Jennifer Left / Diggory single Launch

Last thursday night, The Blind Tiger was the place to be in town as the great and the good of Brighton crowded in for the launch of Jennifer Left’s new single Diggory. Spotted amongst the crowd were other local artists, producers, record label bosses, magazine editors and photographers. Not bad for a chilly November evening.

The May Birds

Support came from The May Birds, one of the latest bands to pass through Tim Bidwell’s Clockwork Owl studio. Despite missing their piano player, a beautiful sound came from the stage – lovely harmonies and lush arrangements. I look forward to hearing their EP once Tim’s finished working his magic. If only the crowd had appreciated them a bit more though – In my opinion, the level of background chat was quite insulting. It might have been people not paying too much attention to the support band, or the acoustics in the Blind Tiger, or the May Birds being quite quiet, but if you’re at a gig have a bit of respect, eh? It’s not just me that thinks it’s bad manners – it was top of the list on the Source’s recent Gig Charter.

Jennifer Left

I mentioned last time I saw Jennifer Left that she’s had a bit of a transformation of late into more of a pop star. It could be the sharp bob haircut she now sports, or the more extravagant stagewear, or just the confidence from having your songs played on the radio, but whatever it is, she continues to get better and better. There’s more communication with the audience, there’s less fiddling between songs, the musicianship seems slicker – again, it’s not just a single thing that you can put your finger on that’s improved. The set opened with their first single Black Dog, and rattled through a whole load of tracks which will end up on the upcoming album Hushabye as well as their gorgeous Bossa Nova version of New Order’s Temptation.  The cover is one of the b-sides to Diggory, which the band closed their set with.

You can buy Diggory over on iTunes or Bandcamp.

Tim Bidwell Interview

One of the phrases we seem to be writing almost as often as “Brighton Music Blog” these days is “produced by Tim Bidwell”. He’s had a great year, working with a lot of our favourite local acts – Jennifer Left, Cate Ferris, House of Hats… We thought it was about time he got a bit more credit, so we popped round for a cuppa a few weeks ago to find out to find out how he got to where he is and the bands that he’s worked with.

Around ten years ago, Tim was half of dance act Hardkandy. They released a few albums to critical acclaim but there was a nagging feeling that some of their fellow Brighton peers – the likes of Will Quantic and Si Bonobo – were getting some of the fame that they deserved. Even when he was making dance music, Tim was into his folk, and in 2006 formed the Folklaw label with Fin Greenall, known to fans of Ninja Tune as Fink, and Elliot Richards. The first album Tim produced for someone else was the The Gin Club by Nikolas Barrell, released by Folklaw in March 2007, and around that time Elliot spotted Kate Walsh playing in a pub in Brighton. The resulting number one album, Tim’s House, ended up being self released rather than coming out on Folklaw but kick started Tim’s career as a producer.

“When I first met Cate Ferris, I was a bit terrified of just how talented she is. With her EP, I produced it, but I didn’t really, it was Cate just playing around in the studio and me giving her the space to play around and just capturing her because she’s so full of energy and musically talented. I’d seen of her is doing stuff with the loop pedal on YouTube, so I got in touch with her and asked if she wanted to talk about working with me.

She’s got an amazing voice and she’s a good songwriter, and she’s doing great things and working with great people. For the EP she wanted to experiment with more different things in the studio and get away from the whole loop pedal thing.

She’s a lot like me, she’s quite a control freak musically. I’m not so much musically, but I am with projects, or giving a sound to something and I like giving a sound and working on the artwork even, for things and stuff like that. I like getting involved, whereas Cate’s a little bit of a genius.

“The Cordelia Gartside EP sounds beautiful. I’m really chuffed with it. Some of the best stuff I’ve done. I got some of the best players I know to play on it. We’ve got John Smith on guitar – he’s one of the best guitarists in the country and he loves Cordelia’s stuff. She’s off to college now, so she’s going to be writing away and hopefully we’ll be doing some more recording at Christmas when she comes back.

I’m really excited about Cordelia, she’s got a lot of potential and she’s a whole package, and she means what she does. She’s not interested in doing pop stuff, she’s really into Bon Iver and Laura Marling and people like that and she wants to be a credible artist. She’s not going to sell her soul to the pop devil, which is really refreshing.

I did the video for Fathoms’s Deep. She was so brave doing the stuff in the water. That STUNK! It was one of those peat lakes, so when she got in it, it just kicked up. I woke up the next morning and I was covered in bites. It was shot near Uckfield, some ancient woodland with a lake in the middle, it was beautiful. We got chavs throwing stones at us while were doing that which was a nightmare, but we got there in the end.

House of Hats are great guys to work with. I’ve just recently finished their EP. which has just been released. That was a real labour of love – that took quite a while. They’re real perfectionists, especially with the vocals. They know what they like as well. I always like someone to take the lead vocal, but they wanted all the vocals at the same level. They all write the material, so it was difficult for me as a producer as well, because sometimes I wanted Al’s vocals to come out more, or Noddy’s vocals, because that’s just my instinct as a producer. That said, Rivers Will Run, the title track of the EP, is very much Al’s track. And Noddy sang on Home is Where the Heart is, and that’s beautiful, so there are a couple of tracks of theirs that have got that prominent vocal.

As well as all of the other production work that Tim’s done this year, his big project has been with Jennifer Left, co-writing and producing her forthcoming album Hushabye. He originally approached her about working on a solo project back in the days when she sung and played bass in Gloria Cycles, and things have finally come to fruition this year.

