocal stuff with her. That was last summer.

BMB: What was the process for writing? To us they sound a lot like GAPS tracks that have been produced by someone else.

R: That’s exactly what they are. I didn’t do anything different to what I do with Ed. I sat in my bedsit and wrote and recorded it and then Ed took the stems, treated them, made them sparkle, and then we sent them onto Maya. So instead of Ed going to work on the production, they went to Maya instead.

BMB: So they’re basically written by you but produced by her?

R: Well, it’s half and half, a bit like me and Ed really. I wrote the initial idea, but obviously she has written all the production and the extra lines in it that you hear. So the guitar and the vocals are me and the rest is her.

BMB: How long has the writing process been going on? I saw she posted up your track Inside Your Head on her Soundcloud six months ago. And you haven’t had anything out this year and she hasn’t had any singles out this year.

R: It’s been really natural and organic really. We decided to do an EP together around Christmastime and I wrote my parts around February / March, then she was really, really busy so from then it was down to her having the time to work on them because she’s away every weekend and she has her own remixes to do. So it got written, then she did her bit, then it’s come out almost as soon as it was finished. It’s been quite fast moving in that sense.

BMB: And it’s out on Maya’s own record label I/AM/ME where your previous releases have been on Sexbeat on 7”s.

R: Sexbeat are friends of ours and they put our singles out to allow us to get music out there and still keep a lot of control over our music, which is what we wanted to do, but the EP was always going to be with Maya and down her routes.

BMB: Have you got any live dates coming up?

R: We haven’t got any in Brighton at the moment, but we’ve got a show at Servant Jazz Quarters on Tuesday 28th October so we’re looking forward to that.

E: It’s our first London headline.

R: Well, it’s our first paid London headline, so they’re advertising it as our first headline. So this is our first opportunity for Londoners to buy tickets and see us, which is cool for us. And we’ve got someone from Brighton supporting us who we both love called Lloyd Williams, who’s a brilliant folk musician.

BMB: Which leads nicely onto our last question which we ask everyone we interview. Are there any other Brighton bands you’d recommend?

R: Lloyd Williams is amazing. You should check him out.

E: We’re quite excited about bringing out the folk influence. It’ll be quite nice to get a folk guitarist play and then have us play afterwards. I think the two will fit together quite well, even though what we do is quite electronic there’s a folk influence there.

R: The scales that he uses are similar to ours, and he loves drone, I love drone, so we’re singing from the same hymn sheet.

E: Do you know Eagles for Hands? We’re big fans and good friends with him. He’s doing very well for himself. He’s played at a couple of gigs of ours before and we’re trying to work with him in the future.

R: Another band that I’ve seen twice this week is Thieves by the code, and they sound a bit like Megadeth, but they’re amazing, really tight. Beautiful riffs. They’re just putting an album out in October. You should look out for them.

In Dark, In Day is out now via Beatport and gets a general release across other digital platforms next week.

Black Rooster Black Shag – As Far As My Lead Will Take Me

Last week, Black Rooster Black Shag released their debut album As Far As My Lead Will Take Me. We were out of town for their launch gig at the Bees Mouth on thursday, but we caught up with Mirika, JJ and Dan last Sunday afternoon when they played a another gig at the Ranelagh.

BRBS s

Brighton Music Blog: So the album’s called…

JJ: As Far as My Lead Will Take Me

BMB: And where did the title come from?

JJ: Between us we came up with the title. I think it really reflected the journey of the record. We met in the Southern Hemisphere, moved to the UK and eventually settled in Brighton and I think it was that sort of journey that by the time we got to Brighton that really made up the record. That whole trajectory that we took and it kind of sums up the spirit of the record in terms of going a great distance and getting to a particular point and the fact that you can still go a little bit further.

BMB: So are some of the songs quite old and have taken this journey or are they all quite new?

JJ: Some of the songs I suppose were composed a while ago but we’ve got Dan into the band and come together as a three piece and the sound has changed, and every time we play we play it slightly differently, we never try and play the song the same way the same time twice. So in that way the songs always evolve and are always fresh and there’s always something different every time we play. The skeletons of the songs were written quite a while ago but every time we play them they’re a little bit different.

