Being a successful music photographer: Sarah Louise Bennett’s journey

Interviews

Her work has been published in major independent music magazines such as Upset, DIY and Dork. She manages to juggle a jam-packed workload as house photographer for O2 Brixton and a part-time job at a pharmacy two days a week. She is Sarah Louise Bennett – a music photographer best known for capturing live shows, festivals and editorial portraits.

I caught up with her to talk all things photography in Workshop Coffee, a favourite spot of her’s just off Regent Street.

Bennett’s love for the art blossomed young, after taking her camera to her first gig when she was 15. “I didn’t really clock it was a thing until I saw a photographer,” she remembers. This was the moment that set her off on a career path that followed her passion. She went on to take a photography A-Level at the Piggott School Sixth Form – her year was the first cohort to study photography at the institute. The college failed on promises to provide certain necessary equipment, however, this encouraged her to pursue photography to degree-level at Nottingham Trent University.

Her university choice was influenced by her upbringing. Bennett grew up in Reading, a stone’s throw away from London. “I knew I wanted to go to a city – that was non-negotiable for me. I needed somewhere where there was music going on,” she explains. Despite being so close to London she was drawn to Nottingham by the vibe of the university and the various different music venues the city has. From the independents like Rock City, The Rescue Rooms and Bodega to the Motorpoint Arena and the Theatre Royal for bigger shows, Bennett knew Nottingham had a diverse and vibrant music scene that would offer a lot of interesting subject matter to photograph.

After graduating, she felt it was necessary to return to London to further her career. “To be honest if you do photography you’ve got to be close to London. There’s a certain amount you can do a bit further out but you’re going to be travelling down a lot,” she says. Bennett moved back to her hometown and started photographing for The O2 Academy Oxford. This, plus shooting various shows in London and portraits for different magazines, was the start of her career in music photography.

“I wouldn’t have thought ten years ago I’d be where I am now,” she admits. Bennett has come a long way from being a frustrated photography graduate trying to get photo passes for shows to now being lucky enough to be picky about what she shoots. Her advice for any aspiring music photographers: “Be patient!”

She also recommends using initiative and being prepared to start small. “Go shoot local shows, message bands on Twitter and Facebook. Start with smaller bands, get a portfolio together and then start contacting publicists, smaller websites and management. “Get shooting and talk to people. It’s terrifying, but talk to people,” she adds.

She may be photographing big bands at major venues these days, but Bennett still gets anxious before a shoot sometimes. She remembers one particularly harrowing experience taking portraits backstage at Wembley Arena for Fall Out Boy (one of her favourite bands).

“I grew up watching their videos and listening to them, I love that band. I borrowed some lights for it and found everything out, and then I missed my train, so I was running late.” Despite this she still arrived at the venue on time but missing the train had set her on edge. “I get panic attacks, I was like ‘stay calm’, I managed to hold it together and get through it,” she says.

While Bennett was setting up the lights Patrick Stump, the lead singer of Fall Out Boy, was being interviewed for a feature. He happened to be talking about getting stage fright before a show and how he was a reluctant front man. “This guy that I’m terrified to meet has the same worries that I do,” Bennett says. Hearing that helped her appreciate that “everyone is just a human being at the end of the day, we all do the same stuff”.

After this experience Bennett’s nerves started to fade a little every shoot. Although she doesn’t get as nervous now, she still feels like she needs to psyche herself up before a portrait shoot. “It’s a lot of extra energy; you have to run a room full of people and hold their attention and keep on the ball. I just pop some tunes on the train and get my head in the zone,” she reveals.

‘The zone’ is somewhere Bennett needs to be pretty often as she’s a self-confessed workaholic; constantly filling her schedule with live shows, portraits, editing and her pharmacy work. Although quite a departure from her photography work, by having a part-time job providing regular income she can pick the work that she chooses to do. “I get enough stuff but it’s not always stuff that makes your heart sing. I didn’t want to kill the love of it [photography, by accepting lots of jobs she dislikes],” she explains.

