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.

Young Guns say there “will be another record”

Interviews

Despite being relatively quiet for the past year, alt rockers Young Guns have confirmed they haven’t split up and that new material will be coming out.

Talking exclusively to The Wave, guitarist John Taylor recently to broke that silence confirm the High Wycombe band is still together.

“We haven’t called it a day…for now,” Taylor said. “There’s probably already another whole Young Guns record already written.

“We could do it, but we want there to be a reason,” he added. “I’m pretty confident there will be another Young Guns record if not an EP. We need just time to figure it out personally.”

Young Guns formed in 2008 and released four albums over the next six years, as well as supporting and touring with the likes of Bon Jovi, Bring Me The Horizon and Guns N’Roses. But it’s been a year since Young Guns’ last tour, and both the band and their representatives have been quiet on when fans can expect their return.

Young Guns became a four-piece in 2015 after drummer Ben Jolliffe left following a move to the US. Although they say there were no hard feelings when Jolliffe left, the band do admit it did hit them quite hard.

“For me Ben was kind of the glue that held our band together,” says Taylor.

Words: Natalie Cherry Lloyd-Shaw

[INTERVIEW] Marc Pell

Interviews, Uncategorized

“I’ll give you a quick demonstration”: Marc Pell reveals his secret powers and his jungle.

Marc Pell, alias Suitman Jungle, who is apparently a quiet London business man wearing a classic, blue suit and an sober ochre tie, is one of the few contemporary artists, that can represent suitably our frenetic 21st century, a chaotic metropolitan atmosphere in continuous technological expansion, using a simple chain of formulas, obscure until now.

Lub-dub-lub-dub-lub-dub-lub-dub-lub-dub-lub-dub-lub-dub-lub-dub.

Immediately we unconsciously start reading it with constant percussive rhythm and even tapping with our fingers on the table or whatever surface our hands are leaning on.

These onomatopoeias represent our heartbeat, but at the same time the word “dub” stands for a subgenre of reggae music which blossomed during the subversive 60s, mixing and reshaping different sounds, supported by an accentuated drum and bass.

This D&B beat started progressively accelerating in less than 30 years, at the same time as the technologic evolution was developing a revolutionary product, that any sci-fi novel writer or film director couldn’t even imagine: The Internet.

This theory was illustrated by a Stratford-based elegant, blonde haired man, who suddenly walked on the narrow stage placed in a hidden psychedelic (their humanized yellow flowers squelched down by red feet painted on its wall can really blow your mind) haven of The Windmill in Brixton, during the last day of September, when usually a chilly breeze appears pushing away shiny and warm summer feelings and spreading instead gelid and dark autumn ones.

This pleasant man, pointing out his graph, kindly presented himself, as he was in a serious business convention, instead of a potential AA session: “Let me begin by introducing myself: “I’m Marc Pell. I work at OBS, Original Bassline Services.”

Pause. Suspense. Light drumming track looping in the background.

Then he pronounced his ice-breaking line: “I’ll give you a quick demonstration,” and everything turned into electric blue as his suit and the atmosphere exploded in a dazzling chaos, as if Pandora opened her box again. Indeed, step by step, glimpse by glimpse, beat by beat, flash by flash everybody in that tiny spinning rainbow ball started losing themselves in a uncontrolled looping march through space and time, back to the raving 90s, to the yuppie Kraftwerkian 80s, to the hippie Pink Floydish 70s, and even further, to the ancient times when Native American or African shamans, to cure their devotees or to communicate with their ancestors or gods, were using hammering dancing movements and hypnotising drumming rhythms.

Therefore, Mr. Pell can be seen as a 21st-century European (we are still in 2017, so this adjective is approved by the majority of the UK Parliament and totality of ones of the others countries) version of a shaman, hidden behind an exuberant Harry Gibson’s mask and a polite Clark Kent’s outfit; who using his secret powers as an hypnotic pendulum can make the audience start waggling, wiggling, jiggling wildly,  following captivating sub-bass lines and ferocious beats.