Mirika: The band club we sort of had to hold back to really be able to play in this band. J and I were touring other projects when we met so we wrote all these songs cross continentally for a little while we were touring the other projects then once we finished those records we could make this band happen. So we really willed it to happen, although we’ve only been playing shows now for nine months.

BMB: So you launched the album at the Bees Mouth last thursday. How did that go?

M: Oh man, so much fun.

BMB: Did you play in that little sweaty room downstairs?

Dan: I think we made it worse. It probably still stinks of us now.

JJ: Our audience have got a very good aroma! It was just a great night There was a lot of people that came down, a lot of friends. We had a really good time and everyone walked away having celebrated the fact that the album’s finally out really, because a lot of them were friends who played on the record and we did have a lot of people around us that helped so it was just really really nice to have everybody in the same room and celebrating not just the end of one journey but the start of another one.

M: We’ve already been demoing new stuff, so it was quite exciting.

BMB: You first visit to Brighton was to visit the Great Escape?

M: We just came to visit, we weren’t playing. SO many great venues and people were really friendly which was really nice.

BMB: Are you around for the Great Escape this year?

JJ: We’re actually playing the Alternative Escape at Marwoods Cafe, on the saturday afternoon about half past five so we’ll definitely be around.

R: Any tips of bands to go and see at the Great Escape?

JJ: I would just tip to go and check out the Brighton bands. I think there’s such a vibrant scene going on with bands here. Compared to what you see on the surface from other cities it’s unique. There’s a lot of exciting guitar bands happening. For me it’s more about seeing my friends and seeing those bands play in front of a bigger audience of people that wouldn’t normally come and see them play. Anything from Brighton go and check it out.

BMB: Where’s next for the album? You’ve played launches in Brighton, London and Barnsley.

JJ: We’re playing Eastbourne, then Nottingham, then London again, and then Manchester, Doncaster as well. We’d like to play a few smaller towns and some of the bigger cities as well. Our idea is not to have one huge tour, but to keep going out and visiting places. It’s a slower run with an independent band, you can’t throw all your eggs into one basket, you’ve got to work it a bit longer. So we just want to go out and see as much of the country as possible.

BMB: Are you doing any festivals this summer?

JJ: We’re playing Coalfields, up in Barnsley again, but that’s about it really. We’re a relatively new band, so we haven’t really hit the festivals hard at this point. We’re more into playing smaller venues for now, getting the intimate atmosphere going really. That’s where people are responding best to the music so we’re happy cultivating that at the moment.

M: It’s nice when you go to a town and you see people who saw you at your last show. That’s the best. I don’t need to play anywhere extravagant, I just want a good vibe, and to be able to relax a bit and have a bit of fun.

Black Rooster Black Shag’s album is out now, available from EOI productions. You can catch the band on Saturday at Marwoods Cafe around 5.30 as part of the Alternative Great Escape (so you won’t need a wristband).

Becky Becky video interview

In the way of the blogs, we sent Brighton’s electro-pop superstars Becky Becky some questions, thinking to celebrate the release of their new albumGood Morning, Midnight they might supply a few hesitant stuttering finger-typed words, about why House of the Black Madonna is the future of rock ‘n’ roll and how Jean Rhys could have rocked the middle-European disco had she been of a certain age.

Instead, they sent us this.

The album’s out May 1st and is available from their website at www.beckybecky.com

 

Who are… ?

Becky Becky is two people: Gemma L Williams and Peter J D Mason. Bandmates, friends, lovers, enemies. We´ve existed together in almost every possible permutation. We´ve loved each other, hated each other, walked together, walked out on each other. There is no pit of despair we haven´t pushed each other to, we struggle together… but we always remain together.

Where were Becky Becky… ?

…formed in Brighton, England, a long time ago. There have been casualties. We started making music by following a very loose manifesto. One rule that will always remain is: no “real” instruments. No drums, guitars… only electronic music.

By limiting your options, you free yourself.