As well as battling her anxiety, Bennett has also come up against gender equality issues. This is a big thing within the music industry right now as well as wider society. “I feel like it’s very rare that you come across a photo pit full of women,” she points out. Bennett also highlights the (currently) very male-orientated nature of the pop punk scene. “I feel like it is improving but again if you look at the bylines in magazines it does tend to be mostly men at the higher level.”

She went on to explain about a Twitter account, which tweets every week about the percentage of women with major bylines for each publication globally. “It’s really interesting to see what publications are balanced. None are completely but there are some that are getting there. It’s not something you think about otherwise,” she says.

It’s clear that Bennett is passionate about setting a great example for future female photographers. “I think with photography there’s the mentality that young women are going to be fan girls. But there’s nothing wrong with being excited about a band’s music.”

Catch Bennett’s work here in the latest issue of Upset magazine.

Words by Natalie Lloyd-Shaw.

AFI RELEASE NEW SONG ‘TRASH BAT’

News

Band AFI released new single “Trash Bat” yesterday ahead of their EP The Missing Man (Ex Noctern Nacimer) which will be released next Friday (7th December).

“This was the ideal song to kick off the EP” guitarist Jade Puget (also producer and mixer of the EP) said. “It’s just a quick burst of frenetic energy.

“I brought the song in and was playing it for Davey and he threw out the line, “my Trash Bat” and I thought, how can you lose with a title like that? What is a Trash Bat anyway? Who cares!”

The track followed a surprise-release of “Get Dark”, which Brooklyn Vegan described as being “the kind of catchy, driving punk that will bring you right back to [AFI’s 2003 album] Sing The Sorrow.

Both “Get Dark” and “Trash Bat” are available as instant downloads and The Missing Man is available to pre-order.

The Missing Man follows last year’s AFI (The Blood Album), which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative and Hard Rock Albums Charts. It was also the band’s second consecutive Top 10 Billboard debut. AV Club said it sounded like the band are “as fired up now as they were 25 years ago,”

Since the release of 1995’s debut album Answer That and Stay Fashionable, the group has written and recorded five top ten hit singles.

Words: Megan Duce

Low – ‘Double Negative’

Music Reviews

Most people know ‘Low’ as the American indie rock group that formed Minnesota in 1993, who were famously known for their slow tempo’s and minimalist arrangements. Early descriptions of their work was often categorized as a sub-genre of rock called ‘slow-core’, which the band did not take to kindly to at the time. Now, Low have returned into 2018 evolving their sound and releasing new debut album ‘Double Negative’.

Parker and Sparhawk’s striking vocal harmonies represent perhaps the group’s most distinctive element; the bitter-sweet sound of impending doom. The combining force of these two vocalists creates the feeling that one can only describe as being trapped in the darkest place of a lonely mind. This by no shadow of a doubt has been maintained in new album ‘Double Negative’, the eeriness that haunts their tracks and looks deep down into your soul is still there, staring at you in the face. But this time, their sound has evolved into something a little more modern – taking away from their earlier use of string instruments and subtle drum beats, technology has taken the wheel.

The album begins with a song called ‘Quorum’, admittedly upon first hearing this blast through my speakers; I thought they were busted. As the song begins with an unsettling low-pitched sound of broken distorted noise, the sort of sound you hear when you drunkenly turn up your speaker far louder than it can comprehend and then blows. After quickly clicking on another song in the album to make sure the sound I was hearing was correct, I was amused to find that this bundle of painful noise was the beginning to the rest of the album. It will certainly catch your attention, which as uncomfortable as it is to listen to – it leaves you wanting to find out more.

Continuing with ‘Dancing and Blood’ we’re again embraced by the shuddering booms of static noise, this time two voices enter – the husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker harmonise over the symphonic sound of what sounds like Oxford Circus on a dull, wet, Saturday night. Sirens, rain, thumping. 6 and a half minutes in and the mesmerising atmosphere of this track leaves you feeling as if you’re stuck in a dark episode of ‘Black Mirrors’ – where all hope is lost, yet the sounds are helping you make sense of everything.