But as an old storyteller, tired of keeping inside his head ancient arcane myths, he reveals: “If I’m writing a straight-up jungle/DnB/quick punk-y track, I’ll usually begin with a groove. I record all my loops from tapes of me playing various kits in all kinds of spaces which are surrounding me.”

He also uses a Pocket Operator (known strangely also as “teenage engineering”) – that is a drum sequencer, which make easy composing enchanting grooves on.

Groove is a word that means also fixed routine, something you had to deal with every day, repetitive actions that turn you in an annoyed and slightly paranoid android. On the other hand, it is that frenetic loop that turns your mechanical alienation into a liberating dual state of trance-translation.

He continues: “Bass lines generally come from tropical birdsong, that have many inflections and unpredictable rhythms. I usually register these peculiar songs or rip them from YouTube. After that, I layer sounds on top of these spliced songs until eventually there is nothing left of the original sample.”

But there are apparent interferences weaving into this shaking catharsis: disturbing laughing, vintage advertisements created by his acute voice going through a pitch shifter and delay pedal chain, and then a sweet voice of a little girl, her niece, that insistently says, as the track’s title suggests: “Do Anything You Want”, that could be naïve, but instead it’s a terribly powerful imperative, a truth coming from pure innocence, that can cure your insecurity.

Indeed, he followed his instincts just two years ago, because before he was paralysed by the economical aspect of life, that afflict every human-android being many times during their daily process of organisation, consumption and (eventually) production.

After years and years of Odyssey, like a modern Ulysses, influenced by his male Apollonian muses –  like The Jungle Drummer (London Elektricity), Giles Kwakebass & Greg Fox and his Dionysian ones like Reggie Watts and Bill Bailey – obtained a small drum kit made-up of a rack tom, snare drum, hi-hat and woodblock and began sharing his artistic dexterity on the streets, like the first troubadours.

Indeed, for our hero, it’s extremely important to have a strong connection with his audience, emailing and contacting everyone, instead of the traditional promoting on Facebook or Instagram: he has just 300 loyal followers, but at the same time his track Mind the Gap has been streamed 2,167 times on SoundCloud.

His only weakness, kryptonite, Achilles’ heel, “is putting the hours in to turning these simple, short ideas into full tracks without my colleagues and boss knowing!” he humbly admits.

“I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.” A collective voice is echoing coming from another time, another space and dimension.

So please, be quiet, maintain and protect his ancient and futuristic secrets and remember: mind the gap, waiting for his EP will come out next summer.

Words by Federica Ardizzone

[INTERVIEW] Anti-Clone

Interviews, Uncategorized

From the “murder capital of England” to dominating Europe.

A sit down interview with Lam Richardson.

 

Sipping a coffee in the Café Nero on Boston high street, guitarist and vocalist Liam ‘Lam’ Richardson begins by telling me a brief band history. “The band played its first show in July 2011, with a practically different line-up,” he laughs. “Things didn’t really get serious though until about 2013, that’s when we really started gigging more regularly, and getting some decent supporting slots as well as venturing out of Lincolnshire more regularly.” He smiles, reminiscing on old times as he takes a sip of his coffee.

Anti-Clone are known to have an obscenely unique sound, Lam began to go into detail about his bandmates and their musical tastes. “It kind of came as a meeting point of all of our tastes really,” he explains, “Mr. Clone (lead vocals) and Drew (drums/programming), have always been big into their nu-metal, whereas Con (guitar/vocals) and Mike (bass) like the heavier side of things. They’re big into their tech and deathcore.” Lam points out, before continuing, “I’m more into alt-rock/ post-hardcore, but nu-metal is something that we all really love as a group. Sprinkle that with a little groove and an industrial edge, and you’ve got a pretty tasty recipe”. He laughs, sipping again on his coffee.

Touring with Skindred in 2014 skyrocketed Anti-Clone into the stratosphere, amplifying their homegrown fans to a wider range. “It is without a doubt one of the best things I’ve ever done.” He smiles, before showing me photos on his phone detailing the gigs. “The crowds we got to play to, and the places we got to see were incredible!” Lam continues to scroll slowly through some pictures that range from crowd shots, to backstage exclusives. “The Skindred guys themselves taught us a hell of a lot along the way, too”.