Where does… ?

What´s in a name? It´s our name. A fifty-fifty partnership, making one complete whole: Becky Becky.

Why “Good Morning, Midnight”?

…from Jean Rhys´ 1939 novel, which took its name from an Emily Dickenson poem. We recommend both these texts.

And what does she mean to you?

Jean Rhys was an author often depicting mistreated, rootless women. To this day, her words are still relevant and easily identifiable. She is an inspiration and a favourite author of ours – a fact which helped bring us together.

Are you a European band now? 

We formed in Brighton and currently reside here, but we are not involved with the Brighton music scene or anything like that. We feel like outsiders here.  If ‘Good Morning, Midnight’ feels like a European record, then that makes sense. It was written in Prague and recorded up a mountain in a wooden chalet in Seythenex, a tiny French Alpine village.

Who are your musical influences?

Hot Chip and ´80s synth-pop. From Europe, the Knife and Legowelt. Eurotrash and Eurobeats too, if you put aside your pretensions. That kind of music is full of joy and is genuinely great.

Is this music to dance to… ?

When we created Becky Becky, we wanted to make danceable music with lyrics tackling serious themes. We hope you can sit and listen to it, to the stories. But we also want you to just switch off and dance. If you come to see us play live, you should definitely be dancing.

Do you have live… ?

We are not really a gigging band. We do not just play. We try and make every show unique. This requires a lot more effort these days as our ideas become increasingly more elaborate. So we do not play very often. We do not just turn up and plug in and play. We make shows.

Do you… ?

For the autumn, we are lining up some shows in Europe and we have one in New York City on the 26th September in the Pyramid Club. Our next show is our album launch in Brighton on Friday 23rd May. It will be an audio-visual show and probably the most elaborate we´ve ever attempted.

What comes next ?

Becky Becky is in a constant fragile state. Gemma is recovering from the unexpected death of her Woodpecker alter ego; and Peter is working on other projects.

Becky Becky tumblr_inline_mnmen1Xg2w1r1ougb

 

Who knows what comes next ?

The album Good Morning, Midnightis out on May 1st 2014 and available from the Becky Becky website at www.beckybecky.com

 

 

A conversation with Danny Green of Laish


Laish’s new album Obituaries
is released on 25th March. It’s another terrific collection of songs, with all the usual wit and pathos we’ve come to expect from one of Brighton’s finest songwriters.

Laish head honcho Daniel Green met up with our own Brighton Music Blog resident songwriter from the Hiawatha Telephone Company to talk about the story of Laish, the new album and the art of songwriting.

HTC: So where did it all begin? Have you always written songs?

Daniel Green (Photo by Jason Williamson)

DG: I remember writing songs from pretty much the minute I learnt to play a few chords. I used to write songs with my brother (comedian Matt Green), he’d tend to write the lyrics and I’d write the chords.

HTC: Were they funny songs?

DG: No they weren’t, they were teenage angst songs about vague mythical women. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really remember writing songs, they kind of happen when you’re not really there and then you find a box full of papers and ask yourself how did you do that.

I remember finding a box of songs and lyrics I’d written when i was about 14 or 15 so I have been doing it for that long but I don’t really remember them and I couldn’t play any of those songs now.

HTC: So when did you start performing?

DG: Pretty early. I was at a school where there was a music teacher who was enthusiastic and encouraging to anyone who would pick up an instrument, and I was playing drums and electric guitar so he said you’ve got to form a band and I remember singing some covers, at the age of 15, and singing a Manic Street Preachers song at a school assembly.

But there was quite a gap between that sort of thing and Laish. I went to university at 18 and stopped performing music pretty much. I had a guitar and a 4-track recorder with me, so I occasionally made a few hideous demos but nothing very serious and music wasn’t an ambition at that point and I got more into drama and the usual university shenanigans. Music didn’t seem like something serious that I could do. I didn’t have any friends who had done that.