The album seems to touch on the never-ending War and pain that our world faces daily, which never seems to have an end in sight. It focuses on aspects of wide-spread depression and mental illness, a medical condition that is recognised in modern-day society and is offered copious amounts of coping mechanisms and/or treatments – yet is somehow plaguing our population regardless of being brought to light and continues to grow throughout our communities.

‘Double Negative’ is not to be messed with or overlooked, the hard-hitting subwoofer that pounds through your veins combined with the harmonious sounds of female vocals pair up to be a tranquil yet disturbed masterpiece that you didn’t know you needed to hear until it’s already flowing through your blood and body. ‘They can fake derision / If we’re one and whole / Always in the dark’, lyrics extracted from ‘Rome (Always in the Dark)’ once again highlight the unsettling fear that we will never know the full truth of what goes on behind closed doors in our society, government and hierarchies. Leaving us with questions, a feeling of inconsolability and dread. But, despite ‘Double Negative’ leaving its unforgivable mark on our souls – it leaves us thankful and wanting to know more, wondering why we hadn’t questioned and delved deeper into what is going on in the world. And that, is what music was made for. Expression, emotion, wonder.

Words: Julia Hope

The 1975 – “Sincerity Is Scary”

Music Reviews

I was not ready for this at all, ‘Sincerity is Scary’ was just another taster from the long-awaited album ‘A Brief Enquiry into Online Relationships’. This powerful, sultry ballad is unlike anything the band has ever produced before and it shows off the extreme versatility of being able to play with different genres, popular artists’ big in the game, take note.

The 1975 have graced our ears with pop/indie magical sounds since forming in the early 00’s and since then, most of their music has hit the charts – and for good reason. Regardless of their successful history, the band continues to evolve and surprise us with music that quite frankly, makes you want to dance your fucking ass off, whilst also contemplating the devastation of worldly issues (conflicting emotions, I know).

‘Sincerity is Scary’ covers topics that surround our current online-obsessed society. Posting photo’s on Instagram of yourself having a great time at a club – and then, desperately waiting for the recognition of your 1,000 followers to double tap that picture. We’re like alcoholics chasing that next hit of hard liquor, or the less dramatic and painfully modern… Endorphin rush our brain creates when we see our notification bar popping off. Matt Healy talks about the fear of honesty, candidness and sincerity – traits that our fellow humans are lacking in, because of the inability to express our feelings. It has you thinking of all the times you could have just been honest, instead of awkwardly laughing off uncomfortable situations. Why didn’t I just tell that guy that I’m not attracted to him rather than saying ‘I’m not ready for a relationship’? – the 1975 are trying to figure it out or, just make light of it. Telling us that it’s okay to be honest, even if it’s painful and awkward.

Stepping away from the obvious genius of the lyrics, the actual sound of the song is pure, raw, emotional bliss. Matt Healy’s voice caresses the sound of soft trumpets, saxophones and a simple piano melody with a slow drum snaring in the background. It is so refreshing to hear the influence of a genre that paved the way for so many other genre’s, Jazz. The fact that they have gone back to the early roots of when music was debatably, at its most emotional and vulnerable – shows their knowledge of musical history and their inevitable talent.

All in all, the 1975 have outdone themselves – this is a masterpiece created with love, raw emotion and unforgiving talent. This was one of the few songs that have had an early release, away from the actual album release – and oh boy, am I excited to see what follows.

Words: Julia Hope

Ice Nine Kills – ‘The Silver Scream’

Music Reviews

I love it when a band is insanely clever. And when I say insanely clever I mean it. Ice Nine Kills have proved in the past that they can take a medium and remake it into something else. Like in the 2015 literature themed album Every Trick In The Book which is a bloody witty name just like the new album. The Silver Scream is wickedly smart, taking iconic horror films from 1974-2005 and turning them into songs of equal horror. One could argue that these are the bands favourite horror themed songs from their early youth.