“We can’t wait to get out to Europe again really,” he explains, before closing his phone and sitting back sipping on his coffee again. You can catch Anti-Clone on their November tour in the UK for the debut of their album ‘The Root of Man’. When asked how the band felt about being able to tour their own album, Lam responds, “We’re three shows into the tour right now, and it’s been a great laugh. Seen a lot of familiar faces so far, which is always great!” he exclaims, smiling. “Obviously it means we’ve made a good impression! It’s one of the greatest feelings watching people sing your songs back at you, especially when you’ve travelled across the country to play for them”.

Trying to escape from the Boston area can be difficult, anyone who’s experienced it can tell you that. When asked about the band’s personal difficulties, Lam replies, “Good question,” whilst laughing. “With Lincolnshire not really having that much of a music scene, hindered further by the recent loss of the Axe (and Cleaver, Boston), it did make things difficult.” He concludes, thinking before continuing. “Even in places like Lincoln, you are hindered by the lack of dedicated music venues, and the places you can play generally have a substantial hire cost,” he sighs dejectedly. “However, now when we play a local show we get one hell of a crowd, which I think shows that people want gigs in the area.”

Being funded by a company always allows an artist to expand their horizons to bigger and better ventures. Recently endorsed by Vocalzone, Anti-Clone have been able to work on merchandise, festivals and headlining tours. “Vocalzone are great. They sent us a huge care package to make sure our throats are cared for on this run,” he smiles. “We’re also endorsed by Blackstar Amplification and Barmetal Clothing who have helped us out with promotion and gear over the years. It’s really great knowing we have all these people behind us, it’s a massive help.” Lam admits, showing me a few of the new shirt designs that are available on this tour.

Although a band is one unit, it’s also important to be able to consider the members as individuals. “I touched a bit on this earlier, but our individual influences vary quite broadly,” he explains. Adding on this he begins to list these inspirations including Drew who loves Limp Bizkit and A Perfect Circle, Con who loves Meshuggah, Deftones and The Acacia Strain, Mike who loves Whitechapel, Oceano and some “really nasty slam bands” whilst Mr. Clone loves Marilyn Manson, Korn and Nine Inch Nails. He finishes off with his own favourite bands including Fightstar, Bloc Party and Marilyn Manson.

The band were awarded ‘Best Underground Act’ 2016 by Metal 4U, and have always been backed by the magazine. “It’s the first award we’ve ever received, so we were pretty made up! Hopefully it’s the first of quite a few,” he admits sheepishly.

Alongside planning their debut album tour, Anti-Clone also headlined the Spanky Van Dykes stage at the MacMillan Festival in Nottingham.

When questioned about any further festival features, Lam simply responds, “It’s often a bit of a waiting game with festivals in all honesty. Keep your eyes peeled is all I can really say!” You can follow Anti-Clone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for further tour and gig information. “We’re trying to organise a few things, but we’ll see what happens.” Lam then goes on to add, “We’re writing some new material right now, and trying to set up some more bits and pieces for next year. A few surprises here and there too, hopefully,” he admits. “We’re playing a new song on this tour, and it’s been getting great reactions so far. Lots to keep us ticking over during the winter period, that’s for sure”. Anti-Clone will be supporting Unleash The Archers for two UK dates, and their individual headlining tour tickets are still for sale. For more information, find the bands website at www.anticlonehq.com.

Words by Bekky Smart

[INTERVIEW] Jordan Rakei

Interviews, Uncategorized

As it often goes, the quietest people have the most to say. Jordan Rakei is one of those types: polite, friendly, interesting. His Kiwi accent is still there, with a smattering of ‘man’ across our telephone conversation-warm and casual – but you can hear the recognisable London lexis creeping into his vocabulary (Many things are ‘sick’, or he ‘rinses’ albums). He doesn’t talk in complex soliloquies but his enthusiasm and passion says more than that ever could. Rakei is emerging as one of the brightest talents of the current jazz/soul scene, racking up collaborations with Disclosure, Loyle Carner and Tom Misch. When discussing the latter two he says, “it’s cool to know these guys and know that I can be part of their legacy in some way because they are both on this crazy trajectory.”