Then after university I went to India for a year. Just before that I’d been to the Green Man Festival. Bonnie Prince Billy was headlining. And I just remember picking up a guitar and trying to remember songs around the camp fire. It was when the festival was still small and the bands used to hang out around the campfires and sing songs and it was all very jolly and I just remember a few people listening to my songs and saying “You’re quite good at this, you should probably do this some more” and up to that point I had never really thought of it as something I could do. So, it all started at the Green Man Festival.

And then I went to India, travelled around for ages. and bought a cheap guitar and got quite excited out there, just playing simple stuff. I don’t think a single India song has re-surfaced in Laish, it was all drivel (laughs).

HTC: It wasn’t going to be the Beatles’ White Album?

DG: No. Then I came home and started a band in Newcastle and we played a few gigs but I decided to move to Brighton and Laish was born there.

HTC: Was it just you initially?

DG: I just decided to make a name for better or worse, and I still can’t decide if Laish is a hideous name or a good name (Ed note: ‘Laish’ is a Hebrew word meaning the tribe of Dan), but I remember putting an advert in Edgeworld Records looking for band members and about 4 years after I put that advert up I was still getting phone calls from people asking if I was still looking. Did no-one else put an advert up in there?

HTC: And then it closed down. (Edgeworld)

DG: Yes. So I decided I was going to start recording music under this name Laish and I guess I thought it was like the Bonnie Prince Billys and the Smogs of this world who have this name but it’s not really about being a band or solo and you might see them as either but there’s always going to be a core songwriter there and that was what I was going with. And funnily enough that’s exactly what happened.

HTC: So when did you move to Brighton?

DG: I think I moved to Brighton in summer 2007.

The initial band was a guy called Bob, a girl called Fiona and Jess – who now plays in Fear of Men.

HTC: Another good Brighton band. I’ve been listening to their album of early singles and extras, and like it a lot.

DG: Well Jess was part of the foundation of Laish. But that kind of fell apart. The band who made the first album was Cathy Cardin singing, her voice is on the first album a lot, and Ben Gregory on bass, Mike Miles on drums and Jo Burke on violin. And that was a fairly stable line up until it also kind of fell apart and I started again from scratch.

There was an interlude when I found Jen Rouse. We had a tour coming up and Cathy couldn’t do it so I thought we’d get someone else in. I think we found her through Gumtree. Jen’s great, still a really good friend – I went to her wedding – but at that particular time she’d only just moved to Brighton, we went on a tour and it was all very stressful with big gigs and headlining, shit like that. It was very intense and then suddenly it wasn’t. And the band went pfft again. Ben was off on tours with other bands and doing some tour managing. Mike was off with his other band and Jo was on tour with the Medieval Babes in America for months. I was literally left without a band anymore, they had all just buggered off.

So I started doing a few solo gigs and then gradually Emma from Sons of Noel and Adrian decided to join, and we asked Martha and then Patrick was living with Dan the drummer and that all happened within about two weeks of me thinking Laish was finished. Suddenly  it’s not!

HTC: But it’s a funny kind of band, because everyone in the band does other things. Most bands, the members are in the band and that’s all they do.

DG: That seems to be a Brighton thing, there’s something in the air, people can’t bear to just do one thing.

HTC: You drum with the Sons of Noel and Adrian, Patrick’s in the Sons and Emma as well, and Emma does her solo stuff and plays with Mariners Children. It must be a logistical nightmare?

DG: And now Martha lives in Berlin. Dan (the drummer) is the only sensible one who just plays in Laish.

HTC: I thought your last UK tour was very economical, where you had Emma and Martha as your support acts.

DG: Yes, we’re going to do that again. Martha and Emma always go down well because Laish are on the cusp of folk and they probably fit more into the folk side of things so it’s a nice kind of crossover to have at a gig. It just gets progressively louder as the evening goes on. If you come to one of those gigs it’s like you get to meet the girls first, one at a time, and then there’s the full band.

.HTC: It’s kind of like an introduction. And it’s a nice contrast, with your slightly northern, masculine element and then the two girls. It makes for an interesting combination.

DG: I guess I’ve always liked that combination of male and female voices. It’s basically Leonard Cohen, that’s what it comes down to. He’s the archetypal model for that sort thing. I don’t think he was an influence when I set out making music but as I’ve listened to him more I can see he’s obviously a big influence in terms of the sounds we create.