Each one a new lyrical genius from the last, it retells the stories from a new point of view. Be it the one we see in the films, an outside perspective or even the killer itself. Some of the songs have been accompanied by a music video as a part of a mini film about singer Spencer Charnas exploring his nightmares with a therapist. I won’t give any more away than that because you need to watch it for yourselves.

With varying forms of brutality, this album is nothing if not diverse and playing to the bands own talents. With truly guttural vocals and brutal breakdowns in songs such as Merry Axe-Mas, IT Is The End and Enjoy Your Slay (based on ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’, ‘IT’ and ‘The Shining’ respectively) it is easy to see why the metalcore scene have always held INK in high regard.

Alternatively to the heavy tracks on the album you’ll find songs like Love Bites and A Grave Mistake (‘American Werewolf In London’ and ‘The Crow’), which take on the softer tracks on the album which could be argued as these films aren’t horrors that are as scary as the others – in my opinion at least – because they both take on the theme of love in the background.

Truthfully, I cannot sell this album enough. It is not often you come across a gem amongst all of the music being released today. That is not to say the rest is bad, but a gem – a real fucking gem – is hard to come by. When musically it’s brilliant with not just the metalcore but a nod to their pop punk days, and lyrically it’s pure genius with its tongue in cheek puns it really should be screamed from the rooftops until everyone hears it.

Words: Courtney Solloway

ANNISOKAY – ‘Arms’

Music Reviews

Hailing from Germany ANNISOKAY is a five-piece band founded in 2007 by members Christoph and Norbert. The name coming from Michael Jackson’s hit Smooth Criminal to confirm the fact that Ann is indeed okay. A comic name indeed for a metalcore band. Having already released three full-length albums and a 4-track cover of Michael Jackson classics ANNISOKAY have now gone on to release a whirlwind of an album that metalcore scene has been missing.

Like a sudden goddamn punch to the face the immediacy of which this album starts floors you as it grips you and pins you there. The first track Coma Blue may well even be my favourite track on this album. It’s heavy with a brutal breakdown, haunting harmonies and clean vocals with alternating screams. I’m not usually a fan of electronic synths being used to often in metal as it can often at times overpower the sound of the instruments being played, however, ANNISOKAY have just enough that it adds something a little more without taking away from the rest.

Humanophobia and Fully Automatic follow the same structure as each other. A quiet start – though one is synth based and the other riff – before it begins to pound into the song. Humanophobia is most definitely the heaviest track and the screaming is more present than the clean vocals when more typically on the album it’s evenly split, this break the song by any means as the clean vocals provide breaks in the song to stop it from being too overwhelming. On the opposite end of the scale with Fully Automatic, the outro was short and sweet, but the guitar was hauntingly beautiful to match the lyrics of the song.

Breaking from the rest of the albums heavy style, Innocence Was Here starts with beautifully intricate piano and the vocals add to the sadness. This song is different though because it displays pure, raw emotion. I don’t know if this is because the song is more personal or if it the passion they put into it, but it is simply haunting and a stand out track for all the right reasons.

ANNISOKAY put a lot of work into this album and it goes without saying that this album is impeccable. From raw emotion to rap and the heaviest of screamo that metalcore has to offer, there is something for everyone here.

Words: Courtney Solloway

Walkney – ‘Oh No EP’

Music Reviews

Released on the Friday just gone Walkney has released his debut EP Oh No after having appeared on American Idol and landing a spot on NOW 66 with his track Lucia Rose. As well as touring the US and Canada with help from his sponsor Spirit Airlines (Music4Miles) Walkney is ready to release these songs which he calls “Only the tip of the iceberg”.

This EP is a lot of fun from start to finish. Ironically the first track on the EP titled Unhappy actually plays like an incredibly happy dance tune. Starting a little bit slow and jazz like it builds itself up gradually and when it meets its peak its quite an easy and enjoyable listen. So whether you want to dance or just want something happy to listen to this is a good song. The title of the song though Unhappy is because of the lyrical side of the song. It’s clear to me that as he knows himself – he is no stranger to heartbreak.