The Shepherd Bush show, his biggest to date, is the reflection of an artist on his own crazy trajectory. The evolution is clear from his Glastonbury set at the Pussy Parlour stage in front of 50 max six months ago, to last Friday’s show. He speaks more and seems relaxed; enjoying the moment. He reflects on how far he’s come, “my first show was in a tiny church in Kings Cross and there’s something special about those small shows,” he says, “but then playing Shepherd’s Bush…it’s quite special to see 2,000 clapping in time, singing my own lyrics…yeah it’s amazing man.” The show was in support of his recently released second album Wallflower, a follow-up to 2016s Cloak. Where that record shined in optimistic, jazzy abundance, Wallflower is more dark and sullen with flirtations with cool jazz and folk, a direct result of his discovery of the works of Jeff Buckley, Radiohead and Fink. It addresses family bereavement (May), lucid dreaming and detachment from reality (Lucid, one of Rakei’s favourites) but most prominently, and what has been most discussed about this album, his struggle with social anxiety.

On the titular track, he croons I’m still trapped by the cage of my lips….It’s been 24 years. This was a starting point for the album; straightforward and personal rather than vague and poetic. The common perception of musicians is that they are confident, driven by ego (or the music) and a desire to be seen or heard. For Jordan Rakei to be so open about his life with anxiety, he has helped shatter this illusion and reached out to those for whom music is an escape from the persistent struggles of the mind.  “To write a whole piece of work about it….it’s very cathartic to do it for myself. Like getting it off my chest so I could overcome stuff like that,” he says. With statistics like 51% of young people feeling embarrassed about mental illness, yet one in ten suffering from it, more than ever it seems important for there to be a dialogue in society and especially in music in light of the recent suicides of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. Jordan agrees. “I’ve feel like there’s so many more people who have it and don’t even realise they do. People will say ‘Oh I feel that way too. I get awkward when I meet new people too’ so I think it’s a good thing.” However, the anxiety does not crop up when Rakei is on stage. “Touring is actually easier for me, easier than writing lyrics. I have that space and there’s no time for anyone to interrupt me so I can go out and give it my all. Whereas if I’m getting invited to hangout with people at the merch stand it’s a different story”.

His solution was exposure therapy, something he recommends to any aspiring musician living with anxiety. This meant moving from his comfortable bubble in Australia to London. Rakei explains, “forcing myself to move to London opened so many doors musically but also personally.”  He chose London over any other large city for one reason. “ I love so many artists here. It creates this mood when you walk down the street and everyone is on a similar wavelength and there’s pockets of different scenes happening all over. It seems like the kind of place to me that is bubbling right now musically”.

Music is not something Rakei feels he was destined for, more something he enjoyed and was good at. The first album he remembers hearing and falling in love with was (forgetting Aquarium by Aqua) Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic, his father being a massive reggae fan. Jazz came to him much later, at the age of 19 at university when his class were put into bands. “At that stage my favourite kinda music was reggae and modern soul stuff like Usher and Chris Brown.” Groaning at the mention of the latter, Rakei laughs and offers, “I know man I’ve changed a lot. They (his band) were like ‘let’s learn this Herbie Hancock tune’. I’m like ‘what is this?’ and Boom! I discovered a whole new world and it is by far now my favorite genre.”

He has producing his own music since 11 starting with metallic, Timbaland/Neptunes – inspired beats which evolved with his discovery of jazz. He still produces his own music, but would love to work with Floating Points or Dave Okumu (who plays guitar on Wallflower) later on down the line.

So what now? Rakei has a collaboration lined up with Nightmares on Wax, and would love to record with James Blake (“I bring more of a jazz element, he brings more of an alternative element to it”) or Frank Ocean (“ He’s a tough one to get”). He would love to play Brixton or Ally Pally, but nothing larger so as to not lose the intimacy he has with the audience.