The fact that Emma and Martha were in the band meant we could suddenly experiment with that. It wasn’t like we wanted a band with two girl singers, it just happened.

HTC: And they definitely add something to the presence on stage because they’re very comical…

DG: Yeah, they upstage me the whole time!

HTC: …but the songs are good enough so that doesn’t matter! And although you’ve got more rocky of late, your songwriting still has lots of soft sides. It’s not folk but it’s not ‘rock’ either.

DG: No it definitely isn’t. I think I’m veering towards being a bit noisier. But I find I’m always caught between the idea of writing a song for the stage and writing a song for an album and I never know which one i’m trying to do at any given moment. Often I’ll write a song sitting in a room by myself and I’ll pick out some nice finger-picking and it’ll be a quiet folk song, but then I bring it to the band and it becomes a massive rock song and so maybe it’s nice for the recorded version to be different. It’s a trick used by many bands – when you go and see them live, they turn it up. I’m interested in that, but it’s not really rock music is it?

HTC: No, but it’s not folk music either.

DG: I think Martha’s violin gives it that feel, but it’s not folky. I just read a review today that started by saying we’re known as ‘indie folk’ like it’s some hideous brand…

HTC: Mumfords all the way…

DG: But then they described us as baroque rock, and I thought that’s not really what we are, and they said we sounded a bit like The Miserable Rich, another great band from Brighton, but I just don’t see it. I guess the fact that there are strings and there are songs…

Laish

HTC: There was a phase a few years ago, when there was like you, the Mariners children, the Sons, Shoreline  – all these bands with similar sounds and sharing players and it was almost like there was this one sound…

DG: The Willkommen sound…

HTC: …whereas now it’s pretty diverged…

DG: I guess everyone got lumped together with the Willkommen Collective thing. I’m sure it’s been useful to us in terms of generally spreading the word, and on a social level and it got me a band, although we could have done that without the label, we didn’t need to give it a collective name to be friends or to play together, but I don’t know what it means now. We’re all still here, still making great music but it has definitely changed. The label doesn’t exist anymore, but we still put on gigs, and we all make music. We still like each other (laughs)

HTC: So it gives you a resource, and if nothing else a good mailing list. I wanted to come back to the masculine-feminine thing though because the sound is one thing, but it’s also there lyrically. I’ve always loved the humour in Laish songs, the tongue-in-cheekness, and an immense positivity which is really different from the charicature of an indie band ‘look, the world is terrible and we’re really depressed’ but Laish isn’t like that.

DG: I often find myself at gigs thinking all my lyrics are a bit miserable and depressing. Like “I don’t know what to do with myself, maybe I should just give up and go try something else…”

HTC: But that’s a perfect example. Because the traditional thing is “I just don’t know what to do with myself” full stop, a bit morose, whereas yours is humorous, “maybe i should go and try something else” whilst performing in a band on stage! It encourages a wry smile, but you don’t feel that?

DG: Not for that particular song. Obviously there are joke lines in some of my songs and I guess inspired by the Leonard Cohens or Bill Callahans of this world, that kind of deadpan straightfaced humour in song, where you have to think about it and realise that he’s taking the piss. I guess it’s a bit like that when I sing “I’m a serious man” and you can kind of feel like everyone’s thinking ‘no you’re bloody not’.

HTC: There’s a lot of Laish songs like that. One that I really love is the last song on the first album, ‘A happy accident’, about being born due to a hole in a condom. Where did that come from?

DG: That was written at a point when quite a few of my friends started having babies and I wasn’t really up for the idea at the time and I just remember thinking about one particular couple, well I didn’t really think it but the idea came into my head, that you wouldn’t put it past her [to make a hole in a condom], you know what I mean?

And then I took that idea and wrote it from the perspective of this child that had grown up because of a mother’s deceit and a slightly wet father that doesn’t really know what’s going on but just goes along with it.