The guitar in each and every one of his songs has a hint of Spanish and Latin acoustic and quite a lot of rock n roll elements too. He is joyful, soulful and yet bluesy and his voice which is quite clear with a subtle raspiness really compliments this – most noticeably in track 2: Lady. Track 3: Wah has a very early Maroon 5 and Lenny Kravitz like feel to it due to its guitar but it’s not so close that it’s unoriginal and it is quite easily my favourite track on the album. I also loved the clever title of the song as it does indeed use a Wah-Wah pedal in the song.

Track 4: Lucia Rose – which was released prior to the EP is a song that listens like it was written to a lost love. The one that got away. Starting with just a catchy piano and drum beat Walkney’s vocals almost blend into each of the notes as he is incredibly on key. The small breaks between drums and the airiness in his voice magnify this performance before reaching its peak at the bridge.

Track 5: Beast follows closely to song Wah but rather than more rock n roll elements it follows more of the jazz and latin inspiration with pop coming in and out of it quite a bit.

Overall, I feel like this really is just the beginning for this artist and Walkney certainly knows what already works for him and I’m excited to see more coming from him.

Words: Courtney Solloway

The Veer Union – ‘Decade II: Rock & Acoustic’

Music Reviews

I had never heard about this band before having them reach out to me via Twitter asking to hear my opinion on their newest music video Living Not Alive. I’m incredibly happy that they reached out to me because not only did I investigate their music video which was thought provoking lyrically to say the least, but I decided to go on and listen to the album it is from – Decades II: Rock & Acoustic. I have to say that the 18-track album did not disappoint. Whilst listening to them I decided to do a little research on this band that seemed to already have an established sound.

Well as it turns out the band have been around longer than I had expected and have had their fair share of trials and tribulations over the years. They released their first debut album under the name Veer in 2006. This same album was then re-released later under their current name. In 2011 the band were dropped for their record label and crowd funded an EP in 2013. I’ve watched bands come and go over the years, some of which friends and even family have been in and in most circumstances, this is enough to cause a band to call it quits but this quartet are stubborn and will not go down without a fight. And in this album, they demonstrate that they obviously still have way more to give.

I admire this band greatly for wanting to continue doing what they love. And it would appear that it is paying off as they have just finished their own headlining tour as well as having toured with Puddle Of Mudd, Saliva, Tantric and Shallowside.

The song that started this entire journey in the first place Living Not Alive caught my attention because of the lyrics – as stated previously. And whilst it translates really well in its original form it’s the acoustic version of the song that I feel really hammers the point home. Taken from an interview with Kerrang! singer Crispin Earl said “What inspired me to write the song was the connection between the over-use of social media and clinical depression. We used to live in a time where people really lived in the moment — now it seems more important to capture that moment for a post to get likes and shares, in exchange for a dose of dopamine. We are all guilty of this, myself included. Some people deal with this better than others, but the message in Living Not Alive is simple: We shouldn’t forget to take time to really live in the moment, before we become lost in a world where we are living, but not alive.” I feel as though this may actually hit home for a lot of people and it’s proof of some truly deep thinking on behalf of the band and this is a theme running throughout the album. It’s not the typical sex, drugs and rock n roll type of rock. This album is driven by pure emotion and that is something I can definitely get behind.

Decades II: Rock & Acoustic is a brilliantly done album. With not only their own songs on the album in both their style of rock and acoustic (which is an applaudable amount of work) they include covers from the likes of Linkin Park and Faith No More. The songs in Question Numb and Epic. The quartets cover of Numb is hauntingly beautiful and a tribute full of emotion to the band. Epic is full of all the fun of the original but more suited to TVU’s style.

To sum this album I would say that it is: hauntingly beautiful, thought provoking, new and refreshing. I can definitely see myself listening to this band a lot more in the future.

Words: Courtney Solloway