Once his current tour is over, he plans to start writing and recording with the aim of finishing a new album by September. “I want to write five albums and release them by the time I’m 30. I’m 25 now so I’ve definitely got time to pump them out.” Then after 30? “I don’t know, have some kids? Record with them.” He laughs, but for an artist who aims to have 25 albums released one day, his ambition and drive has to be taken seriously. Potential ideas for his next album could include something more conceptual to give himself a challenge. Whatever happens he no longer lives in the shadow of his anxiety,  the anxiety living in the shadow of his talent and his music.

Words by William Craigie

[INTERVIEW] James Taylor

Interviews, Uncategorized

James Taylor is a much respected musician being at the forefront of the indie movement that emerged in the early 2000s. Drumming became his career for over a decade playing in some of the most pivotal bands of the time. It was time to find out what motivated him to become the musician he is today.

James lives with his fiancée Lauren and cat Pixie in a converted brewery. Beside the house are two stables and at the end of the garden is a shed. This appeared to be the place James was leading to, it was the eve of Halloween after all and in his own words, “the shed is home to many a great story.”

Once inside the shed we were greeted by Pixie – a nine-year-old tortoise shell hunter cat sitting proudly on the kick stool of James’s latest piece of kit – a Pearl session custom drum kit in crystal ruby red. “She’s like a guard cat – every time I try to play she keeps running under my feet. She really loves that piece of kit.”

As it was the eve of Halloween James lit the pumpkins carefully placed around the shed and lowered the red fairy lights sparkling on the drum kit. Pixie settled down and James poured the drinks as we sat towards the far end of the shed. “I was fifteen” he said, “my dad wanted me to learn bass guitar.” His dad Stewart was once part of the great punk band, The Head famous, for their antics in the local area. On second thoughts Stewart asked James to do a triplet (a term used in drumming).

James did exactly that and states, “dad was so impressed by what I did, he said, I’m buying you a drum kit and the rest is history.”

Taylor, as James likes to be called nowadays, has been in an astonishing number of bands collaborating mostly with the two brothers Jamie and Justin. “They were the best people I’ve worked with; really professional, Justin was a perfectionist.”

The first band Taylor and the two Js were in was DeFault which had a Grunge angle to it. Following this was Rapeseed with an industrial metal sound. YearZero followed a year later and then onto Meet John Doe one of the groups most successful outfits. Meet John Doe later became The Broadcasts. All five bands comprised of the same members – Taylor on drums, Jamie vocals and Justin and Charles playing the guitars.

“One of my happiest memories in the music business was getting signed at the Camden Underworld with the boys.” He adds, “an A&R guy came over from Canada to meet us and signed Meet John Doe to this Canadian label called Kubrick.”

Taylor poured a couple of drinks to celebrate the past whilst Pixie sat purring on the kick stool listening in to our conversation. “We got to play at The London Astoria with Enter Shikari in 2005, The Clapham Grand (one of my favourite venues he added) and Nass Festival in Bath where we met the band A and Dirty Sanchez.”

Taylor and the boys gained great reviews with a media storm whipping up anticipation in them being the next big band. They were interviewed on air by Mary Ann Hobbs (Radio 1), Rock Sound and Metal Hammer magazines before getting a double spread in Kerrang. Pixie appeared unfazed by the talk of fame and fortune as candle light flickered on the ruby drum kit. “It wasn’t always fun and games though” Taylor chuckled; “I once worked in an off-licence.”

“An old Scottish guy used to come in regularly for Famous Grouse, he had a long ginger beard and grey hair, we used to call him ‘Whisky ice.’ It wasn’t too long before we decided to start making our own using cube trays filled with whisky and diet coke.” He continues, “I thought about calling Pixie ‘Whisky Ice’ but she’s female so it wouldn’t have been right.”

Pixie twitched her whiskers a little and Taylor carried on, “we used to share the same dressing room as Enter Shikari. Those guys didn’t know how to have fun and only drank tea so we poured a bottle of homemade ‘whisky ice’ into their kettle! They were on fire that night it’s what kicked off their career.”

“It wasn’t always about our homemade secret weapon though; I remember the time we toured with Skindread. They only drank Strongbow and sweared by it so we really pissed them off by swapping their brew for Carling. They hated beer; they never toured with us again.”