HTC: It’s a brilliant song. And when it’s sung it always sounds like it’s completely about you and so personal because…

DG: I know and I feel really bad about that, because my parents come and see me play and the fist line is so brutal about my father, a father. Sorry dad, but it’s not really about you! I mean I’m sure my father is a troubled man, but not in that way. Just as troubled as anyone else is.

HTC: It’s interesting that when you put ‘a father’ and ‘a mother’ in a song everyone will immediately think it has to be personal. I have a song like that (‘Child is father to the man’). It’s such an intimate relationship, it’s like ‘Why would you write about something that intimate about somebody else’s father and mother?’

DG: I don’t know. The ‘I’ in a song is always open to suggestion. That’s a whole other conversation about the autobiographical element in song, but to me it’s completely irrelevant, it doesn’t really matter.

Or even the lyrics alone, it’s the whole package not just the words, but what’s going on with the music as well.

HTC: It’s the difference between autobiographical and literal. Every song comes up through the songwriter’s experiences somehow, but it doesn’t mean it’s all accurate and true. The song ‘Obituaries’ is kind of interesting from that perspective…

DG: How do you take it?

HTC: Well, I used to love reading obituaries because it was like a whole life story in a couple of paragraphs, and they were usually really interesting because to have an obituary written you’d think the person would have to have had something interesting about them otherwise why bother. It was that idea of capturing a story in this tiny space, a bit like a song….

DG: That’s my answer!

HTC: …but it’s obviously an important song for you. Not only are there two versions of it on the album but you named the album Obituaries.

DG: I already regret that – I’m worried that people will think it too miserable – but everything you’ve just said is relevant, I like the idea of songs as obituaries. I mean everything is contained in them, but nothing is contained in them. You can tell a story but you condense a lot into it.

HTC: I used to introduce my own song Richard and Liz sometimes as having ‘the whole of life in it’ which it kind of does, as it references love and death and gangsters and movie stars, but it’s that idea of having all of life in that little contained space. But why two versions and then name the album after that song?

DG: I don’t know. I guess I like the idea of the live version and the recorded version, it seemed like one of those songs it was interesting to rework. We’d done it before to other songs but then not always recorded the alternate version, and the original idea was to begin and end with it but that didn’t really feel like it was working and also once we’d recorded the slow verison it didn’t really fit anywhere on the album so we thought either we cut it, or we stick it on at the beginning, and then I thought that would be quite nice as it gives you a sort of dark brooding introduction that draws you in, and then boom – hit single – track two! (laughs)

I guess with all of these decisions there’s never really a master plan, it’s just a case of trying to put all the pieces together in a shape that makes sense and that makes a sort of narrative out of different songs that are in reality about different things. There’s a thread I suppose, I mean a lot of the songs are about death and a lot of them about sex and it’s about trying to reconcile the two, so yeah…  (laughs again)

HTC: Have you read Georges Bataille?

DG: No. Sex and death? It’s the oldest trick in the book isn’t it?

HTC: We should talk more about the album. It seemed quite a long time in gestation because i remember you talking about it being ready a while ago.

DG: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve been doing this for five or six years now, from start to finish, and I guess the more I do it the more I can see that being a musician is a very seasonal thing, like there’s a time for writing and recording, and there’s a time for going out and playing gigs and the season for touring is February to May-ish, festivals in the summer, September to November for another bit of touring and then anytime inbetween is kind of dead time where its either too cold or too sunny and so you have to work around those constraints. And then there’s always going to be distractions, there’s always going to be life that gets in the way but the music’s always ticking over, I’m always thinking about the next thing.

I’m already thinking about the next album although we haven’t started recording it yet, I haven’t really decided which songs although there’s lots of new songs kicking around. It just takes a bit of time and I have to do it in whatever time becomes available and then it kind of happens and you just know when it’s ready. It takes as long as it takes. It wasn’t like there was something that delayed us, it just took as long as it takes.

