When I spoke to him Eric Mendelsohn had only just woken up. It had been a busy time for the TV/TV guitarist. Currently one of the acts on the world famous Warped Tour, Mendelsohn and his band mates are on the brink of the big-time, having become mainstay soundtrack artists for MTV shows including “The Real World” and “The Hills”. TV/TV formed all of three years ago in a small apartment in Manhattan’s East Village. Good mates Josh Ocean (vocals/guitar) and Matt Walczak (bass) used to jam together and eventually decided to get together with some other friends to form the band. They named themselves in tribute to the Berkeley Film group who saw art as a medium to rebel and worked with producers Zach Odom and Kenneth Mount on their 2007 debut EP Something To Get Excited About. The EP set tongues wagging, but Ocean and Walczak felt that the line-up wasn’t working, so they rounded up their mate Camillie Oliver (drums) who knew Mendelsohn from the New Jersey music scene. Since the new line-up came around they have worked with pop producer Bleu McAuley (Boys Like Girls, Jonas Brothers) on the more mature follow-up Not Enough Red.
“I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do musically and I eventually learned that teachers are just the same as me, just older.” Attending the prestigious New York music college Juilliard was an eye opening experience for the extremely talented musician Christina Courtin. “They’re not exactly any more ‘right’ about anything musically than myself.” Her teachers saw her potential, but did not necessarily know how to nurture her talent. Having sung and played violin from a young age, Courtin was torn as to what she really wanted. “I did go to college for violin, but I was still singing in my dorm room at night.” Though she loved playing the violin, singing provided a magical feeling that she was hooked on. “It’s true that I did quit singing upon entering Juilliard, but I soon found myself totally depressed and distant because of it. Once I started singing in public again, things immediately became so much clearer and better for me. I guess I realised that without singing and/or making creative music, my life isn’t really worth diddly-squat.” Thankfully for us and for herself, Courtin did land on her feet after nearly tumbling at an unsettling situation.
Alexa Woodward had only just started to make headway in her law career when she decided that maybe there was something else she wanted to do. Having always loved the banjo, something inside her was saying to follow the dream. This summer sees the release of the 27 year olds’ album Speck, which is already drawing comparisons with Joanna Newsome and Jean Ritchie. The daughter of a documentary maker has already won over critics, most notably as a semi-finalist in New York’s largest songwriting competition — Jezebel Music’s Williamsburg Live Songwriter Competition. zap! bang! jumped at the chance of asking Woodward all about the importance of following your dreams.
Jay Clarke, better known as alter ego Jodie Harsh has been the talk of the UK club scene for the last few years. The St. Martin’s College graduate is taking her club night Circus to the world famous o2 for a one night Pride special on 4th July 2009. Pride, the annual gay and lesbian festival was made truly possible by the drag queens of Stonewall, so it seems only right that 2009’s biggest Pride party is organized by Britain’s biggest drag queen. The night features sets from Siouxsie, man of the moment and current Kylie collaborator Frankmusik and The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie all topped off by a legendary set by Harsh herself. Given Harsh’s flair for fashion and statements, the night promises to be full of colour so we took a moment to have a word with the lady herself to find out a little bit more.
“Dogmatic dotty double doolally doppelganger!” is definitely one of the quirkiest album descriptions I have ever heard, but upon listening to The Do’s A Mouthful it all makes sense. The French-Finnish duo formed of singer Olivia Merilahti and musician Dan Levy has to be one of the most exciting musical propositions of 2009. They don’t fit into the trend of female solo singers, nor do they base themselves around an acoustic guitar. The Do are an exhilarating of free form jazz and melodic vocals.
“I don’t know what you’ve been told, but I don’t get out much these days” informs Dan Mangan on “Robots”, but that is all about to change. This summer sees the release of the Canadian’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice a follow up to his EP Roboteering. Though he promises that the next album won’t be so long in production, it has already been nearly three and a half years since his debut Postcards and Daydreaming hit record shops and became one of those records that you told all your friends about.
“I’m a bit of a mutt” declares Guy Fantastico, a statement which may be true of his origins but not of his music. “I was born in Florida. Spanish was my first language… both of my parents grew up speaking Spanish. My mother was born in Cuba and my father was born in what I believe is now the Ukraine, but he fled as a child with his family and hopped around Latin America. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the past few years, but lately I’m finding myself in New York more often” he explains.
Richard Walters, who has already been noted by The Guardian as the ‘new band of the day’ is about to bring balladeering back into fashion.
“My mother was a trumpet player and my dad a multi-instrumentalist both have a lot to do with why I make music. However, I was raised by my grandmother who was a classical concert pianist who really made me want to pursue music as more than just a hobby. She told me once I got out of high school, ‘You have two options: either make babies or make music.’ She had chosen to have nine kids and that doesn’t seem like fun… so I chose the latter.” Just by looking at her background it is easy to see why Elizabeth Wright of Love Grenades is now making waves on the LA music scene.
It has to be said, 2009 appears to be the year of the British female vocalist. Amy Winehouse kicked off the trend a couple of years back, swiftly followed by the equally noteworthy Adele. However, 2009 has seen the dawn of Little Boots, Florence and the Machine and Polly Scattergood (to name but a few). Now it is most definitely time to add another name to your lists, Alessi’s Ark.
The Frontier Brothers have landed. Nobody can deny this fact, but from where it is exactly they originate is still a mystery. Their debut album Space Punk Starlet is proof that there is far more to them than any other American Indie Rock band out there at the moment. In fact, upon hearing the 14 gems on what is an album with no fillers, it is hard to confine them to the indie box. Could this trio really be from a different planet? I spoke to Marshall Galactic to find out a little bit more about what we can expect from this latest space invasion.
