The sun is shining gloriously, perhaps summer has finally arrived. It’s making me smile as I make the call to the “Queen of Do-it-yourself” Imogen Heap. First attempt, the line is busy, so I try again. Thankfully this time I get through. She is bright and friendly, much lovelier than I had expected. After no messing around, we do only have 20 minutes to conduct the whole interview; we shimmy past the formalities and strike up a conversation about life, success and dreams. “I think the secret is that it attracts people who want to do music for a living. I don’t think there was anywhere else in England at the time that did that sort of thing. I went in it’s second year and it was still very much trying to find its feet. Its partly funded by the music industry, the BMI and so there is this sort of knowledge that it is where people go if they want to do well. They are well connected.” Heap is one of the Brit School’s earlier success stories. Having gone at a time when there were few alternatives, she thrived on being able to live out her musical ambitions. It doesn’t take much thinking time before she reveals a liking for “Amy Winehouse. She really feels the music. I hope God willing she will be able to keep going for a long time. The Brit school gets its fair share of celebrity wannabes, but you can tell that she really feels the music.”
26 year old South London rapper Speech Debelle may not have had the easiest of upbringings, but she has not let that hold her back. Instead of bottling up her issues, Speech decided instead to hook up with some musicians and write some frankly honest tunes. Debut album Speech Therapy may be one of the surprise nominations at this year’s Mercurys but upon listening to the softly spoken heartfelt revelations, it is immediately evident how she warranted selection. Speech may not be a name everyone knows at the moment, but current evidence suggests she deserves to be. zap! bang! decided to take a few minutes to find out more about the girl whose name everyone will soon be dropping.
Cross-breeding is fairly common place at the start of a bands life. Therefore it is not a surprise then to hear that the latest Glaswegian indie kids Twin Atlantic have all been heard in different bands before. Formed in 2007, lead vocalist/guitarist Sam McTrusty (Arca Felix), bassist/pianist Ross McNae (LongStoryShort), guitarist/cellist Barry McKenna (Think:Fire) and drummer Craig Kneale (In Ernest), the foursome appear to have made a wise decision in ditching their formative bands. Twin Atlantic appear all set to follow in fellow Glaswegian rockers footsteps by hitting the bigtime. Having already supported the likes of The Subways, Biffy Clyro, You Me At Six, Funeral for a Friend and Lostprophets it seems that 2009 will see them finally having their moment in the spotlight. John Travis (Sugar Ray, Kid Rosck, Static X) produced debut mini-album Vivarium is all set for a September release, with the eye-wellingly beautiful “Lightspeed” and stomping lead single “You’re Turning Into John Wayne” already winning over many a heart. zap! bang! took a moment to find out more from Ross McNae.
“I’m a big big girl, in a big big world”, those were the lyrics to Emilia’s lullaby that took the world by storm a decade ago. Now, a young Israeli girl named Yarden hopes to do the same. Her songs however carry a message; it is not that she believes her songs alone will change the world, but maybe they will do a little to help.
Having only formed in 2007, Ivyrise have already garnered plenty of attention for their breed of stadium pop/rock. 2008 was by anyones standards a phenomenal success. Not only did debut single “Tips” launch them into the public sphere, it also sparked interest from the “white boy with a feather in his hair” and former Run-DMC remixer Jason Nevins. Nevins ended up remixing their second single “Disguise”, helping it reach number two in the independent charts. If praise from the likes of Kevin Spacey was not enough, Ivryrise topped it all off by winning themselves a support slot on the Bon Jovi “Lost Highway” tour. Having entered a competition in the London Paper, they proved to be run away winners. However, post the highs came the lows. Lead singer Ben Falinski kindly took a moment to tell zap! bang! all about what it was that drove him to write about his sense of loss on fortchoming single “1000 Feet”.
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.