I’m always amazed by bands that can knock out an album a year, or even more. You think ‘well done, great’ but it takes me about two years to do an album. And because it feels like we’re more of a band now, rather than the Daniel Green show, we spend more time on the arrangements and then everyone else’s time becomes important too, and they might be off doing other things, like Emma’s playing with the Mariners and Martha’s in Berlin so it’s tricky. After this interview, I’m going down to the studio to meet Dan and we’ll work on some new stuff, just me and Dan, guitar and drums. Normally there’s all of us, but when there’s only the two of us I’d rather get together and play than sit around at home.

You think you take two years to do an album but how much time is there really available?  One session a week when you’re working? How much can you do in that? You might rehearse one song, but then you won’t nail it in one go, so one song can take three months before you’re even ready to record it. It’s a lot of work.

HTC: The new album’s a lot richer sonically compared to the first one. The recording’s a lot richer. The first album sounded more folky whereas the new one sounds more produced. How did that come about?

DG: The found sounds were always something I liked to do when I was recording, you know if I had a bit of space in a song I’d stick a microphone out of the window and see what happens. Get some sounds of some birds or some rustling paper or whatever. There is still that on the first album but it was still me coming to grips with how to record stuff, where I was learning but not fast enough. With this one I knew a lot more but the difference in sound is a lot to do with Mike Steer who mixed it. He really knows his stuff and he really spent a lot of time on it.

Basically, the album was recorded at home but then handed over to Mike to make it sound good. As I was recording it I was mixing it but as I was mixing it I realised how incapable I am at mixing because, well… you go – the guitar sounds good, to my ears, the drum sounds good, to my ears, and the violin sounds good and everything sounds good but then I’d put it all together and it sounded like shit and I don’t understand why.

Luckily I met Mike at a gig where he was doing the sound and he said if I ever needed anything doing… and so I said ‘Yes, I need an album mixing right NOW. Will you do it?’

So I gave him a track and he mixed it and I sent it back because I absolutely hated what he’d done with it and I was going to ditch him when something in me said that even though I hated it I could tell that what he’d done showed he really knew what he was doing, he just hadn’t done it in a way that I liked. It was a taster but I didn’t really like the direction he went in, but when I got him on the right track then he was away. It meant it came out more pop than it would have done because I’m just not capable of that. Not that poppy I suppose, just a bit more accessible.

HTC: The first track I heard that made me aware of that difference was the Obituaries single released last year because it sounded so different. Partly that was the new band I suppose, but also the arrangement, the way the song was constructed, different…

DG: I do think that song is a bit of an anomaly for us though, I don’t really think there are many other songs that sort of sit with that song. It’s a bit of an oddball in a way.

HTC: It felt to me more like a statement of intent. That Laish weren’t going to be in that old folksy mould anymore.

DG: I just wanted to make some noise. Like when the drums kick in, what you hear is white noise and that’s what I wanted to be there. I didn’t want it to be like a folk band playing a bit louder.

HTC: Are you going further in that direction with the new stuff? Is there going to be more change?

DG: There’s definitely going to be more change. The constant pull between writing delicate folk songs and pop music. I’m not quite sure where we’re going but everything’s changing and I’m not yet sure what direction I want to take it in. The only thing I’m certain about is that I want to make music that’s suitable for a bigger stage.

I think it’s clear Daniel Green and Laish are set to play on bigger stages.

Daniel Green (Laish, UK)

The new album ‘Obituaries’ is available on March 25th. It can be ordered via their bandcamp site and should be available in all good music stores.

There will be plenty of opportunities to see Laish in the Brighton area before they head out on their next national tour. First of all Danny is playing a solo set at the next Source New Music Night at the Dome studio theatre on 28th March. There’s a small in-store to accompany the album release at Union Music Store in Lewes on April 13th (3pm), and solo support slots for Danny and Emma at the Six Toes gig at the Prince Albert in Brighton on April 14th.

You can catch the full 5-piece band at their headlining show at the Prince Albert on Friday April 19th which kicks off their tour.

They also play Meadowlands Festival on 26th May and the End of the Road festival at the end of August.

More details about their forthcoming UK tour and other stuff are on laishmusic.com or via their Facebook page.

So go forth. Enjoy the Laish. 

 

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.