Let me introduce you to the splendiferous Sparrow and The Workshop. The Scottish/Welsh/American trio (currently based in Glasgow) fuse together alt folk with country rock. The line-up consists of Jill O’Sullivan (guitar/vocals), Gregor Donaldson (drums/vocals) and Nick Acker (bass). “Devil Song” is a haunting blend of Jill and Gregor’s vocals, backed initially by a simple guitar strum. As the song brews, the darker elements grow and climax. An interesting blend of male/female vocals defines their sound and “Devil Song” shows a story telling form.
Dan Smith is set be a talent to watch in 2009 as the 22-year-old releases his debut double A-side single in February with an album to follow later in the year. Armed with a loop pedal with which to layer a backing of hand claps, percussion and piano to a pop voice which sways into an operatic powerhouse, I caught up with Dan to find out more about his arrival on the music scene.
From University band to global stars, the Canadian trio that is Bedouin Soundclash has been lucky enough to see their brand of rock-tinged reggae filter out to fans worldwide. Mike Barnard caught up with lead singer Jay, drummer Pat and bassist Eon just before their appearance at Brixton Academy to talk touring, Myspace and the late, great Desmond Dekker.
To cut a long story short, a pre-historic sloth is frozen in the ice age, and later dug up by an ancient tribe. They idolise the sloth, and build it the best suit of armour in the world, in the hope it will one day day wake up. It does; cue the death of large numbers of villagers.
On a Siberian evening, when Russia was blowing her cold, post-communist freeze onto the Deutsch in Berlin, I got the chance to have some discourse with Julian of The Liars. Sipping on a beer in the American owned, aptly named ‘White Trash’ bar in Prenzlauberg, we managed to reveal alot of the intricacies within the new record: Drum and Mt. Heart Attack.
Neurot’s Enablers purvey a sonic relationship between alternatingly melodic/abrasive instrumental moodscapes and poetic verbal noticings and emotions, which has offered a couple of gorgeous and moving albums thus far, including Output Negative Space from earlier this year. With news of the group returning to the UK within a couple of months, Zap! BANG! recalled our conversations with the band just after they had returned to the US after the tour supporting said record. The band are not just awesome songsmiths but real nice people. And good conversationists. Check:
Winchester duo JayetAl have been driving dance fans on the South Coast of England into a frenzy with their searing melodies combined with ferocious percussion. Drummer James and guitarist Al, equiped with a computer with which to create their unique soundscapes, also make the use of keyboard and drum machines to powerful effect. Currently putting the finishing touches to their debut album, it could be the spark to ignite big prospects for the pair. Zap! BANG!’s Mike Barnard found out more.
Through his work solo work, collaborations with artists like KK Null as well as playing his part in such groups as OLD, Khanate and Phantomsmasher, James Plotkin has carved out an awesome career in the murkiest and most intense of musical corners. After being consistently blown away by his various sonic children I, Zap! BANG!’s Philip Hoile, thought it very necessary to find out more about the man and how these different projects come together.
The Fucking Champs fit beautifully into an analogy involving some sort of ore or something — some natural, primitive mixture of rock and metal, and theirs is an awesome and relentlessly classic style. Back in December they came to England and played All Tomorrow’s Parties, and so there I made it my business to meet the band, who kindly agreed to answer some questions for me sometime. So a couple of months later I got hold of them and they did. And here’s what they said.
Birdpen are a rocktronica act who have recently expanded to a full band to give their live shows a bigger and fatter sound. Birdpen combine melancholic singing with spine-tingling acoustic guitar ambience, electronic orchestration and kicking percussive rapture to nourish and comfort the heart. With two eps under their belt, they have been receiving a lot of praise from critics, with many comparing them to The Beta Band. They have six dates in the south east of England coming up over the next few months so I caught up with Dave Pen to discover more.
Brighton’s metal beast Johnny Truant have been extensively touring ever since delivering their powerful second album In The Library of Horrific Events. Back at the end of last year they played Southmapton Joiners and whilst singer Olly entertained the hordes of adoring female fans upstairs in the venue, the rest of the band joined me for a chat and introduced me to their horny new guitarist.
After releasing their debut album Words Of Betrayal on Ad Altiora, York’s finest melodic metal band Beyond All Reason headed off around the UK with Johnny Truant and Blood Roses. When the tour hit Southampton’s Joiners, we rounded up Venno [vocals, guitars], Russ [guitars, vocals] and Nick [bass, vocals] into one of the dingiest corners of the dirty backstage basement to have a few words. And now after rumours of conversation about such taboos as emo, Def Leppard and the York folk scene, and with the cassette tape of the interview having been found after being lost and presumed dead, we can finally find out what was said…
Battles are an organic-sounding instrumental band featuring Don Caballero and Storm and Stress guitarist Ian Williams, electronic experimentalist Tyondai Braxton, Lynx guitarist Dave Konopka and Helmet and Tomohawk drummer John Stainer. After having signed to Warp Records, the band furthered their UK infiltration by making their way to Camber Sands upon the invitation of The Mars Volta for ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in December.
This year saw the doom world reaching new lows with the almighty incantations of a strenghthened ASVA, originally formed in the droning wake of Burning Witch by B.R.A.D. and G. Stuart Dahlquist and now with the pair having forged allegiance with Jessika Kenney, Troy Swanson, John Schuller and Trey Spruance.