“Hushabye was all recorded here. I co-wrote it with Jen and a guy called Ewan Wallace. That took over a year to record, just taking our time. It was nice to write again actually. Both of them very talented and it was nice to do that. I’ve been producing for so long you don’t really get to write any more. It was nice to give Jen a sound too. Jen gave us a list of influences and we sort of forged the sound. To be honest the eleven tracks on the album were the first eleven tracks we did. A lot of people you have to write ten tracks to get one good one, but we were just quite pleasantly surprised by how it all came together. Obviously there was a couple of duff ones here and there that we got rid of, but overall we were really chuffed how it all came together. And it was that thing of giving her a sound that was kind of new but then sort of had elements of the Beatles, Django Rheinhardt, swing and jazz elements, but there’s also Grizzly Bear stuff and weird little elements here and there that just make it a little bit different with Jen’s voice. She’s mad as a box of frogs though!

Diggory is released on 5th November, and is backed with a couple of remixes as well as Jennifer’s gorgeous take on New Order’s Temptation:

The launch party is at the Blind Tiger on 8th November, where Jennifer Left is supported by The Maybirds – another band produced by Tim!

Cate Ferris and House of Hats EPs are out now, and Cordelia Gartside’s EP will hopefully be out before the end of the year.

Jennifer Left / Diggory

In case you haven’t seen it, the video for the new Jennifer Left single has landed. Diggory is the second release to come from her forthcoming album Hushabye, which has been produced by Tim Bidwell, and the video has been made by Thom Undrell, who also put together the fantastic video for Black Dog earlier this year. Diggory hits the shelves on 5th November, and Jennifer is having a launch party at the Blind Tiger on the 8th November. See you there!

Cate Ferris / deep breath ready get set GO

Cate Ferris has been a live favourite of ours for a few years before we even started the blog. Over that time she’s developed an impressive one woman set involving a guitar, several keyboards, flute, guiro, drum and a loop pedal.

My fear before hearing the cd was how it would sound. Would the tracks stand up without the performance element to them? Would putting the songs into a studio setting make them lose all their charm?

Thankfully there’s nothing to worry about, mainly because the one constant throughout everything isn’t affected all. Cate’s warm rich voice is what really elevates the live sets, and hasn’t been held back on the recordings either. Under the watchful eye of Tim Bidwell (who’s also produced the likes of Jennifer Left and House of Hats) the vocals are at the fore and a band has been put together to bolster the sound that Cate makes on her own when she plays live.

Leave a Light On is a sad acoustic number with lovely strings. Trapeze is almost circus-like with it’s flute flourishes. Condensation is the track the gives the EP it’s slightly wordy title, and is a more upbeat stomper. If you’re wondering where you might have heard Doll on a Music Box before then, yes, it is from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Cate’s EP is out now and available through Bandcamp


House of Hats at The Brunswick / Cate Ferris at The Neptune

This weekend we went to two gigs which on paper, could have been very similar – Both were in Hove, in pubs, both were folk-based acts, and both featured performers who have recently made recordings with local producer Tim Bidwell. That’s where the similarity ends though.

Saturday night, House of Hats hosted their Harvest Sessions night at the Brunswick. The Harvest Sessions is a monthly affair put on by the band where they invite other people they’ve worked with onto the bill to share them with their audience. This month saw Cordelia Gartside (who’s also recently been produced by Tim Bidwell), Rob Vincent and Conrad Vingoe play with House of Hats.

Cordelia Gartside

I only caught the end of Cordelia’s set, but for someone so young I was impressed at how she held the room enthralled. Sometimes the simplest of setups – just a voice and guitar – can create wonderful things. Next up was Rob Vincent, who was very good, and had a fantastic voice, but isn’t from Brighton, so I’ll move on.

Conrad Vingoe

Conrad Vingoe was next onstage, fresh from playing at the Levellers’ Beautiful Days festival thanks to winning a set through an Acoustic Magazine organised contest. Conrad was playing with a slightly reduced band, since his regular mandolin player was playing with Emily Baker in Shoreham, and was just accompanied by double bass, as well as his own guitar and harmonica playing. It was easy to see that Conrad had the skills to win the set – as well as a quality performance, he was charismatic and friendly between songs too. He’s got an EP out soon, which I’m sure we’ll tell you more about nearer the time.

House of Hats

At the end of the night House of Hats came on, and played a relatively short set for headliners – I guess that’s that’s the price of having four bands on the bill. The band played a number of songs from their debut House of Hats EP, their upcoming Rivers Will Run release and even threw in a Dylan cover. Lead vocals were passed between guitarist Alex and multi-instrumentalist Noddy, and the close harmonies from the whole band sounded very slick indeed. It’s great to see a band who are working so hard and seem to be on track for big things also remembering the people they have worked with along the way.

Cate Ferris

Sunday night we were just around the corner, where Cate Ferris was playing at The Neptune’s regular music night. Cate was last invited to play at the Neptune back in March, and they enjoyed her performance so much that this time they gave her the whole evening to perform in, which she broke up into two forty-five minute sets. Most of this was filled with her newer material which starts off simply but builds up subtly with harmonic vocal loops and sampled drum or keyboard lines complimenting her acoustic guitar. It wasn’t all new tracks though – Cate also dug out old favourites Still Green and Bonnie & Clyde. The gig also marked the first outing of Cate’s new EP – “Deep Breath, Ready, Get Set, Go” is a new four track which isn’t officially out until next Monday, but was available on the night. After a marathon set, the crowd demanded more, so Cate improvised on the spot, building a song just made from harmonies layered over one another and looped – a raw exhilarating end to a fantastic performance.