“Sometimes pranks can go too far as we found with Charles our guitarist. Charles agreed to be pushed along the promenade in a shopping trolley! Fuelled by whisky ice and us edging Jamie on Charles inevitably ended up being projected overboard from an Asda trolley into the sea.” He adds, “I’ve never seen a guy get so mad in my life; I believe the RNLI even got called out that night.”

Pixie had a mad look in her eye. Rory, the neighbour’s cat, had crept in whilst she was asleep and stolen her supper. Taylor responds “I feel sorry for Rory he’s always starving; his owner was in a band called Johansson, nice guy but real tight.”

Rory was not the only one who sounded hungry a fox was howling loudly outside on the cold frosty night. “This reminds me when a friend of mine called Dave Sears came to the shed for a few beers. Sears grew up in Africa, his dad got a job out there in the early eighties as a lion tamer after years working in the circus; he would teach the young farmers how to protect their herds from the lions.”

“Sears has a sixth sense when it comes to animals, James adds: he is able to read their minds and calculate the exact time when they are about to attack.”

“Out in Africa they had an ancient remedy called Malibu & Ice which the trainee lion tamers would drink before entering the enclosure. It gave them confidence and ability to show the lions whose master.”

“I remember it was late me and Sears had been drinking beer and drumming all evening, we could hear a lot of howling outside the shed and several foxes started trying to get in the door. Sears looked at me scared and said they sounded hungry! He nervously climbed up on the kick stool and peered out the skylight, he shot back down and said there was a pack of hungry hounds surrounding the shed and were about to attack. Without any Malibu & Ice in sight and lacking in confidence we barricaded ourselves in the shed until it got light. Now I always keep a bottle in the shed” James laughs.”

The spooky Halloween stories had put a chill in the air Pixie’s hairs were standing up on her back. She stood upright on all fours, the ruby red candle light flickering in her eyes as a presence could be felt in the shed, the howling hounds outside were getting louder. The whisky glass began to shake in my hand and something shot through the door, Pixie leapt off the stool going from friendly cat into attack mode – POW POW POW her paws punched the air. James grabbed me and threw me back into the chair “don’t worry” he said; “Pixie goes real crazy when there’s a moth in the shed”.

It was getting late and Halloween and time to go. Each house had a pumpkin glowing brightly in their doorway except Rory’s thrifty owner.

James adds: “Fuelled by ancient remedies of Malibu & Ice, Sears and I once felt invincible entering the lion’s enclosure. We paced over to Johansson’s front door and poured the left overs of our Thai takeaway through his letterbox! That should give him some food for thought, Rory would be proud…

Words by Trevor Osborn

[INTERVIEW] The Academic

Interviews, Uncategorized

The Academic: the new indie-rock sensation that will make you feel as though you’re on a Permanent Vacation.

After finishing their US tour, The Academic recently announced their new album – ‘Tales From The Backseat’ – will be released on January 12th. Their latest single ‘Permanent Vacation’ has just come out, shortly after getting themselves noticed by hosting a hypnotic livestream on Facebook. Singer and guitarist Craig has managed to find a bit of free time to talk about one of the most energetic indie-rock bands out there at the moment.

The Academic’s first track of their upcoming album was introduced to their fans onNovember 8th after Huw Stephens played it on his BBC Radio 1 show. This new song is like an energy boost that makes you want to go on a summer holiday – even though we’re in the middle of fall. For those of you who have already listened to this band, you’ll know that “energy” is their middle name.

Craig, Matt, Stephen and Dean have been playing together since they were about 13 but really started to find their own style three years ago: “We put out our first EP in October2015 and it’s been pretty full on since then.” They have supported some of the greatest artists such as The Pixies and The Strokes, been nominated for Ireland’s Choice Music Prize, toured the US and Europe, and had a No.1 debut EP. Although The Academic have experienced all these great moments, there is always one that will stand out. “When we sold out a venue called Vicar Street in Dublin with only one single released, that was definitely a moment for us,” Craig says.

The singer states that when looking for a name, the group were highly inspired by J.D Salinger’s book – Catcher in The Rye: “There was a point, maybe half way through secondary school, that we were introduced to this book that resonated with us a lot around that time and influenced a lot of our early writing.” Craig also adds: “The word ‘academic’ was mentioned a few times in the first chapter of the book and we all felt it worked.”

Although they have had their own style for some time now, we can’t help but notice they have defined it a bit more in one of their latest singles, ‘Bear Claws’. A few weeks ago, they delivered an unusual performance of this track. They hosted a livestream on Facebook in which they were seen using the delay before viewers can actually watch the livestream, in a very impressive way. By adding a new instrument or vocals to each loop, they’ve managed to create a hypnotic version of their song…very remarkable. Their looping version has reached more than 1 million views on YouTube. However, Craig says that for now “it’s all about our debut album that we have coming out in early 2018.” Considering the fact they’ve thought of something as creative as their Facebook livestream, who knows what they’ve got in store for us next?

Looking back at their worst experience encountered so far, the singer points out a particular moment: Reading Festival. This is surprising as this is usually one of the best moments in an artist’s career. “It was the last stop after a run of European Festivals and our van broke down just as we arrived on site,” explains Craig. “The AA came and we were told it wouldn’t be back on the road for at least a day.” In the end, the band had to tow the van all the way back to Holyhead in Wales to get the ferry back to Dublin. “Let’s just say it was an emotional journey sitting up front with that tow truck driver and the rest of the band!” laughs Craig.

On a lighter note, the band highly enjoy exploring the different countries and cultures, which has made them discover many things: “We never got too far away from where we were living as kids.”

Touring in the US will undoubtedly be one of the highlights in the band’s career. This has been a unique experience for all of them and they have received incredible support from their American fans. “What surprised us the most,” says Craig, “was the fact that so many people at the shows knew the words to all our songs given that we had never toured in the US before.”

When talking about how The Academic produce as great songs as they do, Craig says it’s mainly a joint effort. “I might come up with an initial idea or concept for a song and just try to build up a hook or riff I like,” explains Craig. “Once I’m feeling good about it, it’s brought to the rehearsal room where we flesh it out and try and make something of it. If it works it works and if it’s not sitting right with everyone we move on to the next one.”

When the band first got together, they used to be inspired by bands such as The Killers, Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes. However, this has changed now that they have found their own sound. “It’s definitely energetic, the type of music you would turn up to 11 at a party or driving with the windows down,” says Craig.  “The songs on this record deal with a lot of our experiences of growing up in a small town in Ireland, especially those teenage years where a lot of experiences are new, be it emotional or social. It’s a fun record for the most part, we try not to take ourselves too seriously.”

The band have also made it to Spotify’s “Hot New Bands” playlist, which selects some of the greatest new groups out there. They are unsurprisingly overwhelmed to be part of this platform, which has over 140 million active users. “Spotify have played a huge part in our development,” states Craig.

The full-of-life Irish lads certainly have a lot in store for us, and we can’t wait to hear their new album.

Words by Lil Bonhomme

[INTERVIEW] Matt Wheatley

Interviews, Uncategorized

“Recording Is Just A Really Big Ego Stroke” – Matt Wheatley On Recording And his Roots

Wheatley may only be a student, but he’s no stranger the recording industry as he discusses dealing with the divas and looks back on his own influences.

In a cosy room belonging to Academy of Contemporary Music’s (ACM) production student – and Leeds College of Music (LCoM) alumni, Matt Wheatley, I sit and admire the posters covering as much wall as humanly possible. They show his eclectic taste in music and film so I find myself not knowing where to look. I turn from staring at the Rolling Stones’ logo and Back To The Future to focus on the ginger-haired cheeky Yorkshire ‘kid’ (he definitely does not look 18).

Chuckling whilst attempting to sit cross-legged on the bed in black skinny jeans – with varying levels of success – he tells me one of his funnier studio experiences. “I recorded a band who insisted on doing backing vocals, I let them add these questionable vocals and once they finished up I let them take the recording home,” Matt says, already stifling a laugh. “I mixed and mastered their song with these backing vocals on but for my own portfolio I took them out –as any mix-master engineer would as they weren’t great. Later, my work got showcased when I wasn’t there…in front of the band – and it was the version without the backing vocals on there.”

After figuring out how to sit, the conversation deepens as Matt talks me through his ultimate goals. “If anything I’d want to open my own venue like have a pub or a club that’s music-oriented and mine. I’d get to say who plays there and who doesn’t.” You certainly can’t knock him for his ambition – he’s keeping himself busy whether it be music or not, “I quite like to read sort of non-fiction or biographical books,” with both of us being self-confessed nerds, it’s difficult to not relate to his Netflix habits. “I could just binge watch shows in two days and just move on to the next one.”

Despite being far from his Leeds home for uni and often hidden away on the favourite streaming service, he definitely hasn’t forgotten his roots, “when I was younger, I started listening to any sort of music that my dad listened to, the next year I begged him to get me a guitar for Christmas and I got a really tiny little electric guitar.” His favourite stories from home generally involve one family member in particular, “my dad was a drummer in the 90s and the early 2000s, we did a weekend out in Liverpool and saw a Beatles tribute band and he got to go on stage to play…after a couple of drinks though so he maybe wasn’t in the best state to.” His eyes lit up as he continued, “he’s always been musical, and probably who inspires me most.”

Delving into the ins and outs or recording, Mr Wheatley expresses the importance of the team behind the scenes, “it’s more than just pressing a few buttons and hoping it sounds good – recording can make an artist’s career, it takes one song and then you’re set for life…if you can get the right sort of people behind you,” he insists whilst leaning in, “if the song falls into the right hands it can be huge. I mean just look at Despacito, even before Justin Bieber did his like English, very bad version of it, Despacito had already exploded.”

After recording multiple bands himself, Matt knows talent when he sees it, “People who I’ve recorded and sounded good live I can probably count on two hands,” he chuckles, “there was a drummer, Josh Prescott (The Velveteens), I recorded him with another band, I’ve seen a couple gigs where they played that particular song and probably played it better live than the recorded version I’ve got, really good drummer.”

With so many divas and generally ‘aggy’ musicians to deal with on a regular basis, it was intriguing to find out how ‘techies’ cope, “in the studio you’ve got to have a really good smile, the best way to do it – especially at uni is to make them a cup of tea,” he says trying to look serious. Sweet-talking musicians started to sound easy, “you make it seem like it’s their idea, you suggest everything but then say ‘so you’d do this’ and ‘you’d do that’ and then they’re like ‘yeah I would’ and you’re like ‘great idea’”. All with a cup of tea.

“Recording is just a really big ego stroke, making sure everyone is comfortable in the studio.” Matt’s face turns more serious, a change from the more giddy-side I’ve just been exchanging conversation with, “musicians don’t always understand the studio side and how easy it is for something to go wrong. One muted string in one chord in a three and a half minute song could be noticeable throughout out the entire song. So, even though it’s easy to mess up, the consequences are greater and you’ve got to sort of prepare and make sure everything is correct”.

Discussing the ideal candidate to record, Matt insists it’s all about personality, “It’s good to record someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously – you’re spending hours on end in one room with no windows and no decent air con,” he laughs, “It’s very easy to get distracted in the studio. You’ll go in wanting to record one guitar part and you’ll end up recording three different guitar parts, trumpets and harmonies and then the day is gone and you haven’t finished – so focus is key.”

Working for someone else in the production world is apparently quite different to having yourself be the commander in chief, “with someone else’s idea you feel a lot more restricted but you’ll put more effort in as you want to capture their sound.” However, you can still be just as tough on yourself, “I will be very self-critical and agonise over the smallest things for hours on end but I produce music because I enjoy producing music, not because I enjoy releasing it at the end. I’ll listen and take feedback into consideration but I want to make music I like and I’m happy with.”

Ending with quite a fitting speech, Matt pushes that people wherever in the industry should try to feel at ease no matter the task, “it’s music so there’s no point stressing over it, getting really worked up. Don’t let yourself ruin whatever song you’re listening to or working on because at the end of the day it’s music so enjoy it.”

Words by Megan Duce